heard on the wire

You’re the pretty camouflage

Tommy Simpson

I downloaded some really disappointing LPs in May. Well, if I’m to be perfectly honest, quite disappointing would be a better description, but where’s the hyperbole in that‽

First there was the latest from Wire, Beatle-esquely entitled Wire, then LPs from The Mountain Goats, Best Coast and Joanna Gruesome, all artists who’ve graced these pages. It was deflating, which is probably taking the experience too seriously. But if you can’t invest emotion in music, where can you‽

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Drop the hammers, drop the guns


I start my new career as a teacher very soon. That’s probably the scariest sentence I’ve ever written. A long holiday is coming to end, some 15 weeks after I completed my training, qualified-teacher-status recommendation in hand.

I’ve blogged. Suzi and I have been to the beach, many times. I may have drunk a little too much from time to time. We’ve decorated the spare bedroom. I’ve even managed to find my way around the NatWest website, so no one can say I haven’t achieved anything.

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You can’t beat a boy who loves New Order


There are some bands who get a free pass, whose new records will be bought without a second thought, who even manage to survive the occasional indiscretion.

The Fall, Half Man Half Biscuit, Nick Cave, Helen Love, the Wedding Present and Cinerama are definitely on that list, but top of it are New Order. That they’re top is odd in some ways, since of them all they have perhaps committed the worse indiscretion — the mediocrity that was their last full LP, Waiting for the Sirens’ Call whose low points, the title track and the Scissor Sister-accompanied Jetstream, are such an execrably bad records that I stopped buying every version I could find, something I’d been doing since I bought Temptation on seven- and 12-inch.

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Truth is I miss those days


It’s been just over a month since I resurrected this blog and the subsequent catching up I’ve done has certainly been enlightening.

As I mentioned, much of my listening over the previous year had been confined to car journeys, thus accompanied by a variety of noise and disturbances that, I’ve discovered, obscured many of the delights.

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We are the great unwashed


I’ve just time for a few words before Suzi and I head south for a week in the Netherlands.

It will be our third visit in the last 15 months to a country that seems to get so much right where this country lamentably fails, whether it’s urban architecture, transport policy or producing technically competent footballers. They even like cricket.

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He wonders if she scores


There’s not a lot to do in Scotland on New Year’s Day, save nurse a hangover. And where better to nurse a hangover than at the football?

Thus on January 1 2014, Andy, Suzi and I set off from Andy’s flat in Edinburgh, headed for the nearest top-flight game, Motherwell versus St Johnstone. Fir Park is a proper football ground with proper pies. And the entertainment befitted the stage, Motherwell, riding high in the league, ran out 4–0 winners.

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There’s still this appeal


Yet there’s still this appeal
That we’ve kept through our lives.

If you could have grown up in any musical era, which would you choose? A fatuous question, perhaps, but now which begs another: what was the greatest era of popular music?

I’ve mentioned the recent, excellent BBC4 three-part documentary on rock ’n’ roll, tracing its story from its origins in 1950s black America to its huge commercial success across white America in the sixties. It’s hard to argue with anyone who says that those early years are non pareil, the years of Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and Buddy Holly. Likewise, who can contradict those who point to the years covered in the third part of the documentary, when the Beatles defined pop music, the Rolling Stones were still good and the Beach Boys breathed fresh life into rock ’n’ roll?

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Turn it around, turn it upside down


I used to write news reports when Apple released new iPods. Hell, I’d write a news report when they updated the software from 1.2.5 to 1.2.6. It was significant in those days.

Now, just a few years later when Apple updates its iPod range, still comprising three models, scarcely anyone notices. The device that helped to transform the way we listen to music is almost a curiosity. What do you mean, the next generation will ask, you had to have a special device just to listen to music?

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Don’t feel guilty, don’t go crazy

SPC eCurveO

The recent launch of Apple Music has got me thinking about the nature of music discovery. Just a few weeks ago I’d have said that the days of human curation, of finding music via primarily the radio, were numbered. The digital age had brought digital curation, machines telling us what we might like, algorithms interpreting our collective buying habits to suggest our next purchase.

Apple has decided that’s not enough. Human DJs are back, which is fine if those DJs are in tune with you. For me that hasn’t been the case since, first, the immense John Peel died, 11 years ago now, and his spiritual successor in many ways, Rob da Bank, was ghettoised by Radio One’s emphasis on genre programming. It’s not going to change with the names on Apple’s Beats payroll.

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Great like expectations

Frankie Machine

“Looking back it was romantic but at the time I was suffering” sounds like the opening line from a novel, not the title of a charming debut LP from Denver, Colorado.

The Kissing Party are five men and women with guitars and tunes, which in this part of the world counts for a lot. As, on occasion, does brevity.

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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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