TV on the Radio on the iPod

I was lucky enough to be in the UK when TV on the Radio’s latest album Return to Cookie Mountain came out over there, a good few months before the delayed US launch. As I drove around visiting my family this album was on almost constant play, but for some reason it didn’t grab me as much as the amazing Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes – with classic tracks such as Ambulance & Dreams.

Well it’s been a good six months or so now since I first heard it and now I have to say that Return to Cookie Mountain is rarely off my iPod now. I’ve never had an album that grows on you as much as this, and it’s not like I started out hating it. Every time I listen I hear different nuances and subtleties. So if you don’t have it go and get it now!! Enough fan speak now.

Personal Music History

Tonight seems to have turned into a review of some of my personal music history, in the form of rare albums from my childhood.

First up, Jean Michel Jarre. When I was younger Jean-Michel Jarre, the ‘godfather of techno’ and then proud owner of a dash in his name, was one of the regular artists played by my dad as we drove off on family holidays (along with Fleetwood Mac, Elton John and Joan Armatrading – oh and the Imaginations and/or Reflections compilations). Oxygene, Equinoxe and Magnetic Fields formed most of my childhood soundscape and along with the amazing Concerts in China I still listen to them regularly today.

Recently I recalled the ‘lost’ Jarre album, ‘Music for Supermarkets/Musique pour Supermarche‘, a single pressing of an album Jarre created that was sold at auction for a large sum of money. This album, created and sold in 1983, was at the peak of Jarre’s powers, as his later albums never quite seemed as strong as the earlier ones before this time. Of course noone would ever hear this album, except for the unknown person who bought it at the auction. A shame indeed. Or at least it would have been a shame except for the fact that Jarre played the album once and once only on Radio Luxembourg, with the introduction ‘Pirate it!’. Back then this simple cry meant that a few people would whip out their 8-tracks and record the AM broadcast for personal use, nowawdays it means something very different indeed.

So it was with great joy that some web searching turned up this missing album as a low quality mp3. Finally, after almost 25 years, I got to listen to an album I’d never heard, that was never part of my childhood even though it kind of was. And how is it? Wonderful. Even with the hisses and bad quality, the music is from Jarre at the top of his powers. Simple, catchy, organic. Using the analogue ‘digital’ instruments he excelled at, rather than their newer digital replacements. If you didn’t know how old it was you could easily believe it was from a modern band.

Flush with this success I decided to track down a later piece of my musical development. In my mid teens myself and a group of friends got heavily into The Stranglers, creators of the classic track ‘Golden Brown’. As well as good solid rocky songs there was a connection that the bass player had gone to our school, expelled for reason that were the stuff of legend (‘he’d ridden his bike through the corridors!’, ‘he’d hit a teacher!’ and so on – after a gig at Guildford civic hall Burnel said to my friends it was because he’d burnt a pile of school caps on the headmaster’s lawn). This apparent connection meant that all of us were avid Stranglers fanatics, collecting piles of their old vinyl at every opportunity until Hugh Cornwell left the band and they were never quite the same.

I still have my vinyl – a pretty complete collection of UK singles and first pressing albums – but one single I don’t have. In 1980, just before fellow Frenchman Jarre would create Music for Supermarkets, JJ Burnel pulled the release of a single from his upcoming solo career. This single, Girl From the Snow Country, then became one of the rarest singles in the UK as only a few copies had been saved from destruction. With this in mind I just did a quick search, and found that a copy of the single just sold for £580.00. Wow. Not sure I want it that much, but still. Just goes to show that my vinyl might still be worth something (assuming my cat hasn’t gotten too friendly with the pile of plastic).

You gotta love the internet sometimes.

Sleeping Is Giving In

Tonight The Arcade Fire start their residency in Montreal for five nights. Like all of their other residencies the gigs are being held in small, intimate venues – with the associated immediate selling out and subsequent touting of tickets on eBay for significant profit. This is a shame, as like many folks, I think they’re really quite lovely and would like to see them live someday.

Then I found out that every day at 10am there are 50 tickets being released for sale at a local ticket shop. So this morning I popped along, just in case people hadn’t worked this out. Arriving at 10.10am the line looked pretty reasonable so I joined the end. Then the TV crews turned up asking people in front of us who was person number 50. A guy in orange about 15 people in front put his hand up. Doh. Of course having gone all the way up there I wasn’t going to go just because of that – so I hung around, with my new line buddies, till the shop owner stuck his head out the door and told us and the news crews that all 50 tickets were now gone and that the first in line had been there since 4.15am that morning and the 50th had arrived at 7.15am! More tickets are available tomorrow and every day after – but with -17c temperatures and lower I’m not convinced the tickets are worth hypothermia… Maybe.

Do you feel real?

Had a splendid night out last night with Andy. Our first visit to the Limelight club, a converted church on 6th Avenue. Lots of platforms to wander around and smallish dance rooms. The reason for our trip was to see Jesus Jones – Andy had managed to score some guest passes. Excellent show! They played all the old classics. Only strange part was Mike, the lead singer, now has a sensible haircut… After the show I convinced Andy to wander backstage with me so we got to meet Mike briefly which Andy loved as he’s been a huge fan for ages. One of those things I still love about New York, that you can do things like that a lot more easily.

You can’t get beta than a quick fit fitta

Went out to see the Beta Band last night. They played at the Supper Club, which is generally a swing club with the most amazing ceiling (blue, with scalloped gold shells and lots of recessed lights). Me and the Andy had a laff whilst trying to avoid consuming too many of the weak, overpriced drinks that were on sale. Bless. The set tended to veer more towards the 3 EPs than the other two albums which was fine by me, backed up with bizarro home videos and the occasional live camera angle of them on-stage from the side (which was quite disorientating). Crowd was the usual mix of static New Yorkers in black and Brits who were moving about a lot more.

Meanwhile the subway, specifically the L line, seems to be moving towards an ever less regular service with consequent increase in chock a block full trains. What’s up with that? Having said that I always love the days when they decide, normally at my stop, that this train will be an express to Union Square… sweet. And, having said that, it’s always infinitely better than the London Tube – which, amongst its flaws, closes at midnight, costs around 3 times as much, is slower (no real express/local lines), more claustrophobic and has no air conditioning. Gotta love them patatas…


Just reading this interview with Richard James (aka, Aphex Twin). He’s a very disturbing chap. Always thought Cornish folk were a bit weird – too much clotted cream…

Meanwhile New York’s gone cold again. Thankfully my new landlord seems to have a slightly more libertarian view to heating my apartment! Appreciated this yesterday as I spent the whole day at home ill, my throat was playing up again. Nope, not anthrax, although I have to admit to getting the fear having opened an unsolicited mailer from a bank. Quick rinse off later the letter was in the bin and I calmed down by catching up on my pile of un-watched DVDs as I dined upon fine canned soup.

All is full of light

Went to the most wonderful Bjork concert last night. It was at the Radio City Music hall, which I’ve never been to before, but is a huge, shell like space that is totally overwhelming. Thanks to the wonderful Paula and Ann I managed to get tickets very close to the front for myself and Alexa. Alexa had never seen Bjork live before so she was especially excited. I was a bit more ‘whatever’ having seen her a couple of times at festivals, but by the end of the show I was completely in awe. Bjork’s voice has developed even further than before and soared against orchestral, electronic and harp backgrounds. Beautiful.

This marks the end of my first week back in New York for a while. I’m now not doing the AccuWx project anymore so won’t be making my now regular trips to State College ever Monday and Friday. Part of me already misses the guys up there as they were always amusing and often challenging, which is fun, but another part of me is just glad to be back with everyone in NYC again. Now all I need to do is find out what the future holds… Simple really. First step is major pre-sales work which I’m looking forward to having not done any for a loooooooooong time. Fingers crossed.