Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 14)

14. "Disko"
Artist: Komeda
Year: 1996

No single today. Going deep into Komeda's first English-language album, 'The Genius of Komeda.' By 1996, I was back from Japan and living in Washington, D.C. I had not paid much attention to the music scene the previous two years, and I got my footing from a most unlikely place. MTV launched a sister station that year, called M2 at the time, and it was actually good... for a few minutes, anyway. OK, maybe I'm exaggerating a bit on that brief timeline, but the promise of delivering nothing but music videos, and with a heavily alternative bend, was short lived. This was probably the busiest period in my life, and I didn't have much time to watch television. So, a four-minute music video now and again was perfect for me.

My introduction to Komeda was the video "Rocket Plane (Music on the Moon)" one early morning while standing in front of the TV with a bowl of cereal in one hand and a spoon in the other. It sounded like interstellar lounge music, and I took to it immediately. After one listen to 'The Genius of Komeda,' however, I picked up influences from many places, including Serge Gainsbourg, Neu!, Can and, of course, the contemporary Stereolab. You'll definitely hear them in today's pick.

The band's music often had an art-film soundtrack vibe, and its namesake was taken from Krzysztof Komeda, the composer probably best known for scoring many of Roman Polanski's '60s movies. Komeda's Markus Holmberg told Billboard in 1996, "In his film scores, Komeda made strong music by small means using rhythm and melodies in unexpected ways to form a nice mood... but we tend to think and say that we play pop music." Yes, it's pop music, but it always felt like the many moods of Komeda pushed that simple pop label to exciting places. If you're new to these Swedes, 'The Genius of Komeda' is a nice place to start, but more critics and fans would probably push you to followup 'What Makes It Go?' If you're looking for Komeda's legacy, pick up 'Oscillations' by Cosines. It's one of the best albums I heard in 2014.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Catch Me

Lush is giving it another go. Anybody else feeling lightheaded? Here are a few minutes with the lovely Miki Berenyi from earlier today when she was on BBC Radio 6 Music. Take a deep breath, fellas.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 16-No. 15)

16. "Sense"
Artist: Terry Hall
Year: 1994

15. "Change"
Artist: The Lightning Seeds
Year: 1994

"I'm standing high on tiptoes, looking over fences
Waiting for somebody like you to kiss me senseless"

It only seems appropriate for Terry Hall and Ian Broudie to make the countdown together. They were joined at the hip during this period anyway. This is also a way for me to sort of sneak two songs onto the countdown that were made famous by the Lightning Seeds. "Sense" was co-written by Hall and Broudie for the Lightning Seeds' album 'Sense' in 1992. Hall also provided background vocals for that recording, and the song peaked at No. 31 in the UK.

Then, in 1994, Hall recorded his first proper solo album, 'Home," with Broudie producing. "Sense" was rerecorded for that one with Hall on lead vocals and Broudie providing the brilliant guitar parts. The two versions of "Sense" are quite similar, but there are some differences, including the addition of harmonica parts and a slightly dancier tone on the Lightning Seeds' version. I love Hall's vocal and Broudie's guitar solo. So, Hall's version gets the nod today. I would also like to take a moment to plug 'Home.' There were no less than six songs from the album considered for this spot, including the two Hall co-wrote with Andy Partridge and, of course, the fantastic single "Forever J." As far as the UK chart goes, the public didn't like Hall's version quite as much, but it still peaked at a respectable No. 54.

For me, Broudie is one of a handful of artists that made the '90s tolerable. There are so many great songs from the Lightning Seeds that could have made this list, but I decided to go with a smash that even did well on this side of the Atlantic, thanks to its inclusion on the very listenable 'Clueless' soundtrack in the summer of 1995. "Change" made it all the way to No. 13 in the UK. Play it loudly in the car on a warm sunny day and just try not to smile. “Put your foot down and drive, oh you’re such a pretty thing..."

Friday, September 25, 2015

More Chances to Wake Up to the Wake

Anybody out there enjoying the latest from New Order? Listening to Bernard & Co. always gets me in the mood to listen to all of those Factory bands from the label's heyday, and one of my favorites is the Wake. For Record Store Day 2012, Brooklyn-based Captured Tracks put together a wonderful vinyl box of the Wake's 'Here Comes Everybody,' the Glasgow band's seminal album from 1985. It also included a second LP of period singles "Of The Matter," "Talk About The Past" and "Something That No One Else Could Bring," along with a lovely album-sized booklet and other extras. These works had not been pressed on wax since the '80s, and it remains just about the best RSD exclusive I have ever come across. As expected, they disappeared in no time, and I'm sure there were many kicking the floor of their favorite shops on that Record Store Day. Fortunately, Captured Tracks has heard the cries of the disappointed and reissued it again, calling it the "Gatefold Edition" this time. I don't believe it will come in the fancy box like it did in 2012, but the music will be there, along with that gatefold. Preorder the two LPs straight from the label for an expected Oct. 30 release. If you don't have it, you need it, as the synth-pop perfection of "Melancholy Man" illustrates.

"Melancholy Man"

After 'Here Comes Everybody,' the Wake left Factory for the friendly confines of Sarah Records. Quite a pedigree, eh? The band went through some personnel paring, and members of fellow label mates the Orchids filled in during this period. There were two albums and two singles before Sarah and the Wake called it a day. LTM Recordings have planned a November reissue blitz of the Wake's Sarah years. Both albums, 'Make It Loud' (1990) and 'Tidal Wave of Hype' (1994) will be remastered on individual CDs and will include the singles. Liner notes will be written by Caesar too. In 2002, LTM had released the two albums together on one CD, calling it 'Holyheads,' but it didn't have either one of the original covers. Yep, it's time for an upgrade. Here's one from 'Make It Loud' that shows the band's sound had shifted a bit from the Factory days. It's a fine time to wake up to the Wake.

"Holy Head"

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 17)

17. "Dry the Rain"
Artist: The Beta Band
Year: 1997

Gimme your top 5 songs from the Beta Band. Go.

If you can do that, you're probably a bigger fan than me, but the Beta Band's first song from their first EP was an undeniable jaw dropper. How could those lads possibly top that? Well, even though there were quite a few fine and varied moments on 'The Three E.P.'s,' especially "She's the One," I don't think they ever did... and that's OK. I love everything about this song, especially the slide guitar and whale-like trumpet. This was the kind of song Beck could have only dreamed of making in the '90s. For some, this pick will be a yawner. After 15 years of watching it over and over on cable, I suppose that scene from 'High Fidelity' might be beginning to feel a bit tired. If you ever worked at a record store, however, it's a moment that will always make you smile... or feel envy. At the shop I worked in among the cornfields of Illinois, I never had the opportunity to sell five copies of a cool record like 'The Three E.P's,' but I have vivid memories of convincing headbangers to buy Lawnmower Deth in a similar vein.

Monday, September 21, 2015

When the Wife's Away, Scritti Politti Will Play

Mrs. LTL is off on another jaunt to the Bay Area. Given the reaction to the last post in this ongoing series, I'm guessing you would like to see her business travel greatly reduced. The other day I learned from the Swede and Friend of Rachel Worth that, in general, the British people aren't big fans of holiday albums, but FORW did put in the good word for Tracey Thorn's 'Tinsel and Lights.' That got me thinking about Ms. Thorn's duet with Green Gartside on that LP. "Snow in Sun" is a real highlight that works any time of year. Let's listen to the original version found on the Scritti Politti album 'White Bread Black Beer.'

The song has a little bit of a Brian Wilson thing going, and I always thought it should have been a proper single. Instead, it was officially released only as a double A-sided digital download. I'll give you a moment to let that ridiculous description settle in your craniums. Anyway, this was a great time to be a fan of Gartside's. As you know, he had returned to Rough Trade after 23 years, and 'White Bread Black Beer' was the first Scritti Politti album since 1999. The LP was celebrated by most critics and nominated for the 2006 Mercury Prize. At the awards show, Green performed "Snow and Sun" with a new band. The vocals, obviously, were complex, and the group was noticeably nervous. So, this might not have been their finest hour, but it sure was nice to see Gartside performing again. After the song, he was presented with his trophy for being nominated. Gartside said something about how the award was going to look nice in his attic.

I loved 'White Bread Black Beer' when it came out, and I still rank it highly in the Scritti Politti library. This was really a Gartside solo album, however, and I still hold out hope he will work with David Gamson and Fred Maher on another long player someday.

"Snow in Sun"

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Stardust Memories

The people have spoken... but without any clear majority of what should be heard. So, if you requested a cover of a Bowie song from me the other day, you'll find it below. Thanks yous to Phil, Seamus, Kevinpat, TheRobster, CC, The Swede, alvalmeida, C, syaver, Echorich and Brett Alan for playing along. You too, George, even if I think Associates' cover of "Boys Keep Swinging" is the most historically important song on this comp. Billy and Alan were signed based on that debut single, but that's a story for another day. Of all the unchosen "dogs" on the album, the most surprising to me is Midge Ure's take of "The Man Who Sold the World." I have to admit I kind of like it, even if I'm not usually a fan of his solo work.

My personal favorites from this lot are the ones from the Divine Comedy, Black Box Recorder and the Langley Schools Music Project. I just checked, and I have only posted something from Langley Schools once... and that was "God Only Knows" way back in 2009. I'm going to try and rectify that in the next week because the story behind the album 'Innocence & Despair' is a great tale to tell, and it's one of the most brilliant examples of outsider art I have ever heard. Anyway, enjoy the music. Hope you find a diamond here. If you run into any problems with my file-sharing account, please let me know. I'm probably nearing bandwidth capacity.

Ian McCulloch - "The Prettiest Star"
Culture Club - "Starman"
Guy Chadwick - "Fall In Love With Me"
Edwyn Collins - "The Gospel According To Tony Day"
The Divine Comedy - "Life On Mars"
Alejandro Escovedo - "All The Young Dudes"
Big Country - "Cracked Actor"
The Polecats - "John, I'm Only Dancing"
Blondie - "Heroes"
The Langley Schools Music Project - "Space Oddity"
Black Box Recorder - "Rock'n'Roll Suicide"

Friday, September 18, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 18)

18. "Cannonball"
Artist: The Breeders
Year: 1993

If I'm honest, I would give the nod to "Safari," Tanya Donelly's last hurrah with the band and one of my all-time favorite EPs, but there is no denying "Cannonball" is one of the catchiest songs of the era, and I identify this song with my last great summer. So, it gets the nod by a whisker. Like the album title, this really was my 'Last Splash.' I was 23 years old in the summer of '93, but I got to live like a kid one more time. I had just graduated from college and already knew I would be moving to Japan later in the year. Adulthood could wait. My life couldn't have been more carefree. I moved back home. Here was my schedule: Wake at dawn, play nine holes of golf, "work" at the record store from 10-3, swim, eat a home-cooked meal, read, watch movies or listen to music, repeat. Four years earlier I couldn't wait to get out of the house. Now it was a comforting refuge from the world.

This was also the summer I discovered my brother was cool. He was six years younger and a real sponge. He was at that age when he soaked up all the music I played for him. 'Last Splash' didn't come out until the tail end of August, but "Cannonball" preceded the album and was already garnering plenty of excitement and airplay when we received an early promo copy of the LP at the store. I commandeered that sucker and taped it. As my brother and I played that Maxell XLII together for the first time, one thing became instantly clear. Kim Deal shouldn't have been iced out of 'Trompe Le Monde.' In fact, the stops and starts and singalong vocals reminded me of Pixies in their heyday, just poppier and more accessible. Try to give 'Last Splash' a spin today. I did, and it still sounds great. Do yourself a favor and find time for "Safari," too.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Stop By Quality Street This Holiday Season

This isn't really the place to get tour info, there are plenty of other great spots for that, but I rarely pass up an opportunity to laud the great Nick Lowe. I was really excited when Lowe was backed by Los Straitjackets last December for the Quality Holiday Revue, a series of shows to tout his holiday LP 'Quality Street: A Seasonal Selection for All the Family.' Unfortunately for this fan from the Pacific Northwest, their travels were limited to towns east of the Mississippi. Well, no coal in the stocking this year. Lowe and Los Straitjackets will be reprising the program this December, and the West Coast will be receiving the bulk of the dates.

Lowe describes how 'Quality Street' came about in a short video below, and I have to say I'm surprised about one of his comments. He says holiday albums are really an American thing, and that those in the UK find the concept a bit naff. Any of my British pals care to comment? This American loves holiday albums, and I eagerly take 'A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector' off the shelf the moment I begin cleaning the Thanksgiving dinner dishes. I put 'Quality Street' in that upper echelon of Christmas classics, alongside the Beach Boys, Booker T & the MG's and several others. I don't seem to be alone. Rolling Stone already ranks 'Quality Street' in the top 20 of its list of 40 Essential Holiday Albums. We are receiving another gift from Lowe and Yep Roc Records this holiday season. 'The Quality Holiday Revue Live' LP is set for a Black Friday release. The album was recorded in Boston last year with Los Straitjackets in tow.

Here are the 2015 dates and a few interesting clips, including a video for "Christmas at the Airport." That's the one you may have heard last year while in the shops searching for gifts. The second video is Lowe's rockin' appearance on Letterman, and the third one is the aforementioned making-of 'Quality Street' mention.

Dec. 2: Durham, N.C. – Bryan Center Reynolds Industries Theater
Dec. 3: Charlotte, Va – Visulite Theater
Dec. 4: Atlanta – Variety Playhouse
Dec. 5: Nashville – City Winery Nashville
Dec. 9: Solana Beach, Calif. – Belly Up Tavern
Dec. 10: Los Angeles – El Rey Theatre
Dec. 11: San Francisco – The Great American Music Hall
Dec. 12: Napa, Calif. – City Winery Napa
Dec. 14: Sacramento – Harlow’s Restaurant and Nightclub
Dec. 16: Portland, Ore. – Aladdin Theater
Dec. 18: Seattle – Neptune
Dec. 19: Vancouver, B.C. – The Vogue Theatre

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Boyracer Crosses the Finish Line

Back in December, I wrote about rediscovering Boyracer... and not a moment too soon. As a victory lap after nearly 50 band members and a quarter century of entertaining us with their particular brand of pop punk, the Sarah and Slumberland vets had just released the "Pete Shelley" 7". Quite a swan song it was, too, only it turns out I buried Stewart Anderson's band without checking for a pulse. Oops. Boyracer recently split a 7" with an Emotional Response labelmate, and it's another doozy. Check out "Everyone's a Critic" below. It's one of two greats from the band on the A-side, and the debut of Denver's American Culture will have you thinking of "Starry Eyes" with just a smidge of the Reid brothers thrown in for a fuzzy powerpop peach of a B-side.

Stewart and his wife Jen (co-founders of Emotional Response Records) say "these recordings are part of the final piece of the Boyracer jigsaw." That's just ambiguous enough to make you wonder whether we could hear Boyracer circle the track again. In case this 7" really is it, though, I suggest you do a little racing yourself because the single has been out for a while and stock is said to be dwindling. Only six bucks for a bit of history, and the sound is far from a relic.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Will You Choose a Diamond or a Dog?

Linear Tracking Lives is a dictatorship. I choose all of the music. Like any dictator worth his salt, I occasionally throw a bone to my people and let them vote in elections that seem vital but actually hold no importance or relevance. It keeps the citizenry from storming my palace and the International Criminal Court from demanding more Taylor Swift. It's true. That lot loves "Shake It Off." You didn't know?

Anyway, for the second straight post I'm taking a page from CC's playbook. I only own one of those Uncut compilations that pop up so often at the always entertaining Charity Chic Music, and this is it: 'Starman: Rare and Exclusive Versions of 18 Classic David Bowie Songs' came out with issue #3 in 2003. Like all of these collections, there are plenty of standouts... and some misses as well. Songs 1, 4 and 6 were recorded exclusively for this disc, and you will be familiar with many of the others. Here is the tracklist:

1. Ian McCulloch - The Prettiest Star
2. Culture Club - Starman
3. Guy Chadwick - Fall In Love With Me
4. Edwyn Collins - The Gospel According To Tony Day
5. The Divine Comedy - Life On Mars
6. Alejandro Escovedo - All The Young Dudes (Live)
7. Midge Ure - The Man Who Sold The World
8. The Associates - Boys Keep Swinging
9. Big Country - Cracked Actor
10. Peter Murphy - Funtime
11. The Polecats - John, I'm Only Dancing
12. Blondie - Heroes
13. Sigue Sigue Sputnik - Rebel Rebel
14. Duran Duran - Fame
15. The Gourds - Ziggy Stardust
16. The Langley Schools Music Project - Space Oddity
17. Christian Death - Panic In Detroit
18. Black Box Recorder - Rock'n'Roll Suicide

What would you like to hear? Let me know below. I'll post the top three vote-getters at the end of the week. This one isn't from the Uncut collection, but here is one of my favorite covers of this ilk. Listen to the always discernible voice of Nico while casting your vote (or votes). Happy Monday! Now stop hanging around below my balcony... all of you. Show's over.


Friday, September 11, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 19)

19. "Trigger Cut"
Artist: Pavement
Year: 1992

"Pavement are alright, just not as brilliant as everyone tries to tell us."
-- Drew
"My sentiments exactly!"
-- Echorich

These comments were lifted from a post at Charity Chic Music just two short weeks ago. In hindsight, I more or less agree with what seems to be the consensus among our little corner of the world, but I most definitely didn't feel that way in 1992. When 'Slanted and Enchanted' came out it was as if there was a knock at the front door, and when I opened it a hurricane entered. Pavement sounded loud, sloppy, fun and out of their minds. For me, Pavement replaced the Replacements... and not a moment too soon. Yes, as much as I tried to block out the hype, it did eventually get in the way. Yet, I can honestly say I enjoyed every album, single and EP that followed this masterpiece. So, maybe I do think they're brilliant after all. Apologies to Dirk for not choosing the worthy "Box Elder." My very close second to "Trigger Cut" was "No Life Singed Her."

Rob Sheffield's 'Love is a Mix Tape' is probably my favorite book. I laugh and cry in equal parts every time I read it. Please take a moment to peruse this slightly pared-down passage on seeing Pavement for the first time. The author captures the moment around 'Slanted and Enchanted' so beautifully:

The night of the show, the floor was abuzz with anticipation. None of us in the crowd knew what Pavement looked like, or even who was in the band. They put out mysterious seven-inch singles without any band info or photos, just credits for instruments like "guitar slug," "psued-piano gritt-gitt," "keybored," "chime scheme," and "last crash simbiosis." We assumed that they were manly and jaded, that they would stare at the floor and make abstract boy noise. That would be a good night out.

But Pavement was nothing at all like we pictured them. They were a bunch of foxy dudes, and they were into it. As soon as they hit the stage, you could hear all the girls in the crowd ovulate in unison. There were five or six of them up there, some banging on guitars, some just clapping their hands or singing along. They did not stare at the floor. They were there to make some noise and have some fun. They had fuzz and feedback and unironically beautiful sha-la-la melodies. Stephen Malkmus leaned into the mike, furrowed his brows, and sang lyrics like, "I only really want you for your rock and roll" or "When I fuck you once it's never enough / When I fuck you two times it's always too much." The songs were all either fast or sad, because all songs should either be fast or sad. Some of the fast ones were sad, too.

Afterward, we staggered to the parking lot in total silence. When we got to the car, Renee spoke up in a mournful voice: "I don't think The Feelies are ever gonna be good enough again."

Our friend Joe in New York sent us a tape, a third-generation dub of the Pavement album Slanted and Enchanted. Renee and I decided this was our favorite tape of all time. The guitars were all boyish ache and shiver. The vocals were funny bad poetry sung through a Burger World drive-through mike. The melodies were full of surfer-boy serenity, dreaming through a haze of tape hiss and mysterious amp noise. This was the greatest band ever, obviously. And they didn't live twenty years ago, or ten years ago, or even five years ago. They were right now. They were ours.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Curtain Call: Talk Talk

Talk Talk were brilliant. So brilliant, in fact, by the band's last two albums they were so far over my head I found them completely unlistenable. Obviously, this is my shortcoming because 'Spirit of Eden' and 'Laughing Stock' show up on numerous best-of lists. Oh, well. Once again out of step with the cool kids. I'll admit it. I prefer pop made for those of us with smaller minds. You know, it's got a good beat and you can dance to it, as the vapid dancers used to say on "American Bandstand." At one point, however, EMI actually sued Talk Talk for essentially not making records that were commercially viable. Uh, I missed the hits too, but that's ridiculous.

So, for those new to the blog, Curtain Call is an occasional series where I pull a live performance from the collection. Since I have been buried in the '90s song list, I haven't done one of these since the Colour Field (or the Colourfield, if you prefer) back in January, but I have wanted to play you this one for a while. 'London 1986' is one of Talk Talk's last live performances, recorded at the Hammersmith Odeon on May 8th of that year. There were no tours to support those last two albums. I rarely prefer a live song to a studio version, but Talk Talk never sounded more alive to me than on this album. That's due in part to expanding the band with as many as six additional players. This is especially noticeable in the percussion and keyboard areas.

I'll keep trying with 'Spirit of Eden' and 'Laughing Stock,' but I know I will always come back to 'London 1986.' It really was the end of an era. Oh, and it seems I'm not completely out of step. In 2013, a writer with the Quietus picked the album for their best live albums list.

"It's My Life" (Live)
"Life's What You Make It" (Live)

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 20)

20. "Secret Heart"
Artist: Ron Sexsmith
Year: 1995

I imagine we all have a tale or two of being blown away by an opening act we never heard before. Ron Sexsmith kicking things off for Elvis Costello and the Attractions on Aug. 6, 1996 at D.C.'s Capitol Ballroom might be my best from nearly 30 years worth of attending shows. I remember "Secret Heart" like it was yesterday. It was delivered with such passion and pain. You just wanted to pat the protagonist on the back and whisper, "Go on. Let her in. It's going to be alright." I never do this, but I didn't even wait to get home. I bought Sexsmith's self-titled album at the merchandise table that very night.

I'm not the only one who thinks this song is special. It has been covered by the likes of Rod Stewart, Feist and Nick Lowe, and the list of artists that have sung his songs is a mile long. I hope the love he has received from his peers has helped pay the bills because in a commercial sense he has never come close to getting the credit he deserves. There is barely a blemish in his long and distinguished discography, and I think the singer-songwriter only loses his way when he strays from keeping it simple. Just give me the man and his acoustic guitar and I'm satisfied. I have spent untold time bashing the decade, but Sexsmith makes all of that negativity melt away. 'Ron Sexsmith' would certainly be among my 10 favorite albums of the '90s.

Here is Sexsmith performing the song on Costello's program "Spectacle" in 2009. Just beautiful.

The Top 100 Songs from the 1990s (So Far...)

100. Die Funf Fruende - JETZT!
99. Save Ferris - Come on Eileen (Night Mix)
98. World Party - Put the Message in the Box
97. Gorky's Zygotic Mynci - Merched Yn Neud Gwallt Eu Gilydd
96. The Ocean Blue - Sublime
95. Puffy Ami Yumi - Wild Girls on Circuit
94. The Muffs - Oh Nina
93. Smoking Popes - Need You Around
92. The Feelies - Sooner or Later
91. Luscious Jackson - Naked Eye
90. The Lemonheads - Into Your Arms
89. fIREHOSE - Disciples of the 3-Way
88. The Sugargliders - Letter From a Lifeboat
87. Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks - Orange Crate Art
86. Vegas - Walk Into the Wind
85. k.d. lang - Miss Chatelaine
84. Robert Crenshaw - All I Want to Do Is Be With You
83. The Pretenders - I'm Not in Love
82. Jeffrey Foskett - Thru My Window
81. Superchunk - Slack Motherfucker
80. Blondie - Maria
79. Sloan - Everything You've Done Wrong
78. Brighter - Does Love Last Forever?
77. The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - History of Lies
76. Squeeze - Some Fantastic Place
75. Paul Weller - Uh Huh, Oh Yeh
74. Maria McKee - I'm Gonna Soothe You
73. Marine Research - Parallel Horizontal
72. Morrissey - Our Frank
71. Annie Lennox - No More 'I Love Yous'
70. Jellyfish - The King Is Half Undressed
69. The La's - Timeless Melody
68. Jonathan Richman - Surrender
67. Kirsty MacColl - Titanic Days
66. Roddy Frame - Reason for Living
65. The Divine Comedy - Becoming More Like Alfie
64. Siouxsie and the Banshees - Kiss Them For Me
63. Electronic - Get the Message
62. Scritti Politti - Brushed With Oil, Dusted With Powder
61. The Clean - Draw(in)g to a (W)hole
60. The Chamber Strings - Telegram
59. David Bowie - Something in the Air
58. Lambchop - Your Fucking Sunny Day
57. James - Laid
56. Suede - Metal Mickey
55. Blueboy - Popkiss
54. The Sundays - Here's Where the Story Ends
53. Brendan Benson - I'm Blessed
52. The Lucksmiths - Untidy Towns
51. Heavenly - Atta Girl
50. Freedy Johnston - Responsible
49. Neil Finn - She Will Have Her Way
48. Nick Heyward - Kite
47. Bjork - Big Time Sensuality
46. Velocity Girl - I Can't Stop Smiling
45. Buzzcocks - Innocent
44. Aztec Camera - Spanish Horses
43. Sugar - Gee Angel
42. Marshall Crenshaw - What Do You Dream Of?
41. The High Llamas - The Sun Beats Down
40. The Orchids - Peaches
39. Cocteau Twins - Heaven or Las Vegas
38. Elastica - Stutter
37. Prefab Sprout - Looking for Atlantis
36. Frank Black - Headache
35. The Pastels - Thru' Your Heart
34. Elvis Costello - Sulky Girl
33. The Hit Parade - The First Time
32. Pulp - Common People
31. Portishead - Sour Times (Nobody Loves Me)
30. Supergrass - Alright
29. Robin Hitchcock - So You Think You're in Love
28. The Beautiful South - Old Red Eyes Is Back
27. The Sugarplastic - Radio JeJune
26. Crowded House - Not the Girl You Think You Are
25. Billy Bragg and Wilco - California Stars
24. Doves - Sea Song
23. The Flaming Lips - Race for the Prize
22. The Popguns - Still a World Away
21. Lloyd Cole - No Blue Skies

Friday, September 4, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 21)

21. "No Blue Skies"
Artist: Lloyd Cole
Year: 1990

Remember how tough it was to trim your list when playing along with JC during his imaginary album series on Lloyd Cole and the Commotions? Well, I'm here to tell you if you were asked to do one based on Cole's '90s solo work, it would be much easier. That's not to say there weren't some great moments during the decade, and you can construct a very nice 10-song mix from the decade, as I just did, but chances are there won't be a mess of leftovers like when you put one together from his days with the Commotions.

Actually, I may not have a firm grasp of how revered or reviled Cole was in the '90s, and I'm interested to read about your favorite songs. For me, my fandom was high when Cole released his first solo album. Cole was deep into his "babe" phase, and "No Blue Skies" has a "Baby" (or 10) on this haunting slow burner. Sad and gorgeous. Damn those clean well-read girls. They do put you through the ringer.

For those readers from the UK, you may be interested to know Cole has only had one brief period of commercial success in America, and it might surprise you that it came during this album and the next, the unfortunately named 'Don't Get Weird on Me, Babe.' "Downtown," "She's a Girl and I'm a Man" and "Tell Your Sister" all cracked the top 10 of Billboard's Alternative Songs countdown. Yes, that's a real chart... and yes, that's Cole's entire chart history over here. Another travesty uncovered.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 22)

22. "Still a World Away"
Artist: The Popguns
Year: 1991

The Popguns are probably best known for a couple of indie classics from the late '80s, "Landslide" and "Waiting for the Winter." In my mind, however, the hits just kept on comin'. I'll probably kick myself tomorrow for choosing the above. Don't get me wrong, the song deserves nothing but accolades, but I really agonized over this pick. The appearance of the Popguns was never in doubt, but I found it impossible to choose just one. I should just say "to hell with it," break the rules and have the band appear three times on this countdown. For the record, the other two candidates were the bouncy "Someone You Love" and the beautiful ballad "Someone to Dream Of." How do you break a three-way tie? Lyrics? Record sleeve? Melody? Vocal range? I took a more scientific approach. Wendy was cutest in the video for "Still a World Away." Pretty crude, eh? Apologies to Simon.

Not long after I named the band's comeback album 'Pop Fiction' my favorite of 2014, I was asked by a reader why I loved the Popguns so much. I think Wendy and Simon Pickles perfectly mix the breezier side of pop, à la Tracy Tracy and PJ Court, with the edgier side of rock, like Chrissie Hynde and James Honeyman-Scott on that first Pretenders album. That's about as much praise as I can give. It's beginning to become a little difficult to find, but you can hear "Still a World Away" and and many other early nuggets from 'Eugenie' and 'Snog' on 'Another Year Another Address: The Best of the Midnight Years.'