Archive for the ‘Nostalgia for the lame’ Category

The noughties

8 January 2010

would have been a lot poorer without

The Bairns
Tangled Up
To Be Still
Want One
The Covers Album
Lindstrom & Prins Thomas
Dimanche A Bamako
White Chalk
The Blue Notebooks
An Echo Of Hooves
Little Lights
Sweet England
Confessions on a dancefloor
I Am A Bird Now
In The Heart Of The Moon
On the corner of Miles & Gil
Seven Swans


Indie Disco 1991

17 September 2009

Freak Scene
The Only One I Know
Can’t Be Sure
Loads of Roses Carpets James
Step On
Pacific State
Some Weddoes
Probably Fine Time
You Made Me Realise / Feed Me With Your Kiss (Will the fringes please take to the dancefloor)

Fuck I miss the Festive Fifty

Current listening

17 September 2009

Blimey. I can’t stop listening to this one. To say that just listening to it is like the last twenty years never passed is a major understatement. 19 years old. “Snowball” on the record player and expecting the latest missive from PO Box 691 Bristol any time. It was just the lo-fi home made politicised enthusiastic beauty of it all. Anger and melancholy combined. And the music (or at least some of it) was just great. Snowball Lyceum and the Sensitive era was for me the high point but there were loads of great singles from that point on as well. I never did the whole paisley shirt bowl hair “tonight Matthew I am Stephen Pastel” thing but I signed up fully to the whole spirit of the thing. In fact I wore my tartan dancing trousers a hangdog sheepskin coat and my Marlboro Hip Hop Queens t-shirt to a Heavenly gig just to be contrary and had an interesting conversation with Amelia Fletcher about Kylie, who was right then in her imperial “Better the devil you know, Step back in time, What do I have to do, Shocked” period. And Matt and Clare did plenty to avoid pandering to their tweecore following. I remember smiling for days when the Poppycocteau fanzine arrived. Always wondered what happened to Paul who wrote it and some wonderful fanzines afterwards and with whom I had much correspondence. We even swapped trash nrg covers tapes at one stage.

So yes. Released in 2009. The spirit of 1986. Channelling The Field Mice, The Jesus and Mary Chain, and early MBV. And utterly utterly derivative, but it still sounds wonderful. Nostalgia is for the lame, but it’s ability to transport means I cannot resist it. And I love the thought of hundreds of 19 year old New Yorkers discovering it and thinking they have found their own amazing new sounds. I wonder if there are fanzines to go with their scene as well. I hope so. Paper ones mind. A computer screen is just not the same as a small A5 sheaf of papers filled with love and hate and boys and girls and just the whole excitement of being young stapled together and hastily shoved in a small khaki army surplus shoulder bag. So this will be one of my favourite records from 2009. No question.

Current listening: Bryan Ferry “Windswept (instrumental)”

25 January 2008


It’s hard to believe that over twenty years have passed since Bryan Ferry released his first solo album of the nineteen eighties “Boys and Girls”. Musically it followed on from the last Roxy Music album “Avalon” which is generally thought of as a masterpiece. It is certainly one of my all time favourites. Suitable one word descriptions might be “lush” or “languid”.  It’s a bit like immersing yourself in a bath of honey whilst angels serenade you from above.  It’s also a travelogue of sorts – like a lot of music of the early and mid eighties it takes you to exotic foreign places which as a comprehensive school teenager in the grey English provinces you can never imagine visiting. 


There are numerous examples of this – all associations the product of my mind alone of course – David Bowie on “Low” and “Heroes” (Berlin, Russia, Japan, China and  the Far East) Grace Jones on her Compass Point albums “Warm Leatherette”,  “Nightclubbing”, and “Living My Life” (the Bahamas and New York) , Japan on “Gentlemen Take Polaroids”, “Tin Drum”, their associated singles and David Sylvian’s solo work (the Far East, China, India, Spain, the south of France), Duran Duran (who arguably borrowed from all of the abovementioned artists as well as Roxy Music) on some of their instrumentals such as “Tel Aviv” “Faith In This Colour” and “Tiger Tiger” as well as “Save A Prayer” and much of their first three albums (the Far East again, the Indian Ocean again, the Caribbean – partly down to the associated videos as well I know).  A lot of this music is important to me and is still listened to twenty years down the line and I think that this is because these associations have always provided a means of escape.  These days they also comprise nostalgia for my teenage dreams of heady foreign climes.  It is all very eighties and aspirational – sort of music to go with a luxurious lifestyle but there’s no harm in a little dreaming as far as I am concerned. Having now visited some of these real places, I realise that the locales conjured up by these pieces of music are very much figments of my imagination but are no less real to me. 

Listening to this Bryan Ferry track this morning, in my head I was watching the sun go down from a boat harboured off Martinique on a tropical July evening, a storm having passed over a few hours previously leaving the air clean and clear skies before the onset of night. 

It’s a dreamy throbbing track with some saxophone and guitar noodling over the top and it couldn’t really date from any other time or have been created by any other musician. The quality of musicianship is impeccable and it has top calibre players like David Sanborn and David Gilmour on it. Classy classy classy all the way. It’s quite refreshing to listen to without Ferry’s trademark vocals. A perfect White Island moment.

My 1988

22 November 2007

I have been getting nostalgic over the last few days, thinking about my years in Manchester from 1988 to 1992, and in particular my first year there in 1988/1989. Music has always been an important part of living and I still listen to a lot of music from that era. I think for many people, their college years play a massive part in determining the music they will be listening to for the rest of their life and that was certainly the case for me, if not by way of specific bands then certainly styles of music. I spent a while earlier in the week casting my mind back to what I was listening to then and the albums and songs which will always take me back to that time. Wednesday night The Ritz, Thursday night the Hacienda Temperance Club, gigs in the Student Union bar,  beer in Jabez Clegg, veggie grub in On the eighth day, heading into town on my bike at least once a week to Piccadilly Records and Eastern Bloc to check out what had come out that week, food shopping in Rusholme – Kwiksave, Greggs the bakers seconds store, the Indian shops (completely fazed by the fact that the students from London could afford to shop at a big name supermarket like Sainsburys), saving up to buy the latest cool t-shirt from Afflecks Palace, going over to Sheffield to see a schoolmate to watch the Wedding Present, furnishing the flat with cheap plants from the poundstore on Piccadilly gardens which used to be just down from Piccadilly Records next to that really whiffy chippy, the weekly student market in the union selling indian drapes, multicoloured hippy clothes, and loads of bootleg vinyl and cassettes, weekend trips out to the moors,  the taste of Rusholme for the first time, the Ducie Arms, visiting mates who lived in those weird halls of residence above the precinct, a bit of culture in the art gallery in Whitworth Park, going to all the places recommended in the various student guides, visiting all these strange halls of residence which mates had moved into. In retrospect just seeing how all these different eighteen year olds reacted to total freedom was amazing. Some withdrew, some got depressed, some just carried on as if mum and dad were still watching and some went of the rails completely, indulging in major drink and drug fests. I think everyone found out a lot more about themselves though. Going north was the best thing that had ever happened to me and it’s scary just how much of that time has stayed with me – I can literally hear, smell and taste it at times.

1998 was perhaps my most interesting year musically as there is a clear split between the period when I was still at school and the period after I had started at university.

At school, my inspiration came from my mates in the sixth form and what was being played on the radio by John Peel. There was also a lad I worked with on Saturdays in Superdrug who I discovered on his first day was also really into The House of Love and the Wedding Present and who lent me records which was great. Awfully I can’t even remember his christian name but he was ace. We were both heading into a major adventure at university at the end of the summer and keeping in touch was never a priority.

At university the influences came from all directions, not least from flatmates like Sharpey and Andy Skateboard and the girls in the flat upstairs. Possibly the biggest influence was the fact that I was in the city where everything was happening. The ecstacy fuelled “second summer of love” had just happened and house music was everywhere, The Smiths, the Hacienda and New Order had already put the name of Manchester on the map (and were probably the main reason for a good percentage of the student applications to Manchester at that time – I certainly knew a lot of people for whom they had been a big factor) and the scene was set for a new generation of Mancunian revellers and hangers on to make their mark. Consequently I would find myself at a James and Happy Mondays gig in the Ritz one night, dancing to indie music in the Cellar bar the next, watching Spacemen 3 at the Hacienda the next and getting drunk at a local Irish pub the next after a curry on Oxford Road.

Yes, I am a compulsive list making bloke.  Sorry, I can’t do anything about it. I love lists.

Whilst at school.

Sugarcubes – Life’s too good/The House of Love – the House of Love & Destroy the Heart & Christine/The Smiths – Rank/Morrissey – Viva Hate/Prince – Lovesexy/The Primitives – Crash/AR Kane – 69/Scritti Politti – Provision/The Fall – The Frenz Experiment/Michelle Shocked – Short Sharp Shocked/Talking Heads – Naked/Lloyd Cole & the Commotions – Mainstream/Everything but the Girl – Idlewild/Erasure – The Innocents/Pet Shop Boys – Introspective

Once at university.

Dinosaur Jr – Bug & Freak Scene / Sonic Youth – Daydream Nation / Pixies – Come on Pilgrim, Gigantic  & Surfer Rosa/Happy Mondays – Wrote for Luck & Bummed/The Fall – Kurious Oranj/Butthole Surfers – Hairway to Steven/My Bloody Valentine – Feed me with your kiss & You made me realise & Isn’t anything/Martin Stephenson – Gladsome Humour and Blue/The Wedding Present – Nobody’s twisting your arm/Loop – Collision/Big Black – Songs about Fucking & Atomiser/A Guy called Gerald – Voodoo Ray/New Order – Fine Time/James – Stutter & Strip Mine/Cocteau Twins – Bluebell Knoll/Electribe 101 – Talking with myself/Rapeman – Two nuns and a packmule

There was a definite change in September 1988.

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.