Sunday 31 July 2016

Fortuna POP! memories

Indiepop matchmaking
It's early 1997. Sean asks me if I can introduce him to my friend who also puts on gigs and has a label. I set up a date with Sean and John Jervis of WIAIWYA at Holborn's Ship Inn after work. They agree to help each other put on gigs.

There is an air of promise, of resuscitating London's indiepop scene. What actually happens is that Sean organises most things "in association with" WIAIWYA, while John spends every evening in the pub not organising things. John does get to spend a lot of time behind merch desks in the following 19 years selling Fortuna POP! records, though.

Almost 20 years later, John still hasn't forgiven me for that meeting.

The Butterflies of Love
The label's first classic band. After Wild, their second single in 1998, it's obvious (to me, if not very many other people) that The Butterflies of Love are serious contenders. Sean gives me a tape of their third single, It's Different Now.

I was then absolutely convinced that they were among the most exciting new groups anywhere. Sean gives me a test pressing. It's been mispressed. He gets it redone.

Me and Sean used to play football on a Monday night (by the way, he's got a dodgy right knee, so if he's ever pissed you off, you know where to strike). He hands me the new test pressing and asks me to check it when I get home.

I get a panicked text from Sean 10 minutes after I get home asking me if it plays okay. I've already played it 3 times. It sounds perfect. For a brief moment I feel like Marvin Gaye telling Berry Gordy that What's Going On is actually a pretty good record and should be released.

NME give it single of the week, and Time Out and The Times go crazy for it. The label seems to be taking off.

The Lucksmiths
Regular readers of this blog will know of my enthusiasm for Australian indie. In 1998 my current Australian favourites The Lucksmiths visit the UK for the first time.

They'd got to support Belle and Sebastian on some European dates just by writing to them. Yes, email did exist but The Lucksmiths might not have known that.

Singer Tali stays in London after that tour. I'm the only British person he knows so one Saturday he suggests we have a drink. As if in anticipation of forthcoming Anglo-Australian relations, Sean's having a barbecue. I invite Tali to it. I also suggest he gives Sean a copy of The Lucksmiths' A Good Kind of Nervous album.

Tali's unsure about giving away any of his preciously small stock, but I convince him. Or maybe he wanted to make some friends. Whatever, The Lucksmiths become Fortuna POP! superstars.

Mick Travis
Let me disabuse you of the notion that Fortuna POP! was full of polite Australian bands, indie millksops or a retirement home for Amelia Fletcher. Reader, there were drugs.

Tompaulin were riding a wave of popularity. Sean put out an offshoot band called Mick Travis. At the launch gig for their only single, their singer went AWOL for over an hour. He was scouring East London for drugs.

In 2001 it wasn't difficult to find drugs around Commercial Street. But he certainly took his time. He returned after Mick Travis were meant to have finished their gig. They played late, so there may have been some travel or accommodation issues. I invited them to stay at my flat. What was I thinking?

An hour later, I'm asleep and the singer bursts into my bedroom and climbs into bed. My girlfriend asks me to intervene. What was he thinking? I let him out alive. Mick Travis aren't heard of again.

The Candy Darlings
Weekly football has moved on. I'm now playing with Sean's colleagues (he's got a real job, this isn't a game starring Pete "The Cat" Astor, Emma "The Gazelle" Kupa and Wesley "Patrick" Gonzalez). After the game one of his colleagues tells me he was in a short-lived indie band.

You're ahead of me here, I can tell. Yes, he was in The Candy Darlings. Sean is unaware of their one single in 1989, That's Where Caroline Lives. Mike Slumberland claims it as one of his all-time favourites. And that's why Slumberland is still going and Fortuna POP! isn't.

No, of course it isn't. Thanks for the gigs and the records, Sean.

Oh, those Butterflies of Love test pressings. Value? Fuck all. It's about the memories.

Sunday 24 July 2016

Personal Best - I Go Quiet

There's a lot of this punky DIY sound around right now. We live in golden times. A friend tipped me off about Personal Best last year, but I initially dismissed them.

I was wrong. I played them again - still not there, but we are spoiled with a lot of exciting DIY bands - but then I saw them live. It made sense.

They reminded me of Sourpatch's breakneck speed and infectious noise, and the early 90s American scene that inspired them. Bands like Black Tambourine and Small Factory. Reader, I bought their records at the gig.

Just as I bought their new single. No surprise that they cover Tiger Trap's My Broken Heart on the flip. Personal Best's closest contemporary cousins are Muncie Girls. Have they been on the same bill? If not, do it. They'll blow the doors off the venue.

Dora Maar - Flights

Two years ago this blog (yeah, I know, who the fuck does this blog think it is) said if Dora Maar would light up the charts if they could transcend their influences.

Flights is a stronger, more urgent collection than their debut tape. Walking With Heather really nails matching skinny funk guitars with agitated post-punk sharpness. 

You know what? So does Towering Greyness. They've not really moved away from the Josef K/Orange Juice axis, but they're better at it. In the gap between their tapes, Spinning Coin have stolen a march on Dora Maar's sonic ambitions, but these songs are strong enough to make room for both bands on the radio.

Maybe there'll be a 7" some time and the time will be Dora Maar's. I really hope so.

El Michels Affair feat The Shacks - Strange Boy

This is more accurately The Shacks featuring El Michels Affair because Strange Boy is an otherworldly step away from lazy NYC funk flow.

It's closer to the slo-mo fuzz of It'll Come Around by All Saints Day or Eux Autres' mix of twilight garage rock and sunshine pop. Most obviously, singer Shannon Wise's breathy noir sounds like Hope Sandoval, so add the Jesus and Mary Chain's Sometimes Always to the Strange Boy playlist.

Really, though, this captures the melodrama, poise and menace of The Shangri-Las. It's a moody, atmospheric modern classic. There's a 10" ep coming later this year. It can't come quickly enough.

Wednesday 13 July 2016

Eccentric Soul: Sitting in the Park an alternate version

Bob Abrahamian is one of soul music's great collectors and enthusiasts. Until his death two years ago, he shared his passion on a brilliant radio show, Sitting in the Park.

Numero Group have honoured his legacy with a compilation album. Proceeds go to Bob's sister who's maintaining his archive.

I'd have chosen an almost completely different tracklist. Obviously, you've got to have Bob's radio theme tune, Otis Brown and the Delights' Southside Chicago. And then? Well, even though Numero admit that "Sitting in the Park isn't the strongest entry in the Eccentric Soul series", it's both a question of taste and availability.

Half of the songs I selected from Bob's shows aren't on YouTube. Maybe Numero couldn't licence all of their first choices. Whatever, the compilation's worth getting and Bob's shows are online. You listen and make your own playlist. There are so many great songs.

So here's my compilation: 

Tuesday 12 July 2016

Zona by Young Scum

Biff Bang Pow! scratched the legend "Jim Beattie you're my guitar hero" in the run-off groove to The Girl Who Runs The Beat Hotel. If Zona was out on vinyl instead of tape, you expect Young Scum might repeat that trick.

If You Say That is a fusillade of guitars like Primal Scream's It Happens, all Byrdsian melodic intent, the power of REM's Reckoning and instant gratification. 

Younger minds will surely hear on this 5-song tape  Allo Darlin's constant melody and mayhem or The Lucksmiths' Warmer Corners or Dream Boys' sun-soaked psychedelia.

Older minds might recall The Rainyard or Another Sunny Day or Razorcuts. Whatever way you look at it, Young Scum combine pop perfection with serious volume. These songs are dynamic, noisy and irresistible. No doubt we'll be hearing a lot more about them soon.