Thursday, 4 February 2010

From Belgium With Love

It's a long story, but earlier this week I was having a chat with a work colleague, and we got talking about famous Belgians. I won't bother explaining why this happened - it would only make the whole thing seem even weirder than it already does. Anyway - the point was that there aren't many of them. My friend suggested Hercule Poirot but we ruled him out by virtue of the fact he isn't a real person.

I then triumphantly pointed out that the bewilderingly brilliant Plastic Bertrand is Belgian and must surely count as a famous person. My friend then said he regarded "Ca Plane Pour Moi" as "one of the worst records ever made"! What?? I, naturally, corrected him. "Nonsense," I said, "It's an absolute classic."

And it damn well is. So there.

Download: Plastic Bertrand - Ca Plane Pour Moi

We've started with Belgium so let's run with it...

Back in the early 1990s I heard a track on the radio (Jo Whiley's show, I think) called "Not An Addict", by K's Choice. A while later I stumbled across the CD single of the very same song, in a record shop bargain bin. I bought it - I forget the price but I imagine it was a quid or so. Bargain? Oh yes. K's Choice are a Belgian band fronted by brother and sister Sarah and Gert Bettens. I use the present tense there, as I'm pleasantly surprised to see that the band still exists - in fact, they're releasing a new album (their 5th) and undertaking a European tour (click for dates) in 2010!

Anyway - back to "Not An Addict". Sarah Bettens has a luscious voice and this song is the perfect vehicle for it - the quiet/loud progression lets her alternately croon, and then let rip. Impressive stuff. Lyrically, the song does border on pomposity, but just about stays on the right side of self-righteous. Check it out - it's a little-known classic and you'll be all the richer for hearing it.

Download: K's Choice - Not An Addict

Our third track for today isn't by a Belgian artist at all (that's just the sort of whacky whimsy we like round these parts). That said, it does mention Belgium in the title (and, er, the lyrics) so that's just as good, isn't it? Yeah?

Cuff The Duke are in fact a Canadian band, hailing from Toronto. As far as I know they've got no connection with Belgium (outside of this song) at all, but as soon as I decided to do a Belgian-themed blog, I just couldn't get the song out of my head... so here it is, in all it's Strokes-y glory. And believe me, this IS a mighty, mighty behemoth of a song.

Download: Cuff The Duke - Belgium Or Peru

I reckon that'll do us for now. I hope you've enjoyed this brief sojourn to Belgium... and Canada. Perhaps we'll do it again sometime...

Don't forget - if you like the music, support the artists by BUYING their records. Cheers.

Artist links:

Plastic Bertrand
K's Choice
Cuff The Duke

Until next time...

Sunday, 10 January 2010

In The Bleak Midwinter...

Well... it's been snowing. As a result, the world as we know it has ceased to function and has, quite frankly, gone mad. We now have sporting events cancelled because the areas around the venues are "not safe". So what? Because we are now overrun with "no win, no fee" personal injury lawyers (or, as I like to call them, scum bastard parasites), your local plod are insisting we have to cancel football matches and the like in case some dumb idiot falls over and breaks something - and then sues someone. Because, of course, suing someone makes it all better! It's ridiculous.

Back in the day, nobody gave a shit about a bit of snow and ice. So you fell over from time to time - but so what? Worse things happen at sea. You get up, you dust yourself, you look slightly embarrassed - then you get on with life. What you DON'T do, is pick up the phone and ring your nearest ambulance-chaser to see how much cash you can make out of it.

It makes me a bit mad, you know.

So anyway. Snow. Kicking us off on our oh-so-predictable themed journey, is the criminally-underrated guitar genius Ace Frehley (he of Kiss fame, pictured). Taken from his eponymous debut solo album, released in 1978, this is "Snow Blind". If you're reading this and thinking, "What?! Kiss?! He's gone mad!" then please just trust me and give it a spin...

Download: Ace Frehley - Snow Blind

Want more snow? Thought so. Next up are former NME press-darlings JJ72 and their sublime single "Snow" (also from an eponymous debut album, as it goes). I remember buying the CD single of this, and then almost immediately going out to buy the album as well on the back of it, such was the bombastic appeal of it all. JJ72 should have been huge really, but if anything they suffered because of their wilful experimentation - whilst they always had one foot firmly in stadium territory, there was a hint of Sonic Youth-style whimsy about them, too. Had they succumbed to insipid balladry, then I'm sure they would have ruled the world, but as it was they saved us all the misery of such a move, and after two superb albums for the Lakota label, disbanded in 2006.

Download: JJ72 - Snow

Finally for today, we go whizzing back in time to the heady days of 1968, and a young group calling themselves Status Quo. Unjustly ridiculed these days for their reliance on 3-chord rock, the Quo's back catalogue (certainly prior to the departure of original bassist Alan Lancaster in 1985, after which their pop sensibilities sent them slightly awry) contains more genuine rock classics than you can shake a stick at. Here's one of them, from back when the Quo still flirted with psychedelia and none of them had yet bought any denim at all.

Download: Status Quo - Ice In The Sun

So then, that's it for our chilly triple-tracker... best of luck with struggling your way through the snow drifts - and remember, if all else fails, there's always litigation.

Band links/shops:

Ace Frehley
Status Quo

Saturday, 2 January 2010

It really is a New Year...

Well, hello there! Welcome to the all new, relaunched Musicus Eclecticus! I've been toying with reviving this little blog for quite some time and now we are going into a brand new year, it seemed the right time to take the plunge and do it.

Since it IS a New Year - and may I take this opportunity to wish all a happy and prosperous one - I'm kicking off with the slightly predictable but still ace "New Years Day" by 2010 Glastonbury headliners U2. This is the version from the live LP "Under A Blood Red Sky". This might be an obvious choice but I think it is one of those tracks where you hear it and then immediately realise you'd forgotten how good it is...

Download: U2 - New Year's Day (live)

Now, January brings not only a New Year, but also the media circus that is the football transfer window. For my club - Hull City - this is likely to be about as exciting as watching Wayne Rooney trying to spell his own name, but for many fans all over the country, it will be a time for 24 hour Sky Sports News (with the execrable countdown thing they so adore) and much biting of fingernails. I'm pretty sure there aren't any songs about the transfer window (I sincerely hope not, anyway), but for football-related musicality, we need look no further than the legendary Half Man Half Biscuit.

Half Man Half Biscuit - 1966 And All That

Continuing on a theme... that theme being not football, but Hull... up next is a track from one of Hull's most underrated bands, the sadly defunct Spacemaid. Spacemaid flirted with success in the early 90s when they made "Single Of The Week" on Mark Radcliffe's Radio 1 show. Sadly they never got much further than that but one listen to this track - the sublime "The Girl Who Sold The World" should leave nobody in any doubt that they deserved to be a hell of a lot bigger than they ever were.

Note - I ripped this track from the vinyl single, so apologies for any quality issues (I should say, it sounds great on my system, but I'm covering my arse).

Download: Spacemaid - The Girl Who Sold The World

Right, that's all for now folks! That said - these are three corking tracks to welcome you all back into the Musicus Eclecticus blogosphere. Come back for more, won't you?



Half Man Half Biscuit
Spacemaid (fan site)

Sunday, 27 December 2009

I Am The Resurrection


After much consideration, I have decided to bring Musicus Eclecticus back from the dead, just like Lazarus, but with MP3s.

Much water has passed under the bridge since last time we were here, over a year ago. For starters, I received an email from Blogger telling me that one of my posts had been reset to "Draft" status, which means you, dear reader, can't see it anymore. The reason for this is that I have apparently breached US copyright laws. Oops...

The offending post included links to 3 tracks, by New Model Army, Morrissey and Nick Cave/Shane MacGowan... but I have no idea which one of those links triggered the wrath of some Stateside spoilsport. Whatever, that post is staying gone, but there'll be new stuff forthcoming.

So what else has been happening over the past 12 months or so? The face of online music has changed again with the rise of Spotify and various other (inferior) imitators. I'm a massive fan of Spotify, and long may it continue. It's not a perfect system by any means (the "similar artists" process is fucking dreadful, for example) but it is a superb way to hear new music and build playlists. Thumbs up from us, without a doubt.

Also since last we spoke, Michael Jackson has gone off to the great playground in the sky, and may I just say, I honestly couldn't care less. I wonder if there will be such a nauseating outpouring of overblown emotion when Gary Glitter bites it? Somehow I doubt it. And for fuck's sake... for every "Billy Jean" there was an "Earth Song"... yeah... not such a fucking genius after all, eh?

Enough of all that. Rage Against The Machine are number one, and Musicus Eclecticus is back... what's not to smile about?

Note regarding old MP3 links... I have just spotted that Hotlinkfiles appears to be not working... so none of the old files on this blog will be downloadable. This also means the ones I was about to post won't work either. So, while I make alternative arrangements, here's a bit of (vaguely apt) YouTube music, just for now.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

RIP Ronnie Drew - 1934-2008

The music world lost one of its great characters and hugely influential performers with the death this week of the great Ronnie Drew, famed as front man of The Dubliners and inspiration to a raft of bands, most notably The Pogues.

Drew formed The Dubliners in 1962, originally as The Ronnie Drew Group. The band would go on to become one of the most popular and successful folk groups in history, notching up a number of UK hit singles - "Seven Drunken Nights" and "The Black Velvet Band" both reached the top twenty (in the days when the charts actually meant something), while "Maids When You're Young Never Wed An Old Man" scraped into the top 50. In 1987, the single "The Irish Rover", recorded with the Pogues, reached number 8 in the UK - and number 1 in Ireland, introducing a new generation of music fans to the delights of the Dubliner's recordings.

Drew left The Dubliners in 1974 but returned to the fold five years later. He would remain a Dubliner until 1995 when he again left the band, this time to launch a solo career.

Sadly, Ronnie Drew was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2006. Despite a two-year fight, he could not beat the illness and died aged 73 in St Vincent's Hospital, Dublin, on 16th August 2008. He leaves two children and five grandchildren.

A true legend of Irish music, Ronnie Drew will be sadly missed by friends, family and fans alike.

Celebrate some of Ronnie's finest moments with the selection of tracks below.

Download: The Dubliners - Seven Deadly Sins
Download: The Dubliners - A Pub With No Beer
Download: The Dubliners - Finnegan's Wake
Download: Ronnie Drew - The Dunes

Amazon links - buy Ronnie Drew or The Dubliners stuff!

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Music, No Lyrics (#1)

Welcome to another regular series on Musicus Eclecticus, “Music, No Lyrics”, in which we look at some great instrumental tracks. Now, despite this blog generally having no rules whatsoever, in this case I’ve applied some specific criteria. I’ve eliminated classical music and dance music, purely because it’s usually devoid of words anyway, so there’s nothing unusual there. Besides which, you don’t really want me to start posting Scooter tracks, do you? (If you do, you’re in the wrong place).

Much more interesting are those tracks that either shaped the development of the instrumental (as in the first example, below), or instrumentals recorded by bands who aren’t normally associated with such things (as in our other two examples).

First up, is the godfather of guitar instrumentals, Link Wray. Link Wray (pictured) is credited with inventing distortion, by punching holes in the fronts of his amplifiers. He is also thought to have invented the power chord, which isn’t a bad claim to fame when you think about it… A formative influence on the likes of The Who and Led Zeppelin, nobody does it better than Link Wray did it.

Originally recorded in 1958, “Rumble” is an all-time rock ‘n’ roll classic. Bizarrely, it led to Wray being dropped by his label at the time (Cadence), who stated that the record was “promoting teenage gang warfare”, after label boss Archie Bleyer’s daughter remarked that it reminded her of the fight scenes in West Side Story. You couldn’t make it up.
In case you missed it, "Rumble" also cropped up on the soundtrack to Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, cementing its place in popular culture all over again.

Link Wray died in 2005 in his adopted home of Denmark, leaving behind an enormous and hugely important body of work.

Download: Link Wray – Rumble

Jumping forward a mere 38 years, this next record, from Scotland’s Teenage Fanclub comes from their wondrous Bandwagonesque album. An odd album title, as the Fanclub could never be accused of jumping on anyone else’s bandwagon. This dreamy album (think The Beach Boys on crack) contains a gem of an instrumental, “Satan”, which at less than a minute and a half, is short and sweet for sure, but nevertheless stands as one of the album’s undoubted highlights.

Download: Teenage Fanclub – Satan

Now, whilst it may be distinctly uncool to profess a liking for Metallica, frankly I don’t care. I grew up on a diet of Ride The Lightning and Master Of Puppets and I’ve never quite shaken the habit. Christ, I even bought St Anger.

Master Of Puppets is the album we’re dipping into here, for the epic “Orion” instrumental. Always a poignant track for diehard Metallica fans – it contains some of the late Cliff Burton’s finest ever bass playing – it builds through its eight minutes from a quiet(ish), chugging intro, through to a heavy, heavy finale.

Whatever your thoughts on Metallica, there is no denying the fact that they have been often imitated but never, ever bettered – and this track is just one of many examples which emphatically prove the point.

Download: Metallica – Orion

Well… what are you waiting for?


Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Great Songs By Shit Bands (#1)

It may not have escaped your attention that there are literally thousands of bands out there in the world who can justifiably be described as "shit". Some reach utterly inexplicable heights of success due to what one can only presume is abject stupidity on the part of the record-buying public (step forward, My Chemical Romance), without even looking like writing anything that could be loosely classed as listenable. Some, on the other hand, slog away producing turd after turd, and then, sometimes - they release a track of such brilliance it's hard to believe they were so crap in the first place. This, the first of what will be a regular series, focuses on those moments of wonder which were recorded by bands who should at any other time just be tortured to death to save us the misery of having to listen to any more of their deluded nonsense.

First up is the very track that made me think of running this series in the first place. The not-so-mighty Feeder shot to fame in 2001 with the astonishingly inept "Buck Rogers" single (complete with such lyrics as "Drink cider from a lemon-lemon-lemon-lemon" - or something). Risible as that song was (and still is), it sold by the hatful. To who, I know not - hopefully nobody I've ever met though. Four years earlier though, they released a rather better album by the name of Polythene which included one track, "Suffocate", which is a thing of pure beauty. Four-and-a-half-minutes of sweeping emotion, it remains an utter enigma - how did it come from the same band? How? Listen, and judge for yourself...

Now then, if you thought "Buck Rogers" was fucking irritating, then you'll bite your own fingers off at the gruesome memory of "You're Gorgeous" by Babybird. On the back of Britpop, even my arse could have had a Top Ten hit (had it only been able to pick up a guitar) and as a result of this, even the word "gorgeous" suddenly seemed appropriate for use in a mainstream indie hit. Fact - it isn't. It sounds shit. Babybird fans will try and tell you that the whole thing was desperately ironic, but poke them in the eye and say "NO!". Ironic it was not - utter bollocks it most certainly was.

Thankfully Stephen Jones (the one-man Babybird - pictured) did redeem himself a couple of years later with this next track, "Take Me Back" which bore absolutely no resemblance to gorgeousness whatsoever. Instead, it's a dark and disturbing six minutes of songwriting genius which I never tire of hearing. And now it's your turn.

This last one (for now) is a bit of a cheat. I don't really think Stereophonics have always been a shit band, as such. In fact, their first two albums (Word Gets Around and Performance And Cocktails) aren't far short of indie-rock classics. HOWEVER. That was a big however. Following those two near-flawless albums, something happened (in a kind of a Be Here Now sort of a way) and Stereophonics became, overnight, The Worst Band On The Planet. Was it Kelly Jones' nauseating ego that did it? His hairdresser? Or did they just "do a Noel" and think you could fart out any old garbage and still go platinum? Whatever it was, they've never recovered. By way of a reminder that even shit bands might once have been fucking awesome, here is the 'Phonics ode to a departed friend, Local Boy In The Photograph, from their 1997 debut. It's got heart, and big bollocks - something sadly lacking from their later work.

That's it for now. Sorry for the big gap - back sooner next time.