Monday 30 April 2012

The Go-Betweens - Freakchild

The Go-Betweens had planned a follow-up to 16 Lovers Lane, to be called either Freakchild or Perfumed, Poisoned and Dangerous. In October 89, they demoed 21 songs - almost all acoustic - known by fans as the unreleased ‘last’ Go-Betweens album, Botany, as they were recorded in Grant's Botany Street home.

No tracklisting for Freakchild (the preferred title) is known. An ersatz Freakchild was created by their British record label in 2002, consisting of live recordings from their last ever gig in Sydney, 1989, and Botany demos.

I was there the day the label made the CDRs. I ventured the idea that the sound recording was poor, that it was a terrible cash-in, and it was unlikely that Robert and Grant would go for it.

I don’t know if the idea was ever presented to Robert and Grant. Nothing came of this proposed Freakchild. Here’s a Grant McLennan gem, Nowhere By Any Other Name, from Freakchild:

Monday 23 April 2012

The Go-Betweens live in Paris, 1996: Bachelor Kisses

In 1996 the French music magazine Les Inrockuptibles voted 16 Lovers Lane the best album in their 10-year history. They put The Go-Betweens on the cover with the strapline "The Go-Betweens, the most underrated band in the rock history" and gave away the 16 Lovers Lane Acoustic Demos CD.

Grant McLennan and Robert Forster went to Paris to play as The Go-Betweens to celebrate their award in front of their French fans. I went, too. So what if my boss wouldn't give me the day off? I left the job instead. I never liked her or the job that much. I always loved The Go-Betweens.

There's a Grant McLennan tribute gig on May 6 at the Hangover Lounge in London, starring David Westlake, Pete Astor, Phil King and more besides. Before then, here's one of Grant's finest from that gig.

Thursday 19 April 2012

Girl Of My Best Friend

There were so many good indiepop bands in the the late 80s who came, who were seen by a few and then left. Girl Of My Best Friend were one of those bands. They had one single and (of course) a flexi disc, both of which came out at the start of 1990 (at least, that's when I bought them).

I first heard GOMBF on the excellent Something's Burning In Paradise compilation tape in 88. They appeared on a few other tapes, then came the records, then nothing. I don't know why. Anyway, back in 88 I wrote to them in their Wellingborough, Northants, mansion and the singer Jo sent very nicely sent me a tape of demos and a live recording.

I can't remember if cash was exchanged. Sometimes bands sent out tapes for free, sometimes in exchange for a blank tape, sometimes they sold them. I'm pretty sure this was a free one. Maybe they didn't have many people writing to them to say they how much they enjoyed their music. They should have.

Now? I still really enjoy their music. This first demo is from 1987 and is called Girl Of My Best Friend.

This second demo is from 1988 and is called My Best Friend. I guess their song-name generator was stuck. Ignore the opening riff, which is borrowed from Billy Bragg's Levi Stubbs' Tears; everything else is their own.

Saturday 14 April 2012

Sandy McLean reviews the singles

The singles one week in 1987, that is. Sandy McLean, then of the 53rd and 3rd label, now of Glasgow's Love Music record shop (formerly Avalanche Glasgow) said of Josef K's Heaven Sent: "This stuff is at least six years old, but it sounds great; very current guitar noises all over the place...did someone say 'ahead of their time'?" As true then as ever.

Mr McLean describes The Rain Fell Down by Jesse Garon and the Desperadoes as "PURE POP PUNK SPANGLE". And he was right about that, too.

These reviews came photocopied in my promo copy of Heaven Sent (I bought a lot of review copies of records in the late 80s in second-hand record shops because they were cheaper - just the same as your regular copy but with maybe a sticker on the sleeve and a press release inside).

Thursday 12 April 2012

A Birdie demo tape

Paul Kelly kindly gave me Birdie's first demo tape in 1996 at a club I used to run. He was probably sick of me badgering him about an East Village reunion gig and was using his new band as a diversion. And what a diversion! These tracks came out as Birdie's debut single on Summershine. I asked Paul last week if they were the same versions: "I think these probably are the versions that were on the single but I'm not sure. They sound quite nice with the slight tape distortion though."

Alan McGee paid for the recording, but wasn't interested in releasing them on Creation. McGee did, after all, have to reserve his funds at that time to break Hurricane #1 and 3 Colours Red. McGee revealed last year that he "can't be arsed with music anymore", a conclusion many of us had reached long before last year; before, even, he rejected Birdie.

Paul and Debsey have just started a new band, The Bark Flares, and play their first gig on 21 April at the Betsey Trotwood with The Fallen Leaves and Trees and the Slipway. I suspect the leaves/trees/bark connection between the bands is conincidental. If their second gig is with Beachwood Sparks, then there might be something in it. Entrance is free.

Spiral Staircase

Port Sunlight

Monday 9 April 2012

Clare Grogan and Talulah Gosh

Four years ago, dispute arose between the normally placid indiepop veterans Gregory Webster and Peter Momtchiloff. Conventional wisdom has it that Talulah Gosh were named after Clare Grogan's stage name. Greg disputed this: "As the person who originally suggested that they call themselves Talulah Gosh, I can confirm that it has absolutely fuck all to do with Clare Grogan NME interviews and was entirely to do with Bugsy Malone."

Pete countered: "Greg may have suggested it as the name, that is quite possible. I will challenge him when drunk."

At this point, fearing the first ever drunken fisticuffs over Talulah Gosh, I stepped in and said I would scan the NME interview where Clare Grogan says her stage name is Talulah Gosh. The Did Not Chart Rapid Response Team sprang into action and a mere 4 (FOUR) years later, here's the proof. I understand that Greg and Pete are only speaking through their lawyers - makes a change from their arses, eh? - and hope that they can now bury the hatchet.

Sunday 8 April 2012

The Band In Heaven

This 4-track ep is awash with a thick velvet drone, throbbing electronics and a punk-spiked trash aesthetic. They've obviously played their Mary Chain records a few times, but they've got enough sonic sass to be blazing their own trail. It even had me reaching for The Warlocks' Rise and Fall album for the first time in a decade. I could always hear something of The Blue Orchids' dark psychedelia in The Warlocks, and I can hear it in The Band In Heaven, too.

It's difficult to imagine where they'll go next, but that's not my job. It'll be fun finding out. Sure, they could crash and burn, but even if they did then this debut record on Hozac would be a good-looking corpse.

Saturday 7 April 2012

The Shamefaced Sparrows/Y Niwl/Cut Your Hair

Surf rock is making a comeback in the most unlikely of places - Wales, Catalonia and London. It would be fanciful to suggest that Wales's Y Niwl, Catalonia's Cut Your Hair and London's Shamefaced Sparrows are a scene, but these are three very exciting new bands who sound like they have a higher regard for Link Wray and Duane Eddy than they do for Lou Reed and Joey Ramone.

These three bands are all very different in their own right, but all suggest that something new is happening. The Shamefaced Sparrows rattle like those old Girls In The Garage compilations with an Ike Turner rumble and that deliberately jarring post-punk awkwardness. If there's a stabbing scene in an old black and white film, their noise would really bring it to life.

These Sickly Flowers (Demo) by The Shamefaced Sparrows

Y Niwl - fantastic live, catch them if you can - probably couldn't even draw you a surfboard. They sound like they're simultaneously chasing fifteen brilliant ideas. All of their songs are enigmatic, psychedelic and pulse-quickening.

Cut Your Hair give a nod to Pavement in their band name - my guess is that naming themselves after a song by Pavement's heroes The Clean or David Kilgour might have been more accurate. I'm thinking of Alastair Galbraith’s passionate assessment of Kilgour in The Clean: "The sound of it! It was amazingly trebly. I never got over how wonderfully sharp it was, and how it seemed that two-thirds of the sound was just his guitar. You could hear the drums and you could hear the bass, but most of the sound was this beautifully simple tubey guitar sound, in clanging rolling, perfectly formed waves."

Nonetheless, Cut You Hair's debut single Utah In Pictures, out at the end of April, is terrific whatever way you look at it.

Sunday 1 April 2012

G Green - Funny Insurance

From a garage somewhere in California, G Green play it hard, fast and melodic like Husker Du, and splintered and snappy like early Wire. If in the past few years you've been digging Personal and the Pizzas, or if you were smart enough to pick up their Tequila Sunrise flexi recently, then G Green's new single has got to be at the top of your shopping list.

The b-side Sounds Famous is getting my vote, but seeing as both of these tracks are offcuts from the forthcoming album Crap Culture, you know that's going to be the album to watch out for this year.