It is over there on the right or at the main page here
Strap in, it is a long one!
It is over there on the right or at the main page here
Strap in, it is a long one!
I have written several times before about the time I first heard The Sugarcubes in 1998. I remember well walking into Our Price in Leamington Spa on the day ‘Life’s Too good’ was released and hearing it play in the store. I asked the guy behind the counter what it was and bought it right away, never looked back and still love that album today, and Bjork. This is true, and is one of the reasons I find Debut to be such an extraordinary album, the transition to solo artist was seamless and brilliant. The track I heard playing was Motorcrash and by the time I’d finished buying the album Birthday was playing.
In case you didn’t know The Sugarcubes (Icelandic: Sykurmolarnir) were an Icelandic alternative rock band from Reykjavík formed in 1986 which lasted until 1992. They released 3 proper albums and a couple or three compilations during their lifespan.
The band was, mostly:
Björk (vocals, keyboards)
Einar Örn Benediktsson (vocals, trumpet)
Þór Eldon (guitar)
Bragi Ólafsson (bass)
Margrét “Magga” Örnólfsdóttir (keyboards)
Sigtryggur Baldursson (drums).
The entire band were made up of members of various bands from the Icelandic punk scene of the time, with all the members having been performing for quite some time. Bjork had been well known in Reykjavik since she was only 11 and was a member of the band Tappi Tikarass:
Drummer Sigtryggur Baldursson had been a member of Peyr (Contains Nazi stuff, presumably ironic):
Guitarist Einar Orn Bendictsson and bassist Braggi Olafsson had been in Purrker Pillnikk:
There was also a sort of Icelandic super group called Kukl, that I’d never really heard of but I gave them a listen today and it is really pretty good, I like them. Bjork and a couple of other future Sugarcubes members were part of the band and they had two album releases to their credit.
After Kukl, the members of newly formed Sugarcubes thought the band a bit of a joke and that it wouldn’t really last very long, even jokingly naming themselves after the nutrition they relied on to survive while out on tour.
Following a string of singles, including Birthday which was championed by John Peel, and signing to label One Little Indian in the UK, their debut studio album, Life’s Too Good, was released in April 1988 to, I think it is fair to say, unexpected international success. As debut albums go it was an absolute stunner. Like nothing that had really gone before it and I believe it to have been hugely influential on indie music at the time, particularly in Iceland.
Listening to it again this evening, and using the language of the young ‘uns of today, it is full of bangers. Odd songs with strange lyrics and a shouty man jumping in all over the place, it was different and interesting. The lyrics of the very first track playing in the record shop (which is a now defunct chain) really gripped me, it was such unusual subject matter with a similarly unusual delivery:
[Verse 1: Björk]
Riding on my bicycle I saw a motorcrash
A proper motorcrash and lots of spectators
I rushed to the centre saw the injured parents
Cuts on the children an awful motorcrash
Dangerous motorcrash terribly bloody motorcrash
Destructive motorcrash Oh oh oh
[Verse 2: Björk]
Took the mother sneaked with her secretly
All the way to my home and nursed her gently
Put on her bandages, gave her milk and biscuits
She sighed pleasantly after this awful motorcrash
It’s a dangerous dangerous motorcrash
Terribly bloody motorcrash
Destructive motorcrash Oh oh oh
That girl on that bicycle showed great interest in all the motorcrashes
In the neighbourhood, she looked quite innocent
Then we disguised ourselves took a taxi to her home
When her husband answered the door
She introduced herself, he said
“Where have you been all this time?”
Oh, oh, oh
But believe you me I know what innocence looks like
And it wasn’t there After she got that bicycle
It starts off all bit quirky and, with Einar’s commentary, becomes all a bit creepy really, in a Stephen King’s Misery sort of way (as a point of interest the book was released in 1987 and the song was probably written a little while before that, so it is doubtful they are in any way connected, but you never know)
Birthday on the other hand is a rather beautiful and odd poem put to music, reading the lyrics without listening to the song, it is undoubtedly peculiar, having done that and then listened to the actual song, it is doubly so:
She lives in this house over there, has her world outside it.
Grapples with the earth with her fingers and her mouth, she’s five years old.
Thread worms on a string, keeps spiders in her pocket, collects fly-wings in
A jar scrubs horse flies and pinches them on a line. she’s got one friend
He lives next door, they listen to the weather, he knows how many freckles
she’s got, She scratches his beard. she’s painting huge books, glues them together,
They saw a big raven; it glided down the sky, she touched it.
Today’s a birthday, they’re smoking cigars, he got a chain of flowers,
Sows a bird in her knickers, they’re smoking cigars, lie in the bathtub, chain of flowers.
I made a playlist below of most of the tracks and they genuinely fill me with joy, particularly the live versions included, it’s quite extraordinary:
1 Traitor 3:10
2 Motorcrash 2:23
3 Birthday 3:59
4 Delicious Demon 2:42
5 Mama 2:56
6 Coldsweat 3:17
7 Blue Eyed Pop 2:37
8 Deus 4:08
9 Sick For Toys 3:14
10 F***ing In Rhythm & Sorrow 3:22
11 Untitled 1:29
Non Album Tracks (B-Sides and extra tracks)
Birthday (Original Demo Version)
Luftgitar (12″ Version)
F***ing In Rhythm & Sorrow (Live)
Birthday – Christmas EveRemix – The Jesus And Mary Chain
Birthday – Christmas DayRemix – The Jesus And Mary Chain
Birthday – Christmas PresentRemix – The Jesus And Mary Chain
Coldsweat (Meat Mix)
Blue Eyed Pop (2nd Mix)
There may be more but these are the ones I have from the 12-11 12″ Single box set.
The second album, Here Today, Tomorrow Next Week! I originally bought on cassette, back when I still used a Walkman, or a cheaper version of one at least. This resulted in an interesting listening dynamic as it was not particularly feasible to carry loads of cassette tapes around so I would put one in to the player in the morning for the walk to work and that was it, I’d listen at lunch and again on the way home, sometimes the same cassette would be in there for weeks. This is how I heard this album, almost immersing myself in it and shutting out the rest of the world for the duration.
After the Cassette I did pick up a CD version and it was only last year I finally bought a vinyl version, which is 3 tracks short.
The album was released in 1989 and it featured a much larger share of the vocals for Einar Örn, which received rather a lot of criticism at the time. I don’t believe the criticism was warranted, although I do understand it, I probably would have wanted more Bjork and less Einar at the time and there a couple of tracks where I think Einar’s vocal was somewhat superfluous, however, The Sugarcubes weren’t Bjork, they were a band and that’s how they were set up. I guess the test would be to listen to the songs, which were written for two vocals, without Einar, they probably wouldn’t make sense and would have seemingly unnecessary instrumental bits. Without Einar, who knows, maybe Bjork would not have been able to rise to where she is today, we should all probably be thanking him.
Lyrically there’s a deilightfull quirkiness which may have evolved from many of the songs having been written in Icelandic and translated into English, such as from the opening track Tidal Wave:
As before, below are most of the songs from the album, many live, some in Icelandic. Is the album underrated? Yes, I’d say it was by many, all ratings at the end of the post.
Tidal Wave – 2:56
Regina – 4:05
Speed Is The Key – 3:18
Dream TV – 3:12
Nail – 3:18
Pump – 4:25
Eat The Menu – 3:44
Bee – 2:26
Dear Plastic – 3:23
Shoot Him – 2:10
Water – 3:01
A Day Called Zero – 2:38
Planet – 3:23
Bonus tracks on the cassette
Hey – 3:22
Dark Disco 1 – 3:01
Hot Meat – 3:16 (Re-working of Coldsweat)
Then came Stick Around For Joy, which is their third and final proper album, released in 1992, just a year before Bjork’s first solo album, Debut, was released.
9th January 1992, The Sugarcubes perform Hit on Top Of The Pops (The date is wrong on the video below) . I was 25 by this time and just sat and gawped at the screen, it was just perfect. I remember watching, and watching and then, yes, they aren’t lip syncing, this is a live vocal. By the time it was over I really did think what the hell are TOTP going to do now having opened with that.
My memory fails me but I looked up that episode (chart positions in brackets):
(27) The Sugarcubes – Hit
(17) Isotonik – Different Strokes
(5) Kym Sims – Too Blind To See It (video)
(14) Carter – The Unstoppable Sex Machine – Rubbish
(26) Blue Pearl – (Can You) Feel The Passion
(18) Senseless Things – Easy To Smile
(1) Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody (video)
Well it was all downhill from The Sugarcubes in my opinion. Just in case anybody is thinking about that Queen number 1? Well it was just after Freddy Mercury died, so it is understandable, but the song was 17 years old at this point and I really would rather listen to Hit.
There were 4 singles released from the album, Hit being the only one to chart, peaking at number 17, the others being Walkabout, which has the following delightful lyric:
With animal eyes,
But the thing that makes me love you
Is the unforgettable smell of your skin.
Vitamin & Leash Called Love were the other two singles and they all, in my opinion deserved to do better than they did.
A3 Leash Called Love
A4 Lucky Night
A5 Happy Nurse
B6 I’m Hungry
B8 Hetero Scum
Stick Around For Joy was probably as far as the band could go with then Bjork/Einar combination. The album is filled with really good songs, as were all three, but it was time for change after this one. There were a couple of other albums, It’s-It released in 1992 which was a remix album and it is pretty good, and The Great Crossover Potential which was a greatest hits/best of that was released in 1998. There is also 12:11, a box set released in 1998 of 11 12″ singles which is well worth picking up.
The Sugarcubes were great while they lasted, and I would have loved to have caught them live (maybe one day there will be another re-union, there was one gig in 2006, in Reykjavík but the chances of getting to that were 0) but I do think stopping at 3 albums was a wise decision although while Bjork continued here rise it would have been nice to see the rest of the band continuing as it isn’t all about Bjork, the whole package was brilliant.
Life’s too good – 9.7
Here Today, Tomorrow Next Week! – 9.2
Stick around for joy – 9.0
That’s right, all 9.0 or above, damn right!
As a reminder, I placed my original order on 27th August, I e-mailed the company around October 15th to ask where my first package was and was advised that they are in the process of moving from what was, essentially, a bedroom business so there are inevitable delays. I then wrote again, 9th November, and was told on 11th November that they had a few issues with Royal Mail but my box is on its way to me now, if I don’t have anything by next week get in touch.
Next week came and ended and I had nothing. On the 17th November I wrote again and said “I have still not received anything. At this juncture I feel it appropriate to refund my payment and call it quits”. It had been 82 days since I placed my order.
40 minutes or so later I received a reply “All of our packages are out in the post with Royal Mail. I can have a proof of postage sent over to you tomorrow afternoon when I jump into the office. Going forward logistics will be much slicker, you’ll be happy to know!”
Actually, no not really, at this point I don’t really give a shit, and I’ll tell you why, because on the 11th November I was told my package was on its way to me, and it wasn’t, because the package, which arrived today is post marked 17th November. I have much less of an issue with the delays than being told something that isn’t true, NEVER lie to your customer, be honest always and the customer will understand. Lie to them and you’ve lost a customer.
So what was in the package? Well, the opinions below are mine alone, there is every possibility that other people will have completely opposite ones.
This is the sort of album I would pick up in a £1 bin, actually, I wouldn’t pick it up, I’d flick past it in the search for something good. It doesn’t fall into any of the categories I listed as a preference. I played it, well, I streamed most of it, hate it. I remember the single ‘Hello This is Joannie’, a catchy but annoying song from 1979 that I had hoped to never have to listen to again. I have a wooden box, full of albums, this is going in there and will probably only see the light of day again if I have a sudden desire to melt albums into fruit bowls.
The single is below, don’t be fooled, repeated listening may lead you to commit terrible crimes:
McGuinness Flint was a rock band formed in 1970 by Tom McGuinness, former bassist and guitarist with Manfred Mann, and Hughie Flint, former drummer with John Mayall; plus vocalist and keyboard player Dennis Coulson, and multi-instrumentalists and singer-songwriters Benny Gallagher and Graham Lyle.
It’s folk rock, I have nothing against folk rock, but this particular folk rock bored me to the point I considered pouring molten lead into my ears just for a bit of light relief. OK, that’s a bit harsh, but it is again not in one of the categories I listed as a preference, and it is, to me, quite dull and will probably join Paul Evans in the wooden box. To be entirely fair, I will listen to it a second time before deciding, but I am not hopeful.
This would have been a perfectly acceptable choice had I not received a copy as part of a job lot a couple of weeks ago. It is not really in my listed preferences but I happen to like Bowie so, fine, except I already have it, now I have two.
Synopsis? Not great. 3 chances, 3 fails. I may as well have taken £15 in notes and burned them, the outcome would be just about the same. The whole thing has been a massive disappointment.
If you have an even a half decent CRM system you can load a customers entire vinyl database and ensure that you never send something they already have, it isn’t difficult and should be an option. An export from Discogs for example uploaded into a customer portal as a .csv, so it is up to the customer to keep it up to date. Now there’s an idea, if the Retro store are reading this you can have that for free. It is also vitally important to make the first order as perfect as it can be, this was a long way from that, 86 days from payment to receipt of goods and the goods were poor.
I don’t know when I will receive the next package, presumably some time around 17/12/2017, or before 15/02/2018.
So if I tag this post on twitter will I still get a bonus item do we think?
I love Lambchop, and I love this album. For the sake of suspense and interest, I will hold back on revealing the rating until the end, it may not be as high as you expect after the opening statement. Anyway, this was released in 2000 originally and I have some sort of vinyl repress from 2014, which is fine with me, early Lambchop albums are damn expensive, in the £60-70 range, sometimes more, so repress suits me fine, although I would, of course, buy a first or second press if it was reasonably priced.
Grumpus is one of my favourite tracks, not just from this album, or from the Lambchop back catalogue, it is one of my favourite tracks of all tracks. Perhaps because I can identify with it, and often think of myself as Grumpus, it suits me. This is a live version, different venue but same tour I last saw them on:
Part of the process is sifting through the piles of shit
Tell us you don’t mind a bit from a different angle such
Power rarely deviates, in times of love, in times of hate
Another spring will come
The album sleeve is a painting by Wayne White, a childhood friend of Lambchop frontman Kurt Wagner who had also provided cover art for the band’s albums Thriller, Aw Cmon and No You Cmon.
On release the album was really well received here in the UK. The NME loved it, calling it the bands greater album and comparing its “sheer sonorous delight” to The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. Uncut, had good things to say as well, calling it “one of the first great records of the new millennium.” It has since been included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, which obviously, I’ve done.
Another great track off the album is Up With The People which has an actual official video ( and was remixed by Zero 7 at some point):
Yeah there comes a booming sound
It used to come from underground
Now it emanates
From a kind of welfare state
Of the soul
One of the things about the way Kurt Wagner delivers a song that I really like is that the lyrics are often rather sparse but he seems to be able to feed them to you syllable by syllable, making each word have a little bit of added weight.
Survive (often with capital letters and spaces as S U R V I V E) is an electronic band consisting of Michael Stein, Kyle Dixon, Adam Jones and Mark Donica. They were formed in 2009 in Austin, Texas and have been producing synth-heavy, horror-score-influenced compositions for almost a decade, exploring these themes through drum machines and analog synths across various single, EP and LP releases and contributions to soundtracks such as acclaimed indie horror film The Guest.
You may recognise a couple of the members, Dixon and Stein composed the original score for the 2016 Netflix series Stranger Things. Now I have to provide full disclosure here, I love Stranger Things, so much so that I did buy both volumes of the soundtrack in interesting coloured vinyl editions and have played them quite a bit.
This album, HD015, actually appears to be their 2012 self titled release (also known as Mnq026) but , because it is a red vinyl edition, it has a different name. I’ve no idea why but it does. It is limited to 1,500 copies on 150g vinyl, so maybe decoding that gives the title.
It is an atmospheric album, creepy even in places, and I can see why they would be involved in a 1980’s related science-fi horror TV series, if you knew of them already then the tracks here would lend themselves to it really well. Perhaps part of the reason for this is the instruments used, MicroKORG, SH-101, ARP Odyssey, Elektron Analog Keys and Prophet-6, rather than VST instruments on a laptop.
Clown Warning! Clown Warning! So I find clowns really very creepy but there is either a video of ‘Floating Cube’ with a static image, or one somebody has made containing killer clowns, I went with the latter, even though watching it creeps me out, you’ve been warned:
|A3||To Light Alone I Bow||2:28|
I have a pre-disposition to this type of music so I will be giving it an 8.3 but I do recognise that it is not for everybody.
As a bonus, here they are live this year:
And here is the set list:
Floating Cube 1:58
Black Mollies A.H.B 42:15
Holographic Landscape 47:00
I spoil you people!
Björk has released a second single from her new ‘Utopia’ album, ‘Blissing Me’. The video is below, which is screen grabbed so I’m not sure how well it will come out.
This is the track list:
1 ‘Arisen My Senses’
2 ‘Blissing Me’
3 ‘The Gate’
5 ‘Body Memory’
6 ‘Features Creatures’
9 ‘Sue Me’
10 ‘Tabula Rasa’
14 ‘Future Forever’
I like this new track, it’s really rather joyous, which is something Björk does really well.
I’m looking forward to my pre-order arriving.
40th Episode! 40th! I’m not sure why I carried on with these for so long to be honest as very few people actually watch these video playlists, about 20 of them have between 0 and 6 plays, the average is about 10 plays. One of these days I’ll stop, but today isn’t that day.
I’ve written about Death and Vanilla before, when I picked up the soundtrack to Vampyr, and I’ve played them on the Radio Show, but I was listening to them again tonight and felt that I should say more, mostly because I bloody well love them.
They don’t have a huge back catalogue, it is currently three albums and some singles, but I’ve liked absolutely everything I’ve heard and more people should give them an opportunity I think. We’ll start with Vampyr as I’ve already written about it before.
There are certain things that make me interested in a record which are often related to a good back story, amongst other things. ‘Vampyr’ by Death and Vanilla has things that interest me in abundance. I have their eponymous 2012 album and like it very much, not least because I paid very little for it, but also because I liked the aesthetic of the music, this is what first drew me to this album. Here in list form are the reasons why I was so interested in it.
It is a really interesting soundtrack that I’ve already listened to several times just as a piece of music, in 4 parts, and really enjoyed.
If you’d like to know more about the band then here is a snippet, it is, taken directly from http://www.firerecords.com/death-and-vanilla/ Where you can find out more.
Formed in Malmö, Sweden by Marleen Nilsson and Anders Hansson, Death and Vanilla utilise vintage musical equipment such as vibraphone, organ, mellotron, tremolo guitar and moog, to emulate the sounds of 60s/70s soundtracks, library music, German Krautrock, French Ye-ye pop and 60s psych. They revel in the warmth of older analogue instruments to create a more organic sound, each loose wire and off-kilter noise adding to the rich atmosphere.
So that was Vampyr but the first record of theirs I bought was their first released in 2012, also called Death and Vanilla that I picked out of a ‘sale’ bin for about £10, half price essentially. This is the cover:
I had absolutely no idea what it was, I liked the big eye on the cover and the band name, which is really how I’ve always bought records, more often than not. There have been failures along the way of course, but things usually work out ok. This is one that really did, although on one listen I wasn’t blown away, it was much later on 2nd, 3rd and 4th listen that I really got into it. Here’s an example track:
It is an odd mix of styles and sounds, having a sort of California dream pop sound even though the band originates in Sweden.
|Dreams Of Sheep|
|The Unseeing Eye|
|The Unseeing I|
The album has a sort of foggy sound that envelops it, which is perhaps why it didn’t prove to be that successful upon its release but I rather like it, it’s certainly consistent across the entire album.
Next up is To where the wild things are released in 2015, so I have totally done everything in the wrong order, never mind.
The opening track, Necessary Distortions, is a corker, it really is. Unfortunately the only video I could find of it is blocked in my country, but I urge you to seek it out, it’s fab.
I did manager to find From Above which was released as a single:
and Lux, which was released as a b side to the single.
This album is definitely a progression from the debut release with a somewhat more realised sound. One reviewer described the albums as spectral lullabies and I think that’s a fair assessment and a damn good thing.
I also like that they seem to put everything out on vinyl as a main release rather than streaming everything. This, even in a time of increasing vinyl sales, is not a normal model.
|The Optic Nerve|
|Follow The Light|
|Shadow And Shape|
|The Hidden Reverse|
|Something Unknown You Need To Know|
|Reality From Dream|
California Owls was released as a 12″ single, which I have a copy of, the B side is Follow The Light. Totally unnecessary for me to own really as I have both the tracks on the album, however, I really like the graphic design of their records and this one came in transparent vinyl.
I also have an EP which just seems to be called EP. It has 4 tracks:
Ghosts In The Machine 4:37
Run Rabbit Run 4:33
The Colour Of Space 4:34
There are a few other singles out there that I’ll be keeping an eye out for and they have another improvised soundtrack coming out next year in the same vein as Vampyr, so I shall be getting that.
Give them a repeated listen, You might end up liking it.
I’ve seen Vinyl Moon mentioned several times online and thought I’d give it a go as I am looking at a new place to subscribe to after the last one closed and the current one still hasn’t sent me anything at all.
Vinyl Moon is a somewhat different to the others as it creates what is, essentially, a vinyl mixtape, so you get 10 songs by 10 different bands. Anybody who has been around this blog for a little while will probably have noticed my love of mixtapes and music discovery so this looks like a good bet for me.
You can sign up yourself and get a $15 discount by doing so via this link – http://fbuy.me/gYmau
Here is a video that explains everything about it much better than I can do, but I’ll report back on anything I receive to help decide if it is something for you
It is over there on the right or at the main page here
Another from the job lot and the best known track from it, the title track, I know best from the Nirvana MTV Unplugged performance. I did know it was a cover of a Bowie song though, unlike some folk who later thought Bowie was covering Nirvana.
I have a re-release so it’s a different cover, this one:
Which makes it look more like a live album, rather than the original cover, which was this one:
I’ve no idea why the record company decided to change it. Anyway, there were a number of things about the album that went on to shape Bowie’s future work, not least the addition of Mick Ronson on guitar but also the musical direction he chose to pursue, moving away from the psychedelic folk of his previous release, and a change in his vocal performance style.
It is a rock album, no doubt about it, and it is somewhat odd at times, almost prog, and though the title track is not that representative of the album as a whole, it is probably the stand out track with really interesting lyrics, particularly the opening lines:
We passed upon the stair
We spoke of was and when
Although I wasn’t there
He said I was his friend
Which came as a surprise
I spoke into his eyes
I thought you died alone
A long long time ago
The above is from a much later performance of course but I liked it so that’s why it is there.
Another important person who was to play a major part in Bowies career was Tony Visconti, who, on this album is listed as – bass guitar; piano; guitar; recorder; producer; backing vocals. That’s really rather a lot but I can’t tell how heavily he did or didn’t influence the final outcome to be honest, but the album has been compared to Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath at various points due to its heaviness and its themes, such as insanity with All the Madmen, gun-toting assassins and Vietnam War in Running Gun Blues, an omniscient computer in Saviour Machine (though the timelines may not fit it feels like it could have come from Godspell at times to me, in style if not subject matter). The Supermen seems to be about some sort of Lovecraftian Elder Gods and, The Width of a Circle is, possibly, a sexual encounter with God, the Devil or both somewhere in the depths of Hell. These align quite well with the idea that the album is heavy metal/rock at its heart, but in this instance with a poet writing the songs.
Interestingly, when released the album peaked it number 24 in the charts (1972-73) and when re-released in 1990 it managed number 66. In 2016, after bowie passed away it was re-issued and reached its highest ever chart position of 21, death sells, that’s for sure. I can’t complain though I guess, I bought it after he died, although, in my defence, I was buying albums and singles while he was still around.
I’ve been listening to it a lot in the last week and I really do rather like it. It is almost as though he and the band aren’t trying too hard and that there is a sort of casual abandon about the whole thing. I like it, which is why I’m going to give it an 8.5 with marks dropped only because it does feel rather ‘of its time’ in places, but not throughout. It rocks for the most part.
|1.||“The Width of a Circle”||8:05|
|2.||“All the Madmen”||5:38|
|3.||“Black Country Rock”||3:32|
|5.||“Running Gun Blues”||3:11|
|7.||“She Shook Me Cold”||4:13|
|8.||“The Man Who Sold the World”||3:55|
|Total length:||19:22 40:29|
Did you known that in 1974 Lulu released The Man Who Sold The World as a single with Bowie doing the backing vocals? Well she did:
As I was listening to Bowie this week I thought I’d post this again
David Bowie – The Next Day
It’s quite odd now to listen to this album again knowing that there is every possibility that Bowie didn’t know at the point of its release in 2013 that he was terminally ill, or perhaps at this point he wasn’t. Although only 3 years apart (and it had been 10 years since his previous release, “Reality”) the differences between this and ‘Blackstar’ are obvious. There is a darkness that permeates everything on “Blackstar”, and this is not hindsight as I’d been listening to the album for the few days before Bowie’s death was announced and there was a feeling that the songs drained much of the light from around the listener and took them to a place where the shadows were weighed down and the light was struggling to get through. It’s difficult to describe, and yes, there has to be an element of…
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Another Bowie album from the job lot of 5 I picked up, and one I don’t really know much about. I’ve heard the title track and Rebel Rebel appears on all the greatest hits type releases, I may even remember it from when it was originally released in 1974 as I would have been 7 at that point. The good thing about this is that I get to hear brand new Bowie material to me at least, even though it is 43 years old.
I’m a big fan of the works of George Orwell and list 1984 as one of my favourite books ever written, so to find that, thematically, Diamond Dogs is part Orwell’s 1984 and part Bowie’s own vision of a post-apocalyptic world is quite a bonus. Apparently Bowie had wanted to create a theatrical production of the book but the author’s estate denied the rights. The songs that Bowie had already written after Pin Ups ended up on the second half of Diamond Dogs instead, which is the 1984 bit..
This ain’t Rock ‘N’ Roll this is genocide
It is a bit odd that the Ziggy Stardust character had been killed off but seems to make a bit of a return here, as though reports of his demise were greatly exaggerated. It does feel a little that, for this album, Bowie had returned to a familiar area and there is always the possibility that Diamond Dogs is not as fully formed as it might be as a result of it being the basis for an unrealised show.
The songs are good though, no doubt about that, with side two feeling more fully realised to me, although there are no tracks there that might stand up as a single, it is very much a series of album tracks, which is no bad thing. Not the jolliest of albums but still maintaining the high quality writing that Bowie always seemed to manage.
A1a Future Legend – 1:00
A2 Diamond Dogs – 5:50
A3 Sweet Thing – 3:29
A4 Candidate 2:39
A5 Sweet Thing (Reprise) – 2:32
A6 Rebel Rebel 4:21
B1 Rock ‘N Roll With Me – 3:54
B2 We Are The Dead – 4:48
B3 1984 – 3:24
B4 Big Brother – 3:25
B5 Chant Of The Ever Circling Skeletal Family – 1:48
Rating this album is quite difficult from as one would expect these songs to be well embedded into the Bowie history even for the casual listener, but they aren’t so I am almost certain that in weeks and months to come I will like it more and more, but for now I’m going with an 8.0.
About a year ago I received the Skye | Ross album that I signed up for at Pledge Music, a site that I’ve used several times since and will talk about a bit more later. The version I received is in a bright orange vinyl and the inside cover is signed by both Skye Edwards & Ross Godfrey who are two thirds of Morcheeba. In fact, this is basically Morcheeba under a different name as the third member, Paul Godfrey, can’t be convinced to tour and the album productions for which he was responsible were becoming increasingly difficult to reproduce live.
Light Of Gold was released as the first single from the album. For the filming of the video they reached out on social media to find a cute couple to feature. The video was shot in Sibenik, Croatia. Here it is:
I remember seeing the video for ‘Trigger Hippie’ way back in 1996 and was absolutely enthralled by it, to the point that I went out and bought the CD, to then discover Tape Loop, both these tracks, for me, are total brilliance. Skye’s voice is so laid back, and so wonderful and, genuinely, seeing her sing brings me tremendous joy.
This new album is simpler than recent productions but it is still instantly identifiable, albeit not under the Morcheeba name anymore. It is full of good songs though, and it is consistent throughout, flowing from song to song quite naturally. I think it fair to say I am somewhat biased though as I adore Skye. One of the reasons is demonstrated in the video below, just Skye singing along to an acoustic guitar with no production embellishments or trickery on her vocal, and it is beautiful:
A1 Repay The Saviour – 2:13
A2 Light Of Gold – 3:34
I’m giving this an 8.6 which is a high mark for, what is, a very good album.
Now then, on to different matters, as promised, Pledge Music. I started using Pledge Music as a way to support new and emerging artists and those that were working on re-vitalising their careers by removing record company control and doing things for themselves. So far I have supported Zola Blood, Gary Numan, Skye | Ross, Lamb and Elsa Hewitt. I still pop on there every month or so and have a trawl around looking for interesting things and, when something catches my interest, I invest a bit of money in it. It is basically a Kickstarter for music.
Recently I’ve felt a little disillusioned with it. Why? Well, do the Beatles or the Rolling Stones need my money up front to help them get an album out? Do Black Sabbath? I’d say not but there seem to be an increasing number of occurrences where bands who really don’t need to use Pledge do so as a either a pre-order or marketing tool. There are some who have not even gone through the pledge process but have, instead, just made an album immediately available to order. I could be entirely wrong about all this but for me the spirit of the site is being diminished by all this behavior and I will probably be spending an increasing amount of time on Bandcamp instead.
I’m really please with this one
When vinyl subscription service That Special Record recently closed I thought I’d try another service, this time with The Retro Store. I bought a 3 month plan on 27th August 2017 and received nothing. I wrote to them a couple of weeks ago and was told that they are in the process of moving from what was, essentially, a bedroom business so there are inevitable delays.
As a customer rather than a perfectly genial chap who is prepared to be patient, this is awful, two months and nothing? Luckily I am the perfectly genial chap and my patience was rewarded on the 31st of October when I received a message that Box 1 had been shipped. It is 3 days later now and it hasn’t arrived, but at least it is on the way.
So this subscription service is for used vinyl and for £15 a month for three months you receive 3 used vinyl albums, although it has now gone up to £18. You do get to list your preferences and I am very interested to see how my preferences have been interpreted as I think I made them pretty difficult:
CULT FILM SOUNDTRACKS
I had meant to put DEEP HOUSE, but it’s too late now. They have example boxes on their web site (which weren’t there when I signed up, and my £45 3 month subscription is now £54) and it will be interesting to see what they make of my genre choices having seen the examples:
I have three of the above and want only 1, none of them really fit into my requested genres though, unless you use a crowbar.
When it arrives I’ll let you know how delighted (though I feel it more likely to be disappointed) I am.
There it is, up there. The album is now titled ‘Utopia’ and will be released on November 24 via One Little Indian. Co-produced by Arca and with artwork has been designed by Jesse Kanda. I pre-ordered mine ages ago so should have it on the day of release hopefully.
Here is the actual announcement, I think from Twitter:
i am so overwhelmingly humble while announcing my album utopia is coming out end of nov . i can´t wait for you to hear it . this is the cover made by the warm extraordinary talented @truekanda and was assisted by me , @james.t.merry and @isshehungry . thank you for telepathically getting me !! over the moon and jupiter gratitudes to magical @arca1000000 for making the music of this album with me : what a profound and nourishing trip this has been !!! thousandfold appreciation and headbowing . hope you like it , warmth , björk
It’s quite a trip all the way back to 1971 through the Bowie back catalogue to when Hunky Dory was released, and the journey back from then to now makes it difficult to cast a critical eye over work that was an integral part of what he developed through and into. Luckily, Hunky Dory is, for the most part, a very good album, apart from a couple of tracks, which I’ll get to in a little while.
I have expressed a preference previously for his later work, partially due to familiarity, but an opportunity arose to pick up a job lot of 5 Bowie albums at a good price, so I took it and one of the 5 was Hunky Dory, an album I’d heard before but many of the tracks only ever received one listen while others are an integral part of the Bowie canon.
The album is considered as either the 3rd or 4th official album depending on who you choose to believe and followed ‘The Man Who Sold The World“. Looking at reviews from 1971 it seems to be accepted in some quarters that this is the album where Bowie found his voice and sound, in hindsight it is pointing to what was to follow with Ziggy Stardust only 6 months or so later.
Changes and Oh!You Pretty Things are quite brilliant album openers, to be followed by Eight Line Poem, which I find disposable, and then Life on Mars. Take out Eight Line Poem and put it after Life on Mars and it would probably be a nice break from brilliance.
Eight Line Poem
The tactful cactus by your window
Surveys the prairie of your room
The mobile spins to its collision
Clara puts her head between her paws
They’ve opened shops down the West side
Will all the cacti find a home
But the key to the city
Is in the sun that pins
The branches to the sky, oh, oh, oh
Kooks is a nice tune in an appropriately kooky way. Bowie wrote this song to his newborn son Duncan Jones. The song being a pastiche of early Neil Young as Bowie was listening to a Neil Young record at home on 30 May 1971 when he got the news of the the birth.
We bought a lot of things
To keep you warm and dry
And a funny old crib on which the paint won’t dry
I bought you a pair of shoes
A trumpet you can blow
And a book of rules
On what to say to people
When they pick on you
‘Cause if you stay with us you’re gonna be pretty Kookie too
Quicksand is, lyrically, in a similar vein to much of Bowie’s work around this time, influenced by Buddhism, occultism, and Friedrich Nietzsche’s concept of the Superman. The song refers to the magical society Golden Dawn and name-checks one of its most famous members, Aleister Crowley, as well as Heinrich Himmler, Winston Churchill and Juan Pujol, apparently under the code name Garbo.
Kicking off side 2 is Fill Your Heart, a cover of a song by Biff Rose, who I’ve never heard of, so I went and looked it up and if you are of a mind to you can listen to it below:
and you can compare with the Bowie version as well:
and there was even. version by Tiny Tim:
That’s quite enough of that, although I will say I prefer the Bowie version.
I was really surprised listening to Andy Warhol again as think it really paints a picture of him extremely well, particularly this expert:
Andy walking, Andy tired
Andy take a little snooze
Tie him up when he’s fast asleep
Send him on a pleasant cruise
When he wake up on the sea
He sure to think of me and you
He’ll think about paint and he’ll think about glue
What a jolly boring thing to do
It just sounds like a film that Warhol would make and it creates Super 8 Black and white images in my mind of the man himself, which is difficult thing for a song to do. In complete contrast I find Song for Bob Dylan to be completely fan boy and rather cringe inducing in places, a track I could do without.
Fortunately, the album ends with a pair of great tracks, Queen Bitch is heavily influence by the Velvet Underground and is a bit Glam Rock, again suggestive of what was to come with Ziggy Stardust and a couple of months ago I heard on Radio 6 and didn’t remember having heard it before, it was like being given a brand new, previously unreleased track. Bowie named his publishing company in the late 1970s Bewlay Bros. Music and used the name as a pseudonym for himself, Iggy Pop and Colin Thurston as producers of Pop’s 1977 album Lust for Life. Bowie admitted that the lyrics made absolutely no sense and is quoted as saying in 2008, “I wouldn’t know how to interpret the lyric of this song other than suggesting that there are layers of ghosts within it. It’s a palimpsest, then.” I spent years listening to the Cocteau Twins, loved it, and never understood a word so I don’t find that a particular problem.
I almost forgot to mention Rick Wakeman, he play son the album, most notably on this:
A1 Changes – 3:33
A2 Oh! You Pretty Things – 3:12
A3 Eight Line Poem – 2:53
A4 Life On Mars? – 3:48
A5 Kooks -2:49
A6 Quicksand 5:03
B1 Fill Your Heart – 3:07
B2 Andy Warhol -3:53
B3 Song For Bob Dylan – 4:12
B4 Queen Bitch – 3:13
B5 The Bewlay Brothers – 5:21
I was quite sure that Oh! You Pretty Things was released as a single but when I checked it wasn’t, which, after further investigation means that I actually know it from the Peter Noone (of Hermansd Hermits) version, which Bowie apparently played piano on.
Anyway, it’s a really good early career album and I’m going with an 8.4
Here is the album, performed at various times and locations;