Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Glam Rock Playlist

I was twelve in the spring of 1971 when Marc Bolan wore "glitter tears" on "Top Of The Pops" to sing "Hot Love". Glam rock started for me and many people with that wonderful single and Bolan's image. The sub-genre musically morphed from Bolan's hippy-style singalongs to something stronger, driven by a huge drum sound, lots of handclaps and raucous, instantly appealing choruses. At the start of all this tub-thumping, silly but glorious fun were the afore-mentioned T. Rex, skinheads turned stompers Slade, camp Sweet and the now never to be mentioned Gary Glitter. This was the commercial side of glam.

The serious side of glam saw David Bowie, Roxy Music, Mott The Hoople, Alice Cooper, Elton John and Cockney Rebel among others going through a glam phase around the same time. Those years from 1971 to early 1974 were joyous years for me. Forget prog rock and its pretentions. This was what the early seventies were all about.

So, put on your platform shoes, round collared shirts and flares and enjoy a great singalong.

1. Hot Love - T. Rex
2. Take Me Bak 'Ome - Slade
3. Little Willy - Sweet
4. Rock 'n' Roll Part 2 - Gary Glitter
5. Jeepster - T. Rex
6. Wig Wam Bam - Sweet
7. Gudbuy T' Jane - Slade
8. Virginia Plain - Roxy Music
9. All The Young Dudes - Mott The Hoople
10. John, I'm Only Dancing - David Bowie                            
11. Mama Weer All Crazee Now - Slade
12. I Didn't Know I Loved You Till I Saw You Rock 'n' Roll - Gary Glitter
13. Blockbuster - Sweet
14. Get It On - T. Rex
15. School's Out - Alice Cooper
16. Personality Crisis - The New York Dolls
17. Can The Can - Suzi Quatro
18. Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting - Elton John
19. Son Of My Father - Chicory Tip
20. Tiger Feet - Mud


21. Teenage Rampage - Sweet
22. Remember - The Bay City Rollers
23. Judy Teen - Cockney Rebel                                               
24. Honaloochie Boogie - Mott The Hoople
25. Hello Hello I'm Back Again - Gary Glitter
26. Angel Face - The Glitter Band
27. Elected - Alice Cooper
28. The Cat Crept In - Mud
29. 48 Crash - Suzi Quatro
30. Street Life - Roxy Music
31. The Jean Genie - David Bowie
32. Cum On Feel The Noize - Slade
33. Telegram Sam - T. Rex
34. See My Baby Jive - Wizzard
35. Shang-a-Lang - The Bay City Rollers                     
36. Tell Him - Hello


37. Goodbye My Love - The Glitter Band
38. Metal Guru - T. Rex
39. Skweeze Me Pleeze Me - Slade
40. Gonna Make You A Star - David Essex
41. Hey Rock 'n' Roll - Showaddywaddy
42. Sugar Baby Love - The Rubettes
43. Ballroom Blitz - Sweet
44. Roll Away The Stone - Mott The Hoople
45. Dancing On A Saturday Night - Barry Blue
46. The Groover - T. Rex
47. Crazy Horses - The Osmonds
48. This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both Of Us - Sparks               
49. Angel Fingers - Wizzard
50. 20th Century Boy - T. Rex


Friday, 16 August 2019

Beats International

Let Them Eat Bingo (1990)

Burundi Blues/Dub Be Good To Me/Before I Grow Too Old/The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists/For Spacious Lies/Blame It On The Bassline/Won't Talk About It/Dance To The Drummer's Beat/Babies Makin' Babies (Stoop Rap)/The Whole World's Down On Me/Tribute To King Tubby                                                                 
Norman Cook released a couple of albums under the Beats International name between his time with The Housemartins and his Fatboy Slim DJ thing (which I know nothing about, by the way). What he did here was amass a veritable encyclopaedia of samples combined with dance rhythms to produce some appealing dance/pop. Of course, one can make accusations of plagiarism with all this sampling thing, and to a certain extent I agree with them, but on the other hand, dub reggae producers did it all the time, to great effect. I had no problem with that, so this album can be accepted in the same way. There is definitely a clever inventiveness to it.

Burundi Blues is dominated by world music drum beats (from Burundi, probably), together with a funky bass line and a soulful vocal.

Dub Be Good To Me was a big hit and mixed Paul Simonon's bass line from Guns Of Brixton with SOS Band's Just Be Good To Me. It is a marvellously atmospheric track, full of scratchy rhythms, a distant Lindy Layton vocal and some hip/hop bits too. It is very much a song that brings back 1990 for me. 

Before I Grow Too Old uses a Fats Domino song from the fifties, vamped up with some brass, some summery reggae-ish sounds and strange duck-like noises. It is all very frothy and appealing.


The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists has a house style dance beat (I think, I am certainly no expert), with programmed monotonous "drum" beat and a few flute samples thrown in to give it a melodic appeal and some African rap parts. 

The jaunty, catchy For Spacious Lies actually has a serious lyrical message about international financial corruption, arms dealing and the like. It is actually a likeable poppy song.

Blame It On The Bassline is another thumping dance number that samples the JacksonsBlame It On The Boogie.

Won't Talk About It features Billy Bragg on buzzy, distorted guitar riff duty over a soul/disco-ish groove with bits of rap and Shakatak-style piano in there too. Dance To The Drummer's Beat is a disco-esque funky workout, with some great percussion bits. Cook liked his African samples and there are plenty in here too.

Babies Makin' Babies is a bassy hip/hop rap number while The Whole World's Down On Me features the recognisable vocal tones of reggae veteran Ken Boothe on a sort of dance-ish slowed-down reggae skank. 

Tribute To King Tubby you would expect to be a thumping, dubby bass-drenched number worthy of Notting Hill Carnival. Actually it is a breezy, rhythmic number sampling Lionel Richie's All Night Long ("jambo, jambo...") bit.

So there you go, all sorts of sounds making up a real sonic cornucopia. Summery, frothy and enjoyable.

Primal Scream

Give Out But Don't Give Up (1994)

Jailbird/Rocks/(I'm Gonna) Cry Myself Blind/Funky Jam/Big Jet Plane/Free/Call On Me/Struttin'/Sad And Blue/Give Out But Don't Give Up/I'll Be There For You/Everybody Needs Somebody          

Primal Scream underwent a seismic change with this album, leaving psychedelic dance stuff behind for this big, bluesy rocking beast of an album. The Scottish band decided to produce a Southern States-style rock album with some funk influences present too. This didn't go down well with some of the music media. NME labelled them "dance traitors". Personally, I much prefer this album to the dance/acid house stuff (never having been much of a fan of dance/acid house - not my era), so it went down fine with me. The album has always been perceived as a failure, indeed it almost finished the group off. Not for me, though, I think its great, one of the albums from this era that I genuinely like, as opposed to just respect. That is no doubt because it is so obviously "retro".
Jailbird leaves the listener in no doubt as to what this album is all about - solid rock riffs, pounding drums, wah-wah guitar in the background, Stonesy vocals, loud, enthusiastic backing vocals, they are all in here.

Rocks is the albums Stones-influenced thumping, fist-pumping classic. The chorus and riffs are captivating, as is the horn backing and madcap bar-room piano. It is a superb, rocker of a track. 

I'm Gonna Cry Myself Blind sounds just like The Faces in its intro, although Bobby Gillespie's vocals are softer than Rod Stewart's. Apart from that it is totally Faces, for me.

Funky Jam was a liaison with funk legend George Clinton, of Parliament/Funkadelic fame. While it has a dance-style beat, is is pretty. much pure horn-driven seventies funk. 

Big Jet Plane is a slow burning, Lynyrd Skynyrd meets The Stones rock ballad. It even has a great, seventies-style saxophone solo. The saxophone continues on the jazzy, bluesy groove of Free, a sublime, soulful song that features Denise Johnson on lead vocals. Quite what the band's dance fans would have made of this doesn't bear thinking about (man). It comes to an abrupt end, however.

The riff intro to Call On Me is just pure Faces, and most of the rest of it is pure Stones, with a horn section right out of Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes.

Struttin' has some spacey, dance-ish sounds, but it also contains a fair amount of Meters-type funk in its instrumental grooves. It also has some excellent wah-wah guitar/organ interplay half way through. The band were showing that they could play on this album, for sure. At eight minutes plus, though, it probably goes on three minutes too long.

Sad And Blue begins with some genuine bluesy slide guitar and it is a slow ballad with hints of The Stones on Beggars' Banquet and Shine A Light from Exile On Main Street.

Give Out But Don't Give Up is slowed down to a walking pace for its brassy funk vibes. George Clinton was credited as a co-writer on this, and you can tell. It is like an extended Parliament funk-out. 

I'll Be There For You is a dramatic, U2-esque anthem. A similar sound, but this time a more organ-driven, soulful one is found on Everybody Needs Somebody. The organ breaks are sublime. There is more Faces influence here.

This was an album that was completely at odds with anything else than Primal Scream did, and better than anything else they did, in my rock-oriented opinion.

Thursday, 15 August 2019

The Stone Roses

The Stone Roses (1989)

I Wanna Be Adored/She Bangs The Drums/Waterfall/Don't Stop/Bye Bye Badman/Elizabeth My Dear/(Song For My) Sugar Spun Sister/Made Of Stone/Shoot You Down/This Is The One /I Am The Resurrection/Fools Gold    

The Stone Roses are the band usually credited with being the leaders of the late eighties/early nineties "Madchester" scene, which merged traditional guitar rock with dance and rave music rhythms. As was usual with most of the bands from this genre, there was a sixties influence, particularly The Beatles and also psychedelic rock. This was a genre that emerged for the next generation on from me, so I am someone who looked at it quite dispassionately. I was certainly never a fan of dance music or "clubbing", that was after my time, so what I like about this album is that it far more of a rock album than a dance one. The sound is based a lot more around buzzy guitar riffs than programmed loops. The actually isn't much "dance" on here at all, compared to The Happy Mondays, for example.

The Stones Roses had an arrogance and confidence about them, similar to that of Oasis, but far less "in-your-face" and more cool and detached. They were a somewhat faceless group (comparatively), although singer Ian Brown had that Gallagher brothers attitude about him. The rear cover is a black and white image of the band looking very much like an updated version of Revolver-era Beatles.

I Wanna Be Adored is a swirling pyschedelic-ish number, full of that afore-mentioned guitar sound. She Bangs The Drums is a very jangly, poppy and catchy upbeat song. Its vocal is very typical the sound of this genre. Impossible to describe, but instantly recognisable, in the same way that a new romantic, punk or post punk vocal was. Some of the riffs are very like those used by The Jam ten years earlier.

Waterfall is very appealing in its trebly but rhythmic harmoniously sixties way. The guitar/bass/drum interplay half way through is very seventies rock. It even uses a bit of funky wah-wah guitar. This is a good track. The drum are "proper" drums but they manage to convey a "dance"-ish vibe without the need to programme anything. Acid house was a neo-psychedelic, but musically artificial thing, but The Stone Roses managed to invoke its drugged-up bliss using conventional rock instruments. As the psychedelic bands of the late sixties did.

Don't Stop is a feedback and sound effect-drenched piece of psychedelia. This is a very 1966-67 Beatles-influenced number. The "from the top" spoken invocation is pure Lennon. It is the only track with a real dance vibe to it. 

Bye Bye Badman is another very late sixties piece of upbeat but dreamy, wistful rock. Although there are contemporary sounds used throughout the album and there is a future-looking feel about the cockiness of the new "scene", it is also a totally retrospective album. 

Elizabeth My Dear is a medieval-influenced, melodically acoustic condemnation of The Queen, quite for what purpose it serves is unclear. It doesn't fit the vibe of the album at all.

The good old sixties feel is well and truly back on the Pretty Flamingo riff-driven (Song For My) Sugar Spun Sister. The vocal harmonies, while retro, are also very typical of their era.

Made Of Stone is a great song, with a post punk feeling about it, albeit an upbeat one, and some excellent drums. Shoot You Down is a delicious, laid-back George Harrison-esque song, both musically and vocally. Its Beatles influences are so manifold there is almost little point in detailing them.

This Is The One is also riffily impressive, with a great, dramatic intro, reminiscent of Queen, would you believe, in its crashing cymbals. Singer Ian Brown's vocal is quietly vibrant, building the song up into the anthem it becomes. This is excellent stuff, sort of The Stone Roses' Baba O'Reilly.

I Am The Resurrection is an extended piece of Lennon-esque arrogance, backed with superb guitar and drums. Once again, the instrumental interplay in the middle is pure, great rock music of which Led Zeppelin would have been proud. 

Fools Gold is an even longer track, clocking in at over nine minutes. It directly utilises the funky riff from James Brown's Funky Drummer. It gets into an insistent funk/rock groove, like something by Brown or Fela Kuti, interjected with fuzzy guitar stabs. It keeps in its rhythm, backed by some intoxicating rhythm and never gets tiresome. Stuff like this is really very impressive for a debut album.

This was one of the first of the "Madchester" albums that spawned Brit Pop, along with the first two Oasis albums, for me, it is undeniably the best. It is not an album constructed from tape loops and programmed drums, it is a rock album of high quality.

Second Coming (1994)

Breaking Into Heaven/Driving South/Ten Storey Love Song/Daybreak/Your Star Will Shine/Straight To The Man/Begging You/Tightrope/Good Times/Tears/How Do You Sleep/Love Spreads/The Foz                                                   
This second album was much-anticipated, much-delayed and eventually much-criticised. It was received by many as underwhelming. Coming from a generation before this genre, I was not a "proper" Stone Roses fan, so I just write about it as I hear it and I hear a reasonable album. The influence on the album, particularly on guitarist John Squire is from Led Zeppelin, as opposed to contemporary dance music, which is fine by me. This is far more of a rock album, and again, that totally suits me. It is a sprawling album, though, lasting sixty-six minutes. Listening to it all in one sitting is a bit of an ordeal.

Breaking Into Heaven begins with two minutes of ambient, watery noises before an insistent drum rhythm builds up, joined by some mysterious, scratchy guitar. It goes all Led Zeppelin-esque at one point around four minutes in and then a powerful drum beat and bass arrive and finally Ian Brown's understated vocals on five minutes. It could have lost a couple of minutes on the extended intro but you can't deny that it builds up an atmosphere as the song rumbles on infectiously. The bass is rumblingly sublime on here too. 

Driving South has a heavy blues rock vibe but also a Happy Mondays-esque pounding Madchester one. It also has shades of Led Zeppelin in the Physical Graffiti era. I really like it. 

Ten Storey Love Song has an infectious drum intro over some psychedelic guitar/Eastern influence before it breaks out into an anthemic grind. It is a real grower of a track and it segues neatly into the rhythmic groove of Daybreak, a track enhanced by some seriously funky bass. The bass/drum/organ interplay in the song's last third is superb.

Your Star Will Shine is a shorter, acoustic-driven, psychedelic, hippy-ish number. It sounds straight out of 1968. Straight To The Man is an appealing slice of funky, bassy contemporary rock, a really good track. 

Begging You is the most "dance" track on the album thus far, full of those early-mid nineties frenetic drum sounds merged with buzzy, industrial guitars. 

Tightrope is an acoustic, vaguely Oasis-ish number. Good Times is a muscular, solid and dense rocker full of searing riffage.


Tears uses the old Led Zeppelin trick of half acoustic/half rock on a slow burner of a song that bursts into life at 2:20. If it wasn't for Ian Brown's harsher, gruffer voice, you could really imagine this being Led Zeppelin, even the drumming is Bonham-esque. It also contains a Flamenco guitar solo, which is a Zep-style innovation. The otherwise attractively bassy and melodic How Do You Sleep begins with the line "I've seen your severed head in a banquet for the dead..." - very Alice Cooper. Musically, though, it is a tuneful Byrds-ish number with  nice vocals and guitar. 

Love Spreads is a powerful, guitar-driven track with a fetching vocal/percussion break half way through that is almost jazzy and then there is the "hidden" one, The Foz. Basically, it is an indulgent, instrumental waste of time.

The album was nowhere near the disaster many claimed it to be, but, for me, it is far too long and it one I dip into every now and again only. Having said that, I've played it three times through over the last couple of days and it gets better with each listen, becoming quite addictive, so there you go.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

The La's

The La's (1990)

Son Of A Gun/I Can't Sleep/Timeless Melody/Liberty Ship/There She Goes/Doledrum/Feelin'/Way Out/I.O.U./Freedom Song/Failure/Looking Glass           

Liverpool band The La's were a bit of an oddity - a band who only ever produced one album. Songwriter/eventual band leader Lee Mavers (not the original band leader though, as most people think, that was one Mike Badger) left the group, disillusioned with the sound of the album. Mavers seemed to have been a bit of a Kevin Rowland-like perfectionist, constricted by the never-to-be-satisfied demands of his own frustrating vision. So, off he went, and that was that. They have reunited every now and again and, around 2006, there were rumours of a second album, but nothing was ever forthcoming.

Although The La's were part of the Brit Pop sub-genre, almost by default, because of their "indie" background, this is not like a lot of the other stuff from the same genre. It is very sixties beat boom pop influenced (The Rolling StonesBeatlesKinksThemThe HolliesHerman's Hermits) and perhaps more melodic than some. Would you believe it took the group four years to record the album, all thirty-five minutes of it! Good grief. For that amount of time you would expect it to be Sgt. Pepper, but it isn't. It is ok, but, to be honest, for me it is nothing special. It has developed an air of mystique over the years which has elevated its critical kudos.

Son Of a Gun is a short and very sixties-sounding acoustic-driven catchy number with a few hints of Byrds-style Americana too. 

I Can't Sleep has some Who-influenced riffs (think I Can't Explain). There is something a bit Stonesy about it too and a new wave vibes as well. 

Timeless Melody is a sort of Beatles meets The Hollies in the mid sixties poppy number. The vocals are very Beatles 1963-64 influenced. The song is updated by some convincing contemporary rock guitar. Liberty Ship is a wistful, gently lively acoustic piece of pop.

Then we get the big one - There She Goes - nothing on the album remotely comes close to the sheer, delightful, uplifting pop glory of this great song. From its melodic, jangly guitar riff to its harmonious vocals it is a pleasure from beginning to end. Its beauty makes you forget the fact that it actually contains very few lyrics. They are repeated a lot, but it doesn't matter. It is simply a great pop song.

Doledrum sounds like something from the early Rolling Stones albums, with Mavers sounding like a young Jagger too. Feelin' has a very Beatles-esque guitar and a lively, upbeat melody.

Way Out is a bit of psychedelic pop-influenced track. Very 1967. I.O.U. reminds me of something Herman's Hermits may have done. At sub-two minutes it is over before you realise it.

Freedom Song is a slow, Kinks-style song, with suitably wry, serious-sounding lyrics. It is actually quite a beguiling, interesting track. Failure also revisits The Stones circa 1964-65 and maybe a bit of Them too. Bizarrely, the final track, 

Looking Glass is seven minutes of psychedelic guitar dreaminess. It is actually pretty good, but it totally at odds with the short, sharp breeziness of the rest of the material.

Every time I listen to the album I want a flash of light to hit me and make me realise that it is indeed a work of genius. Unfortunately it never happens. For me it is always a victim of its own hype. I keep giving it a chance though...

The Happy Mondays

The Happy Mondays Greatest Hits

Step On/The Boys Are Back In Town/W.F.L./Kinky Afro/Hallelujah/Mad Cyril/Lazyitis/Loose Fit/Bob's Yer Uncle/Judge Fudge/Stinkin' Thinkin'/24 Hour Party People 
Ah, The Happy Mondays. Drugged up nutters with thick "Manchest-ogh" accents, wearing parkas, hoodies or retro sports tops doing those funny gestures with their hands and that mad-looking bloke Bez, jerking around, bug-eyed and off his face on stage. As a seventies-reared man myself, these lads were well beyond my time but they had that weirdness and attitude that made an old punk like me sit up and take a small bit of notice. Not a huge amount, I have to admit, and this is the only thing of theirs I own, but enough to make me wryly smile when seeing or hearing them and think "yeah, they've got something, I can see way they're popular, if I was eighteen I'd love them.....".

They were more than simply a "dance" music band. They pilfered too much from classic rock for that, their influences were quite widespread and there was more to their music than one may originally have imagined. Funkpsychedeliarock, even classical influences are all in there. There is always a dance beat, though, and it is there that I have to claim ignorance. The dance music era was one that was spawned after I was too old for all the "clubbing" thing. I have, maybe quite proudly, never been "clubbing". That doesn't mean I can't appreciate this for what it is. I like the fact that The Happy Mondays were clearly lads who knew their music. They listened to all sorts of things to get their inspiration. Like Oasis, they were fans of all sorts of other music. a classic example is the rarity that appears on here - their cover of The Bee GeesStayin' Alive.

I wouldn't want them crashing at my house for the night, but I always enjoy their stuff whenever it may appear on one of my "random" selections.

Step On is superb - that massive bass sound and pounding drums, the "loop" repetitive dance-ish piano, the crazed vocals. All good stuff. Of course, a old man like me remembers the original, John Kongos's similarly appealing He's Gonna Step On You Again. This a track that can be used to sum up the whole Madchester thing in one shot and practically launched the "baggy" genre - psychedelic guitars and funky drums - and is invariably used on documentaries when anyone wants to invoke the atmosphere of 1989-1990. "Twistin' my melon....", though, what was that all about? 

Up next is their unique take on Thin Lizzy's The Boys Are Back In Town - rendered unrecognisable by pounding drum machine sounds, fuzzy feedback-drenched guitars and a delightfully ad hoc vocal from Shaun Ryder that really did sound as if he was just making it up as he went along. I am sure he was.

W.F.L. ("wrote for luck" apparently) is huge, beaty and mysterious. Tribal dance rhythms meet rock  sounds all topped off with some vaguely menacing vocals. This is another excellent tub-thumper of a track. 

Kinky Afro is a highly atmospheric groove that indirectly samples the chorus from Labelle's Lady Marmalade. It is crammed full of superb guitar lines, great bass and an insistent drum sound. Apparently, the group wanted to make it sound like a Hot Chocolate song. 

Hallelujah cleverly and evocatively samples some medieval monks' chanting behind a metronomic dance beat, with one of those programmed piano bits again. Now, dance music, clubbing and all that stuff means nothing to me, I have to admit, but if I were to like it, it would be material like this I would turn to.

Mad Cyril is a bit undercooked, in my opinion, the vocals far too low down in the mix and the general sound too muffled and indistinct. It does have quite a bit of Big Audio Dynamite influence, though, particularly with its use of vocal sampling. 

Lazyitis utilises the melody from The BeatlesTicket To Ride in places and also, would you believe, David Essex's Gonna Make You A Star over a trippy, vaguely melodic basic tune.

Loose Fit is an intoxicating, pulsating number with another captivating, hook-laden "chorus". They were not really "choruses" as such, just the bits people would singalong to. It was based on Just Be Good To Me by The SOS Band. More proof of their wide-ranging influences.

Bob's Yer Uncle merged an acoustic guitar with a massive dance drum thump and a quiet, whispered "naughty" vocals such as "can I take you from behind..." and other even more risqué suggestions between Ryder and guest vocal Rowetta

Judge Fudge has a killer guitar riff and is full of atmosphere. For some reason it makes me think of what Joe Strummer and The Clash may have been putting out had they continued for another ten years or so. It may have sounded something like this. To test this theory, I interrupted my playing of this to play This Is Radio Clash. Obviously, there are some differences, but it didn't sound too incongruous. The sound effects and Strummer's garbled vocals are where I felt the link.

Stinkin' Thinkin' has a nice funky guitar backing and lots other interesting bits together with an appealing vocal. 

24 Hour Party People acted as a call to arms for late eighties/early nineties ravers to pop some pills get out of it, man. It actually has a really funky bass line, great rhythms and a very post punky vocal vibe. Too right, man, go for it. Cool.

The Inspiral Carpets

The Inspiral Carpets Greatest Hits

Keep The Circle Around/Butterfly/Joe/Find Out Why/Move/This Is How It Feels/She Comes In The Fall/Biggest Mountain/Weakness/Caravan/Please Be Cruel/Dragging Me Down/Two Worlds Collide/Generations/Bitches Brew/How It Should Be/Saturn 5/I Want You/Uniform/Come Back Tomorrow    

The Inspiral Carpets came from Oldham, and were very much part of the "Madchester" scene of the late eighties/early nineties. Their sound was actually very retro, based around a Stranglers/Elvis Costello & The Attractions organ sound, with hints of sixties "freakbeat"/"psychedelic rock" about it; a trebly Byrds-influenced guitar sound, and plenty of punk/new wave vitality, riffs and drum sounds. The vocals are "in your face" and very punky. I remember hearing this stuff at the time and thinking  - as someone who who had been into both sixties material and certainly punk/new wave - "what's new about this?". I could hear so much of the past in it. I guess the fact that they merged both the sound of 1967 with that of 1978-79 made them sort of unique. It is some of the poppiest, most accessible music of the genre.

I have to admit to knowing very little else about them, other than that their drummer sadly committed suicide in 2016. This is the only album I own of theirs, so I am reviewing it from only knowing these twenty songs. I apologise for that, but it wasn't really my era. When I play it, though, I enjoy it although there is obviously no proper passion for the band or personal back story about seeing them live, being introduced to their music as a teenager or whatever.
Keep The Circle Around features that reedy, Elvis Costello & The Attractions-style organ sound, and plenty of shrill, jangly Byrds guitar, along with some slightly new romantic-sounding vocals. The guitar at the end sounds a bit like Bruce Springsteen on Lucky Town

Butterfly has lots of punk/new wave vibes to it - a Stranglers organ sound, that punk two-beat drum sound and some punk-style vocals. Despite being part of a supposedly new, young, revolutionary genre, this was an extremely retro track. It has 1979 all over it. Joe has an infectious introductory rolling drum sound and a thumping, sixties "freakbeat" feel to it. Once more, while this is an energetic "welcome to the new thing" sort of track, it is also immensely retro. 

Find Out Why is basically a frantic punk song, with punk vocals and backed by a madcap organ. This is also a very late seventies track, with real sixties echoes too.


Move has sixties psychedelic, dreamy hippiness swirling all around it. This Is How It Feels had a late sixties Who-influenced lyric and vocal sung out over a glam rock drum beat. The organ solo and guitar almost sounds like Telstar by The Tornadoes at one point. Despite its energetic sound, it is a sad, bleak song full of comment about social hopelessness. 

She Comes In The Fall is more typical of the sound of the late eighties/early nineties. If you hear it, you immediately think of the Madchester sound.

Biggest Mountain has some captivating percussion and a great atmosphere about it, a lot of that archetypal nineties "indie" sound on there. Wistful and "psych"-ish in places, a bit druggy, no doubt. The organ bit at the end is almost pure Golden Brown from The Stranglers.

Weakness is an upbeat, punky romp with a new romantic on acid vocal. It has a great bit of guitar/drum interplay half way through. 

Caravan sounds like something Ocean Colour Scene may have come up with at times, something about the rhythm. It has that very early nineties piano "loop" sound that featured on so many dance cuts. 

Please Be Cruel is a very sixties-influenced track and Dragging Me Down has an addictive rhythm to it, with some more punky, almost post-punk vocals, with some of those very nineties harmonies. The organ/drum bits are excellent. 

Two Worlds Collide is a buzzy, spacey number full of guitar feedback and trebly organ breaks. Generations is a frenetic, frenzied piece of early Stranglers-influenced organ-driven rock.

Both Bitches Brew and How Should It Be are lusty punk meets the sixties romps. Saturn 5 is a magnificently ebullient, drum-driven rocker with that crazy organ piping all around it. 

I Want You has hints of The Jam's Funeral Pyre in its drum sound, with echoes of The Ramones in the chorus. 

Uniform has a catchy, pretty irresistible chorus and a great guitar and drum sound underpinning it. Come Back Tomorrow has some sixties harmonies on its vocals and an almost glammy chorus.

So, there you are, The Inspiral Carpets. I stick this on occasionally, or, more likely, a track of it appears on one of my random selections.

Sunday, 11 August 2019

Teenage Fanclub

Bandwagonesque (1991)

The Concept/Satan/December/What You Do To Me/I Don't Know/Star Sign/Metal Baby/Pet Rock/Sidewinder/Alcoholiday/Guiding Star/Is This Music?        

Teenage Fanclub were an indie-based alternative guitar band from Scotland. Their influences were the glam rock riffs of the seventies and the jangly sound of The Byrds. They were somewhat geeky looking and unremarkable, image-wise. Until checking them out, I had never really known what they looked like, although that is probably my fault. If you are a big fan of theirs, I'm sorry!

This was their third album, and their most successful thus far. It is notable for its catchy guitar riffs, harmonious vocals and strong hooks. They were also big and loud, not much subtlety in their sound. Were they Alternative? Power Pop? Noise Pop? Look, I have to admit I don't really know, not being an expert on that period. I have a few of their albums and they sound ok to me, so there you go. That is unfortunately as far as my analysis can go, not being a huge indie band expert.

The Concept is an unusual opener, a six minute slice of guitar-driven jangly Brit Pop riffage with considerable nods to glam rock in some of the many riffs. The vocals are harmonious throughout, including the bit half way through when the pace changes. The track begins a long Beatles-ish fade out full of swirling guitar and wailing backing vocals. As I said, an unusual opener, the final three minutes are more like an album closer. 

Satan is a minute and a half of pointless guitar feedback. Totally indulgent and unnecessary. A big punky riff kicks in at the end at then the track finishes. A bit of a waste. December is a raw, fuzzy number, while What You Do To Me is a big, chunky song with a few seventies guitar chops in there.

I Don't Know is a substantial guitar-powered track with hints of sixties psychedelic rock and some big, industrial riffs. 

Star Sign starts with lots of psych-esque feedback before it bursts out into The Byrds and CSNY on acid. There are bits of it that I heard many years later on Bruce Springsteen's My Lucky Day from 2009's Working On A Dream album. It is full of pounding drums and deep, throbbing bass, so that makes it fine by me.

Metal Baby is sort of Status Quo meeting The Beatles with vague echoes of Slade in there. Teenage Fanclub's output really is rather difficult to categorise. So much of the sound was so obviously retro, yet it was also quite refreshingly contemporary. I have to say that I really don't quite know what to make of it. Check out those glam rock stomping drums and handclaps and then the madcap guitar soloing. See what I mean? 

Pet Rock has another killer guitar intro but, while the vocals were always harmonious, I feel they were a bit weak for the sheer power of the music. It overpowers them on many occasions throughout the album, for me. It has an ending a bit like some of the material on T. Rex's Bolan's Zip Gun album.

Sidewinder has a solid rock backing and guitar, is is now usual, but the vocals are almost Beach Boys at a few points. 

Alcoholiday has a superb, rubbery bass line underpinning it and a very nineties, buzzy guitar sound running all through it. This was three years before Oasis's first album, remember. This sounds very much like the stuff they would be doing in a few years - big, crashing and deafening, guitar-wise. 

Guiding Star is one of the album's most understated numbers, but it is still packed with feedback-ish guitar all around its dreamy vocals. Is This Music? finishes the album with an instrumental, utilising some vaguely Big Country-style bagpipe-sounding guitars on an appealing skirling soundscape.

My overall impression of this album is that is loud, up-for-it, so to speak and in your face, if you want another cliché. It was seen as a leading light in the power pop revival of the early nineties. A few listens and I sort of get into it. Nevertheless, I find that the non-stop crashing guitar attack, and accompanying bombastic production renders this a somewhat aurally exhausting listen. I say this as one who likes his music loud as well.

Friday, 9 August 2019

Hugh Laurie

Let Them All Talk (2011)

St. James Infirmary/You Don't Know My Mind/Six Cold Feet/Buddy Bolden's Blues/Battle Of Jericho/After You've Gone/Swanee River/The Whale Has Swallowed Me/John Henry/Police Dog Blues/Tipitina/Whinin' Boy Blues/They're Red Hot/Baby Please Make A Change/Let Them Talk                               

If you are a TV celebrity who wants to release an album, what do you do? You either please middle-aged ladies at Christmas and release an album of Sinatra crooners, Christmas classics or "songs from the shows", or you don a pork pie hat like Lenny Henry and you get the blues. Or if you are Hugh Laurie and you have a long-held love of the blues, but you can play a mean piano, you do as he has done here. You ask Tom JonesIrma Thomas and Dr. John along and you've got yourself an album.

Actually, although it is very easy target practice criticising albums like this, it isn't a bad effort at all. Laurie is certainly an impressive pianist. His voice leaves a little to be desired, I have to say. The instrumentation is, as you would expect, top notch, but Laurie's cod-American "blues" voice is clearly not the real thing. Having said that, when an East Coast US artist such as Bruce Springsteen goes all country it can be similarly disconcerting.

St. James Infirmary is a low-key opener, with three minutes of piano from Laurie before the bluesy bass, slide guitar and vocals arrive. Laurie puts on his best blues voice and you can tell that it is not authentic, but it still just about passes muster. Better than I could do, for sure. When you consider that the album is Hugh Laurie, it is actually surprisingly good. However, that is because I am thinking "this is an actor singing the blues" and over-compensate my opinions in his favour.

You Don't Know My Mind is a mandolin-driven shuffler of a track, sort of bluesy and jazzy. Very New Orleans. 

Six Cold Feet is an archetypal, bleak, slide guitar blues. Laurie's voice doesn't work so well on this one, I have to say. He lacks the husky smokiness that allows a Chris ReaVan Morrison or Mark Knopfler to get away with it. The same applies to Buddy Bolden's Blues, however hard Laurie, as an actor, tries with his American accent.

The slow, New Orleans gospel of Battle Of Jericho comes across more a bit more convincingly, as Laurie tones the accent down slightly. After You've Gone is one of his better efforts, and it features some nice tenor saxophone too. Dr. John is on this one, so maybe that is why it is one of the better tracks. 

Swannee River is Laurie's finest piano moment as he goes all Jools HollandThe Whale Has Swallowed Me is a sonorous, sombre and pretty bona fide blues.  

John Henry is a track that has been recorded by Van Morrison and Bruce Springsteen as well. Here is it delivered at a slow pace with Irma Thomas on vocals. Of course, it becomes the album's most "blues" track thus far.

Police Dog Blues is a proper acoustic blues in the classic blues verse style of two repeated verses then a different, but rhyming one. Tipitina is much slower than Professor Longhair's Atlantic Records original. Laurie's version has considerably more punch and soul, instrumentally. 

Whinin' Boy Blues is not the Van Morrison song Whinin' Boy Moan but a far less lively, shuffling, scratchy blues number. They're Red Hot is irritating and just doesn't suit Laurie. 

Baby Please Make A Change features the instantly recognisable strong voice of Tom Jones, someone who never needed to obviously put on a US accent in order to sing the blues. Let Them All Talk is another one that doesn't quite succeed.

Overall, the album was a brave effort and I won't be queueing up to dismiss it, but the fact that it has its faults cannot be ignored.