Thursday, June 30, 2005

sensitive skins

Skinstorm - Bradford

Most people who recognise this song will know the rather perfunctory version that Morrissey put out as the B-side to one of those singles that he seemed to release every week in the '90's. No doubt a Mozzer completist will be able to tell me which one! Bradford were from Blackburn, their USP was that they were Harrington wearing, Ben Shermanned and Sta-prest Skinheads. They touted the kind of soulful guitar pop that got swept away by the Madchester thing. They were also saddled with that ultimate kiss of death, Morrissey endorsed them in the music press!

This song is that rare thing from a white guitar's about making lurve! Let's drop the imaginary inverted commas, it's about sex. You could chuck a stick in the late '80's and hit an Indie band singing romantic subject matter but it was usually David Gedge banging on about some stranger's hands on his favourite dress..ohhhhh!

This to me is a bit different, sure it's sensitively handled and idealised but it has a soul like Dexy's or The Jam which makes it a cut above a comtemporary band like, say, The Bodines. It certainly takes me to another time and place.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

getting our oates

Hall & Oates - Rich Girl
There is something vaguely amusing about Hall and Oates, well they make me laugh anyway especially the rather 'oily' clip of them schmoozing through 'She's Gone' on the Old Grey Whistle Test. Is it Daryl's immaculately blow dried hair? Is it the way they glance coyly at each other?'s obviously John Oates...a small man with a big moustache! Once again I have my Dad to thank for my rather guilty pleasure in digging Hall and Oates.

Both of these tracks are from their 1976 album 'Bigger than the both of us'one of Dad's favourites to blast through the mono cassette deck in the Talbot Sunbeam. As we queasily sweltered on our way to the car ferry I would bitch about his crap muzak and wish I'd had the good sense to record 'Back in Black' before leaving the house. My pubesecent metalhead self couldn't recognise that this was and is great pop music. It's really 'thought through' and produced and slick but damn...can they write a chorus!

Hall & Oates - Back Together Again

The cover of this album probably explains the problem a lot of people have with old Daryl and John, it's blue eyed soul, it's over-produced. There they sit, crafting another pop-soul meisterwerk, their stylised apartment is immaculate and you can almost smell the over-powering 70's cologne. I care not for such quibbles, I played their Greatest Hits in the car recently and could not stop singing along with it....badly!

Buy 'Bigger than the Both of Us'

Hall and

Sunday, June 12, 2005

pretending to see the future

OMD - Bunker Soldiers

The cool bands of the post-punk Liverpool scene are well documented. The Bunnymen had all the classic guitar rock credentials, the love of Television and the Velvets and in Mac a lead singer brimming with lippy attitude. The Teardrop Explodes were the classic 'out there' psychedelic band with an 'ever so English' fruitcake lead singer in Julian Cope. OMD and Dalek I were never cool, OMD looked like junior bank clerks performing for the works 'do'. However this music made on the most basic electronic gear is both strange and beautiful. The fact that these songs sound like Kraftwerk equipped by the Early Learning Centre is part of its charm.

I find this early synth music really appealing. It is truly DIY, it doesn't conform to the structural rules of most guitar based music and it sounds like the people who made it are really excited about the possibilities of their archaic synths and drum machines. It is minimal, naive but truly different. When I heard first heard music like this I, this is the future.

Dalek I - Destiny (Dalek I Love You)

Unfortunately as technology has advanced the ability to smooth out every musical wrinkle has made machine based music increasingly bland...though I am willing to be corrected in future posts! Another conundrum, why does a city as hard nosed and assertive as Liverpool often produce some of the most pretty and fey music? Dalek I's albums are long deleted (I think) but OMD's first album is an essential purchase and if you want to sound like them buy a Korg Micro-preset synthesizer and get a tank-top.

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark

Vintage Synth Explorer

Monday, June 06, 2005

dance this mess around

The B-52's - Whammy Kiss

As Marc-o said in his DEVO post, Johnny Domino operate in a broad musical church with only a few meeting points for all of us in between. DEVO are one, but the absolute motherlode of Johnny Domino consensus is The B-52's in general, and this song in particular.

After releasing three great new wave art-pop albums (plus their remix album, "Party Mix"), "Whammy!" was the band's 1983 drum-machine-and-synthesizer experiment and was the first album of theirs I bought - mostly because I had a vague memory of hearing 'Queen of Las Vegas" on the Annie Nightingale show a couple of years previously. Like all of their albums it's a mixture of trashy dance music and camp melodrama, often all at once. "Whammy Kiss" is melodramatic trashy dance music. It's also a bit camp.

This song is so exciting - the relentless pounding dum machine, rumbling synth bass and the incredible playing of the late, great Ricky Wilson, the single biggest influence on the way I play guitar.

Pretty much every band I've ever been in has sounded a bit like The B-52's in some way, Johnny Domino most of all. We borrowed the synth sounds and the pummeling beatbox, as well as Ricky's guitar playing and the inimitable barking vocal style of Fred Schneider, and wrote our tribute to them, Ricky And Fred.
Unfortunately, we don't know ANYONE that can sing like Kate Pierson or Cindy Wilson...

Buy Whammy!
Buy Nude On The Moon
Read The B-52's Universe

Thursday, June 02, 2005

some expressions take me back...

Prefab Sprout - Lions in my own Garden

When I was very young we lived in a village outside Durham called Witton Gilbert. The local garage was owned by the McAloon family. It was here that young Paddy McAloon started writing the songs that would later find him fame in Prefab Sprout. It's tempting to think about him watching the wagons labour through the village heading for the steelworks in Consett and writing 'Faron Young' as an English 'trucker's song'.

Prefab Sprout - Walk On

On first impressions early Prefab Sprout sound like many other English Indie bands of that period but there was always something a bit more ambitious about McAloon's wordplay and arrangements. Most post-punk songwriters sat at the feet of the Velvets and the CBGB's scene. Paddy was obviously aware of Jimmy Webb and Broadway music.

Prefab Sprout - Cue Fanfare

I have recently rediscovered Prefab Sprout's debut album, 'Swoon'. It really doesn't sound like anything else but it doesn't strain to be quirky, it's....elegant! Martin McAloon's bass playing is a revelation and even Wendy Smith' vocal 'stylings' don't irk at this stage. The North-East doesn't get much attention from record labels and music press but it was obvious that Prefab Sprout had something and deserved their seemingly weekly appearance on The Tube.

Buy 'Swoon'

Prefab Sprout fansite