Friday, 19 July 2013

Cassette experiment day 115 - Mick Karn 'Titles'

Stage presence - some people have it, some people don't.

Julian Cope definitely has it - I once feared for his life when I saw him climb to the top of an extremely wobbly speaker stack at Newcastle City Hall. Julian seemed nowhere near as concerned about his health as I was.

Andy McCluskey has it too, in a highly unusual soft toy in a tumble-dryer kind of way.

And the artist behind our cassette of the day certainly had it too. Our album is 'Titles' and our artist who had bucketloads of presence was the late Mick Karn. If you were ever lucky enough to see Mick live (and we were fortunate to see him twice when performing with Japan) then you'll never forget his performance. For a little while Mick and his famous fretless bass stood virtually immobile at the side of the stage - then he'd give a little shrug and start to glide across the stage in his silk chinese slippers. Imagine a cross between a moonwalking Michael Jackson and a flymo (other hover mowers are available) and you'd be somewhere close, only Mick made this seem far more graceful than I've made it sound!

Recorded and released in 1982, with all of the members of Japan present (with the exception of David Sylvian, perhaps needless to say) and augmented by a number of special guests, including the ubiquitous David Rhodes who also appeared on our cassette of the day yesterday (Blancmange's 'Happy families'), 'Titles' may well be the best album that I don't actually own. I've got to come clean here, this cassette and all of the other Mick Karn albums in the house actually belongs to my wife, Suz. We do have a musical arrangement in our house though - I'm allowed to listen to all of the Mick Karn albums and Suz can listen to any of my Jonathan Richman albums. Admittedly this arrangement is a little one-sided, because Suz never wants to listen to any of my Jonathan Richman albums. To redress the balance I'm thinking of throwing in access to my Bathers albums too, but I'm not sure how this will go down. 

'Titles' is, in many ways, an 'otherworldly' album, with many of the instruments played by Mick and his mates proving difficult to pin down. All four tracks on side 1 are instrumentals, with the pick of the crop for me being the slightly pretentiously titled 'Lost affections in a room' which seems to feature an instrument that sounds for all the world like a tuba being sucked rather than blown - it's not unpleasant all the same. Side 1 also features the atmospheric 'Weather the windmill' which cropped up recently, unexpected but very welcome nonetheless on Metronomy's edition of the wonderful 'Late night tales' series - they're like mixtapes from the stars!

In contrast, all of the tracks on side 2 come complete with Mick's slightly wobbly but wonderful voice. The album's only single, 'Sensitive' is, not surprisingly, the most commercial tune here and it's unquestionably one of the best pop singles of the early 1980s, regardless of its relatively modest success. A slight word of caution here - side 2 track 2 'Trust me' finishes by slowing gradually to a dead stop and after 31 years I still get fooled into thinking my cassette player's batteries are running out.

If you haven't got it and you get a chance to pick this one up, then I heartily recommend it, and while you're on you might like to pick up 'The waking hour' by Dalis Car (Mick and Pete Murphy from Bauhaus) because it's pretty wonderful too.

And I've threatened this before, but sometime within the next 7 days we're definitely going to feature Rain Tree Crow as part of the cassette experiment.

Label - Virgin

Year - 1982

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