Feline Alchemy soundtrack pt.5 – this is the end, beautiful friend

When Hollywood buys the rights to the greatest dark fantasy novel ever written, Feline Alchemy, the producers will make many unforgivable mistakes with regard to the script; this is a given. I have, however, managed to provide a bullet-proof soundtrack for the ensuing motion picture. Each song is not only groovy in its own right, but also provides insight and commentary on the associated chapter. It’s kind of like opera, really, except it’s good.

Chapter 17 – Sparklehorse, Painbirds

“Spiral down those hateful dears.”

No other band’s music has such a sense of fragility about it. Beautiful songs stutter, fall over and abruptly dissolve in confusion. You get the impression that the band, essentially Mark Linkous, is never entirely convinced, always trying to second guess itself and rarely satisfied with the outcome. It acts as a kind of antidote to the brash self-assurance the music industry generally assumes by right.


Chapter 18 – The Cardigans – I Need Some Fine Wine and You, You Need To Be Nicer

“It’s been a long, slow collision.”

I seem to remember people found it tempting to be dismissive of The Cardigans. There was the huge success that tied-in with the video game Gran Turismo. There was Nina Persson’s beauty. These things aren’t authentic; they’re not sufficiently real in indie parlance, and so people like to get cynical. Fortunately, flawless pop is immune to cynicism. Nor is it interested in appearing authentic. Tunes, glamour and wit inevitably win the argument.


Before Chapter 19 – Echo and the Bunnymen, Rescue

“Is this the blues I’m singing?”

When modern pop music was invented in Liverpool in the 60s the shadow cast by Messrs L & M over the local bands who followed in their wake was always destined to be daunting. Echo and the Bunnymen was the band that came closest to relishing, and living up to, that challenge. Rescue is one of the band’s earliest songs and shows how they evolved fully formed, without a tousled hair out of place and with pouting lips ready for the adoring masses.


End Credits – Spacemen 3, Transparent Radiation

“Uttering words about the turning tide.”

And as the lights dim on the set of Feline Alchemy, credits rolling, we need a suitably offbeat, uplifting and elegant epic on which to finish before we all emerge blinking into the light, to face the music in the real world once again. Transparent Radiation was written by The Red Krayola, a wilfully uncommercial, idealistic, hippy collective, and was made perfect by Spacemen 3. It seems to me to be an ideal song to have playing if you ever find yourself being burned at the stake – I can picture Joan of Arc listening to this on her Walkman as the flames lick ever higher.

Feline Alchemy soundtrack pt. 4 – when  it hits you feel no pain

The penultimate instalment of the world’s favourite fictitious movie soundtrack is coloured by an element of mental disintegration, casting some doubt on the Bob Marley quote in the title. However, while music never anaesthetises pain for long it does provide one of the sparks of consolation when the days get too gloomy, right?

Chapter 13 – Joy Division/New Order, In a Lonely Place

“How I wish you were here with me now.”

With Closer Joy Division produced an album that was by turns frightening (Atrocity Exhibition), haunting (The Eternal) and uplifting (Decades); it’s also one of pop’s most perfect statements. You can’t add or subtract a note or a word on that record without lessening its spell. New Order’s brilliance was more hit-and-miss: spellbinding songs mixed with filler. In a Lonely Place is essentially NO covering JD, its sense of claustrophobia matching the circumstances of its recording.


Chapter 14 – 13th Floor Elevators, Levitation

“High above the ant hills.”

If the 1965-67 Beatles had been one of the “Nuggets” bands unearthed by Lenny Kaye they’d have sounded exactly like 13th Floor Elevators: a perfect pop sensibility marshalled in the service of an outlandish sound and psychedelic poems based on bits of Gurdjieff, Leary etc. Singer Roky Erickson crash-landed in the cuckoo’s nest, sadly, but this still sounds like sheer (weird) joy.


Chapter 15 – Sisters of Mercy, Anaconda

“Let it take her breath away.”

Goth – a swear word in some circles, sneered with derision. Personally, I quite like derision. Most people are almost always wrong, as we know. So if they started to agree with me then I’d start to worry. The best bands that were labelled Goth in the early 80s, Cure/Siouxsie/Sisters, didn’t simply slap on tonnes of eyeliner and pretend to be bats; they mixed in classic tunes with the snakebite. The early Sisters EPs sound exactly how I’d hoped Suicide would sound: an electro-pulse beat combined with high-strung, scratchy guitars and the world’s doomiest melodies.


Chapter 16 – Dinosaur Jr, Freak Scene

“What a mess.”

The drawl – it’s an underused approach to rock vocals, probably because rock music isn’t intended to be laconic, deadpan and shrugging at the world. Rock music wants to be wired, energetic, and buzzing with fist-pumping pseudo rebellion. J Mascis, bless him, couldn’t be bothered with any of that nonsense. The reason Dinosaur Jr still work as a rock band is due to his approach to playing guitar, which he treats mostly as a percussion instrument.

Feline Alchemy soundtrack –  part 3 of the songs that saved your life

To recap: Feline Alchemy, the genre defining dark fantasy novel, is to be filmed by Hollywood. Naturally, this means the rapier-like wit of the original text will be replaced by a lowest common denominator, bums-on-seats, FX-laden schmuck-fest replete with Dick Van Dyke accents and gooey romantic interludes… but all is not lost, because in these posts I’m providing the producers with a soundtrack so faultless that even they can’t screw it up. After the solid-gold, non-stop hitsvilles of part 1 and part 2, we stray into curiouser and curiouser territory in part 3 –

Chapter 9 – My Bloody Valentine, You Made Me Realise

“Don’t hate me cos I don’t hate you.”

When you listen to MBV at the peak of their powers you get the impression they were making music out of all the sounds that usually slip between the gaps when pop songs get constructed. The tracks on Isn’t Anything and the contemporary EPs seem like the negatives of traditional fully developed pop songs, ghosts of greatest hits beamed in from another dimension.

Chapter 10 – Howlin’ Wolf, Killing Floor

“I shoulda quit you a long time ago.”

Most people couldn’t get away with styling themselves “Howlin’ Wolf”; they’d seem a bit, well, ludicrous. But, in this case, it’s the name Chester Burnett that seems out of place. Chester Burnett might’ve been the name of a haberdasher, a friendly guy who sold you some buttons once; or a travelling salesman, specialising in pickles, say. But with a voice that sounds like a worn and weathered boulder rolling down a mountainside you’ve got no option but to take a name that’s more primal. Ladies and gentlemen, Howlin’ Wolf.

Chapter 11 – Faust, It’s a Bit of a Pain

“Who wouldn’t sell his mind?”

Krautrock as a genre divides opinion. It divides opinion because at its best it’s often like overhearing a motorway pile-up in which pop music was driving one of the cars and the other drivers were Faust, Neu!, Can, etc. Krautrock is a precise and wilful act of vandalism in that sense – that’s the joy of it. But people get teary-eyed about verse/chorus/melody, all mowed down in their prime. And so they disagree with the dangerous driving of Messrs Diermaier, Rother, Suzuki, etc. But that’s ok because Krautrock is the sound of pop music disagreeing with everyone.

Chapter 12 – Loop, Brittle-head Girl

“Trip me up inside your world.”

Pop music 101 – Pick up a guitar, hit the strings; if the noise it makes sounds good, repeat. Loop made it an article of faith to stick as closely to that template as possible. What results is music that’s like a mantra: it pulses around your head like an interior indie hypnotist and either you resist or get washed along with it and start to drift.

Feline Alchemy – greatest hypothetical movie soundtrack ever pt.2

I refer you back to pt.1 of the Feline Alchemy soundtrack for the rationale of this post; also, for unmissable links to more pop music of splendour.  Now, here is the equally gorgeous pt. 2 –

Chapter 5 – Pixies, Caribou

“This human form where I was born I now repent.”

Pixies were the most bizarre, non-conformist, thrilling mix of practically every element that US rock music felt the need to overlook/dismiss/neglect/ban from the airwaves. In their prime the singer once described Pixies as “ruined cool.” He was right. US rock music was unsurprisingly wrong. Black Francis’ singing here veers typically between the raucous, petulant and angelic. Of course, nowadays when angels fall they end up flogging the consumerist wet dream for Apple. But let’s remember them this way.


Chapter 6 – Siouxsie & the Banshees, Peek-a-boo

“Furtive eyes peep out of holes.”

Rulebook for creating a classic single – Step 1: take an old recording from your studio vaults. Step 2: play aforesaid old recording backwards. Step 3: add accordion and a strident vocal that sounds like an ambulance crashing. Step 4: Rip up the rulebook. Easy. When I have a child I shall name her (or him) Siouxsie Sue. And everyone else should do the same.


Chapter 7 – Velvet Underground, Venus in Furs

“Ermine furs adorn the imperious.”

It’s 1967 – ok, let’s mix Leopold von Sacher-Masoch with rock’n’roll. Erm… what?! Enter the Velvet Underground. Lou Reed changes the game indelibly, inventing the indie/alternative outlook from scratch in the process. John Cale sprinkles avant-garde weirdness into the brew whenever it needs an extra kick. On this song Cale scrapes complaints out of an electric viola like sinews being stretched on the rack, appropriately enough.


Chapter 8 – The Jam, Ghosts

“Lift up your lonely heart and walk right on through.”

Notable among the debris that UK punk junked and scattered liberally about the music scene was a certain elegance and sophistication in terms of outlook and presentation. Those ideas were suspect and passé. Paul Weller was the exception that made an ass of the rule. Not only did the lyrics have the precision of Ray Davies but the Rickenbacker had to look exactly right. That isn’t vacuousness; it’s attention to detail, the watchword of 60s mods. It meant that The Jam were the key bridge between the brightest English 60s bands, punk, and later The Smiths. Surely, compliments don’t come much higher?


Feline Alchemy – soundtrack pt.1

When Hollywood gets its grubby little mitts on Feline Alchemy it will doubtless provide a soundtrack. And this soundtrack will doubtless be irredeemably naff. So, in order to offer some much-needed guidance, I’ve created a faultless soundtrack for the story, as will be unveiled in this and succeeding posts. The fact that Feline Alchemy is essentially an indie/alternative/post-punk kind of story explains the prevalence of these types of songs in the soundtrack.

Chapter 1 – Cat Power, Sea of Love

“That’s the day I knew you were my pet.”

Promise of devotion or thinly veiled threat?  It’s always nice to see the tense undercurrents that accidentally lurk in old pop songs.  Over a spectral harp Cat Power breathes out the melody like a drowning angel, pretty much.


Chapter 2 – Boo Radleys, Lazarus

“Maybe now I should change?  You see, I’m losing my faith…” 

After a dub reggae intro paces back and forth like a psychedelic panther counting the bars of its cage, you’re greeted with a sunburst of trumpets galloping over the horizon – a crescendo of affirmation. Self-explanatory, really.


Chapter 3 – Tricky, Hell is Around the Corner

“Distant drums bring the news of a kill tonight.”

Isaac Hayes gets turned inside out.  Naturally enough, this results in a certain amount of gore and a mumbling high-priest interprets the entrails, making dark promises in a language no-one’s heard before.  Isms and schisms anyone?


Chapter 4 – The Smiths, Panic

“I wonder to myself… couldn’t life ever be sane again?”

Johnny Marr channels classic T Rex while Morrissey smuggles a death threat against DJs onto daytime radio.  Precisely how pop music’s supposed to be, surely?