Friday, May 26, 2006

One of Factory's most overlooked acts

The Wake hold the distinction of being the first Scottish act signed to Factory Records. (And one of only two overall, as far as we know; The Wendys inked a deal in 1990.)

The Glasgow foursome joined Tony Wilson's label in 1982, with their first Factory release coming in September of that year: the album Harmony (FAC 60 for those of you scoring at home). The Wake then cut three singles, as well as a second LP (Here Comes Everybody in November of 1985), before ultimately jumping to Sarah Records. There, the group did two more singles and two more LPs. Sarah then called it quits in 1995 and The Wake did the same shortly thereafter.

Widely regarded as one of Factory's most overlooked acts, even though it received the re-issue treatment in 2002, The Wake initially traveled along the same shadowy path as bands such as Joy Division and Bauhaus. But as their tenure at Factory wound down, the band's approach changed: wait out the night, embrace the dawn. The Wake began incorporating lighter tones, taking a more winsome approach. On Sarah, the four-piece act all but shelved the post-punk dirge for cheery pop sensibilities.

Hear it for yourself. Download: "Sail Through" by The Wake. Swathed in ARP Quadra synth and featuring a looping bassline, it's pre-twee Wake at its finest.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Glasgow's occultists

A band/musician spellbound by the occult (horrible pun intended) is hardly a radical concept (see Page, Bowie). However, Glasgow's The Golden Dawn took that fascination to another level, going as far as naming their band after The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, an organization that traces it roots to a magical fraternity founded in London in the late 1800s. The group also had a penchant for bestowing titles upon gigs (a curious thing that is), titles like "Musick In Theory And Practice," which is a play on the Aleister Crowley book, Magick In Theory And Practice.

Unfortunately, The Golden Dawn's side interests were likely just as talked about as their music, since the outfit's output was minimal at best. There were a pair of seven-inch singles on Sarah Records during the late 1980s, a few tracks on numerous pop compilations with Sarah and Breaking Down Records, and then a comeback of sorts in 2000, as the band cut a single for the Heaven label. That was it.

Hear it for yourself. Download: "George Hamilton's Dead" by The Golden Dawn. The track kicks off with a glossy, fragile melody and then, roughly halfway through, descends into a maelstrom of general guitar racket. It calls to mind shoegazer, but only for a moment. Also, one can't help but think "Stephen Pastel" when first hearing the vocals.

The group also has live versions of songs available for download here.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The story of Creation (part 4)

He wanted to do a tour of just the European principalities. He penned the ditty "Death Is Hanging Over Me" while watching the film Amadeus in a Hamburg cinema with his then girlfriend. He loved velvet jackets, yet despised crushed velvet.

His favorite song was "Telegram Sam" by T. Rex. His birth name was Nicholas Godfrey. He confessed that his initial reason for delving into songwriting was: He couldn't play anything by anyone else. He worked with members of The Waterboys, The Birthday Party, and R.E.M.

He once told a music writer, "I dress and act like a star because I am one -- even if only in the eyes of a few." He spent years working on an unpublished novel entitled Albion Sunrise and wrote the liner notes for all his re-issues. The German music press often referred to him as the "the god of underdogs."

He died on March 26 of this year. He was Nikki Sudden.

Hear them for yourself. Download:

CRE 033: Nikki Sudden - "Jangle Town," (7"+12"), 1986

CRE 040: Nikki Sudden - "Wedding Hotel," (12"), 1987

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Hyping Tigerfest . . . one final time

The four-week-long Tigerfest comes to a close Saturday evening -- and at the venue where it officially kicked off back on April 27: The Swamp Bar in Edinburgh. By all accounts, the festival was a rousing success: an eclectic blend of upcoming and established bands, terrific live performances, raucous crowds, even a fond farewell to some indie legends, as Fire Engines played their last-ever show May 13 at Carnegie Hall in Dunfermline.

One of Tigerfest's final gigs will be going down May 24 at Henry's Cellar Bar in Edinburgh. On that night, Hobotalk will be taking the stage for its second Tigerfest appearance (they supported ballboy last August). Hobotalk, for the uninitiated, is a folk-pop outfit headed by singer/songwriter Marc Pilley. The band was shortlisted for the Mercury Music Prize nominations back in 2001 for its debut album, Beauty In Madness. However, a fallout with its label, Hut Records, waylaid Hobotalk a tad and helped squash any momentum the foursome had garnered.

The group didn't release a follow-up until last year's Notes On Sunset. Like its predecessor, the LP is chock full of intimate, introspective numbers, which showcase Pilley's unforgettable pipes –- pipes that have been described as coming from the "illegitimate lovechild of Joni Mitchell and Thom Yorke."

Hear it for yourself. Download: "Letter From A Friend" by Hobotalk. "These California sunsets don't mean shit when you're upset inside," Pilley intones over a lush backdrop driven by a twinkling piano line and a strummed guitar.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Stop us if you've heard this one before

We're probably up around the five million mark now in terms of how many times the McGee-discovers-Oasis-at-King-Tut's story has been told. Maybe that's why the details have become so fuzzy.

The Creation Records head was attending a May 31, 1993, gig at Glasgow's King Tut's Wah Wah Hut to hook up with a friend of his sister's. No, he was in attendance to surprise old chum Debbie Turner, who was a member of one of the three supporting acts, Sister Lovers (a band that shared rehearsal space with Oasis). Maybe he was there to check out one of his signed acts, who were headlining.

That act would be 18 Wheeler, a guitar pop quartet from Glasgow. One can't help but wonder if McGee even heard the band's set that renowned night, seeing how smitten he immediately was with Oasis -– particularly Liam Gallagher, on account of his aloofness, cocksuredness . . . . and Paul Weller haircut. Pished silly on Jack-and-Cokes, McGee is even alleged to have offered the Mancs a contract on the spot. Again, fuzzy details.

The track featured below is off 18 Wheeler's third and final LP, Year Zero. After being criticized for sounding too much like their influences (Big Star, The Beach Boys, Gram Parsons), including some harsh words from Noel Gallagher (rather ironic, eh?), 18 Wheeler decided to revamp its sound; it moved away from the charming guitar leanings of its earlier efforts and incorporated dance rhythms.

And a poor decision it proved to be as the group was dropped by Creation shortly afterwards.

Hear it for yourself. Download: "Stay" by 18 Wheeler.