Thursday 29 November 2007

Sonic Cathedral 28th November 2007

Things of note from an evening of worship at Sonic Cathedral :
1) A spectacular 3-way beard-fest. featuring Nat Sonic C., Barry Tapestry and John Dream Machine. Imagine the static they could produce between them – fuzzed up indeed.

2) A triumvirate of garage classics makes me feel all happy, beginning with the mighty 25 (or so) years before its time proto shoe-gaze warp-athon ‘Mindrocker’ and continuing through the sneeringly splendid ‘Why Don’t You Smile Now’ (I still think The Del-Monas version is the best – pure girl-venom) and the "red with purple flashes" ‘How Does It Feel To Feel’.

3) The way the onstage lights shine upward, casting eyelash shadows that make Miranda Lee Richards look like a doll (in a lovely way) adding to the dreamy, ethereal quality of her wispy folk twistings.

4) The Warlocks have at least two songs over which you can sing ‘High School’ by the MC5 (albeit at a funereal pace).

5) The Warlocks look odd when they start moving quickly, but at the same time they sound good when they’re taking a scummy Crampsian approach to things and ratcheting up the garage racket.

6) Despite the two drummers (hurrah for two drummer bands – they great!) and a copious selection of guitar pedals (I can see a Big Muff and a Memory Man and er, lots of others) The Warlocks don’t seem to have their old aura of occult majesty and doomy power. The Black Angels are doing it better now. Sorry.

Tuesday 27 November 2007

You Think You Can Dance, You Think You Can DJ - Friends Of The Bride (Young and Lost Club)

In the middle of the night, I drift into semi-wakefulness to find I am conscientiously composing a review of this single. I have concocted a brilliant description of Friends Of The Brides’ sound that involves melding the term ‘Bossa Nova’ with something utterly unlikely and indie-grubby. It seems like a good idea at the time, but in the cold light of day I’m not sure bossa nova or indie grubbiness have that much to do with things here. Or do they?

The key to Friends Of The Bride lies in singer Bobby Grindrod’s passion for all things swelegant. A harnessing of fifties dash and charm plus a certain amount of stylish caddishness. His perfectly pitched knowing croon, peppered with wry eye-brow-raised asides ("Is that a moustache or are you drinking hot chocolate?") is buoyed upon an invigorating helping of hectic brass rushes, scowling guitar and really quite filthy bass. The result, ‘You Think You Can Dance, You Think You Can DJ’ shows you can never have too much swing. Oh boy, does this swing. FOTB are no throw-back pastiche, their sound is an elegant collision between then and now; their lovingly realised period detail is roughed up by a modern rogue-ishness that ensures your toes can’t help but tap, urging you to take off for a silky skim of the dance-floor.

To accompany the single, there’s a sumptuously de-saturated colour film clip that captures FOTB’s curious Through the Looking Glass take on the fifties beautifully. By the end you should be swept off your feet.

Monday 26 November 2007

C86 Bollocks

I keep getting suckered into reading online articles about ye olde so-called 'C86 movement'. The reason I get suckered is that I get a nostalgic glow at the mention of The Shop Assistants, The Soup Dragons, The Razorcuts, Talulah Gosh et al. These were the bands that sound-tracked my teenage popkid years. They're the reason I still can't resist the sound of a jangly guitar and get all excited at the sight of a stripy t-shirt and an overgrown fringe. So I click on the link, browse through the blog, see what folks have got to say about those times.

Generally these articles are written by starry eyed kids who're looking back through pink lemonade tinted glasses to plumb what to them is probably fairly ancient history. I'm all for the kids being wistful and idealistic, but jeez they don't half get hold of the wrong end of the stick sometimes. Like the idea that 'C86' was some kind of pop 'movement' when it was actually just a dodgy NME cassette featuring the kind of songs you taped off John Peel. Sadly, Bobby Gillespie didn't share lollipops (ooer!) with Amelia Fletcher. Gregory Fletcher didn't take tea with an anoraked Stephen Pastel. Do a bit of research, the kidz! Ask Uncle Alistair Fitchett.

There were some good bands and some gorgeously pristine pop moments (The Bodines 'Therese', Primal Scream's 'Crystal Crescent', The Shop Assistants' 'Safety Net', The Sea Urchins' anything, The Primitives' 'Laughing Up My Sleeve', My Bloody Valentine's 'Another Rainy Saturday'...) And then a bit later there were some less good bands who took the sound and watered it down. The kind of bands whose flexis were attached to the later wave of indie pop fanzines that emerged at the tail end of the 1980s. The market got kind of saturated and I got bored with it and moved on.

It's still fun to reminisce though, so with the aim of providing some utterly subjective background info for the kids, I'm going to make the odd post about what indie pop meant to me in the late eighties (Prior to then I was busy being, first, a Durannie and then a mini-goth) ...

...Okay then, how about the track 'Paint A Rainbow' by My Bloody Valentine, b-side of 'Sunny Sundae Smile'. This single was a perfect package of pop goodness - both tracks sublime hits of mainlined fuzzpop. Plus if you bought the 12" you got the equally fab 'Sylvie's Head' and wonderfully titled 'Kiss The Eclipse' I didn't buy the 12" 'cos there was this rule at the time that it wasn't indiepop to buy 12-ers - they were a rip off and a waste and some kind of indeterminate tool of the Man's oppression. Plus I couldn't afford them.

Anyway, 'Paint A Rainbow' - how we loved singing along to this simple, cutely-named tune, shaking our fringes, turning up the treble so the feedback hissed (our favourite pop music always involved hissing feedback, the fizzier the better). At the time, MBV looked like adorable butter-wouldn't-melt, shaggy, mop-tops. Then I read (somewhere?) that the song was about necrophilia. We listened to the lyrics more carefully...Ewwwww! But also, ha ha! Fantastic! The best kind of pop song is one that sneakily subverts the form. And this one certainly did that. In your face pop kids!

Saturday 10 November 2007


This morning I went in Uniqlo's new Oxford street 'flagship store' and was disturbed to note large posters on the wall depicting a rather wizened Bobby Gillespie modelling Uniqlo's range of reasonably priced winter woolies. If, like me, your teenage pop kid years were spent scouring the music press for images of Mr Gillespie in all his bowl-cut, polka-dot shirted glory, then you will understand how perculiar this pictorial encounter was. In order to soothe my nerves, I found it necessary to go in Topshop to purchase this marvellous cat-strewn confection by Dari Meya. Now that's fashion.

Sound Carriers / The Monks Kitchen / Limn / Mixedcases - 26 October 2007, Buffalo Bar

It's the last Friday of the month. This means it's time for The Beat Hotel, and there’s a bumper crop down at the Fortuna Pop! hop tonight. Every one’s a winner.

This is Mixedcases’ (otherwise known as Mark West from Fanfarlo and Wolfie) first live outing and to celebrate he’s playing in his socks so he can use his toes to manipulate the tiny buttons on the pedals and gadgetry that clusters round his feet. Mark has surrounded himself with equipment, creating a nice sort of bedroom studio effect on stage – it suits his softly glowing, synthy, robot-beat space-pop. It’s the kind of music you’d find snuggled on Sweden’s Labrador Records – gentle vocals atop comforting cough candy tunes that can vere towards the itchily unsettling. 'Time To Go Now' sounds like it’s the great grandson of ‘Space Oddity’, or the sound of streetlamps breathing quietly to themselves on a frosty night. Then it all gets a tad raucous with what sound like the birth cries of a new genre – a mash up of soft-hearted indie electro-pop and clashing, smashing d’n’b beatz. It sounds great – a bit uncomfortable, but invigorating.

Limn’s USP is that they have two drummers sitting centre stage FACING EACH OTHER! Fantastic. Sadly, this thrilling state of affairs doesn’t last long as one of the drummers then starts playing guitar instead; scritchy skree high pitched twingly guitar. Limn have a tendency to mix and match instruments, crunching out all manner of oddball sounds, keeping you on your toes, so you’re eager to hear which path of chaotic tuneage they’ll rush along next. There’s Ron Johnson Records-style awkwardly angled cacophony pop, and then a great sixties lounge ‘Take 5’ kind of moment and one that’s sort of jazz with a ‘My Sharona’ bassline (cripes!) Then Limn make songs that have me thinking, ‘Hmm, Battles but on a picnic, or maybe Animal Collective but without the picnic”. The tunes wibble and weave and allow your imagination to wander with them, so the last one, full of angularly tooting ‘Trumpton’ guitars conjures an image of Hank Marvin on a motoring holiday in idyllic English countryside. With a knotted hankie on his head. Joyful.

The Monks Kitchen seem like they should be Scousers, but I don’t think they are. They play foot-tappy, folk-stroked, shanty-ish songs that twinkle and rumble along on simple bluesy bass lines. A Rickenbacker and a capo-ed acoustic guitar provide a sound like freshly cut grass, full of lovely skittish melodies, whilst the combined Monks vocals add up to some irridescent harmonies. One song makes be go especially melty and unable to stop grinning, and I suddenly realise it’s ‘cos it sounds like The Butterflies Of Love. By the end of their set I'm thoroughly charmed by the sunshine-sparkling-on-the-waves songs that The Monks Kitchen have just conjured so unassumingly for us.

Finally, it’s all aboard a golden cloud with The Sound Carriers to scud about the ceiling on David Crosby’s floatiest, most marshmallow-iest trip. The Sound Carriers are news to me – and hurrah! it’s very good news, ‘cos this is a band that manage to cram in hints of everything you love about the West Coast ‘60s sound: The Byrds, The Buff, Love, CSNY; as well as the retro-futuro sounds of Felt, Stereolab, Broadcast - that dreamily vintage Radiophonic Workshop feel. And then The Sound Carriers throw in a dash of Tropicalia just to liven things up, getting really rarver funky in places.
The band are lead by a string-bending geezer who has an unfortunate default facial expression of deep smugness, as if he knows we're all thrilling to the layers of ringing chords he's knocking out. Maybe he is smug about it - there's no reason not to be. He's accompanied on vocals by a petite, keyboard-playing girl who looks like a cross between Francois Hardy and Juliette Greco, which is clearly a marvellous thing. Also worth noting is the bass player's guitar strap which is decorated with horse brasses - somehow this is quite disturbing. Anyway, a high old time is had by all, swooning and shimmying gently to The Sound Carriers' slightly sinister sun-psych. So much so that the band is able to introduce what could well be the very first drum solo to happen at a Fortuna Pop! gig and yet there is no indie-pop riot. Nice work.

Sunday 4 November 2007


Here is a Candylion I made to celebrate the mind-boggling, irridescent gorgeousness of Super Furry Animals' Roundhouse gig last night. How we danced and sang along and held hands aloft with complete strangers in Furry Solidarity to tunes old and new. A skronky glam-funking 'Baby Ate My Eightball', a chaotically bouncing 'She's Got Spies', doing air-pointing for 'God Show Me Magic', the swoony splendour of 'Runaway' and 'The Gift That Keeps Giving', gut-thumping bass kicking in on the best ever version of 'Receptacle For The Respectable', the usual mixture of gleefullness and indignant anger at 'the man' for the cathartic jump-fest of 'The Man Don't Give A Fuck and...and...argh everything you ever loved about Super Furries ever.

Even when SFA aren't making an effort (no yeti costumes, no alien costumes, no trumpeters dressed as bride and groom, no inflatable demon bears, no tanks, no quadrophonic sound systems, no suits that light-up, no films to accompany each song this time) they can't help but make an effort, so there was a beautifully crafted lighthouse backdrop - with lighting what made it look like the lighthouse was shining it's er, beacon, plus members of the band holding up signs hastily constructed from card and gaffer tape. Oh and Gruff wearing his Power Rangers helmet and singing through the eye, obviously. Effortless, genius entertainment. I love you Super Furries.

Thursday 1 November 2007

Corrie Psycho Suicide Pop

Excitement all round last night in a tension-building, credulity-stretching hour-long episode of 'Coronation Street'. Devil boy David Platt has decided to End It All (or has he?) by plunging his car into the very same stretch of canal that psycho killer Richard Hillman (formerly known as 'Hoppy' Hopwood on 'Grange Hill') attempted to plunge the entire Platt family into some years ago (remember?!) And what does the 'troubled teen' slam into the car stereo to accompany his descent into a watery grave? 'You and Me Song' by The Wannadies. Genius! It's the little things that make me love Corrie.

P.S. Whatever became of The Wannadies I wonder?