Ten years since Mr Peel left us and at the same time a raft of albums have been released that I have no doubt he would be featuring were he still broadcasting.
And what better place to start…….
It should be of no surprise to anyone who is an avid collector of the work of The Fall that the latest release, gnomically titled “Live Uurop VIII-XII places in sun & winter, son”, is a mixed bag of live recordings of varying quality. It is not the first example of a release, from the most prolific of groups, which tests the fans patience with their massive output. Pieced together from various dates the material stretches way back, in terms of genesis, to 1982/3 with a reading of “Wings” complete with, for reasons which are inexplicable, some church bells ringing at the beginning, through to more recent stuff including the, as yet unreleased, “Auto (2014) Chip Replace”. There have of course, along with the addition of extra percussionist, Daren Garrett (ex Nightingales etc), been a host of new songs aired publicly since this lot was recorded so one can expect a new Fall album at some point. Having caught them recently at the Lower Kersal Social Club I get a sense that some of the new material is an improvement on recent releases, which is consistent with the sine curve of quality that goes alongside studio albums. Having recently re-read Brian Edge’s Paintwork book, and Steve Hanley’s book “The Big Midweek” it becomes increasingly clear that the group are an obsession which both gives joy and confounds in equal measure. Is it any good? Probably not, but it gets filed on the shelves with the other 100 or so CDs and will be a reference point for work on a comprehensive Fall gigography which is currently underway and will hopefully be completed by next Spring, i’m up to 1981 and it is proving exceedingly slow progress.
Thurston Moore’s new album “The Best Day” is good in that it refers back in terms of overall sound and to some degree structure to the excellent “Murray Street” by Sonic Youth. He has gathered a newish band around him, Steve Shelley returns on drums, and Moore seems somewhat revitalised by his new band members. On balance I think I prefer last years “Chelsea Light Moving” wherein Moore adopted a more louche Lou Reed-ish demeanour and a slighly more raw sound. However when you get down to it there is not a great deal he can do in terms of surprises, it’s all very much mapped out from probably “Sister” onwards, with the exception of his more “free jazz” experiments with the likes of Nels Cline and Walter Prati. Better I think to try and grab a copy of his work with John Moloney in Europe in 2012 (Fundamental Sunshine) which starts to explore some other avenues is a little less rock specific. On a similar line of thought I’ve been listening back to some early Glenn Branca recently, to which Moore and Lee Ranaldo were key collaborators and that sounds far more interesting, at least people were taking risks back then, aah, the folly of youth.
I wonder what Mr Peel would have made of Staggs? I hope he would appreciated their quirky charm and obtuse approach. Their latest single “When Eartha Kitt Met Pete Tong” is their best yet mixing a left field approach to electronica with Michael T.Scott’s scabrous vocalese. The A side is the marvellous Earth Kitt which mashes up references to Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley and Jagger & Richard whilst, subliminally at least, referencing the long lost Fall track “Tempo House”, The other A-side “It All Went Pete Tong” is a delightful chill wave piece with a John Barry elements which seems to cover a wide range of subjects including a failed love affair between a vegetarian and a butcher. Ridley and Scott are able to create something new and vital with their work and I recommend them strongly to you. Their work to date can be accessed via Bandcamp and the new single will be available from German Shepherd Records as a digital download from 31st October.
The new Half Man Half Biscuit album “Urge for Offal” is great in a familiar way. We have got used, by now, to certain Blackwell formulas in albums and there are one or two of the characteristic performances therein, “The Unfortunate Gwatkin” being a classic “Nigel narrative” that then bursts into a song, this time with the memorable and utterly catchy line “Cresta, what the fuck were we drinking?”. There’s a punkier pop feel than of late with faster tempos and slightly harsher guitar sound on a number of songs, but there are the usual forays into mutant folk/country with a dollop of Wirralese, No stone is left unturned as Nigel mercilessly lampoons any number of current trends and tropes – Midge Ure gets a bit of a battering . His ability to distill the state of the nation in a few pithy lines is legendary and he has lost none of his biting wit and utter daftness at times – I mean who else could rhyme beige with Standard Liege and mention Gerry Gow in the same song? And here’s a thing, there’s a point in “Baguette Dilemma for the Booker Prize Guy” where Mr Blackwell sounds uncannily like Peter Hammill, a person he has, in the past, extracted from the micturant from with some venom. I often feel that the words are generally more important than the music with HMHB albums – when they get it spot on they can marry a great tunes with great words (i’m thinking “Gubba Lookalikes” for example) and there are a couple of gems on here but mostly it’s about standard “Merseybeat” chord sequences being used to deliver Blackwell’s words. There are a couple of interesting bits including the jaunty instrumental “Theme For Something Or Other”. Having said all that it is by far the best release for October and the album I am likely to play more than once over the coming weeks. Always the sign of a good album I feel is not particularly warming to it on the first listening but repeated plays leads to more appreciation of the detail.