Title: The Old Magic
Label: Proper Records
Tell me more: I have to say it’s great being a reviewer, even if the bulk of the stuff that arrives at the sty stinks worse than the swill. Having the best blog in the universe means plenty of corporate and indie chaps and chapettes want to get down and dirty with Porky, and some good human being has acted admirably by sending the latest Lowe album. If it wasn’t for those good people at the record labels I would continue to have a misguided view of Lowe as a middle of the road old foggie with a dodgy past in pub rock.
The Lowdown: Lowe may be a sexagenarian but age seems to have invigorated this quintessential Englishman, with 2007’s At My Age delving into the nuances of his approach toward the big six-oh. In fact, he confronts it with typical wit and adroitness: “I’m 61 years old now, and Lord I never thought I’d see 30/ Though I know this road has still some way to go, I can’t help but thinking on.” (Checkout Time).
He ponder lost love; selling up, from a house where love once resided (House for Sale) and finds that he reads a lot “not just magazines, but more serious things” to get over a deserted lover (I Read a Lot). Meanwhile, Lowe also finds he has the “wander dust” in his feet, on Restless Feeling, though he doesn’t know where it’s leading him to. With a strong backing band, Lowe has found a niche, and there seems little let up, a la Lee Scratch Perry.
Anything else: Lowe’s (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding hit has been covered by Elvis Costello, and more importantly Curtis Stigers. Now, that’s respect.
Title: Spot the Difference
Label: Love Records
Tell me more: A greatest hits collection, with a difference.
The Lowdown: Over the decades bands – or to be more precise in most cases, opportunistic labels – have added a little teaser or two to compilations to entice the fan to buy another product with the act’s name. So, usually, it’s a couple of new tracks, that have either been collecting dust or are new recordings. Squeeze’s little gimmick is to re-record 14 tracks including Loving You Tonight with Glenn Tilbrook singing instead of the bland Paul Carrack. The majority of changes are fairly small, though the spotters among their fanbase will have fun picking them out. Squeeze’s first records came out in 1978, and, naturally, they were lumped in with the new wave ‘power-pop’ movement that sprung up in the wake of punk, though they were a more traditional pop outfit. There are two stand-out moments in their canon: Cool For Cats, which surely must contain the most words in a three-minute song, and the more restrained Up The Junction, both of which were monster radio-friendly hits in 1979. By the early 80s the hits had dried up as they moved closer to the centre of the highway, but hit back with the timeless Hourglass in 1987. The early years and a few of the later hits make this a thoroughly pleasant experience.
Anything else: TV personality Jools Holland was a founder member.
Tell me more: Pioneers of dance music, this career overview feature contributions from Elbow’s Guy Garvey, James Dean Bradfield and Bjork.
The Lowdown: Its 1988, house music is in the charts, indie music isn’t but all the best of those bands are from Manchester and the first illegal dance raves are taking off. Fitting in nicely with all this is 808 State, whose instrumental Pacific State single reaches the UK top 10, with its breezy feel and sensuality. The Manchester trio will always be associated with that track – to be honest they never quite matched it. Early tracks Cubik, In Yer Face, Cobra Bora and Olympic reveal a time when music was changing and the line between rock and dance was drawing ever closer. Then came the love-in with the great and the good with hich Garvey, Bjork and Bradfield all lending a hand, and Eno mixing Lopez, the track the Manic Street Preacher features on. In 1991 when the Manics were playing out and out punk, no-one would ever have considered that their lead singer would perform a band synonymous with electronica.
Anything else: Martin Price, Graham Massey and Gerald Simpson started off in a hip hop act called Hit Squad Manchester.
Title: In Your Ear
Tell me more: Porky has been reviewing albums in a variety of outlets since 1996 (you got it, since he was two years old) but never reviewed a children’s album.
The Lowdown: As an adult, it is of course, difficult to subjectively review a children’s album, I mean where’s all the heavy, innuendo-laden lyrics you spend ages trying to decipher? This is all too simplistic: “Hair/ Why is it there?/ People stop and people stare everywhere/ When I walk, out of the door/ It flows from my armpits, and down to the floor.” (Hair). And We’re So Famous, is about, well, ahem, being a celebrity. I guess. fleaBITE use an array of styles, dancehall on one, for example, while Medusa sounds somewhat eerie, designed no doubt, to scare the poo out of the weans. The Piglet is too young to appreciate this just now but it won’t be long before she sticks the CD in the bin and the case in the laptop.
Anything else: www.fleabite.co.nz