It's funny how occasionally things happen and emerge which make us feel slightly out of step with our UK blogging compadres. The Long Blondes, for instance, a band guaranteed to leave swooning and begging bloggers and professional writers in their wake but who we've never really 'got', or at least not since the tremendous Appropriation single. It's not even something we can put down to any one thing - we know we should like them on our musical history evidence, we appreciate their evident glamorous star quality, but the songs leave us unmoved somehow. As Someone To Drive You Home leaves even more enraptured we're in danger of getting left behind. Anyway, we can say Once And Never Again (we know it says 6th November on that link but we're going by their own official site, which should know, and that's the album release date in any case) is the best thing they've done since the Angular Recording Corporation days. At least their Female-Fronted Pulp reputation gives you an idea of what to expect - even though you could bracket his first two albums loosely as electro-folk, it's never wise to try and second-guess Patrick Wolf's intentions. The boy genius turned windswept dark storyteller has seemingly decided to lighten up a little, which is where a big glam-electro brassy pop song called Accident And Emergency comes in, technically a duet with Edward Larrikin although close investigation reveals he gets all of one line. God knows what it all means for next year's The Magic Position album, mind. Maybe it's a diversionary tactic. Is it just us who's reminded by it of Good Morning Britain by Aztec Camera and Mick Jones? And while we're in a self-questioning mood, are we allowed in polite company to admit a sneaking respect for Amy Winehouse? And we mean from back when she was being widely dismissed as nu-jazz-lite, when she was walking that clever/ballsy fine line and giving actually critical/newsworthy quotes the sort of which you thought had long been ironed out by major label interview training teams. Rehab again neatly sidesteps the genre pigeonholes Radio 2 would create for her and finds its groove. Must say, though, in the very indie way we have of being put off records by their attendent press we do question the machinations of this return, first with the mid-market papers going on about her weight seemingly out of nowhere two years after her previous single, then the broadsheets all running pieces about her album well in advance at the same time, and most notably the stock line about this single that it recalls 60s girl groups - we're willing to admit that it recalls the 60s girl group sound better than Lightning Bolt do, true, but we're detecting more Stax grit than Spector sound. Oh, and stop quoting the opening line, it's not really that meaningful. You know where you are with Joan As Policewoman, even if she/they do(es) take you on an emotional rollercoaster of its own. Christobel would be the rockiest one off the album if we were at all comfortable with such descriptions, but regardless it shows off Joan Wasser's impressive voice well. The 7" shelves are graced this week with someone you might have worked out we quite like, Luke Haines, with the Richard X-produced title track from forthcoming album Off My Rocker At The Art School Bop. There's always been a discopop element to his creepy misanthropy. Long serving garage rocker and everything else Billy Childish is meanwhile putting his Buff Medways to bed with an EP, The Last Of The Buff Medways. He's already got a new band together, called Billy Childish and the Musicians of the British Empire. Well, what else would a Billy Childish band be expected to take name inspiration from?
The odd thing about this week in album releases, apart from just how many big name albums are out (and being ignored here), is that the really outstanding stuff is in the form of compilations and reworkings. So let's deal with new material first, and quickly. Transgressive's never-quite-making-it outfit Battle were supposed to have released an album called Break The Banks by now - it leaked and everything - but between finishing the album sessions and release they wrote and recorded a whole slew of new, they thought better songs, so that was scrapped and a full length is due in 2007. Before then, Back To Earth emerges, a seven track mini-LP featuring most of their family favourites. Being the trailblazer for DC hardcore is all very well and good but we all have to move on some time, so while Fugazi remain on hiatus Ian MacKaye releases his second stripped back album as half of The Evens, Get Evens. Given we posted two free mp3s of theirs in Weekender recently it's remiss that we've still not got round to hearing +/-'s Let's Build A Fire but hopes are high for their electronically enhanced dreampop. Simple Kid was the Irish Beck a couple of years ago, before he wilted under the strain and went to work in a record shop for six months. SK2 marks his return. Right, that's new thrusting goodness out of the way, let's look at the repackaging. Well, that's not strictly fair, as in the week of the second anniversary of John Peel's passing there are five new Peel Sessions compilations out, most forensically Pulp's The Complete Peel Sessions, and by complete they mean their November 1981 session right through to the one ahead of We Love Life, plus a second disc of BBC live recordings. PJ Harvey's association was similarly thorough, even if The Peel Sessions 1991-2004 isn't a complete set of her five visits, unlike Siouxsie & The Banshees' Voices On The Air: The Peel Sessions, which not only features all five of their sessions but also Paul Morley on sleevenote duty. The House Of Love made six, The Complete John Peel Sessions, carefully split into Terry Bickers era and post-Bickers, while Gene made it to three, padding out the second CD of John Peel Sessions 95-99 with live gubbins. Three versions of As Good As It Gets! We barely needed one! Oh, and there's also Classics From John Peel's All Time Festive Fifty creeping out. Why they couldn't have given it a point and put all fifty from the millennial poll on we're not totally sure, especially as it doesn't include the number one. Now, you know we like our borderline unforgiveable mid-80s indie here at Sweeping The Nation, so of course we've made room in our hearts for CD86, not unfortunately the hoped for C86 reissue but 48 tracks that defined a certain independent ideal. This compilation is being put out by Sanctuary and has its own Myspace, admittedly, but that's nostalgia for you. And they've picked the wrong Loft track and missed out assorted actual C86 acts, but that's by the by. Popjustice finally brings out its '100% Solid Pop Music' mix CD, mixed by bootleg type McSleazy, which features Annie next to Girls Aloud, Ladytron, the Thin White Duke Killers remix and ends with Biology followed by a Biology remix, and is thus all you want. Apart from Monster being track two. We don't care if it is a remix, it's still The Automatic's base materials. The Pet Shop Boys are on it and reputedly are using it as their warm-up music on tour, which brings us suspiciously nicely only Concrete, their first live album documenting their Mermaid Theatre concert with the BBC Concert Orchestra in May. Nothing Has Been Proved is on it, excitingly, while Trevor Horn and Anne Dudley take up positions in the band and Rufus Wainwright turns up (as does Robbie Williams, but hey). Finally it's Mercury Rev's turn at a Back To Mine, an expectedly eclectic compilation including David Bowie, Terry Jacks, Galaxie 500, Billie Holiday, Nico, Spacemen 3, Suicide and Randy Newman.
It's the season for autobiographies well before the time when the subject has much of interest to say, that you'll be aware of, but at least Gorillaz can make it all up. 'Co'-written by Cass Browne, presumably the one from the Senseless Things and Delakota given he's in the live band, Rise Of The Ogre features scores of new and work in progress graphics from Jamie Hewlett and team. There's going to be dolls released for Christmas too. Well, of course there are.