- We're not ones to gossip, but when a couple of months ago the NME ran a feature in which assorted glitterati were invited to pose a question to Tim Harrington, one singer who clearly knew more about the subject than Kyle from the View, who asked "why do you never play in Dundee?", submitted several questions for the writer to pick from. One was "after being around for over a decade, why do you think it's taken the forward thinking NME so long to bother about you?" They didn't use it, no. Should you wish to catch up after last year's sort of breakthrough Let's Stay Friends, being given its first proper UK release this week is Inches, a compilation of their 7" single only releases from 1995 to 2004, and if any band emerged with a fully formed sound, head-on to spare and their own sense of place, it's LSF. Most of the band's pre-2007 set texts are here - The Sweat Descends, Yawn Yawn Yawn, Hold On To Your Genre, Knowing How The World Works, Meet Me In The Dollar Bin, We'll Make a Lover of You... you can probably survive without Reformat (Dramatic Reading), in all honesty, but if you have any interest in that whole skipping art rock thing you'll need to know where they all got it from.
- It shouldn't be the most interesting thing about it, but in this day and age even the best major label minds haven't managed it, and besides the facts are there - as far as we know, it's the weekend ahead of the release of the second Young Knives album Superabundance and it hasn't leaked. How have Transgressive managed it? Voodoo? Payola? Another interesting thing this album's build-up has confirmed is that the now definite article-less trio may be able to write a three minute song with hooks and a chantalong line or two in the chorus but they're actually less good at singles than albums - She's Attracted To told you nothing about Voices Of Animals And Men, and Up All Night won't be much of a lead-on to the overall effect of this one, said to be more stripped back and exploring the Wicker Man-with-amps side of that first album but also with a right cob on. Tony Doogan (Belle & Sebastian, Mogwai, Mountain Goats, Delgados, Teenage Fanclub, Hefner) produces, a good sign in itself.
- As tweed, city wear, Ashby De La Zouch, XTC references and bassists who act as a second chamber vetoing all their bandmates' ideas who are renamed accordingly are to Young Knives, so Spacemen 3-inspired 15 minute jams, The Mayan Prophecies, clothing optional dorms, misleading iTunes previews and LSD are to postmodern Brooklynites MGMT - nice to know for the press release, but not really indicative of the sound. Actually, the LSD might be, the hopelessly titled Oracular Spectacular taking leaps within the modern glam sphere from Scissor Sisters to Of Montreal to Sparks to even early Mew. Produced by Dave Fridmann, it suggests they're already at a point his more famous clients the Flaming Lips took three or four albums to reach, and then who knows where it could lead to.
- The Kills enter album three Midnight Boom in a for them rarefired atmosphere of being on the paparazzi list, which we'll skip by except to mention that Jamie Hince was described in initial Mirror reports that failed to otherwise identify him as "a Pete Doherty lookalike". In that he looks like he's had a lot of late nights, true. As well as more live reviewers writing "the magnetism is such you wonder if Kate is here looking on in disgust" - actually, no, Alison's probably met her - What that also means is more attention on their music, which makes a timely move from fashionista Suicide scuzz to the grimiest of pop, overseen by Spank Rock producer Alex Epton, who trades under the none more Dazed & Confused soubriquet Armani XXXchange, and inspired by Pizza Pizza Daddy-O, a 1960s documentary charting the hand-clapping singing games played in Afro-American school playgrounds (Hince: "what I loved was that the hand clapping rhythms were so upbeat and yet the lyrics were so, so dark, about alcoholism and domestic violence and abortion and stuff like that - it was like Edgar Allen Poe or something". If you say so.)
- It'd be remiss of us not to mention that Squeeze's Frank is back out for its twentieth anniversary shindig. Their last album with Jools Holland, in our Illustrated Guide we described as "artistically successful, Difford back to lyrical sharpness, Tilbrook ever improving as an arranger, Holland and Lavis on form. Of course, it sank without trace commercially." Also on the skilfully rearranged tip, intangibly scrappy self-referential poets the Monochrome Set put out The Independent Singles Collection.
- Singles? God, we've got singles this week. It's lucky we're not still just listing every half-decent single out every week because you'd never reach the end of this week's selection, featuring as it does more superb records than seems fair for one Monday's worth. For the first few we'll just keep it to the top ten of the year contenders, and the first one not making it easy for themselves as it's limited as it is to 300 7"s, or at least it was until Best Before Records lost two-thirds of them in transit. After seeing them live last weekend we've decided Johnny Foreigner are, go on, let's say it, the most exciting new band we've discovered in the last six months, and Our Bipolar Friends is one of the reasons why. It cuts out the middlemen who've threatened to drag the good name of indie-punk down, pretends Cap'n Jazz are as influential as Pixies and proceeds to charge hell for leather from start, or at least once the simmering intro has exploded into life, to finish. If Waited Up Til It Was Light is half as special as this it'll still be high up in the end of year list.
- But, in their own way, bands who've been around a bit and have the tatty bear costume to prove it can make an impact entirely apart from supposed peers. People who get paid for this stuff always tell us that British Sea Power should be massive. Well, obviously they should be in a fair and just world, but they're never really going to be, they're far too angular, too prolix, too offputting for those unwilling to put the effort in. No Lucifer is out on 10", the song which beds on a chanted tribute to "an obscure wrestler" - yes, Pitchfork, just the most famous wrestler BSP's home country has ever produced - and comes accompanied by a video that in the field of cross-media entertainment makes the Judder Man seem as scary as Holly Willoughby. For further reading, this thread on their forum tries to make sense of the politi-MC Escher nature of its lyrics.
- A sentence, we can guarantee, we will never use about Foals. Now, the Foals backlash is in full swing at the moment, whether it be fans sticking to the trusted guns of the filesharing age about how The Demos Were Better or just people put off by their big claims of sticking it to the post-rock fascists and journeying to the stars with music, or something like that. All this is mere decolletage next to the music, and Cassius pings about, their most streamlined single yet but still math-poppy enough to stick out like a sore thumb on daytime Radio 1 like closing time at the geek club disco.
- In these days of The Metros getting a record deal, we need bands like Gindrinker as a British music equilibrium balance. Gindrinker are Graf on guitar like Steve Albini dragged through the national forest backwards and DC Gates on ripping both the art of character study and the art of singing to shreds. Plus, a drum machine. That they are still only Cardiff's best kept cult secret - they're supporting the Fall tonight, which is surely the least they could do - and not heroes of the nation is unfortunate, but give it time, letter from God to man Work It Out (b/w Ayn Rand Sez) is only their first single, on Spencer McGarry's label Businessman Records.
- The Futureheads are virtually old warhorses now, but in the sense that they will remain the underachieving megalith of the fleet. It's worth remembering that many commentators who saw them on the 2005 NME tour predicted they would remain a big noise long after fellow travellers the Killers, Kaiser Chiefs and Bloc Party had been washed away by the ebb of fad. The Beginning Of The Twist takes something of both previous albums, the liveliness and determination of the self-titled debut and the taught/taut conciseness of News And Tributes' louder moments. More of this and Broke Up The Time reflected on This Is Not The World and post-punk will finally be able to receive its prolonged last rites in peace.
- In the first chapter of bands whose press would put the unwary off you'll find the Mystery Jets. Talk of prog namechecks, community shows on a man-made island in Twickenham, pot and pan percussion and having the singer's dad in the band are not the stuff Coldplay are made of, but Making Dens had a three minute pop heart beyond its Jethro Tull stylings. They return, sans (at least in the touring version) Henry Harrison, as an actual three minute pop band of sorts, Young Love boasting a memorable hook, and a jangle, and a clearly defined chorus, and some 'way-oh' backing vocals. Interestingly it's guitarist Will Rees on vocals alongside Laura Marling. Keeping us on our toes to the last.
- After a decent length build-up things finally seem to be happening for Dave Tattersall, the Wymeswold Jonathan Richman, and his band The Wave Pictures. They've signed to home of the minor hits Moshi Moshi, have just done a fine Take Away Show and release another scrappily poetic Hefnerish effort, I Love You Like A Madman. You'll go a long way to find another song that namechecks chutney.
- Also, Johnny Flynn's Leftovers isn't his strongest hand but reinforces the notion that A Larum could be a slow burning favourite, and the suspicion that Universal/Mercury subsidiary Vertigo don't really know what to do with him, while Elbow come on like a Northern Tom Waits with the jazz beaten out of him on Grounds For Divorce.
COMING SOON: The Last Shadow Puppets is the title of the collaboration between Alex Turner and the Rascals' Miles Kane, the latter presumably the Brendan Benson of the project. The Age Of The Understatement, released on 21st April, is produced by James Ford and with strings arranged by Owen Pallett, giving it an orchestral sheen very much taking after the galloping melodrama of Scott Walker's Jackie. Yes, there's an enigmatic trailer, and a video for the title track.
MYSPACE INVADERS: We were going to cover The Low Edges this week, but as they played their final gig on Tuesday there's probably not much point keeping an eye out for them. When in doubt, then, pick a Leicester band, so here's Minnaars, very much at base camp having played their first gig in January but have already landed a Young Knives support and forthcoming studio time with Tom Woodhead off of ¡Forward, Russia! They've got that disco-punk math-tappy Tim/Mike Kinsella thing going on that half of Britain seems to be getting into these days and Foals represent the commercial end of - it's not surprising to learn at least one of them used to be in Tired Irie - which suggests that if it doesn't all blow over in the wake of Antidotes there's a foothold here to potentially really good things.
VISUAL AID: There's a busy couple of weeks ahead on STN, but we're going to try and find room to review a televisual document of an age past in the next two or three weeks with a heavy Manchester connection. In looking that up, we found Madchester - The Sound Of The North, a May 1990 Granada production, surely with Anthony H Wilson's fingerprints all over it given it's found room for Northside. Taking the Hacienda as an understandable Mecca, it also features the Mondays, the Inspirals, A Guy Called Gerald, 808 State with MC Tunes, Freaky Dancing fanzine, Joe Bloggs clothing and Central Station designers, so is pretty much a primary source for any sociological work you may have planned on the place and era. It's in eight parts on YouTube, so stand back: one two three four five six seven eight.
* News reaches us from the mighty Anathallo, of and to whom we have spoken at great length in the past, that if you like what you've heard of them so far but are going without their unreleased in the UK back catalogue, until this Wednesday they're offering a special Britain only deal of $12 for Floating World or $16 for that plus early rarity compilation Anathallogy.
* Many years ago full length videos incorporating every song on an album were talked about as a serious proposition before getting overtaken by the brainwave of just making a film instead, like It Couldn't Happen Here or that ABC one. In the modern era a few bands, most famously Super Furry Animals, are taking advantage of reduced technology costs and increased multimedia free thinking to resuscitate the idea on their own scale. Landing on our doormat yesterday morning was a promo of SixNationState's download and USB only video album due on May 26th, and before then iLiKETRAiNS are having a go. And let's face it, if you were to make a list of bands likely to make their own video-incorporating effort iLiKETRAiNS, with their historical touchstones and in-house animation unit Broken Pixel, the project of cornet player Ashley Dean, would be high up on your list. The DVD of Elegies To Lessons Learnt is released on 21st April, described as "a beautiful and disturbing observation, which follows a bewildered soul as he travels through a series of historical events, depicted in the subject matters of the band’s album. Self-produced, the film adds another dimension to the cacophonic experience of the album and is a wonderful companion for it." Have a butchers at the trailer.
* What tv.timbormans.com lacks in a proper title it makes up for in invention - you put your last.fm profile username in and it creates a YouTube constantly streaming playlist of whatever's out there. If you need to know, our first five clips were Sandie Shaw on Whistle Test, Those Dancing Days live on Swedish telly, the Future Of The Left video, some Monkey Swallows The Universe live footage and Jens Lekman playing You Are The Light on a ukelele.
* And yet more musicians blogging. Let's face it, Eddie Argos may be the least surprising musical blog maintainer in the land, and it keeps the working man constantly on the go in 24/7 touch with Argos' myriad projects, the latest one in which he and Keith TOTP pick a favourite song and record a cover of it in a living room. Also catching our eye is MSN's own music blog throwing light on the inner world of the industry, The Insider. And what level are we talking here? Why, Kevin Hendrick, the former Seafood bassist now in noiseniks PRE! Not that it's pointless him doing it or he hasn't got writing skills or insight, but if you're MSN barking up your Insider music blog that's a lot of Britney rubberneckers you're potentially disapponting.