Tuesday 28 June 2011

Listening to The Impossible Years (not the Art Museums)

The Art Museums' album last year, Rough Frames, left me cold. It was such a studied interpretation of Dan Treacy's Whaam!/Dreamworld labels that it came off as dead-eyed. I went back to the source material, straight to The Impossible Years' Scenes We'd Like To See ep, the first Dreamworld release in 1985.

Even though the Whaam! and Dreamworld rosters looked to the past for their mod and psych influences, they were no mere revivalists: they tackled their inspirations with passion, not reverence, and breathed new life into their songs.

The Art Museums have a new single out. It's better than anything off Rough Frames, but try as I might I can't shake my initial impressions of them. So here's Philadelphia's The Impossible Years with Her Father Supects, and a whole load of Dreamworld press stuff that I found in my copy. Not sure why it's there as it doesn't relate specifically to The Impossible Years, but archive fans might like these snapshots of mid-80s London indie.

Monday 27 June 2011

New Estate

The past couple of years has seen the early 90s US indiepop underground revisited. I'm all for it when bands like Sweet Bulbs and Big Troubles make that messed-up breathtaking noise.

The core influences of that time were kids trying to be My Bloody Valentine, UK indiepop, and the established US indie influence of labels like SST and Homestead.

There are enough bands now to call it a scene. One band too early for this revival were Melbourne's New Esate. Led by Mia Schoen, formerly of Sleepy Township, whose claim for the new band was they'd "washed the wussiness out": too fucking right - New Estate hit the fuzz pedals, turned up the volume and drove huge tunes through the noise.

Don't Like The Way from their debut album, Considering, is still my favourite New Estate track:

(ignore the detail that says this is an untitled demo: that's just how it was sent to me by an Australian friend in 2003)

Thursday 23 June 2011

Sky Hi: Junkyard Dog

As their name suggests, Tennessee's Sky Hi are influenced by the raw soul of their home state's legendary Hi label; the Sky might allude to the idea that some intoxicants were ingested by this nine-piece band. Or just because it rhymes. Whatever, the Hammond organ gets a funky work out on Junkyard Dog, their quite fine second single, a full year after they rather brilliantly stepped out with Smoothie Pie.

Sunday 19 June 2011

The Happy Thoughts

The Happy Thoughts have chewed up and spat out the bubblegum of their debut single from three years ago as Eric and the Happy Thoughts, toughened up and stripped back their sound to pre-British Invasion rock'n'roll basics.

This delirious (and bloody brilliant) album combines the key elements of Eric LaGrange's other bands: the no-nonsense garage pop of The Cave Weddings and the rama lama rush of Romance Novels.

Buddy Holly - not for nothing did Romance Novels have a single called Peggy Sue - Roy Oribson and The Everly Brothers all spring to mind, only louder, faster and (almost) out of control.

Thursday 16 June 2011

Woods: Sun and Shade

Woods’ sixth album, Sun and Shade, raises some important points:
• Their best songs yet are on this record
• They probably do drugs too often to hit the mark every time
• Woods sound amazing when they’ve been listening to Jerry Yester, The Association and The Byrds, and less so when they’ve been listening to Neu!, Neil Young and Tom Waits
• Sun is better than Shade (and soft pop beats acid folk)
• The best songs on Sun and Shade would make a flawless mini-album
• If you’re the sort of person who likes music that makes you shout “TUNE!” rather than mumble “tone" then there’s more to love on this record than there is to disregard

Sunday 12 June 2011

Patrice Holloway

Patrice Holloway's voice as a lead singer and backing vocalist runs through music like a constant heartbeat. Her three singles for Capitol released in 1966-7, Stolen Hours/Lucky My Boy, Ecstasy/Love and Desire, That's All You Got To Do/Stay With Your Own Kind, is one of the greatest runs of 7"s by any artist, ever.

They all flopped. Patrice's lack of solo commercial success - blame Capitol, blame Motown for shelving all her recordings, shrug your shoulders at the record-buying public - only adds to the allure of this long-overdue collection.

Love & Desire: The Patrice Holloway Anthology is worth buying for the sleeve notes alone. The warm plaudits from soul music legends hint at just how highly regarded Patrice was as a singer, writer, business woman and friend. We even learn that she once dated Muhammed Ali and that the royalties from her backing vocals on Joe Cocker's With A Little Help From My Friends poured in when it was used as the theme tune to TV show The Wonder Years.

This excellent collection features ten (10!) unreleased tracks and, after the issue of Brenda Holloway - The Early Years: Rare Recordings 1962-3, mid-60s collaborations of Brenda and Patrice with others as The Belles, Ikettes and Wooden Nickels on various compilations, and the Josie and the Pussycats reissue, all of Patric Holloway's solo and group work has been reissued. Almost.

The Wooden Nickels' Omen single, Take My Love/Should I Give My Love has been mysteriously overlooked. Like all of Patrice Holloway's work, you should have it:

Friday 10 June 2011

The Hairs: Kool Gawd

The key influences on the US pop underground in the past 5 years have been the TVPs and The Clean. Over two snappily infectious albums, Knight School took their cue from the TVPs. Now, Knight School’s Kevin Alvir is reading from The Clean’s song sheet, or more specifically David Kilgour’s work, in new band The Hairs.

Flying Nun nuts might hear some Verlaines Juvenilia in The Hairs – not surprising, really, if you remember Knight School did the Verlaines-referencing Death and the Cleaning Maiden – and the typical, uh, juvenilia of Alvir himself on Duh x 12, the kick-off song on 4-track 7” Kool Gawd.

“Hello I need a new start and this is my art,” Alvir sings on Scabies Babies and you gotta hand it to him – this lo-fi, frenetic, fun and fuzzy guitar pop gets The Hairs racing out of the traps.

There are loads more of their (ace)songs on bandcamp.

Tuesday 7 June 2011

The Bubble Gum Machine

Aspirational soul found new levels of charm and pop bliss in The Bubble Gum Machine's I Wanna Be A Man, a call and response between father and son: "Once my daddy aksed me just what did I wanna do/I told him that when I grow up I wanna be just like you". Cute, huh?

This superior kiddie funk is the b-side to I'm The One You Need; there's no date on the label, but you can be sure that both songs were written after the first two Jackson 5 albums.

Now, say it one more time: When I grow up I wanna be a M-A-N

Friday 3 June 2011

Wake The President: Elaine

They're back and on glorious form: Elaine sounds like Orange Juice and The Smiths. This marks them out from the crowd. I know that a thousand indiepop bands are meant to sound like Orange Juice and The Smiths, when what they really sound like is ok-ish musicians who like the same films as Morrissey and the same books as Edwyn Collins.

Elaine sounds like The Smiths when Johnny Marr was ripping off all of his guitar lines from the horn melodies of early 70s soul records, and like Orange Juice when they were trying to fuse punk's energy with soul's fervour. This makes them pretty special.

Wednesday 1 June 2011

Vein Cranes: Pink Motherfucker

What kind of sick, juvenile, degenerate fucks would make a record like this? A five-piece from Orlando named after slang for cock who play kick-ass bubblegum garage like the Box Elders, that's who. Pink Motherfucker is fabulously filthy like The Vaselines, and fuzzy and dirty and nasty like Headache City (I'm thinking of Hey Ugly, especially). The only way is up for Vein Cranes, but seeing as they seem stupidly happy lying in the gutter looking up your skirt, I hope they'll stay there and make more throwaway punk anthems.