Onto the second part of this visit to the State of Pennsylvania, which I now discover is more of a Commonwealth anyway. No idea what that means, but there you go. And after having my hearing and nerves shattered by 4 and 5am fire alarms here, I am in no state (or commonwealth?) to find out properly. Little Big League are a band from Philadelphia, Tropical Jinx is their second album and their debut struck such a chord with me last year (it was a well-deserved favourite) that it feels like they’ve been around for a lot longer, something reinforced by the progression and feel of this new one. October’s been a good month.
Should all go to plan, this should be the first of three consecutive posts about new stuff from three different sets of artists from the same US state. In the pantheon of “big areas where sounds come from” Pennsylvania’s not the first place that would spring to mind, fairly or otherwise, yet here I am with a trio of really good records each with something different to say. And as tradition tends to dictate in these matters, it’s fairest that I pick the first one first: the first one to arrive here and the band’s first long-player. Serendipity also dictates that the next one will be someone’s second record and the third is from someone a decent distance into an established career. So that’s nice.
At work, I am involved in the office Fantasy Football League. I’m not doing very well if truth be told, but that isn’t the cause of my despair as far as this little competition is concerned. My consternation lies firmly in the fact that I am incessantly finding my team name to an ever-expanding group of people who go “I don’t get it” whenever I extol the etymological origins of the mighty mid-table Half Man Half Busquets. I’m generally happier when explaining who Busquets (Carles or Sergio, it matters not) is. Half Man Half Biscuit shouldn’t really be hidden away just out of sight of the mainstream consciousness, although I suspect that this is where they like to hang out – their fans are loyal and well-rewarded, modern culture provides a well-ordered line of targets for lyrical disdain, and they remain at the forefront of a punk movement casting a disappointed spotlight on life’s many vagaries; mostly by virtue of the fact that nobody else has really bothered to join in.
It’s probably worth pointing out that I started writing this one on the 2nd of March. I needed a break. I probably still do, but there you go. So I suppose it’s kind of apt that as I appear from my short hiatus bleary-eyed and woolly-headed, the cobwebs are well and truly blown away by a record that is pretty much perfectly qualified to be doing so. And in any case it’d be rude of me to not finish what I started.
It’s a fine state of affairs when Adrian Edmondson’s happy band of folky punk interpretationalists can come up with a third album of great anti-pop songs of yesteryear and everything still sounds fresh, classic and above all fun. The combination of picking the right songs and giving them the right twist sounds like it shouldn’t be as hard as it is, but there’s definitely a knack to making it sound as effortless (and, in several cases, effortlessly complicated) as it does, and it’s even harder to make something that sounds like a cracking yarn on the first listen but is then able to stand on its own months and years down the line. The Bad Shepherds do this extremely well thanks to excellent song choices, great musicianship and perfect arrangement skills to take stuff from the ’70s and ’80s, make it sound like it was first put together in the 1600s and then make it all exciting for a modern audience. And I for one salute them for all of the above.
What a strange week this has been. If it wasn’t enough to be told by all and sundry that apparently most of the socio-economic history of the 1980s (including pretty much all the bits I remember growing up, mostly spent in abject terror of impending nuclear war while the TV was full of images of shocking deprivation and adverts offering shares in utilities that we used to own anyway) was entirely wrong and probably made up by alternative comedians and Militant Labour because it was all wonderful and we should be bloody grateful etc, it all ends with bickering about a song. A song that now seemingly won’t be played except for a five-second snippet because it’s offensive. A song from a children’s film. A song that has the middle-englander press up in arms about how it should be banned, which makes a nice change from them bleating about there not being enough freedom of speech any more (in their case, usually being castigated when they print bikini pictures of very young female celebrities above a caption about how well they’re growing up, or, without a trace of irony, libelling the dead).
So it’s nice to herald the return of someone who generally doesn’t give a stuff about any of that, preferring instead to continue down his own furrow of upsetting the establishment whilst being slightly silly about it all. Ah, for the good old days when people could actually have fun with music…
First of all, a heartfelt “Happy 25th Birthday!” from this idiot scribe to the lovely people of Sub Pop Records. Which feels kind of strange in a way as, to put everything in an awful “how on Earth did that happen?” historical context, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon was a mere 15 years old when Touch Me I’m Sick was recorded.
I’ll just let the older viewers allow that to sink in for a moment.
Right. So anyway, central to just about everything that made (and nearly broke) Sub Pop the name they are today is Mudhoney. Not was, is. So this documentary isn’t just about where they’ve been, but where they’re off to next.
What a strange week this is panning out to be. All excited about a new year, and both new albums I’ve received so far this week are from bands I used to listen to 20 years ago. This Is No Bad Thing. Mostly because I can one again revel in my own daily little triumphs over Growing Up, but also because it’s a genuine thrill to see and hear those people who brightened up my youth still doing the same now, even if there was a long period in between when we all sodded off and did our own things as we tend to do as young adults. This, I’m led to believe, is the natural course of things, but that’s not to say that when paths recross and I find myself going “right, I’m going to buy this one” for no real reason other than it seemed like a good idea at the time, it turns out that the resulting purchase was a bit of a winner.
The promise I made myself that I would not listen to any more new stuff until I got this list finished is starting to get a bit stretched, although on the plus side it’ll mean that I have plenty of presents to open on Christmas Day and I won’t have to disconsolately hope that someone’s still got the receipt somewhere. So, as the pile gets bigger, I am starting to type faster which is kind of apt in the case of this Number Five as it’s a record that has that effect of forcing the mind and body to speed up through sheer infectious force of will. It’s also the most surprising listening experience of this year, and one that has snapped me out of one or two of my own funks this year. (more…)
Happy Halloween, one and all! ‘Tis the season for religious types to get all whiny about “well, it’s all a bit pagan, isn’t it? Corrupting young minds and all that” when they’re not that hugely bothered about all the paganey goings-on at Christmas and Easter… Anyway, hope everyone’s having fun extorting foodstuffs from pensioners and all that – or, for the more discerning practitioners of the older traditions, hope your oxen are delicious.
Anyway, for reasons of stating the bleeding obvious, this band tend to get more of an airing on this date here than at any other time of the year. Which is a bit odd, because to these ears, this band’s output far outshines the work of Glenn Danzig’s projects both before and after this shortlived bunch. The “how much?” occasional ebay inflationfest of Samhain’s canonical two albums and one EP (the posthumous Final Descent is something of a curio with a bit of a skewed timeline) would seem to attest to this. I was only going to do one of them tonight, but in all honesty I couldn’t choose between these two – and I can’t remember where my copy of Unholy Passion is…