Books, books galore (If you like New Order/Joy Division)

This is a strange little post regarding something that’s left me quite surprised (in a good way). I’ve always been a bookworm and stemming from that I absolutely adore a good music book. You can really gain such a deeper level of appreciation of an artist thanks to a well written book. There’s plenty I have on my want-list and there’s three upcoming books that I simply can’t wait for – two of which I only discovered were coming out yesterday! Stranger still, they concern the same musicians and are coming out in relatively close proximity. I do wonder just what that’s about.

index 3Anyway, the first release is the most publicized one of the three and I was already aware of it. Joy Division and New Order’s Bernard Sumner is releasing his memoirs entitled Chapter and Verse – New Order, Joy Division and Me. We’ve obviously had Peter Hook recounting at least part of the story with his fascinating Joy Division memoirs and comparing the two accounts will be very interesting. Bernard never has come across as particularly open in interviews to me and I’m sure there’s going to be many interesting stories in his memoirs. The New Order section in particular should prove especially intriguing. I’m particularly looking forward to learning more about working with Johnny Marr as Electronic too. It’ll be a must read for Joy Division/New Order fans.

The second one is something that a friend of mine stumbled upon yesterday whilst index 2pricing Bernard’s autobiography online. I’m a big fan of the Manchester music scene in general and Kevin Cummins has taken some absolutely magnificent pictures that capture the development of that scene like no other. In 2010 he published an absolutely beautiful book on Joy Division which features many of the most iconic pictures taken of the band. He continued that relationship as Joy Division developed into New Order and he photographed them right up until their initial 1993 split. Quite simply, he has a wealth of pictures at his disposal. More than enough to create a lovely sequel to his Joy Division book and on March 31st 2015, that’s exactly what’s going to be published. Just in time for my 21st birthday….

indexLastly is the book that I’m most surprised about. Again, I only found it by chance online. On October 16th of this year So This is Permanence: Lyrics and Notebooks will be released. It’s the writings/lyrics of Ian Curtis, complete with a foreword by his widow Deborah. Some previously unpublished and incomplete lyrics featured in Deborah’s memoir. I’m surprised there’s anything at all new left to publish really. From what I can gather this will be a complete compendium of lyrics, both released and unreleased. I do wonder if there’s any other sort of writings in those notebooks too? They’ll be presented in a facsimile style, much like how Kurt Cobain’s notebooks were done for Journals. Of course, this will ignite debates about the ethics of publishing material that is fair to say was private and never intended for public eyes. Ultimately I think it boils down to the individual fan to make their choice. The life and death of Ian Curtis is a compelling subject and I’ll definitely be wanting a copy – and I also fully respect the choice of those who don’t feel it’s an appropriate purchase. That’s my two cents.

So, that’s my thoughts and musings about these upcoming books. I just hope that there’s going to be a good New Order documentary at some point as well. Mind you, I don’t think it’s all that likely given the relationship between Peter Hook and the current lineup. Whatever happens on that front, I’m most excited that we’ll gain more insight into this compelling tale with these three books!

Madonna – The First Album 31st Anniversary

It’s a big anniversary today for Madonna fans – today marks the 31st anniversary of The First Album. I just love this album, one of the finest debut albums ever by a pop/electronic artist. All of the songs on the album do sound very similar and it’s Madonna’s least varied album, but there’s something irresistible about those scrappy and raw synths. And it’s got bucket-loads of charm and energy to boot. I far prefer it to Like A Virgin (my least favorite Madonna album). ‘Holiday’ and ‘Borderline’ still stand up as two of the definitive classics of the 80s and two of Madonna’s best singles. However, my favorite track on The First Album is ‘Physical Attraction’. It’s the first underrated Madonna gem and the best album track from her first three albums. It would have done brilliantly as a single I think. Whilst it seems to be a pretty popular song with fans, it’s never featured on any of her tours. On Youtube there’s just a few early performances in clubs recorded in 1983. I would love to see more of The First Album performed on tour actually – Holiday has featured heavily on her set-lists over the years but I think it’s time to hear something like ‘Everybody’ again or the aforementioned ‘Physical Attraction’. Honestly – I don’t think that will happen, which is a shame because The First Album still stands up really well after all these years.

Röyksopp & Robyn – Do It Again

Röyksopp_and_Robyn_-_Do_It_AgainSo today I listened to the upcoming Robyn and Royksopp collaborative EP, entitled Do It Again. It comes out here in the UK on Monday.  I was very much looking forward to this release as I do like both artists. They seemed to be a potential match made in heaven. My expectations were met and then some.  It’s already one of my favourite releases of 2014! Each of the five tracks are very strong and boast their own individual sound, yet fit together seamlessly. There’s a brilliant floor-filling single in ‘Do It Again’ and a beautiful, rather ambient instrumental called ‘Inside The Idle Hour Club’. It’s a varied EP that covers much ground in its 35 minutes. The strongest track on offer here is the pulsating ‘Say It’, which was released this week as the second single from the EP. It’s dance music at its most gripping and hypnotic – the best dance track of the year so far. Do It Again as a whole is far from formulaic electronic music. The only downside to it is that it’s just an EP and not a full length album. It really does leave you wanting more! Given that this isn’t the first time Robyn and Royksopp have worked together, I hope that all signs point towards them releasing a full album together sometime in the future. They’ve got a brilliant musical chemistry which is superbly demonstrated on Do It Again!

 

Electronic – Disappointed

Boy, have I rediscovered my love for this song over the past few days. About two years ago this was pretty much my all time favourite song. I played it to death, then played it some more. It’s so gorgeous that I’m always a bit gutted (disappointed?) that Neil Tennant wrote this song for Electronic didn’t keep it for Pet Shop Boys instead. It’s the Pet Shop Boys classic that never was.

There’s so many reasons I love this song. Firstly Neil’s vocals –  are utterly beautiful here (and the harmonies are stunning). Then, there’s the lyrics. They have a certain degree of optimism for once – happy love songs aren’t something Neil Tennant has written a lot of. It makes for refreshing listening. The song has a beautiful arrangement too, with plenty of synth strings, house pianos and brilliant guitar playing from Johnny Marr. The whole song just sounds so damn euphoric. Disappointed  became Electronic’s highest charting single on the UK charts, although it doesn’t seem to be remembered nearly as much as Getting Away With It. In fact, Disappointed isn’t even on any of Electronic’s three studio albums. It was featured in the film Cool World and as such could be found on the film’s soundtrack, but not any any Electronic release until 2006’s Get The Message – The Best of Electronic. I think the song is highly underrated. In my opinion – it’s one of the best songs of either Bernard Sumner’s, Johnny Marr’s or Neil Tennant’s careers.

Year Highlight: Pet Shop Boys – Shouting In The Evening

Merry Christmas Eve everyone! It’s hard to believe it’s here already. Just where has this year gone? It’s crazy. I think 2013 has been an excellent year for music, far better than 2012. Now we’re in the last seven days of the year, I’ve decided to pick seven songs from the year that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed (in no particular order). The first song is Shouting In The Evening from Electric by Pet Shop Boys.  It’s definitely the most abstract song on the album. From the first listen, the pulsating hard dance beat of this song is gripping. It’s the most hard-edged dance track in their repertoire. If you’re a fan predominantly because of their lyrics then it may not be your thing. It’s lacking in lyrics bar a few lines that don’t really add much to the song but it makes up for that in its sheer euphoria. The song sends you into a bit of a frenzy. It’s just a shame the song hasn’t been performed live yet – it’s crying out for a performance on the Electric tour. Hopefully they’ll perform it in 2014 because I feel it’s perhaps one of their best songs ever!

First impressions: M.I.A – Matangi

The other record I got this week was Matangi, the much anticipated new album from M.I.A. Thank goodness it’s finally here – I’ve been waiting for this for ages. I have to say that it really didn’t disappoint either! When I first heard Bring The Noize I was worried that Matangi would be too heavy but I was wrong. Parts of it are very heavy but it’s not consistently like that. It’s definitely a schizophrenic album that darts between styles at breathtaking speed. It never feels sloppy though which is great And it covers a lot of ground. The album is never dull that’s for sure. I love the world music influences which permeate a lot of the album too. It provides a much needed break from the cacophonous  electronic sounds that can be found in abundance. Thankfully the rather uninspired Bad Girls is the weakest on the album. Matangi as a whole is definitely more like Bring The Noize. And even then, there’s better songs. The twisted raves of Double Bubble Trouble and Warrior are my two favourites. To be honest I didn’t dislike any track on the album really. Only Lights and Know It Ain’t Right didn’t leave a mark on me. Exodus ends the album in great style though. It was demoed for Madonna I believe, and it sounds so Madonna that I’m frankly gutted she didn’t duet with M.I.A on it for MDNA. Oh well – at least it made it onto Matangi. I was disappointed that Unbreak My Mixtape wasn’t included. I’d happily have replaced Bad Girls with it to be honest. In any case Matangi has not let me down at all. The hooks have wormed their way into my brain, and the album has wormed its way into my list of ten albums for 2013!

PSB Radio Show (from 1992) Gems.

So, today I found something I’ve been eager to hear for quite some time! Way back in 1992, Pet Shop Boys stood in at the Simon Bates Show on BBC Radio 1 for a week.  It was actually the same radio show that they created Generic Jingle (found on Behaviour Further Listening) for. Anyway, during their time on the show they played nothing but dance records.  When I read about this string of radio shows I was keen to track a recording of them down. I love dance music from the late 80s-early 90s, it’s when dance music was at its peak. I was doing some random browsing on the internet today and suddenly I found them! There’s two separate mixes for each of the five days they hosted.  There’s one called Mix, and another called Golden Hour for each of the five days. All in all, there’s ten mixes that run for an hour each. I obviously haven’t been able to listen to all of the mixes yet. I did flick through the two Mix hours for Monday and Tuesday though.  Two of the songs really caught my attention:

The first really took me by surpise. It’s a very relaxed electronic song. Melancholic even. Stylistically it reminded me of some of Electronic’s songs, which sometimes have a similar, slightly ambient sound.  It even put me in mind of the Brothers In The Rhythm mixes of We All Feel Better In The Dark by Pet Shop Boys too for the same reasons. It’s called Espania and it’s by The Good 2 Bad & The Hugly. It was obviously popular with listeners because it featured in both the mixes I was listening to. Pet Shop Boys even said that themselves before playing it on the second show, The Good 2 Bad & The Hugly made hardcore records normally, so Espania is a definite departure for them. Hardcore is practically the other end of the dance music spectrum compared to Espania.  After I heard the song I went and listened to more of The Good 2 Bad and The Hugly’s songs on Youtube. I have to say they weren’t my thing really. That’s not so surprising though because hardcore isn’t a sub-genre of dance music I particularly like. I only like a handful of early songs from the genre actually.  I’m more house oriented. Anyway, none of that detracts from Espania though, which I do feel is quite a hidden gem!

The second was High, by Hyper Go Go. This instantly hooked me in right from the opening piano riff. Piano house is my favourite style of dance music so it’s definitely apparent why this is up my street. The contrast between these two songs is terrific. Espania is a lovely relaxed song, but High is just relentlessly danceable. It’s euphoric and just makes you feel so alive. It’s also incredibly catchy. I’ve listened to it twice and already the main melody is stuck in my head. I can’t stop singing the few lyrics  that there are either.  I can’t believe I had never discovered this song before now actually. I heard another Hyper Go Go song called Never Let Go afterwards too. I did like it a lot, but I definitely do prefer High. The main piano line in High reminds me just a little bit of  the classic Strings Of Life by Rhythim is Rhythim.

I’m definitely looking forward to working my way through the rest of these mixes. I can’t get enough of the two tracks I’ve shared here with you. If I find more gems like these (which is very likely), I’ll be sure to post them here at some point!

New discovery (or new perception of): Grimes

Well, this is an unexpected gem I found today. It’s called Genesis, from the album Visions by Grimes. I’ve been aware of her for about six months now. I had tried to get into her by listening to Visions (her third album). At the time I couldn’t get into it at all. I wanted to, but it just wasn’t happening. I only could manage a handful of songs before (foolishly) deciding she wasn’t for me. The weird thing is I would have heard Genesis before as its on the album, but I honestly couldn’t remember it. When I heard it today, I felt like I was hearing a new song. Well I guess I was in ways, because of the shift in my perception of said song. It’s amazing what that can do. This is just postively engrossing to listen to. Atmospheric, and it sounds like it’s from another realm. Utterly beautiful. It’s really made me think that I gave up on Grimes too soon. In the coming days I’m definitely going to properly give her albums a fair chance. I also really love her visuals. I always have to be honest. As a little cherry on top of the cake, we both share the same first name. Her full name is Claire Boucher. I’m a Claire too, although I spell my name as Clare.  Anyway – I’ll be sure to let you know how this re-listening process goes!