Memory Of The Future EP’s

So today I was able to listen to the new single EP’s in their entirety for the first time! I’m sure you all know how this works right now, these aren’t my final thoughts on the songs (This is the first I’ve heard the majority of them). It’s just some basic thoughts that I had when I listened to them for the first time. Anyhow, let’s begin.

Memory Of The Future
So the first of the two disc set comes with the Stuart Price radio edit of Memory Of The Future and three bonus tracks. I’ve been particularly eager for the bonus tracks because I’ve loved every other B-side they’ve put out this era. For me, its been one of their most consistent eras for B-sides (maybe since Behaviour era in my opinion) in their career. With that in mind I have to say that whilst I admittiedly think this is the weakest set of B-sides from Elysium so far, that doesn’t mean I dislike them. All three of them are mid-tempo ballads and are the sort of tracks that will get better with repeated plays I think. Listening and One Night are particularly lovely (I think One Night could have fitted on Elysium really well too) and Inside is unlike any other Pet Shop Boys song I think. I really love parts of Inside’s arrangement. It’s my least favourite so far admittedly but I think that this could be the one I find myself playing the most out of the three in the long term. That tends to happen a lot with me: the song that turns out to be my favourite tends to be my least favourite initially. Overall though, three very worthy b-sides! Overall, I think my favourite is One Night.

Memory Of The Future Remixed
This one I definitely was more apprehensive about hearing. Remixes I tend to either love or hate, and for some reason I tend to find remixes of Pet Shop Boys songs a decidedly more mixed bag than most. With that in mind I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised here! I found myself really enjoying all of them, bar one.My favorite was the Ulrich Schnauss remix which actually has a really beautiful arrangement that’s rather different from the original and vocals not found in the original. I thought it was Chris’ voice at first but the ever-informative Pet Shop Boys Commentary states that it’s almost certainly the voice of Ulrich Schnauss himself. It does sound an awful lot like Chris though. The only remix that I didn’t like was the DJ Waldo Squash remix. It’s just too ploddy sounding and I don’t like the slightly dubstep type effects that were added. I also really liked the club oriented direction of the two Digital Dog remixes, particularly the one entitled Digital Dog Club Remix. All in though I definitely found the majority of the remixes better than average!

All in all though I think both EP’s are most enjoyable. I don’t know if Elysium will have a fourth single (I think A Face Like That should be the next single if there is to be one) but if there’s not, then there’s been at least 9 very good B-sides to add to their impressive catalogue of B-sides. With a dance album supposedly getting released in spring of 2013 a fourth single may not come to fruition, but time will tell.

Albums of the year.

Amazingly, I haven’t actually listened to that many new albums from this year. I’ve been typically listening to older music and discovering more older bands. This year has seen me become a fan of Nirvana and The Clash and finding that I liked albums by Liza Minneli, The Police, Dusty Springfield and Lou Reed more than I would ever have imagined. I’ve also began developing keen interests in David Bowie and Echo & The Bunnymen…. 2013’s obsessions maybe? Who knows!

Anyhow, here’s my admittedly small year end list.

Albums of the year
Pet Shop Boys – Elysium (Favourite)
Hot Chip – In Our Heads (Favourite)
The Killers – Battle Born (Runner up)
Django Django – Django Django
Walk The Moon – Walk The Moon
Reptar – Body Faucet
David Byrne & St Vincent – Love This Giant
Of Monsters and Men – My Head is an Animal
Madonna – MDNA
Jessie Ware – Devotion

Songs of the year
Pet Shop Boys – Ego Music
The Killers –  The Rising Tide
Walk The Moon – Tightrope
Reptar – Isoprane Bath
Madonna – Falling Free
Hot Chip – Night and Day
Pet Shop Boys – The Way Through The Woods
David Byrne & St Vincent – I Am An Ape
Friendly Fires – Why Don’t You Answer?

The Q Book of Punk Legends

My brother decided to clear a few of his old possessions out of the spare room, and rather surprisingly came across this! You can probably tell why I loved him finding this – that’s Joe Strummer from The Clash on the front cover. It’s rather funny that he found this whilst there’s somewhat of a Clash phase going on in my house at the moment (I’ve made my brother and father interested in investigating them too). Anyhow, this came free with an old Q magazine in 1996. We’re not actually sure who bought the issue but it was definitely either my brother or my dad, most likely my dad though. Its a good little book, it timelines key moments in various punk related bands careers, it even has an entry on Talking Heads bizarrely and I wouldn’t class them as punk at all. I personally found the Clash entry more educational than their Westway To The World documentary; I wasn’t sold on that documentary if I’m honest. Never the less, I’m pleased we found this in our house!

First time listening: Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros – Rock Art & The X-Ray Style

So as you could imagine, with exploring  The Clash comes with it a fair few Clash related bands to discover too such as Big Audio Dynamite, The 101ers etc. The first place I’ve started though was Joe Strummer & The Mescarleros who formed in 1999 and lasted until Joe Strummer’s death in 2002. Rock Art and X-ray Style was their debut album.I have to admit that I was a little bit dubious at first because I really love The Clash and I wasn’t sure if I would like this new musical style of The Mescaleros. I have to say though that for the most part I really liked it. A few of the songs didn’t gel with me on first listen but when I liked certain songs, I loved them. My favourites so far are Nitcomb, Sandpaper Blues, Willesden to Cricklewood and Diggin’ The New. I’m really looking forward to listening to Global A Go-Go now, especially because it contains the beautiful Johnny Appleseed which has become one of my favourite songs since I’ve first heard it!

Soft Cell – Non Stop Estactic Dancing (First listening)

I do really like Soft Cell, I think they were very underrated if I’m honest. In particular, I love their first album, Non Stop Erotic Cabaret. Anyhow, as you could probably guess Non Stop Ecstatic Dancing is a remix album (with their cover version of What being a new single at the time). Anyway, I decided today to give it a proper listen in full for the first time. I was familiar with about three out of the six songs on the EP but I fancied giving it a full listen. I have to say that I really enjoyed it! I was already familiar with the version of Memorabilia here, but I prefer it so much more to the single version. I also really loved the instrumental version of A Man Could Get Lost and the version of Chip’s On My Shoulder too. A very enjoyable listen!

Happy Mondays – Bob’s Yer Uncle 12" mix

I love this mix, probably my favourite mix of any Happy Mondays song if I’m honest! The original version of Bob’s Yer Uncle can be found on the seminal Pill’s N Thrills and Bellyaches as an album track. I was quite surprised to discover as well that this particular remix was actually carried out by The Grid (Who were Dave Ball from Soft Cell’s second band). The Grid also did a remix of one of the Happy Mondays biggest hits, Loose Fit too. Anyway, the original version of Bob’s Yer Uncle was one of my favorite Happy Mondays songs namely because it was very laidback and mellow but still maintained that certain groove that gave Happy Monday’s their unique edge. It was one of the more relaxed tracks in their discography I think. The 12″ mix just takes that relaxed quality and capitalizes on it even further but it’s still slightly danceable. It omits the guitars that had a quite a prominent role in the original track and -for me at least- it makes Shaun Ryder’s vocals more the center of things. I don’t know about you (and I am terrible for making out lyrics for many artists) but in the original version I find his deeper pitch damn near impossible to make out sometimes. It also doesn’t commit a cardinal sin of messing around with the deep and pretty much irresistible bass line which is the key in making the whole track work. You can find this on 12″ on the Loose Fix vinyl in the UK, but if you want it on CD then you can find it on the Double Easy: US Singles compilation. It was this “12 that made me really want to get that compilation actually. It’s not as difficult to get as it sounds either. Although it was only released in the US you can find that compilation on Amazon UK. I payed no more than £3 for my copy (a very good condition second hand one) from an excellent Amazon Marketplace seller called Zoverstocks. You can also find it on the 2007 special edition of Pills N Thrills and Bellyaches that came partnered with a DVD. For some reason though, that album (as well as the Bummed reissue done in the same vein) is an utter nightmare to track down at a decent price, even here in the UK. Hopefully in the future now that Happy Mondays in their original line-up are recording new material the record company will see fit to re-release those special editions. For now though, enjoy a great remix!

New Order – Live at Irvine

I found this a few hours ago, its a great little find so I thought I would show it to any fellow New Order fans who haven’t yet discovered. This was uploaded on Youtube a few weeks ago but I’ve only stumbled across it now. It’s a bootleg of a show in California as part of the 1989 Technique Tour. I’ve never actually heard a Technique show in full so I was very excited to find this because Technique is one of my favourite New Order albums. I have to say as well that it has absolutely superb sound quality. Easily one of the highest quality New Order bootlegs that I’ve heard in terms of sound quality if I’m honest. It’s also quite unusual to see a New Order set that doesn’t contain Blue Monday although given how overplayed that song is it may be no bad thing. It’s certainly a treat to finally hear Mr Disco performed live as that’s one of my personal favourites. I really recommend checking this out!

10 years ago today….

In other sadder news, Joe Strummer of The Clash sadly passed away 10 years ago today, of an undiagnosed heart defect at the age of 50. His music and lyrics are as relevant today as they ever where, and in an era were music can sometimes sound a little passionless and insincere, we need more people that have the same honesty and passion for their craft as he had. I’ll be listening to plenty of The Clash and also of The Mescaleros as has become almost habitual for me. His music is getting me through some pretty tough times at the moment and for that I will always be grateful. RIP to a legend ❤

New Order – Peel Sessions 1998

CD Front

New Order did several Peel Sessions – three if I recall correctly – but my favourite of the three has to be their third and final Peel Session from November 1998. It was one of the first things they did together when they made their comeback as a group in 1998. On a slightly sadder note, it would also prove to be the last recordings Gillian Gilbert would make with the group prior to her departure in 2001 which would last for ten years, until she rejoined them in 2011. Anyway, one of the things that New Order decided to do when they made their comeback was to begin playing Joy Division songs at the live shows, which has now become an utter staple feature of their sets. This decision is somewhat reflected in the songs performed at the Peel Sessions. The songs chosen were the following:

  •  True Faith
  • Isolation (Joy Divison cover)
  • Touched By The Hand of God
  • Atmosphere (Joy Division cover)
  • Paradise

I have to say I really like the variety of songs there. It’s not really a conventional (although when were New Order conventional really) straight forward hits set. It was a stroke of genius to include a version of Isolation I think, as I think that’s one of the Joy Division tracks that sounds slightly akin to the sound New Order would go for. Their version of Atmosphere isn’t quite as haunting as the original but its still a fine effort nonetheless. The real crowning glory for me here though is the new version of True Faith. It gives it more of a house feeling and its simply masterful. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say its probably become my favourite version of the song, even above the already excellent original. Those of you who have ever saw their stellar performance at Reading in 1998 and felt suitably impressed by the version of True Faith there then need to check this out if you haven’t done so – its the same arrangement. It was also great to see one of their most underrated singles (Touched By The Hand of God) make an appearance, along with a Brotherhood album track called Paradise. Paradise is another overlooked song I think and its good to see it get some attention when so many of New Order’s album tracks criminally get forgotten in favour of the likes of Blue Monday, Bizzare Love Triangle etc.

CD Back

The 1998 Peel Sessions seems to be popular with New Order fans. Online petitions took place in order to ensure that it got an official release. A year after these petitions, the label Strange Fruits decided to honor fan’s wishes and released the 1998 Peel Sessions – along with their four tracks they performed in the 2001 Evening Sessions set – in a CD entitled In Sessions. Sadly its proved to be slightly difficult for me to obtain and I do fear its become somewhat rare. The cheapest copy of it is on Amazon UK for a whopping £30 and that’s second hand! It’s a shame, because I feel this is one of the best moments in their discography. It just further cements their place as one of the most innovative and consistent artists ever to grace electronic music. Highly recommended!

ABC – One Better World (Pickering Park Remix)

12″ cover.

I have to concede I don’t know an awful lot about ABC – I’ve only heard their Up and Lexicon of Love albums and a few other various songs. From what I have heard, I quite like them. They’re not my favourite group of the 80’s, but they still have some great songs like Love Conquers All and When Smokey Sings. Anyhow, this is a remix of their lead single (released in May of 1989) from Up by Mike Pickering and Graeme Park. I listened to the Up album for the first time in its entirety yesterday and I have to say that it did leave me feeling rather disappointed if I’m honest. It’s funny because the whole album is done in a very house influenced style – and house music is one of my favourite genres – but for me the whole production on the album was just a little bit cheesy and the songs just all sounded more or less identical to the other. One of the only tracks on the album that I thought had a bit of individuality about it was One Better World, but if I’m honest I think I prefer this remix. I also do quite like the Club mix and the Garage mix too though. Having said that I think this remix brings out the potential in the song a lot better and it’s just produced far better in my opinion. I don’t think the original version has aged all that well at all, but the Pickering/Park mix has aged substantially better I feel. Elements of the sound vaguely like Good Life by Inner City to me actually. Also, the piano chords are much more prominent in this remix which gives it more of a euphoric atmosphere to me, and that goes perfectly with the lyrics. As you could probably guess from the title One Better World is a very upflifting song with a very direct and straightforward message (but a lovely one at that). The message of the song is simple: we should promote the values of peace, love and equal rights for all. It’s a message that’s always timeless I feel as let’s be honest, the world has yet to fully embrace those principles. Honestly, I could have imagined that this would have fitted in just perfectly with the Second Summer of Love that was underway in the UK at this time. On that note, one of the most well known nightclubs in the UK at this point was Manchester’s legendary Hacienda nightclub, at which Pickering and Park were both regular DJ’s. The Pickering/Park remix was released as a stand-alone 12″ in its own right, but you can also find it on the 2005 remastered edition of Up and on the 1990 greatest hits album Absolutely. A great remix that still sounds fresh!