Dory Previn

I’ve been listening to a lot of Dory Previn recently. She’s an artist that I really wish I’d not overlooked for so long. Lyrical intelligence, vocals somewhere between Karen Carpenter’s and Amanda Palmer’s and musical arrangements from heaven, this is stunning stuff.

Dory Previn died in 2012 at the age of 86. She stopped releasing albums in the mid 1970’s but there’s an incredible canon of work against her name that I’m only just discovering.

What a life she had. There’s a candid honesty within her songwriting that’s tender, sad, occasionally uncomfortable but often darkly humourous. These are stories about her own life; her Catholic upbringing, her time spent in mental institutions and her complicated relationship history. She’s lived these songs.

Many of her songs linger on her strained, complicated relationship with her father. A war veteran, he apparently never resolved some mental battles after being gassed. When young, her father boarded his family up into the house they lived in and held them captive by gunpoint for months. Dory often reflects on how she could never gain his approval or love. I’m not sure she says it any stronger than on ‘I dance and dance and smile and smile’ from her 1971 album, ‘Reflections In A Mud Puddle’.

She’s got songs about casual flings and one night stands; awkward, compromising situations that focus on inadequate human relationships. ‘Coldwater Canyon’ and ‘The Lady With The Braid’ are good, starting points if you’re drawn to such songs. Her marriage to Andre Previn broke down and ended in divorce after he had an affair with the 23 year old Mia Farrow. And, true to form, she writes candidly about the experience in ‘Beware Of Young Girls.’

I spent a couple of fine hours in bed last weekend listening to a fine radio interview that Bernadette Cahill conducted with Dory Previn in 2005. Interspersed with fragments of Previn’s songs, this is a relaxed and gentle, thought-provoking, sometimes laugh-out-loud exploration into an incredible talent.

I’ve joined the fan club.

 

 

Cross Wires – Your History Defaced

“When you’ve got Crosswires, Everything is Buzz Buzz,Everything is Beep Beep”

It is surely no accident that Cross Wires, a four piece from East London, share their name with a track from XTC’s first album. There’s a moment in ‘Modern Art’, the opening track from ‘Your History Defaced’, the dark and desirable new EP from Cross Wires, when you wonder if Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding have got back together for one final studio blast. The meandering verse gives way to a skewed chorus that’s almost singalong if new wave post punk is your thing and you really hate the concept of singalongs.

 

Yep – Cross Wires have no crossed wires when it comes to understanding their place in the history of popular music. There’s a raw, deliberately under-produced excitement that permeates throughout this five track EP. “The past is always repeating, I can’t run away“, sings Jonathan Chapman within ‘Tab Clear’. This is an EP with a knowing nod towards early Jam, a dash of mod and a double serving of punk.

I asked Jonathan why Cross Wires had settled upon ‘Your History Defaced’ as a title for this EP:-

“All the songs on the EP are kind of twisted versions of things that have happened to me. The idea behind it was we are all carrying around this baggage with us and we all have our own reality. Two people can have two different versions of the same event. It comes from that idea really.”

That sense of unresolved baggage from the past looms large; ‘Last Stand’ tells the mournful tale of a woman who’s getting older and no longer ‘rules the town’ as she once did. Elsewhere, we have persistent ghosts living in houses, misunderstandings and future days filled with dread. This is music that can hardly be described as happy; it comes from too claustrophobic a place for that. Sonic Breakfast highly recommends that you give it a listen over at Bandcamp.

 

 

Donna HineZ – Ice Cream


“I do enjoy reading your daily Sonic Breakfast posts”, said a friend at the weekend. “But it could do with being a bit more urban, a bit more soul, a bit more pop“, they declared, firmly nailing their musical appreciation to the mast.

“I’ll feature any new, quirky music if I like it,” I replied. “This isn’t about preferring one genre over another. It’s a Jack of all trades and a master of none. This is about finding the stories behind the songs. This is about discovery.”

Today, I received an E-mail about Donna HineZ. With the weekend’s accusation still ringing in my ears and a general acceptance that I’d never really understand why the ‘Z’ has to replace an ‘s’, I had a look and a listen.

Donna HineZ is a Londoner. Displaying a talent for all things stage as a youngster, she got a place at Brit School. Sharing a class with Jessie J, she forged an initial career in musical theatre working alongside an array of talent that included David Hasselhoff, Henry Winkler and Louie Spence!!

The video to ‘Ice cream’ was released months ago but I’m told that the single gets a full release at the end of November. On the surface, winter is an odd time to be releasing a song about a food that’s made for sunny, summer days on the beach. But, perhaps this is the point; when it’s cold and rainy, we need some form of escape and what better way than to think of the vanilla stuff.

Anyway, some might argue that to take this song too literally is missing the point. It’s not really about ‘Ice cream’ is it? In many ways, this is an uneasy bedfellow, a companion piece, to the Heyrocco song, Melt, that I featured on Monday. It’s a tune of cone-licking proportion that Prince would be proud of. It might be throwaway pop but it’s also damn raunchy and just a little bit provocative. It’s featured because I like it.

 

Police Dog Hogan – Thunderheads

I have a friend who knows everything that there is to know about clouds. He could tell you whether something was a nimbus, a curious or a bilious (I’ve made these up) and let you know what sort of weather we might be due as a result.

When I first heard “Thunderheads” by Police Dog Hogan, such is my ignorance that I had no idea that a thunderhead referred to a cloud formation. But, a little search of the good old internet, told me that a thunderhead is one of those clouds, a Cumulonimbus, associated with thunderstorms and atmospheric instability.

This is a song about resilience. It’s a statement about strength in the face of adversity. “You do not frighten me”, sings lead singer, James Studholme, as the song builds to climax and refrain. Whatever thunderstorm or instability might be on the horizon is of little consequence because resolve has already been built from years of the same.

There’s eight of them in Police Dog Hogan. They create a feast of folk well suited to festivals. Some have called it ‘urban bluegrass’ but I’m not sure that offers the full picture. This is Americana with a very English twist. With guitars, banjos, mandolins, fiddles and trumpets, there’s no doubting their musical expertise. They’ve an average age greater than 40, so have had a few years to perfect such talent.

I’ve been listening to a preview of Police Dog Hogan’s third album ‘Westward Ho!’ (Released October 6th) for some time now. As a young boy, growing up in Dorset, there are tunes on it that immediately resonate. ‘West Country Boy’ offers a very English insight into what it’s like as a musician to tour the village halls and cider pubs in that neck of the world. Any song that manages to name-check Melksham and Mere within a country-folk framework is fine by me.

This video for ‘Thunderheads’ has some truly gorgeous locations in it. As the summer passes and we face the onset of Autumn, it’s worth thinking how all of us are going to give a good, old two-fingered salute to those clouds on the horizon. This is as good a place as any to start.