Stains On A Decade

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?

Unpop 186

You should be sitting down

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)

You will like me when you meet me

Almost complete playlist on The Spotify

Complete playlist on The Mixcloud

Catching Up

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.

Stains On A Decade

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!!

Not Blue MondayJan-10
Walking Back To WaterlooFeb-10
Melancholy MarchMar-10
April In ParisApr-10
Daisies For The Eigth Of MayMay-10
June EveningsJun-10
Sunset StudiesJun-10
July, You’re A WomanJul-10
The Edge of AugustAug-10
Sweet SeptemberSep-10
October Is EternalOct-10
Dance To The Skeleton HandOct-10
December SlowDec-10
Go way. Leave. DisappearDec-10
Those Days, Those NightsJan-11
Kiss For FunFeb-11
Get High In The AfternoonFeb-11
It’s My Heart and I Want You To Break ItMar-11
Everyone Feels That Way SometimesMar-11
1983 – Convenience Erases LoveApr-11
Flying Into The SunApr-11
Unceremonious SplendourMay-11
Absence Makes The Heart Grow HarderMay-11
Closer To You NowJun-11
So You’re Saying There’s A Chance?Jun-11
Summer FeelJul-11
Summer Heatwave HeatJul-11
Summer TimeAug-11
These Are The DaysAug-11
Crashing The SkySep-11
Your Love Is Calling My NameSep-11
Who Tripped On The C(h)ord?Oct-11
It Was Dark And I Welcome The CalmOct-11
Say It’s NowNov-11
Can we go to a bar?Nov-11
More than a myth but less than a fableDec-11
Who Took The BoozeDec-11
What Sound is This (Face A and B)Jan-12
There All The Tine Without YouJan-12
The Rolling StonesFeb-12
We Make BelieveFeb-12
No One Ever Tells YouMar-12
In My RoomMar-12
Sunbeam Blood ShineApr-12
The SandsApr-12
You Against The Rest Of UsMay-12
I See You’ve Got HorsesMay-12
I Remember YouJun-12
Records Are Sacred When You’re 17Jun-12
In My ReverieJul-12
S Is For SecretsJul-12
Revolution SummerAug-12
Beach BlanketAug-12
White Lines Are Slicing Up Our SkiesSep-12
A Boy Needs A BikeSep-12
Crazy LoveOct-12
Living In A VillageOct-12
Claimed By The SeaNov-12
Miss YouNov-12
Lights and RadiosDec-12
Merry Christmas to the Drunks, Merry Christmas to the LoversDec-12
Once We Were School KidsJan-13
Shine On MeFeb-13
These Songs Will Make You Love MeFeb-13
Home Is Where My Head IsMar-13
My Old HauntsMar-13
I know We’re SpecialApr-13
Monument to a Lost CauseApr-13
Bright LightsMay-13
In This PlaceJun-13
It’s Not A Summer Without YouJun-13
Something MoreJul-13
Left It Out To ShineJul-13
Hay FeverAug-13
You Held My HeartAug-13
(here’s to)The Ghosts Of The PastSep-13
Reunion MessageSep-13
Is The Sky The Limit?Oct-13
Nothing But LoveOct-13
Tiny Moments, Tiny OmensNov-13
Now and ForeverDec-13
A Very Unpopular ChristmasDec-13
A Brief MomentDec-13
Days of Being WildJan-14
Like It Used To BeJan-14
Things I Should Not DoFeb-14
Who Would Want To Be Loved?Feb-14
Competition Diffidence and GloryMar-14
Dreams Please TooMar-14
Love Gets You TwistedApr-14
Coffee In The MorningApr-14
Chasing All The Good Days DownMay-14
We Cannot Hope To Compete With Such ColoursMay-14
Into The SunJun-14
Tinted WindowsJul-14
Another DayJul-14
Chardonnay SummerAug-14
Summer’s GoneSep-14
Serious Things Are StupidSep-14
Memories of YouOct-14
We’ve Run Out Of RoadNov-14
Woke Up To A StormNov-14
Shapes and PatternsDec-14
Have A BalloonDec-14
Walk In The AfterlightJan-15
This Morning We Are AstronautsJan-15
They’re Still Cooler Than YouFeb-15
Through the SkylightFeb-15
They Look At UsMar-15
Take Away An ImpressionMar-15
The First Song of SpringApr-15
Shadow and ShapeMay-15
There Are TwoMay-15
Impossible LoveJul-15
Fake BeachAug-15
September SkiesSep-15
No MemorySep-15
Things I HoldOct-15
Just DriftingOct-15
Abstract ObjectsNov-15
A Shot In The DarkDec-15
Depth of FieldDec-15
Feathers and DreamsJan-16
How To Recognise A Work Of ArtJan-16
Play it as it laysFeb-16
Metal and ShellsFeb-16
My Only FriendMar-16
Dial ToneMar-16
Just a MemoryApr-16
How It FeelsApr-16
Lying in the SunMay-16
Fedback On A Concrete WallMay-16
Yesterday WasJun-16
Black heartsJun-16
Unpop 133Jul-16
Unpop 134Jul-16
Unpop 135Aug-16
Unpop 136Aug-16
Unpop 137Sep-16
Unpop 138Sep-16
Unpop 139Oct-16
Unpop 140Oct-16
Unpop 141Nov-16
Unpop 142Nov-16
Unpop 143Dec-16
Unpop 144Dec-16
Unpop 145Jan-17
Unpop 146Feb-17
Unpop 147Mar-17
Unpop 148Apr-17
Unpop 149May-17
Unpop 150Jun-17
Unpop 151Jul-17
Unpop 152Aug-17
Unpop 153Sep-17
Unpop 154Oct-17
Unpop 155Nov-17
Unpop 156Dec-17
Unpop 157Jan-18
Unpop 158Feb-18
Unpop 159Mar-18
Unpop 160Apr-18
Unpop 161May-18
Unpop 162Jun-18
Unpop 163Jul-18
Unpop 164Aug-18
Unpop 165Sep-18
Unpop 166Oct-18
Unpop 167Nov-18
Unpop 168Dec-18
Unpop 169 – Advent 2018Dec-18
Unpop 170Jan-19
Unpop 171Feb-19
Unpop 172Mar-19
Unpop 173Apr-19
Unpop 174 – At The EdgeApr-19
Unpop 175May-19
Unpop 176Jun-19
Unpop 177Jul-19
Unpop 178Aug-19
Unpop 179Sep-19
Unpop 180 Oct-19
Unpop 181-1 – I Set My Face To The HillsideOct-19
Unpop 181-2 – Bright Side Of The Hill
Unpop 181-3 – We Sat On The Hill
Unpop 181-4 – High On A Hill
Unpop 181-5 – Up The Hill Backwards
Unpop 182Nov-19
Unpop 183Dec-19
Unpop 184 – Unpopular Advent 2019Dec-19
Unpop 185Jan-20

Unpop 185

It’s not sad

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)

It’s more than that

Partial playlist on Spotify

Full playlist on The Mixcloud

Unpopular Advent 2019

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)

Almost accurate/complete playlist on Spotify.

Entire mix streaming on the Mixcloud

Unpopular Advent 2019 – Day 24

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.