Sunday, 16 September 2018

Frokedal - How We Made It

Frokedal’s David is the greatest psych-pop epic since Avi Buffalo’s What’s In It For? I reckon there’s something of Judy Collins’ Both Sides Now in it, one of those songs which to know it is to love it.

David alone could carry this whole album or justify buying it, but there’s loads more to enjoy. Misery loves company and all that.

The title track comes close to David - try this for an opening: “Lock the door because I keep falling/There’s vomit in my face and my hair." Then there’s the beat girl banger I Don’t Care - a domestic tragedy in 3 minutes of escalating bitterness - which wouldn’t be out of place in the Billie Davis back catalogue.

Frokedal’s central sound, though, is Nico’s avant-garde icy folk. Any one of Stranger, Believe, Hybel and (especially) Paper Tiger recall Chelsea Girl’s rich desolation and romantic solitude.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

JJ Ulius - Tänder Ett Ljus

In which JJ takes a break from cutting 2-minute punk songs with Skiftande Enheter and decides that offbeat Teardrop Explodes psychedelic punk with seasick organ, skittish guitars and the brutal intensity of Buzzcocks' Love Bites is the way to go.

And still he does all that in just 2 minutes. The b-side isn’t streaming yet, but on the basis of this unholy hymn to the past mastery of Saint Julian, I had to buy the 7” right away.

Monday, 10 September 2018

Owls of Now - Episode Four

They say they’re “Glasgow-London based post-punk nerds” but it’s really Glasgow that’s stamped on this: Delgados melodic stabbing, Mogwai bristling mania and Secret Goldfish fizz. Next to musical and city contemporaries Hairband they’re putting the funk back into punk with sweet propulsion.

Oh yeah, it’s difficult to imagine they haven’t heard The Long Blondes before. Listen to Lead Singer:

Then listen to Powers - featuring a cello for bonus points - and tell me they’re not your new favourite band:

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Jesse Garon & the Desperadoes

All of these were sent in one standard letter envelope in early 1990. It's worth remembering that back then bands and labels put a lot of money into printing and postage to get fans to buy records and merch, and find out about tour dates.

Yes, bands did sell more than 300 copies of a 7" single then, but the promotional overheads before email and social media were pretty high. And just breaking even was still a pretty good result.

This package came with Desperadoes dollars. They were not redeemable against any of the merch.

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Felt: the second five albums

Forever Breathes The Lonely Word
The archetypal second period Felt sound - Dylan’s wild mercury sound, poetry and pop - is this album. The Dylan influence had been suggested by the previous single Ballad of the Band, especially on the sleeve which was a clear reference to Dylan’s album Desire.

This is many people’s favourite Felt album. They’re wrong. I have a different opinion. It’s still brilliant, though.

Poem of the River
The opening song Declaration sees Lawrence, never a stranger to the maudlin, announce: "I will have as my epitaph the second line of Black Ship In The Harbour". That second line? "I was a pauper/I was second class/I was a moment/That quickly passed.”

That’s the start of Felt’s best album of their second phase. They made a number of records that deserved to make them successful. Poem of the River should have made them massive.

The Pictorial Jackson Review

Side one is 8 pop songs that mostly check in at around the 2-minute mark. It’s very easy to imagine any of them being near the top of the charts as singles. Lawrence never wrote such a sustained body of joyous, faultless pop songs.

Side two is a couple of cocktail jazz numbers written by Martin Duffy. Oh dear.
(8/10 - 10 for side one, 0 for side two)

Train Above The City
Felt was Lawrence’s idea, but it would have amounted to nothing without guitar virtuoso Maurice Deebank. When Deebank left, Lawrence recruited organ supremo Martin Duffy. Lawrence was in awe of both musicians during their respective tenures. Too much so in the case of Duffy who he let write a jazz album.

Lawrence wrote the song titles, which are glorious. I give you Press Softly On The Brakes Holly as an example.
(0 for the music, 8 for the song titles)

Me and a Monkey on the Moon
Maurice Deebank correctly said: “Even the albums that were made after I left have my fingerprints all over them.” On the final Felt chapter, Lawrence recruits John Mohan, formerly of The Servants, the only guitarist capable of recreating the Deebank sound.

Mobile Shack's moog and chugging rhythm points to where Lawrence would get to with Back in Denim, and where early 90s indie went, many of them on magazine front pages, the telly and the charts. Lawrence was never in the right place at the right time to achieve his dream of fame, but many of these records remain timeless.

Not enough for you? I wrote about the first 5 Felt albums.

Cherry Red reissue the second set of Felt's albums on 21 September 2018.

Monday, 6 August 2018

The Plastic Shoelaces - Reading the Maker

“You don’t care about my band, I can’t say I blame you, We’re just sitting here doing the same things, Same way since we were teenagers…We don’t care if anybody ever hears it.”

True, Scott Miller *is* doing pretty much the same thing as ever. This is the guy whose band Bright Ideas made an album called ...And Don't The Kids Just Like It (which I haven’t heard but can imagine what buttons it presses) and a single called Raincoats (which I own and adore).

Miller’s speciality is scratchy punk and off-kilter jangle, no expense spent and every effort expended. He once had an ace band called The English Singles, which tells you where he’s coming from. So, yeah, the Television Personalities and the Raincoats, and if I’m not mistaken the Marine Girls’ self-titled ditty is the inspiration for Being A Man.

Reading the Maker is simple and effective. Miller and friends might have one foot (okay, both feet) stuck in the past, but they can carry on doing the same thing forever. So long as pop music this good is being made and sold cheaply I get the feeling that everything’s going to be okay.

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Massage - Oh Boy

If a band was going to rejuvenate The Twerps’ sound then the clever money would be on an Australian band doing the honours. Massage, though, are from California.

There’s a freshness and light to their jangle pop that suggests sunshine, but is rugged and sprightly enough to recall The Feelies. It fits in with bands re-energising indiepop like Young Scum and it’s no great leap to imagine they might have heard Allo Darlin.

Oh Boy is a very impressive debut. It probably doesn’t hurt that they number Pains of Being Pure at Heart alumnus Alex Naidus on guitar. There are moments, though, when I long for the style to evolve: the songs are pretty much even from 1 to 12.

That might be because they’ve got a garage rock background (I really don’t know if they do) or they might be going for a sustained aesthetic like If You’re Feeling Sinister or 16 Lovers Lane.

They’re very nearly there. And there are at least 5 songs that are 24-karat gold, way more than most bands manage, never mind at their first try. Here’s one of them: