singles by choice
(albums when it's necessary)
17 September 2018
(listening with headphones)Avid Acutus
Funk F·XRII
Benz Micro LP-S
Linn Kilmax DS (Renew)
TEAD Mastergroove Mk 2
TEAD Vibe Phoenix / Pulse 2
Luxman P-1u
Sennheiser HD800

A mixed bag tonight. Hopefully not in quality, but definitely in style.

Laura Veirs, forever doomed to have me spell her name wrong. I’m sorry. Same goes for Dianne Wiest. Or Weist. Either way, I’m sorry to her too.

I only know Laura Veirs from that record she did with Neko Case and k.d. lang. That’s one of my favourite “great records I never play”. I never play it because it’s in my “collaboration” section, buried with unlistenable “Kramer and…” albums, and the lesser works of Brian Eno. Every now and again I spot it and think “I’ll listen to that tonight”, but I always forget. I like my sections. Others include “Christmas split seven-inches”, “Twin Peaks”, and “Melt-Banana split sevens”.

But, we don’t (often) do albums here, do we? This is a single, albeit one priced like an album. It came out for record shop day earlier this year, and I quite fancied it, but £14.99? You’re ‘avin a bubble intcha, Bella Union? Discounted by my local record shop to an entirely sensible £4.99, I bought it. And it’s nice. Clear vinyl, the sort of soft cardboard sleeve that won’t age well, and a picture of the artist looking very cool, like she’s borrowed Nick Cave’s clothes.

Laura Veirs is too good for me. You know the sort of rubbish I like, all noise and shouting, and this isn’t that. It’s beautiful. Soft, honest American folk music.

I’ll tell you what I hate – and I’m going somewhere with this, I promise. It’s when people get a pop song, probably Take on Me or Deeply Dippy, or Footloose or something, and sing it like they’re telling a child its mother has died. Slowly, with a sparsely picked acoustic guitar, or block chords on a piano, or even a ukulele. It’s probably a wispy-voiced girl singing, and it’s probably on an advert, or in Jo Whiley’s “live lounge”, and they probably sing most of it with their eyes closed and one open hand in the air. I hate that so much. It’s the worst music in the world.

Emotional Acoustic Pop Cover is the absolute bottom genre. Whatever kind of music you hate and mock – hair metal, handbag house, novelty disco, barbershop, New Order – this is worse. As that bloke from Yello said about Imagine: “worse than the worst pornography”.

Well, Laura Veirs sings softly, with spare guitar, and she doesn’t apply an ounce of the acoustic pop cover’s earnest phrasing. She delivers the songs unremarkably, just doing her natural thing, and it’s got so much emotion. Real emotion. There are some singers – Kristin Hersh is one for me – that when you listen to them, you have to listen to them. You know what I mean? Having some people on in the background is impossible; Laura Veirs is one of them. It’s beautiful, and it’s like she isn’t even trying, because what she has is real, and rare.

The ‘b’ is a Daniel Johnston cover. I’ve talked before about how I fell out of love with Daniel Johnston, but some of his songs are great in the hands of other people. This, obviously, is one.

Proper music, only good.

4

I didn’t cover myself in glory at the record shop. I bought three records: the Laura Veirs one, we’ve established, was a good purchase, but I also bought a Joanna Gruesome split that I already have, and this, which, judging by the sleeve, is a bloody Beatles cover.

I’m hardening on my attitude to the Beatles these days. I used to say “fine, but not my thing”, but having given them another go, I think they were mostly bad. I was unfortunate enough to be subjected to about 40 minutes of the white album not long ago, and that is one serious pile of crap. “Shite Album” more like!!!!!!eleven!! ROFFLE.

The whole Beatles phenomenon baffles me like nothing else in music. And the Beatles cover is an interesting part of it. There are millions of them, and as far as I’m aware, every single one is absolutely bloody awful. The Beatles cover is usually bad not only because the song probably isn’t very good to start with, but because the delivery is likely to be shot through with that starry-eyed awe that the group seems to inspire. The result is generally clunky, portentous claptrap. Oh, Banshees Dear Prudence. That’s good. And Shatner’s Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, obviously.

But this is Ted Chippington. So it’s got to be good, right?

Ted speaks the lyric over what sounds like one of those organs that were popular in the 1970s. The tune is played on a vibraphone type sound, with stringy pads and a rat-a-tat rhythm. He murders it, and that’s good.

Rockin’ with Rita next. I’ve already got Ted doing this with Fuzzbox. Now, take two otherwise identical things, one with Fuzzbox and one without, and it’s pretty clear that the former will be better. But this is still great, running through the greats of “rocking”, from Buddy Holly to Showaddywaddy.

The ‘b’ is something else entirely. A very ’80s drum machine and synth-slap-bass, with samples of (I think) Tommy “pint of foaming nut-brown ale” Vance, some dialog from Stingray, and a couple of Ted’s trademark jokes. I’d say the nearest thing to this that I already have is a 12” of Allo John, Got a New Motor.

Like Ted’s act, superficially, it’s just crap. But maybe there’s more to it. Maybe it’s deeply thought out, finely honed, deliberate crap. If you hate it, that’s because you’re supposed to. Or maybe it’s just crap. We’ll never know, and I like that.

2

An old Box Bedroom Rebels single, as near to a guarantee of quality as you’re likely to get.

Like all their other releases, this is a 33rpm seven inch (BBR are the only label I allow to get away with this heresy), but it also has a CD, if you remember those. The record has four short-ish pieces, the CD has one hour-long track. I can’t play that though, because I don’t have a CD player. I will at some point get around to ripping it and streaming it on the DS, but not tonight.

The music puts me in mind of some of the stuff Enraptured were releasing in the late ’90s. It’s lovely and lethargic. Not like a dream, more like that feeling when you need to stay awake and you can’t. Saturn and Shaft of Light are a bit more Flying Saucer Attack, doing that acoustic-folk-plus-noise, loud-but-quiet thing. If this makes it sound derivative, it’s not. At least no more than any other music. It doesn’t actually sound like Flying Saucer attack, being far more carefully constructed, with a much broader palette. A lovely record, but with enough edge to not really be lovely. I liked it a lot.

4

I had decided to stop buying of Montreal records. I’ve got about a foot of them, and my record shelves are nearly full. My wife has told me that when they hit capacity, it’s got to be one-in-one-out. Fearing she might adopt the same policy on husbands, I’m trying to lay off the 10s and 12s a bit. (I still have about 18 inches of 7” space to go, but no one puts those out any more.)

Alas, I am weak. The other night I found out that Quintron had made another Weather Warlock record, which I felt I needed to have. Then I noticed that the seller had this and the last oM album (which my normal outlet never got in), and next thing you know, they’re in my living room.

First and most obvious: David’s not on art duty: the front cover is a scary photo of some kind of scary helmet/headdress bust, made by scarily named “Mr Babies”. The logo looks like it has been borrowed from a Flintstones heavy metal – sorry, heavy ROCK – band: top marks for that.

Kevin Barnes seems to get nastier with every record, though generally he’s only nasty to himself. The opener, Internecine Larks, is hard to pin down. I’ve listened to it a few times and I can’t really recall any of it, though it doesn’t sound forgettable whilst it’s on. I like the piano at the start, if only because my stereo can really do a piano.

Stag to the Stable is easier to describe, as it sounds not unlike most of Skeletal Lamping. It’s a weird cut-up mess, with Kevin’s inimitable phrasing and lots of long words and bitter introspection. It’s good.

Side ‘b’ kicks off with Windowsucking. This is not music made by a person who wants to be popular. Everything about it jars and confronts. The nagging Broadcast bass is at odds with what little melody there is, vocals are through a tremolo, harsh synthesizers saw away underneath it all.

Island Life is worse. Almost monotonic, woozily shifting, repetitive machine dragging itself – and you – god knows where.

Kevin Barnes is an artist, a real artist. What sort of fool would decide to stop buying his records?

3

Sacred Bones do very good, but very expensive reissues. So this is a beautiful thing. Gorgeous clear pink vinyl, and David Lynch artwork. And probably the three best songs off her first album. (Oh, Mysteries of Love. Maybe three out of four.)

Musically, well, it’s non-B-52s Julee Cruise. What do you expect me to say? If you expect me to use words like “dream” and “ethereal”, then you’re out of luck. Even I’m not that bereft. These are demos but, god, she sounds incredible. The sleeve tells us where, but not when this was recorded, but presumably before the first LP. It would be nice to have a little more context around what’s essentially a historical document.

Side ‘a’ has Floating and Falling, which sound unfortunately similar next to one another. But they’re good, so very good. David Lynch must have a few quid now, so I think he should pay back Angelo Badalamenti by getting him a decent synthesizer, because the one he has here is rubbish. At least run it through a bit of outboard.

Demos often aren’t that interesting, but these are, particularly Falling. Without That Guitar, and without that reverb on the “the sky is still blue” it’s a different song. All you have is that voice, and the melody, and it’s breathtaking how good they are.

‘b’ is The World Spins, a song so beautiful I can barely cope with it. How can “a dog and bird are far away” be moving? It can’t. But it is. David Lynch is so adept at giving you cues and clues. I see a few of his images, hear a few of his words, my imagination goes crazy, and I’m lost in a world that’s his, but also mine.

This collaboration between three very special people yields a very special record. Strongly recommended.

5