Although it was clearly John Lydon’s time (as Johnny Rotten) in the Sex Pistols that made him famous, his career as Public Image Ltd would ultimately provide a more enduring body of work. Lydon also had successful collaborations during this time, and it’s 1993’s Open Up, with Leftfield, that I want to look at here.
High Contrast (aka Lincoln Barrett) is a Welsh electronic music producer and DJ. For his 2020 track Time is Hardcore, he teams up with Kae Tempest, who contributes spoken word and rap - and by singer Anita Blay (formerly CocknBullKid) who provides the chorus vocal.
Writing about the Safari EP by The Breeders reminded me that I had long planned to mention this song for a while. It’s by far my favourite song by The Beatles - the connection with The Breeders is that they did an ok cover on their first LP Pod.
The Safari EP marks the transition from the raw Albini-produced early Breeders material, such as their début LP Pod and the more polished (and commercially successful) follow-up The Last Splash.
As the dying embers of punk faded, this new sound seemed like something we’d been waiting for - the next phase for pop/rock. A big leap forwards while still being rooted in the present.
If there’s one band whose influence seems to massively outweigh their own commercial success, it’s Gang of Four. Year-in, year-out, we hear new acts influenced by their funk and dub influenced post-punk rock. This song encapsulates everything I loved about them. It’s angry. political, energetic, and yet it grooves.
Continuing the theme of sample-based tracks, next up is Spitfire, by Public Service Broadcasting. The song would work absolutely fine as an instrumental, but the samples from the 1942 film “The First of the Few” add so much more.
Shortly after sample-heavy Hot Doggie by Colourbox appeared on the 4AD Compilation “Lonely Is An Eyesore”, the label released a collaborative single between Colourbox and label-mates AR Kane as a Double A-Side. The result was less of a collaboration than intended. One side was nearly all AR Kane, the other side was nearly all Colourbox. It was the latter side that got the airplay, and that took the song to the top of the UK Charts.
Featured on the 1987 4AD Compilation “Lonely Is An Eyesore”, this track showed the sampling skills of brothers Martyn and Steven Young, recording as Colourbox. Soon after, under the M|A|R|R|S guise, they would have a UK number one hit single with a tune based largely on samples from other records - but Hot Doggie samples from TV and film.
The fourth song in my trilogy of Terry Hall-related tracks, here he is providing vocals to the 2007 track Running from the Thoughts on the “Speakers and Tweeters” LP by Dub Pistols.
Another one from Terry Hall, and another collaboration. This time it’s with Ian Broudie, who released his version as the title track from The Lightning Seeds April 1992 LP “Sense”.
Hall collaborated with Broudie on a few tracks on that album, and sang BVs on this track. A few years later, Hall recorded his own version for his solo LP “Home” - produced by Broudie. This take is pretty similar to Broudie’s - with enough difference that I can definitely say that, although I love them both, I prefer this one.
Punk was running out of steam by 1979, but as a seventeen-year-old who was into whatever was new, this was just as exciting as punk to me. Of course, this wasn’t really new, it was a second wave of ska. But it was certainly still pretty exciting. This is the first of a few tracks on this blog that have a Terry Hall connection.
This is an amazing comeback single.
The band had fallen apart when singer Ian McCulloch left in 1987, and drummer Pete de Freitas died in a motorcycle accident in 1989. After the Electrafixion project ended up with the three remaining (and, indeed, original) Bunnymen being involved, the band inevitably reverted to the Echo & the Bunnymen name. This was the lead single from the 1997 comeback LP.
Possibly one of the more accessible early-ish songs by The Fall, I originally intended to include this in the “two drummers” theme, but it seems that this actually just preceded the two-drummer period of the band’s ever-fluid line-up, but it’s a great song so it’s time to talk about it anyway.
Following Lime Habit by Poliça, here’s another act that (often? always? not sure...) features two drummers live - The Go! Team. This was the lead single from their third LP Rolling Blackouts, with guest vocals from Bethany Cosentino.
Chew Lips looked like they could be on their way to stardom at one point, but sadly it wasn’t to be. One critically acclaimed album and a few singles are all we have, which is a great loss for all of us.
This track comes from 2016, the wonderful year where my annual “best-of” mix tape was one of the greatest I can remember. Paper Thin is by Laura Kidd, who was then using the She Makes War project name, and features Tanya Donelly on BVs.
The third in a series of “big songs” - although this has plenty of variety through its near-13 minute length, it sounds more like one song that the previous two, which were constructed from separate initial ideas merged into one.
The second in a trio of “big songs” - long, relatively complex songs that sound like they were the product of putting together separate pieces into one. Like Jesus of Suburbia, Paranoid Android was also made exactly that way.
The third track featuring Dot Allison on vocals. Here she is with her electronic trio One Dove on a record produced by Andy Weatherall and remixed by Stephen Hague.
The second of three tracks featuring vocals by Dot Allison - this time a track from her first début LP, 1999s Afterglow.
The first of three songs featuring Scottish singer Dot Allison, here she features on vocals (and co-writing) on Dirge, the opening track from The Contino Sessions, a classic album by Death In Vegas.
The second in a trio of songs by bands who couldn’t resist getting a bit sweary in their names, this is a powerful, uplifting, instrumental that fitted in perfectly when used in the 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony.
Prefab Sprout were a pretty popular band in the 80s that, to be honest, I didn’t really like that much. But 20 years later I heard about singer Paddy McAloon’s solo record and it’s a fascinating story, which resulted in an amazing album. In 2019, this album was re-released under the Prefab Sprout banner.
I Trawl The Megahertz is the second in a pair of “spoken word” records.
Scot composer and musician Anna Meredith combines electronica with classical instruments to produce music that has connections to past yet which still sounds fresh and modern.
Written by Dave Sudbury in the 80s about a homing pigeon, and recorded in 1988 by June Tabor, this live version by folk group The Unthanks (backed by the famous Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band) is a thing of rare magnificence. As, apparently, was the eponymous pigeon :)
Gwenno Saunders came to relatively wide public awareness as a member of The Pipettes, but has forged a successful solo career since. In 2018 she released an album in the Cornish language, but here I’m highlighting Amser - the Cornish-language track of her otherwise-mostly-Welsh 2014 LP Y Dydd Olaf.
Slade were stylistically lumped in with the UK ’glam’ movement, but they were streets ahead of some of the producer-led fodder like The Sweet. These two singles came out as their peak popularity was waning, but this is a pair of fine tracks from the surprisingly good Slade in Flame film.
This is the first of a few great songs which add or skip beats in one of their distinctive hooks. In this case, a song in waltz time introduces an occasional bar of common time in the distinctive intro riff.
Another song from the 2004 “Golden Era”. This one is heavily influenced by the “New Romantic” movement of the late 70s, early 80s.
Another one from the golden year of 2004, this is another of my all-time favourites. The Wedding Present at this point wasn’t a reformed original line-up, but a renamed and refocussed version of Cinerama.
The standout years in my annual best-of-year compilations are 2004 and 2016. The mix for the former kicked off with this track from Cornwall’s Thirteen Senses.
This is a great song. And Pesky is surely a genius name for a band of kids?
I’m writing this in April 2020, as we approach the 10th anniversary of the release of Pull In Emergency’s eponymous album - and it’s almost certainly my most-played LP since it came out. It’s a very fine piece of work - from a band that were in their mid-teens when it was made.
Just three years after John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) walked out on the Sex Pistols, he was releasing his third PiL album. Moving on from the dub/disco/krautrock influences of Metal Box, The Flowers of Romance was even more experimental. Largely led by huge drum sounds and percussion loops, the sound influenced artists well beyond the punk and post-punk scenes.
The indie/dance crossover sound from the late 80s and early 90s might well have had its home in Manchester, but these London boys gave them more than a run for their money.
This record takes a sample from Kate Bush’s single Cloudbusting, and builds a new song around it - though my preferred version is the 2008 remix that replaces Bush’s vocal with a re-recorded part.
Cherry Ghost started as the solo project of singer-songwriter Simon Aldred, and this the first single, a beautiful waltz-time piece.
This song (approximately, at least) marked the transition from the old twee pop Beatles to the much more interesting act that they became.
The Bristol Sound, aka Trip Hop, was the dominant sound of this era for me. Grunge was still hanging in there, but this really was something new, and Portishead were at the forefront of it. This song is built on an Isaac Hayes sample that became quite ubiquitous, and is still making an impact on popular music today.
Although The Cure had been well established in the UK, this was the song that broke them to a bigger US audience. This song has also stood up to a wide variety of treatments in cover versions.
This song was released only a few months before Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, and although it doesn’t have the complexity of songwriting of the latter, I’d suggest that it is an even more astounding leap forward in the state of the art of sound production.
A glorious uplifting pop tune from the Scotland’s three-piece Chvrches.
This is my most-played tune since I moved all my music into iTunes (now Apple Music) about 15 years ago - yet the version I play was never released.
A song by producer Richard X featuring a vocal from Jarvis Cocker and a sample from Mazzy Star’s Fade Into You creates something even greater than the sum of its parts.
The opening track of the début album, and literally within 5 seconds it presents a hook so strong, I’m smitten for life with this song.
The “hook” is just a gap. Yet, to me, this is simply the greatest intro of all.
This is the song that gave this blog its title, so it seems right to open with it. Although it’s a cover, this is the most famous version and, I’d claim, the definitive version.
Recorded by Liz Fraser and Robin Guthrie of 4AD act Cocteau Twins, this was released on the B-side of a 12” release, then the A-side of a 7”, before appearing on the first This Mortal Coil album It’ll End in Tears