Blind Faith

I’m going to keep the Balearic vibes going in a vain attempt to make it seem like summer despite the fact that I’m at work and the weather has turned dull and a tad wet. This 1992 Sensuround single was partly the work of a post-Membranes, pre-Goldblade John Robb, with vocals from Tracy Carmen and remixed here by Dean Thatcher, who was responsible for several key remixes from the early 90s. Stick it alongside some early Saint Etienne, some A Man Called Adam and some Screamadelica era Primal Scream and it makes perfect sense.

Blind Faith (Aloof Mix)

There’s A Lot Of Nice Places To See Out There

Stepping backwards in time from yesterday’s Balearic Charlatans remix to a song from Liverpool in 1986 that found its way into DJ Alfredo’s record box in Ibiza and the terrace at the Cafe del Mar with his guiding philosophy of ‘if it sounds good, play it’. Driving Away From Home (Jim’s Tune) was a single from It’s Immaterial, a Liverpool band with a Mancunian at the helm (John Campbell) and Henry Priestman of The Christians involved on keyboards. The song is perfect mid-80s synth-pop with acoustic guitars and a semi- spoken vocal, not a million miles from the Pet Shop Boys. Driving Away From Home was a UK hit (number 18) and popped up on adverts and compilations and TV shows but don’t let that take anything away from it.

One of my favourite aspects of the song is the attempt to write a British road trip song, something that on the face of it is an American thing. ‘Why don’t we cross the city limit, and head on down the M62, it’s only thirty nine miles and forty five minutes to Manchester’ John says, and goes on to tell the driver ‘all you’ve got to do is put your foot hard down to the floor, we can call on people I know in Newcastle or maybe in Glasgow’. See also Billy Bragg’s A13 (Trunk Road To The Sea).

Driving Away From Home (Wicked Weather For Walking)

A Boy With A Stronger Emotion

The Charlatans have just put this up online, a remix of the title track from their new album by Chris and Cosey. A lovely, summery, 80s sounding,  Balearic version.

Opportunity Three was a different, remixed version of Opportunity (off debut album Some Friendly). It was mixed by Flood, originally released as the B-side to the 1991 Over Rising single and then saw the light of day again on Melting Pot, their first Best Of back in 1998. Opportunity Three is a delicious seven minute plus slice of 1990, equal parts 60s psychedelia and late 80s dance infused rock, led by some very loose drumming. The band (bass, guitar, Hammond) all swirl around, tripping out while Tim sings some sweet nonsense.

Opportunity Three

Various Artists

Back in 1991 this Various Artists compilation was stuck on my turntable for what seemed like months. The acid jazz scene had been born and in the USA jazz flavoured hip hop was briefly the cutting edge, partly led by Spike Lee’s Mo’ Better Blues film in 1990. This all fed into the emerging trip hop scene too I think. The Rebirth Of Cool was a fourteen track compilation opened by Gang Starr’s Jazz Thing, with a swinging beat and pulsing bassline from DJ Premier and Guru’s effortless rhymes recounting the history of jazz and its place importance now/then.

Jazz Thing

There are many fine moments among the rest of the songs and artists- X Clan’s Raise The Flag, MC Mello, Dream Warriors, Stetsasonic’s brilliant Talkin’ All That Jazz, Galliano and Young Disciples from London’s Acid Jazz label and Young MC. Between 1991 and 1998 4th And Broadway put out a further seven volumes and it lost its way a bit. I bailed out after Volume 2 but this one, the first, was a definite winner.

I Felt Like A Vacuum Cleaner

The moment where the girl in the white dress appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, at Glastonbury back in 2013 is one of the greatest TV gig moments I’ve seen. Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds had launched into a ten minute version of sex and murder fest Stagger Lee (sample line- ‘just count the holes in his motherfucking head’). The band with beards, suit jackets and Chelsea boots, had locked into a killer groove. Nick, black trousers, mostly black floral shirt, blacker than black hair, had gone down to the barrier and was giving it the full foot-on-the-fence-while-growling-into-the-mic Nick Cave thing. At seven minutes forty six seconds she rises up from the throng, like a Victorian ghost, all in white, arm stretched out, full eye contact. Nick is singing about the devil and Stagger Lee is about to be taken down. Four holes in his motherfucking head. The bassline is thunderous, he is shrieking, the pair are still maintaining eye contact. The strange to-and-fro dance continues, sexual tension rising among thousands of people in broad daylight. Spontaneous gig theatre.

There are some Nick Cave songs which are as good as anything written and recorded in the 21st century (and 20th for that matter). This one from 2008 is a lyrical tour de force, laugh out loud funny and serious as fuck, Nick on his knees railing against his god, author and creator, howling for answers. There’s a bizarre cast of characters, from the ‘myxomatoid kids’ in the first verse to a death in the second, causing him to shake his ‘ fists at the punishing rain’. This is one great line after another set against The Bad Seeds driving feedback and pummelling drums, occasionally breaking down into nothing but the noise of overloaded FX pedals and Nick looking for scissors.

‘Everything is messed up around here
Everything is banal and jejeune
There’s a planetary conspiracy
Against the likes of you and me
In this idiot constituency of the moon’

When he goes guruing down the street young people  want answers. Nick doesn’t have them. he feels like a vacuum cleaner, a complete sucker.  There are slavering dogs and enormous encyclopaedic brains, third world poverty and a whole list of world issues to be answered for. Later on Doug turns up tapping at the window and offering a book of Holocaust poetry complete with pictures. There is a line about Nick down in his bolthole appalled at the publishing of ‘another volume of unreconstructed rubbish’. Bukowski gets put down, the jerk. Prolix. Prolix. More scissors. Seriously, stunning stuff. Who else can do words this good?

We Call Upon The Author

Life Is Much More Simple When You’re Young

I spent Wednesday evening watching the Pet Shop Boys playing in the Empress Ballroom in Blackpool. The Empress Ballroom, known to fans of The Stone Roses as being the gig that sealed their ascent in the summer of 1989, is a beautiful late 19th century venue holding 3000 people, pretty intimate for an act who often play arenas. The show had everything you’d want and expect from a Pet Shop Boys performance- lights, projections, images, lasers, daft headgear, costume changes and more great tunes than you can shake a stick at. It opened with Neil and Chris appearing by rotating into view on two giant white circles. They stepped down, daft headgear intact, and got right on it in front of a crowd who were very much up for it. As a pair they’ve made songs that are informed by forty years of club culture and fifty years of pop culture and for a while were very near the centre of UK music. The projections for second song Opportunities have smiley faces swapping with dollar signs, a nice visual ironic nod to Thatcher’s enterprise culture. From there on in it’s recent songs like The Pop Kids and Love Is A Bourgeois Construct spliced with highlights from their back catalogue. A few songs in the giant white discs are dismantled, the screen falls down and a trio of musicians join Neil and Chris, two percussionist and a keyboardist/violinist, the extra drums beefing up the rack of synths and laptops local lad Chris Lowe is playing. Somewhere around halfway in, the temperature in the room rising and some of the crowd now shirtless, they drop in a beautifully chilled Love Comes Quickly, a pop song as good as any written in the 1980s.
Neil Tennant is a superb lyricist, a writer who frequently finds the sweet spot between the uniquely personal and brilliantly universal, and his distinctive voice has survived the years. In the second half of the set they show their strengths to full effect with a run of West End Girls, Home And Dry and It’s A Sin, lasers beaming, hats and jackets changed, building up to the finale, now with giant coloured balls suspended above the stage- a reworked, upgraded version of Left To My Own Devices and then a singalong Go West, a song of community and brotherhood. The encore has a perfectly pitched and played Domino Dancing, the moment house music explicitly influenced their sound, followed by Always On My Mind. It’s the hits. Pile ’em high, give ’em what they want. I could gripe that there’s no Being Boring, no So Hard, no Rent but it’d be churlish. It’s quite a show they put on, songs that last with choruses that stick (for decades), performed with knowing theatrics, with a nod and a wink but with feeling too. A class act.

Too Bad She Won’t Live Forever…

‘…but then again who does?’

Sean Young’s Polaroids she took during the filming of Bladerunner are really something else.

And here’s even more Bladerunner. You may have heard there’s a new film imminent, Bladerunner 2049. Spain’s disco/house producer Vicmoren has a free download of his theme to the new film on Soundcloud. Vangelis evidently referred to, this is ten minutes of minimal soundtrack electronica well spent.