Monday, 29 June 2009

A little peach

Out now is this lovely electro number from Peaches. It's quite restrained for the old shock dame who says what she thinks. You know, subtle tracks like Fuck the Pain Away when getting over a broken relationship. That sort of thing. Lose You is a pulsing plea to - in the video anyway - two lovers. The music starts at 1:37 if you want to skip the guff! I LOVES the dancers.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

My Jacko Top 5

1. Wanna Be Starting Somethin'

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2. Black or White (Clivilles & Cole Club Mix)
See below!

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3. P. Y. T. (Pretty Young Thing)

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4. Off The Wall

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5. Stranger in Moscow

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I can remember, in a blizzard of Snowball E, this mix of Black or White booming out of the speakers at the 051 in Liverpool and seeing a normally aloof crowd go mental because it was C&C and Michael Jackson. A giddy combination. Piano!

Black or White (Clivilles & Cole Club Mix) - Michael Jackson (zShare)


Thursday, 25 June 2009

1982: Dancing in Heaven (Orbital Be-Bop) - Q-Feel

Every week (oops, missed last week!) a London DJ chooses a summer track from each year of the 80s which embodies the season for them. After Readers Wife, Kim Phaggs's 1981 trip down memory lane, we're parked up at 1982.

Here's Holestar an artist, performer and DJ about town.
My father was in the Army so I spent the 80s on the move and ended up in Ayos Nicholias, Cyprus for a few years. Entertainment was limited to BFPS television (one channel, showing out of date shows for Forces families) so we would often travel to the video shop in Dhekelia where for some reason, you could keep the videos for months at a time. Some of the films that I watched on repeat include Victor/Victoria (funny that...), Teen Wolf, Bachelor Party (Tom Hank's finest hour) and Girls Just Wanna Have Fun which stared a young Sarah Jessica Parker (before her face looked like an elbow), Helen Hunt and a 12 year old Shannen Doherty working a stone washed denim look.

The basis premise of the film is a girl who spends her life moving around, ends up in Chicago who “loves to dance”. She enters a competition to appear on DTV (Dance TV, a pseudo version of dance shows Soul Train or American Bandstand), meets a boy, has some competition from a spoilt minx etc etc. Its a typical teenage comedy romp but still better than most of the teen dance films around today. There are some great songs on the soundtrack (notably Technique and Too Cruel) but its Q-Feel's Dancing in Heaven (Orbital Be-Bop) that stand out for me.

Played during the compulsory dance-off at the end of the film, it starts off sounding like a pop ballad but quickly moves into a dance floor shaker with incredible synth lines, an uplifting chorus, dramatic middle 8 and nonsensical lyrics. It was entered as A Song for Europe in 1982 but came a miserable 6th and unfortunately remains a one hit wonder for Q-Feel.

This song reminds me of two and a half year summer living in Cyprus. Blonde haired, carefree, finishing school at 12.30 to spend the rest of the day on the beach and chasing lizards around the house.

I could listen to this on a loop. It's a catchy, under-rated piece of 80s pop and very uplifting.

I tend not to play it out as its too fast for a warm up, a bit camp for a main set. It seems to work best when dancing around in my pants but this often overlooked gem certainly deserves a revival as a summer stomper.

Dancing in Heaven (Orbital Be-Bop) - Q-Feel (zShare)

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And here's Q-Feel appearing on A Song For Europe. Vare orange!

Holestar gets about a bit! As well as being an artist, she regularly performs at venues like Duckie, DJs at Bollox in Manchester and is the self-titled Tranny with a Fanny. She's currently making a film about London's alternative queer scene at The Downlow (the Horsemeat boys all-embracing dance tent extravaganza complete with NYC street scenes) at Glastonbury titled Ring Them Bells as well as being part of the hugely successful collective. She'll be whooping it up right now down at the festival of festivals. Oh, and BTW, Holestar hearts you over at facebook!

Previous 80s summer posts
1980: Jump to the Beat - Stacy Lattisaw

1981: Japanese Boy - Aneka

Sunday, 14 June 2009

You've got love on your side

Every now and again I'll obsess over an old flame, in this case, the Thompson Twins. They're a band who were massively popular, riding the crest of the wave of British bands dominating the charts worldwide in the 80s, but they never figure in those stupid 'best of' lists put together by musos. Not that it matters compared to sales. But it does mean there's never been the kind of renaissance afforded to them like The Human League, Duran Duran or even Spandau Ballet.

The asexual chemistry of the band probably had something to do with it. Just two boys and a girl making pop records with no inkling of sex. Flame-haired Tom Bailey and Alannah Currie never got it together publicly until the latter stages of the band's career - just when everyone wasn't looking. And Joe Leeway? Well who knows which way he leaned. Neil Tennant once said that sex sold pop but I think it also gives it a longevity. The Thompson Twins had the great music and the strongest image out there, but once style moved in a different direction there was no hook to hang their substance on.

But that image. It was one of the most clever at the time. The logo was instantly recognisable. Like the Rolling Stones' tongue, it was plastered on more merchandise than you could shake a stick at, like this picture disc for Watching. And in retrospect, that image should now be the biggest selling point for a renaissance in their music without them ever having to reform. Think about it. ABBA never need to get back together because the image is so indelible. The same goes for Eurythmics and Soft Cell (they did, late 90s, but no one's counting that). And Elvis doesn't even need to be alive!

A retrospective documentary would be a good start with proper interviews - not like this typically stilted TV-am 'grilling' from Anne Diamond. A good old meaty one examining the pop world at that time. Theirs is a fascinating story (and typical of the 80s) of how an art house band became a mainstream pop success complete with super highs and lows. There's the US success, Tom's breakdown at its height and of course two's company, three's a crowd when Joe left. With three hit albums, Quick Step and Side Kick, Into the Gap and Here's to Future Days containing 4 or 5 hit singles from each, there's plenty of back catalogue to mine.

These days, the Thompson Twins are spread to the three corners of the world: Alannah in London, Tom in France and Joe in LA. There's no need for a tacky VH1 reunion, just a contemplative look back over an illustrious decade over a large glass of Pinot with a few laughs thrown in. For a more in depth look at what they're up to now, go to the Thompson Twins aficionado Kulpop here.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

OceanLab, shaken and stirred

If ever an album was ripe for cherry picking, it's a remix collection. And OceanLab's Sirens of the Sea - Remixed is the perfect example. The original, released last summer, was a chance find with some real gems that no one really mentioned until the year end's best albums lists. It was a trance album that had broken out of its genre, due in no small part to songs like Come Home, Lonely Girl, On a Good Day, Miracle and Ashes. And now OceanLab have employed their mates and peers to produce 25 mixes - yes! Count 'em! There's a few duffers, but throw this many at the wall and it's not bad to have at least 15 stick!

OceanLab is a project for trance producer trio Above & Beyond with singer Justine Suissa (who also featured on Chicane's classic debut album in 2000). They are legion because their fans are many. Check out the love worldwide on the A & B TV episodes here and here.

Fittingly, I stumbled across this new release just like the original. Two mixes stood out straight away. Michael Cassette's Come Home is a wonderful hybrid of menace and euphoria and Martin Roth's Miracle is techno claustrophobia, a kind of condensed trance. It's worth checking out other stuff from Above & Beyond's label Anjunbeats. For instance, Michael Cassette has a current track, Summer, available on iTunes which is perfect aural fodder for pool-lounging.

Come Home (Michael Cassette Remix) - OceanLab

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Miracle (Martin Roth Vocal Mix) - OceanLab

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Buy the album here and here.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

1981: Japanese Boy - Aneka

Every week I'm inviting DJs to share their favourite summer track from each year of the 80s. It was a decade of inventive and durable pop or a decade of inexorable and disposable pap depending on your viewpoint. Either way, songs are great valves for memories and stories. After Readers Wife, Chelsea Kelsey's 1980 sojourn last week we're at 1981.

Here's Mark Johnstone, aka Kim Phaggs, the other half of the Readers Wifes.

In the summer of 1981 I was thirteen. I went on a French exchange trip to the town of Cahors in France. The reason I have for ending up in this two week French nightmare is as ridiculous as it is boring, so I won’t explain why I was there. I just was. I was staying in a horrible dirty house with a French family: Monsieur et Madame Whatever-their-name-was, two teenage sons, a dog and about a million-trillion cats. Every night after a horrible meaty dinner we had to sit down and listen to 'Oxygene' on their really crap record player, and watch the Dad and eldest son play CHESS! The only time we were allowed the telly on was when we watched 'The Nutty Professor' with Jerry Lewis, who I HATE, and in FRENCH, which I was completely hopeless at!

On one of our rare trips into a town with a record shop, I bought 'Sat In Your Lap' by Kate Bush. When I got back to the house that evening I waited until after our horrible dinner, and side one of 'Oxygene' before asking if I could play my new record? I put it on and it just sounded like such a racket! Especially on such a crumb-features record player and even more especially as it was the WORST pressed single EVER!

Anyway, completely unimpressed, French Dad then asked me to play a game of chess with him, and I didn’t want to be rude so I accepted, even though I can't actually play. I only kind of knew that the first row were like draughts and that the horse can go in a capital L shape. It was an absolute nightmare. I had to pretend to think for AGES about where I was going to move and everything. In the end French Dad stood up and said something I didn’t understand and swept all the pieces back into their wooden box and walked out!

When I got back 'Sat In Your Lap' still sounded rubbish on my record player in my bedroom at home! It’s maybe still one of my least favourite Kate bush singles even now. Sorry, did you want to know my FAVOURITE song from summer 1981? It's 'Japanese Boy' by Aneka."

Japanese Boy - Aneka

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And here's what Scottish Aneka looked like on Top of the Pops in August 1981...

Kim Phaggs, along with Chelsea Kelsey as the Readers Wifes, are on at Duckie at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, London, every Saturday. The last ever Gay Shame night (awwww!) on Gay Pride will be at Brixton Academy on July 4th. Get your tickets for the 'Girly' themed night here. Apparently it costs too much to put on, there are 100 performers to pay after all, as well as keeping the Readers Wifes' in Babycham all night. So get your gay arses down there to at least show willing.

Previous 80s summer posts
1980: Jump to the Beat - Stacy Lattisaw

Where you going for yer holidays then?

Marsheaux, electro duo Marianthi and Sophie, don't have to go far. Just down the road really, seeing as they live in gorgeous Greece. And someone has kindly married a brand new track of theirs, Summer, to picture postcards of the place. If you're living in the UK, this will come as a blessed relief from the cold and wet nonsense we have for weather at the mo'. It's from their upcoming (and long overdue) third album Lumineux Noir out soon. I must admit, I much prefer this track to the song chosen as the lead-off single, Breakthrough, which is actually a bit disappointing. BUT, go over to Amazon for the digital bundle because the b-side, How Does It Feel?, is more than worth 79 shiny new pence.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Falling into Cicada: brilliant album alert!

Just when you thought the album was redundant due to the lack of any decent ones, along come several to blow that theory away. Filthy Dukes, Pet Shop Boys, Royksopp have proven this year, that with a bit of thought and passion you can release 14 or so well-crafted songs and call it an album. And now Cicada, with their new release Roulette have done exactly the same. It's heartwarming to be able to play these electro/dance-tinged pop songs from start to finish (beautifully sequenced, by the way) and then hit repeat. All beef, no gristle.

The strength of it lies in the songs. Even the three instrumentals are built to a song formula, so much so that the "aaaahed" vocals on Tiad give the impression of words being sung. But of course, a great album has loads of different qualities, not just the accomplished songwriting. Aaron Gilbert (3rd from right), Alex Payne (2nd from right) and Duncan Mills (far left) recruited the enigmatic GusGus singer Heidrun Anna Björnsdottir (far right) for most of the vocals. She brings light touches to the heavier tracks (Falling Rockets) and depth to the emotional tracks (One Beat Away, Tears). But Heidrun really shines on the song of the album, Love Don't Come Easy (see the widget below). This track is MAJOR and made Jake Shears twitter his love for it. Incidentally, she also provided vocals for the two stand-out tracks Out of Love and Uptown on one of the albums of 2007, the much overlooked Pleasure 2 by Pleasure.

Love Don't Come Easy - Cicada

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Also on Roulette, the deep throat of Bjorn Synneby from Pacific! takes on the thumpy, bouncy Talking and Tom Smith of The Editors sounds better than ever on the avant-groove of Executive. Alex explains why these three were perfectly suited to Cicada's sound: "I’ve never been mad for raucous rock vocals in dance, or anything indie or overwrought, whereas I love soulful vocals with froideur, a little bit of melancholy.”

Roulette is the great summer holiday album. Listen to Don't Stare at the Sun (see widget below) and imagine people-watching on a sun-kissed beach or baking your bones poolside. The single, Metropolis, is a perfect pavement-cracking accompaniment while you clink bottles of pear cider and Friends is the sunset soundtrack for a view across some bay or other.

Don't Stare at the Sun - Cicada

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Go buy the album here and here and see for yourselves. Stream the whole album (and buy) here at 7Digital. Two great remixes of album tracks Metropolis and Falling Rockets are available here at the lovely !Tashed. And below is the video for Metropolis - "I will scream! I will shout, shout, SHOUT!"

For Aaron, Alex and Heidrun as Cicada, this is their second album, their first eponymously titled release was just as strong and Roulette can only build on the interest it generated in 2006. For a list of the MANY remixes they've done over the years - most notable are Lorraine's I Feel It and Soft Cell's Memorabilia - go here.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

1980: Jump to the Beat - Stacy Lattisaw

Big Brother's back on, so summer must be here. To celebrate the novelty of the weather being yer actual warm and sunny, I'm inviting a purveyor of good music (some people call them DJs) to share their favourite summer track from each year of the 80s. I've chosen this decade for two reasons, one, because I want to and two because it was always sunny in the 80s. Wasn't it? And because there's ten years to choose from, I'll be posting one a week over the whole of summer.

First up is 1980 and Mark Wood, aka Chelsea Kelsey, one half of the Readers Wifes.

Tough choice. Could easily have been Teena Marie’s ‘Behind The Groove’ or Crown Heights Affair’s ‘You Gave Me Love’. On any other day I might have gone for Odyssey’s ‘Use It Up (Wear It Out)’ or Jermaine Jackson’s ‘Let’s Get Serious’. Stacy wins out by dint of being the same age as we were and therefore we worshipped her, or rather her one wonderful one hit wonder. Oh we but we thought we were the bloomin’ bees knees. 14 years old, swigging Lilt on the swings and puffing away on ciggies. Spitting. Always spitting (why?) In our baggy jeans with luminous piping, kung fu belts, espadrilles and Hawaii shirts, all from down the market. Surrey’s Funkateer Juniors on parade!

Funkateers, you see, because we never called it ‘Disco’ even if, technically, it still was. We carved the words ‘Funk’ or ‘Soul’ into our school desks to differentiate our music from the Bee Gees, and the Dooleys and the Nolans and Liquid Gold dancing themselves d-d-d-dizzy’ in spandex pedal pushers. Ugh. People as old as your dad in a gold medallion thinking he was Travolta – that was what Disco had become by 1980.

Contrary to the received wisdom of today, things were faster back then. We’ve actually slowed down. In those days I wrote down my personal Top Ten from the charts every single day – and ‘Jump To The Beat’ was Number 1 for ages. There was a dizzying succession of youth trends to chase - in 1979 you’d been a 2-Tone and in 1981 you would become a Futurist etc., Kids today got it easy.

But the endless summer of 1980 was the best of the lot and for me it’ll always be Stacy’s pubescent pleading that brings it all back. That and the lovely boom! crunch! boom! of Narada Michael Walden’s production. When it came on at The Pit, our rubbish local Friday night Disco, it wasn’t unknown for me to shove my head right into the bass bins to get even closer to the sound.

Play it! Play it now! It still sounds fucking amazing."

Jump to the Beat - Stacy Lattisaw (zShare)

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You'll find Chelsea Kelsey on the right of Kim Phaggs as the Readers Wifes in the DJ booth every Saturday night at Duckie down at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, Londinium. DON'T FORGET, the last ever Gay Shame night (it's going girly folks) on Gay Pride will be at Brixton Academy on July 4th. Get info and tix here. And if you've never checked out the Readers' Wifes recorded output, where've you been clicking that mouse? Try here.

Also, if you'd like a bigger slice of Chelsea, aka Ultrabaz, kick off yer heels, take the wig off and read his marvelous and vare entertaining blog Shang-a-Lang.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Did you see THIS coming? PSB go Top 10

The midweek charts are in (I know... Tuesday?) and it appears Pet Shop Boys are in at number 5 with Did You See Me Coming. And with no record company mishap this time around, the physical sales are powering this top ten hit. With new tracks available on these CD single versions, including a Richard X remix of album favourite The Way It Used To Be, it's no surprise that they're selling - from today, that mix is also available on iTunes.

It's interesting to note that the digital sales account for only 27% of the total sales so far, whereas the other four sellers look like this:
1 - 93.4%
2 - 95.4%
3 - 100%
4 - 60.6%

For once, the record company are playing a clever game. Everyone has rushed out to buy the new tracks on CD before today and now the digital sales of the remixes will hopefully add to what may be, fingers crossed, a top tenner for the Boys!

Go get digital versions at iTunes here and physical singles here at HMV.