Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Privilege - Original Soundtrack

Privilege - Original Soundtrack

"A film so bizarre, so controversial it shall crucify your mind to the sea of conscience"

They don't write straplines like that anymore. Privilege was directed by Peter Watkins and released in 1967. The film is set in the near future where entertainment is controlled by a totalitarian government, and tells the story of a disillusioned pop star Steven Shorter (played by Manfred Mann's Paul Jones) who is manipulated by the church and state, who seek to turn him into a symbol of national unity. Shorter's music and image are then used to channel the impulses of rebellious youth.

The previous year Watkins had won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature for The War Game, his powerful drama depicting the effects of nuclear war on Britain which was banned by the BBC. Watkins quit the company in protest and was looking for another project. A proposed film with Albert Finney about the 1916 Rising collapsed at an early stage and then Watkins was asked to film a screenplay by Johnny Speight. Watkins rewrote Speight's screenplay with the American novelist Norman Bogner and they retitled it Privilege. 

A number of musicians including Marc Bolan and Eric Burdon did screen tests for the role of Shorter with the part ultimately going to Paul Jones who had recently left Manfred Mann. The part of Vanessa Ritchie, as an artist commissioned to paint a portrait of Shorter, went to "supermodel" Jean Shrimpton. Both Jones and Shrimpton's acting was heavily criticised upon the film's release. 

Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will proved inspirational to Watkins, the ticker tape scene when Shorter arrives in Birmingham for a concert and the evangelical concert in the football stadium (second clip below) are directly inspired by Riefenstahl's film. The film is extremely powerful, and I'd argue that its ultimate message, the power of the mass media to manipulate an audience, is as timely today as it was in 1967. The last clip below sums up the whole idea of the movie brilliantly: Shorter tries to stop the government control of his career but Andrew Butler, charirman of Steven Shorter Enterprises, takes him onto his balcony looking over a highrise urban landscape and explains that the millions of people below need to be harnessed and guided:

 "You! You are our chance, Steven. They Identify with you - they love you! Steven, you can lead them into a better way of life - a fruitful conformity."

The first version of Free Me early in the film, performed by "Steven Shorter"

The second version of Free Me from the film. This time, official government approved pop star "Steven Shorter" performs a new Christian version of the song.

The soundtrack is great, some really over the top and bombastic tracks - that's the point. Free Me performed by Paul Jones is fantastic and a cover of the track was recorded by Patti Smith in 1978, retitled Privilege (Set Me Free) and made No. 13 in the Irish charts. Peter Watkins would go on to direct the brilliant Punishment Park in 1971, anyone interested in his work or his views on the Mass Audio Visual Media (MAVM) should read his statement Media Crisis.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Extraction! Comix Reportage

 Extraction! Comix Reportage

Extraction! Comix Reportage was published by Cumulus Press back in 2007 in a short print run of only 500 copies. The book features four stories about four different mines, which extract four different minerals, written by a number of journalists collaborating with artists to tell these remarkable stories.  The journalists were sent on assignment to investigate four mines owned by a Canadian company. Their reports were then translated into script form and illustrated by four award-winning comics artists. 

The four reports cover the oil sands of Alberta in Canada, a gold mine in Guatemala, bauxite mining in India and uranium exploration in Quebec. Frédéric Dubois explains the goal of these reports in the book's introduction: "Extraction! delves into the implications of Canadian mining practices. It considers the communities affected by them. It is certainly not anti-development, but it adopts a critical and journalistic view of all actors involved in some significant tragedies of our time."
 extract from Oil: From the Botton of the Pit 
(Reportage by Petr Cizek, Comix by Phil Angers)

Extraction is an extremely powerful piece of comics journalism, and follows a long line of reportage on mining produced in different media, from Orwell's 1937 Road to Wigan Pier to Barbara Kopple's 1976 Academy Award winning documentary Harlan County, USA. Extraction! Comix Reportage can be read below or downloaded from here

Harlan County, USA (1976, Barbara Kopple)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Episode 354

Songs To Learn And Sing - Episode 354

This episode featured The Boy With the Perpetual Nervousness by The Feelies, the first track from the band's debut 1980 album, Crazy Rhythms. I hadn't heard this album in about 15 years but recently picked up the Domino Records vinyl reissue. The track still sounds fantastic and the album was definately years ahead of its time. The band reformed a few years ago and released a new album, Here Before on Bar None Records back in April to great reviews.

Let Go by Son Lux is taken from We Are Rising on Anticon Records. Son Lux is Ryan Lott and he creates a beautiful blend of chamberpop and electronic music. We Are Rising is the follow up the the great At War With Walls and Mazes from 2008, around that time Son Lux played a really good gig in Dublin supporting Why? Ryan wrote a really interesting article for In Digest recently about the making of We Are Rising. Hear the album below.

Episode 354 – 23/06/2011


North Sea Radio Orchestra – Berliner Luft
The Fall – Touch Sensitive
The Fall – Inevitable
Lawrence Arabia – The Crew of the Commodore
Wildbirds & Peacedrums – The Lake
Damon & Naomi – Shadow Boxing
Cats Eyes – The Best Person I Know
Devon Sproule – The Weeping Willow
Charles Douglas – Summertime
Easterhouse – Whistling in the Dark
The Feelies – The Boy With the Perpetual Nervousness
Life Without Buildings – Is Is and the IRS
Explosions in the Sky – Human Qualities
Adele – Rolling in the Deep (Jamie XX Reshuffle)
Oh No Ono – Icicles
Charlotte Gainsbourg – Heaven Can Wait
William D Drake – The Rising of the Lights
The Horror The Horror – Wilderness
Curve – Fait Accompli
David McCallum/David Axelrod – The Edge
Errors – A Rumour In Africa (Gold Panda Remix)
Son Lux – Let Go
Flying Saucer Attack – Outdoor Miner
Extra Life – Ripped Heart
Shugo Tokumaru – Drive-Thru
Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
The Decemberists – Why We Fight
Halves – Only Safe Landings

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Memorials in former Yugoslavia

Memorials in former Yugoslavia

Unknown Mortal Orchestra - Unknown Mortal Orchestra (Fat Possum, 2011)

Unknown Mortal Orchestra are a Portland-based trio that have just issued their self-titled debut on Fat Possum Records. Insound's description of "break-beats together with 70s pop harmonies and a minimal Krautrock rhythm section" sounds spot-on to me but it was the album cover that really caught my attention.  

The photograph on the cover of their album is of a monument at Petrova Gova in Croatia. This is one of countless monuments that were commissioned by former Yugoslavian president Josip Broz Tito in the 1960s and 1970s to commemorate sites where WWII battles took place. They were designed by different sculptors and architects to convey a powerful visual impact and to show the confidence and strength of the "bortherhood and unity" of Tito's Socialist Republic. 

Petrova Gora

Petrova Gora (Jan Kempenaers, 2006)

In the 1980s, these monuments or "Spomenik" attracted millions of visitors per year, especially young pioneers for their "patriotic education." After Yugoslavia fell apart in the  early 1990s, the monuments were completely abandoned, and their symbolic meanings were lost.

From 2006 to 2009, Belgian photographer Jan Kempenaers toured around the republics of the former Yugoslavia with the help of a 1975 map of memorials. His photographs were published in the 2010 book Spomenik, which can be viewed here

Kozara (Jan Kempenaers, 2007)



More Spomenik can be viewed here and here.

? from Unknown Mortal Orchestra on Vimeo.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Pixies - Point Theatre 1991

 Pixies - Point Theatre, 19th June 1991

I hitchhiked from Cork to Dublin with a friend for this gig. It's hard to believe that it was 20 years ago. It was my first time in Dublin for a gig and to say I was excited would be a huge understatement. Support bands were Power of Dreams and Chimera who both played well. At the time I thought the Pixies put on a great show but looking back on it all I can really remember was a brilliant version of the Mary Chain's Head On. I still remember having pints in the Stag's Head earlier in the day and spotting Mike Scott  of The Waterboys at the end of the bar. I recall getting really excited, "Jesus, it's Mike Scott." Innocent times. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Thomas Truax's Monthly Journal

Thomas Truax's Monthly Journal

 Thomas Truax's Monthly Project #1 to #6 (2011, Psychoteddy/SL Records)

On last week's show we played the latest track from Thomas Truax's Monthly Journal. The Monthly Journal is Truax's attempt to record and release 12 tracks in 12 months, in January Thomas described the project as follows: "Unlike an album released when finished in the usual way, the Monthly Journal will be a living, mutating organism taking placew in twelve intervals over 2011. Tracks will be informed by any number of things: the vibe, feeling, texture, atmosphere of the changing seasons, the expanding and contracting lengths of days and nights, weather, news, dreams, personal or world events as they unfold. I'll respond to these with a piece that will be created, produced and released within the window of each month."

Six months in the quality has yet to dip. June's instalment is called Lost In The Month of June, and according to Thomas is, "a breakup song. I phoned it in from the moon. If you don't believe me, listen to the song. It was born from a naive melody on a lightweight Casio PT-20 with its built in rhythm and automated backing chords, I turned it into a big production with a multitude of things including timpani, strings and the Hornicator."

Lost On The Moon In June by Thomas Truax

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Fall - The Marshall Suite

 The Fall - The Marshall Suite

This weekend I shall mostly be listening to...

"They say what about the meek?
I say they’ve got a bloody cheek

Finally it arrived. The BBC Robert Elms session tracks didn't materialise, turned out the BBC couldn't locate the tapes, so the artwork had to be redone and hence the delay. It probably was remiss of Cherry Red to announce the tracklisting before they knew for sure if the BBC still had the tracks but nonetheless the reissue sounds great and is housed in a lovely multi-foldout digipak. The 12 page booklet has liner notes by Daryl Easlea in the style and format of the Sanctuary reissues.  

The Marshall Suite was the band's 21st album originally released back in 1999 on Artful records. Following the departure of a few band members (particularly Stave Hanley) the previous April after the New York scandal on the American tour, nobody thought Mark E. Smith could regroup and come back with such a fantastic album. But he did, The Marshall Suite is easily one the band's best albums and has been long out of print so this reissue comes highly anticipated.

The Marshall Suite also contained two classic Fall singles. Touch Sensitive, which bizarrely ended up soundtracking a Vauxhall Corsa advert, and F-'Oldin' Money, a cover of Tommy Blake's 1959 rockabilly track.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Episode 353

Songs To Learn And Sing - Episode 353

We return after a few weeks hiatus. This episode features London band Left With Pictures' June installment of their In Time project. In 2010 the band recorded a track each month and the 12 tracks were compiled onto the In Time album and released back in March. This track is one of my favourite's from the album and I love the above video. June McCree is the object of the singer's attention and he compares her "to other ladies that have inspired classics from pop's past: Billie Jean, Alison, Delilah and Mrs Robinson." The repeated hook is an adaptation from the theme from Terry Gilliam's Brazil, Ary Barroso's 1939 song Aquarela do Brasil.

The Smithereens - Green Thoughts (1988, Enigma Records)

This episode also featured three tracks from 1988's Green Thoughts, the second album from New Jersey's power pop masters. For me this is even better then their fantastic debut, 1986's Especially For You and is up their with Love Junk by The Pursuit of Happiness, which was released in the same year, as one of my favourite American albums.  The band still tour and have just released an album entitled 2011, their first new record in 11 years.

Episode 353 - 16/06/2011


The Human League – The Things That Dreams Are Made Of (Programmed and Produced by Martin Rushent RIP)
The Fall – Lost in Music
Teenage Fanclub – The Concept
Left With Pictures – June
Colourmusic – Yes
Lift to Experience – With Crippled Wings
Swans – No Words/No Thoughts
Thomas Truax – Lost On the Moon in June
North Sea Radio Orchestra – Berliner Luft
Alexi Murdoch – At Your Door
The Phoenix Foundation – Bitte Bitte
The Smithereens – The World We Know
The Smithereens – Drown in My Own Tears
The Smithereens – Especially for You
Julia Kent – The Toll
Connan Mockasin – Megumi the Milkway Above
North Sea Radio Orchestra – Heavy Weather
William D Drake – In an Ideal World
Kelley Stoltz – Baby, I Got News For You
Rozi Plain – Humans
Nik Freitas – Hold That Thought
Peter Yorn – Sans Fear
Vashti Bunyan – Hidden
Colourmusic – Dolphins and Unicorns
The Human League – Hard Times Love Action (I Believe in Love) (Remixed by Martin Rushent RIP)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

From the Archives - James Yorkston Interview

Songs To Learn And Sing - James Yorkston Interview

I've just finished reading It's lovely to be Here: the Touring Diaries of a Scottish Gent by James Yorkston. It's a great read and is up there with recent excellent music memoirs by Dean Wareham and Luke Haines. This tour diary is made even more enjoyable because James describes towns and venues in Ireland that I'm very familiar with from years of gig-going. I laughed when James described a sound engineer friend of mine as being, "nice enough, chatty and efficient." On hearing this the sound engineer in question reckoned, "that's like saying I don't sweat much for a fat c**t."

Postcard - Moving Up Country (2002, Domino Records)

The best praise I can give this book though, is that it made me want to go back and listen to a couple of James's albums. I hadn't played James's second full length album, 2004's Just Beyond the River, in years and had forgotten how beautiful it is, a gorgeous stripped-down classic. I interviewed James when he played in Whelan's, Dublin around the time of the album's release and asked him how he came to get labelmate Kieran Hebden (aka Four Tet) to produce the record: "We went with Kieran because when he heard that we had an album ready to record he said that he was interested. I was a bit shocked and I thought that I don’t really want to do an electronica album but he said, ‘nah don’t be daft James, I don’t want to do one either, I want to do a really stripped down raw album.’"

Postcard - The Lang Toun 10'' (2000, Domino Records)  

James continued, "That’s exactly want I wanted to do so I went to his house and we played each other some music and I just thought that if we could get along with each other in a working way. He played me some demos he had dome for somebody else and they just sounded very raw, there were no effects, there was no reverb or anything like that, it had just been recorded really well with good microphones. So that was exactly what I was after. I wasn’t after a producer who was going to stamp his personality on the record, I just wanted somebody who would let the instruments and the songs speak for themselves and I think that’s what we got with Kieran."

James was a really great man to chat to and over the course of the interview we also touched upon, signing with Domino Records, the success of Franz Ferdinand and what it meant to the rest of the roster on the label, King Creosote, Lone Pigeon and the Fence Collective and the landscape and weather of Fife and West Cork. The full interview can be listened to below.

 James Yorkston & the Athletes - Surf Song