Matchbox Cars In The Living Room
Shop Around Ö part 42
Beats and bass have really caught my attention over the past few weeks. I would attribute much of this to chancing upon a couple of Ils tracks on the radio. I had, I confess, been completely unaware Ils was still out there. I knew the name of course from way back, when it was associated with Bukemís Logical Progression and MoíWax. But my interest in breakbeats, or whatever you call the particular area of musical activity, had drifted long ago rightly or wrongly, seemingly leaving drumíníbass to corporate videos and car commercials.

The new Ils record, Bohemia, has really fired my imagination though, and has dangerously left me wondering whether Iíve been missing out on all sorts of underground magic. I was extremely fortunate to find a promo copy of Bohemia in a local charity shop, and it prompted me to shop around and pick up bargain-priced editions of other records by Ils, like the excellent Soul Trader and the even better Idiots Behind The Wheel. They really are fantastic records, perhaps showing some drumíníbass has thrived away from the spotlight, as other genres have twisted in and out of fashion.

Occasionally, of course, the occasional hit has slipped through, such as Shy FX, but more often than not the dedicated purveyors are out there plugging away, getting next to no mainstream media coverage. So even people like me who for a time bought nothing but drumíníbass have remained merrily oblivious, which worries me immensely. What does it say about the media agenda?

Broadcastís Tender Buttons, conversely, has received a fair deal of media coverage. As wonderful as Tender Buttons is, I sense the group Broadcast must fear finding itself in a similar position to Ils, plugging away in a particular underground niche, when they should be blaring out of every shopís PA system. Broadcastís too special to be filed away, or taken for granted. Their pop is very much their own now. Sure, it incorporates the best of all possible worlds, knowingly, but Trish is one of the all-time great pop figures, looking and sounding the part. She is one of the great song stylists. Her exposure to all the weird and wonderful pop permutations has undoubtedly helped, and the enthusiasm for hearing more shines through. Thatís a good thing, but pretty irrelevant if they were inherently ungifted.

Myself I love the fact that simplistically speaking Broadcast make the bridge between Ď60s chic strangeness and a more recent electronic experimentation. What is particularly appealing is the way that this pool of Ď60s strangeness seems to reveal new depths eternally. For example, salvage experts Rev-ola have even managed to trump the recent Evie Sands success, with an even better Lori Burton set. Now I like to think I know a few things about Ď60s strangeness but Lori Burton is all new to me. I guess I can at least claim to know of her songwriting/production partner Pam Sawyer from her Motown magic, though I was not aware Pam was English.
Anyway, Lori and Pam wrote and produced all the songs on the astonishing Breakout set from 1967, while Lori provided the exceptionally soulful vocals. The songs are wonderful, from the girl gang dramatics of 'Nightmare' (think of Alice Hoffmanís 'Property Of' and Joyce Carol Oatesí 'Foxfire' for kindred spirits), through to the big soul beat ballads that fill much of the record. And Lori looks beautiful on the cover, even oddly Trish Keenan like.

While we are on the subject of filling up some glaring pop lacunae, full marks too to Ace for its Reparata and the Delrons collection, which contains some of the greatest examples of Ď60s girl group pop. Gems like the northern soul classic Panic are on there, and there need be no excuse to point people in the direction of the ultra-Phil Spector-isms of Jeff Barryís 'Iím Nobodyís Baby Now', which is just ridiculously sublime and heartbreaking. And I didnít know that the Left Bankeís Michael Brownís dad did their orchestrations. Itís no wonder Laura Nyro was so moved by these records.

Thereís some great examples of later-Ď60s strangeness towards the end of the collection, and it ends excellently on my favourite 'Shoes', which I seem to recall was a Morrissey favourite when he loved making lists of his influences, and we loved taking note of his choices. I think these records really are much stranger than say something like Judee Sill who gets The Wire seal of approval. So, okay, she had a terribly tragic life, but she still sang some pretty unexceptional ballads. So, Reparata may have gone on to be a teacher for many years, but she certainly during her pioneering time in pop challenged many stereotypes and prejudices.

It is funny though how names come in and out of fashion though isnít it? I have been playing Colin Blunstoneís gorgeous post-Zombies set, One Year, an awful lot this week. It is now cited as one of the great baroque pop masterpieces, a lost classic, but catching up with it at last I was delighted to recognise 'Say You Donít Mind' as a very old favourite from when Iíd sit on the living room playing with my Matchbox cars with Radio Two on in the background a very long time ago. Aw if only Broadcastís pop was being played so regularly on Radio Two rather than the scarily bland selections from all those names clogging up the album charts. Vic Godardís old dream of a new MOR has gone horribly wrong somehow.

© 2005 John Carney