Wednesday, 30 June 2010
One of the best things about the 'Pebbles' series of Sixties compilations is that they are so slapdash and chaotically thrown together that they sound, at times, like mix-tapes. Levels are all over the place, tracks have been mastered complete with the clicks, pops and static from the original vinyl releases. And, like the very best mix-tapes, they sometimes throw up nice little segues, neat little one-twos where two songs, sweetly juxtaposed create a wondrous musical sucker-punch that leaves you reeling and buzzing like an infant full of sherbet.
Thus, take Pebbles Vol 2, NOT the original release but the version that comes in The Pebbles Box, one of the greatest box-sets of all time, Side 2 Tracks 3 and 4; 'It's Cold Outside' by The Choir and 'She's Sorry' by The Journey Men....pure POP Heaven, both songs mixing the thrilling with the poignant. As you'll find in a lot of these Blog-posts on obscure 60s tracks, it's baffling that neither of these songs troubled the charts on either side of the Atlantic, given that they're both better than some of the stuff that clogged up the charts then....what were the parents of our generation thinking?
Let's start with The Choir.
'It's Cold Outside' is one of my favourite 60s songs of all time. Based around a pounding drum pattern, we're suddenly swept away on blanket of shimmering Rickenbacker guitars, before a melancholy voice intones some fairly maudlin lyrics; "Well my world used to be sunny// And jokes used to be funny// But now you're gone// And everything's turned all around// Well my world used to be warm// And there never was a storm// But now you're gone// And everything's turned upside down"....the strange blend of vibrant music and downbeat lyrics makes for curious listening, and then it explodes into the chorus; "And now it's cold outside// And the rain is pouring down// And the leaves are turning brown// Can't you see?"....it really is an amazing sound, like early Beatles crossed with an American Smiths if you will. And there's a moment about three quarters of the way through when the song changes key that makes me want to punch the air with joy!!
The Choir were from Mentor in Cleveland, Ohio and started life as The Mods, dressing in Merseybeat gear and filling their sets with covers of British Invasion tracks. 'It's Cold Outside' was released in 1967 by which time they were called The Choir and had progressed to writing their own material. After they split up they joined forces with Eric Carmen to create Power-Pop legends The Raspberries. Carmen would of course go on to score with perennial mawkish guilty-pleasure 'All By Myself'. The song was released on Roulette Records in the Spring of 1967.
I once won a fairly minor quiz/competition on a 60s Garage Online Radio Station and my prize was to choose the Garage song of my choice from their vast archive to be played on the next show....I chose 'It's Cold Outside'....THAT is how much I love this song.
And no sooner than it ends, we're off with a squiggly little guitar intro and straight into the galloping Farfisa romp that is 'She's Sorry' by The Journey Men. Like The Beatles 'She Loves You' this is a conversation song in which the protagonist informs his friend that he shouldn't be so down as he's just met his estranged girlfriend and she admits she was wrong to leave him. It rattles along at a fair old whack and the vocals have just the right amount of reverb to give the song a slightly sinister edge(you could imagine The Damned covering this), and the keyboard playing is simply inspired.
I like to think of this song as a response to the previous track. The protagonist of 'It's Cold Outside' mourns the loss of his girlfriend only to have the principal figure of 'She's Sorry' reveal that everything is going to be alright and that he wasn't to blame.
Here's what we know about The Journey Men; they came from Tampa, Florida, this was their only release, on Boss Records in 1965....and that's it!! That is ALL we know. Now, the Internet, being so full of erroneous information, would have us believe that The Journey Men were a folk-trio that featured John Phillips of The Mamas And The Papas, and Scott McKenzie of 'San Francisco(Be Sure To Wear Some Flowers In Your Hair)' fame who released three albums, but this is incorrect. They were called The Journeymen and sounded nothing like this.
Put simply then, these are two of the greatest songs in musical history and to fully appreciate them you have to hear them back-to-back and in this order.
All human life is here.
You KNOW it!!
Keep Your Mind Open!
Monday, 28 June 2010
'If You Were Dead' three track EP by Hearts!Attack
This is pretty much a home made affair, housed in a personally designed sleeve created with acrylic paints and boasting the legend; "This record was made from two bedrooms, in two continents, by three people", already what's not to love? The three people are Darren, Alexis and Sam, with help from Tabby from Tabbyondrums....erm, on drums!
Hearts!Attack are purveyors of a raw blend of raucous bedroom lo-fi, and title track 'If You Were Dead' sets out their agenda beautifully....think of The Raincoats, or early unpolished Sonic Youth and you're starting to get somewhere. Now imagine Bis clashing with cacophonous early grunge-punks Distorted Pony and mashing up their joint boy/girl call-and-response vocals and the picture starts becoming clearer. I often get anxious when I praise a band for their un-embellished lo-fi production, often worrying that I may be insulting them somewhat, but given that I consider 'Green Fuz' by Randy Alvey & The Green Fuz, a record that sounds like it was recorded in a bucket of sludge with a broken mic, as one of the greatest records of all time, and that I can think of nothing worse than listening to polished over-produced music like Rush, Yes or Supertramp, then I'm hoping any references to lo-fi distortion aren't seen as a negative. It's the raw, abrasiveness of Hearts!Attack's music that draws me in, but beneath the rough edges lies the true beauty....listen to that melodious keyboard pattern, or the way the girl vocals sweeten the anger of the boy vocals, and the moment at around 2mins 40 when the song slows down and an air of poignancy drapes itself over the track. It's quite wonderful.
"I heard it on the TV// You've been cheating on me" is the opening line of second track 'Mariana' where there are so many different vocal structures that it can't fail to burrow into your brain to seduce and slap you at the same time, which, like the band's name, seems to sum up their double-edged nature....the 'heart' alluding to the sweetness of love; the 'attack' to the gutpunch when it all breaks down.
And final track 'Dead Snails' captures this beautifully....like honey wrapped in nettles.
A while back I had felt I had become a little jaded with music and felt that nothing was doing it for me any more, but listening to Hearts!Attack reminds why I fell in love with music in the first place. In a world where Oasis are seen as (cough!) relevant, where Nickelback sell out stadiums , and where (groan!)The Killers and (ggrrooaann!!)Kings Of Leon are seen as the future of rock, I know what I like and I DO know about art!!
Already a contender for my favourite release of the year; if you like The Slits, Swell Maps, The Subway Sect or The Shaggs then this comes highly recommended. I personally cannot wait for further releases.
The band have a Myspace page which can be found here
as well as a page at Bandcamp which is here.
Friday, 25 June 2010
Julie and Andrew met each other in October, 2006 in the driveway of where they both lived, in the musically thriving city of Somerville, Massachusetts. Without knowing what would become, they hit it off right away. They had the same musical tastes and shared their favourite bands with each other. Not long after that, they realized they were a couple and they dreamt of starting a band together. They started hanging out in that very driveway with a guitar and sang their favorite songs, sometimes creating their own.
On August 18th, 2007, they got married and moved to Austin, Texas. While Andrew was working and making just enough for the both of them, Julie stayed home and began officially writing songs. She would come up with a melody in her head, figure it out on the piano or guitar, then add lyrics to it. Andrew would come home to her new song ideas and help find the chords on the guitar. They together would arrange the whole song before recording anything.
Before they began recording, they knew that they didn't want to use the ear-candy features of the computer. They knew they wanted all the main tracks to be performed without "punching-in" to fix mistakes. They knew they wanted all the instruments to be acoustic. And, they knew they wanted real drums, so they bought a cheap, used drumset for $250.
In March 2008, they finally had two songs recorded and put them up on the internet for their friends and family to hear. The outcome was, however, not what they expected. People around the globe discovered the new songs and used them for videos, podcasts, or just simply their ipods.
They've become something of a success story on the Jamendo website and have two albums available for free download there. These are Julandrew:Sings Your Favorite Songs, which was released in May 2008 and Julandrew: Sings Your Favorite Songs II released in June 2009
What started out as a fun thing for this couple to do, has turned into a serious musical endeavor, and they are still cranking out new tunes every month, which can be freely downloaded from their website.
The reason I mention Julandrew today is not just because I seem to keep mentioning bands composed of married couples and want to make it a recurring Streetlamp feature but is instead, of course, that their latest pop nugget 'Wait Just A Little Bit Longer' has just been posted online this week. We've given it the 'Streetlamp' video treatment so that you can have a listen before heading to the Julandrew site to download the entire back catalogue. Enjoy!
Tuesday, 22 June 2010
If you followed music in the 1980s as passionately as we did, you couldn't really avoid Frank; surreal, childlike, bizarre, indisputably Northern and encased in an oversized papier-mâché head, Frank was pretty much a 'Marmite' artist....you either loved him or you just didn't get it at all.
Emerging around 1986, Frank immediately began confounding people with his interpretations of songs by his beloved Freddie Mercury as well as covers of The Sex Pistols, The Police and David Bowie.
The main thing people wanted to know was WHO was Frank Sidebottom? Many people, picking up on the unavoidable Mancunian accent believed it to be Mark E. Smith of The Fall, but it just seemed a little too silly to be Mark. A more likely culprit was Mark's old Fall cohort Marc Riley, especially when Frank's records started appearing on Marc's In Tape Records....however, given that Marc and Frank were often seen in the same room, this was quickly dispelled. Pretty soon almost every Mancunian musician was linked to the Sidebottom persona; Pete Shelley, Howard Devoto, John Cooper Clarke, Dick Witts, Bernard Sumner, Tony Wilson, Martin Hannett, even Mozzer were all linked to the mystery of Frank's identity.
Eventually it was revealed to be Chris Sievey, former frontman of pop ironists The Freshies who released fantastic singles with outlandish titles like 'I Can't Get 'Bouncing Babies' By The Teardrop Explodes'
and almost scored a minor hit with 'I'm In Love With The Girl On The Manchester Virgin Megastore Checkout Desk'.
Frank was reasonably prolific in the period 1986-89 releasing many records, mostly pastiches of classics but now containing the words 'Timperly', 'Mum' and 'Bobbins'. He was eventually joined by his ventriloquist puppet alter-ego 'Little Frank' with whom he'd often bicker furiously.
His greatest achievement was his appearance on the NME's charity Beatle's tribute 'Sgt Pepper Knew My Father' on which he performed 'Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite'.
Even more bizarrely, Frank's character played a major role in Irvine Welsh's twisted police novel 'Filth'.
After ceasing to make any new records, Frank turned to TV and often worked with Tony Wilson and eventually had his own TV series 'Frank Sidebottom's Fantastic Shed Show'.
In May 2010 Chris Sievey was diagnosed with lung cancer, and yesterday (21st Jun 2010) he collapsed at his home and died later.
All of Timperly is in mourning.
Cheers, Frank....it was bobbins!!
Monday, 21 June 2010
A Pile of Lo-fi! is a free monthly compilation series celebrating the creativity, ingenuity and resourcefulness of independent artists and features music that is hosted and supported by CLLCT.
A Pile of Lo-fi! Vol. I was released in April 2010 and featured songs by the likes of Tinyfolk and Wisdom Tooth.
Vol. II, released just one month later, featured songs by Garden on a Trampoline, One Beer Prophet and boy scouts, as well as songs from returning artists such as Accordion Boy and Dressed like Wolves.
Today, we're celebrating A Pile of Lo-fi! Vol. III, which was released on 15 June.
To give you a taster of the sort of quality you can expect on the compilations we've chosen our two favourites tracks and given them the 'Streetlamp' video treatment.
First off we have the excellent primitive pop sound of 'Blind For You' by Shalloboi, which will soon have you shimmying with it's classic I-IV-V chord structure and splashy tambourine beats:
Now we give you the dreamy 'Flashing Lights Have Ended Now' by Foxes in Fiction.
Both excellent, I'm sure you'll agree. Now go and check out more from both of these prolific and inventive artists and, of course, anything else that takes your fancy from Vol. III. And remember, for truly independent artists, every song you download and share, every tweet you retweet and every blog post you reblog, helps to ensure that the people who make the music you love will continue to make music for you to love another day.
For any musicians out there, submissions for future volumes of 'A Pile of Lo-fi!' may be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org
All you have to do to contribute is have a recording of one song and either attach it in an email or post it elsewhere and send a link. With advances in home recording, the definition of lo-fi is subjective, so there’s no need to think your recording is too rough or too shiny. It’s all about real folks sharing homemade music.
A Pile of Lo-fi! can also be found on myspace
Wednesday, 16 June 2010
You may recall that the Brill Building songwriters(Goffin & King, Neil Sedaka, Lesley Gore etc) had the motto 'Don't bore us, get to the chorus!' suggesting that songs really shouldn't faff around before getting their hooks in.....well, 'Are You Dead?' took a mere one second to hook and reel me in!! The fevered WHOOP that precedes the rattling garage groove won me over immediately. If you're aware of the Pebbles collections of Sixties garage tracks then this track would fit on there easily. One of my most treasured possessions is The Pebbles Box, a box set of the first 5 volumes of Pebbles all on splattery psychedelic coloured vinyl, with revamped tracklistings and remastered sound. And rather than having it lying around like some ornament, I have played it to death. 'Are You Dead?' simply would not sound out of place on such a hallowed release. It sounds like it should be soundtracking the next Tarantino movie it's such an exciting piece of music. The chorus even skirts close to early 80s synthpoppers B-Movie and their classic 'Nowhere Girl', which I hope doesn't offend Zeke, Tyler and Bleech who comprise The Humms, but it's a favourite of mine anyway.
Second track 'Do The Graverobber' is, perhaps, for me, the weakest of the four songs here. It's still miles ahead of most stuff that's out there at the moment, it just lacks the hooks that make the other tracks so special.
No complaints with track three though, 'LSD Is EVIL' not only shakes a lysergic groove, but becomes totally deranged, almost threatening to collapse in on it's self. After a couple of fairly composed verses about taking acid the driving out into the country, Zeke loses his marbles and begins jabbering some complete hat-stand gibberish that, again, recalls those magic Pebbles records, especially Vol 3 'The Acid Gallery'(on luminous electric green vinyl!!) which was a collection of those REALLY deranged sixties recordings. Zeke's hilarious wibbling conjures up 'The Diamond Mine' by Dave Diamond & The Higher Elevation, or 'The Reality Of (Air) Fried Borsk' by The Driving Stupid, or 'Like A Dribbling Fram' by Race Marbles, or 'A Pindaric Ode' by The Sunday Funnies....and if you don't know any of these tracks, re-educate yourselves for goodness sake!! 'LSD Is EVIL' is pretty wonderful and worthy of fellow Southerner Gibby Hayes at his most demented.
Final track 'No-one Want To Be Alone On Valentines Day' sounds like The Seeds indulging in some campfire country sing-a-long and is a perfect comedown for all the madness that has gone before.
A fantastic release, and if any song is going to top 'Are You Dead?' for our favourite song of recent times it's going to have to be pretty special.
The Humms CD is available from Oddbox Records, who also have a Myspace page
And the band have their own Myspace
Sunday, 13 June 2010
You may think that we here at Streetlamp HQ like nothing more than the chiming Rickenbacker, the acoustic strum, and the winsome heartbroken vocal(and you'd be correct), but what we also like is musical collectives that create their own little worlds....worlds that are unique, worlds that are aesthetic, worlds that are always beautiful. Welcome, then, to the world of Ödland....
Imagine the works of M.R. James, Lewis Carroll and Heinrich Hoffmann as visualised by David Lynch or Jan Svankmajer and then scored by Gabriel Yared or Erik Satie and that may give you some kind of insight to the music of Ödland. Their music is cinematicaly visual and deeply literary that I find it difficult to try and explain it within the context of Pop or even popular music. Ödland's music creates feelings of dreams and fairytales, especially those weird and unsettling fairytales full of Struwwelpeters, Juniper Trees and Little Mooks. Nursery rhymes and the works of Lewis Carroll also feature heavily as influences but this is not music for children.
Let Ödland introduce themselves in their own inimitable style:
"Dear friends, we are Ödland. We love wind and violin, clouds and piano. We have to dream or the way may be lost. We were born in a train and we are traveling with ghosts. Our shadow will reappear, because the past is lighting us. Dear friends, welcome to our Land".
Ödland was founded by classically trained pianist Lorenzo Papace in Lyon, France. Lorenzo had worked on some short movies with actress Alizée Bingöllü, so when he started Ödland he called up her to provide the vocals. They were then joined by Léa Bingöllü on violin and Isabelle Royet-Journoud(a photographer) who created the visual stylings of the project and also adds sound affects to the music. On their most recent release, the album 'Ottocento', they were joined by Alice Tahon who played violoncello.
“Dear friends. We are Ödland. We hope you will like our music. There will be perhaps squeakings of teeth and some lovers among you. We are inspired by the 19th Century and what you could listen at this time. But we keep a modern spirit and we are not slaves of a particular style. Our concern is above all to meet you with shows, because our music is entirely acoustic. We hope to travel as much as possible. Take care of you. Regards.”
So far the 'band' have released on E.P., the glorious 'The Caterpillar' which was never off my MP3 player on my recent holiday, and their debut album 'Ottocento'. Both are available from Ödland's beautiful and highly individualistic website here.
Both records are ESSENTIAL purchases.
They also have a Myspace page, and a page at Last.fm where you can hear their tracks before you purchase them.
Ödland are without doubt one of my most treasured discoveries of recent times.
Welcome to Ödland....we think you'll like it here!
Tuesday, 8 June 2010
The reason I want to bring them to your attention now though is that they've recently released an album entitled 'El Vagabundo de Quetzalcoátl' and in my opinion it's by far the best thing they've ever done. The songs were written during a year-long sojourn in southern Mexico, and are heavily influenced by Mexican indigenous and traditional music while still maintaining the folky psychedelia of previous Luna Moth albums.
The album contains 10 tracks, all of which are available as free MP3 downloads. We've taken the liberty of giving our two favourite songs the 'Streetlamp' video treatment to give you a flavour of the 'El Vagabundo' sound. We recommend that you stop what you're doing, sit back and relax, and let the music send you drifting off down the narrow cobblestone streets of a pueblo, resting at last at a shady spot in the plaza under an ancient Bougainvillea, the rich scent of campanilla fragrancing the air. Well, you get the picture!