Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Box Bedroom Rebels

There's a new label to watch. Manchester's Box Bedroom Rebels release acts on vinyl "because that's where they belong". There are two 7"s so far, each featuring 5 tracks, punching as much pop as possible in the grooves at 33rpm with not an ounce of fat.

First up is Water World from Manchester who think, correctly, that the post-rock ethic was neat and all but wouldn't it sound great with some tunes. And it does. 5 times over.

Then there's The Faded Tapes, archive recordings by 17-year-old Dane Chadwick before he left home and drummed for Abe Vigoda. It balances sky-high psychedelia with the tension of the American underground and it reminds me of Built To Spill. And that's a very good thing.

There's a third 7" coming next month and dear god this sounds good. Fans of Beach Fossils will have a new favourite band once they hear Tape Waves.

All Box Bedroom Rebels releases are in runs of just 100 and all come packaged lovingly with extras. Look:

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Clearance: Dixie Motel Two-Step

Clearance have trapped an essence of US college rock – the strident, charismatic, poetically noisy one that starred Pavement, Buffalo Tom, Dinosaur Jr and Archers of Loaf – and pencilled the outlines with thicker tunes.

The phrasing is straight out of Malkmus’ copybook and the guitar’s languid whip nods to J Mascis, but this is no pastiche. Like the best bands – and just from their first four songs, you know Clearance have got something special, an essence of their own – they add their own magic potion to the mix.

They’ve self-released a 7” ep, Dixie Motel Two-Step. Do yourself a favour and buy it.

Friday, 3 May 2013

The songs of Grant McLennan

I’m going to pretend I live in a world where Grant McLennan isn’t famous and try to describe his songs to you.

Grant McLennan wrote pop songs like Going Blind and Easy Come Easy Go that, if you were to hear them on daytime radio, would sound right next to I Want To Hold Your Hand and 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover and Morning Train (Nine to Five).

You’d hear them on the radio as you got ready for work or when you were driving to escape the city. They would never sound old. If you didn't hear his pop songs for a few months, the next time you did they’d sound as fresh and bright and jubilant as church bells ringing on Liberation Day.

If I had to describe to you what people mean when they write about love, I’d point you to side 2 of Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express. In particular, I’d play you the songs that bookend that peerless run of songs: In The Core Of A Flame and Apology Accepted.

You’d start by feeling the rush of lust and desire that is passion’s full fire: “If the devil had seen your dress/He would've changed his name/Put down his fork and moved up above/Why burn in hell when you burn for love?” And then you’d learn what love really means by measuring the weight of its loss in Apology Accepted. Better songs may have been written, but when I'm listening to the uncompromising emotion of Apology Accepted I can’t call any of them to mind.

And if someone ever told me that they understood all of mankind’s ways, that they had decoded human intelligence and knew the limits of our ingenuity, then I would sit them in St Paul’s Cathedral in London and play them Cattle and Cane.

I live in a world where Grant McLennan is dead but his songs are alive. Three of my friends are playing his songs live on Sunday. We will be reminded, again, what fantastic songs they are and hear them anew.

Before then, let's listen to Easy Come Easy Go from the Botany sessions, recorded in Grant's home, October 1989.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Souvenir Stand

Now this is good. Good like Barry and Greenwich, good like Gainsbourg's breathy noir, good like The Beach Boys when they sing about girls and cars and hanging out, and good like any number of those tear-stained 60s girl group smashes (melancholy, melodrama and melody in under three minutes; I'm thinking right now of It Hurts To Be Sixteen by Barbara Chandler - pick your own, I bet it'll slug you in the guts just the same).

Souvenir Stand, or Stephanie Cupo from New Jersey, is musical soulmates with Gigi's Maintenant (still the go-to record for contemporary string-swept, rain-soaked heartache), and The School's lipgloss-pop.

If Stuart Murdoch's soundtrack for God Help The Girl had featured songs this good, I'd have donated. Because Souvenir Stand sound like a million bucks.