Friday, June 09, 2006

Part-time producer, part-time pop purveyor

He produced singles for a wide variety of artists, including Cocteau Twins, Pale Fountains, and Winston Tong, and albums for the likes of Paul Haig and Anna Domino. And in a story many are already familiar with, helped kickstart Belle And Sebastian's career, thanks to his lecturing gig at Glasgow's Stow College and his involvement with that institution's music label, Electric Honey.

Unfortunately, Alan Rankine's production work has come to overshadow his solo music.

For three years, Rankine was one-half of the stylish, post-punk outfit Associates, layering the lush musical landscape that beautifully complemented Billy Mackenzie's renowned voice. Rankine ultimately left the band in October of 1982, while Mackenize soldiered on using the Associates' moniker.

In 1986, Rankine moved to Brussels and signed with the Belgain independent label Les Disques Du Crepuscule, which had released material by fellow Scots Josef K some five years earlier. He cut two albums for the label (The World Begins To Look Her Age and the all-instrumental The Big Picture Sucks), and a third for Virgin Records: She Loves Me Not. A handful of singles were released as well.

Hear it for yourself. Download: "The Sandman" by Alan Rankine. Sounds like a more up-tempo version of Associates' "Deeply Concerned." The track also contains some rather portentous lyrics: "Just tell me when will the sandman come/And take me for his first and final friend/When will the sandman come/And give me the sleep that never ends." Rankine's former collaborator and friend, Mackenzie, would die of a drug overdose in 1997.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

My World Cup send-off

I'm not in the business of making predictions, so we'll leave all that to the pundits. (Okay, I'll make one: Arjen Robben will take at least one dive this tournament). Here's some random, World Cup-related detritus that's been piling up in my alcohol-soaked brain as of late.

  • Join me in rooting against all Manchester United players. Particularly Portuguese pretty boy Cristiano Ronaldo. Before a match, there's no one in the EPL who spends as much time on his well-coiffed locks as Ronaldo. Conversely, there’s no one who spends as little as teammate Ji-Sung Park.

  • I see this picture of goaltender Oliver Kahn and all I can think of is a lion, yawning on the Serengeti, following a nice snack of gazelle and zebra. Scary. Recently, it was announced that King Kahn was relegated to Germany's No. 2 behind Jens Lehmann, thus denying me the opportunity to scream a Shattner-esque "KAHN!!" every time he delivered a save.

  • Thanks to a tie against Switzerland in a must-win final qualifier, we will not be able to watch this brilliant lad. But take heed, distraught followers of The Boys in Green! Your esteemed countryman, Mr. Bono, has decided to cheer on the Ivory Coast. Why, pray tell? Because their flag is just like Ireland's –- only reversed! Crazy!

  • "He's big, he's red/His feet stick out the bed/Peter Crouch, Peter Crouch . . . ." I say this as someone who will be staunchly supporting fair Albion: Every time Crouch does The Robot, Western Civilization as we know it takes another giant step backwards.

  • Eddie Johnson has emerged as my favorite American player. I'd like to say it's on account of his status as one of the States' most exciting players to watch. But it's not. It's because Johnson goes by the nickname "GAM," which is short for "grown-ass man." Once asked by a reporter what video games he plays, Johnson replied, "I don't play video games. I'm a grown-ass man."

  • Further proof of English club football's recent dominance: 102 of this year's 736 registered World Cup players are members of English club squads, 29 more than the nearest challenger, Germany; Arsenal and Chelsea, with 16 players each, top the clubs sending players from their squads.

    Hear it for yourself. Download: "Ally's Tartan Army" by Andy Cameron. This ditty by Cameron -- once described as a "Glaswegian Milton Berle" -- was a tribute to the 1978 Scottish national football team, which failed to advance past the group stages. The flipside was the cringeworthy "I Want To Be A Punk Rocker," but we'll save that classic for another day.
  • Wednesday, June 07, 2006

    Art attack

    Simon Reynolds once wrote, "Rock has never really made up its mind when it comes to the a-word."

    Neither has Edinburgh's FOUND, a band that delicately toes the line between pure pop and sheer experimentalism. Formed roughly five years ago at Gray's School of Art in Aberdeen, FOUND is repainting pop music's borders with an artist's brush and palette.

    Their performances push boundaries as well, combining the peculiarly conceptual with the sonically challenging. Back in February, the quartet took part in RSA's Body Parts festival. Slips of paper were passed out and those in attendance were instructed to make tiny airplanes. A laser beam was set up, stretching across the room, and the crowd was then asked to hurl their crudely folded dirigibles towards it. In the background, FOUND layered bass and keyboard lines, as well as a live air traffic control broadcast being manipulated by laptop. The result was described as "glitchy textures and menacing, semi-industrial grinding sounds."

    "The experimental is what excites me," said band member Tommy Perman when talking about the group's vision, "but with a pop edge, some nice lyrics, a wee hook."

    Check out some of their tracks here, including the latest single, "Mullokian," a folksy little number jazzed up with robotic beats. Also, the group released an album, Found Can Move, back on May 29.

    Tuesday, June 06, 2006

    'Our one chance to be famous'

    File under the category: "perils of a showcase gig."

    Edinburgh's Jesse Garon And The Desperadoes, on tour supporting Shop Assistants, are warming up for a show in London. There's a genuine buzz for the relatively unknown opening sextet: Flattering write-ups ran in NME and Melody Maker; before the show, 200 were in queue, waiting to get inside the venue; well-known music scribes and folks from record companies are said to be in attendance.

    Jesse Garon And The Desperadoes hit the stage to raucous applause -- and then turn in an absolute stinker. Pure, unadulterated keech, as the Scots like to say. "We hadn't realized this was our one chance to be famous," lead singer Andrew Tully said years later.

    In the days after the catastrophic gig, interested label head Geoff Trade (Rough Trade) did nothing to assuage the feelings of the bummed-out band. "He told us to go away and write 20 new songs, throw 18 away, and then bring him the other two," Tully told Brian Hogg for his Scottish music tome, All That Ever Mattered. "We were stunned -- in the previous two years we had only written 12."

    Jesse Garon And The Desperadoes never did join the Rough Trade coterie. After releasing three singles for Narodnik Records in 1986, the group jumped to Velocity (churning out three singles and an LP) and then later, Avalanche. The final release was the single "Grand Hotel," which came in January of 1990.

    Hear it for yourself. Download: "Splashing Along" by Jesse Garon And The Desperadoes, which was the first single the band ever cut.

    Monday, June 05, 2006

    One more interruption to our regularly scheduled program

    Like the floppy-haired Bryan Adams once crooned, "Please forgive me." (And please, forgive me for that lede, as well).

    This will be my third straight post (and fourth out of the last five) that will not focus on a Scottish band. I was all set to offer up a track from the inimitable Jesse Garon And The Desperadoes, but shelved that entry at the last second. (Don't fret: The Edinburgh popsters will be making an appearance tomorrow.)

    Instead, I wanted to pratter on about one of my most beloved songwriters, who’s divulged some rather candid personal information courtesy of his blog. Dan Treacy -- part-time punk, full-time indie deity -- revealed in a April 27 post that he's been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and thrombosis, and that he will ultimately need a liver transplant.

    A month later, Dan expounded on his health a bit, lamenting:

    go away and leave me to my steroids and hardcore painkillers/
when i wanted drugs i couldnt get i dont ,i am fucking force fed..

    This is tragic news for a man who had just returned to the indie limelight, thanks to the February release of the first new Television Personalities album in over a decade: My Dark Places. Yes, the year had started so promising (read the entries from January, and see how lively and happy he sounds), but then life quickly turned sour, as it so often does for Dan. (Note the other mini-tragedies mentioned in his blog: eviction from his flat, ex-girlfriend troubles, Domino not paying for a new passport so he can tour. This poor old sod just can't win.)

    Here’s hoping things turn around for Dan.

    Hear them for yourself. Download three tracks from They Could Have Been Bigger Than The Beatles: "David Hockney's Diary," "Painter Man," and "When Emily Cries."

    Sunday, June 04, 2006

    What's on the menu this evening, sir?

    Overcast, dreich, lazy, stuffed on doughnuts, fingertips stained from reading the Sunday rag, stubble on the face, uninspired, groggy from staying up late last night when I saw Trainspotting was on the television. So, since a quick update is all I can manage on account of the litter, I decided I shall upload the tracks from my two favorite scenes.

    Till tomorrow . . . .

    Hear them for yourself. Download:

    "Deep Blue Day" by Brian Eno. A trippy, ethereal ditty that blends perfectly with Rents' underwater plunge.

    "Perfect Day" by Lou Reed. A song many have proclaimed as being one of the most romantic they've ever heard. Of course, it's used for a love of a different sort in this flick.