Wednesday, 30 December 2009
I See, So I See So – Broadcast & The Focus Group Everything I want from music, spooky, disorientating, sublime.
The Road Of Golden Dust - Espers Sounds like drifting Ophelia-like along a reedy river.
For While You Slept - Hush Arbors Brooding, foreboding, exhilarating psych-folk.
What Would I Want? Sky - Animal Collective Playful and feathery - wriggle your limbs against the rigid winter cold.
Devil Made You High – Hush Arbors Like putting your head out the window of a speeding car and having the breath pulled out of you.
Young Adult Friction – The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart played live at the ICA, Upstairs At the Garage, The Scala. Always my favourite few minutes of every Pains gig.
Meet Me At Lookout Point - Devendra Banhart Ethereal sunshine daydream.
Smell Of Incense – West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band The sound of smoke.
Willy O’Winsbury – The Pentangle The Wicker Man and The Pentangle meet in a folk waltz = two of my favourite creepy folk things combined.
Down On You - Ringo Deathstarr Delicious daydream dizziness.
Pretty much everything by Deerhunter They have been my cocoon during the freeze.
Saturday, 12 December 2009
A handmade felt rosette has been trampled in the doorway of The Buffalo Bar. It’s a sorry sight, but kind of fitting for this is the last EVER Twee As Fuck clubnight, the crazy kidz who ran the night for two and bit years are going on to (sun-dappled, flower-speckled) pastures new and going out with a cheery POP farewell.
Twee As Fuck put on lots of excellent bands and jolly popnights but somehow managed to get folks’ backs up. They were like the kids at school who always did everything right, the ones you couldn’t help liking but secretly wanted to push over in the mud. Tonight they’re at it again with a spankingly ace line-up.
First the wonderful Schwervon! go rip-roaring through an end-of-massive-tour-honed set, Matt on guitar and Nan on drums set up to face each other having conversations with clackity rhythms and crankily groovy sounds. They play old favourite ‘Dinner’ – yay! They show us a big old set of cutlery they were given as a ‘Christmas present’ by a Manchester curry house. It turns out we can WIN the cutlery set as it’s too heavy for the band to lug about. A dance off ensues! The dance off is mainly Kate boogie-ing about at the front of the crowd and so rightly Kate wins the cutlery. It’s always top fun when Schwervon! are in town.
Veronica Falls become mightier every time I see them. They’re spook-indie, for a start there’s the excellent gothic (not goth) bone-rattling janglepop of ‘Found Love In A Graveyard’, but there’s something slightly distanced and other-worldly about all of their songs. Not in an ethereal way, but in a feral, weird kids way. They’re the creepy loners who got their hands round the neck of indiepop and squeezed a little too hard. They sound echoey, like they’re playing in a crypt: clattery drums, dead-eyed sweet-gone-bad voices, and a double bill of guitar janglage = fearsome.
And so the task of being last band to play Twee As Fuck falls to Comet Gain who somewhat bizarrely seem to have become ‘elder statesmen’ for today’s up ‘n’ thrusting indiepop kids. As ever at a Comet Gain gig we scan the stage for missing band members. Oh, Rachel’s not here. This is a shame as Rachel seems to have carried the whole shebang along at recent gigs in a smiley, clappy, possibly slightly unhinged way. We miss her voice and her shuffley-stamp dancing.
Pulling the whole thing together is - uh-oh - left to David Feck, but shockingly he appears to be magnificently un-drunk, leading the band through a swathe of ferocious pop songs only one of which, to be fair a newie, they forget how to play.
Feck explains his sartorial choices for the night – shirt, tie, cardie, cravat-scarf - he’s been aiming for the curmudgeonly landlord look, but has accidentally dressed like the (hated) eighties. Doh! There are plans to end the set appropriately with ‘The Kids At The Club’. ‘Tis indeed a scratchy soul-pop gem, but it’s missing Rachel’s yelping and maybe doesn’t quite hit the mark. So we get given a choice for the last song and shout our little heads off for ‘My Defiance’ and then dance our little wigs off , stopping only to enjoy the extended midsong wibble waffle testifying about (amongst other things) listening to ‘Chestnut Mare’ by The Byrds. ‘It’s a song about a horse. Of course.’
N.B. Bob Underexposed decided to take the night off from photographing the gig - hence this random selection of images from my files.
Sunday, 29 November 2009
Bobby Gillespie is standing on the stairs (so no one can see him, hem hem), There are three Rockingbirds, a Dan Treacey and er, Pam Hogg lurking round the bar. Pourquoi? Because The Sexual Objects are playing and their singer is Davey Henderson one-time Fire Engine and thus legendary musical figure in select circles.
At school in the old days during an English lesson we once played that game where you have to think of a town, a flower, a book etc beginning with a certain letter (yes I had a rigorous edumacation). For the category ‘pop group’ I named The Fire Engines and was faced with the derision of my classmates who all thought I’d made the band up. What a bunch of squares, eh kids? I know I didn’t make them up ‘cos I’d heard them on John Peel’s show. And now I’m hearing bits of them live IN THE FLESH.
Davey Henderson, dressed in bright red shirt and spiffy rock ‘n’ roll boots (“I polished my boots, but I forgot to tune my guitar”) has a dry wit, a laconic drawl and a way with a tune. The Sexual Objects crank out jangly, croony, rollickingly ramshackle rock ‘n’ roll. On guitar and Beatles-esque backing vocals is that bloke out of Bricolage looking like the Lloyd Cole-faced cat that got the cream.
It’s a short but sweet set, with single 'Here Come The Rubber Cops' standing up proud and giving our ears a good rattling with its sheeny guitars and laid-back swing. The songs are peppered with bendy, glammy guitar sounds and plenty of gleeful sing-along ‘ooh la la las’. The snort-worthily titled ‘Midnight Boycow’ chugs and swaggers managing to suggest T. Rx, Bowie, The Rolling Stones and The Pastels all at once. Nice work.
Henderson gives a shout out to The Tamborines – huzzah! It’s true they’ve just played a magnificently eardrum-frying set; the perfect collision between ferocious fuzz and unshakeable tunes. Henrique cranks his guitar up high, hits the distortion and away they go, head to toe dressed in black, lighting reduced to tunnel vision white light flickering. It’s exhilarating, like facing into a hurricane. Set closer ‘Looking Glass House’ is particularly striking, a satisfying crash between The Stooges and NEU! with Lulu’s keyboard riff eerily twinkling against the roar. Fab.
The Tamborines are a rude awakening after the spookily lulling soundtracks of Still Corners. Still Corners are science-y in a Broadcast/Delia Derbyshire way and 60s noir soundtracky in a John Barry way. Icy blonde, cooly detached gossamer vocals and hoity tambourine shaking from singer Olivia are backed with keyboard and guitar skitterings. The music creates a compelling sense of unease, it’s remote but enthralling.
Standard Fare open this excellent evening of pop fun with gawky thrills of their own. The simple instrumentation (guitar, bass and drums rattle and swoon as appropriate) allows singer Emma’s appealing voice to shine out. There are moments that are slightly reminiscent of The Long Blondes’ pop glory - intelligent female singering with lyrics you want to listen to. ‘Dancing’, ‘15’, ‘Philadelphia’… they are bitter, they are sweet, they are damn catchy. Not really standard at all.
Sunday, 22 November 2009
Pocketbooks in ‘reminiscent of Belle And Sebastian’ shockah! There were nervous scenes at the 100 Club last night, as a member of top London indiepoppers Pocketbooks mentioned that the idea of playing support to God Help The Girl was making them excited yet uneasy. The fact that they would be playing their B&S-inspired groovily breezy janglepop in front of head B&S-er Stuart Murdoch was the cause of this distress, but as it turned out Murdoch was down the road scoffing a pizza during Pocketbooks set and missed the whole thing.
More fool him as Pocketbooks play a blinder, their swoonsome pop racing along making heads and hearts dip and glide. Old faves like ‘Footsteps’ ‘The Outskirts Of Town’ and ‘Fleeting Moments’ make us feel warm and fuzzy and joyful, even when Emma’s voice is being all poignant. It’s a gleeful opening to the evening and not that much like B&S really. Afterwards there are more shock revelations as a spokesperson for the band admits ‘We were good’.
In other news, God Help The Girl, the girl-group combo created by Stuart Murdoch, sound smooth and cocktail party-ish. They’re entertaining live, but maybe not something I’d sit and listen to at home (although I am listening to Amon Duul II’s ‘Yeti’ as I type so what the hell do I know?) Cleverly, Murdoch has managed to choose three extremely pretty girls to front the group, Alex Klobouk, Celia Garcia and Catherine Ireton. They can all sing, too - gorgeous harmonies leading the way on songs like opener ‘Act Of The Apostle’ (complete with co-ordinated hand movements that are rather Pipettes-esque).
They do seem a little nervous though. It turns out this is their first EVER headline gig and their second EVER gig at all. The band includes Murdoch himself who encourages us to look at the girls, ‘Is that sexist? What’s wrong with being sexy?’ Ha ha. There are also fellow Belle and Seb-blokes Stevie ‘Action’ Jackson (sporting big hair) and Bob Kildea, plus Teenage Fannie/ BMX Bandit (etc) Francis MacDonald.
The obvious musical reference is 60s girl group pop, with a soupcon of indiepop, but there are also hints of 50s doo-wop, and suggestions of a simpler, sweeter era in the squeaky clean delivery. Stuart Murdoch is apparently aiming to create big pure pop music with kitsch-en sink lyrics and he seems to have pulled it off very efficiently. We even get a new song, 'Saturday Night, the Loneliest Night of the Week'.
The set closes with Murdoch finally taking centre stage (he’s been sitting tinkering variously on guitar and keyboards throughout) to sing 'Perfection As A Hipster' during which the infamous Murdoch ‘soul boy’ dancing is unleashed. A perfect conclusion to a sugary pop evening.
Tuesday, 10 November 2009
The music of Vernon Elliot performed by the North Sea Radio Orchestra - 22 October 2009, Union Chapel
Sweetie fact: Sherbet Fountains no longer come in a paper tube, they’re in a re-sealable plastic container! Is this a good thing? Are we pleased that the liquorice stick is no longer exposed to air-borne pathogens and can’t be clutched at by a million grubby hands before we use it to shovel sherbety goodness into our gobs? Is it disheartening that we can no longer peel the paper tube down keeping level with the sherbet supply within until it becomes a soggy sugary stump? These important questions were raised last night at the Union Chapel, Islington.
We are gathered in the exquisite surrounds of the Chapel for Marginalised: The music of Vernon Elliot (Oliver Postgate) performed by the North Sea Radio Orchestra. A lot of love and care has gone into tonight’s event. There are dustbin lids and Music Trees decorating the stage (in homage to The Clangers); a cardboard Ivor the Engine puffs out a constant stream of ‘smoke’; and there are sweetie vendors peddling candy striped paper bags containing such delights as the aforementioned fountain, a miniature bag of Chocolate Buttons, Sherbet Lemons, Black Jacks and some rather clammy Cola Bottles. Upstairs in the bar, folks are gathered round a table indulging in a spot of cutting and sticking, creating character masks.
Even more care has been lavished on the musical programme: a selection of musical pieces based on the original scores of Vernon Elliott, the composer who created soundtracks for Smallfilms. If you’re a child of the 60s or 70s, Oliver Postgate’s and Peter Firmin’s Smallfilms will be dear to you. The music will kick off all kinds of nostalgia trips. Jonny Trunk knows this. He also knows that Smallfilms created things of beauty (yes, ‘Bagpuss’ is a thing of beauty) that should be celebrated like any other artform. He is here tonight to introduce each segment of the programme in a sort of eccentric groovy uncle manner. It is he who gets us making the Ivor The Engine ‘shh-tch-kuff’ noise en masse (“starting slowly then speeding up”). Just before the interval, he enthusiastically introduces a three minute audio clip of Oliver Postgate testing microphone sound levels. His love of and enthusiasm for Smallfilms is endearing and infectious.
After an introductory film about the Margins project – the very deserving recipient of proceeds from tonight - the evening proper begins with the North Sea Radio Orchestra playing a fantasia medley of music from Smallfilms. This is accompanied by a charmingly ’naive’ film by Arctic Circle Cinema in which hand-drawn, paper cut-out versions of characters from the programmes are wiggled about on sticks.
For the rest of the evening we are shown clips from the actual Smallfilms animations, one of which, ‘Pingwings’, I have never heard of. The clip we are shown is brilliant and hilarious, the tiny knitted penguins (for that is what the Pingwings are) shuffling about an actual real-life farm in stop-motion. Or hanging philosophically from a washing line, pegged up by the beak. The small girl seen in the film is Josie Firmin, Peter’s daughter. And she is here tonight (now a grown-up lady) selling her pottery. Sweet.
I heard the North Sea Radio Orchestra’s Ivor The Engine Theme and Variations on ‘Freakzone’ earlier in the week and was eager to hear this truly wonderful piece of music again. It’s the most rousing of the pieces played tonight, not least because it features, gasp! a drum-kit, which rattles militaristically, there’s also an excellent sonorously squidgy cello / keyboard sound adding the tiniest tone of foreboding to the music.
‘Land Of Our Fathers’ (yes, the Welsh national anthem) completes the Ivor set and lawks! the audience is invited to sing along with the third verse to create a suitably stirring ‘chorusing in the aisles’ feel. It’s blimmin’ hard to sing – even in English.
There’s a cheer as the Noggin The Nog section is introduced. I never really got into the Nog, being a tad too young when it was being regularly shown, so it’s a pleasure to suck on a sherbet lemon, soak up the atmospheric music and admire the artwork – brooding Nordic vistas, creepy forests and of course the villainously moustachioed Nogbad the bad. Brrr!
The centre piece of the performance is the orchestra playing a live soundtrack to a complete episode of The Clangers. This of course includes some sterling Swanee Whistle work as The Clangers chatter away to one another.
And so to songs from ‘Bagpuss’. The iconic (yes indeed!) opening to every episode is played “Once upon a time, not so long ago…” I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one clamping my jaw shut so I don’t inadvertently chant along with the familiar words. The North Sea Radio Orchestra plays the twinkly theme tune and run it into the ‘We will fix it’ mices’ song. At this point people are almost head-banging (albeit gently) such is their glee. A selection of songs taken from the vaults of the Marvellous Mechanical Mouse Organ are aired, including the ace ‘Uncle Feedle’ sung by Madeleine the doll sound-alike Sharron Fortnam (I think). It would fit perfectly on any ‘underground folk’ compilation.
And so, with Jonny Trunk encouraging us all to do big Bagpuss yawns, proceedings and brought to a gentle, joyful close.
Sunday, 8 November 2009
In Love – Ringo Deathstarr Tonight the band are being ‘Automatic’-era JAMC. Good plan.
Quick Canal – Atlas Sound (with Laetitia Sadier) Euphoric Indian summer space-out.
Shithausen / Son Of Shithausen – Euros Childs Crazy titles crazy soundz.
Vivid Youth - Pastels / Tenniscoats Breezy clouds in high skies.
Once We Walked In The Sunlight - Papercuts Opiated analogue glow, like a three bar fire with cough mixture (in a wibbly calming nice way).
Agoraphobia – Deerhunter Soothes an agitated mind.
No Presents For Me – Pandamonium Laid-back garage psych from olden dayes. Plus! Backwards guitar alert!
Little Kids – Deerhunter Nursery rhymey chimey and shivery.
North Sea Radio Orchestra - Ivor The Engine Theme And Variations Basoon-erific and actually quite funky when the military drumming and terrifyingly squidgy keyboards kick in.
North Sea Radio Orchestra – Bagpuss/Uncle Feedle Gorgeous folkadelia, wasted on kids.
Festival On The River Of The Frozen Moon - The Lickets A spectral orchestra waxes and wanes.
Sunday, 25 October 2009
‘Shake Your Bones’ sets its cards on the table from the off, opening with the galumphing, dumb-cluck garage of ‘Make Something Happen’. If you want sophisticated or experimental, you’re outta luck chum. If you want rip-snortingly gleeful frugadelic beat tunes, then step right up.
The Millipedes play monster raving groovy mondo mongo trashcan rock ‘n’ roll complete with Girls In The Garage vocals courtesy of the splendidly-named Dolly Grip (who Sheffield pop lovers may know better as Reenie). Their album is excellent beat-fuelled fun.
‘Married To The Wolfman’ is riddled with “Awhooo’ howls and creepy crawly organ. ‘Shake Your Bones’ will get you doing just that - handclappin’, twistin’ and shoutin’, quiff a quiver. ‘Hey Boy’ sounds like The Temptations' ‘Get Ready’ got speeded up and fuck-witted. ‘Ooh-Wee’ thunders along on a rumbling organ riff, sounding dense in both senses of the word. Then just to prove it’s not all fast, furious and boggle-eyed there’s ‘Never Wanted To Go’. A sweetly sultry swingin’ sway-along slow one.
Oddbox Records, living up to the name, are releasing this album as a series of seven inch E.P.s. Collect all three as a box set that comes with artwork by Oliver Allchin. A CD of all the seven inch songs comes with an additional track, a crazed bumblebee fuzz cover of The Eyes’ ‘You’re Too Much’. How could you resist? Get wrigglin’ to The Millipedes.
Wednesday, 14 October 2009
A girl dressed in a vaguely ‘alternative’ style is jerking about on the dance floor like a loon. Two boys are rolling on the icky carpet, enjoying a spot of fake wrestling. The soundtrack is ‘Never Stop’ by Echo And The Bunnymen. I sip my triple vodka (gifted by the barman as an apology for the extended wait to be served), gaze at the ridiculous scene before me and realise I know all the words to this song. I’m in the student union bar circa 1983. No I’m not, it just looks that way. This is World International John Peel-Day at Bloomsbury Bowling Lanes and at the moment it looks exactly like the kind of scene our beloved JP would have beheld when ferrying his ‘Roadshow’ around the nation.
The plan here is for ‘a united front of disparate London promoters and d.j.s to celebrate groundbreaking music and the man we owe our passion for music to.’ It’s a sweet act of remembrance, plus proceeds go to charity. Throughout the evening I hear loads of songs that I initially taped off Peel’s show, then went on to cherish on vinyl (yay! to Rocker playing The Groove Farm’s ‘Nancy Sinatra’). Home-taping didn’t kill music did it? Wonder if illegal downloading will?
We chance upon Kogumaza in the middle of some colossal effects-drenched drone-wibble. A girl plays sparse drumbeats, whilst two blokes (who apparently have played with Glenn Branca’s orchestra, so they should know what’s what) coax out hypnotic wails and sighs and shudders from their guitars. ‘Tis fab. In the audience, a funny little man dances non-stop crazy style. Another funny man sits mournfully peering through a be-feathered mask – the kind you’d wear to a burlesque ball. This isn’t a burlesque ball by a long shot.
Downstairs in the Karaoke room (people hire this room out to do karaoke in??!) Allo Darlin are tinkering with songs not destined for their ‘full band’ set. Even though the full band is here. Elizabeth Darling plays (Darren Hayman’s) ukulele and sings wistfully. The rest of the band add guitar bits and gentle drumbeats and it’s all very lovely indeed. Then I have a coughing fit (probably ‘cos I’m sitting on the gruesome carpet) until tears course down my cheeks and it looks like I’m unbearably moved by the beauty of it all.
Maggie8 feature a banjo, a trumpet and a man out of Hood and play jovial, exhilarating psychy pop but with ululating Indian swirls and skittering English folk elements stirred in. Another interesting find.This is great, there’s not a dud band here tonight.
Beatnik Filmstars say that John Peel is the only person who ever paid any attention to their band. There must be dozens, nay hundreds of bands that could say that. Sniff! The BFs are entertaining and personable and play a lot of songs that are apparently about death. The last time I saw them they were kind of high speed and garagey. This time they are country-tinged and melancholy (that’ll be the death songs). Until they play a rousing version of T.Rex’s ‘Deborah’, a joyful thing.
Amelia from Tender Trap says she feels sorry for the people who came here to bowl (there are plenty of ‘normal’ punters in, who’ve come here for crazy Saturday night bowling lane based kicks) and have to put up with the bands making a racket. It certainly is a funny old set-up, bowlers somewhat rudely walk across the side of the stage as bands are mid-song. Later, Golden Animals reverse the situation when Tommy plants himself across the front of a lane to crank out some scritchy guitar noise, temporarily halting a game.
Amelia is wearing another excellent dress with a pattern reminiscent of those Spacemen 3 circles. Tender Trap are shiny and poptastic, buzzing through a clutch of songs that include fab newies that are sounding better on every outing they get (e.g. single ‘Fireworks’), and oldie faves like ‘Talking Backwards’ that make us jiggle excitedly. They are fizzbombs for the ears (a lot better than chewing-gum for the eyes), Elizabeth Allo Darlin providing a sparky guitar-waving, harmony-belting foil to Amelia and her joyous vocals whilst Katrina knocks it all into place with bolshy stand-up drumming.
Downstairs, Golden Animals play a mesmerising set of sublime garage cranks and psychedelic nose-dives. Behind them, Saturday night bowlers revel and a screen shows ‘The Big Lebowski’ – it’s kind of odd, but props to the band for soldiering on, weaving mystical desert mojo in the middle of Bloomsbury.
Lasties, it’s Allo Darlin playing a proper band set. They are chirpy ‘n’ cheery and play the kind of winsomely heartachey tunes you’d expect to hear in a quirky indie flick. Elizabeth – on her third set of the night – is still full of energy, jumping up and down with her ukulele, her voice kind of like Camera Obscura’s Traceyanne. Her band, culled from various indie places, e.g. Darren Hayman’s band, seem to be enjoying themselves too, bunny-hopping through a set that warms the cockles.
Sunday, 11 October 2009
We once used to worship various indiepopsters only slightly older than ourselves as our true pop heroes, albeit with at least a smidgen of irony (full-on popstar adoration going to greater gods like the Reid Brothers). Now, these ageing popsters are being discovered by the kids and venerated as (kind of) legends. It’s all very sweet and kind of amusing.
Arguably the legendy-ist of the 80s indie gang is Amelia Fletcher, eternally girlish totem of all things jangly and spangly and proper punk rock. And here she is back! back!! back!!! with the latest incarnation of Tender Trap, the band now complete with extra lady band members to add more fantastic feisty girlishness to the equation.
The two tracks here are everything you’d hope for from Amelia and chums. It’s no mean feat to sound this fresh and ready for pop action when you’re a super city economics whizz and a mother of two. ‘Fireworks’ shows off the band’s new! guitarrier sound – ching, ching ching! they go over tambourine-topped stand-up drumbeats. Amelia's voice slides and glides around, whilst thanks to new member Elizabeth Darling there are lovely twinklingly harmonious ‘ba ba bas’, and perhaps a hint of 60s girl groupishness to the chorus. Woo!
The slower, jerkier beat tune ‘Grand National’ – already familiar from live shows - has an addictive chorus that does that swoopy thing to your stomach whenever it comes around, like you're on a fairground ride or have just seen someone you fancy. It is therefore the mostest.
Available as a download only from Fortuna Pop!
Labels: Single Reviews
Thursday, 8 October 2009
Welcome To Lunar Industries (Three Year Stretch...) - Clint Mansell Melancholy/soothing/hypnotising theme from excellent retro futurist film 'Moon'. Written by him what was in Pop Will It Eat Itself - lunacy!
Sit And Cry - The Specific Heats Sweetly lilting, jangling lullaby
Back Thru Thyme – The Specific Heats Indiepop garage genius
Cuffern - Wyrdstone A WHOLE album of serenly spooky, weird-folk skirling and pie-eyed pastoral psych goodness.
Sumer Is A-Cumen In – Circulus Just noticed how the tune of this sounds like the ‘We Will Fix It’ mice song in Bagpuss. Maybe Oliver Postgate was a fan of ‘The Wicker Man’?
Are You Dead? - The Humms Comic-book horror garage, mmm reverb-y!
I Need Direction – Teenage Fanclub at Indietracks Aaah, dancing about on a hillock to the Fannies encoring with this = perfect festival ending
What Do We Do Now – The Just Joans Unofficial Indietracks 2009 anthem – and they weren’t even on the bill
Jesus Was A Cross Maker - Judee Sill Listening to the ‘Judee Sill’ album on an empty bus as it hurtles through a deserted City of London on a sunny Saturday morning almost makes the journey to work a transcendental experience.
International Velvet – Crash Been listening to Crash’s album from 1986 a lot again recently. It’s all great, but this song is so dustily dreamy and the first verse is obviously influenced by my favourite ever picture caption (from ‘Popism : the Warhol ‘60s’) under a picture of International Velvet herself: ‘Susan would spend hours stroking on her Fabulash’
Saturday, 3 October 2009
Oh the joy of having a free Saturday morning. Time to sort through the teetering piles of CDs on the living room floor and have a listen to neglected discs. Amongst the bargs from Fopp and the stuff from the beardy man at work, there’s stuff to review. Hmm… none of it detains me for long until I get to ‘Brocken Spectre’ by Annalogue on Atol Records (vinyl-only offshoot of Ankst). This is Ann Matthews of Ectogram (and once of Welsh legends Fflaps) doing solo stuff; spookily beautiful, soothingly creepy, avant eerie stuff. Songs unfurl and glimmer, crawl out of corners, sprout unexpected wings, circle lazily and pounce.
The songs are sparse but richly textured. There are very few actual drum-beats here, percussion is formed from drips and taps, clicks and snaps. Indeed, ‘Corn Curl’ is built on two rocks being clacked together and a Biro clicking on and off. ‘Tony Wilson’ ticks and chimes along curlicued with trills of clarinet, ‘Sudden Desert’ ebbs and wooshes, Ann’s voice woven through the swell of sound. The album drifts in and engulfs you in a shivering fog, an unexpected otherworldly trip on a Saturday morning.
Sunday, 20 September 2009
WeePOP! is an indiepop label with a cute ‘n’ craftsy aesthetic. Their releases are limited edition, hand-made and sweetly packaged; desirable visually as well as aurally. Look at their web site: www.weepop.net
WeePOP! artwork regularly features cartoon characters with big shiny eyes looking like they’re insanely loved up on POP! The Smittens look a lot like these cartoon characters, smiley and wide eyed. Hearing them play a cover of The Just Joans’ ‘What Do We Do Now?’ (as featured on the two bands’ split single) is kind of odd but charming. In The Just Joans’ hands (and accents) this is a poignant parochial tale, using language that’s pretty specific to being Scottish. Hearing the twinkly, very American Smittens (jaunty piano and tambourine, beautifully layered harmonies that tug at your heart as the song builds) singing about ‘Buckfast bottles and rain’ and ‘drinking down the local’ sounds cutely peculiar, and kind of like their shininess has been slightly soiled. Hurriedly setting the world back on its axis, The Smittens then play their own upbeat, smile-pop song, ‘Summer Sunshine’ full of ‘ba ba bas’, ‘making friends’ and ‘little mixtapes’. Sweeties.
On the other hand, The Just Joans stain The Smittens’ ‘Gin and Platonic’ (do you see how this works?) with a mournful, sea-shanty-ish, late night beery tears in the pub wooziness, topping it up with some neatly inserted samples of dialogue from ‘Abigail’s Party’. They carry on the Caledonian moodiness (Arab Strap with an accordion) with their own track, the rheumy-eyed, ‘I Hear You’re The Man Now, John’. It sways and staggers bitterly and ends with the words ‘what a terrible mess I’ve made of my life’. Good work all round.
I’m not really one for musicals, the only one I’ve ever properly enjoyed was that all-singing episode of ‘Buffy’. Full marks though to Brad San Martin from One Happy Island (with help from some friends) for ‘Secret Charisma’ his ‘fourteen minute lo-fi headphone opera’. Nice to see a little innovation being introduced into the world of indiepop. This three inch CD comes complete with neatly printed libretto (if you will), so you can read along as the teeny tiny disc spins and unravels an indiepop take on those archetypal American indie film themes: small towns and homecomings, rootling through old emotions, awkward awakenings, etc. Despite, or maybe because of, the lo-fi, bedroom drama group nature of the project, there’s some neat instrumentation here: slide guitar, violin and trumpet, a Wurlitzer, skiffly strumming, handclaps and cute tootling on a penny whistle.
Next up: indiepop arias.
Labels: Single Reviews
Saturday, 5 September 2009
For the duration of The Silver Abduction's set a sense of otherworldliness settles upon the prosaic surrounds of The Wilmington Arms. The songs are melodic and charming but have an undercurrent of displacement, uneasiness.
The band play six songs, all quite different. There are a couple of vintage numbers providing the most torch-y moments. Other songs are harder, driven by Dragazis’ fluid, melodic guitar, but it’s always Allison’s voice that pulls you in, sweetly seductive.
She Keeps Bees and Golden Animals are whole other kettles of fish. Where The Silver Abduction have brought an air of faded glamour, these bands are a far grubbier proposition.
She Keeps Bees is the work of Jessica Larrabee aided by drummer Andy LaPlant. They take to the stage in a flurry, Jessica telling us how last night’s Leicester audience were shocked by her swearing, before hitching up her braces ("Rock 'n' Roll is awesome!") and cranking out raw, visceral blues conducted around a clatter of voice, guitar and drums.
A song is sung a capella; cracked, keening voice sailing out into the audience, spearing those rude enough to carry on chatting as if there wasn’t someone singing their heart out directly in front of their noses. It’s a short set and the audience demands satisfaction, so because they’ve said "please", She Keeps Bees belt out one more song for the crowd, ferocious and buzzing.
Golden Animals have brought their own rug with them which they drape over the monitors to add their own hippy down home touch to the stage. Glitter-dusted faces half hidden by masses of hair, they look excellent – check out the great photos on their Myspace – bell bottoms and ancient runes, tassels and paisley. They look like they sound...murky psychedelia with a fuzzrock snarl, slithering swamp blues with desert sky harmonies. And their record is called ‘Free Your Mind And Win A Pony’. Good work.
Drummer Linda looks like Joni Mitchell x Sissy Spacek and finishes each song with an incredibly elegant flourish of her long wrists. On record, her backing vocals to Tommy’s wailed, growled songs are spooky and sublime, but live they’re somewhat drowned out by the full-on crunching attack of Tommy’s VERY LOUD guitar. A couple of girls dance in a corner, pulling those jittery, arm-wavey moves you see maxi-skirted chicks doing on 1970s episodes of TOTP. It adds to the general air of freak-out happening very nicely.
“Just say yes…” sing The Hi-Life Companion, sounding sinister and cult-ish and tempting, “Forget the rest…”
This is a spanking good pop record and the perfect accompaniment to a sunny Saturday morning train ride, an interesting collection of songs that feels like a lot of love and care has gone into its creation. The Hi-Life Companion are no one-trick ponies, cantering from the pastoral to the urban, from swooning to crunching, soothing to (a little bit) menacing. And always with plenty of tunes. ‘Say Yes!’ is a picnic basket packed with good things. Oh so many good things. Sweeping, spangling, crammed with sounds: twangy, jangly fizzy guitars, spingly glockenspiel (maybe even more than one at once!), violins and trumpets, ha ha harmonies – a cornucopia that spills out when you lift the lid. Yes, I do really like it, thanks.
Album opener ‘The Hi-Life Theme’ (always good to have a band theme tune, eh?) shows the band’s folkier side, all strummy and wistful – an English countryside summer, high skies and fields stretching forever (I may be influenced by the view from the train window here). A bit reminiscent of The Garden City Project.
‘Times Table’ is a top tune straight off the block, harmonies and handclaps and twinkly chimes, before ooh! The band break out the brass for ‘Night Comes Down’. ‘One Man Town’ eschews the summery fun. It’s an adrenalized whirr that buzzes along on big guitars. Motorik-licious!
Other sounds you’ll hear here: sleepy-eyed slide guitar; spooky Barretty psychedelia that swishes oceanically; fuzzy, urgent ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ “Ooh, oohs”; snarly piano spanking. A song called ‘The Girl In The Gorilla Suit’.
The album ends with The Hi-Life Companion’s piece de resistance, ‘In Your Heart, A Cathedral’, filmic and expansive (eight minutes!), slowly spiralling sky-high around a central riff, carried by heart-tugging brass. A gorgeous contemplative close.
Wednesday, 2 September 2009
Sitting on the grass under sunny blue skies waving to smiling children riding past on the little train, soundtracked by Sucrette's whizzy two-songs-at-once hyper-pop;
Walking into the Indoor Stage shed as Mighty Mighty are playing 'Maisonette';
Little My with their lolloping pop, unco-ordinated percussion dances, feral headgear and added Liz Love;
The crowd's frantic dancing to the pouting cheekbone-tastic Cats On Fire who sound like Aha 'wrestling' The Smiths until they play a splendid version of White Town's 'Your Woman';
Wake The President - cute (if a tad grumpy) Scottish twins playing jangling guitars in the gloaming of the church as the sun goes down;
Patiently riding up and down the track on the steam train on Sunday morning, eating Sherbert dibdabs and wondering if The Manhattan Love Suicides are gonna show, as we've heard rumours...then being pinned to the wall of the carriage when the entire festval squeezes in to hear the Manhattan's split announcement. Then being soothed by the surprisingly touching acoustical tunes brought to us by ex-Manhattans, The Medusa Snare as the train chuffs along with us all sardined in;
Scoffing veggie hotdogs in the rain with our chums Hong Kong In The 60s;
Nick Garrie accompanied by a choir of children (and Duglas BMX) providing a sweet soundtrack for any children of the zone who like me, are missing their weekly Sunday afternoon dose of Stuart Maconie's Freakzone...
And then all these things that I thought I'd draw about instead...
A crowd of acolytes gathers round and listens with deep reverence. People who had ventured in hoping to heckle have to slink out again and look for kicks elsewhere.
Their reverb tank blows up as they hit the first chord!! Then a guitar string breaks!!! They play bubblegum garage which has been specially calibrated to be the best music at the entire festival!!!! It is VERY EXCITING. Other things: silver sparkly Danelectro guitar, v. groovy shaky hair keyboard playing, all round band smiling, an Out Crowd tattoo, managing to be very energetic in a very small space, including running in tiny circles, their friends behind us saying how everything is AWESOME!
Thursday, 20 August 2009
I am surprised and thrilled by Papercuts. Apart from the nice illustration on their album cover catching my eye in magazines, the band have passed me by so far. I’d been vaguely expecting something kind of abrasive and shouty involving lots of leaping about. This assumption was based purely on the name ‘Papercuts’. Not only does the word sum up something painful, but there also used to be that other band Papercuts feat. bloke what used to be in Symposium hurling himself about shoutily and rather invigoratingly. They did a great gig at The Pleasure Unit once where he climbed on a tiny table and pulled the black-out curtain off the window – only to be reprimanded by the bar staff. ‘Twas aces. Logically, I know that the sound of those Papercuts has nothing to do with these San Francisco-based Papercuts, but my subconscious makes the connections anyway. Stoopid old subconscious, these Papercuts are not noisy at all, they are, in fact, kind of delicate. Which a paper cut is I suppose...
Wooden Shjips are pretty damn perfect. Even with the odd equipment problem. The bass amp cuts out a couple of times, leaving a skeleton version of the music rattling at the walls, but when the bass does kick back in, it just goes to underline how glorious the noise is. The heavy, chugging, unchanging riff of rumbling notes providing a hefty backbone to the songs. Add to this the simple metronomic beats supplied centre stage by the drummer on a v. stripped down kit, plus ghostly organ punching it all along and you’ve got your basic drone ingredients. Yum. Then there is the delicious sound of phasing, slicing up and down through the songs, dragging you in, impelling you to drown in the rhythm. Over this beardy wizard man does minimal vocal bits and sprawling guitar things; squiggling and flanging and wubby wah-wahing, riding through the tunnel of sound in a big ball of reverb.
The songs never vary from their template, and why the hell would they? It is, of course, the BEST template for songs. Just ask Jarvis Cocker who is nod-nodding along in the crowd.
Friday, 31 July 2009
Always The Same – The Legends Heavenly FUZZED pop
Saturday, 11 July 2009
Indietracks! It’s nearly upon us again. Peer down the line and you can just make out a curl of steam in the distance, woohoo!
If you’re going to the festival, this album is an excellent way of getting yerself in the mood. If you’re not going, then it’s a fine primer for what’s going on over the hills and far away from the mainstream in the land of INDIEPOP: be it jangly, spangly, fuzzy, buzzy, spikey, swoonsome or any other kind of marvellous that the term can encompass.
Friends kick things off with the suitably titled ‘You’ll Never See That Summertime Again’, a perfect piece of sparkling summertime pop that is sort of The Bodines if they’d been submerged in the soaring wistfulness of The Lotus Eaters’ ‘First Picture Of You’ (a total flashback-to-childhood-summer song).
Eux Autres sidle towards Beat Happening terrirtory with their beaty drums, twanglesome guitars and flat emotion-free = emotion-full indie boy/girl vocals. There are laid-back fuzzy Pavementisms from Downdime (more flashbacks, this time to the Subpop summer of 1990). Wake The President have Scottish vocals, to which I am always rather partial, and rush along on handclaps and old-skool Post-cardy jangles that SNAP! at your desert-boot clad heels. Disasteradio use synths and robot vocoder vocals to come across like Super Furries havin’ a disko with Neu!
The Rocky Nest’s track is called ‘Lenny and Jenny Had One Too Many’ which is very annoying of it. However they make intriguingly odd and fuddled soundz like a lo-fi kitchen-sink T.Rex cranking along. And they feature an ex-Fonda 500 so that’s me sold.
More people-what-used-to-be-in-another-band action from Ray Rumours And The No-Eyed Deers, i.e. Ros what was in Electrelane. Unlike Electrelane, ‘Puddles And Rain’ is very simple, rattley and sparse, but thanks to Ros’ open, girlish voice it has a touching warmth.
Moustache Of Insanity’s (don’t say a word) ‘Living Room Pic-nic’ is like a v.v. cutesie version of Schwervon’s ‘Dinner’ with a bit of Esiotrot for afters. Zipper are indeed zippy, guitars crunching along in a Rosehips sort of way with a not-stopping-for-breath girl vocal. Alaska’s ‘She Was A Rockstar’ is utterly adorable swingin’ pop, a companion pice to ‘Talulah Gosh’ maybe?
What’s this? Why, ‘tis Teenage Fanclub, this year’s righteous headliners. Oh no, it’s ‘Cancion de Viernes’ by Cooper, it just sounds EXACTLY like the Fannies, or maybe EXACTLY like The Fannies being Big Star and The Byrds, lots of lazily jangling guitars and sunkissed harmonies. Num.
Fzzztttt! Bloop! The space-time continuum has gone all hazey! Erk! I can’t tell if it’s then or now, for behold! ‘tis Mighty Mighty with ‘Kiss For The Crowd’! Is that an old track or new ’un? Not sure, I’m not completely au fait with the band’s entire oeuvre you know. Though I did always enjoy, ‘Maisonette’, and ‘Throwaway’, and ‘Built Like A Car’ and ‘Biddy Baxter’ and the picture of Bridget Sea Urchin surfing on an ironing board, and… blimey! what time are they playing?
Imagine Broadcast circa ‘The Noise made By People’ trying to go Ye-ye but then going a bit John Barry instead. You might get ‘Alapati’ by the splendidly/sick-makingly named Marshmallow Kisses. Ver Kisses, as nobody should ever refer to them, are going to include Tim from Hong Kong In The 60s amongst their number when they play at Indietracks, and look here ARE HK60s with their sublime, spider-web in the breeze ‘Disintegration’. If you fancy being soothed for a while by sounds that stroke as gentle as a feather, settle yourself in a pew when HK60s grace the Church stage.
Someone needs to take up the mantle of fine penmanship and top pop ideals left lying around by Belle And Sebastian. Maybe Pocketbooks, or perhaps Butcher Boy, both on fine form here, will get there with their elegantly-crafted pop vignettes.
Ste McCabe’s ‘Public Debate’ is Pete Shelly singing The Ramones' ‘I Wanna Live’ and it brings a welcome buzz of distortion to things. Also, Ste says “My hatred of the Daily Mail is bordering on obsession”. Huzzah! With you there for sure.
Forty-four tracks long, this is a bumper summer special of an album. It’s got music from Sweden, Denmark, Spain, USA, UK, Germany, New Zealand, Japan, Italy, Argentina… and is an excellent way of taking a peek at the soundz going down on the international pop underground. Print out your festival schedule and start asterisking who you're going to see. All aboard!
P.S. This review was written whilst wearing a dress patterned with apple trees, sitting on a sunny beach, occasionally flicking pebbles into the sea. Afterwards I went and ate an ice-cream. True! Facts!
Monday, 15 June 2009
Ian WatsON is DJing. He plays stuff like The Shop Assistants, Pocketbooks, The Smiths, My Bloody Valentine, and, ooh! ‘Psycho’ by The Sonics. Good. I like the ICA despite the alleged dodgy sound. Being in the auditorium is like being a mouse in a black shoe-box. Above us, spread out across a large stage replete with flashy lights and lawks! dry ice, it is The Rolling Stones! no it’s Comet Gain!! It’s kind of eye-goggling seeing them in such ‘professional’ environs. As Rachel says (waving her ‘S&M’ black leather maracas) ‘We are contemporary art’
She’s right. When they’re good Comet Gain are the best, the only pop grupe. Tonight they’re pretty good: Say Yes, Love Without Lies, Why I Try To Look So Bad. They are The Velvet Underground doing ‘What Goes On’ and Love doing ‘Seven And Seven Is’.
Kaye’s tee-shirt has fluffy, flouncy sleeves that look like angel wings. She’s a sublime pop kid. David keeps his jokes to himself, but still cackles openly at the amusements inside his head. He tells us about how Comet Gain went to America and played with Crystal Stilts who had better hair, but Comet Gain had better jokes and were better at drinking. Near the end of an ecstatic pop thrills set, Jon Slade sidles off backstage. He reappears in order to, er, jump offstage and join Helen Shrag in the audience.
The Bats play a short, sweet sunshine set before annoyingly rushing off to play another set in a pub right near our flat, whilst we’re still back in the ICA. The Bats, who I never really listened to in olden times, are fab. Like Mamas and Papas* sliced through with the darkness of good eighties no wave. Darkly shimmering guitars, cosy jangle with an icy bite. And one of their guitarists is a woman - SHOCK!
Crystal Stilts seem a tad lacklustre and complain about the sound all night – unable to hit the right peak of reverb. Frankie is playing boring old sitting down drums, wot a swizz! She does have a teeny tambourine taped to the tom though. With singer Brad not being one for cheery chats with the crowd and guitarist JB skulking by his amp, breaking strings and not really being much of a presence, organist Kyle (also to be seen larking in The Ladybug Transistor) takes over proceedings, both sonically as rockingly mournful notes ripple through the songs, and in communing with the crowd.
Ooh, he’s a card, telling us about playing in Italy where "they didn’t understand a word", and offering his admittedly excellent tee-shirt (a dog saying "Kevin") for sale at the bargainous price of £80. Feck offers the quids. The price rises to £100. Feck heckles ‘Wankers’. Kyle respondes ‘Sexy wankers’ and the whole shebang ends with in a smash hit pop blur.
* Did you see that BBC 4 ‘documentary about The Mamas and Papas? Gah! ‘twas a ridiculous whitewash that probably broke all kinds of torture laws by playing ‘California Dreamin’ over and over and OVER. There was no mention of the crazy, messed up marriages/affairs/kicking out of Michelle Phillips/drug frenzies etc.
Thursday, 11 June 2009
Wake up to find odd little bruises up and down my arms. Hmm, they must be from people’s pokey elbows in last night’s middle-aged mosh-pit. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart are back!!! Again. Despite tube strikes, Cargo is crammed and there is a determination amongst the regular indie-pop massive to go mentalz and have top fuzzpop fun. So we do. I’m not sure how great a show the Pains play tonight (surely they must be feeling a little jaded by now?) I’m too busy laughing hysterically and jumping up and down in a ridiculous scrum at the front. We may be knocking on (as Marianthi says, the nearer you are to the front, the older the crowd is), but hey, we can still kick it like nutjobs. We chant out the words (tuneful!), do the ‘ooh, ooh, ooh’ bits in ‘Come Saturday’, punch the air to ‘Everything With You’, and those of us with hair shake our barnets in deep appreciation of the glorious buzzing tunes. I especially enjoy ‘The Tenure Itch’ tonight and ‘Young Adult Friction’ is pretty much a religious experience. There’s even a brand spanking new song, ‘Higher Than The Stars’ jangling wistfully, Kip's voice lollopingly lilting. As the set closes with a big, fat, thumpy ‘Gentle Sons’ we all agree a fine time has been had indeed, much to the disdain of the sour faced youth, who prefer not to dance.
Earlier on, Tender Trap play a set chocka with new tunes, sounding slightly ramshackle, but sparky, and surprisingly fearsome thanks to Katrina Dixon's big boomy stand-up drumming that boots it all along (as Amelia says 'stand up drummers are it'). Amelia, shaking a tambourine throughout, is in good voice - clear and bell-like, keeping the tunes in check. She is also wearing an excellent ensemble – a dress with slightly–delic black swirls, turquoise tights and ankle boots, sort of indie-kid grows up, but not too much.
We get two ‘hits’. The lovely see-sawing ‘Oh Katrina’ and ‘Talking Backwards’. Amelia announces the next song is called ‘Suddenly’. My brain goes “Suddenleeeee, life has new meaning etc…argh! shut up!!” Amelia goes, “The title makes everyone think of Lionel Ritchie”. She’s right, it does. How awful! But the song’s good, so we’ll let her off. Oh, I'll just fill in the end of this line, or those last two words look odd. There.
Regular gigster, John M. in his rightful position at the front of the crowd is tonight sporting a Damned tee-shirt which inspires an excellent anecdote from Amelia about going to see The Damned years ago. She had to wear the same clothes to school the next day, which would have been fine, except an old man got onstage and wee-ed on her head! Not to worry though, nothing like that will happen tonight, even though they’re ending the set with their ‘punk rock’ song.
Throughout Tender Trap’s set, Helen of Shrag has been doing happy stampy dances at the front. Now she gets onstage to do more stampy dancing with Shrag, (whilst singing, obvs.) and Amelia does reciprocal dancing from the audience. Drummer Leigh-Ann has a gammy foot, so props herself up with crutches to add singing bits, whilst a stand-in friend drummer, er, drums. Shrag are great, smashing their way through an assortment of new songs and excellently crunchy renditions of ‘Long Term Monster’ and ‘Ghosts Before Breakfast’. They are urgent and exciting and vital and a bit odd. Good work all round.