Back in the days where people weren’t too fussed about genre labels, when experimentalism regularly hit the high points of the charts and when nobody really gave much of a stuff how much records weighed, remixes reigned supreme. These were mostly shuffled off to the margins of b-sides and exclusive 12″ singles, but there was the occasional album of rejigged and reworked music for our pleasure. Remixing was all over the place, some remixers became more venerated than the people who employed them, and then it all seemed to tail off rather quickly, or at least vanish underground to a place where most people couldn’t find them, except for the very determined. The occasional gem bobbed up to the surface (the Soulsavers’ sublime take on Starsailors’ Four To The Floor being a prime example), but it all went quiet as some remixers went back to being DJs, others started making their own records from scratch, and others carried on messing about for diminishing audiences. This record is a celebration of decades of messing about with other peoples’ stuff.
Even before I get onto anything else, this was one of those occasions where a special round of applause should be reserved for those least mentioned of a touring company, the bus driver. How he got that thing there last night must have been little short of miraculous. After my fun, if slightly concerned drive there (I could be heard going “are you sure?” to my Satnav more than once as I was sure was deliberately leading me astray down roads where the provision of a single track would have been a blessed luxury), it was a curious delight to enter the tiny arena of Hebden Bridge’s Trades Club with the rest of a crowd of just shy of 200 people to catch a couple of highly memorable sets.
Genre pigeonholing, don’t you just love it? Ever since Faith No More were dubbed “Funk Metal” back in the 1980s, mankind’s desire to label things that sound a bit different to everything else has seen labels get sillier and sillier. Then again, it all started with Rock and Roll, which makes little sense anyway. I did try to find something all-encompassing to encapsulate whatever goes on during the course of this record, but nothing fits. Even the current trend for “Post-” anything doesn’t seem to work, as even looking up something as outwardly clever as “Post-Blues” brought up Booker T and the MG’s, Jethro Tull and Chris Cornell, so it’s anyone’s guess really. Ultimately though, it doesn’t really matter except to people who don’t read past an arbitrary number of stars and the first sentence of anything. What does matter is how something moves you, and Phantom Radio moves like nothing else. A Post-Lanegan record, perhaps?
I’m fairly certain that I’m breaking some sort of rule here. I’m also fairly certain that I don’t really give much of a stuff for what passes for rules governing internet lists. I could justify it with a whole host of technicalities, but frankly I can’t be bothered – it’s Christmas Eve, I’m at work supposedly listening to a conference meeting but am actually typing this and I keep thinking of stuff to get from the shops in the way home. So instead I’m just going to enjoy the bloody thing.
It’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.
“Bit short-changed there”, said the bloke passing us on the way out of the auditorium at half-past nine, after the set that began at half-past eight had finished. Well, away with you sir, that was great. To paraphrase an old BBC comedy play, never mind the width, feel the quality.
For such a short and early set (presumably with one eye on tonight’s footballing doings ) it wasn’t half packed, and came with a couple of surprises. Not only did the lightbulbs illuminating the stage actually change colour from their traditional red, Mark also took centre stage under a de facto spotlight! Anyway, after a ticket-purchasing farce which saw us perched right at the back (as the following snaps barely illustrate – by the way, I’m not sure if I should feel relieved or wounded that I didn’t feature in the Guardian’s recent “worst gig photos”), we witnessed a rather stunning set as well as a lot of people who couldn’t stay sat down for five minutes at a time without wandering off outside.
Things are going a bit slow here at the moment, largely because things are far too full-on elsewhere. There’s a definite disparity in the work-life balance here, and that can never be seen to be right. So while I try to address that, this week shall be mostly comprised of EPs and quiet things as that’s all my attention span can cope with while all else goes mad around me. This whatever also reflects the lunacy of the past couple of weeks, but I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about and nothing that a bit of a sleep can’t remedy.
I 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.
There’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.
It’s nigh-on impossible to keep a secret these days. It was back in June that news started filtering through that an anthology of Mark Lanegan’s work was in the pipeline, and it’s been an agonizing wait while it was rumoured, then confirmed, pre-ordered and finally finished. Then again, even as I thought I had the whole thing sussed, it turns out that there is still room for a small measure of stealth as I’m thrilled to discover that a very good friend of mine was in on it all along, and whose contribution (of which I am still largely in the dark) has deserved no less than three mentions in the credits to this release. I raise my glass to Debbi, whose hard work, dedication and exasperation (the latter for which I was on most occasions at least part of the cause, for which I continue to apologise) in the creation and continuing growth of Onewhiskey, as informative and steadfastly enduring a labour of love as you’re ever likely to encounter on the internet. Meeting this head-on are the masters of the curation and reissue of the sort of wonders you never realised you were missing out on in the form of Light In The Attic Records, who have put this double-CD / triple LP set together with care and a rare attention to detail that makes this record stand out even before anything plays. Hats (presumably in the other hand than the one raising the glass!) off to everyone involved.