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)