Blog neglect is a terrible crime, although, in my defence, this is one of my many blogs and other things of a musical nature which have captured my time of late. However, as Spring tries to break through from Winter this feels like a good time to shake the dust off the writing fingers.
Modern antipodean music continues to dominate my CD player, and as is usually the case, I am prompted to write by the arrival of new music by Dave Graney. Dave looks busy at the moment, whether it be the almost relentless gigging, or literary events around his excellent “Workshy” book, or being nominated for awards for soundtracks. However, he still finds time to produce new material, and a new single, purely solo this time, comes across all “Roy Orbison” in a blues-pop style, with slide guitar, fractured guitar string sounds, and enough atmosphere to shake you out of your tribute act fever dream. There’s a video which links back to the Watts Towers mentioned on the track Apollo 69 which was on The Coral Snakes The Sound ‘n’ Sexy Sound album but it’s on private setting at the moment so I cannot share it. The tune is called “You’re All Wrong” and opens next weeks Aural Delights Radio Show (Thursday at 10pm on Analogue Trash Radio). Here’s a nice picture of Dave instead:
In a “Kevin Bacon Six Degrees” way the bulk of following few subjects inevitably link back to Graney, such is the nature of synchronicity in the digital age.
On this next aural matter, the first thing to say is that there are several bands called Shifting Sands around but it’s the Brisbane based Aussie version which applies in this instance (the other two I can find are in Iowa and New Zealand, there may well be more). I chanced across the band in an article published in 2015 in The Music.com.au which intrigued me because of a Graney reference. Shifting Sands – the core of which is Geoff Corbett (of SixFtHick fame) and his long-term musical co-worker Dylan McCormack (also a member of Gentle Ben) – which is added to by Dan Baebler (also SixFtHick), Alex Dunlop (Keep On Dancin’s) and Anna Clifford (Family Jordan), have long been institutions on the Brisbane live scene, but their 2015 debut long-player, Beach Coma, allows them access to a wider universe by the power of Bandcamp. It’s a remarkable recording with Corbett’s world-weary drawl dominating. My immediate thought he was a softer sounding version of Johnny Dowd, but the man himself cites Leonard Cohen, Lee Hazelwood, Neil Diamond, and early Dave Graney (there’s your Bacon 6 degrees thing) as influences. On the surface, the music evokes that “striped sunlight sound” but the dark subject matter of Corbett’s lyrics transports the music elsewhere. It’s a compelling and fascinating album which will get some serious airtime on my radio shows over the next few months. As it turns out, and proving the Cosmic Bacon Spheres are aligned Dave saw the band the other night and bought the album also. It’s a small world.
Still pursuing the Bacon like cosmic linkages Graney of course played with Loudhailer Electric Company last year in Hull. The effervescent bass player of said band is, of course, Lou Duffy Howard once of Red Guitars, which evolved into The Planet Wilson. I was listening to Dave Hammond on Cambridge 105 and he played tracks from the soon to be re-released Planet Wilson back catalogue which is available digitally from April 30th 2018. The band was formed in Hull in 1985 by two former Red Guitars, Hallam Lewis (guitar and vocals) and the aforementioned Duffy-Howard (bass), and was completed by drummer Grant Ardis. Described by Sounds’ David Cavanagh as ‘Crazy James Chance meets Holger Czukay’ they released two acclaimed albums in the late 1980s. Their 1988 album ‘In the Best of All Possible Worlds’ was produced by Steve Nye and released on Virgin Records. In 1989 their second album ‘Not Drowning but Waving’ was released on Records of Achievement. Singles White Lies, Fly by Night, Taken for a Ride and Mouth to Mouth featured both 7″ and 12″ vinyl extended mixes. Howards own DHM label, distributed by Label Worx, will release the back catalogue which will be available from digital outlets including iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Deezer, Shazam and Amazon. The two albums are a strong reminder to the music fan of what you missed when you were not paying attention in the latter half of the 1980s. To the apposite Cavanagh comparators above I’d add a sprinkling of ’77 Talking Heads, early 10,000 Maniacs, and a strong dose of Hi-Life. In any event, I am mightily pleased that Lou has brought them back to life as they afford me the chance to enjoy what was a unique band.
Mention of “Workshy” above leads me on to my current listening obsession, which is Peter Milton Walsh, who is mentioned in said Graney tome as the purveyor of exotic chords, well, major sevenths, that sparked some musical activity for Dave. As an aside Workshy is well worth reading for his succinct analysis of certain artists and movements, grunge gets short shrift and Jeff Buckley gets told off for “howling”. Talking of chords I got told off by a musician for playing a “fancy chord” in a jam session once and was advised to buckle down and play majors, but I digress. Walsh is The Apartments, and The Apartments is Walsh. Bob Auster South reminded me of them in a recent e-mail, he had come across something on You-Tube, I recalled I’d been sent their most recent new album (No Song, No Spell, No Madrigal) by a promo company, played it on the steam wireless and then promptly lost it in the great hard disc meltdown of a few years back. Much is written of the band, and Walsh, on Wikipedia, and on the liner notes to the re-issue of the debut album “the evening visits….”. Not to over-egg the plaudits Walsh has that undefinable sound which emerges out of a group of Australian bands – Chads Tree, The Triffids, Jackson Code, and yes The Go-Betweens, which Walsh dallied with briefly for a while in the eighties.
In a Steve Erickson moment, I construct a meta-fictional reality in my head where Walsh had stayed with Robert and Grant and The GBs become huge and bloated and “successful” , the new Beatles if you would with Grant and Robert as Paul and John, and Peter as George, and their separate bodies of work, including Walsh’s time with Laughing Clowns, had been lost to history (this is mainly because I am reading Erickson’s excellent Shadowbahn at the moment). Such an alternative history is something not to dwell on………
In any event, a longer and separate piece on Walsh and the Apartments is gestating in the back of my head, pending that here is one of the You Tube’s that t’other Bob pointed me to. Also, I’ve been heavily featuring the bands’ output on the radio show recently. That’s Amanda Brown, also of The GBs in the middle. On Every Corner is from the remarkable “Drift” release.
I’ve held off on commenting on the passing of Mark E. Smith, for several reasons, but mostly because there is a serious amount of work going on behind the scenes to reconstruct the site, which Martin Peters and I have been working on for nigh on ten years now, and which aims to catalogue every live performance by The Fall and also provide a complete track record. Working backwards we have completed the 2010s in terms of gig cataloguing. The aim is to be finished by October but it may take a little longer. There is a strange logic in carrying out the work in reverse order as it allows for a better understanding of how The Fall story was de-constructed over the years.
Completing the Bacon like synchronicity of this piece…… Dave Graney covered The Fall’s “New Face In Hell” in his 2009 narrative show “Live In Hell”. You know, there’s a whole book somewhere in this linkages thing, but I can’t be bothered, there’s too much good music to listen to.
I won’t leave it so long until the next one….