Mark Lanegan Band – Bubblegum

bubblegumIt’s rare that I do posts of a personal nature these days.  Partly because I’ve become a little bit more guarded over the past couple of years anyway due to this & that, but I suppose it’s mostly because I’ve been so busy trying to listen to so much new stuff that I’ve not been looking backwards so often anymore.  Which is probably why it came as a genuine shock to me when I read a message from a friend of mine today stating that this record is ten years old today.  Conversations that have sprung from this revelation have seemed to have the same effect on several other of my friends today, and then the floodgates opened – a whole decade of memories, communities and even enmities all springing from the collective coming-together over one record.  Happy Birthday, Bubblegum.



horsebeachSomewhere in the lower reaches of my pile of DVDs are a small group of imported Hong Kong editions of films by Miike Takashi, because they were impossible to get over here at the time (and they were also very cheap).  The Japanese director is well-known for being a bit multicultural with his cast who generally spoke their own language in conversation with others speaking a different one.  An interesting challenge for the Chinese subtitling department, who had to transcribe all of these into their own language and then into English for the benefit of the likes of me.  A favourite of mine is Dead Or Alive: Final (brilliant intro, very weird ending, so-so middle bits) as one of the main characters speaks English – which was then translated into Cantonese by one translator and then back into English by another one doing the subs, with rather strange linguistic consequences as what is said and what appears on the bottom of the screen rarely match.  There’s method to this laboured intro, as Manchester’s Horsebeach take a sound familiar round these here parts but rather than riff on the original, it’s something partially retranslated from another interpretation.


Smoke Fairies

Smoke_FairiesIt always seems a bit strange when a band goes eponymous some way into a career.  The usual way about things is to self-titlingly announce yourselves right at the start and then take it from there, wherever “it” takes you.  When it does happen though, it’s an eyebrow-raiser.  Why now?  Why this?

It does all become rather apparent once attention is paid to what the Smoke Fairies have achieved with this record, that both expands their musical palette and brings an intangible feeling of a closer bond, which is rather nicely illustrated by the image on the cover – it takes two wings for one to fly, after all…


Sweet Apple – The Golden Age Of Glitter

sweetappleI have no idea if it was a collective act or sheer coincidence, but somewhere along the line a switch was closed and we all became earnest, miserable sods.  Or at the very least I did and presumed that everyone else did too.  Thankfully, we have Sweet Apple here to decide that not only is it perfectly OK to be fun and bright and occasionally silly, but it’s also possible to look over one’s shoulder at the past and mark all the colourful spots without getting all maudlin about it.  And of course it’s even better to do so when you get to include Mike Watt in a canoe.


Afterhours – Hai Paura Del Buio?

haiThere’s nothing quite like a band who choose their name wisely.  The two times I’ve seen Italian band Afterhours perform, it’s been a rather late affair.  Which turned out to be a bit of a bugger as both of these times were in places 200 miles from where I lived and on one occasion (a February!) I ended up trying to sleep on a bench outside Euston Station as I’d missed my train.  Whoops.

Another thing about Afterhours is that they’ve never been afraid to experiment, and as such spent much of their time several years ahead of their peers.  This is a rather handy aspect, as this re-released (with surprises!) album from 1997 seems as fresh as if it had appeared just last week.


Sun Kil Moon – Benji

benjiThis is a record that makes the notion of being a Record Collector a bit of a strange one.  Our various and varied collections are not passive artifacts for us to hoard and catalogue (none of mine are, anyway – which is probably why I can’t find anything), they exist as a series of buttons and triggers to be pressed, pulled and even provoked in order to bring forth memories, feelings and sometimes tears.  They remind us of times that are better off forgotten, but still we prod the hornet’s nest whenever we want to reminisce about something wonderful or even terrible.  We can be so stupid.

So while Lepidopterists don’t rifle through their hoard to find a particular moth pinned to a piece of plywood that reminds them of an ex-girlfriend, and Philatelists don’t spend hours gazing at a stamp from a far-off country they’ve yet to visit because they miss their Dad, some of us (most of us?) find ways to feel alive in whatever way we can by listening to other people’s joy and pain.  Benji is a prime example of this.


Snowbird – Moon

Snowbird-MoonThe year’s early months lend themselves to a certain sort of patience not found elsewhere.  The dark, cold days allow for a gentler pace of everything, because once the stress of the year-end is out-of-the-way and the warmth and sunshine still seem an age away (despite the TV’s best efforts to lead us to believe that it’s almost Easter already), what’s the point in being in any sort of a hurry to do anything?  January is a good time to take stock of what’s here rather than panic about getting the Now out-of-the-way as soon as possible to make room for the Next, so this is the best time of year for the Growers.  Instead of putting a record or single song on and moving straight on to the next one, this is the time for sitting back and gently soaking in every line, unhurried and calm.  The timing of this release then couldn’t be better.


The Head And The Heart – Let’s Be Still

stillI have to admit that this one arrived at a bit of a weird time.  There was already lots going on both here and in the dreadful murk I have to put up with everywhere else (somewhat overwhelmingly so, it has to be said), I had loads of things half-finished and half-considered, and in all the confusion, this sort of fell off the table.  Which is doing this record and these people a huge disservice, as falling off furniture (metaphorical or otherwise) is something that shouldn’t be happening at all.  It’s also another one of those things that came along at an opportune time and is playing again now at an equally buoyant moment, reminding me of some of the things that drive me through this site (and elsewhere) in the finest possible manner…


Smoke Fairies – Ghosts: A Collection

ghostsThe full title of Ghosts: A Collection Of A-Sides, B-Sides and an EP From The Recent Past wouldn’t fit in the box I have at the top of this page to enter such things, so the least I could do was embolden it at the earliest opportunity.  And it’s a collection of which is as accurate as it is copiously-monickered, for it gathers a selection of early singles, plus what may or may not be some previously unreleased things from before their full debut album sprang forth.  This dual CD edition gives you, the consumer, not just the original Ghosts compendium but a whole extra disc featuring another nine songs from the archives.  And as it’s also a Thursday that sees this package hurtling through my letterbox, this post is being accompanied by a rather lovely wine.  Long/possibly made-up words and many things in brackets to follow/precede aren’t so much a startling prediction as a worrying inevitability.


Blitzen Trapper – VII

viiSomething that any artist or band strives for is that “thing” that, when you hear it, you know that it’s them.  It may be a unique vocal or choice of instruments, it could be something as superficially simple as subject matter of the style of artwork that adorns each release.  With Blitzen Trapper, it’s slightly different – it’s the way that their songs walk.  There’s something in the phrasing of each of their songs that has a footfall that, whatever else may be going on, sounds just like Blitzen Trapper.

I’m also happy to report that the lovely white vinyl of this, the band’s 7th album, remains unblemished by yours truly which is more than can be said for a record that arrived the previous week.  It certainly helps to pay attention when slitting open cellophane shrinkwrapping from a foot-wide piece of sharp cardboard with one’s thumbnail, as my own digit – even a whole week later – still resembles an axolotl with a bemused expression thanks to the mother of all cardboard cuts…