The Season of The Witch | 60 songs about witches

witches

This, we’re told, is the Season of The Witch. I beg to differ, at least for the reasons given. (“It’s a middle-class vendetta/Against women who are better” –  The Eccentronic Research Council.) I like witches.

A lot.

1. The Sonics – The Witch

2. Low – Witches

3. Yoko Ono – Yes, I’m A Witch

4. Hole – Softer, Softest

5. Dame Darcy – Hot Witch Cheerleaders

6. Masters Of Reality – J.B. Witchdance

7. Santana – Black Magic Woman

8. The Rattles – The Witch

9. Queens Of The Stone Age – Burn The Witch

10. Kate Bush – Waking The Witch

11. Lene Lovich – Wicked Witch

12. Donovan – Season Of The Witch

13. Jethro Tull – Witch’s Promise

14. Dr. John – Voodoo Queen

15. Slim Chance – How Come

16. The Eagles – Witchy Woman

17. Quintron & Miss Pussycat – Witch In The Club

18. Secret Life – Witches

19. Marianne Faithfull – Witches’ Song

20. Gong – Witch’s Song, I Am Your Pussy

21. Steeleye Span – Alison Gross

22. Graveyard Train – Even Witches Like to Go Out Dancing

23. Poly Styrene – Trick Of The Witch

24. Guided by Voices – Cut Out Witch

25. Goblin – Witch

26. Thurston Moore – Wonderful Witches

27. Incredible String Band – Witche’s Hat

28. Dead Moon – You Must Be A Witch

29. David and Jad Fair – Witches Round A Cauldron

30. Alex Harvey Band – Isobel Goudie

31. The Cramps – Big Black Witchcraft Rock

32. Notic Nastic – Witch

33. Clinic – The Witch

34. Gloo Girls – Witch Is Witch

35. The Kinks – Wicked Annabella

36. October Country – My Girlfriend Is A Witch

37. Liars – There’s Always Room On The Broom

38. Skate Witches

39. Belly – Witch

40. Ella Fitzgerald – Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead

41. Darren Hayman and The Long Parliament – Impossible Times

42. Mark Fry – The Witch

43. Cowboy Junkies – Witches

44. The Eccentronic Research Council – Another Witch Is Dead

45. Jonny – Wich Is Wich

46. Die Streuner – Die Hexe

47. Die Hexen – Siamese

48. Subway To Sally – Die Hexe

49. Switchblade Symphony – Witches

50. The Lollipop Shoppe – You Must Be A Witch

51. Hefner – The Sad Witch

52. Cliff Richard – Devil Woman

53. Tony Joe White – Polk Salad Annie

54. Julie Driscoll – Season Of The Witch

55. Fleetwood Mac – Rhiannon

56. Nina Simone – I Put A Spell On You

57. Screamin’ Jay Hawkins – I Put A Spell On You

58. Creedence Clearwater Revival – I Put A Spell On You

59. Siouxsie and the Banshees – Spellbound

60. Frank Sinatra – Witchcraft

How NOT to write about music – 119. Chromatics

Chromatics

The song stands out. The band don’t even bother to mask it. The insistent, lovingly-caressed, two-note guitar, all warm fuzz and intonation; the insistent, one-dimensional drum beat reduced to an Atari-era beep; the drawn-out vocals and implied harmonies and lovingly-left silences; the overwhelming debt to The Velvet Underground but also the inspired stripping away of all that is extraneous, all that does not matter; the simple lyrics; the occasional refrain or chorus if you feel like calling it that; the sly dig reference to all of rock’s archaic forms and origins; the unconscious reiteration of themes already well worn by the time the second album came out; the spaces, the silences, the warm buzz and purr of the fuzz pedal; the knowledge that less is more, that simple cuts through, that loss is more poignant than gain…

There is a new Chromatics album out. I like it. I like it quite a lot. I like nothing on it half as much as I like their cover of this Jesus And Mary Chain song from Darklands, though. And I like nothing on Darklands half as much as I like this cover. There is nowhere to go from here, but inward. There is nowhere to go from here, but down. There is nowhere to go from here.

I did not need to check it was a cover, it is so clearly a replicant of a replicant. Ironic, really. I believe that is the word I am looking for.

Just like honey. Simply thrilled. Gorgeous. The Mary Chain always were their own worst enemy. Don’t bother going back to listen to the original. It has already been spoiled for all eternity.

The Pitchfork review gives it 7.1 and fails to mention the album’s greatest song. Sigh.

How NOT to write about music – 118. Madder Rose

Madder Rose

It’s cold and grey here. I’m ill.

It’s cold and grey here. I’m ill – under the weather, at least. I would much rather be in at work: there’s people there, people and warmth. I am typing this blog entry on my laptop because I am currently waiting for an electrician to show up to fix my power which keeps cutting in and out. No power, no heat. No power, no hot water. No power, no fun. So, because I am typing up this entry on my laptop and because my fingers are numb with cold, I keep missing the keyboard and having to go back over my words and re-enter them. No power, no fun.

This is not a good moment to talk about the return of my early 1990s New York sweethearts, Madder Rose. I associate their music with laughter; laughter, hope and expectation; laughter, alcohol and spontaneous performances in the Midwest somewhere; laughter and long van rides and Adamsville TN sheriff Buford Pusser; late nights that never ended and melancholy harmonies and cascading arpeggios of abrasion; the final episode of Cheers – or was it Friends – and fast friendships that felt like they’d last for years, and isolation, and pulsating New York nightclubs and missed chances. Another inch, they – and I – could have been so big. Still. They headlined the second stage at the Reading Festival (1994 – not a good year for me). Their first two albums (bruised beauties each) sold 100,000 copies apiece. But they (and I) could have been so much bigger. Big enough so we might have something to tell our children about on cold grey days in Haywards Heath with no electricity and little warmth.

The past is a foreign country. They do things exactly the same there, fucked by the oligarchy and the system and the ever-declining health system and growing older and… I told you this isn’t a good moment to be writing about the return of my early 1990s New York sweethearts, Madder Rose.

They had songs that matched any.

Their songs held fragile, sparking beauty at the heart of the tumult. Songs, like the rain when it’s gorgeous teeming rain transforming the streets of Seattle and Brisbane and New York City, but also the rain when it’s miserable and grinding away at your well-being. Rain. Melancholy. Beauty. A voice and a searing guitar and a killer rhythm section and some gorgeous songs to give your life away for. The Velvet Underground, Shop Assistants, Mazzy Star, Madder Rose. Is there anything better?

I ask that question today and I already know the answer.

Your arms in a wild rotation. Your arms in a wild rotation.

I am so pleased they have returned.

————————————————

There is an interview here, if you are interested in finding out more.

You can buy the new album here. If you love Madder Rose (or any of the bands I mention here) there is no way you’re not going to love this.

I Lost the War: I wrote this in my head while on a trip to NYC. My girlfriend and I were down to see the Bowie exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum, and we ran into Matt Verta-Ray on Rivington Street. Matt and I talked about doing some songs together, just the two of us, and I tried to write one that might be suitable. I quickly realized that we should include it on the Madder Rose record, instead. A lot of relationships feel like war these days – not just romantic ones, but work and spiritual and financial and political and sexual ones, too. How did everyone get so angry? I’m not sure. Maybe they should listen to this song – surely that will help. Rick had been pointedly suggesting that I put more guitar on the record, so there are nine tracks of it on here. No comment from Rick, as yet. Guess I shoulda’ put ten. Matt on bass – this sounds a lot like we used to, back when we were young and new, when Melody Maker would send Everett True across the sea to ride around with us in our van.
(from the sleeve notes)

How NOT to write about music – 117. Remember Sports

remember sports

The temptation is never to give in to temptation. Some music you should not try to resist, however strong the temptation. Some music it just ain’t worth the fuck to resist. I spend half my time when I hear great shit like this trying to remember the other great shit it reminds me of but what the fuck is the point of that? This makes me want to trace elephants, tumble down the aisle with a ring of commuters holding my hands, cartwheel across infinity and scream into the silence. This music makes me miss whole forbidden areas of Australia. This makes me to dance the street, chant the underground, race the fading taillights. This makes me want to thrash the way you’ve never seen thrash. This music is my new God. This music rails and shouts and grates and guts, but I ain’t concerned about that. Serious upfront pay attention to what I’m sayin’ here. I ain’t shit concerned about that. What I’m concerned with is…

Horrible Everett True music (© Nicky Wire 1996).

Shit, I’ve just figured it out, but man I’m just like that crazy snail inches before he meets certain crushing death on the soles of your dispassionate boots, I just love to leave trails however fucking futile. God, you bastards. LEAVE THOSE SNAILS ALONE!

To wit:

THIS IS MY MUSIC! Grunge when it was so fucken great. It makes me feel all warm and furry inside. There’s ample use of dynamics, oh yes. And humour. Some great good-humoured music and tambourines tied to ankles and kazoos and – damn it all, why did I never form a band like this? Folk would’ve welcomed me to their towns, instead of peeping furtively out from behind half-closed blinds. Folk would’ve rolled with me down hills in Louisville (oh wait, they did). Folk would’ve dragged me foaming and drunk on to stages to belt out classics from South Pacific that no one could remember. Oh wait. They did. Anyway, this is shit hot marvelous music – stripped down to where it clangs and resonates and burrs and builds heady clouds of steam and really … I want my entire hard drive filled with this noise, so I don’t ever have to hear your voice again, you doubting bastard. It’s music that makes me wish I was still back among the people of America.
Song of the day – 411: Shellshag

Yeah, fuck you as well, snail-crushing monster.

How NOT to write about music – 116. Coldplay

COLDPLAY_2020_ART

A new Coldplay album has been announced. It’s a double. Twice the amount of flatulence and cack for all concerned. The only reasonable response to such a morale-sapping, life-emulsifying event is, I feel, to make a list. A list of:

TEN THINGS I WOULD RATHER DO THAN LISTEN TO THE NEW COLDPLAY ALBUM.

Here’s the rub. Usually, when people write such lists they detail such ridiculous scenarios about how they would rather “poke my eyes out with red-hot pokers…” or “have a threesome with David Cameron and a greased piglet…” or “listen to a continuous 24-hour tape-loop of Boris Johnston proroguing Parliament…”, always ending with the phrase “… than listen to the new Coldplay album”.

This is patently absurd.

I most assuredly would NOT prefer to poke my eyes out with red-hot pokers, listen to a 24-hour tape loop of Boris Johnston proroguing Parliament, have a threesome with David Cameron and a greased piglet, nor would I rather watch the entire run of Breaking Bad, clean up all the dog shit from a weekend on Hampstead Heath, go on a dinner date with Jeremy Clarkson, punch ears in my earlobes and attach myself to a Morris Dancer’s bashing stick, get some form of incurable disease or lead a pro-Brexit rally rather than listen to the new Coldplay album. Let’s get a sense of perspective here.

Here are 10 things I would actually rather do than listen to the new Coldplay album.

  1. Listen to the new Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ album
  2. Go for a walk
  3. Listen to the new Lana Del Rey album
  4. Have a bath
  5. Listen to the new Kim Gordon album
  6. Get a haircut
  7. Listen to the new Beyoncé album
  8. Have a chat with Howard Monk
  9. Listen to the new Angel Olsen album
  10. Go to sleep

 

How NOT to write about music – 115. Sarah Blasko

Sarah Blasko

This is reprinted (without permission) from The Friendly Critic, but I am sure they won’t mind. I am reprinting it now, not because I expect it to generate vast amounts of traffic on this blog (it won’t) but because sometimes, just sometimes, I write something that I feel proud of, that I can say about go say yeah! THIS is how to write about music (if you so choose). The teaching weeks have started again at BIMM and so I am mindful of my students, the example I set. There is some killer use of hypertext right here, even if I say so.

LIVE REVIEW: SARAH BLASKO @ UNITARIAN CHURCH, BRIGHTON

Gorgeous space.

I’m nervous, forming these words. Sarah Blasko’s music – particularly her gorgeous five-star 2018 album Depth Of Field – has helped me through some stressful times. I was explaining last night that I must have listened to it a hundred times, the soundtrack to keeping tedium away, to hold back tears, to coping with vulnerability, loneliness, awkward silences. A hundred might be an exaggeration, but 50 is not.  The fellow writing the review in The Guardian put it far better than I ever could:

A phantom limb: this is what Depth of Field feels to me right now. Songs like the swirling ‘Heaven Sent’ and beckoning intimacy of ‘Read My Mind’ race around my head like a real friend, or a forbidden lover. I have carried this album almost everywhere with me for weeks now. Whether it is playing through my headphones or not, Blasko’s cajoling, sensational voice soundtracks the inner sadness and mundane reality of the 10.09 train to Guildford. Another half-hour delay? Another chance to listen to Blasko.

I believe the paper may have edited out the part where the reviewer claimed Blasko was awarded an ARIA (the Australian equivalent of the Brits) on the back of his review of this elusive, awkward Sydney icon’s previous album.

I digress.

Gorgeous space, a chapel built in 1820 with a ceiling way up there and shafts of light. The chapel demands attention: not that this stricture is required from Blasko’s devout. Applause lasts an extra 30, 50 seconds for each song – almost uncomfortably so, bearing in mind the spellbound stillness that takes place during the glacial, awkward, beautiful, stripped-back, delicate, slightly melodramatic, haunting, teasing songs Blasko is giving us. Just her and a piano. Just her and a guitar. Just her and a microphone. Just her and a heartbeat.

Just her.

I digress. Shortly after I moved to Brisbane in 2008, I formed a concept band with a couple of future Sex Drugs Rock N’ Roll teachers – The Thin Kids. We were wonderful, frankly. Supported several name bands (The Cribs, Kate Nash, The Deadnotes), toured Australia to bemusement from Australia’s notoriously prickly music press and released two split singles with La Nash. Our first album back in those heady days of 2008 was to be called The Song of Sarah Blasko Performed the Way She Always Intended Them to be Performed. Sadly, it was never to be; but the thought of pitiful me tackling the songs of An Artist Of Such Grandeur kept me awake at night laughing and trembling in equal proportions.

I lie.

I digress.

Gorgeous space. Gorgeous voice, too. Here, have a taste.

She performs this song tonight, just her and a piano and a phantom heartbeat, spilling magic across the awkward silences and empty plains. She sings this song, and the fatigue-destroying ‘A Shot’ – betrayal built into the start of every relationship because you know that deep down you’re not worthy, you’re never worthy of another person’s love – and ‘Leads Me Back’ and ‘Heaven Sent’, and I slip back, thinking of my second-born Daniel (now age 8), the way I needed to talk him down earlier from a high plateau of actualised alienation at his mother’s house and I managed that by having him try and guess my movements during the day. Diversion.

I digress.

“This next one,” she laughs nervously but nerves assuaged, “is about religion so hopefully I won’t get struck down.” She’s packed out the Sydney Opera House before now: tonight, we number not much more than 60 but crucially, it is through her choice. I know where I would rather be.

She moves her hands theatrically to express her sweeps of emotion, the haunting. The beauty.

She takes a little self-deprecating mock-bow at the end of each elongated bout of applause.

Here is my first encounter with Blasko, 2009:

Tuesday affords us of our first live sighting of the charming Sarah Blasko – slightly overwhelmed by the six musicians thumping out an indie beat on violins and keyboards. Blasko comes as sharp relief to the hordes of sweaty, unkempt, Australian Alpha Males grunging the good grunge all around her, rocking the Julie Andrews look in sensible shoes and high-collared black dress with long vibrant strips of colour down the front. (I wouldn’t normally comment on a lady’s attire: Blasko, however, clearly gives thought to her stage presence.) She dances like you’d imagine a Victorian china doll would, minus the preciousness. Her song ‘Hold On My Heart’ is magical, delirious. The backing on ‘Turning Back’ is one part Dr Who, another part Eleni Mandell. There’s a stand-up bass, the mood is vaguely sea shanty. It’s a little bit early Cardigans (it feels delightfully Mod), a little bit latter-day Björk (Blasko can clearly control her voice)… and is that a slight Irish inflection I hear?

It strikes me that Blasko is so much better now she understands her real strength. Herself.

I digress.

My notes state that tonight in Brighton, “she transforms”.

That’s it. She transforms.

How NOT to write about music – 114. Poppy Jean Crawford

Poppy Jean Crawford

One site has it:

Poppy Jean Crawford sings out amid a heavy two beat drum, hypnotic bass and a wall of distorted guitar on this unrelenting angst strewn powerhouse. Her angelic voice is a pure light shining in the gloom denying the darkness that surrounds. As the drums and guitars build in menace throughout it only renders Poppy’s voice that more tender and touching.

Tempestuous, brooding and rousing in equal amounts ‘Same Old Tricks’ is a powerful slice of deliciously dark Americana.

Yes, yes, but is it any good?

Another site has it:

The daughter of a filmmaker mother and artist father, Crawford schooled herself in L.A.’s DIY scene, hanging out at places such as the Smell and taking an interest in writing music. “Soon enough,” she says, “I dropped out of school. I thought, fuck it, I know what I’m supposed to do.”

Yes yes, but is it any good?

Fuck yeah. The deepening insistent pounding bass refrain, the near-ethereal (there’s a word that should be banned from every music critic’s lexicon) vocals, almost not-there, the juxtaposition between quiet and LOUD, quiet and LOUD, the way it lingers maliciously, the underlying (small ‘g’) gothicness of it all, the fact I don’t know who the fuck the artist is and probably never will, the way it reminds me of my twin heartthrobs Cranes and Scout Niblett (interesting midpoint!), the whole tempestuous mystery… this could be Everett-True-by-numbers.

This reads like an insult. It is not an insult. It is not an insult by any stretch of the imagination. The sound quality on the Soundcloud artist page is far superior, incidentally.

Recommended by a friend on Twitter and much appreciated. I LOVE a good rec’.

YOU WANT TO know how I feel when I listen to Espero, the new three-track EP from Portsmouth’s Cranes, right? You want to know whether it evokes images of abused childhoods, fetal murmurs, voodoo nursery rhymes, claustrophobia, the horror from Eraserhead, disembodied structures, obsession, right? You want to know how this music affects me. Okay, I’ll tell you.

The new Cranes single makes me feel distinctly, devoutly, uneasy. The first track, ‘I Hope’, is the sound of devastation, pain, isolation; a child inarticulately screaming as it faces a nameless, faceless horror in the closet, the attic, face downwards in the frowning pool. The second track, ‘E. G. Shining’, reminds of that section in E. Nesbitt’s The Story of the Amulet, where the word of power is spoken and the air grows dank and oppressive, the hubbub of Victorian London streets outside fades to a mere trickle, and the charm begins to grow and grow until it fills the whole room. And on the other side… my God, you don’t want to know what’s on the other side. And the third track ‘Cha Cha Escueta’, makes me feel exotic, ecstatic. Cranes put me in touch with emotions that aren’t there.
Cranes: Indecent Obsessions – Melody Maker, 10 November 1990