Friday, 20 September 2019

Young Guv - Guv 1

Ben Cook is a man of many hats, most famously - or more likely infamously - Fucked Up. Even though Young Guv are nominally a power pop band, they released an album of bedroom funk last year.

I'm not entirely sure if Cook approached this record - fine though it is - with any great seriousness. You can sing Chris Bell's I Am The Cosmos along to Didn't Even Cry and not come close to losing the tune. And Teenage Fanclub's The Concept, riff and guitar solo, propels Every Flower I See.

But I like this record tremendously. It's good fun, like pop music should be, and I'm certain it isn't trying to be anything else. I'm not taking it seriously, just enjoying it. Cook has done better power pop before - he'll have to go a long way to beat the Winnifred ep by Roommates - but the sun's still out, this is on bright blue vinyl and the world seems just fine while it's spinning.

If I've got a complaint - sorry, I usually do - the chillwave production values let it down a bit. But then the clever money's on Cook really trying to emulate those Choo Choo Train eps. A noble idea and a fine effort, if not quite as good as the source material.

Friday, 13 September 2019

Suggested Friends - Turtle Taxi

Can we, at last, dismiss the idea that DIY is a musical genre with a limited sonic range? DIY's ethic, not its sound, is owning the means of production and saying what has to be said. If it has a sound, it's uncompromising voices shouting from the margins for the under-represented and making the personal political.

Suggested Friends are a DIY band and Turtle Taxi is, if anything, a rock album. It's raw and powerful, by turns raucously punk and rousingly emotional, and always anthemic. Like the Minutemen who covered Van Halen, and Standard Fare who covered Bon Jovi, DIY forebears who freed raw and quiet fury from overproduced, overblown theatrics, Suggested Friends realise the tender potential in noise.

Suggested Friends share a DIY ethic, and a musical excellence, with current bands like Itchy Bugger, Big Joanie, Mope Grooves and U.S. Highball. None of these bands sound like one another, but they each hint at different ways in which DIY music doesn't have to be the antithesis of commercial or popular. That despite its economic origins and outsider voice, DIY music doesn't just preach to a small, converted audience. That greater exposure would in fact achieve DIY's ambition of change.

I genuinely can't tell if Suggested Friends are more likely to have listened to classic AOR like Fleetwood Mac or Boston or whatever you hear on mainstream daytime radio, than they are to have listened to DIY contemporaries Personal Best and Muncie Girls and Sheer Mag. But Turtle Taxi's songs share a common ground with all of these artists in sounding like they were written for car journeys and drunken parties and romantic recriminations.

Can we, at last, remind everyone who claims to support DIY to buy the records or tapes or whatever and, you know, actually buy gig tickets and go to them? Because if as many people who claimed to support DIY actually detrousered some cold hard cash then the scene would be even stronger. And Suggested Friends would, rightly, be heard on mainstream daytime radio.

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Tracy Bryant - Hush

No one told Tracy Bryant about the difficult third album syndrome, because Hush sounds so effortless. No one told me about his previous two albums, because if they're anywhere near as good as this one I'd have been leaving ritual sacrifices in tribute at his door. Or maybe buying him a coffee on patreon. I'm not a nutjob.

Did someone mention Bob Dylan? They surely must have, not just because Bryant makes everything sound important, so crucial, while sounding like it's simultaneously a drag, but because the songs straddle folk and country and rock.

There's a lysergic haze that suggests some songs may have been encouraged by experiences a little more influential than beers on the back porch. Or maybe Bryant just got his heart broke and wrote a song called Hanged Man with a gun to his head.

If there's a standout song - and I'm not sure there is, but one of them is more pop than the others - then Bury Me nails the wild mercury sound.

Part of what makes Hush so assured is the tight band. Their names aren't familiar to me but they've played with big names like Cate Le Bon and The Allah-Las. These things matter - when you're backing a man who sounds like he's falling apart you've got to stay together. It's a soulful, powerful and very impressive performance from everyone.

Saturday, 31 August 2019

KRGA - Mysterious Lady

The Big Star death disc industry - releasing different demos, alternate mixes and live versions in different packaging to people with more money than interest in new music - hasn't come close to unearthing a song as good as Mysterious Lady. Or the b-side, Don't Ask, Don't Tell, which is even better.

There's no escaping that Big Star (or perhaps more accurately Chris Bell) is the number one influence on Chicago's Ryan Krga. You can add the Everly Brothers and Badfinger if you want. But these ringing guitars, sad-eyed laments and country-tinged breakdowns pull off the Chilton/Bell trick brilliantly and stand tall on their own without ever coming close to pastiche.

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Portishead: Dummy original press release and biography

Geoff has long admired the works of John Barry, A Tribe Called Quest, Giorgio Moroder and Isaac Hayes.

This is coupled with Beth's specific beat for Janis Joplin, Elizabeth Fraser and Astrud Gilberto.

Geoff and beth met on an Enterprise Training Scheme in 1991.

Dummy is the sound of 90s urban blues.

Sunday, 28 July 2019

Les Milous - Annie Hall

Jerky and jangly like Josef K with a surf guitar motif and a fun-sized melody played on what can only be a child’s keyboard. This excellent single doesn’t so much have a genre as see Les Milous - the mysterious one-man band JH, recorded in a Stockholm flat - grab whatever the hell he wants and make it work together.

Whatever it's doing, Annie Hall blurs the line between avant-garde and naive art and is all the better for it.

I can’t offer any insights into the lyrics, but I can say with some confidence that the words “Annie” and “Hall” are used at various points. Stare too long and you’ll fall over. Listen once and you’ll fall in love.

Want it? Act fast. UK buyers head to Low Company.

Sunday, 21 July 2019

Lachlan Denton & Studio Magic - A Brother

During sessions of sweet silent thought Lachlan Denton summons remembrance of his brother Zachary (“quiet and painfully shy”), his bandmate in Ciggie Witch and The Ocean Party, who died last year at the age of 24.

A Brother is a profoundly moving, emotionally bruising and tender album about love, loss and the unbreakable ties that bind their relationship (“I carry your songs, your blood runs through me”).

The songs are elegies (“a brother and best friend, I love you to the end), they’re tributes and desperately devotional. Over the album’s course, the joys of companionship are contrasted with grief (“this Christmas I won’t be alone, I’ll be with the ones you loved so much”) in an episodic invocation of a life of love and friendship.

How Lachlan has responded so eloquently, so quickly, with such grace suggests not only the love but that their relationship, and Zac himself, offered so rich a palette that inspiration appeared readily.

A Brother doesn’t exactly lay waste to the Dentons’ back catalogue, but it’s better - more powerful, fresher, rawer - than what’s come before. Musically, it rubs shoulders with Wilco’s best. On love and loss, it’s there with Blood On The Tracks and Tonight’s The Night.

This is a record that had to be made. Without A Brother, all that’s left in death is silence. With A Brother, which will live long, there is celebration.