Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Arm of Roger - The Ham and its Lily

So the story goes, possibly inspired by their record label saying Summer Here Kids could've been a hit if it wasnt so lo fi and could've done with louder drums, Grandaddy decided to, whilst recording the seminal Sophtware Slump album, also recorded a fake album with the sole intention of sending it to their label making them think it was the real album. So, they went to great lengths to make it sound just about believable but bad and lo fi enough to send the record label executives into a cold sweat.

Jim Fairchild of the band had this to say...
"We did this. We went through the trouble of making a fake record. Or most of it. You Know You’re Fucked Up actually stems from a recording Jason and I made with Randy Keener in 1993. Down With The Animals was a tune we’d made up in the van years before. We would get wasted and write and record things like Robot Escort or the Pussy Song in a couple hours. The fake album was more or less done before we began work on The Signal to Snow Ratio EP, which preceded the Sophtware Slump as the test of our newly acquired gear and space."

"We sat on it for months. When Jason finished mixing The Sophtware Slump in November, 1999, he made cassettes of the fake album (yes cassettes) for I guess around 7 of the key people at V2 worldwide. We FedExed them so that they’d all arrive on a Thursday to offices in England, Benelux, France, US, and maybe Australia. Each had a personal note from Jason that said something about our excitement for what we’d made and our looking forward to working with everybody over the next couple years. The story we heard was that people were arranged around tables in different parts of the world, listening to the new Grandaddy album, conference call buttons engaged. Jason had made the sequence so that the first few songs could be sort believable as our new tunes. I mean, the songs are largely terrible, but there is a sense that whoever made them possesses some knowledge of song structure, melody and general composition."

"This is Thursday. I was “managing” the band at this point, so I thought for sure I’d hear a word of response by that evening, Friday at the latest. The weekend came and went. I called Jason Monday and was scared. Thinking the idea had crashed one of two ways; that V2 had found enough to like that the gears were in motion to release this piece of shit, or that we’d been dropped. I wanted to call and say, hey guys, we were joking! Jason’s perspective was just chill and let them reach out. Another day and a half went by and I was properly freaked out.
This was pre-caller-ID days, so every call that came to my house, I’d let it go to the message machine, begin listening and if it was someone from the label, pick up and be prepared to continue the ruse as long as I could. Finally at the end of Tuesday, the phone rings and our beloved A&R person, Kate Hyman, is leaving me a message about receiving the record. I pick up and Kate says “Hey Jim, I got the album….now will you send me the real one you fucking asshole?!” Exact wording, I can still hear it. I guess at the conference table there were a few people who thought it was pretty weird, but okay. Maybe order some new mixes and see what happens. Some people thought it was terrible, that we’d spent our advance on booze and drugs and this was the result. And then I would imagine most listeners were simply confused. People were either angry with us about wasting their time with this stunt, or had a decent sense of humor and were as pleased as we were about it."

The album saw a limited CD release a few years later, by which time it was credited to a fake band called Arm Of Roger. They even played a gig under this name.

But now it's out on vinyl... and worth the wait.

Friday, 2 October 2015

Euros Childs - Sweetheart

Just what you'd expect and want from Euros when he's in full-band mode - a set of highly accomplished and blissfully melodic songs, with piano, harmonies and his still angelic voice taking centre stage.

As you would expect for an album recorded at his parents house whilst they kindly went away on holiday, there's a distinctly warm and homely feel to the music. The inner sleeve even shows the band in action - setting up cables in the dining room, recording guitar parts in the kitchen, preparing lunch, doing the dishes and looking after the family cat.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

This Super Furry Animals song sounds a bit like this Peter Gabriel song

Well I never noticed this until now. The riff from Something 4 The Weekend sounds a lot like Peter Gabriel's On The Air...

Have a listen. It's also a good excuse to watch the Super Furry Animals' great video.

SFA 1996

Peter Gabriel 1978
50 Seconds in...

Hungry For The Feminists

"Do you like live music?" She asked as we settled down for a quiet drink in Cardiff's Ten Feet Tall. Was she trying to sell tickets or simply forewarn us that the bar would soon become too loud and raucous for people of our age?

"Ummm.... Sometimes" was my tentative reply.

"Well there's a gig about to start upstairs if you're interested. They're called The Feminists, they're an all male band from Berlin who wear dresses and sound like the Rolling Stones. Say Hannah sent you and you can get in for free".

Men in dresses? The last time I saw that was watching Bo Ningen play in Sheffield and they were pretty special. So...SOLD.
The problem was we didn't have much money and so they'd better be good enough to hold our attention.

It turns out they did more than that...the mild mannered, long haired scruffy looking chap watching the support band whilst drinking a cup of tea transformed himself onstage, superhero like, into the charismatic lead singer Samantha Fuchs as he led his band through a jaw dropping, hugely entertaining set of rock and roll.

Hannah was right about the nationality, gender and clothing, but this was more hard rocking New York Dolls than Rolling Stones. It's a rare gig that involves the singer, mid-crowd, climbing some stepladders, or a guitarist forcing his cider on audience members and a song about a pine martin (Steinmarder - with a sly nod to Julian Cope's Reynard The Fox perhaps?).

Lacking the necessary funds, I couldn't buy their album on the night so I had to email for a copy, which has just arrived thus morning - glorious pink splattered vinyl that manages to convey the energy of their gigs, with added violin. And as for the sleeve? It's bound to divide opinion but whatever side your on (I'm on the 'I like it' side), it's an image you can't unsee.

Friday, 21 August 2015

My Beauty

I've spent the last 9 months listening to my CDs and justifying my ownership of them.

I'm up to the letter R, which means it's time for "My Beauty" - Kevin Rowland's bizarre set of cover versions, many with lyrics adapted to express the emotional journey he had been on. Once you get past the artwork (that many people struggled with) there's some great stuff on here.

Released on Creation Records in 1999, it's certainly a braver move by the label than releasing mediocre Oasis albums.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

James Last's Well Kept Secret

Album number 109 by James Last - a record of supreme 70s lounge funk - is one of the very few albums he made that can be viewed as 'good'.

And by good I mean REALLY good as, orchestration aside, there's very little to make you think this is by the Mr Last that we know from charity shop bins around the world.

But what I love most about my copy is the stamp on the inner sleeve stating that it was once owned by the Head Office of the British Forces Broadcasting Service. The thought of this album soundtracking our forces as they nobly protected our country during the 1976 Icelandic Cod Wars makes me smile.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Four-Foot Snake

Already being reviewed to death, there's not a great deal more that I can say that hasn't already been said about the debut album from FFS. 
It sounds exactly as you would expect a collaboration between a rejuvenated Franz Ferdinand and Sparks would do. Sixteen tracks of excellence split over two bright red discs, crammed full of art rock chords and lyrical wit.

So, collaborations DO work. I'm guessing a lot of reviews will say that too.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Wah Wah

A great, sprawling, double album with some wondeful half-songs, sounds and ideas. I love this album.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

In A Priest Driven Ambulance

1990: That moment when things first REALLY clicked for the Flaming Lips across a whole album.

2005 Vinyl only reissue.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Peggy Suicide

After seeing JC live last night for the second time this year, I thought I'd reevaluate what has been, for me, arguably the greatest album ever made.

So, 25 years on, does it still hold up? In short, it's a resounding yes.

There's a great story that Julian told about this album. On being presented with a new 18 track double album, Island records (no doubt scarred by their failed attempts at moulding him into a million selling pop star) suggested that he go away and think about how many of those songs were REALLY good enough to make it onto his next release, in the hope that he could whittle it down to a more marketable single album. When asked at their next meeting how many of those 18 songs were left, Julian's answer was "nineteen".  He's only gone and written another song to add to the release.

So what finally came out was, on vinyl, a brilliant, sprawling, double album split into four phases with enough for even the casual cope fan. After all, he has always had an ear for a good pop melody - Just listen to Head, Beautiful Love or The American Lite.

For those who hadn't heard the low key Skellington and Droolian released from the previous 12 months, this new music, and in particular his vocals, were a revelation. This was a new Julian Cope, his voice sounding more confident, free and mature than ever before and the songs flying through genres with wild abandon.

Phases 1 and 2 concern themselves with classic and psychedelic rock music - standout track, the mind blowing 8 minute Safesurfer, with its dueling guitars, was once described as what happened after the fadeout on Hotel California as the guitars ascend heavenwards.

Phases 3 and 4 draw on more recent influences and there's a distinct post-Madchester feel to some of these tracks. This would've made a great pop album in itself. The fact that this is disc 2 of a double album shows what a roll he was on.

Lyrically, there's a more overt political slant than previous albums, being no doubt influenced by his active involvement in the Poll Tax demonstrations and downfall of Margaret Thatcher - as well as documenting the Poll Tax demonstrations for the NME, Julian claims to have stood on Downing Street emitting bad vibes toward number ten that led to her resignation. Promised Land is almost heartbreaking in its description of a once great nation torn apart and stands as one of the most emotive anti-Thatcher songs ever written.

He may not have bettered this album - although the equally ambitious Jehovahkill gives it a run for its money - but this release was a springboard for an ongoing series of diverse, creative and rewarding releases. 

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

(S)Punk Rock

On seven coloured vinyl 7" singles that are so bright they seem to be making my floor glow.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Super_Collider - Head On

I first encountered Super_Collider on some late night TV programme in 1999 that showed the video for It Won't Be Long. I was immediately drawn in. I couldn't quite place my finger on what it was about the music, but I knew I had to hear more.

When I finally got round to buying the album, I listened to it in a state of confusion, not knowing quite what to make of the warped sounds. It sounded as though someone had taken the semi-improvised vocal tracks of some long lost soul singer and put it through a blender with an unhealthy dose of dirty funk and Autechre-esque dischordant rhythms.

I'm giving it another listen now and still can't quite get my head round it, but it is thoroughly absorbing.

I raise my glass to Christian Vogel and Jamie Lidell for making something so brave and utterly unique.

Expert Knob Twiddlers

This Mike (Paradinas) and Rich (are D James) album of playful 90s electronica is housed in one of my all time favourite record covers.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

The Race For Space

The new Public Service Broadcasting album.

A lovely dual sleeve (which way round will I have it?) and on heavyweight clear vinyl. It also includes a 12" booklet with text that provides a timeline and narrative for the music and ensures that PSB continue with their commitment to Inform, Educate and Entertain.
My Dad used to disapprove of me listening to so much music as a teenager - he felt that there were more highbrow ways of me spending my leisure time and said to me "you'll never learn anything from listening to music". He was wrong, and at the time I used OMD as a counter argument to his assertion (Joan of Arc, Enola Gay, Nikola Tesla, Genetic Engineering and Stanlow Oil Refinery are some of the things they introduced me to). Maybe I should send him a copy of this album...

As for the music, it's much more of a listening album and arguably holds together better than their debut (no doubt helped by the concept), but still very much what you'd expect and want for a PSB album. There's plenty of nice touches too - the choral work, the use of different drum kits for each nation and, best of all, their statement of intent in the liner notes:

" This record has been mastered quieter than most modern albums in order to preserve its dynamics. PSB do not like the loudness wars. Listening to it may therefore require judicious use of the volume knob."

The "American" front cover...
...and the "Soviet" front cover.