Saturday, 26 January 2013

Career Opportunities (Child Version)

Yes, I know - two Sandinista! related post?! Well, my daughter inspired me to write a few words about the "child" version of Career Opportunities.

It's often seen as the the whipping boy of  Sandinista, and an example of where the album went wrong (although it didn't); a novelty track that is one genre too far for a band with an already diverse output. But after hearing my daughter singing along to it, and then asking me to play it again, made me realise how potent the track can be - one that has children singing "career opportunities are the ones that never knock, every job they offer you is to keep you out the dock".
So for all those people with misguided views of what makes good and "credible" music, maybe the song wasn't intended for you - that would be preaching to the converted, because you're already on board from band's previous output, right? Instead, maybe the song is designed for children to sing, almost as a nursery rhyme, years before they are fully aware of what they are singing about. Now THAT is subversive - making it musically, artistically and politically just as valid as the rest of their back catalogue.

I played my daughter the original version of Career Opportunities later - she asked me to put on the "proper" version instead.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Freakishly Good

I know it's only January, but this is by far the best album of the year so far. The chances are it might still be up there come the end of the year.
Following on from the brilliant Harum Scarum from 2008 and 2011's standalone single "You Don't Look At A Tidal Wave, A Tidal Wave Looks At You", comes 2013's Freakish. The music was actually recorded in 2011, so the duo are probably bored of it by now and on their way to recording something even better.
And the album pretty much picks up where the last one left off - influenced by early Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and containing occasional glimpses of post rock - but this time much more expansive, embracing more keyboards and an extra sheen to the production, without losing any of the dirty guitars from previous outings. Gideon continues his black comedic outlook on life, but being much more likely to recount some long forgotton playground tale gone wrong rather than a Nick Cave-esque murder ballad. And now Viva (The Shark) gets to sing on two songs too - the wonderful vocoder overload of "Poor Boy", and closing track "Friday 13".
They are also one of the best bands I've ever seen live - particulary to see Viva bring the elegance of her previous life as an olympic gymnast to her drumming and multi instrument playing. I know this photo (the gatefold inner sleeve) might be posed but, seriously, this is exactly how they look on stage.

Sunday, 13 January 2013


Oh the irony. A band called Speedy releasing their debut album 15 years after it was recorded...

Formerly going under the name Blammo! Sheffield's Speedy released a handful of singles in the mid to late 90s before vanishing from the world. Now, finally the world is ready for the album, and here it is - "News From Nowhere". Unsurprisingly, it sounds very britpop.
Now I'm going to dig out my Inspirals-esque I'm Spartacus 12"

Monday, 7 January 2013

Sandanista! In Good Album Review Shock!

Much maligned triple album is actually pretty good...

Bar one or two tracks, I hadn't listened to Sandinista! by The Clash for a very long time until earlier this year.

OK, so maybe it doesn't work well in a digital or CD format - there's too much to listen to in one sitting, so I can understand why it is viewed as a patchy mess of an album. Well you try staying focussed on anything for almost two and a half hours!

However, in it's original format - triple vinyl - it's actually a much more focussed listening experience than some people would have you believe, allowing you the benefit of a pause every 20 odd minutes to turn the record over. Reviews frequently look at the negatives - yes, there are some things that don't work - but neglect to mention the album's main strength, which is a lot of classic tunes: The Magnificent 7, Hits ville UK, The Call Up, Charlie Don't Surf, Washington Bullets, their cover of Lightning Strikes (not Once But Twice) etc. Instead of there being "a great single album" (another comment from the reviewers book of clich├ęs) somewhere in here, I reckon there's three hugely enjoyable, adventurous, and wonderfully diverse post-punk-dub-rap-pop albums screaming to get out. There's something for everyone here.

It takes an open mind to love this album - The UK press slated it, but their American counterparts, perhaps not so hung up on the bands punk credentials, loved it. I've listened to Sandinista! more in the last 12 months than I ever have before. If you haven't listened to it for a while then, go on, give it a second chance. Just take it one disc at a time...

Saturday, 5 January 2013

2012 Re-View

So here it is - the best music things of 2012.

Best song:
Of course.
I've already raved about this - it's one of those rare songs that I can listen to on repeat. Six months on, I still get a buzz whenever I hear the intro.

Best song title:
Scott Walker - SDSS141E+13B (Zercon, A Flagpole Sitter)
Clocking in at just shy of 22 minutes, the track almost outdoes the title when it comes to incomprehensibility. Sublime, ridiculous, pretentious, hilarious, impenetrable but totally compelling. Not quite "Make It Easy On Yourself" then.

Best album:
Field Music - Plumb

Or is it Dexys - One Day I'm Going To Soar?
Or maybe The 2 Bears' Be Strong?
Both strong contenders, but I'll go for Field Music - because of it's brevity, I can listen to it repeatedly SO many more times.

A great "alternative rock" album:
Dirty Projectors - Swing Lo Magellan
What I love about Dirty Projectors is how essential everything is. Every sound, note, hit of a snare drum, have a purpose, each adding something unique - there's nothing superfluous here and no generic guitars strumming with a bass playing the root note. Oh, and the songs are pretty good too, which helps.

A great "alternative electronic rock" album:
Fuxa - Electric Sound of Summer
A Christmas present, so there's still plenty to discover with this as I've only had it for just over a week. Post/space rock and electronica, featuring three brilliant cover versions - Our Lips are Sealed, Some Things Last a Long Time and Cheree (which they have stretched out to 10 minutes). In fact the Suicide references stretch further than covering Cheree, with another track being named "Marty Suicide" and the sound on many tracks coming across a bit like Suicide collaborating with Lali Puna - that is if Suicide were a bit happier and enjoyed spending summer afternoons lying in a field listening to the birds singing.

Five great gigs
So much great live music. Here's five examples.
Grandaddy (Ritz)
Public Service Broadcasting (Soup Kitchen)
Pulp (Motorpoint Arena)
(Green Man Festival)
tUnE-yArDs (Green Man Festival)

Some great album covers:

Three Ambient Records:
It was quite refreshing to find the man who is to blame/thank for the whole genre showing the kids how it should be done. Brian Eno's Lux is one of the most beautiful things he's released in a long time. It sounds even more special now I have it on "180g DMM mastered double vinyl". Honest.

Daniel Lopatin is steadily becoming one of my favourite 21st century artists, with three brilliant albums released over the last couple of years. After Ford and Lopatin's homage to the 80s (1980s and 2080s) that was Channel Pressure, and Oneohtrix Point Never's sublime Replica, we now get a collaboration with Tim Hecker on the Instrumental Tourist album, which might be called ambient, but a thoroughly modern and forward thinking ambient.

Oh and Julian Cope released Woden, which was originally recorded in 1998 but left in the vault. He describes it as "one 72-minute ambulent meditation upon Warden Hill & Avebury". After a difficult opening section, it transforms into a beautiful and absorbing three-note melody accompanied by the distant sound of church bells. Or is it the sound of distant church bells?

Drone Pop:
I'm talking about Circles by Moon Duo, a Wooden Shjips side project (for one member anyway) that takes the sound of Wooden Shjips / Spaceman 3 and blends it with tunes that border on pop. Fantastic stuff.

And talking of side projects...
Tame Impala or Pond? Well, they both released great albums, with TI getting (most of) the accolades. Lonerism was the more consistent, but Beard, Wives, Denim contained Moth Wings - a psych rock masterpiece. A tough one to call.

Hot Chip or The 2 Bears?
Both will put a massive grin on your face. In Our Heads sounds like Hot Chip (understandably), whilst Be Strong is the perfect soundtrack for anyone pining for some post-house, Ian Dury-esque pop...and anyone who is in need of a Bear Hug.

Reissue of the year:
In agreement with 99% of all music publications, it has to be Can's The Lost Tapes. Archive material from 1968-1977 and previously unreleased, this is probably the most remarkable thing I've heard in years. So good, in fact, that I bought it twice.

Oh, how they spoil us:
After a six year gap, Mouse on Mars return with not one, but two shiny new albums of their unique glitchy electronica in a collision with techno, krautrock and hip-hop. One for the head (Parastophics) that you can dance to, which took years to complete, and one for the feet (Wow) that you can admire for it's cleverness, which was thrown together over a few months. Both great.

Best Format:
Barry Adamson - Brighton Rockers. Released as a playable postcard. That's right, a postcard that you can play.

And here's some more albums I've loved this year:
Barry Adamson - I Will Set You Free
Spritualized - Sweet Heart, Sweet Light
Euros Childs - Summer Special
Neil Young - Psychedelic Pill
Pye Corner Audio - Sleep Games
Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Hallelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!
Four Tet - Pink
Daphni - Jiaolong
Toy - Toy
Squarepusher - Ufabulum
The Flaming Lips With Heady Fwends

Anyway, you get the point...