- After the still astounding war on post-Strokesism that was The Rat, and the highly impressive Bows + Arrows album it came encased in, The Walkmen seemed to lose their way a bit with 2006's A Hundred Miles Off, like they'd worn themselves out with all the energetic intensity they'd put into that earlier record. The track by track cover of Harry Nilsson's Pussycats album that followed did nobody any justice, except perhaps Mama Cass and Keith Moon (look it up). It's good, then, that whatever mojo went missing in that excursion into post-OC Latino influenced flatness they've picked themselves up, given themselves a shot of adrenaline and come back with You And Me. Don't think The Rat in terms of this album, more the fuzzed out widescreen of We've Been Had or New Years Eve; the early morning after the night before with just the memories and mistakes to go on. Hamilton Leithauser still sings like a man harbouring a personal grudge against the world and the music follows him introspectively down, again dropping in retro influences most of their contemporaries wouldn't touch but so subtly so as you almost don't notice. Finally they've found a side that does their post-Rat ethics justice.
- It seems like most of our life has passed since we first mentioned that the Hot Puppies had recorded an album called Blue Hands and had it ready for release whenever someone was ready to do the deed. The first single King Of England in fact came out last July, but this week that second album, or third, or first proper, it depends on which calculation you're using, lands and while hardly anything's worth that wait it's still as glamorously sophisticated as you'd expect from a band who tote their references. In terms of influences it screeches from early 80s electro to Kate Bush to New Pop to Bowie to the Cure while remaining as a whole, and while we can't claim they all come off with the same style at least they're giving it a go and coming up trumps more often than not, elevated even more than on Under The Crooked Moon by Becki Wood (nee Newman)'s dramatic soaring voice. Wood is eight months pregnant, by the way. What was that about release timing? (Also worth a glance this week: Mercury Rev got lost in a decade of over-emoting trying to follow up Deserter's Songs, so Snowflake Midnight stripping things back a bit comes as a welcome move)
- Good selection of singles this week, with Elbow on a download only unnecessary prop-up of the newly reinvigorated Seldom Seen Kid with The Bones Of You, while Those Dancing Days for some reason pick out one of their album's lesser lights, Home Sweet Home, and Kingston upon Thames trio Tubelord lay down further foundation evidence of their position as much touted "neo-emo math-punk-hardcore" (thank you, This Ain't No Picnic programme - god, we hope the bands followed our example and didn't get given a copy) contenders with I Am Azzerad. We'd like to guide you, moreover, towards Nat Johnson, formerly of Monkey Swallows The Universe, whose demos showed great wide ranging promise and chooses to start properly with the earworm-ridden jangling rockabilly of Dirty Rotten Soul. The B-side is a tearful folk rendition of a Cake song, if you can imagine such a thing.
- The Clash are about as anthologised as they were self-mythologising - Westway To The World and The Future Is Unwritten on screen, Last Gang In Town and Passion Is A Fashion in print. This month, however, the legacy is really being mimed with a CD and DVD next week helping ensure Don Letts need never go hungry again, and this week The Clash documenting the interviews Joe, Mick, Paul and Topper gave towards the making of Westway To The World, inevitably heralded as "in their own words for the first time". No, that was Westway To The World itself. Unseen photos and historical documents too? Well, obviously.
- On the other end of the scale, The Rough Guide To The Best Music You've Never Heard is a hand-sized documentation of the underachieving and cult artists and lost classics that haven't yet ascended to the status of genuine lost legends a la Drake or Buckley. The only artist mentioned by name in the blurb is David Ackles, which is fine by us. There's also tales of scrapped albums and side projects that never got off the ground, as well as "contributions from music industry insiders including Bat For Lashes". Hold up a bit, Natasha's not that influential a name yet.
MYSPACE INVADERS: Many moons ago it was Song, By Toad (see sidebar) that put us onto the great Broken Records, and they've recently repeated the trick with another set of emotionally charged Edinburgh types. Meursault, who've just released an album called Pissing on Bonfires/Kissing with Tongues, available pretty much only through the usual PayPal link on their Myspace. Theirs is a possibly unique when deployed in this way combination of lo-fi but defiant electronica, modern folky standbys of accordions and ukeleles, and Neil Pennycook’s cracked howl at the world, a fearsome and fearful lyrical content to match. It comes across like Band Of Horses taking on the Postal Service only to do it wrongly, on purpose. Where does it fit in? Well, apart from the odd wade into Jonquil territory, it doesn't, and that's all you really want.
VISUAL AID: We're always keen to find a US kids' show that blurs the boundaries between mainstream and just odd looking, and previously Pancake Mountain has more than fulfilled our needs with its Metric and its Subways and its Go! Team. However, that show is only on public access TV in Washington, whereas the manic felt world of Yo Gabba Gabba! is on Nickelodeon, and we believe it's on Nick Jr over here. Creator Christian Jacobs is also leader of oddball faux-superhero ska-punks The Aquabats and as such has his connections - Biz Markie and Devo's Mark Mothersbaugh appear in occasional slots while the odd band has been in the studio, including The Shins with a specially written song, Hot Hot Heat in some sort of Monkees-esque outdoor hootenanny, a far too chipper for their own good Jimmy Eat World and Cornelius launching Count Five Or Six at ver kids, with a bit of Biz at the end. Low didn't appear in the studio - that would have been just too bizarre - but they did lend Family Tree to an animation. We gather Scott Mills has done some sort of Yo Gabba Gabba/That's Not My Name comedy mashup, but frankly we can go one better than that with said band actually on a forthcoming show issuing a version, in the same way the seige of Stalingrad was a version of normal Russian city life, of Altered Images' Happy Birthday. Emote on those drums, White! (And yes, apparently that is John Reis from Hot Snakes and Drive Like Jehu, but we suspect you'd better know as Speedo from Rocket From The Crypt, introducing them)
* Pushed for time and short of stuff this week, but any time is the right time for a blog like Pyrolyse Bred, which is digitising all its vinyl and old cassettes, including, in the last few days, Kenickie's Catsuit City.
* Meanwhile, some people you may know have been to Japan.