Friday, September 08, 2006

Calling it quits . . . sort of

I feel constrained. I've been by no means grow disenchanted with music of the tartan variety -- merely grown tired of writing about it. So next week I plan on officially closing up shop by dropping one of them pretentious and pervasive "all-time best" lists we've all come to so dearly loathe. In this case, it will be the top 30 Scottish singles of all-time. I may even include a Travis song; fuck you, haters.

When I return the following week, I plan on unveiling a new look, as well as some new folks who will be expanding our tiny hamlet here to cover more than just hard-to-find Scottish pop and rock.

Here's how it will all break down. On Mondays, my gal pal Bindie Indie will chit-chat about whatever new music she's dipping her beak into. On Tuesdays, Speranza will prattle on about Irish folk and trad, and try not to stumble over his illiteracy. Thursdays will feature Spring Heeled Jack reminiscing about the 1980s, the decade he spent bumming and slumming 'round England, listening to guitar pop -- from The Sound Of Leamington Spa to The Living Room -- on a beat-up cassette player. On Wednesdays or Fridays, depending on my mood that week, I will continue to bring you the obscure Scottish pop and rock you so achingly crave.

And it will all still be under the Merry Muses Of Caledonia brand name. Noice!

In closing, I leave you with some Orange Juice.

Hear it for yourself. Download: "Falling And Laughing" by Orange Juice.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Calling it quits . . . yet again

So they called it quits back in May. Again. Only this time, they assure us, it's for good. What a shame.

After 23 years apart, Edinburgh's Fire Engines reformed in 2004, mainly on account of an offer to support artists they've long revered, the one-time Beefheart-led The Magic Band. However, the reunion proved to be more than just a simple one-off, as Fire Engines stuck around to pursue such endeavors as recording a limited edition collaboration single with Franz Ferdinand and performing at the Triptych Festival. Ironically, enough Fire Engines' much lauded comeback stretched longer than its original incarnation in the early 1980s.

In May, however, the group called it quits a second time, playing its final gig at Carnegie Hall, Dunfermline, on May 13 as part of the annual Tigerfest concert series. "We're hanging up the hose," is how frontman Davy Henderson so eloquently put it.

Hear it for yourself. Download: "Candyskin" by Fire Engines. Okay, so as any true Fire Engines zealot knows, "Candyskin" is not indicative of the group's frenetic and jagged sound, thanks to the track's shiny pop ambitions (hinting towards Henderson's later outfit, Win). But I'll never grow tired of those strings. So catchy and kitschy.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Some garage rock with The Thanes

Joe Foster once said, "I was a drug addict . . . A well educated and articulate one, but one nonetheless." He was describing his hazy and halcyon days spent at Creation Records. While employed for Creation, Foster started up the Rev-ola subsidiary, which today, dabbles in album re-issues.

The always articulate and educated Foster has made certain Rev-Ola reflects his catholic tastes, as the label has released material from former Creation acts such as Slaughter Joe and The Jazz Butcher, as well as everything from calypso by Maya Angelou to legendary blues standards by Leadbelly to pre-superstar Buddy Holly.

Edinburgh's The Thanes were never members of the Creation cabal, but the band, like many on Rev-Ola, has influenced its share of modern day acts, particularly those of the garage rock variety. Fronted by indie busyman Lenny Helsing, The Thanes officially came together in 1986. Two decades later, the act is still churning out its trademark, 60s-style, organ-driven melodies.

Hear it for yourself. Download: "No Need To Worry" by The Thanes.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Another lost Scottish act gets re-issued

Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines. Argh, work. No time for a full write-up on a band that truly deserves one, APB, so I will just reprint a few graphs from a review I did awhile back for a rather prominent Boston alt-weekly.

Thanks largely to frequent name-drops from current rock outfits, as well as the popularity of music tomes such as Simon Reynolds' Rip It Up And Start Again, 1980s Scottish pop is in the midst of a resurgence. Last year saw the release of Orange Juice and Fire Engines, compilations from Domino; a Josef K comp is set for release Nov. 7.

The latest group of Scots to get the re-issue treatment is Aberdeen's APB, as earlier this year Young American released a two-disc, 20th anniversary edition of the dance-rock trio's hard-to-find underground classic, Something To Believe In. (Original copies of the album were once listed on Amazon for as high as $2,500).

Influencing modern acts such as Franz Ferdinand, The Rapture, and LCD Soundsystem, APB fused funky bass licks and rhythmic drum beats with blasts of sputtering guitar.

Hear it for yourself. Download: "Chain Reaction" by ABP. What gives the energetic track an extra flair: the thick, accented voice of singer Iain Slater, curling 'round the lyrics.