"Highgate Cemetery in the Rain"
There's ever delight in drizzle. If you choose a rainy bank holiday for a walk across Hampstead Heath, the people might not be out in numbers (ha - fairweathers), but in the Hardyesque mists you'll still have the company of the moorhens, ducks and crows. Then, why not wander, via the dreary opulence of a sodden Highgate village, through the swirling greens and greys of Waterlow Park (where woodpeckers are the avian speciality), and down to Highgate Cemetery? And find that it's still possible to enjoy this hallowed ground without even Wolfie Smith in sight, to have George Eliot, Faraday and Marx and all to yrself, to indulge in quiet, uninterrupted contemplation about the mysteries of the universe. Such as how, after the swashbuckling high of "Cloud 9", Tinchy Stryder allows himself to be sullied again every time the lacklustre "Breathe" appears on Channel U. How "Arrival of the Queen of Sheba", a number written before punk was invented, can arguably still be the best three-minute pop song of all time. And how the hell Domenech has managed not to pick Trezeguet for Euro 2008.
Eventually, you might want to quit thinking about these things, all as intractable as the Schleswig-Holstein question. You should get home, change out of your drenched gear and knock up a top 20 worth of playlist to dry you off and warm you up:
1. Paul Mac "Cusp Of It All"
This from his "Scratched Soul" download single on Stimulus Records. Since redeployed as our soundtrack to "Holloway Road in the Rain": lasts exactly as long as the walk from Holloway Rd tube to Highbury Corner...
2. Glenn Wilson "Industrial Control"
3. Glenn Wilson "Phoenix"
"Control" - returning to the Marx theme ? - is from a v/a 12" on Unknown Forces, the grooves of which also shelter some not unmemorable tunes from Distek / Zoid, Jeroen Liebregts and Bas Mooy. "Phoenix", meanwhile, is the lead track on another single released earlier this year, a 3-track EP of the same name on Compound which Glenn has all to himself. Both are very fine, pacy stuff from an artist we're now rapidly scrabbling to get hold of more from... and we think our belated discovery of Glenn - no relation to Ant, or even Phil - more than justifies us wheeling out the phrase "Oh! Mr Wilson" again, even if you don't.
4. Badawi ft. Juakali "Crows"
From a 12" on ROIR (yes, the same ROIR that gave us the Raincoats!) The A-side is a Badawi / Kode 9 instrumental joint called "Den of Drumz", but we prefer the B, albeit that the ubiquitous Juakali's vocal seems to have been recorded underwater. Rippling, then.
5. Deicide "Severed Ties"
This and "In The Eyes of God", at least, from the new "Till Death Do Us Part" LP on Earache, hurtle along with the accomplished, at least-mildly satanic vim we'd want and expect. But could we recommend you the whole album ? Frankly, sadly, no, not this (day and) time (my brother). Best investigate the last one, "The Stench of Redemption", instead...
6. The Fall "50 Year Old Man"
A tune that's everything you'd demand from the Fall, fading out far too soon at around the 11'30 mark, with Mark inevitably exhorting "Fade out!" in that identifiably demented way of his. Recalls Even As We Speak's "Beautiful Day", the daddy of inspired mid-song derailments, in the way that on not one but two occasions it so deliciously decamps from its main thumping, uncompromising furrow. The hub of their not unreasonable "Imperial Wax Solvent" LP on Sanctuary, a record that thuds that little bit harder, overall, than Reformation TLC.
7. Warrior Queen "Bad Boyz"
Eschewing recent dalliances with dubstep, this is a smart, tart reggae-ish number, one that also goes very nicely with the Buju Banton and Queen Omega singles we've mentioned on here recently.
8. Quincy "Can't Wear My Air Force"
9. Pres T "Dis Lickle Yout"
ILWTTISOTT favourites from Bless Beats' very busy "Hard Days Graft" CD on Eskibeat Recordings (the Atomic Beat Records of grime), both of which deserve more than a maybe.
10. Wiley "Music Money"
Though we mentioned a handful of tracks, we wouldn't want you to think that "Umbrella Volume 1" doesn't have other stand-outs. Nor would we want you to think that "Wearing My Rolex" was anything other than the commercial pinnacle of Wiley. True, the beat on this is apt to cause serious structural damage if you 'accidentally' amp it up: but we reckon any increase in yer building insurance premium will be well worth it. At some point, remind us to go on and on about "Grime Wave", too.
11. Cee-Rock 'The Fury' "Kill Da Killin'"
About a million years ago, a 12" from the Wolftown label fell into our hands: a 4-track taster EP by some New York bloke called Cee-Rock 'The Fury', for an album to be called, a little improbably, "Bringin' Da' Yowzah!!!" Said 12", which featured collaborations with some of the usual West Midlands suspects (Late, Juttla), was brill (ooh, it seems to be #18 here), but although the final Cee-Rock long-player apparently did get a limited release at some point, we certainly never managed to track it down. Anyway, no matter as finally in 2008 a CD of the same name has been (re)issued, on Abstract Urban; it appears to be on general release (coming with a knowing "No Parental Advisory Necessary" peel-off sticker); and it features a number of corkers including the standout, lead song from that Wolftown EP, "Anderson Iz Nice". A reminder that there is much in American hip-hop to enjoy, even if it's a hell of a task to find it inamongst all that rampantly commercialised gangsta posery. And the ebullient "Kill Da Killin'", which neatly encapsulates The Fury's own defiantly anti-thug msg, is not only on "Yowzah!!!" redux, but seems to be getting a separate release as a single, too. Hurrah.
12. Fosca "We See The World As Our Stunt Doubles"
Talking of million-year waits... they're back, you know, with a new album called "The Painted Side of the Rainbow". What this rather spangly should-be single is off of. And especially in a world that appears all too ready to tolerate the vacuous chuntering bluster of the Pigeon Detectives et al, we would argue that Fosca are needed more than ever before.
13. The Wedding Present "I Lost The Monkey"
14. The Wedding Present "Don't Take Me Home Until I'm Drunk"
"El Rey", their new album on Vibrant Records, is better, we think, and certainly more consistent, than "Take Fountain", only the first two singles from which really shone. It's a record which manages somehow to sound both shambling and widescreen - the press are probably right to attribute this to the fact that the once heavily-flagellated TWP are now seen almost as a lovable curio, the cliche of gritty Yorkshire indie transplanted to L.A... The lyrics are still the usual blend of love triangle narratives and execrable chat-up lines, but especially where the guitars still shamble a little sweetly - like "Spider-Man on Hollywood", the longer, languid "Boo Boo" or indeed "Don't Take Me Home..." which we now remember they previewed at ULU last year - you can still easily identify that wily old sea dog David Lewis Gedge as the same man who's been toying with jangle-headed listeners' heart-strings since the mid-80s. The taster single, "The Thing I Like Best About Him Is His Girlfriend", if disappointingly non-ska, is amongst the lighter and frothier tunes here, yet just as darling as "I'm From Further North Than You", say. Plus, there are many more-than-mildly satisfying tranches of noise (ah, Mr Albini, we presume!) inamongst the various earnest strumathons.
15. Robert Forster "Demon Days"
There are gentlemen and ladies of our acquaintance who are smitten with Bob Dylan, or someone called the Boss, who seethe with resigned frustration every time we admit that we just can't quite "get" their devotion. Yet we do recognise their pain: we always have to defend Robert Forster when some whippersnapper insists that his songs leave them cold, or worse are merely *okay*... Like a favourite uncle, he remains immune to criticism from us, and it's a right we feel he's earned many times over, and if he made a bad record - even if he became a stadium-botherer - we wouldn't let it deflect our ardour. So we won't purport to say anything other than that new album "The Evangelist" is, for us, a tender treat. And reiterate that we would rather die tomorrow still loving the Go-Betweens, than live forever liking Royworld.
16. Mytty Archer "Too Many Lovers"
Any 7"s from 555 Recordings still droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven (even if we fear they're gonna droppeth in ever-decreasing numbers, so long as this ungrateful globe continues to shun them). And on the 3-track 555 48 (play at 33), we have an army of all the talents: the Cannanes take on "Don't Fear The Reaper" with grace and gentle pizazz, while the inestimable Boyracer pay tribute to the Beatniks with a not-fi clamber around the classic "Supremer Queener". But the pick is Mytty Archer's tune, a flitting dazzle of guitar with a soft-spoken vocal that briefly blossoms into rainflecked sheets of noise before departing too soon.
17. Boyracer "Faith Seeds"
One more spot of gentle rain, then: a five-tracker on 555 / Jelly Fant, this time played at 45, and split between the Racer and the infectious Que Possum (including the latter's "Unrested", from this). It's all good, obviously: but "Faith Seeds" is the play for today.
18. The Occasional Keepers "I've Realised"
19. The Occasional Keepers "If The Ravens Leave"
Having been less than enthralled by their previous outings, the latest album "True North" (on LTM) in places makes some fairly serious amends: these particular songs being so damnably gorgeous that they make us want to rip up every damning word we've ever said. About anyone. Really, two sumptuous, enviro-consh tracks. One of which you can listen to here.
20. Zipper "Goodbye"
This is from their "11" LP on Liliput. We saw them live: they made us *smile*. Life can be beautifully, absurdly simple.