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Blogs are the new record labels! - click opera
February 2010
 
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Thu, Aug. 28th, 2008 10:41 am
Blogs are the new record labels!

Blogs are the new record labels! So it seems, anyway. I've already given you some videos, a re-release program, and a bit of A&R scouting this week. Now I can report that another blog, Systems of Romance, is giving away in its entirety my very first recorded work, The Man on Your Street by my first band The Happy Family.

The leak may not best please 4AD Records, who financed the recording back in 1982 and are still offering digital downloads in their shop for 79 pence a track. "Released 01 November 82", they note, adding "Hearing Momus' Nick Currie singing in a decidedly youthful fashion is one thing, but is the album itself any good? Happily the one full-length work that the Happy Family gave the world, expanded on CD thanks to the inclusion of the Puritans single, is a wry little treat."

I quite like the album, I wouldn't put it higher than that. I think there's more magic in the rough Germs of Gems demo which convinced Malcolm Ross to put the band together for me. And I wish (again!) that we'd let Vaughan Oliver do the sleeve. We were taken to his house to meet him and everything, yet I insisted stubbornly on making his potential silk purse into my own eyesore-ish sow's ear.

Accounts of the album tend to stress what we didn't sound like rather than what we did. "The band's sound is very different than the material 4AD was releasing at the time," says Systems of Romance. "Instead of budding ethereal or doom-ridden post-punk, the Happy Family had more in common with Brel-esque pop, tossing in several literary sensibilities." That was deliberate; the doomy thing (which you can hear in Innermost Thoughts, the track that interested 4AD in the first place) was already getting to be a bit of a cliché, so I steered the project in the direction of Brechtian Neue Sachlichkeit rather than sickly Germanic Romanticism, and in the direction of personae and plot and artifice rather than direct, "authentic" personal expression. (See my old essay, Beyond the Pale.)

Actually, it was quite a personal album. Personal-political, anyway. Britain at the time was undergoing a major swing to the right, and this was reflected in my own family. My parents, who had been Liberal Party members in the 1960s, divorced in 1981 and my mother ran off with an unrepentant Thatcherite. That story -- transmuted into a tale of fascists and terrorists set in the alpine scenery of northern Italy and Switzerland (the dramatic scenery I was enjoying two weeks ago, in fact) -- is what gives my tale its emotional vigour.

"Comparisons to Josef K were both inevitable and frequent," writes Ryan Foley on the Merry Muses of Caledonia site. "Unfair, too, as The Happy Family's The Man On Your Street bore little resemblance to anything produced by the aforementioned Sound Of Young Scotland act."

I actually wanted us to sound more like Josef K than we did -- I was a bit annoyed when bassist Davy Weddell spent his advance (I split the publishing money five ways) on a Fender Jazz bass, because the odd rubber-bandy thrum of his cheapo Woolworth's bass had been a big part of Josef K's sound. We never clanged and chimed in the loud, Velvety-punky way the K did -- my arrangements were too polite, and I played semi-acoustic rhythm guitar rather than a hard, hot, brittle, tremolo-armed Fender Jaguar. But with the arrival of Neill Martin on keyboards, the Josef K sound was no longer a relevant comparison. The K avoided keyboards. We, meanwhile, added a Korg M10, a string machine, and a funky clavinet formerly owned by Midge Ure's band Slik.

By the way, Neill is the only Happy Family-ist I see to this day. He teaches at the Celtic Studies department of Edinburgh University. Here's how he looked last month. He reminded me that the little riff he played in King Solomon's Song and Mine (on the first Momus album) was actually a quote from the Happy Family song The Mistake (part of the free download). It was there to signal the idea that selling your life "for a song" is... a mistake.

Systems of Romance is wrong to say that "ten demos for an unreleased second album surfaced in 1985 as The Business Of Living". Actually, James Nice's 1985 tape release on LTM was a set of demos for the first album. James came to my recent Glasgow gig and expressed an interest in releasing the seven Momus Creation albums through Les Temps Modernes. He approached Sony, who quoted some laughably stiff licensing fees. So maybe some day I'll make them available as free downloads here on Click Opera. Blogs are, after all, the new record labels.

32CommentReply

st_ranger
st_ranger
Palimpsests of a Secret Whistler
Thu, Aug. 28th, 2008 09:18 am (UTC)

Thanks for the music, I must now go obsess.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Aug. 28th, 2008 09:36 am (UTC)

Go forth! The music was made to be heard more widely than money made possible.

Later, as you probably know, I became this artist:



and this one:



and "many, many more".


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Aug. 28th, 2008 10:27 am (UTC)

Do you still get royalties from your eighties albums?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Aug. 28th, 2008 10:35 am (UTC)

For the Cherry Red one, yes, (it must total at least 39p by now!) because I'm still signed to Cherry Red and they still exist. But since Creation went out of business there's been no statement covering the Creation albums, which are all out of print but are theoretically owned (in a limbo-esque way) by Sony.

Do you think Sony are behind Fresh Biz, a download service based somewhere way, way offshore, and currently charging for downloads of The Philosophy of Momus, Hippopotamomus, Timelord and Tender Pervert? I doubt it, since Philosophy is owned by Cherry Red. Pirates, I expect. Dangerous waters, the Straits of Malacca.


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Aug. 28th, 2008 11:56 am (UTC)

I love Systems of Romance, I get all their stuff, which is of consistent quality. I heard they had a turf war with Phoenix Hairpins and somebody got capped.


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frankieteardrop
frankieteardrop
frankie teardrop
Sun, Aug. 31st, 2008 12:26 am (UTC)

nah, curious guy and i are on fine terms, through and through, unless there's something i'm missing?


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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Aug. 28th, 2008 01:27 pm (UTC)

Does any of your past work represent an identity you no longer relate to? Is it just a simple case of "the older the work, the less I relate to it creatively"?

No, I recognize (and remember pretty well, with diary-assisted near-total recall, in fact) the person who sings this stuff. He's wound up tighter than I am, he's unhappier and more neurotic and possibly more ambitious too (though he'd envy my imminent novel, due to be published in three different languages, and possibly my New York Times job). He's more national, too, and more religious, and more isolated (the internet doesn't exist at this point). And he gets laid a lot less. And sings higher and faster. And tries to get heard over the amps and the drumkit. But he's me all right.


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(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand



ishinagami
ishinagami
Isaac Fischer
Thu, Aug. 28th, 2008 12:32 pm (UTC)

Really i rather love the album maybe i'm a sucker for concept albums or as you've said dead things.

I do actually have the cd which was not to hard to track down.

The luckiest Citizen is probably my favorite track on the whole man on your street show.

Getting my kicks from a revolution not domestic bliss.


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Aug. 28th, 2008 12:35 pm (UTC)

I still have the early Nick Currie demos with Bob Seger's touring rhythm section. I always liked your Yacht Rock better than your indie pop.


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drywbach
:-Þ
Thu, Aug. 28th, 2008 01:00 pm (UTC)

I always enjoyed that riff in _King Solomon's Song and Mine_, the way it commented on the story; it's good to learn a bit about its history--and great to hear the entire record, which I missed first time round (I guess you can't have been interviewed by Smash Hits at that point).

So does it work out better for artists (either in terms of money or publicity or whatever's important) when people buy CDs or download (legally, that is)? Or no difference?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Aug. 28th, 2008 01:31 pm (UTC)

For an artist like me it doesn't make a blind bit of difference at this point. The main thing is that people hear it, that it enters their brains and hearts and souls.


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loosechanj
loosechanj
LooseChanj
Thu, Aug. 28th, 2008 01:01 pm (UTC)

I love the drums on this.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Aug. 28th, 2008 01:32 pm (UTC)

Ronnie Torrance! The man who joined Josef K because he wanted to drive a Ferrari!


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thomascott
thomascott
Thomas Scott
Thu, Aug. 28th, 2008 01:16 pm (UTC)

You have been generous to a fault in regard of making your music available as free downloads.
I am fortunate enough to have The Man On Your Street and your Creation albums (bar The Poison Boyfriend) on vinyl but would love to see them available on over-the-counter cd - just so that I could recommend them to friends and of course also so that readers of Click Opera who are missing that fecund vein of your recording career could hear them.


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count_vronsky
count_vronsky
Thu, Aug. 28th, 2008 03:46 pm (UTC)

"Fecund" is a good adjective for momus I think. And "apposite". I can't combine them into a sentence (momus probably could) but those are words that pop into my head often when I read CO.

Momus's brain -- brilliant, fecund and apposite -- was second only to momus's cock, which, coincidentally, was also brilliant, fecund and apposite.


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microworlds
microworlds
Sparkachu Maelworth
Thu, Aug. 28th, 2008 07:15 pm (UTC)

OMFG I HAVE BEEN DREAMING OF THIS MOMENT FOR FOREVER


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frankieteardrop
frankieteardrop
frankie teardrop
Sun, Aug. 31st, 2008 12:30 am (UTC)

i was delighted to hear the blog was being discussed over here, even if it were to be giving me a bit of flak for posting it for free. i'm glad you seem to be in line with the blog's purpose, to expose new and willing folk to things they may very well never stumble upon otherwise, especially as 4AD doesn't seem to put much effort into making older estranged releases available once more.

apologies for the mistake, i'll correct that posthaste. reports were inconclusive through the various sources as to what precisely the demos were meant for.


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(Anonymous)
Sun, Aug. 31st, 2008 08:52 pm (UTC)

Yeah, put them up for download. I bought Timelord on both vinyl and cassette (for portability) back in the day. Since the Glasgow gig I've been desperately searching for a digital version to carry with me. One by one I'm discovering that all the tape decks that litter my life have ceased up and died.

Of course, in this day and age where "no-one wants to pay for music"© I would quite happily pay for a legal download were it available. One night, on a heavy absinthe drunk, I solved all this. as time goes on I'm convinced the idea might have legs. Anyone know how to start up an internet company?


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