singles by choice
(albums when it's necessary)
26 October 2016
(listening with headphones)Avid Acutus
Funk F·XRII
Linn Kilmax DS (Renew)
TEAD Mastergroove
TEAD Vibe 1.5 / Pulse 2
Lehmann Black Cube Linear
Sennheiser HD800

Here’s a bunch of second-hand stuff I picked up today. It’s mostly from a similar era, and none of it’s really that exciting. I just like buying records.

I recently dug out Yerself is Steam, which I’ve had since it came out and doubt I’ve ever played. It gets a lot of acclaim, so I thought I should give it a spin, and I liked it. This employs the same laboured titular punnage.

Side ‘a’ is a pleasantly floaty piece of very American guitar pop which makes me think of Luna, or perhaps the Flaming Lips. The b-side starts off with a drum solo and, as we know, “drums stop, very bad”. On this occasion we go not into a bass solo, but a theremin-led vaudeville show-tune. And you didn’t expect that, did you?

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Way back when, I think I liked their album, the green one. Something about a bus. This is on The Flower Shop, who did a run of minimally-wrapped, limited run singles in the mid-to-late 90s. We get a kind of druggist stoner-rock type thing, if that stoner had decided a bit of billy would pep things up. That Bardo Pond guitar sound and some pretty frantic drumming. Leaves me a bit cold.

The ‘b’ is more how I remember them, spare, quite pretty and a little angular, with a girl singing. I like it much more than the ‘a’, even though the melody doesn’t half remind me of something. Great bass sound too. Oh, I know what it is “just call my name and you know wherever I am, I’ll come running”. That one. Carole King?

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“Various”: probably my favourite band. I certainly have more stuff by them than anyone else, and I especially like their split singles. Here they’re represented by The Rockingbirds, Flowered Up and St. Etienne, as mediocre a sampling of mid-90s indie as you’ll find this side of Mega City Four, but they’re doing Right Said Fred songs, and I bloody love Right Said Fred. (The band and the song.)

The Rockingbirds first, with a faithful interpretation of Deeply Dippy. It’s a great song, and though I’d rather hear the original (it doesn’t have castanets for a start), this will do. Except for the double-time reprise at the end. The original doesn’t do that for a reason. In fact, the original has a great finish.

Someone somewhere decided the Rockingbirds deserved the whole of side ‘a’ (I have a feeling Deeply Dippy was “The Freds” only number one, so maybe that’s it.). The ‘b’ contains two (mercifully, edited) endeavours.

First, Flowered Up do Don’t Talk Just Kiss, and sound like The Happy Mondays might have if the they’d never done anything stronger than Lemsip. The less said the better. Especially the As Time Goes By reference at the end. Awful.

Finally, the seemingly un-coverable I’m too Sexy, done here by St. Etienne, for whom Sarah Cracknell was always just about sexy enough. Only Love Can Break Your Heart apart, I never cared for St Etienne. They were too arch, too knowing, too, well, boring. This does nothing to improve my opinion. It’s rotten.

I knew this would be bad. I’d have been much better chucking Terence Higgins (for whom it was released as a fundraiser) the couple of quid it cost. Maybe I’ll do that as well.

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I largely ignored Gorky’s at the time, but now I find their gentle oddness very engaging. This is a clear 7” on Ankst, and it boasts of a b-side containing “12 impressionistic soundscapes”. I have a lot of experience with The Olivia Tremor Control, so that doesn’t faze me.

The ‘a’ is, obviously, Welsh, so don’t expect me to explain the lyrics. Musically it’s slow and folky and lovely. Just what I needed to calm me down after that affront to I’m Too Sexy.

The twelve soundscapes incorporate Clangers; a four-year old having her first go on a keyboard; a fly trapped in old-fashioned double glazing; a proper song; repetition; someone deliberately trying to be annoying; and feedback. Not a patch on, when, say, Black Swan Network or Broadcast did something similar. Still, fun.

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A completist purchase because I’m pretty sure I only have this on 12”. You don’t think of the Cocteaus as a 7” band, and I rather wonder who would have bought this when the four-track 12” was over in the other rack.

The Cocteaus are in the short-shortlist for my Favourite Band Ever, and I adore pretty much everything they did. Aikea Guinea is the “oh ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho he hee hee hee hee hee hee he hee hee hee hee hee hee” one, which is better than I make it sound. Kookaburra is the one where she keeps rolling her ‘r’s. Though it probably isn’t an ‘r’, just something that sounds a bit like one. Everything is just perfect. That voice, those melodies.

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Like the Cocteaus, Gorky’s ended up on Fontana, who released this in 1997. It manages to squeeze in a banjo, a Jews’ harp (it’s probably a hate crime to call it that now. If it is, sorry), a harmonium (or not) and several types of guitar, yet not sound cluttered or hipsterish. Three lovely, spare songs that don’t sound like anyone else. The front cover is interesting.

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I love, naturally, Supermodel, Superficial, but to be honest I don’t have the highest hopes for this. It’s got a good sleeve though, properly printed, with crudely drawn insects crawling on blood red wallpaper, with hearts.

Much better than I expected. More restrained, considered. I bet the b-side was a cracker at the end of the live set, canned up on pound-a-pint Strongbow down the Students Union. Cocteaus excepted, easily the best thing tonight, and I think I thought it would be pretty much the worst. (Though I never had much faith in Flowered Up.)

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Plastic Cowboy did a series of double-7”s at the end of the ’90s, each featuring bands from a particular city. This one is number four: Oxford. I bought this in the full knowledge that I didn’t much rate any of the other records in the series (though I think one has Clinic on), and now I’ve got to sit through it, and try to appraise it, for the benefit of no one.

The back cover reads like a roll-call of 90s ISPs. Here we get Pipex, Compuserve, and, of course Freeserve. If Cody had seen the future got a Demon account, we’d have the full set. The Samurai Seven even had a Geocities website, hopefully with a guestbook, spinning skull GIF, rainbow horizontal rule, and permanent “under construction” banner.

Four Storeys go first, with a pleasant, Sarah-lyricked, country tinged toe-tapper. No need for the language though. (Or the harmonica.)

Next up, terribly monickered Whispering Bob do Lucky Strike, for which Gordon the Gopher gets a production credit. I hope he got his royalties. Those students, eh? Mentalists LOL! Their song is another agreeable, if rather safe one, very proficiently handled. I like the singer. It made me feel melancholy. Which is better than how I feel most of the time.

Samurai Seven now. Get off the phone, they need to upload the dancing baby GIF. Who’d taken all the good band names in late ’90s Oxford? Their song is like all the others on this EP. A good tune, very proficient performance, and likeable in a safe kind of way. You wouldn’t burn down a church for any of these bands.

No-website losers Cody close proceedings. They were probably biding their time, waiting for MySpace. Awkward buggers had to do their side at 33, so they could fit in an extra minute of their Talk Talk meets Pet Shop Boys b-side ramblings. It doesn’t really go anywhere, and takes far too long to do so.

A surprisingly agreeable EP that somehow feels better than it ought to, and probably is. It’s “average”, but the median when there’s a load of crap and the median is higher than the mean.

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