End Of The Year

Despite what I wrote a fortnight ago about this being a good year for music I’m not sure that 2017 will go down as a good year. Brexit continues to be a monumental mistake which will fuck this country over for the foreseeable future. It is divisive, regressive and blinkered, a country committing a slow suicide. My only hope is that it eventually screws the Conservative Party over completely- who created this mess and have to take the blame. In the US Trump continues to normalise views and opinions which should have been long dead and buried, not to mention deliberately provoking an unstable dictator in North Korea, in some kind of nuclear dick-measuring contest. As the year went on a succession of stories of men abusing their position and power flowed out. If 2017 has been grim, 2018 looks like being just as bad, if not worse.

Still, there’s always music to cheer us up. When I wrote my list two weeks ago I missed a couple of things out which I should have included. Paresse’s slow motion Scandinavian house has been a favourite of mine for a few years now and this year’s Sloth Machine ep was no exception. This is the closing track.

Quiet Light

Matt Johnson and The The returned to the fray with a vinyl only Record Shop Day release, a tribute to his brother Andy who died earlier this year. We Can’t Stop What’s Coming is a beautiful song, moving and genuine.

It seems right to mention the response in May to the bombing at Manchester Arena. The response was solidarity and strength, standing together not apart. It was also musical- from honorary Mancunian Ariana Grande putting together a massive concert at short notice at the cricket ground (just up the road from here) to the adoption of Don’t Look Back In Anger as a sung two fingers to terror.  My old school, Parrs Wood High School, provided the choir at the One Love concert and a host of pop stars sang their hearts out. We watched on TV through tears.

When the Supersonic documentary was on the other night my Twitter timeline was mainly full of people expressing the view that ‘I never particularly liked Oasis but this documentary is really good’.

Lastly, in early May an event took place which confirmed my belief that people are essentially good and that bloggers are generally wonderful people. And that sometimes taking what seems like a risk is the right thing to do. A bunch of us- me, Brian (Linear Tracking Lives), Dirk (Sexy Loser), Walter (A Few Good Times) travelled from respectively Manchester, Seattle and Germany to Glasgow to meet the locals-Drew (Across the Kitchen Table), JC (The Vinyl Villain) and Stevie (Charity Chic Music), plus a few of JC’s mates (Aldo, Comrade Colin, Strangeways). It was a risk- none of us knew if we’d get on or what would happen- but it paid off. We all have a new set of friends (real life friends now as well as internet friends) and I feel sure it will happen again. And everyone else is welcome too.

I was trying to think of a song that might find approval from the whole Glasgow bloggers collective, the international chancers (as Drew dubbed us), a song that we would say ‘aye, that’s a belter’. 80s indie looks likely. Early Primal Scream seems to fit the bill.

Velocity Girl

Just Landing

More instrumental, blissed out vibes for late December, this time courtesy of Cantoma (Phil Mison). Phil is a veteran of the legendary Cafe del Mar, the scene for those Mediterranean sunsets. Many say that the true Ibiza experience has been ruined by mass tourism and corporate sponsorship- they may be right- but Phil has put out several records in the last few years attempting to capture the true spirit. Firstly, in 2016 in his Cantoma guise, a beautiful album called Just Landing. Physical copies are long since sold out (although relatively pricey Japanese imports are available on eBay). It can be bought digitally at the usual places. This co-production with Danny Rampling, Claudio’s Theme, is spot on.

This year Phil put together a compilation called Out Of The Blue, a trip through a laid back and open minded record collection, which has this Frank de Wulf  recording from 1992 on it, a starry-eyed, sun-going-down moment spread over seven minutes of vinyl.

The End

The Longest Night

This 30 minute mix might just freak you out a little. Martin Glover (Youth) put it together for the solstice (a week ago now- and just think, it is several minutes a day lighter than it was this time last week). The mix takes Joy Division and Basement 5 as the source material, adds some spoken words and in Martin’s own words is an ‘experimental and eclectic journey through the longest night of Solstice towards the new dawn…hinged around a Joy Division incessant voodoo drum beat…buckle up’.

Escape Hatch

An escape hatch is exactly what this 2016 track by Seahawks is, a combination of white noise and lush melodies that swirl about until the bongo and piano hit at around a minute in. After that, it’s another seven minutes of bliss. Even the saxophone, an instrument I can often do without, is a joy.

Crossing The Road Material

Let’s blow those post-Christmas cobwebs away with some Mogwai, a song that gained a video/short film on December 21st. This is one of those slowly building, sky-scraping guitar tracks that they do so well.

It can’t take away that extra inch you’ve gained around the waist over the last few days though.

Happy Christmas

 

Top Of The World

The Christmas edition of the NME used to be a big thing. Now the NME is given away for free by the doors in Top Shop but it was always a big deal back in the day. Double sized (88 pages!), albums and tracks of the year, alternative rock stars and indie bands in fancy dress, Shaun and Bez pissed and stoned… enough to keep you going through the long hours when there’s nothing to do at a family Christmas.

In 1989 The Stone Roses were the NME’s band of the year and it flew them out to Switzerland for photographs on top of a mountain. That year they had done a nationwide tour picking up converts on a daily basis, put out their debut album plus 3 singles, and played two era-defining gigs (at Blackpool in August and Ally Pally in November, plus Top Of The Pops). The two album based singles had B-sides that were as good as most of the album tracks (Made Of Stone in March had Going Down, She Bangs The Drum in July had Standing Here and Mersey Paradise). In November they put out the double A-side of Fool’s Gold and What The World Is Waiting For, a game changer if ever there was one. They would never be that good again and in some ways 1990 would do for them- they stalled and lost the lightness of touch and sureness that in 1989 had put them on top of the world.

This Is The One

A year later NME’s writers crowned Happy Mondays as the band that made 1990 tick. In the summer Step On made them pop stars. In November they put out Kinky Afro, produced by Paul Oakenfold and Steve Osborne, a move that found them with a sound perfectly suited for the times and with a lyric that is unmatched. The extended Euromix (by Oakenfold and Osborne) made its way onto various releases (the USA and Australia both got the Euromix). My mp3 version is from The Factory Tape that came with Select magazine in 1991.

Kinky Afro (Euromix)

I’ve not posted Low’s Just Like Christmas yet this year, something I have done most Decembers at Bagging Area. It is a delight, from the rattling drums and sleigh bells to the sweetly sung words describing the band travelling from Stockholm to Oslo in the snow while on tour.

Just Like Christmas

I hope all of you have a wonderful Christmas, whatever you’re doing and wherever you’re doing it. See you in a few days for the post-Christmas lull.

December’s Not For Everyone

Music’s not for everyone. Usual drill, usual excellence. Plus Weatherall’s forthcoming remix of Noel Gallagher.

One Christmas For Your Thoughts

I’ve completely avoided Christmas songs up to now this year- they/it’s been really annoying me- but I finished work yesterday and don’t have to go back until Monday 8th January. And that is very good indeed.

So, Saturday before Christmas and everything that entails. Last minute shopping. Return trips to the supermarket for that one item they didn’t have or you’d forgotten. Queuing to get in the supermarket carpark (although you knew you should have walked you thought it’d be ok). Writing cards for people who live nearby who you’d decided you wouldn’t post to this year but then one from them dropped through the letterbox.

Forget all of that and spend a few minutes with Vini Reilly and an achingly beautiful piece of music from The Durutti Column.

One Christmas For Your Thoughts

One Christmas… is a close cousin of the magnificent For Belgian Friends. It was recorded in 1981 but not released until 1985, coming out on Les Disques du Crepuscule, a Belgian label based in Brussels that put out records by Factory acts (along with its subsidiary Factory Benelux).

Some Dreams Are Made For Children

Fifteen years ago today Joe Strummer returned from walking his dogs, sat down in front of his fire and died from an undiagnosed heart defect. I was out Christmas shopping and heard about it by text from my wife, then a friend, then another friend.

In 1990 Joe was deep into his wilderness years. He wrote a song that appeared in a film called I Hired A Contract Killer. Burning Lights is a little under three minutes long, just Joe and a chugging Telecaster riff for company, but it contains possibly his best lyrics, post-Clash.

Burning Lights

Some dreams are made for children
But most grow old with us
And when the air can hope to hold on
And to the ground from dust to rust

And I’ve been a long haul driver
Moving things but the cops don’t know
Now I can see the writing
You are the last of the buffalo

Now I’ve been to California
And I’ve been to New South Wales
Sometimes I, I pull over
When I realise I’ve left no trace

Burning lights in the desert
Such a sign only you would know
Your running tyres, they’re out of pressure
Such a sign only you would know.’

Burning Lights seems completely autobiographical to me, a man looking in the mirror. His era-defining band well behind him- a band which split up because, as he has realised, he made bad decisions and took bad advice- and here he is confronting a future which doesn’t seem to have a place for the ex-leader of The Clash, the last of the buffalo, a man who  believes he has left no trace. Pretty good eh? Rest in peace Joe.