Category Archives: Toppermost

Happy Ever After

Just a little update to mention my latest post over at Toppermost where I wax lyrical about Stockholm Monsters, a wonderful band on Factory Records who didn’t get enough attention then and don’t get enough attention now either. Have a read of my piece, have a listen to the Spotify playlist and see what you think.

In the meantime I’m still working on another post which should be ready by the middle of next week, alongside a sub-post totally unrelated to music which is far from essential reading. Regular followers of mine on Twitter will know the subject of the next post as it’s been all I’ve listened to for most of the last week or so.

Oh and one last plug – the “All unrevealed parts of the unknown” LP by The Sudden Death Of Stars is a great album – very late 60s, sometime garage-y, sometimes psych-pop, sometimes heavy on the sitar, but always tuneful and interesting. Well worth investigating.

Anyway, this isn’t getting the bathroom cleaned…. Have a nice weekend, everybody!

Wouldn’t you miss me?

As ever, I would like to start with an apology. I was hoping that my next blog post would be ready by today but sadly circumstances have conspired against me. It’s half written but not fully formed enough to be published yet. It should be ready by this time next week, so – as my son would say – sorry to keep you waiting.

In the meantime, I have written another post for Toppermost – it is comparatively short by my standards but then it is about an artist who had quite a short career – Syd Barrett. The link to that Toppermost is here.

As I do from time to time, I might as well say what I’ve been listening to recently. You may be interested, or you may not.

Right, let’s get the controversial part over with. I’ve tried to enjoy Aphex Twin’s music for over twenty years now and I didn’t ‘get it’ then and I still don’t ‘get it’ now. His new album “Syro” sounds much like everything else I’ve ever heard by him. It squelches and squeals, drum machines thump out, there’s some melody and some deliberately dissonant music. And it leaves me stone cold. Everyone else has been in raptures about the new LP and I feel like I’m the only person who isn’t enjoying it. Somewhere out there is an Aphex Twin piece of music which will unlock the music for me – a way into his world. I wonder if I’ll ever find it.

On the other hand, a new LP I’ve found very easy to enjoy has been “Commonwealth” by Sloan. I’m a comparative newcomer to the Canadian band – it was Marcello Carlin’s praise for “Never hear the end of it” at the end of 2006 that intrigued me enough to invest in a copy, and I loved that album – it sounded like a seventy minute radio show playing the best power pop in the world. I worked around Sloan’s other LPs and found some better than others (“Twice Removed” is an unheralded – in the UK – classic) and as I explored I started to recognise traits within the four members’ songs, and often found myself preferring drummer Andrew Scott’s songs – “People of the sky” = genius. So for the new LP Sloan took a different tack – each of the four songwriters were given a side of the LP to create a suite of songs. All four rose to the challenge – each side works as a whole, the songs play off each other and the final side – a seventeen minute suite by Scott entitled “Forty-Eight Portraits” – is magnificent. Starting like a section of Sudden Sway’s “Spacemate” – pots and pans percussion, atonal piano – it builds through numerous snippets of riffs and melodies, a modern equivalent of the “Abbey Road” medley. And it sounds so effortless and right. The final five minutes are absolutely stunning – Scott’s children singing, heartwrenching lyrics, heartstopping chord changes, and a closing homage to the coda of “I want you (she’s so heavy)”. Well it makes me cry anyway.

Those other melodic Canadians The Autumn Stones continued their run of great singles with “In with the out crowd”, issued a few months ago and it got lodged happily in my mind for most of the summer. If “End of faith” channelled Psychedelic Furs through a Wild Swans filter, the new single is influenced by prime “Unisex” era Blueboy and the Monochrome Set, but with its own distinctive sound (those horns again – quite Bowie-esque). Well worth a listen, and definitely a band worth watching out for. And if you think I’m being soft on the Autumn Stones, I must admit their recent singles are a huge leap forward from their debut album which was a bit weak and obvious.

While praising Canadians… Another recent discovery is “Set yourself on fire” by Stars, which was issued around 2005 I think. A few weeks ago Josh Meadows played “Reunion” on his excellent radio show “It’s a jangle out there” and I remembered that I should have bought the LP when it came out. I’ve played it a few times since and it’s lovely orch-pop with words which cut to the quick about relationships, ageing and love. Quite wonderful. I’ll enjoy exploring their other albums too.

Enough Canadians (sorry Canada)

Other music of the summer? Courtney Barnett’s “Avant Gardener” has bounced around my head a lot, the FKA Twigs LP is intriguing, and I’ve been working my way through a collection of Steve Reich’s works (it’s good housework music), and keep getting stuck on “Piano Phase” and “Drumming”. But I still prefer “A rainbow in curved air”….

Anyway, that’s enough for now. I promise there will be a proper blog entry by this time next week featuring fast lanes, semi-detached suburbans and other memories conjured by my parents’ record collection.

Stop me if you think you’ve heard this one before

Everyone loves to argue over a top ten list – whether it be music or films or books or people or sweets (hmm, top ten sweets…. Now there’s a thought). If you like musical top tens then Toppermost is the website to check out. There’s over 350 articles there about different artists with a top ten songs included. The only reason I mention this now is because I’ve written a few articles there and I thought it might be a nice idea if I collated them all in one place on Goldfish. (Admittedly this isn’t an original idea – I’ll credit The Riverboat Captain for inspiring me to do this). My latest article is about The Smiths, a band I’ve been reluctant to write about before. It’s very much in the Goldfish style of writing, give or take a cough or two 😎 If you like me talking about music and girls and that kind of thing It might be worth a few minutes looking over it. In the meantime here’s some Toppermosts I prepared earlier.

The Kingsbury Manx

The Attack

Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark

Kaleidoscope

Kraftwerk

The Orchids

The Durutti Column

Penguin Cafe Orchestra

Half Man Half Biscuit (written with Rick J Leach)

Teenage Fanclub (written with Keith Shackleton aka the Riverboat Captain)

The Smiths

Please have a look at the other articles at the Toppermost website – I’m sure you will find something interesting whatever your taste in music (unless Gregorian chants are your thing, in which case sorry)

Next time – Promises promises

Preludes Airs and Yodels

I would like to apologise most sincerely for the lack of posts on Goldfish. My Twitter followers will know that this is because my phone has been back for repairs again (again? AGAIN?)) so I was using a horrible old Android phone for three weeks. The last post on Paul Revere and the Raiders was an experiment to see if I could write using an Android phone. The result was yes I could but it was such a monumental pain in the arse that I didn’t want to do it ever again. My phone returned on Friday so I can start to write again.
In the meantime I wrote another Toppermost on my son’s iPad to see how easy that was. The answer was it was a nicer experience than the Android phone, bigger keyboard y’know, but once I’d written it I had to find a way to send it over which meant the hassle of hanging around in McDonalds using their wifi… Oh and eating their food. Ok, so that part wasn’t a hassle… Anyway, I wrote an article about the Penguin Cafe Orchestra, a band whose music I have loved for many years. So there’s a link to the article here in my typically verbose and personal style. You might like to read it.

Actually I didn’t mention in there how I first came across them. In 1983 I bought a fabulous book called “The Album Cover Album”, compiled by Roger Dean and Storm Thorgerson in 1977. It was a fascinating book, not least for being created at the cutoff point before punk so it was full of prepunk curiosities (and lots of Hipgnosis designs). There was a page on designs with a recurring theme and there were only two sets I can remember. The books – I also bought “Vol 2” and “Vol 3” when they were published in the mid 80s – are long gone, I suspect my brother may have them. One set was by a group called Passport, who turned out to be German prog rock or something like that (quickly googles group – no they were German jazz rock) who had stylised sleeves that were slightly freaky. But there were also four albums from Brian Eno’s Obscure Records label, with their distinctive covers, a blacked out picture of what looked like a city with a small section of the picture shown, and the artist and title in white in the top left hand corner. I recognised the style of the font – it was exactly the same as that used by Dorma Furnishing for their bed linen. Odd how these things link up. But one of the four albums was “Music from the Penguin Cafe”, which I thought was an intriguing name for an album. I wouldn’t hear the PCO until their three song Whistle Test performance in 1984 and I was smitten. But hey, you can read that over at Toppermost.

In the meantime, hopefully I’ll post two more entries before the summer break I usually say I’m taking then ignore. Firstly there’s the long promised article on Felt which I did actually start before my phone packed in, and secondly a piece about another summer. And then we’ll see where the Goldfish swims to from there. Yet again thank you for your patience and for those regularly dropping by from other people’s blogs (huge thanks as ever to Marcello and Lena and LondonLee and the Riverboat Captain for their support and links to my blog). And while I would like to say everything’s fine in the world of my phone, the battery is still completely discharging in three hours which was why it was being repaired in the first place. So don’t hold your breath! I would say ‘let normal service resume’ but I doubt it somehow… 8-(

Spent Time

Those nice people at Toppermost suggested that I write about The Durutti Column a while ago. In fact it was one of the first names that was suggested by them to me. I mean, why did they think I might like Durutti Column? Was it my Twitter name – @durutti74? Or my email address durutti244? Surely not? (The numbers signify catalogue numbers incidentally in the Factory Records numbering scheme, you can look them up later. Or I suspect that some of you may know them anyway.). Or maybe the fact I’d written about them already.

Last time I wrote on the blog I was a little worn out on writing, and it probably showed in what was published. So writing about one of my favourite bands, indulging myself by diving into a huge back catalogue, picking a top 10 songs – it was all a pleasure. I’ve tried not to repeat what I said about DC before, it’s more of a straight history of the band, and it’s quite long too. But it’s worth a read if you like that sort of thing. The link is here

What I found when I was picking the top 10 was that I was slightly limited by what was available on Spotify because there’s always a playlist with each Toppermost. There doesn’t have to be, but it helps to prove your point to a newcomer to DC music to say “Here’s ten songs you can hear”. It didn’t help that three key Durutti LPs were missing from Spotify, and that “Without Mercy” isn’t the full album but the two excerpts that are on the “Valuable Passages” compilation. Picking ten songs was also tricky because there is such a huge and wonderful back catalogue to choose from. As such I’ll pick an additional ten songs (actually eleven cos I cheated) here which I would have included if (a) they were available and / or (b) I could have picked 20 songs. Or 21.

So, an additional ten (or so) Durutti Column favourites.

1 – “For Belgian Friends” from “A Factory Quartet” double LP, 1981

A one off collaboration with Donald Johnson from A Certain Ratio on drums. The first time Reilly returned to piano. He wanted the piano to sound like a guitar and his guitar to sound like a piano. A simple melody but very effective. A favourite which was hard to drop from the real top 10.

2 – “Never known” from “LC” LP, 1981

The sound of murky marshes, light fading, trains passing by at dusk, words incomprehensible, but the feeling is clearly audible. “LC” is a total classic album. Every home should have one.

3 – “Spent time” from “Another setting” LP, 1983

“Another setting” isn’t regarded as a classic DC album but I love it. This album closer is all about that sustained guitar, that Fender Rhodes and the fragile singing.

4 – “Saudade” from “Amigos em Portugal” LP, 1983

Reilly made this LP in one day in an unfamiliar studio in Portugal. Some themes would be developed on “Without Mercy” and “Circuses and bread”, but this little gem got tossed aside. It sounds too simple, but is still gorgeous.

5 – “The aftermath” from “Artists for animals” compilation LP, 1986

Another high point of their 85 peak. Slow and solemn, like a funeral march, and Reilly’s guitar sounds like it’s shaking from the grief. And he does that mandolin solo thing too. Stunning.

6 – “Catos Con Guantes” from “Our lady of the angels” EP, 1987

A seven minute Spanish guitar workout with additional viola and marimba interjections from time to time. Beautifully recorded, it could go on forever.

7 – “William B” from “Vini Reilly” LP / “Real drums real drummer” from “The Sporadic Recordings” CD, both 1989

Two versions of the same melody. “William B” is just pure guitar and strange vocal samples, both echoing into the distance. “Real drums real drummer” is Reilly and Mitchell racing each other to the end of the song, Mitchell rolling around the drum kit with abandon, Reilly bashing out chords and melodies, the same daft tune…

8 – “Contra-indictions” from “Obey the time” LP, 1990

Drum machines, chirping sequencers, Italo House piano patterns. Is this Durutti? Then a characteristic echoing guitar bursts through, perfectly placed, and you go “Of course it’s Durutti!”

9 – “Only love” from a free CD given away with “Total Guitar” magazine in 1995, added as an extra track on “Fidelity” reissue on LTM

Yes, it’s obscure. Yes, it’s good. A kind of remix of “The rest of my life” from “Sex and death”, this is just an incredibly haunting guitar refrain, some spooked choral samples and a hint of a vocal. But it’s very effective.

10 – “Drinking time” from “Time was gigantic…when we were kids” LP, 1998

Because sometimes Durutti Column can stun me with a real song with a structure, a tune, a full vocal and a heartfelt sentiment. And sometimes it can sound too personal, like the listener is intruding on someone else’s life.

So there’s more Durutti favourites. Ask me tomorrow and there could be a different ten.

If I can stop arguing with myself about Durutti Column songs, I should point out I’ve started another blog post which may take some time to complete as it covers a lot of ground musically and in terms of timespan, then there’s another piece looking at my parents’ record collection in the late 70s (they didn’t go disco) and a few bits and pieces I’ve got lying around to finish, and another Toppermost I’ve promised to write… So lots to look forward to in the future. Last year I said I’d take a summer break and I didn’t. This year I really will take a summer break. In the meantime, thank you for all your comments and support and linking in to my random meandering, especially those who link through their blogs. I still can’t believe I get away with it!

Next time – the importance of rules.

Something for the longing

On Saturday 4th May 1991 I received a brown package through the post – the first of many packages I would receive over the years from Sarah Records. That first shipment contained the first two 7 inch EPs by Brighter and their debut 10 inch mini-LP “Laurel”, alongside a long A4 letter, in closely written handwriting in blue pen, from Clare Wadd apologising for the lateness of the package, agreeing with my letter with my order sent the previous month, and enclosing a flyer for the upcoming tour by The Orchids to promote their “Unholy Soul” LP. She wrote “I know it’s a fair way from Cardiff to Bristol but you could make it…”. Well sadly I didn’t make that journey then, but today I am travelling from Newport to Bristol for “Between hello and goodbye”, a celebration of Sarah Records including the debut screening of “My secret world” – a film on the label – and an exhibition of memomabilia and sets by Amelia and Rob from Heavenly, Secret Shine and – yes – the Orchids.

I’ve mentioned my love for Sarah Records many times, including this post about discovering them through The Field Mice. When I bought my ticket for tonight’s extravaganza I suggested to the nice folks at Toppermost that I could write an article for them with a Top 10 songs by The Orchids – and they agreed to have it coincide with today. So there’s a link to that article here, and hopefully I should be writing a review of the evening which will be available by the end of the week.

As for the future of this blog, I have a few more ideas in the pipeline – a few more Toppermosts for a start. Oh and thanks to WordPress for reminding me that the blog is one year old already – doesn’t time fly? Speaking of which I have another birthday coming up so there will be another birthday present record review on that day. It’s a goodie! Then I’ll see what else happens. There’s still unfinished business with my parents’ record collection, and a few other bits and pieces to come. In the meantime, thank you to my dedicated readers and followers for showing faith in me and encouraging me to write, and if anyone who follows me is going to the Arnolfini tonight, I’ll be the plump chap with thinning hair shouting out for “I was just dreaming” during the Orchids’ set (you have been warned!)

Next time – The Big E

Tiny words

A few weeks ago while I was writing my piece on “Radio Activity”, I happened to ask Toppermost if anyone had written a Top 10 of Kraftwerk thinking “Of course someone’s done Kraftwerk, only one of the most important bands in music history…”. But I was wrong, so I wrote one for them. You may like to read it here. As ever I would recommend you have a look around the site, there’s always something good to read and listen to there. (Other excellent music blogs are available too – Then Play Long is currently in a real purple patch of great writing at the moment). Anyway, apologies if I keep writing about Kraftwerk…

Another little point while I’m here. I’m taking a little break from writing for a while, what with Easter holidays coming up and everything. I’m working on two pieces for the end of the month – one for the 30th April (again?) and one for the 3rd May over at Toppermost – and there’s another one or two after that but beyond that point I have no plans to write for a little while. At the moment that ‘little while’ could be days or weeks or months. We’ll just see what happens. I might be inspired to write again, or I might not. We’ll see when we get there. In the meantime thank you to everyone who’s helped me along and supported me – you know who you are and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.