Sunday, November 27, 2005

the crown jools

I sometimes ask myself, why am I posting these songs?

Sometimes it's the idea to share something that I think people won't have heard before, sometimes it's pure vanity. In this case it's taking something that's probably very familiar and saying 'listen to this again, it's bloody brilliant!' Such is the case with these two Squeeze singles.

Squeeze- Pulling Muscles (from the shell)

'Pulling Muscles (from the shell)' and 'Is that Love?' capture the genius of Squeeze, smart songwriting, clever wordplay and a story. It all sounds so simple but actually it's really difficult. These songs are full of neat little arranging tricks and musical twists, the guitar and piano breaks are real treats. At the same time it's not smug or too knowing, clever songwriting can be. You get a critical view of England but also an affectionate one.

Squeeze- Is that Love?

The other thing that occured to me about these songs was GlenTilbrook's voice. Mike Love of 'The Beach Boys' is often reviled by musicians but he has a great 'radio' voice, it cuts through on bad speakers and instantly grabs your attention. Debbie Harry also has this as does Glen Tilbrook, he opens his mouth and you know you're going to get a POP song.

You should buy this

Saturday, November 26, 2005

when maths met jazz

My love for The Bad Plus is well-documented and earlier this month everyone's favourite math-jazz-power-trio released their third studio album, "Suspicious Activity".

The release of "Suspicious Activity" has been blighted by Sony Records taking the bizarre decision to put spyware on US copies of the disc to stop PC users playing the CD they've bought on equipment that they own. Thanks, guys. The Bad Plus have been pretty vocal in their opposition to this on their website and new weblog.

It's a great album, a lot heavier than previous outings and with only one cover version, a righteous take on the theme to "Chariot's Of Fire" - guess they're getting mighty sick of being "that jazz band that do weird rock cover versions". No matter, as the tunes they write themselves are just fine, thank you very much.

The Bad Plus - Rhinoceros Is My Profession

As usual, the album was recorded as-live (a couple of minor embellishments but we shan't quibble) and captures the disturbing level of synchronicity between the trio - they change their mode of attack frequently and in an instant. It's head-spinning stuff, as The Guardian correspondent who went to jam with them found out. (read the article here)

My favourite bit in the article, which gives you a pretty good insight into their 'headspace', is where they talk about their ideal quintet featuring Ornette Coleman and Cookie Monster:
(drummer Dave King): "..that would be an amazing combination, if people could just get beyond the fact that it is Cookie Monster. Just visually it would be stunning: Ornette with a really beautiful suit, really playing, and this whole thing being done really earnestly, and Cookie Monster go-ing-to-TOWN and talking in double negatives all the time. It would be pretty happening."
The Bad Plus - Flim (Aphex Twin cover)

The new album conveys the ferocious power that they can conjure up live - as this tune confirms, they can also do beautiful and subtle, too

Visit The Bad Plus and buy "Blunt Object - Live in Tokyo"
Visit "Do the Math", The Bad Plus weblog
Buy "Suspicious Activity" (European edition)

Monday, November 21, 2005

through being cool

I'd like to dedicate this post to our cyber-buddies, the good people at Last Night An MP3 Saved My Wife, which closed it's doors last week. Our brethren in the fight against against accepted notions of what's "cool", I like to think they'd approve.

One thing you need to know is that there are NO guilty pleasures on DominoRally - these tracks are the ones that we are truly passionate about. Sometimes it'll be new stuff, sometimes old but whatever it is you have our cast-iron guarantee that whoever has posted it LOVES it. Case in point: Billy Joel's attempt to meld Bruce Springsteen to side 2 of 'Abbey Road'.

Billy Joel - Scenes From An Italian Restaurant

This is a brilliant song, a kind of mini-opera. It has been pointed out to me that I like songs where there are many different tunes going off at once, and that's what's going on here. After an almost Clayderman-esque piano intro, it's "A bottle of white, a bottle of red, perhaps a bottle of rose instead..." - there's even an accordian (at the time, Billy's band would set up a table on stage, break bread and raise a glass of wine to the audience - Beck Who??). The sort of sax break that normally makes me want to commit mass-murder comes in but it's so New Yoik, isn't it?

At 1.44 a great gear-change - to paraphrase what oxbow said in his Status Quo post, if you're not bouncing about in your seat at this point then you're a fool.

At 2.48 - the best bit! It makes me insanely happy everytime we get to the story of Brenda and Eddie (Ben Folds who??). This is also the bit where, in the Broadway production that always accompanies this song in my head, the lights suddenly go down, coming up just as suddenly as the rollerskating dancers start to zoom around Billy's piano.

At 6.00, we're back at the restaurant, the strings give me chills. It's quite, quite tasteless and shameless but I genuinely love it all the same.

We stole most of the ideas contained in "Scene's From An Italian Restaurant" wholesale for the Johnny Domino song "This One's For The Kid" - sorry, Billy! It too starts off like the final number of a Broadway show (can't you just see the dancers, high-kicking their way across the stage??) and it all get's a bit Starlight-Express at 3.15.

Johnny Domino - This One's For The Kid

Vist Billy Joel
Buy 'The Stranger' by Billy Joel
Visit Johnny Domino

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

human amusements at hourly rates

Some things you need to know about me: I don't take recommendations too kindly. Nothing is more likely to get me to ignore something than someone who's opinion I respect telling me, "you'll love this!" (and yes, I am aware of the ironies involved in being responsible for a mp3 blog, but we each have our crosses to bear).

Secondly, I ALWAYS get things too late, or at least 6 months after everyone else.

Case in point: my good friend Brian, former band-mate and tape-maker extraordinaire, repeatedly tried to get me into Guided By Voices but I just didn't get it, didn't see what the fuss was. And he was right, I should have loved them. They had everything I need from an indie-rock band - let's look at the facts:

1) bewildering song and album titles
2) self-mythologising frontman/songwriter
and most importantly;
3) preposterously labyrinthine back catalogue consisting mostly of ludicrously hard-to-track-down records

What's not to love??

On 31 December 2004, Guided By Voices called it a day. With astonishing timing, two weeks later I bought "Human Amusements At An Hourly Rate", a 32-track GBV best of. Guess what? I love it. And, yes, I am an ass.

Guided By Voices - Surgical Focus (from "Do The Collapse")

It's well documented that Bob Pollard is a complete Beatles-freak - but not in an Oasis-magpie style, nicking all the best bits. It's like he's really studied them and learnt from them - the chord change at the start of the chorus (dip to relative minor followed by a chromatic descending sequence, if you want to know) is pure Lennon & McCartney. Doesn't matter what the song's about, it's a class example of word-painting and it makes it feel like it should be about something.

Guided By Voices - Teenage FBI (from "Wish In One Hand" EP)

I've no idea if the tracks I've chosen are representative of their work as a whole, all I know is that they worked for me and made me feel stupid for not having paid attention at the time. Maybe they'll do the same for you, or you can point me in the direction of further listening.

Guided By Voices - Things I Will Keep (from "Alien Lanes")

I won't insult them by trying to cobble together a potted version of their 21-year history, you should really check out their Wikipedia entry, which tells you all you need to know.

Guided By Voices - The Best Of Jill Hives (from "Earthquake Glue")

... and Brian, if you're reading this, sorry! I'll make up for it with a comprehensive set of links...

Read the Pitchfork review of the final GBV shows
Play with the GBV song title creator!
Watch "Guided By Voices: The Electrifying Conclusion" on DVD
Read "Guided by Voices: A Brief History: Twenty-One Years of Hunting Accidents in the Forests of Rock and Roll"
Buy "Human Amusements at Hourly Rates - The Best of Guided By Voices"

Thursday, November 10, 2005

into the mystic... and back again

Occasionally I like to drift into "buy an album because the cover looks interesting" mode. I'm sure plenty of you have done the same: sometimes your mysterious purchase turns out to be utter shit, other times you stumble across an absolute gem... I'm happy to say that today's posting concerns one of the latter (in the future I might be tempted to drop a steamer).

Lay-dees and gentlemen, I offer you two tracks from "Cosmic Tree" by the Rabbinical School Dropouts! (maybe I should mention that the picture above IS NOT the cover artwork - follow the links below for that!) As you can probably guess, it wasn't just the cover image, but the whole schtick that caught my attention...

Cosmic Tree

A rich vein of twisted humour runs throughout the album, as does a genre-crushing sense of adventure: there's helpings of klezmer, punk, jazz and more, sometimes all in one song! The second track I've selected is a personal favourite.

Semitic Slam

I've only just looked at their site and discovered that they have two other albums out... Go hunt them down!
Tzadik records
buy "Cosmic Tree

Sunday, November 06, 2005

remember Arthur Seaton says he won't be beaten

The world of The Pale Fountains is a world of wide screen romance. It's a world where Bacharach and David tunes play on the radio and kitchen sink dramas are played out in soft focus....all the work of a bunch of Scousers. This is, of course, not everybody's cup of tea but I'm as smitten with them now as I was as a teenage romantic. Emerging from the post-punk scene with anything but grey overcoats on their agenda, they only ever released two albums but if you are of the Roddy Frame/Edwyn Collins perfect pop mindset they should be essential purchases. After a single on Les Disques du Crepuscule (surely the most pretentious label name...ever!) they signed to Virgin where the pressure to have a hit single destroyed the band.

The first album 'Pacific Street' is, in terms of production, a bit of a mess...a case of too many ideas. The songs are great though and their trademark strumming acoustic 12 string and ba bA BAAAH brass sound is all there. 'Start a War' is The Paleys distilled and summarised.

The Pale Fountains- 'You'll Start A War'

Album no.2 '...From across the Kitchen Table' is a rockier record, it's a bit more focused. Songwriter, Michael Head is joined by guitarist brother John who plays brilliantly squally lines over simple chord progressions. The fact that even I can strum Pale Fountains tunes on guitar has always made them appealing. This is a gutsy, passionate record with its heart way out on its sleeve...perhaps a reason they couldn't get the hits Virgin needed.

The Pale Fountains- ...From across the Kitchen table

Mick and John Head are still out there as the brilliant 'Shack' who break cover from their Mersey paradise from time to time to be lauded as legendary only to disappear again...perhaps they prefer it like that.

To witness scousers argue over who knew The Paleys best (it's a good board actually) visit Shacknet

Buy 'Pacific Street' and 'From across the Kitchen Table' here

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


One of the first MP3 sites I discovered was Bubblegum Machine, a one-man journey into the darkest parts of his record collection. If you haven't seen it, delve into the massive collection of obscure singles, forgotten hits and weird psychedelia. The site (indirectly) resulted in me buying the Rhino Handmade compilation "Hallucinations: Psychedelic Pop Nuggets From The WEA Vaults", where these great tunes come from.

As the sleeve notes say, "just because these artists were going for mainstream acceptance doesn't mean they weren't also trying to achieve HEAVYOSITY in their own, artistic way. Just remember, it's a nugget if you dug it. So, let's go!

The Glass Family - House Of Glass

"The House Of Glass, man, is, like, self-explanatory - the opening theme. It's a story about all of us, the mystery of us, and our adventures for a year and a half"
bassist/keyboardist David Capilouto, from a promotional piece titled "David's Rap".

Thanks, Dave! What a great song...

The Next Exit - Break Away

Love the tremolo effect on the vocals! From the sleeve notes: "Sadly, no one involved in the making of this record can remember exactly who The Next Exit were"...

The Association - Pandora's Golden Heebie Jeebies

The image at the top of this post is from a bizarre traffic-calming scheme instigated by Derby City Council. Strangely, whenever I see one if these signs, I want to drive into it... NOT, I assume, the desired effect.

Visit Rhino Handmade
Visit Bubblegum Machine
Buy "Hallucinations: Psychedelic Pop Nuggets From The WEA Vaults"
Chill Out, Driver Dude