heard on the wire

Misanthropic, misbegotten merchants of doom


We’re scarcely four weeks into 2014 and I’ve already fallen in love with the debut LP from an all-female guitar pop outfit; plus ça change.

The September Girls are five women from Dublin who make the kind of music that should embarrass Louis Walsh into a public apology for all the wrongs he has visited on the reputation of Irish music.

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Nothing in this world can touch the music that I’ve heard


It’s 25 years since the release of Technique, the New Order LP that perhaps defines the 1980s as well as any released in that musically exceptional decade.

More than any other record that the band made, Technique is a perfect blend of the band’s “rock” roots and the electronic and dance influences they absorbed throughout the decade. It’s also very much of its time. Partially recorded in Ibiza, its opening track, Fine Time, is the purest dance track that the band ever recorded.

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Don’t walk away from everything you’ve ever made

Eight #7 4x4

If you were into “alternative” music in the late 80s, life presented you with one of two options.

Either you scamped up to Madchester, put on the baggiest clothes you could find and shuffled around the Haçienda dance floor or you hung around in London with a load of like-minded people with terrible haircuts listening to super-fuzzy “guitar effects, and indistinguishable vocal melodies”.

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How’s it taste, that bitter end?


One of the advantages of having been an eMusic subscriber for longer than I care to remember is that every time they increase the price of their downloads, they throw me a wedge of free credit that allows me to occasionally download an LP on a whim without being entirely sure whether I’ll like it.

Thankfully this more than makes up for eMusic’s many drawbacks, from confusing one artist with another, to sub-standard file quality, antediluvian social sharing and music discovery and inadequate 30-second previews.

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I don’t want no cream or sugar

Elektra coffee machine

Tea or coffee? It’s one of life’s eternally important questions. Get the start to the day wrong and everything feels out of kilter.

I’m a coffee-in-the-morning, tea-in-the-afternoon person, preferring something strong and black before noon, something strong and a deep, rich shade of brown in the afternoon. The evening is reserved for beer.

What does popular music have to say on the subject? Not a lot, it would seem, save for hackneyed references to lipstick marks and coffee cups.

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Pennies from heaven


Just over a year ago, a very clever man called Liam had a very clever idea. He decided to trawl Amazon for CDs available for just 1p and get a friend to write reviews for a new website, the 1p Album Club.

In return, the friend chose 1p CDs for Liam to review and in the subsequent 17 months or so, many new pairs of mutual reviewers have added their musical ponderings to the site, which now boasts some 119 reviews that will convince you that you’ll never pay more than 1p (plus P&P) for a CD again.

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Leave the light on at the top of the stairs

Killing moon

Nothing makes me feel older than the all-too-real thought that many thousands of people will be going to a nineties night this weekend.

I wasn’t aware that such events even took place until an erstwhile student told me she was going to dance the night away to Oasis and Blur, The Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers, Take That and All Saints. I wasn’t sure who needed the most pity: me for the sudden dawning of mortality or her for having to put up with that lot all night. There’s certainly a great deal to be said for pop fashions being ephemeral—and for alcohol.

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Sting singing on the roof of the Barbican


I’ve been messing about with tumblr for years without knowing exactly what I wanted to do with it. Then, in a moment of inspiration that would have surprised Saul himself, I realised that I could combine tumblr’s immediacy with the longer form of this blog to create the ultimate two-stop shop for discerning music fans.

So, after much jiggery, a little pokery and suprisingly little cursing, a customised smithsocktumblr has become the place where I dump those SoundCloud and Bandcamp soundbites that I encounter on my virtual travels. There’s no commentary, no context, just music.

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It started out with just an innocent kiss


If you’re going to ape a musical style of yesteryear, at least do it well. So John Peel remarked in defence of New Zealand rockers, The Datsuns, but it may equally apply to Summer Twins, whose affection for the music of the ’50s and ’60s shines through their latest EP, Forget Me.

Sisters Chelsea and Justine Brown write and record what they describe as dream pop and rock ’n’ roll songs with a touch of California sun. There isn’t much of that around at the moment, which makes this music all the more precious.

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Some people say it’s just rock and roll

Push the Sky Away

There was scarcely a “serious” newspaper critic, rock blog or adult music magazine that failed to include Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ Push the Sky Away amongst their top LPs of 2013. But don’t let that put you off.

It’s a wonderful record, whose standout track is the previously honoured Higgs Boson Blues, but it is its title track that truly comes to life on the live LP released towards the end of the year.

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heard on the wire is a blog about music old and new, but mostly new. It occasionally uses 21st century file formats that may not be supported by 20th century web browsers. For best results use Safari or Chrome. And If you like the music posted here, please think of the effort and expense that has gone into making it and consider buying a copy of your own.


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