lunedì 31 dicembre 2012

New Year Special - The legend of gaznevada!

Gaznevada represented "the real & only new thing in Italy" in the last 40 years. For those who still do not know anything about them, it was more or less 1979... after the unfamous Bologna Rock Contests they signed a contract with the indie label "Italian records" formerly Harpo’s Music, hosting the likes of Skiantos, Windopen, Sorella maldestra, Luti Chroma, Confusional Quartet, The Stupid Set etc.  They worked with this company until 1984. Their sound was strongly influenced by Contortions, Ramones, Velvet Underground, Talking heads and Brian Eno. They had songs, irony & rage. No need to say more. When nowadays I listen to their "Pornovisione" track from their first Harpo's demos I still believe they're incredible! Imagine that in those years they were playing live in clubs and italian rock contests between melodic bands like I Cugini di Campagna & Homo Sapiens (!!!), more or less the best bands in Italy at the time. They vrtually had no public at the time. But their underground legend grew and Gaznevada became the first post punk cult band with fans all over Italy. Then the sound of the band changed to be too commercial and they lost soon their real identity... but this is another story. Gaznevada's absolute legendary and classic live tapes are very rare nowadays. This my gift for the new year, two old rotten recordings that incredibly survived the time as their legend...

sabato 1 dicembre 2012

where did the ordinary people go?

Everybody knows that XTC are loved by fans, musicians and critics. Like many others they were such a terribly overlooked band as they've produced some of the best pop music ever written. Exceptional song-writing and arrangements, sounds so easy and out of time and even their stage fright just adds to the mystique. On 2 April 1982, a Friday night, XTC were scheduled to play at the Santa Monica Civic Theater in Santa Monica, California, but did not appear. The audience milled about the open festival floor for a long 45 minutes/hour after opening act Oingo Boingo departed the stage, and then finally it was announced that XTC would not take the stage due to the "illness" of one of the band members (later revealed as Andy Partridge's ongoing fight with stage fright in Chris Twomey's book XTC: Chalkhills and Children). XTC never played another tour date. We are still missing them so much! Please hear them once again playing live with Barry Andrews at the peak of their powers, here recorded for BBC Radio 1 and broadcast on 25 March 1978...had we today bands of this level?

venerdì 16 novembre 2012

Post-punk before punk!

Over the past 40 years, Franco Falsini, a real italian underground legend, has embraced progressive rock, disco, post-punk, acid house and even psychedelic trance etc. His 70s group Sensations' Fix were (un)considered the Florence's answer to Krautrock but they've been too soon forgotten. At the time, and it was more or less 1973/74, here in Italy we had a lot of Cantautori (some kind of Dylan alias 20 year later...), a bunch of Genesis/Crimson/Santana clones but really no original bands!  Falsini's Italian label Polydor was freaked out by this group of longhairs called Sensation's fix. "They thought we were a bunch of drug addicts to be kept at a distance," he told the It's Psychedelic Baby blog earlier this year. "We were kept out of the studios with the excuse that 'the smoke was hurting the machines'." Falsini lightened a little in the early-80s, producing Electra's frisky aerobics anthem Feels Good (Carrots & Beets) – played by everyone from Horse Meat Disco to Aphex Twin – and knocking out a fantastic album of new wave pop in 1983 as the Antennas (check out Just Your Love). Throughout the next decade he produced hours of mind-expanding acid-trance for his Interactive Test label. Now an excellent compilation focusing on the earlier, more ethereal side of Sensations' Fix, called Music Is Painting In The Air (1974-1977), is released by New York's RVNG Intl, home to recent albums by Julia Holter and Sun Araw. And it's not another derivative progressive album, nothing to do with italian prog, nothing to do with jazz rock and floydesque symphonies. In my opinion, this is  an absolute classic masterpiece of italian wave, a sort of Eno-esque album with millions of influences, from classic rock to pop, from ambient to cosmic music. Sensation's fix music is a unique journey through fluid italian version of krautrock, space-age minimal synth work and yes, post punk before punk were created. Please listen to the fantastic Sensations' Fix last album in seventies (it was 1978's and it was called "Flying tapes") and don't forget to discover them once again in their metaphysical meanderings!

lunedì 15 ottobre 2012

A teenage high

It all began with a stupid free cassette that came with issues of the NME in 1986 featuring a slew of up and coming indie and less established acts. Were C86 a cassette alone, it wouldn't merit much note now. But it became more than that. Although not all the bands featured on the compilation were stylistically similar, enough of them shared the same shambolic sound for C86 to quickly become identified as a particular genre, a movement, in independent rock. That sound is arguably twee, part Orange Juice, part The Smiths and definitly jangly as the Marychains could even be. Cristics discussed a lot to understand who were the best amongst those obscure bands often coming from John A. Rivers Leamington studios. I personally still have a doubt between the "soontobe" stars Primal Scream and a bunch of perpetual teenagers and perennial losers named The Pooh Sticks. According to their site, The Poohs were ..."Formed by Hue Williams (vocals) in late 1987, the line-up was completed by Trudi Tangerine (tambourine/piano), Paul (guitar), Alison (bass) and Stephanie (drums)...The early sound was a bizarre genre-hopping hybrid of two-minute jangle pop, 'enthusiastic' harmonizing, three-chord punk, girl-group cuteness and, beneath it all, a sharp wit aimed squarely at the po-faced indie scene of the time." Their first single is still a masterpiece, an opener in every twee playlist, the kind of song so simple that could be wrote by your son.. but you will never be tired to listen to the crudely not produced "On Tape"... oh yes, later they wrote a lot of other minor classics as "Indie Pop Ain't Noise Pollution" or "I Know Someone Who Knows Someone Who Knows Alan McGee Quite Well". Notwithstanding, success in Europe and even in the States obviously eluded them, and with a UK scene in transit between Manchester and Seattle, things proved no better at home. Some great albums (Formula One generation, Great white wonder & Million Seller, a minor last one ironically called Optimistic fool) and then another inevitable falling to anonimate... No doubt they were genuine pop genius. They also recently played again the uk stages with twee star goddes Amelia and they still have that magic touch ... Thanks Hue, I'm going back to the girl who made me smile...

martedì 25 settembre 2012

In the days of our lucky days...

Hey my friends, what about the most original italian music of the eighties... no, i'm not talking about post punk amenities and joydivisionesque songs, no cure whispers and no bunnymen guitars... what i'm talking about are vocoders, computers big as a car & cheap synthetizers, great chorus and build-up, bad English accents, and cheesy synthesized melodies to give you an idea. This was Italo disco. N.o.i.a. were the champions of this style,  born out of the ashes of us disco music in the late 70s and probably a natural evolution of disco dance music.  They collected some interesting recordings in the eighties, starting with strong Kraftwerk influences but learning the Moroder lesson about dance music. No one understood that they were a great group just because they were quite ironic with their "summer tourists on the beach" look, fresh and funny at first sight, but good musicians at last... for those who loose this golden period (yes, they have a little commercial success too!) of italian wave, here's a "journey to the center of love" with their classic songs we're still dancing to... 

mercoledì 15 agosto 2012

Model Citizens 80-83

Polyrock deserved better, but timing is everything in music. This artsy sextet made intelligent, original, agitated music that threw giddy melodies into the boiling stew of atonal angst and restless rhythm.Strongly influenced by minimalism, the group was produced by the composer Philip Glass and Kurt Munkacsi. They were absolutely great, in my opinion, one of the best new wave post punk band coming from new York in the early eighties. The band, led by singer/guitarist Billy Robertson (formerly of the group Model Citizen), had a keyboard-heavy, pattern-based sound strongly reminiscent of Glass’s work; in fact, Glass performed on their first two albums. Polyrock’s lineup also included vocalist Catherine Oblasney, guitarist Tommy Robertson, drummer Joseph Yannece, keyboard player Lenny Aaron, and Curt Cosentino. The group signed with RCA by 1980, and delivered their debut album that same year. Great music, great feeling. But this seemed to be just the beginning. Another album followed in 1981 and it was a masterpiece: "Changing Hearts" i still one of my favourire album of all the times, full of unforgettable songs like the epic instrumental "Slow Dogs".  Absolutely fascinating in its extremity, Changing Hearts follows the same basic pattern of their debut but it was even better, a journey thru an austere dance music to a taste of straightforward pop. Polyrock was perhaps the greatest band of the early new wave era that didn’t “make it,” and the fact that they never broke through to at least some cult level of success in the early 80s has always been a mystery to me. Listening once again to their last official recordings, the mini "Above the fruited plain", they sound absolutely incredible, a perfect combination of dance-friendly new wave and dissonant, minimal no wave. Here's their 1982 Radio special; the focus is shifted to Billy Robertson, the vocalist and guitar player for the group. He talks a lot about what exactly “new wave” means,including many Polyrock's complete songs. So if you’ve never heard of Polyrock there’s still something here for you to check out if you love new wave, because Polyrock was one hell of a new wave act.

martedì 10 luglio 2012

hungry buddisht monks

Along with up and coming post-punk bands like Orange Juice, the Scars and Josef K, the Fire Engines were part of a burgeoning Scottish music scene that erupted in the late 1970s and early 1980s that was epitomised by the releases on Postcard Records. Formed in Edinburgh in 1980 from the ashes of The Dirty Reds, the Fire Engines line up of Davy Henderson (guitar / vocals), Murray Slade (guitar) Russell Burn (drums) and Graham Main (bass) were, although very different in style, still very much part of a thriving Scottish post punk scene that featured Orange Juice, Josef K, Scars, Aztec Camera and The Associates. Inspired by the Voidoids and James Chance, their live shows were frenzied affairs, short sharp shocks, chaotic, unpredictable and never more than fifteen or twenty minutes long. Pure aggression, it was passionate and exciting - jagged guitars clashed with Burn's frantic drumming while Henderson randomly screamed and yelped undecipherable lyrics over the whole glorious noise. Their sound was so raw, angry and extreme. i'm not sure if someone really love this kind of chaos but one thing is for sure, they were really unique! And what a great style too... Hear them playing live in 1981 at Valentino's, with their  fuzzy guitars, distorted vocals and a mighty rage... all the elements which characterised the Fire Engines' music and tones of bands years later... even today, the band's early songs are still striking and inventive... not only was the music radical but so was the format they were released on. Don't forget them!

giovedì 14 giugno 2012

Psychedelic Cold Furs

It was 1980 or maybe it simply was "our" 1977... anyway, those were the years! Italian new wave scene was growing lazy but fast and definetly interesting to my ears. Frigidaire Tango were one of the first talented band influenced by post punk sounds and they recorded a first demo soon to be sent to the newborn Mariano Barbieri's Young Records. They came from Bassano, a place really far from the urban wave scene of cities like Florence, Milan or Tiurin...They came also from prog& jazz and once finally converted to punk they mixed a bit of Comsat Angels, a bit of Urban Verbs and strong doses of traditional rock, all blended in a very personal convincing way. Not a lot of originality maybe but this is not the point... it was some kinda fist through the glow of italian sleeping rock scene. "The Cock" was their first album, produced in 1981 by George Button, still their masterpiece after more than 30 years. Then there was an interesting 1984 ep titled "Russian Dolls", a very mature work, with their music offering an hypnotic, multi-layered guitar driven sound which came along in the good old tradition of classic uk band but also echoing the us paisley underground scene.... then the band had live gigs in Italy and abroad and shared the stage with important names of the European New Wave and Post Punk scene. Then everything disappeared as always been for our new wave forgotten heroes. But it not ended there, not this time, not for them. After marking Italian rock history, nowadays Frigidaire Tango is still one of the most active band in 80's Italian alternative scene, with a quite interesting new album in the stores ("L'illusione del volo", yes, now they sing in italian...) with more or less the same mixture of sound, the one which made their style a unique 80's cultural dream's specimen. Long live to them!

martedì 15 maggio 2012

Fools, never learn...

After Penetration split up in 1979, our beloved Pauline Murray was very active in the new born post punk scene. She played a lot with our hero Peter Perret and finally got together with the John Cooper Clarke band, The Invisible Girls. They were great musicians and a solid backing band for Pauline: Dave Rowbotham (guitar), Vinney Reilly (guitar), Robert Blamire (bass), Steve Hopkins (keyboards), John Maher (drums). Their sound was fantastic, an evolution of the best Penetration tunes to a new sort of pop punk. Sadly this co-operation didn't last long - little more than an year - but it was a great year! Their music was (is) a brilliant and disconcerting journey through a murky post-punk world. Listen to their eponympous album, one of best of those years, produced by Martin Hannett... someone said it was the greatest record Factory never released. Its format is standard - two sides of 3-minute pop songs – but that's about as close to convention as it dares to drift. Murray shows a surprising willingness (given her back catalogue to that point) to engage with melodic vocals – breathy and urgent on Time Slipping, wide-eyed and credulous on the first tremendous single Dream Sequence 1– but, while there are any number of odd-pop gems, they’re shrouded in post-industrial, nigh-on-apocalyptic arrangements. Pauline played also live with The invisible girls and they toured together germany & somewhere else in Europe. It was 1981... don't know how extensively they gigged but, in my opinion, this was the best of Pauline Murray and an unforgettable document of the emerging sound that would come to dominate the post punk era.

lunedì 16 aprile 2012

A fist thru the glow

The Urban Verbs were at the center of a small but burgeoning music scene in Washington DC in the late 70’s.This band was born out of a city which was a cultural desert in the late 70's. A place where the suits went home at night leaving a ghost town till dawn. Like a comet streaking through the musical stratosphere the Urban Verbs were picked up on the sonar by such legends as Eno (recording two demos with him!) and Miles Copeland who was at the Corcoran to sign the B'52's and add to his stable of new artists including the comparatively disingenuous band Police. Perhaps it is a weird irony that the Verbs somehow evaporated into the night and were left to those of us that can call them our very own. But as John Foster wrote in 2008, "The Urban Verbs are not a tale of missed opportunities (although there were plenty) but rather a screaming success story". The band’s practice space at The Atlantis building was arguably the center of the DC scene. In 1980, the Atlantis Club became the 9:30 Club, which is widely regarded as one of the best independent-run venues in the country. Urban Verbs played their first official show in January 1978 and had a reputation as a must-see live band. But they also made concerted effort to reach a wider audience by playing punk shows. Traveling to New York to become the first DC band to play CBGB’s, luck would strike The Verbs in a big way. Sessions for their self-titled debut, produced by the legendary Mike Thorne, were underway. So the Verbs were signed to a two record contract with Warner Brothers in 1979 by Bob KrasnowThings seem to be coming together as the group travels to Toronto to open the fourth show in North America for an intense and highly hyped group. That band is Joy Division. In an event that seems unthinkable in today’s information age, they arrive to find the club closed. Apologies are passed out, as the club’s staff informs the band that Joy Division’s lead singer has just committed suicide and the tour has been cancelled. This tone would continue with a challenging second album recorded with Steve Lillywhite. The more challenging material and loss of a pop flavor left the band hopeful a breakthrough critically and commercially was around the corner. They wouldn't have to wait long to get the answer. Warner discarded them soom. With no label support, there was little to propel the band forward. It didn’t end in some big argument but rather just sort of stopped. Momentum was lost. But no one sounded just like The Urban Verbs during their time and no one has since. Unique and challenging music is something that never goes out of fashion.

lunedì 2 aprile 2012

In peppermint dreams

1985.The Dentists were a much beloved UK indie-pop band that was neither dour and introspective enough to fit in with the c86 crowd, nor interested in the sort of costumes that would have endeared them to the retro-60s clique. What they did have was a singer who sounded like he believed every word he sang no matter how ridiculous the concept, rushed tempos that added excitement, and some great hooks. Even though they were English, I hear them having a lot in common with the New Zealand Flying Nun type bands. There's a lot of frantic strumming, scrappy drumming, simple lead guitar parts and catchy melodies with well-deployed harmonies: basically your well-worn mix of Velvet Underground (as in What Goes On), Beatles (as in She Said, She Said) and garage rock. When I think of that trio of influences I always think of the Feelies, but the Dentists were much looser...anyway If you're looking for jangly guitar-pop in its purest sense, look no further than the Dentists & Dressed, a compilation of their earliest ep's, is as good as any release from the entire genre, and criminally overlooked for far too long. Smart, crisp, and bright, the Dentists deserve (again) your attention.

domenica 11 marzo 2012

Glaube nichts

...the "prostitutes". One of the two demos, Dancin' Rigodon, quotes Celine in the title, and adds the curt caption: "Of morality and humanity I truly don't give a damn, just like everyone else, really". In those years Turin was producing a whole lot of music: there came Blind Alley, Eazycon, Changing Club, Teknospray… But if the Turin of those years was the problem, they represented its (dis)solution. The Prostitutes participated in the first occupation to ever occur in Turin, specifically they occupied the Barabba circle, in via Plana. Their first concert was in via degli Artisti, I guess that was back in 1980 .And after that they played together with a few bands at the Smeraldo Cinema... in ten years they played much more around... I was just thinking of situations that could be defined as "proper" concerts, not stuff like pubs or Dottor Sax. I think the whole thing became much more serious around 1982, with the concert at Tuxedo's. Though I don't have very good memory, I can think of five or six concerts in 1985 alone: twice at Tuxedo's, once at Big's, once at the Macabre in Bra, and once in Padua... Their absolutely best concert? probably the one they played in Florence together with Diaframma, Litfiba and I don't know who else. That was a powerful concert, in front of a lot of people. That must have been 1986… then the concert in Verona: it was during a festival, a huge stage and really powerful amplification, like they'd never experienced before...that was the last real Prostitutes concert. They never recorded singles or lps, simply because no one seemed to be really interested & it was too soon and then too late. They never was so they never failed.

venerdì 10 febbraio 2012

Reid things at the ambulance

Jesus and the Mary Chain (sic) sound like my brother singing (out of key), drums straight as they come, guitar dredged up from the remains of the first Ramones album plus an insistent two-note bass. Would be the Doors if they could, flirt dangerously by looking like Goths, and cover ‘Ambition’. But find a hole somewhere and are clawing their way through with naive charm and tuneful odd tuneless tunes. Will be terrible when they start to play, so catch them now. From The Legend! #2, June 1984

lunedì 30 gennaio 2012

Captain Kirk strikes back!

Spizz is a key character in the Punk/New Wave scenario of the late 70s/early 80s. Starting with his roots in the Glam era, he was (and still is) an oblique actor of the movement of the British Punk explosion and beyond. Fast and hyperactive, Spizz took a new name for almost every new release, and topped the newborn indie chart back in early 1980 with his classic single "Where's Captain Kirk?". Spizz's output, polarized by the taken incarnation (Spizzenergi, Spizzoil, Athetico Spizz 80, Spizzles) has always been led by a driving creative boost, with a poppy edge and a constant look to the future. Spizz's work passes through masterpieces of the New Wave era (Soldier Soldier), Punk rock classics ("Where's Captain Kirk") and Spizzological cover versions ("The Model" by Kraftwerk). I am old enough to remember them first time around but now they're still touring around somewhere... welcome back captain Kirk!