Monday 29 May 2017

Lab Coast

Lab Coast are the Canadian wing of the Elephant 6 and Kindercore fan club. They make short psych-pop songs that stop when they're on top. They sound like they could be on a bill with Apples in Stereo, Elf Power and Masters of the Hemisphere.

If their name suggests experimentation - not just the lab, but the lab coats anagram - then that's about right. Samples, FX pedals, cello and, yes, banjo rub shoulders. Very possibly on the same song. Like Wurld Series in New Zealand, Lab Coast are picking up DIY music with an adventurous spirit and pure pop hearts.

This album is a sort of greatest hits, or misses, or songs only released on cassette. You see, Lab Coast have been going since 2008 and bewilderingly the world has yet to fall at their feet. They toured the UK last week and I only found out the day after their last gig. Still, this record, though.

Wednesday 10 May 2017

The Sneetches - Form Of Play: A Retrospective

The Left Banke, Raspberries, Buffalo Springfield, Fred Neil - you can tell a lot about The Sneetches from the acts they covered. They made pitch perfect pop with the psychedelia and powerpop on standby and enough originality to step out of the shadows.

The mid-90s saw a deterioration of classic rock influences with bands playing crude, banal pastiches. But from 1987 to 1995 The Sneetches played it with enough distance and homegrown tunes to come up with their own essentials.

Ironically, they were ahead of their time. Not that many people were interested in the very Beach Boys influenced Sometimes That's All We Have album, even with a Creation reissue in 1989. The heritage rock sound came later from bands who specialised in grandiose overinflation.

If you want something subtler, then The Sneetches are for you. They didn't sell a lot of records and weren't connected with any kind of movement, possibly because there's an honesty and genuine craft to their music. This compilation is a good starting point. It doesn't include 54 Hours, which for my money is their finest moment, but there are plenty of other hits that should have been.

Wednesday 3 May 2017

Shit Girlfriend or shit Record Store Day

Shit Girlfriend released their fine debut single Mummy's Boy on Record Store Day. You might not have noticed. If you're what's become RSD's core demographic - classic rock fans of a certain age with plenty of disposable income - you definitely didn't notice because you were most likely queuing to buy one of these:

Shit Girlfriend didn't get any extra exposure because they released their splattered-vinyl single on RSD. But raising the single's profile didn't seem to be the purpose. The only benefit I can see is economic because it can retail at about 30-40% higher than normal.

It's easy to point out the hypocrisy in this move if Shit Girlfriend or their record label had been espousing any DIY ethic. If they were then I missed it. What they were doing is what most indie record labels do - release a limited version on coloured vinyl and a bigger run on standard black vinyl.

Indies do this to generate excitement at the tills - or more accurately their mail order department - simply so people buy the record before they get sick of it through endless streams.

Shit Girlfriend's single gets a bigger (or less restricted - honestly, and despite how much I enjoy the record, it's got a shelf life and one pressing was probably enough) release on May 19 on black vinyl. This is a new variation on the sales market the majors pulled in the late 1980s.

Back then labels were promoting CDs against the dominant cassette format (vinyl was already in decline) following the hardback/paperback model book publishers have always done. Pay more, get the better version.

However, the simple fact is that indie doesn't do very well on RSD. All non-heritage rock formats struggle (if you want to know how soul fails, I wrote about that a couple of years ago). This year saw the reissue of the first 4 Television Personalities albums. I don't know of many better albums. Even the 1991 reissues do very well on the second-hand market. But RSD isn't the time to reissue them.

I expect those Television Personalities albums will sell eventually (even if interest in them peaked around 5 to 10 years ago) but until they do they've got the stigma of being unsold RSD stock sitting in shops. The £29 asking price will have to come down to under £20 - the buyers aren't core RSD demographic so the price has got to reflect that.

Maybe next year the indies can take RSD off. Then whatever specials they were planning to do they can instead release just to independent record shops at prices the people who want them can afford. They'll be left with a lot less unsold stock and a lot more goodwill.

Tuesday 2 May 2017

The Stroppies

Whoever's writing Melbourne's rock family tree has got another branch to work on. The Stroppies are Steph Hughes (Boomgates, Dick Diver), Gus Lord (The Twerps, Boomgates, The Stevens) and some names I don't recognise but are surely already in several bands I must hear.

The Stroppies aren't really about Boomgates' crashing garage rock or Dick Diver's suburban love songs, even if a few of their songs could fit into either of those bands' back catalogues. They're more about reaching out and searching for Raincoats' sratchy suss and Young Marble Giants' sense of space.

There's a tape with 7 songs. Start here: