Long Songs

About six weeks ago, after listening to the wonder that is They Might Be Giants’ ‘Fingertips’ (essentially a series of twenty one songs ranging from 4 seconds to a minute and a half in length), I thought it might be a great idea to list a whole bunch of other short songs that still warrant recognition. So, I made the list, asked a bunch of friends on Facebook for their thoughts and despite a big reaction, the post kind of fizzled out. I guess if you look through this blog you see massive gaps in time – that’s just how it works I’m afraid.

Anyway, for anyone that can be bothered, this is the top 10 list I was going to talk about and link to etc…

PAUL MCCARTNEY – Ram On (Reprise) (55s)
NUMBER ONE CUP – ‘Til Tuesday (52s)
THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS – Minimum Wage (46s)
LAWNMOWER DETH – Drunk In Charge Of An Ugly Face (33s)
GUIDED BY VOICES – Cigarette Tricks (19s)
BRAKES – Hi How Are You? (38s)
BRITISH SEA POWER – Men Together Today (42s)
DEUS – Shake Your Hip (42s)
EL GUAPO – Super/Stition (50s)
DELICATESSEN – Appeased (54s)

But I’m not going to bother with that now – let’s take a look at some epics instead. Here are a few of my top looooong songs;

MIKE OLDFIELD – Tubular Bells pt.ii (23m21s)

I’ve no doubt talked about the influence that Tubular Bells had on me as a nipper elsewhere on this blog, and incessantly down the pub too. The whole record is a joy and despite Oldfield constantly trying to update it ever since – usually to horrifying effect – the original is still by far and away the best. Side B just about wins it by a nose thanks to the bizarre vocal half way through and the fact that it closes with the Sailor’s Hornpipe. There’s a photo of me somewhere with a massive pair of 1970s cans on my head, listening intently. Probably in the attic. Along with the cans.

SUPER FURRY ANIMALS – The Man Don’t Give A Fuck (Live) (22m31s)

Given a somewhat muted release in 2004, this version adds approximately 34 new dimensions to the original that was released several years before. Opening with a loop from a Bill Hicks stand-up routine it continues with a rollocking version of the original. But rather than fade at the end of the song, we’re treated to nigh on 13 minutes of blissful techno from the more than capable hands of Cian Ciaran (who has since proved himself to be more than a songwriting match for frontman Gruff Rhys). The song then does in fact fade out with the ‘you know they don’t give a fuck about anybody else’ refrain, but even that takes 7 minutes. Definitely a highlight of an incredibly impressive back-catalogue.

GODSPEED! YOU BLACK EMPEROR – Mladic (20m00s)

Pure class. One of the tunes of the decade. Once play is pressed, it is impossible to stop listening. The album possibly still maintains the number one position on the Music Geek Monthly table two years since its release, and rightly so. The final three minutes (not trying to make you skip or anything) is some seriously crescendo building genius. Sadly, I’ve only managed to see G!YBE twice; the latest being 6 years prior to them starting to perform it live.

PROLAPSE – Flex (15m07s)

This one is a bit of a cheat because the recorded version of the song isn’t all that great, frankly. Anyone lucky enough to have seen them perform it live however, as I tried to do as often as possible in the mid-late 1990s, will probably inform you that it was the highlight of their set and that they indeed blew any bands they were playing with right off the stage; no matter who they were. I miss Prolapse.

LOW – Born By The Wires (13m27s)

As bleak as they come; definitely not one to listen to if your dog has run away or if you feel aggrieved at something that happened at a recent family gathering. Fragile vocals drift over Low’s trademark slow, brooding instrumentation for the first half of the song before it takes a turn for the haunting. A series of single, strummed guitar/bass dischords is pretty much all you’re getting for the final 7 minutes. The best song to close a horror film you’re unlikely to find.

So, there you go. That’s five of them; there are loads more but there’s over an hour and a half’s worth of listening right there. I’ll no doubt revisit this whole subject again, especially as I didn’t include any Underworld or Tortoise songs.

Or Panda Bear.

Or Jon Hopkins.

Dead Medicine

Red_Medicine_2,5cmYes, yes, I’ve said it once before, with last year’s quitting ending up being nothing more than a three month hiatus, but I am winding down Red Medicine – from a promotions perspective at least. A few of you know this already but the financial toll is proving to be a little too much, and something that is meant to be an enjoyable hobby is turning into me having to start shopping at Lidl.

That simply isn’t on.

I’ve undergone a couple of changes in my personal life in recent months (not in the same way the Frank Warren has) and have found my disposable income much less disposable than before. There is a lot of competition between promoters in Cardiff – all of it friendly – but as much as I’d like to be able to keep up with your Jealous Lovers Clubs and Holy Boredoms, I certainly have the inclination, but sadly not the time.

I will, however, be still very involved in the music scene in South Wales and beyond. Once my upcoming gigs are done and dusted, I am looking to enter the world of artist management instead; I already have a few interested parties so we’ll see what comes of that. I will also continue to do little bits and bobs for Buzz magazine and of course, keep this little site up and running with gig and album reviews and whatnot.

Red Medicine will be going out with a bang, what with a stage at this year’s HUB Festival and visits to Cardiff from Sleaford Mods and That Fucking Tank all ready to go.

So it just leaves me to thank all of the bands that have played under the RM umbrella, the sound engineers that have made them sound as perfect as possible and all the venues and their staff for being helpful/tolerant as applicable. But of course, chiefly yourselves.

Here’s the roll of honour – with clickable links where I could find them, which took me effing ages.

Thank you.

ARTISTS

4th Street Traffic

Aled Rheon

Alex Dingley Band

Andrew Paul Regan

Androo Gwynn

Ardie Collins

Badlands (nope, sorry. can’t find anything)

Benjamin Mason

Ceri James & Johnny Boy James

Charles Howl

Death Pedals

DeLooze (actually no, you weren’t very nice)

Ellie Makes Music (first ever performer for RM!)

Eska

Eve Goodman (feat Dominic Griffin)

Falling Stacks

Fjords

Francesca’s Word Salad

Ghost Carriage Phantoms

Gindrinker

Gwenno

Heavy Petting Zoo

Hotel Wrecking City Traders

Iepi

Jemma Roper

Kizzy Crawford

Laurence Made Me Cry

Let’s Wrestle

Life In Cold Climates

Local Sports Team

My Name Is Ian

Nine Plan Failed

Oh Peas!

R. Seiliog

Repo Man

Rhodri Brooks

Right Hand Left Hand (you also get Ratatosk depending on the click)

Rough Music (may be defunct)

Scott & Charlene’s Wedding

She Makes War

Sleaford Mods

Spectres

Sweet Benfica

Swift Arvel

Tender Prey

That Fucking Tank

The Gentle Good

The Jelas

The Lovely Wars

The Luka State

The Manatees

The Milk Race

The Sick Livers (Tidy)

The St Pierre Snake Invasion

Them Dead Beats

They Told Me You Were Dead

Totem Terrors

Y Pencadlys

SOUND ENGINEERS

Heddwyn James Davies

Joe Marvelly

Ed Truckell

(And several more… sorry)

POSTER ARTISTS

Carlos Aranda & Jone Iturria

Jessica Barnett

Adam Chard

Tom Collins

Matt Jarrett

Daniel Lazenby

VENUES

GwdiHw Café Bar, Cardiff

Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff

Undertone, Cardiff

Le Pub, Newport

The Moon Club, Cardiff

Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff

Buffalo, Cardiff

Spillers Records, Cardiff

Review – Harvey Mapcase – ‘Dot Kill Dot’

artworks-000085593086-fprbl2-t500x500There’s been something of an interesting back story to how I’ve come to review the new album by Harvey Mapcase. It might only be interesting to me, but it’s odd how some things work out. I’ve been listening to a lot of the 90s Leicester-based avant-garde band Delicatessen lately. Whilst sorting through a bunch of CDs during a house move, I stumbled across it and it’s been in the player ever since. Neil Carlill from the band noticed this sharp spike on last.fm and managed to track me down to say hello and to also introduce me to his new band, Boston, MA-based Harvey Mapcase. I’m rather glad he did.

From the off, it doesn’t sound like much has changed – thankfully –  in the 20 or so years since I first heard Carlill’s cracked, fragile vocal style. Opener ‘Hysteria’ features a similar instrumental set-up to the aforementioned Delicatessen. All that’s missing is the haunting sound of the organ. This time around, bassist Matt Black White and percussionist Doug Allen provide the rhythms while Carlill takes up guitar duties as well as providing the world-weary voice. It’s all very accomplished stuff as well, as you’d expect. ‘Hysteria’ rolls along at a steady pace before changing tempo and style for an inspired outro. An unexpected twist, of which this album proves to have many.

If cornered in a pub and told to give a one-word summary of the record lest take a beating, you’d have to go with ‘experimental’. You need look no further than the track ‘Ravens Pick Locks’ (one of several bird-related titles – not to mention the plethora of pictures in the liner notes) to find yourself immersed in a compendium of different musical styles, tempos and volumes – all within the first 30 seconds. It’s not the first time that the band takes you somewhere completely unexpected, but it’s definitely the first time you’re fully aware of it. It may not be to everyone’s taste 100% of the time, but it definitely keeps you interested.

Carlill & Co essentially don’t ‘do’ straightforward.  There are strange time signatures and arrangements peppered throughout – making it definitely a headphones at home rather than long motorway drive type of record. Give it time, and you’ll realise the amount of skill that has gone into the songwriting, lyrically and musically and you’ll be hankering to see them perform live – as I am right now. Sadly, unless you’re in the North-Eastern US, you might just have to wait a bit longer so console yourself by buying this record in the knowledge that you’re also helping a good cause by doing so.

Rating: 9 out of 10

‘Dot Kill Dot’ by Harvey Mapcase is released on 18th August 2014 on the King Harvey label. 50% of all sales from the album will go to Cape Ann Wildlife, inc.

Listen to the album sampler here

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#savelepub (again).

A little over 2 years ago I wrote a piece on this blog about the possible closure of Le Pub in Newport. At the time, Le Pub had been going for nigh on 20 years and with incredible support from punters and the staff – especially owner Samantha Dabb – it was saved at the last minute, allowing local, national and international bands to continue to perform there.

Sadly, the threat of closure has reared its ugly head once again thanks (or not) to neighbours of the venue who have begun to complain about the noise from the live music which is a staple part of Le Pub’s being. Here’s a little video in which Sam gives you the full lowdown of the problem;

In order to raise the money needed to soundproof the roof of the venue, Sam & co have come up with some nifty perks via Indiegogo to convince you to donate (should you need convincing), including the estimable option of having your own urinal and having the stuff come to your house and create a ‘pop-up’ Le Pub in your very own living room to entertain your friends.

It’s going well so far with almost £1,000 raised in a day but there’s still a long way to go. To help, you can firstly donate via the fundraising page and then go and sign the petition to review noise abatement legislation.  So whether you go down the road of having your own branded beer glass, or the slightly pricier option of having an album recorded at the venue – it will all help massively.

If you’re a little short right now, then even using the #savelepub hashtag will also help spread the word.

 

Top Ten Debut Albums

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that some of my favourite bands don’t make this list but a few of them did take some time to get going. The Chap, for instance; love them to bits and they’re probably the artist I’ve listened to the most over the last 10 years or so but their debut, ‘The Horse’ wasn’t really all that great. Some top tunes for sure, but subsequent release ‘Ham’ was all-conquering. Same goes for Faith No More, the band of my early-mid teens… didn’t really properly kick off until Angel Dust, despite releasing their debut 7 years prior. And Girls Against Boys. Here’s the top list (in no particular order) anyway, and let’s not worry about the fact that I forgot about Weezer.

download (1)Shellac – At Action Park

Following on from Big Black and Rapeman, Steve Albini teams up with Bob Weston and Todd Trainer for the first time and delivers 10 crushingly powerful songs. ‘My Black Ass’ is the best introduction that a band could possibly make. It doesn’t matter that they only make a record ever 4 or 5 years, they are forgiven.

download (2)

Aloha – That’s Your Fire

The best ‘take a chance’ album I’ve ever bought and quite possibly *the* best album I’ve ever bought. Purchased on a whim thanks to a snippet I heard in the early days of the internet, this record still gets regular plays. It’s one of the few times that indie mixes successfully with jazz and will make you fall in love with the vibraphone.

download (3)The Fall – Live At The Witch Trials

Released just in time for mam and dad to buy it for me for my first birthday*,  the first of The Fall’s 823 albums is one of their best and an amazing debut from a band who were still in their teens at the time. Mark E Smith’s sneering and wordplay on this album is a lot clearer than the toothless, crumpled mess that fronts the band these days. (*That obviously didn’t happen)

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Number One Cup – Possum Trot Plan

This was a borderline inclusion as there is a fair bit of filler on this 20-songer, but the ‘proper’ songs are some of the most finely crafted indie-rock songs you’ve probably not heard. The one standout (i.e. the one which sounds like it’s not been recorded in a bedroom) is ‘Divebomb’ which gained some college radio play. The subsequent 2 albums were even better, but this was a great way to start.

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R.E.M. – Murmur

‘Murmur’ came out in 1983, but it wasn’t until 10 years later that I found it at Hitman Records in Newport (on tape). I had no idea at the time that R.E.M. even existed in 1983, or that they sounded so much more interesting than they did for much of ‘Automatic…’ and ‘Out Of Time’. It’s the best sounding record they’ve come up with; I can never put my finger on why, but the production just does something to me. It’s kind of haunting. Yes, that does sound silly.

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Six By Seven – The Things We Make

The stunningly-beautiful-wall-of-sound-feedbackness of the outro to ‘Spy Song’. That automatically means it makes the list.

download (7)

Cable – Down-Lift The Up-Trodden

Very cleverly re-creating the album cover to John Mayall’s ‘Bluesbreakers’, Cable’s debut is all about being loud and shouty and all the things that we loved in 1995. Cable were *way* ahead of their time and this record is just as relevant today as it was almost 20 years ago on its release. Wish I’d gone to one of their comeback shows, but they were supporting Hundred Reasons.

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Modest Mouse – This Is A Long Drive For Someone With Nothing To Think About

My word there are some fine songs on this debut. The killer duo of ‘Lounge’ and ‘Beach Side Property’ is probably Isaac Brock & Co’s finest hour (or 13 mins at least) and there is no way that anyone can deny themselves a little pogo when ‘Tundra/Desert’ kicks off. Jeremiah Green on drums is the star of the show.

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Pavement – Slanted & Enchanted

Any of you that know me personally will roll their eyes at the obviousness of this album’s inclusion. I’ve probably waxed lyrical about it somewhere before – maybe even here. It’s got everything, and has basically influenced my musical preference since I first heard it in the early nineties. Lo-fi slacker heaven; each song a classic. Even the last one, which is saved by Gary Young’s drum outro.

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Super Furry Animals – Fuzzy Logic

By 1996, the Manics were already on a downward spiral post ‘Everything Must Go’**, Seattle had sent Newport to Coventry and I was spending my evenings hijacking the PA system at  Pontypool Tesco by tying a rubber band around the switch, popping this in the CD player and entertaining my fellow evening shifters with this 40 mins of joy. It did take a while to get to the second half of the album which is hardly surprising when you look at the track listing for the first. It was probably the first time I’d heard a band sing in a properly Welsh accent too. Intrigued, I was.
(** I am well aware that ‘Futurology’ is actually really quite good, I’ll be reviewing that soon. I’m so on the ball).

 

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