sabato 30 aprile 2011

Back to the martian men!

The Comsat Angels took their name from a JG Ballard story and titled their first EP Red Planet. But anyone expecting science-fiction lyrics about spaceships and supernovas would do well to look in a musical galaxy far, far away; listening to their first demos (aka England Demos), it's the dystopian realist strain of SF that informs the Comsat Angels. That's not radiation on the cover of their first LP,Waiting for a Miracle, it's the blurry cityscape of the band's hometown of Sheffield. And that's not giddy teenage kicks making the photo blurry; it's despondency in the face of existential futility. The band cites another science fiction tale in the song "On the Beach," but it has no need for the novel's post-apocalyptic narrative: the world of the Comsat Angels is already a bleak and hostile wasteland. Not only were the Comsat Angels as grim as any of their peers, they were as great, too. But in the 26 years since Waiting for a Miraclethey've been relegated to obscure cult status, overlooked even by Simon Reynolds. At any rate, the timing may be slightly off again, as the retro-postpunk wave seems to have crested, but the Comsat Angels at their best transcended trends and flew the genre coop, traveling on their heavenly wings straight for greatness and anyway...

mercoledì 30 marzo 2011

Into the streetlife parade.

If The Jam were largely accepted by the new mods but they were essentially a (post)punk band, Secret Affair were loved and adored as "the mod band". They became the spearhead band of the mod revival and surfed its success.Time For Action, Secret Affair's debut single became mod's anthem and reached 13 in the UK charts. Then Ian Page became spokesman for the mod revivalists etc... Maybe because of his total alignment to Mod subsequent Affairs singles never topped Time For Action's (mod)erate success. This is probably why Mods had made more enemies than friends especially in the newspapers & magazines. And Two-tone was the new mod. Oh but what an album was their first one. Great songs, big tunes, fantastic, enthusiatic playing... but it wasn't enough. Their return was even better and "Behind closed doors" is one of my all time favourites! I completely disagree with people sayng that their second album was not as good as Glory Boys, also if it failed to set the tills kerchinging and only spent four weeks in the LP chart. Then came tensions in the band but also another great album too "Business As Usual", incredibily deleted after only 11,000 copies.... Barely three months later, unable to shake off the mod-revivalist tag, Secret Affair split... 25 years later as all the makers of passionate music for passionate people, they are not forgotten... still gigging together with their gabicci's cardigans and parka with their name on it... long live The Secret Affair!

martedì 22 marzo 2011

Going underground

Underground Arrows were figureheads of the italian Mod Revival scene of 1973/87, which still enjoys a minor cult following in our country. As far as the mainstream music press – and media in general – was concerned, the 1979 mod revival fizzled out in a matter of months, but nothing could have been further from the truth. It returned to the underground from whence it came, but it also thrived, particularly in the north in the UK, and in small but dedicated scenes around the world. Here, I enclude a collection from one such outfit, Italy’s Underground Arrows. The Italian mod scene was strong, with bands such as Statuto, Kickstart, The Coys and Lager but, in their decade-long existence, The Underground Arrows proved to be one of the best. The Jam influence was there, of course, but The Underground Arrows were surprisingly eclectic, even if most of their influences fall loosely within mod parameters. They also had a very 2-Tone feel, sort of Specials-meet- Madness, and an (un)original Hammond-driven 60s-style mod. Don't forget they were the first italian mod band to play uk in 1986, two shows in London together with Four by Arts, another italian legendary mod oriented combo. Hear the Arrows playing their best tracks and look further for their new material!!!

domenica 13 marzo 2011

There's a place with a name

There was something about The House of Love... Back in 1987, they were the indie music’s hottest property they had just defined the original Creation sound. They were originally signed to Alan McGee’s label at a time when Noel Gallagher and crew were still in diapers. But then something changed, maybe the mirage of mainstream career, maybe the infinite ego of their singer Guy Chadwick... I really don't know... History said that the following year, the band left Creation – run by Alan McGee, who was also managing them – for Fontana, in a £400,000 deal, and the future looked so bright. But it wasn't...They could have been bigger than The Smiths, they could have been more fascinating than The Jesus & Marychain, they could have been... but they weren't. You know there is no justice in music biz. But i'm still in love with their melodic shimmering songs- "a sophisticated multi-layering of guitars ascending to lyrics that observe life with an alternate vulnerable and world-weary eye". An epiphany of sound that justapoxes a wall of feedback against lush vocal harmonies. But no shoegazing, no Madchester, no Bloody Valentines or Sonic Youth guitar echoes, thanks. Just great songs with a unique atmosphere. Haear them playing live at the Paradiso in 1990... there were something about them and it still remains...

lunedì 14 febbraio 2011

Between Holiday & Garland...

"...Rumours have been dripping down from Scotland about a diverse horde of determined post Skids / S. Minds / Scars groups all ready to shift our attention. Positive Noise, Altered Images, JosefK, Orange Juice . . . the newest rumours centred around The Associates, who it seems were refining the vision of 'Station To Station', who it seems had a singer who sang like that particular Bowie. He wasn't copying, that's how he really sang - from deep inside, neo-operatically (...) The Associates have things in common with Magazine worth talking about. That European feel for a start, which basically stems from their liberating remoteness from standard r'n'r influences: the logic and out of the blue maturity of their sound: a Kurt Weill caught up with John Barry cabaret tension: and a respect for the irrational. Billy Mackenzie is vocally reminiscent of Bowie: but Bowie has never sung with so much delightful range and subtlety, never really had to. Mackenzie's soul singing is in the pained, proud tradition of Holiday and Garland. He'd be comfortable and do a great job singing 'Windmills Of My Mind' (he almost does on 'Even Dogs In The Wild'). An artist at communication, he takes intense care over enunciation - the shape of words and the space between them. His vocals are either a folly or something very special: I reckon a little of the former, a lot of the latter.The Associates sound is somewhere between evocative Cure and dramatic Magazine: a passionate cabaret soul music, a fulfillment of the European white dance music Bowie was flirting with back then. It is a fabulist (as opposed to surrealist) entertainment vitiated by a cool sense of art. Don't look for message or moral - the songs affect a dreamlike incompleteness but are not unprincipled or uncaring. They develop an account of the various mechanisms by which people remain trapped in boredom, abstraction, essence. With Mackenzie's obsessive flamboyance, the invariably plangent melodies, the richly fragmented detail of the songs, The Associates are undoubtedly theatrical. But their sense of theatre is natural, even profound, not the usual pop flash-trivia. The Associates are real performers"... Paul Morley (NME) 1980

sabato 5 febbraio 2011

Baby you're out of time ...

Rarely has a band been blessed by italian musical magazines as Out of Time in the middle eighties. The group sprouted from Bra (a little town not so far from Turin) that even more than the major towns was a kind of fertile Paisley Underground territor at the time. This movement heralded the return of guitars to rock 'n' roll and sixties sounds offered a more musically proficient complement to the town's rising punk scene. Their idols were bands like The Long Ryders & The Dream Syndicate. It might seem quaint looking back now, but Out of Time and their peers were a revelation at the middle of that decade – a period still reeling from Italian disco or wave-gothic trends, the emerging prominence of the studio producer, and the diminution of the guitar. But the sound of the Rickenbacker re-emerged in music scenes across Europe in those years, including the Paisley Underground and later the garage revival groups. Out of Time were definetly a real power pop band altoght often influenced by the jangly guitar sound of the Byrds and by the Rolling Stones sogwriting as they also added touches of Gram Parsons and Buffalo Springfield to their music. The group's breakthrough debut & only lp, "Stories we can tell", is arguably a little masterpiece as well as its best marriage of italian post punk and the Byrds/Parsons influences. It has incredibily never been re-edited in 25 years! I think that rarely had roots music felt so interesting in Italy, or had punk music felt so melodic or fleshed out in our scene. History says that the band did not survive to their debut album which incredibily failed to generate any interest in public. Out of time split up soon after the following years, after supporting the Dream Syndicate & Hoodoo Gurus in their first unforgattable italian tours. I still remember their great performance jamming with Steve Wynn at Collegno's Certosa in 1985 (or it was 86?), but it was more or less a century ago! No one seems to remember them nowaydays altough they re-created a quite derivative kind of sound that anticipated part of the '90s italian alt-rock scene... Don't forget them!!!

venerdì 28 gennaio 2011

If you wanna smile (and trying to sing like Frankie L.)

Peter Astor was born to be a superstar but he wasn't. As Abe Smith he began playing guitars in Colchester, England, in the sixties. Later he formed The Loft, the band which released a few interesting singles for Creation records before splitting up in 1985. Then came The Weather Prophets, definitely the most underappreciated Creation band ever! Maybe just because they were one of the least heralded bands to record for Creation in the '80s, maybe because they jumped to the short-lived Creation-fed/Warner Bros.-financed Elevation imprint, or maybe because they didn't overflow with flash like the Primals or mess with heads like My Bloody Valentine. They just played their straightforward indie pop songs with a minimum of fuss and left the scene, doomed to be forgotten and undervalued. Chief songwriter/vocalist Pete Astor wrote and played at a same level as Lloyd Cole and Edwyn Collins and those were great songs... So Peter really has a stunning back catalogue for those eager to indulge and of his later stuff, the Wisdom of Harry is worth diving around on-line to find. Please take a listen again to the prophets playng germany in the late eighties and enjoy once more the wonderful jangly sound of the lost decade.

    mercoledì 19 gennaio 2011

    The kangaroos postcard

    Glasgow like Brisbane? The legend says that Mc Lennan and Forster took a train to Glasgow in a frozen 1980 March morning and David Mac Clymont, the OJ's bass player, was there at the station waiting for them. As far as I remember they were in Scotland to do an audition for Postcard Records which ended up being the I Need Two Heads single. Steven Daly was credited with drums in the sessions and someone said that "edwyn our hero" was also around the studio providing some guitars and cymbals... It was a legendary session anyway as Mc Lennan still remembers: "It was a great time. They were our age, they did not take music too seriously but it was the only thing they were interested in!". This was the story, the Go Betweens played also a pair of dates in Scotland with Orange Juice & Josef K and they finally fell in love with the city crowd. But now we all know that there were no Scottish folow up and the label itself soon lost its indie identity. Soon the kagaroos went back to London searching for a new contract and time deserved a quite luminous future for them. In the same days, Orange Juice signed to Polydor for their debut album, becaming a mere shadow of their former glory. But we like to imagine the two bands gigging together in front of an enthusiastic audience for once managed to dance to a group. The start and the finish of the Glasgow scene.

    martedì 11 gennaio 2011

    Distance fades between us

    Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys emerged, initially in early outfits such as The Id, but devoting increasingly more time to their experimental work as VCLXI - essentially the prototype Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark. Their debut gig at Eric's Club in 1978 - and the subsequent release of Electricity - changed everything. OMD moved forward as a pop engine through a mighty catalogue of electropop classics but this was another story. There are some recordings, (not so) rare & precious, that still sounds as they could eventually be... an original band that launched their own unique style of catchy electronic melodies, in a quite inspired experimental vein, far enough from their maestro Gary Numan. Back then, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark might have seemed somewhat unwise, but the obvious commercial appeal of their music provoked enough interest that it eventually led to Factory Record's supremo Tony Wilson offering them the chance to cut their debut single 'Electricity' on the Factory label. Tony probably listened to the tapes I enclude here, perfectly capturing their infectious blend of melody and melancholia thru the sound of distant synthetizers. No punks or dope, no guitars & drums...take a step back to 1978 where those tracks were probably recorded and have a good listen!!!