If you’re looking for musical hereos that are a wee bit more left field than your average common or garden Lennon or McCartney, you could do worse than become obsessed with the music and ideals of XTC and their resident genius Andy Partridge. One such obsessed fan is Irishman Thomas Walsh who recently found minor fame recording a concept album about cricket as one half of the Duckworth Lewis Method (along wth fellow countryman Neil ‘Divine Comedy‘ Hannon). Look them up via Mojo or Word. Both magazines fell over themselves in a race to see who could bestow the more ridiculous superlatives upon this unlikely duo and, while the music is pleasant enough, the underlying smugness of Neil Hannon gets in the way of a good listen for me.
I much prefer Walsh’s other group, Pugwash. Inspired by stories of Andy Partridge’s refusal to tour with XTC and hearing how Partridge was happiest when recording in his shed, Walsh used the compensation money he received from a childhood accident to build a shed/recording studio in his back garden. The music that followed was a heady mix of melodic sunshine garage pop (think Beach Boys, Zombies, early Bee Gees) and through a combination of patience and luck the songs found their way to Andy Partridge, who released them on his own Ape House label. Now there’s a happy ending! In 2008, Pugwash released At The Sea, a single that despite being co-written by Andy Partridge and utilising his talents on guitar, mellotron and anything else lying around the studio, failed (not unsurprisingly) to set the heather on fire. On the b-side was this, a faithful cover of the Idle Race‘s ‘On With The Show‘.
Brummies The Idle Race often pop up on Nuggets’y compilations (Imposters of Life’s Magazine? Days of the Broken Arrows? Ring any bells?) and are famous as the band where Jeff Lynne (ELO, future Threatles-not-Beatles producer) learned his big hairy-faced chops in the late 60s. ‘On With the Show‘ appeared on their debut album (Birthday Party, above) and is very derivative of its time -a descending piano chord sequence, harmonies a-gogo, some light phasing (all the rage in 1968) and enough melody and craft packed in to two minutes and twenty two seconds. You’ll like it.
Fact: Mark E Smith is a big Idle Race fan. According to Wikipedia at any rate.
I’ll wager you’ve heard of Wild Beasts. They’ve been on Later with Jools Holland a few times. Lake District indie rock group with a neat line in guitar riffs ‘n textures and an irritating habit of singing everything in ridiculous falsetto. I kinda like them, even though a) they want so badly to be Orange Juice and b) that singer is fucking annoying. I’ll wager you’ve not heard of The Wildebeests. I know next to nothing about them. If you can fill in the blanks, get in touch. I heard a track on a Shindig magazine compilation and was taken aback with it’s totally blatant Who-isms. Won’t Get Fooled Again keyboard riff? Aye! Crashing, windmilling Townshend power chords? Oh aye! Moonesque thumps ‘n bumps? Oh aye aye! Layered Goods Gone vocals? Aye ‘n aye again!, That Man is the sort of record Noel Gallagher would shave his eyebrow off to be able to make. Which makes it good, obviously.
As pointed out by regular reader Garwood Pickjon in the comments below, That Man is in fact a cover of a mid 60s Small Faces record (hear here). I’ve got the record in my collection and everything, but it never clicked when listening to The Wildbeests version. The old antennae needs retuning to digital I think – it reaches me in May this year. Any other mistakes/errors, please let me know. I’m off to eat Humble Pie. No pun intended. Unless you get it. In which case, good pun, eh?
Garwood, your prize is in the post…..