Friday, April 21, 2006

Back to the drawing board

Twelve tracks had been put to tape. Test pressings were made. Even a sleek-looking, deluxe silver sleeve had been proofed. Then it was all shit-canned at the last minute.

Such was the fate of Josef K's debut album, Sorry For Laughing. Upset with the record's slick sound, Postcard Records head Alan Horne called for the release's immediate cancellation. Didn't accurately capture the band's feral live sound, the Edinburgh lads were told. Back to the drawing board for you. (Rumors persist to this day that several thousand finished copies were destroyed. Of course, the LP did eventually see the light of day, when it was finally released on CD in 1990.)

One month later, in December of 1980, Josef K journeyed with label mates (and all-around mates) Orange Juice to Brussels for a New Year's Eve gig at Plan K, a club known for attracting notable U.K. acts like Joy Division. While in Belgium, the group re-recorded their debut album's title track at a joint named Little Big One Studios. The single "Sorry For Laughing" hit shops in April of 1981, released by the Belgian independent label Les Disques Du Crepuscule.

It turned out to be an indie success; naturally, this got Horne's blood to boil. Eventually -- and with Horne's backing -- Josef K re-recorded their entire debut over a six-day span at the same Belgian studio. It was released by Postcard in July of 1981. And as any devotee of the Postcard catalogue can tell you, it was the only LP ever released by the legendary label.

Hear it for yourself. Download: "Sorry For Laughing" by Josef K. Without a doubt, one of the best Scottish singles of the 1980s.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The return of Egg Records

Five singles, a tiny compilation entitled A Lighthouse In The Desert, a live EP, a studio EP -- eight releases in total. That was Egg Records' output during its initial three years of existence. Hardly prodigious, we know.

The label, which was based in Glasgow, officially kicked off back in 1988. It released material from local bands such as The Bachelor Pad and The Prayers, as well as bands from beyond Scottish borders, such as Change Of Seasons, who hailed from Toronto.

After going belly up in '91, the label made a surprising return a dozen years later with a CD release entitled, An Introduction To 1988-1991. It was a compilation that culled tracks from all eight of Egg's vinyl releases and then tossed in a never-seen-the-light-of-day ditty from Change Of Seasons, as well as two more from acts featured on the Lighthouse comp: Glasgow's Remember Fun and Paisley's The Church Grims.

Compact disc re-issues of Egg's original bands followed soon after. The label has also expanded its restoration program to include those late 80s and early 90s independent artists of the non-Egg variety -- many of whom represent the rarely ballyhooed Oceanic music scene, like Australia's The Palisades and Let's Go Naked, and New Zealand's The Bats.

Egg Records certainly had an impact on the indie scene during the post-C86 days; it's making even more of one today.

Hear it for yourself. Download: "Meet The Lovely Jenny Brown" by The Bachelor Pad. It was part of a five-song EP released by the band in May of 1991. It was also the seventh of Egg's initial eight releases.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Snow jobbed

When Internet giant manages to bungle your name . . . well, you've probably reached a new level of obscurity.

However, ardent listeners of sunny, gentle Scottish pop know the true name and really, that's all that matters. Fans were first turned on to California Snow Story back in 2001, when the act cut its debut EP. And without a doubt, One Good Summer is shimmering, winsome guitar pop at its finest.

The band's origins trace back to Camera Obscura, a group that's, naturally, very similar to California Snow Story in both sound and style. CSS guitarist David Skirving was originally a member, and even recorded a few singles and an EP with Camera Obscura, before leaving to form his own band.

And while California Snow Story's EP had pundits lauding the effort -- comparing them to everyone from Belle & Sebastian to The Trashcan Sinatras, praising their endearing male-female vocals and idyllic, lilting guitars -- the Glasgow-based act has yet to release more material.

Hear it for yourself. Download: "Lovestrange" by California Snow Story. Listen as singer Anna Barrek maintains her composure over a love gone astray, not a trace of emotion in her voice as she sings lines like, "Walks in the rain/We used to do it all together."

Note: A few hours after this entry was made, I couldn't help but notice that someone with an domain name had stumbled onto our little hamlet. A few days later, the band's name on the site was finally corrected. California Show Story was no more. Ah, the power of blogging . . . .

Monday, April 17, 2006

A long way from the Highlands

Things are moving rather quickly for The Cinematics, regularly regarded as one of Scotland's best new bands.

One of their tracks was featured on the soundtrack for Transporter 2. In March, they completed a successful, one-month tour of England, playing gigs in everywhere from Stoke-on-Trent to Sheffield. Two sets at the SXSW Festival then followed. And just last week, the band opened up for We Are Scientists, playing before a sold-out crowd of over 2,000 at Shepherds Bush Empire in London.

The Cinematics have certainly come a long way from their roots -- a tiny hamlet in the Scottish Highlands named Dingwall, a place where the livestock outnumbers the people 20 to 1. (Their words, not mine!) And while you can take the boy out of the Highlands, it's apparent you can't take the Highlands out of the boy; The Cinematics' music can be as lush as a northern pasture filled with yellow mountain violets, as moving as a sunset over Loch Leven.

Glasgow is The Cinematics' current base of operations. There, they've become regulars at venues like King Tut's. In between shows, the group cut a single, "Chase," with noted producer Stephen Hague, who previously worked with acts such as Public Image Ltd. and The Pet Shop Boys. An LP is forthcoming.

Hear it for yourself. Download: "Chase" by The Cinematics.