Sunday, January 28, 2007

UK Early-80s Indie Pop - part 5

Two noise merchants of a different sort - one feeds the linguistic turmoil in
your brain, the other feeding the sonic turmoil in your heart.

The Fall were more post-punk than new wave, but then labels weren;t what they were about and really they weren't anything else at all. Of the post-punk era, only Joy Division could really cmopete with them.

The Fall were basically just themselves - or the collection of selves constructed by Mark E Smith at a particular point in time - and that is everything they have ever been for the past thrity years. resolutely difficult and superbly engaging, this for me is one of their finest moments.

The Jesus and Mary Chain were a blast that should have come and gone in a puff of smoke but in the end dragged on for years, producing some great records - but none that had quite the incendary effect of their first LP, Psychocandy - from which this track is taken. A website: JAMC.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Big balls of snow

Originally uploaded by Southcoasting.

It was snowing this week. Snow doesn't stay for long but these guys got their share before it melted.

More photos (and bigger photo) if you click through to the flickr site...

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


The twitten between Hannover Terrace and Hannover Street, not far from where I live.

[Testing out the radioblogclub]

  • Fall Out Boy - I've Got a Dark Alley and a Bad Idea That Says You Should Shut Your Mouth

Sunday, January 21, 2007

UK Early-80s Indie Pop - part 4

Sometimes indie-pop was the new quiet

I never knew quite how much I loved Felt, brainchild of the enigmatic Lawrence. They made albums I wanted to love, but too often felt all of a sameness. Still, the one thing they did was quite magical - and this song for me captures them at their best.

An American transplanted to the UK, Heidi Berry was signed to Creation, then 4AD, and more of a folk singer than an indie-rocker, she sang beautiful ethereal songs which seemed to fit in no particular genre. She now teaches songwriting at the Brighton Institute of Modern Music, and still performs occasionally.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

No degrees of Separation

Went to see the 0º of Separation concert with Adem, Vashti Bunyan, Vetiver, Juana Molina at the Corn Exchnage in Brighton last night.
It was a strange and grand theatrical venue, but the nature of the event still made it quite an intimate gig. Instead of playing separate sets, they intermingled and played together on eachother's songs - a beautiful resonant alt-folk sound, with Vashti "Just Another Diamond day" Bunyan's sweet vocals, Juana Molina's spanish loops and Adem's playfulness, grasping of any strange instrument he could find, all held together with the emotional musical core of Vetiver. Beautiful and different.
There's a taster available from domino records,

Fantasy careers

© 2007 by David Cowles

A short distraction that's taken up far too much time, I've been tagged again by Always Double Back (held to a wall with a gun pointed at my head more like). This time, it's to list five fantasy careers I might choose. So, here goes...

1. Singer-songwriter

in the John Hartford mould, where your first release is so mega-selling that it pays enough to keep you free to do whatever you want to do for the rest of your life.

Obviously, I have this career plan plotted out already with the pinnacle being playing the million people anti-racism festival in Central Park organised by President Angelina Jolie, where my versions of Toots and the Maytal's Funky Kingston and Justin Timberlake's The Whole World's Turning Spanish (soon to be recorded) go down a storm.

2. Bubble man on Santa Monica beach

This job exists, or rather it's been invented, see here. This guy is my hero (until I read the court reports).

It's a bit like being a Punch and Judy man on Brighton beach, which is a job I also used to fancy, although setting up a small portable theatre to tell crowds of children stories about an anti-hero who beats up his wife and runs away from the police seems to be frowned upon these days. Cannot imagine why.

Anyway, I'd rather be somewhere warm.

3. Barman (in England)

This is obviously well within my grasp, although unfortunately doesn't pay enough.

It would have to be in the UK, because American bar staff need to know far too many cocktails and strange drinks, and have to do that polite thing no matter their mood. In England, you get to keep your own emotions (not that they're always worth keeping). It would be in a nice bar with a youthful clientele and a boss who tolerated my 'individuality'. That kind of cuts down the options. Also, it would have to be after July 1st when smoking in public spaces is outlawed.

I might own my own bar although that sounds like less fun - full of delivery schedules, stock control and tax returns. But I was never happier than when I was working behind the bar at the Lion in Crouch End and got to choose the musical soundtrack for the slightly drunk but appreciative regulars.

4. Radio DJ

Just imposing my musical tastes on anyone who cared to listen is attractive. In fact, I do it anyway. But I also really like the physical act of playing records on a deck, cueing them up, pushing those faders etc. "Where it's at! Two turntables and a microphone..."

I've been a club DJ twice - once at my friend Will's political benefit night in a small upstairs room in a pub in Hackney, and once at a friend's party when the hired DJ decided he had to go down the pub to meet some friends. I loved it both times.

I was also briefly a DJ on my college radio station, and my friend Craig had the tape to prove it. I am reasonably sure that nobody actually tuned in, because we kept holding more and more outlandish competitions to entice people to phone in, but they never did. Nowadays they have a webcam and web radio, but I bet it's broadcast out of the same pokey little room with the egg carton walls.

5. Director of a small arts charity

A small grant of money, being paid to help people, no pressure, in charge of your own little team and space... It could be anything really, but that has to be an ideal.

Either that, or being paid professionally to tell other people to F*ck off. Perhaps being a character actor that specialises in someone with Tourette's Syndrome who swears a lot, having a small but critical role in a mega-popular TV sit com, always present but never needed for much apart from random and hilarious swearing! Yes, that's my dream job defined right there!

There are just so many possibilities.... I just never
seem to get to pick the right ones.
Is early retirement a
respectable ambition?

And I'll try to pass the baton on to two random flickr contacts, just to test the possibility of randomness on the web. So, come in Tamelyn Feinstein who doesn't
actually have a blog that I know of, but her comments make me laugh anyway and I reckon she'd be game, and
Billy Law who does have a blog and possibly has an ideal job.

Your task is to give the world five dream jobs of your choice, blogged with text, added as a comment to this entry or illustrated by photographs on flickr - doesn't matter which. And then pass the task to someone else, as "You've been tagged" -

Obviously if you ignore this request you will spend eternity in hell

(or possibly Stafford, if you're really unlucky).

Monday, January 08, 2007

Happy Birthday David Bowie

David. Beau? Oui!

Sixty years young today!

An English institution in the best sense.

UK Early-80s Indie Pop - part 3

Scotland was the driving force behind the industrial revolution,
and it also delivered a large chunk of great early 1980s indie pop.

The Pastels were the archetypal indie band, although they always rejected that term.

Formed in Glasgow in 1982, eventually stabilising around a core of stephen on guitar, katrina on drums and aggi on bass. Their early singles were shambolic, jangling seven inch circles of tweeness, and quite adorable - the tracks on their first EP 'Songs for children' being perfect examples. They managed to combine a wilful naivety with inspired amateurism, and as a result encouraged dozens of others, including luminaries such as Jesus & Mary Chain, Belle & Sebastian and Teenage Fanclub.

Truck Train Tractor was from their 1986-7 run of excellent 45s and pre-empted the classic album 'Up for a Bit With the Pastels'. The Pastels' musical interests have diversified somewhat, and Stephen can nowadays be found working in a record shop and doing the occasional DJ set too.

The Pastels, fan site -
The Pastels, fan site -

Josef K were one of the bands on Postcard records ("the sound of young Scotland"), along with Orange Juice, managing to create an amazing collection of songs and then implode within about the space of just two years. Their legend lives on.

Originally coming together in 1978 as TV Art, guitarists Paul Haig and Malcolm Ross and drummer Ron Torrance were joined by David Weddell on bass and changed their name to Josef K in the summer of '79, in honour ofthe Czech writer Franz Kafka. Their first single, Chance Meeting, was released on Absolute it's one and only release). They joined Postcard, released Radio Drill Time in April 1980 and then recorded their debut album in November that year. They cut it, test pressed it, and then decided to can it, claiming dissatisfaction with the mix. The favoured mix was eventuially released in July 1981 as 'The Only Fun In Town' and was universally panned, rightly so, for its disastrous production. Their "farewell" single The Missionary was released on Les Disques du Crepescule, a beautiful jangling battery of guitars.

Paul Haig:

"I think we committed commercial suicide. When we were mixing
the album, we wanted it to sound like a live concert, because we were so into
playing live. I purposely mixed down my own vocals. God knows why. I regret

Sorry for Laughing is the first single they made for the Belgian record label, Les Disques du Crepuscule.

Josef K, the website -
Josef K, the story -

the two best collections to buy

earlier episodes here: see part one and part two

Saturday, January 06, 2007

UK Early-80s Indie Pop - part 2

Next up in this short survey of early 1980s UK indie-pop is from the glory that was Geoff Travis's Rough Trade record label. Founded in 1978, and originalyl linked to the excellent independent record shop off the Portobello Road in London, the record label closed in 1991 but was then reborn in 2000 and remains today at the cutting edge of indie-pop.

Back in the early 1980s Rough Trade was a reliable source of everything that was great in post-punk and independent music. Never predictable, it seemed like it would release almost anything - but it would always be great. The two choice tracks today are good examples of the radical diversity of the early RT label.

Scritti Politti's the Sweetest Girl is a fantastic record. The classic anarcho-squat band but with better songs, the Scritts released a couple of obscure singles on their own St Pancras records in 1979.

Sweetest Girl was originally released as the opening track on the NME's C81 cassette at the end of January 1981. This compilation cassette, available for £1.50 to readers of the New Musical Express (NME), was an era-defining presentation of post-post-punk indie tastes - 24 diverse tracks which well defined the emerging scene at that time. the song was immensely popular and was picked up as a Rough Trade single (RT091, Nov 1981) coupled with the equally brilliant Lions after Slumber and (incredibly for those days) made the bottom end of the charts (No. 64). Both songs can be found on the album Songs to Remember.

Green Garside has recently reformed Scritti Politti, released an acclaimed album "White Bread Black Beer" and taken his band on tour.

Robert Wyatt was a founding member and drummer with the Soft Machine, a classic late-60s prog-jazz-psych band. Wyatt left to form Matching Mole but in 1973 fell from a window during a party and was paralysed from the waist down. Since then he has concentrated on producing a series of extraordinary solo-albums, usually a mix of covers and originals.

At Last I Am Free is a beautiful reworking of a Chic song, available on the album Nothing Can Stop Us, which also included covers of the World War two gospel classic "Stalin Wasn't Stalling", an Ivor Cutler poem "Grass" and an Indian Trade union song, amongst others. The album was released in 1982 and comprised the terrific series of singles Wyatt released on the Rough Trade label over the preceding year.

I do not understand why the CD reissue doesn't include Elvis Costello's Shipbuilding, written specifically for Wyatt and released around the same time as a commentary on the Falklands War. However, both that song and At Last I am Free are available on the excellent compilation His Greatest Misses.

UK Indie Pop circ 1981 and other matters

I've had a selection of early 80s UK indie pop I've been
meaning to post for a while, so I'm going to do it in bits.

First pairing from the glorious world that was Creation records before Oasis took it through the stratosphere (and financial matters brought it crashing back down to earth). It's a fascinating story (ram audio link) - from rags to riches and back again.

Biff Bang Pow were Creation founder Alan McGee's band. I saw them play once in a tiny room in a Cambridge college, and they rocked (or perhaps jangled, loudly)! JCBrouchard was noted as "spiritual advisor" to Alan McGee. I don't pretend to understand what that was about, but I guess it meant a lot at the time.

Cold Heart is possibly the Jasmine Minks' finest moment (although Think comes close).


Thursday, January 04, 2007

Cat Power's Willie Deadwilder

Cat Power 's DVD Speaking for Trees (directed by Mark Borthwick) includes an 18-minute out-take from the You Are Free sessions, Willie Deadwilder, with M Ward on guitar.

It's a strange rambling love song - "This is a four hour song/And it will go on and on... /I don't care/I love to share/I love to sing along" - apparently about a couple who quit their trailer and hit the road to be happy, with "God on his side/No matter what", and then about Chan and some imaginary boyfriend who she is pleading with not to let her go - "I'm on the same side as you/I'm just a little bit behind".

There are references in WD to Bob Dylan singing To Ramona, another long rambling love song on which this one is perhaps modelled, about another lover who is thinking of leaving - "I can tell you are torn/Between stayin' and returnin' ", but Dylan-being-Dylan is less than concerned, singing at the song's end "Everything passes, Everything changes, Just do what you think you should do / And someday maybe, Who knows, baby, I'll come and be cryin' to you.".

Chan Marshall is also philosophical about her relationship in WD but still has her eye on the prize:
My heart is a worried thing
Memories have planted seeds of a field I now want to reap and sow
Maybe when i'm sixty-two, maybe when i'm forty-six
Maybe when i'm thirty-two, maybe the next time I see you
As long as God is willing, I am too
And as long as you are here, I am too
There are similarities with Dylan's To Ramona, but Chan keeps her usual subtle intimacy where Dylan tries to make the relationship into a bigger statement - "there's no use in tryin' T' deal with the dyin' " being one of his most memorable couplets. Both songs have their own strengths. Listen for yourself...

Cat Power's Speaking with trees, You are free, The Greatest , 7 another side of Bob Dylan

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Belle and Sebastian play shops

Someone asked for this and thought I'd try to stick it here. Think it came from the Blood on the Tracks blog originally, so thanks.

Live at Amoeba records 20 March 2006
An in-store performance - mid-afternoon, for free!
I already knew I wanted to live in L.A. but now I know why!

01 Belle and Sebastian - Intro mp3 Download
02 Belle and Sebastian - Another Sunny Day mp3 Download
03 Belle and Sebastian - Dog On Wheels mp3 Download
04 Belle and Sebastian - Piazza, New York Catcher mp3 Download
05 Belle and Sebastian - Sukie In The Graveyard mp3 Download
06 Belle and Sebastian - Sleep The Clock Around mp3 Download
07 Belle and Sebastian - If You Find Yourself Caught In Love mp3 Download
08 Belle and Sebastian - Outro mp3 Download
Download each track by clicking on the download link. Buy B&S by clicking below.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Dit non á 2007!

because Now is better!

...well, at least that's what some humorous french folk decided. Genius!! Down with optimism. More gallic miserabilism!

Actually, I think it was an artistic-philosophical statement against the inevitability of death. If we can make time stand still we can live forever. No, to 2007... No to aging. No more birthdays. No more new year... Non. Non. Non.

Read all about it

Something old, something relatively new. One of them borrowed, and one of them a little blue (or maybe a little rosie)...