Sunday, June 15, 2008

Weekender : having reply emails to people from PR agencies bounce. That's just not good business, is it?

- Once Neil Young's On The Beach had been reissued on CD at least, the unofficial title of greatest album not available on the shiny stuff was a given. Pacific Ocean Blue was the only released solo album, in 1977, by Dennis Wilson, the first solo release by a Beach Boy. He'd already gone through his notorious Charles Manson tutoring phase and had appeared in cult road movie Two-Lane Blacktop with James Taylor, but by this point his band were pretty much embarking on their continual touring nostalgia show period by then, having just released their first album in four years, a knocked-out album partly of 50s covers which wasn't much to Dennis' liking (or anyone else's bar Mike Love's, actually) as he'd moved from behind the drumkit to assume the role of secondary writer and vocalist behind Love, yet brother Brian had just been forced back into the fold to take the band into their dotage. A far earthier vocalist than his brothers, Dennis' contributions to the famed harmonies were limited and his vocal was affected by his alcohol intake and rising drug use. Out of all that however came a pristine album, made with longtime associate Gregg Jakobson, borrowing Brian's ideas on grandiose textural expansion of song structures and instrumentation and applying the only Beach Boy who could surf's own ideas about the environment and humanity to form a kind of non-AOR soft rock for the coast, as well as featuring contributions from Carl Wilson and Bruce Johnston from the Boys, Motown's prime rhythm section James Jamerson and Hal Blaine and Alexander Hamilton's Double Rock Baptist Choir. It outsold every subsequent new Beach Boys record, which must have really, really pleased Love. The album was briefly available on CD in 1991, copies recently trading for $200, before falling victim to copyright issues. This version dusts off and remasters the whole thing and adds the remnants of Wilson's unfinished second album Bambu, which he told an interviewer would be "a hundred times what Pacific Ocean Blue is. It kicks. It’s different in a way" but was long abandoned by the time in December 1983 when he threw objects overboard from his LA yacht in alcohol-fuelled anger, dived in to retrieve them and drowned aged 39. Does it live up to the legend? Very much so.

- There's a few bands about at the moment who could easily be dismissed by people who aren't really listening as second hand Arcade Fires. The truth is that it's far harder to be an Arcade Fire-esque band than a Libertines-esque band, and yet large areas of the press are still willing to give Little Man Tate the time of day. When A Classic Education, two Italians and a Canadian in Bologna (plus three more in the live incarnation), flitted across our radar at the turn of the year it was with Stay, Son, which you may recall from our Class Of '08 Covermount, a track which with its inclusive string-powered grandiosity and Jonathan Clancy's emotional battle cry of a vocal against the grain had Funeral in its DNA. There's always been far more to them than trying to supplant Wake Up, luckily, as The First EP proves. Although there are copies of the limited edition five tracker documenting their publicly available work to date in Rough Trade and Norman Records you're more likely to get a copy direct from their website, where you'll hear their direct heartfelt pull more properly expressed as equally descendents of Modest Mouse and Neutral Milk Hotel's intelligent forcefulness. With Germany's Get Well Soon also touching on some of these areas there's clearly something afoot on the mainland.

- If Andrew O'Connor ever brings back daytime ITV game show Talkabout in some bizarre post-indie format, you'd only require 'falsetto' and 'Orange Juice' to recognise the subject as Wild Beasts. Yes, the Kendal-born, Leeds-based outfit have the funk rhythms meshed with pointed guitars of Edwyn and co, and Hayden Thorpe's Billy Mackenzie during voice breaking vocal style takes the unwary listener aback some distance. Making something of it all over the long form has eluded many a band with more outstanding assets, so it's pleasing to report that Limbo, Panto actually exceeds expectations by quite some distance. It's that thing you never thought you'd hear of a young British guitar band with guitars held high again, that is completely original and existing almost completely in its own sphere, especially when compared with what Domino are sending it into the world to face. Comparisons are odious, especially the one coming up now, but there's something of the Smiths about the chiming, waltzing, shifting clarity of the music and the way Thorpe uses that implausible voice - not even the band's own, although Tom Fleming's Collins-esque empirical baritone, quite theatrical in its own way, is notable enough in isolation - to weave poetically intangible epiphanic stories of loving, drinking and being down, only calling them things like Vigil For A Fuddy Duddy, The Club Of Fathomless Love and Brave Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyants and continuing the arcane language and reference points into the songs - hurrah for pop's first namecheck for chips with cheese. It's a bloody odd record, but one where every play genuinely unfurls new visions and ideas.

- If your cashflow is more limited, can we point you towards the second release by Cardiff's dreamy classic girl pop outfit The School. They've settled nicely into the tiny but noticeable gap between Camera Obscura and Lucky Soul, a properly unforced Shangri-Las in their private diarising moments updated by way of Saint Etienne and Swedish pop, and the Let It Slip EP, four tracks produced by Ian Catt (the aforementioned Saint Etienne, Heavenly, the Field Mice, The Tweenies) and one a duet featuring Liz Hunt up against Rob Jones, formerly their own drummer and now trading as The Voluntary Butler Scheme, reasserts them as the sort of band who if they're not careful could pull in a big old following.

COMING SOON: How often is it that the album on which once outsider bands are at their most approachable is also the album most longterm fans regard as their greatest? The Flaming Lips managed it, Pulp managed it and maybe Sigur Ros have too. Með Suð í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust - in English With A Buzz In Our Ears We Play Endlessly, a good title for the times on reading that at their first comeback gig My Bloody Valentine made the holocaust section of You Made Me Realise go for the full twenty minutes - has the task when released properly next week of following Takk, not the best received album of their career but the most notable given Hoppipolla's inexorable spread. Sure enough there's quite a bit of following that track down the orchestrally anthemic post-rock high wire, but there's also elements of the more playful, energised areas, the band having been inspired to go back into the studio by the fun of sorts they had filming their live documentary Heima. is currently streaming the whole thing.

MYSPACE INVADERS: Of the bands on the free compilation we linked to in Weekender a couple of weeks back, the best of those we hadn't previously come across were, we reckon, A Genuine Freakshow. Hailing from Reading, comparisons to more buzzed about fellow travellers Grammatics are inevitable, given the overwhelmed ambitions, achingly vaulting vocals, changing dynamics and prominent cellist, but there's a lot of Mew in the way they aim for the stars this side of post-rock, and their dramatic edge recalls Hope Of The States, whose Mike Siddall somehow found space in his Lightspeed Champion tour itinerary to contribute to their recent 0.008% EP. On this form, 'transcendental majesty', while still a horrible phrase when seen written down, is something they're gradually attaining.

VISUAL AID: There are some weeks when a common theme comes to mind. There are some weeks when you find a clip of remarkable provenance, or one thing leads to another and suddenly you've got yourself a feature. There are some weeks when you just want to make your ever shrinking readership aware of a song or situation. And then there's this week, when we discovered by chance that someone's put Urusei Yatsura's entire videography online. We're tempted to say that if you've never heard of them that's your problem, but the Internet reading age is getting lower all the time. We're not talking the celebrated Manga here, but the Glasgow based band, active 1993-2001, who wrenched the teen-C lo-fi underground in their direction with Sonic Youth tunings, Pavement lo-fi mess and coloured 7"s for the hipsters and leopard print, plastic rayguns and Star Trek lyrical themes for the glitter kids, and they once had a set at Benicassim festival curtailed when the stage roof fell on them. Hello Tiger was their hit - number 40 for a week - but the lot is worth a listen - Plastic Ashtray, Phasers On Stun, Kewpie's Like Watermelon, Strategic Hamlets, Fake Fur and the positively devilish Slain By Elf. If you must know, 75% of them are now in Project A-Ko, also named after an anime classic. We see.

* To start, housekeeping. In the ongoing attempt to find something to do with our Myspace account and not quite brave enough to start a Twitter, we're using our Myspace blog as a weekly diary of our life in music, including live and record reviewettes amid the inanities.

* The wave of Edwyn Collins goodwill continues with two pieces of tribute news. Firstly 25 of the 1500 run of 7" of new single Home Again, out on the 23rd, will feature a cover designed by a host of admirers: John Squire, each of Franz Ferdinand, Pete Shelley, Graham Coxon, Jarvis Cocker, Norman Blake, Nicky Wire, Richard Hawley, Tim Burgess, Harry Hill, Andrew Weatherall, Tracey Thorn, the Cribs, Billy Childish, Samantha Morton, Bernard Butler, David Shrigley, Irvine Welsh, Pistols (and Collins) drummer Paul Cook, YBA Jeremy Deller, artist and designer Pete Fowler, fashion designer Pam Hogg, illustrator Bob London and producer Sebastian Lewsley. They'll be secretly distributed across Britain for lucky punters, and all proceeds go to Connect, the aphasia support organisation who helped Edwyn's recuperation. The same charity will benefit from an event at The Social, London on June 16th, where for just 50p entry Collins/Orange Juice songs will be covered by modern twee glitterati including Strange Idols, Pocketbooks, Hatcham Social, The Lodger, Theoretical Girl and Harvey Williams (Another Sunny Day), as well as a film premiere and a How Does It Feel To Be Loved?/Twee As Fuck/Spiral Scratch indie club DJ showdown on a C86 theme.

* A while ago we linked to some clips of Tom Cullinan (Th' Faith Healers/Quickspace) asking probing questions of assorted contemporaries, and we've now unearthed some more of his work on the topics of seven inch singles and the tao of band membership, and assorted sidelines besides, as discussed by the likes of Heavenly, Prolapse, Half Man Half Biscuit, Man...Or Astroman?, Mambo Taxi and quite a few we don't recognise.

* The Forth Bridge of band blogging has been given a full gloss coat - The Story Of The Fall has got through Imperial Wax Solvent and hence completed its review of all 429 Fall songs.

* Finally, housekeeping. We suggested a couple of weeks ago that we were working on a new project, and in fact told a few people what it was, which was a print fanzine. Unfortunately it's now apparent this won't be happening in its current form, although we will try and get something up and running later in the year alongside or after a couple of other written word projects we have on the go. The upside of this is that the big interview will be posted on here instead, in the unedited form it wouldn't have been on the page for space reasons, as well as what we'd intended as a regular celebrity-led feature (celebrity-led in our world, clearly) and can now rework into a more online friendly form. So if the coming posts seem to harbour more invention and insight than the last few months in total, that's why.

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