Themes From Great Cities

It might have come to your attention that I'm not a regular poster of love and understanding, which you will just have to get used to. I will however, have bursts of creativity where I move completely randomly from post to post with no rhyme or reason. I have recently posted a few singles (7 & 12”) and the odd bootleg which have been received very well by all who visit. More of the same will continue as you, dear readers, seem to be enjoying them.

Some of the rips are my own, but many more are from other blogs and I’m just sharing the wealth. If other bloggers out there wish to share the rips from my posts, please as I do, host them yourself. To combat this, the FLAC files that are over 6 months old will be replaced with MP3 files.

Finally I am happy to re-up old posts where the link has expired. Please comment in the relevant posts comments box.

Friday

Stranger Days


Many of the songs on Strange Days had been written around the same time as the ones that appeared on The Doors, and with hindsight one has the sense that the best of the batch had already been cherry-picked for the debut album. For that reason, the band's second effort isn't as consistently stunning as their debut, though overall it's a very successful continuation of the themes of their classic album. Besides the hit "Strange Days," highlights included the funky "Moonlight Drive," the eerie "You're Lost Little Girl," and the jerkily rhythmic "Love Me Two Times," which gave the band a small chart single. "My Eyes Have Seen You" and "I Can't See Your Face in My Mind" are minor but pleasing entries in the group's repertoire that share a subdued Eastern psychedelic air. The 11-minute "When the Music's Over" would often be featured as a live showstopper, yet it also illustrated their tendency to occasionally slip into drawn-out bombast.

Wednesday

Honolulu Mountain Daffodils


A scatter-brained and perhaps drunken recording entity based on the collective talents of guitarist Joachim Pimento, fuzz guitarist/keyboardist Zoe Zettner, fuzz guitarist/vocalist Lord Sulaco, fuzz guitarist/percussionist Daiquiri J. Wright, fuzz guitarist Franklin Silverheels, and bassist Smoky Alvaro (yes, they apparently liked the sound of a fuzz guitar), the Honolulu Mountain Daffodils gathered occasionally throughout the late '80s and early '90s to patch together records that threw almost anything imaginable into a blender (from Kraftwerk to Tom Waits to the Ramones to Black Sabbath to Neu! and all points between). The ill-rehearsed results were always uneven, but a fun time was guaranteed each time they gathered into a studio. The only true ambition of the Daffodils was to have their records exist in obscurity until developing a cult of fans via a steady slew of dollar bin discoveries. In fact, as legend has it, the artwork for the 1987 album Guitars of the Oceanic Overgrowth was designed to look as if it had spent at least two decades gathering dust in a record shop's sunshine-prone window display. Guitars’ was their first album and was followed the next year by Tequila Dementia, and then the trilogy was completed three years later by Aloha Sayonara (the Psychic Hit-List Victim EP was released in 1991). Apparently the band split up soon thereafter; lord (or Lord Sulaco) knows why.

Tuesday

Cry Boy Cry


Blue Zoo began recording at Alaska studios in Waterloo, owned by Pat Collier, original bass player for punk band The Vibrators. Collier produced the bands single, Ivory Towers. Their first TV appearance was a live performance on the Oxford Road Show in Manchester where they performed, Love Moves in Strangeways, The Attic and what was to be their third single I’m your Man. This was their debut UK hit which, despite being championed by Radio 1’s Peter Powell, stalled at number 55. Enter Tim Friese Green who had first worked with the rock band Praying Mantis and Irish punk rockers Stiff Little Fingers. He began working with Blue Zoo and collaborated at Battery studios in Willesden resulting in the recording of two tracks, the provocative John’s Lost and the catchy Cry Boy Cry which was a re-working of a song previously named Turn and Face The Wall. It reached number 13 in the UK and a respectable number six in Israel which led to a short tour taking in a run of shows at the Coliseum in central Tel Aviv. A solitary top 20 hit for this archetypally early 80s band. Solid slab of new wave synth pop with reassuringly daft lyrics in the Aussie Pic Sleeve.



Monday

I Can’t Shake This Shadow Of Fear


It seemed that from 1983 to 1985 David J just couldn't stop recording: two solo albums, two albums performing with the Jazz Butcher the odd single and working with Alan Moore. In his previous life as a bassist, David J was never one to be put in the spot light, so you might be surprised at the incredible range and versatility he displays throughout the 7 plus minute throbbing drama of "I Can't Shake This Shadow of Fear". “I Can’t Shake This Shadow of Fear” has J’s vocal delivery coming off with the punk bravado of Billy Idol or Joe Strummer, mixed with that suave devilishness personified by Howard Devoto. 

Subterraneans Re-Loaded



Nick Marsh, singer and guitarist for the band Flesh For Lulu, died Friday 5th June 2015 after battling cancer. He was 53. Nick formed the band Flesh For Lulu in the early 80's with drummer James Mitchell. The two recruited former Wasted Youth guitarist Rocco and bassist Glen Bishop and, in 1983, they signed with Polydor Records and released the quite remarkable Roman Candle EP. For the first time, their influences (Iggy, Lou and Bowie on a daytrip to Glamland) emerged a vibrant brew of textured, dramatic Day-Glo beauty, and even their foes were suddenly looking forward to their debut album, if only to discover whether it was all a ghastly fluke.
It wasn't.
Ignore the cover (which is hideous by anybody's standards) and make straight for the opening salvo of "Restless." Marred only by an implausibly obtrusive girlie chorus, "Restless" introduced a Furs-meet-Spector Wall of Sound that doesn't let up, even when the Lulus dip into the horror show hoedown of side two's epic closer, "Heavy Angel." The trip en route, meanwhile, is spellbinding: "Hyena," an incredible cover of the Stones' "Jigsaw Puzzle Girl," the raucously mesmerizing "Brainburst" and, best of all, "Subterraneans" still one of the all time great rock & roll street anthems. Looking back on Flesh For Lulu from a distance of 30 plus years, it's easy to see why the British weekly Melody Maker once proclaimed its makers as "[possibly] the most important band we've got." It wasn't the most fashionable thing to say, and the Lulus themselves did their best to dismantle such praise when they started chasing the Yankee dollar. For a year or two after the release of this album, though, there was a lot of truth in that declaration, and the debut album Flesh For Lulu still wears its scars proudly.

After releasing the EP Roman Candle (1983) and full album Flesh For Lulu (1984) with its attendant singles, they were unceremoniously dropped by Polydor Records…Thankfully in 2017 (after 33 years) the Lulu’s have been graced with a double CD release collecting together all of their Polydor output along with three BBC Radio sessions…fuck that! Here’s the vinyl in shiny MP3 @ 320kbps

Saturday

Paint Your Wagon


The semi-Ennio Morricone touches and twangs on the band's earlier work get a little more foregrounded on the Lorries' second album, but then that had more than a little to do with the cover art and font style; pure Old West (as filtered through TV and movies). Again, the Fields Of The Nephilim may have made it more famous, but the Lorries probably had more outright fun (of a sort) with it in the end. Though that said, "Shout at the Sky" has Chris Reed sounding exactly like the Nephs' Carl McCoy, which if intentional might not have been the wisest way to go. Trappings aside, Paint Your Wagon is another fine album and actually probably a better one in the end, with a bit more energy in the arrangements. Reed's guitar playing, supplemented by David Wolfenden, shows a touch more intricacy and flair this time around; not a major leap forward but he often creates some inspired, epic, work, as on "Last Train" or the slow grind conclusion "Blitz." "Head All Fire" and "Save My Soul" are sharp examples of how Reed and company can rework what were already established approaches into something new and thrilling. "Which Side" goes that step even a bit further thanks to the use of the old "which side are you on" trope; Billy Bragg did it one way, Reed aims for something a bit more in his echoed milieu. Even some of the semi-filler tracks like the instrumental "Mescal Dance" have enough spikiness to carry the day.

Friday

Do You Want A Bit More Deaf?



Recording under the moniker You've Got Foetus on Your Breath, Jim Thirwell, aka Foetus, released his first album, Deaf, in 1981. Thirwell's eccentric trademark sound, a confrontational sonic tapestry based on harshly recorded instruments, noises, samples, and voices, is firmly established on Deaf. The songs are twisted heaps of sound that sometimes resemble Frank Zappa outtakes being pummelled to death by Einstürzende Neubauten and Thirwell's scatological, antisocial lyrics only add to the bizarreness. If you've got the stomach for it, Deaf can be rewarding, but it's also a great way to clear the room at a party.

 Finally Re-upped with a new FLAC and bonus MP3 links

Thursday

No Comment 242


With the recruitment of Richard 23 to fill out the classic line-up, Front 242 started consolidating its strengths with the No Comment EP. Kicking off with the full nine-minute hit of "Commando Mix," the quartet took the best parts of Geography for a starting point and whipped up a smart, tight selection of songs that start to have their own identity as Front 242, straight up. "No Shuffle," with its straightforward, brutal drum punches and heavy distortion, not to mention de Meyer's cold pronouncing of the lyrics, is particularly fine. "Special Forces," which appears in a "nomenklatura" instrumental remix as well, isn't much different but just as effective, de Meyer and 23 trading off in the manner that would characterize many of the band's later hits. A couple of cuts still seem almost too polite in comparison to later efforts, but while "Lovely Day" may have an actual romantic theme to it, the combination of the two vocalists' work and the screeching synth break make appropriately unsettling results. The 1992 re-release, besides a fine remastering job, also includes four bonus cuts from various sources. A re-recorded version of "Body to Body" beats out the original take by a mile, while the two live cuts from a show in Ghent are reasonable enough if not particularly revelatory. Adding yet another run through of "Special Forces" (the demo session in this instance) was probably doing too much, however.


Wednesday

Within The Realm Of A Dying Sun


With its two sides split between Perry and Gerrard's vocal efforts, Within the Realm of a Dying Sun serves as both a display for the ever more ambitious band and a chance for the two to individually demonstrate their awesome talents. Beginning with the portentous "Anywhere Out of the World," a piece that takes the deep atmospherics of "Enigma of the Absolute" to a higher level with mysterious, chiming bells, simple but effective keyboard bass and a sense of vast space, the album finds Dead Can Dance on a steady roll. Once again a range of assistant musicians provide even more elegance and power to the band's work, with a chamber string quartet plus various performers on horns, woodwind, and percussion. Impressive though the remainder of the first side is, Gerrard's showcase on the second half is even more enveloping and arguably more successful. The martial combination of drums and horns that start "Dawn of the Iconoclast" call to mind everything from Wagner to Laibach, but Gerrard's unearthly alto, at its most compelling here, elevates it even higher. "Cantara" is no less impressive, a swirling, drum-heavy song that sounds equally inspired by gypsy dancing, classical orchestras and any number of Arab musical traditions. "Summoning of the Muse" is perhaps too formal in comparison, though still quite impressive, but "Persephone" is the finer effort and a good way to close.

Monday

Don’t Fear The Strawberry Reaper


Rose McDowall‘s treatment of ‘Don’t Fear the Reaper’ was her first aborted solo release following the break-up of Strawberry Switchblade. Originally rush-released in 1988 by a collaborator, without her consent, Reaper quickly vanished and has become the stuff of cult legend among collectors and fans alike. Rose McDowall's glorious cover of the Blue Oyster Cult's doomy rock classic, blooms into a brave anthem for self-empowerment “baby take my hand/don’t fear the reaper”. Simmering with a mixture trepidation and freedom, it’s pierced by McDowall’s elegantly bittersweet vocal that working alone was no doubt brought into the studio. Rose McDowall is a true lost legend of Glasgow's indie scene, a character that moved from post-punk provocateur to chart-bothering synth-pop queen.

Sunday

Black Pop Workout


The Sheffield based band Hula was founded in 1981 by guitarist and tape experimenter Ron Wright, Mark Albrow and drummer Alan Fish. The three members lived with Stephen Mallinder (Cabaret Voltaire) and Paul Widger (They must be Russians, Clock DVA, the Box) in a villa called Hula Kula. After trying the bass players Alan Watt, the notorious Chris Brain (Tense, NOS) and Mark Brydon (Chakk, Moloko), Hula recruited John Avery. A bass player was necessary for filling out the exciting live shows complete with lots of video material (Peter Care). Various other members passed in and out of the ranks over the years, with bassist John Avery becoming the only constant. Their music was highly influenced by Cabaret Voltaire and other electronic/ambient artists, but Hula added a more industrial edge and schizophrenically experimental sound. The band's concerts often took the form of multimedia barrages, using twelve or more film projectors to enhance the already disorienting music. Black Pop Workout was recorded at Western Works, Sheffield, October 19th 1981, except B2 recorded at Hula Kula, June 1st 1982, mixed at Western Works and produced by Cabaret Voltaire's Stephen Mallinder.

Thursday

Flying Lizards


In the late 1970s, composer and producer David Cunningham was savvy enough to cloak his experimental music in the disguise of a novelty record, at least for a while; his fractured deconstructions of Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues" and Barrett Strong's "Money," released under the moniker the Flying Lizards, managed to inch into the pop charts because folks thought they were some sort of musical joke, even though Cunningham's wit didn't negate the seriousness of his musical ambitions. After the international success of "Money," Virgin Records wanted a Flying Lizards album to go along with it, and the resulting LP was where Cunningham's cred as an artist ran up against his instincts as a pop satirist. The principle reason "Money" became a left-field hit was that even though the song had been bent within an inch of its life, it still had a catchy hook and, if you wanted to, you could dance to it. That can't honestly be said for the new material Cunningham and his associates put together for the album; except for Bertold Brecht and Kurt Weill's "Der Song von Mandelay," which doesn't have an honestly memorable hook, the new tracks are all originals and they're informed by the space and anything-goes vibe of dub instead of radio-ready pop, and while they're intelligent and well-executed, they're not especially compelling. Through the soundscapes that dominate the second half of this album are more interesting to talk about than to hear, at least they're better than the vocal tracks closer to the beginning, which sound both pretentious and musically flawed. The Flying Lizards' first album unwittingly followed one of the greatest traditions of '50s and '60s pop -- take a hit single, surround it with a whole bunch of filler less interesting than the hit, and presto! You have an album.

Tuesday

Provision


Front Line Assembly was the best known of the various electronic music projects undertaken by the prolific Vancouver-based duo of Bill Leeb (vocals, synthesizers) and Rhys Fulber (synthesizers, samplers). After working in the mid-'80s under the pseudonym Wilhelm Schroeder with Skinny Puppy, Leeb formed the industrial/techno-based Front Line Assembly in 1986 with Fulber (who initially joined on as a studio assistant) and synth player Michael Balch. After Balch departed Front Line Assembly in 1990, Fulber stepped in as a full partner; the streamlined duo soon released the electro-styled album Caustic Grip, from which the we find the 12” single Provision.

Monday

Release The Bats


Sex Horror, Vampire Glory. Release The Bats rumbles and stumbles through a wild night of campy debauchery flailing about on the edge of sanity. This is my least favourite release from the Birthday boys - mainly because it’s the single which got them forever stuck under the inappropriate label of "GOTH". There is just a bit too much dubious desperation to avoid that description if you ask me. Somehow dark but also humorous and totally just hanging in there. Why worry whether this counts as Goth or not? Just let it rip like the cool machine it is...

Saturday

Fried


In contrast to the crisp, clean sound of World, Fried often sounds rougher, a bit more shut in. Combine that with Cope's generally successful attempts to project an image of barely stable sanity, helped in large part by the notorious wearing-nothing-but-a-turtle-shell cover photos, and the idea of Fried as his album of crazed musical collapse understandably is a strong one. However, World producer Steve Lovell once again handles things here, along with playing guitar, while even more importantly, key Cope collaborator Donald Ross Skinner, a young musician from Cope's hometown, makes his debut. Kate St. John again contributes cor anglais throughout, adding a haunting atmosphere on many cuts. If anything, the album shows that Cope may be completely musical tripping out as he chooses but he knows exactly what he's doing throughout. Certainly the first cut, "Reynard the Fox," shows him balancing inspiration and arrangement perfectly -- one of his strongest, catchiest choruses eventually bleeds into a freaked-out spoken word bit followed by a total rave-up. Other songs range from further on-the-edge efforts -- the frenetic "O King of Chaos" and more generally weird "Sunspots" -- to gentler, wistful numbers like "Laughing Boy" and "Search Party" that effectively capture a rural psych feeling akin to XTC's own work at the same time. In all, Fried shows Cope at his dramatic best -- he's not disintegrating by inches, but he knows how to project that impression with vigor and skill, all while sounding like himself most of all. He gets in a hilarious slam along the way -- "Bill Drummond Said" trashes, by means of an energetic enough folk/rock combination, his former manager from Teardrop Explodes days. Drummond got his revenge years later -- while most well-known for his work in the KLF, his solo album The Man featured a ditty called "Julian Cope Is Dead."

Friday

Shut Your Mouth


Retreating from the collapse of the Teardrop Explodes to his hometown of Tamworth, Cope produced his first solo effort with help from producer Steve Lovell on guitar and fellow Teardrop Gary Dwyer on drums. The result is a surprisingly vibrant, rich album that shows Cope easily moving on from his group days while retaining his unique powerful and natural gifts for singing and songwriting. If there's something about the sound of World that suggests its early-'80s recording dates -- Dwyer's drums sound like Steve Lillywhite's been after them at points! -- Cope's own particular, heavily psych-into-pop-inspired goals aren't lost in it. Some of his songs are so inspired that one just has to wonder how in the world they didn't end up as hits somewhere. "An Elegant Chaos" is a great example, an at-once cryptic and fascinating lyric peppered with just enough knowing irony ("Here comes the part where I break down and cry") and a synth-string-touched crunch given a breezy pace. Top it off with Cope's singing and the result is simply genius. Two songs from the final Teardrops sessions, "Metranil Vavin," an homage to a Russian poet, and "Pussyface" get enthusiastic run-throughs here. "Metranil Vavin" in particular is a kick, shifting from garagey crunch and energy to a show tune chorus at the drop of a hat, while sitar from Lovell and concluding oboe from Kate St. John, who plays on many other cuts, add even more pastoral trippiness. Further strong cuts include "Kolly Kibber's Birthday," with a fast rhythm machine and keyboard drones leading the way; the quirky string/brass surge of "Sunshine Playroom"; and the upbeat "Greatness and Perfection." Throughout World, Cope demonstrates why he's one of the best, most unaffected singers in rock around, his vocals carrying sweep and passion without sounding like he's trying to impress himself or others.

Thursday

Scarecrows


If The Burden of Mules is dark and cacophonous, an angry, intense slab of post-punk gloom best left to its own (de)vices, Scarecrow makes the most of the band's better attributes with spotless production by Cocteau Twin Robin Guthrie. Allen's almost-spoken, heavily accented vocals sputter through a mix of up-front bass, rhythm guitar, synthesizers and creative percussion. Some dreary moments remain, but a send-up of Otis Redding's "Respect" reflects the lightened mood.

Wednesday

Tell Me Why?


Few 80’s pop songs can claim any sort of historical importance, but Why? Taking on board its subject matter of violence towards the Gay community it is quite incredible to think that it was was a big radio hit; especially at a time of rising anti-gay sentiment fuelled by the mounting AIDS hysteria. For all of those who were personally affected by these issues, Bronski Beat and Jimimy Somerville helped keep you sane in a world that was doing its best to eradicate you.


 "...as I turn to kiss his lips".

Tuesday

Lionheart


Proving that the English admired Kate Bush's work, 1978's Lionheart album managed to reach the number six spot in her homeland while failing to make a substantial impact in North America. The single "Hammer Horror" went to number 44 on the U.K. singles chart, but the remaining tracks from the album spin, leap, and pirouette with Bush's vocal dramatics, most of them dissipating into a mist rather than hovering around long enough to be memorable. Her fairy tale essence wraps itself around tracks like "In Search of Peter Pan," "Kashka From Baghdad," and "Oh England My Lionheart," but unravels before any substance can be heard. "Wow" does the best job at expressing her voice as it waves and flutters through the chorus, with a melody that shimmers in a peculiar but compatible manner. Some of the tracks, such as "Coffee Homeground" or "In the Warm Room," bask in their own subtle obscurity, a trait that Bush improved upon later in her career but couldn't secure on this album. Lionheart acts as a gauge more than a complete album, as Bush is trying to see how many different ways she can sound vocally colourful, even enigmatic, rather than focus on her material's content and fluidity. Hearing Lionheart after listening to Never for Ever or The Dreaming album, it's apparent how quickly Bush had progressed both vocally and in her writing in such a short time.

Sunday

Kind Of Blue


Kind of Blue isn't merely an artistic highlight for Miles Davis, it's an album that towers above its peers, a record generally considered as the definitive jazz album. To be reductive, it's the Citizen Kane of jazz -- an accepted work of greatness that's innovative and entertaining. That may not mean it's the greatest jazz album ever made, but it certainly is a universally acknowledged standard of excellence. Why does Kind of Blue possess such a mystique? Perhaps it's that this music never flaunts its genius. It lures listeners in with the slow, luxurious bassline and gentle piano chords of "So What." From that moment on, the record never really changes pace; each tune has a similar relaxed feel, as the music flows easily. Yet Kind of Blue is more than easy listening. It's the pinnacle of modal jazz; tonality and solos build from chords, not the overall key, giving the music a subtly shifting quality. All of this doesn't quite explain why seasoned jazz fans return to this record even after they've memorized every nuance. They return because this is an exceptional band - Miles, Coltrane, Bill Evans, Cannonball Adderly, Paul Chambers, Jimmy Cobb, and Wynton Kelly; one of the greatest in history, playing at the peak of its power. As Evans said in the original liner notes for the record, the band did not play through any of these pieces prior to recording. Davis laid out the themes and chords before the tape rolled, and then the band improvised. The end results were wondrous, filled with performances that still crackle with vitality. Few albums of any genre manage to work on so many different levels, but Kind of Blue does. It can be played as background music, yet it amply rewards close listening. It is advanced music that is extraordinarily enjoyable. It may be a stretch to say that if you don't like Kind of Blue, you don't like jazz; but it's hard to imagine it as anything other than a cornerstone of any jazz collection.