Friday, March 03, 2006

Hit The Skids

Rather fittingly, he shared a name with the technical term for the growing pains commonly found in young breed dogs. Because Pano was on board with the Dunfermline punk outfit The Skids while they were experiencing . . . well, growing pains.

Pano was the band's heid bummer for a bit. And honestly, how could he not be? He was a Hell's Angel from Fife, a pedigree that meant he was prone to dispensing a sound skull-thumping every now and then. One can imagine it was often in the defense of Ricky Jobson, The Skids' extroverted, ostentatious lead singer, who apparently was quite deft at raising the hackles of others. "I'd dyed my hair black and white," Jobson told Brian Hogg for his book, All That Ever Mattered, "and wasn't afraid to do anything."

During those early days, Pano flexed his managerial muscles, securing the band a rehearsal hall, landing gigs. The Skids debut took place at Bellvue in front of several hundred punk zealots. It was a nervous affair, Jobson on stage, a tattered piece of notebook paper in hand with his lyrics. U.K. punk shows had earned a deserved reputation for being a tad unruly. Did Pano need to size-up a lad getting too chippy with the fledgling act, bellow a "Ah'll stoat yer wallies," and then change from manager to enforcer with one thunderous punch?

We're not quite sure. While information on The Skids is quite plentiful, information on Pano is sparse. Thankfully, the music is still with us.

Hear it for yourself. Download: "Integral Plot" by The Skids.

Note: I conducted numerous Internet searches in an effort to track down more information on Pano. All I found was a summary on Google that read: "Mike Douglas (Pano) the Skids manager stayed with me though in Gardeners St. when the Skids first started, so the band were basically in and out of my house." However, the link to the site wasn't functional. Further searches involving the above name turned up nothing. Any further info regarding Pano would be appreciated.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Summer lovin', had me a blast

Aberfeldy took their name from a holiday resort set in the Perthshire Highlands. A tiny hamlet where vacationing folks take part in activities like walking the Birks of Aberfeldy, popping by the Aberfeldy Watermill, and downing spirits at the tantalizingly sounding Dewar's World of Whisky. A town where Maw and Dad recharge the batteries, while the lads and lasses dabble in what every other teenager dabbles in during summer respite: puppy love.

On the Young Forever track, "Summer's Gone," this Edinburgh act deftly captures -- both in its simple lyrics and mish-mash of musical styles -- those exhilarating, awkward, and indelible moments of a summer crush.

"I could hang around," Riley Briggs sings, himself a sometimes visitor to his granddad's caravan park in Aberfeldy as a child. "'Till the leaves are brown/And the summer's gone." There's a touch of apprehension in his words, for he knows the rules involved. These infatuations always end once vacation does. Still, he won't surrender the bird to autumn just yet. "But I won't give up," Briggs continues, "and I won't give in."

Of course, he ultimately does. Bags are packed, car filled with petrol, sad goodbyes issued. And what remains is little more than sunshine-drenched memories and a lingering affection that will dissipate by Christmas. "You're giving me nothing/I can't wait anymore for you/The feeling's strong/The summer's gone."

All this is sung over a playful blend of several different musical styles: wonderful chamber pop layerings; lovely fiddles (Irish folk) meshing with a bouncing beat (reggae). Musically, it's all over the place -- much like one's thoughts when besotted.

Tossed in here and there is a bit of glockenspiel, calling to mind the carousel where you shared that dizzying kiss, and some opening synthesizers, sounding much like that penny arcade game you conquered to win her that plush stuffed animal.

Hear it for yourself. Download: "Summer's Gone" by Aberfeldy.

Monday, February 27, 2006

A breath of heady Scottish air

By the end of 1996, Britpop was in its death throes. Having reached its apex 15 months earlier with the pitched singles battle between Oasis' "Roll With It" and Blur's "Country House," the movement was asphyxiating on a healthy mix of cocaine, lager, and general exorbitance. ("Drugs is like getting up and having a cup of tea in the morning," Noel Gallagher so eloquently told us.)

Some dizzying highs had been attained, sure. But now the creative juices had stopped flowing; lividity was setting in. And in the northern reaches of the U.K., Stuart Murdoch certainly sensed it. "Nobody writes them like they used to/So it may as well be me," he sang in "Get Me Away From Here, I'm Dying," one of the tracks from 1996's landmark Belle & Sebastian LP, If You're Feeling Sinister.

The song and album were a breath of heady Scottish air in a music scene that had become dominated by daft personalities, unabashed commercialism, and manufactured "Yanks go home!" posturing. Britpop's bombast now gave way to Belle & Sebastian's innocence and subtlety; large, glossy guitar hooks to soft-as-a-breeze melodies. And of course, there was Murdoch's hushed, gorgeous voice -- which stood in stark contrast to the aggressive, Cockney deliveries of gents like Brett Anderson and Damon Albarn. Suddenly, it was okay to be fey.

"Get Me Away From Here, I'm Dying" is crafted just like many other Murdoch ditties: it's honest (sometimes too honest), yet smilingly wry. "Thought there was love in everything and everyone," Murdoch sings in near-Momus-like tones, before dropping the punchline: "You're so naive!" And he can be playful, too: "You could either be successful, or be us."

"Get Me Away From Here, I'm Dying" is a nice, easy slice of pop-folk. And it couldn't have come at a better time.

Hear it for yourself. Download: "Get Me Away From Here, I'm Dying" by Belle & Sebastian.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Aural, meet visual

Long before the release of their genre-defining Music Has A Right To Children, long before they had secured a spot on one of those ubiquitous NME "best of" lists (top psychedelic records, this one was), long before the term IDM was bandied about, Boards of Canada was in the business of soundtracking movies. Home movies, that is.

With the aid of a Super 8 camera, teenagers Michael Sandison and Marcus Eoin, and a clutch of close friends, hopped on their Huffys and began capturing their world on celluloid. Setting music to these films came next.

Even then, many years before success tapped them on the shoulder, Boards of Canada --who are based on Scotland's northern coast -- recognized how their ambient compositions so perfectly commingled with the visual world. Music serving as narrator -- telling a story in a way on-screen words, actions, and expressions can not.

So one can't help but approach Boards of Canada tracks in this light, picturing them as scores to imaginary films. I've long thought of the tune "Olson" as the ideal background music for a climax involving a recently enlightened protagonist. Eyes searching without really seeing, he silently contemplates what's been revealed to him. Then, his stone face turns soft. He didn't get it before (whatever it was), but he does now, and as the song closes with subtle strains of piano, our protagonist can't help but nod his head and smile. He's satisfied -- we're satisfied. Roll the credits.

Hear it for yourself. Download: "Olson" by Boards of Canada. I also included a rendition of the song cut during a July, 1998 Peel session. It's more fleshed-out, more synthetic, more unnerving.