This summer, The Knife will tour for the first time in 7 years. And even then, they only ever toured once in that incarnation. I missed out on tickets for the London show this May, which would have been handiest for me as I live there, but managed to get tickets to see them in Berlin instead. It appears I’m going on holidays.
Anyway, ticket-bragging aside, I want to talk about Pass This On from their 2003 album Deep Cuts. This album became popular after Jose Gonzales covered its opening track Heartbeats and it was featured in a Sony ad. Their follow-up, 2006’s Silent Shout is one of the best albums of that decade.
What I like most about Pass This On is those calypso drums. They’re so mesmerising. The song is poppier than anything else The Knife have done and it would be easy to bop along to this without getting too deeply involved. The lyrics are on the playful side too – I’m in love with your brother/ What’s his name/ I thought I’d come by to see him again. There’s no escaping a dark undertone that always exists when Karin Dreijer sings and that lurks on the edges here.
I rediscovered this song a couple of years ago through Jamie XX’s BBC Radio 1 Mix, which I played relentlessly for months and features Pass This On mixed seamlessly with Jamie’s own Far Nearer. I rediscovered lots of tracks off the back of that mix actually, most of which deserve their own posts. In fact, that mix deserves its own post.
Over the years, I’ve been a fan of other tangential Knife projects, such as Olof Dreijer’s Oni Ayhun EPs. OAR003-B is a particularly enjoyable 10 minutes of minimal techno.
This post has veered off on many tangents, but I suppose that’s the nature of writing about The Knife. Everything they touch is gold.
I don’t know about these ladies – look how hard they’re trying. They’re 3 sisters from California and the band name is their surname. I’m switching off already. They’re booked to support Florence on her tour next year and have played with Mumford and Sons and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. I’ve pretty much walked away by now.
But then, this song. Oh man, this song is just right up my street. The melody is pure ’90s pop presented in beautiful wrapping paper that you don’t want to tear. Most likely, what you’ll find inside is that the song borrows too much to be very original and the lyrics are a bit weak. I’m ignoring all that though and singing along, at the top of my voice. This is going on all of my morning playlists for the foreseeable future – it makes me feel bouncy. I rarely feel bouncy.
Ian Dury and The Blockheads* – Hit me with your rhythm stick | (Helen Chandler guest post)
Hit me with your rhythm stick / It’s nice to be a lunatic. What a great lyric. Every couplet in this song makes me smile. Not in a beaming ‘I’m so happy’ sort of way, but more in a wry ‘ah, very clever’ acknowledgement of Dury’s lyrical elasticity. Ian Dury was fantastically strange, clever and original.
There’s a bench dedicated to him at Poets’ Corner in Richmond Park, which I’ve been meaning to visit. It was originally intended to act as a listening point where you could plug in headphones and listen to Dury’s music. But it was repeatedly vandalised so that lovely element had to be scrapped. This is why we can’t have nice things.
I know very little about Neneh Cherry – she wasn’t really on my childhood music radar, except with ‘7 Seconds’ which was played on the radio a lot in 1994. Buffalo Stance is a song I came across much later – but I instantly felt like it reminded me of something.
I’ve heard it a lot over the last few years and it seems to be experiencing a resurgence. A quick search for the track on YouTube reveals that it’s currently being used as the intro music for Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals. That made me re-think posting it, but let’s be clear – I love it in spite of Jamie Oliver, not because of him.
Parts of the song still sound amazing – the main hook is kind of melancholy in a way that only ’80s music can be and the beat is one of those that sounds fresh in a retro sort of way. The lyrics and the ‘scratching’ have dated the track a bit, but I love Neneh’s attitude.
This fits really nicely into a Friday afternoon playlist full of ’80s and ’90s classics or brightens up a dull Monday. Enjoy it with mug of tea and a Fruit ‘n Nut.
Neutral Milk Hotel* – Two-Headed Boy (Helen Chandler guest post)
This is such an intense 4 and a half minutes of a song. Jeff Mangum beats the acoustic guitar like it’s a percussion instrument and shout-sings the often mystifying lyrics and you feel like you could get drunk and sing along.
Two-Headed Boy reminds me of a time, a few years ago, when I seemed to want to shout it at the top of my lungs whenever I got drunk with my friends. I think they got sick of that pretty quickly.
Jeff Mangum played Whelan’s in Dublin earlier this year, after rescheduling from November 2011. I couldn’t make the new date, but I heard that he played this song and wished that I could have been there, whiskey in hand, enjoying its fierce intensity.
This song never loses its ability to bring a bit of a wobble to the chin. Or at least to make you think you might like a good cry. About 5 years ago, this song kept me company on the 46a bus to UCD nearly every day – I felt quite sorry for myself at the time and imagined that Karen O had felt pretty sorry for herself when she wrote the lyrics.
I like all of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ albums, but their first, Fever To Tell, from which ‘Maps’ was the third single, remains my favourite. Its final track, Y Control, might be in a top 20 list of my all-time favourite songs, if I were ever forced to make one. And while I’m showering praise on them, I might as well put the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ 2009 gig at St George’s Market in Belfast among my favourite ever gigs.
This is my favourite song at the moment. I’ve been listening to it intensely for about a month now, and when I say ‘intensely’, I mean at least twice a day.
I moved to London 3 weeks ago. It’s been exciting and frustrating and tiring and challenging. On the tube in the mornings, when my hair is stuck to my face with sweat and I’m trying to avoid eye contact with the person I’m almost nose to nose with, Inspector Norse’s tireless disco-esque beat still makes me smile. Properly smile. Like a crazy person on the tube.
The video is brilliant too. I love dancing, completely, so I look at the guy in the video (Inspector Norse himself) and I think ‘Yes, man. I know what you mean.’
There are no second acts in American lives – this famous F.Scott Fitzgerald adage from The Great Gatsby hangs over the presidential hopefuls in the run up to next week’s US election.
In fact Terry Callier, who sadly died a couple of days ago, did have a second act. He retired from recording music in 1983 to become a computer engineer and his recording from the 60s were rediscovered in the mid 90s by DJs who encouraged him to record again. He then went on to produce some his finest work. His unique soulful voice gave great character to his often plaintive songs about people on the periphery of society. /CjK P.S. RjK – I would add that I owe TC’s music a debt of thanks. Listening to it was when I got one of my first inklings that there was something deeper, fuller, more substantial to soul music than the purely pop leanings of Motown (spectacular though they are) to which I previously been exposed.
David McWilliams* – Days of Pearly Spencer (CjK Guest post)
Days of Pearly Spencer resonates deeply with me as the singer David McWilliams lived in the same town as me, Ballymena in Co Antrim, when he recorded this iconic song. I recall a classmate talking about meeting him, and bringing in a vinyl copy of the record. The song is about a homeless man McWilliams had encountered in Ballymena. It was way ahead of its time, and featured a sweeping orchestral arrangement and a chorus sung as if through a megaphone which makes it seems timeless. This is the best version, which was successful on the pirate radios of the time but not in mainstream. It has had a few (inferior) reincarnations. Sadly McWilliams is dead ten years this year. /CjK *Artist #541