Tuesday, 24 August 2010



So after the disappointment that was “Digging The Grave”, the band followed up with the equally infuriating “Ricochet” which upon arrival really did not make much sense as a single with its lurching, start-stop gestures.  Eventually people came to realise that it possesses a really strong chorus and definite hook but for a band previously wailed as if there were coming apart this was not an easy transition.  Was it the material or the audience that were wrong?

At the time I never liked this song.  I didn’t even buy King For A Day.  My friend at work (Guthrie at Texas Homecare) bought a used/promo copy from a record stall barely a few weeks after it was released and I think I borrowed (and recorded) it from him.  But I can’t even confirm.  I was still buying the CD singles though.

Another piece of personal history is that when this series of Faith No More releases landed I was sick to death of the band after my friend Glenn had pounded them into the ground for me.  He was a person with a class “its always funny until someone gets hurt and then its hilarious” mentality.  And you he would.  So for me the band no longer represented awesome music, it represented that guy.  So forgive my immediate lack of enthusiasm.

The track finally clicked with me, finally made sense, when I heard it performed as a set opener.  It’s a song all about the build up and bridge.  As early gestures are made it really hangs in the air as if floating through proceedings until the first chorus at which point the band achieves pay off with a grandiose hook.  Then comes the real chorus when Patton truly kicks in if dragging things to safety.  All in all it’s a pretty complex composition but also quite the blast.

It is said that the song was written on the day of Kurt Cobain’s death and was often referred to as “Nirvana” on the band’s set lists.

Once again the band go for a cartoon angry dog cover drawn by Eric Drooker, this time surrounded by orange.  It looks stylish but does not look intimidating, does not do the music service.

The additional tracks to this release feel cheap and weird.  “I Wanna F**k Myself” (aka “I Wanna Fuck Myself”) is hack and obvious like a four-track garage demo cover of “New Rose” sung through a megaphone while “Spanish Eyes” is a cheesy Patton croon.  You wish it were a cover so that the band cannot be held fully responsible.  And then you discover it is a track also known as “Moon Over Naples” and that the other song is a GG Allin song.

Always good to hear a song mature.

Thesaurus moment: ping.

Saturday, 21 August 2010



Rattling and atmospheric this soundtrack is an assertive gesture as to what it is like to have the mindset of a dependent living in a hectic metropolitan setting.  As a result the album is as much about hidden messages as it is outward and overt statements.  As frenetic time changes occur it is as if they are representing the schizophrenic traits of what it is like to be an addict.

That said this album is perhaps a bit misleading if you want to attach drug addiction to music in the fifties.  Rather than being avant garde and even downbeat jazz, this is big swing orchestration performed by tight players somewhat removed from the hipster grit reality offered by the movie.

This is the work of Elmer Bernstein a man who later became famed for scoring The Magnificent Seven and The Great Escape in addition to such lightweight favourites at National Lampoon’s Animal House, Airplane!, Spies Like Us and Ghostbusters.  This was his fourth film score and it saw him gaining an Academy Award nomination.  And for it was steering Shorty Rogers and His Giants with Shelly Manne as they powered their way through proceedings.

The Man With The Golden Arm is a popular movie with heroin taking percussionists.  In it Frank Sinatra plays a drummer named Frankie Machine.  He is a jazz drummer in the Beat era and yet, he is relatively square.  Freshly released from prison his visits his crippled and crippling wife Zosh who is in a wheelchair from where she stifles his aspirations.  More encouraging however is old flame Molly who wrestling against heroin becomes the heroine.  And as tracks take up the title/name of both these characters the movements are appropriate.

The record begins with “Clark Street” and the pulsing opening to proceedings.  It arrives with swagger before changing pace and tact in grubby fashion being somewhat representative of the dizzying existence serving as a prologue and lo-fi overture to what lay ahead.  After dropping low it eventually ends high.

As per the movie the next stop on his travels is “Zosh” which proves a solemn offering arriving with a degree of peace and suggestion of love.  The drifting emotions feel lost at sea.

In contrast now back in the swing of things “Frankie Machine” arrives with a huge presence and opening gestures akin to the arrival of “Blue Train” by John Coltrane.  Then comes “The Fix” with more high spirits in the mix and another track that reminds of the bombastic energy playfully attached to themes to shows such as Police Squad and Dragnet.  As I say, its relatively square.

With this you can always rely on a woman to cool things as “Molly” drips in and glistens offering a remorseful and reflective signature.  Its liking from a distance.  And this is a method later repeated on the sedate “Sunday Morning” that sounds rather like Lalo Schifrin initially before resuming loud and alarming gestures.

And it is these traits that rev the album living in the tracks “Breakup” and “Audition”, the latter of which has an almost salsa flow and “Sing Sing Sing” big band swing.  Then arrives the darkness of “The Cure” and it’s near Bernard Herrmann scoring “Taxi Driver” gestures.  You do not need the screen images to know what is occurring here.  However gradually it calms down just as “The Finale” plays out the remainder of the movie and the album complete with a giant final blow.

In portraying a grubby, druggy world full of hostility, desperation and anger, Bernstein was able to paint a lot of beauty and wonder.  This is jazz on an orchestral scale, cleaner than those being represented by it but no less magnificent all the same.  This was when music was nothing but art.

Thesaurus moment: clean.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010



Despite playing their instruments and being a band there has always been a gaping void when it comes to the credibility of Duran Duran.  Sure there are people that absolutely love them but they’re matured teenyboppers.  These are not classic rock fans, more adults that used to read Smash Hits.  However do they worry about this?  Do they fuck, they sleep on piles of money at night while sleeping with models and other sexual beings.  Even now.

“Planet Earth” is actually one of their more reliable, less guilty songs.  When it popped up in the opening sequence of The Business it offered similar opportunity to reassess the track and give it new context in the manner that “Peaches” by The Stranglers profited from being in the opening credits of Sexy Beast.

If nothing else, Duran Duran could generally be relied on for a terrific hook.  It has to be said that time really has been kind on this track as the build up frays healthily, Le Bon’s vocal delivery is smooth and not embarrassing.  And then the chorus kicks in strangely exhilarating fashion while a wayward keyboard echoes something that could possibly have been lifted from Joy Division.

Of course at the end of the day this was a Top Of The Pops song and despite the quality of the track indignity would have eventually rained down on it thus tainting its legacy and existence.  Held on its own though, musically it is probably their best song.

I can’t believe I used to confuse from with Wham!  Now if only the chorus had contained words.

Thesaurus moment: stupefaction.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010



“I Want More” feels something of an odd pop departure for everyone’s favourite Krautrock band.  Gone was the repetition, the tribal rhythms and suddenly in place was a more coherent, traditional composition running somewhere between P-Funk and The Blockheads.

Released in 1976 and taken from their eighth album “Flow Motion”, Damo Suzuki was now long gone but in spite of this the song was somehow a hit to the degree that they ended up performing it on Top Of The Pops.  That was quite a detached destination considering their seemingly nihilistic origins.

Can were always an adventurous proposition.  Even within the confines of one album often they could skim across a number of genres displaying a grand wealth of sounds and techniques.  And despite this record coinciding with punk, you can’t help but sense it was picked up by the disco fraternity.  Certainly it is a track you could healthily dance to.

On the reverse is just “More” which continues Can’s new disco trend but now with trademark repetition and an industrial sense more fitting their personality.  With choppy, wah infused guitar gradually becoming louder and constantly threatening to interject it is a comforting resolve.  Then like a passing train it is gone.

Bands like Can aren’t supposed to have hit singles.  When it comes to music they are pioneers.  There product is wide and designed to be niche, unappealing to the masses.  Occasionally though freaky things like this will happen and by accident legends will become one hit wonders.  Music is a fickle field.

Thesaurus moment: abnormal.

Monday, 16 August 2010



It’s tough not to love this song.  When growing up in England this song is almost omnipresent during the Christmas period and thus with it comes a whole host and batch of fine memories.

Jona Lewie is a gentleman.  Years ago when I used to work on the Stiff Records accounts I would receive a phonecall from him every six months asking how I was and how much he was getting.  In conversation he always reminded me of cross between Phil Daniels and Steve Lamacq.  It’s an old school combination, one laced with manners.

The song was never intended to be associated with Christmas instead Lewie has said in the past that it was actually subtly a protest song although with the line “wish I was at home for Christmas” and the brass accompaniment there is no denying that it possesses a classic Christmas feel.

Vocally “Stop The Cavalry” is actually a very dry performance/delivery.  The structure is classic as Lewie delivers the verses ahead of a trumpet blast and tasteful bridge that leads into a tender chorus.  And somewhere inside it all is that magic secret ingredient that makes it an annual treasure.

The reality is that it is actually a song about war and how precious things such as Christmas are when faced with such extreme circumstances.  Within in the song there is a strong but subtle message of gratitude coupled with an overriding gesture of peace.  If only all festive songs were as earnest.

Thesaurus moment: multifarious.

Sunday, 15 August 2010



This is a terrific single.  The Blockheads produced a string of them.  In Ian Dury they had the most amazing leader, a uniquely driven creative mind that led a solid and tight team into the good fight often emerging winning on the way.

In spite of grotesque circumstances and surrounds, “Reasons To Be Cheerful” is a wonderfully upbeat song.  It expresses the kind of mindset that was needed in order for such a circus of a music act to succeed, not least after being inspired by a near fatal electrocution that occurred in Italy and nearly killed their roadie Charley.

There is a real swing attached to this song.  Always with the Blockheads it felt as if their sound had as much to do with songhall as it did punk.  With this a genuinely unique and inventive din was accomplished.

Listened to with a modern ear it is surprisingly slick.  Dury is tastily relentless in dealing out a fine shopping list of fun stuff while a chopping disco guitar lends bite as parrot fashion backing empowers proceedings.  There is also cowbell, a weird guitar solo and an unnecessary saxophone solo.  It was also the last single to be released by the band with their original line-up.

On the flipside “Common As Muck” is a more Cockney than Cockney track with a piano line that could be pulled straight from the Chas n Dave songbook while Dury’s delivery itself wouldn’t be out of place in a musical.  This is the sound of a band having fun.  And sometimes that is all you need of your favourite artists.

Thesaurus moment: hoist.

Saturday, 14 August 2010



This is the debut from the music project started by Zack de la Rocha in 2008.  As such you can imagine/expect that with his distinct vocal delivery ruling the roost that it is not a million miles removed from the work of Rage Against The Machine.  His partner in crime is Jon Theodore the drummer with The Mars Volta as the backing track feels somewhat drum focused.

Spread over five tracks, all in all this somewhat blunter than his previous outfit.  The sharp delivery of the stabbing keyboards that sound like they could actually be guitars suggests a nastier, less patient approach to proceedings that scolds on execution.  All in all it’s a relentless departure.  It would appear here was a man with still a lot of work on his hands.

The economy and experimentation of the material gives it a more hardcore and less hard rock edge, one that is less forgiving than how things ended up towards the end of Rage Against The Machine.  In a way it suggests a more focused approach as a fresh perspective is attached to the process and aligned with proceedings.

Its funny to note in these songs that de la Rocha is beginning to sing and ironically it sees him sounding like Chris Cornell and thus occasionally things begin to echo and remind of Audioslave, which I am sure was not the intention.

The glistening repetition of the songs give them real motion and relentless energy that drives proceedings forward strengthening de la Rocha in his endeavours.  As far as selecting a backing track and unit, he made a good choice.  Some might say there isn’t a whole lot to differentiate between the music of “Wild International” and “If You Fear Dying” but the reality this is the pulse which serves as secondary when facilitating such an animated individual leading out front.

Based on these five tracks, there are real legs on this project.

Thesaurus moment: detour.


Friday, 13 August 2010



When The Wire soundtrack was first released it was entitled “All The Pieces Matter” and was a dense double disc affair featuring tracks from all five seasons in addition to fresh, urban sounds from Baltimore.  Then suddenly cheekily someone figured to separate and split the release into two and thus this Beyond Hamsterdam compilation of local dance and hip hop tracks was born from subtle greed.  Was this an idea of Avon Barksdale?

In the television series Hamsterdam referred to the section of town set aside for the drug addicts and drug dealers to cohabit alike, a concerted effort to keep the undesirable aspects of Baltimore away from the more delicate and respectable parts of the city.

The compilation begins with the season four version of “Way Down In The Hole”, the Tom Waits song used for the opening credits.  For each season the show employed a new arrangement and this version came from Domaje, a group specifically formed by Baltimore teenagers to record for the show.  As far as the five takes on the theme goes, this is one of the best.

As to be expected there is a fair amount of hip hop on the record and representing acts include Tyree Colion (“the hardest working rapper in Baltimore”) and Mullyman (“the most recognised MC in Baltimore”).  They’re OK but you can hear why they have not broken out.  Somewhat more impressive is Ogun who with the unnerving shouting samples unleashes a stuttering beat akin to Wu-Tang while exhibiting an impressive amount of civic pride.  Later Dirty Hartz turn up with “That’s Da Sound” who with the great modernised siren sample smack like a modernised Public Enemy/NWA covering KRS-One.

For me the most fun track was always “Dance My Pain Away” by Baltimore club DJ Rod Lee.  It’s a bouncing and energetic track that proves genuinely pleasing and catchy.  Of the songs on the CD this always proved my most listened.

The record ends with a jazz outro as local pianist Lafayette Gilchrist delivers a big band number entitled “Assume The Position”.  As players enter the track and exit he maintains an Andrew Hill-esqe line of operation.  Its not for the faint hearted.

Is this really what drug dealers listen to?

Thesaurus moment: community.

Thursday, 12 August 2010



This was a record I bought based on the cover alone.  Also it was for present.  Such was the strength of the artwork that I felt confident enough to pass on the riches.  Call me an idiot, call me a fool but that’s just the way I rock then roll.

The first time I ever heard anyone speak highly of Saxon was at my first office job which was at a family owned double glazers.  While I was into the grunge, the successful son of the outfit (and semi professional footballer) took us back to his formative years and private hell when explaining his tastes as a teenager.

Saxon were so specifically seventies.  They were of their time and as such have not necessarily aged with grace.  This is your dad’s music, the kind that the old bearded men will get nostalgic about in the pub.  Its music that couldn’t be constructed today.  Or at least constructed to last.  It is no coincidence that Tommy Saxondale inhabited such a moniker.

Listened to with modern ears there is quite a strange cauldron of sounds on display.  There was always something very Donnington about these bands, something very working class and curiously earnest in their transparent veneers.  As hard as they may try to be mythical, they could just as easily have been bricklayers.

A song such as “Big Teaser” feels classic of the times and something you would never hear born today.  It is classic scrappy rock with that seventies bass sound and general galloping feels but strangely with a hook that reminds me of “River Deep Mountain High”.  Elsewhere a song such as “Judgement Day” opens in joyful fashion echoing a Kiss-esqe demeanour with upbeat gestures only to later meander into something of a prog area and Yes like harmonies.

On the whole the band seems to me to be attempting some kind of Led Zeppelin assertion, not least through the vocalist/singer Biff Byford who generally only accomplishes sounding like a midget Robert Plant.  Whereas Zeppelin had “Stairway To Heaven”, Saxon seemed to settle for “Stallions Of The Highway”.

It ends horribly with “Militia Guard” and cheesy army drumming.  Why did metal bands used to do this?

There is worse metal, worse bands, worse albums.

Thesaurus moment: resolute.

Monday, 9 August 2010



Some songs just brighten any day; exceed any glum obstacle put in their way.  There once was a time when there was a pride to be taken in glowing.  Certain musicians were able to swank and the results were timeless.

Kenny Loggins is the man!  Back in the early eighties if you required a rousing theme or montage song he was your go to guy.  He supplied Top Gun, he supplied Footloose but most important of all he supplied Caddyshack.

Technically “I’m Alright” is soft rock but over the years this kind of song when born on a good day has been regenerated as yacht rock.  Seldom will you ever hear a cleaner sounding acoustic guitar.

I guess its happy escapism that fuels this record.  How often do you tell somebody “I’m all right” and actually mean?  Not as regularly as Mr Loggins I would wager.

This song’s association with Caddyshack is perfection.  Happiness and humour make such great bedfellows.  And this low and lazy call to task expertly echoes the kind of relaxed attitudes exhibited by Rodney Dangerfield, Chevy Chase and Bill Murray in the morning. – “why don’t you just let me be”.

At the end of the day it is impossible not to react to this song, be it add a skip to your step, a dance to your movement or general singalong to the words.  “Nobody worry about me”.  Then three minutes and thirty nine seconds later the exiting emotion is one of jubilation.  The investor wins.

In many ways this is one of the most sincere outpourings of pleasure in the history of (soft) rock.  How can a person even come to close questioning the credentials and worth of such music?  There was no corporate force behind its creation and the use was in a setting that at the time was still uncorrupted and genuine.

Unfortunately I did make the mistake of turning the record over and listening to “Lead The Way”.  Kenny Loggins – what is this guy, fucking Barry Manilow?  And thus my previous arguments are all but rendered void.  I am an idiot.

For some reason I bloody love that seven inches used to have their release date on the label.

So today just improved.

Thesaurus moment:  swag.