Just watched: Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros – Live in NYC..

Evening folks, I watched this great little performance earlier. And White Riot is still ringing around my ears, I always find that to be the case when I listen to it actually. Anyway, it’s a TV broadcast from the Roseland Ballroom in New York City, that took place sometime in 1999. No doubt in support of the Mescaleros debut album. It’s not the full concert, rather an edited down version (and thrown in for good measure are sporadic, short interview clips with Joe himself). Out of the nine songs here, six are Clash songs, the other three being Mescaleros songs. I always love seeing older Joe perform – it’s amazing that he still attacked those Clash classics with the sort of kinetic energy usually found in men twenty years younger than him. I can only imagine what a thrill it would have been to see Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros perform in person. Anyhow, this is another excellent performance, as most of Joe’s performances typically were. I’ve got to say that so far this has been one of my absolute favourite versions of White Riot that I’ve heard, from either The Clash or the Mescalero. The performance has also given me a new found appreciation for X Ray Style too. I’ve always liked that song but it wouldn’t be one of my favourites on Rock Art & The X Ray Style but that looks set to change. And I found it very interesting to see Joe’s crowd interaction here – especially as he deals with ones causing some upset. I’ll not spoil it further but if I thought I couldn’t love the man more this video just disproves that. A man of the people he was indeed. It makes me sad he’s no longer here although quite honestly I feel grateful that there was once a man that walked the earth like Joe Strummer. Just a shame I became a fan ten years too late. I’ll spare you the rather sombre reflections though, enjoy this performance!

Nirvana – In Utero 20th Anniversaryannounced!

A post I was meaning to make yesterday. Plans that were quickly thwarted when I spent the night listening exclusively to Blondie and The Clash and watching videos of both on Youtube.  Anyway, remember the comment I made a few months back on here saying that September seems to be a lot quieter this year than last year for me? Well, it won’t be. Chvrches, Nine Inch Nails, Goldfrapp, Arctic Monkeys, MGMT (to name a few) have new studio albums. Of course – there’s also a certain Clash boxset. And now, another re-release is forthcoming. This time it’s of Nirvana’s final album, In Utero. It has been confirmed that the more expansive editions will contain over 70 (!) tracks. Judging by Amazon UK it will take a number of different forms: the album remastered on a singular disc, a 2-CD edition of the album and a deluxe 3CD with 1DVD. The DVD will contain the Live and Loud show from Seattle and will also be released standalone. No track-listing for the CD’s has been announced but it has been confirmed it will comprise of compilation tracks, live material, B-sides and unreleased demos. Definitely expansive. I do feel that the current asking price of £108 for the deluxe edition is simply too much though. I will settle for the 2CD edition (and I’ll purchase Live and Loud at a later date) – whilst I really like the album it would be my least favourite Nirvana album. With Sound System two weeks beforehand another boxset something I can’t even consider. To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of paying £100 for boxsets of one album (Screamadelica aside) so I probably would never have considered In Utero in boxset form anyway. Hopefully I should be able to order the 2CD edition the week it comes out though – although I have to factor in the record fair which returns September 28th and I do want to look at adding some Blondie CDs to my collection soon too. Nevertheless, I’m very much looking forward to seeing what tracks will be released!

First impressions of Blondie’s No Exit (And lots of random chatter)

Afternoon all – apologies for no posts yesterday and for a lack of any Sound of The Week post on Sunday. I was busy on Sunday and also I didn’t feel very well. I’m still not sure if it’s a stomach bug or a reccurence of the excess stomach acid problem I’m prone too. Is that too much information? It probably is. In other news – the iPad is in repair as we speak, that’s another reason why I was busy yesterday. Hopefully it should be back on Thursday. 

As for music news, I’ve been saddened these past few days to hear that The Good Natured’s debut album, Prism, has been shelved following their record label dropping them. They were a great up and coming band who I thought would have gone onto very bright things. 5HT is one of the best songs of 2012 in my opinion. Now, the group seem to have disbanded. Very sad indeed and with the coincidental announcement that Katy Perry’s upcoming album is to be called Prism it really does make me wonder about the total lack of common sense displayed by the music industry sometimes…. I know which one I want to hear.

The only other music news (off the top of my head) that’s got me excited is The Clash posting new pictures of inside Sound System on their facebook page. I know, one day, I’ll be quiet about that boxset. Honest! It’s chaotic times for me musically – I’m still filled with the excitement after Pet Shop Boys triumphant new album Electric whilst balancing that with upcoming excitement for Sound System (and Breaking Bad’s return next Sunday to boot). September is going to be a very busy month for me musically, much like it was last year.

Now that all of that is out of my system (so to speak) – I can share with you some first impressions of an album I listened to earlier. The album being Blondie’s 1999 comeback album No Exit. I have to say that so far I’m really impressed with their post-comeback albums. I really enjoyed No Exit! I’ll admit that I did think it could stand to lose two (maybe three songs) but even then the weakest tracks for me were still decent. I have to say that – Plastic Letters aside – Blondie have suitably impressed me. Favourite tracks on No Exit were Forgive And Forget, Boom Boom In Zoom Zoom Room, Night Wind Sent and Double Take. I’m going to be saving up for the next six weeks or so (Sound System aside) but when I start buying some new CDs again a Blondie collection and most likely the fan pack edition of Panic of Girls will be first on my list. I’ve only got The Curse of Blondie to go and I’ve heard all of their studio albums. Although then I have the solo Debbie Harry albums to work my way through – I’ve heard mixed things about them but then again, I heard mixed things about their post-comeback albums too so hopefully I’ll like the solo records!

Pet Shop Boys – Bounce (Demo) (Updated 28th July 2013)

Bounce is probably my favourite Pet Shop Boys demo! This was recorded in 1987, around the time that Domino Dancing was also being written. Originally, Introspective was actually going to titled Bounce and, at a time, this was being considered for inclusion on the album. Why it was eventually dropped I don’t know for sure, but I think it’s a real shame this song was discarded and left to lie dormant in the vaults. One thing that I especially love about Bounce is how it sounds more or less the polar opposite to what you’d expect a song with its title to sound like. Initially, I expected the song (based on its title) to be a glossy and punchy piece of synthpop but it’s really not. It actually makes the song one of the most interesting ones to write about. The tempo of Bounce is set at a mid-tempo speed and implores two really interesting musical techniques. First of all, the percussion line in the song is simply a drum machine playing every sound in its library one by one whilst keeping in time with the beat. If that sounds positively hellish fear not: it’s actually done in a rather subtle way. What a relief otherwise the song would be an absolute mess! The second technique (if you could call it that) in the song is what makes it that little bit special. Neil singing the word “bounce” is sampled and made to sound rather jittery, no doubt to give a feeling of actual bounciness. Also lyrically, its not what you would expect either. Lyrically the song is about a rather tense relationship that has the potential to end in absolute disaster, as the line “will you be the one I look back on from a prison cell with regret?” shows. The narrator isn’t ready to give up hope on the relationship though. Despite not giving up, the underlying sense of danger in the relationship reminds me of another Introspective era demo: So Sorry, I Said. In any case it’s a shame this wasn’t on Introspective as I think it would have fitted in quite well. For some reason I can envisage this being the closing track on Introspective as it’s shorter length would have been a refreshing change from the lengthy running times of the other tracks. In the Introspective Further Listening booklet they say that the song was never recorded properly, personally I think the demo has a rather polished sound as it is. It’d have needed minimal more tweaking I think. In any case it’s never been officially released. Two versions of it have leaked, a 7″ mix and an instrumental. A great little demo that deserves more attention!

Strummerville documentary

So, I just finished watching this documentary. No prizes for guessing what it was about: the work concerning the Strummerville charity, which was set up to carry on the legacy of a certain Joe Strummer. It was made by Don Letts and I have to say I really enjoyed it! It was very interesting seeing the various projects undertaken by the charity. It feels like the perfect organization to carry on Joe’s message and I think he would have approved. One thing I found particularly interesting was the Jail Guitar Doors project initiated by Billy Bragg which aims to supply guitars to inmates serving time as means of rehabilitation. I was also really pleased to hear Belfast being name-checked: as I’ve mentioned previously on this blog there are two Strummerville rehearsal spaces in the Oh Yeah centre which is located in the city centre. I came away from the documentary feeling inspired actually – once again the cogs are ticking away in my brain trying to figure out what I can do to help make Belfast (and Northern Ireland) a better place for all. Somehow, I think that was exactly the intention of the documentary. It was on Sky Arts a few days ago, if it crops up again I’d heartily recommend it!

Happy 30th Anniversary Madonna!

Today’s a very important milestone for Madonna fans. Today marks 30 years since her debut album, Madonna, was released! I would have loved a 30th anniversary edition released of the album but alias, Madonna herself isn’t one for nostalgia. I do hope special editions of all her albums will come in the future though. I love Madonna (and Madonna, of course) – Holiday and Borderline are her first classic singles I think. My favourite tracks are those two along with Physical Attraction, Burning Up and Think of Me. I know I’ve named over half the album there (and probably rendered the term favourite a tad meaningless) but I do think Madonna is a sublime piece of disco synthpop. It’s definitely not only one of my favourite debut albums ever, but just one of my favourite albums ever. Happy 30th Anniversary Madonna!

First listen: Blondie – Panic of Girls

Afternoon all – the repair place isn’t open today so no repaired iPad until Monday. Oh well, at least I have a more definitive date now. This post is a little bit different from usual – only one new album tested today but after this I have an anniversary post to make and then there’s that excellent remix I discovered yesterday to share with you. As a footnote to this introduction, I also found two Clash bootlegs last night that I’ve been trying to hunt down for a while: Street Rats and Lost Treasures. I can’t wait to listen to them and I’m sure they’ll feature on this blog at some point.

Anyhow, the only new album that I listened to today was Blondie’s most recent offering, Panic Of Girls. After being left underwhelmed with Plastic Letters yesterday I was hoping that Panic of Girls in particular would deliver. I have to say that it’s become my favourite album of theirs so far! I really liked Panic Of Girls. I had never heard any of the tracks before so it was all new to me but my favourite tracks on first listen were Mother, Girlie Girlie and Wipe Off My Sweat. I liked all the songs though – even my least favourite tracks on the album I still feel are pretty good, just not quite as good as the others. The album was also very varied too, something I felt that was lacking on Plastic Letters. It’s my first of their post-reunion albums that I’ve heard and if the other albums are as good as this I’ll definitely be more of a fan of post-reunion Blondie I think. I definitely want to purchase Panic Of Girls now – I think I’ll get the fan pack magazine edition of it most definitely. The quality of Panic Of Girls has made me all the more eager to hear the upcoming Ghost Of Download, very much looking forward to it now!

Mixed weather, mixed albums.

Evening all, just a brief post for now. My album testing today was as mixed as the weather we’re getting. Over here in Belfast we’re fluctuating between sunshine and rain, although still no thunderstorm for me yet. I hope it comes soon to clear the air. In better news my iPad might be able to get fixed sooner than I thought – within days hopefully. I’ll be sure to fill you in on any updates.

So – the first thing I did this morning (I’m not kidding there) was Bruce Springsteen’s Born In The USA. Only the second album in full I’ve heard of his and my primary reason for listening to it was because of the title track. I’d heard Dancing In The Dark before too but I couldn’t remember how it went until re-listening to the album. I have to say that, if anything, I enjoyed it even more than Born To Run! Both absolutely excellent albums. I can’t resist putting my fist in the air when I hear those opening chords of Born In The USA. New found favourites though (not counting my rediscovered love for Dancing In The Dark) were Glory Days, I’m On Fire and No Surrender. I have to say that two albums down and I’ve liked – and more often than not loved – every track on both. I’m glad to say that Bruce Springsteen is exceeding my very high expectations I had of him, if anything! As for the next album I’m thinking of going right up to date and listening to his most recent effort, Wrecking Ball. I do know a few tracks from it already and I love them, I’m hoping the rest of the album delivers the same!

Now…. for the one that didn’t go quite as well. I have to say Plastic Letters is by far the worst Blondie album I have heard thus far. It was listenable – but half of the tracks just passed me by without leaving no impact. By the time I had finished the following track I had already forgotten the one I had listened too prior more often than not. I did like some of the songs – and I particularly loved one, that being I’m On E. Other favourites were Denis, (I’m Always Touched by Your) Presence, Dear; Kidnapper and Cautious Lip. That was pretty much it really. What also did help was that every song seemed to have the exact same sound so it just all sort of merged into one. It actually felt like a regression following their debut and a far cry from the quality of subsequent albums. I’ve now listened to all their early albums – it’s now post reunion albums for me from here on out. I think Panic of Girls will be the next album of theirs I listen too. I’ll be very interested to see what I make of their upcoming album, Ghosts of Download (very interesting title, I think). In any case I’m not phased by the fact I didn’t enjoy Plastic Letters, although the only way I’d ever buy it was if I became so addicted to Blondie I bought all their albums – in which case I’d buy it for completion.

So, that’s today’s new listens. The lack of an iPad (where I keep my CD collection) is making listening to my collection a little bit trickier. That issue should be resolved soon though hopefully. I’ve also found a great remix today that I will share with you all tomorrow, it’s absolutely excellent. See you then!

Matters of Musical Importance: The Clash – Clash City Rockers (Something Else)

Why it’s nostalgic or important: The first time I ever saw The Clash/Joe Strummer.

Admittedly, that’s not a huge matter of significance. Although when someone has a profound impact on you (as Joe Strummer has had on me), the first time you lay eyes on them does become a vivid memory in time I think. I can remember watching this for the first time clear as the day – about a year ago, as part of a TV programme called Punk At The BBC. The video I’ve included in this post is from that broadcast actually. This was when my interest of punk was at its infancy and when the info bar said it was The Clash who had just started playing I thought “oh great, heard plenty of great things about these guys”. At that point I had only heard around about five Clash songs and loved them all. As for Clash City Rockers…. not quite as positive. To be fair – this song did take a long time to grow on me even when I did become a fan. I just thought it was too tuneless and punk by numbers. I hated the song – and I clearly remember thinking “Wow I could punch that lead singer quite easily”. Yes, you did read that right. My first impression of Joe Strummer was that I wanted to deck him. Ha, like I’d ever think such a thought again. I think it was because of his appearance – the sunglasses and hairstyle really annoyed me for whatever reason. I think the whole thing was just too raw and gritty for my decidedly more polished brain to comprehend really. At the time of watching this performance I thought he was a stereotypical punk. Oh, how so very wrong I was. It’s what I get for having a bad habit of having strong first impressions too quickly about someone. It’s amazing remembering this actually – if you told me at the time this man would change my life for the better only months later I would have told you to stop talking rubbish. I’m deadly serious. Come the end of October though he’d reappear again rather unexpectedly and win me over for good……….

Please (Updated July 25th 2013)

Released in March 1986, Please is the debut album by Pet Shop Boys. Named as such so it would form a sentence, for example in record shops customers would ask “Can I have Pet Shop Boys album, please?” This was the first of two albums that they would take this logic for when choosing album titles: Actually was chosen as the title for their second album for similar reasons. In any case Please is a great debut album, although it’s probably the one I listen to the least out of their trio of albums from the 1980’s. As for its rating in my overall ranking of Pet Shop Boys albums it’d be firmly in the middle. The reason being I think it does suffer from a more dated production. I don’t wish that to be taken as a criticism against the album, I still listen to the music here rather often.

 Initially, Please could have actually sounded quite a bit different. Pet Shop Boys producer of choice for the record was Stephen Hague, who has produced for many artists such as Erasure, New Order, OMD, Public Image Limited, Blur and Marc Almond. It was two particular tracks that he had produced though that formed the main reason that Pet Shop Boys wanted him to produce their album though: Hey DJ by The World’s Famous Supreme Team and Madame Butterfly by former Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren. EMI suggested some alternative candidates to produce the album though, interestingly one of them was none other than Stock, Aiken and Waterman! Eventually though the decision was made that Stephen Hague would be allowed to reproduce their 1984 single West End Girls and it would be re-released. I’m sure you can work out the next part: Stephen Hague’s version ended becoming a massive hit and eclipsed the original version in terms of success and he got the green light for producing the entire album. The album was recorded for a tight deadline though; Suburbia was the last track recorded for the album and is really not that different from the demo mainly because they couldn’t do anything else.

I have to say that I think Please is a strong debut. It’s definitely somewhat more raw in terms of the music, and definitely not as polished sounding as Actually which sounds bigger, fuller and just generally a bit more grandiose. I think that actually becomes a bit of an advantage for Please though, as much as I love synthpop from the 80’s sometimes I think it has a tendency to sound a bit too polished, so its nice to have an album that is more gritty. Despite growing on subsequent albums though, I think Neil’s lyrics are still really good here, Love Comes Quickly and West End Girls both have brilliant sets of lyrics I think, and they really do cover more difficult and unusual subject matters even at this early stage in their career, such as urban decay, casual sex and violence. Later Tonight and Why Don’t We Live Together? are two of their most overlooked album tracks I think. I was particularly pleased to see the latter receive its live debut on their Pandemonium tour to support Yes.

There are some minor preferences I have though in terms of versions though, but even still that doesn’t mean I don’t like the versions here. I prefer the 10″ of West End Girls to the 7″ (really I think its because I’ve heard the original so much), Suburbia’s video mix is better than the album mix in my opinion also, although again I still like the album version. The only one were I much prefer a subsequent version to the original is Violence, I think the Hacienda version that was released as a B-side for I Wouldn’t Normally Do This Kind of Thing communicates the sentiment of the song much better, to the point were I can’t really say I overly enjoy the original. I can’t say I’ve ever really been able to get into I Want A Lover either, but I wouldn’t say its a poor song by any means. The only real change I would make to the album is getting rid of the little Opportunities reprise track, only because I feel having those sort of short reprises and interludes as a stand-alone track as an album is just filler more often than not. Given the choice I’d probably replace it either with A Man Could Get Arrested or Jack The Lad most likely. It’s a shame those songs would serve as two of the B-sides for the Please era singles I think

All in all though Please is still a great album that, despite it sounding a little dated now, still holds up as one of the best synthpop albums of its time. I have to admit that I much prefer artists to grow and develop into their peak rather than peak with their debut album and then burn out, so for a debut album what I look for mostly is an indication of the artists potential really, rather than peaking too soon if that makes sense. Using that criterion then Please is a highly recommended album. Although they would grow and get better with their subsequent albums you definitely get a real sense of their talent here and the album still has its fair share of classics, it has one of the most consistently great quadrant of singles you will find. A great start to a brilliant career!