Claps, Clicks & Whistles #9

Time for some more whistling shenanigans, and a tune by the artist you’ve all been expecting me to drop sooner or later.

That’s right: Roger Whittaker.

Just kidding.

Credit to the Nation.

Okay, so perhaps not who you were expecting.

The band came to prominence back in 1992, with their “Smells Like Teen Spirit”-sampling track “Call It What You Want” (which was re-released in 1993 after they signed to One Little Indian Records).

Their debut album, “Take Dis”, was released in 1993; I first encountered them at around the same time, firstly when a guy who was working at the video store in Cardiff when I started there played me some of their stuff, and then also when the aforementioned “Call It What You Want” appeared on a compilation album of NME Singles of The Week I bought.

Today’s track was their biggest UK hit, a dig at other pop stars who elected not to use their position of power and influence to actually say anything of any importance and maybe, just maybe, make a difference (I’m looking at you Sheeran. Actually, I take that back; I’m not sure I want someone who hangs out with James Blunt and Princess Beatrice to issue a call to arms to the youth of today).

It also has the dubious distinction of being one of three rap/hip hop songs (or a song featuring a rap section) which, when I’ve had a few, I’m convinced I can pull off.

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Credit to the Nation – Teenage Sensation

More soon.

What? The other two songs….? Well, one is Mr C’s rap from The Shamen’s “Move Any Mountain”. And the other….the other will feature on these pages very soon indeed.

Claps, Clicks & Whistles #7

So far in this series, we’ve had songs which feature hand-claps, songs which feature whistling, but none that feature both hand-claps and whistling.

Until today.

You will let me know if the excitement gets too much for you, won’t you?

The Struts are a band from Derby, who make music which has, quite accurately in my opinion, been described as “unabashedly over the top retro-fetishist classic rock”.

Certainly, listening to their debut album, 2014’s somewhat arrogantly titled “Everybody Wants”, you do find yourself noting similarities with the aforementioned classic rock songs.

Take today’s tune for example: is it just me, or does the melody of the verse bear more than just a passing resemblance to “Waterloo Sunset”…?

In September 2015, USA Today named them “Band on the Verge”, which either means that they were tipping them for big things, or that their tour bus had broken down by the side of the road.

Anyway, on the verge is where they’ve stayed, despite – or perhaps because of – opening for Guns’n’Roses in August 2016. They’ve also opened for The Rolling Stones, which is perhaps unsurprising since lead singer Luke Stiller has been described as “the musical love child of Freddie Mercury and Mick Jagger”.

Sure, there’s nothing new or ground-breaking going on here, but don’t let the generic rock/pop-ness of The Struts put you off; they are a lot of fun.

And at the very least, you can while away a few moments spotting their influences, which apparently include Queen, The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Def Leppard, The Smiths, Oasis, The Strokes, The Libertines and My Chemical Romance. Maybe they should add some more to that list to help them get off that verge. If it really does refer to a broken down tour bus (which it doesn’t, but I’m going to see this gag through to the end whether you like it or not), Mike & the Mechanics might be an idea.

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The Struts – She Makes Me Feel

Just to be clear, I would never recommend any band should try to sound like Mike & The Mechanics. Except post-Thotch Brian Pern, of course.

More soon.

Claps, Clicks & Whistles #6

Just as I was heading to bed the other night, I performed my obligatory sweep of the TV channels to see if there was anything worth staying up for; I stumbled across “A Taste of Honey”, the film adaptation of Shelagh Delaney’s play, starring Rita Tushingham and Dora Bryant. I wisely decided staying up to watch it all was not a good idea, so hit record closely followed by the sack.

As I drifted off into sleepy bye byes, at that annoying moment when your body is all ready to drift off but your brain suddenly thinks of something liable to keep you awake for some considerable time if not dealt with properly, I recalled that Delaney had featured as the cover star of a single by a band I adore. In fact, she also featured on the sleeve of an imported double compilation album by them too.

I would expect approximately 99.9% of you will know where I’m going with this already. The other 00.1%, listen up.

Today’s song formed part of a release which, it seems, led to the end of one of the greatest bands not just of the 1980s, but ever; a band whose legacy as an influence was not really appreciated by many until some 10-15 years after they split.

I speak, of course, of The Smiths.

August 1987, and The Smiths were about to release what would be their last album of original, studio-recorded material, “Strangeways, Here We Come”. But first, the lead single, “Girlfriend in a Coma”; the 12″ and, lest we forget, the cass-single formats heralded two tracks which were not to be included on the album.

The three tracks, “Girlfriend…”, “I Keep Mine Hidden” and “Work is a Four Letter Word” almost seem to compete against each other to see which can be over quickest, weighing in with timings of 2:04, 1:59 and 2:48 respectively. I don’t mean that they seem rushed, far from it. They just seem, well, short.

Brevity of course was a feature the band understood very well. Take “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” which is just 1:53 long. That song is, simply, perfection. Anyone who thinks that “Please, Please…” suffers because of its duration fails to understand that the finest moments in life don’t last for long; you must cherish them, savour them, for soon they will be gone.

But I digress. One of those extra tracks, “Work is a Four Letter Word”, is often cited as being the reason The Smiths split. In an interview with Record Collector in 1992, Johnny Marr said: “‘Work Is A Four Letter Word’ I hated. That was the last straw, really. I didn’t form a group to perform Cilla Black songs. That was it, really.”

The final two singles the band released (“I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish” and “Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me”)  soon followed, and it has just occurred to me that the additional tracks on those releases were all different versions of already established favourites: the Troy Tate produced version of “Pretty Girls Make Graves”, Peel Sessions of “Rusholme Ruffians”, “Nowhere Fast” and “William, It Was Really Nothing”, a live version of “Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others” (containing an extra verse, axed from the album version) , a live cover of “What’s The World”, a song by James.

That’s because, I now realise, “Work is a Four Letter Word” was recorded in the same session as “I Keep Mine Hidden” and as such today’s choice is the last ever original composition recorded by The Smiths:

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The Smiths – I Keep Mine Hidden

The same 99.9% of you will know that the original vinyl releases of all (or if not all, most) of The Smiths records had a message etched into the run-out groove. The message on the B-Side of “Girlfriend in a Coma” reads: “And never more shall be so”.

In other words: Goodbye.

More soon.

Claps, Clicks & Whistles #5

Blimey, where does the time go? Has it really been three weeks since I wrote one of these?

We’re back in Sweden this week for some more polished indie-pop, a tune that certainly fits the remit of this thread, featuring incessant handclaps from pretty much the very first moment to the last.

In 1992, Acid House Kings set out on a 10 year plan: to produce a trilogy of albums with one album released exactly every 5th year. Each album was to be filled with catchy guitar pop songs but with new themes and a growing maturity from album to album. The first album in trilogy was the twee “Pop, Look & Listen”, which was heavily inspired by the kind of bands you’d find on labels like Sarah, Subway and Heaven.

1997’s “Advantage Acid House Kings” saw the band attempt to create catchy pop in the mould of The Smiths,  whilst third album, 2002’s “Mondays Are Like Tuesdays and Tuesdays Are Like Wednesdays” contains such wonderful titles as “Brown and Beige Are My Favourite Colours”, a fact which is rather self-evident from the picture below, where they look like a Val Doonican tribute act as imagined by IKEA.

Today’s track, though, comes from their fourth album, “Sing Along with…” and I’d probably say that Belle & Sebastian or Camera Obscura would be fairly accurate reference points, if a little unfair given that Acid House Kings were around before either of them. The Grauniad review of the album describes their sound as one which “lingers on the schmindier side of indie”, which I suspect was meant as a bit of an insult, but which is a description that’s absolutely fine by me.

Go on, give your ears a cheery treat and have a listen:

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Acid House Kings – Do What You Wanna Do

More soon. Probably by them, in this thread.

 

 

Claps, Clicks & Whistles #4

Quite often I’ve mentioned on these pages how the idea of which song to write about has come to me serendipitously. This is, of course, slightly disingenuous of me; for whilst I do have my iPod constantly on shuffle, I don’t really believe that it’s fate that a certain song has come to my attention; often, as with the songs on this thread, my ears are attuned to any song which might contain either handclaps, finger clicks or whistles.

It is true to say that every now and then I will hear a song which contains one of the above that I had either not noticed before, or, as with today’s tune, where I’d forgotten that it did, possibly because they don’t surface until the record has almost finished.

Last weekend I was watching a BBC4 show featuring performances of bands which had female members, and there, almost at the end of the show, came this, which I’m going to assume you need no further introduction to (especially as this song featured recently on The Chain, and as another song by the same band will feature in this week’s once WordPress/my laptop has decided that it likes the idea of me inserting links to mp3s again).

Here’s Elastica:

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Elastica – Connection

That is all.

More soon.

Claps, Clicks & Whistles #3

Some Swedish pop this week, courtesy of I’m From Barcelona.

Yes, despite the name, they really are Swedish, the name is a homage to Spanish waiter Manuel from Fawlty Towers, who, whenever he got or did something wrong in front of a customer, would have his ineptitude explained away by either Basil or Sybil with something along the lines of “Sorry about him, he’s from Barcelona”.

I’m From Barcelona seem to be the only band in direct competition with The Polyphonic Spree for most band members on stage at any one time; at one of their early gigs in 2005 there were either 28 or 29 of them, depending on which report you read.

Pleasingly for a Scandinavian band, one of the members appears to be called Johan Viking.

The band are not only known for their pleasant brand of Scandi-pop and the rather large ensemble, the breadth of different instruments played is worth a mention too: accordion, mandolin, synthesisers, glockenspiel, drums, piano, guitar, saxophone, banjo, trumpet, omnichord, tuba, bass and clarinet (actually, now I’ve written that, it doesn’t seem quite so impressive…) along with an awful lot of backing vocals.

This is as close to a theme tune they’re recorded:

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I’m From Barcelona – We’re From Barcelona

That track features on their “Don’t Give Up on Your Dreams, Buddy!” EP from 2006, and also on their 2005 debut album “Let Me Introduce My Friends”. Yes, all 27 of them.

On the difference between a friend and a good friend, American comedian and scowly grump-faced inspiration for The Simpsons‘ bartender Moe, Rich Hall once said:

“They say that a friend will come over to your house and help you move, and a good friend will help you move a body. I have two good friends.”

More soon.

Claps, Clicks & Whistles #2

Over now to Claps, Clicks & Whistles corner for the second record in this themed thread.

In all honesty, this wasn’t going to be the next record, but after a rather lukewarm reception to the opening record posted last week (which was always very much meant as an intro record), and after a couple of mentions of today’s record, there was only one place for me to go. This one was always going to feature here, just not yet s’all. Still, the public gets what the public wants, as Paul Weller once said, whilst not clapping, clicking or whistling.

I, like many others I suspect, first became aware of this tune when it was used in an advert for a car. Such is the power of advertising.

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Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros – Home

Happy now?

More soon.