Picking out a record from my collection at random and making myself play it. It's too easy to go directly to the ones you love most!

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

#11 Go-Go's - Beauty and the Beat LP

This one takes me way way back to being a 13 year old in my mum's car listening to American radio stations and constantly switching over to hear anything interesting. It was a steady diet of garbage, with a few 'new wave' hits that occasionally crept through. Joe Jackson's 'Stepping Out', Devo's 'Beautiful World', and The Go-Go's - 'We Got The Beat' & 'Our Lips Are Sealed' were a few that would crop up with some regularity.

We had escaped recession hit England for a few years in the US. My dad had had enough of the grim British 70's. As The Fall sang, "O'er grassy dale, and lowland scene
Come see, come hear, the English Scheme.
The lower-class, want brass, bad chests, scrounge fags.
The clever ones tend to emigrate
Like your psychotic big brother, who left home
For jobs in Holland, Munich, Rome
He's thick but he struck it rich, switch".

The US in the early 80's was a much more positive place than the UK, but this reflected badly in the music. The UK was still reeling from the kick up the arse of punk, and had moved on to 2-Tone, Antmusic, post-punk, and the like while The Jam & The Clash still ruled most young male's record collections. The coal miners were fighting the police on a daily basis, while Thatcher was deep into the process of cutting entire sections of society off from the rest of Britain. Things were pretty grim. In the US, however, everything seemed fairly peachy, at least on the surface, and the radio reflected it with unlimited AOR. (Of course, something was certainly stirring in the US musical underground but this was still too underground for a little suburban kid to know about - yet)

Anyway, this was my soundtrack to getting to Little League baseball games, and going to spend money earned on my paper route, so I bought this vinyl copy of the album years later as an excercise in nostalgia. It's not one I've put very often, as I'm not really much of a pop person. The Go-Go's did have a degree of West Coast credibility, though, coming out of the LA punk scene. Belinda Carlisle used to be known as Dottie Danger when she was in the Germs. Not much evidence of punk in this record, to be honest, and the best songs are the singles, with the exception of 'This Town', which is probably the highlight of the album. The whole thing just rolls past in about half an hour, so it's really not a hardship listening to this new wave slab.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

#10 Stereolab - Refractions in the Plastic Pulse Remix 12"

The Refractions in the Plastic Pulse 12" was supposedly somewhat limited, so I got hold of a copy despite my natural suspicion of remixes. I enjoyed side 2, a remix of Contronatura that is so mellow that it includes the sounds of someone snoring (or perhaps that was just my dog). It's one of their finer songs, and this is an intersesting diversion from the original.

Side 1 is the real shocker. Autechre has created the 'Feebate Mix', so called as I imagine they had to return their fee for having turned in such a horrible mess. I'm all in favour of remixers creating something wildly different from the original, deconstructing it, or making an utter racket, but this is just awful. The vocals have been sped up to sound like Alvin and the Chipmunks (the 12" plays at 33, so it wasn't on the wrong speed) and then there's all kinds of abrasive noise chucked into the mix like Jim Foetus clearing an old studio of his. I love a bit of noise, but this is just hugely annoying. It should have been pressed in edition of one & thrown at full force at Autechre, hopefully severing their mixing digits.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

#9 - Oxes LP

The whole 'Math Rock' (a term some say was coined by Courtney Love) genre has evolved into something incredibly formulaic (pun intended). Wikipedia tells us that Math Rock "is characterized by complex, atypical rhythmic structures (including irregular stopping and starting), odd time signatures, angular melodies, and extended, often dissonant chords." Their albums are also full of 'amusing' song titles for instrumental tracks. I find it all a bit tiresome these days, but occsionally find time to put one of the earlier examples of the genre.
The Oxes were a classic Maths Rock band, but with a sense of humour and a meaty sound. I actually prefer their second album 'Oxxxes', which is catchier and more assurred, but this is the one randomly grabbed off the shelf. They were a band I wished I'd seen live. At the very least, they would stand on large boxes, towering above the audience, but I'd have loved to have seen this ludicrous piece of rock theatre - "In late 2004, the group began doing an encore that consisted only of a reenactment of the opening scene for 2001:A Space Odyssey, introduced by the drummer as a one-act play and a new direction for the band. The two black boxes where stacked longways to resemble the monolith in the film, and Miller and Freeland began a free jazz rendition of Also sprach Zarathustra.  Fowler would slowly reemerge from an inconspicuous place in the venue, completely naked, bearing an object resembling or meant to symbolize a large bone. As the musical climax arrived, he would become increasingly enraged, much like the ape in the film, and eventually tear down the monolith and run off on all fours."

Sunday, 11 November 2012

#8 Rough Trade Shops/Green Man Festival Psych Folk 10"

10" single featuring Doves, Pete Greenwood, Sam Amidon, and Sleepy Sun.

This 2010 Green Man festival tie-in (it came free with the Rough Trade Shops: Psych Folk 10 CD if you bought it at the festival) somehow made it home relatively unscathed after being bought in the inevitable pouring rain, and enduring a few days in a progressively muddy tent. As I write, this was the last festival I've been to after not managing to go to a single festival in the UK in over a decade where the heavens haven't opened. I somehow even managed to get utterly drenched at an indoor festival - while waiting for the doors to open at Supersonic a few years back, it pissed it down on the queue, with nobody wearing wet weather gear. Ramping up the price each year, way ahead of inflation in the style of the Royal Mail, railway & electricity companies has soured my relationship with British festivals in general too.

Onto the EP itself, the first thing you notice that the wacky tricksters have pressed one side at 33 and the other at 45. Cue mutterings of "oh, for fuck's sake" from 100% of people who spin this disc. On the 33 side, we have The Doves, who I've studiously avoided for their entire career purely on the basis of their name which sets new standards in blandness. Unfair, I know, but tough - they have plenty of fans already and don't need me. I noticed that they name checked Sebadoh at one point, but that wasn't enough to seek out a listen to their music. Now driven to listen to the Doves for the first time, I find they produce a sort of ambient background music, though this could be the result of the remixer (Chris Watson). Next time I make a film about people gazing across bleak marshlands at silhouettes of birds, I'll know who to call about making a soundtrack.

Pete Greenwood opens up the 45 side. I had to go back at listen to his song again, as I'd completely forgotten what the song sounded like by the time I came to write this, but was heartened to find it was a pleasant acoustic number that was actually quite catchy. Sam Amidon's track 'Way do, Lily' is next and I know it well as it's off his 'I See The Sign' LP, which was my favourite album of whatever year it came out in, so I actually would have preferred a rarer tune. Sleepy then comes along sounding like Hendrix's Star-Spangled Banner, goes all folky, and then cranks up the guitars again. It's really rather good. I shall seek more of them.


Thursday, 18 October 2012

#7 Beach Boys - Pet Sounds LP

Oh boy, The Beach Boys Pet Sounds. Possibly the most discussed & loved album ever made. Just what I wanted to pull out at random and review...
I bought this for 50p at a charity shop a couple of years back. It's an original early pressing, but by the looks of things, it's been played an absurd number of times. Just check out how worn the label is near the central hole! The vinyl is worn and scratched, and I ended up playing just side one, as it sounded like the needle was being dragged along the pavement with the Beach Boys being faintly heard from a distant car radio.
This was owned by Sheila Holmes. Who she is, I don't know, but she must have absolutely loved this record, playing it hundreds of times. I've played a lot of records to death, but I've never worn through the label!
To tell you the truth, having it in my collection makes me a little sad. This record is the definition of 'much-loved' and it feels like it should be back with Sheila Holmes where she can take it out every once and a while and remember the days she lay by her dansette and listened to 'Pet Sounds' over and over again.

Monday, 15 October 2012

#6 Devo - Peek-a-Boo 12" single

Ah, Devo. They were my favourite band in my all-important 6th form years. My love for them really extended to their first two albums and their video compilations, bought at absurd cost in the days that VHS was still battling Betamax. Later albums were fun, but not world-changing.
I bought the 'Peek-A-Boo' 12" second-hand some time in the mid 80's for £2 and it used to get a lot of play for the b-side - 'Find Out'. The A-side 'Dance Velocity' & B-side 'Devo Dub' versions of 'Peek-A-Boo' added little to an already lightweight song. In fact in the' Devo Dub' version, it apparently just got rid of the vocal! This was back in the day when lazy record companys would apparently just pay a lacky to lean on a few buttons, extending a song by a few minutes and voila - a dance version for clubs.
Jerry Casale has described the album it comes from (Oh No, It's Devo!) as being what Devo imagined an album made by fascist clowns to sound like, and 'Peek-A-Boo' certainly fits the bill. Catchy & sinister in equal measures. I've never really enjoyed the song, and am always pretty eager for it to be over and for the next song to start, so the extended version just prolongs the agony. 'Find Out' makes up for it being an urgent tribal thumper with a darker feel, and much more lasting catchiness. It really should have been on the album, rather hidden on a b-side.