Wednesday, 31 December 2014

No. 11 Animals That Swim - Pink Carnations E.P.

Almost certainly my last post of 2014 and on to a personal favourite, Animals That Swim. If I were to draw up a list of bands that never got the recognition they deserved (and you know that in my head I have), Animals That Swim would certainly feature. This is the earliest 7" of theirs that I own, though it was actually their fifth single. Pink Carnations is a fine example of their style; beautifully observed commentaries on everyday life. It also appears on their first album, Workshy, from 1994; a fine record, though their next full-length release, I Was The King, I Really Was The King, was, arguably, their career best. If you know nothing of the band, I'd thoroughly recommend their entire back catalogue. Oddly Spotify has only a couple of their singles, though it does include The Greenhouse, which is a damned fine starting point; "asthma man grows pot in greenhouse" etc.

This also plays with the 7" format rather pleasingly, it actually includes 5 tracks and plays at 33 rpm. The additional tracks are unspectacular, out-takes from the Workshy sessions I suspect.

Animals That Swim would also feature on another of my lists; bands that I consider favourites but never saw live, along with the likes of Danielle Dax and the Cocteau Twins. I believe they rarely ventured far beyond the capital, which made them hard to see in Leeds or Sheffield.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

No. 10 Altered Images - Change of Heart

Change of Heart is my final (and also the band's final) Altered Images single, An inglorious end for them - this reached only number 83 in the UK charts as the band called it a day. This may explain why there isn't a video for this single (which may be considered a blessing). However there is a decent film clip which was put together for b-side, Another Lost Look, when aired on The Tube (the keen eyed may spot a youthful Jools Holland). This single commits the cardinal sin of including a b-side which is also on the album (Bite) - unacceptable behaviour obviously (as is releasing four singles off the aforementioned album). That said, both that a- and b-side are solid enough cuts, so there are worse ways to end a career. So, on to our next artist, galloping past Anastasia Screamed and And You Will Know Us By Our Trail Of Dead... both of whom fail to register a single 7"er sadly.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

No. 9 Altered Images - Bring Me Closer

There are bound to be moments when, as I trawl through thirty years of single buying, I come across singles that have not aged well, or are just plain bad. That said, I've always been fairly ruthless in getting rid of things that are properly rotten, so don't expect to be troubled by too much grebo, thrash metal or the very worst of goth (all crimes I've committed in the past). Anyhow, this is both dated and pretty bad, so it seems to have got through quality control. The decision to re-brand Altered Images with a Philly sound, complete with soulful backing vocals, obligatory sweeping string section and chicka-chicka guitars was probably a poor one; there's something of the foghorn about Grogan's vocal delivery too. As if that weren't enough there's the video; a typical 1980s "let's make a movie" treatment - on this occasion a no-expense-spared, hire-a-helicopter, sub Bond espionage clip, which reunites Grogan with John Gordon Sinclair. Sadly, this is no Gregory's Girl, though it's worth sticking with for the moment around 2.58, where Sinclair actually appears to be wearing more make-up that Grogan (still, it was the '80s). On the plus side, the B-side, Surprise Me, is a bit of a gem. 

Monday, 15 December 2014

No. 8 Altered Images - Don't Talk To Me About Love

So it's on to the final clutch of Altered Images singles. Their third and final album saw them made over as an increasingly polished AOR act. It was a gamble that largely failed commercially, and probably accounts for the band's demise. It did however produce this, their final top ten hit (No. 7, to be precise). I still like this a lot; the production is quintessentially eighties and it has as good a chorus as any Altered Images tune. The B-side, Last Goodbye, is presumably an album out take and nothing to get too excited about, to be honest.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

No. 7 Altered Images - See Those Eyes

I don't remember See Those Eyes being a hit, though a quick Wiki suggests it reached no. 11 in the singles chart in 1982. It was the follow up to I Could Be Happy, which I clearly remember as a chart hit. This was and is one of my favourite Altered Images singles, though I didn't discover it until I picked up my first Altered Images release, the cassette version of 1984's Collected Images. The b-side is an entirely superfluous and rather ugly remix of A Day's Wait. The video treatment is a Prisoner pastiche, filmed on location at Portmeirion, which I suspect cost a considerable amount of money, but is still pretty awful.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

No. 6 Altered Images - Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday always felt like somewhat of an albatross. It was never a favourite, and the years haven't been kind to it.  It was always dangerously close to the realms of the dreaded novelty single, and was always the one song that people would know and judge the band by. Still, I seem to own it on 7", 12" (with an even less edifying dance mix thrown in) and on at least two albums, so I should probably make my peace with it. I was going to include a link to the video, but that's dated even more badly than the song. The b-side, So We Go Whispering, with it's eerie piano motif and backward vocals is a real treat though, so all is not lost.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

No. 5 Altered Images - A Day's Wait

Altered Images. A band who are held in possibly unhealthily high regard by men of a certain age, myself included. We who were adolescent when Gregory's Girl was released, and could reliably repeat most of the best lines; "At least you've stopped kissing me like I was your aunty." We who grew up with their music and continued to cherish it even though it was slightly awkward and teenaged.

The worst part of this is that this isn't the right single. It should be Dead Pop Stars, but I never found a reasonably priced single (it had to have the picture sleeve obviously) in the days when I used to endlessly sift through singles in Plymouth's second hand record shops - the others you could pick up for a few pennies, but their spiky debut was always prized and as a result still eludes me. So instead, here's the second single, A Day's Wait. It's still pretty spiky, thanks to the Severin production - the scratchy post-punk guitars and drums give it a goth-lite feel which I still really like.

Friday, 28 November 2014

No. 4 Alice Donut - Get A Life/Get A Job

The second and final selection from Alice Donut is a 1990 single on Vital Music. This is the first taste of coloured vinyl in our alphabetical run and also the first that requires the 45 rpm adapter; there was always something vaguely exotic about these singles with the big hole in the middle, largely as is was usually U.S. import singles that required them. Get a Life is typical thrashy, trashy Donut fare, but the slower Get A Job is my favourite, with its slide guitar, trombone and bleak assessment of McJob culture.

So, will it be Alien Sex Fiend next? Only time will tell.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

No. 3 Alice Donut - My Boyfriend's Back

Alice Donut's version of My Boyfriend's Back, released on the consistently fabulous Alternative Tentacles, was a rather unlikely micro-hit amongst the indie crowd at Leeds University in the early 90s as I recall. It's typically scabrous Donut fare, though no more sinister than the original version as popularised by The Angels, frankly, with its gleeful anticipation of a beating for the unwanted suitor upon said boyfriend's return. This single appears to have been a stop-gap prior to the release of Mule, for my money, their finest album. The other b-side (it is self-deprecatingly a double b-side), is a pretty decent tune too; a reworking of Demonologist, a track of the previous album, Bucketfuls of Sickness and Horror in an Otherwise Meaningless Life. I fondly remember seeing them at the Duchess of York in Leeds (RIP) at around this time, but I have no idea of the precise date; any suggestions would be warmly received though.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

No. 2 The Adult Net - Edie

The second single from The Adult Net, Edie must surely rank as their finest moment. It starts out all Spector-esque before mutating into a thick slice of wah-wah driven psych-pop. Rather lovely.  The b-side, I Get Around, sounds, unsurprisingly, an awful lot like The Fall circa 1985, thanks to the presence of Karl Burns and Simon Rogers. The provenance of this single is lost to me; probably a Plymouth second-hand shop in the mid-80s. I love the Edie Sedgewick inspired sleeve photo and the Beggars Banquet paper centre.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

No. 1 Adamski - Killer

So here's the chain of events; a friend recently shared some images of a pile of old 7" singles he'd recently re-discovered. They were beautiful; great music (even when it was terrible), great artwork (even when it was terrible) and great memories.

A few days later I found myself revisiting my own stash of 7" singles and wondering how to make something interesting of them.

That's how I end up here; a blog to celebrate these lovely little pieces of music, art, memory, whatever. I'll start at A, and see how far I get. The aim is a photo or two, a listen to both sides and a quick post. 

The first pick is pretty anomalous. In 1990 I was largely hostile to most things electronic; rave culture was, if not the enemy, then certainly something to be regarded with suspicion. This slipped through the net though. I remember hearing it on the way back from a second year history conference in Otterburn and being taken with it - it seemed pretty haunting at the time.

It has always sat at the front of the 7" record boxes over the years; thus the weathered condition. The sleeve has faded badly and is pretty creased, but it retains a certain charm I think. The b-side is horrid though.

I think this was the last number 1 single I bought on 7" - make of that what you will.