singles by choice
(albums when it's necessary)
1 November 2017
(listening through speakers)Avid Acutus
Funk F·XRII
Benz Micro REF
Linn Kilmax DS (Renew)
TEAD Microgroove (borrowed)
Denon PMA-250 SE (borrowed)
TEAD Model One

It’s all about hi-fi tonight. I haven’t had a stereo for three months. No preamp, no phono amp, no power amp. What listening I’ve done had to be through headphones, which made me obsessive enough to replace the amplifier I use. (I also replaced the cable, but that was because the robot vacuum cleaner savaged the old one.) Next I decided to make some new mains cables, because what else could I do? (They don’t change the sound of course, but they look very smart, even though there’s nothing to plug most of them in to.)

Now I find myself home alone for a week, with three months of unplayed records. So I called some people. You probably have preconceptions of hi-fi people. You probably think they’re overweight middle-aged white men with too much money and some strange pseudo-scientific beliefs. Well, they’re not (apart from the ones that are), and if there’s a single trait that is stereotypically common across the hobby, it’s generosity. And having too much gear. So I got myself an integrated amp, a kick-ass little phono stage, promoted my spare cartridge to the main stage (my proper one is also absent, being re-tipped) and yes, here we are. With sounds. They aren’t as good sounds as my normal setup, but I don’t care. It’s music, and it’s music borne of kindness, and that sounds good to me.

Box Bedroom Rebels turn out some new old stock (hi-fi people love NOS of any persuasion) and it’s some ’90s US indiepop. It sounds exactly how you think it will. Kind of spacey and dreamy and wistful, as opposed to ’90s British indiepop, which is kind of wet, and upset because nice girls only like idiots.

I like this record, but I don’t love it, and reading the accompanying notes, Kevin really loves it. Though this is the first time I’ve been able to play the 7”, I’ve listened to the download several times, waiting for it to click, and it doesn’t quite, I’m afraid. It could be that I’ve overdosed on indiepop. Stuck with only my digital source, I decided to tackle the nine years of Indietracks albums I have. (Seven of which are probably unplayed.) There are about forty songs on every one of those bastards, and it turned out to be a bit like trying to eat nine of those 3kg bags of Haribo they sell in Makro. Or nine sheets of thick A2 paper. It made me realise why people hate indiepop so much; really put me on the other side of the fence. God some of those boys are pathetic aren’t they? But I’m getting far, far off track. Shy Boys aren’t, or weren’t, pathetic at all. They were a decent indiepop band.

3

This was about 20p, and I didn’t have a copy, so I bought it. Turns out the reason I didn’t have it is because I don’t like it all that much. I mean, I love Crash as much as the next man, old Vaughan and his heavy genitals, he’s a one alright, but this record captures more of Crash’s peculiar banality than anything else. I find the re-imaginings of early electronica (Polytechnic Youth, Clay Pipe and whatnot) far more interesting than the real thing. T.V.O.D is kind of the ‘a’-side at a different speed. Interesting curio, but not much cop for getting down with your bad self.

2

I think this was very cheap too, and presumably I bought it because it was on Static Caravan. It’s not your standard Static Caravan fayre, being very straightforward melodic indie-ness, somewhere between -pop and -rock.

B-side is a bit more what you might expect, electro-folky with a hint of screeching creepiness. I rather liked it. I don’t like their name though.

3

I’m exhibiting at the Scalford hi-fi show again next year (assuming the bloody gear ever comes back), and my gimmick is that I’m only playing 7” singles, all day. It’s going to be an indie disco. A black pit of lo-fi disgust in beautifully recorded crystal forests of Civil Wars, Yello, and the Ruddy Porcupine Tree. You should come. It’ll be great. You can come in, sit down, and walk out halfway through the first song without acknowledging me, even though I left home at 5:45 with thousands of pounds worth of my own stuff, which I set up in a shitty, totally unsuitable little hotel room, for your benefit. And then you can do that to fifty other people, you dick.

I thought I had this, but I didn’t, so I found a copy. It is Afro. it is awesome. It starts five times. and it has the world’s most unnecessary guitar solo. It makes no sense AT ALL, lyrically or musically. Then it just finishes, with no warning. It is genius. And that’s not a word I use lightly. Afro.

5

Bought for the same reason as Afro, I love it, and I want to assault people with it at a hi-fi show. You can SEE how brilliant it is by watching the bass drivers when it does that “du-du-du-du-du” thing. Just a bloody hell of a record, and the best thing they’ve ever done apart from that bit where she screams in A/B Machines, which might be the finest moment in recorded sound.

5

I don’t think they’re very fashionable, but I absolutely love the first Keane album. Almost every song is a cracker, and this is the crackingest of them all. Another “how do I not have that?” moment, corrected. Timeless, wonderful pop music.

5

Red ten-inch with a skull on the front. I know Beavis and Butthead thought skulls were cool, but I’m not so sure. I prefer to pretend to myself that I’m something more than an animal made of bone and meat and hormones and stuff. I prefer not to be reminded of my animality. And a memento mori? Why would I want that? Isn’t it better to cruise through life without giving death a though until, quite unexpectedly, you wink out of existence?

This record ticks my three “most irritating” boxes about records today. First, it was far too expensive. It’s a 10” EP. Six tracks, but three of those are very short sketches. It should be six quid. Seven tops. It was thirteen. Second, it was shrinkwrapped. I hate shrinkwrap. Plastic is racing climate change to see who can kill everything first, and the only people who like it are the shitkickers who flip stuff on eBay and Discogs, and use “still in shrinkwrap” as an excuse to stick ANOTHER ten quid on the fantasy value they just pulled out of their arse. If you’re a Discogs flipper, get off my website, and go and do something useful, like dying in a fire. And take a dozen or so ticket-flippers with you. Third, it’s a single record gatefold. This bullshit is, I presume, supposed to make you think you’re getting more for your money, but it makes your record look self-important, and it takes up two, or even three times the shelf space it needs to. This might be good for the twenty-records-no-record-player brigade, but when you’ve got thousands, space becomes your most valuable commodity, and burning it on pointless gatefolds rankles.

Good record though, of the style you’d expect, and it sounds so good on my borrowed system that I can’t wait to hear it properly once the Mastergroove and friends get back. All the usual checkpoints are hit: 70s PSA; John Carpenter; stepping through the patches on a Poly 800.

I liked it, but I am starting to think I’ve got as many Pye Corner Audio records as I’m ever going to need.

3

Hang on though. Here’s another. Pye Corner Audio and Not Waving did a split LP a while ago, which was pretty good. This a 33rpm 12”, so we may be here a while. There’s nothing on the label or in the sleeve to indicate who did what, so it’s unclear whether it’s a split, or a collaboration. Discogs says they do one track each, and it also says the B-side plays at 45, so this must be the A, which means we’re listening to Not Waving. If you’d told me it was Pye Corner Audio, I’d have believed you. Probably more samples though. PCA now, sampling what sounds like an old Pong console. Atari, Coleco, I dunno. We had one. It was rubbish. It’s pleasingly arrhythmic. You don’t get enough of that.

3

More shrinkwrap. More Discogs flipping. Shops, apparently, weren’t allowed to sell this online, and the good people who left the house to get one decided £60 was a fair starting price for a £7.99 record (Also, 4AD, £7.99 is WAY too much for a 7” single.) Fortunately I have a very kind brother-in-law who schlepped across Leeds to get me a copy. Mine is yellow. It was shrinkwrapped, but it ain’t now. Yours may be going straight on Discogs, mine’s going straight on the turntable.

This is, depending on your view, the classic Breeders line-up. I’m inclined to say any line-up with Britt Walford in must be your best, but, whisper it, I don’t like Pod very much. Every year or so I’ll take it down, give it another go, and invariably it leaves me cold. I’m more, much more, of a Last Splash man, and this right here is the Last Splash lineup. (The other albums are great too, but this is starting to get too complicated.)

It’s a nice record. Yellow vinyl which matches the sleeve, (I think there’s also an orange version) with a colour print. It’s very 4AD, very Chris Bigg. Musically, it’s very Kim Deal. She pulls that brilliant trick of making it sound dashed-off, cheap, as if it just happened without anyone really doing much of anything. This, of course, is the absolute opposite of what will really have happened. Records like this do not “just happen”. It’s a proper earworm too, short and abrupt enough that when it stops, your natural reaction is to move the needle back to the start and hear it again. The B reminds me a little of Flipside off Last Splash, with its naively catchy melody and relentless drive, though it has singing.

Both songs sound great too, courtesy of Steve Albini and Bob Weston. This can come to the show with me, and demonstrate how damn good stripped-down, raw recordings can sound.

Hopefully there’ll be another album, and hopefully, just like all the others, it will be better than Pod.

4

I know we normally only do singles here, but this is pretty much a singles compilation album, and everyone else has had their say on Twin Peaks so I want mine. You may wish to skip the next several paragraphs.

First, I don’t know what the heck a “limited event series” is. Like Strictly Come Dancing, I know what all the individual words mean, but together they make no sense.

That dealt with, onto the records. Yes, records. When I’ve done this double album (red) I’ll be doing the other (green) one.

Red has songs. Mostly they’re from the Roadhouse bar at the end of each episode, sometimes incidental accompaniment. If my memory serves, they appear on the record in the order they appeared on the show. There’s a bias towards the end of the series because the bar didn’t feature in the first few episodes. Green contains as much of the soundtrack as is not low directional noise. (And a little bit that is.)

First up is the theme tune. Great. Timeless etc etc. We don’t need to do that again do we? Next are The Chromatics, with a song that sounds made for the end of a film. Possibly it was.

Then The Cactus Blossoms play. I remember liking this Everly-ish one at the time. Like maybe if the Everlys had been from southern California.

I’m pretty sure Au Revoir Simone soundtracked starring Kyle Maclachlan twice, but they only get one go here, with Lark. They’re a great band, and they’re a very, very David Lynch band, matching a detached, disciplined dreaminess with a heart and an elegant soul. They have the right look too.

Au Revoir Simone are followed hotly by Ike the Spike’s little theme tune. In the house on my own, it slightly unsettled me, and I kept checking the door. “Freeze his hand off!” I liked Ike the Spike. I wasn’t as keen on Hutch and Chantal though. That was Lynch trying to do Tarantino, and I don’t think it worked. Waste of Tim Roth, and even worse, of Jennifer Jason Leigh.

I’m not sure who did I Love How You Love Me first, but my favourite version is Rose Melberg’s, off one of those brilliant Patty Duke Fanzine records. That little series is one of the prides of my collection. Like the previous, this wasn’t a Bang Bang bar song. It played whilst poor Becky and her dipshit Macauly Maculkin boyfriend drove around high. The scene where Stephen kills himself in the woods was the only thing I skipped through the third time I watched the series. Not the floor sweeping. Not Sarah watching the boxing. Certainly not the nuclear explosion.

I love the work of David Lynch deeply. I have his books of factory photographs, and probably all his records. But one thing on which we will never agree is the sound of the saxophone. He loves it, I hate it. It pops up a few times on this record, perhaps most noticeably on the Trouble track which starts side two. It’s largely bearable though. It’s not the honking screeching instrument of torture ably played by Bill Paxton in Lost Highway.

I think Sharon van Etten was the one who lip-synced badly. That can’t have been accidental. I don’t think anything in Season 3 was accidental. Without the distraction of the odd performance, it’s a very nice song.

The Nine Inch Nails. From Episode 8. I remember trying to explain Episode 8 to my poor, poor wife over breakfast the day after it was on. She won’t watch Twin Peaks because she saw five minutes of it twenty five years ago, and it was the bit when BOB crawls over the sofa. I later tried to explain it to my poor, poor sister, and some of my poor, poor friends. Not to interpret it, of course, just to literally explain it. That’s hard enough, and it takes longer to do than it takes to watch it. I’ve never cared for NIN – always seemed to be trying a bit too hard to me – but I do quite like this. if only for that “whooeeeeerrrrrrrrrr” guitar sound.

The Platters. “This is the water and this is the well. Drink full and descend.” And the frog/moth thing. Jesus Christ.

The Rebekah del Rio song I don’t much like, because there’s some treatment on her voice that kind of makes me flinch. The backing is beautiful though. The main thing I remember about this in the show was how her dress was like the Waiting Room floor (and of course, the Roadhouse stage has red curtains at the back). Like Diane’s hair and fingernails in the last episode. I know it means something, but it’s just too deliciously slippery. I’ve never savoured anything the way I savoured every minute of Twin Peaks. I loved trying to decode and connect everything, all the more so because I knew I couldn’t. I remember, round about episode 12 or 13, thinking about the dozens of open plots, and realizing nothing was going to be resolved. I thought that was beautiful. When you give people such a rich world, with so many cues and clues on which they can build their own interpretation, don’t take it away from them by explaining, and throwing cold water on the smouldering mystery. Chuck some more petrol on it. Richard and Linda. Two birds with one stone.

I’m surprised Viva Las Vegas is on here, and I’d rather have had the other Au Revoir Simone song. (Assuming it exists and I didn’t make it up.) This seemed oddly cheesy in the show, but it is a nice interpretation. It’s not as good as ZZ Top’s version of course, but there’s a reason why they didn’t use that. I enjoyed the sunny, artificial other-worldliness of Las Vegas, the bright wakefulness to Twin Peaks’ sleepy dream darkness.

I am one of the apparently very few people who actually liked Just You from the original series. It set a scene beautifully, and its bare awkwardness always pulled me in rather than repelling me. Ringo Deathstarr must have liked it too, because they did a great cover of it on an EP a few years ago. Just You aside, I hated James as much as anyone, especially in series 2, but I liked that he came back for more. I loved it when Shelley said “James was always cool”, and I loved it more than anything when he played Just You at the Roadhouse. The fact that Season 3 so mindfully avoided going back to the old Twin Peaks made the few occasions when it did so much sweeter and more meaningful.

I’m coming around to the view that Laura imagined everything. I think most of the second half of Fire Walk With Me is largely “true”. A girl abused and tortured by her father makes sense of her world by ascribing those acts to a daemon. Her innocent father is good, and loves her. He cannot stop what is happening. She imagines an impossibly handsome and honourable policeman who will come and, if not rescue her (she knows she is too damaged to be saved) see the truth: that her father is not doing these things. The hero will not only expose the daemon, but exonerate and forgive her innocent father. The rest is just colour. Further, and to tie into this record, I think the Bang Bang Bar segments might be “true”, and that’s why they never have anything to do with anything else that we see.

Green Onions. I know the song, but I can’t place where it was in the show. Something to do with Dougie? I loved Dougie. Was he a metaphor for dementia? The theme of ageing, illness, and the passage of time was one of the most beautiful and affecting parts of Season 3 for me. Margaret’s final conversation with Hawk, and the conference room scene after, were pretty much the moving art I’ve seen. It was real life, or rather, real death, breaking through the fourth wall, made all the sharper and more real by the pretend world around it. I cared so much, and was so involved in that fiction, and in one moment it was exposed as trivial nonsense. That’s a brave thing for a filmmaker to do, even if it does fit with a broader theme of an imagined reality.

Yes! Zed Zed Top! A little while ago I found I had a copy of Afterburner. I have no idea where it came from, but it’s mine, so I played it, and I found it ROCKED. I’m a convert. I can’t vouch for whether or not all the girls are crazy about a sharp dressed man. I’ve never been a sharp dressed man, but all the girls definitely have never been crazy about me, so there could be something in it.

Never cared for Eddie Vedder, but he can’t half play that guitar, and he’s giving it his all here. You disregard things because they aren’t part of your little world. What sort of a moron listens to Pearl Jam eh? They’re shit. I like Aphex Twin and Neutral Milk Hotel and stuff on Bulb. I’m way above that sell-out. You don’t realize you’re a fool. I’m not going to run out and buy the Pearl Jam back catalogue (I didn’t really get the whole grunge thing, with the best will in the world.) but this is a good song, and a great performance.

My cousin’s wife was on Popmaster last week. She won (33 points!) and got Otis Redding for three in ten. She got two. Here he does I’ve Been Loving You Too Long, and I don’t know if that was a UK chart hit or not. Sure is good though. And Big Ed and Norma. Again, a celebration of the passage of time. Ed’s about fifty years too old for that haircut though. I don’t remember it being a live recording in the show, but in my defense, I was very caught up in the moment.

Julee Cruise, The World Spins, and we’re done. Full circle. Or a figure of eight. Or an infinity. Who knows? What year is this? Boom.

5

Quickly, an aside. A little while ago, they re-released the original Twin Peaks OST. It was heinously expensive, on “damn fine coffee” coloured vinyl, with an elaborate die-cut sleeve resembling the waiting room floor. I took a deep breath, pretended to myself it wasn’t a total rip-off, and bought it. It didn’t play. The pressing was defective, with a radial ridge that bounced the needle way up into the air on every revolution. I told my vendor, who told me to send it back. He later told me the entire pressing was defective, but I was the only person who complained. Because clearly, people don’t buy records to play. Dipshits. You know how you’re always hearing how many millions of pounds worth of food gets thrown away every year? It’s probably the same people, thinking if they leave the shrinkwrap on those apples they’ll be worth eight times the original price on Discogs.

The record, then. We start off with, naturally, the opening theme, and we get the full version here, where the red record had an edit. Even after eighteen iterations of the beautiful new credits, I can’t hear that bass without mentally picturing the mill, and that gear cutter. I can’t think of greater praise than to say it is better without Julee Cruise singing. There can’t be many things you could take her voice off, and get a nett improvement. Timeless and marvellous.

That thing with gunshots next, from when the Diane tulpa is walking through the hotel, to her final interview with Gordon. It’s called American Woman (David Lynch Remix) which I already knew, because I obsessively read all the credits to every episode, hoping to pick up some new fine detail that might make some sense, or add to a mystery. It started reasonably enough, wanting to know characters’ names, then spread. There’s lots of Lodge-ish backwardsness here. Time speeds up, slows down, things drag, shift, loop, stagger, sicken. It’s dark, violent. It’s weird. It’s impenetrable, and bizarre fun. It’s Season 3.

Laura Palmer’s Theme is still scary and still heartbreaking. I’ve said it before, but if you haven’t seen that video of Angelo Badalamenti explaining how they wrote it, go and find it. Now. Like the main theme, the version on here is long, but there’s no way it could ever be too long. The first side closes with a couple of proper “soundtrack” bits. Incidental music, of the type that makes me wonder why people buy soundtrack albums. I think it’s common for the music to not really work without the visual context.

That said, all of side two is pure soundtrack, and I can’t tie any of them to any scene in the show. I assumed The Chair would be to do with Mrs Briggs and “this is the chair” – one of the episode synopses, but I don’t think it is. (I loved looking what the next one would be, and trying to guess who might say it, and in what context.) Each track, however, is a strong standalone piece. Deer Meadow Shuffle sounds like Season One with its brushes and gentle quirk. but Season 3’s noise and hum keeps invading, and eventually winning.

Both these records have been nicely done. They’re good pressings, and have decent quality sleeves. They’re properly sequenced, and far more than completist cash-ins. David Lynch is credited with “cover design”, and Dean Hurley with “album assembly”, suggesting a closeness to the real work. This is right and proper for Lynch; music and sound being so integral to his work, and to Twin Peaks as a whole.

You wouldn’t expect, or want Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima to be an easy listen, and it’s not. Sirens, screaming, chaos, wreckage. It’s a remarkable piece of music, and it’s a very different experience, taken alone, than in that middle chunk of episode 8 with those intense visuals and noise. Slow 30’s Room (please can someone move that apostrophe?) is not unlike the stuff Leyland Kirby/The Caretaker has been turning out. His work is also about the effects of dementia, the passing and re-ordering of time, and the blurring of mental states.

Side four is very sound-tracky. Chromatics go a bit Chariots of Fire (never a bad thing), we get (I think) Dark Coop’s resurrection music, and Angelo Badalamenti plays the piano and it’s sad. Then:

“Ladies and gentlemen, Audrey’s Dance”. Have we got time to talk about Audrey? What do you think about Audrey, and Charlie? I think Audrey’s story was the most beautiful non-fitting piece in the whole puzzle. After Coop woke up (I’m not going to tell you what I did at the “I AM the FBI” moment, because you’ll think less of me) it seemed nothing could get better. I’d loved the Audrey/Charlie scenes before, and I was convinced they weren’t in the “real” world, which was great. So when they walked into the Roadhouse, I was so disappointed. Let down. They really had been in their house all along, having a dull domestic about Billy and Tina. (Oh, that “what’s your mom’s name” moment too!). Then this happens. My head spun. The fight. The mirror. Sheer, complete, perfection. Playing this piece backwards over the credits, with all the Lodge-ish implications of reversed sound only thickened the plot. You’d think nothing in TV could ever eclipse the original Audrey’s Dance, but it did.

The soundtrack ends with unsettling darkness, as did the series. I don’t know what to make of any of it, and that’s why I love it so much.

5