Friday, 15 June 2018
This blog doesn’t often go down the awards route except when looking at bands who should have been Oasis before Oasis, but these two appendices from Peel’s Nachtexpress show of 3/2/92 both earned something imaginary, but heartfelt, from me to put on their mantlepieces.
Peel opened his Nachtexpress show with Love Battery’s new single on Sub Pop Records. Amidst its punk/garage rock scratchy opening, brawny hard-rock chorus and swamp rock bridge, Foot weaves a touching and vulnerable lyric about the hurt and sadness felt when a trusted relationship falls away. The chorus sees singer, Ron Nine, weighing up the options of giving himself over to an intimacy of some description with a new companion, but riven with doubt about whether to “put my foot in” before having full confidence in the recipient “Don’t follow blind” being admirable advice. In 1992, the sonic wallop of Love Battery’s performance would have swung me. In the words of YouTube commenter Maggie Marl, “Now we know where Foo Fighters steal their songs from” and it has that wonderful sense of joy that the best hard rock singles can put across. But of more prescience to me in 2018, it put me on a road to hearing the album, Dayglo, which has remained on YouTube
since I blithely commented about it when reviewing the Nachtexpress show just over 2 years to this day. If I listened to Dayglo at the time, I clearly didn’t “hear” it in any great depth back then and certainly not enough to comment about. But having taken the opportunity to do so while preparing this post, I found myself stunned by it. Like all great guitar records, it sounds like the best bits of all your favourite records cooked up with Love Battery’s own unique touch. I think it may be the best, or at any rate, most compelling record I’ve heard from any Sub Pop act. Bear in mind, it took me a while to embrace any of Nirvana’s material from their Sub Pop days and although I went for all of the selections that Peel chose from Smells Like Smoked Sausages, I still think he left the best tracks out of his playlists, or at least on the recordings I heard. But, as the blog prepares itself to cover a new play through the summer of 1992, I’m praying discreetly that Peel was taken by Dayglo as I was - though knowing my luck, he probably played the tracks from it that I merely liked rather than those I could rhapsodise over at great length. Time will tell, but in the meantime, and if you’ve never heard it before, get to YouTube and seek out “Love Battery Dayglo album”. Then go to Discogs and buy it. You have 2 weeks before I get paid - I urge you to make the absolute most of this opportunity. I will console my own sense of loss, should it come to pass, with happiness that new ears are falling in love with Love Battery and Dayglo. Best Sub Pop Act? Based on what I’ve heard so far, the jury went home weeks ago
The other award for this evening is the Best Female Fronted Band of the Oliver! Rehearsal and Performance Period. This is not tokenism on my part. Looking back over the 400 odd posts clocked up so far, when it came to guitar music across Oliver!, it was woman-led bands who offered up the greatest range of multiple selections. PJ Harvey probably should win this given that over 1991-93 it was the name given to a band rather than just Polly Jean herself, but she dominated the visual look of that band so much that, with no offence intended to Rob Ellis or Stephen Vaughan, I regard Dry and Rid of Me as PJ Harvey solo records in all but name. It wasn’t either of them swanning around in their pants for 4-Track Demos, for instance. Hole’s splendid Peel Session had me feeling for a time that Courtney Love was the talented one in that turbulent relationship with rock’s most unprepared messiah. I had plenty of love also for the likes of Bleach and Curve but ultimately, I could only keep coming back to be flogged and abused by Silverfish, a band which consistently and brilliantly placed the listener lips first to the leather of Lesley Rankine’s DMs and had them saying, “Thank you, mistress. May I have another?”. Jenny may well be their masterpiece out of the slew of Silverfish tracks that Peel played over early 1992. Who was Jenny? If she was a real person then it’s terrifying to think that Lesley Rankine knew someone even more vengeful than herself. As was typical in Silverfish’s world, Jenny was forged in blood and violence but quickly spots an opportunity to turn her brutal genesis into something beneficial to herself, “Will I taste and will I feel/If I lie and if I steal. This is mine/Dip it in greed and set it on fire!” she squawks like a kingpin. Previous Silverfish tracks on this blog have dealt with overthrowing the patriarchy, childbirth and woman as avenging angel. Jenny is an extension of Vitriola but applied to terrify whole communities rather than just cheating lovers. The band play out with the intensity of exploding buildings and flames burning, while Rankine’s refrain of “I’m so pretty when I’m angry” turns her protagonist into nothing less than a She-Hulk. Mad, bad and dangerous to know...but thrillingly irresistable with it.
Videos courtesy of Lance Vance (Love Battery) and skawashers (Silverfish)
Saturday, 9 June 2018
WARNING- the video for this track is virtually unwatchable due to the uploaders applying a strobe effect for the whole duration. You may want to minimise your screen or go to a new tab while it plays.
Although I appear to have left it out of my notes for Peel’s show on 25/1/92, I could not shake off a memory of this piece of cheapcore techno and found myself regularly checking YouTube to see whether anyone had uploaded it. I was thrilled to see that it had been put up since March 2017, but then found myself thrown into doubt when I heard it about whether to include it as an appendix to the Oliver! selections, as it seemed a good deal less essential than I remembered.
What swung it ultimately was what had first attracted me to include it on my lists and that was the cheap sound that it had. I can’t bring myself to describe it as minimalist, because so much of Dead Stock seems to be bolted together from whatever dance tropes that the four producers who made up A.E.K had to hand at the time - a tambourine here, a low bassline there, in this corner an “ughn” sample, in that corner a bit of reverse tape sound and Bob’s your uncle. It’s unfussy and slightly beige, but what sells it is that pitter-patter popcorn riff. In the land of mixtaping, it has the quality of a way station - a place where the listener can stop for a breather and tune out before engaging their faculties in something more substantial. Like most stop-off points on a Peel playlist, I would often skate past it 95% of the time, but it must be doing something right to persuade me to stop by. Though not for too long, with that video, I’m afraid.
Video courtesy of Northern Electric Recordings who have repeated the “magic” with other A.E.K recordings if your retinas can stand it.
Sunday, 3 June 2018
Through January/February 1992 Peel and Andy Kershaw caned tracks from Vimbiso the 1989 jit album by Zimbabwe Cha Cha Cha Kings. My selection lists from Peel shows over that period regularly saw Zimbabwe Cha Cha Cha Kings tracks on there, but it seemed that every selection I wanted hadn’t been shared to YouTube. However, this seems to have changed over the last year or so, for which I am grateful.
Another change has occurred in my choices as well. For so long, I had the sing-along Ambewe as my most desired ZCCCK track, but in listening to some of the newly uploaded tracks, I found that it was South Africa, with its naggingly insistent and persisistent riff that held my interest more. At this point, I must send out a request for anyone able to provide translation of the lyrics. Given that it was recorded at a point when apartheid was still in place - albeit shortly to fall apart - I’d love to know whether the song was political in nature. Or maybe it was praising the country’s wine trade? It was the penultimate track of the night on the 12/1/92 show and with 2am beckoning and his Radio 1 shift nearly over for another week, Peel wasn’t giving out much in the way of details. Any help gratefully received.
For Zimbabwe Cha Cha Cha Kings, as had been the case with their countrymen in The Kasongo Band, the success brought about by Vimbiso would lead to upheaval and infighting for control and money . They came through it to record a Peel Session in November 1992 and hopefully this blog will cover that, but four years elapsed between Vimbiso and its follow-up, Ndiri Muvhimi which translates as I am a Hunter.
Video courtesy of Juan Andres Gonzalez Sanjuan.
Monday, 28 May 2018
This comes from that period when Peel was playing tracks called Pied Piper as well as tracks BY The Pied Piper aka Michael Hazell - although I was ambivalent about some of them.
My notes from the 29/12/91 show read like those old Melody Maker reviews where journalists who cut their teeth on Acker Bilk singles attempted to review Tomorrow Never Knows. For all that it remains “a piece of lovely breakbeat filler” though, I’m kicking myself that I never recognised Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka providing the “We are the music makers and we are the dreamers of dreams.” line. What a lovely voice though, eh? He missed his true calling as an ambient dance vocalist, I feel. But then he got to hang around with Richard Pryor, Kelly LeBrock and Joan Severance so who had the last laugh, ultimately?
Video courtesy of Dave.
Saturday, 26 May 2018
Oliver! appendices: Knowledge Kunenyathi & The Kasongo Band - Gejo (15 December 1991/23 February 1992)
My last reference to this track by the Zimbabwean seven-piece band came some 18 months ago when I was summarising Peel’s show from 23/2/92. It was the second show I had heard him play it on and remained resolutely unavailable - perhaps because whenever I entered it in to search engines, I kept spelling vocalist, Knowledge Kunenyathi’s name wrong (my notes for the 15/12/91 show have it down as Knowledge Cunin Yate). Peel initially credited the track solely to Kunenyathi, but by the 23/2/92 show, he attributed it to Kunenyathi and Kasongo Band, and so shall I.
The confusion was understandable given that Kunenyathi had managed to wrestle control of the band from its founder, Ketai Muchawya. The Gejo album, of which this is the title track, was the group’s first one under his direction.
The story of The Kasongo Band is a fascinating and eye-opening tale of comradeship forged in civil war, AIDS related deaths (groupiedom in Africa being a far more dangerous thing than the Led Zeppelin-esque debauchery we associate it with in Europe), power-struggles over money and control, use of ju-ju to settle disputes (who needs lawyers when you can get a witchdoctor) and spiritual salvation. It’s often so difficult to find much information about many of the African artists Peel played on his programme, so this article from the Zimbabwean website, The Patriot is gold-dust.
Video courtesy of thumbsuckinggargoyle - uploaded to YouTube on 25 April 2017.
I’m overjoyed that this track has turned up. After hearing it on the recording of Peel’s 8/12/91 show I returned to it again and again, but it didn’t make it to YouTube until 3 months ago.
44 Long went unreleased until it turned up on album of unissued Thomas recordings called Can’t Get Away From This Dog. It’s a reminder of a time when record labels like Stax had more material than they knew what to do with. I have pondered at length what 44 Long refers to: a gun? a car? Thomas’s dick? All and any of these are possible, but I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s about a suit, mainly due to reference to “Mohair living on my back”.
Can’t Get Away From This Dog covers tracks recorded by Rufus Thomas between 1963 & 1967, and 44 Long is a cracking example of Thomas’s 60s soul period - well into his forties by the time he hit international recognition with Walking the Dog, he had spent the 1950s cutting blues records while the 1970s would see him tackle funk and come up with one of the defining records of the genre.
As this tribute shows, Thomas led a full and funky life. Given his love of the Stax label, I hope Peel pulled out more of his tunes as the years went past. On the 8/12/91 show, he played 44 Long after reading out the names of some people based in a wine business who had sent him a company Christmas card: “Next year, just send me some of your product, skip the card.”
Video courtesy of Gioberry.
Thursday, 24 May 2018
If the Institute of Contemporary Arts ever approaches Neil Hannon about presenting a Divine Comedy album in a live concert from start to finish, the odds are nil that he will choose to present any work from the concept’s earliest days, when Hannon played guitar and sang lyrics of urbane, romantic wonder backed by a jangle-pop sound. If the early 90s were a fertile time for rock trios, they threw up an unlikely one in the shape of The Divine Comedy - a band which, as Timewatch shows, were more likely to quote Nat King Cole than the Sex Pistols. With bandmates, John McCullagh and Kevin Traynor, Hannon cooked up quite a neat little sound. Although he has subsequently disregarded the music recorded in this line-up, leading to it attaining considerable rarity value - just look at the prices a copy of the first Divine Comedy album, 1990’s Fanfare for the Comic Muse are going for - it really isn’t that much of a gulf between a nascent sound and what the world at large considers “The Divine Comedy” sound to be. The Timewatch EP was self produced by the group and this ensured that Hannon could be heard loud and clear - you don’t bury your key asset after all.
For a long time, I had thought that Timewatch was about aging and death, especially given the opening, “When I fall asleep” verse. But ultimately it all comes back to love and the “time to fear” seems more indicative of a clock ticking on a relationship which is apparently full of fun and frolics, but not a lifelong commitment. The allusions to being put back together suggest that the relationship is a port after the storm for Hannon after a traumatic period in his emotional life. Touchingly, Hannon is open to it becoming something more substantial if his lover gives off signs or indications that they are worthy of the love into which he can feel himself falling. Never is this better evidenced than in the long held cry of “you” at the 2:39 mark just as the music picks up the pace to reflect the emotional discombobulation. Even more dramatically, it appears as though as both parties in this relationship are waiting on the other to make that commitment first. If neither is prepared to blink first, then an avoidable termination of the relationship duly awaits.
Hannon probably felt that he was doing the moods and emotions of the track justice when he re-recorded it at glacial pace with strings for the next Divine Comedy album, Liberation, but I don’t think it holds a candle to the version Peel played on his programme on 24/11/91.
Hannon went on to record many fine tracks in the following years and created records of glorious, edible, luxurious music, but he has nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to this example of his early Byrdsy work. Come on, Neil - ditch the string quartet and put that 12-string Rickenbacker on for this tune, in the future.
Video courtesy of Zuru.