Tuesday 31 March 2015

Sulk: Dog Swamp

This 7" ep was recorded in Perth's southern winter of 1995 and released a year later with no fanfare or fuss. It holds up today just as well as it did at the time (very well indeed).

There's Edwyn, a hymn to Edwyn Collins' sexy monkeyness, there's Stubblerash, a song about kissing augmented by a cheap organ (children! stop your sniggering at the back) and, best of all, there's Wish I Couldn't, a mini chamber pop masterpiece reeling from the after-effects of love's big soft punch.

You can find bands pretty much like this now - mostly in Melbourne. Maybe Ciggie Witch, Smile and Haircut will all sound great 19 years from now. I hope they all make more records and get some gold discs. Dog Swamp was the start and end for Sulk. Its 5 tracks are quite a legacy.

Turns out that I've met most of Sulk over the years. The one I've met the most, Bill, has stayed at my London flat a few times in the same room as this record. He never once mentioned he was involved. If I'd had a hand in making this record I'd have told everyone.

Good luck finding a copy. It's under the radar and never sells for more than a few quid. If you're digitally inclined, you can download the songs from Chapter.

Monday 9 March 2015

Clare Grogan interview

This is from the excellent Big Muff fanzine, 1990. Clare Grogan is touring with her band Universal Love School. They don't have a record deal; they'd recorded an album for London which was shelved.

What is credibility? Who can afford it? I think it's silly not to try to get across to as many people as possible. It's just snobbishness not to.

If you write anything bad about me I'll cry. That's guaranteed. It's up to you.

Saturday 7 March 2015


1996 was one of those very rare years when both the best (ok, my favourite) album and single came from different debutants: Tigermilk by Belle and Sebastian, and Accidentals by Broadcast. I fell out of love with both bands by 2000, for very different reasons. No amount of Belle and Sebastian re-evaluation will persuade me to reconsider their later efforts; I was, however, completely wrong about Broadcast.

I moved back to London in 1996. I made some new friends, all of whom I told about Broadcast. They all saw Broadcast live. And again, and again. Their electronic hypnosis was addictive. At a time when everyone else seemed convinced that the future was Bowie or Beatles songs reheated by boys who learnt everything they knew from compilation CDs bought at a petrol station, Broadcast showed the way forward by building on a bright future suggested by the 1960s avant-garde that had hitherto largely been ignored.

With just 3 more singles in 3 years, much of my devotion and admiration came from seeing Broadcast live. But this admiration cooled when in early 2000 I heard The Noise Made By People.

I thought they were stuck in a rut made from listening to only the United States of America and Joe Byrd and the Field Hippies. More accurately, my repertoire of reference points was much narrower than their breadth of vision. I had no knowledge of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop or the esoteric wonder of Eastern European electronic music.

I'm not much more knowledgeable now, but I'm less likely to rush to judgement, and my scope is broader than just wanting big, immediate, pop hooks. Broadcast's music is informed by curiosity and enriched by imagination. I bet they bought records just because they looked interesting and made records just because they'd interest people who were as curious and welcome to new, adventurous and uncompromising sounds as they were.

If you want morals, there are two lessons here:

1. Don't write bands off that you love if you don't immediately get what they do next. You loved them because they're wiser and cooler than you'll ever be. They're probably right.

2. Even if, try as you might, you don't like an album by a band you once loved, it doesn't mean their next one won't be brilliant. Case in point: The Soundcarriers.

3. Leave it too long and you'll have to spend a fortune buying the records, or wait until they get reissued.

4. Learn to count (as well as listen).

Sunday 1 March 2015

Tufthunter: Deep Hits

Peter Momtchiloff - Monty to his friends; Hot Licks Monch to readers of Guitar Hero magazine - has created 16 brilliant songs ranging from snappy girl group pop (The Wrong Girls) to saloon bar country (Goodbye) to urgent mod stylings (Lit Up).

This ensemble piece features singers including Jeffrey Underhill, Lois Maffeo, Bid and Pam Berry. Hot Licks Monch Monty kindly answers my burning questions about Tufthunter.

Is this your Wasps' Nests?
Yes. Except Claudia did Wasps' Nests as a ploy to alert the world to the genius of Stephin's songwriting, and I have no such aspirations.

You've shown Stuart Murdoch what God Help The Girl could have been. When's the film coming out?
I haven't kept close tabs on SM's activities in recent years. I suspect I might like some of the songs, but I find the artwork quite off-putting.

OK, when's the album coming out? It's unthinkable that the world's finest record labels haven't already opened their cheque books for a bidding war.
The album isn't going to be sold. Anyone can download it for me, and I will give a CD to anyone I know who wants one.

Your 30-year rock career has given you quite the contacts book. Anyone decline your overtures (or anyone you'd wish you could have got)?
No one said no. I thought of asking Debsey but didn't have the nerve. I might do some more if I can come up with suitable songs. I have talked to Calvin Johnson, Delia Sparrow, and David Feck about participating, and I can think of more people I'd like to ask. I have been acquainted with some other people who are moderately famous, but I don't want it to look as though I'm trying to revive old acquaintances just to benefit from the association. So I think I'll restrict it to friends who I keep up with.

We want a gig and we want one quite soon. Any plans?
I think it might be too much hassle to arrange, sorry!

"Four eyes, that's what they're calling me," Low Life opines. Is this autobiographical, four eyes?
That is the only song which I have done before with another band. We did a somewhat different version with the Speed of Sound (never recorded). All four of us sang, and Kev, James, and I were all bespectacled.

There's no fat on these lean, immediate, striking songs. Punk's not dead, right?
Thanks! I'm not really aware of songwriting influences, apart from the Beatles and the Kinks as always. Probably Jessica and Bid and other people I've worked with too.

I have tried to make sure the the words are good. The standard of lyric-writing in indie/alternative music is shockingly bad in my view. (I don't really know if it's any better in mainstream music.)

Sounds like Jessica Griffin is Louise d'Outremer. Did Francoise Hardy not return your calls? She doesn't return mine, if that makes you feel better.
I'm afraid I'm not allowed to say anything about Louise for legal reasons.