Thursday, July 31, 2008

Knee deep at Indietracks : Sunday review


After arriving back on site to the sight of perhaps the world's worst parked car and weather that wasn't letting up much from heatwave status - the hottest of the year it transpired, as yet again a day's worth of predicted sharp showers and possible thunderstorms completely failed to materialise, which was good as long as the gradual beetroot pigmentation process didn't prove too distracting - Sunday started with The Colliding Lemons, an all female five-piece (how many others are there? We could only think of The Organ) who make a sound like a cleaned up take on what the average punter thinks C86 is actually like. Give them a couple of years and let's see where they take it.

In trying to remind ourselves after the long weekend (and a bit) of what some of these early bands sound like we're resorting to Myspace memory jogs, but in the case of Brontosaurus Chorus it's proving to be little use. See, what on record is slightly shabby janglepop grows virtual horns onstage. There's plenty to go at, certainly. They have a trumpet player on one side of the stage and a three piece string section, one of the violinists doubling up on squeezebox, on the other. They bring a mate on to sing lead vocals on one song, which lasts less than a minute. The male bass player is wearing a dress. What when recorded is Tullycraft/early Camera Obscura summery pop develops an edge and becomes more than just passing interest. A swelling audience is richly deserved.

Reputedly after part of the equipment went missing overnight, there's a more than two hour delay to proceedings getting underway outdoors, which leads to the scheduled main and outdoor times being completely revamped at least twice and a lot of scurrying around double checking the new time sheets. As well as the unexpected bonus of removing at least two tricky stage clashes, it means a late main stage promotion for Leicester's Shop Assistants-fronted-by-Baader Meinhof-studying-Bilinda Butcher The Mai 68s, where the standup drummer behind two-piece and the waves of sound coming from Jon's guitar pedals get to thrive in front of a more than decent audience. Is this the best of the four times we've now seen them? Probably, keeping it just about together (and unlike the last time we saw them not having everything break, including the mike stand), even though Julie, despite/because of having to trade her usual sophisticated wine glass for a plastic beaker, ends up on the floor.

We don't get to see the full set, though, because there's some STN favourites to catch up with. Tempting as it is to think the whole festival is hairclips and melodicas central, Stuart and his team really do see indiepop as a communal experience beyond other people's ideas of what is and should not be here and are open to all sorts of variations on the guitar theme. Hence, who should this be striding into the church from outside in choral introduction led by a man with a ukelele but A Classic Education. We've written enough on here in the past about their post-Arcade Fire brooding grandiosity, but despite often overwhelming the PA enough of their grandiose ambitions come across to make their potential already approach fulfilment. There's the self-believing intensity of a Modest Mouse and the expansive choral intrigue of current British Sea Power in there to fit the lyrical intrigues, and although the church doesn't fill up for a disappointingly long time word seems to get around that there's something really special in this enthrallingly elating, pounding set. Trust us, it's only upwards from here.

After which sumptuous course, KateGoes comes as something of a sharp sorbet. The Brummie collective are known for playing every gig to a theme, and today it's KateGoes To The Stone Age, the five of them dressed in caveman gear and opening with three songs loosely around the theme. It's no more baffling than their actual songs, which take Kate Nash-on-dexedrine piano pop to Early Learning Centre extremes, all without a scintilla of self-awareness. Halfway through a man sporting a giveaway Misty's Big Adventure T-shirt hands out balloons to all onlookers, and within seconds it's turned into a very low budget Flaming Lips show. None of it makes any sense outside this world. That's probably the point.

Meanwhile in the tea and shade tent Darren Hayman's 'solo' set with sundry Wave Pictures is cut short after a triumphant The Sad Witch as The Smittens have started early. Colin Clary and four colleagues are just about perfect for these climes, all male/female harmony vocals, pop hooks and permanently sunny disposition. Maybe this is the sort of surface cutesiness most shy away from, but right here right now it works. In some ways The Rosie Taylor Project back in the tramshed aren't that much different in terms of the harmony-aided aura they give off of soundtracking a summer's day in a meadow at times, but stylistically there's more intricacies going on, the folk-plucked guitar, melancholic turns and romantic notions backing up the promise shown by their mini-album This City Draws Maps. The guitarist is also sporting tremendous turnups.

Now the outdoor crowds are starting to stand up and mount up, in time for a tremendous set by the ever resourceful The Wave Pictures, wry of lyric, Richman of arrangement and starting with the fairly obscure considering I Shall Be A Ditch-Digger. For a band who often seem to give over a louche air on record they're a tight outfit, but not so rigid that they can't let loose with the odd spare but technically adept solo every now and again, David Tattersall enjoying a good compact Neil Young pitch-bending solo when the occasion demands. Spiritual cousin Hayman joins in on the last two songs - they fit four in after Tattersall has speculated that they might have time for one more - and the mantle of "Britain's biggest small band", still emblazoned on Hayman/Hefner clutch bags on sale at the merch stand, could well have found its natural new home.

The noise now coming out of the refreshment tent is of a cheap keyboard nature and is being wielded by one half of Internet Forever, for this occasion known as Laura Wolf And The Bitches. Usually Wolf and the aforementioned on here Heartbeeps, for this occasion she has two backing singers. One is Joe, who we know a little bit. The other is Gareth, of whom more later. On concluding their two song set one or the other of these recommends we all adjourn to Esiotrot, a Brighton septet featuring a two man horn section who rather than use them to go supersonic stay within a staying just together sonic spectrum the Wave Pictures would admire. There's a good deal of Hefner and Pastels about them, but the overall impression is of Neutral Milk Hotel reduced to a back bedroom without Jeff Mangum's books.

Talking of sonic spectrums, The Manhattan Love Suicides have little truck with carefully crafted melodies, preferring to blast their way to fuzz, distortion and feedback nirvana in a typical sub-twenty minute set (their album has 27 tracks), Caroline's vocals only sweetening the deal insofar as it makes them sound like Psychocandy interpreted by the Darling Buds. Even their soundcheck hits you right in the chest. Meanwhile there's a right mess of tweecore going on outside, as local heroes The Deirdres are, not to put too fine a point on it, going for it in front of a willing crowd. A typhoon of excitable shouting, criss-crossing things that are almost melodies, innumerable percussion instruments, much gear swapping and the odd piece of Bearsuit-esque pop genius - they wangled their way onto the Antiques Roadshow and then wrote a song about it - it's impossible to convey in print what makes this mess of indiepop so infectiously likeable. There's signs of a proper cult growing here. It might be unwise to get in their way.

Cult status of a minor sort has long been granted to Pete Dale and Milky Wimpshake's three chord Buzzcockian punk-pop, going on the raptorous reception to every two minute song of lust and devotion. It all merges into one eventually, though, and having missed a tent set by Little My, most of whom are here as members of Silence At Sea already, we're left with Sarah Records alumni St Christopher outside doing even simpler pop melodies to even less effect. Where's the anti-glamour in this? Ah, The Bobby McGees are on in a packed out church. Jimmy has been sighted many times over the weekend - in fairness, he's fairly difficult to miss - and, well, he's wearing a full jester's outfit. Of course he is. The usual ukelele love songs, laments and high quality swearing follow as we are reduced to watching through a window.

You know what we were saying up there about Britain's new biggest small band? Well, a small part of us always hopes that eventually Gordon McIntyre will receive the credit he's long overdue. ballboy inspire a small but devoted following, due in no small part to John Peel's support, through McIntyre's unerring way of mapping out human love and frailty and treating all imposters just the same. He starts with Public Park, a low-key start instantly cranked up with I've Got Pictures Of You In Your Underwear, and from there it's plain sailing. Avant Garde Music gets people dancing, I Don't Have Time To Stand Here With You Fighting About The Size Of My Dick gets them wondering about how a song about a failed bank robbery can be so heartbreaking. It's a wonder in itself that the songs - Where Do The Nights Of Sleep Go When They Do Not Come To Me, I Lost You But I Found Country Music - are at the very least the equal of their titles, and that forthcoming album I Worked On The Ships offers up more thought provoking wonders, not least Songs For Kylie, about a songwriter offering his broken hearted songs for pop purposes knowing they'll be rejected. McIntyre, as gifted a between song raconteur, mentions at one point that he always gets asked why his band aren't big and why Coldplay are, to which he reasons that you get what you're dealt in life and he'd be happy playing events like this. As he closes with a gorgeous Leave The Earth Behind You And Take A Walk Into The Sunshine and then a less so but just as great Donald In The Bushes With A Bag Of Glue, you can't help feeling that while he's doing his oeuvre down it's all to the good that he can still play to us like this.

The main stage headliners can't start until the twenty minutes overrunning outdoor stage has finally finished, although rumour has it that at least one key member of the headliners is insisting on watching ballboy to completion anyway. And you can well believe it, as almost exactly two years after we were first stunned on first hearing their demos, we finally get to see Los Campesinos! live. Is it everything we hoped? Well, of course it is, but then it is for Gareth too, as the Wedding Present T-shirt sporting frontman, who over time has turned into the sort of frontman who can look louche, irked and boundlessly energetic simultaneously, takes a couple of occasions to heap praise on the festival's organisation and clientele, some of the bands who he saw and the very idea of it all. Admitting that their first festival headliner means having to play every song they know, the hour long set features no real surprises but exhibits a band who while tight still evidently enjoy themselves every time they step on stage. Then, after a fakeout of Pavement's Box Elder, the uncoiling post-rock buildup crystallises into the You! Me! Dancing! riff and the place virtually explodes in joy, the Cardiff contingent saluting the Twisted By Design namecheck and everyone losing their collective cool - not easy in these conditions - on every chorus.

There's a little moment during the first violin break in the following set closer Sweet Dreams Sweet Cheeks, which culminates in Gareth, Aleks, Tom and Neil all up on the barrier, where Gareth looks up at the lights with a beatific smile across his face. He knows, as do we all, that this will be one - possibly even the one - to tell everyone about when they get back to reality. The location, the bands, the clientele, the organisation, the whole essence of Indietracks has seen an increase in publicity and numbers from last year and ridden it out spectacularly. It may not be the coolest to the Vice subscribers, but who cares when there's something uniquely special about Indietracks already.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Gauge best : Indietracks Saturday review


If Truck is the coming together of the under the radar indie kid hordes to enjoy themselves at the expense of actual music fans rather than massive conglomerations, then Indietracks is a micro-meeting of the same, a sixth of Truck's capacity but even more geared towards friendliness and community. It really does transcend all that easy point scoring about 'twee' and references to cardigans, especially with a lineup such as this and the knowledge that you'll rarely find a set of people in festival-land this year, by which we mean the organisers as much if not more than the bands and crowd, more willing to just enjoy themselves without a thought as to how it might come across. We went on the Sunday last year, enthused about it to many and this year were ready for the whole experience.

The stylistic dichotomy is summed up by the first band on in the tram shed turned main arena, Cardiff's Silence At Sea. On the one hand, they're an easygoing indie-folk outfit prone to deceptively simple and dark campfire strumalongs and Laura Janes' high, clear girly vocals. On the other hand, guitarist G is dressed as some sort of panda/Teletubby hybrid and sports a guitar with 'CAT POWER' emblazoned on in green paint (actually, maybe it's supposed to be a cat, yeah), the percussionist has at her disposal among other things a typewriter and a radio alarm clock player, and the bassist is Pagan Wanderer Lu, as previously often featured on STN. A more than merely diverting start to the weekend, and a portent of much offbeat excellence to come.

On the other side of the coin, opening (slightly late, but never mind) the freshly minted for 2008 outdoor stage on the back of a flat bed truck - that sounds familiar - Liverpool presents us with Town Bike, two men and two singing women in monogrammed bowling shirts who have a theme song, a way with banter and an endless supply of two and a half minute ubercatchy punk-pop bubblegum fuzzbombs like Helen Love without the shades and synth. Once upon a time they'd have put out a 7" which Steve Lamacq would have played for six weeks straight on the Evening Session and you'd never have heard from them again. Now, aided by the weather, they're attracting quite the interest in their songs about Dougie from McFly, swearing and the lack of good boyfriend material. Once established, that they unveil their masterstroke - a cover of B*Witched's C'Est La Vie set to the tune of Smells Like Teen Spirit. Just to our right, the project co-ordinator of Smalltown America records is in hysterics. It's their drummer's last gig, and they commemorate the moment by arseing up the start of their last song twice. This will become a theme.

From here that the strains of a mock Farfisa draw us towards the Church Stage, a fully kitted out replica of a Victorian church for the railway workers and their families. It's here we find Still Corners, who work up a dreampop sound based around a distant female vocal against swirling organ sounds that recall early Electrelane or a budget Broadcast. Bad planning means we don't see a lot of their set, but we're keen to hear more. Back outside Slow Down Tallahassee take on the heat, now reduced to a trio and with a fine debut album The Beautiful Light under their belts. Maybe it's just to their self-admitted drink-centric build-up, though, but it's not really clicking here where it should, as instruments misbehave and the set seems one-paced, overdominated by the drum machine ahead of the off-harmonies, culminating in a rendition of the album title track that hangs on for dear life before completely collapsing to a standstill and an embarrassed stage departure some way short of its usual finish. Despite it all, they still come across as flick-knife pop, a Strawberry Switchblade of the Noughties, their recorded output suggests.

Time, then, for some intelligent lyrically driven songwriterly entertainment. Australasia does this sort of thing really well - the Go-Betweens, the Flying Nun back catalogue, the Lucksmiths - and Darren Hanlon continues the great tradition with some thoughtful, melancholic explorations of the human condition and in between songs entertaining banter about fish horror in Norway and arcade game addiction. Back in the shed Shrag have not only been taken round the country by the Cribs - and there's a band whose words belie their actions, so often do they go on about K Records and Comet Gain - but seem to be being anointed as a new Huggy Bear. They're much less scrappy and politicised than that band but still energetic, splenetic and thoroughly entertaining in a very wrong way, Helen all over the stage as her bandmates produce buzzing artrock like XX Teens being hauled down to earth by Kenickie. Does 'the new Help She Can't Swim' sound like faint praise? It'll have to do, because they're going to build a similar underground following.

One of the great selling points of Indietracks is that there is an actual stage on a steam train - everyone loads on board and a singer takes on their acoustic guitar or keyboard and plays unamplified for a rapt intimate audience punctuated by whistling and sudden jerks. The Smittens' never knowingly unenthusiastic leader Colin Clary, who had previously commented favourably on our T-shirt choice while passing outside the church, takes those of us boarding with him on a particularly magical mystery tour, as being the last train set of the day the driver decides he might as well continue for as long as he wants, which turns out to be a 50 minute set of requests, personal favourites and attempts at songs he has no hope of completing on his own.

Back on terra firma girl trio (although usually a four piece) Liechtenstein, a band who for some reason we've gone until just now thinking were French but turn out to be from Gothenburg, slightly underwhelm compared to their recorded form, their meatier form of Shop Assistants jangle not quite getting over. Meanwhile Rob Jones is The Voluntary Butler Scheme, taking to an increasingly overwarm church with an array of instruments laid out before him. Word has been spreading of his talents - on donning a ukelele and a mouth brace for his kazoo in preparation for The Eiffel Tower And The BT Tower he wryly comments on how he had to present this set-up to artfully styled yet suddenly confused indie kids awaiting Joe Lean & The Jing Jang Jong, who he supported on tour recently - and his set impresses with its command of the loop pedal to build rhythmic backing over which he plays keyboard and sings of dislocation, making such melodic witchcraft look like the minimum of fuss.

If there was one band that hitherto unknowing hordes were to go away from Saturday wanting to know more about it looked set to be Red Pony Clock. The San Diego collective number eight here, a sprawling collective who make this joyous uplifting music because they feel we need the uplift too. Exuding positivity like a Polyphonic Spree melted down to its constituent parts and with a fine array of instruments chiefly involving mariachi brass and Association-recalling ambition. With the baking sun just starting to head over the yard arm if not exactly set yet, there's actual dancing going on and everyone seems to feel the benefit.

The accompaniment to burning our tongue on the site cafe tea, hotly touted Norwich teenagers The Kabeedies have found the midpoint between Bearsuit and the Maccabees. We've been somewhat quickly dismissive of their recorded work for whatever reason, but maybe we're just very impetuously wrong. Then, like most attendees we file back into the main stage arena for the righteously brazen Northern Soul-pop socialist Dexys stylings of scene veterans Comet Gain, but when they take to the stage we get the feeling there's something missing today. Namely, all but one member, bassist Jon Slade left to hold the fort while ringers from Shrag and Liechtenstein take up the other instruments and assorted randoms are dragged on to replace David Feck and Rachel Evans, not least a dark shaded punter, member of public red wristband as giveaway, reading the lyrics to You Can Hide Your Love Forever off a sheet of A4. The whole thing comes to a messy conclusion within twenty minutes. By the following morning, someone has added to a display of one of their 12"s with a sign reading 'FEATURING MEMBERS OF COMET GAIN'. Darren Hayman would never slack like that, having even brought his dog to the festival, so a little thing like performing in a church that is now preposterously and possibly illegally sauna-like due to overcrowding won't faze him. As such we have to dart around and catch what we can from outside, which is an ending of Painting & Kissing and Good Fruit that provokes the expected mass singalong. Punk TV, closing the outdoor stage not touched in any way by the forecast storms, are described in the programme as "the most-talked-about independent band of 2007 in Russia", surely the finest example of the law of diminishing returns. What they actually are are another attempt to fuse melodic indie rock with electronic patterns, fortunately more Her Space Holiday than Jesus Jones.

And to close day one of a scorching, scintillating day, the reason for all the middle aged men with day wristbands becomes clear, even if the request on a wall mounted sign prohibiting photos goes unheeded. Having been on C86 itself The Wedding Present have more right than most to feel their influence has touched many playing this weekend, and any thought that relocating to LA might have softened David Gedge up a little is dimmed by his having worked with Steve Albini on new album El Rey and evaporated the moment he and the current set of bandmates kick in with Flying Saucer and the first three or four rows turn into that most untwee of occupations, the forming of a moshpit. Over the course of 75 minutes comes ample proof that Gedge, caked in sweat virtually from the off, has been doing this long enough to know what the public want - a handful of songs from the new album, a few old ones largely forgotten by the populace (Love Slave, I'm Not Always So Stupid), the occasional surprise - Cinerama's Wow revived in fine style - and what passes in Weddoes world as hits - there's a riotous run through You Should Always Keep In Touch With Your Friends, Brassneck virtually brings the place down and breaks Gedge's guitar, and a closing couplet of Dalliance and Dare really finished everyone off. And to think that was only half the story.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Lean times

Much headscratching and theorising at this end has greeted last week's news that Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong have scrapped their debut album two and a half weeks ahead of August 4th release.

Two and a half weeks. Promos sent out, shop stock carefully packaged and on a pallet in Mercury's warehouse. It's worth thinking about just to work out what's going through everyone's heads here, whether the label writing off what was surely a sizeable consignment or the band writing off their entire recorded history to date. While press reports have tried to find connections in bands who have abandoned batches of written songs pre-session and there's plenty of documented Lost Albums, even if most have got no further than demos and later semi-officially bootlegged (Smile) or been quietly released much later (Prince's Black Album), we've racked our brains to try and think of another incidence of someone pulling their debut off the shelves for qualitative purposes in the buildup to release. The closest we can think of is Battle, who gained some measure of genre respect for their first few singles, then hauled away debut album Break The Banks not long before its release as they'd written a batch of new songs and were unhappy with the production. Half of that album was slung out as a stopgap mini-album Back To Earth, while the newly revitalised full length was issued nearly a year, by which time nobody cared and it died a commercial death, the same fate suffered by the band a few months later.

But even if there is precedence for our case study it's still a curious thing to shout from the rooftops that you recorded it too early in your development and want another go, sir - the album was originally scheduled for May release. Everyone seemed happy enough with John Cornforth's work when it was recorded at the turn of the year, not least the manager whose brainwave this is being attributed to as "it did not represent them as a band now" (as opposed to how it represented them in June, presumably). And how long has this been planned? Looking at their Myspace, apart from some dates in Japan their only UK commitment after the announcement is Reading and Leeds - no tour to promote the album and after a busy start two UK festivals after T In The Park/Oxegen, odd for a band desperate to make their name and build a fanbase behind the hype. Maybe it was the NME's in no way self-incriminating 8/10 review that forced their hand. We're more than tempted to think this is less connected with ensuring the music reflects the diversity and optimum performance of the band and more to do with how last single Where Do You Go? peaked at number 92 and their pre-album single looked to be drifting by without troubling playlists, while despite a ton of press gig attendance has by all accounts been slow of late, following an unprecedented string of piss poor reviews from the NME tour. The hype didn't work, the backlash, triggered by a series of spectacularly headslapping Lean interviews - even if he adopted that persona as an attention grabbing pisstake, it had no hope of working on the blank printed page - was immense. You'd speculate that this was merely a way of getting the band's name into the public domain were it not that a) it's got the band's actual name into the public domain and b) it inextricably links the band to the idea that everything they've done so far is sub-standard by their own admission, whereas now there'll be a curiosity charged increase in traffic when it leaks onto p2p, while clearly never going to be a Yankee Hotel Foxtrot or an Extraordinary Machine - they had goodwill behind them, after all. So you'd make a case for it all being a smart PR stunt, except now they have nothing to back it up with except the very thing they've just rubbished and promised to replace with something they haven't yet decided on a producer, studio or timetable for.

They say there's few big advances to be had in music any more for new bands. We respectfully suggest this whole farrago suggests there should be less.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Diet Weekender: Sweeping The Nation is away, being killed by lightning

Most of the stuff we'll leave for next week, but wouldn't you know it, things are getting back into gear in terms of new releases this week. Oh, the new albums are much of a muchness, led by the not entirely satisfying re-recording of old favourites and if not by any means a disaster then perhaps slightly missing the boat from when they seemed really special of artier than artrock XX Teens' Welcome To Goon Island, followed by the diversion of another band who seem to have been around for a long time without going full-length until now, Kitty Daisy & Lewis. We're guessing if you've been paying attention you'll know what this sounds like.

In the reissues, though, alongside Dinosaur Jnr's so-so but featuring Kevin Shields and Bilinda Butcher 1997 effort Hand It Over, we find a Husker Du live album. And not just any old package but The Living End, issued in 1994 but recorded during the Warehouse: Songs and Stories tour across 1987 and spanning their entire career but unavailable for some years. Rolling Stone's respected senior editor David Fricke pens extensive liner notes about the period and the breakup that followed but the music, starting with New Day Rising and ending with a cover of Sheena Is A Punk Rocker, is left to speak for itself.

Meanwhile, for a couple of years before the BBC picked up the ball and ran into their treehouse marquee with it, Channel 4 broadcast Glastonbury for a couple of years with Mark Radcliffe and Mark Lamarr as chief hosts, supposedly having it taken away for not fully reflecting the spirit of the event. In 1994 Johnny Cash singlehandedly turned the Sunday afternoon novelty turn spot into a gathering place for legends (although it seems to have moved back since Brian Wilson did it) with a classic performance, arguably the start of his critical renaissance, coming as it did just after the release of the first volume of American Recordings. Quite a bit to live up to, then, documented on Johnny Cash Went To Glastonbury, thirteen career spanning songs from that set plus a Johnny Walker interview from said coverage.

Bill Drummond has a good record with putting his thoughts into print. The Manual, despite an introduction get-out clause stating its authors believe it will have ceased to be relevant in a year's time, is still being cited by new bands, while 45 was a triumph of honesty, humour and self-aware pathos. We're not sure we get 17 yet but it's sure to be an intriguing venture nonetheless. As the title suggests it follows on from his series of The17 performances, one-offs involving a choir/audience of seventeen people, behind which lies a theory about finding new ways to connect to the love of music. Actually, we'll just quote the synopsis, that'll be easier: "Drummond analyses the past, present and possible future of music and the ways in which we hear and relate to it. He references his own contributions to the canon of popular music, and he provides fascinating insider portraits of the industry and its protagonists. But above all, he questions our ideas of music and our attitude to sound... A time has arrived where we can listen to any recorded music, from the entire history of recorded music, wherever, whenever, while doing whatever we want. This has meant our relationship with music is rapidly and fundamentally changing, faster than it has done for many decades. This is good for numerous reasons. But a by-product of this is that recorded music will no longer contain the meaning it once held for us. The era of recorded music is now passing and within the next decade it will begin to look and sound like a dated medium. Recorded music will be perceived as an art form very much of the 20th century. These notions excite me."

Thursday, July 24, 2008

You don't stop believing in the band : Truck Festival Sunday review


Sunday begins with an artist who reflects this post-communal hangover's need for a quiet, reflective mood. Oh, no it doesn't, it begins with a large bald man bellowing with the voice of Tom Waits stricken with laryngitis. That someone is one Liam Ings-Reeves, aka Mephisto Grande, and he's constructed a peculiar gothic madness sound out of pure Swordfishtrombones, or at least crossbred with Leicester's currently missing in action space antifolk epicentre Misterlee. Ings-Reeves plays guitar and squeezebox, an accomplice has a clarinet in one hand an a saxophone in the other, and there's two drummers and a synth player. Oh, and a fourteen piece choir who contribute in the round to slow building dark junkyard shanties, not least an actually moving version of Will The Circle Be Unbroken? And then they do a free jazz cover of Frere Jacques. But of course.

A comparatively more linear but just as impressive find turns up early in the Barn. The Youngs Plan, of whom it says here Alexei Berrow is a fan, are a phenomenally young looking local five piece who've clearly been supping at Andrew Mears' well and decided that the drawn out bits are good enough for others but don't do much for youthful vitality. Choppy riffs, tricky time and rhythm changes and passages of melodic awkwardness, Bends Radiohead one moment, This Town Needs Guns the next, make for something that far transcends their direct influences and could go on to do serious business. The only possible way to follow is by watching the Drowned In Sound DJs either clear the Beat-Hive or get several people involved in worrying spasmodic dancing - were you aware it's possible to slam dance to Atlas?

Ben Elliott of Restlesslist may be the most rakish man on site going on his hot summer's day choice of three quarter length black coat, half open dress shirt with vest underneath and striped hiking socks. His partner in horror sonic playfulness Matt Twaites' bumfluff moustache just can't compete. Unfortunately neither can the sound, as the beat producing laptop employed in lieu of usual drummer that man Tom White (who seems to have a right cob on with the festival this year, having also pulled out late from a listed solo set) cuts out repeatedly during the first two songs and leads to a lengthy gap involving much playing around with the thing. When it works the set shows off their eclectic instrumental chops to an earthier degree than on their album; then on what should have been triumphant closer Butlin Breaks there's clearly more malfunctioning as the band go completely out of sync at least twice. Someone who looks a lot like Laura Marling just to our left doesn't seem impressed, but these things happen.

Things meanwhile have taken a more down-home turn on the main stage, firstly with The Minnikins' roots country-folk, again featuring a version of Will The Circle Be Unbroken?, and Little Sister's Celtic and Gillian Welch inspired trad folk and magic four-part harmonies. Meanwhile over in the Barn, taken over for the day by the Sonic Cathedral people and opening earlier with a surprise set by the never especially shoegazing Winnebago Deal, Kevin Shields associate and recent MBV Roundhouse support Le Volume Courbe sound at times like Isn't Anything reconfigured for acoustic guitar and at others like Mazzy Star with a rocket up their backside. Vulnerable and open of vocal, frontwoman and sometime Piano Magic contributor Charlotte Marionneau is every inch the French emigre modern yé-yé girl, even looking sussed when playing a swanee whistle on one track. It's more winning than The Early Years, who seem to have turned away from their fine motorik past towards textured Suicide drones to no great effect.

So, as we observe Sam Duckworth in the Rotary Club queue holding a banana smoothie and wonder whether we've just seen a Truck cliche come to life, what now? What words can anyone say at this point that will singlehandedly breathe full life into this festival afternoon, make us feel that everything in music is joyous and wonderful and firing on all cylinders again?

"Hello, we're Johnny Foreigner from Birmingham."

Yeah, that'll do.

So of course they're great despite a truncated set at both ends by a malfunctioning bass at the start and Alexei finishing five minutes earlier than he clearly thought at the end, rejecting entreaties to continue for longer as "they can't fuck up the best festival in the world just for us". In between there's a fine new song, a particularly full pelt Hennings Favourite, Alexei breaking a pedal at a crucial moment in The End And Everything After and the usual obliterative finish of Yr All Just Jealous/Absolute Balance which ends with Berrow on the barrier taking the receptiveness of the committed, of which there must surely be more after this.

Back in the Hive Pivot are clearly having sound problems as well, judging by the angry faces and frenzied pointing at irregular intervals. The Australian trio come across like a scaled-back Battles, energised by propulsive drums and driving bass, but there's the nagging suspicion that there are times when this works best and those aren't at 4pm in a very warm tent. Just across from here is where Jetplane Landing played their last gig to date two Trucks ago, our favourite Truck memory until the previous night. Cahir O'Doherty now returns on the big stage with Fighting With Wire, pre-major label Biffy Clyro-esque on record, in a class of their own live with Cahir still throwing himself about while delivering the goods of pinpoint supercharged streamlined modern rock like the Foo Fighters are too comfortable to care about any more.

Piney Gir has, for the second year, got herself her own marquee, and her friends have come up with another big idea. The Nuns are an all female outfit featuring members of Mambo Taxi, the Priscillas, Thee Headcoatees and on banjo, wow, Debbie Smith of Curve and Echobelly, and they deal entirely in covers of eccentric Fall-influencing proto-garage rockers The Monks. You feel this is the sort of idea that was really waiting to happen, and they carry it off with no little aplomb. Meanwhile back in the still over full Village Pub tent SixNationState are becoming Truck hardy perennials of their own, this time in an acoustic set-up that makes no allowances for the lack of electricity coursing through their indie-ska done properly veins. They've picked up a good number of diehards too by the looks of it, as was always going to happen.

For the first time all festival Robin Bennett allows himself a Truck stage personal introduction for Camera Obscura. The Glaswegian greats used to have a reputation as an awkward live act, and as Tracyanne Campbell maintains her usual poker face while all around look like off-duty postmen (and woman) you can well believe it, but two years' touring Let's Get Out Of This Country has made them a warm, highly assured proposition and in these conditions their best songs just fly, the title track especially. New song French Navy adds some Postcard to the post-Motown and sounds a treat on first listen. Knowing we'll see them again at Summer Sundae we sneak off to take in less mellifluous experiences from Let's Wrestle, who excellently are being watched by the Senegalese kora player who'd been playing in the Market tent earlier on. Such is the cross-cultural possibility of Truck. Let's Wrestle try hard to be shambolic with their fuzz pedal punk-pop but can't quite manage it, the hooks and Wesley Patrick Gonzalez' deadpan lyrics too good for all that. Their eponymous closer gets at least one person making up their own accompanying dance moves.

Then we meet a reader. Hello, Jim. (Actually, he was the third person to recognise us but the other two were Alexei and Junior so don't count)

Back in the Barn Ulrich Schnauss isn't making for much of a visual spectacle seated at a laptop and set of keyboards, but the waves of electronic tones and complex patterns he produces makes it seem less relevant. One person who's never had problems with how to engage an audience is Frank Turner, finally making it to the Truck stage with a band that now features Chris T-T on keyboards and investing more life in the songs from this year's disappointing Love, Ire And Song album as well as the fist-aloft anthems of his preceding work, while carries on a not entirely serious war of words with Fighting With Wire that started during their set (and getting Cahir's water bottles thrown at him). In between popping over to see him there's plenty else on, but unfortunately not Cats In Paris, who it transpires had had to pull out due to technical issues, only nobody thought to tell the punters for some time. Instead it's back to Piney's Pavilion for The Bronsteins, Absentee keyboardist Melinda Bronstein's deceptively simple and fun poppy drummerless trio. Then the sound from the Market tent of a goodtime bluegrass version of Teenage Kicks called us away, as this was The Coal Porters, the estimable ex-Long Ryder Sid Griffin's band, cutting loose. It's pleasing to see The Research back in action and Russell The Disaster can still spin between song banter with the best of them, but can we suggest that some of the wonky pop charm has been diminished now he's moved to guitar?

We can't usually go a festival without our seeing Brakes, but as we approach Market to see a solo set from Eamon Hamilton there seems to be something going on outside the tent. In fact the Coal Porters have pitched up again to play a couple of songs without the benefits of mikes or staging, and Didcot resident Bob Harris is here to introduce them and conduct an inaudible interview with Griffin. A lurking TV camera may have been involved somewhere along the planning line. Hamilton meanwhile plays all the Brakes favourites, even the ones like All Night Disco Party he admits he can't really do justice solo (Marc Beatty is lurking at the back, he could have helped), plus three new songs, concerning alien abduction, a response to Hamilton's bank overdrawn letter and Consumer Producer Chicken Egg, which lasts as long as Comma Comma Comma Full Stop. Displeasingly, our feet hurt so much we collapse upon leaving the tent. Pleasingly, on recovery we realise his set has finished just in time to catch the last three songs of another Truck favourite, Thomas Truax and his dispatches from Wowtown and array of unique homemade instruments. The Hornicator remains the popular favourite, and not without reason.

Three years ago the unknown Truck stage opener, Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly's progress to headlining has been a storied one, and immediately it writes another twist as something or other fails before the first song has started and he has to open acoustically. We intend to actually see quite a bit of his set but in the end don't, partly because of the promised reforming surprise guests closing the Barn whose set up takes so long we long since lose interest in who it is (it was Chapterhouse) but mostly captivated as we are by two women elsewhere. Piney Gir and the Age Of Reason is our Pavilion host's new project after the relative success of her Country Roadshow diversion. There's something of the lounge cabaret about this incarnation, partly due to Piney's decision to turn out in what seems to be a air stewardesses' hat and moreover the being joined on one song by a man dressed as a bee, but equally there's some likeable, well crafted confections in these new songs, and a joyous Greetings, Salutations, Goodbye to finish for which the stage is further packed out by the famed Panthergirls. The Age Of Reason album itself is supposed to be more electronic, so let's wait and see. Meanwhile, yet again straining the capacity of the Market tent, Laura Marling's darker than she's letting on folk parables lead us into the night while causing sporadic outbreaks of shushing, her voice being quite a tender thing but perfectly adept at making even these cramped conditions feel intimate, while her band indulge in much instrument swapping and she checks that Noah & The Whale weren't too comfortable without her.

And as the weekend night falls over Steventon and we realise our neck is quite sunburnt, Truck Eleven closes, retaining its allure and all-encompassing brotherhood of the discerning. Latitude? That 25,000 don't know what they're missing.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The stage games: Truck Festival Saturday review


Travelling the nearly hundred miles to Steventon for the third time we couldn't help but feel some trepidation. Not because of the weather, the outlook for which was better than it had looked a few days earlier, or the bill or the clientele or the fact the festival had for whatever reason seen fit to never actually confirm the full bill in advance, or even that it's our first festival port of call for the year, but the general atmosphere. Many, many alternate festivals, not least Latitude, had been pushed into its line of fire this weekend, pushing it back out of a spotlight it had worked hard to earn over the last few years, and various music message boards, not least the festival's own, were swamped with people selling their tickets to an amount we've never seen even approached for any other such event. And that with tickets were available on the gate for the first time in two or three years, perhaps a legacy of last year's flooded out event. And this for one of the strongest bills in its history. Can we blame the credit crunch?

We can almost certainly blame residential parking for jamming up the main slip road through Steventon and causing at least an hour's tailback round about midday, meaning that by the time we're on site and in the Barn Alphabet Backwards are a song from the end of their set, meaning in their extended live formation beyond observing some skewed pop hooks we can't really make our minds up about them. We can't quite make our minds up about Fonda 500 either, but that's an entirely different procedure, given their tendency to associate around the musical idea of a twee-er Super Furry Animals locked in Hamley's, darting between guitar anthemry and the sort of sounds produced by the panda ear-clad Simon Stone's mini keyboard. Fonda 500 are made for early Truck moments like this, especially with this band's exuberance and Stone's playing to the crowd. Apart from when he calls us all cunts.

This Town Needs Guns are hyped well in the sort of places where internal hype will never, ever cross over into proper media hype, and with the rise of the guitar tappers it's not difficult to see why. The influence of assorted Kinsella family projects is writ large through Tim Collis' constantly shape shifting guitar work at the wracked emotional core. Such intricacies need paying off with something extra to avoid just sounding like playing for the sake of it with no audience connection, and today we're not sure TTNG are fully getting that across, not least, we suspect, as the end of the set, and thus of their bassist's tenure in the band, comes as a surprise to them all as they haven't played standout 26 Is Dancier Than 4 yet. Taking it back down in the Market tent are Holton's Opulent Oog, too downhome to really qualify as alt-country, more of a sleepy eyed wistfulness somewhere between The Band and Mojave 3 and none the worse for its technical ease. Dusty Sound System, organiser Robin Bennett's solo project in lieu of a hiatus-afflicted Goldrush, is more rollicking good-time country. It's also taking place in The Village Pub, a far too small whenever anyone is playing indoors new tent that seems to have replaced the much admired Trailer Park for a few performances a day.

The last couple of Trucks have seen an influx of clearly handpicked older bands, perhaps to demonstrate the building blocks of where much of the music around it is coming from, and so the Television Personalities turn up in the middle of the afternoon. Dan Treacy, who despite rising temperatures sticks to his large overcoat and beanie hat, was never the most trained of singers and many years of drug addictions and mental health issues since their days in the sun aren't exactly helping his yowl nowadays. Yes, it's shambolic, but you wouldn't expect top class professionalism from them now, and the songs, not least A Picture Of Dorian Gray (segued into I'm A Believer) and Part Time Punks, are still there. Some would call this a living legend in action - we're content to see him in hale and hearty health.

Post War Years are just getting going when we have to depart their Barn set, which is unfortunate as they're many times improved on the young outfit we saw three years ago still finding their feet. Now they may be indebted to the post-Rapture new wave disco, but in a darker vein with analogue keyboards, harmonies and what seems to be two basses during their first couple of songs they're doing it much better than most. The rest we leave early? Emmy The Great is on the Truck stage. Is it really two years, give or take a few days, since we were completely won over by her set here? Now, our first time seeing her live since then, she's got her full band with her but still keeps the music simple and the feelings intimate. Her voice is the purest instrument for purpose, all the better to convey the lyrical twists and motifs in a set that mixes recent favourites - Gabriel makes far more sense in this setting - and a few newer songs from her debut album, now bumped back to the start of 2009; We Almost Had A Baby may be her most nakedly raw song yet, while First Love, the current title track, smartly quotes Hallelujah (and, in Ms Moss' occasional pop cultural referencing, makes clear that this is the Leonard Cohen version). To our right, a group of gentlemen are more openly smitten than us - maybe it's her denim shorts - and keep up a two way banter with her throughout which leads opaquely to a song dedication to "all the women who've been successfully seduced by Jeremy Warmsley". An instant later, and it's as if nothing could ever put her off her stride.

Delayed due to The Wishing Stones, the lumpen reformed band of Kill Your Friends writer John Niven, overrunning, there's a communal atmosphere about in an overflowing Market tent for Jonquil. We've always pinned Jonquil down as an unvarnished part of a corner of the nu-folk circus, but their songs' construction and root points are far more complex than that suggests, and neither are they the freaks-coming-out of an Animal Collective. They're nobody so much, in fact, as a British Grizzly Bear, all pushing at the modern folk boundaries so as to reassemble them for themselves, while the new songs have more of an odd pop construction that takes them closer to a Wilco in experimentalist terms without actually sounding like them. As soon as Hugo Manuel dons his accordion and announces one last song everyone knows what's coming, and the shoutalong of Lions is rarely bettered for volume all weekend, especially when a mic is put out to the front row to not entirely harmonic effect.

And if Truck is the only place where Jonquil can get a proper celebratory atmosphere going, in this mini-world Youthmovies are stadium gods. Their first gig in some months, and following a going nowhere jam crossover with the preceding Barn band Rolo Tommasi, Youthmovies can be trying but they're rarely dull, as songs start like math-pop confections before veering into unmarked lanes for some time, sounding like the longeurs from their friends and Andrew Mears' former band Foals' album crossed with some post-hardcore modern jazz ideal, with a dash of Explosions In The Sky. And yes, it does touch prog areas, the feeling being that they may not be at their best here and threaten to lose the common thread, but the band clearly know each other so well that they can adapt and bring it back into explosive life on command. We're left impressed but not sure that they've fully extended themselves into potential greatness today.

Ian MacLagan and the Bump Band bring us right back down to earth with hoary rhythm and blues from the Small Faces organist, while a Dodgy acoustic set sees another rammed Market tent - exactly how many thirtysomethings are here? Back in the Barn Dead Kids singer Mike Title is attempting to live up to his celebrated manaical reputation - over the barrier during the first song, serenading the security, urging us to scream like animals being slaughtered (perhaps not great form on a working farm, but let's run with it). Lively, but also pointless when it's shouty Essex-boy rabble rousing over loud electropunk that wasn't even the future in 1998 when Bedlam A Go Go among others did it. No, the present form of the future is being conceived over in the Beat Hive (dunno) by the cream suited Daedelus, constructing not so much beats as danceable electronic textures, ratcheting up the intensity while concentrating intently at his electronic boxes and lit up buttons. One patron is so taken in by it all that he hurls his half remaining pint at the stage. Daedelus looks up pointedly, then calmly turns the BPM up as fast as they will go.

Back in the old methodology of music making, Danny And The Champions Of The World is Danny George Wilson of Grand Drive's communal country-folk uplift, and communal in both the campfire air and by the numbers who join him and his group on stage. Last year it's said he managed an eighteen strong cast; this year we counted it up to a peak of twenty, sadly not including MacLagan despite his flittering around the wings but featuring Romeo Stodart of the Magic Numbers, Trevor and Hannah-Lou of Indigo Moss, former David Holmes collaborator Petra Jean Phillipson, the Truck mascot and assorted randoms and men in chimp outfits whose presence even surprised Wilson, all the human faced of which were daubed in paint a la the Rolling Thunder Revue it comes across as a bit like. Back in the Barn we caught some of These New Puritans' set. Why don't we get These New Puritans? They push a lot of buttons regular readers know we go for, and we'd plump for them ahead of, say, Late Of The Pier any day, but there's something that smacks of trying too hard to fuse and modernise all that electro dance post-punk stuff, like a student physics teacher making Arctic Monkeys jokes to his class. Anyway.

During Okkervil River's set, a bloke wanders onstage from the back and stands right at the front of the stage. He then starts making pointing and head-nodding gestures at the sound desk, after a front-row-of-an-Oasis-gig "'avin' it!" style, before briefly mounting part of the PA and eventually collapsing into the arms of someone else. This all took place during A Girl In Port, a song not noted for its Fratellis-like convivality.

We mention this because, apart from obviously being an annoyance, it was pretty much the only less than perfect moment of their set. At the risk of going into unreadable gushing, when you see one of your favourite bands in the world play pretty much, give or take maybe a couple, your dream set of theirs - The President's Dead, Black, A Hand To Take Hold Of The Scene, A Girl In Port, Plus Ones, So Come Back I Am Waiting, John Allyn Smith Sails, Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe, For Real, Unless It Kicks, Westfall - with tight command of their surroundings and with the unbridled passion of Will Sheff, it's a true one-off that can't be conveyed by mere blogging. In fact, afterwards we had one of those moments everyone who's seen a transcendental performance at a festival must have had where they really can't face going to see anyone else immediately and just want to find somewhere quiet to consider what's just happened. Highlight? Oh, the Sloop John B transition in John Allyn Smith Sails, or the furious delivery of For Real, or the moment when the narrative of Westfall kicks into life... it completely killed off everything around it, and we're proud to have seen it.

We'll get back to normal service now.

As sky lanterns fill the air and head off towards Didcot, as the bicycle-powered cinema tent suffers a pedal power failure that nobody seems bothered about mending when we pass, as the lack of a Disco Shed this year hits hone (emigrated to Latitude, apparently), and with the Market tent awaiting new top 30 stars Noah & The Whale becomes so crushed we were sure there'd be a repetition of last year's postponed Foals set, it was with The Lemonheads that we went for the night's headline treat, as the current trio were to play the whole of It's A Shame About Ray. What was at the time a staple dorm listen has retained its edge as a superior power-pop workthrough, and one Dando and latest hired hands were blazing through as if still in the joys of its 1992 release. Obviously a 29 minute album is not going to fill too much of a headline timeslot, so the band tacked on a couple more at the end and Dando eventually returned to work through a few more songs, most notably The Outdoor Type, solo with not much gumption and nothing in the way of audience acknowledgement. Our first evening ended with another highlight - Munch Munch, the Bristol collective whose pulsing electropop takes a dual percussive bent - including some quality speed xylophone - to tension and release that spills over with ideas and pure rhythmic energy in the way So So Modern, who followed them onstage but we've seen them before, occasionally hint at but never quite carry off.

So, day one done. What's next?

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Nation Favourites: The Wave Pictures

Last year we wandered into the smallest tent at End Of The Road to check out a band we'd vaguely heard the name of only to find half the festival in there too, a sizeable hardcoe shouting for certain songs the rest of us didn't stand a chance of knowing. Clearly word had got out about The Wave Pictures, and it spread further after Instant Coffee Baby, a sumptuous, gorgeous album of literate three-piece indie pop beauty. Next weekend, all being well, we'll be seeing them at Indietracks; on August 4th they release the Just Like A Drummer EP, featuring five new tracks (supported by a gig at London Borderline on July 30th supported by A Classic Education), and are planning another album before the end of the year. Frontman David Tattersall took our questions.

You originally formed in Leicestershire, you're now associated with east London and I've got a track of yours on a Cardiff scene compilation. Can you clarify your story so far?
Yep. Franic Rozycki, the bass player, and myself grew up in a small village in Leicestershire called Wymeswold. We played music together for years. We then went to different universities. I went to Glasgow University and Franic went to an art college in Cardiff. Franic met Jonny Helm, the drummer, in Cardiff. We all completed our degrees to keep our parents happy, then moved together to London.  

Is it odd to be talked about as an exciting new band ten years in?
It’s a little odd to be talked about at all. You realize very quickly that what you actually do doesn’t affect people as much as what they read about you. There’s a huge gap between reality and perception. Baudrillard was right! I can’t spell his name, but he was right anyway. I suppose something that I personally can’t relate to is the idea that ‘exciting’ and ‘new’ are words that have to go together. I read it a lot, but it seems to me that there are a lot of ‘exciting old’ things. Maybe The Wave Pictures are an ‘exciting old band’. Maybe people could just be excited because we’re exciting and it wouldn’t really matter how long we had been exciting for. Anyway, yes it is weird. But I’m happy about anything that means people hear the music we have made.  

As someone brought up in Oadby, I can empathise with the writing from the perspective of village just outside large Leicestershire town. Do you think you're inspired by that kind of small town ennui?
It’s quite likely. I lived in Wymeswold, which has an almost entirely white population of a little under a thousand, until I was nineteen. I didn’t realize how unusual it was. There truly was and is absolutely nothing to do there except go to the pub. I was lucky in that I had some friends and we played football constantly, twice a day. When we got a little older we started playing music. But I’m sure it means that I’m ignorant of a lot of things and probably a bit of a day dreamer. I think there’s something to be said for referring to the small town experience in songs, though. There’s a lot of good country music that refers to small town people, and Bruce Springsteen does it a lot too. There’s something interesting about the places that are far away from the epicenters of activity - the big cities.

How did the connections and collaborations with Herman Dune, John Darnielle and Darren Hayman come about?
Herman Dune were a band that I very much admired six or seven years ago. They were a John Peel band, great guitarists and singers. I gave them a CDR of The Wave Pictures after one of their shows a million years ago. They liked it and got in touch and I went and played on a John Peel session with them and did a tour with them. I’ve played with them over and over again since then. I still love their music. Now Andre has left the band and he records as Stanley Brinks and I love his music too. I just spent the last week with him in fact, he’s a good friend. He also records with a really great French singer called Freschard. David and Neman have carried on the band ‘Herman Dune’ and are still doing good stuff too.
Darren Hayman is also a friend, he lives up the road from me. I was a huge Hefner fan back in the day, but I really think he’s doing the best work of his career now as a solo artist. I play with him in a bad called Hayman, Watkins, Trout and Lee. I met Darren through Simon Trought, who records both The Wave Pictures and Darren Hayman in his Soup Studio underneath The Duke of Uke on Hanbury Street, East London.
John Darnielle I don’t know in at all the same way as Darren or Stanley Brinks or Herman Dune. I admire many of John Darnielle’s records and he’s good company, but we’re not mates or anything. I enjoyed the time I spent recording and playing music with him. Good song lyrics seem to flow straight out of his brain and down his arm and onto the page. And he can sing too. That recording session we did with John Darnielle was six years ago. It came about because we were invited by Herman Dune to a festival. We were on a bill with people like Daniel Johnston, Rachel Lipson, Jeff Lewis and The Mountain Goats. There was a whole week of recording before the gigs started too.
Do you feel a kinship with the antifolk scene?
No. I dislike almost all the music I have ever heard that has been described as antifolk. There are a few exceptions. And we’ve met lots of nice people who are interested in that scene. It’s not a personal thing on any level. But most of the music that I hear that’s called antifolk sounds very very bad to me. I’m not interested in that music at all. To me antifolk is a term that sort of means ‘bad music’. For instance, I think Jeff Lewis is a very gifted songwriter, so I don’t consider him ‘antifolk’, even though he might and everyone else might. He’s just a songwriter to me. Everything I think of when I think of ‘antifolk’ is bad! I like rock and roll mostly myself, country music, blues, The Rolling Stones, The Velvet Underground, soul, some early jazz things like Sidney Bechet or Django Reinhardt. I don’t like antifolk. 

At what point did you decide to bite the bullet and upgrade from self-recorded CDR?
We got signed to a label so there was money to go into a studio. We still make self-recorded CDRs and we still sell them at shows. The label releases our studio recordings. Basically, we want to make studio recordings and home recordings. Both are fun. We want to record as much as possible, write songs constantly, play all the time. We like it. 

How do you write? Do you find the storytelling style easiest?
No. I just write with a pen and paper, not a computer. And it involves usually writing far more than is necessary and then editing heavily afterwards. I think that story songs are sometimes bad and sometimes good, nonsense songs are sometimes good, sometimes bad etc etc. I like a story when it’s done well. But just a scene, a split second, can seem like a story. That’s one thing that John Darnielle does so well; describing one second of life over a three minute song. There are lots of ways to be interesting. I don’t find anything easier than anything else. I’m completely limited to be honest, I have no songwriting skills, and the limitation just forces a certain thing out. Some words I’ve tried to make interesting with the kind of chord sequences I like. That’s it.
Jonathan Richman is a comparison that turns up a lot - fair to say he's a major influence? Why?
He’s just one of my favourite musicians. My favourites are Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, Bruce Springsteen and Jonathan Richman. The guitar player singer with a rocking band (preferably). I like those guys the best! It’s just their voices, the things they say, their guitar playing. You’re less lonely when you put on one of their records. It’s always what I wanted to do too. It always seemed like a good plan. You might as well try to make your favourite kind of music. Well, even if you don’t try it would happen. Jonathan Richman in particular is special because unlike those other three, he never became a millionaire and he never made a single album that is truly bad. He keeps all of his focus on playing the guitar and singing songs, so he could never be bad as long you like his songs. He’s not gonna spend a fortune making a synth album and then have to spend a fortune on the next album by recording it with Albini to make it seem like he’s gone back to keeping it real. He really just keeps it real all the time. And he seems to do it all for fun as well. I like him very much. Good songs!

What's the last decent thing you heard?
Well, right before I left my house to come and do this interview I was listening to Elmore James. He was more than decent, he was truly an astonishing musical force. You can imagine him being the missing link between blues and soul. It’s blues but he sings with the maximum intensity of a soul singer. He plays big thick chunky slide guitar, makes raw electric guitar sounds. And the horns on it are great too, big swampy horns. I was having a good time. All the songs are like little sad letters from the past. It was very old and very exciting, to me, at least. I’m sure you can pick up cheap compilations of Elmore James anywhere, it’s usually easy to buy most of those old blues guys. I’m not sure when he was recording, I guess the 1950s, maybe the end of the 1940s?  

What next?
We are playing some shows this week (well, last week now) with an excellent French band called Coming Soon. We’re playing at the Indietracks, Latitude, and End of the Road festivals. We’re traveling to Norway to play a show there and we’re planning a small tour of Germany. We’ll be playing somewhere. We’re also in the process of home recording an album of covers live to two track tape. We’re also mixing an acoustic guitar album we recorded in Berlin and the next Moshi Moshi album which we recorded in London. We’re having a lot of fun making music these days.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Weekender : via the magic of scheduled posting

- Another slow old week in CD releases, which suits us as we're not looking to make this too long this week. CSS have become a second division makeweight nu-Britpop band, Liam Finn is much better live, Primal Scream have stopped bothering with all that pushing forward business. It fills us with inertia. Oh, yeah, Bedazzled's out, the soundtrack to the ace Pete'n'Dud film - let's pretend that other one doesn't exist, OK - which we understand was only very briefly made available on CD a few years ago until being withdrawn due to wrangles with Dudley Moore's estate. It's alleged the original vinyl LP now changes hands at over £300. Most of it is jazz-lite from Moore's Trio, but the songs from the pop star scene are present and correct. Singles? Good ones too - the majesty of Fleet Foxes' White Winter Hymnal, the multitasking lo-fi pop heartfulness of The Voluntary Butler Scheme's debut EP Trading Things In, the so-angular-it's-star shaped Now This Will Take Two Hands EP by Maths Class and MJ Hibbett & the Validators' tale of love in the IT office It Only Works Because You're Here.

MYSPACE INVADERS: Those who remember the far too great minutiae of this blog may remember our featuring a band called Alexandria Quartet near enough this time last year, referring to them as "either dealing in poetic folk balladry or... trousers-on-fire railing against the day's ills". With that sort of write-up from this quarter only one thing was going to happen to them, and sure enough they split before 2007 was done (their name since swiped by a Norwegian band who've played some shows over here this week). Singer Adam Donen promptly had some sort of breakdown, in rehabilitation from which he started writing more orchestral, melodramatic songs. These became the bedrock of Adam Donen And The Drought, which takes those same qualities - they still remind us a little of Whipping Boy, and there's a re-recorded Alexandria Quartet song on the player - and allies them to a greater soundscape to a Bad Seeds effect while featuring "Authors, Playwrights and Poets" higher than musicians in the influences list. Like British Sea Power when they're being all triumphantly, mini-orchestrally expansive? You'll like this.

VISUAL AID: Is anything more, as the kids say, lolsome than a school band having a go at a wildly risky song? Whether it's Smells Like Teen Spirit, Song 2 or Killing In The Name Of (good timing with breaking that emergency glass), Radiohead or the Libertines, an unwise Eric Clapton choice or an unwise Devo choice, there's something fascinating about the art of people picking up mikes and instruments who are young enough not to care but immature enough to know that others do. Especially if they're covering Tori Amos covering Chas & Dave. Our favourites for persistence are French Canadians Hydrants On Fire, not least for their go at Bloc Party's Helicopter. Good guitar, mediocre drums, vocals perhaps a trifle undercooked. They suit Rebellion (Lies) better, but the horses have long bolted no matter how many friends with inventive hats they bring.

* Our new favourite press release hyperbole of all time - a bloke best known for being a drummer, for a bit, 45 years ago, releases an album and the label CEO is willingly quoted as calling it "as good as anything The Beatles did at their peak".

* Given their track record when Brainlove Records place a record of theirs on a high shelf and ask we jump we willingly enquire how high. 'As high as the shelf' is usually the response, but never mind. Two Thousand And Ace is a limited edition CD featuring 27 bands what they like, which means healthy servings of Napoleon IIIrd, Bearsuit, Pagan Wanderer Lu, Cats In Paris, Friends Of The Bride, Capitol K, Modernaire, The Retro Spankees, Tim Ten Yen and Jam On Bread plus others, all for just a fiver from the label shop. Coinciding are the latest two events in John Brainlove's attempt to build a New Model Army for the 21st Century, by which we mean Cromwell's Parliamentarian brigade in the English Civil War rather than the crusty rockers of yore, through the medium of national all-dayers featuring some of those above. The first is at Leeds' Brudenell Social Club on 2nd August, the second on on the 9th when the march hits Oxford's Jericho Tavern. Then they're really working it with a stage to themselves at the Woolfire Festival near Winchester in the last weekend of August, featuring Napoleon IIIrd, Pagan Wanderer Lu, Friends Of The Bride, Modernaire, Applicants and Keyboard Choir.

* And who doesn't want a baffling array of graphs based on their profile?

* In case you missed it a couple of days ago, the BBC has a story with illustrations about hordes of remarkable yet hitherto unknown 60s recordings by Delia Derbyshire, scion of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, one of which seems to heavily pre-empt the entire first ten years of Warp Records.

* And finally, we're off at Truck this weekend and while we're writing all that business up over the coming days the Mercury Music Prize nominees will be issued on Tuesday. We have a regular half-right-or-so record with predicting the twelve names put forward, so here goes: British Sea Power, Burial, Duffy, Edwyn Collins, Elbow, Foals, The Imagined Village, MIA, Mystery Jets, Portishead, Radiohead, Robert Wyatt. Let's see, shall we.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Weekly Sweep

  • The Allender Band - Green Wound [Myspace]
  • Broken Records - Slow Parade [Myspace]
  • The Chap - Proper Rock [mp3]
  • Cottonmouth Rocks - Witch Doctor [Myspace]
  • Fleet Foxes - White Winter Hymnal [YouTube]
  • Jeremy Warmsley - Lose My Cool [acoustic live YouTube]
  • Johnny Foreigner - Salt, Peppa & Spinderella [Myspace] (Curious things afoot. The video linked to last week has been taken off by Best Before, the single when issued in September will feature a Bloc Party remix, and on their Myspace the accompanying picture is Dave Grohl with his arm around Junior, who doesn't look all that thrilled at the photo op prospect)
  • Liam Finn - Second Chance [YouTube]
  • The Mai 68s - Froth On The Daydream [Myspace]
  • Maths Class - Nerves [YouTube]
  • Minnaars - Essay Essay Essay [Myspace]
  • Noah & The Whale – 5 Years Time [YouTube]
  • Pagan Wanderer Lu - Good Christian/Bad Christian [Myspace]
  • Port O'Brien - I Woke Up Today [YouTube]
  • Vampire Weekend - Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa [Myspace]
  • The Voluntary Butler Scheme - Trading Things In [YouTube]
  • The Walkmen - In The New Year [Myspace]
  • The Wave Pictures - Just Like A Drummer
  • Wire - One Of Us [mp3]
  • Your Twenties - Caught Wheel [Myspace]
  • Thursday, July 17, 2008

    Sweeping The Nation Covermount 12A: Heroes And Villains

    When we did songs about or named after other musicians as a Covermount last year, it was only ever going to scratch the surface of the tribute genre of songwriting. Musicians have always wanted to pass on their idolatory, make sure someone's name is mud, comment on events or just use a celebrated identity for sport. Like this...

    Heroes And Villains

    The Modern Lovers - Pablo Picasso
    The first Modern Lovers album was recorded in 1972 but not released until 1976, by which time producer and pianist John Cale had recorded it for his own solo album. That's hardly fair.
    From The Modern Lovers

    The Adverts - Gary Gilmore's Eyes
    Gilmore was found guilty of murdering a gas station employee and motel manager in Utah in 1976, who gained notoreity by insisting his firing squad death sentence be fulfilled against the wishes of Utah authorities and by requesting his eyes be given for transplant purposes. TV Smith wondered what might happen if the recipient found out.
    From Crossing The Red Sea With The Adverts

    Half Man Half Biscuit - Fuckin' 'Ell It's Fred Titmus
    You have to, really, don't you?
    From Back In The DHSS

    Boney M - Rasputin
    You don't have to, really, but screw you, it's our Covermount. Who is that narrator in the bridge?
    From The Collection

    Le Tigre - What's Yr Take On Cassavetes?
    John Cassavetes was an auteur pioneer of American independent film who has also influenced songs by Fugazi and the Hold Steady. Kathleen Hanna and co don't give his legacy a lot of room for manoevure here.
    From Le Tigre

    Sleater-Kinney - I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone
    Just across the Riot Grrrl divide (and yes, we know Sleater-Kinney really postdate that whole thing, but the ideas are there), this album was Carrie Brownstein's coming-out party of sorts, not least in her ambiguous call to be celebrated.
    From Call The Doctor

    Super Furry Animals - Hermann Loves Pauline
    Hermann Einstein and Pauline Koch, to be precise, parents of Albert Einstein, whose development Gruff considers before veering off into Marie Curie and late night garage culture (who'd know a celebrated weedhead would be aware of that?)
    From Radiator

    Franz Ferdinand - All For You, Sophia
    Here's where that reading in art school dorm pays off - Sophia was the name of Archduke Franz Ferdinand's wife (and daughter, actually). Indeed this Take Me Out B-side is a proper retelling of his murder - Gavrilo Princip was one of seven men from the Black Hand Gang sent to assassinate Ferdinand.

    The Clash - The Right Profile
    Montgomery Clift was a intense, sensitive kind of actor who was a Oscar-nominated Hollywood star until a car crash in 1956 left him with spinal damage and facial damage. As his health and looks deteriorated Clift became addicted to drink and painkillers and died of a heart attack aged 44. REM's Monty Got A Raw Deal? That's about him too.
    From London Calling

    Scritti Politti - Jacques Derrida
    Living in a cramped Camden squat in the late 70s Green Gartside and fellow critical theory-loving commune dwellers read theory voraciously, and it was those addled idealistics that fed into 1982's melodic soul experiments that brought them closer to the New Pop mainstream.
    From Songs To Remember

    Modest Mouse - Bukowski
    Big old lit-touchstone for any self respecting US indie rocker in the Isaac Brock mould, Charles.
    From Good News For People Who Love Bad News

    Billy Bragg & Wilco - Ingrid Bergman
    Woody Guthrie's 1950 love song to the celebrated Swedish actress resurrected for the covers project...
    From Mermaid Avenue Vol.1

    David Bowie - Andy Warhol
    Bowie was an early Velvets champion and is reputed to have played this to Warhol when he visited Bowie's studio, to a less than positive reaction. Not that we'd expect anything more, obviously. Also on the same album is Song for Bob Dylan, and the subject didn't like that either. John Frusciante claims the intro to Under The Bridge is inspired by this song.
    From Hunky Dory

    The Go-Betweens - Lee Remick
    Hefner also had a song called Lee Remick, but it wasn't about the late actress. "She was in The Omen with Gregory Peck/She got killed, what the heck".
    From The Lost Album 1978-1979

    10,000 Maniacs - Hey Jack Kerouac
    cf Bukowski.
    From Campfire Songs

    Lloyd Cole And The Commotions - Sean Penn Blues
    Cole wasn't averse to the odd cultural reference - Norman Mailer, Grace Kelly, Truman Capote, Joan Didion, Raymond Carver - but being sympathetic to the then much mocked Penn was a new dimension.
    From Mainstream

    Manic Street Preachers - Let Robeson Sing
    It's not as if MSP have few options in this regard, but there's something oddly touching about their tribute to actor/singer/civil rights champion Paul Robeson, not to mention it being one of their few late period highlights.
    From Know Your Enemy

    Sufjan Stevens - John Wayne Gacy, Jr
    Serial killer number two: Gacy, the "Killer Clown", was executed in 1994 for the rape and murder of 33 boys and young men between 1972 and his arrest in 1978, having been sentenced to 21 consecutive life sentences and 12 death sentences. Sufjan thinks they might be alike somehow. Gulp.
    From Illinoise

    Okkervil River - John Allyn Smith Sails
    Confessional poet John Berryman has suddenly became an indie rock cause celebre over the last couple of years. The Hold Steady's Stuck Between Stations is about him, and Nick Cave (We Call Upon The Author) and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (Mama, Won't You Keep Them Castles In The Air And Burning) both lyrically namecheck him and his style. Best of all, though, is Will Sheff's retelling of his 1972 suicide by bridge jumping which lurches - naturally, Sheff says - into the traditional song best known as Sloop John B. An unfollowable finish to any compilation...
    From The Stage Names

    The Fatima Mansions - Blues For Ceausescu
    ...were it not due to this. There's not a lot of direct political comment here, largely because we might want to do a current affairs leaning Covermount one day, but Cath Carroll's molten precision targeted anger at... what? Royalty, Britain, the nature of dictatorship? Anyway, it was a Song To Learn And Sing and actually is unfollowable by anything.
    From Viva Dead Ponies

    Wednesday, July 16, 2008

    It's the music they're dancing to

    Where have The Chap been all our life? Well, we've heard their name bandied around before, but we've only just discovered new album Mega Breakfast and been thoroughly enriched as a result. It sounds like a criticism when an album sounds like it doesn't know what it wants to be, but here that's pretty much the North London outfit's strength. "Pop improv disco rock with strings" they say, which basically means junior LCD beats colliding with warm, surging indie rock, choral choruses next to underplayed vocals and curious interjections, all laced with their own uberwry sense of humour. A quick unsatisfactory summation? Sparks writing for Hot Chip. And now, a brief lecture on 1960s electronic music.

    The Chap - Carlos Walter Wendy Stanley

    We've had The Puddle's No Love No Hate on our hard drive for months now without getting round to it, which probably means that among interested parties we're last to it by some distance. The Puddle have been going in various forms since 1983 under the auspices of, and now pretty much just, Dunedin's George Henderson, this their first proper album since 1993 when they were on Flying Nun Records, the label that has done more than most for New Zealand indie over the last three decades (The Clean, The Chills, Garageland, Gerling, The Mint Chicks, The D4) which by and large gave rise to a form of jangle known as the 'Dunedin Sound', later claimed as an influence by Pavement. There's something of that band's mid-career warped post-lofi melodies with too smart lyrics and that Clean/Chills lineage here as well as Syd Barrett idiosyncracies and a Byrdsian hook-laden jangle. There's already a new album lined up for next year by the looks of it.

    The Puddle - No Sequels

    Monday, July 14, 2008

    Celebrity Muxtape #4: MJ Hibbett

    MJ Hibbett had a viral hit before the term had been popularised with Hey Hey 16k, is a major advocate of the ukelele, was Steve Lamacq's Euro 2004 correspondent, got called "a national institution" by The Word and will in August be at the Edinburgh Fringe performing My Exciting Life In ROCK!, an autobiographial account of his career with musical illustration, with a single called It Only Works Because You're Here out before then. We love him, so we asked him what he loves, and he told us.

    MJ Hibbett's Muxtape

    I've had a bit of a think and I thought I'd do a "My Exciting Life In ROCK" THEMED muxtape, based on the life-cycle of being in a band. THUS:

    Art Brut - Formed A Band
    When I first saw them Eddie Argos used this song to tell the ENTIRE audience to go out TONIGHT and form their own band. If I hadn’t already got one I would have done so IMMEDIATELY!

    The Beatles - You Never Give Me Your Money
    This is Macca trying to persuade the other Fabs to go out on the road and do some tiny gigs again, because it would be FUN. They disagreed – miserable sods.

    Half Man Half Biscuit - Running Order Squabble Fest
    This is EXACTLY what being in a band is like after the first three gigs, and is thus why most bands split up soon afterwards!

    The Wave Pictures - Just Like A Drummer
    I went to seem them a few weeks ago and was AMAZED by how amazING they were – even better live than on record, as the live version of EVERY song was augmented by TREMENDOUS guitar solos.

    Belle & Sebastian - This Is Just A Modern Rock Song
    Songs about being in a band are usually about the exciting bits at the start, the crazy bits towards the end, or sitting around in a hotel room feeling fed up. There’s hardly ANY about the bit about sixth months in when you wonder whether you should pack it in or carry on plugging away because “we're not terrific but we're competent.”

    John Otway - Geneve
    The Life On The Road Song usually goes “I am lonely and I miss my girlfriend, boo hoo” and is usually DREARY but Otway, being Otway, manages to make it charming, also heartbreaking. Before I even started doing gigs Otway gave me the best advice EVER. He was sitting in the front bar of The Princess Charlotte and I asked him why he was sitting with the punters rather than in his dressing room. “If I sit backstage I’ll be all on my own”, he said. “If I come out here people buy me beer and tell me I’m great.”

    Billy Bragg - Waiting For The Great Leap Forward
    Another Life On The Road Song, but Mr Bragg uses it as a METAPHOR for… well, everything. Also featuring: FANTASTIC FADEOUT.

    The Divine Comedy - The Booklovers
    For some people TOURING and recording is so DULL they are “forced” to take heroin. Me, I take a pile of BOOKS and the latest issue of “Puzzler” magazine.

    Suede - The Big Time
    Talking of which – SUEDE!

    The Boo Radleys - High As Monkeys
    People, correctly, laud Giant Steps as one of the best albums of the 90’s but actually I think Kingsize is even BETTER. Not many people hold this opinion because not many people BOUGHT it, but still: Brett, cheer up, THIS is how you should be doing it!

    Wings - Rockshow
    Macca at the height of his POMP in Wings, inventing stadium ROCK, not giving a toss what anybody thought of him and, clearly, having a FABULOUS time!

    Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince - Boom Shake The Room
    The big finish! I play this song at the end of my show because a) it’s brilliant and b) EVERYONE knows the words. Every time I play it I see audience members ASTONISHED to find themselves singing along, it’s GRATE!

    Sunday, July 13, 2008

    Weekender : all thud and bluster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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