Tag Archive | "XTC"

The Monkees – Good Times!

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The Monkees – Good Times!

Posted on 14 June 2016 by Dorian

If I was asked to name the top 5 (or even top 10) musical artists that mean the most to me I would find it incredibly hard to do. I’d spend days agonising over who to include and would want to change it immediately I’d finished. If I was asked to pick one band that would definitely be in the top 10 my first answer would probably be The Monkees.

The Monkees - Good Times

Good Times! has been released to coincide with the band’s 50th anniversary and is their first release since Justus in 1996, and the first since the death of Davy Jones.  These factors do lead to the very real likelihood of this being the last time we’ll get a new Monkees album. The very, very good news is that, if it is to be their last album, it is among the best of their career and one of the best albums released by anyone this year.

In common with their most successful albums of the late 60s, Good Times! features the pre-fab four on all the vocals and mixes them in with a team of top quality session musicians to produce the album. The album was produced by Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne, and his love for the band and the sounds of the 60s is evident throughout.

The title track kicks things off in great style and symbolises the album by mixing session work from 1968 with additional instrumentation from the contemporary band. Songwriter Harry Nillsons’ original vocal is mixed as a duet with fresh vocals from Mickey Dolenz (perhaps the most underrated singer of his era) and the scene is set for a fun-filled collection.

The album features a batch of songs written by songwriters from first time around (Nilsson, Neil Diamond Goffin & King, Boyce & Hart) alongside a song apiece from each of the surviving members. In addition to this a crop of contemporary artists provide a healthy handful of tracks for the record (although given that only Zach Rogue is an artist who arrived this century, and his song didn’t make the final album*,’ contemporary’ is a bit of a push).

The least successful of the new songs is by Noel Gallagher and Paul Weller and the knowing title ‘Birth of an Accidental Hipster’ is as clumsy as their attempts at a psychedelic pop mash-up. It isn’t a bad song, and the performances are great, but it doesn’t match the overall song-writing quality here. I also have issues with Noel Gallagher being included as a songwriter on the album, should someone who once derogatorily stated about Blur “People say we’re the Rolling Stones and that Blur are the Beatles. We’re the Stones and the Beatles. They’re the fucking Monkees!” be given the honour of writing for such a wonderful band?

The playing is superb throughout and Tork and/or Nesmith play on most of the tracks here. The session musicians capture the band’s classic sound perfectly, and there is a real magic to the tracks recorded across a 49-year period.

First and foremost this is a Monkees album, and each of the original members delivers great vocal performances here. Dolenz has the bulk of the tracks and sounds like he is enjoying every minute, Tork delivers what may be the definitive version of ‘Wasn’t Born To Follow’ and Nesmith takes the lead on Ben Gibbard’s ‘Me and Magdalena’ (which may well be the best song of the year so far). An updated session of a Davy Jones vocal gives the late-singer a presence on the album. It is a typically sweet tune and sits perfectly in the middle of the album, his distinct voice sounding great with Dolenz and Tork adding harmonies.

It is a wonderful album and one that I know I’ll return to again and again over the coming years. What is pretty unique and special about the record is that it manages to be one of the best albums of 2016, and also sound like one of the best albums of 1968.

10/10

By Dorian Rogers

*The tracks that didn’t make the album include one by Zach Rogue, a second Partridge song, a song written by Peter Tork’s brother and a different version of ‘Me and Magdalena’. These tracks are available variously on the digital release or through a few country specific releases. It would have been good for Rhino to have put a second disc of these tracks for the people who purchased the CD or vinyl on first release.

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Top 10 – Superhero Songs

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Top 10 – Superhero Songs

Posted on 11 September 2015 by Dorian

Over the last decade films and TV shows about comic book heroes have become more and more popular. This trend shows no sign of slowing down and with the brilliant Daredevil TV show and the supremely entertaining Ant-Man movie 2015 is looking like a pretty good year.

Here at Neon Filler we’re big fans of comics, and it is hard to argue with Superheroes as being the predominant and most iconic images of the medium. Here, in celebration of our favourite spandex clad characters, we present the Top 10 songs about Superheroes.

10. The Wedding Present – Flame On

The Wedding Present are one of the only bands to have their own comic book, so this Watusi era b-side, with a Human Torch theme, is no surprise from Mr.Gedge.


9. XTC – That’s Really Super Supergirl

XTC (sort of) appear twice in this chart and this charming tune from Skylarking is their first appearance.


8. Guided By Voices – Matter Eater Lad

With thousands of Guided By Voices songs recorded it is inevitable that comic books get a mention, the choice of one of the more obscure DC characters fits the band to perfection.


7. The Clique – (I am) Superman

This 1969 track is better known as sung by REM nearly 20 years later and is the first appearance in our chart by the first superhero.


6. Wings – Magneto and Titanium Man

Who knew that Macca was a comic’s enthusiast that invited Jack Kirby to a Wings show? Not many people, and even less have heard this Venus and Mars era b-side about some iconic Marvel villains. Also a song that has a surprising (if passing) similarity to Belle and Sebastian’s ‘The Boy With The Arab Strap’.


5. Robert Pollard – Faulty Superheroes

The title track from Pollard’s latest solo album is not character-specific but still one of the best super-themed songs on record.


4. Darren Hayman – Spiderman beats Iron Man

One of the best songs from the excellent Essex Arms, and manages to reference a number of top-flight heroes as well as Top Trumps, which can only be a good thing.


3. The Dukes of the Stratosphere – Braniac’s Daughter

XTC’s psychedelic alter-egos make little sense with this tune about the super-villain’s progeny, but lots of great lines and references hide within.


2. The Flaming Lips – Waiting For Superman

It is no surprise that Superman gets more references in song than other heroes (see also Laurie Anderson) and this track from Wayne and co. has to be the best.


1. The Trait – Nobody Loves The Hulk

Researching a post like this is fun in itself and also also helps discover some previously unheard tracks, from unheard-of artists. This 1969 garage track is brilliant from start to finish. “We don’t allow no green skinned people in here!” indeed.

Compiled by Dorian Rogers

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Top 10 Albums – Here’s Mine, What Are Yours?

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Top 10 Albums – Here’s Mine, What Are Yours?

Posted on 10 July 2014 by Joe

We’ve covered our Top 100 alternative and independent albums, Top 10 debut albums and also compiled lists of our favourite folk and psychedelic albums. But I thought for a change I’d take away the restrictions of time and genre and present a list of my top ten albums as a way of finding out what your Top 10 Albums are. It’s a trickier task than you may think. I have constant nagging doubts that I should have included Lou Reed’s Transformer or Blondie’s Parallel Lines. You will face similar dilemmas. Feel free to tell us your Top 10 albums of all time in the comment box below.

10. Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique (1989)

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Following their huge debut album Licensed to Ill the Beastie Boys second album went in a more experimental direction under producers The Dust Brothers and became one of the best ever examples of sampling. From Public Enemy to The Beatles through to Curtis Mayfield and film soundtracks there are hundreds of snippets that make up each track. The end product is a tribute to music and modern culture and an outstanding album from start to finish. To find out more about the songs and riffs featured on the album click here.

9. Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band – Gorilla (1967)

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As a child, back when there were record players and cassettes and MP3s were the stuff of a mad man’s dreams, this was one of a handful of albums I used to beg my parents to play. This debut by art college psychedelic 1920s jazz mash up specialists is fun thanks to the humour of songwriter and vocalists Vivian Stanshall. But above all its got great tunes thanks to the involvement of Neil Inness, who went on to form the Rutles and has an outstanding ear for a good pop song. With tracks such as Cool Britannia, the Intro and the Outro and I’m Bored regularly used in advertising, TV and film this obscurity from a silly age will be surprisingly familiar.

8. The Mountain Goats – The Sunset Tree (2005)

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There are autobiographical albums and then there’s The Sunset Tree by The Mountain Goats and its frontman and songwriter John Darnielle. Here he lays bare an adolescence in the shadow of domestic abuse where he escapes into music, romance, drink and drugs. Its an album about survival and must have taken a huge amount of courage to write. Final track Pale Green Things, recalls the death of his step father and is so emotional and personal he can’t even play it live anymore. It is an impressive piece of work that shows the courage of young people and led me to become a fan of Darnielle and his band ever since. For more about The Mountain Goats read our Top Ten Bands That Changed Our Lives article here.

7. Fairport Convention- Liege and Lief (1969)

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A running theme of the albums I’ve selected is an admiration of the effort that has gone into their writing and production. Fairport Convention Liege and Lief’s was written and recorded following a tragic motorway accident in which their drummer Martin Lamble died and guitarist Richard Thompson’s girlfriend Jeannie Franklin also lost her life. What emerged was one of the most influential folk albums of all time as their mourning, painstaking research into traditional English folk and rock roots came together to create an outstanding set of songs. From Tam Lin to Crazy Man Michael this album is to this day one of the most exciting of any genre.

6. Highway 61 Revisited (1965)

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I came late to Bob Dylan. It was something about the voice, the Christianity and whole 1980s rock star image that put me off. Then I saw Martin Scorcese’s documentary centred around his mid 1960s albums and the time he went electric. From Bringing It All Back Home to Highway 61 revisited to Blonde on Blonde it remains my favourite period of Dylan’s music. Of the three Highway stands tallest, just. Like a Rolling Stone is its most well known track but the power of Ballad of a Thin Man and Desolation Row are among those that keep me coming back to this album time and again.

5. The B-52s – The B-52s (1977)

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When Rock Lobster, one of the singles from this debut from the Athens based band, was re released in the mid 1980s, I had no idea just how talented they were. I loved Rock Lobster but after getting this debut album I was awestruck. Ricky Wilson’s guitar playing is unique and in they were also blessed with three incredible vocalists, with Ricky’s sister Cindy particularly standing out. Her emotion on Dance This Mess Around and Hero Worship alone are worth the cover price alone. For more about The B-52s read our Top Ten Artists That Changed Our Lives feature here.

4. XTC – English Settlement (1982)

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On a monthly basis I kick myself for not including this in our Top 100 Indie and Alternative Albums list. Our XTC album of choice was the excellent Drums and Wires. But as the years have gone by it is English Settlement that I now believe was the Swindon band’s masterpiece. Sure it has the singles Sense Working Overtime and Ball and Chain, but it’s the lesser known tracks such as No Thugs in Our House and English Roundabout that really shine here. It was to have opened the door to fame and fortune, but sadly coincided with a chronic bout of stage fright for song writer Andy Partridge who was unable to tour following its release or indeed since. For more about XTC read our Top Ten Bands That Changed Our Lives article here.

3. The Clash – London Calling (1979)

london

Of all The Clash albums none are so perfectly executed as their third London Calling. Steeped in Caribbean and US influences this manages to expertly show The Clash for what they were a London punk band with a global outlook. This topped our Top 100 Indie and Alternative Albums list and remains one of my favourite albums thanks to superb lyrics on tacks like Lost in the Supermarket and instant pop appeal of tracks such as Train in Vain. Listening again it barely ages and remains a timeless classic. Read our full review of London Calling here.

2.  David Bowie – Hunky Dory (1971)

Dory

Last year I detailed my surprise discovery that David Bowie wasn’t just a silly man dancing in his pyjamas wth Mick Jagger. He was in fact the coolest man in music as albums such as Low, Heroes and this pre-Ziggy album clearly show. Of all his albums that I’ve recently discovered this is my favourite due to its sheer quantity of classic, inventive pop songs. Any album that has the tracks Changes and All You Pretty Things is deserving of a place on this list. But to add in Life on Mars, Queen Bitch and Quicksand as well makes this album one of the best pop albums of all time..

1. The Beatles – Revolver (1966)

beatles-revolver

Hey what about Sgt Peppers, Joe? Well, what about it? This seventh UK studio album from the Fab Four is by miles and miles of old George Martin infused studio tape the best Beatles album and in my view the best album of all time. You want pop? It’s got it in Taxman and Dr Robert. You want stunning orchestral melodies? Well, why not check out Eleanor Rigby. Or maybe awesome rock rifts are your thing, in that case She Said She Said will appeal. It’s even got the children’s classic Yellow Submarine, and on Tomorrow Never Knows a track that quite rightly is used to herald the start of counter culture. And then there’s the production with Martin’s backwards loops redefining music. Sgt Peppers is good, but this was the real game changer for modern music.

by Joe Lepper

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Super Squarecloud – Soupeater

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Super Squarecloud – Soupeater

Posted on 22 November 2013 by Joe

Wiltshire’s Super Squarecloud were one of our three nominations while helping to compile the longlist for 2013’s Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent Contest. This was   based on the strength of their track Lolly Moon, a brilliantly odd and original slice of math rock.

As a result we’ve been eagerly anticipating their debut album, which is more of a mini-album, weighing in at around 30 mins across seven songs.

supersquarecloud

So what makes us like them so much? It’s probably a perfect storm of circumstances. They come from Wiltshire, which for any band worth their salt means they are influenced by the ambitious pop of the county’s best known band XTC.

In Jo Ford they also have a great singer, with her soft vocals proving a perfect foil for another key asset, their jerky, angular rhythms and melody. It’s no wonder that Mr XTC himself Andy Partridge is a fan, according to his Twitter feed.

While their brand of math rock is not immediately accessible, there are accessible moments. Take the track Walk it Off for example, which at it’s heart is a great guitar pop tune, even if it strays into odder waters at times. The same can be said of Nice Beach, which diverts here and there into rock from its soft pop beginning.

Opener Happiness Is All Of The Above is also deserving of a mention, starting with the twinkle of chimes the song comes alive with Ford’s vocals and one almightily funky guitar chord riff.

Sanguine’s groove also works really well  as it emerges from all the twists and turns of this track  presents along the way.

And so we come to the end with Lolly Moon, our favourite track, and a fitting finish to a very solid debut, with flashes of brilliance that leaves us wanting more.

I’m also still unable to dance to their music and still marveling that the legacy of XTC is alive and well. But I  suspect like XTC they will be venturing a bit further out of Wiltshire based on this evidence. A genuinely original act that will no doubt get a bigger audience UK wide.

8/10

by Joe Lepper

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Röyksopp – Late Night Tales

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Röyksopp – Late Night Tales

Posted on 12 June 2013 by Joe

At last, XTC’s track The Somnambulist has finally been picked by a Late Night Tales compilation curator.

This perfect late night song is one of a number of reasons to be delighted with Norwegian duo Röyksopp’s turn to select 20 or so tracks to listen to in the wee small hours.

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Another is they’ve really got a handle on what makes these compilations great. There’s some fine atmospheric music for late night listening such as Vangelis’s Blade Runner Blues and also some surprising blasts from the past such as Acker Bilk’s Stranger On The Shore, which really works here.

They also have a good sense of fun as well, with Richard Schneider Jr’s ridiculously Austen Powers-esque Hello Beach Girls providing giggles and innuendo aplenty.

Johann Johannsson’s Odi Et Amo is another brooding, wonderful addition to a compilation series that excels in introducing the listener to a band’s record collection and obscurities. Where else would I be able to hear Thomas Dolby’s Budapest By Blimp alongside John Martyn’s Small Hours for the first time?

Even This Mortal Coil’s ‘Til I Gain Control sounds good under Röyksopp’s curation before it’s time to end the compilation as all those in the series do, with a little short story, this time part two of Flat of Angles, read by Sherlock Holmes himself Benedict Cumberbatch.

A funny, interesting and wonderfully electic addition to one of our favourite compilation series.

9/10

by Joe Lepper

 

 

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Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition 2013: Bands That Have Impressed Us So Far (Pt 3)

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Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition 2013: Bands That Have Impressed Us So Far (Pt 3)

Posted on 20 February 2013 by Joe

Ok, I’m heading into the final straight now. Just a few days left for me to make my final decision on the three bands I’ll be submitting  in my role as a judge in the Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent Competition, writes Joe Lepper.  For a quick recap on our involvement click here.

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So far I have featured four bands that have impressed me (see here and here). For this, my last article before I make my  final choice,  I have picked out two very different acts. Both have raised their heads above the parapet and begged me for inclusion.

Nadine Shah

Nadine Shah’s influences include Scott Walker, Nick Cave and PJ Harvey and it shows on this throbbing, atmospheric and downright frightening track she submitted called Aching Bones. The sparse piano and her croaky voice all add to the mystique of this track, which is part Portishead, part gothic horror sound track. Scary and beautiful music from this north East of England singer ,who has recently completed her debut album Love Your Dum and Mad, has really caught my attention

 

Nudy Bronque

There were two things that leapt out when I heard this track Allsorts from Wiltshire based Nudy Bronque. The first is that their lead vocalist sounds like the late great Vivian Stanshall, of Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band band fame. The second is that the track has been mixed and mastered by Colin Moulding, who given their Wiltshire location must surely be Colin Moulding from XTC,  another hero of ours. So I had a look through some of their other tracks and, yep, they are good as well. Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band meets XTC; I don’t think influences can get any better than this for our website. It’s worth checking out their more upbeat tracks as well, especially Fond Of You.

 

 

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Dollboy – Further Excursions Into The Ulu With Dollboy

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Dollboy – Further Excursions Into The Ulu With Dollboy

Posted on 24 August 2012 by Joe

Every now and again a psychedelic revival pops its head over the cultural duvet, tie dyes a few clothes, copies a few early Pink Floyd riffs and disappears again in a purple haze.

The best of these revivals was in the 1980s when XTC, with a lot of help from our Top Ten Producer John Leckie, produced two pitch perfect 60s influenced psychedelic albums as  Dukes of Stratosphear called Psonic Psunspot and 25 O’Clock. These two gems went on to heavily influence The Stone Roses and others over the next few years.

The revival has popped back again in recent years and created something of a crowded market. Australian act Tame Impala are probably the most commercially pleasing of the bunch, but while faithful to the spirit of the likes of  Pink Floyd they lack the English whimsy that typifies the genre and in which the Dukes were so accomplished.

Over in the UK, the likes of Voluntary Butler Scheme and Jim Noir are leading the field with lashings of English whimsy as  they combine psychedelia and pop with great effect.

Lurking in the lava lamp shadows of this UK revival is Dollby, aka Oliver Cherer, who were are told has been making music for a decade and used to play Theremin in the band Cooler.  In his latest album Further Excursions Into the Ulu  With Dollboy is certainly making a strong case to be considered alongside the likes of Noir. There’s more folk than pop to Cherer’s take on psychedelia and not all the tracks work, but when they do succeed they feature some sumptuous harmonies, melodies and musicianship.

One of our highlight Seven Again Or Dust finds him “like ghosts on a Victorian verandha with the clock striking seven again, then 10, 11 and 12 and 13.” While the Dukes’ clock goes up to 25, one that goes up to 13 is still fairly impressive in psychedelic circles. The Donovan-esque Alice in Clearwater is another highpoint.

There are also some neat harmonies on display on particular on tenth track A Golden Age, which the Dukes would have been proud of, and like 7 Again Or Dust, it is a track that could almost be a single, well, a single in a strange alternative hallucinatory version of our universe.

Can Cherer achieve the commercial success of Tama Impala or the critical success of the likes of Noir? If this current psychedelic revival can hold out anything’s possible. He certainly has the talent and the musical credentials to battle it out for attention in this crowded retro market.

7/10

by Joe Lepper

 

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Top Ten Great Songwriters- Part One

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Top Ten Great Songwriters- Part One

Posted on 18 June 2012 by Joe

What makes a good songwriter? For some it’s the ability to tell a good story, for others it’s a turn of phrase that succinctly captures a common emotion. For some. such as Andy Partridge, one of XTC’s chief songwriters, it is simply to draw inspiration from your own life and community.

In a  feature  in The Guardian in 2005 Partridge is quoted as saying:

“I can’t write mid-Atlantic airport lounge music. I can’t talk about my hot babe with her leather and whip or meeting my cocaine dealer. I like to write about what’s going on around the town.”

In a nutshell, he writes about what he knows. This frees his work from pretension and gives his lyrics genuine meaning. As the article later alludes, the example of Partridge puts the meaningless drivel of the likes of Coldplay to shame. Chris Martin needs to have a wander around town more like Partridge if he ever hopes to gain a song writing reputation to match his bank balance.

We’ve been having a good listen to the lyrics and construction of some of our favourite tracks recently and have decided to attempt one of our Top Tens looking at the art of the great songwriter and those whose lyrics inspire and amaze us. We’ve set some ground rules. They have to broadly fit into the indie or alternative musical world we cover, which unfortunately rules out Kate Bush. They also have to be an active song writer who is still releasing. This  rules out Partridge,  as XTC’s last album was more than a decade ago.

Andy Partridge

In our list we’ve some who not only write great lyrics but are expert song constructors. For some their best work is behind them but they are still plugging away. Meanwhile, for others they seemingly get better with age. Others in our list really give thought to the art of songwriting and take delight in helping fans and music lovers understand the process better.

We’ve also cheated a little. It is in fact a top 11; we couldn’t separate our top two choices so decided to give them equal first.  So with all that in mind here’s the first part of  our top ten (okay, its 11 really) song writers. To view part two of this list click here.

10. Darren Hayman

As singer and songwriter with 1990s act Hefner Darren Hayman already had a good reputation on the UK indie scene for producing strong lyrics and well worked songs. Good Heart, which made our Top Ten Tearjerkers list, is a perfect example of this. In this track Hayman tries and fails to convince his lover to stay with lines such as

You were just there, in the right place. You smooth out the wrinkles on my face

But arguably his best work has come in recent years, during a productive and purplest of patches that includes two albums about his native Essex (Pram Town, Essex Arms), contributions to the Vostok 5 space travel art and music project, bass playing for another great modern song writer Robert Rotifer in his band Rotifer, an album of piano ballads (Ship’s Piano) and his  January Songs project, where he wrote, released and recorded a song a day in January 2011. He is set to release an album about British lidos and Essex witch trials.

Darren Hayman

Darren Hayman at the Vostok 5 exhibition, 2011 (pic by Dorian Rogers)

It is his January  songs project that is perhaps his most impressive in terms of songwriting, in which he gave his audience a fascinating insight into the song writing process and came up with some superb lyrics and song writing that made a mockery of the short time he spent on them. I Know I Fucked Up, sung by Allo Darlin’s Elizabeth Morris and My Dirty Widow are among our highlights.

We drove to Barcelona on the road along the coast
The sun got in my eyes, we careered side to side
and now all I hear is the knocking of her heels on my casket

If you see my dirty widow
Tell her it’s ok
Tell her I don’t mind

A final mention goes to one of his songs on Vostok 5, A Little Arrow and a Little Squirrel, about the Russian  dogs Belka and Strelka, the first space dogs to return  to earth alive. Its line

“In a cage made of metal and glass, two beating hearts, beating too fast,”

perfectly captures the perilous, unusual situation these animals’ faced and shows a willingness by Hayman to write about the most leftfield of subject matter. It is among many highlights in a great songwriting career for Hayman that is showing no signs of letting up.

9.Luke Haines

Luke Haines is a different character from most of the people on this list, he has worked hard to commit commerical suicide many times in his career and he is as well known for being bitter as he is for great songwriting. But great songwriting is what he does, and it is something he did with his previous bands, The Auteurs and Black Box Recorder, and is something he continues to do today as a solo artist.

Looking back at his earliest songs, on the Mercury Prize nominated New Wave, he seems romantic and almost whistful. Jump forward to Now I’m A Cowboy and the lyrics get more sophisticated and literary with his best known song ‘Lenny valentino’ opening;

‘There were mourners on the street of every shape and size
The motorcade came down from Redondo
Assassins on the corner tried to throw you a line
You dirty-mouth comic Rodolfo’

Luke Haines

Luke Haines

The third Auteurs album (and possibly his career defining recording) After Murder Park cranks up the bile considerably opening with the line;

“When you cut your lover slack you’ll get a fucking monster back”

To be more accurate, the single version of the song, ‘Light Aircraft On Fire’, featured the f-bomb, the album version was cleaned up, a rather perverse back-to-front decision.

His work with Black Box Recorder was (briefly) more successful and well received by the critics, but no less barbed,

“Life is unfair, kill yourself or get over it”

went the chorus to their single release ‘Child Psychology’.

These days Haines is a critically acclaimed author, two volumes published of his musical memoirs, and his music no longer infects the mainstream. That isn’t to say that he has lost his songwriting skills, far from it. His latest album about wrestling in the 1970s features some of his best songwriting, and is a surprisingly warm and nostalgic record.

8. Kristin Hersh

Kristin Hersh has always existed just inside the fringes of American indie music scene. Critically acclaimed and successful without getting quite the same level of attention as her contemporaries such as The Pixies. Her air of quiet oddness coupled with an unpredictable performance style, ranging from whispered to screaming, marked her out as something a little bit special.

Kristin Hersh

Kristin Hersh

Few artists have managed to preserve a range of styles so successfully for so long. Want sprightly indie rock? Then the Throwing Muses can supply it with songs like Counting Backwards. Feel like some delicate pop music? Then Kristin Hersh solo performing Your Ghost will be right up your street. And if you’d like something a bit rough and heavy then 50 Foot Wave performing Clara Bow should fit your mood. The latter being her lyrical style in microcosm, an evocative mix of delicate and violent imagery.

Whether it was soaking in your poppy tea
Or your southern hospitality
Your voice has a singsong quality
And bones were made to be broken
Bones were made to be broken

This wide variety of musical styles is coupled with some great lyrical themes which leap between the personal and the surreal. She is one of the most raw and personal lyricists with her mental health, relationships and even the loss of custody of her first son being the subjects of her songs.

More than 25 years into her recording career she is every bit as exciting a performer as she was in the early days of Throwing Muses. Her perfomance at The Breeders ATP in 2009 was testament to that as she rocked as hard as any other performer that weekend.

7. David Gedge

Admittedly The Wedding Present and former Cinerama frontman David Gedge is a bit of a one trick pony. The poor chap has been singing about love and most notably loss for almost 30 years. So why is he on this list, you ask? If anything this obsession with the intricacies of relationships, of the highs and lows, the introspection, the guilt and jealousy, is his strength not his weakness, as his turns of phrase continue to resonate with audiences today.

David Gedge, Yeovil Orange Box, 2011 (pic by Joe Lepper)

Even on latest Wedding Present album Valentina, written during recent years of enjoyable touring for Gedge, he still manages the self-deprecating aside to suggest all is not well as “everything about my so called life is boring.” Across the years this trademark bittersweet lyrical style has hoovered up fans, who have stuck with him resolutely as their own loves and losses come and go. Among our highlights are the jealous rant of My Favourite Dress from 1987’s George Best with lines such a “It took six hours before you let me down, To see it all in a drunken kiss, A stranger’s hand on my favourite dress.”

Almost every facet of relationships, of messing up, of getting it right are covered. The former in particular gets a real hand ringing from Gedge on I’m Not Always So Stupid, also from George Best, when he says:

I’ve made a fool of myself yet once again
A boy who’s been this cruel looks for others to share the blame
Somebody told me you went to work down south
As far away as you can from my big mouth
I bumped into Jane and she told me to drop dead
Oh she’s not to blame, I know exactly what I said.

The strange thing is though for anyone who sees Wedding Present live these days or follows his tweets Gedge is just about as happy as its possible to be, still living the dream, residing by the sea in Brighton and touring the world, belting it out to those who have loved and lost.

6. Jarvis Cocker

It’s typical for rock icons to play up to their ego- just take John Lennon who declared The Beatles bigger than Jesus. There are no such proclamations from Jarvis Cocker; instead he simply milks his ability to state the bloody obvious.

“I am not Jesus though I have the same initials”

Cocker’s lyrics shed light on the mundane while being emotionless. He is the raconteur of a night time world of fishnets and carrier bags in which he is a participant observer.

Disco 2000’s meeting with Deborah never refers to how he feels, it is purely descriptive, while My Legendary Girlfriend (“she’s crying tonight/ she has no one to hold”) only addresses his desire through questioning

Can you feel how much I want you?

His life only lain bare during Little Soul, where he receives imaginary advice from the perspective of his estranged father

I’d love to help you but everybody’s telling me you look like me/ Please don’t turn out like me.

Even when being personal he has to remove himself.

As Cocker grew as a songwriter his lyrics condensed from kitchen sink documentaries of joyriders and sex, to where ones imagination completes the story:  Inside Suzanne uses novella-like prose, whereas Roadkill is flourished with double meaning

“Your hair in braids, your sailor top: The things I don’t see any more.”

With arguably his greatest work, Common People, his effortless descriptiveness is astounding. He utilises schoolboy couplets, rhyming “pool” with “school”, and audaciously linking “I” with “eye”. My old English teacher would give me the birch for less, yet Cocker’s assured wry pulls it off. Yet once again he is detached, allowing the listener to become the narrator.

Essentially it is his ability to recreate traditional story telling. Five hundred years ago he would have been a travelling balladeer regaling provincial inns with tales of distant lands and buxom wenches – Cocker even has a signature jester dance to bring his words visibly to life – while Shakespeare would use pompous language and arty-farty imagery, *cough Albarn*.

Cocker’s song writing is working class reality garnished with outsider intellectualism. It could be you hiding in Babies’ wardrobe or raving in Hampshire, but it you wouldn’t be able to convey it with such gracious wit.

See Also: Top Ten Great Songwriters – Part Two

Compiled by Joe Lepper, Dorian Rogers and David Newbury

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Top Ten Indie/Alt Music Producers

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Top Ten Indie/Alt Music Producers

Posted on 27 July 2011 by Joe

While bands hog the limelight we thought it about time to pay tribute to those hardy souls sitting behind the mixing desks, dealing with all the tantrums and egos and helping to create some of our favourite indie and alternative albums of all time. This bunch of super indie producers have even managed to turn the most rough and ready artists into successful chart acts while ensuring they retain credibility.

Ladies and gentlemen, pull up a Phil Spector biography, sit back on the mixing desk chair, twiddle some knobs and enjoy Neonfiller’s Top Ten Indie/Alternative Music Producers.

10. Clive Langer/Alan Winstanley

Clive Langer (right) and Alan Winstanley (left)

These guys have been around for ever, well since the mid 1970’s anyway, and have worked with more artists than it’s possible to list here. They are best known for a 30 year association with Madness for whom they have produced 8 albums. Other career highlights include two early 1980’s masterpieces, The Tear Drop Explodes’ seminal 1980 classic Kilimanjaro and Dexy’s Midnight Runners 1982 celtic blockbuster Too-Rye-Ay. Kevin Rowland and Julian Cope are two of the real ‘nutty boys’ of English pop quite capable of giving Brian Wilson a run for his money in the eccentric genius stakes, working with them may not have been easy but must have been rewarding.

Add to the mix production credits on albums by Elvis Costello, Morrissey and Aztec Camera and Langer and Winstanley are worthy entries on our list of Top Ten producers.

9. Sean Slade and Paul Q Kolderie

If you listened to American indie-rock bands from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s then it is pretty likely you owned something produced by Sean Slade and Paul Q Kolderie.  Working out of the legendary Fort Apache studios they produced a number of genre defining albums including the Lemonheads’  Lovey, Hole’s  Live Through This, Buffalo Tom’s Let Me Come Over and Morphine’s Cure For pain. As well as this Belly, Big Dipper, Firehose and the Gigolo Aunts all had albums produced by the prolific pair.

If you add their engineering duties to the list you can include the Pixies, Throwing Muses, Dinosaur Jr, Come and The Blake Babies to the list. Added together a pretty comprehensive list of American alternative rock from the era. They didn’t only record out of Fort Apache and decamped to Chipping Norton to work with Radiohead in their nascent form. The pair produced the debut album Pablo Honey featuring ‘Creep’, the song that would break them in America.

8. Martin Rushent

Martin Rushent tragically died earlier this year (2011). He left behind a legacy as being the go-to man for punk and new wave bands wanting chart success.  Among those he helped into the charts were the Buzzcocks, Human League, Altered Images and The Stranglers. His work helping the Buzzcocks to create their stellar first two albums Another Music in a Different Kitchen and Love Bites (both 1978) is among our key landmark in his career.

But arguably he is more famous for turning the rather dour electronica of Human League into one of the most successful bands of the early 1980s through his production of their breakthrough 1981 album Dare. He died while working on a 30th anniversary edition of this seminal album. Other notable landmarks in his career are The Stranglers’ 1977 album No More Heroes. His workload slackened off towards the end of his life, but he still found time to work with Carl Barat and The Pipettes among others.

7. Jim O’Rourke

Jim O’Rourke is another producer who has a relatively small body of work behind him, but his work as a musician means that producing albums is purely a part time vocation. He has released a number of solo albums as well as records as part of Loose Fur, Gastr Del Sol and famously as the fifth member of Sonic Youth for six years up until 2005. His leftfield musical style is informed by jazz and electronic noise as much as indie rock music and that has informed his collaborations and production style.

In his career he has produced albums by Sonic Youth, Stereolab, Superchunk, Quruli, John Fahey, Smog, Faust, Tony Conrad, The Red Krayola, Bobby Conn, Beth Orton and Joanna Newsom. As a producer he is probably best known for his work with a fellow Chicago act Wilco, and was a big part of their move from being a popular Americana act to achieving widespread critical acclaim. It was his mixing work that gave Yankee Hotel Foxtrot the left-field sound that alienated the band from their record label. O’Rourke returned to produce A Ghost is Born, the album that won Wilco a Grammy Award for the best alternative music album in 2005.

6. Don Fleming


Don Fleming is one of the peripheral figures of alternative rock music. His work with Velvet Monkeys, B.A.L.L and Gumball is not widely known and his collaborations with bigger artists have garnered him with little attention. As a producer he hasn’t got a huge body of work to his name, but in his case it is quality not quantity that is the significant feature.

First off he produced ‘The Wagon’ the greatest single that Dinosaur Jr have released, and one of the best singles in the history of indie rock. He has also produced music by a number of other alt-rock acts such as Sonic Youth, Hole, Screaming Trees, Peter Yorn and (ahem) Midway Still. However, his greatest contribution to music is producing the two best power pop albums of the 1990s, Bandwagonesque by Teenage Fanclub and Frosting on the Beater by The Posies. In those two near perfect sets of indie rock perfection he has a place in musical history.

5. Gil Norton

Gil Norton has had an incredibly prolific career. He’s from Liverpool and worked with fellow Liverpudlians China Crisis on their 1982 debut album Difficult Shapes & Passive Rhythms, their synth pop sound beautifully illustrated by their second single Christian. Among his best work has been with Boston indie rock acts the Throwing Muses,  whose eponymous debut album he produced, and the Pixies, for whom he produced their classic 1989 album Doolittle that includes the tracks Debaser and Monkey Gone To Heaven .

But we, and he, don’t just dwell in the 80’s. Bringing you right up to date in 2011 Gil has worked with the Futures on their forthcoming debut album and Scottish alternative rock act Twin Atlantic.

4. Phil Ek


If we may have strayed slightly towards pop territory with some of the other producers in our Top 10 we’re firmly back in the land of indie with American producer Phil Ek. He is the man behind both Fleet Foxes critically acclaimed albums  as well as work by Modest Mouse, The Shins, Les Savy Fav and Built To Spill. As a young man he moved to Seattle just when Nirvana were helping to establish the city’s musical reputation, as The Beatles had done with Liverpool several decades before. It was here that he began to learn his trade and build connections with the Sub Pop Records and Up Records labels whose artists helped define his career.

3. Dave Fridmann

Fridmann is another musician who decided to spend more time behind the mixing desk. As bassist and founding member of Mercury Rev his place in indie and alternative music history is already assured. But it was his decision in 1993 to focus on producing that gives him a special place in our hearts. Described by Mojo as “the Phil Spector of the alt-rock era” his focus is often on big epic sounds, with The Flaming Lips, MGMT and Sleater-Kinney among those that have worked with him.

Fridmann is not without critics. His Grammy award winning work on The Flaming Lips At War With the Mystics (2007) sparked a fierce debate about loudness in mastering. But his work on The Flaming Lips’classic Soft Bulletin (1999), Ok Go’s best album Of The Blue Color Of The Sky (2010) and Tama Impala’s wondrous Innerspeaker (2010)  more than make up for this blot on his otherwise superb CV.

2. John Leckie


By far the most mentioned producer in our Top 100 albums of all time list is the eclectic and prolific John Leckie. His work with XTC’s psychedelic alter egoes Dukes of Stratosphear, The Fall during their mid 1980s heyday, helming Radiohead’s breakthrough album The Bends and his  innovative work behind the decks on the Stone Roses’ debut album means he has a deserved place in our list.

His ability to find the best in each band he works with, whether its honing the indie rock of Radiohead or allowing  The Stone Roses’s creativity to shine, is perhaps his greatest talent. To this day he is still working with a diverse range of artists across the alternative and indie music world. Among our highlights from the last few years has been My Morning Jacket’s Z.

1.Steve Albini

From the Pixies to Nirvana, from Wedding Present to PJ Harvey, Steve Albini is perhaps the most prolific producer in alternative and indie music. Part of his popularity is his lack of ego as a producer. He prefers either no credit or to be credited as recording engineer and his hallmark is to ensure the album is a reflection of the band’s true sound without interference. He encourages bands to play live as much as possible and achieves a warmth to the recording though a careful attention to mic positioning.

As a former member of Big Black and more recently Shellac Albini is very much a musician and a  producer, which adds to his popularity among the bands he works with. Those such as David Gedge and Jon Spencer often returning time and again to Albini, who each year produces between 10 to 20 different albums.  The sheer range of artists and ground breaking albums he has worked on, including Pixies Surfer Rosa, Mclusky’s Mclusky Do Dallas and PJ Harvey’s Rid of Me, make him for us the greatest indie and alternative producer of all time.

Compiled by Martin Burns, Dorian Rogers and Joe Lepper

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Top Five Bob Dylan Covers

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Top Five Bob Dylan Covers

Posted on 24 May 2011 by Joe

To celebrate Bob Dylan’s 70th birthday today we thought we’d compile a short list of some of our favourite Bob Dylan covers. Hope you enjoy, oh, and happy birthday Bob.

5. Stephen Malkmus – Ballad of a Thin Man

4. XTC – All Along the Watchtower

3. Jim James and Calexico – Goin’ to Acapulco

2. Nick Drake – Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright

1. Jimi Hendrix – All Along the Watchtower ….again. So good we had to include this track twice

Compiled by Joe Lepper

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