Friday, August 25, 2006

Catching up with Jamie Watson

I never expected to make any coin (and still don't) penning a blog focusing on obscure Scottish pop music. But I will say, a few fringe benefits have presented themselves since I started this little endeavor back in February. One is getting in touch with those individuals who have long since bid the music industry adieu. A quick email, a where-I-am-now type update, a few kinds words about the blog, maybe an mp3 of some tune from a long-lost gig -- it's all good.

Jamie Watson's case, however, is different, as meeking out a meager band existence didn't forever sour him on the whole music-making process. Watson was once a member of The Solos/The Monos, as well as a later act dubbed Persian Rugs. Today, he's prominently involved with the other side of the business: he owns a small record label named Human Condition Records, which he founded in 1990, and runs Chamber Recording Studio, located in Edinburgh.

"Our main claim to fame was releasing the first Idlewild single," Watson said, "a 7'' three-track called 'Queen Of The Troubled Teens.' I have recorded and produced many, many bands over the years, including Snow Patrol, Mark E. Smith, The Vaselines' Dum Dum album, and many more."

As for his earlier days . . . . Watson helped form The Monos, who changed their moniker to The Solos following a record deal with EMI. The group cut the single "Talking Pictures" and support of the release included a 1979 tour with the pre-Eurythmics band The Tourists, who had recently bagged a No. 1 hit with their cover of Dusty Springfield's "I Only Want To Be With You."

"The last night we played the Hammersmith Odeon," Watson said, "After that, the band went belly-up. I formed a new group with the Solos drummer and Kieth Grant who had played bass in a band called The Freeze."

This new outfit was Persian Rugs, which went on to release a pair of 7'' singles and an album.

Hear it for yourself. Download: "Talking Pictures" by The Solos.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Keep toiling away

You gig tirelessly, you jam in whatever space is available, you pound the pavement, promotional band paraphernalia in hand. You juggle your personal and band lives, smoothing over any rough spots when one impedes on the other. You sheepishly state your long-term music goals to those brave enough to ask, and defiantly defend your aspirations when the naysayers point out the short-term hasn't been all that grand.

And if you're Glasgow's Symbolics, you keep toiling away, even if five years after officially forming, you're still without a record deal.

Their MySpace page sums up their existence best: "Symbolics formed in 2001. At the time they were four naive young men without a record deal. Times have changed, and now they are five naive young men without a record deal."

Symbolics have achieved a bit of success in their native Scotland: a runner-up in Fury Murrys' King of Bands contest; gigs at King Tut's Wah Wah Hut and Glasgow School Of Art; airplay on BBC Radio 1, Beat 106, and Virgin Radio Glasgow. However, that record deal remains ever elusive.

Hear it for yourself. Download: "Social Dancing" by Symbolics. Melodic, relentless, and a bit trashy -- that's Symbolics. Also, more tracks are available on the band's MySpace page.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The story of Creation (part 10)

Deadline approaching. Work piling up. Mini fan on my desk oscillating as I sweat under the pressure.

Maybe I'll throw in the C86 tape. It's jingle-jangly goodness will get the ole blood pressure up. Energy level . . . rising. I'll work more diligently, get more accomplished, be handsomely rewarded by my superiors.

"Therese" by The Bodines is now blasting. I'm dancing on the cheap Oriental rug in my office. Jump jive and wail. The folks in the office downstairs just called. "We've got plaster in our hair -- cut the crapola!"

Hear it for yourself. Download: CRE 028: The Bodines - "Therese," (7"+12"), 1986.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A tribute album dandy

The ubiquitous tribute album: The modern concept can trace its roots to Hal Willner and his Amarcord Nino Rota, which was an LP featuring both jazz and pop musicians covering the work of Italian composer Nino Rota; nearly 20 years later, the concept had sunk to the level of Train covering The Doors

At any rate, there are some dandies out there and Everything Is Ending Here is certainly one of them. Checking in at 36 tracks longs, the album features indie bands such as Airport Girl and Comet Gain doing covers of their favorite Pavement tunes.

Kilmahog's Alasdair Roberts gets in on the fun, as well. Roberts, who spent the first half of his career recording under the pseudonym Appendix Out (including on Everything Is Ending Here), is one of Scotland's more notable recent folk artists. All told, he's released six albums, including 2001's Farewell Sorrow, which was issued on Rough Trade.

Hear it for yourself. Download: "Frontwards" by Appendix Out. An achingly beautiful cover song; the way Roberts' voice cracks during the last word in the chorus, "So much style that it's wasting," will make your heart rend in two.

Monday, August 21, 2006

A far cry from Primal Scream

Sonic Flower Groove Scream was a dud, both criticially and commercially; understanding the distress and disenchantment that typically hounds an artist following such a derided record, one can see why Primal Scream co-founder Jim Beattie decided to take a let's-deconstruct-pop-music approach with his subsequent work.

In '87, Beattie left the band he helped create and after the short-lived Spirea X, formed Adventures In Stereo. The Glasgow group's singular approach to music-crafting consisted of cutting and pasting loops, snatches, and samples of previous work, mixing in original tidbits by Beattie, and polishing up the veneer with the heavenly voice of Judith Boyle. Yes, it was a far cry from anything early Primal Scream had churned out.

"In reviews, people have said, 'It reminds me of a time, but I can't put a finger on it,'" Beattie once remarked when talking about Adventures In Stereo's early output. "And it's probably because there are so many influences from so many different eras of music."

Hear it for yourself. Download: "Traffic" by Adventures In Stereo. A nice example of what Beattie and crew did best: get-in/get-out pop songs of the astral and infectious variety.