At last the end is nigh. The final five albums from my debut album list. Yes I know it’s forty not fifty, I can’t count. Sorry. Anyway, let’s press on, I’m sure you’ve been on the edge of your seats waiting…
“The United States Of America” – The United States Of America
I’m not old enough to remember “The Rock Machine Turns You On”, the first cheaply priced sampler album issued by CBS in 1968. Well I’m not old enough to remember it at the time, but at some point around 1982 a copy of the LP somehow ended up in my brother’s record collection. I think my mother found it for him in a charity shop where she worked and thought he might be interested in it. He may not have been that interested at the time, but looking back on the track listing the LP does hold pointers to music that both he and I would end up listening to later on in our lives. It’s a very 1968 album, and a very CBS ’68 album – there’s Dylan in John Wesley Harding mode, Simon and Garfunkel doing “Scarborough Fair”, Al Kooper gets in there with Blood Sweat and Tears, the Byrds drop by for the oceanic “Dolphin’s smile”, “Time of the season” before it became a hit… But there’s oddities too, and looking back suddenly a few songs make sense. As in “So that’s why I recognised ‘Can’t be so bad’ and ‘Sisters of mercy’ and ‘Turn on a friend’ when I heard them…”. I don’t think my brother played the album many times, but even back in the early 80s I remembered that ridiculous song with clanging noises and screeching violin about a wooden wife. That kind of song you don’t forget in a hurry.
Jump to the late 90s – ’97 or thereabouts – and I spot “The United States Of America” on LP and CD in Diverse Records I examine the sleeve on the LP, it looks a very ’68 CBS LP sleeve – all the lyrics on the back in the same manner as “Bookends”, but I pick up the CD instead. I suppose my interest had been piqued by “Love song for the dead Che”, the debut single by Northern Picture Library back in October ’93 which was a cover version of a song from this LP. I didn’t know much more about the band but I was going through a phase of listening to as much odd music issued by CBS in 1968 and this fitted that bill perfectly.
The United States Of America were the brainchild of Joseph Byrd, an attempt to bring radical ideas – political satire, electronic instrumentation, avant-garde experimentation – into mainstream music. It all must have sounded very revolutionary when it was released in early 1968, but then revolution was in the air that year – everyone thought it would happen sooner or later. I’m not going into the socio-political side of things here – there’s been enough books about that over the years and I’ve read quite a few of them – but purely in musical terms, this album was its own revolution. There were no electric guitars at all, just bass guitar, drums, electric violin and a range of primitive synthesisers and effects – ring modulators, oscillators and more. And then there was Dorothy Moskowitz as lead singer, her voice alternately soft and harsh – a counterpart to Grace Slick in Jefferson Airplane.
The opening of “The American metaphysical circus” wasn’t inspiring – a collage calliopes and barrel organs and marching bands for almost a minute, then creeping into the sound picture is a strange unearthly noise like a buzzing bee, then the song starts – slow and careful, bass and drums and keyboards and vocals while in the distance peculiar noises echo. And with each verse’s pass, the female vocal – so calm and serene – changes, different effects each time it’s clearly an homage to “Being for the benefit of Mr Kite”, yet is far more sinister – the chorus runs “And the price is right, the cost of one admission is your mind”. And as the music rises, the words get submerged into the rising clanging of the electronics. Finally the song collapses back into fairground music. Very odd. “Hard coming love” starts like a typical late 60s US psych raver – blaring keyboards, pulsing rhythm section, a lead guitar seemingly searing through the song. Only it’s a distorted keyboard, and after a minute it all drops down to quietitude – Moskowitz is alluring, talking about love but meaning something else – the song stops and the synths rise to the occasion, so to speak. Dirty and hard. “Cloud song” is a gentle drum-free drift, as befitting such a title – it sounds very sixties but decidedly modern too. “The garden of earthly delights” is more hip 60s groove music, the lyrics full of drug references or war references – so many mushrooms! And the song is smothered in those typical ‘let’s see what a synth can do’ noises, but it’s fabulous psych rock and the lyrics could almost predict the rave generation – “dancing by night dying by day”. To close the side is “I won’t leave my wooden wife for you, Sugar” – all clangs, fuzz bass and satire. “You make me feel twenty five again” sings Byrd and you really don’t believe him. A glimpse of a typically perfect American family life.
Side two begins with chanting in Latin before “Where is yesterday?” kicks off, with queasy sliding strings and gentle descending music and lots of echoing vocals. Unease again – “Shadows on the pavement but no bodies do you find”. It passes the time until “Coming down” kicks the door down. This is more prime psych rock – fuzz bass, charging drums, frantic tambourine, odd synth noises and a perfect drug lyric, full of what now sound like cliches but probably sounded really clever at the time – “Reality is only temporary”, “A trip that doesn’t need a ticket or a bed”. As it dies away in an explosion, “Love song for the dead Che” fades in gently, swooning strings and keyboards and a strange lyric which is heartfelt and gentle. “Stranded in time” always annoyed me, the staccato strings were very “Eleanor Rigby” but are out-of-phase so sound HORRIBLE (this is producer David Rubinson’s fault, it’s an effect he used all over Moby Grape’s debut LP for those unearthly harmonies – and if you’re thinking “What about Moby Grape’s debut?” Well we’ll get to that at another point soon enough), and the song veers from the string quartet to waltz time rock band back and forth while being another critique of straight society… “The American way of love” starts as another conventional song (unless you listen to the sordid lyrics) before rocketing into some strange areas, electric violins through fuzzboxes, space noises, discordant strings then a second section about “California good time music”, sunshine pop with a pervy twist, finally into a grinding section where all manner of craziness comes in – sections from the previous nine songs are spun in as found sounds and collaged into a daydream nightmare as the whole album replays before your ears before a loop of “How much fun it’s been” repeats endlessly. It’s a bit “Revolution 9” and a bit like “Track for speedy freaks” which closes Blossom Toes’ debut LP which crams their entire LP into one minute of confusion.
And that’s the end of the album and effectively the end of the band. Byrd made a second album under the name Joe Byrd and the Field Hippies, confusingly titled “The American Metaphysical Circus” before heading back to academia. Moskowitz moved over to join Country Joe and the Fish and well the revolution never happened and the revolutionaries certainly weren’t on Columbia.
But.. This LP turned out to be more influential than a lot of other albums of the era. The mix of rock instrumentation with electronics was highly innovative and set the groundwork for any number of bands who integrated the two together. It was odd hearing the LP in ’97 because it sounded quite up to date, the influence upon Stereolab and Broadcast was obvious. And Portishead too (thanks Marcello). It’s now regarded as a forward looking classic and that’s the way it should be. Get past the dated lyrics and it’s a total blast.
“Bringing home the ashes” – The Wild Swans
In the mid 80s the Wild Swans were spoken about as if they were a magical dream, a mirage which briefly appeared, made a perfect record then disappeared again. As soon as I read Mark Cooper’s “Liverpool Explodes!” book which mentioned them, I knew I had to hear their one single. In late ’85 I was lucky enough to buy a bootleg tape of “To the shores of Lake Placid”, the Zoo Records compilation, which the kind bootlegger had added both sides of the Wild Swans’ single at the end of the tape. “Revolutionary Spirit” and “God forbid” were as special as I had hoped. A year later I found a copy of the single in a secondhand store for only £2 and snapped it up immediately. Then in the Autumn of ’86, Strange Fruit Records issued their first batch of Peel Session 12 inch EPs – including the Wild Swans’ session from June ’82. I didn’t buy it then but found the cassette of it (in a bizarre plastic case…it seems the cassette version is quite rare, it’s not mentioned on discogs.com) in a bargain bin in Virgin in Sheffield in early ’88, and if I remember correctly I bought it alongside an Editions EG label compilation from 1981 and “Arrival” by Abba, all for 99p each. That Wild Swans session always reminds me of Spring in Sheffield, the sun starting to warm up the mornings, getting drunk and sleeping on floors on the wrong side of town, then bleary bus rides into the city centre for lectures.
One of the unexpected side-effects of the Peel session being issued was that the Wild Swans reformed, made a new album and played some gigs. When I found that they were playing Sheffield Poly (as support act for the Mightly Lemon Drops) I was ecstatic and quickly snapped up tickets. Sadly on the night the sound was typical support band mush, all midrange noise and not a lot else. I recognised their current single “Young Manhood” as the set opener, and “Revolutionary Spirit” was the closer but the rest was just noise. And they completely ignored Simon and me down the front shouting “No bleeding” at them. And the Mighty Lemon Drops were shit too. Anyway, I finally bought the LP “Bringing home the ashes” when I found a copy (it was a bit hard to find for some reason) and played it a lot, not just because I liked it but because…
Because it’s a bit bloody bland. It took me a lot of listening to identify which songs were which. It’s a very late 80s production job. Lots of big drums, the latest keyboard sounds (which now date it horribly), but the real problem is the lack of dynamics. The music is great, absolutely wonderful – but there’s no lift for the choruses, nothing to make the listener sit up and take notice which makes the album sound homogenous, safe and uninteresting. Which is a shame as the songs deserve better.
“Young manhood” was their ‘comeback’ single and works well as a statement of intent for the LP, a bit of a Northern Soul stomper,a list of things Paul Simpson doesn’t believe in, while the guitars chime – nice one note guitar solo. But it refuses to soar. “Bible dreams” is more remembrance of friendships and lives changed, but already the problem of the album is evident – there’s not enough variety within the songs, all spritely and brisk but nothing to distinguish them from each other. “Bitterness” and “Archangels” could be the same song – great background driving music I suppose. These songs deserve better, so much better. God I feel bad about this LP, I wish it was better. “Northern England” is slower, slightly. There’s too many simple chord changes from C to F and the like, not enough surprise. Side two just carries on like side one too. Great songs all – “Whirlpool heart”, “Mythical beast” – but ruined by the production. I should point out that Simpson’s croon is perfect and his lyrics are wonderful depictions of growing up and facing adulthood. But I so want the fog to lift off these songs. For something different to happen.
Finally it does.
The closing track is called “The worst year of my life”. It’s slower, it’s based around a drum machine and high chiming guitars. And it’s different, beautiful, honest and a little bit scary because it could be me. If any song touched a nerve with me, it was this one. “There’s no golden future, just an open wound there”. God that hurt.
(I’ve only just realised the drum machine pattern is the same as “Bluerings” by Microdisney, also recorded and released around the same time Make of that what you will)
After this LP, the Wild Swans ceased to exist as a functioning band, Simpson made a second LP under the name with various Liverpool legends like Ian Broudie, Chris Sharrock and Ian McNabb, but the bizarre bubblegum pop never got issued here and then Simpson retreated into Skylab. And that was that. The essential Wild Swans can be found on the “Incandescent” compilation of their 81 – 82 material. “Bringing home the ashes” could be so much better. An opportunity wasted. Shame.
“Uh! Tears Baby (A Trash Icon)” – Win
As I write this in the first week of September, there is a lot of attention on my home town of Newport. By the end of this week 150 world leaders will be attending the NATO summit at the Celtic Manor Hotel. That means David Cameron, Barack Obama, Angela Merkel and all the rest of them will be here in my home town. Well…Kind of… The Celtic Manor was previously best known for being the venue of the Ryder Cup in 2010, when the world’s golf loving celebrities all turned up here. And it was odd hearing stories of Will Smith and his family eating in the Harvester on Malpas Road and that kind of thing. But this summit is very different to that. These are powerful people so the security is high – there’s police from all over the country in attendance, there’s ten foot high security fencing around the hotel and other buildings and there have been police helicopters flying over Newport day and night. But the security fencing is mainly around Cardiff – the capital city ten miles down the M4 where some meetings and meals are taking place – and has been causing traffic chaos for weeks as it has been deployed and this has caused some confusion in the media. From CNN and BBC to the Guardian, the media is under the impression that it’s taking place in Cardiff and it isn’t. Fair play to Newportians from Mayor Matthew Evans (never thought I’d mention him on Goldfish, hi there…) to members of GLC, they’ve done their best to promote Newport as the venue. But still Cardiff gets the security which leads to the thought that the world leaders won’t be setting foot inside the city itself, only seeing the hotel and little else. Actually no, it turns out that since I wrote this Obama and Cameron are going to visit a school ‘in Wales’ (it’s all they’re saying for now) on Thursday morning. I’d rather have the school inspectors in… Anyway, all this activity comes at a time when Cameron boosts (if that’s the right word) the country’s threat level to severe, implying that a terrorist attack is imminent. While everyone’s in my hometown. Great. I only mention this because I was listening to “Uh! Tears Baby” by Win last night and it struck me that while the music is dated the lyrics are still pertinent and relevant. But we’ll get to that soon enough…
Win are now seen as a footnote in Davey Henderson’s biography – a gap between the Fire Engines and Nectarine Number Nine – but at the time they felt like a big deal. I first came across them playing “You got the power” on “The Tube” in the autumn of 1985 and loved the song. It also turned up in an advert for McEwans lager around the same time (thanks again Marcello). I didn’t buy the single until it was reissued in 1986 in a double 12 inch with their previous single “Unamerican broadcasting”, both on Swamplands Records, the label set up by Alan Horne after Postcard, and home to James King, Memphis and Paul Quinn. “You got the power” had quite a provocative sleeve – a baby holding a Cadburys Flake with a blue background. Hmm….nevermind. Anyway, there were more singles and finally the album “Uh! Tears Baby” was issued in 1987 on London Records who had taken over Swamplands.
And much success was expected. Only it didn’t happen. Already by 1987 Simon Reynolds was mentioning Win as failures in one of the essays later collected in “Blissed Out” – “Win lost!” he stated. They were entryists, trying to subvert from within the pop system, but by not having an entry into the charts they had already failed, according to Reynolds. Was that really the case?
The album opens with a bright blast of guitar before the jogging rhythm of “Super popoid groove” starts. A massed chorus sing the – ahem – chorus “What I want is a super popoid groove, it’s the type of sort of thing that just makes you want to move”. Awkward already. The song was originally a ‘slagging’ of Duran and Spandau but became a celebration of the tackiness of great pop – “chewing gum for the ears, a dashing young valium to soften the fears”. It bounces along nicely, and reached a heady number 63 in the charts. “Shampoo tears” is another bright (failed) single and indicates that the world is cruel and there’s no protection from a high rate of infection… Is Henderson talking about something else here? (Yes). Back in the mid 80s the biggest threat to life was either heroin or AIDS, and Henderson knew a lot about the former – there was a lot of it in Scotland at the time. (By the way I feel like an imposter writing this by the way, this is a very Scottish record and I’m Welsh so can’t quite pick up the nuances but I’ll do my best. Apologies to Scots reading this). “Binding love spell” is about..well.. Love I suppose. “Un-American broadcasting” is a more polished rerecording of their debut single, and the sharp funk edges have been smoothed away, and the Speak and Spell games make less sense too. But lyrically the anti-American sentiment is still strong. “Turn your ABC into any language…turn your ABC into propaganda…”. “Hollywood Baby Too” is a bit of a glam stomper – there’s definitely a bit of “All the young dudes” in there – but lyrically dismisses the Hollywood dream factory. “Empty holsters” is slower and deeper, taking pot shots at America in general and gun culture. (I could be wrong about all of this, mind) but comes across like T’Pau while Carol Decker pops outside for a quick ciggie break.
“You got the power” is bright and brash but hides a powerful message – “You got the power to generate fear, you got the power to censor what is real…”. Is that the media, or the government? That such a song sneaked onto TV through an advert for lager must have amused Henderson. “Charms of powerful trouble” is Prince doing Bolan, and feels troubled itself – those vocal chants are unsettling – “Just one thing I don’t want to dream of – J Edgar Hoover and his poisoned doves”??? “It may be a beautiful sky tonight but it’s only a shelter from a world at risk” is little more than the title but is as uneasy in its skin as the previous song. A brief vocal reprise of “Charms” leads to the final song “Baby Cutting”. Big tribal drums and more unease musically and Henderson whispering threats, half the time inaudible but very scary – all the unease in the previous songs is unleashed here. “Like a baby cutting the heads off flowers, here she comes…”. Do they mean Maggie? “She will double your money…”. Of course this was the era of privatisation of British Gas, she oversaw all that…
I played the album a lot when I bought it in late ’87 and though I didn’t understand it much (and I don’t now – see previous paragraph) I felt it was a special record. There were important thoughts hidden in the music which was typically mid 80s – brash, bright, shiny… (A quote from a Japanese website on this album says it all – “The debut, Uh! Tears Baby (A Trash Icon), featured danceable rhythms, sunny vocal harmonies, glossy synths. This record actually grooved”). But people didn’t get it. I lent a tape of it to a friend in Sheffield and he said it sounded like Wham! and dismissed it. Win would move to Virgin Records, create another bubblegum pop gem in “Freaky Trigger”, still have no hits, play one of the shortest shows I saw at the Leadmill (after five songs Henderson apologised that all their machines had broken down and the band left the stage, never to return) and that was Win’s career over and done. I lent my CD of “Uh! Tears Baby” to a friend in college in ’91 and never saw it again, a decision I would regret when the CD started selling for silly money on Ebay. But I did find another copy a few years back in a charity shop and listening to it was like getting reacquainted with an old friend – quite tearful in places.
Does the LP relate to NATO? No not really. But it’s only a shelter for a world at risk.
“Neil Young” – Neil Young
I would expect that most readers of Goldfish know who Neil Young is. Buffalo Springfield, Crazy Horse, Crosby Stills Nash and Young… But back in 1993 I didn’t know that much – they were just names, I didn’t know the music. That changed when I borrowed “Decade” from Cardiff library. I taped it without listening to it and the next morning my father drove me to work from Penarth to Newport as he was on his way to Swindon. The tape started playing and we were both gobsmacked as great song followed great song. Admittedly we both got confused when “Broken arrow” started with a pisstake of “Mr Soul” which we’d only just heard. But where had all this music been all our lives? I started picking up Neil Young LPs that year and found a few favourites along the way – my personal favourites were “Zuma” and “After the goldrush” and I really didn’t take to “Harvest” at all. I think my brother discovered Young’s music around the same time, so we all ended up swapping favourites and hunting for bootlegs… Actually there’s a funny story there… A certain record shop was selling the 4 CD “Rock’n’roll Cowboy” set and my father went in there to buy it and they refused to sell it to him, thinking this middle aged bearded gentleman in a suit was a plant to catch them selling boots. He told me about this and as I was known to the staff as a regular customer I went in there the next day and asked for the same set, bought it and explained that the gentleman wanting to buy it the day before was my father. Oh how they laughed, just as you are now. Sigh.
Anyway, let’s have a look at Young’s debut LP cunningly entitled “Neil Young”. It was recorded during 1968 and initially released at the end of that year to be withdrawn, remixed and reissued early in ’69. The reason for this is because it was originally mixed and issued using some ‘fancy’ stereo to mono processing which made it sound awful. The album was made in the immediate wake of Buffalo Springfield falling apart, and there are links to Young’s songs from their second album “Again”, notably some arrangements and production by Jack Nitzsche. But Young claimed that he disliked the experience of recording ‘alone’ and moved away from the sound of this album quite radically with “Everybody knows this is nowhere”.
But that’s jumping ahead. The LPI starts with a pleasant country trot of an instrumental called “The emperor of Wyoming”, full of twanging guitars and a sweeping string section. Nice but unexpected. “The loner” sees Young setting himself up as an outsider to everything – surely he’s writing about himself here? Lots of delicious fuzztone guitar and creamy organ (did I just say that? Sorry), but from time to time this strange string arrangement drops by with little bursts of fuzz guitar. What’s all that about? “If I could have her tonight”…ah I suppose I should mention that when I first heard this LP in the summer of ’93 I was still crushing on someone and the songs have relevance from that. “All of a sudden she was on my mind…” Ha yes indeed. A hope of love, and the guitars jangle and chime quite gorgeously here. “I’ve been waiting for you” is more of the same, Young looking for a woman to save his life… Those little piano figures and the descending organ swells… Love this song, and then the guitar solo rises up from nowhere! It’s very post-psychedelic, in a good way. “The old laughing lady” harks back to “Expecting to fly”, but is quietly spooked, and after a few minutes of the music swelling up and down it finally strikes you – it sounds like a track from David Axelrod’s “Songs of Innocence”. But then it’s the same players – Carol Kaye on bass, Earl Palmer on drums. Check those drum snare fills and rolls. But the song is spooked as hell, those strings are uneasy and the female backing vocals are in pain.
Side two starts slow and uneasy – “String quartet from Whiskey Boot Hill” leads into “Here we are in the years”, a supposedly relaxing homage to relaxing in the sun, chilling out in the country… And hang on, where did that Moog come from amongst all the arpeggio guitar chime? “What did you do to my life?” is another lovelorn mid-tempo beauty, lots of vibrato and fuzztone guitars and echoing backing vocals. “I’ve loved her so long” is in the same category as “The old laughing lady” and sounds even more like David Axelrod, the vibes and electric piano and string arrangements. Those backing vocals are unsettling too. There’s such a melancholy mood across the whole side as it drifts by. Finally “The last trip to Tulsa” is mainly Neil and his acoustic guitar singing a very Dylan-esque travelogue, lots of dread there too. Very quotable lyrics too. Not quite “Desolation Row” though.
In the end, this album was the most logical direction for Young from Buffalo Springfield but not really right for him and he found the Rockets – his own Rolling Stones, as he called them – and was invited into Crosby, Stills and Nash and the rest is history. He was lucky to be on Reprise Records at the point where they were letting artists experiment with their music – it wouldn’t happen today. But as it is, “Neil Young” isn’t as bad as he makes out. For a start, both Bowie and the Pixies have covered songs from this LP, which is odd. And there’s a lovely innocence about the love songs which is striking. And more than anything, it sounds like Neil Young fronting late 60s Axelrod. What’s not to love?
“Colossal Youth” – Young Marble Giants
There have been plenty of candidates for ‘the worst year of my life’ (do you see what I did there?) but 2007 is still the freshest in my memory. I lived through 2007 with two massive storm clouds hanging over me – both of my own making and both would lead towards my Aspergers diagnosis the following year. This has made writing about music from 2007 very difficult – I was hoping to include “Fourteen autumns and fifteen winters” by The Twilight Sad in the previous blog post but listening to it brought back so many memories of Spring ’07 that I found it impossible. It’s a great album, you should listen to it, but I can’t yet. That album alongside “Sky blue sky” and “Never hear the end of it” and “Out to sea”… Can’t listen to them. That’s just how Spring ’07 was for me. House husband driven quietly nuts by too many dirty nappies, too much CBeebies and too much time on my hands. Thank you sorry.
But the Autumn of ’07 was… Not a lot better to be perfectly honest. But at least I was working. I’d started a job in July for A Major Internet Provider, working in their call centre doing technical support over the phone. If you had a problem you’d ring me on a premium rate number and I’d try to sort you out within the twenty minute limit imposed by OFCOM. Want to set up an internet router? Simple, just type in 192.168.0.1 on Internet Explorer. (See, that number is burned into my memory). Got an email jamming your inbox? I’d go in and sort it out. (During my time there I did this for the drummer for Dodgy and the actress Jenny Seagrove – she was lovely, especially when I rang her back on her mobile to tell her I’d sorted it out). But the job was hard work, the shift pattern was crap – I was often on 2pm to 10;30pm, the call centre was a shit hole (and they admitted it), the managers were ogres who would scream at you if you took time off-line to go to the toilet… It was a great laugh.
And in the Autumn of ’07 the first of the two storm clouds broke. I was in the dog house to put it politely and it felt like the end of the world, in a tiny way. The second storm cloud would still hang around for a few months… Actually about a month later the second cloud kinda exploded but the repercussions wouldn’t be felt for a while. But it all got a bit embarrassing and strained and oh I hated my life at the time. And it was all my fault. Every shift at the call centre would start with a long email composed to the only person I could confide in and knew what was going on and they were probably horrible to read now. I’d sit at a computer hating the job and hating myself and hating everything in the whole wide world. I would spend every break time standing by the A48 watching cars hurtle past me with “I feel like going home” by Yo La Tengo playing on my walkman. That’s a special song – slow and sad, strange guitar noises behind the piano, heart stopping chord changes… Then…
“Sometimes late at night while running from the rain. Running from the voices filling up my brain, now I wish they’d leave me alone and let me be to go off on my own”
And on that word “own” there is such a BEAUTIFUL heartwrenching chord change… And then a slightly unsettling instrumental coda. I’d head back into the call centre wiping the tears out of my eyes.
And I bought “Colossal Youth” by Young Marble Giants at this exact point.
I had almost bought “Colossal Youth” many times before. Back in 1986 I almost bought it during the summer but picked up “Here comes everybody” by The Wake instead. In the summer of ’91 I almost bought it again from Our Price when the CD reissue came out, but I bought “Funeral at the movies” by Shudder To Think instead because it was cheaper. Now in 2007 those lovely people at Domino Records had reissued it in a three CD version with EPs and Peel sessions and I’d read about it in “Rip it up and start again” so I took the plunge, not quite knowing what to expect.
I probably wasn’t expecting it to be so minimal. The drum machine is tinny and tiny, the guitar and bass playing is mostly cliche-free spindly post punk. There’s occasional organ too, hinting sometimes at the sounds Robert Wyatt would make. And there was Alison Statton – blankly singing words “as if she’s at a bus stop” (as YMG guitarist Stuart Moxham said once). But in this quiet music there was a lot of power.
I really don’t want to go song by song through the album because it’s a bit pointless. It’s skeletal, there’s huge spaces in the music to find your own thoughts inside, and that’s precisely what I did. I lost myself within the album, picking up lines and words from songs that were relevant to what was happening. No song outstays its welcome, it makes its point then stops. Even the instrumentals work, providing breathing space within the album. “Eating Noddemix” seems more relevant now in our multi channel multi media world. There is a typically 1980 sense of dread within the muslc, too – the unspoken fear of impending destruction. “NITA” scared me though – “You’re haunting me because I let you” was not what I wanted to hear. In fact that song brings back memories I’d rather forget. Actually so does “Music for evenings”. Why exactly am I listening to this? It’s all coming back, dark drives home, hiding in corners of the call centre where I could be alone… Oh and my car’s engine stopped working too, didn’t it? I drove to work for a 2pm start, parked at the top car park, went to move it on my first break and after 50 yards the engine imploded and I had to push it down the hill to park it up, then had to wait for the shift to end at 10:30 to call a recovery vehicle. I did ask management if I could leave early but they told me to sod off. They were nice like that.
So yes *Colossal Youth” was a relevation to me. It also sounded like the kind of music I was trying to make in 1985. Indeed if I had accepted the offer of two female schoolfriends to sing for me during the spring of that year then “808 days” may have sounded like this album. But it didn’t. And no you can’t hear it. “Wind in the rigging” has just started and I feel autumn’s chill in my bones all over again.
And there you go, the end of the line. Thanks for reading, thanks for your patience, and thanks for your support. As Captain Sensible once song I’m glad it’s all over.
Next time – Totally psyched, or how I learned to search through the rubble.