As we were saying, we're going off for a little break from Friday. A busman's holiday, actually, taking in End Of The Road Festival and Truck Ten with a period of offline recuperation in the middle, so our first posts back will be our reviews of those two events.
Inevitably, those two Mondays affected are also two of the busiest and best weeks for quite a while for approvable new releases, so here's our checklist to what we suggest you put on your imaginary Wishlist:
Officially it's Broken Social Scene Presents Kevin Drew, but Spirit If... doesn't really resemble a BSS record aside from how it somehow all manages to fit together against most odds, understandably less of a mess then the band's self-titled record of last year but still stylistically all over the place, held together by Drew's superior sense of what sticks when modern American indie throws everything at the wall, veering from the gorgeously self-assured to kaleidoscopic rowdy rhythms that peak at Dinosaur Jr levels (J Mascis guests on one track). Emma Pollock's Watch The Fireworks picks up where the Delgados left off, a little more piano-centric wistfully but still a close cousin to those moments where her former band found a happy medium between melody and dissonance. Australia's Devastations pick up the sinister baton from the likes of the Dirty Three on Yes, U, betraying the post-rock influence but adding their own stately dynamics. There's little surface sinister about the Rumble Strips' Girls And Weather, which seems to have been on the release schedule for years - downbeat, maybe, but never sinister when there's those horns and that early 80s/late 50s-cribbing energy to be had. (Cliffs Note: when we say they sound like Dexys, we mean as much in Charlie Waller's apeing of Kevin Rowland's untutored punk-origin soul righteous vocalising, itself openly indebted to 'General' Norman Johnson of Chairmen Of The Board, as in the horn section) Sonic Youth projects that aren't proper band albums do increasingly need to be approached with caution, but you're in safeish hands with Thurston Moore solo; Trees Outside The Academy is largely acoustic, reminiscent of the avant-folk Moore's Ecstatic Peace label major on, with psychedelics making their way around the edges. Steve Shelley and good old J Mascis pop by. All three Joy Division albums - Closer, Unknown Pleasures and Still - get remastered and added to with Control's release around the corner (5th October, in fact). A shorter than we were led to believe Gorky's Zygotic Mynci reissue campaign comprises debut Patio and 1995's breakthrough Bwyd Time. The selling point is its compilation by the Dead 60s, but Riot Radio Broadcast is as good a basic reggae and dub primer as you'll get. Wait until it's half price. The Simpsons: Testify is the third compilation of original material from the series, featuring David Byrne, the B-52s, Jackson Browne, Shawn Colvin, Kelsey Grammer and guaranteed no Spider-fucking-Pig. Single of the week is Young Folks, inevitably, already in the top 40 and with only number 30 to beat, closely followed by PJ Harvey's low-key 7" return When Under Ether. Outsider status goes to The Young Republic, who are actually on End Of The Road Recordings and hence play about a million times (four, actually) at the festival, promoting the Shins-folk-Belle & Sebastian of Modern Plays. It's not on Amazon, but Frank Turner's DVD All About The Destination is released, featuring live footage, a documentary, videos and fan contributions. This ties in with Turner being on tour. Well, of course he's on tour.
This might just be the best album release week of 2007, so how to choose a highlight? We have a failsafe method known as the Band With Andy Falkous In Solution. Future Of The Left's Curses could easily have been the fourth McLusky album. Well, of course it could - it's two of McLusky plus Kelson from Jarcrew. But you know what we mean - it develops their sound enough, but it's still capable, as the very best of McLusky was, of bringing down walls through sheer force of the combined kinetic power of discordant riffs, fuzzed up bass, earthshaking drums and shouting of angular phrases that amount to choruses. Falco's lyrics are still as sharp and bleakly funny as ever (he recently said he always thought McLusky were treated as a comedy band because everyone went on about the humour in the lyrics, but foolish is the listener who sees this as some sort of Electric 6 knockoff), and if there's more Meat Puppets sludge about some of the songs it's only to heighten how disquieting the whole enterprise is. Rock album of the year? Quite possibly. In a very different, very post-literate American way, Okkervil River could seethe and snarl with the best of them at times, but The Stage Names is a more considered beast, Will Sheff alighting this time on the theme of showbusiness itself and the difference between the publically presented persona and private self. It's not a concept album on which to hang itself, though, but a means of catharsis for Sheff's poetically drawn characters trying to understand the means by which they entertain, both others and themselves. Unfortunately, yes, Okkervil River albums do tend to draw this kind of complex prognosis from people like ourselves. Let's just say it's an emotional rollercoaster of poetic alt-Americana and move on. PJ Harvey albums used to be greeted in a similar fashion, but maybe Uh Huh Her was a post-Mercury step too far as White Chalk seems to have faded into the background. This is her hauntedly fragile piano album, haunted and best parlayed in the imagery surrounding its press of Harvey looking mordant in antique white dresses. Given time this could emerge as her great overlooked work. What to make of Devendra Banhart at any time is even more confusing: Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon was recorded in Topanga Canyon, hub of the early 70s LA CSNY/Eagles/Taylor/Mitchell/Ronstadt/Browne clusterfuck (literally, in some cases) scene, and is also more piano based, but the usual organic mess of psych-folk prevails. Meet Me In St Louis are a mess of something else entirely, Variations On Swing launching the new UK post-hardcore clubhouse leaders as purveyors of awkwardly twisted multi-layered and multi-part quasi-spazzcore, a kind of Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez with fewer prog intentions and much less wilfulness. If more bands who claim a debt to the Libertines sounded like SixNationState we wouldn't be in such a bad way, the Jeepster Records-reviving fivesome taking that shabby jerkiness and injecting it with proper melodies, ska/dub influences and post-punk energy on their self-titled debut. Iron & Wine's Sam Beam has branched out from his previously hushed, intimate tones on The Shepherd's Dog for a walk in more musically grown-out areas, lyrically no less introspective but more confused and cynical. It also comes with a nightmare-inducing painting of a dog on the cover. We need a paragraph break at this point. Imagine if we'd had to write that lot up properly.
The Flaming Lips were always due a live DVD, and UFOs At The Zoo, which comes in a curious audio DVD package, is a document of their Oklahoma City homecoming extravaganza from a year ago next weekend, incorporating a massive UFO the band appear from, strobes, smoke machines, confetti, Wayne Coyne's balloon and people in alien and Santa outfits. Then the first song starts. You know the Prisoner balloons/mic camera/nun puppet/fake blood/mechanical bird/smoke machines/megaphone drill from there. The more earthly, in all senses of the term, Violent Femmes issue a Live At The Hacienda DVD. The Big Stiff Box Set is five CDs of much of what the legendary label put out, starting with Nick Lowe and ending with an excerpt from the celebrated The Wit And Wisdom Of Ronald Reagan. In the middle, Elvis Costello, Ian Dury, Madness, Devo, the Damned, the Pogues, Kirsty Maccoll, Motorhead, the Go-Gos, the Adverts, Wreckless Eric, Lene Lovich, Yello, Department S, Tenpole Tudor, the Belle Stars, Furniture, Tracy Ullman, The Inspirational Choir Of The Pentecostal First-Born Church Of The Living God and, even more hilariously, The Enemy. The House Of Love's first two albums were both eponymous; the one being reissued is their 1988 Creation Records debut with Christine on. Shack's progression from kitchen sink dreamers to ill-starred lost heroes to Noelrock contenders to Love-inspired outsiders once again is charted on Time Machine. Singles? Gravenhurst issue the howling Hollow Men on 7" two weeks after its parent album, the Decemberists package their singular slot at Talking Headsisms The Perfect Crime along with, of all things, remixes, and Les Savy Fav (the only punk band left in America, you may be aware) glue two of the three best tracks from their forthcoming album, What Would Wolves Do? and The Year Before The Year 2000, together on a double A-side.