Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Champagne, Girls, & Hearts

Ich trinke champers mit Herzfisch, sagt niddynoo...

I took yesterday's weather as a sign that it was finally time to purge the last of the summer backlog and get on with matters at hand. The day had started abysmally: suffocated by a smoky grey pall of clouds and drenched in the hard, cold rain that the Pacific Northwest does so well. By mid-morning I was convinced it'd never get truly light, and the subsequent fierce gritting of pea-hail that set off the car alarms outside seemed purely gratuitous. I was musing that summer was well and truly over, when the clouds and hail and rain were suddenly ripped off like a dirty bandage to reveal a newly healed blue sky and a defiantly bright sun.

So one more chance, then.

Lest you think from previous posts that the summer was spent in a hippy-folk haze, I'll have you know that I found time in my schedule for other popular beat combos, thank you very much. In late July I toodled down The Biltmore (a venue I like more in theory than in practice) to see The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, with whom I had fallen in love earlier in the year. I shan't wax prolific, but suffice to say that they were charming and lovely and wonderful. Their fuzzy dreampop washed off the stage and over the audience like frothy waves of happy ache and yearning, while the band members themselves were graciously sincere and seemed genuinely pleased to be playing to us. Big, warm hugs all round.

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart - Young Adult Friction (buy here or e-here)

Then there were the opening bands. First up were TPOBPAH labelmates Champagne Socialists, who I mistrusted from the start. Several slightly awkward lads (one apparently of rather good Glaswegian gang Bricolage) strummed and drummed, while a singer with a passing resemblance to Amy Winehouse went through the motions in an uncomfortably am-dram stylee. Oh dear. So imagine my surprise when I downloaded their 'Teardrop Tattoo' and found that their meh stage presence seemed to have camouflaged a pop song that, while rough around the edges, was actually rather evocative and tweely catchy, what with its "woo-ooo-ooo-ooo-oohs" and all. Apparently in the last month or so they've decided to call themselves Neverever, should you be inclined to investigate further. I might be.

Champagne Socialists - Teardrop Tattoo (a 7-inch single for you here)

Next up we had Girls. No, not those kind - it wasn't that sort of a show. I'm talking about two fellows from San Francisco who spun some fine songs out of strands of dreampop, the 1960s, melancholy, bittersweetness, and shimmer. Truth be told, I was unimpressed at first listen. But as thes stood their ground and worked their magic, I was drawn in and found myself both liking it and wondering why I did, particularly since some of their songs did go on for a while. I guess it was all of those beautiful strands...

Girls - Hellhole Ratrace (debut album slated for release on 6 Oct and you can get it here)

Right, summer is now officially over.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Big 'n' Hairy

Ladies & Gentlemen, whether you like it or not...HEDWIG!!

Dearest Friends, it's time to toss your tresses, shake your split ends, and fluff your fringes, coz this week Contrast Podcast has gone all hairy. Yes, this episode is dedicated to all things hirsute and hispid, so get ready for some Vidal Sassoon stylin' and download the grizzled goodness here.

The full range of tonsorial services on offer:

(00:00) PJ Harvey - Hair
Tim from The face of today

(04:20) The Heart Strings - Nina and her very long hair

(08:31) Ron Sexsmith - Strawberry blonde
Jeremy from Fingertips

(13:35) The Who - Cut my hair
Adam from Pretending life is like a song

(18:12) The Pretenders - Don’t cut your hair (live on later)
Chris from Culture Bully

(20:49) Cinderpop - Blonder
Marcy from Lost in your inbox

(24:02) Timbuk3 - Hairstyles and attitudes
The In Crowd from I’m learning to share!

(28:05) The Divine Comedy - Bernice bobs her hair
Robert Todd

(33:07) The Early November - Hair
James from Appetite For Distraction

(36:42) One Trick Pony - Scary hairy song

(39:11) Barbagallo - Wait
Eiron from Casting the Net

(44:22) Mikrofisch - Bad hair days
Linda from Speed of Dark

(49:26) Fosca - The Millionaire of your own hair
John Q

(55:40) Hum - I’d like your hair long
Bob from Gimme Tinnitus

(01:01:31) Stevie Nicks - Gold and braid
Greer from A Sweet Unrest

(01:08:32) Still Life Still - Planets
Tart from Love Shack, Baby

(01:13:22) Queensryche - Almost cut my hair
Natalie from Mini-Obs

(01:18:42) Vini Reilly - Hairdresser on fire
JC aka The Vinyl Villian

(01:24:04) Hedwig & The Angry Inch - Wig in a box
FiL from Pogoagogo

I had to go with my choice because I've long wanted to contribute a song from Hedwig, one of my most favourite films of all times. Fantastic music, a glorious plot, journeys, self-doubt, authenticity, inauthenticity, trust, love, betrayal - ZOMG, it has it all. And Hedwig herself is a personal hero of mine. Someday I hope to see it in its original staged incarnation.

But as usual, there were other potential choices:

The Locust - Hairspray Suppository (buy here or e-here)
In the end I figured this bit of speedcore chicanery from San Diego's wierdest might be a bit too much.

The Exploders - Put On Your Wig (buy here or e-here)
I seem to have been submitting a fair bit of garage punk of late, so these Toronto racketeers were denied.

Despite my limited output here on pogo a go-go of late, I never missed a single opportunity to submit to the Contrast Podcast. That's not meant as a brag, but rather as an indication of how wonderful I think the CP Nation is. The folks who contribute are a fantastic group of folks, and the eclectic musical joy they contribute is soul-enhancing. Dearest TiM is a demigod for putting it all together for an amazing three-and-a-half years!! And the chance it offers me to dig deep into the cluttered, absurd depths of my mind to pul out my intros has probably been lifesaving. Several of you have said kind words aboutthem, and it gives me unbridled pleasure to think that you might find them amusing. For those of you who find them tedious, I do apologize and hope that your podcast player of choice has an easily operated fast-forward function.

In celebration of the Contrast Podcast (BTW, in case you've never listened and are having difficulty catching the subtext: GO LISTEN NOW!!! THEN CONTRIBUTE!!!!) and in penance for my silence here, I offer you a smattering of tracks that were recently in the running for submission:

Shonen Knife - Cycling Is Fun (buy here or e-here)
Almost made it into CP 178. I luv Shonen Knife and their "Ramones-meets-Peanut-Sisters" vibe. Off to see them next month - w00t!! Peter & The Test Tube Babies - Banned From The Pub (buy here or e-here)
A contender for CP 180, coz you play darts in pubs, so some classic English pub punk would have been in order.

Stereolab - Outer Bongolia (buy here or e-here)
Possible destination for CP 179, as it was the closest I could get to Mongolia in song (Tuvan throat singing aside). But one day I shall visit for real, oh yes...

The Specials - (The Dawning Of) A New Era (buy here)
Though an old track, I considered it for CP 176. Well, I remember it sounding new and fresh to me at some point in my yoof...

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Where The Hell Are You???

Here I am, closer than I appear.

Dearest Friends, that's the question Dearest JC posed below. Short, sweet, and shot straight. And it's one I thought best answered by a comeback, plarticularly since he mentioned me in a very kind post of his a few days ago. But how to make my re-entrance? Where to begin?? What to say???

You don't want the litany of reasons, primarily because it'd be pretty banal. An uninspiring mix of work, laundry, garden watering, erranding, that amounts to the taxing reality of summer bachelorhood. Admittedly, there is also the running, which might be a story worth telling, but not now. Suffice to say I've wanted to spend more time here, and the evidence can be found in the half-formed bits of prose that are moldering in the corners of my Blogger "Edit Posts" box. And in my frustration - les visible, but most tangible.

So, I think I have it now -- it's time for a cleanout, a pump 'n' dump, a spray 'n' pray. They will necessarily be the abridged versions (and there still may be some mold stuck to them), but here's the first from the pile of what might have been over the past weeks/months:

I have a terminal weakness for compilation CDs. They make me feel all savvy & clever, getting a brace of killah-not-fillah tracks from multiple bands, all for the price --sometimes discounted-- of one disc. Yes, I know these days you can achieve the same by trawling the net and sampling its wares. Yes, I admit that often the killah to fillah ratio is low. But yah boo sucks to all that, I still love them.

The problem is that I usually get fixated on two or three tracks, and pay scant attention to the rest. Take the "Yes New York" CD that on a whim I tossed into the car stereo the other week. When I got it back in 2003, I locked in on Radio 4's "Save Your City," "Olio" by The Rapture, and DFA's remix of Le Tigre's "Deceptacon." So tracks 2, 8, and 14 got heavy, heavy rotation. Fast forward to 2009 and imagine my utter surprise when track 4 grabs me by the ears and shouts in my face:


A squealy intro of feedback. Chugging guitar, Fizzing distort,. Shouty vocals. Densely erudite, eloquent lyrics that sliced straight through flesh to plug directly into my soul.

Today I woke up uncertain
And you know that gives me the fits
So I left this land of fungible convictions
Because it seemed like the pits
And when I say, "conviction" I mean it's something to abjure
And when I say "uncertain" I mean to doubt I'll not turn out a caricature

My God, in a flash I got this song so utterly, so completely. I made that trip. It was a pure epiphany, and the only thing the white light/white heat couldn't completely drown out was the little voice screaming "What the Hell took you so LONG???" at me.

So now I'm somewhat obsessed with this song. Somewhat? I mean totally.

Ted Leo & The Pharmacists - The Ballad Of The Sin Eater (buy here or e-here)

And so begins the return. Thanks, Dearest JC, for kicking me up the jacksie. It feels good to be back. To misquote another track that's had heavy airplay in the FiLmobile of late: I won't fade away...

Joy Division
- Digital (buy here)