Category: Birmingham

Pigbros: Just Call Me God

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Cake 1987.  12 PIECE 5

Discogs

HansPeterExtra wanted a re-up of the Pigbros album I posted a while back.  I’m reluctant to do it because it sounds awful and needs re-doing with my fancy new cartridge – for some reason it’s particularly good at salvaging something listenable from poorly pressed LPs.  The problem is that about 2/3 of my vinyl is in storage because I’m about to emigrate – and that includes the Pigbros LP, so it’ll have to wait till I’m installed in my new abode.

However, this rather fine single is still on my shelves, so maybe it’ll tide him over till then.  I think it was their last – it’s certainly a step up from their earlier work in terms of polish, and the sound quality is decent for once.  The two tracks are excellent – both with really funky bass lines and Fuzz Townsend’s exciting drumming.  I could live without two versions of each, but it reminds me of why I used to go see them so often back then.

I’ve moaned in the past about the non-availability of live Pigbros material – well I found some the other day.  There’s a Mermaid gig (which I was at) here, and their Peel sessions here.  Both are horrible MP3s, but as far as I’m aware, they’re not available anywhere else.

The Davidsons: Astronaut

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Cake 1988. 12 PIECE 6

Discogs

I came across this the other day as I was packing up my vinyl for my impending emigration.  I don’t remember buying it and I know nothing about the band.  There’s nothing on line either, except according to Discogs they did an album.

It’s on Birmingham based Cake records, so I assume, like everyone else they had on their roster, the band were from Birmingham.  I must have bought this because it was cheap and on Cake, or maybe I picked it up at a gig.  I went to so many gigs back then, I struggle to remember many of them.

So is it worth a listen?  Well I quite like it.  Nicely funky, and unlike the far superior Pigbros (also on Cake), reasonably well recorded.  The remixed version is a very odd affair with lots of middle eastern percussion.  The singer unfortunately is pretty awful, but even that fits with the late 80s indie thing.

Electribe 101: Tell Me When The Fever Ended (Remix)

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Mercury 1989.  Mercury 876 231-1

Discogs

Electribe 101 were a short-lived project championed by Peel, as was so much on this blog, but which folded due to an unjust lack of commercial success and stupid arguments with their label.

They were, in theory a house music band, composed of 4 electronics geeks from Birmingham and a rather wonderful but improbably named German singer; Billie Ray Martin.  The result was a slick but soulful sound which sounded rather incongruous when Peel played it, but he was spot on about how good they were.

Billie Ray Martin, as befits someone with such a great voice has had a long and interesting career since, but I’m not at all certain what happened top the rest of the band.  By an odd co-incidence this track was written by Larry Heard, aka Mr Fingers.

The Very Things: Mummy, You’re A Wreck

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Reflex Records 1985.  12Re09

Discogs

FuseRed from the excellent Radio Session blog asked for a re-up of a fine Very Things album I posted a while back, which reminded me of this equally fine single.  The A side (which I think is a cover) deals with one of the bands numerous obsessions – 1950s B movie horror, not that they sound anything at all like the Cramps.  In fact the singer sounds like he’s from a 1920s music hall, backed by an 80s indie band.  The B side abandons the horror theme with a tale about the mess father got in when he did some wallpapering.  I realise none of this sounds terribly appealing, but this is a great single.  I’ve also re-upped the album if you want more.

On a more mundane subject, I’m having filehost problems.  Ultramegabit are doing some sort of maintenance, which has meant their links have been very temperamental for a few days.  The files are still there, so I’m hoping they’ll sort things soon.  I have no time to move the files somewhere else, so you’ll just have to be patient.  While you’re waiting you could check out some older posts – pretty much everything with 4shared, zshares and mega links should be working.  Most of the slingfile links are down, but that still leaves around 140 working.

This file is on rapidshare which is an experiment.  Let me know how it goes and maybe I’ll use them more.

Various Artists: A Baker’s Dozen From Vindaloo

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Vindaloo Records 1986.  YUS 8

Discogs

This is a sampler for Vindaloo, the Brum label run by Robert Lloyd.  It’s best known for discovering We’ve Got A Fuzzbox And We’re Gonna Use It, represented here several times.  In their early days they were probably the most incompetent band I’ve ever seen, but they were charming, fun, and wrote some decent material.  I also thought they did a good job during their chart phase, although that was never really my thing.

However, for me Vindaloo’s main achievement was Ted Chippington, the otherworldly non-comedian I first saw supporting The Fall.  You may well hate him – most do, but his belligerant refusal to obey even the most basic rules of comedy made him utterly unique as a performer.  There’s none of his stand-up here, just some musical “numbers”, which are hilarious if you get it; the worst karaoke you’ve ever heard if not.  She Loves You got some daytime radio play (Steve Wright liked it as I recall) and was a minor hit.  Yes, it’s a joke, but I think he performs it with real pathos.

Normally I like the Nightingales, but here they were in a weird Country and Western phase which I thought was terrible.

Micky Greaney: Little Symphonies For The Kids

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Not on label.  1994.  LITSYM009

Not listed on Discogs

I kicked this blog off back in February with Micky Greaney’s unreleased second album.  “Michael” was keen to hear his debut, so here it is.

I wrote quite a lot about Mickey back in February, so I won’t repeat the tragic story of his musical career here, but I will update it.  Micky’s low key return to music making is continuing, with infrequent gigs at small venues.  However his rather glamorous band is no more – I don’t know what the story is, but I guess they grew tired of a lack of progress and a lack of money.  He’s now playing with a young keyboard player, and a cellist who, bizarrely I used to work with.  It’s actually an improvement – with Mickey the less backing he has, the more effective his material, so while I prefer him solo with an acoustic guitar, this new band is an improvement I think.  He’s still making promises about an album in the pipeline, but I’ll believe that when it happens.

This album is the closest he’s ever come to releasing anything properly.  It’s a commercially produced silver CD with proper artwork, but he had no record contract and self released it.  I don’t know why it happened that way – back in ’94 there was quite a buzz around Micky and it’s surprising a label didn’t pick this up.  It doesn’t sound like a self- released album; it’s actually pretty slick, thanks I guess to producer Bob Lamb (not as big a name as John Leckie who produced Micky’s second album, but a name none-the-less).  Lamb’s involvement, and the money which was obviously spent on this album makes the self release even stranger.  Maybe the idea was that a low key release would be picked up by a major as happened to The Lilac Time (also with a Bob Lamb production).

I absolutely love this album, and it’s purely down to the songwriting and Micky’s delivery.  For me the production only distracts from that and I’d sooner it was recorded as a demo, but really, I’m happy just to be able to listen to it at all.

I bought my copy of this CD, which is now impossible to find, from Micky after a gig.  It has no artwork, so thanks to Andrew for sending me a scan of his.  I really wish Micky was making money from this himself, but there’s no sign of that.  Hopefully hearing this might persuade a few people to go to one of his gigs (rarely outside Birmingham though I’m afraid).

Pigbros: From Now On This Will Be Your Ideal Life

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Cake Records 1987. CAKELP1

Discogs

This is Birmingham band Pigbros’s only album, released at the tail end of their short career.  It was, as I recall entirely ignored and I don’t think they sold many copies.  I guess they’d pretty much reached the end of the line by the time it came out and they didn’t promote it.  In fact even though I was a regular at their gigs, I was barely aware that this existed and bought it second hand some time after the event in Selectadisc in Nottingham.

It’s like much of their output – some great songs, well performed with interesting lyrics, let down by ropey production and a murky sound.  I guess those things cost money and I doubt they had much of it.  It’s a shame because their live sound was great – I’d love to find a bootleg, but I think I’ll be waiting a long time.  No sign of them jumping on the indie reunion bandwagon like so many of the other bands I used to see back then either.

Despite those limitations, this is a great album.  One of the tracks (Cheap Life) has appeared here before, but this is a slightly different version.  It remains a stand-out, but I also love much of the rest, especially The Way Things Currently Are.  The guitar playing is much funkier than you’d expect from a bunch of brummy indiepopsters (maybe they’d been listening to ACR?) and Fuzz Townsend’s muscular and inventive drumming backs it all up very nicely.  Live the occasional appearance of Svor Naan’s rudimentary sax playing worked well, with a sinister bottom-of-a-well sound, but here it just sounds a bit lame.

For me this is a much more enjoyable listen if you pay attention to the detail.  When the overall sound isn’t brilliant, concentrate maybe on the guitar work or the drumming – if you do it suddenly works much better and you wonder how they failed to make the album sound much better than it does.

Further listening? Ha, don’t make me laugh.  Away from this blog I doubt you’ll find anything.  I’ll gradually post the rest of their output – I have everything they did except a flexi.

Birdland: Live

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Lazy Recordings 1989.  lazy 16T

Discogs

Back in the 1980s, the economics of music were different.  Going to see bands was pretty cheap, but buying recorded music was expensive.  In those days, touring was a way of drumming up record sales, whereas now it’s reversed and the prices reflect that.  So it was astonishingly generous of Birdland to give this album away at gigs.  OK, it’s one sided and has no cover or tracklisting, but for free, who’s complaining.

The band used to drink in the same pub as me and I found them annoying.  They’d hold court in the corner of the pub with their bleached hair and glamorous looking entourage, while I’d be sitting elsewhere, not looking good, with my mates who were also not looking good.  I must admit that I did quietly rejoice when they fell out of favour as quickly as they arrived.  I really wanted them to be a terrible band, but the problem is, they weren’t, as this live album shows.  They did loud, chaotic punk influenced rock’n’roll, with no quiet songs to show their sensitive side.  That this live album, which I assumed would be quite rare turns out to be close to worthless demonstrates that the uncoolness they acquired so quickly has never gone away, and perhaps that explains why their career was so short.  The performance here is a bit of a shambles, and the sound isn’t great – although there was little audible bass on their studio recordings too, but it captures the energy of a really exciting live band.  Listening to it now after many years it’s actually better than I remember.  This kind of music is timeless, and I’ve long since forgotten how annoying they were in the pub.

I didn’t quite get the tracks divided properly when I ripped this, so one of the files has 2 songs.  I could fix it, but it’s late and I want to go to bed.  Sorry.

Robert Lloyd: Funeral Stomp

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Virgin 1990. VST1196

Discogs

This was the final single of Robert Lloyds brief solo career. I’ve posted his two indie singles here and here.  This suffers somewhat from major label over-production which as I recall alienated his existing fan base while failing to win any new ones.  As a result it featured heavily in bargain bins throughout the 90s.  However underneath all of that it’s a decent enough song, and the B sides didn’t suffer so much from the production, so are more rewarding listens.

The last track features Peter Byrchmore on guitar.  I went to school with him, although he was in the year above me, so he was never a friend.  The riff he plays here is very familiar – I’ve heard him use it live, but not with Robert Lloyd, or even I think the Nightingales, who he’s best known for playing with.   It’ll come to me eventually.

Pigbros: The Blubberhouses

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Vinyl Drip 1985.  DRIP 3

Discogs

Another Vinyl Drip release and another debut EP, this time from Brum’s Pigbros who I’ve featured before.  Like Cheap Life there’s some great material here and it’s well played, but it’s a bit let down by the production which doesn’t capture the power they had live.  However it’s not hard to see through that limitation and see this for the inventive debut it was.  There’s a dark gothy feel to much of it – a sinister guitar sound, lyrics often with a slightly subversive political edge and some great drumming.

This EP is notable for the one obvious recorded appearance of drummer Fuzz Townsend’s trademark tin bath on the track Excessive.  Before Pigbros he was often to be seen busking with it, especially in the piss filled pedestrian underpasses near Birmingham fruit and veg market, but here it’s been incorporated into his kit.  As Pigbros neared the end of their career the tin bath had started to disintegrate under the assault from Fuzz’s sticks.  Maybe that was why they split up?