poison to the mind


the incompleat… #4

Melbourne's This Is Serious Mum took a highly cavalier attitude to their 1995 box set Complete Recordings 86-94. For one thing, the earliest recording on it was from 1981, and for another they left off about a third of the Hot Dogma album simply on the grounds that it isn't very good (the vinyl edition had also been truncated on release in 1990, but with different tracks omitted). Not much of a surprise, since TISM's entire existence has been played as an extended cock-snooking at the music industry.

For the collector nerd, though, their attitude can sometimes prove frustrating: a 2002 singles compilation, Best Off, used the original 7" version of debut "Defecate On My Face" (a martial love-ballad from a bunker-bound Adolf to Eva Braun, released in a 12" sleeve with all sides glued shut), but replaced some songs with versions from a 1996 live album, and skipped all other opportunities for actual single versions.

Such as this 7" issue of "Saturday Night Palsy", from the Great Truckin' Songs Of The Renaissance LP. One disc of the record was proper songs recorded in a studio; the other was interview snippets, demos, live readings of poems and the occasional actual song for light relief, and bore the legend THIS RECORD IS NOT AS GOOD AS THE OTHER ONE around the label. Similarly, the single was subtitled This version is better than the one on the album - though not good enough to ever warrant re-release, apparently. It probably is a whole new recording (anyone want to side-by-side and check?), but the most significant difference is that the opening couplet was changed from "Well I don't want to live and I don't want to die/I want to shoot heroin through the eye" to the slightly more radio-friendly "...want to stick a red-hot poker through the eye."

TISM - Saturday Night Palsy (7" version)

It's a bit of a fucking mystery actually. Shock don't seem to be carrying the Complete Recordings since TISM bailed for FMR. FMR don't seem to be carrying the Best Off, or indeed anything, since their acquisition and reissue of the back catalogue was a flop. You can at least get their latest, The White Albun from Madman Video, who released it as a package with a retrospective DVD and another DVD of a fake benefit concert (Save Our TISM). Come to think, this version of Palsy is probably in the video clip on that.

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fleet follow-up

Quickie for the curious - here's a live version of Battleflag from after The Wrekked Train quit, from one of who-knows-how-many US tours.

And just because I couldn't crowbar them in yesterday: by the second album, the band had sadly also stopped using their recockulous pseudonyms. So, gratuitously: Sheriff Jon Stone played keyboards, The Slammer played drums (no relation to Zodiac Mindwarp's kit-hitter Slam Thunderhide), A One Man Crowd Called Gentilee was the bassist, and guitar was added by The Disco Bison. God love 'em.

Lo-Fidelity Allstars - Battleflag (live)

This was taken from Naked 2000, a fundraiser CD for Boston radio station WBCN. The compilation's apparently out of print, but their website might sell you something else instead.

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fucked by lawyers

Lo-Fidelity Allstars got lumped in with two different scenes on their emergence in 1997 - the then-peaking "big beat", and the never-got-off-the-sofa "skunk rock". More than anything, though, they were the first group of kids who'd grown up on acid house and the Happy Mondays, and formed a band informed by... or not informed by seeing any difference between rock music and dance music. In all their early recordings, there's no sense of the novelty excitement at "we're rapping, but over a metal band!" or "I painstakingly recreate my programmed arpeggios on a 12-string through a MIDI interface" wank that tends to infect even the most worthy efforts to blend genres - the Lo-Fis are just a "real band" playing "dance music".

They also had a fairly awesome stretch of bad luck - building on the buzz from their debut single and a Bond cover on Fierce Panda, the follow-up "Disco Machine Gun" was in the shops for about a week before lawyers stepped on an obvious Breeders sample (that didn't even get a solo in the 7" version! [or radio edit, whatever it was called]). The song got re-recorded for the album later as "Blisters On My Brain", but the way the sample struggles out of the murk of the long build and then collapses into the verse after a couple of seconds really works as a signifier - now we're getting into the meat of the song! Insult was presumably added to injury when, a year or two later, Moguai (was it?) put out a single that basically consisted of the same sample on a loop for four minutes while an unattended 303 farted along with it...

Lo-Fidelity Allstars - Disco Machine Gun

The second major blow came when, building on the buzz for their rework of a Pigeonhed track for that group's Emergency Overflow Cavalcade Of Remixes project, the band decided to revamp their remix and include it on the debut album, How To Operate With A Blown Mind. Fair dos - they'd rewritten enough music and recorded new vocals to mix with the original's, it was certainly enough of a Lo-Fi track by now for them to be proud of it. Unfortunately, while P-hed's label Sub Pop was manufactured and distributed by Warner Bros, the Lo-Fi's patron Skint was now in a M&D/licensing marriage with Sony - and all of a sudden, Warner publishers took objection to a slab of Prince-derived lyrics that Shawn Smith had used without controversy in the original song - having had their previous single withdrawn, the band now saw their album yanked from the shops and had to quickly re-record the track with that bit of Smith excised.

Lo-Fidelity Allstars (feat. Pigeonhed) - Battle Flag

Making the best of a bad situation, they released the retitled "Battleflag" as a single, and saw it become a hit in the US after being used in a bunch of TV shows - then just before heading over to tour on the back of this, lead singer/sleeve designer The Wrekked Train decided he didn't like the idea of becoming famous and chucked it to go back to working on the railways, or something. By now used to bouncing back, they simply reasoned that no-one over there knew what they looked like or how any of their other songs sounded, so carried on with DJ The Albino Priest standing in on Battleflag vocals. (Unfortunately, the loss saw them mutate into a smoother house outfit for the second album, but it has some nice collabs with Greg Dulli, Jamie Lidell and Bootsy.)

The webstore of Skint Records still has most of their stuff for sale on 12" and CD. The LP version of How To Operate might even be the un-revised edition, who knows? Either way, it's a great record with one of the best opening tracks ever. Their DJ mix album, On The Floor At The Boutique, is pretty tops too.

You can still freely purchase the original remix version from Sub Pop, along with the non-remixed version on Pigeonhed's The Full Sentence album.

Just because I've been absent so long, here's an extra track for you: one of the B-sides from the single, "Disco Machine Gun Part II (Many Tentacles Pimping On The Keys)". It's not a James Brown-style part 2, or even much of a sequel, more an excuse for keyboardist The Many Tentacles to jam out like a mullet institute student, but this full-length version got sacrificed when the record was axed, so here it is for history's sake.

Lo-Fidelity Allstars - Disco Machine Gun pt II

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burning eyeball

Okay, it's been a few days because I've been ill, and I'm still too sick to type much - so here's a big one to cover the next four days, when I'm bolting interstate. The Fiery Furnaces came to Australia last year as fellow alliteratives Franz Ferdinand's support band, not doing any shows of their own - except for a brief instore at Red Eye Records. Six songs, all done in under a quarter of an hour (though there was about twenty minutes of plugging in and tuning up that you don't have to stand through here.)

Fiery Furnaces - Tropical Ice-Land [live at Red Eye]
Fiery Furnaces - We Got Back The Plague [live at Red Eye]
Fiery Furnaces - I'm Gonna Run [live at Red Eye]
Fiery Furnaces - Up In The North [live at Red Eye]
Fiery Furnaces - My Dog Was Lost [live at Red Eye]
Fiery Furnaces - Blueberry Boat [live at Red Eye]

You can get most of everything they've put out straight from Rough Trade. Hey, I'm posting the Fiery Furnaces, I'm a real mp3 blog now!

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the incompleat… #3

Okay, so the Happy Mondays haven't had any kind of comprehensive reissue program (yet). But their catalogue has been so badly handled that they deserve consideration. Apart from introducing E to Manchester, inventing indie-dance, being Martin Hannett's last hurrah, giving Paul Oakenfold a career (well, he was good then), creating an archetypal nomenclature for all Blokes In The Band What Do Nothing before and after, and generally being moron-savant accidental geniuses, the Mondays did two things that are hallmarks of a classic pop band: 1) they stayed in the papers providing endless entertainment completely aside from their musical output or performance, and 2) they belted out a regular stream of singles and EPs completely divorced from the album-promotion process.

And for a group that have had four best-ofs to date (matching their tally of studio LPs!), these have been really poorly represented. Hopefully Shaun Ryder's imminent return to the charts with Gorillaz - only doing backing vocals, but credited as "featuring" and with his enormous cybernetic head the main focus of the video - will prompt a thorough album-and-bonus-disc program, maybe even restoring all the album tracks that got yanked for jacking Northern Songs. Cross your Kit-Kat fingers.

The last cash-in, so dodgy they didn't even commission cover art, is actually a pretty good sampler for the novice listener. But it loses points for including only the puny 7" edit (and more for not admitting it!) of "Judge Fudge". This and the b-side, "Stayin' Alive", were the last tracks produced by Oakenfold and Osborne, with the band at the height of their powers - before the disastrous spiral-and-fizzle of the last album and tour. "Judge Fudge" is a sinister howl, an exhalation from Ryder's then-blackening depths that gains much of it's power from the way the groove is allowed to build, Mark Day's guitar cutting in over the top to presage the dirty grandeur that will eventually erupt. And "Stayin' Alive" is a great re-invention of the Gibbs' classic, funked up in the Mondays shambolic style - but again, much of the fun comes from how almost a minute is spent on a completely extraneous intro (nuff respect to yer actual disco stylee) before the original riff bursts out. Go on, play it to someone and see how long they take to pick it.

Happy Mondays - Judge Fudge (full version)
Happy Mondays - Stayin' Alive (full version)

The Greatest Hits really is a good place to start. If you're going to buy one album while waiting for remasters, make it a second-hand copy of Bummed on vinyl. Or you can probably get Pills, Thrills & Bellyaches for ten bucks from a remainder shop.

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this life is for squirrels

We haven't had anything by a cartoonist yet this week, have we? Not that I've got an endless supply, but might as well keep it a running theme for as long as I think of it...

Walt Kelly, after early years working on corporate properties, spent several decades exploiting his own creation as much as possible. Pogo Possum and the other denizens of the Okefenokee Swamp appeared not only in a newspaper strip, but also their own comic books, all manner of merchandise, knick-knacks, foofooraws, and what-have-you. And on more than one occasion, on record. Here we have They Might Be Giants, at an instore in Newtown four years ago, covering "Lines Upon A Tranquil Brow" from the LP Songs Of The Pogo - plus their own introduction to the song, affectionately dissing Kelly's original vocal performance.

TMBG - Walt Kelly intro [instore]
TMBG - Lines Upon A Tranquil Brow [instore]

In the intro above, you'll hear John Flansburgh suggesting Ebay as your best source for Songs of The Pogo. No longer! Some enterprising fans have achieved a CD reissue of the album, generously padded out with various 45s, rehearsal tapes and extra Kelly.
You can buy CDs and shirts and mugs and loads and loads of MP3s (studio records and entire concerts) and other stuff besides, straight from TMBG.

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the incompleat… #2

The Pet Shop Boys were characteristically more methodical about the process of their own reissue program, a couple of years ago. Not for them the grab-bag approach of demos, muddy live tapes, the occasional side-project: they wilfully make (now-venerable) b-side collection Alternative completely redundant, offer no remixes by outside hands, provide sketches for outside work but nothing not done entirely by "Pet Shop Boys." Plus, a unified design aesthetic and extensive, informative sleevenotes (something the Cure project sorely lacks.

But at least one track mystifyingly failed to be represented: this completely re-recorded "swing version" of "Can You Forgive Her?" Whether they were embarrassed in retrospect, thought it the work of an uncredited arranger, or simply forgot about it, the Very sleevenotes do not inform us. It turned up on the b-side to "Yesterday, When I Was Mad" about four singles into the album campaign - so was probably recorded well after the album. If anyone has any information or clues, let us know.

Pet Shop Boys - Can You Forgive Her? (Swing Version)

for some reason, the official site doesn't sell any of the remasters at all. They do have Very on vinyl, though - which is nice - but I can't link you to it because it's in a pop-up. Maybe just go down to HMV?

In similar vein, here's the Emma Lanford-fronted version of Mousse T. doing a gratuitously OTT big-band version of his classic eurocheesepump hit Horny. I've taken this from the b-side to the "Fire" single, but it might also be on the Gourmet De Funk album - the interweb isn't exactly clear on this point. Just in case, I've snipped it down a bit.

Mousse T. feat. Emma Lanford - Horny Jazz

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the incompleat… #1

You know my favourite thing about the current trend for elaborate remaster programs for a band's entire catalogue, coupling every album with a discful of b-sides, singles, remixes, demos and phone messages from the drummer's mum? It's that in so many cases, I'd never bothered to 'upgrade' from vinyl or tapes, so I don't feel like I'm getting rooked. A victory for poverty and laziness!

Though there are still enough gaps left in the archival decisions to let the gleeful purchaser have a faint taste of disappointment left. The Cure's b-sides box-set had the odd head-scratcher, and became spottier and spottier as it went along, but the promise was that everything it left behind would be picked up by the bonus discs on the album reissues to follow. But then Three Imaginary Boys turns up, the best part of a year on, and - sure - has non-LP single "Boys Don't Cry" on the bonus disc, but then - huh? - omits debut single "Killing An Arab." Even though "Arab"'s b-side, "10:15 Saturday Night", got to be on both the B-side comp and the debut album. And it's on the first singles compilation, too!

So one begins to fear how wonky things might go on future issues. Will the "pop trilogy" of early-80s singles be stuck on the next album's bonus disc, orphaned like "Arab" for some mega-redundant future collection, or appear in their best-known form in a remastered version of the Japanese Whispers compilation, despite the fact that all the bsides that filled out that album were flogged two years before on the box set...

And, to draw somewhat closer to the nub of today's post, what of 1990 remix anthology Mixed Up? At the time a mixture of earlier 12" versions, new reworkings of recent and older tracks, and on a couple of occasions, dance mixes of new recordings of early singles (because the masters had been lost). This time around, it could be an opportunity to become an uber-archive of Cure remixes over the years - or just a two-disc version, with the second shiny bit of plastic skimpily collecting auxiliary mixes from the original project: the vinyl version went one longer than the CD, and a single was released with three more new mixes ...but! one of these has been on a singles comp since, and another was included on Join The Dots, the Bs-box, ostensibly rendering it off-limits, so perhaps Mixed will be skipped, as with the live albums?

In which case... WHITHER "PRIMARY (RED MIX)"? This splendid reworking of the 1981 original by On-U Sound affiliate David Harrow is one of the best tracks to result from the entire project, and yet it has languished, unknown and unloved, on the b-side of an out-of-print 12" for the last fifteen years. Will the increasingly-unpredictable Robert Smith, lately sacking members and re-recording '70s tracks for internet corporations, rescue it or continue to overlook it? Tune in to a release schedule sometime next year for clues, I guess, and in the meantime make the most of this recording from my copy:

The Cure - Primary (red mix) [from Close To Me (Closest Mix) 12", 1990]

the official store attached to the Cure's website is pretty appallingly shitless, carrying only one of the four remasters, ignoring the box set, and including among the sparse products it does deign to carry, a dodge US compilation never heartily approved by Smiff. You can get the CD version of Mixed Up from there, though.

More on this theme tomorrow - I seem to have blethered on, and you probably need a rest.

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