Friday, 16 October 2020

Wicketkeeper - Shonk

Archers of Loaf were peddling a single on Record Store Day this year. Good stuff, but £15 for one new original song was too rich for my blood. Your entertainment pound gets much more value for money from Wicketkeeper’s album, Shonk, which trades in similarly gritty and tense noise.

Perhaps most obviously,Wicketkeeper’s kindred spirits are Built To Spill. That early 90s underground sound that wasn’t grunge, but knew where it was coming from, like Edsel Auctioneer and first album Teenage Fanclub in the UK. Spin’s screaming guitars are a definite nod to Dinosaur Jr, and the guitar avalanche and sledgehammer bass of The Side come, brilliantly, from Husker Du’s copybook.

Sure, Shonk isn’t overly adventurous, but their controlled chaos is dynamic, consistently forceful and rhythmically interesting enough to file under ‘excellent’ and ‘catch this band live as soon as the pandemic madness ends’.

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

The Umbrellas - Maritime

It was always pretty easy to give C86 an identity in the 21st century because it had never had one before. C86 was the name of a compilation tape, a snapshot of a country’s underground guitar scene one season, not a shared sonic ideal. As one of the tape’s contributors, David Westlake, said, it was “a scene centred on a number of disparate bands”.

A few of those disparate bands, particularly Jim Beattie’s Primal Scream and the Razorcuts, sounded like they only bought records made by American bands from 1966 to 1968. Which is where The Umbrellas come in.

So if C86 means superior jangle, Roger McGuinn guitars and actually now you mention it pretty high production standards, then that’s what The Umbrellas are. They’re from San Francisco, a city currently punching above its weight with a ton of great bands - sort of similar, but disparate.

Perhaps historians will give 2020’s San Francisco scene a name. More likely, contemporary popkids will delight in The Umbrellas’ simultaneous discharge of jangle and harmony. And when they release an album on Slumberland next year, maybe people will draw a comparison to when Creation heard Razorcuts’ I Heard You The First Time ep on Flying Nun and signed them to record an album.

Thursday, 13 August 2020


Galore play raggedy guitars to the best of their ability, panache over perfection, all raw minimalism like Beat Happening and stumbling like early Pastels with Veronica Falls romantic drama. Most obviously - most wonderfully - they sound like Rose Melberg on K, by which I mean Tiger Trap if they'd doubled the recording budget to $10 to include a producer.

It feels like there's something really special going on in San Francisco. The Umbrellas, Tony Molina, The Reds, Pinks and Purples, the Paisley Shirt roster. So Melbourne's finally got a rival. Maybe Galore know the score, which is why they got Mikey Young in to master the album.

Friday, 24 July 2020

Romero - Honey

Wow! If we’re doing singles of the year, then tear up the ballot papers, cancel the rest of 2020 and hand Romero the gong for Honey. And b-side of the year for Neapolitan.

Romero are from Melbourne but share musical DNA with two of the great one-hit wonders of the past 5 years, both Sydney bands with an art rock edge. There’s the wiry noise and breakneck pace of Point Being’s Degustation, and the angular, full Fall fury of Display Homes’s Climate Change.

Perhaps most obviously, though, Romero trade in nagging, intense verse hook melodies like The Strokes once did so irresistibly. They’re the first Australian act who look like they can go global without any nods to dolewave (they’ve got nothing in common with Courtney Barnett or Rolling Blackouts). Honestly? I’d be happy if they make more records. And if the Display Homes album, originally scheduled for January 2019, comes out.

Hat tip to Glaswegian garage rock love god Brogues for alerting me to this modern classic.

Sunday, 5 July 2020

The Altons - When You Go (That's When You'll Know)

Well, this is a song that knows how to announce itself: a breathless r&b groove that slips into intense southern soul.

Excellent though that is, I’m here for the b-side, Over and Over: soul so devotional, dramatic and tragic it’s a wonder the band didn’t sign a suicide pact before the tape rolled.

It’s the pop-soul ballad done with old-fashioned simplicity that aches with elegance and ardour, and will never go out of fashion.

Penrose is Daptone’s new subsidiary and The Altons are one of 5 acts with new 7”s kicking off the label.

Next to The Altons, the very best is Jason Joshua’s Language of Love. Joshua released possibly my favourite soul single of the last two years, Rose Gold, but his album didn’t quite cut it. He’s back on the top of his game now.

Thee Sinseers debuted on Colemine last year, but they left me cold. I’m all over Seems Like, though, their new deep soul pleading 45 on Penrose. Keep an eye on this label.

Thursday, 18 June 2020

The Reds, Pinks & Purples - I Should Have Helped You

This 4-track 7” is a sort of greatest hits from The Reds, Pinks & Purples’ wonderfully prolific digital outpouring of Fisher-Price psychedelia by way of TVPs Mummy Your Not Watching Me and kitchen-sink romantic desolation by way of The Field Mice, perhaps most closely If You Need Someone.

Pressing these songs on vinyl is a statement that they’re worth preserving after enjoying them. The mighty I Dischi Del Barone label has created a lovely artefact - thick card sleeve, full colour postcard image, hand-stamped labels - because these things matter.

And because when you return to this record in 5 or 10 or 15 years’ time, having played it to death first time around, you get to enjoy its majesty anew in all its glory.

Or, you know, just go to their bandcamp and buy some songs. You can’t go wrong with any of them.

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Pash - Demonstration

Shoplifting is one of the year’s best pop songs - simple, sugary, addictive. A sustained haze of slo-mo guitar fuzz, naggingly ragged biss and instant pop gratification, kind of like My Bloody Valentine before they went supernova or the best of those bands with girls in their name, say Dum Dum Girls. Or the Shop Assistants, who all those bands with girls in their name wanted to be. It’s that good.

Double Date, Pash’s other song, isn’t as good as Shoplifting because very few songs are (although its intense muffled rumblings remind me a little of McCarthy's classic Frans Hals), but it still hints at great things to come. Keep an eye on this band. They’re already pretty special.

There's a tape of Demonstration (fill in your own Dolly Mixture reference) or buy the download.