mercoledì 30 dicembre 2009

The headhunters & the angels

Like most followers of the band, the first Comsat's track I heard was Independence Day. The song hit me immediately - I loved the tension in the arrangement - and I've always been a sucker for harmonics in a song. The bands first album Waiting For A Miracle was a critical, if not commercial, success. It would always be like this. Instead of dancing on the city streets, the great British public stayed at home. Their loss, I guess. 1981 heralded the release of the second Comsat Angels album, Sleep No More - a much darker release. The band toured with Siouxsie & The Banshees and, at the end of the year, they took part in a co-headlining tour with U2. Much has been said about Steve Fellows guitar style influencing U2's The Edge - one is now a multi-millionaire and one isn't. Ain't that always the way. Later came other albums, sometimes great ones, sometimes mediocre.But I will always have a place in my heart for them. A lot of bands stick to what they perceive to be their winning formula - and if they do move on, they often take two steps back and attempt to recapture what made them tick in the first place. The Comsat Angels remained true to their spirit to the bitter end. Enjoy some of their rarest demos and taste once again the essence of the post punk.

lunedì 28 dicembre 2009

A baby with a rope

Baciamibartali cames into existence in june 1981 with Tarcisio Lancioni (voice), Francesco Guidobaldi (bass), Ido Borsini (guitar) and Carlo Iura (drums). In April 1982 they recorded their first LP (Baciamibartali / Winter Light) for their own label Sequence Records. Robert Clark replaced Ido on guitar and produced the record. In 1984 with Stefano Mengascini on keyboards they recorded a three songs 12" EP for Contempo Records (The Mournful Gloom). In 1992 Carlo and Francesco Pirro, with the help of Robert Clark on guitar and production, realized a 12 songs CD (Grey Sunset) for PH Records (NOT) distribuited by Contempo International. In 1993 the mexican label Opcion Sonica included a Grey Sunset song (Mother Rust) in the compilation Contemporock93. In the beginning of 1995 the band was dissolved. On Christmas 1997 Carlo put together outtakes, demos and live material for the very last Baciamibartali record (Postuma). Please listen those old vinyl versions plus some demos and go fast as you can in your favourite cd point and get the unmissable remastered versions of Baciamibartali’s “The Mournful Gloom” 12” vinyl and the “Baciamibartali / Winter Light” split 12” vinyl originally released between 1982 and 1984.

domenica 27 dicembre 2009

They walked into the wind

Every decade seems to have a written and imagined sense of itself: the BBC’s recent Your ’80s survey corralled people’s memories of the decade, the quotes said it all. Like this one: “The ’80s was full of colour and everything was big, the music was more ‘electric’ sounding – every band based their sound on numerous keyboards and all the boy bands had floppy fringes. Men carried huge fat diaries which resembled a handbag. There was Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Human League, Wham!, Frankie, Stock, Aitken and Waterman... big hair, puffball skirts, shoulder pads, Dallas, Dynasty, The A-Team and the Falklands. Around 1985 the country seemed to turn a corner almost overnight; twentysomethings in Porsches wearing flash suits; money everywhere…”
But there was none of that for The Loft, or any other band lurking in the shadows of the zeitgeist; of Thatcher, the City, the mobiles like bricks, etc. The party was taking place on the other side of town, not in Lewisham but in the City, the mythical Square Mile, where we would read and hear about characters like those that would eventually people. Look at the picture of these guys as they peer out of their cold kitchen with the hollow eyes and longing that always belong to the marginalised, the outsiders. The bar fires, the cracked glass windows, the skip furniture, amps and guitars, records piled against the walls are all there in one of the many drafty rooms out of shot. These people are underneath the times; building a myth of their present, one that went largely unnoticed by the decade that spawned them. In the words my demi-god Janice Long, ... it was 1984 and I had moved to London to do my own show on Radio One and it had its perks. I had been used to searching out music via word of mouth and music press and gigs but all of a sudden records were being sent to me. There was a lot of crap but worth going through for the gem, the one I couldn't wait to get in to the studio and play. "Why Does The Rain" is one of the best tracks I have ever checked out and still include it in my top ten tracks of all time. God,I must have driven everyone mad. I played it to death on the radio and inmy flat. I was asked to pick my 'bands who are going to be big' for the BBC's Oxford Road Show, 80s TV show with scaffolding and dodgy presenters. I chose The Loft and we spent an afternoon on Primrose Hill filming "Up The Hill And Down The Slope". Yes... up Primrose Hill and down the Primrose Slope. And then the bastards split up... This was the brief & essential story of one of the best bands coming out from the eighties.

sabato 26 dicembre 2009


This a kind of xmas gift, a rare old boot by the wonderful Alessandria's boys Viridanse. They played a lot in 1984 and maybe that was their best year. Giovanni Pastrone and the band recorded only two albums, both great and forgotten, "Benvenuto Cellini" (1984) & "Mediterranea" (1985) on Contempo Records. Their style is well described in the fundamental & now apparently dead "Il golpe e l'uva" blog: ...their guitar-based darkwave style owes much to Joy Division, though it turns down the band's trademark funeral feeling into a more voluptuous sound delving on Meditterranean influences and melodic arabesques. The singer's emphatic vocals, very typical of Italian darkwave, and the wannabe cerebral lyrics may sound quite disturbing, but the mood of the album is original and peculiar, slightly resembling to a Mediterranean version of Japan's "Tin Drum". Apart from the forced comparisons, Viridanse's convoluted basslines were much probably influenced by Mick Karn's legendary style. Most tracks are dominated by the fine and sharp-sounding intrications of the two guitars and all of them are pervaded by a hedonistic, decadent mood which is, as a matter of fact, the album's most accomplished element...Anyway, it seems to me that they sounded more poppier in the studio recordings than alive on stage. So I've decided to let you hear these tracks from an old show in their hometown... welcome back again Viridanse!

venerdì 18 dicembre 2009

Monuments of Turin

Another great Torino band, born from the ashes of a now legendary new wave movement that started with Teknospray in the late seventies. ... MONUMENTS came into being in January 1981 when Mauro Tavella and Andrea Costa pooled their artistic experiences. From the outset they produced exclusively synthesised music, following the natural evolution in electronic music from that created in the early days using monophonic synthesisers to the latest virtual sounds generated with the aid of computers. Up until 1986, they took their music halfway round Europe, performing on stage in France, Germany, Spain and, of course, Italy, while continuing their studio work. From 1987 onwards, they focused exclusively on music for the theatre, radio and independent cinema, writing music for the opening sequences of TV programmes for some of the most important Italian TV companies as well as sound tracks for documentaries. After a creative break in which both members went off to work on their own projects, Costa and Tavella returned to the Monuments project in 2007, changing their name to “Monuments II” (a homage to Amon Dull)... but that's another story and I still prefer listening to their great 1984 album "Age"...

giovedì 17 dicembre 2009

The cinema show

In the fall of 1979, ex 'Berlin' members Simon Brighton (guitar) and Terry Welbourn (bass) got together with 'Stress' musicians, Colin Hopkirk (vocals) and Nick Green (drummer), to form the first of many Sinking Ships incarnations.In 1980, this line-up went onto record two tracks, "Third World" & "Weight Loss", for a local New Wave compilation, 'Household Shocks'. Released: Summer 1980. Label: STARK LPCO1. Soon after this release, vocalist Colin Hopkirk departed the band and Terry Welbourn took up the lead vox along with his bass duties.The now 3 piece band were building a solid reputation live with gigs supporting The Psychedelic Furs, the Modettes, Spizz Energi and other big name indies.In the Spring of 1980, the band went back into the studio to record a 7" Double 'A' side, vinyl single released as a Stark Products/Dead Good Records joint effort (November 1980. DEAD 14 / STARK 2). The two tracks recorded were 'The Cinema Clock' & 'Strangers' (published by Dead Good Tunes / Street Corner Music Ltd). Critics were quick to talk up the band including plays on John Peel's Radio 1 show and many favourable reviews;John Gill from the New Musical Express wrote in the November 29th 1980 issue:"You can laugh all you like, but I swear this lot sound like early (censored). Spindly, clanking found noises give way to finger lickin'/finger clickin' bass and steamy metronomic drums. It trundles along and goes flying over the edge, retaining stable altitude just lke those classic Liebezeit/Czukay rhythm departures of yore. Smart."The Ships had written two indie classics with journos and radio stations agreeing alike.Alarmingly, the band chose to increase their numbers from 3 to five then to six, with the addition of keyboards, synths and saxophone. Confusing their growing army of fans, this then turned out to be a 'relatively bad move'. Bar the notable live performance at 'Sleaford Rock 80' plus a well received London debut at the original 'Marquee Club' in Wardour Street, the Ships were sinking in a deluge - arguably of their own making.In late 1980 they went back into the studio to record tracks for a six-track 12" set for release in January 1981 which never saw the light of day thanks to their label joining forces with 'Stevo' to form Some Bizarre records and all things Soft Cell...etc...Tired and embittered, the band shrank back down to the 3-piece lineup and tried once again to rediscover the magic with a 7" vinyl single released on the 'Recession' label, April 1981 with the tracks, 'Dream' & 'After the Rain - Live' published by Express Songs / Leeds Music Ltd.Sadly, the 80's had moved on, electronics and New Romantics were taking over the world of music - rock n roll seemed doomed. The Sinking Ships original line-up split, with some of the members moving out of Lincoln to London with just Terry Welbourn left to pick up the flotsam.During the 80's Terry continued to play live under 'The Sinking Ships' name with numerous lineups adding guitars and drums. There have been no further record releases since 'Dream'.Now in the decade of 2000, what do we see? A resurgence in interest in the original Sinking Ships, an American metal band who also go under the Sinking Ships moniker, and yet, the band members play on in numerous seperate projects. Where are they now?

venerdì 4 dicembre 2009

Self portrait

Self Control was a 'concept' more than a group, set up in 1977 by Mancunian Dermot O'Keeffe (Dok). With a fluid line-up (and for a time, a fluid name - Total Control, Lack Of Control etc), Self Control were different almost every time they played or rehearsed. They released an eponymous, and now very rare album in 1981. The audio samples from this page are from a live performance at Islington's Hope & Anchor on 19th May 1979 where the line-up was Dok on vocals and guitar and James Dutton (now of Motion Records) on guitar, drum machine and backing vocals. They are joined on one song (on guitar) by Bernie Doyle and by someone else who's name they can't remember. [Actually we think it was Russell - Ed] This was the third week of a one month residency supporting the ill-fated Local Operator who, a month later, were supported at West Hampstead's Raiway Hotel by U2 playing their first (?) gig in the UK, the next week by the Cure playing their first (?) gig in London. At these Hope & Anchor performance Self Control would begin by playing 20 minutes of taped BBC Light Orchestra music while people came in. Then the tape would be switched off and the drum machine switched on and left to play for 10 minutes. Happy days.

mercoledì 25 novembre 2009

The ethnic box

My dear old friend Davide (Bassino) was a good tennis player when he was sixteen and we had some really great matches in the late seventies. He also had a post punk group some years later. Although they never played live they had some notoriety around town. Out of the tennis courts, Davide was a real wild child as I remember him while jumping on stage singing in the Jim Kerr microphone, before being badly beaten by the bodyguards... We were at the Torino Palasport in 1985 (or it was 1984?) and post punk was all around. You know it's kind of funny, I recently saw an article where someone called Chromagain "one of the greatest italian synth-wave group ever". Can't honestly believe it, since they didn't find a contract in those days and they soon disappeared between the general disinterest... They left us just one great album titled "Any colour you like" (1986) on Supporti Fonografici. Luca Pastore (bass, guitars, synth) Silvio Ferrero (synths) & Davide Bassino (vocals) played a great synth wave post punk, in the vein of Monuments and Carmody. To be sincere I didn't like so much their records at the time, they seemed to much danceable and not dark enough for my taste. Now I realized that "Any colour you like" was a great record! A lot of blogs have celebrated them recently and there is also a new track by them on Danza Meccanica - Italian Synth Wave 1982 - 1987, a great compilation you can't really miss on Mannequin Records. I saw Davide again last year, he is still a good tennis player and we'll surely have some more matches this year, after 25 years from our last one...

martedì 24 novembre 2009

Persuaders in the rain

Led by Andrew Jarman (vocally something of a David Byrne student), this London quartet drifts between arty synth-dance and lightly played mood music. Using dinky electronic percussion rather than a drummer in the early days, the enigmatic group's records alternately wax chilly, funky, humorless and clever.
Ministry's Al Jourgensen remixed "Ladder Jack" and "House" for the eponymous American 12-inch, a four-song sampling of the band's pre-Comrades 45s. Both of those remixes also appear on 'Taste', a 1980-'87 singles compilation that presents an absurdly bloodless trashing of Lou Reed's "Rock&Roll" and adds two previously unreleased items, including an awfully strange cover of John Fogerty's "Run Through the Jungle. "Fielding a solid five-man lineup, APHOS comes out of the woods on the obviously commercial England in the Rain. Unlike its previous unpredictable self-indulgences, the band now reveals a clear-cut focus: the half-dozen peppy songs are all standard stylish modern dance rock that compares favorably to Wang Chung and that whole post-Ultravox ilk. If Jarman weren't such a duff singer, these attractively produced tracks might be really appealing. [Ira Robbins] . Here them playing live at Amsterdam Melkweg in 1980.

giovedì 19 novembre 2009

New Europeans

According to the official band biographer John Darling, The Psychedelic Furs came together in England's emerging punk scene in 1977, where they were initially called "RKO," then "Radio." They then vacillated between calling themselves "The Europeans" and "The Psychedelic Furs," playing gigs under both names before permanently settling on the latter. The band initially consisted of Richard Butler (vocals), Tim Butler (bass guitar), Duncan Kilburn (saxophone), Paul Wilson (drums) and Roger Morris (guitars). By 1979, this line up had expanded to a sextet with Vince Ely replacing Wilson on drums and John Ashton being added on guitar. Back to these days of post punk fervor, there is an interesting cassette tape, sometimes called "Contract Demos" or either "Stinkie Winkies Studio Demos 1979". This rough material recently circulated between fans. The tape in question has various instrumentals including an amazing early version of 'Forever Now'. Also has John Ashton's vocal debut (?!) and other sharp songs complete with sounds of breaking plates on the floor and voices from the corridor. The best thing there is probably a great unknown track called 'Girl' one of the best examples of the earlier Furs' style, a unique post punk wall of sound. And this is why I loved them so. Hey Richard, now that it's time for a reunion album, more "back to basics" approach please!

mercoledì 18 novembre 2009

Where it all began...

Italy's answer to punk-rock?
Italy's version of post punk?
But it was just 1978 guys!!!

In the late seventies, Bologna was the centre of the italian punk wave movement and there were a lot of interesting and original groups around the town (skiantos, windopen etc.). Gaznevada, formerly Centro d'urlo Metropolitano, were probably the best, turned towards a mixture of vibrant tension, dark/noir atmospheres and stereotypes of punk-rock. As Luca Frazzi wrote Sandy Banana (or Billy Blade, if you prefer), Robert Squibb, Andy Droid, Bat Matic, Nico Gamma and Johnny Tramonta took the Italian Rock scene and gave it an inside-out. From the brightness of their wrongness , these tracks infect like a dirty razor on the pale flesh of a child”. Or, in the words of Nico Gamma, “That was the sound of my generation, there it was, it existed and I-we found it. But what it was, that stuff had a name? yes, it had: it was PUNKROCK! But what punk meant? It meant what we already were, existentially, and we didn’t know how to interpret, but we felt since long in our viscera” Gianluca Galliani (alias Nico Gamma). Enjoy my old cracking vinyl copy of their first single Blue tv set/Nevadagaz...nothing better came after...

venerdì 13 novembre 2009

The preacher of New England

All have been said about him.
(...) Felt were essentially one man, Lawrence. Just Lawrence, no surname was ever given. He apparently insisted all Felt albums had an even number of tracks and destroyed any out-takes. So, a slight eccentric as all best genius types seem to be. Given that at least one of these records I've reviewed has an odd number of tracks - this may just be part of the legend! His sometimes baffling behaviour ultimately led to Felt never quite being accepted within the mainstream. They officially formed during 1980 in Birmingham, England. History says that there was a pre-Felt band called Versatile News but I'm not sure about Lawrence really involved there. Felt really started with "Index" and they soon signed for Cherry Red records with classically trained guitarist Maurice Deebank in tow. They later moved to Creation Records, Maurice left, Martin Duffy ( future Primal Scream keyboard man ) joined. They released ten albums and ten singles in ten years (...) , in my opinion, a bunch of masterpieces. There are also interesting Andy Kershaw & Janice Long sessions but that's another story...They wrote some of the best pop songs ever and the wondrous guitar solo during the last 5 minutes of Riding on the Equator is still a good reason to live this life...

mercoledì 4 novembre 2009

Kafka in Edinburgh

Josef K are one of my all time favourite group. Of course I've loved Orange Juice too and Postcard Records remains one of the best label ever. But Josef K had a magic and sinister appeal to me. Angular and noisy, excellent in fusing post-punk guitars with funk and disco rhythms, in terms of their lyrics and image Josef K were always far more downbeat and austere than the other bands of their time. And they were never to have Orange Juice's commercial success. But god they were really strong and unique, as you can hear in their live recordings more than the studio ones. "Here you get the fullest sense of the band at their most serrated and angular, engaged in an always engaging struggle to break out of their post-punk chrysalis" (Uncut, 4/02). "Josef K must have been a great group to watch, sounding both primitive and vital whilst eschewing the amateurish playing of most punk bands. The dextrous guitar playing involved is really something special - a shame their time together was so brief" (Leonard's Lair, 2001). We'll never forget them!

mercoledì 28 ottobre 2009

American giants

by Adam Potkay

(...) In the summer of 1980 a specter was haunting America, the specter of Young Marble Giants. I remember reading a Village Voice article which reported that "downtown trendies are already talking about Young Marble Giants as the Next Big Thing." This may seem unbelievable to you, but only because hindsight is 20/20. On the face of things, YMG put out ore record Colossal Youth and broke up. (Coincidentally, the Feelies --a kind of American YMG -- put out Crazy Rhythms in the same year.) But ironically, the ace Voice reporter was right. YMG were, in spirit if not in fact, the NEXT BIG THING. Their sensibility, if not their songs, ruled the 1980s. The ironically-titled Young Marble Giants (one can hardly imagine a less gigantic-sounding band) represented something totally new: a celebration of totally private experience. Lead singer Alison Statton possessed a quaint sense, from the start, that "we live as we dream, alone," only she wasn't complaining. She took this as a creative premise. In contrast to the GOF, YMG sung about applying for bank loans, eating noddemix, thinking about old boyfriends. In contrast to the GOF's shout and call, Alison Statton just kinda mumbles. She doesn't sing to you. Listening to her sing is like overhearing your sister singing in the shower when she thinks no one is home. Like the early Feelies, YMG have undramatic lyrics (which obliquely reflect their quiet lives), delivered in a talky, uninspired voice, self-effacingly buried in a mix dominated by "quirky" and soulless rhythm. Which isn't to imply that either band is dumb about what they're up to: both the Feelies and YMG carried their alienated premises to high art through sheer nervous sensibility and a deadpan sense of humor.But unfortunately, it's hard to create compelling music from a glorification of tedium -- hence, the YMG spinoff groups, the Gist and Weekend, are more often than not just plain tedious. Though they're never as boring as nine-tenths of all the pop bands who have, wittingly or unwittingly, adhered to the YMG aesthetic (and believe me, Hoboken and Athens alone have produced quite a number of them).In the dawn of the 1980s, Young Marble Giants were, indeed, in ways unforeseeable to them or that Village Voice reviewer, the Next Big Thing. And their disbanded lives are only a logical extension of the choices they made early on: working in small woolen shops or whatever in Wales, unable to believe they once made a record that changed at least a few lives. It was so long ago, and such a private thing. (...) Please listen to their Keystone show, it was only 30 years ago...

giovedì 22 ottobre 2009

When kites flew high

In the early 1980s, English band the Modern Art were one of the pioneering D.I.Y. cassette bands, a psychedelic rock group formed by Gary Ramon, later that decade in the "almost famous" Sun Dial outfit. They recorded several releases for their independent record label Color Record as well as regularly appearing in many fanzines and they were also often featured in the mainstream music papers with favourable reviews in Melody Maker, Sounds and NME. Modern Art had a loose lineup that never played gigs but did see the release of a pair of posthumous collection studio albums and a number of very interesting self-produced cassettes. Ramon disbanded the group out of a desire "to make a more live-sounding group that could go out and play". Many Modern Art members subsequently joined Ramon in various incarnations of his new band, Sun Dial but I've always loved their first works, a mixture of post punk, psychedelia and even C86 influences. In their brief history, The Modern Art produced a lot of cassette material, most of which has never been heard. A good example is their beautiful 1982 self released cassette Underwater Kites (Color Records, October 1982).

The return of the painter men

It was about 1987 and my favourite record shop in Turin -with not a lot of originality called "Rock'n'Folk"- had a new strange vinyl in the storefront. It was really strange one, a splash of colours with a monster emerging from a red apple sea! "Peter Sellers and the Hollywood Party" was written on it but we had no other informations at the time. No it wasn't a soundtrack, the music inside was fascinating too, half acoustic via Patti Smith meet Syd Barret, half psychedelic like some paisley american stuff of the time... maybe only a renewed formula of italian folk-rock with echoes of psychedelia and strange imageries, said someone on the magazines at the time. I did not care a lot about the musical press and I fell immediately in love with that sound... those distant guitars and that peculiar voice. The leader and writer of the band, Magick (?!), best known with his original name Stefano Ghittoni, has nowadays a good status as dj & producer, with a glorious past of musician (Dining Rooms etc...). It seems that he doesn't like to talk a lot about this old project and that's a pity because there are no official informations or site about the band and no digital recordings available except for a single track (Chaotic shampoo) on a 1986 Glass Records compilation (50.000 Glass fans can't be wrong). I remember also an interesting side project to PS&HP, a band called "The Subterranean Dining Rooms", more bluesy and introspective with a lo-fidelity attitude. Someone said there was a movement around, some kind of a second wave of italian psychedelia and yes, there were bands (Vegetable men, Screaming floor, No strange etc.), brilliant compilations (The return of the tambourine men! & Oracolo for example) and a mysterious record label called Crazy Mannequin... but it last only for a while and this Milan-based totally underrated group soon disbanded after a second inspired album ('To Make a Romance Out of Swiftness'') with a video version too! Please take a listen, this was the lost adventure of the painter men...

martedì 6 ottobre 2009

Memories of Suzie Wong

It was a real pleasure to see recently a new interest in one of the best italian band of the eighties, Giancarlo Onorato's Underground Life from Monza, close to Milan. It was about 1978 when they started listening to their british idols Ultravox and Giancarlo soon became one of the first "JohnFoxx wannabelike fellow". In the beginning there was only a strong and genuine enthusiam then came the songs and God, they were great!   There was a time when it wasn't so easy to be a post punk band in Italy (postpunk what?) and Underground Life were probably one of the first and the best for many years. Still I remember listening to the Flash radio station in my hometown Turin, with the voice of Alberto Campo speaking of a "new wave" movement in his programme called Evening star (later Puzzle). Thanks to Alberto for his work and his passion. The story told us that they never had a minimum of fame and success and this was (and is?) the music biz in Italy in those years. Giancarlo now is having a decent solo career and he's a good writer too. What remains now are a bunch of recordings from my old vinyl copies and you will probably smile at their "english as a second language" sound. But there were great songs with lot of heart, tears, rage and nostalgia... this was the italian post punk at its best and no one better came after... 
Listen for your pleasure at "La Primula Rossa", a compilation of early recordings by Underground Life. Enjoy it!

lato A
BLACK-OUT! da "noncurance" 1979
da "fiori del male" 1980
KILLER da "fiori del male" 1980
NUOVE IMMAGINI da "cross" 1981
DECADENCE da "cross" 1981

lato B
GROPIUS VILLAGE da "the fox" 1983
da "fuoco nella città di ghiaccio" 1985
da "filosofia dell'aria" 1987
da "gloria mundis" 1988