Wednesday, November 22, 2006

plastic slip covers on his vinyl couch

Some things beggar belief while others bugger it senseless. I saw an advert for this album on TV last night. I was thinking about it this morning and had to ask Mrs Domino if I'd imagined it. I HADN'T.

What sort of fever dream are we living in? I appreciate that this album is being done for a good cause, but couldn't the "artists" involved have... I dunno, given the hefty studio costs to charity instead of inflicting this mess on us? What sort of twisted individual would listen to (for example) "Modern Way" by Kaiser Chiefs (what sort of twisted individual listens to the Kaiser Chiefs, anyway...) and thinks: "I know what this needs! A snappy samba beat!! And while you're at it, let's give Bono a guiro!!!".

Seriously - if your stomach can take it, have a listen to some of the clips and boggle your mind but be warned, this album also features Dido and Maroon 5.

Meanwhile back on planet Earth, I *heart* the interweb. You know why?

Back in the days when home taping was killing music, me and my bro, like so many others, would hover over the pause button while listening to John Peel. One of the songs that we taped which always stayed in our heads was "Vinyl Grind" by More Fiends ( I particularly liked the stilted way that Peelie intoned the album title, "Yo Asphalt Head").

A few years later while I was at university in Sheffield, I used to have to walk past a second hand record shop every day and in their window was a copy of the album. For some reason, I never bought it. Over the last few years I've become occasionally obsessed with getting hold of it - every city I visit, I'll find a record shop and head straight for the "Indie-Alternative" section, hoping to find it. Before you ask, I don't like the idea of buying used vinyl off the internet, otherwise I could have had it years ago.

This week, I finally got it from download store Audio Lunchbox.

More Fiends - Vinyl Grind

And you know what? It still sounds pretty damn good to me. The album as a whole ain't bad either - scratchy, ugly, erratic, angular, punky, nasty, quick and dirty.

More Fiends - More Fiends Theme

I think we recorded "Vinyl Grind" in 1988 on a tape like the one above. Consider these songs a snapshot of a certain time - this was the music we listened to at school/college which marked us out from the trendies and sports-foundation students.

It's late-80's Alternative music trapped in amber. Enjoy! Consider it a palette cleanser after dipping into "Rhythms Del Mundo".

By the way I got that image from, a great website to pass a few hours in misty-eyed reverie.

Buy - "Yo Asphalt Head" by More Fiends from Audio Lunchbox
Visit -
Don't Buy - "Rhythms Del Mundo"

Thursday, November 16, 2006

best gig i never saw - pt. 1

I'm sure we've all done it - a band goes on tour and one of the dates is just down the road from you. You plan to go for ages in advance. But for some reason when the night arrives you don't go - maybe something comes up, or more shamefully, you simply can't be arsed.

Jim and I still console ourselves for having missed Bitch Magnet on their last tour when they played in a tiny room above a pub in Nottingham. That same room was the scene of a date on the last tour from Thin White Rope.

Now, I won't pretend to have been their biggest fan at the time but they were, by all accounts, a ferocious live band - I remember reading a gig review in Melody Maker which talked about how the walls seemed to be melting through the heat (cathedrals of sound, anybody?). I guess they were a kind-of Post-punk-Americana take on Television, twin guitars conjuring up squalls of feedback and noise, which makes them sound like another West Coast art-rock noise experiment.

But TWR had songs with WORDS and STORIES and such like, all strange and dark lyrical narratives. At the time I was massively into the more extreme aspects of the Blast First roster - it wasn't until a few years later that I really started to appreciate bands who didn't put such massive stock in leaping on the LOUD pedal and who played with more dynamic control. This is a great relentless version of a Can song - bet it sounded awesome live...

Thin White Rope - Yoo Doo Right

Most of their songs have really knotty interlocking guitar parts (hence the Television comparisons, I guess). My absolute favourite track by them is "On The Floe", a really great song that starts off deceptively simple and quaint, before it hits a crushing riff throughout the chorus which gets repeated and developed over and over in the long instrumental play out - really clever without being "clever-clever".

Thin White Rope - On The Floe

Thin White Rope took their name from William S. Burroughs' description of semen. I remember another Melody Maker article where singer Guy Kyser was asked what his most embarrassing moment was. His answer was something along the lines of, "When a female flatmate pointed out that I had jism on my wrist". With all of that, it's hardly surprising that they didn't achieve much by the way of mainstream success. Especially when you consider songs like "Puppet Dog", which tells of a lonely man who can only find (ahem) release through the titular glove-toy - "Puppet dog, come bite your master".

Thin White Rope - Puppet Dog

The resulting song is as pathetic, funny and weirdly-moving as that bizarre story would suggest, with some beautiful lead guitar weeping over the end. Maybe I should end this post with something a bit more rousing (I hesitate to say "uplifting")... How about this great widescreen epic which mutates into a rockin' rendition of "Amazing Grace"?

Thin White Rope - Americana / The Ghost

Visit - Thin White Rope fan page
Visit - Thin White Rope on Wikipedia
Buy - "Sack Full of Silver"
Buy - "The Ruby Sea"

Monday, November 06, 2006

book 'em, steve-o

Following a particularly dreadful time at university (and dear reader, if we are ever to meet in person, I will surely tell you all about it but I fear that a website is not the place), I returned to my old home town, my mum and dad's house and a PARTICULARLY toxic and pointless relationship (alas, dear reader, should we meet, I will surely NOT tell you about that).

This was a weird time - I'd studied subjects I was interested in but with no thought to what I wanted to do with my life, a question that continues to plague me to this day. So I ended up signing on for a while and taking temporary part-time jobs where I could - and I can tell you that the only good thing about an extended period of claiming unemployment benefit is that, at parties, I can thrill audiences by reciting my National Insurance number.

But I managed to organise my time - on weekdays I would go to the local library, check the vacancies in all the papers, come home, tidy up and be done in time for lunch and the lunchtime edition of Neighbours, this being the golden era of Paul and Gail Robinson and the mythical, always-misplaced Udigowa Contract ("Gail... have you seen the...?"). Most days I would then retreat into the dining room for an afternoon of computerised card games whilst listening to "Hawaii" by The High Llamas.

The High Llamas - Sparkle Up

Despite the bleak picture I've painted above, I have nothing but happy thoughts associated with this album. It's still one of my "Top 10" albums after all these years, as I discovered when I dug it out again today. At the time I heard it, I didn't really have a clue about any of the influences that seem so obvious now - Steely Dan, post-'Pet Sounds' Beach Boys, John Barry, soft-rock. (In fact, this was the period in my life when I was still coming out in a cold sweat whenever I heard the Beach Boys.) None of that seemed to matter as I listened to the smooth vibes and weirdly-twisted, smart-arse lyrics.

The High Llamas - Literature is Fluff

Everything is recorded with such precision and the instruments are placed exactly just so, but at the time I was more of a lo-fi enthusiast. It's weird - I know why I like it now, I just don't really understand why I liked it then! Despite all of the smoothness, there's something a bit cracked about it all - I don't think it's entirely sincere and Sean O'Hagan is obviously an adept musical magpie. But the warmth and heart audible throughout stops the album from being a parlour-room songwriting-contest smirk-fest.

The High Llamas - Peppy

According to the ubiquitous Wikepedia, the album is "a musical spaghetti western on themes of tourism and colonialism", none of which mattered a jot to me at the time, as I switched between Tai Pai and Vegas-rules Solitaire. "Peppy" was always a favourite with gorgeous picked guitar and harmonies.

The High Llamas - Campers in Control

There really isn't anything that complicated about why I like this stuff; it's immensely enjoyable but dense enough to keep you coming back for more. The album has 29 tracks, ranging from the "proper" songs I've included here to bizarre musical collages and short snippets. To me, it's still a perfect album, one that I can listen to again and again.

As my brother will tell you, I am nothing if not a musical completist but I've never felt the need to buy another High Llamas album - I can't see what they could possibly add to this. However, despite the lack of updates on their own website, Wikipedia hints that there'll be a new album next year.

Visit - High Llamas website
Visit - High Llamas on Wikipedia
Buy - Hawaii