lunes, 13 de julio de 2020

Inspiral Carpets

After the Stone Roses and Happy Mondays, Inspiral Carpets were arguably the third most popular band to emerge from the late-'80s/early-'90s Madchester scene. Like The Charlatans, they weren't quite as innovative as the city's two standard-bearers, relying less on the contemporary dance club beats that became Madchester pop's identifying signature. They did, however, share a fascination with trippy psychedelia, particularly the Farfisa organ-drenched sound of Nuggets-style garage rock from the '60s, which set them apart from their peers. It also enabled them to tinker with their sound once the Madchester fad had passed, and the group continued to score hits right up to their mid-'90s breakup. 

Inspiral Carpets were formed in the Greater Manchester town of Oldham by guitarist Graham Lambert -who'd been playing around the area since 1982- and vocalist Stephen Holt, who soon both recruited drummer, Craig Gill. The group began to settle on a permanent lineup in 1986 when Farfisa organist Clint Boon joined up, before bassist Dave Swift came into the fold the following year. '60s-influenced garage punk-style demo tapes, recorded at Boon's studio, helped to get the band noticed in Manchester, as did local support slots with The Bodines and Spacemen 3. Clever merchandising also helped the band out financially; they sold T-shirts featuring their smoking-cow logo and their slogan "Cool as F*ck," which got them media attention when a student wearing the shirt was arrested for violating obscenity laws. Their first national release came in 1988 with the 'Plane Crash EP' on Playtime Records, but when that label's distributor went out of business later that year, the band set up their own imprint, Cow Records, which was financed mostly by T-shirt sales. The first release on Cow was the 1989 EP 'Trainsurfing', which got the band even more national attention. At this point, Holt and Swift -not keen on professional careers involving lots of time and travel- decided to leave, and were replaced by vocalist Tom Hingley (ex-Too Much Texas) and bassist Martyn Walsh. With their arrival, the band's Madchester-compatible style began to crystallize, as evidenced on the new lineup's first release, the swirling, organ-driven psychedelic tune "Joe" (May 1989). The single caused a stir in the indie underground that only intensified with the follow-ups "Find Out Why" and "Move," and after being courted by several major labels, the band wound up signing with the large London-based indie Mute. 

Inspiral Carpets' debut album, 'Life', was released in the spring of 1990. Their first single for Mute, "This Is How It Feels," hit the British Top 20 and landed them a TV appearance on Top of the Pops; the follow-up, "She Comes in the Fall," reached the Top 30. The band recorded sessions with DJ John Peel and appeared at that year's Reading Festival, helping make 'Life' a sizable hit. After releasing the 'Island Head EP' late in the year, the band completed its next full-length, the darker 'The Beast Inside', which appeared in the spring of 1991. For the supporting tour, the band hired future Oasis mastermind Noel Gallagher as a roadie. Inspiral Carpets scored their biggest chart hit in the spring of 1992 with "Dragging Me Down," which appeared on their third album, 'Revenge of the Goldfish', released later that fall. Although it produced three more Top 40 singles and got the band a bigger overseas audience, the album was issued when the Manchester scene's moment was perceived to have passed. Next, the group returned to a more basic garage/psychedelic sound for 1994's 'Devil Hopping'. It was generally well received, with the singles "Saturn 5" and "I Want You" (the latter a duet with The Fall's Mark E. Smith, who did not appear on the album version) returning them to the Top 20. In late 1995, Mute released a compilation called 'The Singles', and soon after, it was announced that label and band were parting ways. Inspiral Carpets split not long after; Boon formed The Clint Boon Experience, while Hingley formed a group called The Lovers with Jerry Kelly of The Lotus Eaters. Hingley went solo in late 2000, issuing the acoustic album 'Keep Britain Untidy'. 

After an eight-year hiatus, the band re-formed for two well-received sold-out tours in 2003, and this reappearance also brought the appropriately titled single, "Come Back Tomorrow," a recording culled from a 1995 session. Also issued that year was the three-disc compilation 'Cool As', which brought together all of the band's singles and promo videos to date, plus a selection of B-sides. A DVD of an April 2003 show, 'Live at Brixton Academy', appeared in early 2004. Although Inspiral Carpets continued to be a going concern over the next few years, its members also furthered their careers outside the band, with Gill founding Manchester Music Tours, Lambert pursuing concert promotion, Boon DJing on XFM Manchester, Walsh providing music marketing advice, and Hingley teaching performance art. The years 2007 and 2008 brought further tours after the release of a digital-only rarities compilation, 'Keep the Circle'. 

Following a rather public split on social media, by the end of February 2011 Hingley was no longer part of the band, and that August it was announced that Holt was returning to front Inspiral Carpets for the first time in 23 years. Sporadic international live shows were announced before the band issued the single "You're So Good for Me" on Record Store Day in April 2012, and they followed this a year later with "Fix Your Smile." In April 2014, Cherry Red Records re-released the Holt-fronted, 1987-recorded demo album 'Dung 4', which had previously only been available on cassette for a short while in the late '80s. The greater news was the band's decision to expand its reunion to the studio, which meant that the original lineup featuring Stephen Holt recorded their first-ever studio album two decades after forming. This record, naturally called 'Inspiral Carpets', appeared to strong reviews in the fall of 2014. [SOURCE: ALLMUSIC

jueves, 9 de julio de 2020

Jad Fair

There are plenty of performers who rock critics describe by using the label "primitive," but few if any can hold a candle to the greatest American rock primitive Jad Fair. With his wildly influential band Half Japanese or as a solo performer, Fair has constructed a prolific and extremely interesting career. He writes and records songs that display an uncomplicated emotional directness, unselfconscious (almost hokey) charm and warmth, and a genial simplicity that is beyond words. Fair's later recordings are certainly more accessible -in some ways resembling those of another great American primitive, Jonathan Richman- but his stock-in-trade is still the ability to compose and play music without conventional command of an instrument. Although he has "played" guitar since the mid-'70s, Fair, according to past and present members of Half Japanese, still can't name a chord, plays riffs almost by accident, never tunes his instrument, and wouldn't have it any other way. Soon after Half Japanese released their legendary triple-LP debut '1/2 Gentlemen/Not Beasts' in 1980, Fair began his concurrent solo career with 'Everybody Knew...But Me'. He's sporadically released fully solo efforts, including 1989's 'Great Expectations' and 2011's 'His Name Itself Is Music', but much of his discography outside of his main band consists of collaborations with the likes of Daniel Johnston, Yo La Tengo, R. Stevie Moore, and countless others. In addition to his work as a musician, Fair is also a visual artist who works in paint, digital graphics, and most notably paper cuttings; his art graces the cover of most of Half Japanese's albums and nearly all his solo efforts, and he's created artwork for recordings by The Residents, Dorothy Wiggin, and The National Jazz Trio of Scotland

Fair's career as a solo artist began in 1980, when his prolific output of songs was more than Half Japanese could handle. Early efforts such as 'Zombies of Mora-Tau' and 'Everybody Knew...But Me' were tentative and, in terms of the noise-versus-music factor, more noise than music, akin to early Half Japanese records. But by the mid- to late '80s, Fair's solo records were becoming more accessible as he began collaborating with mutual admirers such as Terry Adams of NRBQ, J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr., Don Fleming of Gumball, Kramer of Bongwater, Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, and Maureen Tucker of The Velvet Underground. Later on, Fair would cut full albums with Yo La Tengo (1998's 'Strange But True'), Teenage Fanclub (2002's 'Words of Wisdom and Hope'), The Pastels (1991's 'This Could Be the Night'), and The Danielson Famile (2014's 'Solid Gold Heart'). Fair also cut several albums with his brother (and Half Japanese co-founder) David Fair, including 1996's 'Best Friends', 1998's 'Monster Songs for Children', 2006's 'Six Dozen Cookies', and 2016's 'Shake, Cackle and Squall'. Fair, Norman Blake of Teenage Fanclub, and the Japanese group Tenniscoats teamed up for two albums, 2014's 'How Many Glasgow' and 2017's 'Raindrops'. If the records got a little more polished, they certainly never lost a bit of Fair's childlike view of the world, nor his explosive, giddy belief in rock's liberating potential and endless possibilities. (Fair's more spontaneous and less-refined impulses continued to make themselves heard on his work with fellow primitive songwriter Daniel Johnston, who briefly worked with Fair in a band called The Lucky Sperms). 

Given Fair's prolific output as a solo artist, in collaboration with other musicians, and with Half Japanese, keeping track of his discography is a challenge, though 2011's 'Beautiful Songs: The Best of Jad Fair', a three-CD set compiled by Fair himself, is a thorough introduction to his body of work, and a testament to his idiosyncratic passion for life, love, and music. (It's worth noting, however, that within a year of the collection's release, Fair had already released four more albums, and he'll write a song on the theme of your choice for a commission of $300.00.) After a decade-plus hiatus from the recording studio, Half Japanese kicked off another prolific run of albums with 2014's 'Overjoyed', yet Fair remained even more productive outside of the group, with collaborative efforts including 'The History of Crying' (with Kramer, 2017) and 'For Everyone' (with David Liebe Hart and Jason Willett, 2018). [SOURCE: ALLMUSIC]

miércoles, 8 de julio de 2020

The Jags

The Jags are a fondly remembered one-hit wonder of the late-70s U.K. power pop explosion. The quartet was formed in 1978 by the Yorkshire-based songwriting team of Nick Watkins (vocals) and John "Twink" Adler (guitar), with Steve Prudence (bass) and Alex Baird (drums). In July of 1978, they signed to Island Records and released a promising four-track EP. Their debut LP in 1980, 'Evening Standards', included the memorable, though highly derivative, "Back of My Hand," which had reached the U.K. Top 40 the previous fall. The follow-up, "Woman's World" barely scraped its way on to the charts. Though 'Evening Standards' featured a really solid set of punchy power pop songs, critics focussed instead on Watkins' Costello-like delivery, writing the band off as merely mimics. As steam ran out of the power pop craze, the band attempted to change their sound a bit. 1981's 'No Tie Like the Present' featured a slightly new direction, but it was generally overlooked. By 1982, The Jags had disbanded for good, though "Back of My Hand" had a revival of sorts in the '90s, appearing on several compilations. [SOURCE: ALLMUSIC

martes, 7 de julio de 2020


Punk rock / hardcore group from Bayside, Queens, N.Y.C. Their first release was in 1980. Band was originally a concept by manager and producer Bob Sallese and fronted by the enigmatic and classically trained pianist Jism. Larry Ray (now deceased) was the official drummer but Greg D'Angelo and Dave Miranda appeared on some records and play at some live gigs. Ism's 1983 full-length debut 'A Diet For The Worms', originally available in a limited release by S.I.N. Records, dominated college radio and the CMJ radio charts while the group, Jism, popularized their new brand of hardcore punk at venues like CBGB, City Gardens and A7 alongside the likes of The Ramones and Black Flag. [SOURCE: TOWER RECORDS

lunes, 6 de julio de 2020

Head Resonance Company

In the late '70s and early '80s, German-based art collective Head Resonance Company used throbbing electronics, bass guitar, and metal percussion as a major component of its multifaceted endeavors, which included multimedia installations, performance art, graphics, and concerts. Peter Elsner and Benjamin Heidersberger founded the Head Resonance Company in 1978 as an interdisciplinary art and research project concerned with studying how ideas are realized in space and time. Under the umbrella of the HRC, they also explored vocals as simply Head Resonance, orchestral samples as Organon, and German new wave as Peter Pixel. [SOURCE: BRAINWASHED

jueves, 2 de julio de 2020

Inca Babies

There’s not much to say about early releases by Manchester’s Inca Babies beyond noting that the band makes every conceivable effort to be The Birthday Party. Each member emulates his BP counterpart, but the Inca Babies lack the original’s power and completely miss the dark humor. Even the song titles on the early records have a familiar ring: “16 Tons of Fink,” “Cactus Mouth Informer,” “Luecotomy Meat Boss.” Real tribute-band stuff. 

Adding a member for 'Opium Den', Inca Babies toned down the Birthday Party-isms and enhanced their presentation with raw psychedelia and some dirty (if dilettantish) country-blues. Lead singer Harry S combines his Nick Cave imitation with a gratuitous and phony southern accent (the American South, that is). Still, 'Opium Den' shows that the band is capable of producing work with its own signature, or at least drawing from more than one influence. (But the inclusion of lyrics is an ill-advised move.) 

The next year, the Babies came up with 'Evil Hour', a solid piece of work following in its predecessor’s style. They’re not re-inventing the wheel here, but they have developed into their own band. Although tempos occasionally approach hardcore velocity on Side Two (usually at the expense of hooks), there are actually melodies you might find yourself humming later on, lots of nifty organ washes (courtesy of Clint Boon of Inspiral Carpets) and really nice clear-but-raw sound. [SOURCE: TROUSER PRESS

miércoles, 1 de julio de 2020

In Excelsis

In Excelsis was an English goth rock band formed in Luton in may 1983 by former UK Decay guitarist Steve Spon and disbanded in 1985. Other members were Errol Blythe (vocals, ex-Ritual), Mark Bond (bass) and Colin "Roxy" Rox (drums, ex-Shy Tots, later in New York City noise-rock band DUSTdevils and Jayne County & The Electric Chairs). 

martes, 30 de junio de 2020

Ian Dury

Rock & roll has always been populated by fringe figures, cult artists who managed to develop a fanatical following because of their outsized quirks, but few cult rockers have ever been quite as weird, or beloved, as Ian Dury. As the leader of the underappreciated and ill-fated pub rockers Kilburn & the High Roads, Dury cut a striking figure -he remained handicapped from a childhood bout with polio, yet stalked the stage with dynamic charisma, spitting out music hall numbers and rockers in his thick Cockney accent. Dury was 28 at the time he formed Kilburn, and once they disbanded, conventional wisdom would have suggested that he was far too old to become a pop star, but conventional wisdom never played much of a role in Dury's career. Signing with the fledgling indie label Stiff in 1978, Dury developed a strange fusion of music hall, punk rock, and disco that brought him to stardom in his native England. Driven by a warped sense of humor and a pulsating beat, singles like "Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick," "Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll," and "Reasons to Be Cheerful, Pt. 3" became Top Ten hits in the U.K., yet Dury's most distinctive qualities -his dry wit and wordplay, thick Cockney accent, and fascination with music hall- kept him from gaining popularity outside of England. After his second album, Dury's style became formulaic, and he faded away in the early '80s, turning to an acting career instead. 

At the age of seven, Ian Dury was stricken with polio. After spending two years in hospital, he attended a school for the physically handicapped. Following high school, he attended to the Royal College of Art, and after his graduation, he taught painting at the Canterbury Art College. In 1970, when he was 28 years old, Dury formed his first band, Kilburn & the High Roads. The Kilburns played simple,'50s rock & roll, occasionally making a detour into jazz. Over the next three years, they became a fixture on England's pub rock circuit. By 1973, their following was large enough that Dury could quit his teaching job. Several British critics became dedicated fans, and one of them, Charlie Gillett, became their manager. Gillett helped the band sign to the Warner subsidiary Raft, and the group recorded an album for the label in 1974. Warner refused to release the album, and after some struggling, the Kilburns broke away from Raft and signed with the Pye subsidiary Dawn in 1975. Dawn released 'Handsome' in 1975, but by that point, the pub rock scene was in decline, and the album was ignored. Kilburn & the High Roads disbanded by the end of the year. 

Following the dissolution of the Kilburns, Dury continued to work with the band's pianist/guitarist, Chaz Jankel. By 1977, Dury had secured a contract with Stiff Records, and he recorded his debut with Jankel and a variety of pub rock veterans -including former Kilburn Davey Payne- and session musicians. Stiff had Dury play the 1977 package tour Live Stiffs in order to support his debut album 'New Boots and Panties!!', so he and Jankel assembled The Blockheads, recruiting guitarist John Turnbull, pianist Mickey Gallagher, bassist Norman Watt Roy, and drummer Charley Charles. Dury & the Blockheads became a very popular act shortly after the Live Stiffs tour, and 'New Boots and Panties!!' became a major hit, staying on the U.K. charts for nearly two years; it would eventually sell over a million copies worldwide. The album's first single, "What a Waste," reached the British Top Ten, while the subsequent non-LP single "Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick" climbed all the way to number one. 

Ian Dury had unexpectedly become a superstar in Britain, and American record companies were suddenly very interested in him. Arista won the rights to distribute Dury's Stiff recordings in the U.S., but despite overwhelmingly positive reviews, 'New Boots and Panties!!' stiffed in America, and the label instantly dropped him. Despite his poor U.S. sales, Dury was still riding high in his homeland, with his second album, 'Do It Yourself', entering the U.K. charts upon its summer release in 1979. Dury supported the acclaimed album, which saw him delving deeply into disco, with an extensive tour capped off by the release of the single "Reasons to Be Cheerful, Pt. 3," which climbed to number three. Once the tour was completed, Jankel left the band and Dury replaced him with Wilko Johnson, former lead guitarist for Dr. Feelgood. With Johnson, Dury released his last Stiff album, 'Laughter', which received mixed reviews but respectable sales upon its 1980 release. The following year, he signed with Polydor Records and reunited with Jankel. The pair flew to the Bahamas to record his Polydor debut with reggae superstars Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare. The resulting album, 'Lord Upminster', received mixed reviews and poor sales upon its 1981 release; the album was notable for the inclusion of the single "Spasticus Autisticus," a song Dury wrote for the United Nations Year of the Disabled, but was rejected. 

Following the failure of 'Lord Upminster', Dury quietly backed away from a recording career and began to concentrate on acting; 1984's '4000 Weeks Holiday', an album recorded with his new band The Music Students, was his last major record of the '80s. He appeared in several plays and television shows, as well as the Peter Greenaway film "The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover" and Roman Polanski's movie "Pirates". He also began to write jingles for British commercials. In 1989, he wrote the musical 'Apples' with Mickey Gallagher, and he also appeared in the stage production of the play. Dury returned to recording in 1992 with 'The Bus Driver's Prayer and Other Stories'. 

In May 1998, Dury announced that he had been diagnosed with colon cancer in 1995 and that the disease had spread to his liver. He decided to release the information the weekend of his 56th birthday, in hopes of offering encouragement for others battling the disease. For the next year, he battled the disease while keeping a public profile -in the fall of 1999, he was inducted into Q magazine's songwriting hall of fame, and he appeared at the ceremony. Sadly, it was his last public appearance. Dury succumbed to cancer on March 27, 2000. He left behind a truly unique, individual body of work. [SOURCE: ALLMUSIC]

lunes, 29 de junio de 2020


Geisterfahrer is a dark wave band from Hamburg that was founded in 1979 by Michael Ruff (vocals), Matthias Schuster (guitar, synthesizer, vocals), Hans Keller (violin, synthesizer, bass) and Holger Hiller (synthesizer). Supported by a drum machine, the group had one of their first appearances at the Hamburg "Into the Future" festival, where they provoked the hardcore punks there with improvised electrical noise so much that they were switched off during the gig. Holger Hiller letf shortly afterwards to form Palais Schaumburg. Jürgen Weiss (drums, bass) joined the band as a replacement.

The Geisterfahrer was the first band to release a single for Alfred Hilsberg's record label ZickZack Records. However, the EP 'Geisterfahrer' was inferior due to the lack of studio technology, so that the group was the first German new wave band to sign a contract with a major label. The debut LP 'Schatten Voraus' was released in 1980. With lyrics by singer Michael Ruff about scarlet fever and plague crosses, as well as a musical mixture of cold wave, gothic rock and medieval moments, The Geisterfahrer steered into the dark wave environment and stylistically anticipated the  Neue Deutsche Todeskunst. In 1980 they were pretty lonely with this kind of music. 

A short later, Hans Keller left to work as a music journalist in New York. Shrinking into a trio, the follow-up LP 'Fest Der Vielen Sinne' turned out to be much more rock. The group now focused more on the dark wave sound a la Joy Division and Bauhaus. With "Himmel Auf Erden" there was even a smaller hit that found its way onto various NDW samplers. After various live concerts, the next LP 'Topal' was released in 1983, which was again produced independently of the industry in its own GF studio, but did not match the success of the previous records. Matthias Schuster recorded some electronic-experimental soundtracks for the GF video together with Erdem Güngörecek and Michael Bühl (trumpet, trombone, flute), but these only appeared on vinyl in 1987 under the title 'The Other Side Of ...' in a limited edition.

In 1986 the group returned in the line-up of Michael Ruff, Matthias Schuster, Erdem Güngörecek and Jürgen Weiss, expanded with Andy Giorbino (guitar) and Kirsten Klemm (cello). With the LP 'Fisch Gott' the band was able to connect with the old classics like 'Fest Der Vielen Sinne'. However, the successor 'Stein & Bein' was disappointing. The title song was successful again, but the rest of the record irritated the audience with English-speaking mainstream rock. After 'G-Far-I', recorded with the new bass player Marco Van Basten, turned out to be similar and offered nothing new, Geisterfahrer split, since the band members pursued various solo projects. [SOURCE. WIKIPEDIA

jueves, 25 de junio de 2020

The Homosexuals

With a subversive name that didn't lend itself well to printed handbills, an art school D.I.Y. ethic, and a deconstructionist approach to music, cult '70s British punk rockers The Homosexuals were highly influential to those lucky enough to have heard them, but seemed doomed to obscurity from the beginning. Formed in South London from the ashes of The Rejects -who played at the Roxy alongside The Jam, The Damned, and Wire (probably the most direct comparison to The Homosexuals in terms of musical style)-vocalist Bruno McQuillan, guitarist Anton Hayman, and bassist Jim Welton adopted pseudonyms and changed their band name to The Homosexuals in 1978 as a move to break away from the punk scene and its limiting three-chord formula. After learning of the new name, previous Rejects' drummer Davey Dus departed. McQuillan picked up the slack, playing drums as well as continuing his role as a singer, and the trio started writing and rehearsing while squatting in Union Grove, Clapham Old Town. Apart from a few jam sessions at The Bull's Head, a local pub, most of their time over the next year was spent hopping from various studio sessions, with a rotation of a half-dozen drummers temporarily filling in from track to track. In 1979, McQuillan met and married conceptual artist Suzy Vida, who started collaborating with the group. She influenced them to incorporate performance art into upcoming live shows, appeared on some of their later tracks, and catalogued the majority of their output, which was becoming more and more difficult to locate -with the exception of 1984's 'The Homosexuals Record', pressed for vinyl on their own label Black Noise, the majority of their recorded material was comprised of EPs, bootlegs, and unreleased cassettes. By 1985, the band officially disbanded, shortly after Welton cited the rock-typical "creative differences" rationale as his reason for leaving. Various side projects ensued, including Sara Goes Pop, L. Voag, Amos & Sara, George Harassment, and Nancy Sesay & the Melodaires, but with only a limited number of copies available for collectors, it seemed that The Homosexuals themselves were all but a fading memory. Fortunately, in 2004, Bruno and Anton were united, and, with the help of Vida and Morphius Records, they compiled a complete 81-song overview of their output titled 'Astral Glamour'. [SOURCE: ALLMUSIC