Sunday, April 27, 2008

Weekender : all just jealous

- Some truths: most teen bands involved in the 'all age' scene wouldn't get a second listen were the members any older; nobody wants Big Beat back or a Mighty Boosh festival (ooh, wonder if the Horrors and Robots In Disguise are free at all); Kate Jackson's new haircut makes her look like Sharon Osbourne; the country's only reliable band are Half Man Half Biscuit. Agreed? Agreed. You know what album eleven CSI: Ambleside will sound like, of course, but that's hardly the point, we're buying and listening to these albums to see what Nigel Blackwell has observed on his travels and in the magazines, cogitated upon and thought too hard about so we don't have to since we last met. Titles? Oh, it's got titles - Evening Of Swing (Has Been Cancelled), Bad Losers On Yahoo Chess, Took Problem Chimp To Ideal Home Show, Totnes Bickering Fair, Give Us Bubblewrap - and it's got the latest in the recent series of imaginary other albums in the range in the sleeve, including Pam Ayres' 'Orses. You've got this on pre-order already or have made special plans for Monday, yes?

- And from one Peel band to, well, the Peel band. The second sentence of Renegade: The Lives And Tales Of Mark E Smith is a withering indictment of England's 2006 World Cup squad. It then spends the first few pages on a protracted rant against former guitarist Ben Pritchard. Similarly, Fall studio album 27 Imperial Wax Solvent begins with Alton Towers, a queasy Swordfishtrombones-esque lurching state of the nation address in which a magnificently phlegmatic sounding Smith sounds off about "the spawn of J Loaded Brown and L Laverne". Every Fall album these days is destined to be labelled The Best Fall Album Since (insert not too recent critically acclaimed album here - Extricate lately, will be The Real New Fall LP in a couple of years), but this one has a fresh garage as starting point determination and an all-out cockeyed madness that might actually make it such. And, as above, here's someone with a knack for titles that instantly draw out their world, such as Senior Twilight Stock Replacer, Wolf Kidult Man and Exploding Chimney.

- God, this is a good week. Everyone seems to have forgotten the second eponymous Portishead album, and with good reason, as it took the disquieting crypto-psychosis in trip-hop form of Dummy - how did that album end up in This Life-sponsored dinner party cliche hell? - and realised it had nothing it could really do with them. That original sound was always dark, but after several years off without an idea of how to progress - seven years alone passed between gigs - during which time genres came and went and digital technology advanced, eleven years later Third, a title which suggests Barrow, Utley and Gibbons have better things to do than think of titles too hard, showcases a sound far denser and mechanised than the airy origins. It's still cinematic in scope, but it's moved from Bond to HR Giger, while certainly not difficult or dour. It may have stylistic links to the likes of Burial at one end and Suicide at the other but ultimately it exists of and within itself. And who thought we could say that about an Island Records release in 2008.

- dEUS never made the breakthrough they occasionally touched upon, turning out to be too quixotic, too abrasive to make the art-rock crossover. 2005's Pocket Revolution promised much but leant too far in the direction of Tom Barman trying to take the much changed and recently returning outfit towards the mainstream. Vantage Point is his realisation that giving in to chart temptation isn't what dEUS are for and wasn't working anyway. Guy Garvey and Karin Dreijer Andersson of The Knife pop by but it's all about the motorik, anxiety ridden textures and Beefheart propulsiveness that marked the band out through their high spots In A Bar Under The Sea and The Ideal Crash. They could still only ever be themselves.

- As could the Tindersticks, although between the lounge orchestral strings and Stuart Staples' basso profundo croon - surely nobody in Britain can have been less enamoured when Vic Reeves unleashed his club singer voice on Shooting Stars - few bands touched their down at hee grandiosity. Thought split in 2004, Staples having released two solo albums since, they reformed as a studio three-piece of original members last year for seventh album The Hungry Saw, continuing on their soul-inflected path of recent vintage but largely retaining that effortless drift.

- Los Campesinos! were supposed to have a single out this week, but according to their latest podcast the pressing plant forgot about it so it's been pushed back a fortnight. So, default best single of the week: The Wave Pictures' low-key 7" Strange Fruit For David, which continues their New Hefner path with the celebrated statue/marmalade lyric which will be the talk of the twee nation before long. Second place goes to Kat Flint, who, would you credit it, is a female folk-influenced singer-songwriter who belies the current influx with the mere strength of her songwriting, as shown again on brass-inflected Christopher, You're A Soldier Now. (EDIT: oh, apparently Restlesslist's nightmare Mariachi cop show theme Butlin Breaks is back out on 7" too)

Oh yeah, Aleks and Ellen have done a new podcast.

COMING SOON: And also out this week is The Imagination Stage, the return of the ornately crafted 60s-referring baroque pop of Eric Matthews. Best known here, and probably everywhere else for all we know, for the Mark Radcliffe-adored Fanfare (video taken off YouTube! Fools!), he's now pitched somewhere between balladeering Scott Walker and Bacharach/David. Little 18 is more minimal than most but still finds time for a good old trumpet voluntary.

MYSPACE INVADERS: Another band getting a slow but steadily increasing amount of attention are Stonehaven's (it's near Aberdeen) Copy Haho. In common with nearly every band featured here, they sound like modish early 90s American bands. This is good. The echoes here are largely of Pavement and Sebadoh (who they played with two nights ago as part of the Triptych festival), with a melodic and very Scot-pop cocksureness that we've seen recently in the likes of Make Model and Dananananaykroyd, who they've supported recently, and Frightened Rabbit and Wake The President, who as far as we know they haven't. They're already full of twisted pop shapes and they're very much on the right track to big stuff.

VISUAL AID: One of the very many odd things that struck us while reading last week's where-on-earth-do-you-start? Pipettes breakup press release is that if anyone was going to go off solo it'd be the one they've left behind, Gwenno, on the basis of the side project work we've mentioned on here before and indeed her preceding Cymraeg career. Even that contained an enormous curveball - having been bred as a Welsh language dance diva (one review refers to her as "Wales' answer to Kylie") she also seems at home coming on like a mystical version of the Scottish Widows woman in Ysolt Y'nn Gweinten, part of the 2005 Celtic Legend project musically retelling Tristan and Isolde in the Cornish language, captured here from Classic FM's digital channel. That's eclecticism for you. That got us thinking about previous pop career trajectories and how much the people involved are willing to let on about them. The Ting Tings, for instance, have made a virtue of having been two thirds of Mercury signed "British Scissor Sisters" Dear Eskiimo as recently as 2005; whether Katie and Jules want the world to be reminded of their dressing as a ballerina and clown for the video for Patience is less clear now it's all barrow boy caps and wraparound shades. On the other hand, Morgan from Does It Offend You Yeah? and latterly Plugs doesn't tend to mention that at the start of the decade he was the guitarist in Dimestars, a hyped but hitless post-Republica type vehicle for Kim Wilde's sister Roxanne, while Ed Harcourt didn't let on for a while, possibly fearful of his status as the hard man of intelligent singing-songwriting, that he was formerly the bassist in late Britpop nonachievers Snug. Can you comfortably play bass at that angle?

* It's Official Half Man Half Biscuit Week on Sweeping The Nation, which means we'll be doing a proper Illustrated Guide later on. As a taster, The Half Man Half Biscuit Lyrics Project.

* We don't just offer up our address to anyone who wants it for promos and 'stuff', we're glad to take on any literature so offered up. That's why we're happy to give a plug to Mystery Magazine, "some 16/17/18 year olds who like music and bands and stuff and occasionally write about it in a little zine". Their spring edition has just come out, which costs all of 70p - and you can pay via sellotaped down coinage or PayPal! - for which you get interviews with Jamie out of Broken Records, Robert from Life Without Buildings and Kelly in Johnny Foreigner plus reviews, thinkpieces and 'that'.

* Muxtape DIY spinoffs were inevitable, weren't they? Well, apparently not, the anti-search robot programming foregoing a search engine for the time being, and the best application we can find is fairly unreliable, a recommendation service based on your account.

* And this week's inexplicable last clip - a Nickelback-soundtracked fan video tribute to a Dutch film starring one Joe Flynn, who bears a striking resemblance (ie. is) the similarly forenamed nu-folkster.

HOUSEKEEPING: Get your year-specific muxtapes in!

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