Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Just watched: Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros - Live in NYC..

Evening folks, I watched this great little performance earlier. And White Riot is still ringing around my ears, I always find that to be the case when I listen to it actually. Anyway, it's a TV broadcast from the Roseland Ballroom in New York City, that took place sometime in 1999. No doubt in support of the Mescaleros debut album. It's not the full concert, rather an edited down version (and thrown in for good measure are sporadic, short interview clips with Joe himself). Out of the nine songs here, six are Clash songs, the other three being Mescaleros songs. I always love seeing older Joe perform - it's amazing that he still attacked those Clash classics with the sort of kinetic energy usually found in men twenty years younger than him. I can only imagine what a thrill it would have been to see Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros perform in person. Anyhow, this is another excellent performance, as most of Joe's performances typically were. I've got to say that so far this has been one of my absolute favourite versions of White Riot that I've heard, from either The Clash or the Mescalero. The performance has also given me a new found appreciation for X Ray Style too. I've always liked that song but it wouldn't be one of my favourites on Rock Art & The X Ray Style but that looks set to change. And I found it very interesting to see Joe's crowd interaction here - especially as he deals with ones causing some upset. I'll not spoil it further but if I thought I couldn't love the man more this video just disproves that. A man of the people he was indeed. It makes me sad he's no longer here although quite honestly I feel grateful that there was once a man that walked the earth like Joe Strummer. Just a shame I became a fan ten years too late. I'll spare you the rather sombre reflections though, enjoy this performance!

Nirvana - In Utero 20th Anniversaryannounced!

A post I was meaning to make yesterday. Plans that were quickly thwarted when I spent the night listening exclusively to Blondie and The Clash and watching videos of both on Youtube.  Anyway, remember the comment I made a few months back on here saying that September seems to be a lot quieter this year than last year for me? Well, it won't be. Chvrches, Nine Inch Nails, Goldfrapp, Arctic Monkeys, MGMT (to name a few) have new studio albums. Of course - there's also a certain Clash boxset. And now, another re-release is forthcoming. This time it's of Nirvana's final album, In Utero. It has been confirmed that the more expansive editions will contain over 70 (!) tracks. Judging by Amazon UK it will take a number of different forms: the album remastered on a singular disc, a 2-CD edition of the album and a deluxe 3CD with 1DVD. The DVD will contain the Live and Loud show from Seattle and will also be released standalone. No track-listing for the CD's has been announced but it has been confirmed it will comprise of compilation tracks, live material, B-sides and unreleased demos. Definitely expansive. I do feel that the current asking price of £108 for the deluxe edition is simply too much though. I will settle for the 2CD edition (and I'll purchase Live and Loud at a later date) - whilst I really like the album it would be my least favourite Nirvana album. With Sound System two weeks beforehand another boxset something I can't even consider. To be honest, I'm not a huge fan of paying £100 for boxsets of one album (Screamadelica aside) so I probably would never have considered In Utero in boxset form anyway. Hopefully I should be able to order the 2CD edition the week it comes out though - although I have to factor in the record fair which returns September 28th and I do want to look at adding some Blondie CDs to my collection soon too. Nevertheless, I'm very much looking forward to seeing what tracks will be released!

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

First impressions of Blondie's No Exit (And lots of random chatter)

Afternoon all - apologies for no posts yesterday and for a lack of any Sound of The Week post on Sunday. I was busy on Sunday and also I didn't feel very well. I'm still not sure if it's a stomach bug or a reccurence of the excess stomach acid problem I'm prone too. Is that too much information? It probably is. In other news - the iPad is in repair as we speak, that's another reason why I was busy yesterday. Hopefully it should be back on Thursday. 

As for music news, I've been saddened these past few days to hear that The Good Natured's debut album, Prism, has been shelved following their record label dropping them. They were a great up and coming band who I thought would have gone onto very bright things. 5HT is one of the best songs of 2012 in my opinion. Now, the group seem to have disbanded. Very sad indeed and with the coincidental announcement that Katy Perry's upcoming album is to be called Prism it really does make me wonder about the total lack of common sense displayed by the music industry sometimes.... I know which one I want to hear.

The only other music news (off the top of my head) that's got me excited is The Clash posting new pictures of inside Sound System on their facebook page. I know, one day, I'll be quiet about that boxset. Honest! It's chaotic times for me musically - I'm still filled with the excitement after Pet Shop Boys triumphant new album Electric whilst balancing that with upcoming excitement for Sound System (and Breaking Bad's return next Sunday to boot). September is going to be a very busy month for me musically, much like it was last year.

Now that all of that is out of my system (so to speak) - I can share with you some first impressions of an album I listened to earlier. The album being Blondie's 1999 comeback album No Exit. I have to say that so far I'm really impressed with their post-comeback albums. I really enjoyed No Exit! I'll admit that I did think it could stand to lose two (maybe three songs) but even then the weakest tracks for me were still decent. I have to say that - Plastic Letters aside - Blondie have suitably impressed me. Favourite tracks on No Exit were Forgive And Forget, Boom Boom In Zoom Zoom Room, Night Wind Sent and Double Take. I'm going to be saving up for the next six weeks or so (Sound System aside) but when I start buying some new CDs again a Blondie collection and most likely the fan pack edition of Panic of Girls will be first on my list. I've only got The Curse of Blondie to go and I've heard all of their studio albums. Although then I have the solo Debbie Harry albums to work my way through - I've heard mixed things about them but then again, I heard mixed things about their post-comeback albums too so hopefully I'll like the solo records!

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Pet Shop Boys - Bounce (Demo) (Updated 28th July 2013)

Bounce is probably my favourite Pet Shop Boys demo! This was recorded in 1987, around the time that Domino Dancing was also being written. Originally, Introspective was actually going to titled Bounce and, at a time, this was being considered for inclusion on the album. Why it was eventually dropped I don't know for sure, but I think it's a real shame this song was discarded and left to lie dormant in the vaults. One thing that I especially love about Bounce is how it sounds more or less the polar opposite to what you'd expect a song with its title to sound like. Initially, I expected the song (based on its title) to be a glossy and punchy piece of synthpop but it's really not. It actually makes the song one of the most interesting ones to write about. The tempo of Bounce is set at a mid-tempo speed and implores two really interesting musical techniques. First of all, the percussion line in the song is simply a drum machine playing every sound in its library one by one whilst keeping in time with the beat. If that sounds positively hellish fear not: it's actually done in a rather subtle way. What a relief otherwise the song would be an absolute mess! The second technique (if you could call it that) in the song is what makes it that little bit special. Neil singing the word "bounce" is sampled and made to sound rather jittery, no doubt to give a feeling of actual bounciness. Also lyrically, its not what you would expect either. Lyrically the song is about a rather tense relationship that has the potential to end in absolute disaster, as the line "will you be the one I look back on from a prison cell with regret?" shows. The narrator isn't ready to give up hope on the relationship though. Despite not giving up, the underlying sense of danger in the relationship reminds me of another Introspective era demo: So Sorry, I Said. In any case it's a shame this wasn't on Introspective as I think it would have fitted in quite well. For some reason I can envisage this being the closing track on Introspective as it's shorter length would have been a refreshing change from the lengthy running times of the other tracks. In the Introspective Further Listening booklet they say that the song was never recorded properly, personally I think the demo has a rather polished sound as it is. It'd have needed minimal more tweaking I think. In any case it's never been officially released. Two versions of it have leaked, a 7" mix and an instrumental. A great little demo that deserves more attention!

Strummerville documentary

So, I just finished watching this documentary. No prizes for guessing what it was about: the work concerning the Strummerville charity, which was set up to carry on the legacy of a certain Joe Strummer. It was made by Don Letts and I have to say I really enjoyed it! It was very interesting seeing the various projects undertaken by the charity. It feels like the perfect organization to carry on Joe's message and I think he would have approved. One thing I found particularly interesting was the Jail Guitar Doors project initiated by Billy Bragg which aims to supply guitars to inmates serving time as means of rehabilitation. I was also really pleased to hear Belfast being name-checked: as I've mentioned previously on this blog there are two Strummerville rehearsal spaces in the Oh Yeah centre which is located in the city centre. I came away from the documentary feeling inspired actually - once again the cogs are ticking away in my brain trying to figure out what I can do to help make Belfast (and Northern Ireland) a better place for all. Somehow, I think that was exactly the intention of the documentary. It was on Sky Arts a few days ago, if it crops up again I'd heartily recommend it!

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Happy 30th Anniversary Madonna!

Today's a very important milestone for Madonna fans. Today marks 30 years since her debut album, Madonna, was released! I would have loved a 30th anniversary edition released of the album but alias, Madonna herself isn't one for nostalgia. I do hope special editions of all her albums will come in the future though. I love Madonna (and Madonna, of course) - Holiday and Borderline are her first classic singles I think. My favourite tracks are those two along with Physical Attraction, Burning Up and Think of Me. I know I've named over half the album there (and probably rendered the term favourite a tad meaningless) but I do think Madonna is a sublime piece of disco synthpop. It's definitely not only one of my favourite debut albums ever, but just one of my favourite albums ever. Happy 30th Anniversary Madonna!

First listen: Blondie - Panic of Girls

Afternoon all - the repair place isn't open today so no repaired iPad until Monday. Oh well, at least I have a more definitive date now. This post is a little bit different from usual - only one new album tested today but after this I have an anniversary post to make and then there's that excellent remix I discovered yesterday to share with you. As a footnote to this introduction, I also found two Clash bootlegs last night that I've been trying to hunt down for a while: Street Rats and Lost Treasures. I can't wait to listen to them and I'm sure they'll feature on this blog at some point.

Anyhow, the only new album that I listened to today was Blondie's most recent offering, Panic Of Girls. After being left underwhelmed with Plastic Letters yesterday I was hoping that Panic of Girls in particular would deliver. I have to say that it's become my favourite album of theirs so far! I really liked Panic Of Girls. I had never heard any of the tracks before so it was all new to me but my favourite tracks on first listen were Mother, Girlie Girlie and Wipe Off My Sweat. I liked all the songs though - even my least favourite tracks on the album I still feel are pretty good, just not quite as good as the others. The album was also very varied too, something I felt that was lacking on Plastic Letters. It's my first of their post-reunion albums that I've heard and if the other albums are as good as this I'll definitely be more of a fan of post-reunion Blondie I think. I definitely want to purchase Panic Of Girls now - I think I'll get the fan pack magazine edition of it most definitely. The quality of Panic Of Girls has made me all the more eager to hear the upcoming Ghost Of Download, very much looking forward to it now!

Friday, 26 July 2013

Mixed weather, mixed albums.

Evening all, just a brief post for now. My album testing today was as mixed as the weather we're getting. Over here in Belfast we're fluctuating between sunshine and rain, although still no thunderstorm for me yet. I hope it comes soon to clear the air. In better news my iPad might be able to get fixed sooner than I thought - within days hopefully. I'll be sure to fill you in on any updates.

So - the first thing I did this morning (I'm not kidding there) was Bruce Springsteen's Born In The USA. Only the second album in full I've heard of his and my primary reason for listening to it was because of the title track. I'd heard Dancing In The Dark before too but I couldn't remember how it went until re-listening to the album. I have to say that, if anything, I enjoyed it even more than Born To Run! Both absolutely excellent albums. I can't resist putting my fist in the air when I hear those opening chords of Born In The USA. New found favourites though (not counting my rediscovered love for Dancing In The Dark) were Glory Days, I'm On Fire and No Surrender. I have to say that two albums down and I've liked - and more often than not loved - every track on both. I'm glad to say that Bruce Springsteen is exceeding my very high expectations I had of him, if anything! As for the next album I'm thinking of going right up to date and listening to his most recent effort, Wrecking Ball. I do know a few tracks from it already and I love them, I'm hoping the rest of the album delivers the same!

Now.... for the one that didn't go quite as well. I have to say Plastic Letters is by far the worst Blondie album I have heard thus far. It was listenable - but half of the tracks just passed me by without leaving no impact. By the time I had finished the following track I had already forgotten the one I had listened too prior more often than not. I did like some of the songs - and I particularly loved one, that being I'm On E. Other favourites were Denis, (I'm Always Touched by Your) Presence, Dear; Kidnapper and Cautious Lip. That was pretty much it really. What also did help was that every song seemed to have the exact same sound so it just all sort of merged into one. It actually felt like a regression following their debut and a far cry from the quality of subsequent albums. I've now listened to all their early albums - it's now post reunion albums for me from here on out. I think Panic of Girls will be the next album of theirs I listen too. I'll be very interested to see what I make of their upcoming album, Ghosts of Download (very interesting title, I think). In any case I'm not phased by the fact I didn't enjoy Plastic Letters, although the only way I'd ever buy it was if I became so addicted to Blondie I bought all their albums - in which case I'd buy it for completion.

So, that's today's new listens. The lack of an iPad (where I keep my CD collection) is making listening to my collection a little bit trickier. That issue should be resolved soon though hopefully. I've also found a great remix today that I will share with you all tomorrow, it's absolutely excellent. See you then!

Matters of Musical Importance: The Clash - Clash City Rockers (Something Else)

Why it's nostalgic or important: The first time I ever saw The Clash/Joe Strummer.

Admittedly, that's not a huge matter of significance. Although when someone has a profound impact on you (as Joe Strummer has had on me), the first time you lay eyes on them does become a vivid memory in time I think. I can remember watching this for the first time clear as the day - about a year ago, as part of a TV programme called Punk At The BBC. The video I've included in this post is from that broadcast actually. This was when my interest of punk was at its infancy and when the info bar said it was The Clash who had just started playing I thought "oh great, heard plenty of great things about these guys". At that point I had only heard around about five Clash songs and loved them all. As for Clash City Rockers.... not quite as positive. To be fair - this song did take a long time to grow on me even when I did become a fan. I just thought it was too tuneless and punk by numbers. I hated the song - and I clearly remember thinking "Wow I could punch that lead singer quite easily". Yes, you did read that right. My first impression of Joe Strummer was that I wanted to deck him. Ha, like I'd ever think such a thought again. I think it was because of his appearance - the sunglasses and hairstyle really annoyed me for whatever reason. I think the whole thing was just too raw and gritty for my decidedly more polished brain to comprehend really. At the time of watching this performance I thought he was a stereotypical punk. Oh, how so very wrong I was. It's what I get for having a bad habit of having strong first impressions too quickly about someone. It's amazing remembering this actually - if you told me at the time this man would change my life for the better only months later I would have told you to stop talking rubbish. I'm deadly serious. Come the end of October though he'd reappear again rather unexpectedly and win me over for good..........

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Please (Updated July 25th 2013)

Released in March 1986, Please is the debut album by Pet Shop Boys. Named as such so it would form a sentence, for example in record shops customers would ask "Can I have Pet Shop Boys album, please?" This was the first of two albums that they would take this logic for when choosing album titles: Actually was chosen as the title for their second album for similar reasons. In any case Please is a great debut album, although it's probably the one I listen to the least out of their trio of albums from the 1980's. As for its rating in my overall ranking of Pet Shop Boys albums it'd be firmly in the middle. The reason being I think it does suffer from a more dated production. I don't wish that to be taken as a criticism against the album, I still listen to the music here rather often.

 Initially, Please could have actually sounded quite a bit different. Pet Shop Boys producer of choice for the record was Stephen Hague, who has produced for many artists such as Erasure, New Order, OMD, Public Image Limited, Blur and Marc Almond. It was two particular tracks that he had produced though that formed the main reason that Pet Shop Boys wanted him to produce their album though: Hey DJ by The World's Famous Supreme Team and Madame Butterfly by former Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren. EMI suggested some alternative candidates to produce the album though, interestingly one of them was none other than Stock, Aiken and Waterman! Eventually though the decision was made that Stephen Hague would be allowed to reproduce their 1984 single West End Girls and it would be re-released. I'm sure you can work out the next part: Stephen Hague's version ended becoming a massive hit and eclipsed the original version in terms of success and he got the green light for producing the entire album. The album was recorded for a tight deadline though; Suburbia was the last track recorded for the album and is really not that different from the demo mainly because they couldn't do anything else.

I have to say that I think Please is a strong debut. It's definitely somewhat more raw in terms of the music, and definitely not as polished sounding as Actually which sounds bigger, fuller and just generally a bit more grandiose. I think that actually becomes a bit of an advantage for Please though, as much as I love synthpop from the 80's sometimes I think it has a tendency to sound a bit too polished, so its nice to have an album that is more gritty. Despite growing on subsequent albums though, I think Neil's lyrics are still really good here, Love Comes Quickly and West End Girls both have brilliant sets of lyrics I think, and they really do cover more difficult and unusual subject matters even at this early stage in their career, such as urban decay, casual sex and violence. Later Tonight and Why Don't We Live Together? are two of their most overlooked album tracks I think. I was particularly pleased to see the latter receive its live debut on their Pandemonium tour to support Yes.

There are some minor preferences I have though in terms of versions though, but even still that doesn't mean I don't like the versions here. I prefer the 10" of West End Girls to the 7" (really I think its because I've heard the original so much), Suburbia's video mix is better than the album mix in my opinion also, although again I still like the album version. The only one were I much prefer a subsequent version to the original is Violence, I think the Hacienda version that was released as a B-side for I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind of Thing communicates the sentiment of the song much better, to the point were I can't really say I overly enjoy the original. I can't say I've ever really been able to get into I Want A Lover either, but I wouldn't say its a poor song by any means. The only real change I would make to the album is getting rid of the little Opportunities reprise track, only because I feel having those sort of short reprises and interludes as a stand-alone track as an album is just filler more often than not. Given the choice I'd probably replace it either with A Man Could Get Arrested or Jack The Lad most likely. It's a shame those songs would serve as two of the B-sides for the Please era singles I think

All in all though Please is still a great album that, despite it sounding a little dated now, still holds up as one of the best synthpop albums of its time. I have to admit that I much prefer artists to grow and develop into their peak rather than peak with their debut album and then burn out, so for a debut album what I look for mostly is an indication of the artists potential really, rather than peaking too soon if that makes sense. Using that criterion then Please is a highly recommended album. Although they would grow and get better with their subsequent albums you definitely get a real sense of their talent here and the album still has its fair share of classics, it has one of the most consistently great quadrant of singles you will find. A great start to a brilliant career!

Good news, better news etc.

Evening all, an unexpected post (full of admittedly minor things) before I roll out an old Pet Shop Boys post from the old blog. Mondays, Thursdays and Sundays will most likely be the days designated for such posts - and I think Thursdays will be album review day. There's only one place to start obviously - with the debut album, so Please will be getting reposted very soon.

Anyhow, the good news is that the iPad is fixable and will be fixed by no later than next Thursday. I cannot tell you the relief that brings. And also of note today I've been getting followed by The Clash. Now I do wish that was a literal comment but this is the next best thing. I was in the car going out somewhere and there was a phone in to select the last track of the radio show. The two candidates being Chris De Burgh's Lady In Red and White Riot by The Clash. No prizes for guessing what would have got my vote. Alias I didn't get a chance to hear which got played in the end because my car journey simply wasn't long enough. My family have a sneaking suspicion that because it was BBC Radio Ulster it would have been Lady In Red. I sincerely hope not. Anyhow, when I got into the car on the way home my Dad informed me that Ralph McLean had been featuring tracks from Sound System as he'd received a sampler of it. Dad also told me he spoke very highly of it and played Rock The Casbah and I Fought The Law. I did also manage to catch Straight To Hell too. Funnily enough Dad was telling me about Ralph McLean's comments just as I turned the page in this weeks NME and found a micro feature on The Clash. Needless to say, all this is making me even more excited for Sound System - I dread to think what I'll be like in the week or so leading its release.

That's my brief little post done and dusted - I'm off now to make any needed amendments to that old post and then publish it here, stay tuned!

Good news and Graceland arrives.

Afternoon all - just a brief post which I had actually forgotten to do from last night (I was exceptionally tired). Before we get to that though I have two good pieces of news. Firstly, the iPad should be fixed by this time next week, as long as it's repairable (which I'm fairly confident it is.) Secondly, Sky Arts 1 are showing the Strummerville documentary today at 15:30. As you could imagine it's all about the Strummerville charity. I had been trying to find it to watch for a few weeks with no such luck. Needless to say I cannot wait to see it - I'll watch it on Sunday with my brother.

Anyhow, as you can tell yesterday my copy of the 25th Anniversary edition of Paul Simon's Graceland album arrived from Amazon. I was originally going to order the 40th anniversary edition of David Bowie's Aladdin Sane along with it too but ultimately after the awful run of luck I've had with electrical appliances at the moment I had to order a new wireless mouse and a flash drive instead. It's going to be the last CD I order prior to the release of Sound System .As for Graceland though I've been after this for ages. It was the first Paul Simon album I ever heard and it remains my favourite (Rhythm of The Saints would be second). To be honest I have to credit this album for opening my mind more to African music and world music at large. It's an amazing album and I cannot wait to also watch the accompanying documentary, Under African Skies too!

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Updates and unforunate events

Afternoon (or early evening should that be?) all. As I wait for the potential thunderstorm to drench Belfast - which will hopefully fix that horrible humidity I've got a few bits of news. Firstly, bad news. Last night I had a freak accident with my iPad Mini and I've cracked the screen rather badly. As you could imagine to say I'm upset is an understatement - especially after the USB port jamming and the power cable failure of my external hardrive. It's incredibly bad luck to say the least; then again I've always had bad luck with electrical appliances. Thankfully early research online all comes to the same conclusion: that it's just surface glass damage and thus is easily repaired. The first two problems were easily fixed so I'm hoping this is more of the same. It won't effect the day to day functioning of this blog but I may be unable to post on some days on the blog whilst I seek out a suitable repair facility. We've a few options to investigate so hopefully I'll know more within the coming days. As I keep saying there's a certain Clash boxset on pre-order for me and unexpected financial demands at this rather close stage to its release is something I really don't need. Depending on the price I may just have to wait until after Sound System, but it all depends. Once I got more news I'll be sure to post it here.

Also - I've got two blog announcements to make. Firstly, some of you may (or may not) be aware that I had a Pet Shop Boys blog before this one. It was called A Very Pet Shop Boys World. I decided to cease posting on that blog so I could move to what I hope is a more professional and varied blog here. Although I don't want to delete the posts on that blog. I've decided that over the coming months each of the posts on that blog will be rolled out onto here. My writing style has changed so much since those very early posts on the Pet Shop Boys blog thus I will be tweaking them and adding new arguments and observations I've made. It'll be integrated in with other posts of course - I don't want to spam the blog out with just Pet Shop Boys stuff

The other thing I'm going to introduce to my blog is a series of posts discussing songs that are important to me either in my personal life, or are tied to a memory in some way. They're not supposed to be reviews of the songs, hence why I'm offering this explanation. I'm drafting up the first post in this series at the moment and all being well it should be posted on Friday which is most likely going to be the designated day for all posts in this little series. Until then though I have another post as I want to make later on tonight so take care and I'll see you then!

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Kate Bush - The Big Sky

Not only one of my all time favourite Kate Bush songs, but simply one of my all time favourite songs, period. For me, this is her best single and in my top three favourite Kate Bush tracks. It was the final single released from her career-defining Hounds Of Love album, released in 1986. It only reached #37 in the UK chart which I think is a bit of an injustice. It's a fantastic song. It's just got an incredible atmosphere. The lyrics concern youth, and the pleasure felt at the simplest of things. Like "looking up at the big sky". When you're young, such things can fascinate the mind (I'm personally still fascinated by them to this day). I can definitely remember as a kid staring up at that wide open space, just wondering what lay out there. And how the clouds looked so magical - I always wanted to sleep on a cloud personally. The lyrics for The Big Sky can be incredibly hard to make out. In fact, if it weren't for a transcribe of the lyrics most of them (bar the chorus) would be inaudible. I'm pretty bad at deciphering lyrics anyhow, although this time it's definitely more down to the arrangement. The song starts off with a certain air of anticipation I think and it just builds. It's like for every layer of joy that comes in; so does a new instrumental piece. By the time the song reaches its coda (ending segment) it's ended up incredibly percussion-heavy. So much so in fact that it becomes very discordant and cacophonous. Listening to it too loud is actually painful - I could imagine this track doing damage to your ears if listened to too often and too loud. However - the track just makes me feel deliriously happy when I hear it. The arrangement is so uplifting - I especially love the guitars which are prominent during the chorus. They actually send shivers down my spine more often than that. The track was remixed for single release, in a mix known as the Special Single Mix. It was released on 7" whilst the 12" had another mix called the Meteorological Mix. In all honesty I'm not a huge fan of the single mix - the album version is my definitive version. In any case, I'd describe the song as frankly magical, and that's an adjective I virtually never use to describe songs!

More album testing

So, more album testing today. That means only one thing: more thoughts below.

Continuing on with my Blondie exploration I listened today to arguably their most famous album: Parallel Lines. Technically it's not a new album for me - I had begun listening to it last year. I loved One Way Or Another and Hanging On The Telephone but the next three tracks bored the life out of me. By track five I  was utterly bored and stopped listening. I have to admit that definitely didn't happen today, I actually liked it this time around! Other new favorites I found were Pretty Baby and I'm Gonna Love You Too. Significantly even Heart of Glass grew on me tenfold. Previously that song had left me with a bad initial impression of Blondie because it used to grate on me so much. In any case Parallel Lines is another most enjoyable album. I've liked all their albums so far - despite not having found one that I could class amongst my all time favourite albums. It's still very early days though and I've got another three more recent albums to check out (not forgetting Debbie Harry's solo material either). I'll be very interested to see how each album grows on me because it's still very much at a tentative state.

The other album I listened to today was The Ramones' fourth studio album, Road To Ruin. A few months ago I started listening to The Ramones and working through their back catalogue in chronological order. Needless to say, I only managed three albums. Criminal I guess because their albums are ridiculously short in length. In any case, I do have to say I think Road To Ruin has been the weakest Ramones album I've heard so far. I did like the more mature sounding songs such as Don't Come Close. I did found new songs I loved such as I'm Against It and Bad Brain. It was just the more punk songs sometimes felt flat; a case of same old, same old really. Their fifth album is said to have a more mature direction all round though, so I've actually got high expectations of it!

I've been on a new music binge lately as you can tell - I've been needing to spend a little more time listening to new music actually. I may be back with another post later, not sure though. See you soon whatever happens though!

New Pet Shop Boys single announced (and some tour attendance chatter)

Afternoon all, just a brief (and unexpected) post to make before I watch the last two episodes in Season 1 of Six Feet Under. A great show, by the way. Anyhow - this post is yet another Pet Shop Boys post. I apologize for the onslaught of them on my blog as of late but as it is a new album I hope you can oversee the high frequencies.

In any case the news is rather big: new single announcement! The new single is Love Is A Bourgeois Construct and it will be released on September 2nd. I'm pleased at the single choice: it's the most typically sounding Pet Shop Boys track on Electric for me. What has pleased me even more though is that B-sides have made a comeback! There will also be remixes of course, but as of yet no announcement of any - according to the official site they'll be coming soon. The two new songs are Entschuldigung and Get It Online. The former means "sorry" or "excuse me" in German and it's written as an apology to German fans that they're unable to speak their language despite spending a lot of time in Germany. It sounds like it's going to be a very humorous song but as of the moment, that's all that is known about it. Absolutely nothing is known about Get It Online whatsoever - although I'm wondering if it's written in response to the act of illegal downloading. After all - they've made no secret of their very strong dislike for such behavior. There will be a CD single, 12" and digital formats. Unfortunately I won't be able to order it on release - Sound System by The Clash is only a week later and I do want to save up before it's release. However I'm hoping to order it very soon after Sound System.

With the announcement of even more new tracks (they're really spoiling us this year), the high acclaim Electric has received and it becoming the most successful Pet Shop Boys album since Very in the UK album charts, it's really a great time to be a Pet Shop Boys fan. For me, this is the best year since becoming a fan in 2010 by far. The cherry on top of this already delicious cake would be if they announced a Belfast date. Unlikely as they have only played here once - during 1991's Performance tour. They haven't announced a tour date for Dublin yet either (most likely where I'd see them) so as of the moment attending the Electric tour is very much unknown. Going to Dublin means I'm actually going into another country, and it's not cheap in the Republic of Ireland. It would actually be double - perhaps even triple - the cost of them playing Belfast once accommodation, travel etc are factored in. And that's even if I can make it to Dublin.  For reasons far too personal to discuss on this blog there's a very real chance I will simply be unable to see them this tour at all, due to circumstances beyond my control. Believe me, not something I'm happy about but I can't help it. Sometimes these things happen - and hopefully I'll be able to see them in a subsequent tour.

I hate to end posts on a down note - especially because I'm not down. At the end of the day I'm just grateful that they're still even recording music after near 32 years together. Many of my favourite artists: The Clash, Joy Division, Nirvana for starters simply cannot do that. And not only are they still recording music together, they've just released what I feel is one of their best albums ever. I can't ask for more. As I said before, going to see them live would just be the finishing touch to an amazing year. I don't need to see them live to appreciate what a damn good album Electric is. Connection with the music is what matters to me. Consider this: I'm as big a Joe Strummer fan as you're likely to find amongst 19 year old girls. I became a fan knowing full well I'll never see the man with my own two eyes. And yet, he's become one of the biggest inspirations in my life. So yeah, perhaps no gig; but definitely no love for the music lost. It's all good. I'll be back with more posts later!

Monday, 22 July 2013

Nightlife (B-side) (Updated 22nd July 2013)

DVD single cover.
I've always found myself enjoying the B-sides and unreleased tracks from the Release album more enjoyable than the album itself. And Nightlife continues this trend. It was a B-side to Home and Dry (it featured on the UK DVD single). I do like Home & Dry an awful lot, but I definitely prefer Nightlife in all honesty. The track took me by surprise initially. It's one of the lightest, most airy sounding Pet Shop Boys you'll ever hear. I also think the chorus to the track is one of the most infectious chorus' in their discography. Also - Neil sings in his falsetto, not too dissimilar sounding from Before. It's an obvious stylistic homage to the Bee Gees and a deliberate one at that. Neil himself has stated it sounds a tad Bee Gees and they even contacted the Bee Gees about recording it for Nightlife. The Bee Gees never responded and it was left at that. The track wasn't written during the Nightlife sessions though, it's actually a bit older than that. It was written for their musical Closer To Heaven, specifically to perhaps serve as the closing song. The original title for the musical was actually Nightlife. Lyrically, as it deals with the issue of night-time culture, I actually think this could have fitted on quite well in Nightlife so it's pretty unusual for a Pet Shop Boys song in that regard. In terms of lyrics, it's simply about nightlife. It does highlight the negative aspects of nightlife culture however. For example; it's repetitive as people are "looking for life every night". The emptiness of nightlife is implied there also. Reminding us of these negative qualities only adds weight to the argument it would have been a perfect fit on Nightlife, I think. Lyrically the song also reminds me a lot of Saturday Night Forever from Bilingual too. Following the non-inclusion in Closer To Heaven  the song was then considered for inclusion on Release, but Neil & Chris weren't happy with that particular mix. Personally, I'm glad that it wasn't included on Release as it would just not have fitted in at all. It suits being a B-side better than being on Release I feel. It remains an overlooked gem I think, I'm just glad that the Format compilation allows me to have a physical copy of it (officially)!

Today's album testing

Evening all, just before I get on with the task of drafting new reviews and posting new ones I listened to two new albums today, and I want to share my first impressions of them with you.

Firstly, we had Blondie's eponymous debut record. I have to admit, I wasn't fussed on the opening two tracks whatsoever. To the point were I thought to myself "Oh dear if the album stays at this quality I won't like it". Thankfully, it didn't - it improved rather considerably actually. I particularly liked In The Sun, Rip Her To Shreds and The Attack Of The Giant Ants. The latter track in particular was really rather quirky, which I liked. I must admit that it is probably their weakest album that I've heard so far - more to do with the fact that something has to be assigned that position in a ranking of quality. I definitely do prefer the experimental side they'd develop in their subsequent albums. It's much the same view I have of The Clash really. Anyhow, after a rather bland start it did pick up a lot for me!

Now, for another album from this year that I've only got round to listening too now. I must confess: truth be told I didn't hear the final three songs, even if I have already heard Dresden before. Damn tiredness took a hold on me - so much so I had to go straight asleep again. I was exhausted. Anyhow, to be honest I'm not in any great rush to listen to the last three songs. I mean don't get me wrong - it was perfectly listenable - but for me Metroland remains the best track on the album by a landslide. And I loved Metroland. If all the tracks were of the same quality I'd buy it no question. Sadly, the only other track I can see myself listening too is The Future Will Be Silent. It was listenable music but rather formulaic, and to be honest I thought it was pretty dated too. I have to admit, I was disappointed.

So I guess a pretty mixed day for album testing all round, although you can't like everything you hear though I guess. In the meantime I'm finally going to get round to some proper reviewing. I'll see you soon!

Soundsystem: First Review in!

Afternoon all, I've got a few posts to make today. Firstly, in exciting news the first review for The Clash's upcoming Sound System box-set is in. If anything - it just makes me even more excited for the release of the boxset. It got a very positive review, and the remastering apparently makes the songs sound "crisper". I personally cannot wait - not only will it be a treat to hear the remastering but like I've said before, things like Armagideon Times fanzine I obviously missed out on being born in 1994.

In a perhaps pointless update, the boxset has risen in price slightly from its lowly price of £77 up to £94. I know monitoring it is a fruitless endeavor on my behalf because I've pre-ordered it at £77 - so any price risings won't affect how much I pay for it. Unless of course it decreases below £77 in which case I pay the new lowest amount. Having said that, I do feel that the boxset is excellent value for money: this coming from someone who has all six of their albums. It's interesting to note that in the review it states that when  retailing at £81.50, the 11 CD's plus one DVD cost roughly £6.79 each. It's really not that far away from the £5.99 cost that Sandinista cost when originally released. Significantly also, that is before we factor in the elaborate packaging and all the extra merchandise it comes with. I do think it's good value for money, in all honesty.

As you can tell I'm rather excited for this release - meanwhile I've got a few more posts to be drafting now in order to post them later (in keeping with my schedule). I'm also going to tweak an older post, so I'll see you then!

The review can be found HERE.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Sound of the Week

Hard to believe it's the end of the week already. Today, my house is alive with Bruce Springsteen chatter. One of my relatives who attended the show is down visiting - cue talks with my brother and father (who both also attended). Even just listening to these accounts it's clear that Bruce is the ultimate showman. The irony? My father offered to take me to his show and Dublin last year and I declined. On account that I wasn't overly familiar with his work. I declined. To see The Boss. In my place my brother went. He described the experience as "like a light going on in his head". Honestly - I've come to the conclusion that should he come back to Belfast I think I'll have to go. I like all his work that I've heard thus far and he sounds like an incredible showman. And from what I've seen of him in interviews etc he seems like an incredibly likeable and down to earth man. That's all in the future of course - for now we've a sound of the week to get on with.

Admittedly this is incredibly predictable but I've been so bowled over by Electric this week. Although I must admit I was rather tempted to post up Blondie's Follow Me from Autoamerican - it's a beautiful song also. In the end I decided to go for Shouting In The Evening from Electric. In saying that though it was a close call between Inside A Dream and Shouting In The Evening. So, what made me go for Shouting In The Evening? For me - it's the hardest dance track in the Pet Shop Boys repertoire. When the main beat drops early in the track it floored me. Fast paced, rhythmic and pulsating it's as euphoric as you could hope a club track to be. The lush synths of Inside A Dream are beautiful too, but it does have a more classic Pet Shop Boys sound. Don't get me wrong, I think it's a wonderful song but I'd have to say Shouting In The Evening is a more atypical Pet Shop Boys track.

As for my album of the week - it's a very obvious choice: Electric. Honestly, I had high hopes (to say the least) when it was announced Pet Shop Boys new album would be a dance record. Such expectations were only boosted when I heard Stuart Price was producing it. In fact - he was the producer I had hoped they'd work with next actually. Vocal I felt was underwhelming initially but I've actually grown to like it because it fits in so well with the rest of Electric. In fact, it's the only Pet Shop Boys album that I've liked every track on from the first time listening to the record as a whole. Actually, the only other Pet Shop Boys album that I like every song is Yes. I feel that in time Electric will be ranked alongside Very, Actually and Behaviour as one of their all time great albums. For an artist to still be producing albums that rank amongst their best thirty years into their career is no mean feat. It's a fabulous album that is further proof that they are as fresh and vital as ever.

So that's it for this week. I promise this will be the last post about the brilliance of Electric until I write my proper review post in a few weeks ( I like to digest albums thoroughly before proper reviews are made). I have other things I want to write about too but I'll most likely keep them until tomorrow so I don't spam you out with posts. See you then!

Part II of Yesterday's Albums.

Afternoon all. Bruce has been and gone (my family all said it was an incredible show) and for the first time in days - for Belfast at least - it's actually a cloudy day. Perhaps there's an element of pathetic fallacy going on there. The clouds (and eventual rain) can't come soon enough because it's unusually and constitently hot for us at the moment. Not only that but it's also very humid. It's very difficult conditions to sleep in - I've had about three in a fortnight.

Anyhow, I know that was a pretty pointless ramble so lets get on with things. Yesterday I listened to two other albums. They were total contrasts too. First of all was C'est Chic by Chic (who else?). I have to say I liked it, even though though one or two of the tracks in the latter half of the album did kill momentum off for me. Having said that some of the tracks that I hadn't heard before I absolutely loved. I mean I already knew Le Freak of course but new favourites I found included Chic Cheer, Savior Faire and Happy Man. I must confess that I did get a little bored and I only got as far as the penultimate track's conclusion. It wasn't that I disliked the album, really I think I just wanted to hear a recently released album - and I've got so many new albums to listen to. The list is just set to grow, too. Anyhow, I will listen to more Chic though!

The album that I swapped C'est Chic for actually was Miles Kane's second album, Don't Forget Who You Are. I did like his debut record, Colour of The Trap, but his sophomore effort I have to say I really liked. In time, I can see myself loving it too. The tracks seemed to pack more of a punch than Colour of The Trap although in saying that it has been a while since I heard his debut. My early favourites are: Don't Forget Who You Are, Better Than That and Darkness In Our Hearts. One or two songs did pass by without leaving much of a mark, but even then they were still listenable. And the rest of the songs ranged from like to love. Definitely an enjoyable album though, I think I'll be adding it to my collection!

That's all for now, rest assured I'll be back very soon with my sound of the week post (advance warning: it's very predictable). Thanks for reading!

Saturday, 20 July 2013

New Albums I've Listened To Today, Part I.

Good evening all. It's an exciting night for music fans here tonight: the legendary Bruce Springsteen himself is taking to the Kings Hall for an outdoor concert that promises to be very special indeed. The Kings Hall wouldn't be our main concert venue (at least, not anymore) which makes his performance there a surprise but one that's most welcome. Belfast needs more gigs and it's great to see a true legend here. I've actually got a number of very close relatives at the show because my family are rather big Bruce fans. As for me, I've got a passing interest. I don't know very much about his work at all but what I do know I love. He's definitely another artist on my very long list that needs investigating, although I already have utmost respect for him.

In any case, I took a craving for some new music today after been lazy with it the last few days. The first album I decided to listen to was Blondie's Autoamerican. You know, I think Blondie are finally cracking with me. They've grown on me so much. I should have expected as much - some of my favourite bands such as Joy Division were slow burners. In any case, I think this is my favourite Blondie album that I've heard thus far, although I haven't heard them all yet. I think age has definitely helped my appreciation of it too: like I can actually appreciate how ahead of its time a song like Rapture was. I also loved the variety of styles on the album: I can now definitely see why so many people in online forums and the like praised Blondie's variety of sounds. I've got a feeling the only way is up from here on out!

Second of all - very appropriately too - was Born To Run. I've been meaning to listen to this for a few months and I figured there wouldn't be a more appropriate time than today. I had very high expectations for this because it's a classic album and my relatives would rank this amongst their all time favourites. I have to say I really enjoyed it! I already really liked Born to Run and particularly Jungleland. From listening to the album though I found myself loving She's The One and Thunder Road just as much. I actually really liked all the songs. Also, listening to the album in that glorious sunshine that we're still having just made an already excellent set of songs sound like an even bigger breath of fresh air. The perfect soundtrack really. The next album I'm going to listen to next is Born In The USA - expectations once again high!

That's me done for the moment - although I still have two albums to post about which I'll do later. For now I'm going to give my laptop a much needed break, I'll be back later!

Friday, 19 July 2013

The Clash on Fridays (In awesome quality)

A brief post for you tonight readers. I actually wasn't planning on making any more new posts tonight but I did find an utter gem that I felt needed to be shared. Well, it's merely the band's historic performance at Fridays. Historic obviously because it was their first US public TV appearance. The content is hardly going to be new to fans but what makes this exceptional is the picture quality. It's by far and away the best quality I've seen for these performances. I know Guns Of Brixton got a live release on the Revolution Rock DVD but I've never seen the rest of the performance in DVD quality. The Youtube video description states the original source of this video is a very rare Sony Inhouse VHS tape. I can only imagine what other Clash recordings lie in the faults therefore. Hopefully some of it shall see official release. As for the Fridays performance, all the other videos I've seen of it have had lacklusture picture quality and muddy sound. This sounds and looks crystal clear. It's great because I can finally view one of my all time favourite Clash performances in the quality it deserves. I found this because I was drafting a post about the performance of London Calling from this set, and I was searching for a video of the performance to embed in the post. Whilst doing so, I stumbled across this particular recording. I'll post that tomorrow most likely but I really hope you all enjoy this treasure!

Thursday, 18 July 2013

New Order order (ahem) is here.

So, my other Amazon order arrived yesterday but I couldn't post it last night because I had to take care of some personal business. It's also a few days late because the postal service wasn't operating here for a few days. In any case, I'm just glad they've arrived. They're the Retro boxset and the newly released Live At Bestival 2012 album. I've been itching to get Retro for a while and I streamed their Bestival performance as it happened last year and absolutely loved it. I was utterly thrilled to discover they were releasing a live album. Also it's important to note that all the profit made from the album goes to charity, so it's definitely a worthwhile purchase for New Order fans. I'll be back later as I want to do a proper review post before I go out for the day (Thursday being my busy day and what have you).

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Free Will (12")

From what I gather, Free Will is a firm favorite amongst fans of Electronic, it's not hard to see why either. It was originally released as a B-side to Get The Message in 1991. I must admit, whilst I do love Get The Message I do prefer Free Will. Two versions of the track exist: a 7" and a 12" edit. As you could imagine, 7" singles featured the 7" edit whilst CD singles and 12" records hosted the 12" mix. I have to say that the longer mix is easily the more superior version for me at least. It's just because it's such a good song for me, that more is indeed better in this particular case! To tell you the truth, I could count on one hand the amount of times I've listened to the shorter edit. Free Will is an instrumental (one of a number of instrumentals in their discography). It is a very high energy dance song that covers a lot of ground in its near six minute total running time. Really, the title Free Will is an accurate description of the track as it has meanders off in various musical directions during the course of the track. It definitely makes for a track that is always interesting to listen to, such is it's ever-evolving nature. To be honest, I think it would have fitted in well on Electronic. The music doesn't sound too far removed from that found on the album and it would have been a good centerpiece I think. The track is only available in its original forms on the various Get The Message single packages. A 2013 edit was released on the recent Electronic special edition but it's vastly inferior to the original. Quite frankly, I don't see the point in doing a new edit of it whatsoever, and it wasn't the only track on the bonus disc to get such treatment either. In any case, the 12" of Free Will is a great, underrated track that is quite a hidden gem. I can only hope that one day the original will surface on an original release!

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Online order FINALLY arrived.

So at long last, this online order finally arrived.  I actually ordered these at the tail end of June - Howlin was from Amazon and Jessie Ware's Devotion (Gold Edition) came from another seller. For whatever reason Jessie Ware's album only arrived yesterday. It's in absolutely perfect condition mind you but it was incredibly slow service. I don't think I'll use that seller again - I only ordered from them because Amazon weren't stocking the album at that particular point. I'm just relieved it's here though because I was honestly going to email them yesterday if it hadn't arrived by that stage. I'm due another Amazon order too but the postal service being off for a few days means I'm going to have to wait a little bit longer for it I think. Nevertheless I'll post it when it's here!

Yesterday's Purchases

I was working on this post last night, alias I was tired and went to bed. Anyway, last night I said that I didn't just get Electric, so here's all that I got. Left to right from top they are Pet Shop Boys - Electric, New Order - Lost Sirens, Goldfrapp - Black Cherry, Fleetwood Mac - Tango In The Night, David Bowie - Low and New Order -Movement (2CD Special edition). Originally my plan was to get Delta Machine by Depeche Mode but they only had the regular edition in stock (I always go for special editions). I just left it and that's how I ended up with Black Cherry and Low. I actually ended up with more albums for less money - Head is a fantastically priced record store. Even Electric only cost £9 which for a new album on release day is pretty good. Although the fact that there's no deluxe edition accounts for that I'd say. I'm so pleased that I finally got Tango In The Night as I've wanted that for ages, and I've finally got all of New Order's studio albums at long last!

Monday, 15 July 2013

Electric: First Listen

Afternoon all. Well - only one place to start today. I went into town, got my copy of Electric and I've already listened to it. I have to admit - I was a bit wary of the new album. I loved all the snippets I had heard but I had really disliked Vocal. Also - the reviews have been so good I was worried it would turn out to be underwhelming like I felt Random Access Memories was. As it turns out I shouldn't have worried - here's my first impressions from first listen. I'll have a proper review in a few weeks once I've digested the album a bit more:
  • It's been well documented that the album is a banger. That's one way of putting it. It's by far and away the most crazily dancefloor oriented album they've ever done. And it's brilliant because of that. Anyone who particularly loved Relentless will love Electric, I'd garauntee it actually. And most importantly it's far better than Elysium.
  •  One thing that does play second fiddle to the music though are the lyrics. Although Love Is A Bourgeois Construct does have great lyrics - it's probably the most typically sounding Pet Shop Boys song on the album. That may disappoint some but honestly the dance arrangements will engross you so much lyrics become -  dare I say it - an afterthought. Whether or not the lack of lyrical depth will harm my repeated plays of the album remains to be seen. Frankly I don't think it will.
  • Vocal is the worst track on the album for me (but it is a good closing track). Axis also makes the perfection introductory track too. So far my early favourites are Inside A Dream, Bolshy and Shouting In The Evening. I have to say Thursday sounded a lot better than I thought it would be though - Example's rap actually fitted in really well. The only track I was disappointed in was Fluroscent - I loved it from the sample but truth be told the track doesn't evolve much from that. It's still good but it didn't blow me away as much as I had hoped.
  • I actually like every song on the album - even Vocal grew on me when heard in the context of Electric. Honestly - it's truly rare that I like every song on any album but it's especially rare for Pet Shop Boys. In fact the only other Pet Shop Boys album I like every song on is Yes. Even then - it took a year to reach that status. To have Electric achieve this on first listen is really something for me indeed.
  • The album also has a lot of late 80s sounds to it whilst still sounding very modern. To put it succinctly, it sounds very much like a Pet Shop Boys album - Vocal however I still feel does sound a bit generic. Electric balances old and new perfectly however.
  • So - where does it go in the all time rankings? Obviously this will change over time. However at the moment it'd be most certainly in my top five - and frankly I can see it being just behind Behaviour and Very in the top three. It really is genuinely brilliant.
So - all in all this massive Pet Shop Boys fan gives Electric a hearty two thumbs up. It's a dancefloor album with real flare and pinache. I'll be back later with pictures of today's purchases in town, thanks for reading!

Sunday, 14 July 2013


Evening all - I type this as I watch The Killers live from T In The Park. Great concert so far - I'll post my full thoughts on it tomorrow.

This isn't a sound of the week post as such - heat and being busy in general has left me unable to concentrate on my music, books and TV. As such the only real album I've actually listened to this week in full was Very by Pet Shop Boys earlier. I'm starting to get excited for Electric tomorrow - still hard to believe there's another new album coming so soon after Elysium.

One track that has grown on me so much lately though is A Different Point of View. I love the Very album in general and I've always liked A Different Point Of View. However it's grown on me so much and now I can say I love it. It's surely one of the most bombastic tracks they've ever made - and one of the most extreme examples of their trademark happy music with sad lyrics style. I actually think it would have been a great single in all honesty - that nearly came to fruition too I believe.

That's all for now really - tomorrow will be a very busy day as I have Electric to pick up. You can expect my first listen reactions of course. I've also got other CDs coming tomorrow too but I'll post more about them then. Stay tuned!

Saturday, 13 July 2013

To Speak Is A Sin (Updated July 13th 2013)

A relatively ignored album track from Very. Originally I felt that this song was a weak spot on the album. Very is full of mainly upbeat tracks, so originally I felt it didn't fit. It definitely goes against the grain of the album in both tone and lyrical theme. Now I would say it's one of my favourite tracks from the album and one of my favourite Pet Shop Boys songs! Stylistically, the track has a rather stark resemblance to a Very era instrumental demo called Playing Hard To Get. However, Playing Hard To Get definitely is not a demo of To Speak Is A Sin.  To Speak Is A Sin is actually an old song, even older than Its A Sin, written in 1983 on the same day that an unreleased song called In The Club or In The Queue was written. That almost certainly goes some way to explain why To Speak Is A Sin is rather different from the other tracks on Very, given it was recorded ten years prior. As for Playing Hard To Get, I would say it's perfectly probable that the track was never developed because it's too similar in sound to To Speak Is A Sin. The song is about homosexuals in a bar, and feeling too nervous to talk to anyone the person may find attractive, its got this lonely/desperate feel to it and I think the saxophone adds to that effect. Having said that, the lyrics don't specify any particular sexualities so it's a track anyone could identify with I think. As for other official versions such as remixes etc, there are none. However - the track was performed on their Discovery tour. Neil has stated that he prefers the keyboard line that replaced the saxophone in the live version. Personally I disagree -I think that's what makes the song. Originally, I used to think that the song didn't fit in with the album, but now I think it fits in really well. Its good to have a slower paced song mixed in with the faster tracks, but also I think it particularly compliments Go West. I mean that song is about aspiring to have an idealistic gay utopia, but I think To Speak Is A Sin presents the realism to balance that out possibly. Definitely an overlooked song though!

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Bye bye PSB B-sides?

Vocal CD single cover
I'm sure you've all guessed by now, I love Pet Shop Boys. That's hardly news though. What is news - to me at least - is the track listings announced today for the limited edition Axis 12" and the Vocal CD single. It's particularly the CD single of Vocal that's bugging me.

As any Pet Shop Boys fan knows, they excel at B-sides. Not only that, but B-sides are a regular thing for them. They're the only artist that I listen to that still does them without fail even in the digital age. For example: Winner, the lead single of their last album had three B-sides. And not only that but they're known for doing exceptional B-sides. They have two double disc compilations of B-sides: Alternative and Format. They're both full of many of the duo's best songs.

 Imagine my disappointment when I discovered that Vocal has a stash of remixes but no B-sides. None whatsoever. I had a feeling that would be the case because a news item on their website a few weeks ago only mentioned that "a CD single containing remixes will be announced shortly". Nevertheless it's very disappointing news indeed. I don't know the reason why. Perhaps they felt that because their last era produced 9 B-sides (many of them stemming from the Elysium sessions) it was time for a break. Having said that it's a pretty poor excuse if so. It's well known that Pet Shop Boys are not only very prolific in the studio but songs will lie unreleased  for years before being used. Sometimes they even surface as B-side if they're particularly eclectic. Even if they didn't record new tracks for Electric era B-sides there's no shortage of already recorded material I'm sure.

Not only that, but it's a pretty poor business move. Many fans continue to buy their singles exclusively because of their B-sides. Particularly the newer singles which come after the release of Format. I don't buy CD singles (never did really) but I do make a point of buying Pet Shop Boys ones when I can find them because of their B-sides. Add to that the fact I find remixes of their songs to be very hit and miss.That's a fairly common view amongst fans too I think. However, I won't be buying Vocal. Unless the remixes are of exceptional quality. However I don't like Vocal as a song to begin with so the chances of that are slim.

I really hope this isn't a sign of Pet Shop Boys slowing down.. B-sides have always been a strong point for them. Also, the singles from Elysium were utter non-entities in the charts. And fans had more reason to buy them because they contained B-sides. I can see some fans not buying Vocal because it hasn't got any B-sides, so I dread to see where it will chart (if it even does). This is a move that will harm them on every level I think, I only hope that it's just a move exclusive to Vocal. Time will tell.

Good news and a brief update

Evening all, just a brief post for today. I come with excellent news: the spare power lead was brought over today. As it turns out - it was just a power issue (what we were hoping for). Now, the hardrive is absolutely fine again and totally in working order. All files are present and correct. I cannot tell you the relief that brings. I have 600GB of music, movies, TV shows, concerts and documentaries on that thing. Needless to say, I'm delighted that it's back.

The real core of this post though is what I've spent the last hour or so doing. I was having a much needed catch up session with Mario Kart DS (I think I'll upgrade to 3DS later in the year). Whilst doing it though, I was listening to Paul Simon's Songwriter compilation. It's his own personal selection of what he feels is his best work. So it leans towards lesser known album tracks and the like. Consequently there's no You Can Call Me Al or 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover. For me I really liked that though. Truthfully I know none of his albums after The Rhythm Of The Saints really, which made the majority of disc two especially interesting. I have to say I loved it as a compilation -  it was just as varied as I would expect from Paul Simon. My new found favourites being Quality, Train In The Distance, Hearts and Bones and Look At That. Honestly - I can see myself becoming more of a fan of his 80s/90s/00's albums than his 70s ones. I mean I still really like his 70s solo material - it's just I love the eclectism of that second disc especially. We shall see though.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

New book

My reading has gone to absolute pot these past few weeks. I was reading Heavier Than Heaven which is a biography on Kurt Cobain but I've totally lost my place in it. So, I've just decided to start a new book. I've decided to balance it out with J.D Salinger's classic The Catcher In The Rye too. The book in question? Pat Gilbert's Passion Is A Fashion: The Real Story Of The Clash. It'll be my first proper Clash biography actually, as I've only read Redemption Song so far which is more about Joe Strummer. The book has garnered very good reviews though, so it'll definitely be informative I'm sure. I'll be interested to see what I make of this!

Monday, 8 July 2013

Bad news but good clips

Evening all. It's piping hot here in Belfast but I haven't got out in the sunshine yet. Mostly due to some bad news: late last night my 1TB HD died for no apparent reason. I know that sounds like not a huge deal but to me it's one of my most crucial electrical devices. It contained no personal files thankfully but it did contain about 600GB worth of music, movies, TV shows, documentaries... all media stuff. In fact most of what I write about on this blog has been material I've downloaded onto that HD to try out. It still could be a power issue but if not I will need to purchase a new HD.

On this plus side I watched two very interesting interviews. Once again, both of these aired on Sky Arts about a week ago (back to back actually). They're both from the same series too. Firstly, we have the Talks With Dave Fanning edition that features The Killers. Well - Brandon Flowers and Mark Stoermer. The interview originally took place around 2007. What I love about the interview (about both really) is that Dave Fanning clearly undertakes extensive research before carrying out an interview. For instance, he asked about the circumstances surrounding the unreleased track Where Is She? Other topics included the contrast between the band's musical influences and the area they grew up in; the dominance of a more Springsteen/American influenced sound on Sam's Town and how quickly the band experienced massive success. Sadly, I can't find a video of it to post here, at least one with embedding options. It seems to be available in bits on Youtube though so have a look because it's definitely worth watching!

The other interview was with another group I especially love: Pet Shop Boys. It was done to promote the release of Fundamental, so it's also around the 2006/2007 mark. I'm almost certain this was 2006 though. Once again it was another very well researched interview. Even Neil commented on that actually. Topics discussed this time around included Madonna, fame in general and how Pet Shop Boys fit in with gay culture. They even discussed in some detail the plans they had for the travelling music festival that consisted of nothing but gay musicians that ultimately never happened. It's another really interesting interview that's well worth watching.

So that's it for today, hopefully tomorrow I'll finally go into town. I also ordered Retro and Bestival 2012 both by New Order today so that's something good at least. I'll be back soon.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Sound of The Week

Early evening everyone. I was working on this earlier but I got delayed thanks to the Wimbledon final. Firstly - congratulations to Andy Murray. I'm a Nadal fan first and foremost and was hoping Djokovic would win. Having said that, Murray was simply better on the day and thus his victory was deserved. I certainly can remember the excitement I felt when Nadal won his first Wimbledon title five years ago now.

Anyhow, this sound of the week post once again comes with two new musical discoveries. Firstly, the discovery thanks to Glastonbury 2013. You always come away wanting to investigate at least one artist, don't you? For me Glastonbury was the introduction to one of my most favorite acts of all - Pet Shop Boys. Forever grateful. Anyway, what we have here is a little bit older: Chic's Good Times. I've been familiar with the names Chic and Nile Rodgers for years. I knew Le Freak and I'd been aware of some of Nile Rodgers work with Duran Duran, Madonna, David Bowie etc. I'd actually briefly toyed with the idea of listening to more Chic too... should have followed that one through really. I heard this when one of the Glastonbury coverage programs played a segment of live footage of it. I loved it and it's made me keen to check out their back catalogue. I'll be sure to post a follow up post once I listen to more of them!

The other sound of the week has surprised me even more in all honesty. It's Atomic by Blondie. This one has surprised me because I did try to get into them a few months ago. It just wasn't working. At all - in fact I had all but given up on getting into them. I loved songs such as Hanging On The Telephone and One Way Or Another but Denis and Heart Of Glass just weren't for me. I had resigned the whole group to that status until I heard Atomic. I must admit it's made me go back and reevaluate Blondie. I've heard two albums at the minute: The Hunter and Eat To The Beat. Both of which I've actually rather liked! They're definitely more varied than I initially gave them credit for I must admit. From what I've heard I definitely think I'm going to like their later material. I could even see myself really liking their most recent effort, Panic of Girls. Definitely going to be an interesting listening experience though!

So that's it for this week. Tomorrow sees the release of New Order's Bestival live set so I will definitely be ordering that. I'm still waiting the delivery of Jessie Ware's album through my doorstep too. It's due this week I think so if it's not here I'll definitely email the seller. Expect to hear more from me before then though!

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Simon & Garfunkel - Live From NYC 1967 (First Impressions)

So, I've listened to a few new albums today. Two of Blondie, and this live album by Simon & Garfunkel. I've still got a few more official releases of theirs to listen too, mostly live. For whatever reason I started off with this live recording from New York, in 1967. At this point in their career they had released three studio albums: Parsley Sage Rosemary & Thyme being the most recent. Interestingly though the setlist for the concert definitely concentrates more on their first two albums. Truthfully told they're my least favorite albums of Simon & Garfunkel (although I still really like both of them). That doesn't take away from the excellence of this performance though. Their live performances are so good that songs I hadn't cared for previously often take on new life when performed live. An example from Live From New York City is He Was My Brother which I particularly loved here. The only song that I really wish was performed live was April Come She Will, because it's probably my favorite song of the first two albums. Although they have so many great songs it's just a minor qualm for me. It's also always very charming for me to hear the between songs chat, when there is any. Mostly due to my age. It's amazing hearing them talk as young men, still probably very much unaware of the legacy they'd leave behind. It's also quite stark that within three years from this performance it'd be all over. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed listening to this. And because it's on Amazon for a very cheap £3.87 (bargain!), I'll almost certainly add it to my CD collection. An excellent performance.

Fleetwood Mac - Rumours (Classic album)

Good afternoon/early evening. Summertime is definitely back here in Belfast, perfect weather for the annual Pride parade which took place today. I didn't go into town yesterday, so I'm hoping to do that on Monday. I'm actually listening to Tango In The Night by Fleetwood Mac which is pretty apt for this post. I love that album, I'm going to pick it up when I'm in town in nine days from now picking up Electric by Pet Shop Boys on release day.

Anyhow, last night I watched yet another documentary I had recorded from Sky Arts. This time, it was the Rumors edition of Classic Albums which was originally broadcast in 1997. There's been a-lot of Fleetwood Mac on TV lately which is always welcome. I've still got more to watch yet actually. Anyhow, I've seen a few Classic Albums but so far this has to have been the best one I've seen. I was expecting the documentary to be interesting because there's so much history surrounding the recording of Rumors. I mean the inner turmoil that dogged the band during the recording sessions makes listening to them retelling the story themselves always interesting. What was especially brilliant about this particular documentary was how it made me look at the music in a different light though. Tracks are dissected, more often than not elements are separated in the studios by the band. It allows for things such as rhythm lines etc to be played in total isolation and it makes you appreciate and marvel at the finer details of Rumors far more. My personal highlight was Lindsey Buckingham dissecting one of my personal favorite Fleetwood Mac tracks, Second Hand News. The track had so many elements that I had never even considered before and it's just made me love it all the more. The whole documentary is so worth watching though and it just underscores that the music on Rumors is stunning, regardless of the circumstances it was recorded in. Well worth watching!