Sunday, 16 September 2018

Frokedal - How We Made It



Frokedal’s David is the greatest psych-pop epic since Avi Buffalo’s What’s In It For? I reckon there’s something of Judy Collins’ Both Sides Now in it, one of those songs which to know it is to love it.

David alone could carry this whole album or justify buying it, but there’s loads more to enjoy. Misery loves company and all that.

The title track comes close to David - try this for an opening: “Lock the door because I keep falling/There’s vomit in my face and my hair." Then there’s the beat girl banger I Don’t Care - a domestic tragedy in 3 minutes of escalating bitterness - which wouldn’t be out of place in the Billie Davis back catalogue.

Frokedal’s central sound, though, is Nico’s avant-garde icy folk. Any one of Stranger, Believe, Hybel and (especially) Paper Tiger recall Chelsea Girl’s rich desolation and romantic solitude.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

JJ Ulius - Tänder Ett Ljus

In which JJ takes a break from cutting 2-minute punk songs with Skiftande Enheter and decides that offbeat Teardrop Explodes psychedelic punk with seasick organ, skittish guitars and the brutal intensity of Buzzcocks' Love Bites is the way to go.

And still he does all that in just 2 minutes. The b-side isn’t streaming yet, but on the basis of this unholy hymn to the past mastery of Saint Julian, I had to buy the 7” right away.


Monday, 10 September 2018

Owls of Now - Episode Four

They say they’re “Glasgow-London based post-punk nerds” but it’s really Glasgow that’s stamped on this: Delgados melodic stabbing, Mogwai bristling mania and Secret Goldfish fizz. Next to musical and city contemporaries Hairband they’re putting the funk back into punk with sweet propulsion.

Oh yeah, it’s difficult to imagine they haven’t heard The Long Blondes before. Listen to Lead Singer:


Then listen to Powers - featuring a cello for bonus points - and tell me they’re not your new favourite band:

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Jesse Garon & the Desperadoes

All of these were sent in one standard letter envelope in early 1990. It's worth remembering that back then bands and labels put a lot of money into printing and postage to get fans to buy records and merch, and find out about tour dates.

Yes, bands did sell more than 300 copies of a 7" single then, but the promotional overheads before email and social media were pretty high. And just breaking even was still a pretty good result.

This package came with Desperadoes dollars. They were not redeemable against any of the merch.







Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Felt: the second five albums

Forever Breathes The Lonely Word
The archetypal second period Felt sound - Dylan’s wild mercury sound, poetry and pop - is this album. The Dylan influence had been suggested by the previous single Ballad of the Band, especially on the sleeve which was a clear reference to Dylan’s album Desire.

This is many people’s favourite Felt album. They’re wrong. I have a different opinion. It’s still brilliant, though.
9/10

Poem of the River
The opening song Declaration sees Lawrence, never a stranger to the maudlin, announce: "I will have as my epitaph the second line of Black Ship In The Harbour". That second line? "I was a pauper/I was second class/I was a moment/That quickly passed.”

That’s the start of Felt’s best album of their second phase. They made a number of records that deserved to make them successful. Poem of the River should have made them massive.
(10/10)


The Pictorial Jackson Review

Side one is 8 pop songs that mostly check in at around the 2-minute mark. It’s very easy to imagine any of them being near the top of the charts as singles. Lawrence never wrote such a sustained body of joyous, faultless pop songs.

Side two is a couple of cocktail jazz numbers written by Martin Duffy. Oh dear.
(8/10 - 10 for side one, 0 for side two)

Train Above The City
Felt was Lawrence’s idea, but it would have amounted to nothing without guitar virtuoso Maurice Deebank. When Deebank left, Lawrence recruited organ supremo Martin Duffy. Lawrence was in awe of both musicians during their respective tenures. Too much so in the case of Duffy who he let write a jazz album.

Lawrence wrote the song titles, which are glorious. I give you Press Softly On The Brakes Holly as an example.
(0 for the music, 8 for the song titles)

Me and a Monkey on the Moon
Maurice Deebank correctly said: “Even the albums that were made after I left have my fingerprints all over them.” On the final Felt chapter, Lawrence recruits John Mohan, formerly of The Servants, the only guitarist capable of recreating the Deebank sound.

Mobile Shack's moog and chugging rhythm points to where Lawrence would get to with Back in Denim, and where early 90s indie went, many of them on magazine front pages, the telly and the charts. Lawrence was never in the right place at the right time to achieve his dream of fame, but many of these records remain timeless.
(9/10)

Not enough for you? I wrote about the first 5 Felt albums.

Cherry Red reissue the second set of Felt's albums on 21 September 2018.

Monday, 6 August 2018

The Plastic Shoelaces - Reading the Maker

“You don’t care about my band, I can’t say I blame you, We’re just sitting here doing the same things, Same way since we were teenagers…We don’t care if anybody ever hears it.”

True, Scott Miller *is* doing pretty much the same thing as ever. This is the guy whose band Bright Ideas made an album called ...And Don't The Kids Just Like It (which I haven’t heard but can imagine what buttons it presses) and a single called Raincoats (which I own and adore).

Miller’s speciality is scratchy punk and off-kilter jangle, no expense spent and every effort expended. He once had an ace band called The English Singles, which tells you where he’s coming from. So, yeah, the Television Personalities and the Raincoats, and if I’m not mistaken the Marine Girls’ self-titled ditty is the inspiration for Being A Man.

Reading the Maker is simple and effective. Miller and friends might have one foot (okay, both feet) stuck in the past, but they can carry on doing the same thing forever. So long as pop music this good is being made and sold cheaply I get the feeling that everything’s going to be okay.


Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Massage - Oh Boy

If a band was going to rejuvenate The Twerps’ sound then the clever money would be on an Australian band doing the honours. Massage, though, are from California.

There’s a freshness and light to their jangle pop that suggests sunshine, but is rugged and sprightly enough to recall The Feelies. It fits in with bands re-energising indiepop like Young Scum and it’s no great leap to imagine they might have heard Allo Darlin.

Oh Boy is a very impressive debut. It probably doesn’t hurt that they number Pains of Being Pure at Heart alumnus Alex Naidus on guitar. There are moments, though, when I long for the style to evolve: the songs are pretty much even from 1 to 12.

That might be because they’ve got a garage rock background (I really don’t know if they do) or they might be going for a sustained aesthetic like If You’re Feeling Sinister or 16 Lovers Lane.

They’re very nearly there. And there are at least 5 songs that are 24-karat gold, way more than most bands manage, never mind at their first try. Here’s one of them:


Monday, 30 July 2018

Tony Molina - Kill The Lights

Bobby Gillespie was once asked why Velocity Girl ended after 90 seconds: “Because it’s finished.” Tony Molina’s brevity is even more impressive: the 10 songs on Kill The Lights pack in 60s 12-string jangle, orchestral psych and woozy folk-rock in 14 minutes total.

If Molina’s musical year zero is The Byrds’ C.T.A. 102 its aesthetic is Guided By Voices - short, sharp songs, no compromise, that do pop, punk and psych like the Buzzcocks playing The White Album, then quit.

Molina’s quality control levels are set higher than Bob Pollard’s - chances are Molina wrote enough songs for an hour-long album but threw most of them away. What remains is the very best.


Saturday, 14 July 2018

The Barettes - Stand Up Straight

This is straight-up soul saturated in Brill Building pop that couldn’t be any more snappy, simple and effective. File Stand Up Straight next to Denis by Blondie, the Grease soundtrack and Cee Lo Green’s Forget You.

It’s modern girl group pop like those Pipettes and Pepper Pots 45s, a collection of floorshakers, footstompers and tear-stained ballads. There’s even a song in French to meet your ye-ye needs, perhaps unsurprisingly because The Barettes are two American women based in Paris.

In case you weren’t clear about their intentions, they lift the piano melody from I’m A Believer for Swim On Boy and are inspired by the gossipy intro of Give Him A Great Big Kiss by The Shangri-Las for Keep On Drivin’.



Monday, 2 July 2018

Slumberland - 30 years of hits part three

The last instalment, only this is really year 29 in the Slumberland story. I haven't got the new Smokescreens album yet which is a contender, and the forthcoming Wildhoney 7" would surely make the list.

Year 30 has every chance of being a classic. I keenly anticipate a showcase tour doing a lap of honour around the globe and stopping off at London.

The moral of this story is that Slumberland remains a window to watch since it started in 1989. Some feat.

Allo Darlin - Europe
Robert Forster and Grant McLennan each rued that The Go-Betweens’ even-numbered albums were their best. Allo Darlin seemed to be on the same path, but they split before that case could be made conclusively. They left us wanting more. Europe shows they were the best indiepop band since Belle and Sebastian.


Golden Grrrls - New Pop
When one of your favourite record labels picks up your favourite new band, you know you’re doing something right. When that band also covers Look Blue Go Purple you know they’re doing everything right. Their originals were even better.


Joanna Gruesome - Sugarcrush
How do you make people overlook your terrible band name? With sonic terrorism and menacing melodies to make the best British (the Americans had been having a go for a few years) response to My Bloody Valentine in the 21st century.


Withered Hand - Black Tambourine
My footnote in the Slumberland story is that in 2012 I put up the impoverished minstrel Dan Willson at my flat after a London gig. He asked me if I knew Pam Berry. I did. I put them in touch and they made an album, New Gods. I could have chosen any song from New Gods, but this one is about Pam’s - and Slumberland boss Mike’s - old band Black Tambourine. Dan and Pam are now millionaire rock stars and don’t talk to me any more. I’m cool with that. I just wish they’d make another record.


Real Numbers - Frank Infatuation
They took all their cues from the Television Personalities - tinny, trebly, adenoidal, absolutely classic pop - with enough of their own wit and invention to steer clear of pastiche and make their own classic pop.


Gold-Bears - For You
The Dalliance album plays the same trick as The Wedding Present’s George Best - fast, loud, furious jangle full of lust, envy and rage.


Lilys - Claire Hates Me
About 20 years before bands from Brooklyn decided My Bloody Valentine inspiration was the right way to go, DC’s Lilys grabbed the squalling guitars and bent notes and claimed a deserved early victory.


The Bats - That’s How You’ll Find Me
If you’d started a label inspired by Flying Nun, you’d release a Bats record. There aren’t enough Bats records. This is a particularly good one.


Brilliant Colors - English Cities
Remember when a load of American bands discovered the Shop Assistants? Happy times. Brilliant Colors did it better than most.


Dum Dum Girls - Bhang Bhang, I’m a Burnout
More Shop Assistants style fuzz pop. This would fit in to the Narodnik label’s back catalogue very nicely.

Saturday, 30 June 2018

Slumberland - 30 years of hits part two

The Lodger - Let Her Go
Let Her Go was first released on the Angular label. It’s a collision of The Wolfhounds’ fury and The June Brides’ horn-driven melodic power. Slumberland did the smart thing and picked up the album.


Summer Cats - In June
When a label signs a band influenced by bands they've already released, I usually start to worry. No worries here, though, because Scott Stevens was in The Earthmen. This is a more pop outfit and they’re even better. File them next to The Aislers Set and Rocketship.


caUSE co-MOTION! - Which Way Is Up?
I’m pretty sure this band never practised. Maybe they’d never met each other before they went into the studio. It’s part of their singular charm. This is angular and catchy, like both sides of the C86 coin made good.


Bricolage - Turn U Over
It used to infuriate me that indiepop clubs or gigs would play the same old 1980s songs but never Bricolage. Turn U Over sounds like Orange Juice. Most of all they “Remember with deep regret/How we used to dance in the discotheque” and make that sound fresh for today.


Brown Recluse - Contour & Context
Baroque pop grandeur and harmonic soft pop in one record. They remind me of brilliant bands like The Pale Fountains, The Zombies and The Left Banke.
https://open.spotify.com/track/3WlTUG03YPruiFrqBlUUoH

Phil Wilson - Up To London
God Bless Jim Kennedy is basically the follow up to The June Brides’ all-time classic There Are Eight Million Stories...I’m not pretending this record took 25 years to make, but I’m certain it’ll last at least that long.


Crystal Stilts - Shattered Shine
Dramatically static and monochromatic like those early Felt singles with dysfunctional psych-punk like The Blue Orchids, Crystal Stilts were essential listening.


Big Troubles - Freudian Slips
This killer riff could surely withstand a nuclear war. It should have been inducted into the rock’n’roll hall of fame on its first week of release. It will outlast us all. [EDIT: SLR didn't release it - it's one of the great 7"s of the last decade, so it was an easy mistake to make. Big Troubles have other releases on SLR, all worth getting.]


Veronica Falls - Teenage
Doomed romance and jangly guitars. It could almost be the tagline for Slumberland. This is a modern classic of the genre.


Terry Malts - No Sir, I’m Not A Christian
90 seconds of sledgehammer bass, raging guitars and furious feedback. Did someone say Husker Du?

Friday, 29 June 2018

Slumberland - 30 years of hits part one

Slumberland is gearing up for its 30th birthday with a singles club. So I've come up with 30 hits from Slumberland.

True, it might have been neater to have done 30 7"s from the label, but that would mean missing loads of classics. Also true: I might have missed some favourites anyway. Send your complaints to the usual address, or better still make your own list.

These aren't in any order of preference. They're all great.

Velocity Girl - I Don't Care If You Go
This is where I first checked in with Slumberland. There weren’t a lot of ways to find out about the international pop underground in 1990, not at least if you were still at school and everyone else was into mainstream stuff. So I took a risk by mailorder on a band named after a really good record. Turns out they had made a really good record as well, one I’m nowhere near sick of hearing 28 years later.


Small Factory ‎– What To Want
Hands down, Small Factory and Velocity Girl were my favourite singles bands of the early 90s. If I’d have been the morbid teen who put a list of their desert island discs in their back pocket in case they were found dead in a graveyard, these bands would’ve featured.


The Aislers Set - Long Division
At their best - which was frequent and often - The Aislers Set wrote their own 1960s girl group hits with stop start rhythms and handclaps. Because the Brill Building was shut they recorded in a garage. This reminds me a little of My Boyfriend’s Back.


The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart - Come Saturday
Their debut could have hardly been clearer in its intentions by modifying The Field Mice’s This Love Is Not Wrong to This Love Is Fucking Right! Come Saturday is fuzzy like Sensitive and fast like Freak Scene. No surprise they went supernova.


Weekend - Red
Go on, name a better ep of the last 10 years. Sorry, you’re wrong. Yes it’s still available. And if you don’t own this but have seen My Bloody Valentine one of their reformation gigs, your excuses had better well be bloody good.


The Earthmen ‎– Cool Chick #59
During grunge’s imperial period, Australia’s The Earthmen took it back to the basics of 80s harDCore and punk, but kept the idea that the best tunes were from even a bit before that. Like the 1960s.


The Artisans - Start Again
Jazz Serenade is one of the great lost singles from one of the great lost bands. They tried to sound like Josef K years after everyone stopped and years before anyone tried again. God, they were good. Thanks to Slumberland there were two more songs on a compilation.


Go Sailor - Long Distance
Amy Linton and Rose Melberg in one band? Yes please! What could go wrong? Absolutely nothing. This is pop perfection.


Rocketship ‎– I Love You Like The Way That I Used To Do
No one, apart from Stereolab on a good day, could match drone with such huge tunes. History has shown Rocketship were right all along. It seemed so obvious then. It still does. If you’re coming to this fresh, I envy you.


The Clientele - Porcelain
If everyone who heard The Return of the Durutti Column formed a band they’d mostly be shit. Felt and The Clientele heard it, at different stages, and were consequently brilliant.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Poppel - Hit It

Poppel write songs with the tuneful rage and blistering insistence of The Clean’s Vehicle, and the casually awkward hooks of Pavement’s Crooked Rain. They came from a town in Belgium called Poppel so of course they’re called Poppel.

If the seesaw guitars and desperate pleading of Conceived Ideas don’t hit you first time, check out now. If they do, you’ve got 13 more hits to embrace.


They remind me, also, of more recent bands like Big Troubles and Cuffs and Boy Genius. You know, killer riffs and dramatic punch, then anthemic and seductive. I’d love Mitch Easter to produce their next record. Until then, this is the business.

Friday, 22 June 2018

Eddie & Ernie - Time Waits For No One



The basement of a New York record shop, 10 years ago: the clerk is playing the most amazing selection of funk 45s from his own collection. He offers to sell me some, starting at $100 each. The price is too heavy.

I flick through the cheaper singles in the racks. He stops me when I hit Bullets Don’t Have Eyes by Eddie & Ernie: “The best single of the last 5 years, no question.” I had the single and shared his enthusiasm.

Eddie & Ernie, one of the greatest - possibly the greatest - soul duos of all time, ranged from blistering pace to downhome tenderness and beautiful pain. Not for nothing are they the only act featuring on all four of Dave Godin’s legendary Deep Soul volumes.

Time Waits For No One is the first Eddie & Ernie vinyl album collection. Of course it’s brilliant. Its 10 tracks won’t be enough once you get the taste, but you can then move on to the Kent compilation Lost Friends.

Even then you’ll find yourself without what I rate as their true masterpiece, It’s A Beautiful World. Find that on Kent’s excellent Stone Soul - San Francisco's Loadstone Label compilation.


Thursday, 21 June 2018

Red Red Eyes - Horology

Red Red Eyes make quietly grand baroque pop. Their electronic hypnosis is addictive, understated and avant-garde.

Horology is cosmic English music informed by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, Broadcast’s spooked electronica, Serge Gainsbourg’s breathy noir and the United States of America’s experimental mini-symphonies.

If you like fear and paranoia, sad nostalgia and suburban melancholy, then you’ll love these songs’ ultra-styled grace. They’re also incredibly captivating live. If they play near you, go and see them. Buy the album first. You won’t regret it.


Wednesday, 13 June 2018

The Devonns - Come Back / Think I'm Falling in Love

Classic Chicago soul direct from Chicago in 2018. Come Back was apparently written in 10 minutes - I’m more ready to believe it was written in 1972.

Better still is the b-side, Think I’m Falling In Love, a full 5 minutes of gently seductive orchestral soul with not a second wasted.

They pronounce their name "De-vaughns" which is a nod to Willian DeVaughn, whose Diamond in the Back you surely know. Yes, that 7-minute sweet soul opus that sounds just like Curtis Mayfield.

Which is where The Devonns are going. If you’ve got the chops - with help from Ken Stringfellow, no less - to sound like primetime Curtis, the future’s yours.


Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Ex-Void

I say: the two essential members of Joanna Gruesome (come on, it didn’t quite work after Alana left), who are sounding fresher and brighter (they might not agree with those words) than the half-hearted last JoGru record.

Using the heavy metal umlaut in their name is surely a nod to Husker Du. The MBV debt is still obvious and restricted to the bent notes and sonic savagery of Isn’t Anything, and Ecstacy’s clearer tunes.

They’re my new favourite band. You‘ve got to see them live.

They say: “Taking influence equally from Black Sabbath’s “Into The Void”, D.C.-area hardcore legends VOID, and Raincoats number The Void, the group ‘Ex-Vöid’ was formed and began to compose short power-pop songs with titles like Boyfriend, Angry (At You Baby), Lying (To You Baby), and My Baby Is a Communist.”

So there you go. A difference of opinion. You can make your own mind up this way:



Friday, 11 May 2018

Young Scum album

The green shoots of the indiepop revival came through 2 years ago with Young Scum’s Zona ep and then bands like the BV's and Say Sue Me. Their album confirms something’s really starting to happen.

Young Scum do this with high-octane riffs, the jangle turned up to 11, spirited romanticism by way of Aztec Camera’s High Land, Hard Rain and the utter assurance that Jim Beattie was the talented one in Primal Scream. It’s got the potential to inspire a full-scale indiepop resuscitation.

It doesn’t hurt that Alvvays, who include Hummingbirds and Primitives covers in their set, are doing serious business. It’s all part of the escalation.

If nothing else, anyone still mourning the passing of Allo Darlin will have found a new favourite band.

Tape fans, make your way to Citrus City
Vinyl fans, your needs are met by Pretty Olivia


Thursday, 10 May 2018

Shit Bitch

“I love getting head from you, but you give me a UTI.” Royal Heady is the best, filthiest and, er, catchiest DIY punk song since Fuck Marry Kill by Daddy Issues. Then there’s the pay-off line: “dirty dick, I can’t piss.” You need this song in your life.

If you were in any doubt where Shit Bitch are coming from, there’s a hymn to an Australian TV presenter referencing “Carrie Brownstein, the coolest girl I’d ever seen.”

It’s not all crunchy riffs and energetic tunes - Kings Way edges into ballad territory proving Shit Bitch’s melodic power makes them genuine contenders whichever way they play it.

By Christmas they’ll surely be bigger than The Courtneys at the very least.


Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Lachlan & Snowy - Six Songs and Six More Songs

Is there a new genre called ‘Australiana’? *quickly Googles* Nope, don’t think so. So let’s say that Australiana is where dolewave got a bit drunk and mopey, played some Bakersfield country records and decided ‘that's sort of what we should be doing’. Bands like Dag, Lower Plenty, Ciggie Witch and Grandstands.

Lachlan and Snowy - or Lachlan Denton and Liam Halliwell who are both moonlighting from Ciggie Witch and The Ocean Party - are doing this new Australiana.

Six Songs and Six More Songs feature pretty much that evocative and tender sound with suburbia’s low-level alienation. Apart from one song, Do What U Wanna, which sounds like Velcro. You remember Velcro. *quickly Googles what happened to Velcro* Oh, that’s Ashley Bundang who’s in Ciggie Witch with Lachlan and Snowy.

The typically incestuous Melbourne scene at work with predictably lovely results.


Monday, 30 April 2018

Famous Problems - Hey! It's Raining!

For a decade starting some point in the late 1990s, The Butterflies of Love were the tallest band in the world who walked tall. They wrote nothing but hits, but only hit some of the people some of the time.

Their last album was called Famous Problems - there were no better albums in 2007, trust me on this. This new band Famous Problems is The Butterflies of Love without Daniel Greene, who checks in at under 6’2” so presumably had to go.*

This new mini album isn’t far off Jeff’s contributions to the Butterflies. Which means fuzzy Nuggets pop, REM’s early garage rock tempest and witchy ballads. The title track - a pop song with two exclamation marks for the price of none - features whistling and is obviously a convincing plea to help write the next Monkees album.

A favourite? Tough call. But if I’m picking one then it’s I’d Do It A Thousand Times. It’s epic, distraught and superbly alive to love’s twin obsessions, pleasure and pain. It takes the classic American songbook to the bar and plies it with whisky until its heart breaks. And then collects a Grammy. Posthumously.



*Dan Greene is, Jeff acknowledges, “the best songwriter in the world”, and certainly proved that when he made We've Walked In Hell And There Is Life After Death as The Mountain Movers, which is one of the best 10 albums of the last 10 years. Trust me on this.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

The Hit Parade - Happy World

Syvlia Plath once trilled: "My Heart Leaps Up When I Behold A Mailman On The Street.” If I remember correctly, and I'm seldom wrong in these matters, she was anticipating the arrival of a new 7" single with a teenager's boundless joy and excitement.

So it was that The Hit Parade’s latest epistle from the frontline of failure reached Did Not Chart Towers, with a letter from Julian Henry promising: “I’m about to go on a spree of releasing 7” singles of songs as I write them, which is how I started off back in 1984.”

Happy World says “I’ve got to explain, my pop group brings relief from pain”, which is a poetic offering of ‘we do what we have to and if anyone likes us it’s a bonus’. It’s a tacit nod that things aren’t much changed in The Hit Parade’s world.

If that lyric and the intent to release more quality 7" singles in die cut sleeves weren’t enough to convince you Happy World is a return to The Hit Parade’s glory days, then the song’s similarity to their platinum-coated old favourite Heuvos Mexicana and the chorus namechecking their 1988 greatest hits collection “With Love From... The Hit Parade” will.

The Hit Parade have thumbed their noses at austerity and cut the dealer price of this record, so you can get it for under a fiver. It would be seriously remiss of you not to.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

The great vinyl rip off

No week passes when indie labels don’t release albums on both vinyl and limited vinyl runs. This itself isn’t new - in the 1980s Creation, for example, released albums by bands such as My Bloody Valentine and The House of Love with a free 7” single.

These pressings sold out in a week. Their purpose was improved chart positions and to make the weekly music press and national radio aware that there was demand, even excitement, around their acts.

In 2018 when charts don’t matter and there’s no weekly music press it’s a much more cynical affair.

I understand that some of the smaller indies do this because then they can sell more by mail order, giving them a greater profit than selling to shops through a distributor (or maybe more realistically a better chance of breaking even). I'm cool with that, but many of the bigger labels are quite ruthless.

For for the bigger labels, the vinyl cash cow frustrates the artists as much as the fans. Last year Tracey Thorn said last year that “the comeback of vinyl is an absolute pain in the arse when you're making a record. Grrr.”

Her album Sister released this year? Well, it might have been released last year: “You could hear it an AWFUL lot sooner if it wasn't for the MASSIVE time delay caused nowadays by vinyl pressing.”

We’re in the position where vinyl sales make the tills ring because they’re sold at such exorbitant mark ups. Record companies need vinyl more than musicians or fans because it’s the only way for many of them to make a profit. So much so, they dictate an album's release date.

No wonder when you consider that YouTube is the biggest source of music in the world, playing billions of tracks annually, but in 2015 musicians earned less from it and from its ad-supported rivals than they earned from sales of vinyl.

The market for these vinyl releases is people with a lot of disposable cash. Labels know they don't have to wait for Record Store Day (or Black Friday or Christmas) to fleece punters. Let’s look at some recent examples:

Whyte Horses - Empty Words
Limited edition, signed and numbered double vinyl + download £20.99
Limited edition, signed and numbered double vinyl £18.99
Double vinyl £17.99

Comment: £2 for a download code? This is the future. At least half of the new albums I’ve bought this year haven’t had a download. We’ll have to pay for them all in the future because labels want us to stream on Spotify as well for more royalties, however small they may be.

Tracyanne & danny
Indies - only, colour vinyl with bonus 7" £24.99
Standard £18.99

Comment: the free 7” is no longer free. It’s an extra £6.

Eels - The Deconstruction
2 x 10” translucent yellow vinyl £25.99
Box set £52.99

  • 2 x 12” translucent pink vinyl in printed sleeves.
  • Printed box on uncoated paper
  • CD digipack
  • 28 page perfect bound lyric booklet with exclusive photos
  • 12” artwork print
  • A4 digital handwritten “rusty pipes” lyrics signed by e
  • E “tip & strip” pen

Comment: FFS, this is really taking the piss. I don’t know what a “tip & strip” pen is, but it sounds like the sort of promotional thing magazines used to give away to promote an album when record companies had millions floating around from CD sales.

Superorganism
Gatefold 180 gram vinyl LP + insert in luminous sleeve + MP3 download code 23.25
Gatefold 180 gram vinyl LP + 4 page booklet + MP3 download code)18.75

Comment: Luminous print must be pretty expensive and you don’t even get the booklet. This release’s poster campaign didn’t mention any of this. It said only: “THE DEBUT ALBUM NOW STREAMING ON SPOTIFY.”

Yo La Tengo - There's A Riot Going On
Limited orange vinyl 2xLP £19.50
2xLP £19.50

Comment: The only instance this year I’ve seen where both versions are the same price, although in some shops the limited limited is £2 more. A month after release, both versions are very much still available.


Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Terry Vs Tori

Does Factory Records have a spare catalogue number? The Terry Vs Tori EP would fit right in next to the Durutti Column’s Sketch for Summer.

If they’re not answering the phone, call Cherry Red and put this record next to Felt’s Crystal Ball. It sounds like it should be in that company.

I hear a lot of bands making music almost entirely inspired by Belle and Sebastian’s If You’re Feeling Sinister. The results are typically uniformly thin and lifeless. I’m not faulting those bands’ intentions, but I implore them to find a different hobby.

Terry Vs Tori, despite being cut from similar cloth to those bands I find very tiresome, must make more records. This is the best indiepop record since Young Scum’s Zona 2 years ago.


Sunday, 15 April 2018

Record Store Day 2028

Every year Record Store Day sees albums I bought in the 1990s reissued at eye-watering prices. If I could spot winners such as Luna and The Sundays then, surely I can spot the future collectables now. The logic is flawless, and shouldn't be confused with the fact that albums were pressed in small vinyl runs in the 90s and for half that time I didn't have a CD player and only bought vinyl anyway for the rest of the decade.

Box Elders - Alice and Friends
The late 00s saw a preponderance of garage rock bands who were largely uninspired revivalists. Box Elders were different, though. So different that they coined a new genre for their garage rock, "cave pop". They recorded their first single in a cave under the drummer's house in Nebraska.

They were teenagers so could write a song called Necro with the line "what do you call it when you love someone who's dead?". Alice and Friends is a masterpiece in bubblegum psych pop.




Fugu - As Found
Fugu claimed their debut album was an "idiosyncratic baroque sequel to "Sgt Pepper" meeting "Smile" and meant to be made in perfect 60's facsimile." It wasn't. Their second album, though, was.

It had the songs Paul McCartney forgot to write in 1967, recreated the urgent, irresistible power pop of the Raspberries and touched on the gauche melancholia of Neil Young on After The Goldrush to stride the world of popular music like a colossus of Smile harmonies and baroque, electronic grandeur.

As Found was never released on vinyl. Record Store Day, I'm waiting (10 years, I know).



Kings Go Forth - The Outsiders Are Back
They played a similar multi-faceted, driving funk and jubilant soul hybrid that sustained Curtis Mayfield's 1970s high watermark. It's soul music embracing its inspiration and opening windows to the future. They made only one album. God knows why. God, they were red hot.



Hacia Dos Veranos - Limay
Lawrence said in 1982 that the guitar Maurice Deebank used on Crumbling The Antiseptic Beauty “made a sound like pins popping in your head”. I get the same sensation listening to Limay.

A better authority than me, The Clientele's Alasdair MacLean, said of Hacia's Ignacio Aguila: "Their guitarist is a maestro: economical, precise, lyrical. His rolling, arpeggiated style will remind you of Felt’s Maurice Deebank or Vini Reilly, but he also possesses a faint echo of Johnny Marr, in that for all his sense of space and harmony he’s playing tunes first and foremost."

Full disclosure: I'm part of the label that released this. We released it because it's brilliant.



Weekend - Sports
Kevin Shields, 1995: "I'd like to be around in five years' time, making better and better records." mbv, 2013: a collection of Loveless outtakes with drum’n’bass samples added in 1996.

Weekend, Sports, 2010: a sonic assault of no-wave sullenness, psychedelic insanity, hypnotic riffs and intense tunes dug up from a crypt. This will be repackaged with Red, a strong contender for the last decade's best ep, and their debut single, All-American.

Sports is still available. So is Red. This is where my argument falls apart and I start a new one: what the fuck's wrong with everyone not buying Weekend records?




C Mimi - Heavenly Peace

The year is 1983. The synth has one setting but there's also "melody from toy music box (composer unknown)". The place is Japan, although its darkness and quirkiness suggests Sheffield was in her mind, and C'est une Chanson is a definite throwback to French pop, accordion and all.

Heavenly Peace is a strange and wondrous ep. You might get it first time, it might grow on you or it could just not be your thing. Don't worry about it if it's not your thing. There are loads of unchallenging, simple, easy records - many of them wonderful - out there you can enjoy.

But if you want avant-garde, experimental music that makes you catch your breath and look at the world differently, then Heavenly Peace is a real record that tells you what the future sounded like in 1983. It still, today, sounds like it's pointing to some ways forwards.

It's sold out at source, but Low Company have copies.

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Itchy Bugger - Done One

Low Company is a London record shop run on similar lines to Glasgow's now departed Volcanic Tongue. They stock wyrd folk, gauche DIY, witchy psych, loner electronics, post-punk jerkiness and any dance music variants found under the floorboards on the scene's outer fringes.

They've started a record label to release Done One by Itchy Bugger. Almost inevitably because of the name, Itchy Bugger is from Australia, a country whose musicians are seemingly unburdened by finding names you wouldn't object to wearing on a t-shirt.

Itchy Bugger is also known as Josh, formerly of Heavy Metal who were, depending on your outlook, either murder-punk maestros or reprobates with a fondness for animal drugs. Maybe they were both. Itchy Bugger's Done One is more lo-fi DIY with motorik beats and psychedelic chanting. However butterfingered it is they somehow manage to stumble towards the prize and grab it.

The recreation of The Creation's Painter Man as Baker Man shows they share some DNA with the Television Personalities. They might have had the same absentminded guitar teacher as The Cannanes and they've definitely got a similar primitive rhythmic drive and discordant jangle as the mighty Great Unwashed.

I like this album a hell of a lot. Stream it and buy it from Low Company.

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Hairband

When people talk about a new band from Glasgow, I listen. Same way I do if they're from Dunedin or Melbourne. It'd be reckless not to. Especially when that band features members of Breakfast Muff and Spinning Coin.

Enough biography. Tell me what they sound like
Post-punk without the scratchiness. Misery and melody. They're the only band to realise that the first two Go-Betweens albums inspired Life Without Buildings' Any Other City, one of the key British albums of the last 20 years.

I'm basing all of this on one song, but it's a bloody good song. You should hear it.

Yes I should. Let the music play.



How am I supposed to find a band called "Hairband" on The Googs?
No idea. The Hit Parade do okay, so maybe it'll work out. Although I am hoping they say in an interview that "if anyone finds our music on the internet and listens to it, that's a bonus".

I'm told they've already signed to a label with some experience in the dark arts of marketing and social media, so we must hear more soon. We really must.

Can you end this torture by tying it in with some other Scottish bands?
I thought you'd never ask. Hairband are on the Glasgow Nights compilation in aid of Money Advice Scotland, alongside luminaries such as Franz Ferdinand, Mogwai and The Pastels.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Mope Grooves v the Marine Girls

So many bands are compared to the Marine Girls even though they don't really sound like them. The comparisons are more about a certain DIY simplicity, being physically trapped in the suburbs as the imagination roams free, a sonic sparseness, an ideal of doing what you want mistakes and all where the mistakes make the perfection.

And yet no bands cover them, apart from Unrest, once. It's obviously not through musical intimidation. It's more likely the Marine Girls in their teenage self-obsession created a spell that can't be broken. Even though they weren't fantastically original they didn't sound like anyone else. Okay, pedants, maybe the Raincoats a bit and those usual suspects the Velvet Underground.

Courtney Love told Tracey Thorn: "Kurt always wanted to do a cover of that song of yours, ‘In Love’." I'm sure that wasn't in the mind of Mope Grooves' Stevie Pohlman when she covered In Love for their new album, Vanished.

It's a shuddering, ramshackle interpretation that sounds enough like Mope Grooves - or not like the Marine Girls - to matter. If any other bands fancy overcoming their nerves, there could be a fascinating tribute album.


Saturday, 24 March 2018

Roxanne needs an answer film

At 14 years old I was going gold
While I was putting dope hits in the mix
Ripping shows with Kane and Biz Markie
Fucking up Roxanne and taking out Sparky
Niggas came in flocks from blocks and blocks
To watch the Rox knock bitches out the box
And every place I played, I headlined

Those few lines from Shante's Big Mama do a better job of telling her story than the dramatisation of her life, Roxanne Roxanne. Or dramatisation of part of her life, 1984 to 1989, just before the release of her first album, so we don't even come close to 1992's Big Mama.

After the success of the four-part documentary Hip-Hop Evolution, it seems counter productive to sacrifice the music of a hip-hop great at the altar of domestic drama. The film starts promisingly with Shante's rap battle prowess, but that's just a set-up for a lot of reality-TV style back story.

When Roxanne's Revenge hits, the film focuses on Shante's alcoholic mother's reaction to finding out her daughter is being talked about. Shante is on the radio and in a local paper, but there's no mention of the record selling 250,000 copies in New York alone.

Calling the film Roxanne Roxanne, after the song that inspired her to write Roxanne's Revenge, is a mistake. It fortunately leads the way open for an answer film - a documentary focusing on a hip-hop great, her music, her rivals and her influence. You could call it Roxanne's Revenge.

Monday, 5 March 2018

Birdie - Bowling Green: the truth revealed



Bowling Green was originally scheduled for release as a split single with The Clientele’s On A Summer Trail in 2014 on a label I co-ran, the Hangover Lounge.

At the last minute, Birdie pulled it, saying they weren’t happy with the mix. It would have been perfect for the label because it’s a hymn to Clerkenwell and environs, namechecking the Hangover Lounge’s venue, The Lexington, and its final resting place, the Betsey Trotwood.

Instead, we got Spiral Staircase, which they’d released 14 years earlier on their debut single. I didn’t think this was right and wanted to pull the release, or just have it as a one-sided Clientele record.

My colleagues disagreed. One of those colleagues, John Jervis, runs WIAIWYA, who are releasing Bowling Green. It’s only fair, then, to give everyone who bought a copy of Spiral Staircase/On A Summer Trail a free download. Right John? “Fuck off.”

Okay then. Paul Kelly of Birdie, how about I upload the demo to appease the masses? “Away with you, satan's dark messenger.”

Righto. Truthfully, Bowling Green is perfect for any label interested in releasing the very best popular music, especially if by ‘best’ you mean ‘Laura Nyro transplanting her Stoned Soul Picnic from Central Park to central London’.

A few years before we’d released Birdie’s first new material in 10 years, A Message To The Sun. Just before we sent that to be mastered Paul asked us not to release it. I managed to talk the perfectionist down that time. The label decided quickly and unanimously to use A Message To The Sun as the lead track on the second Hangover Lounge ep.

Like A Message To The Sun, Bowling Green was one of the songs Birdie recorded in 2002 for a planned third album. I’ve spent the best part of a decade trying to get them to finish that album.

It might yet happen. I started cajoling Paul and Martin Kelly into reforming East Village in 1996. A mere 19 (NINETEEN) years of browbeating, flattery and begging later, they played one song, Shipwrecked.


Tuesday, 27 February 2018

The Harlem Gospel Travelers - He's On Time

He’s On Time, Colemine Records correctly point out, is “old-school, get up and shout southern gospel!”

It’s the label’s Devotional Series follow up to last year’s all-conquering hit, My God Has A Telephone by The Flying Stars of Brooklyn, NY. He’s On Time features lead Flying Star Aaron Frazer but it takes many hands to make a record this good.

Eli Paperboy Reed formed The Harlem Gospel Travelers from talented students in a gospel class he was mentoring. I’m not going to claim divine intervention - it's as funky as a goat in the summertime so must be unholy - but God this is good. Here, listen:


Thursday, 22 February 2018

Jeanines

These songs overspill with untutored trebly guitars, bubbling bass lines and enthusiasm over expertise. They probably spent more of their tiny budget on tambourines than studio time. Obviously, they’re glorious.

The demos sound like the best songs on a British indie fanzine compilation from 1988. I’d bet my house that they number The Siddeleys and Heavenly among their favourite bands.

Indiepop has been dead for a few years - sure, name some bands you like and I’ll tell you the reason it’s dead is because of those Subway Records historical reenactment society chancers. But with Jeanines and Tinsel Heart and The BV’s we might be looking at the start of something exciting kicking off in the underground.


Sunday, 18 February 2018

Thigh Master versus Dag

Thigh Master's debut ep Head of the Witch was one of 2014's standout records. None of their subsequent records have come close. These 2 new songs, though, match their debut for snarl, vim and snap. I can imagine Exodus being used as the walk-on music for an executioner.

Dag's Benefits of Solitude album last year had very few rivals. These new songs are countrified maudlin, the soundtrack to a party where no one was invited. Possibly because you've got no friends. Warning: the delicate desolation of Comfort Zone might ruin you.

If this is a fight, then it's a split decision. I'm leaning towards Thigh Master now because it's the more immediate, but maybe Dag will last longer. These things don't matter. 4 songs, all great, 1 7". You know what to do.

Friday, 16 February 2018

The Estimations - Let Me Go/Can’t Do This To Me

This is the business, both sides. Don’t ask ‘which is the a-side?’ Pick your own favourite. They're both modern classics.

Can’t Do This To Me is a strut on the soul side through Spanish Harlem in 1968. If you cherish those Big City Soul Sounds albums on Kent, then this down-on-your-knees pleading is just what you need.

Let Me Go pulls out the church organ, reaches for the gospel songbook and quite rightly elevates heartbreak to religious martyrdom. These smooth and gritty 4 minutes take the listener back to the USA, 1964. Sam Cooke is still alive.

This is the first release on Kimberlite Records of Canada.




Thursday, 15 February 2018

Salad Boys - This Is Glue

This is Glue doesn’t exactly hide the fact that the Salad Boys have listened to The Clean. This in itself isn’t odd - a lot of bands in the last decade have set their compass by The Clean - but given that their debut Metalmania looked to the psychedelic folk rock of Real Estate and Twerps, it seems an odd leap.

What’s really happening, I think, is Salad Boys are aiming higher and that means going back to the source, rather than looking to where the Dunedin Sound has travelled to in recent years.

They open with Blown Up, powerful waves of krautrock by way of Peter Gutterridge. Then there’s Hatred, which really does sound like The Clean, or more accurately David Kilgour - trebly, sharp, clanging.

By aiming higher, Salad Boys’ reference points are broader. Sure, they sound a bit like The Clean at times, but there’s a lot more going on.

Right Time is a trip to 1967 - hazy like the West Coast Pop Art Experimental band and addictive like The Mamas & the Papas. Then there’s Dogged Out, which blinks bewildering at pyschedelia’s possibilities and grabs its chance, like Teardrop Explodes did.

Salad Boys now hit harder. They make better songs that they used to. And I really like the songs they used to make.


Saturday, 3 February 2018

Traffic Island Sound with P.P. Rebel - All Aboard

All Aboard is library music where the library is stocked with Slavic fairy tales and the music is inspired by Eastern Bloc animation. It's the sound of The Go! Team trying not to have a hit and Whyte Horses deciding their arcane influences aren't quite obscure enough.

Traffic Island Sound is Zak Olsen from the Hierophants, but the true genius may come from P.P. Rebel because whatever magic dust they sprinkle on All Aboard makes it an out-there, eccentric, ghoulish wonder. Can someone release a P.P. Rebel record? It's genuinely amazing music.

In the meantime, there are 100 copies of this 7". The packaging is beautiful. Buy it.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

The Hit Parade - Oh Honey I...

This blog prides itself on its integrity and prescience. Eight weeks ago it blew its research budget (£9 inc postage) on the new single by Acton's Tycoons of Teen, The Hit Parade.

Today, another copy of the single arrived, telling me it's released on 19 January with a note from The Hit Parade's nom de normale, Julian Henry, suggesting, correctly as it turns out, that I might like it.

Oh Honey I... sees The Hit Parade switch on their home recording studio after listening to Phil Spector's Back To Mono, waiting until all the needles are on red and then increasing the emotions to breaking point.

This 7" represents no stylistic or lyrical leap. The song might be inspired by Shelagh Delaney's A Taste Of Honey, but really, after our Jules sings "If love has all the answers then how did I become so hopelessly lopsided and helplessly undone" it's clear the old milksop is singing from his own romantic misadventures.

Maybe after 34 years in the game Julian's right to acknowledge ruefully: "As Edwyn said I'm simply thrilled to play my guitar and talk to you through a dead medium like this."

There's a new album called Still Julian (of course it's called that) coming later this year.

Any friends in London want a copy? I don't need 2 copies. And I don't want to go to the post office.



Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Bill Direen & The Bilders ‎– Chrysanthemum Storm

One of the upsides of the vinyl revival is reissues of rare underground records. Bill Direen's releases in various guises - Bill Direen & Friends, Bill Direen & The HAT, Builders, Six Impossible Things, Vacuum, an album under his own name which was Flying Nun's first long player - have been prised from under the floorboards. They're all worth your time, none more so than 2008's Chrysanthemum Storm, originally a CD only, which I rate as among his finest works.

Even though Direen is a true one-off, the influences here are most obviously Lou Reed's Transformer (two of these songs aren't far off Perfect Day) and Bowie's Berlin trilogy. But imagine, if you will, mixing those with Roxy Music busking on second-hand electronic equipment, Tom Waits' mongrel blues and the tormented rage of those early Microdisney singles.

The lyrics, too, are a joy, not least if you take pleasure in bleakness and black humour. There's life and death in Try Again In Ten Minutes, which is a dismal rumble through the queues at the maternity ward and the cemetery, and the elliptical "he was unfocused, she was into hocus pocus".