Sunday 20 September 2009

The Smittens / Just Joans split and Secret Charisma mini musical (WeePOP!)

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:

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.

No comments: