Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Album Review: Popup

Popup -'A Time And a Place' (Art Goes Pop)

Popup have now been around for several years, but this is their debut LP. And instead of rushing it at the first whiff of interest, it's paid off that they've developed it over time. Debut single 'Lucy, What You Trying To Say?' was released over two years ago, and appears again here. The album has been made with help from the Scottish Arts Council (now that's what I pay taxes for, not for bombing the shit out of countries where the infrastructure's already collapsing).

Whilst some idiots (without listening properly) might dismiss them as 'another jangly guitar band from Scotland' more fool them, frankly, because there's excellent tunes on here, and some fantastic lyrics, that can hold their own with the likes of Pete Doherty, Alex Turner and fellow-countryman Aidan Moffat. I think my favourite might well be 'we shared a cigarette/turned out he had tourettes' from the aforementioned Lucy...

Over the course of thirteen tracks, right from opener 'Love Triangle' to closer Lucy, there's witty, biting lyrics and excellent tunes. 'Love Triangle', by the way, is about siamese twins cheating in love. This is a warm, exciting debut that makes you want to hear it again and again. Whilst much of the plaudits at the moment for debut albums for scottish bands are for Glasvegas, let's make sure that we all pay heed to Popup.


A Time And A Place is available to download now on iTunes and eMusic, and is released on Art Goes Pop on October 6.

Lucy, What You Trying To Say?

Chinese Burn

Popup website/Popup's myspace

Monday, September 29, 2008

The world's gone mad...

The world seems to be in serious economic turmoil,and it's getting worse.

As a teacher, one of the things I do with classes, particularly if they have a double period, is to give them a general knoweldge and current affairs quiz to see what they know.

Sometimes it is nothing short of depressing to find out how little they know about the world they live in. Families no longer seem to buy newspapers, and whilst the know what Peter and Jordan are up to, there's seemingly very little awareness of their own history or what's going on in the world. 'What's this got to do with me?' The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist...

Whilst my parents and I haven't always agreed on politics, at least they encouraged me to take an interest in the world around me and to get involved.

As a teacher in Scotland, two days have been given up to striking by Unison, whose workers not unreasonably want a decent wage. Living where we do, the impact of HBOS being bought out is still waiting to be felt.

I don't put my political views down my students' throats, it isn't on, though I will rip shreds off kids who make racist remarks (the Polish are getting a lot of stick around where I teach), but it depresses me to think that people think that politics cannot change the world, or that it has nothing to do with them.

So, in support of the workers and those who are really struggling at the moment, these are for you:

Billy Bragg -'There Is Power In A union.' mp3

These are two different versions of the Angelic Upstarts' track 'Solidarity. First the video...

...and a different recording of the song

Angelic Upstarts -'Solidarity.' mp3

Sad songs say so much...

One of my favourite albums of the decade has to be Things We Lost In The Fire by Low.

This is the opening track, and it kinda speaks for itself...Enjoy...

Low -'Sunflower.' mp3

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Album Review: RTX

RTX -'J.J. Got Live RaTX.' (Drag City)

Another violently cool release from Drag City...

Four years ago, Royal Trux was disbanded by its' founders and main runners Jennifer Herrem and Neil Haggerty. This is the third album that 'junkie icon guitarist' Herrema has put out under the RTX banner.

Being on Drag City, rightly or wrongly clearly makes this violently cool, to a certain sorta indie hipster, though the roots of this album have far more to do with pre-grunge metal. Not the eighties boys who spent more time on their hair than thier riffs, but those who had Sabbath, Zeppelin and Van Halen running through their veins. The fact there is a picture on the back of a girl with a leather jacket with a picture on it of a tiger gives you the sorta aesthetic we're dealing with here. Though with a fair bit in common with the likes of early Mudhoney and Royal Trux too, obviously...

So, is it inventive? No, but it's a lot of fun, and it has a hell of a lot of balls. The sort that would see the likes of The Darkness off pretty quickly, whiilst threatening the likes of The Black Crowes and ZZ Top into leaving pretty sharpish while they were at it. There's a cover of the barbarians' 'Are You A Boy or Are you A girl?' which given how scary Herrema can no doubt be at times, seems quite appropriate.

In this day and age, this kinda seems almost violently anti-commercial and perhaps all the better for it.

***1/2, no on second thoughts ****

RTX -'Cheap Wine Time.' mp3

J.J. Got Live RaTX is released on October 20 on Drag City.

RTX's myspace

Great Scottish-set films

Finally saw Hallam Foe yesterday, an excellent film set in Edinburgh.

It's quite fun, sitting down watching films and recognising your (adopted) home town in places recognising many of the sights. And as usual, a story that is very different from your own life. Dark in places, but very funny in others. Very much worth checking out. And if you didn't want to see it, just because the last time you saw Jamie Bell he was in Billy Elliott, then shame on you!

An excellent soundtrack, not all scottish indie, but three fantastic tracks that I think everyone should hear:

Orange Juice - 'Blue Boy.' mp3

Franz Ferdinand -'Hallam Foe Dandelion Blow.' mp3

Sons & Daughters -'Broken Bones.' mp3

Other great scottish set films would include: Restless Natives, Sweet Sixteen, Local Hero, Gregory's Girl, Shallow Grave, Trainspotting...oh and I've never seen Brigadoon or Greyfriar's Bobby.

Hope you're enjoying your weekend...

Saturday, September 27, 2008

A sort of book review

OK, that's a bit of a lie. But I am currently reading Mark E. Smith's Renegade, and it's an excellent autobiography. He takes no prisoners, makes no apologies and the book's the better for it.

So why not some Mark E. Smith related music?

One of the things that clearly rankles with him is the accusation that Brix Smith, the Fall's onetime guitarist and one time Mrs. Smith made The Fall poppier and more accessible. (I notice that the Fall essentials on iTunes still has a picture of Mrs and Mrs M.E. Smith. Wonder what he has to say about that?!) This track is from 1995, when Brix was back in the band again.

The Fall -'Don't Call Me Darling.' mp3

One of my favourite Fall tracks, which is saying something, from 1985's This Nation's Saving Grace, probably still my favourite Fall album.

The Fall -'Spoilt Victorian Child.' mp3

Of course, he has collaborated with other folks. This was the track that finally saw him on Top Of The Pops in 1994, with the Inspiral Carpets:

Inspiral Carpets -'I Want You (featuring Mark E.Smith).' mp3

This track was originally credited to Mouse On Mars featuring Mark E. Smith and called 'Wipe That Sound' in 2005 (I know this true, I have the 12"). Then last year, they collaborated for an album together under the name Von Sudenfed on the album Tromatic Reflexxions, which called it 'That Sound Wiped.'

Von Sudenfed -'That Sound Wiped.' mp3

Anyone else read it?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Presenting...It Hugs Back

Another new release bag through the door...somehow, already I cannot stop playing it!

Signed to 4ad, out on tour soon, and with this track already downloadable from iTunes and out on 7" on Monday...what are you waiting for? Like Arcade Fire, Bruce Springsteen and Sonic Youth discovering that they've got common ground...b-side take apart' is also pretty ace and goes further down the Sonic Youth route.

It Hugs Back official site/It Hugs Back myspace

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Album Review: The Residents

Album review: The Residents -'Bunny Boy.' (Mute)

Some things you just can't make up...

"Not long ago, an unsolicited DVD arrived at The Residents' studio. Since the location of the group's private inner sanctum is a closely-guarded secret, the appearance of the disc was definitely regarded as a little strange. Other than the occasional piece of junk mail, nothing ever arrived at The Residents' intimate work space without an invitation. But the envelope containing the disc bore a familiar return address, so, after first ignoring it for a few weeks, The Residents finally opened the package and put the disc, crudely-labelled "Postcards From Patmos," into a DVD player.

Fascinated, the group watched as a most curious document unfolded before their eyes. It seems that a former colleague, known to everyone as "Bunny", had become convinced that his brother had disappeared on the Greek island of Patmos. After weeks of vainly attempting to get assistance in locating his lost sibling, the man detailed his plight in a series of videos. Technically inept, The Residents' former friend was reaching out to them for assistance. It seems the man had heard of YouTube and other internet video websites, but he had no idea how to upload his pathetically primitive cry for help.

Uncertain as to whether they were watching evidence of a real problem, ignored by friends and authorities, or the gradual breakdown of a once-stable personality, The Residents were nevertheless moved by their friend's dilemma and immediately decided to offer their help. Using their colleague's return address and last-known phone number as starting points, they attempted to reach him but got no response. Determined, they contacted other friends and former co-workers of the man, but no one had seen him for months. It was as if he had disappeared.

The group then thought the best solution was to upload their friend's video exactly as it was given to them, but after watching the DVD several times, they came to the conclusion that it was simply too crude - even for YouTube. The lighting, sound quality and camera work were so substandard that their friend's cry for help would never be seen. While posting the videos might be a labour of love, the group's energy and affection was obviously misplaced. But what could they do?

After brief consideration, the answer became obvious and the original "Postcards From Patmos" DVD became the inspiration for The Residents' latest project. Changing the name to The Bunny Boy in honour of their missing friend, the group recorded an album of pop songs based on the contents of the original DVD. Then, continuing to feel pathos and inspiration for their colleague's situation, they re-created the original "Patmos" videos."

So what does it sound like? Weird, oddly listenable, and one you keep coming back to.


The Residents blog/The Residents' MySpace

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The big news is...

...17 Seconds Records have made their first signing!

Want to know who it is?

Well, come on over to the webpage and the myspace, find out and make friends!

Monday, September 22, 2008

My favourite tune of the moment...

M.I.A. 'Paper Planes.'

...making major inroads in the U.S. too.

Surely her time is now...loving that Clash sample as well...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Is it really thirty years since these tracks?

It's been a wonderful weekend, I've had a great time, and feeling quite 'up' for a Sunday evening.

Kinda taken aback to suddenly realise that it is now thirty years since these debut tracks were released. My world's still shaking from the implications of these...

Is there a rule for debut singles? I kinda think they should be like a manifesto. After all, it may be the only shot you ever get, so sing it loud and sing it proud...

The Fall -'Bingo Master's Breakout!' mp3

Steel Pulse -'Ku Klux Klan.' mp3

Scritti Politti -'Skank Bloc Bologna.' mp3

Gang Of Four -'Damaged Goods.' mp3

Adam and the Ants -'Young Parisians.' mp3

Magazine -'Shot By Both Sides.' mp3

This is a cheat, but it was the b-side and just as good as the a-side...

The Cure -'10:15 Saturday Night.'mp3

I could also have posted Siouxsie and the Banshees, Kate Bush, P.I.L...

the big question is: will we realise who all the good debut singles of 2008 were by at the end of this year, or in thirty years' time? Answer below please...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Whose Sonic Youth is it anyway?

I have written on these pages before about my love of both Sonic Youth and The Wire magazine. But I have to be honest, I found myself bristling when I got Issue #295. No less than three Sonic Youth books were being reviewer, and they were all slated by the reviewed David Keenan, a writer I normally have a lot of respect for. Keenan's attitude is best summed up here: 'Who are all of these people who go to sellout Sonic Youth shows and yet never pick up a record on Thurston Moore's Ecstatic Peace label or even know any Sonic Youth albums pre-Daydream Nation?

Actually, I have investigated and bought Sonic Youth albums pre-Daydream Nation, and I do have stuff released on Ecstatic Peace. But I'm not happy with the idea of people being looked down on because they don't.

To be fair to David Keenan, he obviously really knows his Sonic Youth inside out. And that includes all the side projects, the releases they have done on the SYR records, the solo albums and the collaborations, be they with Lydia Lunch, Jim O'Rourke or Merzbow. This needs documenting, and I'm still learning. But is it really fair to turn your nose up at the people who came to Sonic Youth via seeing them on Lollapolooza, MTV's 120 Minutes or Alternative Nation, or hearing them in Juno? Whilst it's one thing to feel that a book isn't properly researched, it's quite another to be snobby about it. Courtney Love once commented that the problem with Alternative Rock was that it was riddled with middle-class snobbery and she is absolutely right. And this extends, most definitely to notions of the avant-garde.

I first heard Sonic Youth in late 1990, when a friend played me Goo. This did lead to me investigating their back catalogue. I have to put my hand up and say that I have only seen them live once. Sometimes geography can be a real barrier, as can money and oh yes, a day job. But if someone hones in on Sonic Youth because of hearing their cover version of the Carpenters' 'Superstar' why is that less worthy? There will be people whose epiphany moments will come as a result of those moments in High Fidelity, Garden State or Juno. Does this make them less adequate fans?

There have been lots of side projects, and I cannot write about them all here because I do not consider myself qualified to do so. As Ciccone Youth they recorded cover versions of Madonna's Burning Up and Into The Groove(y) (sic), and Robert Palmer's 'Addicted To Love' working with Dinosaur Jr's J Mascis and the Minutemen's Mike Watt. I treasure my Sonic Youth/Mudhoney split single where they cover each other's songs. But I don't think the less of someone who still thinks that Dirty is a better album than Bad Moon Rising.

Some of the side projects can be disorientating. The collaboration beween Thurston Moore, Evan Parker and Walter Prati, The Promise, can seem like a bewildering listen. I know many felt completely freaked out by the Goodbye 20th Century SYR release. I like the 'J'accuse Ted Hughes' release from earlier this year, but this isn't for everyone. Other projects, like Thurston Moore's solo album from last year Trees Outside The Academy or Kim Gordon's ongoing side-project Free Kitten are more, dare I say it, accessible. That doesn't mean that they're boring or lack experimentation, it's just that they're easier to listen to and get into.

I somehow doubt that Sonic Youth sit there worrying, anyway. Over the course of more than half a century, they've ploughed their own furrow. this year, they have released a best-of through Starbucks music, and then announced that they're signing to Matador. Perverse buggers.

From Goo, still my favourite Sonic Youth LP

Sonic Youth -'Kool Thing.' mp3

and just to prove that I do know something of Sonic Youth away from their more mainstream stuff, Mr. Keenan...

From 1987's Sister LP

Sonic Youth -'Schizophrenia.' mp3

From Free Kitten's release Inherit

Free Kitten -'Erected Girl.' mp3

From last year's Trees Outside The Academy

Thurston Moore -'Fri/End.' mp3

[Oh, these last two tracks are from the Ecstatic Peace label. There now, we can all share!]

From the aforementioned Thurston Moore, Evan Parker and Walter Prati release The Promise

>Thurston Moore, Evan Parker and Walter Prati -'Our Future.' mp3

Sonic Youth's official site/Sonic Youth's mySpace

Ecstatic Peace website/myspace

Friday, September 19, 2008

Album Review: Mogwai

Mogwai - 'The Hawk Is Howling.' (Wall Of Sound/PIAS)

It's been a pretty good year for Mogwai and their fans. Earlier this year, Chemikal Underground re-issued their seminal debut Young Team, their latest EP Batcat has debuted at no.1 in the indie charts, and now they release their sixth studio album.

More than a decade into their career, Mogwai are also still capable of surprising us. This is exactly what makes them such a rewarding listen, and why I still get excited about each new Mogwai release. For the last couple of months, the mp3 of 'The Sun Is Too Loud' has been doing the rounds. John Peel used to say about The Fall that they were 'always the same; always different.' And that sums up Mogwai particularly well too. 'The Sun...' features more of an electronic take on their sound than we've ever had from Mogwai, and it makes sense listening to it that on their forthcoming tour they will be supported by Fuck Buttons.

This release has been described as being more cinematic than previous releases, and I would agree with that. Whilst there's no repetition of that moment on their debut's 'Like herod' track when it explodes, making you jump like the final scene in Carrie, there's still gorgeous echoes of 'Mogwai fear Satan.' 'King's Meadow' particularly is a gorgeous slow number.

As a mostly instrumental act, Mogwai have forged their own distinctive sound. They're labelled post-rock, but Mrs. 17 Seconds commented that they sound scottish; not because they use the bagpipes, but because of the way the guitars and drums sound. Mogwai are a mass of beuatiful contradictions that always seem to balance perfectly. A decade in, and each album still sets its' own stall out differently. No collaborations with Aidan Moffat or Gruff Rhys here; these have been done before.

Is there a gameplan? Who knows, but on the strength of this latest release, Mogwai seem incapable of letting us down, but always surprising and delighting us. Long may they run.


The Hawk Is Howling is released on Monday on Wall Of Sound/PIAS

Mogwai -'The Sun Smells Too Loud.' mp3

The video for current single 'Batcat.' If 'Xmas Steps' seemed to evoke David Lynch, this evokes The Wicker Man and It.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Six of the records that shaped dance music, 1977-1989

A friend came to stay the other week who I've known for twenty years. As is the case, we spent a fair amount of time discussing music. He's been more of a dance fan than 'indie' over the last decade, though those two genres are not mutually exclusive. he's been excavating the old dance stuff, and with my love of music from 1977-1982, it's clear that this era stamped its' mark on dance just as much as indie.

Having picked up an Arthur Russell compilation (on whom more to come!), I thought I would post three dance classics:

First up a classic. I wrote about Chic's Good Times back in March, so here it is again.

Chic -'Good Times.' mp3

I mentioned Arthur Russell earlier; I will do a No Wave post one of these days...

James Chance -'Contort Yourself.' mp3

This record featured an American vocalist, but it's a very European-sounding record.

Donna Summer -'I Feel Love (12" version).' mp3

These guys came out of the same Bristol scene that spawned Massive Attack, Nellee Hooper, and Tricky, amongst many others.

Pigbag -'Papa's Got A Brand New Pigbag.' mp3

And the first sample strewn record to top the charts in the UK:

M/A/R/R/S -'Pump Up The Volume.' mp3

Of course, by the end of the eighties, it wasn't just New York and Chicago doing house, but Italy was doing 'Italia House.' And this was probably its' best known hit:

Black Box -'Ride On Time.' mp3

Of course, there are many more out there...watch this space...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Rick Wright remembered (1943-2008)

17 Seconds would like to extend its' heartfelt sympathy to Rick Wright's family. The Pink Floyd keyboardist passed away yesterday at the age of 65.

Though much of the coverage of Pink Floyd over the years has focused on founder member Syd Barrett (whose solo albums Wright contributed to), and the power struggle between bassist Roger Waters and guitarist David Gilmour, the contributions made by Rick Wright (and drummer Nick Mason) to the band cannot be underestimated. Floyd's albums have (mostly) dated extremely well, and it should be remembered that rick Wright has been an important factor in that.

Though he tended to focus more on performing keyboards, he also contributed to songwriting in the band, one of his earliest contributions being 'Paint Box' the b-side to third single 'Apples and Oranges.' 'The Great Gig In the Sky' and 'Us and Them' from The Dark Side Of The Moon. The only Floyd album to which he didn't contribute was 1983 The Final Cut, having been effectively kicked out of the band by Waters in 1979.

We salute you sir, here are two Pink Floyd related tracks, the aforementioned 'paint Box' and the opening track from their 1967 debut The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, 'Astronomy Domine.' Although this wasn;t credited to him, Rick Wright actually sang lead vocals on this track.

Pink Floyd -'Paint Box.' mp3

Pink Floyd -'Astronomy Domine.' mp3

Rick Wright at Wikipedia

Monday, September 15, 2008

Album Review: Hanggai

Hanggai - 'Introducing Hanggai' (World Music Network)

Hanggai are a Beijing-based group. They specialise in adaptations of songs from the inner grasslands of Inner Mongolia. This is their debut album, and stands as one of the most astoundingly beautiful albums I have heard this year.

This album has already picked up some excellent reviews, and deserevdly so. Whilst I don't knowingly understand a word of what they are singing, at least until I read through the lyrics on the web, at the risk of descending into cliche, there are times when the music-making and the singing itself transcend the need for this. Over the course of ten songs in forty minutes, it is a charming listen that stretches across continents. I'm not an authority on 'folk/world' music (and I'm starting to have issues with the concept of 'World' music; The Wire's 'label' of 'Global' is a slight improvement) but the feeling of listening to this album is how it has something in common with music that comes from very different places. Comparisons have already been made with the Velvet Underground, due to the use of drones, but there are also hints of The Incredible String band. Penultimate song 'Drinking Song' could have men from anywhere joining in highfiving each other.

The album involves techniques like throat-singing, and traditional instruments like the two-stringed lute and the horse-hair fiddle. The album was produced by Robin Haller and Matteo Scumaci. As with much 'East meets West' music, there will no doubt be those who feel that things are being 'westernized' in order for sales;* and anyone who's listened to the Bhundu Boys might feel that concern (see the different recordings available of 'Waerera'), the feeling at the end of the forty minutes is that this is just a beautiful album on any terms. Do yourself a favour and check this out now.

Hanggai -'Yekul Song.' mp3

Hanggai -'Five Heroes.' mp3

Hanggai - 'Haar Hu.' mp3

Hanggai's official website/Hanggai's Myspace

* In The Wire 295, Julian Cowley's review comments that: 'revivalists perform a balancing act that's tricky enough to accomplish without such pressure from a thumb on the scales.'


It's here. My favourite time of year. A time when everything seems to be changing.

It's been a long weekend. Long, in the sense of 'I've had mroe than just Saturday and Sunday off.' Long in so many ways...

There's a huge pile of CDs to be reviewed, Glasvegas' debut didn't get to no.1 and I'm frazzled. But hey...

Ash, one of Mrs. 17 Seconds' favourite bands, released this track ten years ago on their Nu-Clear Sounds LP. To me, it sounds like autumn. It was never a single, at least in the UK, but hearing it again reminds me of how much has changed in that time, and how much is, thankfully, still the same.

Ash - Folk Song.' mp3

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Album Review: David Grubbs

David Grubbs -'An Optimist Notes The Dust.' (Drag City)

This album has been described by its' creator as 'A step into the void.' It's fitting that it's out on Drag City, a label visionary enough to release music such as this. It's more surprising to read in the accompanying sleevenotes that it was mostly recorded in Brooklyn, bteween November and March. A surprise, as the sound and feeling David Grubbs evokes are hot, hazey, dusty summer days. The ones that are inland, that make you tired and yet, are somehow really beautiful.*

Then, looking further at the sleevenotes, it transpires that additional recording was made by Paul Oldham in Kentucky in July 2007 'on a day that hit a record 105 degrees before thunderstorms came, turned the sky green and thrashed the cornfields.'

While something as unique as this record is hard to compare to many other artists (hence the allusions, in true British style, to the weather), think Slint circa Spiderland, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy circa Master and Everyone. Third track 'Holy Fool Music' is perhaps the most different sounding track on the album, my notes reading that it evokes Pavement and prime-era Sonic Youth, with a hint of Led Zeppelin circa Physical Graffitti.

David Grubbs' music is something other, something special. Check this album out to hear it. I think I've exhausted my thesaurus.


David Grubbs -'An Optimist Declines (edit).' mp3 [taken from the Drag City page]

An Optimist Notes The Dust is released on September 29, 2008

David Grubbs' mySpace

* Mind you, Transformer was recorded in London.

It's David vs. Goliath...

...oh no, hang on, it's not. A mere nine months after 17 Seconds bigged them up and interviewed them, Glasvegas are going head to head with Metallica in the album charts.

Is it about sales? Well, no, but it's a sign of how far a band can come...watch this video from the UK's ITN news.

Glasvegas v Metallica in the battle of the bands
Glasvegas v Metallica in the battle of the bands

Amusing, no? Although the idea that for running a race you get chocolate and fizzy drinks (note to non-scots: in scotland 'juice' is the name given to fizzy drinks, not necessarily something that comes from fruit), perhaps speaks volumes about Scotland's health issues...

Anyway, 17 Seconds is firmly routing for Glasvegas in this battle.

Album Review: Martina Topley-Bird

Martina Topley-Bird -'The Blue God' (Independiente)

Five years since her solo debut, Quixotic, Martina Topley-Bird releases the follow-up The Blue God. This is an album I've been really enjoying over the last few weeks, and it's about time that I sat down and wrote the review.

The first thing to say is that like her former collaborator, Tricky, it is time to consider this album without expecting it to sound like Maxinequaye. While there is no denying that it was and is an astounding album, we need to consider his and her works on their own terms.

So, no, this is not trip-hop. Rather like Santogold's album from this year, this is an album which is pop, in the intelligent sense of the word, rather than the connotations with manufactured acts that have sullied it, and dumbed it down. It's probably appropriate that it's produced by Danger Mouse, who has firmly established himself as one of this decade's key producers. Those vocals are still there, gently nagging at you and pulling you in. There's a hint of blues, a fair bit of soul, a lot of sheer gorgeousness. In fact, this album has far more in common with, say, prime-era Cardigans than trip-hop.

Highlights of the album would include the single 'Carnies' and 'Poison' but what impresses is just how each time I play this album, another track puts itself as a contender for the album's strongest cut. It's time that Ms. Topley-Bird is acknowledged as one of Britain's great singers and viewed on her own terms.


The Blue God is out now on Independiente

Martina Topley-Bird -'Carnies'

Martina Topley-Bird -'Poison' on Jools Holland

Martina Topley-Bird's webpage

Friday, September 12, 2008

'Scuse me pal, can ye spare some change?

I've written about my sheer admiration of the wonderful Richard Thompson before. Today's post is only partly about him, but mainly a reflection of worry about a worsening of the economy, and how it affects so many people. For some, it's a worry about how to pay the mortgage. For some, a worry about how to survive into next week. And still some people think politics is nothing to do with them.

Richard Thompson's song 'Last Shift' is reflection on the closure of the Grimethorpe colliery in 1993. The number of mines in the UK has fallen drastically over the last twenty five years, as Conservative governments shafted the working people. Some folks' somewhat disturbing attitude is that if it's not making a profit, we close it down, and sod the infrastructure, the successive generations of unemployment. It would have been nice if when quoting the prayer (not St. Francis of Assisi, though it was attributed to him) on Downing St in 1979 if God had struck Margaret Thatcher down. Failing that, Norman Tebbit for his 'My Father did not riot. My father gor on his bike and looked for work.'

It impacts in so many ways. I've torn strips off kids for making anti-Polish remarks as they are currently the whiping boys of society for unemployment. There's a Citizenship day coming up at school, probably time for me to explain how casual racism leads to global disaster.

That Richard Thompson song, anyway, before I get this blog withdrawn for being too political.

' Stow your gear and charge your lamp
Say goodbye to dark and damp
DSS will pay your stamp
Last shift, close her down

Leave your manhood, leave your pride
Back there on the mucky side
Take the cage for one more ride
Last shift, close her down

Put the business in the black
And they've stabbed us in the back
With old school ties and little white lies
They left our town for scrap

Golden handshake, sling our hooks
Now we're nursemaids, now we're cooks
Now our kids steal pension books
Last shift, close her down

Now the scrapper boys infest
And the wrecking balls caress
Like vermin round a burial ground
They catch the smell of death

Old Grimey's lost its soul
Fifty million tons of coal
And we're beggars on the dole
Last shift, close her down
Last shift, close her down'

Richard Thompson & Danny Thompson -'Last Shift.' mp3

It got me thinking about this song, by The Men they Couldn't Hang.

Oh this is an old story that's rarely ever told
the raping of the country, of the valley
the men who came to reap with a musket and a bible
they wanted to take the valley
the valley! the valley!
they wanted to take the valley
and oh the ironmasters, they always get their way

and so far a pittance all the people worked the land
all the men and the women and the children
and on sundays it was down to the chapel in the town
the preacher said give generously!
give generously! give generously!
the people they gave generously
and oh the ironmasters, they always get their way

the union met in secret on the dark side of the hill
by the light of a thousand candles
their pay had been cut, all the people come on out
and by scores they were joining Rebecca
Rebecca! Rebecca!
the people were joining Rebecca
and oh the ironmasters, they always get their way

ironmaster, call the army
call the hungry from the irish sea
ironmaster, call the parliament
it's no sin to fight to be free!

from the smokey stacks of merthyr
to the hills of Ebbw vale
from Swansea docks to Merseyside and Liverpool
with the union leaders crushed
and the union quickly smashed
they blackend the face of the country
the country! the country!
they blackend the face of the country
and oh the ironmasters, they always get their way

now on a hill in Brecon is Crawshay's ruined house
and it blackens out the green of the valley
and on the battered grave is the epitaph they gave
it stands there, god forgive him!
forgive him! forgive him!
and all who rot in hell with him
and oh the ironmasters, they always get their way

ironmaster, call the army
call the hungry from the irish sea
ironmaster, call the parliament
it's no sin to fight to be free!

and oh the ironmasters, they always get their way
and oh the ironmasters, they still get their way!

The Men They Couldn't Hang -'Ironmasters.' mp3

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Have tomorrow and Monday off, as one of Scotland's strange but welcome middle-of-nowhere holidays.

So, I'm tired but happy and feel like celebrating. Play air guitar and dance around like a mad thing.

And whatever the mythical Chinese Democracy album might sound like, I still love this track.

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

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Motorcycle Boy - repost

I have received a couple of very polite requests in my inbox about posting Motorcycle Boy, so here is the first EP, Big Rock Candy Mountain:

Motorcycle Boy -'Big Rock Candy Mountain (Velocity Dance Mix).' mp3

Motorcycle Boy -'Room At the Top.' mp3

Motorcycle Boy -'His Latest Flame.' mp3

Motorcycle Boy -'Big Rock Candy Mountain (7" mix).' mp3

Thanks to Tom for supplying these mp3s in the first place.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Is the world going to end, then, Sir?

One of the things about teaching is that you are simultaneously supposed to know everything, and suspected of knowing nothing. You are also expected to be morally perfect...and tolerant of the students clearly not being.

When you teach what is this week dubbed 'Religious Moral and Philosophical Studies' (and believe me, I come from the philosophy spectrum), you are also expected to know about what God thinks.

Now that the world is apparently going to end tomorrow, I thought this cheery number from 1982, by a band called Defuser, might be appropriate.

Defuser -'World Suicide.' mp3

Do I think the world's going to end tomorrow? Well, if it doesn't, and your homework's not in Thursday morning, then it might...

Monday, September 08, 2008

Was this the funkiest 'Goth' track ever?

Part of my 'alternative awakening' at the age of fourteen was Bauhaus' second album, Mask.

I was getting into 'indie' music, and the name and the image kind of intrigued me, so I bought the cassette. For many years, it was the album's opening track 'Hair Of the Dog' with its' lyrics that evoked a wander around an asylum, but a few years ago, this came on whilst waiting for Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, this came on. It fitted perfectly with the then prevailing new wave of post-punk, and sounded remarkably fresh.

And the cover art on the 12" single looked cool as anything.

Bauhaus -'Kick In the Eye(2).' mp3

Gig review: Glasvegas

Glasvegas, Edinburgh Liquid Rooms, September 7 2008

...and still they rise. With just a matter of hours to go before their debut LP is released, Glasvegas headline Edinburgh's Liquid Rooms. Their current UK tour has completely sold out, this date sold out within 24 hours, and tickets are changing hands for £50 on ebay. Right the way up the street, the touts are begging to buy tickets (about time they were clamped down on, once and for all).

So, can Glasvegas cut it live? You betcha. The sense of expectation once inside the Liquid Rooms is intense. Making our way up to the balcony, Mrs. 17 Seconds and I and our friends can barely see the stage, but we're swept away by the atmosphere. With chants of 'There's only one James Allan' and 'Here we, Here We, Here We f****g go' the sense of expectation is immense.

And from the minute they wallk on stage, until they walk off, Glasvegas deliver. And how. They come on stage, tear straight into 'Flowers and Football Tops' and it's brilliant. They don't pause for breath for the next forty minutes as they play songs from their self-titles debut. 'Lonesome Swan,' 'It's My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry,' 'S.A.D. Light,' Polmont On My Mind,' 'Geraldine' all go by in almost a blur. The band acknowledge the audience, but don't milk it, preferring instead to make the music speak for itself. 'Go Square Go' gets a rapturous response. 'Ice Cream Van' reminds us of how sad and epic they can be. Finally they finish with 'Daddy's Gone' the song that's gone from a limited 7" to a major anthem in the space of less than a year.

No longer the next big thing, Glasvegas are the sound of now. We walk out, on a wave of good feeling that lasts right into the next day. This is a band who matter.

[Thanks is due to James Allan, who when I interviewed him said they'd stick me on the guest list next time, and his sister/manager Denise who did. And not least to Ken for getting Mrs. 17 Seconds in as a +1).

Glasvegas' debut LP Glasvegas is out now.

Glasvegas' mySpace

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Happy birthday brother Seconds!

This post is to wish my little brother a happy birthday for September 8th.

Enjoy, our kid, here is some class, weird and wondeful electronic music...

BBC Radiophonic Workshop -'Doctor Who (Original Theme).' mp3

Human League -'Being Boiled.' mp3

The Normal -'Warm Leatherette.' mp3

Happy Birthday from a wet and cold scotland where Autumn is here. Hope it's better with you...

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Album Review: Underground Railroad

Underground Railroad -'Sticks and Stones' (One Little Indian)

This is an album that grows on repeated plays, gradually working it's charm on you, pulling you in with it. Underground Railroad take a template that owes a lot to Evol-era Sonic Youth, later-period Pavement (Corners/Twilight) and dofs its' cap to Madonna-era ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail Of The Dead.

Perhaps I should't be surprised that it was recorded in Seattle. But don't let the influences allow you to assume that it's derivative, because they have their own spin on it, which should be heard. Highlights include the title track and 25.

On a couple of occasions, there are some tracks which grate on repeated playing 'NYC (Money Money Money) and 'One More Hit' but for people who enjoy their guitar music epic, noisy and in song-form this is a worthwhile investigation.


Underground Railroad -'New Variety.' mp3

Underground Railroad's mySpace

Can anyone out there help?!

Received an email from a regular reder today who asked me: " Do you know anything about The Royal We/1990's split single Sorry For Laughing/Poor Old Soul?"

Now, unfortunately I don;t but can anyone out there help? If it is not an urban myth then it's not on emusic or itunes. If anyone can help, please get in touch...

Anyway, it gives me the opportunity to post a track a piece by these bands.

1990s -'You Made Me Like It.' mp3

The Royal We -'Three is A Crowd.' mp3

Friday, September 05, 2008

Album Review: Glasvegas

Glasvegas -'Glasvegas.' (Columbia/Sony)

...And so here it comes. Possibly the most anticipated debut of the year, and one of the most anticipated debuts from Scotland ever. Unknown and unsigned a year ago, the fever of anticipation surrounding Glasvegas is such that you can already sense some people sharpening the knives, ready to cut them down to size. Sometimes I feel there's a sense of 'indie snob' mentality ingrained not just on the scottish psyche but Britain as a whole.

Which is a damn shame, frankly. Because, forget that they're getting so much civerage, Glasvegas deserve it, frankly. Over the course of 10 songs in forty-one minutes, this is a debut that sets out its' stall and lives up to the promise like we needed it to. Right from the gorgeously long intro of 'Flowers & Football Tops' (re-recorded from its' place as the b-side to the original version of 'Daddy's Gone') to the final notes of Ice Cream Van, this is a brilliant album from start to finish.

Comparisons have been made with the Jesus and Mary Chain, Phil Spector and sixties girl bands, but Glasvegas are ploughing their own furrow (one which will hopefully not be filled with A&R men looking for copyists). There's a desperate sadness and yet uplifting euphoria often at the same time. Perhaps Glasvegas have mastered the art of taking songs that can be as sad, lonely and angry as Elvis Costello's 'I Want You' with the euphoria of the singalong songs from Oasis' first two LPs at the same time.

'Daddy's Gone' will almost certainly inspire-mass singalongs at festivals, and if this doesn't move you, God help you. The angry retort of a boy whose Father has left the family can bring a lump to my throat, no matter how many times I've heard it. (Excuse me, just something in my eye. *Cough*). 'Stabbed' on the other hand is a short and ultra-bleak almost-meditation that takes Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata as the musical background for its' tale. And best of all, it's one of those albums that you have to play again the minute it stops; this is starting to cause discussions in 17 Seconds Towers already.

Do yourselves a favour: I've been bigging up this band, and so have many others, for months. Know what? They deserve every bit of praise that comes their way.

Don't copy this, go and buy it.


Glasvegas' website/Glasvegas' mySpace

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Aberfeldy - a glimpse of what they are up to

Last year, I went to over twenty-five gigs, which isn't bad going, and the best was last. A few days before Christmas, Aberfeldy played two nights at the Voodoo Rooms in Edinburgh, and they rocked.

I've been privileged to hear some of the new stuff, this is a performance of 'Claire.' Don't let the sugar-coating fool you, it's as dark as 'I Want You' by Elvis Costello underneath it all...

Meanwhile, 'Malcolm' manages to squeeze in both fish puns and a love of classic 60s and 70s pop.

If you haven't made friends with Aberfeldy before now, please do so on their MySpace page.