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Saturday, June 28, 2008

It's Not Over 'Til The Fat Alien Sings

From Alphaville to ALF. I was a fan of the TV show back in the day, but I had never heard of this single until recently. Produced by Ben Liebrand, originally for Belgian TV.

1. Stuck On Earth
2. Stuck On Earth (Club Mix)
3. Cruisin' On Melmac Interstate

Download

In case you need reminding, check out ALF's music prowess here or just some good clips from the show here. Oh yeah, and this is pretty cool too.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Classic Track: Forever Young

I was researching some information on Youth Group's cover of the Alphaville classic "Forever Young" when I was reminded of how I discovered the original song in the first place. It led to some interesting musical developments for me personally so it seems appropriate to recognize this song in all the various versions.

Alphaville's one hit in the UK was "Big In Japan" in 1984 which was marginally before my time and the band did not feature on the 80's themed compilations I collected over the years. Although "Forever Young" is regarded as a prom-theme staple in the US, it also never charted and remained on the outskirts of '8o's musical history.

I'm not one to pay attention to commercials, but I caught a snippet of an ad for the Saturn Ion here in the US back in 2003 and was intrigued by the backing track. Here's the commercial:



I initially mistakenly thought the track was by The Walkmen, which led to a series of aborted downloads and confusion. After more research on some forums, I discovered that it was the Alphaville track. Here's the original music video (warning - extreme cheese alert!):



I was excited to discover that Alphaville was not only a prolific (though critically panned) outfit, but that I really liked the synthpop sound which was very polished, with slightly affected vocals. As I discovered, they had continued making music throughout the '90's and into the new millenium, in much the same style. I was mildly surprised, because synthpop had died in the UK in the late '80's and had never really flourished in the US.

What I discovered was that in Germany in particular, the synthpop sound had remained commercially viable, bucking the trends towards grunge, britpop and teen pop elsewhere, and that many German groups had built up an impressive catalogue completely unknown to me. Bands such as De/Vision, Camouflage, Sea of Sin and others became new favorites. I discovered that all this and more was available through the excellent website A Different Drum, which also acted as a US label for many acts.

While my passion for synthpop has ebbed and flowed over the following years, "Forever Young" will always remain a personal favorite. Another blogger has kindly put together the following short compilation, including the original version, the extended version, and a brilliant modern remix version. If that leaves you wanting more, then Jacyk's Music Memories has a more comprehensive compilation of remixes here.

If all this leaves you wanting more Alphaville, there's plenty around. Start here for a good rundown of various mixes of the better known songs.

And finally, let's not forget the cover version that started this whole stream of consciousness rambling:



Youth Group - Forever Young (mp3)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Karel Fialka - Human Animal (1988)

Watch out for out of print, critically ignored and shamefully obscure albums released in the last twenty years...



By request for Mikeyten

Karel Fialka - Human Animal (1988)
  1. Sun In My Eyes
  2. Hey Matthew
  3. You Be The Judge
  4. Ready For It Now
  5. Undercurrents
  6. This City
  7. The Eyes Have It
  8. Eat, Drink, Dance, Relax
  9. Human Animal
  10. L'etoile D'or
  11. Eat, Drink, Dance, Relax Too
  12. The Eyes Have It II
  13. Undercurrents (Liquid Mix)
Bonus Tracks
  1. The Things I Saw (B-Side of "Hey Matthew")
  2. Hey Matthew (Extended Mix)
  3. Ghosts (Rare compilation track)
Download

Wikipedia Entry

Karel's MySpace Page
The new track, "Thankful", is particularly good.

Karel has inspired some interesting art - here and here

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Link-O-Rama

I'm always happy to report on the discovery of a good music blog. Today, I'd like to introduce Best Kept Secrets, which I discovered while googling an Immaculate Fools album. Let me put it this way: anyone who has the good taste to feature albums by Brotherhood of Lizards, The Silencers, Diesel Park West and The Caretaker Race in just the last couple of weeks clearly deserves your time and attention. You can also find The Indian Givers album Love Is A Lie, which I have never seen anywhere previously except, of course, on the fine blog you are now reading.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Torch Song - Wish Thing (1984)

In which we imagine a world where the compact disc was introduced in 1980, and now-obscure artists and albums could be preserved for posterity...



Torch Song debuted as a trio on Wish Thing, an ethereal set of instrumentally subtle synth-dance tracks, given most of their character by Laurie Mayer's delicate voice and the gimmicky production. "Don't Look Now" and "Sweet Thing" are appealing, airy concoctions; a demento version of "Ode to Billy Joe" seems calculated to shock and/or offend but is nonetheless amusing. Intriguing. (Trouser Press)

Torch Song - Wish Thing (1984)
  1. Don't Look Now
  2. Telepathy
  3. Ode To Billy Joe
  4. Another Place
  5. Prepare To Energize
  6. Tattered Dress
  7. Sweet Thing
  8. You Said You Were Coming
  9. Water Clock Secrets
Download

MySpace Page
Wikipedia Entry
Zigzag interview with the group in 1984

Saturday, June 14, 2008

It's Friday Night And I Can Do What I Like

I was trying to think of a clever way to introduce several tracks that have been worming their way into my head this week. Then it hit me - it's my blog and I can do what I like. And so, despite a delay enforced by having to watch the mid-season finale of Battlestar Galactica twice (in two words, frak me!) here is an eclectic collection for your enjoyment.





It's Friday Night And I Can Do What I Like
  1. Newton Faulkner - I Need Something (2008)
  2. Glenn Tilbrook - Morning (2001)
  3. Martika - Love, Thy Will Be Done (1991)
  4. Roxette - June Afternoon (1995)
  5. Boo Hewerdine - Joke (1996)
  6. Brookville - Slow Emotion Replay (2006)
  7. Bob Mould - Walls In Time (2007)
  8. Syn - Emily (1994)
  9. The Silencers - Razor Blades of Love (1989)
  10. Suzi Rawn - Bet You Like Me (2006)
  11. Dave Gahan - Kingdom (2007)
  12. William Orbit - Water From A Vine Leaf (1994)
  13. The Boo Radleys - Wish I Was Skinny (1994)
  14. Missy Higgins - The Wrong Girl (2007)
Download

Friday, June 13, 2008

Mad At The World - Flowers In The Rain (1988)


















If you enjoyed the debut album, which I reposted yesterday, then you might also like the follow up, which received an even more limited release and was the last MATW album to utilize their classic synth-rock sound. Standouts include the title track and the very Smiths-like "I Don't Want To Go There".

Mad At The World - Flowers In The Rain (1988)
  1. Fearfully And Wonderfully
  2. Flowers In The Rain
  3. Why
  4. Puppet Strings
  5. No Mistakes
  6. Wait
  7. I Don't Want To Go There
  8. Faith Is A Perfect Road
  9. In My Dream
  10. Lovelight In The Midnight
  11. This Lie
  12. Dancing On Your Grave
Download

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Mad At The World - Mad At The World (1987)

One of the best things about producing my own blog is that it gives me the opportunity to mention albums that very few people are likely to be familiar with. A good example is the self-titled debut from alternative Christian band Mad At The World. In a year when synthpop acts such as Erasure and Pet Shop Boys were dominating the charts and modern rock was awash with lyrical themes of alienation and doubt, it was refreshing to listen to music that addressed humanistic concerns in a positive way, without being preachy. The album's production values were top-notch, and it still stands up twenty years later.

The core of the group were the brothers Roger Rose (vocals, guitars) and Randy Rose (vocals, drums) and on their debut album they were able to synthesize rock, pop, electro and gospel in a quite original way. "Taking The Easy Way Out" is probably the best song ever written about the contemplation of suicide; "All The Lonely Sheep" and "It Can't Rain Forever" address the fear of teenage loneliness. "I Want To See Heaven", perhaps the standout track, discusses a fear of making bad moral choices, as does "Here We Go Again" and "Bad Motives". If the Christian content doesn't put you off, then all you need to know it that this album flat out rocks. Roger Rose's idiosyncratic vocals are a mildly acquired taste but ultimately serve to strongly differentiate this album from anything else in the CCM genre, or anywhere else, for that matter. The cover art was also striking and sold the package effectively.

Released on the US Frontline label, the album proved to be something of a one-off. Unable to replicate the unique studio arrangements in a live setting, the group began to incorporate increasing amounts of rock guitar into future productions, ultimately to the detriment of the initial fan-base.

I initially owned a cassette copy of the album, which became so worn that eventually the shell was replaced and held together with sticky tape. It's possible to find the original CD, but you'll probably have to pay more than the $6.00 I paid for mine on eBay seven years ago.

UPDATE: Happy to report that the entire Frontline Records catalog is now available through digital sources.

Also check out some footage of the band recording in the studio at Roger's YouTube channel.

Mad At The World - Mad At The World (1987)
  1. Living Dead
  2. All The Lonely Sheep
  3. I Want To See Heaven
  4. No Room Left
  5. Taking The Easy Way Out
  6. Bad Motives
  7. No More Innocence
  8. It Can't Rain Forever
  9. Here We Go Again
  10. Dry Your Tears
  11. Mad At The World
  12. Chance Of Luck
Legal Download at Amazon

I still get chills just typing out the song titles. What a great album.

The best MATW website
Wikipedia Entry

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Nostalgia Trip: Radio Times

I was going to mention a couple of British TV shows from the '90's before I came across a spread of Radio Times covers, which really takes me back. In our global cross-pollination and instant information overload age, it is hard to describe the attraction of a thin, incomplete, fragile TV magazine which, if nothing else, was ludicrously mis-named for the television age.

Yet back in the day, when there were only two BBC channels (and the ITV listings were, if my memory is correct, only available in another listings magazine) it seemed very important to consult the RT (as it was affectionately known) before planning a night's TV viewing. This was, of course, also before the widespread availability of VHS, and many years before inventions such as DVD and TIVO. Back then, if you missed a show, it was gone for good. Fortunately, the magazine also served as an Entertainment Weekly of sorts, including snippets about new productions, what the actors were up to, and radio listings to boot.

There was no TV at all between midnight and 6 a.m., and BBC 2 was usually stuffed with arty, "educational" programs and the odd documentary. Therefore, viewing was usually concentrated on BBC 1 and whatever shows were being broadcast throughout the day or evening. Many of my TV memories were shows that it was impossible to avoid - and I'm sure my US born friends would have been appalled at the lack of choice, of freedom, of TV democracy back in those heady days - but now I can only look back fondly on Saturdays with Dusty Bin (That's 3-2-1, folks) or The Generation Game, Dallas on Wednesday nights, Panorama on Tuesdays, Tomorrow's World on Thursdays and Eastenders every bloody day of the week.

Next time I hear a child complain that there is nothing on the TV that they like, I will feel sorry for them. Perhaps, choice is sometimes overrated.

The Radio Times is still going strong, although I'm sure it is now wonderfully interactive and modern. There is an official web site. Like me, you can discover a wonderful gallery of all the old magazine covers here. There is, of course, a wikipedia entry as well.

One other interesting memory is this. In our house we did not have any air conditioning or central heating system. When my parents laid out some carpet mum would always use old magazines for insulation, usually the Radio Times or the other TV Guide. Years later, when we pulled up the carpet, I'd always find some old thing to read underneath. Even today, there are some things you just can't do with the internet.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Random 80's Wednesday - Album Tracks Special

This week, I have opted for lesser-known album tracks by well known acts.

New Order - Mr. Disco (from Technique, 1989)
Howard Jones - Why Look For The Key (from Dream Into Action, 1985)
Ultravox - We Stand Alone (from Rage In Eden, 1981)
Thompson Twins - Love Is The Law (from Here's To Future Days, 1985)
The Cure - The Holy Hour (from Faith, 1981)

Terry Hoax - Freedom Circus (1992)

Watch out for hard-to-find, deleted, out of print or critically ignored compact discs released in the last 20 years...


I don't know anything about this band, except they are German (I think) and only had hits in their native country. I really like their cover of "Policy of Truth".

Terry Hoax - Freedom Circus (1992)
  1. Freedom Circus
  2. Insanity
  3. Sick
  4. From Love To Hate And Back
  5. Live All
  6. Hot Heyday
  7. Touch The Sky
  8. When Love's Gone
  9. Goodbye
  10. Someone Somewhere
  11. Another Face
  12. Policy of Truth
  13. Fish Named Napoleon
[UPDATE] October 2013 - links have been re-upped by request. I was fortunate to find a physical copy of the CD in Baltimore earlier this year.
Download Part 1
Download Part 2

Personnel:
Oliver Perau - Vocals
Marcus Wichary - Guitar; Backing Vocals
Hachy M. Hachmeister - Drums; Percussion
Martin Wichary - Guitar; Backing Vocals
Armin Treptau - Bass

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Link-O-Rama

Ever hear of the band Modern Eon? Apparently, if you want a new-wave blog these days, you have to mention them. For example (deep breath) Music...Isms mentioned them in some detail last year during an ongoing tribute to the Liverpool post-punk scene.
The curiously named Sheerinertia's Engine also featured the band's LP Fiction Tales, and the links are still active.
More recently, Systems of Romance also featured the LP and a short biography. Mention is also made at Scratchy Buckles, and in April Raiding The Vinyl Archive also highlighted the single "Euthenics", the first time I came across the group. Had enough yet? No? Back in 2006 Island Monkey dramatically called the Modern Eon LP "the greatest album ever made" during a likeable review. Not to be outdone, a perennial favorite of mine, Rho-Xs, also said "Fiction Tales is one of the greatest albums ever made in my opinion" and his download is in the ogg-vorbis format.Little Hits featured the song "Child's Play" a couple of years ago, and my good friend Mikey at It Should Have Been A Hit also featured "Euthenics" just last month. There's also a quality fan tribute page here. Needless to say, I won't be mentioning them at all - not even a peep - at least for a while.

Saving A Buck When Libraries Don't Suck

I'm going to try something new. We are lucky to have a decent public library here in town, and I'm rather partial to rummaging about to see what might be interesting to listen to. This new series will be based around a selection of albums I have never heard before, mostly new, with a short, simple review and the best track or two being highlighted. Here we go:

Duran Duran - Red Carpet Massacre (2007)
The only Duran albums I've ever owned are the singles compilation Greatest and (briefly) the comeback album Astronaut. Given the complete lack of interest in the band in the late 90's, I was surprised that a new album was marketed so strongly. It's obvious that the band is trying hard, because the new album rocks hard in a very contemporary, dance floor orientated fashion. My all time favorite track is Save A Prayer, and I did miss somewhat the languid build up and plangent synths of that signature piece when listening to the new material. By comparison, the first single Falling Down included a less subtle melody line that proceeded to irritate and overpower the lyrics, so I wasn't thrilled. What I did like, however, were tracks like Nite-Runner and Box Full O' Honey which went off in unexpected dynamic directions and sustained a cryptic mood. Overall, a good listen and possibly a grower.

Madonna - Hard Candy (2008)
A similar story with Madonna, who also enlisted Justin Timberlake to assist with her new album. I'm a big fan of the dance grooves on her first album (now 25 years old!!) and although I have liked many of the subsequent singles, never really cared for an individual album. Hard Candy includes a bevy of "hot" producers who power up the BPM without really crafting anything with nuance or subtlety. While Candy Shop and the single 4 Minutes take off like rockets, it takes a couple of listens for the melodies of my favorite tracks Give In 2 Me and Miles Away to achieve the desired effect. Is it too much to ask for another "Live To Tell" or even "Crazy For You"?

Fortunately, it's not hard to remember why Madonna became such an icon in the first place.

BTW does anybody else think both these album covers suck hard?

R.E.M. - Accelerate (2008)
Another bloody awful album cover, and an incomplete review. Apologies to devotees of the band (and there are many), but I'm not sure what it will take to interest me in an R.E.M. record again. I suspect it includes mandolins, slow songs about death, suffocation and bitter loss and weird titles like "Country Jackal Lament" and "Rhapsody Green". Credit the band with sticking to it, but when the touchstones include Green ("World Leader Pretend") Out Of Time ("Losing My Religion") and Automatic For The People ("Find The River") my ears are going to be dragged kicking and screaming through this album, based on the first handful of tracks. I have a nagging feeling that R.E.M. have never been more than the sum of their parts. To borrow from other reviewers: Accelerate is the best R.E.M. album since, well, since the last one. Probably.