Tuesday, September 30, 2008


I'm continuing to get a lot of pleasure out of SwapACD. Now, if only it could go international...

Rene at RetroWonderland managed to survive the hurricane in Texas, and responded by posting some fantastic floor-fillers. Included recently have been Blancmange, Hubert Kah, Berlin, Kate Bush, Spandau Ballet, Tasmin Archer, Tears For Fears - you get the idea. Excellent job, Rene!

Here's a new site for you. Digital Needle has a wide variety of music, recent posts include The Bluebells, Tones On Tail and Japan.

Just found out that Cherry Red Records have released a compilation of tracks by The Mood. Their most famous track is "Paris Is One Day Away" I believe and this was a particular favorite of Simon at Torchomatic.

Lots of good stuff at Castles In Space lately, including an album and single by Bradford - obscure indie pop at it's best!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Random 80's Wednesday

Rhythm Corps - Common Ground (from Common Ground, 1988)
The Church - Reptile (from Starfish, 1988)
Thompson Twins - In The Name of Love '88 (7" Single, 1988)
Tanita Tikaram - Twist In My Sobriety (from Ancient Heart, 1988)
Touch Sensitive - Don't Cry (7" Single, 1988)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Pick 'N' Mix

A few other random thoughts for the week.

I was at my daughter's dance class the other day when I heard a really amazing piece. I'm sure everyone else heard this a long time ago. But if you haven't, take a listen.

All the discussion about the merits of Sarah Palin here in the US reminded me of an observation the Right Honourable James Hacker made in Yes Prime Minister. For the record, I'm a Sun reader:

With previous posts mentioning Charlotte Martin covering "Just Like Heaven", Angie Hart covering "Pictures of You" and Kate York covering "Boys Don't Cry" I've been researching my own Cure Covers Compilation, for which I'm open to suggestions. Here's another one, Patchwork Grace covering "The Lovecats" and doing a great job. Apparently there is another Cure tribute being released next month for charity, which includes Bat For Lashes doing "A Forest".

I've just signed up for SwapaCD, which is a great idea I'm surprised I had not heard of before. For those of you in the US, basically it allows you to offer CD's to swap and make requests for new CD's that you want. Within a week I have offloaded about 20 discs I could not sell on eBay, and got new ones by Ringside, Gran Ronde and Paul Simon. It's like a huge virtual thrift store, with the only downside being that the waiting list for recent releases runs into double figures. Even so, well worth checking out. And be careful, it's quite addictive! If you do sign up, you can mention me as a referral, my user name is fiftypercent.

Here's some more stuff that has caught my ear lately:

JJ72 - It's A Sin
The Dandys - Dirty Weekend
Kent - If You Were Here

By the way, I'm having trouble embedding YouTube video, for some reason the screen keeps locking after playing for a couple of seconds. If this happens to you, I apologize - you should probably click through to the original YouTube post.

No Income Tax, No VAT, No Money Back, No Guarantee

Being a miserable old sod is what we Brits do better than anyone. Recently, without really noticing, I have begun using Victor Meldrew, Stephanie Cole in Waiting For God, and Father Jack as my role models. I attribute this to several factors: a deficiency of Vitamin D, an impending birthday, the state of the US economy, and an increasing amount of jealousy towards young, fit, wired, connected, trendy people who make me look in the mirror and go "how the hell did that happen?"

The tipping point came on Sunday, after a tense visit to Church. I went because my daughter had been nagging me for a while, and I was kind of proud of her for that. At the same time, I would say that my life has become in many respects based around a lack of faith - in the Church, in Government, in people generally - so I had to do the 'happy act' thing which I don't really enjoy. Still, that's no excuse for spending the rest of the day acting like someone had crapped on my geraniums, so I decided to pull out a comedy DVD to lighten my mood. I selected the first ever episode of Only Fools And Horses, a show universally known by Brits and unknown to everyone else except the most dedicated Anglophiles. It was the kind of show I had not watched in quite a while - there is a reason why, in the US, "British TV" is a genre unto itself - and I was just getting into it when my stepson came upstairs and asked what I was watching.

I will be incredibly honest here and say that it is part of the national character (I think) to be a little embarrassed and sensitive about our own culture, especially when you live in the land of fast-everything, bigger is better, and reality show purgatory. For that reason, I often watch some of my favorite British TV shows by myself. My stepson (who is in his twenties now) normally likes shows like Family Guy, South Park, and The Simpsons. Stuff he grew up with, basically. So I guess, in a moment of snap judgment, I was unsure what he would make of Del-Boy and Rodders, of the Council Flat, of the Nag's Head and all the "ducking and diving", as Del himself would say.

By the end of 30 minutes, however, we had both thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. I correctly predicted that the "hooky" briefcases were locked from the inside and he predicted that Rodney would not be able to get to Hong Kong. I was explaining words in every other sentence - "khazi", "plonker", "dipstick", "bit of alright" - and in the end it was an enjoyable family moment. And I realized more clearly than ever that we all have our "culture" - parts of our history we are afraid other people will reject, or laugh at. And that's what makes us unique.

Now I have to hunt down some more OFAH episodes on DVD.

Probably the funniest bit of the show ever - the famous bar-fall

Trigger gets a medal

Monday, September 8, 2008

Confessions of a CD Junkie

Let me start my post by thanking Retro Music Snob for the links. That explains why my bandwidth has been burning up recently. Also, good to see the site back up - it had stopped being updated a while back. [Update - long gone now! Nov 12]

There seems to be a lot of love for Terry Hall lately. Both the irrepressible Saltyka and C-60 Low Noise have recently featured an extensive back catalogue. You may have noticed I featured a Colourfield tune recently. I was also a little disturbed to discover that the background vocals on "Thinking of You" were by Katrina Phillips and not Kirsty MacColl as I had thought for years.

If I was to make a list of the great record/CD stores I have visited, I would be thinking of the Music And Video Exchange in Notting Hill Gate, Adrian's in Wickford, Essex, Amoeba Records in San Francisco, Newbury Comics in Boston, and McKay in Knoxville. While McKay might be the closest geographically, it was very hard for me to engineer an excuse to drive four hours to pay a visit. So I was overjoyed while visiting Nashville recently to discover that there was now a new McKay store in town.

The primary benefit of McKay is that they have a lot of stock because, famously, they buy anything and then discount heavily based on condition. If you don't mind a couple of marks or blemishes, you can buy many CD's for under two or three dollars. Some CD's are as low as .19 or .25 so you can glean quite a stack for just a few dollars. That's where I found the Vienna CD I posted yesterday - a total bargain for 19 cents.

Here's some other treasures I have unearthed this past couple of weeks:

Jules Shear - Dreams Don't Count ($1.45)

Number One Gun - Promises For The Imperfect ($0.25)

Edison Glass - A Burn Or A Shiver ($0.19)

Various Artists - Reality Bites Soundtrack ($0.19)

Graham Coxon - Happiness In Magazines ($0.95)
Alpinestars - White Noise ($0.19)

Tim Finn - Before & After ($0.68)

Anberlin - Lost Songs ($2.45)

Hinterland - Kissing The Roof of Heaven ($0.19)

Kent - Isola ($1.95)

Future of Forestry - Twilight ($5.95)

Turn Off The Stars - Turn Off The Stars ($0.68)
Blur - Modern Life Is Rubbish ($1.25)

Stereophonics - Performance & Cocktails ($0.89)

Suzanne Vega - 99.9 Degrees ($0.68)

Your Vegas - A Town And Two Cities ($1.45)

Dr. Robert - Realms of Gold ($0.95)

Tim Booth - Bone ($0.68)
Miranda Lee Richards - The Herethereafter ($0.95)*

Various Artists - Trainspotting Soundtrack ($1.25)

Michael Been - On The Verge of a Nervous Breakthrough ($0.95)

Reef - Rides ($0.75)
There you go, quite a mixed bag. Not all fantastic, but not all rubbish, either. I've been enjoying the Trainspotting soundtrack in particular. It made me go and rent the movie.

* Yes, I have bought this one before. The first one I got was a record company advance with different, but cool, artwork. This one was the retail digipak version, still sealed up tight. And, a good album to boot.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Vienna - Guess What? (1987)

The most successful Austrian musician of the 20th century was, unsurprisingly, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. In second place was Peter Wolf, who produced Starship, Heart, Kenny Loggins, The Commodores, Wang Chung, Chicago, and many others.

Guess What was a one off record in collaboration with his wife, Ina Wolf, under the moniker Vienna. The result was a surprisingly cohesive and dramatic album.

Vienna - Guess What?
  1. Talking With The Heart
  2. Vienna
  3. Guess What?
  4. I Love Changes
  5. Just A Little Girl
  6. An Eye For An Eye
  7. Somewhere In A Corner
  8. The Best Ones Are Taken
  9. Kisses On The House
  10. July

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Blogging is 50% mental, you know

I've got to tell you guys, if you could read the blog that I write everyday in my head, you would be impressed. Instead, Captain Procrastinator (TM) fights evil and tyranny, and listens to lots of cool stuff, and thinks deeply about the pressing issues of the day and then - duh! - forgets to tell anyone.

Here are some of the things I've been meaning to mention recently:

Common Reaction is the new CD by Uh Huh Her and has helpfully been reviewed by XOLondon. I first heard about them from Vinyl District, and it's a doozy. Check out the website here and the MySpace page here. Spinner has some live video and a podcast interview as well.

One artist I've fallen in like with is Charlotte Sometimes. When I first saw the CD cover in my local Best Buy, I pegged it as some alt-rock-screamo-metal hybrid college band with a healthy Cure fixation. Still, the Cure single was a classic, back in the day - October 13, 1981 to be exact. Thanks to some idle time and my Rhapsody account, I discovered that a) Charlotte Sometimes is in fact a New York based singer-songwriter b) the name is a reference to a 1968 children's book by Penelope Farmer that I had not heard of before but was also the inspiration behind the Cure song and c) Her debut single "I Could Just Kill A Man" is freakin' sweet, to use my best Peter Griffin expression. I definitely recommend checking out her website and the obligatory MySpace page.

On the subject of Cure songs, one of the reasons I have been embedding a Kate York widget on the corner of my blog is because I love her cover of "Boys Don't Cry". Thanks to Noisetrade you can download her album for whatever price you want, and there are plenty of good tracks on there. I also recommend "Will I Always Love You" and "Wished For Song". The album is also available on Rhapsody, which reminds me to mention that my $14.99 monthly subscription continues to be the best money I spend every month.

I was in a Billy Bragg mood over the weekend. Something that's been 'brewing up' for a while (get it?) - there was the video I posted the other week, then I got to listen to this instrumental version of "Greetings To The New Brunette" which I could not get out of my head for days. I had no idea Johnny Marr and Kirsty MacColl were both involved in that single. And let's not forget one of the best couplets of the 80's here:
Sometimes when we're as close as this
It's like we're in a dream
How can you lie there and think of England
When you don't even know who's in the team?
On Saturday, as I went out and about, I kept hearing the song in my head and had this thought: if someone came up to me and said "hey, have you heard Greetings To The New Brunette - Johnny Marr played on that, you know" I would probably wet myself. Fortunately, given where I live, the circles I move in and my overall nerd-ness, I think my trousers are in acceptable bounds of safety. So I trawled around and discovered two comprehensive box-sets of material - it's worth mentioning that all of Billy's albums have been remastered and reissued with an extra disc of bonus tracks - and dug in.

I remember when I first saw Billy doing "Between The Wars" on TOTP - it was certainly very different to anything else in the top twenty in 1985. Hearing it again, it sounds so much like one of the hymns we used to sing in public school - perhaps, in a few year's time, it might rank alongside "Jerusalem":

Call up the craftsman
Bring me the draughtsman
Build me a path from cradle to grave
And I'll give my consent
To any government
That does not deny a man a living wage
Now that's poetry.