New Tuesday

The second offering for New Music Week is this real beauty by Californian singer-songwriter Cass McCombs.

Though he’s released nine albums since 2002 I must admit I’d never heard anything by McCombs before, but checked out this track because it featured backing vocals from the amazing Angel Olsen. I’m really glad I did because this is an utterly gorgeous record, a soft and languid dream floating on the wings of crisp guitar and strings.

This is from his new album Mangy Love which comes out in August and I shall definitely be lending an ear to.

New Monday

I’ve heard so many good new tracks recently instead of posting one a week like usual I thought I’d splurge them all over the next few days and have a New Music Week. Then it will be back to our regularly-scheduled sentimental wankery if I can get around to finishing something. First up…

Dream Wife are a trio of English and Icelandic girls who formed the band as a performance art project while they were all at art school in Brighton. They must have passed the course with flying colours because this conceptual jape became a real band — a really good one at that — playing gigs and putting out a proper EP from where the bloody marvelous “Kids” comes.

This seems designed to hit all my pleasure centres: sassy and artsy girls singing fuzzy, New-Wavey pop with a fun, stylish video to boot. It’s heartening to know that British art schools can still produce good bands, I was worried that wasn’t the case anymore.

Another great new tune on the way tomorrow.

Something for the Weekend

I assumed the “DJ” in this clip wasn’t the same guy talking on the record, but after some internet detective work I discovered that it actually is him — a fellow called Mike Cleveland who formed the group. Would never have put that voice with that face.

Classic tune this of course, so proud that my kids know the words to it. Parenting job done.

Picture Post

Won’t be doing doing much posting this week, I’m spending a few days lazing in a boat and having a smoke with Emma Peel*

Download: Sitting by the Riverside – The Kinks (mp3)

*Not really

Something for The Weekend

Blisteringly good this. One of my favourite singles of the Punk/New Wave era (though Graham Parker was neither of those things really) and probably doesn’t get the notice it deserves.

Designer With A Cause

I was very sad to hear about the death of designer David King last week. He was one of the greats of British graphic design and if you don’t know his name you certainly know his work, and may even have some of it in your house.

King was art editor at The Sunday Times Magazine from 1965-75 when it published serious, hard-hitting photojournalism by great photographers like Don McCullin (instead of the celeb/lifestyle fluff it goes in for now). King was always more interested in telling a story and getting a message across than he was in pretty design frippery so his layouts have a directness that still packs a punch today.

While working at the magazine King also designed album sleeves for Track Records. Just a little earner on the side that happened to produce at least two iconic classics. 

The Electric Ladyland cover only took 36 hours from concept to completion, and King’s intention was to produce an anti-Playboy image showing women as they really are in all their unpolished beauty. For his efforts, Jimi Hendrix said he had no idea what it was all about and the sleeve was banned in the USA.

When he left The Times, King channeled his political beliefs into work for the Anti-Apartheid movement and Anti-Nazi League. It was his work for the latter that had the most impact and is probably the best remembered today, especially if you were around in the late 70s when the ANL teamed up with Rock Against Racism to help fight the influence of the NF on young people.

King attempted to create a visual language for the Left in England that was bolder and more memorable than the usual hand-made, photocopied flyer. Like his magazine work, these posters didn’t fuck around with niceties and instantly grabbed your attention. There’s no doubt that his posters helped the visibility of the ANL and RAR and you can still see their influence in the typography on placards at demos in London.

He brought the same bold style to his covers for London listings magazine City Limits which he designed for a year in 1982. Heavily influenced by Russian Constructivists like Rodchenko, he made the most of the limited budget the magazine had to produce eye-popping covers that leapt off the newsagent shelves.

King quit the design business in the 80s — not surprising, given his politics and the superficial, glossy turn graphics took that decade — to concentrate on building his collection of Revolutionary Soviet design and photography which he published several acclaimed books of.

The collection grew to be the biggest of its kind in the world and David licensed images to other publications. Because of this I had the pleasure of speaking with him on the phone about 10 years ago when I needed an image for a magazine article I was designing about an obscure Russian writer. His collection wasn’t online and you had to call David and ask him for the image which he’d mail you a slide of — that was old school even then. He couldn’t have been nicer or more helpful, and it did give me a chance to tell him how much I’d loved his work over the years.

The first band that comes to mind when I think of the Anti-Nazi League and Rock Against Racism is this lot.

Download: Ain’t Gonna Take It – Tom Robinson Band (mp3)

Warm and Toasty

One of my favourite sense memories of London is when I would sometimes stop off at a cafe on the way to work in the morning for some buttered toast to take away. Those were the days before there was a trendy coffee shop on every corner so it was usually some poky little place with an old Italian bloke behind the greasy Formica counter.

I especially loved it in the winter when the cafe windows would be all steamed up and while I stood there in the warm, fuggy air waiting for my toast all I could hear was the rapid, soft tick tick tick of the timer on the Dualit toaster that every cafe had. It was a beautiful moment of tranquility before I stepped outside into the hustle and bustle and headed to the office.

The Dualit is a made-in-Britain design classic and I actually bought one (the proper metal kind) just so I could hear that tick tick tick again. Every time I hear it I’m standing in the cozy confines of a London cafe on a cold morning waiting for my toast to come in a plain white paper bag, it’s corners turning dark from the melting butter.

Download: Toast – Streetband (mp3)

This was a novelty hit in 1978, it’s very silly but I always thought it was rather charming. It’s mostly known now though because the lead singer of Streetband was Paul Young.

Something for the Weekend

Tighter trousers: Barry Gibb or Russell Thompkins, Jr?

Joking aside, this is utterly sublime and every home should own a copy of The Stylistics’ classic debut album.

What’s it all about?

The sentimental musings of an ageing expat in words, music, and pictures. Mp3 files are up for a limited time so drink them while they're hot. Contact me: lee at londonlee dot com





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