Mother Ethiopia

There are records that come along and surprise you sometimes, songs that show a change of direction, new influences, time spent with other musicians a willingness to experiment with new ideas and new sounds. And then there are the new 12″ single from Paul Weller.

There are three new songs, all out now digitally with a 12″ to follow in September, all titled Mother Ethiopia, recorded with soul band The Stone Foundation. This one is part 3, subtitled No Tribe No Colour and done with London based Ethiopian three-piece Krar Collective, with the vocals sung in Amharic by singer Genet Assefa. This is super loose and super funky Afrobeat and it’s likely to cause a certain amount of shuffling of feet and shaking of arses. The more conservative elements of Weller’s audience may be slightly perplexed by this and rush off home to put on Going Underground again- but make no mistake, this is really, really good.

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Days Of Speed And Slow Time Mondays

That’s Entertainment always strikes me as a bank holiday song, easily singable in a beer garden on a rare early May Day of sunshine, pub jukebox cutting through the TV sport and noise. Paul Weller admits to writing it drunk, home from the pub, in half an hour and it’s easy to picture- once a couple of lines of the lyric came to him and the rhythm was there in his head, it must have just poured out. He even manages to make the ‘two lovers missing the tranquillity of solitude’ line work in among the urban and suburban poetry. Each line could describe a British bank holiday too from the screaming siren of the police car to feeding the ducks while wishing you were far away, from a kick in the balls to cuddling a warm girl and smelling stale perfume. Weller and The Jam at their best, although the demo version off Snap! always sounds better than the re-recorded one on Sound Affects.

That’s Entertainment (Demo Version)

Into The Cosmos

If you’re at a loose end and want something to soundtrack ninety minutes of your life you could do worse than this mix from the Quiet Storm family, a blogmind compilation expertly sequenced by Mark. This one took suggestions of songs inspired by the cosmos, the moon and the stars. It opens with William Shatner, takes in a wide cast of stargazers including Prefab Sprout, Billy Preston, AR Kane, The Upsetters, David Sylvian, Chilly Gonzales, Billy Bragg, Declan O’Rourke, Stereolab, I Am Kloot, Mayer Hawthorne, Sandy Denny and Labelle and finishes with Rutger Hauer and the ‘tears in rain’ scene from Bladerunner. See if you can guess what I suggested.

And this didn’t occur to me at the time but it could have been a fine addition to the mix, Paul Weller dubbed out and spaced out by Brendan Lynch back in 1993.

Kosmos (Lynch Mob Bonus Beats)

Things Can Only Get…

Election day, 7th May 2015. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to vote. In almost of the elections I’ve voted in since turning eighteen in 1988 I’ve voted Labour. Like many people the Labour party haven’t endeared themselves to me quite as much in recent times. I’m pretty envious of our Scottish friends who have an actual, meaningful alternative to voting Labour in the shape of the SNP, and the same is true in Wales. I would like to vote for a left wing political party- a party who put social justice above narrow personal self interest, who aren’t contributing to paranoid, stoked up fears about immigration, who will fund the NHS and who will support those less well off. You could suggest at this point that this option does exist for me and that I should vote Green. Which has crossed my mind. However I think when I go to the polling booth tonight I shall mark my cross against the name of the Labour party candidate. The bottom line, to my mind, has to be to get rid of the Tories, to vote this shower of shits out of office and I think that voting Labour is the most effective way to do that.

That brings up the dangerous question of voting Lib Dem tactically (and we can all see where that got us last time- the Lib Dems propping up a nasty right wing clique of bankers and ex-public school boys). Fortunately not a problem round here, the Lib Dems trail well off in third but some people may have to make that choice.

In 1997 after nearly twenty years of Conservative government the Labour party had the wind behind them and optimism in front of them. They appropriated D Ream’s pop-house anthem Things Can Only Get Better. I quite liked it until that point. Right now, I’m not sure if things can only get better but if we get five more years of what we’ve just had then things will get a lot worse.

David Cameron (part time punk, Eton mod and class warrior) has stated before that The Eton Rifles is one of his favourite songs. Eton Rifles is a bile-fuelled invective against public school boys (from Cameron’s old school) spitting and jeering at unemployed miners marching from Jarrow to London set to a piledriving post punk tune. As Paul Weller said ‘which part of it didn’t he get?’

Live on Something Else in 1979 (the same episode Joy Division were on).

Brand New Toy

Paul Weller put out a 7″ only single for Record Shop Day last year and then got pissed off with the whole thing when scalpers stuck copies up on ebay immediately and said he wouldn’t do it again.  The song itself was an unholy mash of piano, Small Faces, a dash of Lionel Bart, a touch of Bowie and a borrowed line or two from T-Rex. And rather good.

Brand New Toy

Puts Up The Closed Sign Does The Man In The Corner Shop

Man In The Corner Shop was on side two of The Jam’s 1980 album Sound Affects although I should think I heard it first on Snap! The lyrics had a deep impact on me, possibly the first time I kind of understood that pop songs could be about something important. Paul Weller’s ‘Marxism for beginners in three minutes’ still affect me today, even though I know them off by heart.

Puts up the closed sign does the man in the corner shop 
Serves his last and says goodbye to him 
He knows it is a hard life 
But it’s nice to be your own boss really 
Walks off home does the last customer 
He is jealous of the man in the corner shop 
He is sick of working at the factory 
Says it must be nice to be your own boss (really) 
Sells cigars to the boss from the factory 
He is jealous is the man in the corner shop 
He is sick of struggling so hard 
He says “It must be nice to own a factory” 
Go to church do the people from the area 
All shapes and classes sit and pray together 
For here they are all one 
For God created all men equal

Man In The Corner Shop

It’s a song that stands out musically on Sound Affects, with a chiming intro, 60s chords and middle eight, and powerful finish. I listened to the full album the other day. I’m not sure it’s a ‘great album’, more a collection of songs recorded at the same time. Many of them are good but too similar in tone,Weller moving on from All Mod Cons and trying to absorb Gang Of Four’s clipped guitars, while the rhythm section stretch out a bit. That’s Entertainment and Start! are both career defining. There’s some experimental pop-art. But Man In The Corner Shop (and That’s Entertainment as well) seem to be the moral and human heart of the record.

That Old Town

While in London we took the students to the O2 arena to see the Museum Of British Pop Culture. As soon as you put rock ‘n’ roll in a museum it seems to lose some of its charm in some ways but some of the exhibits were good. There were large projections playing in slow-mo (The Smiths, Wham and The Stone Roses on Top Of The Pops in the 80s, The Clash and Sex Pistols from 70s TV), different rooms for different periods, a room full of guitars and drum kits to play on and a rather nifty touch screen virtual record box which tried to tell the story of dance music (a good selection of tracks although I tutted and shook my head at what I thought were a couple of factual errors). In the rooms, as well as some touch screen stuff, there were various pieces behind glass- some Bowie costumes from the early 70s, a Small Faces bass drum, a royal flush of Spice Girls outfits, dresses belonging to Petula Clark and Dusty Springfield, a pair of Rickenbackers- Weller’s pop art guitar and Mani’s abstract expressionist bass (John Squire’s handiwork, along with Mani’s paint splattered clothes from that NME cover, visible in the left of the second pic).  Art-rock crossover. I was hoping for a Cubist drum kit but left disappointed.

It transpired that two of my 6th form students’ Dads were present at Spike Island along with me, a quarter of a century ago. They say working with kids keeps you young- it can also make you feel very old. I then spent some time racking my brains trying to think of when Weller and Mani might have played together and came up with this 7″ single from a few years back, a super sharp slice of Mod pop, recorded with Graham Coxon.

This Old Town

And here played live on the gogglebox- Weller, Mani, Coxon and Zak Starkey on drums.

They probably played together on a Primal Scream B-side too (‘Til The Kingdom Comes, XCLTR era, sounds like The Who) which I have posted before. In fact having just searched the blog, I’ve posted This Old Town before too.