Zero Le Creche – Last Years Wife

I have just unearthed a classic that obviously has completely passed me by; then again, it was 32 years ago.zerolecreche01

Goth band ‘Zero le Creche’ released the Single ‘Last Years Wife’ (Flicknife) in 1984 hitting number 11 in the indie charts and was featured as runner up single of the week in the Melody Maker. Produced by Henry Padovani, it was their biggest hit in their short career and at the time was popular on the Goth scene.

I discovered this gem whilst reading the brilliant book ‘Sharp! Flicknife & Other Adventures’. On page 152 Zero Le Creche become Flicknife Records first Goth band signing and 32 years later, here I am searching them out on the Internet. I love the melodies and particularly the silky smooth vocals; the style is of the goth era, I’d say it has a commercial slant, sort of a ‘Psychedelic Furs’, early ‘Cure’ meets Bauhaus.

The band line up consisted of Andy Nakanza (vocals), Terry Miles (bass), Richard Ollie (drums) & Andy Mitchell (guitar). Not too long after this release Nakanza (real name Andy Manning & sometimes credited as Nkanza) quit the band and was replaced by vocalist Jamie Lord. In 1985 second single ‘Falling’ (Cherry Red) was released but without anything near the same success as their debut, soon after they disappeared from view. I suspect losing the original vocalist played a big part in this turn of misfortune which is a shame really.

They re-surfaced in 2008 with a 21 track album featuring all of the songs from the ‘Last Years Wife’ EP, second single ‘Falling’ and a host of previously unreleased studio recordings (plus one live). Another EP was released in 2010 entitled ‘Silence Speaks’.

Original vocalist Andy Nakanza resurfaced in 1986 fronting ‘Boom Boom Room’ releasing ‘Here Comes The Man’ (Epic) which peaked at 74 UK national charts in 1986.

Hindsight is always a better judge in life; for whatever reasons Andy Nakanza departed from the band, in my opinion, had he stayed, I think that both he and Zero Le Creche would have steered a much more successful direction and who knows! Maybe gone on to much bigger things.

Auto-Pilot – 8-Zero

Electronic music from the late 70’s to early 80’s is encapsulated in this latest release from Auto-Pilot. This album, with its retro sound & strong tracks really captures that magic era of Synth-pop. The early influences are all in there, Gary Numan, Japan, Human League, Kraftwerk etc

You can unearth this gem at the following links –

i-Tunes    Amazon     Junodownload

 

Japan – Gentlemen Take Polaroids

 

36 Years Ago Today…

Way back in the late 70’s to early 80’s a truly superb band existed making highly original music seemingly following no particular style. They were amongst a small numberjapan-gentlemen-take-polaroids-1 of similar bands that the press at the time labelled the New Romantics. Japan competed against the likes of Duran Duran, Visage & Spandau Ballet etc but being much less commercial in sound they tended to hover in the shadows. For me, Japan were, and still are, the true kings of the genre, the real leaders who deserved the crown purely for cool, originality and ability.

Exactly 36 years ago today, October 24th 1980, ‘Gentlemen Take Polaroids’ was the first Japan album released on Virgin. It received moderate success reaching 51 in the album charts and the single of the same name reaching 60. Two years later in 82, ‘Night Porter’ reached 29 in the UK singles chart.  For me, this album is one of the best there has ever been, admittedly, it is a matter of taste, all music is but something stirred real deep inside when I first listened. Something so refreshingly different, it really hit a nerve.

By 1983 the japan-gentlemen-take-polaroids-2band was no more, disintegrating into history. I had the real fortune of seeing them live not just once but twice during two different tours, the last of which was promoting their final album ‘Tin Drum’. Another great album and tour but that first gig, one year before remains to this day the best band & live experience I have ever seen and this album being amongst the best of the best.

If you have never heard Japan you could be in for a treat, maybe dive straight in and play ‘Night Porter’ with its haunting aura, just simply wow, what a song, a timeless classic beyond belief.

Track Listing –

  1. Gentlemen Take Polaroids
  2. Swing
  3. Burning Bridges
  4. My New Career
  5. Methods of Dance
  6. Ain’t The Peculiar
  7. Nightporter
  8. Taking Islands in Africa

Johnny Come Latelys – Messiah Complex Part 1 (EP)

Manchester, the sprawling metropolis of the north, home to so many of the coolest bands ever to have graced our music scene and within this melee of clambering talent sat Supajamma, fronted by ex Audioweb vocalist Sugar. Sadly the band with the wonderful fronting Sugar demised and dispersed into the world of ex band members.

Two of these ex band member, Simon Collier (bass) & Dan Adams (drumjcls), re-emerges in the form of ‘Johnny Come Latelys’ where Simon conceived, composed and performed almost all of this 4 track EP alone with a little help from Donna Marie Stevens (backing vocals). Take the vocals away and the overall sound still carries the ghost of Supajamma.

It oozes northern urban grit, harsh reality, just getting out of bed and trying to survive knowing you can see what others seemingly pass unnoticed.  It’s all rolled and mangled into one in this, the ‘Messiah Complex Part 1’…

Kicking off is ‘The Truth Behind The Lies’, with its harsh undercurrent of distortions and wavering vocals (aren’t pretty but suit to a T) washed in echo, its angry, its real and raw. A politically charged rant at the bad world we get spewing from our TV sets, the evil that men do, the lies that glorify and the possible bleak future facing us all etc. It’s a biting snarling track making its point very clearly and in the context of the whole offering is the ideal starter.

The following three tracks (from this 4 track EP), have more of the same subject wise but do vary the groove, being clever, well produced & interesting. The vocals are nowhere near sublime but suit the style and blend into this dark world of the Messiah Complex Part 1. For me, the stand out track has to be ‘Saved the Day’. A beautiful slow groove that drives on and on, the message remains the same but the feeling has dropped into a more acceptance of the World and society that we have no choice but to live within it.

It’s a solid EP, with a true message that’s delivered well, so head on over to Band Camp (links below) and downloads your copy of the Messiah Complex Part 1. Get mad about it!

Links – Band Camp

 

The Hermit – The Gate (broque.de 113)

Broque have a history or releasing superb electronic music covering the leftfield, fringe & ‘off the wall’ side of the style, all of which are totally free to download, latest offering being ‘the Gate’ from ‘The Hermit’, a spiritual theme & journey that does not disappoint. Soaked with an eerie feeling of post industrial electronica, laced with samples and drones, The Gate leaves the aftertaste of emotion long after playing.brq113

Almost a concept or is it full on, I don’t know but each track does bridge over
aiding your own mind to journey on through. Even the song titles suggest a journey or a mission of sorts arriving at the Gate after passing through the Gate Keeper we arrive at my first stand out track ‘Kumara’. This track with its deep driving drone bass really pulled me in there and made that connection.

Aftermath of ‘Kumara’ is ‘the Entrance’ so I take it I am about to leave the outside world and go inside. Well the sound and the mood certainly change at this point onward. Passing through ‘Mirrored’ & ‘Judge’ I now find my stand out number two in the form of ‘Totality’. This is a great synth sequence driven track with a real retro feel, like finding an old demo from the late 80’s and brushing it down with a new master. Final destination track ‘Sky Apokryphen’ (listed as a bonus track)  has that perfect end feeling.

Both weird and interesting in its audio designs and delivery, I like The Gate, I’ll leave it open and play some more when the mood takes me.

For more info and downloads go visit www.broque.de

Lou Rhodes New Album Theyesandeye

The best Albums released so far this year 1 Blackstar David Bowie 2 Night Thoughts Suede 3 A Moon Shaped Pool Radiohead 4 Earth Neil Young and now 5 Theyesandeye Lou Rhodes.Lou Rhodes has released a genre defying album yes she sounds American and she reminds me in phases of many many other singer songwriters.The atmosphere is gentle ambient the lyrics vivid dreamy hankering by suggestion for a more peaceful past but without denying the present…..a stunning new release which deserves the high praise it seems to be getting and one which might have to have the cd i have joined by the vinyl version.The emotional impact of this album has really taken me back in time.xxxx

lou rhodes

Kevin Ayers First five albums box set

Having a pop at major labels and their transparent remake-remodel stratagems in relation to their legacy artists, releasing mammoth box sets that will in all probability be played in their entirety no more than twice, a ruse aimed squarely at milking the wallets of those of us of a certain age is as easy as shooting fish in a barrel, as the saying goes.

Nope, for once – and it is once, I can’t recall it happening before – I am giving praise where praise is due to one of the big players. A major label, in this case Universal, and they do not come any more major than that, has found a neat way to repackage the catalogues of artists from the golden age of rock’n’roll, this time aimed at those of us with more sense than money. This series of releases takes five or so albums from the discographies of artists who for the most part did not quite make the major league in terms of sales, and comes under the banner “Original Album Series”. They make ideal replacements for worn out vinyl or as collection gap-fillers. I will now witter on about one of the more essential of these boxes…

As I write, for a mere £10.10 chucked in the direction of the corporate tax dodgers who shall remain nameless you can have the first five, and frankly the best solo albums of the reluctant pop star genius known as Kevin Ayers. The CDs are all the last remastered versions, and the package is a no-frills no-bonus tracks slimline box, and forms a perfect introduction to one of England’s finest songwriters.

Joy Of A Toy

A worrisome trait throughout Kevin’s career was his dodging, consciously or otherwise, of potential success every time it beckoned. The first instance of this came in 1968 when Kevin sold his bass guitar to Noel Redding and fled to Ibiza after the rigours of a seemingly endless Soft Machine tour of the States supporting Jimi Hendrix, who had given him an acoustic Gibson on the promise that he would not, as threatened, retire from the music biz completely. Obviously inspired by Hendrix’s faith in him Kevin came up with the songs that would form his first solo album. Backed by his by now former Soft Machine colleagues, including Daevid Allen, and his mate David Bedford, a consummate arranger and musical polymath, Joy Of A Toy sets the scene for Kevin’s highly individualistic and accessible songwriting style.

Hints of Kevin’s darker side come through in some of the lyrics, but this is mostly a highly enjoyable collection of charmingly naive sun-kissed ditties and daft larking about, its playful nature no doubt in part a reaction to the more earnest direction his former band were headed in.

Highlights – Song For Insane Times, Eleanor’s Cake (Which Ate Her), The Lady Rachel

Shooting At The Moon

By 1970’s Shooting At The Moon, Kevin had assembled a proper working band around him, formed earlier in the year to tour Joy Of A Toy. Naming them The Whole World, our glorious leader retained David Bedford on various keyboards and occasional guitar, and he was joined by saxophonist Lol Coxhill, whom Kevin discovered busking in the street. Then there was drummer Mick Fincher, and an extremely young Mike Oldfield on bass. Mike’s melodious style is evident from the off, taking a lead line in one of Kevin’s timeless classics, the wistfully romantic May I?, which works even better in French as Puis Je?, sadly but understandably not available on this “no frills” box set.

Oldfield also gets to play his instantly recognisable lead guitar on Lunatics Lament, and with the benefit of youthful fire in his belly, contributes a full-on psych wigout halfway in. The song, with Kevin on bass and featuring his semi-buried treated vocal is structured like one of the Velvet Underground’s rockier ventures as it lurches along in fine acidic fashion.

Contrasting his now trademark and seemingly effortless songs with a fast developing experimental side, Shooting At The Moon shows no little ambition and encapsulates the “anything goes” mantra of the era. In the mad professor’s sound laboratory, strange effects and edits punctuate second track Rheinhardt & Geraldine/Colores Para Dolores, and Pisser Dans Un Violin, which luckily for the instrument in question has no violin in earshot. Pisser…features Lol Coxhill in characteristic avant-garde mood on electric sax. This eight minute ending to side one of the original album is an intriguing sound collage that the less adventurous would describe as filler. It isn’t, but I will admit it is probably twice as long as it needed to be; semi-filler then, the sort that falls out of that hole in the wall after six months.

Highlights – May I?, Lunatics Lament, Red Green And You Blue

Whatevershebringswesing

After the inevitable break up of The Whole World came the recording of Kevin’s most commercially successful album. Whatevershebrinswesing was released in November 1971 and most of his old road band play on the record, along with cameos from Robert Wyatt and Didier Malherbe. This album saw the fusing of experimentation and straight songwriting that was pioneered on Shooting At The Moon work to its best effect.

This has always been my favourite album of Kevin’s and it is a treat from start to finish. From David Bedford’s orchestral introduction to the seven minute song suite There is Loving/Among Us/There is Loving to the closing babbling brook of Lullaby there is no surplus fat or throwaway nonsense on this record. Includes perhaps his most well-known tune, the rock’n’roll smoking songStranger In Blue Suede Shoes, which features some dazzling piano work, again from David Bedford. There are some great contributions throughout from the other players, once more including Mike Oldfield on both bass and lead, and combined with Ayers’ growing lyrical confidence, the record is a category-defying masterpiece, with everything from waltzes to dark experimentation at the bottom of a well.

Highlights – put it this way, there aren’t any lowlights. If you only buy one Kevin Ayers album, buy this one!

Bananamour

May 1973 would see the release of Kevin’s last album for Harvest Records for three years, and probably his most accessible to date for the iconic label. Another new band was assembled under the name Decadence, and there are guest appearances from Wyatt again, and Mike Ratledge. Also appearing is Steve Hillage, who was to be only a temporary member of the band, soon to return to France and Gong. Steve contributes some highly melodic runs to another of Ayers’ more well-known tunes, Shouting In A Bucket Blues. That song and album opener, the faux-soul-shouter Don’t Let It Get You Down hint at Kevin’s battle with demons unspecified, but he was a glass half-full guy, as the lyric “I say to everyone who thinks there’s no way out…Baby if you all shout, someone will hear you” attests.

The experimental and psychedelic edges are well represented by Interview and Decadencerespectively, the latter with some highly acerbic lyrics aimed at Nico. The album also features Kevin’s tribute to Syd Barrrett, with Oh! Wot A Dream being done “in the style of” through a Kevin Ayers filter, with some very touching lyrics.

Around this time Kevin somehow avoided having a hit with the very catchy and very kitsch-calypso single Caribbean Moon, a song that in any other hands would be cringeworthy, but Kevin turns it into a joyous muckabout – you may recall the supremely silly video! Not on this budget version of the album, unfortunately.

While Bananamour does not hit the dizzy heights of its predecessor, it is still a great listen.

Highlights – Shouting In A Bucket Blues, Oh! Wot A Dream, Hymn

The Confessions of Dr Dream and Other Stories

A year has passed, and Kevin has decamped to Island Records. May 1974 sees the world mostly ignore The Confessions of Dr Dream and Other Stories, the last CD in this rather scrumptious box but the first to feature guitarist Ollie Halsall. Kevin’s reaction on first hearing him play was “love at first solo”, quite understandably. Ollie, previously with the marvellously tight-but-loose jazzrockers Patto was a much underrated player who could turn his talented hands to any style required, and was easily as gifted as Clapton or Beck. Halsall and Ayers from this point on formed a long working relationship and friendship that lasted until the guitarist’s untimely substance-aided demise in 1992.

This time round the idea of “a band plus guests” is abandoned for a long list of illustrious aiders and abetters, including Rupert Hine, Steve Nye, Mike Oldfield, Michael Giles, Nico (they must have kissed and made up!), Geoffrey Richardson, and Lol Coxhill, to name but a few.

It doesn’t take Ollie long to introduce himself, and on Didn’t Feel Lonely Till I Thought Of Youhe unleashes some furiously acidic runs that take the otherwise langrous groove off into space. Wonderful stuff! It Begins With A Blessing reprises Ayers’ riff from the old Soft Machine song Why Are We Sleeping?, now reimagined as the theme of a smoky psychedelic blues song cycle.

The focal point of the album is the sprawling title track that occupied all bar the final one and half minutes of side two of the original vinyl release. A dark entry with a typical mantra-like vocal from a disembodied Nico warns of Irreversible Neural Damage from too many drugs, maaan, presaging Dr Dream’s tuneful presrcriptions and a long surreal trip ending with the Dr Dream Theme, a relentless and slowly building funeral march, the stuff of nightmares. Kevin was never going to leave us dangling in the dark, and the last track Two Goes Into Fouris as charmingly winsome as it gets.

This album is far more focused and densely packed than the earlier works and the title track takes a bit of getting into, but once you dig below the surface it is an absorbing piece of work.

Highlights – Didn’t Feel Lonely Till I Thought Of You, Everybody’s Sometime And Some People’s All The Time Blues, It Begins With A Blessing/Once I Awakened/But It Ends With A Curse

When it came to the crunch, Kevin Ayers was always more comfortable in the company of a bottle of decent vino and a good woman than he ever was under the spotlight, and he never took himself or the music business too seriously. Kevin was a consummate story teller and bon viveur whose love of life shone through, despite the sense of melancholy that permeates a goodly part of his work, thus illuminating another side of his character. These quirky and infectious tunes will live long in the memory of those of us who love the old-fashioned English eccentric’s take on life.

Had he had more ambition, who knows where he may have ended up, but wherever that might have been, the man at the end of that trip would not have been the Kevin Ayers we recognise. As it is Kevin has left us with a good number of timeless songs that do not require their creator to have had fame and success in order to justify their rightful place in rock’s rich tapestry.

“Let’s drink some wine/And have a good time/But if you really want to come through/Let the good times have you…”

Kevin Ayers – 16/8/1944-18/2/2013 – RIP – …and thank you very much…KEVIN AYERS BOX SET