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Monday, 28 February 2011

Griff says: Land Ahoy! It's Columbus & Crusoe.

Several years ago, while browsing Myspace, I came across a band called The Madrigals (pictured above) who had a sound that particularly appealed to me; it nodded in the direction of traditional English folk music but had an altogether more unkempt, more energetic and more playful sensibility than is usually found in that genre. Imagine Saturday Looks Good To Me meets the Ernest John Moeran songbook, if you will. They also had one song on their Myspace page, the rather gloomily titled ‘My Impending Death’, that I was particularly struck with and I immediately decided upon hearing it to keep a close eye on them to see what developed. That was a few years ago and since then, to my immense disappointment, they had appeared not to have been up to awfully much. I did, however, take the opportunity to download several of their fine songs from their more lately established and Reverbnation pages when they became available. These small crumbs were good enough to whet my appetite for more, if not completely sate my appetite, and I decided not to give up on them and continued to occasionally visit their web page.

Recently, on one of these visits I noticed that their top friend (don’t worry young Facebookers, an elderly relative will be happy to explain) was now something called Columbus & Crusoe. The name intrigued me, I liked the evocation of distant travellers whose divergent stories are forever defined by their respective destinations, and I decided to have a look. I’m glad now that I did and I suspect that you will be too. It seems that I’ve been rather hard on the personnel of The Madrigals; the picture I had formed of them taking endless lazy picnics by the banks of the Thames now seems quite foolish. Three of their number; Ben Brown, Rachel Horwood and Rachel Aggs, have actually been very busy little bees, as you will soon discover (my apologies to Harriet if you’ve been similarly busy but you’re not so easy to stalk on the internet as the others). The two Rachels and Ben are actually members of Columbus & Crusoe, which you should have guessed by now is a band; providing Fiddle, Mandolin, Banjo, Accordion, Drums, Percussion and Vocals between them. The other, equally important, band members are; Chris Belson, Jack Barralcough and George Maude (band pictured below).

So how does Columbus & Crusoe compare to The Madrigals? Well, the overall sound still falls squarely into the indie-folk category but there’s also an alt country flavoured undertone and, undeniably, a commitment to a more professional and polished sound. The band have so far released one album, called ‘The Church Recordings’ and available as a free download on their page, and quite frankly it’s absolutely magnificent.

The energy and invention obvious in the song-writing of The Madrigals is present here but is now fitted out with tighter playing, a clean production, and clever arrangements that are almost orchestral at times. The icing on the cake though is undoubtedly the rich, baritone vocal talents of singer/guitarist Chris Belson. I’m sure that he’ll soon tire of the obvious comparisons to Leonard Cohen but that’s what immediately springs to mind on first hearing. The other acts that occur as regards the music are Low, The Divine Comedy, Richard Hawley and Streetlamp ‘Festive Thirty’ favourite Stephen Harrison. Strangely, although this terrific album has been up on for several months I appear to be one of only two listeners. It’s heartbreaking to think of this excellent music being virtually ignored while much less deserving artists clock up play after play. Accordingly, I’m bringing this to your attention and ideally at least some of The Streetlamp readership will take steps to remedy this perverse situation; you won’t regret it.
Columbus & Crusoe are also now part of a new collective and label called Issue No1. The label's first four-band, four-track, EP was released in January and it features the following superb Columbus & Crusoe track 'This Feels Like A New Low' (taken from The Church Recordings).

The other bands on the EP are Me & The Neck (who include C&C’s Ben and George in their number), Tight Lines, and Leptons (about whom I know nothing but suspect that they may also include C&C personnel). The four songs are certainly all very good and available as MP3 downloads on a 'name your price' basis, so check them out.
Happily, the Issue No. 1 website states that;

"Every three months we'll release an EP of new songs, one from each band, streamed for free on our site or available to purchase and download from"

You can’t say fairer than that and, as always, I do suggest that if you like the music then you should support the band in any way you can; blog about them, buy a t-shirt, see them live, invite them to your home for a long weekend, whatever seems best really. Now here's a nice, little diy video of Columbus & Crusoe's 'Myself' (also available on The Church Recordings).

I should probably also take this opportunity to mention that C&C’s Ben & George were also members of Essay Like Nephew who sadly split in January of last year but still have numerous fine indie-folk-pop tracks available for streaming/free download on their website 'here'.

Finally (phew), as some of you may know, the two Rachels, along with Ros Murray, are also members of diy, afro-punk trio Trash Kit (pictured above). I had this band brought to my attention last year by Knut of Eardrums Music but hadn’t realised until now that it contained two Madrigals. Trash Kit are very different musically from Columbus & Crusoe but have me equally enthused. As keen readers will already have noted, I’m a big fan of The Slits and they seem like the obvious point of reference to Trash Kit’s sound. The other band they bring to my mind is the excellent but often overlooked Ludus (a band who seem ripe for a Kitten Wine retrospective now that I think on it). Perhaps a joint Streetlamp piece on both bands can be organised later in the year? In the meantime, here's the video for Trash Kit's Cadets.

Well, I think that’s quite enough to keep you going for the present.



Sunday, 20 February 2011

Where Is The Soundtrack continues: Conflict; This Is Freedom Of Speech

"How can you ban language? How can you suppress someone's opinions just because you don't share them?"

Thus spake John Lydon on one of those endless list TV shows, this time on banned records, as he discussed the convenient removal of his band's single 'God Save The Queen' from the top of the charts in the Queen's Jubilee week.
But it's always easy to castrate artists who are outspoken and whose views upset the moral guardians that oversee our every movement, and under Thatcher's jackboot many who spoke out in the 1980s found their tongues cut or found themselves facing arrest. How dare we speak out! How dare we voice our opinions! And today we are here to look at Conflict and how one of their songs became a criminal offence.
Aaaahhhh....don't you just long for the good old days...I Love The 1980s indeed!
Conflict started out on Crass Records releasing 'The House That Man Built' e.p before branching out and forming their own Mortarhate Records upon which they would release all further records. Their full length debut album included a track called 'Meat Means Murder' a full two years before The Smiths would take a mightily similar title into the British charts.

Conflict's approach to music was quite different from that of their friends Crass, in that where Crass would apply a more minimalist approach to their music to let the lyrics be heard, Conflict applied far more bluster as though they were REALLY ramming the message home, taking NO prisoners.
When Crass split in 1984 vocalist Steve Ignorant would go on to join forces with Conflict, adding a second voice to that of Colin Jerwood, as the lyrics became more frantic and more impassioned.
In 1986, as Thatcher's reign ground agonisingly on into its 7th year, Conflict released their ultimate statement 'The Ungovernable Force'; housed in a provocative sleeve showing a close-up of an armed riot police officer, it was a complete statement of their political and aesthetic beliefs. Conflict had so much to say about the state of Britain, and its status as America's lapdog, that there are almost too many words on the album. Take for instance 'Force Or Service' and the moment at about 43 seconds in when Steve Ignorant (acting as the voice of a British Police Chief) proclaims:
"The CND are communists, we're sick of petty pacifists,

Greenham dykes, Trotskyites, Greenpeace and the rest of it
Rioters, muggers, looters, shooters, niggers are the cause of it
Repatriation for the nation, the simple way to deal with shit
Rastas, punks, mods and hippies, students, queers and dirty pakis
Demanding more than nothing less, but never want to work for it
Miners, printers, paddies, pickets, givin' it all the demo bit
We'll smash them back with our attack, because we're the guys to deal with it"

Now, I dare you to try and follow those lyrics while listening to the track. How does he fit all those words in?

But the album would also contain Conflict's most notorious moment, the track 'This Is The A.L.F", a song whose entire lyric gives both suggestion and information about how you, the listener, can fuck up all those who inflict pain and suffering upon animals in the name of health and beauty.
This was deemed a step too far by the governing powers and the song was treated as a terrorist statement, meaning any reproduction of the lyrics, or any performance of the song was breaking the law.
A song!
An act of terrorism!
Give me a fucking break!!
Given that two thirds of the ~Streetlamp~ team are borderline vegans and passionate animal rights supporters, and have been for over a quarter of a century, and given that we are at present in fighting mood, we reproduce the lyrics here for you now:

"What does Direct Action Mean?

It means that you are no longer prepared to sit back and allow terrible,
cruel things to happen. The camerman in Ethiopia took direct action,
he filmed the worst disaster that has ever happened to human beings. He
realised it was too enormous a problem to handle himself - so he took the
films home in the hope other people would help. They did. Are you prepared
to sit back any longer? Direct action in animal rights means causing
economic damage to those who abuse and make profits from exploitation.

It's possible to do things alone, slash tyres, glue up locks, butchers,
burger bars, the furriers, smash windows, bankrupt the lot. Throw paint over
shops and houses. Paint stripper works great on cars. Chewing gum sticks
well to fur coats. A seized engine just won't start, sand in the petrol tank
means that delivery's going nowhere. When the new death shop opens up make
sure you're the first person to be there. If the circus comes to town
remember what goes up must come down. Stop contributing to the abuse
yourself - don't eat meat, don't buy leather. Buy non-animal tested make up,
herbal soap and shampoo's better.

Try and form a group of people that you know that you can trust and plan
ambitious direct action, sometimes risky but a must. Only when you have
animal liberation will we obtain human freedom, when the last
vivisectionist's blade is snapped. It will be that one step nearer to peace.
Direct action in the animal movement is sussed and strong, and our final
goal is not far off.

Animal lovers, vandals, hooligans, cranks; recognise the labels? They say we
don't care about human beings. We say all sentient beings, animal or human
have the right to live, free from pain, torture and suffering. They say
because we are human and speak the same, we matter more. Is our pain and
suffering any greater or lesser than that of animals? Human v. animal rights
is as much a prejudice as black v. white or the Nazis versus the Jews an
affront to our freedom.

Vivisection is a violation of human beings, the same as it is for animals.
We have a chemical world built on a pile of drugs to thanks for their
experiments. Drugs are designed for profit, manufactured to suppress
symptoms. Human freedom, animal rights. It's one struggle, one fight.
When animal abuse is stopped then human abuse will soon stop also, an
attitude of mind. "An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind".
Start by protecting the weak, the defenceless, animals, the sick, the
disabled. Compassion and emotion are our most important safety values.
If we lose them, then 'we lose' the vitality of life itself.
Emotional? Hooligans? Cranks?...."

The song would prove to be detrimental to the existence of Conflict in its original guise as live shows were constantly under threat and the band's every movement surveyed with ruthless scrutiny.
The world, especially Britain, needed bands like Conflict then, and we need them now.
Under Major and Blair, Britain sat back on its fat complacent arse and let the world get into the state it has now. The student protests at the tail end of last year showed that a swing back to Direct Action is on the cards.
Get ready to do your bit!
For more information about the Animal Liberation Front please check out their website, and do everything you can to help them.
They are a truly wonderful cause.


The Ungovernable Force can be downloaded here

Thursday, 17 February 2011

~Kitten Wine~#25: The Scrotum Poles

Aaaaaahhh....Fanzine culture, how we love thee!

Back in the days before the Internet the most reliable way of getting your unsigned band's music out to the people, or to share your views and opinions on music was through the power of the fanzine. I used to love fanzines! Really love them. There was almost a sense of labour-of-love about them; all that xeroxing and stapling all the pages together, then trying to flog them to the great indifferent. Halcyon days,my friends.
It was through fanzines that I got my rare Smiths flexi 'Poppycocteau', and my Sonic Youth 'Teenage Riot' flexi complete with Savage Pencil illustration. And let's not forget that without legendary fanzine 'Sarah 4' I would not have 'Anorak City' by Another Sunny Day....and that really just wouldn't do.

So why am I banging on about fanzines?
Because it was thanks to a long forgotten, and tragically discarded fanzine that we stumbled upon The Scrotum Poles; Dundee's finest scratchy, angular Post-punk theorists, and thus our lives became complete....well, maybe not....but I'm sure you get my drift.
According to t'internet The Scrotum Poles only released one single, an EP which it is claimed is called 'Revelation'. The reason for my vagueness is that the single we have looks different to the one on the bands own webpage, yet it contains all of the same 5 songs. Our version is far more home made looking with blank labels upon which 'Happy' and 'Sad' have been written in pen.
We discovered The Scrotum Poles at a time when we seemed to be forever discovering new, left-field, angular, trebley guitar bands. Bands who only ever seemed to release a couple of singles which we would treasure dearly before they would disband leaving us wanting. Step forward The Paramedic Squad, The Wall, The Luddites, The Violators, Artery, The Surface Mutants etc. At a time when our school chums taste in music was mainly in Duran Duran or Haircut 100(or The Police if they were feeling a tad more hardcore), we adopted a rather smug, snobbish stance, defiantly veering into the theatre of the off-kilter. Some might say we haven't changed much!!

As I listen back to these songs again for the first time in many a year(thanks to Griff converting the old vinyl copy into MP3s) the first thing I find rather quaint is that the songs are not quite as outré as I remember them. They are actually palatable enough for our Sting-loving friends....if only we'd known this at the time, we could have force fed the Scrotums on our school mates(not a phrase I envisaged saying this morning!)
What I also notice, rather annoyingly, is that once again our mutual friend Gary has duped us. For you see, when we had our band, the spiffingly named The Beirut City Rollers going in the late 1980s, our friend Gary wrote most of the songs, although I use the term 'wrote' in it's loosest sense. What he actually did was 'borrow' some obscure track he thought we wouldn't know, some old b-side or whatever and pass it off as his own work. We call it 'doing a Noel Gallagher' round our way. Anyhoo, it seems that one of the songs I long thought was an original of ours turns out to be a retread of 'Pick The Cats Eyes Out' which you'll find below(it starts at about 1:45). To compare and contrast, go to our old band's Myspace page and click on the song 'Shops'.....see! It's exactly the same isn't it? Fooled again, boooohh!

When Griff heard that I was planning on a Scrotum Poles Blog he insisted on having his say on the band too, his love of the band as undiminished as mine. Take it away....

Griff: "The two songs which mean the most to me are,firstly; Pick The Cats Eyes Out, as when I was learning to play punky-style bar-chords on the guitar this was the main song I used to practice to. I transposed it to the key of E and used to batter it out really badly on a Kay's catalogue electric guitar and sing along. The main drawback of this was that I could never fully make out lines 3 and 4 of the first verse and used to sing a sound-a-like nonsense version.
Radio Tay was my other favourite and years later when I had a job that saw me driving around the Perthshire, Angus and Tayside area I often used to listen to it in the afternoons as it was so couthy and kitsch it used to make me laugh. I remember that they used to have a show where you could phone in and swap unwanted items. A lady from Wormiehills would offer a large bag of dogfood and it would be swapped for various balls of coloured wool to a woman from Inverarity.Happy Days!"

Happy Days indeed old chum.
So folks, please be sure to check out this page where you can download a few Scrotum Poles tracks, and being such good guys, we've uploaded a couple of tracks ourselves here just for your delectation. And there's always their Myspace and pages too.

Happy trails, my friends,


Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Griff says; Here is the soundtrack!

It has been a recurring feature of these blog posts for both Gordon and I to ask; where is the soundtrack? ; specifically, where is the angry but expressive and meaningful music that articulates the feelings of a disaffected, disenfranchised youth during this time of ideologically imposed austerity for the weak, the poor and the powerless. We've asked, or alluded to, this question ‘here’, ‘here’, ‘here’ , ’here’and ’here’ in the last six months, and for a while we began to suspect that we might not get an answer and that we would have to fall back on the classic protest songs of our youth. I had previously hinted that the great white hope (if you'll excuse the term) might just be Scottish, outsider hip-hop crew, Stanley Odd (seen ’here’ recently on The Streetlamp). Their 2010 debut album, Oddio, had the beats, and the street-sharp lyrics were full of facetious scorn for vacuous modernity. Even when front-man Solareye reaches a pitch of righteous indignation, as evinced on songs such as Think of a Number (video below) and Winter of Discontent, there’s a certain quick-witted, measured coolness to it; this looked like the band I was praying for, but I had to be sure. Well folks, last night I went to see Stanley Odd playing live at the The Captain's Rest in Glasgow and now I am sure.

Stanley Odd could be the band who define 2011 in Scotland; and the beauty of it is, is that it will be on their own terms. This band are confident, bold and politically aware but, above all, they strike me as being fiercely, willfully independent. I may well be praying for a band who are just as musically righteous as they are politically but I strongly suspect that Stanley Odd don't play any one else's game but their own; and that's just how I'd want it to be. Live, the band are tight beyond belief, Solareye is all wiry, gallus energy; as eloquent and charismatic as you'd expect. The real revelation is Veronika. Her soulful vocals have always been the sweetener to Solareye's scathing rapping and, in a live setting, she really pulls it off; hitting every note, CD perfect, while playing the crowd to perfection with sweet smiles and cheeky winks. And this is a band who really engage with the crowd. For a moment, as we bounce madly along to their classic outsider anthem Ten to One, we really feel that we are 'all in this together' as the hideous Cameron might say. Well, fuck Cameron and fuck 'the new politics' of Clegg; we've got a new voice to rally behind.

So, do you want to get in on the ground-floor? Stanley Odd will be releasing a brand new EP Pure Antihero Material through Circular Records on Monday 21st February 2011. This is just the first of 3 EPs to be released in by the band this year, and will be available as a limited edition CD as well as a digital download. It can be ordered ’here’.
The track-listing is:
1. The Oddyssey (the video for which we featured previously ’here’)
2. SONARcotics
3. Winter of Discontent
4. The Controller
5. Letter to a Critic

These are five magnificently infectious grooves, fleshed out with some hard-riffing, sugared by Veronika Elektronica’s soulful vocals and absolutely bristling with pointed social and political commentary. As usual, the band manage to avoid falling into the trap of 'preaching' and the songs are all leavened with Solareye's trademark sly wit. My own favourite is undoubtedly Winter of Discontent (below) in which Solareye raps:

Listen, we’re in trouble kid,
In recession, and how did we discover it?
We were told by a Conservative government,
To take our worst expectations and double it.
Loan sharks circling and hovering,
Social unrest is bubbling,
Maggie’s back in Number 10,
And check the cold facts,
All we’re missing is the shoulder pads and the Poll Tax.
Nae jobs, thousands gettin’ laid off to save costs,
I’m wanting back to the future, Great Scott!
How do I know the economy’s affected?
For the first time in a decade we’ve got £10 eccies,
And to a government voters in the South elected,
We’re a nation of Begbies with wrecked teeth and webbed feet.
Park overnight and win four flat tyres,
As we tell stories round the chip-pan fires,
The economy’s two years behind the UK recovery,
It’s not feeling very Summery,
In summary; we’re heading for independence,
The election handed the union a death sentence,
If the SSP and Solidarity intervene with the SNP and The Greens,
Then its seems four weddings and a funeral for the Union Jack.

Amen to that!

The band will be touring Scotland and the rest of the UK throughout February. Catch them if you can, you will not be disappointed. Confirmed dates can be seen below; however, more shows are still to be added, so check the band’s website for the latest info.

You can download an MP3 of the song mentioned above, Ten to One, ’here’courtesy of The Streetlamp. I'm making this available for promotional purposes. As usual, I hope you'll like it enough to support the band.


Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Griff says; Do look at The Lovely Eggs

Do you remember, last year, when I seemed to get into a rich little seam of bands who were also married couples? There seemed to be so many that I considered starting up a new strand in the Streetlamp completely dedicated to them. Of course, natural laziness ensured that no such thing happened; but if it had, then today's band would have fitted the bill nicely. The Lovely Eggs are a quirky indie-pop duo from Lancaster, England who consist of married couple Holly Ross and David Blackwell (pictured).
Most of you will already be aware of them, I should have thought, through their 2009 release If You Were Fruit. That's certainly where I first came across them and was immediately intrigued by their distinctly surreal, lo-fi, pop sound. Too barbed to be called twee, and veering wildly and energetically between charming and annoying, The Lovely Eggs plough their own unique furrow. Holly's rich Lancashire accent and mad-girl lyrics make them immediately recognisable amongs other contemporary indie-pop acts and, it can't be denied, they certainly know how to come up with pop hooks that get under your skin for months.
Last month saw the release of a new single, Don't Look at Me (I Don't Like It), and this month brings a new album. Rather pleasingly, the video for the single (below) features a guest appearance from Radio 4 legend John Shuttleworth as the man with the sausage roll thumb (don't ask; this is the world of The Lovely Eggs!) .

Don't Look at Me (I Don't Like It) is taken from the new album, Cob Dominos, released 14/02/11 on Cherryade Records.

If you haven't come across The Lovely Eggs before then may I suggest a couple of more songs, in the same whimsical vein, from their debut album. Here's; Have You Ever Heard A Digital Accordion?

and I Like Birds But I Like Other Animals Too

Both of these splendidly madcap songs are available to download as MP3s 'here'. Although, as usual, we do suggest that if you really like a band then you should support them by; going to see them live, buying their new CD, painting their logo on your naked bum and abseiling off The Houses of Parliament etc etc.


Friday, 11 February 2011

~Nippy Sweeties~#6: Kaleidoscope

As you may know by now, the whole point of our Nippy Sweeties section is to bring to the attention of younger (or less spoddish) readers, songs or artists from the 1960s who rather shamefully never achieved the kind of success some of their less talented contemporaries managed. In fact we really should have called this section 'Songs Our Parents Were Too Stupid To Buy'.
And never was this more so than with Kaleidoscope, an English Psychedelic band who released not only two of the greatest albums of the genre, but of all time...
Relax your eyes
For after all

We can but share these minutes.....

If you bought Record Collector magazine in the early to mid 80s, then you would know Kaleidoscope from the astronomical prices their two albums had acquired. You see both albums sold so poorly upon release that no second pressings were made. So, when word of mouth spread about how fantastic the two records were, they became VERY desirable and the prices shot through the roof.
Around 1986 reissue specialists Edsel Records re-released both albums to great acclaim, and now they can be purchased easily on CD or download, and word of mouth continues unabated. This really was a fantastic band, and these are two genuine classic albums.
Let's explore further....
Kaleidoscope started out as far back as 1965 but only settled upon their desired sound and of-it's-time name in January 1967. The band consisted of Peter Daltrey (vocals and lyrics), Eddy Pumer (guitar and music), Danny Bridgman (drums) and Steve Clark (bass).
Their debut single, 'Flight From Ashiya' set out their stall beautifully, a pounding psychedelic stormer with dreamy lyrics predicting a plane crash. The band's sound suited the multicoloured, acid drenched Summer Of Love perfectly and soon Kaleidoscope were sharing the bill with Pink Floyd, and had celebrity fans in Paul McCartney and Pete Townshend.

The band's debut album 'Tangerine Dream' (and yes, they had the title before the Krautrock legends) is simply one of the greatest albums of all time. That it failed to sell in any great quantities is baffling for, in my opinion, it is a better album than 'Piper At The Gates Of Dawn' or that ragbag of EP tracks and B-sides 'Magical Mystery Tour'.
With a sleeve that echoes 'Piper....', all Paisley shirts and serious expressions, 'Tangerine Dream' is more of a trip, in all senses of the word. It reflects suburban Swinging Britain through an acidic lens bathed in the lyrical images of Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear, A.A. Milne and C.S. Lewis, and feels like a journey from beginning to end. The greatest Pop Music creates it's own world and that's exactly what Kaleidoscope do here. Take the majestic 'Dive Into Yesterday' with its references to water pistols full of lemonade and Mardi Gras at midnight:

There's also stupendous second single 'A Dream For Julie' released before Pink Floyd's similarly titled 'Julia Dream', with its cute sotto vocce intro "The tangerine wizard turns purple for Julie".

And the album culminates in the full blown Psychedelic, brain melting, surprisingly touching 'The Sky Children' which really should be part of everybody's musical education.

Sales of the album were disappointing, but the band carried on regardless plunging almost immediately into the equally breathtaking 'Faintly Blowing'.
As with many purveyors of Psychedelic music, all of the acid sparkle of 1967 was replaced in 1968 with a more back-to-nature vibe. The music became more rustic, more pastoral, more whimsical and indeed more folksy....and Kaleidoscope were no exception.
'Faintly Blowing' has a more folkish feel, from it's Olde Faery Worlde sleeve inwards. The music is more acoustic, and the lyrics more like folk tales rather than the children's stories of the debut.
Many regard 'Faintly Blowing' as the superior of the two albums, but I'm afraid I don't concur. Whilst I still love the album, I find it a bit of a jarring listen at times. I think this is because it sounds like the lyrics were written away from the music, so we often find Peter desperately trying to make his lyrics scan to the music's odd time signatures. This leads to some very strange phrasing which is exacerbated when you read the lyrics they provided on the inner sleeve. A minor quibble of course, and I still think it's a wonderful album, but the debut still does it for me.
Stand out tracks for me are the title track with it's doomy atmosphere, ominous minor chords and weird phasing effects:

Another cracker is the jaunty 'Snapdragon' which although one of my favourites, is one that suffers most from the lyrical phrasing I mentioned earlier:

'Faintly Blowing' sold even more poorly than it's predecessor and pretty much was the final nail in the coffin of Kaleidoscope.
All four musicians regrouped in the early 70s as the slightly more successful Fairfield Parlour, seeking a more Prog Rock direction.
Peter Daltery himself has kept on releasing records right up to the the present day and often gets involved in the reissues of Kaleidoscope's music and of keeping their legacy alive.

If you want PURE English Psychedelic music then look no further than Kaleidoscope and in particular the 'Tangerine Dream' album, and if you're feeling up to it, I'll leave you with their greatest statement, 'The Sky Children'....

Pleasant dreams kiddiewinks!

Keep Your Mind Open!


You can download the albums below:

Tangerine Dream

Faintly Blowing

(please note: these are not my links so I have no control over them if they fail to download. If anyone connected with Kaleidoscope objects to these downloads, please contact us and we will happily remove them).

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Griff says; In the Realms of the Unreal

Brooklyn based indie-rockers Vivian Girls have announced details of their new album, ‘Share The Joy’ to be released on 12th April. This is the band's third album, and their first with new drummer Fiona Campbell; former drummer Ali Koehler having left to join Best Coast. To hear how the new line-up is sounding have a listen, below, to excellent new single 'I Heard You Say', available as a free MP3 download at Polyvinyl and at RCRD LBL.

Vivian Girls - I Heard You Say by flogase

While I'm writing about Vivian Girls, it seems like an ideal opportunity to mention reclusive writer, outsider artist and inspiration for the band name; Henry Darger. The story of Darger's life and art is truly fascinating, and if you get the chance try to catch Jessica Yu's 2004 documentary 'In the Realms of the Unreal' for more fulsome details than I can include in this short blog piece.
Darger was a reclusive eccentric who led an extraordinary secret life. For over 40 years he lived a solitary existence in a rented room in Chicago, Illinois, completing page after page of densely written manuscripts and self-produced, supplementary, illustrative artwork. These remarkable artworks only came to light posthumously. His most famous work is the 15,145-page, religious-themed, fantasy manuscript 'The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinnian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion'. This massive fictional work and the accompanying drawings and watercolour paintings was the product of six decades of obsessional endeavour.

The story itself concerns the adventures of the Vivian girls, seven sisters who are princesses of the Christian nation of Abbieannia and who assist a daring rebellion against the evil Glandelinian regime of child slavery. Darger's illustrations were rendered largely by tracing, collage, or photo enlargement from popular magazines and children's books. The sometimes disturbing, but visually brilliant, images often depict wholesome, partially-clothed, children placed in situations of peril, such as battle scenes. This aspect of his art can make Darger's work 'difficult' for modern viewers but Darger's own tragic life and the all-encompassing nature of his devotion to his art should be reason enough for looking beyond the surface strangeness.

His life and art certainly seem to resonate with indie musicians. As well as the Vivian Girls obvious homage, indie-folk experimentalist Sufjan Stevens has released a song entitled 'The Vivian Girls Are Visited in the Night by Saint Dargarius and His Squadron of Benevolent Butterflies' on his 2006 compilation album The Avalanche: Outtakes and Extras from the Illinois Album.


Sunday, 6 February 2011

Faster Pussycat Gone! Gone!

A Tribute To Tura Satana (July 10, 1938 – February 4, 2011)
Almost 22 years ago to the day, Griff, Jill and I went to the Glasgow Film Theatre to see a double bill that would change our whole cinematic lives around, and set the tone for what would become one of the greatest years of our lives.
In late January 1989 we went to a double feature that comprised 'Blue Velvet', a film by David Lynch from a couple of years before that we had heard about but didn't know an awful lot about as it wasn't given much of a release in Scotland; and 'Faster Pussycat Kill! Kill!', a cult exploitation movie from the 1960s that we definitely hadn't seen as it was(at the time) banned on TV and video, but could be shown in approved theatres.
More than three and a half hours later we stumbled puchdrunk out into the cold Glasgow air, kicked senseless by two extraordinary performances; Dennis Hopper as Frank Booth in 'Blue Velvet', and Tura Satana as Varla in 'Faster Pussycat Kill! Kill!'.
'Blue Velvet' has been discussed and dissected to death, so lets look at 'FPKK' and Tura Satana who tragically passed away on the 4th of February.
One of the most important books I ever bought in my lifetime I purchased on Christmas Eve 1983. It was 'The Golden Turkey Awards' by Harry and Michael Medved. The book is a kind of alternative Oscars, giving awards to the worst and most inept movies in cinema history. Why I consider it so important is that it showed me that there was more to cinema than all that Hollywood churns out. It taught me about independent cinema and exploitation cinema, and I was hooked from the get go. You have to remember that back in those days it was nigh on impossible to get ANYTHING other than Hollywood fare on video, and so it would be a long time before I would ever get a chance to see all these weird movies I read about so passionately. As the years went on, my library on alternative cinema grew ever more expansive but actual chances to view the films seemed forever distant.
That's why as Griff, Jill and I made our way to the GFT, I was far more excited in seeing the silly old exploitation move than I was in seeing some surreal murder mystery by the guy who made 'The Elephant Man' and 'Dune'!! I was FINALLY getting to see a Russ Meyer movie, and on the big screen to boot!
After 75 minutes I sat there thunderstruck. I had finally seen the other side.
The constant bombardment of voluptuous, buxom women kicking seven bells out of macho he-men was all too much. I sat there drained. Even the brilliance of Lynch's masterpiece couldn't cloud the fact that I'd seen something that had turned my perspective of cinema upside down.
As we sat on the train going back home, we tried to talk about both movies, but all I could talk about was 'FPKK' and Varla, played by the stunning Tura Satana. To say I was smitten was like saying I like the occasional Smiths tune. I was in love with this black-leather-clad goddess.
Within a fortnight I owned the first of my numerous 'FPKK' tee-shirts which I wore non-stop that year (and beyond) and spoke over-enthusiastically about the film to everyone I met, even though I knew they might never get a chance to see the film.

Time, and the small screen. have not been kind to 'FPKK', I'm afraid. When I finally saw the film on video about 6 years later, it just didn't look the same. It had lost it's edge. On the small screen the film falls incredibly flat after the exhilarating opening 15 minutes and becomes, and it really kills me to say this, quite boring in places. Also, without the sense of a once-in-a-lifetime experience, which it felt like back in 1989, it just becomes another exploitation movie. And once you finally watch all those exploitation movies you only ever read about, the mystique is shattered and the movies all merge into one cheaply shot, badly acted blur.
However, I made it a point to try and collect all of Tura Satana's work over the years, which proved surprisingly easy as she only appeared in a couple of other movies, namely 'The Doll Squad' and 'The Astro-Zombies', both made by Ted V Mikels.
As far back as 1994, just after he released 'Reservoir Dogs', Quentin Tarantino claimed that Tura was top of his list of actresses he wanted to work with, something that Tura herself reminded every interviewer who tracked her down in later years. Sadly, the call never came, even though Tarantino has been linked with a remake of 'FPKK'!!
Like Bettie Page before her, Tura would go on to influence pop culture long after she stopped contributing to it. The Cramps would prove to be huge fans (hardly a surprise), but sadly the two bands who could claim biggest influence were the execrable hair-metal atrocity Faster Pussycat, and the turgid alt-metal rubbish that called themselves Tura dare you, you blackguards!!!

Tura's passing this week has raised barely a ripple in the entertainment media; British news services completely failed 100% to mention it, and according to the IMDB she's still alive!
The very least I can hope for is that the self-righteous buffoons who run the Oscars honour her within their 'In Memoriam' section at the Academy Awards.

Goodnight sweet Varla, R.I.P xxx

Keep running fast and free
Child of the night


Thursday, 3 February 2011

Griff says; Holiday in the sun

You'll hopefully remember, providing you don't have some sort of memory impairment brought on by over exposure to loud indie-pop, last week when I wrote about Soda Shop, featuring Drew Driver, one half of Horse Shoes. The other half of Horse Shoes is, of course, Jacob Graham, sometime guitarist with The Drums and part founder of tonight's blog topic; Holiday Friends Recording Company.

Holiday was formed in the Spring of 2009 by four old friends: Justin Jolley, Joanna Tillman, Jacob and Caleb Graham. I first came across them in 2010 via the music of sublime Russian indie-surfpop band Palms On Fire (more of whom in a future blog). At that time Holiday were a fledgling online record label who, to my joy, were intent on giving away a free mp3 release every Friday. I started with the Palms On Fire EP and soon came back for more. The old free singles club releases can still be found at the original Holiday records website 'here' and it's well worth a visit. Since then Holiday have realised their dream of becoming 'a real record label' and this month sees the release of 'Keep Dreaming Baby', the debut EP from Margate's Two Wounded Birds (pictured).

The C.D. is available right now on the new Holiday website, and if you live in the U.K. and don't like buying things online it is available in all Rough Trade stores. Rather like The Drums, Two Wounded Birds sound has a heavy surf-pop influence but they give the classic 60s pop template a twist by adding an individual, darker, sometimes almost sinister, edge. My favourite track on the EP is the poignant and evocative 'My Lonesome', which at times sounds like a young Morrissey backed by The Tornadoes. Have a listen:

Fantastic, I think youll agree. Now here are two more tracks from the EP; the upbeat 'Summer Dream' and the eerie 'Night Patrol'.

Not content with giving us the best in contemporary surf-pop, Holiday are also simultaneously releasing the latest offering from their free singles club.

Holiday 0068 is 'Plans For My Future Life In Vermont' by Victory VIII. Victory VIII is yet another of Jacob Graham's musical projects (does this man never sleep?) and can be described as lo-fi, down-tempo, indietronica. The two songs featured on the single are 'Vermont' and 'I Thought I Loved You'. Holiday describe them as;

"Two songs that were meant to be pleasant but ended up as tragic and pathetic as usual."

As a lover, and onetime purveyor, of lo-fi melancholia, I would say that that's a recommendation I just couldn't resist. 'Plans For My Future Life In Vermont' can be downloaded 'here'. In the meantime here's a video of one of Victory VIII's previous Holiday releases; Lonesome Places. Enjoy!