Unpop 182

Download the entire mix here.

Small Town Graffiti – Lispector (from ‘Small Town Graffiti’ LP. Bandcamp)
Cotton & Cane – Olden Yolk (from ‘Living Theatre’ LP. Bandcamp)
Tourist Town – James McArthur and The Head Gardeners (from ‘Interglactic Sailor’ LP. Bandcamp)
Amos – Jim Sullivan (from ‘Jim Sullivan’ LP reissue)
Mindless Child Of Motherhood (Mono Single Mix) – The Kinks (from ‘Arthur’ LP reissue)
The Hills of Cinnamon – The Lilac Time (from ‘Return To Us‘ LP)
Society Of Inner Nothing – Comet Gain (from ‘Fireraisers Forever!’ LP. Bandcamp)
The Career Saver – The Yummy Fur (from ‘Piggy Wings‘ LP)
Religious Me – The Jazzateers (from ‘Blood Is Sweeter Than Honey’ LP. Bandcamp)
Sentimental Lady – Medicine (from ‘Scarred For Life’ LP. Bandcamp)
Shoulders – Big Thief (from ‘Two Hands’ LP. Bandcamp)
Lips Lasso – Emily Fairlight (digital single. Bandcamp)
The Amputees – Tindersticks (from ‘No Treasure But Hope’ LP. Bandcamp)
Hissing Waves (radio edit) – The Leaf Library (full version on ‘The World Is A Bell’ LP. Bandcamp)
My Sister Lives In Glasgow – Socks and Ballerinas (from ‘SOAP!’ LP. Bandcamp)
Michelle – One Man Bannister (from ‘Rubber Solo’ LP. Bandcamp)
Holloways – Vic Mars (from ‘Inner Roads and Outer Paths‘ LP)
Creep Out of Bed – Carla dal Forno (from ‘Look Up Sharp’ LP. Bandcamp)
Natural State – Rose Elinor Dougall (digital single)
Meander – Elizabeth (from ‘The Wonderful World Of Nature’ LP. Bandcamp)
Chance – Angel Olsen (from ‘All Mirrors’ LP. Bandcamp)

Partial (almost complete!) playlist on Spotify

Complete mix on Mixcloud

Unpopular Hill Songs part 3 – We Sat On The Hill

Volume three of the Unpopular Songs About Hills series can be downloaded here.

Parliament Hill Fields – Stephen Duffy And The Lilac Time
Mansion on the Hill – Neil Young & Crazy Horse
The View from Stow Hill – Manic Street Preachers
Whiteleaf Hill – Way Through
Mole Hill Yards – Os Drongos
Hedgehog Hill – The Puddle
Parliament Hill – Darren Hayman
Mansion On The Hill – Orange Nichole
I’ll Climb Back Up That Hill – David Kilgour
We Sat on the Hill – Dignan Porch
Windmill Hill – Secret Shine
Running Up That Hill – Bank Heist
Pleasant Hill – tailor made for a small room
Upon Hilly Fields – Lucky Soul
Hilly Fields (1892) – Nick Nicely
Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God) – Kate Bush
Hubbards Hill – Tindersticks
House On The Hill – Turtles
House On Soul Hill – Gainsborough Gallery
Looking Down A Hill – Epic 45

Unpopular Hill Songs part 2 – Bright Side Of The Hill

Volume two of the Unpopular Songs About Hills series can be downloaded here.

Chalkhills And Children – XTC
Golden Hills – Maurice Deebank
On The Hill – Strand of Oaks
Lavender Hill – The Kinks
Fanny On The Hill – Jack Hayter
Green Rolling Hills – Emmylou Harris
The Ballad of Elm Tree Hill – The Left Outsides
Solsbury Hill – Peter Gabriel
Through The Hill – Andy Partridge & Harold Budd
Bright Side of the Hill – Jimmy Campbell
Breakneck Hill – Saint Etienne
Menwith Hill – Pete Dale And The Beta Males
Over That Hill – Mr. Airplane Man
Sugar Hill – The Three Sounds
The House On The Hill – Skytone
From The Square To The Hill – Darren Hayman
The House on the Hill – The Hanging Stars
Halfway Up A Hill – Day Ravies
Beneath The Hill – Azure Blue
Meet Me Lord (At The Bottom Of The Hill) – Starry Eyed and Laughing
Tandle Hill Brandon Hill – Soiled / Marcus H
On Gellert Hill – Armstrong

Unpopular Hill Songs part 1 – I Set My Face To The Hillside

In an attempt to make another musical connection to the hazy theme of ‘landscape’ that has threaded haphazardly throughout the year I decided to trawl my music library for songs that were ‘about’ or at least referenced hills in their title. It was also an excuse to make some rudimentary collages. Here is volume 1. You can download the entire mix here.

Hillside ’86 (with July Skies) – Epic45
The Hills Of Celt (Bonus Track) – Nigel Mazlyn Jones
The Black Hills Of Dakota – Doris Day With Paul Weston & His Orchestra With Vocal Quartet
Kill Devil Hills – The Wedding Present
Black Hills – Cayetana
Sandhills – Strawberry Switchblade
Old As The Hills – Tiny Ruins
Over the Hillside – The Blue Nile
Rolling Hills – Romantic States
I Set My Face To The Hillside – Tortoise
Hollow Hills – Bauhaus
The Hills are Alive – Tall Dwarfs
The Mid Hills – Scenic
September Hills – Eyeless In Gaza
A Child in These Hills – Jackson Browne
Up The Hills – The High Llamas
September Hills – Eyeless In Gaza
The Hills Of Vermont – Sandy Salisbury
Hills Of West Virginia – Phil Ochs
The Town & the Hills – The Lucksmiths
Suicide On The Hillside Sunday Morning After Tea – Euphoria

Rubber Solo or The Beatles in an Unpopular world

The Beatles, eh? What d’you make of them?

Established readers will know that the Unpopular view of The Beatles is largely in keeping with the blog’s title in being somewhat against the grain of Popular Opinion and Received Wisdom. Such a stance has always been built fairly strongly on a wilful perversity and a barely hidden desire to be obstinately obdurate and it seems to me that this is entirely as it ought to be (the murky realm of cultural appreciation/criticism being built on the foundations of subjectivity and all that). Unless of course you are an academic in which case at this point one would be compelled to remind oneself that this may not necessarily be the case and here are several examples where such is made abundantly clear. And fair play to the academics, for that aforementioned murky world is actually even more impenetrable than we ever thought possible.

But The Beatles, eh? What d’you make of them?

In recent weeks the Unpopular lens has fallen on them again and, perhaps due to Something In The Air, or perhaps due to Old Age and readying ourselves for the end of all existence, we have found ourselves mellowing our previous stance somewhat. Not by much, you understand, but possibly by just enough to be able to begrudgingly admit they were maybe Okay. That perhaps they made Some Good Records. A few. In part. In parts.

There is a strange ubiquitous quality to records by The Beatles which means that although one may approach them as ‘previously unheard’ one inevitably discovers this not to be the case. Certain songs somehow drag memories from within, often ones which are almost entirely mediated in that they are fragments of mementoes of films or television shows. Cracked out of focus snatches of scenes soundtracked by this song or that, this refrain or the other. A chorus. A chord sequence. A jingle jangle morning that comes following you. Oh no, wait, that’s Something/One Else.

Or perhaps it isn’t. Perhaps it is just a peculiar echoing radar ping of Pop disorientation seeking to make sense of confusion. Or to introduce confusion to order, whichever feels more appropriate.

But The Beatles, eh? What d’you make of them?

We listened to ‘Rubber Soul’ as an ‘album’ the other week and it sounded like a lot of nonsense. This, for once in the context of an Unpopular statement about The Beatles, is not pejorative.

In The Unpopular world though, the best recordings of Beatles’ songs remain seldom if ever by The Beatles. We have lost track of the number of times we first heard a Beatles song recorded by someone else and then, on investigation of The Original Text been left utterly bemused and disorientated by the gulf between the two. Evidence based researchers at this point will be clamouring to know specific examples, to which we answer simply, ‘oh you know, This One. And That One. And That Other One.’

The specifics are not important because the thrust of this is that time becomes obfuscated. The past becomes faded, leaps to the forefront briefly to impose itself on the present and then drifts away onto another orbit where it is not seen again for another twenty years. If ever. By which time we are decaying matter in the ground or dust on the winds and…

But The Beatles, eh? What d’you make of them?

Matthew Bannister makes a great deal of them, and in turn has made a great deal out of them. We are quite sure that as a member of New Zealand band Sneaky Feelings back in the 1980s Bannister would tell us that The Beatles were a big influence on the group’s sound and songs, and whilst this may be true (and we are pretty sure he does indeed make this point in his excellent ‘Positively George Street’ book about Sneaky Feelings and ‘The Dunedin Sound’) we know at the time we would have found it irrelevant and anyway, we were hearing The Stars Of Heaven in Sneaky Feelings and in turn that meant we heard Gram Parsons and jangled Country Folk Stylings.

Bannister certainly understands that time is confused. He understands that there are more than enough facsimiles of The Beatles to last for eternity but recognises too that this is no reason not to make another. Not content to just do some versions of a few songs, however, he’s only gone and made AN ENTIRE ALBUM. It’s called ‘Rubber Solo’. Oh how we laughed (and again, in an unusual change of trajectory for Unpopular, not in a bitter, twisted and unkind way, either).

Not that the concept of making a variation on an entire Beatles album is an entirely new concept for Bannister, for he’s made one before too, with his ‘Evolver’ remodelling of, well, see if you can guess. We laughed at that one too.

Like ‘Evolver’, however, ‘Rubber Solo’ is a terrific record. Whilst we admit (through teeth only marginally less gritted than in previous years) that the foundations for this may certainly be in the quality of songwriting, credit must also be given to Bannister for his determination to push at the edges of what we might expect Beatles songs to sound like. For whilst it would be easy to either faithfully reproduce or dramatically deconstruct, Bannister instead seeks to strike a balance between the two approaches. And on the whole he succeeds, for whilst this is still clearly The Beatles ‘Rubber Soul’ it is also categorically Bannister’s ‘Rubber Solo’. This is how the songs go together, but not quite. Cadences shift and focus drifts. It’s like looking in the mirror and seeing an older version of ourselves looking back. Strangely strange, but oddly normal, to coin a phrase from another psychedelic text.

So we have ‘If I Needed Someone’ (our personal favourite version is by Jesse Garon & The Desperadoes) doing an oddly dislocated dance, a mis-step stutter that just treads the right side of the pub-singer line. We have ’Nowhere Man’ shuffling uncomfortably along like the homeless in a once opulent cinema turned Bingo hall turned doss-house (whaddya mean that doesn’t sound like something you want to hear! What’s wrong with you?). We have ‘In My Life’ slipping over on itself, unsure of its footing, soaking itself in recognisable psych sounds but always just ever-so-slightly self-conscious, and we have ‘Run For Your Life’ as a Sweet foot-stomping Glam workout bedecked in a sparkling sequinned cloak that’s frayed at the edges and coming apart at the seams.

Best of all is the remodelling of ‘Michelle’ into an instrumental piece that blends surf guitar with fairground Suicide drum snaps before drifting off into a nether world inhabited by subtly creepy string sounds and then abruptly back again. It’s a re-imagining that places the song into a filmic soundtrack context where the movie slips from Spaghetti Western into Noir Melodrama with barely a pause for breath. The filmic suggestion is surely no coincidence for in another life Bannister has recently written a book about “the comedic stylings of NZ filmmaker Taika Waititi” and tutors in cultural theory at the Winter School of Media Arts. So, you know, he knows his stuff.

The filmic reference too is perhaps relevant, for although there was no Beatles film to accompany ‘Rubber Soul’, there is a sense of the English Surrealism that informs so much of their film escapades in the record. Bannister seems to tune into this and if the surrealist edge is muted, that’s perhaps for the best. What remains however is the vague sense of the ridiculous; the sense that this record, perhaps like The Beatles at points in their time, makes a nonsense of itself. Ultimately it is playful, irreverent, aware to its own transience and therefore its own magical and marvellous irrelevance.

‘Rubber Solo’ by One Man Bannister will be released on Powertool Records.

unpop 180

With her finger on her ticket and her things in a Peppa Pig bag

A Lost Week In Bingoland – The Grief Brothers (from ‘Thirty Five Years on Woodfield Street’ LP. Bandcamp)
One More Sunset – The Bitter Springs (from ‘The Odd Shower’ LP. Bandcamp)
Just Too Far – The Claim (from digital EP. Bandcamp)
Queen of Hearts – Dave Edmunds (YouTube)
Passaic 1975 – The Mountain Goats (7″ single. Bandcamp)
Mid 8Ts – Comet Gain (from ‘Fireraisers Forever!’ LP. Bandcamp)
Hey Little Man – The Roves (from ‘All Those Freaks’ LP. Bandcamp)
Didn’t Even Cry – Young Guv (from ‘Guv 1’ LP. Bandcamp)
Theaters – Chaos Chaos (digital single. YouTube)
Nothing To Believe – Lispector (from ‘Small Town Graffiti’ LP. Bandcamp)
No Trace – Carla dal Forno (from ‘Look Up Sharp’ LP. Bandcamp)
Accidental Beauty – Vetchinsky Settings (from ‘Underneath The Stars, Still Waiting’ LP. Bandcamp)
Cut Piano – R. Elizabeth (from ‘Every And All We Voyage On’ LP. Bandcamp)
You’ll Find The Right Note (Eventually) – HUMAN DON’T BE ANGRY (from ‘Guitar Variations’ LP. Bandcamp)
Black Autumn – The Diamond Family Archive (from ‘Black Autumn’ LP. Bandcamp)
The Coronation of the Herring Queen – Meadowsilver (from ‘Singles’ EP. Bandcamp)
Strangely Strange But Oddly Normal – Dr. Strangely Strange (from ‘Kip Of The Serenes’ LP)
The Garden Of Jane Delawney – Trees (from ‘The Garden of Jane Delawney’ LP)
A Norman Soldier – Mark Fry (from ‘Dreaming With Alice’ LP)
Jean Genet Just Imagined – John Howard (from ‘Cut The Wire‘ LP)
Patient Here Myself – Stephen Hero (from ‘Deciduous Eccentric’ LP. Bandcamp)
Planet England – Robyn Hitchcock / Andy Partridge (from ‘Planet England‘ EP)

We’re all foreigners at heart

Truncated playlist on The Spotify

Full playlist on the Mixcloud

On Auden and Education (or why Teaching Makes You Stupid)

This week, whenever I have had a quiet moment to myself, I have mostly been reading a book about W.H. Auden. Or more specifically I have been reading a book about Auden’s poem ‘September 1, 1939’. Although actually it’s not specifically about that poem, even though it is, and it’s not completely about Auden, even though it is. By which I mean that author Ian Sansom (yes, the same Ian Sansom who we looked at in the last Unpopular episode – he of the marvellous ‘County Guides’ mystery novels that are not really mystery novels) makes it partly about himself and partly about The Bigger Picture and partly about Auden and partly about poetry and partly about this particular poem. It is a great book, but I have to admit that it also makes me feel Really Stupid, and that in turn makes me sad and frustrated.

For whilst Sansom’s book is Not An Academic Text, it does throw in quite a few references to Academics and Academic Texts and Other Poets and Literature and Literary Criticism which, had I the time, energy and space I would probably rather enjoy following up. But I don’t. So I don’t. None of this is Sansom’s fault. Rather it is because we have navigated the second week of the New School Year and already I feel like I Have No Life. Or rather it is that life has already ebbed from my sickened body and left me a shattered husk. Not that I want to be overly dramatic.

I suspect that were I to be reading a similarly pitched book about Teaching and Learning then I would probably Not Feel Quite So Stupid, but frankly also strongly suspect that I would find such a book to be A Lot Less Interesting. Where is the Auden of the contemporary (Secondary) Education world? Probably busy being an Edu Twitter Celebrity.

The Point Of All This (and there may be one, so bear with me… equally there not be, so please feel free to skip to the latest mix of Unpopular music) is that whilst the past two decades of teaching may have left me Well Versed in an understanding of the Science/Craft/Magick (delete as appropriate) of Teaching, it has had a detrimental impact on my knowledge and understanding of Subject (both the ones I teach and others). It has, in effect, left me (feeling) stupid.

Not stupid in the context of the level to which I am teaching (I am pretty confident I could bring home a ‘9’ in the Art or Photography GCSE) but certainly in the broader, deeper context of my subject specialist knowledge. So whilst I am highly skilled (this is not the moment to be modest) at empowering students to think more deeply about the photographic texts that they are reading in order to get a level 6, or 7 or 9 at GCSE, what I/we lack as teachers is the cognitive capacity to ask each other those challenging questions about our subject. Or indeed to ask ourselves.

Which is why, to veer further into the somewhat tedious realms of Education for a moment (don’t worry, we’ll get back to Pop Music shortly), I have been increasingly thinking that more opportunities for subject specialist Continuing Professional Development is really critical to our survival as Teachers (or indeed as human beings). By this I do not mean CPD that focuses on Subject at the level to which we teach, but the deeper knowledge that draws us out and beyond the confines of School (we are not children, after all).

Where are the opportunities for our History teachers to talk/argue about the connections between 1970’s Britain and Our Present Predicament? Or indeed to argue about whose books are best: Dominic Sandbrook’s or Andy Beckett’s? Where are the opportunities for me to discuss with my Art colleagues the work of Robert Frank (including whether ‘Pull My Daisy’ is actually any good or not, and then to define what we mean by ‘good’) or to argue about the value of John Berger’s critical writing and whether it is still relevant to approach Art from a Marxist viewpoint in 2019? Let’s face it: Ten minutes over a rushed instant coffee between a quick pee and then dashing off to teach Year 7 doesn’t really cut it, does it?

Yet when Leadership discussions about Staff CPD take place we continually promote Skills Of Teaching as the Only Valuable Topics for Training. We say it is in response to What Our Staff Want but really, is it? Always? Again? And again? And even if it’s what they think they want, are they always right?

How do we build cognitive capacity into our daily grind such that we can enjoy the developing treasures of the subjects we fell in love with? (Because we DID fall in love with our subject probably long before we fell in love with the idea of teaching that subject). Didn’t we? (That’s a whole other question).

When I start to feel less stupid I will let you know.

And the Pop Music I promised you? It’s The Blue Aeroplanes again, who once upon a time took Auden’s ‘Journal Of An Airman’ text and made it into a terrific song on the wonderful ‘Tolerance’ LP. You’re welcome.