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

Friday, September 30, 2005

Ocean Colour Scene – Hundred Mile High City.

The Britpop scene never had a defined sound. But there was one thing that connected them all – crap names. Shed Seven, Echobelly, Kula Shaker, Menswear. However, one band stood ahead of the crowd.

Ocean Colour Scene were formed in Birmingham in the late 80’s and had their first crack at stardom when they were signed to the equally ill-named Phfftt Records. After lengthy recording sessions with a string of producers, their album was released to vast public indifference. They were unceremoniously dumped by the record company (usually when a band gets ditched there’s a ceremony involving cake, balloons and a pregnant hippopotamus) and went on the dole.

Luckily, their Modish Dad-Rock caught the eye of Paul Weller, who offered them a support slot and recruited guitarist Steve Craddock for his own backing band, and Noel Gallagher, who also offered them a support slot. The resulting bidding war was won by MCA who were the only record company daft enough to allow them to keep the name Ocean Colour Scene. Their second debut Moseley Shoals was released in 1996 and, with the celebrity backing of Chris Evans, Johnny Depp and pixie-faced coke fiend Kate Moss, hovered around the top of the album charts for the next six months.

Their 1997 follow-up, Marchin’ Already, was excitedly received on its release and knocked Oasis of number one; prompting Noel to proclaim them the ‘second best band in the world’. But sales dropped and it failed to perform as well as Moseley Shoals. The band themselves blamed this on the outing of singer Simon Fowler. Ignoring the fact it just wasn’t much good.

The album does have one redeeming feature; the rifftastic Hundred Mile High City.

Ocean Colour Scene – Hundred Mile High City

Buy Marchin’ Already

Friday, September 23, 2005

Kate Rusby – Bold Riley.

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I’m surprised I managed to last this long without indulging my passion for English folk music and posting some ‘finger-in-the-ear’ music (opposed to the ‘fingers-in-both-ears’ music I post most weeks). It has been a long held dream of mine to play banjo with Eliza Carthy and fiddle with Kate Rusby.

Although Rusby’s 1997 album Hourglass, from which today’s track comes, was her debut she had already had already established herself on the folk scene. Along with Kathryn Roberts, she was part of folk’s answer to Destiny’s Child (not that anyone had asked the question). She was also a member of folk supergroup Equation whose members have included recent Mercury Prize nominee Seth Lakeman and Irish nymph Cara Dillon (there’s a Rock Family Tree to be made of that band).

However, Rusby left Equation after the band were approached by a major label who wanted them to move in a more commercial direction. She decided to go solo, set up her own record label and make an album with her, musical and life, partner John McCusker and a bevy of talented, young folk musicians.

Bold Riley is a traditional sea shanty. It is, to get a bit geeky about it, a Halyard Shanty and was used when sailors raised and lowered the sails – pulling on the chorus and resting on the verse. Rusby turns it from a gruff work-song into a melancholy ballad with accordion accompaniment (c/o Andy Cutting) – a trick she repeated on her follow-up album Sleepless with the track The Wildgoose.

It was with Sleepless that Rusby began to be noticed outside the folk scene and was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize – shamefully losing out to Talvin Singh’s aptly named OK.

Kate Rusby – Bold Riley

Buy Kate Rusby mp3s

View My half hearted, less than comprehensive attempt at an Equation family tree

In case you were wondering, White Stocking Day was a sailors payday. Once back in port the sailors female relatives would dress in their finery (including white stockings) and collect the money.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Kelly Joe Phelps – Go There.

Fantastic, white bluesmen are few and far between. In fact, you could count the number of great, white blues musicians on the fingers of one finger. He’s Kelly Joe Phelps.

Like many old-time blues musicians, Phelps began his musical career playing fretless bass in a series of free-jazz groups and was highly technically adept. However, he swung to the other side of the musical spectrum and decided that the limited but soulful acoustic blues was to be his idiom. According to legend, this conversion occurred after a Robert Johnson/Jesus style period spent alone in the wilderness. He also developed his penchant for playing slide on a guitar laid flat across his lap at this time after a mysterious ‘carnival accident’ (“No-one tells me what I can’t stick my arms out of.”) didn’t leave him with any other choice.

His early albums, Lead Me On and 1997’s Roll Away the Stone, owe a great deal to his blues influences. As well as a high percentage of blues standards, his own songs on these albums are indebted to the tradition. For example, today’s track Go There, with it’s references to poor sinners and bible reading, is lyrically and musically reminiscent of the gospel-blues of Reverend Gary Davis.

But increasingly Phelps began to move back towards free-jazz and wrote increasingly literary songs to establish the unique style that sets him apart from most modern blues musicians. The balance between these two hit perfection on the follow-up to Roll Away the Stone, Shine Eyed Mister Zen. Unfortunately, he continued to head towards free-jazz and recruited a band of jazzy beard-scratchers.

Kelly Joe Phelps – Go There

Roll Away The Stone

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Modest Mouse – Shit Luck.

I have to admit I was only dimly aware of Modest Mouse before last year’s Good News for People Who Love Bad News and once I had heard I looked back on the days of ignorance with a teary-eyed fondness. That was until I heard their 1997 album The Lonesome Crowded West.

The album veers from describing Jesus pissing off God by having a drink to a bluegrass backing (on Jesus Christ Was An Only Child) to howls of desperation set to violent, brutal guitars (on today’s track).

Modest Mouse were formed in 1993 by frontman Isaac Brock and rapidly ran into trouble. The first album they recorded was shelved (it was later released as Sad Sappy Sucker) and Brock took the unusual step of releasing his songs by phone. Every day he would record a new song as his answering machine message and fans would, according to legend, ring up and listen. With such PR savvy tactics Modest Mouse’s international fame was but a short decade away.

Once they did get to make proper records they didn’t hang around. In 1996 they released their debut, This Is A Long Drive For Someone With Nothing To Think About, followed in 1997 by The Lonesome Crowded West and the Fruit That Ate Itself EP. The speed of release perhaps explaining the lax editorial control of album titles.

Modest Mouse – Shit Luck

Buy The Lonesome Crowded West

Download more Modest Mouse 1997 action