Sunday, October 18, 2009

Some Velvet Morning

For today's show, a selection of late 80s - early 90s bands who were influenced by the Velvet Underground. This is mostly an excuse to discover or rediscover some interesting videos and great songs; you're not going to find the clearest examples of Velvet influences in the choice of songs.

To begin with, everybody's idea of the underrated band by excellence: the Go-Betweens. Here's a video I hadn't seen at the time, and which is positively ridiculous and kind of disturbing. No wonder they never achieved fame - they just didn't take themselves very seriously.

Galaxie 500 was a fantastic but unfortunately short-lived band who probably invented the "slowcore" style. Here's a live version of Strange, my favorite Galaxie 500 song.

Dean Wareham's autobiography is a great read. Oh, and a note to Mr Bad: the song above is dead easy: G, D, Am. Let's try it some time.

Let's finish with Mazzy Star. This one is truly haunting, so I picked an audio-only one so you concentrate instead of getting distracted ogling Hope Sandoval:

What happened to the above bands? Well, the Go-Betweens re-formed in the early 2000's for three more albums (without reaching the heights of 16 Lover's Lane, their best album), but Grant McLennan sadly passed away suddenly in 2006. As for Galaxie 500, Dean Wareham the singer went on to form Luna, met his current wife Britta Phillips there, and is now channelling Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot in his recently formed duo with Britta. His autobiography is an excellent read. As for Damon and Naomi, they're still touring (they're regulars at the Terrascope festival). I had the chance to see them in concert and have a brief chat with them, they're great people. Finally, Mazzy Star went on a long hiatus after three albums, but Hope Sandoval has just released a second album with her Warm Inventions.

If you liked any of the above songs, just click on the videos and surf YouTube from there! In particular, there's some pretty rare Go-Betweens vidoes out there, as well as some great live footage of Mazzy Star and Opal (Dave's Roback band prior to Mazzy Star).

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Italo Disco

Remember: you were a teenager, you always had your walkman on (maybe the Toshiba model that had an FM/AM radio that you could swap in and out like any other tape), you had a Ferrari Testarossa poster on your wall. The year? 1984, maybe 1985? Now you look back and think of the great music they used to play on the radio: The Cure, New Order, Echo and the Bunnymen. Well, wrong you are! What you really used to listen to was... Italian Disco!

Well, there's not much that can be salvaged from that style. It sounds horribly dated, and it was probably horrible then too, except kids didn't know any better (nothing has changed since, I'm afraid). The songs were catchy and the synthesizers were just so cool. Who cared about the lyrics, or the fact that all the songs were built the same way? Still, here's a few that aren't all that bad. Yeah, c'mon, admit it: you're gonna enjoy it and you're still gonna vote "lame" in that little box at the bottom of this post. It's ok.

Live is Life was a huge hit in around 1985. There were actually two different versions getting airplay at around the same time: one by Opus, and the other one by Stargo, and both charted (the same thing happened to Self Control: both versions, by Laura Branigan and by Raf, became big hits in 1984). For whatever reason, I hate the Opus version, and I looove the Stargo version. It has some kind of poignancy (yep). We used to all sing it aloud while playing cards after lunch at school.

Really? She's lip-syncing? No way!

Here's another one that still sounds ok: the video is awesome, with P. Lion playing the synth superimposed on pictures of children.

I'm saving the best for last. Valerie Dore wouldn't have looked out of place on a label like 4AD. It's like Lush before its time (just wait till you hear that lovely chorus), but replace the guitars with synths. Plus, she has freaky eyes: