They Are Back!
Sometime last year, when the Contrast Podcast, a weekly collaborative by a bunch of mp3 bloggers, first became irregular and then disappeared altogether, I felt like an addict who has been denied his fix. Contrast is a podcast that began in 2006 and every week, usually on a Tuesday, bloggers presented a theme which they spoke about and then presented songs relevant to that theme. It could be anything – from a body part (say, the brain) to something like Boiling and Steaming.
Boiling and Steaming was indeed one of Contrast’s themes last year and contributors played songs from bands such as The Regals (Got the Water Boiling), Sonic Youth (Pink Steam), The Kinks (Have A Cuppa Tea) and The Human League (Being Boiled) among several others on the hour-and-half-long episode. I’d heard or, at least, knew of many of the bands that the contributors played but there were quite a few that I discovered. Such as The Regals. An early rhythm and blues band from Cleveland, Ohio, The Regals are a band from the 1950s and their song, Got The Water Boiling, is delightful with its lyrics (I got your water boiling baby/ I’m gonna cook a-your goose/ I got your water boiling baby/ I’m gonna cook a-your goose/ Well, I need your lovin’-dovin’/ Ain’t gonna turn you loose), typical R&B beat, horns and great vocals.
After listening to that song, I went surfing to find out more about The Regals only to discover that the usual places had precious little about this band. Finally, I managed to find a link that gave some information about the band and pointers to some of their albums. Tracking down those albums was an even tougher task but, after a few false starts (other crappy bands with a similar name), I managed to get my hands on a couple. Courtesy the Contrast Podcast, I’d discovered another new (well, old, actually!) band.
That was always the thing about the Contrast podcast: because it had different bloggers coming up with their own selections each week, you could get pointed to new bands, new singers or sometimes even rediscover bands that you’d long forgotten. I have a long list of bands that I was led to by the Contrast, many of them are ones that quickly became my favourites. Britain’s satirical Half Man Half Biscuit were a band I discovered via the Contrast. If you haven’t heard them, I suggest CSI: Ambleside ( the title makes fun of the CSI franchise; Ambleside is a small English town) or even Achtung Bono (a dig at you know which band). Another musician that I was led to by the podcast was Julian Cope, now a solo rock musician and former singer of Liverpool’s The Teardrop Explodes but also an author and avid student of antiquities. I sampled some of Cope’s music; liked it; and went and bought his 2008 double album, Black Sheep, a set of minimalist, almost primitive rock tracks. Some say Cope’s music is influenced by his 1998 book, The Modern Antiquarian, which explores ancient pagan rituals and sites.
The Polyphonic Spree was yet another band that I first heard on the Contrast. They are a rock band that employs choral symphonies. With at least a dozen band members and complex vocal interplay, the Spree are a band that blends pop and orchestral genres quite uniquely. I have their 2002 album, The Beginning Stages of…The Polyphonic Spree, and it’s always a great experience to spin that one.
To come back to the original thought about the Contrast, when its episodes became erratic and nearly stopped, I thought I’d lost a good source of not just great music but also some interesting comments. Each blogger would, by way of introducing songs, say a few things – sometimes nuggets of information, useless prattle or corny jokes – that were nice to listen to.
Then, just as I had nearly given up hope on the Contrast Podcast, it popped back. In December, an episode came out with the bunch of mp3 bloggers talking about what they had been up to during the podcast’s nearly year-long hiatus and played a track each. And, more recently, the regular annual episodes, the Contrast’s Festive Fifty, where in two installments, contributors talk about and play their favourite tracks of the year gone by. The Contrast was back in business. And my symptoms of cold turkey were gone.