poison to the mind


DJ Jazzy Jeff & that there Fresh Prince

No uploading this week, so here's a lengthy YSI to tide over.

For a decade or so, I've repped Will Smith hard to sneering non-popists of my acquaintance. Yes, his film career is a bit hollow, yes his "solo" records are complete clownshoes, and I never really watched his sitcom, but those early singles were ace! I would urge. He made great pop records about being a kid! They cleverly did what they said on the tin, ie titles like Parents Just Don't Undersand and Girls Ain't Nothing But Trouble start as they mean to go on.

All this was based pretty much on four records I heard on the radio in the '80s*, though. Recently I discovered that a mate actually owned their second and third albums, and borrowed them to EXPLORE THE OEUVRE. This, I can report, is an inessential cultural move - the records are chockers with beat showcases, shout-outs to crew (there is a whole song about their bodyguard and the fact that he gets out of the limo to protect them) and such, while being short on witty extensions of concept. The Prince's boundless charisma totally carries them, as it does so well for him in Hollywood, but there's not much to reward repeated listening.

One of the most blatant examples of padding on He's The DJ, I'm The Rapper (remember, this is the first double album in hip-hop ever - and this was in the mezozoic era before Prince Paul invented the skit) is an excerpt from a live set at some package tour showcase situation. And in a reverse-ironic bloat move, here's the entire set! Check the crowd-pleasing queerfear, years before Smith moved into films by playing a rentboy:

DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince - Live At Union Square

As usual, the only thing in print here is a greatest hits by a Sony imprint designed for cut-outs. You can still get the original album in America though.

*I really loved "Boom! Shake The Room!" too, and probably bought the CD single for 50c years later.

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not the secret origin of ambient house

In the mid-'80s, a future KLF art terrorist teamed up with a former Killing Joke bassist, got a bird in to sing, and attempted to take over the pop charts with inoffensive electro-soul waffling. THEY DID NOT SUCCEED, despite being an early production job for the Stock/Aitekn/Waterman team (indeed, Waterman funded PWL from his hefty fee for this work. TRUFAX!), because they were in fact pretty rubbish.

Today's MP3 is not exactly an exception to this, but it does stand out for being a) being produced by Jimmy Cauty and Youth themselves, and b) prefiguring the pioneering work in the field of stoned-pissing-about-in-the-studio each would do a few years later . A collage of samples, dinky keyboards and "cold rock stuff!", it's the b-side to the 7" shown above.

Brilliant - The Red Red Groovy

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ends in a -y

Alright, a bit of follow-up to yesterday's post. One thing I haven't heard anything about yer Howling Bells is whether Joel ever gets to sing any leads (or write songs?). Because got a few here and there in Waikiki days, often for the slightly harder-rawking numbers, but they seem to be making a feature now of contrasting Juanita's sweeter voice with the guitar churn of the current sound.

This is the only one that got released as a single. "Limited edition," crowed the sleeve, as if that's an unusual feature for any record released in Australia.
Waikiki - Lucky

Here's Juanita guesting with On Inc., as mentioned last time (formerly On, they changed their name due to an American group with the same name, and have recently changed back. It's contagious!). This remix is a bit more bleepy and not as smooth as the album version - not having actually compared track times or done a comparison by ear, I'll also blithely assert based on back covers alone that the commercial single featured a radio edit and extended version of the mix, but this, from a media promo, is the plain unmodified version.
On Inc (feat. King Tide & Kikisun) - Spooky (Tokyo Mod Squad Remix)

And what the hell, here's the EP version of New Technology, also reffed below. How many T-shirts do you have to sell to recoup flying Ric Ocasek to Sydney to produce one track for you?
Waikiki - New Technology

Ah, looks like On Inc's own album is out of print too... I wouldn't have gone so far to rip a non-merch track if I'd checked first.

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bowling hells

Howling Balls - see you, Jimmeh So bits of the UK press and strands of yer MP3-blogospear'ssister are getting all worked up about this HOT NEW BAND the Howling Bells. Attractive singer! Signed to Cocteau Twins' label! Swirling! Glowering shadows! Woozy carousel! So-and-so meets thus-and-such!

When they first emerged to play a residency here last year though, reaction was mostly "Why have they changed their name to THAT?", with a soupçon of "Oh, they're not saying they've found their true sound AGAIN, are they?" Because the same band had put in about five years of existing as Waikiki in Sydney, releasing two EPs and getting lots of big supports before a full album/singles/tour slog. And every time they put out a new release, they would disown the previous work, and every time they'd start playing a new leg of the tour with a new guitarist or bassplayer or keyboardist (the drummer, Glenn Moule, and Stein siblings Joel and Juanita are constant) would talk up how they'd finally found the right combination of musicians to get across the sound they were looking for, and so forth. Juanita was even credited as 'Kikisun' on their earliest work (and a guest vocal with "dance" band On Inc, if I remember correctly), so I guess there's precedence for the name change.

It's good to see it's working out for them, though, because they'd actually gotten to a decent level of recognition for their decent brand of indie-pop-rock, and going a bit heavier under the same name would hardly have wrong-footed fans or radio listeners. I spoke to Joel just before they left for their extended writing sojourn in England, and he was keen to rethink and develop new material, but no talk of relaunching the band as such.

Anyway, let's delve into the misty past of two or three years ago, and see The Howling Bells Wot Were.

The lead track on their second EP, and first big re-styling (including Rinzen designs for their sleeves, mm), was "New Technology". I thought about offering that recording, produced by Ric Ocasek and snappier than the album version (which had a dreamy coda), but since I'm doing another couple from the record, here's an acoustic version from a television appearance:
Waikiki - New Technology (live on telly)

Another two tracks from the EP were collaborations of a sort, early indications of a desire to stretch beyond what they thought their limitations were. "Mad And Beautiful" was originally written by Juanita with Machine Gun Fellatio's Chit Chat Von Loopinstab on a songwriter's retreat organised by their publisher, and "More" brought in electric string quartet (and frequent sessioneers) FourPlay.
Waikiki - Mad And Beautiful
Waikiki - More

More team-up songwriting happened with fellow Bondi boy Ben Lee, brought in via the band's manager, formerly bassist in Lee's teen band Noise Addict. A couple of songs turned up on his career nadir Hey You Yes You, but the two he penned for their record outshone his own contemporary material by miles in terms of radio-friendly hooks and catchiness. Here's the original demo of "Here Comes September" by Ben and Juanita:
Waikiki - Here Comes September (demo)

And a radio session version of other co-write single, "Complicated":
Waikiki - Complicated (radio session)

Just to wrap up today, another track from the same session, which should provide an instructive contrast between how they used to go gentle for the comtemplative song, as opposed to today's shoegazer-derived hard dreaminess - "Did I":
Waikiki - Did I (radio session)

That TV performance can be bought on one of the many Music Live From The Panel CDs. Waikiki's album proper appears to be the only thing still in print from them, so I'll drop a couple more single tracks next week.

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checking out my website, website, website

Have I been street-teamed? I think I like it! Someone posted a comment on this old post about the first single for Betty Boo/Alex james collab Wigwam, plugging the official site with new music and video and so forth. It's all Flash, and the sound is horribly compressed and bitty, but: new!

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