Episode 12 - The Alternative Ashes

First thing to say - if you don't like cricket, there are plenty of brilliant tracks to listen to in this episode. But if you do, there's an extra something in this just for you.

A larger intersection exists between the world of cricket watching and alternative music than might at first meet the eye. No doubt, much of that has to do with the demographic of both constituencies. Male, a tendency to collate (All Time Best Elevens, All Time Best Tracks), somewhat pessimistic by nature. Not exclusively, of course. Women are participating in the game more and more each year, which is brilliant news, and they're bound to bring in some alt-listeners in their wake. I've got a cheerful extrovert friend who only ever gets concerned if his club side falls behind the run rate - and he loves Kraftwerk. But you get my drift.

So this episode is for you, Mr Stayed Inside And Kept My Own Test Scorebook When I Was Young On Warm Days In The Summer. Then lost interest in cricket briefly when you reached seventeen and first heard The Velvet Underground / Joy Division / Pixies / Radiohead. And then managed to amalgamate both these obsessions, to the disdain of girlfriends and wives, and other members of the family as you tried to keep track of the third day's play from Trent Bridge during your sister's wedding reception. 

And there's a third strand that is hardly alien to many of these types, among which number I grudgingly admit membership. A love of wordplay. A deep appreciation for accomplished dad jokes many years before you became a parent. An aspiration to compete in the annual Times Crossword Challenge (something that one member of 'Friends of Sombrero Fallout' has not only achieved, but also won, I can reveal).

So here is that tracklist. I'm only sorry I wasn't able to include Between The Wars by Billy Bragg - a tribute to Shane Warne standing at second slip between the Waugh twins. A pun too far, I'm afraid, and my conscience wouldn't allow it. Tracklist:-

Australians In Europe, The Fall (a brief history of The Ashes Up Over)

The Call Up, The Clash ('It's up to you not to heed the call up': for Geoff Boycott in the 1970s)

Midnight In A Perfect World, DJ Shadow (for cricket lovers tuning in back in England during a Southern Hemisphere Ashes)

Heart Cooks Brain, Modest Mouse (a bumper sticker tribute to Alastair Cook's captaincy)

Monty Got A Raw Deal, REM (for Monty Panesar)

At Home He's A Tourist, The Gang of Four (for Kevin Pietersen)

Why Won't They Talk To Me, Tame Impala (also for Kevin Pietersen)

The First Cut Is The Deepest, PP Arnold (till the opposition placed a third man there for the shot)

Hard Drive, Evan Dando (in honour of Michael Vaughan's on-drive)

I Just Get Caught Out, The Go Betweens (for batsmen with a bad habit of playing too early)

I'm Stranded, The Saints (for all top order batsmen left not out in the 90s)

I Know It's Over, The Smiths (grumpy remark addressed by bowler to umpire, taking his sweater after bowling six balls, having had a plumb lbw appeal turned down)

Ashes to Ashes, David Bowie (until the next time)

 

 

Episode 11 - Long Songs, Volume One

It's funny how we've arrived at an understanding that the three minute pop song lasts, well, three minutes. That films last two hours, and that novels are 300 pages. Actually that last example is interesting, as we're arguably entering a new era of the long-form literary novel with Jonathan Franzen, Donna Tartt, Hanya Yanagihara and Eleanor Cotton winning awards for blockbusters of up to a thousand pages in length. So, why not long songs?

The radio, primarily. If you want to get your song played, three minutes is the way to go. Actually going back to the 60s, two minutes was the norm for radio play, and there are few early Beatles recordings that push up to the three mark. In fact Revolution 9 was pretty much the only example of the group attempting a long song, and that was so far outside the framework of how they operated to be discounted as an outlier.

The early 'seventies might be regarded as the heyday of the long form. Prog rock took itself pretty damn seriously, so a verse-chorus-verse-chorus-middle eight-verse-chorus structure was never going to be an adequate vessel for Tales of Topographic Oceans. This particular album by Yes starts with the twenty minute The Revealing Science of God (Dance of the Dawn) and climaxes with Ritual (Nous Sommes Du Soleil), clocking in at 21:37. No wonder keyboard player Rick Wakeman used to order a takeaway curry to arrive halfway through concerts in those days. 

This episode showcases long form songs that neither outstay their welcome or concern themselves with mediaeval kings and the mythos of the Silmarillion. Marquee Moon by Television shows that prog and punk could be blended to brilliant effect and indeed the most staggering thing about Marquee Moon is that it always feels terse and economical. Tracks by Fiery Furnaces, DJ Shadow, the Microphones, Sonic Youth and Car Seat Headrest also demonstrate that experimentation tends to require a broader canvas on which to operate. Of course, this might require the listener to show a little more patience than usual. But the rewards are worthwhile.

Tracklist:-

Teenage Riot, Sonic Youth

Tropical Ice Land / Rub Alcohol Blues / We Got Back The Plague, Fiery Furnaces

Changeling, DJ Shadow

The Glow, The Microphones 

Marquee Moon, Television

The Ballad of Costa Concordia, Car Seat Headrest

Episode 10 - Regrets - I've Heard A Few (Songs On The Subject)

They say you only regret the things you never did. Apart from incest and Morris Dancing (laughter). That’s obviously untrue and these songs are here to prove it. What manner of regrets do alternative songs like to dwell on?

Infidelity: A little bit of what you fancy doesn’t do you any good at all. (Anyone Can Make a Mistake). And thus began The Wedding Present’s endless analysis of relationship regret. 

Past glories: Nothing seems as pretty as the past though, that Bloody Mary's lacking in Tabasco. (Fluorescent Adolescent). The Arctic Monkeys’ examination of the bride for whom the freedom years have metamorphosed into a sad pastiche of young love. Shades of Too Much, Too Young by The Specials.

Married in haste: Short love, with a long divorce; and a couple of kids, of course. (Trailer Trash). A peak for 90s U.S. indie was Modest Mouse’s Lonesome Crowded West album, and this may very well be the best track on it. A sad, clear-eyed elegy for all the trailer park unions that end with the mumbled apology - “sorry if I dissed you”.

The lost love: Deep down I’m lonely and I miss my friend. (Dive For Your Memory). Bands are not conducive to long term relationships, whether you’re in the same group, as Robert Forster and Linda Morrison of The Go Betweens were, or always on the road when your partner’s at home - see nearly everyone else.

Stupid male pride: I tried to laugh about it, hiding the tears in my eyes. (Boys Don’t Cry). Though Robert Smith of The Cure also acknowledges that it’s too late anyway - “thought that you needed me more”. 

The passage of time: I can’t believe how long it’s been. I don’t know what to do about it. (Too Much In Between). The answer’s probably easy if you’ve lost touch. Get back in touch. But wonderful, delicate song from Nina Nastassia with just a hint of dissonance in the guitar work to represent the sad dilemma.

A national error: The Great British mistake was looking for a way out. When will it be over? How can they avoid it? (The Great British Mistake). The Adverts are not often recognised as a band ahead of their time, but this does seem like a clear case of pre-cognition.

Tracklist:

Anyone can make a mistake, The Wedding Present 

Fluorescent adolescent, The Arctic Monkeys 

Trailer trash, Modest Mouse 

These days, Nico

Dive for your memory, Go Betweens

Boys don’t cry, The Cure 

Every little gesture, Hefner 

Today is the day, Yo La Tengo

Lonesome tears, Beck 

Weeknights, Kenickie

Great British mistake, The Adverts 

Title and Registration, Death Cab for Cutie

Too much in between, Nina Nastassia

All my life, Evan Dando