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This page last updated
Tue, May 10, 2005 2:20 pm


THE CLASH: THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO THEIR MUSIC PUBLISHED FEBRUARY 8 2005
A CHRONOLOGICAL SONG-BY-SONG ACCOMPANIMENT TO THE ENTIRE CLASH CATALOGUE. WITH ADDITIONAL SECTIONS ON COMPILATIONS, FILMS, DVDs AND SOLO CAREERS. Available online through amazon.com, amazon.co.uk and at all good bookstores.


HEDONISM Tony Fletcher's debut novel is available mail order in the USA from Barnes&Noble.com. It's available mail order in the UK from amazon.co.uk or musicroom.com.
More info on Hedonism here.

REMARKS REMADE The first ever R.E.M. biography fully updated with ten new chapters covering Reveal and beyond. Available at UK bookstores, amazon.co.uk and musicroom. Available at select stores in the States and through BN.com.

MOON The American edition of the Keith Moon biography is available in paperback at book stores, amazon.com, bn.com and amazon co.uk. More info here

DEAR BOY The British edition of the Keith Moon biography is available in paperback at book stores, amazon.com and amazon co.uk. More info here.

Limited hardback editions of Dear Boy/Moon remain available through amazon.com, amazon.co.uk and barnes&noble.com.


Never Stop: The Echo & The Bunnyment Story is out of print.

HOME

The iJAMMING! HITLIST
SPRING 2005

SINGLES...

RIPPING!

Spring is here and the music I'm playing reflects as much. Here's my compilation of should-be Singles and wanna-be Hits. No apologies for their shamelessly commercial nature. I've always loved pop music.

1) KIDS JUST WANNA DANCE – MANDA & THE MARBLES (Addison)
Shamelessly good-natured 90-second Holly & The Italians rip-off from increasingly derivative album Angels With Dirty Faces

2) I WANNA KNOW – THE ICICLES (MicroIndie)
And here's the real thing. Cheerful female-fronted power-pop from Grand Rapids group that echoes the best of Sleeper, the Shop Assistants, Transvision Vamp – and The Shirelles. Why is it not a Top 10 hit?

3) ALL ORDINARIES – SEKIDEN (MicroIndie)
Male version of the same genre, on the same label, from Brisbane band. Both these tracks can be downloaded via the label's web site – if you sign up to their Yahoo page. Do them that favor.

4) FOR YOU – APOCALYPSE (Cherry Red)
Sorry, mates (for the self-promotion): I didn't know we had it in us. Two minutes, twenty-six seconds that employs every trick in the pop canon. Available on Going Up In The World: Apocalypse 1982-83. Listen to 30-second MP3

5) CHAMPAGNE SUPERNOVA – MATT POND PA,
Exclusive closing track on Music From The OC: Mix 4 (WB). Lacks the epic drama of the original, but that works to its favor.

6) VERY LOUD – SHOUT OUT LOUDS (Capitol)
The well of Swedish rock talent refuses to run dry. Don't be deceived: 'Very Loud,'from the group's soon-come debut album (but available as part of a 3-track EP) is surprisingly mellow and terse, closer to the craze for post-punk than last year's trend for all things garage.

7) REVELATION OF LOVE – THE BLUE VAN (TVT)
Garage-psych highlight from Dutch band's otherwise often pedestrian The Art Of Rolling LP

8) CHICKEN PAYBACK – A BAND OF BEES (EMI)
So annoying a soul throwback you almost want to throw it out the window. Except you know you love it to bits. (The impending album Free The Bees, by the way, is consistently this good – but much deeper.)

9) MUSIC FOR A FOUND HARMONIUM – PENGUIN CAFÉ ORCHESTRA (Positiva)
Time to slow it down. 1984 album track heard for the first time on the chill-out 'Day CD' from the It's All Gone Pete Tong double soundtrack.

10) TREMELO – LISMORE (Cult-Hero)
The post-Portishead duo from Jersey titled their debut album We Could Connect or We Could Not. Sadly, too much does not connect. The opening track, however, does so admirably.

11) PAYOLA – IDC (Corsair)
Is that vocal sample - "I tell the DJ not to play/I make hits/Not the public" - from The Harder They Come? Doesn’t really matter. This hard funking disco dance anthem, set to the chord structure of 'I Feel Love' but with rock'n'roll guitar kicking the door down half way through, is sure to have the DJs playing it without any need of enforcement.

11) REZ/COWGIRL live - UNDERWORLD
Taken (long ago) from the sanctioned Bootleg Babies album at the Underworld live site, this 17-minute medley has Underworld, at a London homecoming show, kicking off 'Rez' with that immortal keyboard line in slow motion. The three and a half minutes it takes to reach normal speed is the length of most band's careers, but Underworld (interviewed here) are just getting going, and after it builds to its usual euphoric state - boosted by the crowd sound - and just when you think it can't get any more cosmic, the trio gradually mutate this greatest instrumental in techno history into its sister song, one of the greatest vocal tracks in techno history. Time it for the end of your speed work-out: you'll feel the endorphins kicking in as the music peaks. And you may just find yourself believing in God in the process.

ALBUMS: ADAPT OR DIE!

BUZZIN' FLY VOL. 2 – REPLENISHING MUSIC FOR THE MODERN SOUL COMPILED & MIXED BY BEN WATT (Astralwerks)

With the second in his Buzzin' Fly series, Ben Watt delivers a masterful mix of mostly uplifting, genuinely soulful house music for the dance floor. He also attempts to tell a story as he goes, though the narrative is more about the music than the few tracks with lyrics. Still, you'd have to be deaf as Frankie Wilde not to understand that the opener, 'Williamsburg Or Harlem' (written by Watt, spoken by Jennifer Valone), and the subsequent 'New York Style' (by Jerk House Connection) concern my city's post 9/11 rejuvenation. (Watt's own 'Pop A Cap In Yo' Ass,' which crops up much later, seems oddly out of place as a result.)

The core of the album celebrates inner-city rebirth set to an Afro-Latin house rhythm; the last few cuts get all romantic on yo' ass. The overall effect is one of the most subtly addictive mix CDs to have emerged in the last twelve months. And it is surely no coincidence that one of the last DJs left making mix albums that matter is a proven songwriter who'd previously spent fifteen years making pop-rock albums that mattered. As for whatever happened to Watt's former vehicle, Everything But The Girl, falling out of Buzzin' Fly's inner sleeve is a flier for their 14-song remix CD that explains it all: Adapt Or Die. That's a lesson Ben Watt mastered moons ago - and one that the other acts on this page may be wise to take on board.

WOULD-BE-GOODS – THE MORNING AFTER (Matinée)

Fans of French chansons, El Records, twee pop and female folk singers have long been in love with Jessica Griffin's Would-Be-Goods. Her delicately delivered vocals over bitter-sweet guitar pop songs are rendered all the more sublime by her band of highly experienced hands, who can list prior or present membership of Talulah Gosh, Heavenly, Headcoatees and Pipas between them. The best tracks are clustered in the middle, notably the French-sung guitar fuzz of 'Le Crocodile,' the femme fatale lyrics on 'Too Old,' and guitarist Peter Momtchiloff's 'What Adam And Eve Did Next.' It's been out six months already, but given that The Morning After is only Would-Be-Goods' fourth album in seventeen years, immediacy is clearly not an issue here.

WINE? Music does not get much more organic than this. And there's an evident French influence too. Enjoy this understated album with a quietly understated bottle of PONT NEUF
VIN DE PAYS DU GARD 'Agriculture Biologique' 2003

BLOC PARTY – SILENT ALARM (Vice)

The Bullshit Detector was operating at full capacity when this one came in. But Kele and company have me sold: Silent Alarm is perhaps the liveliest and most adventurous of all recent post-punk revivals. And while it makes no bones about its influences, it's reassuring just how original seems the overall result. Highlights come in fits and starts, usually where the three playing members' edgy dynamics create a sudden climax and Kele's vocals utter something memorable: "So fucking special" on 'Positive Tension,' "and your nose is bleeding" on Luno, and "we will not be the last" from 'Pioneers.' But the group prove themselves to be more than merely funked-up floor fillers: on 'Blue Light' and 'So Here We Are,' perfectly placed to break up the formula, they turn in the kind of tense ballads I'd like to be hearing from Interpol.

Much has been made of Bloc Party's political stance, as if that should be the exception rather than the norm, but it's surprisingly muted on Silent Alarm. The only song that's open in intent is 'The Price Of Gas,' which plays to the American audience with its choice of noun (what's wrong with the British word petrol?), plays to cliché with its chorus "we're going to win this war," and then, with its PiL-like vocal chants, over-plays its influence. That disappointment aside, the pace at which this quartet have progressed in a matter of mere months suggest that when the post-punk hangover hits, Bloc Party will likely have already sobered up, cleaned up and be leading us to the next destination.

HOT HOT HEAT – ELEVATOR (Sire)

…And Hot Hot Heat will probably be comatose on the sofa, having danced themselves into a stupor. Somebody needs to play the dumb party band, after all. Elevator is a shameless repetition of everything that rendered Make Up The Breakdown such a popular debut – angular guitar lines, yelping vocals, retro new wave keyboards, a positive ska influence (and that's a positive thing), plenty of painful high-end distortion and so many good tunes you almost wish they'd shut up already.

As vocalist Steve Bays confesses on the bio that for all their best efforts, "we ended up with … a heightened version of what we'd been doing from the beginning," but don't hold it against him. At least not this time around. Because while the exuberance is a little overbearing for someone on the wrong side of 40, and while there's a distinct lack of lyrical inspiration, there's also not a single dud among Elevator's 14 songs. Expect to hear 'Running Out Of Time,' 'Goodnight Goodnight,' 'You Owe Me An IOU' and 'Pickin' It Up' dominating every post-punk revivalist's Playlist over the next twelve months. Expect sales of the XTC back catalogue to soar commensurately. And in another two years, expect Hot Hot Heat either to Adapt or Die, because this music is unlikely to last a long time. But for now, just keep partying with them like it's 1979.

THE DISSOCIATIVES – THE DISSOCIATIVES (Astralwerks)

That newly self-imposed rule – don't read press releases 'till you've already heard the album - paid off again with Australian duo The Dissociatives. There's no way I would have enjoyed this beautifully upbeat electronic pop album half as much had I known that vocalist Daniel Johns had previously spent his (admittedly youthful) career wailing his guts out in Silverchair. It just goes to show that even the most annoying of grunge front men can grow up, mellow out and leave their angst behind. In other words, that they can adapt.

For The Dissociatives, 24-year old Johns – Mr. Natalie Imbruglia among his other claims to fame – teamed up with 38-year old Australian electronic music veteran Paul Mac. Between them they've conjured up something as sunny as the Sydney summer sky, full of lazy acoustic guitars, buoyant keyboards, soft beats and effortlessly casual choruses. When it slows up it can be cloying: 'Forever And A Day' is the reminiscent of ballads by The Christians. (Remember them?) But 'Thinking In Reverse' and 'Young Man, Old Man' would be great pop songs whatever their arrangement. And my personal favorite, the whistling instrumental 'Lifting The Veil From The Braille' is, like the best of Lemon Jelly, at once both ineffably cheesy and totally cool.

NEW ORDER – WAITING FOR THE SIREN'S CALL (WB)

Of course, if you're New Order, you need neither adapt nor die. You just carry on doing what you've always been doing because you're New Order and you don't give a fuck. Who else could get away with starting the album's first song with the lyric "Hey Joe, what you dong?" and the second song with the title line of 'Hey Now, what you doing?'

Fortunately, these and several others rank with the best of the group's pure pop music since they gave up experimenting in the mid-1980s. The single 'Krafty' is a work of immense beauty and the title track, 'Waiting For The Siren's Call,' is reminiscent of 'The Love Vigilantes' as performed by peak period Echo & The Bunnymen. Besides, if almost every new rock group on the planet is busy digging the post-punk gold-mine that Sumner, Morriss and Hook helped create in the first place, why should these middle-aged millionaires feel the need to think up new formulas?

Perhaps, I think in response, because at least a third of Waiting For The Siren's Call is distinctly disappointing, way below New Order's capabilities. The downtempo 'I Told You so' is less Leftfield than cod reggae. 'Jetstream' should have been abandoned in rehearsals, and the promising title 'Guilt Is A Useless Emotion' a dreadfully banal piece of techno-pop such as usually gets voted out of the Eurovision Song Contest at first opportunity.

But that's what iTunes is for. (And, you wonder, is New Order's own relaxed attitude to the music biz responsible for the flood of online MP3s full months before release date?) If ever an album deserved to be purchased as single tracks for less than the price of a full set, this is the one. And a memo for 'the kids' – Bloc Party, Hot Hot Heat, Killers, Franz Ferdinand and all the others who were barely born when Ian Curtis died: you only get the right to rest on your laurels when you have New Order's track record of originality.

FILM...

IT'S ALL GONE PETE TONG

Michael Dowse's movie – released in America this week - follows the story of fictional Ibiza-based Superstar DJ Frankie Wilde, who has gotten royally rich and totally fucked on a combination of Brandon Block's self-abuse with Paul Oakenfold's careerism. Presented as a pseudo-biopic, It's All Gone Pete Tong starts out pure slapstick satire, begging to be labeled 'Dance Music's Spinal Tap,' but soon settles into the less challenging genre of the romantic comedy. Paul Kaye (a vet of such totally Brit movies as Blowing It, Blackball and Spivs) walks a thin line as Frankie Wilde: he's superb when pumping the crowd up in the clubs (or, for that matter, pumping white powder up his nose), but not subtle enough for us to fully sympathize when he goes deaf – which necessitates, of course, the need to adapt. (Or die.) Still, both Kaye and the film are not without their tender and dark moments, and at the screening I attended, the audience was rapt in its attention throughout.

Brief cameos from DJs such as Carl Cox, Paul Van Dyk and, yes, Pete Tong himself, confirm that the dance music mafia can send themselves up, but it's the fictional stereotypes who actually make us laugh: the boring biographer sat at a paper-strewn desk, the upper crust London-based record company boss and, coming dangerously close to stealing the movie, the rapacious American manager Max Haggar (played with vigor by Mike Wilmot). Ultimately, though, it's hard not come away believing that the real star of the show is Ibiza itself, which director Michael Dowse captures both in all its diurnal natural beauty (those beaches! Those sunsets!) and all its nocturnal synthetic decadence. (Manumission! Amnesia! Pacha!) Book your summer holiday now. Just don't forget the earplugs.

BOOK...

DE LONG'S WINE AND GRAPE INDEXES

Some ideas are so obvious you can't believe they haven’t been exploited before. Steve and Deborah De Long's Wine and Grape Indexes is sold in conjunction with their Wine Grape Varietal Table, an interesting if slightly cumbersome poster that attempts to arrange 100+ wine grapes by weight and acidity. Put that on your wall as a talking point and stick the book in your pocket the next time you head to the restaurant or wine store. Then, when you're staring down a Puilly-Fumé alongside a Pouilly-Fuissé (the European custom being to simply print the appellation on the label), open the pocket book at the appropriately alphabetical page and you'll know which grapes are in which bottle. (Pouilly Fumé from the Loire is always Sauvignon Blanc, Pouilly Fuissé from Burgundy is always Chardonnay.)

Is such information necessary to enjoy a bottle of wine? Maybe not, but given that more people know their grapes than they do their regions, it's unarguably useful. And even those of us who think we know both are frequently left mystified by the percentages allowed into Rhône appellations or Chianti Classicos. Not only does the Wine And Grape Index answer these questions for us, it tells us more than we may ever need know - like that a bottle of Portugese Bairrada can include almost any combination of 17 grapes, most of which are never grown outside the country. But that's a problem for another day. For now, this is a Godsend.

FOOD...

SMART TREATS

I try to live vegan, but I'm as susceptible to sweet foods as the next person – and I make no apologies for occasionally grabbing a Snickers or a chocolate chip cookie to get me through the day. But with Smart Treat's food on hand, I can get all the sugar kick I need without the dairy that often leaves me feeling sickly. The North Carolina company's products began showing up at the Park Slope Food Co-Op around a year ago, and now fly off the shelves even quicker than granola. The cookies and cakes are food to die for (though, fortunately, not to kill for), but the highlight has to be the Chocolate Cup: the equivalent of a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup in terms of satisfaction but minus all the additives and creams. These are the foods that make others envy the lifestyle…

EXPERIENCE...

PODCASTING

I remember that feeling of astonishment the first time I heard a radio show live on the 'Net. And then the sense of freedom I experienced when I found a whole choice of them on iTunes. And then when the BBC got with the program and made all its music shows available for an entire week after broadcast, well... the only thing left to do was make radio "to go." And that's where Podcasting comes in. The Podcast allows me, for prime example, to listen to WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show any time of the day – and even on the subway. More importantly, it allows you to do the same. (Try it – you may get a new appreciation for American talk radio.) I found it somewhat apposite that the first time I took a Podcast for a walk I found myself listening to NPR's On The Media discuss the ongoing court case between Grokster and Universal – and was reminded how big business has already unsuccessfully fought the development of radio, television, and the video recorder long before the Internet came along. Our lives have been permanently changed (if not always for the better) by all these technological developments, and only Luddites – and Big Business – would attempt to halt their progress. In the immortal words of the Soup Dragons, don't be afraid of your freedom...


iJamming! Site Copyright Tony Fletcher 2005