Friday, 11 December 2020

The Divine Comedy's "The Booklovers" - A detailed runthrough...

(This blog is just basically now my dumping ground for Divine Comedy-related lists, isn't it?)

I recently had cause to be posting a load of background information about "The Booklovers" onto a forum, and I thought, wouldn't it be interesting to have a complete list of all the authors mentioned, who they are, what the little speech samples say, and what they're referring to?

And then I found that a lot of the job had been done by - a fantastic start there by Alphi and various other helpers. I have copied a lot of that text to use as a basis so thanks Alphi for making such a great jumping off point available!

It just remained then for me to fill in the gaps by listening 37 times to the song very loudly on headphones, Googling the authors' names (how did it always seem to know which one I was looking for next, is everyone playing this game?) and making some of my own deductions! (Still very proud of my Daniel Defoe sleuth work...) Thanks also to a few members of the SHTV forum for their corrections and additions!

It may also be interesting to know that some of the voices are Neil, some are samples from films and TV shows, and some of them are other people who visited the studio whilst "Promenade" was being recorded. Apparently Neil would hand visitors a list of names and ask them to choose a couple to impersonate in whatever way they saw fit!

Here we go then, buckle up...

The Booklovers

"This book deals with epiphenomenalism, which has to do with consciousness as a mere accessory of physiological processes whose presence or absence... makes no difference... whatever are you doing?" - The opening sample is from the 1957 film "Funny Face", where Audrey Hepburn is trying to sell someone a book - a direct influence on the reason this song came to be, as mentioned by Neil in his new liner notes for Promenade!

  • Aphra Behn (“Hello” in a hoarse voice) (England, 1640-1689) is said to be the first female novelist.
  • Miguel De Cervantes (“Donkey”) (Spain, 1547-1616) wrote Don Quixote, where the hero’s sidekick Sancho Panza rides a donkey instead of a horse. Presumably the joke here is that most British people pronounce Don Quixote as “Donkey Oaty” 😉
  • Daniel Defoe (“it’s a Crisp ‘N Dry day!”) (England, 1660-1731) wrote Robinson Crusoe, where the hero christens his companion Friday, because it’s the day they meet. Crisp ‘N Dry is a British brand of cooking oil – with a famous advertising catchphrase claiming to make any day into a “Fry day” ….! (torturous, but oh so funny)
  • Samuel Richardson (“Hello?”) (England, 1689-1761), a novelist best known for 3 epistolary novels.
  • Henry Fielding (“tittle tattle, tittle tattle”) (England, 1707-1754) wrote Tom Jones, a novel of a gossipy style (i.e tittle-tattle). The corresponding extract is said to be taken from the film of the same name with Albert Finney.
  • Lawrence Sterne (“Helloooohhh…”) (Britain, 1713-1768) wrote Tristram Shandy, a novel displaying much bawdy humour, hence the Leslie Phillips-style “Hello…”.
  • Mary Wollstonecraft (“Vindicated!”) (Britain, 1759-1797) was one of the first feminists and wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Women.
  • Jane Austen (“Here I am!” in a posh girly voice) (England, 1775-1817) Austen’s heroines are somewhat perky and childish.
  • Sir Walter Scott (“We’re all doomed” in a Scottish accent) (Scotland, 1771-1832) inspired Private Fraser in the sitcom Dad’s Army, another Scot, whose catchphrase was indeed “We’re all doomed!”
  • Leo Tolstoy (“Yes!”) (Russia, 1862-1910) a Russian writer who is regarded as one of the greatest authors of all time.
  • Honore de Balzac (“oui!”) (France, 1799-1850) A French novelist and playwright.
  • Edgar Allan Poe (*horror movie scream*) (US, 1809-1849) wrote short-stories in the fantasy / horror genre
  • Charlotte (“hello?”) England, 1816-1855), Emily (“hello?”) (England, 1818-1848) and Anne Brontë (“hello?” in a deep man’s voice) (England, 1820-1849). It has been suggested that this is a reference to the fact that they used male pseudonyms to publish their works initially, but Neil confirmed in a 1999 interview that he just thought it was funny and unexpected to have the third voice be a man! One of the female voices was recorded by Alice Lemon of The Catchers, who were recording at The Church studio at the same time.
  • Nikolai Gogol (“Vas chi”??) (Russia, 1809-1852) A Russian novelist, short story writer and playwright. No idea what “vas chi” refers to, any ideas?
  • Gustave Flaubert (“Oui?”) (France, 1821-1880) A French novelist, and the leading exponent of literary realism.
  • William Makepeace Thackeray (“Call me William Makepeace Thackeray”) (England, 1811-1863) Known for Vanity Fair. Presumably a joke on the standard phrase “Call me Jim” etc.
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne (“The Letter A”) (US, 1804-1864) wrote The Scarlet Letter, where the heroine stitches a red A for adultery on her clothes.
  • Herman Melville (“Ahoooooy theeeere!”) US, 1819-1891) wrote sea stories, such as Moby Dick.
  • Charles Dickens (“London is so beautiful at this time of year…”) (Britain, 1812-1870) wrote many novels which took place in London. The sample comes from Michael Palin playing Cardinal Richelieu in an episode of Monty Python (Series 1, Episode 3 – “Court Scene” sketch)
  • Anthony Trollope (“good e-good-e-goo-goo-good-evening”) (England, 1815-1882) was an English novelist and civil servant. Not sure why the voice stammers his introduction, but he did apparently die from a fit of the giggles, so maybe that’s why? (Another Monty Python quote, apparently, from Series 1 episode 6.)
  • Fyodor Dostoevsky (“Here come the sleepers…”) (1821-1881, Russia). Novelist and journalist. A quote from his piece “The Adolescent”: “Some sleepers have intelligent faces even in sleep, while other faces, even intelligent ones, become very stupid in sleep and therefore ridiculous. I don't know what makes that happen; I only want to say that a laughing man, like a sleeping one, most often knows nothing about his face.” 
  • Mark Twain (“I can’t even spell Mississippi!”) (US, 1835-1910) wrote stories about the Mississippi river including Huckleberry Finn. Mississippi is also a notoriously difficult word to spell. The voice playing Mark Twain is Ben Wardle, an A&R man who wanted to sign Neil at the time.
  • George Eliot (“George reads German?”) (Britain, 1819-1880) this is a sample from the film A Room with a View, which as we all know, Neil was obsessed with. The movie quote does not actually relate to George Eliot, but a character in the film. 
  • Emile Zola (“J’accuse!”) (France, 1840-1902) wrote J’accuse! a letter in support of Jewish colonel Dreyfus against anti-Semites.
  • Henry James (“Howdy, Miss Wharton!”) (British of American origin, 1843-1916) He and Edith Wharton (US, 1862-1937) (“Well hello, Mr James!”), mentioned later in the song, were lovers.
  • Thomas Hardy (“Ooo-arrrhhh!”) (Britain, 1840-1928) wrote stories set in the fictional British county of Wessex, meant to be in the West Country, hence the accent.
  • Joseph Conrad (“I’m a bloody boring writer”) (British of Polish origin, 1857-1924) was an impressionist writer. Evidently whoever picked this voice to record wasn’t much of a fan!
  • Katherine Mansfield (*pathetic cough*) (Britain, 1888-1923) died of TB.
  • DH Lawrence (“Never heard of it”) (Britain, 1885-1930) wrote highly controversial novels with emancipated heroines. Some were even censored (for instance, Lady Chatterley’s Lover). Thus, people who had read him might deny having ever heard of him. This is a sample from the film A Room with a View, based on a novel by EM Forster. 
  • EM Forster (*sighing*“Never heard of it”) (Britain, 1879-1970) This is yet another sample from the movie A Room with a View (different from the one before). Presumably a little joke, as everyone who was paying attention would know by now that Neil was obsessed with Forster.
  • James Joyce (“Hello there” in an Irish accent) (Ireland, 1882-1941) Irish novelist, short story writer, poet, teacher, and literary critic. Author of "Ulysses", a novel in which everything happens on one day. Neil was trying to read this novel whilst writing "Promenade", which gave him the idea for the album's central concept.
  • Virginia Woolf (“I’m losing my mind!”) (Britain, 1882-1941) suffered from mental health issues and ultimately committed suicide.
  • Marcel Proust (“Je ne m’en souviens plus”  = “I don’t remember it any more”) (France, 1871-1922) wrote Remembrance of Things Past. Good joke, someone!
  • F Scott Fitzgerald (“baaah bababa baaaah”) (US, 1896-1940) wrote ‘Bernice Bobs Her Hair’.
  • Ernest Hemingway (That’s ‘Papa’ to you, son”) (US, 1899-1961) A recently worked out connection, the 2020 mix makes this quote much clearer and now seems to be a clear reference to Hemingway’s nickname of “Papa”.  (Previous attempts you can find online say “I forgot the ether”, which doesn’t make much sense.)
  • Herman Hesse (“Oh es ist so häßlich” = “oh, it’s so ugly”) (Switzerland, 1899-1961) Presumably a play on the similar sound between “Hesse” and the first syllable of “häßlich”.
  • Evelyn Waugh (“Whooooaaarrrr!”) (Britain, 1903-1966) A wordplay on his name.
  • William Faulkner (“Tu connais William Faulkner?” = “Do you know William Faulkner?”) (US, 1897-1962) – this is a sample taken from the movie Breathless (A Bout de Souffle), which pops up again later, and also in “When the Lights Go Out All Over Europe”.
  • Anaïs Nin (“The strand of pearls”) (US, 1903-1977) She wrote erotic books, but it’s not exactly clear what the pearls refer to.
  • Ford Madox Ford (“Any colour as long as it’s black”) (Britain, 1873-1939). A joke on the famous quote from car-maker Henry Ford. 
  • Jean-Paul Sartre (“Let's go to the Dôme, Simone!”) France, 1905-1980) and Simone de Beauvoir (“C'est exact, present” = “That’s right, here!”) (France, 1908-1986) were a famous couple of intellectuals. Le Dôme was a bar in Paris frequented by many writers it seems.
  • Albert Camus (“The beach… the beach!”) (France, 1913-1960) wrote The Outsider, where the protagonist kills a man on a beach.
  • Franz Kafka (“WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?”) (Czechoslovakia, 1883-1924) wrote paranoiac works like The Trial. The sample is perhaps taken from the film with Harold Pinter.
  • Thomas Mann (“Mam”) (Germany, 1875-1955). Mam/Mann? With bad handwriting, it works…!
  • Graham Greene (“Call me Pinkie, lovely…”) (Britain, 1904-1991) Greene wrote Brighton Rock, a novel which was adapted into a film with Richard Attenborough as Pinkie. The sample is taken from the film.
  • Jack Kerouac (“Me car’s broken down!” in a Yorkshire accent) (US, 1922-1969) The amusing accent is quite a juxtaposition with his book “On The Road”, the story of a road trip across the US.
  • William S. Burroughs (“Woowwwwww!”) (US, 1914-1997) took LSD and wrote some quite hallucinatory stuff.
  • Sir Kingsley Amis (*cough*) (Britain, 1922-1995) Not sure if there is any significance to the cough!.
  • Doris Lessing (“I hate men!”) (Britain, 1919-2013) is a feminist writer. I can recall in the 1990s feminists (particularly female comedians) having a reputation for hating men, so this was probably amusing at the time...
  • Vladimir Nabokov (“Hello, little girl…”) (British of Russian origin, 1899-1977) wrote Lolita, where the protagonist is obsessed with a young girl.
  • William Golding (“Achtung, Busby!”) (Britain, 1911-1993) wrote Lord of The Flies, which describes how a group of young boys beached on a desert island regress to a tribal and violent stage. One of the protagonists is called Busby, and the joke is a reference to the album Achtung Baby by U2 (1991).
  • JG Ballard (“Instrument binnacle”) (Britain, 1930-2009) wrote Crash. “Instrument binnacle” is an expression Ballard uses for a car’s dashboard. This is another line recorded by Ben Wardle.
  • Richard Brautigan (“How are you doing?”) (US, 1935-1984) an American novelist, poet, and short story writer. His work often clinically and surrealistically employs black comedy, parody, and satire, with emotionally blunt prose describing pastoral American life intertwining with technological progress.
  • Milan Kundera (“I don’t do interviews”) (Czech Republic, 1929- ) A quick Google suggests that plenty of interviews have been done with the author of “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” so not sure what this is about…
  • Ivy Compton Burnett (“Hello…”) (Britain, 1884-1969) An author of several novels consisting mainly of dialogue and focusing on family life among the late Victorian or Edwardian upper middle class.
  • Paul Theroux (“Have a nice day!”) (US, 1941-) A travel writer, whose best-known work is The Great Railway Bazaar. The quote is presumably some Brit’s dig at the perceived fake cheerfulness of Americans!
  • Günter Grass (“I’ve found snails!”) (Germany, 1927-2015) A novelist, poet and playwright. Snails… in the grass… get it? 😉
  • Gore Vidal (“Oh, it makes me mad…”)(US, 1925-2012) Another sample taken from Monty Python, in a sketch from series 1, episode 3, where John Cleese is dressed as a chef, hitting a table with a meat cleaver (quite… gory?). Also Vidal was known for getting worked up about various causes. 
  • John Updike (“Run rabbit, run rabbit, run run run”) (US, 1932-2009) wrote “Rabbit, Run”. A novel whose title is presumably based on the wartime song “Run Rabbit run”, whose rhythm is used in the quote here.
  • Kazuo Ishiguro (“Ah so, old chap!”) (British writer, born in Japan in 1954) wrote The Remains of the Day, where the main character is a butler in a country house. A juxtaposition between a Japanese-sounding expression (from Japanese ā sō, interjection signaling attention or understanding in conversation), and an English one, which might be used by people in country houses.
  • Malcolm Bradbury (Stroke John Steinbeck, stroke JD Salinger”) (Britain, 1932-2000) I can’t find any particular connection between these 3 authors, so my strong guess here is that Neil had all 3 written on his list to choose between (i.e. “Malcolm Bradbury / John Steinbeck / JD Salinger”) and whoever picked that line decided to read them exactly like that.
  • Iain Banks (“Too orangey for crows!”) (Scotland, 1954-2013) One of Banks’s most famous books is called The Crow Road. The sample is a reference to an advert for Kia-Ora orange squash, which starred… animated crows.
  • Dame AS Byatt (“Nine tenths of the law, you know…”) (born in Britain in 1936) wrote Possession. A reference to the legal proverb “Possession is nine-tenths of the law”.
  • Martin Amis (*Grunt*) (born in the UK, 1949) Presumably a reference to the vulgar behaviour of the characters in many of his books.
  • Brett Easton Ellis (*blood-curdling scream*) (born in the US in 1964) - wrote American Psycho.
  • Umberto Eco (“I don’t understand this either”) (Italy, 1932-2016) wrote books which are considered quite hard to understand.
  • Gabriel García Marquez (“Mi casa, tu casa” = “My house is your house”) (Colombia, 1927-2014). Presumably this was the only Spanish phrase that whoever recorded this voice could remember…
  • Roddy Doyle (“Ha ha ha!”) (born in Ireland in 1958) wrote Paddy Clarke, Ha Ha Ha.
  • Salman Rushdie (“Names that will live forever…”) (born in India in 1947). It seems that this quote is not specifically related to Salman Rushdie, but a general comment to wrap up the song. It most likely again relates again to “A Bout de Souffle”, where the film’s heroine is interviewing a journalist and they discuss how artists become immortal once their works are famous. (as once again referenced in “When The Lights Go Out…”!). This is yet another Monty Python sample, from series 1, episode 6. 

So now you know.

Please feel free to leave any corrections in the comments below!

Friday, 16 October 2020

What's missing from the Divine Comedy's new boxset? (Extra tracks for "Venus, Cupid, Folly & Time")

Hello! What have we here? 

A young reader... to what do I owe this pleasant surprise? 

How may I be of service this dark and wintry night? Ahh, I see. You wish me to look into the boxset. 

Your boxset! After demos... B-sides... half finished doodles..

After your last badly recorded dance music pastiche...

Okay, my pretty.

Just cross my social media with shares, and I'll see what I can do.

Wait! The fog is lifting...



Sorry for that, I don't know what came over me. I'm just in a bit of a Neil Hannon zone right now, having spent the last week listening to the man's every recorded note, and what a wonderful experience it has been. But hold on, is it really every note?

Well, yeah, pretty much - I have counted precisely 6 original songs* officially released under the name The Divine Comedy which don't appear on the set in any form whatsoever. And there are probably good reasons for those (he recently explained how much he hated one of them, for example...)

But, having bought the boxset and enjoyed the wonderful new mastering, packaging and bonus tracks, can you retire all those old CD singles and promo discs? That depends on your level of collector-OCD, I guess. But here's a chronological list of everything** previously officially released***, that doesn't appear on the boxset in that exact form. And to make it more fun, I've organised them into Bonus Discs so that, if you so desire, you can burn your own CDs and slot them into the boxset yourself (assuming you own all the tracks  - actually even I don't have more than 95% of them... yet.)

* "Soul Destroyer", "I Am", "Too Young to Die", "This Side of Paradise", "Oscar the Hypno-Dog" and "Don't Mention the War"

**  ok, by "everything", I mean "everything I am aware of", please feel free to let me know if I missed something... but please be nice about it.

*** I've included things only released on promo CDs, just to mess with you and make collecting them all extra-hard, because that's the kind of person I am.


Liberation "Disc 3"

Live at La Cigale 6-11-1993 (French Promo CD):

1. Bernice Bobs Her Hair (live)

2. Three Sisters (live) (is on the bonus disc but should live here really)

3. I Was Born Yesterday (live)

4. Your Daddy's Car (live)

5. Life's What You make It (live)

6. Europe By Train (live)

7. Lucy (live)

8. Jackie (live - Jacques Brel cover)


9. Hate My Way (Throwing Muses cover- from "Indulgence No. 1")

10. Untitled Melody (original mix) (Edwyn Collins cover - from "Indulgence No. 1") - it has been suggested by readers that the version on the boxset is a remix!

11. Europe by Train (Traveller's Companion mix) (from "Indulgence No. 1")

12. Bleak Landscape (home demo 1993 - from "A Secret History - Rarities" CD)

13. Moon River (Henry Mancini cover, home demo 1991 - from "A Secret History - Rarities" CD)

14. Soul Destroyer (Studio Demo, Bonbridge 1989 – from “A Secret History – Rarities” CD)

Promenade “Disc 3”

1994 live tracks from the Secret History "Rarities" CD

1. A Drinking Song (live in Dublin)

2. Bernice Bobs Her Hair (live in London)

3. The Booklovers (live in Paris)

4. The Model (live in Dusseldorf)

Indulgence Number 2 (7" EP, live in April 1994)

5. A Drinking Song (live)

6. Tonight We Fly (live)

( "When the Lights Go Out" on the Liberation bonus disc seems to be from this release)

A Promenade Companion (bonus CD from initial pressing of "Promenade"

7. Don't Look Down (acoustic)

8. Queen of the South (acoustic)

9.Your Daddy's Car (acoustic)

10. I Was Born Yesterday (acoustic

11. The Booklovers (instrumental, from 2006 BMG promo sampler)

Casanova “Disc 3”

1. There is a Light That Never Goes Out (The Smiths cover, from "The Smiths is Dead" compilation album)

2. Your Daddy's Car (Mark Radcliffe Session, 29/04/1996 - from "Becoming More Like Alfie" CD single

3. The Dogs and the Horses (NYC acoustic, September 1994) - from "Becoming More Like Alfie" CD single

September Sound Session August 1996:

4. A Woman of the World ("band version") - (from "Frog Princess" CD single)

5. Tonight We Fly ("band version") - (from "Frog Princess" CD single)

6. Through a Long and Sleepless Night (live in the studio) - (from "Volume 17" compilation CD)

7. Neptune's Daughter (live at Newcastle Riverside, 13/10/1996 - from "Frog Princess" CD single

8. Songs of Love (alternate “pre-mix” – from a Setanta promo sampler CD) 

Live in London 13-Nov-1996, From BBC Promo CD "The Mix 144"

9. Something for the Weekend (live London 13-11-1996, “The Mix 144” BBC promo CD)

10. Becoming More Like Alfie (live London 13-11-1996, “The Mix 144” BBC promo CD)

11. A Woman of the World (live London 13-11-1996, “The Mix 144” BBC promo CD)

12. The Frog Princess (live London 13-11-1996, “The Mix 144” BBC promo CD)

I'm open to suggestions that this doesn't belong here, being a radio show, but hey, it was pressed on a real CD which some people apparently own!

13. Comme Beaucoup De Messieurs (alternate version, from promo CD)

14. Something Before the Weekend (from CD single) - possibly a different version to the one on the boxset?

A Short Album About Love "Discs 3&4"

Live at Shepherds' Bush Empire, 20th October 1996

Ok, so here's my idea: between the soundtrack of the new DVD, the "Everybody Knows" CD singles and the "Rarities" CD, you can now assemble all but one track from the real concert into a stunning live album. (the tracks on ASAAL itself were recorded in rehearsal, with vocals mostly from studio overdubs, as admitted by Neil in the liner notes...)

This does mean including some tracks which actually ARE included in the boxset, but I think it's worth it...

1.Bath (from the "Everybody Knows" CD single) - actually on the ASAAL bonus disc but using this version allows it to seamlessly flow into...

2. Tonight We Fly (from the "Everybody Knows" CD Single)

3. Middle Class Heroes (from the "Everybody Knows" CD Single)

4. Your Daddy's Car (from the "Everybody Knows" CD Single) - actually on the ASAAL bonus disc but lives here

"Becoming More Like Alfie" goes here in the setlist but has only ever been released on an impossibly rare promo VHS so good luck tracking that down...

5. Johnny Mathis' Feet (from the "Everybody Knows" CD single) - actually on the ASAAL bonus disc but lives here

6. Europe By Train (from the "Everybody Knows" CD single) - actually on the Liberation bonus disc but lives here

7. The Frog Princess (from "A Secret History – Rarities” CD)

--- (interval) ---

8. In Pursuit of Happiness (actual live version, from the "A Short Film DVD")

9. Everybody Knows (Except You) (actual live version, from the "A Short Film DVD")

10. Someone (actual live version, from the "A Short Film DVD")

11. Timewatching (actual live version, from the "A Short Film DVD")

12. If… (actual live version, from the "A Short Film DVD")

13. If I Were You (actual live version, from the "A Short Film DVD")

14. I’m All You Need (actual live version, from the "A Short Film DVD")

15. Make it Easy On Yourself (from the "Everybody Knows" CD single) - actually on the ASAAL bonus disc but lives here)

--- encore 1 ---

16. A Drinking Song (from the "Everybody Knows" CD single) - actually on the Promenade bonus disc but lives here

17. Something for the Weekend - (from the "Everybody Knows.." CD single)

--- encore 2 ---

18. The Dogs and The Horses  - (from the “A Short Film" DVD)

Fin de Siecle "disc 3"

1. Generation Sex (home demo) - (from "A Secret History - Rarities" CD)

2. Time Lapse (Michael Nyman Cover - from "Generation Sex" CD1)

3. Chasing Sheep Is Best Left to Shepherds (Michael Nyman Cover - from "Generation Sex" CD2)

4. Miranda (Michael Nyman Cover - from "Certainty of Chance" CD1)

5. Knowing the Ropes (Michael Nyman Cover - from "Certainty of Chance" CD2)

6. The Heart of Rock and Roll (acoustic version of "Sweden" with different lyrics - from National Express cassingle)

7. Going Downhill Fast (acoustic version - from "National Express" CD1)

8. Radioactivity (Kraftwerk cover - from "National Express" CD1)

9. Famous (Magnetic Fields cover - from "National Express" CD2)

10. Commuter Love (live in London 1998) - from "Secret History" Rarities CD)

11. National Express (live "somewhere in a large field" in 1999 - from "Secret History" Rarities CD)

12. Life on Mars (David Bowie cover - live with Yann Tiersen in Rennes 1998 - from "Secret History" Rarities CD)

13. Generation Sex (“Katie Puckrik version”) – (from the original retail CD of “Fin De Siecle”)

14. Certainty of Chance (“Neil’s monologue version”) - (from the original retail CD of “Fin De Siecle”)

15. Here Comes the Flood (instrumental, from 2006 BMG promo sampler)

16. Lucy (live at Eurorockeenes de Belfort festival, 5th July 1998 - from the CD "Les Eurockéennes de Belfort 100 %")

17. I've Been to a Marvellous Party [Trouser Enthusiasts Formaldehyde Spritzer Mix] (I've Been to a Marvellous Party 12")

18. I've Been to a Marvellous Party [Sharp South Park Remix] (I've Been to a Marvellous Party 12")

19. I've Been to a Marvellous Party [Floorgazm Remix] (I've Been to a Marvellous Party 12")

20. I've Been to a Marvellous Party [Pink Noise Mix] (I've Been to a Marvellous Party 12")

(I put the remixes last so you don't have to listen to them  ;) )

A Secret History Bonus Disc, aka "what do you have against this period, Neil?"

1. Europop (live at the Bowlie weekender 24/04/1999, from Gin-Soaked Boy cassingle)

2. Songs of Love (Phil Thornalley remix) (from Gin-soaked Boy CD 1)

3. I Am (with Brian Eno) (from Gin-soaked Boy CD 1)

4. The Pop Singer's Fear of the Pollen Count ('99 version) (from "A Secret History")

5. Your Daddy's Car ('99 remix)(from "A Secret History")

6. Too Young to Die (from "A Secret History")

7. Eric the Gardener (acoustic version, from Pop-Singer's Fear CD 1)

8. This Side of Paradise (from Pop-Singer's Fear CD 2)

9. Vapour Trail (Ride cover, from Pop-Singer's Fear CD 2)

10. Jackie (Jacques Brel cover, from Pop-Singer's Fear cassingle)

Regeneration "Disc 3"

1. Love What You Do (Deadly Avenger Mix) (from "Love What You Do" CD1)

2. Edward The Confessor (alternate version) (from "Regeneration" Japanese CD) The version on the boxset is confirmed to be the "official B-side", not this version.

Live at Oxford Brookes University, 21/03/2001 (from "Bad Ambassador" CD and 7" singles)

2. Bad Ambassador (live)

3. Pictures of Matchstick Men (live - Status Quo cover)

4. Sweden (live)

5. Life on Earth (live)

6. Les Jours Tristes (Yann Tiersen featuring Neil Hannon) (from "Perfect Lovesong" CD1)

7. Thinking The Unthinkable (finished version, from "Perfect Lovesong" CD2) 

8. Oh Yeah (Roxy Music cover, from "Perfect Lovesong" CD2)

9. Perfect Lovesong (iMonster's Perfect Lovebirds mix) (from "Perfect Lovesong" DVD Single)

10. Bad Ambassador (acoustic - Stratford Upon Avon, 02/02/2001) - (from "Re:Regeneration" promo CD)

11. Generation Sex (live - Dublin Temple Bar 22/01/2001) - (from "Re:Regeneration" promo CD) This is a really terrible version, Neil sounds SO bored ;)

12. The Power of Love (Frankie Goes to Hollywood cover - live Dublin 20/11/2001) - (from "Fan Club CD #1")

13. Geronimo (live Dublin 20/11/2001) (from "Fan Club CD #1")

14. Love What You Do “Radio Edit” (from French promo CD, actually a remix with added percussion)

15. Regeneration (Acoustic - Oui FM Session) (from French 3-track promo CD called "Regeneration")

16-19. "Love What You Do", "Timestretched", "Perfect Lovesong" and "Lost Property" (instrumentals - from unknown promo CD)  - I have now heard these and they sound great, but not sure how "officially released" they are...

Absent Friends "Disc 3"

1. Come Home Billy Bird (demo version) - (from "Come Home Billy Bird" CD1)

2. All Things (original version) - (from "Come Home Billy Bird" 7" single and the "Absent Friends Companion" CD) With the daft computerised voices ...!

3. Something for the Weekend (live Ken Bruce Radio 2 session - 30/03/2004) - (from Absent Friends CD2)

4. Absent Friends (live Ken Bruce Radio 2 session - 30/03/2004) - (from Absent Friends CD2)

5. Anthem for Bored Youth (final version) - (from "Absent Friends" 7" and the "Absent Friends Companion" CD)

6. No One Knows (Queens of the Stone Age cover - live Dublin 02/05/2004) - (from "Bavarian EP" Digital single)

7. Three Sisters (live Dublin 02/05/2004) - (from "Bavarian EP" Digital Single)

8. Our Mutual Friend (acoustic demo 2003) - (from "Bavarian EP" Digital Single)

9. Do You Realize? (Flaming Lips cover, Rehearsal, London 2004) - (from "Fan Club CD #2)

10. Going Downhill Fast (live, London 16/06/2004) - (from "Fan Club CD #2)

11. Lucy (live, London 16/06/2004) - (from "Fan Club CD #2)

12. I Hold Your Hand in Mine (live, London, 16/06/2004) (MySpace exclusive track)

13. The Wreck of the Beautiful (early idea, circulating mp3, not sure if officially released?)

14. Our Mutual Friend (Home demo) (from "To Die a Virgin" CD2) 

15. When the Lights Go Out All Over Europe (Live, Haldern Festival, August 2004) (from the compilation CD "Vollmilch 2004 - Ein Wochenende am Niederrhein")

16. Our Mutual Friend (live on the TV Show "Other Voices", December 2004 -from the compilation CD "Other Voices 3"

17. October (U2 Cover - Today FM live recording) - from ("Even Better Than The Real Thing, Volume 3" compilation, 2005)

18. Three Cheers For Pooh, Cottleston Pie, Piglet Ho (from the "Colours are Brighter" kids' CD, 2006)

Victory for the Comic Muse "Disc 3"

1. Elaine (Demo version) - from "Diva Lady" 7" and digital singles

2. Births, Deaths and Marriages (final version) - from "Diva Lady" CD 2

3. Diva Lady (Black Holes demo) (from "Diva Lady" digital single)

4. Diva Lady (finished demo) (from "Diva Lady" digital single)

5. To Die a Virgin (live, London 06/07/2006) - (from "To Die a Virgin" Digital Single)

6. A Lady of a Certain Age (live, from the Basement, credited to Neil Hannon) (from "From the Basement" compilation DVD, 2008)

“Others” EP

1. At The Indie Disco (Mk1) – (from the Indie Disco digital single)

2. Napoleon Complex (original demo) – (from the “Bang Goes the Knighthood” iTunes deluxe edition) - the boxset has a different demo

3. On the Barge (from the Indie Disco digital single) - the boxset has a different demo

4. Time to Pretend (live - MGMT Cover) - (from the compilation "Dermot O'Leary Presents the Saturday Sessions, 2010)

From "Oscar the Hypno-Dog" Various Artists charity album (2012)

5. One Ear Up One Ear Down (ok, not TECHNICALLY credited to TDC but since the demo is on the boxset I think this one counts...)

6. Oscar the Hypno-Dog

7. Don’t Mention the War (from the ”Modern Love” soundtrack, 2019)


So there you have it! A veritable treasure trove of live, acoustic and remixed tracks, covers, and a teeny tiny number of originals.  

Now, if you really want to, you can also take these entire previously released CDs, and try to somehow jam them in your boxset, too- but I wouldn't necessarily recommend it...

Absent Friends “Instrumentals”

The Wreck of the Beautiful (instrumental, from promo CDR)

Sticks & Stones (instrumental, from promo CDR)

Leaving Today (instrumental, from promo CDR)

Come Home Billy Bird (instrumental, from promo CDR)

My Imaginary Friend (instrumental, from promo CDR)

Absent Friends (instrumental, from promo CDR)

Our Mutual Friend (instrumental, from promo CDR)

The Happy Goth (instrumental, from promo CDR)

Freedom Road (instrumental, from promo CDR)

Charmed Life (instrumental, from promo CDR)

Live at the Palladium, 26th April 2004 (DVD)

01 Absent Friends

02 In Pursuit Of Happiness

03 Becoming More Like Alfie

04 Sticks & Stones

05 Leaving Today

06 Come Home Billy Bird

07 The Certainty Of Chance

08 When The Lights Go Out All Over Europe

09 No One Knows

10 National Express

11 Generation Sex

12 Songs Of Love

13 The Happy Goth

14 Our Mutual Friend

15 Three Sisters

16 Charmed Life

17 Tonight We Fly

18 Something For The Weekend

19 Sunrise

“Victory for the Comic Muse” instrumentals

To Die A Virgin (instrumental, from promo CDR)

Mother Dear (instrumental, from promo CDR)

Diva Lady (instrumental, from promo CDR)

The Light Of Day (instrumental, from promo CDR)

Party Fears Two (instrumental, from promo CDR)

Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World (instrumental, from promo CDR)

The Plough (instrumental, from promo CDR)

Snowball In Negative (instrumental, from promo CDR)

Live at the cite de la Musique, Paris, September 2008 (bonus CD from "Bang Goes the Knighthood")

1: Amsterdam  (Jacques Brel cover)

2: L'Amour Est Bleu (Andre Plopp, Pierre Cour cover)

3: Poupée De Cire Poupée De Son (Serge Gainsbourg cover)

4: Les Playboys (Jacques Dutronc, Jacques Lanzmann cover)

5: The Songs That We Sing (written by Jarvis Cocker, Jean-Benoît Dunckel, Neil Hannon, Nicolas Godin)

6: Les Copains D'Abord (Georges Brassens cover)

7: Anita Pettersen (Vincent Delerm cover)

8: Joe Le Taxi (Franck Langolff, Étienne Roda-Gil cover)

9: Je Changerais D'Avis (Ennio Morricone, Ghigo De Chiara, Maurizio Costanzo cover)

Live at Somerset House, 17th July 2010 (Live at Somerset House Live album)

1-1 The Complete Banker 4:51

1-2 Assume The Perpendicular 4:01

1-3 Everybody Knows (Except You) 4:00

1-4 Your Daddy's Car 3:27

1-5 The Pop Singers Fear Of The Pollen Count 3:43

1-6 National Express 4:02

1-7 If... 5:01

1-8 Neapolitan Girl 3:08

1-9 Becoming More Like Alfie 2:55

2-1 Snowball In Negative 4:38

2-2 At The Indie Disco 4:14

2-3 Time To Pretend 4:24

2-4 Geronimo 2:02

2-5 Don't Look Down 5:17

2-6 A Lady Of Certain Age 5:18

2-7 Songs Of Love 6:07

2-8 When A Man Cries 4:19

2-9 Have You Ever Been In Love 3:14

2-10 Our Mutual Friend 4:35

2-11 Tonight We Fly 4:43

2-12 Can You Stand Upon One Leg 4:30

2-13 I Like 5:13

2-14 Jiggery Pokery 4:15

2-15 Down In The Street Below

"In May" (bonus CD from "Foreverland" - 2016)

2-1 6th Of December 3:54

2-2 11th Of December 4:18

2-3 13th Of December 2:39

2-4 23rd Of December 3:01

2-5 3rd Of January 4:13

2-6 13th Of January 1:43

2-7 15th Of January 2:00

2-8 30th Of January 3:35

2-9 7th Of February 2:15

2-10 22nd Of February 3:51

2-11 8th Of March 3:12

2-12 27th Of March 1:09

2-13 4th Of April 3:35

2-14 4th Of April (Midnight) 2:36

2-15 3rd Of May 4:18

2-16 10th Of May 2:19

2-17 21st Of May 3:14

2-18 28th Of May 1:09

2-19 31st Of May 3:22

"Loose Cannon" live album, 2017

1. How Can You Leave Me On My Own [Live Europe 2016/2017] 

2. Napoleon Complex [Live Europe 2016/2017] 

3. Catherine The Great [Live Europe 2016/2017] 

4. Bad Ambassador [Live Europe 2016/2017] 

5. To The Rescue [Live Europe 2016/2017] 

6. The Complete Banker [Live Europe 2016/2017] 

7. Bang Goes The Knighthood [Live Europe 2016/2017] 

8. Generation Sex [Live Europe 2016/2017] 

9. Our Mutual Friend [Live Europe 2016/2017] 

10. Funny Peculiar [Live Europe 2016/2017] 

11. A Lady Of A Certain Age [Live Europe 2016/2017]

12. At The Indie Disco [Live Europe 2016/2017]

13. I Like [Live Europe 2016/2017] 

14. National Express [Live Europe 2016/2017] 

15. Assume The Perpendicular [Live Europe 2016/2017] 

16. A Drinking Song [Live Europe 2016/2017] 

17. Tonight We Fly [Live Europe 2016/2017] 

"Swallows and Amazons - the Original Piano Demos" - bonus disc from Office Politics, 2019

1 Whistle For A Wind 06:04

2 The Swallow 06:21

3 The Conquering Heroes 04:23

4 Fighting Swallow 01:15

5 The Amazon Pirates 03:42

6 The Parley 03:49

7 Better Drowned Than Duffers 03:25

8 Let's Make The Best Of It 04:00

9 Navy Stroke 03:00

10 Like Robinson Crusoe 03:48

11 Titty's Dream 04:10

12 Conquering Heroes, Victory Chorus 01:55

13 The Black Spot 03:22

14 The Parley - Flint's Apology 03:26

15 Swallows And Amazons Forever 02:57


Still not enough for you? How about these "Bonus bonus discs" of tracks not released under the name of "The Divine Comedy", but which contain Neil's voice, or composition, or both? Obviously I am not really suggesting most of these should have been included, but hey, it was fun to compile this list! (and by "fun" I mean "hard and time-consuming"...)

"Neil Hannon and Friends" bonus Discs:

1. Oh Yeah (Ash live, featuring Neil Hannon) (from "Hot Press" Promo CD, 1998)

2. Need Your Love So Bad (Elvis Da Costa and Pinchers, featuring Neil Hannon on vocals) (CD single, 1998)

3. No Regrets (Robbie Williams featuring Neil Tennant and Neil Hannon on vocals) (from "I've Been Expecting You", 1998)

4. All Mine (Portishead cover by Tom Jones and The Divine Comedy) (from Tom Jones' "Reload" album, 1999) Features the whole Divine Comedy band

5. The Case Continues (Ute Lemper, written by Neil Hannon and Joby Talbot) (from the album "Punishing Kiss", 2000) Features the whole Divine Comedy band

6. Tango Ballad (Kurt Weil cover, vocals by Ute Lemper and Neil Hannon) (from the album "Punishing Kiss", 2000) Features the whole Divine Comedy band

7. Split (Ute Lemper and Neil Hannon, written by Neil Hannon and Joby Talbot) (from the album "Punishing Kiss", 2000) Features the whole Divine Comedy band

8. You Were Meant for Me (Ute Lemper, written by Neil Hannon and Joby Talbot) (from the album "Punishing Kiss", 2000) Features the whole Divine Comedy band

9. The Good Life (Sacha Distel cover, credited to Neil Hannon) (from the Gangster No. 1 soundtrack, 2000)

10. The Dead Only Quickly (The 6ths, vocals by Neil Nannon) (from The 6ths album "Hyacinths and Thistles", 2000)

11. Les Jours Tristes (studio vocal version, written by Neil Hannon and Yann Tiersen) (from Yann Tiersen's "L'absente", 2001) 

12. So Long and Thanks for All the Fish (written by Joby Talbot, vocals by Neil Hannon) (from the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy soundtrack, 2005)

13. Vote Beeblebrox (written by Joby Talbot, vocals by Neil Hannon) (from the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy soundtrack, 2005)

14. Home (performed by Jane Birkin, from her album "Fictions", 2006.) Writing credited to "The Divine Comedy" - a demo version is on the boxset.

15. The Songs That We Sing (performed by Charlotte Gainsbourg, written by Air/ Jarvis Cocker / Neil Hannon, Neil also plays guitar and Joby Talbot arranged the strings) (from the Charlotte Gainsbourg album "5:55", 2006)

16. Aliens (written by Matt Lunson, vocals by Neil Hannon) (from "The Cake Sale" project, 2006)

17. Song for Ten (written by Murray Gold, vocals by Neil Hannon) (from "Doctor Who Original TV Soundtrack, 2006)

18. Love Don't Roam (written by Murray Gold, vocals by Neil Hannon) (from "Doctor Who Original TV Soundtrack, 2006)

19. Favourite Song (Vincert Delerm featuring Neil Hannon) (from Vincent Delerm's album "Les piqûres d'araignée, 2006)

20. Somewhere Between Waking and Sleeping (by Air, vocals and lyrics by Neil Hannon) (from Air's album "Pocket Symphony", 2007)

21. Our Love Goes Deeper Than This (Duke Special, vocals by Neil Hannon and Romeo Stodart) (From Duke Special's album "Songs from the Deep Forest", 2007)

22. Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes (Duke Special, featuring Neil on vocals) (From Duke Special CD single "Freewheel", 2007)

23. Cluster Bomb (Pugwash, vocals by Pugwash and Neil Hannon) (from Pugwash album "Eleven Modern Antiquities, 2008) Neil actually does backing vocals and plays on most of this album, but this is the only one to credit him with "vocals".

24.Perfection as a Hipster (written by Stuart Murdoch, vocals by Neil Hannon) (from "God Help the Girl", 2009)

25. Pay Later (EG, written by EG and Neil Hannon, Neil plays guitar and does backing vocals) (from the EG album "Adventure Man", 2009)

26. If You Run (EG, written by EG and Neil Hannon, Neil plays guitar and does backing vocals) (from the EG album "Adventure Man", 2009)

27. Cathy (Rodrigo Leão & Cinema Ensemble, featuring Neil Hannon), (from the Rodrigo Leão & Cinema Ensemble album "A Mãe", 2009)

28. Wanda, Darling of the Jockey Club (by Duke Special, written by Neil Hannon) (from Duke Special's album "The Silent World of Hector Mann", 2010)

29. Mess (Ben Folds featuring Neil Hannon - live in Boston, 2007) (From Ben Folds "Fifty-Five Vault" collection, 2011)

30. What Becomes of the Broken Hearted (Pugwash, featuring Neil Hannon and Matt Berry) (from "The Shortest Night" Charity CD, 2012)

31. Smile (Charlie Chaplin cover by Scott Matthew featuring Neil Hannon on vocals) (from Scott Matthew album "Unlearned", 2013)

32. My Beautiful Monster (Coque Malla featuring Neil Hannon on vocals) (from Coque Malla live album "Irreptible", 2018)

33. Absent Friends (Coque Malla featuring Neil Hannon on vocals) (from Coque Malla live DVD "Irreptible", 2018)

34. With a Little Help from My Friends (Lisa Hannigan, Jerry Fish, Gavin Glass, Paddy Casey, Rhob Cunningham, Cathy Davey, Mundy, Valerie Francis, Neil Hannon) (From "Loves Vinyl EP07", 2019)


Alright then, in the words of General Lafayette, What did I miss?

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Gigging Forever Awards 2014: Part 6 (The 'Funny Music' edition)

Okay, this is really it, I promise. I've held you captive here so long at this fictional awards ceremony that Earl's Court itself has become fictional (Yes, it saw its last ever gig this year and the demolition men moved in shortly after...) Go, read, and then fly and be free, my pretties...

(but don't forget to check out all the previous parts before you go.)

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3 (The moany edition)
Part 4
Part 5

This time around, we are dedicating our attention to 'Funny Music' - music that is never going to get played on mainstream radio, music that your mates have never heard of, music that strives to go where nobody has gone before, music which last year I would probably have called 'Prog' but I'm so sick of the bloody word that I've nicked an alternative expression from 'Funny Music' Pioneer Matt Stevens which says it far better, especially since none of the albums below really fall into that increasingly narrow bracket, yes, what's that, you'd like me to shut up and get on with it? Oh, alright then.

The "How to Run a Record Label" Award (part 1)

So last year I had something to say about how a couple of my mates had started up a record label and released a couple of albums largely played on my more of my mates (don't worry about going to read it cause that's pretty much exactly what I said), and I cunningly separated those albums out from the rest of the countdown so that I didn't have to rate them and upset anyone.

This year, I actually got involved (in the smallest possible way) in helping out with said record label, so I feel even less like I ought to rave about them this time around but, dammit, they've only gone and released some of the finest and most interesting music of the year.

For that reason, I can't possibly award them Record Label of the Year, however, I could direct you to "Prog" magazine's critics end of year lists, of which no fewer than 7 contained one or more BEM albums (even though 3 out of 4 of them aren't really Prog.)

I could direct you to the times raw and noisy rock band Trojan Horse got airplay on BBC6 music, to the time celebrity Waterloo Road acting Mark Benton gave The Fierce and The Dead a namecheck on Twitter, or to the many, many times that snooker legend Steve Davis has bigged up BEM acts on his Radio show or in the press. I could even direct you to Norman Wisdom impersonator Simon Godfrey and his 'Letters from America' magazine column, his beautifully personal 'Motherland' acoustic album, or his legendary Facebook statuses, each eagerly awaited by his army of followers, but your lives would probably never be the same again.

I suppose I could even mention that instrumental masterpiece album 'Bloody Marvels' by Emmett Elvin (which, frankly, sounds like Michael Nyman, Anthony Phillips, Stephane Grappelli and King Crimson decided to take some 'shrooms and have a jam) beat out competition from Pink Floyd, Steve Hackett, The Enid and Yes in a public poll in which over 500 fans of interesting music voted.

I could do all that, but I'd better not.

The "How to Run a Record Label" award (Part 2)

I'm fairly convinced that if Kscope didn't already exist, I would have tried to set them up by now. The type of label that's a mark of quality, that makes you sit up and think "Well, it's on Kscope, it must be good." (Even if you don't get it - sorry Gazpacho.) A label where even the artwork looks reassuringly expensive (and I'm not just saying that because senior artwork designer Scott Robinson was in my class at school.)

The kind of label that doesn't just release the same old safe-sounding stuff over and over again, but encourages acts who want to take a risk with their music and create weird mixes of genres that shouldn't work, like Shoegaze and Prog, Metal and Indie, Celtic and Doom, ok you get the idea. Perhaps Kscope has a reputation as a Prog label, but if you examine its output, certainly in 2014, you won't be finding any 'Supper's Ready' rip-offs, and hobbits remain distinctly unbothered.

In fact, a sense of musical adventure and willingness to push the boundaries is really all the above-displayed albums have in common, which is probably why Kscope released more albums that were serious contenders for my 'Best of the Year' list this year than any other label.

From 'Distant Satellites' , the latest in a trilogy of epic, widescreen, emotionally draining albums from Anathema, which saw them experimenting with a few different sounds this time around to an admittedly mixed reception, to 'Magnolia', The Pineapple Thief's most recent collection of catchy but edgy alternative rock tunes with strings, quality album after quality album tumbled out of their stable this year, encouraging me to check out all kinds of things based largely on the Kscope reputation of quality.

There was even a collection of cover versions from some guy called Steven Wilson, which showed promise (I reckon he might go places in 2015), and an album from a new duo called Se Delan which someone else on the internet (Femme Metal Webzine, to be exact) described as not being "out of place in a David Lynch movie", so I won't bother trying to come up with anything more descriptive than that.

But there were two Kscope albums this year which really got me going in all the right places, and we shall call them (for these are their names)...

North Atlantic Oscillation: The Third Day

Last year, Sam Healy's 'SAND' side-project raced up the rankings even as I was writing my list, so it's hardly surprising that I was eagerly awaiting what the band had in store next. And from the first few notes of opener 'Great Plains II', off I went on yet another voyage of discovery; from the drum'n'bass meets Porcupine Tree sound of 'Elsewhere' to the horror movie 'tron of 'A Nice Little Place' , all the way through to the wonderfully uplifting penultimate track 'Dust' and closer 'When To Stop', which is accompanied by what sounds like someone bouncing Christmas Tree baubles on a glockenspiel.

Along the way, there's the mighty instrumental 'Penrose' which (if you'll allow me a little Genesis ultra-geekery here) sounds much like Tony Banks' 'Charm' would have sounded if he'd invited Phil Collins along to play Duke-era toms all over it and got Steve Hackett back in to do some of his patented scratchy guitar in the background.

Plus, the cover looks a lot like one of the bizarre objects you're expected to decipher and open in iPad game 'The Room', which is never a bad thing.

Engineers - Always Returning

I once picked up Engineers' first album in a charity shop for a quid, brought it home, listened to it, and thought "Yeah, that's alright," and promptly forgot all about it.

Imagine my surprise, then, when my mate Tim brought their new album round for a double date and I ended up asking it to move in with me. Everything about this album is exactly what I wanted to hear in 2014, the warmth and cosiness of the sound (analogue loveliness FTW), the dream-state it invokes from start to finish, the echo-ey, reverby, space-y wonder that is 'Fight or Flight', the mix of sequenced bass parts and real drums, the close harmony vocal wonder of 'Drive Your Car', the fact that it sounds bloody marvellous reverberating around in my new kitchen, you name it. There are even a couple of instrumentals, one of which ('Smoke and Mirrors') accidentally sounds a bit like 'Poor Leno' by Royksopp, which is a mighty fine thing.

I *think* I might even love it more than NAO, but it's ok, there are no winners and losers this time around, everyone on Kscope gets a gold star this year. It's just that a couple of albums are a fair bit more equal than others...

The 'Best Funny Music album that isn't on BEM or Kscope', yes I really am running out of inspiration now award

Ok, let's not pretend that my two favourite labels have the monopoly on all the interesting music this year... Here's a few others:

Matt Stevens: Lucid

I reviewed this before it was even out, you know.

Tim Bowness: Abandoned Dancehall Dreams

Good on Tim for deciding he didn't want to be 'The Warm-up Man Forever', sticking two fingers up to old Chuckletrousers and putting out this material which could have been a No-Man album all by himself. Well worth a listen. And then another one.

Knifeworld: The Unravelling

I'm still not sure whether I love Knifeworld or am just terrified by them, but this year's album put me the closest to the former camp that I've ever been, so they must be doing something right.

Lazuli: Tant que l'Herbe est Grasse

French world-rock music made by Medieval biker blacksmiths - it's all in French, which you might think would be an issue if you can't speak it, but to be honest, I can and I'm none the wiser really, so I wouldn't sweat it. Just sit back and groove to the Gabriel-esque rock, and try not to crap your pants when Fish suddenly pops in and starts singing in Scottish. And GO SEE THIS BAND LIVE, because they are in the top 5 live acts I have ever seen, and I don't say that kind of thing lightly unless I've just had 5 bottles of Big Big Train Chocolate Porter.

And the winner is... Matt Stevens. Obviously. 

The "Completely Sodding Bonkers" Award

Ashley Reaks - Compassion Fatigue

An album where the first song is in the key of A and is one minute long, the second is in B, and is two minutes long, and so on. It's probably lucky that an octave only contains 8 notes otherwise I'd still be listening to it now...

Actually, that sounds ridiculous but it works surprisingly well, with the first couple of short tracks being punchy and fierce and the later ones being allowed to stretch out in a groovy sort of way. Some of the lyrics are off-the-scale weird and frankly slightly scary, but who cares about such things when the music rocks?

Just don't look at that album cover too close to bedtime and give yourself nightmares, will you?

Most "Better Than It Had Any Right To Be" Album

A hotly contested category this year...

And the nominees are...

Manic Street Preachers: Futurology

I lost track of the Manics several albums ago, as they seemed to be releasing one every few hours - so much so that I had this album on my Spotify 'To Check out' list for about 4 months before I could be bothered to even listen to it for free. More fool me - this is a fine return to form with nice short, punchy songs, a bit of Kraftwerk influence and some guest vocalists.

Pain of Salvation: Falling Home

An acoustic album with some reworkings of their old songs in jazz/rockabilly/country stylee, a Circus-music sounding version of 'Stress' and a comedy cover version of Dio's 'Holy Diver'. Sounds rubbish, doesn't it?

NO. NO IT DOESN'T. It's amazing. Bad luck in Eurovision this year, though, Daniel... :(

Pink Floyd: The Endless River

Yeah, the cover is a bit self-help book / inspirational Facebook meme, isn't it? And the idea of a bunch of leftover fragments from The Division Bell sessions cobbled together isn't exactly inspiring. And no 68-year-old man should use the word 'Diss' in any kind of song lyric.

But, bugger me, this is lovely. Mostly soothing, chilled and gentle, recalling 'Shine On' and other more ambient moments of the Floyd's history, it rocks gently when required, and showcases the beautiful sound of Rick Wright's organ and piano in one last fitting tribute, which, let's be honest, was the whole point here.

And the winner is.... Pink Floyd. It's their last chance, so it'd be churlish not to.

My Actual Top 16 Albums of the Year

Oh come on, it had to happen in the end, didn't it? We've had all the messing about and silly categories, trying to shoehorn in as much music as I can possibly claim to have liked in one year... but here's the real deal - the best of the best of the best. (Sir)

In no special order:

That is to say...

Emmett Elvin, Jimi Goodwin, Snarky Puppy, I Break Horses
Engineers, Owen Pallett, iamamiwhoami, St Lucia
Todd Terje, Royksopp & Robyn, SOHN, Temples
First Aid Kit, Sia, North Atlantic Oscillation, Matt Stevens

Cheers to all of the above, and indeed everyone I've mentioned during this 6 part epic, for making my 2014 so pleasurable. Apart from the people I was slagging off, obviously. You can all sod off.

And another thing,,,

If you want to get an idea of why I'm a bit fed up with the whole Prog scene, you could do worse than click this link and have a gander at this well-intentioned but unfortunately unintentionally hilarious Wikihow article about "How to Enjoy Progressive Rock". It seems to start from the premise that most normal people will find Prog far too complicated for their tiny little minds, which pisses me off right from the start, and then moves on to assuming that the best way to get into Prog is to listen to ALL OF THE GENESIS and then stick your head out of the cave and see what else is going on.

Here's a sample picture:

Quite why 'Duke' makes this woman pull a face like Kryten's spare head in the Red Dwarf IV episode 'DNA', I'm not entirely sure.

Sample text: "Pay no attention to the people who say you need drugs to enjoy and create progressive rock."


Thursday, 29 January 2015

Gigging Forever Awards 2014: Part Five

Oh good, you're back... I thought you might have nipped off in the back of that limo with All Saints and Robbie Williams.

The ‘Less Is More’ Award

This year's outstanding achievement award for "Less is More"ing goes to Röyksopp. Evidently inspired by me moaning at them last year to ruddy well get on with their new album, they went and gave us two – or one and an EP, at least.

Summer's 'Do It Again' EP with Robyn was mostly a success – with the exhilarating title track, the sombre 9 minute electro-sax-fest that was opener 'Monument' and the insanely dirty 'Sayit', in which Robyn has phone sex with the speaking clock (“I. WANT. YOU.” “I want you too…” "WOMAAAAAN") – that’s at least a 60% strike rate.

By the time winter rolled around, though, they’d also released “The Inevitable End”, which will supposedly be their final full length album – and maybe it’s just as well. Two less-good remixes of tracks from the ‘Do It Again’ EP, both A and B-sides of last year’s (admittedly excellent) ‘Running to the Sea’ single, and a brace of frankly slightly dull, slow, sombre tracks like ‘You Know I Have to Go’ and ‘Thank You’.

Still, with the uplifting ‘Running to the Sea’, the dark and gritty ‘Skulls’, the chillsome ‘Sordid Affair’, and ‘Save Me’, which recalls all the things I liked about Royksopp in the first place, there’s still enough to enjoy –  but perhaps they have the right idea sticking to EPs and singles from now on.

P.S. Nobody is going to convince me that you hadn't just heard Guru Josh's ‘Infinity’ when you wrote ‘I Had This Thing’, Röyksopp. But it can be our little secret.

Most Random Old Band Discovery

James & Karin

You know there’s a band called James and Karin, right?”, said Karin’s friend Kit one day.

Um, no, no we didn't, but now we do. I wouldn't normally make such a thing out of this, but for there to be a psych-y folk duo recording children's songs in the 70's, with the same names as me and my girlfriend (not the two names you most often see together), basically blew my mind. They were also a Swenglish couple who achieved some fame in Sweden in the 70’s with such children's classics as ‘Jag är ett Litet Brev’ (I am a Little Letter) and 'Älgarna demonstrerar' (The Elks Are Demonstrating). Watch this if you want to improve your Swedish. But don't blame me if it never gets out of your head.

Best electro-R&B album

The nominees:

- Little Dragon:  Nabuma Rubberband

- Sohn: Tremors

I learned a new term whilst researching this category: PBR&B. PBR stands for Pabst Blue Ribbon, a type of beer apparently beloved of US beard-having hipsters who are too white for proper Urban music and prefer it distilled with a spot of electro or indie stuff. I don't know, don't ask me, I don't make this crap up.

Anyway, I like both these albums for a similar reason – they're both laid back and cool, but make my genius sensors stand up on end by mixing this effortlessly chilled vibe with some more exciting sounds. In Sohn's case, skittering electronica and beats are layered over the top of what could be depressing ballads like 'Bloodflows' to make something completely unique, and that's not to mention the syncopated computerised barbershop of ‘The Wheel’.

And Little Dragon obviously get props just for being Swedish, but quite apart from that, they've got some seriously dirty and funky beats to lay under the smooth, soulful vocals of their wonderful vocalist whose name I may or may not get around to looking up once I get off this plane. (It's Yukimi Nagano, by the way...)

But just, seriously, listen to ‘Underbart’. This is my music, right here.

And the winner is: I think Sohn, but only just. See, I didn’t let the Scandinavians win *all* the awards.

Best pun or other wordplay-based joke in a track title:

Todd Terje: Inspector Norse

Trojan Horse - Juraspsyche Park

Emmett Elvin - Nocturine

Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott - Costa del Sombre

And the winner is:  Todd Terje – Inspector Norse...

...mostly because it gives me a chance to mention the album ‘It’s Album Time’, which is easily the best space-disco/dance/whateveritis album of the year. Dancefloor fillers like ‘Strandbar’ and ‘Delorean Dynamite’ rub shoulders with funky stuff like ‘Svensk Sås’, where a samba-lounge track is built up by using only layers upon layers of vocal samples, and the dangerously-close-to-prog polyrhythms of ‘Alfonso Muskedunder’. Plus, Brian Ferry pops up for good measure to do a very laid-back but surprisingly touching cover of ‘Johnny and Mary’.

(Don't worry, the other albums may crop up again next time...)

The "I really should have listened to this sooner" award

-Beck: Morning Phase

-Robert Plant: Lullaby and... The Ceaseless Roar

-Tin Spirits: Scorch

I listened to all of these on Spotify as part of a quick check before I started writing this, to make sure I hadn't missed out anything potentially awesome. I evidently had – all three of these are worthy of anyone's investigation but especially mine.

Best album that was actually from 2013 but I discovered it in 2014 and actually it's not technically even available in this country yet, so perhaps it's actually from 2015

-St Lucia: When the Night

You know how last year I chose CHVRCHES as my number 2 album? Someone contacted me to basically say “PAH! CHVRCHES? If you thought that was good, you obviously missed St. Lucia!”

They were damn right: electronic-based pop music from South Africa via Brooklyn, with the shimmery sound of summer in the Caribbean, real drums and guitar, and soaring, uplifting tunes to make you feel alive. Also the only artist I can remember name-checking Phil Collins as an influence in the last 20 years. Yes, this is a good thing.

Just, just… listen to 'Elevate'. Best single of the last 10 years? And then if you find that too simple, there’s the epic ‘Too Close’.

By the way, they were also the best live band I saw in 2014. Just FYI.

Next time: Some 'funny music'. Cause, you know, all this stuff is just soooo mainstream.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Gigging Forever Awards 2014: Part Four

And so we return to our fictional awards ceremony - please make sure you pick up your goody bag containing Parts One, Two and Three on the way back to your table.

Actually, there's an awful lot of this “normal music” stuff to work our way through this year, so if you could maybe manage to get through this epic lot without going to powder your nose again, then next time we can finish up with some "funny music" which I know is what you're all waiting for.

Alright, rock on, Chessington...

Best album that Karin says I’m not allowed to call Swedish Country because then nobody will want to listen to it, but it’s made by Swedes and it’s sort-of-kind-of country-ish and yeah look it’s just a load of good songs really isn’t it?

The nominees:

- First Aid Kit: Stay Gold

A surprisingly unchallenging category to judge this year - if you wanted a load of gorgeous songs in a sort of folky-country-indie hipster-ish style sung in close harmony by two sisters from Stockholm, there was really only one place to go. A bit more polished and “American-sounding” than previously and with some string arrangements to melt your heart, this was the year they finally broke through their own previously set high standards and into the British consciousness. But Karin would probably like you to know that she was there first, alright?

And I would probably like you to know that I didn't cry during 'Cedar Lane' when we saw them live, but it wouldn't be true.

And the winner is: Um...

Yes, I stood this close to them. I like to think we had a little "moment".

Best combination of beats and violins on an album:

The nominees:

Clean Bandit – New Eyes

So, you think electronic music is boring? You think it’s stupid? You think it’s repetitive?” drones the ultra-annoying voiceover at the start of track 1, 'Mozart’s House'. No, I don't actually, but I do think this track which thinks it's oh-so-clever by mixing dubstep beats and rapping about Italian musical terms with a violin motif from Mozart’s String Quartet number 21 is more irritating than fibreglass underpants.

Much better are the tracks which try less hard, like the straight-ahead "pop classics with a touch of strings", 'Extraordinary' and 'Rather Be' (aka the 6 seconds of music that you know from M&S’s Christmas adverts.) But who cares what I think? They’re really going places with da kidz, innit.

- Owen Pallett: In Conflict

This is more like it. If I said this sounded like 90's alternative music crossed with 80's synth-pop, you'd probably say “that's a very lazy comparison”, and when you'd finished saying that, you’d probably also say “that sounds shit.” Add in a proper massive orchestra (which announces its intention to impress from the first second of the first track) and lyrics about not having children in case you eat them (?!), and you'd imagine a right old hodge podge.

But dammit, it works. It doesn't sound like anything else I've heard this year (or, possibly ever), and although he's not the world’s most flashy singer, his understated delivery is the perfect foil to the synth drums and brass of the dramatic material. But don't just take my word for it, put thine ears to good use and get thee to YouTube to check out 'Song for Five and Six',  'In Conflict', and 'Sky Behind the Flag'. See? Told you.

And the winner is… Owen Pallett. Not even close.

Best album by the frontperson of a now presumably defunct band (although A-ha have annoyingly announced a gig since I started writing this, but let’s ignore that for now)

The nominees:

- Morten Harket: Brother

I'm fairly sure this album was written and recorded by a giant computer into which someone has programmed the secret formula for getting onto the Radio 2 playlist. Still, 'Whispering Heart' is very good in a Keane-y/ Coldplay-y epic-y kind of way.

- Nina Persson: Animal Heart

It’s a bit like the Cardigans but less twee. Actually, that just means it's a bit like the later Cardigans albums from when most people had stopped listening to them. I only bought this because my Swedish teacher mentioned that it was coming out, and they're from Karin’s hometown, and, yeah I dunno. Can you tell that, although I like it, I don't really have much to say about this album? Shall I stop now? Alrighty then. Here's the title track.

- Jimi Goodwin: Odludek

I can't say I saw this one coming, mostly because I wasn't really paying attention. I've loved Doves since their first album, and kept up with what they were doing for a good 10 years – but it was only when this was announced that I suddenly realised they hadn't done anything for ages. Given that this album has been such a critical success and Jimi's now touring on his own to rave reviews, and that the “other two” have started a new band without the slightest hint of bitterness (oh no), I think this album is a fine contender for this category, which is just as well since I couldn't think of another one to put it in.

The music is all over the place, which is a fine thing, from the Phil-Spector produces the Manics (mit extra cool brass!) sound of ‘Terracotta Warrior’ to the none-more-Doves groovy melancholy of ‘Didsbury Girl’ and the rave’n’bass-tastic ‘Live Like a River’. And that’s just the first three tracks. Let’s not even get into the fake-gameshow theme meets frankly mental psychedelic circus of ‘Man v Dingo’… the mind boggles.

And the winner is… Jimi Goodwin. Doves who?

Best 2014 Mercury Prize-nominee that I had actually heard before it got nominated, yes really, honest, so there

- East India Youth: Total Strife Forever

This was an actually useful Amazon recommendation. (Hey, Amazon, here's a recommendation, would you like to pay some tax? LOOK AT ME SATIRING, EH?)

An interesting mix of frantic, nervous, and sometimes minimalist electronica (opener 'Glitter Recession', and the 'Total Strife Forever' suite) with some more conventional synth-y, shoegazey songs with echoey vocals like the lovely 'Dripping Down', this album didn't win the Mercury Prize, but it does win an award here today, which I'm sure will serve as reassurance to William Doyle (aka East India Youth) that he's on the right tracks.

The "Look, let’s not be too clever about this" award 

Let's be honest, sometimes you don’t want to listen to a 3-disc concept album about how Hannibal got the runs on his way across the Alps, or have your brain violated by clever-clever virtuoso playing – and it's at moments like this that you need some bloody good pop music.

The nominees:

- Foxes: Glorious

'Glorious' / 'Holding on to Heaven'

- Katy B: Little Red

'5am' / 'Crying for No Reason'

- Sia: 1,000 Forms of Fear

'Chandelier' / 'Burn the Pages'

- MØ: No Mythologies to Follow

'Maiden' / 'Red in the Grey'

But hold on, just because you fancy some of the fizzy stuff, it doesn't mean you have to settle for Wand Erection or Spitney Drears – there's some incredibly well written, well performed and excitingly produced stuff out there. From Dr. Who guest star Foxes (yes I nearly missed her, too), with her straight-ahead mix of intelligent uptempo stuff and ballads, to Katy B's more urban take on electro-pop, via MØ, who is “The Danish Robyn” (or so the "You must buy this cos we say so” card in HMV would have had me believe) – with an R&B tinge to her infectiously catchy tunes.

But this year was Sia's year – she's come a long way from being a guest vocalist on the first Zero7 album - and this was the year that she stopped giving her monster smash hits away to people like Rihanna, David Guetta and Beyonce and stepped up to take her rightful props with the stunning ‘Chandelier’ and another 9 tracks of equal hit potential. She even had Shia LeBoeuf in her video, which was fairly brave of her.

And the winner is… Sia. But give ‘em all a try.

Actually it’s just occurred to me that these are all female artists. Either men completely suck at making good pop music or I have some kind of issue...

“Nicest” Album of the year

Of course, when you do need a rest from having your ears assaulted by stuff that's so out there, it's in there again, you don't have to head to the pop music shelf - you could do worse than checking out one of these.

- Ben Watt: Hendra

- Elbow: The Take-off and Landing of Everything

- M83: You and the Night

I'm sure Elbow and their fans won't thank me for calling them 'nice' but this year's album was a bit less grandiose and epic than the last couple (the amazing 'Charge' aside), which worked in their favour, and M83's soundtrack to 'You and the Night', whilst not the barnstorming follow up to 'Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming' which I'd like them to hurry up, stop dreaming and make, did indeed calm my frazzled nerves at various times of stress this year.

But it's with Everything but the Girl’s Ben Watt that the title of "Nice" artist of the year should rest. Quiet, soothing, gentle acoustic led songs, it's a lovely album, but it chiefly wins for the very reason that it means I have an excuse to post this photo of David Gilmour playing live with Ben this year whilst my friend Tim and I stared open mouthed in the front row. I know, I’m a git.

Okay, I can see you're getting restless now, go and take a quick break and we'll be back soon with the last few clumsily worded categories...