Friday 26 August 2016

The Lilac Time - Astronauts

It was 25 years ago today that The Lilac Time released their best album. The world mostly didn't listen, but their press office thought they might so issued a press pack.

At least, my terrible filing system suggests they did, but some of the pages in this are from interviews years after, so I've mixed up pages from other albums somewhere. Some of this stuff must have been with a CD. Have you tried to keep A4 paper with CDs? It doesn't work.

Lilac Time devotees will enjoy these interviews, reviews and career overviews. Everyone will love this first interview for it speaks of kissing boys, punching record company execs, being in love and Nigel Kennedy ("I'd never record with him cos I'm better at playing the violin than him" - history would prove him wrong on at least one of these points).

A bonus mark to Stephen for saying he'd cover Stop That Girl by Subway Sect. Yes, I am still waiting for that.

"I got so depressed making this album [Astronauts] that I gave up before it was finished. I just stopped and split up the band. It came out six months later. Of course, this is the record everyone loves..."

Friday 19 August 2016

Hockey Dad – Boronia

The exuberance! This is joyous powerpop like the Raspberries, The Go-Go’s and Teenage Fanclub in 1991. It’s a journey with the windows wound down and elbows in the breeze. It’s classic power chords, big bass lines and songs about girls, or more accurately the absence of them.

This is a very, very good album. I don’t know yet if it’s a classic – sometimes, like with recent records by Foley! and The Eversons, the bubblegum flavour wears off after a while. But Boronia sounds bigger than those albums.

It sounds fresh like The White Wires' WWIII and youthfully innocent like The Undertones’ Hypnotised. What’s that line from More Songs About Chocolate and Girls? “Relax and cancel all other engagements, it’s never too late to enjoy dumb entertainment.” Good advice. Stop what you’re doing and listen to Boronia.

The Cannanes - A Love Affair With Nature reissue

Which Cannanes album would you reissue if you had the chance? It shouldn’t really matter. None of them are perfect. They’re not meant to be. The Cannanes make imperfect pop. Sometimes – quite often, really – they play out of tune. And now you mention it the singing’s not always that great.

That’s the whole point. The Cannanes make scratchy pop music that jangles,  stumbles and threatens to fall apart any second. Like Beat Happening or The Pastels.

A Love Affair With Nature was recorded “at a secret location” in 1988. It sounds like that location was a garage or a basement or a bedroom. Maybe the band set up in all those rooms in the same shared house and set the tape running.

It’s experimental outsider art. When it works, nothing can touch it. This album works better than any other Cannanes album. It’s the one I’d reissue if I had the chance. Let’s not be too romantic here – sometimes The Cannanes’ experiments don’t work (the album before this, African Man’s Tomato, is pretty terrible).

But this album is an absolute gem. The reissue gives you an extra album of material. I only know the two singles, Cardboard and I Think The Weather’s Affected Your Brain, both ace. The other songs? No idea. You take your chances with The Cannanes. It’s usually worth it. That’s the real romance.

Sunday 14 August 2016

The Hello Strangers

The Hello Strangers made one album, Goodbye, in 1987. It's a minor lost classic, trading on an intimate knowledge of Big Star and the Car label discography, with a side order of country melancholy, along similar lines to REM.

Its footnote in pop's annals is largely due to Miracle Legion's Mark Mulcahy playing drums, although it stands up just fine on its own. Don't take my word for it. Listen to Last Year's Wings

I mention this album for 3 reasons:

  • Miracle Legion are playing in London next Saturday (20 August) and I can't go. You should.
  • The Hello Strangers were originally Spike Priggen and Nicole Willis (yes, that Nicole Willis). This song from their debut gig is amazing.
  • Before Spike and Nicole were The Hello Strangers they were The Blue Period. Over to Spike:

The music was minimal pop influenced by Young Marble Giants/Weekend/early Everything But the Girl and Getz/Gilberto.The Blue Period turned into The Hello Strangers which initially was just Nicole and I, me playing guitar, both of us singing.Later we added Jean Caffeine (solo artist and former Pulsallama member) on drums and then Mark Mulcahy became the second drummer. I have a tape of the Blue Period rehearsing, recorded on my trusty old JVC box and will maybe put some files up at some point if there's any interest.
There is interest! If there's a 20-year reissue of Goodbye, pair it with The Blue Period recordings. Or even better release The Blue Period songs separately. I'm desperate to hear them.

Okay, Spike's site gives you all the details, including fascinating information about other great acts he's beeen involved in (Malcolm Ross, The Streams, The Caroline Know) and some great photographs

Tuesday 2 August 2016

The Prophet Hens - The Wonderful Shapes of Back Door Keys

Some albums have a song so good, so powerful, that it overshadows the rest of the album. There are variations on this theme. There’s the one brilliant song where all the other songs are lesser versions of it (Tonight on Sibylle Baier’s Colour Green).

Then there’s the band who write their best song ever and stick it on as the first track. No matter how good the rest of the album is - and American Water by Silver Jews is very good - it’s a downhill journey after Random Rules.

And then there are the calling cards. New bands who release one of the best songs of the year on an album. This has happened a few times in recent years -  Money by Lady, Archie, Marry Me by Alvvays, All Over The World by The Prophet Hens.

All Over The World didn’t quite overshadow the rest of Popular People Do Popular People, but it worked better when it was streaming before the album's release as a standalone statement of intent: ‘Here we are, this is a song as good as Heavenly Pop Hit. We’re from New Zealand, so you can forget about The Chills’ comeback because they’re not going to have a song as amazing as this.’

Roxy Music left Virginia Plain - their hit single and 3 minutes of music that’s better than many other bands’ entire careers - off their first album because it would have been a distraction. Maybe you’ve got a reissue of the first Roxy Music album with Virginia Plain on it. Its impetuous ardour might have made you miss the other songs’ ultra-styled grace. You might never have formed a band called Ladytron.

I’d put good money on The Prophet Hens knowing that first Roxy Music album. And Broadcast’s kitchen sink electronica and Stereolab’s cool detachment and Kraftwerk’s primitive robo-pop.

The Wonderful Shapes of Back Door Keys is a better album than The Prophet Hens’ very fine debut. There are big pop songs alongside baroque misery. It’s 11 songs organised as a unified whole. Yes, there are highlights. Eleven of them.