My music – Contradiction

Another song from my final year at University this was written and recorded in the winter of 1995.

This song is about a very specific person and situation though I’d like to hope it can be interprited more generally. It’s about people that are very lively and talkative but you never really know them….

Words pass like someone else’s story
I know you have a past, why won’t you talk to me?
Yet you tell me things you think I ought to know
Are you a martyr to the cause?
So self assured, yet scared inside
So open, but what’s on your mind?
You seem so free but the chains they bind

Talk to me…..

Tell me how it felt when you lover died?
Tell me when was the last time that you cried?
Do you think I can’t see the pain you hide inside
I can see behind the facade
You’d help anyone, does it ease the guilt?
You’re so alone, why did you need to escape?
You live with this but you know its too late

Talk to me
You’re a contradiction

Words and music by Foxbase Alpha
Stewart Tolhurst: Synthesisors, programming and string arrangement.
David McLean: Guitars
Eleanore Thomason: Singing
Philip Rawson: Saxophone
The voice of Matt Gunby

Strings conducted by Alastair Warwick
Violins: Elisa Bergenson, Oliver Ogg, Anne Renshaw, Ben Selby, David McLean
Violas: Erika Brunnen, Ben Harris
Cellos: Kristian Hibbard, Hannah Payne

Recorded in Edit 1 and Studio 2, University of Surrey Department of Music, October 1995.

Albums of the year… so far…

The Guardian have published a list of their contributors’ albums of 2012 (so far) and it’s a fairly eclectic list.

I think the fact that I don’t actually know many of these albums or indeed artists is a sure sign that my hipster days are over (if they were ever there at all!), but there’s certainly things there that I already have or pique my interest…

Saint Etienne ‘Words & Music By…’  Easily their poppiest album since ‘Good Humour’ and its nice to see that they managed to avoid the trap of having their personality subsumed into that of the production team.  I must do a proper review of this soon.

Django Django ‘Django Django’ Great album – nothing else quite like it out there at the moment.

Chairlift ‘Something’ I’ve heard a few tracks from this one, so I think it needs to go on the buy list.  ‘Met Before’ got a fair amount of play on 6 Music.

Grimes ‘Visions’ Grimes is another one that’s getting quite a lot of play on 6 Music and I’m liking what I’ve heard.

Hot Chip ‘In Our Heads’ Hot Chip are one of those bands that I always end up overlooking. I suspect if they were on eMusic I’d have this already, but for some reason they never come to mind when I’m buying in-store…

Dexys ‘One Day I’m Going To Soar’ I’ve heard a *lot* of good things about this, which is rather unexpected given how mercurial Kevin Rowlands can be.  Must download this from eMusic now that my credits have rolled over…

Lana Del Rey ‘Born To Die’ I’m afraid I just don’t get LDR.  She’s got a good voice and the production is top-notch but for me the songs just aren’t there.  All sheen and no substance I’m afraid – from the carefully constructed persona (complete with backstory) through the the faux-Lynch videos – scratch the surface and she’s just another pop-starlet with some rather ordinary songs…

My music – Over & Over

Written and recorded in spring 1996 at the University of Surrey this is one of my favourite songs and was submitted as part of my portfolio of recordings.
The song is about how people get into the same kind of relationship over and over again. Even though you know that the relationship is totally self destructive you still go on…..

You said you would leave, but what about me?
That’s not the way that I want it to be
I’ve been there before
If you walk out that door
There is no way you will see me again
If we want the same thing
Then you’ll want to stay
Could you walk out without a word
But if you go I want you to know
I’d do it all over….

And over and over again

I’ll find someone new
He might be like you
He’ll tell me the things that I wanted to hear
If it happens again would anything change
Would I be the victim I’m getting to know
But what is the point of wasting my time
Just carrying on when I’m not really sure
I know there’ll be more after you
It’ll never be over….

Written and performed by Foxbase Alpha
Stewart Tolhurst: Keyboards and Programming
David McLean: Guitar
Eleanore Thomason: Singing

Recorded in Edit 1 and Studio 2, University of Surrey Department of Music, spring 1996.

My music – Gotta Have It

The genesis of this song was experimenting with Apple’s Garageband when I got my first Powemac. I’m actually pretty pleased with how this turned out. It is very 80s, with more than a touch of The Human League about it. I’m not sure how successful my attempts at being sexy and breathy are…

Skin on skin
Sweat on sweat
Draws you in
And you want it

Moist hair clings
To your chest
Intoxicating taste
You gotta have it

You want it
And you want it
You want it now
Gotta have it

Album art

Every since I got my first iPhone I’ve got a little bit obsessive about having the right album art attached to my MP3s.  It makes it easier to see albums when you’re flipping through and it generally makes for a nicer experience. One of the many problems with iTunes is that its album art detection is limited to items in the iTunes Music Store catalogue.  Combine this with the fact that it uses the frequently ropey Gracenote database to propogate metadata when you rip a CD and you’ve got a recipe for fustration!  While I frequently find myself tidying up Gracenote track listings (misspellings is the most frequent one) I’ve found a very handy site to help with iTMS’s less than comprehensive catalogue –  It seems to get most of it’s data from Amazon listings, so out of print discs can still be hard to find, but for most things its really good, especially when there are multiple versions of an album’s artwork available.

This has proved very useful for my current project – ripping some of my fiance’s CDs for inclusion in our wedding reception disco (hired PA, laptop and iTunes DJ mode) as some of his selections definitely aren’t in the iTMS catalogue!

DMCA takedown notice kills REMcycle at birth…

I’ve been a fan of the work of the Recycle team (Drew Crumbaugh, Jeb Edwards and Bruce Barlett) since discovering their loving restorations of the Factory Joy Division/New Order single releases and followed the subsequent restoration of The Smiths Rough Trade singles from the start.  Their next project would cover the IRS-era singles of REM beginning with a very early demo tape given away by the as-yet-unsigned band to gig-goers.   It was rather disappointing to hear that, after no legal problems from the New Order or The Smiths camps, that Universal (who own the rights to the IRS catalogue) had issued a DMCA takedown notice on the first media file posted on the new-born blog.

Understandably Drew is now reluctant to continue with the project.  This is a huge shame as  this material is long out of print and much would be unlikely to ever see an official release.  It’s also worth noting that it is the opinion of many (including members of the band) that their work on the New Order singles was superior to the official re-releases!  This is such a lost opportunity for fans of REM…

What is slightly encouraging is that the story has picked up some mainstream media interest, including SpinRolling Stone and CNN!

Django Django – O2 Academy Oxford – 5th June 2012

Django Django’s self-titled début was one of the standout releases of the first few months of 2012, so I was excited to see that they had an Oxford date on their current tour.

Support were provided by Nzca/lines who started their funk/electro-pop set strongly but the material got weaker and weaker as they went on. They certainly have potential – they are very tight live (a mix of drum machines, sequences, live keys and bass) – but the songs were largely missing that all important melodic hook that draws you in.

Django Django more than lived up to the promise of the album. Live they are just as intricate, but the sound is bigger and grittier without losing the clarity. Highlights of the set included the mission-statement of Default, the really-should-be-a-single Firewater and the dub-tastic Skies Over Cairo. It’s always good to catch a band in a small venue at the start of their career and I hope that these guys will be around a while. Can’t wait to see how their psychedelic-electronic-art-rock sound develops!


My Music – Regret

This song was written in the summer after my first year at University. I wrote it with a view to recording it with a full string section. The song isn’t really about anything much. It’s a “love gone wrong” song in the same vein as early Pet Shop Boys and yes the chorus does sound a bit like New Order’s “True Faith”! The drummer went on to great things as the regular engineer for Paul Oakenfold and Steve Osborne (AKA Perfecto) and is now a producer in his own right, having worked with bands such as Blur and Doves.


My life’s a mess
And it’s over you
You’re not leaving yet
But it will be soon
It’s happening again
Always the same
Why couldn’t I see
I thought that you’d need me

I used to think that my time would one day come
I didn’t think I would have to wait this long
I always thought that I’d get what’s due to me
That’s not the way life is meant to be

We’re at the end
Our dreams turn to dust
Our hearts we must mend
No need for a fuss
Don’t scream and shout
The fire has gone out
It’s not what I want
It’s just what we’ve got

Music and words by Stewart Tolhurst
Stewart Tolhurst: Synthesisors, Programming, String Arrangement
James SImons: Guitars
Ben Hillier: Drums

Strings conducted by Matt Potter
Violins: David McLean, Elisa Bergenson, Ben Selby, Chris Hatt, Bryony Fisher
Viola: Daniel Woodall
‘Cello: Kirsty Whalley
Bass: Nick Hughes