Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Half century of the undecomposing

Hopefully Robert Pollard will find some time in between recording today's ration of seven albums to celebrate his fiftieth birthday. His former bandmates threw him a party:

And there's plenty where that came from. Well, it's Guided By Voices, of course there is.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Primer #1: girl groups

Yes, it's another new irregular feature we've no hope of maintaining properly. What's going to happen in each Primer selection is we'll isolate one genre or trend of music that's shaped pop and rock since its heyday and provide ten or so mp3 pieces of evidence to demonstrate its contemporary influence, kind of an Illustrated Guide (and those are continuing, one later this month) for musical categorisations.

And girl groups, or at least what we know as the classic girl group sound, is the little recognised drive behind quite a bit of the music we hear today. Although there were the Andrews Sisters well before and the Three Degrees afterwards, that era between 1961 and 1966 (the timespan of the Ronettes as performers, and also the Chiffons' formation to the Shangri-Las' label going under) saw an explosion in the harmonic structure allied to high-end production and teenage melodrama. As David Quantick has pointed out, girl groups are better than their male equivalents because, with few exceptions (go on, have the Temptations), the girls get the better writers and more forward-thinking producers, what with Spector, Gordy, Goffin & King, Ellie Greenwich and so forth - something that carries a direct route through to Xenomania and Richard X today. ABBA, Bruce Springsteen, the Stooges, the New York Dolls, the Ramones, the Smiths and Blondie all eagerly credited the era as direct inspirations, and the chain carries right on through new wave's harmonic soul appropriations, C86's naive sweetness (and then to your Camera Obscuras, Lucky Souls and Monkey Swallows The Universes of today), Stock Aitken & Waterman, R&B groups and now Amy Winehouse blathering about spending the best part of a year in bed listening to the Shangri-Las and several unconnected attempts in the UK and US to revive the basic structure of the girl groups (the Pipettes, the Revelations, The God Damn Doo Wop Band, the Dansettes, Tralala, the Shalitas). So clearly this movement, started as much in playgrounds and high school refrectories as Pentecostal choirs, has marked out its own territory over the years since it dissolved from the mainstream conscious, but what did it actually entail? Here's your primer.

The first female vocal harmony groups in this methodology, both charting for the first time in 1957, are agreed to be the Bobbettes, whose first single Mr Lee made the top ten but was their sole top 50 hit (they later appeared on the Dr strangelove soundtrack) and the Chantels, the first black group to be successful with two top 20 singles. Interestingly, both were five-pieces. The first to become real stars were the Shirelles, four New Jerseyites who defined the sound with R&B/pop crossover stylings, yearning innocence and a transformation of doo-wop's principles for the rock'n'roll age. In 1960 they became the first girl group to have a Billboard number one (number four in the UK) with Goffin & King's Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow. Their next six records all went top ten in the US, including another number one in Soldier Boy, while the Beatles covered both Baby It's You and this one.

The Shirelles - Boys

If we take the Supremes as a straight-up soul act, the most celebrated of all the groups were the Ronettes, Veronica and Estelle Bennett and their cousin Nedra Talley. Spotted in 1961, they were styled as the bad girls of the era and were the first to be pictured on their record sleeves, eventually hooking up with Phil Spector and hitting paydirt straight off with Be My Baby, a song which has long outlived its #2 US #4 UK chart placings just going on the number of songs that have copied its storming Hal Blaine drum intro. In actual fact the band were never as commercially successful as their reputation would suggest, Baby I Love You peaking at 24 on Billboard and 11 here, Walking In The Rain 23 in America and nowhere in Britain. By the time they opened for the Beatles on their last American tour just before splitting in 1966 Ronnie had been spirited away by Spector into six years of tortuous married life.

The Ronettes - He Did It

If the Ronettes were the emotionally direct big boot and bouffant wearers, the Shangri-Las were the projects' no less outwardly feisty but tear-stained with friends college diarists. Formed at school in Queens, NY in 1963, the identical Ganser twins and Weiss sisters (Betty rarely appeared in public with the other three), the signed a year later to Red Bird Records, Lieber & Stoller's label which had just taken the Dixie Cups, another two sisters and a cousin group, to number one with Chapel Of Love, initially written by Phil Spector, Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich for the Ronettes. Greenwich and Barry contacted local songwriter George 'Shadow' Morton with a challenge to come up with a song for the new girls, and when the result Remember (Walking In The Sand) reached the Billboard top five (with a teenage Billy Joel on piano) he was given them as his personal fiefdom. What followed was the construction of a house sound every bit as far-thinking and extraordinary as the Wall Of Sound, laced with lyrics about loneliness and alienation, which sent death disc Leader Of The Pack to Billboard number one and UK 11 (number three on 1972 reissue) the same year. A couple more top ten singles followed, but Red Bird folded in 1966 and the band split in 1968, barely a penny to their name after many royalty disputes, although they attempted to reform in 1977 with Mary Weiss citing Patti Smith as an influence, foundering when label bosses preferred them to become a disco outfit.

The Shangri-Las - I Can Never Go Home Anymore

So, if all movements have a Big Four, a rule of thumb we've just invented but we think you'll find works out, who should be fourth up? There's the Chiffons, makers of another Billboard topper, He's So Fine, and still going with original leader Judy Craig; the Velvelettes, whose Needle In A Haystack is the only song to appear in Nick Hornby's 31 Songs that John Peel agreed with; the Marvelettes, Motown's first girl group whose top 20 career spanned 1961 to 1968 including the original Please Mr Postman; and the Cookies, the original line-up of whom were bequeathed to Ray Charles and recorded under at least three pseudonyms. But for our purposes we're running with the Crystals, Phil Spector's other girls and a band whose machinations need some concentration on your part. It was they who recorded the infamous He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss), written by Goffin & King about Little Eva's reaction to partner abuse. It wasn't a hit, and in desperation Spector recorded Darlene Love and the Blossoms' He's A Rebel, credited it to the Crystals and watched it top the Billboard chart, much to the original band's surprise. The follow-up Da Doo Ron Ron was the Blossoms with Crystal LaLa Brooks on lead, and it wasn't until the fourth one on Then He Kissed Me that the original Crystals got to record as themselves. Their last hit came in 1964, the end in 1967. This was the follow-up to He's A Rebel, and thus Blossoms-as-Crystals. It's also been credited as the song with which Spector first perfected the Wall Of Sound.

The Crystals - He's Sure The Boy I Love

Despite the decent careers of many of those namechecked above, the image of the girl group has become fixed as a svengali'd group of high school kids getting out one hit and then disappearing in a welter of minor singles and disputes. While it's not exactly a great reflection upon the movement's work, there were quite a few great one-shot then cast into obscurity bands, perhaps none greater than the Murmaids. A teenage LA trio including two sisters, they were picked up by maverick producer and impresario Kim Fowley who'd been behind B Bumble & The Stingers' UK number one Nut Rocker and David Gates, who went on to front soft rockers Bread, wrote for them this standout, which reached #3 in America in 1963.

The Murmaids - Popsicles & Icicles

Inevitably with such a producer and label-boss driven genre, the odd scam seeped through the cracks. The Whyte Boots were posited as even tougher street girls than the Shangri-Las, and their notorious at the time one single followed where Jimmy's inappropriate slick tyres went in telling of a fatal street girl fight started indirectly by a boyfriend. In fact, they didn't properly exist, being the work of Motown staff writers Lori Burton and Pam Sawyer.

The Whyte Boots - Nightmare

Not that the Brits didn't have a go when the girls started coming over and having hits in 1963-64, and while they weren't hits they had a certain otherness to them. The Breakaways were three prolific session singers, almost staples on Ready Steady Go, who were sent to a studio to record four singles between 1964 and 1968, mostly the work of Tony Hatch, Petula Clark's resident composer and leader in TV theme writing (Neighbours, Crossroads, Sportsnight).

The Breakaways - That's How It Goes

And if the idea of a Tony Hatch girl group is something to boggle at, what about a Joe Meek girl group? The Sharades only recorded two songs on one 1964 7" as far as we know - said vinyl has gone for three figures on eBay - but even by most of his out-there pop production standards this cover of American soulstress Ginny Arnell is extraordinary. Gwenno Pipette, talking to the Onion AV Club earlier this year, reckoned "I'd say we're closer, certainly in sentiment and vocal delivery, to (the Sharades) than we are to the slightly more professional '60s girl groups."

The Sharades - Dumb Head

More than anything else, it was the British Invasion that did for the down-home girls' run of chart success, which isn't to say that bands weren't producing excellent stuff in isolation from Beatlemania and so forth. The Cake formed in 1966 and a year later released Baby That's Me, co-written by Wall Of Sound co-conspirator Jack Nitzsche and prolific singer and songwriter Jackie DeShannon. In fact this became mildly misleading as the trio wrote much of their own material, something that hadn't been widely seen since the very early days of the trend, and their songs took many an impressive turn for the baroque and psychedelic, so much so that they contributed backing vocals to Hendrix's Electric Ladyland and the Soft Machine's first album.

The Cake - Baby That's Me

And so the music stopped, in technicality if by far not in spirit. Let's finish on a song keeping itself alive by being used to sell fried chicken, from a South Carolina quartet, three of whom were sisters, still active after 45 years despite this being their only US top 40 hit and a longstanding cult among Northern Soul aficionados.

The Flirtations - Nothing But A Heartache

BUYER'S GUIDE: The first place to start is with the release which includes six of these tracks, the extraordinary One Kiss Can Lead To Another, released in late 2005 in America and available here as Girl Group Sounds: One, a four CD, 120 track box set that did much to lead interest in the genre back from the margins. The Shangri-Las are best served by the superbly titled compilation Myrmidons Of Melodrama, while the Ronettes and Shirelles are also both served well in compilation. The 73 track Back To Mono (1958-1969) puts a hole through Spector's Wall Of Sound. Pretty much the only place to get Popsicles And Icicles on CD at the moment, bar cheap girl vocal compilations, is Impossible But True - The Kim Fowley Story, which also features Nut Rocker, Papa Oom Mow Mow, Cat Stevens, Gene Vincent, the Soft Machine and The N'Betweens (who became Slade). Let's Go With Joe Meek's Girls houses both Sharades tracks as well as Meek's other goes with female vocalists, most very rare prior to compilation. Both of The Cake's albums as well as outstanding singles and B-sides have just been collated and issued together for the first time as More Of Cake.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Weekender : tomorrow belongs to someone else

FREE MUSIC: This acts as something of a public service, as it's probable you've heard more about Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings than heard their work, being as the leader is a former prison warden whose first release came when she was 40 and her band is Mark Ronson's horn section of choice. At the front of the soul funk revival, 100 Days 100 Nights is the title track from their Billboard charting new album.

HEY YOU GET OFFA MYSPACE: Washington's Le Loup have just joined the merry throng at Memphis Industries in the UK, having signed to Sub Pop offshoot Hardly Art in America. The interest source is plain to see, one man in the studio, Sam Simkoff (joined by six others live) being responsible for something of a gem in the unpromisingly titled The Throne Of The Third Heaven Of The Nations' Millennium Assembly (actually named after a convoluted artwork by James Hampton), out here on December 3rd. There's more than elements of the otherworldly spheres of Grizzly Bear and Animal Collective's Feels, and those who remember our shilling for Anathallo last year should take notice, their joyous multi-layered harmonies and carefully constructed walls of new freak Americana sound threatening to make a real impact once released. Get in there early, beat the rush.

VISUAL REPRESENTATION: Jane Birkin's been in the news this week, leading pro-Myanmar rebel sympathy demonstrations and launching her autobiographical film Boxes. Last year she recorded former muse Serge Gainsbourg's A Song For Sorry Angel with Franz Ferdinand and she's sung live with Beck, and for a 60 year old she's scrubbing up well too. Obviously the first thing you think of in connection with Birkin and Gainsbourg is Je T'Aime...Moi Non Plus, and with Serge second comes his proposition to whitney Houston, but when he stopped being the Gauloise-toting arse around town he could write a song, like Manon and his Bardot duet Bonnie & Clyde. And while we're about Brigitte, who it has to be said is pretty much at the other end from the ageing gracefully scale from Birkin, here's the start of her French TV special in which she sings Harley Davidson in ubercool leather, shortly after posing for photos in substantially less.

FALLING OFF A BLOG: Manic Pop Thrills is a great name for a music blog and is just that - live reviews, picks from all round the place and a sense of what works in a blog.

EVERYBODY GET RANDOM: Sufjan Stevens' likeness carved into a pumpkin. Yes.

IN OTHER NEWS: Let's call it 'doing a Radiohead', because we just haven't exhibited enough journalistic laziness recently. Ooberman, Scouse pop thrills who found many a Next Big Thing title coming their way back at the turn of the decade, have come up with a much better incentive for having you give them your email address than the usual free 96kbps demo track - free access to their entire back catalogue. The still mighty Shorley Wall, Blossoms Falling, the one about talking to cows, the one they brought out on Graham Coxon's label, that odd Beany Bean one 6 Music used to play a lot, all of them.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

In shops tomorrow: 29/10


Inevitably, quite a bit from last week's singles list got moved back a week - 4 Or 5 Magicians, Blood Red Shoes, Ladytron, that sort. So now that label indecision is out of the way, we can get onto Sons And Daughters, who started doing the country-punk thing, had a Bad Seeds phase and in Adele Bethel's case got through metre upon metre of gold fabric. An early taster of next year's third album, Gilt Complex adds a slight sheen to The Repulsion Box's underground club grime atmosphere but these are still people with rhythmic malice aforethought. Like that band, the Young Knives' last album was garlanded with STN end of year top ten honours - we doubt it's on their press release, in all honesty - and are promoting a spring 2008 follow-up with a single. Terra Firma may be fronted by Henry Dartnall's never that appealling choice of his declamatory/shouty voice, but it'd fit well onto Voices Of Animals And Men and it's far from the best of the new material. We know that for people who've never been there we go on quite a bit about the music coming out of Cardiff over the past year or so but it's a thriving scene not yet tainted by association by the big boys' trendsetting application. It's getting a bit out of our hands when people we already liked start moving there, as is the case with Bolton/Aberystwyth graduate Andy Regan, whom followers of bedroom electronic/acoustic dark wit, which should be all of you, will know as Pagan Wanderer Lu. One suspects from the lyrics of The Tree Of Knowledge that he didn't particularly get on at school, but - brace yourselves for this one - he definitely gets top grades for his scuffed up music!!!! It's been a long and busy week for us. His label Brainlove Records are on something of a roll this week, in fact, as not only do they also provide our top album choice still to come but also house electro-art-punks Applicants, whose throw everything at Cubase and see if it sticks tactics led them to be dubbed "Busted meets Daphne & Celeste" by TOTP magazine. Hypochondriac/Hurt sounds like neither. The pair of them, plus Napoleon IIIrd (that's ruined the surprise) and Keyboard Choir, are off on tour together in November - check local listings for details. The duo that make up Slow Club aren't that electronic at all, preferring the healing properties of acoustic guitar, basic drum kit and summery tweefolk on second single Me & You. Eugene McGuinness' star has somewhat got lost in the UV lighting surrounding some of his immediate circle but his mini-album The Early Learnings Of... is a highly impressive intro, from which Bold Street is taken. Before Yeasayer and Black Kids, the hype of the day in the American underground was the Afrobeat indie of collegiate kids Vampire Weekend, who launch with Mansard Roof. The Super Furry Animals, increasingly at risk of fading into the background which would be very unlike them, bring out Run-Away, our most unrecognisable major rock stars the Kings Of Leon - how did they get so big? Would you recognise any of them now they're beardless? - channel the Pixies on Charmer, and in the download, erm, folder Charlotte Hatherley, who's just been around the country on an acoustic tour, draws another from the unjustly overlooked The Deep Blue, Again.


Quite apart from legions of Thames Valley teenage girls with Joni Mitchell records and Garageband-equipped laptops, the real revolution in home recording is happening well away from Super A lists. We've dealt in the past with many a solo visionary starting with a head full of clashing melodically charged ideas and carrying them through where they sat to various degrees. We've previously dealt in this very post with Pagan Wanderer Lu, for a classic instance. And right up with the best of them we find Leeds' James Mabbett, the man behind the soubriquet Napoleon IIIrd. In Debt To: has been out on download for five months now but only now have Brainlove Records got together the finances to put it out on properly distributed CD, so we've had some time to live with this and know that when we say it's more than likely the solo album of the year you can rest assured we know what we're talking about. We could sit here and make a big list of all the reference points we hear, from the Beach Boys to Olivia Tremor Control to pre-fame Flaming Lips to Jim O'Rourke's solo adventures, but it'd still underplay the sheer weight of seemingly disjointed ideas that have been jigsaw-like fitted together with misleading ease to create this DIY whirl of broken melodies, glitchy offbeats, declamatory lyrics, heartfelt moments and endless invention. Channel 4 Teletext's Planet Sound referred to Untitled Musical Project as comprising ex-members of McLusky, which isn't true but might be an easy mistake to make given they come from exactly the same place of dirty great bass riffs, Albiniesque guitars and caustic lyrics. Bath isn't the first place you'd imagine would produce a heavy funk collective also inspired by RZA, Tom Waits and the Sonics, but such is the enclosing world of influence these days. The Heavy's great crossover potential has gone quiet after a very brief flowering a couple of singles ago, Great Vengeance & Furious Fire almost sneaking out for the discerning. With the kids wanting their choral multi-instrumental hymns to Valhalla and the actual record buyers being into yacht rock production it was inevitable a midpoint would cause people to wet themselves, and such has happened with Yeasayer's All Hour Cymbals. Anyone remember Day One? Storytelling over beats and acoustic guitar meant they were very briefly Bristol's post-trip-hop next big thing. After seven years off they return with Probably Art. Caution: contains Will.I.Am. Fabriclive's DJ set series reaches Fabriclive 36 with James Murphy and LCD Soundsystem drummer Pat Mahoney. Unsurprisingly it's virtually all semi-obscure turn of the 80s disco-funk, much (although not including him) of the sort Chaz Jankel was making when he first got his hands on synths and had some time off being Ian Dury's writing partner. Chaz Jankel - My Occupation: The Music Of Chaz Jankel charts such excursions.


While there's clearly a book in the glam-art school pop inventing world of Eno-era Roxy Music, Michael Bracewell's Re-make/Re-model: Art, Pop, Fashion and the Making of Roxy Music, 1953-1972 suggests in its very subtitle that he's going to have a shot at two. Novellist Bracewell has long flown the flag for English pop pizazz and while the title's timescale doesn't suggest a surfeit of discussing the music the band made - their first album came out in 1972 - there's plenty to go at in the further education, fine art and extended theory surroundings they grew up in. We've just passed the fourth anniversary of Elliott Smith's death, plenty of time for photographer and video director Autumn de Wilde to provide a personal view, with close companion input, of his legacy. Doesn't The Official Punk Rock Book Of Lists sound like the most horrible post-Year Zero misnomer? It has credentials, though, co-writing credits going to Handsome Dick Manitoba of key pre-punks the Dictators and featuring input from assorted luminaries and sideline names.

The Weekly Sweep

  • Blood Red Shoes - I Wish I Was Someone Better [YouTube]
  • The Brunettes - Brunettes Against Bubblegum Youth [Myspace]
  • Darren Hayman and the Secondary Modern - She's Not For Me
  • Final Fantasy - Hey Dad [Myspace] (Owen Pallett working on Alex Turner's new side project? What's going on there? Zach 'Beirut' Condon's on this somewhere)
  • Friends Of The Bride - So, You Think You Can Dance? [Myspace]
  • Future Of The Left - Manchasm
  • The Go! Team - The Wrath Of Marcie [mp3 from Red Blondehead]
  • Ice, Sea, Dead People - Hence Elvis [Myspace] (Come quickly, mother, the names are getting worse)
  • Johnny Flynn & the Sussex Wit - The Box [Myspace]
  • Los Campesinos! - The International Tweexcore Underground [YouTube]
  • Maths Class - Emporio Laser [Myspace]
  • Misty's Big Adventure - How Did You Manage To Get Inside My Head? [Myspace]
  • Napoleon IIIrd - Hit Schmooze For Me [Myspace]
  • Pagan Wanderer Lu - The Tree Of Knowledge [YouTube]
  • The Shangri-Las - The Train From Kansas City
  • The Rumble Strips - Time
  • The School - All I Wanna Do Is [Myspace]
  • Sky Larkin - Molten [Myspace]
  • Sons & Daughters - Gilt Complex [YouTube]
  • Wake The President - Remember Fun? [Myspace]
  • Friday, October 26, 2007

    Blog will eat itself

    It's been an uncomfortable and odd couple of weeks in the music arm of the blogosphere, even betting without Sasha bloody Frere-Jones and his Simon Reynolds-meets-iLX cat/pigeon juxtaposing. In the middle, of course, came the enforced closure of Oink, which you suspect will be more a torrent equivalent of Napster then a closure of one source of music downloads - plenty will spring up in its image, and perhaps already have.

    Hitting closer to home, at the tail-end of the weekend before last came Marathon Packs' lengthy critique of the mp3 blogging scene. As the area gains a higher profile of course it'll be defiled to some extent by anyone and everyone with web space or a FileXoom account having a go (and of course this whole thing feeds back to Oink's raison d'etre, which will be interesting to keep an eye on in the immediate future). That the best and most worthwhile act as an inbuilt taste filter is their great strength, especially now every man-jack has a Myspace music account and fifty CDRs. Although we don't go a bundle on overt criticism, we like to think that whenever we post a Myspace link or an mp3 we get across what we like about it and how passionate we are for the music involved, and that establishes the Sweeping The Nation quality kitemark filter through which we sneak twenty random song links every Sunday. Blogs should always be about content.

    For our own part, it becomes noticeable in writing up about new bands and releases every week by choice just how limited the language of music criticism is - there's only so many ways you can describe what a song sounds like before you have to distance yourself from musical theory detachment. Many a blog can pull off the music equivalent of New Journalism, with a soupcon of Gonzo, but we've always thought most punters don't want the big analogous pieces. By the same token, though, the best bloggers, your Fluxblogs and Said The Gramophones, achieve what they do not necessarily by openly engaging their prose with what the music sounds like, but after you've heard it the reaction if it's worked would be "right, I see now". Not to say the direct route doesn't equally work.

    But what content? Idolator wondered whether herd mentality is making looking properly at new bands next to impossible, taking as its theme the Pitchfork-led wave surrounding the not especially outstanding (ACTUAL STN OPINION) Black Kids. This piece is flawed in that it's a reasonable argument welded to "hey kids, that band you like - they're shit!", but even so their CMJ set brought on a blogger backlash of sorts, on the basis that the still starting up band still without a record deal or any UK press bar a small bit on the Guardian website weren't the finished live article yet. Well spotted. Now broadband means you don't have to put in the work, the research and the Peel listening hours, the churn of new bands has been unsustainable for a while and has already seen off the commercial chances of a few bands held high early on (Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Tapes N Tapes, Annuals - who'll care by album two, three in CYHSY's case?) Inevitably you can barely keep up with it as it is - we've got the Vampire Weekend single somewhere and haven't got round to listening to it yet. There's almost too much music to both love and be told to love - maybe it even heightens the thrill of the off-blog-Broadway fresh discovery. Conversely there's bands like Arcade Fire, the Gossip or We Are Scientists, who when they hit big had a few years of touring and the odd album in splendid isolation from Jo Whiley's Live Lounge (isn't it time the first two Gossip albums were reissued in the way Snow Patrol's were?) Blogs, frankly, aren't the world.

    So, let us ask you. What do you want from an mp3 blog, or indeed just any old music blog like this? Are these the concerns merely of the hyperspeed music blogger? Does pointless lengthy scholarly discourse when all you want is self-regarding gubbins about new bands make you want to kill people? Why are we trying to justify ourselves? Why doesn't anybody leave comments here any more?

    Thursday, October 25, 2007

    Two nations divided by one common language

    The internet is a strange and wonderful place, full of things to delight or repulse the average what isn't any more called surfer. Just when you think life online has inoculated you against anything surprising cropping up, something comes into browser view that makes you want to step away from the PC/Mac/laptop for a second, in the same way reading something surprising in a newspaper causes one to close the pages and open them again just in case the world has changed its mind in the interim. This is one such moment.

    In a moment of Anglophiliac magnificence/stupidity, Tori Amos covered two Chas & Dave songs on the B-side of her 1996 single Caught A Lite Sneeze. Everybody knows this, and everybody has wondered just how namechecks in one of the songs thus covered, That's What I Like Mick (The Sandwich Song), of Glenn Hoddle, Cannon and Ball and "pie and mash and liquor" go down in Amos' southern American accent.


    Well, what about how they translate to a choir of seventy New York fifth graders?

    Tuesday, October 23, 2007

    Amelia rate

    As mentioned previously Los Campesinos! release The International Tweexcore Underground this week with two concept B-sides, one of which is C Is The Heavenly Option, Heavenly's 1992 multiple choice love test of a song featuring International Pop Underground majordomo Calvin Johnson. You can probably see where they're coming from. To hear LC!'s gender swap cover you'll have to buy the single, but as for the original...

    Heavenly - C Is The Heavenly Option
    From Le Jardin de Heavenly

    More up to date with two tracks we feel have been made by people more than likely to be across Heavenly's back catalogue. We mentioned Caz Mechanic on the Weekly Sweep just gone, and further investigation turned up her split EP on Tome Records with the not that promisingly named Ray Rumours And The No-Eyed Deers. In fact the mysterious Ray is the somewhat less exotic Ros Murray, in loads of bands by the look of it but best known as bassist with Electrelane, doing impressive stripped back lo-fi tweefolk.

    Ray Rumours and the No-Eyed Deers - No Way To Know
    From Caz Mechanic/Ray Rumours and the No Eyed Deers

    Mimi. Yeah! is the recording nom de plume of artist Mimi Leung, who's been an auxiliary to the Warmsley/Flynn/The Great group we like to reference occasionally but is very much her own one-woman operation. The inevitable forcefully-minded woman with guitar touchstones of Patti Smith and PJ Harvey come to mind, as does Scout Niblett, if you really need parameters.

    Mimi. Yeah! - Closer Than
    Order Snowball from her website

    Monday, October 22, 2007

    Weekender : tish ah, nay, hush and fourpence

    FREE MUSIC: Fuck me, we're twee. Malmo duo A Smile And A Ribbon have it all going on, from floral print style to glockenspiels, referencing girl groups and glitter kids equally. The Boy I Wish I Never Met is the title track from their recent debut album, and we feel Amelia Fletcher can look down at her spiritual children in glee.

    HEY YOU GET OFFA MYSPACE: If we're any judge of the way the indie hive mind works, Leeds' The Chiara L's could be your new favourite band soon enough. We've reviewed them before on the Myspace blog when introduced to them at Indietracks but now they have a single deal it's time to bring them to wider attention. That they're actually named after singer Chiara Lucchini might be seen as taking it a bit far but they're very definitely a band for the post-Long Blondes world, the sound starting in the mid-80s sphere of the Shop Assistants and taking notes along the way from the Raincoats, Peel-era Altered Images, riot grrl and the ten years ago era of glitter-encrusted girl indiepop, hugely infectious and which would in a slightly earlier era have been feted by all the fanzines.

    VISUAL REPRESENTATION: In the days up to the 10th you couldn't move on the net for Radiohead embeds as people tried to second-guess what In Rainbows would sound like from muffled, red-tinged live cameraphone videos. The best Radiohead online video presence, naturally, has nothing to do with modernity and has more to do with the sheer incongruity of their surroundings. Observe Andi Peters 'amusingly' introducing "the new Bucks Fizz" at the Smash Hits Poll Winners Party of 1995 or indeed the blitzkrieg and surprise slapstick element at the end of Anyone Can Play Guitar at the MTV Beach House. As someone famously not an immense fan of world touring lipsynching doesn't seem to be Thom's greatest strength, as proved by this Spanish TV go at Just (note Johnny Greenwood suddenly discovering his lefthandedness). But, you know, no matter what animated hissy fits he throws at sound engineers or what not exactly Comedy Store compere levels of heckler response he deploys, Thom likes a laugh really.

    VIRAL MARKETING: As November inevitably approaches the number of albums being held back for 2008 by the label increases, and as those details won't have been released yet there's not much we can yet do about them. Misty's Big Adventure have an album, Funny Times, out under their own auspices in a couple of weeks, though, and here's Serious Thing. And for the incongruous sake of it, here's their soundtracking an Irish anti-littering advert.

    FALLING OFF A BLOG: Can You See The Sunset From The Southside? feels like one of those blogs everyone is supposed to know, so often does it turn up on blog rolls apart from ours. Let's rectify that: pop-punk slanted it may be at the moment, but it's doubtful you'll find it wanting.

    EVERYBODY GET RANDOM: Something for those awaiting the Led Zep reunion - 23 John Bonham drum tracks recorded for In Through The Out Door in 1979. Feel the thunder.

    IN OTHER NEWS: Craig Robinson, already noted for his Minipops pixellated pop stars and others, has now constructed One To A Hundred, every number in order ripped from a random selection of songs. Try it as a parlour game.

    Sunday, October 21, 2007

    In shops tomorrow: 22/10


    Record industry lore has it that the third single is the one on which your act goes for broke, the release which determines whether the public will (be forced to) have an interest in your pet project. Essentially, single three shows whether you daytime radio and press lionisation crossover potential. Los Campesinos!' third single, The International Tweexcore Underground, resembles a Cardiff Scene Broken Social Scene with carried away glockenspiel and sawing violin, and is described by the band as "a story of a friendship of two opposites and how they are in the best band in the world" which namechecks Henry Rollins, Amelia Fletcher, Ian MacKaye, Calvin Johnson and Sarah Records. Scott Mills' producer has not yet put a call in. It is of course magnificent, which we would say because it's Los Campesinos! and if they released a cover of No Charge played entirely on hosepipe and accordion we'd go a bundle on it. No, instead they're releasing a "concept single", the B-sides being covers of Black Flag's Police Story and Heavenly's Calvinist classic C Is The Heavenly Option. Presumably Wichita couldn't afford to press up a CD2 with Out Of Step and Pristine Christine on. Incidentally, someone started a since deleted Wikipedia entry for 'tweecore' claiming this record invented the term, which when shown to him made Gareth go a neat shade of puce (or so we imagine, it was an online discussion), not unreasonably as not only has the phrase been in net use for years - the Bobby McGees used to probably ironically call themselves "the inventors of tweecore" - but we found we'd employed it to describe Suburban Kids With Biblical Names last end of year. Sorry. Battles will never, ever be referred to using the word 'twee'. Indeed, by now most have run out of epithets, genres and lexicographal epiphanies employed to describe exactly what they do sound like, with their pitch control and their finger tapping and their big cymbal stand and all that. Tonto comes with remixes including one from Four Tet, live tracks and a DVD featuring both videos and a behind the scenes. Mirrored will be at or near the top of just as many end of year lists as Sound Of Silver, both taking the principles of the groove in completely different directions as if to say "fuck you, Sasha Frere-Jones". Someone Great is probably the next closest it comes to what a single sounds like nowadays. Two years in Blood Red Shoes are still taking the scenic coastal route of limited edition 7"s building up to January's album. I Wish I Was Someone Better, their fifth such single release by our reckoning, gives Steven a lead vocal and ratches up the two-person tension bred on endless support touring yet again. The other way to get attention is to whore your image out to the fashion magazines, hence the brief spell around June where everyone seemed to be going on about The Teenagers, three Frenchmen based in London with rudeness aforethought. Even the most horribly contrived i-D band usually have one thing about them, though, and in their case it's the synth Velvets Strapisms of the not exactly coded Starlett Johansson. Either out last week or next, so we're going for the mean average, comes another one from the Brighton alt-diaspora, 4 Or 5 Magicians, essentially just one Dan Ormsby, and if their/his debut 7" Forever On The Edge bears hallmarks of not only being slanted but enchanted also (and of Guided By Voices, come to that) there are far, far worse things to be. It's also a song about being in a failing band that works. Popular Workshop called their first EP Stutter And Dance, which just about does the descriptive job for us - rhythms that break themselves down and start back up at will, energetic angular screes and a lot of post-Sonic Youth flailing about around the ring roads of melody. Double A'd 7" William, It Was Really Something/Radical attempts to leash their hyperkinecity to mastertape. There's no good reason for the two year old Destroy Everything You Touch by Ladytron to come back out, but such are the industry's wiles. The Maccabees' Toothpaste Kisses isn't a tremendously obvious single choice but at least it's not got high speed hi-hat and declamatory guitar like all their other songs. Adele has been talked about as the ace in the New London Kids pack for so long now it's hard to think Hometown Glory is her debut, a 7" on Jamie T's Pacemaker label. Frankly it doesn't need its synthetically produced string section, it's good enough in its raw form. It's a good ten to twelve years since Gallon Drunk made their name in the realm of seedy London underbelly swamp rock, and despite many a lineup change James Johnston is still sounding like Nick Cave's perma-sozzled mate (which, oddly...) on Grand Union Canal. Middlesbrough's energetic female frontline pop-punk if that wasn't such a debased term kids We Start Fires start to come of age at last on Let's Get Our Hands Dirty, while after what seems like years making a small inroad in America and Liela Moss adding vocals for basically everyone who asks the Duke Spirit return for unwarranted Duke Special confusion aplenty on EP Ex Voto.


    Recently seen supporting on the curtailed Decemberists UK tour, Land Of Talk were described by us not long ago and understandably by nobody else anywhere ever as Montreal's Sky Larkin. It's based on more than their being a female-fronted trio, you'll be glad to hear, more their adding to the Throwing Muses/Breeders/Veruca Salt lineage of same and leaving their own personal stamp of ambition and ideas on it. Applause Cheer Boo Hiss has been extended from mini-album to full LP status by the addition of three extra tracks for the UK market, exhibiting much the same sort of streamlined post-cool and determination. Holy Fuck, having self-titled their first, get out of second album titling horror the easy way by calling it LP. Very Public Image Ltd. Unlike the record, which is very !!! in that they create faux-electronic dance-punk by analogue means, using percussion, antique synths and found sounds to create a soundscape to dance to and think about later. Every Monday night through late summer at London's Big Chill House The Mules curated a bill of favourite new bands, which they've now collated together on Pick Your Own. what could have been an exercise in nose-thumbing is averted by the realisation that if the whole market for synth-post-punk-country becomes sluggish they can come and write STN for a bit, given their favourites include Emmy The Great, Lightspeed Champion, Napoleon IIIrd, Noah And The Whale, Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit, Eugene McGuinness, Jonquil, Son Of Dave and Fireworks Night. Krautrock sampler the easy way with Can reissuing nearly their whole back catalogue. Tago Mago is the one the legend is built on, Ege Bamyasi is preferred by many, Future Days' four tracks in forty-odd minutes signpost ambient's way. The Wedding Present are heading off around the country from Tuesday on a George Best twentieth anniversary tour (Lucky Soul are doing some support dates in the latter end of the tour in November), and to coincide the first two of the official bootleg Live Tapes mail order cassettes are remastered for Live 1987. Now that David Longstreth is getting attention for his Dirty Projectors' Rise Above project its 2005 predecessor The Getty Address gets its first proper UK release. According to Longstreth's notes "The Getty Address is about the conflict of Hernan Cortes and the Aztecs in 1519-21, the virtualization of wilderness on a completely circumscribed globe, dirty projection, and love cerebral and spiritual... inspired by Aztec mythology, the Eagles, and the 9/11 aftermath". Right.


    A month ago Frank Turner's DVD was talked up by us as a document of his life as the gig-booked acoustic wanderer, comprising live footage, a documentary, videos and fan contributions. That was before the inevitable processing delays, but All About The Destination finally hits shelves this week.


    A year and a half after its ignominious and pop schedule-landmining exit seems a curious point at which to write a tribute to Top Of The Pops, but Ian Gittins has done just such in the form of Top Of The Pops: Mishaps, Miming and Music - True Adventures of TV's No.1 Pop Show. If it doesn't include the anecdote about the production team on the first show realising the floor manager was bald and convincing him to wear a wig so he didn't stand out it's not worth the recycle bin its paper was scrounged from. We imagine Damon Albarn: Blur, Gorillaz and Other Fables is the first unofficial biography of the inscrutable son of Soft Machine's lighting designer (and yet we can't remember the birthdays of relatives) is because Stuart Maconie's worthwhile if already well out of date 3862 Days authorised Blur biography did such a thorough job both in and between the lines. The usual slew of old acquaintances line up to reminisce.

    The Weekly Sweep

  • Blood Red Shoes - I Wish I Was Someone Better [YouTube]
  • Blur - This Is A Low [live YouTube]
  • Caz Mechanic - In Case Of Emergency [Myspace] (Caroline Banks, traditionally known as the drummer from Seafood, goes ambitiously Velvets folky)
  • Emma Pollock - Paper And Glue
  • Friends Of The Bride - So, You Think You Can Dance? [Myspace]
  • Johnny Flynn & the Sussex Wit - The Box [Myspace]
  • LCD Soundsystem - Someone Great [YouTube]
  • Los Campesinos! - The International Tweexcore Underground [YouTube]
  • Napoleon IIIrd - Hit Schmooze For Me [Myspace]
  • Noah And The Whale - Five Years' Time [YouTube]
  • Pagan Wanderer Lu - The Tree Of Knowledge [YouTube]
  • Popular Workshop - Radical [Myspace]
  • Q And Not U - Soft Pyramids [Myspace]
  • The School - All I Wanna Do Is [Myspace] (Labelmates of Camera Obscura, as will become obvious within about five seconds)
  • Scout Niblett - Kiss [YouTube]
  • Sky Larkin - Molten [Myspace]
  • Sons & Daughters - Gilt Complex [YouTube]
  • Those Dancing Days - Those Dancing Days [YouTube]
  • The Wave Pictures - Now You Are Pregnant [label Myspace]
  • The Young Knives - Terra Firma [YouTube]
  • Thursday, October 18, 2007

    They're on the list

    On the evidence of that covers album it hardly deserves it - pretty much every one of those songs is a note for note reproduction! What's wrong with bands now? Don't answer that - but we continue our tribute to forty years of Radio 1 by thinking you'd like to see the daytime playlist issued on this day ten years ago:

    A List

    All Saints - Never Ever
    On its way to number one, with the video that suggested all four had been out with the same bloke. Which is entirely possible, of course. "A few questions that I need to know" indeed.

    David Arnold/Propellerheads - On Her Majestys Secret Service
    The least subtle CV placement in history, Arnold made an album of Bond theme reinterpretations and promptly got called up to do every Bond theme since. Propellerheads still going and with a Rufus Wainwright vocal in the can, it says here.

    Ash - A Life Less Ordinary
    Charlotte's first with the band. In light of her departure the ten years with the one band that can be relied upon to make Jamaica's Hedonism II resort want to pack up and all go home we saw her the other night - review on the Myspace blog tomorrow, hopefully - and she showed few outward signs of being worse off for the experience bar her onstage drink being Jack Daniels. In a plastic glass, mind.

    Backstreet Boys - As Long As You Love Me

    Beck - Deadweight
    From the film A Life Less Ordinary, which set Ewan McGregor on the path from massive UK film star to where he is now (doing innumerable documentaries about motorbikes)

    Black Grape - Get Higher
    Shaun and Bez both seem to have written this bit out of their CVs, and probably lives. Disintegrated at the end of Britpop and all the drugs that implies, ie the same amount as usual for Shaun.

    The Charlatans - Tellin’ Stories

    Dannii - Everything I Wanted
    And who knew Dannii would be having a career revival in 2007?

    Double 99 - Ripgroove
    Ah, speed garage. Later bastardised into UK Garage, then two-step, then about a million sub-genres like a Big Bang of dance genres that hit overground and promptly dissipated.

    Embrace - All You Good Good People

    Eternal - Angel of Mine

    Faithless - Don’t Leave (Hard Mix)
    The one that doesn't sound much like Faithless.

    Hurricane # 1 - Step Into My World
    Andy Bell, as we know, with a song that finished with the full three minutes of guitar solo. It was a British guitar band in 1997, what can we say.

    Jay-Z feat. Babyface and Foxy Brown - Sunshine

    The Lighthouse Family - Raincloud

    LL Cool J - Phenomenon

    Pulp - Help The Aged

    Jimmy Ray - Are You Jimmy Ray?
    1997 was a bloody odd year for the major label marketing machines, as stung by just how big the Spice Girls were becoming they threw everything at a wall in case some of it stuck. Jimmy Ray, for example, a Fullerfied rockabilly-influenced potential teen idol who made it to two singles. He ain't no window cleaner, apparently.

    Revival 3000 - The Mighty High
    Blame Oakenfold.

    Rialto - Monday Morning 5:19
    Double drummer widescreen melodrama from him off Kinky Machine, who famously contrived to be dropped twice by the same label

    Sash! feat. La Trec - Stay
    One of the DJ's five UK number twos without ever having a number one. And they say Westlife chart feats are forgettable.

    Smash Mouth - Walkin’ On The Sun
    The actual one hit by the All Star lot fronted by a man with an objectionable goatee. Kevin Greening's breakfast fill-in record of the week in Diana death week.

    Spice Girls - Spice Up Your Life
    This whole shite is drawing inexorably closer, isn't it? Especially with every single gossip magazine running some cover headline SPICE FEARS story, which makes a change from their usual POSH FEARS lead.

    Byron Stingily - Sing A Song
    Michelle Weeks - Don’t Give Up
    Both have probably forgotten themselves who they were.

    B List

    911 - Party People Friday Night
    With the boy bands starting to wane the weakest would be taken down first. At least it wasn't the secret weapon-proffering Bodyshakin'.

    Jon Bon Jovi - Janie, Don’t Take Your Love To Town
    Probably not a rewritten cover.

    Brand New Heavies - You’ve Got A Friend
    Probably not rewritten.

    Cast - I’m So Lonely

    Changing Faces - I Got Somebody Else

    Roy Davis Jr. - Gabriel
    The first big star of speed garage, 'they' said. 'They' are wrong more often than many would admit.

    Death In Vegas - Rocco
    Not on their proper Best Of, tellingly.

    Deep Dish - Stranded

    Dust Junkys - Non Stop Operation
    Radio 1 saw big things for this lot, fronted by MC Tunes, but they should have hung out a few years for rap-rock to properly take hold.

    Echo And The Bunnymen - Don’t Let It Get You Down

    Echobelly - Here Comes The Big Rush

    Fatboy Slim - Everybody Loves A Carnival
    What was the difference between this and Everybody Needs A 303?

    Hanson - I Will Come To You
    The third single and already well on the wane from "one of them must be a girl?" heights.

    Natalie Imbruglia - Torn
    A playlist debut for the song that became a cause celebre when Chris Evans realised the writing credits weren't in Imbruglia's name, not that anybody else cared.

    Lil’ Kim - Crush On You

    Natural Born Chillers - Rock The Funky Beats

    Ocean Colour Scene - Better Day

    Puff Daddy - Been Around The World

    Radish - Simple Sincerity
    Ben Kweller's band, sold on the fact he was a 16 year old frontman. Tell that to music writers of today and they'd laugh. And then commission a lead feature for the Observer Music Monthly on them.

    Stereophonics - Traffic
    Ah, the good Stereophonics song.

    Sundance - Sundance

    Supergrass - Late In The Day

    The Supernaturals - Prepare To Land
    A band whose main fan page features a link to "similar artist Elliott Smith", singer James McColl is now the driving force in the Hussy's. Blonde keyboardist Ken's location is less certain.

    Texas - Put Your Arms Around Me

    Travis - Happy
    From their driving Scotrock phase, not their big Coldplay-preceding hit balladry one.

    C List

    Peter Andre - Lonely
    It's plastic, y'know.

    Aqua - Barbie Girl
    Insert own joke here.

    Gary Barlow - Open Road

    Toni Braxton - How Could An Angel Break My Heart

    Celetia - Special

    Ether - She Could Fly
    See, this was the sort of thing post-Britpop glory days that Radio 1 put its faith in only to be instantly forgotten. Welsh trio, we think.

    Goldie feat. KRS One - Digital

    Lynden David Hall - Sexy Cinderella

    Mandalay - This Life

    North And South - Breathing
    North And South! Had a Children's BBC series and a green-haired guitarist, neither of which endeared them much to ver kidz in the end.

    Olive - Miracle

    P F Project feat. Ewan McGregor - Choose Life
    Just a sample of the Trainspotting speech over sub-Underworld beats.

    Primal Scream - Burning Wheel

    Roni Size - Brown Paper Bag
    It's the sound of the future.

    Wednesday, October 17, 2007

    A gentle shove in the right direction

    Join our Facebook group!

    In no way is this appeal related to the ever growing and far more than us numbers on we like to think comparable British music blog Facebook groups, you understand.

    It's Wyclef Jean's 35th birthday today (as it is Eminem's, but someone else can deal with that) We're risking all sorts of eyebrow raising from our readership here, but wasn't this a fantastic record?

    Monday, October 15, 2007

    Weekender : we never cared about Ian McCaskill

    FREE MUSIC: It seems to us that Nada Surf have been searching for an identity since Popular accidentally became a quasi-novelty hit in America eleven years ago. They've been heading down a road marked If Wet Death Cab For Cutie recently, cemented by Chris Walla producing their last album The Proximity Effect, and you can make your own mind up about their current direction with See These Bones from next February's fifth album Lucky.

    HEY YOU GET OFFA MYSPACE: Team Waterpolo may have only formed in July - their Myspace account says it was registered in August 2005, but best not to pick holes at this early stage - but there's already something building up around the Roy Lichtenstein-admiring Preston foursome. They've recently been playing with The Whip, which makes a kind of sense in that they're a more organic version of that 808-driven thing. Shame it's come about so late, as this would be perfect summer convertible listening.

    VISUAL REPRESENTATION: You may have seen the mad story this weekend about the Georgian president enacting the only way of controlling the sporadic border area civil war, a free gig by Boney M. And not even the proper Boney M at that, but one of the three breakaway touring groups featuring a single original member each. Ohhh, those Russian breakaway states.

    FALLING OFF A BLOG: Field Records is only two proper posts old but it's already setting its unique stall out - live reviews and interviews, yes, but also specially recorded live tracks from those covered. Field recordings, see. Adam Gnade and Gossamer Albatross (oh, we know, we know) are first and second up.

    IN OTHER NEWS: Department S were Stiff Records New Wavers who appeared on the cover of Smash Hits in May 1981 following the number 22 success of the great Is Vic There? 25 years after splitting and despite the death of singer Vaughan Toulouse (yes) in 1991 they've not just brought out a new single today with a line-up featuring the keyboardist on vocals, Madness' Mark Bedford on bass and sax for hire Terry Edwards, but it's a cover of Alvin Stardust's My Coo-Ca-Choo which is much the same as the original were it recorded with Adam And The Ants backing up. Hear it for yourself.

    Sunday, October 14, 2007

    In shops tomorrow: 15/10


    We didn't discover Sky Larkin, of course - they were doing local media two years ago - but we can't help feel an element of paternal pride now more people are starting to wake up to their serrated melodies and Leeds Breeders/Muses come-ons since we first highlghted them last January following Nothing But Green Lights' enthusiasm. Currently, and perhaps forever doomed to be, on the road with Los Campesinos!, single two Molten, again on Dance To The Radio, is a scratchy, vaulting thing that cements Katie Harkin's place among our most nonchalant frontwomen. And while great, its quality is at the very least equalled by unsettling organ-led longstanding demo favourite Keepsakes on the B-side, a Weekly Sweep inductee last June. Von Sudenfed recently played a handful of dates, most notable for how Mark E Smith didn't even dare touch Jan St Werner and Andi Toma's equipment. The celebrations continue with 12" double A side The Rhinohead/Slow Down Ronnie, the most poppy moment from Tromatic Reflexxions allied to a new Mark E appeal to Ronnie O'Sullivan. Mixer of the moment Pilooski contributes a remix too. Forget that band he used to be in, Dev Hynes is very much his own man following his folk-pop heart, literally, as Lightspeed Champion. If the slide guitar at the start of 10" Midnight Surprise - ten minutes long, which for a second single proves he's brave too - suggests George Harrison, the rest reminds you that he recorded it at Saddle Creek HQ. Emmy The Great and assorted Tilly & The Wallers provide backup. Try Harder Recordings are a label we're all going to have to keep a close eye on - already home of Jonquil and Youthmovies and with two early Blood Red Shoes singles and Foals' debut release in the back catalogue, they now bring us another set of Leicester emigres, Tired Irie, who sound adjacent to Foals if they really did sound like being a new Q And Not U some lazy types claim them to be. Tired Irie EP is your first taste of something that could be quite impressive. If Lily Allen's presence proves the former conscious rapper Common has come well in from the cold - album Finding Forever is his first Billboard number one - the commodity cauterising and marching drum hook of Drivin' Me Wild make it the best big hit the genre has produced in a while.


    With nine release Mondays left in 2007 we're coming towards the end of the contenders for people's varying lists of the best albums of the year, what with Best Of, compilation and cash-in season pretty much upon us. Someone who might make an appearance on a few is Emma Louise Niblett, Scout Niblett to you. The Nottingham raised, Albini trusting, wig sporting, grunge inspired occasional corporeal form of The Goddess could on fourth album This Fool Can Die Now surely easily be set to make the leap from small scale cult to uncomfortable critical darling. Will Oldham turns up on four tracks but it's all about Niblett's minimal guitar, maximum drums and raw nerve emotions, not easily shrugging off the Chan'n'Polly comparisons but proving that she can sit easily next to them in terms of going against the grain under cover of hoping the mainstream comes to her rather than the traditional vice versa. Uneasy listening, but spellbinding. David Longsterth of the Dirty Projectors supposedly hadn't heard Black Flag's Damaged since college when he decided to make a tribute album to its visceral power, Rise Above, which replaces the barrack-rousing hardcore with eclectic psych-folk, like world music era Talking Heads recontextualising with Grizzly Bear, whose Chris Taylor produces. It really doesn't help to be acquainted with the original, except to explain what the source of the juxtaposition of lyrical theme and pastoral backing is about. we nearly just wrote that one day Matthew and Eleanor Friedberger will find out how to coalesce their overflow of ideas and melodic steals and quirks into a fluid album whole, except it then occurred to us that by this fifth full-length Widow City they would have done so if they wanted to. It does however feature fewer wild tangents and no unifying theme for once, but with more of an overt 70s influence. The Hives have moved on from their overt Detroit 60s influence very, very slightly on The Black And White Album, their fat-free garage augmented by two tracks produced by Pharrell Williams, and not in his N.E.R.D. mindset either. Hundred Reasons have spent too many recent years hanging around the periphery not quite getting it right, and now they've got closer to their original fire on Quick The Word, Sharp The Action the zeitgeist seems to have drifted off. Shame. Anyone who has space for No Wave in their lives, listen up for K Records' Old Time Relijun, whose Catharsis In Crisis redirects Beefheart through Lydia Lunch and James Chance's studios and into the Birthday Party's back alley. We didn't get round to mentioning last week that Robert Wyatt has a new album out, Comicopera the twelth of the ever individual jazz-folk-worldly best beard wearer in, erm, jazz-folk-worldly music. Semi-regular contributors Eno, Weller and Phil Manzanera are back, but this is as ever his perspective only, on war, love, spirituality and globalisation from the view of the cultural dispossessed, apparently signified by Wyatt singing in Spanish and Italian in protest against the English speaking culture. It's also his first release on Domino Recordings, who got Alexis Taylor of Hot Chip to write the press release. Those Arctic Monkeys albums funded this, and that is why we must all have shrines to Laurence Bell in the most sacred parts of our homes.
    And so to those compilations, Best Ofs and cash-ins. REM have got this far without a live album, but those revenue streams won't manage themselves. REM Live is a 2 CD and one DVD set recorded at the end of their Around The Sun world tour at the Point Theatre in Dublin in 2005. Luckily its 22-strong setlist is not heavily drawn from that album, which at least one band member now dismisses. There doesn't seem to be much Plus about The Teardrop Explodes' Peel Sessions Plus, just three sessions' worth of fried psychpop gold often reworked from the recorded version, here with Cope sleevenotes. Australia's The Lucksmiths continue that country's grand tradition of assuredly crafted alterna-pop and have enough left over for a third rarities and offcuts compilation, the double disc Spring A Leak. Ed Harcourt's piano-based inventive melodicism could and should have made him big on numerous occasions, and Until Tomorrow Then is full of songs you barely remember hearing on the radio and recognising that their intelligence made them stand out some distance. This claim was rarely made for Carter USM, and surely in the commercial indie sphere nothing marks out the early 90s post-baggy pre-Suede better than their puns, shorts and haircuts. You Fat Bastard is a 2CD round-up of a music that will surely never happen again. Non-chronological order is one thing, but leaving Sherrif Fatman until Disc 2 Track 14 is just silly. A Cellarful Of Motown Volume 3 is a third crate-digging exercise into the mounds of stuff the Hit Factory churned out that was for whatever reason deemed by Berry Gordy not worth the single journey at the time for the likes of Stevie Wonder, the Temptations, Mervin Gaye, (Detroit) Spinners, the Four Tops, Gladys Knight and the Pips and Edwin Starr. Norman Cook loves this sort of thing and when in the queue he'll be trying not to look directly at his Late Night Tales series contribution, which features a duff cover of Kraftwerk's Radioactivity but also Jonathan Richman, Sly and the Family Stone, Bootsy Collins, Dave and Ansil Collins, Mink Deville's Spanish Stroll and attempts to repatriate Willie Nelson and Kenny Rogers.


    Bob Mould has always had an ambivalent attitude to his past, putting out an album every three years - just signed to Anti, LP expected February 2008 - accompanied by some grand statement about not making an electrified album any more or putting out a dance album next. Luckily, then, Circle Of Friends - Live At The 9.30 Club acquiesces to take from all over his career, a fully fired-up band taking on Husker Du, Sugar and solo pickings. Any Mould set that starts with The Act We Act and A Good Idea and closes with Celebrated Summer (set proper) and Man On The Moon (encore) is worth the wait. Not quite sure there's the same demand for Lene Lovich - Live From New York At Studio 54, but who knows when it comes to Stiff's most oddball performer in a coterie of them. Lovich's guitarist, co-writer and partner Les Chappell always used to scare us.


    Two for bathroom reading this week, or as stocking fillers if such a concept still exists. LA documentary producer turned writer Tom Reynolds, whose last list book I Hate Myself and Want to Die: The 52 Most Depressing Songs You've Ever Heard caused many a broadsheet thinkpiece, returns with Touch Me, I'm Sick: The 52 Creepiest Love Songs You've Ever Heard. In a more caring bent, Little Black Book of Setlists: The Songs Behind Rock 'n' Roll's Most Famous Gigs is just that, the setlists and information about 150 legendary shows from Altamont to the Lesser Free Trade Hall to Live 8 to the roof of the Apple Building to, good lord, the Stone Roses at Reading.

    The Weekly Sweep

  • Blood Red Shoes - I Wish I Was Someone Better [YouTube]
  • British Sea Power - Atom [mp3 from Sound Bites]
  • Cay - Neurons Like Brandy [Myspace]
  • Grandaddy - AM 180 [live YouTube]
  • LCD Soundsystem - Someone Great [YouTube]
  • Los Campesinos! - The International Tweexcore Underground [YouTube]
  • Napoleon IIIrd - Hit Schmooze For Me [Myspace]
  • Noah And The Whale - Five Years' Time [YouTube]
  • Okkervil River - A Hand To Take Hold Of The Scene [mp3 from kgb v2.0]
  • Pagan Wanderer Lu - The Tree Of Knowledge [YouTube]
  • PJ Harvey - The Piano [live YouTube]
  • Radiohead - Jigsaw Falling Into Place [mp3 from Minneapolis Fucking Rocks] (Right, so the official STN opinion on In Rainbows is... it's a bit uninvolving, isn't it? Something like Hail To The Thief gets called a placemarker but nothing more now but at least that had affecting moments of inspiration and exhiliration in itself, whereas for long periods this does come across as coasting it, Radiohead knowing what they can do and acting well within themselves, losing their paranoid electronically enhanced edge along with it. Who knew their self-distributed album would end up sounding like compromise? Oh, and All I Need sounds too much like a straight Boards Of Canada cover plus drums and vocals)
  • Scout Niblett - Kiss [YouTube]
  • Sky Larkin - Molten [Myspace]
  • Sons & Daughters - Gilt Complex [YouTube]
  • Spoon - You Got Yr Cherry Bomb [mp3 from Can You See The Sunset From The Southside?]
  • Those Dancing Days - Those Dancing Days [Myspace]
  • Tired Irie - Sumerian [Myspace] (A supposed part of 'puzzle pop', a Battle/Foals-headed NME genre so lame you can tell even the NME have no faith in anybody else at all picking it up)
  • The Wave Pictures - Long Island [Myspace]
  • The Young Knives - Terra Firma [YouTube]
  • Saturday, October 13, 2007

    Ignorance is bliss

    Alright, so we're now starting topics based on private discussion moments of clarity, but hear us out here.

    Musical blind spots. We like to believe many people have areas of music that have just passed them by but nobody really admits it. As regular readers will know all too well we can bore for our nation about most things, but ask us, for example, what we think of Neil Young, Nick Drake, John Martyn, The Band, Fairport Convention, post-sixties Bob Dylan, Deep Purple or AC/DC and we'll pause for a crucial few seconds before offering "yeah, I think what they say is right" and hoping something distracting happens. We're fully aware that we could now go and download their entire back catalogues given a couple of hours and friendly birates but, oh, stuff happens in life.

    So, are we right? Tell us via the comments box whether you have lauded artists that just slip your neural net, and make us feel better about ourselves.

    Thursday, October 11, 2007


    We finished 34th last year even though we only found out about it four days before polling closed!

    David Gilmour won, and our man at the event reveals he wasn't even there to accept his gong, the miserable swine. Lots of pretend blogs and not actually blogs ('ukdynasty Music forums'?) are up the top end, and in terms of those we like to think as compadres the suspiciously Facebook group member-avalanched Song, By Toad was a very good 22nd, The Daily Growl was 26th, Indie mp3 and Headphone Sex sneaked into the top 30, Fucking Dance was top 40 and Keep Hope Inside top 50 (beating Westlife Fans Worldwide) while Music Like Dirt, funfunfun and Nothing But Green Lights are all officially inferior to us.

    But it's official, because BT say so - The Best Russian Fan Club about SYSTEM OF A DOWN (not even British), findingjesustoday and My Robbie Williams Journey all own our asses. Be reassured, gentle readers, that we are already planning our advance for BT DMA 2008, wherein once A Space For Music Liberation, Strefa Miszcza and The Von Pip Musical Express have fallen like drunken toddlers*, we will make lebensraum around How to Be Like Colin Greenwood - In Ten Easy Steps and eventually achieve our domination aim.

    (* They might just be better than us anyway, of course. We haven't checked.)

    Let's make air and listen to Grizzly Bear

    Grizzly Bear - Knife
    From Yellow House

    Should you be requisitely hipster, you will know this tune by the exploratory harmonic freak-folk of Brooklyn esquires, from our number four rated album of 2006. Since its release it has taken small areas of the nation, as while the band have performed it acapella in the streets of Paris for La Blogotheque's Take Away Show, as has possibly not entirely sober Zach Condon of Beirut, the Carleton Singing Knights of a Minnesotan college gave it some proper doo-wop barbershop.

    Already a song with a varied cover history, then. And here's another one, taken from the Friend EP, released on November 5th, which comprises alternate versions, a finally committed to mastertape version of their live staple Crystals cover He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss) currently being shared by You Ain't No Picasso, and covers by Atlas Sound, Band Of Horses and, taking time away from their eighteen months' endless circumnavigating Europe and America...

    CSS - Knife

    Wednesday, October 10, 2007

    The death of the music industry

    Time for another of our irregular posts where we sort through the pile of CDs and folders of mp3s passed on to or sourced by us and dig out the stuff that stands out and we imagine you'd like to hear...

    Broken Records appeared on the Weekly Sweep a while back, following a tip by Song, By Toad who chanced across them at the T In The Park T-Break heats in their native Edinburgh in May. Although at least on here we neglected to immediately go any further with them even though we were still listening to their mp3s, they're starting to build some low level interest, including a recent Marc Riley 6 Music session. A seven piece who include a cellist and violinist/accordionist in their number, they claim understandable influences from Bright Eyes, the Waterboys and Calexico, allied to a very post-Arcade Fire choral determination and a more Americana'd take on Zach Condon's small-scale folk-orchestral charging ambition. Given this is just how their demo sounds and they're less than a year old, you'll be hearing a lot more from them in the months to come.

    Broken Records - A Good Reason

    Their debut EP Arcs Across The City may not be released until November 26th but Johnny Foreigner have been quietly stirring no small amount of interest in certain circles. Taking Chicago post-hardcore as their starting point, the Birmingham trio rocket through Sonic Youth, Pavement, Q And Not U and Prolapse and come out sounding like the most urgent math-scuzz possible. Keep a very close eye out.

    Johnny Foreigner - The End And Everything After

    The Somnambulants are a duo, formed in Brooklyn, now based in San Francisco, who set out to be an electro act without actually bowing to electro writing orthodoxy, working off pop or blues constructions instead. After supports for Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Au Revoir Simone among others debut album Paper Trail, released in America in August, comes out retro but not deliberately so, taking as much from David Byrne as there is of the definite New Order and Ladytron in the mix.

    The Somnambulants - Take It On

    Finally, pop, and we're honoured to discover that we're now a fact citation source on Wikipedia. The catalyst is our interview last year with Gwenno of the Pipettes, whose low-key solo side project, which she describes as "Ace Of Base produced by The Postal Service", we've brought up a couple of times before. With time off band business she bought a cheap keyboard from a charity shop, recorded seven tracks with it and put them on YouSendIt as a mini-album called U & I, which despite the reduced setting retains a charm and elan of its own and again demonstrates that quite apart from her band's big concept she has something going for herself.

    Gwenno - On TV

    Tomorrow, another music post which might well lead to our first ever polite request for a mp3 removal because we can't check and aren't sure the US label are allowing the track to go online yet. Excitement!

    Tuesday, October 09, 2007

    Rainbows around our shoulders

    Radiohead’s In Rainbows is digitally released within 24 hours from this point. Let’s hope it’s not in 64kbps mono format. The last thing the blogosphere needs right now is another clueless outsider blundering in with their personal opinions, but waste not want not.

    Since Johnny Greenwood passed on his cheery note at the start of the month the release has been used for anything but musical worth, coming to represent a cipher for the death of something, anything – of the compact disc, of the major label, of download pricing, of the entire infrastructure of the recording industry as we know it. Or just of calm, coherent debate, whichever. For people more excited about the sound then how it’s presented – an alien concept, we know - the greater thing, especially if you’ve grown up in the last ten years of leaking music, record industry panic and consequent advance giveaways and expansion of promo mailing lists, is that here we are one day away from the release of a new album by one of Britain’s most successful band, and more concretely Britain’s most cussedly admired, and outside their inner circle nobody knows what it sounds like bar a few old demos and live performances on YouTube that for all we know could have been reworked as songs the band have previewed live before have been. No press reviews, no stray mp3s, no blogger smugness, nothing. It’s going to be the great shared experience resuscitated, no matter what it supposedly kills off in the interim.

    We know plenty of people who have proudly never bought a download. We’re not in that category, but we still value our physical record collection well above our digital one – the permanence, the resonance, the sense that you’ve made the extra effort to support your band/label, the fact your CD collection cannot wipe itself or have a memory to crash. Perhaps this is why it was reported that the discbox was outselling the downloads on day one, if helped by the box’s extra CD and the download site’s inevitable crash, as their official site did when it sold tickets for their last UK tour.

    Radiohead, on the other hand, are openly keen on all forms of new technology. When Kid A leaked Johnny Greenwood stopped just short of condoning advance downloading, and that didn’t seem to stop anyone buying the CD on either side of the Atlantic. Radiohead are a special case, though. They have a larger than most army of followers keen to get their hands on anything, and while the sales will be understandably bumped by the publicity and ease of use it’ll be interesting to see by how much, especially if album chatter has it as a less superior product. The Charlatans’ Alan McGee-guided decision to give away their own new album, announced on the same day, is slightly difference - the Charlatans, you’d guess, have said all they’re likely to say musically, and given they sell out large venue tours as a matter of course you have to wonder where McGee got the idea in his statement from that they can make up the shortfall from increased ticket and merchandise sales. Also, Radiohead, the Charlatans, Prince… these are all well off bands (the Charlatans signed a new deal and had their greatest sustained success during the advance-friendly mid-90s) with well established fervent fanbases. By contrast The Crimea, a band who had a small amount of deserved press hype a couple of years ago but most had probably forgotten about by the time they made their second album downloadable for free, didn’t seem to get the same push out of it, failing to come close to selling out the next time they played by us. And there’s another rub - all this hinges on the miracle economy of the live scene, which is already quietly pricing itself out at the top level as much in merchandise (Bat For Lashes’ T-shirts were £12 at the start of the year, after the critical reception but well before the commercial push started) as in ticket price – the press attitude to Led Zeppelin’s £140 tickets seems to be that this is fair enough in The New Musical Climate - and surely cannot continue forever. If venues fall, as they’re starting to in the way of independent record shops due to increased rent from gold nugget-citing landlords, then we’re all in trouble. Radiohead, by the way, have no current touring plans.

    What we do wonder is how this squares with the development that’s been going on for the last few years where bands have made their demos freely available and then stood back and waited for fans and labels to pick up. The Arctic Monkeys, yes, but they only started picking up a hardcore fanbase outside Sheffield when the self-funded Five Minutes With… single received airplay and belated NME attention. They still needed a label and records to pay for (they underachieve in the download-only sales chart). Independent markets outside the big four have only one real case study to show they can commercially survive at the moment, and we doubt Enter Shikari managed to fund a widely distributed number four album and a number of national tours on their own solely through word of mouth.

    Incidentally, Radiohead’s management told Radio 4 last week that they are now looking for an established label to issue the single CD version of In Rainbows, possibly before the end of the year, when no doubt a decent number of downloaders will upgrade. The cosmic ballet goes on.

    Monday, October 08, 2007

    Isn't there a war on?

    It wasn't so long ago that the Times' heavyweight leader columns would be expressly for disseminating political and social thinkpieces of great import, setting the standard for the nation and providing knowledgeable comment on the events that shape our agendas day to day. You couldn't come away from reading the Thunderer's point of view without it somehow shaping your own worldview.

    This morning, the Times ran a leader on bands with bad names.

    This, should you need to know, was a follow up to the page five lead (page five! Bloody hell, Gordon, you could have called that election and saved us from this), which however it's dressed up - and by the way, there is no band we can find called Jing Jings, and neither GoodBooks nor Good Shoes are really Radio 1 supported - frankly amounts to using 800 words of the land's most august broadsheet's news pages to take the piss out of Joe Lean & The Jing Jang Jong. Good work.

    Weekender : now officially a Wikipedia source

    FREE MUSIC: Chicago's Office started off as a spinoff of a conceptual art project of frontman and producer Scott Masson on the subject of office and city life and working/enjoyment environments. Luckily little of this is in evidence on his band's debut album proper A Night At The Ritz, released two weeks ago in the US on Scratchie Records, the label co-owned by ex-Smashing Pumpkin James Iha and Fountains Of Wayne's Adam Schlessinger. Think the latter rather than the former, with a good deal of danceable new wave and power pop of the XTC/Posies type, like a less Curey Editors. The Ritz is, according to Masson, "loosely based on a dream I had in the summer of 2006. I was stuck at some fancy party at The Ritz... I was making out with my lover near the fountain, and diamonds were raining down upon us in slow motion from the chandeliers. All the men in tuxedos, and all the women wearing frocks vanished into thin air around my lover and I as we embraced, and this nightmare quickly became a wonderful dream. The goal was to create this experience within the confines of a pop song."

    HEY YOU GET OFFA MYSPACE: Sheffield's Navvy came to our attention as their drummer is also in the lo-fi Long Blondes (who they've supported) disco party of formerly Myspaced Slow Down Tallahassee. Their sound tells you very little about Navvy's stripped back garage punk-funk, heavy on the rhythm section and not sounding so much like all the other obvious jerky influences of today but the more leftfield falling apart at the seams likes of Swell Maps, the Fire Engines, Stump and the Yummy Fur.

    VISUAL REPRESENTATION: Bow down and kiss the cake icing, as it was Tim Westwood's fiftieth birthday last Wednesday. We've always thought that, as opposed to what any number of loosely aware pundits will tell you, he's fully aware of what he says and how he comes across, and certainly although there were plenty of explosions and shouting going on ten years ago when he started at Radio 1 it's only as his profile has increased that he's ramped all that up. None of which has much to do with this clip from August 1987 of BBC2's open access series Open Space and the self-produced documentary on early UK hip-hop culture Bad Meaning Good, featuring not only a handful of old-skool British scene faces but also Trevor Nelson seemingly popping into the then pirate Kiss FM on his way back from auditioning for Musical Youth.

    VIRAL MARKETING: Darren Hayman has his second proper solo album, The Secondary Modern, coming out on 5th November, but this isn't that at all. In fact this is something you may recall we saw at End Of The Road Festival, a semi-secret outing for his bluegrass project Hayman Watkins Trout & Lee featuring two of Hayman's band plus Dave Tattersall of the Wave Pictures. A couple of their own (at least we think they are) were followed by a trio of covers, only two of which are recorded in full here, and no, you can't see us in any of the crowd panning shots.

    FALLING OFF A BLOG: And Please, No Techno is primarily a dance blog, but not with the head-screwing technical talk many fall into regardless of who might be reading. They're also pleasingly cavalier with where their beats originate from, recently featuring uploads of Sparks, a Pointer Sisters remix, the Hellacopters, Etienne De Crecy's Super Discount work and XTC.

    EVERYBODY GET RANDOM: Because presumably it seemed like a good idea at the time, critically acclaimed poet and former Mark Radcliffe regular Simon Armitage, 44, has formed a band. Not just a covers band with mates, though, but a proper studio band with a mate, The Scaremongers. "The Sound of Mature Huddersfield" have released a double A side of more than passing Orange Juice acquaintance but not a bad thing for that, and both sides are downloadable from the Myspace. Also, do have a look at their page, where somebody has taken it upon themselves to offer a critical overview and detailed career advice.

    IN OTHER NEWS: In case you haven't seen it, play around with your own Win Butler.

    IN OTHER OTHER NEWS: Michael Parkinson was bellyaching to the press the other week about how he has to fight tooth and nail to get Jamie Cullum and Diana Krall on his show because the massive selling artists aren't popular enough, so he says. With that in mind, why not watch Animal Collective on Late Night With Conan O'Brien.