En Vacances

part two:listening

In terms of listening, the week gave me chance to listen attentively to a few sounds that I'd either just picked up or had given only a cursory listen to in the past. Of the more recent purchases, the most surprising was perhaps the Scritti Politti record Anomie and Bonhomie. I have no idea what the press are saying about this return of Green to the fold, and for all I know I might be either going against the flow or running with the masses when I say that it is a startling record, a record that makes superb sense of the times with its blending of classy Hip Hop (Black Star's Mos Def is here in full effect) with Green's never doubted grasp for great Pop melody, is indeed the record that for me is already up there as one of the finest of the year. Anyone who disagrees has cloth ears.

Also up there is the Company Flow record Little Johnny From the Hospitul, which is Hip Hop from the dark side, lurking in the shadows cast by the Scritti glow. Edgy and psychotic, this is proof that there is still space to expand in abstract instrumental Hip Hop. Naturally enough, it's on the Rawkus label, home of the Black Star, and Kevin is entirely correct when he tells you it is indeed way ahead of the pack, just as he is on the ball when he tells you that Roots Manuva's Brand New Second Hand is classic UK Hip Hop and surely another contender for album of the year. It somehow feels great to be able to say that there are so many records all up there this yearÉ perhaps modern music isn't so rubbish after all? Whatever.

I had lost track of T-Power's Mark Royal a few years ago, after his 'Police State' drum'n'bass epic, and when I noticed a new title in the racks of the store the other week, I was only too happy to give it a spin. I'm glad I did, because 'Fuzzy Logic'/'American Psycho' (Botchit and Scarper) is a great record. I think the people who make these things up call it 'new breaks' or somesuch, but regardless of genre inventions this is a great record with fabulous sharp beats and sub-bass with classy instrumentation that hits home with beautiful precision. Certainly it sounds to me much more progressive and entertaining than the sounds of drum'n'bass still being churned out. Even the new Virus stuff by Rush and Optical sounded done to death when I gave it a spin recentlyÉ not for me, at least not today thanks very much, but T-Power? More please and thank youÉ

Off on totally the other side of the spectrum are The Clientele, whose 'All The Dust and Glass' single I had been sent way back in March. At that time I played it quickly and filed it away in my whimsical pop section, not really giving it much thought or attention, which really was a great shame because dragged out and played again it sounds, well, magical. Imagine the sounds of watching the sky through the new dew, the whispers of ghosts blowing kisses in your ears. You're still not close. Apparently (I never read the music press myself, it's such a dreadful chore/bore) the NME called them the 'new Belle & Sebastian' which is a great shame because really that's lazy, and I'm only being slightly less lazy when I say that they are more like Davy Jones fronting the Left Banke making theme tunes for imaginary 1920s movies of desperate love and abandon. Word is that they are recording an LP for release in September, and if all goes according to plan, we're going to have yet another of those 'records of the year' to contend with.

graham skinner

There was more in the week of course, and I could talk at length of how good it was to spin Dexy's Don't Stand Me Down again (the Creation CD reissue snapped up for a couple of quid, essential of course and the more so for the great sleeve notes from Mr Rowland - immeasurably more entertaining than his recent embarrassment of a 'press statement' in the music ragsÉ); or how The Associates 'Breakfast' single is an overlooked gem of restrained majesty; or how The Jazzateers I shot The President collection on Marina from a few years ago sounds fantastic and in hindsight it makes it even more of a shame that it was with the shoddy polished commercial likes of Hue and Cry, Love and Money, Deacon Blue or even Hipsway (whose Grahame Skinner is vocalist on the official debut Jazzateers record) and not their precursors like the Jazzateers and Bourgie Bourgie that the Glaswegian blue-eyed soul singers gained their successes. And on the mention of Love and Money, I could tell you that although they have turned out nothing but disposable rubbish recently, the Bathers debut Interesting Places To Die from 1986 is an immeasurably more lasting record than anything turned out by James Grant's outfit, and that Grant could never get away with a line like 'She plays guitar like Tom Verlaine'. The connection being, in case you need telling, that the Bathers is Chris Thompson, and that he and Grant were the mainstays of Bothwell's finest Friends Again, whose wonderful 'Why Don't You Ask Someone' I think I have added to every summer collection tape since 1984.

Which I think is as good a place to stop as any. Take a week out yourself and let me know what you discover.

©Alistair Fitchett 1999

Part One: Reading