Saturday, 14 October 2017

Early Riser - Currents

The cello is a much underused instrument in pop music. Welcome, then, Early Riser whose mixture of folk-punk and chamber pop features a lot of cello.

Currents is an album that strongly suggests that at a young age Early Riser found REM through Green and Out Of Time - frantic melodies, desperate romanticism and just the right side of goofiness - and then worked back to the Violent Femmes. There's some Suzanne Vega in here as well.

If you relate to acute awkwardness, magnified melodrama and hating your exes, or at least like hearing about those things set to battered guitars and, yes, cello, Currents is for you.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Weed Hounds - Double Life

The American shoegaze revival spluttered to a halt a couple of years ago. Of course, the genre might be called something else now, but I can't find the tunes however hard I look.

Hang out the bunting, then, because Weed Hounds are back after a 3-year break from their debut album. That album didn't kick up the fuss its blissful noise should have done, but it'll be rediscovered by enough people that it's eventually known, rightly, as a classic.

Double Life is more immediate - crashing riffs and gigantic tunes you can hear right away even with the fuzz turned up to 11. It's a mystery why commercial radio has yet to playlist this. Radio directors who want to find out what Alvvays fans are listening to in their bedrooms, and anyone else who loves noisy pop, head this way:

Sunday, 8 October 2017

It's The Mick Trouble EP

Jed Smith, an American musical mimic, has taken on a subject far too obscure for Weird Al Yankovic. This is a quite good impersonation of early Television Personalities, but it's very silly.

This prank record's official line is that Mick Trouble disappeared in the early 1980s, just before he was going to give pub rock's new wave kings Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello a run for their money.

Which is barely credible because this is nothing more than a Television Personalities pastiche. Smith's west London accent is pretty good, but would only fool anyone who thinks Dick Van Dyke's London accent wasn't all that bad.

The lyrics are untroubled by subtlety - take "snotrag in the loo" from a song called "Shut Your Bleeding Gob You Git". I ask you. Mainstream television comics likely did this kind of skit at the time. See Kenny Everett for reference.

The attention to detail is very good - from the trebly punk jangle to the spoken pay-off line at the end of "Shut Your Bleeding Gob You Git", which doffs its (railway driver's) cap to Where's Bill Grundy Now?

But if you really want a song that sends up London's punk scene in the late 70s, look no further than Part-Time Punks by the Television Personalities.

And if you really want a contemporary band that's very influenced by the Television Personalities, head straight to the Real Numbers, whose Wordless Wonder album last year is the real deal. It adds something to the original with its own wit and style. Panache, not pastiche, works.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Mope Grooves - Joy

"The day after we finished Joy (Sept 25 2k16), I checked myself in to the loony bin...I hadn't been to the farm since I was 18 (I'm 27) and I was surprised to learn that I am in fact still mental."
Stevie Pohlman, Mope Grooves

There's been a succession of musical microgenres in the past decade, chillwave and its loose variants, where artists act out their childhoods, or even nostalgia for halcyon days that predate their own birth, using dream-like sounds, cheap electronic instruments and basic melodic impulses.

Which is where Joy by Mope Grooves fits in, but mostly doesn't. Not just because of the flakiness of those microgenres' boundaries - go back 25 years and you'll find bands with a stack of Beach Boys albums and thrift store fx pedals doing similar things - but because the songs on Joy aren't meant to fit in.

These vignettes - most clock in between 1 and 2 minutes - are intense recreations of someone's inner life. Like Guided By Voices, Mope Grooves try to distil The White Album into pure pop songs. Like The Pastels - a while ago now, you understand - they stumble as if that was the best way to get somewhere. And like Television Personalities, it really is the sound of a nervous breakdown.

Even so, I reckon Stevie Pohlman is mostly a fan of Todd Rundgren and all of the tunes on Rhino's DIY: Come Out And Play - American Power Pop compilation rather than any old indie or microgenre stuff.

If these songs are ever nostalgic, it's only because, as a character in Woody Allen's Midnight In Paris says, it's "the romantic imagination of those people who find it difficult to cope with the present”. The album finishes with Flip The Record. You can take it as an instruction, but you'll most likely do just that unbidden.

The sleevenotes are genius, too:
"What do LPs do? Most bands agree they are important, more than the tape or youtube video, but nobody can really justify how expensive and inefficient they are. Nobody asked us to spend 1.5k to wait 4 months to release a record we mastered in November but we did it anyway."

Yes, you could listen to it on YouTube, but you really should buy it. It's a mere $7:

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Television Personalities - Beautiful Despair

In 1988 Television Personalities recorded Privilege. The backing tapes sat in a cupboard for 2 years gathering mould before they were cleaned up for release in 1990. It was their first album since 1984's The Painted Word and their first new material since 1986's How I Learned To Love The Bomb.

Dan Treacy told Melody Maker in March 1990 that he already had the next 2 TVPs albums written. 1992's double album Closer To God took care of that.

Most of the songs on Beautiful Despair are demos of Closer To God songs. Others are early versions of b-sides released later, with the added bonus of a vocal on the previously instrumental I Get Frightened Too.

Calling Beautiful Despair a "lost album" is exaggerating the situation just a little even if there are newly mined gems like the title track. Beautiful Despair is psychedelic angst through a budget synthesiser and can rub shoulders with the very best TVPs, but the pickings on this album are slim.

Beautiful Despair is for diehard fans only. Those fans who can join the dots between the album's other 'new' song, If You Fly Too High, based on a gig the TVPs played with the Lemonheads in 1989, and 1995's Evan Doesn't Ring Me Anymore.

The pricing is a little optimistic. It's £25 for a "Rough Trade exclusive" (coloured vinyl). Seeing how the TVPs reissues did on Record Store Day (not brilliantly) this album won't find new fans. It's charming enough to please current fans, like me - even if my pleasure is dimmed by the acknowledgement that there aren't any true quality TVPs recordings hiding in the vaults.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

The Surfing Magazines interview

The Surfing Magazines album is really very good. They say they like Bob Dylan and Neil Young. I think they've got some Creedence Clearwater Revival about them. We're both right.

And they've got a song, Goose Feather Bed, which uses the Bo Diddley beat. So there are questions. Seven questions, really. Dave Tattersall answered them.

What made you you think, "Man, the Wave Pictures are amazing, but if we got rid of Jonny and had half of Slow Club (Charles Watson) it would put it over the top"?

It can be difficult dealing with Jonny's moods day to day. Like many a great artist before him Jonny can be hard work. Those of you who have seen the Jackson Pollock movie with Ed Harris will know what I mean. For the sake of our mental health, Franic and I decided to take a short break from the fiery furnace of life with an unpredictable northern genius. Unfortunately it has transpired that Dom, who is drumming for The Surfing Magazines, is even more difficult to deal with than Jonny. We have replaced Jackson Pollock with a sort of hybrid of Mariah Carey and Idi Amin. And don't get me started on Charles Watson, who is so unpredictably northern that touring with him is like finding yourself in an episode of Last of the Summer Wine.      

I enjoyed your gig at All You Read Is Love recently. You play quite a few covers. There's Neil Young's Like A Hurricane...sorry, the American Pale Ale was very refreshing. What covers did you play?

Yes, we did Like A Hurricane. We did Vampire Blues, also by Neil Young. And You Ain't Goin' Nowhere by Bob Dylan. And Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms, which is a bluegrass song that all the country boys used to do, I think Bill Monroe did it and Buck Owens did it... they all did it. And on the tour we have also covered The Man In Me, which is also by Bob Dylan. Mainly we like to cover Bob Dylan and Neil Young. We might throw in a Velvet Underground cover at some point. And Charles has floated the idea of us covering Albatross by Fleetwood Mac, which would be relaxing. 

You're named after The Go-Betweens song, but don't cover it. Any plans to?


Only one of The Beach Boys surfed. Which one of The Surfing Magazines reads surfing magazines?

None of us. Dom likes to read Viz, or at least look at the pictures. I'm partial to Classic Rock magazine myself. Franic likes Classic Trains magazine, your go-to read if you enjoy celebrating, as Franic does, the 'golden years of railroading' including the North American railroad scene from the late 1920s to the late 1970s. Charles is a Grazia man. 

Do you really think Bo Diddley eats pickled onion Monster Munch? I'm pretty sure that happened, but the American Pale Ale may have interfered with my memory.

If I had to guess, I'd say that Bo would have been a Roast Beef man.

Have you ever been somewhere so cold that your eyelashes froze?

I have not. I've never understood why anyone would go somewhere that cold. These so-called ''survival experts'' are really survival morons. A real expert would stay indoors.

Why do you keep calling me Big Dog?

It is your name.

I think that's quite enough hard-hitting investigative journalism for one day, don't you? So let's relax and enjoy New Day by The Surfing Magazines.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Hand Habits - Yr Heart

A proper music scribe would encourage you to listen to this (very good) song and persuade you, correctly, that you needed to buy it using the following terms: "formerly Kevin Morby's guitarist", "following her excellent, enigmatic album on Woodsist earlier this year" and "warmly intimate".

Some cub reviewer with enthusiasm undimmed by the prospect of a life reproducing press releases as content may well have done just that. I didn't check, to be honest with you. This blog's research budget goes entirely on import vinyl - like this terrific single.

"They call it understanding, they call it vulnerability," Meg Duffy decides on this campfire mopefest. I love it, and you will too if you love the gently psychedelic folk records by Woods and Real Estate. You'll really love it if you're also a fan of Belle Adair and the first Avi Buffalo album.