Adventures of a University Finalist

Monday, October 31, 2005

The King of the Gypsies

OJ

Edwyn Collins - Doctor Syntax (Instinct Records, 2003)

Edwyn Collins - Mine Is At
Edwyn Collins - The Beatles

Hello people. It is the day of reckoning for I have decided who will win the wonderful prize which I offered last Monday. Honourable mentions go out to all of you who actually entered. Billy Budapest: I appreciated your candour as to your hatred of Steely Dan, The Raspberries, and 10cc. Of course, I don't necessarily agree but I can understand why you see them as musically defunct in a modernising musical sphere. Big Bad Bit: Bonus points for the Loudon love! I'd also like to take this juncture to voice my appreciation for your own site - I'm particularly enamoured with your "Chin Stroker" and "Painful" tracks. These blogs should be an outlet to forewarn consumers against complete crap. KFAV: Contemporaneous choices which were refreshing (yes, I can see Dando as a childlike figure albeit one with a barely contained animus). Greg: You just couldn't contain yourself could you? This pleases me greatly. Bill P: Why must you torment me with your exploits! It's not my fault that I was not even a twinkle in the milkman's eye when Nils was bouncing on his trampoline... Fantastic choices although I'm sure you could think of a better reason to include The (English) Beat than 'Stand Down Margaret'? Marc: You got the ball rolling which was very kind of you. I noticed your inclusion of the Big O and must yet again point people toward my painfully researched Otis feature at Jefitoblog. Finally, our winner, DVD: This may seem a cop-out to you other boys but DVD's earned this award through his continuous support of this blog, the fact that he decided to write far too much on each of his choices, and his call to arms for all Monkee lovers to unite under the same Adventures... banner. The fact that none of his choices doesn't matter a jot because only two of you actually scored a single hit. For the record, I chose:

Todd Rundgren
The Isley Brothers
The Beach Boys (none of you chose them! for shame...)
Otis Redding
Loudon Wainwright III

So DVD - send me your address to t_d_williamson@yahoo.co.uk and we'll sort out the posting of your CDs. The rest of you can look forward to exhaustive posts on The Undertones, The Jam, The Monkees, Jellyfish and Squeeze. Enjoy the frothy electropop poured into a Collins glass. Same time, Same Bat-channel.

Buy - Edwyn Collins - Doctor Syntax
Visit - Edwyn Collins

Monday, October 24, 2005

107 Ain't No Lottery Number

Peach

The Allman Brothers - Little Martha
The Monkees - Circle Sky (Alt. Version)

Will skip the track commentary today if you don't mind and will head straight to the nitty gritty. I had a brainwave today as to how to galvanise reader participation. Below are listed all the artists that have featured on Adventures... since it clawed itself from the primordial ooze. All you have to do is leave a comment stating your top 5 faves and, most importantly, why. For your troubles, I'll pick my favourite response and the winner's picks will get a thorough essay each with lots of lovely mp3s to accompany them. The winner will also receive an 'Adventures... Best Of' double CD with crudely drawn artwork to accompany it. Yes, I'll even pay postage to you lot overseas and will hopefully be able to include some rare bonus tracks on the CDs too.

  • Gene Vincent
  • The Lucksmiths
  • Glen Campbell
  • The Raspberries
  • The Knack
  • The (English) Beat
  • Steely Dan
  • The Lightning Seeds
  • Tex Perkins
  • Evan Dando
  • Crowded House
  • 10cc
  • Family
  • Bobby Conn and the Glass Gypsies
  • Violent Femmes
  • Maximillian Hecker
  • All Night Radio
  • The Equals
  • The Frames
  • The Isley Brothers
  • Even
  • Greenfield Main
  • Chris Page
  • Detective Kalita
  • Andrew Vincent and the Pirates
  • Havana Guns
  • Alba Nova
  • Steve Poltz
  • The Luxury Liners
  • The Acorn
  • All Girl Summer Fun Band
  • Art of Fighting
  • Wheat
  • The Faces
  • The Small Faces
  • The Pearlfishers
  • The Paperbacks
  • The Autumn Defense
  • Richard Davies
  • Graham Parker and the Rumour
  • Showroom
  • The MC5
  • The Monkees
  • Todd Rundgren
  • Bobby "Blue" Bland
  • The Beach Boys
  • The Foxymorons
  • Tim Rogers and the Twin Set
  • Fountains of Wayne
  • Chris Stills
  • Jason Falkner
  • The Skatalites
  • G Love and the Special Sauce
  • The Secret Machines
  • Joni Mitchell
  • Beck
  • Tears For Fears
  • Descendents
  • The Flamin' Groovies
  • Grin
  • Loudon Wainwright III
  • Kid Creole and the Coconuts
  • The Miracles
  • Regina Spektor
  • Paul Westerberg
  • Nicolai Dunger
  • Sloan
  • Culture
  • Hamell On Trial
  • Squeeze
  • The Records
  • Jellyfish
  • Hal
  • Nick Lowe
  • The Triffids
  • Tom Waits
  • Mr Bungle
  • Lowell George
  • Otis Redding
  • The Mutton Birds
  • Mew
  • Mercury Rev
  • Prefab Sprout
  • Nick Cave
  • Curtis Stigers
  • The Jam
  • Guided By Voices
  • 16 Horsepower
  • J Mascis and the Fog
  • Neu!
  • The Sundays
  • Ryan Adams
  • Grand Drive
  • The Undertones
  • The Seeds
  • Witness Uk
  • and... The Allman Brothers
That's 107 bands to choose from so you lot had better get crackin'. Meanwhile, I'll sit back with an English Breakfast Tea and laugh at the destruction that I have wrought or alternatively weep when no-one answers my challenge. Either way, I'll keep on plugging away at your resolve to resist my special kind of voodoo hoodoo.

Buy - The Allman Brothers - Eat A Peach
Buy - The Monkees - Missing Links Vol. 2

Friday, October 21, 2005

On the Banks of the Muddy River Douglas

Flower

Grand Drive - Santa Rita

The Undertones - Here Comes The Summer (Peel Session 5.2.1979)
The Seeds - Two Fingers Pointing On You
Witness UK - Avalanche

Never in my life have I read liner notes that have quite a vitriolic hatred for the recordings that they are supposedly promoting than on the Edsel release of The Seeds' 'Future/A Full Spoon of Seedy Blues'. 'Future' is seen as the product of "ludicrously pretencious meanderings from [Sky] Saxon's psyche" and 'A Full Spoon...' is simply termed as "an aberration". Of course, knowing me, I find a significant amount of charm to The Seeds' output despite such claims. 'Two Fingers Pointing On You' is amateurish in its kitchen sink approach with parping tubas, sitars, and a merry go round middle eight. However, there's always an alluring Strychnine undercurrent to the Seeds' "flower music" dredged from the depths of their garage past. Guitars intermittently wail in the background against the enigmatic Spitalfields marching band rumblings. Someone shakes a tambourine haphazardly in its simplistic attempts to add depth to the arrangement. In concocting this strange musical formula for an organic music closer to the earth's own metronome, the Seeds would embark on a paradoxical journey. Paradoxical in the way that it encapsulated an important cultural movement without reflecting anything of import itself. It's lyrical content are weak in their literal reliance upon pointing the finger and the music comes off as rather slight. A few years later, The Rascals would tackle similar subjects with more accomplished playing, tight R n' B arrangements and, in Felix Cavaliere, would possess a vocalist who surpassed Saxon technically by a country mile. On reflection, the song may be no 'Mr Farmer' or 'Pushin' Too Hard' but its an interesting curio nonetheless and would end up appearing in Jack Nicholson's 1968 movie Psych-Out. The rippling organ riff is something to savour too.
The Undertones, like the Seeds, were a band who recorded four albums and whom, over that period of time, would end up altering their musical output significantly from Casbah Rock to mellifluous Motown soul. Of course, this meant that the band would be seen to have succumbed to over production; the "curse of the Nepalese nose flutes". 'Here Comes the Summer' came long before that period though and this particular version of the song should be of interest to all of those who've heard the original due to the smart arse Shangri-Las spoken word intro. The boys, now significantly matured, now refer to the old intro as guff but it's still very amusing with the comical attempts to replicate waves crashing on a sun dappled beach. The performance of the tune itself could be referred to as stock with no significant deviations except that little extra bit of bite provided by the live session setting. The backing vocals are bang on and once again we're left to marvel at what a great frontman Feargal was with his duffel coat and bar room vibrato. "Hey Mickey, what does 'incoherently' mean?"
Witness (or Witness UK as they're known in the States) were direct descendants of The Verve with their specialising in miserabilist anthem rock that encompassed both their Wigan roots and a smooth Midwest sound. The album from which 'Avalanche' is taken, 'Under A Sun', is a real corker barring one absolute stinker, a tacked on reference to Little Feat's 'Willin' on 'Mines', and the B-side tagged on the end. It can be picked up in record shop bargain bins and on Amazon for the price of a small latte at Starbucks. In 'Avalanche', I've cherrypicked the real highlight of the piece with its deft piano movement, the heavy delay, the constant high hat movement, the emotive chips of slide guitar, and Gerard Starkie's flawless delivery. Thankfully, the piano takes on the driving role often assigned to large scale orchestras giving the song a more personal feel to it whilst the chorus really hits home lyrically. It's a slight shame about the pompous religious overtones brought into the song's bridge for it shifts the song on to an unwelcome tangent. Sometimes, a more general lyrical construct can be sustained throughout effectively without a reliance on cumbersome additions added in a vain attempt to build a crescendo in the middle eight. It's a minor quibble but one that I feel is important to raise. Sometimes an instrumental break compromised of repeated verse chord progressions is perfectly satisfactory; otherwise a song's shape can be sacrificed in the name of filling in the gaps.
Grand Drive are pure Americana. It's a shame that they come from Camden. 'Santa Rita' is a clean cut Burrito Brothers epic drawn from their last album, 'The Lights In This Town Are Too Many To Count'. It's acoustic fingerpicking with the bastard son of Lanois and Eno on the decks. In other words, it sounds quite similar to something that U2 may come up with if they believed in the power of pathos. You can hear bubbles underneath the clear surface and an occasional snap of snare rippling outwards into the ether. It's ever so calm and carries on its shoulders an adulterous beauty that leaves one enraptured. Imagine the song that wafts through the bar in Paris, Texas as strangers sup from their surrogate teats and regulars brush off the dust from their regular seat encapsulating the raw landscape through which it sifts. That's 'Santa Rita'.
Final note, I've just checked my server and noticed that one of the Jam songs I uploaded, 'I Got By In Time', and The Mutton Birds tune were 0 bytes in size. Did any of you find difficulties listening to those two songs? If so, I'll upload them for the next post. As an addendum, if any of you suffer problems with any of the songs, just leave a comment and I'll deal with it pronto. Otherwise I'll never learn and you won't be able to experience first rate New Zealand pop as I intended.

Buy - Grand Drive - The Lights In This Town Are Too Many To Count
Buy - The Undertones - Listening In
Buy - The Seeds - Future/A Full Spoon of Seedy Blues
Buy - Witness UK - Under A Sun

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Last Exit To Jacksonville

Ryan

Ryan Adams - The Heartbreaker Sessions (Bootleg)

Ryan Adams - Win
Ryan Adams - Caroline
Ryan Adams - Talkin' In My Sleep
Ryan Adams - West NY Serenade

To apologise for my infrequent missives of late and to continue the celebrations of last week, I thought that today I'd offer up a private treat. Around two years ago, I was severely addicted to CD bargains on eBay from the first Orange Peels LP to Sparks in their 90s intellectual techno . Amongst the purchases made during this affluent period in my life were a small collection of Ryan Adams/Whiskeytown bootlegs. Some were terrible (the inaudible quality of his 'Rock n' Roll' Tour performance in Manchester) but, more often or not, most were brilliant with the intimacy of 'Live At Foley's Cellar' and the rawness of these recordings during the sessions for his first solo album, 'Heartbreaker'. These particular sessions were stretched across 2 CDs (with only one song repeated under different names) and include measured takes on Pneumonia era Whiskeytown classics such as 'Sit and Listen to the Rain', 'Don't Wanna Know Why', and 'Bar Lights' along with unreleased gems. Whereas a lot of his material recorded with the Pinkhearts would resurface on 'Demolition' that's not the case with these beauties which is a shame for they're gathered from a particularly purple patch for Adams creatively.
'Win' is an anomaly to say the least due to its sounding more in line with his 'Rock n' Roll' era material than the more rootsy trappings of Whiskeytown. It really wouldn't sound out of place next to the likes of 'Luminol' and 'Is This It' which is probably the main reason behind it's being left on the cutting room floor. However, as a closet fan of 'Rock n' Roll', I'm a big fan of the tune as Adams clearly possesses a heart made up of melody and driving rhythm entwined in feedback capable of overriding his head. 'West NY Serenade', on the other hand, steps backward toward a Pneumonia vibe with its plaintive guitar line echoing off walls as the drums snap along the train track beat. It's the E Street Shuffle without the ostentatious wordplay or the flirtation with disaster. It's warm, comforting and safe; a space that Adams used to show a marked ability to occupy successfully.
'Talkin' In My Sleep' is a little more daring with a fuller arrangement including the bass being elevated in the mix, acoustic melding with electric, and an organ introduced to fill out the gaps left so obvious before. Adams' vocal performance is more commanding pushing toward a Dylanesque rant without becoming a mewling bore. Caitlin Cary (or someone doing an excellent substitute role) makes an appearance on backing vocals too which is a delight as you can surely guess. 'Caroline' begins almost identically to 'Ballad of Carol Lynn', the opening track on Pneumonia, but don't let that fool you. They are completely different songs except the fact that both are burdened with similar overall aesthetics. The sustained presence of a violin is found in both as is the same meandering rhythm. However, 'Ballad of Carol Lynn' never even attempted the beautiful harmonies displayed during 'Caroline's intro and chorus. The lyric is kept to a rather minimal structure and the acoustic solo is outstanding only in the sense of its ramshackle nature but this simply adds to its mantric charm. By the end, Adams has reached a Van Morrison ability to stretch monosyllabic words until they take on a new meaning and, ultimately, take on a religious reverence. Two different roads converging at the same point of non-verbal eloquence. In other words, it's a shimmering beauty almost akin to a simplified, downbeat ' Madame George'.
Sadly, the seller who offered up these has since left eBay's roster so all that there is left to do is to point you in the direction of the masterpiece that is 'Pneumonia' for more of the eclectic Mr Adams (I never liked 'Heartbreaker' as much).

Buy - Whiskeytown - Pneumonia
Buy - Ryan's latest effort 'Jacksonville City Nights'

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Celebrating the Songs That Got Me Here In the First Place

Bee

Guided By Voices - Much Better Mr Buckles
16 Horsepower - Clogger
J Mascis and the Fog - Does The Kiss Fit?
The Sundays - Wild Horses
Neu! - Super

Hello everybody! Went off back to Durham for a couple of days hence the lack of music. However, I have come back in the mood to celebrate my one year anniversary as a blog entity! Woo. Admittedly, the music didn't turn up until Gene Vincent shook his gimp leg in March but I'm still very proud that I've been able to stick it out. Thanks go to anyone who feels a warm feeling in their belly upon reading this sentence. You deserve the praise... or you have heartburn. You decide.
The platitudes will cease there though as I wish to get straight back to the music at hand. All of the above heavily effected my early musical development in that comforting womb which is the teenager's bedroom. Both GBV and The Sundays were very early favourites of mine back from the days of Buffy and Audiogalaxy's reign. 'Do the Collapse' was bought for a bargain price attached in a twofer with the import only 'Isolation Drills', and I spent at least six months not realising that 'Wild Horses' was originally by the Stones. Ah, youthful naivete, where art thou now in this time where knowledge is often ghastly and unwelcome? The German synth bastards that were Neu became a brief fascination of mine following a well chosen perusal of the Rough Guide of Rock and a quick dip into Audiogalaxy's deeper than indigo vaults. It never mattered that three of the songs on the album were the same one at slightly different speeds (have always wondered what Super 78 would sound like at 78 speed: short is the first word that springs to mind). 16 Horsepower first entered my life after a bargain basement trawl at the CD store near where my virgin job was situated. Following the opening of 'Clogger', I would never look back except with a shake of the head and a hand outstretched to the lyric sheet. My thoughts of J Mascis as a hero have since been relatively dashed by a viewing of the new Dinosaur Jnr and his excellent impersonation of a bloated corpse that's just been fished out of the Hudson but this song, probably the only great love song he's ever written, goes some way to redeeming such apprehensive thoughts. Feedback as a melodic enterprise was something that I would never ever understand until I first listened to 'More Light' with its title track once desribed as "armagedddon in a wind tunnel".
The beginnings of Kraftwerk, Bob Pollard twice (he's a member of The Fog), Harriet Wheeler singin' the Stones, and a Preacher who went the wrong way at Bob Johnston's crossroads; I was pretty lucky in my infancy wasn't I? Bon appetit.

Buy - Guided By Voices - Do the Collapse
Buy - 16 Horsepower - Secret South
Buy - J Mascis and the Fog - More Light
Buy - Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Album
Buy - Neu! - Neu! 2

Monday, October 03, 2005

The Kids Know Where It's At

Jam

The Jam - In the City (Polydor, 1977)

The Jam - I Got By In Time
The Jam - Non-Stop Dancing

This is all Dickie VD's fault. Recently, whilst commenting on the Fall and Rise of the Arctic Monkeys, he compared their live show to that of those epochal "revivalist" R n' B masters, The Jam. Of course, this sent me on a huge trip back to my own musical youth of 1999 when 'Direction, Reaction, Creation' was on constant rotation to the extent where I almost began to think 'This is the Modern World' was a decent album (that naivete has since been replaced with a constant desire to box Bruce Foxton's ears for inflicting 'Don't Tell Them You're Sane' on unsuspecting publicans) and decided that 'Down In A Tube Station at Midnight' was the best pop single of the 1970s; an opinion which I stand by today. Hence, this brief sampling of hidden delights from the band's debut LP, 'In The City'. This was preferred to a run through their only live LP, 'Dig The New Breed', due to the fact that I neither possess nor have even heard a single note of that particular album. The fact that it would have engendered a cumbersome discussion attempting to compare the two bands when I possess close to zero knowledge of those pesky Yorkshire simians or their rambunctious stage routines was also a factor.
Just before I provide a quick rundown of the brace on display today, I wish to provide a small rant on a subject that always niggles at me whenever The Jam pop up in conversation. This is fair warning to you all so if you don't wish to be dragged into my own personal greivances toward musical journalism then push forward my friends to the Gates of Valhalla of the next paragraph! There will be gore, gravy and gamecock for all who wish to sample their various delights. This little niggle to which I have previously referred is the tendency of journalists to pigeonhole the band, certainly in its embryonic stages before the facelift of 'All Mod Cons', as Punk. Not that the labelling of an artist as such somehow demeans them or their music in any way but often it misses the point. Yes, Weller did attempt to convey an image of England as occupying a culture of self-imposed decay accompanied by an entrenched class divide that bordered on Marxist dialectic materialism. As a result of this, his intial lyricism was overshadowed by his love affair with London: the centre of this perceived class struggle. Both of these traits would be shared by other bands in that year of '77 with the Pistols' anthems of anti-monarchism and insurrection, The Clash's portrait of the Notting Hill Riots, The Ruts' 'Babylon's Burning' was framed by the sounds of urban chaos and Siouxsie Sioux would, like the Jam, immerse herself in historic imagery (albeit totalitarian in her case). What people tend to forget though is that punk was a faltering step toward post-modernism bordering on deconstructionism which would flourish later as post-punk. Sioux wasn't a Nazi - she once responded to a gang of skinheads appearing at her gig by walking onstage wrapped in the Star of David, called them all an extremely naughty word, and began to belt out 'Israel' - but she courted this imagery which itself had been perverted by National Socialism and turned it on its head. The Pistols' were a product of McLaren's intellectualism which sought to respark the Paris Riots' ideological war. The bands often flaunted the de rigeur inability to play their instruments, take for example Vini Reilly (who we all know can play the guitar wonderfully well) playing with The Nosebleeds in 'Ain't Bin To No Music School'. It was John Cage anti-music brought to a cruder, universal level. Whereas, Punk was post-modern, The Jam were blatantly a product of Modernism with their pure adrenaline double quick Northern Soul and appropriation of 60s Mod culture. Not to say that they were over on the other side of the spectrum in the camp of "revivalism" (a finger you can point squarely at the Lambrettas, The Merton Parkas, and even Secret Affair) with Weller himself answering such claims with a sing round his neck stating "How can I be a revivalist when I'm only eighteen?". Quite right too. As well as all this, you had Weller's constant political posturing as he sought to weave and bob through the debris kicked up by Punk's Size 12 Doc Marten boots with his statement that the band would vote Tory in the next election and the subsequent, unfortunate association with the National Front.
Well that's that done with. 'In the City' is labelled one of the greatest punk singles of all time and that I can live with. It's triumphant shout of 'Youth explosion!!!" with grindstone Rickenbacker chords and simplistic rhythm earn it such an honour but, to be honest, it has more of the early Who to it than anything else. 'I Got By In Time' is certainly not anything resembling punk with the guitar hauled back to allow the rhythm to push the song along. If you substituted Weller's Surrey snarl for Little Johnnie Taylor, Dobie Gray or Brenton Woods and kicked the tempo down two dozen beats or so and you would have something that could have proudly graced the floorboards of Wigan discos. Having said that, I love Weller's vocal on this track as he opts for a smoother delivery without losing the underlying distaste. 'Non-Stop Dancing' is pure R n' B with a choppy blues progression and Bruce Foxton raiding in with his trademark backing vocals. It's nice to include something that trades off between a pastiche of the band's musical influences and a subtle yet positive comment upon the modern culture where dancing becomes a tonic for the other ills of society. Weller's mellowed with age into what some self-aggrandising tart termed "dad rock". Check this out and hear what it was like when he was doing it for the kids.

NB: Bugger. Sorry about the lack of Non-Stop Dancing for 24 hours. Neglected to check if it had uploaded. Apologies to you all for my absent mindedness.

Buy - The Jam - In the City