Saturday, June 24, 2006

100 bottles of beer on the wall . . .

Baggie containing several Zantac pills: Check.

Sneakers, not flip-flops (I certainly don't want to get any ralph splashback on my feet): Check.

ATM card: Check.

iPod (for the long T ride at the end of the day): Check.

Irish national football team jersey, circa 1997: Check.

Comfortable boxer shorts: Check.

Years of pent-up hatred for the Germans: Check.

I am now officially ready for my all-day World Cup bender. I've drawn up my will and if I don't make it out of The Field alive today, I've bequeathed this blog to my good friend Tim A. Even though he hates the Scots.

Hear them for yourself. Download:

"Tie On One" by Aberfeldy.

"I Wonder If You're Drunk Enough To Sleep With Me Tonight" by ballboy.

"Alcoholiday" by Teenage Fanclub.

Friday, June 23, 2006

'Isn't France great?'

We could fill this space with any one of a thousand Alan McGee/Biff Bang Pow! stories. For no real reason whatsoever, we've selected the narrative detailing the band's 1988 tour in France (lovingly retold to David Cavanagh for his Creation Records tome).

It’s February, and Biff Bang Pow! (always just a "hobby," according to McGee, despite churning out six albums) are in the midst of a four-week excursion with Creation labelmates Momus. The second week of this little journey finds the artists in Toulouse. A row breaks out following the Biff Bang Pow! set. Turns out the group came up five minutes shy of their contracted 40-minute set. When the gig promoter angrily confronts McGee about this, our ginger-haired, short-tempered hero responds in the only way he knows how: He tosses his drink in the man’s face.

McGee and Biff Bang Pow! quit the tour and returned to England soon after.

Momus then summed up the whole tour debacle in a way only Momus can: "When he (McGee) got off the ferry, he was saying: 'Isn't France great? It's so civilized.' By the end of the tour he was very much a Sun reader."

Hear it for yourself. Download: "There Must Be A Better Life" by Biff Bang Pow!, which was the seventh single for McGee's Creation Records. This slice of psychedelic nostalgia, grouped with previously released singles by The Pastels and The Jasmine Minks, showed the label was definitely on its way to becoming a major player in the U.K. indie scene.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Another dearly departed member of B&S

"Basically, for the first six years of the group being together, all I wanted to do was keep the group together," Belle And Sebastian frontman Stuart Murdoch once said. "And that was enough of a struggle, never mind pleasing the fans."

A struggle indeed, particularly when your band roster runs eight deep. However, as Murdoch knows, departures are inevitable, no matter how diligently one works at keeping individual members assuaged. For Belle And Sebastian, two exits came in the span of two years: Isobel Campbell in 2002 (see previous day’s post) and Stuart David in 2000, following the completion of Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like A Peasant.

David formed Looper in '98 with his wife, Karn, releasing the single "Impossible Things" in the summer of that year. An album, Up A Tree, followed in 1999. When David ultimately quit B&S it was to devote more time to Looper, as well as pen the follow-up to his first novel, Nalda Said.

And while the notion of a musician-cum-novelist is rather unique, even more so is the method in which David has released his songs to the public. For several years now, Looper has made its music available for free download on its web site. And it's been able to take this approach because David -- similar to what Moby did with his 1999 album Play -- licensed his songs for use in movies and television commercials.

Looper's music has appeared in feature films such as Out Cold and The Girl Next Door, as well as advertising campaigns for Xerox and The Partnership For A Drug-Free America.

Hear it for yourself. Download: "Mondo '77" by Looper, which was featured in the flick Vanilla Sky.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Staying busy, always changing

Isobel Campbell's recording career gives new meaning to the word eclectic.

The Glaswegian kicked off with Belle And Sebastian, playing cello (she's classically trained), handling singing duties (her ethereal vocals on "Is It Wicked Not To Care?" may be her best known work), and doing the occasional songwriting (she helped pen the top-20 U.K. single "Legal Man").

On the side, she recorded under the pseudonym The Gentle Waves, and released a pair of LPs and an EP, often traversing the same orchestral, folk-pop ground as B&S. In 2002, Campbell somewhat famously quit Belle And Sebastian in the midst of the group's U.S. tour.

She then decided to explore new territory, putting her penchant for writing simple, honest ditties on the backburner. She partnered with Scottish jazz musician on Ghost Of Yesterday, an album featuring Billie Holiday covers. (Quick and interesting aside: Campbell first met Wells when his singer for The Beat Room came down with chickenpox and Wells needed a quick replacement).

One year later came Amorino, a solo effort described as sounding like the lost soundtrack to a 1960s French film. Campbell then followed that release up with her most inventive to date: this year's Ballad Of The Broken Seas, a gruff-meets-gossamer collaboration with Queens Of The Stone Age's Mark Lanegan.

Hear it for yourself. Download: "Falliing From Grace" by The Gentle Waves.