Thursday, August 25, 2016

Everybody Up! 19 - Pokemon Go! (NOTE: contains nothing about Pokemon Go)

6. THE FALL "Glam-Racket"

I did say I wouldn't be critical about the choices of tracks, but this one is literally just here for having "glam" in the title.  The song itself actually seems to be a protest about the perceived over-glam stylings of bands of the time - including Suede, who we just heard from, unless you're here for the first time, in which case you may be expecting something about Pok√©mon Go.  Sorry: we're not writing about that, but Simply Roxilicious did, so maybe try that?

I am certainly not going to complain about the presence of The Fall, though - particularly this track, recoded with the classic Scanlon/Hanley/Wolstencroft backing back (and Dave Bush, who I believe was the infamous Glastonbury 1995 streaker, appearing sans clothes during Elastica's last song). 

This track is from "The Infotainment Scan", their most successful album at least in terms of chart performance, hitting number 9 in the UK album chart, which also includes a cover of Sister Sledge's "Lost In Music".  The Fall do a surprisingly good line in covers for such an individual band, so maybe check that one out as well.

7. CARTER THE UNSTOPPABLE SEX MACHINE "Glam Rock Cops"

Carter USM were not a band I appreciated at the time, which is a bit of a shame; having "acquired" (borrowed, forgot to give back, moved to the other end of Britain - sorry, former workmate whose name escapes me!) their singles collection, "Straw Donkey", I probably should have been paying more attention to their sound and fury.

In my defence, they were pariahs by the time I started reading the weekly music press; cast aside in the same way that S*M*A*S*H and These Animal Men were being treated a year or so later, to fit in with the sharp-dressed, sanitised, punk rock-free anti-grunge Britpop that was making mainstream inroads.

Again, I hate the British public.  (Please keep reading, though!)

Since having the chance to give them a listen, I find them entertainingly enraged - in this example, dually frustrated about modern life and the nature of fame - and whilst this particular song again appears to have been included simply for having "glam" in the title rather than any actual genre affiliation, it's good see any proliferation of their very individual and alternative sound - albeit one that was very much of its time.

8. THE GLAM METAL DETECTIVES "Everybody Up!"

Finally!  We've got to the trope namer.  And what a story we have here for the uninitiated...  Remember when we spoke of "Rock Follies" not so long ago?  Like that, times a kajillion.

(Cracks knuckles, gets to work)

The titular detectives were one strand of a...  I'm going to say sketch comedy, but I feel like the segments were large enough that they sort of transcended that.  It was more of a magazine format (and indeed, there was a one-off magazine), with big chunks of content designed to replicate the feeling of flicking through television channels.

This was relatively high-concept stuff by the usual standards of BBC Comedy at the time, with the obvious exception of "Red Dwarf", and I believe it was one of several pilots made at the time that got one or no series, possibly including "I, Lovett" and "Tygo Road". 

And you know what?  This is when I hate the internet - I can find nothing to corroborate or oppose these things that I may be misremembering from well over half my life ago, but I bet some bright spark will prove me wrong in four seconds flat once this is finished and published.

The show ran in 1995 and featured such leading lights of the time as Phil Cornwell and Doon Mackichan, but failed to set the world alight.  Therefore we were left with this, the theme tune from the show, extolling the virtues of funk and justice for all, as the major cultural artifact and proof of existence of what at the time was a potentially groundbreaking and heavily-hyped series (again, I think this was the case, remember I was quite young at the time).

And since it's the one we've been waiting for, why don't we take a quick break for some of that funk and justice?...  Is what I would be saying if I could find it on YouTube, but it's all just continuity.  What a let-down, after all that; half-remembered twaddle and no payoff.  Honestly, you might as well just come down the pub with me.

9. SAINT ETIENNE "Star"

I did try looking this lot up, but most of the links I got were about violent fans at Euro 2016.  Hell, that's another popular search term right there!  Right, what else can we lie about featuring?  Justin Bieber?  Rickrolling?  Eve Myles' Tits?  We'll be packing in the Russian spambots tonight!

For the best part of twenty-five years I've been saying, "I must get into Saint Etienne at some stage".  And now here we are: in a situation where knowing anything about Saint Etienne (other than ripping off some facts from Tim Worthington's excellent book, "Higher Than The Sun") would be an absolute boon, and I know nothing.

Er...  Roll credits?

Join us next time for...  EARL BRUTUS?  Oh, ace!  We'll also be visiting with the God of Fuck, and the group who in retrospect are sadly this writer's pick for the most overrated Britpop band.  #it'll still be a good read, I promise!  Unless I accidentally delete it again, in which case you'll at least get a picture of a weasel.  Win win, mate.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Everybody Up! 18 - The U.S. Bombs Screaming Overhead

DISK FIVE

1. SIGUE SIGUE SPUTNIK "Love Missile F1-11"

Here we have a fascinating chapter in British musical history.  Formed by Tony James from Generation X after Billy Idol went fortune finding in the United States, this was a band like no other; a concept so totally, jarringly out of step with the earnest, grassroots alternative music of the day, yet too scary and weird for pop and too early to properly piggyback on hip hop and the resurgence of American dance music, they burned too bright, too fast.

Co-opting mass consumerism, early sampling techniques (with tons of uncleared samples, naturally), electronic manipulation of live sound, androgynous space-age outfits, "A Clockwork Orange", Cold War chic, rabble-rousing and maximum style over substance in a deliberate attempt to create a phenomenon, a movement, a moral panic, just ANYTHING that could increase the group's profile and generate sales. 

Their debut album had paid-for adverts in slots between the songs.  Gigs were often marred by violence.  They re-invented boastful myth-making and the grandiose statement, in a style later used by everyone from Oasis to These Animal Men.  They were perfect, and I should love them. 

But I don't. 

I wish I did.  But as it turns out, I like substance with my style, and all of their other songs were merely watered-down versions of their one true classic.  Luckily that classic is "Love Missile F1-11", as eventually (in a somewhat bizarre twist) covered by Bowie in 2003, thus closing the circle of glam.

One of the (no doubt uncleared) samples towards the end of the single version - as presented on this compilation, for the avoidance of doubt - runs thus: "soon, the whole world will know my name."  As the song fades out, you'll have just enough time to feel gutted that that never came to be for Sigue Sigue Sputnik.

2. HANOI ROCKS "Up Around The Bend"

Scandinavian rock time, and it's Finland we're visiting today.  Hanoi Rocks were a marvellously ill-mannered glam metal band, though sadly not detectives...  Though that's coming, oh yes, that is coming.

This was actually my first time listening to this band, whom I am familiar with in a relatively roundabout way: I am a fan of an article written by Carol Clerk for the Melody Maker which followed the group through a booze-fuelled tour of Israel during Passover, which is a contradiction in terms. 

It was originally published in the 16 April 1983 edition, which is some eleven years before I started reading the dear departed publication, but I read it in a brilliant compilation of chaotic interviews called "On The Other Hand, There's A Fist", given away free with the 19 October 1996 issue.  I recommend you check it out if you're able.

Where was I...  Oh, the song!  It's pretty damn good actually.  A Creedence Clearwater cover played with aplomb and obvious admiration, but not nearly as interesting as you'd expect from a band with a rhythm guitarist called Nasty Suicide (who is now a pharmacist, apparently).

3. THE SISTERS OF MERCY "Emma"

I was about to ask why this wasn't "Temple Of Love", then I realised I'd still be listening to disk five for the first time if it had been.  So here is a shorter offering, albeit one still in keeping with their general modus operandi...  Which is odd in itself, as this is yet another cover version.

Even odder: it's a Hot Chocolate cover!  Which makes one wish they'd gone for "You Sexy Thing" instead, for maximum contrast.  In context, the story of a young lady's suicide after a lifetime of disappointment is far more appropriate for goth echoheads than cabaret-ready disco funksters, so perhaps it actually makes less sense the original way around.

Given that this is a song by a mid-eighties goth band on which you can practically here the dry ice being flooded into the venue, there's not much more to say here, so here's a Sisters Of Mercy Fun Fact: their drum machine runs an advice page on their website.  Hey, even moody sorts can have a laugh, y'know.

4. MORRISSEY "Glamorous Glue"

Here's our most controversial entry of the week - for it was during the performance of this song at Madstock  '92 that the infamous photo of Morrissey draped in a union flag was taken, later to be displayed on the cover of the NME as proof positive that he was a racist.  Bet he voted Leave, and all.  I'm not even going to get started with either of the debates I just foolishly brought up - I only mention it for historical context. 

Moving very, very swiftly on, this is brilliant stuff; a stomp, a romp even, if you will, sounding far more fun and hip-shakin' than the Morrissey/Smiths branding would ever suggest.  Plus there's a great bit where you get to shout "London is dead!" over and over, which is great for those of us in literally any other part of Britain.

Great run thus far.  Can't see how this could get any better...

5. SUEDE "Metal Mickey"

OH MY GOD IT'S SUEDE!  Here's one of my top five favourite bands ever with one of my top fifteen favourite songs of theirs.

(I got into them as a teenager.  There was a lot of list-making back then.)

If you were there, I won't have to describe for you the excitement of hearing Suede for the first time; you'll remember the electricity from the Brit Awards performance, bristling with contempt for the establishment, or you'll recall them standing out a mile from the baggy also-rans and the grunge hangers-on via early MTV adopters or on an ostensibly "alternative" Radio 1 broadcast.

Ignore for a second that the lyrics make no sense and that the title somehow makes even less sense, as I really can't be subjective about Suede, particularly not their first three albums - and the b-sides from the first two albums - all of which was nearly perfect except for "Starcrazy", which wasn't.  But that's one song on one album.

The only slight black mark on this offering, and the rest of their debut album, was that for a band that could have been the next Sex Pistols, the production style really filed the edges off of the spikier material, of which this is but a sample.  Still, this is very good stuff, and still crackling with revolutionary fire for anyone of a certain age and persuasion.

Join us next time for the entry you've all been waiting for: the one with the name of the blog strand in!  Plus we'll be checking in with Mark E. Smith, Carter USM and Saint Etienne.  You can't miss that one, surely?

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Everybody Up! 17 - Covers (And Pete Burns) Up The Wazoo

15. ADAM AND THE ANTS "Antmusic"

When one speaks of acts whose music provides a lift to the stoniest of hearts, Adam And The Ants need to be in that conversation.  At present I am taking solace with "Prince Charming" in my darkest times, and whilst that's all well and good for my current situation, this one's a bit more of an upbeat toe-tapper.

This song is a spiritual UK number one, much like Ultravox's aforementioned "Vienna", except that instead of Joe Dolci being the target of our ire, "Antmusic" was kept off the top spot by one John Lennon, whose massively hypocritical, hateful and nauseatingly crass "Imagine" was fired to number one around that time.

This is a fact which, much like the song, makes me want to vomit blood out of sheer rage, but can easily be explained by the timing due to it being just post-Mark Chapman.  Having had the misfortune to want to have a life during the fallout of Princess Diana's death, I know the public loves mawkish sentiment just after the death of a treasured icon, so I can at least recognise the pattern of behaviour.

Er...  Hm, I've got a bit off topic there.  Apologies.  Before I subject everyone to my usual "Republic Now!  Royals Out!" rant, I'll swing back by Mr. Ant and his music.

So this song's bloody good, and like much of their output at the time, should probably be prescribed instead of/alongside Prozac for its sheer feelgood factor.  There is the palpable sense of challenge and danger that I seem to have mentioned quite a lot in recent posts, which definitely helps things along in terms of its personal relatability for me, but overall it's the sheer joy and glee that overarches everything that really marks out this period of Antmusic as a go-to for good times.

16. DEPARTMENT S. "Solid Gold Easy Action"

We'll be closing out disk four with three covers, the first two of which directly hail back to the days of glam, starting with this song originally popularised by T.Rex back in 1972.

This version was released in December 1980 as the B-side to Department S.'s debut single, "Is Vic There?"  I must admit to having had to do some reading about the band as frankly they weren't ringing any bells - in my defence, I would have been six months old when this was released, so I think I can be forgiven for that one - and have discovered a fascinating tale of a 'fake' band got out of hand, the legendary Guns For Hire, and how they segued into this group.  Well worth a read, but I won't nick it for this entry: find it instead here if you'd like.

It's a serviceable cover, close to but not entirely overlapping the original.  I also now want to watch "Department S", the late sixties ITC series from which the band took its name; it looks pretty good, and the episode synopses call "Garth Marenghi's Darkplace" to mind, though from the little I have read I'm not sure if the earlier series was meant to be a spoof; in fact it would probably be funnier if it wasn't!

17. BAUHAUS "Ziggy Stardust"

And as night follows day, we seamlessly transition from Bolan to Bowie, and a cover of the (nearly) title track from what is arguably Bowie's most famous album by a classic 4AD goth band.  Dry ice very much akimbo in their usual work, then - and interestingly, it appears that in December 1980 (when Department S.'s "Solid Gold Easy Action" was about, remember?) they released a version of T.Rex's "Telegram Sam" as a single!  Small world, huh?

But we get this one instead, which brought them their highest charting single (number 15 UK, number 13 Ireland, pop-pickers!  Wait...  Has he been Yewtree'd yet?  I may have to withdraw that throwaway catchphrase).  I think the main accusation you can level at this effort is that it's entirely unnecessary; whereas Department S. did put a little of themselves into their effort, it seems like the opposite has happened here, and an attempt has been made to pitch the sound, vocal inflections and playing as close as possible to the original.

Which is, of course, a perfectly valid way of putting a cover version together, and you'll never find me saying otherwise - at worst it just leads to utter disposability, as has unfortunately happened here.  There is no reason for this song to exist outside of its existence itself; you can judge for yourself whether it therefore negates itself, or stands as a worthwhile artefact in its own stead.  I'll be honest, I'm not sure I can decide.

18. DEAD OR ALIVE "That's The Way (I Like It)"

And bringing proceedings to a fittingly perverse ending is this lot with a KC And The Sunshine Band cover because of course it is, why wouldn't it be?

If you've heard Dead Or Alive's most famous offering, the utter classic "You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)", you know what to expect.  It is, in essence, Pete Burns informing you in no uncertain terms that he's about to have sex with you and that there is little to nothing you can do about it, set to an extremely competent electronic backing with synth horn stabs a-go go.

And there will be horn stabs a-go go, as Pete has already made very clear.  I'm pretty sure the release of these songs counts as a form of foreplay for everyone in the world, and it's the best you're going to get; so just know that he's coming for you at some stage and it's not going to be a relaxing night.  Best just lie back and think of England; it'll at least be one to tell the grandchildren about.

I can't really get tired of Dead Or Alive doing what Dead Or Alive do, so this one gets a thumbs-up from me.  And this disk?  Pretty damn good.  A real tonic after a third disk that was a bit of a struggle, despite having some definite gems on there.  Join us next time for what should be an interesting one for me, and hopefully you - disk five, which drives us through the rest of the eighties in short order into the only bits I can offer any personal historical perspective on - the nineties, perhaps predictably followed by the early 2000s.

I'm pretty hyped for it - I hope you are too!

Join us next time for...  Hang on a minute, the non-italic guy's nicked my usual bit!  Well I shan't go quietly.  How best to respond to this?...  Ah.  Of course.  It's all so obvious.


Thursday, August 04, 2016

Everybody Up! 16 - It Was A Shame How He Carried On

10. JUDAS PRIEST "Take On The World"

Unfortunately the only JP number I know well is "Breaking The Law", so I'm a bit lost for what to say here, other than noting that this is a very inspiring number with a rolling drum pattern that, when combined with the motivational lyrics about, well, taking on the world, definitely links it to glam as a genre and neatly brings in the sense of youth in revolt that every 'outsider' music genre since jazz has brought to the table.

It also sounds a bit like "Fat Bottomed Girls" by Queen, which unfortunately reminds me that Queen are a bit of a damning exclusion from this set; mind you I bet it costs a packet to licence their stuff, so maybe I won't naysay too loudly on that one.

11. BONEY M. "Rasputin"

Oh, I've been looking forward to this one.  I adore a bit of Boney M., me.  From "Daddy Cool" to "Rivers Of Babylon", it's nothing but a party with the blueprint for Milli Vanilli.

(Ouch - on a side note, I just looked up Boney M. creator Frank Fabian on Wikipedia.  Beholding that photograph is like staring at the Ark Of The Covenant.  I think I've gone insane.  View it at your peril...)

Never has the murder of a controversial Russian faith healer in the early 20th century been so danceable!  It sounds like everyone involved in making this had a huge amount of fun, non-participating "frontpeople" aside, plus it predicts Zangief's ending from "Street Fighter 2" pretty accurately, which will always be welcome. 

It deftly straddles the line between charmingly nonsensical and absolutely berserk, always carrying the whiff of danger without going full-blown "Crazy Horses" - not, of course, that there is anything wrong with "Crazy Horses", as we covered in an earlier entry; it's just that twice in five disks for that level of intensity is quite a stretch for the human brain.

In short, it's just so, so fun on a completely unintellectual level, and there's simply not enough of that about to enjoy these days.

12. GENERATION X "Valley Of The Dolls"

Are you ready?...  Oh, sorry; that was D-Generation X.  I've been watching too much Raw Is War from 1998 lately.  It makes my want to gesture repeatedly to my crotch, let fly with some outrageous innuendo and tell everyone I have two words for them, and then what those two words are.  I've got the former two down but our HR department tell me the latter is a sackable offence, so I'd best get back to the matter in hand.

So: enter Sir Billy Idol, perhaps the most perfect encapsulation of a rock star ever portrayed.  Sneeringly confident but impeccably pretty, full of piss and vinegar but still available and potentially tameable, a renegade you could take home to your mum (well, MY mum, anyway), and full of great tunes.

You cannot seriously sit there and tell me "White Wedding", "Dancing With Myself" and "Rebel Yell" aren't absolute class.  Well, you can, but I wouldn't hear you as I'm not there.  Which is probably for the best, as you'd only be subjected to much ranting if I did hear you.  So count yourself lucky, bub.  Unfortunately this one isn't quite as good as the aforementioned three, but it's still damn good.

And as a fan of Russ Meyer's film-making, it only remains for me to shoehorn in a plug for his magnum opus "Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls" - the one with tits AND a plot, not that there's anything innately wrong with either element in isolation.

13. THE HUMAN LEAGUE "Rock 'n' Roll/Nightclubbing"

Another lesson in how to reference, but not feature, an excommunicated pivotal figure here.  The Human League's version of [redacted]'s 1972 single, as released on their "Holiday '80" EP as part of a medley with the not-yet-too-disgraced Iggy Pop's Berlin gem "Nightclubbing", is very much of their output at the time - driving, icy, flat yet exciting, stark and arresting.

The version of the latter is slightly more disappointing in the sense that it's almost handled with too much respect, and the apple doesn't fall far enough from the tree to make an interesting variation on the original - aside from some of the League's usual soundscape quirks, which aren't themselves that far from Bowie and Visconti's glacial take on the original, this is as close to a straight take as you're going to get.

Perhaps whereas "Rock 'n' Roll" sat so far outside of their scope in terms of instrumentation and execution, they had to have a proper go at bringing it into their space, "Nightclubbing" was more of a direct influence, and needing less work just naturally fell into its usual state.  Either way, it's not bad, and the juxtaposition of the two pieces certainly make for an interesting tonal shift - so probably better not to complain.

14. MAGAZINE "The Light Pours Out Of Me"

Well, this is a good run, isn't it? 

Howard Devoto was the original and best lead singer for the Buzzcocks, but gibbed them off after their first single to start Magazine, a more musically expansive band than the aforementioned (still really very good) combo, and with results like this you'd have to say he made the right choice; straight up punk rock isn't for everyone, after all, which I sometimes struggle to remember.

This is a great track, all told, and you can hear the glam in the shuffle of the drums and the insistence of the guitar riff.  In fact at this stage I am entirely convinced of the strength of early glam's influence on punk and new wave; before you had your Bay City Rollers and Muds and whatnot bringing the image into a more mainstream sphere, you had Bowie and Bolan as outsiders, plus Slade and Mott as hard rockers, and much of their style was carried forward in slightly more brutal fashion by the '76-'79 wave.

So really, this is all point proved on the part of the compilation itself.  And the tracks we've discussed in this entry may well be the best selection to show the wide ranging influence that glam had - we've touched on metal, disco, punk, electronica and new wave this week, and we're unlikely to see that kind of range again soon.  But there's still some real good tracks to come, so why not stay with us on our epic quest, given that it is nearly 80% done?  Seriously - I insist.

Join us next time for some ants.