Died Pretty: True Fools Fall (1990)

died-prettyWhen I interviewed Paul Kelly in Adelaide, Australia in 1992, I asked him what bands he was listening to. In his response, he mentioned Died Pretty, along with The Go-Betweens and The Triffids. When I got back to the U.S., I made an effort to check them out. I’m glad I did, because it exposed me to a musical avenue that I barely knew existed at the time.

I fully understand that Died Pretty is an acquired taste. They were Australia’s answer to R.E.M., if you mutated them and transferred them to the Bizarro universe (indeed, Died Pretty opened for R.E.M. on the Australian leg of their 1994 tour). Moving right along…

Siinger Ron Peno and guitarist Brett Myers formed the band in Sydney in early 1984. During their career, which lasted until 2002, they released nine albums and four EPs. True Fools Fall is off the album Every Brilliant Eye.

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Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel: Star For a Week (1992)

steve_harleyWhat would the seventies have been without Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel?

Steve was born Stephen Malcolm Ronald Nice in Deptford, South London, on February 27, 1951. He first performed with Cockney Rebel, then dissolved that band and started Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel. Steve has also recorded solo projects as Steve Harley.

He’s had many hits throughout his career, including Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me), which reached number one on the UK charts in 1975. Other hits include Judy Teen, Mr. Soft, Mr. Raffles, (Man It Was Mean), Here Comes The Sun, Love’s a Prima Donna, Irresistible, and Phantom of  the  Opera (with Sarah Brightman).

Steve was and is well-known in the UK and Europe but you’d probably be hard-pressed to find people in the U.S. who’ve heard of him. His live shows always feature the audience singing along to Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me).

One of my favorite songs by Steve Harley is Star For a Week, which appeared on the album Yes You Can. The song is based on the actual story of troubled youth in Norfolk who began a crime spree because he wanted to be famous. This video clip comes from a 1989 UK concert.

Search Amazon.com for Steve Harley.

Sinéad Lohan: Whatever It Takes (1998)

Sinéad LohanSinéad Lohan is one of music’s enigmatic figures. She appeared on the international scene with her second album, No Mermaid, had a couple of minor hits, had a baby, and then vanished.

Lohan is Irish. Her first album, Who Do You Think I Am (1995), was a hit in her native Ireland. No Mermaid was released in 1998 and garnered some critical acclaim, as well as producing a couple of minor hits. The title track from No Mermaid was used in the movie Message In a Bottle.

“Nobody knows what I write about exactly. Nobody knows why I write and nobody ever sees me write. If I lived in a different century, they might have burned me as a witch for expressing myself the way I do. The funny thing is, I don’t understand most of the songs when I write them and then they become obviously relevant to what I’m going through a few months or a year later. They’re like predictions and then like comforts.”

Sinéad Lohan

Lohan had a baby in 2001 and stopped recording. A new album that was supposed to have been released in 2007 has never materialized. Lohan’s website hasn’t been updated since 2001.

Whatever It Takes comes from the album No Mermaid. Listen to how good this song is. It’s catchy and poppy without being treacly, and you can hear a Celtic influence.

Message to Sinéad Lohan: Please come back.

Katell Keineg: There You Go (1997)

katell-keinegListening to Katell Keineg, one is constantly aware of the duality in her music: modern and seemingly ancient, melodic with dissonant elements, soft but intense, deeply personal and unknowable.

Katell was born in Brittany, grew up in Cardiff, Wales, and currently lives in Dublin. When she was signed by Elektra Records in 1993, she was poised to become the “next big thing.” Unfortunately, management changes at Elektra left her with a contract to a record company that little cared about marketing her music, preferring to concentrate their efforts on pop music, which was becoming increasingly popular.

So Katell’s music remains mostly hidden to the world. I consider myself a fan and I sometimes don’t find out about new releases for months, if not years, after they’re released. Katell doesn’t seem much concerned with marketing, nor is there any real effort on anyone’s part to even keep her existing fans up-to-date. I signed up for her mailing list years ago through her website and I don’t remember getting any mail as a result. Katell released a 4-song EP called Y Gwyneb Iau/Trouble in January of this year, and I only found out about it while researching this post.

“Well, I guess it is a bit weird, getting up onstage and emoting — not that my songs are autobiographical! But at a gig, the exposure, the emotion, is through the conduit of a song. And, most important, it’s not just me; there’s an audience participating; we’re all there in the room together. That’s where the contact is. That’s where the religious element is.”

Katell Keineg, New York Times article, July 2, 2006

There You Go is from the album Jet, released in 1997. This video was recorded at The Living Room in New York City in 2006.

As much as I hate to say it, the word is never going to get out about Katell, one of the most gifted singer-songwriters of our time. Why? Funny you should ask. I’ll tell you the big secret:

Because music is dead.

Music died a while ago, and it went out with a whimper, not a bang. There are no longer any rock radio stations, other than stations that play “oldies” and alternative stations, which are an alternative to good music, mostly. There are stations like JACK FM that play a mix of music, but they never front-announce or back-announce the music (not that they’d ever play anything by Katell). How can they? They don’t have any deejays. Even the stations with deejays don’t announce tracks. Not that it would matter, since they don’t play anything worth listening to anyway.

Music is dead, unless your idea of music is rap or bullshit pop music (and if it is, I feel sorry for you). Music is dead, unless you call the phony crap that oozes out of American Idol music.

Music is dead, and Katell Keineg is too good, too honest, too intelligent, and too real to have a place in a music industry that is run by the cartel of gangsters that calls itself the RIAA.

So Katell continues to make the music that she wants to make, the way she wants to make it. And that’s why you probably never heard of her. And you’re the worse off for it.

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