Rock Synth Pop

David Bowie – Is It Any Wonder?

Second David Bowie post in two days (& third this week). Is It Any Wonder? is a six-track EP consisting of unreleased or rare tracks recorded in & around 1997.

To kick things off, there’s the version of The Man Who Sold The World from the ChangesNowBowie radio show (also released as a new album this year). This is a stripped back, downtempo, acoustic version of the song, reminiscent of the much lauded Nirvana cover. A conscious decision, I’m sure, & a moving tribute to the late Kurt Cobain.

The second track is a moving, moribund treatment of the Tin Machine song, I Can’t Read. This version was recorded during the mixing of Bowie’s ’97 album, Earthling (which I wrote about yesterday) & is said to have been Bowies preferred version of the song. Check out the video (above) for some great, artistic visuals. I particularly like the faces projected onto the white masks.

Stay 97 is an update of the track from 1976 album Station To Station. The idea was to bring older material in line, sonically, with the newer stuff from Earthling. This is achieved with motorik rhythms & crunchy, digitized guitar riffs.

Baby Universal 97 is a rerecording of another Tin Machine track. Originally intended as the penultimate track on Earthling, Bowie was aid to have being extremely fond of the track & didn’t think enough people had heard it before. This version is built around hard drum machine beats, thrashing guitars & a melodic soundscape of synth & vocals. I can easily imagine it sitting comfortably on Earthling.

Nuts is minimal, Junglist, Drum & Bass. Recorded in the Earthling sessions, Nuts was also originally slated for inclusion but was eventually left off the album. It’s incredibly atmospheric. A friend of mine says it reminds him of a lot of Eric Serras film soundtrack work, paticularly The Fifth Element & Goldeneye. I agree, but it also reminds me of the music for the excellent original PlayStation game, G-Police or Wipeout.

The final track is another version of The Man Who Sold The World. The ‘Eno’ Live Mix, 2020 remaster. This Brian Eno produced version transforms the song into a downtempo, Dub-influenced Trip Hop tune. This version was recorded in 1995 & released as a single alongside Strangers When We Meet. Heavy dubby basslines, delayed percussion & echoey sonar blips combine to create a truly contemporary (for 1995) sonic experience.

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Hip Hop Music Song of the Day

Song of the Day (BLM): Nas – One Love (feat. Q-Tip)

Day 15. We’re on the homestretch. Soon I’m going to have to decide on the theme for the next Song of the Day series. One Love is taken rap wunderkind Nas’ debut album, Illmatic, produced by some of the greatest Hip Hop producers in New York (including Q-Tip).

This is essential Hip Hop. Intelligent, storytelling lyricism over crisp, clear beats.

[Verse One]
What’s up kid? I know shit is rough doing your bid
When the cops came you should’ve slid to my crib
Fuck it black, no time for looking back it’s done
Plus congratulations you know you got a son
I heard he looks like you, why don’t your lady write you?
Told her she should visit, that’s when she got hyper
Flippin, talk about he acts too rough
He didn’t listen he be riffin’ while I’m telling him stuff
I was like yeah, shorty don’t care, she a snake too
Fucking with the niggas from that fake crew that hate you
But yo, guess who got shot in the dome-piece?
Jerome’s niece, on her way home from Jones Beach – it’s bugged
Plus little Rob is selling drugs on the dime
Hangin out with young thugs that all carry 9’s
At night time there’s more trife than ever
What’s up with Cormega, did you see ’em, are y’all together?
If so then hold the fort down, represent to the fullest
Say what’s up to Herb, Ice and Bullet
I left a half a hundred in your commissary
You was my nigga when push came to shove
One what? one love

[Verse Two]
Dear Born, you’ll be out soon, stay strong
Out in New York the same shit is going on
The crack-heads stalking, loud-mouths is talking
Hold, check out the story yesterday when I was walking
The nigga you shot last year tried to appear like he hurtin’ something
Word to mother, I heard him fronting
And he be pumping on your block
Your man gave him your glock
And now they run together, what up son, whatever
Since I’m on the streets I’m gonna put it to a cease
But I heard you blew a nigga with a ox for the phone piece
Whylin on the Island, but now with Elmira
Better chill cause them niggas will put that ass on fire
Last time you wrote you said they tried you in the showers
But maintain when you come home the corner’s ours
On the reals, all these crab niggas know the deal
When we start the revolution all they probably do is squeal
But chill, see you on the next V-I
I gave your mom dukes loot for kicks, plus sent you flicks
Your brother’s buck whylin’ in four maine he wrote me
He might beat his case, ’til he come home I play it low key
So stay civilised, time flies
Though incarcerated your mind (dies)
I hate it when your moms cries
It kinda wants to make me murder, for real-a
I’ve even got a mask and gloves to bust slugs for one love

[Verse Three]
Sometimes I sit back with a Buddha sack
Mind’s in another world thinking how can we exist through the facts
Written in school text books, bibles, et cetera
Fuck a school lecture, the lies get me vexed-er
So I be ghost from my projects
I take my pen and pad for the weekend
Hitting L’s while I’m sleeping
A two day stay, you may say I needed time alone
To relax my dome, no phone, left the 9 at home
You see the streets have me stressed somethin terrible
Fucking with the corners have a nigga up in Belleville
Or h.d.m., hit with numbers from 8 to 10
A future in a maximum state pen is grim
So I comes back home, nobody’s helping shorty doo-wop
Rollin two Phillies together in the Bridge we called ’em oowops
He said, “Nas, niggas could be bustin’ off the roof
So I wear a bullet proof and pack a black tres-deuce”
He inhaled so deep, shut his eyes like he was sleep
Started coughing, one eye peeked to watch me speak
I sat back like the mack, my army suit was black
We was chillin’ on these benches where he pumped his loose cracks
I took an l when he passed it, this little bastard
Keeps me blasted he starts talking mad shit
I had to school him, told him don’t let niggas fool him
‘cos when the pistol blows the one that’s murdered will be the cool one
Tough luck when niggas are struck, families fucked up
Could’ve caught your man, but didn’t look when you bucked up
Mistakes happen, so take heed never bust up
At the crowd catch him solo, make the right man bleed
Shorty’s laugh was cold blooded as he spoke so foul
Only twelve trying to tell me that he liked my style
Then I rose, wiping the blunts ash from my clothes
Then froze only to blow the herb smoke through my nose
And told my little man that I’m a go cyprose
Left some jewels in his skull that he can sell if he chose
Words of wisdom from Nas try to rise up above
Keep an eye out for Jake shorty wop
One love

Looking for some great music? Why not check out the Song of the Day (BLM) playlist?

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Music Overlooked Classics Rock Synth Pop

Overlooked Classics: David Bowie – Earthling

David Bowie’s 1997 album Earthling was the first new Bowie record I was aware of as a teenager. I already knew songs like Space Oddity & Ashes To Ashes, & even liked what I knew, but Earthling was essentially my generation’s Bowie album.

Bowie, finger ever on the pulse of the zeitgeist, was inspired by emergent genres like Drum & Bass, IDM & Breakbeat. Earthling was written & produced with these influences at the fore. Everything could have gone so horribly wrong. Many other classic artists who embrace genres of younger generations fail miserably (in my opinion), take Neil Youngs synthetic experiments in the ’80’s for example.

Luckily, Bowie was able to understand & appreciate what it was about these genres that made them special & unique. Instead of bending the technology & techniques used to create Drum & Bass to match his songwriting, he bent his songwriting to match the technology.

Album opener & lead single, Little Wonder, is a great example of this. A thumping, Junglist, Drum & Bass beat underpins trademark. His incredible vocal melodies floating above the hard, Junglist beats. In line with a key influence at for Bowie at the time, The Prodigy, Little Wonder’s skittering breakbeat manglement gives way to headbanging, anthemic hard rock sections.

Elsewhere, other influences come to the fore. Looking For Satellites is heavy downtempo breakbeats, somewhere between Hip Hop & Trip Hop (Meat Beat Manifesto?), but with rhythmic vocal melodies that wouldn’t be out of place on a Talking Heads record.

Prodigy vibes abound on Battle For Britain (The Letter). Crunchy, digitally harsh guitar chords juxtaposed against similar Junglist rhythms to Little Wonder. Bowies trademark melodic melancholia & a space rock glueing the whole thing together. Free jazz piano segments notwithstanding.

Seven Years In Tibet brings us more downtempo drum machine shenanigans, with heavy, metallic guitar riffing. This is more in Nine Inch Nails’ sonic territory than Prodigy though.

Dead Man Walking sees modem noise distorted guitars over thumping four-to-the-floor beats. Techno synth arpeggios & harmonic vocal loops give this a distinctly ’90’s vibe to it. Perhaps reminds me a little of Björk’s Hyper-Ballad. I could easily imagine a successful mix of the two songs in the hands of a competent DJ.

Telling Lies sees the return of the Drum & Bass rhythms. Lowkey baritone Bowie vocals & incoherent moaning help to build an oppressive sonic atmosphere.

The Last Thing You Should Do is upbeat, cut-&-Paste breakbeat with melancholic, subdued verses & explosive, distorted choruses. Like The Chemical Brothers with a more experimental sensibility. Grunge dynamics feel strangely at home here.

I’m Afraid Of Americans is more downtempo, industrial influenced darkness. Wears it’s Nine Inch Nails influence proudly on its sleeve. Doubly so on the various Nine Inch Nails Remixes which were also made, Trent Reznor’s unique production style bringing out Bowie’s darkest artistic impulses. You’ve got to hand it to Reznor. Not only did he do a great job of this, but he did it from the position of being completely starstruck & in awe of Bowie.

Finale, Law (Earthlings On Fire) is another dive into the sonic textures of Techno. Four-to-the-floor drums, bubbling, sidechained bass lines & stabs of distorted noise. Vocals mimic the rhythms brilliantly, acting as just another instrument in the soundscape.

I forgot how much I loved this album & I’m glad I was reminded of it by a post on Facebook earlier this week. One of Bowies darkest, & most sonically adventurous, albums, Earthling still sounds incredibly contemporary today, 23 years after its release.

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Blues Rock Rock And Roll Song of the Day

Song of the Day (BLM): The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Purple Haze

Day 14. There’s a fair argument to be made that Jimi Hendrix was probably the most influential musician of the mid-20th century. His incendiary brand of guitar playing & the gritty, aggressive sonic textures he was able to wring from his instrument were pioneering & went on to inspire pretty much all modern Rock music. Many will dismiss this and say that the Kinks (or any number of other musicians) used distortion on their guitars, but that wholly fails to understand what it was about Hendrix’s sound that was so unique. It wasn’t just distorted, it was sustained & loose. It felt like Hendrix was guiding it rather than playing it. It sounded effortless & made generations of Rock fans a) want to play guitar & b) be massively underwhelmed by their own lack of ability.

Purple Haze is a funk inflected Blues Rock stomper. Waves of harmonic distortion crash against “blues & Eastern modalities” (Wikipedia). The psychedelic connotations which many fans & critics ascribed to the lyrics were brushed aside by Hendrix, who described Purple Haze as a “love song”.

Check out this live version from his set at the Atlanta Pop Festival, 1970. The same set where he played his famous rendition of the US national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner. To quote someone from the comments (with the respectable username Spongeboob 69): “His playing is so effortless he probably finds walking harder”.

Purple haze, all in my brain
Lately things they don’t seem the same
Actin’ funny, but I don’t know why
Excuse me while I kiss the sky

Purple haze, all around
Don’t know if I’m comin’ up or down
Am I happy or in misery?
What ever it is, that girl put a spell on me

Help me
Help me
Oh, no, no

Ooh, ah
Ooh, ah
Ooh, ah
Ooh, ah, yeah!

Purple haze all in my eyes
Don’t know if it’s day or night
You got me blowin’, blowin’ my mind
Is it tomorrow, or just the end of time?

Help me
Ahh, yeah, yeah, purple haze
Oh, no, oh
Oh, help me
Tell me, tell me, purple haze
I can’t go on like this
(Purple haze) you’re makin’ me blow my mind
Purple haze, n-no, no
(Purple haze)

Looking for some great music? Why not check out the Song of the Day (BLM) Spotify playlist?

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Indie Compilations & Label Samplers Indie Rock

Terminal Sales Vol. 2: This Delicious – a Sub Pop sampler

This Delicious is the 2006 Sub Pop sampler, & the second in the Terminal Sales series. I don’t remember this one as well as the previous ones I’ve written about, but I did enjoy it & I may have made a CD-R copy from a friend’s back in the day. I can neither confirm or deny this. Primarily because I honestly don’t remember.

Band Of Horses open proceedings with the elegiac, Alt Country of The Great Salt Lake. A high quality, polished, commercial radio production reminds us how Sub Pop doesn’t have a unique sound, per se. Nevertheless, there is a common, hard to describe, vibe that unites the differing sonic styles of Sub Pop artists.

Our old friends, The Thermals

As if in direct contradiction to the high fidelity production of the previous track, our old friends The Thermals are back with the barnstorming Pillar Of Salt from their incredibly ambitious lo-fi, punk concept album, The Body, The Blood, The Machine. The rough production enhances the fuzzy, aggressive guitar work & the impassioned, quasi-heroic vocals. An anthem for the resistance of the new American puritanism that The Thermals were raging against at the time, Pillar Of Salt is compelling & thrilling Indie Agitrop at its finest.

Oxford Collapse’s Let’s Vanish is cheery, upbeat & atmospheric. Melodic, fuzzy Indie Pop with the trademark New York hipster cool. Perhaps a few years too late for Oxford Collapse, this would have been quite a lot more successful if it was released during the immediate wake of The Strokes debut.


With the twin cultural forces of the early ’00’s Post Punk revival & the rise of Electroclash artists like LCD Soundsystem, Sub Pop were always going to get a slice of that pie. CSS’s classic Let’s Make Love And Listen To Death From Above uses a funky synthesised bass line, motorik drum machine programming & bored sounding vocals. The song is widely assumed to be about the Canadian Post Punk band, Death From Above 1979.

Always For You by The Album Leaf is lo-fi Indie Pop built around melancholic synthesiser melodies & plaintive vocals. Stuttering, glitchy drum machine rhythm’s give Alway For You a unique character that subverts the expectations of Indie Pop in a really interesting way.

Kelley Stoltz

Kelley Stoltz gives us some nice ’60’s Psyche Pop with authentic period production, simple vocal melodies & Beach Boys style harmonies. Fuzzy, psychedelic surfer music, Ever Though Of Coming Back is an unexpected highlight for me so far.

Chad VanGaalen’s Flower Gardens opens up with some lovely, bleeping synth arpeggios which subtly detune before the song bursts into a fuzz bass led Psyche Garage stomper. Stuttering vocals & guitar notes, modem noise & dub sirens all build up to create a unique, and raw, take on Garage Rock.

The Bank And Trust by The Elected is hyper-melodic, soulful Alt Country. Sunny Californian melodies & vocal harmonies change up the Country sound into something brighter & shinier.

Jennifer Gentle, Italian Psyche Pop oddballs, are back with the excellent Take My Hands. They’re like a lo-fi T-Rex fronted by Syd Barrett. Minimal & weird, just the way I like it.


Sub Pop stalwarts & Grunge pioneers Mudhoney are in an apocalyptic mood on Endless Yesterday. Grafting Psychedelic melodies onto their heavy-as-you-fucking-like hard Grunge sound, Endless Yesterday is a ode to a thermonuclear holocaust on their semi-concept album Under A Billion Suns. This album, & song, rages against the George W Bush administrations bloodlust &, to quote a song title from the album, Hard On For War. This comes from the same place, emotionally & politically, as The Thermals track mentioned above.

We’re keeping it heavy with the return of another band I loved from earlier Sub Pop compilations, Comets On Fire. This is melodic, sludgy surf Punk. Dogwood Rust is drips in ’60’s energy &, you may remember from previous blogposts about Comets On Fire, Echoplex tape delay. Thick walls of dense delay noise provide an apocalyptic backdrop to furious lead guitar solos.

Tall Birds actually carry on in a similar style, though with a more Pop-orientated melodic sensibility. There’s an almost Glam Rock swagger to Internalize & a sense of Punk chaos to the rhythm section. There’s a few unexpected twists & turns, like the high speed run up to the final chorus, which feels like a different song entirely. Noisy, full stop ending is pretty too.

Pissed Jeans

Next up we’ve got Sabbath slow Noise Rock from Hardcore Punk band Pissed Jeans, with Don’t Need Smoke To Make Myself Disappear. This is dark, dank & aggressive. The vocals range from menacing sarcasm to terrified howling.

Dead Moon Night by Dead Moon is lo-fi Garage Rock. Like so much of the other music on here, Dead Moon Night marries noisy guitar jamming with psychedelic techniques & frantic pitch bending.

From something so melodic we move into much darker territory. The Driller by Wolf Eyes is pure, abrasive Noise Music. Screeching guitar feedback, synthesised percussion & doom metal screaming combine to give a masterclass in noise music. An essential artist if you like the genre. If you don’t, I imagine it is rather unpleasant. Luckily, I love noise music.

Revolve by Eugene Mirman is a bit of a curveball, to be fair. A 5 minute clip of Stand Up comedy. I don’t rally know what to say about this track. It’s pretty funny, but not really what I look for in an Indie Rock compilation.

So, overall, This Delicious is another great Sub Pop compilation.


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Rock And Roll Song of the Day

Song of the Day (BLM): Chuck Berry – You Never Can Tell

Day 13. Here we’ll listen to Rock and Roll pioneer Chuck Berry, with his gloriously upbeat dance number, You Never Can Tell. It’s a super energetic record, but for this post I have chosen a slightly more sedate, downtempo version. His guitar playing really shines at this tempo & would you just take a look at that shirt.

You Never Can tell is an evergreen, kitchen sink drama about a young, married couple just starting their lives together. And why is Chuck writing about these guys? Because they love Rock And Roll, of course.

It was a teenage wedding
And the old folks wished them well
You could see that Pierre did
Truly love the mademoiselle
And now the young monsieur and madame
Have rung the chapel bell

“C’est la vie”, say the old folks
It goes to show you never can tell

They furnished off an apartment
With a two room Roebuck sale
The coolerator was crammed with 
Tv dinners and ginger ale
But when Pierre found work
The little money comin’ worked out well

“C’est la vie”, say the old folks
It goes to show you never can tell

They had a hi-fi phono
Boy, did they let it blast
Seven hundred little records
All rock, rhythm and jazz
But when the sun went down
The rapid tempo of the music fell

“C’est la vie”, say the old folks
It goes to show you never can tell

They bought a souped-up jitney
‘Twas a cherry red ’53
They drove it down to Orleans
To celebrate the anniversary
It was there that Pierre
Was married to the lovely mademoiselle

“C’est la vie”, say the old folks
It goes to show you never can tell

On the extremely unlikely off-chance that you don’t know who Chuck Berry is, I’m still fairly sure you’ll have heard this song as it used in the extremely famous dance scene in Pulp Fiction, starring Uma Thurman & John Travolta.

Looking for some great music to listen to? Why not check out the Song of the Day (BLM) Spotify playlist?


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Indie Rock Music

Cheekface – Emotional Rent Control w/ Original Composition

New Cheekface single, Emotional Rent Control, is a politically charged slice of laconic, slacker Pop. Minimal three piece fuzz Rock with witty, abstract poetic lyrics. The bands Twitter account says that Emotional Rent Control comes from a mishearing of Bernie Sanders saying “we need national rent control”. The melodic guitar riffs are in tribute to Ric Ocasek &, they say, the song is influenced by the Power Pop of Fountains Of Wayne in tribute to Adam Schlesinger. Emotional Rent Control, I think, is referring to greater mental health provisions & community togetherness. “

Break down the boxes and put the lid on the trash
I’m feeling good, but I’m sure it will pass

Original Composition is a downtempo, spoken word poetry speak singing, solid rhythm track inspired by Minutemen’s History Lesson Part 2. This seems to be addressing wider social & political issues, especially the looming, and increasingly unavoidable, environmental breakdown. The song is, according to their Twitter, about “solipsism in the face of a big, big catastrophe.”

Emotional Rent Control w/ Original Composition is available now from all good digital distributors & streaming services.

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Funk Indie Rock Shoegaze Song of the Day

Song of the Day (BLM): The Veldt – Until You’re Forever

Day 12. I’m a big fan of subverting expectations & stereotypes so I’m pleased to present to you, The Veldt. The Veldt are a black Shoegaze band from the initial wave of that genre. Singer Daniel Chavis recalls how his band were viewed as “difficult to work with” as a result of them not playing “typical black music.”

The Veldt play a unique blend of soulful Shoegaze. Walls of sound akin to My Bloody Valentine shroud moody soul vocals & a funk inspired rhythm section. Until You’re Forever, in my opinion, seems to have echoes of the “Madchester” sound to it. Possibly as a result of combining Indie Pop melodicism with upbeat dance-like rhythms & synthesiser textures.

Initially released in 1994, this version is from 2019 & is just as vital & energetic as the album version.

My apologies but, for the first time, I was unable to find the lyrics to this tune to reproduce here.

Looking for some great music? Why not check out the Song of the Day (BLM) Spotify playlist.


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Indie Rock Music

Bully – Where To Start

Sub Pop band Bully’s new single, Where To Start, is a cathartic slice of Grunge Pop fuzziness. Singer Alicia’s voice is a raspy, raw snarl. There’s a Punky naivety to her voice which places it in similar sonic territory to Kurt Cobain (seriously, check out their cover of About A Girl). A thick, fuzzy bass line propels the song along on upbeat drums in a way that calls to mind Debaser or Freak Scene. Melodic & harmonic guitar parts tick all the relevant ’90’s revival boxes too, from strummed Nirvana progressions to off-kilter Pavement melodies. In the ’90’s this would have been huge & we’d still be hearing it today.

Check out the great video. The fuzzed up visuals, psychedelic cuts & broken VHS effects compliment the song beautifully without devolving into shameless ’90’s pastiche. Plus there’s a dog in the video, so bonus points there. Come to think of it, the dog in the video makes me think of the (previously mentioned) Debaser video.

Where To Start is available now on Sub Pop records.

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Music Rock

Neil Young – Vacancy

Neil Young has released another song form his “lost” 1974 album, Homegrown, as a single ahead of its release on the 19th June. Vacancy is the kind of fuzzy, proto-grunge rocker that Neil Young is famed for. His excellent falsetto vocals piercing a rocksteady rhythm section & his expressive, intuitive guitar playing. Sections of harmonica ground Vacancy in atmospheric Country Rock which would inspire early Alternative Rockers like Dinosaur Jr. Another excellent single.

Vacancy is out now on all good digital music platforms.

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