Sunday, 19 October 2008

The Flatmates

Nice to hear old skool indie pop goodness being played at Twee As Fuck last night. S’funny, but at the time they were around, I never got to hear bands like Fourteen Iced Bears, Jesse Garon and The Desperadoes, The Shop Assistants etc played in public. If you were lucky you might hear The Smiths or Echo and the Bunnymen, but in the late ‘80s indiepop didn’t get played in bars or even before gigs. Hence our vehement hatred of all things chart related. So yesterday evening in the MacBeth I felt unnecessarily excited to hear ‘Shimmer’ by The Flatmates spangling out and had to restrain myself from singing along like a loon. It still sounds swoopy and shiny and left me still gleefully humming it to myself today. So to celebrate, here are some olden tymes reports on two Flatmates gigs I once went to…

The Flatmates / The Rosehips - Norwich Arts Centre, 23 April 1987

Did some art and listed to The June Brides and then had to watch Top Of The Pops ‘cos The Smiths were on. Hurray! Morrissey’s shirt was ‘tucked in’! (it was a blue shirt, fashion fans, and his trousers were white, yes, white!) He did some v. silly dancing and Johnny Marr was very poutsome as usual. Then! picked up K and went to the Arts Centre. Some very silly sort of jazz group were on first, not very anorak, I’m afraid. But then The Rosehips were on. V. fast fast fast geetarsdrumssinging. They did about ten or so songs, I don’t really know! All the shambly lads were stood round gazing at the stage. In between The Rosehips and Flatmates ‘sets’, two laddies sold us a fanzine called ‘So Naive’ for 30p - a snip! It’s v.v. anorak and cutie, but an entertaining read. S’nice to know there are indiekids in existence around here! Anyway, The Flatties came on and did all the faves (?!) like ‘Happy All The Time’ and ‘I Could Be In Heaven’ and ‘I Wanna Be With Him’ etc etc . Very fast and furious it was too. The Rosehips were dancing about to The Flatmates and one of them (bass player) chucked his drink all over K by mistake. What a claim to ‘fame’! On the way out, lots of people were clutching copies of ‘Take The Subway To Your Suburb’ from the merch. stall on the way out. V. shambly time had by all (i.e. about 60 people).

The Flatmates / The Choo Choo Train – Norwich Arts Centre, 24 October 1988

I have no recollection of seeing The Flatmates this second time, I obviously wasn’t that impressed. I can definitely remember Choo Choo Train, though. I bought their ‘Briar Rose’ e.p. shortly after being utterly enraptured by their set of bubble-gum power pop and played it to death (especially the sunshine fizzbomb of ‘Big Blue Buzz’. According to Martin Whitehead’s exhaustive Flatmates site (, Ric Menck – who so amused me during the Choo Choo Train set, also played with The Flatmates at this gig, after their drummer injured his wrist, but I can’t really remember that either. Lordy.

Zeroomed along to The Premises and paid our £3. The support was Choo Choo Train from the USA and who were ACE and FABBIE and I kept thinking they were The Monkees ‘cos one geetarist looked like Peter Tork. The other one was really huge and he apparently had a virus ‘cos K heard him say so and saw him splashing water on his face in the lavs. The drummer was the best, called Ric, with a groovy sweatshirt with little cars printed on it and he kept getting up and saying silly things into the mic. The big guitarman called the Arts Centre a ‘castle’ and the singer called it ‘the inner sanctum’ Their ditties were really diggy and fab. The Flatmates weren’t so spingly as when we saw them back in the groovy days of old, and ‘Shimmer’ didn’t. Also, the bass player’s guitar strap looked like a piece of fur coat. Oh.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

My Bloody Valentine – Norwich Arts Centre, 13 February 1989

Groovy! MBV gig day!!. Listed to all their stuff to get in the mood – very exciting! Went and perused old clothes sale in the church and found a FAB anorak with a hood and psychedelic pattern and everything, only it was too small. Swizz.

Drove us all to Norwich and in an unprecedented move we actually had to QUEUE to get into The Premises. And it was really packed in the bar. Bilinda and Kev were hanging about in the foyer with the merch dude. Bilinda was drinking Coke fact fans and Kev had a can of Castlemaine on stage. The support was Shine! who we didn’t even contemplate and then Silverfish who were v. noisy. MBV took aages to come on and it was so packed. K and I were near the right hand speaker and wormed our way to the front near Kev! He had three guitars – a white Fender Jag – the grunge machine, the black one (technical) and an acoustic for those wonderful strum-along numbers! They started with ‘Emptiness Inside’ and did nearly all of ’Isn’t Anything’ except ‘No More Sorry’ and ‘All I Need’. They also did all of ‘You Made Me Realise’ e.p. ‘cept I don’t think they did ‘Drive It All Over Me’. ‘Thorn’ sounded soooo fab and Colm looked really knackered and was great and manic and so was Deb. Kevin looked cool and thin and Bilinda looked quite small and had the old Big Apple tee-shirt on, but no pink geetar! They did a two song encore, ending with ‘You Made me realise’. In ‘Soft As Snow (But Warm Inside)’ Kev sang ‘bring you close to agony’ instead of ‘bring me close to ecstasy’. Finished at 11.30 and I drove home with ringing in my ears.

One Good Use For My Heart E.P. - Milky Wimpshake (Fortuna Pop!)

Work – cuh! Slogging away six days a week barely leaves any time for fun, but on a sunny Sunday morn I stick on Milky Wimpshake’s new FIVE track e.p. to accompany my household chores and suddenly I’m inventing impromptu leg-kicking indie dances that make me giggle dementedly. Cheers to the Wimpshake.

This is rickety guitar pop to set sorry hearts aglow. Pete Dale sings of love and anarchy, Left ‘n’ Right and rights ‘n’ wrongs; guitars fizz and jangle, drums go crunch-a-thump and you can’t sit still ‘cos there’s rousing punkety-pop goodness coursing through your veins. What’s more in the middle of everything, The Yummy Fur’s ‘Policeman’ somehow gets entangled in granny fave ‘If You Want To Know The Time Ask A Policeman’ to create a whole new exhilarating mess.

The e.p. even includes a cover of the Isley Brothers’ ‘This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak For You)’ which sweetly distils the swingin’ old classic into the essence of pure uncut indie, because, hey, we know how to enjoy soul music AND The Ramones, right kids?

We’re All Going To Die - Johnny Cola & The A Grades (BBA Highland)

Kinda glam, kinda Britpop, Alex-once-of-Luxembourg has a very English tone to his voice, like a malevolent Albarn/Coxon (not to mention more than a soupcon of Bowie in the chorus) and he uses it to belt out this invigorating blast of pop vastness.

Fans of the Lux’s big, bombastic moments will surely find themselves swept tumultuously out on the tide of Johnny Cola and The A Grades’ first release. It’s jump from yer sickbed and wave your glittery scarf anthemage and if it were any more catchy it’d be downright vulgar

On the other hand, after I’d played this, the cd got jammed in the back of the player and necessitated the delicate manoeuvring of a knitting needle, a crochet hook and a torch to extract it. Draw your own conclusions.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

The Lilac Time – Pelle Carlberg (Labrador Records)

Once again, Labrador Records prove themselves to be impeccable pop pickers with this latest release from Pelle Carlberg, engaging Swedish songwriter and sometime leader of eloquent popsters Edson.

On ‘The Lilac Time’, Carlberg wryly inspects his life, spinning tales of everyday glory and frustration, singing in a laconic, twinkle-eyed way, a little like fellow Scandi pop merchant Jens Lekman. Carlberg’s bittersweet lyrics make you smile along with his bemusement, irritation and overall twisted wistfulness: the excitement of exploring the city as a teenager and then getting miserably mugged, being told by a Facebook quiz that his mental age is fifty-one, the dippy, slightly melancholy fun to be had getting together with long lost friends.

Carlberg’s guitar is complemented by elegant instrumentation that gleams charmingly from each song; woodblocks, cowbells, Wurlitzer, whistling, cello, viola, melodica, piano. On the quietly angry ‘Animal Lovers’Carlberg’s voice fits perfectly with a mournful French Horn motif. Club 8’s Karolina Komstedt duets sweetly on the exuberant pop-rush of ‘Nicknames’, which, with its motoring V.U. rhythms, snappy woodblock and swirling Wurlitzer tune, is a sure-fire indie-pop club floor-filler. The lushly groovy ‘1983’ eloquently captures the thrills and spills of teenage boyhood, complete with mid-song talky anecdote bit. ’51,3’ bowls along with ‘no I’m really feeling quite cheerful, honest’ whistling and splendidly fuzzy guitar that summons thoughts of Teenage Fanclub.

‘Fly Me to the Moon’ is an amusing hate-song to Ryanair. Jaunty whistling belies the disgust and frustration leaking from the lyrics. It has an inordinately catchy chorus, the words to which I type in full here so everyone who’s had the miserable misfortune of flying with the ‘airline of shite’, to quote Carlberg, can sing along:
‘I’ll never fly with you again Ryan
Never again I swear
Guess it would kill you to be respectful
Friendly and even care’.