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HAPPY BIRTHDAY S.C.

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The final part of The Undertones series will have to wait another seven days. It’s my young brother’s 51st birthday today. I know he pops in here every day, firing up his laptop while soaking up the sun in Florida, and so as a wee bit of surprise for him I’ve put together an 80s mix tape jammed with stuff I know he likes.

mp3 : Various – Songs for a Handsome Devil

TRACKLIST

Speed Your Love To Me (extended) – Simple Minds
Sit Down – James
Kiss This Thing Goodbye – Del Amitri
Something’s Gotten Hold of My Heart – Marc Almond/Gene Pitney
Rattlesnakes – Lloyd Cole & The Commotions
What Difference Does It Make? – The Smiths
Prisoner of Love – Spear of Destiny
Cath – The Bluebells
Tinseltown in the Rain – The Blue Nile
Hallelujah Man – Love and Money
To Cut A Long Story Short – Spandau Ballet
Favourite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl) – Haircut 100
Rip It Up – Orange Juice
The Honeythief – Hipsway
Pride (In the Name of Love) – U2

And, believe it or not, the whole thing comes in at 60 mins and 00 seconds – more by chance than design!!

Have a great day young fella and I’ll see you doing your dad dancing to all of this when you come over in the summer.

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #63 : CRAIG ARMSTRONG

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Craig Armstrong is a Scottish composer of modern orchestral music, electronica and film scores. He graduated from the Royal Academy of Music in 1981, and has since written music for the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and the London Sinfonietta.

Armstrong’s score for William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet earned him a BAFTA for Achievement in Film Music and an Ivor Novello. His composition for Baz Luhrmann’s musical Moulin Rouge! earned him the 2001 American Film Institute’s composer of the Year award, a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score and a BAFTA. Armstrong was awarded a Grammy Award for Best Original Score in 2004 for the biopic Ray. His other feature film scoring credits include Love Actually, Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center, Elizabeth: The Golden Age and The Incredible Hulk.
(lifted from wiki)

His work has also seen him utlise the talents of many pop/rock musicians and vocalists, and it is in this regard that I have one of his works in the collection, a single from 1997 that was bought on a whim:-

mp3 : Craig Armstrong featuring Elizabeth Fraser – This Love

Probably the clearest vocal delivery that Liz has ever delivered and she fits perfectly into the lush arrangment this lengthy ballad (six and a half minutes all told) is given.

Enjoy.

AS SONG TITLES GO, IT’S SOME MANIFESTO (Bonus Post)

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I’ve written about Echobelly before, back in April 2015, so I’ll spare everyone the biography. It was pleasing to see via the comments back then that others also recalled them with fondness.

This was their third single, released in June 1994 and by creeping into the higher end of the charts at #39 provided their first mainstream success.  It was an ambitious effort – cracking along at a right good pace for the first two minutes before really slowing down for the chorus which is a complete reversal from the formula for most chart hits. It’s also bold in that a band, who were not all that well-known outside of certain music papers, would make such a grandiose and boastful statement in a song title. Loved it at the time and still do although when it popped up via shuffle the other day it was the first I’d heard it in years:-

mp3 : Echobelly – I Can’t Imagine The World Without Me

Here’s the two b-sides:-

mp3 : Echobelly – Sober
mp3 : Echobelly – Venus Wheel

It’s one of those 3-track singles which, while never threatening to change anything about music, was great value and has stood the test of time pretty well.  The former is a fine ballad which shows that Sonya Madan was a fine singer while the latter is a more than adequate pop song that many others would probably have shoved out as a single rather than relegating it to the obscurity of a b-side.

Enjoy.

FROM ONE EXTREME SORT OF MUSICIANSHIP TO THE OTHER

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Without exaggeration, I get up to 100 emails every day from singers, bands and publicists asking me to consider a review of a single or album. I do feel bad that the majority of them end up being unread as I simply don’t have the time to go through each of them – there’s a sense of catholic guilt overcomes me every time as I know that in many of the cases it will be a DIY approach from someone simply looking for a leg-up to a wider audience. I used to reply as politely as I could to such requests on the basis that the sort of market they were usually trying to reach wasn’t likely to be what I suspect are typical T(n)VV readers; I often added that if a 50-something was to turn round a recommend a new young singer or band then it would surely do their wider credibility a bit of damage when their demographic was so much different.

But every now and then, a word or two or whole paragraphs will jump out at me that makes me sit up and take notice as was the case with this:-

Dear Vinyl Villain,

The Hector Collectors are an indiepop group from Glasgow, Scotland, who started in 2000AD and were played on John Peel’s show a few times back in the day.

From 2004 – 2008, they recorded tracks for an album planned to be known as ‘The Boring Album’ , which was conceived as an ambient lofi indiepop record recreating the feeling of being bored at home in the UK in the mid 90s. The sessions were never released at the time due to other stuff getting in the way, and in the meantime things like chillwave and hauntology and all that happened in the late 00s/early 10s which seemed to share similar aims aesthetics.

Now, in early 2017, long after anyone would care and with the world gripped by a widespread political engagement that has woken most from their vaporwave haze, The Hector Collectors (who are still going and plan to release a proper new album later this year) have decided the time is right to polish up those mid 00s recordings and sneak them out so that anyone who cares can hear their prescient but also now double dated take on formless 20/30 something suburban nostalgia, a movement we would have called ‘L Y N D H U R S T W A V E’ (after Nicholas Lyndhurst) if we had been movers and shakers during Obama’s first term.

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Please hear, download for Free (and consider for coverage) the finished album and our bandcamp here if that sounds like it might be your kind of thing:

thehectorcollectors.bandcamp.com/album/the-boring-album

Kind Regards,

AJ Smith of The Hector Collectors

I’m not sure if AJ picked up on the blog from the fact that I’ve been known to feature bands from round these parts or if he had seen my previous mention of The Hector Collectors when a live performance at the start of 2016 had lifted my dark mood. Either way it doesn’t matter, because I happen to really enjoy their lowfi and occasionally shambolic music and after two successive days of the neatness and perfection of Radiohead it really does seem appropriate to go to the other extreme.

What’s not to love about a band who come up with song titles such as Stephen Pastel’s Blues, The Day The Supernaturals Went to the 13th Note, Your Nazi Boyfriend, Gary Numan Needs Another Hit and Unemployed In Motherwell.

Or, in the instance of the free album on offer today, She’s Lost The Remote Control, a quite wonderful tribute/piss take of Joy Division.

And really folks, what’s not to love about a band who know that above all else who clearly know it’s about having fun and enjoyment in what you’re doing and taking your audience along with you.


Enjoy.

A KIND-OF BONUS ALBUM

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I had this post slated for later on in the month but have brought it forward to dovetail with yesterday’s high-quality contribution from Martin.

I’m just about to bring the series on the singles by The Undertones to a close and one of the other bands I had in mind for a similar series was Radiohead; the problem however, is that I haven’t bought any singles by the band since about 2003 and so would have been forced to spend a fair bit of money pulling together all the subsequent b-sides since that period in time; instead I’ve hit on the idea of cobbling together the various b-sides from a particular era to offer a suggested accompanying bonus album to that from which they were lifted.

It makes sense to start with OK Computer, from which three singles were lifted.  I say makes sense in as much that a number of these b-sides have already appeared on the blog thanks to a posting looking solely at Paranoid Android.

Much of the music and sounds making up these tracksare well worth a listen given that they show different sides to the band and are something of a pointer as to the road they would go down a few years later with Kid A and Amnesiac.

mp3 : Radiohead – The OK Computer bonus album

Tracklist

1. Climbing Up The Walls (Zero 7 mix) – from Karma Police single #2
2. Pearly – from Paranoid Android single #1
3. Airbag (live in Berlin) – from No Surprises single #2
4. Melatonin – from Paranoid Android single #2
5. Meeting In The Aisle – from Karma Police single #1
6. Polyethylene (Parts 1 & 2) – from Paranoid Android single #2
7. Climbing Up The Walls (Fila Brazillia Mix) – from Karma Police single #2
8. Lull – from Karma Police single #1
9. Lucky (live in Florence) – from No Surprises single #2
10. How I Made My Millions – from No Surprises single #1
11. Palo Alto – from No Surprises single #1
12. A Reminder – from Karma Police single #1

Enjoy.

I may or may nor repeat this for other Radiohead LPs. It’s up to you guys to offer advise on whether that’s a good idea or not. I won’t be offended if you tell me to make this a one-off.

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #108 : RADIOHEAD

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A GUEST POSTING FROM MARTIN

AUTHOR OF THE NEW AMUSEMENTS BLOG

After more than 100 ICAs, I was wondering which artist or band I could meaningfully submit a compilation for. So many of my favourites have already been done. And then it occurred to me – as yet, there has been no ICA for Radiohead.

Of course, when I sat down to try to draw up a ten track compilation it quickly became obvious why it hasn’t been done before: trying to whittle down the collected works of the Grand Old Duke of Yorke and his men to just ten songs, just one side of a C90, is practically impossible. Unless…

…unless there’s a scheme, a set of rules above and beyond those that normally go into drafting a compilation. It was at this point I realised that Radiohead have released nine studio albums. What if, I wondered, I were to limit myself to one track per album, plus a bonus closing track of my choice? That might work and, if I stuck to the albums in chronological order, it would also provide an accurate representation of how the band has progressed over the years.

Sounds a great plan, doesn’t it? Except that, in reality, even choosing just one track per album proved to be fantastically difficult (especially for The Bends, Ok Computer, Hail To The Thief and In Rainbows). Anyway, enough of my excuses, let’s get on; to assuage my guilt for omitting certain tracks, I’ll namecheck the other songs that were in contention but, for now, these are the chosen nine plus one.

Side One

1. from Pablo Honey: Creep

Sorry, it has to be. I know it’s been over-played, and certainly over-covered (if YouTube is anything to go by). It isn’t massively representative of the rest of the album, and I have even heard it described as “Radiohead for people who don’t like Radiohead”. But, and it’s a very big but, without this track there is probably a very good chance we wouldn’t be talking about Radiohead now, and certainly not in such reverential tones. The fact is that this song, aside from striking a chord with every disaffected and alienated person that’s ever heard it, every loner, every outsider, aside from all that it established the band in a way that the parent album never could. It’s quite possible that without Creep the only blog posts you’d read about Radiohead now would be of the “whatever happened to…” variety. And on top of that, it has that excellent crunchy guitar that kicks in at the start of the chorus.

Also in contention: Anyone Can Play Guitar and Lurgee.

2. from The Bends: Fake Plastic Trees

Of all the albums, choosing just one track from The Bends was the toughest choice of all. Fake Plastic Trees gets the nod though, as it brought Radiohead’s social conscious and environmental awareness to the fore, whilst also demonstrating that they could be musically subtle, delicate in a way that they hadn’t been on Pablo Honey. The clincher for me is more personal though, in that when I saw the band live in 2008 their rendition of this song gave me goosebumps on the night, and nearly broke my heart in the weeks that followed.

Also in contention: High And Dry, (Nice Dream) and Street Spirit (Fade Out).

3. from OK Computer: No Surprises

A lullaby for the suicidal, perhaps. And yet one that somehow manages to be uplifting, even in the unsettling video in which Thom looks set to drown (spoiler – he doesn’t). You can draw a straight line through Asleep by The Smiths to this song, and then… where? The parent album was, for a time, often held up as not just the band’s best but the best ever, by anyone, frequently troubling the top of the “best N albums of all time” lists that were very popular around the millennium. It is great, but I think The Bends shades it.

Also in contention: Paranoid Android (“Bohemian Rhapsody for Generation X”, as the music press all cried at the time), Karma Police and Lucky.

4. from Kid A: National Anthem

Given that The Bends are OK Computer were both excellent and successful, Kid A was always going to be a tough act to pull off. It remains the point at which Radiohead started to be non-essential, for some people. Not me though. It’s a great album, another where it is hard to choose one track. I’ve gone for National Anthem – very simple lyrically, but the music is the hook, an ear-worming loop that has, arguably, set the tone for most of everything that has followed. Like lots of the best Radiohead, this comes into its own in a car with a good stereo, in the small hours of a crystal clear night, on an open road…

Also in contention: Idioteque, Everything In Its Right Place.

5. from Amnesiac: Knives Out

As the band continued to push boundaries, willing to sacrifice transient fans to satisfy their own musical curiosity, the songs that were chosen as singles from each album became increasingly unrepresentative, and so it is with Knives Out. Led by twin guitar melodies, it’s a song that might have graced The Bends. It has brilliantly bleak lyrics too, to whit “If you’d been a dog they would have drowned you at birth.” I don’t know what it says about Radiohead (or the type of fan I am) but this and Pablo Honey were the albums it was easiest to choose only one song from.

Also in contention: Pyramid Song.

Side Two

6. from Hail To The Thief: Scatterbrain

On the face of it, a tough album to choose from, casually littered with brilliance as it is. In reality, an easy choice for me; the instrumental introduction to Scatterbrain has been my mobile phone ringtone for as long as I can remember. It is one of my absolute favourites songs, not just by Radiohead but by anybody, ever. Terrific lyrical story telling too, in which storm force winds are a metaphor for the blown apart nature of a failed relationship.

Also in contention: Go To Sleep, 2+2=5, Myxomatosis.

7. from In Rainbows: Weird Fishes/Arpeggi

That straight line I mentioned earlier? Maybe its third point is here, I don’t know. For a band who have increasingly forsaken guitars (to the consternation of a good proportion of their fanbase), here’s proof that they can still overlay complementary guitar motifs better than just about anyone. And few bands give percussion a voice, rather than just rhythm and timekeeping duties, as well as Radiohead. Also, even fewer songs could hint at escape at the end and yet be so ambiguous as to whether that escape is a good thing or not.

Also in contention: Reckoner, Jigsaw Falling Into Place.

8. from The King Of Limbs: Morning Mr Magpie

The intro to this makes me think of The Police. No, wait, come back! Here’s a song that again sits at the accessible end of the recent Radiohead spectrum, and ends with the lament that “you’ve stolen all the magic, took my melody”. A proportion of the band’s fans may have thought the same thing… but this is a perfect example of a Radiohead track that rewards repeated listens, rather than chases immediacy.

Also in contention: Little by Little (for similar reasons), Feral.

9. from A Moon Shaped Pool: Burn The Witch

In which Radiohead go all Camber-wicker Green. A genuinely great song and one that is, even without the video, genuinely disturbing, with its lyrics of low-flying panic attacks, red crosses on wooden doors and, most ominously, “we know where you live”. Add the sawing, minor-key string backing and this isn’t going to pack the floor at your local indie disco in quite the same way as Creep. A song for these times, where Washington has become Summer Isle or, perhaps, Salem.

Also in contention: Daydreaming, Present Tense.

10. bonus track: Street Spirit (Fade Out)

What better way to end the album? If ever a song was made to close an LP, this is it, lyrically, musically and thematically. Yes, it hankers back to a period when the band were at the peak of their commercial powers (doesn’t Thom look young in the video?) and yes, it features plenty of guitars. But not the crunchy guitars of Creep and Anyone Can Play Guitar, but beautiful, overlaid arpeggios that repeat, rise and fall to hypnotic effect. And there’s a lyrical counterpoint to some of the less cheerful themes found elsewhere on this ICA, and even in this song – for every row of houses bearing down on Thom, there’s the more positive (albeit slightly defensive) “be a world child, form a circle” and the haunting outro refrain of “immerse your soul in love”. Best of all is the way the song ends – it doesn’t fade out, of course, but the guitar arpeggio loops round and ties itself in a neat bow. The perfect finish to this or any compilation.

And there you have it. There are probably as many Radiohead ICA combinations as there are fans, and my own selection would probably be different next week (maybe even tomorrow). But, for now, I think this compilation works. What do you reckon?

Cheers,
Martin
New Amusements

AN E.P. FOR VALENTINE’S DAY

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Roses are Red
Violets Are Blue
Here’s unusual love songs
Curated for you

mp3 : Wire – Feeling Called Love
mp3 : Malcolm Middleton – Fuck It, I Love You
mp3 : The Slits – Love and Romance (Peel Session)
mp3 : Chumbawamba – Silly Love Songs

Enjoy.

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