It's a funny thing, seeing Bat For Lashes live. You hear about Natasha Khan's predilection for headdresses, spooky symbolism and pagan nods and expect something Bjorkian and mystical, and then it turns out she's wearing a normal top and jeans and is hugely self-effacing onstage, apart from when she's getting the audience to howl like wolves. It's almost disappointing. It's not actually, of course, because she's something really quite special live. What's A Girl To Do? is special as well, a ethereally demonic 60s girl group svengali'd by Chan Marshall, Sarah Nixey and Trish Keenan from Broadcast. Nixey has her own single out this week too, back to the classy electro-futurist grindstone on a cover of the Human League's The Black Hit Of Space. That she now looks like Ray Of Light era Madonna is less easy to contemplate. Bloc Party coming on after the Chili Peppers at Live Earth was almost as odd a piece of scheduling as how late the Pussycat Dolls were on, although in the latter case they wouldn't have had to come down from Kinross. Hunting For Witches reminds all that they can still be angular when they want. No more of this sort of thing, obviously, but at least the Pilooski Re-Edit of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons' Beggin’, as well as having no point whatsoever, doesn't have some anonymous dancefloor diva wailing over it. Everyone who picks up a guitar has something at least halfway listenable in them, apart from Dogs, and in The Hours' case it's the tremendous not-stadium-actually-let's-say-800-capacity-venue piano pop of reissued Ali In The Jungle. Like them, but better, Tokyo Police Club may never match the vitality of their debut single, but 7" Your English Is Good suggests next year's album may yet prove us wrong.
There's some odd things going on in this week's new release piles, and we don't just mean that Smashing Pumpkins album that's essentially Billy Corgan's second solo album renamed under the band so that people will notice this time (we know Siamese Dream was virtually recorded solo, but that was different). Victoria Hart, for instance. She was the singing waitress "plucked from obscurity" to sing at a massive Cannes party, and less than two months later she has a full album ready for release on a major label. As does Paul Potts, who was the underdog winner of Britain's Got Talent from a pool of performers in all areas of showbiz, so it wasn't like a singer had to win, the final being held four weeks ago. How curious. Anyway. Our Love To Admire sounds on the face of it not unlike the previous two Interpol albums: dankness, echoey guitars, Joy Division bits, ominous portents, poor lyrics. It sounds like it's had a little more spent on creating a bigger atmosphere, aided by the move to a major label and Rich Costey at the controls, and it's not as immediately arresting as Turn On The Bright Lights or Antics, but there's patches which suggest more light and shade has been welcomed into their world. It could well be a grower. Spoon have been around for twice as long with an eighth of the widespread critical impact, last album Gimme Fiction nearly putting them in the Shins bracket of odd but accessible wonky indiepop before the Shins ruined it as they went and started selling records. Sixth album Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga attempts to follow the same crossover course but gets bound up in its own sense of the smartly quasi-experimental. It unfortunately won't take them out of the cult collegiate bracket, but it grooves, it swings in an alt-Motown sense and in America at least a lot of people will find a new favourite album the majority haven't heard. The Strange Death Of Liberal England readily admit they take their cues from the Canadian choral post-rock modern tradition, Constellation Records in particular, and Forward March! is liberally doused in choral chanting, part-orchestral mighty arrangements, FX pedal attacks and titanic building, yet there's still something very lo-fi and British about it which marks them out as a hugely exciting prospect. No Motor In The Sky Oil On The City, though? Glaswegian ska collective The Amphetameanies seem to have been going forever and have had so many names pass through their ranks that Now That's What I Call... The Amphetameanies, given a full release after sneaking out in December, includes This Boy, written for them by Alex Kapranos before he left and recorded it for Franz Ferdinand. The current line-up still includes Bis' John Disco and Belle & Sebastian brass man Mick Cooke. Into the reissues, starting with a band who are members of that select group that have had a far greater influence than they ever sold records but because of their modus operandi and lack of eyecatching tragedy will never be as commercially feted as your Drakes or Buckleys. Young Marble Giants made an album, played a couple of years' worth of gigs, quietly drifted apart, play one-off gigs on special occasions and are still in contact with each other, and there it is. Except, that album was 1980's Colossal Youth, a spooked, minimally pastoral introverted lo-fi masterpiece released well before Victoria Coren and her word hunters could put a date of coinage to that last term. Alison Statton sings offhandedly like imminent disaster hasn't quite been noticed yet, main writer Stuart Moxham (who conceived the band as a reaction against punk and didn't want Alison in the band) plays circular muted rhythm guitar, Phil Moxham's elastic bass drives the operation almost straightforward, a drum machine programmed by the Moxhams' cousin beats away forlornly in the background and a seaside organ and ring modulator makes an occasional cameo. Kurt loved them, Courtney's Hole covered them, Peter Buck has namedropped them. Allegedly there are new songs in the pipeline but in the meantime Domino are putting it out with the instrumental Testcard EP, B-sides and demos on a seperate disc, so as not to spoil the mood. The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band did not go in for minimalism much, not when there were music hall traditions to warp, trad jazz to bend into peculiar squares, exploding robots, costumes to adopt, trouser presses, theremin legs and recordings on four track tape recorders to work to their extremes. The four albums they recorded in the prime of their lifetime are back out at mid-price, and every home should have at least one of Gorilla (The Intro And The Outro, songs as performed on Do Not Adjust Your Set, giving Ben Gibbard's band a name); The Doughnut In Granny's Greenhouse (psychedelia, My Pink Half Of The Drainpipe, titular reference to passing solids); Tadpoles (Urban Spaceman, Canyons Of Your Mind) and Keynsham (title inspired by a radio advert for a pools results prediction service). Enjoy the Foo Fighters last night? Then you may be interested in the tenth anniversary reappearance of The Colour And The Shape (actually released in May, but who's counting), produced by rock production's foremost Ray Stubbs soundalike Gil Norton and the first recorded as a band after Grohl had done everything on their eponymous debut himself. The expanded version means a disc containing six B-sides, including their cover of Baker Street. And who knew we'd live so long as to be able to buy Sleeper's Greatest Hits? Honestly, they're not as bad as post-Britpop culture would have you believe.