Monday, 9 March 2015

Clare Grogan interview

This is from the excellent Big Muff fanzine, 1990. Clare Grogan is touring with her band Universal Love School. They don't have a record deal; they'd recorded an album for London which was shelved.

What is credibility? Who can afford it? I think it's silly not to try to get across to as many people as possible. It's just snobbishness not to.

If you write anything bad about me I'll cry. That's guaranteed. It's up to you.

Saturday, 7 March 2015


1996 was one of those very rare years when both the best (ok, my favourite) album and single came from different debutants: Tigermilk by Belle and Sebastian, and Accidentals by Broadcast. I fell out of love with both bands by 2000, for very different reasons. No amount of Belle and Sebastian re-evaluation will persuade me to reconsider their later efforts; I was, however, completely wrong about Broadcast.

I moved back to London in 1996. I made some new friends, all of whom I told about Broadcast. They all saw Broadcast live. And again, and again. Their electronic hypnosis was addictive. At a time when everyone else seemed convinced that the future was Bowie or Beatles songs reheated by boys who learnt everything they knew from compilation CDs bought at a petrol station, Broadcast showed the way forward by building on a bright future suggested by the 1960s avant-garde that had hitherto largely been ignored.

With just 3 more singles in 3 years, much of my devotion and admiration came from seeing Broadcast live. But this admiration cooled when in early 2000 I heard The Noise Made By People.

I thought they were stuck in a rut made from listening to only the United States of America and Joe Byrd and the Field Hippies. More accurately, my repertoire of reference points was much narrower than their breadth of vision. I had no knowledge of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop or the esoteric wonder of Eastern European electronic music.

I'm not much more knowledgeable now, but I'm less likely to rush to judgement, and my scope is broader than just wanting big, immediate, pop hooks. Broadcast's music is informed by curiosity and enriched by imagination. I bet they bought records just because they looked interesting and made records just because they'd interest people who were as curious and welcome to new, adventurous and uncompromising sounds as they were.

If you want morals, there are two lessons here:

1. Don't write bands off that you love if you don't immediately get what they do next. You loved them because they're wiser and cooler than you'll ever be. They're probably right.

2. Even if, try as you might, you don't like an album by a band you once loved, it doesn't mean their next one won't be brilliant. Case in point: The Soundcarriers.

3. Leave it too long and you'll have to spend a fortune buying the records, or wait until they get reissued.

4. Learn to count (as well as listen).

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Tufthunter: Deep Hits

Peter Momtchiloff - Monty to his friends; Hot Licks Monch to readers of Guitar Hero magazine - has created 16 brilliant songs ranging from snappy girl group pop (The Wrong Girls) to saloon bar country (Goodbye) to urgent mod stylings (Lit Up).

This ensemble piece features singers including Jeffrey Underhill, Lois Maffeo, Bid and Pam Berry. Hot Licks Monch Monty kindly answers my burning questions about Tufthunter.

Is this your Wasps' Nests?
Yes. Except Claudia did Wasps' Nests as a ploy to alert the world to the genius of Stephin's songwriting, and I have no such aspirations.

You've shown Stuart Murdoch what God Help The Girl could have been. When's the film coming out?
I haven't kept close tabs on SM's activities in recent years. I suspect I might like some of the songs, but I find the artwork quite off-putting.

OK, when's the album coming out? It's unthinkable that the world's finest record labels haven't already opened their cheque books for a bidding war.
The album isn't going to be sold. Anyone can download it for me, and I will give a CD to anyone I know who wants one.

Your 30-year rock career has given you quite the contacts book. Anyone decline your overtures (or anyone you'd wish you could have got)?
No one said no. I thought of asking Debsey but didn't have the nerve. I might do some more if I can come up with suitable songs. I have talked to Calvin Johnson, Delia Sparrow, and David Feck about participating, and I can think of more people I'd like to ask. I have been acquainted with some other people who are moderately famous, but I don't want it to look as though I'm trying to revive old acquaintances just to benefit from the association. So I think I'll restrict it to friends who I keep up with.

We want a gig and we want one quite soon. Any plans?
I think it might be too much hassle to arrange, sorry!

"Four eyes, that's what they're calling me," Low Life opines. Is this autobiographical, four eyes?
That is the only song which I have done before with another band. We did a somewhat different version with the Speed of Sound (never recorded). All four of us sang, and Kev, James, and I were all bespectacled.

There's no fat on these lean, immediate, striking songs. Punk's not dead, right?
Thanks! I'm not really aware of songwriting influences, apart from the Beatles and the Kinks as always. Probably Jessica and Bid and other people I've worked with too.

I have tried to make sure the the words are good. The standard of lyric-writing in indie/alternative music is shockingly bad in my view. (I don't really know if it's any better in mainstream music.)

Sounds like Jessica Griffin is Louise d'Outremer. Did Francoise Hardy not return your calls? She doesn't return mine, if that makes you feel better.
I'm afraid I'm not allowed to say anything about Louise for legal reasons.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Even As We Speak: an Australian pop band

We got together in Sydney in 1986 with the vague intention of starting a cow-punk band...We released a four track 7 inch record which was a punk thing t do, although we weren't sure that we qualified as punks.

Even As We Speak family tree, 1987:

Insert to second single, I Won't Have To Think About You: "EAWS have recorded another single, a double a side of Blue Suburban Skies and Bizarre Love Triangle. This single will be available soon but not under the name Even As We Speak. So keep your ears open for the new single and the new name.

Even As We Speak don't change their name:

They look like this in 1987:

John Peel plays Goes So Slow at least 3 times in late 1989. Another Sunny Day's You Should All Be Murdered gets played on the same show one night. Reader, I thought they were both better than Snuff and Mudhoney. This single is on Phantom so is on coloured vinyl. That's what Phantom did. See also: The Hummingbirds

A year later, Sarah reissue the Blue Suburban Skies and Goes So Slow singles on one 7". In the meantime, there's one last, amazing, record for Phantom:

Even As We Speak move to the UK. They record 3 Peel sessions and one other BBC Radio One session. They play some brilliant gigs. Really, they were so much better live than most of their peers.

They have enough of a penurious life on the road, overcrowded vans, bad food and dirty floors in student houses. They go back to Australia at the end of 1993. There's a sort-of comeback single in 2000:

There's a reunion gig in Sydney in 2012. My bank manager laughs at the suggestion I attend. I plead my case strongly. I'm escorted from the premises. What a band.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Home Cinema by Emma Kupa

Home Cinema is closest to Standard Fare out of all of Emma Kupa's projects since that band ended. It picks up where Standard Fare's swansong album Out Of Sight, Out Of Town's increasingly autobiographical lyrics left off and digs deeper.

This is a record that's realised life gets harder as you get older and tries to work out how that happened. It's an intensely vulnerable - brave, even - exploration of family, failure and love that can be heartbreakingly desperate and pleading ("no amount of hoping will bring you back").

It can also be especially poignant: the Be My Baby drumbeat is prolonged for extra atmos on the uncompromisingly tender Katie NYC. The countrified swing - yes, that is a banjo solo - and backwoods swagger is most pronounced on Half Sister, which crowns this collection of poetry, alt-country, bleakness and subtly powerful songs. Yeah, file Home Cinema next to the Silver Jews.

There's a launch gig on 19 March. You should come if you're anywhere near London. And you should buy Home Cinema wherever you live.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Milton Wright: original Friends and Buddies

Friends and Buddies is one of those albums every 70s soul fan has; if the original folk-funk version had been released in 1975 then you suspect it would be one of those albums most music fans either knew or had.

As Milton - now a retired judge in Boston - says: "If I had stuck with the first version of the album I might have been more successful." The issue of the first version is lot more Terry Callier than Stevie Wonder; stripped of keyboards its subtlety makes it more powerful and direct.

The release of original Friends and Buddies most likely won't put Milton Wright in the hall of fame, but if I were president then I'd announce a national holiday in celebration.

My music is the product of my Miami experience; the Caribbean and Latino influence; my midwestern sojourn; the Boston grooming and Gospel roots.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Foam On The Daydream: Chloe's Lung

Because you want to hear The Cure in 1981 swap the goth undertone for krautrock propulsion.

Because it's Bentley and Dee from Help Stamp Out Loneliness, the 2 essential members from one of the best, and regrettably short-lived, bands of the last 5 years.

You'd remember HSOL if you saw them. You wouldn't forget them. Dee was the singer who sang with Nico's cool detachment and a snarl that called to mind Danny Baker's bon mot about Johnny Rotten looking like he's seen more sex than a policeman's torch. Bentley was the main songwriter and guitarist who despite preparing for a gig by drinking relentlessly for at least 10 hours, hit every note and sweet spot. God, I miss them.

If this were a new HSOL song and you didn't like it, I'd have you removed from the building and taken care of by security. Even so, this side dish from 2 of HSOL is better than the main courses served by many bands. You'll love it.