Saturday, 31 December 2011

12 Songs for Xmas - Seventh Day

I had heard about Ron Sexsmith long before I actually heard his music. A night down at my Dad's with minimal access to my usual music channels lead me to a BBC Four programme about songwriters that included Ron. This lead me to download his 2011 album "Long Player Late Bloomer" which really hit the mark. "Believe it when I see It" is one of my favourite tracks off that album.


Friday, 30 December 2011

12 Songs for Xmas - Sixth Day

A concept album about British Wrestling Of The 1970's And Early 1980's? In 2011? Never gonna work is it? Well Luke Haines demented genius ensured that it could and 9 1/2 Psychedelic Meditations On British Wrestling Of The 1970's And Early 1980's has been one of my favourite albums of the year.

This here track is the impossibly catchy Big Daddy Got A Casio VL - Tone.


Thursday, 29 December 2011

12 Songs for Xmas - Fifth Day

Slow Club are a band with a history of tweeness. The first time I saw them live they played a number of unusual instruments including a chair. This was endearing on its own but their debut album was full of corking tunes too. Paradise, released this year was quite a change from those quirky routes. A much bigger sound. The songwriting remains though and this track Two Cousins is one of the highlights.


Wednesday, 28 December 2011

12 Songs for Xmas - Fourth Day

Time to wake things up a bit with the irrepressibly chirpy Go! Team. Their new album, Rolling Blackouts, was a huge return to form after their relatively disappointing second album. T.O.R.N.A.D.O. kicks off both the new album and their current live show and is a shot of 100% positive vibe.

It's a T. O. R. N. A. D. O!


Tuesday, 27 December 2011

12 Songs for Xmas - Third Day

Day three and I'm guessing we're all feeling a little bit tired of rich food and drink. We're off out again later today assuming the country is not in the midst of a massive winter storm (I wrote all these posts before Christmas).

Something mellow then to soothe your thumping head and hopefully make you feel good about the world. This is Low, who I think are a very underrated band, and "Especially Me". I went with the album version, which has a lovely string section in the middle, if you feel the need for moving pictures there should be a link to the official video from the same page.


Monday, 26 December 2011

12 Songs for Xmas - Second Day

Sweet Baboo is Stephen Black, sometime collaborator with First Day artist Gruff Rhys. Don't expect the rest of the days to be as joined up as this. I don't actually have a plan this was a fluke. Anyway, I saw Stephen as part of Slow Club's backing band at the Shepherd's Bush Empire in October. That was a great show, though annoyingly I missed the actual Sweet Baboo set he'd played earlier the same evening. It did at least encourage me to go and find some of his music hence this track "Bounce" from his Girl Under A Tree mini album.


Sunday, 25 December 2011

12 Songs for Xmas - First Day

Something a bit different to celebrate the festive season. A song a day for each of the 12 days of Christmas. I had to check Wikipedia to see when the twelve days actually start and it seems to be open to debate. I do know that Mrs Top Five always makes me take the decorations down on the 5th of January, so I'm going with today as the first day.

First song out of the bag is the lead track from Gruff Rhys' secular Christmas E.P. "Post Apocalypse Christmas".

Hope you're having a very happy Christmas Day.


Friday, 23 December 2011

Top 5 Anti-Christmas Songs

Despite the fact that, as Half Man Half Biscuit told us, "It's Cliched to by Cynical At Christmas", it's also quite therapeutic to let your "Bah! Humbug" side out once in a while. Also I'm running out of ideas for Christmas related top fives. Thanks to the ever fascinating Guardian Readers Recommend series who came up with the topic and provided me with some excellent choices to select from. Oddly, in spite of the general theme of Christmas not being the greatest time of the year, these songs have a rather uplifting effect on me. I think underlying the misery there's a sense of positive thought but perhaps that's just me.

1. "That Was the Worst Christmas Ever" Sufjan Stevens - A heart wrenching song coupled with a wonderfully animated D.I.Y video. It's not the sort of thing I'd normally champion but thoroughly deserves a wider audience.

2. "We're All Going To Die" Malcolm Middleton - Previously with the always acerbic Arab Strap, this is Malcolm Middleton's first attempt at a Christmas song. Despite the obviously grim subject it has an impossibly catchy refrain that I've been humming ever since.

3. "A Christmas Carol" Tom Leher - An Evening Wasted With Tom Lehrer was one of those albums my Dad owned that came to mean a great deal to me growing up. To be honest, this is the only album by Tom Leher I've ever heard but it remains a milestone in my comedy education.

4. "Cancel Xmas" Rocket from The Crypt - I was never a massive RFTC fan but this is a tune that hits all the right buttons.

5. "Christmas Is Going To The Dogs" Eels - Here as much for the title as the tune I've long been a fan of Eels morose take on life and this pretty much nails the Christmas conundrum.

If you're really in the mood then check through that Guardian article for some more gems including "Ain't No Chimneys In The Projects" by Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, "The Christmas Tree's On Fire" by Holly Golightly, "Black Christmas" by Poly Styrene and "Don't Believe In Father Christmas" by the Sonics.

Thanks to everyone who has read and enjoyed the blog this year, especially those of you who have contributed your own top fives (and in the process made this a much better place). I hope you all have a very happy festive period and I'll see you in the New Year (or perhaps slightly sooner).

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Film 2012 at dotmund - In praise of "The Big Bus"

Something to tide you over until Friday. I wrote a short dissertation in praise of the 1976 film "The Big Bus" over at dotmund's excellent blog.

You can read it here. There's a top five at the end.

If you like film then it's worth reading the other posts in dotmund's Film 2012 series.

Is that enough links for you?

Back Friday with a Xmas top five.


Friday, 16 December 2011

Top 5 British Punk Singles

I wouldn't say I had a sheltered upbringing but growing up in a small village in the heart of the Surrey commuter belt was never going to make me into a street wise trend setter. The only knowledge I had of popular culture came from the TV and in particular Top Of The Pops. This is why I spent several months believing Pink Floyd were one of those Punk Rock bands I kept hearing about. By the time I knew what Punk was about it was all over.

1. Sex Pistols "Anarchy in the UK" (1976) - The Sex Pistols were almost certainly the first punk band I ever heard and have defined my idea of what punk should sound like. I remember someone bringing a single into school and playing it on a small portable record player over lunch. It might not have had an instant affect on my musical tastes (which up to that point were rooted in The Beatles & The Carpenters) but there was a definite frisson of excitement in hearing a "banned" song played. "Anarchy" is the band's debut single and one of a handful of cracking tunes the Pistols managed to release before imploding in a style completely appropriate for the genre. I spent a good 20 years mishearing the lyric "I want to destroy the passer-by" as "I want to destroy, possibly" which puts an entirely different perspective on John Lydon's rage.

2. The Damned "New Rose" (1976) - I have only recently got into The Damned having previously been more aware of their mid-eighties Goth period. Their first few albums were proper punk though and "New Rose" became the first punk single released in the UK beating the Sex Pistols "Anarchy in the UK" by a month and a few days.

3. Stiff Little Fingers "Suspect Device" (1978) - One of my favourite bands. Whilst they've never veered too far from their original style, they have written some brilliant tunes. Jake Burns lyrics, born out of living in Belfast during the height of the Troubles, set them apart from other bands of the time. I discovered them thanks to a 1981 episode of the BBC's Play For Today series. Jake Burns made his acting debut as Ducksey in "Iris In The Traffic, Ruby In The Rain" which also saw the rest of the band playing themselves and a SLF heavy soundtrack.

4. Buzzcocks "Orgasm Addict" (1977) - I spent far too long only knowing Buzzcocks for the (admittedly excellent) "Ever Fallen in Love". "Orgasm Addict" was released as a 7" shortly after Howard Devoto had left the band to form Magazine and filled the gap between the seminal "Spiral Scratch EP" and their debut full length album "Another Music in a Different Kitchen".

5. Alternative TV "Action Time Vision" (1978) - Alternative TV were formed by Mark Perry, the founding editor of the influential punk fanzine Sniffin' Glue. I think the best Punk records blur the distinction between trashy D.I.Y. rock and perfect Pop and this gets that combination spot on.


Sunday, 11 December 2011

Top 5 British Wrestlers of the '70s and '80s

I didn't have enough time to sort out a proper top five this week but having been inspired by, former Autuers and Black Box Recorder main man, Luke Haines' new album "9 1/2 Psychedelic Meditations On British Wrestling Of The 1970s And Early '80s" I give you this mini-top five.

Back in the days of three channels, on a wet Saturday afternoon with a choice between this, Rugby League or a black & white Doris Day film, I think everyone my age watched the wrestling on "World of Sport".

1. Big Daddy

2. Kendo Nagasaki

3. Giant Haystacks

4. "Gentleman" Chris Adams

5. Young David/Davey Boy Smith


Friday, 2 December 2011

Top 5 Ideas I might try to keep this blog going next year

I've not been exceptionally busy these last few weeks but for one reason or another I've not found much time to get ahead with my top fives. It might have something to do with our new TiVo box. The arrival of this box of wonders has reminded me of when we got our first VCR. I seem to be recording hours of TV on the off chance I might want to watch it. Every time I take a look at my available shows there's so much choice it takes me 5 minutes to decide what to view. I've also found myself, possibly not entirely unrelated to the TiVo, falling asleep on the sofa quite regularly and then having to drag myself up to bed in the small hours.

This is a long winded way of saying I've not got a decent top five this week. It has, however, started me thinking about how I can keep the blog going next year. I like writing top fives and I like my current weekly schedule but I'm pretty sure I'll struggle even more next year to meet it. With that in mind, and knowing I have a few things planned for the new year, here are my "top" five ideas for keeping the blog alive. I'll still do regular top fives as often as I can (and I'll be all the keener for guest submissions) but one or two of these might help me fill the gaps when I've not had time to do one justice.

1. Anyone Can Play Guitar - I cannot play guitar. I've owned a guitar of some sort for most of the last 30 years of my life. I have been completely incapable of getting beyond strumming three chords, with painfully slow and awkward moments as I change between each one. I keep promising myself that one day I'm going to sit down and learn properly. I am now 43 and my chances of becoming a global rock star are getting slimmer every year. On a recent train journey with my pal Mark, we got into a discussion about how I'd be happy if I could just play five fairly simple tunes and sing along. Mark reckons I could do it if I really wanted and challenged me to do so by June 2013. It's clearly an achievable target and I thought I could blog about my progress, or lack of it, as I go.

2. 100 Great Films - I love films but I haven't seen enough of them. Whenever I get into a discussion about films it quickly becomes apparent how many pretty significant movies I've not seen. I've been inspired recently by @dotmund's brilliant Film 2012 series and of course @5olly's always amusing attempts to watch Channel 4s Top 100 War Movies. I'd like to fill in some of the gaps in my knowledge, I just need to find a suitable list of great movies to tick off.

3. Chop's Book Club - My recent choice of reading material has been largely dictated by price or what's available in the library. A large part of my wardrobe is devoted to books I've bought from charity shops or because they've been particularly cheap from Amazon. This has actually worked out surprisingly well but I think next year I'd like to read a few more contemporary novels. I'm reading one of this year's Booker Prize shortlisted books right now and I've half an eye on reading the rest and picking out some more, well received, recent publications. Maybe if I pick a book a month you could read along with me and, if you feel like it, contribute to a discussion post about the book?

4. Gig Reviews - I track all my gigs through Songkick but I'd quite like to keep my own online record of all the bands I've seen. I may not go to quite as many gigs next year (major recession and all that) but if I do I may blog about each show I attend. This might expand into a separate blog to provide archive posts of all the shows I've ever seen ... then again maybe I should just make do with the Songkick record and stop making work for myself.

5. Interactive Top Fives - This would be awesome if I thought there were enough people interested. I'd pick a topic, everyone would send me their top fives and I could produce a combined post from the results. I used to contribute to a PRS run "focus" group that selected a top five on a different musical subject every week. It was brilliant - if a little distracting - and undoubtedly sowed the seeds for this blog. It's hard to maintain enough participants on a weekly basis but, like the book club idea, this could work on a monthly basis if enough of you are interested.

Feedback welcome. Let me know if you think any of these are good ideas. I'll take silence as being approval to do all five.