Saturday, December 31, 2005

a year at the rally...

So there we were in the pub, having the annual Johnny Domino Christmas drink, when we decided that we should each try to come up with some sort of end-of-year list for The Rally. Being drunken miserable old gits, we then spent a good while complaining about the state of modern music and bemoaning the fact that we'd never be able to come up with a list of great albums/tracks that came out this year. However, before the night had ended we agreed to try to list the 5 best things we'd heard in 2005. These could have been released in any year; they just had to have been things that we'd heard for the first time in 2005.

Most of my "contemporary" favourites have either been featured on here (see The Bad Plus, Langhorne Slim, Silver Jews) or everywhere else in BlogLand (Sufjan Stevens, LCD Soundsystem and Arcade Fire - "Funeral" is pretty much the only album that came out in the UK this year that you can say is a stone-cold classic).

The Bad Plus - Rhinoceros Is My Profession
Langhorne Slim - And If It's True
Silver Jews - Animal Shapes

SteveDomino's hits from the vaults, 2005, would have to include:

Miles Davis - A Tribute To Jack Johnson - mind-blowing jazz-rock-funk-fusion work-out from 1971. Over an hours worth of great music over 2 tracks - not very bloggable!
Harmonia - Musik Von Harmonia - 1974 motorik repeato-rock featuring members of Neu! and Cluster. Great stuff but I think Jim is planning a Harmonia post so I shan't tread on his toes.

Outside of those, the album I've played the most is without a doubt Martha Wainwright's debut album, but she went and ruined it by releasing an expanded edition. Is it me or is this fashion for repackaging current albums with a couple of bonus tracks one of the true curses of modern music?

Next in rotation is probably The Coral's "The Invisible Invasion". I don't understand why they seem to have fallen so out of favour, especially when they've released what I think is their best album yet. A couple of years back the press in the UK was all over them but this came out in the summer to barely a whimper. They're still doing the Pink-Floyd-meets-Freddie-&-The-Dreamers thing but they've obviously been listening to A LOT of Can. Give 'em a listen, 'cos it's a great album.

The Coral - She Sings The Mourning

The Coral - So Long Ago

However a late contender swept it's way to my album of the year spot, They Might Be Giants' "Venue Songs" set. When They Might Be Giants toured last year they set out to write a track for every town and venue that they went to. (Maybe Sufjan Stevens should've done that, 'cos I can't see him getting through all of the US states at his current rate of work...). A lot of the songs sound like other artists - notably The Who (Leeds), Frank Zappa (Dallas) and The Cars (Vancouver).

They Might Be Giants - Vancouver
They Might Be Giants - New Orleans
They Might Be Giants - Minneapolis

"Venue Songs" comes as a 2-disc CD and DVD set if you buy it from They Might Be Giants directly. They're the ultimate love-em-or-hate-em band; I just think they're really clever and fun. There are also some great non-Venue Songs on the CD, most of which have been available for free download from

They Might Be Giants - Renew My Subscription

Visit - and buy "Venue Songs"
Visit - The Coral
Buy - "The Invisible Invasion" by The Coral

Here is Marc-o's list, as he sent it to me:

- "Oceans Apart" by The Go- Betweens
- "Love Kraft" by Super Furry Animals
- Best Re-issue - "The Glasgow School" by Orange Juice
- Re-discovered Gem - "Swoon" by Prefab Sprout
- Best Download surprise - "A Salty Dog" by Procol Harum*

(* which he got from Spoilt Victorian Child)

Oxbow's personal musical highlights of 2005:

1. Michael Hurley - 'I Paint a Design' (posted on Last night an MP3 Saved My Wife in October- no longer up there I'm afraid, but I am now discovering this artist's albums, so thanks!)
2. Jean Sibelius - 'The Swan of Tuonela' (this has truly been the year of Radio Three for me! Not sure how I feel about what this says about me but it's the truth... )
3. Charles Mingus - 'Better Git It In Your Soul' (magnificent jazz off an old mix tape made by Steve)
4. The Kaiser Chiefs - 'I Predict a Riot'
5. The Soundtrack of our Lives - 'Origin Vol 1' (rock album, will do a post about it soon.)

Last but by no means least, this is Jim's list:

Coil - The Ape of Naples - the last ever studio album - very nice, very accessible, the quintessential Coil album
Kate Bush - Aerial - never mind all the crap about, "oooh, didn't it take ages?", this is just a really good album that should be on every discerning coffee table
The Yello remasters esp. "Stella" and "Solid Pleasure" - bonkers Euro geniuses
Super Furry Animals - Love Kraft - a double Domino vote!
This year I've been listening to a lot of Frank Zappa - same as last year, really...

Thanks again for listening this year - see you in 2006!

Friday, December 23, 2005

daisy christmas

It's taken me ages to come up with a decent Christmas post, until I realised that I bloody love Christmas. So here's a rump-shakin', head-noddin', EGG-NOGGIN' block party anthem. Turn it up loud!

De La Soul - Simply

OK. I know the lyrics make it clear that this is a summer party anthem, but the whole thing is based on "Wonderful Christmas Time" by Wings! Plus I seem to remember the album came out just before Christmas 2001, so it stays.

However, this next track is a Christmas tune of an altogether darker hue.

De La Soul - Millie Pulled A Pistol On Santa

De La Soul really blew my mind when I first heard them - being a wet white boy from the East Midlands, I can honestly say I'd never heard anything like "3 Feet High & Rising" and I know I'm not alone in that.

De La continue to churn out the good stuff - to, seemingly, mass indifference! "Mille.." is from the all-too-often-overlooked follow-up to "3 Feet..", "De La Soul Is Dead" - a great album and a brave attempt to move away from the day-glo sound of it's predecessor. "Simply" is from 2001's "Bionix", the second in their projected "Art Official Intelligence" trilogy (the third one got canned when they got canned by Tommy Boy). But all of their albums right up to last year's "The Grind Date" are well worth checking out - something to spend that record token on!

Have a great Christmas and cheers for stopping by The Rally. We'll do the obligatory "best of the year" post soon!

Buy De La Soul Is Dead
Buy Art Official Intelligence 2: Bionix
Visit De La Soul: Wikipedia entry
Visit De La Soul at

Monday, December 19, 2005

run for home

Lindisfarne-Meet Me On The Corner

Music has an uncanny knack of throwing you emotional sucker punches. As I mixed it with the other Christmas shoppers last Wednesday, Lindisfarne’s- ‘Meet me on the Corner’ came on my iPOD. Instantly I’m 6 years old again, I’m with my Nana and Auntie Elsie shopping on Northumberland Street in Newcastle gazing into Fenwick’s festive window display, delirious with the prospect of going up to the Toy department. As a child you think that your Grandparents will be around forever. This song wraps a warm blanket of sentimental nostalgia around me. The harmonica and acoustic guitar sound reassuringly familiar and the chorus of rough harmonies and chugging piano invite you to join in. This takes me back and it takes me home.

Buy The Best of Lindisfarne here

You should visit this

Friday, December 16, 2005

Kung Fu Santa With A Christmas Punchbag

The good people at Artists Against Success have just released a FREE limited edition Christmas CD, Kung Fu Santa With A Christmas Punchbag. The CD features the AAS roster doing one Christmas song and one non-festive number, all exclusive to this CD.

Johnny Domino - I Saw Three Ships

To get the CD, just email Steve Dresden at AAS and he'll bung you one in the post - easy-peasy! (But you'd best do it quick before they're all gone!)

Frankie Machine - Shilton's Fingertips

Other artists on the CD, which comes in a fantastic Christmas-card-style CD wallet, are MJ Hibbett & The Validators, Dr Coca Cola McDonalds, Plans & Apologies, Frankie Machine and Frightened Prisoners Of The Kraken.

Frightened Prisoners Of The Kraken - June In December

The picture above was taken in Matlock Bath in MARCH of this year - welcome to Derbyshire!

email Steve Dresden at AAS to get a copy!
Visit Artists Against Success

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

born on the 13th

Happy Birthday, Oxbow!

Smokey Hogg - Born On The 13th (1952)

Despite his date of birth, my brother is a lucky so-and-so. Unlike poor old Smokey in this song. When he has soup for dinner, he can't even find a spoon - "nothin' but a fork!".

"Born On The 13th" and the other tracks in this post all come from a criminally cheap compilation CD I picked up a few years ago and have treasured ever since. There seemed to be loads of them at the time, 74 minute label showcases that you could pick up for 2-3 quid - the William Bell track I posted a while back came from a Stax one, and these tracks come from a Specialty records compilation.

Specialty was the label run by Art Rupee (born Arthur Goldberg in 1917). In his youth, Art listened to music sung at a local black Baptist church and fell in love with the music's rich sense of tradition. The Specialty catalogue features classsic rock'n'roll, rural blues, gospel, rhythm & blues from artists like Little Richard and The Soul Stirrers (who featured a young Sam Cooke). And this intensley terrifying and claustrophobic John Lee Hooker song!

John Lee Hooker - Black Cat Blues (1949)

Listen to the sax solo on this Percy Mayfield track - absolutely filthy!

Percy Mayfield - Please Believe Me (1957)

I used to listen to this album a lot when I was at university. I did lots of tapes that were labelled 'Classic Pop' with various tracks from my dad's old singles, old rock'n'roll, soul, doo-wop, whatever. It used to clear a lot of the crap out of my ears.

The Hollywood Flames - Tabarin (1951)

More often than not, these 'Classic Pop' tapes would wind up in our mate Richard's car - he was always ferrying us about to pretty much anywhere we needed to go. My main memories associated with The Hollywood Flames track is of singing along with Alb in the back of the car, trying to do the parts (failing) and trying to figure out what the hell a 'Tabarin' was.

A bit of Googling came up with this random thread about a nightclub called 'Bal Tabarin' based in San Francisco in the 1930s-40s. Fancy that!

Visit - Specialty Records page
Buy - The Specialty Story 5 CD Box Set (make a nice Xmas pressie for someone...)
Buy - It's Spelt Specialty: A Sampler Of Specialty Specials

Sunday, December 11, 2005

a legal matter

By rights Mark Burgess and The Chameleons should be consulting their lawyers. Their sound has been ripped off wholesale by Interpol and Editors and passed off as cutting edge alternative guitar rock. It's all there, the delayed guitar riffs, the anguished delivery, the sixth form poetry and the sucked cheek posturing. The Chameleons got there first and deserve their place in the sun.

The Chameleons- Don't Fall

I guess this stuff is the eighties equivalent of pomp rock. Their songs can meander in a windswept and interesting fashion but the influence of post-punk is there in the edgy guitar sounds. Mark Burgess always sounded vaguely 'upset', north Manchester can't have been much fun in 1983. The Chameleons are often held up as one of those 'they could have been huge' bands which always makes them seem more mysterious than contemporaries like U2. If you like a bit of earnest, furrowed browed seriousness then The Chameleons are the band for you. Their album covers are hilarious.

The Chameleons- Second Skin

The debut album Script for the Bridge is the one to buy

They released an album and toured a couple of years ago, I saw them at York Fibbers where they were mesmerizing. There is a website here

Friday, December 09, 2005

tinned peaches

Probably the most obvious blogging song I've posted yet, but if you've not heard this track before or if it's been a while, I urge you to give it a(nother) listen.

Frank Zappa - Peaches En Regalia

My earliest Zappa memories - being about 11-12 at the house of some friends of my parents watching a Whistle Test all-dayer with some older kids (I think we'd just watched "King Frat" on VHS...). I was half asleep and kept waking up throughout that crazy claymation video that he did - can't remember that title! Also, when I was 14-15, I always used to get into music conversations with my French teacher and he tried to lend me a knackered copy of "Weasels Ripped My Flesh" but the cover freaked me out so I didn't bother.

After many years of shoulder-shrugging and "I-don't-get-it"'s, I'm finally STARTING to get Zappa. I bought a "Best Of" about a month ago and have listened to this track an average of once a day ever since. This song is mental and mind-boggling - there are more ideas in 3.38 than most bands get through in an entire career. Listen to the wild instrumentation, the doubling on the melody lines, the abrupt shifts in texture. And try to imagine mixing it all down from 16 tracks to create a stereo master! Plus it's still really FUNKY!!

Buy The Best Of Frank Zappa

Thursday, December 01, 2005

cigarettes and alcohol

You get some music straight away and some music you don’t...and you can’t force it.

The Fiery Furnaces first album ‘Gallowbirds Bark’ pushed all the right buttons with me. I had no background info about them, they could have been an arts collective from Loughborough for all I knew.

I just loved the ferocious guitar playing, plunky keyboard, lolloping beats, and distracted female vocals. I guess looking back now it was nothing particularly big or clever, just twisted lumps of rough-edged folksy noise:

Asthma Attack - The Fiery Furnaces

 Two Fat Feet - The Fiery Furnaces

So I found out a bit about them - Brother/ Sister duo, Matt and Eleanor Friedberger, based in NYC. Seemed to have a pretty cool attitude to what they were doing. “Great” I thought in a slightly ironic but hopeful thirty-something way, “I’m on the edge! I have a NEW FAVOURITE SUPER-WEIRDO ALTERNATIVE BAND” I listened to the album a lot and looked forward to future releases.

Well I have to confess that I have since found it unfashionably hard to love the two albums which followed. My inner teenager won’t give up trying though.

You know how it works: some music you don’t ‘get’ straight away and you have to WORK on it. It’s like when you were 14 and you forced yourself to like the taste of beer and cigarettes. The good things in life don’t always come easy. So I sat down and listened to ‘Blueberry Boat’ many, many times.

Chris Michaels - The Fiery Furnaces

It’s got good bits don’t get me wrong... but as a whole the album grated. I should have been thrilled by the myriad shifts and turns within each ‘song’. I should have appreciated the sonic textures and unpredictable lyrics. I just found it (mostly) irritating and worrying, like being in a music room full of ADHD kids. It made me long for something more boring.

The following album ‘Rehearsing My Choir’ looked good on paper, one critic wrote that it was ‘almost zappa-esq’ in its storytelling ambitions (how could I not love it?) Working with their Gran to create a ‘rock opera’ about her life!? Radical! Crazy! I bought it, listened really hard and it really got on my nerves.

Still my new favourite band? No, but they are interesting.

Will I buy the next record? Probably.

(I have now mostly given up smoking but can still fully recommend the taste of beer.)

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