The release schedule is absolutely packed out this week, and that's without the deluge of useless football records (and the 5678s' Woo Hoo, which featured in Channel 4's One Hit Wonders countdown the other week despite charting in the same position as or lower than the follow-up singles of two other featured acts). Where to start? How about Morrissey, whose presence seems to be being taken for granted again judging by the lack of buzz around The Youngest Was The Most Loved, one of the best received tracks on Ringleader Of The Tormentors but now almost flung out as an afterthought. We've just realised north easterners The Motorettes are exactly the same as Mos Eisley, who perked ears up three years back with a Peel-fancied, 6 Music-colonising EP of quirky angularities before all that became fashionable. No mention of that in their biog, obviously, around buzzsaw Buzzcocks single You Gotta Look The Parts. Like them, Infadels have always been a better live proposition than on CD, which accounts for their ever growing fanbase in the face of radio shutout, but Love Like Semtex gives their hooligan dance-punk a good going over. The guitarist's hat isn't getting much better, unfortunately. Just across the capital the Fallout Trust is a name that seems to have been around the ether for a while, and despite the unpromising emo-esque name When We Are Gone is a quiet gem, throwing together and building disparate glitchy elements into something that sounds like a collision between Blur's eponymous album, Guillemots' stratospheric moments and Eno's early experiments in pop. Manchester's Liam Frost and the Slowdown Family have also been the subject of plenty of talk, The Mourners Of St Paul's placing him on the good wing of the male confessional singer-songwriter bandwagon. Bits of vinyl to seek out include two 10" Nouvelle Vague EPs ahead of their second album at the end of the month and a limited edition 7" from a band we have to admit we've only just 'got', iLiKETRAiNS. Maybe it was the name, yes, but Terra Nova, the latest in their series of historically based post-rock charges (video here), is an extraordinarily intense work that fulfils most of the claims made for them. Perhaps not the claims made in yesterday's Times news section, however. There are many bands in Britain who seem set for "chart-topping success", and with the best will in the world we're not sure they're among them.
Over here, meanwhile, nothing in particular to report, apart from three real contenders for our year end top 20 albums of 2006 list. In alphabetical order we'll start with Camera Obscura's Let's Get Out Of This Country, which starts with the still extraordinary summer break-up anthem Lloyd, I'm Ready to Be Heartbroken and continues in much the same vein, pitching itself in the gap between the first Concretes album and the original Wall Of Sound without losing touch with its Glasgow scene credentials or the always simmering Jimmy Webb/country elements. Traceyanne Campbell has never been in better voice and it's all pitched at blue skies ahead. Second: can you really produce an album of breadth and consistent high quality called He Poos Clouds? Owen Pallett, AKA Final Fantasy (good name, that), can, and it should do for his singular violin-driven vision what Wind In The Wires did for Patrick Wolf last year, turning him from one-off curio to cult hero. Written for a string quartet with chamber accompaniment and loosely based on the eight schools of magic in Dungeons & Dragons - no, keep reading - its dramatic settings and inventive arrangements accompany intriguing lyricism. Even better, just when the concept looked about as popular an idea as cholera, it works as a whole, as a sit-down-and-listen-in-one-go album. There won't be much sitting down required during Mission Of Burma's The Obliterati, their fourth album and second since reforming four years ago. If 2004's OnOFFOn was the work of men half their age, this is the work of men who've realised that men half their age now want to sound like AFI and have decided to do their work for them. It's an astonishingly intense album in places, roaring right out of the blocks, darting this way and that with a manic focus on the red hot core of the US underground post-punk sound they originally did so much to map a path through, only still finding room for the odd harmony, tempo shift and Bob Weston's tape manipulations. Extraordinary, frankly, and at this stage of their career only Sonic Youth among their US contemporaries could manage such a feat. They've got an album out this week too, and a proper one, not a 67 minute improvised piece for prepared piano and Black & Decker Workbench. It's called Rather Ripped, which we've heard one track from but are sufficiently excited by on that basis alone, throwing back to a more controlled version of the Goo/Daydream Nation days of grace. We haven't half finished the rundown yet, as we've also got to give props to Texas eclectics Midlake finding a mean point between Grandaddy and Badfinger on The Trials Of Van Occupanther, Gomez finding nobody's really that bothered at home any more but pressing on from the blues influences of yore to power pop and something akin to AOR on How We Operate, the Talulah Gosh/Heavenly/Marine Research rock family tree moves on with Amelia Fletcher and Rob Pursey's second album of harmonic modernist tweepop as the Tender Trap, 6 Billion People, and angry laptop proto-emo great white hope Sam 'Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly' Duckworth quietly sticks out an indie label mini-album ahead of his not very good debut release on Atlantic. The Guinness Book Of British Hit Singles came out last week and for god knows what reason a series of compilations are being put out to coincide. Not just your Super Hits Of The 80s (14 Weeks On Chart), though, as they've put some thought into it. So... One Hit Wonders ignores Carl Douglas and Baccara in favour of Wild Cherry, the Hooters and Ram Jam (this is not to be confused with The Original One Hit Wonders Album, also out this week and thinking laterally rather than literally with White Town, Mink DeVille, Martha And The Muffins and Sly Fox), Ultimate Instrumental Hits starts with Duelling Banjos, Apache and Rockit while proving not even football chanting can sully Papa's Got A Brand New Pigbag, The Hits That Never Were is a clever concept of radio staples that never made the top 75 - Drift Away, Brown Eyed Girl, Ring Of Fire, Ain't No Sunshine, Pink Panther Theme, Don't Be Cruel - and the expected is subverted in Ultimate No. 2 Hits Of The 70s and Ultimate No. 2 Hits Of The 80s. And after all that, there's still some high quality re-releases on shelves, most notably a load of Elvis Costello remasters, not the double disc sets of the last few years but mid-price efforts that stick to the original tracklistings. One day we'll do an Illustrated Guide to Costello, but for the time being This Year's Model is the Attractions in excelsis, Armed Forces has Oliver's Army and Accidents Will Happen, the hugely ambitious Imperial Bedroom is the best thing he ever did and Blood And Chocolate proves he never gave up the fire inside. We have no idea what double albums The Jam Story and The Squeeze Story are in aid of as there's already hundreds of Best Ofs out for both and the former isn't as complete as the recently reissued Compact Snap! The latter is about as good a selection of Difford and Tilbrook's timeless songsmithery as you'll find, though.
And still we go on! It's not for us to say that bands' careers are running ever faster these days, but here comes Maximo Park: Found On Film, where one decent-selling album spawns a DVD. Still, you do get two live performances, one at home in Newcastle, one on the last night of the NME tour, plus an AOL live session, documentary and accompanying radio sessions CD including an unreleased rarity and a Natalie Imbruglia cover. Nobody will ever confuse Hayseed Dixie for a band who take themselves too seriously (not that Maximo Park do, we're just struggling for a link), and No Sleep Til Liverpool brings the 'rockgrass' to an appreciative audience who presumably know that they're prolific Nashville session men, two of whose father wrote Duelling Banjos, and not really confused hillbillies from Deer Lick Holler, Appalachia but will run with it anyway. Again, no easy connective text here, so let's just go to The Smiths: Under Review, the first in a series of Under Review documentary DVDs. Caution advised here around the whiff of cash-in independent documentary, except the blurb promises rare versions of a decent number of classics and interviewees include Craig Gannon, Tony Wilson, Stephen Street, John Porter, Paul Morley, early fan David Jensen and assorted other movers and shakers in their story. And finally we manage to bring this week's shopping list round full circle.