Splash FM Website of the Day, 1st August 2005. Be Impressed.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Chumbawamba – Tubthumping.

Chumbawamba have been releasing records since 1986 and have had only one hit. I think that’s some kind of blessing.

They were formed in a Leeds squat in 1984 by frontman Dunst, Lou Watts and Alice Nutter (former drummer with the excellently named Ow My Hair’s On Fire) with the intention of spreading anarchism through pop ditties. Their debut album, the Band Aid baiting Pictures of Starving Children Sell Records, failed to instigate popular revolution and they spent the rest of the 80’s happily yelling at Thatcher.

However, with the Tories being booted out of government, 1997 saw Chumbawamba take a strange turn. They signed to that bastion of radical socialism EMI. Amid talk of crippling the musical and political establishment from the inside Chumbawamba released Tubthumping. The song is a pile of catchy vocal hooks that any drunken, forehead-slapping moron could sing along with on their hen night and as a result became a massive international hit.

Chumbawamba briefly became infamous after the 1998 Brit Awards. Never ones to let a good pop song get in the way of half-arsed political sloganeering, they changed the words of Tubthumping to “New Labour sold out the trade unionists and now they’ll sell out the dockers” – no one really cared. What actually made an impact was Chumba’s Danbert Nobacon throwing water on Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott. Somehow this failed to bring the establishment crashing to its knees.

Chumbawamba’s next shot at controversy came with Alice Nutter’s appearance on US talk show Politically Incorrect. She suggested that fans should steal their album from large record shops. Failing to realise most people were smuggling the album back into the shop after realising Tubthumping was the only decent song on it.

Chumbawamba were eventually dropped by EMI after the release of What You See is What You Get in 2000. They claimed this was due to the lyrics which attacked the media and big business. However, astute observers (me) put it down to the vast indifference the public showed to the record.

Chumbawamba – Tubthumping.

Buy Tubthumper.

Watch Chumbawamba’s protest against The Smashing Pumpkins’ 52 piece drum-kit.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Lilys – A Nanny In Manhattan.

Hey girl, where you get them jay-nes?

Lilys have been releasing records since 1991 and have had only one hit in the UK. I think that’s some kind of achievement.

This song became a hit thanks to its appearance in a Levi jeans ad. Lilys are certainly not afraid of being labelled ‘sell outs’. Their music has used in adverts for Volkswagen, Calvin Klien and Nike. People seem to prefer new music if it comes attached to a multinational corporation. Ho hum.

There have been over 30 members of Lilys in their history. The only constant member is frontman Kurt Heasley. Heasley is not a man how could often be called innovative. Each Lilys record sound entirely different from the last yet exactly like something else. Fortunately, he knows how to fleece with style. Their first album, In The Presence of Nothing, was a shoegazing carbon copy and has been described as ‘one of the few decent My Bloody Valentine rip-off records’.

The album Better Can't Make Your Life Better, from which Nanny in Manhattan comes, sees Lilys take on British Mod music and come out on top. I find it impossible to resist the sing-a-long melody, fuzzed out guitars and its admirable brevity
Pointless pub trivia: Nanny in Manhattan was the first song performed entirely live on Top of the Pops

Lilys – A Nanny in Manhattan.

Buy A Nanny in Manhattan for a penny!

Buy Better Can’t Make Your Life Better.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Super Furry Animals – International Language of Screaming.

International Language of Screaming was the lead single from The Super Furry Animals’ second album Radiator (originally titled Short Assed Skinhead Copper). It was my favourite single of 1997. Not everyone felt that way at the time. The single was not playlisted by Radio 1 and only reached number 24 in the charts. I must have been out of step with the times in my love of a great pop melody, rocking guitars and psychedelic bleeps.

Although SFA have had a long and successful career they never seem to have achieved quite the level of popularity they deserve. But they’re not a band that does things the easy way. Singing songs in Welsh is never going to get you on the cover of Heat magazine - although exactly which are sung in Welch and which in English is often hard to distinguish. After seeing them live for the first time Creation records boss Alan McGhee asked the band if they had any songs in English – the entire set that night had been in English.

1997 was an eventful year for the band. They released their second album to great critical acclaim, played the NME Brats Tour and sold their tank to Don Henley of The Eagles. But highlight of the year for them has to have been, Super Furry Bassist, Guto Price’s triumphant performance on Mark and Lard’s Radio 1 Breakfast Show. He scored four points during the quiz ‘We Love Us’ and walked away with a brand new luxury foot spa.

Given the strange nature of the band it’s sometimes hard to tell fact from fiction with SFA stories. Decide for yourself which of these are true: they appeared on GMTV in a competition to find the next Take That, they have a designated ‘hat day’ once a week, they once released an album entirely in Welsh.

Super Furry Animals – International Language of Screaming.

Buy Radiator.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Ron Sexsmith – April After All.

Ron Sexsmith is one of those singer-songwriters who keeps making great records and keeps getting ignored.

His second album, Other Songs, is about as close as he’s got to selling out featuring as it does Sheryl Crow and even having a few up-tempo tunes. The album’s slicker than usual production comes courtesy of Mitchell Froom who produced such acts as Crowded House, Paul McCartney and Elvis Costello and is also known as Mr Suzanne Vega.

However, no amount of slick production could cover up the morose nature of the songs on the album. Themes include child abuse, cemeteries and plenty of loss (of childhood, love and dignity). Lyrically, the closest he gets to happy-go-lucky on the album is the melancholic optimism on display on Thinly Veiled Disguise and today’s track, April After All.

On this song Sexsmith sounds absolutely deflated and defeated. Even though he keeps insisting that, no matter how bad things are, better times are just around the corner; you have to wonder if he really believes it himself.

Ron Sexsmith – April After All.

Buy Other Songs.