Monday, June 30, 2008

26 down, 26 to go

There's been a lot of debate in recent weeks on whether 2008 has been a disappointing year for genuinely enthralling new music or one already being suffocated by excellence. Middle ground? Pschaw. As for us, well, let's just say that when narrowing the list down to produce our traditional top ten of the first half of the year, the longlist contained 27 albums. And to think we usually only do a top 30 of the whole year in December. This time around the ten, in nothing but alphabetical order, is suffixed with The Moment - that one part of a genuinely great song that elevates it into magnificence.

British Sea Power – Do You Like Rock Music?
THE MOMENT: 4:30 into Atom. The "cold war Pixies" dissemble into cymbals, divebombing Stukas and somewhere in the mix a piano literally being pushed downstairs.

Elbow – The Seldom Seen Kid
THE MOMENT: 0:00 into An Audience With The Pope. "If she says she needs me, everybody's gonna have to wait" sings Guy, heavy of heart.

The Fall - Imperial Wax Solvent
THE MOMENT: 4:02 into 50 Year Old Man. Having already informed us that not only is he the age of the title and furthermore likes it but also that he routinely pisses onto hotel towels, has a three foot long hard-on and that Steve Albini is in collusion with Virgin Trains against him, Mark E Smith finally takes a break to be replaced by a duel between a MIDI-enabled polyphonic ringtone creating keyboard and a banjo.

Johnny Foreigner - Waited Up 'Til It Was Light
THE MOMENT: 2:03 into Salt, Pepa & Spinderella. "Bring out the real fun, turn on the real drums" Alexei suggests. Junior obliges. Things summarily go thermonuclear.

Los Campesinos! - Hold On Now, Youngster...
THE MOMENT: 1:46 into We Are All Accelerated Readers. Gareth: "If this sentimental movie marathon has taught us one thing, it’s that the opposite of true love is as follows..." Choral response: "REALITY!"

Mystery Jets – Twenty One
THE MOMENT: 0:04 into MJ. Aztec Camera expansive pop (the reissued version featuring Somewhere In My Heart) is somewhat of a giveaway) decorated with backing "wohhhh! wohhhh!"s set it entirely in place.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Dig Lazarus Dig!!!
THE MOMENT: 2:35 into We Call Upon The Author. "Who is this great burdensome slavering dog-thing that mediocres my every thought?"

Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
THE MOMENT: 0:17 into Oxford Comma. No, Ezra, who indeed? It then becomes apparent that actually the bringing up of the titular grammatical conjunction precedent is actually going somewhere.

The Wave Pictures - Instant Coffee Baby
THE MOMENT: 2:30 into Instant Coffee Baby. David Tattersall's vocal has sounded throughout like it's been building towards a revelation, a moment of clarity about life. And here it comes, and... "you got cystitis, didn't you?"

Wild Beasts - Limbo, Panto
THE MOMENT: 0:45 into Woeboegone Wanderers. The tune passes from Orange Juice railway track post-punk-funk into waltz time seamlessly, Hayden Thorpe going with it without breaking note.

If you must know, the chief near misses are by Bon Iver, the Indelicates, Johnny Flynn, Lightspeed Champion, the Long Blondes, Portishead, Why? and Young Knives. We think. Sweeping The Nation reserves the right to change its mind by December. Tomorrow, we speculate what might make that task even more impossible between now and then.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

On the other hand...

In today's Sunday Times, reviewing My Bloody Valentine in a slightly bizarrely written way that suggests you don't need earplugs as there's no new songs, Matthew Davis refers to "sometimes credulity-stretching tales about their front man, Kevin Shields. (It’s a long story, but google “MBV chinchillas” to get a flavour.)"

Result number one! (at time of writing)

(5pm edit: gah, down to page two. Not sure how, apart from the story none of those above it have been posted today, but there you go)

Is this the most useless music newspaper article ever published?

The Observer's "bluffer's guide to indie tribes"

So we know really what's happened here - the Observer have had a press release through about the Independents Day initiative and, not arsed enough to actually cover the event and discuss the history of the genre and where proper independently distributed music stands here in 2008, have had the section editor message across the floor "James? Write a bit about indie to fill a column, would you?" Hence the staggering revelation that Snow Patrol are a bit like Coldplay and daytime radio plays a lot of Kaiser Chiefs, which is purposely misleading the topic at hand, not least as it mostly namechecks major label bands. Really, what's the point?

"Indie tribes". Fuck off.

Weekender : always thought chips and cheese was an invention of its Midlands university SU until Wild Beasts namechecked it

- We wrote last week that it was a slow one, but at least then there were a couple of real futher interest. This week it's as if the entire industry has decided on a long weekend post-Glastonbury, which is entirely plausible. The best we could find is an initiative from long serving semi-indie One Little Indian. Ahem: "we are reissuing 38 classic OLI albums using the newest technology in vinyl manufacturing - Half Speed Direct Metal Mastering. The groove is cut directly in copper metal. Transient response is greatly improved. Stampers are plated directly from the DMM Copper Master, eliminating two of the three plating steps required for lacquers. In short, DMM yields better detail resolution and a lower noise ratio. This is especially good for long play albums, or audiophile material. All albums are remastered direct from the original master tapes and pressed on 45rpm heavy weight 200g virgin vinyl audiophile discs. Each release is strictly limited, housed in a plastic wallet and individually numbered. A chance to pick up classic One Little Indian albums in the most lavish vinyl format available." Mmm. What this means is you can buy all the Sugarcubes and Bjork albums among others (Rocket From The Crypt, to name one) on vinyl again if you so wish, and the Sugarcubes' singles have also been box setted up. Nobody ever went bankrupt this way, you know. There's some decent singles available, most notably Wild Beasts' The Devil’s Crayon and a reissue of Operator Please's Just A Song About Ping Pong, but you might as well save up this week.

- Or should you? Indietracks festival is four weeks away, and we'll be there along with the cream of the semi-underground indiepop community. To celebrate a re-emergence of a scene that for all its resurgence gladly remans some distance away from the Guardian going "Juno! Twee's back!", Make Do And Mend Records are putting out a 44 track compilation of bands playing the Midland Railway Centre. Headliners the Wedding Present and Los Campesinos! aren't represented, but there is a song called And We Might Even Meet Dave Gedge alongside cuts by Darren Hayman & The Secondary Modern, Ballboy, A Classic Education, The Rosie Taylor Project, the Manhattan Love Suicides, The Bobby McGees, Milky Wimpshake, the Voluntary Butler Scheme, Slow Down Tallahassee, The Deirdres, Pocketbooks, The Mai 68s, KateGoes, The Kabeedies and plenty of others.

- In this week of people droning on about the punk spirit and pretending to be shocked by Johnny Rotten again - ooh, he said some nasty things about Coldplay! Yeah, it's actually now physically impossible to find someone willing to stand up for Coldplay in the national press - it's refreshing to find a contemporary take, The Punk Rock Movie, coming to DVD as a salutory lesson about how it was once a living, breathing organism as opposed to a cash cow that remains a pointless cash cow no matter how many layers of pretend irony you add to it. In 1977 Roxy Club DJ Don Letts was given an 8mm Super-8 video camera and thought he'd better document this youth culture upturning that was occurring around him and the club. What he filmed was DIY live footage of the Pistols, Clash, Slits, Subway Sect, Siouxsie & the Banshees, X Ray Spex, Generation X, Slaughter & the Dogs, the Heartbreakers... and their audience, just as importantly. Further supporting evidence? The not easy to please even then Tony Parsons wrote at the time "Letts’ home movie is the genuine article: raw, ragged, exhilarating home-grown action created by the young, the dumb and the glad. Iconoclastic imagery rich in the kind of savage warmth that could only be found in the heart of one of the troops...He can suss out the people who were in for the lifestyle, and those who were in it for mere leisure activity ego-gratification."

COMING SOON: takes a break this week ahead of one of STN's great traditions, the forthcoming rundown of what to expect in the rest of 2008. Oh, go on then, a quick one - July 28th finally sees rockabilly rebel teen siblings Kitty Daisy & Lewis release a self-titled album, and they're releasing a single, Going Up The Country.

MYSPACE INVADERS: If you're seeing Camera Obscura at Kings College London on 17th July we'd suggest getting there early for Sweden's Mockingbird, Wish Me Luck. An octet based around brothers Daniel and Nikas Wennergren, their being Swedish means you pretty much know what air they're working in already, and it's very much the sound of Jens Lekman embarking on a peaceful - well, obviously peaceful - coup to unseat Stuart Murdoch. Perfect for these long summer evenings.

VISUAL AID: At Christmas 1965, the year that saw Help!, Shea Stadium, Rubber Soul and Yesterday, the big ITV spectacular was The Music Of Lennon & McCartney, an attempt to equate their escalating fame with big fuck off Light Entertainment and musical cabaret. The whole thing is archived online in seven parts - this is the first, follow the Related Videos from here, although that's not always easy - featuring among others the George Martin Orchestra, Henry Mancini, Marianne Faithfull, Peter Sellers doing his Richard III She Loves You, Lulu, Cilla Black very much playing to later type, Esther Phillips, Peter & Gordon (Peter being Paul's then beau Jane Asher's brother), Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas, jazz organist Alan Haven, Fritz Spiegl (the Austrian composer and renaissance man who wrote the Z-Cars theme and Radio 4's UK Theme) and pretty much all the dancers in the country. John and Paul aren't the world's most charismatic hosts but became famous through their personalities expressed in interviews such as this 1964 press conference in Sydney, chiefly otherwise notable for Jimmy Nicol, who replaced Ringo for a couple of weeks when he was hospitalised with tonsillitis.

* News of another all-dayer of interest, and this one promises to be somewhat unique. There's Nothing Wrong With Covers is an all-dayer taking place at the Brixton Windmill on August 3rd in which some of Britain's best new bands pay tribute to some of America's most influential alternative bands, having to cover at least two of their forebears' songs during their set. An as yet unnamed special guest and friends will headline with a set of Jonathan Richman songs on a bill that also features Stuffy And The Fuses as Pixies, 4 Or 5 Magicians as Guided By Voices, Giant Robot and the City Of Tokyo as Archers Of Loaf, Pale Man Made as Sonic Youth, Favours For Sailors as Weezer, Dutch Husband as Sebadoh and Hour Hands as Built To Spill. Free BBQ as well. Tickets through the usual outlets.

* A couple of free samplers - Labrador Records, curators of much of Sweden's most pleasingly melodious output, have unveiled the Labrador 2008 summer sampler, starring Suburban Kids With Biblical Names, The Radio Dept, Sambassadeur, Club 8, The Mary Onettes and Acid House Kings. Meanwhile Eardrums Music has pulled together two huge sets of new music including new and rare songs by The School, The Voluntary Butler Scheme, Hello Saferide, Elle s’appelle, Club 8 again and lots of new names on us, many of which are great but not all of which are good in terms of nominature ("so we're all settled on Spaghetti Anywhere, then?")

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Weekly Sweep

  • Broadcaster - The Wild Ones [Myspace]
  • Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip - Letter From God To Man [Myspace]
  • Fleet Foxes - White Winter Hymnal [mp3 from Winnie Cooper]
  • The Futureheads - Walking Backwards
  • Get Well Soon - If This Hat Is Missing I've Gone Hunting [Myspace]
  • Je Suis Animal - Secret Place [Myspace]
  • Mumford and Sons - Roll Away Your Stone [mp3 from The Daily Growl]
  • Noah & The Whale – 5 Years Time [YouTube]
  • Port O'Brien - I Woke Up Today [YouTube]
  • The School - Let It Slip [YouTube]
  • The Sleeping Years - Islands [Myspace]
  • Those Dancing Days - Run Run [YouTube]
  • Tilly And The Wall - Dust Me Off [mp3 from The Swill Merchant, who pretty much echoes our own thoughts on O]
  • The Walkmen - In The New Year [Myspace]
  • Wild Beasts - The Devil's Crayon [YouTube]
  • Thursday, June 26, 2008

    Production credit

    Not only does it surely break all records for reissue speed, but the new version of the Mystery Jets' Twenty One now features a cover of Aztec Camera's Somewhere In My Heart. We don't dare post an mp3, so here's a live version (sorry about the beginning, can't be helped):

    Because they're An Eighties-Type Band post-Two Doors Down, on the recording there's ostentatious synths, overcompressed snare, vocal echo, reverb... Erol Alkan's The band have really worked in the detail soundwise. And yet, it could never compete for the effect. Here's the original:

    Roddy Frame is a man who has great courage in his convictions and great confidence in his own abilities, yet if he ever hears this sort of thing he must, if not break down in tears, then snuffle a bit to hear what producers Tommy LiPuma and Russ Titelman - not, one guesses, from Stoke Poges - did to his song. The drum sound somewhere between electronic kit and cast iron and that overly tricksy guitar solo for no reason other than a note reading 'SOLO HERE' is the key here. This is very much an eighties production, and in this current realm of making records that are Just Like The Eighties - a special hello to Ladyhawke, who's got that Big Love-era Fleetwood Mac channelling 1983 Bananarama effect down pat and made everyone believe it's a hip new sound - even Two Doors Down's superfluous sax can't fully reassemble what major label records, even those helmed by men like Frame, were supposed to sound like. It's not a criticism you can really lever at any other period of pop music as a whole - if you think about glam, which was supposed to be ostentatious rock'n'roll, those T-Rex and Slade hits still have space to breathe.

    Except, does anyone think this period now might not be the best ageing? As any number of those pieces about bad mastering will tell you, this is the age of loudness for the radio, of wanting to fill every last ProTools display nook and cranny and destroying the nuances along the way, from Xenomania to John Cornfield. Even now records are starting to pull back from the brink, less, we suspect, because of hi-fi distortion and red levels in the studio and more because of what it looks like in the WMP display. In ten years' time we might be wondering just when it was unilaterally decided that Be Here Now would have been alright had it just been a bit more punchy throughout.

    And in twenty years' time every record will sound like it again, natch.

    Wednesday, June 25, 2008

    The robots rebel

    Embedding disabled, so we've got to go the long way round, but the point stands - what happens to Ralf Hutter at 1:24?

    Tuesday, June 24, 2008

    It was twenty years ago today, Ken taught the band to play

    All hail the best new website we've seen in a while, Chart Stats. It may be nothing more than a breakdown of every singles chart ever and an increasing archive of the album lists too, but... well, there it all is. Privately we suspect the reason the likes of EveryHit have compromised archives is fearing contact from The Official Charts Company, but if that happens we can just parry that with "well, when are you using the archive to put out another Guinness Book Of Top 40 Charts, then?"

    As an example of the wonders on offer, this was the top 40 of this week in 1988. We know when we've done this in the past we've passed comment on every entry, but ultimately life's too short.

    40 INXS - Never Tear Us Apart
    39 Natalie Cole - Everlasting
    38 LA Mix - Check This Out
    Nothing says 1988 more than a megamix. Not even those four numbers in order.

    37 Scritti Politti - Oh Patti (Don't Feel Sorry For Loverboy)
    However much Green enjoyed colliding plastic soul and upturned lyrical content, by this point this was not a career high point. That said, the Shabba Ranks duet was still to come.

    36 Glenn Medeiros - Nothing's Gonna Change My Love For You
    Vic Reeves wielding a large painting was just around the corner.

    35 Elton John - I Don't Wanna Go On With You Like That
    34 Joy Division - Atmosphere
    To promote Substance, and here joined to its Anton Corbijn oversized Puritan video.

    33 Glen Goldsmith - What You See Is What You Get
    No memory of Glen Goldsmith at all. Wikipedia - of course Wikipedia - says he had a few soul hits, was on Band Aid II and later wrote Peter Andre's Mysterious Girl, "the only song released three times by the same artist in the history of popular music" according to one blissfully ignorant source.

    32 Hazell Dean - Maybe (We Should Call It A Day)
    31 T'Pau - I Will Be With You
    30 Fairground Attraction - Perfect
    29 Sade - Paradise
    "Have you heard this new music called jazz?"

    28 Aswad - Give A Little Love
    27 The Communards - There's More To Love
    Their last single, and as everyone in a pub knows Richard Coles gave up a radio job as the unthinking man's pre-cancer John Diamond and has fairly recently been ordained.

    26 Tracy Chapman - Fast Car
    25 A-ha - The Blood That Moves The Body
    The attempts at an Abba-style critical rehabilitation seem to have foundered once people realised that "Chris Martin likes them" isn't really in the Suicide class of critical influence. The single after this was Touchy, which might explain why it was doomed to failure.

    24 Salt-n-Pepa - Push It/Tramp
    Like everybody else who was famous at some point in America in the 1980s, they've been the subject of a revivalist VH1 docusoap, just the sort of thing to set female rap back another few years.

    23 Belinda Carlisle - Circle In The Sand
    22 The Sisters Of Mercy - Lucretia My Reflection
    21 Bruce Springsteen - Tougher Than The Rest
    20 Rose Royce - Car Wash/Is It Love You're After
    Now there's a song that's outlived the film it was recorded for. No idea why it was reissued. General nostalgia?

    19 Mica Paris - My One Temptation
    18 Eurythmics - You Have Placed A Chill In My Heart
    17 Matt Bianco - Don't Blame It On That Girl/Wap-Bam-Boogie
    What an odd concept Matt Bianco were. Obviously there was deemed a gap in the New Pop market for a swing jazz influence. And they've reformed!

    16 Voice Of The Beehive - Don't Call Me Baby
    Not as great as you remember, sadly.

    15 Tiffany - I Saw Him Standing There
    14 Aztec Camera - Somewhere In My Heart
    There's a definite other post, possibly later this week, about this song; in the meantime, consider the distance covered from The Sound Of Young Scotland to working with Mark Knopfler.

    13 Morrissey - Every Day Is Like Sunday
    12 Kylie Minogue - Got To Be Certain
    First recorded for SAW by Mandy Smith. Where is she now?

    11 Erasure - Chains Of Love
    10 Wet Wet Wet/Billy Bragg With Cara Tivey - With A Little Help From My Friends/She's Leaving Home
    Guess which side got the airplay. This was the charity release for Childline ("oh eight hundred double one...DOUBLE ONE"), and Bragg did get a week on TOTP. He'd forgotten the lyrics and had them taped to the floor by his feet, only to see them covered in dry ice. Later distracted by an audible crash he autopiloted his way to the end assuming there'd be a retake. There wasn't.

    9 UB40 With Chrissie Hynde - Breakfast In Bed
    8 Phil Collins - In The Air Tonight
    You have to wonder how he really feels about having his bitter divorce song hijacked by a bloke in a gorilla suit. Wonderbra did a failed viral version - go on, guess how that went - only really notable for starring Jentina. Jentina! The alleged British gypsy Kelis of 2003 whose career was ended by Lady Sovereign! Reduced to online shilling for bras!

    7 Desireless - Voyage Voyage
    One of the great barely remembered one hit wonders of the decade, largely due to being all in another language which 'we' supposedly won't go for.

    6 The Pasadenas - Tribute (Right On)
    Essentially someone's idea of a British Temptations. Possibly whoever was buying Big Fun records, we can't say.

    5 Maxi Priest - Wild World
    4 The Fat Boys With Chubby Checker - The Twist (Yo, Twist)
    Ah, Buffy The Human Beat Box. Early hitmaking rap was largely playful but after a while it perhaps became too facetious, especially when this sort of thing is becoming a hit. Roll on the black CNN.

    3 Sabrina - Boys (Summertime Love)
    One word, Ms Salerno (now a recording studio and management agency owner): straps.

    2 The Timelords - Doctorin' The Tardis
    We're all across who this was and what was published on the back of it, right? Good. Apart from the fact that not one of the artists that has openly cited The Manual as a major influence has had a number one single, the sometime Time Boy and Lord Rock admit in it that it is "a book that will be completely redundant within twelve months" due to the vagaries of popular culture.

    1 Bros - I Owe You Nothing
    A title that was never used smirkingly when Matt and Luke later filed for bankruptcy, oh no. Whatever happened to Tom Watkins?

    Sunday, June 22, 2008

    Weekender : so many messages unreplied to

    WHAT CD?
    - Having seen Brakes five times, Electric Soft Parade twice and his solo set once live in the time frame, as well as having found ourselves standing next to him at two seperate festivals last year, it occurs to us we've seen Thomas White more often than members of our own family in the last two years, and to think we've never even introduced ourselves. Not surprising, mind, as factor in his drumming for Restlesslist and his sideline/stand-in work with a phalanx of other bands and he seems to be in possession of some sort of magic quality music elixir, one that's capable of stretching out genre boundaries while never losing sight of the qualities of a good tune. That's as much the case with his debut solo album, I Dream Of Black, another high quality product from the fast becoming completely reliable Drift label. Recorded by himself on a four-track it plays better than many a patchwork release produced in far less reduced circumstances, delving further into the psychedelic elements ESP often hint at - his Myspace suggests Broadcast as a major influence, which we can very much see - levered with the kind of Tim Buckleyesque songwriting he's exhibited playing acoustically. Chalk another one up in his credit column.

    - The above's release seems to have been moved forward from mid-July at short notice, which is good as the patchy Með Suð í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust apart there's very little to write about this week after the My Bloody Valentine reissues were moved back because Kevin Shields has been taking too long - stop us if you're surprised at any stage - writing the liner notes. Here's a curio, though. Between 1957 and 1964 the BBC broadcast the Radio Ballads series, an entirely new form of wireless recording documenting everyday British life mixing together field recorded voices of the subjects with specially written songs, instrumental pieces and sound effects created by the great political folk singer (and father of Kirsty) Ewan MacColl, his similarly feted as a writer-performer wife Peggy Seeger and BBC producer Charles Parker. Someone called Broadcaster has extensively sampled them for Primary Transmission, adding a techno beat undertow (MacColl and Seeger's son Calum MacColl, who has worked with everyone from Boyzone to Christy Moore, co-produces) to great and generally non-Moby effect.

    COMING SOON: Alex Kapranos is OK with new songs from Franz Ferdinand's recent tryout gigs being posted on YouTube because apparently they'll be much different when their third album is released in January. Right then. 38 seconds of What She Came For doesn't deviate too much from Franz norm although it cuts off just as it enters into what sounds like a hell of a chorus, while Send Him Away's 62 seconds is lover's post-punk. A New Thrill sounds quite glammy refracted through the Glasgow School; more promising is Ulysses' understated aggressive stomp - this makes sense in our head, honest. Katherine Kiss Me is for our money the best of the new bunch, a spidery guitar and funky rhythm. Wry disco inferno Turn It On has also been played, but that's been in the set so long it was briefly mooted early on as the first single from You Could Have It So Much Better...

    MYSPACE INVADERS: There have been a few attempts recently to bring rockabilly into 00s indie frames - don't say a word, Penate - but Norwich's Bambi Get Over It are going to make 00s indie come towards them with their two and a half minute jive frenzies. Sim Eldem makes for a strident female vocalist reminiscent of Neko Case when on New Pornographers duty, they're not shy on hiding a folk influence - they have mandolin and accordion players after all - and play with an energy which suggests they would almost certainly be a live riot in a small venue.

    VISUAL AID: Dennis Wilson's Pacific Ocean Blue has finally re-emerged and his brother Brian turned 66 on Friday. Who knows what he was doing on Friday, but we know what he was up to 32 years ago, eating cake with the McCartneys before performing Good vibrations. Early Beach Boys television performances from the striped shirt era are always great for seeing the formations directors thought they'd work in, such as miming I Get Around gathered around the back of an SUV or being boogied on down to by an orange jumpered Andy Williams. Ready Steady Go! was presented in a rather more straight laced fashion, even with the audience that close in. They even ended up playing backup to actress Annette Funicello on the theme to 1965 Disney film The Monkey's Uncle and got their own crew for the quasi-Monkees dirigible pratting about video - yes, video, in 1966, fuck you Bo Rap - for Sloop John B. What Dennis there is there is actually among the most fascnating of the band's clippage, not least this extraordinary home video candid footage of he and Al Jardine shopping in London in 1966. There's Dennis' showstopping solo rendition of You Are So Beautiful in Melbourne in 1978, joining Brian, who at this point had been reclusive and/or incapacitated for some time, to present an unknown award in 1976 - good turnout of winners there, evidently - and drumming like his career depended on it on California Girls at Knebworth in 1980, the last time the original line-up played in Britain.

    * Welcome To Our TV Show number 5 is go and it's a tribute to the ever wonderful Moshi Moshi Records featuring the Wave Pictures, Hot Club de Paris and Slow Club, plus an all-star Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air, the relative merits of Easy Lover and Imagine and ignorance about the Ulster Fry. We know someone who wrote a song about the good breakfast fry-up itself and got it played on Virgin radio. Anyway, go here and then here.

    * Free album! Black Plaque by NHG is described as "stupid, digitally-treated, sloppy metal music played by dumb nerds" and features a song called And The Wolf Was Geri Halliwell's Intestine (Parts 1 & 2). We know who's behind it but if we told you we'd have to kill you, only to say it's a band we've featured here recently who've just signed to the same label as another band we've featured even more recently.

    * Paid for album! Adam & Joe's Song Wars are but one element of one of the very best things on radio at the moment, and on Monday the first 22 songs it's produced during their 6 Music stay are available on iTunes, with that excellent cover. The IKEA meatballs cooking instructions songs have made it!

    * Who wants a music festival friendly satnav device, then? Garmin are giving away a free festival POI download, complete with further information as well as, y'know, getting you there.

    * A blog after our own heart - NME & Melody Maker scans from between 1987 and 1996. Look how serious the Maker 1988 staff look. And Suicide and Napalm Death live reviews flanking Tanita Tikaram and Rick Astley!

    Saturday, June 21, 2008

    The Weekly Sweep

  • Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip - Letter From God To Man [Myspace]
  • Dananananaykroyd - British Knights [Myspace]
  • Glam Chops - Are You Ready Eddie, Eddie Are You Ready? [mp3 from The Eddie Argos Resource] (Head for the hills, it's Eddie Argos (can you tell?) and The Vessel out of David Devant And His Spirit Wife together in a postmodern glam band)
  • Mumford & Sons - Roll Away Your Stone
  • Mystery Jets - Two Doors Down [YouTube]
  • Noah & The Whale – 5 Years Time [YouTube] (Anyone who can work out how this version is different to the original apart from Marling being more prominent in the mix, do let us know)
  • Operator Please - Just A Song About Ping Pong [YouTube]
  • Port O'Brien - I Woke Up Today [Myspace]
  • The School - Let It Slip [YouTube]
  • Secondsmile - Tell Me A Story [YouTube]
  • Sigur Ros - Gobbledigook [mp3 from The Culture Of Me]
  • Thomas white - The Runaround [YouTube]
  • Those Dancing Days - Run Run [YouTube]
  • The Voluntary Butler Scheme - Trading Things In [Myspace]
  • The Week That Was - Scratch The Surface [Myspace]
  • Wild Beasts - The Devil's Crayon [YouTube]
  • Friday, June 20, 2008

    An Illustrated Guide To... My Bloody Valentine

    Let's start with a round of hipster word association with that name. Two albums of boundary-pushing bliss; nearly bankrupting Creation; fastidious attention to detail; shoegazing; haven't done anything for years. Well, there's varying amounts of truth to all of that, but the bigger picture is far less complicit with easy pigeonholing. As the band limber up for the first of five long sold out nights at the Roundhouse following last week's two ICA 'rehearsals' that seem to have been nothing of the sort, plus remastered versions of those two albums in July - how long did that process take, do you think? - this is how a goth inspired jangly band from Dublin ended up creating a genre out of next to nothing and then, some prevarication later, blasting it apart.

    Kevin Shields was actually born in Queens, New York on 21st May 1963, moving with his family to Ireland when he was ten. The youngest of five, he had a Catholic upbringing but had his head turned by glam and punk, and at fifteen joined The Complex, an Oi!-style punk band which also featured drummer Colm O'Ciosoig. Having toyed with becoming a Butthole Surfers-esque noise band, in 1983 the pair formed a band with singer Dave Conway and his keyboard playing girlfriend Tina, naming the band after Paramount Pictures' flop attempt to cash in on the post-Friday The 13th slasher film boom two years earlier (which, in a case of art imitating, um, art, is currently being remade.) With limited opportunities at home the band moved to Holland and then Berlin, where they recorded the mini-album This Is Your Bloody Valentine, released in January 1985, an unfocused Cramps/Birthday Party inspired thrash featuring only the odd distortion pedal to suggest later developments. The band moved to London a few months later and Tina left, the remaining trio bringing in a permanent bass player for the first time, friend of a friend Debbie Googe, formerly of Somerset anarcho-punks Bikini Mutants.

    December saw the Geek! EP, which apparently fetches up to $200 on the open market, followed by The New Record By My Bloody Valentine EP the following September. It was with this record, released on former Creation associate Joe Foster's Kaleidoscope Records, that the band moved into waters somewhere between C86's dark jangle and Jesus & Mary Chain's feedback frenzies. The Primitives' label Lazy Records put out the Sunny Sundae Smile EP in February 1987, a further coalescing of the wall of noise melodies that would go a little way towards the MBV trademark sound.

    Sunny Sundae Smile

    Shortly after its release Conway decided to leave due to ill health and what he saw as a failure to reach personal potential. After music press adverts for a new singer failed to work Shields became co-vocalist alongside Bilinda Butcher, a fan and another friend of a friend who Shields also taught to play guitar. While getting themselves together, the newly reconfigured band held off demands for an album with two late 1987 releases, August three-track EP Strawberry Wine and November four-tracker Ecstacy (later combined as Ecstacy And Wine). While still buzzsaw bubblegum, an ethereality started to creep in, aided by Butcher's vocals, that began to mark them out seperately.

    Maybe it was this that impressed Alan McGee in January 1988 when MBV played with his own band Biff Bang Pow!; McGee has been quoted as saying he felt he'd found the British Husker Du. Approaching them about an initial single deal for Creation Records, agreement was met about an EP, released in August 1988 officially without a title but usually referred to after its storming opener You Made Me Realise, which buried a pop melody under layer after layer of distorted and feeding back guitar, including a section of pure white noise where a bridge would normally be. This was track two.


    It went down so well that another four-track EP, led by the oddly off-key, tender yet brutal Feed Me With Your Kiss, followed immediately before the eventual debut album, November 1988's Isn't Anything. Shields had learnt how to work the studio and the band pushed themselves, deliberately existing on two hours sleep a night, creating a sound rarely heard even in the post-J&MC age - some of the Chain, some Cocteaus, some Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr, Spacemen 3, sure, but never together like this. Rushed along by O'Ciosoig's athletic drumming, the hazy, cut-throat guitar lurches and rushes combined with boy-girl vocals that sounded almost too casual, made for what had been known in previous years as 'dream-pop' only more explicit, while the inscrutable lyrics dealt with alienation, disorientation and suicide but most of all contributing to what Simon Reynolds identified three years later as 'vampiric'. "And, of course, the way the vampire myth works is as sexual allegory - the rush of blood away from the head, the idea that excess brings on pallor and neurastenia, that sex makes you ill."


    Right, technicals. As well as varied open tunings, analogue phasing onto tape and reverse reverb effects - he claims there were very few actual overdubs on either album - Shields had developed a form of guitar playing involving adjusting and taping up the tremelo arm of his Fender Jaguar so its pitch could be constantly bent while playing almost normally, a manoevure he dubbed 'glide guitar', where "the sounds just seem to be there, floating around". Shields told Guitar World magazine in 1992 "about ten years ago, I virtually gave up playing guitar because I thought I could never do anything as truly different as most of the guitarists I liked... I decided just to follow my whims, play for a laugh, go out and jam on garage rock. That's how this band started." Inevitably, plenty of guitarists were inspired to try and work out how he did it, usually by buying a shitload of pedals. In fact the term 'shoegazing' was coined in 1990 by Sounds magazine to describe the way Russell Yates of fuzzy janglers Moose would have his lyrics taped to the floor, but the NME picked it up to refer to pedal studiers such as Ride and Slowdive, as well as anyone else from the Thames Valley region who liked distortion such as Swervedriver and Kitchens Of Distinction. The Melody Maker preferred the soubriquet The Scene That Celebrates Itself, a clique-antipathating statement that got well reused when Blur appeared.

    It was from the land of the shoegazers that the band went into the studio in February 1989 without any new songs written, pretty much to see what happened with the idea that the album would be more studio based anyway. What happened has gone down in legend and myth. Seventeen engineers, including co-producers Shields and O'Ciosoig, are listed, although Shields has said that they were included even if all they did was make the tea; the bulk of the actual work has been ascribed to Alan Moulder (later U2, Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails, Moby) and when he was later called away to other work Anjali Dutt (Oasis, Boo Radleys). The work took place in an estimated nineteen studios, often spending a single day inside before deeming it unsuitable. In the meantime two EPs emerged, both merely crediting Moulder as engineer. The first, Glider, appeared in April 1990 and was notable for lead track Soon, even by the standards previously set out a groundbreaking statement melding hip-hop drum loops (Shields had previously sampled Public Enemy beats for a rare B-side), Philip Glass keyboards, enigmatic vocals and power drill guitars. Brian Eno said it "set a new standard for pop. It's the vaguest music ever to have been a hit". That was followed in February 1991 by the further adventures in narcotic squall of the Tremelo EP.


    Vocals - engineered by Guy Fixsen (Breeders, Stereolab, Sundays, Pixies BBC sessions), lyrics written overnight before early morning recording - were only recorded in May 1991, 27 months after work began, and constituted Bilinda Butcher's first contributions bar a few lyrics. Shields had also taken over studio bass duties, as he often had over the previous three years (while an admirer of Googe's live bass playing, he thought it not quite what he wanted on the records), while O'Ciosoig spent large parts of the sessions out of action ill and contributed direct recordings to only two tracks, otherwise supplying drum patterns which Shields sampled and cut into shape, a technique he wasn't averse to applying all over the album.

    If this was difficult for the band it was impossible for Creation, who were still independent and had Primal Scream emerging but had been fighting off debts already for several years. Co-founder Dick Green suffered a nervous breakdown he partly ascribes to the wait and McGee reputedly had to dip into his father's life savings to pay off studio creditors. Even the mastering took nearly two weeks after the editing computer threw the entire album out of phase - and this an album recorded in mono to emphasise the guitar sound, something he'd briefly tried to inflate acoustically in the studio with limited success by building a huge tent to play in. The estimated total bill is still a matter for much debate - Green says £270,000, Shields claims to have calculated £140,000, insiders told the Melody Maker a figure around £250,000. Shields also estimated that the total recording time added up to four months. McGee understandably never quite forgave Shields for making an album that never stood a chance of recouping (it peaked at number 24), refusing to nominate the album for the first Mercury Music Prize, letting their contract quietly elapse once promotion was completed and as recently as last year dismissing them in the Guardian as "my joke band" (not to be confused with the "genius artist" epithet he gave Shields three years earlier in the same publication).

    Oh yeah, the record. Released in November 1991, Loveless was far from a joke. The Isn't Anything sonic blueprint was pushed almost to snapping point, ethereal melodies vying with densely whacked-out effects and sonic envelopes, guitars coiling around each other, lyrical meaning buried in the mix, almost like ambient dreampop encased in a centrifuge. It really is an album that defies logical explanation. That's why all reviews of it read like this.

    When You Sleep

    Creation did finance a short tour to promote the album before washing their hands of MBV, and it's one which has gone down in legend, Mojo later rating it the second loudest in history. Described by NME eyewitness Danny Kelly as "more like torture than entertainment", it chiefly went down in legend for You Made Me Realise, more specifically the 'holocaust' section where that mid-section white noise breakdown was extended... and extended... and extended, reputedly for up to half an hour but more often for around a still excruciating ten minutes. Basically, however long it took Shields to ascertain that everyone present and unprepared had been sent into a sensory deprivation form of delerium, hypnosis and general altered state of consciousness by the sheer volume of the sustained attack.

    You Made Me Realise

    Now you know what it's supposed to sound like here's what we mean. Not the greatest sound recording, and actually recorded on the Glider tour in May 1990 when the holocaust is in a work in progress three minute form (starting at 2:58), but watch for the bloke about thirty seconds into it who unwisely decides this is just the time to enact a stage dive.

    Fairly certain Shields never tried this arrangement, though.

    So what then? My Bloody Valentine signed to Island Records in October 1992 for what Shields reckons was £500,000, which funded a purpose build studio in Streatham. However problems with its mixing desk led to a falling out with the label and eventually among the personnel, and the label payroll was eventually made one band lighter in 2001. Two covers did appear, Louis Armstrong's We Have All The Time In The World for a charity compilation and Wire's Map Ref. 41°N 93°W for a tribute album. Rumours spread - at least three albums' worth of new songs shelved or delivered to the label with no outcome, experiments in jungle and D'n'B inspired by pirate radio, houses in advanced disrepair and/or covered in barbed wire, Shields keeping up to twenty chinchillas around the place (actually, Shields and Butcher have confirmed that one). Essentially, when it came down to it, Shields could never find a way to gainfully follow an album that pushed back the boundaries of his chosen sphere. He kept himself busy, though - he contributed the usual clanging guitar noise on record and live to Primal Scream's XTRMNTR and Evil Heat albums, recorded with the Manic Street Preachers, contributed four solo tracks to the Lost In Translation soundtrack which was nominated for a Bafta, added live backing to Patti Smith's readings from her book The Coral Sea - a live recording is imminent - has remixed Mogwai, Yo La Tengo, the Go! Team and Placebo among others and has worked with a Canadian dance company and French Mazzy Staralike Le Volume Courbe. Speaking of Mazzy Star, O'Ciosoig was the other half of Hope Sandoval & the Warm Inventions, Butcher added vocals for Dinosaur Jr and Collapsed Lung and Googe released three albums as the main member of Snowpony alongside ex-members of Curve and Stereolab. Meanwhile the experimental Athens, Georgia band Japancakes became the most explicit of the many bands who hold MBV in thrall when they covered Loveless in its entireity for an album released last November, vocals replaced by pedal steel guitar and cello.

    However, in the official year of the comeback, 2007, and in the midst of 'nu-gazing', Shields told Magnet magazine in January "we are 100 per cent going to make another My Bloody Valentine record unless we die or something", and in November revealed to Ian Svenonius out of Nation Of Ulysses, The Make-Up and Weird War on his music talk show Soft Focus that he was tinkering with an album comprising a three quarter finished record started in 1996 with Butcher plus "a compilation of stuff we did before that in 1993–94 and a little bit of new stuff." Although nobody has since been any more forthcoming on the latter, live dates were shortly afterwards announced for this year, including Bestival, Electric Picnic, Benicassim, Roskilde, Fuji Rock and the US ATP, as well as these Roundhouse dates and a short North American tour. At the ICA warm-up, You Made Me Realise lasted twenty minutes. From here, who knows where.

    Wednesday, June 18, 2008

    The Nation Favourites: Johnny Foreigner

    Yes, of course we had to eventually. For a band we've gone on about so much, we felt we had to ask Alexei Berrow some especially probing questions. Couldn't think of any, obviously, so he got these instead.

    Who inspired you to get into music?
    My dad's ancient Yamaha keyboard got me into music before I was that aware of songs and bands and things; I used to sit up for hours on end playing with the autochord feature. Jun and Kel had similar experiences too. And when I was twelveish I went to some national school quiz night and there was an all girl band playing Katrina and the Waves songs, they seemed like thee coolest people in the world.

    What did you expect from getting Machine to produce the album, and did it live up to that?
    We didn’t really know what to expect, apart from knowing he’d make the loud bits sound properly loud. Which he did. He gave us loads of advice on singing and playing and arranging and stuff that we weren’t expecting too; bonus levels.

    How easy is it to make a living continually touring?
    I don’t think any band makes a living thru just touring. We survive on an uneasy mix of merch money, publishing, and gig fees. The bigger the band get, the more stuff they have to maintain and the more crew they need to compete. In our example, its only in the last month or so that we’ve had cash left over after paying our tour manager, petrol etc. And we’re well aware how much we need a soundman, and what a difference sleeping in a hotel instead of the back of the van makes. So; not easy at all. But the very fact we can do it is an amazingly lucky gift, so it’d be wrong to complain (too much).

    On the Drowned In Sound tour diary you've noted the disparity between the hype and the numbers often turning up at gigs. Do you feel like a hype band, for want of a better term?
    Yeah, slightly.. I'd like to point out, ahem, I dont think it's our fault as such. I had been reading the majority of blogs and websites that shouted about us first for a while, I completely related to their opinions/stances so it felt natural (if extremely flattering) to have that reciprocated. but theres such a knock on effect, if one useless journo writes hype, the next one along will read it and write HYPE!!! We're cynical enough to accept the business, it seems every new band has to have an amount of hype behind them because the major media outlets are so out of touch... arghh, I dunno, I just write songs, I'd like to think they were good enough that after the hype's moved on people will still care about them..

    Why so many songs about Birmingham? Do you see yourselves as coming from any sort of Birmingham scene, if there is one?
    Most of my lyrics are about stuff that happens around Birmingham cos that’s we’ve lived our whole lives and it's better to write about what you know. I love the way I can look at a map of the Twin Cities and recognize streets and places from Lifter Puller songs. By this logic obviously our next album will be set almost exclusively in our van though.
    As far as there being a scene in Birmingham, we`ve been around so little in the past year that it’d be wrong to comment. Certainly last time we checked 85% of Birmingham bands are really, really awful. When we started there were three or four bands we played with all the time, but it wasn’t exactly a scene. Tropical Hotdog and Hott Date would be our most trusted band nights, but theres a continual cycle of amateur promotors putting crap bands on and nobody showing.

    You've toured with the oft-compared Los Campesinos! and are about to do same with Dananananaykroyd, having nicked their "fight-pop" tag. Is there some sort of communal support group being formed here?
    It’d be nice. We don’t get to hang out with either of those bands as much as we’d like to. There’s definitely some sort of collective righteousness tho, we were each others favourite bands before any of us got critical acclaim (for want of a better phrase).

    From the album press release: "Sometimes a band comes along that you want to obsess over, collect all the B-sides, search out the demos. They're very few and far between, but almost certainly, this is one of them." A fair view, and is that something a band can really aim for or just something that happens? Where, generally, did you expect to be at this stage?
    Um, I totally think it's something that you have to work towards, and we consciously do, but it seems pretty natural; if you can be in a band, why wouldn’t you want it to be worth obsessing over. Seeing people react to us the way I did the first time I heard Idlewild or Stapleton or Cap’n Jazz, it’s really flattering. We’re forever being told how rare it is for a band to care so much about artwork and B-sides, but we’re more contemptuous of bands that don’t give a shit than thinking we’re special cos we want so much control.

    Tell us about the genesis of Lewes Herriott's artwork.
    Lewes = absolute genius. We didn’t know him, he did a gig poster for a show someone let us play and it stood out so much, like someone had put our music into colours and shapes. I asked him for help when I was doing the artwork for Arcs Across The City, I knew what I wanted but not how to draw it, and the rough sketches he sent back were so awesome we asked him to be in charge of all our arts forever and he unwittingly agreed. He’s an amazing musician too, annoyingly. The next step is getting him to play guitar for us...

    Can pictures in Kerrang! really be used as ID at border control?
    As a last resort, if you have no photo ID, and you happen to be wearing the same jeans and shirt and hoodie, and you have the kind of border guard that prefers a cheap laugh over stripping your van, then yes it can. But passports do the same job without the humiliation.

    What's the last decent thing you heard?
    Fight Like Apes!

    What next?
    Another interview, then I have to try make some stencils or templates to spray up our hardcases like proper bands. I don’t even know the difference.

    Monday, June 16, 2008

    Celebrity Muxtape #1: Jeremy Warmsley

    Another new series, hopefully maintained more often than our other onrunning series. The concept is simple - we ask one of our favourite artists to list twelve songs, often with some elucidation, and then we stick them on a Muxtape for all to share in. We begin with the first person we interviewed for STN, here caught just after his well received The Boat Song/Temptation double A-sided single and ahead of the September release of his second album - Jeremy Warmsley.

    Jeremy Warmsley's Muxtape

    Flaming Lips - Race For The Prize
    Perfect drumming and one of Wayne Coyne's greatest lyrics make this a prog-pop classic.

    Toto - Africa
    Surely one of the greatest cheesy pop songs of all time? And an overlooked influence on today's post-soft movement (Feist, Hot Chip, etc). Plus the lyric "sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti", presumably thrown in at the last minute to secure some hip, mystical cred.

    XTC - Jason And The Argonauts
    From their great album, English Settlement, this song bewilders and bewitches with its cyclical guitar part. Check out the 80s flange in the weird middle section.

    Arab Strap - Hey! Fever
    One of the first "indie" songs I ever fell in love with, this remains a firm favourite. "And I used my best shampoo on my pubes, just in case..." The barbershop quartet outro is an eccentrically brilliant touch, but the girl singing faux-soul melismas definitely grates.

    Billie Holiday - Life Begins When You're In Love
    Not much to be said about this perfect nugget of '20s pop.

    Les Paul - How High The Moon
    The man who invented multitracking shows what can be done with it. Every sound on this weirdly beautiful record was made with his 6-string or with his wife's voice but it sounds like four times as many musicians.

    Little Anthony & The Imperials - Goin' Out of My Head
    Tom Waits mentions this group in his Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis off Blue Valentine ("...and I still have that record by Little Anthony and the Imperials - but someone stole my record player, now how'd you like that?") and sings snatches from the song in some live performances (like the oustanding Cold Beer On A Warm Night from a late 70s Sydney radio session). None of which prepares for the outsdanding production and performance on this forgotten 60s classic.

    Of Montreal - Voltaic Crusher/Undrum To Muted Da
    Observe the lyrics... "I'm a flaw, I'm a mistake... oh God, please don't be a bastard..." In the hands of anyone else (Nine Inch Nails, for instance) this would be accompanied by some sort of dirge. Instead, this bounces along on its own self-satisfied merriment, synths parping away. Great. From their Icons, Abstract Thee EP.

    Thom Yorke - Atoms For Peace (Four Tet Remix)
    I think Thom Yorke and Four Tet should make a record together. If it was all like this and Four Tet's Skattrbrain remix (from Radiohead's Com Lag EP) it would probably be the best thing either has ever done. This has a drum performance from Steve Reid, which is a welcome addition. (Although mysteriously uncredited on the sleeve).

    New Order - Thieves Like Us
    I hate New Order. They're so bad. Yet so good. How anyone can make good the lyric "Love is the cure for every evil/Love is the air that supports the eagle" is beyond me but they definitely manage it.

    The Microphones - I Want Wind To Blow
    If you don't know this band, you need to hear their The Glow, Part II and Mt Eerie albums IMMEDIATELY! Put your headphones on and you're away. Essential.

    Kate Bush - Brazil
    With orchestral arrangements from Michael Kamen, this beautiful, unique take on a lovely standard was taped for Terry Gilliam's great film of the same name. This version is probably wholly responsible for the song's rehabilitation in this decade, with covers from the likes of Beirut and Arcade Fire surfacing recently.

    Jeremy is playing every date of July's Transgressive Hot Summer tour. Check local press for details.

    Sunday, June 15, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Saturday, June 14, 2008

    The Weekly Sweep

  • A Classic Education - Badlands And Owls [Myspace]
  • Absentee - Bitchstealer [YouTube]
  • Annie - I Know Ur Girlfriend Hates Me [YouTube] (Even if it's just Chewing Gum again, but much less so. We have a nasty suspicion her forthcoming Xenomanaical album won't have a new Heartbeat to counterbalance it)
  • Dananananaykroyd - 1993 [Myspace]
  • The Deirdres - Claire Are We Safe [Myspace] (Yet more Derby indiepop kids, these having played an audience for Michael Aspel)
  • Johnny Foreigner - Salt, Pepa And Spinderella [lo-fi live YouTube]
  • Mystery Jets - Two Doors Down [YouTube]
  • Noah & The Whale – 5 Years Time [YouTube]
  • Port O'Brien - I Woke Up Today [Myspace]
  • The School - Let It Slip [YouTube]
  • Sigur Ros - Gobbledigook [mp3 from The Culture Of Me]
  • The Week That Was - Scratch The Surface [Myspace]
  • Those Dancing Days - Run Run [YouTube]
  • The Voluntary Butler Scheme - Trading Things In [Myspace]
  • Wild Beasts - The Devil's Crayon [YouTube]
  • Thursday, June 12, 2008

    The Nation Favourites: Dananananaykroyd

    They're a Glaswegian six-piece who coined the term "fight-pop", they're reticent about revealing where the 80s comedy actor-derived name comes from, their Sissy Hits EP blew us across the room arse-first and seeing them live recently supporting Johnny Foreigner tore us a corresponding new hole. They are Dananananaykroyd, and this is what they told us in possibly too much detail. (They also added a question of their own, which was nice of them.)

    How were Johnny Foreigner and co?

    Calum married Alexei and they are both very happy. They are all awesome dudes, we love them.

    So where were you all throughout 2007?

    In Scotland, fighting the war against terror, with terror.

    Happy with Sissy Hits and the reaction to it?

    Yes. brb i'm in da baff lol.

    Because it's surely bound for the Oxford English Dictionary eventually, try to properly define fight-pop.

    Fight-pop was invented at the centre of the earth while we were getting a 'massive kegger'.

    Do you think you have to see Dananananaykroyd live to fully appreciate what's going on?

    You can read the Guardian to figure out whats going on. Our live set is one side to us, we tend to walk around telling everyone exactly whats 'going on', but we like to make records too though!

    Who inspired you to get into music?

    New Deal for musicians and Joe Satrani

    What's the last decent thing you heard?

    We are currently watching Coming To America where Eddie Murphy's pre Mel B inpregnanting voice is sounding pretty decent. And also Andrew WK in The Zen Of Screaming DVD.

    What's the state of play with a full album?

    We are currently writing and practicing it, we'll be recording in August probably.

    What would you rather be killed by, an animal or a robot?

    If it is a smart robot who would kill you fast, we'd rather do that please.

    Wednesday, June 11, 2008

    ITV Chart Show Indie Chart mockups - more, please!

    Especially those clearly full on injokes and favouring enthusiasm over recreating Video Visuals editing styles in full.

    For those of you too young, here's a typical example of what this is based on, although they didn't have clips of Tiger, Bis and Helen Love every week.

    Monday, June 09, 2008

    Mint condition

    Last year we thought it was a bit too convenient that Britain's Got Talent, set up as an X Factor for all sorts of entertainment, has as its breakout stars a six year old singer and an amateur opera singer. While Connie Talbot's people are taking their time about things - after all, there'll always be a housewives' market - Paul Potts got to release a full album about two months later. So imagine our surprise this year when the winner turned out to be a teenage breakdancer. Yeah, a breakdancer, to perform at the Royal Variety Performance. What year is it again?

    And yet, now look what's happened. The track George Sampson performed to has scorched past all opposition to number one without so much as a marketing plan. We doubt the Singin' In The Rain remix would have been something Mint Royale would look at with fondness regardless, given they did it for advertiser's money in the first place. That nobody directly involved in the show has made extra royalties money out of the sudden windfall is, we suppose, one thing; the complete mockery it makes of what the Official Charts Company would like us to believe is the world's most accurate current singles sales list is quite another.

    Sunday, June 08, 2008

    Weekender : how the mother-daughter bond can triumph over adversity

    WHAT CD?
    - Last week we gave a thorough e-tonguing to Johnny Foreigner, and as with Los Campesinos! we hope we made an impression on a few of you to go and give them a cut of sales profits. Indeed, in the middle of the week we saw them for the third time in a couple of days over three months and they were the best we've seen them, Alexei sweating his cobs off from first tapped note to final collapse over the monitor. And yet they weren't even the band of the night, because before them was a six-piece down on a rare visit from Glasgow to England letting loose ('playing' seems too recherche) an extraordinary set, full of nuclear level energy, impassioned chordal splintering and the odd sortie off the stage. A third of the audience cleared off afterwards. And just as JoFo put out a couple of small scale singles, bided their time and then unleashed a six-track mini-album in Arcs Across The City which served to give notice of a new and exciting addition to the top echelon of our musical world, so Dananananaykroyd, after creating a buzz with a couple of releases in 2006 only halted by losing their then singer, unleash six-track mini-album Sissy Hits just when the world was least expecting it (and when they were expecting it, given it was supposed to be out in March until the label fell apart). Their self-coined 'fight-pop' tag has been roped in to seperately describe ver Foreigner but their version takes much that same oppressive melodic freewheeling inspired by a litany of 90s American underground post-hardcore bands, add an extra drummer and slice and dice it up even further. It's an almost literally insanely full throttle record, a preview of an album currently earmarked for the first few months of 2009 that stands alone as something special by itself.

    - It's difficult enough to summarise entirely instrumental music without heading down blind alleys, let alone when coming across a band who revel in putting together seemingly disprite elements. So here goes. Restlesslist - the omnipresent Thomas White, his Electric Soft Parade colleague Matt Twaites, two of hardcore outfit Zettasaur and one other - have pretty much done just that with The Rise And Fall Of The Curtain Club. One moment it's Joe Meek producing Prefuse 73, then it's Anticon scoring demonic carnival music, then Gorillaz on a chamber of horrors PA. Their enormous list of influences on Myspace includes Babyshambles, but that one seems less immediately obvious. It'd equally fit on a John Carpenter horror film or a B-movie car chase and in Brighton cut and paste band terms it's the dark yang to the Go! Team's ying.

    - Something hanging over from last week that got lost in the general rush was the second in Darren Hayman's repackaging of the Hefner back catalogue. 1999's The Fidelity Wars, an 11 track album now buffed up to 40 with B-sides, rare EP tracks, demos and rehearsal recordings, was the first Hayman wrote in full but the second to be released, and given he thinks the first is essentially unfulfilled you'd have to wonder why. Anyway, ours is not to question such a thorough going-over of the triumphs and disasters of a relationship in the Richmanesque style "Britain's biggest small band" pretty much brought to British indie, and it does contain some of his most loved songs - The Hymn For The Cigarettes and The Hymn For The Alcohol were Peel Festive 50 numbers 2 and 3. Hayman and multi-instrumentalist Jack Hayter are playing the album and other Hefner songs at dates in Manchester, Leeds, London and Cardiff between 11th and 15th June, and they've probably all sold out already.

    COMING SOON: Never, ever write Wire off as a band from the past. Last year's Read And Burn 03 EP was a continuation of the undulating form of 2006's album Send, and on July 7th they release an eleventh studio album, Object 47, named as it's the band's 47th release all told. The band describe it as "tunes with zoom", whatever that means, but preview track One Of Us sounds almost linear and commercial. Stress: almost.

    MYSPACE INVADERS: We thought we'd done Derby's Plans & Apologies before, but apparently not. Right then. The biography on their official site (which includes a shitload of free tracks) is so long it gave us a headache, but essentially they're another of those bands in thrall to the scraps of slacker pop banged out in Malkmus and Kannberg's dorm many years ago adapted for the British odd-pop experience, veering from skilfully crafted mid-period Wedding Present/English Settlement XTC nods to tempo deficit disorder afflicted gaucheness with tongue approaching cheek. The other day Artists Against Success labelmate MJ Hibbett described them thus: "Five years ago they sounded like Los Campesinos (and various other Indie On The Radio-style bands) sound NOW, and NOW they sound like the Exciting Music Of Tomorrow. All the songs have GRATE lyrics and about fifteen tunes, and they are ACE."

    VISUAL AID: Nobody reads our YouTube vlog so let's repeat this week's main point again. Clarence 'Frogman' Henry's Ain't Got No Home is currently being used on the BBC's trailer for Springwatch, but frankly if they're going to do that and leave out the crucial third verse the Government should think long and hard about renewing that charter. He could still pull it off in 2004. There's something unique and odd about a lot of world-spanning one hit wonders, which is perhaps why they only had the one shot at immortality, and let's face it all these artists will when the end of days comes be found in larger print in popular music's history books than, say, the Fratellis. The Big Bopper, for instance, who before dying in the Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens plane crash had managed one hit of significance and had sung as if on the phone to a loved one. The Left Banke's influential baroque pop and Four Tops cover. Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs. Barry McGuire's ever joyful Eve Of Destruction. John Fred and the Latin Playboys. And from over here The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown and his helmet o'flame, of course.

    * The Green Man festival has taken its life into its own hands and opened a free entry vote to find an act to open the event on 15th August. You need to register first, which is a double edged sword as they have your details but there's also a seperate draw the winner of which wins a pair of tickets. Voting closes on 28th July, and when registered you can put in votes for more than one act, and we wholeheartedly suggest you do, and then wipe your cookies and vote again, as there's some right shit well up in the voting already. Not some right shit: Napoleon IIIrd, The School, The Strange Death Of Liberal England, the pastoral roots soothing sound of Gindrinker, Superman Revenge Squad, Spizzenergi (what?), The Deirdres, Fireworks Night, Nat Johnson formerly of Monkey Swallows The Universe, The Gresham Flyers.

    * More gig news, and a particularly special one to write about as it takes place on board the Bristol Thekla Social. Which is a boat! Look! And it was moored there under the auspices of Vivian Stanshall, when it was The Old Profanity Showboat. Anyway, it's been a regular 350 capacity circuit venue for a good eighteen months now, and on June 15th, next Sunday, it hosts an all-dayer under the name Abandon Ship. Adem headlines, with Johnny Foreigner, Hot Club de Paris, Let's Wrestle, Munch Munch, It Hugs Back and Lonely Ghosts (ex-Help She Can't Swim) also on a bill that costs just six of your English from the usual outlets.

    * A film premiered in Los Angeles this week on the life and times of Neil Innes, although those people - hello! - hoping that it might just be slanted towards the genius of the Bonzos will be disenchanted to find it's called The Seventh Python. So yeah, it's all Bright Side Of Life, Every Sperm Is Sacred and Tragical History Tour, which is no bad thing regardless, and Eric Idle contributes despite the widespread belief that the pair had had a massive falling out a few years ago. (As for which side of the divide we should fall, consider this - Innes has played live with Yo La Tengo, Idle wrote Spamalot.) John Cleese, Michael Palin and Terry Jones also contribute, as do Aimee Mann, Matt Groening, Emo Phillips and that Stateside household name Phill Jupitus. Here's the trailer.
    EDIT: We've been informed it doesn't actually premiere until the 26th June, and in their words "the Bonzos definitely get their due".

    Saturday, June 07, 2008

    The Weekly Sweep

  • The Bookhouse Boys - Dead [Myspace]
  • Copy Haho - You Are My Coal Mine [Myspace]
  • Dananananaykroyd - 1993 [Myspace]
  • Hot Club de Paris - Hey! Housebrick [YouTube]
  • Johnny Foreigner - Yr All Just Jealous
  • Laura Marling - Cross Your Fingers/Crawled Out Of The Sea [YouTube]
  • Mumford and Sons - White Blank Page [Myspace]
  • Noah & The Whale – 5 Years Time [YouTube]
  • Okkervil River - A Hand To Take Hold Of The Scene [Myspace]
  • Port O'Brien - I Woke Up Today [Myspace]
  • Restlesslist - Butlin Breaks [Myspace]
  • Rose Elinor Dougall - Start Stop Synchro [Myspace]
  • The School - Let It Slip [Myspace]
  • Shearwater - On The Death Of The Waters [mp3 from The Daily Growl]
  • Sigur Ros - Gobbledigook [mp3 from The Culture Of Me] (Sigur Ros do Animal Collective! NSFW video here)
  • Those Dancing Days - Run Run [YouTube]
  • Thomas white - The Runaround [YouTube]
  • The Voluntary Butler Scheme - Trading Things In [Myspace]
  • Wild Beasts - The Devil's Crayon [YouTube]
  • Young Knives - Turn Tail [YouTube]
  • Wednesday, June 04, 2008

    If Made In London fall in a forest, does anyone hear them?

    Further to yesterday's diversion on the modern media of pop, we contend that nowadays there is no such thing as a pure pop scene. It's all been subsumed into the mainstream, seen as just another part of the overall scheme of things, a landscape where Sam Sparro, Taio Cruz, Westlife and Late Of The Pier have similar marketing budgets behind them and Girls Aloud and the Sugababes only have much higher profiles because they were in the right place at the right time and so were all over the place anyway.

    This is how it should be, of course - apart from this current hard sell of Neil Diamond, which must really confuse anyone under 25 or so - but pop acts haven't recovered yet from just how quickly it's happened, with the TOTP and CD:UK rugs being pulled out from under them within six months and even The Box now purely playlist computer driven rather than something to phone in and give a three digit code over to. Besides, it's not that 'your bands' don't get on the daytime radio playlists any more, because either they do or they purposefully wouldn't. The result: well, who outside the 3am Girls cares about Jamelia any more?

    See, ten years or so ago you knew where you were, and the fun thing in retrospect was that the labels didn't. Caught in the crossfire hurricans of Britpop blowing itself out - are Oasis still big? What happened to all those bands? Ere, think they'll go for the Stereophonics? - and the redefinition of marketing pop's boundaries by the Spice Girls, plus sidelines like Ibiza wiping out the traditional summer fluke hit, it seemed at times they didn't have a clue how to pitch it. 2008 is a broad church, but who'd go now with a big launch for something that introduced itself like...

    There was Catch, a kind of attempt to market a late Britpop group to teenage girls which never broke the top 20. There was Lolly for the pre-teens and for everyone else to look at each other and shrug. There was the 21st Century Girls, often overlooked now but perhaps the greatest failure this side of however much money RCA should have just given to passers-by rather than spend on Girl Thing, Simon Fuller's £1m signing of four teenage girls from Dudley, pitched as the band to break his former girl group employer's strangehold on the nation with their guitars and their warmed-over Republica sound. Their first single peaked at number 16, the second (Teenage Rampage, sir!) never got released and they lasted eight months into the actual 21st century. One week CD:UK devoted a big ass block of the show to them, Hepburn, Next Of Kin and the Moffatts, billing them completely straight-facedly as "the new breed of groups who play their own instruments". Cuh, imagine that! If only the Beatles had played their own instruments who knows how big they could have been, eh? Not a clue, frankly, but now that 'Wonky Pop' is the subject of endless broadsheet pieces and the showbiz columns go into a frenzy if a female singer has a tattoo or unwise hair colouring, not to mention the credit/Guy Hands crunch, we kind of miss the days of ludicrous pop signings that splutter to a halt after having thousands thrown at it early on. Does the A&R who signed Buffalo G still earn a living wage?

    ("There are 32 Buffalo G listeners on". What?)