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?