Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Ruts.

In 1979 things were starting to get a little tense in the UK. In May of that year Margaret Thatcher was elected Prime Minister, heralding the start of a conservative era that lead to the mess we’re in right now. Were there other factors? Of course, but when you deregulate and privatize everything and leave the functioning of society at its most important points to private interests, the financial being one of those, then you end up with a big, greedy balls up, which is where we’re at currently.

In 1979 the punk era was winding down, segueing into what followed it, new wave. However, one British band, which kept the flag flying for punk, was The Ruts. Most of us on that side of the pond became aware of them when their rousing single “Babylon’s Burning” crashed into the UK charts in the summer of ’79, eventually settling at number 7 in June of that year. It was raw and fast, but melodic, the sound built from a fascination with reggae, metal, straight up ‘70s rock and the music of their punk and new wave peers.

The band was comprised of Malcolm Owen on vocals, Paul Fox on guitar, John "Segs" Jennings on bass and Dave Ruffy on drums. Owen was a magnificent front man, kinetic and full of righteous rage, as reflected in the fact that The Ruts started out as part of an anti-racist collective in West London called People Unite. They had a deep respect for the West Indian community and featured a prominent reggae sound in their music.

The next single that really made me sit up and take notice was “Staring At The Rudeboys,” a frantic ditty about an altercation with some racist skinheads, which was released in the spring of 1980. Then in July Owen died of a heroin overdose, a surprise to some given the anti-heroin stance of the song “H-Eyes,” the b-side of their first single “In A Rut.” The band became Ruts D.C., from the Italian Da Capo, meaning from the beginning and explored reggae and dub more.

However, in their first two years with Owen at the helm they crafted incredible, rousing singles, and the classic album The Crack (cover featured above), with its memorable cover. The single “West One (Shine On Me)” was released in August 1980, an obvious tribute to Owens. I heard it on a compilation album called Cash Cows, a Virgin Records release that featured some of their best artists. However the record was pulled due to a legal wrangle over a track by The Professionals, a band that featured Paul Cook and Steve Jones of The Sex Pistols. A store in Derry called Quaver — where The Undertones began their careet — was handing them out for free over Christmas 1980, and my mom got one for me. There are some top tunes on that record, including “Dirty Blue Gene” by Captain Beefheart, but “West One” was my favorite.

In 2007 Henry Rollins, standing in for Owens, at a London benefit gig for Paul Fox, who was battling lung cancer, announced to the crowd that “West One (Shine On Me)” was easily one of the best songs ever written about being lonely in the big city. Some will arguer otherwise, but it is definitely the most rousing, Enjoy it and check out The Ruts a little deeper if you haven’t already.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Higamos Hogamos, Infinty Plus One

I am becoming ever such a little bit fatigued by the current glut of Kraut rock inflected material that is being released from the indie rock and dance music world. It’s not that Kraut rock is bad music, far from it, it just seems a bit too trendy at the moment to channel the likes of Faust, Neu!, La Dusseldorf et al. However, when it is done well does this  really matter? To be honest: probably not.

So with that in mind I am listening to a new offering from the reputed UK dance music label, DC Recordings, which is home to Padded Cell, The Emperor Machine and Kelpe among others. The British imprint’s latest release is from an outfit called Higamos Hogamos, which is comprised of Toby Jenkins and Steve Webster, a duo also known as Fort Lauderdale.

Their new EP is a four-track vinyl item and a six track download release. The record features the tune “Infinity Plus One,” which appears in its original form and in remixed form by The Emperor Machine, who provide two mixes on the wax plus an extra redoodle that appears on the digital version only. “The Creeper” is given a remodeling by Muscleheads  while Higamos Hogamos's previous single “Major Blitzkrieg” is bent out of shape by 22 Inch Wife.

All in all, if you like spacey, Cosmic or Kosmische accented material, which can emotionally resonate with you while motionless and horizontal or while in motion and vertical, then you will probably like this. Hokay! The tracks are cool, with the Emperor Machine mixes getting me most interested while the original mix of “Infinity Plus One,” with its opening line, which states “Across my sky blue heart your indelible jet trail,” gets my other vote. It’s a nice record, go and do be getting’ it.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

It's Grand But Not Douchey.

Black Francis, Frank Black or Charles Michael Kitteridge Thompson IV, and his missus , Violet Clark, or Violet Clark Thompson, have just done a new LP. The collabo is called Grand Duchy, and that doesn’t sound kinda like douchey, nor does the album itself. In fact, it’s a rather subtle likkle surprise if the truth be known, and the truth should always be known, should it not? What do you get when you take classic Pixies inclinations and fuse them with just a smidgen of synth pop and new wavey gorgeousfulness, and then have yer old lady channel a bit of Kim Deal while remaining thoroughly individual and vocally involving?

You don’t know! Jeepers! You get Grand Duchy for cryin’ out loud. The album is called Petits Fours and it’s on the Cookin' Vinyl label. The first single, “Lovesick,”sounds like the Pixies colliding with “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” then it doesn’t, and it forces you to wrap your flakey head around some bloody chewy lyrics and the cutely menacing (how that?) vocal delivery of the not so shrinking Violet. The chuckly bit with him asking “What are you wearing?” and Violet girlishly answering “I Don’t Know” is so bloody addictive and funny that it just sets the tune out as a stone hard classic. The stonesy guitar riff is bloody excellent too!

Plus we need more rock albums with synthy bits and women shpeakin in shexy French accentsh (Or Sean Connery accentsh even). Check the song “Fort Wayne” for that: top tune, great lyrics, completely fun and hooky, hooky hooky. Do I really need to dissect every track, ‘cos I hate to, but let’s just say “Black Suit” rules on high, from the dense drums and bass intro (nice bassline) to the overall spooky but energetic feel of it. Black Francis channels some weird, grating anger and it’s ever so welcome.

Am I blowing too much smoke up this album's ass, or maybe I’m just blowing too much smoke, or just blowing too much. Take it to the gutter, sher why not as they say in the old country. Francis you do look divine btw. And I forgot about “Seeing Stars,” a special, little slow number that comes over all coy and folksy/rocky before the bass slinks down and the pair ‘o’ them throw in some glacial synth work while Violet intones “I’m guess I’m seeing stars again,” in a way that you want to hear over and over, except that they only do it for a short while and you want it to never end and you'll remember it and cherish it forever and a day. Yer knowurramean?

This album is fucking great, just go and get it and stop reading this shite. All right?


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Van der Graaf Generator - Darkness (1970)

Here's your daily dose of prog. (thanks G.M.) Taken from 1970 German Television footage. See also two mp3's from a 1967/1968 demo tape from the more elementary and slightly more straight forward earlier incarnation of VDGG. Folky melodies hinting at the darkness to come. Happy Tuesday!

Van der Graaf Generator - Firebrand (the master tape is audibly shrampled but gives way after the intro)
Van der Graaf Generator - Sunshine

-Simon Bananaspam

Monday, April 20, 2009

J Dilla, Slum Village and Fantastic Stuff.

I can’t really add anything to what has already been written about the sadly missed hip-hop producer Jay Dee (aka J Dilla), but it’s hard to forget the first time you ever heard a Jay Dee track. I remember hearing Slum Village back in late ’99 or early 2000. Their material had already been circulating since ’96 or ’97, when their Fantastic Vol 1 record dropped on indie label Donut Boy Records. It soon became extremely hard to find and was finally given a re-release in 2005. In late '99 there was much excitement about the upcoming US release of their follow-up album, Fantastic Vol. 2, on the Good Vibe Recordings label out of Los Angeles. It had already dropped on the British imprint Wordplay Records in 1998, creating a serious buzz. 

By this time Jay Dee’s impact on hip-hop was fully realized, due to his work with some of the genre's finest, including A Tribe Called Quest, The Pharcyde and Busta Rhymes. In early 2000 the hype surrounding the imminent release of the second installment of Fantastic was palpable and bootlegs were already circulating. I scooped two of them and they both contained a track called “Players,” which just blew me away with its languid groove and atmospheric feel. All the spacey funk of Dilla’s grooves was coupled with some very distinctive flow from rappers Baatin, and T3.

The bootlegs were merely a warm up to the killer package that Good Vibe put together for the release of Fantastic Vol.2. I bought it on triple vinyl and CD and gave both a good old twirl. Tunes like “Players,” “Climax (Girl Shit),” “Back and Forth” and “What It’s All About” were in heavy rotation at my apartment, work and on the decks when I would play hip-hop out. Around the same time Detroit rapper Phat Kat released his “Dedication To The Suckers” EP on the House Shoes Recordings label, featuring the track "Don't Nobody Care About Us," which had another devastating beat by Jay Dee, and featured the prolific Detroit music impresario Brian Gillespie in the executive producer’s chair — a man who we can thank also for bringing us Detroit Grand Pubahs.

So the point is that Slum Village’s Fantastic Vol. 2 made a really big impression on me and still does when I pull it out for a re-twirl. If you see it around on CD, or if you are so lucky to find on wax, scoop it on sight. It’s proof of how good hip-hop can be when it’s not a corporate controlled monster, and a valuable testament to the sonic genius of Jay Dee. It sounds good in the heat as well, and it’s hot as bejaysus today.


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Sébastien Tellier live in San Francisco

Sébastien Tellier came to San Francisco in the last couple of days and he played The Independent last night. I actually ran into him on the street on Thursday afternoon on the way to gym, he was walking up around Polk and Post with his friend Francois, so I had to stop them on the street and confirm that it was he. Indeed it was and it was only then that I remembered what my buddy Dax had been telling me for over a month, “Sebastien Tellier” coming to town in April and we need to get tickets ‘cos it will be awesome!”

And awesome it was. Tellier’s set was inspiring, uplifting, hilarious and accomplished all at once. It was an organic experience, with the singer coming on stage with two keyboard players and a drummer, seeming a little stiff and unprepared before launching into “Kilometer.” The organic aspect was that, of course, as the show went on Tellier and the band became looser, more daring and more musically involving.

By the time he had seated himself at an electric piano and started hammering out “La Ritournelle,” some five or six songs later, he was drenched in sweat, had polished off a bottle of wine or two, and was in fine form. Leading up to this he had knocked out a selection from his most recent long player, Sexuality, carried out a guitar solo in the crowd and pulled some seriously understated but highly effective poses.

The show culminated with him lying on the piano crooning to the crowd, which was by this time in the palm of his Gallic hand, before finishing with an encore of “Roche,” the first track on Sexuality. It was very captivating performance by an extremely unique artist, Long may he perform, put microphones against his crotch, wear very hot pleather jackets and write excellent music.


Friday, April 17, 2009

Junior Boys at Bimbo's.

Went to see Junior Boys at Bimbo’s last night. I love that venue and it was a great show. Max Tundra opened in fine, funny and quirky style, and included a hilarious nod to ‘90s rave toons in his set — killed me. Junior Boys took the stage soon after and rocked a very groovy, electric, and atmospheric collection of songs, all topped off with Jeremy Greenspan’s soulful white guy delivery. The crowd was young and really enthusiastic, and they stomped the floor hard for an encore when the boys finished. They opened their two-song encore with “FM” and it was all over way too soon. Now I have to attend Sebastien Tellier tonight in order to recapture the fervor…hopefully.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Lil' Louis - "French Kiss" Version 1

The first time I heard this track was on a friend's Walkman, cassette fresh dubbed from a KDVS (Davis, CA.) late night house radio program. This felt like a forbidden jam. X-rated for sure and the exhilarating vibe of this naughty groove and decelerating tempo did a number on the teenage psyche. DJ Louis Burns, a Chicago based house producer hit it right with this classic track. The first version of the video, which was rejected by the label was a recent youtube discovery and worth sharing. Check it!

-Simon Bananaspam

Monday, April 13, 2009

King Roc's Chapters

I have to confess, I’ve been on a Steely Dan kick for the best part of a week and other music has faded into the background. It’s hard to beat “Glamour Profession” as you walk through the quiet streets of North Beach in the wee hours of the morning. I love walking through quiet cities in the dark, mainly because the music in your headphones becomes a real soundtrack and you can thread all your own triumphs and losses through the lyrics, with Becker and Fagen’s tales of sordid trysts, chemical dependency and lost dreams creating a backdrop your imagination can work with.

However, I’m not here to write about Steely Dan, because what could I tell you about them that hasn’t already been written. So I want to tell you about another record entirely, which is equally usable for nocturnal excursions, from another time, place and style. King Roc is a British musician and dj, who deals in deep house and minimal techno. About two years ago when he became fatigued by the 4/4 beat of those genres (who doesn’t) he luckily ran into Australian graphic designer and illustrator Seb Godfrey, aka Drunkpark.

They conspired to craft a concept album that didn't need to explain itself, and would all start with a set of four collectable 12"s, each with poster by Seb. The first one, which dropped in the winter of 2007, had chance as a theme. Three more themed 12 inchers followed and now there is a CD of these tracks, which have not only been compiled but taken apart and restructured in different genres to what they were originally created in.

The album takes in ambient, trip hop, house, techno and rock. It’s a damn good listen, mainly because there are so many atmospheric, involving tracks on it. The record sounds brand new but somehow takes your mind back to the glory days of the early ‘90s when the likes of Orbital, BBG, and Jam and Spoon were ruling the dance-floors. Hypnotone also come to mind on more than one occasion during the course of the record. No need for a track by track dissection, just scoop it and prepare to immerse yourself — or be immersed — in a drifting, throbbing and elevating musical experience. Hokay?


Thursday, April 9, 2009

Super Furries With New Album.

The new Super Furry Animals record, Dark Days-Light Years, is almost upon us, it will be released digitally on the 14th of April and vinylally on the 21st. It’s a bouncy, twelve track opus with the lads returning to earlier psychedelic and kraut rock tinged territory. It also has some grand song titles, such as the opening track, “Crazy Naked Girls,” and the humdinging, “The Very Best of Neil Diamond.” I’m not a huge Animals fan, so I’m hearing this record with fresh ears, and a little stroll around 25th Street and Harrison, near the park, in San Francisco this morning was vastly improved by these toons and others like “White Socks/Flip Flops,” "Mt" and “Moped Eyes."

The Super Furries take ‘60s inflected rock, 'n' roll it around in tripped out German inflections and hints of funk and electronic dance music. The arrangements are addictive, the lyrics compelling and wry, and the overall feeling of the record is that of a certain world-weariness that’s fortunately bolstered by an unvanquished capacity for optimism and joy. Nick McCarthy from Franz Ferdinand provides the German spoken word guest vocals on “Inaugural Trams,” and does a wunderbar job btw.

It’s a great record for walking around, driving around, getting around, arsing around and fucking around to. “Inconvenience” is a hot jam too, and “Cardiff In The Sun” is a kicky slice of dreamy, modern fuzzydelia. A well scoopable rekkid I have to say. Niceness!

Click For mp3

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Lemonade - Big Weekend (Roman Stange Mix)

At the moment I am inundated with rock stuff that I need to listen to, ponder and then wax poetic about. However, in the meantime before tackling this sysiphean task I am dragged back into abstract electronic territory by a gentleman by the name of Roman Stange. Stange is a Michigan native who arrived in San Francisco via Kurdistan and Boston. Being from that mid-western state he has that magical touch for techno inflected strangeness, or is it Stangeness? You decide.

Anyways, he gave me a dvd with some toons on it, and quite a few of them were well good, but one kinda jumped out at me in a big way. I gave him a call to enquire about the name of it and it is his remix of Lemonade’sBig Weekend.” It’s a loping, rolling technoid thing with touches of the original vocals and bass-line and some drifting dislocated synth sounds that bring it into an outer orbit. This coupled with incessant, tough, stripped down drums that evolve effortlessly into elements of the original’s more staccato rolls make this track perfect for arranging the dance floor into some semblance of order before shaking it up again with a stirring a bass break culled, once again, in whole from the band’s own version.

A dirty, grungey sound coupled with some crisp textures and percussion elements make this track a winner for the AM come down, or for pushing the floor forward while not being too pushy about it, but effectual enough to maintain movement. That’s a feat in itself and Stange seems to be able to achieve it fluidly. That his beats are way funky is a welcome addition to his capacity for brain tickling oddness.

Keep an eye on this guy, and his Auralism imprint, which is also home to the likes of Alland Byallo, Clint Stewart and Jason Short. To top all this off Stange's down-tempo tracks are equally involving and mesmerizing, making you sway gently while projecting a lush yet quietly unsettling sense of empyrean elevation. Stange is one element, one voice, in San Francisco, that is pointing the way forward to the post-minimal, post electro, post-post-post punk event horizon which we are silently but relentlessly approaching. I think we’re going to hear more about this guy, in fact I hope so.


Click For mp3

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Welcome! From Orr

To those of you who might be new to reading Bananaspam — I’ve noticed a few new folks from near and far — welcome to the blog and let me give you a brief run down on what I do. I write about records that I like, plain and simple, be it an indie album from yesterday, a rock album from 1981, a house record from 1989, a disco tune from 1978, an Italo thing from 1982 or some new electronic thing that’s not out yet. I’ve been djing since 1986 and I’ve been a vinyl junkie since 1980. I have a lot of tunes, so please don’t expect a format or a genre or a marketing niche, those are corporate bidness concerns, my concern is music.

I’m also a classic Detroit techno nut, I love top 40 r&b from the ‘70s til today (if there is any of that anymore), classic hip-hop takes me back, I’m partial to the Undertones, and Thin Lizzy rocks me too. I’ll listen to Mary J one minute, a Baldelli classic the next and I’ll fire on Motorhead for a rush. I love music and I adore vinyl, but music in any format is fine as long as it makes a glorious noise! Genres are for mainstream radio; music is for life!


Click For mp3

Click For Playlist

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Dark Entrails - The Horrors' upcoming second album.

Sometimes an album speaks to you, and you can think about it in terms of era, politics, a change of the guard, a draw of the cards. And sometimes an album just grabs you because it’s really fucking good. The Horrors’ new opus, Primary Colors could be slagged by the uninitiated as the work of a group of Cure copyists. Is it not, it is an album produced by a group of young Englishmen who grasp the future as passionately as they do the past. But the future is rarely grasped, it unfolds in a leisurely fashion, it tugs at your eyes and head like the arching, blurred streetlights on Mission Street that punctuate every unarriving bus and every thought lost on a Bay Area gust of air or abruptly found again in a seismic shudder.

“Mirror’s Image,” track one on Primary Colors doesn’t let you indulge all that fog drenched paranoia and self indulgence, it lunges out at you the way you’d expect a product of the isles to do, it comes on like the intro to a mellow German minimal house track before it slowly, methodically and slyly grabs your head and fucks it into a distant, never imagined tomorrow, full of shreds of Bauhaus, Ride, The Cramps, The Doors, The Sonics, Neu!, and the Horrors. Anglo-Saxons, Celts and Normans, the earth cooling and people traveling over water and then you forget about all this in dark, loud rooms, filled with dark, loud people, their eyes and smiles and glances flooding into your delicate head

By track five, “New Ice Age” your battered and delighted psyche gets a chance to realize that is has just been pummeled by an excellence that rains down blow after blow. “New Ice Age” wheels around, grabs you by your collar and swings your drunken ass around the room and loses your dollars…holler! We could continue with this poetic tail chase, but let’s put it in simple terms (or not). This is a really good album by a group of artists who have grasped the music with gobsmacking clarity and who have so subtly and deftly cultivated a look and a style that they can subvert the intended effect of this image, turning it in on itself, and blowing your preconceptions out of the water, as you ponder all the other skinny white boys with accents and tight pants, who might look just a tad on the gothic side. Is it a way of saying, hate us, assholes, ‘cos of the way we look. We rock nonetheless? Who says you can’t be excellent and dress excellent? The Horrors beg to differ.

The group is used to adverse reactions as evidenced in their jaunt around the UK with the Arctic Monkeys last year, which produced what best could be called a mixed reception, with the Monkeys’ fans hurling a fair amount of projectiles at them. That’s a good sign though? Right? The Horrors’ sophomore piece is top music from a top band, obviously staffed by some smart, thoughtful types. Only thoughtful individuals would crash their Birthday Party and garage inclinations into uncharted stretches of kraut rock, electronics and lush, layered shoe gaze territory. More horror please.

The Horrors will be in the US in April and May, including appearances at Coachella, Webster Hall in NY and The Fillmore in San Francisco. Check ‘em.


Friday, April 3, 2009

Less Is More In The Here And Now

Sometimes the swirl of thoughts in my head becomes too much, and I am left in stasis by their movement. Isn’t that a conundrum, a contradiction? The doctors say I’m really low in serotonin, chemically low in joy, chemically high in stress, prone to days of darkness, weeks even. Not much fun, huh? Leaves you prone to things and wrongful accusations of being a curmudgeon. But maybe we’re all guilty of being blessed but still selfishly feeling we’re being oppressed. By ourselves? But we could be worse, or we could be rubberneckin?’ Not really my style to be honest but sometimes you have to count your blessings.

In the calm eye of the swirl of my thoughts is where I count them, and on that islet, that eyelet, all is well. All is well simply because the music comes through in waves, through a narrow opening, it becomes joy like that in Kavanagh’s “Advent;” “We have tested and tasted too much, lover. Through a chink too wide there comes in no wonder.” From a wallet too full, comes no hunger, and my music was always a music of hunger. When there’s unlimited supply — like EMI — then there’s a dearth of anything that even approaches soulful, whatever soulful means. Is it an energy, like anger? Then the same plastic paddy from North London had something to say on that too, an energy derived from an abundance of cortisol, and a hunger for joy. Take the medicine and feel the calmness. It’s underwhelming is it not?

Land of hunger indeed, but I’ll spare you Bonoesque meanderings on the Famine etc. You can rubberneck about it later on wiki. Back to that compressed joy ready to unfold. It rolls out in sound always. It floats, sways, grinds and halts in fluid motion or in stacatto rhythms. It shunts back and then lurches forward, one step back and two steps into the future. The music never hints at anything or anyone that produced it, it just is. It never needs to come from an unlimited supply, it can come from nothing, from a dollar out of fifteen cents, or no sense at all. Maybe that’s it, nonsense, this nonsense.

Maybe the music I hear is dwarfed by a goliath with an unlimited supply, it may stand meek surrounded by lawyers, guns and money, but when it elevates, when it lifts off, when it soars into the future, it bursts out through that narrow opening where wonder is kept, and it blooms, it balloons, it explodes its colors in my head and the storm clears and the eye of it becomes all of it, the aye of it even. The music never stops, it never can and never will. Like Weller said, “see the tyrants panic, see their crumbling empires fall, then tell ‘em we don’t fight for fools, ‘cos love is in our hearts,” and in the swirl of our heads, and in the hunger and in the narrow channel where joy comes in slowly and leaves fast and where the future sleeps like Shelley’s lions in slumber, only to rise “in unvanquishable number.” The future is here, it’s time to wake up.


Click For Playlist

Click For mp3