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Archive for March, 2014

I WAS PLEASANTLY taken aback late last year when I read that an unheralded classic from two decades ago would again see the light of day, laden with B-sides, a radio session, a rare EP and, perhaps best of all half a dozen unreleased tracks, which would have provided the backbone of their second album if they had lasted the course.
The band is Five Thirty (but I prefer 5:30), and the album is Bed, originally released in 5.30September 1991 on EastWest, and now reissued on 3 Loop Music, a label with the aim of “re-engaging artists and fans,”. The reissue has come about with the help of Lee Rourke, the man behind the well written and thoroughly researched 5:30 blogsite (see link below).
Lee writes some excellent notes to the album, as do both Tara Milton and Phil Hopper of the band. So there’s little need for me to provide any background but you are more than welcome to see my previous blog on the band: https://craighaggis.wordpress.com/2012/04/22/just-who-is-the-530-hero/
Supernova was the burning pop single with heavy tremolo-effected; 13th Disciple was tuneful, sexy and owed a debt (slight as it was) to the Stone Roses; Junk Male used clever guitar techniques with an alerting opening stanza: “If God were to ever come my way, I’d spit into his face. Then calmly walk away.”
Songs and Paintings was about how creativity couldn’t change the world: “Songs and paintings never brought a regime down. It cannot be fair.”
Bed (derived from Tara’s original title Between the Bed and the Clock) was surprisingly diverse, ranging from funkier numbers, to ballads and guitar-driven numbers.

The insert for Bed

The vinyl version which I have, and I imagine most fans would have bought at the time, contained 10 tracks, the CD added an earlier single, the supercharged Abstain and Catcher In the Rye, which was recorded while at school but sounding remarkably mature. All this is on the first disk alongside the four-tracks that made up the Air Conditioned Nightmare EP, released in 1990.
The second disk is the one I played first for obvious reasons. It contains eight B-sides, some of which, such as Out To Get In and Something’s Got To Give, could easily have fitted on the album or been singles in their own right. Come Together was a cover of the Beatles track.
A Radio One session, for DJ Mark Radcliffe, from 1990 was recorded on the same day as the infamous London Poll Tax riot, and while they were ensconced in a studio all day, it sounds as edgy as what was happening on the streets. They put down Abstain, Air Conditioned Nightmare, Judy Jones from the EP and Strange Kind of Urgency which would appear on Bed.
To cap it all are six demo tracks that have hitherto never been heard by more than a handful of people. I have to assume all were for the second album, provisionally entitled Another Fresh Corpse.
They’re all exceptional tracks, especially She’s Got It Bad, and Barbie Ferrari, the comical tale of a liberated young woman, “Emily Pankhurst died for Barbie Ferrari.”. Beseech Me was played live before the release of Bed, but didn’t make the final cut. It’s very energetic, but would have needed a little bit of polishing before going on record. Apple Something has single written all over it; When I’m Stoned has a touch of Hendrix about it, and the mini-set is completed by another strong track, Song of No Intention.

It would have made for a fascinating album.  It’s never too late for an unreleased album to gain life. So, Tara, Paul and Phil, please get together, get in the studio and re-record that album. You know it makes sense.
http://3loopmusic.tmstor.es
http://www.five-thirty.co.uk/Five_Thirty/Home.html

 

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England’s redoubtable musical talents tend to spring up from the cities – Liverpool, Manchester and London spawned The Beatles, The Smiths and The Stones respectively, to pluck just three examples from the water.
The shires tend to be overlooked by Albion’s historical references, but there’s been Templesseveral class acts emerging from the market towns over the past few decades inspiring wannabe musicians.
The new hope are Temples, hailing from the humdrum settlement of Kettering in the flat, farming county of Northamptonshire, full of equally humdrum towns and a drab concrete sprawl as its capital.
If you have a spare hundred pounds you may be able to buy a copy of their debut 7” single, Shelter Song. But there’s little need to rummage around eBay as it is the opening track on Sun Structures, the Heavenly records/ PIAS released debut album.
It isn’t a million miles off what The Byrds were doing at the height of their career. It is also, however, exactly what The Sufis, who released Inventions last year, are also doing; they appear to be mining in the same goldfield.
The title track is more complex, with guitar riffs that wouldn’t be out of place on a Deerhunter album. The Golden Throne has an altogether more pop feel, while Keep In The Dark is similarly a break into pop territory. And so it goes, psychedelic sixties riffs bump off pop song structures with easy to hum hooks.
After the first listen I had little intention of reviewing Sun Structures. But, faced with an untypical creative block, I picked it up again, and became intrigued by its richness and historical feel. That said there are serious flaws, and Move with The Season and perhaps another late track or two, are laboured and lack purpose. I would imagine this featuring at about No. 39 in the end of year album lists.
Temples are the genre’s most likely pop stars, though that might not be quite what they are looking for.

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Mouse Eat Mouse: Mair Licht (Hackpen Records, 2006)

MOUSE EAT MOUSE were little more than an almost humourous band name until I came across one of the free disks that come with desperate monthly magazines; this one included the title track of their debut album. After obtaining Mair Licht through an internet auction site (it wasn’t easy to come by) my knowledge of the act remains vague. The renowned listomaniac site Discogs.com offers up an act called MouseEatTongue, while Google, other than directing me to their largely unused Twitter, Facebook and Bandcamp pages, suggests sites speculating about the dietary habits of rodents.
What is obvious is that this Scottish outfit utilise fully the traditional Scots vernacular, and adopted that famously dour Caledonian sense of humour. They are nothing like anything else, and though some Greenock Morton fans have compared them to Ivor Cutler, it seems a risible comparison.
Mair LIchtPorky’s particular choice cut is Aye and Ay, a tale of idealistic activists who climb the “scliddery pole” in the British Labour Party and become part of a long-running centrist government.
“They supported CND, aye and ay unilaterally. They were the anti-nuclear girls and boys … they joined the perty, they paid their dues and through the ranks rose like the chosen few.”
Then, CD Shade’s voice takes a sterner tone as he relates the unhappy yet inevitable tale of those who harbour ambitious hopes of office rather than stick to their principles.
“Quit minds set in, morally fled fae CND; NATO, and then the Iraqi bloody wars. They supported WMD, aye and ay, quite cynically.” *
This is in a way untypical of the album, and the band itself, being as sprightly as any Glasgow indie/ pop band, and the same ouvre marks Red and Black which begins with a grinding guitar, and an out of tune violin. These and the title track mingle among spoken word tracks, poetry, melodic folk and, quite frankly the incomprehensible.
La Le La/ Iron Mountain is an uneasy listen but ultimately rewarding with Shade raging, in the voice of a patient university lecturer, that “In the scam culture o’ misappropriation, illusionary capitalist morals are aligned to the legislative elite/ La le la, le la.”
While Mair Licht, as I’ve alluded to, remains a cult classic, it was later noted by the Bluesbunny site as “One of the finest Scottish albums of all time … so good, and so over the top, that a rational man could doubt that it was ever borne of the deadly dullness that pervades our Scottish musical ‘culture’.” .
That is to suggest that Scottish music lacks quality but while the writer isn’t far off the target in their elevation of this particular work, Caledonia has provided me with some of the most fabulous records, by Josef K, Aztec Camera, Franz Ferdinand, Simple Minds, Orange Juice, Altered Images, The Associates and Sheena Easton.
Mouse Eat Mouse did record and release, online only it seems, a second album, Woof, at the end of last year. I’ll get to that later.
* Apologies if this is not correct, but there are no lyrics online to the song as I was transcribing manually.

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I shall forever be indebted to Zang Tuum Tumb, the esoteric name for a record label that in the 1980s was home to some of the most astounding acts in Europe. Frankie Goes to Hollywood were there, so were The Art of Noise and 808 State.
But for Porky the jewel in the empire was Propaganda a German four-piece whose Teutonic rhythms and approach to music were generally broadcast in English.ZTT
Thanks to intense back cataloguing spearheaded by Ian Peel, virtually everything Propaganda has recorded has been reissued this century (and they were one of the protagonists of the remix, overdoing the concept perhaps), including their immense debut album, the vinyl version of which was spun dozens of times in Porky home.
Naturally, the band feature on The Organisation of Pop a brilliant double collection of ZTT material, much of it now hard to find. Duel and Dr Mabuse, receive the rewind treatment, but there’s no P-Machinery, strangely. I guess squeezing as much as possible in was always going to be an enormous task for Peel and his cohorts, and it’s gratifying to see Grace Jones’ sleek Slave to the Rhythm, 808 State’s groundbreaking Pacific State 707, Kirsty MacColl’s piano version of Angel and Act’s Snobbery and Decay included. There are other, bigger, hits from Seal, Adamski, Tom Jones (in his first steps at reviving his image of a granny-pleaser) and a beautiful ballad by Shane MacGowan and Sinead O’Connor.
Bypassing Lisa Stansfield and All Saints is a necessity, of course, but such blips are rather rare.
Meanwhile, ZTT have also released their latest instalment of the art of the remix in full, the appropriately entitled The Art of the 12”, Volume Three, which, as well as many of the above mentioned acts, also includes the maligned Sigue Sigue Sputnik, Madness, Yes and M, offering versions of various hits. Much of this is previously unreleased.

IT WOULD would be stating the obvious that The Sparks would have had a reasonable influence on much of the 80s electro go-getters. Springing out of the States in the early 1970s, the Mael brothers found Britain more welcoming to their proto-electro glamrock and Russell’s high-octane vocal style. Morrissey was a fan, and in an era when Bowie and Roxy Music were the choice of dandies and outsiders, the Sparks fitted in between.
SparksIt’s a timely opportunity to hear New Music For Amnesiacs, the Essential Collection. The version I have is the double, but I would also suggest seeking out the 83-track boxset.
Pretty much everything of note is included, from the haunting, environmentally aware Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth, the brother’s anthem, This Town Ain’t Big Enough For the Two of Us and the 1920s inspired Looks, Looks, Looks. It encompasses the Giorgio Moroder produced era of Beat the Clock, their bizarre team up with Jane Wiedlin of the Go-Gos (Cool Places) and to most recent material such as How Do I Get to Carnegie Hall? and When Do I Get To Sing ‘My Way’, finishing on an ode to a member of their own fan club Lighten Up, Morrissey. Apart from the bizarre omission of the brilliant Try Outs For the Human Race this is a collection all dandies and outsiders should be sharing with the world at large.

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The re-release of Gene’s back catalogue takes me back to an era when anything seemed possible.

It was 1994 going into 95, Britpop was in fourth gear and the music press were hailing it as the greatest thing since toilet paper. That Olympianignored the reality, that  British music had been on a high for several years, and the scene that was perceived (wrongly) to be headed by Oasis and Blur and marked by their carefully-manufactured rivalry, was only one part of an immensely creative period.

Among the many bands semi-independent of any scene were Gene, led by Martin Rossiter, and aided by Steve Mason, Kevin Miles and Matt James. With their heart-pulling lyrics and a debut single containing two songs, For The Dead and Child’s Body, it was no surprise that the perceived bleakness, lyrical brilliance and a love of the underdog would soon have the hacks comparing them to The Smiths.

But this was a little misguided. Sure, they were in awe of the Mancunians but this is something that could be levelled at almost every indie band that arose post-1986. The reality was they were just as much influenced by The Jam, The Faces, and The Stone Roses.

Following a clutch of graceful singles, Olympian was unleashed in 1995, a stunning collection that befitted such an ambitious title. On Sick, Sober and Sorry, Gene revealed the differences between them and their peers; writing of the troubled and the destitute, Rossiter implored, “Please don’t stop me from drinking/ It’s my only joy/ Please don’t stop me from smoking/ This is my reward.”

On Left-Handed, Gene carefully explore the subject of sexuality with Rossiter bemoaning “”On the Isle of Man I’ll serve my time”, a reference to the arcane laws of what is a largely independent island of the UK. Not surprisingly Olympian featured highly in the end of year charts. Drawn

It was followed, in 1997, by Drawn To The Deep End, an album that featured strings and lavish production. This didn’t diminish its quality, and while many would, almost inevitably, teasingly suggest it was not the equal of their debut, listening again several years later, it’s clear it hasn’t lost its timeless quality with songs such as Where Are They Now? and lead single We Could Be Kings.

In just two years, Gene had lost momentum and their third album, Revelations, was a muted affair, with critics and buyers alike, but it did contain the brilliant, Mod-esque single, As Good As It Gets, a brutal attack on the political direction the country was taking and the largely self-explanatory The British Disease. After leaving Polydor, Gene released Libertine in 2001 on their own label, but it was a bit of a letdown. A return to their roots, with epic non-single songs, it contained some of the elements the band had become renowned for. But, this was not a band in a good space, and apart from the monumental Is It Over? it lacked the dark melodies and the organic feel of the previous efforts.

All albums – reissued by Edsel Recordings – come with a second glorious disk of B-sides and rarities in enormous qualities – Drawn To LibertineThe Deep End, for instance, contains 35 tracks all up. On top of all this there is also the mop-up compilation, To See The Lights, which itself receives the heavyweight reissue treatment.

So step forward once again messrs Rossiter, James, Mason and Miles, take a bow for your sterling efforts over almost a decade. You were an essential component of a much-loved decade, and you played your part in making Porky’s student years memorable ones. These magnificent reissues may initially strike a chord with past fans but they deserve a second wind, and for a new audience to discover their timeless, heart-filled qualities.

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Once upon a time, in the good old days when there were no wars or disease, record labels would slavishly supply reviewers with CDs. Gold Medal FamousThe pig sty would light up when these packages arrived, though most of the items inevitably ended up in the charity shop.

Now, most labels just sent off stuff digitally and it’s no coincidence at all that all you hear on the news now is war and conflict and disease and pestilence and Australian success in cricket.

But those good folk at Powertool Records are doing their bit for world peace, and boy have made a cracking start to the new year, with a clutch of new releases designed to make us all feel happier and more likely to go on an exercise regime.

First out of the envelope is Gold Medal Famous, an avant-garde electro-indie outfit out of Wellington, the 17th most expensive city in the world to live in. Apparently. Porky’s reader (surely readers? – sceptical editor) will be more than familiar with them as we’ve reviewed their past two albums. (100% Pure, Gold Medal Famous)

Free Body Culture is a seven-track mini album of strangeness, bleeps, mutated narration and a sense of freedom and the art of living sensibly. They are, the press release informs me, 21st century subversives. A bold statement indeed.

But they make a decent claim to  this on Meat Lovers’ Pizza, which despite its’ misleading title, revolves around a quote from Prime Minister John Key, said around the time he was allowing for further spying on New Zealanders: “If you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve got nothing to fear.” North Korea’s state news agency was taking notes at that point.

Agitating for a vote against the odious National Party at this year’s election, You’re So Outrageous tackles the affronts against the constitution the ruling junta (surely democratically elected government? – ed) has carried out, by using urgency in parliament to push through bills deemed essential, and thus avoiding public scrutiny. Using a hypnotic dance beat and eerie vocals, Gold Medal Famous prove there’s a way of make a political point in this drab cultural era.

Meanwhile, Out for the Night celebrates the art of the piss-up, in a manner that is reminiscent of the Human League or the Younger Younger 28s (Google them). “It only costs five bucks to get in, the bands come all the way from Hamilton,”

Free Body Culture, named after a German nudist movement, is varied, playful, angry, and esoteric; it is the band’s finest effort yet.

Label mate Matthew Bannister is a man on a mission, If he’s not playing live around New Zealand like a madman he’s recording Changing SameBeatles albums (last year’s Evolver, Evolver) and releasing EPs with his band of merry men, The Changing Same. Make Up My Mind is a brief and delightful four-track recording that continues Bannister’s love of the 1960s, with the influence of a certain Liverpool act much in abundance.

Could Be Anyone is a tale of how life could change if those lottery numbers come in, and Slow Down with its gorgeous strings mingling with pleasing riffs, is a plea to live life another way: “Lay your burden down, let your garden grow, the way to Tinseltown is not the way to go.”

And the harmony-heavy title track is the anthem for all those who can’t make decisions, nor take responsibility for their life: “Which way to go is the devil you know/ This is the way that I feel every day/ Revolving doors, stranded in between floors.”

Meanwhile, Seeds of Orbit, are similarly hooked on the decade of love, but are more Jimi than John. Lead by Mark Petersen who Seeds of Orbitwas for a spell in Straitjacket Fits you know that the amps will be cranked up really high.

Their debut self-titled EP contains the most hallucinogenic cover since 1972, and is five tracks of full-on rock’n’roll meets psychedelia. Make Up of Moments contains the softest of touches they’ll put down but still pounds out a delirious slew of guitar riffs. Oh Long John is two parts Sabbath, one part Deep Purple. Sure it’s all been done before, probably a lot better in fact, but it’s fantastic fun and I imagine they would be immense live.

All recordings available via: http://powertoolrecordsdotnet.wordpress.com/

 

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