There was once a compilation of Felt songs called ‘Stains On A Decade’. I always thought it was a terrific title because it could be read in various ways. On some days it feels self-deprecatingly ironic. On others, a delicately profound observation on the nature of art. Thinking back on decades then, I’m drawn again to the notion of how I have documented, in some way, the decade just disappeared by compiling collections of songs into mixes that have dropped on a regular basis into the withering environment of the Interwebs. Fleeting sonic polaroids of moments, each exquisitely passed over in favour of the next. Favourites forever changing. And because I’ve been suffering from early fifties ennui and end of half term flu I decided to drag every song from every mix into one playlist called (and this will come as no surprise) ’Stains On A Decade’. There are 4017 discrete songs and altogether those songs take up 35GB of space on my computer. Rather marvellously it would take ten days to play. The playlist starts with ‘Monday’s Rain’ by The Clientele and ends with ‘The End’ by The Beatles. The former an accident, the latter a crude decision to put a punctuation mark in the timeline of Unpopularity. Not a full stop. Certainly not an exclamation mark. Perhaps a question mark. Or then again a semi-colon separating decades. A pause for breath. And we’re off again. Already with a third mix of the new decade pre-programmed and nearly ready to roll. It’s the best one yet. After the last one and until the next one. Now where’s the paracetamol?
Saturday – The Electric Soft Parade (from ‘Stages’ LP. Bandcamp)
Charmed – The Room in the Wood (digital single. Bandcamp)
The Hook – Use No Hooks (from ‘The Job’ LP. Bandcamp)
Alexandra – RVG (7″ single. Bandcamp)
Fitzroy – The S-Bends (from ‘Nothing Feels Natural To Me’ LP. Bandcamp)
Life on Fire – Mapache (from ‘From Liberty Street’ LP. Bandcamp)
I Will Please You – The Hanging Stars (digital single. Bandcamp)
I Tried and I Tried and I Failed – Darren Hayman (from ‘Home Time’ LP. Bandcamp)
Bad Mood – Basic Plumbing (from ‘Keeping Up Appearances’ LP. Bandcamp)
Perfect Game – Nah… (digital single. Bandcamp)
Been In The Dark – Jeanines (from 7″ single. Bandcamp)
All Compasses Go Wild – Close Lobsters (from ‘Post Neo Anti: Arte Povera in the Forest of Symbols’ LP. Bandcamp)
Sweet – Porridge Radio (from ‘Every Bad’ LP. Bandcamp)
Red Lady – Whyte Horses (from ‘Hard Times‘ LP)
My Sweet Lord – Hurray for the Riff Raff (from ‘My Dearest Darkest Neighbour’ LP. Bandcamp)
Isn’t It a Pity – Galaxie 500 (from ‘On Fire’ LP reissue. YouTube)
Love Sports – Pia Fraus (from ‘Empty Parks’ LP. Bandcamp)
Good Instead of Bad – Dana Gavanski (from ‘Yesterday is Gone’ LP. Bandcamp)
Scarlet and Blue – Sairie (from ‘Scarlet and Blue’ EP. Bandcamp)
Irene – Ben Watt (from ‘Storm Damage‘ LP)
Complete playlist on The Mixcloud
Running behind, catching up. Always catching up and then falling behind. Up, behind, down, around. Repeat repeat repeat.
So it’s Tuesday. It’s Thursday. It’s Saturday again and never again, again. Drip the honey on your tongue, slip the tunes around your torso. What did we miss? What did we miss? Modernity insists on progress wrapped in nostalgia. Persists within anxiety cloaked in need.
We nearly missed RVG. Out of Melbourne out of Adelaide out of place out of time. A set of raw but ravaging live recordings released in 2017 and a single in 2019 that blinks in the blur of a Liberty Belle cascade on a Wide Open Road. See, it makes me clumsy. Forces me to stop. Start. Start. St-st-st-stutter step stop. Suede sweeps of charity shop jewels. Toys we lost in the floods and cares we found in the flames. The fleeting preening of a genderless Manics berating themselves in mirrors cracked and foxed. Delicious is over-used and this music is why.
We nearly missed S-Bends, who are also Australian and also sound exquisitely out of time and place. A gentler sound but scratchy enough to leave tender bruises. A five year old debut EP that is full of empty desire and the echoes of our dreams of tomorrow. A cover of a Rowland S. Howard number and a string of digital singles in 2019 wrapped up with luxurious extras in a set called ‘Nothing Feels Natural To Me’. Perhaps, perhaps, but this sounds naturally awkward and delicately poised on the edge of a forever that resonates to the sound of Jonathan Richman’s little dinosaur hitting (the) Pavement. The darkness trembles and eases a subtle wayward nervous smile. A song about visiting an I.C.U. at Christmas feels violently personal and churns my stomach. So good to be reminded we are alive. A song about inheriting an ’81 Datsun Pulsar that shivers with regret. A song called ‘Two States’ that hovers betwixt and between. Here nor there. Her not here. Slow-mo dreaming of Peugeots in the Sahara and the sound of Magpies and mogadon rain on the roof.
Here’s to a new decade. Same as the old decade. Running behind, catching up. Catching up and then falling behind. Up, behind, down, around. Repeat repeat repeat.
We borrow our post title from a compilation by Felt, and it feels an apposite one for what follows: A decade of Unpopular mixes.
There were mixes on the blog before 2010 of course, and we are slowly going back to fix download links on those posts. Not entirely certain why, as there are only ever likely to be of handful of people interested at any given point in time, but… it feels like the Right Thing To Do. Also we hate leaving things broken.
And so, to the lengthy list. TEN YEARS!!
Nocturne – Landshipping (digital single. Bandcamp)
Crank Resolutions – Meursault (from ‘All Creatures Will Make Merry’ LP. Bandcamp)
New Dawn – Withered Hand (from ‘Ten Years’ EP. Bandcamp)
Catch – Dana Gavanski (from 7″ single. Bandcamp)
Lucid I Would Dream – Miranda Lee Richards (from ‘Existential Dream’ LP. Bandcamp)
Two States – The S-Bends (from ‘Nothing Feels Natural To Me’ LP. Bandcamp)
Her Father’s Son – East Village (from ‘Hotrod Hotel’ LP. Bandcamp)
Heavy Blue – The Hanging Stars (digital single. Bandcamp)
Set Me Up Boys – Teeniest (digital single. Bandcamp)
You and Your Sister – sparkle*jets u.k. (from 7″ single. Bandcamp)
He Will Always Come Back – Chaos Chaos (from ‘Withershins’ LP reissue. YouTube)
Lilac – Porridge Radio (digital single. Bandcamp)
Roles Reversed – The Electric Soft Parade (from ‘Stages’ LP. Bandcamp)
No Rock Save In Roll – Cornershop (digital single YouTube)
Hard Times (feat. John Grant) – Whyte Horses (from ‘Hard Times‘ LP)
The Kids Are Having None of It – Frazey Ford (digital single. YouTube)
Shadows Break – Mega Bog (from ‘Dolphine’ LP. Bandcamp)
Chi Mi Bhuam – Burd Ellen (digital single. Bandcamp)
Thicket – Mark Tranmer (from ‘Further Woodland’ LP. Bandcamp)
Afterwards – Josephine Wiggs (from ‘We Fall’ LP. Bandcamp)
Full playlist on The Mixcloud
Download the entire mix of songs as a ZIP file here.
Teigngrace – The Diamond Family Archive (from ‘Black Autumn’ LP. Bandcamp)
Sweet Lemeny – Alula Down (from ‘Betwixt and Between 5’ cassette. Bandcamp)
Sweet Lemany – Burd Ellen (from ‘Silver Came’ LP. Bandcamp)
Severing – HARESS (from ‘Haress’ LP. Bandcamp)
God’s Food – trappist afterland (from ‘Insects In Amber’ LP. Bandcamp)
Thistle and Briar – Vic Mars (from ‘Inner Roads and Outer Paths’ LP. Clay Pipe)
The Girl I Left Behind – Alison Cotton (from 10″ EP. Clay Pipe)
Dark Place – Rozi Plain (from ‘What A Boost’ LP. Bandcamp)
Hissing Waves – The Leaf Library (from ‘The World Is A Bell’ LP. Bandcamp)
The Actress In The Background – Lispector (from ‘Small Town Graffiti’ LP. Bandcamp)
Night Sweats – Lloyd Cole (from ‘Guesswork‘ LP
Meander – Elizabeth (from ‘The Wonderful World Of Nature’ LP. Bandcamp)
Winter in the Dark – Jeanines (from ‘Jeanines’ LP. Bandcamp)
A Council Boy – MICK TROUBLE (from “Here’s The Mick Trouble LP’. Bandcamp)
The Godfrey Brothers – Comet Gain (from ‘Fireraisers Forever!’ LP. Bandcamp)
Can I Just Call U – Young Guv (from ‘Guv II’ LP. Bandcamp)
Fighter – GospelbeacH (from ‘Let It Burn’ LP. Bandcamp)
Remain – Robert Forster (from ‘Inferno‘ LP)
An Antidote for Strychnine – The Mountain Goats (from ‘In Leagues With Dragons’ LP. Bandcamp)
Accidental Beauty – Vetchinsky Settings (from ‘Underneath The Stars, Still Waiting’ LP. Bandcamp)
Water Water – Emily Fairlight (from ‘Mother Of Gloom’ LP. Bandcamp)
Chance – Angel Olsen (from ‘All Mirrors’ LP. Bandcamp)
Contact – Big Thief (from ‘U.F.O.F.’ LP)
Forever Chords – Strand of Oaks (from ‘Eraserland‘ LP)
Footsteps – Modern Nature (from ‘How To Live’ LP. Bandcamp)
Hercules – The Claim (from ‘The New Industrial Ballads’ LP. Bandcamp)
Entire mix streaming on the Mixcloud
The Claim – ‘Hercules’ from ‘The New Industrial Ballads’ LP
Back in March of this year we told you about the welcome reissue of The Claim’s ‘Boomy Tella’ LP. It was so good we told you twice. Thirty years, we mused. Blinks of eyes and all that. We hinted too that there was a new LP by The Claim due for imminent release and that first glimpses suggested it would be a peach. We were not wrong.
Thirty years is a long time between albums. Not even the Stone Roses or My Bloody Valentine took that long. It’s apt then that The Claim wholeheartedly embrace this span of time on ‘The New Industrial Ballads’, both suggestively through sound and explicitly through, well, through a song called ‘Thirty Years’ in which Vic Templar revisits his ‘Mike The Bike’ tale, riffing both on nostalgia and retro-futurist sci-fi. And Elvis. Of course Elvis.
‘Thirty Years’ is a telling element of ‘The New Industrial Ballads’ because it would make little sense to anyone not already entirely familiar with the flip side to The Claim’s ‘Birth Of A Teenager’ 7” for Bob Stanley’s CAFF label. Its inclusion here shows that The Claim are comfortable acknowledging their place in time. They could have been contenders and then they weren’t. Yet like Forster’s figure in ‘Remain’ the Claim are no Terry Malloy characters filled with bitterness and recrimination. Certainly fires still burn fiercely in their collective belly, but we cannot live on anger alone. We find balm where we can. Seek succour in our communities, however small they may be. The Claim, in the end, are comfortable with their audience. Forever Unpopular. Just look at the recent UK Election results.
The songs of The Claim have always felt firmly rooted in a deep sense of social justice and empathy with the disenfranchised, the forgotten, the ignored. In this they have always pulled inspiration from Folk traditions both lyrically and musically. These musical threads are most clearly visible in the two bookends of the set. Album opener ‘Johnny Kidd’s Right Hand Man’ is an instrumental that strums its way into our hearts whilst closing track ‘Under Canvas’ is two minutes of gorgeously delicate guitar picking atop which David Read sings a deceptively simple tale of love, betrayal and, erm, camping. When we tell you it could be a great lost track by Mick Head then you surely know how much we treasure it.
Between these two bookends of restraint however The Claim certainly stretch themselves and coalesce into a group confident in their capabilities. Quite simply, they sound tremendous. On the fabulous ’Just Too Far’ they reference Dave Edmunds’ ‘Queen Of Hearts’ and throw in a line about how “Doves put Pounding on the jukebox just for us”. Both great points of connectivity. On ‘The Haunted Pub’ they recollect The Kinks looking for redemption in the early ‘70s. Cliffe Hillbilly Boys, if you will. ‘Mrs Jones’ meanwhile is a gorgeous slow-motion waltz around a haunted dancehall, a copy of a Shena Mackay collection of short-stories stuffed in its back pocket.
Then there are cheeky suggestions to the summer of ‘Boomy Tella’’. That summer thirty years ago when we left the UK for two months and came back to find everyone wearing flares and the ‘baggy beat’ behind every damned song in the world. ‘Music/Pictures’ could be a Stone Roses b-side from when they wanted to be Velocity Girls (think ‘Mersey Paradise’) whilst ‘Hercules’ certainly cranks into gear on a funky drummer groove as if to say ‘we could have done this thirty years ago and joined the party but instead we chose to leave the love-in’.
‘Hercules’ is certainly the number we come back to most often on ‘The New Industrial Ballads’ for it is perhaps the songs that encapsulates what makes The Claim so special. We are firmly in Ken Loach social commentary territory here, with references to tower blocks, boarded-up shops, ‘Big Society’ and DWP ‘fit for work’ assessments. No surprise then to see the spectre of Loach’s ‘Cathy Come Home’ amongst the “run-down housing”, glaring at us with barely concealed contempt, despairing at how every generation never seems to learn from the errors of those who go before. Damned to repeat the same mistakes. For better or (more likely) for worse.
When Read concludes his depiction of contemporary England (and it is, increasingly, a depressingly isolated England) with the lines “Gather up all sympathies and mould them into Hercules” we are left to contemplate the meaning. Is the suggestion here that our collective empathy for others in our communities has somehow been transmuted into steel to make military aircraft (an inditement of increasingly militarised societies) or that they have been hijacked and coalesced into some mythical figure of Populist Power? Either way, it is not an especially optimistic conclusion.
It is fitting then that The Claim choose to marry this rather gloomy outlook with music that is affirmative and robust. The song grooves around its inner despair, spiralling in and out over the second half of its length in largely instrumental exuberance and collective hope in spite of it all.
Thirty years. Bent to it again but with heads held high.