Tuesday, 19 January 2021

2020 Latecomers: Taylor Swift

I have a lot of time for Taylor Swift, but it's fair to say that when she stepped away from her country roots a few years back to become one of the biggest pop stars in the world, I wished her well and said bon voyage. She's made some great pop songs since then - arguably some of the best of her generation - but as I'm way beyond that generation, I felt like I couldn't really be a part of her crowd anymore.

Last year, she surprised everyone by hooking up with Bon Iver and members of The National (among others) to release two "back to her roots" albums of stripped back country storytelling, Folklore and Evermore. I'm not going to add much to the swathes of column inches devoted to those records other than to say I like them.

A lot.

Monday, 18 January 2021

Positive Songs For Negative Times #37: Kitchen Sink


You could count the good things to come out of lockdown on one hand... but probably the best thing is the live living room, bedroom and kitchen performances from our friends in the musical community.

One such couple who have been entertaining the nation on a weekly basis are Toyah and her husband Robert Fripp, performing a new cover song from their kitchen every Sunday lunchtime. They're always fun... but last week's video, in which they covered Enter Sandman by Metallica, made headlines and trended all around the world. I'll let you decide why... although gentlemen of a certain age might want to check their heart pills are stocked up before pressing play.

2.7 million views in a week. That's obviously all down to Robert's masterful guitar playing. 

And if that wasn't enough, this week they have a crack at Rebel Yell, with Toyah giving it the full cheerleader. I'd like to say I hope I have half of Toyah's energy when I hit 62... but to be honest, I'd have settled for it when I was 22. Watching these videos is akin to watching Jerry & Margo from The Good Life make an online porn film... but let's face it, we get our kicks where we can these days. 

Slightly more reserved - but no less appealing to gentlemen of a certain age (I'm betting Martin will be all over this one) is the latest instalment from The Wedding Present's lockdown sessions (soon to be released as an album), featuring a guest duet with the divine Louise Wener from Sleeper. Toyah and Robert doing it in their kitchen is one thing, but seeing a whole band playing live (with guests) from their own individual homes never ceases to amaze and enthral - and I'm sure it's something that wouldn't have been possible even five years ago. In that regard, I guess we count ourselves lucky that the pandemic waited until 2020. 

I spent quite a long time the other night watching old Wedding Present videos on youtube, feeling sweet melancholy for a younger, darker haired David Gedge, remembering listening to those songs in other, simpler times, and even chatting with Gedge himself while he was manning his own T-shirt stand at the Leadmill (fronting Cinerama at the time) back in the 90s. 

We Should Be Together...

Sunday, 17 January 2021

Saturday Snapshots #172 - Top Ten Hurt Songs


"Will there be pics of cuddly lickle kitty-kats next Saturday?" Lynchie asked last week.

Not on Saturday, no.

The link this week was pretty easy, I thought. No apologies for featuring REM two weeks running... those are the rules now.


10. Smiley society.

Smiley Culture's Club?

Culture Club - Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?

Boy George let himself go a few years back, but he's looking pretty sharp now. 

9. Short record player found in awards ceremony bathroom.

Gramophone, shortened, in the loo at the Emmys.

Gram Parson & Emmylou Harris - Love Hurts

8. Freezing factory.

Icicle Works - Melanie Still Hurts

7. Empty method, end in a bra. 

A method is a way. If it's empty, it's hollow.

Put end in bra and you get Br-end-a.

Brenda Holloway - Every Little Bit Hurts


Brenda Holloway - Hurt A Little Every Day


Brenda Holloway - Starting The Hurt All Over Again

Blimey. Brenda had a lot of hurt.

6. Light sleep, vivid dreams.

That would be REM sleep.

REM - Everybody Hurts

5. Smelly Spider-Man.

"Skunk Anansie" is taken from Akan folk tales of Anansi the spider-man of Ghana, with "Skunk" added to "make the name nastier". Or smellier.

Skunk Anansie - Twisted (Everyday Hurts)

4. Grounded since 2003.

The Concorde was grounded in 2003.

I'm crying tears of a rapper...

Flight of the Conchords - Hurt Feelings

3. Anchorman college jump.


John Cougar Mellencamp - Hurts So Good

(Makes those Robert Palmer videos everybody complained about look tame.)

2. Distant Arnold.

Another anagram!

Linda Ronstadt - Hurts So Bad

1. Paycheck not accepted for lengthy manicure.

If Johnny won't use a paycheck for his Nine Inch Nail, I guess he'll have to pay Cash.

Don't hurt too much - Saturday Snapshots will be back to soothe your pain next week... maybe with added cuddly lickle kitty-kats, who can say?

Saturday, 16 January 2021

Saturday Snapshots #172

These days, the postman always rings twice... and then runs a mile, just in case you open the door and breathe covid germs on him. This is the world we live in. Thank heaven for Saturday Snapshots.

Remember the new rules - all the clues below should lead you to ten artists with connected songs, Work out the connection and then work out the songs...

10. Smiley society.

9. Short record player found in awards ceremony bathroom.

8. Freezing factory.

7. Empty method, end in a bra. 

6. Light sleep, vivid dreams.

5. Smelly Spider-Man.

4. Grounded since 2003.

3. Anchorman college jump.

2. Distant Arnold.

1. Paycheck not accepted for lengthy manicure.

If you can't work them all out, it'll be a Lange time till tomorrow morning...

Thursday, 14 January 2021

Guest Post Thursday #13: Millennial Hipster Politico Songs

Guest Post Thursday is back! For one week, at least. 

You may remember my millennial hipster politico friend, Ben, who began contributing (against his best wishes) to our Name That Tune feature last year (it will be back, once I have the energy). 

You may think that Ben doesn't actually exist, and that I've just made him up for comedy value.

If so, here's a post I made up pretending to be a millennial hipster politico. Or maybe Ben is a real person. It's hard to say. I'm starting to wonder if he's just someone my mind invented to get me through the lockdown... kind of like Tyler Durden in Fight Club, without the fighting, shagging and blowing up buildings.

Bear in mind that whether he exists or not, Ben is far too hip to actually read this blog, so you can be as rude as you like about him if you choose to leave a comment...

Top Ten  21st century songs by bands that Rol sees as quintessential Hipster Ben 

(in no particular order)

(Except I put them in order, because that's what we do around here, fool.)

10. Aesop Rock - ZZZ Top

Hip-hop’s equivalent to the OED provides a narrative exploring the frustration of youth through three different kids graffitiing their musical preference on paraphernalia in the 1970s. Covering Led -Zeppelin, The African hip-hop movement that began to gather pace at the end of the decade, and punk, Aesop Rock highlights the boredom of school life over a backing track that somehow manages to resemble all three music styles. Just don’t mix him up with Aesop Rocky – very different rappers.

I got really excited for a second there because I thought he was kicking off with a little Frank Beard and co.

9. Samuel Jackson Five – If You Show off the Milk, Who’s Gonna Buy the Cow?

I listen to a lot of instrumental music. That annoys Rol. I wanted an instrumental that I know would annoy Rol. I see him getting more wound up at this than Mogwai.

Great band name. Almost as good as Kathleen Turner Overdrive. Pity they forgot the lyric sheet. (I just discovered there is an actual band going by the name now. I hope they get sued by Jack Black, or Nick Hornby.)

8. Les Savy Fav – Lips N’ Stuff

NY art pop that takes a sideways look at flirting. Watch some liveshows on youtube and marvel at the frontman, Tim Harrington’s clothes and presence.

Better than Fat Les, that's for sure.

7. Slaughter Beach Dog – 104 Degrees

From the ashes of loved band Modern Baseball who took a break due to mental health reasons, came Slaughter Beach Dog from one of the frontmen and drummer of MB. There’s not much to say like many of the others, other than 104 Degrees gives a good idea to the fun had with lyrics and narrative of songs that Slaughter Beach Dog became known for.

(Hush. Don't tell him, but I just added that to my library. Although it does remind me of Mallwalkers by Fred Thomas. Only not quite as good.)

6. Tony Molina – Nowhere to Go

What if Weezer songs were only 1 minute long and only contained the chorus which is often the only bit that isn’t filler on Weezer albums? Tony Molina knows what you want.

Didn't Steve Coogan once play him?

 5. Manchester Orchestra – Simple Math

Oh, Andy Hull! Another era defining songwriter. If A Black Mile To The Surface wasn’t on your favourite critic’s top albums of 2017, it’s time to leave them behind. Simple Math, the title track from the album of the same name is the first time MO show their ability to be cinematic and intelligent in their song-writing. As a songwriter, Hull is honest to a fault, exposing his flaws and demons in love and religion. The album covers the topics of him becoming too controlling with his own band and his shame at him leaving his wife after communication breaks down following the mental and emotional trauma of them having a still-born child and their reunification. It’s necessary to hear the song in the context of the album, but it sees Hull working through what neither he nor his wife can bear to say to one another during this period, both good and bad; brought together through the metaphor of infidelity.

They're not even from Manchester.

4. Kevin Devine – I Could Be With Anyone

A power-pop figure that, honestly, should be far more popular and possibly one of the nicest people to ever exist. With over 10 studio albums under his belt, Devine speaks with authority and honesty on addiction, loss and love (as do all the greats). He makes time for fans after and before shows as well as holding genuine conversations in the middle of gigs and seems to remember anyone who’s spoken to him more than once.

His catalogue can be widely separated into songs about life and songs about politics. This song finds itself on a highly political album (Brother’s Blood) but is a rallying cry against all the saccharine love songs that seem to think manifest destiny is the only way that true love exists (the video is a parody of Bright Eyes’ “The First Day of My Life”).

To appreciate the skill of KD it’s important to see him live, both with a band and a solo tour which he does quite often.

I translate "all the saccharine love songs that seem to think manifest destiny is the only way that true love exists" as "most of my record collection", by the way.

3. PUP – DVP

Canadian punks who are finally gaining the recognition they deserve outside of their native land. Prolific in their touring and commitment to providing one of the best live shows going. Some fame has been garnered from their use of a certain Finn Wolfhard in several music videos dating from before his Stranger Things debut, they remain one of the few bands whose every music video is worth a watch. Punk often gets called ‘frenetic’ but never has this been more true than for DVP and if you ever played video games in the late 80s/early 90s this video is definitely one to watch.

Bear in mind that Ben wasn't even born in the late 80s. I once made the mistake of asking him why he'd never seen The X-Files when it was on TV, and his answer was, "because I was 3."

2. Jeff Rosenstock – Festival Song

I’ve pestered Rol with JR enough that I’m sure some of it must have made it onto here. (It has.) As bands are forced to enter into commercial methods of distribution more due to the ever widening platform, it’s rare to see anyone ‘punk’ enough to stick to their laurels. Jeff does. All his music is available free from his websites on a pay what you want basis and his live shows are the only ones I’ve ever been to that look exactly like those music videos that used to be on MTV where everyone is having the best time.

Rosenstock sums up his feelings towards the consumer nature of music, and punk in general, in this song. Written after appearing at a well known American “punk rock” festival, he laments the fashion and saleability of a movement as a brand as well as taking on the privatisation of housing and the expansion of rented properties that can’t support people. As usual, he achieves all this with some of the catchiest melodies today.

This is the kind of extremism politico bumfluffery I get text messages about at 11.25pm. And you think you've got it bad.

1. Brand New – Limousine (MS Rebridge)

Got the Brand New Cadillac jokes out the way? Good. Difficult band to select just one song due to the changing nature of each album. The first album originating during the pop-punk era, they quickly grew into a unique band obsessed with privacy and sporadic and enigmatic releases. A band that during a nine year period of no releases, still saw themselves cemented as a cult band with a loyal following until officially drawing the band to a close in 2018 after the release of the critically acclaimed Science Fiction.  Limousine sees them embracing darkness on the album “The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me”. Informed by large bouts of mental illness, the deaths of over seven family members and having to rewrite a whole album due to the leak of demos (which would later be officially released on cassette), the album saw a significantly darker turn. No more so than on this song that documents a local newspaper story of a young flower-girl at a wedding who was killed by a drunk limousine driver.

Blimey, leave us with something cheerful, won't you?

Thank you, my possibly imaginary friend. Thank you for being there. 

It's worth pointing out that Ben does at time profess a liking for some of the commoner muck that gets played around these parts. Just don't invite him to do your wedding disco.

Still I liked more of those than I disliked.

Tomorrow I will post some Dean Friedman to redress the balance.

(The door is still ajar for Guest Post Thursday. If anyone else fancies a go.)

Monday, 11 January 2021

Positive Songs For Negative Times #36: Stick That!


As Alyson observed last week, my blogging time has been rather curtailed at the moment by work and lockdown pressures. A member of staff at my workplace died of covid last week. Not someone I knew, but still. Despite that, our department has a Quality Review this week.

I'll pause while you take those two facts in, compare them, and scream at the screen. Or maybe that's just me.

Still, I think what we need right now is some more Positive Songs For Negative Times.

Here's Eric Church, the place where outlaw country collides with rock in the best possible way these days. I would declare this the first great single of 2021, except it's another 2020 latecomer... from way back in July, so I don't know how I missed it back then. Oh, wait, maybe I do...

I think Eric's plea here is for songwriters to write more about the world around them. To be honest, I'm not sure I want to hear anymore about the world around me right now. I come to music for escapism. The last refuge.

(Turns out this is one of the first songs Eric has ever recorded that he didn't write. And there's quite an interesting story behind it if you have the time.)

Still, it's great to hear him belt out, "Stick that in your country song!" with an angry snarl. (Wait till it gets going, you'll see what I mean.) I'm just leeching off his energy for a while...

Sunday, 10 January 2021

Saturday Snapshots #171: Top Ten Happy Songs

Because there are never enough cat pictures on the interweb.

Answers to yesterday's questions.

A Top Ten Happy Songs

That was the link. These are the songs...

10. Sober skipper.

9. Winking dishes answer.

"Winking dishes answer" was an anagram. D'oh.

8. Airbrushed.

That's Claire Grogan, of course. All grown up.


7. Humming tip.

Humming is a buzz.

If you tip your hat, you cock it.

6. On their heads.

On their heads are tam o'shanters, from which they took their name.

5. AKA Karloff & Willis.

Boris Karloff was born William Pratt.

Bruce Willis played John McClane. 

4. Touché, Leonardo.

They're both turtles.

3. Jetty offspring blinks a lot.

A jetty offspring would be a pier-son. Blinking a lot would involve rapid eye movement.

2. Hell is a Wil Marr LP.

Anagram. But the hat was the clue.

1. Parliament swallows.

Parliament is the House of Commons... or the White House... or...

House Martins are a type of swallow.

We're back next Saturday.

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