Friday, 1 February 2013

RW/FF With Ben P Scott #3

Written by Ben P Scott for God Is In The TV

The column where Ben P Scott recommends great new music, gives his opinions on current topics and then rewinds to relive the sounds of his past. This week thoughts on how HMV went wrong, plus new sounds from Dancing Suns, Delphic, Prince, Steve Mason and others. Then in the RW part, I return to the musical crime scene that was 1993 and reveal more of the offences committed by the 9 year old Mr Scott...

It's been a much talked about topic for weeks now, but the future of HMV is still looking uncertain. The chain's debt was recently purchased by Hilco, a restructuring firm who are rumoured to be planning to sell half of HMV's 230 outlets to other companies. I'd be sad if they sold the store in Bath. I've bought music from there for years and hope to continue doing so in the future. But over the last few years my local independent shops have been seeing more of my custom, making them my outlets of choice. But when I was young, going in HMV was like going in search of treasure.

The main floor was full of chart albums, lots of new releases, pop, rock, metal, dance, reggae and compilation albums. Plus a huge range of chart, back catalogue and import singles as well as vinyl albums, 7"s and 12"s. Upstairs was a whole floor dedicated to jazz, classical, easy listening, world music and soundtrack albums. The bottom floor in the basement was DVDs, games, t shirts and posters. In the mid to late 90's I was a (very young) club DJ, and the latest 12" dance singles could really only be bought from HMV at the time.


The Bath store was very handy for buying the first four Oasis singles about a year after they were released, and a few of those Blur singles that I missed first time round. It was the place where I excitedly rushed to on Thursday August 21st 1997 to get my copy of 'Be Here Now' and the commemorative certificate that came with it. In the late 90's the store's huge selection of budget classical releases, jazz albums and film soundtracks provided some nice additions to my collection as my tastes expanded. No other shop in my part of the country had that sort of thing, especially in terms of such a wide choice.

The independent Replay in Bath was my shop of choice, but anything I couldn't find there I could usually pick up in HMV. After Replay closed, HMV was the only place in Bath that sold the punk music that I was obsessed with throughout the mid 2000's. Soon, after becoming jobless and skint I was sucked into the world of cheap downloads and free streaming services, which I had to make do with. But soon I realised it wasn't enough and there was no substitute for the CD or vinyl LP.

Off I went to HMV for the first time in ages, and what did I find? The ground floor stocked the chart albums and popular new releases, but it was now mainly DVDs. ALL of the singles had gone, replaced by a range of overpriced headphones. The basement floor was unchanged, full of games, posters and yet more DVDs, but where had the rest of the music gone? All shoved upstairs on to the second floor, where there was obviously a lot less there than the two floors worth of CDs the shop boasted before.


In contrast, the brilliant Raves From The Grave in Frome expanded their range of music so much that they opened up a second shop in Warminster, a place that now has two floors of glorious vinyl old and new. Realising that people in Bath were without a good record shop, they've now got one there that's open on Wednesdays and Saturdays. They take great pride and pleasure in serving the music lover well, something HMV forgot to do a long time ago.

But without HMV, there will be no more major music retailers left, which means bad news for record labels and artists big and small. At the time of writing, after purchasing the debt, Hilco are soon likely to be in complete the chain and will be looking to scale it down and give it a serious revamp. But what sort of changes will they make? I just hope they make music the priority again. It's certainly worth them turning more attention to selling vinyl, since it's been revealed that sales of the format have increased by 70% in the last year.

Well, that new Delphic album is a bit disappointing isn't it? In fact it's VERY disappointing. What happened? I was expecting a positive development from their hugely promising debut 'Acolyte', which I rated rather highly. But instead of a step forward we get an album full of weak electro pop songs and ill advised attempts at trying to incorporate dubstep and hip hop into their sound. The catchy 'The Sun Also Rises' is the only exception, the only track on this record that doesn't completely fade from your memory after hearing it. The rest of this unremarkable album just isn't good enough. Avoid it.


'Goldmine' is an album from Dancing Suns, aka Nina Hynes and Fabien Leseure. I've been listening to it for a couple of weeks now, and I recommend that you do too, because you may end up playing it a lot more in the future. 'The World' is a lovely opener, a sad yet thoroughly uplifting moment sparkling with pretty arrangements, while the brilliant 'Rain' exudes moody mystique and a Morricone-esque atmosphere. This darkly elegant style also characterises my two other favourite tracks 'Cuckoo' and the haunting swoon of 'Dancing Suns', a song so good that they decided to name this whole project after it. The pistols-at-dawn feel also finds its way into the brooding baroque of 'Tarnished', providing a complete contrast to the skipping through the flowers in springtime vibe of lighter tracks like 'Safe'. My full review of 'Goldmine' will be online from next week, until then listen to 'The World' HERE, and hear 'Dancing Suns' on Volume 1 of The RW/FF Compilation HERE.

Public Service Broadcasting are an act that have been on my radar for a while now. Last year's 'Everest' single was one of my favourites of 2012, and the EPs they've released are brilliant. So I'm very glad to hear that their debut album 'Inform - Educate - Entertain' is out in May. A preview feature on that can be found HERE.


Another previously unheard Noel Gallagher song has hit the internet, the second in as many weeks. 'She Must Be One Of Us' is an awesome and rather wild moment that taps into the vibe of Bob Dylan's 'Rainy Day Women #12 and #35'. You can listen to it HERE.

Steve Mason's new album 'Monkey Minds In The Devil's Time' is out on March 11th. The single 'Oh My Lord' is a superb reminder of why I loved his work with The Beta Band and his recommended 2010 LP 'Boys Outside'. Listen to this addictive new track HERE.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club are back with a storming new single 'Let The Day Begin', the first material from upcoming album 'Specter At The Feast'. 'Let The Day Begin' is actually a cover of a song by The Call, a group that featured BRMC frontman Robert Been's father Michael Been. Following his death in 2011, this makes for a fitting tribute to Michael. You can read more about their new record and download 'Let The Day Begin' for free HERE.


Frank Turner is returning with his sixth LP 'Tape Deck Heart', which is apparently his angry, heartbroken record. After seeing Frank go from strength to strength over the years, I am very much looking forward to hearing this latest work of his. You can still grab hold of the album's first single 'Four Simple Words' as a free download by going HERE, and what a fine track it is too. Explosively melodic and massively infectious, it's taps back in to the energy of his punk years but brings forward the sort of massive chorus that a developed songwriter like himself has learned to craft. I love it.

Quite a surprise to hear a brand new Prince track that has leaked online. Even more of a surprise to hear how good it is. 'Screwdriver' is without a doubt the best thing I've heard from him in many years, it's a bit like a rampantly upbeat relative of 'Cream'. I suppose if anyone's going to make a song that sounds like vintage Prince, then Prince himself is the best person to do it. At the moment it's not clear if this track is part of a new album, but if there is one coming, wouldn't it be great if all of it was this good? 'Screwdriver' can be heard HERE.

This week sees the very first appearance of 'The RW/FF Compilation'. It's a collection of tracks from artists who have been mentioned in this column over the last few weeks, and you can listen to the first one HERE. Be sure to come back here next week for more of the finest new music known to man. Now it's time for the "rewind" bit...


I'm 9 years old, and about to start my fifth year at primary school. This was 1993 again, and my school (Aloeric School in Melksham) had each class bury a time capsule containing various items from the 20th century. With my fondness for music developing, I decided that it was important that future generations could experience popular music as it was in 1993. So what did I pick as a definitive musical representation of the 20th century and all its creative wonders? 'No Limits' by 2 Unlimited. Quite why I picked it I cannot be begin to imagine. Imagine in years to come, every single CD, tape and record is wiped out by an earth sweeping fire that also takes out all the computers, leaving the few remaining survivors with nothing left of the complete history of recorded music. Then years later, future generations of man find a time capsule from the 90's buried in Melksham. Then imagine the future inhabitants of earth marvelling at the likes of 'Tribal Dance' or 'Maximum Overdrive'. A scary thought.


Also around about this point in the early 90's I would watch MTV at my Nan and Grandad's house (since we didn't have Sky), and one of the videos in heavy rotation on MTV at the time was 'Three Little Pigs' by ridiculous comedy heavy metal group Green Jelly. With its animated video featuring plasticine pigs, this was a song which I begged my parents to buy me the 7" single of. And I got it. A pink vinyl too. Don't own it anymore though. I also pleaded with my Mum to buy me a copy of Green Jelly's album on cassette, which I also got. It had a song on it called 'Shitman' with lyrics that went "I've got poo-poo on my shoe". Enough said.

Far more important for me was the arrival of David Bowie into my musical life. I'd first seen Bowie on telly, singing at the Freddie Mercury tribute concert, and he had been appearing on the ITV Chart Show a lot since he'd just released 'Black Tie White Noise'. But I'd only really heard a couple of his tracks and for some reason at that point I still didn't really take much notice of the 'Hunky Dory', 'Aladdin Sane' and 'Diamond Dogs' LPs that my mum owned. I should have. It might have saved me from listening to mostly shite for the rest of 1993. But having said that, I was listening to more of my Mum's Beatles LPs, and was becoming quite a fan. I found it so intriguing how they seemed to have changed into a completely different band over the space of just a few years. But in those days I was definitely more fond of their earlier work, easy to singalong to and simply the best pop music there ever was. 


During this year, my Mum was listening to REM's 'Automatic For The People' a lot, a record which had increased in popularity since its release the previous year. This was around summer 1993, when we got our red tabby cat Max, who would live with us for 19 years. I remember seeing the videos to 'Man In The Moon', 'Drive', 'Everybody Hurts' and 'The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite' quite often on the ITV Chart Show. I used to buy Smash Hits every so often too, and at this point they had a weekly cut-out cassette booklet. The idea of this was that if you had a homemade compilation tapes of songs from a favourite group, then one of these cut-out booklets could be used as the cover. I remember REM being one of the artists featured once. In the 'facts' part of the booklet was information such as Michael Stipe's obsession with skateboarding and his unusual habit of swimming in his garden pond. I didn't know what to believe. I just knew that this band were producing some really great songs. Far less brilliant was my Mum's other often-played album of the time, 'Diva' by the diabolically bland Annie Lennox.


My Dad was keen on reggae, and Bob Marley would be on the stereo in his van a lot. He also liked UB40, and so did I after hearing 'Labour Of Love'. But their weak cover of 'I Can't Help Falling In Love' wasn't easy to escape from since it was number one at the time, and I became quite keen on that. There was a cassette of their album 'Promises And Lies', but aside from that hit single I can't remember a thing about the other tracks. I was able to hear Elvis because of my Dad's double cassette 'Presley' album, featuring all the hits. But it was his copy of the 'Elvis Love Songs' LP that I seemed to play a lot. 


But I was still too young to know good music from bad music. It all just sounded like a load of songs. You have to grow a bit and hear more of what's out there to set a standard. Because otherwise you'll end up like one of those people that buys X Factor singles and who accepts any old rubbish that's played to them. And I suppose in a way, listening to stuff like 2 Unlimited, Right Said Fred, Shaggy and Green Jelly taught me what bad music was. Well it did after I had learned how awful it was compared to the real treasure out there in the musical world. 


My Dad's mate Brian (not the one from the band I mentioned in last week's column) ran a second hand shop near where my Great Nan lived. In fact junk shop would probably be a more appropriate term for it, a dark and dusty place that smelt odd and had boxes of records for sale. Which is where my Dad bought me a 7" copy of 'West End Girls' by the Pet Shop Boys and worse, Meatloaf's atrocious 'Bat Out Of Hell', which I played to death. Nowadays the mere thought of that album frightens me. What a TERRIBLE record. I don't know what was worse, that or the hideously overblown sack of excrement that was 'I Would Do Anything For Love', a song which I still didn't have the good taste to stay away from. Awful, awful shite. I had a cassette copy of Bat Out Of Hell II too. Now THAT'S just wrong.

But despite now being aware that 'I Would Do Anything For Love' is a true abomination, hearing it still gives me this nostalgic sensation that some would mistake for the feeling they get when they hear a good song. But because I know this song is subconsciously attached to my childhood, that's why it still sounds powerful to me. Despite being shit. I hope you know what I mean.

But I know enough good music to know that David Bowie will always sound great in a sentimental way AND in terms of knowing you're listening to some truly great work. His impact on my life was absolutely pivotal. And yes, you'll have to wait next week for more about that...

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