Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Sportique Week (2)

Between the 'Black Is a Very Popular Colour' and 'Modern Museums' albums, the trio of Sir Mark Flunder, Gregory Webster and Rob Pursey became a quartet with the addition of Pursey's partner Amelia Fletcher on organ and assorted keyboards. Perhaps you've heard of her. If you haven't, all I can say is get yourself an education. The sound of Sportique changed quite a bit with that sophomore album, but there was a hint of what was to come early on with the 1998 single "Tiny Clues." This one owes something to Buzzcocks, and it's one of my favorite songs from the band. That's our first listen today.

Just about the entirety of 'Modern Museums' turns it up a notch on 'Black Is a Very Popular Colour,' and many have compared it to works by Magazine, Gang of Four and, especially, Wire. That's a far cry from when Webster was emulating the Byrds in the early years of Razorcuts, eh? There were no singles spawned from 'Modern Museums,' but I always thought the poppy "Art & Shopping," although light and not all that representative of the rest of the album, would have been a hit (whatever that meant in 2002). If you are new to Sportique, I would recommend starting with 'Modern Museums.' There isn't a duff note on the album, and I had a hell of a time deciding which song to play for you today. It's tight, angular, crisp, aggressive and not the least bit jangly. In other words, don't expect Razorcuts.

"Tiny Clues" (A-side single)
"Cerebral Vortex" (from 'Modern Museums')

You can still buy these two releases. Here are some links:
'Modern Museums' 10"/CD at Jigsaw Records in America
'Modern Museums' 10"/CD at WIAWYA in the UK

Monday, June 29, 2020

Sportique Week

That header rolls right off the tongue, doesn't it? I have heard from a few of you about how much you're enjoying those reissues of the Creation-era albums from Razorcuts (which you can still buy on black vinyl here and here). All of this chatter has inspired me to pull out some of my favorite vinyl from another of Gregory Webster's bands... one that began a good seven or eight years after the dissolution of Razorcuts. Well, with a stable of stars like are found in Sportique, perhaps it's unfair to call it Webster's band. In the beginning, around 1997, Webster was joined by Sir Mark Flunder of Television Personalities and Rob Pursey of Heavenly. An important addition to the band would come around the time of the second album, but we'll get to that tomorrow.

For now, let's take a listen to some early stuff from this trio. "If You Ever Change Your Mind" was the band's debut single, and the song also appeared on the 1999 debut album, 'Black Is a Very Popular Colour.' What else to know? One of the things I loved about the band was all of their albums came out on 10". Most (but not all) of Sportique's releases were on WIAIWYA in the UK and Matinée here in America. As you know, both labels would go on to become legendary in indie-pop circles. As you would expect, Sportique garnered plenty of praise and plays on John Peel's show during this period, and they recorded sessions for him in May 1998 and Aug. 1999. I think you'll find they sound a bit like Razorcuts but with some harder and rawer elements thrown into the mix. There certainly is no doubting Webster's voice, and the liberal use of organ on many of the songs might even take you back to his Subway days. At any rate, it's all good. Here's an excerpt from Webster's sleevenotes on the first album:

Last year we were definitely very 70s. But late 70s you understand. And everybody said, hey, look at Mark, Gregory & Rob! They're doing the 70s! Before that, of course, I did the 60s back in the 80s. With a little 70s thrown in; and Mark has always been very 60s, with that authentic 50s feel that all the cool kids have. Rob on the other hand has always been very now, but with a definite early 80s edge, since even before they tried to make that fashionable again.

So this year we're doing the 90s. Or maybe not. Maybe with the 00s coming up it's time to do some futurist stuff. Like back in the 80s. It's hard to tell.

Quite. Tune in tomorrow to see if Sportique went all futurist after the turn of the century.

"Love & Remains" (A-side of 1999 single)
"If You Ever Change Your Mind" (from first album)

You can still buy these two releases. Here are some links:
"Love & Remains" 7" at Jigsaw Records in America
"Love & Remains" 7" at Pebble Records in the UK
'Black Is a Very Popular Colour' 10" at WIAWYA in the UK

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Another Beautiful Bunch of Sevens

Just want to take a moment to thank Ian and Optic Nerve Recordings for another stellar 7" series. I received my last six singles a couple of weeks ago, and it felt like Christmas. Once again, the painstaking effort shows in the quality of each record... from the colors chosen for the vinyl to the heavy stock used for the sleeves. You can click on the photo above to get a better look. For those new to the series, each single comes with a poster and postcard.

These were the two from this round I found most aesthetically pleasing. "Sean Connery," the fourth and final single from James Dean Driving Experience, was originally released in 1990 on él Records as a 12" EP. All four tracks are included here for the first time as a 7" single. JDDE were known for featuring a "screen goddess" on every one of their sleeves, including Audrey Hepburn, Rita Hayworth and Claudia Cardinale. This time around it was Gina Lollobrigida (still with us at 92, by the way).

Next up is the Loft with "Up the Hill and Down the Slope" b/w "Your Door Shines Like Gold." This varies from the original 7" Creation released in 1985 in that "Your Door Shines Like Gold" was only included on the four-track 12", but I contend this is the best B-side in the band's all-too-brief career. The color scheme for the vinyl is brilliant, and I'm pleased to possess the poster for the Loft's triumphant reunion at NYC Popfest in 2015.

If you like what you see, you'll be pleased to know both of these singles are still available to purchase à la carte, as are all of the others except for the Wedding Present, House of Love, Bob and the Vaselines. Check 'em out here. Don't dawdle. They do all eventually sell out, as the first incarnation of this series illustrated. Here's a look at that first series:

Ian has already let the cat out of the bag there will be a third series he hopes to launch around October. I'll let you know the titles as that information becomes available. Here are a few ideas I would love to see in a future series...

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

It's a Masterpiece of Understatement

How do you waste a cold and rainy Sunday afternoon? By painting something other than the walls of a house for the first time in your adult life, of course. My son was using his paint set, and he had a spare canvas just sitting there when this idea popped into my head. No doubt because the reissue of 'Sisters' is approaching, and Monorail in Glasgow announced recently this special limited edition of the album that's exclusive to the shop. I quickly learned the tiny brushes I was using have a mind of their own. Many mistakes were made, but it was a great opportunity to forget my troubles and get lost in the tiny strokes. I enjoyed the experience so much I may give it another go and try to cut down on the slips of the brush.