Saturday, 5 August 2017

LINER NOTES: COME ON LET'S GO [2002]






1.    Five Years – David Bowie
2.    Captain Easychord – Stereolab
3.    Phantasies – Stephen Malkmus
4.    Hard to Explain – The Strokes
5.    Idioteque – Radiohead
6.    Fell in Love with a Girl – The White Stripes
7.    Walking With Thee – Clinic
8.    The Modern Age – The Strokes
9.    Have You Seen Her Face – The Byrds
10.  Late Night – Syd Barrett
11.  Sunshine Superman – Donovan
12.  It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue – The 13th Floor Elevators
13.  Powder Blue – Elbow
14.  Too Real – Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
15.  Let it Run – Beachwood Sparks
16.  Come on Let’s Go – Broadcast
17.  Baby It’s the Best – Weird War
18.  Dancing Days – Led Zeppelin
19.  Can't You Hear Me Knocking – Rolling Stones
20.  I Forgot – The Moldy Peaches
21.  Redfuchsiatamborine&gravel – David Candy


August 2001, in the beer garden of The Milford Arms. The Former Cohabitant from Brighton is regaling us with tales of his recent adventures in the Orient. He tells of Dionysian revelry on Thai beaches, of sharing rooms with rats and lizards and oversized insects, and the expediency of travelling light. It sounds exciting and terrifying in equal measure. The former cohabitant from Brighton is not the first of our friends to engage in activities of this kind: No Eyes has done a bit of it, as has the girl who used to live with my lady friend on the Isle of Dogs, and the brother of the guy who used to own a pager is constantly at it. Now, in our mid-twenties, there’s a sense that if any of the rest of us fancy a bit of this then we’d better get cracking.
Initially, I’m not very receptive to the idea but am gradually cajoled into it by my lady friend, as is the Guy Who Passed Out in Debenhams, with far greater ease than I. The logistics of the whole operation are a mystery to me. It’s something to get my head around. In the meantime I will have to curb my spending. My lifestyle is by no means extravagant but I earn a mediocre wage and will need enough money to cover my airfare to wherever it is we end up going, living costs whilst away, and a reasonable amount of cash to tide me over on my return. Right now, this doesn’t bear thinking about.
 My disposable income broadly goes towards four things: drinking in pubs, eating out, buying records, and holidays (most of my clothes are bought from charity shops). I am not prepared to forgo a social life for the next 12 months but am open to negotiation on the other points. I will sacrifice visiting curry houses and the acquisition of full-priced vinyl and instead satisfy myself with the occasional fry-up and buying secondhand records of limited value. A third gite camp is regrettably out of the question, although I will find the cash for a short weekend away in Amsterdam, with my Cornish friend, my lady friend and the girl she lived with on the Isle of Dogs, the guy who used to own a pager as well as his lady friend, who tenuously resembles brand mascot Emily the Strange.


Trip to Amsterdam

Come on Let’s Go feels lost in a chasm between 2001's The Boys of Summer and 2003's Journey to the Center of the Mind. It is a transitional work, fairly narrow in its scope. Bear in mind the chronology. My previous two compendiums were compiled with consecutive French holidays in mind – they were to be symbolic of them – and consequently adhere to an academic calendar. This means that Come on Let’s Go effectively begins in September 2001. Furthermore, it attempts to collate fragments of music deemed unsuitable for inclusion on the preceding playlist, for I hadn’t wanted to subject my fellow French explorers to much indie music. As a result, there’s very little on Come on Let’s Go that was released in the year it purports to celebrate: only Weird War and Clinic fulfil this criterion.
There had already been signs that my enthusiasm for so-called ‘indie’ music was undergoing something of a revival. Perennial favourites Stereolab had pointed me in the direction Broadcast, Make Up ensured I’d buy into whatever Weird War had to offer, and the ongoing renaissance of the band Delta awakened me to alternative-country bands like Beachwood Sparks and The Tyde. (One of my favourite musical memories is seeing Delta – in support of Beachwood Sparks at the 100 Club – paying homage to the then recently deceased George Harrison with a sublime rendition of what’s probably my favourite Beatles’ tune, If I Needed Someone.) Finally, Radiohead were beginning to justify the praise lavished upon them with the release, in a very short space of time, of Kid A (October 2000) and Amnesiac (June 2001). The two albums resulted from the same recording sessions, in fact.

Many people are of the opinion that The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars is David Bowie’s finest work. I purchased a copy, for next to nothing, to find out. I had decided in advance that Five Years would feature on Come on Let’s Go after seeing footage of Bowie and his band performing it on The Old Grey Whistle Test. I concluded that although Ziggy Stardust might be Bowie’s most consistent work, it wasn’t his strongest. Five Years isn’t even my favourite song on the album – Moonage Daydream is – but it does make for a good opening number, so I went with it.
Readers of my previous liner notes should have observed a preponderance of tracks by ‘the groop’ Stereolab. I think I was introduced to them by the guy who used to own many tapes, but I can’t be sure. I do know that my first Stereolab purchase was the 10” EP Ping Pong, bought in the final month of my first year at university – July 1994. I’m by no means a completist when it comes to these things, but I own most of their studio albums, as well as one EP, a mini-LP, and a couple of compilations. Sound-Dust is Stereolab’s seventh album. I purchased it on vinyl – as I do with most of their work – one of only 1,800 copies pressed. Where I place a Stereolab tune on any playlist will depend on the tempo of the tune I want to place. Captain Easychord is quite an upbeat number, a perfect antidote to the funereal tenor of Five Years, and so it becomes the second track of the compilation.
Pavement’s dissolution was sudden, although their final album, Terror Twilight, felt laboured at times. Stephen Malkmus didn’t hang about getting himself back in proverbial saddle; just two years passed before he released Stephen Malkmus, the same amount of time that separated the last three Pavement albums. It wasn’t a radical departure from his former band’s sound, but Malkmus seemed reinvigorated. The song where he imagines himself as Yul Brynner – Jo Jo’s Jacket – is particularly amusing, although I‘ve gone with Phantasies. Both were released as singles.
One cannot underestimate the impact The Strokes debut album Is This It, released in July 2001, had on the musical landscape, capturing the hearts and minds of indie kids everywhere. It wasn’t just about the tunes, let alone the lyrical content, but also the band’s image. Indie music was going through one of its sartorially ‘safe’ phases – loose jeans, over-sized denim jackets, sensible shirts, graphic-printed T-shirts, trainers. The difference between this and what The Strokes wore is quite subtle. Boot-cut jeans were eschewed in favour of drainpipes, stout Nike trainers were swapped for svelte Converse All Stars, T-shirts became tight and open necked, shirts were bought second-hand and sometimes worn with a tie, leather jackets were pure vintage, hair was all over the place. Basically, they looked like Blondie did in the 1970s. It was almost a return to the early-to-mid 1990s, and what could have happened to Britpop if Oasis hadn’t come along and made it all baggy. Bands like Travis, Stereophonics and Coldplay must have been all at sea.
A year earlier and Radiohead might have been too. Fortunately for them they’d already managed to disassociate themselves from the dreariness of the post-Britpop scene and could therefore coexist alongside whatever the latest thing might be. They deserved to. Idioteque is an example of indie music transcending indie music and just being music – their best tune since Airbag – and I put together a Best of Radiohead playlist off the back of it.
The White Stripes released their third album, White Blood Cells, at almost precisely the same time as The Stokes did their first. Hence, both groups were seen as the vanguard of the post-punk revival. The White Stripes were in actual fact as rooted in the blues as they were garage rock – it was their image and pared down sound that associated them – but it was obvious that both bands were offering something very different to the current trends.
I think I came by Walking with Thee by Liverpool band Clinic after hearing it on the radio (we didn’t have access to the internet in those days). Under normal circumstances I probably would have proceeded to buy Clinic’s album, but I was saving my pennies. Instead I bought the 7” single, so they got something out of me. It’s an abrasive little number and far more interesting than most of the music made by their peers (The Coral, The Zutons, etc.). The Strokes second contribution to my playlist – The Modern Age – was also purchased as a single, albeit on CD for next to nothing.


Trip to Plymouth

When I plundered my dad’s record collection for Stones records in 2001 I’d also grabbed a couple of Byrds’ albums – Mr. Tambourine Man and Younger than Yesterday. Aside from the contemporary groups bothering my turntable, I was slowly entering my second ‘60s period’, the first having occurred in and around 1995 (comprising the Rolling Stones, Love, The Beatles, Small Faces, the Blow Up soundtrack). Whilst I’d leant previously towards the Mod-ish face of that decade, I gravitated now towards its more psychedelic and rockier elements: golden-age era Stones, Jefferson Aeroplane, Syd Barrett, Donovan, The Monks, The 13th Floor Elevators. Despite David Crosby’s best efforts, which would eventually see him kicked out of the band, The Byrds probably fell somewhere in between (as did Love really). Ostensibly, Younger than Yesterday takes it lead from The Beatles’ albums Rubber Soul and Revolver. There are touches, though, that are very much The Byrds’ own: the Tijuana brass on So You Want to be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star, the country and western inflections of Time Between, Roger McGuinn’s atonal guitar riffs throughout. I considered kicking off this compendium with So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star but settled instead for the Chris Hillman penned Have You Seen Her Face, although I would like to have included both.
Syd Barrett presented another dilemma. I borrowed a copy of his debut solo album, The Madcap Laughs, from Hounslow Library and my instinct was to represent it with the penultimate song, If It’s in You. It’s a weirdly amusing song, but Barrett’s strident vocal is indicative of his mental state. I’d recently watched The Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett Story, a BBC documentary, and read his biography, Lost in the Woods, and formed the opinion that Syd wasn’t quite as ‘mad’ as is often made out. If It’s in You suggests otherwise, and so Late Night made the cut in its place.
Presumably, Barrett wasn’t in town when Donn Pennebaker was shooting Bob Dylan’s peregrinations for the film Dont [sic] Look Back, but can you imagine? Instead, we get Donovan doing his best to impress with an acoustic rendition of To Sing for You. That’s no criticism, otherwise I wouldn’t have included Sunshine Superman here. Coincidentally, in the film Dylan replies with It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue, which is the song that follows, except this time it’s The 13th Floor Elevators doing the honours. Tommy Hall’s signature ‘electric jug’ is conspicuous by way of its absence, but it’s no worse off for that.
Before they were semi-famous, Elbow made pretty interesting music. I’d heard a particular song of theirs at a party, which turned out to be Any Day Now. This was before they’d released their debut album, Asleep in the Back. I assumed that what I’d heard was their new single, Powder Blue, and so bought that and quickly realised it wasn’t. It would be many years later before I finally established the true identity of the song I heard at that party, but either track would have done in the circumstance, initiating a run of tunes that are fairly long, slow of pace and lugubrious in mood. I’ve built an anti-climax, as opposed to an anticlimax.
Too Real (4 minutes and 55 seconds long) by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club calls to mind Spiritualized or Northern Soul era Verve. Let it Run by Beachwood Sparks lasts an epic 6 minutes 38 seconds, although its coda drags on for more than a minute and a half of that. By the time it’s over, at a mere 3 minutes and 17 seconds, the punchy Come on Let’s Go comes as something of a relief. You’d think it might jar but the late Trish Keenan’s soft vocals connect satisfyingly with the gentle harmonies of Beachwood Sparks.
The first Weird War album is not their best. I don’t think Ian Svenonius had fully defined his vision for the new band – or maybe I was just upset about finding out about Make Up too late to see them play live. According to the sleeve notes, “By following the ‘Texas Instruments Calculator’ theory of minimal circuitry and isolated components, Weird War has circumvented the transmission of responsible knowledge and the provocation to enact revision amid the delusion of representation.” How this relates to Baby It’s the Best is anyone’s guess, but it makes for a good read.
Led Zeppelin: file alongside Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd. Acts of this ilk weren’t considered especially cool amongst the lo-fi loving indie aficionados of the late ‘80/early ‘90s (Syd Barrett era Floyd excepting). Not that this would have bothered me much, it just meant I didn’t come across them. The guy who used to own a pager, on the other hand, had been exposed to Led Zeppelin from an early age and was aware there was much more to them than Stairway to Heaven, which is manna to the muso. It was Led Zeppelin III that I feasted on initially, courtesy of Hounslow Library. Thereafter I found a cheap copy of Houses of the Holy on vinyl, which to this day is my favourite Led Zeppelin album. I still can’t stand Stairway to Heaven though.
In the latter of half of 2001 – too late to make an impression on The Boys of Summer – I purchased copies of the Rolling Stones' Let It Bleed (a re-issue) and Sticky Fingers (an original copy). Gimme Shelter originally featured here, but the song I really wanted to use was Can’t You Hear Me Knocking off of Sticky Fingers. At over seven minutes long there wasn't room, and so Gimme Shelter got the nod. Since freeing myself from the temporal constraints imposed by Minidisc, I've reverted to my original preference.
Opting for Gimme Shelter left me with just under three minutes to play with, which was enough to accommodate any number of tracks from the eponymous debut album by 'anti-folk' band The Moldy Peaches. The Moldy Peaches were associated with The Strokes and The White Stripes – it was all about the timing; their sound wasn’t remotely similar to either. My lady friend bought me their album for my birthday. If I’m honest, I wasn’t overly impressed, but I Forgot holds a certain charm.
My mild disappointment with the Weird War album was ameliorated by the discovery of the record Play Power by Svenonius’s alter-ego David Candy. “The best art attracts the best people, so I like to go see Supremacist artists like Kazimir Malevich or Vladimir Mayakovsky,” proclaims David Candy over the flamenco guitar of Redfuchsiatamborine&gravel. Again, this track didn’t fit on my original compilation, but it was listened to more often than many of the tracks that did, and so I’ve retrospectively tacked it on at the end.


Trip to Brighton

There turned out to be many more curries – as well as games of badminton and squash (the latter with the guy who took a shine to The Stars of Track and Field), afternoons spent drinking in the Portobello Star, evenings at the Dive Bar and the 100 Club, the occasional gig (The Darkness, Delta, The Dylan Rabbit, Arthur Lee), long weekends in Brighton, Plymouth and Nottinghamshire, camping trips, and excursions to various football grounds in support of Plymouth Argyle’s successful push for promotion into the Second Division. How I ever afforded my five months of travelling must be a testament to a healthier economy, a strong pound and a more reasonable cost of living. I can barely conceive of it now but am glad I took the opportunity when it presented itself.

 

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