Sunday, February 25, 2007

UK Early-80s Indie Pop - part 10

Last in the series. An exploration of the weird indie phenomenon known as 'the classic fourth single'. Enjoy!

The Wedding Present

David Gedge's raucous chiming jangling guitar monsters born in 1984 and still going. Feted by John Peel, they produced the classic album George Best on the independent Reception records, who also compiled their classic early singles on the album Tommy and released a 10inch Wedding Present LP of songs in Ukrainian. It was good. They were perhaps equally famous for getting their major label RCA for the whole of 1993 to allow them to release a single a month in limited editions of 10,000 each (later compiled on the Hit Parade albums). Since then, they have been on various labels, and their most recent album, Ringway to Seatac, was released in 2005.

'You should always keep in touch with your friends' is their fourth
single, dating from 1986.

The Woodentops

Signed to Rough Trade in 1985, and releasing the fantastic album Giant the following year, the Woodentops were an exciting singles and live band but for some reason were never quite massive. Rolo McGinty was their songwriter and singer and all round bandleader, but not sure what happened to him after the band appeared to have disolved by the 1990s, having moved away from traditional guitar-based music towards dance (although their singles were always highly danceable).

'It will come' was their fourth single and can be found on the classic Giant.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Seven sins and then some

Couldn't resist a link to this, originally posted here:

We are indeed all going to hell. I'll see you when I get there.

Some of the other faux-statistical cartoons on the indexed blog are equally great! You can subscribe from the main page, as well as check out previous indexed posts. I have at long last worked out that I am a democratic monarchist !

I dislike AC-DC intensely, but this song kinda works...

Sunday, February 18, 2007

UK Early-80s Indie Pop - part 9

Back from Belgium - a great country: neat, well-organised, great beer, great chocolate - and in this shot, some beautiful trees and water reflected in the late afternoon at Maria Hendrike Park in Oostende. This park provides free bicycles to cycle around on! A truly civilised country.

Anyway, back to the real world... here are two more indie tracks, both adding to key elements of the 1980s indie revolution already blogged here - Postcard records, and Creation records.

Orange Juice signed first to Postcard records releasing a string of electric singles in their Scottish punk-soulboy style. Blue Boy was my favourite, although Felicity always ran it close. The band went on to sign for Polydor, released the magnifiscent album You Can't Hide Your Love Forever (superbly engineered by pop-boy genius of the mixing desk Phil Bodger) and had some hit singles, and of course lead singer-songwriter Edwyn Collins went on to become a brief mega star with (I never met a) Girl Like You (before) - although for me, his solo Don't Shilly Shally was the most wonderful single ever.

Edwyn Collins suffered a stroke two years ago almost to this day. He is currently recovering, but hopes to return to the studio. We wish him well.

The Loft were yet another superb guitar-based group who rose quickly and then fell apart almost as soon - famously splitting up mid-song on stage in 1985. This single was released on Creation - "Doing it for the kids" - completely manic yet brilliantly executed. Pete Astor was the band genius, and went on to form the Weather Prophets - another fine, if under-rated band.

The Loft have now reformed and have released a single, which can be heard on their myspace site - their first single for 20 years.

Sunday, February 11, 2007



Way back when in 2005 the Brooklyn-based band Thunderegg decided to record a new song once a week for every week of the year. They've now released a selection on a limited edition (100 copies) 15 track CD, and you can buy your own for $10 including postage from their website.

The compilation shows Will Georgantas' softer and more romantic side (you can still get the previously collected works in Open Book - 231 songs and the lyric book on one mp3 CD for only $15!!). Who can forget songs like Christy Pickle (an early egg track from Universal Nut, re-recorded for this project) with its memorable opening lines:

Christy Pickle didn’t have a care,
he played fifty-two pick-up solitaire.
Threw the cards up into the air,
then he’d roll around in them in his underwear.

It sits alongside beautiful new songs such as It's Not You, It's Not me (It's her), and Hall Pass with its purposeful double-negative ("I ain't learning nothing in this class, Can I please get the hall pass?"). Glass of Water is the best morning-after-the-night-before song ever (like most of these songs, recorded within a month of their writing), and I'm also very fond of songs like This Week and the duet with Kendall Meade - Say We Did.

Thunderegg are recording a new album proper which should be out some time later this year.

Meanwhile, get This Week here while you can.

A couple of tasters:

p.s. yes, I am biased, as Will's a friend and useless at self-promotion, but regardless, this band is awesome, so don't let the fact that my click through rate is guaranteed to pay 0.000001 beer dollars next time I'm in NYC put you off


Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Decemberists

Saw the Decemberists play in London and they were excellent. Thought of them as a little bit a yankee Pogues, but the songs are powerful and Colin Meloy is a real spark. Much audience participation ensued, and Robyn Hitchcock and Mike 'Waterboy' Scott joined them for encores. A great gig!

UK Early-80s Indie Pop - part 8

Some classic songs, some charming whimsy - it wasn't all shoe-gazing and thrash!

The House of Love

The House of Love were another one of those brilliant bands that produced some brilliant singles, and then disappeared (although they reappeared briefly a few years ago). Had they come after the Stone Roses and Oasis, then they could probably have made a living from music - but in the early and mid-1980s a career in a middling rock band was harder to come by than it seems it is today.

Essentially the band of the phenomenally talented Guy Chadwick, they were born in 1986, inspired by the Jesus and Mary Chain, and named after a book of short stories by Anais Nin. Their first eponymous album was released on Creation in 1988, and the first single from it, their third single, 'Christine' went to number one in the UK's independent charts. Their fourth single was 'Destroy the Heart', voted single of the year in John Peel's festive fifty! Then they signed to Fontana, for a signifiant advance, got diverted by traditional rock and roll hedonism, and despite continuing to make some pretty great records, eventually fell apart.

A very special band.

The Jazz Butcher

I went through a phase of seeing the Jazz Butcher live in a series of tiny venues, including Alan McGee's Living Room club when it was in the upstairs room of a pub on the Tottenham Court Road. They were always entertaining - intellient and humerous lyrics, well-played guitar-based songs. John Peel liked them because they name checked Liverpool football players and their first single was called "Southern Mark Smith". They never quite made it to 'cult status' but they should have. I expect they were massive in Japan or something...

Pat Fish - aka the Jazz Butcher - and his guitarist Max Eider are still gigging around the Northampton area, and further afield.

special bonus track

Sunday, February 04, 2007

UK Early-80s Indie Pop - part 7

Back to the sound of young Scotland again, such a critical
force in the early 1980s independent scene.

Aztec Camera were basically the Roddy Frame band. They started out releasing a couple of singles on the super-cool Glasgow Postcard records alongside Orange Juice and Josef K, and then released the classic Scottish pop of 'High Land Hard Rain' on rough trade in 1983, including the sublime pop single 'Oblivious'. That was their high point, although Roddy went on to release a further four albums for WEA and his latest album 'Western Skies' was released in 2006.

Roddy Frame plays the Buxton Opera House Festival on 18th February, supported by the excellent Martha Tilston.

"Music's food 'til the art-biz folds

Let them all eat culture."

(from Good Morning Britain) You can access a full discography and listen to other rare tracks at the killermont street website. Roddy's own website is at the link below.
Bonus track

The Fire Engines
cannot be described adequately in words. There has never been another band like them, as Franz Ferdinand recognised when lauding them a year or two ago, playing live with them and covering one of their songs. Basically, a ramshackle indie band who sounded like they were into both disco and Captain Beefheart and played the two at the same time.

The Fire Engines comprised Russell Burn on Drums, Davy Henderson vocals and guitar, Graham Main on bass and Murray Slade on second guitar. They produced just three singles and one album 'Lubricate Your Living Room' in the space of about a year and then they were over. The Henderson bands that followed - Win, Nectarine No.9 - never quite lived up to expectations. The FEs reformed briefly in 2005 to play a couple of gigs supporting Franz Ferdinand and they played their final ever gig at the ICA in London on 17 September that year - an exciting, but all too brief, set.

Candyskin was their second single, after Get Up And Use Me. You can also get a feel for the beautiful dischord in some other tracks and a highly recommended video on the myspace site. In 2005 they released the atrociously under-produced collection of out-takes and live tracks 'Codex Teenage Premonition' - which bizarrely excluded Candyskin, the band seeming to regard it as too poppy and compromised. A shame, as it's a masterpiece and a high point in the history of the brazenly independent and creative field that is Scottish pop music.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Strangely coloured air

Hannover Crescent chimney pots

click the above picture to go through to flickr comments - click on all sizes to view large

This is a digital manipulation of a photograph of some rooftops and chimneys from the back of Hanover Crescent, a formerly posh terrace of large Victorian houses in Brighton. I really like the crayon effect, but one of the comments from a flickr pal was quite insightful - or posed some interesting questions. I did not draw any lines on this picture, but simply altered the whole print using some line detection and variation of colours and contrasts - so all of the lines in the picture were in some way present in the original photograph, albeit invisible to the naked eye.

The comment was that these probably reflect natural variation in heatwaves in the air -with the sharp hashing over the rows of heated houses, and the strong curving colours over the trees, and the sea. It's an interesting thought - as to what is invisible and yet all around us.

I've always wondered what impact all the zillions of radio waves floating through the atmosphere are having, in some small inestimable way.

A bit more music....

  • Air -Kelly watch the stars

  • Canned Heat - Going Up The Country

UK Early-80s Indie Pop - part 6

In essence, great bands just writing and playing great songs.

Go Betweens

Formed in 1977 in Australia by singer-guitarists Grant McLennan and Robert Forster, famously described by Village Voice critic Robert Christgau as "the greatest songwriting partnership working today", they were joined by Lindy Morrison on drums and Robert Vickers on bass.

Briefly signed to Postcard records for a single (the superbly jaunty and jagular I Need Two Heads), their first album Send Me A Lullaby was released in 1981. However, they reached their peak with a quartet of stunning albums Before Hollywood (1983), Spring Hill Fair (1984), Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express (1986) and Tallulah (1987) - each full of diamond pop songs.

They disbanded in 1989, releasing a bundle of solo albums, and then reformed in 2000 to release the acclaimed The Friends of Rachel Worth (assisted by Sleater-Kinney!). The marriage was only over when Grant Mclennan died in 2006.

the June Brides

One of my favourite indie bands, that I've already blogged about - utterly shambolic, but uplifting and original. Probably the only band close to them in sound today are the excellent Snowglobe from Memphis.

    The JB's were formed in 1983 and comprised Phil Wilson and Simon Beesley on guitars, Chris Nineham on drums, Jez Wallis on vocals and Andy Johnston (George) on bass. Frank Sweeney's viola and Jon Hunter's trumpet came about a year later. Their first single was the sublime 'In the Rain' on the Pink record label, the rumour being the label got formed because Alan McGee refused to release the June Brides on Creation records, which in pre-Oasis days was inexplicable.
    The next single was the even sassier 'Every Conversation', followed in 1985 by the superb 'There are Eight Million Stories...' LP which topped the independent music chart for 4 weeks and remained on the chart for 38 weeks. Naturally, the band was too good for this world and within a year of this success had self-destructed. Phil Wilson took a solo deal with Creation. Their press release of 1st July 1986 read: 'The June Brides have decided to part company and become legend'. The Go-Betweens reference (to the song 'Part Company') was apparently intentional.

  • June Brides - Heard your Whisper mp3 website