singles by choice
(albums when it's necessary)
17 October 2020
(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

I’ve been second-hand record shopping. Some long-shots, some collection-fillers, a couple of “hadn’t got it on seven-inch”es, some “just like it”s, some “can’t leave it there at that price”s. It might take a couple of days.

I was going to start off by saying I don’t entirely get the fuss around Being Boring. That though it is, of course, great, it’s no better than a dozen other Pet Shop Boys songs. But listening – I mean really listening – there’s something undeniably special about it.

The sleeve perfectly represents the two faces of the disc. Neil is Being Boring; facing the camera, timelessly smart and holding a painting next to a number 1. In a second picture Chris represents darkly dancish flip side We all Feel Better in the Dark by posing with his back to us, next to a number 2, in ridiculous fashion-wear.

Sadly, it’s a rubbish copy. Even at £1.50 I got stiffed.

5

This one doesn’t sound great either, but that only makes it better. The harsh, brittle production gives the percussion a skeletal creepiness. Those long fuzzed chords gain a mystical age, and the dry, half-buried vocals make it seem like the whole thing is coming from another place, stretched thin by the distance.

Kings of the Wild Frontier builds and builds with no resolution. All the way through it feels like it should go into a big chorus, or satisfying climax, but it holds off.

It’s an unlikely hit record but Adam, like the Pet Shop Boys earlier, was able to take art into the mainstream, though his art was more of the King’s Road than the white cubes. He lost the plot later of course, but for a while they were true kings, not mere panto pirates.

The sleeve is a picture of the singer of course. Because if you look like that, you should take full advantage of it.

5

I’ve never really got on with anything that came after it, but I deeply love The Golden Age of Wireless. Honestly, gun to my head etc., I think I’d put it on (an admittedly long) list of my favourite albums. It’s a unified record, of such consistent quality that it doesn’t really have highlights, but this is the most immediate thing on it. A snappy, classy synthpop masterpiece with a nice story of a childhood friend who gets famous and is transplanted to a separate world.

The ‘b’, like a lot of his stuff, is hard to pin down. A mix of many things which, though it doesn’t at all have an ’80s sound, couldn’t have been made at any other time. I didn’t really like it, which brings down the score for the record as a whole.

The sleeve is nice. He looks very small and very brainy.

Before we go, the usual PSA: Thomas Dolby is named after the noise reduction, not the other way round.

4

From the early ’80s, let’s get bang up-to-date. Well, 1993, which is about as Up-to-date as I get these days. Pathetic, isn’t it?

The ‘a’ (Mostly I Sleep – it’s one of those singles with a title that isn’t the title of the song) is quite long, but keeps it interesting by going from an engaging indiepop song to a bit of a shoegaze wig-out.

Float my Bed (theme, see?) pulls a similar trick, marrying a strummy Talulah Gosh verse with a maelstrom of early MBV noise instead of a chorus, It sounds like gravel in a blender. Hurrah! The drummer gives it everything but (s)he’s struggling towards the end.

Lovely sleeve too, though in my case spoilt by a big fat “distributed by Elefant Records” sticker. Who cares?

4

ISAN? isan? Isan? I S A N? Who knows. I don’t suppose it matters now.

A lovely Wurlitzer Jukebox artifact from 1997. It’s instrumental of course, and electronic. Basically it’s a MASSIVE kick drum and an absolutely irresistible analogue lead line. You will make filter shapes with your mouth, I promise. Of course, records like this aren’t complete without some kind of sci-fi sample, and that comes along right on cue, with a bit more analogue percussion. Blissful.

The ‘b’ is more of the same without being at all similar.

The (lo-fi Soviet style) sci-fi sleeve says that if we have enjoyed this record, we should write to ISAN care of the label. I doubt it would find them now, so I’ll leave this here, just in case.

“I enjoyed this record. Thank you.”

5

Gah! “Remix”. I didn’t notice that when I bought it. Let’s see how much they’ve ruined their best song.

Not much. Not much at all. Someone nudged a couple of knobs and called it a day.

The “decay” mix on the ‘b’, however, is much more remixed. I think it’s aiming for a sort of desolate feel, but it sounds like the result of ten minutes of messing about with the sequencer. Erasure could do the Pop, but they couldn’t do the Art.

4

Matthew “Hattie” Hein first. Probably my favourite survivor from New Bad Things, a ramshackle bunch of oddballs with more songwriting talent than, well, I don’t know what. Something with a lot of songwriting talent. They were so good, but they were so half-arsed, so lo-fi, so wilfully obscure. All of that’s in evidence again here.

Mister Hein opens up with a gorgeous bittersweet song about parties. Anyone would love it. Then there’s some mindless noodling recorded on a condenser mic that no one could like. Then he delivers another swiss-watch song, busting the seams with wit, wisdom, and melody. He was so brilliant. New Bad Things were so brilliant. I’m sad they’re so unheard.

I don’t know Sarah Dougher. She has a good guitar sound, a nice voice, great songs, and a persuasive way with a tambourine. Apparently she had an album scheduled for 1999, on K. If I ever happen across it, I’ll give it a go.

The two-colour silkscreened artwork is beautiful, as are the card inserts. It’s a simple, but delightful thing, and it belongs, I think, to a lost age.

Today, ignoring the cynical commercialism of represses targeted at dads and poseurs, records are outside the mainstream. A record’s very existence is a statement. So, people make the most of it: it’s a big deal because it’s a record.

But in the early ’90s, a 7” single was simply the way independent music had to be distributed. You didn’t really have any other options.

Today’s boutique labels, brilliant though they are, feel as if the physical artefact is a much larger part of the point. I’m not just talking about the people who release things as MP3s on 5¼” ADFS format floppies, but about some of my favourite labels, like Box Bedroom Rebels. Even when the music is always terrific, and of paramount importance, the package itself is also a work of art: records like this are more modest, more incidental. Maybe it’s the way of the world. Everything today is more optimised, more extreme, more specialized, and more sophisticated.

5

I never paid much attention to the KLF at the time. I think I saw them as some kind of bosh bosh bosh, loads of money novelty act, making a type of music that didn’t interest me. But now, I think they did some interesting stuff, so I chucked this in my pile, encouraged by the prose on the back.

The first half is a list song, and I love list songs. Bill Drummond, or Rockman Rock, or whichever one he was, ticks off northern places against a thudding warehouse beat. But are they northern places? Is Buxton in the north? Only blummin just, if it is, and I’d say it isn’t. Having lived in both, I always think Chesterfield (not mentioned here) is the most northern place in the midlands, and Sheffield (mentioned here) is the most southern place in the north. Buxton’s somewhere between the two on the y-axis. It’s a close call.

Anyway, at some point the list finishes, and Jerusalem creeps in. The warehouse banger fades away until it’s just Jerusalem, full blast. It sounds pretty good here, but I can’t think of many other contexts in which it does. I absolutely hate it as anthem of jingoistic mateyness at the cricket. “God is on our side, now let’s go and show the colonies who’s the bloody boss.”

I hate the people who go to cricket now. You used to go to watch the cricket. Now you go to support The Engerland, and you do that by wearing a costume, drinking all day, and generally having epic bantz, ideally as part of a never-ending “stag”.

I don’t know if the “part” thing is a reference to Hit the North, which came in several, but It’s Grim Up North Part 2 is just the rhythm from Part 1.

3

They played this on the radio the other night, and I stopped what I was doing, in its thrall until it finished. Then I called my sister to tell her it was “magnificent”, and she agreed. A couple of days later I saw a copy for 50p, so I bought it. The sleeve was knackered, but also rubbish, so I put it in the recycling and gave it a nice clean plain card replacement. The record was filthy, and stank of fags, but the Loricraft cleaned it up eventually. I love a bit of vinyl husbandry.

The ‘b’ is a (rather long) instrumental version of the ‘a’ which shows two things. a) Giorgio Moroder is a bloody genius; b) Phil”ip” Oakey’s vocal performance is out of this world. Uplifting but melancholic. I’ve been told he lives on the next road to ours, but I’ve never seen him.

The film is rubbish though.

5

I love the band name. If Dr Seuss started a band, that’s what he would call it. I bought it because of the band name. You knew that, of course.

I don’t know if there really is, or are, a Tim and/or a Sam. It sounds like more people than that to me. But whoever they are, they play lovely instrumental music, which was beautifully recorded, and put out by Static Caravan at some point round the turn of the century.

It has a screen printed sleeve of nature. Literally like, a bear, and trees and shit. The front is at 90° to the back, which means I’ll probably get up at 4 in the morning to rotate it a quarter turn on the shelf, then again at 5 to put it back how it was before. You can’t win.

Like the Matthew Hattie Hein record earlier, it’s just a lovely thing to have around. It put me in such a pleasant mood that I didn’t even mind there being a (barely recognizable) Elbow song on the ‘b’ side.

The insert is a rip-off of the sheets you used to get when you borrowed records from the library. You were supposed to check for damage and mark any before you took the record, like you do with a hire car.

The library near my, school was enormously important to me when I was 16 or so. They used to get everything on 4AD for a start, and I’d walk over there at lunchtime at least once a week to see if anything new had come in. No one ever borrowed any of that stuff except me, so they’d sell it after a few months, and I’d buy it. The seeds of my collection were those 50p albums with the “library stock” stamp on the front and on the label. I still have them all.

4

Saloon were quality.

Shopping is all in French, which is obviously reyt fancy and proves my point perfectly. The ‘b’ is a melodica-driven instrumental, also laid back and classy, but upset in the middle with loads of brilliant noise. I love a bit of noise I do.

On Amberly, which makes me think of “DARLING. ALISON. AMBERLEY! I – HAM a man…” etc. from the beginning of Dirty Fan Male. We used to play that every Friday. End of the night when we were trollied on cocktails. Happy days.

3

It’s not easy to tell which side is which here. The label is blank but for some wax-crayon scribble on one side. The sleeve, which is a folded A4 photocopy of Kepler’s Platonic Solid model of the Solar System, (I knew my degree would be useful one day) mentions that Electroscope do two songs and Longstone do one. That would be enough information, but I didn’t check for rest bands before I put it on.

One song just finished, so this must be Electroscope. Their second one is quite Scottish, which I think they were too. Sort of experimental electronic drone/bagpipecore.

Longstone’s side is better. Mad, freeform electronic noise going right the way up the audible frequency range

3

Never let it be said I don’t know how to finish a set. This is going to be the last one tonight because a) it’s very late and b) you can’t follow Crucified.

I was a bit premature calling Electric Dreams “magnificent” because I can’t think of anything more apt for this towering work of genius.

Drama. Passion. Blasphemy. The double jeu. It’s got it all.

Then there’s the video: truly a pinnacle of the art form. Go and watch it now.

MAGNIFICENT.

5