Monthly Archives: July 2008


Finished Charles Stross’s ‘Glasshouse’ on holiday recently and whilst I’ve liked his other books (quite a bit actually) ‘Glasshouse’ is the best I’ve read to date. An intelligent sci-fi thriller centred around what memory means to us as individuals and as a society, the Glasshouse of the title is supposedly a research sociological experiment aimed at recreating an earlier era of humanity. But of course there are foul deeds afoot.

The device of an amnesiac main character is tried and trusted but the revelations of his/her past serve the story well. In fact the book’s whole pacing is impeccable and, as with the other Stross novels I’ve read, there are plenty of things to ponder about (for example how electronic storage is actually likely to be less long lasting than paper/photos etc). I’d definitely recommend this one to anyone.

I didn’t manage to pick up on a direct musical reference when I last talked about a Stross novel but this time it’s quite easy since at one point there’s reference to a song I own although the song is used as a hymn in the book!

This version below isn’t the original Leonard Cohen original but is instead taken from the rather good ‘I’m Your Fan’ Cohen tribute which came out a long time ago. Too often these things seem thrown together but with many big names of the time (and MPT favourites) such as David McComb, Pixies, That Petrol Emotion, Ian McCulloch, Robert Forster and Fatima Mansions this is one of the best tribute CDs I’ve ever come across. And what’s more it still seems to be available.

R.E.M. – First We Take Manhattan (from ‘I’m Your Fan’) [Buy the CD]

Am I alone in thinking that this is one of the best 20 things R.E.M. have ever done?

Make It Quick

I’ve been rather remiss in not mentioning the That Petrol Emotion reunion before now but I kept hoping that a proper tour may have been announced. No such luck (so far) and the only dates confirmed are “secret” warm-ups in London and Galway (details) and a show at Electric Picnic (sold out).

For more info on the reunion including some of the songs they’ve rehearsed check out the Petrols’ website which has a video of a recent rehearsal performance of ‘Catch a Fire’. And here’s another track from that song’s parent LP ‘Fireproof’:

That Petrol Emotion – Last of the True Believers (from ‘Fireproof’) [Buy the CD]

Whilst on the subject of TPE, my thoughts turned recently to a band whose name I had to find out from Steve Mack. Back in around about 1989 (I think) the Petrols played a short tour of Scotland and at the first gig I saw at Falkirk Ice Rink they were supported by an all female band. I didn’t catch any details on the night and they weren’t the support the following evening in Glasgow. I’m not sure I would ever have found out who they were if I hadn’t accosted Mr Mack before the Petrols took the stage and was able to elicit the fact that the band were called Fire Party.

Fire Party were loud, think early Throwing Muses but a lot punkier, and a lot of that came over live due to singer Amy Pickering’s pretty intense stage persona. They released an excellent self-titled debut LP then a (comparatively short) LP ‘New Orleans Opera’ the following year.

I guess the reason that they popped into my mind was due to the fact that I’ve been listening to a bit of Sleater-Kinney lately and they are a fairly good term of reference because you can’t help but think that S-K must have heard Fire Party at some point. According to the Dischord website, Fire Party had a lot of difficulty gaining attention in the States as an all girl, slightly avant punk band was something of a novelty.

Despite a more favourable response in the UK ‘New Orleans Opera was their last release. However their recorded output received a reissue a few years back with additional John Peel session tracks and you can buy the CD or download it from Dischord here. Here’s a taster:

Fire Party – Cake (from ’19 Songs’) [Buy the CD] [Download the LP]

In Daylight She Was Desperate

The Hold Steady

I kind of dismissed the Hold Steady last year after a Myspace audition but a combination of circumstances led me to their new LP ‘Stay Positive’.

I guess my reservations aren’t entirely gone but on the whole ‘Stay Positive’ is a strikingly good no nonsense rock LP. Tad Kubler’s guitar is a large part of that, reminiscent at times of some of Bob Mould’s playing. Overall there’s a pleasing balance in the styles within the LP getting the balance right between the epic and the intimate.

The one reservation that nags away at me is the overuse of the piano. Used properly within rock’n’roll the piano can be perfect but it seems to me to add nothing whatsoever to the likes of ‘Constructive Summer’.

I too like the idea of the songs forming part of a narrative which spans their entire back catalogue but given that this is the first LP I’ve heard in its entirety the impact of this is minimal.

Here’s the epic closing track:

The Hold Steady – Slapped Actress [Buy the CD] [Download the LP]

Unruly Boys

The Smiths

Here’s the second in MPT’s series of classic radio broadcast gigs. And hopefully featuring the Smiths will prove to be something of a crowd pleaser.

This gig actually took place on 2nd March 1984 at the Queen Margaret Union, Glasgow, not the Glasgow University Union as mentioned in the original Radio Clyde broadcast. The show was sold out well in advance as it took place just after the Smiths began to break big.

Like the Mercury Rev recording, I was also at this show but only thanks to the generosity of a friend since I managed to miss out on getting a ticket initially. Anyhow, here’s the Smiths from 1984:

01 Hand In Glove
02 Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now
03 Girl Afraid
04 This Charming Man
05 Pretty Girls Make Graves
06 Still Ill
07 This Night Has Opened My Eyes
08 Barbarism Begins At Home
09 Back To The Old House
10 What Difference Does It Make?
11 Reel Around The Fountain
12 You’ve Got Everything Now
13 Handsome Devil

To be honest, I remember more about the atmosphere of the show than the gig itself. The QM was packed solid and even in my younger days I do remember feeling a little crushed that night. In retrospect it seems like a very short gig at only 13 songs but it’s not something I can particularly recall. Disappointingly the other 2 Scottish shows I saw on the same tour (Dundee Uni where the band briefly left the stage after a spitting incident and Edinburgh Coasters when I remember we were miles back from the stage) featured the same set. I saw the Smiths a good few times but to be honest none made much of an impression.

Possibly the most memorable incident in fact came after another Dundee gig at the Caird Hall the following year when I attempted to buy a round and was refused service at the age of 23-ish! And I was the oldest person in our group!

Buy Smiths records here.


A final round-up of the best stuff I’ve heard for the first time this year (or re-released in one case!):

Sleater-Kinney – Far Away (from ‘One Beat’) [Buy the CD] [Download it]

I’d no sooner purchased their last LP than S/K inconsiderately split up. At least I have the back catalogue to explore and ‘One Beat’ is pretty good stuff, a league above the likes of Be Your Own Pet.

Robert Forster The Evangelist (from ‘The Evangelist’) [Buy the CD] [Download it]

The ex-Go-Between’s first solo LP since the death of bandmate Grant McLennan has been covered on here in the last fortnight. Here’s the title track, another example of how good the record is.

dEUS – Oh Your God (from ‘Vantage Point’) [Buy the CD] [Download it]

Unfortunately ‘Vantage Point’ hasn’t grabbed me to the same extent as previous dEUS LPs. Which isn’t to say that there isn’t plenty of good stuff on it, just that it perhaps lacks stand-outs like ‘Suds & Soda’ or even ‘Sun Ra’. ‘Oh Your God’ is the liveliest track on the record.

R.E.M. – Until The Day Is Done (from ‘Accelerate’) [Buy the CD] [Download it]

For whatever reason ‘Accelerate’ didn’t fully convince. The stodgy production led to more than one person saying that the whole thing sounded like one long song and that’s maybe part of it. But as a way of blasting away the cobwebs of the recent records, it did just fine.

The Triffids – Too Hot To Move, Too Hot To Think (from ‘The Black Swan’) [Buy the CD] [Download it]

The main Triffids’ LPs have now been covered in the Domino reissue programme following (deep breath) the simultaneous releases of ‘The Black Swan’, ‘Treeless Plain’ and ‘Beautiful Waste and Other Stories’. This is the opening track, which was actually an old song that featured on one of the earlier Triffids cassette LPs.

Back to live shows next post.


More of the best from the stuff I’ve bought in 2008:

De Rosa – Ore (from ‘Appendices’) [Get it]

As a build up to new LP ‘Prevention’ in the autumn De Rosa are releasing one free track on the first Monday of every month. ‘Ore’ was the second release, and it is quite astonishing that they aren’t going to put it on the record. Absolutely brilliant.

Bob Mould – Again and Again (from ‘District Line’) [Buy the CD] [Download it]

Not my favourite Bob LP it has to be said but ‘Again and Again’ is probably the highlight – the track lifted to great heights by the subtle keyboards backing throughout. A reminder that Mr Mould is far from a spent force.

The Breeders – It’s The Love (from ‘Mountain Battles’) [Buy the CD] [Download it]

MB was a pleasingly eclectic release from country to the spooky closing title track but there was some more traditional Breeders’ guitar pop on there as well and this was probably the best example.

Frightened Rabbit – Floating In The Forth (from ‘Midnight Organ Fight’) [Buy the CD] [Download it]

A band I’d heard a lot about but didn’t hear until recently, ‘Midnight Organ Fight’ proves that the Scottish scene is pretty healthy just now. FR musically have the potential to be huge – their lyrics though may conspire to keep them as a cult band.

The Room – On The Beach (from ‘In Evil Hour/Clear!) [Buy the CD] [Download it]

20 odd years late, I finally got round to getting an LP by the Room – 2 in fact since the reissue includes not just ‘In Evil Hour’ but also the slightly peculiar mini-LP ‘Clear’. Caught between new pop (80s style) and wanting to be the Fall, this Room is actually worth hanging around in.

Still more to come …


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