Sunday, 31 March 2013

Hole - Miss World: Why I'm torn.

This isn't so much as a review as it is a... pondering, if you will. Well part review, part ponder. This is something I shouldn't like but when I listen to this song and judge it by its own merit -I like it. I almost find that embarrassing to admit because I really don't like Courtney Love. In fact I could say I hate her. I think she's an attention seeker in the worst sense. Moreover, I'm a big fan of Nirvana and Kurt Cobain, and in my humble opinion I do believe there is something potentially in the conspiracy theories that she had him killed. Anyhow - that's just subjective opinion and not really relevant to the music of Hole as an artist. Be fair, Clare! It's just I find it hard to fully enjoy a track whilst I'm still wondering if the singer of said track is a killer. It's quite a shame really because Courtney Love does actually have a good voice for rock/grunge styles. A really good voice to be perfectly honest. I love her grungy, hoarse sort of tone. And it doesn't just sound good on more brash numbers either - Miss World is more acoustic in places and she still sounds really good. I rather like the lyrics too which deal with self image. It was released as the first single from their second album Live Through This. Interestingly the album artwork of the record depicts the winner of some sort of beauty contest (or something similar) so I can only assume the theme of self image is a recurring theme of the album. I like records to be conceptualized like that in all honesty. As a random bit of trivia, the B-side to Miss World is a cover version of one of my all time favorite songs: Echo & The Bunnymen's Do It Clean. I digress however. I have to admit I'm even surprised myself I'm typing a rather favorable post for Hole. A few months ago I swore I'd never even attempt to listen to them because I just can't abide Courtney Love as a person. I have to give credit were credit is due though - I think I've judged her musical output far too soon. You're not going to convince me to like Courtney Love anytime soon, but if I can separate my dislike of her and her antics from her recorded output (which are two separate things I guess) then I may have found the most unlikely band to enjoy. Time will tell.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Things I've been doing this week: The Ramones.

 I've only listened to punk for about a year. I started off with the two obvious bands: Sex Pistols and The Clash. I ventured off into trying out other bands such as Stiff Little Fingers and X-Ray Spex. One band that I didn't try out though was one of the key punk bands - The Ramones. Until recently. In the last few days I've decided to do an album a day of theirs until I've listened to all of their studio albums. So far I've heard their first two albums. It's funny because a lot of the songs have a very similar sound, but there's something very likeable about their music for me. It's just so catchy and there's no faffing about - it gets straight to to the point and bang. Boom. Next track. It's a refreshing change when you listen to a lot of dance music which often feels like it takes forever to get going. I've listened to The Ramones and Leave Home. Of the two, I definitely prefer Leave Home. The Ramones did get really samey for me as a whole album (although I liked most of the songs) but on Leave Home you can hear a definite progression in sound. Having said that I've yet to hear the albums that feature my favorite Ramones songs so far - like Rockaway Beach for instance - so I've a feeling I'm going to enjoy their subsequent albums even more!

Thoughts on Glastonbury lineup

A few nights ago I was surprised when the acts for this year's Glastonbury Festival was announced. For whatever reason I wasn't expecting to hear the lineup for a few weeks yet. Anyhow, that was a bigger surprise than the actual acts that got announced I'm afraid.

Arctic Monkeys
For me, this one is just very... predictable. I have to admit that I do think they're a good group and no doubt will be excellent live - I thought they were terrific at the Closing Ceremony last year. Having said that I'm a weekly reader of NME and their constant praising of the group does grow weary. I think they're good with some undeniably great songs but I don't think they're as incredible as people make out. Besides, they headlined not so long ago in 2007, I do think it's not a very original choice for headline act to be honest.

Mumford & Sons
This one just surprised me. I don't dislike them but I wouldn't call myself a fan at all. I also think that headlining the Pyramid Stage two albums into a career is a bit steep. I know The Killers headlined Glastonbury in 2007 when they had only released their second album a year previously but let's be honest: The Killers have a better sound for headlining the likes of Glastonbury than Mumford & Sons.

The Rolling Stones
The one pretty much everyone knew about. Having said that I'm pleased Rolling Stones are headlining. I do like most of what I know of their material - which just boils down to the classics I'm afraid (I may need to rectify that though). I think it's a very appropriate celebration of their 50 years in the music industry which is a phenomenal achievement if I'm honest. Looking forward to seeing their performance to be perfectly honest!

It's funny. I don't dislike any of the acts as such but I can't help but feel that other than The Rolling Stones there's nothing much to really make me excited. I do like a lot of the other acts confirmed: Phoenix, Primal Scream, Hurts, Vampire Weekend just off the top of my head for instance. But considering the music comebacks we've had this year and last: Stone Roses, Bowie, Blur being just some examples I can't help but feel the headline acts (other than Rolling Stones) could have been so much better.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Pet Shop Boys - The Last To Die (Debut performance)

Well in the last few days Pet Shop Boys commenced their new Electric tour in Mexico. Even more excitingly, they debuted two new pieces of music: an original track entitled Axis and finally the emergence of the Bruce Springsteen cover they've referenced a number of times: the cover is of Last To Die although for one reason or another Pet Shop Boys have called their version "The Last To Die". It's obviously hard to digest everything in a track from a fan recording but from first listen this does sound like a good cover. I will admit that I wasn't bowled over by it although fan recordings virtually never show a track off to its full potential. Having said that I did really like the chorus. Even if I do find it rather hard to get a good grasp of a song when listening to unprofessional recordings (especially when they're the only sources available at a certain point in time). That said Pet Shop Boys have always been consistent when it comes to covering songs so I don't see why The Last To Die should be any different - it actually sounds reminiscent of The Killers in a way based on the recording I heard. I would never have expected them to cover Bruce Springsteen though so I would be interested to hear just what made them cover it. I wonder if it was a potential update to U2's Where The Street's Have No Name cover that they did although The Last To Die doesn't even have half of the pomp their U2 cover did. In any case the pictures that I've seen from Electric tour (not to mention the set list) seem to suggest its yet another high quality show from a most terrific live act!

Madonna - Bad Girl

Despite being a firm fan favorite (and probably my favorite Madonna album) - Erotica took years before it slowly began to garner respect for the music contained on it. Many of the songs on Erotica rank as some of Madonna's absolute best, and Bad Girl is no different. A largely forgotten single but it remains a hidden gem and is backed up by one of her greatest videos. One of the great strengths about Erotica is that it isn't an album that sounds like how you would expect and Bad Girl is a prime example of this. From the title of both song and album you'd expect Bad Girl to be brash, sexy and vibrant (much like the lady herself). It's not quite like that. The song is a mournful ballad actually. The narrator of the song is deeply hurt over a relationship that although has ran it's natural course she is struggling to move on from. Her defense mechanisms against the hurt and the pain is to drink & smoke excessively and sleep around in various one night stands. All of which is extremely self destructive behavior. It becomes a vicious cycle really as the narrator is well aware that her behavior is ultimately not going to get her anywhere and if anything it makes her even worse - thus making her employ these various coping mechanisms even more and so forth. Ultimately the song's core theme is self destruction. It's far removed from being in any way a sensual song. If anything it's the counterbalance: it highlights that love can consume us in the best possible way but in this case its the worst possible way. Every time I listen to this song I get a feeling the only conclusion is self destruction. The video only serves to highlight that too. The video probably does enhance the song to an extent (although it's still a great song regardless.) I will dissect the video in another post but in short I honestly think its one of the best music videos ever. Sadly the Erotica controversy dented single/album sales and it became Madonna's first single to not make it into the top 20 in her native US. It fared better in the UK (reaching #10) but that was still slightly lower than usual and on a worldwide basis the song wasn't as a big a success as previous singles. It fell off the UK chart rather quickly which caused Fever to be released as a UK single only a month later. Sadder still the song has never featured in any of Madonna's tours - it only was ever performed on her January 1993 Saturday Night Live appearance. It's a truly fantastic song that I wish received more attention, as it is probably one of her best ballads!

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Joy Division - No Love Lost (Original version)

This is one of my favorite Joy Division songs, although it's definitely not one of their more known songs. Two versions of No Love Lost exist - the original version and then a rerecorded one. The original version is the more commonly known version and was recorded in December 1977. It was recorded specifically (in the group's second recording session) for their first release - the An Ideal For Living EP. It was also subsequently released on the Substance compilation and the Heart and Soul boxset. In May 1978 the song was rerecorded for inclusion on their proposed debut album (which was shelved). This was then released with various other early recordings on Warsaw. Out of the two versions - I prefer the original by far. As it was first recorded in 1977 it does have all the hallmarks of a punk song. As such its not quite as atmospheric as much of the material on the group's two studio albums. Although the introduction of the track does show a band evolving away from mere punk style music, I think. If I'm being honest I find it more atmospheric than the second version - which sounds a little bit too polished for me. The second version also contains lyrics not found in the original but it omits the highlight of the track. What makes No Love Lost (and what gives the original version its atmospheric edge over the second for me) is the spoken part. The spoken parts of the song have been lifted from the book The House of Dolls: the same book that introduced the band to the term Joy Division. It's certainly a unique element in a Joy Division track and I do love Ian's voice as he recites it. Initially I thought this was pretty much forgotten unless you are a fan of the group although LCD Sound-system and The Horrors have both covered the track. In any case No Love Lost is a great and underrated Joy Division track!

New music: Primal Scream - It's Alright, It's OK

So in an exciting bit of news yesterday Primal Scream unveiled the first proper single from upcoming album More Light (scheduled for release in May). I love Primal Scream - they have released some brilliant albums over the years and I think they've never got the respect they deserved. With that in mind I had high hopes for their new material. I didn't like 2013 on my first listen but it's grown on me and now I like it quite a lot. Having said that, It's Alright, It's OK is just gorgeous I think. I haven't been able to stop listening to it. It's got a beautiful summery tone (the perfect contrast to the horrible snowy weather that's causing problems in Northern Ireland right now). In some ways it reminds me quite a bit of Movin' On Up from Screamadelica - it has incredibly upbeat lyrics to go with the arrangement. It also has a choir thrown in for good measure - which you could also find on a few tracks from Screamadelica. Although from what I've read about the album I don't think it's going to sound like Screamadelica at all. The album does sound like its going to be quite an experimental record so I was surprised that this track is actually quite an accessible radio friendly one. It's a great song and my favorite single of the year so far. If the rest of the album is as good then More Light could be a sure-fire contender for album of the year in my eyes!

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Happy birthday Damon!

Today Damon Albarn turns 45. I absolutely love Damon - he's been involved in so many great bands/projects from Blur, Gorillaz to The Good, The Band & The Queen and others beside those three. Honestly I think he is pretty much the most creative and forward thinking British musician of the last 20 years or so (perhaps one of the most creative ever). He's covered so many sounds and styles - Blur have a wide range of genres by anyone's standard covered in their music and yet they're only one facet of this great man's body of work. A true talent. Happy birthday Damon!

Friday, 22 March 2013

Madonna - You Thrill Me/Erotica

Widely touted as one of the highlights from her Confessions Tour. It is the second song of the disco segment (the last segment) of the tour. The song hadn't been performed live on her previous Drowned World tour so the reemergence of it in the Confessions tour set list was a welcome (if surprising) inclusion. As you can tell listening to it, it's vastly different from the infamous single. Many of the lyrics aren't found in the famous single version either. The lyrics (for the most part) that are used here are actually from a very early demo of Erotica. I've seen the demo on youtube with the title "second original demo". In the supposed original demo though she doesn't sing these lyrics. There's been some debate about the legitimacy of the demos and The Rain Tapes (collection of Erotica era demos) so I can't say for sure what demo is the correct one. What is sure though is that these were demo lyrics. From the different versions I've heard I personally don't think the Erotica arrangement and these alternate lyrics went together well at all - I don't even think the original Erotica lyrics and these You Thrill Me share a similar tone really either. I absolutely love the disco remix of this live version though - it's softer than the original version (which I still love too). It actually has a very different tone to the original I think too but it's just as good and many fans actually prefer this live version. I think both are brilliant in their own ways and it's one of the finest examples of Madonna's stellar ability to take already classic songs and rearrange them in a different way for yet still make them as enjoyable. A great performance, probably one of her best ever really!

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Pet Shop Boys - Violence (Unreleased Hacienda version)

I've been meaning to post this one up for a few days. Whilst doing research for my previous post on the Please version of Violence, I stumbled across this mix on Youtube. I had never heard it before and had no idea if it was an official mix or fan-made or whatever. The skeptic being that I am opted for the latter though. I did some research online, and on the ever reliable it stated that there is a mix called Extended Hacienda Mix that is indeed official but it's unreleased. According to the same site the mix can also be known as the 12 inch master too. I can only assume that this must be a very rare mix - I have quite a number of Pet Shop Boys bootlegs containing rare mixes (both official and unofficial) on my hard-drive but this one is not contained in any of them. Nor have I ever seen it on any other bootleg mentioned in fact. I'm not even sure if it was the first version recorded and they disliked and decided to modify it or anything. I know literally nothing about it really. I've never seen either Neil or Chris mention it in interviews either. Anyhow - it's a pretty decent mix. Truth be told, my favourite version of the song will always be the released Hacienda version that served as a B-side to I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kinda Thing. The unreleased version is a bit more of a standardized club song of the era - I could imagine it being used in the Hacienda nightclub actually. Honestly I do think the arrangement kind of clashes with the lyrics - it doesn't feel as natural as the released version in my opinion. It's pretty cool to see this unreleased mix, although I prefer the released version hands down!

New info regarding Made Of Stone documentary!

Today I woke to read some very exciting news with regards to Shane Meadows' (director of This Is England) upcoming documentary on The Stone Roses, entitled Made of Stone. It is due to open nationwide on June 5th with the band attending the premiere in Manchester on May 30th. The documentary will offer an in depth look at their reunion from their 2011 press conference to their triumphant reunion tour. It will feature rehearsal footage and official live footage of their comeback tour in August of last year, including the Heaton park shows. They visited Belfast as the final stop on that particular tour and I was unable to attend the show (although by some fortune I did end up with Ian Brown's autograph but that's for another post), so I'm hoping that I'll see some footage of the Belfast gig. Really looking forward to this documentary!

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Northern Ireland's Musical History: The Clash In Belfast

I'm posting this as today I received my copy of last year's Uncut special magazine devoted solely to The Clash. I had toyed with the idea of getting it at the original time of publication but because I had only just began my investigation of their work at the time I decided against the idea. By the time I had discovered I had gotten really rather into them it was months after the magazine had gone off shelves and I thought it was too late. Thankfully Backstreet Merch rectified that (an excellent and prompt service too, I'd certainly recommend them). Anyhow, I was delighted to see that the magazine included a full article reprinted from a 1977 edition of Melody Maker that saw The Clash roaming the streets of Belfast (where I've lived all my life) following the semi-legendary tale of their gig being cancelled. It's important to remember how different a place Belfast was then and big bands like The Clash playing wouldn't have been commonplace. The pictures taken of the band in Belfast are really rather beautiful - although I am biased, of course - but my favorite is the one I've shared here. You can find more at Urban Images. I just love these images!

Hurts announce new single!

So Hurts have confirmed their second single from their new album Exile. The new single is Blind and will be released on May 12. I'm quite pleased with their choice of single. I'll admit, as much as I like the song (and I like it rather a lot) I do feel there are better tracks on the album such as Only You, Cupid etc. Having said that I think the track has got real potential to do well on the charts, and I much prefer it to Miracle. Hopefully there will be a B-side for it!

On this Day: Pet Shop Boys perform Love Comes Quickly on TOTP

It's just as the title says really, I just thought I'd share it because firstly I'm a huge fan of Pet Shop Boys. Secondly because I feel Love comes Quickly is one of their great forgotten singles. It's from their first album, Please. Sadly it didn't do as well as other singles from the album like Suburbia and the classic West End Girls in the charts. I'd actually regard it as the first truly classic Pet Shop Boys song along with West End Girls: it has such a beautiful atmosphere with some of my favourite lyrics Neil Tennat has ever wrote. I think I may even prefer to West End Girls by a fraction really. A brilliant track.

Miniature Tigers - Sex On The Regular

This is one of my favorite new discoveries in terms of bands. Well - I can't say that I discovered them exactly. It was actually a very good friend of mine that recommended them to me. I'm so glad she recommended them to me because they are an excellent band. My favorite song of theirs so far is Sex On The Regular. It's the opening track on their latest album, last year's Mia Pharoh (I recommend the album heartily too.) A word of warning before we go any further - the song has lyrics that are.... just a tad on the sexual side, shall we say. They don't leave much to the imagination, so lyrical analysis simply isn't required for this particular song. It's funny though because the arrangement of the song was so good I didn't seem to grasp just how sexual the lyrics were until I re-read them for the purposes of this post. If those sort of lyrics aren't your thing then you might want to look elsewhere. It's not the lyrics I like this for though - its the irresistible arrangement/melody. As I mentioned earlier I didn't even realize just how sexual the lyrics were at first and the arrangement is precisely the reason why. The arrangement reminds me an awful lot of Holiday by Madonna actually (although it is far from a direct copy). Listen carefully and you might pick it up too. I did a quick check online and it doesn't appear to be credited as an official sample or anything so I guess it's just a similarity. The other similarity comes in the vocals: for me the vocal performance sounds a little like Prince although that could be just me. I just love the vintage flourishes of the arrangement. It's by far the most retro sounding song on Mia Pharoh though and even then it has a very modern sheen. Excellent song by an excellent band.

Pictures of interest: Electronic & Pet Shop Boys

L-R: Chris Lowe, Bernard Sumner, Johnny Marr, Neil Tennant.
As you could probably guess, I really love this picture. It's a picture of Electronic (a duo comprising of Bernard Sumner from Joy Division/New Order and Johnny Marr of The Smiths). They're in the middle, the two men standing either side of them are Pet Shop Boys. As you could probably guess - one of my absolutely favorite groups. I love this picture not least because I'm a big fan of these four muscians and all the various musical projects they've been part of (which is a huge body of work). It's also one of the few pictures of Electronic with Chris Lowe. Last night I also finally discovered the origin of this picture, thanks to the excellent new Uncut special magazine on The Smiths which I thoroughly recommend. It was taken backstage at the Cities In The Park festival of August 1991 in Heaton Park which was in memory of Martin Hannet. Electronic played at the second day of the festival and they were joined onstage by Pet Shop Boys for a number of tracks. There was another backstage picture that the magazine had used though - but it was obviously from the same night. I had never seen that picture before so I think it was a rare shot. Anyhow I just really love this picture!

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Nirvana - The Man Who Sold The World

From what I gather, Nirvana's version of The Man Who Sold The World is widely regarded as one of the finest moments of their renowned Unplugged set. It's one of my personal favorites too. It's probably my favorite actually. It's a cover version of the well known David Bowie song which was the title track from his third album. It's also one of a number of cover versions Nirvana performed in the set Honestly though I do prefer Nirvana's version, truth be told I'm a fan of David Bowie but The Man Who Sold The World is far from my favourite track of his. Anyhow the reason Nirvana covered the song I think is obvious: Kurt Cobain placed The Man Who Sold The World at number 45 (out of 50) in his list of all time favourite albums. Clearly Kurt Cobain was a fan of the song. Also, he clearly felt a deep emotional connection to the music. Just listen to his the yearning qualities his voice takes on in this track. The whole Unplugged performance has a lot of emotion.... but there's just something about The Man Who Sold The World for me. And the music is utterly beautiful, for me the arrangement here is improved on Bowie's originally. I also think Kurt Cobain's vocals sound cleaner (for lack of a better word) and I prefer that too. It's one of those songs that just knocked me for six the first time I heard it. I had liked what I heard of Nirvana and one of the first things I watched was Unplugged (thanks to recommendations). I had really enjoyed it up until that point but it was The Man Who Sold The World that finally sold me. From then on in I could say I was a Nirvana fan. Following Unplugged, the band actually introduced The Man Who Sold The World into their live set for the relatively short period from the Unplugged set to Kurt Cobain's death. The Man Who Sold The World was actually a promo CD single too, released to promote the newly released Unplugged set in 1995. It was also on the Nirvana greatest hits album too. I could envisage this song introducing a lot of younger people to David Bowie (and turning some of them into fans even). In fact I even read that David Bowie had once been approached following a concert by a young person. The young person then said to him that it was cool to see him covering Nirvana! It just shows you what a good cover version can do. Although for me, this is one of the truly great cover versions. A gorgeous rendition.

Monday, 18 March 2013

The Clash - White Riot (Live)

Consider this a slight follow on to the previous post. This is from the Rude Boy film. It's just one of the rather large amount of brilliant concert footage from that particular movie. Multiple performances of White Riot are in the movie actually but this is my personal favourite. It's also my favourite live version of White Riot I've seen so far. The start with Mick Jones shouting at the bouncers is also very funny, and the late Joe Strummer is as sensitive as ever as he requests the crowd cool their tempers before launching into White Riot. Anyhow, just felt I would share it on anniversary of said song's release.

On This Day: The Clash release White Riot

An important anniversary today for Clash fans. On this day 36 years ago, they released their first single of a blistering career: I'll be honest: I prefer their later material to their punk stuff (although I still love the punk material). White Riot though I think is one of their best songs. It's straight to the point and intense without any pointless faffing around. The first time I heard this song was about a year ago when I first began investigating The Clash. It blew me away then because its just has such a rousing and passionate feel even though the song predates my existence by 17 years. I can only imagine what the youth of the time felt like upon their first listen. Happy anniversary White Riot!

Pet Shop Boys - Essential

Hm, this is a strange compilation. This was originally released in 1998 as an exclusive release in only Japan and America. At the time of release, this had a lot of rare tracks - a number of which previously unavailable on CD.  The tracks are:
    1. Domino Dancing (Alternative Version)*
    2. West End Girls (Dance Mix)*
    3. Opportunities (Let's Make Lots Of Money) (Original 7" Version)*
    4. Paninaro (7" Version)
    5. That's My Impression (7" Version)*
    6. We All Feel Better In The Dark (Extended Mix)*
    7.  It Couldn't Happen Here
    8. It's Alright (7" Version)
    9. Left To My Own Devices (7" Version)
    10. In The Night (Dance Mix)
    11. Two Divided By Zero
    12. Love Comes Quickly (Dance Mix)*
    13. Being Boring (Extended Version)*
* denotes that the tracks were previously unreleased on CD.

As you can see - a lot of the tracks here were rare to get at the time. 6/13 to be precise. Having said that on the 2001 remasters you can find all of these tracks (and more). As for the 7" of Paninaro, you can find that on Alternative. There is one rarity here though: the 7" of That's My Impression. After checking it on the ever reliable/informative it appears that the mix here isn't the same that was on Alternative, nor was it on any other official release. It appears to be an exclusive mix.

Having said that, I still disagree with the title of this album. Whilst this showcases some of my personal favourite official Pet Shop Boys mixes (Being Boring Extended Version, Domino Dancing Alternative mix) the title is misleading. For a big fan in 1998 this would have undoubtedly been essential: at that time these tracks were very rare indeed. Having said that those special edition albums (not to mention file sharing methods) has rendered this non-essential. I can't see what would have enticed a casual fan to buy this though even then as it deals almost exclusively with lesser known Pet Shop Boys tracks.

So, do I recommend it? Yes and no. For the absolute completist (like myself) this is probably worth a purchase because it does contain that rare mix of That's My Impression. Having said that is isn't the definitive Pet Shop Boys compilation by a long shot. Casual fans and people looking for the Pet Shop Boys compilation to start with should stick to PopArt. Even for bigger fans there's more interesting Pet Shop Boys CD's to get before this. Unless you are a particularly big fan of That's My Impression. Personally, it's one of my least favourites on Alternative which is a big reason why I haven't bothered purchasing this yet. My advice? For big fans its worth a purchase but I'd recommend things like Mini PSB before I'd recommend this. It also doesn't appear to be that rare from what I've seen: I can import it from US for a relatively low price (second hand that is). In brand new condition though it would be much rarer I'd say. For what it's worth, I'd say I'm a bit of a completist and I still haven't bought this yet.

Finished Reading Unknown Pleasures

So last night I finished reading this book at long last. It's the first Joy Divison book that was actually written by a member of the band itself. I was really looking forward to this because I've previously read Peter Hook's The Hacienda: How Not To Run A Club book and I loved it. This book didn't disappoint either. It's written in a very down to earth, conversational style which I absolutely loved. The pictures contained were also lovely too. I will write a proper review soon but I shan't write much more here now just in case I spoil it for anyone. All I will say is that for a Joy Division fan I very much recommend it.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Pet Shop Boys - Violence (Album version)

Violence, like I Want A Dog and Can You Forgive Her has the honor of featuring on an album in one version and also being reworked into a different song to serve as a B-side. Violence originally was featured on debut album Please, and would resurface for one of the B-sides for I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind of Thing. It was the last song written for their debut album actually. This song means a lot to me, as it actually deals with a subject that is very close to my heart, on a literal level actually. Lyrically, this track was inspired (at least partially) by the conflict that has plagued my home country, Northern Ireland for decades. I've never read much with regards to Pet Shop Boys views on the subject of Northern Ireland - they've only ever played here once as part of the Performance Tour. Whether that is supposed to reflect their views on Northern Ireland or not I really have no clue. I'd certainly be interested in hearing their views about here really. Having said that, if you listen to the song's lyrics they have a slight ambiguity about them. They do state the downsides to violence but they don't relate it to a specific event (nor do they reference Northern Ireland at all in the lyrics). The line "violence breeds violence" is so succinct yet so true I think, one of my favourite Pet Shop Boys lyrics I would say. As mentioned before, Violence exists in two versions: the ordinary album version and the version they performed live in the Hacienda (which they liked so much they recorded a studio version of it and released it as a b-side). Anyhow, honestly I'm not the biggest fan of the album version. For me its the most dated track on Please and I prefer how Neil's vocals sound in the second version. I quite like the synth effects on Violence but for me I've always felt that it doesn't bring out the somber lyrics to the best effect. It's a decent enough song but it lacks the wow factor the Hacienda version has for me at least. It sounds like a standardized piece of 80's synth pop really (if that doesn't sound too cruel). By no means a bad song but this isn't one of my favourite Pet Shop Boys songs - its not even close to my favourite track from Please.

The Clash - The Beautiful People Are Ugly Too. (Updated June 2nd 2013)

I love this song, one of my favourite Clash songs actually. It's from their Combat Rock era and was included on the original Mick Jones mix of the album (aka Rat Patrol From The Fort Bragg). It's well documented that the band weren't happy with his mix of the album and a second mix (aka Combat Rock) was made. Somewhere along the alternate remixing process though The Beautiful People Are Ugly Too got dropped. The exact reason for this though I honestly don't know. I have a theory that it may have been to do with Topper Headon's drug problem as the lyrics are anti drug use in theme. I'm not honestly sure though as Topper Headon used an instrumental version of the track (under a different title) on his solo album. Even if I were right its not literally about his drug use - the song implies the singer of a band has a drug problem. As we all know, Topper Headon was the drummer of The Clash. I'd say its more likely these experiences were used as a springboard so to speak: the real life circumstances of the band provided a loose form of inspiration for the lyrics. That's all speculation mind you. Musically this track isincredibly catchy. I guarantee the first time you hear this the "you you you" parts will be stuck in your head.  I think this is easily the best of the Combat Rock era outtakes. If you listen to Rat Patrol From The Fort Bragg many of the songs (even the Combat Rock tracks) sound bloated with arrangements that are too long. For me though The Beautiful People Are Ugly Too sounds like a finished song and one that isn't too long or too short. I would have loved to have seen this on Combat Rock over Red Angel Dragnet really. It would have fitted on the album just fine.Other tracks cut from the album, such as Cool Confusion ended up serving as B-sides. It would have been nice to see The Beautiful People Are Ugly Too recieve similar distribution. Having said that, it has been announced that the upcoming boxset Sound System will finally see The Beautiful People Are Ugly Too receive its first official release. I personally cannot wait to finally own this highly underrated Clash song!

On this day: New Order performs Round & Round on TOTP

The clue is in the title really. On this day in 1989 New Order performed the Technique single Round and Round on Top Of The Pops in one of a number of appearances they made on the show. I love Round and Round, its one of their most overlooked singles I think. Its also not lip-synched which was really quite unusual for an 1980's Top Of The Pops appearance. Many New Order appearances on Top Of The Pops were live though. Keep an eye out as well for Bernard Sumner pulling some awkward shapes (although not as bad as the Fine Time appearance) too!

Blur's First Television Appearance

I just felt like sharing this. This is a small little bit of history for Blur fans: It's their first appearance on a television show! It's from 1991 (just look at Damon's hair!) on the kids tv show Eggs 'n' Baker which ran from 1988-1993. The song they are performing here is There's No Other Way which was their second ever single. One of my favourites from Leisure too. As it was a kids tv show the performance is lip synched as was practically standard. Obviously the performance on its own merits is nothing special but it is a historic performance!

Friday, 15 March 2013

The Clash - London Calling (25th Anniversary Edition)

After wanting this since about June time of 2012, I finally have London Calling! Head and HMV sell this, but not the 25th anniversary version which was the specific edition I wanted. The reason I wanted it was because the 30th anniversary edition (which came out in 2009) is identical except it doesn't feature the bonus Vanilla Tapes disc which is in the 25th Anniversary version. Vanilla Tapes is basically a demo tape. The DVD is good, there's a 30 minute documentary on the making of London Calling that has brilliant footage of the band in the studio recording the album. As for the album itself? From the music down to the Elvis Presley inspired cover art (the font was a homage to one of his albums) it really is iconic. For me its one of their best albums and I enjoy it more everytime I listen to it: there's so many musical styles which is a common thing amongst Clash albums.

Pictures of interest: Joe Strummer (101er's days)

An utter non post I I know, but I just really loved this picture of Joe Strummer which is from prior to finding fame as lead singer of The Clash. Before being one of the forerunners of punk rock Joe was in a pub rock group called the 101'ers. I don't know the exact date this was taken but it was sometime between 1974-1976 (as they were the years the group was active). I'll admit they're not the style of the music I usually listen to (they mostly played covers of old rock songs such as Route 66, Johnny Be Goode and that sort of thing) but they were actually a good band. I absolutely love the live version of Maybelline that was released on 2005's Elgin Avenue Breakdown (Revisited) though. Anyhow, just thought I would share this!

Thursday, 14 March 2013

First impressions - Blur - Starshaped

So last night I watched this for the first time (at long last). It's a one hour film of Blur on tour from 1991-1993. I was looking forward to this seeing as Modern Life Is Rubbish is my favourite Blur album and I also felt that Leisure isn't as awful as they make out either. Its weird I have to say, but interesting. It's very funny in places: especially when Damon goes into the kids ride. The one crticism I had with it though is that the sound wyuality is awful for the live performances. I loved the live footage itself (Coping sounded excellent in particular) but the sound quality could have been better. Never the less it was entertaining and I do want to pick up the DVD for the bonus features (which is more live footage).

Breaking news: Pet Shop Boys announce new album!!

I woke up this morning to the unexpected (but terribly exciting) news that Pet Shop Boys - one of my absolute favourite artists - have signed to a new label and are releasing a new album in June titled Electric. Rumors of a new release in 2013 have been doing the rounds in the Pet Shop Boys fanbase for some months now. Many fans, including myself though thought that the new release would take the form of a mini album like they've done previously with Relentless. I certainly didn't think it would be a new album. Like I said at the start they've also announced that they're leaving Parlophone after 28 years. I'm quite pleased really. I really liked Elysium as an album but I did feel that Parlophone were perhaps a bit negligent with them. Barely any promotion, not even a video for the third single, and the label made them change the lead single at the last moment, hence why Winner was the lead single. It seems the whole Elysium era has been put to bed rather quickly. But I digress, so what is the new album sounding like? They've released a teaser and it sounds like their most dancefloor oriented release in years. Listening to it some of the arrangement sounded very 80's to me, and some of Chris' vocal samples made me think of Time On My Hands from Disco 3. Having said that, it is also very current and fresh, definitely not them just merely retreading on their post glories at all. The teaser - like the whole album - was produced by Stuart Price who also did the sound for the Pandemonium shows. He also remixed Memory Of The Future for single release. He's also produced for The Killers and Madonna. I like him an awful lot as a producer - I had actually wished they would work with him for the new album. Even the visuals for the teaser seem retro and yet futuristic: they reminded me of updated Very era visuals. New label, new album and a new start for Pet Shop Boys I think. I cannot wait for Electric in June!

Click here for the Electric teaser!

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

A rant about the 30th Anniversary release of London Calling...

This harsh review is in no way a reflection of the quality of the music on this album. I think London Calling is a superb record from a superb band. That being said, this 30th anniversary re-release is an utter waste of time, especially if you have the 25th anniversary edition.

There is absolutely nothing new here, other than the vinyl replica packaging. That's a nice touch, but that's it. Surely a marketing ploy to get people to buy this, as I'll explain in a moment. The DVD with the album is the exact same that came with the 25th anniversary version. Most importantly of all though, the Vanilla Tapes (aka the demo CD) that was the second disc of the 25th anniversary package isn't here at all. So not only is there nothing new here, it actually has less than previous releases of the album. Honestly, forget about this release. The 25th anniversary edition was excellent, and surely the prospect of five unreleased songs that were on the second disc would be enough to tempt anyone to buy that particular edition. You really have to question just what was the point of releasing this again rather than a special edition of one of their other albums. The vinyl replica packaging just feels like a shameless attempt to tempt people to part with their cash. Disgusting really when you consider what The Clash stood for and an insult to the memory of Joe Strummer.

First Listen: Palma Violets - 180

I didn't listen to this today, I actually listened to it last night but I thought I made so many posts yesterday it'd be best to leave it until today. This was always going to be an interesting experience: I'm a regular reader of the NME magazine (who are all over Palma Violets at the moment) but personally I hadn't listened to more than a track at most of theirs. That is until last night when I listened to 180. I've read a ridiculous amount of hyperbolic statements about this record, claiming that its the best British debut of recent times. It reminds me a lot of the hype around Arctic Monkeys when they released their debut. I have to be honest: I don't echo those sentiments. 180 is a good album with some excellent tracks but I would be lying if I said its my favourite British debut in years. It hasn't even been my favourite album that I've heard this year (that honor belongs to The Next Day by David Bowie so far). As for debut records though it has been my first debut record of 2013. What I really like about 180 however is there's a lot of musicianship: personally I wouldn't be surprised if these guys go on to even better things following this debut. I certainly hope they do because I felt 180 was good and showed that Palma Violets have a lot of potential. Realistically I think I had just read so many big things about this album that frankly any album would struggled to have lived up to the hype. Tracks like Chicken Dippers and Tom The Drum I can see featuring on songs of the year posts later on in the year. Having said that 180 is a fine album and if they use it as a platform to build from then it could be the first of many excellent records from this group.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Pictures of interest: Paul Simonon of The Clash with David Bowie

Seeing as its release week for The Next Day I decided to feature David Bowie in the first post of this series This is Paul Simonon - bassist of The Clash and David Bowie. This picture was taken in 1982, backstage after The Clash's performance as opening act for The Who at the Shea Stadium in New York. It was one of a few links shared between The Clash and David Bowie. My most favourite of these links has to be CBS telling The Clash that Bankrobber sounded like David Bowie backwards and as such they were dubious to release it as a single). But I digress, I just thought this picture was incredibly cool as it represents two iconic British artists.

First Listen: Hurts - Exile

So literally in the last few moments I've just listened to Exile. It's the sophomore album by Hurts and was released today. Truth be told I didn't have high hopes for this - I hadn't actually heard Miracle but wasn't fond of The Road due to the dubstep (I don't like dupstep at all really). There is a few tracks on here - Sandman being a particular low point - but the best tracks are absolutely brilliant. Songs like Only You, Cupid, The Crow etc are of the standard of their self titled debut for me (which I really enjoyed). I didn't find Miracle as bad as people were making it out to be either. Granted its no Wonderful Life or The Water but its still a decent track. I'm pleased to say though that on first listen its far from my favourite track. Whether or not I play it as often as their debut in the long term, only time will tell but from this first play I've been left suitably impressed with Exile. Definitely a lot better than I was expecting. I think I'll be purchasing Exile yet really. I can see myself giving this frequent airings over the coming weeks and months, and if I still enjoy it on subsequent plays as much as I have first time round, this will be featuring quite highly in my albums of the year list come the end of 2013!

Primal Scream - 2013

So, another musical comeback (well sort of) I have to look forward this year is from Primal Scream. These guys are such a great group - never thought they got the respect they deserved. With that in mind I had high hopes for their new single, 2013, which is the first single from their upcoming album More Light (due for release in May). I had read it was one of their best singles so expectations were understandably high. I'm going to be brutally honest: the first time I heard it I didn't like it. I liked the sound of it on the verses but I felt the chorus was a little underwhelming. Truthfully I still think it perhaps could benefit from a slightly stronger hook or something in the chorus but with every play this is growing on me. The verses have got such an enjoyable melody I think. I love the use of saxaphone in the arrangement, its a refreshing change from the saturation of autotune and electro-pop we've been subject to for the past while. The whole song just sounds so damn uplifting which is what I really like about it overall. It's much more accessible (and that's no bad thing) than I expected too. From what I've read about More Light it sounds like quite a psychedelic affair (sprawling even). The only problem? This song will probably get overkilled as the music used in countless end of the year highlight reels come December. Having said that, its a most enjoyable song and I'm very much looking forward to More Light still!

Suede - Bloodsports Album Stream!

Here's a little something for all you Suede fans out there. In the last few hours they have unveiled an exclusive stream on the Guardian site of their first album in eleven years - and sixth album over all - entitled Bloodsports. I personally haven't heard the album yet, but I'm really looking forward to it after enjoying Barriers and It Starts and Ends With You so far. Online album streams seem to be the future perhaps, with David Bowie's and Johnny Marr's new offerings all receiving the streaming treatment. The future maybe? Who knows. Anyhow, just thought I'd share this with you!

Click here for Bloodsports!

Tv Show findings: Talking Heads - Pyscho Killer (Old Grey Whistle Test)

So, in the last few days I watched New York Rock at the BBC. Unfortunately I couldn't watch it all - it was on rather late and I had stuff to do the next day which meant I had to get up earlier. The part that I did see did feature some excellent performances from New York Dolls, Lou Reed and The Ramones but my favourite had to be Talking Heads, who are one of my favourite bands. Pyscho Killer isn't my favourite Talking Heads track by a long shot but I actually prefer this version to the original: just listen to that bass playing from Tina Weymouth! This performance was from 1978 in support of their Talking Heads: 77 album and they also performed Don't Worry About The Government on the same show. For me, the ending of this performance just shows what a tight band they are musically. A bit of a non post I know, but I just thought I would share this with you.

Northern Ireland's Musical History: The Stone Roses ticket

I particularly love this, as The Stone Roses are one of my absolute favourite bands. I wasn’t even born when this show took place either, although I do live very near the now defunct Maysfield Leisure Centre. It used to be quite a common venue for concerts before we got the Odyssey Arena in the early 00's. Anyhow, this was their penultimate British/Irish date before a five year hiatus from touring until 1995 (their last one was at Glasgow Green which is regarded as one of their finest shows). Pretty much all the members of the band though would come back to Belfast as part of the various other musical projects they were involved in after The Stone Roses disbanded however. The reunited band were one of last year’s headliners at Tennant’s Vital. I hope they’re back in Belfast soon!

Michael Jackson - Live at Wembley (DVD)

A great performance from a most excellent tour. It's excellent that a show from the Bad tour has finally been given an official release. The tour is far superior to the Dangerous tour. This particular performance comes from the second leg of the tour, which took place in 1988. I personally prefer the first leg of the tour (particularly the easy to find Yokohama shows) so given the choice I would have rather an official release of one of those shows. Two tracks from it do turn up on the DVD though as part of the extras. That's personal opinion though, the Wembley shows were still excellent. More songs from the Bad album were actually performed on the second leg shows so perhaps its more fitting for the Bad 25 package anyway.

As I said earlier, the show is excellent. It's Michael Jackson at pretty much his peak as a performer. It was also his first solo tour, so its history on a variety of levels here. It's also a real treat to hear songs such as Another Part Of Me (one of my favourites) and Dirty Diana performed live which weren't part of the officially released Bucharest show from the Dangerous Tour. Seeing him mess around on stage with the band - like at the end of Bad for instance - is also quite lovely to see given how sad things would end up for him. The reason I prefer the aforementioned Yokohama show is purely because of the setlist. I absolutely love the performance of Shake Your Body Down To The Ground although sadly this track wasn't part of the second leg setlist.

My only criticism of the whole thing really is the picture quality. Obviously its not going to be blu-ray - this footage is 25 years old - but it does look poor in places, especially on the distance shots that show the whole stage. Its very blurry in those shots. It doesn't look like its been restored in any way which is a shame. This performance was sourced from Michael's own personal VHS copy he had of it, perhaps they didn't want to tamper with it out of respect. Really though I think they could have justified it: you do feel like you're watching a VHS tape in places. Another thing they could have added in maybe is some more extra features. The Way You Make Me Feel wasn't performed on the night of the main concert due to a late start, so the performance of the song from the night before is added as an extra. Also there is I Just Can't Stop Loving You and Bad from the Yokohama shows too. I do find that a little bit pointless because they were performed in the main Wembley concert. I think they should have added the various songs that were cut from the second leg setlist instead. Also the Grammy's performance would have been a nice addition too.

All in all though this does remain an essential purchase. I recommend purchasing it as part of the four disc Bad 25 boxset. Its not perfect, but considering how much amazing footage still hasn't been given a DVD release yet (Making of Michael Jackson's Thriller for instance) then we fans should still be grateful all the same. Recommended!

Sunday, 10 March 2013

New Order - Sugarcane

So, this is my personal highlight from the relatively new release of New Order's Lost Sirens outtakes set. The set has been met with a relatively lukewarm reception from both fans and critics, although I personally feel its been viewed too harshly. That said, I think this is the best song of the compilation. First thing's first: I think this is a terrific song but its not hard to see why this was left off Waiting For The Siren's Call, its very generous on the synth side of things and frankly wouldn't fit. To this listener at least it sounds (and feels) more like a Bernard Sumner song as opposed to a Peter Hook song if that makes any sense? Hooky's base has no obvious part to play in the track but synthesizers can be found in abundance (which was always more Bernard Sumner's thing I think). For me I prefer New Order when they're electronic led as opposed to rock so that just suits me down to the ground. Lyrically as well this is one I can't make a lot of sense of. It seems to discuss celebrity culture or something but frankly I think the lyrics in this play second fiddle to the arrangement. And the vocal line, I love the vocal line here too. I pay more attention to that than the lyrics really. For me though, it's all about the arrangement in this one. And what an arrangement! The opening seconds of the track make it sound like a relatively acoustic number. I'll be honest, when I heard it for the first time I heard Lost Sirens I thought to myself "Oh lord its going to be an album of pretty much rock based stuff". Then the synths came in and completely took me by surprise. From then on in the track never looks back, and I just love the disco-esque guitar. The thing I love most about Sugarcane is its balance of old and new: vintage disco guitar mixed with a very modern synth. It's a theme for the track really. Near the 3 minute mark the track then has an instrumental breakdown where strings are prominent (it reminds me of the outro to Electronic's Getting Away With It from the 80s) and then pianos playing standard 90's house chords come in.... it has a much tighter sound than I'm describing though. It doesn't sound as messy as it should really. My only criticism? That the strings didn't last just a fraction longer. Like I said earlier its easy to see why this was left off Waiting For The Sirens Call as it wouldn't fit in on the album. Honestly, it is quite far removed from the cold icy feel of some of New Order's best known work. I can't think of a poppier New Order track to be quite honest. For that reason fans seem to be divided on it. Lyrically its no masterpiece, but the arrangement for Sugarcane is so exciting and ever-changing it demands repeated plays from me at least. Not like usual New Order material but if you approach it with an open mind you may just enjoy it. I certainly do.

Walk The Moon - Tightrope EP

So after waiting for a good few weeks, the Tighrope EP by Walk The Moon was finally made availabe in the UK today after being released in the US some weeks ago. I had high hopes for this after last years self titled major label debut turned out to be one of my favourite debuts of the year. With that in mind, I was pleased to discover this EP is a great listen if you like their sound. The EP (as you can guess) is spearheaded by the song Tighrope which is one of my personal favourites from the debut. Two versions of the song appear here: the regular version and an accoustic. The full tracklisting of the EP is as follows:
  1. Tightrope
  2. Anywayican
  3. Tete-A-Tete
  4. Drunk In The Woods
  5. Tightrope (Accoustic)
  6. Burning Down The House (Live)
I have to say all of the tracks here are most enjoyable: anywayican contains one of their most infectious trademark sing a long chorus' yet and the keyboards/synths on Drunk In The Woods are brilliant. The acoustic of Tighrope also shows a softer side to the band but it really shows off just how good their vocal harmonies are. Even the cover version of Burning Down The House by Talking Heads (cited as one of their favourite groups I believe) is very good: they retain all the qualities that made the original so good whilst putting their unique spin on it. And once again the vocals in the track are fantastic. Its not trying to imitate David Byrne's unique vocal style at all and its all the better for it. Like I said earlier, this is an excellent EP from a group that really deserve your attention. UK Walk The Moon fans should hear this ASAP and for anyone else I highly recommend it. These guys could go onto big things this year.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Weird thing I noticed in The Essential Clash..

In the last few days I recieved my copy of The Essential Clash DVD, so I was watching it a few days ago. Its a good DVD, but there was something weird about it I noticed that - judging by reviews - seems to have gone by largely unoticed. The DVD contains their promo videos (not that they made many), one of them being for the song White Riot. The footage of that was shot in Beaconsfield. They also performed two other songs in that particular performance, these being 1977 and London's Burning. Fair enough. These two songs are included as bonus features, yet for some messed up reason White Riot is included again too, even though it was part of the main feature of the DVD? Why on earth is it on the same DVD twice? It's bad enough when same footage is re released on the same DVD but to happen on the actual same disc.... that's so strange!

Joy Divison - Grant Gee documentary

In my opinion, this is how a music documentary should be done. Everything in this documentary just works. It's informative, containing interviews with all of the key players in the story. The only notable absentee is Debbie Curtis, although she has told her version of events in her book. She had been approached to take part in this documentary but declined. This documentary features Annik Honore as an interviewee (one of her only interviews as far as I know) which in itself makes this essential viewing no matter how big of a fan you are. It also features the late Tony Wilson not long before his death. I had read two books (Debbie Curtis' book and Torn Apart) before watching this but actually seeing those key figures recount the events in their own words was fascinating, and there was new information too. What also makes this documentary work so well is Grant Gee's brilliant directing. The visual aspect of the film is brilliant - it is a perfect compliment to the haunting music of Joy Division and it makes for a great visual representation of the band. So not only are the interviews very interesting, its visually exciting too. The bonus feature interviews also contain some very interesting stories or discuss interesting topics too. Honestly, I can't recommend this enough. It's really quite compelling viewing and I wish more documentaries were of this standard. I hope New Order get a documentary of this standard one day!

Joy Division - Transmission (Live Something Else)

I remember watching this for the first time like it was yesterday. It was two years ago in actuality, and I had been trying to get into Joy Division. It just wasn’t working though. I had listened to Atrocity Exhibition and just didn’t get it. Or them. Tried Digital and Isolation: More of the same. I was on the verge of giving up, but after reading about Ian Curtis’ dynamic stage presence I decided to watch them live. I clicked on a random clip which was of a song called Transmission. It floored me, and that was it. Hooked. They quickly became one of my absolute favourite bands and now both their studio albums rank in my most favourite of all time. This is one of the precious few tv performances they did, they also did She’s Lost Control on Something Else too. Both performances are electric and I think are superior to the studio versions. Ian Curtis’ vocals just sound even more impassioned here, and it’s one of the best examples of his excellent showmanship. All four members of the band are firing on all cylinders here though and they just play with such a sense of urgency. Simply incredible.

Electronic 2CD edition thoughts

I’m really pleased that a 2CD special edition of Electronic’s self titled debut is finally getting a release as its a sorely overlooked album, but the tracklisting for the second disc is a little strange. Why is there a mix from a song from their third album on here? Especially when they haven’t put the full version of Free Will (a B-side) and instead used the inferior shorter edit. I wish the Miami Edit of Lucky Bag and the Vocal and Nude mixes of Getting Away With it was on it too because I love those mixes. Still can’t wait to have a copy of Lean To The Inside finally on CD though!

Northern Ireland's Musical History: Nirvana - Drain You (Live in Belfast)

For my first post about Northern Ireland’s musical history I’ve decided to go with this one. It’s Nirvana - one of my favourite bands - playing Kings Hall in Belfast on June 22nd, 1992. A little under two years before I was born. The whole concert exists on Youtube, much to my suprise as I don’t find Belfast bootlegs the easiest to track down, especially of older concerts. I chose Drain You though to share with you as I feel that’s an underrated song from Nevermind. The quality is actually pretty decent too its a recording from the audience but compared to some other bootlegs I’ve heard its really not bad. I wonder if a video recording of this concert exists in full. Short clips of Stay Away, Polly and Blew have been broadcast on MTV Europe and also Spanish TV. I know also a clip of the ending of the show was featured in the Irish documentary Behind The Scenes with Nirvana but I haven’t been able to find that. Anyhow, I love this little slice of history!

First Listen: David Bowie - The Next Day

So, in the last few days I’ve been able to listen to David Bowie’s new album - The Next Day - in full. I had high hopes for this, not least because David Bowie is a very talented man but also because of the nature/surprise element of the release. With that in mind I have to say I think its an great album. My favourite tracks on first listen are If You Can See Me, The Stars (Are Out Tonight), How Does The Grass Grow? and in particular Dancing Out In Space. I’m definitely going to pick it up on CD next week when it comes out. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that judging by reaction I’ve read thus far, I think this could be one of the albums of the year most definitely. Almost certainly the comeback of the year. I really recommend The Next Day.

Happy Birthday Blue Monday!

New Order’s classic Blue Monday was released on this day 30 years ago. An iconic song (with gorgeous sleeve artwork), backed up by a sublime B-side in The Beach. Also the best selling 12” of all time. Its not hard to see why: its a utter masterpiece of electronic music. Happy birthday Blue Monday!

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Random Thoughts: To buy or not to buy?

This one isn’t a review as such, more just a random discussion. I was in town last week, and happened to stumble across this. That in itself was a suprise. I live in Belfast, Northern Ireland and trust me, rare records are truely rare here. I can’t even get a Clash poster here, which makes this find really suprising. Apparently, its rare and unreleased studio recordings - which is the first thing that puzzles me because Love Kills was featured on the Sid & Nancy soundtrack so I wouldn’t say its rare. Unless the manufacturers of this say its rare because it was never on any studio album or anything. I’m pretty sure most of the tracks on this were soundtrack material to be honest. According to Discogs, its rare. 500 copies to be exact supposedly. I have utterly no idea though if this is official or not, Discogs says it is but I really have no idea. So I can’t decide if I should get this or not, if it’s a bootleg I think I’ll just leave it and hope I can track down the recordings on a CD (even an unofficial one). If its official though I may just get it because trust me, stuff like this is rare in Northern Ireland.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Blur - Bang/She's So High (Mindwarp Mutations)

So, this is a random (and official) little release. A pretty good one though. It was a special DJ only promo released in 1992 in the US, just as the band went to the states for their first US tour. Like pretty much everything to do with their Leisure era, the band hated this release. It was actually released by their label without their permission. Not surprisingly then you won't find this on last years Blur 21 package. I'd be very surprised if these mixes ever see a more widespread official release at all seeing as the band did not approve of this promo release. I actually discovered this record exist existed thanks to the most excellent Blur Archive Project. You can find it on the first disc of the Out of The Box collection. An excellent blog that I would recommend all Blur fans visit actually. Anyhow, the five mixes here are of two of the Leisure album singles: She's So High and Bang. Four of the five remixes are of Bang though, so if you don't like that particular song (as many fans don't) then this might not be for you. The remixes are all carried out by the same Mindwarp Mutations alias, although honestly I know absolutely nothing about who remixed this. What I do know though is that they also carried out two more mixes of Bang (Trend mix and Now mix) but they're not on this release. You can find those on the Blur-ti-go ep (or the aforementioned Out of The Box Disc 1). As remixes go, they're not amazing but they're also not entirely terrible. They are very of the era, with your typical rave sounds and house elements. Hardly forward thinking but the original versions were also very of the era too, just in a different style of music. There's worse out there. My favourite two mixes are the MW Big Bang 12" mix and the MW Groove Mix, both of Bang. I do like the other two bang mixes as stand-alone pieces of music, but what reduces my enjoyment of them as remixes is that they don't contain enough traces of the original for me. That is a common trend of remixes from the time though I find. I can't say I care much for the remix of She's So High though - its just a little bit lackluster and doesn't really enhance the song. Overall though this is quite a pleasant release. Not essential by any means but like I said earlier, there's worse out there. It's probably only going to be of any real interest to dedicated 90's dance fan s or Blur completes, but if you have any interest at all then I quite recommend it. Hardly the best thing you'll ever hear but still pretty good.