POP ABC Glasgow: Garage, Thurs 26 Jun.
Martin Fry thought it was all over: summer days in recording studios, publicity shoots and interviews, pop stardom and limousines. It was never an easy decision but, well, he lost the fire after a decade of staring from magazines and album sleeves. Still, he could travel, spend some time with the kids and listen to what’s new and happening. And then the frustration sets in - why be a pop consumer when you can be its architect?
'Watching Black Grape and Suede live got me started,‘ begins Fry, ‘seeing my brother Jamie in Earl Brutus and being inspired by it. I no longer wanted to be just in the audience, I wanted to be part of it again.’
Fry did something drastic - he dusted down his immaculate conception, ABC, and took it on the road. This was something. The last time ABC performed live, Captain Sensible could get into the charts and I was probably getting to grips with metal work. Fifteen years!
'We did about nine dates recently,’ says Fry proudly. 'It was such a great feeling to stand on stage and sing in front of 200 people, just to get the focus back. I suppose I regret not playing more, but I also regret not bringing out a record a bit sooner.’
The last one, Abracadabra, was half a decade ago but we have a new one, Skyscraping. With Fry's old mate, Mark White no longer on call, he’s teamed up with Heaven 17’s Glen Gregory just to 'start knocking some stuff up, see what happens.’ Fry went back to Roxy Music, Marvin Gaye and all the
magic that originally enthused him and which Skyscraping dwells on. There are also tinges of ABC's former glories here, albeit in a scaled-down and freshly- ironed manner. That's a lot to live up to: just think of ’Be Near Me’, 'How To Be A Millionaire' and, inevitably, 'Lexicon Of Love’ - one of the most exhilarating pop rushes of all time. An album to be devoured. Does he
tire of all the fuss?
ABC demonstrating the A—Z of pop suss
'I'm still amazed by the reaction it gets,’ he says. ‘l've met so many different people who say that album was inspirational but it's only now that I realise just how special it was. Playing those songs live has brought it all back and, even though I'm not into nostalgia, it feels kind of nice.’ (Neil Davenport)
ROCK a.c. acoustis
a.c. acoustics digging for a grand victory
For the past nine years, off and on, a.c. acoustics have been something of a floating presence around Glasgow. A secret band sort of. More heard about than actually heard. Sure, they turn up now and then — a hazin memorable live show here, an Evening Session or
48 THE lIST 13—26 Jun 1997
two there, some modestly outrageous quotes in the other place - but always to slip away, out of sight again. It's tempting to imagine the group as being holed up somewhere, a closed order conducting arcane, experimental sound operations deep within a secret bunker in, say, Maryhill.
Anyway, they’re now ready to issue the first report on their findings. Ladies and gentlemen, fresh from the mathematical operating slab, the people from a.c. acoustics present their debut album: Victory Parts. Actually, rather than being up to their elbows working amid the innards of noise, when The List hooks up a connection with Paul Campion, the poetic mainstay of the band, a.c. acoustics are sitting in the sun drinking coffee and eating muffins. ’More creative,’ he says, ’than rehearsing' — though they are in Maryhill.
The reasons behind the album taking so long to appear, Campion reports, are to do with ’business stuff'
concerning their label itself movmg to a larger parent label, a process that took two years or so, during which the band kept themselves busy writing. A first verSion of the album was recorded two summers ago, 'A fairly minimal, dark, unhappy, affair,’ Campion cheerfully recalls. ’This version is a lot grander.’
Victory Parts finds a c. acoustics stretching out somewhat. HaVing always employed instruments beyond the standard rrrrRockll format, the album opens up new places for the suddenly harmonismg band, With swathes of Hammond organ, pianos and cellos all falling somewhat unorthodoxly, organically into the mix. It is a grand affair, indeed.
Campion's hopes for the album are simple enough: 'We've always been more written about than heard,’ he sighs, ’This time next year, I’d like that position to be reversed.’ (Damien Love) I Victory Parts is out now on Elemental.
Je T'aime Gainsbourg
Glasgow: Cottier Theatre, Wed 18 Jun. Stirling: Tollbooth, Fri 20 Jun.
I’m doing this from memory here, but this is the general gist of the thing. Serge Gainsbourg, looking dishevelled but, importantly, looking like he knows he looks dishevelled, has muttered something. In French, naturally. The worried chat show host simpers slightly and laughs a nervous live prime-time 805 television laugh. He turns toward Whitney Houston, because she’s there too, and translates Serge’s remark: 'He says he loves your music very much.’ Whitney looks doe-eyed delighted. Serge leans forward, all breath and shirt collars to put right this canard in a perfectly decipherable English: ’No, no. I said I would like to fuck you.’ Whitney, to her credit, laughs a big surprised gasp.
Six years after his death, Serge Gainsbourg’s standing in these parts is higher than it has been at any time since the release of ’Je T'aime . . . Moi Non Plus', the ’infamous’ duet he recorded with Jane Birkin in the late 60s; and thankfully it seems that this posthumous recognition has little to do with either that record, or his final years as a floating caricature on the French TV circuit, a kind of intellectual, interesting, nihilistic George Best.
With re-issues, Luna’s recent, faithful cover of ’Bonnie and Clyde’ and Bad Seed Mick Harvey’s towering album of painstakingly translated Gainsbourg material, Intoxicated Man, among other activity, it would seem that Serge Gainsbourg has been re-discovered and found to be a thing of rare wit, beauty, drama and enough intelligence to be downright dumb when the situation called for it. Now comes Je T’aime, Gainsbourg, a celebration of Gainsbourg’s work, organised by BMX Bandit chief Duglas T. Stewart and the Pearlfishers’ David Scott, featuring contributions from various parts of the Pastels, Belle and Sebastian and Eugenius, among others. 'One thing you do not do,’ Stewart has stated, ’is refer to him as a Dirty Old man.’ All this is of no news to the people of France, of course, where Gainsbourg, as poet, writer, actor, crooner and existential. hedonist has long been held a national hero, the Frenchman's Frenchman. Salutl (Damien Love)
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Gainsbourg: actor, crooner and existential hedonist