Tunes From the Singing Tower

(Where carillons ring out on the seaside.)

The Return of the Coquina Marble Column

Well, I know! I know it’s been a long time … since I’ve updated this poor, neglected music blog. I have constantly been distracted and lured away from here over the past several months, but now I plan to focus on resuming my posts from the singing tower. I’ll finally write about my favorite records of 2007 soon and cover subjects varying from Lizzy Mercier Descloux to Long Fin Killie. In the meantime, I’ll start you off with a post-Black Thursday present. It’s a collection of songs that are A) about love, B) anti-love (like Betty Davis, yowza!), and C) tunes I would like to share, either because I’ve been listening to them a lot or they’re somehow relevant to my world at the moment.

David Sylvian & Ryuichi Sakamoto – “Forbidden Colours” from 1983
Their collaboration from the soundtrack of Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence. It peaked at #16 in the UK. Mark Stewart’s 1987 cover of this (“Forbidden Colour” and “Forbidden Dub”) is also worth seeking out. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d tackle Sylvian, either; Stewart cribs from Japan’s “Ghosts” toward the conclusion of Tricky’s “Aftermath” single from 1994. Both versions of “Forbidden Colours” are really hitting home for me lately and I’ve been pining for someone to record a cover that draws inspiration from both. (P.S. If someone can point me the way to “Bamboo Music” I’d be very happy.)
[“I’ll go walking in circles while doubting the very ground beneath me,
trying to show unquestioning faith in everything.”]

Apollo 440 feat. Billy Mackenzie – “Pain in Any Language” from December 1996
The last song Billy Mackenzie (best known for fronting Associates in the 1980’s) ever recorded. A month later in January 1997, he’d overdose on pills in his father’s garden shed. This song and the one above seem to flow together really well, as the former songs sets you up for the downturn in mood on this one.
[“I’m gonna screw you for all you’re worth and no more.” Ouch.]

Chick Corea – “Return to Forever” from 1972
He’s coming to my town next week. Sadly, I’ll probably end up missing out. Maybe I’ll obtain a balcony seat at the very least.

Moonshake – “Girly Loop” from 1993
Where do I pick up a wild woman? In the woods where the wild women grow, of course! Sounds logical enough to me.
[“She knows what God gave her eyelashes for.”]

Cocteau Twins – “Pitch the Baby (Live at The Roxy, New York, 12 June 1996)”
A spacier, sorta trip-hop version of the song from 1990’s Heaven or Las Vegas. Luscious.
[“I only want to love you…”]

The Fatima Mansions – “Everything I Do (I Do It For You)” from 1992
A bizarre overhaul of the Bryan Adams song. Seems to anticipate trip-hop by taking cues from The Wolfgang Press and Mark Stewart. Technically it hit #7 in the UK, but it was paired as a double A-side to the “Suicide is Painless” cover done by Manic Street Preachers. That was doubtlessly a lot more popular.
[“I do it… When I’m alone, when I’m in public, when I’m on the bus, when I’m in the bathroom…”]

Cathy Dennis – “Just Another Dream” from 1990
Yes, you bet I did.

Diamond D & the Psychotic Neurotics – “Sally Got a One Track Mind” from 1992
Old school classic. Great bass groove.
[“Sweet sixteen but she looked 21,
If the price was right, she’ll be twice as nice!”]

Long Fin Killie – “How I Blew It With Houdini” from 1995
Who knows why Houdini’s an old woman, but I guess she’s full of surprises. I’m going to write more about them soon, but you can probably find all three of their albums for $5 altogether (not including shipping) if you browse around. I spent more on their Hands and Lips EP!
[“I tried to back down courteously,
‘Tonight’s the night for clubbing, dear,’
But she pulled her arm away from me and screamed,
‘You hopeless, e-fused disco sheep!
I’m looking for a sensitive, intelligent man,
But all those guys have boyfriends,
And you won’t do, no, you won’t do!'”]

Cinnamon – “I Used to Be Your Loneliness” from 2000
Swedish and lovely. Whatever happened to them?

The JudyBats – “Don’t Drop the Baby” from 1991
A piece of American pop/alternative melodrama that I grew up on. An old college radio favorite.
[“Aren’t we all born at sea?
The water breaks, the woman screams…”]

The Terminals – “Both Ends Burning” from 1992
The Roxy Music song done in lo-fi, brooding, slightly psyched-out Kiwi style. It appeared on the B-side of the “Black Creek” 7″.
[“Do I have the speed to carry on?”]

Hunters & Collectors – “Carry Me” from 1984
Essentially their hit “Throw Your Arms Around Me” with less sentimentality.
[“But I’m sorry if I showed you
how to lift this truck up off the ground,
Yeah, I’m not sorry if I moved ten tonnes or more…
And I’m not sorry if I showed you how to wriggle round and round,
As long as you could push me through the door,
So if my overcoat is hung and I’m too far gone to see
And the last drinks bell is rung, you can carry me,
Carry me…”]

Koncz Zsuzsa – “Vándorének (Wanderer’s Song)” from 1972
I made a small post several months ago that included a couple of videos of hers from the Sixties. This is obviously something later, but still pretty exquisite!

John and Jackie – “Little Girl” from 1958
Serge & Jane, eat your hearts out! This probably contains almost as many orgasms as “Love to Love You Baby” (and in a shorter amount of time, no less!).

Julie London – “Go Slow” from 1957
The sensual side of the Fifties, part deux. Yum.
[“Go slow, oooooh honey, take it easy on the curves;
When love is slow, oooooh honey, what a tonic for my nerves…”]

That’s all for the moment!


15 February 2008 Posted by | Apollo 440, Billy Mackenzie, Cathy Dennis, Chick Corea, Cinnamon, Cocteau Twins, David Sylvian, Diamond D, Hunters & Collectors, John & Jackie, Julie London, Koncz Zsuzsa, Long Fin Killie, Moonshake, Music, Ryuichi Sakamoto, The Fatima Mansions, The Judybats, The Terminals | 1 Comment

Tell me, where are your black eyes? The capitalist world is still collapsing.

This summer, I listened to Hunters & Collectors’ 1982 self-titled debut album more than any other record. It’s seemingly matched the weather (it’s felt about as hot as the Outback this year) and my increasingly fraught mental state culminating with a minor emotional collapse about three weeks ago. I’m not sure how I came across it, but I think I was reading about a band whose sound was compared to the earlier and less accessible post-punk output of Hunters & Collectors. “Earlier, less accessible, post-punk?” That was enough to intrigue me and send me into All Music Guide, where I read that their first few records were harsher affairs that had little in common with later outings where they became Australia’s most beloved “pub-rock” band.

They started out as a dozen-plus collective in Melbourne and would often invite members of the audience to join them on stage to bash away during their performances. Their self-titled record seems to have a lot in common with the likes of A Certain Ratio, 23 Skidoo, and to a lesser extent Shriekback and The Birthday Party. There’s a pretty heavy rhythmic emphasis and a definite focus on the basslines, not to neglect to mention the occasional spot of brass performed by Horns of Contempt (greatest name ever!). It’s also very doomy, too; one review claimed that it sounded like a man losing his mind in the Outback. I think the man in question might be Julian Cope! Mark Seymour sounds a bit like him at points (particularly when he’s hollering away), and when combined with the love of brass and how “Alligator Engine” sounds like the halfway point between The Teardrop Explodes and Shriekback… Well, I’m convinced anyhow. As for the lyrics, some of them are Birthday Party-esque sketches of characters (see “Junket Head” and “Boo Boo Kiss”), others are seemingly random and cobbled together; I think I once described “Talking to a Stranger” as being filled to the brim with Dadaist non-sequiturs. Even so, it’s still one of the most fraught-sounding songs I have had the pleasure of hearing. The video’s classic, too, as you’ll see below. It was directed by Richard Lowenstein and famously attracted the attention of INXS, who used him in a number of their videos, most notably “Need You Tonight/Mediate” and its Bob Dylan pastiche during the latter ditty.

Anyway, here’s some mp3s. Be prepared for something rather intense and unsettling, if not occasionally harrowing. What’s the occasion? Aside from their debut album being in heavy rotation on my CD player, it’s been exactly 25 years to the day since the video for “Lumps of Lead” was filmed/set, as you’ll see below (and in my comment on Youtube).

“Talking to a Stranger”
(Note: the opening line of this song is the opening line to the Baudelaire poem “L’Albatross”.)

“Skin of Our Teeth”
(This one’s got quite the build-up!)

“Run Run Run”
(Skronky intro, cathartic finale.)

“World of Stone”
(The title track from their debut 1981 EP, which has since been appended to CD issues of their self-titled album.)

(Also from the same EP, and more playful-sounding than anything above.)

“Betty’s Worry or The Slab”
(From their 1984 album The Jaws of Life. It’s hailed in Oz as the best native song about drinking/masturbating/performing oral sex on a girl.)


“Talking to a Stranger”

“Lumps of Lead” (off the 1982 EP Payload)

“Judas Sheep” (from their second LP, 1983’s The Fireman’s Curse)

And sadly, the video for “Betty’s Worry or The Slab” has gone missing from Youtube. Bastards!

Buy the reissues of their self-titled, The Fireman’s Curse, and The Jaws of Life. I would have linked to importCDs (where I scored my copy of the self-titled for about $14 including S&H), but they don’t seem to be carrying it anymore. These are only available on Australian import, but the links above feature them at reasonable prices.

17 September 2007 Posted by | Hunters & Collectors, Music | Leave a comment