Chicago Notes, 3. Records

On North Milwaukee looking for a breakfast without a mile-long queue (the french toast is that good – really?) we stumble upon Reckless Records. We give it a quick reccy, get the layout, and then slip into Filter Cafe next door. This is both queue-less and fabulous. It has the air of a library but without the books and the sexual tension. It’s cavernous and comfortable, and the clientele are quietly tucked inside themselves; shoulder to shoulder on the sofas with the person they will eventually fall in love with, but for the moment happy to be together watching YouTube channels and using their favourite apps.

Filter Cafe

Photo by B. – Filter Cafe, Chicago

I come back here on my own when B.’s at work, and I try to absorb some of the studious vibe – or at least let this nearly-full Moleskine mop it up – but all I do is lose some change from these shorts with shallow pockets, and it’s hard to look hip with your hand down the back of a cushion. A guy studying nearby in a pretence of concentration that makes my pockets seem deep, keeps turning around and sighing. When he goes to the bathroom I notice he’s wearing cuban heels. North Milwaukee is lousy with vintage clothing stores. In one of these places I buy a necklace which, unusually, comes with two Hamsa hands pendants. In the night I wake up in a panic, convinced they’re attempting to strangle me. Yes, I’m going to use that ‘scenario’ elsewhere. Cause of death?, etc…

In the cool of Reckless Records (see what I did?) I find a small haul that’s arguably light, a little frothy, but still loaded with love from my past.


On 12 inch and for a bargain are:

Mick Karn’s Sensitive – it states remix, but I can’t hear it as different from the Titles album. He’s a very sadly missed musician, gone too soon – both the backbone and the enchantment of Japan: his bass percussive, warped, singing and haunting. Really, this track never did him justice as a solo artist. Check out Piper Blue, please – a wonderful genre-defying bass-fest, which comes from and slopes off to nowhere.

Japan’s The Art of Parties – a new version of the title track to me, at 6’41, with an oddly lumpy intro. Oh, Japan… well, let’s get on that little boat another time.

Human League; Hard Times / Love Action extended and instrumentals – actually turn out to be the versions from Love and Dancing, but I love now having the record in this form. The original 7 inch I still treasure – it’s cover deeply embossed with my crude tracing marks – this is the record of my late summer, ’81… first proper snog. Sensing this, the store staff and the customers now bear me aloft and a lavish musical number ensues.

Style Council; Ever-Changing Moods / Mick’s Blessings, UK import to US. I buy this for the super-extensive sleeve-notes. I loved what Paul Weller did with all that. It felt deeply unfashionable, unpredicted – even a little fey, if we’d known the word – but it had a true sense of confident cool for all that. And the songs are still so great.

And then there in the rack marked ‘newly-arrived’ is a March Violets kind of showcase-compilation album, Electric Shades – again, an import for the US market. It’s got Snakedance on it, Slow Drip Lizard and the fabulous Walk Into The Sun… the ironically-titled big number we used to dance to in the ever-dark of the Phono in Leeds, under the Merrion Centre. Of course, I like the (non-strangling) hands-across-the-sea-ness of this find in particular: Chicago – Leeds. And across the decades, naturally.



About Stevie Mitchell

I come from a long line of cartoons and beer. I was once peed on by a tiger. Hoping the resultant super-powers are yet to come, cos if these are they, then, grrrr....
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