Less hectic this week, although we do have the return of one of STN's longtime favourite bands to front up with this week. With Clinic you know exactly what you're getting, of course - it's going to sound semi-gothically spooky, there'll be a Sister Ray organ, some distorted bass, some spooky harmonies, some polyrhythmic drumming and Ade Blackburn's vocals will feature a discernable word every three or four lines. Some albums may be poppier, some more fraught - Visitations is certainly the latter - but the core elements rarely change, it's just they can do it becaue nobody else ever does it. There's an oddly almost complete lack of interest these days, unfortunately, but that's what happens when you're not easily categorisable. Harvest, it's called. It's post-punk unsettling jolts all round, in fact, with European contention from Love Is All - they used to be Girlfrendo, y'know - pulling Make Out Fall Out Make Up out from Nine Times That Same Song and previously Weekender Myspaced Parisians 10lec6 invoking the Raincoats on their Join Us EP.
Little did we imagine a few months ago that we'd be dealing with two albums by bookish, multitasking American bands who have based albums on Japanese folk tales. Following our lionising of Anathallo's Hanasakajijii explorations comes The Decemberists' The Crane Wife, based on the story of the same name. While it's fair to say that they've not exactly become a more commercially attuned band since signing to Capitol in America (it's on Rough Trade here), this album's more stylistically ADD-afflicted folk-Smiths-prog historically pitched storytelling has taken its time to settle in with us but it rewards many further plays. The attempt to leak pretty much every track off Beck's The Information to YouTube hasn't actually made it that much more long-awaited - we've not forgotten Guero, Hanson - but he's clearly still got more ideas than most so let's see. The album cover, by the way, is just Beck's name overlaid on some sort of graph paper, and the album comes with a set of stickers for purchasers to create their own patchwork images with. Ikara Colt did this for Chat And Business four years ago and it got them banned from the official album charts on the grounds that it was an illegal free gift. We're watching this one closely. Okkervil River placed number 19 in our Albums Of 2005 countdown despite the fact it turned out not to be eligible under our own strict rules as it wasn't actually officially released in Britain until two weeks ago. Ah well, soonest mended. We've wondered ever since whether, even in such a strong year, Black Sheep Boy shouldn't have placed higher, and just to cloud the issue the more sonically experimental seven song Black Sheep Boy Appendix is out as accompaniment. Something less wracked comes in the shape of Omaha's cautious optimists Tilly And The Wall, label rights messing about meaning Bottom Of Barrels follows Wild Like Children into British stores with eight months' leeway (not, by the way, adverse comment on the ever great Moshi Moshi label, which put both out.) They've not got a drummer, you know, they've got a member who ta...oh, you knew. One of this year's great regrets for us is going to be that Robyn Hitchcock played round here back in June in a tiny warm-up for festival dates, with the Minus 3, and we were otherwise engaged on the night. Scott McCaughey, Peter Buck and Bill Rieflin are now trading as the Venus 3 (obviously the full band being the Minus 5) on Hitchcock's new album of wondrous psych-pop Ole! Tarantula. Two other new albums to take flyers on based on previous experience: Camden's garage doomed romantics the Flaming Stars issue Born Under A Bad Neon Sign, while Australian Belle & Sebastianalikes Sodastream take on Reservations. Those best ofs keep on coming, meanwhile, led by Mercury Rev looking back over fifteen years of squall followed by wonderment followed by orchestras in a very haphazard fashion, but with a second disc of rarities and unreleased material, on Stillness Breathes 1991-2006, while the not all that bad Gomez have left Virgin/Hut so here comes the possibly ironically titled Five Men In A Hut: A's, B's And Rarities: 1998-2004 (also on DVD).