Of words and music……..

Six weeks since the last post on here. Not good!

To be fair to myself we have been rather busy with a number of gigs and three albums released in one day last Friday. Plus I’ve been catching up on my reading, which is a discipline that has been neglected, what with one thing and another. It is important, I think, to keep the mind stimulated with both the written word, as well as listening to music.

The content this time around includes a rainy night in Bury and covers in the main the latest release from Dave Graney and Clare Moore, in between several books, a lot of music and the first glimmers of Spring amongst biblical rain events.

This is in no particular order in terms of time, more a series of thoughts which may, or may not, be related.

So i’ll be hopping around the time line.

The latest offering from Dave Graney and Clare Moore struck a chord, a mental note if you would. This time last year when I was stood in the corridor outside the gig room at the Eagle trying to convince a passing punter to watch the visiting aforementioned Antipodeans, I was struggling to codify what the “Graney” sound was all about within the narrow strictures of genre. “Err sort of blues, rock, country and jazz all rolled into one” was my miserable attempt to describe what Dave & Co are about. The revelation on listening to Dave and Clare’s latest “single” release ‘How Long Does The Raunch?” was more of a literary than a musical one. But you need to listen to it first to appreciate what I am about to expand upon.

Dave calls is “jazz pop” or more mysteriously “Bolan Jazz” in the Cockaigne Records blog. On the surface it’s an amalgamation of jazzy chords and circular Reich leaning marimba and vibes, with an off kilter bass line, the trademark Graney unconventional song structure and words that hang between street jive and the complex text of say Samuel Beckett, or Thomas Pynchon, or perhaps more closely John Cowper Powys, or Paul Auster. And there was the revelation, and synchronicity, and serendipity for me, that listening to Graney/Moore is the aural equivalent of reading any of those aforementioned writers.

Mark E.Smith once used the phrase “Scientists and their bloody childish reading habits”  (ten points to the reader who can get the song that line comes from) and to some extent that sums me up, at least for half the time. I’m Just as happy these days reading Auster or Pynchon as I am reading Martin Scott’s Thraxas books, or Malcolm Pryce’s Louis Knight books.  Being trained as a scientist, before I realised it wasn’t for me, I recall that there was above average chance that the sort of books, or more often than not the comics (Marvel, DC etc) , that myself and my  contemporaries were reading back then, would be pulp crime or SF or fantasy works, rather than deeper and more complex prose. So for a good chunk of my adolescence I was reading “easy” stuff of a non-literary nature, there was not  the academic discipline in the school/university curriculum  to train a growing mind in both the scientific world and its  literary equivalent, unless you count the very odd “German for Scientists” course I was shoe horned into t Uni!  No wonder this fledging scientist reverted to the latest Michael Moorcock for some light relief after ploughing through some dense prose on the Tricarboxylic Acid cycle or the structure of DNA.  A change in career was the damascene journey from the pulp of my youth to later years when the artistic side of my brain was allowed to flourish

As an aside, one of the key way stops on the way to the literary  Road to Damascus thing for me  was a book from the Bloomsbury press called “M.H. Zools Good Reading Guide to Science Fiction & Fantasy” (1989) and specifically within that tome a series of very good and informative  reading recommendations, most notably the entry on Phillip K. Dick who I had been focusing on around the time it was released. The structure of the guide is quite helpful in that it gives a brief biography of an author, lists their key works and then extrapolates further reading from other authors that has some congruity with the subjects work. In the PKD list was a book by Paul Auster called ‘The New York Trilogy’,  alongside ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ by Hunter S. Thompson, and ‘The Naked Lunch” by William Burroughs. All three of those authors would be key actors in the developing shift from the simple to the complex in my home library. A short listing on page 56 of Zool entitled “The Edge of SF”  included ‘Gravity’s Rainbow’ by Thomas Pynchon, alongside Borges, Marquez, and Wolfe. Pynchon also appears in a list entitled “Theatre of the Absurd”, and also in the Kurt Vonnegut list of alternative reading. In one respect the Zool could be seen as a clever marketing ploy to get the reader to go out and spend all their money on books. It worked on me, and there was a sustained period in my mid to late 20s when the book collection grew exponentially, Picador press being one of the main benefactors from my hard earned wages.

But I digress. So, the revelation after listening to  “How Long Does The Raunch?” was that Graney & Moore were the musical avatar that took me on the same journey as Beckett, Pynchon, Powys and Auster et al. did from a literary perspective. It started to some degree with ‘Dandies Are Never Unbuttoned’  from “The Soft ‘n’ Sexy Sound” by The Coral Snakes, continued in “Heroic Blues”, and “The Brother Who Lived”, and reached a critical peak with “Fearful Wiggings”. It also emerges amongst the thirteen songs that have been  released over the last year and will be brought together in a CD collection called “Let’s Get Tight” soon. Graney & Moore as a whole requires concentration, attention and commitment because they step outside of  the conventions of structure and language of “rock and roll” in the same way that Auster, at his best, defies the structural norm, and that Beckett uses language in a completely different way. As an aside and a coincidence I am currently reading Auster’s novella “Travels In The Scriptorium” which has a bit of good Old Sam about it.

Speaking of “rock and roll” leads me to a trip to Bury several weeks back to catch Adventures of Salvador. Some months back an over zealous sound man ruined my first live exposure to this band so I was pleased to accept SDs offer to see the four piece again, this time in their home town. As is usual at this time of the year the level of precipitation, coupled with an “incident” on the Metrolink network , mitigated against a stress free journey into Manchester. We met in an overcrowded Moon Under Water, grabbed a quick meal, and then hopped on the Bury tram at Victoria station. A quick pint on arrival amongst the distracting gaggle of some sort of hen do and then into the compact basement venue of the Blind Tiger  to catch AOS. The revelation is Ollie Nicholson’s drumming which is exceptional and which adds to a musically very competent band with great songs and a style that teeters between power pop, post-punk and mutant country blues. They are highly recommended and very entertaining.

I may have mentioned before I try to stay away from rock biographies as they tend to end up depressing me, and more importantly, breaking the fourth wall between the rock and roll world and reality, bringing all that glorious hope and vision back to the mundanity of day to day existence. I could not, however with all conscience, duck out of reading Robert Forster’s semi-autobiographical book “Grant and I”, given the importance of that band in my own personal musical history. It arrived via the Book Depository from the other side of the planet at the end of last week and I devoured it within three days. The speed of reading is in no small part down to the Forster writing style which is measured and clear. He takes you back to his youth, the formation of the band, the relationship with Grant and Lindy and through the trials and tribulations of one the key Australian bands of the late 20th Century. In comparison with the scattered fanzine like structure of David Nicholls book on the band there is a more coherent narrative, although there are giant leaps in the  time frame in some parts. What is missing for me is perhaps a better understanding of how songs were crafted. What is clear is the propensity of the wider music business to completely miss out on the opportunity to promote good quality material, and the importance of the more grass roots elements of the business in helping bands like The Go-Betweens to survive. It struck a chord with our work with German Shepherd records. The sad part of the tale comes towards the end where the impact of a rock and roll life style way heavily on the two main protagonists and their health, and like David McComb, how alcohol eventually snuffs out the genius of Grant McLennan far too early.  It made me want to go back and listen to the music again, which is perhaps the more important legacy, especially the suite of solo albums that the two produced between the two main phases of the band.

The three aforementioned releases from last Friday are worth a mention, if only as part of a heavy handed form of marketing. The first thing to mention is the compilation called Cambridge Calling Volume One. A more detailed piece on the background of the album and the bands involved can be found here. Suffice to say it is an eclectic mix of the bands that make up the music scene in the city and more volumes will follow in due course. All proceeds for the this first release will go towards the Arthur Rank Hospice in Cambridge. Many thanks go towards Dave Hammond for his hard work in pulling this together and allowing us to participate in the project.

Out of the above and again with thanks to Dave Hammond for providing an introduction we also had the pleasure of releasing the latest album by Keltrix, who appear on the album above. Dave provides an excellent review of the album in Sounds On-Line so I won’t event try and emulate that. What I will say is that this album fits perfectly within the German Shepherd ethos. The ability of Sharon and Keri to take a traditional musical form and merge it with modern electronica, dance and techno, and their capacity to bring in guest producers to transform their sound is notable and remarkable. Keri’s voice is unique and Sharon’s lead instrument, the violin, fits well with an entirely modern musical framework. There are some exceptional songs here and it is an early candidate for album of the year for me. This band deserves to be heard by more people.

So, and to conclude, last Friday. It’s raining again. I meet SD in a Waterhouse pub again, we go for  a bite to eat again, some excellent Asian Street Food on this occasion, and then wander around the back streets of Piccadilly to the bohemian darkness of The Castle. I was wondering for future gigs if we should use The Castle rather than the Eagle but I am more comfortable with the layout of the latter, and it’s general sound and friendliness of the staff. However it is just about right for the musical endeavours of the evening which include Ian Moss, Moff Skellington, and Loop-Aznavour. We get a reasonable sized crowd, better than the last collaboration in Leeds in 2016 in any event. The one person responsible for my introduction to the world of Moff is also in attendance, the smiling Julia Adamson. Ian does a new piece about dogs, Moff performs his new album, and then collaborates with Ian on a new piece called “Predator Fascinates Imbecile”,  Loop does his usual excellent set, and then Loop and Ian perform a couple of pieces including a new version of the excellent “The Wilsons”. It is both challenging and funny, fascinating and thought provoking, and above all entertaining. There will be another in June sometime. Takings on the door allow a small stipend to paid to each of the three performers a rarity for our little cottage industry.

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Album Of The Year?

Yes it’s that time again……and with it being a very busy year I thought i’d better prepare the long-list early on…..so in no particular order the candidates for this years “Best Of…..” not jazz albums… I’ll whittle it down to a top ten in due course, and I may well include some other ones I have missed and some things in the pipeline which look like they make the list.

There are a couple of very strong front-runners at the moment and after that it all gets a bit difficult…………

  • The Seven Twenty – The Seven Twenty
  • Niche – Heading East
  • Heroin In Tahiti – Sun and Violence
  • Dilly Dally – Sore
  • The Holy Soul – Fortean Times
  • Mammoth Penguins – Hide and Seek
  • The Lancashire Hustlers – What Made Him Run
  • Moff Skellington – Scribnalls
  • Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Just Sit And Think And Sometimes I Just Think
  • Robert Forster – Songs To Play
  • Bouquet of Dead Crows – Of The Night
  • Dave Graney – Once I Loved The Oceans Roar
  • Monkeys In Love – Take The Biscuit
  • Corrections House – Know How To Carry A Wip
  • Esmerine – Lost Voices
  • Dead Sea Apes – Spectral Domain
  • Moff Skellington – The Corkscrew Tongue
  • Liberez – All Tense Now Lax
  • Vienna Ditto – Circle
  • JD Meatyard – Taking The Asylum
  • Ken Mode – Success
  • Dead to Dying World – Litany
  • Myrkur – M
  • The Creeping Ivies – Your New Favourite Garage Band
  • Ought – Sun Coming Down
  • Big Brave – Au De La
  • The Happy Fallen – Lost and Found
  • Cryin’ Queerwolf – Diva
  • Alif – Aynama -Rtama
  • Dave Graney ‘n’ The Coral Snakes – Night of the Wolverine  (Expanded)
  • ZX+ Don’t Drink The Water
  • Author & Punisher -Melk En Honing
  • Dave Graney & the mistLY – Play mistLY for me – live recordings vol 1
  • Flies On You – Etcetera
  • Brothers of the Sonic Cloth – Brothers of the Sonic Cloth
  • The Go-Betweens – G stands for Go-Betweens : Volume One 1978-1984 (yes I know it’s a box set but it’s too good to ignore)
  • Moff Skellington – The Corduroy Bridge
  • The Fall – Sub Lingual Tablet
  • Minimi Deutsch – Minimi Deutsch
  • Anna Von Hauswolff – The Miraculous

Edinburgh, Melbourne and Brisbane

The Nectarine No 9

Nebraska Falls (Postcard/Shake)

Fried for Blue Material (Creeping Bent)

Dave Graney ‘n The Coral Snakes 

The Mercury Years 1994-1997 (Universal)

The Go-Betweens

G stands  for Go-Betweens : Volume One 1978-1984 (Domino)

The recent news that the Sexual Objects were releasing a one item only album with the added attraction of the purchaser getting the rights to distribute it as they see fit struck me as a suitable comment on the state of the music industry.

Around the same time of catching that news my friend Bob Stow wrote me a series of e-mails to me around the subject of catching Dave Graney and Clare Moore in London during 2014. Bob’s always potent writing brought to life three gigs I had sadly had to miss.

Coincidentally towards the end of last week I had been prowling the nether regions of Amazon and I chanced upon some reasonably priced copies of two Nectarine No 9. albums I hadn’t got,  and the recent Mercury Set of Dave Graney and the Coral Snakes albums from ’94 to ’97.  Synchronicity and all that.

Add to that the recent release of part one of The Go-Betweens retrospective which apart from the thee original albums from the 1978-84 period has the early singles on vinyl and  four CDs worth of rare, unreleased material and you have on your hands a wonderful few hours of listening.

I spent a lot of the early 90s working too hard and developing a career and most of my disposable income was spent on the rather large collection of jazz  and music by The Fall which surrounds me as I type.  It was only Mr Stow, and fellow Northamptonian Mr Gibbins, that kept me up to speed with what should have been listening to in the slightly off the mainstream world of rock and pop. Three memorable recommendations from that period were The Go-Betweens “Springhill Fair”, the Nectarines “A C with three Stars” and Dave ‘n’ The Coral Snakes “The Lure of the Tropics” all of which eventually lead to the lifetime appreciation and collection of the work of Messrs Forster, McLennan, Henderson and Graney.

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With Mr Graney’s “Fearful Wiggings” fresh in my mind as one of the outstanding albums of last year I was pleased to receive my collection of albums from Amazon this week, time to bask in the heady days of the latter end of the last century and bring back some happy musical memories.

Of course I really wanted to find a copy of the Nectarines  “Guitar Thieves” or a reasonably priced copy of one of Henderson’s Win albums (£99 for the first one I thought was a tad steep) but I’ve made do with the Canadian imprint “Niagara Falls” which includes versions of most of “A C With 3 Stars” and one or two rarities including a cover of VUs “Inside of Your Heart”. The companion Nectarine disc “Fried for Blue Material” takes the more esoteric element of the debut album and builds on them to create a combination of songs, incidences and impressions. Another hidden gem in Mr Henderson’s impressive canon.

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The Dave Graney box set encompasses three crucial albums from the great man’s career between 1994-1997. The first “You Wanna Be There But You Don’t Wanna Travel” is stuffed to the gills with Graney treasures from the triumphant “Warren Oates” to the exquisite and nostalgic “There Was A Time”  and many more between. The writing. musically and lyrically on the this album is Dave at his very best. The second “The Soft ‘N’ Sexy Sound” was the one that got Dave his Aria and it’s easy to understand why. He moves from the tongue in cheek near-pop of “Apollo 69” through the soulful “I’m Not Afraid to Be Heavy” to the intense “Scorched Love Affair” to the utterly marvellous “Morrison Floorshow”.  The third album “The Devil Drives” was a strong hint of Dave’s future direction post ‘Snakes, the songs becoming less pop and more unique musical narratives, fascinating in their construction and subject matter. A remarkable collection of music.

It does beg the question why Mercury didn’t go for the whole DG & CS canon and include the outstanding “Night of the Wolverine” and the unforgettable live album “The Lure of the Tropics” – but what would I know I don’t run a record label now do I? (I’m being ironic)  A pity really having all of that in one place would have been great and they could have included the tracks from the Bonus Disc from The Soft ‘N Sexy Sound that are not on Crayfish Palace Royalty disc which forms part of the four piece box set. The set of rarities includes a raft of rare tracks including the nascent version of “Morrison Floorshow” in the form of “It’s Your Crowd That  I Hate”.

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And so to the Go-Betweens.  Now then, I have the bulk of their stuff in one form or another and it’s all marvellous,  but the recent Domino box set does allow the opportunity to hear the complete development of their early work in one place. Particularly interesting is the compact disc of earliest material from 1978/9 and the nascent sound of the song-writing duo that would build into incomparable team that delivered so many fine albums and songs.

The box set includes the first vinyl re-pressings of their first three studio albums in over thirty years (Send Me A Lullaby, Before Hollywood & Spring Hill Fair), all re-mastered from the original analogue tapes.  However it is the rarities and live sets that uncover a band developing from stripped down angular post-punkers into a fully fledged unique and incomparable band.

I can’t think of many bands or musicians who have consistently given me listening pleasure over the last forty years as much as The Go-Betweens, plus Davy Henderson and Dave Graney in their variations incarnations. They rank alongside Beefheart, Zappa, Miles and Trane, and of course The Fall as people who enriched my life.

I recommend all of these releases to you unequivocally, but then I would wouldn’t I?

Aural Delights 26th September 2012

Stream Here

1 The Apparells Gypsy Rider
2 Not By Design Words
3 The Ella Arts Self Obsessed
4 The Forgotten Saints Voices In My Head
5 Charles Carter All The Hills
6 The Kathryn Wheel Save The World Tonight
7 Helen Boulding Company of Wolves
8 White Rose Black Magic Box
9 Progress Let Go
10 Moff Skellington Dog – Sleep Sight of Mother
11 Miss Lucid Hollow
12 Longstone Pavilion
13 The Go-Betweens People Say

Aural Delights Radio Show – 22nd August 2012

On this show…. listen here…..just for clarity the Andy T album is called Life At Tethers End……not as announced on the show…..

1 Phil Davis and the Ninja Smoke Bombs All Mixed Up Single
2 Toska Wilde and Luis Drayton Glamoflage Glamoflage
3 Led Er Est Divided Parallel The Diver
4 Bacchanal Party Champagne Lifestyle, Buckfast Wages Single
5 The Stagger Rats Fuzzy Fuzzy EP
6 Factory Acts Fantasy Fantasy
7 Six Organs of Admittance One Thousand Birds Ascent
8 Nuclear Death Terror Crisis Chaos Reigns
9 Moff Skellington Goodbye Changeless Town of Attics Eddodi
10 Dead Sea Apes Dead Fingers Talk Astral House
11 Andy T Wooden Curtains Life at Tethers End
12 Factory Acts Stock Exchange Fantasy
13 The Go-Betweens Twin Layers of Lightning Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express

Aural Delights Radio Show – 27th June 2012

Listen here

1 Vespa Shoutin’ From The Rooftops Storm is Breaking
2 So Shush Synaesthesia A Mirror Gaze
3 Dreaded Monkey This Is Not A Song Mud EP
4 Fold (featuring Mike Ruppert) That’s the life experience Mr President We’re in Trouble
5 Moff Skellington Nostalgia For A Blameless Life Thorny Conduits
6 Quadrilles The Turks Are Restless {[(Q)]}
7 The Connectors Pretty Ugly
8 Thinking Fellers Union Local #282 Sister Hell Tangle
9 Vespa Fever Grow Old Storm is Breaking
10 Todd Rundgren I Saw The Light Something/Anything
11 Kill Pretty The Year of 13 Moons In 80 Days
12 Roy Harper Bank of the Dead Lifemask
13 Robyn Hitchcock Twitch 4 Sam Surfer Phantom 45
14 The Go-Betweens Darlinghurst Nights Oceans Apart

Music Diary #30 – 1st February & Aural Delights Radio Show

After the recent biblical amount of e-mails of late things have been relatively quiet today……so what have we got?

  • Recommendation of the day is the new Thee Silver Mt Zion release which hangs precariously between an EP and an album. It is called “The West Will Rise Again” (notebooks out Fall fans!!) and has all the usual TSMZ tropes i.e. Menucks angst ridden vocals, layers and layers of guitars and strings, and airy choral stuff in the background – very good indeed
  • The new Noel Gallagher single arrived – ho-hum…….
  • Lydia Loveless is an interesting americana punky country artiste with a good vocal style who nestles comfortably between Springsteen and Earle and has the right sort of attitude. Her “Indestructible Machine” album is worth a punt.
  • Alice Niamh has a new single out and it’s suitably non-Florence enough to get my interest. She is from Torquay, a place I visited many years ago.
  • Mightily impressed by a couple of older releases from Squadra Omega which have come my way. They mix kraut-rock, psyche and out-there jazz in a heady brew of mantra-rock which catches the old ossicles quite by surprise – there’s a touch of early Floyd/A Duul about them.
  • Tony T sent a couple of Leeds bands my way – Hookworks and Nope – both very good indeed, check them out on Bandcamp…….

And so to tonight’s radio offering…..listen in here…..

1 50 Foot Wave Radiant Addict With Love From The Men’s Room
2 The Sexual Objects Merrie England Cucumber
3 The King Blues Does Anyone Care About Us Single
4 The Coke Authority Act a Fool Demo
5 Disappears Fear of Darkness Pre Language
6 Moff Skellington The Perm Doctors Wife Pukes of  A Hot Cloister
7 The Hello Strangers Conococheague Introducing Max Schmidt
8 Hero and Leander One Mississippi Two Collider EP
9 The Go-Betweens Head Full of Steam Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express
10 The Umbilical Chords One Cool Panther Demo CD
11 The Sexual Objects Queen City of the 4th Dimension Cucumber
12 Moff Skellington Twixt the Leg Whispers Pukes of  A Hot Cloister
13 Crippled Black Phoenix Get Down And Live With It (Mankind) The Crafty Ape
14 The Tall Dwarfs Lowlands Let Them Eat Pavlova