Let’s go a bit jangly with PO!, an ever-evolving line-up which revolved around songsmith Ruth Miller. I first became aware of Miller through her work with early-90s Leicester supergroup Ruth’s Refrigerator – well, actually that band was my introduction to the whole sprawling Leicester art-pop scene, given that its members were instrumental (and vocal) in a whole mess of other groups including, but definitely not limited to, Deep Freeze Mice, The Chrysanthemums, (Jody And) The Creams, Immediate, The Thurston Lava Tube, The Junipers and of course PO!. Throw the likes of The Originals and Jesus Couldn’t Drum into the mix, and even Pete Frame would struggle to sort that lot out.
Anyhow, Miller took the majority of lead vocals in Ruth’s Refrigerator (she fronted the aforementioned Jody And The Creams as well), but PO!, where she performed her own material, was her main and best outlet. As she describes the band on her own blog, they had “soaring and jangly tunes, but the words are often more reflective, miserable or aggressive”. I’d call it proper, consistently high-quality old-school indiepop. I’m sure she’s been dogged by these comparisons her whole career but if you like Amelia Fletcher‘s work (and why wouldn’t you), then PO! should be right up your street too. Thrillingly, the old PO! material will (if things go to plan) get a long-overdue reissue in the near future. Meanwhile, here’s one of the later works…
PO! – “The Alphabet EP” (1997)
Norma was Chic’s original lead vocalist who left to pursue a solo career, which has mainly been back-up work for other artists. Norma Jean from 1978 remains her only solo album, and it’s effectively a Chic album in all but name – its personnel is practically identical to that of Chic’s own self-titled debut of the previous year. It’s not prime Chic; it’s certainly nowhere near as consistent as the band’s own 1978 offering, C’est Chic, but it does at least feature this classic, much covered but never improved upon.
Chic productions, whether for themselves or other acts, pretty much always featured a ballad on the B-side, and never anything exclusive. This single is no exception, so you get “This Is The Love” as the flipside, lifted straight from the LP.
Norma Jean Wright – “Saturday” (1978 Bearsville 7″ and 12″ single)
Link: Norma Jean Wright – Saturday (7″ edit)
Link: Norma Jean Wright – This Is The Love
Link: Norma Jean Wright – Saturday (full length)
Dimitri From Paris did a remix of “Saturday” for the Chic box set that came out a few years ago, and much as I adore ol’ Dimmy, I think on this occasion he may actually be guilty of stretching it too far. Still, if there’s a DFP remix, of course I’m going to share it, so here it is!
Here’s a band I bought a few singles by, about twenty years ago, and paid no further attention to. But reading up on them today, I think I should probably investigate further. I just remember David Devant and his Spirit Wife as also-ran Camden scenesters but they had a theatricality and a retro-modernity like World of Twist taken to the next level. I shall explore…
Meanwhile, here’s their debut single from 1996. Third track “Trouble” is a setting of the poem “The Trouble With Geraniums” by Mervyn Peake. I’ve split off the hidden track, which originally appeared after six minutes of silence following “Trouble”.
David Devant and his Spirit Wife – Cookie (1996 CD single)
Link: David Devant and his Spirit Wife – Cookie
Link: David Devant and his Spirit Wife – One Hand
Link: David Devant and his Spirit Wife – Trouble
Link: David Devant and his Spirit Wife – [unlisted hidden track]
When I posted country-folky-bluesy-acousticy-person Idha‘s debut single a few days ago, I had a request in the comments from Mark (hi!) for her 1997 second album Troublemaker. So here it is.
There was a bit of a change in emphasis for this one, going “slick” rather than “homespun”. Where Melody Inn came across as a homage to California filtered through the perspective of a Swede living in the UK, Troublemaker drops the filter and, to me, is less interesting as a result.
Creation were obviously splashing the cash a bit (though not on a company-endangering My Bloody Valentine scale, obviously) and it sounds a bit over-produced compared to her debut, but it has its moments, particularly the brass-assisted single “Going Down South”.
Link: Idha – Troublemaker (password: salad)
Always Been With You
Going Down South
Sweet September Rain
Me And Johnny
Fields Of Avalon
Just Moved In
I don’t need to tell you much about the lead track, considering it’s one of their best-known singles, but in brief: non-album single released for christmas 1981; a cover of Labi Siffre‘s equally charming 1971 original; made #4 in the UK and snuck into the US top 40 on the coat-tails of “Our House”.
On this issue it’s supported by three excellent B-sides: “Bed And Breakfast Man”, the single-that-never-was from the One Step Beyond album; “Never Ask Twice” from the “Shut Up” 12″ single, here re-titled “Airplane”; and “Don’t Quote Me On That” from the “Nightboat To Cairo”-led Work Rest and Play EP, wherein Chas Smash responds to the idiot journos who accused the group of being supporters of the National Front, while the band get into the ska-funk groove thang behind him. I think the last two songs might have been making their CD debut.
Dipping into my shoebox of backup discs again, I pick out one dedicated to acts beginning with S, V and Y. They just happened to combine to make the right sort of total to fill a DVD-R.
The S folder contains a subfolder called “1980s”. It contains tracks from the 1980s. Given my haphazard filing system, this is not as obvious as it should be. Here are some tracks retrieved from that subfolder and its subsubfolders, all 12″ mixes.
Later reworked by Beats International as “Dub Be Good To Me” and Professor Green as “Just Be Good To Green”, but the original doesn’t get much of an airing anymore.
I know, Bronski Beat doesn’t start with S. It’s in a folder of various works by Jimmy Somerville. I think by now you should be starting to understand why I can never find the backup I actually want.
More Marc Almond, this time in an early Soft Cell classic. Strange to think this was never a hit, when it’s probably better remembered than bona fide smashes like “What” and “Torch”.
The much-vaunted, little-purchased Stock Aitken Waterman collaboration. The only way this could be more eighties would be to have Selina Scott introducing it.
Because Sigue Sigue Sputnik just aren’t uncool enough.
I remember two things about the day of my Gran’s funeral. Well, apart from the funeral itself, obviously. One was that it was properly, tarmac-softeningly hot, and the other is that I went out for a walk in the morning and heard this track – which had just entered the charts – blaring out of a car, and it lifted the mood for a bit. I don’t think it would have lifted my gran’s mood had she been alive, or come to think of it the mood of any of the other (presumably) family members hanging around the house at the time, but I enjoyed it.
“Sandstorm” by Darude was the European trance sound writ large. It was a ludicrously exciting record at the time (summer 2000), and as such its fate was to be ripped off by countless lesser imitators. Though speaking of rip-offs, I do remember being rather shocked at the discovery that the cassette single had only one track – and it was the radio edit. Not even the full-length version! What a swizz. Sometimes I wonder about the ethics of sharing tracks on here, but this time… it’s payback!
There was a weird moment in 1994 when country music was suddenly the in thing with London hipsters and everyone was gushing about how they’d always loved Gram Parsons, and during those six hours, Creation Records signed up a young Swedish singer by the name of Idha Ovelius, whose husband was Andy Bell, then of Creation signings Ride (and later of Oasis). Was it basically down to nepotism? One doesn’t like to say it, but, well… yeah. Still, it resulted in a couple of pleasant if ultimately inconsequential albums (Melody Inn, 1994, and Troublemaker, 1997) and a handful of actually quite decent singles.
Here’s the debut single, complete with its three non-album B-sides. The first three songs are originals (so “She” is not a tribute to either Sacha Distel or Elvis Costello), while “Coming Down” is a cover of a song by pyschedelic rockers United States Of America. Sometime Small Face, Face and Bloke, Ian McLagan provides keyboards on the first two tracks, and of course Andy Bell plays guitar.
Idha now works for a Stockholm architect’s practice (as a structural engineer, says Wikipedia) so thanks to her, a lot of flashy modern buildings in Southern Sweden won’t be falling down any time soon.
…but the links have now gone. However, should you wish to download the compilation (and why wouldn’t you), I’ve uploaded it as a zip file here:
It’s password-protected, and the password this time isn’t salad (because I forgot it was supposed to be), it’s topmuffins.
Some tracks that didn’t quite make the cut can be found on this very blog in a post titled Martha Superior.
Incidentally, if you look at the post on The New Vinyl Villain, you will see a cover I made for the compilation. For some reason I’ve always thought architectural drawings were a good match for Martha and the Muffins’ music. It’s not a visual style they’ve ever used themselves, so I’m not sure how I came to make that association, but anyway, I did a search for architect’s drawings associated with Toronto, and hit upon the image you see there, which is a pre-construction artist’s impression of the Sharp Centre for Design at OCAD University. It seemed to fit rather well with a band whose best-known song mentions buildings in the distance as a surrealistic sight, and as a bonus the black-and-white tiles on the top part of the building reminded me of the video for “Black Stations / White Stations”. Nice! What I didn’t find out until later is that OCAD University is where founding Muffin (and indeed founding Martha) Martha Ladly is now a Professor of Design and she actually works in that very building! So a nice coincidence as well as a cool image. Don’t you just love it when these things come together?
Sunny for two days in a row… incredible.
Here’s a delightfully twee seaside-themed EP from 1992 by Confetti, which is Mark Randall of Fat Tulips and someone called Virginia Aeroplane, which I’d like to think is her real name, but probably isn’t. The EP had the overall title Sea AnemonE.P. and they followed it with PresentlE.P. (covering three songs by The Wedding Present) and eventually put out their collected works as a CD titled RetrospectivelE.P. Though it seems most people didn’t get the pun on that last one, given that every online reference I can find, leaves out the “l” and just calls it Retrospective EP. They should have used a serif font so it didn’t look like a vertical dividing line instead. On such tiny details do throwaway gags live or die.
When I first heard Confetti, I thought their minimal style was rather unusual and striking. At the time, I hadn’t heard of Young Marble Giants…