Thursday 24 July 2014

The Garment District: If You Take Your Magic Slow

These songs have The Left Banke's whispered grandeur, Joe Byrd and The Field Hippies' experimental mini-symphonies and Broadcast's eerie way of fusing quicksilver electronics to Eastern European folk music.

There's a song called Bell, Book and Candle, surely a nod to the 1958 film soundtrack. But my money's on The Tomorrow People television music being more important. Because Jennifer Baron, who is The Garment District and used to be in The Ladybug Transistor, must own some Delia Derbyshire records on the basis of this spectral, otherworldly songs.

Vocals feature on only 3 of these songs. It's all about the atmos. Baron doesn't sing on any of these. If you want to hear her vocals, check out Even Stevens by The Lucksmiths. If you want something brand new that has vintage hallmarks, buy If You Take Your Magic Slow.

Sunday 20 July 2014

Nine Steps To Ugly

One of indiepop's shouldabeens - or should've released more than just one flexidisc in 1988 - Nine Steps To Ugly left a brief but enduring legacy. There's very little information about the band, so here's an interview they did with Two Pint Take Home, the fanzine that came with 100 copies of the flexi.

Incidentally, The Onlookers that the drummer Mark Bevis played in were the Slough-based mod band that the youngsters who went on to be East Village used to follow around and claim as their biggest influence.

Nine Steps To Ugly released another song, Apart, on a compilation tape. They made a load of other recordings. I hope someone's working on issuing them. There'd be some treasure in their vaults.

Thursday 17 July 2014

Summer hits

I don't need a weatherman to tell me when summer starts. It's only summer when Laura Nyro's Stoned Soul Picnic starts:

They came, they played giddy orchestral pop songs and they left. But what a legacy! It got no better - it seldom does - than The Magic Kids' first single, Hey Boy:

Summer in the city in 10 minutes of Latin disco that never lets the pace drop. "Are you ready for 1977?" Fuck yeah!

School's out, everyone's at the beach and making out. Except Nella Dodds, because her boy's left her and she's hurting. No one said summer was fun.

Actually, Bruce and Terry did say summer was fun in what's a very similar song to the even-better Tell Em I'm Surfin' by The Fantastic Baggys. But then The Baggys wrote both songs.

It seems so long ago now that every Best Coast song sounded like a classic. They're so strong and immediate cheerleaders and hipsters would have Best Coast on a playlist. You could pick any song from Crazy For You and go home happy.

Sunday 13 July 2014

Earth Girls: Wrong Side of History

I know, I thought we'd reached 'peak bands from the USA called something Girls' about 5 years ago. But because Earth Girls make all the right noises - most obviously the Shop Assistants' blitz, the Buzzcocks' direct force and The Go-Go's early power pop adventures - it would be wrong to complain about something so fresh and strong.

There's enough energy in these 4 rattling, clattering, punky songs to dismiss the cynics and jolt even the most tired bodies into action.

Saturday 12 July 2014

BMX Bandits: Islands in the Stream

When Kurt Cobain said, "If I could be in any other band, it would be BMX Bandits," I expect he was thinking of their version of Islands in the Stream. I'm certain, or perhaps delusional, that Kurt'n'Courtney sang this at home on special occasions.

This version features Norman Blake on lead "axe" duties.

Thursday 10 July 2014

Bob: Kirsty demo

Once upon a time there was band called Jamie Wednesday. A friend some years my senior explained that when they split up with 2 members (Jim Bob and Fruitbat) forming Carter USM and the other, Dean Leggett, forming Bob, fans had to take sides.

I believe him, largely because wars were fought in the 1980s indie trenches over much smaller things. Anyway, the Jamie Wednesday schism passed me by, so I feel I can speak with confidence - and, false modesty aside, complete authority - when I say Bob were the far better band. I bought all their records and none of Carter's.

The public backed, not for the first time, the poorer band, Yes, Carter enjoyed a number one album, frolicked with Phillip Schofield on the telly and sold lots of t-shirts. But did they release lots of great records? No, they did not.

Bob have collected lots of those songs on the 2 CD Leave The Straight Life Behind. It includes their radio sessions, which I think are their best recordings.

It also features 2 versions of my favourite Bob single, Kirsty. But not this demo, so here goes:

Fact: the Fortuna Pop! label takes its motto "more soul than the Wigan Casino" from a line in Bob's Brian Wilson's Bed.

Wednesday 9 July 2014


With The Cannanes' happy swing, KEEL HER's bite-size infectious melodies and the sadness of Carole King, Meenk - or May Rio to her parents (ok, that might not even be her real name, I haven't got much to go on) - has made 4 songs that you could file under post-punk or girl group or DIY.

Any of those things. These songs might be quiet, but they're clever and match intimacy with intricacy. They're much bigger than they first seem. They remind me of The Shirelles because of teenage drama and Buddy Holly because all really good pop music does. It'll remind you, too, of good things.

I think we have ourselves a new star.

Thursday 3 July 2014

Mid-Term Review

Music websites are having their "mid-term reviews" because it's a cheap and simple way to fill up pages. And because there's a fairly annoying tendency in American music criticism to use academia as a frame of reference.

There's a Dean of American Rock Critics (disclaimer: I think Professor Griff and Dr Dre either got their qualifications off the internet or hip hop isn't considered important enough for those titles to be recognised formally).

You'll have either read several reviews or got thousands of press releases describing something as "sophomore". The word they're after is "second". I've stopped reading any review and deleted every press release that uses sophomore when it should be second.

Anyway, record stores shops are doing mid-term reviews this year. I know, it's never-ending. So this post isn't a mid-term review. It's a collection of a few things I haven't until now had a chance to blog about.

Strand of Oaks: Goshen 97
I love the sound of falling in love with music. Goshen 97 is about "when the magic began" in a basement. There's celebration and regret in equal measure "I was lonely but I was having fun...I don't want to start all over again". And then there's J Mascis on guitar.

Girlpool: American Beauty
You can pick any one of the 7 songs from their tape and find knockout lines like "it's not enough to watch a movie/eat me out to American Beauty". Girlpool have got all the spit of Dogs Legs and the sass of Slutever, only they strip everything right back to the bare bones.

Little Big League: Year of the Sunhouse
They can't write a bad song. Or if they have done, they've thrown it away. Another 2 hits and even better they're loving doing it as much as I am listening to it: "They ask are you still playing basement shows with the band?/Doing the music thing? Well yes I fucking am!"