singles by choice
(albums when it's necessary)
30 May 2019
(listening through speakers)Avid Acutus
Funk F·XRII
Benz Micro LP-S
Linn Kilmax DS (Renew)
TEAD Mastergroove Mk 2
TEAD Vibe Phoenix / Pulse 2
TEAD Linear A mk 2
TEAD Model One

My sister and I went to see Pet Shop Boys at the Sage. At the end of the row in front of us was a large-framed gentleman with a shaved head. He liked to dance, so with admirable consideration for others, he had bought two adjacent seats. He was having it. Singing every note, arms aloft, fists pumping, so into the music, loving every moment. Except when they did Go West and The Sodom and Gomorrah Show when he sat down, folded his arms, and didn’t move until the song had finished. All we could think was “LOVES Pet Shop Boys, but hates poofs”. People are strange, aren’t they?

But Go West: dancing with tears in your eyes. It’s the most upbeat gay disco banger, and there’s nothing in the lyric to contradict that, but in this interpretation, something’s deeply wrong.

It’s full of melancholy, sung with a complete lack of belief in the words. “We will feel just fine”, he says. And you know they won’t. It’s just awful. That tension between the music and the vocal makes for heady emotion. It’s a strange and wonderful record.

Shameless is on the recurring lyrical theme of vapid celebrity. We’ll do anything at all. We have NO INTEGRITY. He says that like it’s a bad thing, conveniently forgetting that without that attitude we’d never have had The Hopefuls frenching pensioners and drinking their own sick.

At the moment, everyone’s going on about Love Island, and I don’t get it. I think maybe it’s some kind of reverse snobbery. As if by talking about how you love something you secretly think is beneath you, people will be surprised, and tell you so, thereby complimenting you on your sophistication and intelligence.

But basically the thing is is, yeah, that Love Island is boring. It’s Noddy, Toyland Detective to The Wire of Ex on the Beach. I’ve watched, and loved, every moment of every episode of every series of Ex on the Beach, so don’t come to me with your Love Island and expect me to be impressed at you’re like totally slumming it with your low culture? It is what it is, yeah? You mug.

5

That’s their asterisk, not mine. Though they probably call it an asterix.

I CAME across this STUNNA a few years ago in my Christmas Spacker research. It’s since become a festive staple in two households right across Britain. I only had a crappy MP3 of it, so I couldn’t pass up the chance to GET MY HANDS ON a physical copy. And it’s a BLACK TWELVE INCHER.

Grab This were FRONTed by a selection of Sunday Sport page 3 girls, including, I think, Linsey Dawn Mackenzie, who you may remember from Dirty Fan Male. (If you could bring with you… Linsey Dawn Mackenzie, that would be great.)

Get Your T*ts Out for Christmas taught me many things. For instance, I did not know that “girls just wanna have fun / show their tits to everyone”. But they do. It says so right here. Why would they lie about something like that?

The record’s body-positive celebration of “all shapes and sizes”, and encouragement to “get them out / [not] leave them in”, could perhaps be seen as affirmative. 21st century feminists owning their bodies: wearing as much or as little as they choose to, above fear of being judged, or reduced to a sexual object. But then it says “you’ll love it when we swing ‘em”, and namechecks Gary Glitter, so maybe not.

There are four versions of Get Your Tits T*ts Out for Christmas on here. This is going to be brutal.

First up is the extended mix. You’d think they’d have called it “augmented” or “enhanced” or “bra-busting” or something. Missed opportunity. The bass is impressive, and some people say my speakers can’t do BOTTOM end. (I’m not listening on CANS tonight.) I’m already familiar with the short version, and it gains nothing for being longer, just some generic provincial disco sounds.

The Radio Version is brilliant. They bleep out the word “tits”. Sorry, “t*ts”. Not just in the vocal track, but over the whole thing. It starts off with your standard bleep, and moves through various comedy honks, bells and duck quacks. Truly one of the worst things you will ever hear.

That’s the ‘a’. On the ‘aa’ side (I’d have had ‘D’ and ‘DD’ – I really should do this sort of thing for a living) you pretty much get the same thing. A FULL LENGTH version and A SHORT ONE. You only need the short one. Well; you don’t need any version, obviously, but if you did, you’d need the short one. I think the long version is the same as the one on the other side. I’m not playing it again to check.

So: Get Your T*ts Out for Christmas. In summary, not a song that stands up well to being played four times in a row. Or any times at all, for that matter.

1

That’s their capitals, not mine. Obviously I’ve already got this on 12” (that’s going to be a theme tonight), but I saw it and I wanted it and I bought it. Because I’m that kind of guy.

Have you ever heard Is It Love You’re After? by Rose Royce? The first thirty seconds of it are this, then it goes into a fairly generic soul song. Spotting the potential is the genius, like Chris Lowe realizing how Go West could be reinvented. Well, that’s the first bit of genius, but there’s plenty more, like having two bass lines and an aerosol instead of a hi-hat. Ball or aerosol? Neither, it’s for my armpits.

Where Grab This clearly missed out on naming their sides, S-Express were smart enough to go with ‘Platform 1’ and ‘Platform 2’. And on platform 2 we have The Trip, which is pretty much Theme from S-EXPRESS without all the Rose Royce bits. It’s still pretty damn good.

A record of rare genius. And everyone says Mark Moore is the nicest bloke ever.

5

I never liked the Sex Pistols. To me their legacy is two comedy sketches. The bit on Smashie and Nicey, End of an Era where Davenport (yes, Davenport) Nice accidentally invents punk by getting them to swear for “this wad of money”; and Kevin Eldon remaking the same interview with everyone being Amish. Oh, and I liked the butter adverts too.

But I do quite like PiL, though I didn’t realize they were around so soon after Sid pulled the plug. The date on this is 1978. It’s got groove, it’s got a meaning, it’s got noise and it’s got that “hello, hello” bit, and that end that’s been sampled in something I can’t put my finger on.

I like not being able to put my finger on things. If I’m talking to someone and we can’t remember, or aren’t sure of something, and they pull their stupid phone out and “google it”, I feel cheated. I love that “it’s on the tip of my tongue” feeling, and I love the shared experience of trying to think of something specific, and all the possible “oh, it wasn’t… was it” tangents and where they might lead.

Cowboy Song is a half-arsed piss-takey tear through of the ‘a’ with a load of noise over the top. Grate.

4

I never liked The Housemartins. That Paul Heaton gets right on my tits. Sorry, t*ts. Pig fan, innit? But everyone likes Happy Hour, right? It’s one of those All Request Friday not understanding-what-it’s-about records. It’s Happy Hour, right, and we’re going to drink a load of cheap Prosecco, so that’s got to be the tune we request! Fat Boy Slim was rubbish as well. And the Beautiful South.

On reflection, I think it’s Five Get Overexcited that I like.

3

I never liked It’s Alright. In 1989 the Pet Shop Boys and I had a big falling-out over Introspective. I loved Left to My Own Devices and I’m Not Scared, but I didn’t like any of the others. In the thirty years since, I’ve come round on Domino Dancing and Always on My Mind (in my House), but we’re still waiting on I Want a Dog and this one. But I thought I’d give it a go because so many people love it. And it was only a quid.

It’s a decent enough song I suppose, but it’s a bit to clubby, too housey for me. I think I prefer this short version to the whopper on Introspective. The lyric tells us “the year 3000 may yet come to pass”. It does. Not much has changed but they live underwater. Fact.

Two ‘b’s. One of the Crowd is experimental and robotic, almost parody bad sci-fi. It works best as the set up to Your Funny Uncle, a beautifully sad and frank eulogy.

But back to It’s Alright. It’s not terrible, but it’s not great. It’s… I can’t quite find the word.

3

I never liked Remain in Light. Well, that’s not strictly true. I thought it was okay, but I never got what all the fuss was about. I loved all the other albums (possible exception of Naked and parts of 77) but didn’t see why Remain in Light was considered the high water mark. Then, suddenly, I did. I saw it for what it was: a staggering piece of art of great musical and philosophical depth.

Talking Heads made at least three of the most beautifully profound songs. This Must Be the Place is one, Road to Nowhere is another, and this is a third. Superficially it sounds like a confection; deliberately contradictory and wilfully silly, but it’s not. It’s a deep truth, articulated in an artful way. We do let the days go by. Nothing really changes, because change happens so slowly. But the cumulative effect of years of change will smack you up sharp. How did any of us get to where we are now. For better or worse we probably don’t feel we deserve what we have. I know I don’t.

The ‘b’ is Seen and Not Seen which is the one where an anonymous “he” thinks that by concentrating on what one feels one’s face should look like, said face will take on the correct aspects. We all have the face we should have, which “is why first impressions are often correct”. It’s a temptingly plausible idea. Every song on Remain in Light works like that. They all leave you with the germ of an idea that stays in your head. And that’s proper art, that is.

5

I never liked Heaven or Las Vegas. No, I’m kidding now, and I’m not going to do that any more. If you can have a true favourite record. Heaven or Las Vegas is probably mine. It’s been a companion for my whole adult life: never out of fashion, never out of favour. It’s held me, reassured me, entertained me, soothed me, inspired me, and I’d say that at some point, every track has been my favourite song on it. Currently, Iceblink Luck, which I think, was initially my favourite, is my least favourite. I still love it though, and I picked up the 7” as a collection filler.

‘b’ is Mizake the Mizan, which is one of my favourite Cocteaus ‘b’ sides. Nothing to say. I can’t add anything to any of this.

5

If Heaven or Las Vegas is my favourite album, Love’s Easy Tears has a strong case for being my favourite EP. The best version is the CD, because it has four songs. The 12” has three, and this has just two. But, as Grab This might say, they’re a pair of absolute beauties.

You tend to think of the Cocteaus as laid-back, blissed out or whatever cliché fits your bill, (don’t you dare say “ethereal”) but not here. The title track is exasperated; shouting and shrieking over crashing waves and sheet metal feedback.

Something’s going on, or gone on, but your guess is as good as mine.

Those Eyes that Mouth is my least favourite of the four CD tracks, but it’s still terrific. A lot of the Cocteaus’ best music was on their EPs, and it’s great that they’ve all been bundled together and reissued a couple of times recently, hopefully reaching the audience they deserve. I love them so much.

5

“I could be wrong I could be right” sounds terribly old-fashioned doesn’t it? Everyone’s so certain of everything now. If anger truly were an energy they could use it to power the internet, which is where 95% of the world’s anger comes from. Which I reckon makes us nineteen times angrier than we were before we had it. That doesn’t sound enough. 99%.

Great record though. The one-note doggedness and the booming drums. The ‘b’ is the ‘a’ without the words, which does make you realize just how good that bass line is. But I do get the feeling I’ve been cheated. Rotters.

4

Another collection-filler. But it was such a lovely copy I couldn’t leave it.

When I was at school all the Proper Music bores banged on constantly about Tim Buckley and Nick Drake and (inexplicably) Donovan, instilling in me a lifetime of prejudice. For all the beauty of Liz Fraser’s singing and Robin Guthrie’s framing, the star here is the lyric. I know I should try Tim Buckley, and Nick Drake, and maybe now I’m old, I will. (But there’s no way I’m getting mixed up with Donovan.)

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard this over the years, but it still pins me to the wall every single time. Incredible.

But let’s remember this is not a Cocteau Twins record. The other side is Gathering Dust, which I think was done by Colourbox and the people from out of off of Modern English. It’s alright, but it suffers by being the flip to Liz Fraser singing Song to the Siren, a track so good that even if Galway Girl was on the ‘b’, the record would still get a

5

Webster’s Dictionary, of course, defines a wedding as the act of removing unwanted plants from a garden. I’m stalling because what can you say about Kennedy, other than that it’s in that rare class of records which can not be played sufficiently loud? If you aren’t on your knees air-guitaring by the end of this, I can’t be bothered with you.

5

The final in the run of got-it-on-12”-but-wanted-it-on-7s. I think we need to talk about why that is.

As I’ve said before I’m in a musical mid-life crisis. I don’t know what music I want to (should?) buy, but I feel a need to buy something. I love record collecting, and it’s an important part of my life and my wellbeing, so I have to do it. I especially love seven-inch singles. Not many people release those today, and the ones you can get are unjustifiably expensive. So, to scratch all those itches, I buy sevens of old favourites. They often need a bit of cleaning up, or sleeves mending or replacing, and I like giving the collection a bit of TLC. I enjoy playing them too: it’s fun to have a big pile of sevens, chucking them on and off the ever-rotating platter.

So, Every Conversation. C86 classic. Let’s give it a spin. The ‘a’ is different to the version I already have. It sounds tinnier and lumpier, but just as good. You can’t say fairer than a bit of jangly indiepop… OR CAN YOU?

Lately I’ve been trying to catch up on the stack on unlistened Indietracks LPs I’ve accumulated. I thought I loved indiepop, and had no problem with even its feyest, twee-est extremes. But god no. Listen to those Indietracks kids. They’re insufferable. Most of the time, you want to slap them. Like when Henry Rollins went off on one about Morrissey. Get outside, get some vitamin C etc. Truly, it’s intolerable.

‘b’ is Disneyland. It’s nothing special, which is how I always imagine Disneyland itself.

5

In which Dusty, with no spoiler alert whatsoever, tells us the entire plot of SCANDAL. (Again, their capitals.) It’s still worth watching though because a) it’s got John Hurt in it; and b) if you’re that way inclined, you can go all soppy over Joanne Whalley and/or Bridget Fonda.

On the ‘b’, PSBs pull the same trick PiL did, with an instrumental version. You’ve got Dusty Springfield for crying out loud. Just get her to sing along to an advert off the telly or something.

“Fairlight programmed by Gary Maugham”. I always imagined that as the best job in the world. Imagine being the dude who programs the Fairlight.

While I was typing this, I had the highlights of the cricket on. At the end a big caption said “England wins”. With an “s”. I can’t tell you how much it’s wound me up.

4

I’m sorry. What can I say? There it was. 60p. I remembered listening to it with my cousin when I was eleven, and it being the funniest thing ever. A man singing about boobs and willies and everything.

The ‘a’ is as catchy as anything. The ‘b’, Readers’ Wives, documents the Polaroid-driven confessions of “a bathroom bachelor” and has a few genuinely funny couplets. I don’t know what a Red-Nosed Burglar is, and I don’t think I want to.

Part of me wants to give it a 5, part wants to give it zero. Let’s split the difference.

3

Just because I wanted to be the first person to review Ivor Biggun and Paul Weller side-by-side, then give them the same score.

3