A new session and a terrific Festive Fifty track for you today: I’m typing this while England sleeps, but I strongly urge you to put the egg soldiers to one side while you give this great music a blast. I needed to put this up straight away for two reasons: 1. This band are terrific. 2. I had to get rid of the picture below that at least one of you found objectionable (understandably).
Well, a recent crop of latterday Peel shows has yielded the one and only session by Rock Of Travolta, recorded on Remembrance Day 2001. They came from Oxford, and somewhat inevitably ended up supporting my old chums (sic) Radiohead on their South Park tour and the quite wonderful …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead. Not a bad start for a band that had their first gig playing in a cowshed to 50 people. They have something of an obsession with the increasingly flabby-faced film star’s surname. Their members were: John Travolta (basses), Phil Travolta (keyboards/bass), Handsome Dave Travolta (gtr), Stumpy Joe Travoilta (drums), Roz Travolta (cello), and Deadly Dave Travolta (keyboards). Their website also claimed two extra members were Death Travolta (scythe) and Darth Travolta (light sabre). Unsurprisingly, the latter were not available for this session. The album My Band’s Better Than Yours (Juggernaut) featured one standout track in Giant Robo (FF 2001 #48), an irresistible little post-rock miracle that has a beautiful structure, tight and almost rondo-like in its perfection and sporting a tune that you will be humming for weeks. This also appears on the session in a slightly tighter version, lacking the spoken additions and squalling keyboards, but hell, either would be a proud addition to any band’s repertiore.
The remaining session tracks tread pretty much the same path, but what strikes the ear first and foremost is the singular lack of vocals througout. Purely instrumental bands have a hard time of it coming up with memorable and intriguing material, which is what makes their achievement here all the more striking. The final track, The Body Is Still There But The Mind Is Gone, made an appearance in another version on the memorably named compilation When I Wank On My Guitar, The Whole World Wanks With Me. Right. I don’t really know what the band have been up to since their third album release, Uluru, which saw them transfer to a new label, Tablature, but it would be a real shame if they are not still forging a path they have very much made their own: shorter and tighter than Mogwai, but with a sense of air and freshness around the instruments that betrays real musicianship. Could have done without the overheated female samples on track three, though…
Rock Of Travolta, Giant Robo
Rock Of Travolta, Peel Session 2001-11-11
Lukewarm Skywater/Giant Robo/Oxygen Assisted/The Body’s Still There But The Mind Is Gone