Friday 2 October 2009

if you're poorly, I will send poetry....

Earworms of the Week

> "Montague Terrace (In Blue)" - Scott Walker

A gloomy, damp Friday morning in October is somehow perfect for listening to the beautiful, but distinctly doleful, voice of Mr. Noel Scott Engel. He's still a going concern, of course, producing an arty and mostly unlisteneable album every six or seven years or so, but I very much prefer his earlier work, particularly the material he put on that run of imaginatively titled albums: Scott 1, Scott 2, Scott 3 and Scott 4. I absolutely adore his voice and the way that he chooses to use such a beautiful, lush instrument to sing songs of loneliness and despair. Not for the first time, I have cause to thank a Mr. Mark Preston for introducing me to this stuff when I was a heavy metal loving first year at University. Along with Morrissey, probably the single most influential artist in shaping my music taste.

> "Daniel" - Bat for Lashes

I was never really into Kate Bush (I much prefer the Futureheads version of "Hounds of Love" to the original). Still, the influence is there for all to see in Natasha Khan's work. I really like this album, and not just because of the duet with Scott Walker that closes the album. I think it's fair to say that I don't have a whole lot of music with female vocalists in my collection, but I have collected a few bits and bobs over the years, and there are times when nothing else will do. As you'll see from much of the below, this has clearly been one of those weeks. Haunting.

> "Rattlesnakes" - Tori Amos

For a long time, Tori Amos was probably the only female voice in the whole of my collection. "Little Earthquakes" remains my favourite of her albums by some distance, but I was curious enough to pick up "Strange Little Girls", her album of covers, when I saw it at a ridiculously knocked-down price a while back. All the reviews of it that I had seen tended to treat it as something of a novelty concept album, but that doesn't do it any kind of justice at all. The conceit, such as it is, it that Amos has deliberately chosen songs that were originally performed by men, and put a female spin on them. Songs on the record include "'97 Bonnie & Clyde" (originally by Eminem), "New Age" (the Velvet Underground", "Enjoy the Silence" (Depeche Mode), "Raining Blood" (Slayer) and my favourite, this version of Lloyd Cole's "Rattlesnakes". I wasn't actually familiar with the original, but listening to this version had me out looking for the album. Both are excellent. Her version of Neil Young's "Heart of Gold" leaves a little to be desired, mind....

> "The Distance" - Cake

Cake are one of those bands who are beloved of American college students. I used to work with a guy fresh out of college who would listen to practically nothing else as he sat behind his desk, hidden by a massive pair of headphones. Mind you, that guy now works for George Lucas at ILM on Skywalker Ranch, so who's laughing now, eh? (maybe it was him who did Jar-Jar?). Oddly, they came up in conversation this week, completely unexpectedly, and this song popped into my head. I also know their cover of "I Will Survive", but I'm actually thinking of maybe getting hold of a copy of "Fashion Nugget" and/or "Comfort Eagle" and seeing if they do anything for me.

> "Midlife Crisis" - Faith No More

Goodness, it's been a while since I listened to any of my Faith No More records... but since I put this one song onto that 9 hour playlist I built for my running, I've not been able to get it out of my head. I don't think it's their best song, by any stretch of the imagination, but it's certainly proving persistent. "Angel Dust" is a good album too, so perhaps I should give in and give it a proper listen, eh?

> "Rockin' in the Free World" - Neil Young
> "Keep the Car Running" / "No Cars Go" - Arcade Fire

....Speaking of my running playlist, although I don't remember many specifics about the route of the half marathon, or the songs that I listened to as I plodded around, I do remember these ones specifically. Neil Young helped me up a nasty hill in the University grounds, and I was pleasantly surprised how good Arcade Fire are to run to. Looking at them, I'm sure it's not something they thought of when they wrote the songs, but they really work very well when you're starting to tire and you've still got 7 or 8 miles to go.

> "A&E" - Goldfrapp

Another female singer, and this from the album that best showcases her voice by stripping the accompaniment back to basics. It's a lovely song.

> "Irish Blood, English Heart" - Morrissey
> "Handsome Devil" - The Smiths

I've been flicking through Simon Goddard's "Mozipedia" - the encyclopaedia of Morrissey and the Smiths. It's exhaustively detailed, featuring every single song and as many different events, influences and people that the author can think of. I'm not sure I'd want to read it cover to cover, but like any encyclopedia, it's been written to dip into.... and of course, the dipping made me want to listen to the music. I started with "You Are The Quarry", but as always, listening to Morrissey's solo work made me crave the presence of Johnny Marr, and so I popped on "Hatful of Hollow". It's my favourite of their albums, even if it isn't an album-proper. I love the rawness of some of those session tracks and, in my opinion, they're the definitive versions. This is an unusually sexually voracious track for Morrissey, who is normally much more oblique on such matters. On "Handsome Devil", it's all yelps and primal driving guitar...much like "Irish Blood, English Heart". I wasn't sure about that track when I first heard it, even though it was Morrissey's first proper recorded output for something like 7 or 8 years. It's grown on me though, ageing well where some of the other songs on "...Quarry" have not fared so well. It's short, sharp and explosive. Apparently people (including Goddard) have been confused by the lyrical assertion that the English monarchy are still in thrall to Oliver Cromwell...... ah, but is it really so hard? The English monarch reigns at the consent of parliament. All the real power resides with a body who, after all, ordered and then carried out the execution of a king. In a very real sense, the Queen does still salute Oliver Cromwell, or at least his modern day successors, whenever she attends Parliament.

Oh, hold on, I'm being a history bore again...

> "That Don't Impress Me Much" - Shania Twain

Well, this is a pretty radical change of pace. It's the usual story: I heard it accidentally and then the bastard thing stuck. In my office, they've started playing the "stores radio" channel that goes out in our shops in the main reception area. As I was on my way out of the building one evening, I was aurally assaulted by this drivel. It's still bloody there too. Does this stuff make people buy more stuff? Perhaps more than listening to Probot would, but still....

> "Between the Wars" / "The Milkman of Human Kindness" - Billy Bragg

My 22 y.o. colleague approached me at my desk the other day, when I was listening to my iPod, and he peered over my shoulder to see what I was listening to. "Billy Bragg? Who the bloody hell is that?" Nevermind his lack of knowledge of the Beatles, this is real ignorance. These two songs highlight nicely the two different sides of Bragg's muse: the first is an impassioned piece of empathy towards the working man struggling to make ends meet, written during the Miner's Strike, and the second is a wonderfully human piece of compassion. The man's a genius.... he is the milkman of human kindness and he will leave an extra pint.

Have a good weekend, y'all.


  1. Nnnnnnngggggggg.

    I quite like Bat For Lashes, but mentioning the immortal Kate Bush in the same sentence is like saying "I was never really into the Smiths, but aren't Gene good?"


    Faith No More = good idea to listen to Angel Dust 100 times. It is ace.

    Smiths/history interface = not boring. More of this sort of anecdote please.

  2. That does not dismantle the analogy.