Friday, 22 April 2022

Flinch - Enough is Enough

There's a tradition that dictates every insular, low-key, distaff act is compared to the Marine Girls. I get it, but pigeonholing every act as like the Marine Girls dismisses the range and ambition of so many bands.

Don't get me wrong, I love the Marine Girls, but they were so teenage. Comparing being told off by your parents to living in a totalitarian regime (Flying Over Russia)? How about being a bit older, like Flinch's Beth Black, and writing a song called Just Because She Likes The Same Bizzaro Crap You Do, That Doesn't Make Her Your Soulmate Tom?

Flinch are poised between the intimate Pacific Coast harmonies of Rose Melberg, the intensely melodic Fog Pop of Cindy and Flowertown, and the brutally self-reflective humour of anti-folk heroine Kimya Dawson. It will be a major injustice if Flinch aren't the support act on Withered Hand's next stadium tour.

You need this record, and not just because you don't already own one that includes I'm Sorry I Puked On You In That Rented Car.

Wednesday, 20 April 2022

Romero - Turn It On

Two years ago, Romero's debut single announced themselves with nagging, intense verse hook melodies like The Strokes once did so irresistibly. Those songs are on debut album Turn It On, but find themselves in the company of peacocking anthems that recall Thin Lizzy and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Gutsy, soulful vocals and duelling guitars make Sheer Mag their closest musical contemporaries, but there's none of Sheer Mag's political clout. Romero's fist-pumpin' soft rock seems untroubled by social consciousness but is superbly alive to axe heroics, love's tribulations and the fall out of over indulgence.

The clever money's on Romero dreaming of drum risers and dry ice rather than a socialist revolution. So what? It's rock music that's trying to conquer the world, not change it. Even if it's all surface, it shines gloriously.

Thursday, 10 March 2022

Lewsberg - In Your Hands

Lewsberg have one or possibly two songs, and they're both Velvet Underground songs. Some of my favourite records play the same hand - Bewitched by Luna, for example. It's repetition as an aesthetic, like Galaxie 500.

Any cynicism I had about Lewsberg was blown away seeing them live recently. Their narcotic, monochromatic balladry is restrained and perfectly poised. It's atonal abstraction that's wonderfully unemotional - Yo La Tengo if they'd never heard The Beach Boys.

In Your Hands has no hits. That's the point. The vocals, like Nico's, are litanic, the music sparsely melodic, heavily rhythmic, tribal and ceremonial. It might be an acquired taste. I love it. Acquire it.

Wednesday, 9 March 2022

Beachheads II

In which Beachheads wind down the windows, feel the breeze in their hair and set the radio dial to AM. The Cars, Raspberries, Cheap Trick and The Undertones are on rotation. Beachheads - who are titling their albums numerically like their powerpop forebears White Wires - have put in place stricter quality control measures this time round and struck gold.

There's something approaching a powerpop hit factory in Norway. Frode Strømstad from I Was A King and Rider (their debut ep was one of last year's finest offerings) produced the album, and Anne Lise Frøkedal makes a guest appearance.

Anyone sad about Teenage Fanclub not making them like they used to must tune in. And anyone buying the excellent Standing In The Shadows compilations on MeanBean would do well to live in the present by buying this collection of impulsive, knockout pop songs.

Friday, 4 March 2022

Doe St

Reports of dolewave's death are greatly exaggerated. Doe St's starting point is Layman's Terms by Boomgates. The album is ragged and playful like Scott & Charlene's Wedding's debut, roughhouse jangle like The Twerps' Black Eyes, sweetly rueful like Dick Diver's Calendar Days, and strong, gutsy and brutally tuneful like Unity Floors.

Like Everybody Split by Possible Humans three years ago (whatever did happen to them?), Doe St is an instant classic that suggests dolewave - pop punch, noisy assault, slacker tendencies - but doesn't rely on a scene. A lot of their raw rock'n'roll sounds like it was made up jamming after a few beers. It's the sort of record only young people with nothing to lose and everything to give can make.

This type of gamble doesn't often pay out, but when it does - and Doe St have hit the jackpot - you've got a classic album. No idea if they can do it again - lightning seldom strikes twice - but this is the sound of kids rolling the dice and getting two sixes every time.

Out now on Legless Records:

Thursday, 10 February 2022

Green/Blue - Offering

Green/Blue play with a frenetic mania that suggests a fire alarm went off in the studio and they were racing to finish the songs before they went up in flames.

Offering is jagged and intense post-Pavement rock, like the first two Parquet Courts albums. But it looks a bit further back to the post-punk experimental age with furious, enigmatic Wire riffs and Mission of Burma post-rock predictions.

Even though there’s a lot going on, Offering is immediately attractive and endlessly rewarding.

Friday, 4 February 2022

Semi Trucks – Vs. California

Have you ever wondered what The Pastels playing Mazzy Star would sound like? Wonder no more. Brendan Sepe (for he is Semi Trucks) shares Stephen Pastel’s lugubrious drawl and the music is pitched between Mazzy Star’s desolate desert blues and The Pastels’ 1991 brace of bangers.

Come on, Motorbike Riding Star has got to be a nod to Speedway Star. But Vs California is no pastiche and way more than the sum of its parts. It’s equal parts upbeat pop and downbeat introspection, jangle and cinematic despondency.

Bless My Soul by Shawn Lee & The Angels Of Libra

The soul revival scene has been quiet - or short of neo classics - in recent years. Hang on, though, because Bless My Soul channels Curtis Mayfield - the vocal phrasing is uncanny, the stabbing horns just so and the pleading desperation on point.

Souvenir on the b-side drops the beat down to midtempo to hit the jackpot again. Every mod club in Europe will have worn the grooves out of this single by summer’s end.

Moonlove - May Never Happen

The recent compilation Strum & Thrum: The American Jangle Underground 1983 - 1987 gave the impression that every band was either produced by Mitch Easter or wanted to be. Enjoyable though this snapshot is, it’s only part of the American indie saga.

Moonlove’s 1985 recordings offer a corrective to the riff-based heartlands rock template, suggesting that Fables of the Reconstruction rather than Murmur can be the starting point for REM influence. Or like They Might Be Giants, who also debuted in 85, they were leaning to skewed country-folk.

Maybe they were aware of Flying Nun’s strum & thrum - morosely melodic jangle with violin. At least, these songs are contemporaries of The Bats’ And Here Is 'Music For The Fireside'. Who knows? It all comes back to Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground (the clearest musical influence), being young and frenetic and making a raw, loose clatter.

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: every great cassette-only release gets issued on vinyl. It’s taken 36 years in this case, but justice has been done.

Artsick - Fingers Crossed

No fuss all fuzz guitar pop. Perfect for anyone missing the Shop Assistants or maybe Slumber Party or anyone who thought 2009 belonged to Brilliant Colors and Dum Dum Girls when the Brooklyn scene was taken over by Southern California.

But even if those bands mean nothing to you but the aesthetic of direct hits, all the needles on red, racing for the prize and crossing the line first means everything, then this is the record for you.

It’s Rockaway Beach transplanted to the west coast (chewin' out rhythms on bubblegum in San Francisco). It’s garage punk snarl and girl group sass. It’s the Shangri-Las reincarnated as a motorcycle gang - tough stance, heartworn songs.

I just knew this album would play at 45rpm. Every song could be an a-side.