531. tse tse fly

The album’s called Dark Continent, and the song’s called Tse Tse Fly (both references to Africa) but Wall of Voodoo‘s first (and best) long player is really about America. The jangly guitars, cheap drum machines, scrapyard percussion bits and tips into noise. And the stories being told, equal parts noir and surreal. What could be more American?

WallofVoodoo-1981

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532. snowman

Second of two in a row from XTC‘s double treasure, 1982’s English Settlement, the album where they pulled a sort of Beatles move: stopped worrying about how they might reproduce the material live and instead just dove into the studio and its possibilities. And special nod to engineer and co-producer Hugh Padgham, best known for inventing the gated drum sound that so drove the 1980s (for better and worse). But his tricks on English Settlement are more subtle, working an often rich acoustic sensibility which, as the story goes, was driven not by any great conceptual intent, but rather main man Andy Partridge‘s purchase of a new acoustic guitar after giving the old one away as a contest prize.

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533. Jason + the Argonauts

Five albums into their career and XTC were simultaneously sick to death (literally) of the obligatory punk-pop-new-wave bullshit and ready for something big. And big was definitely the word for English Settlement, a double album at a time when bands just didn’t do that anymore. And an album it was. Yes, a few singles were released, but the songs worked best together, all in a rich, sumptuous flow, with Jason and the Argonauts stretching things out almost progressively – whatever that word even meant anymore come 1982.

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534. never never

“When power pop (to the point of punk) heroes the Undertones broke up in 1983, their absolute one of a kind singer Feargal Sharkey next showed up doing something pretty much completely different with the Assembly. Which we assumed was a new band, but it was really just him and Vince Clarke, recently ex of Yaz (or perhaps Yazoo). In fact, the only thing I ever heard from them was the one song, which makes Never Never (and the Assembly in general) more or less pop perfect. Talk about not overstaying your welcome.” (Philip Random)

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535. [love hides] five to one

“I had a copy of the Doors’ Absolutely Live kicking around for years before I finally listened to it, grabbed cheap for future reference, I guess, because at the time I was going through a prolonged phase of just not being into Jim Morrison and his bullshit, poetic and otherwise. Early 1990s finally, I put it on and what blew me away was the band. Hot shit indeed for a trio (guitar, drums, organ – the bass notes coming from the Ray Manzarek’s left hand). And yeah, I had to admit the singer had a certain something too, not remotely afraid to howl his angst and poetry and prophecy at the universe. We’re all doomed apparently.” (Philip Random)

DoorsLive-1970

536. the need

Mysterious live performance from somewhere in Europe, 1983. Chris + Cosey (late of Throbbing Gristle) exploring strange sonic regions via the nebulously labelled CTI – European Rendezvous album. This was the kind of thing you’d record off the radio back in the day, late night weirdness, the DJ never telling you who it was. Maybe a decade later, you’d finally figure it out.

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537. wishing well

“Wishing Well is a song I was aware of for a while without actually being conscious of it (if that makes any sense) percolating around in the background, never too loud, never overplayed. But that was Free’s version, the original. It took Maggie Bell‘s cover to snap me to attention and ask the essential question. Why the hell haven’t I heard more Maggie Bell, particularly given Jimmy Page’s presence all over Wishing Well, and the album in question? I’m still wondering.” (Philip Random)

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538. the way of the world

“Yes, that is Michael Hutchence laying out the bleak truth care of his other ‘band’,  Max Q, which briefly co-existed with INXS but only briefly. One album, no tours. But The Way of the World found me anyway. Must’ve been the feel good lyricsYou are born into this world – Looking down the barrel of a gun – And those who hold the gun – Want you to work fast and die young – And if you don’t work – If you don’t obey – They’ll make you live in fear till your dying day.  And that’s just the first half of the first verse.” (Philip Random)

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539. around the world in a day

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Prince (and his Revolution) go drug free psychedelic in the middle of the least psychedelic decade since at least the 1950s, with the title track of their first post Purple Rain album. And it works. The whole album works in its multi-coloured way, not bothering to try to measure up to what had come before, just being its own voluptuous thing. And, for the record, the 1980s were actually quite psychedelic … if you were going to the right parties, hanging around in the right rec-rooms, mountaintops, isolated beaches and islands. Psychedelia was definitely a more isolated thing that decade, and all the stronger for it, like being part of some great and mysterious undefined resistance. What were we resisting? Pretty much everything, it seems.” (Philip Random)

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