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.


Machine Gun Etiquette

After dissolving in the wake of the poorly received second album (1977's Music for Pleasure), pioneering punk band the Damned reformed in 1979 without original guitarist/songwriter Brian James, who pursued his own interests from then on (only hooking up with the band again for a late-'80s "farewell" show), and proceeded to deliver one of the greatest (and unlikeliest) comeback albums in rock history. The remaining trio brought in young Saints bassist Algy Ward, recorded an album, and hoped for the best. That best proved much better than expected; while the singles ended up in the charts, Machine Gun Etiquette itself was deservedly hailed as another classic from the band. Over time, its reputation has grown to equal the original Damned Damned Damned; while no less strong than their debut, the Damned here bring in a wide variety of touches and influences to create a record that most of their contemporaries could never have approached. The group's wicked way around witty punk hadn't ebbed a bit; the opening track, "Love Song," is a hilarious trashing of romantic clichés that barely lasts two minutes, while "Noise, Noise, Noise" and "Liar" work in the same general vein. These, however, only scratch the surface. "Melody Lee," written by the Captain for a favourite comic character, starts with a lovely piano intro, whereas the celebratory angst of "I Just Can't Be Happy Today" chugs along with garagey keyboards á la the Electric Prunes. Other prime standouts include "Plan 9 Channel 7," an epic about James Dean and Vampira with a fantastic Vanian vocal; the merry mayhem of "These Hands" (belonging to a killer circus clown, with appropriate carnival music, of course); and a great rip through the MC5's "Looking at You." The best moment was saved for last, though: "Smash It Up," a two-part number divided between an affecting instrumental tribute to long-time supporter the Captain’s hero Marc Bolan and a perfect trash-the-rules-and-party scorcher.


Razorblade Romance

Even though H.I.M.'s main goal seemed to be gaining attention from the female audience, Greatest Lovesongs 666 was artistically, but maybe not so musically, a success. The contrast between Razorblade Romance and their debut, however, is quite insurmountable. While Greatest Lovesongs 666 has a truly pressuring atmosphere all the time, Razorblade Romance’s melancholy and angst, although a little artificial here, forgets all about that. The whole concept of gothic rock and so-called love metal repeats itself many times during the album but the songs themselves are actually very good; when ignoring the implementation. Hit songs like "Join Me in Death" and "Right Here in My Arms" work really nicely and the horrendous clichés in lyrics and playing don't really matter. The slightly over-produced sound may distract for a while, but after all, the song material is of a kind that is hard to fit, because H.I.M. recycles it so well, into a demanding format.


The Story Of The Blues

Quite possibly Pete Wylie’s and Wah!’s crowning glory, as far as chart returns are concerned, in a world where everyone and their elderly relatives know The Story Of The Blues.



Following on from T’Sound it’s now time for a little Nostalgia from the mighty Chameleons, another great band that fell into the “Cult Status” bracket.


From The Lions Mouth

An assured, relatively loose follow-up to the fraught and frayed Jeopardy, From the Lion's Mouth entrenched the Sound's stature as no mere flash in the pan. It should have shot them directly between spots occupied by the like-minded Joy Division and Echo & the Bunnymen as post-punk legends, but the Fates had something else in mind, and so the quartet took their place right next to touring mates the Comsat Angels in the section marked "Deserved Better." With some semblance of a recording budget, the Sound went into the studio with talented producer Hugh Jones on board to accentuate the band's winning atmospherics. As a result, the sound is fuller, less pungent. And speaking of winning, the snake-charming opener "Winning" is like a dash of cold water in the faces of all the bands that were wallowing and withering away at the weeping well: "I was going to drown/Then I started swimming/I was going down/then I started winning." This, in a sense, exemplifies the point that the Sound were not mopes. They had their problems with life, but rather than just vent or escape from them, they confront them and ask questions and attempt to sort it all out. Most of the record has an effortless thrust to it, and only occasionally -- for maximum effect -- does the Sound whip out the heavy artillery. If "The Fire" sounds too bombastic and pummelling, listen closer. The bass is the lead instrument, the keyboards are just as prominent as the guitars, and it only sounds like chest beating compared to the rest of the songs. From the Lion's Mouth shifts, glides, winds, accelerates, and decelerates with all the grace and precision of an Olympic downhill skier. And what a great record it is.



Blow sounds something like My Bloody Cocteau Twins. I remember when this was released back in 1992, there was a time when shoegaze reigned supreme; 4AD was the record label of the moment and so many of my favourite bands fitted into either one or the other or both of these categories. The music press wasn’t very nice to Swallow and I never really got around to listening to the album (I seem to remember the title of the review to be something like "the Cockatoo Twins"), but listening to it now I really have a hard time not liking it. In every way a classic early-90's 4AD record, not unlike Lush but with a rougher edge. "Sugar Your Mind" even sounds a bit like The Jesus And Mary Chain. But hey, I am a big, big believer in bands that are happy to wear their influences on their sleeves and sound a bit like their favourite bands, because if their favourite bands happen to be your favourite bands ... you get where I'm going with this. If you are heavily into shoegaze of that era you need to get this record.


The Burden Of Mules

Enigmatic, moody, and challenging, The Wolfgang Press were one of the most mercurial talents of the post-punk era, restlessly moving from gothic noise to dark balladry to eccentric funk; paradoxically, the group was also the 4AD label's longest tenured artist; even their stylish album packages were all the product of the same designer, Alberto Ricci.
Formed in London in 1983, the Wolfgang Press comprised vocalist Michael Allen, guitarist Andrew Gray, and keyboardist Mark Cox. Allen and Cox first teamed in the group Rema Rema, which also featured Adam & the Ants alum Marco Perroni; after reuniting in the short-lived quartet Mass, the duo recruited Gray, and as the Wolfgang Press issued their cacophonous, gloomy debut LP, The Burden of Mules, an angry, intense slab of post-punk gloom that is best left to its own (de)vices.


Principles Of Pleasure - Re-Upped

The most popular of all the Gary Numan albums is undeniably 1979's The Pleasure Principle. The reasons are simple; there is not a single weak moment on the disc, it contains his worldwide No. 1 hit, "Cars," and new drummer Cedric Sharpley adds a whole new dimension with his powerful percussion work. The Pleasure Principle is also one of the first Gary Numan albums to feature true ensemble playing, especially heard within the airtight, killer groove of "Metal" (one of Numan's all-time best tracks). Starting things off with the atmospheric instrumental "Airlane," the quality of the songs gets stronger and stronger as the album progresses; "Films," "M.E.," "Observer," "Conversation," the aforementioned "Cars," and the U.K. Top Ten hit "Complex" all show Numan in top form. If you had to own just one Gary Numan album, The Pleasure Principle would be it.

After the runaway success of Tubeway Army’s ‘Are Friends Electric?’, Gary Numan went the whole hog and created a purely electronic debut solo album, ditching any traces of his punk past and cementing his place as one of England’s newest genuine superstars (a status that proved to be short lived, in hindsight) with the commercial success of ‘The Pleasure Principle’ and its most memorable single, ‘Cars’ - both of which topped the contemporaneous UK album and single charts, respectively.
It’s almost unavoidable when reviewing this 1979 outing, not to start with ‘Cars’ - such is its iconic, classic status. It’s about as perfect and memorable as a pop song could be, with every detail being a polished and catchy affair. Consider the ‘moogy’ beat, the glorious wave of synth, the sprightly bridge, or perhaps simply, Numan’s waling-like-a-banshee vocals, singing a typically paranoid of tale of a protagonist who feels “safest of all” in the shelter of his automobile; it all combines to form about as thrilling and satisfying a 4 minute pop cocktail could ever hope to be.
The record also boasts another classic, in the robotic, electro-pop brilliance taking the form of track number five; ‘M.E.’. Featuring a tune that’s not quite as sublime as the propulsive glory of ‘Cars’, yet still insanely catchy and memorable; ‘M.E.’s status and recognisability was boosted when its melody was heavily sampled by Basement Jaxx for their nonsensical hit ‘Where’s Your Head At?’, years later. It’s driving, robotic force and nervous synth backing proved to be the perfect infectious backdrop to Numan’s familiar paranoid and alienated lyrics: “Now it’s over, but there’s no-one left to see / And there’s no-one left to die / There’s only me”.
‘The Pleasure Principle’ wouldn’t be as revered as it is, if all that was worthwhile was the aforementioned couple of hits, something which the rest of the track list fortunately solidifies. Numan was an early fan of the original Ultravox line-up, whose punks with synthesisers aesthetic, coupled with singer/songwriter John Foxxs’ seeming fascination with machines and technology, rubbed off on an impressionable young Numan who would attend several of the group’s gigs around the London area. Tracks like the grinding, icy-cold ‘Metal’, and the, quite literally mechanical, ‘Engineers’, bares’ witness to this influence especially well, but the album has a predilection for robotic beats and frosty synth flitters in general.
The overall tone of the album, being as frozen, machine-like, and paranoid as it is, may wane on some listeners towards the end, and the fact that the album is a tad samey in places surely doesn’t help in its defence. Take ‘Tracks’ for example - it just doesn’t deviate enough from the areas explored on the first half of the album to seem a worthwhile excursion; and elsewhere a few other niggles are present, with 'Observer' sounding dangerously similar to 'Cars' at times, and 'Conversation' dragging its ‘blurgy’ melody on for too long. Still, they are only minor niggles, and for the most part, said tracks are still very enjoyable, just less so than more distinctive numbers like the nervous, blur of 'Airlane', or the menacingly grim 'Films'.
‘The Pleasure Principle’ is one of the most important and iconic electronic albums of its time, and fortunately, for all the right reasons. Arriving at the tail-end of 1979, the record helped blueprint the way for swathes of other young British groups who were bored of punk and were looking to experiment with new-fangled synthesisers as tools for making pop music. As it turned out, few did it better, with ‘Cars’ becoming a serious chart presence on both sides of the Atlantic, the album reaching number one in the UK, and Numan himself failing to scale the lofty heights he reached here, ever again, with a series of increasingly disappointing albums leading him down a steady slope to cult-status, rather than maintaining the sheer commercial superstardom he managed here. 37 years on, tracks like 'Cars', 'Metal' and 'M.E.' are still blisteringly good, and Numan’s icon has swelled immeasurably since his solo debut, with a mass of covers and remixes of his most memorable songs, and references of influence by the likes of artists such as Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor. In short, ‘The Pleasure Principle’ is a fantastic listen, and nothing less than essential to fans of electronic music at any level, despite one or two minor niggles.

The Party's Over - Re-Upped

Talk Talk are one of the more interesting collectives in all of popular music. The once Duran Duran infused with Roxy Music group soon became one of the forefathers for post rock, creating both Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock, two of the most critically acclaimed albums of the 20th century. These two albums, along with their third release, The Colour Of Spring (which is a perfect blend of jazz-esque structures with an art rock sound) often overshadow the first two releases in Talk Talk's discography, this and their sophomore release, It's My Life. However, these should not be written off as bad records simply due to the fact that they do not compare to the better albums in Talk Talk's collection of albums. Their debut, The Party's Over, is often viewed as "just another new wave album" from the early 80s, and represented the band in their more pop=oriented beginning. Keeping that in mind, this is an incredibly fun record that, given its time period, has aged better than the other synth-pop relics that vanished into obscurity towards the end of the 80s.
I am going to get this out of the way right from the get-go: this album is FULL on 80s cheese. Plucky synth chords, deep, analogue basses, and Simmons drums are all over the record. From the exterior, it seems like your typical new wave album. But Talk Talk has one advantage; Mark Hollis. Hollis is easily one of the most interesting musicians of our time, and his vocal delivery was unlike any of their contemporaries. Some like to point to Hollis as sounding similar to Bryan Ferry, whose producer coincidently produced this album. While that comparison does hold, Hollis's delivery is very different to that of Ferry's. Hollis sings in a weird mix of a whisper and a shout, and isn't afraid to belt out high notes that drastically alter his voice from its normal sound. It's one of the key traits that make Hollis such a captivating singer to listen too. "Today" best shows Hollis's unique voice, with the beginning verses involve him singing in a lower, whisper voice. But once the background singers scream "Today!" and Hollis belts "It's a dream away!" you immediately notice the difference in his style.
These carry over into other tracks on the record, including the self-titled song "Talk Talk," which feature large drums, and even larger synths. The rest of the record is your typical new wave affair, and all of the tracks have some appeal to them. That is with the exception of "Mirror Man." I have listened to all 5 of the Talk Talk records, and this is, without a doubt, their worst song. It starts out promising enough, but once it gets into the chorus, Hollis and the other background vocalists sound like they are choking, it took me by surprise the first time I heard it. It was annoying to enough to anger me slightly, and I just skipped the track all together. Giving it a second listen, it got slightly better due to the nice synth break during the bridge, and the violins and other strings are a nice touch as well, but not enough to save the song entirely.
If Talk Talk had stopped after It's My Life, they probably would have been a forgotten about synth-pop band that would fade into obscurity like many other small bands of the same genre tended to do. But with their colourful history, the first and second albums stand as an early stage of Talk Talk, that many look at when examining the band as a whole. The Party's Over not only stands as the first music of the later incredible band, but a solid synth-pop album as well.


No Virginia Plain

Falling halfway between musical primitivism and art rock ambition, Roxy Music's eponymous debut remains a startling redefinition of rock's boundaries. Simultaneously embracing kitschy glamour and avant-pop, Roxy Music shimmers with seductive style and pulsates with disturbing synthetic textures. Although no musician demonstrates much technical skill at this point, they are driven by boundless imagination -- Brian Eno's synthesized "treatments" exploit electronic instruments as electronics, instead of trying to shoehorn them into conventional acoustic patterns. Similarly, Bryan Ferry finds that his vampiric croon is at its most effective when it twists conventional melodies, Phil Manzanera's guitar is terse and unpredictable, while Andy Mackay's saxophone subverts rock & roll clichés by alternating R&B honking with atonal flourishes. But what makes Roxy Music such a confident, astonishing debut is how these primitive avant-garde tendencies are married to full-fledged songs, whether it's the free-form, structure-bending "Re-Make/Re-Model" or the sleek glam of "Virginia Plain," the debut single added to later editions of the album. That was the trick that elevated Roxy Music from an art school project to the most adventurous rock band of the early '70s.


Feasting At Dawn

A quick Re-Boot of an absolute classic.

Recorded in Hawaii between Banshees activities, Feast lives up to its surroundings -- at least the way most people want to imagine it -- as a lush, tropical experience. Almost a tribute to the exotica of acts like Martin Denny but well before the cloying rush of mid-'90s hype around such items, Feast is just that, a chance for the duo to marry Sioux's often cutting lyrics to a different musical brew. Waves crashing on beaches, found-sound effects from nature, and on three cuts the backing vocals of a hula academy's chanters add to the dreamy, mysterious flow of the album. Long-time Banshees producer Mike Hedges assists once again with the proceedings, helping to carry over the dark undertow of the main group to the duo's work here. Budgie varies the more frenetic drum assaults found on Wild Things in favour of a variety of speeds and tempos, but always with a crackling energy, whether low-key and tense or more outwardly rollicking. Sioux's singing succeeds as well as her work in the Banshees, her strong, instantly recognizable voice and lyrics often draped with a gentle reverb that increases the hazy, narcotic feeling of the album. "Miss the Girl," the concise number chosen as a single from the album, has a brisk, catchy feeling to it that avoids straightforward pop for the Creatures' own stripped-down, unexpected approach. Other strong cuts are "Dancing on Glass," a shuddering combination of drum and handclaps that achieves an almost ritualistic groove; the playful, gentler "Gecko"; and "A Strutting Rooster," a strong, rumbling number with one of Sioux's best performances. The backing choir gets an individual chance to shine on "Inoa'Ole," their interwoven voices blending into evocative drones and whines as well as Budgie's slow, forceful percussion and Sioux's own wordless chants.


Rest In Peace

“Rest In Peace” is a faithful recording of Bauhaus' last concert, played at the Hammersmith Palais in London on July 5, 1983, one week prior to the official release of Burning From The Inside and fifteen years before all four members would play together again. The show itself, although captured on tape, remained in the vaults for almost a decade, before it was finally released on two CDs in 1992; and the appropriate title “Rest In Peace” actually reproduces the words of David J, spoken at the very end of the show, once the final echoes of ʽBela Lugosiʼ have died down: most of the fans present, unaware of the band's suicidal plans, never figured out what that properly meant until it was too late. The large delay between recording and release is understandable: first, it seemed pointless at the time to put out two live albums in such a brief time interval, and second, the sound quality is highly questionable almost as if they were taping this as a personal memento rather than a potential commercial product or even historical document. Studio or live, Bauhaus is one of those bands that draws its power from atmosphere and sonic nuances rather than particular chord changes, so listening to a poor-sound-quality Bauhaus album falls in the same category as watching a black-and-white version of Snow White. For those who still have all the hits ringing and reverberating in their ears, subconscious will do the trick and restore the missing colours, but God forbid you ever fall upon “Rest In Peace” as your introduction to the band.



Another quick change, when posting 7” and 12” singles and EP’s you’ll be left to your own devices as to the style, content, or special features involved with that release. A significant number have been scoured from the interweb as I can’t be arsed at the moment to rip them myself so don’t complain if there’s noise, skips or pops…that’s the way it is until another version is found.
Finally, this is a fuckin’ (no G) awesome song from Death In Vegas featuring The Incredible Mr Iggy Pop on vocals.



So, it’s been a week or so (I haven’t been counting) and now I’m back. I hadn’t really gone away, I was taking a break and considering that posting on a daily basis is difficult to keep fresh. I follow a number of blogs where their reason to exist is simply to allow access to a download. I’d rather be involved with a community of people where there is time for communication. If you’re reading this then I hope that you are interested in community as well.
I’ll be trying to post 3 times a week to give folks a chance to say Hello…use it!

Chris & Cosey is the work of Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti, a couple best known as two of the founding members of pioneering industrial act Throbbing Gristle who disbanded in 1981. Post-breakup Chris & Cosey continued working with artists from the scene with Cosey's own form of Dadaist performance art.  Forming their own project known as Chris & Cosey, Heartbeat is their first release, which came out the same year. The album bridges some of the earlier industrial sounds of Throbbing Gristle with a focus on synthpop. Heartbeat really should be considered a synthpop masterpiece. However, it’s one with a slightly darker heart than most, given the background of the two people behind it, it’s not that surprising. Heartbeat is a great little album, a bit of a hidden gem for the industrial fans that is often glanced over. Whilst it lends itself more towards the realms of synthpop, its sound experiments and analogue drum machines are far from one dimensional and interesting enough to warrant a number of listens. Put Yourself In Los Angeles is something that needs to be heard, at the very least.


Spleen And Ideal

With this amazing album, Dead Can Dance fully took the plunge into the heady mix of musical traditions that would come to define its sound and style for the remainder of its career. The straightforward goth affectations are exchanged for a sonic palette and range of imagination. Calling it "haunting" and "atmospheric" barely scratches even the initial surface of the album's power. The common identification of the duo with a consciously medieval European sound starts here -- quite understandable, when one considers the mystic titles of songs, references to Latin, choirs, and other touches that make the album sound like it was recorded in an immense cathedral. Opening number "De Profundis" sets this mood so thoroughly, with bells and drones and more supporting another bravura performance from Gerrard, while the immediately following "Ascension" builds on this initial effort with further style and grace. It's limiting to think of either album or band strictly in terms of simple revivalism of old music. While the elements being drawn on are certainly of an older range, the results owe as much to the technologies of arrangement and production and a consciously cinematic feeling as much as they do antique pasts. Similarly, the feeling is not simply European but worldwide, with Gerrard's glossolalia intentionally reaching beyond easy understanding. Perry's vocal efforts are no less compelling, his own high point occurring with the vast-sounding "Enigma of the Absolute," as a steady, massive drum pound echoes behind a similarly treated guitar/harpsichord combination, tinged with a striking string arrangement. The overall feeling is of an ancient religious service suddenly brought to life in a truly modern way, with stunning results.