I recently finished the job of filing all our CDs away in binders and chucking out the cases (for recycling, I’m not a barbarian). It was bloody tedious but also a nice nostalgia trip as I came across a lot of great albums from the 1990s I’d forgotten about, like Pedals by Chicago band The Aluminum Group.
The Aluminum Group took their name from a line of furniture designed by Charles and Ray Eames which was reason enough for me to like them, and played a crisp, smooth chamber-pop that was as beautifully put together as an Eames chair.
If their name wasn’t arty enough for you, Pedals opens with a 10-minute song about Marcel Duchamp called “Rrose Sélavy’s Valise” which is about as pretentious a move a band can make. Rrose Sélavy was Duchamp’s female alter ego, and the valise is a reference to this Duchamp work. With it’s epic length and multi-part structure it sounds something like Lounge Prog which should really be a thing.
Storming first appearance on British telly by Saint Etienne. I think I only ever watched The Word when I got home drunk from the pub so I thought the flashing colours and swooping camera was my head and not the show.
But why post just the one vintage Saint Etienne clip when you’ve another equally great one of another So Tough classic?
Ben Watt and Tracey Thorn have been the First Couple of Indie for as long as there has been such a thing as Indie, and a lot of us have become adults along with them. The thing I like about these two photos is that you don’t have to have had a successful music career (or still be with your college girlfriend/boyfriend) to relate to the story they tell.
I was a student just a couple of years later than they were and looked the same as they do on the left: the second-hand clothes, the cheap haircut, the white socks. Living in cold rooms and eating tinned food, drinking litre bottles of cheap cider at parties, evenings in the pub putting the world to rights while sinking pints and filling ashtrays. You’re awkward and unsure of yourself, but the freedom of living away from home for the first time widens your horizons and you start to become the person you’re going to be when you grow up.
Then you leave college and take those first steps into the big wide world. If you’re lucky you get a job and have some money in the bank (or an overdraft and credit card bills if you’re me). Your clothes and haircuts get better, you appreciate good food and stop looking like you live on a diet of cold baked beans and roll-ups. Increasing experience and responsibility over the years means you’re no longer a callow amateur but a professional and an adult.
The photos are also a good illustration of the musical trip Ben and Tracey have taken, from fragile acoustic Indiepop to sophisticated electronic club music — the clothes got better there too.
For a few years in the early 90s U2 forgot about being the saviours of rock and roll and remembered that they had once been a scrappy Post-Punk band. Trying to get that spirit back led them to make probably their best album in Achtung Baby and push their own envelope further with 12″ dance remixes of some of its singles.
These came out around the same time Primal Scream and Happy Mondays were mixing Rock with club beats so U2 were maybe bandwagon jumping a bit. The Perfecto mix of “Mysterious Ways” wouldn’t sound too out of place on Pills, Thrills, and Bellyaches which isn’t surprising as Mondays’ producer Paul Oakenfold was involved in it. The Solar Plexus mix is along the same lines but is even better I think — sounds like the drum roll from Steve Miller’s “Take The Money & Run” at the start of it.
Oakenfold also did the knob-twiddling honors on “Even Better Than The Real Thing” which is a more thorough deconstruction of the song, adding a big Rave beat and bringing the backing vocals forward into a euphoric wave-your-hands-in-the-air chorus. This version was a bigger hit in the UK than the original. The Sexy Dub mix is longer and more Rave-y and doesn’t feature Bono at all which may be a bonus for some people.
I know it’s the uncoolest thing in the world to say nice things about U2 these days, but I think they deserve some kudos for being more adventurous through this and the next couple of albums. Better than sticking their heads in the sand and just making another Joshua Tree which, being the biggest band in the world, they could easily have done and still made shed-loads of money.
Up to my tits in work and really worn out at the moment. I’m lucky enough to like what I do for a living, but there are times when I want to retire and live a life of leisure, blogging, and t-shirt designing. Which is another way of saying don’t expect much here for the next couple of weeks.