Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Sir William of Orbit returns

And it's 1994 all over again. His new album My Oracle Lives Uptown is out next month. Above is the the album version of Optical Illusion. Sir William has produced another in the vein of his StrangeCargo project: melodic, ambient and gorgeous. You probably won't hear or see any of these tracks anywhere because, despite being a producer extraordinaire, even Radio 2 aren't playlisting him. Mind you, Breakfast TV featured his fizzog this morning with that housewives' nightmare, Bill Turnbull, spouting forth his view on the album: "It's got a good beat and great for walking the dog to". *sticks head in tumble dryer*

Clicky here for HisSpace for a listen to more tracks. Go here to his website for even more info.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Did you see this coming? The new PSB video

And having spent all their budget on single formats and umpteen b-sides for the forthcoming release, Did You See Me Coming?, the vid was shot on their tour manager's phone. As Neil says on the website: "It seemed like a good idea at the time".

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Don't scratch my vinyl 2

Earlier this year I uploaded some of my vinyl after a mammoth listening sesh. And here's another. The only common thread is how eclectic the collection is. Needless to say the ones below are the creme de la creme.

Blancmange - The Day Before You Came (zShare) 1984

This was ABBA's most non-song - a poem to a backing track. It sounded the death knell for their career but Blancmange took it and made their own reaching a respectable number 22. Here's the video for Blancmange's version, which I don't remember but which is quite timeless despite the Neru jackets; a nice Parisian scene a la blanc. And a wee mention for the brilliantly detailed illustration on the sleeve cover: note JR on the telly with a bullet hole in his head, a reference to a line in the song - try doing THAT with a postage stamp sized iTunes jpg... just saying!

The Funky Worm - Hustle to the Music (zShare) 1988

The Funky Worm were a Sheffield trio - it is amazing how this northern city produces LOADS of great music - who, together with Moloko's Mark Brydon, had a top twenty hit in 1988. Have a look at their Top of the Pops appearence here - the crowd think they're in a warehouse party, they're loving it.

The Kane Gang - Gun Law (Full Version) (zShare) 1984

This was the north east band's follow-up to their two hits Respect Yourself and Closest Thing to Heaven. The Kane Gang were one of those talents that should have been massive, but if pop music is about sex then the incongruous image of the three of them together - lanky, baldy and shorty - is probably the reason why they didn't hit it off with the British public. But it's a crying shame because they have since gone on to write and produce hits for other artists (who DO have a sex thing going on like James Morrison and Beverley Knight). Their old label Kitchenware had the good sense to package their two albums together as The Miracle of The Kane Gang available here.

Bassomatic - Funky Love Vibrations (zShare) 1991

Sir William of Orbit's band already had a top ten hit under their belt with the BRILLIANT Fascinating Rhythm and this follow-up flopped. But it's still funking excellent. The chorus is a killer.

Eurythmics - Take Me to Your Heart (zShare) 1981

This is a track from one of my favourite Eurythmics albums, their debut In the Garden which I discovered after Sweet Dreams. It's a cracking record with two great singles Belinda and Never Gonna Cry Again and was re-released in as a deluxe version in 2005.

Fad Gadget - One Man's Meat (zShare)

Fad Gadget aka Frank Tovey has a very loyal following. He unfortunately died in 2002 but still attracts glowing words. Rob at Electronically Yours has always had a soft spot and every now and again, there'll be some reminiscing. This song always featured on my mix tapes and has strangely never dated.

Vince Clarke and Paul Quinn - One Day (zShare) 1985

After Yazoo, Vince Clarke formed The Assembley with Yazoo producer Eric Radcliffe, as a vessel band for singers like Feargal Sharkey. With ex Bourgie Bourgie singer Paul Quinn and minus Eric, he released One Day to total disinterest (in his terms anyway). Not long after, Erasure was born and the success equalibrium was restored (after a couple of false starts). His volte face from the sparseness and bleakness to the fullsome sounds with Andy Bell is typical Vince Clarke: if he gets stuck in a rut or bored he will just flip his life around.

The Woodentops - Move Me (zShare) 1985

Not to be too disparaging, but The Woodentops were early examples of the indie firework band: successful debut album and then pftttt. But they were also pioneers. Their dance-influenced guitar sound was a forerunner to Stone Roses and Happy Mondays. Good Thing, the fourth single from the album, was one of the first big Ibiza records. I LOVED the first two singles from Giant. Well Well Well was monolithic and very different to everything else around and Move Me (above) was impossibly catchy.

Paul Haig - Never Give Up (Party, Party) (zShare) 1983

Alex Sadkin, the Thompson Twins' producer, was drafted in by Paul Haig to give him a hit. He was hungry for it after years of critical success of his (now seminal) band Josef K but with no real commercial succes to match. Never Give Up bounced and fizzed on the radio but he was at odds with his label, Island, as to how the record should be promoted. Paul said: "Island wanted a pop image to sell... and they didn't get one". Mind you, he had said earlier he wanted his pop career to be manipulated. Well hey ho, this single still stands up as a master stroke; a perfect example of 80s pomp pop.

The Cure - The Dream (zShare) 1983

I had a brief but glowing love affair with The Cure. It went from the single Let's Go To Bed in 1982 to the album Head on the Door in 1985. The Dream was on their interim compilation album Japanese Whispers which came between studio albums Pornography and The Top . I played this record to death as it contained the singles Let's Go to Bed, The Walk and The Lovecats . Their b-sides made up the rest and were just as strong.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

My US TV heaven

Apropos nothing, when you think about all the American TV shows you've known and loved, there's bloody tons of 'em! A late night troll on BooTube can uncover some gems. I've been compiling this list of US TV shows I've watched over the years for weeks now and I got to 48 and thought I should make it a round 50. Below, in a sort of chronological order (hence all the cartoons in the first third) are my most treasured shows' theme tunes. Just clicky on title. In today's fragmented digital/boxset world, I miss out on a lot of new stuff from the States, probably because it isn't given the mainstream platform anymore - the terrestrial channels have so many offshoots that US drama and comedy tend to get lost in a haze of previews and catch-ups. Maybe there should be channel just for me showing back-to-back episodes of all my favourites. Now there's an idea.

Hawaii Five O
Scooby Doo
The Banana Spilts
Rockford Files
Wait Till Your Father Gets Home
Help! It's the Hair Bear Bunch!
Hong Kong Phooey
The Waltons
The Six Million Dollar Man
Little House on the Prairie
The Bionic Woman
Starsky and Hutch
Charlies Angels
Happy Days
Fantasy Island
Laverne and Shirley
Hart to Hart
The Red Hand Gang
Mork and Mindy
The Space Sentinels
The Littlest Hobo
Knots Landing
Cagney & Lacey
St Elsewhere
Hill St Blues
Lou Grant
Kate and Allie
The Equalizer
Golden Girls
The Tracey Ullman Show
Twin Peaks
The X Files
Sex and the City
Will and Grace
Ally McBeal
Desperate Housewives
Ugly Betty
Brothers and Sisters

Now, of course, seminal stuff like Larry Sanders, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Seinfeld could all be in there too, but EVERYONE has them on their list so I left them off. I mean, where else would you get Knots Landing and Twin Peaks appearing together?

Saturday, 18 April 2009

New spring tracks

So what's been wearing out my iPod juice recently, turning it from green to red with repeated listening?


mp3 players

Sounding like Fleetwood Mac, this new single from Bat for Lashes, aka Natasha Khan is her most pop-structured to date. It's marshmallow soft in sound and sentiment and reeks of Teen Spirit - bubblegum flavoured. UK chart action has seen it come and go peaking at 36...


mp3 players

Bless him, he does look like a drag king, old Christophe there. Mind you, considering I first thought he was a she when I heard his big hit Double Je it's no surprise. This is from his forthcoming second album, Caféine or rather, his PROPER debut after wining France's Star Academy three years ago. There's a duet with *gasp* Kylie included called Sensitized. The elephantine intro is original and the chorus snatches you by surprise on this impressive lead-off single sounding like a French Keane. Follow his antics on Poster Girl who is waiting for the said album nervously. Double Je was my FAVOURITE TRACK of 2007 and still is a killer. LISTEN!


mp3 players

The return of the pop-tacular Linda Sunblad on Kleerup's eponymous new album is a welcome breath of spring air. Sorely underused, she injects this doleful track with light and magic. There's even a touch of the Robyn in there, non?

PET SHOP BOYS - More Than a Dream (Magical Dub)

mp3 players

Oh my God, summer's arrived! This is heat on a stick. This is a MAMMOTH track. An Ibiza 2009 certified choon. From the amazing Yes etc., the original version has been bettered.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Adam Ant, the pop star, no doubt

Stand and deliver, your money or this quite natty cover version of the Adam and the Ants hit by No Doubt. Although it will NEVER BETTER the original, it is a neat update (and almost note for note) on a great song which has been crying out for a cover version - I presume, though, that the helium vocals are a fault of the rip! News of the leak was reported by Rolling Stone, and in a typically lazy journo report, it applauds the band for "going a more obscure route with their comeback single, picking this track over more popular new wave hits and even more famous Adam Ant songs like “Goody Two Shoes” or “Don’t Be Square (Be There.)” Now that kind of parochial writing needs wrist slapping in this global age. In the rest of the world outside of the USA, Stand and Deliver was one of Adam Ant's BIGGEST hits (number 1 in the UK for 5 weeks) and Don’t Be Square, was that even an Ants' song? I think they must mean Desperate But Not Serious. Small gripe I know, but we have to correct shoddy writing. Humph.

Adam Ant was such a bona fide pop star, wasn't he? His image was that clever mix of absolute seriousness and knowing piss-taking that Boy George picked up on a year later. The costumes were the serious bit. With a strong concept in mind and always with an artful reference to the period from which they were gleaned, Adam and his designers created looks which nearly 30 years later remain some of the most iconic. So much so, that the Victoria and Albert Museum in London are now showing his Prince Charming outfit (left). They own all of the band's costumes after Adam donated them himself in 1983. He says of the care and attention lavished on them: "When I went in there, there were two girls who spent the whole time that I was there drilling me like, “Who’s scarf is this?”, “Who did this belong to?”. "Oh, I think Marco wore that" and they were like OK, great! “What about these trousers?” and they were slowly putting this puzzle together and they were really protective about it and I’m sure whichever way they present it, it will be very well presented. They do a very good job whenever it comes to anything rock n’roll and I think that it’s nice to see that stuff in the flesh."

Lord Gwendalina of Stefani was old enough to buy this as a seven inch vinyl when it was first released in May 1981 (she's the same age as me and would have been 11, nearly 12 - yes. THAT old). Here's the brilliant video from the original Adam and the Ants.

And here are three of my favourite tracks from the Prince Charming album which included Stand and Deliver.

Ant Rap - Adam and the Ants (zShare)
A much overlooked hit which went to number 3 in the UK and was their last official single before Adam went solo.

Picasso Visita El Planeta De Los Simios - Adam and the Ants
Typically nonsensical lyrics which somehow make sense in an Ant song and full of the trademark sound of Burundi drums and native American whoops and hollering.

Scorpios - Adam and the Ants
Again, typical Antmusic with dissonant melodies and an anthemic chorus. And a name check for the British Marilyn Monroe, Diana Dors (wonder why she changed it from Diana Fluck?)

For all things Adam, go here.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Happy Easter!

While I've been playing the Easter Bunny in a the rolling hills of France near Limoges, full of hamlets and chateaux, there has been LOADS happening outside my French bubble. Antigone's new album is out next week, the long-awaited Electronically Yours compilation is out this month and Calvin Harris is done with the 80s, moved into 90s rave and scored a number one this very day. Bona! I'm one of those who likes him!

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Queens of British Pop

The BBC aired the first in the two-part documentary Queens of British Pop last night. What no Freddie? No Holly? No Neil? No Elton?

Nah, just a great set of clips and and a recognition for Siouxsie Sioux (FINALLY) as she takes her well-earned place on the throne (see below). There's not much you can cover with ten minutes on each - the whole Dusty in the wilderness is ignored as it jumps from the failure of the Memphis album to the Lazurus-like resurrection with Pet Shop Boys in one fell swoop - but the premise for the first part is admirable. These are the trailblazers; the women who were the blueprints in the 60s and 70s for the plethora of big solo females today. The producer explains the reasons behind his choices here. Choosing American Suzi Quatro seems to have got up people's noses, but she was the biggest female pop star in the UK during her time and produced by Brit Mickie Most... so there.

But back to the PROPER Siouxsie... It's so refreshing to see a her work documented, albeit briefly. And even more refreshing to see her revel in it - gotta love Claire Grogan too!

Next week: Annie Lennox! Alison Moyet! Kylie! Wino! And Leona... erm... !

Queens of British Pop
microsite here and The Guardian's own tribute here.