Sunday, 24 May 2009

Blatant Fuggery

Virgin Fugs, released in 1967, included several of the better tracks from their first album release and a few bizarre, but essential outtakes lifted from early sessions.

Most of the album has a lo-fi, demo kind of sound - the majority of the songs are very nearly acapella, with only distant acoustic guitars, bongos and various percussion joining in - leaning towards folk music; but folk of a very twisted kind, forcing some to put their fingers in their ears for reasons other than pitch.

The Fugs, like the Mothers of Invention, approached the new fashions and attitudes of the Love and Peace generation with a somewhat cynical eye; their satirical take challenging the most devoutest of liberal attitudes.

Free Love becomes an orgy for the depraved and the perverted; Liberalism leads to immorality; drugs open doors to the psychiatric ward, and free thinking turns to paranoia and scatology[!].
Here was a band who really knew their audience!
Some of these songs are still a little difficult to listen to; not due to complexity or atonal experimentation, but due to subject matter and attitude.
I mean, I'm no prude, but 'Coca Cola Douche' is just such a twisted piece of misogyny, I have to interpret it as satire... it is satire, isn't it?

Despite the majority of the album adopting a dozen freaks in a room recording the result of some acid-spiked happening kind of feel, there are two electric tracks: 'I Command the House of the Devil' and the excellent 'I Saw the Best Minds of my Generation Rot', an adaptation of Ginsberg's Howl, ending in a massive accumulation of 'holy holy holies'.
Always good to end with a prayer.
A little redemption can go a long way.

The Fugs - Virgin Fugs (1967)

We're the Fugs
New Amphetamine Shriek
Saran Wrap
The Ten Commandments
Hallucination Horrors
I Command the House of the Devil
Coca Cola Douche
My Bed is Getting Crowded
Caca Rocka
I Saw the Best Minds of my Generation Rot

Excellent cassette rip @320kbs
Get your bongos out & join in here

Tuesday, 19 May 2009


By request, here are a couple of revitalized links.
Follow the link to the original post and link from there as normal.

Black Uhuru - Sinsemilla
Chumbawamba - Pictures of Starving Children Sell Records

Sunday, 17 May 2009

All Is Not Lost

Here's another in the series of the 'just in case you missed it' posts; although there are some real Beck classics buried on this U.K. e.p. release, and if you only know 'Loser' from the Mellow Gold album, well, you may have missed a couple of right little gems.

Beck, in the early days, became known for mixing it up; mashing and fusing together genres often as disparate as country and western and trip-hop.
But from early on in his career, it also became clear that Beck possessed a Brian Wilson type imagination for sound, juxtaposing instruments that had rarely been heard together, and certainly not in genres Beck chose for them.

The downbeat 'Totally Confused' benefits from this imaginative ear, featuring a wonderful production and arrangement, and is one of my all time favourite Beck tracks as a consequence (I've always preferred this era Beck to the later varieties. Sometimes less really is more).
The song is sung for the most part as a duo - Beck's wispy vocal accompanied by an even wispier female voice - with a lazy kit right at the front of the mix, guitar and bass picking and maintaining rhythm, eventually joined by a ghostly violin dropping in from nowhere, taking over the vocal line.
All manifesting in a beautifully recorded... what...? blues?

'Corvette Bummer' paves the way for Odelay, as it could easily fit with its trip-hopy percussion, scratching and distorted vocal.

The final track, 'MTV Makes Me Want To Smoke Crack', is a version unique to this U.K. release (as are all the tracks apart from the title), and here Beck decides to ditch the traditional acoustic version he begins the song with and adopts a lounge style instead.
Beck - Loser (1994)

Totally Confused
Corvette Bummer
MTV Makes Me Want To Smoke Crack

CD rip
Get lost in Beck's music here

A Trick or Two

A trait I've always found abhorrent is the way the music industry exploits the hunter gatherer nature of us all by releasing multiple versions of the same single.

To release different versions on different formats is one thing - the twelve inch more acceptably would feature different titles or versions than the regular seven inch - but several versions available on a single format - the CD single - is mere exploitation.

The punter obviously has to make the choice, with the constant nag that the best tracks are going to be on the version not decided upon, forcing them to live uneasily, satisfied only by succumbing to doubt (and desire) and finally handing over their hard earned cash for something they already partly own.

'Tricky Kid' was released simultaneously in two versions, imaginatively entitled CD1 and CD2.
(Other artists and labels could release as many as four different versions; and it seemed any leaning towards the dance genre would allow for almost anybody to come up with a new mix!)

Both versions contain worthy tracks, and for the Tricky completest, both are essential - across both releases there is only one 'remix', but it was unreleased elsewhere (which is something), as well as another two unreleased tracks, and two tracks unreleased in the U.K.

The best tracks, as with all Tricky's material, are those songs where he is accompanied by the wonderful Martina Topley-Bird: vocalist, muse, [then] lover and mother of his child.

She readily brings the songs to life, and works so efficiently as a contrast to Tricky's often hyperbolic brooding and hard-boiled self-deprecation.

The Shakespearean Sonnet inspired 'Suffocated Love' (the source is Sonnet 138:

When my love swears that she is made of truth,

I do believe her, though I know she lies,
That she might think me some untutor'd youth,
Unlearned in the world's false subtleties.

Thus vainly thinking that she thinks me young,
Although she knows my days are past the best,
Simply I credit her false-speaking tongue:
On both sides thus is simple truth supprest.

But wherefore says she not she is unjust?
And wherefore say not I that I am old?
O, love's best habit is in seeming trust,
And age in love loves not to have years told:

Therefore I lie with her, and she with me,
And in our faults by lies we flatter'd be.)

is a great example of Tricky and Martina working as one; two halves in perfect harmony, perfect unity.
The version featured here is a recording taken from the BBC's Jools Holland Later... programme, and as a live cut, stripped-down, absent of Tricky's noir-styled atmospherics, a very different side to Tricky's music is revealed.

The original source for the recording is captured in this video, along with a corking version of another of Maxinquaye's tracks, 'Black Steel':

Tricky - Tricky Kid (1997)

Tricky Kid
Devil's Helper
Smoking Beagles
Suffocated Love
Makes Me Wanna Die (Tricky's Extremix)
Grass Roots

CD rips with covers
Kid's stuff here

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Elephant Tight Us

There's a very good chance this could be the most downbeat recording ever made.
The subject matter (relationships (failing) and self-deprecation), the delivery of both the vocal (lugubrious colloquial Scottish) and the music (picked electric guitars, often accompanied by drum machine or single snare and cymbal, viola and cello and the occasional organ) along with the production (very natural, single takes) makes for one heck of a melancholic listening experience.

But Arab Strap, up there with the best of miserabilists, do not leave the listener in a state of despair longing for oblivion; one comes away from this album with an uplifting feeling; similar to the way a good cry or shout can make you feel so much better.

The album as a whole is rather like a metaphysical poem from the likes of John Donne or George Herbert.
It takes the listener on an intense emotional journey; often deeply personal (to the point where the listener can feel quite uncomfortable, voyeuristic even), always adult (this is not the emo-styled teen angst) and managing to avoid sliding into sentimentality or slush.

Occasionally it seems that Moffat is so pent up, so insular, so bottled-up that he can hardly finish the line or word he's uttering; but when the brake is taken off Arab Strap can really wig out, and the release comes with great cathartic effect; the fact that it doesn't happen very often - and when it does it is often brief and explosive - makes it even more effective.
This album does see Moffat and Middleton move away from the drunken tales and debauched ballads featured on their first two albums, and with a somewhat 'morning after' feeling, the consequences and paranoia associated with experience are sincerely and beautifully expressed.

Arab Strap - Elephant Shoe (1999)

One Four Seven One
Leave the Day Free
Direction of Strong Man
Aries the Ram
The Drinking Eye
Pro- (your) life
Hello Daylight

Immaculate cassette rip @320kbs
Grab some Scottish experience here

If you'd like to know how it all panned out for Arab Strap, and what they got up to in 2005: go here

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Just Peachy

The Scottish persona and mentality seemed to find the perfect mode of expression in the hard edged indie genre.
The glibness and sardonic attitude to life, accompanied by a massive guitar centred sound made for the perfect marriage.
And I'm not sure why, but that juxtaposition of gloomy, often cynical, sometimes surreal lyrics and a pounding, uplifting tune just worked.

The Nectarine No.9 knew this well, and became the absolute masters of it.
Unlike another of my favourite Scottish bands, Arab Strap, they don't wallow in their own lugubriousness, they celebrate it.

Getting together in 1993, The Nectarine No.9 quickly established a unique sound. Post-grunge indie was often hyperbolic, and The Nectarine No.9 were no exception, using big guitar centred arrangements, with riffs often double tracked, predominately playing in a 'meltdown' style (guitar and voice working synchronously), they created a massive, but hard edged sound (they were never progy, but often experimental).
This release is really a compilation album, made up of the best bits from their first three albums all released by Postcard Records: A Sea With Three Stars [think about it: C***!], Saint Jack and Fried For Blue Material, all now shamefully deleted, but captured here; and boy, it sounds real good.

In a post-modern kind of a way The Nectarine No.9 would play around with song structures and phrasing. 'Unloaded For You' (one of my all time favourite indie tracks) is a perfect example of this, as the song is played twice: once as a lullaby-like blues, and then as a pounding hard rock song, with only a simple bridge dividing the two parts.

The spoken word sample 'You're right... you're so right... you're so right wing' that opens 'Going Off Someone' is up there with the best of spoken word intros; it still makes me smile.
As does the lyric to 'Pops Love Thing', which is wrong, as it's a murder ballad unlike any other.

The Nectarine No.9 - It's Just the Way Things Are Joe, It's Just the Way Things Are (1999)

Walter Tevis
Saint Jack
22 Blues
The Port of Mars
My Trapped Lightning
Don't Worry Babe, You're Not the Only One Awake
Unloaded For You
She's a Nicer Word to Sing
Sound of an Imaginary Line
Going Off Someone
Chocolate Swastika
Pops Love thing
Adidas Francis Bacon

CD rip to mp3s
Find out how things are here

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

The One That Got Away

After Country Joe McDonald had left The Fish he quickly needed to establish himself as a solo artist; to push forward the persona of mouthpiece for the disaffected, to vanguard the rallying cry of the American left.

To do this, he decided to go right back to his roots, and follow in the footsteps of others that had championed human rights before him, by getting right back to basics: the wandering balladeer, a man, a guitar and a song; capturing in performance what is really on everybody's mind (as long as they share ideology, of course - but then all human rights singers perform to those who are of the same opinion, don't they?).

This release in 1972, capturing Joe in a small, intimate venue, endorsed by a very obliging enthusiastic audience represents all that Joe was about at this time.

With the war in Vietnam still raging and a yet to be found out 'Crook' running the country, as well as an audience that would well have remembered The Fish, Woodstock and draft card burning, Joe's 'anti' persona and ideological songs go down a storm.

But it's not all politics and intellectualising. On this album Joe Mcdonald comes across as funny, engaging and very genuine; it also showcases his guitar playing, and apart from, ironically, a slightly lugubrious instrumental ('Walk in Santigo'), his playing adds great colour and vivacity to the songs.
Nice link here to a Charles Shaar Murray review written for Cream when the album was first released.
I'm not sure if he liked it or not; typical Murray, he brings his own agenda and angle to whatever it is he's supposedly writing about; but the article is still a great read, and really shows up the majority of our contemporary music journalism as being the shit that it is.

It's also worth checking out Country Joe on the excellent resource Internet Archive, where over a dozen shows are available, some uploaded by Joe himself - if you haven't visited the archive before and you go there now, don't expect to get anything done for the next few hours or so... apart from scrolling through lists and downloading performances by your favourite artists, that is.

Country Joe Mcdonald - Incredible Live (1972)

Entertainment Is My Business
Sweet Marie
Kiss My Ass
Living in the Future
Walk in Santigo
Tricky Dicky
You Know What I Mean
Oh My My
Deep Down in Our Hearts
Free Some Day
I'm On the Road Again

Excellent cassette rip @320kbs
If burning remove pauses for best effect
Grab a piece of early 70s agit prop here

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Wild at Heart

To a certain extent this album appeared to be a directed cocking of the snook in the general direction of occasional partner John Otway.

Obviously made during an impasse in their tenuous relationship - there is no Otway here; apart from being depicted as 'The Joker' on the cover, and apparently 'supplying' the guitar that Barrett obliterates firstly with a saw and then with what sounds like a size eleven, fourteen hole Doctor Marten boot while performing the absurdist 'deconstruction' masterpiece 'I Did It Otway' - the wild one plays nearly all the instruments and adopts vocal duties for an album that sways from folk-rock to faux jug music, and from acoustic ditties to punk inspired silliness.

As a virtuoso of all things stringed, Wild Willy delivers, but not always in the way you'd expect.
The album opens unsurprisingly enough, for the first few bars at least, but when Barrett starts to sing the opening lines to 'Late Night Lady' one wonders where the 'Wild' prefix may have come from, as his voice is surprisingly timid; a near falsetto expressing an amount of vulnerable charm and brimming with a sense of the English pastoral - maybe his moniker came about due to an association with nature rather than possessing, what one could have assumed, a lust for blind hedonism.

No one could make an album in 1979 without referring to punk, and 'Lets Play Schools' is certainly in a punk mode, if not post-punk; its also the track that sounds the most like an Otway/Barrett number, but it is alone, and the remainder of the album lurches from faux Americana (including a Barrett penned kind of spiritual number entitled 'The Song'!) to catchy, quirky instrumentals.

All in all, its another one of those albums that on first hearing takes you completely by surprise. Thirty years on it can still be listened to and it still has the power to make you smile, sing along, and want to post on a blog and share with everybody...

Wild Willy Barrett - Call Of The Wild (1979)

Late Night Lady
Heartbeat of the City
Let's Play Schools
Close Encounters
The Song
Nigel Pringle
Eye of a Hurricane
Take Me Back
Ole Slewfoot
I Did It Otway

Vinyl rip @320kbs
A few pops - mainly in outros; but this has not been released on CD, so don't complain.
Get yourself some Wild Willy here