Saturday, 30 May 2009

Never give up it's such a wonderful life

Like a phoenix from the ashes that was the supremely good Daggers comes this new duo Hurts. Thankfully, singer Theo didn't give up the day job and their MySpace page has two tracks on it and the ubiquitous Fred Falke has done a splendid mix of one (how does he find the time!?). No.1 Hits and Popjustice have already fanfared their arrival this week.

The video below, Wonderful Life (NOT a cover of the 80s band Black's song), which sneaked onto YouTube is worthy of a single. It's a brooding, hook-laden track with (unusually these days) a great narrative in the lyrics. And I do like the stylised video, even when the girl suddenly breaks into a bout of vogueing at 0:50. But I especially like the close-ups of singer, Theo. My. What a handsome lad.

The look and sound of Hurts couldn't be further away from Daggers. The crisp white shirts with top button done is reminiscent of Dexys Midnight Runners' complete transformation into suits after years of needing a good wash and dancing round in rags (although The JoBoxers once revealed that these were stage outfits). Theo's ditched the inner city grime for 50s Italian suave. And the whole performance has been taken down more than several notches. I wonder, though, if this shift in gears is permanent because he looks like he's just a fankick away from strutting up and down the stage again.

There's no news on releases or even if the band are likely to be signed (MySpace says no at the moment). But if Fred Falke's doing mixes for them, I wouldn't be surprised if they popped up on his mate, Alan Braxe's label, Vulture, alongside UK trio Fenech-Soler.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Yoko Ono marches on with Basement Jaxx

Are Basement Jaxx hoping for a Rihanna-type hit this summer? Calling your brilliant forthcoming single Raindrops and hoping for another pissing-it-down zeitgeist summer song is asking for a lot. They don't need it! Listen here. It's big and clever - and besides which, we're apparently in for a hot dry one this year.

But wait. What's this? Another new major tune from Felix Buxton and Simon Ratcliffe? Yes! And this time with La Grande Dame Yoko Ono going off on one on Day of the Sunflowers (We March On). Simon says of the inspired collab: "We got in touch with after finding out she was a fan of another of our songs, Romeo. I think she was a bit wary of going into the studio with a bunch of DJ/producers, but she was great. She said: “Do you want me to do the Yoko Ono thing?” and we said: “Yes please!” She went off with her wails — I love all that: it’s freedom and expression and it’s human. She’s 76, getting on, but she looked very well and youthful". Their new album Scars isn't out until September, but with two great lead-off tracks like these, it may just be a career high for the South London duo.

Day of the Sunflowers (We March On) - Basement Jaxx feat. Yoko Ono

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Times Online are holding a great competition to record your own version of the track. Clicky here for details. Their own version is really quite good!

Monday, 25 May 2009

Pet Shop Boys, sunnies, Madge/Robbie and Phil Oakey

Pet Shop Boys on their two-hour takeover of Radio 2 playing their favourite electronic music of the last decade have just revealed that the iconic sunnies, pictured above, are lost. Gone forever. A question from a listener asking Chris about how many hats and sunglasses he owned prompted Neil to pipe up: "Where are those stripy ones that were pictured for Suburbia?" Chris shrugged a response that he didn't know, that he'd lost them.

But also revealed is that after writing She's Madonna with Robbie, he'd emailed Madge asking if she was OK with it, and it turns out, she was - after all, it does make her look good. Apparently, Robbie's doing his new album with Trevor Horn. Now THAT was a surprise. And a pleasant one at that.

When asked about the This Used to Be the Future collaboration with Phil Oakey, Chris said they had "a laugh" with The Human League singer. They had written the song and the vocal lines were "so Phil Oakey" that they "got him in" and the results were just as they'd imagined. Pedro, the questioner, also asked if they fancied doing a Phil Oakey EP to which Chris replied "Now that is a GREAT idea".

One great question had been about PSB songs which were effortless to write. Opportunities took an astonishing 15 minutes, It's a Sin, half a day, and the new single Did You See Me Coming, just a day.

***UPDATE*** See the complete tracklisting here, and if you're in the UK, listen to the whole show on iPlayer.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

The world is burning, let's watch David Hoyle

A friend of mine posted the video below on facebook and it reminded me how brilliant David Hoyle is. Before the end of the last century, his stage persona was The Divine David who rampaged through clubs like Duckie performing his eloquent, considered but totally anarchic act on gayers in Manchester and London. But Divine David has long gone, away with the 90s. Six years after he was killed off in an ice show spectacular at Streathm Ice Rink, David Hoyle came back with mammoth projects like Magazine, his own unique take on the warped modern world. The voice, sentiment and comic genius is exactly the same, a sort of Frances de la Tour stuck in a K-hole, the original cabaret terrorist. His latest show is a residency at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern called Dave's Drop-In Centre which he describes as "a social event. We're all in there together. Group therapy, group support - group everything hopefully!".

Here's a clip from his 1999 Channel 4 show The Divine David - "The world is burning, let's masturbate... people in Buckingham Porlace, they masturbate"

And more recently, David takes us on a short trip to the gay annexe in Vauxhall.

Dave's Drop-in Centre show at The Royal Vauxhall Tavern captured right here...

A VERY SPECIAL cabaret terrorist 'dropped in' to Dave's Drop-in Centre, right here and uploaded to BooTube. They make a gorgeous couple, non? As part of the publicity for the current shows, here is an insightful interview with David from last month in The Times.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Northern Kind: crash and grab

All hooked up and ready to go are Leicester duo, Northern Kind, the latest in the Electronically Yours label's growing roster of electro artists. It's a credit to Rob at EY that the new album Wired has a home. He and NK's Matt concocted a masterplan of world domination beginning with this album and taking in Parralox and the forthcoming EY compilation along the way (more on that soon).

A couple of years ago, Northern Kind added their crisp synthpop to the sound of the crowd with an accomplished debut Fifty Three Degrees North. And now Wired has placed them firmly in the non-flash-in-the-pan category. Yup, they're bona fide popsters now. Matt and vocalist, Sarah, have a real knack for songwriting: fresh, dynamic and full of gorgeous synth hooks. Their sound is like a Yazoo/Human League supergroup (with just the girls singing) and vare British. My favourite on the album is Crash, listen to it below.

Crash - Northern Kind

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Buy Wired, the album here and here.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Antigone's life through a lens

Some of us are photogenic, some of us aren't. That's just the way things are. Antigone falls into the former category but add a slice of creativity to the mix and you have the consummate pop star; the Madonna template. Going through her photo albums on HerSpace is like going through her dressing up box, especially the live shows where the knack for putting a stage 'look' together comes to the fore. I asked Antigone to talk me through her pictures in chronological order...

"This was 2003 in the heady days of Etherfox prime time when ubercool Oyster Magazine commissioned a shoot with us because we were nominated for 2 Dance Music Awards. First shoot we'd done where everything was done and we didn't have to pay for it which we thought was pretty miraculous. My nipples have never looked so hot right now (or cold as the case may be...)". Photographer Eddy Ming

"First shoot in London, summer '05. Thankfully the results were rewarding as everything about this shoot on location (then in post) was disastrous - funny now, not funny then - and it very nearly destroyed my friendship with the photographer (lesson: don't do shoots in big cities when you have no contacts and no resources). The location: a rather skanky canal near Seven Sisters, whose grass had been cut the day prior, completely destroying the location's look! Laborious lugging of gear in hot sun including a massive mirror we'd bought that only just fitted into the hire car. Argumentative assistant who constantly undermined the photographer, and who also suffered from bad hayfever. No flash. It was my birthday. But we worked tirelessly and had some great moments. I was dressed in Tsubi via a PR which became more interesting when I discovered that half of Tsubi was my half-cousin. I still love both of these shots". Photographer Claire Letitia Reynolds

"London shoot no 2, Nov '07. It was supposed to be for my album but it didn't end up that way. I don't really enjoy creatively directing as well as starring - I need to bounce off people - so it was a bit tough for me. The first story we attempted flopped (Bowie inspired but a clown arrived), but both of these are from the second when it all suddenly came together and some real magic happened. A lot of them are tres nipply though as very little looks good beneath that incredible mesh dress". Photographer

"Soho Pride 08! This was taken by my lovely press guy at the time aka DJ Jonny Red. The two dancers were a total sir-prize, provided by QX - I was grateful for them even though it meant I ended up coming across as a total disco dolly. Which I can be. At times. Just not all the time. One of them danced with me a few months later for OMO at the Astoria. Just him and me on that massive stage. And me dressed as a Harajuku school girl. Loved it".

"Love this shot. I'd just finished performing at Pride. Notice the delightful lady-portioned bottle of something hideous? It was hideous, but I hadn't realised that yet".

"This is me getting all close and personal with my fuck buddy Buck. Buck began touring with me when I was promoting More Man Than Man thick and fast. I would blow him up then tape him onto an ironing board disguised with black fabric, then drape more cloth over him and his, err, ample appendage. I never did unveil the beast though - too crass even for me! This was at Popjustice's Mobile Disco which landed me a pic in the London Paper, my 15cm of fame. I think Peter Robinson went off me after seeing me and Buck on stage though - well it's not something Little Boots would ever do is it? Look, I'm very cabaret really on stage, and not everyone can deal with that, but it's who I am. My father, who's a well respected novelist, used to always tell me that what you want to be good at and what you are good at are usually totally different. Being an artist is about how you negotiate the territory in between I guess". Photo by Mr Blue

"This London shoot in July last year was initiated by the truly gifted and absolutely adorable Nik Pate, a photographer, illustrator and trained set designer. After photographing me at a show, he said that he'd been so inspired by my performance energy that he wanted to do a shoot with me, so one summer's day we spent 8 hours on a set he'd literally made in a lodge on the edge of Hampstead Heath. Those illustrations behind me were photocopies of various images he then collaged together on a massive 6 foot set. So incredible. This became the obvious album shoot and the AntigoneLand cover is another shot from this series. I love Nik". Photographer

"All three of these are from the same night - a Halloween special of Electroqueer's night down at Barcode in Soho last year. The first is me as Antigone as a black puss, shot by the very talented Mikael ( who's been a champ at capturing me live. The second shot is me as some dubious Cher-inspired moll performing duet Dead Ringer for Love with the inimitable Boogaloo Stu who's become a solid chum, the potty mouth. The grand finale of this dubious pictographic herstory is me getting a bit excited for some black pussy with lovely lesbian Megan and her girlfriend".

Antigone's brilliantly inventive new album, AntigoneLand is out now. Go listen to and buy here!

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Give me tonight (on Hampstead Heath)

I was e-bantering with a friend of mine about Shannon today. We were wondering if she could be compared with the likes of Rozalla (Everybody's Free): one classic club record, followed by a pop one and a career in 'personal appearences' around the world thereafter. But straight away, we knew that Shannon's Give Me Tonight was NOT a pop follow-up to her big club and chart hit Let the Music Play. No. Give Me Tonight was an even more full-on gay club track. And Shannon can still sell out a concert hall of 2,000+. Granted, it's all the gayers, but still.

I've always preferred this track to Let the Music Play and, incidentally, it was one of Neil Tennant's Desert Island Discs two years ago. Give Me Tonight is more of a dance record because there's more sex in it. No frou frou nonsense about getting off together on the music, this is about one last shag before deciding whether or not to break up.

That got me looking to the original video, which I've never seen. And now I know why. It's like a Friday/Saturday night up on Hampstead Heath on Ketamine. But there's also a real dichotomy. This video was made for mass consumption with an eye on the adult gay market. There's nudity, but not. There's references to cruising, but not. There's Hot Gossip-style dancing and the campometer goes off the scale.

Give Me Tonight - Shannon

And go here and here for more to buy.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Adventures in a broken land

Watching the very laddish So Hard to Beat documentary about four decades' worth of rock and pop from Northern Ireland (watch on BBC iPlayer here if you're in the UK) one band leapt out. And it isn't who you'd imagine. Yes, The Undertones are seminal but no it isn't them. Yes, Stiff Little Fingers are mentioned by every musician as an influence, but alas, not them. Yes, Ash's Tim Wheeler is a handsome bugger, but no. Not them. And yes, I danced my tits off in clubs to D:Ream and Peter Cunnah is still shaggable, but no. Not them.

The Adventures were once taken under the wing of Simon Fuller but never really took off. They were always on the radio, especially in 1988, but the records were usually found in the bargain bin. I had a soft spot for them (and and a hard one for lead singer Terry Sharpe). They had a classic late 80s line-up: loads of blokes and one girl. Their music was also of the time; anthemic melodies, soaring guitars and stadium synths. Sea of Love, capturing that grandiose pomp pop, was their biggest album spawning the top 20 hit Broken Land, below and the lesser hits (but still radio favourites) Drowning in the Sea of Love and the brilliant, One Step From Heaven.

The band already had a presence, when four years earlier, they scored a string of top 75 bothering singles from their debut album Theodore and Friends. Below is the Janice Long favourite, Another Silent Day and my choice Send My Heart.

Send My Heart - The Adventures

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The Adventures fan site here - lovingly created and vare comprehensive.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Her Majesty is done with Georgie Girl

Sporting a newly trimmed Polar Bear look which wouldn't go amiss down at XXL this Saturday, (and papped right in front of the WRONG sign), Her Majesty just dropped the Boy. No rucks, no getting caught fingering Jack Tweed in the shower, yes, Georgie was on his best behaviour and was duly rewarded with early release. Now. Can we get back to the music please? There's a wealth of great stuff waiting to be released. I expect the next album from him to be career defining. One tip though George. Don't give songs away again. Especially ones as gorgeous and amazing as this, and ESPECIALLY not to Charlotte Church!

Charlotte Church - Even God on MUZU.

Proof that he really is back at home? He logged into his YouTube channel yesterday. Go visit shewasneverhe and subscribe now.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

The Duke of albums

It seems like ages ago, but in August last year I wrote about Filthy Dukes when their first single This Rhythm was doing the rounds and over a month since their album Nonsense in the Dark came out I finally bought my copy. And it's one of the albums of the year. Pet Shop Boys' Yes, Royksopp's Junior and now this. Olly, Tim and Mark - DJs and producer turned band - have achieved a cohesive collection of songs with entrails dipped in influences from dance to synthpop via indie. An embarrassment of riches.

The all-seeing eye album is all-conquering at the moment because of the major future single Messages featuring Swede Tommy Sparks on vocals. Olly explains in the vid below that it was the one track on the album they weren't sure about: "We loved it but it scared us that it was so poppy. When Tommy first wrote the chorus and sent it back to us we just thought, blimey, that's a big pop record". And Mark praised the pop genius behind it: "I think his talent, like all Swedes have, is the ability to write pop hooks and as soon as he came into the studio he nailed that in record time." Watch this Channel 4 4Play doc below. It's an excellent introduction to the band as they talk about the making of the album and the other collaborations.

The singers and co-writers involved in Filthy Dukes' debut album are inspired. Like The Chemical Brothers, the trio have an innate knack to fit a voice to their sound. No one is shoehorned in. For instance, on Elevator, which sounds like early Human League, there is a vocalist called Jack Snape from a To My Boy who sounds very like Phil Oakey, especially when singing the "Elevator" line. Brandon Curtis of US rock band Secret Machines speaks of being able to latch onto the New Order-type "Sad and heroic qualities" in two of my favourite tracks Light Skips Cross Heart and Don't Fall Softly, writing lyrics for the former and singing on the latter. Listen to them below.

Light Skips Cross Heart - Filthy Dukes

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Don't Fall Softly - Filthy Dukes

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For a great track-by-track interview, go here to Gigwise. Go buy Nonsense in the Dark here in the UK and here in the US. Below is the second single, out at the end of last year, Tupac Robot Club Rock.

Filthy Dukes MySpace.

**UPDATE** As you can see in the comments section, I received a remix (or refix) of Messages from dJuPdoG. It's not sanctioned by the band but I'm sure they'd applaud the creativity and ingenuity. Anyhoo, it's brilliant so thanks, uPdoG and have a listen for yourselves...

Messages (dJuPdoG refix) - dJuPdoG

Saturday, 9 May 2009

A friend once told me...

...that T'Pau were always overlooked. Well, for good reason I would reply. But Owen (above) wouldn't have any of it. I'd just be talking to his hand when I said Carol Decker probably smelled a bit unwashed and had a mouth like a sewer. This was just to get him going, of course, but he'd stand there and laugh his head off. He'd then go off into a rant himself imagining all sorts of slutty behaviour by poor Carol finishing with a cackling "Dirty slaaaaaaaaaag!"

I still couldn't imagine EVER liking a T'Pau song until I played Owen's vinyl records. I inherited them on my birthday this year - an amazing gift that gives me goosebumps even as I type this - and T'Pau's I Will Be With You, despite the cheese, had a chorus that says exactly the right thing. We lost him two years ago but this isn't some kind of sad eulogy. It's just an acknowledgement that he hasn't gone anywhere. I talk to him all the time!

Below are five of my favourites from the pile that had WAY too many Whitneys but thankfully loads of Stock, Aitken and Waterman.

I Will Be With You - T'Pau (zShare)
They were a funny bunch: it was like the near-schoolgirl barmaid gets up and sings with the thirty-something blokes doing Marillion covers in the back room. Actually, isn't that what really happened? They were full of themselves for having such a huge hit though. I was backstage (get me) at the Tyne Tees pop show The Roxy and they were flicking through the show's 1987 Annual looking for themselves. Carol spots the only appearance, a poster pic and says angrily, meaning every word, "Two fucking million copies of China In Your Hand? The biggest record this year and we get a one lousy poster pic? No I'm not fucking signing it. They can go fucking whistle, I tells ya". And Owen wondered where I thought the Decker potty mouth came from.

Dreamin' - Vanessa Williams (zShare)
This track wasn't as big in the UK as the US but I remember it being a radio favourite, a great pop soul crossover. A very Tony Blackburn record, in fact. And Owen would have loved Vanessa's resurrection as Wilhemina in Ugly Betty.

The Best of My Love (Full Dance Mix) - Dee Lewis (zShare)
This remix by Phil Harding and Ian Curnow for PWL was a Hitman and Her stalwart. Picture the scene: Frightwig Clive the choreographer permanently auditioning for Flashdance with Michaela Strachan trying to limbo under his massive packet while Pete Waterman bellows into a mic showering poodle perms and be-suited car mechanics in spit. And that was the national TV favourite every Saturday night after the pub. There aren't any clips of Dee Lewis on the show, but here's a GREAT one of the Reynolds Girls.

That's The Way It Is (Pete Hammond House Mix) - Mel & Kim (zShare)

F.L.M. (Pete Hammond Extended Mix) - Mel & Kim (zShare)
I LOVE these two Mel & Kim tracks remixed by PWL's Pete Hammond. The man is a genius. It's full of his trademark arrangements and sounds. And for added value on the house mix he's nicked the bongos from Pump Up the Volume. Mel Appleby was mad as a bunch of frogs and Kim, her older sister, the calmer, patient one. Here they are on a vare strange, Dutch TV show: "Everyone finks 'Get Fresh for the weekend means getting up and havin' a wash!". And here's a touching interview from 4 years ago where Kim talks to Trisha about her sister and their rise to fame.

Owen's collection of vinyl is a brilliant time capsule of the late 80s when he first began buying records. It stops at 1990 when he started his reknowned CD mountain. But this collection of 12"s, which include Terence Trent D'Arby, Eurythmics, The Pasedenas, Janet, Michael and, yes, even the Whitneys is a privilege to take care of. Bless his cottons.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

The lost Groove Armada

Ten years on from their first top 40 hit, Groove Armada released a new EP and everyone missed it! Drop the Tough was the main track and received minimal radio airplay in the UK. It's a pity because it's just as inventive and catchy as the rest of their output. Check out the clever video below.

And listen to this track Go from the same EP with vocalist Saint Saviour from The RGBs who also sings on Drop the Tough.

Go - Groove Armada

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Buy Groove Armada EP here.