De la vida, en el barrio

ana-tijoux685x250

 

{Oh, and now I’ve just done the Mujeres, I see that this post that I wrote about a week ago, never got published. It belongs before the Mujeres post, but I’m not sure how to arrange this. Can we just imagine?}

 

Been relatively busy recently and truth be told not listening to a lot of music. Another trip around Spain beckons and consequently a lot of ear time has gone on trying to scrub up my language. With predictably mixed results…

I have, however, done some Spanish music listening this week and instead of filling the iPod with Spanish versions of what I generally listen to (garage, indie, psych – although all this is coming, trust me…), I thought I’d dip my toes into something a bit more exotic, a bit more authentically Latino. Tried a bit of cumbia and some spanking up-to-date nu cumbia records from the ZZK and Nacional labels, but eventually settled on some Latin hip-hop.

Ana Tijoux

This first track is from Chilean hip-hop artist, Ana Tijoux, whose album Vengo I went through with no little gusto all of yesterday whilst out and about during the day. The record, apparently, won her a Grammy award last year, so I’m not what you’d call ahead of the curve here, but still… In truth, there’s a little too much slushy jazz-funk in some of the record for my liking but the first four tracks, including the title track and this one, here, are absolute belters…

As yet, I know nothing about the second rapper, Shadia Mansour, whose feisty counterpoint to Tijoux’s own animated style is something of an eye-popper.

Tijoux is actually from France, her parents having been exiled during Pinochet’s reign in Chile, but has now settled in Santiago. One of the features of Vengo is apparently its gallant attempt to rescue native Andean instruments from the realm of the ubiquitous World Music collection and the street busker.

Then I also came across this…

Hijo de la Cumbia & Alika

I’ve also bought the debut record by Argentinean DJ and producer Hijo de la Cumbia, which is apparently set to be a Nu Cumbia stone-cold classic and it’s quite intriguing.  But to be honest, this is the stand-out track on it…

It’s bought to life by the oomph of gutsy Uruguayan vocalist Alika. As with the previous offerings, I can catch precious little of the words. I could look them up or get Google to sort them for me but, to be honest, I prefer the not knowing, it’s all about the hormones, I feel…

I’m pretty certain this is not, as it claims, the “official video” but, again, never mind the quality, feel the width…

Yeah, heard a funny thing…

furguson-2A last couple of Spanish treats before my butterfly senses move onto some other pretty flower…

Mujeres are a garage band from Barcelona who also run a record shop in the city, Luchadores, which I believe I stumbled upon last time I was there (fine place too..) They do a great line in all your psych-y garage standards – by now, you know the sort of stuff that gets you a mention on these pages: surf-y guitars, tambourines, wigged out guitar breaks – and have a number of records around (on eMusic, certainly).

Have a look:

 

The Soft Gems record is a great one, rough-hewn and rugged in all the right places – I’m not quite up to speed on all their other records – there’s a muddled collection of releases and re-releases that I’m confused by – but some of their more recent releases show a slightly disappointing desire to mature a little. I prefer them immature, of course, and at their most infantile they’re a truly monstrous unit.

Watch this live performance at 2012’s Primavera Sound:

 

This track is called “Salvaje”, which is also the name of a song by Peru’s magnificent Los Saicos. It’s a different track, again from Soft Gems, but Mujeres were actually the band backing Erwin Flores in the Madrid video I posted previously. There’s a good interview with them here in English and whilst writing this, I’ve just noticed that their first demo CD is now available gratis, here, at their Bandcamp page.

What’re you waiting for? The kids are loving it!

The other thing I’m tossing carelessly your way is, I’m afraid, not a video, and may well lose me the scanty readership I already have. I should by rights hate this (I’m sure many will) but try as I might, I just can’t… In fact, it’s not quite the pappy massacre you might be tempted to think it is

I give you the great Chicha Libre…

 

[There is, btw, a version by Sarah Brightman, if you really want to see poor old Arthur squirm… I’m not giving you a link for it…]

Tears fill up my eyes…

I’ve just re-bought this record, and felt moved…

 

Surely one of the most perfect pop songs ever written.

Echemos abajo la estación del tren!

saicos(As if this Blog needed to get any more niche…)

Music a bit thin on the ground these days, partly because I’ve been tied up with a few work-y things and partly because we’re preparing for another trip to Spain. The prospect of a Spanish holiday tends to see me hysterically trying to poke my moribund Spanish into life again, and in this particular case it has involved most of my prime CD-listening time (driving around) being spent listening to language tapes etc.

I’m also trying to read a few Spanish articles, though, and as a result came across this breathless fan-interview from earlier in the year with the great Erwin Flores. To be honest, the interview spends rather too much time pondering whether Los Saicos were the first punk band. But Flores himself comes across as a fairly decent type who can’t quite believe his Saicos days are still remembered.

Tatatatatatata yayayaya!

Los Saicos

As any fule know, Los Saicos, when not blowing up train stations, spent 1964-66 releasing six… er… “highly distinctive” singles in Peru. Records that sound today something like the proto-punk of the Trashmen or the Monks, or possibly the soon-to-arrive garage punk wave of the US, all of which Flores claims the band were completely unaware of at the time.

The best example of their sound is this, the truly feral “Demolición”:

 

No, really. 1964.

In Lima.

Two years of hugely unlikely success, (including, bizarrely, their own TV show) until enough was truly enough. Los Saicos packed it in and disappeared. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they were pretty quickly forgotten, until recently-attained cult status and general renewed interest prompted the brilliant Munster Records to release a compilation of all six singles with their b-sides. A friend gave me a copy of this a couple of years, and I’ve grown to treasure it. Some of the songs are a little softer but all are as raw, unhinged and just plain daft as “Demolición”.

And now, well, it’s all on again, apparently.

Los Saicos tour occasionally, including dates in Spain, Saicomania, a documentary film about the band, has been released in the US and Erwin Flores was earlier this year filmed on stage with Barcelona psych-band Mujeres.

 

Looks a lot of fun…

Aside, the wandering eye, has opened…

I have, you know, other stuff to write and at least one other recording to sort out and post, but for now… Well, I just can’t get this tune out of my head.

A chance conversation as I was leaving the Long Ryders the other week, led me to the Jayhawks, a band I am embarrassed to say I know next to nothing about (save for the fact that Stephen MCarthy was a member for a while), but whose back-catalogue I am resolved to start looking through.

Post Haste.

 

The really annoying thing is they’re playing in Bristol in September, but I already have a ticket for Teenage Fanclub the same night.

Damn…

Now what I did I do regret…

IMG_1867I’ve spent fifteen minutes now, trying to fashion some sort of clumsy Mason-Dixon line metaphor to introduce a few lines about seeing the Long Ryders last week. However you re-word it, though, the M5 is a pretty feeble substitute for a six-lane highway, crawling along the M32 no match for cracking through an Appalachian pass.

No doubt about it the Long Ryders were/are a really American band, albeit one with some of the best inspirations and passions a band can have – the Byrds, Elvis, Gram, the Burritos, you can’t fault them. I liked them quite a lot in their Paisley Underground heyday, but if truth be told they were never quite paisley enough for my tastes. I was at the time looking for something with a little more Syd Barret, maybe some Pretty Things, a dash of Soft Machine in it (the Soft Boys in fact…) And, thinking about it now, the old transatlantic gap cliché really does ring true. A very North American band, something missed in translation.

When I saw that Sid Griffin and pals were coming to the Fleece, however, I started listening to Native Sons and State of Our Union again for first time in…ooh… ages. I don’t think I’d heard either record this century, and in fact I had to repurchase them because my originals were actual cassettes… But, wow! What great records they are – chockfull of references my callow twenty-year-old self couldn’t be bothered with but which to a frosty-bearded fifty-year-old veteran now sound just fine.

The Long Ryders, The Fleece

The Fleece continues to be my current favourite venue, obviously for the acts it manages to get (not to mention the pillars and the sticky floors which I always refer to) but also for the reputation it’s managed to earn amongst gig-goers. You know it’ll be well attended and noisy. And so it was, full of middle-aged punters, both balding and silver-highlighted, who burst keenly into song as soon as Griffin embarked on the first bars of Run Dusty Run.

It wasn’t his first appearance as it turned out. We’d spent a puzzling 15 minutes or so watching a muffled and be-hooded roadie setting up guitars and plugging in amps in what was already a stuffy atmosphere. A few bemused looks were exchanged and it wasn’t until the rest of the band trouped on that the hoodie came down and Sid Griffin (for it was he) introduced himself. To be honest, he’s looking a little heavy these days and sporting an endearingly seedy “Beatles hair cut”, which actually reminded me of Robyn Hitchcock more than a little (the Soft Boys references are going to keep coming, I feel).

It’s interesting what you notice about a band’s music at a distance of thirty years or so. Just as the country stylings washed over me at the time, leaving me unmoved and barely cognisant, I was also completely unaware of the contrast (possibly even, tension) that exists between the two main songwriters in the band. This came out really clearly onstage, as vocal responsibilities were tossed back and forth between Griffin and guitarist Stephen McCarthy. Griffin goofed around between songs and generally sang the rougher good-time ditties, while McCarthy didn’t do a lot of the banter but sang on his own more soulful, slightly more reedy, Gene Clark-type numbers. Bassist Tom Stevens also sang on a couple which I’m guessing were his own. I like this intra-band democracy thing (it reminded me of my mistakenly imagining Richmond Fontaine to be just Willy Vlautin’s band). Turns out that some of my very favourite Long Ryder songs were McCarthy compositions. Who knew? (Why didn’t I know?)

It was a great set which included the obligatory Gram Parson cover in the encore (“Older Guys”) and was more than a little shambolic at times – there were a couple of sound problems; Griffin forgot his words more than once and occasionally came across as more Jack Black than Drug Store Truck Driving Man – but one that was hugely appreciated by the grizzled bunch of punters that spilt out onto the road at chucking out time.

The recordings are a little spoilt by the gutsy singing of more than one emotional feller nearby, but if you can get over that, they’re kind of fun…

Mason-Dixon Line

The Light Gets in the Way

Lights of Downtown / State of Our Union

Jackson stays at my place, ’cause he ain’t got a home…

IMG_1846Gah! I’m annoyed with myself.

I’ve had a nice leisurely Bank Holiday Weekend, shooting the breeze, watching footie and yet somehow not got round to writing this up… *Smacks head theatrically*. Great evening too.

Richmond Fontaine, The Bullingdon

My second trip to Oxford’s fine Bullingdon, saw the arrival of the ever-enjoyable Willy Vlautin and Richmond Fontaine. Actually, as I write that, it makes it look like Vlautin’s chums are no more than a backing band, the musicians who provide background colour for his extraordinary song/story writing gifts. If I’d bothered to pay attention to stuff, of course, I’d know that songwriting credits are not exclusively Valutin’s; but as I hadn’t (routinely don’t) it was left to this evening to make it clear to me that RF are a proper band, Vlautin repeatedly referring to drummer Sean Oldham as “the leader of the band”.

It seems a bit late in the day to have made this discovery, although not as late as I did at one time believe. Turns out from talking to Dan Eccles after, there’s another tour this Autumn, which will be their last. (After which, he revealed to me, exclusively if you will, that one of the projects he intends to work on the setting up of a piano tuning business. You read it here first…)

Eccles and bassist Freddy Trujillo came out and chatted for ages to people after what was a long set, and it all went to reinforce the idea you couldn’t help but form watching the set – they’re a really decent bunch of fellers. Vlautin particularly comes across as self-effacing, ordinary and likeable, introducing many of the songs with charming, incidental stories. A bloke you could find yourself chatting to for ages over a few drinks…

They played for coming on for two hours, including two encores and 22 songs drawn from pretty much all the albums (although the latest “You Can’t Go Back If There’s Nothing To Go Back To” featured heavily). Vlautin’s story telling talents were much in evidence and were enhanced by his part-drawled, part-sung delivery. Eccles’ guitar work was also pretty remarkable, light at times, heavy and almost ungainly at others. He’d already done a set previously, backing support act Fernando (who was also very good) earlier in the evening, so he could’ve been excused for wanting to get off early.

The Bullingdon is great for sound and the recordings are OK, with wild cheering and clinks of bottles being thrown into bins at the bar, all adding to the atmosphere. I’m attaching a particular run of three (four) great, great songs that came one after each other towards the end of the evening. You’d be a fool not to…

The Boyfriends

Lost in the Trees / Willamette

We Used to Think the Freeway Sounded Like a River

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