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.

Tuesday 19 June 2012

Scott & Charlene's Wedding

Scott & Charlene's Wedding from Australia are The Twerps you might not have heard yet, but their time is right now.

After a garage rock start with 2010's homemade Para Vista Social Club lp - kinda like The Twerps with Black Eyes or either one of those Boomgates singles (something's really going on in Australia), and The Muslims' eponymous record - they've got one side of a split 12".

These five songs have the nagging insistence of Teenage Fanclub, the languid tunes of Real Estate (Alex Bleeker's songs, to be precise) and the trebly rebellion of The Modern Lovers’ Longbranch Saloon sound.

Scott & Charlene's Wedding - Gammy Leg by bedroom suck

Para Vista Social Club has got a reissue. It's worth the price for Footscray Station alone.


Thursday 14 June 2012

Milk Teddy

"The best band in Melbourne right now or anytime since they started keeping records on such things."

Mark Monnone, 2010

OK, the boy Monnone is given to hyperbole but Milk Teddy's debut single a couple of years ago was pretty special. They sound even better now - think the subtle intensity of McCarthy and the full-blooded rattle of Straitjacket Fits. They don't have songs called XTC and Sparks for nothing - Milk Teddy's keyboards are by turns playful psych pop and dramatically atmospheric.

There's a live tape for sale now. This is a little something before we get a whole Milk Teddy album in the autumn.

Tuesday 12 June 2012

The Cassingle Revival

Eleven years ago The Lucksmiths used the cassingle as a metaphor for a romantic past that could never be recaptured. It seems they might have been partly wrong on that count, because the cassingle is back. There’s absolutely no romance, though.

Barely a week goes past without a new band I’m really excited about releasing a tape. Yes, I buy them because of the download code. No, I have never played any of the tapes. And I do own a pretty good tape deck.

If the question’s economic, then I get it, because it’s unlikely I’d have bought the songs if they were just downloads. If the question’s aesthetic, then would some of the labels involved please start putting a bit more effort into the design? Consigning the plastic cases to the dustbin of history would be a good start.

I understand that tapes are the cheapest analogue format. I also understand that even if I moan that not all potential buyers have tape decks, I also know that not all music buyers (even in the micro-indie scene we’re talking about) have record players.

So the economic argument stands. It also interestingly suggests that the tide has really turned against CDs, which are far, far cheaper than tapes.

I’ve never liked CDs and have no fondness for tapes. I appreciate the tactile argument for the analogue format; in fact, I’ve argued it for many years in favour of records over CDs. An experiment supports the innate attraction of records. In the early 90s, a scientist gave a chimpanzee a series of objects, among them a CD and a record.

The chimp threw away the CD almost immediately. And the record? The chimpanzee picked it up and got an erection. The chimp wasn’t given a cassette, but I bet that would’ve been thrown away like the CD.

Now look at The Lucksmiths’ The Cassingle Revival. Which version do you like the look of?

Monday 11 June 2012

Big Wave - The Roots of Love (Come Tumbling Down)

Do you want a new band that have the pop psychedelia of Super Furry Animals and the rocking jangle of The Cardigans? More specifically, a band that bounces to (Drawing) Rings Around the World and shakes its hips to My Favourite Game? If so, you're in luck because Big Wave do just that on their five-track ep The Roots of Love (Come Tumbling Down).

Soft Power have released it on tape (yeah, I know, but you can't have everything). For Londoners, they're playing at the George Tavern this Friday. I shall be there with my TUNE! placard.

Monday 4 June 2012

Willie West & the High Society Brothers - Cold In The Storm

Cold In The Storm makes it a hat trick of intense, slow-burning soul 45s for Willie West's collaboration with the High Society Brothers (or the Soul Investigators, as they're called when do their fantastic work with Nicole Willis, and Myron & E).

She's So Wise on the flip nudges the pace to midtempo and sets itself in the smoky late 60s club soul scene. A win-win on what is essentially a double a-side and a fine advert for the forthcoming Lost Soul album.

Sunday 3 June 2012

The Eversons - Summer Feeling

This album is an absolute peach! Its title tips its hat to Jonathan Richman and the music similarly seeks out the joie de vivre, playfulness and high-octane pop of Jonathan Sings! and Rockin’ & Romance.

The Eversons – four men from New Zealand, only one of them called Everson – swap lead vocal duties and endlessly pep up their pop with doo wop influenced backing. Pretty much like Sloan when they were at the top of their game.

Summer Feeling is a fun record. Where Jonathan Richman’s first album with the Modern Lovers celebrated the suburbs, this record is about wanting to leave the suburbs. So Down could quite easily have been subtitled (You Better Get Out Of Your Small Town). Still, there’s an element of prophecy in its deliciously waspish and sniping lyrics:
I want to thank god for my special friends

We got together and we started a band

We’re gonna work hard and write popular songs

And everybody will respond with a double thumbs up

Buy your green vinyl album