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Wednesday, 29 February 2012

I Wanna Be Free - Davy Jones In Memoriam


Another day, another Monkees Blog!
But alas, this one is written out of necessity....a necessity I would rather have done without, for we have just learned of the passing of Davy Jones, aged a mere 66 years old. According to sources, Davy was found dead in his sleep having suffered a massive heart-attack. This now makes the fact that I missed their tour last year frustratingly poignant.

Never the most critically acclaimed of bands, as I've stated many times, Davy often came in for most criticism for possessing a fairly tremulous voice, coupled with the fact that boorish, laddish old rock critics of the time were jealous of Davy's unparalleled popularity amongst the teenage girls of the world.
Yet, like all three of his Monkee cohorts, his voice was singularly unique and stood out amongst the other Pop chanters of the time. It was also his cuteness factor that guaranteed the massive ratings the show needed to remain on air amongst the critical indifference.
It could be argued that in the wilderness years of the 1970s and early 80s, it was Davy, the perennial song and dance man who hated NOT being on stage, and who dragged Micky Dolenz and the very name Monkees onto a stage somewhere, ANYWHERE, that kept The Monkees flame alight when their name was mud.
I managed to see The Monkees live in concert almost exactly 10 years ago in a show in which Davy and Micky had lost none of their youthful vigour and pure showmanship. I was also forced to write to Scottish rag the Daily Record to correct their sloppy music journo Billy Sloane's review that claimed the show was a washout and that the audience were bored, by pointing out that the audience belted out every word and gave them a standing ovation.
Here's a few selections of his best work:

David Jones; teen idol, pure entertainer, daydream believer , one of Rock Music's good guys, and star of one of the top 10 films of all time, 'Head'!

R.I.P Davy, sleep well.


Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Griff says; Make a visit to Trixieland

Gordon and I were chatting recently about the NME's now much-celebrated C-86 cassette, launched in 1986, and claimed as the original source of the twee pop genre by some. For instance, the allmusic guide entry for twee pop includes the following:

"Twee pop traces its origins to 1986, the year the British weekly NME issued a cassette dubbed C-86."


"the C-86 movement was itself short-lived, but it influenced hordes of upcoming bands on both sides of the Atlantic who absorbed the scene's key lessons of simplicity and honesty to stunning effect, resulting in music -- given the universal label of twee pop"

Now, I have two problems with the above statements. Firstly, as Gordon and I agreed during our chat, much of C-86 just isn't that good. Without a doubt, the stand out tracks on the cassette are Primal Scream and The Shop Assistants. The Bodines' track, 'Therese', is also listenable. Much of the rest of the cassette is lumpy, unoriginal indie-rock, which sound nothing like the music that eventually came to be called C-86 as a genre. Of those three good tracks I would contend that only The Shop Assistants' effort 'It's Up To You' can definitively be given the twee pop tag.

The second problem I have is that, prior to the release of C-86, there were plenty of bands around who were already making music which had all the hallmarks of the twee pop genre, i.e. boy-girl harmonies, lovelorn lyrics, infectious melodies, and simple, unaffected performances. Many of these bands also embraced the DIY, flexidisc-producing ethos that was epitomised by seminal twee pop label Sarah Records.

So, who do I have in mind as the true precursors of the twee pop spirit? Well, I would say the very earliest roots of the music can be heard in the breathless girly vocals of Altered Images (the band who inspired the Talulah Gosh name), the shy, DIY naivete of Marine Girls and the self-conscious, clever/cute, student-pop of The Chefs. However, the band who really captured the essence of twee, way back in 1981, is the band I'm going to write about tonight. A band, funnily enough who prompted this blog by coming on during a random shuffle of my MP3 player last weekend, much to our Ray's delight, and who, co-incidentally, have just re-issued a retrospective of their collected music. I'm talking, of course, of Trixie's Big Red Motorbike.

Trixie's Big Red Motorbike were Mark Litten and his sister Melanie who recorded their songs on a reel to reel tape recorder in Mark's bedroom at their home on the Isle of Wight. The duo were eventually joined by Jane Fox of the Marine Girls and the band were active between 1981 and 1985, during which time they released two singles, one e.p. and one flexidisc. Despite making truly wondeful music and being championed by John Peel the band's music career never really took off - mainly because the idea of a music 'career' was anathema to them. To quote from Wikipedia:

"Trixie's Big Red Motorbike signed a publishing deal with Twist and Shout Music, and received enquiries from several independent record companies. However, they never had a recording contract, a manager or an agent. A combination of shyness, lack of business acumen, and a determination to stick to the DIY punk ethos of the time caused them to miss opportunities again and again. Physical isolation from the centers of the music industry was also a problem. Their first two records were sold by mail order, and in the pre-internet early 1980s, most of their contact with the outside world was by post."

Now, you will probably not be surprised to learn that, despite their relative obscurity, The Streetlamp team were alert to the band way back when and that an often played copy of their magnificent 1983 single 'Norman and Narcissus' nestles proudly within my own record collection. If you've never heard this track then you are in for a treat - this is a lo-fi, sugary, indiepop confection with melodic jazz textures. Here's a video:

Isn't that wonderful? An MP3 version converted from my very own vinyl copy (complete with scratches and hiss) can be downloaded 'here'. If you liked that, then you may be interested to learn too that, this month, the band have released a retrospective compilation of their musical output on bandcamp. You can stream/buy this 'here'.

Now, I suspect that my choices for the originators of the twee pop sound may cause some debate. Indeed, I suspect that our Gordon may well have something to say on the subject. That's good, I'd like to hear your opinions, if you have them. But, I hope too that you will admit that Trixie's Big Red Motorbike are a band who deserve to be brought to the attention of a new audience and I hope also that you will come to love them as much as I do.


Gordon adds:
Of course I pretty much agree with all here. For me though, the Magna Carta of all Tweepop is a fairly obscure Beach Boys song tucked away on their 1970 album 'Sunflower'; a track called 'All I Wanna Do'. Have a listen and then tell me that St Etienne didn't base their entire output on this track, or that Sarah Records haven't used this as some blueprint:

Also, the lazy journalists who proclaimed that C-86 heralded the birth of Twee Pop seem to have missed the fact that most of the bands who are any good on the tape have 'borrowed' EVERYTHING from Postcard Records who were only releasing records a mere SEVEN years before C-86!
For me, as Griff points out, the Marine Girls are the true purveyors of that purest Twee Pop....the strummy guitar and the bass playing the melody are what the Field Mice built their entire sound upon.
And of course there's always Dolly Mixture and Kleenex who both encapsulated that 'Trixie' sound, both long before any of C-86 bands were even formed.
It's not often you associate lazy journalism with the NME....he said sarcastically.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Self Harm In The Midlife Crisis - An Interest Of Conflict

I often find myself wondering exactly what music my peers choose to listen to; say, for example, my former schoolmates....I wonder what tunes they turn to as they slide into what is often referred to as 'mid-life'. The reason I ask this, is that I often imagine they adopt the pipe-and-slippers approach to music, finding solace in the bland waves of Dido, Newton Faulkner or, if they're feeling a bit radical and rebellious, immersing themselves in the nosebleed techno/industrial grindcore melange that is *spit* Coldplay. My reason for raising this point is that I've found myself listening to some of the most almighty clatter of late, whether it be Battles or Lightning Bolt or The Boredoms, or the noise terrorism on show in a compelling but ear-shredding documentary (which I intend to cover on a future Blog soon), or the full-on aggressive bark of Conflict.
I don't know if it's all some form of self-harm, a way of breaking through the jaded boredom of modern life and all the bland crap the media has to offer as entertainment, or if indeed it may be something more primal and pertinent....a way of refusing to buckle to the ageing process.

I know I've covered Conflict before in a previous Blog, but what's sad about listening to Conflict again is how after nearly 30 years, their words are still totally relevant. Almost worryingly so!
Take 'The Guilt And The Glory' from 1984's 'Increase The Pressure'; have a read of these lyrics and imagine a new band releasing this would be as relevant now as it was back then. Perhaps even more so....
"Do you know that at least 70% of the human population of this planet starve and many more do not get enough to eat?
You must now be familiar with reports of the famine In Ethiopia, where the weather has been so dry that crops fail, where the people are so hungry they have to walk many miles to the nearest relief station where there might be food if people have been generous.
In any one station at least 40 people a day die, totally shriveled.
They haven't the energy to brush away the flies that are waiting for THEIR meal.
These people are the victims of our western governments.
In Britain alone there are massive great food stores where surplus grain sits, In the EEC there are food mountains.
In America farmers are paid to destroy part of their harvest, while big corporations plunder the 3rd world countries at the expense of the natives.
Why Is this - economics, the science of greed.
That which says people must pay western prices for their food.
Natural starving countries can't afford this especially when their government takes the best first.
The western government have plenty of money.
They tax us on our income, then they tax us on what we buy.
They take the money we have worked for and use It to buy arms.
They would rather be able to destroy the world 12 instead of 10 times over than transport surplus food to those who die.
Indeed, they become ill through obesity.
Must we tolerate these obscenities?
When soon even we may be starving because of their taxes.

Some people don't see the connections between big business and destruction.
The biggest murderers are MacDonald's.
Not only do they breed and slaughter millions of cattle, great rain forests are pulled down to make way for grazing ground.
This destroys hundreds of unique species each time not to mention the fact that we need trees to produce oxygen for the planet.
Many birds In North America migrate to these forests, on arriving and finding no forest they die.
The drop In population of birds means more insects and the Americans only answer to this is pesticide.
We all know about factories who manufacture pesticide, you know about Union Carbide.
They're an American Company who set up dangerous plants.
It doesn't matter, nearly 3,000 Indians are now dead due to their callousness, thousands have strokes and injuries that will never heal.
Innocent people who had done nothing, whose life is not easy anyway, and why?
So America can steal food from the starving millions.

Nearly all big business is based on exploitation of the worst kinds.
Cosmetic companies use dead animals to make their products, then poison many more by feeding it to them with the end result of encouraging sexism by convincing men and women to look the same as each other.
Advertising promotes this and advertising of any kind usually portrays women as a sex object only, there to be raped.
Drug companies (like Roche & ICI) claim to Invent new drugs to cure Imagined diseases.
Thousands die at the hands of their useless research.
They try to make drugs to cure heart disease which was originally caused by the sufferer eating meat and dairy products to excess.
Booker McConnell own everything from butchers to health shops, as long as the cash rolls in who cares?
Other companies who make machinery and domestic appliances (like Thorn EMI.) also makes defense gadgetry.
British Aerospace specialize In fighters in favour of passenger jets.
Governments pay more for weaponry that domestic consumers pay for domestic items.
That's why many many companies world wide clamour for defense orders, some would go bankrupt without them.
The final Industry, uranium mining, sponsored in Britain by RTZ plunders the landscape, kills the wildlife,exploits the natives and gives them cancer.
The product makes bombs to kill all and 15 used for nuclear fuel.
The kind of power that produces waste which can be pumped Into the sea In Cumbria.
Deformed babies and children dying and leukemia are coincidences we are told.
How many more lies must we listen to?"

Back in 1983 and 1984, Conflict were involved in the 'Stop The City' peaceful protests against the financial belts sponsoring of the arms race....again, check these words from a spoken piece from the same album ('Increase The Pressure') and see how it corelates to the recent Occupy St Paul's peaceful protest of just last year....
"September the 29th
An idea that had formed and grown into 'Stop The City' had taken place.
A carnival in the streets; a protest against the companies and men who finance War.
An occupation to stop people at theirs.
Peaceful blockades, a traffic free zone.
So what actually happened?

The walls and pavements were daubed with coloured chalks; slogans and symbols that probably meant nothing to the city gents.
Some blockades were formed and removed.
There was conversation with city folk, and some music made.
But some arrests angered the 'free'; some carried out by brutal police without their identification numbers.
All day people rallied (unintelligible) with that as a starting point.
And a meeting at the Guild Hall turned into a strong defiant show of force that marched through the streets, past the Bank Of England to the Stock Exchange where loud chanting echoed around the tall buildings.
People banged on the doors and windows.
Siege was laid until the horses arrived.
But it was spontaneous, disorganised, except for the whispered word.
A way of confusing the law.

The result?
The carnival WAS enjoyed, but the city was not stopped.
They worked under siege although many visited the carnival out of curiosity.
The dull day was brightened, but it left no mark.
The next day most walls had been scrubbed of their graffiti messages.
But the fact remains, power HAS been tested.
If you try hard enough, things CAN work.
If you go on trying, it WILL work!"

Going off tangent a little; in a few hours I will settle down to watch this years Oscars Ceremony. Now I know this may seem a little to corporate for your dear old pals here at the ~Streetlamp~, but I have to confess to being an absolute sucker for all that Olde Hollywoode chintz and glitz, despite the wonky retainer in which it is presented! However, I have a feeling that my enjoyment of tonight's show is going to be tainted somewhat by the Best Actress Award going to Meryl Streep for her portrayal of Satan's arsehole Margaret Thatcher. Turning Thatcher into someone who possesses a soul and some humanity is typical of Hollywood, who may as well all come over one by one and piss on the sites of the closed coal mines, or the empty steelyards, or into the once thriving Clyde dockyards which now turn out exactly nada! The ~Streetlamps~ hatred of Thatcher is unwavering and we patiently await the day upon which her grave becomes Britain's largest outdoor public urinal.
However....only recently have I found myself looking back at the regime which replaced her, and found myself equally shocked at the ultra-Conservatism that was shuttled in after she'd gone. Thatcher was replaced by surely the most boring, bland, porridgey-grey lickspittle milquetoast ever to wield (ahem) absolute power; John Major.
It was under Major that some of the most draconian laws were attempted to be put in place; for example in 1994, Major's government tried to introduce a bill of law that would make it illegal for 18 Certificate movies to shown in anyone's home, purely out of fear that children would see them. This stemmed of course from the Festival Of Light's campaign of moral censorship, helmed by close friend of Thatcher, Mary Whitehouse. Think about what that actually implies; if your are over 18 years old and have no children, it would still be illegal to own or show such films as The Godfather, Taxi Driver, Schindler's List, Ingmar Bergman's 'Persona', The Good The Bad & The Ugly, Blue Velvet, any Tarantino film, any John Woo film etc etc, the list is endless. We were deemed incapable of having the intelligence to watch these films in a responsible manner. Thankfully the bill was never passed and the rise of the Internet put paid to the ludicrous censorship laws that were already in place here in the UK.

At the exact same time the Free Festival movement of Great Britain (basically what became known as New Age Travellers) joined forces in an uneasy alliance with the Rave Generation of Techno, House and Dance Music to organise a series of underground word-of-mouth Rave events, often in warehouses or even just out in the open. If there is one thing that a Conservative government really hates it's a coming together of people as one. The Conservatives can't stand the idea of any kind of communal thought as it makes it impossible for them to control. An individual can be manipulated, bullied and controlled, but a seething mass of like-minded souls presents a huge problem to their ability to oppress.
So, again in 1994, Major's government introduced the shocking denial of basic human rights that was/is the Criminal Justice Act. This made it illegal for more than 10 people to gather together to listen to (and these are the exact words as used in that preposterous manifesto) 'music comprising of repetitive beats'!! Erm, excuse me, but ALL music consists of repetitive beats you brain-dead fannies....even Free-form Jazz is based on repetitive beats!!
All of this led to such sights as youngsters in dayglo clothing, high on soft drugs (some on harder stuff, some on nothing more than the joy of the music) being manhandled by over-enthusiastic police; or even more disturbingly, the sight of heavy handed police storming into travellers caravans and mini-buses (essentially, their homes) and showering screaming women and children in broken glass. Not good!
At the head of the protest against this oppressive thuggery was a dance music collective called Spiral Tribe who not only stood against the bullying, but were arrested and tried in a shambles of a long running court case.

At the time I had become disillusioned with music and was suffering from bouts of depression which meant that I never really took much of a stand, nor offered much support to those who stood against the Criminal Justice Act, also partly because I never really cared much for Rave music at the time.
I now regret this lack of action, and know that if this was happening now, we'd be doing our bit.

Finally, for those who think that the aforementioned Conflict were just an unlistenable Punk gruel, try this for size; the final track to their 1986 masterpiece 'The Ungovernable Force'....

!No Pasaran!


Monday, 20 February 2012

Griff says; Magnetic Island - experts in their own field

I almost fell off my computer chair last night. I was doing my usual trawl across the internet's likely spots for interesting free music when I spotted the phrase 'Headache For Michelle'. Now, unless you are a slightly oldish, socialist, punk with a penchant for feminist pop, that phrase won't mean an awful lot to you. However, it is redolent with meaning for me. You see, 'Headache For Michelle' is track 5 of 'Playing With A Different Sex', the debut album of Britain's greatest, and most sadly missed, post-punk band, the incomparable Au Pairs. Released in 1981, this album, with its wry take on gender relations and sexual politics and, most controversially, its castigation of the hypocritical British State's attitude to the torture of Irish republican prisoners, in the song 'Armagh', is truly one of the great lost classics. I have lost count of the number of times I've mentioned this band and this album in conversation, only to be met by blank incomprehending stares.

So, why was 'Headache For Michelle' suddenly cropping up on soundcloud? It seems that the experimental indie-rock band Magnetic Island (pictured), from Brooklyn, New York have recorded a cover of this classic song and posted it in their soundcloud page as a free download. Here's their take on it:

Headache For Michelle by Magnetic Island

And here's the Au Pairs' original:

The lyric, below, is indicative of the understandable paranoia of both the British left and illegal drug users and is subtly suggestive of the role of the state in encouraging drug use in deprived inner city areas (a common accusation of the time). The 'Malcolm' who we are informed is dead in the lyric is, of course, Malcolm Owen, the lead singer with The Ruts who died from a heroin overdose on 14 July 1980 at the age of 26.

Got a bad taste in my mouth,
I got a heavy heavy heavy heavy heavy head - won't go away.
I can't remember much about last night,
but I'm trying to regain a little self-control today.

I got out of my head, I got out of my head, I got out of my head..
I got out..
last night

They are coming amongst amongst amongst amongst
and in between us.
They're tapping our phones, tapping our phones, tapping our phones
you can be sure they've seen us.

Are you working, are you working, are you working
for or with the state.
They're selling you smack at a slightly, slightly, slighty, slightly cheaper rate
'Cos you're not a threat when you're out of your head
and I'm gonna get out of my head
and it's better in bed - when you're out of your head
and Malcolm is dead - he got out of his heaaaad!

Out of his head..

They are closing down - communications
They're taking control - of our situations
The forces of control are gathering around our heads

(i'm gonna get out of my head..)

A wonderful, wonderful song and it gives me real pleasure to see it unearthed so unexpectedly by a new generation of musicians.

Magnetic Island have newly released their own debut album, which can be found on their bandcamp page. Two of the songs on it are available as free digital downloads, including track 1, 'Don't Need It Now', which I embed below for your listening pleasure.

Much of the band's other material is available free on bandcamp too, and I also suggest you check out their official website 'here'.


Saturday, 18 February 2012

Griff says; Greece - Time for action!

It cannot have escaped your notice this week that the people of Greece are facing an unprecedented economic and political crisis. They are being driven to poverty and mass unemployment by the demands of the 'Troika' – the European Union, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund which has undemocratically imposed Lucas Papademos, the former Vice-President of the ECB, as Prime Minister.

Hospitals in Greece are running out of basic medicines, nearly half of all young people are unemployed, workers in some sectors have not been paid for months, and many are forced to resort to soup kitchens or scavenge from rubbish dumps.
Now the Troika has demanded a cut of 23% to the minimum wage, the sacking of tens of thousands of public sector workers and the decimation of pensions which have already lost nearly 50% of their value. International capital is asset stripping an entire country and ripping apart its social fabric. We have seen this pattern before. Friedmanite, fundamentalist, free-market capitalism is tearing our world apart. The process began in Chile in 1973, when the CIA sponsored coup d'état toppled Chile's democratically elected president Salvador Allende and brought the military dictator General Pinochet to power. Almost immediately the libertarian Chicago Boys instigated their iniquitous economic programme and introduced the world to the debauched philosophy of neoliberalism. Since that time,this perfidious ideology has ravaged the globe. We have seen it destroy developmentalism and the economies of the global south. It has poisoned the political and economic systems of South Africa, China and Russia and continues to work its depraved and destructive effect on the western democracies. Its mantra, 'privatisation, stabilisation, liberalisation', is simple, repetitive and malignant, and it seems to hypnotise political leaders, who forget the promises of their manifestos and instead go on to cut social welfare, privatise essential utilities, and open up internal markets to outside capital. These actions remove wealth, power and social support from the ordinary mass of people and instead place it in the hands of a tiny, self-serving politico-corporatist elite. Neoliberalism is the ideology by which the modern day corporatocracy destroys the social fabric of our countries, and the ordinary workers of the world must wake up and cut the head off the beast or risk sleep-walking into a nightmare future of corporate crypto-fascism. The first thing we must do is say NO to austerity.

Right now, Greece is at the cutting edge of the austerity measures that are being introduced across Europe. All the evidence shows that while these measures may protect the interests of the rich, they just make matters worse for the majority of the population. What happens in Greece today we will see in Portugal tomorrow and in Ireland the day after. In Britain, the Coalition government is pursuing similar measures which will see workers earnings cut, working longer for a smaller pension, and the dismantling of the NHS along with other public services.

The Coalition of Resistance and The People's Charter have launched an appeal for solidarity with the people of Greece (Click here to see the founding statement). They are asking for you to get involved and take action now. Please visit their websites to see how you can help. If you can do nothing more, at least take a moment to add your name as a signatory to the statement 'here'. The Coalition of Resistance and the People's Charter are also proposing that an emergency delegation of trades unionists, politicians and campaigners go to Athens to meet with unions and other organisations there. This delegation will report back on events in Greece and outline the concrete ways in which we can help the people of Greece in their struggles against austerity.

This new campaign will require the devotion of considerable resources. Please consider giving a donation to COR. This can be done through paypal (click here) or please send a cheque made out to Coalition of Resistance, to CoR, c/o Housmans Bookshop, 5 Caledonian Road, London N1 9DX.

Let us show solidarity to the workers of Greece in their hour of need. Only by acting together can we throw off the shackles of corporatocracy and regain our stolen democracies. Together the working people of the world can build a better future for our children.

An MP3 of this Greek version of this beautiful song can be downloaded 'here'. The song Bella Ciao was sung by the left-wing anti-fascist resistance movement in Italy, a movement composed of anarchists, communists, socialists and also by militant anti-fascist partisans. Here is a translation of the lyric:
One morning I awakened
Oh Bella, ciao! Bella,ciao! Bella, ciao! Ciao! Ciao!
One morning I awakened
And I found the invader
Oh partisan carry me away
Oh Bella, ciao! Bella,ciao! Bella, ciao! Ciao! Ciao!
Oh partisan carry me away
Because I feel death approaching
And if I die as a partisan
Oh Bella, ciao! Bella,ciao! Bella, ciao! Ciao! Ciao!
And if I die as a partisan
Then you must bury me
Bury me up in the mountain
Oh Bella, ciao! Bella,ciao! Bella, ciao! Ciao! Ciao!
Bury me up in the mountain
Under the shade of a beautiful flower
And the people who shall pass
Oh Bella, ciao! Bella,ciao! Bella, ciao! Ciao! Ciao!
And the people who shall pass
Will say, "what a beautiful flower"

This is the flower of the partisan
Oh Bella, ciao! Bella,ciao! Bella, ciao! Ciao! Ciao!
This is the flower of the partisan
Who died for freedom


Saturday, 11 February 2012

Griff says; Have a real cool time with The Refrigerator Cuties

Well, it's no secret that the writers on this blog are big fans of an all-girl indie-pop trio. What is perhaps a little less well known is that Gordon and I, when we're not listening to the sort of obscure and 'difficult' music that marks us out as serious musos, are also huge fans of the 60's girl-group sound. Yep, it's not all John Coltrane and John Cage round here you know; sometimes the Streetlamp dansette bounces and rings to the sweet, mono-pop grooves of The Angels, The Chiffons or (sigh) The Paris Sisters. Which is why I was so pleased to come across today's band, The Refrigerator Cuties from Zaporozhye, Ukraine (pictured).

The band combine the classic girl-group pop template, replete with sugary harmonies and 'shoo-bop' backing vocals, with a modern indie-rock style to rather pleasing effect. The band members are Nabokova Sanya -vocals, guitar, lyrics and music; Alina Orlova - drums; Danya Nadtochiy - bass-guitar.

The trio have recently released a cover of the song 'Shame', which has a very esoteric history. Ostensibly the song was written by notorious trouser-splitter PJ Proby, recorded by Jeff Peters (possibly a Proby pseudonym) in 1962 and released as a promotional single by the completely unknown 'Danstone Records'. How the girls ever came to hear of this song, perhaps we'll never know. I'll ask our resident 60's music expert Gordon for his take on this. Anyway, leaving that aside, the song is a nice slice of 60's girl-group style retro-pop set to a rather unusual tango beat. Have a listen:

The Refrigerator Cuties - Shame (Single 2012) by therces

Unfortunately, the girls haven't made this song available as a free digital download. However, almost all of their back catalogue is available in this way. You can pick up songs from their offical website 'here', or from their facebook page, or from their page.

Here's a video of the band performing the equally poptastic 'Graduation Time', released in 2010. This song can be freely downloaded from their website.


Sunday, 5 February 2012

~This Elegant Chaos~#11: Land Lovers

I don't want us to come across as a bunch of ungrateful coves, but we get sent a fair amount of free stuff here, and to be honest most of it is crap! Bands who've clearly never read our Blogs and who we would NEVER listen to, never mind write about in hundred years, send us all kind of demos and CDs; whilst lazy A&R men who're looking for some quick, cheap publicity for some band or other who sound like Deacon Blue or Jessie J, write to us in the vain hope we'll feature their artists.
The thing is....we do this in our spare time! We are not professional journalists, nor do we sit around all day listening to music for a living, then writing about it. We have to fit it all in to the gaps in our real lives complete with jobs, families and the usual guff.
The reason I mention it at all is that, because of all this, sometimes good stuff slips us by almost unnoticed....which is almost what happened with Land Lovers!

It was in that grey-in-every-sense period just after the Festive season that a song began to worm it's way deep into my psyche. "When Nana asked The Pocket Orchestra to come and play for her...."; an instant hook of an opening line over a musical backdrop that suggested Tindersticks-in-the-sun(and without the red wine and downers). It had sneaked out of my MP3 player unannounced and I had to go searching through my tracks to find out what it was. The clue was in the title; 'The Pocket Orchestra's Death Song'. It had featured on an album called 'Confidants' which had been sent to us by bassist Shane Murphy. The band in question were Land Lovers who hail from Dublin and who further comprise of Padraig Cooney who supplies the lyrics and lead vocals and plays guitar and some keyboards, Ciaran Canavan who also plays guitar and keyboards, Brian Lynch who drums, and Cormac Hughes who plays keyboards and glockenspiel. All of the band supply additional vocals and sound effects.

Land Lovers manage that unique musical trait of taking a big sound and making it intimate; like the aforementioned Tindersticks or Lambchop, they manage to take what sounds like a whole orchestra of instruments and reduce it to a bar band or garage band roll, without losing any of it's drama or cadence. I'm guessing the phrase 'pocket orchestra' is not used ironically!
What I also find intriguing about Land Lovers is that their lyrics aren't just the usual modernist Rock piffle, a slew of corny metaphorical images and phrases from the tired old lexicon of Pop that offer neither sense nor insight. No, Padraig Cooney actually takes time to tell stories within his lyrics, something that really only the likes of Nick Cave or Tom Waits still do these days. Padraig also adopts the persona of various characters within his lyrics which give the songs extra depth and texture. I'm also reminded of Howard Devoto in both Padraig's words and delivery, as well as hints of Eugene McGuiness and Ron Sexsmith(both of whom are also expert storytellers). And tonally, and this may be wandering into the arena of the daft a little, but I get an overall feel of if the Swell Maps had been produced by George Martin, or if The McTells could have afforded a decent studio. And producer. And instruments(Griff: Yes, daft is certainly the word I would use!!)

And as if all their own fine music wasn't enough to make you love them, there is also the fact that, along with other Dublin based bands Yeh Deadlies and Groom, Land Lovers are also at the center of the Popical Island Collective; basically a set up of like minded bands and artists who share Land Lovers view of slightly skewiff Pop and Folk based Indie music. I urge you to check out the Popical Island website and indulge yourself in some new musical bubble bath.
With the lame-brained Indie-rock that clogs the arteries of modern culture apparently on the wane(Hurrah!!), it's good to know that sublime, dreamsoaked pure Indie Pop is still being created out there, and Land Lovers and the Popical Island collective is a very fine place to find yourself castaway.

Land Lovers album 'Confidants' can be purchased or streamed from their Bandcamp page

And there are some free dowloads of other Popical Island artists at their Soundcloud page



Saturday, 4 February 2012

Griff says; Liechtenstein - Forward Thinking

Good news for fans of all-girl, political, post-punk pop trios - which takes in all of the Streetlamp writers and a sizable proportion of our readers too, I'd hazard - Liechtenstein have just released their long-awaited, 'difficult' second album. Hurrah! We've only had to wait five years since the release of debut album 'Survival Strategies In A Modern World'.
We, of course have written about Liechtenstein before on the Streetlamp (see 'here'). At that time I was quite excited about the release of their excellent 'Passion For Water' single. In that blog, I described them as:

"reminiscent of some of the great post-punk pop of the past such as Delta 5 and, most especially, another of my own long-time favourites Girls At Our Best!."

I went on to say of Passion for Water that:

"It's a wonderful piece of bass-driven, girl-powered, punky pop and I urge you all to check it out."

I don't think I can improve on those descriptions, so I'll simply state that Liechtenstein's classic line-up has expanded to a quartet and is now Renée, Elin, Ulrika, and Emma (Naemi and Teresa having left the band) and that they hail from Sweden.( all past and present band members pictured below)

Their new 11 track-album Fast Forward (including Passion for Water), and their back catalogue, is available through Sweden's Fraction Discs' site (home of the equally impressive La Sera). At that same site you can download a free digital version of Track 1, Ambition. Alternatively you can visit the band's page for your free download plus several other fine tracks. Or you can simply download Ambition below:

Here are official videos for two more tracks from the new album:



Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Griff says; Adventure time, C'mon grab your friends, we'll go to very distant lands.

Lately I've been worrying about the Middle East. The various power plays taking place there, especially by the Western powers, really concern me as they remind me so much of the build up to World War I, and I genuinely believe that we could be on the brink of a genuine global conflagration. However, sometimes when my mind begins to spin at the sheer horror of it all, I have to find less troubling affairs to occupy my time and that's when I turn to Adventure Time. That's right, it's not all philosophical discourse and Marxist sloganeering around here you know. Sometimes we watch cartoons too.

Let me explain. Every decade throws up a kids' cartoon that is equally enjoyed by adult viewers. Normally this is achieved by the use of surreal or subtle dark humour or sly references to adult activities, which fly over the heads of the average child viewer. Such shows often become cult viewing, especially amongst students (who tend to have the opportunity to catch kids TV). Examples of the sort of show I mean are; Betty Boop from the 1930s, Tex Avery's work for Warner Brother's Loony Tunes in the 1940s and 50s, Roobarb & Custard in the 1970s, Rocko's Modern Life in the 1990s and SpongeBob SquarePants in the 2000s. All of these shows are loved by children for their wacky humour and liberal use of of slapstick, but they also provide an extra layer of adult humour by employing double entendres, innuendos, and satirical social commentary, and this concept has been taken into maximun overdrive by the Adventure Time animation team.

Adventure Time was created by the American animator and musician Pendleton Ward and is produced by Frederator Studios for Cartoon Network. The main characters are Finn the human boy and Jake the dog, and their bizarre adventures take place in a surreal, post-apocalyptic landscape called 'the Land of Ooo'. According to Ward, the show takes place "after the bombs have fallen and magic has come back into the world". Many of the series' writers and storyboard artists have a background in indie comics and they are responsible for the weird, and often outright disturbing, characters and scenarios that unfold throughout the series. Ward has also stated that he wanted the show to contain occasional moments of sublime beauty such as that found in the glorious work of Hayao Miyazaki for the incomparable Studio Ghibli. Here's a clip of Finn and Jake.

As the clip above demonstrates, the show also contains many, many memorable lines which you'll find yourself quoting to confused 'outsiders'. Here's another clip:

The show also provides many short musical interludes and also contains the best ending theme song of any cartoon ever - the melancholy Island Song by Ashley Eriksson, which plays over the end credits.

As you can hear, Ashley's music is of the soft and sweet, lo-fi, indie-folk genre much beloved by this blog. As well as making solo music, Ashley is a member of the duo Ashley & Eli and the band Lake. Her music is very much at home within the underground, indie feel of the series and it amazes me to think that such an obscure artist, with a mere 800 listeners on her page, is heard daily by millions of children around the world. A free MP3 of Island Song can be downloaded 'here'.

If you're intrigued and want to watch Adventure Time, but don't have access to Cartoon Network then you can find full episodes 'here'. For those wanting to find out more about the series, I recommend the excellent Adventure Time Wiki.