Tracks: Round-Eye Blues

Last night I closed my eyes and watched the tracers fly
Through the jungle trees
Like fireflies on a windy night, pulled up and onward by the breeze…


Kids In Philly remains a high water mark for Marah, and it was only their second album. Marah are one of those bands that shoulda, woulda, coulda been so much more but, following their second album, they were dogged by line-up changes and the ever-diminishing press interest and promotion that comes from a band that sign to a seeming merry-go-round of record labels. Back in 2000, though, the band with the Bielanko Brothers Serge and David at its core were coming off the enthusiastic critical response to their début Let’s Cut The Crap & Hook Up Later on Tonight – which saw them signed to Steve Earle’s now-defunct label – when they released Kids In Philly. The response was hugely positive.

Upon release critics lauded the band and the album for its originality and recasting of musical touch stones. References to Springsteen abounded along with phrases such as “imagine The Clash taking on Born to Run” documenting the album’s energy and lyrical call outs. Calling the album relentlessly infectious, AllMusic calls it stunning “in its diversity, and even more stunning in its ambition. The album forges its own confident, note-perfect rock & roll sound, while practising the type of effortless stylistic hopping that hadn’t been executed to such wonderful effect since the heyday of the Fab Four.”

Kids In Philly is an absolute blinder of an album and one that makes my own Essential 100 list (which I’m still miles from returning to let alone completing). It’s not only compellingly addictive in its urgency and song-writing craft but the lyrics come across as hugely authentic and miles away from the phoned-in, play-acting that was rife in so music at the time – 2000 was peak landfill-indie on the radio. Rolling Stone cited how the album “lives and breathes the streets where it was made.”

I found it, as with so much music at the time, via one of Uncut Magazine’s Unconditionally Guaranteed cds glued to the cover (I wonder if I ought to start buying that magazine again). I’ve got an odd soft-spot for these war story songs (Goodnight Saigon serves as another example and even Stand Ridgway’s Camoflauge for other reasons) that try and put something so inhuman into a human context. It’s tricky, though, to get it right – find the balance between affective lyrics, a good tunes and a song that works in its own right. In that respect Round-Eye Blues exemplifies everything that makes the album it’s from great; instantly catchy, full of hook, biting lyrics and great craftsmanship in both the tune and the lyrics.

Somehow these guys manage to make a bitter tune sung from the point of view of a Vietnam vet (another little nod to Bruce) convincingly genuine despite the fact that they would only have been in their early 20’s at the time  – “But late at night I could still hear the cries of three black guys I seen take it in the face, I think about them sweet Motown girls they left behind and the assholes that took their place.”

From here it was a bit of a stalling, down hill tumble for Marah. Their follow-up was made by Owen Morris (who was known for producing Oasis so Be Here Now should have served as a red-flag in terms of suitability), the over-produced (so much so that they later released a “de-constructed” version) and aimless Float Away With The Friday Night Gods failed to capitalise on the doors opened by Kids In Philly (or the practically-buried cameo from Springsteen himself) and led to the previously mentioned label-hopping and line-up changes. I stuck around for a few more albums hoping for a return to form but, while they remained capable of turning out the odd little reminder of their song-writing charm the energy and urgency of Kids In Philly eluded them and lack of effective record distribution made it harder to get hold of their work. Still, I understand that they’ve since ‘reformed’ to celebrate the album’s 15th anniversary so who knows.

Turning More Pages

Another couple of months and another chunk is taken out of the continually growing TBR pile.

Time doesn’t appear to be my friend of late for blogging larger reviews (life takes priority) so I’m gonna try and wrap up a few of those books whose spines I cracked over the last month or so.

The Amber Shadows is a 2016 release  (it’s not all that often I read books so close to their publish date) that I found via the author’s twitter – Lucy Ribchester’s book (her second) is set in 1940’s Bletchley Park and she’d been sharing some of those once-classified documents from home of Britain’s codebreakers during World War II  that had served as research for the novel. That’s enough to get my interest. The Amber Shadows is certainly well-researched and manages to give a very convincing account of the time and place without over-doing it to the point of stereotyped clichés as some do. The plot – Honey Deschamps works in Hut 6 transcribing decrypted signals from the German Army when she begins receiving mysterious packages of amber – is certainly promising and the writer is able to keep the reader guessing. The conclusion left me a little unsatisfied but, in retrospect, it’s certainly in keeping with the period in which it’s set in terms of how, with the second world war raging and life having taken on a different value, it may well have played out.


The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt had been sat on my shelves for at least a year before I picked it up at the start of the month. I’d seen it in the hands of numerous travellers a few years back on a cruise and in many a list at the time so thought nothing of grabbing it for £1.99 in Sainsburys. Though I obviously didn’t think to read it either. I can only say I was stupid. It’s a brilliant book. A real ripper that I tore through hungrily. Many a review have likened it to a noir-ish Coen brothers story and I’d happily agree. Another book I’m glad I finally got around to reading and just in time it seems as Mr DeWitt has a new book out.

Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole is, I guess, a name that isn’t one typo away from being obscene in its native Norwegian. The Redbreast is my third Harry Hole read (well out of sequence) and fifth Nesbo novel. I was hesitant to read this after my disappointment with Head Hunters but I needn’t have been. While not as genuinely terrifying as The Snowman or quite in possession of its writer’s realised style, this third Hole novel not only works as a good stand-alone instalment but also serves up plenty of fodder for the Oslo detective to tackle in later novels and it’s a good indication as to how both the character and series develop- having now read three of which at random I do know think I’ll be better served reading them in order, though.

Reading things in order brings me to the couple of Discworld novels I re-read last month. My gradual rebuilding of my Terry Practchett collection is going nicely – I’ve also finally added and reread Men At Arms and travelled back via Guards! Guards!– if slower down to my decision to purchase and read on a less specific order than chronological. As such I’m not merely going to Waterstones and buying new (not to mention my disliking of the new cover art) but popping into used book stores and looking for specific titles – Pyramids is next on my list – or seeing what they have (there seems to be an abundance of The Hogfather). I hadn’t read either Mort or Sourcery more than the one reading I gave them at least a decade and a half ago. As such it was great to rediscover how delightfully dark the humour in Mort is and laugh as Death attempted to understand what it is to be human. I can’t, in all honesty, say quite the same for Sourcery as it took me a few false-starts to get through this one. It lacks the spark and momentum that his earlier and later novels would have and, looking at where it sits in publishing order, perhaps Sir Terry was reaching the point where he was running out of fuel for the Wizards / Witches / Rincewind stories. Indeed he’d soon branch out into other character and story arcs to populate the Disc. That’s not to say Sourcery is without its charms or humour but I’d be surprised if it was listed as anyone’s favourite of the Discworld novels.

Self-compiled; Aerosmith Pt 2

Oddly enough I like the idea of doing a split, two-parter post as it gives me something resembling a structure to post on rather than ramble – especially when current events are something I need to stay away from if only for the sake of my blood pressure and keeping that black dog at bay.

Earlier this week I got the Pre-Milk Spillage Aerosmith compilation up having been inspired by Jim over at Music Enthusiast’s post-trilogy on the Toxic Twins. Turns out that one was the easiest of my original comps to recreate on Spotify and share. For some reason Falling Off isn’t included on the streaming version of Nine Lives (I guess it was cut from international versions of the album) which meant I head to substitute it for the lesser Walk On Down and Can’t Stop Messin’ has been culled from Get A Grip but once you start substituting….Well, I wanted to get something from the latest Music From Another Dimension on there and Out Go The Lights seemed the only one to fit (I guess because the tune has its origins from the Pump era) which meant I was able to slice out some of those awful ballads that I’d no longer want to hear (and clog up most of Big Ones).

But then with an extra minute or three do any of the tracks from the period between Nine Lives and Music… warrant selection? Well, no. I, like Mr Perry (2010: “I don’t think we’ve made a decent album in years. Just Push Play is my least favorite. When we recorded it there was never a point where all five members were in the room at the same time and Aerosmith’s major strength is playing together. It was a learning experience for me: it showed me how not to make an Aerosmith record”) don’t care for Just Push Play. And, yes, I open with three from Pump and even include two more including the only one of their ballads that I can still enjoy (if you’ve seen them live and been part of the crowd that sings along to the start so loudly it shuts Steven Tyler up you’ll have a soft spot for it too) but Pump is to their latter-day period what Rocks is to their initial run; unimpeachable.

So, it was possibly the trickiest to compile and is by no means perfect but if I were to compile for CD length, tunes from the Post-Rehab (I can’t really call this one Post-Milk Spillage as I’ve selected nothing from Done With Mirrors) now it would probably look like this:

Honourable mentions go to:

Monkey On My Back

The Movie

Line Up

Heart’s Done Time


Confronted by this latest atrocity

“I think I read that we get more information in one day in modern times than people in the 1700s used to get in a whole lifetime. So if you’re every feeling crazy or overwhelmed or insignificant or frustrated or beaten down, there’s a fucking reason. It’s impossible to keep up. There’s a lot of tragedy in the world; we just didn’t used to hear about all of it… it all goes into being overwhelmed and there’s no better song than this one.”

There’s too many home fires burning and not enough trees..

The arguments for and against streaming have and will rage for a lot longer than I’ll be bothered to partake of them. Noel Gallagher recently pointed out “someone tried to sell me Spotify once and I was like, ‘Why would I want the entire fucking catalogue of the Kaiser Chiefs?” – though his argument of ‘if I want music I’ll buy it’ doesn’t necessarily work when not everyone has sold 40 million albums (not to mention the presence of his own music on the platform and that I don’t really want / need access to Dig Out Yer Soul)

There’s also the argument that the availability of so much music in one place means that archival releases and collections are diminishing – everything is already there but you have to find it first.

I’m not even going to touch the money / artist’s pay issue.

Anyway, I digress. This was supposed to be a quick one. So let’s call this rant “Advantages of Spotify, Example 53.8”

  1. Pink Floyd’s complete* discography is now there for streaming
  2. This includes The Final Cut
  3. I haven’t had to fork over cash in order to hear this, now, for the first time in full
  4. It’s cost me nothing to discover that a) it’s almost** a complete turd of an album and b) it’s a bloody good thing Gilmour kept the band going and this wasn’t it’s final release
  5. I’ve now heard the sole exception to the above. Not Now John is the only track on the album to feature Gilmour’s vocals and obvious involvement. It’s no wonder it was the lead only single released from it. It’s also a worthy and bafflingly-overlooked addition to any Pink Floyd compilation and I can’t help but enjoy hearing Mr Gilmour sing, with obvious relish “fuck all that” and wonder if, to his mind, he wasn’t singing about all the tosh that had preceded this song’s placement at the arse end of an arse of an album. Arse.

Here it is:


* No Point Me At The Sky, unfortunately.

** The Flethcher Memorial Home is alright. Though only thanks to Gilmour’s guitar arriving to pull the turgid lump away from Waters’ unconvincing wailing and When The Tigers Broke Free isn’t too bad either but that’s about it. Yep. That’s about it.





Self-compiled; Aerosmith Pt 1

There are some real simple / guilty pleasures in my music collection. They might not be ‘critical’ favourites but I’ll always stick em on.

MTV has a lot to answer for. That’s the MTV that used to be – the one that actually showed more music than reality TV. I can’t say that I’ve watched it for years. Back in the 90’s it was a gateway into a lot of music. For me, in amidst all the “holy shit” moments that came with the explosion of grunge, the video for Aerosmith’s Livin’ On The Edge was an attention grabber – Joe Perry wringing a solo out of his guitar as a freight-train barrels down on him, only to casually step out of the way all cool-as-fuck.

A few years later when the video for Falling In Love (Is Hard On The Knees) aired I went out and got the CD single (again, almost a defunct format now) but listened more to the b-sides instead – Seasons of Wither and  Sweet Emotion. It was like a taster for the early Aerosmith. So, after Big Ones I went right back to the music shop (again, a chain that has long since been relegated to the “do you remember?” list) and picked up Rocks the next day. It got, and gets, a lot more plays than that sumo-wrestler featuring comp.

Jim over at Music Enthusiast (I really need to update my blogroll etc) just finished a great 3-post wrap-up covering Aerosmith and it got me thinking about my own Aerosmith favourites. It wasn’t a deep thought, mind, as back in the days of cassettes I’d already compiled a couple for the car and – though they were on the old 90 minutes cassette and a touch of trimming was required – then done the same with CD. And, now, Spotify.

But why a self-compile in the first place? This is a band with 12 compilations to their 15 studio releases. Chiefly the length of Aerosmith’s career (now at 40+ years and counting) and the switch in record labels from Columbia to Geffen and then back meant that there was no one-stop album that would compile both until 2002’s disappointing compilation (odd song selection, ‘remix’ tracks in the running order, reeked of cash-grab) and those volumes that covered either chapter – let’s call it Pre and Post-Milk Spillage – were a little short on the run time and, therefore, missed a lot of key tracks for my tastes.

Those tracks that were cut off to fit on a CD-length comp were Downtown Charlie and Shithouse Shuffle and a longer, live version of Chip Away At The Stone replaced the studio version here. A few of these tracks (Train and Same Old Song And Dance) most definitely fare better in a live setting but that’s the way it is. Lightning Strikes or Jailbait from Rock In A Hard Place made the cut when there was more tape space but when faced with cutting for length they simply don’t hold up to the rest. Listening through this again now what strikes me most about this part of Aerosmith’s career is the rawness of the sound. Their later work would have a tendency to be more slick and over-produced in its sound as they sought the higher echelons of the chart. Prior to sobriety I guess they just wanted to tear the arse off the place.

So – here’s the slightly trimmed compilation I’ve been spinning in one form or another for the last decade or two from those early days. Starting with what has to be their greatest lead-in to a track, covering personal favourites like Seasons of Wither and the first Tyler/Perry collaboration Movin’ Out before concluding with the biographical No Surprize and, of course, Dream On:


Mother Earth Is Pregnant For The Third Time

This isn’t quite a Tracks post but the way it’s going it could well be. This is more of a “how the hell had I missed this?!” post.

My wife and I have been getting back to watching TV lately – well, more bingeing on box sets of Mad Men – after the haze of tiptoeing at night so as not to wake the little man. It gave me a desire to re-watch a bit of House again too and I was watching the episode “The Down Low” and, true to form with that show (there’s an awful lot of good music used there) the tune that played out over the conclusion was a belter. Only thing was I didn’t a) recall the episode or b) know the music – but I sat up in my chair, rewound it so that I could both get the name of the track and hear it again.

It was Maggot Brain by Funkadelic. Spotify was calling.

I mean; holy shit. This is just fucking awesome. I’m gob-smacked I’d not heard this before. To quote Wikipedia “The original recording of the song, over ten minutes long, features little more than a spoken introduction and a much-praised extended guitar solo by Eddie Hazel”. Just listening to it you can hear how many players it influenced, careers it started, bands that owe it their existence. I don’t think it would be a stretch to point to the George Clinton connection and say that the Red Hot Chili Peppers probably owe everything about their music that isn’t Kiedis finding a new rhyme for “Dope dick” to these 10 minutes.

Rolling Stone, in their entry for Eddie Hazel in their 100 Greatest Guitarists list said this:

Legend has it that funkadelic’s “Maggot Brain,” the 10-minute solo that turned the late Eddie Hazel into an instant guitar icon, was born when George Clinton told him to imagine hearing his mother just died – and then learning that she was, in fact, alive. Hazel, who died of liver failure in 1992 at age 42, brought a thrilling mix of lysergic vision and groove power to all of his work, inspiring followers like J Mascis, Mike McCready and Lenny Kravitz. “That solo – Lord have mercy!” says Kravitz of “Maggot Brain.” “He was absolutely stunning.”

Gotta be thankful for the ‘digital age’ of music here – otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to have heard the full thing by now (I watched that episode on Saturday) or found this version with Pearl Jam (and the RHCP’s Chad Smith on drums) seguing from Little Wing into Maggot Brain.

So… Right now, I’m stuck on this: