Sunday, July 13, 2008

Weekender : all thud and bluster

- Sometimes we talk about slow weeks. This week, it's a really slow week, by which we mean we could only find one album we wanted to discuss in any detail. By comparison, this week last year saw the release of albums by Interpol, Spoon, The Strange Death Of Liberal England and the expanded reissue of Young Marble Giants' Colossal Youth, while in 2006 we were gushing variously over Guillemots, Metric and Thom Yorke. Sigh. So, the Hold Steady, E Street acolytes attempting to write a man-old-enough-to-know-better Great American Novel in every song and enough Replacements and Husker Du references to make them feted by people who'd never go near Born To Run? Yes. But also there's something about Stay Positive, with its unlikely lyrics for stadium anthem singalongs, new instrumentation, underlying story arc, religious references and a few guilty thoughts about how maybe they're getting a bit old for the drinking and partying, that suggests not only an evil future of lesser bar bands but Craig Finn has nailed a kind of slow burn redemption that makes this rock and roll thing seem almost human. In single news, a very limited 7" run awaits Witch Doctor by Cottonmouth Rocks, another pip from the Drift Records smorgasbord of greatness, this one featuring one of the label founders Johny Lamb. Describing themselves as harbouring "themes of big American cars, werewolves, voodoo, deserts, forests, storms and cheap motels... romance, running away, magic and sleaze." What that means is what Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan would sound like if you asked them to imagine being Royal Trux on the Tex-Mex border. We're guessing the drums were played standing up.

- Alright, one quick extra one. Three years in the making and one month in the cashing in, Dennis Wilson Forever is a DVD documentary produced and directed by his own brother-in-law and features interviews with friends, family and musical sidekicks. "You will be moved to laughter and tears while hearing about some of Dennis's many adventures and learning how he inspired and touched the lives of those with whom he came into contact over the years" the blurb says, which suggests it might not go all that deeply into the whole Manson deal.

COMING SOON: So the countdown is on, kind of, for the new album by someone we've obviously completely overlooked down the years on STN, Jeremy Warmsley. As far as we know How We Became has no solid release date yet, but preceding single Lose My Cool is out on August 11th. On the sophomore release Jeremy told Shattered Satellite "the songs are a lot stronger. There is more consistency between the tracks - I don't mean to say that they all sound the same, but there is a definite "soundworld" that they all inhabit, together". Lose My Cool itself was premiered at a solo gig in Nottingham last November, as were previously mooted first single Dancing With The Enemy - it's a lot better when fleshed out by other instruments, we assure you, and we think it's the song that on first live listen at Summer Sundae last year we thought sounded like Hefner - and the already magisterial promised album closer Craneflies, a song that's been around so long that it caused a documented minor skirmish between Warmsley and TV's Emma Kennedy at the start of 2006. From his own TV Show we also have the more electronic If He Breaks Your Heart.

MYSPACE INVADERS: Once we've eliminated skinny jeans from the equation, the last thing anyone wants to hear here in July 2008 is a disco-punk band touting 80s synth sounds with shades of XTC and the slipstream remnants of Franz Ferdinand. Of course it is. Feel, then, for Public Service Announcers, who have arrived a couple of years too late to really make a concerted breakthrough. Still, this bit's not all about writing up bands only heading for a Universal deal, and we like the detail that they've just played a gig in which support was ex-Marion-ette Jaime Harding, so here goes. Their biog namedrops M83, Refused and Minor Threat in an attempt to escape, well, the sort of pigeonholing we've just effortlessly worked in, but how they've ended up is no bad thing, sounding as they do like the Maccabees on Fast Product.

VISUAL AID: Another year, another lack of sign of any new Dexys Midnight Runners material. Kevin Rowland reunited most of the band for new Greatest Hits padding songs and a tour in 2003, promised a new album in 2005 and started a Myspace with a new demo at the start of 2007, but no dice of late. A quick look back at their filmed work, then, and it all starts as Simon Bates beckons us to "follow me and I'll introduce you to some people from Birmingham" - well, close - for their Top Of The Pops debut, Kevin visibly clamming up not far into Dance Stance. The glory of Searching For The Young Soul Rebels followed with endless peaks such as There There My Dear and, represented live, I Couldn't Help If I Tried, but even by the time TOTP called them back to perform number one Geno on 1980's Christmas special (note the illustrative still) the image was changing into the boxing training gear of 1981's Show Me, before half the band left and Rowland moved onto the raggle-taggle gypsy look. There was Celtic Soul Brothers and Let's Make This Precious on The Tube - the latter going on to be covered by Kevin Eldon - and afterwards there was Jackie Wilson Said on TOTP - no, you see, Rowland specifically asked for it, it's not a mistake - but Come On Eileen was not only the enormous hit of legend here but became perhaps America's most famous one hit wonder ever, so much so both the Simpsons and Family Guy have made reference to its status. Back in 2003 it got a Philly soul makeover; obviously a 90s ska-punk band covered it, Save Ferris doing the honours. Rowland meanwhile thought again, adopted the Ivy League look and watched Don't Stand Me Down become a cult, and you know what that means in terms of sales. No singles didn't exactly help, although there were videos for a savage edit of This Is What She's Like and I Love You (Listen To This). The band ended two years later in 1987, Rowland brought out a solo album which included Young Man, covered The More I See You on Jonathan Ross' The Last Resort sporting a James Nesbitt haircut (and the Attractions' Steve Nieve on keyboard there), reformed the band to appear on Ross' Saturday Zoo in 1993 - If I Ever sees Rowland demonstrating his Michael Bolton fashion phase - disappeared again, reappeared in his famous dress for a covers album that featured Concrete And Clay, and it's been erratic from there on in. But don't remember him for he and Suggs not so much singing along to Daft Punk's One More Time last Bestival as shouting over it, but for the glory days when... alright, don't particularly store to a prominent memory position their cover of Slade's Merry Christmas Everybody either.

* More British Sea Power news, and after launching their own festival last week they're suggesting you hijack others', after a fashion. The challenge is to design and manufacture your own BSP-themed flag, banner or tent, take it to a festival, take a photo of it so displayed and send it in to win prizes, chiefly tickets to both their own Tan Hill event and End Of The Road Festival plus flags made by the band. The closing date is 25th August.

* Blog discovery of the week - Moody Places is just a series of uploads of Britpop-era singles, Boo Radleys to Blameless, Molly Half Head to the Montrose Avenue.

* Summer Sundae is approaching, as is the annual drinkathon of the Thursday night Fringe Warm-Up. For three of your English pounds there's six parties going on concurrently across the city centre on the 7th, most eyecatchingly the Firebug bill of Tired Irie, Pacific Ocean Fire and Love Ends Disaster! There's also a comedy venue and a late night dance venue, and we can exclusively reveal that unpopular blog chancer Sweeping The Nation is putting together a little something to tie in and be available from the evening's soirees.



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Hi Simon,

On behalf of Rough Trade / Beggars Digital, Vagrant and The Hold Steady, many thanks for plugging "Stay Positive" (street date 14th July and advance, digital release date 9th June) ... .. thanks, also, on behalf of the label and the band for not posting any pirate links to unreleased (studio) material and, if your readers want good quality, non-pirated, preview tracks, “Sequestered in Memphis” is available for fans and bloggers to stream / link to / post etc on the band’s MySpace ... .. check-out and for details on “Stay Positive” and the band’s 2008 shows ... .. for a limited period a play-through of “Stay Positive” shall also be available on the band’s MySpace and on NME (, although these are for promotional purposes only and the artist and labels have kindly asked fans and bloggers not to host or link to pirate copies of the full album on-line – for which many thanks in advance.

Thanks again for your plug.



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