Tuesday, April 14, 2009


In 2004 we took a very interesting trip through Abruzzo and the Molise, two neighbouring Italian counties that have a fairly remote and to some extent backwards feel, even though they are really quite close to Rome, just east of it in fact, and only about a couple of hours away. This is mostly due to them being very mountainous , I think, especially in the highly recommended Abruzzo national park which almost looks like the Alps. For some reason, these areas, though interesting and featuring many old places, don't really seem to feature very much on the international tourist trails and when you arrive in Rome from the Abruzzo you feel you're suddenly landed in a much more touristy place where everything is double the prize and much faster.

Most people will have heard by now of the terrible earthquake in the old town of L'Aquila that has claimed many lives and allegedly damaged most of the many historical buildings in the town and surrounding villages. But I suspect most people in other countries will not have a real sense of the place, as it's not that famous outside of Italy. So we spent a couple of days over a weekend there during our trip, and fell a little bit in love with the place, actually we were hoping to go back at some stage (and still do). There were many old churches and buildings, a remarkable Roman bath, mountains all around it. It was quite lively, with a university, an arts centre in an old fort, many friendly bars. We discovered the music of the wonderful sad old crooner Frank Buscaglione in one of the bars near the main square. I remember a friendly student bar run by some beary looking types who invited us to sample the local grappas. And this amazing broad old staircase leading up to a church where the local youth would hang out in the evenings. I wonder what is left of all of this, I haven't really researched it but seeing the events unfold on international news programmes was harrowing, actually knowing the place and having met a few of the friendly locals. So anyway, here's some of the photos we took. My thoughts go out to the people of L'Aquila!

Monday, April 06, 2009

Random Journey: The Raspberries, Big Star & Teenage Fanclub's "Thirteen"

I've been meaning to do this for quite a long time: A few years ago I started a series of blog posts about bands and records, one leading to another, by association, seeing to where it would lead me. Last you heard from me on this journey I was with the Pooh Sticks which lead me to the Raspberries and their Greatest (hits). I've had this record for a couple of years now, and on the whole I really like it, I've played it quite a lot, it's been a bit of a (minor) favourite actually. I'm not sure what the Pooh Sticks saw in them, the overblown, almost baroque stompers (in a maybe ironic way?) or the fine, lovelorn ballads. Anyway, several things: As far as I know this stuff was already retro when it came out, but it's so old now it sounds doubly retro, 60s pastiche sounds different now. When it's good it's lush, breezy, confident, anthemic power pop with quite complex songs that stick in your head after while. While lyrically often riding out some cliched love stories, the music is definitely not too formulaic. Eric Carmen's voice has a beautiful, slightly camp, often wistful and, yes, fruity quality, though some of the stuff goes a little too far into cheese territory for me, the fruitiness becomes over-ripe and slightly rotten so to speak. Some of the songs are real classics in my book though. I'm so glad I bought this record!

I think the next step was via an amazon recommendation and it's not too far a step to Big Stars first two albums collected on this dics . There are definitely some parallels here, Big Star can do lush and grand power pop too, but there is more melancholia and a slightly grittier feel underlying a lot of this material. It bites a bit deeper, it's got a different kind of staying power that anchors it, it inhabits a moodier, more doubtful place, and it's this quality that maybe makes them more relevant today. Again, some absolutely great stuff here and probably high time I checked them out. Saw them in London last year in top form!

So now it goes back to Scotland and the 90s, the link this time happened as follows...: Shortly after seeing Big Star play in London, they did a beautiful version of their fine sad ballad "Thirteen", I was in Glasgow's Avalanche Records en route to the Hebrides and saw Teenage Fanclub's album "Thirteen" there at quite a reasonable prize. Now I knew that they were indebted to Big Star's sound (just like a lot of other indie bands), but up til then I didn't realize that the title of the album was probably a Big Star reference in one way or another (I think there's thirteen tracks on there too), so the link for the "random journey" suggested itself. What sounds maybe a little bit dull and monochromatic on first impression revealed itself as quite accomplished, very understated indie rock with all sorts of subtle nods to the past but still occupying some time and place of it's own. The Big Star template is definitely in there, no doubt, but they manage to blend in all sorts of other elements, and the songwriting is very impressive, once you give the songs some room to breathe. I think they had some sort of problem with this record, it came out after their breakthrough "Bandwagonesque" album, and they weren't so happy with it, but to me it was this record that made me a fan. I've got most of their albums now. It was sitting on the porch in Colonsay playing it on this crappy stereo, over and over, while looking at the craggy hills and the sheep wandering about. There's a song, "The Cabbage", that sounds eerily like an early 90s Weezer outtake, the same bass staccato lines, and even the yearning vocals sound similar. "Escher" is my favourite though, I think, and the opener, "Hang On", is grand too, gets me every time. Though I'm sure I haven't got as deep into this band as you can go. But I'm glad I'm on the way now, again, probably much too late, but sometimes certain bands reach you at a later stage. So where next on this journey? At least I've finally got around to updating here again. Hopefully it won't be two years before the next instalment. It's been really good and educational so far, I have to say!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Rozz Williams Happy Hour

RIP Rozz...

Actually this is a bit more than an hour so you can skip some of the Shadow Project stuff (for some reason I found a lot of Shadow Project stuff I liked on youtube, but couldn't find many good videos from Christian Death's second and third albums). For more info on this amazing artist check out these websites:the blue hour and http://www.rozznet.com/ //// thomas <<

"Cavity - First Communion" (Christian Death featuring RW Reunion Show '93) 3.35

"Deathwish" (Dr Caligari) 2.10

"Dogs" Daucus Carota in Paris 06.11.94 2.55 lyrics are taken from poems by Dennis Cooper, he told me via his blog

"Spiritual Cramp" (It's a Wonderful Life) 3.03

Premature Ejaculation 8.52

Shadow Project 3.50

Shadow Project "Zaned People" 9.36

"GrungeandDeath"'s short tribute 0.40

"Gleichschaltung" 4.34

"Whorse" with images by David Lynch 3.58

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Shadow Project 2.07

Shadow Project "Hounds Upon the Hare" 4.54

Christian Death: "Figurative Theatre" (King of Kings) 2.55

Shadow Project live 6.23

Christian Death : "Romeo's Distress" (Reunion show '93) 2.55

Rozz Williams - Memorial (Flower) 6.05