Sunday, 30 December 2012

Memory Of The Future EP's

So today I was able to listen to the new single EP's in their entirety for the first time! I'm sure you all know how this works right now, these aren't my final thoughts on the songs (This is the first I've heard the majority of them). It's just some basic thoughts that I had when I listened to them for the first time. Anyhow, let's begin.

Memory Of The Future
So the first of the two disc set comes with the Stuart Price radio edit of Memory Of The Future and three bonus tracks. I've been particularly eager for the bonus tracks because I've loved every other B-side they've put out this era. For me, its been one of their most consistent eras for B-sides (maybe since Behaviour era in my opinion) in their career. With that in mind I have to say that whilst I admittiedly think this is the weakest set of B-sides from Elysium so far, that doesn't mean I dislike them. All three of them are mid-tempo ballads and are the sort of tracks that will get better with repeated plays I think. Listening and One Night are particularly lovely (I think One Night could have fitted on Elysium really well too) and Inside is unlike any other Pet Shop Boys song I think. I really love parts of Inside's arrangement. It's my least favourite so far admittedly but I think that this could be the one I find myself playing the most out of the three in the long term. That tends to happen a lot with me: the song that turns out to be my favourite tends to be my least favourite initially. Overall though, three very worthy b-sides! Overall, I think my favourite is One Night.

Memory Of The Future Remixed
This one I definitely was more apprehensive about hearing. Remixes I tend to either love or hate, and for some reason I tend to find remixes of Pet Shop Boys songs a decidedly more mixed bag than most. With that in mind I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised here! I found myself really enjoying all of them, bar one.My favorite was the Ulrich Schnauss remix which actually has a really beautiful arrangement that's rather different from the original and vocals not found in the original. I thought it was Chris' voice at first but the ever-informative Pet Shop Boys Commentary states that it's almost certainly the voice of Ulrich Schnauss himself. It does sound an awful lot like Chris though. The only remix that I didn't like was the DJ Waldo Squash remix. It's just too ploddy sounding and I don't like the slightly dubstep type effects that were added. I also really liked the club oriented direction of the two Digital Dog remixes, particularly the one entitled Digital Dog Club Remix. All in though I definitely found the majority of the remixes better than average!

All in all though I think both EP's are most enjoyable. I don't know if Elysium will have a fourth single (I think A Face Like That should be the next single if there is to be one) but if there's not, then there's been at least 9 very good B-sides to add to their impressive catalogue of B-sides. With a dance album supposedly getting released in spring of 2013 a fourth single may not come to fruition, but time will tell.

Albums of the year.

Amazingly, I haven't actually listened to that many new albums from this year. I've been typically listening to older music and discovering more older bands. This year has seen me become a fan of Nirvana and The Clash and finding that I liked albums by Liza Minneli, The Police, Dusty Springfield and Lou Reed more than I would ever have imagined. I've also began developing keen interests in David Bowie and Echo & The Bunnymen.... 2013's obsessions maybe? Who knows!

Anyhow, here's my admittedly small year end list.

Albums of the year
Pet Shop Boys - Elysium (Favourite)
Hot Chip - In Our Heads (Favourite)
The Killers - Battle Born (Runner up)
Django Django - Django Django
Walk The Moon - Walk The Moon
Reptar - Body Faucet
David Byrne & St Vincent - Love This Giant
Of Monsters and Men - My Head is an Animal
Madonna - MDNA
Jessie Ware - Devotion

Songs of the year
Pet Shop Boys - Ego Music
The Killers -  The Rising Tide
Walk The Moon - Tightrope
Reptar - Isoprane Bath
Madonna - Falling Free
Hot Chip - Night and Day
Pet Shop Boys - The Way Through The Woods
David Byrne & St Vincent - I Am An Ape
Friendly Fires - Why Don't You Answer?

Friday, 28 December 2012

The Q Book of Punk Legends

My brother decided to clear a few of his old possessions out of the spare room, and rather surprisingly came across this! You can probably tell why I loved him finding this - that's Joe Strummer from The Clash on the front cover. It's rather funny that he found this whilst there's somewhat of a Clash phase going on in my house at the moment (I've made my brother and father interested in investigating them too). Anyhow, this came free with an old Q magazine in 1996. We're not actually sure who bought the issue but it was definitely either my brother or my dad, most likely my dad though. Its a good little book, it timelines key moments in various punk related bands careers, it even has an entry on Talking Heads bizarrely and I wouldn't class them as punk at all. I personally found the Clash entry more educational than their Westway To The World documentary; I wasn't sold on that documentary if I'm honest. Never the less, I'm pleased we found this in our house!

Monday, 24 December 2012

First time listening: Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros - Rock Art & The X-Ray Style

So as you could imagine, with exploring  The Clash comes with it a fair few Clash related bands to discover too such as Big Audio Dynamite, The 101ers etc. The first place I've started though was Joe Strummer & The Mescarleros who formed in 1999 and lasted until Joe Strummer's death in 2002. Rock Art and X-ray Style was their debut album.I have to admit that I was a little bit dubious at first because I really love The Clash and I wasn't sure if I would like this new musical style of The Mescaleros. I have to say though that for the most part I really liked it. A few of the songs didn't gel with me on first listen but when I liked certain songs, I loved them. My favourites so far are Nitcomb, Sandpaper Blues, Willesden to Cricklewood and Diggin' The New. I'm really looking forward to listening to Global A Go-Go now, especially because it contains the beautiful Johnny Appleseed which has become one of my favourite songs since I've first heard it!

Soft Cell - Non Stop Estactic Dancing (First listening)

I do really like Soft Cell, I think they were very underrated if I'm honest. In particular, I love their first album, Non Stop Erotic Cabaret. Anyhow, as you could probably guess Non Stop Ecstatic Dancing is a remix album (with their cover version of What being a new single at the time). Anyway, I decided today to give it a proper listen in full for the first time. I was familiar with about three out of the six songs on the EP but I fancied giving it a full listen. I have to say that I really enjoyed it! I was already familiar with the version of Memorabilia here, but I prefer it so much more to the single version. I also really loved the instrumental version of A Man Could Get Lost and the version of Chip's On My Shoulder too. A very enjoyable listen!

Happy Mondays - Bob's Yer Uncle 12" mix

I love this mix, probably my favourite mix of any Happy Mondays song if I'm honest! The original version of Bob's Yer Uncle can be found on the seminal Pill's N Thrills and Bellyaches as an album track. I was quite surprised to discover as well that this particular remix was actually carried out by The Grid (Who were Dave Ball from Soft Cell's second band). The Grid also did a remix of one of the Happy Mondays biggest hits, Loose Fit too. Anyway, the original version of Bob's Yer Uncle was one of my favorite Happy Mondays songs namely because it was very laidback and mellow but still maintained that certain groove that gave Happy Monday's their unique edge. It was one of the more relaxed tracks in their discography I think. The 12" mix just takes that relaxed quality and capitalizes on it even further but it's still slightly danceable. It omits the guitars that had a quite a prominent role in the original track and -for me at least- it makes Shaun Ryder's vocals more the center of things. I don't know about you (and I am terrible for making out lyrics for many artists) but in the original version I find his deeper pitch damn near impossible to make out sometimes. It also doesn't commit a cardinal sin of messing around with the deep and pretty much irresistible bass line which is the key in making the whole track work. You can find this on 12" on the Loose Fix vinyl in the UK, but if you want it on CD then you can find it on the Double Easy: US Singles compilation. It was this "12 that made me really want to get that compilation actually. It's not as difficult to get as it sounds either. Although it was only released in the US you can find that compilation on Amazon UK. I payed no more than £3 for my copy (a very good condition second hand one) from an excellent Amazon Marketplace seller called Zoverstocks. You can also find it on the 2007 special edition of Pills N Thrills and Bellyaches that came partnered with a DVD. For some reason though, that album (as well as the Bummed reissue done in the same vein) is an utter nightmare to track down at a decent price, even here in the UK. Hopefully in the future now that Happy Mondays in their original line-up are recording new material the record company will see fit to re-release those special editions. For now though, enjoy a great remix!

Sunday, 23 December 2012

New Order - Live at Irvine

I found this a few hours ago, its a great little find so I thought I would show it to any fellow New Order fans who haven't yet discovered. This was uploaded on Youtube a few weeks ago but I've only stumbled across it now. It's a bootleg of a show in California as part of the 1989 Technique Tour. I've never actually heard a Technique show in full so I was very excited to find this because Technique is one of my favourite New Order albums. I have to say as well that it has absolutely superb sound quality. Easily one of the highest quality New Order bootlegs that I've heard in terms of sound quality if I'm honest. It's also quite unusual to see a New Order set that doesn't contain Blue Monday although given how overplayed that song is it may be no bad thing. It's certainly a treat to finally hear Mr Disco performed live as that's one of my personal favourites. I really recommend checking this out!

Saturday, 22 December 2012

10 years ago today....

In other sadder news, Joe Strummer of The Clash sadly passed away 10 years ago today, of an undiagnosed heart defect at the age of 50. His music and lyrics are as relevant today as they ever where, and in an era were music can sometimes sound a little passionless and insincere, we need more people that have the same honesty and passion for their craft as he had. I'll be listening to plenty of The Clash and also of The Mescaleros as has become almost habitual for me. His music is getting me through some pretty tough times at the moment and for that I will always be grateful. RIP to a legend <3

New Order - Peel Sessions 1998

CD Front
New Order did several Peel Sessions - three if I recall correctly - but my favourite of the three has to be their third and final Peel Session from November 1998. It was one of the first things they did together when they made their comeback as a group in 1998. On a slightly sadder note, it would also prove to be the last recordings Gillian Gilbert would make with the group prior to her departure in 2001 which would last for ten years, until she rejoined them in 2011. Anyway, one of the things that New Order decided to do when they made their comeback was to begin playing Joy Division songs at the live shows, which has now become an utter staple feature of their sets. This decision is somewhat reflected in the songs performed at the Peel Sessions. The songs chosen were the following:
  •  True Faith
  • Isolation (Joy Divison cover)
  • Touched By The Hand of God
  • Atmosphere (Joy Division cover)
  • Paradise

I have to say I really like the variety of songs there. It's not really a conventional (although when were New Order conventional really) straight forward hits set. It was a stroke of genius to include a version of Isolation I think, as I think that's one of the Joy Division tracks that sounds slightly akin to the sound New Order would go for. Their version of Atmosphere isn't quite as haunting as the original but its still a fine effort nonetheless. The real crowning glory for me here though is the new version of True Faith. It gives it more of a house feeling and its simply masterful. In fact, I'll go out on a limb and say its probably become my favourite version of the song, even above the already excellent original. Those of you who have ever saw their stellar performance at Reading in 1998 and felt suitably impressed by the version of True Faith there then need to check this out if you haven't done so - its the same arrangement. It was also great to see one of their most underrated singles (Touched By The Hand of God) make an appearance, along with a Brotherhood album track called Paradise. Paradise is another overlooked song I think and its good to see it get some attention when so many of New Order's album tracks criminally get forgotten in favour of the likes of Blue Monday, Bizzare Love Triangle etc.

CD Back
The 1998 Peel Sessions seems to be popular with New Order fans. Online petitions took place in order to ensure that it got an official release. A year after these petitions, the label Strange Fruits decided to honor fan's wishes and released the 1998 Peel Sessions - along with their four tracks they performed in the 2001 Evening Sessions set - in a CD entitled In Sessions. Sadly its proved to be slightly difficult for me to obtain and I do fear its become somewhat rare. The cheapest copy of it is on Amazon UK for a whopping £30 and that's second hand! It's a shame, because I feel this is one of the best moments in their discography. It just further cements their place as one of the most innovative and consistent artists ever to grace electronic music. Highly recommended!

ABC - One Better World (Pickering Park Remix)

12" cover.
I have to concede I don't know an awful lot about ABC - I've only heard their Up and Lexicon of Love albums and a few other various songs. From what I have heard, I quite like them. They're not my favourite group of the 80's, but they still have some great songs like Love Conquers All and When Smokey Sings. Anyhow, this is a remix of their lead single (released in May of 1989) from Up by Mike Pickering and Graeme Park. I listened to the Up album for the first time in its entirety yesterday and I have to say that it did leave me feeling rather disappointed if I'm honest. It's funny because the whole album is done in a very house influenced style - and house music is one of my favourite genres - but for me the whole production on the album was just a little bit cheesy and the songs just all sounded more or less identical to the other. One of the only tracks on the album that I thought had a bit of individuality about it was One Better World, but if I'm honest I think I prefer this remix. I also do quite like the Club mix and the Garage mix too though. Having said that I think this remix brings out the potential in the song a lot better and it's just produced far better in my opinion. I don't think the original version has aged all that well at all, but the Pickering/Park mix has aged substantially better I feel. Elements of the sound vaguely like Good Life by Inner City to me actually. Also, the piano chords are much more prominent in this remix which gives it more of a euphoric atmosphere to me, and that goes perfectly with the lyrics. As you could probably guess from the title One Better World is a very upflifting song with a very direct and straightforward message (but a lovely one at that). The message of the song is simple: we should promote the values of peace, love and equal rights for all. It's a message that's always timeless I feel as let's be honest, the world has yet to fully embrace those principles. Honestly, I could have imagined that this would have fitted in just perfectly with the Second Summer of Love that was underway in the UK at this time. On that note, one of the most well known nightclubs in the UK at this point was Manchester's legendary Hacienda nightclub, at which Pickering and Park were both regular DJ's. The Pickering/Park remix was released as a stand-alone 12" in its own right, but you can also find it on the 2005 remastered edition of Up and on the 1990 greatest hits album Absolutely. A great remix that still sounds fresh!

Friday, 14 December 2012


Highlights is a VHS tape of the first tour by Pet Shop Boys, the 1989 tour. Originally, the intention of Pet Shop Boys and Derek Jarman was to release a full length recording of one of the Wembley Arena concerts. However when they saw the film in full, they felt disappointed with the way the show came across on video. So much so they decided to only release a partial recording of the concert, entitled Highlights. The full length film of the Wembley concert that was recorded was called On Tour and to this day remains unreleased, with Highlights also remaining only on VHS. The full track listing for the VHS is as follows:
  • The Sound of the Atom Splitting
  • It's a Sin
  • Shopping
  • Love Comes Quickly
  • Domino Dancing
  • Rent
  • King's Cross
  • It's Alright
As you can see, its an incredibly brief VHS - it only equates to roughly 33 minutes in length. It only has eight songs out of the eighteen that were performed on the tour and omits some of their biggest hits like West End Girls and Always On My Mind. Some of my personal favourite performances from the tour were omitted too, like Heart, One More Chance and Nothing Has Been Proved. I can't fault the actual performances here - the 1989 tour is one of my favourite tours - but I actually feel that a partial recording of a concert does an even bigger injustice to their live talent. I do wonder just what they felt was so poor about the original On Tour film.

Japanese Laserdisc release
Also, it may be worth of note (or it could be just splitting hairs on my part) to remember that the tracks on the VHS are jumbled up, in the actual concert Love Comes Quickly was performed before The Sound of The Atom Splitting and Its A Sin for just one example. I don't know about you, but I am a real stickler for watching things the way they were originally planned to be seen, so the idea of watching the performances in non-chronolgical order is a big no-no for me. Thank goodness the overall concert didn't have a narrative structure originally though (like Performance did) otherwise the lack of chronological order would have been a massive hindrance!

All in all - despite the performances being excellent in their own right - I find it hard to recommend this, even if you are a die-hard fan. It is relatively easy to find a secondhand copy, at least it is here in the UK but I just don't think its worth it. Not only is it an archaic format it omits just over half of the eighteen songs performed. When you consider that the full tour can be viewed on Youtube in very good quality it renders this more or less obsolete. My advice? Pass on this VHS and lets just hope that one day Pet Shop Boys will see fit to release this (and Discovery too)

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Cicero - Then

Cicero (who's real name is Dave Cicero) is somewhat of a forgotten artist. He's perhaps most known amongst Pet Shop Boys fans, those that would be aware of their work with other artists in particular. He was signed to the Pet Shop Boys short lived music label, Spaghetti Records.He became involved with them after he attended one of their 1989 concerts and succeeded in giving a tape of demo's he had recorded to them which Pet Shop Boys subsequently liked. His single Heaven Must Have Sent You Back To Me was the first release on their record label. Cicero would go on to release a number of other singles on the label and to date his only album, titled Future Boy. He was never a chart sucess really which is a shame I think as he does have some excellent songs. The Loving Feeling (which was co-produced by Pet Shop Boys) would have reached much higher than #46 on the UK Singles Chart had it been recorded and released by Pet Shop Boys themselves I feel. Some of the tracks on Future Boy enlisted the help of Pet Shop Boys in one guise or another, but this track - Then - I feel is perhaps the best on the whole album and it doesn't enlist the help of Pet Shop Boys at all. It could easily have been a single I think, I actually prefer this to Love Is Everywhere if I'm honest. Like all of the other tracks on Future Boy, Then was written by Cicero. The song spends pretty much all of its first two minutes as a slow song. It's refreshing for a change of tempo when up until this point, the album has consisted almost exclusively of fast-paced dance tracks. The slow arrangement is quite touching and actually very lovely I think. However, it quickly evolves into a dance track, albeit it still doesn't have just the same pacy feeling as Heaven Must Have Sent You Back To Me for instance. The first time I heard the track the change in tempo did take me by suprise. Having said that, it feels natural though and not contrived or forced to make the track seem more interesting. Most importantly of all, the song still retains the same level of emotion even at when it reaches that faster tempo. The song does sound 80's tinged too - personally I think it sounds a tiny bit like a New Order song - although I think many of the songs on Future Boy have those sonic influences. I have to say that the first time I heard this song I thought I could hear Sylvia Mason James' voice - who has worked extensively with Pet Shop Boys for many years - although the ever informative Discogs site informed me otherwise that it wasn't her on the track. Anyway, this is a really good song from an artist who I feel didn't quite get the recognition he probably deserved.

The Clash - Know Your Rights

So lately I've been listening to an awful lot of The Clash (and material concerning their late frontman, Joe Strummer). So far I'm having a hard time deciding my list of favourite songs because there's been just so many that I've really liked, but there's something special about Know Your Rights I think. It's from their penultimate album Combat Rock, and was released as the first single from the album in April 1982, prior to the album's own release. Know Your Rights has to be one of my favourite songs from the album, almost exclusively because of the lyrics. Lyrically the song takes a very scathing view on the government, more specifically the rights that the Government bestows upon us and subsequently feels that we should be grateful to have. According to the song itself, we have three main rights (not to be killed, to food money and to free speech) and each of the song's three verses discuss and then ridicule each of these rights in turn. For instance, we have the right not to be killed but if it's carried out by a policeman or an aristocrat then it becomes acceptable. The song has a very timeless message I think, particularly the third verse, which says that we have the right to free speech so long as we're saying what people want us to say and nothing in protest. For me at the moment that particular verse carries some poignancy. Not least because of the political tension that has flared up in my hometown at the moment over a political decision. In general though sometimes I feel like here in Northern Ireland you can't really say what you feel because there can be just too much bigotry, and the last few weeks here have made me feel there's still a lot of work to be done on that particular issue. It's certainly a very disillusioning place indeed sometimes. It's a great example of what a timeless lyricist Joe Strummer was though. Know Your Rights was released in 1982 and yet thirty years later it's lyrics are still ringing true for people. For me at least, it's a song that embodies why I personally feel The Clash were superior to Sex Pistols (as much as I really like them). I can't say I've listened to a song of the Sex Pistols and felt that the lyrics really summed up my viewpoint on subjects although it happens much more frequently with The Clash. That's just me though. In any case, I think Know Your Rights is a brilliant song with just as much relevance today as it had when it was originally written.

Friday, 7 December 2012

NME - Joe Strummer cover

So I am having quite a phase of listening to The Clash recently. To add to that, I've taken quite an interest in the life of their lead singer - the late Joe Strummer. To date this is the only Clash related item I have (along with a postcard on my wall), but I hope to rectify that soon with Christmas coming up. Anyhow, this is an NME special that was made in August to commemorate what would have been Joe Strummer's 60th birthday had he not passed away. As you could imagine it was a retrospective type feature and it also featured more current artists talking about why his legacy is so important and that sort of thing. I remember I was really excited to get this issue because I wanted to find out a bit more about Joe Strummer. Its a really interesting article that the NME did on him, what was particularly fascinating was the reprinting of an old interview from the Clash's heyday that he had done for the NME. I found a lot of what he said in the interview not only made a lot of sense, but it also resonated with me a fair bit. It was definitely instrumental in making me want to investigate The Clash/Joe Strummer more if I'm honest!

Friday, 23 November 2012

Friendly Fires - Why Don't You Answer?

Also, in the last few days Friendly Fires have released a new track, to promote their entry in the series Late Night Tales. For those who are maybe unfamiliar with that series, essentially an artist is given the chance to compile various tracks from their record collections to create a mix which they feel is at its most effective to listen to at night. Many electronic artists have entries in the series like MGMT, Metronomy and Groove Armada. It's also a traditional feature for artists to record a cover of a song exclusively for their set, hence why we have Why Don't You Answer. The original of Why Don't You Answer was by Eberhard Schoener with Sting on lead vocals and it was released in 1978. I have to say I really like the original although in some ways I think Friendly Fires version brings out more of the intended feeling of the song. In many ways I think Why Don't You Answer embodies the main objective of the Late Night Tales series. It has this dark and moody atmosphere to it and it just feels like something you'd listen to late at night, if that doesn't sound too ridiculous. Its a stark change in direction for Friendly Fires, and it's growing on me with each listen. The change in sound is just highlighted when you compare the sound here to their excellent sophomore album, 2011's Pala. Pala has an exuberant and heady disco oriented dance-pop sound whereas Why Don't You Answer see's them going in a much more experimental and darker direction. What I think makes the track is its deep bass-line, it adds a very dark layer to the track. The bass-line does sound fundamentally quite disco to me but its almost like they've taken their usual disco flourishes and approached it from a very different and morbid sounding angle. I guess I'd describe Why Don't You Answer as dark disco really. The lyrics of the song are as simple as the title suggest, the narrator is torturing themselves that their lover hasn't called. I think the lyrics suit Ed McFarlane's voice very well really. The constant stuttering synthesizer just makes the song sound rather haunting too I think. Its strange, because I'm enjoying this song more and more with every listen but I do prefer more traditional sounding Friendly Fires material. I'm not sure if I could take a whole album of songs in this vein. I've been left worried for Friendly Fires upcoming studio album, which I hope is released sometime next year after reading reports that they're looking to go down the experimental route with their third offering. Whilst artistic development is key I don't know if they shouldn't change what isn't broke. Pala is one of the best albums I've heard in recent times. Having said that, Why Don't You Answer? is a most interesting song that proves that maybe, just maybe they'd pull off an experimental electronic album better than I'd ever thought.

Initial thoughts on Crystal Castles - (III)

So in the last week or so Crystal Castles have released their third album, called (III). Despite the album gaining some very positive reviews I have to say that I've been left rather disappointed with the new album though. As much as I do like Crystal Castles I guess I would be lying if I said they were one of my favourite groups. Although I do really like their first and second albums their low-points for me are so low that it makes me dock them a few places if I were to do a list of my favourite artists. With (III) though I just can't get into it at all. Very few of the songs are standing out to me at the moment I'm afraid. Many of the songs are laden with chimp-punk sounding vocals which I find really annoying and many of the songs have a very glitchy feel. Crystal Castles have always had a very chaotic 8bit sound but at least on the previous two albums melody was still prevalent. Here though for me there seems to be a distinct lack of any real melody on many of the tracks Some of the songs I feel have the potential to be enjoyable to listen to - like Plague or Telepath - but the various effects that are present in many of them just kill my enjoyment stone dead. For me, the only three tracks that I can say I really enjoy at present are Wrath of God, Sad Eyes and Child I Will Hurt You. I'm sorry to say that the rest of the tracks though either leave me with no emotion whatsoever or reaching for the skip button. The album does have a focused sound, I can't fault it for that, but really a lot of it just sounds very samey to me. Maybe Crystal Castles will be one of those groups that I will always have a kind of love/hate relationship with. I fully understand the album is meant to have a vast and bleak sort of atmosphere but for me it feels like a lot of the screamy chipmunk voices were employed to cover the fact that under the surface the album really isn't anything to write home about. I had enjoyed the lead single of the album so much and I thought that it was going to be brilliant, but sadly so far I've been left bitterly disappointed with their third offering. I guess if your into more harsher/darker electronic music you may love it, but as this listener isn't its left me with no choice to say that its one of the most disappointing albums I've heard in recent memory. If my opinions change I will of course post an update, but for the moment I can't see me enjoying this album anymore. Sorry!

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Pet Shop Boys in David Bowie show

Last night I stayed up a little bit later than usual to watch The Genius of David Bowie. It was a very interesting show - perfect for someone like me who is developing an interest in David Bowie without knowing an awful lot about his work. It was mainly performances from TV shows mixed in with songs by other artists that he had worked on and the like. It taught me quite a bit of factual information too that I found quite fascinating. It was also very nice to see Pet Shop Boys feature on the show. Their performance together of Hallo Spaceboy (Pet Shop Boys single mix, obviously) from Top Of The Pops was featured. I do love that remix so it was very nice to see them featured. Both avid Bowie fans (Neil even met him in 1972 if memory serves me) I can only imagine how thrilled they were to work with him!

Creation Records documentary

So a few days ago I decided to watch this, Upside Down: The Creation Records story. It was a very interesting documentary! If not already obvious, I tend to have a thing for record labels (anyone who knows me knows that I am besotted with all things Factory related). Creation reminds me a little bit of Factory in a way really for some strange reason. The two do have some links too in a tenuous way, that are touched upon in the documentary. Anyhow, this documentary was both thought provoking and moving in places, especially towards the end. It featured many contributions from some of the key bands of the label, such as Oasis, Primal Scream and The Jesus and Mary Chain. There were some surprises too; Peter Hook from New Order had a rather entertaining brief appearance, and for whatever reason The Divine Comedy were in it. Why that is though, I have no idea. They weren't an act on Creation to the best of my knowledge. Anyhow, this documentary might only be of real interest if you are self-confessed music geek (as I am) but if that's you - or you have an interest in indie music (especially 80's indie music) then its very much worth a watch!

Friday, 16 November 2012

Liza Minnelli - If there was love

So lately I've been delving into a lesser known area of Pet Shop Boys work - their production work. I've been particularly listening to two albums; Dusty Springfield's Reputation and Liza Minnelli's Results. I've really surprised myself at how much I've enjoyed both and Results is fast becoming a particular favorite of mine! The pinnacle of the album for me though I think is this track - If There Was Love. This is one of the tracks that was specifically written and recorded for Results. It's very typical Pet Shop Boys in style I think, it sounds very much like their Introspective era. The arrangement is dance oriented in a way, but it is executed in a very subtle manner. Its definitely got a softer arrangement than Loosing My Mind for instance. Lyrically, the song is very bleak, one of the bleakest sets of lyrics in the entirety of Pet Shop Boys really. The lyrics are utterly paranoid in terms of tone, its as if the narrator feels the world is in nothing but a mess, to the point were they've become disillusioned with it. Indeed they ponder if love really is enough to fix these problems. They've become so disillusioned though that they do even question does love exist to begin with - after all they ask if love exists rather than state its existence as a matter of fact. The lyrics do leave a lot to the reader though - despite asking in the chorus whether or not love is indeed enough to combat the worlds problems no answer is given, so we don't know the narrators view on the subject. Also, the recital at the end of the track is of Shakespeare's famous Sonnet 94. It goes very well with the track I think. Essentially, the sonnet states that those who acquire power and then abuse their position and essentially turn into bad people are far more condemnable than those who never were particularly great or pleasant to begin with. Personally, I wonder if the song is implicitly directed at politicians who get into power and then don't deliver but I could be clutching at straws there. The inclusion of the sonnet was a spontaneous one - one day Neil was searching through various sonnets and the like to find something to read at a friends funeral (the same funeral depicted in Pet Shop Boys b-side Your Funny Uncle) whilst a playback of If There Was Love was on. He came across Sonnet 94 and voila. Personally, I think the song has a message that still holds up some relevance today. Living in the place that I do, and hearing so much horrible stuff about the political conflict here, its a song that makes me think. Northern Ireland is so much better to live in but sometimes things happen and it makes me wonder will the conflict ever completely end. Anyhow, back to the song itself. I think this is a great track, to the point were I would love to hear Pet Shop Boys own version if it exists. Considering that they did record demos for other tracks on Results, like So Sorry I Said its entirely plausible they do have a version of this lingering around in the vaults. Even if they don't, they could always revisit it and re-record it, like they did with In Private. In any case, an excellent song that's as strong as Pet Shop Boys own recordings!

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Memory of The Future 7" Announced!

Promo release artwork.
So in an exciting news development last night, the 7" single mix of Memory For The Future was unveiled. Interestingly, they have decided to use the already confirmed mix of the track that was made by Stuart Price as the single edit! I absolutely love Stuart Price as a producer, he has worked with a wide range of artists from Madonna to The Killers. I think the album he produced with Madonna, Confessions on A Dancefloor was her last truly great studio album. He also mixed the live CD for Pet Shop Boys very own Pandemonium CD/DVD set too. Honestly, if I were able to choose the producer for their next album Stuart Price would almost certainly be my choice. With that in mind I had high hopes for the 7" mix and I don't think it has disappointed me! Its much more bouncy and fluid than the album version I think, but it makes sense. To be honest, I'm not sure if the Elysium version - as good as it is - was all that commercially viable. With the 7" version its more poppy and no doubt it was remixed in an attempt to actually crack the Top 40 with their third single. Having said that, in no way does it sound too commercial, the new mix keeps all the integrity and merit of the original but its just been given a poppier lease of life.I can see myself playing both mixes regularly in the long run if I'm honest. It definitely sounds like it could do well in the charts too, but whether or not it does is another case entirely. I think they need to come up with a really good video for it if they want to make it into a hit because I haven't been impressed with Winner or Leaving's official music videos really. It has also been announced that it will be released on 31st December, with details on release formats, bonus tracks and remixes to be on the site soon. In any case, this is a great mix of one of the best songs on Elysium, here's hoping the B-sides will be just as good!

Monday, 12 November 2012

David Bowie - Hallo Spaceboy (CD Single)

I found this in a charity shop around six months ago. I have to admit that David Bowie is a very new artist I'm developing a keen interest in. Really its not an exaggeration to say that he along with Paul Weller are two artists I'm investigating at the moment. Naturally, I loved the remix Pet Shop Boys did of Hallo Spaceboy but when I initially listened to a greatest hits of David Bowie's work, I wasn't sold. I just couldn't seem to grasp it at all. Don't get me wrong, I thought he was talented but he wasn't gelling with me. Something about him made me want to listen to him more though. A few months later, a performance of Jean Genie from TOTP was rediscovered from the TOTP archives after being feared lost and it was broadcast on a vintage TOTP archive show me and mum were watching. It was absolutely incredible and forced me to reevaluate him and give him another try. So I've been listening to more of him and now I think I can safely say he has won me over, he is a brilliant and most interesting artist I think. Sadly, this single is the only David Bowie CD I have so far, but a good greatest hits of his has now become one of my top priorities the next time I go record shopping!

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Classic Pop: Issue 1

This is the first issue of a brand new magazine called Classic Pop. For those of you who love 80's music this is a magazine well worth reading! This was one of my main reasons for going into town two days ago. I was convinced that it would be a monthly publication and that I had missed it probably. That was only compounded when I got to Easons (which is excellent for magazines) and it wasn't there. Cue the the disappointment because a friend got it and told me it was a great read. As it turns out, it is released every two months, and as it was released at the start of October it would still be on sale. Wooo! Now, all I needed was to find somewhere that would sell it, which is harder than you'd think because Easons tends to be the best place for more specialist magazines such as this. Anyhow, for some reason on the magazine site it specifies what shops sell it, and Eason's isn't one of them. Thankfully, one shop that does sell it is Sainsbury's and yesterday I just so happened to be traveling past a shopping center near me which has a very big Sainsbury's. As you can tell, they had the magazine. One look at the cover will tell you my main reason for getting this, but there's also a lot of other music I really like in it too. It had amazing full page sized pictures of Kate Bush, Bernard Sumner, Madonna and The Smiths. 6 pages of the legacy and influence of Kraftwerk, a feature on the ZTT record label (which is one of my favorite record labels) and best of all: 10 pages on Pet Shop Boys career. The article was very interesting too! You can tell whoever had wrote it clearly had a good grasp of their work which is refreshing, there's nothing I hate more in music journalism when people write articles on an artist and you can tell that they basically know their greatest hits and nothing else. There's a lot of other interesting articles in the magazine, basically for someone "who's brain is stuck in the 1980's" (which is how a good friend of mine once described me), this is a great magazine. Anyhow, this is a great magazine and will perfectly counterbalance my other music magazine of choice; NME, which is great for more modern music! If you can get this I really recommend it!

Pet Shop Boys - Leaving Remixed

This is a small bit of history for me actually: its my first Pet Shop Boys single! Honestly, this one was a serious shock, I got it in Head which is my preferred store out of the two we have. Where I live the Pet Shop Boys selection - well its not woeful- but as someone who has all their studio albums and the like then its nothing I haven't got. As such, I've only got four out of what must be around forty PSB CD's from the record stores in town: Discography, Disco, Elysium and now this. The selection in both record stores is pretty limited really for Pet Shop Boys stuff. I always check them both just out o habit, but prior to Elysium the last PSB purchase I made in town (discounting vinyls from a now defunct store) was over a year ago. In fact, HMV and Head don't even sell singles anymore so finding this was a real shock. I knew Head had stocked Blur's new single from earlier in the year (which I purchased) but I thought that was because it was a one-off thing. In any case seeing the new PSB one was a surprise. Especially considering they didn't have Winner at all when it was released! When I saw it, I couldn't resist it.They also had the 12" too but it was £8. They didn't have the Chris cover (which is CD 1) but I hope the fact they had this is a sign they will have it at some point!

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Electronic - Patience of a Saint

This is the more hidden of the three Electronic tracks that feature Neil Tennant of Pet Shop Boys. Its the only one that has always been an album track on Electronic's self titled debut, with previous single Getting Away With It only being added on the album on re-releases and Disappointed following some time after the album release. Despite some incorrect attributions, its the only song in the Electronic catalogue that is a full collaboration with Electronic and Pet Shop Boys, as its the only Electronic track that features Chris Lowe. Pet Shop Boys receive co-writing/co-performance credits on this track. The song is definitely a more darker and atmospheric track for Electronic I think. It has a very icy bass line that definitely makes the song have a foreboding atmosphere which is a perfect back-drop for the lyrics. Lyrically, the song is about someone who is an utter hell to live with, quite literally someone who tries "the patience of a saint". However, it might be about two people that are incredibly difficult to live with as opposed to just one. Both Neil Tennant and Bernard Sumner take co-lead on the track and thus it makes Patience of A Saint a duet. Perhaps most tellingly, out of the three Electronic songs that feature Neil, its the only one were they both share co-lead. Maybe that's coincidental but maybe it isn't. It's entirely plausible that the song only features one lyrical persona, so essentially Neil and Bernard are singing different sets of lyrics but the narrator is the same. Having said that, if they are indeed voicing two separate characters then the song is almost certainly about a gay relationship. Its not very obvious which of the two it is; I mean the song doesn't have lyrics that feel conversational between two different narrators. To be honest, both Bernard and Neil have very similar lyrics in terms of tone. If indeed it is two separate characters that Bernard and Neil are portraying then you get the idea that they are just perfect for each other. I mean both lyrical persona are self confessed as being hell to live with. In that cause although they drive the patience of a saint, they make themselves saints for having to put up with each other. It becomes quite moving then in that case I think, and its also a very clever and implicit way of showing how two people are made for each other. The song has one of my favourite sets of lyrics of all time for their ambiguity in this regard. If I'm honest, this was one of the songs on the debut album that I wasn't so fussed about. I just felt that it was lacking something compared to the other tracks on the album. Now though my opinion has completely changed with regards for the track. Not only is it one of the highlights of Electronic's discography (and their high point in terms of lyrics), I'd also say it has a certain quality that I'd find in the very best of Pet Shop Boys own discography. Believe me, I rate their best work highly! An overlooked track with lyrics to think about in my opinion!

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures

Unknown Pleasures is the first album released by seminal post-punk group Joy Division. Sadly it was to be the only album Joy Division would release during frontman Ian Curtis' lifetime, as sophomore album Closer would be released in the wake of his suicide in 1980 as a posthumous album. Unknown Pleasures is regarded as one of the best British albums of all time and with very good reason, I'd put this in the top ten albums I have ever heard by anyone. It's a musical opus really.

Unknown Pleasures though had utterly no impact on the charts when it was initially released, which did surprise me I have to admit given it's classic status as an album now. Amazingly, the highest position Unknown Pleasures obtained on the UK Albums Chart was a very lowly #71, and even then this was in 1980 following the release of Closer. Despite it's lack of chart success this has always been a critically acclaimed album though.

Of course, whilst the band are all excellent here you can't fail to ignore someone else key to making this album work as well as it does: the late Martin Hannet. Martin Hannet produced the record in such a way that gives it a transcendental nature. Simply put, the album has a timeless quality that ensures it still sounds as strong as it did when initially released. They did this by recording each instrument separately on tracks which gives it that cavernous and consequently eerie atmosphere. Whilst in the studio, their aim was to simply not recreate the feel of Joy Divisions live shows and by doing so I think that's how they've made Unknown Pleasures an album with real longevity. As much as I love Joy Division's live sound, there is an ambient and spacious feel to the album that really makes the listener resonate with Ian's voice. Honestly, the only production mishap for me was burying the guitar deep in the mix in She's Lost Control. I actually prefer the live version on Something Goes because the studio version of She's Lost Control just sounds a little bit too watered down for my liking. That minor criticism aside though, this honestly is one of the best production jobs on an album I've ever heard.

Consequently the production on the album leads me onto another reason why I love this album so much. It has an amazing atmosphere that really envelopes the listener into the soundscape of the record. Honestly, I think only those albums of the highest musical caliber can entice you in in such a way. It's eerie and unsettling in places, and its not just down to hindsight in knowing the sad fate for the band. I tried to listen to Shadowplay a number of years ago and even without knowing anything about the band it still gave me chills. It's a listening experience really unlike any other I have heard. From the opening chords of Disorder to the final seconds of I Remember Nothing you really do feel like you are someplace else with the album. Even the first lyrics sung on the album "I've been waiting for a guide to come and take me by the hand" make you feel like you are going on a journey. The album is sequenced in such a way too, on the LP version side A is called Outside, and contains the first five tracks from Disorder to New Dawn Fades. Subsequently Side B is called Inside and contains the following five tracks, from She's Lost Control to I Remember Nothing. It's appropriate in a way I think, as the second half of the album is even more of a soundscape than the first, particularly the final three tracks. It's maybe the single most cohesive album I have ever heard. Every track has its place on the album and every track brings something to the record. There's honestly not a track here I class as filler at all.

All in all I think this is one of the most consistently brilliant albums I have ever heard. Some of the more commonly known tracks include She's Lost Control and Shadowplay but honestly, those would be two tracks on the album that I find myself playing less frequently. Songs like Candidate are among some of the best that Joy Division would record in their sadly all too brief career, and Unknown Pleasures has one of the greatest pair of opening and closing tracks (Disorder and I Remember Nothing) that you'll ever hear. I will concede that the album has a cathartic tone that may be off-putting, but if you persevere you will be rewarded with some of the most beautiful production work - and music in general-  you will ever hear on record. A mesmerizing album that only gets better the more you listen to it. I'll go so far to say that not only is it one of the best albums ever, it may just be the best debut album I've ever heard. By any artist.

Michael Jackson - I'm So Blue

So in the last month or so Bad 25 has been released, which aims to be a fitting tribute to one of Michael Jackson's most revered albums. I'll admit that Bad isn't one of my favourite albums actually, but the Bad 25 package does seem terrific value. I've yet to actually get my copy but thanks to Spotify I have managed to hear the tracks on it (bar the live ones, I'm saving that for when I'm able to watch the DVD) and I have to say that the unreleased tracks really suprised me actually. Of the unreleased tracks, Free and I'm So Blue are my favorites. Actually, I think I'm So Blue is fast becoming one of my favourite Michael Jackson tracks! The lyrics of the song are rather simplistic, basically the narrator of the song's lover has left them for another man, and their coping mechnaism for this break-up is more or less to sing. The lyrics of the song are rather sad I think but what really makes the song more moving is Michael's vocal delivery. I absolutely love the little "dah dah dah's" that provides the song's main hook. For me at least, they sound like they come from a narrator who is obviously hurting following the end of their relationship. Although I do get an underlying sense of optimism from them as they obviously take such comfort from singing, (if that doesn't sound daft). The lyrics don't have the depth that makes songs like Man In The Mirror classic tracks, but they're not the main reason why I love this song. What I love about the song is that it has a much more organic sound that was disappointedly lacking in Bad. Whilst its still a very good album it's too polished and glossy in sound for me. I think I'm So Blue would have made a refreshing change from the highly polished nature of the other tracks on the record. Without sounding too harsh, I think the song has actually aged better than more or less every track that was on Bad. It could be just me, but I actually think I'm So Blue sounds like it could have fitted relatively well on Thriller if I'm being honest. Listening to this makes me wonder if there's any other tracks of a similar ilk (and knowing how frequently Michael recorded, its very likely there is) that have been simply left in the vaults for all these years. Really, it makes the posthumous Michael album seem like even more of a joke than it already was. A great song that I'm pleased has been brought to light!

Blur - Bang

Widely touted as their worst song, Bang was Blur's third single from their debut album Leisure. It was a song that didn't take long to do at all, fifteen minutes was the grand total according to Blur bassist Alex James. Being written in such a quick time you can't really expect an artistic masterpiece hardly, although I still quite like the song really. It's very straightforward though and lacks the creative element (much like their whole debut album really) that would make subsequent albums from Blur ones of high caliber. If I'm honest, its your typical early 90's indie fodder. Lyrically the song has a very simple message. It seems to be about someone who seems to be just coasting along ("bang goes another day; where and when I could not say") without much of a care in the world. They're happy to just do what is the norm "Everybody's doing it so I'll do it too". Then comes the chorus - and whilst it doesn't exactly give the song depth (its far too typical of its era for that really) - it does redeem it lyrically somewhat. Basically, the narrator shows a deep down vulnerability, whilst they don't rely on anyone in particularly they're willing to admit "a little love would make things better.". Despite its jangly guitar pop sound (including that shuffle esque rhythm which every guitar pop band seemed to be doing at the time); I think the lyrics are quite sad really. I personally get the image of this rather tragic figure aimlessly living their life without any real sense of direction. Despite this the lyrics really are a far cry from Damon Albarn's best work. Honestly, I find it hard to believe listening to this song that Damon Albarn would go on to be one of (if not the) most creative minds that British music has produced in the last 20 years or so. Even the band agree, the song has been utterly disowned by them and Damon has even gone on record saying its crap. Whilst I think its a nice little song it does feel like its being performed by a group that have yet to reach their musical peak in all honesty. Having said that I do love the music video, its probably one of my favorite videos Blur have done (It's drummer Dave Rowntree's favorite actually) and it does enhance the song. A pleasant enough song although its very rightly not looked on as their finest moment. Not quite the disaster the band make it out, but it also doesn't justify their talents at all.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Happy Mondays - Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches

Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches is Happy Mondays third studio album, released in 1990. The album for me epitomizes the late 80's/early 90's "Madchester" scene much more so than the other leaders of the era, The Stone Roses who always had a much more retro sound compared to the Happy Mondays more contemporary style. The album is their most successful, as well as their most critically acclaimed and its not hard to see why: it would personally be in my top ten most favorite records of all time!

With Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches, Happy Mondays frontman Shaun Ryder finally got to work with the producer that he was vouching for: Paul Oakenfold, no doubt thanks to the success of his "Think About The Future" mix of Wrote For Luck. Their singles would be typically remixed by DJ's anyway so really a more dance oriented album was a pretty natural move I think. In any case, the sound on Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches was the sound that Shaun had always hoped the band would go for. Happy Mondays were always a band that lent towards the dance end of the music spectrum but with Pill N Thrills and Bellyaches they finally embraced their dance influences. By doing so, they created their defining album and many people agree. The album reached #4 in the UK charts which was a colossal leap from previous album Bummed, which only reached #59.

The album also spawned their two biggest hits: Step On and Kinky Afro. To say that these are the best songs though would do the other tracks a massive disservice. If anything Step On and Kinky Afro are two of my least favorite tracks on the album. The album tracks on Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches more than match (they surpass in my opinion) the singles released from the set. The only song that I'm not overly keen on is Grandma's Funeral but I like or love every other song. With the other Happy Mondays albums, as much as I like them all they do always have a few songs I'd regard as filler. With Pills 'n' Thrills And Bellyaches though there is a special cohesion here: every song adds to the album really and it really is Happy Mondays at their peak.

Another thing I must pay special attention to is Shaun Ryder's lyrics on the record. Shaun Ryder has always been a really good lyricist in a twisted and manic sort of way. Its his lyrics coupled with Happy Mondays hard hitting dance rhythms that give them a certain edge I think. On Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches his lyrics are particularly strong. Kinky Afro has got some of the most twisted and consequently funny lyrics I have heard and the same can be said for God's Cop. Really, the whole band are at their peak here. No aspect of the band has ever sounded stronger than on Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches in my view.

All in all, if British indie music is the 90's is your thing then this is an absolutely essential listen. All of the songs are memorable and the band are at the peak of powers in every respect from the music to the lyrics, right down to the choice of producer. Currently the band are in the studio recording their first studio album to feature the original line up since their fourth record, 1992's Yes Please. Whilst you can never rule anything out really, its hard to imagine they'll ever top this record. It's that good! 

Favorite Tracks:
  • Dennis and Lois
  • Bob's Yer Uncle
  • God's Cop

Joy Division - Live At The Paradiso (Bootleg)

I'm sure those of you who know in depth about the many bootlegs of Joy Division concerts will know about this. I just thought I'd post the link to it for others who may not be aware of it as it really as a treasure! This isn't a review of the bootleg, I'm just promoting it really. This is from their gig at the Paradiso in Amsterdam, which took place on January 11th, 1980. It's the complete show This is by far and away the best quality Joy Division bootleg I've ever heard, so much better than the sound quality at the Preston set. I'd even go so far as to say it's probably got the best sound quality of any bootleg I've heard from any artist, period! A real treat to hear, given Ian would sadly pass away in a matter of months. Highly recommended if you have an interest in Joy Division!

Sunday, 28 October 2012

South Bank Show

So I've just managed to (finally) watch the Pet Shop Boys edition of The South Bank Show. The South Bank show was basically an arts programme that originally ran between 1978 and 2010 although it has came back in recent months. Anyhow, Pet Shop Boys featured on the show in the early 90s. Wikipedia states it was in 1990 although that has to be a mistake. I'm sure it was from 1992 because the album artwork for DJ Culture (which was released in that year) is shown and they reference the Performance tour being a year ago. In any case this is a really interesting documentary. I personally love watching old documentaries on artists, its like they capture a little snapshot of how they were feeling at a particular time if that makes sense? I personally found the documentary particularly enlightening on two particular subjects: firstly how Pet Shop Boys present themselves and how/why they're different to other pop artists around at that time. The documentary also features contributions from various people they have worked with over the years such as Liza Minnelli and the late Eric Watson. Eric Watson's contributions were particularly illuminating, not because of his passing earlier in the year but because I've never actually seen any video footage of him talking about working with Pet Sop Boys before. The video in this post is indeed the full documentary. It is a fascinating documentary that is well worth watching!

The Jacksons - Triumph Tour medley

This is a medley (Showing bits of Ben, Rock With You, Don't Stop Til You Get Enough) from the The Jacksons performance in Los Angeles on their Triumph tour in 1981, in support of the album of the same name. I personally feel the Triumph tour was one of Michael's most important in terms of his development of a solo artist, as some of  his signature feature's of his solo tours originated on this one. The tour is an incredibly popular one (one of my personal favorites too) but no official DVD of the tour has been released. An incomplete recording of the show were this medley was taken from can be found on Youtube, but its worth noting that the footage is split into four screens and can be pretty annoying to watch, but its better than nothing! A high quality full recording though doesn't seem to be in circulation and its for that reason that the existence of this small piece great quality footage (albeit criminally short) does puzzle me. I mean comparing the short little medley to the fuller show, its clear that the picture quality has been enhanced immensely. I'm pretty sure this medley was fan made though, simply because the Rock With You segment doesn't actually use a recording from the actual tour itself, the audio comes from the Bad Tour in Yokohama. Its not a massive issue, although you can clearly hear a female voice (who's actually Sheryl Crow) singing backing vocals, even though the other members of The Jacksons sang backing vocals on tour on Michael's solo songs. Also, a live album was released of the tour so I do wonder why they couldn't have used that audio instead.  Having said that, whoever restored this has done an absolutely amazing job with the picture, especially considering how grainy the picture quality of the other recordings are on Youtube. It also gains extra points from me for being the only live footage I've actually seen of the Triumph tour performance of Don't Stop Til You Get Enough. In many ways this is bittersweet, its a brilliant little performance, but also highlights not only how badly his estate has handled releases, but also as a reminder to what a brilliant performer he was!

Depeche Mode - Photographic (Live Something Else)

I do love  Depeche Mode's work with Alan Wilder naturally (who appeared on Construction Time Again through to Songs of Faith & Devotion). In spite of this though,  I'm actually a really big fan of their debut album, Speak & Spell, I think its prone to some unfair criticism really, and Photographic just so happens to be one of my favorite songs from the album. Having said that, I think this particular live version of the song is even better than the version that is on the album! It's a lot faster than the album version and there's much more synths in this which makes it a much more exciting track to listen to I think. The synths in this live arrangement give the track a slightly more dark flavor which is a great counterbalance to the more fluffy synthpop found on their first album. This particular performance is from the BBC show Something Else, which ran from 1978-1982 and was very much aimed at young people and featured more alternative artists (the show is perhaps best remembered for featuring Joy Division in their last TV appearance in 1979). I don't think Depeche Mode performed any other songs on Something Else although I could be wrong there. It's also one of the last Depeche Mode performances that feature founding member Vince Clarke before his departure as far as I know. The arrangement here is very similar (more or less identical really) to the original version of Photographic that appeared on the Some Bizarre album, which was actually the first ever recording of Depeche Mode to be released. You can find the original version on the very well known Some Bizarre compilation album (originally released in 1981 but reissued on CD in 2008). The compilation also contains early recordings by other groups that would become very well known such as The The, Blancmange and Soft Cell. If that doesn't sound like your cup of tea though you can also find it on the Depeche Mode compilation Singles 81-85. Sadly, this particular live performance of Photographic hasn't been released officially I think. It's a pity because it's a great performance!

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Pet Shop Boys - Live at the Tube 1986

As far as TV show appearances go, this is probably their most interesting TV performance that I've seen! In short, The Tube was a very popular British music show in the 80's, that concentrated on more up and coming bands or ones in their infancy (hence why all the Pet Shop Boys appearances are from 1986, they also performed Paninaro on the show). The show was innovative though because it featured live performances as opposed to the mimed ones on the slightly more mainstream Top Of The Pops. The Tonight Is Forever clip is now legendary amongst fans but the West End Girls clip was one I actually hadn't seen until very recently. To cut a long story short, I couldn't find any information about the performance; what gave it away in the end was realizing that Chris was wearing the same attire as he did for Tonight Is Forever at The Tube. Whilst reading the Tonight is Forever entry in the Please Further Listening booklet they did indeed confirm they also did West End Girls on that particular broadcast.

For those reasons, I'll assume that West End Girls at The Tube is somewhat forgotten, which is a shame because this performance of West End Girls is very unique! This is the only performance of West End Girls that features both the "Who do you think you are, Joe Stalin?" verse in the hit version (it was cut from the original version). As a bonus, it also features what some fans refer to as the hidden verse. The hidden verse is the one that appears in longer mixes of the track, such as the 10" mix, the dance mix found on Disco etc. It's the verse that starts with "You can find a place that no-one knows..." and culminates with the line "and no-one knows your name." Its one of the few times they performed that hidden verse live (I can only recall the other time being on the Performance tour in 1991). It's definitely the only time that they have performed both these segments of lyrics together though. I used to think that the Joe Stalin line was a bit corny if I'm honest but I think it was the arrangement of the original version because here they sound really good!

The second performance also is interesting but for slightly more humorous reasons. Tonight is Forever was an album track from Please that both Neil and Chris highly rated. So much so in fact that they were sure it would be the follow up single to West End Girls (the re-released version). That is, until this performance happened. There was a two hour delay between performing the two tracks, and in this time Neil drank four pints of beer due to nerves. It's important to remember that because they didn't play live concerts in their early years, their initial performances on The Tube and Old Grey Whistle Test would have been some of their first forays into live performance so I'm sure their nerves were at fever pitch. Due to the drinking though, Neil's vocals sounded a bit weaker (by his own admission the worst he's ever sounded). I think the first verse a bit flat but he sounds decent from the first chorus onwards. It is one of their weaker performances admittedly but I still think they are a bit hard on themselves over it. They were so embarrassed by it they decided not to release it as a single. I'd say this same embarrassment is why we've never heard this song at any of their concerts other than as a brief introduction to the Discovery tour.

I can understand why Tonight is Forever wasn't on Ultimate. I mean it's interesting to watch if you are a fan but as an actual live performance its hardly their best. West End Girls though on the other hand is a rare little gem that I think definitely needs more attention, not having that on Ultimate was a mixed opportunity I think!

Little gems from London Calling

So last night I watched two really interesting shows: London Calling and London Songs at the BBC. The documentary was hosted by Jools Holland and told a history of London through various songs written about places in the city. What was a real treat though was the second show which was essentially a compilation of various performances of songs written about London. I just love watching those sort of compilation shows for the variety of music. The two highlights for me though (as well as Pet Shop Boys performing West End Girls naturally) were these: Blur's For Tomorrow official video and a performance of London Calling  by The Clash but this time it was by Joe Strummer and the Mescalero's.  It's quite a bittersweet performance too I think as it was only two years before Joe sadly died rather suddenly in December of 2002. It's actually made me all the more eager to watch The Future is Unwritten. My only criticism is that it would have been amazing if, instead of showing For Tomorrow they showed Damon Albarn and Ray Davies together singing Waterloo Sunset/Parklife as it's a stellar performance. Never the less, both shows were so interesting!

From the Archives...

A bit of a non-post really, but last night I was watching two very interesting musical shows: London Calling and London Songs at The BBC. The documentary aimed to tell a history of London's history through various songs written about it. I loved the second show which was a compilation of various performances of songs written about London. Naturally great songs like Waterloo Sunset by The Kinks and London Calling by The Clash were featured, but it's always lovely to see Pet Shop Boys on one of these shows, this time with one of their TOTP appearances performing West End Girls (obviously). Many of you will have already seen it no doubt, but its always lovely to see them on such shows as they can be ignored somewhat I feel.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Joy Division - She's Lost Control (Something Else)

Joy Division are one of my favourite groups ever, and this is probably my favourite live performance of theirs! This performance was what got me really sold on in their music. I had been struggling somewhat to enjoy them beforehand, but this made me realize what a captivating band they were. This is one of the few television appearances they made, and it was originally broadcast on September 15th 1979. They performed two songs on the show, She's Lost Control and also Transmission and were briefly interviewed (although the only one that talks in the interview is drummer Stephen Morris). For me, this live version of She's Lost Control is the definitive version. I find it hard to listen to the album version on Unknown Pleasures so much because I don't like how diluted the guitar sounds on the album version. Here though the guitar is much punchier and it really makes the track. Really though, I think all aspects of the song sound superior here to the album version. The atmosphere here is much more creepy and foreboding than the album version too I find. Another plus point is]Ian's dancing here too, you get a far better sense of his distinctive dance style here in comparison to the likes of the Here Are The Young Men VHS tape which is very hard to watch in places because of the poor quality. Sadly, the video footage of their appearance on Something Else hasn't been officially released, although the audio of their two performances is on the special edition of the compilation The Best of Joy Division that comes with the bonus disc. The video footage can be found on a bootleg release called Substance though, that was released on VHS but can also be found on a DVDR with Here Are The Young Men as a bonus disc. The performance does seem popular though, I have seen it on two separate BBC broadcasts: Punk Britannia and Sounds of the 70's: Punk. Both are great compilations of live performances by various bands which are worth a watch. In any case, this is Joy Division at their best I think!

Depeche Mode - Behind The Wheel

I love this song, easily one of my favourite songs from the 80's and probably of all time! Behind The Wheel is the third single from their album Music For The Masses. Before I heard this song, I have to admit I was struggling to get really into Depeche Mode. I had loved some of their songs but most of them took some time to grow on me. I heard Behind The Wheel on their well known 101 documentary (which was also seminal in finally making me a fan). The song was remixed for single release by Daniel Miller. In all honestly, I do prefer the album version by a substantial margin to the single version. I just think the single version has nearly too much going on in its arrangement, I think the extra synths are just a bit surplus to requirements really. What I really love about the album version is the musical symbolism that's very prevalent. The arrangement of the song is very simplistic and doesn't alter very much at all during the course of the track. Very appropriately, the beat merely keeps driving on, conjuring up images of driving down a highway for me at least. It goes perfectly with the driving metaphor that is the focal point of the lyrics. The lyrics of the song tell the story of  someone completing submitting themselves to their partner. In terms of theme, it implicitly reminds me of another well known Depeche Mode song, Never Let Me Down Again (also from Music For The Masses), as Never Let Me Down Again is again about submission, but in that song its about submission to drugs. I also love the B-side for Behind The Wheel, a cover version of the well known Bobby Troup composition Route 66. Usually I don't mention a B-side in a post that covers the A-side but for Behind The Wheel/Route 66 I make a special exception. It was the perfect B-side choice for Behind The Wheel I think as it maintains the driving theme of it's A-side counterpart. Route 66 even incorporates some of Behind The Wheel in its arrangement which ties the two even further. In any case, great song by a great band!