Fans of English football and/or the movie Downfall should enjoy the following - genuinely funny - clip, currently doing the rounds on eBay. (for some reason I can't get the "embed" thing to work today, so if you want to watch it I'm afraid you're going to have to go to the trouble of clicking on the link below. I know, I know, your life's so hard!)
Anyway, from the ridiculous to the sublime; from delusional "Übermensch" types to - extremely tenuous link ahoy! - Ooberman, and one of the most gorgeous songs of 1998 (cripes, was it really that long ago?), the brilliant Shorley Wall.
Today's Three of a kind features, rather spoddily, a trio of songs that all peaked at number 18 in the UK singles chart in 1984. Now, bear with me on this one because the other thing these songs have in common is that they're all dead good - honest!
First up is the pick of the bunch, for me, Tossing & Turning by Windjammer, which remains one of the great lost (or at least largely forgotten) soul tracks of the decade. Having done much of my growing up in the eighties I'm still a sucker for most soul (and funk) music from that era, and Tossing & Turning sounds as great today as it did all those aeons ago. Just a perfect song for a summer's day - or any day at all - really.
Track number two will be familiar to many, coming as it does from one of the decade's best bands, New Order. Thieves Like Us is a typically generous six minutes plus, recorded while the band were in the middle of a very purple patch indeed. So hip it hurts.
Finally, we find soul troubador (and cheesy pullover fan) Jeffrey Osborne getting all funky on our backsides with his second-biggest hit of the year, Stay With Me Tonight. Now, Jeff's probably most famous for late-night local radio favourite, the tender ballad On The Wings Of Love, but Stay With Me Tonight is a much more raunchy affair, as the title suggests. The old saucebox. (I should warn you here that this song features a none-more-eighties - and slightly incongruous - guitar solo two thirds of the way through, so brace yerselves!)
Good news for fans of ex-Edson lead singers everywhere comes today with Labrador's announcement that Pelle Carlberg's new single, the (ahem) pithily-titled Clever Girls Like Clever Boys Much More Than Clever Boys Like Clever Girls has been made available as a free download on the Swedish label's website. Woo and indeed hoo.
Clever Girls is the second single from Pelle's In A Nutshell album, following on from the even-more-catchy, and sublimely-titled, duet (with Ida Maria) I Love You, You Imbecile. Now, much as I like both these songs, I'm wondering why on earth the album's stand-out track, Pamplona, hasn't been released as a single yet*. (Or is that just me?)
Did I mention that I'm a huge fan of the man Carlberg, by the way? He just has to be one of the top singer-songwriters around at the moment, combining winning melodies with some fantastically witty lyrics. His previous solo album, Everything, Now! is even better than the latest one, in my opinion, and would be the ideal starting point for anyone just discovering his music.
Respect is also due to Pelle's previous combo, the sublimely twee Edson, who are well worth checking out also. As well as Mr Carlberg's latest, I've also included Edson's classic single, Sunday, Lovely Sunday as an mp3 here. This is truly one of the greats of the genre and should by rights be number one in pop charts everywhere all year round! (Is that really too much to ask??)
*Actually, now I think about it, I seem to recall Pamplona was released as an MP3 single, before the album came out! Oops...
Roadside Poppies started as a one man project (that man being Matloob Qureshi) and expanded into a whole band from Cambridge. A gentle, humourous, lovesong-writing tweepop band. They have recently released the Cycling and Crying EP on WeePOP! Records and, very generously, they allow you to download 'Just Another Lovesong' from it for free. But you know you want to buy the EP as well, don't you?
On the Roadside Poppies website there is a whole album's-worth of (sing-a-long-able) songs to download as well. My personal favourites are 'A Cheap Laugh', 'The Evil Vegan' and the song below, 'A Gentleman Alone'. Enjoy!
Despite making some of the jauntiest pop music you're ever likely to hear, Arne Hansen & the Guitarspellers have somehow only gained 927 plays in the history of Last FM (approximately a hundred of which have come from yours truly). To filch a bit of Private Eye vernacular - shome mishtake shorely?
But no, it seems the band really are that obscure, even at home in Norway, where they formed back in 1986. During the subsequent two decades they've released six albums full of songs which bridge the gap between Jilted John and the multi-talented and versatile Sheffield singer-songwriter John Shuttleworth.
To illustrate this comparison, here are some random Arne Hansen song titles: Brand New Parka, Dr. Hansen Goes Pop!, No Fish On Christmas Eve, Internet Girl, Has Anybody Seen My Girlfriend?, Thank You For Rewinding Me, and Iris In Short(s) - to name but several. Not bad for someone for whom English isn't even his first language!
The AHATG songs I've included today are a real pair of gems: (Iris Is) Drop Dead Gorgeous and Barbara Eden, a paean to the star of legendary 60s sitcom I Dream of Jeannie. If you like what you hear here (hey, who let that echo in here here?) then there are another 10 of Arne Hansen's personal favourite songs available for free download at the Perfect Pop website, the link to which you can find at the bottom of this 'ere ('ere) entry.
The second 'Three of a kind' entry and the second one to feature Swedes. Female singer-songwriters who can put a bit of welly into it, this time.
Sofia Talvik has just released her second album 'Street Of Dreams' (you can download a free remixed version of it from her website) and recorded a fantastic duet - 'It's Just Love' - with Bernard Butler. The song below, Blåa linjen hem, is freely available for download and is really rather good. Sofia Talvik - Blåa linjen hem mp3 (right click and 'save target as')
"I'm a lousy guitarist, I sing out of tune," sings Marit Bergman. Rather tunefully, it has to be said. I beg to differ Ms Bergman! Marit Bergman - Adios Amigos mp3 (available for 7 days)
I always loved watching Madness videos when I was growing up, not just because of the invariably brilliant songs (did any other band produce such a consistently excellent sequence of Top 10 hits in the 80s? I think Madness had 15 in all, every one a gem), but also because they always looked like they were having so much fun.
The reason I mention this here is because I've recently been watching a 1960s comedy series called Do Not Adjust Your set on dvd. DNAYS (as I think we'll call it from now on) was a kids' sketch show which featured several members of the Monty Python team before they became Pythons. The show also featured, as its in-house musical turn, the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, fronted by the ineffably eccentric (ie bonkers) Vivian Stanshall.
Now, not having been alive in the 1960s, watching these episodes on DVD was the first time I'd ever seen them, and also the first time I'd properly clapped eyes on the Bonzos in their pomp. And what an eye-opener it was. Basically, The Bonzos were Madness well over a decade before Madness were Madness! Certainly in terms of presentation. Just compare and contrast these two performances I've nabbed from You Tube: Madness in the (wonderfully cheap & cheerful) Night Boat To Cairo video, and, firstly, The Bonzos playing Hunting Tigers Out In Indiah live on DNAYS. (Apologies for the slightly grainy picture quality on Hunting Tigers, by the way. Just think of it as historical footage!)
I'm not normally prone to recommending songs which begin, "OMG! He broke up with me!" (especially those which also mention the dreaded Myspace) but this is a notable exception. 'Emo Phillips' is not about the strange-voiced American comedian of that name, but about those over-emotional, hysterical, depressed, floppy-haired types prone to writing terrible songs about bleeding and how much the world is against them - ie. me at the age of 15. This would normally be a disappointment but this Arrah and the Ferns song is utterly fantastic.
Arrah and the Ferns are Arrah Fisher, Carl Stovner and Dave Segedy from Muncie, Indiana. They formed when Carl and Arrah signed up for an open mic night without having written any songs and managed to persuade the recently-dumped Dave to join them. Their songs may sound sunny but listen closely and you'll find more sinister lyrics lurking:
"I have no choice but to dissect you with the laser beam that I built last year when the ice caps melted and oh, the world was captive by your fear! Or should I kill you while you're sleeping? I'll give you drugs and drag you to the street The sun is high and bright, I'll grab that magnifying glass And watch you die you die you die you die!"
Both these tracks are from the album 'Evan Is A Vegan', which you can buy from Standard Recording Company who are handily having a sale during July. Just make a note of the coupon number on the front page.
Here are Arrah and the Ferns performing 'Emo Phillips' live:
Overheard on BBC One's National Lottery Jet Set quiz this evening:
Eamonn Holmes: Who wrote The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll & Mr Hyde?
Middle-aged contestant bloke: Sherlock Holmes?
Give me strength!
(In the circumstances, I should probably include a track by Simple Minds here, but I've had Preposterous Tales by I, Ludicrous swishing around in my head all day so you're going to have to settle for that I'm afraid! Just as well it's a great song really!)
Agent Simple is Stefan Strömberg, Gothenburg factory worker and - in his spare time - purveyor of superb lo-fi indie pop. Comparisons with Jens Lekman and Suburban Kids With Biblical Names will inevitably arise with seasoned Swindie fans hearing Agent Simple's songs for the first time - purely because of the similar vocal stylings - but I'm a big fan of both the aforementioned acts so the Agent's vocal similarity is no bad thing at all as far as I'm concerned.
He's so far released two EPs - 2005's I Got Mad At The Kids and this year's Shaking An Egg. Now, having never even heard of Agent Simple until yesterday, I've not heard these EPs in their entirety yet, but I've really liked the four songs I've caught so far. My favourites are Make A Right At Jordfallsmotet, a paean to his smalltown upbringing; and Friday, which lyrically provides us with a sort of modern update on the sentiments expressed by Paul Simon on I Am A Rock. Marvellous stuff. See what you think.
One of my favourite new(ish) UK bands at the moment just has to be The Indelicates, a refreshingly misanthropic London five-piece, featuring Simon Indelicate, Julia Indelicate (once of The Pipettes), Kate Newberry, Al Clayton and Ed Van Beinum.
I knew I was going to like this band as soon as I saw the title of their debut single, last year's We Hate The Kids, and it really doesn't disappoint. Someone writing lyrics that actually mean something - in this day and age. Well bugger me gently, as Lizzie Birdsworth might have put it. Anyway, I've included We Hate The Kids, along with the equally brilliant Sixteen, below, so grab them while you can.
But the even better news is that The Indelicates' spanking brand new single, the whistle-tastic (move over, Peter, Bjorn & John) Julia, We Don't Live In The 60s, is out this week and is quite possibly the best of the lot. The band have made the song available to stream from their My Space page, so if you like what you hear there (and below) you know what to do. It's available as a download from Virgin, Napster, HMV, 7 Digital & Tunetribe, or on 7" and CD from your local music emporium.
July 1st 2007 and a new law comes into effect in England which prevents smoking in the workplace. This effectively means that all the country's smokers are banished into the soggy wastelands outside their cosy office blocks, restaurants and pubs. Lovely as this is for us non-smokers, it's a bit of a bugger for all the poor, nicotine-addicted people who are often now treated as pariahs. We sympathise and, therefore, have put together an entry devoted to smoking and this momentous day.
(We did consider using songs such as The Smiths' There Is A Lighter That Never Goes Out and artists like Weezer and Pariah Carey, but that would just be silly! So here are our final choices...)
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