Lucky Dip

Up to my neck in work this week and don’t have the spare brain power to write anything so just grabbing a random tune. Seven-plus minutes of funky soul bliss from 1972.

Download: Girl You Need a Change of Mind – Eddie Kendricks (mp3)


The Song of The Book

Have you ever read a book because of a record? I bet I’m not the only one who read The Stranger by Albert Camus because it was the inspiration for “Killing An Arab” by The Cure. I read that one when I was in the Sixth Form and its flat, existential ennui seemed pretty cool and worldly to a 17-year-old who would grow up to use phrases like “existential ennui”.

Another book I read for this reason was the 1966 novel The Lady In The Car With Glasses On And A Gun by Sebastien Japrisot because Scottish Post-Punkers Scars did a track with that name on their debut album. It’s hard not to be intrigued by that title anyway. How can you not read a book called that?

This was another French novel (which were clearly to Post-Punk bands what Lord of The Rings was to Prog groups), this time a strange, noirish thriller about a secretary who steals her bosses car and goes on a road trip that turns into a Kafkaesque nightmare involving mistaken identity, mysterious strangers, and a dead body in the boot. It’s been a while since I read it, but I remember it as being stylish and clever in a very French way.

The lyrics seem to directly relate to the plot though I can’t find any info about whether Scars were inspired by the book or the cult 1970 movie adaptation instead. There was another version made in 2015 which actually uses the Scars record on its soundtrack. That’s all very meta or another intellectual word I’d know if I read more French writers.

Download: The Lady In The Car With Glasses On And A Gun! – Scars (mp3)

I Have Twelve Inches

OK I’m lying a little here. I don’t have this as a vinyl 12″ because it came out in 1998 when the only people buying new vinyl were DJs. But I do have it on a CD and it is the extended mix so who cares about the format with a classic tune like this?

Presence was a project of British producer/DJ Charles Webster who released just the one album under that name, the excellent All Systems Gone. I first heard this track on a Norman Jay mix CD and was instantly blown away. I loved Deep House at the time and this is one of the finest examples of it. Dark and moody with a pulsing beat and a soulful vocal by the great Shara Nelson who you all know as the voice on Massive Attack’s “Unfinished Sympathy” amongst others.

Download: Sense Of Danger (Original Presence Mix) – Presence featuring Shara Nelson (mp3)

New Monday

Saw two excellent acts supporting Let’s Eat Grandma last week. First up was Canadian group Boniface who play 80s-tinged pop full of chiming guitars and synths and know their way around a tune. They only have a few singles out so far but think they could be ones to watch.

Following them was NY singer Odetta Hartman who couldn’t have been more different. She plays violin and banjo and has a powerful bluesy voice which she uses on songs that sound like old-timey murder ballads but with modern electronic touches and sound effects — “future folk” she calls it. Her latest album Old Rockhounds Never Die is a treat. She doesn’t seem to have made any proper videos so here’s a live clip.

I Love Your Live Action

Another concert in less than a week. I’m supposed to be too old for that shit but on Monday night I braved torrential rain to see quirky pair Let’s Eat Grandma and I’m really glad I did because they were ah-may-zing.

Walking on stage to the throbbing instrumental “Whitewater” they launched into a banging version of “Hot Pink” with the girls cracking big smiles when the crowd hollered out the “Oh!” parts. When they followed those up with “It’s Not Just Me” and “Falling Into Me” I realized they were doing the entire I’m All Ears album in order. This meant that, like the album, the show was front-loaded with bouncy electropop numbers then gradually got slower and weirder. I was fine with that, not only because I love the whole album, but it meant the gig was going to climax with the shape-shifting epic “Donnie Darko” which it did and it was just immense. You could hear a pin drop when it ended before we all erupted into ecstatic cheers. Then they left, only coming back for an encore of “Deep Six Textbook” from the first album and that was the show. It felt short (thought it actually wasn’t) but very, very sweet.

Apart from a quick “Hello Boston” when they came on stage the girls didn’t say a word to the audience during the show. Normally I like acts to chat a little bit, but Rosa and Jenny express themselves in their own unique way on stage — awkward dancing, playing Patty Cake, even laying on the floor during songs — that cracking jokes with the audience would have spoiled the effect.

Though they probably do the same moves every show they don’t feel choreographed, instead their goofy awkwardness makes its look more like they just made it up on the spot. At one point Jenny leapt off the stage into the audience and crowd-surfed which was brilliant because it was such a crazy rock and roll move in a show that was so anti- all that.

There isn’t much in the way of good video from their current tour out there but here’s something from a previous night, complete with crowd surfing.

They’re true originals and it’s amazing to think that they’re still not old enough to legally buy a drink in the bar they were playing.

My Mother’s Records

My mum had 45s of Harry Nilsson’s two big hits “Everbody’s Talkin'” and “Without You” which she loved. She was also a huge fan of Frank Sinatra and the old standards he sang so it would seem natural she’d love an album of Nilsson singing them arranged by Gordon Jenkins who had performed the same duties for Ol’ Blue Eyes himself.

And love it she did. A Little Touch Of Schmilsson In The Night from 1973 was one of her favourite albums and probably the one she played the most when she wanted to relax. The combo of Nilsson’s sweet voice and Jenkins’ heavenly strings on songs like “As Time Goes By” and “Making Whoopee” just made her swoon.

These days everyone from Bob Dylan and Rod Stewart to Robbie Williams and Lady Gaga has put out a cover album of old-timey songs, but in 1973 it was a real left-field move even for an idiosyncratic, eclectic artist like Nilsson and was greeted with puzzlement. In the eyes of the rock audience back then about the un-coolest thing you could do was make an album of their parent’s music. Was he serious? Bryan Ferry got away with doing old chestnuts like “These Foolish Things” because he performed them with a big dose of camp archness, but there’s none of that with Nilsson. Just a man singing songs he loves and doing it beautifully.

Listening to it again for probably the first time in 40-plus years I’m dazzled by how great Nilsson’s vocals are and the orchestration is so grand and lush you could drown in it. The whole album drifts along at the same languid, hazy pace with each song blending into the next, so it seems more like a conceptual suite than just a collection of individual tracks.

I can’t hear his version of “As Times Goes By” without remembering my mum singing along with it, but beyond the nostalgic tug it exerts on me I think it’s a wonderful record.

Download: As Time Goes By – Harry Nilsson (mp3)