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MY FRIENDS ELECTRIC (15)

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With a tremendous title, lifted from a line in Jilted John, today’s friend electric is one of the longest-running out there, dating back to December 2006.

Crying All The Way to the Chip Shop delivers ‘the sentimental musings of an ageing expat in words, music, and pictures’ and in a way that is incredibly stylish, wonderfully laid-out and as easy to navigate your way around as the London Underground map. But then again, given that London Lee (LL) is a graphic designer by profession it doesn’t come as too much of a surprise.

It’s all very well for a blog or website to look great, but LL also pulls off the trick of coming up with the content to match. Here’s a gem from January 2010:-

The First Time I Felt Old

It was 7:15 in the evening on Friday the 3rd of December, 1982. I know because I still have the ticket.

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I was at one the The Jam’s farewell shows at Wembley Arena and even though I was only 20 myself at the time I felt like one of the oldest people there as the hall seemed to be full of 14-year-old boys wearing cheap Parkas that looked like their Mum had bought them in Millets. It was like being in the audience for Crackerjack or an England Schoolboys football game, and for the first time in my life the words “bloody kids” came into my head and I had that awful feeling of smug superiority that I had been a Jam fan from way, way, way back, long before they were stadium-playing superstars – four years at least! Where were all these spotty little bandwagon-jumpers then, huh? Mucking about with their Tonka Toys probably. I had to fight the urge to grab one of them by the Parka and say “Of course, they were so much better at The Rainbow in ’78. I was there, you know” as if I was some grizzled old hippie droning on about Woodstock.

Several massive hit singles and a Mod revival had happened since that last gig and my mate and I both came to the the rather snotty conclusion that we understood why Weller was breaking up the group if this was their audience now — and selling out Wembley five nights in a row wasn’t very “punk” was it? — which is exactly the sort of condescending attitude you’d expect from a 20-year-old who thinks he knows it all (don’t they all?) But looking back now I feel bad for those kids, they were at the age when they were starting to get into music seriously and I can imagine how important The Jam were to them because I remember that feeling well myself. Paul Weller was your hero and you would hang on his every word for tips on what to wear, what to read, what old records to buy, even how to vote. And then — maybe in the same week you bought a George Orwell novel because Paul mentioned him in an NME interview — the bastard went and broke the band up. Who did that leave you with? Secret Affair??? That’s like losing a pound and finding a penny — well, 50p maybe.

I don’t remember much about the actual gig itself apart from Weller smashing up his guitar Pete Townsend-style after he tripped over his guitar lead and Bruce hanging around on the stage waving to the crowd at the end long after Paul had buggered off. But I do have a bootleg of the concert from the night before at Wembley which is about as close as I’ll ever get to recreating that magical night when I became an old git.

Download: Precious – The Jam (mp3)
Download: Move On Up – The Jam (mp3)
Download: Boy About Town – The Jam (mp3)
(Live at Wembley, December 2nd, 1982)

Another reason why I had no right to feel superior to those kids: When I was their age I was into ELO.

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Sadly, I don’t have the songs from the bootleg so instead I will offer versions from my own collection of music from the trio who, more than any other, turned me into a music obsessive:-

mp3 : The Jam – Precious (demo)
mp3 : The Jam – Move On Up (live on’The Tube’)
mp3 : The Jam – Boy About Town (flexidisc version)

LL has also taken some of his best postings and turned them into two volumes of books. Click here for more details. I’ve just placed an order for both of them….

More Friends Electric tomorrow

MY FRIENDS ELECTRIC (14)

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Many of the more informative and entertaining blogs come from the simplest ideas. Today’s Friend Electric is Charity Chic Music, maintained and managed by Charity Chic (or CC for short).

The first ever posting on the blog in November 2012 set out the philosophy:-

“The idea of this blog is to share music I have discovered in Charity Shops.

When real life kicks in and you can’t afford to buy as much music as you like or used to you are faced with a number of options:-

1. stop buying
2. buy less
3. buy less, hit the library and the charity shops

I’ve gone for option 3.”

It’s expanded a wee bit since then, taking in gig reviews and a range of themed postings including cult labels, southern soul and what must be a world first in ‘Bands I’ve seen in Helensburgh’ (a very small town at the end of the railway line some 25 miles west of Glasgow).

He will darken the doors off all sorts of charity shops in the hope of unearthing something for his blog, and I’ve stolen his words and music from a posting back in October 2013 partly as the shop in question is away up on the north coast of Scotland, not too far from the home town of my dear friend Jacques the Kipper, and partly as I agree with every word he says about the CD he featured:-

The Portsoy Thrift Shop Experience

Wouldn’t that be a great name for a band!

The thrift shop in the rather pleasant North East Scottish village of Portsoy has probably got the cheapest CDs that I’ve yet come across – four for a pound!

I could only see two that caught my fancy. In retrospect I should have grabbed another two and recycled the jewel cases.

This was one

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This Sheffield band is a personal vanity project of one Stephen Jones and are famous for one track “Your Gorgeous” which reached number 3 in 1996 .

Anyone spending more than 25p on the album and expecting more of the same will be extremely disappointed.

According to the sleevenotes Ugly Beautiful is the search for perfection and is like trying to kill flies with scissors.

A pile of pants I say

Babybird – Candy Girl

Babybird – You’re Gorgeous

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More friends electric tomorrow

THE MOZ SINGLES (Part 19)

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mp3 : Morrissey – I Have Forgiven Jesus

Released just before Xmas 2004, the song title clearly rattled the controllers at the BBC for they didn’t allow it to be playlisted on either Radio 1 or Radio 2. Other radio stations weren’t so concerned, nor were various music video channels, and so this became the fourth highly succesful single to be taken from You Are The Quarry, hitting #10 on its week of release.

Last week I mentioned that, between 1989 and 1997, only one out of the twenty of the great man’s singles released during that period got as high in as the Top Ten in the UK. Fast forward seven years to the comeback…and all four singles released in 2007 go Top 10. The only other act to enjoy such chart success in the UK that year was boy band McFly…..

The single came out on 7″ and on two CD formats. The b-side on the 7″ and the widely available CD1 is probably the weakest of the three previously unavailable songs – and its a cover of a record released back in 1987 by Raymonde, a band that featured James Maker who appeared as a dancer/backing vocalist with The Smiths at a handful of their very early gigs – but that in some ways is a bit of a harsh criticism as they all have something to offer:-

mp3 : Morrissey – No One Can Hold A Candle To You
mp3 : Morrissey – Slum Mums
mp3 : Morrissey – The Public Image

No One…is the cover version. Slum Mums and The Public Image surely deserved to be on something other than CD2 of the fourth single taken from an LP, for they are among some of the best things he has released since embarking on the comeback. Particularly ‘The Public Image’ which I think is a rather wonderful song….

The cover photo is a still taken from the promo video

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SINGLE (Part 100)

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From wiki:-

Shop Assistants were an indie pop band from Edinburgh, Scotland, formed in 1984, initially as Buba & The Shop Assistants. After achieving success with independent releases they signed to Chrysalis Records sublabel Blue Guitar, releasing their only album in 1986. After splitting in 1987, with singer Alex Taylor moving on to The Motorcycle Boy, they reformed for two further singles in 1990.

The original line-up was Aggi (Annabel Wright, later of The Pastels), on vocals, David Keegan (guitar), Sarah Kneale (bass), Laura MacPhail (drums) and Ann Donald (drums). This line-up released one single, the now highly-collectible “Something to Do” which was produced by Stephen Pastel. Stephen Pastel also contributed backing vocals.

Aggi left to be replaced by Alex Taylor. Soon after, the name shortened to simply ‘Shop Assistants’ and the first release under their new name was the Shopping Parade EP in 1985 on The Subway Organization, the lead track from which, “All Day Long” was described by Morrissey as his favourite single of that year. Ann Donald left round about November 1985 and was briefly replaced by Joan Bride (possibly a pseudonym!). Shopping Parade was followed in early 1986 with “Safety Net”, the first release on Keegan’s 53rd & 3rd Records, which peaked at number two in the UK Independent Chart, and the band recorded a national radio session with Janice Long and a second John Peel session, both of BBC’s Radio One.The exposure they gained from the sessions enabled the group to have two songs to be voted into John Peel’s Festive Fifty in both 1985 and 1986.

In 1986, they were featured on the NME’s compilation C86 with one of their slower songs, “It’s Up To You”, taken from Shopping Parade EP. Also in that year, they signed to Chrysalis Records’s sublabel Blue Guitar for another single, “I Don’t Wanna Be Friends With You” as well as their first and only LP album, Will Anything Happen. This spent one week at number 100 in the UK album charts, which gives the band the distinction of being the (joint) least successful act ever to hit the national charts. The album was re-released on CD in 2001, although it is now very hard to find.

The band split early in 1987, when Taylor left the group to join The Motorcycle Boy. After a two-year hiatus, the band reformed without Taylor in 1989 with Kneale on vocals and MacPhail on bass and the addition of Margarita Vasquez-Ponte of Jesse Garon And The Desperadoes.

And here is one of THE great indie-singles of the era:-

mp3 : Shop Assistants - Safety Net
mp3 : Shop Assistants – Almost Made It
mp3 : Shop Assistants - Somewhere In China

Again…from wiki:-

The song was first recorded for the band’s first session for John Peel’s BBC Radio 1 show on 8 October 1985.It was recorded for release on 24 and 25 October 1985 at Pier House, Edinburgh, and released as a single on guitarist David Keegan and Stephen Pastel’s 53rd & 3rd Records in February 1986, the first release on the label.

The single reached number two on the UK Independent Chart, spending seventeen weeks in the chart in total. The song was voted to number eight on the 1986 Festive Fifty, with only tracks by The Smiths, Primal Scream, The Fall and “Kiss” by Age of Chance receiving more votes.

“Safety Net” was described by David Sheridan of Trouser Press as “nothing short of brilliant”.Gillian Watson of The Scotsman called the song an “early classic”, which “captures how nervous and exciting it feels to be a young adult in the city at night”.

MY FRIENDS ELECTRIC (13)

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Today’s friend electric describes herself as a ‘music obsessed cooking freak’ which always makes me laugh.

The blog is called I Sing In The Kitchen and the genius behind it is Tricia.

I say genius and in this case I think it’s an accurate use of the word for it really does take someone special and talented to come up with the idea of a blog which has a daily recipe linked into a piece of music or a singer or band. And she’s been entertaining us in this way since January 2011 never ceasing to amaze with the extent and variety of the recipes and the music.

Tricia has an incredible taste in music and is forever using her blog to recommend all sorts of new stuff with a fair bit of it featuring singers and bands from Scotland, many of which were previously unknown to me. The thing is though….Tricia isn’t from my part of the world – indeed she lives a long long way from my part of the world.   Vermont, USA to be precise and it never ceases to amaze me the depth or her knowledge and the extent of her enthusiasm when it comes to Jock’n’Roll.

By most reckonings, I should be getting as far away as is humanly possible from a food related blog.  My taste in food is about as bland, unimaginative and boring as you could imagine and therefore so much of what Tricia so lovingly describes is wasted on me. My idea of cooking is to remove something from the refrigerator, pierce a hole in the cover and press the appropriate buttons on the microwave.

Tricia though, has a real passion for here recipes and recommendations.  Have a read at this from February 2011 and please note the photos are taken as Tricia prepares and completes the recipe:-

Ooh La La! French Macarons With Raspberry-Rose Buttercream.

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Recently my daughter needed to make a French recipe to share with her French class at school. We decided to have a go at making macarons and I am so glad that we did. French style macaroons, or ‘macarons’ en français, are two delicate meringue style cookies sandwiched together with a rich buttercream or ganache. When you bite into a macaron the crisp exterior of the cookie gives way into a slightly chewy center that in turn gives way to a delectable cream filling. Delicieux.

I had never used rose water prior to this recipe. The buttercream recipe only calls for a quarter teaspoon and the smallest bottle sold at my supermarket was 300 ml! Holy Rose Water! Please, if you know of any other good recipes using rose water send them my way!

Please indulge me while I have a momentary flight of ideas:

Rose + Water= Titanic——>Sinking

Kills me everytime!

Back to the baking.

French Macarons With Raspberry-Rose Buttercream

Cookies:

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1 cup sifted almond flour

3 large egg whites

2 Tbs plus 1/2 tsp sugar

Filling:

16 oz frozen raspberries

1 cup plus 6 Tbs sugar, divided

2 large egg whites

10 Tbs unsalted butter, cut into small cubes, softened

1/4 tsp rose water

Directions:

1. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment.

2. Sift confectioners’ sugar and almond flour into a large bowl.

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3. Using electric mixer, beat egg whites, sugar and a pinch of salt until medium peaks form. Add egg white mixture to almond mixture and fold to incorporate.

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4. Working in two batches, fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4 inch diameter plain pastry tip with batter. (Batter will be thin and will drip from bag). Pipe batter in 1 1/4 inch rounds on baking sheets, spacing one inch apart. (Cookies will spread slightly). Let rest on baking sheets at room temperature for 20 minutes.

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5. Position 1 rack in top third and 1 rack in bottom third of oven.

6. Preheat oven to 375℉.

7. Bake cookies 5 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325℉. Continue to bake cookies until puffed and golden on top, about 10 minutes, reversing sheets after 5 minutes. Cool cookies on sheets on rack. Carefully peel cookies from parchment.

(The cookies can be made one day ahead. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.)

Filling:

1. Bring raspberries and 1 cup sugar to boil in a large saucepan over high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Cook until berries are soft, juices thicken, and mixture measures about 1 1/2 cups, stirring frequently, 7 to 9 minutes.

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2. Measure 1/2 cup of raspberry mixture and strain into a small bowl. Cool strained jam and jam with seeds separately.

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(The jams can be made one week ahead. Cover them separately and refrigerate)

3. Combine egg whites, 6 Tbs sugar and 1/4 tsp salt in bowl of a stand mixer. Set bowl over a large saucepan of simmering water. Heat until candy thermometer inserted into mixture registers 140℉, stirring often, 3 to 4 minutes.

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4. Using whisk attachment, beat egg white mixture at high speed until stiff meringue forms and mixture is at room temperature, 5 to 6 minutes.

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5. With mixer running, add butter, 1 piece at a time, beating until each piece is incorporated before adding next. Beat in rose water. Add 3 Tbs seedless jam, 1 Tbs at a time. (If the buttercream should ever appear curdled, place bowl over medium heat and whisk to warm slightly for a few seconds, then remove from heat and beat again. Note: I never had any curdling and have no idea how common a problem that is.)

6. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Using 1/2 tsp jam with seeds for each, spread jam over flat side of half of macarons. (These are super delicate cookies. Handle very carefully or they crush.)

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7. Spoon buttercream into pastry bag fitted with a 1/4 inch plain tip. Starting at outer edge of flat sides of remaining macarons, pipe buttercream over in spiral. (I had to hold the macaron in one hand and pipe with the other since the dang things would move all over the place if I tried to pipe the buttercream while they were sitting on the parchment.)

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8. Gently press macarons, jam filled side down, onto buttercream coated macarons. Place on sheet. Cover and chill overnight.

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(The macarons can be made 2 to 3 days ahead. Store in the refrigerator. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before serving)

Adapted from Bon Appétit magazine. (They said they got about 3 dozen sandwiched macarons. Even when I realized, early on, that I was piping the cookies too big I still only ended up with about 24 sandwiched macarons.)

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Here are a few French songs to get you in a macaron mood.

Lloyd Cole-Si Tu Dois Partir

Serge Gainsbourg-Sea, Sex And Sun

DeVotchKa-Viens Avec Moi

Cheers!

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I was lucky enough to meet Tricia, along with her incredible family, when they all came over to Scotland as part of a vacation a few years back.  I read on someone’s Facebook page that she’s heading our way again in the not too distant future….my fingers and toes are crossed.

JC

 

MY FRIENDS ELECTRIC (12)

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Here’s someone else who has been a long time friend of the blog.

Rol Hirst is, like so many of the folk I’m featuring this month, a great talent.  He has, in the past, produced some incredibly entertaining comics and if you go to his website/blog My Top Tens you will find a link to his novel, available as an e-book via kindle.

Rol has been responsible for some great on-line material over the years, especially over at the now defunct Sunset Over Slawit, and nowadays he entertains us with My Top Ten which is, in his own words – very little waffle, just ten songs on any given subject.

The thing is, in just under two years, Rol has written more than 200 such lists on all sorts of weird and wonderful subject matters. His imagination knows no bounds.  Here’s an example

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My Top Ten Strike Songs

I’ve been on strike today for the first time in my life. I managed 41 years without ever going on strike; I’ve been a full time teacher just over a month and already I’m unionised and refusing to cross the picket line. Billy Bragg would be proud…. which probably gives away this week’s Number One.

Special mention to the Flying Pickets… obviously.

10. Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger – Daddy, What Did You Do In The Strike?

Perhaps one day Sam will ask me this question. Perhaps I’ll point him to this post.

The song itself… you won’t hear a better chronicle of the darkest days of the 1980s.

9. Strike Anywhere – You’re Fired!

Very loud but extremely apt.

Hopefully the name of the band won’t lead me to the title of the song.

8. Elvis Costello – Clown Strike

I hate clowns, so they can stay on bloody strike for all I care.

7. Titus Andronicus – A More Perfect Union

Perhaps not about that kind of union, but what it lacks in relevance it makes up for in passion. And any song that mixes Bruce Springsteen with Billy Bragg gets my vote every time…

“No, I never wanted to change the world, but I’m looking for a new New Jersey
Because tramps like us, baby, we were born to die”

6. Ry Cooder – Strike!

Lots of songs about striking miners… couldn’t find any about striking teachers.

We’ve got it easy, to be honest.

5. Manic Street Preachers – A Design For Life

Growing up in Wales, the Manics were hit hard by the miners’ strike. Their biggest hit was inspired by it… and they’re still angry (referencing the Battle of Orgreave) on their excellent new album, Rewind The Film.

4. The Smiths – Bigmouth Strikes Again

Yes, yes, this is also somewhat off-topic… but you didn’t really think I was going to leave it out, did you?

3. Billy Joel – Allentown

Even the union can’t help the inhabitants of Allentown. For anyone who dismisses Billy as a balladeer, here he’s as angry at his country as Springsteen on Born In The USA. Great song.

2. Pulp – The Last Day Of The Miners’ Strike

Coming from South Yorkshire, Jarvis will have seen the worst effects of the miner’s strike firsthand too. Working in Barnsley, I’m reminded of it regularly. Those scars are still raw.

“Well by 1985, I was as cold a cold could be
But no-one was underground to dig me out and set me free
’87 socialism gave way to socialising
So put your hands up in the air once more
The north is rising”

1. Billy Bragg – There Is Power In A Union

Sharing its title with a song written in 1913 by Joe Hill (presumably not Stephen King’s son… unless time travel or supernatural naughtiness are involved), Billy’s version sounded defiant against Thatcherism in the 80s… but is it a forlorn hope today?

“Now I long for the morning that they realise
Brutality and unjust laws cannot defeat us
But who’ll defend the workers who cannot organise
When the bosses send their lackies out to cheat us?”

Those were my striking anthems. Which one would cross your picket line?

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mp3 : Billy Bragg – Don’t Mourn, Organise
mp3 : Billy Bragg – There Is Power In A Union (live)

Both taken from a gig recorded live at the Barbican Centre in London in March 2004…the first is the three minute spoken intro for the latter.

More Friends Electric tomorrow

 

MY FRIENDS ELECTRIC (11)

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Andrea over at Conventional Records writes his posts in Italian and I have to rely on one of those internet translation services to understand it – sometimes the translation doesn’t make perfect sense and it makes me wish I had learned to speak, read and write Italian.

For many years, Andrea was heavily involved in music in Italy either through the publication of articles and reviews or as a broadcaster on a local radio station in his home town of Lodi near Milan.  Nowadays, like so many of us, his time is taken up with work and family life and so his involvement in music nowadays is mainly through listening, attending gigs and writing about it on a blog.

He’s a big fan of My Bloody Valentine and so I thought I’d introduce you properly to him through some words he composed when MBV was released last year (and my apologies to Andrea that the translation service so often makes such a mess of your fine words )

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The return of My Bloody Valentine after 22 years has been a truly meaningful test than you might be willing to get serious with the ethics of extreme Conventional Records .

The album comes out suddenly impossible, whatever you want for years and years, to know what it could be after the sounds of superhuman Loveless, one forgotten by everyone as scientifically impossible. Exits overnight and exists only on the other side of a screen, or on a display. On the website of My Bloody Valentine, on YouTube, I assume also on iTunes and Spotify, linked on blogs around the world. With its electric blue cover made of pixels. But no cardboard, no aluminum, vinyl somewhere. Well, good.

Then do nothing, Kevin Shields. I’ve waited 22 years, look again. I waited another 2 months, and then the blue pixels electrical materialized behind the window of Libraccio, as I tried in vain, for the umpteenth time, the new Johnny Marr. Label a deadly price: 24 €. No problem, here we are at the checkout. Actually helped a lot that I had to download the 100 points earned on the card HI, amounting to € 20. Great thing, and a great name, High Fidelity card. A place: 4 € 3rd album by My Bloody Valentine officially came into my life, between Loveless and Nearly God. And then, of course, inside the iPod …

Listened months after reading reviews more or less authoritative, it’s all true, they are all right. Those excited like kids and those who wonder if we really need it. The ones that everyone else by comparison disappear, and those who took 22 years seems to be patched and finished quickly. There can not be a neutral and objective way to approach this album, because it is too subjective is the relationship that each may have developed with the songs and the sound of My Bloody Valentine. Why is mainly dependent on them when it was discovered and heard, and what is the relationship that you have with the music today.

I’m right there in this album. Not looking for, do not expect more, and the sound out of the world of Loveless was part of the fondest memories of the 90s. But now that I got myself into, it seems that, subconsciously, I needed it. I do not think mbv, how it operates, will hold up over time compared with Loveless and Is Not Anything; but here and now, in 2013, it compensates its imperfections and unevenness of style with a powerful evocation of the world 20-25 years ago.

mp3 : My Bloody Valentine – She Found Now

 

More Friends Electric tomorrow

 

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