Thursday, February 01, 2007

This is the winter of our disco-TAPE

Well thank god that January is out of the way. I despise this time of year, it does funny things to me. I don't know whether it's SAD or if I'm just a miserable old toad but traditionally January is the crappiest month of the year in my annual cycle around the sun. With no money and continual grey wet days here in dear old blighty life is pretty wack. For sure I'm not the only one who feels this way, and maybe some of you are wondering where this is actually going? Well, amidst all this seasonal woe there have been a couple of little things (not those little things...) that have sustained my happiness levels enough so that they don't freeze over completely. One is a book, the other is an LP. Here goes...

I first pricked my ears up to the whole Diskokaine thang last year when Piers Martin was waxing lyrical about the label and its presentation/ethos. I thought it sounded pretty decent and endeavoured to look out for the label when picking up tunes. Unfortunately in the middle of last year I lost my job, as the record shop I worked at closed down. With no money and and an unhealthy fear of MP3's (I'm the biggest techno loving techno-phobe I know) I was left with little access to new music for a number of months. I'm back on track now and with a bit of Christmas cash burning a hole in my pocket I treated myself to the excellent Diskokaine LP, Sally Shapiro's 'Disco Romance'.

This is quite simply one of the best things I have heard in years. Those who know me know I'm not averse to the odd bit of tweeness in whatever form (cardigans, flasks of tea, etc.) this album has lashings of it. Shapiro and her producer Johan have created a magical musical world that I have got thoroughly lost in and intend to stay for some time. This is a world where whimsically twee Swedish pop is melded onto the most satisfyingly familiar sound of euro disco. In a lazier description it is as if Isobel Campbell (OK, she's not Swedish) had been remixed by Alexander Robotnick. It has to be said that at no point does this superb set of songs descend into a pale pastiche of its influences. This could have easily happened and the fact it doesn't has much to with the fine lyrics presumably penned by Shapiro. I would supply some here but I just tried typing them out and they lose their naive charm once jotted down, so you will have to believe me when i say they are good. Lyrically there is much here for anyone who has ever loved and lost, with many a poignant moment that seemingly records one of your own experiences. I suppose that is the power of music. If like me you are a fan of the mighty Saint Etienne you should definitely be checking Sally out. The overall vibe of the album reminds me a lot of 'Sylvie', it's as if the song had been stretched out to form the perfect pop album, for that is what this is. I will most certainly be checking out any future productions. What with all the who-ha with MP3's recently coupled with my complete naivety as to how to post them I will direct you towards Sally's page so that you may get a better idea, if you wish.

Next up for me to gush about uncritically is the superb scholarly account of underground dance music culture in 70s America, the truly peerless ' Love Saves the Day' by Tim Lawrence. Now don't get me wrong I like 'Last Night a DJ Saved my Life' and all that but never before have I ever read such a thoroughly engaging book on music. It reminds me of the history books I read for my degree, its extensively researched, has nuff footnotes and the writer clearly has a strong, almost nerdish passion for the subject. If my memory serves me right Lawrence submitted this for his PhD, I'm sure he passed. I implore anyone with a passing interest in disco music to read this book, its a bit pricey but is well worth the cash.
I particularly like the early section s of the book which deals mainly with the Loft and David Mancuso. You have to hand it to Mancuso, this man if not a genius, is at least an inspiration to all those endeavouring to put on parties that don't just cater for the lowest common denominator. He eschewed commercialism in favour of having truly great intimate parties, for that he should be commended. As you might have guessed he comes across as some what of a saint in the book and until i meet the man I'm quite happy to believe he is. Another excellent section is where Lawrence skillfully deals with the oft talked about 'Disco Sucks' campaign by equating it with fascism. Burning disco records is only one step away from burning books... so yeah, if you haven't checked it, do.

Don't forget it is Mutant Pop tomorrow with the West Countries prodigal son, Crosstown Rebels, Matthew Styles. I've been looking forward to this for a while, should be good. Hopefully see you there.


Blogger Richard Carnage said...

The return of the Puffin! Good to see you getting a post up - it's been far too long. Not checked that Shapiro yet, though I'm certain that it'll soundtrack Saturday's sunrise more than adequately!

12:32 AM  
Blogger alex said...

i actually kinda thought chris had no computer or something! nice post fella - love the few songs i've heard from sally shapiro... it's italo pop!

must check out that book too.
see you on st patrick's day!

10:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mancuso is a hippy-saint-genius. I have been to a Loft party and they are VERY VERY special. Every detail is attended to. The end of the seventies was indeed an exceptionally interesting time for music - the death of punk, the post-punk anti-movement, the emergence of reggae and disco as mainstream forces. Mancusos dedication to music and the 'love shared by music' is a testament to what music fans truly believe in - the transcendance of sound.

4:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have been loving both Shapiro and Love save's the day all january as well Puffin.

Its almost made up for the crushing disapointment of not receiving my hard earnt prize.

Good luck with the night chaps.

5:44 PM  
Blogger Richard Carnage said...

Rob - need to discuss your prize with Puffin - may do this later tonight... 'May' being the operative word!

6:03 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

i'm almost halfway through love saves the day after receiving it from the wife for xmas.

it's definitely not for those who think disco begins and ends with Saturday Night fact, it kind of takes umbrage with those folks as mainstream and decidedly anti-what-disco-was-supposed-to-be-about.

9:52 PM  
Blogger redhotcar said...

i'm glad to see you join Sally Shapiro's fan club !

11:41 AM  
Blogger Puffin Jack said...

alex - your almost right, didn't have a computer for ages. My girlfriend bought one not so long ago, so i'm breaking myself in gently!

rob - don't worry we haven't forgotten, we've got a little stash of decent CD/Vinyl which i'm sure there is something decent in there for you :)

2:40 PM  
Blogger Puffin Jack said...

just a quick heads up for anyone who may be reading this in Brighton. I will be playing at 'You Dance, I'll Clap' at the Fortune of War on Friday 16th February. Should be good, I love playing in pubs...

4:32 PM  
Blogger Sell By Dave said...

'Love Saves The Day' is an excellent read, assuming you're a bearded disco nerd. Definitely not for the casual reader. Brilliant stuff though.

Incidentally, I think I've heard the phrase 'discoTAPE' somewhere before ;)

6:35 PM  
Blogger Puffin Jack said...

sell by - ahem, yeah I don't know I heard it, definitely not from a certain Bristol based disco overlord, ahem...

9:23 PM  
Anonymous porn said...

i actually kinda thought chris had no computer or something! nice post fella - love the few songs i've heard from sally shapiro... it's italo pop!..

8:58 PM  

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