Thursday, April 23, 2009

We Just Want to Play (Yeah!)

D.I.Y. It's a term that you've probably seen throughout your life applied to various ventures from home improvement, to film making, to music. In fact, you've probably seen the term applied to music quite a bit in recent times. This is with good reason of course, as there is quite an impressive crop of bands employing lo-fi recording techniques, fuzzy guitars, effects pedals, and all manner of other wonderful things that help create interesting pop songs.

Puppy Dog play no electric instruments. They play stand up drums, glockenspiel, and tambourine. They shriek lyrics about mythical beings. I'm fairly certain that they don't have a single song that reaches the two minute mark. They are a breath of fresh air.

I have a soft spot for watching bands in the process of developing their sound, and the way that Puppy Dog seem to be going about it is pretty charming. For instance, they added the glockenspiel to their repertoire after watching the Tartans use the instrument in their songs. They also enlisted the help of Tartans' drummer Lon to mic their instruments, and record their songs - So, o.k., not entirely D.I.Y., but certainly D.I.Y. in spirit - I'm quite intrigued to see what shape Puppy Dog's music will take in the future. Perhaps they will flesh out their songs with a bit more structure, melody, and length. Perhaps they will continue to create the ultra breif, and beautifully odd song sketches that they are offering now. Either way, I think this is a band to keep an eye on...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Listening too Long to One Song: The Chesterf!elds "Ask Johnny Dee"

"So what did happen to Johnny Dee?" asked Peter. I must have had a very puzzled look on my face, because whatever he said next was the thing that clarified for me that Johnny Dee was a real person. We were listening to the Chesterf!elds, of course, and this news was something of a revelation to me at the time. Everything about this song (which I had heard too many times before this conversation took place to count) suggested that it's title character must be fictional. This was not only suggested by the lyrics, but the dreamy sort of elongated tone of the guitar riff that opens the track, as well as the crisp drumbeat, and sharp yet very minimal bass line that combine with the nicely intricate guitar work that is being displayed at this point. The result of all of this is a terribly gorgeous sonic shimmer. But surely it is the lyrics that mostly do the trick of suggesting that Johnny Dee must be larger than life, and therefore could not possibly exist. The way the lines are delivered adds to this exponentially. "Well if you'd like to know what pop stars have for tea, ask Johnny Deeeee. With the name Johnny Dee sung in a manner that most resembles a sigh. I have to imagine that the Johnny Dee of reality was slightly embellished in this song. Though I have to imagine that any embellishment was very slight, as everyone I've spoken to who who has ever encountered Johnny Dee remembers those encounters with great fondness. Apparently he promoted shows, which may explain a band like the Chesterf!elds giving him such a glowing tribute in song form. According to my sources, he was present at quite a large number of shows. However, it seems that he is most well known as a writer who produced fanzines, and eventually went on to contribute to the NME.

I have to assume that the link that I am about to direct you to regards the same Johnny Dee, if so, then catch up with the current goings on of this somewhat prolific music journalist here. If anyone could confirm for me that this is in fact the Same Johnny Dee, I would be most appreciative!

There are several Chesterf!elds songs available for your listening pleasure here. While you're there be sure to give "Completely and Utterly," a proverbial spin as well. That's shaping up to be the next song to occupy a borderline unhealthy amount of my time.

Also, if you are looking set up a Chesterf!elds collection of your very own, this is a very nice (and inexpensive) place to start. Even though, sadly, this comp does not appear to include their seriously impressive cover of the Vic Godard song, "Holiday Hymn."

Monday, April 6, 2009

I Remember What it Was to Feel

Before anything else is discussed in this post, please check the comments for the post that proceeds this one. I think I always want to believe that Forever Breathes the Lonely Word was Lawrence/Deebank era Felt, but it is not. I honestly think that somewhere along the way I learned that, and just for whatever reason let my mental Felt time-line slip away from accuracy. Also, in my sleep deprived state I did not do my proper research for that post. Sigh, my sincere apologies, but since this truly inexcusable error was corrected by Mr. Fire Escape Talking there is a wealth of information in his comment that you should all be sure to check out. Thus my suspicion that I should really know better than to think I am informed enough at this point to offer an opinion on anything Felt, or Felt related has been confirmed. I can assure you it won't happen again. Though the idea that I might one day sequester myself away from society with nothing but Felt records, and printed information about the band in order to fully absorb it all is never out of the question for me...

I am currently in the process of composing a review of the most recent Thermals album, Now We Can See for Radio Free Silver Lake. Oddly, this has just been one thing (musically anyway) in a not short line of things that have brought me back me back to those days where I listened to music, and I felt things. Uncomfortable things, embarrassing things, real things overall... I suppose... I don't know, it's an odd thing to discuss.

But this blog is supposed to be my free space, where I can discuss things that I would not prefer to discuss otherwise. I knew that before I got into the knew Thermals record, I would have to listen to a few of the songs on Fucking A that made me pay attention to that band in the first place. Particularly the song, "A Stare Like Yours." I can't remember the last time that I had actual romantic feelings for someone until I listen to this song. Enough time has passed for me not to feel those things anymore, but hearing the song is enough to remind me that I was once capable of such things. Strange. I close my eyes when I'm listening to that song, and it makes me feel dizzy, like the sheer force of it might knock me over at any moment. I think thisk this has more to do with the song itself than it does with the memory, but to be completely honest I really have no idea.

On Monday I was taking part in my normal volunteer shift at KCRW. As is so often the case when I'm at the station for the program Morning Becomes Eclectic there was live music in the third hour of the show. I've seen some really good performances during my time there, but every now and then an artist will come along i find myself terribly excited about. Such was the case this past Monday when Raphael Saadiq came through the studio. He did release one of my favorite songs last year after all. His set was remarkably stripped down, featuring only himself on vocals and guitar, and Rob Bacon on second guitar. I was initially kind of bummed not to hear "Seven," but I did figure that it would probably lose a bit of it's impact without the drums so not hearing it was likely for the best. I'll simply have to hope that I get to hear that one when he plays with a full band at the Hollywood Bowl this summer. Back to the acoustic set though, I could not believe how lost I found myself in the songs that were being presented right in front of me. The setting is almost disturbingly intimate for songs with so much soul. You find yourself separated from the performers by a not terribly thick pane of glass, and not too much distance at all. I thought that must look insane. I wondered if anyone was noticing how idiotic I looked. "Oh God," I thought at one point, "Am I keeping correct rhythm?" Because there was no way that I was going to be able to stop myself from tapping along. Then I remembered that none of this really mattered. No one in the studio that day was paying attention to my reactions, and even if they were, this is how people often react to music! People don't just have abstract feelings about pop songs as I so often do, they take them in, and react to them personally. Now why had it taken me so long to remember that? Why did it take two such vastly different facets of pop music that happened to be on my mind during the same week to remind me?

Heightened emotions perhaps? The same radio station is letting me take control of their airwaves for a few late night/early morning hours in about a week. I've just been informed that my official KCRW DJ bio (!) is now online. I haven't mentioned it here yet because it just hasn't quite seemed real. Linking to that bio makes it seem slightly more real. However, I don't think that it will actually feel real until sometime in the hour between 3 and 4 A.M. (Pacific time) on April 19th when it finally hits me that I am playing songs, and people are hearing them in their cars!

If you are o.k. with listening to a radio show from the girl who can't keep her Felt line-ups straight, then you can do so by going here, and where it prompts you to select a channel to listen online, chose the option that says "Live." As I mentioned this will take place from 3 A.M. to 6 A.M. on April 19th here in California. It will be archived as well. The time slot is unofficially referred to as the Lab, so you can look up archived shows that way. I will be sharing the time with two other DJs so after that first show I'll be on every three weeks or so. Any requests?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

We're Gonna Sing Along, to a Brand New Denim Song, About the Summer

I'm keeping the oddest hours these days, so forgive me if this post seems a bit pointless, and without focus. Sometimes though when faced with the instance of having about an hour to kill before reasonably cleaning her way out of the place where she has been house-sitting, with the laundry already going, and most of the dishes drying, a girl is left with no choice but to write something about the all around marvel that is Denim.

I heard Denim for the first time on July 4th of last year. We were driving back from lunch in Yvonne's car and this song came on that sounded like pure, sonic sunshine. This probably had a lot to with the fact that the song we were listening to was called "Sun's Out." Even so far as the opening lines are, "The sun's out. In the sky. The sun's out, everyone's happy cause the sun's out, children are smiling cause the suuun's in the sky, oh it shines for you and I." It sounded like the most exuberant, cheesy, fabulous, synth and drum machine driven Euro-pop ever. Of course, based on the vocals, and many of the lyrics it was clear that the song was of English origin. Since I must have been clearly expressing my enjoyment of the song (smiling is involuntary when it's on, and usually there is involuntary dancing as well) Brian turned to ask me if I knew what it was. When I said that I didn't, but that it sounded great, Brian giddily exclaimed, "This is Denim, Lawrence's band after Felt!" I was pretty surprised as I had never hear anything from the Felt vault that sounded like it would lead to what we were listening to at that moment. Of course, having heard more from Felt, and from Denim subsequently it all makes perfect sense as a testament to Lawrence's odd genius. Any one of Lawrence's projects had the potential to thrive beyond the highly regarded cult status they achieved, and it does seem as though they all came so close. Why Forever Breathes the Lonely Word wasn't the thing that (at one point or another) made people utter "Lawrence/Deebank," in a similar manner to the way in which they utter, "Morrissey/Marr" is beyond me. Why the single "Primitive Painters" didn't make them a wildly successful pop band also boggles my mind. And, of course, in a world with more justice in it "Sun's Out" would have been precisely what the A-side of the single it shared described, a "Summer Smash." Actually that song itself should have been a giant hit as well. Allegedly EMI shelved it due to the fact that it's release would have coincided in poor taste with the somber air that was permeating Britain around the death of Princess Diana... due to a car crash... that happened late in the summer of 1997.

Pretty sad really, as this song along with pretty much every other Denim song that I have managed to hear qualifies as giddy pop perfection. Every Denim song that I own is currently creating the perfect soundtrack to morning of tidying up as I have finally begun to anticipate the arrival of summer. Now if only my anticipated bedtime set for about noon (seriously) would arrive just a bit sooner.

Once again, allow me to direct your attention to a post on Fire Escape Talking where you can download "Summer Smash" (The link for "Sun's Out" doesn't appear to be working at the moment), and also read a much fuller (and more sharply written) version of the story behind the single.

Here's a video for Denim's song "Middle of the Road" Enjoy!

Thursday, April 2, 2009


"Do you want to hear the best Pastels song now?" Yvonne asked as were winding down the Hungry Beat! clean up last week. She might have been asking this to Mabern, but she was probably asking it rhetorically to no one in particular since she was already in the process of cuing the record. I knew which song she was going to play since she had already played it earlier causing me to run into the room almost in complete disbelief over the fact that I would finally learn the name of this song.

You see, a few months ago a friend gave me a CD that contained a Pastels demo, and a Peel session. The Peel session sounded great of course,, so did the second song on that demo. However, that first song on the demo just really stopped me in my tracks. It sounded like the Pastels paying more of an homage to the Television Personalities than I'd ever heard in any of their other songs, even though I had certainly often heard an undercurrent of TVPs appreciation in their music. This song though opens with a bass line that would have been right at home on And Don't the Kids Just Love It, and there is a really interesting echo effect on the vocals. I listened to it over and over again wishing that I knew what this song was called. Then about a week ago, I heard that familiar intro drift into Pehrspace's entry way. I immediately ran into the main room to finally learn the name of this song. The friend that had given me the demo in the first place beat me to the inquiry, and was already holding the record sleeve. "What is the name of this song?" I asked eagerly. Yvonne told me that it was called "Oh! Happy Place." She also said that she thought that it was one of their best songs and wished that it was one of the ones that they eventually brought back to the studio to clean up a bit as the recording quality of "Oh! Happy Place" does leave a bit to be desired. I agree with her wholeheartedly on both counts. Production value aside, you really should hear "Oh! Happy Place." It's magnetic, you won't be able to tear yourself away until you've listened to it so very many times.

Research to attempt to track down the song online led me to this post on the incomparable blog Fire Escape Talking. His post includes a good deal of valuable information about both the demo, and the Peel Session including the line-up of the band for the Peel Session. Interestingly that line-up included Joe Foster who was also in the line-up of the Television Personalities that existed at that time. I can only hope that the link to download both of these recordings is still active because you really will want to own them. I don't have my external drive with me at the moment, so I can't test it for you. I was, however, able to listen to the songs by following the link so at least you have that if nothing else.

Also, for a bit of additional fun since we were chatting about the Pastels and the Television Personalities anyway...

Here is link to an interview that Stephen Pastel conducted with Dan Treacy for his and Aggi's former 'zine Juniper Beri-Beri.