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

FINAL DAY



In 1980, a fresh-faced Welsh three-piece named ‘Young Marble Giants’ released their début LP, ‘Colossal Youth’. It was to be their only full-length album, a minimalistic and Spartan thing that defied the noise and the vitriol of the emerging post-punk movement. It has earned since its release three reissues, endorsements from the influential Kurt Cobain and indie legends ‘Belle and Sebastian’ and ‘Galaxie 500’. Yet somehow it remains obscure even to music obsessives, a bona fide cult classic whose unassuming nature has perhaps ensured that it stays under the radar. Perhaps it was a little unassuming for its own good; eschewing organic drums for a drum machine and paring post-punk back to its very essence was perhaps not a prudent move in an underground music economy where bands such as ‘Wire’, ‘Talking Heads’ and ‘The Clash’ held thrall. The artistic merits of the album, however, are indisputable- it is a very rare album that sounds like little else released before or since, and an even rarer one that sounds quite as wonderful as this does.

If there is one adjective that springs to mind immediately when listening to Colossal Youth, it is endearing: lead singer Alison Stattons unpolished lilt, the delightfully off-kilter drum machine, the prominent bass, the explorations of negative space and quiet guitar melodies; all these conflated ensure charm. The drum machine especially ensures an introspective and low-key atmosphere; would-be garage rock anthems ‘Include me out’ and ‘Brand New Life’ are tempered and pared down into punk conceptions at their most minimal. Elsewhere, the rollicking opener ‘Searching for Mister Right’ casts a spell from the get-go, all propulsive rhythm and ethereal vocals. ‘Salad Days’ is a gorgeous wistful ballad, conjuring images of sunshine and laughter long since past. Singling out specific tracks seems redundant however; this is an album that begs to be listened to as a whole, enthralling and addictive as it is. That said, the sparse arrangement of the album does begin to grate after a while. Moreover, though it may seem unusual to cite the albums consistency as a flaw, the lack of stand-out tracks and the similarity of the pervading atmosphere of each song does mean that the album can become stale after repeated listens.

I alluded earlier that ‘Colossal Youth’ is a post-punk album, but that is not strictly true. Though it gets classified as such, pigeon-holing the album into that genre does a disservice to the originality at work here. It resemblance to post-punk is tenuous, and I believe it is only called such because that at the time there would have been nothing else to call it. It bears more in common with the indie genre of today. Glimmers of it are found in the xx’s self-titled, in the gentle sonic explorations of Beach House, but no-one has made an album quite like this. It stands alone, humbly, entreating the listener not with noise or with gimmickery but with earnestness and a quaint, unsentimental beauty. I can only recommend you let it coax you in. Lose yourself in the beguile and sprawl; this one is a hidden treasure worth searching for.

Sunday

FUEL TO THE FIRE

MUSIC FOR PLEASURE



Originally formed in Leeds in 1979 and heavily influenced by New Wave and Krautrock, Music For Pleasure signed with Rage Records and released their début single The Human Factor in 1980. Their minimal synthpop is filled out with flourishes of rhythm and synth that reflects Tubeway Army and the pop punk sensibilities of the era. With the second Rage Records single Fuel To The Fire in 1981 a more post punk frame is drawn that shows influences from The Sound. Eventually picked up by Polydor Records the debut album Into The Rain was co-produced by the band and Polydor “In House” production guru Mike Hedges. Proceeded by the single Switchback showing the bands true post punk imagery with big Comsat Angel drums and guitar phrases filled out with bass lines that pop and break into danceable swatches of colour. Throughout the album there are glimpses of Killing Joke, Duran Duran, The Cure, the Chameleons and Comsat Angels. The band move gracefully between their influences, never too much of one to overpower the other, finding their developing sound in ways similar to The Passions on Michael & Miranda.

Two final singles released by Polydor in 1983 Time and Dark Crash signalled the end of the recording deal with no sign of a follow up album until 1985. Eventually splitting up in 1986 Chris Oldroyd went on to join Red Lorry Yellow Lorry and Chris Whitaker joined Danse Society.

Friday

TELEVISION FAMILIES




The Cortinas, forming in March 1976 had soon built up a big local following, and a break came when the band supported The Stranglers at the fabled Roxy Club in Covent Garden on 22 January 1977. Things then moved quickly for the band. Miles Copeland and Mark Perry's Step Forward label released the classic singles 'Fascist Dictator' in June and 'Defiant Pose' in December, the band recorded a fine John Peel session, and they appeared on the front cover of the April/May issue of Sniffin' Glue. Heady stuff, but sadly, it was over all too soon. In 1977 they were unstoppable - simply one of the best first wave punk bands around.
Interest in The Cortinas was at its peak. They had released two singles on Miles Copeland's Step Forward label. They'd supported The Stranglers and headlined at the Roxy. They'd been top of the bill at The Marquee played with Chelsea and Sham 69 and toured with Blondie and Television. Promoters had booked them with the caution befitting a punk reputation, which had been further guaranteed by a photograph in the NME precariously close to the incident involving Shane MacGowan and the missing ear lobe.
It was time for an album; Miles who had his finger in every punk pie going and was the king of the record deal gave them to CBS and consequently the album True Romances was recorded. 'Real' punk does still exist there; even though the critics of the day argue that it was lost on the album, released after the band had split, the spirit still seeps through the 13 tracks on offer.
Never able to shake off the schoolboy image, much was made of Mike Fewings and Dexter Dalwoods waif-like image and drummer Danny Swan was still just 17. CBS used the bands age to counter criticism but did nothing to promote the album or further its member’s careers. Hamblett further suggested they'd either grow into fine young musicians- either that or Oxford Dons - well they did more or less, but he didn't manage to foresee the famous artist Dexter was to become.
By their own admission much of the punk stuff had been 'hastily written and perhaps a bit formulaic’; many said the tracks that became True Romances had returned them to their formative R&B roots. Whatever the verdict, you'll find Ask Mr Waverley' going round and round in your head for days after hearing it and if you remember him, you probably know the answer already.

If anyone accuses you of not knowing your Punk from your elbow slip this album on and they'll soon be gobbing all over you.

Thursday

I AIN'T GOT TIME FOR WHAT YOU FEEL


Mega Post Of Panto-Goth, New Wave, Synthpop



Ministry’s début US album With Sympathy was released as Work For Love through Arista-BMG in Europe (with different track listing and cover above). There is a video available for "Revenge," (below) which was one of three singles pulled from the album, the others being "Work for Love" and "I Wanted to Tell Her."
Al Jourgensen has maintained that he was pressured by Arista management into producing the album in the then-popular "synthpop" style, which is in contrast to the harder industrial sounds he developed afterwards. However, there are reports of Jourgensen saying in the 1980s that when he discovered hardcore music, his musical direction changed. Additionally, video of local concerts Ministry performed in Chicago 1–2 years previous to their signing with Arista show the band dressed in "new wave" styles and playing new wave and synthpop music. Jourgensen assumes a false English accent for all of the songs, for which he also later expressed a great disliking.
Rather than the trademark bone-munching industrial drone of later years, Work For Love is panto-goth, new wave synthpop that sounds less like the band chewing your pancreas and more like the Human League's surly little brother. Great stuff, then, for those who allied themselves with Ally Sheedy's character in The Breakfast Club. "Here We Go" grinds all over some electronic horns, "Work For Love" stop-starts and shouts about like "Walk This Way" without all that scary rap, and the whole record becomes a secret weapon against the contrived snarls of the albums to follow. Surely, Al Jourgensen must be more insecure about his past than a superstar linebacker over childhood courses in ballet.


 

Wednesday

PLAY TO WIN



Heaven 17


It would be stretching the point to call Heaven 17 a punk band by any definition, but their music is inextricable from their politics. Sheffield was home to the scene that would spawn a number of memorable acts, primarily the Human League and Heaven 17, in addition to the likes of Cabaret Voltaire and Clock DVA.
Heaven 17 was formed in 1980 by Ian Craig Marsh and Martyn Ware, founding members of the Human League. After releasing two dark and dehumanized albums of proto-synth-pop agit prop as the Human League, Marsh and Ware split with Phil Oakey and Adrian Wright. Oakey and Wright’s vision for the Human League as played out over the following decade could not have been more at odds with Marsh and Ware. Oakey and Wright retained the Human League name and recruited two dancers from local clubs to be singers—the reformatted group abandoned Marsh and Ware’s overt political leanings in favour of pristine pop hooks informed by only a covert twinge of class-conscious irony.
So when Ian Craig Marsh and Martyn Ware left the Human League in 1980, the decision seemed iffy; after all, the Human League appeared on the way up and would achieve global fame the very next year with Dare!. The first album from Heaven 17, Marsh and Ware's new trio with singer Glenn Gregory, wasn't greeted with quite the same commercial kudos when released in 1981, but it turned out to be an important outing nevertheless.
Picking up where Kraftwerk had left off with The Man Machine, the group created glistening electro-pop that didn't skimp on danceable grooves or memorable melodies. What set Heaven 17 apart was the well-deep vocals of Gregory, who managed the difficult trick of sounding dramatic without seeming pretentious, and an overtly left-wing political outlook best expressed on the debut single "(We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang." Other standout combinations of witty lyrics and whiplash electro-grooves include "The Height of the Fighting" and "Play to Win," while the funky title track draws on American R&B for its popping bassline. Despite the catchy material, chart success proved somewhat elusive; Heaven 17 didn't score a major hit until their next album, 1983's The Luxury Gap. Nevertheless, Penthouse and Pavement stands as one of the most accomplished débuts of the '80s.