Friday, June 29, 2012

Top Of The Pops (09/06/1977)

Tony Blackboard is here to present the hottest pop sounds, i wonder who is number 1....? No don't be silly, they were listed at #2 of course. I wonder if they'll be on the show though with their patriotic song for HRH? No.

Osibisa - the warrior
Instead of punk glory we have bongos (played by someone with a prototype Mr T haircut), flutes, plenty of funk. Its plenty of mess too. Still an inoffensive way to start the show, speaking of inoffensive... well you can't say that about Tony's shirt.

ELO - telephone line
We get the video again, cellos and big hair and bigger pop rock et cetera.

Gladys Knight & the Pips - baby don't change your mind
Straight into another video, whats this MTV or something? We get a behind the scenes video of the band practicing their dance moves, singing in a studio and generally goofing around.

Neil Innes - silver jubilee
Well it is Jubilee Week and we get a song about it. Its all a bit poor really, obvious and bland but also about a trillion times better than Gary Barlow's effort a few decades later. So thats anti-progress.

The Stranglers - go Buddy go
A repeat of The Stranglers appearance for a couple of weeks ago. Punk on TOTP in Jubilee Week! Now that is subversive!

Demis Roussos - Kyrila
Its Summer and people return from holiday to buy stuff like this... Demis croons away in his giant blue outfit like if Brian Blessed did Star Trek. A perfect song for Summer but i bet he wouldn't get far with this on a rainy November night in Stoke. Demis does get some plastic palm trees to sing behind to add the required atmosphere.

Honky - join the party
Another repeat, did the BBC blow all their budget on the jubilee coverage? White boy funk thats not bad, nice synths.

Legs & Co perform The Jacksons "show you the way to go" behind the same plastic trees as Demis earlier. Not sure why they reused the trees for this song but perhaps the unique way the BBC is funded means they have to get their value for money.

Bob Marley & the Wailers - exodus
Neil Innes had a bit of a reggae thing going on earlier, well kinda. Here is the real thing obviously.

Rod Stewart - the first cut is the deepest
And at number two... sorry one is Rod and his tight trousers.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Adorable - footnotes 92-94 (Cherry Red)

Back in 1992 i didn't know anything, i was simply a useless student with bad hair (nowadays a useless worker with bad hair) desperately trying to make sense of the indie pop scene i had recently discovered and wondering what path to go down. Then Adorable came to my attention with their incendiary single "Sunshine smile", pseudo-psychedelic feel and look exploding into mass guitar thrash and energy rage. It all suddenly made sense.

Adorable were one of Creation's "great white hopes" in the early 90s, following on from the shoegaze scene when that fell apart. Briefly Adorable shined with a string of amazing singles like "I'll be your saint" and the surpassable "Homeboy" with its bass heavy melody erupting into a sonic guitar attack of nuclear war proportions. The music press hated them of course but that alone should tell you that Adorable were pretty good. In fact they were more than that, they were brilliant.

Not flawless perhaps, this collection of tracks from their singles, can get a bit samey at times but when they were good, they were great and most of the time they were way better than that.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Top Of The Pops (02/06/1977)

Noel is here to announce the hottest sounds, the Sex Pistols excitingly appear at 11 in the top 30 run down, of course they won't get to play on the show but we start with some fancy piano...

Elkie Brooks - saved
Well this is rather fun, a bit of retro (even for 1977) boogie woogie. Nowadays you can see this sort of thing every week on Jools Holland's show but back then it must have seemed quite unusual. Elkie screeching partway through the song though is rather terrifying.

Noel loves it, even getting the audience to cheer again. It was good but not that good Noel. No punk this week but something perhaps even more odd...

The Muppets - halfway down the stairs
A green frog (not Kermit but Robin) sings sadly halfway up the stairs. It isn't up or down or something. It is actually is rather odd but a good odd, kinda.

The Four Seasons - rhapsody
Frankie Valli is here but not in a matching suit with the rest of the band to show that he is the star yeah? The song itself is a bit formless like they've mixed several other bits of song together (and the whole is not really greater than the sum of the parts in this case), it doesn't half have an album filler feel about it.

Twiggy - a woman in love
Twiggy's country song from last year was a surprise (as in it was pretty good), and this is more of the same.

Jesse Green - come with me
Noel makes some strange comment about Jesse's name which falls flatter than week old cola, nice song and nice wide brimmed hat too.

Marvin Gaye's "got to give it up" is presented by Legs & Co who definitely fulfil their "something for the Dads" brief by gyrating in swimsuits on stage with some sexy silhouettes.

Carol Bayer Sager - you're moving out today
Carol's lovely kooky performance from a few weeks ago.

The Strawbs - back in the old routine
Some kind of genial country rock, can't really say this week's show is a vintage one. Anytime Twiggy's song is probably the best on the show you know you are in trouble.

Noel interviews the Alessi brothers and we go into the number one which Noel calls "fabulous" but surely its:

Rod Stewart - the first cut is the deepest
Same footage again, noticed though for the first time how dead Rod's eyes are while he is singing it. Even he is bored of this song!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Downdime - satellite distortions (Dufflecoat)

Harder than much of what Dufflecoat Records releases but in my opinion one of their best releases yet. Leeds' Downdime produce exhilarating indie noise pop such as on the driving "Satellite distortions" with its amazing chorus, losing you in a sea of fuzz noise. Other highlights include "Carousel" which has a cute twee beat along with the psychedelic noise. "Catapult your arms" has a rollicking beat and essential pop noise melody, exploding with energy.

This is all just the warm-up though, "Run across the Sun" is a masterpiece, a beautiful track that takes us on a layered sonic journey through noise, pop melodies, power and er... more noise. One of the best songs you'll hear this year, or maybe any year and thats no distortion (sorry).

Available soon on Dufflecoat Records.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Citrus Groove - mesmerized (Marineville)

One of my all-time favourite C86 records and the A-side is a masterly piece of neo-psychedelic dreampop from the early 90s. Starting off slowly and building gradually into a glorious piece of layered vocal guitar haze spiralling downwards into some glorious Nirvana or oblivion, whatever you prefer. Flip side is more basic (but still good) pop fare in the shape of "Merry go round".

Friday, June 15, 2012

Top Of The Pops (26/05/1977)

DLT presents the latest pop sounds...

Blue - capture your heart
The orthodox view is that right at the time in Britain punk rock was erupting through the land and nothing would be the same again. Of course in reality many more people were still digging this kind of pleasant, undemanding and polished pop rock. There isn't anything wrong with Blue and this song, its just... too nice.

Olivia Newton John - Sam
DLT thinks she is delicious, hopefully he has eaten already. Its a big song with a big sound that would be right at home on a Saturday night TV variety show. Having said that Olivia performs it quite gently and the song meanders along but then towards the end Olivia tries to throw some life into it. But fails.

Liverpool Express - dreaming
More gentle pop rock. Like the first two songs it drifts along trying not to offend anyone. DLT comes on stage afterwards and gets beaten up by the band in a totally unscripted incident.

Legs & Co have gone all Oriental or as a 1970s pop annual i have memorably calls it "Chineasy". Bryan Ferry's "Tokyo Joe" obviously is the track the girls perform a lot of crude stereotypes too. Nice paper lanterns though.

The Stranglers - go Buddy go
Punk is here at last (or last week if you count The Jam)! After the pop-cheese that has gone on earlier this sounds like it comes from another planet, not that it is their best song by any means. But its pretty good all the same. At least it has some energy behind it.

Marie Myriam - the bird and the child
The Eurovision winner! This is more like it, enough of that punk rubbish already! In truth the song is a bit average and dated (not bad and very Eurovision it just sounds like it should have come from 1965) but Marie is lovely and sings it really well.

ELO - telephone line
Studio performance by some hairy Brummies. The video switches to DLT who looks like he could be part of the band. DLT has a large green frog with him to help him introduce...

Brendon - rock me
The first time he appeared on TOTP Brandon looked a bit like a rabbit in the headlights not totally believing they were letting him on stage. That still hasn't changed. He has a liking for opening his mouth really wide, as if he feeds on flies.

Rod Stewart - the first cut is the deepest
Rod is number one... or should it really be the Sex Pistols? Who really knows. Man those trousers are tight.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Tomorrow (EMI)

Lovely British psychedelia, this has it all : sitars, changes of tempo, off the wall lyrics, sound effects. This album also includes a few tracks by the off-shoot Aquarian Age and some solo tracks by lead singer Keith West who became a bigger name because of "Teenage Opera" and thus Tomorrow became "Tomorrow featuring Keith West".

The album is "regarded" as one of the best psychedelic rock albums from the 1960s, i'm not 100% sold on that but when it is good it is very good, unfortunately it does descend into tuneless nonsense and whimsy (not of the good kind) all too often too. The album was not much of a hit as although it was recorded at psychedelia's height in 1967 it wasn't released until the next year when things were becoming a bit more... well square.

As usual with re-issues you get a lot of bonus tracks, the phased mono version of "revolution" is wonderful, better than the stereo version they went with on the original album to be honest. Another highlight is a cover of "strawberry fields forever".

Monday, June 11, 2012

Chairlift - something (Young Turks)

The third album by this synth-pop duo, and the first for 4 years, "Something" indeed has something about it. Beautiful pop melodies, lushly and often quirkily sung and smartly instrumented. Glorious choruses and catchy melodies galore, there is so much to enjoy on this album.

The stand-out tracks for me are "Ghost tonight" with its slightly more restrained melody and vocals that sound almost pleading and wide-eyed innocent and the sublime "Met before" with its intense pop energy. Another highlight is the kooky "Amanaemonesia" with its slinky melody and slightly bonkers vocals.

Its a brilliant pop album and a top quality example of modern synth-pop, taking the heritage and cool of the 80s and reinventing it with modern off-beat quirkiness. A total hit.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Skittle Alley - just a kiss (Dufflecoat)

Skittle Alley's latest EP for Dufflecoat Records continues the wonderful indiepop pleasure of the earlier releases. Blissful and uncomplicated, crafted and heartfelt, joyful and beautiful that is Skittle Alley's hallmark and nothing has changed, you will be glad to know, on this 8 track EP or mini-album.

Tracks like "I did you no wrong" sport a beautiful pop melody, lush chords and a melancholic pop feel that reminds me of the likes of the Field Mice and Brighter. "Just a kiss on your lips" is a simple song if you boil it down, but in the hands of a master a simple song is simply essential as is this. "Sunray" is another example, really its just some guitar strumming and relaxed singing but thats all you need. Its reflective and melancholic sparking a whole load of emotions, reminding you of pleasant childhood memories, peering out of a rainy window in simpler times, lost love... Well for me anyway!
"The end" brings things to a joyful close. Again its a very simple song but works so well, everything is just so well judged such as when the (slightly) harder guitars kick in towards the end. Its just how such a song should end... and it does!

Released on Dufflecoat Records in June.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Grass Roots - where were you when i needed you (Rev-Ola)

The Grass Roots were a US folk-rock band from the mid 60s to 70s and this was their first album. Their music was folk and country flavoured 60s pop, in a way previewing where some of the psychedelic era bands after the LSD wore off went musically especially Stateside.

This first album has some especially great tunes such as the folky title track which rollicks into an amazing chorus. "I've got no more to say" has a deliciously slinky early-psych melody and some gorgeous pop harmonies. The reflective "Only when you're lonely" has another gorgeous melody, and a chorus to match the best mid-60s pop.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Best Of Top Of The Pops 1974 (Hallmark)

The pick of the Top Of The Poppers cover versions from 1974, well in theory. Actually i do have one of the original 1974 LPs that would have fed into this compilation and a couple of songs off that i think are better than those included here but anyway...

Truthfully this has some decent music on it and a good deal of quality cheese, "Love me for a reason" and "You won't find another fool like me" are excellent (both ironically and in their own right), as are the covers of "Sugar baby love" and "Seasons in the sun". In their own right they are good pop tracks. "Tiger feet" isn't bad either, its not an artistic triumph by any means but good fun and thats what pop is all about yeah?

It isn't all good though, i thought the cover of "Kung fu fighting" was a bit average, lacking the magic of the original, more a blue belt than a 10th dan so to speak. The "Waterloo" cover doesn't sound very ABBAesque, of course it doesn't have to sound like the original to be good, unfortunately it doesn't sound like anything much at all. Criticisms aside if you wanted a good compilation of the pop hit sounds of 1974 then really this serves very well indeed.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Top Of The Pops (19/05/1977)

Kid Jensen invites us to bop and rock.

Suzi Quatro - roxy roller
Suzi! The best way to start this show, or maybe any show for that matter. Suzi is fairly low-key here, singing sweetly in a tasteful yet a bit boring light blue cardigan. Though this seems to match the song which itself is nice but a bit bland. Kid thinks its exciting. Or Suzi is exciting. We can agree there.

Heatwave - too hot to handle
Time for a music video, imaginatively we get flames. We also get a lot of high pitched singing. Dogs whined across Britain during May 1977.

Linda Lewis - the moon and I
Surrounded by early video effects Linda struggles with this song from The Mikado like a reluctant karaoke singer who keyed the wrong number in and was too shy to admit it. Its one of those songs that never seems to end, in fact for some people listening to this entire geological eras have come and gone.

Bay City Rollers - its a game
The kids will prefer this (marginally). Pleasant little song.

Carol Bayer Sager - you're moving out today
Oh this is nice and kooky. Its a bit show tune maybe but sung well and the lyrics are cute. Carol looks like she just come off a day's house decoration which kind of adds to the appeal.

Joe Tex - ain't gonna bump no more
We get the film from Soul Train again with Joe's charming song about a larger lady.

The Trammps - disco inferno
Legs & Co are here dressed like extras from a really bad sci-fi film (golden bikinis with gold plate accessories). Red lights flash over the dancing adding to the futurist feel. You just feel like someone is about to start shooting a laser gun.

The Jacksons - show you the way to go
Why its Michael Jackson! Just as he was starting to show what kind of artist he would one day become... The boys are all in different coloured outfits, like a mix of sci-fi, retro and glitz. Which all seems rather apt.

The Jam - in the city
Punk is here! Or mod or new wave or whatever anyway. Obviously this blows every thing else off the stage et cetera, though to be honest i prefer Carol and Suzi for purely superficial reasons. Ah but this is good, the energy for a start is a refreshing change from the usual.

Rod Stewart - the first cut is the deepest
The number 1, Rod is on good form. After the punk blast that precedes him it does all seem rather ancient though, but maybe Rod knows that and he does a funky thing with his guitar to inject a bit of energy into it. And he wears very tight trousers. Very nice squire but if you drop the plectrum you'll be in trouble.