Feb 042014

After reading very encouraging recent comments from funoka, cherguevarra, and MrHuman, I believe that, AT LAST, I can swoon a little about Aztec Camera. I’ve loved this band since my introduction to them, which occurred via a little black and white photo of a cute boy with floppy hair that my sister had glued to the dashboard of her car. Ah, my first gaze at Roddy Frame.

High Land, Hard Rain is a great album: lo-fi emotive pop with clever, besotted lyrics and alternating jangly and classical guitar. Later albums get slicker, cornier, and/or sadder. However, the excellent track or two on each record kept my faith in the band alive. The final Aztec Camera album, Frestonia, reverted back to a lo-fi sound, but this time with more of a jazz influence.

Please join me in watching this early performance of “We Could Send Letters.” It’s lyrics used to make me cry. Luckily, in this video, I was distracted from my reminiscences of an old boyfriend by the matching tracksuits, the ridiculous hair, and the weird now-apparent resemblance of Roddy Frame to Paul Dano.

The final charge, at the 3:40 mark, continues to make me love this band.

P.S. – Mr. Royale just shared his own NSFW memories about this album indicating that I’m not the only one who had romantic associations with Aztec Camera’s music. (Will High Land, Hard Rain beat out Avalon as the most nookie-worthy album of the ’80s?) AND that the album was just re-released!


  24 Responses to “We Could Blog About Our Feelings”

  1. ladymisskirroyale

    Although he now records as King Krule, Zoo Kid is the heir apparent of Aztec Camera:

  2. This song was good, especially when it got to the guitar solo at the end. Roddy Frame could be the first entry in a Last Man Standing on extremely understated artists Elvis Costello pumped up early in their career. Ron Sexsmith is the other who comes to mind. In both cases, I was excited to hear what my man Costello was touting. In both cases I wished the artists had a stronger presence, but their songs have enough to offer. In small doses I can take some Aztec Camera, but I don’t think I’ll ever be understated enough to enjoy a whole album.

    As to the question of ’80s nookie albums, I think it’s going to be hard to top Avalon. In the long work I’ve been picking away at the last few year, I am nearing a chapter centering on this concept. I kind of dread writing about the night a Bauhaus album sounded better than ever.

  3. 30 years! Wonder what ol’ Roddy’s hair looks like now.

  4. cherguevara

    I love the first two Aztec Camera albums, parts of the third and then it “fell off” for me. At some point, I had posted about a rock and roll “Peter Principle,” the idea being that reaching a level of competence leads to music that is lacking in character and not as bold or interesting as what preceded. (Somebody else also proposed a Peter Principle here, and I cannot recall the context or who it was, but I do recall that the concept was different from what I state here).

    I think Aztec Camera are a poster child for this concept. We have the prodigious first album, followed by Knife, a fully slick, beautiful album. After this we got Love, which has some amazing songs on it but it also reeks a bit of “gotta have a hit” with five or so producers and highly glossy, harsh 80’s sound. The album after this, Stray, for me, was a tepid affair. Again, some good songs here, but I almost sense Roddy Frame writing “into” styles – this is a big pop number, this is the jazzy guitar number, this is the slow-building ballad… love the guitar solo in Notting Hill Blues, but it’s a long wait until that moment. That is one song I listen to somewhat often, yet I skip the first two minutes just to get on with it. I heard the Dreamland album, it really didn’t register with me and I lost interest – which is saying something, since those first two albums put him in the immediate circle of music I liked that best at that time, alongside XTC, Neil Finn (Enz, Crowded House) and a few others.

    I was pleased to find that Roddy’s solo material has some of the spark of the earlier Aztec Camera stuff, and he seems to not be trying as hard, which feels much more natural and enjoyable. Sure wish he’d play a show here, I’ve never had the chance to see him.

    80’s nookie albums: Cocteau Twins. Treasure. Blue Bell Knoll. Avalon was a bit “before my time,” as much as I have come to like that album. In fact, first real interest in anything related to Roxy Music was Bryan Ferry’s “Boys and Girls” album. I went to see him at the Tower and was the recipient of some nasty comment about “new fans” who didn’t know the Roxy stuff, said by an older fan who was looking at me sideways as he said it. Indeed, I was a bit surprised when an inflatable sex doll went flying over my head onto the stage, but I get it now.

  5. A brief Google Images search shows that he’s still got something up there, although it’s kept short.

  6. Another good one for getting in the mood was David Sylvian’s Brilliant Trees — which was out of print for a long time.

    Not sure you can get more “understated” than some of the songs on this one — not the least of which is the aptly-titled “Nostalgia”

  7. cherguevara

    “dead bees on a cake” is the most nookie worth Sylvian album, IMHO. Or disc two of “Gone To Earth,” though that is a pretty sleepy one. I like Flux and Mutability quite a bit as well.

  8. cherguevara

    BTW, if you’re into understated, twee music, check this out:

    This song, “Free Arthur Lee” is one of four songs that comprise the complete recorded output of Hopkirk and Lee, who were a mysterious duo who recorded one ten-minute long EP and then broke up. Give it a few listens, it sinks in and clicks. I have played this EP upwards of five times in a row, each song is a gem.

  9. ladymisskirroyale

    Well said, cher.

    You may like parts of “Dreamland” and “Frestonia”, although the former is pretty sappy but the latter is a more complete, cohesive album than “Stray.” It has a bluesy, soulful sound. This is my favorite track (again, another slow one):

    I don’t know if agree with your take on the Peter Principle, if I’m understanding it correctly. I think The Roddy continues to be a pretty adept musician, who reached an early competency with a certain kind of music, but then decided to branch out into other styles and more slick production values (chasing commercial success?). “Dreamland” could be a lost, later Rod Stewart album. (What is it with these Scotts – do they peak early?) But the album does include “Spanish Horses,” which although joyous and stupid, has some more of that classical style guitar playing that he demonstrated on “High Land, Hard Rain.”

  10. ladymisskirroyale

    What about The Roddy’s duet with Mick Jones? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_QSMTtUQYY

    The man can rock out, but I think his better stuff are his quieter songs.

  11. ladymisskirroyale

    My comment comparing a late Aztec Camera album to a late Rod Steward album got me thinking:

    Are the Scottish doomed to peak early? When compared to their close neighbors and sometimes enemies, do bands from Northern Britain lose their stamina and moxie too early?

    A few years ago (hmmmm, four, but who’s counting?), some of you may recall that I tried VALIANTLY to defend Team Scotland in the World Cup of Rock. Poor young Orange Juice (and Edwyn Collins) were heckled off the pitch; some wiseacre suggested that I should have introduced Teenage Fanclub earlier. But that’s another band that started out strong, kept it going for several albums, and then lost it towards the end of the decade. Donovan, check. Rod Stewart, check. Simple Minds, check and more check. Don’t even mention Big Country, The Proclaimers, The Jesus and Mary Chain, and lord almighty, The Bay City Rollers. (Belle and Sebastian were also escorted off my playing field, but I think that some of their later music has reflected some musical growth, so may not be applicable here.)

    Is this a Scottish Thing?

  12. ladymisskirroyale

    Twee to the 9th degree!

  13. cherguevara

    The Proclaimers got saddled with novelty band status, which is too bad. Definitely good, rowdy drunk music, a good amount of piss and great harmony singing.

    Here’s a snappy Scottish tune by the Pearlfishers:

  14. 2000 Man

    It took Alex Harvey years to get almost noticed, but then I guess there’s always an exception to the rule. Poor Alex struggled for a long time, and seemed to make pockets where he was really loved, but on the whole, no one knew who he was.

  15. Did anybody around here flirt with The Thrills? I liked that “So Much For the City” album — now 10 years old. However, I can’t listen to similar stuff from that era — like Travis or The Magic Numbers.

  16. What about Primal Scream?

  17. Ahh, some love for David Sylvian on RTH!

  18. Primal Scream are still hanging in there, and I was surprised at how good “Vanishing Point” was, what with being in the wake of “Screamadelica”, and all.

    Anybody else seen “Upside Down: The Creation Records Story”?

  19. No, but I really want to now.

    Yeah, that was my point – they’re an exception.

  20. 2000 Man

    I got Let’s Bottle Bohemia or something like that, and I hated it. I think I sold it back for store credit.

  21. BigSteve

    I was surprised to discover that I have all of the Aztec Camera albums, because I haven’t listened to them in forever. The one song I return to over and over though is from the third album, where he got really slick with lots of different producers. Deep and Wide and Tall:


    It’s very 80s, but I love it. It’s the opening track on ‘Love,’ but it wasn’t even the single. Probably no one in the band on the video played on the song.

    Frame may have missed his calling as a songwriter cranking out hits for other artists from his mansion in the L.A. British colony.

  22. BigSteve

    In a weird bit of synchronicity, Clay Aiken is on my TV saying he’s running for Congress (!). He looks exactly like Roddy Frame.

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