Monday 31 December 2012

Unity Floors - Nice Fit

Unity Floors' Womens Golf ep a year ago tore Dinosaur Jr a new arsehole (Identity Theft), experimented in the garage like a Clean odd ditty (Boil The Ocean) and drilled riffs mercilessly like early Teenage Fanclub (Nobody Home).

Nice Fit, a song from Unity Floors' debut album due on Popfrenzy mid-2013, does all of the above with the jangling simplicity of The Byrds in 140 seconds. No joking, this song will blow your mind. Play it loud and play it non-stop.

Sunday 30 December 2012

Camperdown & Out

It's no surprise that 2013's first great record is Australian. Camperdown & Out number four people who are, natch, all in other bands, most notably Chris Shortt who also plays in Royal Headache.

Boomgates' Rick Milovanovic says:
Oh my god, man. This band. Honestly, like, I don't know. Like I was watching them going "I wish I could play in this band." My mate Dave plays bass in it and I've already tried to think of ways to assassinate him or something so that I would be asked to play bass in this band. They're so awesome.
The only real surprise is that Camperdown and Out are from Sydney as they sound more like the Melbourne scene bands Scott & Charlene's Wedding and The Twerps and Pop Singles.

Actually, there's just as much Christchurch going on and there's definitely some Go-Betweens. 16 Lovers Lane was recorded in Sydney, wasn't it? This is starting to make sense.

The Camperdown & Out! album is out 'early 2013'. All I need to do is find a UK distributor. 2013 resolution: spend more money on records than postage.

Monday 24 December 2012

Listening to Limay

I must declare an interest:

in Maurice Deebank-era Felt

in the wonder of music

in Michael Head & the Strands

in being part of the Hangover Lounge who are releasing what might just be the best album of 2013.

Of course this conflict of interest affects my judgment. I'd only release records I love. My only hope is that they're all as brilliant as Limay.



Limay is an album with no lyrics and a thousand images. It's a record in psychedelia's slipstream. It's 10 songs that career from autumnal acoustic light to full-pelt electric experimental summer pop.

This is a record that bounces off seven corners of a three-walled room. It's Hacia Dos Veranos's third album and it's their best.

The tapes went to the pressing plant last week. It's released in February 2013.

Sunday 23 December 2012

2012 went a little bit like this

2012 gets 10 out of 10 for music. This vintage is largely down to the explosion of Australian talent and the arrival of so many bright new British bands. The hardest thing about making an annual compilation this year was leaving songs off. Some absolute gems have been cast aside, but what’s left is, I’m absolutely certain, all killer.

FAQs

I liked the swears last year. What happened?


This is a family-friendly blog. Many recipients have kids. Hand on heart, I believe the children are our future.

Teach them well and let them lead the way?

That’s the idea. Indoctrinate them with indie early enough and they’ll stand a chance. Of getting beaten up in the playground, maybe, but that’s source material for their own bands when they eventually navigate the quagmire of adolescence.

Swearing’s central to the rock tradition, though.

I know, but when KEEL HER sings “fuck me in the back seat” on Riot Grrrl, I don’t know if she means the back seat of a car, or…you know. KEEL HER’s With Me Tonight is just as good. 2012’s been a great year for music.

Billy Joel sang about anal sex in Uptown Girl, didn’t he, and squeaky-clean boyband Westlife covered it for the Children In Need charity!

“I bet she's never had a backstreet guy/I bet her momma never told her why,” etc? I see. That’s one interpretation of the song, I grant you.

Do kids really pay attention to lyrics that much?

One of the recipient’s kids – mentioning no names, PAM BERRY – can only count up to 4 because of all the bloody Ramones songs played in the family car.

Why can’t you just put up a download?

Every year this comes up. I’m glad it does, because rare is it I get the chance to take the moral high ground (once a year, actually). I know other blogs do it, but I can’t justify giving away new bands’ music online. This compilation is an introduction for friends,, it’s 24 suggestions of where to look, not a worldwide giveaway. It might in most cases not lead to any purchases, but at the very least it’ll spark desires and reignite connections.

1. Two Weeks - Scott & Charlene's Wedding

2. Nerve Pop - Small Reactions

3. Dear John - Allo Darlin

4. She's So Wise - Willie West and the High Society Brothers

5. Keeps Me Going - Standard Fare

6. Holde Me Now - Boomgates

7. Warburton - Per Purpose

8. With Me Tonight - KEEL HER

9. Stay Heavy - Cassolette

10. Don't Play Around - DJ Nu-Mark feat Aloe Blacc & Charles Bradley

11. Cameraman - The Spook School

12. Starlight, Starlight - Exlovers

13. Picking Up Dust - Dignan Porch

14. XTC - Milk Teddy

15. Favela B-boy Funk - Freqnik & WDRE

16. Mosaic - Fear of Men

17. After 4pm - Hipnotik Orchestra

18. So Down - The Eversons

19. It's Gonna be a Good Year - The High Water Marks

20. Lemonade Grrrl - Joanna Gruesome

21. Bad Decisions - Bitch Prefect

22. I'm Moving Back To My Parent's House - Charles Latham

23. So On, Nevada - Damien Jurado

24. Nullarbor - Lower Plenty

Saturday 15 December 2012

Playlounge - Thrash Magic

It took me 2 weeks to play this record, 30 seconds to fall in love with it and no time at all to play it all over again.

These 7 songs cram breakneck riffs like the early Wedding Present records, manic glee like Guided By Voices in the mid-90s and skate punk velocity all in at around two minutes apiece without pausing for breath or missing a beat.

Its nearest 2012 sparring partner might be Sourpatch's Stagger & Fade. A two-word summary? "Melodic hardcore" comes close, but this EP's title - like the music - really nails it: Thrash Magic.

Monday 10 December 2012

Lower Plenty - Hard Rubbish

Lower Plenty is a suburb of Melbourne with the highest incidence of UFO babies in Australia [citation needed]. Lower Plenty's back-porch folk is spare, unusual, captivating and richly romantic.

This album came out months ago. It's another record I bought off recommendation from Wooly Bully. I thought these things:

  • there's some Lee Hazlewood in there
  • if Moldy Peaches hadn't played the goofball card so heavily they'd have sounded this good
  • Nullarbor sounds like the lost child of Dick Diver's Interstate Forever
  • maybe they just turned the tape recorder on and trusted that whatever happened was right
  • there isn't anything quite like this


After looking up the band, turns out one of Lower Plenty is in Dick Diver and that they did just record first take to an eight-track reel-to-reel. The other points still hold true, I reckon.

Apparently, there was a Lower Plenty cassette, so there probably is something else like Hard Rubbish. I haven't heard it. I'd love to.

Thursday 29 November 2012

Per Purpose - Warburton

Nervy like the Subway Sect and teetering on a breakdown like Richard Hell and the Voidoids, Warburton lasts for two minutes because if it went for any longer it would collapse under its edgy energy.

This Brisbane band's previous records leant more to agitated pop - maybe they'd seen Life Without Buildings at the Annandale Hotel and never got over it - but this, this single really nails frenetic hardcore with upstart punk. Did someone mention Husker Du?

Like I said, all over in two minutes. What next? Play it again. And again.

Wednesday 28 November 2012

Southern Comfort: Silver and Gold



This is desolation in slo-mo, a sustained haze like Galaxie 500's Today. The line "I'll watch TV all day now because there's nothing else to do" reminds me of Alan McGee saying he rescued Jim and William Reid from a life of sitting in a small East Kilbride flat watching videos of TV adverts.

There's definitely some of the Mary Chain's dark hypnosis in Southern Comfort's naggingly ragged bliss, maybe like the Dum Dum Girls if they'd never heard the Shop Assistants. They cover Neil Young's Don't Cry No More Tears on the b-side, which makes sense, but I want more Southern Comfort originals. Or whatever they'll be called after the whiskey company makes them change their name.

I got this record from Wooly Bully in Melbourne, the city's newest record shop. One of the older record shops suggested I go there after I asked for new stuff in the Bitch Prefect/Dick Diver/Scott & Charlene's Wedding vein. John from Woollen Kits co-runs it and this was one of his recommendations. When Wooly Bully get a mail order service, it'll be the place for overseas orders.

Saturday 24 November 2012

Constant Mongrel - Everything Goes Wrong



Constant Mongrel have got riffs that could blow the doors off Jesus Christ. Two thirds of them play in Woollen Kits, but they're way more tough, atonal and out-there. Their closest Australian counterparts might be Super Wild Horses and Royal Headache, but their feral noise is closer still to The Gordons' no-fi nihilistic Future Shock and (barbed) Wire's early art-punk explosion.

Everything Goes Wrong is also the title of a Vivian Girls album, but I doubt if Constant Mongrel knew that. If they do now, I bet they don't care.

Fact corner: mongrel is slang for a morning semi. “I was talking one day about how annoying it is to have a mongrel in the morning. You need to go to the bathroom but you can't really take a piss. We came up with the idea of having a mongrel all the time.”

Thursday 15 November 2012

A week in indiepop Melbourne

Pre-trip

Elizabeth Morris of The Allo Darlin drops in to London's trendy Hangover Lounge to ask me if I would courier some money to Mark Monnone she owed him from their recent Australian tour. I agree.

I check the package for drugs. I don't want to spend the first day of my trip in Australian customs being filmed for the TV programme Nothing To Declare. There is just a wad of money and an intricate line drawing of a naked woman being mauled by a Bengal tiger.

Monday 5 November Mark Monnone meets me at Melbourne airport. I hand over the package. He doesn't mention the line drawing and I don't ask about it.


















Tuesday 6 November Mark has a barbecue. The only indiepop news to report is that Mid-State Orange are plotting their comeback. The Orange's architect, Louis Richter, has drafted in Mark on bass. The Orange's second album was ditched after about 6 years of demos. I hope Louis gets his shit together this time!

Wednesday 7 November

The Zebras at the Workers Club
The Zebras were going to play as a duo tonight. Due to illness, the duo is reduced to Jeremy, who combines his considerable Byrdsian guitar skills with a laptop. This is sweet stuff.

Thursday 8 November

Monnone Alone, Glaciers, Bored Nothing, Big Tobacco at the John Curtin Bandroom


If there's a shoegaze scene in Melbourne, then it's Glaciers and Bored Nothing. Both bands are great (which means they're not shoegaze, so let's call them bands that 4AD should look out for, or if Mazzy Star are after a support band for their new lp, then they should look no further). Bored Nothing have an album out. It's only on CD - no vinyl issue is planned - but don't let that put you off because it's excellent.

Here's a photo of one of them. I don't know which. I didn't claim to be a professional. Or sober.












Big Tobacco are definitely not the Joe Pernice band of the same name. They've got raggedy tunes and ruggedy rhythms. They're still not the finished article, but on this display file them under 'very promising'.

Monnone Alone is actually Mark Monnone and two others. They're better now than a year ago, which means they're very good. They rhyme "sexier" with "dyslexia" and remind me of The Rubinoos.

Friday 9 November

Milk Teddy album launch at Polyester Record Shop


If Brian Eno had an indiepop band, I bet it'd sound like Milk Teddy. Their closest UK contemporaries are Dignan Porch. I can't fault them or their album, Zingers.

They number Alexis Hall of The Motifs - 5% the world's greatest songwriter, 95% goofball layabout - who I harangue about making another Motifs record. She declines because her computer's broken and since she left university she's got a job and is too busy.

After much cajoling, Alexis concedes that there might be another Motifs record in 3 years or so. There is a chance she's saying this just to stop me nagging her.

Friday 9 November

The Last Leaves, Cat Cat, Shopgirl at the Gasometer


Shopgirl play two-and-a-half-minute punk-pop songs. I know, a lot of bands do that. I can't think of many that do it well and I definitely can't think of any current band that does it better than Shopgirl.

Two of them are from Canberra and one from Adelaide, so getting together is problematic; the one woman in the band - the shopgirl, perhaps - has a brilliant voice. They don't have any songs online. You should have seen them, though! I won't forget this gig.

I know, you're thinking why didn't I record a song or at least take a photo? This is why: I was wrapped up in the gig. It's not my natural instinct to think 'this is great, I shall record it in some fashion for later'; my natural reaction is to surrender to the moment. I go to gigs in the hope that something this good will happen. Every photo or video in this blog post I had planned to take in advance.

Cat Cat have a song called Pavement, which I don't think is about the band, but you get the idea that they might like Pavement. Their very fine Uralba album suggests that they do, but that's just a small part of their magnificence.



Before The Last Leaves play, I ask Marty Donald what's the difference between them and The Lucksmiths: "we're noisier." They are, too, because there's a full drumkit and they sound like Marty's been listening to American indie rock instead of the Wedding Present and Housemartins records that inspired The Lucksmiths.

They have ten songs and they play them all. They rock it out (Marty told me that at previous gigs, people had called for them to 'jam it out'; something that for sure never happened with the Luckies) and the songs have an intriguing desolation that might come from living in the hills of Victoria.

What this footage (and I know it's really dark - my lighting crew didn't show up) doesn't reveal is that someone in the audience thought the song was called The Nazis Drove Me Home.



Saturday 10 November

Bitch Prefect at the John Curtin Bandroom
I've organised drinks with old friends before I find out that Bitch Prefect are playing. I have no choice and duck out of the drinks midway through. I'm so glad I did. Bitch Prefect have two guitars, drums and no bass: they're terrifically trebly and my ears are ringing with their clattering jangle. When I get back to the pub I'm grinning so much my friends all say that they wished they'd have gone to the gig as well.

Sunday 11 November

Anthony Atkinson & the Running Mates at the Union Hotel
The Union Hotel on a Sunday is like the Hangover Lounge, only with more kids. There's a moshpit of 5-year-olds. It's wonderful. Anthony Atkinson's two albums for Candle are among the most underrated on the label. Atcko has gone more country rock in the 6 years since his last record - one of the Running Mates is on pedal steel - and he's got Marty Donald and Louis Richter in his band now. It's a low-key, heartfelt and warm ending to a week of great gigs.

Friday 9 November 2012

The Wolfhounds: Cheer Up

The Wolfhounds were on the C86 compilation before C86 became a metonym for indiepop and metadata for greedy ebay vendors. The Wolfhounds, then, were indie back when that meant being on the outside, only they were even more on the outside than their contemporaries.

They were always too raucous to be indiepop and always too pop to be awkward rock. If those two dominant styles on the C86 compilation had a meeting point, it was The Wolfhounds. This should have meant that The Wolfhounds were part of everything but it actually meant that they weren’t easily classifiable, hence never quite got picked up by enough people.

I suspect they hold a certain disdain for C86, which is why when they returned 6 years ago to the ICA for the C86 anniversary gig they turned up the volume so fucking loud. They were making a point they didn’t belong, when of course they never did. They would, back in the 80s and early 90s, have been more at home in the USA, perhaps on Homestead or SST, than on the outside of any British scenes.

In 2012 The Wolfhounds don’t belong on the revival circuit, so this new single is very welcome. From the sledgehammer bass, sardonic lyric and awkward melodic kick of Cheer Up you know this is a good return. Security is stronger still; it reminds me of The Anti-Midas Touch which itself reminds me that no band ever really followed up what The Wolfhounds did. This, then, is unfinished business.

Eux Autres - Tilt The Crown

Eux Autres – siblings Heather and Nicholas Larimer, aka The White Stripes if they really did make great records, aka a less depressed Eels, aka the band that carves its riffs in the garage and fine-tunes its hooks in the Brill Building –are back with a three-track ep that gives you more value for your entertainment pound than anything else.

If there’s a street in America that does for musicians what the Hollywood Walk of Fame does for film stars, will its curators please give Eux Autres a call? The USA should be giving this band a permanent public monument to their creative achievements.

Dear John by Allo Darlin

There has to be one transitional moment for any band that makes the leap from shouldabeens to stardom. It could be a life-changing gig, an instant of international infamy or, in Allo Darlin’s case, a song.

Much as I admire the many strengths of Allo Darlin’s second album, Europe, it consolidated their position as purveyors of smart guitar pop rather than took them to the next level. Dear John, though, has the extra kick to take them further still. I would say it sounds like Orange Juice (Louise Louise) or early Smiths or Jonathan Richman in 84, but it sounds most like Capricornia, which means it sounds like Allo Darlin, only better.

This is pop music as simple, urgent and infectious as it gets. It’s clever, too, from the dramatic enjambment to the cheeky pinch of the Modern Lovers’ “don’t let our youth go to waste” reconfigured as the pay-off line “don’t let the evening go to waste”.

UNSCIENTIFIC EXPERIMENT: I DJed this (ok, it was my turn to on the ipod) at a barbecue this week. No one of the 20 people present had ever heard Dear John before. Everyone present started to move. Hips swayed, toes tapped and soon a group of three started full out dancing. Dear John is an instant hit. People get it straight away. Does the digital age have its equivalent of the old grey whistle test? If so, this was it and it passed.

Dear John is the b-side of Allo Darlin’s xmas single, Only Dust Behind, which is itself a lovely song – especially with the image of the lawyer throwing champagne up in her hair – but xmas 2012 will surely be remembered in the Allo Darlin annals as the moment they crossed over.

Thursday 25 October 2012

Mud Pie Sun - Wooden Circle

This is back-porch psychedelia like the last two Woods albums. It's strung-out folk. It's spare and sometimes despairing like Big Star's Sister Lovers. They say they were inspired by the noises being made on Flying Nun way back when and since they mention it, yes, there's a bit of David Kilgour's Here Come The Cars and there's definitely some of The Bilders' skewed pop. I bet over the years Mud Pie Sun have worn out their copies of Younger Than Yesterday and The Notorious Byrd Brothers. Wooden Circle was recorded between 2004 and 2011. When they were younger they released three tapes in the early 90s as Mud Pie. You can hear on new track Church Of Bitter Souls a kinship with the old K stuff, particularly Beat Happening.

Maybe if this had been released on a private pressing in 1974 Light In The Attic would have picked it up. As it is, it's released on a private pressing in 2012 by the two guys from Philadelphia who are Mud Pie Sun. It's a pretty special artefact.

Sunday 21 October 2012

Fear Of Men - Mosaic

Fear Of Men are compellingly dramatic like The Sugarcubes, they write songs that are are mysterious, grandiose statements like The Sundays' Reading, Writing and Arithmetic, and mine a rich seam of strange wonder in their pop that recalls Mute by The Catchers.

They cover The Chills' Pink Frost and have even got a song called Doldrums, so you know in part where their beguiling melancholy comes from. Mosaic is the third single by Fear Of Men, which makes it a double hat-trick (all their b-sides are amazing, too) of stylish, swaggering gems.

Mosaic by FEAR OF MEN

Baffin Island

Baffin Island - the musical and geographical meeting place of Idaho's The Very Most and Glasgow's The Hermit Crabs - sound like they share a love of Jonathan Richman, The Lucksmiths and Camera Obscura. This is a very good thing, obviously.

The warm melodic swirl, gently tugging tune and acute regret of ep opener suggests that Surrender To Jonathan - one of JoJo's key albums, but a little overlooked, I've always felt - is Baffin Island's starting point. No great surprise, as The Very Most have a wonderful song called Jonathan Richman, but this ep is no mere pastiche and stands up very well on its own.

We Were Meant To Meet

Thursday 18 October 2012

Big Wave - Only You



Big Wave's Only You zips along punkily like Kenickie and deliriously manic like The Flaming Lips when they go pop, which means it's closer to Leavers Party and Another Year Or Two from their The Roots Of Love tape. It makes me think of Help Stamp Out Loneliness (only without so much of a stomping soul influence) and I'm not at all surprised they've got a gig coming up with The Tuts. It's out on 7", November 5. What else do you need to know? OK, it's on "beer" coloured vinyl and you can order it now.

Tuesday 16 October 2012

Ralph 'Soul' Jackson: The Alabama Love Man

Some things you should know about Ralph Jackson:

1. He got his soul sobriquet from the legendary Rick Hall of the equally legendary FAME studios.

2. He gave himself 'the Alabama love man' name for good reason: "I may sing my songs from the gut but they come from my heart. I learned very early that women appreciate attention, I’m not singing for women, I sing to them."

3. He was inspired to write music after hearing Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett. It shows.

4. He's been making music for 50 years.

5. The Alabama Love Man is his first album. It's a masterclass in southern soul.

Monday 15 October 2012

Freqnik & WDRE: Favela B-boy Funk

Favela B-Boy Funk is killer Latin funk, huge drums and sensual horns, caught somewhere between 70s original jams and 80s hip hop beats. Did someone say Joe Bataan?

There's not a lot of difference between the soul revival songs and the old school hip hop tunes coming out these past few years. They're all coming out on 7", too, maybe so they can be held up to the classics they're emulating or sampling. And there's no better jam right now than this debut 7" from New York producers Freqnik & WDRE.

Monday 8 October 2012

The folkin' brilliance of Charles Latham

Don't think you know Charles Latham? Bet you know Hard On, which Withered Hand covered. And if you know the world weariness of Phil Ochs, the sweet melodic intuition of Paul Simon and Michael Nesmith's downhome country, then you know Charles Latham.

Latham's songs are equal parts funny, wry and desolate. His observational thumbnail sketches will slay you. How about the opening lines to the ironically solipsistic My Perfect Church, "I pray from my toilet seat, make my holy life complete/My god hears me when I speak, can yours say the same"?

Or the pathos of Applications For Employment, "Interview after interview, beg for jobs I don't wanna do"? These songs and more, all bittersweet beauts, are on Legend: The Best Of Charles Latham. The whiskey-soaked misery keeps on coming on new album Fast Loans, a collection centring on financial woes:

Inevitably, Latham is cash poor. There's a UK tour in November and a kickstarter, which you can use to buy Fast Loans. Oh, and UK gig promoters, he's got some dates in his diary to fill.

Tuesday 2 October 2012

Sex and the indiepop scene

There was a very muddleheaded rant recently in which the author got his pants in a wad about Ariel Pink and then discards a lot of bands he doesn’t much care for in the catchall slight “twee”. What the author has done here is sign up to the rockist criticism of indiepop “twee” so he can use shorthand to belittle some bands he’s heard of.

Let’s propose that he really does think that Ariel Pink, Le Tigre, Electrelane, Bis and CSS are indiepop, hence twee, and let his critique stand:
“If you spent any part of the last twenty years in indie clubs in British tweecore strongholds such as Norwich, Leeds or Sheffield, you may well be familiar with this pseudo-feminism. Remember all those guys who really loved Le Tigre or Electrelane or Bis or CSS, but ultimately might as well have been in the triples-for-singles meat market up the road when it came to putting their money where their emancipatory mouths were? I certainly knew a few. The sense that the sexual democracy of that scene is a sham, amounting ultimately to the perpetuation of the same old male privileges in a more passive-aggressive way, is one of the (many) things to have consistently undermined twee's claims to political credibility.”
These observations quickly fall apart like a cheap toy. Let’s say some meathead had tried to pick up a Le Tigre fan, a woman familiar with their feminist songs. Wouldn’t get very far now, would he?

I’m pretty sure I would’ve found out sometime in the past 20+ years if Norwich, Leeds and Sheffield really were strongholds of indiepop. You mean the mainstream indie clubs, don’t you? Sure, I bet that happens. It’s incredibly unlikely to happen in an indiepop club because the scene is so small. Most people know each other for a start.

However, I did direct a group of lads into London’s Buffalo Bar after an indiepop gig a year or two ago. I’d escaped to the pub above the venue – they sell pints, rather than overpriced bottles – and outside a man asked me “what’s the fanny like down there?” I knew him and his mates would get nowhere.

I also knew that my mate had promoted the gig and needed some more paying punters through the door for the club night that followed the bands. I advised the young men that they should try their luck. They paid their money and were back out before I’d finished my drink. And I’m a quick drinker.

I know you’re trying to have a go at men by saying that “the sense that the sexual democracy of that scene is a sham, amounting ultimately to the perpetuation of the same old male privileges in a more passive-aggressive way”. What you’re really doing, though, is insulting the women. You think that female indiepop fans fall for that kind of crap? They will assure you they don’t.

Pop Songs Your New Boyfriend’s Too Stupid To Know About lists bands because it’s a celebration of the indiepop scene. It attempts to do for indiepop what Arthur Conley did for soul in Sweet Soul Music.

I’m not having a personal go at you, mate, but I think you’re way of your depth when you talk about indiepop. I yield to no one in my love for soul music, but you having a dig at Tullycraft is about as helpful as me slagging off Kylie for Step Back In Time. I’m certain that Kylie doesn’t “remember The O’Jays” but her fans don’t need me pointing that out, just as indiepop fans don’t need you projecting that Pop Songs Your New Boyfriend’s Too Stupid To Know About is "all about making a woman the intermediary in an exclusively male antagonism”. Not least because it isn’t. It’s a fun pop song.

OK, the pathos of Tullycraft’s scene celebration in the context of being dumped doesn’t work for you. How about the sadness of not being tall enough to get the girl of your dreams and your old car getting you laughed at by girls? That’s I Wish by Skee-Lo. It’s another fun pop song with a sad side. There are thousands of them.

Calling out indiepop’s male fans for being party to a sexual sham simply doesn’t follow in my experience. Perhaps some of what you describe happens, but nowhere near as much as you think and I bet nowhere near as much as in other genres.

What’s most naive of you, however, is your inability to recognise that all music genres are at some level about sex. Music is about sex; whatever the subculture it’s the same dance (sex), just to different music.

I wonder if you’re falling into the trap of thinking indiepop fans are twee, therefore bloodless and sexless. You should have been at Bowlie in 1999. It was a festival that Belle and Sebastian – a band whose popular album If You’re Feeling Sinister is named after their song about wanking – fans met up to drink and see some bands, but many to have sex.

There were a lot of relationships cemented that weekend, ones that had formed on message boards. None of those many liaisons I knew about could be described in the terms you ascribe to indiepop men.

I know that was 13 years ago, but I still see some of the same faces – and the same bands – at gigs. Yet indiepop is a fluid scene – people drop in for a while or love one band and stick around a while for some others. It would be foolish to say that everyone in the scene at any time likes the same things or has the same beliefs; it would be fair to say, though, that those long-term fans don't match the criticisms you level at them.

You should go to an indiepop club. A word of advice, though: don’t try to pick up anyone with the line “would you like to come back to mine to see my Baby Lemonade flexidisc?” It’s as unlikely to work as it would be to see a male indiepop fan “making a woman the intermediary in an exclusively male antagonism, which is in this case also a debate about taste in which the girlfriend is invited to act as adjudicator”.

Sunday 23 September 2012

Sweater Girls Were Here

Sweater Girls make indiepop like it used to be: fuzzy guitars, crystal clear melodies and a lyrical pre-occupation with youth's intense emotions. This is an album about crushes, kisses and recriminations, and it sounds fantastic.

Their influences might most obviously be The Byrds' sunny 60s jangle, the Ramones' punk simplicity and The Ronnettes' melancholy pop, but these twelve songs are as fresh as new paint. I fancy there's a sly nod to The Springfields' Sunflower on Fred, but Sweater Girls transcend their influences so well that they own their sound.

There are plenty of bands who have tried to make this sort of record in recent years - you know who they are - but didn't have the class to cut it. Sweater Girls Were Here goes to the top of the class and gives indiepop a good name..

Monday 17 September 2012

Boomgates: Double Natural

An Australian band release a couple of singles full of gravelly garage guitars and hooks that won't quit, then up the production values for a cleaner album. If that sounds familiar, then Boomgates have taken the same trajectory as The Twerps - with whom they share a member - but Double Natural is no Twerps part 2.

The re-recorded version of the Layman's Terms single puts Double Natural in focus: this is a record full of singles and potential pop hits. What band wouldn't kill for the artistry to write Cows Come Home, a deceptively simple song infused with power pop restraint and countrified heartache? It would have been the stand-out track on Lightships' album - itself a fine record.

Boomgates remind me of The Go-Betweens in their asethetic rather than their music (although album opener Flood Plains is a cousin to Forster's Here Comes A City). There's raw edginess next to pure pop, not least down to the switch vocals of Brendan Huntley and Steph Hughes. In fact, Hughes has got a great voice and on top of the brutally tender songs it could almost be Tracey Thorn singing with The Go-Betweens on Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express.

There's that aesthetic again. And it spells pure class.

Thursday 13 September 2012

Society - All That We've Become



This one sells itself. It's that good. Dramatic, perfectly poised and trembling with rich mystique. If you want a standard selling point, try 'the new Portishead'. All That We've Become took me back to 1999 when Plutonik - a band of much promise with some modern classics to their name - were meant to do to drum'n'bass what Portishead did to trip hop. That they didn't (in sales terms) shouldn't diminish their quality.

In the same year was Junkie XL's Zerotonine, another of Society's kindred spirits. More? Try Giving Up by Gladys Knight & the Pips for theatrical gloom. Tindersticks noir, for sure. All of those things and more. Society stand up on their own.

Spookily, I see that Plutonik's album, Prime Numbers, is about to be reissued.

Thursday 6 September 2012

Dignan Porch: Nothing Bad Will Ever Happen

What a difference two years makes! Dignan Porch's 2010 debut album, Tendrils, has several diamonds in the rough. It's a record I love. 2012's follow up, Nothing Bad Will Ever Happen, is fuller and richer and even better. Its pop hooks soar, its keyboards swirl and its guitars go straight to the heart. Once upon a time, Super Furry Animals nearly made a record as good as this. I can't give it higher marks.

You could easily say this album is bookended by its best tracks - both Picking Up Dust and You Win You Win are solid gold hits - but everything in between is just as vital. There's new wave energy and garage rock hedonism (sometimes on the same song - check Cancelled TV Shows to find your new favourite song), there's wonky Teardrop Explodes pop (Sixteen Hits) and quirky XTC-style psychedelia (She Is Landing).

There's more besides all that: this is very definitely the work of one of Britain's most captivating (you must see them live), most exciting bands. The next time someone tells you the British indie underground is dead, play them this. If they don't change their mind, then it's the listener who's dead.



Sunday 2 September 2012

Parasol and Troubled Sleep

Do you want a punk rock ballad that sounds as vital by the glare of the sun as it does by the glow of candlelight (clue: you really do)? Then wrap your ears around Parasol's Firecracker, which lasts two minutes and collapses in a cascade of girl group harmonies and giggles.

The other three tracks on Parasol's Crush Season ep are essential, too. They remind me of the tough pop stuff I was listening to 20 years ago - the first records by Magnapop, Jale, Zuzu's Petals and Arcwelder. On the strength of Crush Season, people will be remembering Parasol fondly in 20 years' time, too.

Troubled Sleep "currently reside, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, in brooklyn". Similar to their agitated neighbours like Heaven's Gate, they know their MBV records inside out, as well as the Swirlies and Lorelei. The Wacky Past Is Now ep shows them attacking their influences with enough panache and elan to make a sound all their own. I'd put money on them having tattoos underneath their cardigans.

Both these records are on Puzzle Pieces, what is (slowly) becoming one of my favourite boutique labels. There were two superb 4-track 7" EPs last year from Bad Banana and Four Eyes; now these fine efforts from Parasol and Troubled Sleep.

All Puzzle Pieces records are cheap and packaged lovingly. They give away downloads of the EPs - some might think this is a crazy business model, but Puzzle Pieces know that good pop records sell. As they rightly say, at only $9.50 for both EPs: "What a steal! Saves on shipping too."

Sunday 26 August 2012

The Hit Parade - Pick of the Pops (Vol 1)

The Hit Parade's first compilation, released in 1988, collected all sides from the band's first six singles. Most of the songs were about one woman, Joanna. Sue, the b-side of the sixth single, revealed Hit Parade head honcho Julian Henry had a new obsession.

Twenty-four years later, this new Hit Parade compilation suggests that, actually, all along Henry's obsession was with the (unobtainable) Goddess woman. This is not the work of some old milksop, though. Yes, The Boy Who Loved Brighter is a song based on those (much-missed) indiepop bantamweights of yore, but it's more about being driven to suicide by the curse of unrequited love.

The scope of Pick of The Pops flips the bird to any indiepop detractor. What if Scott Walker had written songs with Carole King? I give you The Queen Of Mousehole. What if Felt's solipsistic diatribe Ballad Of The Band had been shaken off its Dylan influence for Suzi Quatro? It might have sounded like My Stupid Band.

Then there's the Europop dancefloor smash I Like Bubblegum. The sure-footed ballad In Gunnersbury Park is a modern classic torch song. It was recently covered by Let's Wrestle; if more musicians had heard it, you feel that they, too, would cover it.

The Hit Parade might always fly under pop's radar - they have done for almost 30 years - but on the strength of this collection, you must draw the conclusion that the record-buying public is largely out of step with any sense of quality control.

Pick Of The Pops (Vol 1) is out on September 24.

The Queen of Mousehole by the-hit-parade

In Gunnersbury Park by the-hit-parade

My Stupid Band by the-hit-parade

Wednesday 22 August 2012

G. Green - Crap Culture

Two fried and fuzzy singles already this year from G. Green and now an album. Crap Culture sets off in the same punk blitz style and barely lets up during its all-out sonic assault.

It doesn't keep at that pace all the way through; sometimes the guitar that fires off all cylinders is joined by more instruments (another guitar or two - what?!) for a twin-engine attack. For light(ish) relief, each side of this record closes with a (sort of) ballad.

One of those songs is Crap Culture - there's no overaching concept to this album, though. It mostly runs from punk to hardcore with barely a breath to spare. It's the sort of record that Homestead or SST would've sold their grandmothers and held rich people's dogs to ransom to finance. It really is that simple. And it really does work.

Monday 20 August 2012

Nerve Pop

Tear up the ballot papers, stop counting the votes and tell the bookies to pay out on the bets: 2012's best single is here. It's called Nerve Pop and it's by Small Reactions.



There might be a word for the excitement that this kind of record generates. I've had the same feeling this year - all three songs on the Standard Fare 7", the whole of exlovers' Moth, Stay Heavy by Cassolette - and I call it pop music.

In the face of higher powers, which is what Nerve Pop is, I turn to a higher power, the author Amy Hempel, for the best description of happiness I know. Writing in Today Will Be A Quiet Day, she describes a father playing with his kids one rainy Sunday: "He doubted he would ever feel - not better, but more than he did now."

Sunday 19 August 2012

Fine Steps - Boy's Co

There won't be another LP like Boy's Co this year. There wasn't one anything like it last year and unless Fine Steps follow up their intriguing, bewitching and compulsive debut, there won't be one next year.

I've got some idea of where Fine Steps are coming from - Gun Club punk blues, David Kilgour enigma, Television art punk, Modern Lovers desperate wonder - but no idea where they're going. Boy's Co could have been released in post-punk's confusion, a time you feel that bands were stepping out into the darkness and seeing by the stars.

Fine Steps (or Julian Elorduy, a maths teacher in California, plus friends) have a gift of hearing what others have not heard. There are 250 copies of Boy's Co. Everyone who buys this record will know it to be very special.

05 Orestes by Fine Steps

01 Dig Me In by Fine Steps

Saturday 18 August 2012

Funk Is Ruling My Head

Love the title; fucking love the song. Funk Is Ruling My Head is one of the stand-out tracks from the superb Together album by Pitch & Scratch. A great many of Together's songs could be singles, but this one gets the deal because it's the most retro-funk of the lot, and if a current track's got the old soul or funk flavour, then it's odds-on to be issued on 7".

Pitch & Scratch - Funk Is Ruling My Head feat. Alex Prince by Pitch & Scratch

Funk Is Ruling My Head isn't that old skool - it's more in the lineage of 90s funk which pretty much got stopped in its tracks by an R&B takeover. If you like En Vogue more than Missy Elliott (I for sure do) then this is a song for you.

And if you like hip hop, ragga, Latin soul and tropicalia, then Together is the moveable feast for you.

The Cactus Channel - Haptics

I measure the quality of funk records by the sweat:funk ratio. You need to taste the sweat a little but feel the funk a lot. The Cactus Channel's funk flows hard and direct; you can tell they're working, but they make it seem easy. This is funk at its finest.

Their confidence is astonishing. They've left off their debut single Pepper Snake - one of the key 45s of the past 18 months - from Haptics and have still got plenty of driving horns, quicksilver organ and chicken scratch guitar to spare.

Six members of this Melbourne 10-piece contribute to the songwriting. Take away the credits and play this record blind there's no doubt listeners would reckon they'd stumbled across a lost rare groove classic.

The Cactus Channel are still in their teens. If they're this good now, just think how good they could get. Hold on tight, their trajectory is going to be one hell of a ride.

Sunday 12 August 2012

Velcro

The Australian underground is on fire. I bet you know about the rumble of Bitch Prefect, the gloriously untidy Scott & Charlene's Wedding, and the pocket-sized psychedelic symphonies of Milk Teddy. Make more room in your (tape) collection for Velcro.

Biography? "Curtis Wakeling and his lo-fi bedroom recordings." That's all you need to know. The music is closer to Milk Teddy out of Velcro's contemporaries. It's closer still to an older generation of Australian bands.

There's the brooding poetic vignettes of Sulk, the offbeat ruggedness of Sleepy Township, the spare melodic gift of The Sugargliders and the insistent, brittle bedroom pop anthems of The Go-Betweens' Before Hollywood and Spring Hill Fair vintage.

If your favourite Lucksmiths songs are I Prefer The Twentieth Century and The Cassingle Revival, then you'll love Velcro. There is a cassette, Life At Sea. There are only 30 copies. Get it while you can.



Saturday 11 August 2012

The Choo Choo Trains

They describe themselves as “girl-guide shoegaze” – which is neat, even though I’m not exactly sure what it means –and over 17 songs create their own universe. They remind me most of the Marine Girls, who did just what they wanted to simply and perfectly, mistakes and all.

You might call The Choo Choo Trains DIY, but forget any of that genre’s deliberate shoddiness: I’m certain they’re trying to sound the best they can on whatever resources they have. There’s the spirit of 60s girl group pop at the heart of this tape. Colours reaches for the Spector sound on a budget and Rocket Bicycle captures the innocence of the Brill Building sound with a wink to Carole King’s songwriting.

There’s a lot going on here. Remember Tracey Thorn saying that Beat Happening were “a band almost entirely in our [the Marine Girls] image”? Well, After School Fun snaps up those bands’ gaucheness and pop simplicity and presents it in their own style. There’s even a psych instrumental called Peppermint Gardener. You’ll discover your own reference points, but ultimately you’ll come back to The Choo Choo Trains, who are quietly self-contained.

These songs had me reaching – for the first time in years – for Solace and Des Garcons Ordinaires, from what may or may not have been a French indiepop scene 20 years ago. Information was scarce. They sounded special then, as The Choo Choo Trains do now. No idea where they’ll go next, but it’ll be fun finding out.

FAQs

Didn’t you say something about their name? That was a month ago. A week is a long time in pop music; a month is an eternity.

Girl guides, eh? Have you got a photograph? Fuck off, you filthy pervert.

What are they like live? No idea. I hope to find out.



Monday 6 August 2012

The White Wires - WWIII

The White Wires have got more beat, more bounce and more meat on the bones than any other powerpop band out there. Where their second album cleaned up the garage for a brighter sound, White Wires III is brighter and bigger still.

They’ve taken their own advice from Popularity on their second lp, “pick up a microphone and start to play, you can write the next big craze”, and made a party record chock-a-block with knockout pop songs. Want a record as good as Hypnotised by The Undertones? You got it.

If White Wires II was an album sometimes in thrall to its influences – song titles tipped their hat to The Beach Boys (Be True To Your School ('Til You Get Kicked Out)), the Raspberries (Just Wanna Be With You) and Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons (Bye Bye Baby) – then White Wires III is the sound of a band coming into its own and matching its idols.

White Wires III is a celebration of pop music. It’s Been A While eulogises the thrill of being in a band – “it’s all about first times, nothing else matters to me” – with the same energy they devote to falling for girls, and Please Write is a love letter to a favourite band, a “punk rock band on top of the pops”.

This record couldn’t be any clearer in its intentions. But in case you miss it, they’ve written liner notes: “We’ve done wild songs, we’ve done nasty songs, we’ve done love songs, and we wanted this one to be a little bit of it all, while still making its own mark in our collection. From the outset, this album was to be our pop album. In the mix, we wanted to have some party rockers, lots of hooks, lots of bass lines, some classic power chords, and a clear view into our souls.”



Tuesday 31 July 2012

Hipnotik Orchestra

Summer means funk and the funky summer sounds start at After 4 pm on the debut 7" by pan-European outfit Hypnotik Orchestra. Their 70s funk revival is so true and breathes so much life of its own that you can bet if A Tribe Called Quest come back again, this record will be among the first they sample.

Friday 27 July 2012

Bitch Prefect

Do you want a band who sound like Beat Happening playing The Feelies? Who stumble gloriously with the conviction that, actually, they're proper rock stars and everyone else can eat shit, like The Pastels did in the 80s? Bitch Prefect have called their first album Big Time because they know they're good.

Bitch Prefect aren't, uh, pitch perfect. They get things wrong but sound just right. The singer can't sing, but it doesn't matter, you know? Their closest cousins are fellow Australians Scott & Charlene's Wedding. If there really is a Para Vista Social Club, then Big Time was surely conceived there.

It's a rougher and readier record than last year's Holiday In America 7". I love both sides of this band. It can only be a matter of time before K Records open their chequebook and sign them.

Bitch Prefect - Bad Decisions by bedroom suck

Wednesday 25 July 2012

How Black Tambourine Got Their Name and other short stories

Black Tambourine named themselves after a 1987 single by Birmingham band the Surf Drums. I can't hear much of a Surf Drums influence in Black Tambourine - a keener kinship can surely be heard with Surf Drums' labelmates My Bloody Valentine. Maybe they just liked the way the name sounded, or the way it looked on the record.

If they'd been called The My Bloody Valentines or The Mary Chains or The Store Assistants, no one - least of all themselves - would have taken them seriously.

Choo Choo Train named themselves after a song by Alex Chilton's first band, The Box Tops. On Choo Choo Train's first single, there's singer Ric Menck clutching a copy of Alex Chilton's next band's album, Big Star's #1 Record.

If Choo Choo Train had been called The Big Stars, no one would have taken them seriously. As it was, the name they had got them automatically dismissed in some quarters of the music press as too twee. You've got to remember that in the late 80s, Alex Chilton's standing in the UK was as a minor cult figure. It would take another few years before the likes of Teenage Fanclub helped make Big Star became one of the key names to drop or be influenced by.

Ric Menck said that in the USA naming their band Choo Choo Train was deliberately provocative: "I think it’s more...punk-rock – like The Sex Pistols. Every time you say it to somebody they’re either embarrassed to say it or they automatically hate it.”

Today, there are UK bands called The Black Tambourines and The Choo Choo Trains. I see what they did there. I don't like it. I like their music, but I'm embarrassed to say their names for completely different reasons than Menck proposed.

I reckon that both of these bands have heard and are influenced by their American forebears. If they weren't, then finding out that they'd pretty much stolen another band's name would mean they'd have to change their name to Black Tambourine UK or Choo Choo Train UK.

Seeing as these bands must have known about, and appear to be influenced by, bands with whom they share a name, why didn't they name themselves after one of those bands' songs? If it were good enough for Black Tambourine and Choo Choo Train...

I can't imagine either Pam Berry or Ric Menck, a la Rakim, bragging "I can take a phrase that's rarely heard, flip it, now it's a daily word" just as I can't imagine giving my heart completely to a band whose heart is in another band.

The best thing that can happen now, surely, is if the (kinda) reformed Black Tambourine go back to the studio and record a song called Surf Drums.

Saturday 21 July 2012

Joanna Gruesome

Funny, ain't it, that My Bloody Valentine's Isn't Anything is seen as year zero by a whole generation of American bands, but its second-generation influence is only just starting to be felt in Britain.

Joanna Gruesome are obviously in thrall to MBV. Sugarcrush couldn't exist without You Made Me Realise. There's also the headlong rush of Pale Saints noise; there's Sonic Youth guitar terrorism (Yr Dick); and fun'n'frenzy on Sweater, kind of like if Let's Wrestle's first record had been less in love with Husker Du and more in love with, yeah, MBV.

Don't get me wrong, Joanna Gruesome are a band full of their own flavour and spirit. They're young, exciting and of course they trip up sometimes. Pntry Grrlll is pretty much a cover of The Clouds' Tranquil in the style of the Mary Chain.

Everywhere else - and I'm including on stage, where they rule - their bruising, deliciously violent pop is today's essential sound. In the future, people will look back at the Family Portrait 7" ep, which they share with Gum, KEEL HER and Playlounge, as the most important British record to be released in 2012.

Thursday 19 July 2012

David Kilgour lathe cuts

These 1997 recordings capture the same DIY spirit of Kilgour's essential home recordings found on First Steps & False Alarms (87-92): "intakes and outtakes, the best of the worst, stuff I've left behind and some ideas I've used, guidance recommended, fanatics only, meanderings and afterthoughts while holding a guitar in the moment, ad lib, meaningless and empty, agitation of mind, the past is gone, empty and tomorrow is nowhere to be seen, getting inside the echo and early 60s Revox A77, notech hi-fi...an end of a mood or a means to an end."

There were five Kilgour lathe cut 7"s. I've got only the two. Due to ebay mentalism and being broke, I'll probably never find the other three. No matter. These songs still stand tall. Maybe someone could issue all of the lathe cut recordings on album? I'd buy it.

I Caught You Lookin



Way Down Here

I Lost My Name

Instru Two

Monday 16 July 2012

Look Blue Go Purple and the magic of pop

Everything on Flying Nun in the 80s was worth checking out. A band called Look Blue Go Purple would make any pop fan take notice. That they were on Flying Nun made them all the more enticing. This band had to be good, right? They were better than good.

Every first-era Flying Nun band can in some way be considered a mediation on the Nuggets compilation with the blissful reaction of rubbing shoulders against like-minded souls in a small scene. Some sounded like they were angrily fighting against their isolation; some sounded like it didn't matter what they did because they didn't know anyone was paying attention.

Look Blue Go Purple were like the latter: they had that carefree spirit of adventure. I reckon they were also aware of the paisley underground scene going on in the US. Their strum and drum had flutes, psychedelic organ and classical heroines (Circumspect Penelope).

There were 13 songs over 3 EPs. Not a trick missed on these tracks. A perfect legacy. These songs still sound fresh, magical and mysterious.

Golden Grrrls - absolutely my favourite new British band of the past 18 months - have covered I Don't Want You Anyway GOLDEN GRRRLS - "I Don't Want You Anyway" (Look Blue Go Purple) by NightSchool

The Bats - absolutely one of my favourite bands, ever - covered the same song The Bats - I Don't Want You Anyway by thevault1

See? Sounds great in two versions by two very different bands. There's a LBGP vinyl album reissue happening this year. I hope more fans and bands find them.

Tuesday 10 July 2012

Those spunky Tuts

The Tuts are a spunky three-piece that play big and bold and short punk pop songs. They remind me of Kenickie, of X-Ray Spex and of Bratmobile. The acoustic Lying Lover on the CD shows there's another side to The Tuts. There's a heck of a lot of promise in this band.





I went to see them at the Windmill last week - they were fourth on the bill, but it can't be long until they're headliners. They were fun, lively and stole the crowd's heart. They only did one thing wrong - they chose to close with a Clash cover instead of playing another original. Take aim at me now, if you want, but I don't think even The Clash should play Clash songs. With a bit more confidence, maybe next time they'll back themselves - they really should - and finish on one of their own songs. They all sound like hits.

Yes, there was a mighty rumpus afterwards. You'll have read about it in many other places, so I have little to add, only that it really wasn't helpful that so many people who weren't at the gig felt they could contribute to the debate. Oh, and I won't be going back to the Windmill.

Monday 9 July 2012

Cheap Curls - Jackie Oh

America's hit factory the Dum Dum Girls have given us another star in former member Bambi, now trading as Cheap Curls. Debut single Jackie Oh is chewin' at a rhythm on my bubblegum/the sun is out and I want some just like the Ramones, straight to the point like Cheap Trick and snappily punctuated with handclaps like My Boyfriend's Back, all dispatched with a minimum of fuss like Colleen Green. There's even a guitar solo. Seriously, what more do you want?

Friday 29 June 2012

Talulah Gosh - Rubber Ball live in Oxford, 1987

This is why Talulah Gosh were not just another band:

Speed metal drums! They thrashed around, guitars and drums making an unholy noise. Somehow, people still called them twee.

Politics!: "Don't talk to me about the Russians, you and me will never agree." In 1987, the spectre of Red Wedge - a well-meaning, but sometimes too right-on collective of left-wing musicians - loomed large in indie. On the other side of the political spectrum, CD-loving Thatcherites owned two copies of Brothers In Arms, one of which they stored in their nuclear bunker in case the Russians attacked. Talulah Gosh were too different to be part of any of that. They were political enough anyway: the silly name, the revival of punk's DIY spirit and girl group melodies (Dolly Mixture playing the Ramones, if you like), aligning amateurism with idealism - in all ways these outsiders were against the grain.

They had their own Bez! Really! “Eithne’s useless,” Mathew explains, “she’s a real spaz. But she knows she is. She knows she can’t sing or even play in time, but she doesn’t care. So why should we? She’s great. And she’s in the band because we all love her. Eithne’s the most important member of the band because she’s the one thing that stops us getting too serious about it all. She stops us becoming professional!” (Undergound, August 87)

Rubber Ball was recorded live in Oxford, February 1987, and is different to the version on Backwash. It was released on the Yeah, Yeah, Yeah! compilation tape.

Tuesday 26 June 2012

The third Wolfhounds Peel Session

The Wolfhounds were brutally, beautifully loud. Many of the records they made between 1986 and 1990 stand up today as some of the best records of that era.

The tail end of 1988 was enriched by three brilliant singles from very different bands who'd never quite found an audience:

• Elephant Stone - The Stone Roses

• There She Goes - The La's

• Rent Act - The Wolfhounds

Everyone knows what happened to the first two bands. The Wolfhounds were just as good, but never got the break. They split up in 1990 leaving a fine legacy.

Their final Peel Session was broadcast on 1 February 1988:

Happy Shopper



William Randolf Hearse



Son Of Nothing



EDIT: I originally uploaded Rule Of Thumb from the previous Peel Session. I've corrected that. And, yes, all three Wolfhounds Peel Sessions would make a great album, and an official release would give these songs higher fidelity than my ropey old tapes.

Non-Specific Song

Sunday 24 June 2012

exlovers - Moth

Exlovers write pop songs and then put their foot on the fuzzbox. They sound like Ride when they got it right (This Love Will Lead You On), like they’ve found unreleased demos for The Cure’s Wish and sprinkled magic dust on them (Just A Silhouette) and like Dinosaur Jr covering The Cure (Blowing Kisses).

They don’t sound nearly as like My Bloody Valentine as some people reckon. Moth is a great guitar pop record like The Lemonheads’ It’s A Shame About Ray or the very best of Everything’s Alright Forever and Giant Steps by The Boo Radleys. Moth is what The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart’s debut might sound like freed from the cleansing production that stole those songs’ bite, snarl and personality.



Thursday 21 June 2012

Cassette Culture in the 80s



You know what it's like now: a lot of exciting bands are getting their first release on tape. Things were a little different in the late 80s.

The photo shows some of the tapes I bought (and, in one instance, was sent free) between 86 and 89. In the indiepop scene then, there was a format war. This centred on 7" singles being idealised both aesthetically and economically, with a concomitant hatred of 12" singles.

This skirmish manifested itself most playfully in the Sha-la-la label, who released six-and-a-half-inch flexidiscs so the listener couldn't use a record player's auto-return and had to physically interact with the record for each play.

The cheap and disposable ethic of flexidiscs was an extension of the tape scene, which was an incredibly important part of the post-punk DIY movement. Tape culture embodied punk's ethos of being cheap and easy, only more so: they were even cheaper and easier to record and release than vinyl.

That episode in cassette history was strongest in the early 80s. From about 1986 onwards, compilation tapes became really useful in hearing those bands you'd read about in fanzines or kindred spirits to bands you already liked.

It was incredibly difficult back then to hear unreleased bands or even bands who had a record out. Unless John Peel played a demo tape or you stumbled across a new band at a gig, or you lived near a cool record shop that stocked the pop underground releases, you just couldn't hear a lot of new music.

Compilation tapes were vital in the indiepop scene back then. Look at that photo. There's Like Flies In The Face Of, an essential round-up of the Australian pop underground; there's Akko-Chan's Anorak Party, compiling the Japanese scene; and there's Something's Burning In Paradise, which had hit after unheard hit.

Then, like now, there were new bands with cassette-only releases. Keen I found out about from a compilation tape and bought their own tape. They later released two records. Similarly, Emil I discovered through a compilation tape. They released one tape ep and that was the end of that.

There's a collection of St Christopher demos there. I bought that on mail order from the band. All money went their way. At that point they'd released three (self-funded) singles and a flexi in four years. Maybe that's something for downloaders to think about next time they grab music they could otherwise buy.

Primal Scream? There was a stall in Camden Market that could meet most of your bootleg needs. It was the only place to find Tomorrow Ends Today. Of course, if then were now and it had been uploaded, then I'd have rather bought a download from the band than line the pockets of a market stallholder.

The Cannanes had a catalogue of records and tapes. An album-length tape could be had for less money than an import 7". It made sense to the 13-year-old me.

The Shop Assistants? It was in the sale. The last tape I bought when there was a vinyl alternative. Again, this was economic.

The Telescopes? Their first demo and some live recordings. I used to correspond with one of the band members because she wrote a fanzine. She sent me that free, along with some pointers to music new to me.

Why am I describing each of these tapes? Because tapes tell stories; MP3s don't.

Naturally, I'm delighted that in 2012 there are so many great new bands getting their music out on a physical format. I'm not calling out any of these bands or their labels as hipsters; though I don't doubt that's the motive for some, I don't believe it's the inspiration for any of the music I buy.

Records are expensive to buy. In the past decade, the price of 7"s has rocketed, not least due to the unfortunate ebay culture and some labels marketing them as fetishistic objects with inflated collectors' prices.

I know some people who run record labels are losing money hand over fist by releasing records to a dwindling record-buying public. The audience is there, but the money from that audience isn't.

I don't expect that a tape release will ever sell as many as a record would, but a tape sure as hell won't lose the label or band money like a record would. Economies of scale dictate that the smaller the pressing run, the more expensive the record. The more expensive the record, the fewer potential buyers and the more money the label loses.

I don't love tapes. But if it's the only way for bands to get a physical release without them or their label going bankrupt, then I'm onside.