Thursday, February 23, 2006

A Win Win situation

Once asked how the recording of the most recent Nectarine No. 9 album was progressing, frontman Davey Henderson responded: "I'm actually taping over Win albums at the moment because I can't afford blank tapes."

Henderson delivered the above crack tongue planted firmly in cheek; however, it still summed up Win's existence rather neatly: frequently brushed aside, hardly a success (aside from the band's "You've Got The Power" being used in a TV advert for McEwan's Lager.

Casual fans may regard Win as a mere stopover for Henderson; him bidding adieu to the frenetic, spiky guitars of Fire Engines and casting an eye toward the future: the avant-rock, quirky leanings of the aforementioned Nectarine No. 9. But that's simply not the case. During its brief, two-album lifetime, Win managed to craft some terrific pop numbers.

Maybe that's the problem: Henderson had gone (gasp!) pop. (I'd have killed to been present when zealous fans of Fire Engines first heard Win.) The debut, Uh! Tears Baby (A Trash Icon), featured danceable rhythms, sunny vocal harmonies, glossy synths. This record actually grooved. It was far, far removed from the sonic adventures undertaken with his previous and later outfits.

Maybe too far removed. Read an interview or three, and one gets the feeling the enigmatic man from Edinburgh actually does possess the desire to erase those old Win albums. "I've been through all that pop stuff with Win," he once said, "and it's not a time in my life I like to go back to. Once in a while one of those pop songs pops up and I have to get rid of it."

Hear it for yourself. Download: "Shampoo Tears" by Win.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Chew on this

History has relegated them to mere footnote status. "Meat Whiplash? I think I've heard of 'em. Weren't they one of the bands at the Jesus And Mary Chain riot?" (Note: This response would likely be typical of those individuals living north of the Pennines. Those south might respond: "Meat Whiplash? Why of course. Wasn't that the Plymouth record shop run by Jeff Barrett, founder of Heavenly Records?")

Yes, Meat Whiplash did play at the notorious 1985 North London Polytechnic gig -- a gig that famously spiraled into utter chaos. (Yes, it was also the name of Barrett's store. One more note: Both the band and the shop took their name from a Fire Engines' B-side.) And as the stories go, the East Kilbride bampots were partly responsible for whipping the large crowd into a fine froth. According to legend, a wine bottle was lobbed on stage during Meat Whiplash's opening set; the band tossed the projectile back, much to the chagrin of those in attendance. Bassist Eddie Connelly was socked in the kisser. The lads then further agitated the crowd by announcing their closing song would be a 20-minute opus.

Full-blown madness later ensued when The Jesus And Mary Chain hit the stage, their notoriously short set shorter than usual. JAMC feedback still ringing in their ears, the audience then invaded the stage, toppling the PA stack, breaking equipment, throwing beer cans.

Six months later -- and certainly taking some of the sting away from the North London mix-up -- Meat Whiplash scored a hit with their seven-inch single, "Don't Slip Up." Song spent almost five months on the UK's independent music chart, climbing as high as No. 3.

Rumors persist to this day that The Jesus And Mary Chain's Reid brothers played the instruments on "Don't Slip It Up." Listening to the interminable drone of thick, fuzzy feedback . . . well, one can hear why.

Hear it for yourself. Download: "Don't Slip Up" by Meat Whiplash.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

'The stock market for your hi-fi'

"Top of the Pops": Can't-miss, cultural institution, or, in the business of showcasing slick, pre-packaged rubbish?

We know where The Rezillos stood regarding this matter. Unfortunately, the producers responsible for putting together the aforementioned, long-running, British music television program did not. The track "Top Of The Pops" was a lampoon of the TV program, humorously ridiculing the show's penchant for insipid shlock. Hackneyed, soulless artists miming to pre-recorded dross.

At least, that's how The Rezillos felt.

Now, here's what makes this particular story worth telling. File this under "truth is stranger than fiction": The single actually climbed as high as No. 17 in the U.K. charts; the group was then invited to "play" it on "Top of the Pops" . . . twice. The show's producers assumingly misunderstood the sarcastic lyrics for a rousing tribute. Yes, one imagines the ole irony detectors were switched to "off" when hearing couplets like, "There's one -- born every day/Sing song -- then fade away," or, "What is selling, what to buy/The stock market for your hi-fi."

It's no surprise The Rezillos -- who hailed from Edinburgh -- crafted a song so colorful and fresh. After all, this is the band Brian Hogg once described in his book, All That Ever Mattered, as: "The mutant bastard offspring of the original Roxy Music and a greasy Dr. Feelgood . . . ."

Hear it for yourself. Download: "Top Of The Pops" by The Rezillos. Catchy as hell with some lovely Fay Fife vocals. No wonder the TV roasters fell for it.