Ten’s Company, Eleven’s A Crowd: Spill Game Week 12

You know what to do by now. Open your lugholes, filter the noises through your accumulated history and taste and then condemn one (or more) to the drop.

Les Amants – René Magritte, 1928

While putting these tracks together I started to detect fragments of a story, one of those tales that jump back and forth in time (I’ve just read Hari Kunzru’s Gods Without Men, so that may be why). If you buy that idea, an alternative game is to replace your least favourite chapter/song with one more to your taste that still fits the ‘storyline’ or just add one that fills a gap. If you haven’t a clue what I’m on about, please don’t call the men in white coats.

Apologies for the variable sound quality: tracks 6, 7 and 11 were digitised from their LP’s. No apologies for the tone or the two minor porkies.

1. Stephen Malkmus & The JicksPencil Rot
Maybe not my favourite Malkmus ditty but it has a suitably off-kilter fanfare to open with and there are definite lyrical connections to….

2. Throwing MusesTango
From the slightly damaged perspective of Kristin Hersh, found in Limbo.

3. The Fatima MansionsThe Door-To-Door Inspector
A piece of bluntly-articulated yet perfectly-enunciated male threat from Cathal Coughlan, concerning a peripatetic judge?

4. Eleventh Dream DayMurder
No, this is a metaphorical murder. You can’t kill someone with a kiss or a drag on a cigarette.

5. CatatoniaStrange Glue
Cerys tries to make sense of it all and ends up waltzing with her dark side.

6. Richard ThompsonCan’t Win
Mr Angry reacts in predictable fashion to the way his life is developing by kicking against the pricks, whoever they may be….

7. Grateful DeadDupree’s Diamond Blues
Based on an old song, Mary and Dupree (inspired by a true story from Atlanta in 1928), Hunter tells a tale foretold.

8. Ry CooderOn a Monday
A second jaunty slice of life in the criminal justice system, here from Lead Belly, delivered with a slide of Ry.

9. PJ HarveyTo Talk to You
A shift in time, as Polly unplugs her amp, detunes her piano, dons her white gown and tunes into the dead. What’s that name at the end? Mary?

10. John CaleMagritte
…And we drift a little further from the here and now, pinned to the edges of vision.

11. Frank ZappaLittle Umbrellas
This was going to be It Must Be A Camel, my favourite track from what Zappa described as ‘a movie for your ears’, Hot Rats. But my second favourite makes a better link to Magritte, of course, and there’s also a neat, suitably oblique, musical connection in its theme.

36 thoughts on “Ten’s Company, Eleven’s A Crowd: Spill Game Week 12

  1. Only one Dead track? How very restrained of you, Chris!

    The Jicks: Yeah, I really like the way this swerves drunkenly all over the place. Keep.

    Throwing Muses: Throwing Muses were one of those bands I admired from afar as a cash-strapped teen in the late 80s who didn’t have the dosh to purchase their records and find out if I properly loved them. I think I’d definitely have to keep listening to this one to work out whether I loved it, but I do love Kristin’s voice.

    The Fatima Mansions: Being a bit of a wuss, I always preferred Microdisney (The Fatima Mansions scared me a bit), but this is surprisingly accessible – and rather lovely and impassioned. Keep.

    Eleventh Dream Day: Hm, this may be a contender for the drop. Not really grabbing me. And I’m finding the vocals in particular a bit yobbish.

    Catatonia: The only one I know from the list. Love Cerys. This is slightly too ‘stadium-rock ballad’ for me (I prefer her in countryish mode – Only A Fool, Open Roads – or spitting vitriol – Bleed), but the lyrics are interesting enough alone to save it.

    Richard Thompson: I know this probably makes me a complete Philistine, but I don’t really like RT’s voice. The only album of his I own is “I want to see the bright lights tonight” and I only really like the songs sung by Linda. And this is a bit plodding. Hm, second contender…

    Grateful Dead: Apart from the fact that I wouldn’t dare jettison this, I quite like the upbeat-ness of it. A lightness of touch that I missed in the RT song. Keep.

    Ry Cooder: Well, I have surprised myself by loving that. Great vocal. Keep.

    PJ Harvey: Oh dear, she’s another much-lauded artist I don’t really get. There’s just not enough warmth in her music for me. And why is she singing in falsetto? I keep wanting the voice to drop into her chest.

    John Cale: I saw him perform the whole of Paris 1919 (relatively) recently, despite really not knowing any of his work. It was ace. I like his ambition – and seeing where it takes him. Love the instrumentation on this. Keep.

    Frank Zappa: He’s a bit challenging for me… I don’t hate this, but equally I can’t really find a way into it. I just find it baffling.

    I think, on balance, Eleventh Dream Day get the heave-ho from me – if only because they’ve labelled themselves eleventh! But I shall listen to this list again. I suspect it may yield more rewards the more one invests in it. Thanks Chris!

    • Cheers, bish.
      Viva Dead Ponies (whence this comes) is schizophrenic Cathal. Sweetish Microdisney songs (but with uncomfortable lyrics) mixed with more frightening music. Later albums were predominantly the latter, and I like them less for it.
      White Chalk was Polly’s deliberately different album. The results seem to have a polarising effect on ears.
      Would Tenth Dream Day have been more acceptable?!

  2. Ooh, lots of people I know and like this week, unsurprisingly perhaps. It should be tough.

    1. Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – Pencil Rot I like this a lot, he always comes up with interesting music. This is a harking back to Pavement. Keep.
    2. Throwing Muses – Tango Kristin Hersh can do no wrong chez moi. Another keeper.
    3. The Fatima Mansions – The Door-To-Door Inspector Not really a fan of this, it is his voice that I don’t like, musically it isn’t too bad. I never really liked them that much back in the day and age hasn’t improved them for me. This could be asked to leave.
    4. Eleventh Dream Day – Murder Never even heard of this band before. It is OK, sort of reminds me of other things. I like the way it builds. Keep.
    5. Catatonia – Strange Glue I am not a huge fan of Cerys’ voice but I don’t think she does that badly here. Possibly I’ll keep it in or possibly not.
    6. Richard Thompson – Can’t Win You wouldn’t want RT as an enemy, would you? Anyway, I like his music, so I won’t be upsetting him by showing him the door.
    7. Grateful Dead – Dupree’s Diamond Blues Keep. There was never going to be any doubt, was there?
    8. Ry Cooder – On a Monday Another solid keeper. Ry is another who can do no wrong in my book.
    9. PJ Harvey – To Talk to You Polly does scary weirdness. This is like the soundtrack to a ghost story, excellent. Staying.
    10. John Cale – Magritte John Cale is another one of those artists who is not likely to offend me. Stay.
    11. Frank Zappa – Little Umbrellas Sheer, unadulterated brilliance. Keep. Tune of the week.
    So where does this leave matters? I think it looks like either Catatonia or Fatima Mansions will be left alone in the study with a glass of Cognac and a pearl-handled revolver.
    So, sorry Cerys. I like your 6Music show, but this doesn’t do anything for me at all. Bye.

    • Thanks, Carole. tbh, I wasn’t sure whether we’d share similar views on all these artists. Don’t seem far apart.
      The Polly ‘ghost story’ was precisely the role I intended it would play.

  3. thanks for something to listen to while i was burning the toast and making a bombsite of the kitchen .. all unfamiliar to me … fraid to say the Dead was dullest .. some others were more up my street .. enjoyed mr thompson taking it out on his axe

  4. I loved this list, Chris. For the most part.

    Love pretty much anything the drop dead gorgeous Mr. Malkmus does, no exception here. The Fatima Mansions was lovely too, unlike Carole i love his voice.Never heard of Eleventh Day Dream before, i really liked it a lot. Also keeping the Dead and Zappa, liked John Cale a lot, Catonia can stay although i found it a bit meh for me.

    Surprisingly pick of the batch for me was RT, but it was close with Fatima Mansions and Pencil Rot.

    The big toss goes to Polly, followed possibly by the Muses and Ry Cooder.

    Thanks, Chris.

    • I\’ve never chosen a dog based on color, and I think that\’s part of the raoesn I\’ve been able to have such good connections with the dogs we\’ve had. When we started looking for our first Greyhound, I hoped it would be a brindle, but there were only four cat safe dogs in the kennel. All four were different colors, and each one was stunning. It was the brindle dog who leaned against us and stood between us for equal petting, though, and of the four, she was the only one to look back at us as she was led back to the kennel. After she passed away, we went back to the same adoption group. I wanted that same deep connection I\’d had with Treat. I really hoped that time that a brindle dog didn\’t choose me — I just didn\’t want to feel that I was replacing her. We met a dozen dogs, and nearly all of them were brindle, but I never felt that click. Finally, they offered to let us meet a little female they\’d just gotten in. She was so new, they didn\’t know much about her and hadn\’t even cat tested her. The tiniest little Greyhound I\’d ever seen walked in and leaned against me so calmly, and looked up at me with eyes the color of amber glass. I was smitten immediately! She could have been hairless at that point! I am ashamed to admit that I used to think fawn dogs were plain, because Bunny is just stunning! Do I have Greyhound color preferences? Yes! I\’d love to have one in every color they come in! lol But I\’ve found that the dog who claims your heart and couch is always the most beautiful one in the world!

  5. 1. Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – Pencil Rot
    certainly off-kilter, a little too much so, for me. Maybe a candidate to go but I’ve only just started!

    2. Throwing Muses – Tango
    Hmmmm. Shades of early Pink Floyd; I can hear the track in my head and can’t think what it is. “Ooooh ooooh ooooh ooooh ooooh ooooh ooooh oooh …” (not one of their most profound, it has to be said). Keep!

    3. The Fatima Mansions – The Door-To-Door Inspector
    Quite spare, the atmosphere reminds me of Alan Parsons; Cars; mid ’80s. No idea why but it’s not a criticism.

    4. Eleventh Dream Day – Murder
    Oh, I like this, gets a resounding 3 on my 1-3 scale.

    5. Catatonia – Strange Glue
    Cerys – bless – lively as a bucket of frogs. Definitely keep.

    6. Richard Thompson – Can’t Win
    It’s touch and go with me and RT – some songs are superb and others are dirges – this one slots comfortably between the two. Keep.

    7. Grateful Dead – Dupree’s Diamond Blues
    Well, very pleasant, and I’m surprised there’s only one Dead track.

    8. Ry Cooder – On a Monday
    Yep, nearly included some Ry Cooder on my list the other week. Very nice.

    9. PJ Harvey – To Talk to You
    Lovely ethereal vocal, and yes, I think it is Mary.

    10. John Cale – Magritte
    Not too keen on the vocal but I like the feel of this song.

    11. Frank Zappa – Little Umbrellas
    Ceci n’est pas une parapluie, or something. Zappa at his most approachable and again, no complaints from me.

    I’m afraid it’s Stephen Malkmus for me, I’m calling in the exorcist. Thanks for an interesting and slightly spooky list, Chris, and hope you all enjoy Halloween, in whatever way you see fit.

    • Cheers, Ali. Glad you liked the majority.

      It’s definitely ‘Mary’ she’s calling for. But I created a false link to the Dead track as the song Hunter used as a basis for Dupree’s Diamond Blues was actually called Betty and Dupree. The truth of the original event is this:
      “Frank Dupree grew up in Abbeville, South Carolina. He came on the scene in December 1921 in Atlanta, Georgia, where he had a gal Betty. In trying to appropriate a diamond for her in a jewelry store he shot a policeman down. Fleeing to Memphis and later to Chicago, where he was cornered, he killed a policeman and wounded several more. He was caught while getting his mail and sent to Atlanta for trial. He was executed for murder on September 1, 1922.”
      The newspaper report and the early songs twisted the facts to make a better story; then Hunter twisted it a bit more and added his prologue and epilogue, creating the fatalistic ‘moral’. I saw no reason not to twist things a little further.
      The lyrics of the earlier song (and other info) can be found here: http://artsites.ucsc.edu/GDead/agdl/dupree.html

  6. PS: Just re-read your introduction, Chris, and for the song to fill the gap I suggest “Echoes” by Pink Floyd – suitably ethereal and could be echoes from different times … I won’t post a link in case it messes everything up.

  7. Standouts were The Ry Cooder & Eleventh Dream Day with EDD just nosing by based on a I’ve not heard it before boost. Worth a look & listen. The rest were all making my click-ahead finger twitch at least once. Couldn’t overcome the temptation when PJ waltzed in. Like a waltz myself but this was a dirge. sorry.

  8. Enjoyed that little lot Chris, thanks ! Most were new to me and I especially liked the Zappa, who I can’t remember actively listening to before (apologies to anyone who has previously ‘Spilled Zappa).

    Would chuck out the Throwing Muses – didn’t like that at all….sorry!

  9. 1. I find this sort of American shambling indie a bit wearing in anything other than small doses, but the weird noises elevate this above the herd.

    2. Throwing Muses can do no wrong as far as I’m concerned.

    3. Can’t put my finger on exactly which song, but this reminds me of a big X-Factor style ballad – perhaps something by Take That?

    4. Nice opening; less convinced by the continuation, esp. the vocals, but certainly worth another listen.

    5. Always liked Catatonia; this is by no means my favourite of theirs – the lyrics deserve better – but pretty good.

    6. Never a big fan, and I found the musical arrangement rather stolid, but it’s a good song. Oddly, this too reminds me of a mid 90s boy band song in terms of its structure…

    7. Nice; reminds me of The Basment Tapes (which is always a good thing) – and, oddly, the Malkmus. Hidden musical lineage, or am I just having a very strange morning?

    8. I occasionally find Cooder a little mannered – too reverent of his material – but this is great.

    9. PJ Harvey can do no wrong as far as I’m concerned, even if this is one of the songs that pushes the general principle to the limit.

    10. Approve in theory, never quite convinced in practice, but this is doing a good job of persuading me to listen further. Nice cello.

    11. Haven’t heard this before, for some reason – and I speak as someone who bought Zappa’s album of guitar solos. A bit heavy on cheesy, Pat Metheny-style keyboards for my taste, but great rock-jazz.

    Hmm. This is much harder than I thought it was going to be… Taken on their individual merits, either Malkmus or Fatima Mansions get the push, but for the good of the playlist as a whole I think it would have to be – to my surprise – PJ Harvey, as that song throws the mood off completely for me.

    • Thanks, Aba.

      I’d love someone to sing The Door-To-Door Inspector straight into the face of Simon Cowell! On the album lyric sheet there’s a final line that follows ‘Passion not spent/A man alone’. That unsung line is: ‘(with his hands)’.

      I hear what you mean about Can’t Win: gentle start, build-up, bridge, pounding chorus….. Don’t get many such original and gifted guitarists on boyband records though.

      I appreciate the Basement Tapes comparison. Hunter, Garcia & co have/had a deep respect for similar source material to Dylan & co. Many Hunter lyrics sound like they come from an old songbook. See my note to Ali for more on Dupree.

  10. Thanks for giving these a listen, folks, and for the comments (what do the rest of the 100+ viewers think, I wonder?).

    I don’t think anyone’s choices have surprised me yet: I can quite see how the Polly track wouldn’t suit all. I hoped Dupree would get to stay, obviously, but mainly for its place in the ‘story’ (and putting more than one Dead track in would increase the chances of more of you hurting my little babies!). I can’t help feeling pleased to have exceeded Aba’s expectations.

    • I’m getting there…keep getting interrupted before I get to the end! That’s far from being one of my favourite RTs though.

    • Happy Halloween! My grandsons came round trick-or-treating – one was done up as a zombie, the other looked just the same as usual (I think – it was dark). Hope you’re making a splash with that wonderful costume!

  11. Haven’t had a chance to listen. Literary & story thread has gone way over my head. Judging from the song titles – it would make a strange book indeed. Pretty eclectic cast too – Catatonia? Who’d have thunk it? If I don’t manage to catch up, the Magritte painting is deffo a keeper.

  12. This is not quite what I expected. First time through many of these didn’t get past the minute mark, the first five were all unknowns.
    1. Didn’t make the minute mark on second play, hated that ‘mickey mouse’ computer generated noise; a goner.
    2. The woo-ooo-wooo was a turn off for me and the tone of the vocal wasn’t wonderful, put me to sleep, send her off.
    3. Reminds me a bit of Procul Harum therefore it’s tolerable, not one I’d buy though, he can stay.
    4. The guitar jam made it worthwhile, it can stay,
    5. Odd song, intriguing, worth another listen. keep her.
    6. Thompson; I know it’s sacrilege but I don’t like his voice, he sounds like a middle aged civil servant reading it off a page, he can leave. I like his ex-old lady a lot, she’d get top billing if she were here.
    7. This is a new GD song for me, it’s not one I would have chosen but it’s OK, is that a banjo? we don’t throw the dead out.
    8.Ry stays! I remember this song from the ’50’s, probably Lead Belly, it was on BBC a lot. I like Ry’s guitar break plus the backing rhythm. Nice groove.
    9. PJ never connected with me, I tried again, still didn’t work.
    10. Cale, love that cello intro, interesting song very well delivered, lots of diverse bits, this is the best track this week. I’ve been listening to Paris 1919 a lot lately, maybe that has something to do with it, Hanky Panky is a terminal earworm for me now.
    11. Zappa; love the acoustic bass plus that horn, a close second behind Cale, definite keeper.

  13. Updated sechedule –

    Nov 6 – Abahachi

    Nov 13 – Gentle Irish Punk

    Nov 20 – DsD

    Nov 27th – Fuel

    And that’s it for this year till the holiday festivities end. Sometime in January i would imagine, will solicit more contributors towards the NEw YEar.

  14. 1 Steven Malkmus and the Jinks: oh, I really don’t like music with electronic beeps that make me jump. (And I don’t like fireworks either so I’m never very happy at this time of year. Last night was Halloween, people. Bonfire Night is on Monday.)

    2 Throwing Muses: I like them, and I’ve read (most of) Kristen Hersh’s book – my daughter Ab made me give it back…yes, I like the song, specially the lyrics.

    3 The Fatima Mansions: why are they called that? This is scary; not a comfortable listen, but I like it. A sense of dread.

    4 Eleventh Dream Day: these songs are really rather horrible, aren’t they? Metaphorical or otherwise. I found the insistent beat very annoying – no doubt they meant to heighten our sense of unease. Consider it heightened.

    5 Catatonia: does she usually do a little-girl voice? Because I hate that.

    6 Richard Thompson: as I said, not one of my favourites by RT. Though I often mutter to myself “the nerve of some people!” Well, you would.

    7 Grateful Dead: I know the song Betty And Dupree. But hey, it’s the folk process, isn’t it? I like this very, very much. Love the banjo. But next there’s

    8 Ry Cooder: this’ll be the winner (I know it well.) Or…will it?

    9 PJ Harvey: ooh, very weird, very ghostly – yes indeedy.

    10 John Cale: yes, mysterious, lovely sounds…Magritte rhymes with feet, tee hee.

    11 Frank Zappa: I do like some Zappa but not this one – nothing drew me in.

    So it’s Stephen Malkmus to go,and my favourite is…the Dead! Because you shouldn’t just like the things you like already. And instead of Pencil Rot I’ll have Robert Earl Keen’s Here In Arkansas because of the tying to a gurney/chaining to a bed thing.

    • Thanks for giving this your attention, tfd. I like your atmospheric replacement track.
      I was hoping to paint a picture of the two lovers (Mary/Betty and Dupree) whose real love for each other was corrupted in the press and song reporting. She’s a woman damaged in childhood, he’s a no-hoper and their relationship is rather explosive. He steals the ring to please her, without considering the consequences.
      Polly is Mary/Betty’s grand-daughter, prompted to find the truth of the tale after seeing the Magritte painting in which the lovers (and the truth of their lives) are obscured from our view. There’s also the echo of Dupree’s hanging….

      • Ha, then I really didn’t get it at all, did I? Never mind, it was very interesting stuff and I’d not heard very much of it before.

  15. Hi Chris,
    sorry I’m so late to these. I have been washing up and enjoying them this evening. The only ones I knew beforehand were the Catatonia track and the PJHarvey, like both of those so they’re staying.

    Didn’t really take to the Steve Malkmus track, it was okay, but wasn’t essential to my ears.

    I like a bit of Throwing Muses, it’s an appealing track. Fatima Mansions is not for me, I liked the vocal on the Eleventh Dream Day.

    I’m with GoneForeign on the subject of Richard Thompson’s voice (sorry), love his guitar and song writing skills though.

    I really like the Grateful Dead song, I find it kind of playful in tone and fun. I have liked a lot of what I’ve heard by the band (but that’s only a tiny bit really), but when I bought Workingman’s Dead I found a side to them I wasn’t very keen on. I will keep exploring though.

    The Ry Cooder song, I know, I feel that Nick Cave has done a debauched version of something like it at some point, this is much more melodic and his slide guitar is wonderful.

    John Cale is rather gorgeous, reminds me of what Peter Murphy would like to sound like, I think. It’s staying.

    I’m a bit cautious about Frank Zappa, he mostly doesn’t quite sound like something I want to hear and as my brother used to play his albums a lot, I feel like I have tried. This is quite cool though, in a rather meandering way.

    So I think Fatima Mansions is going and I’ll make Peej my favourite, because it took me a long time to like that album, but now I do very much.

    • Absolutely no need to apologise, beth! Thanks for listening, and I’m glad you’ve redressed the voting balance in Polly’s favour. As you imply, White Chalk is maybe rather more of an acquired taste than her other albums. But what a rich flavour it delivers!

  16. Wondering if i’m the only one who loves Richard Thompson’s voice? I mean, i really love it. And granted, Linda’s voice was gorgeous too.

    • I can understand why people have a problem with it. There’s a nasal quality in there which, on his angry/bitter/plaintive songs (i.e. most of his songs) can be annoying. But it’s a sincere voice and, as tfd says, it’s got better with time. Like Dylan, perhaps.
      I’ve probably pushed his voice to the back of my mind on several occasions and concentrated on the quality of his guitar playing and songwriting.

      • I don’t mind angry and bitter, but i do have a bit of a problem with the petulant ones (ie Geordie, Madge). But i just think he has such a rich and sexy voice.

        Rod Stewart is another one whose voice only got better with age, unlike many of his peers. Listen to the old live Faces, his voice is a lot thinner and higher. Problem is he’s become a parody of himself live, which is such a shame.

  17. I enjoyed this selection. Ry Cooder goes because his vocal just doesn’t move me, whereas Leadbelly’s does. John Cale is the keeper. Cheers.

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