Sunday 23 December 2018

20 new songs from 2018

All by new acts, because that's what this end of year compilation is. It's in no order. They're all brilliant.

Aright, I know Birdie aren't new, but no 2018 brilliant music list is complete without Bowling Green. And, again, 2018 didn't exactly mark Tony Molina's debut but any song on Kill The Lights could have made a best of list. I've almost certainly left off some brilliant debuts. By accident.

2018 has been the best year for music in ages. What have we learned? That pop music can be the silliest and the most important thing in the world. Sometimes it can be both at the same time. But I think we knew that already. Enjoy it (and keep paying for music because no one band or label can afford to lose money forever).

Tuesday 11 December 2018

Stars - a Christmas compilation

If Apple preload all iPhones with Stars music fans will have the best Christmas ever.

A mate of mine reckons Woah Melodic’s Christmas Stars is the best Christmas single since Low’s Just Like Christmas. I wouldn’t go quite that far, but it certainly draws on the ghost of Paul McCartney’s festive past to wonderful effect.

I lean towards Scrabbel’s Hiding In The Snow - glacial synths, minor chords, baroque pop - as this compilation’s killer tune. And then there’s White Town offering spectral Pet Shop Boys balladry in Say You’ll Be Home For Christmas. Jyoti, if you’ve been writing songs this good in the last 20 years, sorry, I wasn’t paying attention. This is marvellous.

Bill Botting takes us on a trip in the southern summer, winds the windows down, snaps on the car radio’s FM soft rock dial and names pretty much everyone in England he was ever in a band with. In pockets of east London there are musicians wiping away their tears. Rightly so.

Pop quiz question: does Darren Hayman, as he claims on his festive jangleathon, really have cousins called Terry and Julie or is he channelling The Kinks? It doesn’t matter. You’ll likely be grinning too much to worry about it. Thanks to all these musical Santas for sprinkling their magical fairy dust on their songs.

Wednesday 5 December 2018

Three Christmas Wishes from Daniel Treacy

London, late 1995. My ex-girlfriend wants to get back together (I know, what was she thinking). I didn’t (I knew exactly what I was thinking). She got me this signed photo of Dan Treacy, which I obviously liked and accepted but clearly couldn’t compromise my love god (YMMV) integrity for.

I had introduced the gift giver to indiepop’s wonders a few years before. She took to it and joined a band who were not only influenced by the Television Personalities but made them sound professional and polished.

I understand that some of their early releases now trade hands for more than they cost to record, but I didn’t really follow where they went.

Anyway, she’d got to know Dan Treacy’s then girlfriend, who got this signed photo.

Wednesday 28 November 2018

The Boaty Weekender is a terrible idea

Dear Stuart

The premise of this event is wrong:
What if the magic of 1999’s Bowlie Weekender was recreated 20 years on with 2,500 like-minded music fans, dozens of your favourite bands, and us, on an exciting and once in a lifetime cruise holiday through the Mediterranean?

The premise of this event is really: “Let’s do Bowlie again, but on a richer, grander scale. We’ll be a little bit disappointed if your economic circumstances haven’t improved drastically over the last 20 years like ours have.”

I know that you like to put on gigs in unusual venues, but if I had £1,500 spare to see Belle and Sebastian play a special gig, last year I’d have flown to Australia to see them at the Sydney Opera House.

But I don’t see Belle and Sebastian very often. Time was when I used to see them at every opportunity. Their first headline London gig at the Borderline in 1996, packed with just about everyone in town who had bought Tigermilk or had a tape of it. It was fun. Like when the band broke down and one of them played Smoke On The Water on a kazoo.

The night before supporting Tindersticks, you spotted Lawrence in the crowd and changed a lot of lyrics and song titles to Felt ones to impress him.

It started to go wrong in 1998 with the interminable waits until the band had the courage to go on stage. The nadir was in Philadelphia that autumn when you kept the audience waiting for an hour and a half before deciding, actually, you weren’t going to play. Many people left in tears. Not me. I’d seen you before, I could see you again.

But I didn’t, unless you count Bowlie the following year. I don’t remember too much about it. Like many attendees, I was in an advanced state of liquid refreshment. I’d either out drunk all of Mogwai combined, or some other bunch of Glaswegians. It’s all a bit hazy.

The problem with Belle and Sebastian then was the idea that they thought they were a “democracy”. They weren’t, though. They were still, then, Stuart Murdoch’s band. If your cellist was poorly, don’t keep fans waiting for 90 minutes before sending them home. Come on and play pared down or a Stuart Murdoch acoustic show or hard rock covers on the kazoo. Something improvised, something special. Don’t send fans home with nothing but contempt and disappointment.

I know I’m not the target audience for the Boaty Weekender, despite having been to Bowlie. My favourite albums remain Tigermilk and Sinister, what Stevie Jackson said “conveyed a self-made universe”.

I haven’t bought any Belle and Sebastian records since The Life Pursuit 12 years ago. I’m not going to slag off any records you’ve made since then. They’re not for me, that’s all. I wouldn’t dare ask, or even want, you to make the same albums over and over. Felt never did, after all, and like you they’re one of my favourite bands ever.

I did see you a couple of years ago at the Royal Albert Hall when you played Tigermilk. And then once more last year when I got a cheap ticket for your gig at the Royal Hospital in Chelsea. These gigs told me two things:

1. Belle and Sebastian are a heritage act.
2. Getting the cute girls on stage at the end of every gig is creepy and it gets creepier as the years pass. I tend to agree with Peter Momtchiloff who said: “I haven't kept close tabs on SM's activities in recent years. I suspect I might like some of the songs, but I find the artwork quite off-putting.”

I haven’t checked, but does the boat stop at any ports during its voyage? I know you’re better drilled these days, but it was only last year that you left drummer Richard Colburn in his pyjamas in Walmart between gigs.

I really hope that one of the other bands on the bill has a drummer you can use if you lose Richard. Or you take a drum machine just in case.

Stuart, you’ll be pleased to hear I can afford to go on the Boaty Weekender, but maybe less so when you understand why I won’t be going. I don’t need to take a hard look at my life choices to think any differently.

Last night I saw Pia Fraus and Spinning Coin. This Friday, Peaness, then the day after Hinds and Girl Ray. I’m more interested in newer bands. I don’t want to revisit a festival from 20 years ago, especially on a boat. Especially at that cost. And especially when the booking agent emails me to tell me there’s “unlimited ice cream”. Mate, I could have as much ice cream and beer and pizza as I wanted with change left over from £1,500 to go record shopping. In New York, say.

But let’s do a deal. If I win the lottery (seriously, I just bought a ticket), I’ll go on the Boaty Weekender. If I don’t, you play a low-key acoustic gig - guitar, kazoo, whatever you like - in London. I’ll put it on. It’ll be affordable. It’ll be fun. It’ll be special.

Let me know.


Sunday 25 November 2018

Fascinations Grand Chorus

So *that’s* what happened to Stephanie Cupo. She, you’ll surely remember, was the teen sensation behind Souvenir Stand who, correctly, believed pop music peaked when Goffin/King and Barry/Greenwich described the thrills, yearning and desperation of young love.

Until I Found You is exactly what you’d hope - group soul sung under the streetlamps outside the Brill Building.

There are more songs from a year ago which point to Quasi’s excellent Featuring “Birds” being the most recent reference point. Not that surprising when Fascinations Grand Chorus are, like Quasi, a two piece on keys and drums.

Whichever way they play it. Fascinations Grand Chorus are definitely a window to watch.

Shogun and the Sheets

Royal Headache were a punk band with a pop songwriter’s instincts who played it fast, hard and giddily like The Undertones. Shogun, late of Royal Headache, is now playing it fast, hard and soulfully like the Subway Sect.

Hold On Kid barrels along like it both opposes and embraces rock and roll with nervy grit like Ambition. You could probably hum Everybody’s Happy Nowadays by Buzzcocks to it if you’d had a few beers.

Pissing Blood on the b-side is about having had too many beers in the past. It strips away the punk fury to reveal in full the soul fervour Hold On Kid suggests.

What Hold On Kid does is announce a reborn band. What Pissing Blood does is announce a new band with real potential that could go somewhere different, somewhere higher, than Royal Headache ever did.

Thursday 1 November 2018

Art Sick - Going Down/No Clue

Starring Burnt Palms and Lunchbox alumni? Sold! *And* Kids On A Crime Spree? Give it to me now.

This blog once confidently predicted (I know, it don’t half chat shit sometimes) that Burnt Palms would be bigger than The Beatles and fatter than Elvis (see what I mean?). So no grand claims this time around, but surely Art Sick's blend of snotty punk and pop sass can fill the hole in discerning music listeners’ hearts since Best Coast went down the dumper?

These songs - just the two of them, so more please, Art Sick, when you have a moment - have the carefree Californian suss of The Go-Go’s and answer the question ‘what would The Shangri-La’s sound like if they recorded in a garage?’

Maybe that question was already answered by The Flips and Stolen Hearts. Who? I know. I truly hope Art Sick get the gold discs. There are only 100 copies of this 7" so it'll have to be the next record that goes gold. Act fast.

Tuesday 23 October 2018

Ricky Hell - Blue Lips

Remember when Psychedelic Horseshit shredded the Beach Boys songbook through a practice amp in a damp basement? They called it shitgaze. Ricky Hell plays a similarly joyous hand with California Girls on Nela Park.

He calls it gutter pop and finishes it in 65 seconds. You’d have to play it again and again even if it was 5 minutes long. It’s that catchy.

The other two songs strongly suggest Mary Chain dolorous wreckage and, obviously because of the name, Richard Hell. Drinking cheap vodka, staring into the sun, wondering what the blackest shade of black they can wear. You know how it goes. It doesn’t age when it’s done this well.

Saturday 20 October 2018

Kevin Hairs - Freak In The Streets

Freak in the streets, DIY pop love god in the sheets. New tape highlight Kevin Wants A Dog hits the sweet spot between Modern Lovers alienation and Television Personalities awkward sensitivity.

The other songs? Glad you asked, because you're really getting value for your entertainment dollar at a buck a song on this 6-track tape. Kevin has switched on the fx pedal to the "hoover" setting and blasts his way through songs that match new wave's freewheeling catchiness with 80s indie production values.

You'll get these no-nonsense pop songs straight away. If you don't, well, there's plenty of other music made by people with a lot of money and very little inspiration that will suit you.

Thursday 4 October 2018

The return of Ignacio Aguilo

Ignacio from the world-conquering Hacia Dos Veranos is back. And this time it's...well, it's more understated beauty for fans of Maurice Deebank, The Clientele and The Durutti Column.

For all the low-key melodrama, be ready to unfurl your TUNE! banner. This songs features a whistling solo. Everything about it is wonderful.

Ignacio kindly tells us all.

You're back! What happened to Hacia Dos Veranos?

I had a great time with Hacia Dos Veranos. We recorded three – in my opinion – very fine LPs – one of them released by the splendid Hangover Lounge label, and we managed to reach out to audiences in many parts of the world. Being an instrumental band from Argentina implies that, from very early on, you realise you won’t be the next big thing in pop music; but still, we never dreamt that we were going to be on the BBC, or that one of our heroes, Alasdair MacLean from The Clientele, would record with us, or that we would play in the Union Chapel. So it was a pretty good run, in my view.

Is Dias in any way a tribute to Amor de Dias?

Días is the first single from my first solo album. It doesn’t have anything to do with Amor de Días, though, but perhaps you could say the topic of the song – the beauty of the every day – connects with the concept behind the name of the band.

You're singing! What on earth's going on?

After some time off music, I decided I wanted to try something new, a little more personal. It’s a strange thing for me because, for many years, I was in an instrumental band, but one of the good things about growing old is that I don’t care what people say. And nowadays there’s Auto-Tune, so the computer does all the work. Everybody can sing! Plus, one of the good things about singing is I don’t have to answer anymore the question everybody asked me when I was in Hacia Dos Veranos (‘why no one sings?’).

We want an album! When can we expect one?

It will come out in the first semester of 2019.

Which of your showbiz pals can we expect on it?

These songs have some features that were present in Hacia Dos Veranos, like the Maurice Deebank-like arpeggios, the dreamy melodies, the jazzy chords, but the songs are much simpler, more pop, and there is a stronger presence of Argentinian folkloric music, particularly rhythms. I tried to mix everything – pop, Argie folk, jazzy and Brazilian chords – to create a hybrid in which each ingredient get lost in the mix.

The last time we saw you on stage, you performed a new song, The Hangover Lounge, a love song to those club-running hunks of yore. I can get you a very fetching photo if you want to make a picture disc.

This song, my personal tribute to these much-loved modern patrons of the arts (the Medicis of our age) is indeed on the album. It had to be!

You're playing on Saturday. So are The Clientele. How the hell am I meant to choose who to see?
Easy: if you’re in Spain, come to see me, I’m opening for Clyde, one of Spain’s finest indie pop acts, a real hidden gem. If you’re in London, see The Clientele. If we ever play in the same city at the same time, then come to see me, I need to build a fan base.

You've got to play in the UK again soon. Any gigs coming up?

Not yet, but I’m a cheap date, so any invitations are welcome.

Tuesday 2 October 2018

Jonathan Richman - SA

SA finds Jonathan back in Modern Lovers territory, playing with Jerry Harrison who also co-produces the album.

The Fading of an Old World revisits that era’s Old World. When in 1972 Jonathan still loved the 50s and the old world he looked to the future, concluding “bye bye old world we’ve got to help the new world”. Not much has changed in 2018 - he still “doesn’t want to go back to the old fading world”.

SA is an album that in part is an older man looking back. Ten years ago Jonathan contemplated his mother’s death on As My Mother Lay Lying. He’s now thinking about his own mortality on And Do No Other Thing, where he insists he must “follow the heart and have no other religion” to a chorus of handclaps.

Despite the no religion statement, Jonathan explains that the titular SA is the “root note in Indian ragas [that] Ramakrishna, the much beloved mystic, told his spiritual students to search for underneath all things of this world." The eight-minute raga of O Mind! Just Dance! isn’t exactly That Summer Feeling.

There really is no suppressing Jonathan’s eccentricities. Not least on Yes, Take Me Home - a song from the viewpoint of a dog, which is surely a follow up to Our Dog Is Getting Older Now.

But Jonathan’s sheer joy can never be hidden for long. Alegre Soy - that’s I’m Joyful in Spanish - is pure old style JoJo pop.

And Do No Other Thing had better not be his epitaph. On the evidence of SA, his best record since, and at least equal to, 2008’s Because Her Beauty Is Raw And Wild, he's got plenty of fragility, introspection and baffled wonderment to offer yet.

The CD is out now. A vinyl release follows next year.

Sunday 30 September 2018

Ben Pirani - How Do I Talk To My Brother?

If you were really quick (and smart) or are very rich (and maybe not so smart if you dropped £150) you’ll have a copy of Light Of My Life by Benjamin & the Right Direction on 7”.

It’s a great song - horn-driven, finger-snappin’ modern club soul. Exactly what Mayer Hawthorne did 9 years ago on his debut. Which is pretty much where Ben Pirani picks up with a mixture of quiet storm soul (It’s Understanding) and urgent Motown beats (Not One More Tear).

In what’s been a vintage year for classic soul singles, How Do I Talk To My Brother? makes a near irresistible case for being a classic soul album. The midtempo grace and harmonic heartbreak of That’s What You Mean To Me is wonderful, but the string-soaked soul of You Brought The Rain is undercut by the lyrics which either came out of a soul words generator app or a rhyming dictionary.

All in, though, Ben Pirani has made a very good album. Six of its 10 songs have already been out on 7”, but if you don’t have those then this is one of the better musical investments you could make.

Thursday 27 September 2018

The Goon Sax - We’re Not Talking

We’re Not Talking is better than debut album Up To Anything by the same magnitude that Dick Diver’s Calendar Days is better than New Start Again.

Calendar Days, released in 2013, was the highpoint of Australia’s putative dolewave scene which has since petered out, but subsequently felt in moments like The Goon Sax’s 2016 calling card Up To Anything.

We’re Not Talking is a much more different, confident, expansive and better album than its predecessor. It’s not dolewave, that’s for sure. The inventive percussion of Make Time 4 Love strikes me as a nod to The Feelies’ Nobody Knows.

The crucial influence on this album, though, is British 1980s indie and in particular Orange Juice. When on the first album’s Home Haircuts they declared, “I show them a picture of Roger McGuinn, Edwyn Collins, John Lennon, David Byrne”, they were referencing Orange Juice’s Consolation Prize, “I wore my fringe like Roger McGuinn’s”.

The Goon Sax set out their stall lyrically but didn’t match it musically. But now the bass is turned up and on album highlight Get Out they go for Orange Juice’s disco punk hybrid and claim first prize.

We’re Not Talking is a really good pop album forged in post-punk’s experimentation and audacity. It’s old fashioned pop in little ways like making the last song on side 1 a spare, beautiful ballad that makes you want to turn the record over.

What We’re Not Talking does is announce The Goon Sax as serious contenders, a band not part of a scene but one that’s found its feet and have the quality and craft to make their own way. I wouldn’t dare offer them advice, but do ask that Riley Jones, the group’s strongest and most affecting singer, gets more vocal duties next time around.

Why write this review 2 weeks after release? Because I haven’t agreed with any other reviews. Partly because they all reference The Go-Betweens.

The Goon Sax feature Louis Forster; The Go-Betweens featured Robert Forster. The bands have as much in common as Steve Tyler and Bonnie Tyler, as LeAnn Rimes and Busta Rhymes. The Goon Sax are their own band. Their future looks very bright.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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


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.

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


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


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.