The Singles Box


I say this a lot about my old singles but this time I’m pretty sure I am the only one who bought this.

Skat were better known by their previous name The Chefs (and for their lead singer Helen McCookerybook), a short-lived but influential indie band very popular with John Peel. I don’t know why they changed their name to Skat, but they only ever released this one single under that name in 1982 and then split up soon afterwards which probably wasn’t the desired effect.

It’s a fairly straight cover of the Velvet Underground song but it has a nice jangly “indie” sound, a style that The Chefs helped to invent.

Download: Femme Fatale – Skat (mp3)

Late Period


Orange Juice’s early Postcard records are rightly held in reverence but their later work gets a little overlooked as a result. Personally my favourite album of theirs is Texas Fever and I remember there being a bit of Dylan-going-electric purist snobbery about them signing to a big label and sounding more polished — like they could keep doing that kind of amateurish jangly indie forever. “Polished” is a relative term of course, their records always sounded a bit off-kilter no matter how many new chords and grooves they learned.

One time I saw them live Edwyn Collins jokingly introduced “Rip It Up” as “our one-hit wonder” and their final single “Lean Period” from 1984 wasn’t a hit either like 99% of their others, but it’s a bouncy and catchy number that should have done better even if it maybe isn’t one of their greatest. I still like it a lot though, a typically snarky Collins love song (and maybe even a sly commentary on his own critical reputation) here given a nice dubby remix by Dennis Bovell in this 12″ version which isn’t easily available anywhere far as I can tell.

Download: Lean Period (Extended Version) – Orange Juice (mp3)

BONUS: I posted this before many years ago but this 12″ version is also hard to come by so here it is again. OJ’s second-to-last single and one of the best things they did.

Download: What Presence?! (Extended Version) – Orange Juice (mp3)

B-Side Beauty


Had another stroll down 45 memory lane the other day and pulled this plum out of the singles box. You probably all know the a-side “Plain Sailing” from her 1982 student-bedsit classic album A Distant Shore, but it was the other side I loved more. “Goodbye Joe” is a cover of a Monochrome Set song and is a beautiful little gem of a track. Those were the days when you were more likely than not to find such hidden treasure on the other side of a single. We got our money’s worth back then.

I have posted this track before but I think it was long enough ago — eight years! — to warrant doing it again. Another reason is it’s only available on a rather expensive Cherry Red boxset which is a shame. Such beauty shouldn’t be so rare.

Download: Goodbye Joe – Tracey Thorn (mp3)

New-ish Monday



For such a tiny country Scotland has produced a lot of great bands, particularly of the indie kind, and Honeyblood are the latest addition to that long line. The Glaswegian duo of Stina Tweeddale and Shona McVicar play a more crunchy, alt-90s version of the classic jangly-guitar sound associated with Scottish indie bands but with plenty of the same wit and skill with catchy hooks.

I’m a bit behind the curve with them because this track came out last year along with their self-titled debut album, but better late than never because they’re terrific and so is the album. Highly recommended.

Something for the Weekend



God, this song. Still one of the greatest indiepop odes to swoony young love ever made. An essential inclusion on any mixtape you made for someone you had a crush on.

An Expat Thanksgiving


It’s Thanksgiving here in American today. It took me years to get used to having a festive roast turkey dinner in November instead of December but now I like having the extra holiday which makes up for the fact that most Americans only get one day off for Christmas.

I will, however, never get used to the fact that they have their big holiday meal with mashed potatoes instead of roast. I love mash but I always associate it with after-school tea when I was a kid (usually with sausages or fish fingers), and it just doesn’t seem special enough to serve with a roast bird, stuffing, gravy etc. Times like this I think I will always be a stranger in this country no matter how long I live here.

Anyway, happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers. Why not give roast potatoes a try this year?

I posted this song before many years ago but it’s great enough for a repeat.

Download: Thank You – Pale Fountains (mp3)

Image: Freedom From Want by Norman Rockwell.

New Monday



Searching around music sites for new sounds can be a bit daunting because there’s so much out there and it’s often pot luck that I find anything I like. I only clicked on this video because the song was called “Archie, Marry Me” which sounded fun and I’m really glad I did as this is terrific.

Alvvays are a Canadian band who play sunny, jingle-jangle indiepop that might not sound very original but they do it very well. Their debut album is out now and has nine tracks of similarly wonderful C-86 goodness.

Something for the Weekend



I dressed a lot like Edwyn Collins back then. I had the vintage shirts, the bootlace tie, the Chelsea boots, the haircut. But somehow I never looked as cool as him.

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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