Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Kiwi Go Again

Although it's already been screened in the U.S., we're not due to get season two of Flight of the Conchords here in the U.K. until May. I'm afraid I just couldn't wait that long, though, so ended up downloading the series over the internet, and by crikey it doesn't disappoint. Along with Peep Show, Summer Heights High, Extras and The IT Crowd this is one of the funniest TV comedies of the past few years, for me. We'll have to make the most of this second series of FotC, mind, as it looks like it's going to be the last. Ahh.

***************Mild Spoilers Ahoy!***************

Some of my favourite bits from season two: Brian the New Zealand Prime Minister, the Australian girlfriend/Australians in general as New Zealenders' nemeses, Mary Lynn Rajskub (Chloe from 24) and the Simon & Garfunkel episode, the epileptic dogs episode, Murray's friendship graph and his fort/den, and this - Jemaine and Bret's superstalker Mel's very own song!

Season 1 DVDs going cheap here and here

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Doin' the dø

On their MySpace page Finnish-French duo the dø - pronounced ''dough'', as in the Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So-La-Si-Do scale - list their influences as: Bartok, BECK, Jimi Hendrix, Thelonious Monk, Ella Fitzgerald, Nico, Igor Stravinsky, Kiss The Change, Bird, The Last Poets, Coltrane, Bjork, Monte, Muddy Waters, Mingus, Eminem, The WuTangClan, Lauryn Hill, Betty Davis, Queen, The Beatles, Tom Waits, Art Pepper, Frank Zappa, Young Marble Giants, Duke Ellington, The White Stripes , Peaches, Michael Jackson, Joanna Newsom and Patti Smith.

Ironic, then, that there's no mention of The Cardigans, as that's the band who the dø sound most like (at least on the tracks I'm featuring today. In fairness, though, they do embrace all sorts of different genres on other songs).

Anyway, to borrow from the modern "street" vernacular: I blinking well love these songs and no perishing mistake, mother fudgers!

the dø - At Last mp3

the dø - Stay (Just a Little Bit More) mp3

(mp3s available for a week)

Buy the dø's debut album A Mouthful here.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Out With A Bang (Bang)

Lovely Swedish Marit Bergman has a new album and single out this week. The Tear Collector is her fourth solo long player and boasts thirteen tracks including new single Bang Bang, which is, as you might expect, rather ace (once you get past the initial disappointment of it not being a cover of the old B.A. Robertson song after all. Or maybe that's just me).

The video for Bang Bang (I keep wanting to type the mighty fall now) also features much Dick-van-Dyke-in-Mary Poppins-esque prancing about on chimney tops from a bunch of sweeps. (No sign of Sooty or Soo though!)

But wait, there's more! If you buy the Limited Special Edition of The Tear Collector you get not 13 but a whopping 22 (count 'em!) tracks, including fantastic duets with the likes of Frida Hyvönen and Titiyo.

Or, if you're a bit strapped for cash in these troublesome times, you can also buy individual tracks at the Marit Bergman webshop.

And, as if that wasn't already too much linkage for one blog post, you can even stream tracks from the album over at Marit's MySpace page. Nice!

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

The snow is always whiter on the other side

Watch out, watch out, there's a new Hello Saferide single about. It's called Arjeplog, it’s "about the north of Sweden, about going to the city and missing the countryside, and about going to the countryside and missing the city. It’s about love, and it’s about spooning without one arm getting numb" (so says that there Annika Norlin), it's taken from the album More Modern Short Stories From Hello Saferide and it's accompanied by this recession-beating video, filmed in five minutes at a cost of precisely nothing. Hurrah!

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Dubious But Decent

Schmaltz alert! Schmaltz alert! Clear the area! It's the Kids From Fame and Starmaker!

Actually the "Kids" From Fame is a bit of a misnomer in this instance as all the best lines in that song went to Lydia Grant AKA Debbie Allen AKA one of the teachers. What a swizz! I mean, if she would insist on being involved at all why couldn't she just be like Mr Sh-Sh-Sh-Sh-Sh-Sh-Sh-Shorovsky or Miss Sh-Sh-Sh-Sh-Sh-Sh-Sh-Sherwood and just settle for a place in the choir? Eh?

And where's CoCo Hernandez? Nowhere in sight, that's where! Obviously the evil Grant or one of her cronies sent the poor girl off to the deli or something to buy some pastrami on rye (whatever that is) when filming was about to start, and she ended up not only missing out on a place in this, erm, heart-rending scene but also any involvement on the hit single version subsequently recorded and released on to an unsuspecting pop populace at the back end of 1982. (Or maybe she just had the week off when they filmed this episode.)

Also missing out would have been Montgomery Macneil who, despite having a line ("But I keep asking myself why") in the above clip taken from whatever episode of Fame that was, was usurped by Bruno Martelli (who's also seen here, tinkling on his piano) when it came to the actual recorded version. I think Montgomery may have left the show by this point, though, so he's got no-one to blame but himself (and his admittedly rather weedy singing voice).

And I know what you're thinking - who's the sitting down bloke that's being serenaded by ver Kids (and the scene-hogging Lydia Grant) in that video? Well, his name was Mr Crandell and he was a beloved (but suspiciously seldom-seen) teacher at the School of Performing Arts who was obviously being written out in this episode and was going off to live in Brisbane or wherever (no, hang on, I'm thinking of where old Neighbours characters all end up. Let's say Pittsburgh instead then. Altogether now: Pittsburgh!).

The real-life story behind his departure was far more poignant, though: you'll notice that Mr Crandell looks a bit peaky sat in that chair. Well the truth was that Michael Thoma, the actor that played him, was actually terminally ill in real life and died in September '82, before the song even became a single. So perhaps on this one occasion we can forgive the inherent shcmaltziness in that clip (assuming the cast all knew about Thoma's condition).

Honestly, though, talk about a back-handed tribute. I mean, take this line, from the chorus (actually it's pretty much the whole chorus):

Starmaker... Dreambreaker.... Soultaker.... We're happy now.

So let's get this straight: He made you a star, only to then shatter your dreams and take your souls, yet still you wrote him this tribute? Oh wait, I get it, you're happy now - happy that he's leaving. Why don't you just drop your trousers and moon in his face while you're at it? Still, as long as you're happy now. Or are you? It's all a bit confusing!

The Kids From Fame (and the microphone-hogging Lydia Grant) - Starmaker mp3

Mildly Embarrassing Childhood Confession: At school we were asked to improvise a scene about something or other in drama class and I remember basing mine around the characters from Fame, which I seem to recall involved me changing the name of Danny Amatulo to Danny Amagayboy. I really was a deeply unfunny individual. (Some things never change, eh, readers?)

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Three of a Kind #81

Three songs from the 1997 compilation A Tribute To The Cardigans today tonight. German girl group The Mobylettes cover Hey! Get Out Of My Way, Swedish indie stalwarts Red Sleeping Beauty tackle After All, and Susan Morris's unmistakably English vocal stylings on Automobile's acoustic version of Been It round things off nicely.

Actually it's a bit ironic that Automobile lumbered themselves with such an American-sounding moniker, given how English they obviously are (were). It's a bit like some American band calling themselves Pavement instead of Sidewalk, or something. Tcha! As if that'd ever happen.

The Mobylettes - Hey! Get Out Of My Way mp3

Red Sleeping Beauty - After All mp3

Automobile - Been It mp3

Mildly Obvious Pop Fact: Red Sleeping Beauty took their name from the old McCarthy song of the same name. Honestly, the level of research that goes into these posts is frightening.

My goodness the Cardigans were great though, weren't they? For those first couple of albums, Emmerdale and Life, at least; before they dropped the twee, beefed up their sound and went all serious. I'd also highly recommend a Japanese import album of Cardigans b-sides and rarities that came out in '96 or '97 called The Other Side Of The Moon. It is absolutely brilliant. Even the title's clever (bearing in mind the whole First Band On The Moon thing)!

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Tiger Woods '96 Style

June 1996: an explosion in a firecrackers factory in China kills at least thirty-six people; a massive IRA bomb explodes in Manchester city centre injuring over two hundred people; journalist Veronica Guerin is shot and killed in her car just outside Dublin; Steffi Graf wins her twelve-thousandth tennis Grand Slam title at Wimbledon; England goes Euro '96 crazy as the country hosts its first major football tournament since 1966 (apart from the Zenith Data Systems Cup); and Princes Risborough indie popsters Tiger reach the giddy heights of #135 in the UK hit parade with the frankly rather brilliant Shining In The Wood. What a month!

Tiger - Shining In The Wood mp3

Tiger - Where's The Love? mp3

NB: Golfer Tiger Woods did actually turn professional in 1996, but not until August - which was a fat lot of good for the purposes of this post. He turned out to be arguably even more successful than the band Tiger, though, which I dare say will be some sort of consolation for him.

Tiger's (the band, not the golfer) debut album We Are Puppets - yours for £1.83 from Amazon Marketplace

Sunday, 15 March 2009

The Sweptaways Show Up Again

It's been a while since we've heard anything new from them (Christmas 2007, to be precise. Not that I've been counting the days or anything. Much), but finally The Sweptaways have a new single out. It's a cover of The Zombies classic Time Of The Season, it features guest vocals from Howlin' Pelle of The Hives, and it's out today! Here's the vid:

I've only heard it a couple of times so far (the video's only just gone up) and it's going to take a while to get used to, what with the Zombies version being so definitive and all, but whatever, it's great to have the ladies back. (We went to a Zombies gig last year funnily enough, and by crikey they were terrific. They're on tour again in the UK this spring actually, when they'll be playing Odessey & Oracle for the very last time. Ahh.)

Back to the Sweptaways, this new single isn't all we're going to be hearing from them this year - they also have a brand new album, their second, coming out on April 15th. The Sweptaways Show features yet more collaborations, with, among others, Jens Lekman, Asha Ali, Robyn, Moneybrother and Sir Eric Beyond, and you can pre-order it here.

If their previous album and Christmas EPs are anything to go by then The Sweptaways Show should be an absolute corker. Can't wait!

EDIT: The Sweptaways' label, Hybris, have made an mp3 of Time Of The Season available for free download here. Ace!

Friday, 13 March 2009

Rude Boy's Out On Sale!

Here's an interesting piece of pop trivia, which you may or may not be aware of. (But read on regardless!) In 1978, Clash rhythm section Paul Simonon and Topper Headon were convicted for taking potshots with an air rifle at some racing pigeons on the roof of the building where they'd been laying down some tracks (man) in a recording studio. Killed three of the poor creatures, they did, the swines.

Representing the errant pair in court was one David Mellor QC, the oleaginous future Conservative MP and Heritage Minister who resigned from John Major's cabinet in 1992 following a tabloid scandal involving him indulging in some extra-marital how's-your-father with an actress.

The fact that the actress in question, Antonia de Sancha, told the tabloid newspapers that Mellor liked to wear a Chelsea kit during sex, is about the only possible reason I can think of for him somehow managing to land the presenter's job on football phone-in 6-0-6 shortly afterwards. (His stock phrase on said show: "Call in now for some red-hot soccer chat." Thanks. Don't mind if I don't.)

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, the Clash bird butcherers. Now, band leader Joe Strummer's real name, as you may know, was John Graham Mellor; he'd had an older brother called David. David Mellor! No, not that one, thank gawd. Strummer's brother had committed suicide in 1970. Still, though, I'm sure Joe and David Mellor QC must've had many a chuckle about the whole same-name coincidence thing in court while waiting for the verdict on the bang-to-rights pigeon purgerers. Or perhaps not.

Incidentally, the culprits were fined £20 and £30 each and were ordered to pay the owner of the unfortunate birds £750 in compensation (after Mellor managed to get the figure reduced from the £1400 that the judge had originally decided upon).

I learnt all this - at least the stuff about Headon, Simonon and Mellor representing them - while watching the film Rude Boy, a sort of part-rockumentary, part-fiction, part-social history of late-1970s Britain. Anyone else seen it? It's all a bit of a hotch-potch really, and a tad depressing at times.

The titular character, for example, is a bit of a plonker (Stupid Boy would've been a more appropriate title) who leaves his job working in a sex shop to become a roadie for the Clash. He soon starts to grate on, well, everyone's nerves with his ill-informed, borderline racist opinions, constant drunkenness and general all-round fecklessness. He's a crap roadie too.

It's a fascinating historical document viewed from this distance, anyway, and you do get a real sense of the racial tension and potential for volatility in the country at the time that led to the riots of the early eighties. There's footage of rallies ranging from the Anti-Nazi League to the National Front, and (a not-yet-Prime-Minister) Thatcher in full flow at a Tory Party Conference.

There's also a sub-plot involving the police arresting some black blokes who they've been staking out at a bus stop where they'd allegedly been dipping into people's pockets, and bundling them into various meatwagons for interrogation down the nick. This storyline is completely unrelated to anything else happening in the film and so feels a bit incongruous, apart from being in keeping with the racial tension theme. It does feel rather like it's been tacked on almost as an afterthought by the film-makers, though. Who knows, maybe it was!

Actually, what with a recession, a Labour government on the way out and far-right agitators trying to capitalise on people's growing disenchantment, there are quite a few parallels with the Britain back then and that of today, thirty years on. The one big difference is that the music scene's far less radical and, well, anaemic nowadays. Whither the modern-day Clash? Eh?

The band themselves were, unsurprisingly, hugely disappointed with the finished film and attempted to distance themselves from it by wearing badges bearing the legend I don't want Rude Boy Clash film. On the plus side it does at least contain some fantastic live footage of them in their pomp (twenty-one songs in all) and the film as a whole is actually pretty compelling, albeit a tad confusing and infuriating at times.

Anyway, I suppose the obvious thing to do now would be to put up something by the Clash - so here's Junior Murvin's Police & Thieves (which also features in the film)!

Junior Murvin - Police And Thieves mp3

Get Rude Boy on DVD for a snipsome £2.99 here

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Three of a Kind #80

We've done Now That's What I Call Music 1, so let's move not-all-that-swiftly on to Volume 2, shall we? Why not. As I'm admittedly overly fond of saying, this was the first album I ever owned. Certainly I'd already collected a dozen or so singles by this point - Joe Dolce's Shaddap You Face, Kraftwerk's The Model and the 1982 England World Cup Squad's This Time (We'll Get It Right), to name but three - but Now 2 was the first record that made me utilise the 33rpm switch on my turntable. Here's the full track listing.

Record One Side One:

1. Queen - Radio Ga Ga
2. Nik Kershaw - Wouldn't It Be Good
3. Thompson Twins - Hold Me Now
4. Matt Bianco - Get Out Of Your Lazy Bed
5. Carmel - More More More
6. Madness - Michael Caine
7. Flying Pickets - Only You
8. Nena - 99 Red Balloons

Record One Side Two:

9. Cyndi Lauper - Girls Just Want To Have Fun
10. Tracey Ullman - My Guy's Mad At Me
11. Matthew Wilder - Break My Stride
12. Julia & Company - Breaking Down (Sugar Samba)
13. Joe Fagin - That's Living Alright
14. Hot Chocolate - I Gave You My Heart (Didn't I)
15. Snowy White - Bird Of Paradise

Record Two Side One:

16. Frankie Goes To Hollywood - Relax
17. Eurythmics - Here Comes The Rain Again
18. Howard Jones - What Is Love?
19. The Smiths - What Difference Does It Make
20. Fiction Factory - (Feels Like) Heaven
21. Re-Flex - The Politics Of Dancing
22. Thomas Dolby - Hyperactive
23. China Crisis - Wishful Thinking

Record Two Side Two:

24. David Bowie - Modern Love
25. Culture Club - It's A Miracle
26. Rolling Stones - Undercover Of The Night
27. Big Country - Wonderland
28. Slade - Run Runaway
29. Duran Duran - New Moon On Monday
30. Paul McCartney - Pipes Of Peace

Straight away it suffers in comparison to its more illustrious predecessor - Vol. 1 having contained, by my reckoning, ten UK number ones to Vol. 2's paltry four. But is the second instalment really that much poorer than the series opener? Well, yes, frankly. I mean, Snowy White's Bird Of Paradise? Tracey Ullman's pointless Madness cover My Guy's Mad At Me?? (Mary Wells had obviously claimed dibs on the use of My Guy as a song title two decades previously.) Re-Flex's The Politics Of Dancing?! Purlease!

Even some of the more well-known songs on this volume leave me cold now. I really, really hate Radio Ga Ga for example. Even as a feckless child I realised what a load of pompous drivel that was. And maybe they've just been played to death in the intervening quarter of a century (in fact, they definitely have) but Relax and Girls Just Want To Have Fun really get on my wick now too. Whereas the only good thing about It's A Miracle is it's not The War Song. Humbug!

But it's not all bad news; far from it, in fact. I mean, look! What Difference Does It Make is on there! (The fact that I was far too young and stupid to realise its genius at the time is neither here nor there.) And, erm, Wouldn't It Be Good. (Oh come on, you know you love it really!) Incidentally, Nik Kershaw was married to the daughter of an English teacher at my school. Or am I thinking of Howard Jones? No, Nik definitely never married him. Ho and indeed ho.

I also muchly like these three songs (which is probably just as well bearing in mind that I'm sticking them up as mp3s here).

Julia & Company - Breakin' Down (Sugar Samba) mp3

Thomas Dolby - Hyperactive mp3

Slade - Run Runaway mp3

More Now/Music-based madness to follow at some point in the future - possibly!

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Three of a Kind #79

(photo half-inched from the London Popfest Flickr page)

I saw that Action Biker the other week, at a pub in Hoxton (or was it Shoreditch? I'm seriously not in any danger of collecting a "Knowledge" Green Badge any time soon) as part of the London Popfest (great job Marianthi!). If you've read this blog for any sort of time you'll know that I'm a big fan of Sarah's so it was great to finally see her in action (biker).

And what a set! It was a mixture of the new and the old, with (if memory serves) six tracks from last year's Hesperian Puisto album (Love For Sure, Refridgerator, I Look Out For You, ICA Lappis, Frosty Snow Winter and the title track), as well as long-time favourites like Teve Star, the French grammatics of La Conjugaison Pour Tous, the Young Marble Giants cover Eating Noddemix and the awesome Farrah, which was just about the highlight of the whole day for me.

In fact, she played pretty much all the greats bar Sandy Edwards - but then I'm not sure how well songs about former 'top dogs' in long-running Australian prison dramas would go down among your über-indie London type of crowd. I'd have loved it though!

Ooh, actually there was no The Perfect Job either, now I come to think of it. That might have been a tad anachronistic too, mind, given that it's about delivering newspapers, which is not something that I'd imagine your typical twenty-something pop star would much aspire to at the end of the day (or, indeed, at the beginning of it).

Sarah walked right past us at the bar afterwards but I didn't say anything to her because, well, I was a bit starstruck really. Also, the next band - fellow Swedes Liechtenstein - were on by this time and were playing at such a volume that it would have been impossible to make myself heard over the noise. (That's my excuse anyway and I'm sticking to it!)

Anyway, if twee electro Europop is your bag (daddio) then you should definitely click on the blue Hesparian Puisto link above and invest in some quality Action Biker product. If you're still not convinced, here're a few of the aforementioned tunes to whet your appetite.

Action Biker - Farrah mp3

Action Biker - ICA Lappis mp3

Action Biker - The Perfect Job mp3

(mp3s available for a week)

Monday, 9 March 2009

Really, it's just not cricket

Pressing the red button on the BBC's Freeview interactive service to access the Test Match Special coverage of the latest West Indies v England cricket game a few minutes ago, I was surprised to see the following message at the bottom of the screen:

Due to contractual issues we regret that we are are unable to offer the scorecard.

Eh? They're allowed to bring us the radio commentary of the game on our televisions, but they're forbidden to show us the bloody scorecard? What's that about? I know they used to be able to show it on BBCi but it seems that now Sky or someone (let's face it, it was probably Sky) have objected to the BBC's brazen attempts to keep the non-Sky TV subscribing majority of the UK's population abreast of cricketing events in the Caribbean by providing a handy on-screen visual aid viz the scorecard, so it's had to be removed.

Which means we now actually have to listen to what Blowers, Aggers, Boycotters (or whoever happens to be comment(at)ing on TMS at the time) have to say, and wait until they pipe up with the latest score before we can find out what's going on; a process that can sometimes take literally seconds. God my life's hard sometimes. (I'm joking, obviously. Still, though, how petty!)

Black Box Recorder - Child Psychology mp3*

*I heard this song for the first time in absolutely yonks earlier tonight, in an old episode of the Gilmore Girls. "Life is unfair... kill yourself or get over it". It seemed absolutely appropriate for this post!

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Try penny whistling this

I'm almost tempted to call today's band a one-hit wonder, but that wouldn't be quite true, as their closest brush with the charts (in the UK at least) came when their version of Can't Help Falling In Love agonisingly stalled at number #42, in 1986. So they didn't technically manage a hit at all. How about a half-hit wonder? That'll do.

The song did at least hang around the lower reaches of the top 75 for eight weeks, which is longer than many actual pop 40 hits manage; it also turned up as the theme song to (at least) two films: John Hughes's 1987 teen drama Some Kind Of Wonderful and the Stephen Frears-directed 1993 TV movie The Snapper.

The latter's easily the best of these films, by the way, and is also miles better than the other two largely-disappointing movie adaptations of Roddy Doyle's Barrytown trilogy of novels, The Commitments and The Van. The books themselves are all terrific, though, if you've somehow never got around to reading them.

Anyway, not for the first time, I digress. Here's the Stephen Hague remix of Can't Help Falling In Love as featured on the Some Kind Of Wonderful soundtrack. I love this song to bits.

Lick The Tins - Can't Help Falling In Love mp3 (for 7 days)

Mildly Interesting Pop Fact: Lick The Tins' name derives from a nickname given to an old tramp by the children from guitarist Ronan Heenan's home town. At least that's what it says on their Wikipedia page - and Wikipedia would never lie to us, right?

Buy the Lick The Tins album Blind Man On A Flying Horse

Monday, 2 March 2009

Song of the Day

Busy weekend, too knackered to write anything even remotely coherent. This is great though!

Candy and the Kisses - Are You Trying To Get Rid Of Me Baby mp3

Are You Trying To Get Rid Of Me Baby is from Saint Etienne Present Songs For Mario's Cafe