Tuesday 31 October 2023

Steely Dan - My Old School

Steel Dan - My Old School (1973)
It's so joyous reading the comments sections to Steely Dan tunes because they all realise who the best band ever was. And the comment that exemplifies it all is this: One of the best things about Steely Dan is EVERYTHING!

I'm still a neophyte when it comes to Steely Dan, only converting twelve or thirtyeen years ago. So I still haven't gone back to re-investigate if The Royal Scam is actually any good or got fully on board with Gaucho yet. It's hard to pick between the other five LPs. At this point in time there does seem to be extra special magic permeating on Aja and Countdown To Ecstasy. 

I have deliberately avoided the books, magazines, videos and interweb gossip on the group. Sticking with my limited knowledge that Steely Dan were two sardonic upstarts from New York supplanted in LA spreading their acerbic perspective via deliciously idiosyncratic upbeat jazz inflected rock music of the genius variety. 

Having said that though, I had read a couple of books by Barney Hoskyns which featured Steely Dan in cameo roles so I do know there was some darkness lurking within their shenanigans when it came to excessive 70s lifestyles. Being commentators on the rock'n'roll/hollywood scene didn't make them immune to its pitfalls.

Walter Becker died a few years back so I'm disappointed that I didn't get it together to organise a trip to the big smoke to see them last time they were in Australia. What a loser I am. I feel like Becker would actually be proud of me for this failing though. I mean would this not be the perfect subject matter for a Steely Dan hit: A forty-something ex-lead singer of band deadbeat with a failed marriage and mental issues is losing his shit in a horrible dusty country town and can't even get it together to buy a plane ticket to go see his favourite band's final tour. 

Anyway Countdown To Ecstasy is one of the great singalong (in the wrong octave and out of tune yell-along really) albums for me. The irresistible melodies are just so expansive and exquisite plus you never know quite where Fagen's always surprising vocal phrasing is gonna go, which keeps you on your toes. And that's still occurring after hundreds of listens to this one LP.

Beyond that, what makes Steely Dan still so glittering and seductive in a timeless manner is a mystery. I'm sure if a music teacher explained their methods behind the notes and the performance thereof I'd still be none the wiser and it still wouldn't explain the why?. Suffice to say Donald Fagen and Walter Becker's prestigious charisma had the alchemy of synergy bubbling over within their songwriting partnership, it was just a matter of how perfect they could get their incredible vision out of their heads and onto tape [Yep I do realise Steely Dan don't need my endorsement and that I don't need to be adding to the voluminous discourse on the subject or doing a half-baked summary of why audiences of different generations have been so captivated throughout the 50 years since their inception in one paragraph but er, there it was anyway. Sorry, not sorry]

Sophistication is one thing musically but that would be nothing without the mass appeal of their thrillingly catchy hooks. This is pop music after all.

The Gentlemen - It's A Cryin Shame

A scintillating fuzz monster. 

(A perfectly crafted slice of 6os garage rock. Many tried and many failed but the stars aligned for teen-Texans The Gentleman with this song, its performance and recording. If aliens landed and asked "What is this garage you speak of?" I would have no hesitation in pointing them in the direction of It's A Cryin' Shame for a definitive example of the genre. All the elements are present and accounted for but unlike those who failed they are all in the right place and were enthusiastically activated for peak aesthetic success.)  

Sunday 29 October 2023

Modds - Leave My House

The Modds - Leave My House (1966)
Sometimes you just go to have your 60s garage at its most primitive and raw. This neanderthal sneer is delivered with next level hostility then at 1:22 it gets even more malicious with the ugliest, most primal blown out lead break ever. A spiteful scuzz-fest of the highest order.


Saturday 28 October 2023

Music Emporium-Nan Myo Ho Renge Kyo

Music Emporium - Nan Myo Ho Renge Kyo (1969)
A fun and fascinating tune that's got the lot. Starts out the gate with organ and fuzz followed by very vigorous drummage. Then we get great deadpan vocals in the style that would later be much utilised by new wave artists. Next we get beautifully fluid psych lead breaks meeting insane spooky chanting. A classic psych curiosity.

Friday 27 October 2023

Odds And Ends - (Cause) You Don't Love Me

Odds And Ends - (Cause) You Don't Love Me (1966)
Peak 66 right here folks. Pretty sure this is perfection. Coz You Don't Love Me is in that sweet intersection of snarly and stompy blended with swirly toe tapping jangles and supreme melodic lead and backing vocals. The way it effortlessly flows along with that irresistible beat... so good.

Thursday 26 October 2023

The Velvet Illusions - Velvet Illusions

The Velvet Illusions - Velvet Illusions (1967)
I can never put my finger on what this reminds me of... something that came later in the art rock or new wave... maybe Pere Ubu or Boys Next Door circa Door Door or something like that. I guess it's not that dissimilar to 1967's greatest band Love either. A tense and ominous feeling like no other is conjured here. A creepy vibe of bewilderment and urban malaise.

Wednesday 25 October 2023

Sweet Cherry - Eight Day Blues

Sweet Cherry - Eight Day Blues (1967)
A primo slice of Michigan garage into psych. Sweet Cherry were another one and done group. They did this 7" single on Stop Records which I'm assuming was their label as this was the only ever release on the imprint. A splendid noise.

*Note: This didn't turn up on 60s garage compilations until the 1990s.

Monday 23 October 2023


The Beatles - Things We Said Today (1964)
It's a bit hard to think about anything else with regard to music after seeing Paul McCartney on Saturday night in Melbourne. Performance and energy-wise the fact that he isn't a 40 year old bloke but indeed an 81 year old is quite astonishing. He was in fine voice and agile on his instruments throughout, putting on a memorable show.

I saw Paul McCartney do Helter Skelter and it was the best.

Anyway here's a tune of his that I love. I never studied music beyond year seven in high school but I have been told by the Mrs that all my favourite 60s tunes have minor chords/keys/whatever in them so I'm guessing Things We Said Today does too. Paul didn't play this on Satdee but I think it used to be in his set a few years back and it was integral to The Beatles 1964 setlist . 

It's the mood here that resonates. It's gloomy, haunting and perhaps slightly sinister. The moodiness in the music is reiterated in the subject matter of the lyrics. In this autobiographical tune about his relationship with Jane Asher, Paul describes lovers being torn apart by distance and also perhaps realising this could well be the peak of their love as Paul feels he will one day be nostalgic for this present moment of which he sings. Probably because he felt this was a doomed love affair which as it turned out, it was.

The Beatles - Wild Honey Pie (1968)
Another Paul favourite of mine. He didn't play this either surprisingly. Not only did he invent heavy metal but also batshit crazy avant rock ie. this is a blueprint for The Residents. I am ever so grateful for this contribution to rock and its left field future.

The Beatles - She Came In Through The Bathroom Window (1969)
So this was a major highlight of the live show. We did not know this was coming at all. We knew other Abbey Road bits were usually part of the set like Something, You Never Give Me Your Money and the last three bits of the Abbey Road Medley: Golden Slumbers, Carry That Weight and The End. However She Came In Through The Bathroom Window was a recent addition to the set which was a delightful surprise even though it was extracted from the other Paul written bits of the medley and placed among miscellaneous Beatles classics in the set. It was actually a bit weird hearing it out of context from the other tunes in the medley. I mean if I was Paul I'd just do the John parts too ie. Sun King, Mean Mr Mustard and Polythene Pam so the medley wasn't split up. We all love it. We all want it. So just do the entire thing mate. Anyway I feel lucky to have heard Paul play all of his parts of the Abbey Road medley to me personally. Thank Paul! Legend.

The Beatles - Abbey Road Side 2 Medley (1969)
The still astounding final suite from Abbey Road is a staggering swan song for a group at the peak of their powers. 

Have you heard about The Beatles?

Don't try and tell me Abbey Road isn't the best masterpiece!

Wednesday 18 October 2023

Rah Band - Night Wind

RAH Band - Nightwind (1985)
Never heard this before today. 

My initial thoughts on Mystery the LP it came from: How is this not a city pop album from 80s Japan? The lovely plaintive vocals remind me a bit of Sarah from St Etienne. How have I not heard or even heard of this before? Perhaps they never made it to the pages of Australian Smash Hits. 

I feel like this is the kind of record Bob Stanley has probably written about in the past. Nightwind is one of the outstanding tracks from Mystery. This post-disco pop is impeccably put together. Wait for the very excellent 4.04 moment when it swells up and breaks down to the wind and synth moment. Atmospheric synth bliss ensues for two minutes before the chorus returns. Nice. There seems to be a video game theme tune within this song as well which is a neat bonus. The timeless vibe here was possibly even nostalgic at the time of release. 

*Turns out the mastermind behind RAH Band, Richard Hewson, had his hand in arranging and producing hundreds of pop releases since the mid-60s. From The Beatles, Bee Gees, Nick Drake and Diana Ross to Pilot, Fleetwood Mac, Supertramp, Cliff, Shakin' Stevens and Toyah.

Tuesday 10 October 2023

Tony, Caro and John

Tony, Caro and John - Sargasso Sea (1972)
I totally missed this when it got a revival and a reissue. It wasn't on my radar in the 90s or early 00s so I'm guessing it got dug up and rediscovered after I was no longer paying attention. Once Comus, Trees, Fresh Maggots, Dr Strangely Strange, Cam Am Des Puig, Mark Fry etc. had entered my life I thought that was the lot for the unknown 70s psych-folk from Britain. But nah there always seems to be more and ten or eleventy years ago voilĂ  this turned up. 

Tony, Caro and John are more on the accessible fun pop side of psych-folk-rock with their well honed whimsical bedroom crafted pop and delightful girl/boy vocals. These middle class hippies sure have some kind of special knack for creating warm and catchy tunes. 

Having said that Sargasso Sea is the most out there track from their one and only LP All On The First Day.

Tony, Caro and John - Eclipse Of The Moon (1972)
This one is so goddam infectious with the enchanting girl/boy harmonies of Tony & Caro, the handclaps, the tripped out guitar fx, Incredible String Band meets Beatles melodies, jew's harp and mucho reverb. An understated masterpiece, Eclipse Of The Moon surely coulda been a number one hit. This is two track recording at its finest. Nice!

Friday 6 October 2023

The Neptunes 2001

Nivea - Run Away (I wanna Be With You) (2001)
So I ended up here at the music video for this Neptunes production from twenty two years ago performed by forgotten million dollar signing pop R&B star Nivea because I'd just watched a disturbing mini documentary about this charismatic sensation and her stalled career.

Then I started thinking I wonder if all these wonderful Neptunes tracks, that were so beloved at the time from the late 90s and early 00s, still stand up. Are they revered, going to be revered or will they just be tossed in the ephemeral pop culture heap that I imagine every pop, rap and r&b tune released this year will be? 

It had me wondering whether this music was the last moment where pop was created with an inbuilt afterlife or did they just miss that boat so as to never enjoy a resurgence of interest ever again. My previous theories and cut-off points of cultural relevance for particular dance genres and hip hop have somewhat shifted so I'm not really sure. Music just by being released in the 21st century does tend to give material a certain unintentional disdained stain. Once upon a time I would have really cared about these ideas and had ready to go arguments but now...

I still stand by my rock theory that no rock group who formed post-1993 are able to be seriously considered for the historic rock era.

Run Away still sounds pretty damn nifty. Not just a wicked hypnotic Neptunes beat but great performances from Pusha T and Nivea.

The Liks - Best U Can (2001)
The beats here coupled with Pharrell's contribution had me flashing back In Search Of... era NERD and surprisingly that was a good thing. As in I wanted to get out my old cobwebby cd that if I recall correctly was really the last cd I owned to get a hammering as it was loved so much by everyone for its party anthem vibes.

Dunno if I recall any other Liks tunes but they might have been worth checking out if this is anything to go by. Apparently members of nu-metal groups Deftones and Linkin Park do cameos in this video.

N.O.R.E. -  Grimy (2001)
Now this Neptunes track is fucking insane. Psychedelic, minimal, hard, crisp. intense, seemingly simple and deliciously catchy. I mean the entire beat is the hook innit. This is still irresistible!  

Fabolos - Young'n (Holla Back) (2001)
Don't recall this one at all. Pharrell contributes Sympathy For The Devil "WOO HOOS" I wonder if he had to pay Mick Jagger for that? Or were they just generic howls? Then at the 2.50 mark Timbaland enters although he's not credited.

Usher - I Don't Know (2001)
This is still an infectious banger. A precursor to Yeah really. 

Ray J feat. Lil Kim - Wait A Minute (2001)
Perhaps we can never forgive Ray J for helping foist the fucking Kardashians upon us by fucking Kim on videotape but his other historic moment is undeniably ace. This is peak Neptunes tuneage pre-Pharrell's face fatigue era. This beat is so good they loved it so much they basically recycled it for Lapdance, one of their own In Search Of... hits. Hindsight's a funny thing, it tells us Wait A Minute was wasted on this tool. Then again who's not a tool in the music industry? So who gives a fuck.

Philly's Most Wanted - Cross The Border (2001)
The latin influenced riddim here is utterly contagious. There is no way you are not bumpin', noddin' and toe tappin' to this genius monster jam despite what you may think of the reprehensible lyrical content. Cross The Border is insistent instantaneous infectious pop. However do you want to rewind? Or are you happy to never hear it again?

Jadakiss feat. Pharrell - Knock Yourself Out (2001)
The sexual "ooh aahs" here are so stupid it would be absurd to think this was meant to actually be sexy but the beat is irrefutably stellar. Peak performance from Jadakiss too. No need for thinking here. Hip-hop to tear the club up doesn't get any better!

Britney Spears - I'm A Slave 4 U (2001)
This may have helped usher in the retarded hyper-sexual pop era. Then again that had been a project started many years prior. I mean my dad thought the back cover to Madonna's Like A Virgin LP was outrageous soft porn not fit for teenagers eyeballs. Who knew that by the 2010s primary school kids would be able to stream the most depraved pornographic videos imaginable and adults would barely even batter an eyelid. 

I'm A Slave 4 U is peak Brittney combined with peak Neptunes. She's wearing sexy knickers on the outside of her raunchy rock star leather pants like she's a sexual superhero.

...So the jury's still out for me with regard to The Neptune's legacy. I mean these beats were legendary, cool and innovative at the time and are still fresh and fun now. I can't really gage the perception of significance placed upon them today though. They obviously have their place in the history of rap, r&b and pop because they happened. 

The Neptunes were so ubiquitous they absolutely owned the radio and music video shows in 2001/02 particularly. Once their inventive heyday was done by the late 00s was there any value left in these old beats? I mean once the next generation of beat science masters arrived to take the crown what purpose did these beats serve? The over exposure and saturation of The Neptunes aesthetic in the early 00s left people fatigued of such a sound and a massively popular resurgence in interest in these sonic artefacts hasn't really come to pass.

Still that was a very good half hour of tuneage, even if it wasn't as nostalgic as expected. There was a vague sense of of meaninglessness permeating these tunes. That's pop music for ya, however pop music nostalgia probably isn't meant to be the tunes from when you were at the end of your twenties. I can understand that it's much deeper feels when songs are from childhood, teenage years or even your early twenties. Plus for me those eras all happened to be in the historic music era of the 20th century. 

*This is just a nine track selection of The Neptunes output for 2001. These tunes are probably not even 15% of what they produced in this incredibly prolific year. 

Tuesday 3 October 2023

Laraaji Stretched

Laraaji - Meditations 1 & 2 (slowed and stretched)
As if Laraaji wasn't awesome enough! Who knew you could make his recordings even better? 

So this guy on youtube has, using the Paulstretch app, stretched the last two tracks from 1980's Ambient 3: Day Of Radiance to levels of absolute serenity. Twenty six minutes of music has now been stretched and expanded to three hours here. This stretching has the effect of smoothing the sound events and noticeable musical note playing into just a remaining ethereal drone. Most people familiar with the original track probably wouldn't even recognise this as Meditations. I can't really detect the zither at all, it's all just a lovely glowing eternal resonance. 

Monday 2 October 2023

the counts - pack of lies

The Counts - Pack Of Lies (1971)
This shit is just pure peak funk. The rhythm track here is off the fucking chain. The whole band is on fire though. Proper deep in the funk block party goodness. 

It doesn't get better than this.

Lunar Funk - Space Monster (1972)
The Counts did a coupla 7" singles under the pseudonym Lunar Funk. This is smokin' supreme funk of the deepest variety. There is no way you are not gonna get down to this peak party rhythm. 

Sunday 1 October 2023

Finbar & Eddie Furey - The Fox Chase

Finbar & Eddie - The Fox Chase (1969)
You think you're a Celtic music fan? Well I guess this is the test of how hardcore you are...

*Also notable for drone freaks.