Sunday, 11 January 2015

01: Iron Maiden - Killers

So to my project for 2015. And after the Fall overload I wanted something which was: a single genre, with a single album per week. Certainly something I know nothing about, or at least very little and something that was potentially risky, in terms of it may well turn out to be a big steaming disaster.

And after thinking about various things (I had another idea floating around but I forget what it was), I settled. This year I will listen to 50 records that fit into the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal.

So what is the NWOBHM? From the wikipedia page it would seem that it was a tougher take on those great heavy metal records of the 70s - Sabbath and their ilk. But to me going in, I will think along the lines of Spinal Tap until I hear otherwise.

I'm following this list which hit the spot as beyond Iron Maiden, I've never even heard of any of these groups - some of them are rare, so I may have to resort to downloads but in general I'm trying to buy them. That's the rules.

And so to Iron Maiden. They seem to emerge fully formed and all the Spinal Tap type sounds are in place - those high pitch speedy guitar solos and running drums. Track 3 is the business: Murders In The Rue Morgue. Someone call the Gendarmes! I'm not sure how accurate it is with regard to the source text, but it's a pretty insistent number that's almost borderline funky. It's quite a strange sound for me - at times it felt like a blueprint for music that 14 year old boys should like. Relatively complex, heavy on the riff aspect, the drums are kind of supporting everything rather than being heavy and up front. But after a few listens it settles down and I'm starting to get it. It kind of chugs along at this quite high tempo for some time. And then with "Prodigal Son" it all settles down, and they're playing something that's really quite beautiful and sounds a little bit like 90s indie almost, all jangle guitars and a kind of up beat melody.

I kind of wanted them to go a bit heavier and darker but it's always quite light. So something like "Twilight Zone" starts of with a riff, and then it lightens up a bit when I'd prefer something a bit more oomphy. But you know what - this isn't the best record in the world, but it's not too bad. Once you get over that it sounds a little cliched, it really starts to open up.

So here's the Rue Morgue (live no less) and roll on the rest of the list:

Thursday, 1 January 2015

The Fall. Done.

And I'm done. I certainly never want to hear Mr Pharmacist again. iTunes says that I have 1136 songs by The Fall, for a total of 3.4 days solid listening. I'm not quite sure I covered every single track, I think some may have snuck through the cracks somewhere. At times this felt like an ordeal, especially in the periods where I would end up with a 5/6 hour playlist that would spill out over numerous commutes. I missed podcasts - though still found time to catch up with them later in the year.

But, like life, The Fall just keep going. Mark sacks the band, puts his head down and magically they're back in the zone. He's probably recruited them from pubs in Salford. I read the Steve Hanley book, the most surprising thing was how Mark would call everyone cock. It's a Manchester thing.

The early years, the time I spent with The Fall growing up, was still as fresh and vibrant and urgent as I remember. Room To Live is still the one that gets me - though by the sound of Hanley, all the band hated the record. To me it's the Fall in one easy package - rockabilly, post punk and avant all in one record.

The later years were wobbly but there were some peaks amidst surprisingly few troughs. Elena brought something genuine to the group and the two records before the last two were as good as any of the good early records. And the two spoken word records were a true revelation - just Mark doing what he does. Total commitment.

And that was what I did in 2014. I spent a lot of time on trains, subways and busses listening to the Fall. In 2015 I will probably be doing the same but more on an Iron Maiden type of tip...

Week 52: 11/04/14 - 31/12/14

And thankfully the Fall released one record this year. This one. And thankfully the bad covers are gone and we're back in familiar territory.

And thankfully they kick off with a version of Wings and it's a good 'un. "Here is a list of incorrect things" is still one of my favourite lines by the group. And then we're off into Mark mumbling territory but out of nowhere, the band have suddenly got really good, and that lifts it out of the doldrums and into something pretty special. On Amorator Elena sings and all is right with the world. The sound quality veers all over the place and some of the songs are not at their best, but after the total disappoint of the recent output of the Fall, this is something of a blessing. They close with What About Us with Elena singing it just as she did when she joined the band. This is a good thing.

Week 51: 21/07/13 - 11/04/14

And we get ever closer to the close. For some reason I put an errant track (I African Manucian) in this week - no idea why, it's much older but a good one none the less.

And then the Remainderer itself. We're still in the territory of The Fall where Mark mumbles over some vaguely tedious backing sounds. The Remainderer is better than the past two LPs but it's still not coherent enough for me. Everything's a little bit on auto pilot - they even revisit Elves in a roundabout way on Remembrance R. And then a weird one - Say Mama which then cuts into a mixed in version of Race with the Devil that they played at Peels birthday. No idea what's going on there. And then it's gone and I've completely forgotten about it. Oh well.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Week 49: 09/02/12 - 30/10/12

One of the worst record covers in the world - what were they thinking? Anyway this is two tracks and is excellent - no mucking about, just straight up Fall goodness. Victrola Time shows up on re-mit but sounds a bunch better here - there's really energy to it and some urgency that's been sadly lacking in the latter output of the Fall. The flip side is a live version of Taking Off and is equally great. Just a solid performance, well recorded and all that kind of thing. It's a shame that this 45 didn't carry over to the albums.

Week 50: 30/10/12 - 21/07/13

And we get close to the close. Week 50 brings me the Re-Mit LP and the Sir William Wray 45. Re-Mit is okay, but doesn't really come alive for me - it sounds overproduced and the vocals are way down in the mix and a little murky. They kind of do another Monks cover on Kinder of Spine, but Marks kind of out of it here. Victrola Time has something about it, all wooshy electronics and furious drumming. And then it disappears - largely forgettable.

The William Wray 45 adds little to this, just different versions of the tracks on the album. Somewhat disappointing.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

10 Records for 2014

So it's been a year of ups and downs but musically, it's been pretty solid - a lot of late entrants into this obviously but still a good un'. LET'S BREAK IT DOWN LIKE THIS:

10. Stark Reality - Acting, Thinking, Feeling

I picked up the Stark Reality boxset at the start of the year, and also had a trouser rubbing moment seeing it on the wall at my favourite record store in Oakland. Stark Reality is thee break digging record de jour - in the Tribe documentary Q-Tip makes no prisoners, appearing with two copies of the Music Shop LP in the background when he's talking. The Music Shop record I find a little trying, but the real gem here is Acting, Thinking, Feeling - a jazz piece in three movements. The second movement does it severely for me, but the whole thing is a wondrous reminder about the power of indie jazz. Also vibraphone. It's wonderful and uplifting and magical in equal measures:

09.  Noh Mercy

I've been buying a lot of stuff on a local label called "Superior Viaduct". They do a lot of Noise type recordings, but also Bay Area weirdness. This was a favourite on there (though the Factrix records are well worth picking up also), a complete channeling of Bikini Kill type sound but in the late 70s instead. The back cover states "No Boys With Guitars" and rightly so. This has swears in it, but it's pretty good at capturing their sound.

08. Danny Paul Grody

My new strategy when buying is records is to a) don't be afraid to buy things I'm sniffy of and b) always buy at least one thing I've never heard of and sounds interesting. So this came by a recommendation in Amoeba records, Berkley. I'm heavy into the Guitar Soli type sound at the moment and this hits the spot. Unsurprisingly DPG was initially in a Post Rock group. The LP is "Between Two Worlds" but I couldn't find any of it on You Tube so here's the man himself playing live. This type of stuff is the type of stuff that makes me feel wobbly inside at the moment

07. Gill Melle - Andromeda Strain

Never ever make a list of "records I would spend money on". I did this. I did do this, and within a week I was flicking through the "Rare" section in Stranded - Nothing is better than seeing records you'd never be able to afford, just to see them, and along comes the Hexagonal version of this soundtrack in good condition at a fair(!) price. I was ready and paid the money. The Andromeda Strain is an interesting one - the movie is 50% tedious procedure and 50% vague excitement but the soundtrack is this photo electro bonkers piece of magic that gives me jelly legs. I think it's worth the money - it's basically a 10" record, cut hexagonally in a hexagonal fold out sleeve. Beautiful and bonkers.

06. Mogwai - Les Revenants

Les Revenats was thee TV show that I got most excited and freaked out by this year - French, but looks like Swiss to me, a genuinely creepy and upsetting show about the dead suddenly coming back to life and acting as though nothing had changed. The show was perfect at capturing the kind of creeping dread that makes for a really good horror film. The score was perfect too - and I had to begrudgingly buy a Mogwai record. 

05. Neil Young

My time in California has been cornerstoned by a newfound appreciation for Neil Young. I was initially sniffy but I bought Harvest and that became the record I would always listen to when driving - I spent my mornings driving to the Supermarket listening to "Are you ready for the country" over and over. I am now working my way through his back catalogue (in year order natch) and finding these types of little gems all over the place. Never knew that this was a cover, nor that the original would be (for me) way better:

04. Elias Rahbini - Mosaic of the Orient

One I kind of tracked down - I really like the Quakers LP, and there was a beat on there that was kind of Turkish like and just a really nice sample. So I dug around the internet for a bit and uncovered this record. The track is 'Dance of Maria' and is the jam - a song I can play (and have played) over and over and over. The whole LP is worth a listen (but it took a wee while to track it down), but this is the business.

03. Cecil Leuter - Pop Electronique

I now have three copies of this library record. One Crea Sound, vague original, the Vadim reissue on vinyl and the same on CD. To me, this is it in terms of Libraries - a totally freaked out marriage of Moog, Drums and Guitar. You can take your Afro Rocks, and Stefano Torrosi's and leave me with this one. Fully outstanding from start to finish and completely unique and why I will always love picking up weirdo library records like this.

02. Robbie Basho - Wine Song

Didn't buy this this year but I think it was gifted to me a few years ago. It's weird what pops up in times of need, and I needed this record this year. Robbie "Beard" Basho made a bunch of Guitar Soli stuff, but I think this is his only serious vocal effort. The whole record is the sort of thing that makes me crumble inside but this song especially supported me through dark times and truly captured my mind state at times in the year. Basho records are surprisingly hard to come by, but they're good - this is probably a borderline acquired taste but my god, it's burrowed deep inside me, and I've spent far too much time in floods of tears whilst this has played and lifted my up:

01. Swell Maps - Trip To Marineville

At number one by time alone. Bought this in March, listened to it once and thought it was a solid but largely unsurprising post punk LP. Give it a decent listen in November and within minutes I'm dancing round my bedroom like a loon. Why it took me so long to pick this one up I don't know. I can well imagine the discussion around "Full Moon in my Pocket": "What are we going to do for the baseline on this one?", "Errrr, Mother Sky?", "Let's go!". The pairing of Full Moon and Blam! is the best thing I've heard all year - the drum crack that separates the two is incredible and the whole thing completely captures me every time: