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Mi Valentino Bloody

Posted: May 26th, 2006, by Simon Proffitt

Best. My Bloody Valentine cover version. Ever.

Debut albums

Posted: May 3rd, 2006, by Simon Proffitt

Some bands just come out of nowhere with something incredible, new and fully formed – like as if you’re walking down the street and then someone suddenly steps out of a shop doorway and clubs you over the head with a frozen trout. Other great acts creep up slowly and grow on you as they grow themselves. Lots of awesome and well-known bands have obscure and mysterious origins with potentially embarrassing limited edition/low budget/simply not very good debuts. Others simply churn out so many records that it’s easy to lose track of which was released when. It struck me just now while listening to Swervedriver what an awesome debut album Raise is, and how they never really did anything to match it. And then by comparison I thought about Oval, a band I love with all my heart, and how their debut, Wohnton, is pretty lame. And then how Spiderland is so superior to Tweeze.

So here, for no good reason, is a list of 30 of the greatest debut albums of all time (in my biased, not particularly knowledgable opinion, and as far as I can remember). In the interests of discussion, who have I missed?

Swervedriver – Raise
Panasonic – Vakio
Fushitsusha – I
Jimi Hendrix – Are You Experienced?
The Smiths
The Fall – Live at the Witch Trials
Can – Monster Movie (or Delay, whichever you want to class as their debut)
Moonshake – Eva Luna
Mogwai – Young Team
The Pop Group – Y
AMP – Sirenes
This Heat
Cocteau Twins – Garlands
AMM – AMMusic
Erase Errata – Other Animals
Napalm Death – Scum
Nirvana – Bleach
Part Chimp – Chart Pimp
Polvo – Cor-crane Secret
Laddio Bolocko – The Strange Warmings Of
Rollerskate Skinny – Shoulder Voices
Scott Walker – Scott
Lemon Kittens – We Buy A Hammer For Daddy
The Stooges
Pink Floyd – Piper At The Gates Of Dawn
LFO – Frequencies
Einstürzende Neubauten – Kollaps
Happy Flowers – My Skin Covers My Body

Speaking of iPods…

Posted: February 22nd, 2006, by Simon Proffitt

I wasn’t going to post this here because I thought it might seem too much like spam, but things have recently taken an interesting turn, so I’m doing this for your benefit. Yes, you.

A friend of mine from the icy wastes of Canadia is running a non-profit organisation, and their latest project is to get a bunch of young immigrants (‘new Canadians’) to make their own health awareness videos (because the people that normally make health awareness videos don’t really care or know anything about young immigrants), and they’re actually not that bad considering the kids that made them had never done any film stuff before. In order to get as many people as possible to watch the videos, they’ve done a quiz about them. Easy stuff, like ‘what colour is the girl’s jumper in video number 4’. The prize in the quiz is one of 4 new iPods (2 video iPods, 2 Nanos). Then there’s a ‘tell-a-friend’ contest where you get entered into another prize draw to win a Panasonic digital video camera just by getting other people to enter the quiz too. The more people you tell, the more entries you get.

Now – this is the interesting bit – the quiz has so far backfired quite spectacularly, because people are obviously so used to seeing epilepsy-inducing spyware-packed banner ads for FREE iPODS NOW L@@K!!!!11 that they’re just not entering. And they’re even less interested in winning a video camera. Kids these days are just so spoiled. So far, after 3 weeks of the quiz being open, and I don’t think it’s too unethical of me here to pass along cold hard figures, only 70 people have successfully entered the quiz. The best (or worst) bit though is that so far only 2 people have entered the digital video camera contest. You don’t have to be a mathematical genius to work out from that information that if you enter, you have a pretty good chance of winning. You don’t even need to get the answers to the quiz right to enter the referral thingy. How hard can it be?

Here’s the quiz page
Here are the videos (one of which, iQuit, is actually quite good)

I’ll even tell you the bloody answers if you want.

Hella/The Psychic Paramount/Zuinosin – Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff, 5/12/05

Posted: December 6th, 2005, by Simon Proffitt

Back when I was 10 years old (approximately), I got hold of Utter Madness, by Madness, on cassette. After listening to that, all other music that I heard at the time seemed ridiculous because it was too sincere and earnest. Why the hell would you want to listen to Spandau Ballet crooning about love when you could jump around the room to One Step Beyond, or Night Boat To Cairo? It’s doing Zuinosin the greatest possible disservice by mentioning them in the same sentence as Madness, but the relative emotions they conjure up for me are uncannily similar. Why the hell would you want to listen to Keane singing about love when you could watch Zuinosin jump around the room, screaming and flipping the bird to the audience? Zuinosin render most other music obsolete by nature of the fact that, among other things, they are:
a) insane
b) fantastically costumed
c) from Japan
d) brilliant musicians
e) having a lot of fun
If I was in a conventional band, I’d be emailing the other members right now to tell them that I quit. The only way that you can possibly follow Zuinosin is if you are a member of The Psychic Paramount, or a member of Hella.
Here are some other FACTS:
If you saw The Psychic Paramount walking down any street in any town in any country, you would instantly know that they were from New York.
The Psychic Paramount are responsible for the best album released in 2005.
The Psychic Paramount are responsible for my hearing loss.
Zach Hill is the world’s greatest drummer*.
Spencer Seim is the world’s most dexterous guitarist*.
Spencer Seim now resembles the ‘Juniper Bush’ character played by Terry Jones in Life Of Brian.
Hella are less thrilling with four members than they were with two.
Hella are still very thrilling.
Tonight was the best gig I have been to in a long time.

*I’m fairly confident that this will be difficult to disprove. If I press the Sun (the star at the centre of our solar system, not the newspaper) to your left cheek, and then Alpha Centauri to your right cheek, would you be able to tell which was the hottest?

VAW/HELIOGABALUS – Vaw/Kingsland Waste (Difficult Fun)

Posted: November 8th, 2005, by Simon Proffitt

Ah, the noble guitar! So many things to so many people. To some it’s a vessel for the summoning of dark spirits; to others it’s an easy way to make quick cash, or a best bet for getting laid. For others still, it’s a warm and obedient friend on long, cold, lonely winter nights.

New Zealand ex-pat Cameron Bain, formerly of a number of varyingly obscure noise and punk bands, and here sailing under the flag of VAW, is someone who appears not to be content with just having a warm and obedient friend to keep him company until spring, but prefers to (is compelled to?) use this friend to summon dark spirits too. It’s a fascinating two-birds-with-one-stone combination, and results in a compelling first side of this split vinyl LP. Mainly the fruits of solo labour, the Vaw tracks are uglybeautiful: dark, scratchy and slightly claustrophobic smears of things that nevertheless contain moments of real tenderness and poignancy. There are wonderful snatches of harmony, sustained afterglows, fragments of chance melodies, all poking out from under a thick layer of dust. Occasionally throughout the set, Sean O’Reilly pops into the cabin to warm his hands at the piano, the shaker or the oboe. It’s low key, lo-fi, but highly satisfying.

The flip side is occupied by oddball duo Heliogabalus, also New Zealand ex-pats, and also veterans of the fertile NZ noise scene. Their side is considerably more rabid, as they channel mischievous poltergeists, rather than the more reflective, melancholy lost souls that Vaw invoke. Interestingly though, it’s all done with acoustic instruments – so instead of rich amp fuzz, we get cascades of feverishly plucked nylon, catgut and steel string, and the layers of silt on this side are entirely due to the joyously outdated recording technology. If at times it seems directionless, that’s because sometimes it’s more fun to just wander around and enjoy being lost than to map out strict routes, and every now and then you stumble across something incredible that you wouldn’t otherwise have seen. Deranged, and, consequently, quite a thrill.

Difficult Fun

AMANDINE – This Is Where Our Hearts Collide (FatCat)

Posted: November 5th, 2005, by Simon Proffitt

Let’s say that one night you come round to my place, just to hang out. No real purpose. Sometimes it’s nice just to spend time in someone else’s house. And while I go and put the kettle on, This Is Where Our Hearts Collide by Amandine is playing on the stereo, and it’s playing slightly louder than it ought to be, really, loud enough so that you have to raise your voice everso slightly in order for me to hear what you’re saying. After it’s finished, we both get that feeling that it’s s shame there isn’t more – neither of us are losing our minds over it, but when it’s over, there’s simply a vague sense of loss. It’s created a nice, warm easy-going reflective mood perfect for drinking tea to that I can’t really sustain with any of my other records. Everything else I’ve got is either too harsh, too minimal, cold, depressing, or intrusive. So I put it on again, and it’s comforting to be vaguely familiar with it second time round. Now – this is the interesting bit – when I tell you what it is you’re listening to, you are totally amazed by two facts:

1. It’s on FatCat records, supercool Brighton based home to such left field artists as Black Dice, Animal Collective, Janek Schaefer, Ultra-Red, Xinlisupreme etc.
2. The band are from Sweden.

You are amazed, because This Is Where Our Hearts Collide is a thoroughly pleasing collection of gentle, intimate and uplifting alt-country Americana. Olof (God, I wish I was called Olof) has a wonderful, fragile-but-noble voice, and he’s backed by breezy guitars, melancholy piano, accordians, banjos, a trumpet and some poignant strings. Most of the songs actually sound like sea-shanties. There’s certainly a sense of traditional folk about this. It’s the kind of music that I’d love to see live in a small coffee shop in small-town US. Or maybe a small, darkly lit chapel. Whatever, there’s an intimacy about this that would be ruined in a large venue. Which, in a way, is a shame, because the more people that hear this the better.

FatCat Records

VASHTI BUNYAN – Lookaftering (FatCat)

Posted: October 5th, 2005, by Simon Proffitt

If you thought the Stone Roses took a long time to deliver their second album (Stone Roses to Second Coming in 5 years), or maybe bleep pioneers LFO (Frequencies to Advance also in 5 years), then take a look at folk legend Vashti Bunyan. It’s a fascinating story: kicked out of art college in 1964 for writing songs instead of making art, Vashti released a couple of unheralded singles in the mid 60s and then set off for the Isle Of Skye in a horse drawn cart in order to get out of the city and hang out with likeminded people. Her first album, Just Another Diamond Day, was released in 1969 with little commercial success and she subsequently disappeared. Fast forward 30 years or so, and say hello to our old friend the Google vanity search. Vashti, to her surprise, discovers that she’s a highly respected cult figure and that the 21st century is clamouring for more. Diamond Day gets a reissue, and offers of work roll in. The next thing she knows she’s recording with the Animal Collective and recording material for her ‘difficult second album’. Fortunately, it’s another gem.

Just Another Diamond Day was/is a beautiful record: delicate, whimsical, deeply personal and totally refreshing. It was a hard act to follow. And the slightly underwhelming, syrupy and polished opener of Lookaftering, Lately, might suggest that it hasn’t been followed too successfully. Sure, Vashti’s voice is still exquisite, vulnerable and sweetly innocent, but the tastefully lush string and woodwind arrangements sound a little, um, Radio 2. And I’m a bit worried that this is way things will continue – straightforward, faintly nondescript 21st century radio friendly over-produced folk-lite. It’s kinda stupid to expect more of exactly the same, but still…I hope that she hasn’t lost the plot. But the gently lilting melodies and warmth of the arrangements soon eat away at my doubts, and around halfway through I realise that I’m really loving what I’m hearing. It’s a grower, for sure, and we have to wait until track 6 (Turning Backs) for the first genuine moment of spine tingling, stellar beauty – a haunting piano line, honeyed vocals and a sunburst of hammered dulcimers. In fact the second (and third) plays grow even more, and I’m even now feeling mean for having mentioned Radio 2.

It’s a brave and brilliant move by FatCat – had this been released on a less hip label, perhaps one dedicated to contemporary folk music, it might have slipped under the radar – filed away quietly and unjustly in Borders next to Kate Rusby and Eliza Carthy, and only being detected by those in the know. But Lookaftering deserves much more, and certainly deserves to be heard by more people than are currently hearing Jamie C*ll*m and Jim Moray, two current darlings of paid-for-by-the-marketing-meatheads daytime-TV spots. FatCat don’t necessarily have the power to put Vashti on the National Lottery show, but they’re certainly allowing a whole new generation of appreciative music fans to hear something wonderful. Plus, in these times when Finnish rural psychedelia is becoming so ubiquitous, it’s a breath of fresh air for the songs not to be buried under 100dB of tape hiss.

So, then: marvellous. Let’s just hope we don’t have to wait another 30 years for album number 3.

Vashti Bunyan
FatCat Records

Name That Tune #2

Posted: September 24th, 2005, by Simon Proffitt

After the successes and failures of the last Name That Tune post, I thought I’d point out a project that Mrs. P started a couple of weeks ago. It’s called Pop Idle (the inspired title was my idea – it’s a pun, see?). The format’s simple: she posts a mystery mp3 once a week, and five guys who generally don’t know much about music (or anything else – me included) try to review it in our own unique, ham-fisted and uninformed way, without knowing who it is. After we’ve all slated it, she reveals who it is, and we all hang our heads in shame as it turns out that it’s someone really famous and the ‘popular music press’ love it, thus revealing how out of touch we are with modern culture.

So, come along and join in – comments are open and welcome and you can all join in and play along, and call us rude names when we say bad things about your favourite bands.


Posted: September 13th, 2005, by Simon Proffitt

I’m only partway through the second track, but this is already probably my favourite album of the year [I wonder how many more times I’ll say that before January? I’m impressionable and I have a short attention span]. Take the warmest, fuzziest, poppiest bits of My Bloody Valentine, Pale Saints, Ecstasy Of Saint Theresa, Velvet Underground, Jesus & Mary Chain, Telescopes, Spacemen 3, all the people that Dead Meadow are ripping off, add some fjords, glaciers and funny accents, and you have absolute pop perfection. Is it original? Of course not. Does it matter? Hell no. Suddenly it’s 1988 all over again, and that, as far I’m aware, is a good thing.

ASJA AUF CAPRI – Novi Ronde (Difficult Fun)

Posted: September 9th, 2005, by Simon Proffitt

Back when I was 12, my sister was a big fan of Erasure. Her vinyl copy of The Circus came with a Mute Records discography (Documentary Evidence), and it was a revelation to me, full of impenetrably pretentious, mysterious descriptions of strange and sinister electronic music – Einstürzende Neubauten, DAF, Boyd Rice, Throbbing Gristle, Fad Gadget, Renegade Soundwave etc. I spent hours poring over it, trying to image what these things sounded like. Months later, I almost had a cardiac arrest when I found a copy of one of the things I’d been reading about, Holger Hiller’s 1983 album Ein Bündel Fäulnis in der Grube, at a carboot sale for 50p. Having spent my life up to that point listening to chart pop and my dad’s Johnny Cash records, this was something weird and new – a glimpse into a skewed, alien and impish world that I didn’t fully understand.

East London based duo Asja Auf Capri’s debut from last year, Novi Ronde, takes me right back to that time, to the joy of mischievously twisted electronics, itchy rhythms and an exciting hint of taboo. And of course, the fact that both works have German language vocals helps.

The album kicks off with the deliciously insistent Chanson Risk, previously featured on Difficult Fun’s first release, a wonderfully packaged 4 track 7″ of DIY difficult fun. It’s a great start – twitchy, fidgety, old-school electronics and subtly processed, whispery-then-chanting vocals. Happily, the quality is maintained throughout. There’s plenty of variety in the music too, with all sorts of bleeps, bloops, squelches and clangs going off to underpin Anja’s singing. It’s all done with a fantastic sense of playfulness and yet, brilliantly, without getting anywhere near that enemy of good music, novelty. After the wonderful bongo-on-Mars claustrophobia of Prairie, the albums finishes with the riotous knees-up wig-out of Brandstifter. It’s the happy younger sibling to Laub’s more considered, deadpan approach to electronica. It’s how smug, half-baked charlatans like Chicks On Speed and Cobra Killer ought to sound.

Anja had apparently never sung before recording the album (and hadn’t even shown much inclination to do so), but she’s an incredible talent. By turns pouty, sly, cheeky, forthright, mysterious. Translated lyrics are available online, but I’ve so far deliberately avoided reading them because I enjoy the sound they make without having to worry about meaning. Not formidably difficult, then, but certainly lots of fun.

Asja Auf Capri
Difficult Fun