one faint deluded smile

Saturday, July 31, 2004


My choices from the limited selection at Top 100 2000-2004

My favourite albums (in order of pref.):
01. 45pts Radiohead - Amnesiac
02. 40pts Belle & Sebastian - Dear Catastrophe Waitress
03. 36pts Boredoms - Vision Creation Newsun
04. 32pts Life Without Buildings - Any Other City
05. 28pts Goldfrapp - Black Cherry
06. 24pts The Fiery Furnaces - Gallowsbird Bark
07. 20pts Ladytron - Light And Magic
08. 16pts The Fall - The Real New Fall LP
09. 13pts The Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Fever To Tell
10. 10pts Rufus Wainwright - Want One
11. 7pts The Liars - They Threw Us All In A Trench And Stuck A Monument On Top
12. 5pts Broadcast - Haha Sound
13. 3pts Sonic Youth - Murray Street
14. 2pts Radiohead - Kid A
15. 1pt Sufjan Stevens - Greetings From Michigan

My favourite tracks (in order of pref.):
01. 45pts Britney Spears - Toxic
02. 40pts Outkast - Hey Ya!
03. 36pts Jim O' Rourke - Get A Room
04. 32pts Radiohead - Pyramid Song
05. 28pts Broadcast - Echo's Answer
06. 24pts Ladytron - Seventeen
07. 20pts Lambchop - Up With People
08. 16pts The Strokes - Last Nite
09. 13pts Life Without Buildings - The Leanover
10. 10pts Felix Da Housecat - Silver Screen Shower Scene
11. 7pts The Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Our Time
12. 5pts Aimee Mann - Save Me
13. 3pts TV On The Radio - Blind
14. 2pts Boards Of Canada - In A Beautiful Place In The Country
15. 1pt Radiohead - Idioteque

Your MOST HATED album AND track from the nominations list:

album : Ryan Adams - Heartbreaker
track : Liz Phair - Extraordinary

Your favourite track from the favourite album you voted for:

Radiohead - Pyramid Song

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Do The Total Drop

I only ever heard The Homosexuals because they were on an Recommended Records compilation 7" that also contained a previously unissued Faust track (that I just had to own). The Faust piece was pretty dull so, luckily, "Total Drop" turned out to be an instantaneous favourite. It combined a weird pop sensibility with some almost proggish tempo and mood changes, all wrapped up in a post-punky 2-3 minutes. Just fantastic. I added it to every compilation cassette I made for people and, years later, it was one of the first things I digitised even though the vinyl was crackly and abused. For some reason I didn't seek out anything else of theirs - including the LP released on ReR - and I have no real idea why. Maybe I was saving up to travel overseas at the time. Maybe I was entering my deep stretch of music hatred...

In any case, I've just received Astral Glamour - the 3cd compilation of, supposedly, all the recordings which lie within The Homosexuals banner. Confusingly, this includes releases under the names of George Harassment, Ici La Bas and Sir Alick but it doesn't include L. Voag or Nancy Sesay or any of the other offshoots centred around bass player Jim Welton whom I can only suppose is still pissed off with the whole thing. This wide ranging discography shows just about everything that they released... maybe.

Even though the cd booklet is extensive and erudite, the band history and internal politics is still an almost impenetrable jungle which I'll never fully understand. But it seems a shame, at least to me, that the person who helped conceive the wondrous Total Drop and one of the great post-punk singles in "C'est Fab" is given little space in the text - nothing is really explained about the non-Bruno bands.

And a lot of the things which have been excluded (for whatever reason) are substantially better than half of this compilation. I still love the early tracks like "Soft South Africans" and "Vociferous Slam" but some of the half completed or badly recorded things merge together into a D.I.Y. mess. In fact, I can skip most of disk 2 entirely. But the rest of it is excellent and still stands well above most of the like-minded bands of the time (my own little attempts included). For the faint of heart, the Homosexuals cd on ReR may be a less intense option.

Lastly, "Total Drop" itself is a definite precursor to song writing style of The Fiery Furnaces... if only FF kept them to 3 minutes long!


Eppy at Clap Clap Blog has started an intensive analysis of The Fiery Furnaces "Blueberry Boat". It all seems a little obsessive to me but it's nothing if not informative.

Monday, July 26, 2004



If the picture above had been used as the background to last night's concert by Belle and Sebastian (at the Enmore Theatre in Sydney) then I wouldn't have batted an eyelid. The whole event was so endearing that smiley faces on T-shirts, sloppy kisses and great, big, warm hugs were in order. Almost everyone seemed to be having a good time except Bobby, the strangely surly long haired bass / guitar / etc player - but he is the rock! Part of the band. Main man Stuart was hopelessly slight and charmed everyone with his accent. Sarah seemed the most uncomfortable on stage but she too had a laugh, took some photos and had a quiet sit down when things got even more laid back. They all shared the same jet-lag joke and we, the audience, tittered along with them. Support band Architecture In Helsinki only added to this evening of adorableness with their own brand of carefully placed tunes and instrumentation. So it was not an evening of high energy (notwithstanding a lackadaisical AC/DC cover) but, as the indie lovebirds in front of me would attest, it was as comfortable as an old pair of boots and as warming as a cup of Prince of Wales in front of a blazing fire...

Furnaces of the Unexpected

The Fiery Furnaces played in Sydney this week and it seemed ridiculous to miss them after enjoying their recordings so much. So I tried to shrugged off my old man insecurities and mingled with the rather mixed crowd at the Metro (it's great little venue, btw).

The band was tight (and needed to be) as the music was played at a frenetic pace. It ended up being one 45 minute suite that crammed together a lot of their songs, some of which were in radically different formats: "Blueberry Boat" was almost unrecognisable - all the nifty interplays were stripped down to a 3 or 4 chord rip. The only breaks were when Andy Knowles and Toshi Yano (drummer and bass / organ / synth player respectively) went off stage for one song and an actual stoppage between 2 songs near the end. At last the audience was able to clap and shout 'hoorah' and so on but I think we wanted to do that right at the beginning. The non-stop flow of the songs was just too mind-numbing to contend with. I've heard some other live bootlegs and they usually string together 3-4 songs in a group but now they seem to be taking it to absurd extremes.

As for the people themselves... I'd heard that Matt (on the right above) was a bit surly and sometimes even very angry at the other band members if they even fluffed one note. And he didn't dissapoint this time with a curled lip, a constant clucking of the tongue and a million mile stare I'm glad I wasn't receiving. And... they were all playing really well!! Eleanor (on the left) seemed slightly frightened to be there but was more comfortable with a guitar in her hands and even did a couple of rock star jumps (a'la The Who). But when she came back to earth she looked around and seemed surprised that she would do anything so gaucely rock! Toshi reminded me a lot of the keyboard player from Radio Birdman - Pip Hoyle - with a small occassional pout and a similarity in the style of their hair flicking. Luckily he had a good rapport with Andy who was the most energetic of the bunch. In fact, he played the drummer-loon too perfection.

I can't say I had a great time - the format and their on-stage precense were too unsettling for that - but there were enough of their almost perfect songs in place to make it an interesting night out.

[PS - They supported Franz Ferdinand which is something they've done for a month or so and are continuing to do for a little while (which is a very weird thing - they seem completely incompatable). Franz were terrific: cartoon new-wave pop stars, throwing in a raft of useless jerky, robotic moves, thin ties and pointy shoes, choppy Gang of Four rhythm guitar, Haircut 100 tunefullness and fantastic audience participation.]

Thursday, July 22, 2004

More Celestial Minimalism

Fripp and Eno have finally settled down to do another duo recording: The Equatorial Stars.

Nothing much happens throughout the whole length of the record but that's not entirely unexpected. There's none of the 'genius' melodic spark above rich synth tape loops that Fripp showed on "(no pussyfooting)" and there's little of the pretty melodic refrains on parts of "Evening Star" [and just why are they so enamoured of the sky's twinkling bits?].

Instead there's a lot of the deep reverby bass ambient that Eno can apparently do in his sleep (but which is very difficult to imitate) overlayed with restrained, slightly treated guitar. It's most reminiscent of the 20 minute "Index of Metals" with it's reliance on standard improv techniques of listening and responding to the sounds being created. 'Terebellum' - the last track - could easily be 'Index II' whilst the 1st 5 tracks are similar as well. The other piece - 'Altair' - is the odd one in the batch with a funky Chic-like rhythm guitar style and a Drop era Eno backing once again overlayed with simple guitar notes.

So there's nothing astonishing in this batch but it's one I've played a lot since it arrived. I don't think that's just because I love their earlier releases so much (although that must have something to do with it). It's more that the way they play together sounds so seemlessly right!

On the inner cover is a picture of a small table with 2 cups and 2 plates. Afternoon tea, maybe? 2 old friends spending some 'nice' time together? Whatever, the results are lovely and well worth the years of waiting.

And, lastly, there's nothing as embarrasing as 'Heavy Colours' anywhere to be seen.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Phil Manzanera - 6PM

Manzanera is, ofcourse, the guitarist from Roxy Music and, therefore, was elevated to god-like heights in my teen rock heroes list. On John Cale's "Fear" his treated guitar became a talisman for me - 'this is what guitar playing is all about' and so on... And then I lost track of him, becoming more interested in spikier post-punk, as Roxy sped into their crooning soft rock pocket.

His 1st solo album "Diamond Head" was patchy but still had quite a few energising moments. "801 Live" was better with taut rock cover versions that let me enjoy good musicianship without betraying my punky sensibilities. His role in Eno's "Taking Tiger Mountain" was important but I still dislike the thin sound he used (this must have been at Eno's request - after consulting his Oblique Strategies maybe? - as he's never used it before or since). There were many other solo and 801 records released but the snippetts I'd heard all sounded uninteresting at best.

But when I heard that Eno and Wyatt and others from "Diamond Head" were playing on his new one I thought it might reinvent my love for his style.

Unfortunately, I get a similar feeling from this one as I do to Wyatt's last release "Cuckooland": worthy but uninspired. There are a couple of nice tracks but they're all covered in this 'tasty' musicianship that I still loathe. The main problem, though, is the songs themselves which consist of tired chord changes and simplistic, unimaginative melodies. Maybe PM should have used other singers instead of his own as well - there are so many tell-tale signs of computer generated note tweaking on the vocals that it could almost be a release by Cher. And this is on tunes that are extremely limited in their range. Definitely not one I'll cherish, then.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

More Loops

Patrick Gibson Esq. lent me a copy of the piece played on Resonance FM by The Loop Orchestra. It's quite a dark slice of repitition, even taking into account the slightly scary nature of most of their music. I suppose the feeling of doom and dread is something I'm reading into their work as they all seem to be reasonably well adjusted people. I mean, they're not all dressed in black, waiting for armageddon or death's icy stare and creating music to suit that desultory mood. Most of their stuff has a sense of fun at it's heart, a playfull irony and so on. But this piece certainly makes me feel all sepulchral.

Doom is supposedly the the feeling at the heart of William Basinski's The Disintegration Loops too. But I'm not too convinced. The loops themselves are quite lovely with a set of instrumentation that's hard to pinpoint - keyboards, some drums, some guitar, bass - and could exist as terrific hooks on which to embed other loops. These are played over and over as the 20 year old iron oxide slowly falls off the tape resulting in music that disolves fractionally each time. Created as the World Trade Centre towers fell, the project picked up a sense of melancholy and loss to accompany the shower of physical material outside and around the tape machine. The problem is that I can't really hear this in the music itself except for the minor keys that the samples are set in. It's really just systems music of a very simple sort: play the tapes until they die and see what happens. There's hardly any intervention in what is being heard unlike This Heat's magnificent 24 Track Loop where a song is fashioned from discreet available elements or from any of The Loop Orchestra's pieces where people decide on when their own loops will be overlayed. If Basinski hadn't discussed his feelings about the pieces then I wouldn't know that this lies at their heart.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Further Listening on Those Shown Below

Due to some unremitting need to post about all the things I'd recently acquired, some of the things I said were a bit too hasty...

The AMT really isn't all that soft after all. Still the same old over-amped guitar (nay, verily, everything is over-amped) on most tracks which I find sonically annoying more than anything else.

The Coxon is actually quite terrific but I still think I'll grow to hate it.

Gang Gang Dance are actually pretty good once they stop doing shit improv. I dunno - maybe it's all improvised but as soon as they add a steadier beat, some actual chords and some vocal lines it hangs together pretty well.

Junior Boys - not half as ordinairy as I first heard them to be. Lots of good melodies and, in the later half of the record, the disco-ish electronics and the vocals meld together very well indeed.

Monday, July 05, 2004

More Detail? Maybe

All the most recent things I've acquired...

Acid Mothers Temple - Hypnotic Liquid... / Mantra Of Love : Slightly less frenetic than their guitar freakouts with a more 'mature' droning thing happening. Very pleasant.

Amps for Christ - People At Large / Various - Golden Apples of the Sun : One of those things that sound good in articles but whose recorded output leaves something to be desired. Avant-Folk can be great - just look at Devendra Banhart, whom I love and who compiled the later release - but, after a while, I just get so depressed that those old time pluckings and tunings and wailings are being played yet again. And no amount of weird synth stuff in the background can change the fact that most of this stuff is backwards looking.

Blegvad / Greaves - Unearthed : An earlier companion piece to this year's Orpheus. A similar idea - music / atmospheres undepinning Blegvad's sonorous voice intoning incomprehensible text - that works just as fleetingly.

Controller.Controller - History : Hey, they look the part, I suppose. All five o'clock shadows and / or angular haircuts. The music reminds me intensely of corporate 'new wave' from the early 80s where the great things about post-punk were bastardised until you hated it. Always a couple of good tunes, though, which means I can get all bitter and twisted when singing along.

Graham Coxon - Happiness in Magazines : The first time I've heard one of his solo efforts and I react to it just like I do to Blur, really: an immediate smiley hit of adrenaline ("wow, great, etc") followed by a long slow descent to wondering how I ever liked it at all. Incomprehensible.

Deerhoof - Peel Sessions : Ummm, they play real well and sound just like the records. Good, I suppose.

Dengue Fever - LP, EP, Live : After a positive overview in The Wire I thought I'd give them a try. So what the hell is this boringly played pop-rock 'world music' shit, any way? How can The Wire justify giving a page to this dull, dull band whose only claim to fame is that they're from an exotic location? Worse than the worst of French rock.

Ellen Fullman / Konrad Sprenger - Ort : In contrast, here's a Wire recommended record that is very lovely indeed. It lands in the same ballpark as the Avant-Folk crew above but which adds a frission of New York underground art-house intellectuallism. The 1st track is, basically, "Waiting For The Man" but with a mid-west accent. But the best is "Empty Building" with Fullman's long stringed instrument showing it's full sonic range with beautifull chords and drones beneath a slightly stated melody.

Gang Gang Dance - s/t / Revival of the Shittest : More half arsed improv by people who can't improvise very well (see Nautical Almanac).

David Grubbs - A Guess At The Riddle : I'd enjoyed Gastr Del Sol but didn't really understand how much Grubbs added to their output until I heard this one. Sometimes I hate the post-rock / indie guitar and drum playing but it all becomes worthwile when he plays the piano. The chord progessions are reminiscent of John Greaves at his best and the slightly frail delivery suits them even more.

Junior Boys - Last Exit : More mutant disco in a modern stylee. A not particularly interesting cul-de-sac?

Ben Kweller - Sha Sha / On My Way : I first heard Kweller on "The Ben's" EP where it was obvious that he had similarities to co-tourer Ben Folds. But these 2 latest solo releases are rockier and more NY punk than I'd imagined. He also reminded me of someone else but I couldn't for the life of me remember who it was. The Voidoids? Television? It took a while but then it came to me... Peter Perret / The Only Ones. They had the pop hooks and the rock stance and his voice wavers just as slightly. All these comparisons are not to say that he's completely derivative but just that the style he uses is a well worn path.

Mouse On Mars - Radical Connector : Some songs are the best electronic music I've ever heard (or so I think for a minute or 2) and others are just the most boring techno weirded up... but not enough. I suppose it all comes down to their dance music / rave past. I can barely stand this element of their stuff and there's little I can do to change that attitude.

Andy Partridge - Wuzzy Warbles 3/4 : Those tasty dregs just keep on coming. He certainly was a prolific old mongrel, wasn't he? Apparently 5 & 6 are on their way this year. It could end up like Dylan's never ending tour.

Pentangle - The Pentangle / Cruel Sister / Lost Broadcasts : I think this will do me quite enough with the Pentangle sound. As before, the jazzed up bits are spectacular but the rigid old folk style bores me to tears.

Ramones - All The Stuff Volume 2 : Ah, The Ramones. You do have to love them. And that 1st album was just the right thing at the right time. This slightly later material isn't quite the same but at least they stuck to their guns.

Slowblow - Slowblow : Is this EMO? A listen or 2 is quite enough to remind me not to get any more.

Cat Stevens - Mona Bone Jakon / Tea For The Tillerman / Teaser and the Firecat / Catch Bull At Four : His 4 great mid-period albums and very much more cohesive than the best of cd I've had for ages. I'm not sure why I asked to have a lend of these in the first place but I feel a strange affinity to them. Now, his lyrics were mostly trite and he obviously thought a lot about his place in the canon of singer / songwriters but neither of these things should be held against him too much. For me the apex is "Peace Train" - one of the greatest pieces of 70's pop I've ever heard. A memorable tune, multi backed vocals, off beat handclaps, subtle strings and massed acoustic guitars. Ie - a great song arranged to perfection. Take that Scritti Politti.