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


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.


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.”