Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Poly Styrene

Poly Styrene was one of the truly iconic figures of the punk movement, without whom the punk scene would not have been the same. She was at the forefrount of a huge shift in attitudes towards women in the music biz and although her moment in pop was relatively small her influence on countless female artists from Kim Gordon through to Beth Ditto cannot be in any doubt.

X Ray Spex only released the one album, Germ Free Adolescents which introduced the world to Poly Styrene's raw emotive vocal style and her lyrical signature tunes of consumerism and victimhood.

Poly Styrene was truly a one off who refused to conform to the stereotypical view of how women in the music industry should be who demanded to be seen and heard as an individual in her own artistic right and helped open the door for future generations of female artists.

She made sure she was both seen and heard and will be sadly missed and will hopefully be jamming with Ari Up at this very moment.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Favourite Cover Versions...Part 5

Not just one cover this time but a full album's worth of 14 covers courtesy of the one and only Nick Cave. Along with his Bad Seeds, they released Kicking against The Pricks back in the early 90's and shared with the world some of Cave's favourite tracks. Although every track is a cover it is very much a Nick Cave album, every track coming across like a Cave original. They managed to cover some country tunes, some gospel, some Velvets and even a bit of Black Betty. The arrangements are stripped to the bone, and the production is extremely minimal but somehow it all works.

The album is a masterpiece of interpretation, with covers ranging from standards such as Running Scared through to more obscure numbers such as Sleeping Annaleah but it deserves it's place in Cave's mighty body of work.

If you are put off by some of Cave's noisier output you may find something here to whet your appetite...

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Scotland's Best Label ? ....

Today's Sunday Herald contains a free download of tracks from one of the best and most respected Scottish record labels, Chemikal Underground. The free download contains tracks from the early days of the label such as Mogwai and Arab Strap and comes bang up to date with the likes of De Rosa and Zoey Van Goey . From a studio in Hamilton, the label has consistently released top drawer material for about 15 years now but somehow have only managed to have the one bona fide hit with Bis back in 1995. Sadly the band that were responsible for setting the label up are no longer together but even without The Delgados the label can rightly lay claim to be Scotland's best label.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

B'dum, b'dum....

One of the greatest guitar solos in history by one of the best bands in history.

Although not the first punk single or the most influential it was arguably the most important. Spiral Scratch was the first punk single released without the support of a record label,appearing on The Buzzcock's own New Hormones label in early '77 and subsequently opening the door for many others to follow suit and set up their own labels.

The entire E.P. is over in about 10 minutes, but what a bloody great 10 minutes. Spiral Scratch is unbelievably energetic and raw yet somehow more intelligent and sophisticated than the majority of the other punk sounds of that era. The almost 3 minutes of raging ennui expressed by Boredom contains that now famous guitar solo mentioned above and one of the finest punk era vocals courtesy of Howard Devoto before he upped sticks and left the band.

The Buzzcocks went on to produce some of the finest tunes of the post punk era but in the space of almost 11 minutes they changed the musical landscape forever.

Friday, April 8, 2011

She's Painting Huge Books....

There has always been debate regarding the lyrical content of The Sugarcubes track Birthday with some suggesting that it is about an inappropriate relationship between a young girl and a much older bearded man. Bjork herself has said simply that it is "a tasteless pop song about a five-year-old girl who has a love affair with the man next door, who is celebrating his fiftieth birthday". I much prefer this description that I found on the web :

"I think it's a beautiful coming-of-age song. She's not really five. Sometimes she acts like a little kid, as if she were five, and sometimes she acts like an adult, smoking cigars and touching a man's beard. It's about the transition from childhood to adulthood and how there is no clear barrier between the two."

Whatever the precise meaning there is no doubt that Birthday is quite unlike any other record you will ever hear. Although it sounds nothing like it, something about the track reminds me of The Specials' Ghost Town. I think it's just the simple fact that no other track sounds like either of them. It is such a unique sound that quite rightly finished top of the pile in 1987's Festive 50 .

Debut album Life's Too Good was equally stunning and unique and contains many moments of perfect pop music. It is an astoundingly original record, full of frenetic energy and the vocal range, style and talent of Bjork is simply incredible. Some found the backing vocals of Einar Orn a tad on the irritating side but personally I felt that he was a perfect foil to the vocals of Bjork. Although Birthday was the standout track the album contained many other great tracks like Deus, Cold Sweat and Blue Eyed Pop

I remember seeing them live back in the late 80's - I think it was at Glasgow School Of Art - and being totally blown away by the vocal gymnastics of Miss Gudmundsdottir.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Take Your Hat Off Boy....

Some musicians have the good fortune to have been in one decent band, a few in two decent bands but not many can say that they have released records and had success in three decent bands. Come forward and take a bow, Tanya Donelly.

Tanya co-founded Throwing Muses with her step sister, Kristen Hersh and then went on to play in both The Breeders and Belly. Always more conventional than her step sister it was perhaps inevitable that she would be the one most likely to have a "hit" record which she achieved with the radio friendly sound of Feed The Tree and a Number 2 album in the UK with Star in the mid 90's.

Being at the helm of Belly gave Donelly the opportunity to shine as a major songwriter in her own right and she did not disappoint. Two Grammy awards nominations followed for a band that you could dance to, scream to or lie back and dream to.

Their debut album still sounds great and as a body of work most of the material that Tanya Donelly has played on is well worth a listen.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Two Sevens Clash....

Two Sevens Clash may not grab you the first time that you hear it but after the second or third time of hearing you are hooked. Listen to the voices of Joseph Hill, Albert Walker and Kenneth Dayes and the harmonies they produce and prepare to fall under the spell of Culture's debut album.

A hugely important reggae release in the summer of '77, Two Sevens Clash crossed the musical divide and became a big influence to many of the punk bands of that era. A marriage of beautiful harmonies, spot on melodies and a strong Rasta message that is one of the finest examples of spiritual reggae marks the album out as one of the great roots reggae albums.

The Immaculate Pop Conception....

After The Fire Engines split Davey Henderson went onto form one of Scotland's finest ever pop bands in Win. The music was a mix of glam, funk and out and out pop that somehow managed to evade the great record buying public.

Uh! Tears Baby is pop music as it should be. Huge choruses, subversive lyrics and great tunes combine to make Win's debut album a pop classic. Eschewing the trademark guitar sound of previous outfit, The Fire Engines, Henderson's Win were more in tune with bands like Heaven 17. It does sound like it should have a ZTT label on the album with it's huge hooks, big plastic drums, synths and very 80's sounding production, but even a TV Ad using You Got The Power failed to land them the success they deserved and craved.

Second album, Freaky Trigger was even bigger, glossier, shinier and gloriously poppier than the debut. It was like a who's who of great music with elements of Prince, Marc Bolan and Scritti Politti amongst others all blended together to form a great pop artefact full of catchy bubblegum sounds that had HIT written all over them.

Hope you enjoy.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Greetings I Bring....

Lindon Andrew Roberts, more commonly known as Half Pint first came to the public's attention with the classic track Greetings back in the mid 80's.

Half Pint was another artist that I first came across via The Tube . Up 'til this point my knowledge of Reggae was fairly minimal. Excluding Bob Marley I wasn't that up on my Reggae but that changed after seeing Half Pint on The Tube performing with Sly and Robbie. Half Pint never received the success or acclaim that others did but, for me, Greetings is one of the best tracks I have heard in any genre and remains a track that I play regularly too this day.

Uplifting, inspirational and just a joy to listen to Greetings deserves a few minutes of your undivided attention.

The mid 80's was a great time for reggae with the likes of Wayne Smith, Barrington Levy and Half Pint, all of whom popularised the dancehall sound and brought reggae to a wider audience.

Somewhere I have a video of Half Pint's appearance on the Tube and one day I will attempt to upload the video to share but until then....

Greetings I bring from jah
To all raggamuffin whooey
Greetings I bring from jah whooey
To all raggamuffin whooey