Sunday, 26 September 2010

‘California’ – American Music Club (1986)

“If I have to be this lonely,
I may as well be alone.”

Walk into any supermarket in any town and you can buy a Westlife CD. Yet try and find this album in any shop in any country and you’ll be out of luck. It’s a depressing thought.

American Music Club were one of the many bands I discovered reading Melody Maker during break-time at school, but the first to introduce me to the delights of what would become 'the new sounds of the old west'. ‘California’ is their third album though the first I heard. It’s regarded as the one where they found their voice. Every song is a gem that sparkles with tales of yearning, devotion and addiction. My favourite musical cocktail.

Lead singer Mark Eitzel is unfortunately one of those artists destined to be recognised only when he’s no longer with us. I’ve only seen him live once and it was actually only last year, at a solo show in a church off Charing Cross Road. Why only once and after all these years? Well, you know when something is so special to you that you actually keep yourself away from it so as not to spoil it? Yes? Well, AMC songs are like that to me. I wasn’t sure I wanted to see them performed live with an audience as all my memories of their songs revolve around me on my lonesome. I’m pleased I went though. It was a night of beauty and pain. My favourite social cocktail.

Two decades of legal wrangles are still keeping ‘California’ from a re-release. And I’m sure the supermarkets aren’t exactly hollering to get it on their shelves. I want to live in a world though where I can find this CD in Asda. Is that too much to ask?

Spotify linky:
Mark Eitzel – Blue And Grey Shirt
‘California’ is also unavailable on Spotify, but this is a live version of one of the album’s tracks from a Mark Eitzel solo show back in 1991.

On this day ... 1987 (aged 16)

Scribblings from my diary …

“It’s McHappy day (whatever that is) and all hell is breaking loose outside McDonald’s”

Saturday, 18 September 2010

‘Heartland’ – The The (1986)

‘Well it ain't written in the papers,
But it’s written on the walls,
The way this country is divided to fall.
So the cranes are moving on the skyline,
Trying to knock down this town.
But the stains on the heartland, can never be removed,
From this country, that's sick, sad, and confused.’

Music lyrics are the modern day poetry. Discuss. Actually … let’s not. My school friend Chris though did once put this to the test in Ms Taylor’s English class. Our homework was to write a poem on urban decay. I’ve never had much heart for poetry, so have no idea what I cobbled together. But I remember that Chris decided to simply copy out the lyrics to ‘Heartland’ and hand them in as his own.

So what mark did Ms Taylor give the biting social commentary of Matt Johnson? B minus. I think he could be happy with that. Chris wasn’t. Especially as I got a B.

(This song and the album 'Infected' were accompanied by a great set of videos that I'm still hoping will one day be released on DVD to replace my now wonky video copy. Are you listening Sony/BMG?)

Spotify linky:

On this day … 1982 (aged 11)

Scribblings from my diary …

“Play out with Richard and Nicola until 5.15pm, then watch ‘Metal Mickey’”

Now playing: ‘Worm Tamer’ – Grinderman (2010)

“Well my baby calls me the Loch Ness Monster,
Two great humps and then I’m gone.”

That made me laugh out loud at the station this week.

Nick Cave’s ‘No God, no love, no piano’ approach to Grinderman didn’t really snag me the first time round as those are the things I love most about his music, but this second album has been on continuous play. Each song seems to wrestle some wonderfully discordant new sound from their guitars. A kind of painful beauty.

A visit to BUG at the NFT this week included a chance to see director John Hillcoat discuss his Grinderman videos and the new creative freedom fostered by the shift from MTV to YouTube. I’d like to see a video that explains how they make those guitar sounds.

Spotify linky:

Monday, 13 September 2010

‘Jewel’ – Cranes (1993)

“Sweet dreams,
I remember it all.
I remembered it all.”

Let’s skip back to this very day 17 years ago. I’m sitting in a small portacabin behind the local library for the beginning of a week-long Jobplan Workshop. Sitting down next to me is a man who will read the Sun newspaper and then disappear at the mid-morning break, never to be seen again. The dozen of us that remain will be taught the wonders of writing a business letter and talking to a potential employer on the phone. Through it all, I will be sitting here thinking only of lunchtime, when I can go down the Rock Box to hunt down the three new limited edition 7-inch singles from the Cranes (including a sparkling Robert Smith remix). Perhaps that’s why I’d been on the dole for two years at this point.

I’ve often wondered how different my life would be if I’d pursued other things as obsessively and devotionally as records. Would I have found a job sooner? Possibly. Would I have had a string of relationships instead of shelves of alphabeticised vinyl? I doubt it. Would I be happier? Who knows.

What I do know is that so many of my memories are linked to music that I can’t imagine my life without it. Even now, looking back at Monday 13 September 1993, I clearly remember the feeling of arriving back to the portacabin after lunch with my bag of Cranes singles. And new CDs by The Cure (Show) and Nirvana (In Utero) also out that day. And the debut Curve album. (I love days like this when you get a flurry of new releases - more than you can sensibly listen to in a day.) I then spent the afternoon longing to go home when I should have been learning about overcoming hurdles in the crowded job market. But it all worked out in the end: it only took me another year to find my first job.

Spotify linky:

Sunday, 5 September 2010

‘Your Plastic Giveaway’: The Results

There was a waffly ‘thank you’ intro here. I deleted it. You just want to hear the results of last week’s special Blog Post 100 prize draw to win two mystery bundles of CDs.

My glamorous and impartial mistress of ceremonies Joann conducted both prize draws (Psycho and Candy) this afternoon (using a Candy Cakes bag – see what she did there?) and the two winners are …

Congrats to Puffbun (aka Samantha – you didn’t actually choose a category, so I popped you in Psycho to balance the numbers) and Roslyn (hopefully this prize can double as a birthday gift too). I’ll bring your CDs with me next time we meet.

Thanks to everyone who entered. In many ways you’re all winners. Just not in this way.