Tuesday

A Flock Of Seagulls

The Liverpool quartet A Flock of Seagulls first gained attention in the dance clubs with "Telecommunication," included on this debut release. The band benefited from heavy play on MTV and quickly became known for their outrageous fashion and lead singer Mike Score's waterfall-like haircut. However, their self-titled debut is an enjoyable romp that was set apart from other synth-heavy acts of the time by Paul Reynolds' unique guitar style. The kinetic "I Ran (So Far Away)" became a video staple and a Top Ten radio hit. "A Space Age Love Song," with its synthesizer washes and echo-laden guitar, also managed to score at radio. The rest of the album consists of hyperactive melodies, synthesizer noodlings, and electronic drumming. The lyrics are forgettable. In fact, they rarely expand on the song titles, but it’s all great fun and a wonderful collection of new wave ear candy.


Today's punk rock has been broken into sub-sub-sub-genres like blackened grind core, post-emo skramz and reverse-anarcho-alt-garage-neo-cowpunk. Each of these obscure genres place walls between themselves and everyone else. However, there was a brief moment in time (mostly) in the UK in the early 80s, where non-pop music was simply non-pop music. It was entirely possible to hear the Smiths, Bauhaus, Gary Numan, Joy Division, Gang of Four, Killing Joke, New Order and A Flock of Seagulls all spinning at the same club.
Yes, that's right, A Flock of Seagulls, a victim and a beneficiary to their own marketing. Numerous Adam Sandler movies and Grand Theft Auto games have, in part, painted A Flock of Seagulls as the archetypical cheesy 80s pop synth band. That's not to say that the band shied away from accepting the neon-yellow, plastic sceptre accompanying the role. Indeed, the band released numerous compilations playing up the white polyester blazers and hairspray imagery of the mid 80s. So, if the band is set to receive musical accompaniment to back the tale of their historical placement, surely the instrument used is a violin no larger than a thimble.
But from a critical standpoint, it's a shame because the group's self-titled debut is far more in the realm of post-punk and early experimental electronica than that of Jordache and plastic earrings.
The album opens with "Modern Love is Automatic." A cold rushing wind blows across the speakers before a Berlin-ish synth line descends. An aggressive, but sturdy drum and bass line march forward, not dissimilar to Joy Division's early programmed-music experiments. Finally, vocalist Mike Score sings in a restrained, robotic voice, lamenting that in the modern (80s) age, emotions are as much driven by marketing and corporate interests as they are true affection. Certainly, such a sentiment is more in line with Zounds than Kajagoogoo.
Likewise, "Modern Love is Automatic" could have been slipped into a mid-period Bauhaus album and no one would have been the wiser. Score somewhat mimics the ghostly wail of Peter Murphy while gothic, intricate guitar work floats in the background. Much like Murphy, Score laments the loss of a love and vows to hold true for all time, giving the slightest of nods towards vampirism - something only a young man could sing and get away with. The song closes with multi-tracked wailing which has, in time, become the stock vocal effect of Goth albums.
The album's true masterpiece and darkest cut is "Standing in the Doorway." A Kraftwerkian pulsation starts the piece as the sounds of a machine blip and beep. Then suddenly, a thunderous snap cuts off the machinery and the song tears into what could be called a more punk Tubeway Army jam. As a sinister line creeps in the background, Score screams at an unidentified woman "Standing in the doorway, I can see you!" It's not clear if he's a stalker or a husband come home too early, but his menace seems genuine. He says little else because really, that's the only threat he needs to make.
Even "I Ran," which is often thought of as the song of the 80s, becomes a different creature when listened to in the context of its surrounding brothers. Where it has become a song used as the backdrop for cruising one's convertible along a shore line, in isolation, it is a much darker song. Opening with a minor chord synth rumble, the song then snaps forward and tells the tale of grasping for an idealized version of something and unable to grasp. Perhaps because the chorus is so catchy, rarely does the listener stick around for the end, where the guitars crumble before self-destructing in a violent din.
A Flock of Seagulls' first album isn't necessary a long lost punk classic. It's classic, of course, but not strictly punk, or even post-punk. But without question, it has elements of those genres and uses them to their greatest extent. Perhaps that's why this album is so threatening to modern music critique. Instead of giving a full chance to a multi-textured and clever combination of darker music, it's easier to focus on silly haircuts and file it away neatly in a drawer, mislabelled as it may be.

A Flock Of Singles

If one was a nascent young synth-pop act hailing from Liverpool around 1979, taking a brisk walk along the shores of the river Mersey with at least a bit of inspiration found in an old Stranglers song (`Toiler On The Sea’), Mike and Ali Score continued the time honoured Liverpudlian tradition of naming bands with flair. A Flock Of Seagulls were born amidst contemporaries such as OMD, Echo And The Bunnymen, The Teardrop Explodes and Pink Military Stands Alone.
Together with Frank Maudsley and Paul Reynolds their debut single `(It’s Not Me) Talking’ was issued on Bill Nelson’s Cocteau imprint in 1981. A Flock of Seagulls signed a major-label contract with CBS backed Jive Records by the end of the year and their debut `Telecommunication,’ becoming an underground hit in the new wave clubs of the day. Modern Love Is Automatic EP followed quickly towards the end of 1981 with a second version of the 12”EP being released in early 1982 with an additional track. Their eponymous debut album appeared in the spring of 1982 closely followed by their third single for Jive, `I Ran (So Far Away)’ that brought them out of the clubs and into heavy rotation just missing the UK Top 40. The follow-up single `Space Age Love Song’ also managed to chart, but we had to wait until `Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You)’ finally broke through in both the UK and US markets.

If you hadn’t already figured out that there might be a bunch of AFOS singles in the offing you’re probably dead already.

Sunday

Blondie - Parallel Lines

`Parallel Lines' is now one of those mythic albums, cited as one of the best of all time by many a critic and punter, so much so that it has become an `establishment' record along the lines of Fleetwood Mac's `Rumours', Bruce Springsteen's `Born to Run' or Radiohead's `OK Computer (none of which it obviously resembles!). Part of the legend has also become the way in which Australian producer, Mike Chapman (Suzi Quatro, The Sweet, The Knack) stepped into the production shoes, taking over from Richard Gottehrer (`Blondie', `Plastic Letters') to crack the whip and make Blondie muscle up and produce a real record. In reality, though he may have disciplined them behind the scenes, the magic of Chapman's production is that his approach gave them only a slightly slicker, more commercial sound. The real achievement is that he allowed this record to sound like a natural progression from `Plastic Letters', released the year before (which was a marked step up from their debut), and recorded a band that still sounded exactly like themselves. Granted, `Heart of Glass' (it is the glossier `disco version' here, which a short time after its release, replaced the first version on the original pressing of `Parallel Lines') and to a lesser extent, Chris Stein's lilting pure pop confection, `Sunday Girl', interrupt the album's stylistic flow. But even the first two Blondie records showed a formative predilection for genre hopping.

Unlike the first two albums, there is no real filler here and all band members, save drummer Clem Burke, contribute to song-writing. Lyrically witty, it features some of the band's most beautiful lines and turns of phrase. It opens intoxicatingly with the short punk onslaught of Jack Lee's `Hanging on the Telephone' and later features another similar composition of his, `Will Anything Happen'. Both of these tracks completely compliment the style in which the band wrote for the album. Despite the well-known hits, some of the very best songs and highest points on the record were not singles. Chris Stein's hauntingly slow and dirgy `Fade Away and Radiate' is utterly stunning, as is Jimmy Destri's mod pop rocker, '11:59'. Along with `Picture This', it is the closest thing to the style of the first two discs. `Pretty Baby' (Harry/Stein) is another hypnotic, 60s styled new wave moment. `One Way or Another' and `I Know But I Don't Know' ensure the playful tongue-in-cheek quotient that the band had already established is not missing. The closest thing to a weak point is the somewhat superfluous Buddy Holly cover, `I'm Gonna Love You Too'. `Parallel Lines' is their most famous record, but despite its reputation, it doesn't mean the band were never able to eclipse it - they would with 'Eat To The Beat' the following year. 

More Blondie


It’s probably been said thousands and thousands of times about Debby Harry and the group Blondie that without one there would be no other. They are as linked as cheese and biscuits, salt and pepper, sex and drugs….you get the picture!?!? So today is dedicated to Ms Harry and Blondie. With previous posts all checked and working we have arrived at the height of the bands powers. Its late 1978, Picture This and Hanging On The Telephone have heralded one of the best albums from the late 70’s NYC Punk scene. Their third album Parallel Lines exploded with the release of Heart Of Glass (aka The Disco Song), Blondie became superstars over night with everyone and their nana wanting a piece of the halo that had descended from above and touched Debbie and the boys. It was war on the dance floor for a band known for their gritty NY brand of New Wave, bopping around with a glitter-ball. All bets were off; New Wave was officially now in the discos rubbing shoulders with the likes of Chic and Diana Ross.
The follow-up sugary sweetness of Sunday Girl in early 1979 was again a marked change in direction for Blondie. Not their best in my humble opinion, from an album jam packed with clever, witty and boppy songs. Still, mustn’t grumble, the French version sounds’ nice and sexy! 

Saturday

Primal Scream - Sonic Flower Groove

Complaining about this album being an obvious photocopy of its influences is a bit like cursing the sky for being blue. Reworking past inspirations into something else has always been the raison d'être of Bobby Gillespie and company, after all. But that said, there's no question that Sonic Flower Groove is one goofy headscratcher of a release, the sound of a band that didn't quite know exactly what to do yet trying to record a big-budget (of sorts) debut album and ending up with little more than a pristine but dull photocopy of Turn! Turn! Turn! While not intrinsically horrible, it's not intrinsically much of anything else either, and certainly in light of everything the band did in the following years, it's the most wistful, fragile, and ultimately boring of their releases. The Byrds worship evident in earlier songs like "Velocity Girl" was here taken to ridiculous extremes, and if Jim Beattie wasn't trying to hide his love for chiming guitars, he wasn't trying to do anything with it either. Songs like "Gentle Tuesday" and "Imperial" (which benefits from strings and a more direct vocal) are so obviously straight from the early Roger McGuinn and company model that one might as well just pretend that's what's being heard. It's also a bit of a bemusing shock to hear Gillespie trying to politely and gently sing as opposed to his later dripping of attitude in every borrowed Jagger sneer, but such are the ways. This all said, there's a weird way Sonic Flower Groove was prescient -- if the Stone Roses loved the Byrds too, then they also loved this phase of Primal Scream just as much, while jaunty songs like "Treasure Trip" slightly forecast bits of Brit-pop almost ten years down the line. If there's a secret highlight, "Love You," with its moody ghost-of-Jesus & Mary Chain drums’ underpinning the slow chime has got to be it.


Friday

You’ve Got Foetus On Your Breath - Ache

As 20:00 GMT London clicks forward, Foetus Friday continues to bound along.
Although some may dismiss Jim Thirwell, aka Foetus, as a confrontational, rabble-rousing noisemaker (which he is), his eccentric and wide-ranging talent is usually overlooked; the trouble is, most listeners simply don't have the patience to find Thirwell's genius amongst the deranged sound sculptures that are his songs. Ache, Thirwell's second album (recorded under the You've Got Foetus on Your Breath pseudonym), sounds like it was recorded in the same time and place of its predecessor, Deaf, and bears exactly the same top-heavy, abrasive production stamp of that album. Seemingly a musical omnivore, Thirwell devours everything -- from swing to Krautrock -- and spits it back out in a scrap heap of sonic chaos, twisted beyond recognition. His oblique yet subversive lyrical themes don't make Ache any more palatable for the faint of heart. This is the sound of unfiltered imagination, absolutely unencumbered by notions of capitalism, commerce or accessibility. Utterly Brilliant.

Thursday

Porcupine Tree - Fear Of A Blank Planet

Porcupine Tree makes a triumphant return to experimental, non-linear style with 2007's Fear of a Blank Planet. Maybe Steve Wilson was afraid that the comparatively poppy Deadwing and In Absentia were edging too close to the mainstream, because he seems far less concerned with overtly accessible song writing on Blank Planet. Even still, the cerebral, atmospheric sound on this album remains enormously compelling from almost the first moment. While there is no "radio single" on the disc (certainly nothing with a conventional pop arc like Lightbulb Sun or "Trains") most songs transcend their complex structure and feel as provocative as any traditional rock tune. The aptly named "Sentimental," in particular, features Wilson's trademark lush arrangement with layers of vocals, piano, ambient synths, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, live drums and sampled drums; but cutting through its tightly contained mosaic is an expertly constructed chord progression that evokes a desperate sense of tension and longing, developing incredible emotional momentum as the track progresses.



Blank Planet sounds like Wilson spent about half of his studio time on the guitar; it's full of buzzy, meticulously distorted solos that you can easily picture him folding into the prototypical Porcupine Tree amalgamation of drum machine, organ, and synthesizers during many long hours in front of the sound board. The quiet, English restraint with which Wilson croons seems to have saved his voice from the decay that so many male singers experience over a twenty year career, and lucky for us (and for him), the style still works perfectly with Porcupine Tree's sound. As a vocalist, he has an amazing capacity for juxtaposing cold, haunting moments against eviscerating passionate ones, mostly thanks to the control he exerts over his instrument. Wilson's clear, boys’ choir timbre sounds like a torrent of frenzy and hunger when he breaks free of it and explores the limits of his vocal on tracks like "Sleep Together." His sleepy, melodic approach also has the benefit of ensuring that his poetic lyrics, which run the gamut from acerbic social criticisms to wrenching personal narratives, are always perfectly discernible. Though it's only six tracks long, each of the songs on Blank Planet is exquisitely crafted, even the 17-minute long "Anesthetize." Wilson has a great sense of flow, leading mournful, ambient ballads into graceful crescendos, and over long interludes that sway blissfully throughout rises and falls, only occasionally losing themselves to moments of plodding or meandering. At roughly 51 minutes, Fear of a Blank Planet is short by Porcupine Tree standards, but by measure of quality rather than quantity, it's one of the most substantial prog albums to come out in years.

Porcupine Tree - Nil Recurring


Nil Recurring is a four-song EP from Porcupine Tree that comes on the heels of 2007's Fear of a Blank Planet. These songs were written during the recording of Blank Planet and, as you would expect, they sound like an extension of that album. Clocking in at just under 30 minutes total, the four tracks are 6-8 minutes long, which is par for the course with Porcupine Tree.
Steven Wilson has near seamlessly combined different elements into a distinct sound that can go from bruising metal guitar riffs to spacey psychedelia to beautiful piano-based pop. Accordingly, Nil Recurring manages to do most of these things over its relatively short running time. The instrumental title track opens the disc with six minutes of heavy riffing, featuring King Crimson guitarist, Robert Fripp, on lead guitar. It's exactly the kind of song you'd expect to find on this sort of release, a hard rocker that didn't really fit in with the themes of the previous album.
"Normal", the second track, is undoubtedly the most interesting song on Nil Recurring. A complete reworking of the Blank Planet track "Sentimental", it features the same lyrical refrain -- "Sullen and bored the kids stay / And in this way wish away each day / Stoned in the mall the kids play / And in this way wish away each day" -- and some of the same vocal melody. It drops the original track's musical references to the band's own classic, "Trains", though, in favour of a pair of new guitar riffs. It also contains a line about doing "a good impression of myself," taken almost verbatim from another Blank Planet song, "Anesthetize", and adds a completely new refrain in the final two minutes: "Wish I was old / And a little sentimental." It's a strong song on its own, but a very unusual piece when placed into the context of Fear of a Blank Planet.
"Cheating the Polygraph" is another rocker, one that pulls back and forth between hard distorted guitars with soaring vocals and more subdued bluesy sections. This particular song is really driven by the rhythm section, as much as Wilson's vocals and guitars. Drummer Gavin Harrison knows exactly when to pull back with tasteful percussion fills, and when to really open up and use his whole kit and Colin Edwin's mid-song bassline drives the transition from the tune's front half to back end.
"What Happens Now?" closes the disc out with something a little more reminiscent of 1990's Porcupine Tree. It's powered by atmospheric clean guitars and subtle washes of synthesizer. There are a few lines of lyrics early in the song, but the vocals quickly disappear in favour of roughly five minutes of what sounds like live jamming recorded in studio. It's the longest track on the disc at a little over eight minutes, and the only one that starts to wear out its welcome.
Overall, this is a very strong collection of songs, and close to a must-have for fans of the band. It also functions as a solid introduction to one of the more vital names in progressive rock. Despite the metal influences, you won't find any harsh death metal vocals with Porcupine Tree. Wilson has a great singing voice, a knack for catchy guitar riffs, and a secret weapon in Harrison, a most underrated drummer.

Wednesday

Jimmy Jimmy - Here In The Light

Summoning the ghosts of Herman's Hermits and early Bee Gees, the music of Jimmy Jimmy could almost be seen as a parody, but the earnestness and sincerity of the group's Here in the Light LP belie such interpretations. Here in the Light is a shamelessly sentimental album, overflowing with unyieldingly sweet ballads and bubblegum pop. If music could cause cavities, Here in the Light is a dentist's worst nightmare; however, the winsome harmonies of James O'Neill (acoustic guitars, vocals) and Jimmy Kemp (acoustic guitars, vocals) could melt the iciest hearts. The catchy "I Met Her in Paris," with its bouncy keyboards and infectious chorus, became a cult hit on new wave radio stations in the Philippines; it almost sounds like a lost single from Herman's Hermits. The tender "Lady" is a moving ballad; the lyrics have the emotional depth of a Hallmark card ("Lady, can't you see/I'm so in love with you?"), but it is sung with enough passion to make any sensitive soul swoon. Released in England when bands such as the Smiths, the Chameleons, and the Sisters of Mercy were venturing into human misery, Here in the Light probably sounded anachronistic, but dated fluff isn't usually this tasty.

Monday

The Passage – Degenerates

The closest the Passage got to the status of hitmakers (and even then more among various tastemakers than anything else) Degenerates is a fascinating blend of accessibility and sharpness. Paul Mahoney temporarily stood in for Joe McKechnie on drums, and the trio's focus on a sideways approach to mainstream pop was never so clear as here. In the same way as the Fall did -- not surprising given Dick Witts' open appreciation of that band and their approach to using pop styles as much as obscurer ones -- the Passage here made it clear that they were very much of their time but not constrained by it. Even "Xoyo," the almost hit single of sorts, started with an uncompromising combination of distorted vocal growls, heavily grinding synth stabs, and just odd enough melodies to make Witts' seemingly sunny delivery and the soaring bridge seem all the more of a strange, wonderful contrast. Plenty of Degenerates' songs follow more from the uncompromising side of the group, but even the skittering rush and whispering condemnations of "Fleck" are punctuated with a sudden, summery bridge or two; while the crazed big band drumming drive of "Go to Seed" is at once suave and suspect. The twinkling bells of "Love As Is" floats above an ominous piano/synth propulsion and nervous drumming, another further example of the band's skill with contrasts. Witts' continuing vision of human interactions in the realm of love and desire from a detached, but never totally removed, standpoint still stands firmly at the heart of it all. As with the rest of the albums, LTM's reissue does the band proud with the inclusion of various singles cuts, including the 7" edit of "Xoyo," an alternate take of "Born Every Minute," and both sides of the Taboos single, recorded solely by Witts and Andy Wilson before Mahoney's arrival.

The Passage ‎– Taboos


It was probably around late 1981 when I first heard ‘Taboos’ by The Passage on The Peel Show. From the opening verse I was transfixed. Here was a group writing songs about sexual dysfunction in both a cerebral and humorous way. Most people that have heard of The Passage probably prefer ‘XoYo’ because they are likely to be one of the 120,000+ music lovers (like myself) that bought the Cherry Red classic indie sampler album Pillows and Prayers on which it appeared. The Passage formed March 1978 in Manchester and the band was led by Richard ‘Dick’ Witts, the only ever present member until they split up in 1983. Some say that their early material has been likened to The Fall (not totally a surprise given that The Passage’s first bassist Tony Friel also played bass in The Fall) and like The Fall there was a constant change of line-ups, but that’s where the comparisons end. Unlike The Fall, The Passage are arguably one of the most unsung bands of the 1980s. The ‘Taboos’ single was recorded at Stockport’s Strawberry Studio in August 1981 which brings me neatly (if you want) back to arguably their two greatest songs – ‘Taboos’ and ‘XoYo’ – both about sex but both very different, both musically and lyrically (sexual dysfunction versus sexual liberation). 

Saturday

Rose McDowall - Cut With The Cake Knife


Everything you need to know about Strawberry Switchblade, the Scottish duo of Rose McDowall and Jill Bryson, is right there in the name. The group, who grew out of the late '70s Glasgow punk scene paired brightly-coloured, synth-driven new wave melodies with lyrics that often spoke of sadness and loss. That polarity between light and darkness became even more apparent in the group’s acrimonious dissolution in 1986, just five years after they started.
Fortunately, none of this matters on Cut with the Cake Knife, which McDowall recorded in various locations around the UK in the 1980s, shortly after Strawberry Switchblade’s breakup. The album’s 11 songs follow the same blueprint that made McDowall’s previous group so bewitching, pairing bleak (and, at times, violent) lyrics to the kind of sugary music that might soundtrack a particularly rambunctious children’s show. Drum machines whirr and rattle, keyboards blink like buggy Lite Brites, and McDowall’s sombre alto winds its way through the centre like a serpent cutting a path through cellophane Easter grass. On the opening track "Tibet", she seems to be wrestling with Strawberry Switchblade’s breakup, sighing "I don’t want you to go/ But can’t ask you to stay/ I wish I could change your mind/ But wishes sometimes die." The music that surrounds it is a kind of ersatz calypso, with charmingly chintzy rhythms and gurgling keyboards, but the vocal melody is so assured and clear-eyed that the song never feels cloying or saccharine. "Sixty Cowboys" dabbles in synthetic country, with brittle keyboards filling in for banjos and McDowall’s lonesome voice floating upward like campfire smoke. And while the song title "Crystal Nights" takes on an ominous meaning in light of the allegations about McDowall’s hobbies, the song itself harbour’s no questionable subject matter. Instead, it depicts her in bed daydreaming about her lover.
While its ingredients are undeniably basic (all of the songs are built from a few period-appropriate keyboards and chugging drum machines, and that’s mostly it) what makes Cake Knife so consistently endearing is how effortless it all sounds. On Cake Knife, McDowall has created a kind of aural Candy Land, one where she can break off vanilla bark from Juicy-fruit trees while she sings about death and despair. The title track (which was originally intended to be a Strawberry Switchblade song) takes that modus-operandi to its logical extreme. While a comically cartoonish bass and hyperactive synths jitter and pop around her, McDowall beckons a lover closer before announcing in its deliriously euphoric chorus, "I will take you by the hand and lead you/ To my sunny side and I will/ Cut you with the cake knife/ Right between the eyes." In McDowall’s world, cake and chaos go hand in hand. She’s the witch at the door of the gingerbread house, beckoning you inside.

Strawberry Switchblade - Trees And Flowers 7"


You’ll be guessing the format now, a wee single followed later by an album by the same artist, but no. Today’s early offerings, the simply gorgeous Strawberry Switchblade’s self-titled only album has already been posted. What type of witch craft is this? Simples really. T’Blades debut single Trees And Flowers isn’t on their album (the B-side is however in a re-recorded form) because it predates the album by almost two years. It does feature one Rose McDowell though and I thought it was tenuous enough to try and link it to this evenings post. But wait I hear you whisper, the single released by Ms. McDowell back in 1988 has also been posted before. What kind of gift is coming later today? I hear no-one ask.

Back to the Trees And Flowers single and yes, as expected, it lays the formula for T’Blades album hiding dark lyrics beneath sugary vocals and harmonies. The feeling that the girls seem to be aiming for is unsettling at best and they really hit their stride with the B-side Go Away. 

Friday

Foetus Over Frisco - Custom Built For Capitalism


As 20:00 GMT London clicks forward, Foetus Friday continues to bound along.
"About as welcome as an infection in the urinary tract" takes us on a near eleven-minute ride through everything that could be recorded (the theme to Blue Peter no less) for inclusion…
Thanks to modern technology, any chump with a studio can now open up the bomb bays and drop sonic megatonnage. That’s the easy part. Nailing targets and causing serious devastation, however, is a job for professionals, and no one in modern rock wrecks shit with a sharper balance of artistic control and unmitigated power than J. G. (Jim) Thirlwell, whose unmatched skill in sculpting audio thunder into theatrical monuments of bludgeoning agility is positively Zeus-like.

Thursday

Sunset Gun - In An Ideal World


Louise and Deirdre Rutkowski are best known for their work with This Mortal Coil, the 4AD label’s rotating studio project of the 1980s and early 1990s. They appeared on its latter two albums, ‘Filigree and Shadow’ (1986) and ‘Blood’ (1991), lending their empyreal vocals to melancholically beautiful covers of songs such as Tim Buckley’s ‘Morning Glory’ and Colourbox’s ‘Tarantula’. Both Rutkowski sisters began their musical careers in their native Glasgow when they were in their teens, providing backing and occasional main vocals to local indie outfit the Jazzateers and its follow-up Bourgie Bourgie. They then signed while Louise was still only nineteen to CBS with their next band, Sunset Gun. The sisters grew up singing songs they loved. But they wanted to write original material too, so they went looking for someone to help and found keyboardist Ross Campbell. He was blown away by their heavenly blend of voices that only sisters can have and he readily agreed to write with them. Their first demo had the majors queuing up for their signatures and they were snapped up by CBS. They released three singles and an album In an Ideal World, produced by Pete Wingfield and Bob Sargeant. Ross recalled “There was a joke doing the rounds in the city at the time that every band in Glasgow wanted to be either The Velvet Underground or Chic. Clearly we were aspiring to the later. The common thread between us was soul music.”

Sunset Gun - Be Thankful (For What You've Got)


As we’re about to find out later this evening, Glasgow based sisters Louise and Deirdre Rutkowski are best known for their work with This Mortal Coil. But before all that nonsense took place, the sisters had a short-lived career as Sunset Gun. Really this is for completists of This Mortal Coil collectors as the sister’s sugary sweet indie pop rock may not be for everyone. 

Tuesday

Client - City


Calling in favours from younger, hipper musicians is often a clumsy grasp at cultural relevance, an attempt to open one's fan base by embracing the kiddies' heroes and icons-- or at least their flavours of the month. On City, the newest release by those Orwellian sirens in Client (i.e. Client A and Client B), Kate Holmes (aka Client B) has called in a favour from hubby Alan McGee's clients The Libertines. Given the boys' tumultuous year, it's a blogworthy move-- there aren't many more sure-fire e-conversation starters than needle-pricks and broken crack pipes.
Fortunately, it's not a bust: Barât and Doherty's garage-punk leanings nicely offset Client's chilly electro-pop soundscapes. Barât's limp Brit drawl works particularly well against the charging dance-groove in "Pornography". His detached vocals recall The Human League's Philip Oakey or Depeche Mode's Dave Gahan (whose former bandmate, Andy Fletcher, signed Client to his Toast Hawaii imprint), and mesh well with the impassioned rants of Client A, ex-Dubstar singer Sarah Blackwood. Doherty, though, is another story. Given very little to work with on the beat-to-death-titled "Down to the Underground", his ale-rough vocal coughs against a gurgling electronic beat and seems force-fed, as though there were little room left for him but the studio was already booked.
Client unsurprisingly perfects their insurgent dance ministry when the boys have gone, and it's in the cool flirtation under their over-the-shoulder glances that the album leaves its mark. "Overdrive" is a volatile love swoon that spills across its reverberated beat like a chipped marble on uneven glass. Full of girth, dirt, and static-grime, the song tracks the dark, forlorn nature of post-bar lust, and begs you to watch as it flaunts its wares.
In direct juxtaposition to "Overdrive"'s caustic groove, "One Day at a Time" plays the Debbie Gibson to the former's Grace Jones. While some partners would wait for you to drown in sleep and then pick through your wallet for your gas card, Client here matronly pulls the covers up to your chin but still makes sure your toes are covered. Atop floating synths and a starry-eyed beat, its endearing charity contrasts pleasantly with City's general hedonism, giving the record a much-needed breather.
Still, as the album closes with another dawn-coloured stomp, you can't help but feel deja vu. Fans of Client will appreciate the more dynamic edge to City-- like the syrupy synthetic strings on "The Chill of October"-- but those without a history with the band may write it off as another limp post-electroclash exercise. As for The Libertines... well, it's a sign that these kids are still just barely alright.

Client - In It For The Money


One of many Client singles that amp up the noise created within. In It For The Money is about as direct that Client ever got, not even trying to pretend that it’s all for the art and other ridiculous themes that many bands claim. It’s tight and harsh electro with Dubstar’s Sarah Blackwood’s (Client B) northern accent all over the Frasier Chorus’s Kate Holmes (Client A) angular synths. Worth the download for their version of Down To The Underground with guest vocals from one Pete Doherty.

Monday

Hungry Beat Re-upped in FLAC

Another one of Scotland's forgotten post-punk pioneers, Fire Engines are compiled to make a case for the hip company they kept alongside Orange Juice and Josef K.


Fire Engines were barely a blip on the music radar, but for those in the right place at the right time, that small speck was like a bull's-eye. By 1980, Scotland's post-punk Postcard explosion was already in full bloom, having birthed Orange Juice and Josef K. Right in there with them were Fire Engines, but unlike their erstwhile peers, the short-lived group existed to burn bright and fast and, inevitably, to burn out. It's music of the primitive "we-can-do-it-too" school, and as such some 38 years or so later it's easy to understand the impact it had on other aspiring bands.
Indeed, Hungry Beat, a collection of the groups’ formative releases, arrives with testimonials from Primal Scream's Bobby Gillespie and Franz Ferdinand front man Alex Kapranos, whose band recently coaxed Fire Engines into the studio and back onto the stage. While Primal Scream and Franz Ferdinand are quite different from one another, one can see the respective appeal of Fire Engines' sound. In the case of the former and fellow fans the Jesus and Mary Chain, its ragged chaos certainly resonated. In the case of the latter, it was the high-strung naff funk undercurrent that probably connected first.
But even if taken on its own terms, Hungry Beat is a shambling blast, as exciting as its members were clearly excitable. The disc collects the group's entire first and sole album (the perfectly named Lubricate Your Living Room), the A's and B's from Fire Engines' three singles, and a handful of alternate takes. The last are perhaps a funny inclusion, considering how little Fire Engines sound like the kind of band that bothered with such niceties as "takes." At any given second, each song sounds like it's either about to fall apart or explode, and you can practically hear the band smiling at the prospect.
"Candyskin" and "New Thing in Cartons" sound like the Fall having a happy day, the massed vocals and strings of the former a novel method of overcoming the song's lo-fi environment. "Meat Whiplash" goes absolutely nowhere and does a great job doing it. "Get Up and Use Me" (covered by Franz Ferdinand on the split they later shared with Fire Engines) is all adenoidal no wave cowbell skronk, replete with unembarrassed false start (mysteriously, the song's alternate take runs longer, faster, and doesn't include the fuck-up).
It's "Big Gold Dream" that plays up the jittery dance elements that you can hear in half of indiedom (even if most of indiedom has never heard these guys before), but the apex of Hungry Beat is a seven-minute ditty called "Discord" that offers a relentless one-chord funk fix. The song fades out with a few drums fills and screams, but you can just as easily imagine another 10, 20, 30 minutes of music not captured on tape. At seven minutes it's long enough to lock into a groove, but one can only imagine the dance floor possibilities had the thing got longer. 




Sunday

Trisomie 21 - Le Repos Des Enfants Heureux


Trisomie 21 are a post punk band formed in 1981 by two brothers from the North of France. Their music consists of lush soundscapes that do not easily fit into any one category. Musically their mood is melancholic and one can hear traces of Joy Division, Durutti Column and The Cure. In early 1982, they set out to record their first album. They then sent out a demo tape and Stechak offered them a deal - resulting in the mini-LP Le Repos des Enfants Heureux, which was released in January 1983. This is not the reissue with additional tracks, so don’t be alarmed.