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Archive for November, 2011

Now that we are in this Golden Shower era of wall-to-wall digitalism, collecting vinyl, cassettes, CDs, picture disks, fanzines, box sets, DVDs, videos, fan club letters ad nauseum will soon-ish be a remnant of the past unless, like me, you cling to the last vestiges of thing-ism and continue to visit record stores in the quest for something to get my grubby hands on. The cheaper the better.

So, in a tribute if you will to what is a new, tech-savvy era, this ageing Luddite says goodbye with a tear in his eye to all that goodness attached to a price tag, with a glorious trawl through some of the musical tat and collectibles that have enlivened a life of living with the volume on medium to high.

The Manic Street Preachers: UK Channel Boredom. 

The Manics were virtually unknowns in 1990, with just a limited-edition promo single and a raft of incendiary but low-key gigs behind them. This flexi disk came with a fanzine and was coupled with a track by long-forgotten The Laurens, who’s poppier sound was out of synch with the brash and brazen Manics. The disk was so light I had to put some pound coins on top of it just to get the damn thing to play. This was worth 100 pounds a few years ago, a figure which may well have increased.

Jesus and Mary Chain – Psychocandy/
Echo & the Bunnymen – Songs to Learn and Sing
I bought these pretty much at the same time, on glorious vinyl, shocking my parents with the Mary Chain one, as, well, it just looked so ….. strange, and dark. This was more than just a case of purchasing some classic mid-80s sounds, this was Porky becoming a bona fide music fan. This shocks me even now, but the stuff I was buying up until about mid-85 was Level 42, Queen and Dire Straits. Only Madness could be considered acceptable. I had been subjected to a stream of radio-friendly unit shifters while working during a balmy summer on a wire rope mini-factory that served the oil industry in Aberdeen. These guys played Radio 1 or the local commercial station all day long, and with that wafting in your ears it takes a lot of will power to resist. With some new mates, the transition to New Order, The Cure, Half Man Half Biscuit, the House of Love, The Pogues and the Cocteau Twins had begun.

The Smiths – anything on vinyl

I only bought a few of their singles, and only the 7inches as the 12” cost double for one extra track although that was often a cracker. They had wonderful sleeves, always bouncing with colour and featuring people the world were largely unaware of, such as Warhol star Joe Dallesandro, and pools winner Viv Nicholson. The vinyl part also came inscribed with the run-out groove: Another Porky Prime Cut, which of course gave this site its name.

The Free French: It’s Not Me It’s You

At the beginning of the century I was working at the Bury Free Press in the beautiful setting of west Suffolk. Englishness at its finest. The landlord at the Priors pub, which is tucked away in a housing estate, was a right character by the name of Geordie and he allowed all sorts of bands to come into his establishment. The over-hyped Cord came, so did miserable Mancunians Longview, and local favourites Miss Black America were always there. There were a procession of largely indie bands, from East Anglia and the south-east that blew their candles in front of about 60 people. The Free French were one of those who stand out, playing what I described as XTC meets Tony Hancock. Afterwards I blagged their last album, which I felt I deserved since I wrote about them in the local rag. There’s no doubt this is a fine album with its delicious melodies and down-to-earth lyrics and it’s included here because this is a one of the great lost collections, a rarity that’s hard to find.

Frisbee fight, with 7” records:

I had been at a market while studying in Hull, and saw someone selling a pile of 7″ singles. It was the sturdy box that tempted me more as the records were old chart mush, though there might have been a couple of the 40+ records that may have been worth keeping. This was the summer, virtually the end of term, so there was a lot of drinking and watching the European Championships in which England were in. I was a Scot down south so there was some lively banter going on. So, with the cheap cider, the football, and a pile of crap singles in a corner, you can almost imagine what went on next. How no-one didn’t have their neck badly cut by a copy of a Sam Brown single I’ll never know.

Blue Ox Babes: Apples & Oranges

A forthcoming blog will explain the legacy and mystique of the vastly under-rated Babes, who influenced, if that is the word, one of the biggest British bands of the 80s, Dexys Midnight Runners. I found the Babes’ International Hope Campaign 12″ in a bargain bin for 50p. Bought it on a hunch and that was proved correct. By the mid-90s I’d largely forgotten about them until a friend living in the same student hellhole in Hull, Scouse Neil, brought back a cassette by the band. This was the album, and he’d got it in a charity shop for 50p – my favourite price. Blimey, I thought as I took it off his hands. Blimey tripled a few years later when I found that this was a promo, and the album had never actually been released. A mighty find indeed.

The Redskins: Lean On Me 7”

Pretty rare and I’d been looking for it for some time, not searching the graveyards kinda thing, just monitoring the racks of a record shop I might happen to enter. Found this at a record store in a small town in north-east Scotland, selling for 15 pounds. The owner wasn’t around but some young lad doing a Saturday job was, so I said how much did he want. A fiver. Sold. Deal of the bloody century.

Gene promos.

Gene were endlessly compared to The Smiths in their mid-90s heyday, and while there is an element of truth in that, they had a whole new sphere and were one of the best bands of the time, pissing on many of the Britpop acts. By 1999, however, their star had fallen and they weren’t selling so much. While writing a music column for a newspaper in north-east Scotland I would be sent loads of promos by their record label, most of the one-track singles coming in a slimline, card case, and like many promos, had a slightly alternative cover to the normal release. We press journos were so lucky to have these we’d often flog them on eBay. The Gene singles, and the label did the same thing for the As Good As It Gets compilation – remain treasured items for Porky.

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Who: Half Man Half Biscuit 

Title: 90 Bisodol (Crimond)

Label: Probe Plus

All the elements of a Half Man Half Biscuit album are here: the play on words and the witty titles and songs about the things we actually talk most about: korfball, sellers of Betterware products, “Ross Kemp on Watership Down” and a “bothy on the Knoydart”, the last one being a reference to a peninsula in the western Highlands that’s only accessible by sea. And don’t we all talk to our mothers about the late English singer Kathleen Ferrier while dunking gingernuts into our tea? Maybe that’s just me then.
Like the late, legendary DJ John Peel, I love the Biscuits. They are a breed apart, leaders of a small clique of obscurantist artists delving into the minutae, the strangeness, the uniqueness of our 21st century lives. That group could include The Fall, I, Ludicrous, Sultans of Ping FC and others whose refusal to pander to traditional rock and pop subject matter centering around love, sex, money … and more love, sex and money.
As funny as their songs can be (who couldn’t help but chuckle to Rod Alive is Alive – Why or The Trumpton Riots?) there is a real politic among the biscuit tin, an anger against the mundanity of modern, pervasive culture and the descent of British culture towards a homogenised, more Americanised version that’s palatable to someone trying to flog the masses of their pennies. And even if Britishness, and whatever that entails, pervades the record, in a sense it is plausible to empathise with the clan if you’re in New Zealand or Vancouver.

Porky adores Joy of Leeuwarden (We Are Ready) which is bizarrely derived from a song written about the 2010 European Korfball Championships in the Netherlands. Meanwhile, Nigel Blackwell uses the narrative style he’s used to good effect on previous albums, on Descent of the Stiperstones, to describe a meeting a dullard has with a former Coronation Street star.

Nevertheless, it’s difficult to resist fast-forwarding the utterly pointless L’enfer C’est Les Autres, which is actually sung in English, and Blackwell’s dark tale of The Coroner’s Footnote is less appealing than it sounds with a monotonous drone.

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Who: Noel Gallagher  

Title: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds

Label: Sour Mash records

Tell me more: Everybody and his midget lover knows Noel was the true talent in Oasis, the driving force, the songwriter, the organiser, the one who did the thoughtful interviews etc etc. Maybe Beady Eye has scuppered that view. This is Noel’s official debut, following a live album two years ago as well as numerous worthy guest appearances on other people’s records.

The Lowdown: Without the constraints of the rock beast that was Oasis, Gallagher is free to develop his own niche, though whether he allows himself enough of a leash is a moot point, with some tracks retaining the stadium expansiveness of his former band. This is  most obvious on the opener, Everybody’s On The Run, which may be a continuation of his past work but as a statement of intent it is quite impressive. I’m sometimes left with the feeling that Gallagher is regenerating back into Morning Glory, rather than experimenting enough but there are moments that make you realise the Mancunian is one of the industry’s characters, and of course an immense talent. That’s evident on the edgy (Stranding on a Beach) and in the overall lyrics, which resonate with a love of life, but also an acknowledgement of how tough it can be: “Hard times – life is getting faster/ And no one has the answer/ I try to face the day down in a new way/ At the bottom of a bottle,” from The Death of You And Me, for example. And,finally, there is Stop the Clocks, a track that’s been bootlegged like crazy over the past decade, but never felt appropriate for Oasis. I would agree on that count, but its beautiful easiness (until 4.15 that is when it goes off on a tangent) is well suited to High Flying Birds.

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Who: Vile Imbeciles 

Title: D Is For W

Label: Tea Vee Eye

Tell me more: Not a nu-metal band as name might suggest but they do have a bit of a rockist history as Andy Huxley was the former songwriter and guitarist for The 80s Matchbox B-Line Disaster, who were as woeful as their name suggests. Has Huxley learned from that, ahem, disaster?

The Lowdown: D is For W comes across as made by Captain Beefheart fans who have recently found out about bonkers English band The Cardiacs. That’s admirable influences, but

I’m not quite sure what the Imbeciles are attempting here, and I’m not entirely sure if the band themselves know. One reviewer felt a Vile Imbeciles record required a goodly number of listens to ‘get it’ but this has been on the stereo a few times I’m as bemused and irritated as I was when I put it on first. It has a broad range of ideas, but the band can’t blend them together. Apathetic Innocence is a stodgy funked-up number that Prince would pass on to his favourite enemy, Bitches Kisses falters at the starting blocks and finishes 10 seconds behind the sprinter from Equatorial Guinea, while It Makes You Sad is a jam session led by the drummer’s three-year-old daughter. Okay, let’s move on.

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Who: JD Meatyard 

Title: JD Meatyard

Label: Probe Plus

Tell me more: Meatyard was once part of Calvin Party, which he admits “some people liked and some didn’t”. It would be fairer to say most people didn’t know about them but John Peel certainly did and played them regularly.

The Lowdown: Nice to see Probe Plus putting out a few releases with label head Geoff Davies also releasing an album by Lovecraft recently; sadly time and space prevents Porky from reviewing that one. This self-titled album is a largely acoustic album without as much turnip as Porky would like, but we find the energetic Myspace Star very amenable, especially for the opening lines: “Fifty-thousand pictures of my mouth wide open, my mouth wide open, a fag in my hand; I’m a star, we’re all stars, Myspace stars.”

Here’s a video that will give you a better idea of what they’re like.

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