after a brief 31-year hiatus…

…legendary British post punk band Local Heroes (SW9) are back in the studio and recording a third album, this time going by the name Commoner.

This site is often pretty sleepy, but since singer-guitarist Kevin Armstrong has been hanging about here lately, site stats have jumped, and I am getting a lot of hits on my original SW9 post in which I sang the praises of their first two albums from 1980-81.

Who reforms a band after 31 years? A certain ode springs to mind….

They shall grow not old, as we grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

Although photographs of the trio on Kevin’s website do show the  lads looking somewhat more aged than their previous incarnation but they ain’t no MTV boy band so who cares, right? Is the music any good?

The preview track from the forthcoming third LP can be accessed by going here.

What do I think? Hard to tell from only one track but I like it so far. The guitar and voice reminds me of King Crimson on the albums Beat and Discipline, which is a fair turn-around from the trio’s first two records, but who knows what they’ve been listening to in the last 31 years? Generally, the song has the same melodic intelligence that the first two records had, but the bass is playing less of a role, I miss that personally, I loved the bass playing on the other records.

Looking forward to hearing more to see how the whole thing is going to fit together.

Steve.

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Still, The Kill, and other words that rhyme with Fill(er)

J0y Division: The Kill, Walked in Line (1978), Walked in Line (Still), Ice Age, (1978), Ice Age (Still)

No-one really likes Joy Division’s third album Still, do they? It’s never listed as a favourite, and often panned as a botch-job which probably shouldn’t have been released, as though somehow it’s very existence sullies the purity of the other two records.

I returned to it recently to see if there was anything there worth including on a Joy Division / New Order compilation I’m making for a friend, and while I was there, I tried to put my finger on exactly what the problems are. And there are three pretty big problems.

  • Curtis sounds bored. Don’t argue, he does.
  • Hannett’s production. What was beautiful on Unknown Pleasures and challenging in Closer is downright annoying on Still. It’s almost as though Hannett was bored by the songs and tried to use trickery to turn them into something they’re not.
  • The song selection. And this is really they key thing. Most of those songs on Still are old ones. I do not believe Curtis had written anything new.

To be specific:

– They Walked in Line and Ice Age are both on the unreleased Warsaw album  from 1978 and probably date from 1977 or earlier.

– Exercise One and The Sound of Music are both on the 1979 Peel Sessions.

– Glass, Dead Souls, The Only Mistake and Something Must Break all exist on studio recordings from earlier in 1979 made during demo sessions in various places (and recently released as disc 3 of Heart and Soul).

Basically, this leaves most of Still looking a lot like a bunch of filler tracks that weren’t good enough to make it onto the first two records, and which the band only recorded because they didn’t have any good new songs.

‘The Kill’ is the main exception. It’s a good song, and it’s going on my compilation. I do wish I could go back in time and turn up the vocals up while Hannett wasn’t looking, though.

Also: just for the sake of comparison, listen to the different versions of Ice age and They Walked in Line from Warsaw and Still . The earlier versions are just much better.

Mp3: J0y Division: The Kill, Walked in Line (1978), Walked in Line (Still), Ice Age, (1978), Ice Age (Still)

(This was made using a program called mp3 merge which I kinda like…)

STILL (1981)

Side one
  1. “Exercise One” – 3:06
  2. “Ice Age” – 2:24
  3. “The Sound of Music” – 3:55
  4. “Glass” – 3:56
  5. “The Only Mistake” – 4:17
Side two
  1. “Walked in Line” – 2:47
  2. “The Kill” – 2:15
  3. “Something Must Break” – 2:48
  4. “Dead Souls” – 4:53
  5. “Sister Ray (7.36)

The Suburban Lawns

The correct answer The Suburban Lawns kicked ass.

Here’s some mp3s from their only album (s/t, 1981).

Suburban Lawns: Flying Saucer Safari

Suburban Lawns: Anything

And here’s some YouTube fun.

Enjoy.

Steve.

The Transmission of a Legend

Southern Steve: ‘Legend’ Mp3

Love Will Tear Us Apart might be Joy Division’s best known song, but Transmission probably should be. It’s a better representation of the band’s musical and lyrical power.

Transmission…Radio, Live Transmission…Dance to the Radio…Listen to the Silence…Touching From A Distance…The Language of Sound…

All of those lyrical fragments have been used as the names of bootlegs, books, Myspace sites, magazines, 80s music nights, cover bands, and all hark back to the power of this one song.

The 1979 single version is fine enough but the earlier, slower version on the RCA demo is even better in my view; the band almost stand back from the song and allow that slow, arrogant two-note bass line and the rumbling drums to do their work.

Joy Division – Transmission MP3 (RCA Demo Version).

There is an excellent drum break at the end of this track, with Steven Morris  left to slow down the tempo on his own after the rest of the band have stopped playing.  It’s a gift to the would-be sampler, containing that hallmark “Joy Division move” as my mate Fraser recently described it: a single tom hit just after the 3rd beat snare, giving the whole thing that lurching, robotic feel. It’s the sound of the classic Joy Division flawed machine.

In my own tune, Legend, I’ve backed up those drums with a midi track including some syn-tom sounds a bit like the ones on Closer, another two note bassline, and some guitar and bass chords with valve distortion and delay, to replicate the sound of the band live, on an album like Live at Eindhoven.

I like the sound, but even as I was doing this song, it occurred to me what a forlorn process it all was, and the lyrics that came to me ended up being about the emptiness of replicating a long-gone original…

It’s Just a Legend

An Empty Legend

A Cold and Empty Legend

You Heard a Dream

And Tried to Make it Real

Anyway, I’ll be back later with some more maunderings,

GSS, feeling alright but a little bogged down,  Aug 2009.

Patrik Fitzgerald – Grubby Stories

patrik_fitzgerald

Come and get yer punk in Woolworfs...

Really, you’d have thought a guy who was like a cross between Johnny Rotten and Bob Dylan would have been more famous. Or, maybe, way less famous. But I don’t think anyone could possibly have predicted that Patrik Fitzgerald (born ‘Patrick’ Fitzgerald) would have been exactly as famous as he was, no more and no less.

Mp3 file: Patrik Fitzgerald – 10 Songs from Grubby Stories (1979)

This guy has been making a right  nuisance of himself since 1975; knocking on managers’ doors, painting his name on people’s cars, crashing parties, stalking people, busking outside funerals,  and playing so many solo acoustic shows in front of punk punters that eventually Polydor went “Oh, alright Patrik, you can have your bloody record contract if you’ll just shut-up!'”And so Grubby Stories was born.

(Disclaimer: story not actually true. I just wanted to make it sound exciting and I didn’t want to copy the Wikipedia entry).

The truth is, my sister came home with a copy of this record one day (after borrowing it off this jerk called Nathan (who I once saw in his underwear (which was red))) and we decided it was just as good as all the other music we liked, and never gave it back.

I’ve spent the last twenty-five years vaguely wondering why no-one else ever seems to have heard of it, except for all the people who have (and they all seem to be wondering why no-one else has heard of it either).

Apparently Patrik moved from Polydor after a few records, and continued to make records which apparently sound increasingly like David Bowie on a bad day. He now lives in New Zealand where he has a Myspace and does solo shows and stuff, and maybe walks on the same bits of dirt that Chris Knox sometimes walks on. But I wouldn’t really know about any of that. I’ve only heard this record.

The story behind this mp3 is that a few years ago I dug this old bit of vinyl out of my cupboard, recorded it onto my computer (before I realised what the earthing wire on the stereo was for) and then sold it for ten dollars just before moving to the tropics.

(Nathan: I lost your record, I’m very sorry.)

Anyway, here is Patrik Fitzgerald, the forlorn pioneer of folk punk, in all his two chord acoustic wonderness. Well, most of it is acoustic, but some of it is played by a band featuring members of The Buzzcocks and Penetration, whom Patrik somehow managed to get to sound a fair bit like early U.K. Squeeze. But the lyrics are the main thing, really; alternately weird and very strightforward, and all delivered with a cockney nasal despair which is truly beautiful.

If you like your punk music strange and offbeat, I strongly advise that you listen to these tunes, at once.

Mp3 file: Patrik Fitzgerald – 10 Songs from Grubby Stories (1979)

The Ten Songs:

  • As Ugly As You
  • Nothing to Do Around Here (with evil children)
  • All My Friends Are Dead Now
  • Adopted Girl
  • When I Get Famous
  • Little Fishes (brilliant song, my favourite)
  • But Not Any More
  • Conventions of Life
  • They Make It Safe
  • Your Hero

Boy About Town: The Jam as an upbeat pop band

There's more than you can hope for in this world - so cheer up, lads!

There’s quite a few different sides to Paul Weller’s songwriting for The Jam – the angry young man of “Going Underground”, the melancholy folk singer-songwriter on “That’s Entertainment”, the would-be Northern Soul artist on “Ghosts” and the the budding social commentator on “Town Called Malice.”  I like a lot of that, and some of it I like a lot, but when it comes down to it, my favourite songs by this band are the simple three or four chord, three minute bop tunes about love, music and being an excited kid, that are spread out across their six studio albums and on a few singles.

These tunes are all major key, up tempo, with melodic guitar riffs and often boppy horns as well, and are full of lines like “The kids know where it’s at” and “We got the gift of life” and my favourite, “There’s more than you can hope for in this world.” Mixed in with all that is an urgent desire to make the most of today, and a kind of bittersweet sadness about lost opportunity and fading youth. Maybe some of them were supposed to be light relief from their more serious tracks, but to me, they actually represent the best of this band.  No other band ever captured this mood in quite the same way.

Weller carries this “yearning kid” thing off perfectly, singing with a kind of eager boyishness and optimism that you could only really get away with if you were a teenager or in your very early twenties, and hey, let’s remember, he was! Their professionalism makes it easy to forget it but this band were babies, they’d had mainstream success at age nineteen and the band was wrapping up by the time Weller was twenty-three. No wonder he’s had such an interminable bloody solo career. Ahem…

Anyway, here’s the tunes I’m talking about. I’m not sure about a few of these but ten are rock solid.

  1. In the City
  2. Art School
  3. Sounds From the Street (?)
  4. It’s Too Bad
  5. Fly (?)
  6. When You’re Young
  7. Girl On The Phone
  8. But I’m Different Now
  9. Dream Time
  10. Boy About Town (mp3)
  11. Absolute Beginners
  12. The Gift

By the way, I’ll be posting a single of the Jam live in Japan at some point pretty soon. The live version of ‘But I’m Different Now’ is excellent.

Steve.

London Calling as a Single LP

(More filler posting to keep this place ticking over. I will post more music soon.. honest. Like, this week).

Running with the general theme of weeding out bad songs by good bands, here’s my pick for London Calling as a single LP. Think of the wonderful album that might have been if only the dross filter had been set to a higher level when they were making their selection. For starters, the band could have taken nearly all of 1980 off, and the world of music would be none the poorer.

London Calling:

  1. London Calling
  2. Brand New Cadillac (cover version)
  3. Hateful (Jones)
  4. Rudie Can’t Fail (Jones)
  5. Spanish Bombs (Jones)
  6. Lost in the Supermarket (Jones)
  7. Clampdown (Jones sings in middle eight)
  8. The Guns of Brixton (Simonon)
  9. Koka Kola
  10. Train in Vain (Jones)

I’m pretty sure that the band would have still recieved the same amount of critical accliam for this tight, Jones-led effort as they would for the sprawling mess they released instead because they allowed Strummer’s “but I’m the lead singer” ego to get in the way. Lyrically, he just wasn’t in top form that year. Moreoever, I’m sure that you, gentle reader, can’t even remember the name of lots of the other songs of the real double LP without looking it upon Wikipedia. Can you?

As for Sandinista – I can’t even make a good single album out of the entire six sides. To Mack’s suggestion of “Somebody Got Murdered” I’d add “The Call Up” which combined could have made the basis of a decent EP, I suppose. Anyway, can anyone actually name a really good triple album? Seems like hubris of the highest order to even attempt one.

S.