singled out – christmas missive

archive missive rescued from a broken hard drive – this was first published in December 2008……

‘Ghost of Christmas Present’

Second part of the annual festive bumper Singled Out…..

Happy Christmas…..

Not rightly sure whether or not we’ve mentioned the Motifs in passing previously, to date the Aussie quintet have released a handful of albums via Knock Yr Socks Off and Japan’s Lost in Found imprint whilst also featuring on a free to download compilation put out by Eardrum entitled ’a good crop’ volume 3 which also includes selections from the likes of Dark Captain Light Captain, Left with Pictures and the curiously named Children and Corpse playing in the Street – all of which if we think on we’ll try and have a peek at in the coming days – though it being a download its likely to sit on our hard drive unperturbed until kingdom come. Anyhow back to the Motifs who in the spirit of the season has crafted together a little festive freebie of their own entitled ’Christmas Lights’. Criminally brief it may be standing tall at only 1.55 but in this finitely sculptured and slender moment there’s something tenderly arresting brewing within as though the Christmas fairy had playfully decided to sweetly marinate the harmonic elements of the Beach Boys with the flighty willowy carefree nature of Free Design, then adding to the mix a sprinkling of frost tipped Mum dialects enhanced with a beguiling down tempo warmth with the finishing seasoning to the recipe coming care of a crisp celestial halo of glow loveliness. Does it for us. http://www.myspace.com/themotifs

The link for that Eardrums compilation which we forgot to give is at http://eardrumsmusic.com/the-label/a-good-crop-eardrums-autumn-compilation-2008-volume-3/

Rod Thomas ‘on a silent night’ – another freebie festive single that you can grab yourselves by redirecting your no doubt spanking brand new PC / Laptops via http://www.myspace.com/rodthomasmusic – Mr Thomas needs no introductions in these pages for he has proved something of a re-occurring delight on our turntable courtesy of the occasional sprinkling of a honey tipped gem like release or four over the course of the last 18 months or so. ‘on a silent night’ delicately taps into the near exquisite and quietly alluring song craft folds of the much loved Heartstrings (whose ‘try fly blue sky’ full length every home should own by our humble reckoning), breathlessly dispatched with the tender pit a patter of anticipation this shy eyed lovely is replete with a nimbly cascading fretwork that’s mellowed by the rustling of sleigh bells and the caressing hush of twinkling bells that from its fragile appearance soon begins to thaw and unfurl into an acutely fond and warming rush of transfixing heart surrendering homeliness.

Staying with Rod Thomas loosely – if you redirect your mouse to http://www.wichita-recordings.com/invite/ you’ll able to hear him pairing up with James Yuill for an dislocated and tripping electro version of that old seasonal nugget ‘winter wonderland’. Rummage around the showcased baubles and you’ll also be able to pick up for yourself a video seasonal greeting from the much admired Sky Larkin, the Slow Club singing ‘Christmas TV’ (sadly the link was down when we tried) and First Aid Kit doing a heart hurting cover of ’Blue Christmas’ which we must say really deserves to be heard by a wider public at large.

Think we may have mentioned a few essential pod casting ear gear from Garagepunk in the previous part of this bumper missive, well it seems these dudes have uploaded a few more rumbling slabs of garage styled Christmas cheer – Florida Rocks Again #33 is a bursting with holiday festivities featuring selected cuts from the likes of the Tropics, Bellamy Brothers, something pretty smart from the Goods, Floyd Miles, Sam Moore and Tom Petty. Also well worth checking out is the latest show from Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide – #61 collects together an hours worth of uninterrupted nuggets – sadly no play list here but you can bet your arse it’s a wig flipping and scowling seasonal set of fast ‘n’ furious ‘n’ funny folly of demented festive rawk, punk and vault emptying retro groove. Well tasty if you ask me. Both available via http://www.garagepunk.com/

The Brian Setzer Orchestra ‘the ultimate Christmas Collection’ (surf dog). Hell they weren’t kidding when they said ‘ultimate’. Been a fair old while since we had any Setzer cause a commotion on our hi-fi – if I recall rightly last time out was 2002’s stunning ‘68 comeback special’ platter for Ignition. Older readers may well remember Brian Setzer as the blonde be-quiffed front man of rock-a-billy trio Stray Cats who once upon a time cut a dash of rootin’ tootin’ smoked 50’s styled retro riffage that detuned itself into the wild cat mindset of Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps, Eddy Cochran and the early Sun Studios sound, to this day they occasionally reform for live appearances though one suspects just to put in their place and embarrass the hell out of the new breed. Anyhow it seems Mr Setzer has managed to cut himself a niche on the swing circuit racking up a Thunderbird boot full of awards along the way. Irrefutably influenced by the late Glenn Miller, Setzer has managed to tap into a public conscience still passionately stirred by the stylising sound of rock ‘n’ roll’s older sibling. This double disc extravaganza, extravaganza being the operative word here, pairs together not only a CD that culls together cuts from his previous holiday season full lengths but a jaw dropping DVD set featuring the entire 100 minute holiday season ‘Christmas Extravaganza’ live experience recorded at a sell out show at LA’s Universal Ampitheatre in December 2004 wherein he’s backed by a full on 18 piece orchestra, its glitzy, showy and massive and we highly recommend – if you get the chance – checking out ‘Santa Claus is back in town‘ and ‘the nutcracker suite‘ which has to be both seen and heard to be believed. In addition to the entire concert the special features includes some rare behind the scenes footage of the writing and preparation of the show, back stage diaries along with interviews with band members and fans alike. On the CD a frankly killer twenty track collection of cuts that have in recent years become a staple diet of the BSO yuletide shows, these cuts as said previously acting as a sort of ‘best of’ of previous holiday inspired releases though here including for the first time ’santa claus is coming to town’ plus a few selected treats from Setzer’s 2007 ‘Wolfgang’s Big Night Out’ set (‘Bach’s Bounce’ and ‘take a break guys’) elsewhere you’re left with a humping set spliced aplenty with an array of timeless seasonal standards such as ‘winter wonderland’ and ‘white Christmas’ along with the sleekly mooching and purring rendition of ’baby its cold outside’ which features a duet with Ann Margaret and the sassily cool swing beat boogie of ‘santa drives a hotrod’ which additionally features on that well smart ‘Christmas a Go Go‘ set from Wicked Cool. The ultimate holiday record anyone?

Dumb Instrument ‘Boxes of Santas’ EP (Bad Tool). Again another record to which we’ll put our hands up in admitting we mislaid much to our own stupidity though we’ve happily made amends since discovering it cowering under a pile of CD’s given its been something of a permanent feature on the losing today dansette player these last few days. This dusty vision of a Christmas past comes wrapped up in red and green tartan wrapping paper and features three dinkily dimpled demurring slices of twinkling treasures that to these ears sound as though they’ve somehow along the way uprooted and left behind them some cosy toed magical paradise of fairy tale enchantment to embark on an expedition that hopefully should be completed in the re-assuring knowledge that the loving embrace of a record buying home has offered safe shelter and an affectionate misty eyed appreciation for them. The work of an Ayrshire based trio – Tom Murray, Keiron Campbell and Mickey Grant who gathered together have crafted perhaps the defining release of the season that’s all at once mellowing, humbling and utterly disarming. ‘Boxes of Santa’ offers up some rarefied Victoriana treats, the fuzzily glowed ‘dear Santa’ opens the set festooned with an up tempo cantering wintry accent, a Dickensian picture card carousel populated by the Broons and lovingly brushed with a classical touch that sees the coalescing soft centred fondant caress of sleigh bells, twinkle some keys and peek-a-booing wind arrangements endowing the landscape with a radiant picture book glow through which whose spell bound intimacy and timeless tonality the gentle drift of Vernon Elliott, Oddfellows Casino and L‘Augmentation tenderly intoxicate and warm the still chilled air spaces all the time bitter sweetly at odds or so it seems to the piping of an Ivor Cutler styled dour steely realism which grittily manifests at the close wherein the peace is shattered by the mention of domestic violence. Flip the disc for ’Boxes’ and its extended half cousin ’big boxes’ – a decidedly worrying fascination manifesting into a crooked overture to the delights of er – boxes, as daft and concerning as it may first appear it’s a bit of sweetie really, dainty and delicate, quietly alluring in a kind of clock working charm motif noir nursery room lullaby like way and admittedly contagiously catchy. Apparently there’s a whole album of the stuff entitled ‘no-one knows what its like to be me’ to be had which has been elevated to the top of our wants list. http://www.myspace.com/dumbinstrument

And here’s a wee video for ’boxes’…

Tenebrous Liar ‘I feel love’. Back with the Maps Magazine advent calendar – day 7 sees Tenebrous Liar going head to head with Donna Summer’s disco hall behemoth ’I feel love’. Somehow this Steve Gullick led four piece have so far escaped our usually attentive ear lobes, come to think of it its been a fair old while since we heard anything by his other interest Bender. Several releases via the esteemed Fire imprint tucked under their belts, ’I feel love’ is reduced to a beautifully brutish brooding sludge, both distressed and dislocated its given a decidedly out of it and wasted sheen, a grizzled flashback of some primitively sourced fuzzed blues a kind of blissed out Grails for those needing reference markers which ambles around in a state of aimless haze for the best part of three minutes before getting its head together to whip up a frenzied slab of fracturing teeth grinding acutely scalding and serious pissed off psychosis. Definitely need to here more. (see maps magazine links elsewhere).

The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster ‘surrender’. Staying with the Maps advent calendar day 9 sees the appearance of an exclusive cut from psych goth overlords the Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster. The howling ‘Surrender’ is a dust swirled sinew seizing colossus of the highest calibre, an apocalyptic love note riddled with tension, desire and rage, a warring cauldron of brooding and grizzled shade wearing psychotronics that to these ears sounds not unlike a three way summit meeting between Sisters of Mercy, Fields of the Nephilim and ‘phantasmagoria’ era Damned which I’m sure you’ll agree is a pretty neat trick.

MJ Hibbett ‘I got you what you want for Christmas’. Day 6 of the festivities has the decidedly infectious sounds of MJ Hibbett and the Validators streaming out of the speakers, disbelievingly last heard around these parts with the ‘shed anthems’ EP (surely not) which was like years and years ago. Anyway ‘I got you what you want for Christmas’ sees them festooning the Maps advent calendar with all manner of slyly coy effervescence and perkiness – banjos, sleigh bells and a liberal dashing of ridiculously brisk and frisky sing-a-long cantering should at least see to it that your thawed of the icy chill of December’s frosty embrace, whilst sound wise should find itself appealing to those of you with fond memories of the Popticians, mind you we thoroughly recommend you also checkout their MS page at http://www.myspace.com/mjhibbett and hook yourselves up to the Half Man Half Biscuit like ‘the lessons of the Smiths’ with its faux ‘is it really so strange’ riffs. Well smart.

And did we just mention the Cherryade’s ‘a very cherry Christmas’ compilation earlier when chewing the fat about the Lovely Egg‘s fetching ‘tyrannous rex for Christmas‘ offering – oh yes – a positive stocking filling extravaganza of bands you’ve never heard of but should have and would have had we had a decent radio service and musical publication in this tin pot place we call the British Isles. Cherryade like fellow punk indie foot soldiers Filthy Little Angels have seized upon and taken the whole DIY ethic as their own and along the way time and time again have proven to possess an acutely unerring ability to unearth gems from straight under the noses of labels undeservedly tagged as the shakers and movers on the musical scene by certain magazines. Now up to its fourth seasonal Christmas box Cherryade round off what has been a superb year of releases that has seen outings for the likes of the Deirdries, the Kabeedies, the aforementioned Lovely Eggs and Ste McCabe with this spiffing amply portioned 18 track seasonal set of emerging soon to be household named talent. Norwich trio Fever Fever open the proceedings with the scalding and abrupt ‘hallelujah Carol’ – spitting and fizzing with a latent riot grrl tension and blistered by an edgy austere exterior, these loveable souls piss in similar pools to fellow East Anglians Violet Violet, though here found brandishing a wicked evil travel bag of swamp dragged festering riffage which unless our ears do deceive sounds not unlike an abrasive festive fist fight between the Dolly Mixtures meets Delta 5, we highly recommend you also check out the scathing flat lining fury of ‘glare’ via their MS page at http://www.myspace.com/feverfevertheband. The Very Most chip in with ’Christmas came November 4th’, a quartet hailing from Idaho who to date have managed to sneak out two albums that have seemingly sneaked beneath our usually attentive radar to much grumbling. This tenderly tingling dash of tastiness embraces all manner of west coast accents and heart hugging fondness to smother your listening space in a shimmer like twinkling honeycombed homeliness whose sole purpose it seems is to arrest your psyche with a beautifully radiating fuzzy glow – does it for us. Those preferring their sounds a little frayed around the edges, roughly cut and sounding slightly worsened for wear as a result of the type of yuletide spirit you find behind the bar of a local public house may well savour the bracing unkempt delights of the excellently named Hotpants Romance’s re-drill of that seasonal nugget ’all I want for Christmas is you’ – raucous, riotous and riddled with wholesomely wicked and whacked out feisty fun – a bit like a head on collision between the Shaggs and the Ramones if that is your looking for reference markers. Head out to their MS page at http://www.myspace.com/hotpantsromance for the Mancunian trios wired and delightfully beaten around the edges shambolic surfed up bubblegum pop that is ’shake’ – infectious doesn’t cover it. And how could we possibly fail to fall for the disarming charms the twinkle some Little My, the daintily dinky ‘Xmas Song’ is a breezy bouquet of willowy wonder, decked out with sleigh bells, softly coaxed harmonies, dimpling riff cascades and off set with the kind of frost tipped shy eyed mellowing effervescence that literally hurts, hugs and heals with grace like abandon. A bit of a peach in our book easily deserving filing away next to those early Belle and Sebastian aural adventures. We are hearing shades of the Weddoes and Hefner coursing through the grooves of the Gresham Flyers achingly beautiful boy / girl tear stained storybook ‘perfect Christmas snow (perfect Christmas kiss)‘ – a tale of stolen seasonal moments, lost loves and heart hurting reminiscences that taps loosely into similar pop sentiments as once approached by the Human Leagues’ ’louise’ – will cut you deep. Frantic, furious and frenetic is the best way of describing the Heart Attack’s whose scuffed up razor sharp bubblegum wrapped prickling pop sortie ‘it was Christmas that killed us’ rounds upon you at such a seemingly ramshackle pace that you half expect it to implode any moment soon and admittedly sounds to these ears like a Ronnettes styled aural paint bomb. Next up Penny Broadhurst go all quietly affectionate and willowy on the gently tip toeing and frailly sculptured sweetie ’the end (bedroom demo)’ while the superbly (and guaranteed to cause hilarity and offence in equal measures) named Micropenis of whom we’ve already had the pleasure of decorating our hi-fi this year via an EP from Filthy Little Angels stump up the blankly chilled ’Christmas in the Midlands’ which manages to survey similar post punk / industrial / austere electro voids as once visited by the pre disco dolly incarnation of the Human League though here indelibly fractured, crooked and paying loose dues to the native hipsters. Ah the Bobby McGee’s – its always a comfort to know that somewhere out there breathing the same air as me and you are the Bobby McGee’s who when the authorities backs are turned gather quickly to record the odd certifiable gem and then disappear into hiding, ’Santa De La Crux’ is once such tinsel traipsing treat – clearly bonkers and several donkeys short of a nativity scene – we’re suspecting the ghost of the much missed Viv Stanshall has been visiting them of late. We here are all in favour of people butchering the odious ’mistletoe and wine’ and so its with much admiration and a hearty thanks that we find pink punk popster running roughshod and rampant across ’Christmas time for sanctimonious swine’ – bitter, belligerent and blistering a bit like a cross between Julian Clary and Pete Shelley though armed with a wired to the teeth armoury of schizoid electronics fast going in to meltdown. We’ve a feeling that Ten Tigers could in time be firm favourites in our gaff if the excellently dour and downcast ’Christmas on Prozac’ is anything to judge while the clearly fried the Seven Inches are taking this Christmas lark a little to serious methinks given that their riotous ’12 days of Christmas’ appears to be attempting to shoehorn as many festive references into the available 140 second groove space as possible – did we mention it highly addictive – no – well it is. If it wasn’t for the Lovely Eggs appearance elsewhere then we’d have certainly crowned this utterly intoxicating pop gem as the pride of the set, we mentioned Detox Cutie and the Beauty Junkies in passing a few missives ago in fact as far as we recall highlighting this particular cut as deserving of wider coverage and indeed adoring acclaim. ’Alarm Bells b/w Silent Night’ is an utterly enchanting slice of pristine purring pop, sculptured with the same breathless soft sophistication as was once the trademark of St Etienne and longingly drilled with the silken corteges of swirling strings and delicately brushed with an all at once desirably tasty fragile, forlorn and beguiling persona – a bit of a peach if you ask me guaranteed to have you cooing, swooning breathlessly and going strangely weak at the knees. We not to certain what the attraction of trout is for Manchester trio the Fountain yet we can be certain in saying that their puzzlingly named ‘shout for trout (for Christmas dinner)’ is as skewiff, schizoid and minimal as anything you hear on this here seasonal parade, apparently there’s an EP lurking about which we’ll have to nail as our own and an as yet unreleased album looming large on the horizon. For now though this rather boisterous slab of wiring crookedness sees them detuning into the pockets of pop cosmos more commonly occupied by a seriously scatty Devo fused with Winter brief – goes without saying you need it in your life. We won’t deny that we here have a soft spot for Liverpool’s Awesome Wells, ever since their ‘Danni’ homage via (again) Filthy Little Angels earlier this year we’ve been counting down the days to a follow up. And so ‘never buy you roses’ delivers the goodies and hit’s the mark, this time laying off from their usual trademark punked up sound this babe instead prefer to sweetly amble and mooch in a carefree day dreamily way not unlike if truth be told like a super chilled and laid back Sleeper. Elsewhere there’s some neatly served skewed and arid coffin blues from Stark Palace courtesy of their ominous ‘saw what your momma did’ which sounds to us not unlike some dusty lo-fi basement boogie committed to tape by an un-festively spirited gathering of Waits, Beefheart and Muleskinner Jones while Pocket Gods see out the set with the hymnal Velveteen like ‘Alien Xmas Song’ all dashed with a sumptuously orbiting star kissed haze that caress fully references both Hopewell and Spiritualized which as you can imagine is a pretty nifty combination to call upon. All in all a bloody essential collection guaranteed to give you thrills for many a Christmas to come. http://www.cherryademusic.co.uk

NME ‘Xmas Special’. Gonna open this with a simple question. Why did my NME fade so badly? There was a time when the NME Xmas issue was a much celebrated and eagerly anticipated thing, crammed with enough reading material to warrant its place near your side until at least mid January, painfully sarcastic, lacking respect for both its readership and the acts it featured and lashed page to page with records that you’d happily sacrifice several members of the less immediate side of your family to own. These days the NME is going through a perpetual decline, a shame when you consider what it was then and what it is now, it’d be easy to blame the rise of the blog generation via the internet but the decline has been noticeable since the mid 90’s. perhaps it’s the lack of competition – its nearest rival Melody Maker folded several years ago, before that and for a time both Record Mirror (whose golden age was the late 70’s when Paula Yates would conduct her bitching broadsides) and of course the Sounds who went through many personality changes before getting its crap together in the 80’s and proving itself to be the best weekly music rag around. In between for a season or two there was Super pop – launched during the established second years fruits of New Wave and the much missed and dare we say very brave – New Musical News (I think that’s what it was called – primarily aimed at the post punk long over coat brigade – Joy Division, Bunnymen et al….).Threats have been made in recent years to arrest the NME’s relative dominance and though sales have sharply plummeted – rumours abound that they recently recorded their lowest circulation of 50,000 – both Plan B and Artrocker have lacked the armoury to compete, that said at least Plan B had the good grace to pursue its objective of acting as a flag bearer for music now woefully ignored by the NME and didn’t go into a child like war of words. Sad to say the same can’t be said about Artrocker whose recent reversion from bi-weekly to monthly status still hasn’t curbed their annoying knack of trying to steal a march on the NME at any given turn and whose market really is shackled to that of 10 to 17 year olds. So where is the NME going wrong. The XMAS issue says it all really. I personally stopped buying the NME earlier this year, I felt that if I needed a weekly fix then the Guardian, the Independent and the Times more than adequately satiated my needs with their Friday supplements. It was of course a bind, how do you break a habit extending 30 years plus, it was like the buying of fags – you did it without thinking. Well the cycle was broken (the fags are next) as said earlier this year. I saved myself £2 a week and the NME lost another reader, not that there was much to read and neither you suspect did the NME care. It had become a side show, a cover to cover browse picking out the bits of interest to me where withering at a weekly rate, where once it would consume the time of a bus ride to work (10 minutes) in recent times it was barely getting me through two stops. Having surveyed the current Xmas issue (you’ll be happy to know it took up a whole bus journey- just!) – 100 pages for a whopping £2.70 which to be honest from page 64 onwards is basically adverts, gig listings etc…that’s not to say there aren’t adverts prior to this which account in total to say another 8 full pages (wouldn’t mind if they were useful or indeed relevant one of them for fuck’s sake is for what’s on TV!!!) – leaving you with 56 pages of mirth (I wish). You get the choice of two covers – lucky us – both admittedly loathsome – one featuring the Kings of Leon doing what can only be described as the Westlife take and the Mighty Boosh in a (un) hilarious Jesus and Mary get up – now even I’m not God fearing but that doesn’t stop me noticing bad taste when I see it. Inside there are pointless festive posters of the Artic Monkeys (dressed as elves), the Libertines (as urchins), the Killers (as bouncers) and the Strokes (as – bugger me you tell us) – all appearing to be ghosts of photographic sessions for Christmas covers past. Scattered about the pages within q and a’s with Lily Allen, a Mighty Boosh feature so bad it makes their piss poor annual look vaguely enticing, something on the Cribs, a feature on Spector’s defining Christmas album ‘a Christmas gift for you’, Charlie Brooker’s ’12 days of Christmas Evil’ and some tosh called the Xmas Factor which looked painful to the eyes – the misery exasperated when you look at the so called list of celebs drafted in to give their opinions – Kate Perry, Tom Jones, Heather Mills and Bob the feckin builder – who said they were the most evil gathering of four people since Strife, War, Famine or Death best known to most as Bucks Fizz. Highlights of the issue – the crossword, the festive quiz and the back page. Now having read this you may well think we have a downer on No Musical Entertainment and you’d be right and you’d be wrong. As a music consumer the market music magazine wise hasn’t been this good in a fair few years, just take a moment and browse the shelves of your local newsagents and check out what’s there – the ever presents of course Mojo, Uncut and Q still cater for an across the age groups spectrum though admittedly do have a knack of covering each others pitches, then there’s Artrocker servicing the cutting edge of the underground indie scene, Wire still remain a law unto themselves covering the type of disparate bases that no one else dares, likewise to a smaller extent Plan B (who’ve admittedly dipped in quality in recent months), Rock ’n’ Rolla – admittedly not the best written magazine in record rag land but bulging in enthusiasm, Shindig – the coolest rag on the shelf catering for all your psyche, garage beat and beatnik needs, Clash – after years of being an occasional is now on a regular monthly footing and pretty smart with it though attempts at being the new Face are sadly long of – and of course the Word – in terms of all round entertainment by far the best monthly on the stand. So why is the NME so bad. Or is it just perceived as such by those jealous of its status. Well for starters its trite, considered by many as a musical Heat and nothing more. Its gotten noticeably worse since it down sized itself appearance wise and into the bargain getting itself a glossy cover. Its seen by many as being more concerned with advertising revenue (check the credits – the advertising team is bigger than the editorial – is this a clue) than it is with quality control but then on their side of the equation they could argue that they are the only weekly in existence and as such to keep such an operation on an even keel it needs to pay for itself. Another complaint is its obsession with certain bands meaning the coverage to other emerging acts isn’t evenly spread this accusation further manifests with Artrocker’s constant taunt that it’s a Dad’s paper (while more regular observers accuse it of being a kid’s pop rag – make your mind up chaps you can’t have it both ways). The Artrocker contention is based mainly on the NME’s relationship with Oasis, leaving aside the Dad equation – which given the fact that Dad’s probably have the greatest means and access to disposable income and hence make up a sizeable chunk of the record buying market – the Oasis criticism is equally unfounded and unfair, okay agreed they are past their sell by date and have been since those heady days of the mid 90’s noticeably since ’be here now’ which in case your asking wasn’t as bad an album as most make it out to be. Yet even a bad Oasis can still on their worst day piss over most of the new breed from a great height. Personally one of the things that jars with me is the NME’s relative safeness, its no longer cutting edge or willing to stick its neck out come hell or high water of the consequences and lets face it do you blame them. It seems they are constantly under the critical eye at the mercy of their detractors all to willing to pounce at the slightest straying of convention or intimation of weakness, take for instance the Morrissey debacles the latest in recent memory seeing them accused of entrapment though obviously this has to be set against their disbelieving and wholly embarrassing pursuit and championing of his comeback notwithstanding the fact that it was they who happily sent him to the poor house in the first place. As to the plus side and positives of the NME, most bands will no doubt concur that the merest mention of their name in its pages is guaranteed to add any number of zeros to their my space page visitor tally. Then there’s the legacy – for six decades its existed, its survived the circulation meltdowns and the market collapses that terminated publications such as Record Mirror, Sounds and of course Melody Maker, whether you like it or not it is generally accepted as a benchmark publication recognised globally (and that includes the usually insular American market) and is (as far I can see) the only known music weekly around (certainly in the UK if not the World) and with that performs to varying degrees of competence a mammoth task in collating enough materials to service such. However, though some believe the NME’s attentions are now firmly focused on its web site – which personally I find hard work trying to navigate through and have to admit to its being extremely disappointing in terms of its failure to provide either the informative or incisive pop interface that I’d would normally come to expect from such a richly resourced enterprise, the chief problem still remains with the NME – that being they don’t know its market anymore and neither – more worrying does its readership, the evidence I’m sad to report plain to see with this latest shambolic seasonal offering. Perhaps it really is time for an alternative weekly if only to serve them with a much needed kick up the arse. And so ending just how we started – how did my NME fade so badly. Answers on a post card to ‘how much for a half page spread’ c/o IPC / Ignite.

Wire #299 – navigating territories outside of the sphere of wider pop market acclaim, Wire still remains alone and unrivalled in its quest as a lone voice championing those styles and practitioners of sounds found at the very edge of pop’s unclaimed cosmos. On the eve of its landmark 300th issue who’d have thought this most eclectic of publications would still be around, ever stronger as it advanced to its 27th year in office. Initially starting out as a predominately contemporary jazz inclined journal it has during the course of time embraced and championed an ever widening sphere of styles and fashions the type usually found lazily filed beneath the odious catch all description ’experimental’. Both informative and authoritative the Wire has provided the benchmark for well written musical critique for longer than many care to remember as well as constantly proving to be something of an annoyance given they feature far to many records that we quite frankly never get a sniff at. Issue 299 is the annual year end ’rewind’ – that’ll be the bit wherein all the staff writers gather to give their opinions of the proceeding years musical highlights – the collective vote for the office album of the year in case you were wondering going to ‘London Zoo’ by the Bug. Elsewhere the combined forces of the Animal Collective go head to head with the Invisible Jukebox and come away with a highly respectable 10 out of 11 score. Sadly no primer this issue though epiphanies more than makes up for matters with Hugo Wilcken passing on his recollections of listening to the bracing post industrial chill of Joy Division whilst sun bathing on an Australian beach. Also includes all your usual must have dansette dietary needs.

Record Collector #358 – is it just me or have Record Collector started going bi-weekly on the sly, it seems no sooner had we finished marvelling at the Elvis ’68 Comeback special issue (#357) then along comes the latest issue with Queen adorning the front cover and featuring inside courtesy of Brian May and Paul Rodgers chewing the fat about the recent return to the rock fray. Elsewhere there’s a Britpop rarities feature with Blur, Oasis, Suede and Pulp being the focus of interest while other featured collectable overviews take in the work of Sylvie Vartan and the second instalment of Record Collector’s ’Bluesy British and Rare’ celebration.

Rock-a-Rolla #17 – much loved in our parish, the bi-monthly Rock’n’Rolla is fast becoming one of our favourite reads of late catering as it does for all your swamp grooved riff terrorising needs, this particular issue – the last of the year – features the Grails on the cover whose recent ’doomsayer’s holiday’ full length is in our humbled opinion one of the essential releases of the year. Inside there are interviews / features on DeerhoofBohren and Der Club of Gore, the Hair Police and Porn whose face off with Merzbow we really must try and nail down over the festive period if only to upset the neighbours kids who will persist in playing piss poor chart inflicting r’n’b on a loop. Southern Records are this issues choice for the label focus while the rest of the mag is packed to busting with your usual record buying recommendations, live appraisals and other such like.

Shindig! #volume 2 issue 7 – have we mentioned this particular issue yet – I’m sure we have – ah well so what if we have – deserving of as much coverage as it can get. This issue rounds up what has been an excellent ongoing and extending article on the West Coast Pop Art Band, elsewhere there’s an appraisal on the 60’s production work of Mickie Most – and though there may be the odd grumble and look of puzzlement among you then consider just a smidgeon of his cv catalogue – the Animals, the Nashville Teens, Herman’s Hermits, Donovan, Jeff Beck, Brenda Lee, Nancy Sinatra and the Yardbirds while his in house studio band included Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and Nicky Hopkins – need we say more. Montreal residing all girl ensemble Sweet Somethings get a much deserved overview while the critical eye wavers over the ‘60’s psychedelic sounds’ of Texas – that’ll be the lone star state and not the band – in the frame fond memories rekindled for the likes of the Holy Smoke, Fever Tree, Cold Sun and the 13th Floor Elevators while amid the page after page turning reviews we eyed a Fuzztones full length that we’ve disappointingly somehow managed to miss out on. Bugger. Sadly we haven’t seen sight nor sound of that advertised Shindig annual at our local newsagents.

Mojo #182 – Oasis adorn the cover merrily festooned with the tag lines ’we’ve been to the dark side’ and ’the boys are back in town’ – the hours spent fretting to come up with those – I think not. Anyway Liam and Noel take up the magazine’s centre spot to chat about their new album (which admittedly isn’t that bad even if the current single ’I’m outta time’ still lingers with that sense of Lennon-esque shmaltz) and all things Oasis-y. the unfairly maligned Status Quo do a spot of question and answering, the time machine revisits that golden year 1990, the Bunnymen chew the fat about the highs and the fall out resulting from their self described ‘greatest album ever’ set ‘Ocean Rain’ while Deep Purple’s infant years are viewed under the critical viewfinder. Then there’s the obligatory ’best of…’ section – in case you were wondering the Fleet Foxes run off with the album of the year spot. How to buy highlights the peaks and pitfalls of Nick Cave’s back catalogue while John Illsley recounts his hello and goodbye moments with Dire Straits. As usual comes accompanied by a cover mount CD on this occasion entitled ‘Heavy Mod’ and includes 15 seasoned nuggets from yesteryear featuring eargear from the likes of the Pretty Things, Blossom Toes, Aphrodite’s Child, Humble Pie, Caravan and more…..

Final part tomorrow – sometime….

Mark
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