Sunday, November 16, 2008

Weekender : sounding like Leadbelly at the depot

- This may be the season for repackaging old stuff and racing out the Christmas hits but there's still a couple of albums of our speciality interest to come. The first is the eleventh album, two of those being odds and sods collections, from Melbourne's jangly storytellers the Lucksmiths, now up to a quartet and expanded songwriting duties for all four. First Frost, again picked up by Fortuna Pop! for the UK, works a lot better in that regard than, say, Weezer ever have, largely because Marty Donald still gets to submit the best songs. It's still one for the the Smiths, Belle & Sebastian and the Go-Betweens fans, and the summery heartbreak overview hasn't been that affected by it being recorded in a cabin in Tasmania in the depths of winter (July, obviously) It's doesn't scale the stylistic heights of previous studio album Warmer Corners but not much does, and at least they're trying subtle new things with choirs, strings and fuzzboxes alongside the jangly electrics and wistful acoustics. More bundles of joy from the lively Antipodean indie quarter.

- Speaking of one of those named influences, while Stuart Murdoch continues work on his God Help The Girl musical, Belle & Sebastian are officially on temporary hiatus. They're not going to be the sort of band to put out a stopgap best of, although apparently Jeepster did sneak out an EP of older songs to complete indifference earlier in the year, but The BBC Sessions is a more rewarding way of looking back all told. Only pickings from Radcliffe, Evening Session and Peel rather than a complete overview - the vocal tradeoff version of Seeing Other People is absent, for instance, as is anything from the celebrated sprawling Peel Christmas session - but there's pre-redevelopment versions of Lazy Line Painter Jane and The Wrong Girl and the long bootlegged 2001 Peel set of otherwise unreleased songs, the final recordings with Isobel Campbell and all the equal at least of what ended up on Dear Catastrophe Waitress. Initial copies come with a second CD recorded in Belfast in December 2001, featuring guest vocalists from the audience and covers of Here Comes The Sun, The Boys Are Back In Town and I'm Waiting For The Man. More Ink Polaroids than Hollywood Bowl, and all the better for it.

- The Robert Wyatt reissue campaign continues, as much as the second of two parts constitutes a continuation. Last time we left him coagulating in 1981; four years later, the other side of Shipbuilding, Old Rottenhat, an album of songs Wyatt claimed were specifically written so the American right couldn't appropriate them. Whether he'd had problems with this in the past is not stated. 1991's jazzily minimalist Dondestan is the album most commonly associated with the practice that has come to be known as Wyatting, where patrons of pub jukeboxes connected to a massive online mainframe put on the weirdest, most punter-repelling tracks possible. 1997's Shleep is on firmer territory, Brian Eno, Paul Weller and Phil Manzanera all brought in, and 2003's further forays into world music Cuckooland got him a Mercury nomination and with it the further honour of having the piss taken out of him all night on Radio 1 by Colin Murray. We haven't forgotten, Murray. EPs is a combination of assorted, well, EPs released during the entire span of these reissues, including Shipbuilding and his celebrated, TOTP invite garnering cover of I'm A Believer.

- Stand back, it's a week for fiercely independently minded singles. After pleasing the denizens of Derby and environs with their multi-handed, everything that comes to hand, scrappy but ultimately likeable live shows, as if (and we're semi-quoting a friend here) those bands bedecked in glitter and lumious feather boas who made upstairs at The Garage their personal fiefdoms in 1998-99 had been transplanted to a post-Bearsuit age, The Deirdres get someone else to release one of their songs, Cherryade Records (Bobby McGees, Kabeedies, Lovely Eggs) putting out a 7" that teams the mighty, You! Me! Dancing! led down a dark alleyway Milk Is Politics with the indescribable Sir Michael Of Aspel, which is about what it says it's about. How are the Deirdres commemorating? By going on hiatus until a point somewhere between next spring and eternity while three members go off on world travels. Typical tweepop students. Meanwhile, lovely lovely Alcopop Records, previously responsible for singles we've openly admired by 4 Or 5 Magicians and This City, are putting out a limited edition 7" from an outfit that we had a homemade EP from ages ago and have since had quite a bit of specialist radio play and even praise off evil Jonathan Ross. We talk up so many new bands that by the law of averages eventually one of them had to take off. Stars And Sons are Mike Lord, once of the aforementioned 4 Or 5 Magicians (although at current rates half of Brighton will be able to describe themselves as such by the end of 2009) and now making delicious hand-crafted optimistic indiepop nuggets. In The Ocean is one of those songs that's at once naggingly familiar and freshly minted, and Alcopop have also sent us a piano version of the song which we've summarily stuck on YouSendIt for those of you who do actually take in every word of Weekender every week. Good work all round. Going one up the indie label evolutionary scale, Dance To The Radio are cursed with having a truckload of fine but uncommercial bands and the Pigeon Detectives to offset the lot. One such of the former are the epically swooping melodramas of Grammatics, who ahead of next spring's debut album issue The Vague Archive.

- The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash seems to be reissued on a regular basis, but this is the thirtieth anniversary box with a making of documentary for both film and music and Eric Idle on commentary trying to disguise how he and Neil Innes fell out conclusively a few years ago. Spinal Tap may have superceded it as the go-to musical spoof film, but for affectionate and otherwise pisstakery it still can't be beaten.

MYSPACE INVADERS: Proper melodic modern indie-pop (as opposed to indiepop) is a tricky thing to pull off - you can have all the chops you want but you need to get your character over in the song or else you're just another Pete & The Pirates. The Late Greats are a band that pull this equation off with plenty to spare; hailing from Eastbourne, they've found a middle ground between Lamacq-attracting hooks and awkward angularities, having quoted Neutral Milk Hotel and Pavement as influences. They've been around for a few years but still sound like they have room to grow into themselves, and when that happens they'll be unstoppable. (On this evidence they've also got an overeager street team. We're watching you.)

VISUAL AID: There's a charity record currently at number one, but given it's some kids playing karaoke with a song of their collective vocal role model Mariah Carey's you can't even say that musically it's as well meaning as the golden age of the charity record, the late 80s, when artists would at least pay lip service to the Mammon of creativity by changing one word in their song title to produce, say, Everybody Wants To Run The World or Running All Over The World. The rule was, if you're going to cover something, don't go all Ferry Aid, get someone unusual to do it - Billy Bragg's Childline Wet Wet Wet reversing She's Leaving Home, for instance, here presented in its celebrated Top Of The Pops incarnation where he had the words taped to the floor only to see them obscured by dry ice. Or (I Want To Be) Elected by Bruce Dickinson one-off Smear Campaign plus Mr Bean, released for Comic Relief to coincide with the 1992 general election. Or, god help us, Smoke On The Water by Rock Aid Armenia, a 1989 hard rock coming together to raise funds for the area hit by a massive earthquake killing upwards of 25,000 the previous December featuring Bryan Adams, Ritchie Blackmore, Bruce Dickinson, Keith Emerson, Ian Gillan, David Gilmour, Tony Iommi, Brian May, Paul Rodgers, Roger Taylor and John Paul Jones among others. And if all else fails there's always Hale & Pace's The Stonk, evidently uploaded by someone who'd left it on a radiator too long. For the most interesting of all, though, we thank TJ for finding 1987 Great Ormond Street benefit The Wishing Well, written by Boy George and featuring tradeoff vocals also by Go West's Peter Cox, Hazel O'Connor, Grace Kennedy (remind us, someone), Dollar and Noddy Holder, plus a Band Aid-styled chorus including Sylvester McCoy, Bonnie Langford, Jimmy Nail, Showaddywaddy, The Sweet, Hot Chocolate, assorted EastEnders stars and Spitting Image puppets, Grange Hill's cast, Caron Keating, Andy Crane, Mickey Mouse, a monumental Roland Rat and Shriekback. Shriekback?!

* Jeremy Warmsley has a new thing. It's called Jeremy Warmsley's New Thing. What he's gone and done is filmed three favourite artists - Mechanical Bride, Jay Jay Pistolet and Peggy Sue - plus himself on the light up dancefloor at a club in Hoxton and presented it as a companion piece to the currently resting TV Show. mp3s of the performances are on Warmsley's Myspace.

* The Daytrotter sessions are more often than not worthwhile, especially so this week with Wire dropping by. Being Wire there's no concessions to family favourites here, with two tracks from A Bell Is A Cup Until It Is Struck, one from Send and one from Object 47.

* See, here's what we meant when we said everyone else has their own spin on the artist's own playlist idea - My Secret Playlist. Exhibiting among many others are Les Savy Fav, Death Cab For Cutie, the B52s, Fujiya & Miyagi, Midlake, Smash Mouth (!), Supergrass, Calexico, Tilly and the Wall (as also seen on Sesame Street, Cold War Kids, Donna Summer (!!), Moby, Katy Perry (!!!), The Dandy Warhols and Ed Harcourt. Elsewhere, on their own blogging agenda are Post War Years.

* Right, what's the one factual link we can end this week with that will get the most Google hits from curious/desperate indie kids? Ah, here it is - Emmy The Great "used to get naked for nine year old boys". (It was found in all good faith, we assure you - it's in the 'Indie Is Having A Crappy Job' entry)

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