Sunday, December 9, 2018

Little Loser's Lottery - Part 12 (for Brian)

Hello friends,

it's been a while, isn't it? The reason for this post is simple, and the handful of you who read this will be pleased to learn that this triumphant return of 'Little Loser's Lottery' is entirely the fault of Brian - out of 'Linear Tracking Lives'.

I was in conversation with him yesterday about the merits of Strawberry Switchblade and while we were at it, he questioned whether Little Loser might or might not already be too old to do another one of his lotteries.

Now, as we Germans automatically are used to do what Americans tell us to do (WW II, American occupation zone, your will is my command … you know the story), I immediately asked Little Loser (ten by now, and I never would have believed that puberty starts with ten these days. Now I know better, but thanks for asking!) and - believe it or not - he managed to pause Fortnite for a minute and picked five records out of the distressing rest of my collection, more or less with closed eyes.

I just looked that up: it is an embarrassing three and a half years since he did this for the last time and his luck has not left him by and large. I mean, the picks could have been better of course, but they could also have been much worse, I must say. It's mainly albums, so I chose what I considered to be the best tune out of the specific picks.

Here's what he came up with, friends:

1) Carmel - 'The Drum Is Everything' (Liberation Records '84)

Okay, I think I haven't listened to this once since …. 1984, I would guess. Still three of the tracks still rang a bell with me after all these years, I knew they were rather fine. 'More, More, More', 'The Drum Is Everything' and 'Rockin' On Suicide'. I went for the title track, so here's Carmel:

2) Hank Wangford - 'Stormy Horizons' (Sincere Sounds '90)

Isn't it strange how some records end up in your collection, records which you are endlessly ashamed of some decades later? This is the case here, because the record is goddamn awful by and large. But there is a reason why I have it: years and years ago I bought a Beggars Banquet Label - compilation, the title of which now escapes me, and one of the tunes on it was by Hank Wankford: 'Never Wear Mascara (When You Love A Married Man)'. A sound advice of course, but I digress. Now, this track was so good that a few years later apparently I couldn't resist to buy this album here. I think it's fair to say though that this was a crucial mistake, I just flickered through the songs again in order to find the least disappointing one. And as we DJ's know: Side A, Track A is always the safest, so here you are:

3) The Pogues - 'Red Roses For Me' (Stiff Records '84)

Yes, well done, Little Loser! Another one I haven't listened to for much too long (contrary to their second album, which finds itself on the turntable quite often, don't know why this is). Who would have thought at the time that Shane McGowan is still alive (albeit not kicking in one form or another) in 2018? Not me, that's for sure! And it only took me a second to decide what's the best song on this album, it's this one in fact:

4) The Wild Swans - 'Revolutionary Spirit' (Zoo Records '82)

Which goes to show that Little Loser apparently also has an appetite for fine art: I'm sure his eyes were not fully closed and he liked the sleeve, which shows 'The Lament for Icarus' by H.J. Draper. A total classic, of course (the tune, not the drawing), and it's always fine to hear it again once in a while. One would think that this record is a bit of collectors' item these days, but apparently this isn't the case: you get it on discogs for the value of a lunchbreak at McDonalds. For one person. A shame, really, because it's outstandingly good, this!

5) Various Artists - 'Submarine Tracks & Fool's Gold - Chiswick Chartbusters Volume One' (Chiswick Records '77)

Of course there can't be an argument about what is the best track on this compilation: The 101'ers' 'Keys To Your Heart'. Which, in my humble opinion, is better than a lot of Clash - tunes in fact! But everybody knows this by heart by now, so I decided to go for the other number The 101'ers are featured with on this compilation. Perhaps this brightens your horizon or something, if not, it's not a bad tune either, I think. Obviously I'm too young to know, but I'm sure people having heard this at the time it came out (June 1976) would have thought: "Boy, this guy Strummer has a remarkable voice, perhaps I should pay good attention to what he does in the future." And, as we all know, except for George, they would have been quite right in doing so:

And that's it for this week, friends. Hope you enjoyed Little Loser's picks. I'm convinced that if you tell him in the comment section, he might have another go fairly soon.

All the best, and if we don't speak before: have a very happy Christmas!


Monday, October 22, 2018

Monday's Long Song

Dearest friends,

to my great dismay I have to tell you that I just found that apparently google and/or boxnet seem to have managed not to publish all the hundreds of posts that I prepared in advance 18 months ago in order to appear here on more or less a daily basis for your sheer enjoyment: unbelievable, isn't it? Then again this just shows me to check my own blog more frequently … so: no hard feelings, right?

Either way, Monday's long song it is, and more or less immediately I thought of this gem:

Crispy Ambulance - 'The Presence' ('81)

'The Presence' was (and still is, I suppose) the A-Side from Crispy Ambulance's third single, 'Live On A Hot August Night', released on Factory Benelux (FAC BN 4) and it's 13:05 minutes long. So, the length is okay, and as it's outstandingly good as well, it should easily qualify to feature in this series, I would have thought.

I searched a little bit to be in the position to tell you at least something about the band and found a great biography on Teen Beat ( which also contains some Factory insights which might or might not be known to you already. I hope the nice people at Teen Beat won't sue me for a little bit of the good ole' copy/paste - job:

Following the death of Ian Curtis in May 1980, Rob Gretton became a Factory director, and in July persuaded Crispy Ambulance to release their next recording through the label. FAC 32 thus became Gretton's first-born in his capacity as an A&R man. Hempsall again:

 "Tony never liked us, but suffered us because Rob liked what we did. Since he had become an equal shareholder, Tony had no choice but to bite his lip."

After two promising if hardly exceptional singles, the first real sign that Crispy Ambulance were more than just a weird name came with the third, Live On A Hot August Night. Not live (and recorded at Cargo Studio in Rochdale in January) the session was produced by Martin Hannett, who achieved an astonishing sound ranked by some amongst his finest productions. The single comprised two extended tracks which sat together perfectly, despite being poles apart in terms of style. 'Concorde Square' was a bright, almost blinding guitar glide, and probably the closest the group ever came to writing a hit single, while 'The Presence' was lengthy, languid and hypnotic, drifting weightlessly above a soft electronic pulse and whiplash snare.

Although Factory shot a video for 'The Presence', the flipside's mordant six minute gregorian outro triggered a free transfer from Factory to European offshoot Factory Benelux, the single emerging as a 12" in July. Hempsall:

"'Hot August Night' was the first time we actually went into the studio as a Factory band. As a matter of course Hannett was used as he was The Factory Producer... Tony craftily got us off his back by depositing us on Factory Benelux, which we didn't object to because Tony was only making things difficult for us whilst on Factory, whereas Michel Duval, boss of Factory's Belgian counterpart, genuinely liked us, and had an enthusiasm for the records almost as strong as our own."

"Rob Gretton was always more interested in tunes than anything else, so when we had six minutes of voices and piano on the end of 'Concorde Square' he found this a bit strange. We began to move out of his field of understanding."

Comprehension was also found wanting in the fourth estate. According to Melody Maker:

"The best and worst of Martin Hannett and, as usual, you can forget about the band. 'The Presence' illustrates his genius for that eerie, evocative snare-obsessed sound, cleverly maintaining interest in another Curtis clone crooning another doomy dodo of a tune. 'Concorde Square', however, is the most melodramatic manifestation yet of his frustrating feedback fetish, allowing the group a begrudgingly cursory run for their money before picking put a particularly rich resonance and toying with it into uncharted territories of tedium. One for earnest New Orderites and strict Samaritan-cases only."

At least the Maker bothered to listen to the record - all 22 minutes - from beginning to end. In the opinion of the NME:

"After the power and the passion that was Joy Division, imitators like Crispy Ambulance just sound listless and unoriginal."

Although the switch to Factory Benelux was effectively a relegation, the move would prove Factory's loss, for the following year Crispy Ambulance delivered an album which many connoisseurs rightly regard as a jewel in the Factory crown ('The Plateau Phase', released in March 1982).

So, as usual, enjoy!