Thursday, 27 August 2009

Nick Drake - Things Behind the Sun

Some people reside in Hampstead and assume it's akin to country living. Urbanites often buy organic vegetables or produce from a farmer's market and it makes them feel pastoral. They might also take delivery of a new Range Rover to heighten the bucolic-erotic pleasure. This is all ersatz.

Until you've awoken to a cold sun rising over the ossuary, rubbed a muddied boot over each and every stile, watched the crows pecking for seed and worms along the flatlands and been chased by a mentally disturbed farmer with a shotgun, you can't possibly consider yourself an authentic countryside dweller. That these Hampstead yummy-mummys have the audacity to rape and distort the country folk's lifestyle is the gravest of all insults.

The Arden, Nick Drake's birth and resting place, is an exquisite length of forest that connects the River Avon with the River Tame. Nick Drake is buried in the churchyard at Tanworth-in-Arden, a stone's throw from the family home of Far Leys. The inscription on his gravestone reads "Now we rise, and we are everywhere", a lyric from Drake's From the Morning.

Ironically, Drake spent a year in Hampstead, living in an appartment on Haverstock Hill. The iconic shots of Drake as human vapour, waiting for the black-eyed dog, were taken on the Parliament Hill side of Hampstead Heath.
Things Behind the Sun by Nick Drake at Spotify

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Lewis Taylor - Track

"This wicked streak, I have in me, that I never wanted you to see. In my heart, I hope and pray, I'm not this way, but I am"

I didn't know how to deal with Lewis Taylor initially either. Lucky was slinky, Bittersweet a breeze and Whoever glacial in its passive contempt, but it wasn't until I heard Track and Lewis III that the penny truly dropped.

Making the connection with Taylor's music was one of the most challenging and fruitful musical tasks of my life. There are occasions when you don't understand an artist on first exposure, but you know there's something magical there, something that will infuse your life for its entire span. You just have to dig in.

Taylor's music has consistently dictated the ebb and flow of my life since 1996, and the fact he retired from the music industry in 2006, bitter and demonized by a lack of recognition and chiding his own fans for buying records he made purely to pay the bills, only makes it sweeter. You'll find precious little evidence of Taylor's existence online, such is his devotion to burying himself.

"Love's died of a broken heart, friends say I should get over this, I don't want to"

People talk about fucks like Syd Barrett, Viv Stanshall, Moondog and Terry Reid, but Lewis Taylor is the real lost genius, no question. Why? Because he had a work ethic and he turned things out.

Track by Lewis Taylor at Spotify

Friday, 14 August 2009

Boards of Canada - '84 Pontiac Dream

In 1984 I was the computer kid. In 1984 I was the BMX bandit. In 1984 I was the Northamptonshire schools county chess tournament runner-up in the under eights section. In 1984 I was free.

Without the marked over-reliance on squelchy basslines and drum synths utilised by such esteemed auteurs as Calvin Harris and Stuart Price, this Boards of Canada track goes beyond parody or hero worship and conjures the smell of air, the feel of wallpaper and pain of a graze in 1984. At the song's marrow is a child's sense of Christmas optimism.

How do BOC achieve this? Who cares. What I do know is they held parties in the forest and projected public service films from the 70s onto the trees. I also know they're obsessed with a hexagon sun. Look closely at the sleeve for A Beautiful Place Out In The Country and you'll see David Koresh, leader of the Branch Davidians.

The Boards of Canada are a hip-hop act. A guy on YouTube cut this tune to scenes from Knight Rider. This sounds like a shit eating mess, but it's actually really effective.

'84 Pontiac Dream by the Boards of Canada on YouTube

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Todd Rundgren - Time Heals

Mark Chapman was a huge Todd Rundgren fan and he cared little for the Beatles. Todd saw Lennon during his infamous 'Lost Weekend' phase (which seemed to involve little more than getting wasted and fucking Yoko lookalikes) acting the goat and being an obnoxious rock star cliche. Todd's response to witnessing one of his all-time heroes dethrone himself so spectacularly in public was to write a song about the incident called Rock and Roll Pussy. Lennon took umbrage at Rundgren's judgement, set to an unrelenting funk rock beat, and in an open letter picked up by a weekly rag he suggested Rundgren should focus his attention on shifting a few more units, and worry less about Lennon's social habits. The letter irked Chapman, a devout Todd follower, and effectively prompted him to take Lennon out. Obviously Chapman was already walking something of a mental tightrope anyway. The guy was out there, let's face it.

What could Todd do? Very little, but he did write this song as a message to Yoko, telling her that the passing of time would mend the scars and damage of that awful incident outside the Dakota.

This is one of my all-time favourites. Watch the video, Todd's twinkle-toe shuffles are to die for, and when he sings "time", he points at the Dali-esque melted clock - wherever it may be.

Todd, I love you.
Time Heals by Todd Rundgren at Spotify
Time Heals by Todd Rundgren on YouTube

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Patti Smith - Piss Factory

"I got this job in a piss factory inspecting pipe....but these bitches are just too lame to understand, too goddamned grateful to get this job, to know they're getting screwed up the ass"

Every line in this song is important, not only to the song itself but also to the listener. They spell out all the things you need to know about life - or how to get one if you haven't managed to fashion a life for yourself yet. The trick is to be born in a godforsaken backwater full of cock-eyed bastards and wasters, then dream the first sixteen years of your life away fantasising over the bright lights of New York or Budapest or Lahore or the nearest destination where you can move and finally realise and live inside the desire that paralyses you in your provincial nightmare.

"I lay back. I get my nerve up. I take a swig of Romilar"

Getting high from cough medicine is a different buzz to composing a great tweet, sure enough. Are they comparable? I don't know. Me, I'd favour Romilar every time, it's more social.

"I would rather smell the way boys smell. Oh those schoolboys...the way their legs flap under the desks in study hall. That odor rising roses and ammonia. And the way their dicks droop like lilacs"

The clipped piano lines under Patti's poetry are to me the true essence of punk rock. They're structured, influential, powerful, wild and desperate. They're black. They're life changing.

"I got something to hide here called desire. And I will get out of here. I'm gonna get out of here, I'm gonna get on that train. I'm gonna be somebody, I'm gonna get on that train, go to New York City. I'm gonna be so bad I'm gonna be a big star and I will never return"

Don't ever allow yourself to be crippled by the town you were born in.

Piss Factory by Patti Smith at Spotify

Monday, 10 August 2009

Dwele - I Think I Love U

I've fallen in love twice.

The first time was with Francis Goulden. We played adults for a short while but it was uncomfortable for both of us. She suppressed her inner child and it made her so uptight. One day I chided her for talking to some animals. "They don't understand you" I said, and her eyes turned sad. They stayed that way until we split. She had to ask me for a ring, I'd never offered, and I bought a vase instead. I just couldn't do it. We broke up shortly after ending a three year relationship.

The second time was with Agnes Willow, a girl who was exactly the same height as me, and we looked like brother and sister. We took it in turns to be the tallest, and this was contingent on our choice of footwear on any given day. We fell in love hard and fast - it was intense and exclusive. I tried not to talk of our affair amongst my friends for fear of over-intellectualising or encouraging the intervention of fate in our perfect synergy. Hence they felt locked out, and still ask questions to this day. Ultimately, I needn't have concerned myself with such intricacies. I became consumed by a need to self-destruct, and with the sublety of a wrecking ball executed a six month long campaign of triviality driven break-ups and make-ups. I pushed her too far and she asked me to leave. We don't talk now.

What knits these two episodes together is that I fell in love within days of initiating each relationship, around 72 hours in. It's a headfuck because you're fighting an instinct to resist falling in love before six weeks, or two months max, and it all feels a bit psychotic.

Dwele nails this rapid awareness, that immediate moment when you realise you've met a long-term lover rather than a short-term distraction, like no other. This song is stunning.

I Think I Love U by Dwele at Spotify

Friday, 7 August 2009

The Folk Implosion - Natural One

I went to see a movie last night called Beautiful Losers with my closest friend, Reba Jive. I won't bore you with the back story, you either know it or you don't, but I will furnish you with a few casual observations I made during the film:

1. Although it encapsulated every aspect of fringe, street, teen and outsider culture that made the early 90s such a unique and pleasurable time to be alive (the "swinging" 60s included - fuck the Beatles up their scrawny, pot smoking, bandwagon jumping arsepipes), the Alleged Gallery movement is one of the most self-conglaturatory in the history of art.

2. The Alleged Gallery movement had burned out by 1995, everything that followed was either parody or self-indulgent bullshit.

3. Despite trying desperately hard to distance themselves from normal people leading normal lives, the career trajectories of most of the Alleged Gallery artists mirror that of a typical hedge fund manager or middle-tier executive. It starts with living on the breadline (business school/art school), next comes some kind of recognition (promotion within the company/international exhibitions and commissions) and ends with middle-class comfort (hard work leading to such rewards as a suburban idyll and house in the Hamptons/selling out to an international corporate leading to such rewards as a suburban idyll and house in the Hamptons).

4. The Alleged Gallery artists have deluded themselves into believing today's 14 year olds give a fuck about their work.

Having said all that, Harmony Korine is a funny guy, and today's tune was of course included on the soundtrack to a great movie that he authored: Kids. Rosario Dawson looks amazing in this flick. If only she had taken Chloe Sevigny's spot in The Brown Bunny.

Natural One by the Folk Implosion at Last FM

Thursday, 6 August 2009

The Power Station - Harvest for the World

My brother Alphonse and I grew up on a farm in the arse of the world. Alphonse is twelve years my senior, and should be the head of all Razors siblings (my sister, Ethel, is in the middle), but he suffers from drastic assertion problems and the buck was passed to yours truly upon manhood. When I was contemplating school, Alphonse was a teen looking for kicks (albeit tentatively), as the coloured vinyl discs of each individual member of Bananarama on his bedroom wall would attest. Personally, I loved Siobhan, even more so when she became a goth. Although Alphonse and I never explicitly discussed the matter - I was but a babe in arms after all - I think he favoured Keren. Nobody likes Sara.

Alphonse reinvented himself as the East Midlands answer to Nik Kershaw, and I believe it bought him pussy, but in the tribal world of 80s subculture he had to shed a few skins in order to distance himself from his former life as a teenybopping square. By default, I inherited a cache of Alphonse's old tapes, and became instantly aware of his proclivity for Duran Duran side projects. Arcadia interested me little, a lifeless and hopeless crystallisation of everything one expects from the likes of Nick Rhodes - a cadaver in lipgloss.

The Power Station was a whole different story. I once shared a lengthy conversation with a renowned bass player from a popular 90s krautrock group, and he confided in me that John Taylor's basslines are among the most complex and abstract in modern music, and try as hard as he might, he couldn't replicate them. Who was I to disagree?

More than this, I find Andy Taylor's sheer arrogance mesmerising. His disdainful mistreatment of this Isley Brothers standard - replacing the inoffensive acoustic guitar pattern with a wash of digital, brash, faux-blues riffing - is reminiscent of a hooliganism not witnessed since Stephen Stills fucked Neil Young's The Loner right where it needed it. Glorious revenge.
Harvest for the World by the Power Station at Spotify