Friday, January 23, 2009

Reasons why the saxophone is not the work of the devil No 1

Ultravox! - Hiroshima Mon Armour

"Somehow we drifted off too far / communicate like distant stars"

Tucked away amongst songs filled with the bile, aggression and horror of the emptiness and banality of modern life is the wonder that is 'Hiroshima Mon Armour', possibly one of the most achingly beautiful songs of the post-punk age, a paean to everything innocent lost.  Beginning with the soft, melancholic chunter of the drum machine, then the meandering and eerie synths kick in before the saxophone makes its entrance.  But what a soft and affecting entrance it is, low and subtle rather than the the honking devilish solo that was to become the staple of the 80s.  John Foxx's strangely disaffected croon only adds to the atmosphere as the song rumbles along at a slow and stately pace (the lyric 'riding intercity trains / dressed in European greys' is for me the best description of the images that the rhythm evokes).  Even the lengthy improvisation on sax at the end manages to preserve its dignity - this is the most Polite and English of sax solos, never becoming unrestrained and not Getting Too Carried Away.  This song was notable for me in that it proved to me that saxophones were not always Bad and that Ultravox pre-Midge Ure were infinitely superior.

In Remembrance of Billy Mackenzie

I forgot that yesterday (22 january) was the anniversary of the passing away of Billy Mackenzie (The Associates) so here's to his memory and his wonderful soaring voice

Magic Magic

A band and an album of the same name, Magic Magic are obscure characters being almost impossible to locate on the 'net and with their album only available from Rough Trade (I had the fortune to visit the Rough Trade East shop recently and it was well worth a visit, although my bank account would not agree).  This was one of my attempts to buy an album on the strength of the review alone (I did this with Interpol and it worked very well) - a gushing review in the Sunday Times singing the praises of these young men from the US who have two drummers and use banjos and sing whimsical songs about jellyfish, alongside a picture of them covered in what looked like blood but could be strawberry jelly.  I think it was the picture that enticed me, after all it suggested they would either be very twisted or quirky.  It turns out that Magic Magic are more quirky than twisted after all, their lyrics describing fantastical scenarios sung in a childlike and naive fashion, very sweet in fact but without being cloying.  It took me a couple of listens to get into it properly as it is far more folk orientated than the post-punk fest I have had of late.  Now I love it and will urge everyone I know to rush to Rough Trade and purchase a copy!