It’s the wheel thing

Detroit’s leading pop funk surrealists Was (Not Was) initially came to prominence through their association with New York “mutant disco” label ZE Records, and rather like ZE’s other big stars Kid Creole and the Coconuts, while they’ve always been critical darlings, their invention and satirical edge has often led the wider public to perceive them as the wrong kind of novelty. But that’s the general public for you.

1980 debut single “Wheel Me Out” actually pre-dates their association with ZE, coming out on Island Records’ Antilles imprint, but it definitely sets the trend for their future career, setting down a solid disco-funk groove with weird spoken lyrics on top, and a typically eclectic mix of guest performers, from David Was‘s mum Elizabeth Weiss on vocals to top session guitarist Bruce Nazarian and veteran jazz trumpter Marcus Belgrave.

And of course you get the B side as well. Though personally I prefer the very different “short version” of “Hello Operator” that came out years later on the “Listen Like Thieves” CD single… that’s right, they covered an INXS song, but that’s for another time, maybe.

Link: Was (Not Was) – Wheel Me Out (original 12″)
Link: Was (Not Was) – Hello Operator… I Mean Dad… I Mean Police… I Can’t Even Remember Who I Am (original 12″)

 

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Orange and Red from the Emerald Isle

Can’t say I fancy 2019 very much, but while we’re going through the motions, here’s some Irish lads with guitars.

Described by lead singer Joe Rooney as “a New order type band that ended up going rockabilly”, Dublin quintet Guernica released three singles in 1987-8, all of them rather scarce and sought-after now. This, their debut, is on Discogs at £135.17. It’s a good record, but is it 135 pounds and seventeen pence good? Is anything?

Anyway, very New Order-ish guitars, and at times threatens to break into “Inbetween Days” by the Cure. And you can have it for free! And can you spot the error on the sleeve (right)?

Link: Guernica – Orange And Red (password: salad)

1. Orange And Red
2. Queen Of Our County
3. Missionary

 

The original Scandi noir

From 1980’s Super Trouper, by which time ABBA were getting into the bleak stuff, comes this magnificently pessimistic new year song. Oddly enough, although there’s plenty of writing out there about all the dark stuff that found its way into Abba songs, this particular track always seems to get overlooked. Sod “Auld Lang Syne”, these people know that birth is a curse and existence is a prison, and every new year is just the prelude to another twelve months of disappointment and misery.

Sometimes I see
How the brave new world arrives
And I see how it thrives
In the ashes of our lives
Oh yes, man is a fool…

And then there’s the desperate emptiness of the chorus, an ode not to optimism but to denial as a coping mechanism…

May we all have our hopes, our will to try
If we don’t we might as well lay down and die

This is why ABBA were effing brilliant. I mean, I fully expect the “reunion” songs to be a you-can’t-go-back disaster of Carry On Columbus proportions, and I have no interest in going to see Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again!, though I did quite like the first film, but sometimes they just totally got it…

Link: “Happy New Year” by ABBA

Bring on the bagpipes

I suppose you could call Cicero a one hit wonder; while he did make a few other pretty good pop singles, none had the impact that this one did (his only top 40 hit, it climbed to #19 just in time for Valentine’s Day, which is damn good timing). Though US-born, David Cicero (for it is he) was raised in Livingston in Scotland’s central belt, so his Scottish accent – one of the most striking things about this record – is genuine. The other striking elements are of course the bagpipes (again, the real thing) and the whole Pet Shop Boys production, complete with unmistakable Neil Tennant backing vocals.

For me, the extended mix is the winner here.

Link: Cicero – Love Is Everywhere (password: salad)

1. Love Is Everywhere
2. Love Is Everywhere (Extended mix)
3. Mind Gap (Extended mix)

Weekend Long Player: “Grimsby Fishmarket 4 Norrkoeping 0” by Various Artists

A marvellous cassette-only compilation from 1991, released by a small Swedish label, Records From The Cookie Nose Tower. From the title, it would appear that the concept is that it contains Swedish and British acts, though the scattering of Japanese bands (Bridge, Roof, Venus Peter and Marble Hammock) rather undermines that premise.

Regardless, it’s another sparkling selection of early 90s indiepop, with early and rare stuff from then-or-future Sarah luminaries Blueboy (on what may have been their recorded debut?), Brighter and The Orchids (is this really the first time The Orchids have appeared on this blog? Now there’s an oversight), what in retrospect looks like a jarringly big-name contribution from Stereolab, inevitable appearances by Louis Philippe and Momus, and who is that hiding behind the pseudonym Cerise? It’s only Amelia Fletcher, doing a solo version of Heavenly‘s debut single from the previous year!

Oh, and the Swedish and Japanese bands aren’t bad either. Incidentally, Are You Mr. Riley and The Rileys are the same band, they just changed their name… in the middle of this compilation album, it would appear.

Link: Various Artists – Grimsby Fishmarket 4 Norrkoeping 0 (password: salad)

1. “Eusebio” – Louis Philippe
2. “Song About Girls” – Bummer Twins
3. “Walking Back To You” – The Cherry Orchard
4. “This Friendship Of Ours” – This Perfect Day
5. “Chick House” – Roof
6. “Barriers Of Mine” – Are You Mr. Riley
7. “Silent Sigh City” – Happydeadmen
8. “Shaunty” – Joe Clack
9. “She Fakes Apples” – My Finest Hour
10. “I Fell In Love Last Night” – Cerise
11. “Kymri” – The Apple Moths
12. “Jennifer Anywhere” – The Kitchen Cynics
13. “Room” – Bridge
14. “Turn Over” – Momus
15. “Into the Morgue” – Mary-Go-Round
16. “Next Summer” – Brighter
17. “New World” – Venus Peter
18. “Chelsea Guitar” – Blueboy
19. “Not Unusual” – BJ Eagle
20. “The Light That Will Cease To Fail” – Stereolab
21. “High Rise” – The Cherry Orchard
22. “Windmills And Milestones” – Bummer Twins
23. “Wood Dust” – Joe Clack
24. “Ralph De Bricassart” – Happydeadmen
25. “Time Will Pass” – The Rileys
26. “And When I Wake Up” – The Orchids
27. “Birds of Prey” – Marble Hammock

Still on a ragga tip

Not a guilty pleasure, just a pleasure. So many of my best musical memories from the early 90s are in the realm of “faceless dance music”, and I think this has to be one of the most likeable choons (not necessarily tunes, but choons) of the era. The biggest hit by Matthew Nelson and John Fernandez, alias Slipmatt and Lime, alias SL2, it leans heavily on a scatted vocal refrain sampled from Jah Screechy‘s 1986 dancehall track “Walk And Skank”.

One a great number of ace floorfillers released by XL Recordings back in the day. And to think that these days people just know XL for Adele

Link: SL2 – On A Ragga Tip (password: salad)

1. On A Ragga Tip (edit)
2. Pleasure
3. Changing Trax
4. On A Ragga Tip (full length)

 

Bonus Boxing Day Long Player: “Foxbase Beta” by Saint Etienne

Being the pretty fab and stupidly unobtainable Richard X “re-production” of Saint Etienne‘s debut album Foxbase Alpha. Some interesting reinterpretations and a few that actually surpass the originals. In particular, this version of “London Belongs To Me” is definitive and a candidate for any future Saint Etienne “best of”.

By the way, there is a reason why I’m sharing this on Boxing Day particularly, which you’ll either get immediately or be pondering over for ages…

Link: “Foxbase Beta” by Saint Etienne (password: salad)

1. This Is Radio Etienne
2. Only Love Can Break Your Heart
3. Wilson
4. Carnt Sleep
5. Girl VII
6. Spring
7. She’s the One
8. Stoned To Say The Least
9. Nothing Can Stop Us
10. Etienne Gonna Die
11. London Belongs To Me
12. Like The Swallow
13. Dilworth’s Theme

 

It might as well be June

A quick one, because I wasn’t going to post anything on Christmas Day, but over the last few days I’ve been sharing  things that aren’t really christmas records as such, but which make some reference to christmas anyway… and at 11pm on Christmas Eve I thought of another song that fitted the theme, and the reference in this one is specifically to “christmas morning”, so I rushed off to find my shoebox of music backups and dug out this delightful 1989 Terry Hall tune for you all. Happy Christmas!

Link: Terry, Blair and Anouchka – Missing

 

Back here tomorrow for a Boxing Day bonus long player!

‘Twas the night before Christmas

My mp3 players have a habit of dying just before christmas, though to be fair I thought my last one was on the way out this time last year and it managed to hang on for an extra twelve months, despite being literally held together with sticky tape by the end. But the USB connector came hopelessly loose earlier this month, so last week I got a new mp3 player, and thought “I haven’t played The Field Mice in a while, I think I’ll load their entire discography onto this thing”. Which I did, and have spent the last few days reacquainting myself with Bob Wratten and Michael Hiscock‘s brand of bedsit melancholia. I’d forgotten quite what a bonkers mish-mash of musical styles Skywriting is (and incidentally, “Humblebee” is still a pointless throwaway that goes on far too long, which is pretty much how I feel about all non-musical sound collages, apart of course from Yazoo‘s “I Before E Except After C”). Conversely, I very well remembered how magnificent For Keeps is, but it was nice to have it confirmed. And it was also great to hear “Missing The Moon” again. To be honest, this song is the main reason I went straight to the Field Mice discography.

“Missing The Moon” isn’t a christmas song, and once again it’s not even a song that came out at christmas (16 September 1991 according to Discogs). It does however contain a fleeting reference to “the night before christmas”. And it’s a (non-christmas) cracker, with Bob Wratten and Annemari Davies sharing lead vocals, sequencers going crazy, and an electric guitar sorta-wigout to placate the synthpop-hating indie kids (though I can’t see that working, really).

I don’t actually have all that much Sarah stuff on vinyl (mostly later 7″s and anything by Heavenly), but I’m chuffed to own this on 12″, it might even be one of my Desert Island Discs, or at least one of my Tracks Of My Years (now, how do the criteria for those two things differ, do you reckon?)

Link: The Field Mice – Missing the Moon (password: salad)

1. Missing The Moon
2. A Wrong Turn And Raindrops
3. An Earlier Autumn

Wishing all my readers a tolerable christmas…

A yuletide number

Another song that mentions christmas but probably isn’t really a christmas record.

Dubliners Blink are probably best known for something almost entirely peripheral to their own musical career: they were the original Blink who forced the American Blink to add 182 to their name. As for this lot, they were one of that wave of wryly humorous Irish acts that got lumped together as some kind of music press-invented “scene” in the early-to-mid-1990s, along with the likes of Sultans of Ping F.C., The Pale, The Frank And Walters and the oldest and best of the bunch, A House. Blink were at least pretty good at both the wacky and melancholy ends of the scale, and this song from their debut album A Map Of The Universe By Blink sits right in the middle. And it’s… a tiny bit christmassy. Not much, though.

Link: Blink – Christmas 22