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All I need is a pint a day

Mariachi

It’s always nice when a band arrives to give this website an international flavour. Such is the anglo-centric nature of the rock ’n’ pop universe that any English-language music blog is likely to lean heavily towards music from the two homes of modern popular music, the USA and the UK.

This blog being somewhat inclined to pop music of the jangly guitar variety, Sweden is also well represented (Abba might even have been mentioned at one stage!), but I’ve also featured estimable contributions from Australia, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Jamaica, the Netherlands, Norway, the Philippines and Spain.¹

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Blame it on the trains

Kiss

I’ve recently spent a lot of time on the train, gently speeding between London and Newcastle, a journey that leaves much time for reflection upon the state of the nation’s railways.

I’ve taken to travelling the longer route, via Metro to Sunderland and then on Grand Central trains along the beautiful Durham coast to Hartlepool, thence inland to York and the south. It adds to the journey time but puts a lot less strain on already strained pockets. I am lucky; I can travel during the week on the one return service that gets me to the capital and back for little over £50, I’ve got a table seat with a power socket and there’s bottled pale ale for sale in the buffet car.

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When love’s gone, they’ll lustre on

Diamonds are Forever

I have an abnormal affection for Diamonds Are Forever, the seventh movie in the Bond franchise. Rotten Tomatoes ranks it sixteenth among the 24 genuine 007 films, which would be less upsetting if it weren’t lower than Quantum of Solace; I put it at number one.

I’m not alone.

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We drink and talk about stupid stuff

Dancing

Discovering a new artist can be a double-edged sword. I don’t mean new as in just-one-single-on-an-obscure-label new; that’s a simply pursued pleasure. I mean new as in late-to-the-party new, with a back catalogue the size of Belgium¹.

Take the Juan MacLean, nomme de guerre of American musician John MacLean. The hardcore-guitarist-turned-electro-whizz has been pseudonymously recording for more than a decade; he could have been whistling to pandas at the North Pole for all I knew.

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Even if nobody else sings along

Glarnerland

I ought to pay more attention. I downloaded the debut LP from Minor Alps in November and while the joys of its rich mix of pop, americana and electro have been evident from the start, I’ve only just discovered that the record has some provenance.

Currently residing in a box in a Surrey storage unit are a couple of Juliana Hatfield LPs from the mid-90s. And 20 years later it is the same Hatfield whose beautiful voice graces the Minor Alps record.

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Home taping is killing music

JVC walkman

I was convinced that it was a flash in the pan, but five years since cassette tapes first began to reappear, their popularity, like that of vinyl, continues to grow.

Ten years ago, the only places where cassettes could be found were in the rotating racks of Hallmark releases in petrol stations, in glove boxes and in attics. They were the epitome of dead technology, only to spring to life again, a wholly surprising phenomenon of nostalgia, hipster cool, anti-piracy and DIY.

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Love of life makes you feel higher

Red Light

The first thing I do after adding a song to iTunes is delete the genre. If ever a label were completely devoid of meaning, it is ”alternative & punk”; likewise “rock” or “pop”.

I like to think of most of the music on this blog, itself a reasonable reflection of my complete collection, as “rock ’n’ pop”, a description that blends what have been two predominant, mutually nourishing streams in popular music since Elvis first gyrated his hips.

Sadly it’s a label that’s never caught on and, in the absence of a better suggestion, the genre field stays blank.

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Some people like to deceive you

New Order Republic singles

Republic is a strange record. The sixth New Order LP contains as many indifferent tunes as it does great New Order moments. It’s a record of two halves, the first a collection of run of the mill LP tracks, that became fabulous singles, the second a collection of run of the mill LP tracks.

It gave us one great New Order single and spawned both their best remix and best video and includes the great underrated New Order song. On the other hand, it has singer Bernard Sumner rapping.

According to bass player Peter Hook, it was an LP that had to be made—and was only made—to meet financial commitments.

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They’ll be called the survivors

Palatine Beat Groups

My Stockholm Monsters experience comprises two events that took place more than 20 years ago. The first is a vague recollection, of having heard John Peel playing one of their records some time in the mid 80s. The second was the 1991 release of Palatine, a four-disc box set that showcased the output of Manchester record label Factory Records Manchester record label

From Manchester, like most of the label’s signings, the Stockholm Monsters appeared twice in the exhaustive compilation of a label soon to collapse under the weight of its own success. And the second of those two inclusions made me wish I’d paid more attention to that Peel show a few years before.

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This one’s called…

Barbican

It takes some band to release an EP that manages to reference Led Zeppelin, Margaret Thatcher, social security hot water allowances, Billy Graham and a brief moment of classical music that I can’t quite place.

That band was the Larks, a London-based, ska-influenced collective that, based on the evidence of one of the most ebullient live performances I’ve ever seen, comprised around a dozen musicians, many toting shiny brass.

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smithsocksimon is a blog about music old and new, with the occasional off-piste post about food or technology.

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All the music on this site is posted to encourage listeners to enjoy it and then rush out and buy as many songs by the artist as they possibly can. Any artist, record label boss, publisher or other rightsholder who doesn't want their works featured here only needs to get in touch and the offending file(s) will be removed at the earliest opportunity.

If you like the music posted here, please think of the effort and expense that has gone into making it and consider handing over a few pence for a copy of your own.