Friday, 4 January 2019

Cornelius covers The Pastels

Before he strode the world as a remixer to the stars, Cornelius was rather more indiepop. There may in fact have been none more indiepop than Cornelius's first band, Lollipop Sonic.

Not only did they cover The Pastels' debut single Heavens Above on tape, they released the Talulah Gosh inspired Goodbye Our Pastels Badges on a flexi. And then had another flexi disc.

That was 1988 and 1989, when they changed their name to Flipper's Guitar and signed to Polystar. The flexi disc songs turned up on their first album, Three Cheers For Our Side (did I mention they were a bit indiepop?).

Years later Keigo Oyamada became Cornelius. During the Bowlie festival in 1999, I met Cornelius. The VIP area wasn't policed. I was rather in my cups and found myself in his chalet. His interpreter translated my enthusiasm for Lollipop Sonic and Flipper's Guitar. Cornelius was horrified. He plied me with CDs and other merch in lieu of hush money.

Or he just wanted the pissed bloke out of his chalet.

Of course, by this time Cornelius and The Pastels had remixed each other's work. But this 1988 cover is where it started.

Sunday, 23 December 2018

20 new songs from 2018

All by new acts, because that's what this end of year compilation is. It's in no order. They're all brilliant.

Aright, I know Birdie aren't new, but no 2018 brilliant music list is complete without Bowling Green. And, again, 2018 didn't exactly mark Tony Molina's debut but any song on Kill The Lights could have made a best of list. I've almost certainly left off some brilliant debuts. By accident.

2018 has been the best year for music in ages. What have we learned? That pop music can be the silliest and the most important thing in the world. Sometimes it can be both at the same time. But I think we knew that already. Enjoy it (and keep paying for music because no one band or label can afford to lose money forever).

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Stars - a Christmas compilation

If Apple preload all iPhones with Stars music fans will have the best Christmas ever.

A mate of mine reckons Woah Melodic’s Christmas Stars is the best Christmas single since Low’s Just Like Christmas. I wouldn’t go quite that far, but it certainly draws on the ghost of Paul McCartney’s festive past to wonderful effect.

I lean towards Scrabbel’s Hiding In The Snow - glacial synths, minor chords, baroque pop - as this compilation’s killer tune. And then there’s White Town offering spectral Pet Shop Boys balladry in Say You’ll Be Home For Christmas. Jyoti, if you’ve been writing songs this good in the last 20 years, sorry, I wasn’t paying attention. This is marvellous.

Bill Botting takes us on a trip in the southern summer, winds the windows down, snaps on the car radio’s FM soft rock dial and names pretty much everyone in England he was ever in a band with. In pockets of east London there are musicians wiping away their tears. Rightly so.

Pop quiz question: does Darren Hayman, as he claims on his festive jangleathon, really have cousins called Terry and Julie or is he channelling The Kinks? It doesn’t matter. You’ll likely be grinning too much to worry about it. Thanks to all these musical Santas for sprinkling their magical fairy dust on their songs.

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Three Christmas Wishes from Daniel Treacy

London, late 1995. My ex-girlfriend wants to get back together (I know, what was she thinking). I didn’t (I knew exactly what I was thinking). She got me this signed photo of Dan Treacy, which I obviously liked and accepted but clearly couldn’t compromise my love god (YMMV) integrity for.

I had introduced the gift giver to indiepop’s wonders a few years before. She took to it and joined a band who were not only influenced by the Television Personalities but made them sound professional and polished.

I understand that some of their early releases now trade hands for more than they cost to record, but I didn’t really follow where they went.

Anyway, she’d got to know Dan Treacy’s then girlfriend, who got this signed photo.

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

The Boaty Weekender is a terrible idea

Dear Stuart

The premise of this event is wrong:
What if the magic of 1999’s Bowlie Weekender was recreated 20 years on with 2,500 like-minded music fans, dozens of your favourite bands, and us, on an exciting and once in a lifetime cruise holiday through the Mediterranean?

The premise of this event is really: “Let’s do Bowlie again, but on a richer, grander scale. We’ll be a little bit disappointed if your economic circumstances haven’t improved drastically over the last 20 years like ours have.”

I know that you like to put on gigs in unusual venues, but if I had £1,500 spare to see Belle and Sebastian play a special gig, last year I’d have flown to Australia to see them at the Sydney Opera House.

But I don’t see Belle and Sebastian very often. Time was when I used to see them at every opportunity. Their first headline London gig at the Borderline in 1996, packed with just about everyone in town who had bought Tigermilk or had a tape of it. It was fun. Like when the band broke down and one of them played Smoke On The Water on a kazoo.

The night before supporting Tindersticks, you spotted Lawrence in the crowd and changed a lot of lyrics and song titles to Felt ones to impress him.

It started to go wrong in 1998 with the interminable waits until the band had the courage to go on stage. The nadir was in Philadelphia that autumn when you kept the audience waiting for an hour and a half before deciding, actually, you weren’t going to play. Many people left in tears. Not me. I’d seen you before, I could see you again.

But I didn’t, unless you count Bowlie the following year. I don’t remember too much about it. Like many attendees, I was in an advanced state of liquid refreshment. I’d either out drunk all of Mogwai combined, or some other bunch of Glaswegians. It’s all a bit hazy.

The problem with Belle and Sebastian then was the idea that they thought they were a “democracy”. They weren’t, though. They were still, then, Stuart Murdoch’s band. If your cellist was poorly, don’t keep fans waiting for 90 minutes before sending them home. Come on and play pared down or a Stuart Murdoch acoustic show or hard rock covers on the kazoo. Something improvised, something special. Don’t send fans home with nothing but contempt and disappointment.

I know I’m not the target audience for the Boaty Weekender, despite having been to Bowlie. My favourite albums remain Tigermilk and Sinister, what Stevie Jackson said “conveyed a self-made universe”.

I haven’t bought any Belle and Sebastian records since The Life Pursuit 12 years ago. I’m not going to slag off any records you’ve made since then. They’re not for me, that’s all. I wouldn’t dare ask, or even want, you to make the same albums over and over. Felt never did, after all, and like you they’re one of my favourite bands ever.

I did see you a couple of years ago at the Royal Albert Hall when you played Tigermilk. And then once more last year when I got a cheap ticket for your gig at the Royal Hospital in Chelsea. These gigs told me two things:

1. Belle and Sebastian are a heritage act.
2. Getting the cute girls on stage at the end of every gig is creepy and it gets creepier as the years pass. I tend to agree with Peter Momtchiloff who said: “I haven't kept close tabs on SM's activities in recent years. I suspect I might like some of the songs, but I find the artwork quite off-putting.”

I haven’t checked, but does the boat stop at any ports during its voyage? I know you’re better drilled these days, but it was only last year that you left drummer Richard Colburn in his pyjamas in Walmart between gigs.

I really hope that one of the other bands on the bill has a drummer you can use if you lose Richard. Or you take a drum machine just in case.

Stuart, you’ll be pleased to hear I can afford to go on the Boaty Weekender, but maybe less so when you understand why I won’t be going. I don’t need to take a hard look at my life choices to think any differently.

Last night I saw Pia Fraus and Spinning Coin. This Friday, Peaness, then the day after Hinds and Girl Ray. I’m more interested in newer bands. I don’t want to revisit a festival from 20 years ago, especially on a boat. Especially at that cost. And especially when the booking agent emails me to tell me there’s “unlimited ice cream”. Mate, I could have as much ice cream and beer and pizza as I wanted with change left over from £1,500 to go record shopping. In New York, say.

But let’s do a deal. If I win the lottery (seriously, I just bought a ticket), I’ll go on the Boaty Weekender. If I don’t, you play a low-key acoustic gig - guitar, kazoo, whatever you like - in London. I’ll put it on. It’ll be affordable. It’ll be fun. It’ll be special.

Let me know.


Sunday, 25 November 2018

Fascinations Grand Chorus

So *that’s* what happened to Stephanie Cupo. She, you’ll surely remember, was the teen sensation behind Souvenir Stand who, correctly, believed pop music peaked when Goffin/King and Barry/Greenwich described the thrills, yearning and desperation of young love.

Until I Found You is exactly what you’d hope - group soul sung under the streetlamps outside the Brill Building.

There are more songs from a year ago which point to Quasi’s excellent Featuring “Birds” being the most recent reference point. Not that surprising when Fascinations Grand Chorus are, like Quasi, a two piece on keys and drums.

Whichever way they play it. Fascinations Grand Chorus are definitely a window to watch.

Shogun and the Sheets

Royal Headache were a punk band with a pop songwriter’s instincts who played it fast, hard and giddily like The Undertones. Shogun, late of Royal Headache, is now playing it fast, hard and soulfully like the Subway Sect.

Hold On Kid barrels along like it both opposes and embraces rock and roll with nervy grit like Ambition. You could probably hum Everybody’s Happy Nowadays by Buzzcocks to it if you’d had a few beers.

Pissing Blood on the b-side is about having had too many beers in the past. It strips away the punk fury to reveal in full the soul fervour Hold On Kid suggests.

What Hold On Kid does is announce a reborn band. What Pissing Blood does is announce a new band with real potential that could go somewhere different, somewhere higher, than Royal Headache ever did.