Monday 19 September 2022

Sinaïve - super 45 t.

You can’t judge a record by its cover - this one is a tribute to Spacemen 3’s The Perfect Prescription - but you can by its title: Stereolab’s fingerprints are all over lead track Ténèbres. Well, mostly - they hijack The Field Mice’s Sensitive for the tune. This song won’t go out of style after this season.

They play a similar trick - motorik beats and guitar hypnosis - on Trash Mental, drop the tempo for ultra-styled minimalism on Il faudra traverser, then perhaps inevitably switch on the transient random-noise bursts for Space Ronsard.

There’s no getting away from the killer pop tune Ténèbres, but Sinaïve show on this EP they’ve got enough smarts to mark them down as ones to watch.

Sunday 11 September 2022

Fog Pop and the San Francisco scene

Brett Morgen, director of the David Bowie documentary Moonage Daydream, said: “If I do a film on the Beatles, I know they’re from Liverpool. I know they went to India. I don’t need to use the real estate to go there. Just give me the fucking music and give me the experience.”

Well, I do need the real estate because the experience and the fucking music are happening in San Francisco right now. Which is why you’re reading this in the same San Fran backyard as your author, who’s come straight from London.

The San Francisco scene is broadly known as Fog Pop, a term coined by Glenn Donaldson. His band The Reds, Pinks & Purples, along with Cindy, Flowertown and April Magazine, embrace Fog Pop’s central aesthetic: low-key jangle, minimalism, absolute candour of self-expression, and an intimate relationship with intensely melodic 1980s British bedroom pop and K Records’ (ok, I’m really thinking of Rose Melberg) Pacific North West harmonies.

But let’s look at today’s (proposed) line up. The Neutrals: scratchy post-punk and angular guitars by way of Josef K and Big Flame. Chime School: classic jangle from the Jim Beattie school. The Snogs: dissonant strum and thrum with a nod to Beat Happening’s rudimentary years. Flowertown: Fog Pop, obvs.

You couldn’t, even with the most generous perspective, describe those bands as being part of a musically coherent scene. What you have is similar to how The Servants' David Westlake remembers C86:

"I was conscious of there being a scene centred on a number of disparate bands. There are precedents for different people on a scene or in a putative genre having a productive contrariety or antipathy to each other...That went to the heart of C86.”

Crucially, though, I don’t hear any antipathy. I hear the world’s most exciting bands coming from one place and supporting each other. As the grizzled detective in every police procedural drama always tells you, there’s no such thing as coincidence. When you have bands operating in a communal spirit, you get a shared egalitarianism. That means the next act, whatever angle they take, in the spirit of productive contrariety will get a gig with bands with whom they share a city rather than record collections.

The truly great dolewave scene (2009 to 2014, according to me) based in Melbourne was a musically coherent scene because it had these three central features:

1. One of the bands wrote an early anthemic tribute to it (Footscray Station by Scott & Charlene’s Wedding).

2.Another act slagged off the scene (Jack Lee’s Same Thing).

3. Then another act mourned getting older, moving to the suburbs and rolling down the blinds on the city scene (Courtney Barnett’s Depreston).

San Francisco’s current music is too broad to have that scene insularity. But if there’s one song I associate with Fog Pop, rather than the San Francisco scene as a whole, then it’s Slow Torture of an Hourly Wage by The Reds, Pinks & Purples. At the very least, it disabuses outsiders of the notion that all these bands just sit around every day checking their tech stock portfolios while getting stoned and listening to Marine Girls records.

I’d like to think that at least one of these San Francisco bands breaks out into wider popularity, not just because they deserve it but because it will give every great band currently operating a bigger audience.

It’s worth remembering that Grant McLennan was sanguine about The Go-Betweens’ lack of global domination: “Looking back and seeing that none of it charted, a lot of people would say that's unsuccessful. But Marquee Moon sold nothing, and I know much I still enjoy listening to Television.”

None of the wonderful records made in San Francisco recently have charted, but they have devoted fans. I’m certain there are more brilliant records to come. I know in 10 years’ time I’ll still enjoy listening to the ones already out. And no matter they haven’t gone platinum - as long as there’s an audience ready to embrace emotionally uncompromising guitar pop these records will be rediscovered often enough until they are known, correctly, as classics.

first published in the BOardside zine, 10 September 2022.