Presented in Widescreen

Friday, 26 June 2009

electric music aka

Tangentially related to my recent post about the Associates, 'North London Spiritualist Church' was the first album from Electric Music AKA, a band featuring Tam Doyle, the author of the excellent Billy Mackenzie biography "The Glamour Chase", and fellow Dundee ex-pat Anth Brown - from vague memories of an NME piece at the time, both had been members of a failed "baggy" band and found themselves in London. The album was released in 2000 on ZubiZaretta, a short-lived UK offshoot of the Beastie Boys' Grand Royal label, if I remember correctly. Despite positive reviews, the record never broke through, though Sanctuary did release an equally excellent follow up ('The Resurrection Show') in 2003. Now recording as Boo Hooray, the duo have completed a third album which they are hoping to release this year.

Both albums are full of mid-tempo, slightly downbeat, pop songs, taking cues from the likes of the Blue Nile, Spiritualized, The Flaming Lips and Talk Talk. Highlights are "If The Good Times Are Killing Me" from 'NLSC' and "Something Up With the Stars" from 'TRS', so start with those if you need to start somewhere - both are lovely, especially the overlapping vocals on the latter. The first album is available to download from the link below.

I remember listening to 'The Resurrection Show' quite a lot over the summer of 2003, it definitely was one of the many influences I was working from when we started The A Forest.

[MP3] Electric Music AKA - 'North London Spiritualist Church'
[Stream] Electric Music AKA - 'The Resurrection Show'

Thursday, 25 June 2009

RIP steven wells

Was saddened to read today that former NME writer Steven "Swells" Wells passed away after a battle with cancer. He's written about it brilliantly here (first bout) and here (the return) for Philidelphia Weekly. There's no self-pity, no pseudo-spiritualism, just the brutal reality of being a Brit receiving cancer treatment in the American healthcare system.

Everyone thinks that "their era" of the NME was the best. I started reading it a couple of weeks into secondary school, in August 1994, and until my mum sold her house I still had every issue I'd bought in my school years. While the 1994-2000 era was probably not golden by any stretch of the imagination, I feel that writers like Wells and Johnny Cigarettes at least gave the paper some level of personality, unlike the dull "youth lifestyle mag" it seems to want to be now (even if Mark Beaumant is still trying his hardest). I may not have agreed with everything Wells wrote, in fact it was often my favourite bands that he was destroying in print, but there was at least passion and humour in what he was doing...once you got past the CAPS LOCK and swearing. He may have tried too hard at times, but was never dull.

It's a bit weird paying tribute to someone that you never met, but it's a shame he's gone.

Here's one for the road...I like the record, but it still made me laugh!

Monday, 15 June 2009

associates / alan rankine - 'the glamour chase'

The following is my report of the recent showing of the Associates documentary 'The Glamour Chase' at the DCA, and the accompanying Q+A with founding member Alan Rankine. Originally posted on the Associates thread on I Love Music, just felt like re-posting here.

The full 40 minute edit of the documentary "The Glamour Chase" was given only it's second public airing at the DCA in Dundee tonight. It was originally made in 1999 for Grampian and STV. It's good, fairly zips through the life and times, I never saw the original 23 minute version when it was broadcast, but it must have battered through at a fair pace! Most of the detail is familiar from Tom Doyle's book of the same name, unsurprising as he was involved in the making of the documentary and the fact that the book itself was fairly exhaustive. There's talking-head contributions from the likes of Michael Dempsey, Max Hole, Chris Parry (a "Kiwi c-nt", according to Rankine...), Billy's father and sister, Boris Blank, Martin Fry, Glen Gregory, Marc Almond, Siouxie Sioux, Noko from Apollo440 and others. There's a few clips of the Ronnie Scotts performance in 1984 in a kind of jazz trio arrangement, not sure how widely available that has been but it looked great - the sound quality was good and clear, it would be great to have the audio of that.

Afterwards we got "Billy Sloan in Conversation With Alan Rankine", which was quite enjoyable. Sloan was knowledgeable and understated and not at all playing up to his reputation. Sloan basically asked him about his time in the band from beginning to end, his memories of Billy, that sort of thing. A few questions from the audience at one point but I couldn't think of anything to ask. On the subject of "William It Was Really Nothing", Rankine said that he doesn't know if anything ever happened between Billy and Morrissey, but if he knew Billy as well as he thought he did then he probably shagged Morrissey ragged... By the sound of it, they had fun at the time. He also mentioned that they got their rights back for recordings a month ago, I assume he meant "Fourth Drawer Down" and "Sulk" and the "Double Hipness" material which was previously licenced to V2, and that they'll probably be doing something with it. On the subject of watching Billy carry on as Associates after his departure, he did say that other than some of the songs on "Perhaps", he didn't really rate the post-"Sulk" output, and that it was clear by the "Wild and Lonely"-era videos that Billy's heart wasn't in it.

The Q+A was finished off with the playback of a recently made recording of the lost Associates song "The Twins of Gemini". Rankine said that they'd worked on it at the time, but never recorded it, finished the lyrics or properly performed it other than maybe accapella at parties. Apparently this version was only finished the night before, and features Steven Lindsay on vocals, Craig Armstrong on piano and Rankine on bass. Someone asked him later if it was getting a release, he said they'd maybe be doing some more work on it but that it was a possibility.

Got the chance to shake Rankine's hand on my way out, didn't really have much to say. He had a few signed, unplayed 12"s of "White Car in Germany" that he was handing out, got one of those.
The picture above is indeed the signed copy of "White Car In Germany".

Although I was aware of the Associates before hand, they first captured my imagination properly in the Autumn of 2002 when I first moved to Dundee and bought Tom Doyle's Billy Mackenzie biography 'The Glamour Chase'. It's a great read, partly because Billy's life itself is so fascinating and partly so because it was the first time I'd read a "rock biography" and been familiar with the not just the places named, but also some of the social backdrop to the story. The book appears to be out of print now.

The beauty of Billy's music for me is in it's unpredictability - both in terms of how other worldly it can be, but also how varying in quality it can be. I won't pretend I like every note that Billy/the Associates ever committed to tape, but when they hit their mark they were fantastic - "The Affectionate Punch", "Tell Me Easter's on Friday", "White Car In Germany" and, of course, "Party Fears Two" amongst many others.

The play 'Balgay Hill', inspired by Billy Mackenzie, runs at Dundee Rep until 27th June. Hopefully I'll get a chance to go and see it after my night shifts.

[Video] Associates - "Party Fears Two" ('Top of the Pops, 1982)
[Video] Associates - "White Car In Germany" (Dutch TV, 1982)

Saturday, 13 June 2009

bad behaviour / idlewild - 'post electric blues'

After (almost) being a saint last month, I've fallen off the wagon in a big way when it comes to the CDs/records this month... I'm not really prepared to write full reviews of everything though!

Idlewild, having found themselves out of contract, have taken a direct route to releasing their latest album 'Post Electric Blues'. The record was funded by a pre-order offer for fans, where for an upfront payment of £15, 3,000+ fans were promised an exclusive advance CD of the new record before its commercial release, as well as bonuses such as their name in the artwork, downloads of live recordings from some of the retrospective album shows at King Tuts, and some competitions.

The finished CD of 'Post Electric Blues' finally arrived on Thursday, after some delays at the pressing plant. The package contains a poster with all the subscribers names listed, and there's an exclusive bonus track on the album. Musically, I'd say it's somewhere between 'Warnings/Promises' and 'The Remote Part' - specifically the songs of the former and the production of the latter - with hints of Roddy Woomble's first solo album, 'My Secret Is My Silence'. Overall it's a pretty solid record, the opening three songs are particularly strong, but it's unlikely to become my favourite. I can see "Readers & Writers" doing well on Radio 2 when the album gets its full commercial release later in the year.

The new Phoenix album, 'Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix' is fantastic. It's a big, bright, summer pop record that takes all the best bits of the first three records and rolls them into one. I never thought they'd be able to better "Too Young" and "If I Ever Feel Better" from their debut album 'United', but with "1901" and "Lisztomania" they run close. Listen to them on Spotify from the links.

The ongoing clearance sale at Head in Dundee (formerly Zavvi, formerly Virgin Megastore) continues to throw up the odd item of interest, even if I really can't face going through all those boxes of CDs yet again! They've now got a few boxes of vinyl singles, and in amongst the 12"s I found a still-sealed copy of the double-vinyl of Stereolab's 'Margerine Eclipse'. I already have the CD, but at £1 I could hardly pass it by! I'm a big fan of their artwork/packaging, so it will look good on the wall. I got a few other things, but nothing as exciting to me. It's actually pretty sad to see a shop I was so fond of (worked for Virgin Megastores for three years) reduced to little more than a clearance outlet/"pound shop".

The Zoey Van Goey album ('The Cage Was Unlocked All Along') is pretty good based on a couple of listens. Particularly enjoying the opening track "The Best Treasure Stays Buried" and the former single "Foxtrot Vandals".

Finally, I guess I'll give honourable mentions to Grouchos 3-for-£3 specials 'Mission Control' by The Whigs and 'Invitation Songs' by The Cave Singers. The former is no frills Buffalo Tom-style college rock, the latter more of the weird-American-folk of the Fleet Foxes/Devandra Banhart variety. Musically it's lovely, but the singing takes a little getting used to.