Thursday, 30 August 2012

Gwenno - Despenser St. ...

I did a nice interview with Gwenno from The Pipettes about her ace new solo e.p., Ymbelydredd, sung entirely in Welsh. I've posted about Gwenno before, I'm a big fan of her solo work.  And Despenser St. is wonderfully sweet and dreamy, despite the lyrics being quite bleak (see English translation here).  It's been stuck in my head and on my stereo for weeks now.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Matt Berry - Take My Hand...

I'm very impressed with the pilot for Matt Berry's new sitcom, Toast of London (watch it here). Very funny indeed, well, the man is a comedy genius. I hope a series is made, I've watched this twice and already want to see it again. His songs are very good too, a nice mix of 70s rock, prog, psych and folk. One marvels at his articulation and expression, the best voice in comedy, as well as the range of his vocals. The theme for Toast is the song Take My Hand from his Witchhazel album, which he says is about "the terrors of the countryside" and features Paul McCartney on backing vocals for Rain Comes Down. Those chords, once the song kicks in proper, and in the chorus, are just lovely.

The theme to Snuffbox, his show with Rich Fulcher, which definitely had a lot of great moments, is very catchy too:

And then there's this:

Unfortunately not the clip from the show but...well, words just can't do this justice.  From Garth Marenghi's Darkplace, starring Berry, Richard Ayoade, and Matthew Holness.  Incredibly awesome, as is its spin-off chat show, Man To Man With Dean Learner.

Interview with Matt Berry about his music here (Liberation Frequency).

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Isabelle de Funès - La Journée D'Isabelle...

A beautiful song for a beautiful day. Though one can imagine this perfectly accompanying any stroll through the city, whether it be in radiant sunshine, under clouds pierced by celestial beams, or through all the hidden glories of a grey, rain-soaked afternoon. I know very little about Isabelle de Funès except that she was in a few films, modelled for Vogue, made a few records (of which I'm anxious to hear), and is now a photographer. I found this song (written by Michel Berger) on the Swinging Mademoiselles: Groovy French Sounds From The 60s compilation, along with some other gems.


Friday, 24 August 2012

The Afghan Whigs- When We Two Parted...

In the sheer deluge of bands reuniting in recent years, The Afghan Whigs has been the only reformation I've shown any interest in. In fact, something inside me automatically screamed 'YES!' the moment I read about it. I'd seen them live twice the first time around, knew what they were capable of, and knew that, judging by Greg Dulli's work lately, he still had it in him to take it to that level. The last time I saw them was Valentine's Day 1999, Dulli completely in his element on such a day. And seeing them last Sunday at Koko, the stage was bathed in red light as they walked on, as if continuing straight on from there. My review of the gig for The Quietus here. 

Their version of When We Two Parted from the Gentlemen album was particularly lovely that night, and here it is:

The album version. A devastatingly beautiful picture of the disintegrated end of a relationship, where the ties are no less strong. The 33 1/3 book about Gentlemen is a good read as well.

I've posted about the Whigs before.  Summer's Kiss being one of my all-time favourite songs (such a great live version last week). And how they are also the best covers band (seriously, lots of their versions are better than, or at least just as good as, the original).

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Gillian Hills...

Gillian Hills is always a treat to listen to and her website is excellent, filled with lovely reminiscences in her bio (and talking about Beat Girl, and Oliver Reed and Catherine Deneuve, under the film section), photos, music, and her art.

Actress, singer, illustrator, I've been in love with her Tut Tut Tut Tut since hearing it last year.  It's just so damn cool, especially the way she intones "tut tut tut tut".  I uploaded it to YouTube because it wasn't on there but unfortunately it doesn't seem playable in the UK, so here's the Spotify link just in case.

It's a cover of Busy Signal (hence the tut'ing) by The Lollipops:

Appearing on Gillians' 1965 Rien N'est Changé e.p. Here is the beautiful title track, written by Gillian herself:

The e.p. was filled out with 3 covers, Tut being one, and another absolute favourite of mine, a gorgeous French version of The Zombies' Leave Me Be, entitled Rentre Sans Moi:

The Zombies original:

And then there's Beat Girl, which Gillian considers her first film (although she had previously appeared in Roger Vadim's Les Liaisons Dangeureuses).  Only fifteen, she plays the lead, Jennifer, in this "vivid and shocking portrayal" of the late-1950's Soho underworld.  The theme is John Barry's first (and also the soundtrack would be the first British soundtrack released on an LP).  Ultra-cool, suave and sexy, fraught with fun and danger. Gillian writes this on her site about hearing the theme for the first time - "When the day came and the sound pumped through the floor my brain flipped, my feet followed and I was off - on my own - this was the life - let the lid stay open forever and ever..."

Trailor for the film (also known as Wild For Kicks):

More Gillian Hills at the excellent L'Amour Electronique blog . And nice articles about her at Cha Cha Charming and Ready Steady Girls!

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

First Kiss Lips on Amazing Radio...

I was on Amazing Radio this morning talking about First Kiss Lips (!!!!!)  So Awesome.  It was for the blog segment of Ruth Barnes' Breakfast show.  A nice little write-up here about First Kiss Lips. Ruth also does The Other Woman blog and radio show, highlighting female acts.   My part of the show is here:

And you can listen to the whole show here.  (I'm at 158 minutes in):

I also did a gig this evening, my first solo acoustic performance since I played at an Apricot Records night in Frankfurt, October 2003.  That was ace, I played with Holger from Panamaformat who are excellent.  I enjoyed tonight very much and at the last minute decided I should play my song First Kiss Lips (from the H Bird album) as it would be quite fitting for today.

Set was:

Strawberry Girl
Watching It All Blowing By (Texas Governor cover)
When U Look Away (dedicated to Pierre-Antoine from Plastic Pancake records, who put it out as a single in 2003.  Was great that he could be there to see it live tonight)
First Kiss Lips
Painting Your Dead Neighbor (possibly the best song I've ever written, at least the one with the most sauce-based puns ; ) Forthcoming Lullaby Oscillator single, out soon)

On the radio this morning I got to choose a song to play and I picked The Hall Of Mirrors' Love Child as it was seeing them last year that inspired me to write the very first First Kiss Lips blog post the very next day.

And here's the new video for that Gorgeous song:

Thanks to everyone who's been reading First Kiss Lips and everyone who listened to the radio interview.  It was quite exciting doing it.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

The Wild Swans...

Two weeks ago The Quietus ran a feature I wrote on the origins of The Teardrop Explodes band name.  I'm very proud of this piece and it was great to write, I've been a Teardrop fan for almost 20 years now and I was in touch with everyone involved, except for Julian Cope.  Paul Simpson, of The Wild Swans and Care, who was also the original keyboard player for The Teardrop Explodes, provided me with a lot of info.  And I've been meaning to write about The Wild Swans for some time now.  Last year's The Coldest Winter For A Hundred Years is a brilliant Pop record, definitely one of the best albums of the new millennium.  Elegant and passionate, wandering through a ghost world of Liverpool, this is Life Affirming Music.  Indeed, on 1988's promo Music And Talk From Liverpool, guitarist Jeremy Kelly speaks of the hope that they express in their music, and that "greatness of spirit" to be found in the city of Liverpool.

Liquid Mercury has been on my stereo daily for the past few months.  Such an Uplifting chorus, an Absolutely Gorgeous Pop song.  Talking about the very same flat in Rodney Street where The Teardrop Explodes found their name.

And the first single from the record,  "5 minutes 56 seconds of coruscating Blakean incandescence", English Electric Lightning:

And then there is their first single, Revolutionary Spirit, the last release on the Zoo label and what Bill Drummond considers his favourite record from that period.  An Enormous Statement Of Intent, Transcendent Pop at its very best.  Hearing my friend Johnny speak about this song is truly inspiring.

Live in Cebu, The Philippines, September 30th, 2011.  Interesting piece on The Wild Swans success in The Philippines and Paul's thoughts on Liverpool. 

And then there's the band's debut album, Bringing Home The Ashes.  An incredibly good record with some PHENOMENAL songs on it.  Such as lead-off track and single, Young Manhood:

The Wild Swans performing the title track, Bringing Home The Ashes, on Philippines television show, Eat Bulaga!, last year.  Featuring Les Pattinson from Echo & The Bunnymen on bass and Michael Mooney (Julian Cope, Spiritualized) on guitar.

And then there's the b-side of English Electric Lightning, also bearing the name The Coldest Winter For A Hundred Years.  A lovely piece of reminiscence, Simpson speaking of sharing a flat with "genius drummer Pete DeFreitas" (of the Bunnymen), who also funded the recording of and played drums on Revolutionary Spirit.

I can't recommend these records enough.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

What I Played At Scarlett O'Harlot, August 18th, 2012...

DJ'd at Scarlett O'Harlot last night, the sister club to Sina's DEBBIE, my favourite new night in London.  It was quiet but I didn't really mind as that gave me a chance to just play whatever I wanted.  Like DEBBIE, the remit is "sexy, sassy, female-fronted pop".  Cleaning my flat last week, I found some old mix cds I had made and chucked them in my bag.  Taking them out last night, I was reminded of two FANTASTIC POP songs.

Emma Bunton's Maybe.  I've always loved this song since seeing the (very cool) video when it came out (I do like the glasses bit).  With its Latin-tinged and 60s feel sliding effortlessly into a soaring major key pre-chorus and chorus.

And Fabienne Delsol's ultra-cute cover of Serge Gainsbourg's Vilaine Fille, Mauvais Garçon.

Serge Gainsbourg - Vilaine Fille Mauvais Garçon by Tushratta

What I Played:

Jah Wobble & Julie Campbell - Feel (one of the best songs of the new millenium)
Ladytron - Destroy Everything You Touch
Saint Etienne - Burnt Out Car
Gina G - Ooh Aah...Just A Little Bit*
The Light Bulb Project - San Francisco
Pizzicato 5 - Twiggy Twiggy Vs. James Bond
Emma Bunton - Maybe
Fabienne Delsol - Vilaines Fille, Mauvais Garçon
Throwing Muses - Not Too Soon
The Long Blondes - Once & Never Again
ABBA - Waterloo
Shrag - Rabbit Kids
Jackie Trent - Only One Such As You
Christy - Deep Down
Bettye Swann - Make Me Yours
The Pipettes - Pull Shapes
Anthony Adverse - L.U.V.
Siouxsie & The Banshees - The Killing Jar

*As has happened on more than one occasion, I've had an entirely different song lined up to play next and, either due to the deck resetting itself to the first track or me being distracted and not checking it's all lined up, instead of that intended song, Gina G gets played.  This is not a bad thing.  Though I had Curve's Horror Head on deck and was going to flow nicely into Xymox's Imagination.  Of course, Gina G changed the course of the set ; )

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Theoretical Girl - I Should've Loved You More...

I'm not sure I could love this more.  Such a perfect pop song.  I once described Theoretical Girl's music as "a perfect cross between The Smiths and The Divine Comedy, with a female singer".  A tall order but one she lives up to.

I Should Have Loved You More

Had to go to Myspace to find a stream of the proper album version of this song.

It's hard not to fall in love with those descending chords, the lovely backing vocals, and the "oh-oh..." nod to Beyoncé in the middle 8.

An acoustic version:

Do check out her Soundcloud pages, lots of different versions and lovely covers, which she does for her yearly Advent calendar (more here at her blog).

Nice Bandstand Busking performance:

Another of my favourites from her Divided album, The Biggest Mistake:

Good Timing is a beautiful song (as is Seeing You Again but I can't find any versions to share, nevermind, just buy the album, if you like POP, you'll LOVE it):

Friday, 17 August 2012

Van Halen - Somebody Get Me A Doctor...

I was overjoyed last night to happen across Mooseic's blog post about Julian Cope's Copendium and to there learn that Cope had featured Van Halen in one of his Albums Of The Month.   Discussing the first four classic albums and this bootleg (that came in many different guises of the October 15, 1977 show in Pasadena, CA), Cope is so RIGHT-ON in his thoughts about the band.  "If they had a problem at all, it was just that they had two Shamen in one group and both shamen were showmen."  I got down my own thoughts on Van Halen earlier this year and how exciting it all was.  Nice to see that Cope, another of my favourite musicians, appreciates them.  And this got me thinking about Somebody Get Me A Doctor again.  One of the best ROCK songs ever written - the KILLER RIFF, the flair with which it's performed, Eddie's awesome volume swells and harmonics.  

The recorded Van Halen II version: 

The early live (bootleg) version Cope is talking about ("...this song is just a festival of utter confusion - I wish I didn't know it and I'm jealous of those who might be being introduced to this song for the first time via this particular version."). Slightly different intro to recorded version.

A great live version from 1982 in Largo. Some amazing harmonics flying from Eddie's fingers. Great breakdown section with interplay between the brothers, heading into Cream's I'm So Glad before returning to the tune.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Nico - These Days

Watching The Royal Tenenbaums the other day, I was reminded of what a lovely song Nico's These Days is.  Hints of joy in the beautiful melancholy it portrays, finding solace there.

And a live VPRO Radio Session from 1983, with the song performed in a lower key, one and a half steps down:

I LOVE Wes Anderson's films, and always think his soundtracks are perfect.  Just found an NPR interview with music supervisor Randall Poster about them here, looking forward to listening.

The song was written by Jackson Browne, and has been covered a bunch of times.

Paul Westerberg's cover (I've always been a big fan of his covers, solo and especially with The Replacements):

And The Golden Palominos version, from their 1993 This Is How It Feels album:

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Leonid Utyosov - Dark Night...

Knowing my fondness for Russian orchestral pop and piano ballads, Reggie Chamberlain-King sent over this beauty the other night.  Leonid Utyosov's Dark Night (English translation of the lyrics in YouTube description):

A langorous sigh, settling into one's resting spot to appreciate the night spanning out before one's view.

Utyosov seems to have led quite a life.  Actor, singer, conductor, raconteur, he started out as a stand-up comedian and an acrobat.  In 1923 he even put on a show entitled From Tragedy To The Trapeze (what a great title, rather Suede-y ; )  He also came up with and worked extensively on the concept of "Tea Jazz" (another great name!), a combination of theatre and jazz, where the musicians were also actors.  Utyosov: “It is easiest to say that our success was in the novelty numbers like our tea-jazz had not yet been performed. There was of course jazz created by a blueprint, a foreign blueprint. We, however, suggested a completely new genre, untried, theatrical jazz. Our whole program was sprinkled with jokes, sarcasm and humor. In front of the audience not only was a band born, but also a company, a gathering of happy people not dampened by sadness, people with whom one could find joy and with whom one was certain to have a good time. I think that the success of our first program was grounded particularly in our optimism and humor.”

Saturday, 4 August 2012

The Soft Close-Ups - Eiscafe (Live)...

I was searching YouTube for our Some Sick Day video to send to someone yesterday when I came across this:

Our new song Eiscafe recorded live at Stop Look Listen, August 2nd, 2011.   I had no idea this existed.  I remember this gig as being one of the best I've ever played.  It was a very emotional time for me and it all seemed to come out in the music.  I'm also incredibly pleased with the song.  I think it's one of the most beautiful guitar parts I've ever written.  David has put a A. E. Housman poem (From far, from eve and morning) into the verses, giving it as he calls "a nice western wind vibe".  It will be on the new e.p. which we just finished mixing the other night, along with a new version of Birthmark and another of my favourites, On The Mainland.

What I Played At DEBBIE, August 3rd, 2012...

DJ'ed again at DEBBIE last night.  In my opinion the best new and best full-stop club night in London.  A celebration of all-girl vocals.  I had the first two hours and although it was quiet at the beginning, I really enjoyed just playing some songs I wanted to hear and chatting to Sina (who runs the night) about music.

My set:

Alice Dona - C'est Pas Prudent
Gillian Hills - Tut Tut Tut
Bridge - Soft Cream Whistle
Club 8 - Missing You
Kerr - Back At Ya
May Roosevelt - The One With The List
Sharleen Spiteri - Keep Me Waiting (I hadn't cued up the cd when I hit play by accident, but I love this song so it didn't matter)
Girlfrendo - First Kiss Feelings Vs. Everyday Sensations (it's an all-girl vocal policy, much as I love this song, I had forgotten about the abundance of male vocals in it.  Fortunately, no one was really there to hear this faux pas)
Blast Off Country Style - Cutie Pie
The Crystals - He's A Rebel
Diane Renay - Kiss Me Sailor
The Jellybeans - I Wanna Love Him So Bad
Dolly Mixture - Step Close Now
Andrea Davis - You Gave Me Soul (unfortunately it started skipping during this amazing song)
Petra Cernocká - Saxana
Linda Thorson - Here I Am
Shirley Bassey - Moonraker (Disco Version)
Robyn - Robotboy
The Aprils - Astro
Freezepop - Summer Boy
The Kid - Transient Dance
Alizée - J'en Ai Marre
Marine Research - Parallel Horizontal
Shrag - Rabbit Kids
Siouxsie & The Banshees - Song From The Edge Of The World
Elastica - Stutter
Theoretical Girl - I Should've Loved You More
Those Dancing Days - Those Dancing Days
Deniece Williams - Let's Hear It For The Boy
Mint Royale & Lauren Laverne - Don't Falter
Goldfrapp - Number One
Jah Wobble & Julie Campbell - Feel
Freezepop - Doppelganger
The Long Blondes - Here Comes The Serious Bit
The Breeders - Divine Hammer
Pizzicato 5 - Twiggy Twiggy Vs. James Bond
Kenickie - In Your Car
Kylie Minogue - Disco Down
Saint Etienne - He's On The Phone
Jane Wiedlin - Rush Hour
Lita Ford - Kiss Me Deadly
Gina G - Ooh Aah Just A Little Bit
Blondie - Dreaming
Camera Obscura - French Navy (for Clare on her birthday, but unfortunately we tried to play this 3 times at different points on 2 different cds and it kept skipping).

Looks like I'm DJ'ing an hour at Sina's other all-girl night on the 18th, Scarlett O'Harlot.