Saturday, 14 July 2018

The Barettes - Stand Up Straight

This is straight-up soul saturated in Brill Building pop that couldn’t be any more snappy, simple and effective. File Stand Up Straight next to Denis by Blondie, the Grease soundtrack and Cee Lo Green’s Forget You.

It’s modern girl group pop like those Pipettes and Pepper Pots 45s, a collection of floorshakers, footstompers and tear-stained ballads. There’s even a song in French to meet your ye-ye needs, perhaps unsurprisingly because The Barettes are two American women based in Paris.

In case you weren’t clear about their intentions, they lift the piano melody from I’m A Believer for Swim On Boy and are inspired by the gossipy intro of Give Him A Great Big Kiss by The Shangri-Las for Keep On Drivin’.

Monday, 2 July 2018

Slumberland - 30 years of hits part three

The last instalment, only this is really year 29 in the Slumberland story. I haven't got the new Smokescreens album yet which is a contender, and the forthcoming Wildhoney 7" would surely make the list.

Year 30 has every chance of being a classic. I keenly anticipate a showcase tour doing a lap of honour around the globe and stopping off at London.

The moral of this story is that Slumberland remains a window to watch since it started in 1989. Some feat.

Allo Darlin - Europe
Robert Forster and Grant McLennan each rued that The Go-Betweens’ even-numbered albums were their best. Allo Darlin seemed to be on the same path, but they split before that case could be made conclusively. They left us wanting more. Europe shows they were the best indiepop band since Belle and Sebastian.

Golden Grrrls - New Pop
When one of your favourite record labels picks up your favourite new band, you know you’re doing something right. When that band also covers Look Blue Go Purple you know they’re doing everything right. Their originals were even better.

Joanna Gruesome - Sugarcrush
How do you make people overlook your terrible band name? With sonic terrorism and menacing melodies to make the best British (the Americans had been having a go for a few years) response to My Bloody Valentine in the 21st century.

Withered Hand - Black Tambourine
My footnote in the Slumberland story is that in 2012 I put up the impoverished minstrel Dan Willson at my flat after a London gig. He asked me if I knew Pam Berry. I did. I put them in touch and they made an album, New Gods. I could have chosen any song from New Gods, but this one is about Pam’s - and Slumberland boss Mike’s - old band Black Tambourine. Dan and Pam are now millionaire rock stars and don’t talk to me any more. I’m cool with that. I just wish they’d make another record.

Real Numbers - Frank Infatuation
They took all their cues from the Television Personalities - tinny, trebly, adenoidal, absolutely classic pop - with enough of their own wit and invention to steer clear of pastiche and make their own classic pop.

Gold-Bears - For You
The Dalliance album plays the same trick as The Wedding Present’s George Best - fast, loud, furious jangle full of lust, envy and rage.

Lilys - Claire Hates Me
About 20 years before bands from Brooklyn decided My Bloody Valentine inspiration was the right way to go, DC’s Lilys grabbed the squalling guitars and bent notes and claimed a deserved early victory.

The Bats - That’s How You’ll Find Me
If you’d started a label inspired by Flying Nun, you’d release a Bats record. There aren’t enough Bats records. This is a particularly good one.

Brilliant Colors - English Cities
Remember when a load of American bands discovered the Shop Assistants? Happy times. Brilliant Colors did it better than most.

Dum Dum Girls - Bhang Bhang, I’m a Burnout
More Shop Assistants style fuzz pop. This would fit in to the Narodnik label’s back catalogue very nicely.

Saturday, 30 June 2018

Slumberland - 30 years of hits part two

The Lodger - Let Her Go
Let Her Go was first released on the Angular label. It’s a collision of The Wolfhounds’ fury and The June Brides’ horn-driven melodic power. Slumberland did the smart thing and picked up the album.

Summer Cats - In June
When a label signs a band influenced by bands they've already released, I usually start to worry. No worries here, though, because Scott Stevens was in The Earthmen. This is a more pop outfit and they’re even better. File them next to The Aislers Set and Rocketship.

caUSE co-MOTION! - Which Way Is Up?
I’m pretty sure this band never practised. Maybe they’d never met each other before they went into the studio. It’s part of their singular charm. This is angular and catchy, like both sides of the C86 coin made good.

Bricolage - Turn U Over
It used to infuriate me that indiepop clubs or gigs would play the same old 1980s songs but never Bricolage. Turn U Over sounds like Orange Juice. Most of all they “Remember with deep regret/How we used to dance in the discotheque” and make that sound fresh for today.

Brown Recluse - Contour & Context
Baroque pop grandeur and harmonic soft pop in one record. They remind me of brilliant bands like The Pale Fountains, The Zombies and The Left Banke.

Phil Wilson - Up To London
God Bless Jim Kennedy is basically the follow up to The June Brides’ all-time classic There Are Eight Million Stories...I’m not pretending this record took 25 years to make, but I’m certain it’ll last at least that long.

Crystal Stilts - Shattered Shine
Dramatically static and monochromatic like those early Felt singles with dysfunctional psych-punk like The Blue Orchids, Crystal Stilts were essential listening.

Big Troubles - Freudian Slips
This killer riff could surely withstand a nuclear war. It should have been inducted into the rock’n’roll hall of fame on its first week of release. It will outlast us all. [EDIT: SLR didn't release it - it's one of the great 7"s of the last decade, so it was an easy mistake to make. Big Troubles have other releases on SLR, all worth getting.]

Veronica Falls - Teenage
Doomed romance and jangly guitars. It could almost be the tagline for Slumberland. This is a modern classic of the genre.

Terry Malts - No Sir, I’m Not A Christian
90 seconds of sledgehammer bass, raging guitars and furious feedback. Did someone say Husker Du?

Friday, 29 June 2018

Slumberland - 30 years of hits part one

Slumberland is gearing up for its 30th birthday with a singles club. So I've come up with 30 hits from Slumberland.

True, it might have been neater to have done 30 7"s from the label, but that would mean missing loads of classics. Also true: I might have missed some favourites anyway. Send your complaints to the usual address, or better still make your own list.

These aren't in any order of preference. They're all great.

Velocity Girl - I Don't Care If You Go
This is where I first checked in with Slumberland. There weren’t a lot of ways to find out about the international pop underground in 1990, not at least if you were still at school and everyone else was into mainstream stuff. So I took a risk by mailorder on a band named after a really good record. Turns out they had made a really good record as well, one I’m nowhere near sick of hearing 28 years later.

Small Factory ‎– What To Want
Hands down, Small Factory and Velocity Girl were my favourite singles bands of the early 90s. If I’d have been the morbid teen who put a list of their desert island discs in their back pocket in case they were found dead in a graveyard, these bands would’ve featured.

The Aislers Set - Long Division
At their best - which was frequent and often - The Aislers Set wrote their own 1960s girl group hits with stop start rhythms and handclaps. Because the Brill Building was shut they recorded in a garage. This reminds me a little of My Boyfriend’s Back.

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart - Come Saturday
Their debut could have hardly been clearer in its intentions by modifying The Field Mice’s This Love Is Not Wrong to This Love Is Fucking Right! Come Saturday is fuzzy like Sensitive and fast like Freak Scene. No surprise they went supernova.

Weekend - Red
Go on, name a better ep of the last 10 years. Sorry, you’re wrong. Yes it’s still available. And if you don’t own this but have seen My Bloody Valentine one of their reformation gigs, your excuses had better well be bloody good.

The Earthmen ‎– Cool Chick #59
During grunge’s imperial period, Australia’s The Earthmen took it back to the basics of 80s harDCore and punk, but kept the idea that the best tunes were from even a bit before that. Like the 1960s.

The Artisans - Start Again
Jazz Serenade is one of the great lost singles from one of the great lost bands. They tried to sound like Josef K years after everyone stopped and years before anyone tried again. God, they were good. Thanks to Slumberland there were two more songs on a compilation.

Go Sailor - Long Distance
Amy Linton and Rose Melberg in one band? Yes please! What could go wrong? Absolutely nothing. This is pop perfection.

Rocketship ‎– I Love You Like The Way That I Used To Do
No one, apart from Stereolab on a good day, could match drone with such huge tunes. History has shown Rocketship were right all along. It seemed so obvious then. It still does. If you’re coming to this fresh, I envy you.

The Clientele - Porcelain
If everyone who heard The Return of the Durutti Column formed a band they’d mostly be shit. Felt and The Clientele heard it, at different stages, and were consequently brilliant.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Poppel - Hit It

Poppel write songs with the tuneful rage and blistering insistence of The Clean’s Vehicle, and the casually awkward hooks of Pavement’s Crooked Rain. They came from a town in Belgium called Poppel so of course they’re called Poppel.

If the seesaw guitars and desperate pleading of Conceived Ideas don’t hit you first time, check out now. If they do, you’ve got 13 more hits to embrace.

They remind me, also, of more recent bands like Big Troubles and Cuffs and Boy Genius. You know, killer riffs and dramatic punch, then anthemic and seductive. I’d love Mitch Easter to produce their next record. Until then, this is the business.

Friday, 22 June 2018

Eddie & Ernie - Time Waits For No One

The basement of a New York record shop, 10 years ago: the clerk is playing the most amazing selection of funk 45s from his own collection. He offers to sell me some, starting at $100 each. The price is too heavy.

I flick through the cheaper singles in the racks. He stops me when I hit Bullets Don’t Have Eyes by Eddie & Ernie: “The best single of the last 5 years, no question.” I had the single and shared his enthusiasm.

Eddie & Ernie, one of the greatest - possibly the greatest - soul duos of all time, ranged from blistering pace to downhome tenderness and beautiful pain. Not for nothing are they the only act featuring on all four of Dave Godin’s legendary Deep Soul volumes.

Time Waits For No One is the first Eddie & Ernie vinyl album collection. Of course it’s brilliant. Its 10 tracks won’t be enough once you get the taste, but you can then move on to the Kent compilation Lost Friends.

Even then you’ll find yourself without what I rate as their true masterpiece, It’s A Beautiful World. Find that on Kent’s excellent Stone Soul - San Francisco's Loadstone Label compilation.

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Red Red Eyes - Horology

Red Red Eyes make quietly grand baroque pop. Their electronic hypnosis is addictive, understated and avant-garde.

Horology is cosmic English music informed by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, Broadcast’s spooked electronica, Serge Gainsbourg’s breathy noir and the United States of America’s experimental mini-symphonies.

If you like fear and paranoia, sad nostalgia and suburban melancholy, then you’ll love these songs’ ultra-styled grace. They’re also incredibly captivating live. If they play near you, go and see them. Buy the album first. You won’t regret it.