Monday, 28 December 2015

No. 31 Bettie Serveert - Brain-Tag

A second entry for Dutch post-grungers, Bettie Serveert, this was originally given away as a freebie with initial copies of their 1992 album, Palomine, when it was released on short-lived 4AD spin-off label Guernica. The A-side, Brain-Tag, is a bit of a slow burner. and has album out-take written all over it. On the reverse you get two tracks; Smile has already featured on this blog, as it was the b-side of Tom Boy. The other track, Get The Bird was also a b-side of the single version of Palomine. 

I was always rather fond of the bonus single given away with albums - it certainly seemed to be a better way of rewarding the loyal fan that the modern phenomenon of reissuing the album six months after its initial release with a slew of extra tracks (often of questionable worth, as the b-side seems to be a bit of a dying art) and forcing the same loyal fan to re-buy an album they already own at an inflated price. 

Next up, an all-time favourite.


Saturday, 5 December 2015

No. 30 Bettie Serveert - Tom Boy

OK, so this whole blog project is (partly) an exercise in nostalgia, despite my fairly frequently expressed distaste for the whole 'heritage' music scene. It's fair to say though, that if I were to look all wistful about a particular year, 1992 would be a strong contender. It has always seemed to me that this was a good time for music, with lots of good bands releasing their best work. However, on reflection I'm not convinced this is actually the case - my suspicion is that I have particular fondness for 1992, because it was a time of plentiful gigs, frequent festivals and a degree of underemployment that left me with enough money to buy music and enough time to peruse shops, both new and secondhand, and actually acquire the stuff.

So this was part of the rush of great music that, for me at least, made 1992 a vintage year.

Bettie Serveert were/are the most well known Dutch post-grunge rockers from this period. They toured with the likes of Buffalo Tom and Dinosaur Jr, produced a cracking debut album, Palomine, which came out in the UK, on Guernica, the short-lived 4AD off-shoot, then switched to (the also ill-fated) Beggars Banquet and are, it would seem, still active. Tom Boy was their first single, backed by a decent b-side, Smile. Well worth a listen if you don't know their stuff, well worth wallowing in the nostalgia for 4 minutes and 21 seconds if you do.

Monday, 16 November 2015

No. 29 Beachbuggy - Ya Just A Little Punk

Beachbuggy were, for a period in the mid-1990s a fairly significant feature in my life. Hailing from Doncaster, and reflecting the creative vision of their singer/guitarist Jack Straker, they had a small but vociferous following around Leeds, though this never entirely translated into wider popularity or success. This single is fairly typical of their sound - fairly basic production, garage rock with a hint of '60s surfer rock and themes that revolve around classic cars, drag racing and 1950s Americana. I first remember being aware of them when they performed one of their trailer gigs (they'd play a short set from the back of a trailer at the end of a another band's gig) and then saw them in a wide range of pubs and small venues in Leeds and Sheffield over the next few years. This was the last single released during their first burst of creativity; shortly afterwards Straker joined the Wedding Present as bassist/guitarist, though there was a second spell which generated wider interest once they signed to Alan McGee's Poptones label and got themselves produced by Steve Albini. However it all amounted to very little and the band hung up their matching overalls in the mid-'00s.

My recollections of the specifics of which gigs I attended  are pretty sketchy and I'd welcome any details that others reading this may recall. I think they're the only band I ever saw in Leeds' Cardigan Arms and also the only band I saw play the downstairs bar at Sheffield's legendary and long closed Boardwalk.

The B-side is called The Chauffeur, but sadly, it's not a cover of this.

Monday, 9 November 2015

No. 28 Bauhaus - Spirit

I've been away too long! Halloween and Bonfire Night have been and gone, Autumn is finally feeling a little more autumnal, so it's high time I cracked on a bit. Here at last, is my final Bauhaus single. Released in 1982, Spirit was another attempt to crack the all important Top 40 - it failed (again - see post no. 27), only reaching number 42 and was subsequently re-recorded before appearing on their third album, The Sky's Gone Out. It was also accompanied by a fairly high-budget video - be warned, it hasn't dated well. The b-side (or black side as its called) is a rough and ready live take of the Baader-Meinhof inspired Terror Couple Kills Colonel. The sleeve art is a lovely thing, only slightly marred by the inclusion of the band name and song title in a rather ugly font.

The next post will be almost 100% less goth.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

No. 27 Bauhaus - Searching For Satori E.P.

Yet more goth, in fact, pretty much the same goth. For those in the know or who've been paying attention will note that this is the 1982 reissue of 1981's Kick In The Eye. I assume the reissue was a strategy to gain Bauhaus the top 40 hit that had, to this point, eluded them. It didn't work; this peaked at number 45. The band would have to wait until later in the year to finally make an impact on the (in those days) all important UK top 40, when their cover of Bowie's Ziggy Stardust reached number 15. 

You do get two new b-sides for your money with the reissue. Harry is a good example of Bauhaus' dabbling in reggae, whilst Earwax heads off in an altogether more dubby direction. Reggae and dub was an obvious influence on the punk and new wave scene in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but as far as I know Bauhaus were the only goth band who demonstrated their interest so overtly - as both these tracks demonstrate, they clearly had an ear for the genre. Earwax in particular, manages to be both goth and dub simultaneously. Both are well worth a listen.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

No. 26 Bauhaus - Satori in Paris

This single originally came as a free bonus with the initial copies of Press The Eject And Give Me The Tape. It includes live takes of Double Dare and Hair of the Dog. Both tracks were recorded live at Le Rose Bon Bon, Paris at the end of 1981. I think I'm correct in saying that this is the first single that I've written about that was given away as a freebie with another record. There will be plenty more of these, as I always found them hard to resist. I still remember the thrill of checking inside record sleeves in second hand vinyl shops and discovering that the bonus single was still lurking inside (especially if said record shop owner hadn't noticed it and marked up the price).

This must rank as one of my favourite Bauhaus releases. I love the spoken word piece that runs across the start of Double Dare (presumably the intro before the first song), which goes something like this...

...and I discovered this very evening was actually written by a young Alan Moore (of Watchman, V for Vendetta etc) under the pseudonym Brilburn Logue - presumably there is some kind of Northampton connection here? I love that at the start Murphy announces that Double Dare is dedicated to French dramatist, poet, actor and director Antonin Artaud (something I'm fairly certain Oasis never did); I suspect the lyrics refer to Artaud's "The Theatre and its Double", the core themes of which seem to be echoed in the lyrics. Finally, I love that both recordings are really rough and ready, but capture a ferocity that makes me wish I'd had the chance to see Bauhaus in their pomp (sadly I was 12 when this was recorded).    

Thursday, 23 July 2015

No. 25 Bauhaus - Kick In The Eye

I was a teenage goth. Some would see this as a badge of shame, but listening to Kick In The Eye (as well as a number of other singles that will eventually make it into this project) and I think it was a pretty sound position. The early and mid-1980s were pretty dark times (no pun intended) musically. Punk was well and truly dead, post-punk was also, in most cases, running on empty and we were still years away from the C86 and ecstasy-fuelled dance culture of the later 1980s. In that landscape goth offered some of the most interesting music made during the period.

Bauhaus are often credited with being the first goth band; this may or may not be the case, but they were certainly on of the most goth bands. Kick In The Eye must also be one of their career highs; the elastic bass-line the skittery, synthetic drums, the slightly feral backing vocals and a really fine performance from Murphy. It certainly challenges the notion that goth was always doom and gloom; I defy you not to want to dance to this.

My own introduction to Bauhaus was, alas, shortly after they'd called it a day. I recall my good friend Rob putting together a compilation of various goth tracks that included at least one Bauhaus tune (I think it was Lagartija Nick) and then picking up the excellent 1979-1983 compilation; a lovely double vinyl set, which I subsequently re-bought so as to have a numbered copy with the photo insert (no. 4978 in case you're wondering).

I never paid the b-side, Satori, much attention at the time, but its actually a neat instrumental, combining eerie post-punk guitar and a hefty dose of dub. Quality stuff throughout.

Monday, 22 June 2015

No. 24 Bailter Space - Splat

Mention New Zealand and most people think of egg-chasing, hobbits and butter that doesn't have the seal of approval of any punk icons (as far as I'm aware). What far too few folk will wax lyrical about is the fabulous music that New Zealand has produced over the last three decades. In my attempt to demonstrate that this is, in fact, the case, I present Exhibit A, Splat, a slice of gorgeous guitar-driven loveliness from Bailter Space, dating from 1997. The band was already a decade old when this was released, and in turn emerged from the legendary Gordons. Bailter Space have produced a string of great noisy guitar albums, often associated with the equally legendary Flying Nun Records, which has released material by pretty much every significant New Zealand band at one time or another.

If you're interested in hearing more like this, you could do far worse than starting with the excellent Tally Ho!: Flying Nun's Greatest Bits compilation from 2011.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

No. 23 Jessica Bailiff and Alan Sparhawk

And I'm back. May is always a bit hellish work-wise, so time has been in short supply. Yes I know there's a week's holiday in there somewhere but we were camping in moderately wild Devon, in the land beyond Wi-Fi and 3G.

Firstly, there will be those that challenge whether this is in the correct place alphabetically (hello, Mark). By my reckoning it goes under B for Bailiff, rather than S for Sparhawk, V for various artists or (definitely not) J for Jessica. There are those misguided folk who might be tempted to file it under L for Low, but that would clearly be deeply wrong.

Having said that, the reason this is in the collection is because of the Low connection. Sparhawk is one third of Low and has been something of a champion of Bailiff's slow-core influenced music. It was he who first alerted Kranky, Bailiff's regular label, of her earliest demos.

I know relatively little of this single, released on Ypsilanti Records in 2001. Crush, Version 2 is a reworking of a track from her second album, 1999's Hour Of The Trace, whilst the B-side, Highwire, is a Marc Bolan composition. Sound-wise this is fairly typical of her shoe-gaze-y, slow-core sound; slightly buried vocals, drone synths and a glacial pace. It's not surprising that she's collaborated with the likes of His Name Is Alive and Flying Saucer Attack - they're working with a similar sonic palette. 

I can't find a copy of the single version anywhere, but here's the original; a lovely thing it is too!

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

No. 22 Badly Drawn Boy - Once Around The Block

I was reminded of Badly Drawn Boy twice this week. Once by the campaign surrounding the 15 year anniversary reissue of The Hour of the Bewilderbeast, the album that followed (and included) this single. Then it was announced Damien Gough would be touring this album to mark the occasion, as has become the fashion in these times. 

When this was released, I was pretty impressed by Badly Drawn Boy. Peel had been enthusiastically playing his early releases, which I'd grown to like, and so I snapped up this, his breakthrough single (it reached number 46 in the UK national chart). My enthusiasm waned pretty quickly after I saw what I still count to this day as the possibly the worst gig I have ever witnessed. He was touring the above mentioned (pretty solid) album and played Sheffield University's Foundry. The gig was an utter shambles - Gough had already consumed much of a bottle of Jack Daniels by the time he took to the stage and he'd finished it long before the gig ended. I honestly don't think he performed a single song that didn't disappoint. My mood wasn't improved when, just before the gig began, a huge crusty with the most enormous hair imaginable, decided to stand right in front of me. It quickly became apparent that he was also much the worse for wear and I spent the gig wondering when he might collapse on me, though on refection this might have at least put me out of my misery. It remains one of the very few times I've walked out (or at least retreated to the bar next door) during a headline set. A sad end to my enthusiasm really, as this remains a lovely tune, one of his best.

Friday, 10 April 2015

No. 21 Babes In Toyland - Bruise Violet

If I was pressed to pick out only ten of my 7" singles to keep, this would almost certainly make the cut, for a number of reasons.

1) It's a grunge classic. Babes In Toyland were as good live as any of the bands of that era, and this, from their second album, Fontanelle, must surely rate as one of their finest songs.

2) There are two b-sides, Gone and Magick Flute. The latter is one of drummer, Lori Barbero's excellent and all too infrequent contributions to their output.

3) It's on violet vinyl - pretty cool, huh?

4) A Babes in Toyland gig was the first date for my wife and I, way back in 1993 - Bradford Queens Hall to be precise, supported by Truman's Water. 

I'm genuinely saddened that I don't own more of Babes In Toyland's 7" singles -  I missed out at the time and they seem to fetch pretty crazy prices these days. They were an important and perhaps under-rated part of the grunge scene; even Mark Yarm's brilliant if scathing Everybody Loves Our Town, doesn't manage to diminish their contribution too much.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

No. 20 Arcwelder - Captain Allen

The final single from the letter A and its also the final Arcwelder single, which was released in 1995 and subsequently turned up on Entropy, their fifth album. It's another solid tune and it's backed with a decent cover of Volcano Suns' White Elephant. I can't find a video for this tune, so here's a link to a (badly synced) clip from Touch & Go's 25th anniversary celebrations, which suggests that Arcwelder  are lovely people too and includes an excellent cameo from Shellac's Todd Trainer. Sadly despite owning most of their back catalogue, I've never seen Arcwelder live - I should have seen them at All Tomorrow's Parties back in 2002, but I managed to miss them, I think because of a clash - whoever it was I saw instead had better have been damned good.

Fact fans will be delighted to learn that Bob Weston IV (now of Shellac) who engineered and produced this was in Volcano Suns (but not when they wrote White Elephant).

Next up, the first submission for the letter B. The tension is almost unbearable...

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

No. 19 Arcwelder - Raleigh

March has become a most challenging month professionally in recent years, thus the lack of activity on the blogging front. However the ocean of marking is now behind me and normal service can hopefully be resumed. Anyhow, next up its another fine offering from Arcwelder, the stop-start alt. pop of Raleigh, the band's first single on Touch & Go, which would eventually feature on their third album Pull. Two b-sides feature (Walls and Rosa), which is always good value, even if they're a little forgettable (which they are).

Chicago's Touch & Go Records was consistently putting out great records at this time; the was the era  of Girls Against Boys, The Jesus Lizard, Slint, Man or Astroman and plenty more fine bands. This certainly won't be the last Touch & Go release to feature as I work through the alphabet.

Sadly, I've concluded that this song (probably) refers to Raleigh, the city in North Carolina, rather than the Elizabethan sailor, son of the West Country and populariser of tobacco, Sir Walter Raleigh. An opportunity missed I think.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

No. 18 Arcwelder - I Am The Walrus/Sign Of The Times

The cover version; so often a feature of the seven inch single, often as a b-side offering. They can be great, as we shall no doubt see as this project unfolds. But they can also be terrible (there's certain to be some of those in the mix too). I have spent many hours, often in the company of my good friend and fellow anorak @pomfob, trying to shortlist favourite cover versions and I wonder if there aren't certain ingredients for a good cover; don't sound too much like the original, don't think playing it faster is in itself entertaining, (though it might be) etc. It's probably also a good idea to avoid taking on songs that are broadly agreed to be classics, and therefore pretty hard to improve upon.

On that note, the next single is Arcwelder's brave double cover of The Beatles' I Am The Walrus and Prince's Sign Of The Times (I believe its actually Sign O' The Times, which always makes me think it's sung by pirates). Sadly, neither tune seems to exist on the interweb, so you'll have to take my word that the version of Beatles' tune is better than the Oasis one and that the version of Sign O' The Times (arrrr) is vastly preferable to the Muse one (but then, so is sticking rusty needles in your soft, fleshy parts).

Thursday, 12 February 2015

No. 17 Arcwelder - Favor

It hasn't been particularly apparent from the first sixteen selections, but I have an abiding fondness for US alternative rock. Basically, if it featured in Michael Azerrad's brilliant, essential Our Band Could Save Your Life, then I'll probably be willing to champion it. So don't be too surprised if there's a fair amount of tunes like this one in the posts that follow.

Arcwelder may need an introduction; they emerged from Minneapolis at the tail end of the 1980s (they were originally called Tilt-a-whirl until the company that makes the tilt-a-whirl sued them). They released a half-dozen albums between 1990 and 1999 (I have all but the hard-to-find first) and its fair to say they never achieved massive commercial success (though they never really sought it either).

Favor was their 'hit' - it attracted the attention on Stereolab's Duophonic label and they released it as a one-off single - both Favour and the equally fine b-side, Plastic are culled from the band's second album, Jacket Made In Canada. It also made it into the 1992 Festive 50, reaching number 32. It is a fine piece of post-Hüsker Dü noise-pop, clocking in at well under three minutes. Give it a listen, you won't be disappointed.

Monday, 9 February 2015

No. 16 Arctic Monkeys - Matador/Da Frame 2R

My final Arctic Monkeys 7" single was a limited run (1,000 copies no less) white vinyl, with 2 tracks originally released in Japan but not in the UK, at around the time of Favourite Worst Nightmare. Neither track is exactly a classic; Da Frame 2R sounds like it may be an older song that wouldn't have made it on to Whatever People Say... and Matador is a largely forgettable, largely instrumental offering. Still, Domino did throw in a couple of stickers, which was nice.

I've never warmed to the Arctic Monkeys later offerings to be honest. There seems to have been a law of diminishing returns, that set in pretty rapidly. Perhaps it's hard to write authentically gritty songs about everyday life in South Yorkshire when your living in a Manhattan apartment with your model girlfriend. I'm aware that there is the case made that AM, the most recent album, is a return to form of sorts. but the whole tax avoidance thing has left me feeling distinctly unbothered.

Little known fact; the drummer's dad is a regular at my local Parkrun - I only worked this out because he wears an Arctic Monkeys hat in the colder months.