Saturday, March 18, 2006

May melodies and lunacies reign supreme

In the same calendar year they were named best new band in Britain by The Times and were awarded Single of the Week twice by the NME. They've hit the States to participate in the SXSW Festival. They were a favorite of the late John Peel, making his 1999 Festive 50. They realized a life-long dream when they recorded with a full orchestra at the legendary Abbey Road Studios. They even parted ways for a time, two members of the band performing as Pluto Monkey, before getting the original lineup back together following an alcohol-soaked gig in their native Galashiels.

Yes, it's been a tumultuous career for Dawn Of The Replicants, who just released their fifth album: Fangs, out on SL Records. The only thing DOTR hasn't experienced in their 10 years is prolonged success. But in this case, it's a good thing, as sustaining an existence outside mainstream's inner sanctum has resulted in DOTR developing their own quirky sound.

"Their low-slung Beefheart-Velvets-Howlin' Wolf-inflected noir-pop shanties," Bizarre Magazine wrote, "are the sort of thing Queens Of The Stone Age might play on banjos in a Scottish-borders remake of Deliverance." Eccentric, sonically challenging, dark yet still campy -- Dawn Of The Replicants never disappoint.

Hear it for yourself. Download: "Science Fiction Freak" by Dawn Of The Replicants. A favorite of Peel's, the tune features a catchy chorus and plenty of effervescent guitars.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Pay attention -- there'll be a quiz later

Okay, see if you can keep up.

It's 1977; setting: Glasgow. Andrew Innes -- part-time lizard theorist, full-time guitarist -- has popped his musical cherry in The Drains. Through an advert, Innes meets fellow Glaswegian Alan McGee, who in turn, introduces him to an old chum of his, Bobby Gillespie, who of course will later join Innes in Primal Scream. McGee later forms H2O and when that act's guitarist splits, brings Innes in to replace him. The pair then ditch that band, nick guitarist Neil Clark, and form Newspeak. That outfit ultimately evolves into The Laughing Apple, which releases three singles and tours throughout London, but is largely ignored by music fans -- except Jerry Thackray, who cuts a few tracks for McGee's later endeavor, Creation Records, which issues material by Innes' later collaborations. Eventually, Innes strikes out on his own, founding The Formica Tops, before settling down with gal pal Christine Wanless (who joined Innes in doing some work with McGee's band, Biff Bang Pow!) and Luke Hayes in The Revolving Paint Dream, who, like Biff Bang Pow!, take their name from a song by The Creation.

Got all that?

The Revolving Paint Dream's "Flowers In The Sky" was the second single released by Creation. It was a nice slice of psychedelica, complete with fizzy guitars and simple, seemingly LSD-inspired lyrics. After bouncing from band to band, all over Scotland and England, Innes had finally found some success; "Flowers In The Sky" entered the indie charts at No. 35.

Hear it for yourself. Download: "Flowers In The Sky" by The Revolving Paint Dream. Also, for kicks, I included Creation's first-ever release, a single from the aforementioned Thackray, who performed under the pseudonym, The Legend! Always good for a chuckle. Download: "73 In 83" by The Legend!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

A song for the traveler

On my most recent trip to Ireland, my homesickness was exacerbated one evening as I sat by a turf fire in Westport, Co. Mayo, listening to Danu's rendition of "Co. Down." It's a stirring and poignant tale of one soul pining for another, a song worthy of its own blog entry if I was in the business of chronicling Irish folk and trad, another passion of mine. (The tune also earned composer Tommy Sands a 2004 BBC Folk Award for "Best Original Song.")

When the track ended, I remember thinking how a similar themed song -- only more positive in nature -- would be the perfect follow-up, a pick-me-up to counterbalance the despondency of "Co. Down," and how my choice would be Mogwai's "Yes! I Am A Long Way From Home." It's another track for the traveler, only instead of lamenting the distance between an individual and their loved ones in a way the Irish have seemingly perfected, this Glasgow post-rock outfit celebrates it.

"Yes! I Am A Long Way From Home" -- from the band's debut album, Young Team -- opens with the voice of a female ("If the stars had a sound it would sound like this," she tells us) before it's overtaken by a somber, flowing bass line and ringing guitars that lull the listener into a state of introspection. Then, two-thirds of the way through, all contemplation is washed away with a bevy of melodic guitars, a smile-inducing wave of sound that indicates the members of Mogwai likely have a record such as Spiderland in their collections.

Yes, one is indeed a long way from home, but there's no need to remain transfixed on those who remain behind, half a world away; amid the track-closing rush of guitars, Mogwai accentuates the positives of separation: the spirits and revelry in strange locales, the new-found connections, the freedom.

Hear it for yourself. Download: "Yes! I Am A Long Way From Home" by Mogwai.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Scotland's most beautiful voice

Out behind James Mackenzie's cottage in Auchterhouse, just outside of Dundee, there once stood a garden shed. James allowed his son, the eldest of his six children, to keep his dogs there.

When the son was just 11, he was nipped by the racing bug; as he grew older, he became quite taken with breeding and racing whippets. He was damn good at it, too. He bred three racing champions, was one of the leading trainers on the U.K. scene, and was a well-known face on the European racing circuit.

The son brought his mutts everywhere. One well-known tale had him dragging the dogs into a friend's flat, where the animals -- much to his mate's dismay -- proceeded to shit all over the clean floors. Other stories talked of him booking rooms at lavish hotels solely for his beloved dogs.

It was said the son adored these animals because of the qualities they exhibited -- qualities he found lacking in humans, like grace and nobility. "With animals, there was no agenda," a friend said, "no bullshit."

James' garden shed is no longer there. He burned it to the ground one January morning in 1997 . . . after discovering the body of his son inside. Close to the dogs he loved so dearly, Billy was lying in a makeshift bed, wrapped in a duvet, clutching a photo album. Beside him was an empty bottle of Paracetamol, the contents of which had been mixed with a prescribed antidepressant, Amitriptyline. A suicide note was left behind, apologizing to his family; however, it gave no tangible reason why he had taken his life.

Folks around the world mourned Billy's death. And not just dog racing fans, either. Music fans, too. Scotland had lost its most beautiful voice.

Hear it for yourself. Download: "18 Carat Love Affair" by Associates.