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SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #56/ ICA 103: CLOSE LOBSTERS

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close-lobsters

This wasn’t supposed to happen.

The ICA series for 2016 should have bowed out with that superb piece from Swiss Adam that gave us some of tghe very best of Andrew Weatherall. But then I spotted that Close Lobsters were due up next in the Saturday series and I realised that I would struggle to just pick one song to represent just how good and indeed underrated a band they were. There was also the fact that I could have gone with a cover version to keep the recent theme going but I then made the last minute call to do an ICA….a lazy one as I won’t say too much about any of the songs other than to indicate which record they can be found on.

Here’s their story, as put together by a real writer over at allmusic:-

An unfortunately short-lived but utterly wonderful neo-psychedelic jangle pop band, Close Lobsters only managed two albums and an EP in their brief career, but all three releases are brilliant, some of the best music of the late-’80s U.K. indie scene.

Close Lobsters were formed in Paisley (prophetically enough, given the band’s psychedelic tendencies) and the adjacent town of Johnstone in 1985 by singer Andrew Burnett and drummer Stewart McFayden. The pair couldn’t decide between the names the Close and the Lobsters and simply combined the two for their nonsensical but evocative handle. Adding guitarists Tom Donnelly and Graeme Wilmington, plus Burnett’s brother Robert on bass, Close Lobsters gained some early notoriety when their song “Fire Station Towers” showed up on the legendary New Musical Express cassette C-86, which lent its name to an entire movement of post-punk guitar bands. Close Lobsters had a greater commitment to melody than most of the C-86 bands, though, as shown on their first single, “Going to Heaven to See If It Rains,” which was released in November 1986. A second single, “Never Seen Before,” appeared in April 1987, with a superior re-recorded version of “Fire Station Towers” and a cover of the Only Ones’ “Wide Waterways” on the flip.

The quintet’s first album, Foxheads Stalk This Land, was released in late 1987 to lukewarm response in a U.K. press already tired of the C-86 propaganda, but its inviting mix of jangle pop, hazy psychedelia, inscrutable lyrics, and monster guitar hooks gained Close Lobsters a small but fervent following on the U.S. college radio scene. A follow-up single, “Let’s Make Some Plans,” came out in early 1988; this new song and four other excellent tracks were collected by Close Lobsters’ American label, Enigma Records, and released as the EP What Is There to Smile About? in the summer of 1988. Simple and direct, without a wasted note, it’s probably the best Close Lobsters release. For the U.K. fans, Strange Fruit released Close Lobsters’ four-song Janice Long Session from July, 1986, including the a-sides of the first two singles, the B-side “Nothing Really Matters” and “Pathetic Trivia,” which would be reworked as “Pathetique” on Foxheads Stalk This Land.

Close Lobsters’ second full album, Headache Rhetoric, was released in March 1989. Darker and less immediately accessible than either of the band’s previous releases, with a druggily psychedelic vibe akin to Love’s best work, it’s the sort of album that takes a while to sink in but packs a mighty wallop once it does. Unfortunately, it sank almost without trace in the U.K., and Enigma Records by this time was undergoing the financial problems that would cause it to fold within the year, so the label was unable to capitalize on the band’s cult success in the states.

After a final EP, Nature Thing, with appropriate covers of Neil Young’s “Hey Hey My My (Into the Black)” and Leonard Cohen’s “Paper Thin Hotel” on the flip, was released in the spring of 1989, Close Lobsters quietly called it a day.

In 2012, the original band members got back in touch and they decided to reform to play live shows in selected European cities. The response was favorable and the next year the band played the NYC Popfest and released their first new music since 1989, an EP titled Kunstwerk in Spacetime for the Shelflife label.

I can add to the above with the fact that 2016 saw the release of more new material courtesy of the Desire and Signs EP, again on Shelflife Records.

SIDE A

Going To Heaven To See If It Rains

The debut 45 in which they sound very like another new and emerging band of the time called The Wedding Present. It reached #9 in the UK Indie Charts in October 1986.

Let’s Make Some Plans

The third single, released in November 1987; later covered by The Wedding Present as the b-side to California in June 1992

Foxheads

Deliciously danceable title track from the debut LP released in October 1987

Skyscrapers of St Mirin

An ode to the home town of some of the band (St Mirin is the patron saint of Paisley while the local professional football team take the slightly different spelling of Saint Mirren). Originally available as a b-side to What Is There To Smile About? released in August 1988, it was also included on the second LP Headache Rhetoric in March 1989

Never Seen Before

They had a great habit, for the most part of not including their singles or b-sides on albums. This was the second 45 – it’s as perfect a slice of indie-pop from the 86/87/88 era as you could hope to come across, right down to additional female backing vocals  Deserved to be a massive mainstream success.

SIDE B

Just Too Bloody Stupid

Opening track to the debut LP.  By now, you might have spotted that this was a band who more or less recorded minor variations on one tune; but by god, it was a belter of a tune.

What Is There To Smile About?

Flop single #4.  Was there really sixteen better and higher-selling singles in the Indie Charts in August 1988?  I have my doubts….

Hey Hey My My (Into The Black)

As mentioned in the bio above, this was on the Nature Thing single released at the same time as the second album, Headache Rhetoric; one of a number of bands from the West of Scotland who, at the time and in the coming years, would cite Neil Young as a huge influence.

Lovely Little Swan

Opening track on Headache Rhetoric, an album that disappointed a few folk on its release but has undergone a bit of a critical reappraisal over the past quarter of a century.  Parts of this remind me of early-ish R.E.M.

I Kiss The Flowers In Bloom

Another track from Foxheads Stalk This Land that would have made a very fine single except the band preferred not to rip fans off , and a fine way to round things off.

Enjoy.  And Happy New Year when it arrives wherever you live.

OVERDOSING ON COVER VERSIONS (5)

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Nina Persson is one of my favourite singers. She is best known for her work with The Cardigans who have become one of the most successful bands to come out of Sweden in recent years racking up more than 10 million album sales worldwide. Nina has also released material as part of A Camp and as a guest vocalist with the likes of Manic Street Preachers, Sparklehorse and David Arnold. She’s never shied away from tackling cover versions and in almost every instance delivers something quite different from the original:-

mp3 : The Cardigans – The Boys Are Back In Town
mp3 : A Camp – Boys Keep Swinging
mp3 : Nina Persson & Nathan Larson – Losing My Religion

Nathan Larson is, like the bloke featured yesterday, yet another musician whose CV indicates I should know a lot more about him other than the fact he works with his other half every now and again. Click here for more info.

Tomorrow will bring another in the Saturday series from Scotland, then its more from The Undertones on Sunday before another week of covers.

Enjoy.

OVERDOSING ON COVER VERSIONS (4)

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Maydrim was a short-lived indie/electronica band from Spain. The main brains behind the project was Antonio Escobar, a ridiculously succesful producer, composer and arranger who has won all sorts of awards in his home country and elsewhere as can be seen from this wiki page.

It’s quite sad that I only know of him from this cover:-

mp3 : Maydrim – Shakespeare’s Sister

Just a wee bit different from Johnny/Andy/Mike and the racist’s version.

OVERDOSING ON COVER VERSIONS (3)

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No really, that is a fairly recent picture of Terry Hall sitting on top of these few words.

He’s someone who has mastered the art of the cover version over the near 40 years (!!!!!!) that he’s been involved in music. Like these:-

mp3 : Guy Lombardo & The Royal Canadians – Enjoy Yourself
mp3 : The Specials – Enjoy Yourself

mp3 : Billie Holiday – Summertime
mp3 : The Fun Boy Three – Summertime

mp3 : The Roches – The Hammond Song
mp3 : The Colour Field – The Hammond Song

mp3 : Captain & Tennille – Love Will Keep Us Together
mp3 : Terry, Blair & Anouchka – Love Will Keep Us Together

mp3 : Charles Aznavour – She
mp3 : Vegas – She

mp3 : The Lightning Seeds – Sense
mp3 : Terry Hall – Sense

And while I’m mentioning The Lightning Seeds, here’s a bonus cover:-

mp3 : Thunderclap Newman – Something In The Air
mp3 : The Lightning Seeds – Something In The Air

Enjoy

OVERDOSING ON COVER VERSIONS (2)

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All the greats eventually get the full-blooded cover version treatment with singers and bands queing up to pay tribute to those who greatly influenced them. The late Leonard Cohen has had his songs covered more than most, including various compilation LPs over the years which have been commercially released or given away free with music magazines. There’s even been specially curated gigs at which some of the great and good have appeared on stage to pay tribute.

So many tracks to choose from, but I’ve gone for one which, in its original recording, is not much more than a gravelled voice and some backing oohs and aahs over a toy synthesiser with its cheap drum pattern:-

mp3 : Leonard Cohen – Tower of Song

The opposite tack was taken by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds who, in a drink and drug fuelled frenzy one day in a studio, eventually cut what became an infamous 33 minute version of the track in which all sorts of musical genres are eventually thrown in. It’s not for the faint hearted:-

mp3 : Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Tower of Song (full length)

An edited version was made available for inclusion of the tribute/compilation album I’m Your Fan, released in 1991:-

mp3 : Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Tower of Song (album version)

Here’s two more versions worth giving a listen:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Tower of Song
mp3 : Martha Wainwright – Tower of Song

And finally, the daddy of them all in which Lenny C is given the shoegaze treatment:-

mp3 : The Jesus & Mary Chain – Tower of Song

Outstanding.

OVERDOSING ON COVER VERSIONS (1)

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I’m taking up the suggestion made last month by a few readers to devote some time and space to cover versions. By doing so over the next two weeks it sort of gives me a break from having to think too much about what to write at a time when, understandably, visitor numbers are down and there’s a desire not to come up with what proves to be a thought-provoking or well-written piece that gets lost amidst the mistletoe and decorations.

I’m starting things off with an example of a great cover in that the band involved make it sound nothing like the original and instead would have you believe it was genuinely one of their own. I’m sure that just about all of you will be familiar with the song being covered, but just in case not:-

mp3 : The Stranglers – No More Heroes

The song was included on the soundtrack to a 1999 comedy/action movie called Mystery Men but instead of the four punk/pub rockers from London, it was a version recorded by the finest band to ever come from Milwaukee:-

mp3 : Violent Femmes – No More Heroes

And while I’m here.

mp3 :  Violent Femmes – Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?

Enjoy

THE UNDERTONES SINGLES 77-83 (Part 5)

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Next up is, what I reckon, is a hugely underrated 45 thanks to it having a fabulous hook and cracking sing-a-long chorus.

It was released in October 1979 and was a brand-new song not having featured on the debut LP.   I’m not claiming it’s a bona-fide all-time classic but it deserved to do better than three weeks in the Top 4o with a peak position of #32.

mp3 : The Undertones – You’ve Got My Number (Why Don’t You Use It)

The b-side, unusually, was a cover version.  It was of a song by The Chocolate Watch Band, an American garage rock band, with The Undertones picking it up as it had been included on the Nuggets compilation LP which they regarded as essential listening.  Mind you, this particular song title is something they could have come up quite easily themselves:-

mp3 : The Undertones – Let’s Talk About Girls

Merry Christmas Everyone. Here’s the long-standing tradition of the day:-

mp3 : Sultans Of Ping  – Xmas Bubblegum Machine

I’m going to be here all week…..so feel free to drop in any time you like.

 

 

 

Enjoy.

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