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.

Saturday

Title of Record



Filter's 1995 debut Short Bus broke through at the exact moment when Nine Inch Nails sound-alikes began dominating the modern rock charts. Filter had more credit to their sound than any of their peers -- their leader Richard Patrick had played in the touring incarnation of NIN. Nevertheless, many critics had written the band off as one-hit wonders with the crossover single "Hey Man, Nice Shot" being their one shot at glory. Since it took them four years to deliver the follow-up Title of Record, it could appear to the casual observer that the delay was proof positive that the band was a flash in the pan, but the album itself proves them wrong. If anything, it's a stronger album than its predecessor, with more sonic details and stronger song writing. Title of Record is still firmly within the industrial-metal tradition -- parts of it sound like it could have been on Short Bus, actually -- but it's surprising how often Patrick bends the rules. There are trippy neo-psychedelic pop vocals that close "Captain Bligh," and even when the music rages (which it does throughout the record), there are subtle differences in tension and dynamics that keep it fresh and engaging throughout. It is true that Filter sound a little out of place within the modern rock world of 1999, where the aggro-metal is rooted in hip-hop not industrial, but that doesn't mean that Title of Record isn't a strong album on its own merits, according to the rules of its genre.




Friday

Boys Don’t Cry



First released in the UK as a stand-alone single in June 1979, “Boys Don’t Cry” was then included as the title track on Boys Don't Cry, the American equivalent to Three Imaginary Boys. Written by Michael Dempsey, Robert Smith, and Lol Tolhurst, the lyrics tell the story of a man who has given up trying to regain the love that he has lost, and tries to disguise his true emotional state by "laughing, hiding the tears in my eyes, 'cause boys don't cry".
In April 1986 “Boys Don’t Cry” was re-released, again as a standalone 7 & 12” single, this time under the title "New Voice · New Mix", in which the original track was remixed and the vocals re-recorded. This new version has not appeared on any subsequent release by the Cure, but can be heard in the music video for "Boys Don't Cry". The video, released to promote the "New Voice New Mix" re-recording, features three children miming the song. Behind a curtain, Smith, Tolhurst, and Dempsey (in his only appearance with the band since his 1979 departure), appear as the children's shadows.
“Boys Don’t Cry (New Voice-New Mix)” was released to promote “Standing On A Beach”; however, the original 1979 version of the song appears on the album.





Thursday

A Broken Frame



Martin Gore has famously noted that Depeche Mode stopped worrying about its future when the first post-Vince Clarke-departure single, "See You," placed even higher on the English charts than anything else Clarke had done with them. Such confidence carries through all of A Broken Frame, a notably more ambitious effort than the pure pop/disco of the band's debut. With arranging genius Alan Wilder still one album away from fully joining the band, Frame became very much Gore's record, writing all the songs and exploring various styles never again touched upon in later years. "Satellite" and "Monument" take distinct dub/reggae turns, while "Shouldn't Have Done That" delivers its slightly precious message about the dangers of adulthood with a spare arrangement and hollow, weirdly sweet vocals. Much of the album follows in a dark vein, forsaking earlier sprightliness, aside from tracks like "A Photograph of You" and "The Meaning of Love," for more melancholy reflections about love gone wrong as "Leave in Silence" and "My Secret Garden." More complex arrangements and juxtaposed sounds, such as the sparkle of breaking glass in "Leave in Silence," help give this underrated album even more of an intriguing, unexpected edge. Gore's lyrics sometimes veer on the facile, but David Gahan's singing comes more clearly to the fore throughout; things aren't all there yet, but they were definitely starting to get close.


Wednesday

It’s Been Hours Now



For a time in the mid-80s, Pete Burns’ Dead Or Alive were the toast of the post-new wave/hi-nrg scene, a scene that unveiled several major hits, including the Stock-Aitken-Waterman produced UK chart-topper, `You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)’, a resounding global phenomenon. Focal point Burns was able to plough his field of pop dreams: doors left ajar by Visage, Soft Cell, Culture Club and Merseyside rivals Frankie Goes To Hollywood. From the 90s onwards, Dead Or Alive were a spent force (in Britain at least), though their chameleonic cross-dressing frontman seemed always to hog the limelight; Celebrity Big Brother 4 (featuring his costly reconstructed lips), Celebrity Wife Swap and as a TV presenter, himself.
It was all so simple back in post-punk Liverpool where provocateur Pete Burns (born Peter Jozzeppi Burns, 5 August 1959, Bebington, Wirral) worked at Geoff Davies’ Probe Records Shop. From there, he formed short-lived late-’77-era punk outfit, the Mystery Girls, a quartet that numbered Pete Wylie, Julian Cope and drummer Phil Hurst, before all affiliates found their own niche. Both Burns and Hurst (the latter a replacement for Pink Military-bound Paul Hornby) would duly re-surface in 1979 as front-and-back of Nightmares In Wax, a goth-dance act that also comprised keyboardist/co-scribe Martin Healy, guitarist Mick Reid (ex-Crash Course, ex-Glass Torpedoes) and bassist Pete Loyd; Loyd superseded Ambrose (ex-Big In Japan) who’d deputised for Walter Ogden on their only disc: the EP `Birth Of A Nation’, which featured three cuts led by `Black Leather’ (a song that interpolated K.C. & The Sunshine Band’s `That’s The Way (I Like It)’).
The group name was switched to Dead Or Alive prior to offering up tracks for a John Peel radio session in May 1980 and, after subsequent re-shuffling of personnel, Burns and Healy were joined by guitarist Adrian “Mitch” Mitchley, bassist Sue James and drummer Joe Musker (of Faction); the scarily androgynous Burns was to marry Lynne Corlett, around this time.
A debut Dead Or Alive single, `I’m Falling’ (issued on local Liverpool Indie Inevitable Records), varied little from the keyboard-heavy, sub-goth wailing of Nightmares In Wax; drawing comparisons with The Doors, if only for the Manzarek-like keys and Burns’ theatrical vocals. Yet while his singing suggested an imposing prince of darkness type figure, the frontman’s stage persona was more akin to a kind of sexually ambiguous, gothic dandy. By the band’s sophomore single, `Number Eleven’, the indie-goth quintet had attracted a cult following in Merseyside and beyond.
With the departure of Mitch and the arrival of Bristol-born guitarist Wayne Hussey (from Pauline Murray & The Invisible Girls), and Mike Percy taking over from Sue on bass, a percussive, organic tone was apparent on their self-financed 1982 single, `It’s Been Hours Now’ 12”, undoubtedly their best tune so far; or indeed, ever!
Released the same month as Culture Club’s chart-scaling “…Hurt Me” smash hit, the not-so-spectacular `The Stranger’ (complete with Pete’s dreadlock’d hair-bob on the pic sleeve!) found some airplay from Peely and, despite, or courtesy of, Boy George’s unintentional upstaging, Epic Records won the battle to sign Dead Or Alive.




Tuesday

Somewhere



Formed from the ashes of Post-Punk outfits Y? and Lips-X, and briefly called Danse Crazy, The Danse Society officially came into being in 1980. Strongly influenced by Joy Division, The Danse Society's early records were the forerunners of what was to become the typical Goth sound: bleak sounding synthesizers, resonating basslines, and echoing deep male vocals. The Sisters of Mercy, most notably, had great success with this style that The Danse Society pioneered.
They attracted major label interest in the early 1980s, and signed to Arista Records, with whom they released the album Heaven Is Waiting in 1983. This release held a much cleaner sound than earlier works displayed, and brought them to the height of their popularity.  However, such success did not continue, despite extensive touring, the band's later releases were much weaker and poorly received by both fans and critics alike.
One last point of interest, their Say It Again single featured a remix from Stock Aitken Waterman, who just one year later would begin their domination of the UK charts with a track by another goth band, Dead or Alive's You Spin Me Round. Er Ummm…Yeah


Monday

Time Goes By



Although they formed in 1975, it took three years for The Distractions to shuffle nervously into position. While Buzzcocks jostled into the rush of chart success and Joy Division attained unprecedented cult status, The Distractions' sweet flow of songs gained them a dedicated local following. While less talented acts successfully courted the music press and, in years to come, would gain ludicrous appraisals in lofty journals and tomes, The Distraction would drift quietly into the shadows.
The band's biog might appear typical. After releasing one raw and glorious 12” EP (“You Are Not Going Out Dressed Like That” on Tony Davidson's TJM label) and arguably the most perfect single in Factory's chequered history (“Time Goes By So Slow”), they decamped for fame and fortune via a serious record deal with Island.
“Time Goes By So Slow” displayed a different side to 'skinny tie' pop than say "Girl of My Dreams" by Bram Tchaikovsky. This has more of a melancholic style, but not really the same kind as Joy Division, which was more desperate and emotionally damaged. A more wistful melancholia, as in seeing an established relationship slipping away on rain washed streets, as well as other forms of loss.
In regular Factory Records style “Time Goes By So Slow” came with the usual understated-yet-elegant sleeve, with both the spacious production (by Brandon Leon) and the music matching the same approach. Side 1 is a break-up song, the kind Greg Kihn said 'they don't write anymore' except with a bit more intelligence and sophistication. Basically a deep longing for a love that was lost and thinking of what could have been. "Oh I wonder why you had to go, the way you had to go; time goes by so slow..." Side 2’s "Pillow Fight", is a bit more 50's-ish, particularly due to the guitar and keyboards with that bright power-pop style of melodic panache.
Still, "Time Goes By So Slow" is the Distractions at their most memorable so far, although I need to find their debut album which I haven't heard to this day... 




Sunday

Dazed and Confused



Led Zeppelin had a fully formed, distinctive sound from the outset, as their eponymous debut illustrates. Taking the heavy, distorted electric blues of Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, and Cream to an extreme, Zeppelin created a majestic, powerful brand of guitar rock constructed around simple, memorable riffs and lumbering rhythms. But the key to the group's attack was subtlety: it wasn't just an onslaught of guitar noise; it was shaded and textured, filled with alternating dynamics and tempos. As Led Zeppelin proves, the group was capable of such multi-layered music from the start. Although the extended psychedelic blues of "Dazed and Confused," "You Shook Me," and "I Can't Quit You Baby" often gather the most attention, the remainder of the album is a better indication of what would come later. "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" shifts from folky verses to pummelling choruses; "Good Times Bad Times" and "How Many More Times" have groovy, bluesy shuffles; "Your Time Is Gonna Come" is an anthemic hard rocker; "Black Mountain Side" is pure English folk; and "Communication Breakdown" is a frenzied rocker with a nearly punkish attack. Although the album isn't as varied as some of their later efforts, it nevertheless marked a significant turning point in the evolution of hard rock and heavy metal.


Saturday

Murmurs



Hula’s “Murmur” is a disorientating, dark, trippy, and simultaneously groovy masterpiece. Sadly Hula never received the recognition they were due, they are surely up there with Sheffield's finest noise merchants; and there's a helluva lot of fine music from that neck of the woods. Never as challenging as Cabaret Voltaire but very similar to them, Hula used the same 80's industrial bands clichés and ingredients like cut ups, dense metronome rhythms, dubbed and electronically processed vocals, talking about social paranoia. "Murmur" was their peak and it’s one of the forgotten albums from my very favourite post punk era. “Murmur” is an almost perfect blend, for the time, of progressive, industrial, music expressions. It's well past the time to see this album properly reissued on LP and CD.



Just for transparency and to see how much the journalists of the day waffled complete bullshit, I have transcribed two reviews from the UK’s leading music rags, Sounds and NME 




Hooping It Up
Hula have steered me toward all the obvious criticisms, not a thing I enjoy. But despite their sense of tension, the nag-nag-nagging noises, nasty voices, nervous murmurs, dark breaths and deep meanings, Hula do sound obvious, too easy to place. They wear their influences and ancestry like a coat of arms. Hula are capable, noble but predictable.
Pinned down like butterflies between early Cabaret Voltaire and recent DVA, taking in “Seven Songs” Skiddoo. The Box, Pop Group and early ACR, Hula are perhaps a step back towards the days of music that disrupts and excites and for that I don’t blame them.
They steal from all the right places but are a little exact about it. Amrik Rai’s sleeve note puts it thus: “crushed concrete, dense compression…cutting, wrought, fraught…a blare of sound, flare of feeling”, words slapped away by my editor as “absurd”. Anyway, Amrik’s got his finger firmly, neatly on Hula’s firm, neat pulses: they are too easily described, summed up: nothing here came as a surprise. Their dark discomfort behaves with control and tact, the voice is a blunt shout rather than a terrible bellow, a squawk not a scream, and the cut-up, buldging basses, sound fragments, the clenched emotions and the percussion rattling its bones, all come in precisely the right places.
That said, they’ve perfected the surface nervousness of Mallinder and Newton, sound proud, positive, alive. “Ghost Rattle” is an impressive jumble rumble; “Jump The Gun” and “Tear-Up” are easy but irresistible chants and even Hula’s disorganised, plainly uninteresting jams sound harder and sharper than Shriekback, Portion Control or New Skiddoo. So, the noises on this dark dance are nice but not new noises.
“Murmur” is presentable, tidy, consistently obvious Hula – but there will be a strikingly distinct, barbaric Hula and that Hula will hurt. I trust it will be soon.
-Jim Shelly 12th January 1985 New Musical Express
 






After the rock ‘n’ roll anarchy, the positive aggression of both “Black Pop Workout” and “Cut From Inside” (Hula’s earlier vinyl outings) it was difficult to see which turning the Sheffield trio would take next. Cast rather dismally on the darker, less predictable side of, say, fellow townspeople Cabaret Voltaire and Chakk, Hula had posed a lot of questions. But did they have the answers?
The pre album snatch, “Fever Car”, led you right up the wrong garden path, too. Likeable, moving stuff, it made me wonder after a dozen plays if there was much substance behind this dance-driven malice of its rhythm. No such questions with “Murmur”. This one has stood the test already.
Throttled in the miserable Sounds office through speakers that weren’t fit to grapple its grooves, blasted through cobwebs at home and screeched in the car, Hula are definitely from the new breed.
Jack Barron’s revelation that Swans are something important, something to stand up for, something to be awestruck by can only be dittoed for Hula. Here, too, is that damning aggression, that unkempt power, that burning desire. Hula chew fire and spit out brat-skat by the mouthful.
But whereas the whole Swans theory revolves around the roach-happy recesses of the US state of mind, Hula are very, very British. Hula are using their surroundings, their city lights and their greatest nightmares as bright vivid colours.
“Murmur” is a patchy, multi-layered canvas. Within the cracks and crevasses are a thousand stories grasping to escape. The “Murmur” is getting louder; soon it will be a scream.
-Dave Henderson 9th December 1984 Sounds

Friday

Fresh Fruit



For Rotting Vegetables

A hyper-speed blast of ultra-polemical, left-wing hardcore punk, and bitingly funny sarcasm, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables still stands today as the Dead Kennedys' signature statement. As one of the first hardcore albums, it was a galvanizing influence on the musical and attitudinal development of the genre, also helping to kick-start the fertile California scene. The record's tactics are not subtle in the least; Jello Biafra's odd warble and spat-out lyrics leave no doubt as to what he thinks, baiting his targets of conservatism, violence, overbearing authority, and capitalist greed with a viciously satirical sarcasm that keeps his unflinchingly political outlook from becoming too didactic. The thin production dilutes some of the music's power, but the ragged speed-blur still packs a wallop, and the hooks cribbed from surf and rockabilly give it a gonzo edge. The song writing isn't consistent all the way through the album, but classics like "Kill the Poor," "Let's Lynch the Landlord," "Chemical Warfare," "California Über Alles," and "Holiday In Cambodia" helped define the hardcore genre and, thus, must be heard.


Thursday

I’m In Love With A Girl…



For every one artist who scores a hit in the charts, there are at least 100 other artists who are just as good, if not better, than that lucky act. On the other hand, for every hit a particular artist has, there are likely a dozen more deserving songs in their catalogue that deserve equal chart success. The Freshies manage to fall into both categories: they should have been more popular and they have plenty of songs deserving of more success than their minor hit "I'm in Love with the Girl on a Certain Megastore Check-Out Desk" (originally titled "I'm in Love with a Girl on a Virgin Manchester Megastore Check-Out Desk"!) should be better known radio classics that bring back fond memories to more than just Freshies fanatics.
One of Manchester’s best kept secrets, The Freshies were integral to the late 70’s North West punk/new wave scene. However, this secrecy wasn’t through a lack of trying to gain success, main man Chris Sievey once said that he was responsible for 25 consecutive “flop” records. That’s an awful lot of self-belief. A true maverick, some would say Sievey was perhaps more famous for his publicity stunts to get his band noticed: Petitioning for a week outside Granada TV studios or stealing “Stiff Records” headed notepaper and then forging “internal” letters between executives expressing interest in The Freshies. Not forgetting publishing “The Complete Book of Rejection Slips” (200 Ways To Say “Thanks But No Thanks”). Sievey pre-empted the punk/DIY ethic by a couple of years when he formed his own label RAZZ RECORDS in 1974 and dutifully tried to put his band together. It took the advent of punk in 1976 to really get the bands wheels in motion. Renowned for doing their own thing, when asked if they went to see the Sex Pistols at the Lesser Free Trade Hall, he replied “Nah, we were rehearsing that night”.
Thirty five plus years later, listening back to the bands perfect pop-punk, it’s mindboggling that none of these releases had chart success. “I’m In Love With The Girl From The Manchester Virgin Megastore Checkout Deskfaring the best and reaching the lower regions of the top forty.
The Freshies should fit nicely in your collection right in between the Records (for the power pop leanings) and Jona Lewie (for their eccentricities). But perhaps that's too obscure? Well, they would have made the perfect flagship band for Stiff Records.




Wednesday

Outlandos d’Amour



While their subsequent chart-topping albums would contain far more ambitious songwriting and musicianship, the Police's 1978 debut, Outlandos d'Amour (translation: Outlaws of Love) is by far their most direct and straightforward release. Although Sting, Andy Summers, and Stewart Copeland were all superb instrumentalists with jazz backgrounds, it was much easier to get a record contract in late-'70s England if you were a punk/new wave artist, so the band decided to mask their instrumental prowess with a set of strong, adrenaline-charged rock, albeit with a reggae tinge. Some of it may have been simplistic ("Be My Girl-Sally," "Born in the '50s"), but Sting was already an ace songwriter, as evidenced by all-time classics like the good-girl-gone-bad tale of "Roxanne," and a pair of brokenhearted reggae-rock ditties, "Can't Stand Losing You" and "So Lonely." But like all other Police albums, the lesser-known album cuts are often highlights themselves -- the frenzied rockers "Next to You," "Peanuts," and "Truth Hits Everybody," as well as more exotic fare like the groovy album closer "Masoko Tanga" and the lonesome "Hole in My Life." Outlandos d'Amour is unquestionably one of the finest debuts to come out of the '70s punk/new wave movement.


Tuesday

Too Much Pressure



By 1979, Jerry Dammers had finished flailing through music fashion personas, ditching his Mod and flower child proclivities and turning into a toothless skinhead, one who would lay down the first songs that soon enough would give birth to checkered wonders The Specials. His subsequent start-up of 2-Tone Records would unexpectedly kick off an explosive revival of Ska in England, and on a lesser level, the world. Along with Madness and Bad Manners, The Selecter rounded off 2-tone’s second squadron, headed up by the genre’s vanguards, The Specials and The Beat.
Compared to The Beat’s Lionel Martin and his searing sax fireworks, or The Specials’ raw punk and dub slants, The Selecter were a leaner, simpler outfit, splicing guitars and horns into songs that were primarily carried by roiling organs and a driving bass. Though their music challenged decidedly less boundaries, lead singer Pauline Black was the ace up the band’s sleeve. Her trilling soprano and an undeniably sexy presence softened the edges of where skinhead and punk cultures could flock to, still fresh and reeling from the gaping vacuum left in the post-Sex Pistols age. The early 80’s also saw Black become the poster-girl for London’s street fashion. Decked out in Harrington jackets, pork pie hats, skinny ties and combat boots, 2-tone kids looked cleaner and less fucked-off than punks, and aside from lyrics that occasionally lost subtlety and tumbled into politico rants, their music stuck close to the original Caribbean Ska formula - uplifting protest songs.
Three Minute Hero, one of the band’s staples kicks off Too Much Pressure, and the album proceeds to sprint through one hooky rave-up after another, barely losing steam through its forty-minute run. Missing Words is a gem, and one of the best songs to have come out of that frenzied revival. Showing Black’s affectations of the new-wave scene, which was only in its budding stages at the time, the song sees her marry Ska’s harmonies with the kind of strong euphonies new-wave’s dancier material favoured. Danger is similarly dazzling, swaying effortlessly between a throbbing Hammond, cracking guitar-work and an infectious sing-along hook. They Make Me Mad’s sudden tempo shifts and the title tracks’ male-female dictum interplay all capture 2-tone emblematic angles. Underneath all the thrashing it was doing against early Thatcherisms, it was music to bop to.
A superfluous cover of Justin Hinds and The Dominoes’ old Ska standard Carry Go Bring Home, and an overtly kitschy take on James Bond sag the album’s second half somewhat, but never enough to trip up flow.
Too Much Pressure’s significance remains, an essential document of music that sieved fermenting social unrest through songs as agitated as they were captivating.




Monday

Do You Believe In The Westworld?



Led by the near-operatic, dramatic voice of Kirk Brandon (who'd just left another good band, the Pack, and would later lead the mediocre Spear of Destiny), Theatre of Hate were one of the first and best post-punk bands in Britain in the late '70s and early '80s, making big, powerful, thumping, brave, tribal-rhythm rock. Like the band's incredible contemporaries Killing Joke, UK Decay, Zounds, (early) Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Skids, and (early) the Slits, Theatre of Hate's intellectual edge and relevant sociopolitical lyrics are still amazing, now that many years have passed with few grabbing the torch (aside from a handful of U.K. acts, such as Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, the Wall, and Play Dead). Unfortunately, ToH's one true LP, 1982's Westworld, produced by the Clash's Mick Jones (Sandinista! era; he also plays guitar all over it), is not as consistently brilliant as the singles that preceded it. Westworld is worth hearing, if for no other reason than to encounter a few more jaw-droppers such as the high-holy "Judgement Hymn."


Sunday

Machine Age Voodoo



Australian first wave industrial group SPK's Machine Age Voodoo was a radical departure from their earlier music, enough to earn the pioneering noise group accusations of selling out from ardent fans. This much is fact, but if you look at industrial music in context in the middle to late 80's patterns start to emerge.
The thing is this is SPK's attempt at a commercial album. For anyone familiar with Information Overload Unit, and Leichenschrei, two defining industrial/noise albums if there ever were any, Machine Age Voodoo may come as a bit of a shock. Hiring a female vocalist in the form of Sinan Leong (who later went on to become Revell's wife), gone is the harsh sound frequencies, mechanical dark ambience and disturbing samples of old. In is 80's dance pop, and damn, is it upbeat and energetic. Hell, the opening title track may be one of the best New Wave songs I’ve ever heard with its tribal beats, horns and vocals. Machine Age Voodoo, the song, sets a high standard for industrialised synthpop. Flesh & Steel is what I would consider another essential cut on here. With its infectious bassline and percussion, and sensual vocals it rivals the title track on a whole different level.
Overall, Machine Age Voodoo is just kind of patchy. It's a refreshing listen for anyone who enjoys new wave and 80's dance pop, but may find itself at odds with anyone who is seeking more of the soul-crushing noise which was predominant on Information Overload Unit and Leichenschrei. This album is all about the hooks. Along with other seminal 80's releases by industrial artists who went synthpop (such as Cabaret Voltaire's Micro-Phonies and Chris & Cosey's Heartbeat), I find Machine Age Voodoo a slight, but worthwhile listen for gauging the direction of industrial music at the time. The title track and Flesh & Steel are essential, though.




Saturday

Dream Sequences



When Penetration split up in 1979, singer Pauline Murray immediately went solo, taking bassist/boyfriend Robert Blamire with her and putting together a "dream team" backing group hard to beat. The Invisible Girls include the LP's legendary producer, Martin Hannett (who gives this 1980 LP his trademark Joy Division/first New Order LP sound), as well as Buzzcocks drummer extraordinaire John Maher and guest appearances from Durruti Column's Vini Reilly, the then unknown Wayne Hussey, and Bernard Sumner. With this kind of unbelievable talent as support, Murray flourishes. The second and final Penetration LP, Coming Up for Air, had already posited her as a post-punk star, mining ground similar to the later Skids, or a less primitive, more tuneful early Banshees. Here, with Hannett's far-away, odd sound leading the way, she makes a more subconscious, skilful pop album, full of dark touches, such as discordant piano, flanged basslines, Maher's insistent beat, and strange little background guitar parts. The material is all excellent, especially the knockout opener "Screaming in the Darkness" and the Magazine-like single "Mr. X." This was one of the most inspired and unique solo LPs the punk generation produced. 


After knocking on the door of mainstream success with Penetration for one album at least - the band's energetic debut Moving Targets still very much a forward-thinking landmark of its time - Pauline Murray's charges called it a day after a troubled tour and poorly-received sophomore set Coming Up For Air in 1979.
Choosing to collaborate with a few Manchester musicians proved something of a stroke of genius - Murray made this superb self-titled debut with the aid of Martin Hannett, future partner Robert Blamire and Vini Reilly, PMATIG sounds enriched after all these years festering in a dark cupboard. Musically less raw than Penetration, songs like Dream Sequence, Shoot You Down and Thundertunes are cheery new wave pop gems that still sparkle thirty five years later, all given that slightly gritty sheen by Hannett. Murray's voice is by turns expressive, wide-eyed and unique (comparisons to Siouxsie are unfounded, frankly) and suit the musical uppers and downers presented here.
And there aren't many of the latter - Mr X, one of the band's obvious highlights and one of the greatest singles issued at the time, brims with haunting menace, Judgement Day recalls early Psychedelic Furs or The Cure's dimmer moments and Drummer Boy is a stark, spatial melodrama that actually sounds a little out of place amongst its heftier peers on here.
As for the uppers, surely one song that should have been a single and a subsequent hit is Time Slipping. A slower, swirling, almost funky, dark-wave pop song worth cherishing, it's a great conclusion to side one (speaking in vinyl terms here) and acts as something of a centrepiece midway through the running order. I bloody love it.
It's great to have this largely under-rated body of work back where it belongs - just like the imprint it originally appeared on, Pauline Murray and the Invisible Girls has proved Illusive to track down for too long. Now it's time to discover one of Murray's, Hannett's and Blamire's most important artistic committals to UK post-punk. This is your countdown - your starter for ten.

Friday

Chronic Town


Chronic Town established R.E.M.'s signature sound immediately, expanding the jangling riffs of their debut single, "Radio Free Europe," into a full-fledged modus operandi. Recorded at Mitch Easter's Drive-In Studios, the EP has an endearingly ragged sound -- it's a garage band playing jangling pop songs, and while the music is melodic and memorable, it has an underground mentality that keeps it from sounding conventional. Not only does the lo-fi production keep the music underground, but so do Peter Buck's ringing arpeggios, Michael Stipe's incomprehensible mumbled vocals, and the band's amateurish enthusiasm. They might not be accomplished players, but already their songwriting is distinctive, with "Gardening at Night," "Wolves, Lower," and "Carnival of Sorts (Box Cars)" ranking as early classics.






Thursday

Force The Hand Of Chance



The first Psychic TV album in many ways remains its best, a double album worthy of the space needed that's readily comparable to the best efforts of the World Serpent circle of acts like Current 93 and Coil in its variety, dark power and very English take on things. Admittedly the Coil (and therefore Throbbing Gristle) connection is further heightened by the participation of Peter Christopherson throughout, while Alex Fergusson's re-emergence after time spent with Alternative TV further heightens the overall musical excellence of the album. Add in some fine guest performers -- most notably Marc Almond, who appears on the winsome pop of "Stolen Kisses" and the slow burning, threatening mood piece "Guiltless" -- and Genesis P-Orridge would have had to work damn hard to screw everything up, which he certainly didn't. The opening track alone must have confounded more than a few Throbbing Gristle fanatics -- "Just Drifting (For Caresse)" is a slow folk song with gentle string backing written for and about P-Orridge's newborn daughter. The musical references throughout the album refer to everything from Ennio Morricone-styled spaghetti western twang and doom ("Terminus-Xtul," which eventually transforms into a grinding howl of feedback and a calm acoustic coda) to post-punk dance grooves ("Ov Power," in a "radio promo mix" that's still not entirely American Bandstand material). Bachir Attar and the Master Musicians of Joujouka get a direct salute with "Thee Full Pack" which, while not representative of that collective's music, still sets a haunting, mysterious mood. The Temple ov Psychick Youth coterie doubtless still gets a kick out of "Message from Thee Temple," in which an authoritative but warm voice quietly delivers some philosophical strictures against a rich, sorrowful combination of strings and low key beats.


Wednesday

Happy Nightmare Baby



At once drowsy, psychedelic, entrancing, and possessed of a sinuous spark, Happy Nightmare Baby may have been Opal's only album but deserves more attention than merely being a blueprint for Roback's later work in Mazzy Star. For one thing, Opal was very much its own band; with Kendra Smith's particular lyrical visions of mystic power and universe-scaling dreams and nightmares its own entity. As is her singing, though she's got less of Hope Sandoval's wistful drift and more focused control -- check out the brief "A Falling Star," where the comparatively stripped-down arrangement places her singing in the foreground, notably without much in the way of echo. Roback's playing certainly won't surprise anyone per se who backtracks to this group from albums like She Hangs Brightly, and the atmosphere of textured, moody power is evident right from the start with the wonderful early T. Rex tribute, "Rocket Machine." The compressed string swirl and steady stomp is pure Marc Bolan-via-Tony Visconti, though Smith avoids Bolan's style of warble for her own cool, something also quite evident on the slow-groove stomp of the great "She's a Diamond" and the concluding "Soul Giver." Meanwhile, other familiar elements Roback would later use are present aplenty -- very Ray Manzarek-like organ lines on the mantra-chugs of "Magick Power" and "Siamese Trap," compressed acid rock solos and lots of reverb. The title track itself stands out a bit as being a bit more of a '60s Europop confection in a stripped-down 1968 setting; Roback's electric guitar adds some fire, but it's the slightly jazz-tinged rhythm and easy delivery from Smith that helps establish its own character. It's a release that stood out both in time and place (a 1987 release on SST Records, of all places!), but it stands up to future years and listens darn well.

Adolescence Sex



Japan were initially formed in 1974, but they only got to recording music after winning a talent contest, netting them a contract with Hansa Records. In 1978, they released two albums that were successful in Japan (the group's name probably helped), but which were basically over looked in the UK, because of the increasing popularity of the punk and new wave scenes. Initially, Japan weren't a new wave group (there are small tinges of the genre in their pre Quiet Life records, but that's more in the production and sound than the performance); they were a glam rock band with one hell of an attitude. I mean, this world is hardly as prude as it was in the 60's or 70's, but would you consider releasing an album titled Adolescent Sex now?
When it comes to the sound and scale of the music, Adolescent Sex is a glam rock album through and through, but what's interesting is how pissed off the group sounds. This is very well evidenced in David Sylvian's vocals, to be precise, he often seems to strain himself so as to deliver as much vocal raw power as any glam rock singer who has a lot of presence on stage, but he instead ends up in the zone between "subdued" and "powerful" that, in the case of this album, is actually more satisfying than if he actually crossed over into the latter.
In case I don't sound enthusiastic enough, I am seriously recommending you pick up Adolescent Sex. It (and its successor Obscure Alternatives) is a criminally overlooked piece of late-70's glam rock that undeservedly got swept up in the punk undercurrent. It's an outstandingly unique record, and 1978 definitely wasn't an uneventful year. OK, so I suppose the name could turn someone off… either that or the fact that it's the same group that released Gentlemen Take Polaroid’s... nah, you don't have any excuse not to pick this up.




Tuesday

Broken



During the time that Pretty Hate Machine was becoming an underground sensation, Trent Reznor became embroiled in legal difficulties with his label that prevented the release of any new Nine Inch Nails material. But the three-year wait actually helped -- most of NIN's fans were relatively recent converts, and they eagerly snapped up 1992's Broken, which afforded the already angst-ridden Reznor the opportunity to vent his ample frustration over the imbroglio. Where Pretty Hate Machine had a few moments of reflection and sardonic humour, Broken is a concentrated blast of caustic, naked rage. Given how draining it is, a full-length album in its style would unquestionably have been wearisome, even self-parodic. So, Broken is the rare EP that's conceptually focused and complete unto itself. Production-wise, it's also a step up from Pretty Hate Machine, and a showcase for Reznor's flowering studio acumen. While Pretty Hate Machine was primarily electronic, Broken is loaded with heavy, jagged guitars, processed through a veritable meat grinder of effects into a massive wall of distortion. Each song one-ups the viciousness of its predecessor; even the two relatively subdued instrumental interludes are full of abrasive textures. There are two hidden bonus cuts at the end of the CD (early pressings had them on a separate disc); they're neither as produced nor as intense, and thus separated conceptually as well as physically. The cover of Adam Ant's "(You're So) Physical" was something of a revelation; not just demonstrating Reznor's fondness for new wave, but serving as a touchstone for his self-conscious, glammed-up sense of style. That and his skills as a producer and arranger would reach their fullest realization on The Downward Spiral, but Broken's tight focus and frothing intensity make it a major work in its own right.

They Were Big In Japan, But Where Else?



Big In Japan formed in late 1977 in Liverpool around guitarist Bill Drummond and several short-lived line-ups that finally settled down around vocalist Jayne Casey, guitarist Ian Broudie, bassist Holly Johnson, and drummer Budgie. Violently theatrical, the band was dividing opinions almost from the moment it emerged, with Casey and Johnson particularly prone to flamboyance. Local producer Clive Langer was a firm friend and fan, he produced the band's first single Big In Japan, a split 7” released on the local Eric's label in September 1977 with a track by the Yachts, under their Chuddy Nuddies alias, on the B-side. During their brief time, Big In Japan recorded four songs which eventually became the From Y to Z and Never Again EP, released after their demise to pay off debts. The unintentional consequence of the EP was the formation of the Zoo Record label.
Big In Japan also recorded a Peel Session on 12 February 1979, with a line-up of Casey, Broudie, Johnson and Budgie; the session was broadcast on 6 March 1979. Big In Japan left a recorded legacy of seven songs: one on a single, four on their EP From Y to Z and Never Again, and two further tracks released on Liverpool compilations. All seven tracks plus the three Peel Session tracks are presented here. Please note that this is not an official release.


Big In Japan were a supergroup with a difference - its members only became super after they left.

Monday

Labour Of Love



Time for a quick 4AD history lesson. Mass were formed from the ashes of Rema-Rema by Gary Asquith, Mick Allen, and Mark Cox. After recruiting Danny Briottet they released one 7" single and this full album on 4AD. After this debut album Mass split into two halves - Asquith and Briottet formed the dub legend Renegade Soundwave, while Allen and Cox remained with 4AD for what would become their new project, The Wolfgang Press.
Back then, 4AD were one of the most interesting labels around with bands like Cocteau Twins, Modern English and Xmal Deutschland. Indeed, this album takes a lot of time and effort to sink in, but once it does you will be amazed at the depth of this experimental postpunk band. The first self-titled song lasts about ten minutes and drifts from avant-garde jazz to raw punk rock. "Help is on the way", he grates desperately as if he didn't have any sleep for three days. More feelings of insanity and angst are called upon in two intermezzos called Why. As a whole all does not sound dreary however, Isn't Life Nice is a happy chaos with bubbly bell sounds and some violins for good measure. Well, happy in a hallucinating way that is, treading on the verge of a bad trip... Creativity and despair, those are the main driving forces.
The very haunting Elephant Talk is an exciting piece of music, flutes and bass slowly building up to a throbbing climax filled with drums and screams. F.A.H.T.C.F. has that punk attitude of Killing Joke, shouting slogans with a vengeance in a puddle of gloomy coldwave arrangements. The album ends pretty much like it began a variation between arty jazz and powerful postpunk. This is music where art plays a major role so if Virgin Prunes are your cup of tea, you will probably like this too. Sometimes difficult for the casual listener, but eventually oh so rewarding. A fine testament to the exciting, early days of Post Punk and New Wave music.


Sunday

Lucky Number



One of Stiff Records' most stable staples, the truly alternative Lene Lovich laid much of the groundwork for an entire generation of singers left to pick up the pieces in the wasteland of the post-punk era. Her stunning debut, 1979's Stateless, was so unique, so vibrant, and her vocal stylings so unusual that the LP not only put her right at the front of the pack of nascent new wavers, it also sounded a commercial death knell of sorts, relegating her to the realms of novelty acts (at least as far as the mainstream was concerned). But that's not to say that the mainstream wasn't keeping an ear cocked. Re-recorded from the demo that landed her a deal in the first place, a unique rendering of the bubblegum puff piece "I Think We're Alone Now" provided such propulsion that its B-side, the now-classic "Lucky Number," was itself then re-recorded, to land Lovich a Number Three U.K. hit in early 1979. Elsewhere, the darkly sinister "Home" played off the rumours concerning Lovich's exotic Eastern European background (she was actually from Detroit, but she could fake a great accent). The piano-led Patti Smith-y "Too Tender (To Touch)" allowed Lovich to explore a quieter corner, as did a sexy, sensuous rehash of fellow Stiff-er Nick Lowe's "Tonight." The rambunctious squeak of "Say When," on the other hand, not only tempered that mood but also scored Lovich another hit. While Stateless is certainly very much of its era, and well-placed in its time, inspired and adventurous song writing coupled with a truly pioneering intent ensure that this LP will always remain the lit roadside marker that whispered "this way" to the hundreds of bands who followed.


Saturday

Tattva



By the mid-'90s, most bands had abandoned the sounds and sensibilities of late-'60s psychedelia, which is what makes Kula Shaker's debut album, K, such a weird, bracing listen. The band doesn't simply revive the swirling guitar and organ riffs of psychedelia, it embraces the mysticism and Eastern spirituality that informed the music. On both "Tattva" and "Govinda," lead singer Crispian Mills has adapted portions of Sanskrit text for the lyrics, chanting Indian mantras without a hint of embarrassment. Similarly, Kula Shaker are unashamed about their devotion to Hendrix, Traffic, and the Beatles, cutting their traditionalist tendencies with an onslaught of volume, overdriven guitars, and catchy melodies -- though they have a song called "Grateful When You're Dead," all of their psychedelic sensibilities derive from British rock, not the more experimental American counterpart. Kula Shaker may play well -- they have a powerful rush that makes you temporarily forget how classicist their music actually is -- but they still have trouble coming up with hooks. About half the record ("Hey Dude," "Tattva," "Govinda," "Grateful When You're Dead") has strong melodies, while the rest just rides by on the band's instrumental skills. Consequently, much of K doesn't stick around once the record is finished, but the singles remain excellent blasts of colourful neo-psychedelia.

Friday

Obscure Alternatives



Their second album to hit the shelves in 1978, Japan's sophomore effort, Obscure Alternatives, found the band dropping most of their debut's funk fringe in favour of guitar-oriented fuzz and quirk -- scooping up the glitter left behind by all the scene's other nascent Siouxsie's and Adam Ants. Although the set isn't quite up to par with its predecessor, Obscure Alternatives is still a challenging listen. David Sylvian is snotty, snotty on "Automatic Gun" -- a spit-shined punk shocker backed by bright pop guitar -- and ironically playing into all the guises they eschewed. Both the wonderfully atmospheric and slightly menacing title track and "Love Is Infectious" put the band completely into discordant post-punk art house-dom, the latter including a twisted piano solo in the middle of the guitar crunch. "....Rhodesia," on the other hand, brought the funk back and infused it with a Caribbean essence. While there is no doubt that Obscure Alternatives paled in the shadow of Adolescent Sex, Japan had obviously, in their eyes, broken through to find their style, their groove. Still eons away musically from their more commercial Tin Drum heyday, the band were nevertheless cultivating a breath-taking crop of kernels.


Thursday

New Values



From the time the Stooges first broke onto the music scene in 1967, Iggy Pop was rock's most remarkable one-man freak show, but by the mid-'70s, after the Stooges' messy collapse, Iggy found himself in need of a stable career. The rise of punk rock finally created a context in which Iggy's crash-and-burn theatrics seemed like inspired performance rather than some sort of cry for help, and in 1979, with everyone who was anyone name-checking Iggy as punk's Founding Father, he scored a deal with Arista Records, and New Values became his first recording since the new rock gained a foothold. These days, New Values sounds like Iggy Pop's new wave album; while former Stooges associates James Williamson and Scott Thurston worked on the album, the arrangements were dotted with synthesizer patches and electronic percussion accents that have not stood the test of time well at all, and the mix speaks of a more polite approach than the raw, raging rock of Iggy's best work. But the growth as a songwriter that David Bowie encouraged in Iggy on The Idiot and Lust for Life is very much in evidence here; "Tell Me a Story," "Billy Is a Runaway," and "How Do Ya Fix a Broken Part" are tough, unblinking meditations on Iggy's war with the persona he created for himself, and "I'm Bored" and "Five Foot One" proved rock's first great minimalist still had some worthy metaphors up his sleeve. If New Values wasn't a great Iggy Pop album, it was a very good one, and proved that he had a future without David Bowie's guidance, something that didn't seem so certain at the time.




Wednesday

The Moon and the Melodies



The Moon and the Melodies is a collaboration between the Cocteau Twins and keyboardist/composer Harold Budd that fits soundly between the stylistic signatures of the two, both of whom make organic music that relies heavily on electronics. Budd's use of spacious treated piano and keyboard sounds (influenced by a previous collaborator, Brian Eno) combines with the Cocteau Twins' shimmering waves of guitars and Elizabeth Fraser's layered wordless vocals to create what amounts to a soundtrack to a dream about sleeping, with saxophones courtesy of Richard Thomas (of the now defunct Dif Juz) breathing further life into the music. Too bland to be the best introduction to the music of either, but a welcome addition to the collections of fans of both.

The Moon and the Melodies is actually credited to Harold Budd, Elizabeth Fraser, Robin Guthrie, Simon Raymonde, the album is nothing like I had ever heard before, or indeed have heard since. The record features eight songs: each side starting and ended with a ‘vocal’ track (i.e. the full band, plus Harold Budd), with two instrumentals in the middle. The album’s opening track, ‘Sea, Swallow Me’, for my money is the greatest track the band ever recorded. It begins with Budd’s otherworldly piano on its own and is soon joined by Guthrie’s beautiful guitar, Raymonde’s bass and Fraser’s unique vocal. Like many Cocteau’s tracks, the lyrics appear to consist of an unfamiliar, invented language, with words chosen for their sounds rather than their meanings. It is a cliché, but the vocals act as another instrument in their own right. The second track, ‘Memory Gongs’ is led by Budd’s ebbing and flowing piano work, coupled with ambient Cocteau’s sounds in what could be the most intoxicating track I have ever heard. To listen to it, even after many hundreds of times, is to disappear to another place. Where the first track could, minus Budd’s piano, arguably have fitted nicely onto another Cocteau’s album, the second totally belongs to this one. ‘Why Do You Love Me?’ has a similar make-up and also does not sound of this earth, while ‘Eyes Are Mosaics’ returns Fraser to the fold and would not have sounded out of place on the previous Autumn’s Tiny Dynamite or Echoes in a Shallow Bay E.P.s. It is a fine track, but the one on the album where Budd is least evident.
Onto Side Two and Richard Thomas from Dif Juz makes an appearance (on saxophone) on the first two tracks, ‘She Will Destroy You’ and ‘The Ghost Has No Home’. While the former includes a subtle contribution on the outro, on the latter (another epic instrumental) the saxophone shares pretty much equal billing with Budd’s piano. It doesn’t sound like it would work. It does. Perfectly.
‘Bloody and Blunt’ is the album’s final voiceless track and is also the shortest, based around a circular dreamy guitar riff from Guthrie, while ‘Ooze Out And Away, Onehow’ brings back Fraser’s remarkable voice one last time, building up and up until the drums unexpectedly kick in for the last minute of the album to bring it to a euphoric climax.

Tuesday

To Hell With Poverty!



Gang of Four's existence had as much to do with Slave and Chic as it did the Sex Pistols and the Stooges, which is something Solid Gold demonstrates more than Entertainment! Any smarty-pants can point out the irony of a band on Warner Bros. railing against systematic tools of control disguised as entertainment media, but Gang of Four were more observational than condescending. True, Jon King and Andy Gill might have been hooting and hollering in a semi-violent and discordant fashion, but they were saying "think about it" more than "you lot are a bunch of mindless puppets." Abrasiveness was a means to grab the listener, and it worked. Reciting Solid Gold's lyrics on a local neighbourhood corner might get a couple interested souls to pay attention. It isn't poetry, and it's no fun; most within earshot would just continue power-walking or tune out while buffing the SUV. Solid Gold has that unholy racket going on beneath the lyrics, an unlikely mutation of catchiness and atonality that made ears perk and (oddly) posteriors shake. With its slightly ironic title, Solid Gold is more rhythmically grounded than the fractured nature of Entertainment!, a politically charged, more Teutonic take on funk. It's a form of release for paranoid accountants. Financial concerns form the basis of the subject matter; the hilarious but realistic "Cheeseburger" is a highlight with its thinly veiled snipe at America: "No classes in the U.S.A./Improve yourself, the choice is yours/Work at your job and make good pay/Make friends, great/Buy them a beer!" This is a nickel less spectacular than the debut, but owning one and not the other would be criminal.


Monday

We Care A Lot



After listening to Faith No More's 1985 debut, We Care a Lot, it's hard to believe that this is the same band that we know today. They sound more like early Public Image Limited than the FNM that would eventually assault your senses with Angel Dust and Album of the Year. Obviously, one of the major reasons is because current singer Mike Patton is not on the album. Original frontman Chuck Mosley (R.I.P.) handles the vocal duties, and his singing style is the complete opposite of Patton's. While Patton is extremely talented and versatile (he can sing just about every style of music imaginable), Mosley's voice is often off-key, fairly monotonous, and colourless (but with lots of attitude). Musically, the group shows glimpses of the killer genre-bending band they would become in the near future. The original version of the title track is an anthem in typical, twisted FNM style: it contains irresistible melodies and riffs, but challenges you lyrically (the words deal with the hypocritical situation surrounding the millionaire musicians who participated in 1985's Live Aid concert). The song is still featured at their concerts, as is the keyboard-laced "As the Worm Turns." Other highlights include the furious instrumental "Pills for Breakfast" and the near-dance track "Arabian Disco." Although most of FNM's important components are present (airy keyboards, tribal drumming, heavy metal guitar, and sturdy bass) the big picture is not as focused as it would eventually be. And it becomes more and more evident that the missing piece of the puzzle was Mike Patton.


Sunday

Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting



It was designed to be a blockbuster and it was. Prior to Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Elton John had hits -- his second album, Elton John, went Top 10 in the U.S. and U.K., and he had smash singles in "Crocodile Rock" and "Daniel" -- but this 1973 album was a statement of purpose spilling over two LPs, which was all the better to showcase every element of John's spangled personality. Opening with the 11-minute melodramatic exercise "Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding" -- as prog as Elton ever got -- Goodbye Yellow Brick Road immediately embraces excess but also tunefulness, as John immediately switches over to "Candle in the Wind" and "Bennie & the Jets," two songs that form the core of his canon and go a long way toward explaining the over-stuffed appeal of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. This was truly the debut of Elton John the entertainer, the pro who knows how to satisfy every segment of his audience, and this eagerness to please means the record is giddy but also overwhelming, a rush of too much muchness. Still, taken a side at a time, or even a song a time, it is a thing of wonder, serving up such perfectly sculpted pop songs as "Grey Seal," full-bore rockers as "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting" and "Your Sister Can't Twist (But She Can Rock & Roll)," cinematic ballads like "I've Seen That Movie Too," throwbacks to the dusty conceptual sweep of Tumbleweed Connection in the form of "The Ballad of Danny Bailey (1909-34)," and preposterous glam novelties, like "Jamaica Jerk-Off." This touched on everything John did before, and suggested ways he'd move in the near-future, and that sprawl is always messy but usually delightful, a testament to Elton's '70s power as a star and a musician.


Saturday

Back Door Man



A tremendous debut album and one of the greatest first-time outings ever produced in rock history, introducing both the band and their fusion of rock, blues, classical, jazz, and poetry with a stylish knockout punch. The lean, spidery guitar and organ riffs interweave with a hypnotic menace, providing a seductive backdrop for Jim Morrison's captivating vocals and probing prose. "Light My Fire" was the cut that topped the charts and established the group as stars, but most of the rest of the album is just as impressive, including some of their best songs: the propulsive "Break on Through" (their first single), the beguiling mystery of "The Crystal Ship," the mysterious "End of the Night," "Take It as It Comes" (one of several tunes besides "Light My Fire" that also had hit potential), and the stomping rock of "Soul Kitchen" and "Twentieth Century Fox." The 11-minute Oedipal drama "The End" was the group at its most daring and, some would contend, overambitious. It was nonetheless a haunting cap to an album whose nonstop melodicism and dynamic tension would never be equalled by the group again, let alone bettered.


Friday

Songs The Lord Taught Us



Continuing the spooked-out and raging snarls of their Gravest Hits EP, the Cramps once again worked with Alex Chilton on the group's full-album debut, Songs the Lord Taught Us. The jacket reads "file under: sacred music," but only if one's definition includes the holy love of rockabilly sex-stomp, something which the Cramps fulfil in spades. Having spent Gravest Hits mostly doing revamps of older material, the foursome tackled a slew of originals like "The Mad Daddy" and "TV Set" this time around, creating one of the few neo-rockabilly records worthy of the name. Years later their songs still drip with threat and desire, testament to both the band's worth and Chilton's just-right production. "Garbageman" surfaced as a single in some areas, a wise choice given the immediately catchy roll of the song and downright frightening guitar snarls, especially on the solo. The covers of the Sonics' "Strychnine" and Billy Burnette's "Tear It Up" not to mention the concluding riff on "Fever" all challenge the originals. Interior has the wailing, hiccuping, and more down pat, but transformed into his own breathless howl, while Ivy and Gregory keep up the electric fuzz through more layers of echo than legality should allow. Knox helms the drums relentlessly; instead of punching through arena rock style, Chilton keeps the rushed rhythm running along in the back, increasing the sheer psychosis of it all.




Thursday

Dance This Mess Around



Even in the weird, quirky world of new wave and post-punk in the late '70s, the B-52's' eponymous debut stood out as an original. Unabashed kitsch mavens at a time when their peers were either vulgar or stylish, the Athens quintet celebrated all the silliest aspects of pre-Beatles pop culture -- bad hairdos, sci-fi nightmares, dance crazes, pastels, and anything else that sprung into their minds -- to a skewed fusion of pop, surf, avant-garde, amateurish punk, and white funk. On paper, it sounds like a cerebral exercise, but it played like a party. The jerky, angular funk was irresistibly danceable, winning over listeners dubious of Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson's high-pitched, shrill close harmonies and Fred Schneider's campy, flamboyant vocalizing, pitched halfway between singing and speaking. It's all great fun, but it wouldn't have resonated throughout the years if the group hadn't written such incredibly infectious, memorable tunes as "Planet Claire," "Dance This Mess Around," and, of course, their signature tune, "Rock Lobster." These songs illustrated that the B-52's' adoration of camp culture wasn't simply affectation; it was a world view capable of turning out brilliant pop singles and, in turn, influencing mainstream pop culture. It's difficult to imagine the endless kitschy retro fads of the '80s and '90s without the B-52's pointing the way, but The B-52's isn't simply an historic artefact; it's a hell of a good time.


Wednesday

Gypsy Dancing Again



To label (in any way) the self-titled debut from All About Eve "Goth" is a perfect example of how loosely the term was being thrown around in the mid- to late '80s in England. Sure, the Eves had a bit of Goth cred (touring with the Mission, early singles that sounded a lot like Siouxsie), but All About Eve is more folksy than menacing, and follows the tradition of later-era Fairport Convention more than Bauhaus or The Sisters Of Mercy. The band had already developed its more folksy sound on its independently released singles, but with Paul Samwell-Smith producing, All About Eve graduated from quasi-Siouxsie clones into a full-blown example of late-'80s "Goth-Pop." Steeped in folksy melodies and hippie-esque lyrics, All About Eve can seem a bit dramatic and drippy, but it makes up for its faults with solid song arrangements and a glossy production that fits the band's melodic sensibilities and polished guitar work. While it may not be part of the pantheon of rock as a whole, All About Eve stands out as a prime example of a time in English pop music when things weren't quite certain.



All About Eve were one of those bands that either delighted the listener continually with their beautiful, dreamy soundscapes or made them cringe under the sheer weight of flowery, heavenly atmospheres created by nothing more than female vocals, a virtually non-existent guitar and some bass work running along in the background. Formed in 1984 by journalist and ex-bassist of Gene Loves Jezebel, Julianne Regan, and featuring guitarist Tim Bricheno and bassist Andy Cousin (who both played a vital role in the early line-up of The Mission), you would be forgiven for thinking that All About Eve were no different to any other band firmly rooted in the Alternative and Gothic Rock scenes of the 80’s. However, the band was fortunately more than just a mesh of Siouxsie And The Banshees, The Mission and pop sensibility Kylie Minogue. For one thing, their debut album was so surprisingly successful, that out of a collection of fourteen songs, five made it to the UK charts: One Top Ten single in “Martha’s Harbour” (Played live on the Top of the Pops show in 1988) and four Top Forty singles in “In The Clouds”, “Every Angel”, “Wild Hearted Woman” and “What Kind Of Fool”.
The band’s debut album was certainly something of a musical focal point in 1988, but since then it has probably remained as nothing more than a nostalgia record for those who prefer the lightest, dreamiest and most peaceful of music. Some may be shocked at the fact that an album released in the 80’s had fourteen tracks and may even question just how many fillers there are to be found. It’s no joke that every song on All About Eve’s debut album works well in its own way, but the one simple thing that works to the band’s advantage is that each song flows beautifully in itself, each instrument never proving to be an unnecessary addition to the sound.
Vocalist Julianne Regan may be the first thing that is instantly noticeable in this album. Her vocals cannot simply be ignored, specifically as each instrument never seems to be as prominent as it should be, and the voice is naturally impressive. Songs such as “In The Clouds”, “Shelter From The Rain” and the long-standing Irish melody “She Moves Through The Fair” all benefit from Regan’s soulful vocals, and although her voice can get on your nerves at times, they do in fact add an extra layer of harmonizing sounds to the music itself. Each member of the band had their lyrical input, and interestingly the themes covered in every of ‘All About Eve’s songs seem to represent tales of folklore, peace, love and “white magic”, the latter of which being often concerned with the Left Hand path according to biblical and folklorean stories.
However, ‘All About Eve’ was supposedly never an album to show off how good Regan’s vocals or the lyrical talents of the band were, and when the instrumentation comes together, it certainly flows very well. Bricheno’s guitar work is mostly acoustic, but there are particular moments where a rockier sound is incorporated into the music, and this is more than evident on songs such as fantastically catchy opener “Flowers In Our Hair” and the very flowery “In The Meadows”, both of which are carried forward by a strong guitar sound, strongly supported by tight drum and bass rhythms. As well as the guitar, bass and drums, there are added instruments that take their place on particular songs throughout the album. The piano is very rarely used, but when it is, as on songs such as “Martha’s Harbour” and “Shelter From The Rain”, it does the same job as the other instruments very well, and with instruments such as the violin and the synthesiser running their respective course throughout the music, styles such as Shoegazing and Gothic Rock are nicely incorporated, and never make the band fail to perform well either.
Despite all this however, you would be hard-pressed to find someone who prefers edgier, rawer music listening to an album such as this. Each song is written and structured very simply, and save for the odd rockier rhythm created by tight guitar effects here and there; the general sound is that of a quiet, melancholic one. It’s perhaps something to overlook, but the listener can feel very bored and tired with themselves when reaching a certain point in the album, perhaps because the stillness and almost silent nature of “She moves through the fair” threatens to be yawn-inducing the moment it starts.
All About Eve are not a band that will impress just everyone, and that naturally goes for the band’s debut album. It’s dreamy, flowery soundscapes creating images of peace, love and harmony will delight some, and disappoint others, but listening to it without distractions and reading the lyrics alongside listening to each respective song will be a treat for those with the most patience and consideration. The band would go on to make three other albums, but none of those would turn out to be as successful or indeed as instantly recognizable as this one.

Tuesday

Novelty



When you’ve waited nearly five years for something this good to pop back up on the interweb, I feel that it is our duty to share. This is the Analog Loyalist 2012 Remaster of Warsaw, in his own words;

I slightly divert from this blog's stated mission and bring to you my remastering attempt of Joy Division's legendary 1978 RCA album sessions bootleg Warsaw, from the original 1989 CD release on RZM.  It's critical to disregard any other known CD release of this bootleg, because the most common version, 1994's Movie Play Gold CD issue of this, is flat-out terrible.  Too bassy (FAR too bassy), low-quality source material, the works.  I suspect the best bootleg version of this session is the original 1981 LP issue (also on RZM), but I don't have a line on a decent transfer of it.
Legend has it that RZM is code for (Alan) Erasmus, an original Factory partner who, with Tony Wilson and Peter Saville, started Factory Records in 1978.  The legend states that Erasmus (say it aloud, and then say R-Z-M) arranged the 1981 bootleg release of the aborted 1978 album, and then further arranged for the material's first appearance on CD in 1989.  Frankly, I believe it.
None of the CD releases of this set have been spectacular in sound quality.  I think the problem is that the original tape was not that great, and that the mastering-for-CD process - possibly to disguise vinyl lineage, as I suspect that the original LP was the ultimate source for all the various CD issues - really clamped down on the upper midrange and higher frequencies.  It's always sounded muffled, and boomy (the 1994 Movie Play Gold release, with the baby on the cover, is the worst in this regard).  I've fixed this.  I've also fixed up some of the harsher song starts, as it's easy in the digital domain (ain't no ProToolin' in 1978!) and the CD has a few of the intros cut off.  Why did I fix them?  Because the missed intro into "Transmission" has always bugged me, among others.  "Interzone" too.
I think this is the best we're going to get with this material.  Already it blows the few tracks released on 1997's Heart and Soul box set away, and unless someone leaks the original mixdown tape from the 1978 session, we won't find better.  That said, I do have a line on a dub of a band member's personal cassette copy of this session, but I don't have it handy and what I remember from listening to it when I did was that it wasn't really all that much different or better than the '89 CD release.


Monday

Fatman



If the only aspect of The Cult you’re familiar with is as the slightly famous stadium rock act churning out MTV crowd pleasers like “Firewoman”, this might be a good time to sit down, because you’re in for something of a shock.  The Cult as we know them today is nothing at all like their original incarnation as Southern Death Cult.
The history of Southern Death Cult proper begins in 1981 with Ian Astbury joining an existent but dying punk band in Bradford known as Violation. He persuaded them to change their name to Southern Death Cult, the name both a Native American reference (an obsession of Astbury’s which would recur many times throughout his career) and also a nod to the disparity of power and influence between the Southern and Northern halves of the UK.
The band promptly went off and toured with both Bauhaus and Theatre of Hate throughout 1982, providing them with massive exposure and coverage in the alternative media, rapidly becoming very big on the Post Punk scene despite lack of any significant amount of  released material.
During their extremely brief existence, the band released just two pieces of vinyl, The Fatman 7” and the Moya 12” and each containing both of the title tracks, although Moya includes a third song “The Girl”. Both are interesting, not only musically, in the sense that the listener can easily sense just how far the influence of this band would be felt, but also in their political commentary, an element that would become increasingly rare as Goth continued to develop as a genre away from Post Punk.
Southern Death Cult would disband after just 16 months in February 1983. The explanation for breaking up that “expectations were just way too high” has frankly never satisfied me, it seems a singularly silly reason to disband. The explanation that Ian felt various elements of Southern Death Cult were “working against each other” seems rather more reasonable.