January’s picks also feature Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs’ Winter Of Discontent, The Skatalites, The Blow Monkeys, Bob Dylan, Cymande, Delays, The Rolling Stones and Dinosaur Jr
Happy new year. Or is it? Are you midway through a detox or some such bollocks? Of course not. It’s January and you’re a little overweight, you’re not insane. So right, it’s 2023 and pop music doesn’t stop, so join us do for some insights into what’s happening the world of yore this month.
Winter Of Discontent is a very apt and timely collection from the magical minds of Saint Etienne‘s Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs – two men who know their compilation onions and who’ve yet to fail as regards a various artist concept. The title has little to do with an ongoing current shithole of a country on its knees, but more about how the liberation that punk afforded numerous DIY turns to pop their displeasure onto plastic. Acts that had barely thought through anything as recherche as a career plan or songwriting now had the means of production at their disposal.
You’ll have heard of Scritti Politti, The Fall, TV Personalities and Raincoats; however Thin Yoghurts, Fatal Microbes, Performing Ferret Band and The Digital Dinosaurs might not have made your radar, or you may have only heard of them if you were actually one of the band members. Anyhoo, Winter Of Discontent is full of humour, passion and wonky ideas and a look at what you can/ could do if you just went out and, well, did it.
Continuing their reissue campaign, New Order have now reached the Low Life part of proceedings as their third album, um, Low Life, first released in 1985, gets the box set treatment. It’s now out as a definitive edition as a LP/2CD/2DVD box. It was home to the singles The Perfect Kiss and Subculture and was pretty fabulous in general. The second CD offers rough mixes and what they’re calling ‘writing session recordings’ (possibly a fancy-ass way of titling demos) and the DVD features an unreleased concert from Belgium, The Manhattan Club and Rotterdam Arena as well as a Whistle Test special recorded at The Hacienda. Also of jolliness, the products come in their original ‘tracing paper’ sleeves too. There will also be separate 12-inch versions of each single released to coincide. So that’s a boon.
Fragments Time Out Of Mind Sessions 1996-1997 is the latest in Bob Dylan’s ongoing bootleg/ expansions comes in a 5CD/10LP wonder, as a new remix alongside myriad outtakes, live stuff and alternative versions. It will also also be edited down to a 2CD highlights/ ‘let’s look at your best bits’ package too. The original album was issued in 1997 and was The Bob’s first album of new material since 1990’s Under The Red Sky. Don’t say you don’t get bonus facts round here.
Bob Dylan bootlegs are all well and good, but he isn’t fit to kiss the feet of Lieutenant Pigeon when it comes to cultural importance and revolutionary spirit. The band’s three albums are now compiled on The Decca Years, and while you can locate any Dylan album in a charity shop, original copies of the Pigeon’s albums – Mouldy Old Music, Pigeon Pie and Pigeon Party – are far more sought after. Obviously, the iconic Mouldy Old Dough is the headline attraction here. A piece of music best described as a brown ale Tomorrow Never Knows, or I Feel Love if it was made by a labrador. It’s sticky pub floors, dirty raincoats and a frying pan of sausages. Imagine 48 tracks in that wheelhouse and operating on a variation of that theme, and there you have it. Iconic barely covers it. Sleevenotes are by Bob Stanley too, and you know he doesn’t get his laptop out for any old shit. Already Most Essential Reissue of 2023. Calling it now.
Green Day are celebrating 25 years of Nimrod! They bloody are, you know. It’s coming back out as a box set, a 5LP set on black or D2C silver vinyl, plus a book, patch, slipmat and backstage pass – woohoo! Or you could go down the 3CD route with the second disc of demos and a third disc of a performance live at the Electric Factory. It’s the home of their hit Good Riddance and sold over five million copies – what more could you possibly want?
The Rolling Stones in Mono is a 16LP (one is a 2LP compilation called Stray Cats culled from A-sides and B-sides and EPs) box set of all their LPs from 1963-1969. It’s been out before, and indeed was highlighted in THIS COLUMN as the many keen-eyed of you would know hem hem. However, it now comes in coloured vinyl variations with shades picked up from details of the sleeves. How smashing.
“I just got your message baby.” What an opening line, eh pop viewers? That was how The Blow Monkeys ushered themselves into the ‘selling records’ stage of their career on the marvellous Digging Your Scene. A far more sophisticated pop offering than most, the Blows could possibly be better described as The Style Council in cravats to the young set, once you’ve informed them who The Style Council were, that is.
Dr Robert and co were absolute class, and Digging Your Scene had layers too, as it was written about the hysteria surrounding the AIDS crisis, and was trojan-horsely snuck into a grooving swooning blend. That wasn’t all, the Blows (look I’m calling them the Blows, but were they actually called the Blows at the time? Answers on a postcard) were very political and would address issues like apartheid and the like, and were subtle thorns in pop’s side, mixing distaste for wretched governments and general bullshit with a panache lacking in other acts. Anyway, that’s enough preamble, they’re reissuing the accompanying album Animal Magic this month on white vinyl and as a 4CD expansion with remixes, demos and B-sides on it. It’s well worth your time and an opportunity to reacquaint yourself with the work of a very fine outfit.
Puke + Cry – The Sire Years 1990-1997 is a 4CD covering marvellous turn Dinosaur Jr’s residency at Sire (or in the UK Blanco Y Negro) and their stellar albums – Green Mind, Where You Been, Without A Sound and Hand It Over plus – PLUS! – bonus treats such as B-sides, session tracks plus odds and sods from soundtracks such as Judgment Night and Grace Of My Heart. It was their ‘silly years’ phase tbh, when they had hits and were hoisted into the landscape of alternative via the major label mechanism with a string of knockout classics while J Mascis acclimatised to being asked stupid questions about grunge fashion.
Delays were fantastic weren’t they? Made up of a core of brothers Greg and Aaron Gilbert, the Southampton quartet burned brightly if briefly through the mid 00ze, and issued Faded Seaside Glamour in April 2004 and were the toast of the ‘supporting Franz Ferdinand and Snow Patrol’ set with their intersection of dream pop and be-technoed indie stylings on tunes such as Nearer Than Heaven, You Wear The Sun and On. Inspired as much by The Beach Boys as they were My Bloody Valentine. The album is back out this time on vinyl, and is a fitting memorial to Greg who died far too young in September 2021 from bowel cancer.
Everyone is still a little out of sync with their 30th anniversaries and thus brightsiding making any anniversary celebrations by going into 12 months rather than say ‘oh it’s actually 31 years now’, but that’s pressing plants and a pandemic for you. With that in mind, Tori Amos’ amazing Little Earthquakes is getting the 2LP half-speed remaster treatment, which is good news as the last time it was repressed they squeezed a nearly hour-long album onto one piece of vinyl and it sounded like it was being performed by mice four streets away.
Guess who just got back today? Hahaha, well not technically, as Thin Lizzy have been gone for years due to the chief component of Phil Lynott being no longer with us since 1986, but some semblance of the Liz are still with us today. SO ANYWAY, the remaining members have overseen this project to celebrate the 45th anniversary (oh yeah, none of that ‘covid backlog’ going on here) of their superb 1978 album Live And Dangerous, they’re releasing it as an 8CD set that contains the original now remastered, but also features the other shows from London, Philadelphia and Toronto that were recorded for potential use as the final album. That’s quite a lot of live Lizzy, isn’t it?
I think anyone with ears and a brain can concur that McAlmont & Butler’s 1995 single Yes is one of humanity’s highpoints. It just is, right? And The Sound Of, the album the pair released which comprised of that, its follow-up You Do and all the attendant B-sides and extra tracks was fairly special too. Well, good news ear-owners, it’s back out on vinyl this month. It will act as a good amuse bouche ahead of McAlmont’s upcoming album with Hifi Sean out in a few weeks, which is also extremely listenable too.
Innovators in black British music, Cymande effectively threw everything into the pot to stake their ground with their superb debut album in 1972. On toe-taps like Bra and The Message, they used funk, reggae, psychedelia and a large dose of their combined Guyanese and Jamaican heritage, they decided to call their sound NYAH Rock which, well, didn’t necessarily catch on really. As a sign of the times this far-ahead band were beset by a slightly shitty attitude towards black artists during that period, and after three albums they split in 1975. However, through crate digging they LIVED ON after being discovered by a new generation and sampled galore and their reputation is now golden. So yes, snap up this vinyl reissue, it’s pretty bloody amazing.
NOW Yearbook Extra 1985 follows the main edition with another 60 tracks across 3CDs. It is, as ever, not fucking about with a calvalcade featuring Wham!’s I’m Your Man, Stephen Duffy’s Icing On The Cake, The Smiths’ The Boy With The Thorn In His Side, Echo And The Bunnymen’s Bring On The Dancing Horses, The Cure’s Inbetween Days, New Order’s The Perfect Kiss, Propaganda’s p:Machinery, Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam with Full Force’s I Wonder If I Take You Home, Art Of Noise’s Moments In Love and more. Amazingness.
Blue Butterfly is an iconic 1971 album originally released by Selected Sound featuring some heavy funky library music by Hardy’s Jet Band, Orchestra Klaus Wuesthoff, Jan Troysen Band and Orchestra Gary Pacific. Long-loved by hip hop heads and crate diggers and the like, the psych-y fuzzy funk, sleazy samba and murky swamp blues encountered on here were way ahead of their time. Be With Records have reissued it and anyone who has been gradually collecting library music are promptly wetting themselves at the news of this reissue.
Some pleasing Trojan reissues come your way this month. First up is The Maytals’ Essential Artist Collection. Issued as a 28-track 2LP and a 50-track 2CD compilation with all the bangers: 54-46 Was My Number, Sweet and Dandy, Do the Reggay, Pressure Drop and more.
Also in this series comes a collection by The Skatalites who were a powerhouse outfit in reggae led by saxophonist Tommy McCook alongside Kingston-based performers, their number including trombonist Don Drummond, tenor saxman Roland Alphonso, drumming supremo Lloyd Knibb and keyboard prodigy Jackie Mittoo, and this collects the best of their output recorded by Treasure Isle Records boss, Arthur ‘Duke’ Reid. It’s also available as a 28-track 2LP and 50-track CD. Trojan’s ongoing reissue programme is one to keep your eye on, and Essential Artist Collection has the scope to grow into a superb catalogue of reggae masters.
Four Tet’s fairly cosmic two-track long player from 2015, Morning/Evening, is being repressed this month and there’s not much else to say about it other than it’s absolutely bloody fantastic.
Bauhaus was a feeling, but post-Bauhaus, the haus nation split into two factions, with spook-lungster Peter Murphy going solo, and the other three (Daniel Ash, David J and Kevin Haskins), after a couple of them did some time in Tones On Tail, reconfigured into Love & Rockets in 1985. They released eight albums, and plan to reissue them throughout 2013 starting this month with Express, and Earth, Sun, Moon, Love And Rockets, Hot Trip To Heaven and Sweet F.A. to follow during 2023 on a variety of coloured vinyl scenarios.
Is it really 10 years since The xx released their second album co-exist? Apparently so. The individual members – Oliver Sim, Romy and Jamie xx have all been busy as solo turns in the last year, so it’s easy to forget that they actually are an outfit. Anyway, co-exist is back out on vinyl this month, following an expanded edition ‘hitting’ the streamers last month.
It’s coming out to 40 years since Big Country arrived into pop’s hemisphere, with their Scottish-y chiming guitars. The late great Stuart Adamson got together with Bruce Watson, Tony Butler and Mark Unpronounceable-surname and issued some fantastic numbers such as In A Big Country, Fields Of Fire and Chance during 1983. This debut album The Crossing has been reissued a handful of times now, but it’s back out on vinyl this month and there you have it.
Worst band name ever? Well Cigarettes After Sex are definitely up there with theirs, but you can overlook that as their 2017 self-titled debut was utterly tremendous. Formed by Greg Gonzalez in El Paso in 2008, the outfit sure took their sweet time to concoct a long player after a handful of EPs. If you think ‘a slightly more male Mazzy Star but even more ethereal’, this album was rather marvellous and now back. Back. BACK this time on white vinyl.
Short but sweet then, but January doesn’t want to stretch you too much financially, does it? Join us in February for Haircut 100, Imagination, Mogwai, The Strokes, These Animal Men, Dionne Warwick, The Auteurs, Robert Palmer and compilations covering glam, prog, synthpop and The Batcave and many more. And find me on Twitter @wadeywade meantime.