Deeply Superficial:

LISTENING TO MOBILE FIDELITY’S PRESSING OF THE CARS’ EPONYMOUS 1978 DEBUT ALBUM

Audiophile outfit Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs, who are probably best known for their Pink Floyd and The Beatles re-releases, have been issuing ‘Original Master Recording’ LPs since 1977. Over the last few years I’ve picked up a number of their pressings ranging from classic Dylan albums to alternative-ish items such as REM’s ‘Life’s Rich Pageant’ and Ryan Adams’ ‘Love is Hell’. Benefiting from a half-speed re-mastering process, Mobile-Fidelity records always sound crisp and clean. Importantly, though, they still sound like the original records. Here we are talking about re-mastering as opposed to re-mixing, with the latter process often changing the ‘feel’ of songs. The Mobile-Fidelity records themselves are also solid and heavy; there is an experience of physicality when you take a Mobile-Fidelity record out of its sleeve and put it onto a turntable. They are, in addition, flat. This is especially important for me as I’m a devotee of Decca London pick-up cartridges, which even a gentle record warp will send into a St. Vitas dance of mistracking. 

The Decca eschews a traditional microgroove stylus in favour of a block of wood, plastic, rock or cheese; whatever is handy, really.


The Factory recently began handling Mobile-Fidelity products. I knew that there was a Mobile-Fidelity pressing of The Cars’ first album, but I hadn’t been able to buy it through the usual channels, so I asked Bill whether he could get one for me. I was delighted when he said he could – and especially so when I realised that this year is the 40th anniversary of that record’s release.
After a short wait, which consisted largely of staring into space wondering where the years have gone, I got the record home and played it. Listening to The Cars for the first time in several decades, it occurred to me that a good way of summing them up would be to think of them as a muscular American version of Britain’s Roxy Music. In 1972 Roxy Music had brought avant-garde art to popular music. Roxy songs were musical collages in which various sounds and styles from the distant and recent past were self-consciously cut-up and then re-assembled. Later that decade The Cars did something similar – though this time without the obvious art-school baggage.

 
The Cars were accomplished musicians but, having been influenced by punk and new-wave music, they opted for a far more straightforward presentation than Roxy. The Cars album is simple pop music that combines the bubble-gum and power-pop genres. Although the power-pop genre owed a great deal to The Kinks and The Who, at the time it was experiencing a new-wave-inspired resurgence, most notably among the acts associated with Stiff Records such as Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello, and Wreckless Eric. Unlike these acts, however, The Cars’ music also contained elements of the synthesiser-based techno pop pioneered by Gary Numan and Ultravox.

 In the 1980s this electronica would lead to an effete sameness that characterised the whole pop-music genre. But in the case of The Cars this tendency was kept in check by an authentic simplicity derived from The Velvet Underground – or, rather, The Velvet Underground via The Modern Lovers, with whom The Cars’ drummer had played. The Cars also limited themselves to very straightforward – often risibly so – lyrics; eschewing Roxy’s interesting though sometimes gnomic lyrics, which, in retrospect, were probably more within the prog-rock tradition, The Cars were usually content merely to rehearse teen-love and teen-angst themes from the rock-and-roll era.


The Mobile Fidelity pressing of The Cars conveys the simple, elemental power of the music, while at the same time making you aware of the disparate elements within the songs themselves; listening to the Mobile-Fidelity pressing is rather like getting a musical anatomy lesson. But it’s a musical vivisection that results in the patient not only surviving, but also thriving because realising how well constructed the songs are makes you enjoy them even more.


The Cars’ album is basically fun. And the Mobile-Fidelity pressing is so good that, not long after the anatomy lesion, you end up forgetting about the pressing and just enjoying the music. At this point a demon on your shoulder will ask why you bothered paying over the odds for something that you aren’t noticing. But on the other shoulder there sits an angel who will point out that that’s precisely what you paid you money for. After all, aren’t productions, pressings, etc. so much the better for making you forget they’re there? These things are – or at least they should be – like Wittgenstein’s ladder, which you use to ascend to a higher level, but which you conceptually dispense with once you’ve got there. Besides, thanks to rapacious high-street retailers of ‘vinyls’, all records are expensive now. So it’s definitely worth paying what is just a few bucks more to get the Mobile Fidelity pressing of The Cars, rather than going to a mainstream outlet and picking up a standard re-release. A few bucks to let the good times roll?  Let’s go!

 

Dr Walter Kudrycz

 

The Author, The Bishop and Faust

Douglas Murray is a very bright light in the very dark labyrinth that is 2017 journalism. He is the founder of The Centre for Social Cohesion and is currently the associate director of The Henry Jackson Society. A columnist for both The Spectator and Standpoint, he frequently contributes to The Sunday Times and The Wall Street Journal. In his second year at Oxford, (at the ripe old age of nineteen) he penned a biography of Lord Alfred Douglas, which was later described (by none less than Christopher Hitchens) thus:

"In the year 2000, I was invited to review a new book about Lord Alfred Douglas, who had been Oscar Wilde’s toxic and eventually fatal choice of boyfriend.

I was simultaneously impressed and depressed by the assignment, because the work turned out to be (a) masterly and (b) written by someone who turned out to be only a few years older than my son. (Mr. Murray was born in 1979, which meant that he had finished the biography while he was still at college.)

There are not many occasions when a grizzled hack like myself can mark the emergence of a fresh new author who bears watching, but this was indubitably one of them."

Murray and Hitchens later became fast friends, despite their very different political dispositions (Hitchens usually occupying a foxhole well to the left of Mr Murray's). 

With the release his latest book, The Strange Death of Europe, Douglas Murray has been vigorously pounding the interview trail to promote it. I found this dialogue with Sam Harris particularly edifying:

Richard Holloway was the Bishop of Edinburgh from 1986 until 2000. He is quite a controversial figure, leaning increasingly towards agnosticism and self describing as an "after-religionist".

Holloway is well known for support of gay and lesbian causes and is a patron of LGBT Youth Scotland. He is the the author of more than 20 books exploring sexuality, drugs and bioethics and their relationship with modern religion. Holloway also writes for The Times, The Guardian, The Independent, Sunday Herald and The Scotsman. 

Richard Holloway recently interviewed Douglas Murray and while I found the interview itself interesting, what really caught my attention was Murray's choice of music. He begins with the ethereal, hauntingly beautiful and extraordinarily complex Spem in Alium by Thomas Tallis. I shall allow Douglas to elaborate:

Hollowyay: Why this one?

Murray: Well, I was asked if I could choose two pieces of music and you may as well go straight for the best.

The Chorus Mysticus, the denouement of Mahler's Symphony No. 8, begins almost imperceptibly in E♭ major. Mahler's notation here was Wie ein Hauch, "like a breath". It follows the narrative of the final scenes of Goethe's Faust; the journey of Faust's soul, rescued from the clutches of Mephistopheles, on to its ascent into heaven. Faust did indeed make it to heaven in the end, angels declaring: He who strives on and lives to strive, can earn redemption still. Later paraphrased in Finding Nemo as "just keep swimming".  

This performance of Chorus Mysticus, Cologne Philharmonic Hall, June 2009, conducted by Heinz Walter Florin, is magnificent: 

"it's one of the great expressions of the human spirit" Indeed it is Mr Murray, indeed it is. The zenith of Western culture perhaps?

William Crampton

Is Populism the New Punk?

               An idea proposed by conservative commentator  Paul Joseph Watson . Let's hear what Mr Lydon has to say about it.

              An idea proposed by conservative commentator Paul Joseph Watson. Let's hear what Mr Lydon has to say about it.

Data analysis by market research company The Guild shows that the attitudes of those born after 1995, Generation Z, are the most socially, politically and economically conservative since 1945. They largely reject established political parties while staunchly supporting personal freedoms, which sounds a lot like Libertarianism to me. Libertarianism is, essentially, Anarchy-Lite.

   Statism is the belief that the state should control either economic or social policy, or both. It is the opposite of Anarchism.    Anarchism advocates societies based on voluntary institutions & holds the state to be undesirable, unnecessary, and harmful.

  Statism is the belief that the state should control either economic or social policy, or both. It is the opposite of Anarchism.

  Anarchism advocates societies based on voluntary institutions & holds the state to be undesirable, unnecessary, and harmful.

With instant access to unsanitised information via new media formats; like P. J. Watson and his right wing cadre perhaps, but predominantly more evenhanded Podcasters, Vloggers and Youtubers (I only wrote that to see if my spell check would correct it; it didn't) such as Joe RoganDave Rubin and Carl Benjamin, many are meritocratic individualists. Rebelling against the political correctness and identity politics of the preceding generation, Generation Z is more impressed by challenge, debate and pragmatism than "Safe Spaces" and "Micro Aggressions". 

There is a rising tide of anger amongst Generation Z. Often accused of Wrong Think by easily offended Millennial Snowflakes, left with massive government debt by previous generations, unable to afford housing because the Baby Boomers and Gen X have been living it up on the profits on their real estate, then told they are expected to pay for the pensions of their predecessors, who could blame them? But as a wise man once said, "anger is an energy". For those of us who grew up in the 70's, the parallels are uncanny. Yes, it's elementary my dear PJ Watson, Populism is the new Punk. Just ask Johnny Rotten.

William Crampton  

 

 

Caledonia: Going home.


Caledonia is the name the Romans gave to the land to the north of their province of Britannia. Tacitus and other historians described Caledonia as the area north of Hadrian's Wall, home of the large central Pictish tribe, the Caledonii. Today, the name is applied to Scotland as a whole, a romantic reminder of a fiercely tribal and independant past.

Once upon a time, my family lived near what is now the English border. A castle there still bears my family name (I must go kick the usurpers out some time). My ancestors did actually secede from both England and Scotland; they made their own laws, raised their own taxes and dispensed their own justice. This wonderful state of affairs lasted for a surprisingly long while; until the surrounding powers noticed, resulting in a hasty departure to the colony of New south Wales.

For me, returning to Scotland is going home. The culture, the people, the landscape are all so familiar, so comfortable. 

Scotland can claim many a National Treasure. One of them is Dougie MacLean. Caledonia, from his first album, is regarded by many as Scotland's unofficial national anthem. Oft covered, Caledonia still belongs to Dougie MacLean.

Which, inevitably, brings us to Scotland's national poet, the Bard of Ayrshire, Rabbie Burns. An inspiration to both Libertarians and Socialists, a pioneer of the Romantic movement, an icon bordering on cult leader to the Scottish diaspora and general all round Wilde-style tart, Burns secured immortality in the mere 37 years he spent on this Earth. Like many who come to understand the nature of things, he slipped into depression and disillusionment in the final years of his short life. Burns' funeral took place on Monday 25 July 1796; the day his son Maxwell was born.  

 Rabbie Burns. This picture shamelessly recycled from the  Whisky Pages .

Rabbie Burns. This picture shamelessly recycled from the Whisky Pages.

 

Eddi Reader, former vocalist of Fairground Attraction, is perhaps now best known for her long solo career and a fondness for the works of Robert Burns. 

The first time I heard Gaelic spoken in conversation was in the village of Sanna, an idyllic hamlet on the far western tip of the Ardnamurchan Peninsula. A small collection of crofts and white stone houses aside pristine white sandy beaches, Sanna was the setting of Alasdair Maclean's autobiographical book Night Falls on Ardnamurchan. In an odd twist of fate, I was there with Maclean's niece; a raven haired, azure eyed beauty from the nearby Isle of Skye, but that is very much another story. What struck me about that wonderful, beautiful, language, was how lyrical and melodious it was. I had no idea of the content of that conversation, but listening to it was sheer joy. 

 Sanna Bay

Sanna Bay

Julie Fowlis grew up in a Gaelic-speaking community on North Uist, an island in the Outer Hebrides. After university, she moved to the Isle of Skye to attended the Sabhal Mòr Ostaig Gaelic language college and study traditional Scottish music. She has released five albums and has a continuing broadcasting career. This Celtic song tells the story of a girl taken by an Each-uisge; a shape-shifting water horse. In its human form it is said to appear as a handsome man, only recognisable as the Each-uisge by the weeds or sand in its hair. Because of this, people in the Highlands were often wary of lone animals and strangers by the sea and sea lochs, where the Each-uisge was reputed to live. Not to be confused with the Water Kelpie, a water horse inhabiting the fresh water lochs and pools of Scotland. The Kelpie can not disguise its hooves when in human form, leading to its association with Satan by Robert Burns in his 1786 poem "Address to the Deil". Hmm..explains why my father never took his boots off. 

William Crampton

Blue Venus

Blue Man Group is the result of a collaboration between New Yorkers Chris Wink, Matt Goldman and Phil Stanton. The performance art group started as glorified buskers and have grown into masters of stage and street production. Their performances are incredibly intricate trips down the rabbit hole in pursuit of three big blue bunnies. All of whom seem to be wearing Go-Pros. Improvising orchestration from anything they can lay their ultramarine paws on, the Blue Men are almost as entertaining for their originality and creativity as they are for the delicious anticipation of what they may do next. And next, you can watch them playing Bridge. The Brooklyn Bridge:

 

Venus Hum, (from Nashville, Tennessee) released their first, self titled, album in 2001. Vocalist Annette Strean and instrumentalists Kip Kubin and Tony Miracle took the band's name from the rare heart condition suffered by Tony Miracle; Venous Hum. He perpetually hears his own heartbeat. 2003 saw the release of their second album, Big Beautiful Sky and a tour with Blue Man Group. The Complex Rock Tour saw Blue Man Group rendering a number of covers, one of the best of which is this collaboration with Venus Hum. If you like Annette's dress, you may buy one here, if it's not to subtle for you.  

The painted marionettes' performances are a rollercoaster ride of comedy, tragedy, chaos and rapture. In this rendition of The Who's Baba O'riley the Blue Men once again display their fondness for creative plumbing and production:

 

Blue Man Group continue to experiment, innovate and evolve. I will leave you with this track, Giacometti, from their new album, Three.

William Crampton

 

 

 

Build a fire, light a match & watch the whole thing burn....

Alabama 3 aren't a trio and they aren't from Alabama. The band formed in Brixton, London in 1995 when vocalists Larry Love (Rob Spragg) and Dr. D. Wayne Love (Jake Black) decided to create a band around a fusion of country music and acid house. As A3, as they are known in the US, (to avoid a lawsuit from the band Alabama) grew in number they exploited rock, blues, country, gospel, spoken word, parody and satire. Although A3 seemed like an overnight success when their track Woke Up This Morning (inspired by the case of Sara Thornton, who murdered her husband after years of abuse) became the theme song of The Sopranos, success was had been a long time coming for the band's founders, then in their forties. A3 garnered some airplay in Australia with You Don't Dance To Techno Anymore (later released as an acoustic version in the first 10,000 copies of the album Power in the Blood) but remain largely unknown here. 

While Woke Up This Morning is A3's best known track I think it is far from their best. This song, Too Sick To Prey, (from the album La Peste) was used in the BBC series Being Human.

As was one of my favorites, Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlife.

Alabama 3 have produced so many songs that are so fun, so engaging, so witty and so inciteful, I had a hard time deciding what to share with you. Ironically, were they actually American, they wouldn't have the vice-like grasp on irony and satire that these London lads and ladies do. A3 (also a paper size) are magnificent, mischievous and unmissable live. Here they are backstage at The Wicker Man Festival in Scotland, 2014:

I recommend you start with Exile on Coldharbour Lane and La Peste. Power in the Blood will appeal to fewer comrades but is still worth the price of admission. There is a lot more to Alabama 3. They describe themselves as "a pop band, a punk rock, blues and country techno situationist crypto-Marxist-Leninist electro band".They go on: "We spent half of our advance from Geffen on various contraband items and with the rest we made an over-produced, brilliant situationist masterpiece called Exile on Coldharbour Lane"

I will leave you with a favorite and a rarity; an acoustic version of Mansion on the Hill from Acoustic Power.

William Crampton


 

Homemade Wine

Penelope Swales is in hiding. She must be; otherwise, she would be a household name by now. Or maybe her music just hits home a little hard and true for the masses. Penelope is a funny, fearless and inciteful lyricist. She is a talented musician with a characterful voice. Her music portrays her passions, her humour, her honesty and her integrity. I first became aware of Penelope's work when this album received some airplay on its release in 1997.

 

Homemade Wine is Penelope's third album. The engineering and production deserve a mention here as both are flawless and really let the music itself take centre stage. A treat from start to finish, it was hard to choose only a few songs to share but the opening track, Swallow, struck a chord with me. A song about the search for a place and a person to call home and the frustration of being unable to do so as time and youth pass. The "storm tossed swallow" analogy fits the narrative perfectly.

"And y’know, I just wanna go home
But I have no such destination, 
Just a vague location in mind
I’m tired and I can feel it’s time
I’ve still so far to go til I can make it mine "

The song is beautiful lyrically and musically and, like much of Penelope's work, evokes joy and solemn contemplation in equal measure.

"And y’know darlin’ I’m longin’ to see your face
Not just for a festival or a weekend
But to be having you all ‘round the place
I long to be sitting strong and stable
At my very own kitchen table
And watchin’ you walking in
Singin’ hello darlin’, how ya been? 

But for now, I’ll just rest in the sun like a storm-tossed swallow
I’m still so far away, and my migration path sways
But I’ll get there, one of these tomorrows
I’ll rest in a stranger’s house like a storm-tossed swallow
While inside me the need and the urgency grow."

I Thought Judge Dredd Was A Cartoon Character is a commentary on police restraint. We all know that our police forces attract only the best and brightest. This is nowhere more true than in Victoria where police rarely resort to the use of firearms even when confronted with such serious offences as Fare Evasion, Hesitation With Intent To Loiter and Failure To Stock The Glove Box With Gloves. Here Penelope's dry humour takes a darker turn; mockery is an effective weapon too.

A few years ago I found myself having to drive from New England to Brisbane then Sydney in one day (don't ask). I'd picked up Homemade Wine from the post office a couple of days before (Penelope kindly ran me off a copy after my young daughter accidentally destroyed the original; thanks P!). So it just happened to be the only CD in the car for that long trip and I still had it on repeat a week later. That's the kind of music Penelope creates.

Almond Eyes pulls the listener into a dark lament that highlights Penelope's versatility and ability to emotionally captivate her audience. She writes with such feeling, no more so it seems than when from experience. 

Penelope Swales' music is available on iTunes, Bandcamp, penelopeswales.com, or email Penelope directly: penelope@penelopeswales.com. If you ever get a chance to see Penelope live, don't miss it. 

William Crampton

 

 

 

Never mind the Pistols, Here's our Lemmy.

mht.jpg

Unless you are Amish, you will already be familiar with Motörhead classics like Ace of SpadesKilled By Death, OverkillOrgasmatron and We Are The Road Crew (Lemmy was a roadie for the Jimi Hendrix Experience). While everyone from Metallica to Sepultura have covered Motörhead, the band themselves have done their fair share of covers, most recently The Rolling Stones' Sympathy for the Devil. Lemmy owns Metallica's Enter Sandman with his growling, gravel-pit vocal. In my view, one of those rare occasions that the cover eclipses the original:

Then there is this almost comic rendition of God Save The Queen. Motörhead playing atop an open top London bus and a cameo by HRH herself is priceless. We don't need a monarch or a god when we have Lemmy doin' Lydon:

Ian "Lemmy" Kilmister died on the 28th of December 2015.

At Lemmy's funeral, Dave Grohl recalled the first time they met, 20 years ago at a Las Vegas strip club: 

"I looked to my left and I saw Lemmy by himself in the corner on a video game. And it blew my mind. I knew that I couldn’t just go say something because he was on his own in the corner. On the way out I thought, I have to say something. He’s my hero. He’s the one true rock’n’roller that bridged my love of AC/DC and Sabbath and Zeppelin with my love of GBH and the Ramones and Black Flag."

"Death is an inevitability, isn’t it? You become more aware of that when you get to my age. I don’t worry about it. I’m ready for it. When I go, I want to go doing what I do best. If I died tomorrow, I couldn’t complain. It’s been good."

Lemmy

 

William Crampton