Archive for October, 2007

Current listening: Mawkin:Causley “George’s Son”

31 October 2007

New folk boyband supergroup sing about sheepdogs. In recent months Essex folk favourites Mawkin have joined forces with Devon’s best young singer Jim Causley (also of the Devil’s Interval and who sometimes plays with the touring Waterson:Carthy) , all of whom have produced some fantastic music over the last few years. They are currently touring as Mawkin;Causley. They have not recorded any full length records as yet but have put together a few “demos” for public consumption which can be listened to on their my space page. All three tracks which are up there are great but my current favourite is “Georges Son”. The song is about a sheepdog (I can see a theme developing with this blog) which gets possessed by the devil and runs a flock of sheep off a cliff resulting in his own untimely death and the financial ruin of the shepherd. Not something you are likely to hear as a song topic on the new  Beyonce album. It’s a beautiful song which manages to be sad and powerful at the same time. I think the “powerful” is Jim Causley’s beautiful warm rich voice which really makes the song ring.

Shuffleathon 2007

29 October 2007

Over at Swiss Toni’s place there has been a shuffleathon. I prepared a cd with a selection of favourite tracks on it and I received one. Swiss Toni organised the random distribution of the cds and did a fine job of it as well.  My cd came from Adem and here is my review. It goes on a bit I am afraid (the review). I did already own 5 out of the 11 tracks here so as far as I am concerned it is a compilation of great quality and distinction.

 Goldie – Inner city life 

Well, this is a good start. I bought this one twice, once when it first came out under the Metalheadz name in 1994 and then, the US import version, some 12 months later after its UK re-release, mainly because the second version had some great remixes on it by the likes of Rabbit in the Moon.

However, I have never really got over him changing the artist name from Metalheadz to Goldie (although perfectly understandable given that Metalheadz was also the name of his record label and club night). Goldie for me is always going to be the Blue Peter dog. Maybe he should have released it under his real name Clifford Price. (Stifle those sniggers at the back, please. He’s ruff and tuff, I’ll have you know)

It’s a great track. It reminds me of Christmas 1995 as I had the Timeless album playing more or less on repeat for a few weeks around that period. What we have here  however is the single radio edit rather than the full 21 minute album version. This has always felt to me like a drum and bass “Unfinished Sympathy”, although not quite as beautiful. Listening to it feels sort of  like walking the city streets at night in winter and speeding through the outer realms of the galaxy at the same time. It’s interesting how this track still does not feel dated, does not feel like it could only have been made in 1994, it still sounds to some extent like the future. I suppose this may be down to the fact that drum and bass never made it overground to the extent that house music hip hop and r and b did.

Whatever happened to Diane Charlemagne ? She had a great voice but I  don’t remember hearing anything from her after this track. For that matter, where is Shara Nelson today ?

In summary, probably the best drum and bass track by a Blue Peter dog ever.

 Train – Drops of Jupiter 

A band new to me. Upon first listen I was very worried that I was going to find out that this lot were British but had a singer with an awful mid Atlantic accent, but no, fortunately they are from across the water, so I am spared the need to whinge about that particular gripe of mine. My first thought was that “It’s  a vaguely Oasis/Robbie Williamsy indie-rock plod about a girl. It’s a nice enough track but it doesn’t make me excited or awed like I want music to”.

However second and subsequent listens have shown it to be a great feelgood catchy drivetime pop-rock song. Not something I would buy but the sort of thing I really enjoy hearing now and again on a compilation just like this.

 PJ Harvey – A place called home 

P J Harvey somehow passed me by until Rid of Me. Probably because I had stopped listening to every John Peel show religiously, finding basement rave nights and Sub pop gigs a slightly more sociable experience for an undergraduate. The Steve Albini connection got me to listen to Rid of Me and I have liked her ever since. I don’t know all her work but do have the “Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea” album which this is from. Listening to this played very loud on the way into work this morning was wonderful and it is definitely my favourite thing here. I like her cause she does what she wants, she doesn’t play the fame game, she can scare the living daylights out of you with one sung line, and she doesn’t give a shit. Does anybody know whether she still lives in Dorset and keeps chickens ?

 The Pigeon Detectives – Take her back 

Oh, I am glad this is on here as friends I was visiting a few weekends ago were recommending them to me. On the basis of this one track, which is obviously all I have to go on, I do think they might be a teensy bit indebted to the Arctic Monkeys (and the Libertines and the Strokes for that matter) with their choppy guitars, Leeds accent and teenage life lyrics (I should add that the Arctic Monkeys have been the only guitar band that I have been really impressed  with in recent years. “Whatever people say I am..” is up there with “The Smiths” and “His n Hers” ). And for all I know this might be the only Monkey-ish track they have. That said,  this is still a really good punchy poppy track and my favourite of the new tracks on this cd. Oh, and I like the deer on their album cover as well so top marks for that.

 Zero 7 – In the waiting line 

Another one I bought at the time. I still enjoy the “Simple Things” album from which this comes and Airs  “Moon Safari” to which it inevitably gets compared being effectively its organic British cousin, with slightly less of a 1970s moog feel about it and more of a smooth soul element. This is despite the fact that I have heard these tracks a million times – including every time I have switched on a “lifestyle” programme during the last 10 years (and Gardener’s World is particularly guilty of this). I suspect the with-it yoof of today can’t imagine anything less cool.

I do tend to automatically come out against anything that becomes popular as dinner party music for the thirtysomething crowd irrespective of how good it is (and some but not all of those records are great records – hello Moby, hello Portishead). One of the problems for Zero 7 and people like Air and Portishead is that not only have they been wedged into the pigeonhole marked “Friends round for dinner, recipe from Jamie Oliver, nice new house with all mod cons, kid on the way, nice company car, both doing very nicely with our “careers” thank you” but they have also ended up standard bearers for the “Chill Out” and “Trip hop” labels respectively. And the nature of that type of label is that it is fashionable and therefore has a built in sell-by date.

Still, for me they overcome this, and this is an excellent track from an excellent album. 

  Depeche Mode – Useless 

On first listen – this sounded like they had switched on the “Madchester” drum  programme setting, played a few drone chords on the synths and got Dave Gahan to mumble a few words as far down in the mix as he could. Subsequent listens have revealed something far more interesting and I do think it takes a few listens for the song to reveal itself properly. It’s now sounds rather nice, although I do find that I  have to try and tune out that drum pattern which could not sound more of its time if it tried.

It’s not “New Life” though is it ?

 The Prodigy – Diesel Power 

I don’t think I have heard this before. If I hadn’t read the tracklisting beforehand I might have suggested that this was the Chemical Brothers. And despite the fact that The Prodigy were around before the Chemicals, I do think they are particularly indebted to them on this, because the Chemical Brothers created this type of noise first. This is not to say I don’t like it, on the contrary it sounds fantastic, particularly played loud, it’s just that the influence is not something I had noticed before. I don’t know who is the rapper on this but he sounds good and the backing rocks. Again, it still sounds good, even though it is very much of its era. Apparently “Diesel Power blows your mind drastically, fantastically”. Bear this in mind next time you are filling up at the pumps.

 Tori Amos – Cornflake Girl 

Another blast from the past. My relationship with R Tori is very similar to that with R Bjork. For me they started off  exciting and quirky and angry and full of strength, but with each new record the power waned. Probably largely due to it no longer being new. I loved the first Tori Amos album so much. “Under the Pink” which followed and from which this is taken was a little disappointing, although I saw her twice that year and she was incredible. Someone who I suspect is still great live. I saw her tour  “Boys for Pele” not having heard the record and was spellbound for every second of the concert despite not knowing most of the songs. Which doesn’t happen very often. My god, she can play the piano. I have indulged intermittently since then and there have been a few great tracks (Quite a few on “Strange Little Girls” and the new one is not bad) but nothing can match that first record and she doesn’t really interest me anymore. One thing which I find difficult to deal with is her insistence on producing 80 minute long albums. It should be law that every long playing cd which features one artist only should not be more than 45 minutes long. There is definitely some intangible law of nature which means that the human ear loses interest after that length of time. Or put some nice instrumentals between the vocal tracks. But 23 tracks, 80 minutes ? It just seems excessive. Get those pruning shears out and lose the weaker tracks. Part of me still thinks that more than 10 tracks on an album is excessive although the Napalm Death years put paid to that to some extent (sad in-joke).

Anyway, “Cornflake Girl”. It’s good – hard to be objective because I played it to death when it came out and it has consequently lost some of its sheen, but it’s still a great song. I particularly like the lines “Rabbit, where d’you put the keys girl ?” and “Hanging with the raisin girls, she’s gone to the other side”. If anyone deserves the title “crazy in the coconut” R Tori is a strong contender.

And for the record, I never was a cornflake boy. Until recent years, that is, when I finally realised that these perfect, simple, crunchy golden flakes of corn were loads more lovely than your fancy pants Cinnamon Cheerios and cherries and berries muesli.

 Oasis – Champagne Supernova 

Another opportunity to see how something has stood the test of time. I have fond memories of the “Britpop years” in the mid nineties and it did indeed at the time seem as if the whole country was united in their love of particular brands of music and fashion. This is probably just a nostalgic illusion. I did feel like I was one of only about 6 people who didn’t buy “Be Here Now” on the day of release. I can  with certainty say (and without the need to listen to it again) that “Definitely Maybe” is still a classic album.

I remember thinking at the time that “(What’s the story) Morning Glory” was a great anthemic singalong pop album (with some very bad lyrics). Having listened to this again, it’s okay. It is very difficult to listen objectively as it was played absolutely  everywhere at the time and how do you separate lack of interest due to overfamiliarity and lack of interest due to dullness ? Very difficult. It’s still not a bad song, and is good to sing along to, but it doesn’t excite me much.

I managed to do that without mentioning Blur. Impressive.

 A Perfect Circle – The Package 

Something new to me. I have no idea who A Perfect Circle are and can only conclude that they must be a yoof band (Having checked, they appear to be a “supergroup” of players from Nine Inch Nails, Smashing Pumpkins, and Tool. Still no wiser, although they clearly must be “rawk”). I listened to this before knowing any of this and my immediate thoughts were “stroppy teenagers attempt to make laughable racket which will piss off their parents”. “And fail”. It’s not that bad, despite the singers whine, and I do really like the bit where the heavy gut wrenching guitars come in. If the intention was to briefly pin you to the back of your chair by guitar force alone then it worked. But I am afraid they still sounds like stroppy teenagers to me. I will certainly not be skipping this track but don’t feel like I must go and buy an album by them.

I have said it before and I will say it again (probably once a week until I die) but for genuinely powerful disturbing industrial rock power you could do a lot worse than buy “Atomiser” or “Songs about Fucking” by Big Black. They part soundtracked my first year at college and they still sound genuinely scary today. And Steve Albini was in his mid twenties when they were recorded so almost counts as a teenager (as well as being the coolest man in rock).

 The Verve – Bittersweet Symphony 

Another old favourite. This was in fact the song and album (Urban Hymns) which soundtracked an idyllic summer of driving round the English countryside, finding hills to walk up and pubs to drink in with a great friend and consequently I have very fond memories of it. Along with the Oasis track I do find it very hard to consider objectively just because I have heard it so many times and it is a classic.

 So to summarise, an excellent selection.