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Two Books Trace the Histories of Influential Labels PDF Print E-mail
Music - Music News
Written by John M. James   
Wednesday, 31 January 2007 03:31

Rough Trade Records My biggest complaint about the new digital-music culture is the loss of tactile product. Songs today are simply files to be acquired, stored, and moved about, removed from the album or political era they originated in. Gone, for the most part, is the secret and connective language of an album or a single and all its once-possible elements - the gatefold jacket, inner sleeve, liner notes, and other delightful paper ephemera - that in the hands of a talented designer spoke deeply to the consumer and made the experience something to covet.

But the visual salve of two new books tells the story of parallel, iconic record labels from UK to soothe creaking, arthritic new-wavers. Black Dog Publishing's Labels Unlimited series follows up its debut focus on the Warp Records brand with a new secret history of Rough Trade Records, the highly influential label that started as a tiny record shop in London's Portobello district and went on to herald Cabaret Voltaire, The Raincoats, The Smiths, and The Red Crayola to the world. Author Rob Young chronicles the tale of Rough Trade founder Geoff Travis, a business visionary with a great set of ears who saw opportunity in the billowing releases of post-punk, DIY independent labels in 1978 and formed a distribution system between hip record shops, eventually signing bands to his own label. Packed with rare photographs, promotional flyers, and cover art, one cool highlight is a rundown of the label's 16 12-inch-single releases by The Smiths, and identification of all the eclectic faces that graced their stark covers, from Candy Darling and Billy Fury to Terence Stamp and Truman Capote. Chronicle Books lets the pictures do the talking in its new Factory Records: The Complete Graphic Album by Matthew Robertson, a hefty art book that documents the label's high design and peculiar manifesto to sequentially number each and every one of its creations, from audio releases to its own office stationary, art installations, and two nightclubs, DRY201 and The Hacienda. A rebellion against the ugliness of the punk and dirty-hippie aesthetic, Factory's icy-cold, cryptic art-department fantasia under the direction of Peter Saville created a look so clean and colorfully erotic that finding a Factory release in the bins was thrilling. Like a time machine back to the golden age of indie record shops, gazing at the walls of wire racks showcasing elusive imports teased weekly in the newsprint of NME and Sounds, flipping through these pages is a heady, delicious trip.


Television Alert:


The Tonight Show with Jay Leno welcomes Daniel Powter tonight and John Waite in duet with Alison Krauss on Monday; The Late Show with David Letterman hosts Taking Back Sunday this evening and Fall Out Boy on Monday; The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson boasts RZA on Friday overnight; Saturday Night Live's musical guest this weekend is Lily Allen; and Jam founder Paul Weller couch-hops twice - this evening overnight on Late Night with Conan O'Brien and Tuesday overnight on Jimmy Kimmel Live.


New Releases Coming Tuesday, February 6:

... and like the winds, young grasshopper, are subject to change.


The Apples in Stereo - New Magnetic Wonder (Simian/Yep Roc) super-sunny debut release on the boutique label owned by actor Elijah Wood, packed with special guests from the Elephant 6 collective and a foldout lyrics poster

Daníel Ágúst - Swallowed a Star (One Little Indian) fantastic solo debut from the GusGus co-founder; a delicate, theatrical pop masterpiece of orchestral strains, cinematic experimental flickering, and bittersweet hush

Arab Strap - Enjoy Your Retirement, 10 Years of Tears! (Chemikal Underground) B-sides and rarities collection

Barenaked Ladies - Barenaked Ladies Are Men (Desperation/Nettwerk) physical-CD release of 16 tracks previously only available via download in the Barenaked Ladies Are Me: Deluxe Edition, plus three songs multi-tracked with Umixit software that puts you in the production seat

Bloc Party - A Weekend in the City (Vice/Wichita) produced by Jacknife Lee

Belinda Carlisle - Viola (Ryko) an album of songs by Francoise Hardy, Jacques Brel, Serge Gainsbourg and Edith Piaf in French (!) with Brian Eno, Natacha Atlas, and the Hothouse Flowers' Fianchna O'Braonain; featuring a bonus CD EP with four selected tracks in English

Fall Out Boy - Infinity on High (Island) the album's title is taken from a Vincent van Gogh quote: "Be clearly aware of the stars and infinity on high"

Patty Griffin - Children Running Through (ATO) with guest Emmylou Harris on "Trapeze"

Ernie Halter - Congress Hotel (Rock Ridge) with guest Pete Thomas of Elvis Costello's Attractions

Rickie Lee Jones - Sermon on Exposition Boulevard (New West) also available in an expanded two-disc deluxe edition in 5.1-channel surround sound, SACD, and MP3, with bonus short film documentaries and photography

k-os - Atlantis: Hymns for Disco (Virgin) with guest vocalist Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene

Sondre Lerche - Phantom Punch (Astralwerks) fourth album from this young Norwegian pop wunderkind last year toured with Elvis Costello

Lonely, Dear - Lonely, Noir (Sub Pop) homegrown indie folk from Sweden's Emil Svanangen

Mas Rapido! - Pity Party (Parasol) formerly known as Toothpaste 2000, the longtime duo of Frank Bednash and Donna Esposito serve up a cool album of sludgy, cough-syrup pop psychedelia

Over the Rhine - Discount Fireworks: A Collection (Back Porch) retrospective featuring a new song, "Last Night on Earth Again"

The Postmarks - The Postmarks (Unfiltered) plucky, breezy trio from Florida bowing down at the altar of Burt Bacharach with the spirit of 1960s French pop

Jordan Pruitt - No Ordinary Girl (Hollywood) 15-year-old teen sensation featuring her cover of the Sister Sledge hit, "We Are Family"

John Reuben - Word of Mouth (Gotee) my pick of the week is this funky, infectious, trip-hop straight outta Columbus, Ohio, spitting pensive, prophetic, and philosophical musings, bouncing and frolicking in the same carnival tent as Beck, Urban Dance Squad, PM Dawn, and MC 900 Ft. Jesus

The Sleeping - Believe What We Tell You (Victory) expanded reissue with bonus DVD

Smokin' Aces - original motion picture soundtrack (Lakeshore) thumping hot tracks from Motorhead, The Make Up, The Stooges, The Prodigy, and The Bees

Keller Williams - Dream (Sci Fidelity) with guests Bob Weir, Bela Fleck, Charlie Hunter, Martin Sexton, Fareed Hague, and John Scofield

Astrid Williamson - Day of the Lone Wolf (One Little Indian) third album from the Scottish pianist

various artists - 8-Bit Operators: The Music of Kraftwerk (Astralwerks) puny humans must submit to international Borg takeover in these 14 percolating Kraftwerk songs re-created with vintage eight-bit computers and video-game tones

various artists - MusiCares Presents: A Tribute to Brian Wilson (Eagle Rock) star-studded DVD of the 2005 concert event featuring the Red Hot Chili Peppers covering "I Get Around," Shelby Lynne's take on "Surfer Girl," and more big love from John Legend, Jeff Beck, Billy Preston, Richie Sambora, and the Barenaked Ladies

various artists - A New Groove (Putumayo) globe-hopping club tour of beats just as creatively diverse as the countries represented, featuring Denmark's Emo, Sweden's Linn & Freddie, Australia's The Cat Empire, and Puerto Rico's Gabriel Rios

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