Thursday, October 18, 2018

Covered By Lush (Part 4)

Lush's "Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep" may not be tops on my list of favorite covers, but the album it appeared on is a firm favorite. In 1990, Midnight Music released 'Alvin Lives (In Leeds),' a loud protest of the Community Charge, also known as the poll tax, in Great Britain. Bands from Midnight's stable of stars, such as the Popguns, Corn Dollies, Robyn Hitchcock and the Wedding Present were joined by other indie legends like Close Lobsters, 14 Iced Bears and the Siddeleys for a compilation of '70s pop covers. All profits went to the Can't Pay, Won't Pay Resource Unit, a group dedicated to fighting the poll tax.

Lush opened the album with an interesting choice that had reached the top of the UK charts in 1971 by Scottish band Middle of the Road. Yes, I suppose we could discuss the song's theme of child abandonment ("Woke up this morning and my momma was gone"), an odd one for a sugary pop song, but we have enough going on in the world right now without adding this to the pile. These pages are all about putting on the blinders.

If you're an American with an encyclopedic knowledge of '70s soft rock, this Middle of the Road business is probably a head scratcher. You'll agree this song was a hit in 1971, but not by a bunch of Scots. Well, your mind is still sharp, my friend. I'm sure Miki and Emma chose this song after hearing the version by Middle of the Road, but on the other side of the Atlantic Trinidadian brother-and-sister duo (and English residents) Mac and Katie Kissoon took it to No. 20 on the Billboard charts. I don't have the version by Middle of the Road, we will have to settle for a YouTube clip, but I do have the one made famous over here. As for Lush's take, it's a faithful version with a sound that wouldn't have been out of a place as a deep (key word is deep) cut on 'Scar.'

Mac and Katie Kissoon - Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep
Lush - Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Covered By Lush (Part 3)

The idea for this short series was inspired by today's song. The other day our pal the Swede commented on the post about the Paley Brothers, saying, "I'm not sure why I didn't follow up on these guys as I was a big fan of early Dwight Twilley, who wasn't a million miles away, musically speaking." His words made me think of "I'm on Fire" by Dwight Twilley Band, and I also mentioned the Flamin' Groovies and the Rubinoos in that same post. I knew I had all three of those bands on a fantastic Rhino compilation that came out 20 years ago called 'Poptopia! Power Pop Classics of the '70s.' I listened to all 18 songs on the disc, and as I played the 1979 classic "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend," I had a faint recollection of a girl singing this one but couldn't for the life of me remember who it was. I was stumped until just before bed as I brushed my teeth. I should brush dozens of times a day as that seems to be when I do my best thinking.

In 1996, Lush compiled all of the 'Lovelife-'era B-sides on a Canada and Japan only release called 'Topolino.' This version was the flip side of the bad-ass 'Ladykillers' single. That hit was worlds away from Lush's dreamy sound of the early days, but I loved it anyway. As for this cover, it doesn't always work when boyfriend becomes girlfriend and vice versa -- for some reason Tracey Ullman singing Madness' "My Girl" as "My Guy" comes to mind -- but I bought in to this one. Hearing it makes me wonder how Miki and Emma discovered this cult classic straight outta Berkeley. Sure glad they found it.

The Rubinoos - I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend
Lush - I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Covered By Lush (Part 2)

That short reunion of Elvis Costello & the Attractions in the mid-'90s was most welcome. My fandom was at a fever pitch during those years. This was around the time all of Costello's back catalog was being reissued for the first time. Then there was the new material. I snapped up 'Brutal Youth,' 'All This Useless Beauty' and all of the corresponding singles. Most importantly, I caught the Attractions on each of the tours and in contrasting venues. On the first tour, I saw them in Japan in the back of a big beautiful modern theater. The audience sat like statues and clapped politely in the appropriate places. Surreal is the word for it. In support of 'All This Useless Beauty,' I saw the band at a proper general-admission stand wherever ballroom in D.C., and I was smashed up at the stage right smack in front of Bruce Thomas. That's more my speed.

As for Lush, the band's fourth and final studio album, 'Lovelife,' came out at nearly the same time as 'All This Useless Beauty.' Even though I was once a huge fan, I sort of lost my way with Lush after 'Spooky,' and I didn't buy the new album until about five months after it came out. I ended up seeing Lush in late summer of '96, just as Costello was about to release the single "You Bowed Down" on CD with four other songs. The most interesting of the bunch was this faithful cover by Lush. Costello told Billboard magazine in October of that year, "They actually recorded quite a pretty version of it, which was a nice surprise to me because they did things with the vocal harmony that I wasn't expecting." He went on in a congratulatory manner, voicing his pleasure at seeing Lush conquer America, and they really did. It all came to end for Lush with the death of drummer Chris Acland before Costello's nice words in Billboard even made it to print. Well, that is until the 2016 reunion.

Elvis Costello & the Attractions - All This Useless Beauty
Lush - All This Useless Beauty

Monday, October 15, 2018

Covered By Lush (Part 1)

Life tells me to make these quickies all week. Going all in with Miki and Emma and the songs they have covered. Their choices make me love Lush all the more. If I have the original, I'll include it. Let's start with one that's impossible to dislike. Wire's "Outdoor Miner" is a B-side from the "For Love" 10" and 12", Lush's third single or EP from the 'Spooky' era. Some early fans didn't like the LP because it seemed like producer Robin Guthrie had usurped Lush's sound and made them another Cocteau Twins. Bah, I say! Love this period. Anyway, "Outdoor Miner" was not produced by Guthrie. Apologies for the scratchy original from my aging 7", but I wanted to hear this version instead of the one on 'Chairs Missing' today. Another Lush cover tomorrow.

Wire - Outdoor Miner (7")
Lush - Outdoor Miner (B-side)

Friday, October 12, 2018

Forecast Calls For the Perfect English Weather

Indie-pop fans rejoice! One of the most anticipated releases of the year is almost here, but beware. This walk-up single may be a laid-back little taste of what's to come, but "Rockin' To The Beat," a song about "picturing a parent watching their adolescent child dancing at the edge of a summer festival crowd" is going to work you into a lather for the long player. Just a while longer, friends. 'Don't You Wanna Feel the Rain?' by the Perfect English Weather will be out next month via Matinée Recordings.

If you're a regular around here, you surely know by now the Perfect English Weather are the husband-and-wife team of Wendy and Simon Pickles from the Popguns. In what felt like nothing short of a miracle, the Popguns came back to us after nearly two decades away with 'Pop Fiction.' This was no lazy nostalgia trip either. The album rivaled the band's best work and was far and away my favorite album of 2014. Since then, fans of the Pickles have been treated to an embarrassment of riches with the Perfect English Weather, an outlet for the duo to turn down the volume a bit and channel some of their dreamier sounds while continuing to produce the indie rock of the Popguns in equal measure. I can't recommend TPEW's debut enough. Upon release in 2016, I called 'Isobar Blues' "a perfect storm of ballad and boom, and all part of a warm front that drenches you with a downpour of pop hooks." The electro-acoustic pop of 2017 EP "English Weather" was even better. No foolin'.

You can grab the single "Rockin' To The Beat" at the Matinée shop and at Bandcamp. Stop back at these places in November for album pre-order information. I, for one, can't wait.

Oct. 13 Update: Simon says look for the album to drop Nov. 9.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

No, Not Those Paleys

From the Pale Fountains and offshoots Dislocation Dance we go to Paleys of a completely different stripe. I thought about including the Paley Brothers in that post on the golden years of Sire Records, but they didn't quite fit next to the likes of Richard Hell, Ramones and Talking Heads... although you may know this duo from performing a cover of "Come On Let's Go" with the Ramones (sans an ill Joey) on the 'Rock and Roll High School' soundtrack.

It's a funny, but Andy and Jonathan Paley were the real oddballs to come out of the CBGB contingent. They looked and dressed like teen idols and sounded like something you might have heard on your AM dial in 1976. Yet, there they were, playing with members of the Patti Smith Group and hanging out with David Johansen one minute, only to be opening for poster boy Shaun Cassidy the next. Bottom line is they knew how to play a lighter brand of power pop like pros. No, there would never be any hits, but if you like the sounds of the Flamin' Groovies or the Rubinoos with a dash of harmonies inspired by the Beach Boys, you just may dig the Paley Brothers. Here are a couple of my favorites you can find on what turned out to be the band's only LP.

Stick With Me Baby
Come Out and Play

These boys were before my time. In case you were wondering, my in was when Andy worked with Brian Wilson on his first solo album back in 1988. To get the full story on how that happened, I suggest you pick up that memoir Seymour Stein released earlier this year I keep going on and on about. It's quite a tale. One more aside. Tonight, as I was ripping the vinyl for this post, I couldn't help but notice Mrs. LTL picked up the album cover and asked me all kinds of questions about the two lads. Hmm, interesting. That never happens.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

A Little Deeper Dig With Dislocation Dance

That last post may have given the impression the sounds of Dislocation Dance had that early-'80s sound to which not everyone out there is enamored. Well, here's one of my favorites from a slightly earlier time. The single "Rosemary" is the bridge between the band's post-punk days and the slick sophisti-pop era that was to come. I would love to tell you this one caught fire and raced up the indie charts, but it only appeared there for a week in the summer of '82, peaking at a lukewarm No. 46. If you're wondering about the conspicuous absence of Kathryn Way's pipes, she left the band briefly and came back just about the time the single was released. There is a funny clip of the band performing this song for French television where Way is miming Andy Diagram's trumpet part on the saxophone as she dances around with nothing better to do. What a cutie! You can find it in the regular places.


Sunday, September 30, 2018

Tooting Andy Diagram's Horn

As many of you regulars know, I have a thing for the trumpet in my indie pop. After that post on the Pale Fountains last week, I started thinking about how many times Paleys' blower Andy Diagram has shown up in my record collection. He was in James for a while in the late '80s and early '90s, but I think I know his work more from his time in Manchester band Dislocation Dance.

In the early days of the Pale Fountains, the band played with Dislocation Dance on a bill, and Michael Head got on with Diagram so well that he asked him to join the Paleys immediately. So he played with both of them. Dislocation Dance started out with a bit more of a post-punk sound when they formed in 1980 and recorded on cult label New Hormones. By the time Dislocation Dance signed with Rough Trade in late '82 or early '83, as many others seemed to do at that time, the band went decidedly sophisti-pop. Diagram wasn't just rounding out their sound either. There are songs on 1984 album 'Midnight Shift' for instance, such as "Bottle of Red Wine" and the title track, where the trumpet is in the forefront like a classic jazz recording. Diagram is using all kinds of effects and technical wizardry on this album, and I never heard a trumpet sound like this!

There were quite a few straight-up pop songs in the discography too, and to these ears, they sounded like they should have been hits, like "Violette," "Rosemary" and this single from 1983. It's a nice bit of jangle with some keyboard and trumpet from the aforementioned Mr. Diagram. Of it's time, sure, but still a pretty sound to these ears. Speaking of pretty, perhaps Kathryn Way might have had a little something to do with me liking Dislocation Dance. I hope we are still allowed to say such things.

Show Me
Show Me (12")

Friday, September 28, 2018

Here's to the Single

Stu at Emotional Response lamented recently that people just don't buy 7" singles. With that, he discounted several of his label's 45s with hopes of clearing inventory. Check out this sale! I have to admit I was surprised to hear about this format's lack of popularity. I love me a good single and assumed anything on vinyl was selling like, well, vinyl, and there are a slew of new sevens that have my full attention.

Comet Gain return from a long three-plus year layoff with this one out next week on the always dependable Tapete label out of Hamburg. These snippets from both sides of the 7" tell us the band has gone back to a little bouncier sound than the one we heard on the excellent 'Paperback Ghosts.' (Thanks for recommending that one back in 2014, Drew!)

I'm tardy with this one, but Optic Nerve Recordings has put together an exciting sevens subscription series sure to excite every indie-pop fan that appreciates the golden age of the genre. You get 12 reissued singles in all, and the bands include the likes of the Siddeleys, the Pooh Sticks, East Village, McCarthy, the Servants and many more. Here is the complete release schedule. The series has already kicked off and was already more or less sold out, but I corresponded with Ian at the label earlier this week, and he told me there were a couple of cancellations so you might still be able to get in on this one if you really hurry.

London label WIAIWIA continues to release quality 7" singles year after year, and so far in 2018 they've released memorable 45s from the Catenary Wires, the Orchids and more. Up next are singles from my hero Pete Astor on Oct. 7, followed by new ones in November from Saint Etienne and a split from Gedge bands the Wedding Present and Cinerama covering the Clash and ABBA, respectively. Astor is already guaranteed a spot on my list of the best albums of 2018 with 'One for the Ghost.' Could he make my songs list as well? I can't wait for the "Peter Cook"/"Petrol and Ash" single to arrive in the post next week.

Apologies to downloads, CDs and the like, but the 7" is still my preferred way to listen to a single.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

A Little Less Jangle Today

Gutted. James Werle from Math and Physics Club has passed away. I don't know what to say, really, except he will be greatly missed. Jimmy from Matinée Recordings shot this footage of the band at Seattle record shop Sonic Boom in the summer of 2016, and I was standing right beside him, swaying and smiling all of the way. This is how I will remember James, playing my favorite song, "Jimmy Had a Polaroid." Rest easy, James. You will not be forgotten.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

News Flash From Firestation

Remember in 2013 when the seventh volume came out as part of Firestation Records' 'Still Mad at Me?' 15th anniversary box and you assumed there would never be another 'Sound of Leamington Spa' compilation? Well, the best purveyor of '80s and early '90s indie pop has blessed us with not one but two editions in 2018 with the news of a volume 9 set to be released Oct. 20. Looks like Uwe Weigmann has dug deep again. How does he do it? Like volume 8, you will have your choice of double-gatefold vinyl or CD, and as before, the vinyl will have one bonus track. Here is the tracklist. Preorders start Oct. 5. If this is series is your thing, you know not to dawdle.

The Sound of Leamington Spa: Volume 9
1. Flex - You Lose
2. The Persuaders - You Turn Me On
3. Chinese Gangster Element - Joey
4. Fragile - Time To Be Together
5. Moloko - Never Know What You've Got
6. Spish - Honesty
7. The Fontaines - I Want Everything
8. Public Address - James Dean
9. Queue Dance - Crumbling Town
10. Circus x 3 - Man Like You
11. This Certain Kind - Unfortunate
12. Daniel Takes A Train - Wonderland (Original)
13. Cajun Moon - In The Waves
14. A Game Of Soldiers - Big Bad Money World
15. Three Boys And A Girl - I'll Be Standing There
16. Ice Factory - Jerusalem
17. The Dancing Bears - The Lonliest Sound
18. Future World Moves - Wednesday
19. Work - That Certain Feeling
20. Ten Million Quentins - He's Not Smiling

And from the archives, here is a quick Q&A I did with Mr. Weigmann when he revealed his plan to resurrect 'The Sound of Leamington Spa.'

One more bit of news on the Firestation front. Of all the lost bands the label has unearthed in recent years, perhaps my favorite has been Candy Opera. If you're fortunate enough to see them perform at Firestation's big birthday bash in Berlin on Oct. 20, you will have first dibs on 'Rarities,' 11 more tracks of demos and unreleased recordings from Liverpool's unsung heroes. Any leftover copies on the extremely limited release, if there are any, will be up for grabs to the rest of us poor schlubs a week later. I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Not at All a Pale Imitation

If you're a regular reader, then you know I keep two physical lists of music wants. One is chock full of new releases and somewhat easily attainable records. That list is fluid and expands and constricts as regularly as I breathe. In fact, I got to cross off the Goon Sax and Alpaca Sports earlier this week at nearly the same time I added the Chills and Molly Burch. The other list is static and chock full of the rare and/or expensive records I almost never find. One such record is the single "(There's Always) Something on My Mind" from the Pale Fountains. I have been obsessed with either the original 7" of "Just a Girl" with "(There's Always) Something on My Mind" on the flip side via Operation Twilight or the three-song 12" with said song on the A-side that came out on Belgian label Les Disques Du Crépuscule, both from 1982. Through the years, I have been able to track down these songs on compilations, but there is nothing like the real thing, is there?

By now you must be guessing I finally caught my white whale. Well, not quite, but I have come close. In 2013, Les Disques Du Crépuscule released a glorious reissue with the original '82 album cover and all three songs on a 12", and there were many extras as well. Included was unreleased second single "Longshot For Your Love" plus two songs recorded for the Crépuscule compilation albums 'Ghosts of Christmas Past' and 'Moving Soundtracks.' That's just the A-side. Side two had six live tracks recorded in October 1982 on the Crépuscule package tour that saw the Paleys on the bill with the likes of 23 Skidoo and Cabaret Voltaire. There was also a bonus CD included with complete performances from Brussels on Oct. 5 and and Leuven on Oct. 6, 1982, respectively.

That's a plethora of early Paleys, but I missed out as it quickly went out of print. Finally, in June of this year, Crépuscule pressed 500 more copies on gorgeous clear vinyl, a reissue of a reissue, you might say, and I bagged it. This one will certainly be vying for best reissue honors on these pages come December. Here is a little taste from those two shows on the bonus disc. Looks like there are still copies to be had here. Don't miss Michael Head and the Pale Fountains before the fortune and fame of the Virgin years!

Just a Girl (Live)
(There's Always) Something on My Mind (Live)