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)

Monday, September 17, 2018

Sire's Salad Days

With all of these recent Sire posts featuring acts from the '80s and '90s, it sort of feels like an appetizer without an entree. The real legend of the label was born in the mid- to late-'70s when Seymour Stein spent his evenings on the Bowery in New York City soaking in the atmosphere of CBGB. Stein took one famous pass, saying in has book 'Siren Song: My Life in Music,' "I'm a little embarrassed to say that like so many others who saw Blondie perform in the early days, I just didn't see any star of Bethlehem twinkling on the stage," but otherwise, Stein did quite well for his burgeoning label, bagging the likes of the Dead Boys, Richard Hell and, arguably, his biggest signings ever outside of Madonna in Ramones and Talking Heads. As today's picks below clearly illustrate, Stein wasn't shirking his duties on the other side of the pond during this period either.

A few words about Steins's book before I close it for good. Obviously, I thought "Siren Song' was a hell of a read. Surprisingly, I was most riveted not by his days at Sire but by his fascinating early years breaking into the business, first by hanging around the offices at Billboard and then by getting a real education from his mentor, Syd Nathan at King Records. This is a warts-and-all telling, and he doesn't puff himself up as rock royalty, even if he is. There are squirm-worthy tales about his parenting skills and leading a double life as a homosexual and heterosexual, and your jaw will hit the floor when you read the story about Dee Dee Ramone. Every good book needs an antagonist, though, and Mo Ostin head of Warner Bros. Records, makes quite an interesting villain, and he pops up to make trouble for Stein time and time again. As I closed in on the final chapters, I read slower because I didn't want the book to end. That's about the best praise a reader can give.

Here is a taste of what Sire was up to between 1976 and 1980, along with a quick impression from Stein's book about each band. I chose these songs because these are among my faves from their early years.

Ramones - I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend
"This was the filthiest sugar and the sugariest filth."

Talking Heads - Pulled Up
"I was being sucked in through the door, like a snake being charmed by an Arabian flute."

Richard Hell & the Voidoids - Blank Generation
"...[Blank Generation] could either take off if given a real push or stiff in total embarrassment if mishandled."

The Undertones - Teenage Kicks
"['Teenage Kicks'] came on John Peel's BBC Radio 1 show. It was such an obvious classic, I almost wet my pants."

Pretenders - The Wait
"I was completely knocked off my feet.... It wasn't cheap, but even Warner knew we were onto a surefire hit and coughed up the money without any moaning."

Echo and the Bunnymen - Rescue
"I count [Echo and the Bunnymen] among the brightest lights on my A&R résumé."

The English Beat - Twist and Crawl
"We got them touring with Talking Heads and the Pretenders, almost double bills that never failed to blow away audiences everywhere they played."

Friday, September 14, 2018

More From Manchester's the Man From Delmonte

Whoa! Slow down! You lot nearly broke the Internet to get to that last post on the Man From Delmonte. Uh, maybe not. How do you follow up a clunker on the Man From Delmonte? With another post on the Man From Delmonte, of course. I'm sure I'm not the only one who fell for their jangly charms, right? During their heyday, there were three hits on the the indie-pop chart ("Big Noise," "(Will Nobody Save) Louise" and "My Love is Like a Gift You Can't Return") and, as frontman Mike West said, "Our parents got to see us on TV." In recent times, thanks to Cherry Red Records, a whole new audience has discovered the band because of the popular 'Manchester North of England' box set and 'C88' and 'C89'compilations.

All of these high points aside, however, I would bet Mike, Sheila, Martin and Howard would say the pinnacle for the Man From Delmonte was appearing on Liz Kershaw's BBC program. They recorded a four-song session that was first transmitted on Aug. 24, 1988, and they never sounded better. The production from BBC's desk man Mike Robinson was clean and crisp, and you can tell the adrenaline gave the quartet an extra bounce. If you don't like these, hmm, well, I guess the world will keep spinning around, but I'll be sad.

Patient (BBC Session)
Australia Fair (BBC Session)
Big Noise (BBC Session)
Like a Millionaire (BBC Session)

Thursday, September 13, 2018

B-Sides That Bear Fruit

Leave it to JC at the (new) Vinyl Villain to help clear the cobwebs and bust me out of my malaise. Earlier today, the Blogfather put together a piece on one of my favorite unsung bands from the golden age of indie pop. He hit all of the brightest spots from the all-too-brief discography of the Man From Delmonte, and this followup is probably more for those who already have a soft spot for the Manchester janglers. I have pulled out a few pieces of vinyl tonight, and my recommendation for those of you who are interested in picking up some of their records to start with these two compilations shown above that Vinyl Japan released in 1999. Yep, as usual, it's the Japanese that have kept the spirit of yet another underrated '80s UK indie-pop band alive.

When both volumes of 'The Good Things in Life' are combined, you have all of the band's A-sides and B-sides, as well as several unreleased nuggets and a radio session. In fact, if you also have the 1989 live album 'Big Noise,' then these three artifacts are just about everything the Man From Delmonte ever recorded.

In '99, Mike West, the de facto leader, described the Man From Delmonte this way: "Some people hated our songs, some people loved them... I don't really understand either reaction. Nobody in the band could sing very well. That's why we decided everybody should sing at the same time, together, in harmony, or not exactly harmony but close enough. That way no one would notice we didn't have a singer." I listened to both of these volumes tonight, and I have come to the conclusion West was exercising a combination of humility and self deprecation. The vocals are, indeed, the very reason I love the band.

I'm hoping there are a couple of fans out there that might appreciate this deep dig for a couple of my favorite examples of their wonderful delivery. "M.I.C.H.A.E.L." answers the age-old question about what's in a name and can be found on the band's 1988 self-titled EP and debut for obscure label Bop Cassettes. "Lasha Me" has innumerable la-la-las and even a little Italian. This one was clearly meant as a throwaway and wasn't even properly released until it showed up on a comp after the band's demise in 1990, but it never fails to get my head bobbing.

Lasha Me

One more post on the Man From Delmonte next time.