50. LIVE – BURNING SPEAR (1977)

LIVE – BURNING SPEAR (1977)
I’ve never been to a reggae gig. They’re comparatively rare in Scotland and, despite the odd historic flirtation with the genre, Elvis Costello can hardly be said to count, so I have to content myself with some of the most incendiary live albums of any kind: The Wailers from the Lyceum in 1975 (over-familiarity notwithstanding); Misty In Roots at the Counter Eurovision, and this one.
For all the majesty of the studio-bound dub sorcery that was being cast by Lee Perry, Joe Gibbs and the rest by the mid-’70s, reggae’s essence remained in its performance and you can hear the roof being torn off on these albums, and see as well as hear the alfresco splintering in the numerous Reggae Sunsplash films produced over the years.
With this scalding performance by Burning Spear, captured at the   Rainbow in Finsbury Park, north London (a venue steeped in late ’70s music lore) Island chief Chris Blackwell  might have had justifiable reason to believe that Marley’s crossover success would be replicated. A similarly scintillating London performance, a similarly red, green and yellow (gold was tricky to reproduce) ‘live’ logo , a similarly exultant onstage pose struck on the cover by Winston Rodney. Not so commercially but musically…
Marcus Garvey strides off from the starting blocks on one of the mightiest riffs in all reggae which reminds you that Rodney (he is Spear and Spear is him) is a master of the deep-striking pop hook – see Tradition on Marcus Garvey (the album) and Columbus on Hail HIM for further evidence. It mainly comes courtesy of Aswad, then, along with Misty, Matumbi and Steel Pulse, in the vanguard of the first wave of British reggae and a full decade away from their number one with  featherweight soft metal cover Don’t Turn Around.
But the song carries real weight – the titular Garvey, a political and trade union activist of the early 20th century, is revered as one of Rastafarianism’s most important prophets, not only for his fostering of a truly international black consciousness, and of the admittedly contentious ‘back to Africa’ movement, but also for his declaration that the crowning of a black king in Africa would herald the “day of deliverance” – widely held to be a prophecy of Haile Selassie’s emergence as Emperor of Ethiopia.
But imprisonment, deportation and an obscure, impoverished death in London in 1940 followed for Garvey. By the 1970s, his reputation in Jamaica was secure but on Old Marcus Garvey, it’s those years of oblivion that Rodney seems to be lamenting, as he repeats “no one remember Old Marcus Garvey” while countering it with a roll call of other heroes of Jamaican history. And he really is lamenting – as the sombre rhythms roll, he genuinely sounds like he’s bursting into tears over this  negligence – I wasn’t there and there doesn’t seem to be any footage but it sounds pretty real to me and he doesn’t stop weeping even as the music ends. This level of intensity, you feel, is what the NME’s Chris Salewicz was getting at when, in a quote boldly pulled out for the album’s advery, he pronounced it “the most awe-inspiring show I’ve seen in a long, long time.”

There’s more unorthodox vocalising on Man In The Hills. To a lissom, intoxicating rhythm, Rodney extols the Rastafarian practice of communal living in the Blue Mountains above Kingston (a theme he would soon revisit on the superb Social Living) and brings the nature of rural Jamaica to the sprawl of north London with an exuberant blast of birdsong.
Such is the supercharged cauldron of this music that even the lyrically grim Slavery Days gives rise to a call-and-response, that’s invigorating where these things are so often corny. “Do you remember the days of slavery? Do you? Do you?” Demands Rodney. Each time the answer comes back “yeah!” Thankfully,  the answer is really no but, as with the Holocaust, remembering here means not allowing to be forgotten. Now, of course, we know slavery has never gone away, though the notion of “modern slavery” is a grotesque paradox. Modern signifies progress, refinement, enhancement; slavery is, by definition, primitive, barely evolved. Remember.
But this is the mark of protest music at its most potent, music and message hitting feet, hips, head and heart simultaneously and with equal force. If the question “do you feel irie?” at the start of Lion elicits a negative response, better check for a pulse (PG).

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49. CAT POWER – YOU ARE FREE (2003)

CatPower-07On an airless afternoon during the height of a clammy Glasgow summer, I first heard her voice. A sluggish drawl, as though vainly battling sleep. In 1999, everyone in Missing Records was listening to Cat Power’s ‘Moon Pix’. I left Missing that summer and forgot all about Chan Marshall and that voice, returning faithfully to my tired LP collection with its familiar sleeves, smells and sounds – like putting on a pair of tattered, but very comfortable old slippers. Only gradually did I rediscover my zest for newer sounds. Four years later, a recommendation from an old colleague during a brief rendezvous in Glasgow’s finest music emporium, Monorail, led me to a (re)discovery. And to one of the very best albums of the new millennium thus far.

In 2003, Chan Marshall was in trouble. One can sense a sombre desolation and sadness on her 5th LP ‘You Are Free’. In her interviews at the time, Chan spoke of her exhaustion with touring and travelling, the conspicuous lack of routine/stability in her life, the meddlesome politics of record companies and the irksome complexities of the nature of studio recording. In the haphazardness of her day to day existence, she perceived the need for a kind of liberation of the soul. They were not the best of times. Live performances were edgy, dysfunctional, often chaotic. She was drinking more, perhaps abusing other drugs. Her latest relationship was nearing its end. A mournful atmosphere pervades the recording, a sense of physical and spiritual dislocation. Some say an artist in emotional turmoil is primed to produce their most soulful art, and in this case, that maxim sings true.

The fourteen songs on ‘You Are Free’ were culled from around forty or so, which Chan had written during a frenetic year of travelling and touring, and were selected carefully for the album with the assistance of engineer Adam Kasper. The songs, at once deceptively simple, uncoil to reveal great depth. Anything superfluous is eschewed. There is no grand gesture, no unnecessary embellishment, no affectation. There is barely a chorus to be heard, and the tempo rarely changes, yet the subtle minimalism of the arrangements provides real depth to the songs.

The opener, ‘I Don’t Blame You’, conversely the last song written for the album, is one of four brilliant piano-led tracks, and contains a reservoir of empathy for the song’s subject. Marshall only very reluctantly revealed the protagonist to be Kurt Cobain, but in truth, that was merely confirming what everyone had long suspected. [‘Last time I saw you/You were on stage/Your hair was wild/Your eyes were bright/And you were in a rage/You were swinging your guitar around/Cuz they wanted to hear that sound/But you didn’t want to play/And I don’t blame you’] Here, the song’s strength lies in its avoidance of any stylistic homage. Rather, Chan’s voice, all raggedy velvet, sounds wise with lifetimes, and over a stark block piano riff she conveys the familiar story with great subtlety in a fitting tribute which reveals a deeper sentiment at the heart of one of the album’s key themes.

The lyrics to ‘Free’ and the album’s title itself could be construed as a rallying call to the listener: [‘Don’t be in love with the autograph/Just be in love when you scream that song’]. The message could be ‘break those fetters’; ‘be who you want to be’, but one suspects it is there to serve as a reminder to the author that she alone holds the power to regain control of her own life?

Amongst the other piano led tracks is ‘Names’, a despairingly tragic account of the abused lives of five of Chan’s childhood acquaintances, and the mysterious closer ‘Evolution’, featuring guest vocal by Eddie Vedder, where a hauntingly cryptic reverie drifts out gorgeously to the album’s close.

At times, there is an Antipodean countryish feel to the album, mirroring the muddied rootsiness of The Triffids circa’ In the Pines’ / ‘Born Sandy Devotional’ or the crawling black death of ‘From Her To Eternity’ era Nick Cave. This is hardly surprising; the aforementioned ‘Moon Pix’ had been recorded in Melbourne with The Dirty Three, and on this outing, Warren Ellis (Bad Seeds) is among the guest musicians. Ellis has a starring role on one of the album’s real highlights ‘Good Woman’, where he manages to conjure an authentically Appalachian violin sound, making this, despite its traditional C&W lyrical content (they could have been written for Tammy Wynette) less Nashville and more Kentucky fried. The childlike backing vocals (credited to ‘Maggie & Emma’) add an eerie quality and the whole arrangement works sublimely.

Elsewhere, over a basic acoustic strum David Campbell’s exquisite string arrangement on ‘Werewolf’ including superb cello accompaniment, lends it a gravitas befitting something from Nico’s’ Chelsea Girl’ or ‘The Clarke Sisters’ by The Go Betweens, and acts as a musical bridge between the sparser solo songs and the more conventional band outings. Starker still is the desperately bleak ‘Baby Doll’, which may be an intimate portrayal of a self-destructive friend, or a confessional autobiographical snapshot?  [‘Baby/Black, black, black is all you see/Don’t you want to be free?/Baby/Red, red fire is what you breathe/Don’t you want to be clean/Honey, the shape you’re in /Is worth every dime you spent/Baby Doll/Turn out the lights/Set yourself on fire/Say good night’] Whatever the case, those little noises scraping along in the background certainly add to the discomfort. And on ‘Keep On Running’, Marshall’s take on ‘John Lee Hooker’s Crawling Black Spider’ there is even less room to breathe freely.

‘Shaking Paper’s little rippling rivulets of feedback groan along queasily, while ‘Speak For Me’ and the single, ‘He War’, are the most conventional rock tracks (drums courtesy Dave Grohl) – both appear to concern Chan’s unravelling relationship. On ‘He War’ she laments [‘I never meant to be the needle that broke your back/You were here, you were here, and you were here/Don’t Look Back’] with an impassioned vocal performance which is palpably soulful and technically dexterous, alongside an infectiously catchy ‘Hey hey hey’ chorus. Marshall was reportedly unhappy with the version recorded for the album, claiming it lacked the raw-ness of the original ‘live band’ recordings.

What it does not lack is soul, and that can be said for everything else on ‘You Are Free’. If I feel uncomfortable labelling American country music ‘white soul music’ (the worst country is often something else altogether) I do so merely to illustrate a point – which is that soul / soulfulness is not confined to any particular musical genre. Chan was already a soul artist long before ‘The Greatest’, most amply illustrated here on ‘You Are Free’. On ‘The Greatest’, she embarked on a soul project that was at times more style than substance. While it is a good album, there was really no need, for Chan’s soul credentials were already well established. ‘You Are Free’ was truly a soul album, it’s rawness and honesty straight from the heart, and conclusive proof that at times, less can certainly mean a whole lot more. (JJ)

48. CARL CRAIG – APPLIED RHYTHMIC TECHNOLOGY 3 EP (1993) / (A) UNDERGROUND RESISTANCE – WORLD 2 WORLD EP (1992)

How Indie Kids in Glasgow embraced the Future Sound of Detroit

There are no musical boundaries in TNPC. If our goal was to set out a ‘lively well-balanced collection of all that’s best in rock music’, then we aim both to ensure genuine inclusivity and to redefine the word ‘rock’ a little – or at least strip it of it’s antiquated associations. [Hair, guitars, Kerrang!] For if you are a regular visitor to TNPC you will surely know that’s not what we mean. I have misgivings about replacing ‘rock’ with the word ‘popular’ too. An equally unsatisfactory adjective. Nevertheless, whatever label or title may be most appropriate, for many there is often a musical line they decline to cross. But I make no apology for the inclusion of the following two EPs, created during one of the most fertile periods in Detroit’s illustrious musical history; an era when there was an almost inexhaustible stream of high quality records produced in the basements, bedrooms and garages of the Motor City.
We are not here to chart the historical development or the evolution of popular music, but in this regard, context is everything, both for performer and listener. As a socio-cultural phenomenon, techno grew out of frequently disenfranchised black communities who found – as they did with hip-hop – an affordable way to produce music whose exhuberance and lift was often at odds with the rhyhmic mechanistic facelessness of their urban habitats – in this case the bruised industrial heartland of Detroit, where the glory days of the automobile industry were fading fast, the city in steep economic decline. Like the proliferation of R&B performers Detroit produced in the mid-1960s, many captured fleetingly on rare Northern Soul 45s, the city was at it again twenty years later.

car plant

The earliest Detroit pioneers, often referred to as The Belleville Three, Derrick May (Rhythim Is Rhythim), Juan Atkins (Model 500) and Kevin Saunderson (Inner City) developed a new, instantly recognisable sound which both reflected the metronomic pulse of Detroit’s huge car plants and forged a twitchy new futurism. It emerged as a visionary underground music, an accidental collision between two distinct cultures (Detroit and Dussledorf); as the saying goes like ‘George Clinton and Kraftwerk, trapped in an elevator with only a sequencer for company.’

The early records sold well locally, and it was not long before there was an explosion in the growth of techno music. Fused with European influences and Chicago-based house music, it become the global ‘dance music’ phenomenon, which peaked in popularity between 1988 and 1994. By that time, the second wave of Detroit producers was in full flow.

Times were changing and techno’s audience expanding. As a youthful indie kid, I was initially very sceptical of it all, but like many young music lovers in the wasteland of the early 1990s, I had become disillusioned with the indie scene. If ‘Seattle had eaten the world’ then the response from across the Atlantic was deafening in its silence. By the time Britpop had taken it’s dubious hold, I like thousands of others, had willingly succumbed to the thrilling excitement of the new house, techno and electronic music, which by this time had spread successfully across the Atlantic into Europe and the UK’s club scene.

Of course, in the UK, club culture was bound up inextricably with the drug culture. And the drugs were changing too. Paradoxically, most of Detroit’s techno producers eschewed drug use. Indeed, the message was often to escape the dope culture of the ghetto. Instead in Detroit, by 1991, it seemed the objective was to venture fearlessly into the future with the most innovative sounds imaginable. Label and artist names (sometimes interchangeable) began to reflect this preoccupation: Red Planet; Transmat, +8, Metroplex. Amongst the most outstanding of this second wave of producers, were Carl Craig and the musical collective known as Underground Resistance.

URUR adopted the role of urban guerrillas, wearing militaristic garb, (masks / facial scarves) and presented as a kind of techno version of Public Enemy. There were coded political messages but little information about their releases. Led by Jeff Mills and ‘Mad’ Mike Banks but featuring dozens of other contributors, their music was truly ‘out there’, wilfully uncompromising, and despite the rejection of any commercialisation of their sound, they developed a huge following amongst poorer African-Americans whom they aimed to inspire to escape the cycle of poverty. In Europe, UR became a byword for quality and cool. In the early 1990s some of the records were very hard to acquire and fans competed against one another to complete the set. They are highly respected by other electronic artists, upon whom their influence has been incalculable. Since 2000, even Kraftwerk use their remixes during live shows.

carl craigBy contrast, Carl Craig was relatively more successful and sought a wider commercial audience for his music, touring and DJing regularly throughout Europe. Nevertheless,  his music, recorded under various pseudonyms (Psyche, 69, Innerzone Orchestra, PaperClip People amongst others) was at least as artistic and innovative as that of UR.

I could have selected dozens of other EPs which could have been equally worthy entries, but despite their differing ethics, both UR’s ‘World To World’ EP and Craig’s ‘Applied Rhythmic Technology 3’ (credited to BFC / Psyche) are brilliant examples of the second wave Detroit sound.

There are similarities too. Craig’s brilliant ‘Chicken Noodle Soup’ (attributed to BFC) is a spiritual companion to UR’s ‘Greater Than Yourself’. Both share a shuffling motoric beat, distorted dialogue and gorgeously simple but euphoric spaced out futurist synth lines. ‘Chicken Noodle Soup’ benefits too from a muffled but inspired hypnotic jazz scat vocal.

Psyche’s lengthy and much celebrated ‘Neurotic Behaviour’ (from ART 3) typifies the quintessentially classic Detroitian acid analog sound. Here the Kraut-Rock influence is transparent: in particular it contains the fingerprints of Cluster and Manuel Gottsching.

‘Amazon’ and ‘Jupiter Jazz’ from World 2 World are both superb. The bird sounds on the former sound like they come from a symphony by Rautavaara, but the portentous descending chord sequence has one anticipating Armageddon – it seems almost a relief when the cluttering beats arrive to arrest the descent into darkness. ‘Jupiter Jazz’ by contrast, reminds us that this is music made to dance to, even if we’re doing so on other planets. The staccato piano riff is super-funky, ably abetted by brilliant hi-hats and bass heavy pounding beats. Meanwhile, a bizarre interstellar freeform solo is played out on the synth. If Sun Ra had been born 50 years later, he would surely have been making music like this.

BFC’s ‘Sleep’ (aptly titled) is a kind of electronic opiate; beautiful, but the kind of track suited to the 5am comedown. Meanwhile, UR’s ‘Cosmic Traveller’ is an astonishingly heady brew of spacious futuristic rhythms, musique concrete and purist acid techno. Like much of the music on both of these EPs, it is emotionally draining but also works at a subconscious level, inducing an otherworldly euphoria. In other words, it takes you to those places…

Back in the day, everyone seemed to have purchased a pair of decks. Some went further, buying synths and sequencers (I was never very attuned to the technicalities of the equipment; all those numbers – 303s, 808s, 212s etc) and it is hard not to compare this phenomenon to the punk DIY ethic from 1977-1980. Some techno enthusiasts forsook their musical roots altogether, while others returned to their punk and indie records as the creative progression in electronic music slowed down and the scene became stagnant and flabby. The cult of the international DJ superstar may have been off-putting. The explosion of sub-genres (trance, hardcore, gabba!) seemed to undermine the quality somewhat. Or perhaps, simply the drugs didn’t work anymore? Many found their way back home to the music they had first loved. As a consequence, a lot of the very best music from the genre has been forgotten, disowned even, although dance music itself, survived, much to the consternation of the snipers who claimed it was ‘a flash in the pan’. The great techno and house LPs? Well, there aren’t many – only perhaps Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada and one or two others have made  genuinely enduring long players. Hip hop had greater success with the album format. As a consequence, because most dance/electronic music was based around the 12″ EP format, the best music is often unfairly overlooked when Greatest Albums lists are written. But to dismiss the genre entirely in TNPC would be foolish and unjust. There is ample room in the New Perfect Collection to celebrate all genres of music. Neither should we forget a time when those 13th Floor Elevators LPs and Orange Juice 45s were pushed aside for a while, and in Glasgow’s West End (as in towns and cities throughout the UK) a different sound was heard pumping from those tenement flats, at those post-Art School Disco parties. The future sound of Detroit.  (JJ)

47. MILES DAVIS – ON THE CORNER (1972)

(Imaginary liner notes inspired by original Columbia/CBS promo poster)

Pythons hissin’ outta 207 East 30th – solar jam fragment interrupted – jungle pulse – strangulated brass – bass spurts venom into lava ‘n’ quicksand ‘n’ swamp – locks into a funk groove – darting guitars, staccato – keys Herb-aceous and Corea-n add shade – summer’s chokin’ – shirts ‘n’ pants stickin’ – shop fronts danglin’ – Black Satin, cruel overlord – street corners stare – dead eyes mean jackpot daddies – toxic bloodstreams – a new slavery – hustlers’ gleeful handclaps, whistles –

Trane’s gone ‘n’ Ayler too – Sly’s cracked – gauntlet opens – Miles, like Buddha, blinks – older muscles flex – social flux – fight is fadin’ – Black Power in retreat – Malcolm ‘n’ Martin – clean forgotten – Sister Ange’s liberation – dope ‘n’ suffocation – hammed up Blaxploitation – feverish desperation – no leaders leadin’ – loaded sidewalks pimpin’ – Nineteen Seventy Two – blue flu, absentee – urban anarchy – Riot Goin’ On – temperature risin’ – government conspirin’ – Hanoi ablaze – trouble on the street – won’t be long ‘fore Nix is beat… Think you’ve heard it all? Meet me ‘On The Corner.’ (JJ)

46. BARAFUNDLE – GORKY’S ZYGOTIC MYNCI (1997)

BARAFUNDLE – GORKY’S ZYGOTIC MYNCI (1997)
There was a vast upsurge in Welsh identity in the music of the ’90s. A nation with a completely distinct language, culture and identity had been subsumed for centuries into its larger neighbour, enveloped by legislative and statistical purposes, and, while plenty could be said about the Labour government that took over in 1997, one of its lasting legacies was to restore some of that identity to Wales and Scotland, delivered by referendum within months of it gaining power.
The inevitability of this succession, and the accompanying national mood,  appeared to be mirrored by what I guess we must call Britpop, which cast up music of highly varying degrees of quality, originality and durability. A subset of it was arguably the most active and diverse music scene Wales has ever had, with an array of bands for whom being Welsh was never incidental and often central (full disclosure: I’ve spent exactly one day in Wales -one day more than I’ve spent in America. Does this make me more qualified to comment on Wales than on America? ).
It began with Manic Street Preachers who, once they had got their tiresome posturing out of their systems and admitted that they were actually into much of the music they initially professed to despise, proved to be as earnest as they were eloquent and fervent Welsh patriots. Catatonia, despite an opportunistic appropriation of buzzwords that brought them some bludgeoningly ubiquitous hits, encapsulated the mood with the title song of their 1998 album International Velvet, a Cymric call to arms in the verses helpfully condensed into the English chorus “Every day, when I wake up, I thank the Lord I’m Welsh,” sung by Cerys Matthews in an accident broader than the Menai Bridge. Even Stereophonics,  before lumpen rock impulses and life-on-the-road commonplaces overwhelmed them, offered sharply-drawn vignettes that were universal but unmistakably informed by the Wales they had witnessed.
The Welsh language was particularly crucial to two bands -Super Furry Animals, for whom an album entirely in Welsh  (2000’s Mwng) was, after a string of hits, a logical step for a band not renowned for those things and liberated from the expectations of the recently-folded Creation – and Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci.
Of all these bands, Gorky’s have always been the only one I’ve truly cherished. There’s always been something downright  lovable about them; partly a warmth that was sometimes wilfully mistaken for tweeness (“whimsical arse” was one petulant verdict), partly their deployment of well-worn influences (Beach Boys, Syd Barrett, Robert Wyatt) in an inventive and dextrous manner (their irreverent cover of Wyatt’s O Caroline notwithstanding), and perhaps most importantly, a willingness to come off at unforseen tangents and try to confound the listener – often succeeding effortlessly.
This makes them heirs to probably the greatest Welsh band of them all, Young Marble Giants (whose story will be told here before long) and tells of an ability to tap into the spirit of Welsh tradition found at the annual Eisteddfod music and literature festival – fittingly, as drummer Euros Rowlands’ late father, Dafydd, was a writer who was elevated to the post of the festival’s archdruid. Welsh folk has all the mystery and strangeness of its counterparts in other UK nations at their best but seems to lack the over-jollity and sentimentality they have at their worst. This gave Gorky’s a distinctive edge and enabled them to dodge the grave prog allegations served on anyone who strays too close to a harmonium or an un-jazz brass instrument.
For instance: St David himself could have joined the cloister chants that open Pen Gwag Glas (Empty Blue Head) but it wrongfoots with four or five tempo changes, from mellow saunter to Fall-do-glam stomp and back again. There’s a similar vocal tension in the rapid ascent and plummet of the harmonies on Better Rooms, while the gentler cadences of Sometimes The Father Is The Son are an unlikely echo of the Hollies’ Bus Stop, but to far more sombre ends. Then the very late 20th-century pop glide of Starmoonsun is abruptly interrupted by a trio of shawms,  a reed instrument that immediately evokes Plantaganet courts, doublets and hoses. They hint at the Renaissance grandeur of Dead Can Dance but an endearing – though never flippant – playfulness is seldom far from the surface.
And back to those instruments: that harmonium dominates opener, and second single, Diamond Dew, where more tempo shifts – Gorky’s truly revelled in them – are chivvied by a Jew’s harp and hasten along an ambiguous tale of warm domesticity alongside something seemingly more sinister – does “the uncovering of the bodies as the giant sun soars up” merely mean people peeling off to enjoy some rays? Or has a grim discovery been made beneath the soil?
There’s more double meaning on Heywood Lane, the most straightforwardly comely song on the album. The purposeful stride of acoustic guitar and piano is offset by some giddy violin by Megan Childs, while her brother Euros relates a visit to relatives (the eponymous lane is in Tenby, Pembrokeshire, not too far from Gorky’s hometown of Carmarthen, and appears to be full of hotels and guest houses). In the first and second chorus, we’re told “the faces are all the same” – reassurance at familiarity or the same familiarity breeding what it usually breeds? Third and final chorus – “the faces they’re not the same:” genuine sorrow at losing what you’ve held dear or a realisation that you didn’t appreciate what you had until it’s gone? The question remains unresolved as a stomp brings matters to a close.

Yet more time travel comes on Miniature Kingdoms, which starts with a horn blast belonging firmly in the type of Roman epic that was churned out at the rate of roughly one a month in the ’50s, which usually starred Victor Mature or Steve Reeves and which invariably had Atilla pronounced to rhyme with “battler.” It recurs to punctuate a song which elsewhere floats on a delicate bed of tre,olo guitar, horns in the more familiar guise of a Philly-style breeze and, out of nowhere, Euros vamping like Bryan Ferry circa 1972 as a chant urges him “go back today!” to end his exile. Enough ideas for five songs in the space of four minutes – meanwhile, the music press were in a flap over Heavy Stereo and the Llama Farmers. They were also overlooking Dark Night, which imperceptibly shifts from sweet to unsettling and, magnificently, has four members credited with playing ‘gas tank.’
Gorky’s would rarely sound as overtly Welsh again. There were two Welsh language song’-s on their next album, Gorky 5, but none on 1999’s Spanish Dance Troupe. Meanwhile  the medieval element of their sound was gradually eroded and an unexpected country flavour took its place (cue gags about swapping the middle ages for middle age). These records were, if anything, even lovelier than Barafundle but it was there that they were at their most mischievous, uninhibited and brazenly inventive. Hear it and you’ll be telling it “Dw i’n dy garu di” – go on, look it up (PG).