today is yesterday in disguise
I really enjoyed reading William Crain's recent piece on his folk-rock mix CD, so in the spirit of that I decided I'd do the same for the mix I compiled last night. The usual suspects will no doubt be finding a copy in their mailboxes before too much longer, and it'll also be the basis for a new radio show sometime soon, so you know, I hope you enjoy it.

I'm kicking off with the kick off cut from Chutes Too Narrow, the new Shins album. Sethe wanted to know why I liked it and I had to say well at first I was underwhelmed, but you do need to play it loud and hey, how can you not love those tunes and the way all the lyrics are shoehorned into weird spaces? The Shins sometimes sound like the Cure I think, and I think that's not really a good thing, but hey, maybe they sound like the way the Cure always should have done. Nevertheless on ´Kissing The Lipless' I reckon The Shins are God.

John Carney was right about the King Cresosote album of course. It's a rare gem and I adore it. On Kenny and Beth's Musakal Boat Rides ´Homeboy' kicks in after the wibbly instrumental opener ´lonepigeon's wineglass finale' and it's a lovely juxtaposition because ´Homeboy' is glorious unadulterated Pop from the fifth dimension. King Cresosote is the epitome of the singer-songwriter in the 21st Century and if I were still in High School his name would be felt-tipped on all my books. As it is he'll have to make do with a post-it on the wall.

Listening to the King Creo I started thinking, hey, you know, there's something that reminds me of the very wonderful Russian Futurists here, and I hadn't played any of them/him in ages so I dug out Let's Get Ready To Crumble and chose ´It's Not Really Cold When It Snows'. You know when people say ´ach it's too cold to snow...'? What's that about? Like it's not cold in the fucking Arctic, and it never snows there, no it doesn't. Sheesh. Anyway, I thought this fitted nicely with the King and the Boy who follows.

The Boy Least Likely To also reminds me a bit of the Russian Futurists. I should have written that in my review of this, his second single ´Be Gentle With Me' but I forgot. So I'm saying it now. This really is a lovely tune. Cutesy without being sickly, it jumbles along like a rickety cart on a sunny July farm track, sort of like the cover of The Undertones ´Here Comes The Summer'. Not that it sounds anything like the Undertones of course, unless that was an Undertones hiding coyly behind fringes and picking forget me nots.

´Change of Pace' by Escape Pod is next because it was too good a title to pass on. It's funny how when you make a mix your mood often changes after the first three or four tracks, isn't it? I thought I'd start off all upbeat, but I quickly decided I couldn't really be arsed with too much frivolity and upbeat fun and frenzy, so opted to literally change the pace. After this it's all more or less resolutely downbeat, which is fitting because I really am so tired at the moment. Tired and a bit hysterical, which is partly why I'm writing this in one burst, not allowing myself to write on a track after it's finished. Hey, Escape Pod really do sound like Appliance, don't they?

So to ballboy, and ´Dutch Trance'. I was going to slot in ´Born In The USA' but decided against it at the last moment. Go buy the damn album if you want to hear it (and you NEED to hear it). So ´Dutch Trance' because of its spectral beauty. Or something. I listened to this on my iPod yesterday morning whilst walking around terraced streets and deserted parks taking photos. The line about having my walkman on sounded special. I wonder if ´iPod' will come to be a generic term like ´Walkman'? (For youngsters who maybe don't know about the history of consumer electronics, the original portable personal stereo was the Sony Walkman, and thereafter all personal stereos came to be called Walkmans. Just like Hoover became the defacto word for a vacuum cleaner, although I think that's going out of fashion again. Maybe Walkman is too...) Oh, and ´Dutch Trance' is glorious.

As you probably know, ballboy also did a lovely cover of Galaxie 500's ´Tell Me' on their The Sash My Father Wore album. Yesterday I picked up the Rough Trade stop me if you think you've heard this one before collection, and noticed that The Tyde similarly cover that very song. I decided not to use it here though, and plumped instead for the other Galaxie 500 cover on the album, the delicious version of ´Tugboat' by British Sea Power. My jury has always been out on British Sea Power, but on this evidence I will re-investigate, because not only do they choose admirably, they also turn in a lovely reproduction. It was gratifying to see two Galaxie 500 tracks on the Rough Trade collection actually. It seemed like a kind of acknowledgement of the band's quiet importance in the scheme of things. Similarly, there are two songs by Young Marble Giants on the collection, and that too is immensely gratifying, not least because one of the bands (doing ´Final Day') is Belle and Sebastian. I would have snuck more cuts from that collection on this mix, but it kind of goes against the grain of mix making to favour one album more than others.
And so to Galaxie 500 themselves, and since everyone else is covering their tunes I figured I'd use a recording of them doing Jojo's ´Don't Let Our Youth Go To Waste'. This is from the live Copenhagen set which is an awe inspiring document of one of the most beautiful groups ever to grace the planet. Galaxie 500 played with a grace and a strength that was jaw dropping. No-one else has come close to matching their symbiotic relationship between noise and serenity, and the fact that they split before their story could be compromised only adds to the appeal. I often talk about the importance of mystery in Pop, and really Galaxie 500 are one of the mythic groups. They seemed to keep their distance, never really played the game, and quit just as they were probably on the verge of needing to do so if they were to move to the next level of ´success'. God bless ´em.

Blue Orchids are a great mythic group too, and their The Greatest Hit is surely one of the reissues of the year. I should really write a proper review, but for now this will need to suffice. ´Mad As The Mist and Snow' is the closer on that immensely valuable artefact (the CD reissue actually slots the ´Agents of Change' EP on the end) and I always loved it madly for its ethereal quality. If you are even remotely interested in the whole late 70s / early 80s interface between Punk and what is loosely termed ´post-punk' (and if you love Joy Division, The Bunnymen, Teardrop Explodes etc) then to be without Blue Orchids in your collection is a sin of the highest order. And with the magnificent LTM label doing such a great salvage job, there really is no excuse.

Listening to ´Mad as the Mist and Snow' again really made me realise how much Blue Orchids were in the tradition of Television and actually, as an album closer, was so closely related to the genius of ´Torn Curtain'. So I shimmied over to the ´T' shelf and dragged out that smart new reissue of Marquee Moon, twirled the dial to ´8' and pressed play. Then I just sat back and enjoyed it. Much as I'm doing now in fact.

When I was trying to get the British Sea Power track earlier I accidentally just hit play and so inadvertently recorded track one from the Rough Trade collection, which was Eastern Lane doing ´Fa Ce La' from the Feelies' Crazy Rhythms album. I edited that mistake out of my final mix, but still, it made me remember how great the Feelies were and that I really ought to sneak something by them on here. So I dug out their Good Earth album from '86 and went for the Velvety ´Tomorrow Today'. Partly this was because it segues well with Television, and partly because of course Primal Scream had a song called ´Tomorrow Ends Today', and that's a nice little connection to be making. Naturally we're talking about the mythic Primal Scream here, and not the one that graces their recently released compilation, and I have to say thanks to everyone, especially John Carney, for sending old recordings of that mythic Scream. Oh, and before I forget, there's of course the connection between the Feelies and Galaxie 500 in that former Feelie Stanley Demeski went on to play with Dean Wareham in Luna. But you all knew that already, so I'll shut up.

James Kirk comes sweetly in after the Feelies with ´Old Soak', one of the many highlights from his You Can Make It If You Boogie album. It's been said before and will be said again, but Kirk really is a classic mystery man. As responsible as anyone else for the life-changing Orange Juice / Postcard axis in the start of the 80s, he pretty much dropped from view after leaving the OJs, surfacing only briefly with one classic single as Memphis. Then from nowhere there's this beauty of a record and hey, he's gone again. Nowhere to be seen, mystery and integrity intact.

I'd wager that Slipslide have a fair few Postcard records in their collections. Their The World Can Wait album was one of the stealth hits of the year (it crept up on me over the space of several months, and now I cant stop playing it), but here I've opted for ´Love Split', a previously unreleased track from the ace Matinee sampler Autumn Assortment! CD. Lovely stuff that's essential for anyone who digs the likes of the Windmills and East Village.

Back to vinyl now for the two sides of a 7' I reviewed recently. First it's Tempertwig who do their roughed up Tindersticks thing with ´bratpack film philosophy', replete with Bagpuss and Supremes references. Oh, it's also reminiscent of Blue Aeroplanes, with the singer doing a kind of Gerard Langley spoken word half sung lyrical kind of poetic delivery. Wonder if he wears shades in bed too?

Then it's Air Formation getting all moody, drifting in from the moor swathed in mist. There's frost on their noses, and they can see through stars. Or ´seethrustars'. I thought at first it was about thrusters, thought that maybe this was a sci-fi lovers paean to manoeuvring rockets. But it isn't. Reminds me a little of Loop today.

Okay, so it's back to Matinee's Autumn Assortment! now, and me breaking my rule about not using the same album twice. Well I'm sorry but I just couldn't resist the lovely country sunburn of Airport Girl's ´I've Seen Mexico'. Apparently this cut will feature on their forthcoming album Notes and Tones, and if this is anything to go by, it's going to be a real beauty.

Finishing up then with the track from which our mix title comes. It's another Matinee recording artiste, and really I should be writing a much longer review about the Windmills' Now Is Then album, from which our mix closer ´Time Machine' comes, but you know life is so complicated and busy and maybe I will and maybe I wont do it when the holidays roll around, but whatever, I'm sticking this in as my mix closer because The Windmills are God and this track is just so wonderful and full of all the things that make them so. Shivering guitars, subdued infectious tunes, a beatific undertow that will drag you up to the stars, lines of words that coyly wrap themselves around your spine and squeeze your heart tight. Thank God for the Windmills.

© 2003Alistair Fitchett