For somereason, I got it in my head that I wanted to write a little about every single piece of music in my iTunes library. Memo Juez decided to join me and write about the music in his library, too. Recently, Christoph (our webmaster and writer at Irreversible Mistakes) has started writing here again, too.
I am writing in alphabetical order by the first letter in the name of the group (excluding “The,” just like iTunes does). Memo is going in reverse alphabetical order. We’ve been doing this for like four years now. Sporadically updated Index for both of us here. You can find Christoph’s entries here.
On the sidebar, I’ve linked to a bunch of old articles from E/N sites I used to write at. Mostly rescued from The Wayback Machine. I used the magic of WordPress to backdate them to the day they were published.
As of March 2012, we have a new layout going, though its still under construction. Any input would be most welcome.
So, yeah, that’s what’s going on. If you’d like to join us in writing about your music collection, you’re totally welcome to join us. Contact me to join.
I seem to think I first heard Howard Jones on WXCI, my local college station when I was in high school. There was probably a very brief window of time where Jones’ “New Song” was getting played on that station alongside the other 80′s new wave “British invasion” bands. By the time “What Is Love?” started working its way up the charts, I think it was pretty clear to the WXCI DJs that Mr. Jones was more of a pop artist than an alternative pop artist – if only because his lyrical content was considerably brighter and his hooks somewhat cleaner.
Brian Eno recently delivered a fascinating talk at Red Bull Academy that addresses a number of topics insight-fully, but I found it especially notable for his discussion of pop vis a vis “niche” music. Abba would be pop for the sake of this discussion and the Velvet Underground would be niche. He discusses how when somebody is doing something new, we don’t always look for quality. Indeed, when stuff is especially new, there’s no way to gauge relative quality because there’s nothing else to compare it to. There are certain segments of the population that gravitate towards the new/niche and others that gravitate to the more polished/pop. There are, of course, other segments of society, too – this is not an either/or proposition.
Anyhow, by the time Howard Jones started creating pop music on synthesizer, there had already been several years of successful synth-pop music. Jones had the wherewithal to combine the elements that had made many of those songs hits with his own knack for creating musical hooks and penning ebullient lyrics. His songs might sound more dated than some of the more groundbreaking synth-pop (Heaven 17 for example), but his many of his songs fit the tenor of the time perfectly.
This song sounds rather dated to me now in 2013, but I remember being very fond of it back in the mid-80′s. My wife remembers enjoying it back in the day, but it recently came up on shuffle while we were driving and she commented “wow, I never realized how annoying that song is.” I think its the melisma in the repeated “What is Lo-o-o-o-o-o-ove” sections of the chorus that got to her, since the rest of the song is mildly inoffensive at worst.
My three month absence in order to contend to Sociology and College Algebra has come to an end. Yes, this semester is over and classes for me do not resume until the latter part of August.
Now in attempt to pick up where I left off with Jessicka‘s first band, restarting wit the Third track from 1998′s Covetous Creatures. Poor Impulse Control was track eight of their debut album and it got a seriously out of control makeover. It features lots of additional instruments and electronic accompaniments with extra, strategically placed trademarked Jessicka screams.
In a lot of regards, this remix is indicative of Jessicka’s growth as a musician from working with and being influenced by other professional musicians. It serves as an ever important bridge from Sexless Demons and Scars and the somewhat acclaimed and underexposed Clear Hearts and Grey Flowers; both of which formed the foundation that scarling. was built upon.
Howard Devoto has already been mentioned here at Teatro Triste del Clown as the pre-Pete Shelley lead singer of The Buzzcocks. He went on to form Magazine, who are featured prominently later on in my collection.
Anyhow, in 1983 Devoto released his only solo album, Jerky Versions of the Dream. Two songs from that album – “Rainy Season” and “Topless” – got a bunch of airplay on WXCI, so I became fairly familiar with them. Which is not to say I particularly liked them at the time.
Being a completist, when I remembered I used to kind of like this song, I tracked it down a few years ago. Familiar story by now, but its actually aged better than I thought it would have. Its also interesting how songs that you didn’t quite get when you were younger make a different kind of sense when you’re older.
One thing I’d mis-heard for years in this song was the lyric “You’re like a mirage.” I never heard the “g” until the past month, so I always thought he was singing “you’re like a mirror.” That realization kind of made the desert metaphor of the chorus make a bit more sense to me:
I am on fire and its the rainy season
In this desert you made me create
I am on fire and its the rainy season
And you’re like a mirage I could learn to hate
Anyhow, you see how mistaking “mirage” for “mirror” sort of renders that chorus into nonsense.
You need no further proof of my youthful idiocy than for me to tell you that I was turned off by “Me and the Farmer” in 1988 because it had the word “farmer” in the title. I didn’t like saying “Me and The Farmer” on the radio. I have no idea why – I was comfortable playing XTC’s “Love on a Farmboy’s Wages.” I must have had some association between the word “farmer” and children’s music and thought it was dreadfully uncool to play a song with that word in the title.
So, when my friend sent me the five Housemartins tracks he had (“Caravan of Love” was the fifth), I was strongly considering deleting this one. Then I listened to it and – duh – its a great song. It really balances Heaton’s twin passions of Marxism and Christianity – its essentially the story of a lad who works for an oppressive farmer. Its not just the young man who hates the farmer – Jesus and God both hate him, too.
One other notable thing about this song is that it includes some tuba, making it one of the very few songs in my library to feature that instrument.
See, I should know better than that. At the time, the two main interests of Housemartins singer/songwriter Paul Heaton were Marxism and Christianity – and always biting commentary. Almost all of The Housemartins songs make more sense when viewed through that lens.
At-the-time new Housemartin drummer Dave Hemingway kidnaps former drummer High Whitaker at the start of the video. Hilarious. Even after the band member left the band and the band eventually split up, they all remained friends. No mean feet.
I used to play “Five Get Over Excited” a bunch back in 1988 on WRBC. I never quite understood what the song was about – it always sounded like they were singing adds from the “romance wanted” section of the newspaper. I didn’t understand what they were singing in the backing vocals until I read the lyrics and discovered they’re pretty grim (people getting killed in a car crash, getting poisoned after dinner, etc). It also seems to have a sort of anti-Thatcher message, but I’d be hard pressed to name an English song in the 80′s that didn’t have some sort of anti-Thatcher message.
The People Who Grinned Themselves To Death isn’t available on iTunes or Amazon, so I was fortune that a good friend of mine was willing to share four tracks from the album with me. I’d not previously heard “Bow Down” (I was familiar with the other three tracks) but her only had four tracks so I figured I’d add them all to my library.
There’s some great horn work (and some children’s backing vocals) here which help to provide some hooks to a song that sounds like its about the fear of leaving home and entering the work field. There’s no such thing as a lousy Housemartins song, and this upbeat, 60′s-ish number is up to the level of quality you’d expect from the band.
Live because its more impressive and just as lovely:
The Housemartins’ a capella cover of Isley-Jasper-Isley’s “Caravan of Love” was a surprisingly enormous hit for the band in 1986. I didn’t care for it when it came out many years ago because it lacked the cynical bent of their other lyrics (and I didn’t recognize the original, so I thought it was original), but its aged very well and, as I said, is really quite lovely.
Original for comparison:
It was a bear finding this song – its not available on American iTunes or Amazon. A friend of mine who is a big Housemartins fan kindly shared it with me recently when I was trying to track it down.
“Happy Hour” is the only song I have in my library (currently) representing The Housemartin’s first record. The song is an up-tempo tune with the sort of cynical lyrics you’d expect from Beautiful South lead singer Paul Heaton. You’ll want to dance while, at the same time, acknowledge that there is a certain species of tosser that goes out for drinks with his co-workers and boss because he feels he has to in order to preserve his employment.
The band’s approach is pure pop, but there are frequently daggers hidden in their lyrics. As you can imagine, I love them.
The House Of Love and I passed like two ships in the night when I was DJing at KTUH in 1990. While I never much listened to the band’s critically beloved debut album when I was at WRBC in 1988, I fell in love with “I Don’t Know Why I Love You” from “The Butterfly Album” (this album didn’t have a title). I never explored the album deeper than this one song.
The band, according Wikipedia, was apparently dealing with “hedonism, ego and indecision” while recording this record and still managed to turn out this outstanding track (apparently, the whole album is rather good).
This was pre-grunge and just before the Manchester sound started dominating English music, so one could perhaps argue that this was a last gasp of the sound that had dominated so much of the 80′s. House of Love ultimately fell apart, though apparently they’ve recently gotten back together in a healthier space than they were at their commercial peak.