Friday, July 21, 2006

Within Auld Reekie . . . .

It's 1980, and Scotland's once nascent music scene has finally caught up to its English brethren. In the capital, the arty Josef K and the abrasive Fire Engines are leading the charge, two acts deeply inspired by the late 1970s New York scene: the former by Television and Talking Heads, the latter by the short-lived, atonal No Wave movement. Lesser acts (for their stature, productivity, and influences) have also emerged: TV21, Another Pretty Face, The Scars.

35mm Dreams was another of those "lesser" Edinburgh bands. Details regarding their lineup are sketchy. A gent named David McDonald was on bass; after his stint with 35mm Dreams, he played in a group named Rex Begonia. Moray Crawford was the vocalist/drummer; he lives in Japan now, having performed with acts such as Osaka Stainless and Shonen Knife.

During its short existence, 35mm Dreams released just two singles: "More Than This"/"The Bearer" was issued in 1980 with their follow-up coming a year later.

Hear it for yourself. Download: "More Than This" by 35mm Dreams. Features a bouncy, looping guitar line and a narrative detailing a lass' thoughts of an urban exodus ("She's not very sure/If she's gonna go").

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Back in business

"Damn it, let's get the band back together!" is a common sentiment heard from those dearly departed acts which once achieved a modicum of success in the music industry. When really, the phrase should be, "Why get the band back together?"

Quite often, of course, the reasons are rooted in the onerous desire to make oodles and oodles of cash. In the case of The Orchids, however, the reasons are different . . . particularly since The Orchids never made oodles and oodles of cash. So why an Act II then?

Well, there's that nagging sense of unfinished business, particularly when said band called it quits following what many consider to be their crowning achievement. There's also that arrogant desire to show folks music can be more titillating than today's standard refuse. Or something like that.

At any rate, The Orchids are back in business and quite busy to boot. The Glasgow outfit released a new single, "Another Saturday Night," which appears on the two-disc compilation Little Darla Has A Treat For You, Volume 24: Endless Summer. They're also working on a new album, entitled Good To Be A Stranger, which is due for release this fall.

The new music is The Orchids' first in a decade. The group, influenced heavily by the wave of Scottish pop bands that came directly before them (Orange Juice, Aztec Camera, jangly Primal Scream), were mainstays on Sarah Records, releasing what was the label's first full-length in 1989: Lyceum. Two more LPs followed -- the follow-up, Unholy Soul and the inspired yet capricious Striving For The Lazy Perfection -- before the curtain closed on the first part of their career.

Hear it for yourself. "Hold On" by The Orchids. Listen to the ache and desperation in James Hackett's voice. I want to give the lad a big hug.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Warning: Post on Irish folk to follow

Ah, The Tones.

Banned on Radio Eireann, banned on Aer Lingus flights (thank-you, Roy Beggs, Jr.), banned at Celtic Park.

The last banning came as a result of the song "Celtic Symphony." Written in 1987 in honor of Glasgow Celtic's 100th anniversary, the tune honors the Bhoys' victory in the 1967 European Cup over Inter Milan. Nicknamed The Lisbon Lions, they were the first British squad to be crowned European champions.

Besides honoring the team's achivements, the song does feature the controversial (though catchy) chorus of, "Oh ah, up the 'RA/Say, oh ah up the 'RA." And it was this, learned The Wolfe Tones -- always ones to inject a bit of politics into their infectious brand of Irish folk -- that ultimately led to "Celtic Symphony" being summarily banned at Celtic Park. Here, Brian staunchly defended the song to Celtic, but it was to no avail.

So . . . Where does all this fit within the confines of a Scottish pop music blog? It doesn't. I'm attending tonight's Celtic match against the New England Revolution and merely wanted to upload the track. Turn it up and sing along.

Hear it for yourself. Download: "Celtic Symphony" by The Wolfe Tones.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Stage fright?

Alan Davidson was 12 years, and 20 LPs, 7-inches, cassettes, and CDs into his music career before he finally played a live gig back in 2002. So what finally prompted Davidson, who performs and records under the name The Kitchen Cynics, to finally hit the stage for the first time?

"The only reason I'm playing live is drink!" he joked in this interview. "I got somewhat inebriated at Terrastock 5 in Boston, where Tom Rapp kindly asked me to sing a verse of 'Another Time' with him."

Since then, Davidson's gig list (and lager habit; kidding, kidding) has grown significantly. He's supported The Iditarod, Charlemagne, and The Incredible String Band. Most of Davidson's shows take place in his hometown of Aberdeen, but he has made the occasional foray outside the city limits: doing a set at Nozstock in Bromyard, performing at a Nick Drake tribute weekend in Tanworth-in-Arden, and playing on a radio show with Irene Trudel in New York.

As for Davidson's music . . . . "His songs combine ancient folk roots with a lo-fi psychedelic aesthetic that effectively blurs the line between Syd Barrett and Pearls Before Swine," wrote critic George Parsons. With The Kitchen Cynics, it's all about light and shade: Gentle, breezy guitars and hushed vocals thinly veiling a world of bitterness and despair. Strongly recommended.

Hear it for yourself Download: "Jennifer Is There Anywhere?" by The Kitchen Cynics, a track from the album Seagul Girls.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Aberfeldy's sophomore effort

Aberfeldy drew a plethora of Belle And Sebastian comparisons following the release of its 2004 debut, Young Forever. Musically, Aberfeldy sauntered down its own path (glockenspiel!), yet lyrically, the connections were apt, as Riley Briggs's tender, affecting words often called to mind the work of Stuart Murdoch.

More B&S comparisons are certain to flow from the ink-stained and Internet wretches now that Aberfeldy has released its follow-up, Do Whatever Turns You on. Here, the band leaps feet first into jubilant, 70s-inspired pop, much like Murdoch and company did upon their release earlier this year, The Life Pursuit.

Young Forever caused a bit of a stir in indie circles on account of the way it was recorded. For its second LP, Aberfeldy ditched the retro approach and went with a bigger budget and a bigger sound, hiring Callum Malcom (The Blue Nile) to produce. And while Do Whatever Turns You On does lack the warmth and intimacy of its predecessor, it does firmly establish Briggs as one of Scotland's more unique voices.

Hear it for yourself. Download: "Up Tight" by Aberfeldy.