Friday, November 30, 2007

St. Andrew's Day

Today is St. Andrew's Day, the Patron Saint of Scotland. This is not a national holiday here (it might be a different story after independence), and nowhere near as big a deal as St. Patrick's Day is (hell, I think St. Patrick's Day is celebrated by half the planet).

But, what the heck, I've survived a week back at work, it's three weeks until term finishes, and I got paid yesterday (hmm, guess what I do when it arrives - other than paying the bills, obviously).

So here's some scottish stuff for you, and just to let you know, I interviewed Malcolm Middleton today, so that will be on the blog soon.

First up, the greatest song by the greatest scottish band EVER (IMHO).

Delgados -'No Danger.' mp3

Along with getting into death metal and grime this year, I've also been discovering folk. This is a gem (yup, I do listen to some music pre-1976).

John Martyn -'Solid Air.' mp3

I love the whole early eighties aesthetic (I may have mentioned this before). This is a classic:

Fire Engines -'Candyskin.' mp3

..Mind you, the late eighties threw up some gems too...

The Shamen -'Jesus Loves Amerika.' mp3

and so did the nineties... : )

Urusei Yatsura -'Hello Tiger (Peel Session).' mp3

And I'm planning something special for December. Watch this space...

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Album Review: Burial

Album Review -Burial -'Untrue' (Hyperdub)

Where the hell did this come from? This follow-up to Burial's self-titled debut from last year is one of the most astonishing things I have heard this year.

Given that Burial's interview in this month issue of The Wire is a rare interview and that he is not prepared to be photographed, I know precious little about the man himself (well, that he's male). So this really is about taking some at face value without bringing baggage to it. Because while this might be labelled under Grime (and definitely not Grindie, the vocals are manipulated with here, and that's one of the astoundingly amazing things about this trail-blazing album), Dubstep, 2-step,'s the sound of the pieces and the whole itself that amaze you and leave you gasping in disbelief.

Few albums can make such sadness sound so invigorating and a million miles away from the 'woe is me' aesthetic that can start to grate. This record is the soundtrack of, rather than just to, the beautiful melancholia of the urban winter, and the dark streets. It reminds me of the pioneering artists of the Bristol sound that came to be known as 'trip-hop,' certainly not in terms of songs but the way that the sound and mood of that music grabbed you, as much as the lyrics or the melody.

This is not going to be a long review, because I'm in the dark trying to describe this here. Please listen to the tracks below, and then go and buy the album.

I'm still astounded, and I'm having to re-work my planned best of 2007 list.


Burial -'Archangel.' mp3

Burial -'Near Dark.' mp3

Burial -'Endorphin.' mp3

Burial's MySpace page is here

Monday, November 26, 2007

A rather short, celebratory post...

I have started back at school...and survived!

Time for some PiL, methinks...

Public Image Ltd. -'Rise 12".' mp3

Public Image Ltd. -'Home.' mp3

Public Image Ltd. -'Flowers Of Romance.' mp3

Hope you've had a good day, whereever you may be...

Sunday, November 25, 2007

There'll be sad songs... make you cry, as Billy Ocean once sang (not long after pointing that that 'When the going gets tough, the tough get going, if memory serves).

It's sunday night, and as always, seem to have those sunday blues.

Oh well, sad songs say so much (uh, cheers Elton).

Anyway, here's a few beautifully sad songs. See what you think.

Have a good week.


This Mortal Coil -'Song To the Siren (Tim Buckley cover).' mp3

Peter Murphy -'A Strange Kind Of Love.' mp3

New Age Steppers -'Fade Away.' mp3

Bang Bang Machine -'Geek Love.' mp3

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Arcade Fire cover versions special!

If there is one band alone who owe much of their success to word of mouth amongst bloggers, it's Arcade Fire, but blogs or no blogs, I like to think that they would have made it anyway, due to being pretty bloody brilliant.

Anyway, given that I love to post covers, here at 17 Seconds today, it's an Arcade Fire Special!

Arcade Fire -'Naive Melody (Talking Heads cover).' mp3

Arcade Fire -'Five Years (David Bowie cover).' mp3<

Arcade Fire -'Maps (Yeah Yeah Yeahs cover).' mp3

Arcade Fire -'Guns Of Brixton(Clash cover).' mp3

Arcade Fire -'Poupee de Cire, Poupee de son(France Gall cover).' mp3

Found an excellent venezuelan blog that has also posted some good, different Arcade Fire cover versions, called Deaf Indie Elephants, which you should check out too.

Arcade Fire's official site is here and a very good fan site is here

Friday, November 23, 2007

Album Review: The Royal We

Album Review: The Royal We -'The Royal We.' (Geographic)

The case for the prosecution

M'lud, for starters, this is an eight track mini-album. The singer of this six-piece Glasgow-based band, Jihae Simmons is actually from LA and according to no other document than her press release grew up with an idealised image of Glasgow, gleaned from the lyrics of Belle and Sebastian and Orange Juice. This is utterly idealistic; I taught on the south side of Glasgow for a year, and believe me, the kids were nothing like the cutesy, twee, anti-macho images those bands suggested. Lots of wonderful kids, and quite a few headbangers, but they were either wearing all black, or Adidas tracksuits. The band are clearly devastated that they formed too late to be on neither the C-86 tape nor the Rough Trade Indiepop 1 compilation. They are old-school indie, but old-school indie by numbers, and they split up on the day that this, their first album was released. This is too contrived to be true. They dress in a cutesy way that is just painful to behold.

The case for the defence

m'lud, I can't help thinking that m'learned friend has actually missed the point somewhat, here. Yes, it's an idealised image of Glasgow but one that I too had (until no less an authority than Stevie Jackson of the popular beat combo Belle & Sebastian pointed out to me that the stories on the back of their records were just that. Stories). And yes, there's bits of Belle and Sebastian there, but I also hear Sons and Daughters, The Raincoats and even Roxy Music. At eight songs, there is no filler, and the closing song, a cover of Chris Isaac's 'Wicked Game' works perfectly. And if they dress 'cutesy'...that's got to be an improvement on the adidas tracksuits that soiled indie in the nineties, isn't it?

Verdict: **** (acquitted and praised)

Exhibit A: The Royal We -'Three Is A Crowd.' mp3

Exbibit B: The Royal We -'I Hate Rock N Roll.' mp3

Exhibit C: The Royal We's MySpace

Some Covers For Friday Part V

It's Friday, so that means it's time for some covers! As quite often is the case with covers posts here, there is no linking theme, it's just that they are all covers...though I notice there are quite a few 80s electro-pop gems done rather differently here...and if you love twee-pop I think you will love Canasta.

Beautiful South -'You're The One That I Want (John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John cover).' mp3

Canasta -'The Model (Kraftwerk cover).' mp3

Dump -'Vienna (Ultravox cover).' mp3

Joy Zipper -'Wave Of Mutilation (Pixies cover).' mp3

Nyack -'Love Is A Stranger (Eurythmics cover).' mp3

Uncle Tupelo -'Maggie's Farm (Bob Dylan cover).' mp3

These will be up for one week only. if you like what you hear, go and support the artists involved.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Update: Malcolm Middleton

This is from the NME website today:

" BBC Radio 1 heavyweights Colin Murray, Scott Mills and Edith Bowman are all backing former Arab Strap star Malcolm Middleton's bid for the UK's Christmas Number One single.

And now bookmakers William Hill has decided to slash their original odds on the single 'We're All Going To Die' from 1,000/1 to 500/1.

Murray said of the track: "Were the intelligentsia ... we don't need to be crass about getting Malcolm Middleton to Number One. Do you remember when Belle & Sebastian won a Brit Award? That's the route I want to take.

"Go ahead and sign up to Malcolm's MySpace, lets start getting an idea of how many people are going to buy this beautiful record."

Mills said on air before playing the song: "Colin has decided what he wants to be Xmas Number One this year and I am in total agreement with him. It's a little bit different, saves 'The X Factor' from being Number One again this year."

This is progress, people! We can do it. It's started in bloggerland, now the Nation's DJs are taking up the cause too!

However, when we are successful, anyone who whines that they don't like it now he's successful...BE QUIET. If you're on our side you should rejoice if we get it there. Remember: even Top five is a victory for us; not getting the X-Factor pap to no.1 is a serious blow to the sinister types trying to manipulate the general public through the likes of X-Factor. A number one hit is a win for us against THE MAN.

It is of course from one of the albums of the year, A Brighter Beat, the title track which is here:

Malcolm Middleton -'A Brighter Beat.' mp3

'We're All Going To Die' is out on December 17 on download services only. Remember: 79p on iTunes or wherever you download your music from is a step towards victory.

Malcolm's MySpace is here and his website is here

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Interview: BMX Bandits

Interview: BMX Bandits

I've long dreamed of interviewing Duglas T. Stewart -and at last it has happened! A charming man, Duglas spoke to 17 Seconds about life in Scotland, just how many band members there have been over the last twenty one years and much else besides.

The band formed in Bellshill, near Glasgow, which was also where Cosmic Rough Riders were formed, and the Bandits have had links with many other scots acts, including the Soup Dragons, The Vaselines, Future Pilot AKA and Teenage Fanclub. Though they have never graced the Top 40 -at least, not at the time of writing, this band are much loved by those in the know. Kurt Cobain, who also was a massive fan of Bandits' contemporaries The Vaselines, told a New York Radio station that if he could be in any other band it would be the Bandits and Oasis supported them on tour, as a favour to their then shared label head, Alan McGee.

Currently the bands line is: Duglas T Stewart 'mostly singing', Rachel Mackenzie -mostly singing, Stuart Kidd- mostly drums, singing and acoustic guitar, David Scott- lots of stuff including piano, guitars, singing and synths, Brian McEwan- mostly bass, Jamie Cameron- guitars, and Martin Kirwan- guitars.

So, how are you and what have you been up to lately?

Well the group have been much more active over the last 3 years than we've been for a while. in 2005 we made an e.p. with a Korean girl singer called YeonGene. That was the last BMX record to feature my long term writing partner Francis Macdonald. Francis had been in the group 18 years but it became obvious that Francis and I now wanted the group to be doing different things and Francis was so busy managing bands (including Camera Obscura) and playing drums for Teenage Fanclub that I asked him to leave. It was a painful decision but I think ultimately it has been the best thing for our friendship and for BMX Bandits. David Scott (also of the Pearlfishers) then officially joined the group and David & I produced an album for YeonGene of Burt Bacharach songs featuring BMX Bandits members and some ex-BMX Bandits including Norman Blake, Eugene Kelly & Stevie Jackson. We found our first ever lady bandit Rachel Mackenzie. We released an album called My Chain in 2006 and a single called 'Doorways', which was the first thing I wrote for Rachel to sing and we did gigsin Japan, Europe, New York and in the UK. In 2007 we've released another new album called Bee Stings.

Are you still based in Glasgow?

I live in a town about 12 miles outside Glasgow called Bellshill. I was born here and went to school here with Norman. The other BMX Bandits live in or near Glasgow.

A few years back, when I met you in Glasgow, you were working at the BBC. Did this have any impact on your writing?

It did because I fell in love with someone at work. I was married at the time and loved my wife and so I started writing songs as a place where I could express my love for this new person. We weren't having an affair but becoming really close, enjoying each other and hanging out. She told me about how one of her front teeth was knocked out and I started imagining her as a street urchin in late Victorian London, pretending to be a boy but being a beautiful girl beneath the dirt and the disguise. I wrote a song called 'A Missing Front Tooth' [the opening track to My Chain] which was like an old music hall song to create a fantasy world where we could co-exist and be lovers. Then I wrote a song about why I needed/wanted to write that song. It started a chain of songs that told our story from me secretly wanting her, to her declaring her love for me, to me leaving my wife hoping for a new life, to her changing her mind and moving away. On one level it was very sad and I feel so bad about my ex-wife who was unbelievably understanding and supportive through everything but I also feel very privileged to have met someone who touched and inspired me so. I hope she's doing well. When the album came out my ex-wife phoned me from Tokyo, where she was now living, to tell me she thought it was a very beautiful album and was very proud of me. She is a very special person. I eventually left the BBC, which was stupid on one level as it gave me financial security, but there was too many ghosts there for me.

The BMX Bandits started in the eighties. Overall do you think the music scene has changed for better or worse?

I still think there is lots of wonderful and inspiring new music being made but I think it's maybe harder to find. It is difficult to sell many records now for artists who are doing something that doesn't fit into a very narrow mainstream thing and so it becomes difficult to afford doing tours for smaller bands and finding money to record. The plus side is it is easier to make music at home but this doesn't suit everybody's thing. I think the rock festival culture is quite damaging for music. In the early 80s you'd get a new band, like The Smiths would come along and they'd be making lots of singles and maybe 2 albums in a year and it kept you excited, kept the momentum going but now a new band come along and they get caught up in this whole festival circuit and 3 years later they are doing the same set at the same festivals and the whole process of them growing creatively slows way down. Also you could start liking a band in your last year at high school and then they don't release their next album until you are in your last year at Uni and then the next one when you are all grown up with a sensible job and a mortgage. It doesn't make it as exciting or as vital feeling for the fans or for the musicians I reckon.

You've always been associated with the 'Glasgow scene.' Who, if anyone, do you consider to be BMX Bandits' contemporaries?

In Glasgow it would be Teenage Fanclub, The Pastels (although they started a little earlier), Eugene Kelly, The Pearlfishers ...there has been some cross over of members with all these acts. I feel a link to newer people like Belle & Sebastian and Emma Pollock as they used to come to our shows and we'd see them at the clubs we went to and in record shops. And now there is a younger generation of new groups that I still feel a connection with coming out of Glasgow.

How many people have been in the BMX Bandits over the years?

Rachel and I counted them all up and there have been 22 members in 22 years.

Do you think the word 'indie' means anything in 2007?

It's become a marketing term for a product that is mostly not really alternative, challenging or adventurous in any way. I used to look at photos of all these boys in 90s boy bands and they'd all have the same haircuts and look like they went to the same clothes shops. You could get a copy of Smash Hits and cut out the heads, swap them round and it wouldn't make any difference. They were totally interchangable and now that's what it's like with the bands the NME and Radio 1 are selling to us as "indie" or "alternative".... interchangable pretty boys in skinny jeans with the same hairstyles making very conservative music for the masses. Just because your told something is alternative doesn't mean it is. But there are still people making some incredible and creative music on their own terms but you are unlikely to find them in the NME.

Vinyl, CDs or mp3? And why?'s the tracks that matter. I love the whole thing of looking at a beautiful 12 inch record sleeve and taking a shiney new piece of black vinyl out to play but what's really important is that the music sounds exciting and alive and from the heart. A lot of my most exciting musical experiences when I was a teenager was hearing things coming out of a crappy old transistor radio we had and so if some kid is getting excited and inspired hearing something on their phone or ipod that's great as long as it's exciting and at times confusing them.

What do you like best about Scotland?

It's where a lot of the people I love live.

And what do you like least about Scotland?

There's a lot of bigotry and sectarian hatred.

A few years back, in 1993, BMX Bandits covered Teenage Fanclub's song, 'Kylie's Got A Crush On Us.' Did you ever hear anything from her?

We got a message that she liked the track. Our record company thought we were going to get her to be in the video for the song but it didn't happen. I would have been happier if I'd heard she liked 'Serious Drugs' or something else that I wrote.

What would be your favourite albums of all time?

The Beach Boys Love You is possibly my number one. I love Pet Sounds, it was a musical revolution, but Love You has probably had a bigger influence on my music. I've met Brian Wilson a few times and was happy when he told me unprompted a couple of times that Love You is his favourite. Other big favourites for me are Gonna Take a Miracle by Laura Nyro & LaBelle, Computer World by Kraftwerk, Someday Man by Paul Williams, Histoire de Melody Nelson by Serge Gainsbourg and the soundtrack to A Fistful of Dynamite (Giu la Testa) by Ennio Morricone. There so many but those ones are pretty much always in my top ten. Recently Paul Williams' soundtrack to Bugsy Malone has been a big favourite.

What's your favourite work of art?

If it could be a song it would probably be a song called I Never Dreamed by The Cookies or maybe Past, Present and Future by The Shangri-las. If we're talking about a painting something by Matisse, maybe La Musique from 1939 or Harmony in Red/La Desserte from 1908. Matisse helped me find an aesthetic that runs through pretty much everything I like and everything I do.

Have you ever received any bizarre heckles during a gig?

When we started we used to get a lot of verbal abuse and things thrown at us. In those days a lot of people still hated or were suspicious of anything seen as being alternative. Most of those heckles were just stupid but I remember one time playing in Norway and this guy shouted out "oh Jesus help me, I'm a freak and I'm loving it baby". I don't know if that was really a heckle but it was very loud and left me speechless.

Finally, would you ever do a stunt like the KLF and burn all your profits from the band?

If we ever made a profit then maybe we could consider it but I get the feeling it would be a very small bonfire.

Hell, that's a damning reflection on the public. It's never too late to get into BMX Bandits though...

Their seminal early single:

BMX Bandits -'E102.' mp3

And from their MySpace page:

BMX Bandits -'The Audition LIVE.' mp3

BMX Bandits -'Love N Mercy.' mp3

The album Bee Stings is out now, as is the download single 'Take Me To Heaven'

BMX Bandits' MySpace

An unofficial but lovingly compiled BMX Bandits site

BMX Bandits on Wikipedia

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

300th post

..and a mere sixteen months after my first post, I finally do my three hundreth! What can I say, it's been great fun, and continues to be so.

First of all, I thought I'd start off this post with the title track of the album that gave this blog its' name. The pic at the top is The Cure circa this album. I didn't do many 17 Seconds club nights but I'm pleased that the blog is still going.

The Cure -'Seventeen Seconds.' mp3

I've written about a lot of up and coming scottish bands, like the X-Vectors for example...

X-Vectors -'Now Is The Winter Of Our Discotheque.' mp3

and watched a few of my favourite bands split up...

Arab Strap -'Here We Go.' mp3

The Cooper Temple Clause -'Let's Kill Music.' mp3

I still have to decide on my personal festive fifty, but I guarantee these tracks will be there...

Battles -'Atlas.' mp3

Hot Chip -'My Piano.' mp3

Justice -'D.A.N.C.E.' mp3

Penny Century -'Nothing Burns Like Bridges.' mp3

Emma Pollock -'Adrenaline.' mp3

As time went by, I got the vague hand of how to post tracks (which I was clueless about when I first started writing a blog!), and started doing interviews too. Getting listed at the Hype Machine was great (thanks Mr. Toad) and getting feedback still makes my day.

Personally, this blog has hinted at some of the ups and downs in life outside of this blog, but much love is due to Mrs. 17 Seconds (I wasn't even planning it when I started writing this!) and our two cats, our families and friends for keeping me sane.

Here's to the next X posts...


Monday, November 19, 2007

I'm one tired individual right now...

OK, very tired, still off work and about to head to bed.


Figured I'd post a few tracks, the sole theme here being -'songs everyone should hear.' The only link with the photo is that the Leaning Tower Of Pisa is somewhere i finally went last month, and I think everyone should go there.

So, first up...a small hit but one of the Pet Shop Boys' best ever songs:

Pet Shop Boys -'Being Boring.' mp3

From their late eighties phase rather than their late seventies phase, but still sublime...

Wire -'Kidney Bingos.' mp3

From the best selling Jazz album ever, if I can't persuade some of you that Jazz can be great, I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree...

Miles Davis -'So What.' mp3

It starts off with feedback, it has a mental sax bit, it came outta the late seventies...Pere Ubu and a love song (of sorts)

Pere Ubu -'Non-alighnment Pact.' mp3

If this doesn't bring a smile to your face, nothing will. (Though I wonder if They Might Be Giants are responsible for the very annoying band that are Barenaked Ladies.)

They Might Be Giants -'Birdhouse In Your Soul.' mp3

As ever, if you like the songs, support the artists involved.

And BTW, this is my 299th post. Will try and do something special for my 300th.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Cut Off Your Hands

Hi there,

I haven't been rendered incapable of writing due to alcoholic excess on my birthday (I've been dry for nine months now) but being off and a university friend's wedding. Now back at home, and in front of the computer screen...

These days, the Black Kids seem already to have wound up people, within a few weeks of having played their first gig outside of their regular area. One of the bands getting upset about the Hype is New Zealand's Cut Off Your Hands, who seem to be generating a fair amount of excitement themselves.

Well, I can't say if deciding whose side you're on is going to be 2008's answer to the Blur v. Oasis battle of 1995, but I think they're worth all the coverage too.

See what you think, if you haven't heard them already. Cut Off Your Hands' mySpace page is here

Cut Off Your hands -'You And I.' mp3

Cut Off Your Hands -'Still Fond.' mp3

BTW, anyone think the shot at the top is reminiscent of the Stone Roses circa '89?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Re-post: Camera Obscura

I'd had a request to repost Camera Obscura's cover of Abba's Super Trouper, so...seeing as it's my birthday and I'm trying not to focus on the fact that i'm now a thirty something...oh, why not *sigh*

Camera Obscura -'Super Trouper (Abba cover).' mp3

And as a treat, why not their cover of Sheena Easton's Modern Girl...

Camera Obscura -'Modern Girl (Sheena Easton cover).' mp3

...and finally, the title track of last year's 17 Seconds' album of the year:

Camera Obscura -'Let's Get Out Of This Country.' mp3

Camera Obscura rule. Please support them by going to your local independent record shop and buying their music, going to see them in concert (seen them three times, they're very good) etc..

Their official website is here and their MySpace is here where you can stream more tracks. What are you waiting for?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

No Wave

James Chance

No Wave was a short-lived but influential music and art movement in downtown New York in the late 1970s and 1980s. The name was a reaction to the sanitised Punk Rock trading uner the name 'New wave' for those people who wanted a sanitised version of punk (arguably, like nicotine-free cigarettes or alcohol-free lager -and that's coming from a teetoal, non-smoker!)

I'm not an authority on this period in time, hell, I was only born in 1976 and I didn't get to visit New York until this decade, but the thing that intrigues me is just how people pushed art to its' limit. Some were reacting against punk's 'three chord good, four chords jazz' constraints, realising that if you wanted to really push the boat out, then jazz actually could do that far more more than just three chords. In Simon Reynolds' utterly essential book Rip It Up And Start Again, he quotes Lydia Lunch as saying 'I hated almost the entirety of punk rock, I don't think No Wave had anything to do with it.' Adele Bertei, keyboard in the Contortions said that James Chance was 'like a Jackson Pollock painting' he was so explosive. Perhaps the most famous group to emerge out of the scene was Sonic Youth, but many of the main players went on to seriously push the buttons not only in 'Rock' music but in 'Jazz' and 'Classical' too. I use the quote marks because the No Wave bands and artists managed to push the buttons so far that labels or genres started to buckle.

Anyway, here's a small sampler of some of the wealth of music out of that scene.

Glenn Branca played in Theoretical Girls and The Static before becoming a composer, working with Sonic Youth amongst many others.

These two tracks are from the Glenn Branca '77-79 compilation, which ties up his work with Static and the Theoretical Girls:

Glenn Branca -'Glazened Idols.' mp3

Glenn Branca -'You.' mp3

These two tracks are from his early solo releases. This is from Lesson No. 1, released in 1980

Glenn Branca -'Lesson No.1 (Edit).' mp3

...and this is from The Ascension, released in 1981

Glenn Branca -'Lesson No. 2' mp3

James Chance was originally in Teenage Jesus and the Jerks with Lydia Lunch, before forming The Contortions, and then James white and the Blacks. He semi-retired but has toured recently and even played saxophone on Blondie's No Exit album in
1999, and played in Aberdeen. He embraced disco - heresy on the punk scene, and The Rapture, both pre-and post 'House Of Jealous Lovers' owe him a helluva lot.

James Chance -'Contort yourself.' mp3

James Chance -'The Twitch.' mp3

Rhys Chatham was another contemporary of the scene, who played with both Thurston Moore and Glenn Branca (whether it was Branca or Chatham who first had the idea of composing for 100 guitars -or more- is discussed in certain circles). Chatham started out as a piano tuner for the likes of La Monte Young (who was a huge influence on John Cale)

Rhys Chatham -'Drastic Classicism.' mp3

Finally, just to prove that Jazz can push boundaries, here's a 1982 track by Sun Ra and his Outer Space Arkestra -'Nuclear War' which was later covered by Yo La Tengo (available on the Prisoners Of Love compilation).

Sun Ra And His Outer Space Arkestra -'Nuclear War.' mp3

Like I say, there are people who know far more about this than me, so I suggest you consider Simon Reynolds' book, the No New York compilation, the New york Noise compilations on the fantastic Soul Jazz record label, and the Rough Trade Post Punk 01 compilation, as well as investigating the names above.

Interview: Aberfeldy

It’s good to know that sometimes even rock musicians are troubled by the minutiae of everyday life that bother the rest of us. When I arrive at Riley Briggs’ home in Edinburgh, the singer is in the middle of dealing with someone in a call centre. He apologises for keeping me waiting when he finishes, but it’s given me time to look at the very nice place he lives in, and to consider once again what I want to talk about. He emerges and makes me a very nice cup of coffee and we sit down to talk in the kitchen.

Aberfeldy emerged in 2004 on the Rough Trade label. Then, as now, they sounded beautiful, complete and very different to the majority of what was going on in the music scene -and all the better for it. Named after the Scottish town where Riley spent much of his holidays, the band’ second single ‘Heliopolis By Night’ gained single in the week in the NME, and debut album Young Forever got great reviews too. Their manager is Bruce Findlay, who managed Simple Minds, arguably the biggest Scottish band of the eighties. The band gigged in earnest and over subsequent years supported Edwyn Collins, James Blunt, Paolo Nutini and played at Edinburgh’s annual Hogmanay (December 31) supporting Blondie and the Scissor Sisters. In 2006, their second album Do Whatever Turns You On was released, again on Rough Trade. (In the inaugural 17 Seconds Festive Fifty end-of-year poll (!), Aberfeldy had two tracks.) Despite some positive reviews, the band parted company with Rough Trade at the end of last year and are still looking for a deal.

They are not the only great band to get dropped over the years. Riley cites Clor, who were tipped to be massive in 2005, as being the best live band he ever saw (‘apart from Devo’ -a big influence on him) but who were dropped after one album. The challenge to any band is to keep going, even if the record company is not being supportive, and this seems to be battle that so many bands face,.

There have been personnel changes over the three years too. Bassist Ken McIntosh is the only remaining other member of the band. Ian Stoddart, who was the drummer on Young Forever left after the first album, and was replaced by Riley’s brother Murray. Then this year in May keyboardist Ruth Barrie and violinist Sarah MacFadyen also left. Their MySpace page , in the section for band members says ‘Not telling. You might stalk us.’ So who is in the band now? ‘Ruth and Sarah left at the end of the last tour, and we had a bunch of gigs over the summer, and we were gonna cancel, but we thought “It’s not good to let down the kids and the promoters as well, so we got in Chris, who’s a very talented singer-songwriter. He came and filled in, and that was nice because it felt very natural. We also got Chris’ mate, Vicky Gray, who’s a fiddler and she’s fitting in really well. We hummed and hawed about whether to still keep calling it Aberfeldy but well…anyway, I don’t have to tell you who’s in my band if I don’t want to!’ he says, with a friendly chuckle. No, no, absolutely not! ‘It seems to have settled.’ Chris is on board and is a paid-up member.

As well as producing two great albums, Aberfeldy produced some excellent singles, which should hopefully continue. ‘Heliopolis By Night’ not only made the indie charts but also reached no.64 in the national charts. They made two excellent videos, though the video for ‘Love Is an Arrow,’ which reached no. 60 in the national charts, is a sore point. It should have been a lot higher. The animated video, with its‘ cute Inuits should have helped, and it was played on Lorraine Kelly’s Kelly Plays Pop slot on GMTV. ‘It’s quite annoying when the record company rings you up to ask if you’ve got any more copies of the single!’ Riley says, shaking his head with disbelief. The b-side ‘Tom Weir’ about the Scottish TV man became a bit of a millstone too, when people started turning up to the gigs dressed like him.

Do Whatever Turns You On, their second album, had a video for ‘Hypnotised’ filmed at Riley’s dad’s house in Kansas (apparently Riley‘s Dad is one of the wrestlers in the video). I tell Riley I ended up seeing the video in strange places -on a screen in the back of a taxi in Edinburgh, and another time in TopShop. It was, however, the only single released off the album, which should have produced other singles, if they’d been given the chance. Riley says he’s disappointed that ‘Uptight’ wasn’t a single, but concedes that it would probably have needed to have been edited.

They also ended up soundtracking a diet coke ad in America and Canada with their song ‘Summer‘s Gone. Bands are often slated for selling out when they let their music be used for advertising, but ‘In this day and age, it’s so difficult to get a record deal and keep your head above water, getting played on adverts is the best way to get your music heard.’ He says that they got a few comments on their MySpace ‘ “Oh No! How could you do this?! First Jack White and now Aberfeldy!” We’re going to have to sell out here, it’s quite heavy!’ he chuckles wryly. He was contacted by a Scottish newspaper who clearly angling for a ‘Aberfeldy singer bites the hand that feeds story’ and felt he should have been sound tracking an Irn-Bru ad. ‘Bloody journalists, totally trying to get you to say the wrong thing, which of course I did,’ he says wearily.

Does he feel that they’ve had positive coverage from the press in Scotland? ‘Yeah, it’s been pretty good.’ We discuss the NME’s coverage of the band, which started off positive and then seemed to tail off. ‘I remember the guy from the record company ringing up and saying “You’ve got single of the week in NME” and it was quite amazing, and then we read the review, and it was like they were doing it to make some arsey statement about all the other records released that week. I do remember reading a review of another band and they said they were like a ‘death metal Aberfeldy’ but that was probably the last time we were mentioned.“ There was also a spate of lazy journalism in Scotland, comparing them to Belle and Sebastian. ‘The less said about that the better!’ says Riley, darkly.

The band are playing live and are a fantastic experience. I’ve seen them live no less than eight times over the last three years, both as a support and headliners. Earlier this year I saw them gig at the Leith festival, supported by Amplifico, and they also supported Runrig at a big gig in the Highlands, and experience Riley darkly compares to being Scotland’s Altamont. A few days previously he and the band supported the Hazey Janes in Glasgow and they are also playing four dates in Scotland in December.

I ask him if they are actively looking for a new record deal, or whether they are tempted to take the Radiohead route and release the album themselves via the internet. ‘We’ve had mixed experiences with the industry,’ he says. It’s clear that, understandably, he feels rather frustrated about what happened before, and that other people’s money problems got in the way. The Diet Coke advert money came in rather handy, coming in not long after the record company let them go (remember that, the next time you criticise a band for selling out). ‘Just because a record company’s got a great reputation and they’ve put out some great record doesn’t mean that they will do you any favours,’ he says. A lesson many bands may yet have to learn. What about the future? ‘ We were thinking about [putting out the record themselves] and that’s a great thing for a band like Radiohead to do, because they’re a huge name obviously, but they’re probably never going to sell as many records as this did with [OK Computer].’ Perhaps what they might do is to do their own gigs, as opposed to playing in more conventional venues. Riley enthuses about the idea of doing ‘sort of speakeasy gigs, where you hire some sort of barn somewhere, let everyone in for free, let everyone drink, smoke, take drugs, have sex with midgets…the whole thing would just be more rock ’n’ roll. The whole thing’s just become so sanitised. Maybe that’s the way forward, forget trying to make money, play for free, give [music] away for free… I think what we might do is to start doing our own label, because these days, it’s kind of easy for people to get stuff on iTunes, and maybe press up some copies for people who want a physical copy.’

Plans for the band beyond Christmas are a little hazy at the moment. They have applied for SXSW, which they’ve played a couple of times before. All being well, 2008 will see them release their third album, which Riley has written many songs for already. It will be interesting to see how it turns out. ’Young Forever was recorded over the space of a year, in Uncle Jim’s studio, we didn’t even have a name for the band at that point.’ It was one of the charms of the record that it was indeed recorded using only one mike, much in the spirit of the first two Cowboy Junkies’ albums Whites Off Earth Now! and The Trinity Sessions. The second album felt slicker, and some people missed the charm, though had they delivered Young Forever 2 they would probably have been slated for that.

Young Forever was produced by Jim Sutherland, which Riley describes as being ‘like working with your exciting, dangerous uncle’ while Do Whatever Turns You On was produced by Calum Malcolm, who is ‘a Dad producer.’ Riley sees a producer as being a sixth pair of ears and says he would work with either of them again. A lot of the songs are five or six minutes long, ‘which means we need less for an album.’ Maybe it will have a rougher edge -’I quite like it [on demos] when you hear Ken asking if he can go to the toilet!’

Riley played me five of the new Aberfeldy songs which he has demoed with the band:

‘Claire.’ This song, which sounds to these ears like it has ’single’ written all over it, is not dissimilar to Elvis Costello lyrically. Think ‘I Want You’ or ’Pills And Soap.’ Inspired by a neighbour who complained about the noise of the band rehearsing, it’s quite dark underneath its’ sweet-sounding exterior. As Costello himself once sang ’The sugar-coated pill is getting bitterer still.’

‘Wendy When I’m Wasted.’ Riley tells me they were wasted when they recorded this. It’s about not being in control of your sexual urges. It has a great vocal effect, think Cher’s ‘Believe’ or the vocoder stylings of some Daft Punk’s work. The Wendy in question is a gag about the American burger chain. Riley says this is another potential single. He’s right.

‘Malcolm.’ This is the longest thing Riley has ever written, or co-written. His co-writer was a girl called Dorey, daughter of Van Der Graaf Generator’s saxophone player, who Riley met when he went on a song writing weekend in Italy, hosted by Chris Difford (of Squeeze fame). The song references Graham Nash, and much fun can be had spotting the different song title that ends each chorus.

‘I’ll Be In Denial’ - a personal song about his last break-up. I liked the song, but didn’t want to question him too much about this. It’s all on there…

‘Very Rock ’n’ Roll’ - Riley sees this as being their ‘Band On The Run,’ the 1974 Paul McCartney and Wings single that saw them change tempos and set out their stall as a band in their own right. This is an apt comparison.

He also played me a new instrumental track -with a guide vocal that is a nice, slow track, that’s reminiscent of ‘Young Folks’ by Peter Bjorn and John, if that track didn’t have whistling.

I can’t wait!

Aberfeldy are playing The Tunnels, Aberdeen on December 6, The Classic Grand, Glasgow on December 14, and The Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh on December 19 and 20.

Aberfeldy’s Myspace is here

From Young Forever

Aberfeldy -'Heliopolis By Night.' mp3

Aberfeldy -'Love Is An Arrow.' mp3

From Do Whatever Turns You On

Aberfeldy -'Hypnotised.' mp3

Aberfeldy -'Uptight.' mp3

Aberfeldy -'Whatever Turns You On.' mp3

If you like what you hear, support Aberfeldy by buying the records and going to their gigs. They really deserve it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Finally feeling a little more upbeat this morning, if not drastically improved. If the image for yesterday's post was a sunset (a reflection of my state of mind) then today's is that of reaching towards the sun (more for Vitamin D than anything else, mind). The first track below may have helped.

Usher -'Yeah.' mp3

Seriously, I love much of the American R&B of this decade. I couldn't get into the whole New Jack Swing stuff that I heard in the 90s (R.Kelly, Boys II Men, etc) but the impact of the Neptunes and Timbaland has created something that I am a total sucker for. This is a cover by Biffy Clyro of one of this year's finest singles -'Umbrella' by Rihanna

Biffy Clyro -'Umbrella (Rihanna cover).' mp3

And talking of covers, who is the king of the cover version? Mark Ronson or Jose Gonzalez? I like the Mark Ronson stuff I have heard this year -but Jose's versions of these tracks really hit the spot:

Jose Gonzalez -'Hand On Your Heart (Kylie Minogue cover).' mp3

Jose Gonzalez -'Teardrop (Massive Attack cover).' mp3

These will be up for a week. Enjoy, and if you like the tracks concerned, support the artists.

See you soon...

Monday, November 12, 2007

Some 'Eighties' Stuff?

Hi there...still off work and my head feels like it's overworked...

Anyway...*sigh* here are a few songs, consider this a double post as I didn't post yesterday.

There is no linking theme here, other than all this stuff came out in the eighties. It really is that tenuous.

One day I am going to do a post on the Ozzy-era Sabbath. Forget the TV show for the moment (though I'd much rather watch that than any other fly-on-the-wall thing), Ozzy has been responsible for some fantastic stuff. This is (obviously) from his solo career, and was later covered by none other than Pat Boone, as heard on the credits to The Osbournes

Ozzy Osbourne -'Crazy Train.' mp3

Guns 'n' Roses were lumped in with the hair metal lot, but they had more to them, which was probably why they crossed over. It would later all go horribly wrong, but this is where they managed to show you can write a love song that's got balls. Later covered by Luna (will have to post that some day).

Guns 'N' Roses -'Sweet Child O' Mine.' mp3

Utterly different sylistically from either of the above, The Specials and their later incarnation Special AKA wrote fantastic songs, and in some ways were the early eighties version of Massive Attack (if you stop to think about it). Anyway, 'Ghost Town' sums up not so much urban paranoia as urban fears coming true, while 'Free Nelson Mandela' helped to do exactly that. Where's the 2000s' equivalent, dammit?

Specials -'Ghost Town.' mp3

Special AKA -'Free Nelson Mandela.' mp3

This song's african drum beats were later sampled for a rather cheesy dance number called 'Sunchyne' by Dario G (I think. I've not really spent the last ten years paying much attention to it). If this doesn't move you, at least a little bit, then there's no hope.

Dream Academy -'Life In A Northern Town' mp3

This song was banned by the BBC in 1986 because it was 'obviously' about heroin. What with Grange Hill -Zammo especially- telling us just to say no, and Boy George apparently having only eight weeks to live, it was getting a pretty scarey time to be a nine year old. (years later, when I sang in a band called She Will Destroy You, we opened our first gig with a cover of this).

Jesus and Mary Chain -'Some Candy Talking.' mp3

Weird, wonderful, and heartbreakingly sad, this must have been one of the most unusual records ever to make the Top 5.

Japan-'Ghosts.' mp3

Finally, another case of me having to eat my words. I hated this song in 1988, for some reason I didn't get house music. Never mind, that 303 will get anyone in the end.

S-Express -'Theme From S-Express.' mp3

These links will be up for a week only. May my head and brain start to feel like normal soon, please...

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Covers for the weekend: The Fall

I seem to have got into the habit of doing artist related cover posts of late. Why not, eh? Following on from Sonic Youth and Placebo, how about a mini one on The Fall?

This one was originally recorded for the Sergeant Pepper Knew My Father compilation for Childline organised by NME in 1988. Smith sounds like he's almost singing, I swear!

The Fall -'A Day In The Life.' mp3

I know I've posted this before, but this, from 1993's The Infotainment Scan is a cover of a Sister Sledge song. (The same album also has them covering Lee Peery's Why Are People Grudgeful? but I cannot put my hand on it at the moment)

The Fall -'Lost In Music.' mp3

In the late 1980s, The Fall actually started troubling the national charts, though Mark E. Smith wouldn't end up appearing on Top Of the Pops until he provided vocals on the Inspiral Carpets' 'I Want You' single, in 1994 (later no.1 that year in John Peel's Festive Fifty). It may have helped that some of these were covers, but as you would expect, done in the Fall's own style, and certainly not 'obvious' songs:

This song was originally by The Kinks:

The Fall -'Victoria.' mp3

This was a soul song, by R. Dean Taylor:

The Fall -'There's A Ghost In My House.' mp3

This was by a band called The Other Half, and was The first single to make the top 75:

The Fall -'Mr. Pharmacist.' mp3

Finally, this Gene Vincent cover was a Double a-side with the single of 'Couldn't Get Ahead', taken from This Nation's Saving Grace, still my favourite Fall album.

The Fall -'Rollin' Dany.' mp3 (there is only one 'n' I have checked the sleeve)

I did consider posting their cover of 'Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!' but decided to keep that for a Christmas post. Can't believe it's already November 10...


Friday, November 09, 2007

New Futureheads track

The Futureheads are not a band to let the grass grow beneath their feet. Having parted company with 679 recordings, their record label, they are striking out on their own and showing, as so many others have done before them, that you do not need to be on a major label (very pleased to hear that Radiohead have signed to Indie XL Recordings -This is a step in the right direction).

Via their website, they have made a new track available for free, called 'Broke Up The Time.' I'm playing it for the second time as I write this. You need to hear it. It's excellent and should be on their third album next year.

Futureheads -'Broke Up The Time.' mp3

and for fun, seeing as it's Friday, a couple of covers:

Futureheads -'Hounds Of Love (Kate Bush cover).' mp3

Futureheads -'Let's Dance (David Bowie cover).' mp3

Their mySpace is here. Drop by and tell them how fab they are!

My Bloody Valentine reform!

The news is spreading across the blogs -My Bloody Valentine have reformed!

The shoegazing pioneers, without whom no Slowdive, no Lush, no Blur (go back at listen to Leisure), no Curve, no Ride... you get the picture. They're back! And they are working on a new album, which may be ready this year.

I first read about this yesterday at The Yellow Stereo. This news was apparently from the mouth of Kevin Shields himself, and their website which is being worked on by Debbie Goodge, the bassist. They also have an official Myspace here.

Read more about this at: Hate Something Beautiful,and Minneapolis Fucking Rocks.

Tempting as it is to post tracks off their seminal albums Isn't Anything and Loveless, I thought I would offer you some alternate treats.

The first is their Peel Session from the great man's show in 1988 (these were taped off the radio, so not only do you get mbv but you hear the great man's voice, too!)

My Bloody Valentine -'I Can See It (But I Can't Feel It) (Peel session).' mp3

My Bloody Valentine -'Lose My Breath (Peel session).' mp3

My Bloody Valentine -'(When you Wake) You're Still In A Dream (Peel session).' mp3

My Bloody Valentine -'Feed Me With Your Kiss (Peel session).' mp3

And a couple of b-sides -

My Bloody Valentine -'Honey Power.' mp3(from the Tremolo EP)

My Bloody Valentine -'Moonlight.' mp3 (from the Geek EP)

And, finally, a very early track that appeared on the Rough Trade Indiepop 1 compilation a couple of years ago

My Bloody Valentine -'Paint A Rainbow.' mp3

These are through FileDen. Please leave feedback!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Battle for the Christmas Number one is Go!

OK, folks, listen up.

Yesterday evening, I received an email from Mike at Manic Pop Thrills. Mike is getting a campaign going to get Malcolm Middleton's third release from the A Brighter Beat album to no.1. Most importantly, the Christmas no.1.

The single will be released on December 17, and available as a digital download -which means it can be bought from iTunes for 79p.

Oh yes...did I mention the single's name? it's called 'We're All Going To Die.'

Before anyone starts on the 'But people won't buy a sad record at Christmas, let alone get it to No.1' I would like to point out that in 1995, the Christmas no.1 was 'Earth Song' by Michael Jackson, and in 2003 it was 'Mad World' from Gary Jules. Neither of which were very upbeat, were they? And the Malcolm Middleton song is at least jaunty and upbeat (musically!), and a great song.

Also important is the fact that the song will be up against X-Factor winners, whoever they will be, and so this is also about the battle for good against evil, socialism versus capitalism, the scottish cult indie musician versus a global terror perpetuated by Louis Walsh and Simon Cowell.

Apparently it may also be up against a release by Led Zeppelin. Now, Zep were great, but, let's face it, if the Wedding Present still refuse to do encores in 2007, then Page and Plant and Jones should still be refusing to do singles in 2007. No sell out!

The odds at the bookies are 1000-1 on 'We're All Going To Die' getting to no.1 for Christmas. So let's mess with a few heads...
To paraphrase Bill Nighy's character in Love, Actually: 'Wouldn't it be great if this year the Christmas no.1 wasn't some muppets that have won a TV 'Talent' show or some aging rockers on their comeback, but a guy from Falkirk who deserves far more recognition than from just bloggers and indie kids?'

And spread the word. Today is November 8, so we have about five weeks.

Let's get going.

To whet your appetite, here are some Malcolm Middleton tracks:

From A Brighter Beat

Malcolm Middleton -'A Brighter Beat.' mp3 (via Yousendit)

Malcolm Middleton -'Fuck it, I Love You.' mp3 (via Yousendit)

Malcolm Middleton -'Beep Beep, Love You.' mp3 (via Yousendit) (for people not grown up enough to cope with swearing)

From Into The Woods

Malcolm Middleton -'Beak My Heart.' mp3 (via Yousendit)

From 5:14 Fluoxytine Seagull Alcohol John Nicotine

Malcolm Middleton -'Devil and the Angel.' mp3 (Via Yousendit)

Malcolm Middleton's site is here and his Myspace is here, you can hear the single at the latter.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


I received a communique from a reader called Laura earlier today asking if I could repost Placebo's cover of 'Bigmouth Strikes Again.'

Well, I thought, why not, and then I thought -make a post of it!

So, ALL VIA YOUSENDIT, here are some Placebo covers:

Placebo -'Bigmouth Strikes Again.' mp3 (Smiths cover)

Placebo -'Holocaust.' mp3 (Big Star cover)

Placebo -'Johnny and Mary.' mp3 (Robert Plamer cover)

Placebo -'Running Up That Hill.' mp3 (Kate Bush cover)

Placebo -'20th Century Boy.' mp3 (T.Rex cover)

and for a wee bonus...

Plaecbo -'Slave To The Wage (Les Rhythmes Digitales New Wave mix).' mp3

Placebo's website is here

BTW, am planning on doing a post on cover versions The Fall have done. Watch this space...

Just in case you're interested...

Over at Berkeley Place, there are three excellent posts devoted to covers of songs that Yo La Tengo have done, including songs by Prince, Blondie and the Human League.

And it's a pretty damn good blog anyway, so you should go visit.

Just in case you've never heard Yo La Tengo, this is a good place, their own website to get a wee sample.

Gig review: Idlewild/Twilight Sad/Broken Records

Gig review: Idlewild/Twilight Sad/Broken Records

Queen's Hall, Edinburgh, November 3, 2007

Great scottish acts I have seen on the bill together: Franz Ferdinand, Dogs Die In Hot Cars and Sons & Daughters at York Fibbers in October 2003. Fire Engines, Sons & Daughters and Aberfeldy at Edinburgh Liquid Rooms in December 2004. Aberfeldy, King Creosote and My Latest Novel at Edinburgh St. Bride's Centre in April 2005...amongst many...and now this.

My first reaction, when Mrs. 17 Seconds and I arrive at Edinburgh's Queen Hall, is 'does no-one tell me anything? I knew that the Twilight Sad were supporting (hotly-tipped, mentioned on this blog, but as yet, unseen by me) but Broken Records, last seen supporting Emma Pollock at Edinburgh's Cabaret Voltaire are here too? Just as well I rushed my long-suffering wife out of the house in time for the doors to open.

Seven piece Broken Records modestly describe themselves as 'just a local, edinburgh band' (just?! what do they think idlewild are, then?) but if they aren't signed soon then something is wrong with this picture. Songs like 'If the News Makes You Sad, Don't Watch It' and set closer 'Slow Parade' are songs that need to be heard. They take the passion of the Waterboys, and by mixing drones and good knows what else into it, make folk music for the 21st century. Despite seeming a little shy after their set when I approach them, this is serious music alchemy at work here. They are happy for me to post their songs on here and Mrs. 17 Seconds is already saying she wants to see them again. So do I. the singer's voice is comparable to Jeff Buckley, not just in tone and quality, but in range, too. They deservedly win the audience over by the end of their all-too-brief set.

Glasgow's Twilight Sad have set ears, minds and pulses racing with their debut album Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters. This album should do well in the end of year polls, and not just in Scotland either. Live they make a glorious wave of noise to lose yourself in, and if titles like second song 'That Summer, At Home I Had Become The Invisible Boy' might seem unwieldy on paper, they are a joy live and I am not disappointed. looking at my notes, I appear to have put down the comment 'like mogwai, if singing were involved.' * Joined by Alan and Rod from idlewild for the last couple of songs, the coverage that has been awarded them is deserved, and should continue to grow.

It's now over ten years since I picked up Idlewild's debut single 'Queen Of the Troubled Teens.' Now going for a fortune on 7" (well, about £50/$100) the band have developed and grown over the years, even with a few line-up changes along the way. By the time they go into 'You Held The World In Your Arms' -as their second song-the crowd is going mental. Mrs. 17 Seconds has long held the gig that I took her to for her birthday in 2005 as one of her favourites (supported by Sons & Daughters and Foxface -another great scottish lineup. This is closely followed by 'When I Argue I See Shapes' and 'No Emotion' from their most recent album, Make Another World. This might not have been the commercial success that The Remote Part was, but this is no reflection on Idlewild themselves. And as Roddy notes, 'It sold a lot of copies in Edinburgh.' 'Course it did, boys, we still see you as one of ours.

Although this is Idlewild's greatest hits tour, it should be no surprise to anyone just how many hits they have had over the last ten years, which also took them onto TOTP (how long til that returns?). 'Little discourage' (still my favourite)'American English' 'Love Speeds Us From Loneliness' 'I am a message' 'Everyone Thinks That You're So Fragile.' all of them still magical. They bring on close friend of the band Gavin Fox for vocals on 'El Capitan.'

Alas, this song is not completed as the venue is evacuated due to a fire alarm. all credit to Idlewild, though; as soon as the fire brigade have given the all-clear, they're back on stage, and the magic means that the pace is not spoiled at all and the magic is recaptured (apart from the two ______s who then sat next to Mrs. 17 Seconds and talked throughout the rest of the gig. Guys, that's what the pub's for). 'Roseability' and 'A Modern Way Of Letting Go' remind us just how diverse the singles were in musical styles, not just the albums. They don't go off for the encore, but stay on, playing 'Quee Of the Troubled Teens' (the only time I've ever heard them do it), bringing the Twilight Sad back for a gloriously ramshackle version of The ramones' 'I Wanna Be Sedated' and finish with 'The Remote Part.'Even without Edwyn Morgan's lines, this still gives you a shiver just thinking about it.

So another classic scots indie night out. A band still at the height of their creative powers, with two great acts following in their wake supporting. I was there, were you?

Idlewild -'No Emotion.' mp3 (from Make Another World, 2007) (via Yousendit)

Idlewild -'El Capitan.' mp3 (from Warnings/Promises, 2005) (Via Yousendit)

Idlewild -'Satan Polaroid.' mp3 (from Captain, mini-album, 1998) (Via Yousendit)

Idlewild's official site is here

* yes, I am aware that there are human voices on Mogwai songs like 'Dial:Revenge' and 'A Cheery Wave To Stranded Youngsters.' You are very clever. Well done. They are largely instrumental, aren't they, though? yes??

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A sort of promo...

(More idlewild coming this way very soon i promise...)

I am still about to post my review of idlewild in Edinburgh the other night, which was great, but life has been kinda insanely busy here (just for a change).

Anyway, they had two fantastic support acts, so in anticipation of my review, a sampling of them both: The Twilight Sad and Broken Records.

Some excellent mp3s

Twilight Sad

Twilight Sad -'Walking For Two Hours.' mp3 (via Yousendit)

Twilight Sad -'And She Would Darken The Memory.' mp3 (via Yousendit)

Twilight Sad -'That Summer At Home I Had Become The Invisible Boy.' mp3 (Via Yousendit)

Broken Records

Broken Records -'Kathy.' mp3 (via Yousendit)

Broken Records -'Out On The Water.' mp3 (Via Yousendit)

Broken Records -'The Russian Song.' mp3 (Via Yousendit)

And...I also interviewed Riley Briggs from Aberfeldy yesterday, who played me half a dozen new songs and told me what the band are up to, so watch this space...

Monday, November 05, 2007

Public Enemy: How one band changed how I listen to music

(with apologies to The Wire's epiphany section, from which I stole this from).

There hasn't been a great deal of Hip-Hop featured on the (electronic) pages of 17 Seconds so far, but that shouldn't be taken as a sign that I don't like it. Far from it. It's far more an indication that it's not a genre that I feel I can write with much authority on, and there are many more out there who can do so.

However, there have been many Hip-Hop singles and albums that have done a lot for me. I was ecstatic when I eventually managed to track down a 12" of KRS-One's 'Sound Of Da Police' (might post that here soon), and albums like Jay-Z's The Blueprint, Mos Def's Black On Both Sides and Wu-Tang Clan's Enter the 36 Chambers have opened my ears a lot. And not forgetting Grandmaster Flash, Sugarhill Gang, RUN DMC, Missy Elliott, Kelis, Jurassic 5...

But if I had to pick one Hip-Hop album that's had the most lasting effect on me, it has to be Public Enemy's 1988 album It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back. The reasons for this are not just to do with the music and songs, which are pretty amazing, but the way the album is put together and how it sounds. I'd been aware of Public Enemy for most of my music listening life, but I first heard this album when I was twenty in 1997.

The effect on me was quite considerable. The anger was righteous and infectious, articulate and appealing. I understood, perhaps for the first time, just how effectively samples could be used (DJ Shadow's Endtroducing... had been released not long before, but I was starting to expand my palate from the almost incessant indie and britpop that had dominated it for several years at this point). lent to me by a friend at uni, it changed how I listened to music. Not just in terms of the lyrics or the melody, but about the completeness of recorded music. The track 'Security Of the First World' certainly sounds like it might have been sampled by Madonna on the 'Justify My Love' single in 1990. The beats and manipulation of sound by DJ Terminator X are still a revelation, nearly twenty years after the album was released. And it's good to note that three of the album's tracks were Top Forty Hits in the UK, the album made the Top 10 and was the NME writer's album of the year. Not only an underground act, but a successful commercial act.

It was a result of listening to this album that made me appreciate other records for what they were. Working in London in the summer of 1999, I had my headphones on a lot of the time, listening, to amongst other things Sonic Youth's Daydream Nation, Jesus and Mary Chain's Psychocandy and the Beatles' Revolver. The latter is my favourite album of all time, but it was listening to Public Enemy that helped me to appreciate all the sonic tricks that went on, that help me to listen to it carefully, and invariably hear something new every time I listen to it, no matter how many times I've played it.

Public Enemy's influence went beyond just US Hip-Hop too. In 1991, Chuck D collaborated with Anthrax for a version of 'Bring The Noise.' Meanwhile, in 1995, Tricky and his then collaborator Martina Topley-Bird had a hit with their cover of 'Black Steel In the Hour Of Chaos' released as 'Black Steel.' It's a measure of the UK that these records were both Top thirty Hits, even if in an alternate world they should have been no. 1s. Ah well...

Public Enemy -She Watch Channel Zero?!' mp3 (Via Yousendit)

Public Enemy -'Don't Believe the Hype.' mp3 (via Yousendit)

Public Enemy -'Bring the Noise.' mp3 (via Yousendit)

And two bonus tracks...
Anthrax and Chuck D -'Bring The Noise.' mp3 (via YouSendit)

Tricky -'Black Steel (Public Enemy cover).' mp3 (via Yousendit)

Public Enemy's offical site is here

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Oh, roll on the summer

(MIA -a likely candidate for 17 Seconds' Top Fifty Albums of 2007)

It's November in Edinburgh, the shops are already getting Christmasy, and I'm very envious of any animal that gets to hibernate. Hey ho...

Anyway, how about some sounds for you? I'm trying to work out what my end of year best of list will include. It's likely to be as last year with a festive fifty of tracks and this year more than just a top ten of albums. And then, of course, how do you decide how 43 is better than 44? The list -which is my personal list, rather than any fashionistas', is likely to include Liars, Rihanna, Malcolm Middleton, PJ Harvey, Emma Pollock, The Shins, and Battles, amongst many others. It is probably unlikely to feature the latest albums by Hard-Fi or Low (which I looked forward to, then couldn't get into).

These have also cheered up 17 Seconds Towers of late:

Bricolage -'The Waltzers.' mp3

Maximo Park -'Girls Who Play Guitars.' mp3

Sister Vanilla -'Can't Stop The Rock.' mp3

The Wombats -'Let's Dance To Joy Division.' mp3

It may be worth letting any newcomers know that it certainly isn't just indieindieindie round these parts though:

Wiley -'5050.' mp3

MIA -'Pickle Down The River.' mp3

As always, these will be up for a week only (less if my bandwith gets exceeded). If you like the artists involved, please support them by buying their music, going to gigs and helping spread the word.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Some Covers For Saturday Part III

Well, I've got my USB turntable on the go again (not that it stopped working but it can be a time-consuming process) so here are a few goodies from the record collection.

The Swans were responsible for leading me to Joy Division. Aged eleven, I saw the video for their cover of Love Will Tear Us Apart on The Chart Show, a long-running UK TV show that every three weeks would do the Top Ten indie charts (the other two weeks being dance and Heavy Metal). Now the version I heard then had Michael Gira on vocals (anyone who has this please let me know etc..) but this version has the legendary Jarboe singing.

Swans -'Love Will Tear Us Apart (Jarboe vocal).' mp3

I said I would post it, and I have! A couple of years back, Franz Ferdinand and the Fire Engines issued a limited split 7" (I love these! There is nothing more indie (in the old sense of the word) than a split 7") of them covering one of the other's songs.

Franz Ferdinand -'Get Up And Use Me (Fire Engines cover).' mp3

Fire Engines -'Jacqueline (Franz Ferdinand cover).' mp3

As a huge Cure fan, I was determined to track down a copy of this for years. A few times I thought I'd got it, only to wonder why every version seemed to cut off before the end. So when I found the 12", I got it home to discover's how it's meant to sound.

Dinosaur Jr -'Just Like Heaven (The Cure cover).' mp3

I thought this was a Nancy Griffith song -obviously without the swearing -but it was written by John Prine. Anyway, this is Alabama 3's take on it.

Alabama 3 -'Speed Of The Sound Of Loneliness (John Prine cover).' mp3

Finally, another record I spent years searching for (before it was eventually available on the B-sides and rarities triple CD compilation that came out in 2004). This single had Nick and Shane singing on the A-side together, before covering one of the other's songs on the b-side.

Nick Cave and Shane MacGowan -'What A Wondeful World (Louis Armstrong cover).' mp3

Nick Cave -'Rainy Night In Soho (Pogues cover).' mp3

Shane MacGowan -'Lucy (Nick Cave cover).' mp3

These will be up for one week only. Enjoy!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Scots indie! Part 2

The Vaselines

Just a quick post, but felt like posting some classic eighties scottish indie.

From Perhaps, which may be the most underrated scottish record of the eighties.

Associates -'Breakfast 12".' mp3

The Fire Engines were a big influence on many scots bands, perhaps most notably Franz Ferdinand. I will post the split single that both bands did here at some point...

Fire Engines -'Candyskin.' mp3

OK so Psychocandy is the definitive scottish record of the eighties, but let's not forget that there were some fantastic records afterwards too.

Jesus and Mary Chain -'April Skies.' mp3

I've posted this before, but it had to be part of this post. Just sheer class. Post-punk meets indie. Oh yes, oh yay...

Josef K -'Sorry For Laughing.' mp3

Their second single on the legendary Postcard label, and my favourite song of Edwyn Collins' ultra-cool scottish heroes.

Orange Juice -'Blue Boy.' mp3

Later covered by Teenage Fanclub, the Pastels, still going in 2007, are fantastic. I met Stephen Pastel earlier this year, the most down to earth and shy musician I have ever met.

The Pastels -'Nothing To Be Done.' mp3

A huge influence on Nirvana, who covered this and two of their other songs, the Vaselines might well be Scotland's answer to the Velvet Underground.
The Vaselines -'Son Of A Gun.' mp3

If you like these tracks, seek 'em out, goddamit!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Album Review: To Rococo Rot

Album Review: To Rococo Rot -'ABC123' (Domino)

I'm not an authority on To Rococo Rot, but I've enjoyed the bits that I have heard previously in the past. I have to say my worst fears were aroused when I read the accompanying press release that said this mini-album had arisen out of a commission relating to the 50th anniversary of the Helvetica typeface (I understand this is a big deal in design circles, and there's an exhibition at the New York Museum of Modern Art). The potential for this to be horrendously pretentious sounds high on paper.

But on putting it into the CD player, it's quickly clear that it actually is great electronica. Whereas previously To Rococo Rot have specialised in more analogue sounding electronica, they have here worked only on acomputer and keyboards. The bass sounds that emerge are still fantastically pleasing and have managed to balance that difficult relationship between experimental and listenability.

At only twenty monutes long, it doesn't hang about, but it's a rewarding listen. Much of the best electronica comes out of Germany (think Kraftwerk, and the enduring influence of the so-called 'Krautrock' bands) and this is certainly a very Eurpoean record. For my money, 'lvx 4' is the best track here. If you want to hear what this band are about, this is an excellent place to start. Don't let the thought of the inspiration put you off...

ABC123 is out now on Domino

From ABC123:

To Rococo Rot -'Freitag.' mp3

To Rococo Rot -'lvx 4.' mp3

Two older tracks from To Rococo Rot:

To Rococo Rot -'Rock On, Lovers.' mp3

To Rococo Rot -'Cars (Variant).' mp3

To Rococo Rot's Myspace