singles by choice
(albums when it's necessary)
25 June 2019
(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

In 2003, the man who ran Earworm started a new label, called The Great Pop Supplement. The early singles were imaginatively packaged, pleasingly Cosmiche, and in runs of 111 copies. I bought GPS01, and I bought GPS02, but I missed GPS03 and GPS04. I also missed GPS07, but I carried on buying most of the others. As GPS grew up, the packaging got a little more ordinary, and the music got a lot more folky. I still picked up the odd one, but they weren’t top of my list any more. Still, by the time they hit GPS100, I probably had sixty or seventy. Then, one night, not feeling quite myself, I went on a bit of a Discogs bender, and bought every missing GPS record I could find, regardless of price and location. Next morning I felt awful, like the regret a bad hangover can bring. They were turning up for weeks, with postmarks from all over the world.

But still I had gaps. With the internet, you think you’re a click away from buying anything. Guns, drugs, people, Paul Ross box-canvas prints. But limited-to-111-copies-early-2000s-seven-inch-singles can be more elusive.

I’ve had GPS03, GPS04, or GPS07 on a Discogs wants list for as long as Discogs has had wants lists. GPS07 came up from time to time, but people wanted pushing a hundred quid for it, and I won’t pay that for a record. The others both came up once, maybe twice, but by the time I saw the notification they were sold. I carried on looking. eBay searches, rummaging through 7” boxes in shops wherever I went. Never a sniff.

Last week I got lucky. I got the daily “newly listed” Discogs email, and saw this record. I clicked the link, and it was still there! I shoved it in the cart, and the “in wants list” tab went from 1 to 2. GPS04 was listed too! I bought that, and two copies of GPS006 came up! I bought the cheaper (opened) one, because who wants to pay extra for an unopened record unless you’re the kind of “person” who doesn’t play their records? I was on the site as the seller was listing them, and they weren’t even at stupid prices. I thought the internet had completely killed the rush of finding a record you’ve been seeking for years, but it hasn’t: not quite.

Good things come to those who obsess. It’s true.

So here, sixteen years in the waiting, is Rover, by Makita.

The packaging is lovely. Printed on thick tracing paper, folded and bagged. Like all early GPS records, the back is only half height, with the top half of the record poking out. It was a distinctive and stylish look. There’s a tracing paper insert too, which tells us that GPS01 and GPS02 are already sold out, and that future releases will hopefully feature Füxa (did); Kinski (did); Poison Control Center (didn’t) and Clive*Star (didn’t). All copies of this were unique, with a cut-out cartoon panel as the sleeve art. Mine features a pig called Porkyboy running into what appears to be a classroom shouting “Where is my pancake?”.

The music, you’ll have gathered by now, is almost irrelevant, but it’s very nice. The ‘a’ manages to mix acoustic guitars with dubby beats, a sad violin, a folky flute, and some funny noises. The artist Makita, in common with his powertool namesake, is Japanese, and does that very Japanese thing of taking something you know quite well (because it’s from your culture) then reinterpreting it as something you don’t know at all, even though the elements are the same. (Because it’s now not from your culture.)

An annoying feature of many GPS records was to not have both sides play at the same speed, and the ‘b’, Fish in the Pond makes me get up again and change the speed of the Acutus. This isn’t a problem now, but back when these records came out I had an LP12 with a stock power supply. To change speed you had to take off the mat, take off the platter, take off the belt, then remove from – or put onto – the spindle an incredibly tight adapter. Then put the belt back on (there was a right way and a wrong way), put the platter back on, put the mat back on, and play that one side of that 7” single.

It starts off all folky, then turns into a Dr Dre backing track but with vibes and bongos. Then the sad fiddle comes back, with some panting and it loops and repeats for a few minutes. It’s good.

4

This is aforementioned GPS04, even though the insert says it’s “the third of our releases”.

Packaging this time is textured paper, with an envelope containing some photographs, and the obligatory GPS lighthouse sticker, though this time promoted to being an actual part of the sleeve artwork via transparent mounting corners. The envelope is held similarly, making an elegant and practical collaged sleeve.

The title track is the proverbial game of two halves. First a slow build of jangling, chorused reverbed guitars, then a couple of minutes of blissed out sonic cathedralism. (I’m leaving no stone unturned in my search for clichés tonight.)

Over on the other side is Ice Cream Van. One thinks of the KLF, and the end of I Know Your Girlfriend Hates Me, but what you get is a multi-phase guitar (almost) instrumental that could function as the soundtrack to an incredibly short film.

The insert says, as so many inserts do, to “play loud”, and you should. It’s pretty intoxicating at volume. A sample at the end of the ‘b’ tells you how to say “very good”, I think in Welsh. This is very good. Very good indeed. Worth the wait.

5

This was the expensive one, so I assume Kinski have some sort of following. The sleeve is the GPS lighthouse logo printed on shiny foil and the insert is a bit sparse, just listing the band members.

The ‘a’ is a Velvet Underground cover (I can’t be doing with those people who call them “the Velvets”), done in a chunky lo-fi style which comes across more as a coarse karaoke backing track than an instrumental. If you want a good Velvet Underground instrumental cover, then you want Throwing Muses doing Ride into the Sun. I’m not the sort of person who has a favourite guitar player, but if I was it would probably be Kristin Hersh.

But Kinski do a rocking good I Guess I’m Falling in Love, then go all wobbly and electronic on Hiding Drugs in the Temple: a genuinely unlistenable piece of work whose only purpose is to make you walk back across the room to check the record player is working properly.

3

Another nice label to collect is Emotional Response, who give us this four-tracker. The excellent front cover (Ruan van Vliet) shows two men in a prison cell. One is chained to the ceiling, the other is drinking a milkshake. Neither have shirts. Where did he get that milkshake?

All tracks are smart, catchy, snappy pop music. Good, but my attention was drifting by the end, and it didn’t inspire me to write in any way. The first song’s particularly good, the last one is dull and interminable.

The insert is thick, glossy, full colour card (how times have changed) which tells us to expect releases from the brilliantly named Tangible Excitement, F–kin’ Ziggurat, and Croque Madame. It also trails a compilation album on Polytechnic Youth, which is the label currently being run by the man who ran Great Pop Supplement. It’s a small world. (Or I have narrow tastes.)

3

To me, Atomizer is a Big Black record. But apparently it’s also a band or something, and the Pet Shop Boys’ Orange Alert Mix of Hooked on Radiation was the standout of Disco 4. For a couple of quid I thought I’d get it on the big-grooved 45rpm 12” such a massive disco banger deserves.

But alas, the Orange Alert Mix is relegated to the 33rpm ‘b’. The Bad Boy Mix gets the big grooves and the higher speed, and is surprisingly similar to the remix with which I am more familiar. The PSBs (with Pete Gleadall to twiddle the knobs, of course) give the record more flow and drive, but the other two mixes are still great.

I am astonished/horrified to learn this record is sixteen years old.

5

I so enjoyed the PiL records from the other week that I picked up another. This is Not a Love Song is funky and slinky and anti-capitalist. That’s a lot of boxes ticked.

The ‘b’ is Public Image, which I wrote about last time.

4

On We Release What the F–k We Want Records, this is part of the soundtrack from supposed “cult” film Psychos in Love. Packaging-wise, I’ll read you the sticker off the front: it’ll save time.

Limited edition PURPLE GRAPE COLORED VINYL including a mini poster of a girl screaming in her bathroom, an original promo postcard replica, full lyrics of the hit song “PSYCHOS IN LOVE” and a rare as-seen-in-the-movie I ♥ MY VCR bumper sticker. Most (if not all) copies are scented with the special PSYCHOS IN LOVE grape flavor™ Proudly mastered from the original VHS for ULTRA LOW FIDELITY SOUND

The back sleeve explains more.

For the Psychos in Love theme I purposefully wrote what I hoped were the worst lyrics of all time, giving them to Carmine Capobianco with one note, ‘use them to write the worst song of all time’.

Carmine nailed it, with Frank Sidebottom style keyboard accompaniment, music that doesn’t always fit the words, and a cha-cha-cha end.

Other than the theme tune, we get clips of dialog from the film; we get a sort of mash up of Jaws and the Psycho shower scene; we get a couple of bursts of disco; we get a couple of things that sound like straight, but ham-fisted lifts of songs I know but can’t name. (One sounds like Junebug by the B-52s, but pre-dates it); we get something that talks about “boogers and rat do-do”, and we get the worst wedding march I’ve heard since the organist at my friends’ wedding apparently played it in boxing gloves. All done on a terrible 80s home keyboard.

It’s absolutely brilliant, and I’ll never play it again.

5

The third part of 1987’s holy triumvirate: Theme from S-Express, Pump up the Volume, and this. It follows the standard pattern for those early sample-driven records. A countdown; large parts of Paid in Full; a driving, repetitive but catchy bass line; Pascal Gabriel; a cross-cultural sample that breaks the flow; and some kind of morse-codey bleeping. All of those things feature on at least two of those records.

This one hasn’t aged as well as the others, sounding a bit simplistic and naive. You might say the same about Pump up the Volume, because of its sheer over-the-topness, but it’s just sooo slick. Theme form S-Express sounds better than ever, because it is genius.

4

This is their second stab at the indie-disco classic. It’s much changed from the awkward, folk-ish original, but still manages to keep its heart intact behind its hook-filled stadium swagger. However many times you’ve heard it, however many times you saw homesick 19-year-olds sit on a sticky dancefloor like they were the first people that ever did it, take a step back, and it’s a great song. (Though Come Home is better.)

The ‘b’ side, however, is egregious. A very lukewarm live run-through of the ‘a’ (actually, of the original version, with its slightly different words) then about ten minutes of air horns and students singing the hook line over and over again, increasingly out of time as they rush the “down down down dow-ow-own” bit in the way football crowds rush the “by far the greatest team” in their standard chant. Ghastly.

3

Roller Disco is a reminiscence to 1983 and its innocent pleasures. Cola cubes, Panini albums, BMXing and, obviously, Choppers. It’s quite nice really. Then Mike Balls Unofficial World Cup Anthem kicks in: a paean to football hooliganism and sex tourism. Mike Balls is, apparently, the hardest man in football.

In the early ’80s, just a couple of years after Eggsy and Maggot had been Roller Discoing, I first heard of Necker and Chelsea Joey. The word on the street was that they were proper hard-case football hooligans: the hardest lads in the town. Chelsea Joey was so-called because his signature move was the “Chelsea smile” – cutting a victim’s face, outwards from the mouth, then a knee to the crotch so the cry of pain would open the wound further. Necker was called Necker because he tore someone’s throat out with his teeth at Heysel. Everyone had heard of them. A few years later, my cousin became friends with someone who knew these modern rippers, and, I think, met at least one of them. They were nice, quiet, ordinary young men. Chelsea Joey was called Chelsea Joey because he supported Chelsea; Necker was Necker because he had a nervous tic which made him periodically jut out his chin.

Back to the GLC, and the ‘b’. Three tracks. Let’s get it over with. Nan Jam covers the insatiable drug consumption and lust for violence of Adam Hussein’s 84-year-old grandmother, and Monkey Love, predictably, is an autotuned soul number about having sex with a monkey. After that there’s only one way to close: cue Shit Yourself, which is about shitting yourself.

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