Sunday, 24 February 2008

Saint Etienne and Sylvie Vartan

This iconic beauty, who was nestling amongst the 7 inchers, jumped out at me and demanded that I invest 20p for such a chic cover. Sylvie Vartan is a legend in France, where she became a singing and dancing sensation in the genre now known as the yé-yé girls (of whom Françoise Hardy is probably the best known in the U.K) This Bulgarian born chanteuse came to prominence in the early sixties with her catchy pop sound and her rise in the affections of French pop fans was cemented when she married Johnny Hallyday. She has retained a large fan base is still recording albums and is performing a tour right now so hop on that plane/euro star pronto if you want to catch her live.

The Sylvie moniker reminded me of sophisticated indie-pop crafters Saint Etienne, who crafted many a slab of perfect pop loveliness, throughout the nineties/noughties. One of my favourites was called Sylvie, were they inspired by the original yé-yé queen for the title? I like to think so, even though the lyrics were all about sibling rivalry as the older sister planned to cut down to size, her younger sister, who had become too big for her boots by cutting into the unnamed sister's glamour territory! all set to Sarah Cracknell's sumptuous singing: as good as watching Michel Platini in full flow in 1980/1.

Monday, 11 February 2008

Top Of The Pops Horrors

It seems unfeasible in these times of unlimited free downloads (legal or otherwise) that back in the day, music was a precious commodity. Those of us whose pocket money didn't stretch that far (kids these days don't know how lucky they are, moan, playstations, yabber, ipods, spoilt jabber, Scratchy grew up on black and white TV and sawdust sandwiches, grumble groan etc) had to make do with buying budget albums in order to be able to listen to the most popular beat combos of the day. These shiny platters were the predecessors of the ‘Now That's What I Call Music' series but with one vital difference, the songs were covered by session musos and more often than not only had a passing resemblance to the originals. The marketing bods did get one thing right though and that was sticking, what is known in the biz as a dolly bird, on the front cover. The series went under the moniker of ‘Top Of The Pops’ and sold by the bucket load in the 1970’s.
In the shadowy world of vinyl collecting there are many sub cultures that concentrate on their own particular favoured genre. A fringe group of these concentrate on collecting the whole run of the ‘TOTP’ series. Some even collect the ‘Now’ series, presumably because it is easily numbered and so this must be the runt of the vinylophile litter, however I digress. When I'm pawing through the Des O’Connor’s and the James Last's of the chazzer crate, I often stop to admire the scantily dressed lady attired in little more than a sparkly bikini and a winning smile, however I'm not tempted to covet this object. Recently though, I did a double take and pulled out the two beauties you see before you, for lo behold, it is the nations favourite page 3 girls Linda Lusardi and Sam Fox posing beneath a truly awful revamped ‘TOTP’ logo. I had no idea they were still releasing these albums into the mid eighties or that they had invested in famous models in order to bump up interest. Sadly, even their titular presence could not save this flagging genre, as the uber permed and blow dried yoof of that era had enough wonga to buy the real thing and so bad cover versions were consigned to a footnote of pop culture history (or at least until the rise of the boy band/pop idol TV)

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Johnny Flynn

Scratchy recently had the immense pleasure of catching live this talented young buck (and probable alt-girl pinup) along with his band The Sussex Wit. He showed why he is leading the charge of new wave talented alt folk/Americana (Angloana anyone?) and is attracting favourable coverage in the muso media i.e Steve Lamacq's radio 1 show. He valiantly fought through a number of technical difficulties to deliver heartfelt songs to the laidback but appreciative crowd. He is a minstrel that won't melt in your mouth but will melt in your ears. Special mention to the support act Fireworks Night for providing a sparkling warm up. They are also worth keeping an eye on and all hail to the 'gold rush prospector look' with accompanying face fungus. The brace wearing revival starts here..

Bouncing Souls

Leftovers 7" is available for U.K release on Monday March 10th 2008.

Monday, 4 February 2008

Tegan and Sara

These Canadian girls have been crafting their brand of infectious power pop rock tunes for a career of five albums yet they have bafflingly slipped under the radar of the great British public's consciousness. I stumbled across the 2004 release 'So Jealous' and it rapidly became a firm favourite to the point I was eulogising their talents to all and sundry, that I thought might appreciate their commercial but distinctively crafted sound. The two voices seems to compliment each other perfectly through a lifetime of playing off each other's delivery (being twins you see) The latest album 'The Con' has just been given the official U.K release to coincide with a short tour: check it out and be prepared to be conclusively converted.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

The Stoneman Family

When I sit out on the veranda looking out over the prairie, whilst flobbing my chewing baccy into the spit bucket, I think of the joys of taking a punt on a band that I've never heard of and coming up trumps. Now I like a bit of authentic country roots music but it's a genre I'm not overly familiar with and so buying blind in a chazzer raid gives me a chance to explore this avenue further. Two albums caught my eye recently, namely The Stoneman Family 'Live' and The Stonemans 'In All Honesty' I was delighted to find that these are chock full of banjo picking from one of America's foremost families of bluegrass/country music. Ernest 'Pop' Stoneman recorded hundreds of songs and performed with six of his 23 children as the aforementioned The Stoneman Family. His reputation for playing traditional material put him on the map alongside The Carter Family.
After his death in 1968, his children carried on with more contemporary vibe including covering John Fogerty tunes to good effect. I particulary like the cover photograph on 'Honesty' where they have a Haight-Ashbury clashing with Dollywood image. This is recommended if you loved the 'O Brother Where Art Thou' film soundtrack and appreciate authentic American folk music.

Watch a fab version of 'Goin up Cripple Creek' here..

Listen to tracks from 'In All Honesty' here..