Sunday, November 11, 2007

"I can't breathe . . . I can't breathe."

Morphing Into A Music Blog (7)

No, honestly, I can't breathe.

Coming down with a condition that is known within the medical community as 'Finding tracks you thought you'd lost forever'itis'. (Only know the Latin name for it. I'm guessing the layperson's term is something like 'Guitar Strep Throat'.)

Currently adding a list of music blogs to the sidebar, but that has been put on hold as I've just stumbled across the best mp3 blog ever. (Until I find the next one.)

Not Rock On blog comes out of Germany and, as its byline goes, Jörg, the bloke behind the legend, has a penchant for "New Wave, Marc Almond . . . The Smiths . . . The Sound . . . Soft Cell, Spandau Ballet . . . Scott Walker . . . Durutti Column . . . Holger Hiller . . ." amongst many others.

I'm sure you can get the gist of the music played and displayed from the music mentioned, but that's enough prattle from me. On to the must-have mp3 links:

  • Pillows & Prayers Cherry Red Sampler 1982
  • Perspectives and Distortion Cherry Red Sampler 1981
  • Jörg is a star for uploading both albums in full onto his blog for downloading sampling purposes.

    Despite being released a year after 'Perspectives and Distortion', 'Pillows & Prayers' gets top billing in the post 'cos I picked it up for a couple of quid - yep, I paid over the odds for it - at Watford Indoor Market* in the mid-eighties when I was first getting into the obscure stuff.(Like the fool I am, I threw it Oxfam's way 15 years later when I was getting rid of all my vinyl.)

    Listening to the album again after all these years, I'd actually forgotten how poppy and accessible most of the tracks on the album were. Then as now, The Monochrome Set, The Passage, Thomas Leer and Tracy Thorn tracks are the stand out tunes for me. But, mellowing with age, I've even given the Quentin Crisp track more of a chance this time round. Must be the shared kinship of New York and the dyed purple hair.

    For some reason, the words 'Cherry Red Records' used to conjure up a muso image more akin to some obscurantist unlistenable bullshit jazz label than to its real indie bretheren of Rough Trade, Factory or 4AD from the same period. I guess it was simply because that unlike those aforementioned indie labels, Cherry Red never did have their Smiths, Joy Division or Cocteau Twins to break the label out of its supposed indie ghetto.

    Unsubstantiated rumours are that their best bet for making the transition from Melody Maker to Radio 1 Roundtable, the Monochrome Set, fucked up their chance 'cos their drummer dropped his drumsticks.** Monochrome Set getting the Oxford Roadshow gig could have had the knock on effect of Lawrence from Felt being an eighties version of Luke Haines - the talented one from the current in-vogue music scene who never quite makes it 'cos he doesn't have the cheekbones or the hairline to compete with the sixth form common room brigade. We'll never know what might have been.

    Despite the fact that five of the artists who appeared on the latter 'P & P' sampler also appeared on 'Perspectives and Distortion', the 1981 Cherry Red Sampler was definitely the more leftfield in tone and more of a challenge to the listener to get to grips with. (Maybe the album cover was a warning of sorts?) I defy you not to come away from listening to the Virgin Prunes track, 'Third Secret', without mouthing the words: 'What the fuck was that all about?'

    The Lemon Kittens track starts off with you thinking, 'Robert Wyatt's going to pop up in a minute with a love-tinged lyric about Earl Browder', but it then shifts into a vocal and tune that is musically akin to that bit in the original Japanese version of 'The Ring' when the goth climbs out of the tv set. Before the track's over, you've put all the lights on in the apartment and woken up the pets 'cos you don't fancy sleeping alone tonight.

    In fact, the most accessible track on the album - Kevin Coyne and Ben Watt don't count. If they'd collaborated on re-recording/reworking of Lou Reed's 'Metal Machine Music' album, it would have come out sounding like James Blunt - is the early The The/Matt Johnson's track 'What Stanley Saw'. Turns out this track even predates Johnson's 4AD album, 'Burning Blue Soul', and was part of album called 'Spirits' that dates from '79 but was never released. It actually sounds like typical The The, and wouldn't be that out of place on the 'Infected' album. (It's actually better than some of the weaker tracks on side two of that album.)

    Nice to see that even as a teenager, Matt Johnson had the same lyrical concerns as his latter, more celebrated work: the twin concerns of Britain coming to terms with an increasingly dystopian future, with Matt Johnson ever-increasing need to get his leg over. It's a thematical consistency that Calvin Harris should make a note of if he ever wants the 25 year musical career and the Not-So-Smarties commercial.

    In short, 'Perspectives and Distortion' is experimental and in your face whilst 'Pillows & Prayers' is comforting like a ginger nut dunked in a mug of tea. Even shorter still, Kara, with her playlist of Free Kitten and Julie Ruin, would dig P and D, whilst me, with Prefab Sprout on permanent repeat on iTunes, still laps up 'P & P' after all these years.

    Enjoy them both.

    Further Reading: Eclecticism for under a quid

    *Watford Indoor Market - Same place I picked up Ian Walker's 'Zoo Station' for fifty pence.

    **Don't mind me. I'm making this shit up as I go along.


    Jörg said...

    Thanks for the nice comment on my blog!


    Jörg said...

    Hi Darren,

    just stumbled on your blog again through the links to mine and thanks. Finally I actually read what you wrote and I would not change a word! Pillows & Prayers was a very special sampler preceding the later Sade/EBTG/Working Week by a few years with incorporating the strange stuff like Quentin and Attila. I only found P + D a few years later in the bargain bin of an import store as nobody wanted it!

    To be honest, I think I haven't listened to it more than three times, it's a bit difficult compared with P&P. That one was perfect POP, at least for those who were not into Bucks Fizz or whatever was around. In those years I listened a lot to BFBS, as this was something special and there were the´se lat night shows by this guy called Peel. Well he educated me in the early 80s. I still have the tape he first played Pristine Christine, probably the best song ever written! SARAH is the best label ever! Clare and Matt were so great (probably without knowing!). I still have some letters from them and they will be kept!

    I see, I have turned into the old geezer talking about his war memories. Sometimes it was quite interesting hearing from the old blokes, but sometimes they were just a pain.

    I do not want to become one so I will quit for now. If you would like to you can contact me via my blog. Just find your way to the contact link. You young guys know your ways around these things!

    Best wishes