Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Saturday, 27 October 2007

Rewind Soft Cell

Ah. Bless. An early TOTP appearence, complete with padded cell stage set.

After posting below about the remastered classics, news reaches us, via Arjanwrites, about a Soft Cell remix album. Remix versus remaster is a quandary. After all, who pioneered the remix? Soft Cell had a huge part in it by remixing their classic first album as the ecstasy-driven Non Stop Ecstatic Dancing six months later. Now I didn't get AT ALL excited by the Depeche Mode venture... Well it's a case of two bands, really. Like me, you either adore the poppy earlier version or lose interest in the the stadium monster they became.

But Soft Cell on the other hand. Electro, mono rock 'n' roll, sixties' kitchen-sink angst, club classics? All their styles fit like a glove in my mind. It's about time they revisit all their back catalogue for an updated extravaganza.

Here's an everchanging tracklisting of the double album to be released at the end of January next year. Yay!

– Cicada Remix
Seedy Films – Richard X Remix
Bedsitter – Manhattan Clique Remix
Sex Dwarf – The Grid Remix
Tainted Love – Paul Dakeyne Remix
Torch – Manhattan Clique Remix
Where The Heart Is – Marcas Lancaster Remix
Numbers – Spektrum Remix
Heat – Yer Man Remix
The Art Of Falling Apart – Atomizer Remix
A Man Can Get Lost – Marcello Remix
Secret Life - George Demure Remix
Surrender To A Stranger – MHC Remix
...So – The Grid Remix
Frustration – Punx Soundcheck Remix
Chips On My Shoulder – Mark Moore & Kinky Roland Remix
Entertain Me – Kinky Roland Remix
Best Way To Kill – Dave Ball Remix
Barriers – Dark Poets Remix
Her Imagination – Monkey Farm Frankenstein Remix

Stream the tracks, including my favourite, the Manhattan Clique version of Bedsitter here on the album's MySpace.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

I dunno what you're wearing for Halloween...

...but I've got this!

My very own Lindsay Lohan costume, complete with vodka and assorted drugs. Woooh! Par-tay!

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Rewind and remaster

As a ploy to get you buying the same music you've owned for years it works. Bonus Tracks! Previously Unreleased! New Sleeve Notes! Deluxe Packaging! Feels Nice! Looks Worth the Money! Makes Your Collection Complete! Everyone Will Think You Are Such a Music Buff! One More Exclamation Mark For Added Effect!

Actually, a classic album needs at least one remastered version. Some albums, especially 80's ones, sound like they were recorded in a vat of Country Born hair gel. And CD quality from ten years or more ago has the volume turned all the way up to 1. Listening to the remastered version of Prefab Sprout's Steve McQueen felt like having your ears syringed it was that different. Thomas Dolby, the original producer, was at the helm of the remastering saying: "It sounds INSANELY good. Many writers and music afficionados list this among their top LPs of all time, and listening to it for the first time in years, I have to agree".

Despite all the great music and good intentions, gorgonzola-level writing in the sleeve notes can sometimes taint an otherwise worthwhile package. And it usually comes as the money sentence at the end: "Sweet Dreams cost about £5000 (in loans) to record... Couldn't you just hug that bank manager now?" and "The Luxury Gap could be sung at a cocktail lounge baby grand... Never mind the price of an extra-dry Martini with a twist. I'd pay top dollar for a table near that piano!" !!!!

The Pet Shop Boys package their remastered albums in a typically PSB style. The fat well-designed booklet has comprehensive interviews about each track which read in real-time whilst listening. Each album is housed within a uniform designed slip cover with a matt finish and a spot-varnished print of the original artwork. See. The description even SOUNDS very PSB. There's a whole album of demos, b-sides and rarities to go with the original too. Definitely one for the fans.

Sometimes, just a simple updating of the sound, a few background notes and at least one decent bonus track would be worth the £5 you'd pay in FOPP. I fell back in love with albums whilst sunning my little old self on holiday: ABC's Lexicon of Love; Groove Armada's Soundboy Rock, Tracey Thorn's Out of the Woods and Pleasure's Pleasure II were all played in track order, no skipping! So today, I wandered into FOPP and picked up the following three remastered albums I've loved and lost... £15, snnnniiiippp!

Favourite album track: The Walk - Eurythmics (mp3 Download)
Bonus Track: Satellite of Love - Eurythmics (mp3 Download)

Favourite album track: The Best Kept Secret - Heaven 17 (mp3 Download)
Bonus Track: Let Me Go (Extended Mix) - Heaven 17 (mp3 Download)

Favourite album track: Entertain Me - Soft Cell (mp3 Download)
Bonus Track: Insecure Me - Soft Cell (mp3 Download) - "It was the morning after the month before and I'm looking like a nose with eyes"

Monday, 22 October 2007

Hey, Kimberly, you weren't THAT bad... were bleedin' AWFUL!

As were most of the acts on the first studio shows of X Factor. First night nerves got the better of everyone, but more than that, why the big, staged numbers? Obviously, it gives Brian Friedman a reason to exist. I think he thought he was on the wrong show... It ain't The Krypton Factor, honey! (A bland 80s quiz show with a legendary army assault course finale). He not only made one act, Alisha, step through a hoop, but she had to come down stairs on the other side in six-inch heels. And he was so supportive: "If she even thinks she's going over in those heels, she will. It's a disaster waiting to happen". Gee, thanks, Bri. Break them in gently Simon, Dannii, Sharon and Louis, why dontcha... And Kimberly's song chosen by Sharon? It's Raining Men. *the sound of the wind whistles through the room with a lonely bell tolling mournfully in the background*

And why has Shazza had Kimbo styled as Kelly? Did she really think that would help her GAIN votes.

For what it's worth, Kimberly Southwick seems Teflon coated. On GMTV this morning, (go here), she explained why it went wrong, (not that hard, love), but is quite sanguine about the whole experience. Thankfully, she isn't going down the "This is just the beginning, you haven't seen the last of me" route. Next week, we'll have forgotten anyway. C'est la vie.

Ever since that night...

And... ta-dah! The last of my Fashion Rocks 2007 moments. Oh, go on! Indulge me.

Here's La Almond, the biggest nut on the block doing a gloriously arch yet sugar sweet version of Strangers in the Night (available on the Stardom Road album, peeps).

I AM my hair, part 2

Hey, Celine! Why the long, airbrushed face?

Sunday, 21 October 2007

I AM my hair

Heads up to Adem at I'm Always Right for the Sugababes clip.

The 'babes put in a bravura performance of Lady Marmalade at Fashion Rocks 2007 - and at this point, the models are thankfully dispensed with. Amelle, quite rightly, takes centre stage and the change of hair has gone to her head. She's almost Amazonian as she belts out AND holds the 'Marmalaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaade'. The spunky fountains are a lovely camp touch.

Spot the difference:

Who knew?!?

Fashion Rocks 2007. Strange event. Who would ever think that the idea would work? This Swarovski sponsored version, at the Royal Albert Hall, shown on TV last night was no exception. And who knew that Whitney was going to firstly, turn up on time, and secondly, actually have regained her wits? The voice is a bit crack ravaged but she still got that falsetto in at the end!

Ever since giving up the Bobbie Brown drug, she's clawed her way back to the real world. I'm not a big fan but her story has been very tragic. I know everything in life is your own choice, but the tragedy is she made BAD choices. But from the look of her here, introducing the Sugababes, no less, her rehabilitation process is well under way. Expect a Timbaland/Dre co-produced epic next year, guest-starring Nelly, Justin and Missy. Probably.

The sets, dripping in Swarovski crystals, were eyepopping. Having fashion bods involved in staging the event guarantees fabulousness. And fab ideas. The musical chairs story for the Stella McCartney/Shy Child set was cute and inspired. Stand out performances this year had to be Dames Marc Almond, Shirley Bassey (wouldn't they make a great duet!), Shy Child and the Sugababes. There isn't any footage of them floating around at the minute, but as soon as I find it, I'll post.

Friday, 19 October 2007

And relax...

I mentioned Kathryn Williams (and mispelt her name) alongside Ed Harcourt earlier this week and found that she has a new album (Leave to Remain) out now. I love surprises like this.

She's an accquired taste is our Kathryn. Her arrangements are sparse but full of melody. After coming to prominence in 2000 with the mercury nominated Little Black Numbers I never really took any notice until I saw her play live with Ed at the NME gig a couple of years ago. Her performance was engaging and intimate. She swore like anything and was belly laugh funny in between songs. She was also pregnant and hoping to banish her demon of crippling stagefright by playing as many gigs as humanly possible in her condition: "After I released ‘Over Fly Over’ I toured solidly for three months. I decided to overcome my stagefright by hard graft. I toured for most of the time I was pregnant. When I first had Louis and was in the middle of the euphoria of him being born and feeling reborn - it was all a bit bloody S Club 7."

Kathryn gets lost in the one-way tunnel to Greenwich.

She's currently being mentioned in the same breath as the current crop of female singer/songwriters, but, after 8 years of recording, she's seen it all before: "I’ve been labelled in with the singer-songwriters, then with the NAM/New Acoustic Movement, then I was put in the Outsider group. Then I was shoved in with Dido and Norah Jones. And then it was KT Tunstall and Jem and all of that. I’m just in a car passing these things. If people wanna wave to me while I go past then that’s fine. But I don’t belong to any society. I don’t go to any parties and meet these people. It’s good, ‘cos it tends to make people think I actually have friends in music."

Kathryn's Leave to Remain is to be found here.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Marsheaux! Live!

And I bloody missed it. Hey ho.

Even though I had intended going, a holiday to Turkey got in the way. Whilst Marsheaux were winging it over to Hoxton last week from Greece, I was going the opposite way. So it was great to see this report, from behind the scenes. Electronically Yours had planned the event, a gig featuring the Greek duo, Schmoof and Northern Kind, under the banner of the 30th Anniversary (!!) of The Human League.

As a second hand view on last Thursday's gig (11th Oct) it almost feels like first hand. Almost.

And here's the organiser in the outfit he wore to introduce the band. Peek-a-boo!

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

He was a red faced child

There's something really quite cute about Ed Harcourt. He'd probably love someone saying that despite the darker tones of some of his songs. It's because the hirsute singer/songwriter can sew a sliver lining into the worst of times. A song about loneliness? Give the music a throbbing energy with an ethereal female voice echoing in the background and suddenly it's medicinal not suicidal.

I saw the wastrel perform at the 100 Club a couple of years ago (supported magnificently by scouser Katherine Williams) when his Strangers album was out. Like every one of his London gigs during the past 7 or so years, it was sold out. And his performance was electric.

Until Tomorrow Then: The Best of Ed Harcourt is a timely retrospective. Like Rufus, the man has a huge following and critics adore him but the cross over into the mainstream resolutely refuses to happen. But there again, what's the measure of success when you've got tracks like these...

Loneliness - Ed Harcourt (mp3 Download)

Born in the 70s - Ed Harcourt
(mp3 Download)

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Readers Wifes, such a gas!

LONDINIUM, circa 1994.

Kim Phaggs (the dark haired one in slap at the front): [IN A SOFT SCOTTISH BROGUE] 'Ere, Chelsea, it's been ages since we were oot and aboot on the Londinium gay scene. I need a good old frug to Soft Cell or summat. And I need some nice boys to spy.

Chelsea Kelsey (the blonde haired one, also in slap, second in line): I know! It's all too handbaggy and nosebleed techno-y for my liking. The boys are all gurning with tops off for the lads. You try and walk through a crowd of 'em to get to the bar and it feels like foam party with just Fairy liquid and no foam. All I want is a proper boozer, a proper DJ playing proper songs like Love Action and a proper dancefloor so I can dance and letch, properly.

Yeah, being a puffter in 1994 is a bit shite, eh?

Chelsea: If only there was a DJ duo who wore wigs, wore make-up, dressed like they were in The Specials, smoked like troupers and played great records like anything by Kate Bush, Human league, Soft Cell, Xanadu by Olivia Newton-John, Uptown Top Ranking by Anthea & Donna and Substitute by Clout.

Kim: Hang on, Kim. Have you got a blonde wig on? And isn't that cheap auld Boots No.7 make-up you're wearing? And is that a box of seven inch vinyl you're carrying?

Chelsea: Why, yes!

Kim: OMG! We could be that DJ duo. We could save Londinium from a K-hole and provide thoosands of gayers with a soundtrack to their gay lives!

Yes! With our Siouxie Sioux, our Pulp, our Bowie, our Human League and our Soft Cell we could change the course of gayer history.

Kim: Let's call oorselves Readers Wifes - that's Wifes, not Wives. I know a bloke called Simon.

And I know an American girl called Amy Lamé.

Hoots Mon! Let's work some Wifey magic and put them together in a boozer in sarf London called The Vauxhall Tavern.

Chelsea: Hoots Mon, indeed! I think we've just created a club called Duckie.

Fuck. We're clever.

LONDINIUM, circa 2001.
Kim: Isn't this fackin great. The club's packed to the rafters every Saturday, there's queues roond the block, Simon's having to take lager oot to 'em just to keep 'em happy and inside everyone's dancing, laughing, drinking an' loving.

Chelsea: It is. But there's summat missing. I WANT TO DO OUR OWN MUSIC!

Jeremy and Mark (the other two): Hellooo!

Kim: Oooh, hello.

Jeremy and Mark: Your voice cut through the dry ice and we heard you. We'll help you achieve your dream.

Chelsea: Aw! Ain't they nice!

LONDINIUM, circa 2007.

Don't they brush up well!

The debut album Gaslight is released and it's a funny, gorgeous slab of Readers Wifes' world. Get it here on iTunes. Check out the fantabulosa Boy Ain't Right.

Go here to their MySpace

Go here for an interview with their mate Paul Burston

And here for a lovely story about the brilliant cover shoot for Gaslight.

Kim and Chelsea are on every Saturday night at Duckie, of course. My whole time, down here in London, they've been in the foreground, the background and in and out of so many of my own fabulous nights out, memories and happy times just because of the club they created and the music they play. Cheers boys!

And Chelsea, big hug...

Blow-back the doors off!

My name is Michael Cained.

Aw! Who'd have thunk it! Michael Caine is a chill-out connoisseur. This sweet feature in The Observer Music Monthly has the Grandad of chill meeting the Daddy of chill, William Orbit, who manages to glean the nuggets that Michael has some turntables, his favourite track to make lurve to is Swollen by Bent (fnar, fnar) and that he accidentally stumbled upon the FIRST EVER discotheque in Paris in 1958. Love that.

His compilation album, Cained, (out on a Universal, a deal set up by Elton John) is selling well. Go to Amazon here for a track listing. It's quite a good collection, but no amount of drugs could account for Eva Cassidy's Fields of Gold!

Swollen - Bent (mp3 Download)

She Cries Your Name - William Orbit feat. Beth Orton (mp3 Download)

Monday, 15 October 2007

And so he's back...

And before I went away, I didn't post my AWOL stint on here, inform anyone who emailed and didn't post any trophy 'guess where I am' status messages on Facebook. How subversive!

Anyhoo, after a week of head down at work and then a week of doing sweet FA at a gorgeous hotel in Kas, Turkey, I'm back. I'll have some pics and tunes later. But below is a grabbed pic of Kas. Cue gratuitous trophy description of blazing sun every day, temperature in the mid 30s and holiday talk like "Can you pass me the P20".