Your Next Favourite Garage Bands (Best of 2015, Part Three)

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One of my favourite discoveries of the year has been Night Dials, a five-piece outfit that have been creating a buzz in London in recent months at venues like the Monarch in Camden and St. Moritz on Wardour Street.

I recently interviewed the band for Shindig magazine, where drummer Paul explained that the band met during their college days and were brought together ‘by a mutual love for good music and all things 1960s.’

Certainly that love of garage, psych and a number of West London bands like The Yardbirds is evident in much of their material but there’s some Jesus and Mary Chain in their musical DNA too and the guys also share a fiercely independent attitude to making and releasing music. ‘It’s all homemade and recorded very quickly,’ according to Paul, so think something along the lines of a non perfectionist La’s with William Reid on guitar, covering some forgotten gem by an Eel Pie Island outfit that supported The Rolling Stones in 1966.

During 2015, Night Dials released two double A sided singles. I’ve Done More Things is an incessant slice of pristine garage pop while I’ll Sleep When I Die is a gorgeous lo-fi lullaby. The follow up, Waiting At Your Door/Little Flame is available now on Ciao Ketchup Recordings and here with its drenched in acid-fried colours, swirling patterns and animal head masks is Waiting At Your Door:

 
So here are my final batch of the best singles and album tracks of the year:

Night Dials: Waiting At Your Door
Lola in Slacks: Soirée
Lonelady: Bunkerpop
Low: What Part of Me
Nicolas Godin: Widerstehe Doch Der Sünde
Tuff Love: Duke
New Order: Tutti Frutti
The Fall: Auto Chip 2014-2016
Natalie Pryce: Søren
The Creeping Ivies: The Witch House

The sound of The Creeping Ivies isn’t a million musical miles away from that of Night Dials. Hailing from Glasgow and now signed to fabby local label Flowers in the Dustbin, their recent album Your New Favourite Garage Band rounded up a number of previous releases including the track featured here and another with the enticing title of What Would Joey Ramone Do? Earlier this year, I saw them perform a supercharged set of pared-back rock’n’roll at McChuills, with vaulting vocals from the cool as fuck Becca, feral guitars and some wonderfully noisy drum bashing. Just my kind of night.

This is The Witch House:

 
For more on Night Dials, click here.

For more on The Creeping Ivies, click here.

As for reissues, box sets, compilations and live albums, here’s a list of ten of the best:

The Nectarine No. 9: Saint Jack
The Velvet Underground: Loaded
The Jesus and Mary Chain: Live at Barrowlands
Various Artists: The Odyssey: A Northern Soul Time Capsule
Pre Ubu: Elitism For The People 1975-1978
Jock Scot: My Personal Culloden
Chris Bell: I Am the Cosmos
Various Artists: Marc Bolan Presents the Soul Sessions
Bis: I love bis
Various Artists: Ork Records: New York, New York

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Pedestrian At Best? (Best of 2015, Part Two)

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According to NME this has been a bumper year for brilliant albums but if you believe that then you probably also think that it’s been a brilliant year for NME. Nope, 2015 has been a mediocre (or should I say pedestrian?) year at best and I doubt that in decades to come many will argue with this assessment.

Put it this way, The Rezillos released their first album in 1978, a year that also saw these albums come out (and this is virtually off the top of my head):

Elvis Costello: This Year’s Model
Brian Eno: Ambient 1: Music For Airports
The Jam: All Mod Cons
Bob Marley: Kaya
The Clash: Give ’Em Enough Rope
Talking Heads: More Songs About Buildings & Food
Kate Bush: The Kick Inside
Siouxsie and The Banshees: The Scream
Buzzcocks: Another Music In A Different Kitchen & Love Bites
Kraftwerk: Man Machine
Magazine: Real Life
The Stranglers: Black & White
Giorgio Moroder: Midnight Express OST
PiL: First Edition
The Rolling Stones: Some Girls
Wire:  Chairs Missing
Blondie: Parallel Lines

All these years later and The Rezillos finally put out their outrageously belated second studio album Zero which, to digress, I liked a lot even though I felt it was overproduced at times and preferred the session the band recorded for Billy Sloan, back when Billy worked at Radio Clyde. Anyway, how many folk would claim that as many albums of the standard of that 1978 list have appeared in 2015?

Still, much good stuff has been released from January onwards, when I came out with the music blogger cliché that a track heard when the average person is still recovering from some festive season overindulgence might still be my favourite at the year’s end but I still absolutely adore Brown Eyes by The New Southern Electrikk (who now seem to be The New Southern Electric), although If I had to name a favourite, Kathryn Joseph’s The Bird might just edge it out.

Here’s the second instalment of my favourites:

The Rezillos: Tiny Boy From Outer Space
Thee Oh Sees: Web
Port Sulphur: Fast Boys & Factory Girls
C Duncan: Here to There

 
The New Southern Electrikk: Brown Eyes
Kathryn Joseph: The Bird
Courtney Barnett: Pedestrian At Best

 
Blur: Go Out
Belle and Sebastian: Enter Sylvia Plath
The Moon Kids: Ice Cream

 
For more on C Duncan click here.

For more on Courtney Barnett click here.

The Moon Kids play King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut in Glasgow tonight. For more on the band click here.

Secret Kosmiche, Doping & The Olympics

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Last week I came across an article on athletes from the former East Germany who had been force-fed steroids by government appointed coaches from 1968, when the GDR first competed as a full nation at the Olympics, until 1988, in an attempt to showcase the supposed success story of the communist state.
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They won the inaugural World Championships in Athletics in Helsinki in 1983 and three times in this period the GDR notched up second position on the Olympic medal winners’ table. During these two decades their squads won over 200 gold medals, a phenomenal total when you consider that their population was only around 16 million.

Well, a phenomenal total if their leaders hadn’t insisted on selecting some of these sports stars when they were under ten years old, sending them to special state sponsored camps where they were put through gruelling physical training and equally strict ideological training, to ensure they were indoctrinated to believe that they were somehow living in a socialist utopia and to spout this propaganda whenever they competed abroad. Worst of all, though, was the doping programme they were made to participate in with their coaches insisting they take the Stasi approved steroid Oral-Turinabol, the youngsters being told they were vitamin tablets and ordered to never reveal to anyone, not even to tell their parents, that they were being given these pills or injections.

Females often returned to their homes from these camps with facial hair, deeper voices and, of course, increased muscle mass while boys experienced problems such as shrinking testes.

Now many of them display a range of problems that include chronic pain, infertility, depression and alcoholism. Some, like shot putter Heidi Krieger even changed sex due to the levels of Testosterone taken during these years and around 1,000 of these former athletes have just won a pay-out from the German Government, not that any money can compensate for what most of them had to endure.

So, why am I mentioning this in this blog?

Well, just out is the third in a series of albums released by Edinburgh label Unknown Capability Recordings titled Kosmischer Läufer: The Secret Music Of the East German Olympic Program 1972-83.

The Secret Music Of the East German Olympic Program 1972-83. 3

The story behind this series of albums is that they were composed and recorded by an East German, Martin Zeichnete, who experienced a brainwave while out running himself in the days after he first learned of a device known as the Stereobelt (a kind of proto Walkman) invented by the German born Andreas Pavel.

Zeichnete hit upon the idea that it could be helpful for the focus of runners to listen to music while training and even better if that music resembled the Krautrock sounds he sometimes heard from illicitly listening to stations in what was then West Germany, especially the pulsing, motorik rhythms of acts like Neu!

Think a kind of performance enhancing music if you like and all perfectly legal.

This hunch eventually led to him being employed by the East German Olympic Program where he quickly set out on the task of composing the tracks which the authorities agreed might help not only runners but other young sportsmen and women such as gymnasts and skaters. The government officially named the scheme State Plan 14.84L but Zeichnete and others nicknamed it ‘Projekt Kosmischer Läufer’ or in English, Cosmic Runner.

In a dank Berlin studio, Zeichnete usually utilised some primitive Soviet synths to create his version of West German kosmiche and he would constantly be observed by a state official as he worked on his ideas. Not ideal circumstances but bear in mind that before the fall of the Berlin Wall, citizens of any communist regimes had limited access to any kind of Western rock or electronic music.

The early seventies did see some liberalization of pop and rock music in East Germany but essentially it was seen as a cultural weapon that the capitalist and decadent West would happily like to see corrupt the socialist ideals of young people. Rock bands were tolerated and even relatively common in cities like Dresden and East Berlin but these acts were required to comply with official guidelines and draw the party line. Failure to do so meant a risk of imprisonment.

The project came to an abrupt halt with Zeichnete being given no explanation why although he believes it was probably due to his country’s decision to boycott the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984 along with the other Soviet Bloc nations.

The music was considered the property of the state but some of it was smuggled out by Zeichnete and an engineer who occasionally worked on the project. In the early ’90s, the surviving tracks were transferred to digital although it was only two years ago that the first batch were released to a wider audience.

And I wonder what some of the GDR stars of track and field thought of the music? Did Marita Koch, whose 400 metres World Record set thirty years ago stands to this day, find it helpful while running to listen to Sandtrommel or Tonband Laufspur? Did hearing Die Lange Gerade make that final mile of training just that bit easier with its hypnotic groove?


Well I would be absolutely shocked if I found out that Koch, or any of her fellow Olympians had ever even heard it, let alone used it as a training aid.

Like many others I just don’t believe this far-fetched though imaginative tale. And a few listens to the albums reveals that they were unlikely to have been created with outdated synths in a third rate studio, the sound is far too pristine and Der Horraum, for example, clearly sounds like twenty first century post-rock but hey, that’s okay, I do like a clever hoax but file under Paul is dead, Klaatu were the Beatles (come to think of it, Walzer der roten Katze here does remind me of Little Neutrino in places), Jack and Meg White were siblings, and the KLF burnt a million pounds on the island of Jura.

Wait a minute, that last one might just have been true.

Would I have enjoyed these albums more if the story of Projekt Kosmischer Läufer was true?

Very possibly, but I won’t let that spoil my enjoyment. Die Lange Gerade is a truly inspired pastiche of Neu! while several of the other tracks channel Kraftwerk very successfully. I have now heard all three albums and would recommend each of them despite my inner sceptic.

For more on these releases click here.