Friday, 31 August 2012

August Playlist on Spotify

Since its launch in June in Australia, I have been an avid Spotify user. It's handy to play music at work. It's perfect for listening to many of the strange and obscure records posted in John Peel's Record Library. It's great for sharing music and recommending songs to friends.

As I listen to a heap of music all the time, it is very easy to listen to something, like it a lot, and then forget about it and never revisit it. In order to prevent me doing that, I have started making playlists of highlights of albums that I have listened to during each month.

These albums include ones I have owned for years and have recently dug out to listen to again; albums played in the car; albums found in the John Peel collection; recommendations and tip-offs from friends and colleagues; buzz-worthy tracks from the web; bits of everything.

This collection, as it stands, contains 166 tracks and over 10 full hours of music. The songs may not be the best tracks on the album, but at the time they were the ones that caught my attention.

Probably the best way to listen to this is on shuffle/random. You'll hear everything from dub reggae to flamenco to indie to metal to avant garde and all the other points in between.

It's a wild ride, but it's so much fun. Enjoy!

Full list here:

1. The Names – Floating World
2. NRBQ – Who Put The Garlic In the Glue?
3. NRBQ – Howard Johnston's Got His Ho-Jo Working
4. James Brown – I Don't Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing (Open Up The Door I'll Get It Myself)
5. The Nails – 88 Lines About 44 Women
6. The Nails – Mood Swing
7. Najma – Zikar Hai Apna
8. Naked Prey – The Ride
9. Napalm Death – You Suffer
10. Napalm Death – Prison Without Walls
11. Raymond Naptali – Automatic Boom
12. Naked Aggression – They Can't Get Me Down
13. Nina Nastasia – Rosemary
14. Nation of Ulysses – Spectra Sonic Sound
15. National Head Band – Brand New World
16. National Health – The Collapso
17. Nazareth – Hair of the Dog
18. Pearl Jam – State Of Love And Trust
19. The Neanderthals – Arula Mata Gali
20. Nebula-H – To The Center
21. Nebula-H – Do It Now
22. Need New Body – Peppermint
23. Last Rights – Out Of Our Minds
24. Negative FX – Together
25. Manic Street Preachers – Motorcycle Emptiness
26. Bukka White – Parchman Farm Blues
27. Robert Johnson – Rambling on My Mind
28. The Dirtbombs – Earthquake Heart
29. Heywood Banks – Toast 2011
30. Heywood Banks – Bed Bath and Beyond
31. Hard Ons – Girl In The Sweater
32. Slobberbone – Gimme Back My Dog
33. A Rocket To The Moon – Single Ladies - Feat. Larkin Poe [Rainy Day Sessions]
34. Switchfoot – Dare You To Move
35. Rainbow – A Light In The Black
36. Blur – Chinese Bombs
37. No Doubt – Just A Girl
38. Paul Simon – Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard
39. Indigo Girls – Closer To Fine
40. Charlie Drake – My Boomerang Won't Come Back
41. Status Quo – Whatever You Want
42. The Smiths – Bigmouth Strikes Again
43. RUN-DMC – It's Tricky
44. Sweatmaster – Well Connected
45. The Mermen – Honeybomb
46. The Mermen – Ocean Beach
47. Wolfmother – Woman
48. Supergrass – Sun Hits The Sky
49. Cast – Alright
50. Nik Kershaw – The Riddle
51. Nik Kershaw – Wouldn't It Be Good
52. Cast – Fine Time
53. Paragons – Tide Is High
54. Archers Of Loaf – Harnessed in Slums
55. Weddings Parties Anything – Ticket in Tatts
56. Del Amitri – Stone Cold Sober
57. Bikini Kill – Rebel Girl
58. The Runaways – Cherry Bomb
59. OK Kings – The Bay Of Chicks
60. Oblivians – I'm Not A Sicko, There's A Plate In My Head
61. Oblivians – Blew My Cool
62. Something For Kate – The Astronaut
63. Owen Gray – Bongo Natty - Extended 12" Mix
64. Ammonia – Suzi Q
65. The Brunettes – Her Hairagami Set
66. Cee Lo Green – Forget You
67. Spiderbait – Word I Said
68. The Byrds – All The Things
69. The Byrds – Welcome Back Home
70. Red Hot Chili Peppers – Behind The Sun
71. I Got You On Tape – Spinning for the Cause
72. Buffalo Killers – Hey Girl
73. Rise Against – Whereabouts Unknown
74. Supertramp – Surely
75. Antibalas – War Hero
76. Def FX – Surfers of the Mind
77. The Easybeats – Women (Make You Feel Alright)
78. Two Door Cinema Club – This Is The Life
79. The Androids – Brand New Life
80. The Androids – On The Radio
81. Powderfinger – Turtles Head
82. Powderfinger – Up & Down & Back Again
83. Jah Levi World Fusion Project – Niyabinghi
84. The Oh Sees – Ghost In The Trees
85. Bad Books – You Wouldn't Have To Ask
86. Painted Willie – 405
87. Panta Rei – The Turk
88. Painkiller – Lathe Of God
89. Painkiller – Purgatory Of Fiery Vulvas
90. Painkiller – Blackhole Dub
91. The Kinks – Waterloo Sunset
92. Starship – Sara
93. Prince Far I – Praise Him With Psalms
94. Toots & The Maytals – Six And Seven Books
95. Robert Palmer – Some Guys Have All The Luck
96. The Pale Fountains – Unless
97. Pale Saints – Sight Of You
98. Paley Brothers – Come Out And Play
99. Triston Palma – Innocent Man
100. The Angels – Mr Damage
101. Bruce Cockburn – If A Tree Falls
102. Warhorse – St Louis
103. Grinspoon – Passerby
104. Days Of The New – Touch, Peel And Stand
105. Los Straitjackets – Aerostar
106. Ween – It's Gonna Be
107. Ted Nugent – Wang Dang Sweet Poontang
108. Bob Marley & The Wailers – Redemption Song
109. Scott McKenzie – San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair) - Single Version
110. The Cactus Channel – Pepper Snake
111. The Cactus Channel – Boss Cat
112. Little Barrie – Surf Hell
113. Something For Kate – Survival Expert
114. Elvis Presley – Blue Suede Shoes
115. Spinal Tap – Big Bottom
116. Phil Manzanera – Mummy Was An Asteriod, Daddy Was A Small Non-Stick Kitchen Utensil
117. The Quadrajets – Big Honey
118. Quartz – Hustler
119. Duffy – Mercy
120. INXS – Need You Tonight - Mash Up
121. The Wonderfools – The Story Of Mr. Brainache
122. Boston – More Than A Feeling
123. Blondie – Hanging On the Telephone
124. Neil Finn – She Will Have Her Way
125. Peter Gabriel – Mercy Street
126. The Dead Milkmen – The Thing That Only Eats Hippies
127. A Wilhelm Scream – Australias
128. Oh Pioneers!!! – My Life as a Morrissey Song
129. Bad News – Bohemian Rhapsody (Take 2)
130. The Gaslight Anthem – Mulholland Drive
131. Stray – Natures Way
132. Dwarves – Everybodies Girl
133. Wire – Straight Line
134. Michael Penn – No Myth
135. The Church – A Fire Burns
136. Bloc Party – So He Begins To Lie
137. Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble – Crossfire
138. Ganger – Fore
139. Ganger – Cats Dogs And Babies Jaws
140. Models – Local And/Or General
141. The Gants – Road Runner
142. The Gap Band – I Don't Believe You Want To Get Up And Dance (Oops! Up Side Your Head)
143. Redgum – The Drover's Dog
144. Black Sabbath – Into The Void
145. Brad Sucks – Look And Feel Years Younger
146. Richard O'Brien – Time Warp
147. Paul Haig – Heaven Help You Now
148. Bob Hadley – Day After Pay Day
149. Hackney Five-O – Carmen Miranda
150. H.D.Q. – There Comes A Time
151. H.D.Q. – Leaving Home
152. Pepe Habichuela – El Dron
153. Peter Hammill – Vision
154. Hammerhead – Meandrethal
155. Kiss – Parasite
156. Made In Sweden – Big Cloud
157. Lonnie Mack – Wham!
158. Lonnie Mack – Memphis
159. Jimmy Barnes – You Can't Make Love Without A Soul
160. Golden Earring – Radar Love
161. John Barry Orchestra – James Bond Theme (From "Dr. No.")
162. Maceo And All The King's Men – Better Half - Original
163. The Whitlams – Charlie No.1
164. Golden Earring – Twilight Zone
165. Blondie – Atomic
166. The Jeff Healey Band – Let It All Go

Thursday, 23 August 2012

TSATF Recommends: The Cactus Channel - "Haptics"

How is it that a group of Melbourne teenage orchestra performers can make funk music with a sound resembling a mid-70s Parliament single? And how can it be that it sounds so authentic? And, shock horror, that it ROCKS???

Enter The Cactus Channel, stage left.

If a band or a musician can be considered the product of their influences, then clearly these 10 young people have been listening to all the right records. The sound is raw, the grooves are elastic - tight and loose where they need to - and the tunes are booty-shakingly funky.

There wouldn't be that many bands in Australia who can lay claim to playing this style of music. It blows my mind to think that these guys play it so well, given their young age - they sound like they've grooving away at it for 20 years or more. Add to that the fact that they record their music on an analogue 4-track tape machine and press their work to vinyl, and you have some smooth, warm sounding music that is such a joy to listen to.

The band have just issued their first LP, available on vinyl and CD. The album features both sides of their new 7-inch single "Emmanuel Ciccolini" amongst its 10 songs (but sadly neither side of their first 7-inch "Pepper Snake") and it sounds great digitally, and I can't wait to get hold of the LP on vinyl. The mixing work on the record is refreshingly dynamic: It's not compressed within an inch of its life like so many modern albums are. It leaves plenty of room for the instruments to breathe in the arrangements. On certain tracks the guitar could be a little more prominent in the mix, but overall this is a joyous thrill-ride from start to finish.

Recommended. Get amongst it.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

35 years ago...

35 years ago last week (yes I know I'm running a bit behind!!!) Elvis left the building...for good...through the bathroom...*

I don't know quite what it is about the man and the legend that is - or was, rather - Elvis Presley. His legacy has endured this long and it looks like it will continue to do so.

It's hard for me to grasp what it is about him that is so compelling, being born out of time from when he was most influential: I only have the music to refer to. I missed the excitement of the early TV appearances which cemented his image in the hearts and minds of impressionable teenagers everywhere.

The Allmusic Guide sums him up beautifully:

Not necessarily the best, and certainly not the most consistent. But no one could argue with the fact that he was the musician most responsible for popularizing rock & roll on an international level.

No-one can deny the impact he had as a performer in his early career. The bulk of his records from the 1950s, pre-Army conscription in 1959 are raw and passionate and compelling. After 1960, the quality of his releases varied dramatically, from some stunning singles to out and out rubbish. And there is just so much of it that it's difficult to find the gems among the junk.

The cynic would suggest that the sheer volume of product the man created would indicate that he was mostly a money-making enterprise - anything with his face on the cover was bound to be a hit. And it's true, he did record anything and everything to give the fans another record to buy. But, the demand was there, all he had to do was meet it... be fair, is most of Elvis' legacy based on his image and distinctive voice? A lot of what makes Elvis's early work so compelling is his backup band - Bill Black's thumping bass and Scotty Moore's thrashing lead guitar, the sound of which launched a thousand George Harrison's. Elvis was just the voice and the face - Scotty Moore arguably did more to inspire the next generation of rockers than Elvis did. In fact, Keith Richard said in an interview recently that when he went to America, he wanted to meet Scotty Moore instead of Elvis.

Elvis didn't write his own songs - he outsourced all his material. The songs he is remembered for were made famous and/or popular to an extent by others before him. This isn't a barrier however - Frank Sinatra never write a song in his life either and it didn't hurt his career either. But, if nothing else, he presented a radical new style of music in such a way that the world sat up and took notice. At the time, in the mid-1950s, that's what the world needed. And those songs have endured. Elvis was the deliverer.

The one thing that really annoys me about the man ironically is not really his fault. It's not the ridiculously convoluted discography, the cheesy films or the sequinned Vegas jumpsuits. It's those bloody Elvis impersonators!!! I've never seen a good one, and the very thought of them makes me cringe. Most of them can't even hold a candle to the real thing and if they actually had any real talent, they'd try and make a musical career under their own image and their own songs and not those of Elvis. These people just take the cheese factor and amplify it to unbearable levels.

I guess at the end of the day the impersonators do remind us that there was only one Elvis and that even when he was awful, in film or on record, he was still better than any impersonator anywhere. May he rest in peace.

*I knew he had all sorts of clever ways of leaving the building to escape his rabid fans, but this is ridiculous!

Friday, 17 August 2012

The Return of Girl Power

Published in The Vine online today, written by Genevieve Rosen, is a rather well-considered article in the wake of the re-formation and appearance of The Spice Girls at the London 2012 Olympic Closing Ceremony.  The interesting thing about her writing is that the de-mystifies the appeal the group has to its target demographic.

When the Spice Girls hit the radio in 1995, I was a 19 year old male adolescent - not exactly who the creators of the group were aiming for.  As a result, all the virtues that Genevieve describes in her story I completely missed at the time.  

The thing with any music for me is that I look past the media spin and past the cultivated imagery surrounding an artist and focus purely on the music.  I didn't like what I heard.  I still don't like it.  Dance pop of the variety the Spice Girls were known for just doesn't do it for me.  But that's a matter of personal taste, mind you.  Plenty of people did like it.  It also meant that any and all of the associated cultural componentry attached to the Girls was also lost on me.  Add to that the fact that the group were contrived, manufactured, formulated and marketed to saturation point and there was no way I was going to pay them any serious close attention.

In her piece, Genevieve describes how the Spice Girls encouraged young girls to feel good about themselves, to have thoughts of their own and to respect each other.  To stick together, to value friends and friendship.  These are noble concepts, to be sure.  But how much of that was really understood by their 4th grade-age audience?  How many girls at the time were looking for a role model to copy, and the Spice Girls were it?  How many girls took these ideas with them into teenage-hood and adult-hood?  My own view, as I saw it, was that for all their brashness they were sexually aggressive - almost as though if you looked at Ginger Spice the wrong way she'd swiftly kick you in the balls.  (If nothing else, the Spice Girls only hinted at that - soon after, Alanis Morrisette on her debut single "You Outta Know" left no doubt in anyone's mind what her intentions were!)

Inevitably the problem with things like the Spice Girls is that they were so iconic for their time that they tend to remain tied to their era; always reminiscent of a fashion that in retrospect looks pretty gaudy now.  The music hasn't aged well, but those who enjoyed it once before will cherish the nostalgia value of seeing the Girls on screen again now, and who can begrudge them that?  We all have something from our past that we loved then and still have a soft spot in our hearts for.

...and after all these years, those opening words "I'll tell ya what I want, what I really really want..." still have the power to make me shudder in horror.  Horses for courses, really.  Viva la difference.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Dual Post: The Pussy Riot Debacle

Hi all,

Sorry, I've been a little slack on the whole Blog thing of late.

I'm calling this one a "double post" as the story at the centre of the post is somewhat suited to both my news blog ( and this one, my music blog.  I will be posting it in both locations.

I have been following the buzz surrounding the Russian feminist-punk group Pussy Riot and their current trial for "Hooliganism".  If you've missed the story, the group performed a balaclava-clad mime to a song advocating people NOT to vote for incumbent president Vladimir Putin.  They just happened to do it in the biggest Orthodox cathedral in Moscow.

The story is somewhat interesting on a number of fronts.

For a start, they are charged with "Hooliganism motivated by religious hatred".  That's a trumped-up charge if ever there was one.

Secondly, they have been held since March in custody without charge.

Thirdly, isn't there something in the Geneva Convention that says that people defending themselves in a court of law can't be held and restrained in a cage?  Russia is supposed to be democratic now, right?

Take a look at the video of what they did.   Looking at the footage there seems to be nothing to suggest they were blaspheming in their actions.  It was pretty mild.  Even their genuflections seemed authentic as they prayed to Mother Mary to dispose of the President.

As the accused have said themselves, their motivations were political, not religious.  They had no intention of being blasphemous.  Still, if you wanna annoy the establishment, there's no better way to do it than by being (even mildly) outrageous in a religious building.

The charge is clearly ludicrous and if there is a misdemeanor at all, it would be trespassing.  Protesting is not a crime in a democracy, even if it is done in a church.  Besides that, the House of the Lord is supposed to be open freely to all who wish to use it.  Punk prayers too, if that's what it takes.  It appears that they were asking for divine intervention to overthrow the president.  They're not the first people in the world to ever have done that!

We could argue the merits of such an action in the first place.  If it took such an action for the point to be heard, then just how stifled is free speech in Russia?

It's hard to imagine that sort of thing in a country like Australia, where we regularly get loud-mouthed shock jocks telling the Prime Minister she's a liar or threatening to tie her up in a chaff bag and throw her out to sea; and then they get away with it with barely a hint of outrage.  I'd like to see how some of our shock jocks would fare in Russia when a punk group cannot play a song of protest against Mr Putin!

Watch the clip on YouTube and decide for yourself.  The dancing is ordinary, the song isn't great, but that's just my opinion.  Musical and artistic merits aside, freedom of speech appears to exist in a vacuum in Russia and Pussy Riot are learning that first hand.

A comment on a story posted on The Guardian's website indicated that since the fall of Communism in Russia, very little has changed.  When the verdict is handed down in this case later this week, we'll see for certain.  Vlad has been lukewarm in his reaction to this case in the press, but he doesn't want too much bad press on the issue.  Whatever the result, he can sure the world is watching...