Jul 24, 2004 · 3 minute read
Fierce Panda / Nude Records
Released: July 1997 / April 1999
Highest UK Chart Position: Did Not Chart / 39
Available on: Same Band E.P.
While there are many bands who never got a chance of success, there are others that had a brief moment of fame and then infuriatingly threw it all away, often by appearing in a photo shoot with a Smurf and a panther. Ultrasound managed to avoid the dreaded blue freaks, instead building up a good reputation and blowing it on a rather poor debut album. They were a five-piece band headed up by Andrew Woods, also known, rather inappropriately as ‘Tiny’, the evil step-child of Gary Glitter and Bryan Ferry (charges have yet to be filed for custody), covered in eye-shadow and glitter. They were destined for the stars, but they ended up back in the gutters.
Everything about this song is great. It builds up gradually, creating a universe from nothing; clean organs introduce us to the stars, then a quiet guitar begins sketching out the planets, a simple sound, yet building in intensity, like prog, but more like Trevor Horn, until the lead guitar and drums burst in as a blaze of white light, with the first verse punching through the speakers shortly afterwards. This song is white; intensely pure, and yet, close up, a mongrel; a pop confection that sounds like a nine-minute epic compressed into five minutes of glory.
And what is it about? An explosion? The end of the world? Being the last inhabitants of a planet? Or just two people in love, turning up the contrast of the environment around them so they can see the delineation of the light and dark in everything, diving positives from negatives, and watching rainbows emerge from the rain? But really, who cares? It sounds wonderful.
It took Ultrasound two years after this record to release their first album, recording other excellent songs like Kurt Russell and Best Wishes, neither of which appeared on the double-CD Everything Picture, which came out in 1999 to rather large indifference. Their time in the moment had passed, and the ghastly production that watered down their songs didn’t help either. What they did to Floodlit World was a travesty; the new version sounded as if they had taken the original song and flung it into a tar pit, recording its death-throes as it struggled to reach the starlight where it once flew. I beg you, do not get the album to listen to this song. Go to the Fierce Panda website and get the Same Band E.P., or send me an email if they no longer sell it. I will send you a copy of the original so you don’t have to suffer when you could be soaring.
Jul 24, 2004 · 1 minute read
Lawrence Lessig's (part of the legal team on Outfoxed
) open letter to Bill O'Reilly
Jul 23, 2004 · 1 minute read
Underneath the star of David
A hundred years behind my eyes
And with my half of the ransom
I bought some sweet, sweet, sweet
And gave them to the night
Jul 23, 2004 · 1 minute read
Only one song today, mainly because nothing can compare to the majesty of this:
William Shatner — Common People
It's the cover you never demanded! Backed with a Casio keyboard playing the demonstration tune! TRAPPED IN A WORLD IT NEVER MADE!
Jul 22, 2004 · 2 minute read
I'm confused by the whole Sandy Berger affair
. It just seems rather strange. Firstly, who would be stupid enough to do what he did? Surely a former National Security Advisor should know better than that. The reports themselves tend to contradict; some say
that Berger removed files from the Archive, and Republicans have been spinning this to say that he was covering up for the Clinton Administration (admittedly, this is Rick Santorum, so the credibility is not high), whereas the Commission itself says that Berger only removed copies and did not affect their investigation (I can't find a link for this, but I read it last night, I promise). Then there's the odd, unsubstantiated, reports of him stuffing papers into his socks, which his lawyer vigourously denies. Plus, why did the staff of the National Archive set up a sting operation? Surely it would have been better to stop him each time they suspected that he was removing documents? That way, nothing that wasn't supposed to would have left the Archive.
Why is Bush saying that this is a serious matter, when the FBI privately says that it's really not that important? Why has this been leaked now, instead of months ago? Is the Justice Department getting ready to press charges? No, they say that the investigation is still ongoing, but they have no plans to do anything to Berger at the moment. So there's no reason for it to have leaked, apart from, say, the 9/11 report, or the Democrat Convention next week.
(There's an alternate theory going around that says that the Democrats engineered this leak, to prevent it from hanging over them as a potential election spoiler.)
I'm just confused.
(I'm on page 351 of the 9/11 report at the moment (not feeling well enough to do much else today), and there's nothing really damning, although Bush keeps on mentioning that he used to be a pilot, which I find amusing for some reason. And this:
Clarke has written that on the evening of September 12,President Bush told him and some of his staff to explore possible Iraqi links to 9/11.“See if Saddam did this,”Clarke recalls the President telling them.“See if he’s linked in any way.” While he believed the details of Clarke’s account to be incorrect,President Bush acknowledged that he might well have spoken to Clarke at some point,asking him about Iraq.
Jul 21, 2004 · 1 minute read
Who needs a secret identity anyway?
(Plus! English Kellerman! Can Naked Pirate Kellerman be far behind?)
Jul 20, 2004 · 1 minute read
This is a thing of quiet beauty:
That is all.
Jul 19, 2004 · 1 minute read
Apple introduces a new object of lust
, of music as fetish, of gigabytes and gigabytes, of perfect form and factor, of an extra 50% battery life, and of irritating everyone who bought one last week.
The music companies act all innocent and pretend they only just noticed that That's All Right will enter the public domain next year. Because I'm sure that BMG hasn't sold enough Elvis records yet. And if this means that ten years from now, people can quote Beatles lyrics without having to fork over money to Michael Jackson, I'm all for it, personally.
(as a brief aside, does anybody really think that when the new extended copyright period is up, Disney and the others are going to relinquish their copyrights? Or will they pay off a bunch of politicians again and get copyright extended to the heat-death of the universe?)
Bionic Commando lives on!
For iTunes users - Apple has released audio recordings of the 9/11 Commission Hearings. You can get them for free on iTMS. Here's Richard Clarke, for example,
My current musical obsession.
The Daily Show on possible US election 'postponements'.
Jul 18, 2004 · 3 minute read
Summer’s Last Sound / Love’s Stepping Out
Released: January 1991
Highest UK Chart Position: Did Not Chart
Available on: Not Available
POP MUSIC IS A LINE, A ONE-DIMENSIONAL JOURNEY OF ELVIS TO DYLAN TO BEATLES TO SEX PISTOLS TO JOY DIVISION TO NEW ORDER TO THE SMITHS TO BLUR TO OASIS TO THE WHITE STRIPES. A relentless progression, always moving onward, rushing to the future, couple with lists that helpfully tell you that Nevermind is ten places better than What's Going On?
This is, of course, complete bobbins. And limiting. Wouldn't it be better if we thought of it as a two-dimensional plane? We could describe The Beatles as y = 2x + 1963, and plot their influences by travelling along the line, noting cross-influences by intersecting lines. And then extend it into three dimensions, creating an image from detailing all the connections for every band. Would it just be a mess of squiggles and discontinuities, or could we find a pattern, an image, a message in the chaotic noise?
And so we find ourselves, as we inevitably do, with Disco Inferno. A band that, if rendered upon our imaginary graph, would find themselves out in the distance, passing through The Art of Noise for the briefest of moments before heading out into the unknown. A band turned inside out, guitars hooked up to computers which triggered samples, resulting in a tuneful cacophony of sound, the final evolution of Spector's Wall. And here, with this EP, Disco Inferno sent back a message to the rest of music, much like the Voyager probe sending images as it flew past Pluto and out of the confines of our solar system.
Summer's Last Sound is a mash of computer-generated tones, the cries of seagulls, and depressing lyrics. Immigrants being kicked to death, the increasing price of bread, mass graves, and the desire of wanting to keep moving. The computer shimmers and shines, sounding like the sea as the gulls come in for their carrion and we fly away again to a new destination. It is settling and unsettling, nervy and calm, centred but distanced. And almost without peer.
But it's Love's Stepping Out that reveals the heart of the band, a core that clings to romance and optimism as the world crumbles around them. Love's Stepping Out is the band approaching the wall of the universe, the point when they can travel no further on our graph, they have reached the edge of the page and there is nowhere else to go. But at that edge, they can see glimpses of another world, of new dimensions, of an undiscovered beauty. And they sent it back, with something that sounds like a harp, yet is clearly not a harp, with church bells in the distance, with an otherworldly sound that could be a screech, that could be another seagull, or could just be random noise, Against this, singer Ian Crause delivers ugly lyrics; kicking, screaming, fighting, and self-obsessed. Perhaps it's the conflict between the words and music that make this song so beautiful; the music wins in the end, cooling the rage with the sounds of the new universes, the new possibilities that await us all.
This was just the first of five EPs that Disco Inferno released. They would continue to explore the far reaches of the music cosmos before tragedy struck when their equipment was stolen. They were forced to return to the centre, cursed with the knowledge of not being able to recreate their earlier glories. The centre closed in around them, sealing off the hidden knowledge, and today, they are almost erased from history, But not quite. The Internet came along and gave us hope. In the dark corners of file-sharing networks, you can find them, waiting. Waiting for you to listen.