Thursday, 31 January 2008

The Show must go on

It's strange how records you hear at an impressionable age can sometimes imprint themselves on your brain to the extent that you can still remember all the words decades later, despite the fact that you might not have listened to the song(s) for absolutely ages - and despite the fact that you can barely recall what you had for breakfast half the time these days, let alone convoluted pop lyrics. Or maybe that's just me.

One such set of songwords that have somehow lodged themselves in my brain seemingly for life are those of The Show by self-styled "Human Beatbox" Doug E. Fresh & The Get Fresh Crew, which I can, slightly worryingly, still recite verbatim even now.

Actually, I think I'd be right in saying that this #7 UK smash from late 1985 would have been the first 12" single I ever owned, which might go some way to explaining why it's remained so etched in my memory. So strong is its hold that I can even remember the rather shonky B-side La Di Da Di pretty much word for word too. Christ, I really must have played this record to death!

Anyway, to me this hip hop classic will forever conjure up memories of school trips, furtive dalliances with smoking, and trying to sneak into sixth form discos under age; to you it may just sound like a cheesy old racket!

Doug E. Fresh & The Get Fresh Crew - The Show mp3 (available for 7 days)

Buy Doug E. Fresh stuff here.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

"I don't know about things that have happened before"

The MotifsMelbourne-based The Motifs are currently Alexis (the band originator), Neil, Chris and May and they're lovely! They produce wonderful dollops of delicate melody, sugar-coated harmonies, and sheer joy and turn them into beautiful and diddy songs. The longest track on the EP I'm about to talk about is a whopping two minutes and twenty one seconds! Coincidentally it's also my favourite.

WeePOP! - that bastion of good taste - has recently released The Motifs' six song EP entitled Matches, which was mostly recorded in Japan. I believe it's The Motifs' third release (the others were Dots on Music Is My Girlfriend and Away on Lost In Found Records) and on this form I sincerely hope they'll have many more! Below you can download a song from Matches. If I were you, I'd get over to WeePOP! sharpish as they've only got a few copies left!

The Motifs - Tell Me More mp3 (right click and save as)

Hear more at The Motifs' myspace page and buy The Motifs' Dots in download form from Klicktrack and Away from Lost In Found.

As a bonus here's another song:

The Motifs - Diagonal mp3 (right click and save as)

I love The Motifs - they're ace!

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Three of a kind #30

In a society with so much pressure to conform, it's always refreshing to hear a lyric that stresses the importance of individuality, of not running with the pack, of doing your own thing, so to speak. And today we're featuring three fine examples of such songs. (the fact that I've had to go back 30 and 40 years here may or may not be entirely coincidental. Do people even still write songs with lyrics like these?)

Eddie and the Hot Rods - Do Anything You Wanna Do mp3

The Kinks - I'm Not Like Everybody Else mp3

Mama Cass - Make Your Own Kind Of Music mp3

(mp3s available for 7 days)

Friday, 25 January 2008

"Why do things always happen to me?"

Northern soulBeing an indiepop fan, it is the law that I must also love northern soul. I can't quite work out what the similarity is between these genres but there must be some connection, given the amount of people who can't get enough of both of them. Obviously I'm one of those people, and not just because it's the law.

Aside from the fantastic music, northern soul singers have brilliantly normal and un-pop-starry names. Reading the track listing for a northern soul album is like seeing the names of all your aunties and uncles written down.
Anyway, here are two of my favourite northern soul songs ever.

To be honest, I know not a single thing about Don Ray (I just mistyped his surname as 'Yay' in a Freudian manner) and do I really need to? I love this song more than my own children. Fortunately I'm not especially maternal and don't have any children, but if I did have any, they'd probably come second to Born A Loser. Self pity was never so much fun! If you ever meet anybody wandering around singing this to themselves - complete with backing vocals - that'll be me.

Don Ray - Born A Loser mp3 (available for 7 days)

Insistent drum beat? Check. Funky bassline? Check. Cool brass section? Check. Sweet but powerful vocal? Oh yes! Apparently, when this Gwen Owens single was released, most of the records had a fault which prevented them from playing properly and never made it into record shops. So sad!

Gwen Owens - Just Say You're Wanted and Needed mp3 (available for 7 days)

You can find both of these greats - plus 98 more - on the brilliant but expensive compilation Keeping The Faith - 40 Years of Northern Soul OR you could spend under £10 on a couple of northern soul compilation albums to get them plus 84 others. You have plenty of options!

Thursday, 24 January 2008

A video tweet

Who made the best music videos during the 1980s? It's a question that's provoked fierce debate amongst pop philosophers the world over for centuries. Except it hasn't, obviously. But it's still an interesting one. Wacky funsters Madness would have to be right up there, clearly, as early masters of the art. Then there's The Housemartins, whose promos were always entertaining and frequently laugh out loud funny. And it'd be churlish to overlook Peter Gabriel's Sledgehammer, which still looks pretty amazing to my eyes even after all these years. I was always partial to a bit of Go-Betweens video action, too. (their Video Singles compilation is fantastic.)

To this list I'd like to add the name of the Frank Chickens. The band's classic line-up of Kazuko Hohki and Kazumi Taguchi first met at an evening class in art at the Camden Institute, after both had independently relocated to London from their native Japan. These shared art school sensibilities clearly served the Chickens well when it came to making pop promos, as the following pair of gems from 1984 illustrate perfectly:

We Are Ninja (Not Geisha)

Blue Canary

Great, aren't they? Forget Agadoo, it's the We Are Ninja hand actions that people really ought to have been mimicking at birthday bashes, wedding do's and holiday camp discos all those years!

And, while we're at it, here are both songs on mp3 (for the next 7 days).

We Are Ninja (Not Geisha) mp3

Blue Canary mp3

Buy Frank Chickens stuff here.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

"Forget we're English just for one night"

Revolution74Most of my favourite music is on the twee side, but from time to time my mp3 player cries out for something louder. That's when I break out Revolution74. They're a Chichester-based 5 piece with memorable hooks, crunching guitars and an energy that jumps out of the speakers. It's pure indie powerpop. Take the non-disco song Disco Boy as an example:

Revolution74 - Disco Boy mp3 (available for 7 days)

Revolution74 started off as Captain in 2002 before realising that some other gits had got to the name first. For the past year and a half they've been signed to digital label Criminal Recordz with whom they've released 2 EPs, How Long Must You Wait and You Are The Disco. In 2006 they supported Pagan Wanderer Lu at The Water Rats and in 2007 The Hoosiers at The Joiners.

Revolution74 - Big Man mp3 (available for 7 days)

You can download the EPs from their Captain days from the Revolution74 website and listen to the two most recent EPs. To my ears there's been an obvious improvement since the early days.
Revolution74 can also be found on myspace and you can buy the EPs from Criminal Recordz. I've got my fingers crossed for a full-length album in the not too distant future!

Here they are live (and sweaty) performing Pink Hair.

Monday, 21 January 2008

Iceland easy does it

It's amazing how a live and/or acoustic version of a song can so completely transform its fortunes. Take The Girl With The Sparkling Eyes by Icelandic turn of the millennium Fierce Panda hopefuls Bellatrix. On the one hand you've got the steady but unspectacular single version; on the other there's the inspired swing of the acoustic version (which has a cracking spoken word/barked(!) intro to boot. I wish I could pronounce the word "sparkling" like that too!).

Bellatrix - The Girl With The Sparkling Eyes (Acoustic version) mp3

Bellatrix - The Girl With The Sparkling Eyes (single version) mp3

(mp3s available for 7 days)

Buy Bellatrix stuff here.

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Three of a kind #29

I love maths and science. A lot of people don't (hello kippers!), but I love elements and equations and pie charts and things! I learnt my times tables from a tape of incredibly dull songs - mostly the same tune but occasionally with a change of key - and it's a wonder that I remember any of that. If the music had been as good as any of today's three of a kind, I'm sure I'd remember them better. Listen and learn!

They Might Be Giants - The Sun Is A Mass Of Incandescent Gas mp3 (available for 7 days)

A truly educational song from They Might Be Giants, who have more official websites than any band I've ever known!

The Aislers Set - Long Division mp3 (available for 7 days)

Not technically about long division, but mention of algebra and exponentials as well. The Aislers Set official website provides news, lyrics, mp3 downloads and links to places you can buy music.

Marine Research - Venn Diagram mp3 (available for 7 days)

This is my favourite song by Heavenly-descended one album wonders Marine Research. Who'd have thought a song about trying to dump a partner for someone else could sound so sweet?

Friday, 18 January 2008

This time he'll get it right (possibly)

For all Havant and Waterlooville's heroics in the FA Cup on Wednesday night (the quintessential plucky non-league minnows spectacularly earning themselves an FA Cup 4th round tie against Liverpool at Anfield, thanks to a 4-2 win against League One leaders Swansea City in their 3rd round replay), there's only really been one football story in town this week: that of little Kevin Keegan returning for a second spell as manager of Newcastle United, eleven years after walking out on the club for what most assumed was the final time.

Can the man who caused an epidemic of bubble perms amongst his footballing peers in the late 70s and early 80s really bring success to the club for a third time (he also enjoyed a successful spell as a player there in the early-80s), or will it all go horribly Pete Tong this time round? Who knows? But it'll certainly be fun finding out.

It's hard to begrudge the bloke any success that might come his way up there, anyway, as he clearly has a passion for the club, which is both unusual and touching in these money-obsessed footballing times.

As an example of just how mercenary many at the top end of the professional game have now become, just look at some of these comments emanating from the mouth of Arsenal reject Lassana Diarra (pictured below), who completed an expensive transfer to Portsmouth on Thursday, yet clearly sees his new club as nothing more than a stopgap on his inexorable rise to the top:

"The people at Portsmouth know that I will not spend my life at the club... I was able to add a clause to my contract. If I shine, if a really big club wants me, I already know that everything will go well... My choice could shock and surprise people, I am conscious of that. But I know the Portsmouth manager, I know he is going to play me..."

So basically he's just become possibly the first player in history to express his desire to leave a club on the very same day he joined them! Now, some may say he's showing a refreshing honesty with those comments, but I say: he's a bumptious tosser.

Going back to the Keegan story, this has proved a remarkably serendipitous week for Setanta Sports: up until 48 hours ago, the Irish broadcaster's choice of Newcastle vs Bolton Wanderers as their live Premiership game this Saturday (which would have been decided upon many weeks ago, as is the way with these live games), was looking about as enticing and viewer-friendly as a weekend of back-to-back repeats of Celebrity Love Island; now, thanks to the (re)arrival of the man Keegan, it's comfortably shaping up to be the game of the week. At the risk of sounding like a David Coleman tribute act here - quite remarkable.

Anyway, King Kev and the Toon Army, this one's for you:

Mark Knopfler - Going Home: Theme of the Local Hero mp3

Buy the Local Hero soundtrack here.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

"She makes me go 'Ahh!' Oh what a star!"

My favourite description of Lorraine Bowen comes from an Amazon review from someone in Australia and reads like this:
"Imagine your office tea lady with a portable keyboard, some crazy glamorous outfit, the voice of an angel, loads of talent, a gay following... ok, so it's a lot to imagine, but the good news is - you don't have to, here it is!"

The Lorraine Bowen ExperienceIt really does tell you everything you need to know about the woman who performs under the name The Lorraine Bowen Experience.
And now here are some things you don't need to know but might be interested in anyway...

Lorraine is currently the assistant musical director of the City of Brighton Gay Men's Chorus. She has released 4 CDs on her own Sequin Skirt label - Greatest Hits Volume One (1995), Greatest Hits Volume Two (1998), BOSSY NOVA (2000), and Lorraine Bowen's Vital Organs (2006). Ms Bowen has appeared in two series of the Shuttleworths on Radio 4.
And finally, Lorraine Bowen has appeared with Billy Bragg both on record (The Internationale and Don't Try This At Home) and on tour. Yes, I bet that one surprised you, eh?

Here's three songs which show the great variety of The Lorraine Bowen Experience. First a swooning ode to Julie Christie, complete with beautiful backing vocals (as used to great effect in the film Better Than Chocolate), followed by a more comic song about the dangers of combining insects with drinks and finally, as a tribute to my esteemed fellow blogger, a sweet tale of love and fish.

The Lorraine Bowen Experience - Julie Christie mp3 (available for 7 days)

The Lorraine Bowen Experience - Insect Song mp3 (available for 7 days)

The Lorraine Bowen Experience - Kippers For Breakfast mp3 (available for 7 days)

Where can you get hold of CDs by Lorraine Bowen? Why, at the shop on her website of course! (And for those of you not in the UK, you can head over to CD Baby to buy Vital Organs and Bossy Nova.)

Please also enjoy the Lorraine Bowen Experience on youtube and myspace.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Max of the day

Goodness me but I'm enjoying The Big Stiff Box Set. And, with almost a hundred tracks spread across four CDs, featuring the cream of the Stiff Records crop (Madness, The Pogues, Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello, Kirsty MacColl, Ian Dury, The Belle Stars, Jona Lewie, Tracey Ullman, The Go-Go's etc etc), what's not to love? Just have a butcher's at the track listing here for confirmation of its sheer magnificence.

It's full of great surprises too. Like the song I'm going to put up today: England's Glory by famous former music hall comedian (and inspiration for Monty Python's Ministry of Silly Walks sketch) Max Wall.

There can't be many artists who release their first single when they're nudging seventy, but then I suppose Max was never going to be your typical pop star - although, such an eventuality unfortunately failed to pan out: the box set's accompanying booklet informs us that, written by Ian Dury, England's Glory was Stiff's first real, umm, stiff. A great shame, really, as it's a cracking 'list' song that really would have lit up the charts. It would've been great to see the old boy performing it on Top of the Pops, too!

I can't get enough of this song at the moment anyway; it's fast becoming one of my favourite Stiff songs. Have a listen, and see what you think.

Max Wall - England's Glory mp3 (available for 7 days)

Buy the Big Stiff Box Set (or else!)

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Three of a kind #28

'write the feem toon, sing the feem toon'
Three very different bands today, with one thing in common - they write their own theme tune and sing their own theme tune.

No waffling, let's get straight into it with The Monochrome Set's eponymous theme song, which was released as a single on Rough Trade back in 1979.

The Monochrome Set - The Monochrome Set mp3 (available for 7 days)

To find out more about The Monochrome Set, visit their official website or myspace page. Also have a listen to lead singer Bid's current band Scarlet's Well and bassist Andy's Would-Be-Goods.

Next we have a band whose name takes longer to say than their songs take to listen to. Well...almost! I present the All Girl Summer Fun Band's Theme Song:

All Girl Summer Fun Band - Theme Song mp3 (available for 7 days)

If you hear their songs and want to hear them again, visit the All Girl Summer Fun Band's website where you can buy both their albums (which are bloody brilliant!). They've lost a member to motherhood since I last checked in and apparently a new album is in the works. Exciting!

Finally here's previously blogged about The Hi-Life Companion's Hi-Life Theme.

The Hi-Life Companion - Hi-Life Theme mp3 (available for 7 days)

Hear more at their myspace page and find out when The Hi-Life Companion's album will be released (soon please, chaps!) from their website.

Are there any other notable theme tunes I should know about? (aside from The Monkees, obviously!)

Friday, 11 January 2008

Three of a kind #27

Today I'd like to bang on, if I may, about what is quite possibly my favourite compilation album: Popnation - Best of Blekingska Nationen 1994 - 96.

Blekingska Nationen is a student club in Lund, the largest university city in Sweden, which since 1994 has run its own Friday club night, Indigo. Loads of up-and-coming and already established bands have played Indigo down the years, and Popnation, released in 1996, features 21 of these acts - all of them Swedish, and many of them extremely good indeed.

For someone, like yours truly, living in the UK and eager to hear as much contemporary Swedish indie pop as possible in those pre-mp3, pre-broadband days of 1996, this album really was a fantastic boon. It introduced me to lots of Swedish artists who I'd never previously been aware of: Honey Is Cool, Brainpool, The Bear Quartet, Chevy, Rottingdean, Yvonne, Mutts, Cloudberry Jam, S.P.O.C.K. and Lustans Lakejer, to name but quite a few. In fact, the Cardigans would have been pretty much the only band present who I'd already have known.

And do you know what the best thing of all is about this classic compilation? It's still available to buy, if you know where to look! (see link at the end of this entry for details.)

Here are three of my favourite Popnation moments anyway - although I could just as easily have chosen a completely different trio of tracks. (there are at least a dozen on this album that are officially great.)

Lustans Lakejer - Segerns Sötma mp3 (everything else on this album is student-friendly mid-90s fare, but this track is different in that it's a synth pop classic from 1981!)

Chevy - My Girlfriend Says mp3

Honey Is Cool - Zanzibar mp3 (featuring Karin Dreijer Andersson, now one half of The Knife.)

(mp3s available for 7 days)

Buy Popnation - The Best of Blekingska Nationen 1994 - 1996 here.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

"I'm searching for someone who understands"

EggstoneSome bands can play together for years and years and not produce a single second of joy (I'm looking at you, U2) and others can be a constant source of delight. Eggstone are the latter. Formed in 1986 by three old school friends from just outside Malmö - Per Sunding, Patrik Bartosch and Maurits Carlsson - Eggstone have been making quality music ever since! Alright, they haven't released an album of new material since 1997, but that's beside the point. Eggstone cite The Smiths as an influence and there's a hint of Morrissey about Per Sunding's voice.

From their debut album Eggstone In San Diego (1992), here's a song which will always make it onto any summer mixtape I put together and also contains one of my most memorable misheard lyrics - "She is perfect but her ass is not blue, she is perfect but she smells so strange".

Eggstone - She's Perfect mp3 (available for 7 days)

The band set up their own recording studio, Tambourine Studios, and Per Sunding produced The Cardigans' Long Gone Before Daylight. Other clients include Cloudberry Jam, Emiliana Torrini, Envelopes, Leslies, Magnus Carlson, Ray Wonder and Saint Etienne. Not a bad roll call! Eggstone opened for The Cardigans for a couple of UK gigs in 1996 (Popsicle were also on the bill) and they were last seen on these shores in 1997. Apparently the band is still together so I've not completely lost hope for a new album! Keep your eyes on their nearly official website for any news.

Eggstone - Against The Sun mp3 (available for 7 days)

Eggstone CDs aren't easy to get your hands on but you can listen to a couple of songs on this non-official myspace. As soon as I find somewhere which has some left, I'll update here.

Monday, 7 January 2008

"It's too quiet"

I like to have a good sing-a-long to things and I like it best with songs where it feels like everyone else in the world is already singing along on the record. Today there will be two fine examples of this type of thing from two Swedish bands. And both have a wintry feel about them. Lovely!

Bonnie and Clyde 'Snowstorm'Bonnie and Clyde released their debut single Snowstorm on Cloudberry Records at the end of last year and it's still available to buy. It's a proper belter, so it really is worth spending $5 (that's approximately £2.54 and includes postage) on. Bonnie and Clyde are duo Fanny Wijk & Rickard Hallin, joined by the five members of the Up To No Good's, and on Snowstorm they sound like they're playing the final song of the best gig of their lives! A wall of guitars, stirring horn section, lalala-ing, bababa-ing and a warm fuzzy feeling; best enjoyed at the highest possible volume.

Bonnie and Clyde - Snowstorm mp3 (available for 7 days)

The Concretes 'Warm Night'The second song is by blogger favourites The Concretes. Warm Night was a Christmas EP from 2004 containing 4 songs (including Lady December which was covered by the Sweptaways on their 2007 Christmas EP). The titular song is like an aural hug. It's warm and friendly and it makes me want to grab all my closest friends and force them to sing it with me. But in a nicer way than that sounds. It feels like the end of a pleasantly tipsy night with the people I like best.

The Concretes - Warm Night mp3 (available for 7 days)

You can listen to and buy music by Bonnie and Clyde at their myspace page.

You can listen to music by The Concretes at their myspace page and buy mp3s from Klicktrack.

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Let there be rock! (just this once, mind)

I was never what you'd call a huge fan of Living Colour - their songs were usually far too hard rocking and, well, "metally" for me - but I did really like a couple of their songs: the remixed version of Love Rears Its Ugly Head (a 1991 #12 smash in the UK) and, especially, the superb Glamour Boys (which failed to bother the UK top 75 but did have the consolation of scoring them a #31 hit on their home patch, in the US "Hot" 100, in 1989.)

They also get bonus kudos points for spelling their name properly - founding member Vernon Reid was originally from the UK - and for the career path taken recently by lead singer Corey Glover, who's currently to be found playing the part of Judas in a touring production of Jesus Christ Superstar. Ha! Rock on!

Living Colour - Glamour Boys (remix) mp3 (available for 7 days)

Buy Living Colour stuff here.

Friday, 4 January 2008

Spike Spike Bo Bike Banana Bana Fo Fike Fee Fi Mo Mike...Spike!

Three classics from female singers today. First we have a song which gives us hours of fun! Well, at least five minutes of fun as we learn that there isn't any name that we can't rhyme, according to Shirley Ellis. Given the trouble I have spelling in song, you can imagine how many days it took me to learn how to play The Name Game...

Shirley Ellis - The Name Game mp3 (available for 7 days)

I love Carole King, I do. So does my mum. So does my brother. So does kippers. In fact I'm not sure I know anyone who hasn't openly declared their love for her. I even forgive her for being half responsible for the distinctly dubious He Hit Me And It Felt Like A Kiss since the following song was a hit in the same year.

Carole King - It Might As Well Rain Until September mp3 (available for 7 days)

I believe my words upon hearing I Can't Stay Mad At You for the first time were, "Why don't all songs sound like this?" Still a perfectly valid question, I feel. (And it was written by Carole King - huzzah!)
If you get a spare moment, have a read up about Skeeter - her story is pretty amazing. Particularly the part where her best friend's mother pumped her full of drugs and told her she was responsible for the death of said friend in a car crash.

Skeeter Davis - I Can't Stay Mad At You mp3 (available for 7 days)

All of these songs can be bought on the great compilation Early Girls volume 1: Popsicles and Icicles.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Always take the weather(man) with you

One of the most common searches that leads people to this blog is for John Kettley (Is A Weatherman) by A Tribe of Toffs (which I wrote about here). Time and again it crops up, but - as we only tend to put songs up for a single week - the accompanying mp3 file would have expired months ago. Result: lots of disappointed Googlers. Yet no one has ever thought to ask us to repost it - until now. (that's really all it takes!)

So, "8fishy" (if that's even your real name), and to all other fans of novelty singles about TV weathermen from the eighties, here's the song, as requested. Happy listening.

A Tribe of Toffs - John Kettley (Is A Weatherman) mp3 (available for 7 days.)

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Three of a Kind #26

New year fireworksLast seasonal post, I promise! This is my only nod to the new year, since I'm not one for making resolutions.
I'm hoping 2008 will be full of music that excites me, as 2007 was.
For today's three of a kind we have songs from three fine bands/artists Camera Obscura, Asobi Seksu and Hello Saferide which acknowledge the new year, even if they don't exactly celebrate it!

From Biggest Bluest Hi-Fi:
Camera Obscura - Happy New Year mp3 (available for 7 days)

From Citrus:
Asobi Seksu - New Years mp3 (available for 7 days)

From Would You Let Me Play This EP 10 Times A Day?:
Hello Saferide - 2006 mp3 (available for 7 days)

Please visit the aritists' websites to find out where you can buy their superb music. Happy new year!