sexta-feira, 29 de março de 2013

Marble Giants going through their Colossal Youth

    Simple, lovely and spontaneous guitar riffs as well as a very crystal clear voice of a young and unpretentious girl among the other bandmates. Young Marble Giants has been described as a "shock" to the world in a period of agitation, frenetic and loud movement in the middle of the punk (post-punk) scene and also as a quiet and discrete, almost as intentionally disguised as a background band. Also, they have been labelled as "minimalist" which is a very ugly word in my opinion because it reminds me of effortless things, of nihilism and just taking the easy and pragmatic way, without any love or passion for what's being done. I don't see Young Marble Giants that way, it's quite the contrary: in my eyes, they are passionate, very passionate, something you notice on the lyrics ("Nature intended the abstract for you and me"). It's just that you don't have to be complex to be fascinating or to be overly elaborated, especially on music, to make something proper and valuable. Of course, you have to know how to do it. Young Marble Giants are simply humble and unpresumptuous which makes them very graceful and unique in their own way. Their music is definitely simple and almost casual, like a type of band you would listen to in a Saturday night, all alone.
   Colossal Youth is a marvellous album and one of the most concrete examples that music can remain in a novice level without being awful and being actually very beautiful. Of course, many people would not agree (especially progressive rock fans), but I guess that you just have to be more open to other mentalities to appreciate Young Marble Giants' sound.
Colossal Youth, 1980
   Eating Noddemix is a brilliant song with a strong narrative characteristic which makes it interesting. You don't really understand the conclusion of the narrative, but you know there was a murder and there's a femme fatale that getting ready for something. So I just associated those two facts as one: that femme fatale killed a man and goes hunting for me flesh to slit and blood to spill. Then, you have N.I.T.A that is also one of my favourite songs on the album. It talks about lonely souls, haunted and abandoned by their own old lovers. You have been abandoned but yet you weren't because you're still being haunted by that person who's supposed to be leaving you. Now that subject is very in-depth and insightful, quite enough.It's a song that clearly talks about loneliness, a song I used to listen in my own Saturday night loneliness.
   Every song in this album has got this beautiful monotonic beat that kind of hypnotises you, as well as the synthesizers or the organ (Wind in the Rigging) that sound so characteristic of the post-punk itself and combined with the easy tabs of the bass and guitar contributes to the whole atmosphere of relaxation, insight, modesty and delicacy of the sounds and lyrics and the voice itself of Alison Statton.
It's not a masterpiece, that I can say, but it's a little delicate gem from the depths of the early 1980's that has been kept under veils and veils of lousy and cheap pop, glam-rock, hair metal music.

Philip Moxham, Alison Statton and Stuart Moxham

Photo courtesy of Philippe Carly: Alison Statton and Philip Moxham
Photo courtesy of Philippe Carly: Alison Statton

back cover of Colossal Youth

quinta-feira, 21 de março de 2013

Scottish Roses

   Not, that's not the band's name, but what I usually call them. I call them that simply because on the climax of their musical careers they were like two little roses (one of them literally a "rose"), due to the briefness of their ephemeral success.
They could be called as Boy George's sisters, Siouxsie Sioux's cousins and made out of polka dot fabrics.
Who else would I be talking about if not Strawberry Switchblade? Rose McDowall and Jill Bryson, two girls from Glasgow that formed a band in 1981, from which reached success in 1984/1985.
 What drawn me the most to these two Gothic Lolita godmothers was probably their look. Besides their own natural beauty, of which I still envy, I also was jealous of their closet, their hair ribbons, the flowers and garlands in their voluminous ripped hair (as it was usual and a fashion on the 1980's) of the polka dots, lace and all the exotic glamour that they emanated and transmitted to me. Yet, once I heard their debut album, debut and last album, Strawberry Switchblade, I fell in love with their innocent, shrill and jangling voices that belonged to Rose and Jill, I fell for the pop and cutie atmosphere of the album and the lyrics, for the electronic-ish sounds, so charasteristic of the 1980's. Still, above everything, I fell in love with the ability they had of making good pop music. 
Going back to their home town, Glasgow spawned most of my favourite bands, and to me, there is a small group of glaswegian bands that makes bad music.
 As to the album in itself, the second track, Deep Water, is possibly one of my favourite songs of the whole album, and of all time. First, it is because they have the jingle and the whole tinkle of the wind-chimes that are, usually, placed in the porch and wind-chimes remind me of rainy days. Second, because the whole sonority of Disintegration (especially on Plainsong) by The Cure, which is one of my favourite albums ever, brings me back to those exact sounds. And third, because the lyrics are inspired by the situation of being underwater, of drowning (which reminds me of legendary characters like Ophelia, the tormented lady from Hamlet by Shakespeare) and also, inspired by the misty riddle and mystery that lays beneath deep veils of water of rivers, seas, lakes, etc.
Strawberry Switchblade, 1985
Trees and Flowers, EP

Another track that catches my sudden attention is Who Knows What Love Is, that leaves me in this immediate sensation of a young teenager singing and not the woman that Rose already was back then. It leaves me in this feeling of comfort and warmth maybe because the melody of the song provokes those feelings. Black Taxi and Michael Who Walks By Night are two songs that evoke me mystery and the nocturnal life, such as pubs and clubs. Those two are also one of my favourite tracks on the album, that also have these reminiscences of Japanese Whispers by The Cure.
Last but not least, Trees and Flowers are one of my favourite songs by this new wave duo (followed by Deep Water). It's a song about the fear of buildings, of tall buildings (agoraphobia) that Jill Bryson felt, yet according to my perspective, the lyrics are kind of ironic because I absolutely love flowers and trees and I sing this song as if I actually hated them. Maybe that happens due to the "expressiveness of the figure of speech". As to the melody of the song, the guitars and the instrumental part is really adorable and cutie, and they make me feel the same way as I do when I listen to Who Knows What Love Is?.

Rose and Jill: Trees and Flowers cover photo session.

Rose and Jill: Trees and Flowers cover photo session
Rose McDowall, Trees and Flowers cover photo session

Strawberry Switchblade, live at Leeds in 1984. How lucky the audience was!!

On a TV show

Rose on the set of the "Since Yesterday" video

On the dressing room. Front: Jill; Back: Rose

Jill Bryson

Jill and Rose

Rose, left. Jill, right

All photos are courtesy of Peter McArthur taken from their official website:

sexta-feira, 15 de março de 2013

Gruesome Flowers: I and II

As a few of you may know, I'm a huge fan of The Wake, the legendary underground post-punk/indie pop glaswegian band. And, as a fan (even if a very recent fan), I have heard the tribute to them "Gruesome Flowers". I thought it was a lovely idea because it showed that there were a few current bands that had actual good taste in music. So, I risked and gave them a chance. One of the bands on that tribute, Wild Nothing, has caught my heart with their echoing guitars from Nocturne, their second album. But the others... well, it was what I expected.
Gruesome Flowers vol. I
The first "volume" had Beach Fossils and Wild Nothing as performers of the songs "Plastic Flowers" and "Gruesome Flowers". To start with this review, I'll analyse one of my absolute favourite songs from The Wake, which is "Plastic Flowers". I can basically say that Beach Fossils didn't take any risk (neither did Wild Nothing) and kept too close to the original. I expect, usually, covers to be different due to the own essence of the band that covers a certain song. But I was disappointed. Same happened with Wild Nothing, although they surprised me with the dreamier guitars and atmosphere. It kinda of gave their own life to the song itself. The song was slowed down, since most of Wild Nothing's songs are slow and calm.
As to Beach Fossils, I'm not saying they ruined the song or anything, because they didn't, but they should have done something different and maybe they should have reincarnated the song in the band's own structure. They even picked up a female voice to pretend it was Carolyn's. Nonetheless, it's not a bad cover, but it could have been better. Yet if we consider Beach Fossil's type of songs, it's very common and it sticks to the usual fast indie guitars, calm and distant voices, and monotonic beats.
Wild Nothing's "Gruesome Castle" is also very faithful to the original yet, they managed to give their own touch to the song with the echoes of their Nocturne-like guitars, the electronic-ish beats and printed the song in a very dreamy and ethereal environment. It's a well done cover, and a beautiful one as well.
Moving on to "Gruesome Flowers II", we have Craft Spells and Blouse covering the songs "Talk About the Past" and "Pale Spectre".
Craft Spells are notoriously influenced by The Wake (so my boyfriend says) and it would be obvious if they wouldn't change much in their cover. Basically, the only thing different was the voices. It didn't please me and it did disappoint me because although they're influenced by them, they could have reshaped the song, making it their own.
Gruesome Flowers vol. II
As to "Pale Spectre" by Blouse, I have to say I didn't know the band before but it surprised me. After being disappointed two times (almost three), I expected it to be rubbish and a simple copy of the original, but I was wrong. The song is completely slowed down and almost impossible to recognise. And it's beautiful! It feels like falling in slow motion into a bed of roses and snow, into a dream. The echoes of the beats from the drum are simply stunning, and the voice of their vocalist is quite different from Carolyn's, which pleased me, and it is very mesmerizing. It's a whole different world and almost as if a whole different song. As much as I might be a huge fan of The Wake, I think Blouse have actually improved the song. They have turned a very cheerful and cute song into a song that you play in your head when you fall into a pool all by yourself and stand there, underwater, for minutes without even caring if you're breathing or not. It's a notable improve, something I never thought saying. My congratulations to Blouse.