Greeting once again pop pickers and welcome to Counter Culture 8. As 2013 slips away over the horizon new seems a good time to take a look back at my musical highlights of the year. So which fuzzy warbles buttered your toast? Well no prizes for guessing what my album of the year was. Bowie’s ‘Next Day’ was a triumph. Who else could come back from a ten year hiatus with such a killer record? Taking into account all the extra tracks that came with the deluxe box such as ‘Atomic’, ‘Born In The USA’ and the superb ‘Rocketman’ it wins top billing. It was the year of the Dave! What with reissues of “Earthling” on vinyl, the five CD box set of the last five albums (all expanded), the remastered “Aladdin Sane” and the V&A exhibition it was game set & match!
Whilst talking reissues I was very impressed with the Eric Clapton box set: “Give Me Strength”. I first saw Clapton at Hammersmith Odeon in 1975, (I was very young of course). The album of the time was “There’s One In Every Crowd” which had Eric continuing with the loose, laid back vibe that was so successful on ‘461 Ocean Boulevard’!
There’s some superb bonus material this time round as sometimes these collections can suffer from fillers and long jams which can be on the tedious side. But tracks like Peter Tosh’s "Burial’ and ‘Whatcha Gonna Do" plus all the extras on the live “EC Was Here” make this a must for all "Slowhand" fans.
Also a big thumbs up to Ace Records for rediscovering the vinyl format. I loved “Nippon Girls”, a superb collection of groovy girl pop from the land of the rising sun and similarly “C’est Chic” and “Tres Chic”, a double helping of female French 60’s nuggets. All three lovingly packaged by the Ace gang.
I have to admit to being unaware of Jonathan Wilson prior to the release of “Fanfare” on Bela Union Records. But this should put him on the map. Anyone with a love of C.S.N should check this out, it’s full of superbly played West-Coast tinged acoustic rock and in my view one of the standout album of the year.
Bowie wasn’t the only ‘Old Timer’ to come up with the goods in 2013. Sir Lord of Macca chipped in with an excellent album, “New” is McCartney doing what he does the best. Melodically strong, lyrically interesting it’s very Beatle’ish but also contemporary as well. Another thing in ‘news’ favour is there’s no obligatory ‘Twee’ track to skip pass! Always a bonus.
Rise Above Records are always worth checking out. Usually the bands on the label are the Sabbath end of retro・rock but “Of This and Other Worlds” by Scotland’s Hidden Masters is probably more Moby Grape than Uriah Heep. It’s a pretty stunning effort and a real shop favourite. Next up a couple of bands who’ve been around a while and have a loyal fanbase. King Khan & The Shrines “Idle No More” has apparently disappointed some garage rock aficionados for it’s more poppy sound but hey, things move forward and this is great. Any student of-60’s rock will find much to enjoy.
The Dirtbombs 6th album “Ooeey Gooey Chewy Ka-Blooey” is if you didn’t guess a tribute to the 60’s U.S. bubblegum rock scene with a difference. Instead of covers we have a originals but in the style of 1910 fruit gum co and the lemon pipers which is right up my jolly old strasse!
Crocodiles’ third album “Crime Of Passion” is a big stop forward. They’ve taken their C68 sound and added great hooks and melodies. Check it out. This is one of my albums of the year!
Finally on the music front is the splendidly titled Star Spangled Banana! With their masterpiece of bubblegum groovieness; “Pebbles 2000”!. These guys sound like they were buried in rubble underneath pandras nightclub on sunset strip in 1966, preserved in ice only to be reawakened by some right thinking individual to carry the fight against the banality of ‘reality pop’. An unlikely contingency I’ll agree but it worked for Adam Adamant!
A quick mention to a few DVD & TV shows that have impressed me. ‘Hear My Train A Comin’ breams new life into the Jimi Hendrix story, which is no mean feat given the plethora of books and films which have previously come down the dustpipe. As the director is none other than fabs anthology man Bob Smeaten you’d expect nothing else. ‘Going Underground’ examines the same era from the perspective of the English counter culture with special reference to Paul McCartney’s involvement. Macca soaked up many influences from his dalliance with the avant-garde which would of course go onto feature on albums like “Revolver” and “Sgt. Pepper”. A little long on Talking Heads and Short of Action it is nonetheless a fascinating watch.
A big Macca style thumbs up to Network T.V. for the long overdue reissue of British Sci-Fi classic "The Final Programme". A hip drug fuelled pop art cult classic.
Lastly, came across the cult U.S. TV show "Portlandia" whist surfing Youtube and immediately became hooked. The Vintage Clothes Store clip is a work of genius especially if you've ever sold in to one and The Feminist Book Shop Thread is hilarious.
Well that's my selection, most of what I've been discussing is available from the shop so if anything tickles your fancy you know where to come. We always have lot's of interesting underground releases and classic reissues along with tasty vintage stuff coming in so keep your eyes on the website, our facebook page for albums of the week, clips and links. See you soon.