Thursday, 31 October 2019

The Golden Age Of Pop by The Hit Parade

Julian Henry declared last year: “I’m about to go on a spree of releasing 7” singles of songs as I write them, which is how I started off back in 1984.” Following a high-level board meeting at The Hit Parade’s label JSH Records, they realised they had too much pop and the only solution was to release an album.

You’ll be familiar with Henry channelling the young Paul Weller (A Town Called Malice to be precise) on Joey’s Girl, and the highwire drama of Oh Honey I. Those 7” cuts are aperitifs to the fusillade of failure that The Hit Parade wrestle with on The Golden Age Of Pop.

The most immediate choices for that now mythical 7” spree are Burden Of Your Beauty (infectious beat pop with double-tracked harmonies), Come And Visit Leeds (Motown’s hit factory plug in Rickenbacker guitars to soundtrack mascara running in tears) and I’m Recovering From You (The Hit Parade dip their hip to Brazilian rhythms while claiming “I’m only 56 years young”).

Then there’s How Can I Tell, in which the amps are turned up to 11 and the drums pounded in what’s surely a successful bid to add a song to the indie disco canon.

Too much pop, indeed. But proving that The Hit Parade’s appeal reaches beyond the teen market, the flinty folk of The Last Boat On The Dock hymns a whimsical ballad. Phew! So many riches.

The Golden Age Of Pop is out now. The vinyl edition comes with a colour comic, Tales From Planet Pop, charting The Hit Parade’s lack of chart success.


Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Deadbeat Freedom by Ignatz & De Stervende Honden

If you haven’t been paying attention to Ultra Eczema’s releases this year, you’ve been doing 2019 wrong.

There’s the wibbly flashback psych of Noor’s Wont to Wanton Eyebath and then there’s Spelecombo, a bunch of Dutch art students, who might have come up with the best Velvet Underground cover in Daar Gaat Zij.

And then there’s Frank Hurricane’s anti-folk hip hop Pymp World, which is either genius or madness. Maybe it’s both.

Now there’s Deadbeat Freedom by Ignatz & De Stervende Honden, long-form psychedelic mantras meeting acid folk and swamp blues. Its closest relatives might be the cavernous echo and distilled grace of Felt’s Crumbling the Antiseptic Beauty or the The Return of the Durutti Column.

There’s definitely a nod to Marquee Moon’s furious duelling guitars on Sweet Dream Ice Cream. You’ll find your own reference points, or just get lost in this album’s enigma.


Thursday, 24 October 2019

House Deposit - Reward For Effort

Dolewave was a moment in the Australian underground guitar saga that stopped about 5 years ago, either because everyone realised that they couldn’t top Dick Diver’s Calendar Days or, more likely, because all scenes pass on.

No one, though, could sensibly claim that major contemporary Australian acts like Courtney Barnett and Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever are immune to dolewave’s many charms. It lives on as one of the influences on a vibrant Australian indie scene.

So it is with House Deposit, whose heritage - slacker rock, languid guitars, suburban depression, irresistible hooks - sounds like they grew up listening to dolewave in high school. And then upped the self-medication with Modern Lovers proto-punk drive and Feelies tangled jangle.

Their misery and melody fits right in with The Stroppies, Chook Race and Dumb Things, three bands who’ve shown different ways to create exciting new guitar pop in Australia with a shy backwards glance at dolewave’s hits.

Reward For Effort is out tomorrow on tape (or today - hello, Australian readers!). I bought the download because I’m 100% certain that some label’s already won the bidding war to release it on vinyl. If they haven’t been signed by the end of the year, I’ll eat my socks.


Monday, 21 October 2019

Porcelain Summer - I Dischi Del Barone

In which Swedish label I Dischi Del Barone celebrate 5 years of being the Sound of Young Gothenburg by releasing a 12-track 7” single of bands not on their roster.

This excellent, eccentric compilation of songs about a minute-long each features Amateur Hour and JJ Ulius, alumni of Gothenburg’s Happiest Place Records, confirming that you really need to be listening to everything that comes out of that city and especially these two labels. And I Dischi Del Barone’s reissue label, Fördämning Arkiv, which digs up treasure.

Some of the other acts on Porcelain Summer I also love and know well - Pumice, The Ivytree, Vital Idles. The rest? The label tell it best: “Shimmering lo-fi glory through falling down the stairs pop, free noise skronk, treble-down maxed out folky bliss, electronic bedroom mayhem and more so.”

There’s no stream, it’s sold out at source, but hunt down everything this and those other Gothenburg labels release. They’re responsible for some of my favourite records of recent times. I don’t imagine you’ll love it all - I don’t - but some of it you’ll love so hard it will leave you wondering how you ever managed without it before.

Sunday, 20 October 2019

Ex-Vöid - Only One

Ex-Vöid number Alana and Owen from Joanna Gruesome, so it’s not surprising that Only One sounds like My Bloody Valentine. Although where JoGru set their fx pedals to Isn’t Anything, Ex-Vöid gun for the less chaotic melodic maelstrom of Ecstacy and Strawberry Wine.

It’s blisteringly short and manically disordered as they dismantle love in a frenzy of feedback, distortion and pure pop jangle.

Shorter and sharper still is all 49 seconds of Ex-Void’s eponymous b-side which sounds not just like Bikini Kill but that it may have been written and recorded in the toilets during one of their reunion gigs. I think there’s some Raincoats (first album) in there.

They claim to be influenced exclusively by the Raincoats number The Void (which makes sense), Black Sabbath’s “Into the Void” (which doesn’t) and the Washington DC hardcore punk group VOID (I see what they’re doing there, but the hardcore mayhem is surely a nod to Hüsker Dü what with the umlaut in their name).

Of course, Joanna Gruesome claim to have met on a wine tasting holiday and in an anger management class, so they’re just having some fun. As will you when you get this record. There’s no stream. So stop what you’re doing and buy it.

Friday, 4 October 2019

Breakup Haircut - What did you expect? I got it off the internet!

The UK DIY scene 4 or 5 years ago was awash with really exciting bands playing pacy, witty, winning punk. Bands like Bruising, Dirtygirl, No Ditching and Dog Legs. I didn't imagine they'd take over the world, but at least they'd take over some people's worlds.

It's been a bit quiet on that front recently, no idea why, but I wonder if Breakup Haircut grew up on those bands while getting fucked on cider in the local graveyard. One listen to Why Can't I Be Cool Enough To Move To Berlin? (where they can play "tiny sold out shows") and you'll be hooked.

As Sonic Youth once said, 'confusion is sex', and I (Don't) Wanna Do Things runs with that (correction: this song is about Chinese capitalism. I've fired my fact checker. You'll never find his body). They find a lighter path with Mum, I Wanna Be A Greaser which, like Glue Sniffer by Daddy Issues, imagines what the Grease soundtrack would have sounded like if it had been recorded in early 90s Boston.

They're playing tonight at DIY Space for London. Reading this at a later date? They're either playing at the O2 or in a tiny sold out bar in Berlin.

Friday, 27 September 2019

The Springfields - Singles 1986-1991

This collection could accurately be called “Nuggets: the Birth of American Indiepop”. Sure, indiepop in the USA might have started with Beat Happening’s Our Secret a couple of years earlier, but as a movement of like-minded musicians and fans who looked to Glasgow’s Pastels, Clouds and Primal Scream, all of whom The Springfields cover, it really started with the Picture Book label in Illinois and the Bus Stop label in Iowa.

Ric Menck was at the heart of those labels’ releases, and The Springfields are the heart of his songwriting and musical ethic. These songs aren’t important just because they’re some kind of foundational document, they’re important because, simply, they’re wonderful.

Slumberland was one of the most important labels to start in the aftermath of the mid-west’s indiepop birth, so it’s right that they’re issuing this collection. If you don’t have these singles, you need this album.

I’ll leave it to Ric to explain his songwriting and musical ethic:
“Reach For The Stars was written in our kitchen in about 3 and a half minutes. It was intended as a sort of personal pick me up. Maybe these songs won’t change the world, but they just might sound nice on a dreary day when you’re not feeling altogether tip top!!!”