Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dressing to the left - Thee Faction

With the Blue Meanies back in power, student riots, twitchy nuclear trigger-fingers (yes, you North Korea) and a right royal knees-up in the middle of debts, doldrums and redundancy - the return of Thee Faction couldn't be better timed.

A swinging Socialist collective from Surrey (more on that here) trapped behind the Iron Curtain since 1985 these red beret rockers are back to rabble rouse your mind and agit-prop your pop. Live at Ebbw Vale is the comeback manifesto and by Gorbachov it's good. Twinning Dr Feelgood rhythms and Eastern Bloc rocking beats on the industrious riffing of Union Man or Conservative Friend and the brothers and sisters party chants of Social Inclusion Thru Marxism it is the greatest record to come out of Russia since Lenin and McCartney's Снова в СССР. Even Chairman Wilko of the Oil City Committee has his raised his guitar arm in allegiance with the Faction by sending a  personalised message to the band...

Comrades, the revolution starts here at (33 Rpm) -  get onboard, lend your ears to cause and grab your copy now.

Thee Faction - Social Inclusion Thru Marxism

Secret filming from the Faction's reunion show

I'm backing the USSR

Friday, November 26, 2010

Dear Diary - November

Four song references scribbled around this pic' - can you get them all?

There's almost no greater spectator sport for a schoolboy than a bundle between your same-year peers (with the chants of 'fight, fight, fight, fight' ringing round and about) - better yet, when it's the unlikeliest of scrappers having a bash. And if this isn't robust enough, it's a double bill of bracket-punching in one day (28th) as Colbert (a Spaghetti Western drifter type) Vs Nelly (a sort of Gok Wan of our year) and Huggins (small with huge eyelashes) Vs Neary (rugger~team lump).

In other news, our frisky friend from over the road (LOTR) continues to put the 'goods on the barrow' with her free-wheeling liberated ways (28th) and Ye Olde Stereogram gets moved from the front room to my bedroom. Although it seems I jumped the gun slightly by adding The Stranglers to October's playlist when plainly it's November (24th). If you fancy a peep November '79 charts looked this

The Undertones - You've Got My Number

Couple of deviations and variants from the usual vinyl rips - just for this month

The Damned - it's the rare radio edit of 'Happy Today' instead of the standard single edish.

The Damned - I Just Can't Be Happy Today (Radio Edit)

The Undertones - instead the fine refit of Let's Talk About Girls B-siding 'Number' let's hear the Chocolate Watch orig'

The Chocolate Watch Band - Let's Talk About Girls

If you haven't seen it, The Damned's appearance on OGWT is a career highlight for both show and band.

The Cross and The Switchblade (14th)  was shown in a local church hall to warn corruptible teens about the perils of peer pressure, gangs, drugs.....  for us it was a free film, an evening in the warm and something with Poncho from CHips in...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Creation Records

One of my nearly ran bands for Piley and I's Sound-a-Like podcast were The Creation. An outfit of heavy legacy, but little credit or recognition (excepting revisionists and retro-ologists).

Primarily it's Creationist fret-fiddler Eddie Philips who's due for the retrospective nods and tips of the titfer. The first guitarist to experiment with violin style bow-ing techniques - a trick later nicked by Jimmy Page to scrape unearthly squeaks and squeals  from his Les Paul. Factor in Eddie's invite to join The 'Orrible 'Oo as a second guitarist, that Ron Wood briefly served as a Creation member, the Sex Pistols covering the band's Through My Eyes and you've got something of a glowing CV by any standard.

So what in the name of Boney M has all this got to do with sound-a-likes they chorused? Well, to my old ears The Creation's How Does It Feel sounds entirely like the type of heavy-level stomper reformed and reformatted by Oasis as a template tune for their signature sound.

The Creation - How Does It Feel

And in a mobius style movement of music trivia: who were Oasis spotted and signed by? Alan McGee, founder of Creation Records. A label named after - The Creation...

Bow Selector - Eddie can be caught having a fiddle on a tune covered by Boney M?!?

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Code Zodiac Tapes: legendary lost spy-fi soundtrack remastered, restored and debuting here today..

If you're a fan of the Italo spy-fi film genre you may be familiar with the long-shifting whispers about low budget cult-flick The Code Zodiac Tapes. Made in 1969 it received just a handful of European screenings before being shelved due to international wrangles over distribution rights.

Zodiac dropped out of circulation and with no sightings, leaked footage or dodgy copies filtering into the public domain since, it's been widely accepted that the film had become lost, wiped or stolen. However, canisters containing the original broadcast masters were recently discovered in the basement of an abandoned Riviera mansion. Damp, dust and neglect have left the film stock, shooting notes and script damaged beyond recovery or repair..

Thankfully a handful of production details, storyboards and publicity shots survived - along with some concept art for set designs (pleasure units, undersea casinos, moonbased pods and modules ) and some costume credits....

Hair by Laurence of Park Lane
Wardrobe by Mr Hipster
M.O.N.D.O Mobile by George Barris

Concept art by uncredited artist

More significantly the 16 track Ampex analogue master tapes of the Zodiac soundtrack were found to be salvageable. These tapes - and any scraps and snatches of dubbed dialogue - were taken to Shabby Road studios for digital restoration. Today the freshly mastered, previously unreleased Code Zodiac soundtrack receives it's international debut. A teaser trailer is available here along with an OST stream - but the full 19 track album is available as a limited-edition free download over at Budd Schifrin's site..

Code Zodiac Trailer

Code Zodiac OST

Keith Mansfield's composition Soul Confusion was originally used to score a deleted scene (scripted as - Scene 34: How does that grab you?) and has been included here as a bonus track

Keith Mansfield - Soul Confusion

Original storyboard panels

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


What's this - three new music posts on the bounce? Well really!

Today sees a trio of 'lectro treats from in demand remixer (The Gossip, Snow Patrol, Simian Mobile Disco, C90s), international DJ and my younger brother Tronik Youth - whose, sparky new single Th?nk had it's official unveilling yesterday. Adding some space age vocals to Tronik's signature electriffery is new boy Glyn Cosford.

Two versions of this electro-poppet are available for your pleasure and perusal today.
Th?nk (Radio Edit) and the Midnight Savari remix. A full fat bundle including Tronik's original mix and four extra remixes is available here

Th?nk Radio Edit

As a bonus help yourself to all new November mixathon from Tronik featuring a glittering list of tunes, tracks and exclusives including Bryan Ferry and Etienne De Crecy. As always full track list in the comms

Tronik Youth November 2010 mix by tronikyouth

More on Tronik the Boy Wonder soon..

Friday, November 12, 2010

I Like It. What Is It?

Poster by Anthony Burrill

You may remember some yap a while back about the Annual Sad Lads CD Swap. Well tonight is that night - CDs will be exchanged, pints will be pulled and the whip will probably end up in Piley's charge (a pub role similar to the Monopoly banker).

This year I'm going public with my pickings and have mixed the comp as downloadable take-away version. To paraphrase E F Rice's rules....the tracks don't have to be from 2010 (although almost a third are) just new-to-you tunes. There may be a few possible eyebrow-raisers and non-blogged bits in the bundle, but these are my most played tunes of 2010 and the track list can be found in the comments.

The Planet Mondo Annual Report - 2010

Two tunes bubbling under that didn't seem to fit the mood of the mix were ...

Asobi Seksu - Strawberries (Ulrich Schnauss remix)

An infectious collective of indie crystals and whispy vocals shining some brightness through a misty fug of thunderous rumbles and shoegazy layers.

Memory Tapes - Bicycle: a musical smoothie where the taste of Talking Heads and a tone of New Order are rewhisked for the digital generation..

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Executive Class

In an age where pop as a packaged product dominates - and talent show hopefuls hold out begging bowls of back stories and shrill trilling to pinch-eyed panels of string pullers and pop puppets. It gives you a glow to know - that away from the cold, controlled production environments of formulaic chart pap, tat and ratbaggery - pure musicians and solid songsmiths are busying themselves in studio bolt holes, writing and refining their craft with the stealth of shoemaking elves.

So let me introduce to you, The Sonic Executive Sessions - session musicians by day, self composers in their downtime - a group whose skill isn't a wily eye on a chart placing or tactical piece in the media. But an ear for a hook, a taste for a tune and the raw talent to fill a fully formed, self penned songbook of multi-layered, hi-polished pop, glowing with a shameless sense of fun, sun and freedom.

I've been following The Sonic Executive Sessions for almost 3 years now - hooked, reeled in and rolling from the opening notes of 17 (Over You). The album arrived last week and what a gem and a joy it is. All honeycomb vocals and milky bar harmonies. Pace shifting from the urgent swish of show tunes to the midnight slink of Steely Dan - the album is 100% Sonic originals with echoes and shadows of both greats and guilty pleasures. The Beach Boys meet Jellyfish with Toto undertones, Bacharach by way of Badfinger with Ben Folds on keys. Oh, and an actual appearance by Oh Lori legends the Alessi Brothers on one track...

11 minty new tunes that immediately feel like old friends....

The Sonic Executive Sessions - You'll Never Be Happy

The Sonic Executive Sessions - Make Do (featuring the Alessi Brothers)

Christian Phillips, lead vocalist of The Sonic Exec's was kind enough to enough to answer a few Q's exclusively for the PM blog.....

How would you describe The Sonics Executive Sessions signature sound to the uninitiated
Yowzer, that's a hard question. Fallen at the first hurdle here. But I guess its me trying to re-write the American songbook, failing miserably and then superimposing our favourite Record/CD/MP3 collection on top of it

What is the bands history, how did you come together
Tim's been running the Sonic-One Studio for a long time and over the years Ryan and I have worked there a lot. Local sessions stuff like that, I've taken other projects there. Tim had some free studio time so we just started doing this

You're a studio based group, but have the band ever played live, or will
there be future gigs

The band has never played live...but never say never. Just don't ask me to play keyboards

You've done a crazy range of sessions:  Colin Bluntstone, a TOTP appearance and teamed up with The Alessi Brothers for one track (Make Do) on The Sonic Exec's album..
Top of the Pops, We played for a guy called Steve Balsamo. He had a single called Sugar for the Soul.  I was his guitarist and Ry' played drums. I think the Dandy Warhol's were there. Yup done some very weird sessions. Sang backing vocals on a Joey Ramone track once... How weird is that!!! I didn't meet Joey, my bit was done here and he did his bit in new York. I think it's called Punk Boy by a band called Helen Love

I did a session for a guy once (who shall remain nameless) he got so stoned that by the end of the day he forgot who everyone was and whose album we were working on, I'm writing most of Colin Blunstone's new album. And Alessi They just got in touch after finding us on Myspace...isn't the internet great

Are there other hook ups with more hit-makers or heroes planned and who would be on your fantasy team-up list
I love working with as many different people as I can. I'm not a very confident songwriter/lyricist so any help would be greatly appreciated.Hmmm fantasy team up list: John Williams (composer)the Four Freshmen, Andy Sturmer, Take 6,Richard Carpenter, Todd Rundgren,Van Dyke Parks, Rufus Wainwright the 23 year old Brian Wilson you know the usual I could go on and on. People no longer with us...Gershwin,Cole Porter, Nilsson and on and on again

Have you had any TV synch or Soundtrack interest? Or what show or film would your dream soundtrack (past or present)?
The A team (TV show)

I can hear echoes of Jellyfish, Dean Freidman, Steely Dan in the album, but, what would we be surprised to find on the Sonic Exec's iPods?
Hahah well there is no Dean Friedman on there for a start. Ummm the N'Sync Christmas album??? Kings X

The band covered Jellyfish's unreleased track Hello - will other cover versions be added to the band's songbook?
Its a possibility, I'm not a very prolific songwriter so I guess so

Do you keep any vintage gear or collectable kit (synths, guitars, amps) in the Sonics collection?
Most of it is vintage I suppose, especially Tim's studio gear. He's just purchased a 24 track studer tape machine and I think we're going to record any new tunes on that..OLD SCHOOL BABY!

Each track is multi-layered polished pop nugget - what has been your most indulgent or trialling moment of studio trickery?
Well being able to come into a studio like the one Tim has and play all those instruments and sing all those parts is me at my most indulgent, and Ryan and Tim let me indulge. But then Tim has to mix that and make sense out of all of it so for him I think that bit is trialling.

I've been following the band since 2008 when can expect see a second album?
I didn't think people would want a first album, I'm still in shock that anyone would listen to anything I was writing. So if people like it I'll keep writing and see what happens

For a UK band you have a broad international sound - have you had much interest from outside of the UK?
More outside the UK then in the UK. Its getting a release in Japan and the Americans seem to like it. I don't think many people in the UK know we exist....you're the only one I think

I could imagine the Sonic Exec's delivering the perfect Christmas song - any plans for a seasonal single?
Not right now, I have recorded a Christmas album with the vocal group I sing with (The 4o5's) and that's Christmasmungus. I'd love to record one with Roy Wood with that big Phil Spector sound. Hmmmm you've got me thinking now, I would be stroking my beard if I had one.

The Sonic Executive Sessions album 2010 is available right here....
on iTunes or via Amazon

The Sonic Executive Sessions - Myspace

There's more Mondo/Sonic related bits here

The Sonic Executives do Jellyfish (I've posted before, but it's worth a re-run)

A special sonic salute is due to Christian and the band for the use of tunes and making time for my questioning..

Friday, November 5, 2010

Polly's Got a Cracker

It's a creaky ol' cliche - but, *winces* - they really don't write 'em like they used to.
Take ex-Pickettywitchetty Polly Brown's Puff of Smoke. All the mechanics and constructions of perfect pop are contained within this firecracker of a track built entirely from glittering hooks, riffs and bridges with no fat, lumps or gristle guaranteed (surely one of the worst ad' slogans ever).

A genre-fusing tune, mind-melding 'Lectro bounce, Motown vocals, Eurovison swish and Northern Soul stomp. But why, since it's '75 release, has no one covered this spangly poppet. Surely Golfrapp's Crystal Tipps does Glitzy-Disco would be the perfect format for rebuffing this buried treasure.

Polly Brown ~ Up in a Puff of Smoke

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Top of the Punks – Part 2

Oh Bondage, Up Yours! TOTP Style

Top of the Punks Part 1 - can be bagged here

In my last post, we looked at the way the Top of the Pops LPs were forced to accommodate the rise of punk and New Wave in 1977. At first reluctant, they were soon embracing the harder-edged singles appearing through 1977 and 1978, with a few of the Poppers recordings giving the hit versions a run for their money.

The Poppers’ remit was to hoover up chart hits, regardless of the musical styles in play. Thus they were compelled to have a go at wildly disparate, but commercially successful material like “Voodoo Chile” (volume 14), “Bohemian Rhapsody” (volume 49) and “Wuthering Heights” (volume 65), which no-one in their right mind would have selected for a pocket-money cheese-fest like Top of the Pops! And, of course, there were The Sex Pistols.

The group had already scored a hit with “God Save The Queen”, making their next release, “Pretty Vacant” a reliable bet for the top end of the charts. And so the Poppers decided to bite the bullet and nail their own version, which was taped, like most of the series, at De Lane Lea studios in Wembley.

Lead singer on the track is session man Tony Rivers, backed up by two Poppers stalwarts, John Perry and Stu Calver. According to Rivers, the latter were finishing up the backing vocals when in walked Paul McCartney for a listen. Realising what was afoot, he scurried off and brought back Chris Thomas, producer of The Pistols’ original, who happened to be in the building and is said to have fallen about laughing and what he heard!

Tony Rivers has since spoken of his take on punk figurehead, all-round bad boy and future butter salesman, John Lydon: “Johnny Rotten sounded like Norman Wisdom to me, so that’s how I did it!” Enjoy it here, as featured on Top of the Pops volume 60.

Pretty Vacant from vol. 60

After popping their punk cherries on “Pretty Vacant”, the Poppers wasted little time zeroing in on other New Wave hits. The follow-up LP, volume 61, features both “Gary Gilmore’s Eyes” and a version of Eddie & The Hot Rods’ classic “Do Anything You Wanna Do”, which boasts a pretty decent band track (nice bass work!), albeit with a slightly dubious lead vocal over the top. Ironically it sounds markedly more primitive than the original - in fact, dare we say, more authentic? No, I guess not.

Do Anything You Wanna Do from vol. 61

Volume 66 (May 1978) boasts cuts like “(I'm Always Touched By Your) Presence Dear” and “She's So Modern”, and we also find a version of “Because The Night”, via the Godmother of Punk, Patti Smith. OK, this Springsteen-penned track is no “Pretty Vacant”, but it’s nonetheless an interesting selection for Top of the Pops, which they manage to do justice to.

Because The Night from vol. 66

A band wasn’t worthy of the tag ‘punk’ unless they were ready to put an angry boot into the establishment whenever the chance arose, especially if it meant offending the industry itself. Cue The Rezillos, whose accusatory “Top of the Pops” had a dig at the TV show of the same name, before earning them a spot on it. And thus, the consequent hit also found its way onto volume 68, bizarrely looking like a title track for the whole series!

Top of the Pops from vol. 68

We wrap up this survey with a track which had originally been a hit for The Boomtown Rats. OK, we’ve heard better impressions of Bob Geldof, but this reading of the group’s 1978 chart-topper from volume 69 is still a decent listen. Interestingly it also name drops Top of the Pops in the lyric, but of course they’re also referring to the TV show.

Rat Trap from vol. 69

A huge thank you is due to Terry from TOTP The Definitive Website for this poptastic posting....