Thursday, 20 September 2012

The Rose Garden

Everybody needs friends, right?  Friends do nice things for each other don't they? Recently, a friend (thanks Krister, I owe you one!) did me a real favour by recommending this majestic song:

Listen to that opening section - it's like early Clientele in its infinite, dreamy softness!  From then on it just gets all emotional and rushes on a Dillard & Clark run with little vocal touches that spark thoughts of how Glasgow's The Orchids frequently manage to hit heights of pure feeling that few other groups could ever hope to reach.  These days, when I hear a new 60s song, a quick check of ebay usually reveals that I'll need to part with a small fortune to buy  it on original vinyl.  This time, however, original copies don't cost too much and are pretty easy to come by.  My 'unplayed' DJ copy cost a mere 8 US dollars plus postage.   When it arrives  there's absolutely no chance that it won't be the highlight of that day and most likely the week.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

The Wake "A Light Far Out"

This posting is tinged with guilt.  Guilt, because it should have been written 4 months ago when the cd was actually released.  That it has taken so long to for me to write about The Wake's latest album should in no way be taken as evidence of any lack of excitement about it - I did rush to Glasgow's Monorail Music to buy it on the day of release, after all!  I guess life just got in the way.  "A Light Far Out"(LTM) is wonderful; the best record to feature extensive use of synthesizers I've heard in a long time.  So many of the songs are given an extra touch of feeling by using the synth not as a carrier of melody but as a provider of emotional depth.  The cherished elements from previous releases are still present: Caesar's youthful vocals, some Peter Hook-inspired bass and lots of perky guitar-lines that warm the heart.  We're not talking about some facsimilie of past glories here, mind.  At times there is the pitter pat of laptop beats and on "Starry Days" a tender piano that locates the song somewhere on the Rive Gauche in the rain in 1968.  It features Carolyn Allen's sole lead vocal.  And what a vocal; so intimate, every word beautifully enunciated.  It's a real highpoint of the record as is the title track whose intro approaches The Field Mice's luminous  "Quicksilver" for tender wonder (it's those synths - so pretty, so loaded).  At 9 minutes 10 seconds and with seaside sounds, it's not your standard pop song but every single second of it is necessary and welcome.  I'd assumed The Wake to be defunct a good decade ago, Caesar and Carolyn devoting their time to their theatre company 12 Stars and to intermittently making sublime records with The Field Mice's Bobby Wratten as The Occasional Keepers (one of that group's songs, "If The Ravens Leave", is present here).  I'm so glad I assumed wrongly.

Recently, The Wake have been sharing demos, alternate versions and live tracks on their Soundcloud page.  It's an object lesson in how to use that site and well worth bookmarking.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Little Miss Love

For a brief wee while I was the owner of this 60s fuzz/jangle belter on vinyl.  The Road Runners retrospective on which it appears was listed recently in the sale section of an online store so I placed an order with a real rush of excitement only to get the deflating 'out of stock' email a few days later. Ah well, it would only have caused more stomping around the living room and general over-heating so maybe I've saved myself a heart attack and my downstairs neighbours a few nights of raised blood pressure.  Still, it would have sounded phenomenal at volume so I can't help feeling a little...bereft.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Michael Clark

Just bought a ticket to see Michael Clark at Glasgow's Tramway in early October.  The last time I saw Clark and his dance troupe in Edinburgh was one of the most eye-opening, opinion altering nights of my life. I wrote this for an extremely limited circulation fanzine at the time:

“Kinetic Freedom”

Whenever I play Pastels/Tenniscoats’ sublime take on The Jesus and Mary Chain’s tender ‘About You’ I see shapes. Thankfully, it’s not a symptom of some kind of synesthesia but a remembrance of the lovely sequence in 12 Stars’ play ‘Do I Mean Anything To You Or Am I Just Passing By?’ in which the cast repeatedly adopted beautifully simple shapes in time to ‘About You’ to genuinely moving effect. Prior to that play, theatre and contemporary dance both seemed impenetrable to me. They just didn’t seem like the kind of worlds a pop obsessed football fan from Ayrshire should enter. Then The Pastels got involved in a play and I unexpectedly found myself in a theatre! And while I didn’t fully understand everything that went on, I knew conclusively that I could feel comfortable in a theatre.

Watching Michael Clark’s dancers twist and leap thrillingly to Bowie’s ‘Jean Genie’ from the heaving stalls of The Playhouse in Edinburgh last Sunday I was thankful that The Pastels had enticed me over the threshold of a theatre as without that first step I would’ve missed out on something special. As for ‘About You’, I hope those moves were captured on film as I’d love to see them again. J and I both reckon that they could’ve added up to a neat little dance video for the song. Maybe one day some shaky footage will find its way onto YouTube. After all in these digital days you never know who’s sitting there with their wee Fuji Finepix sneakily filming away do you?

There's a great little documentary on Michael Clark here.  The section to "Heroes" was incredible.

The ripples of that night in Edinburgh were felt recently when I attended the Juiliard Dance School's at times astounding show, again at The Playhouse.  I really will be forever grateful that The Pastels tempted me into a theatre and opened up whole areas of culture that, up to that point, I could never see myself embracing.

Monday, 3 September 2012

The Third Booth "I Need Love"

"I Need Love" - the Independence reissue from '68, not, alas, the Thunder original from '67 - was bought largely on the strength of the vocal;.  It's one of the coolest vocals I've heard on a garage record so far; nearly as cool as that on The Harbinger Complex's untouchable "Sometimes I Wonder".  'Cool' usually feels like a cop-out adjective but on this occasion it seems like the most appropriate one.  The word 'need' may appear in the song's title but this fellow sure doesn't come across as desperate; I guess because he doesn't over-sing and when he does step things up,  it ends with a jaunty little 'hey hey'.  Certainly not the actions of a needy chap!  No, most of the hormonal need is in the music.  Check the intro or the last 20 seconds - it's a teenage boy's heartbeat when the object of his lust walks past wearing a tight sweater in musical form.  Brilliant record!  Of course, I prefer to picture The Third Booth as the dapper,  neat haired,  Byrds-like kids from the first picture in the clip above and not as the bearded longhairs of the second.  Again, it's all about coolness.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

The Bowles "Two Serious Men"

It may have been on the BBC4 documentary about the Belle Epoque photographs of Jacques Henri Lartigue that I heard the line (paraphrasing), "Photography is the only art form where one can accidentally create a masterpiece".  At the time it seemed like an astute comment but since then songs like "Two Serious Men" by the short-lived Australian group The Bowles have made me think otherwise.  It sounds like they just inserted a TDK D90 into a tape recorder, hit record and slightly nervously, slightly tentatively started to play. Somehow, though, what they produced is incredibly affecting and, I would contend, a masterpiece.  The fidelity may be low and there may be a bunch of mistakes left in but the sombre atmosphere and wobbly vocals combine with the lonely guitar line to produce one of the finest slices of home recording I've heard since the heady days of Lou Barlow's Sentridoh or early Hood.  It's the first track on the b-side of a recent 7" on Kye Records which isn't cheap at around £10 but, once I had heard it, I couldn't live without it.  I'm going to file it next to those breathtaking early Movietone singles.