ELECTROTONIC 1000 – ‘Action Potential’

Record companies are dead-they just refuse to lay down.

The last three influential musical ‘movements’ (punk, hip-hop and acid) have all advocated the D-I-Y ethic-you can make a record and distribute it without having to grovel to a major label. As an old-school punk-rocker who still believes that ideas, wit and excitement are more important than technical ability, a massive marketing budget and kissing the right arseholes this has always been very appealing. In the old (pre-Internet) days the majors had several jobs, all of which we can now do for ourselves-making the record, manufacturing the record, distributing the record, and promoting the record. All these things used to cost money, your money which would all come out of your £1,000,000 advance.

I made this record at home, using software I bought new for less than £40.

I don’t need to manufacture a hard copy except for maybe vanities sake.

The internet puts my music into cyberspace, avoiding the need of getting records into shops.

Promotion I am only learning about as I go along. At the minute the album is available on BandCamp for FREE DOWNLOAD and all the tracks are on Youtube.

As you are no doubt aware I have very little musical skill-I can play drums and am teaching myself piano but that has no effect on the music I created-all the tracks were created on a PC using loops and samples.

It isn’t important whether the music is any good (obviously I cannot judge that but I will say that it at least sounds okay)), but what is important is that it demonstrates the internet returns creative control back to musicians and artists. I have had to make NO compromises to make this record, and if I were confident that I wanted to sell it (which was not the point anyway) I have the means to do that and it would be all MY profit. I am happy with the record I have made-it represents my musical ability (none), and technical know-how (I can barely open a file), but it is the best record I could make given my resources (Acid Music Studio), budget (ha!), and enthusiasm (limitless) and even though I recognise its failings, I am hugely proud of it. It is my version of a punk record-ideas over technique.

ANYONE can do this-I did it to prove a point, not for fame and riches (just as well, considering). You can make exactly the type of music you want to, distribute it yourself, and someone, somewhere will like it. So why are you still reading this…..?

P.S. If anyone DOES download the album and doesn’t get the front and back covers, send me an e-mail and I’ll send it to you….

(Written to: ‘New York Noise (Dance Music From The NY Underground 1978-82)’ – VARIOUS, ‘Colourful Vibrations’ – KROMESTAR, ‘Anthology’ – SALSOUL ORCHESTRA)

HALF MAN HALF BISCUIT – Rock n Roll Is Full Of Bad Wools

‘Play One The Drummer Knows…’       

My favourite band-ever. I could have put any of their songs on here but this is the one I have played most recently, last track on the last album ’90 Bisodol  (Crimond)’. With a riff bearing a strong resemblance to ‘Oddfellows Local 151‘ by REM Nigel takes a scalpel to the vacuous skinny indie kid (insert your time-waster of choice here) who, beneath the blandness of his media-trained responses, has no depth whatsoever. Easy target maybe but done with such beautiful precision-the small, telling details are one of the many reasons I love this band so much. He goes on to bemoan the current state of production-line pop bands, before relating an evening spent watching a Crowded house/David Gray covers band in preference to the latest NME Flavour-Of-The-Week up the road.

Their first album sold 250,000 copies-any of the piss-weak rim-sniffers who play indie music would murder their mothers for sales like that nowadays-and they have been beavering away ever since, improving in leaps and bounds as musicians, now being capable of everything from a punk thrash to a polka to a Beatles-esque psychedelic raga. Nigel Blackwell is Britain’s greatest ever lyricist. Better than Morrissey (shock!), Strummer (what??!!) and Macgowan (surely not!?). The most throwaway lines are often the most profound. My favourite couplet, from ‘Surging Out Of Convalescence’….

‘And if I get to Heaven’s Gate, I’ll doubtless have to wait

While St. Peter investigates the inevitable asterisk.’

That is genius in anybodys book.

Half Man Half Biscuit are a National Treasure. They should put Nigel’s picture on the £10 note.

Anyway, enough of my yakking.

Also here is a link to Chris Rand’s HMHB Lyrics Project  http://www.chrisrand.com/hmhb/  your one-stop shop for all things Biscuit-related.

THE BEATLES – The Word – Ghetto Funk Allstars Captain Remix

Popular Beat-Combo Given 21-st Century Tune-Up

There are people who say that you can’t mess around with The Beatles‘ music: that the songs are holy artefacts, separate from, yet ruling over the entire history of Pop Music and that this position is not open to question. Can I state right here, for the record, that these people are idiots. The entire Beatles musical journey was one of taking their influences from EVERYWHERE , from basic 3-chord rock ‘n’ roll, country & western and rockabilly, through to more ‘high-brow’ art, such as Bach and William Burroughs, and putting their unique Beatles-spin on it. Pop Music develops by taking the past, twisting it, and sending it off into the future: this is its purpose, and how it evolves.

Which brings us here.

This is a great re-mix. It keeps the basic structure of the original, and enhances the elements which made it great in the first place-McCartney‘s killer bass-line, and the Lee Dorsey-style piano riff. It works to demonstrate the skill of the remixer and to bring out the brilliance of the original. Past meets Present and becomes The Future-dig?

BOB MARLEY – MARLEY: Rasta In Jamaica

This is here for two reasons: the thought of a (properly done) Bob Marley documentary is exciting, and ‘Jammin” is the best song I’ve heard this week. The Wailers were a formidable band

Peace and Love.

OSYMYSO – Intro inspection 101

The History Of Pop Music…in less time than it takes to have a bath.

The life of a music fan is (hopefully, if you’re doing it right) one of tiny epiphanies: realisations that you have suddenly been opened up to genres/albums/bands which you had no previous knowledge, or maybe even actively shunned. These minute Damascene moments are what keeps us interested and passionate about music-they are what keep us fans. Each particular revelation is personal to each listener, and is irrelevant of taste, knowledge, and fashionability – it just works at that particular time and place, and opens up brand new areas to be explored (often at great financial cost, hours of searching through specialist shops and sites, and then more time spent as a listener). I remember vividly walking into a record store and hearing Rockbox by Run DMC at ASBO-level volume and feeling that I had just heard the future. The first Big Audio Dynamite album was equally inspirational-the first time I’d heard samples of film dialogue pasted throughout songs, enhancing the mood and atmosphere and creating a potent mix of music and cinematic images.

For those of you who don’t have the time or inclination to spend hours in second-hand shops but would like a swift guide to what Pop Music was like when it used to matter, I give you INTRO INSPECTION by OSYMYSO.

There are 102 fragments of (mainly) 70s and 80s pop songs here, sliced from their original context and then welded together in a seamless flow, so that, just as you pick out one song its gone and replaced by another. The whole piece works as a montage of pop history (or more accurately, British pop history from roughly 1965-95 which, lets face it, is The Golden Age Of Pop) from a period when your life was measured out in Number One singles. It also serves as a ‘Feck You’ to the Luddites who still believe that sampling is solely the preserve of electronic music and requires no talent whatsoever-the majority of the songs utilised are, as Vim Fuego would have it, part of rock’s rich tapestry and most will be familiar to anyone aged between 20 and 60 who has only a casual listeners interest in music. They are taken out of context, cut up and spliced together to create a patchwork of riffs, choruses, beats and melodies which is stunning in its scope and vision.

I don’t want to spoil the surprise if you’ve never heard this before, but some of the juxtapositions are sensational; to have the ability to realise that ‘This’ goes so very well with ‘That’ and to put those pieces together side-by-side, on top of one another, or weaving in and out, is joyful. Play this to your friends after a couple of drinks and your front room turns into a raucous Pop Quiz with everybody shouting out the songs, then immediately quiet in case they miss the next sliver.

Its entirely possible that this was meant to be a comment on the disposability of Pop Music-one after another after another until the cows come home, with the only response from the listener being a Pavlovian grin with each riff or recognised vocal, and no time for any other emotional engagement before the next one comes along. Its possible, but this is obviously the construction of a Pop fan; the love and attention-to-detail put into the selection and shaping of the fragments, and the fun in hearing two (or more) records which would never be filed together in anyones collection using each other as reference points is a pure joy from start to finish.

My favourite bits of this record change every time I play it, so have a glass of wine, put the headphones on, and try to keep a straight face as ‘…the hits just keep on coming’. First time I heard it I managed to spot 75 – see how many YOU get…..

(Written to: ‘Intro Inspection’ 101 – OSYMYSO, ‘Damaged’ – BLACK FLAG, ‘Caress Of Steel’ – RUSH)


Happiness is a cigar called ‘Hamlet’ 

 This is what the ad-men used to tell us, once-upon-a-time, in order to sell us nicotine (the ultimate capitalist drug). There are a lot cleverer people than me who have written many studies about the troubled Dane, but I don’t think too many would think he defined ‘happiness’. Advertising, however, has never been particularly logical.

This isn’t a rant about advertising, or capitalism. This is an attempt to write a few words on something that brings a smile as I go about my daily business. It may be an advert, although that is highly unlikely as TV (or ‘Satan’s Box of Lies and Untruths’ as its known in my house) advertising is not something I find humour in, and this is an attempt to be positive and joyful. I find it far too easy to be cynical about most things, and quick to dismiss things out of hand, thereby denying myself the pleasure for pleasure’s sake.

If you’d told my Black Sabbath/Iggy Pop-loving 16-year old self that 30 years later I’d be singing the praises of Caravan I’d have (only metaphorically, though only just) spat in your face.Caravan??CARAVAN?? The band so faceless and woolly they were like four (or five.Sometimes six!!) Eric Olthwaites in the same group. Once, many years ago, I’d been given a Caravan album by someone who confused the rock albums I adored so much, with lukewarm shit. I hated the long running times, I hated the air of smug, middle-class twattery (even though I was quite willing to accept David Bowie as an inter-galactic pan-sexual rock god, there was no way I wanted anything to do with poshos in cheesecloth and patchouli with their Tarquins and their  croquet hoops), and I hated the flutes.

Though never a full-time prog-rocker, I was aware of the concept. I quite liked Yes, because, for all of Jon Anderson’s gibberish they rocked out a great deal, but Genesis and ELP passed me by, and I couldn’t grasp the joke-free end of the spectrum (Gentle Giant??).

BUT it was Year Zero, and Caravan and the majority of their pals, to all but the faithful, were missing, presumed B.O.F. in The Punk Rock Wars, and it now shames me to say but I happily put the boot in myself at times. I never mourned them. Like an idiot cousin or an exotic STD I put my prog dabblings out of my mind and denied its existence if anyone ever asked

Times change and the album I played most this week is WATERLOO LILY by CARAVAN.

Dividing hardcore fans as either ‘too jazzy’ or ‘not jazzy enough’, it marks the transition between the blend of pop, English folk, jazz and classical music of  In The Land Of Grey And Pink and the poppier ‘For Girls Who Grow Plump…’.It’s certainly a lot jazzier than ‘ITLOGAP’ but that makes it sound like the kind of album Steely Dan would’ve made if they were born in Kent. The shuffle of ‘Nothing At All’ is the sort of blues that used to crop up at least once every Dan album, although here it is an extended groove, split in two by the funk of ‘Its Coming Soon’. What could have been an over-long extravagance is kept entertaining throughout by the guitars, piano and Lol Coxhills sax solos. Pin-sharp and never out-staying their welcome, this is a joy from start to finish.

The charm of early Caravan is that they are not the virtuosi you expect to find in prog: although they are good musicians all willing to step forward when required, they are much better as an ensemble, letting the music breathe and flow. What they lack in virtuosity they make up for in wonderful harmonies, and the quality of ‘milkman’ melodies McCartney stopped writing around 1967. Dave Sinclair had already left (for the first time) and had been replaced by Steve Miller whose jazz playing is superb throughout,making it a more focussed album than its predecessor, although the five-part symphonic centre-piece ‘The Love In Your Eye’ is still in the set today. There are a couple of beautiful pop songs on the LP, which led to accusations of being (horror) ‘commercial’. Depending on your point-of-view, ‘Aristocracy’ and ‘The World Is Yours’ are either timeless sunshine-pop, or dated soft-lad public-school toss, easily replaceable by ‘Where Have All The Boot Boys Gone?’

Caravan make music for the sheer joy of making music: they are consistently inventive, never boring, and inimitable in their way of conjuring up a kind of virtual Englishness which we all think we can recall but which never really existed. They are far more interesting to me than Iggy Pop is these days, and I would recommend this album as a perfect introduction to a band who are only now getting the kind of widespread critical acclaim which eluded them at the time.

(Written to:’Waterloo Lily‘ – CARAVAN. Naturally)