Wednesday 27 April 2016

Boogaloo Assassins - One and Only

What kind of numbnuts pays £12 for a new 7" single?
That'll be me.

What kind of idiot pays that sort of money for a new 7" single on Record Store Day?
I dunno. Your dad, maybe.

So why this single and why so much?
I'll tell you why. Because this multi-limbed LA Latin funk band have recreated Joe Bataan's early 70s sound. And that's a sweet spot I can't resist. Even at £12.

I know, the price of new soul 7"s is over the top. Especially the reissues, many of which seem to be taking the piss. That overpricing is ingrained in soul vinyl collecting, unfortunately.

I've no idea who's got the sort of money or reckless abandon to pay £18+ for those new Japanese funk 7"s. Even if I got a big pay rise, I'd still balk at that.

Anyway, One and Only is a hit.Tell me I'm wrong if you like, but I won't believe you.

Wednesday 20 April 2016

Pete Astor on Grant McLennan

The Go-Betweens and how they went about making music and being in a band were incredibly important to me. 

Post-punk was the music that I particularly loved, but artistically, for me, it ended up as a bit of a dead end; I remember (in 1979) playing a show with our group Damp Jungle (one release on Fuck Off tapes) with our DJ friend playing decks along with our lo-fi dub experiments: we were pushing boundaries but, apart from the fact that everybody hated us, in the end, the music wasn’t saying things that I wanted to say as a musician. 

What we were doing was all a bit too serious and rigid, like some kind of abstract Maoist tract, that ticked all the post-punk boxes but without enough life and soul. What I heard in The Go-Betweens was a melodic beauty and songwriting deftness that was totally cool and showed a way out of the post punk artistic cul-de-sac. 

I saw them first at the Rock Garden just after their first album, where I think they hadn’t quite got their sound, but just the feel of the show was lovely. I particularly remember Grant being very embarrassed and awkward about being up on stage but in the most charming and vulnerable way, like someone far younger than someone in their early twenties. I think this was because it really was very early days for them and they seemed a bit overwhelmed by being halfway across the world playing a show just down the road from the Roxy. 

In the 1980s there was a group of Australian musicians who relocated to London: most famously, The Birthday Party, also The Triffids, The Moodists and The Laughing Clowns and, most significantly, The Go-Betweens. 

Now, the 1980s was, in many ways, a dark time for music, and the Creation label, with its pure pop sensibility, stood in opposition to the prevailing, squeaky clean, shiny, pop wannabes. Think Johnny Hates Jazz, think Matt Bianco, etc - have a look on YouTube for further evidence of their crimes. 

The bands I was in – The Loft, The Weather Prophets - were on the Creation label, part of something like an opposition to this way of being and making music, and we all gravitated towards each other. So, this is how I got to know Grant, who was an immensely urbane, charming and cultured person. 

Indeed, along with all the expatriate Australian musicians we hung out with, they made sure that they showed us a version of being Australian that had nothing to do with the stereotypes that proliferated at the time.  It was Grant that I have to thank for innumerable recommendations, not least, poet C.K. Williams, whom I have remained a massive fan of since then.  

Grant’s politeness extended far beyond the call of duty – when playing in Paris together, he helped me with a somewhat unusual problem. After performing an instore outside Paris the day before, I had been gifted with a local cheese. It turned out that this cheese was of a famously evil-smelling variety. Clearly the fan who gave it me believed I would store it in the fridge in my tour bus! Needless to say, my rucksack on a hot train did not fulfil the same function. 

On telling Grant about this he very kindly offered to store it in the mini-fridge in his hotel room. When we met the following day, it transpired that the odour of the offending cheese had proved no match for any hotel room fridge and Grant had had to place it, wrapped in several plastic bags, on the balcony in an attempt to escape the smell. 

He then returned the cheese to me. Of course, I immediately went round the nearest corner, found a bin and dumped it. But, it was a measure of his kindness that it had never occurred to him to do the same. Not a very rock and roll story but somehow fitting, I feel. Good on you, Grant. 

Pete Astor and other brilliant artists including Teenage Fanclub's Gerry Love, The Wave Pictures, The Wolfhounds, Bill Botting, The Left Outsides and Stewart Lee are playing the Grant McLennan tribute gig on May 6.

Saturday 16 April 2016

City Yelps - Half Hour

City Yelps manage in half an hour on Half Hour to do what Comet Gain have been failing to do for 20 years - distilling theTelevision Personalites' slapdash psych pop and the Modern Lovers' dissonant proto-punk into today's essential sound.

Like Cause Co-Motion! before them, they know that not practising, using cheap, possibly broken down, equipment and sounding absolutely vital aren't mutually exclusive.

All these songs are short and dispensed with a minimum of fuss. Apart from The Corn, which weighs in at 7 minutes because wouldn't you want to hear what  the Modern Lovers' Girlfriend would sound like played by Sonic Youth? You would. And even that's ramshackle, out of tune and riotously bright and bold.

Extra marks for the packaging. The sleeves cost 28p to make. The record cost £10. It arrived in the post, direct from the label, today, Record Store Day. That might seem like a political statement., but it's sweet serendipity - small labels get their records made when the RSD farrago has finished at the pressing plants.

Half Hour is definitely a reminder that the best records come out any time of the year, that indie labels make sure their releases look good even on a budget and you don't have to pay through the nose for them.

Sunday 10 April 2016


If you think, correctly, that the most evocative - the most devastatingly effective - opening line in teen pop is "Well, he walked up to me and he asked me if I wanted to dance", and hold the Marine Girls close to your heart then the Culte record (6 songs on one 7") is where you need to be.

These songs are necesssarily lo-fi - they were recorded on an iphone in Western Australia's outback. They capture perfectly the tension between being able to see for miles while being trapped geographically, restricted by age and unrequited love. The sounds of the suburbs magnified.

Every sensitive song written by this teenage schoolgirl raises a ghostly chill. If you've forgotten the intensity of those feelings, if you can't remember what it was like to be blind to everything else, these songs will, wonderfully, remind you.

But if those feelings don't mean anything to you now, then you've forgotten some of the most valuable lessons pop music ever taught you.

Bill Botting on Grant McLennan and The Go-Betweens

I never saw The Go-Betweens live. When I began writing songs and playing in bands in high school in the mid 90s, no one much cared about The Go-Betweens, as far as I could tell. Grunge was finished, but in its wake there was a boom of new, young Australian bands who I (and all my guitar playing friends) would fall in love with.

It’s probably the nostalgia talking but I think of it as a kind of Golden age of Australian Indie Rock. From Perth in West Australia there was Jebediah, Fur and Beaverloop, from Melbourne there was Magic Dirt and Something For Kate, Sydney had You Am I. These are just the ones I can remember. But Brisbane had the holy trinity of Regurgitator, Powderfinger and Custard. Custard were my favourite. And it was because of Custard  that I first heard of The Go-Betweens.

In a 1997 Live at The Wireless broadcast, Custard performed a cover of The Go-Betweens song Draining The Pool For You. I loved it. I taught myself how to play it and went looking for more. I couldn’t find a single Go-Betweens CD, record or tape in any of the in any of the big record stores in town. As I mentioned earlier, no one cared much about The Go-Betweens as far as I could tell.

At this point it may have been nearly ten years since their last record. I turned to the internet – I think in these days it may have been Napster – and took what I could get. A handful of songs. All wonderful. I realised that some folks did care about The Go-Betweens and they were making all the music I loved. Dave McCormack of Custard seemed to mention Forster and McLennan in nearly every interview I read. 
And so I listened more and more. A nice thing about coming to a band late in their career, or even after it has finished, is there is a whole body of work you can discover piece by piece, in a context of your own choosing, rather than with the weight of expectation that comes with new releases. Many of the bands I loved when I was younger eventually made records I didn’t like. But I have grown to love The Go-Betweens more and more as I have gotten older – they tell me more about myself than I am prepared for and it catches me off guard.

The song Streets of Your Town, captures that city, Brisbane, so perfectly it plays tricks on my memory. It’s a city I have some resentment for – don’t we all do that for our hometown – but the song catches the light and eases the heat, the heat that dries your bedsheets on the line and makes you drink too much. If you know what I mean. I’m not sure I do.

I don’t remember where I was or what I was doing when I first heard the song Apology Accepted, but I remember how it made me feel. All the guilt I’ve ever felt, all the regret, and the shame, and there has been some, were laid out in this lyric, which seems so specific but all-encompassing at the same time. And as a performance, I have to say, Grant breaks my heart every time.

A few years after I had that first encounter with the music of The Go-Betweens, the band I was playing in was making our first record in a little studio in North Brisbane. At around the same time, Grant and Robert used the same studio to record some demos – I think perhaps for what would become Friends of Rachel Worth, but I’m not sure.

The engineer who was helping us make our record played some of our songs to them while they were there and Grant said some very encouraging things about the songs I had written. I don’t expect he ever thought about it much again, but it meant the world to me and it still does.
Bill Botting & the Two Drink Minimums play the Grant McLennan 10th anniversary gig at Bush Hall on May 6.

This is how good they were last year:

Friday 8 April 2016

Grant McLennan poster by Paul Kelly

This poster, designed by the brilliant film director Paul Kelly, will be on sale at the Grant McLennan tribute gig. It's printed on high-quality stock, in A2 size. And it looks even better than the screen grab I've posted here. Of course it does.                                                                                                                                         Buy gig tickets 
We've been trying to find out who took the photo so we can hand over royalties. Francine Mcdougall mistakenly gets the credit for that picture on Intermission. Please tell me if you're the photographer, or if you know who really did take this photo.