Tag Archives: Artpop

Weekend Long Player: “In Excelsior Dayglo” by Christmas

When I had this one in the queue, how could I not post it on the weekend before Christmas? Of course, it’s not actually anything to do with yuletide, nor is it even camp. Christmas was the band that singing guitarist Michael Cudahy and singing drummer Liz Cox were in before forming Combustible Edison, and it’s really nothing like that group’s lounge revival sound – more like angular art-school new wave. They released three albums in this guise, of which this from 1986 was the first. Some actual Christmas music from Combustible Edison can be found here.

Link: “In Excelsior Dayglo” by Christmas (password: salad)

1. Big Plans
2. Loved Ones
3. Boy’s Town Work Song
4. True Soldier of Love
5. Tommy The Truck
6. Girl Police
7. Dig We Must!
8. Peewee
9. Everything You Know Is Wrong
10. Pumpkinhead
11. A Pig Amongst Men
12. The Hottest Sun
13. Fish Eye Sandwich
14. Junk

A twist at the start

Courtesy of a belated 1992 release on Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs‘ Caff label, here are some early (1985) recordings by artypopmeisters World Of Twist, or an early version of World of Twist anyway, with future lead singer Tony Ogden on drums, Gordon King on guitar and a bunch of other people who didn’t stick around to the better-known line-up.

“The Sausage” is a retro instrumental, like the weird extended version of a 1970s sitcom theme, and “Skidding Into Love” is, slightly surprisingly, a very of-its-time catchy guitar pop song.  Only “Space Rockit” really hints at the glammed-up sound World Of Twist would be touting during their early-90s flirtation with microfame, but all three songs are worth hearing.

Incidentally, if you look at the (admittedly rubbish) sleeve on the right, you’ll notice the credit “engineered by jive bunny”… which amazingly is true! Well, it wasn’t engineered by a cartoon rabbit, but it was done by the guys who went on to mastermind that project.

 

Link: World Of Twist – The Sausage (password: salad)

1. The Sausage
2. Skidding Into Love
3. Space Rockit

The Name Game – 4

I haven’t milked this particular gimmick in over a month, so it’s high time I posted some more songs that share their names with musical acts and vice versa.

Dusty Springfield was a popular target for tributes from the indiepop community in the 1980s/90s… well, I say popular, but that’s based on the fact that I can think of a whopping two examples off the top of my head. Of course one is the ace Chicago indiepop band The Springfields, named after Dusty’s original band, The Springfields. Kind of like how the Chemical Brothers started out as the Dust Brothers, named after the Dust Brothers. Except I think the Springfields managed to avoid any legal threats. In contrast, equally ace janglepopsters The Haywains managed to sidestep any potential confusion by not naming themselves Buddy Holly And The Crickets or anything like that, and simply stuck to singing about Dusty Springfield.

Link: “Breakfast In Bed” by Dusty Springfield
Link: “Dusty Springfield” by The Haywains

I think everyone knows I like Stereolab. Texan experimental rockers Transona Five clearly like Stereolab too. I’ll be honest, I did deliberately pick their most Stereolab-like track for this, but I think it proves my point.

Link: “Estrogen Blaster” by Transona Five
Link: “Transona Five” by Stereolab

And finally, a very clear reference to a well-known performer, but what’s this Scissor Sisters song actually got to do with Paul McCartney? Well, nothing really. But apparently Jake Shears had a dream in which he chatted with Paul McCartney about songwriting, and it would appear that the inspiration he got from this was to name a song after Paul McCartney. You’d kind of hope Macca would have given him better advice than that, I mean, not even Paul McCartney ever named a song “Paul McCartney”. Macca’s own song here is from his 1980 album McCartney II, the one that sold a trillion copies off the back of the rocking single “Coming Up” only for buyers to find the rest was weird synth noodlings which most people only played once. “Temporary Secretary” was a single. It flopped.

Link: “Temporary Secretary” by Paul McCartney
Link: “Paul McCartney” by Scissor Sisters

Weekend Long Player: “Quickspace” by Quickspace

Founded by former Th’ Faith Healers mainman Tom Cullinan, Quickspace are helpfully described by Wikipedia as “space rock, krautrock, noise pop” and as “a kind of Stereolab that rocks”. I’ll go with that; it saves me the bother of trying to describe them anyway. This is their debut album from 1996 and should appeal to people who like “space rock, krautrock, noise pop”, particularly with lo-fi production (you can really tell this is not a high-end studio job). I hadn’t played it in years and I’m not sure why not (especially as I have it on both CD and vinyl); there’s nothing on it quite as awesome as the “Superplus” single but it’s… quite good if you like that sort of thing, which I do, sometimes.

Link: Quickspace – Quickspace (password: salad)

1. Swisher
2. Song for Someone
3. Quasi-Pfaff
4. Mousetail
5. Winona
6. Docile One
7. Docile Two

Weekend Long Player: “A Lizard Is A Submarine On Grass” by Ruth’s Refrigerator

I’ve mentioned Ruth’s Refrigerator before in connection with Ruth Miller’s other band Po!, and here’s a full LP. A supergroup made up of various luminaries from the Leicester art-rock scene, they issued two albums, of which this from 1992 is the second. In a way, they actually released three albums, since the vinyl and CD editions of A Lizard Is A Submarine On Grass are almost completely different recordings. This is the vinyl version, which also has an exclusive song, a cover of Wire‘s “Outdoor Miner”. Everybody was covering that song in the 1990s.

This is lo-fi indiepop, quite twee with often nonsensical lyrics. In the case of “Examine The Insects And Hit Them”, the song had featured on their first album Suddenly A Disfigured Head Parachuted as an instrumental, with flippant non-appearing, unmetrical, lyrics on the inlay, and then they re-recorded it for this album using those lyrics. The other songs, I have no explanation for.

Link: Ruth’s Refrigerator – A Lizard Is A Submarine On Grass (vinyl version) (password: salad)

1. Moulted Fur From A Labrador
2. E
3. Gosh, What A Lot Of Umbrellas
4. Duck Pond
5. What We Waited for And Where It Was At
6. Ducklings #1
7. Rain
8. Examine The Insects And Hit Them
9. Ducklings #2
10. Accordian Music
11. Mr Misery
12. Outdoor Miner
13. My Head’s On Fire
14. Barry Baked Bean Is Back
15. And One More Thing
16. A Science Bar

 

Three Sides #3

It’s the series where I post three songs on a common theme. Today’s theme is finding out your childhood sweetheart who you’ve lost touch with has become famous when you see their picture in a magazine. Yeah, it’s a bit mundane but I guess it had to come up sometime.

So here we have three songs telling very much the same story, but each one taking their creators’ signature approach. So Kraftwerk are disapassionately robotic about it…

Link: Kraftwerk – The Model

While The J. Geils Band give it the bombastic American rock treatment…

Link: J. Geils Band – Centerfold

And Thomas Dolby makes it into something about the cold war because… y’know, it’s Thomas Dolby…

Link: Thomas Dolby – Europa And The Pirate Twins (12″ mix)

And all of these songs became popular in 1981-2. Kraftwerk’s is older (it’s from their 1978 album The Man-Machine) but became a hit in 1981 after it was used as the throwaway B side to “Computer Love”, only to be picked up by Wonderful Radio One and become much better known. Although interestingly, when BBC Four did a documentary about Kraftwerk a couple of years ago, it didn’t mention “The Model” at all… yet we got “Talk” by Coldplay pretty much in full because it copied the riff from “Computer Love”. Interesting editorial decisions there…

Black comedy

No, not Colin Vearncombe.

Before becoming Kid Creole, the man listed on his birth certificate as Thomas August Darnell Browder, sometimes known as Tommy Browder but more usually as August Darnell, was an in-house producer at new York’s uber-cool art-pop indie label Ze Records. (And before that, he was in his brother Stony’s Grammy-winning, genre-busting disco group Doctor Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band, but that’s for another post sometime.)

For an overview of Darnell’s pre-Coconuts work, I very much recommend the compilation Going Places: The August Darnell Years 1976-83. It’s a somewhat scattershot collection, but full of gems, including this, a proper stop-you-dead-in-your-tracks reworking of Leiber and Stoller‘s 1969 composition for Peggy Lee, “Is That All There Is?”. The original was bleak enough, but this version is seriously out there.

Leiber and Stoller didn’t take kindly to this treatment of their song, and got it withdrawn, which led to the few existing copies becoming insanely valuable. Fortunately, by the time Cristina’s catalogue was reissued in 2002, Leiber and Stoller’s feelings toward the reinterpretation had softened somewhat, and they finally gave their blessing for it to be made legally available once more.

The download also includes the original B-side, a Darnell original which would have suited Bow Wow Wow.

Link: Cristina – Is That All There Is? (1980 single) (password: salad)

1. Is That All There Is?
2. Jungle Love

Two songs called “Slowdive”

I think it’s fair to say Siouxsie and the Banshees is one of those bands who enjoyed a long and pretty successful career without ever quite going mainstream. Everybody’s heard of them, but not to the point where your average punter actually knows any songs. They did have some pretty big hits but I can’t remember the last time I heard them played on the radio.

Which is beside the point, because this single – the first from their acclaimed fourth LP A Kiss In The Dreamhouse – wasn’t even a hit really, only hobbling to a disappointing #41. And it’s aimed more at the dancefloor than the radio anyway. It’s pretty funky in a weirdly British psychedelic way, though.

Link: Siouxsie and the Banshees – Slowdive (12″ version)

I wouldn’t say the B-sides are hidden gems, but for those who want them, here they are. Both quite doomy and gloomy; “Obsession II” is the instrumental of album track “Obsession”.

Link: Siouxsie and the Banshees – Cannibal Roses
Link: Siouxsie and the Banshees – Obsession II

Slowdive would of course later be the name of a shoegaze band, due to it being one of singer/guitarist Rachel Goswell‘s favourite songs. And so in 1990, they released “Slowdive” as their debut single… but wait! This isn’t the same song at all! No, having been inspired by Siouxsie and the Banshees, they stole the title and wrote their own song instead. Well there’s gratitude for you. But it’s a good song full of shimmering loveliness, so I guess I’ll let them off…

Here’s Slowdive’s “Slowdive” along with its B-sides:

Link: Slowdive – Slowdive
Link: Slowdive – Avalyn I
Link: Slowdive – Avalyn II

Let it snow, in strictly limited quantities

Is it just me, or did Cocteau Twins always have a bit of a wintery vibe about them? In any case, in 1993 they put this pair of cover versions out as a very limited edition. Limited because they didn’t want to accidentally have a big hit with it and for this to be the single that everybody would know them for, forevermore. Probably wise.

Link: Cocteau Twins – Winter Wonderland
Link: Cocteau Twins – Frosty The Snowman

A Christmas Gift To You From Sub Pop

Icombustibleedisonn 1993, Sub Pop, then probably the coolest record label on the planet, sent their mailing list a Christmas card with a CD inside. I’m guessing that had this CD contained material by one of Sub Pop’s alt-rock signings, most obviously Nirvana, but Sebadoh or Afghan Whigs would do at a pinch, this CD would probably change hands nowadays for a lot more money than it actually does. As it is, less than ten dollars will secure you a copy, probably with the card itself attached too. It seems lounge revivalists Combustible Edison just aren’t that collectible…

Anyway, here are the two tracks featured on that CD. Well, they were given away for free in the first place, after all. Apparently, “Christmas Time Is Here” is a seasonal standard in the USA, but I’d never heard of it, and until I looked into the story of Combustible Edison last year, I’d assumed it was an original song. How wrong I was… Wikipedia lists a whole heap of other versions, noticeably all by North Americans. We just don’t have that song in the UK. I think the Charlie Brown christmas special which introduced it in 1965, may have been shown here at nine in the morning once in 1991.

Link: Combustible Edison – Christmas Time Is Here

Anyway, “Christmas Time Is Here” is the less interesting of the two tracks. Much better is their inventive arrangement of “Sleigh Ride”. We in the UK do know “Sleigh Ride”, mainly through the Ronettes version, but Combustible Edison’s version is a pleasing contrast to Phil Spector‘s wall of sound. A surprisingly minimal arrangement (no strings or brass in this version) and seemingly delivered with a determination not to maintain the same combination of instruments for more than eight bars in a row, it fairly breezes along and even survives the uncharacteristic cheesiness of the brief vocal interjections (“Giddy up!”). Delightful.

Link: Combustible Edison – Sleigh Ride