Wednesday 31 December 2008

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart - 17 December 2008, The Lexington

If last night was rocket ships and starbursts lighting up the sky, tonight is tear-jerkingly, heart-explodingly life affirming. There’s an end of term feel as The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart have pretty much come to the close of their tour (just a Wedding Present Support slot tomorrow night) and EVERYONE is here, like some kind of indiepop Christmas office party.

The Pains’ songs are glued into my brain good and proper, I’ve been humming bits of them all day, in excited anticipation. Tonight, amidst the fizzing pop whirl is the twinkly ‘Stay Alive’ representing the more ‘gazey end of the band’s spectrum and ‘Kurt Cobain’s Cardigan’ which sounds like The Vaselines’ ‘Son Of A Gun’ (The Vaselines, were, of course, Kurt’s Faves – what goes around comes around, or something).

The Pains hurtle through their set with such glee that a wee mosh-pit materialises as people can no longer restrain the pure pop excitement welling up inside them. It’s hilarious and joyful, big beams all round. How sweet to see a gaggle of 30-somethings-pushing-40 jumping up and down singing “We will never die, no, no we will never die!” I especially enjoy stomping along to the librarian’s anthem bit (“Don’t check me out”) of the brilliantly titled ‘Young Adult Friction’.

Above the stage in the weird overly elevated DJ booth Trev Lostmusic is, um, losing it, creating an aerial one-man mosh-pit. For a brief while the audience’s attention is drawn away from the band as we point and gaze in admiration at Trev’s dedication to the noise. It’s a nice communal moment amongst many in what's a veritable indiepop love-in tonight.

I could happily trip along for, ooh, at least a dozen more nights on the trot for The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, and it’s touching to see how much this tour seems to have meant to them and how they’re wishing they could stay. Darren from the Manhattan Love Suicides lurches amongst the wibbling crowd punching the air in triumph and grinning back at everyone as the last chords of ‘The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart’ buzz to a close. We know what he means. This Love Is Fucking Right!

Tuesday 30 December 2008

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart / Comet Gain – 16 December 2008, The Old Blue Last

And suddenly it all makes sense…
The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart have been making indiepop kids far and wide go a bit bonkerz. Listening to their recordings, I can hear that the band has a cute way with a fuzzy tune, but I’m not quite getting why all the boys and girls are going so Pains crazy. Now I’ve seen them live (was away when they were over earlier in the year so I missed out on their initial slaying of the popkids), I gets it!

The tiny room atop The Old Blue Last is crammed with eager Pains-seekers, some of whom have paid one whole pound to ensure they definitely gain entry to this free Twee As Fuck shindig. The four Pains (three skinny boys, one smiley girl) seem sweet and self-effacing, adjusting their effects pedals before swallow-diving into a sparking sherbet noise-bomb, racing through a short sweet set that leaves us feeling disorientated with delight.

It’s all the songs you know – ‘Come Saturday’, ‘Everything With You’, ‘Young Adult Friction’…sounding vital and wonderful, slamming into your ears and whisking you along in a giddy thrill. Yearning lyrics and dark concerns come wrapped in glowing pop wonderment. You can sit and think about the words at home (and they’re pretty good words, how many songs can there be mentioning microfiche?) Here you need to feel the thrills ‘n’ spills thump of the drums in your solar plexus, shake your head in a blur, skid along on the squeal and squall of the guitars (and look, singer Kip has a white Fender Jaguar, just like Kevin Shields), grin as Peggy chases an unruly swivelling mic to coo out backing vocals or as she just stands a-shakin’ her hair. It’s good hair for shakin’ for sure.

Heard live, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart’s songs, the songs that make you smile and tap your foot at home, become The Only Songs That Matter Right Now! They make your head do that thing where the world stops spinning and you become intensely aware of this. precise. moment. with the music crashing down around you in little slow-mo snowflakes of electricity. Who knows how or why fuzzy little pop songs can sometimes do this? They just do.

We gather our composure to find Comet Gain getting onstage to play a ‘Greatest Hits’ set (“Then we remembered we don’t know how to play them all”). Rachel is the life and soul tonite, taking centre stage to lead us all on a bacchanalian beat trip, hands clapping, feet stamping, through the likes of ‘Say Yes!’ and the giddy glide of ‘The Fists In The Pocket’. Feck tells us this midget pop gem was going to be a single, but it would’ve been such a success that they would have all gone off the rails. True fakt.

We can’t stay for the whole set, but it’s hard to tear ourselves away, as Comet Gain can be so very moreish. We keep going, ‘Oh I love this one!’ and staying to see what the next song will be. Plus we are having a good laugh watching the Looks on Shoreditch twatsters’ faces when they peer round the door and see the band – they havenae got a clue, ha ha!

We’re Courting Dreams, We’re Snorting Dreams: Fave Tunes November / December 2008

Water II – Hush Arbors Lilting space folk that sounds like it could be some olde rickety recording from yesteryear. Or from the stars

Glitches ‘n’ Bugs – The Shortwave Set There’s a good bit in this that sounds like the theme tune to ‘The Double Deckers’(bang up to date pop-cultural reference there, cheers). The rest of it is pretty ace too.

Meadowsweet – Wyrdstone
Nice to hear the sound of sunlight and treetops on a murky wynter day

Rocketship – 63 Crayons

Departure - Crystal Stilts
JAMC & Joy Div & The Organ riding on a ghost train whilst you punch the air in glee

Cancelled Flight – The Young Sinclairs Byrdsy jangling with added skulls ‘n’ treetops magical mysticism

Skeleton Tiger - Tame Impala ‘Meet the Australian Dungen’ says Time Out, ‘Ooh, yes please!’ says me

Big Black Sky – Sunking!
Sparkly! And their Myspace says ‘Sounds like: Sleeping in the grass and awaking to rabbits that pull you out in the sun drenched fields to dance’ Yeah!

The North Wind Blew South – Headless Heroes
Swooping fairytaleness

Tell The World – Vivian Girls For the cute clanking droningness of it and for the critters rocking out here:

Saturday 20 December 2008

The Vivian Girls – 9 December 2008, Rough Trade East

Jeez, this is dangerous, hanging out in Rough Trade for an hour, killing time idly flicking through the seven inches and the garage LPs and Krautrock compilations and old copies of Shindig! and contemplating the Suspiria soundtrack and here’s that Love DVD I’ve been looking for and…and…too much ace stuff, argh! Oh here are The Vivian Girls to distract us with a snappy set of fizzbomb fuzz songs.

This is the perfect gig – straight from work with not too much waiting for things to happen, no tedious support bands to wait out, then a quick bus ride home in time for tea. And free.

The Vivian Girls are excited. They’ve just noticed the Rough Trade Christmas tree has a copy of their album dangling from it. This is the good thing about the band, they’re still buzzing with the fun of visiting new places and playing their songs for folks. Despite having to drive themselves around the country, getting stopped by the police for doing illegal turns* and being boo-ed in Coventry the night before**, they’re still full of joie de vivre, engaging the audience with cute anecdotes and endearing banter as much as with their skittery tunes.

The reverb is ramped up, harmonies echoing in a spooky mist against the spit and sparkle of buzztoned guitars and rumble-de-thump drumming. It’s thrashy and trashy and not very competent, but burstingly good noisepop fun. And of course there’s the fab ‘Tell The World’ sounding like witchy fingered trees blowing in a hail storm. And a stoopid story about a lost cat and a friend’s put-on in English accent (note: none of The Vivian Girls can do an English accent).

Pleasingly, the three Vivian Girls come in three different flavours of hair, so you can choose your fave. They also have very interesting and colourful tattoos which somehow add to their charm. Katy (the red one) has saved her best dress for today as they’re playing two shows (there’s Madame JoJos later). The zip isn’t done up, but I think she’s just being punk rock in a devil-may-care ‘zips are for bourgeois phonies’ kinda way. At the end of the set, she discovers her sartorial faux pas and is a bit horrified. I feel bad that I haven’t said anything about the zip. Sorry.

* The audience has to explain to the band what the term ‘prat’ means, as the Old Bill used the term ‘pratnav’ to describe The Viviuan Girls’ rubbish satnav system which made them go the wrong way.
** The London audience automatically boos Coventry as a concept, even before we’ve heard of their dastardly treatment of the Girls.

Saturday 6 December 2008

Everything With You – The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart (Fortuna Pop!)

“Strange teenager, waiting for death at 19…” hmm, another fuzzpop hit from The Pains, sending the pop kids squealing for the dance floor, singing along. Whereas ‘Come Saturday’ slyly constructed an icing-sugar recreation of ‘Sunny Sundae Smile’, ‘Everything With You’, sweet and twinkly and laconic, is MBV’s pencil shavings pre-‘Strawberry Wine’. Which is to say it’s still scraped knees and interesting bruises, dazed dreams and ice-creams, it just doesn’t leave you gasping for air quite so much.

The other track on this single is called er, 'The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart' and excitingly, you can sing The Mary Chain’s ‘The Hardest Walk’ over the top of it – hours (as in minutes) of karaoke/mash-up fun!

Sunday 30 November 2008

Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds, The Troxy 29 November 2008

The idea of Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds playing in revamped East End Art Deco ex-cinema The Troxy was too delicious to ignore. So we went and had a gander at the pastel colour scheme, flower-shaped glass lamp shades and woeful lack of 'facilities' (did they not need to wee in the thirties or what?) And the band, obviously. This is what we beheld:

Being wedged into the crowd packed dahn the front before the band come on is like being at a nice dinner party. Middle aged ex-goths chat amiably with strangers about the marvels of 'the Cave'.

Stalking/thrusting about in his skinny three-piece suit and splendide moustache, Cave is a vaudeville villian. It's genuinely thrilling when he gallops over to our side of the stage and peers at us from beneath beetling brows.

Mr Cave is underwhelmed by the exciting venue: "So this is The Troxy. It's a funny colour"

A photo pass only allows the photographers to spend the duration of the first song in the pit. Snap for your lives! As the song ends, security forget to move the photogs out, but Nick's quick to send them packing, "Shouldn't you lot be leaving now." He pulls some additional outrageous rockstar poses for them before they have to sheepishly creep out. Still, Bob Underexposed gets one good shot (see above).

On discovering he's been sporting a dry-cleaning ticket on the back of his waistcoat all evening, Nick is aggrieved: "You could have told me it was there. It's so undignified."

As the usual shouts for songs rend the air, "We'll just play this one then we'll be taking requests. As long as they're on the list. And in the right order."

I can see Nick Cave's socks!! They are red with black check, fine 'gentleman's socks'. From a posh shop probably.

If you ever wondered what a crazy cave-dwelling hermit/wizard type man would look like after a rock 'n' roll make-over, look to Warren Ellis (see left).

A maraca twirls through the air high above the stage, before crashing to the floor. I suspect Conway Savage is responsible for this percussion abuse. He looks like a mad scientist crossed with a feral magician.

They do 'Nature Boy' I dance happily. This live version is apparently a 'work in progress' as they have had probs getting it to work.

'Deanna' - with extended clap-along bit - is a fiery highlight

'We Call Upon The Author' is so ferocious Nick starts bleeding from above the eyebrow.

'Stars' spotted marvelling at 'the Cave':
Kate Jackson no longer of The Long Blondes
Bobby Gillespie
Ricky Maymi of The Brian Jonestown Massacre snuggling up to...
...Kevin Shields!

All in all an excellent night's entertainment, Though a shame that there was no sign of the Wurlitzer that used to rise out of the floor. Or the revolving stage.

Monday 17 November 2008

The Anoraks From Hell (whatever happend to?)

Aha!! I’ve been looking for this cutting from an olde issue of The Face for aages and today I finally tracked it down. The article initially grabbed me because there was a mention of Bobby Gillespie (exciting stuff for a Jesus And Mary Chain fan in the days when Gillespie wasn’t tabloid fodder) and then I was thoroughly inspired by the whole piece. ‘Tambourine bands’, ‘having acid trips without the acid’, Happenings that drew on the Exploding Plastic Inevitable crossed with the ‘spirit of punk rock’; it all sounded perfect, and it was my introduction to the concept of an indie-pop scene (tho it wasn’t really called that then). Up until then I’d been enjoying the worlde of ‘alternative’ music e.g. The Smiths, The Cocteau Twins, The Jesus And Mary Chain, er, The Monochrome set, um, Doctor And The Medics, and whatever I taped off John Peel. This piece provided me with a handy cut out ‘n’ keep guide to which bands I should be investigating. After it appeared, I set the controls for the imaginary guitar jangling, fringe-swinging, pop art indie planet that the writing conjured, hoping to crash-land in a fireball of feedback, sixties frocks and shaggy hair. Hurrah!

The Face, September 1985 (INTRO section) Joanna Rahim

Your mother would probably like them. They don’t take drugs, very few smoke and they all have smart haircuts. Hardly a week goes by without one forming or disbanding at a Happening in one of Glasgow’s music venues. Over a live band or a taped disco covering anything from The Clash to Love, lights swirl and the audience stare at the walls, having acid trips without the acid.

Most of the better quality bands hail from Alan McGhee’s Creation stables, and many, though not all, are Scottish. The other common factor is their deployment of that staple of the school orchestra – the tambourine. The Pastels, Primal Scream, Almost Evening, Big Flame, The Loft (now known as The Weather Prophets) and The June Brides all combine elements of Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable (film, lights, dancing, whips) with the spirit of punk rock (yes, they can’t play their instruments…) and it’s loud.

“You should listen to the band I’m considering signing”, McGhee declares gleefully. “They call themselves The Anoraks From Hell and they make a noise like nothing on earth.”

You won’t catch Clare Grogan or any of the other pop socialites attending the Splash-1 Happenings which are masterminded by Bobby Gillespie, drummer with The Jesus And Mary Chain and lead singer with Primal Scream. Half the audience tend to be close friends of the band, the rest are either friends of the friends, or else friends of the support band, and audience participation is strictly encouraged; within the past eight weeks alone this INTRO reporter has been invited to shake her tambourine with three entirely different groups. “Hell, don’t knock tambourines!” McGhee squeaks indignantly when informed of this fact. “You don’t understand tambourines are punk. They only cost £5.00 and literally anyone can shake one. Tambourine bands are simply taking the punk concept to its logical conclusion.”

On a good night, when the tambourinists and the whippers overflow off the stage, the dancefloor will be packed with Ray-Banned boys in their roll-necked sweaters and duffle coats sweating it out with some sweet young thing in pigtails and an anorak. Bobs a la Mary Quant, black and white striped mini-dresses and large chintz affairs also feature prominently among the girls. One word of warning though…any miss with feet larger than a size three could end up finding herself an outcast. (Start Rite kids shoes don’t come much larger).

If the requirements for social acceptance seem a little harsh (anyone looking older than 14 is strictly out) consolation may be taken from the knowledge that what Tambourine Bands and indeed Happenings prove is that there’s hope for us all. Even if you can’t sing, play an instrument or move to the beat, you too can have your 15 minutes of stardom on stage; ‘harmonising’ with a Stylophone, whipping the band or the duffle-coated audience, even just by shaking your tambourine…

Alan McGhee’s Top 10 tambourine tracks

1. Rolling Stones Around And Around (Decca)
2. The Chocolate Watch Band Medication (Eva)
3. The Shangri-Las Out In The Streets (Phillips)
4. Primal Scream All Fall Down (Creation)
5. The Byrds Mr Tambourine Man (CBS)
6. Anoraks From Hell Wailing On Napalm (unrecorded)
7. 13th Floor Elevators You’re Gonna Miss Me (CBS)
8. The Pastels Surprise Me (Creation)
9. Sonny and Cher I Got You Babe (Atco)
10. Vic Goddard Stop That Girl (Rough Trade)

Sunday 16 November 2008

Pelle Carlberg / The School / Arctic Circle / The Noughts And Crosses Band – 6 November 2008, The Windmill

The Noughts and Crosses Band’s first and last songs are reminiscent of Talulah Gosh! with sweet girlish harmonies, plenty of ba ba bas and tumbledown, runaway melodies. In between they go folky dolky with recorders, ukulele, a drummer girl and g-a-s-p MELODICA DUETTING! Truly, the instrument of indie is being utilised in mysterious new ways. Fashion news: the three Noughts and Crosses girls (there are boys too) wear skinny braces to hold up their breeks, but weirdly they’ve got them clipped onto their pockets rather than their waistbands. Is this the hip new way to wear braces? Those crazy kids!

Arctic Circle are another ramshackle crew playing eclectic, lemonade fizzing up yer nose pop songs, with plenty of random percussion and swapping of instruments.
A girl sits thumping a rattley rhythm on a snare drum. A bloke looking like University Challenge circa 1972 twiddles away on guitar, on occasion cranking out oddball solos. A feisty wee girl sings and dances in a mildly confrontational manner at the front before scurrying into a corner to bash the bejesus out of a glockenspiel and the surrounding area.

They have a song that sounds like a bit of ‘Blister In The Sun’ which eventually descends into the bass line of ‘My Sharona’ and finally descends into total wrong-ending chaos. It’s good. ‘Prancing Pearl’ features janglingy funky guitar that wouldn’t be out of place on a Postcard Records release, and clattering beats courtesy of the snare, with celebratory mid song, arms-aloft ‘ah ah ahs’. There’s a lot of celebratory-ness (that is a word, yes) in Arctic Circle’s music. Like a biscuit tin Animal Collective, the band gleefully pound out a set of curious, upbeat, fit-to-burst melodies. ‘Shipping Forecast’ races into its glorious “Let’s not go to sleep just yet” refrain pulling you along in its helter-skelter wake. ‘Mother’s Ruin’ features the keyboard bloke singing sweetly against a tinkling, jittery groove and sounds like dancing through raindrops. Arctic Circle are like the other school band; the one raised on Belle and Sebastian b-sides and kept locked out of the music room because they’re misfits. But misfits with excellent tunes.

Liz from The School is feeling a bit croaky. She’s been off sick all week, but as she says this doesn’t apply to gigs, and so The School are here to make the best of it. And brilliantly they do, spreading rainbows with their sunshine baroque pop.
They’ve even blown up a load of balloons to add to the ribbons ‘n’ bows ’n’ best party frock atmosphere, although they forget about these until halfway through the set.

Pelle Carlberg has prepared himself for the Swedish winter by wearing a vest. Unfortunately, it’s bloomin’ boiling in The Windmill and by the end of the set such is Carlberg’s enthusiasm for performing that the shape of his undergarment is outlined in sweat on his shirt. It’s quite good fun watching it slowly appear. But not half as much fun as listening to the music and watching Pelle enjoying himself onstage. You’d have to be a right miserable old sod not to be charmed by this show. In a softly Swedish accent that’s peppered with odd London glottal stops Carlberg tells us little stories to introduce the songs (e.g. how meeting Mike Joyce in Copenhagen was the inspiration for ‘I Touched You at the Sound Check’). He goes all self-deprecating (advising us that we might find ‘Middleclass Kid’ to be ‘old fart’s folk music’ – it isn’t, or at least we all enjoy it anyway). He does excellent little kicky dances that rival Stuart Murdoch’s soulboy moves. He strums away mellifluously on guitar backed by a be-quiffed drummer and the groovy cap ‘n’ moustache wearing bass player who we recognise from January’s Club 8 gig. He is an entertaining wee chap and no mistake.

I have been thoroughly enjoying Carlberg’s latest record, ‘The Lilac Time’, and am pleased when he begins with irresistible album opener, ‘1983 (Pelle & Sebastian)’, and then there’s the irresistible ‘Metal To Metal’, oh and ‘Nicknames’ and, and ‘Fly Me To The Moon’, all with killer tunes that lodge in your mind, dissolving like sugar lumps into your blood stream. Tonight I discover there are lots of older songs from the previous two albums that are equally instantly adorable; ‘Riverbank’ with its wistful verses and cheery ‘do do do do’ sing-a-long chorus, the excellently titled ‘Clever Girls Like Clever Boys Much More Than Clever Boys Like Clever Girls’ (also available printed on a special Pelle Carlberg tote bag, shopping fans!) and the infamous journalist-baiting ‘Go To Hell, Miss Rydell’ He even encourages audience requests, obliging with ‘I Love You, You Imbecile’.

At the end of the set, Pelle’s keen to carry on entertaining, apparently in his element clutching a guitar in front of an eager audience. As we reluctantly step out into the night, he’s embarking on a confused but cute version of The Darkness’ ‘I Believe In A Thing Called Love’. Now that’s entertainment.

Wednesday 5 November 2008

Have You Ever Heard The Lovely Eggs? E.P. - The Lovely Eggs (Cherryade)

The Lovely Eggs strike again with nonsense lyrics that make you sit quietly and listen and ridiculous tunes that make you bounce around frantically. This e.p. is like a nursery rhyme record, the kind my nephews put on and throw lego to, only with more entertaining tunes. It’s story-time for sugar-crazed popkids with knives between their teeth.

‘Have You Ever Heard A Digital Accordion’ has the pleasing repetition of a children’s song, but manages to rhyme ‘digital accordion’, ‘Richard Brautigan’, ‘deadly scorpion’, ‘beef bourguignon’ and ‘Delorean’, which is clearly imaginative genius of the highest kind. ‘I Collect Snails’ sounds like kids riding their Ribena rush right into the music room cupboard and then hammering everything (you know, recorders, glockenspiels and shit) in there with utterly gleeful abandon.

‘I Want To Fall Off My Bike Today’ is a short but perfectly formed burst of punk rock in which the only lyrics are the title repeated over and over. On the other hand ‘I Want To Be In Your Fire’ is a terrifying tantrum of thrash, in which Holly seems to drive her vocal chords / lungs to the edges of their capacity – in a joyful way, obviously. Finally there’s the music-box lullabying of ‘Weird Heart’ which has just the right measures of soothing and spooky to be a modern-day fairytale for pop urchins. And when you get to the record’s end, you feel the need to go back to the start, just to check you heard it right. Again! AGAIN!

Comet Gain / Mathew Sawyer / The Good Gods – 18 October 2008, The Macbeth

This is all most irregular, we’re at a big fat indie bastard of a gig, but there are only four familiar faces here. Where are all the usual indie kids? They can’t all be dancing to ‘Fold Your Hands Child…’ being played in its entirety at How Does If Feel To Be Loved surely? Not when real live Comet Gain are playing?? Usually we see the same people we know and love/have assigned rude nicknames to at these events, but there are different people here. Who are they?

Never mind that, look IT’S JIM RATTAIL!! gliding through the crowd to peer serenely at the band, just like in the olden days! The band he is peering at, though who knows why as they are all men and none of them is wearing a short skirt, is The Good Gods. They are playing rattly, perky, janglingly itchy pop. Sounding like something I taped off John Peel in 1987.

I can’t concentrate properly on Mathew Sawyer as I’m feeling irked (yes, irked!) by the crowd, especially when a glass smashes directly behind me. It’s just off-putting. I catch Mathew’s plaintive voice telling sorry tales to a plucked, strummed, bowed backing. It sounds like hearts growing heavy with soaked up red wine.

Comet Gain are on top form, i.e. every single member of the band is here and on stage AT THE SAME TIME! Genius. They are here to ‘launch’ their new seven inch, ‘Love Without Lies’ which sounds pretty monstrous tonight, rumbling menacingly. Rachel squeezes her eyes shut to belt out the words, hopping about excitedly. David Feck can’t hear his guitar and so spends most of the ‘launching’ of the new song, looking bemused and fiddling about. C’est la Comet Gain. The band also have a new album coming SOON, ‘Broken Record Prayers’, a delicious mish mash hotch potch of odds and sods: olden songs, Peel session tracks and stuff – so that’s the set we get tonight, with them kicking their garage band-ness to the fore for much of it, sounding cranky and essential. There’s a shrugged off version of ‘You Can Hide Your Love Forever’, but we don’t get new dual ‘a' side the day-dreamy ‘Books of California’ as Feck claims to be unable to hit the high notes he needs to sing the song in public. Jon Slade lurks beneath a monstrous cap, but we can still see enough of his face to make our standard in-joke, ‘Look at Jon Slade’s eyes – he’s fucked!’ He isn’t fucked, but it makes us laugh. Excitingly, there are keyboards added to the ‘Gain sound now, with Anne Laure resplendent in a perky wee hat, rattling away on the ivories/plastics/whatever the keys are made of.

As ever it’s all over too soon, the band having to getoff! just as we’re all feeling good and ensconced in CG’s monochrome kaleidoscope world of clever snotty kids, books and poetry and films and punk and soul and the passion of pop and everything and nothing.

Tuesday 4 November 2008

Who cares if there's a party somewhere. Fave Tunes Sept/Oct 2008

Valli Hi! – Stereolab Sugary sunshine clockwork pop

Come Saturday - The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart Joyful fuzzpop that makes you realise you still know all the words to ‘The New Record By My Bloody Valentine’

Nicknames – Pelle Carlberg Gleefully danceable Swedey pop

Lost At Ty Canol – Wyrdstone Perfect pastoral psych-folk with hints of Camberwick Green. Meltingly lovely.

Landscape Through Trees – Parking Non-Stop Epic, radiant and using a rhythm track formed from a recording of a nautical winch beneath Britannia Bridge – true fact!

Mina Damer Och Fasaner - Dungen Hazey sunspots and camera flare on long blond hair

Senses On Fire – Mercury Rev Heard this on t’radio and was thrilled. So bought the album and it ain’t all that. C’est la ruddy vie, eh?

You’re Too Much - The Eyes Whenever I click on Tapestry Club’s Myspace page this comes on and makes me happy, all freakbeat garage mod crunchiness

Flowers Of Ours – The Asteroid No.4 Swirling sepia-tinted dream-pop psych

Popcorn – Hot Butter Very ridiculous Radiophonic Workshop inspired hit of yesteryear that reminds me of being v. small

Pop Molecule – Stereolab Head-banging Kosmiche. Good title too

The Quarter After / The See See – 12 October 2008, The Apple Tree

The Asteroid no. 4 and the Quarter After are finally back touring the UK – hurrah! We, on the other hand are in an entirely different country. Doh! And so it comes to pass that we miss all of their gigs. There is a ray of hope, however, as Richard of The See See has persuaded The Quarter After to Come Down And Meet The Folks at The Apple Tree on a Sunday afternoon and play a wee set ON THEIR DAY OFF when they are COMPLETELY KNACKERED as they keep pointing out between songs.

We appreciate the effort though, as they spangle out a hefty helping off jangle psych dreaminess. Today, it being the END OF THE TOUR, The Quarter After are rolling out their Byrds-iest moments, relaxing into the space-country rollicking end of their musical spectrum. This means we get a cover of The Buffalo Springfield’s ‘Go And Say Goodbye’ (much appreciated by the Come Down And Meet The Folks check-shirted massive). It also means we get to hear the Campanella brothers’ sunshine harmonies clear as a bell, and lack of (physical) space means paisley ‘n’ suede keyboard scarecrow Christoph forsakes his usual ivory-tickling for pure mandolin madness. The music is unutterably uplifting, West Coast melodies swirling, crystal chords hitting the spot.

Before The Quarter After we get The See See who as far as I can tell never do no wrong, even when they have to crank out tunes whilst being unable to hear themselves play. Hidden in a corner Ben does voodoo drum magic, looking tres old skool (as in like the old blokes down our street in the 1970s who were throw-backs to the 1950s even then) in Bryl-cream ‘n’ vest. Richard, Pete and Kevin wrangle bruised psych-country from their guitars, rampaging and rolling and warming our cockles with their blur of good-time sounds. It’s all about the tunes, right? And The See See done got ‘em.

Glamchops / Shrag / Ted Chippington – 11 October 2008, Buffalo Bar

We are teetering upon the horns of a dilemma. After a hard day’s graft, dealing with ridiculous people, it’s nice to relax by going to see a ridiculous band. But which one? On the one hand there’s The New Royal Family, on t’other there’s a Guided Missile night (ridiculous in and of itself) featuring Glamchops. In the end we ‘plump’ for Glamchops as a) we’ve yet to see them live, b) we prefer the Buffalo Bar to The Fly (where NRF are playing) and c) Shrag are supporting.

Shrag are aces – we discovered this at Indietracks and are keen to experience further aceness. Tonight they show they have a knack for indecently infectious pop tunes, ramshackling their way through a poptastically energetic set of squealingly exhilarating songs. ‘Ghosts Before Breakfast’ has a muscular, Fallish guitar crankiness that makes for jittery danceability, ‘Long Term Monster’ is a rackety rush replete with squiggly noises. The magnifique ‘Talk to the Left’, is interpreted in dance by The Panther Girls, catsuited up and clawing at the crowd. In yer face and fabulously catchy.

Before this popart explosion we get Ted Chippington. I know of Mr Chippington due to John Peel’s penchant for playing his deadpan renderings in the late eighties, and because of ‘The Vindaloo Summer Special’ a record upon which The Nightingales and We’ve Gotta Fuzzbox And We’re Gonna Use it joined Ted in performing the very silly ‘Rockin' With Rita (Head To Toe)’. It seemed brilliant when I bought it (1986). Guided Missile have winkled Ted out from somewhere (Torquay) to open the night with his ‘comedy’. This consists of him talking in non-sequiturs about his neighbours and stuff. He tells anti-jokes with no punch-lines in a weary, irritable manner. People shuffle nervously. It’s a bit scary. Then he grumpily ‘sings’ a couple of songs accompanied by a sort of mini-me John Cooper-Clarke on guitar and a drunk drummer. Odd.

And so to The Glam Chops, an unholy conglomeration of familiar faces reviving the ignoble art of glam rock. On drums it’s Stuffy of …and The Fuses ‘fame’, Tim Purr plays guitar and is the glam-meister of the band, also on guitar there’s David Devant (yes!) in a marvellous glitter catsuit and big hair. Paul Guided Missile himself is on bass. Honking and chirping away on sax and looking like he hasn’t realised it isn’t 1974 Arec is resplendently adorned with a dinner plate, knife and fork painted onto his forehead. Possibly the most familiar Glam Chop (to tha kidz anyway) is Eddie Argos who is leading the whole shebang with his rowdy singing, costume changing and general arsing about in a glam style.

Together, The Glam Chops blast merrily through a heap of songs that are chocka with glammy goodness: bits of Bolan ‘n’ Bowie, Slade and The Sweet and er ‘Spirit In The Sky’. My favourite is the one David Devant sings. Sort of like a crooning Alvin Stardust. But it’s all finger-pointingly, air-punchingly triumphant. Throughout, The Panther Girls boogie and high kick – they’ll have someone’s eye out like that! The final song sees Eddie mingling with the crowd, thanking everyone individually for coming. An appropriately communal ending to this big glittery ball of joyousness. Don’t be glum be glam!

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’.

Saturday 13 September 2008

Come Saturday – The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart (Fortuna Pop!)

This free download from Fortuna Pop! sees The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart being whizzily ebullient and will make you jump around the room in a daze of pop joy in the same way as when The Ramones come on the radio.

‘Ooh ooh ooh’ sing The Pains against a snowstorm of trebly fuzz – just like My Bloody Valentine used to do circa ‘Lovelee Sweet Darlene’. There are lots of little nods here to the Valentines’ fearsome jangle-pop era – cute boy vocals, tumultuously ecstatic drumming a la Colm O’Ciosoig’s heart-burst octopus attacks, a wee melodic quirk that sounds exactly like ‘She Loves You No Less’ and similar lyrical concerns to ‘Another Rainy Saturday’. None of these are bad things obviously. In fact they’re brilliant things.

But the main thing is ‘Come Saturday’ is a sugar rush pop buzz that will leave you fizzing for more. So best look out for the Fortuna Pop! released album coming soon!

We're So Beautiful

This morning I have been compelled (thanks to The Pains of Being Pure At Heart) to listen to some olden My Bloody Valentine Records. And look what I found inside my copy of 'Ecstasy'. An MBV setlist I'd completely forgotten about! The gig was at Norwich Arts Centre on February 3rd 1988 and what a fantabulous set we were treated to! Beginning with the droney fuzzbuzz of 'We're So Beautiful'! All the tracks from the 'Sunny Sundae Smile' twelve inch! 'Lovelee Sweet Darlene'!! ''Strawberry Wine' and 'Clair' one after the other!!! Ooh, we didn't know we were born in them days!

Sunday 7 September 2008

The Jesus and Mary Chain – Town and Country Club, 8 September 1990.

Coo! The Jesus and Mary Chain are playing The Forum in October, just like in olden times! The last time I saw the JAMC play at the Forum/Town and Country and Club (why did it call itself that for a while? The Forum makes much more sense if you check out the décor) it cost £8.50. Which was a lot of money in 1990, you know. You can add about twenty quid to that if you want to go and see them now. Lordy.
During these financially embarrassing times, if you don’t have the spare cash for a gallivant to Kentish Town with the Reid Brothers why not just reminisce with Kitten Painting instead?

The Jesus and Mary Chain – Town and Country Club, 8 September 1990.
Sat in bed all day reading (tsk, students, eh?) and listening to The Boo Radleys and The Pale Saints. Got up at 4 and prepared myself for the Chain, then got the tube swigging a can of Irn Bru ‘cos I’m ‘ard I am. Went to the Falcon for a Guinness and to meet K, then strimbled along to the T&C and saw The Fury Things being pretty cool and ace, tho Andy fab dancer bloke didn’t (dance), the chicken! The Telescopes were not v. amazing and mellow and Steven Lawrie sounded like Wayne Hussey – argh! Then Bobby Gillespie spun discs such as ‘White Lines’, ‘Do It Better’, ‘Thorn’ (yeah Kev!), ‘Fire Engine’ etc til ver Chain’s ‘Penetration’ started up with the flickery ‘Scorpio Rising’ and stuff film a-spinging on the backdrop star, as it does. Then Jimbo and Doug and William (and the other two) came on and did lots of lovelee Chainy pop tunes. Dreamy. And everyone (well, lots) danced and not moshed and it was ace, tho lots of out of tune bits and false starts with Billiam grinning and the Reids having brotherly chats before songs. Lots of fab bits with ‘Sidewalking’ going completely bonkers at the end with just William doing mad guitar feedback wild ‘n’ groovy noises. Yeah! On the way out I saw Bobby G. and asked if he’d seen Plankton anywhere, but he hadn’t and he asked if I enjoyed the concert ‘cos he did. Got a starry JAMC poster too. Sooo fab. I love the JAMC. Yeah!

Set List:
Everything’s Alright When You’re Down
Who Do You Love?
Head On
Halfway To Crazy
Cherry Came Too
Happy When It Rains
9 Million Rainy Days
Silver Black
Just Like Honey
Gimme Hell
On The Wall

Sunday 31 August 2008

Spit your sparkle on someone new. Fave Tunes July/ August 2008

Sparkle Spit – Je Suis Animal Elegant Norwegian spooked-up shivery dreampop

You On The Run - Black Angels Turn vol. to max. Nod head at way this sounds like a shell-shocked version of the Doctor Who theme.

Machines - Lothar and the Hand People Sounded weirdly familiar when heard on Stuart Maconie’s Freakzone (essential Sunday afternoon listening)

You Made Me Realise (live) – My Bloody Valentine Loudness takes on exciting new forms

My Love - Asteroid #4 Drifty pastoraldelia for green days. Can’t wait to get hold of the splendidly-titled album ‘These Flowers of Ours: A Treasury of Witchcraft and Devilry’

The Waves Crash In – Spiritualized
Frolicsome – like Disney bluebirds fluttering in cutesy patterns around your happy face.

While You're Away - Fovea Hex Stillness, solar flare, Clodagh Simonds of Mellow Candle!

SOL ’07 - Wooden Shjips
Sprawling, squalling, scribbly droning

Keep Your Head – The See See Psychedelic Jangle-pop!

Water Curses – Animal Collective Running excitably through meadows, clambering up trees and falling out of them again

Time Will Show The Wiser – Fairport Convention Before they went well folky, Fairport came over all Byrdsy

Use Your Other Head – The Beep Seals
Sunshine melting harmonies. The whole album is perfect summer soundtrack fodder.

Kuad 9873 - Ben Nash Brrr, deeply creepy spooky-psych in album packaging so ace, me and the record shop man had a jolly good discussion about it.

Psychomania Burial Scene Hurrah for BBC 4’s B-movie season which brought this cinematic masterwork to my attention. The hippy/acid-folk biker funeral scene and accompanying soundtrack is the best bit:

Sunday 17 August 2008

Indietracks – Midland Railway Centre, Saturday 26 July 2008

A few weeks ago, there was an amusing article in The Independent on Sunday maligning the industrial quantities of ‘landfill indie’ (Pigeon Detectives, Fratellis, bands I have minus interest in hearing) that are clogging up the musical universe at the moment. There was much lamenting over ‘mortgage indie’; dull, samey guitar bands churning out identical songs to make a fast buck. ‘With such bland uniformity so speedily infecting our nation’s youth, is there any hope left for a flourishing and truly ‘indie’ scene?’ wails the writer, Tim Walker. A HA HA HA! The ‘truly indie scene’ is right here at Indietracks hidden away in the middle of Derbyshire, having the time of its life, ignoring the irrelevance of the mainstream, ducking commodification, doing things its own way, getting on with stuff just like its always done. There are nigh on a thousand people here and nothing that even approaches being landfill indie. We are the popkids, we are the winners!

Fuelled by midget gems, the Sounds XP-mobile (in which we have cadged a lift) gets us to Utterly Butterly station just in time to catch the Steaming Train (a real-life olden tymes steam-train sporting yay! an ‘Indietracks’ name-plate) to Anorak City (the Midland Railway Centre at Swanwick). A Man From The Railway ambles through the carriage, telling us, ‘There’s going to be a nice bit o’ indie music in the guards van now’, and eager for the pop fun to commence we hurry along, meeting all kinds of friends en route to hear Marjit Vinjerui’s delicate woodland glade voice. This turns out to be a harbinger for the weekend, it’s impossible to go more than a few steps without running into one’s pop-chums. Truck Festival was top fun and laidback and all village fete-y, but Indietracks is POPFUN to the power of infinity, the happiest, friendliest event ever, ever, ever.

It’s also the hottest event ever. The sun beats down mercilessly, and when it does deign to go a bit cloudy, the humidity just gets ratcheted up. What a sweat-fest. At times my brain melts, songs and performance oozing from my memory like runny brie. This is what I remember:

The Main Stage is in a large metal engine shed – it’s boiling in there, but it’s boiling everywhere. Also in the boiling metal shed: the merch stall laden with a splendid array of fanzines and fliers and records and loveable wee felt badges; the bar laden with an eye-spinning selection of real ales and (not very) fine wines. On the stage are The Kick Inside who, despite the greenhouse atmosphere, are gamely throwing themselves into a set of firey jangle-heavy songs, wearing their eighties indie-pop hearts on their sleeves. The guitar sound rattles along in a manner reminiscent of The Railway Children driven by fidgety rhythms as singer Sean shimmies round the stage, throwing in a few Morrissey-moves. It’s impressive stuff so early in the day.

The Outdoor Stage is the back of a truck (now where’ve we seen that before?) and it contains Slow Down Tallahassee. I’d been looking forward to this lot, but it’s too hot to concentrate on their honeyed girl harmonies singing sassily deranged pop. Plus there’s gossiping to be done.

Back on the Main Stage Shrag are battling against heat exhaustion and winning Everyone is impressed by the drummer who fights on gamely, managing not to faint until after the set. This is a good thing as Shrag are fab; agitated pop-songs like Comet Gain in a blender, jittery tunes, squealy vocals, squiggly keyboard implosions, scribbled guitar. They judder about, playing the hilarious, filthy, girl puts boy in place, ‘Talk ToThe Left’. And they have a song called ‘Mark E. Smith’.

We take a train ride, braving the furnace that is the guard’s van to listen to Colin Clary of The Smittens knocking out lovable acoustic pop. We disembark at Butterly, but Colin plays happily on and on. And on, trundling back and forth keeping the troops entertained for ages. He is the cheeriest man on earth.

On the Outdoor Stage, Liechtenstein do shimmery Swedey pop laden with girl-harmonies entertainingly enough, but we’re hot and bothered. Seeking shady sanctuary in the tea tent, we find a haven of comfy cushions, mugs of peppermint tea and peanut butter cookies, and the only place on site with an even vaguely civilised temperature. At times the tea tent hosts impromptu acoustic performances and, later, loopy disco-dancing, but we miss those bits.

Back outside, we sit in the afternoon sun enjoying the loon-eyed mariachi sugar-psych pop of Red Pony Clock. There are loads of them (eight) up there, parading a motley array of instruments; clarinet, accordion, trumpet, glockenspiel. They’re how I’d imagine a school band in Napoleon Dynamite’s neighbourhood to be – geekily fab. They do crazed fiesta songs with funky bass lines and runaway tempos, their Mexican roots tangled inextricably around their sunshine pop sensibilities, it’s all a bit head-mangling. Do Red Pony Clock really exist? Maybe I have sunstroke.

I manage to edge my way into the slowly increasing slice of shade in front of the stage for The Kabeedies and find myself thoroughly enjoying their itchy, multi-harmonied, gonky-dance-encouraging tunes, including one that extols the yoghurty wonders of ‘Petit Filous’. Even with a broken guitar string that means they can’t play certain songs they are top toe-tapping FUN! As is watching The Bobby McGees enthusiastically cutting a rug at the front.

I'm looking forward to seeing Comet Gain, but as we hurry along to the Main Stage, we hear whispers that David Feck isn’t here. Nor are any other members of the band, apart from Jon Slade. Instead, Not Comet Gain featuring some Shrags and a Liechtenstein accompany Mr Slade for a ramshackle attack on the C.G. back-catalogue. This bizarre non-performance rapidly gathers its own mythology. Sean Fortuna Pop tells me glinty-eyed that they played the best version of ‘You Can Hide your Love Forever’ he’s ever seen, an eight minute long dronerock version no less, featuring Just Some Bloke Out Of The Audience (a Liechtenstein associate) on vocals. Jokes about the performance abound, e.g. the merch stall selling a Comet Gain disc with the enticing label ‘Features members of Comet Gain’. And the excellent “If I wanted to see a bunch of people who couldn't play Comet Gain songs I would have gone and seen Comet Gain”. Aha ha ha!

We miss all this fun as we’ve nicked off to watch The Lodger jangle jangle JANGLE their way through a short, sweet set. Recent single ‘The Good Old Days’ sees an outbreak of dancing at the front, folks riding high on the Orange Juice grooviness and JANGLING guitars. And then we get actual Orange Juice with a cover of ‘I Can’t Help Myself’. Verily our jangle-pop cups runneth over.

Last act on the Outdoor Stage is Russian band Punk TV who send great swirls of effects-laden guitar into the sun-struck evening. They sound like early nineties indie-dance, when shoegaze met baggy (or possibly vice versa). One of the band even has the requisite stripy top. The sun starts to set and two hot air balloons drift by. One of them, decorated to look like a giant ladybird, alights in a nearby field and slowly, gracefully deflates. Insert some kind of metaphor here if you want.

The Wedding Present obviously attract a large crowd of moshing ‘older gentlemen’, some of whom appear to have brought their tiny children with them, jiggling the long-suffering kids about on their shoulders/in prams etc. I last saw The Wedding Present in 1987. The last album I bought by them was ‘George Best’. Er, that was their debut wasn’t it? So I’m not that au fait with David Gedge’s mighty back catalogue. I stand near the back listening to the songs rumble in one after the other, like waves – they all seem the same, though logically you know each one must be a bit different. It’s just a sludge of guitar-based meat and potatoes songs – I’m missing the subtle nuances, I’m afraid. After what seems like an eternity, we retire to a grassy knoll for a bit of a sit down. This means I miss hearing one I know, ‘You Should Always Keep In Touch With Your Friends’. Or maybe I don’t, it’s hard to tell.

Saturday 16 August 2008

Indietracks – Midland Railway Centre, Sunday 27 July 2008

Hurrah the sun’s gone away! We mooch around the engine sheds peering at engines in various states of disrepair until it’s all aboard the steam train for the first set of the day from a vaguely hungover Pete Dale of Milky Wimpshake. Starting appropriately with a sweet sleepy version of ‘Sunday Morning’, Mr Dale serenades us with a selection of protest-folk songs, endearing love/lust songs and a couple of covers (Daniel Johnston’s ‘Speeding Motorcycle’, Billy Childish’s ‘Cowboys Are Square’). Also, he has a fab Bangs t-shirt on. As the train races and the guitar strums, it all feels quite exhilarating. There are rock ‘n’ roll thrills ‘n’ spills as Pete stands on a chair! and wobbles precariously!! when the train starts to move. Pete forgets the words to an olde Milky Wimpshake song and the tune grinds to a halt, but serendipitously, we’re back at Swanwick station and our morning jaunt is over.

It’s Sunday, so obviously we head for church. A Victorian, railway-workers church, of course. Later in the day, this church (built of tin, lined with wood-panelling, crammed with eager popkids) will officially become the sweatiest building in Britain, but for now, it’s a relief to sit in its shady environs, as the pesky sun has returned. We’re here to see The Middle Ones, two girls in vintage dresses and full of giggles, joined today by ‘The Sunday Best Orchestra’, three boys playing an oddment of instruments who have been forced to wear ties (it is a Sunday!) by the girls. Their set is utterly charming, like a school music project that’s had endless hours of care lavished upon it. You can’t help but let your heart be melted by the girls’ harmonies and their delicate, personal folk-tinged pop songs. Not to mention the TWO accordions, shaky eggs, endless smiles and intriguing lyrics. It’s all very Indietracks. At the end, everyone rushes up to buy their record. We are all converts. Hallelujah!

My brain keeps insisting on calling A Classic Education, ‘A Catholic Education’ because my brain is a Teenage Fanclub fan. After today’s set, both my brain and I are A Classic Education fans. The band enter the church by processing down the aisle from the front door to the stage, and then burst into a thoroughly thrilling set. They are from Bologna, so you’d think they’d be able to handle wearing matching shirt and waistcoat combos in this heat, but even they are reduced to dripping sweat-heaps by the end, such are the sauna-like conditions that are now starting to build up here in God’s house. We perch on the front pews, stomping our feet excitably. This is fab! Mercury Rev-tinged open-hearted, baroque pop, layered up with racing guitars, ecstatic violin and suitably ecclesiastical organ. The band fizz with energy, buzzing around the stage, rebounding cheerfully from one another. The bass player NEVER stops grinning his head off. By the end, we can’t stop grinning either.

Zoey Van Goey are from Glasgow, but they’re not Glaswegians. They play folky pop with handclaps and scampery drums and strummed guitars and sweet girl/boy vocals that sing things like ‘Do you remember how we met? Paying off our student debts. We had no other plans. So we taught English in Japan’. In front of me two girls are waving Thomas the Tank Engine flags emblazoned with the words, ‘Full Steam Ahead’. I get distracted by the view out the church window – a gymkhana on a hill in the distance, and what appears to be a train driver punching the air in triumph as his steam train rolls into Swanwick once again. Maybe it’s just this spiked Tango I’m drinking?

Outside for some ‘fresh’ air and a brief burst of The Smittens who are on the Outdoor Stage playing their sha la la filled American take on cute-pop. We go and eat chips in the café and watch A Catholic Education perusing the stodgy British fare on offer - none of yer antipasti here pal.

Silver-tongued Scotsmen The Starlets have just arrived with not even the chance of a whisky snifter before they regale us with tales of drinking in underpasses, jakies and Partick Thistle. These somewhat grim subjects are wrapped in downily luxuriant pop filled with violin and cornet and lead by singer Biff’s whispery Scots soulboy voice. It’s been about five years since we last saw The Starlets, but there are some familiar songs in the set - ‘Rocking In A Shy Way’, ‘Novocaine’ – glowing with melancholy sweetness. The Starlets also provide the best onstage banter of the weekend. As Biff is telling us how going to church and playing football were irritatingly linked when he was young (you had to do one before you could do the other), a dog barks briefly. Bizarrely, when Biff asks if we all heard it (we did) the crowd deny all knowledge of dogs. Biff reminisces about how a Jack Russell would sometimes run onto the pitch during matches and how it doesn’t seem to happen now, and how a few bands could be improved by the addition of a rogue dog. A few songs later the barking starts up again and there’s no ignoring it – it’s Darren Hayman’s dog having a sing-along.

We wander about catching odds and ends of sets. The Deirdres’ spazzy, sixth-form band craziness that excites Jesus-freak levels of fan-worship and demented indie spammo dancing; Esiotrot’s Herman Dune-esque outsider folk-pop; Milky Wimpshake’s simple-hearted punkety-pop odes to love; swilling half a pint of pink wine on ice whilst listening to a Manhattan Love Suicide declare his love for Yazoo…

Je Suis Animal are Scandinavian woodland creatures floating in a candyfloss cloud of sparkling dreampop. And if that sounds a bit too cute, then they’re also slightly macabre, with odd, spooky folk-tale lyrics. And on top of that they’re blasting out a great big wall of guitar noise. The wood-lined interior of the church, the sinking sun illuminating its windows, is the perfect setting for them. Through the furze of dry ice and flickery lights, they seem rather other-worldly. The songs mix Lush at their most incandescent, with the dippily playful slip-sliding melodies that underpin My Bloody Valentine, with cute Shop Assistant-isms (jangly bits, sweet girl voices), and hello, here’s a hint of Stereolab. All this adds up to spiralling shoe-gaze loveliness – the kind that experiments with textures and sounds to heart-bursting effect. By the end it feels like the church has been levitated into a different fairytale dimension and it’s somewhat disconcerting to wander dazed out the door to find the Railway Centre still there. I’d expected an enchanted forest at the very least.

Tonight’s ‘big’ headliners are Los Campesinos!, indie warriors with all the right references: Amelia Fletcher, Calvin Johnson, cherryade, mix-tapes, ATP. Singer Gareth does a little speech about how headlining here, in the heart of the proper indie nation, means a lot to him - and he seems to mean it. When the band start to play it’s like you’ve just smashed open the biggest piñata in the world. Sweeties and toys and brightly coloured fizz-bang stuff raining down on your whirlwind head. There’s glockenspiel and violin, girl/boy vocals and ferocious guitar scrabbling, scritchy-scratchy tunes with lure-you-in-then-sprint-away-from-you rhythms. The hyper-energetic Los Campesinos! live experience is like cramming your face full of confectionary, then cramming in a bit more. Head-popping sugar-rush overload. Lots of fun. Exhausting. Half-way through, we creep out. The band’s ‘big hit’, ‘You, Me, Dancing’, jumps out into the night after us fizzing in the cooling air as we head back to the Sounds XP-mobile. A reminder that, thanks to the likes of Indietracks, you can’t stop the indie-pop.