Tag Archives: Alternative pop

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

 

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!

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

So this isn’t Christmas, and what have they done?

Another “Christmas” record which has nothing to do with Christmas, and wasn’t even released for Christmas. It actually came out in August – so brilliant timing for the back-to-school market. I’m sure all the primary kids were getting down to this. Jim and William Reid of The Jesus And Mary Chain basically overdub a load of feedback-y guitars to The Sugarcubes‘ signature song, so in theory, it’s two of the greatest alternative groups of the late 80s on one record, but… they’re better separately.

Still, it is Christmas… this time…

Link: The Sugarcubes – Birthday (Christmas Mixes) (password: salad)

  1. Birthday (Christmas Eve)
  2. Birthday (Christmas Day)
  3. Birthday (Christmas Present)
  4. Petrol (Live)

Pinball Blizzard

The weather warnings are here! Possible snow on the way for parts of Scotland (though so far, my corner looks OK), which prompts me to dig out this Stereolab single from 1996. I bought this on the day it came out, which I think was in November, and then overnight it snowed and the next day I went out stomping around, making footprints in the snow, with the song “Pinball” playing on my… well, it wouldn’t be a Discman, it would have been some lesser brand of personal CD player. Anyway, the point is that since then, I’ve always associated “Pinball” with snow, and in the unlikely event that we do get a covering this weekend, I shall probably go yomping about to the accompaniment of said track again. And so can you!

Link: Stereolab – Fluorescences (password: salad)

1. Fluorescences
2. Pinball
3. You Used To Call Me Sadness
4. Soop Groove #1

One Dove tail off

Here’s another one of those bands who were talked up as the height of cool in the music press (I’m so old, I actually remember the music press) but never quite broke through and ended up splitting before they could achieve their full potential. One Dove were compared to other female-fronted alt-dance bands like Saint Etienne and Dubstar, though they were slightly more dubby and dancefloor-oriented, which may be why they didn’t pick up quite the same following. Nevertheless, their one proper album Morning Dove White (1993) is a cracker, and a more-or-less completed but never-issued second album can be found on certain other blogs.

What I’m sharing today is their last proper single, which was aimed at the christmas market. Think “last dance at the office party”. A rather quiet little number which attracted very little attention, though it did come with a couple of proper B-sides.

Link: One Dove – Why Don’t You Take Me (password: salad)

1. Why Don’t You Take Me (Andrew Weatherall album version)
2. Jolene
3. Skanga
4. Why Don’t You Take Me (Rank Outsiders mix)
5. Why Don’t You Take Me (Stephen Hague mix)

Does He Know It’s Christmas?

The answer is: yes, but honestly I just don’t feel like posting anything christmassy. So something by The Jesus And Mary Chain is about as close as you’re going to get from me, and they only get a pass because they’re doing a song about a different time of year altogether. I would have suggested that the mid-April singles market is somewhat less lucrative than christmas, but this was their biggest hit, so what do I know?

Link: The Jesus And Mary Chain – April Skies (double 7″) (password: salad)

1. April Skies (7″ version)
2. Kill Surf City
3. Mushroom (live in Nuremberg 1986) (Can cover)
4. Bo Diddley Is Jesus

Weekend Long Player: “Three Cheers For Our Side” by Flipper’s Guitar

Pizzicato Five and Flipper’s Guitar are the two bands usually credited with pioneering the 1990s shibuya-kei movement: an eclectic retromodernist approach to music that strongly influenced Japanese pop for a few years. I’ve shared some Pizzicato Five before, both here and in the form of an Imaginary Compilation Album for The New Vinyl Villain, so here’s the other side of the coin.

Where P5 looked to disco, Motown, and French pop for their inspiration, Flipper’s Guitar took their main influences from jangly guitar bands in the UK indiepop scene: Aztec Camera, Prefab Sprout, Haircut 100 (after whom they titled a song), The Pastels and of course Orange Juice, from whom they nicked the title of this album, “Three Cheers For Our Side”. Their name was also an oblique Orange Juice reference, being suggested by the jumping dolphins on the cover of their first LP You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever.

What guitar?

Flipper’s Guitar weren’t around for very long: this debut album appeared in August 1989, and they’d split by the end of 1991. The debut wasn’t particularly successful at the time, and by the time the follow-up arrived, the original quintet had been reduced to its creative core duo of Keigo Oyamada and Kenji Ozawa, otherwise known as  “The Double Knockout Corporation” (geddit?).  The photogenic boy duo proved a much more marketable proposition, particularly with them now performing exclusively in Japanese and exuding an edgy irreverence in media appearances, and their second album Camera Talk, and third, Doctor Head’s World Tower (which picked up on the UK’s newly-trendy baggy and shoegaze scenes) went on to gather both critical acclaim and commercial success. And then they split, abruptly and acrimoniously, leaving a slate of already-advertised tour dates unfulfilled. And they’ve never reformed since. Oyamada went electronic and achieved cult popularity in the West – particularly as a remixer for other acts – under the name Cornelius; Ozawa also had a solo career of less international standing.

But back to the album in question, made when they were still a five-piece (you’ll notice original keyboard player Yukiko Inoue contributing female vocals here and there). You can play spot-the-influence or just enjoy a Japanese take on British indiepop. If you like this, the other original albums are worth checking out too (though I warn you, they are mostly in Japanese), along with the live album On Pleasure Bent, which improves on many of the studio versions.

Link: Flipper’s Guitar – Three Cheers For Our Side (password: salad)

  1. Hello
  2. Boys Fire The Tricot
  3. Joyride
  4. Coffee-Milk Carzy
  5. My Red Shoes Story
  6. Exotic Lollipop (And Other Red Roses)
  7. Happy Like A Honeybee
  8. Samba Parade
  9. Sending To Your Heart
  10. Goodbye, Our Pastels Badges
  11. The Chime Will Ring
  12. Red Flag On The Gondola

Eschatology, the Julee Cruise way

Here’s a cover version that you may well hate. I feel like I should hate it, but actually kind of like it. Oh no, I suppose that makes it another guilty pleasure…

The Julee Cruise story begins, as so many great “dream pop” stories do (see also The New Vinyl Villain Imaginary Compilation Album #54), with Ivo Watts-Russell refusing to license This Mortal Coil‘s version of “Song To The Siren”. On this occasion, the person seeking permission was director David Lynch, who wanted to use it in his 1986 movie  Blue Velvet. Forced to find an alternative, he asked composer Angelo Badalamenti to come up with something to capture the same mood, and the result was “Mysteries of Love”, performed by the then unknown Julee Cruise.

If anything, “Mysteries of Love” was rather better-received than the actual movie and it led to Badalamenti and Lynch writing an entire album for Cruise. Floating Into The Night appeared in 1989, to generally positive reviews, and sold decently well off the back of Lynch’s cult following. It might have remained a one-off cult curio, however, but for what happened next: Twin Peaks. Teaming up with writer Mark Frost, Lynch adapted his cinematic style for television, creating a supernatural murder mystery that became one of the benchmark shows of its era, and once again Badalamenti was brought in to provide a suitably eerie musical accompaniment. The easy part was coming up with the show’s theme music – Badalamenti went back to Floating Into The Night and simply used the instrumental track from the song “Falling”. The original vocal version became a hit single, boosting sales of the Cruise LP (as well as the official Twin Peaks soundtrack, which included two other songs lifted from her album) and leading to a further Cruise-Badalamenti-Lynch album, 1993’s The Voice of Love.

Those collaborations remain Cruise’s best known work, but she’s been active on and off ever since. There are only two further albums under her own name – The Art Of Being A Girl (2002) and My Secret Life with former Deee-Lite chap DJ Dimitry (2011) – but also a bewildering number of guest appearances and stray solo works, such as this R.E.M. cover from the 2002 “chillout” compilation HedKandi Winter Chill 06.02.

Link: Julee Cruise – It’s The End Of The World As We Know It

While it’s interesting to actually be able to make out the words, I think she doesn’t quite commit to it enough – there are moments (particularly at the end of verses) where she’s too obviously being influenced by Michael Stipe‘s delivery. The other problem is that at this tempo, it drags on too long – it could certainly stand to lose the superfluous chorus at 2:52.