Saturday, July 31, 2010

Playlist additions 31/7/10

  • Britta Persson - Meet A Bear [Myspace] [YouTube]
    Britta Persson, bitter person? No. Another Stockholm friend of Camera Obscura's, the well fringed Persson makes music that's big (but not crowded) on sonic possibility but learns to admire the little things and the small ideals. Seems she can even play with the concept of time and motion.

  • Eels - Spectacular Girl [Myspace] [YouTube] [Spotify]
    Sounds like Eels. One of their/his electric piano ones.

  • Grinderman - Heathen Child [Myspace] [Soundcloud]
    The actively dirty four-sevenths of the Bad Seeds unveil the first track from the second album, the Cave touchstone here being planted somewhere around The Firstborn Is Dead but still full of that wild guitar sound and lasciviousness like it's out of style. Robert Fripp's on the 12"!

  • Her Name Is Calla - Pour More Oil [Soundcloud]
    From The Quiet Lamb, an album that seems to have been about to be released for longer than we can imagine (ETA recently changed from August to a more necessarily elastic 'autumn'. Powerful, ebbing, gripping stuff. Starts quietly, as Peel used to say.

  • Jens Lekman - The End of the World Is Bigger Than Love [mp3 via TLOBF]
    He's back! And he's slipped back into his lush crooner at the dark end of Lover's Lane mode. Lekman's explained how the song came to be in a decent length note.

  • Johnny Flynn - Barnacled Warship [Myspace] [YouTube] [Spotify]
    The latest, and you'd have to say most likely given prevailing climates, attempt to break Flynn as the housewives' folk crossover choice having fallen on deaf ears, it's back to letting the songs stand up or fall for themselves. This driving, sawing single does, accompanied by a deftly animated video.

  • Still Corners - Endless Summer [Myspace] [mp3 via TLOBF]
    Not to gloat or anything, but given this song broke on the blogs last week we first mentioned this band last July. Many are ascribing this to c***lw**e, but Beach House, Broadcast and Slowdive are the actual natural bedfellows of this hazy, dreamy concoction of dappled meadows over which shadows deeply hang. And hark, the Be My Baby beat too.

  • Summer Camp - Round The Moon [Myspace] [live YouTube]
    Listen to the male vocal style on this slab of Super 8 dreampop and then wonder how it was that it took three further months after its initial demo upload for anyone to go "hang on, isn't that that Warmsley?" They're touring with Frankie & The Heartstrings in October (and 30th September), which despite appearances we aren't sponsoring. Might not even be able to get to any of it, in truth. Inevitably.

  • The Thermals - I Don't Believe You [mp3 via RCRD LBL] [live YouTube]
    Ah, now after the last album's far too smoothed out sound this, while hardly art or hardly garbage, is more like the bustle and fury we knew Hutch, Kathy and whoever's drumming for them now for.

  • The Walkmen - Stranded [Myspace] [Spotify]
    More A Hundred Miles Off than the more electrified You & Me, although Hamilton Leithauser says this is pretty much the only track that is so openly backwards looking. Moreover it's strangely New Orleans wake-like.

  • Yuck - Daughter [mp3 via the band] [Vimeo]
    Actually, not Yuck but Yu(c)k, the means through which they now put out their keys-led contemplative side, and at least on recorded evidence to date their better side. Eventually the reverb pedal gets pushed, which makes it all the more effective.

    It's already been playlisted, but just out is the new Sky Larkin video. Note the director's careful framing/hiding of Nestor's DFA79 T-shirt.

  • Thursday, July 29, 2010

    Wow factor

    We write about and talk up a lot of new bands on here, but such is the way of modern music and its easy availability and eagerness to please that those that sound genuinely fresh and difficult to pigeonhole... well, they deserve their own post. The suddenly getting big in blogland six months after we first featured them (but as part of chillwave? Pah!) Under Alien Skies got one, The Second Hand Marching Band (playing a very special show in Glasgow tonight) got one, and now here's another one.

    Presenting Wap Wap Wow. They're a Peckham based nonet who played a tiny stage at Glastonbury, are rumoured to have Moshi Moshi after their very souls and have recently been working with Yannis Phillipakis and Jonquil's Hugo Manuel (who incidentally does this in his downtime, and inevitably seems to be getting wider press for it than anything Jonquil have done) behind the desk of Foals' own studio. Their leader is called Rose Dagul, which after our recent post about namealikes we find vaguely amusing. Forget that.

    And leave aside the Foals associations, because it's Jonquil, at least before they turned tropical, that you need to keep in mind here, similarly sounding similarly like some art-folk minded people who got together in a bedroom to create something fantastical, dizzying and haunted. Their seven people credited with vocals plus two violinists and two cellists give away much of their choral folk mini-chamber orchestra nature, but the looping high emotive harmonies and Owen Pallett-recalling pizzicato plucks place feet equally in the freakish wave of avant-folk and the Unthankian traditional without becoming too complacent in either camp. For examples of what we mean, listen to the demo - rough demo! - of To Myself At Fifteen, driven by racing drums and Hermann strings atop which is Dagul's mighty, vaguely Denny-like voice against the gale force, or The Round, something almost hypnotic coming to play based on loops of handclaps and mouth percussion before an unexpected step into music business satire. They're not part of this week's hipster thing, they're very much setting their own agenda, and on currently available evidence we're glad of it. They play Catch in Shoreditch on August 3rd before going back into the studio, and how this all works live, both audibly and visually, will be fascinating. Here's a decent hint, though, recorded on home turf in May.

    Tuesday, July 27, 2010

    Tracks record

    Hello there. Back from a fine weekend among like minded people amid the glorious infrastructure of Indietracks. Having got ten hours and less than halfway through the grand review we realised we were giving ourselves a potential aneurysm for nothing, so fuck that. Here are the bits we really want to mention, though, in chronological order:

    - Allo Darlin'! Bit of a shame that the set of the weekend came from the second band on, but nobody plays ukelele with the enthusiasm of Elizabeth Morris and few have such craft about the summer-tinged joy of their songwriting either, so exuberant and full of excitable bounce while still packing emotional, evocative content. Max from the Smittens stands in on Dreaming doing Monster Bobby doing Calvin Johnson, while the maven tendencies of some of the melodies are acknowledged as The Polaroid Song incorporates a snatch of Walk Like An Egyptian. "I keep seeing people I know, which isn't because there's so many people here but because everyone I know is here" Elizabeth marvels mid-set, before the first of many, many onstage references to Fortuna Pop!'s Sean Price. The admiration is more than reciprocated.

    - Lime Chalks and Jam On Bread, the two we saw of the fabled sets on a very warm train. Birmingham's own low-key harmonic folk-pop contenders opened our festival warm-up gig (went very well, thanks) and their lilting goodness and emergency radio editing of copious swearing choruses on seeing children present was a fine way to start the first full day, even if they did run out of rehearsed songs and have to improvise until reaching the station again. Meanwhile Manchester-via-Grimsby's own beardy ukelele troubadour, whose first gig we realised during the weekend we saw, got a packed out train for his (and Chris from Internet Forever on backing melodica and thighslaps) curiously unique cracked little odes to data entry, the perils of Wikipedia health research and the pain of being ineligible for release on Labrador Records. Stirring stuff. Forgot to get a copy of his new album, though.

    - It took us a while to get into The Just Joans, we should admit, but by the end of their tram shed set we saw what all the localised fuss was about. The force of their tales of provinciality and heartbreak are too well mined to ignore, the new songs sound spot on and the four-part chorality brought into What Do We Do Now? hammered home the point. A triumph.

    - Ballboy's drummer got married in the signal box on Sunday morning. For someone who works alongside Gordon McIntyre, perhaps he felt accustomed to life's rich tapestry. The band set on Saturday, vocal mic cutout notwithstanding, was great - three new songs, Elizabeth Morris doing the monologue on A Europewide Search For Love, a surprising cover of Beat Happening's Indian Summer. McIntyre's own solo set, filling in for absent church headliners, on Sunday might have been even better, mining the most touching of his work (I Lost You But I Found Country Music would have been a great set closer had he not got an encore) and drawing out a couple more new ones. Some day people on a wider scale will realise what a lyric writer he is.

    - MJ Hibbett & The Validators were opening the main stage on Sunday, in Mark's opinion "the legends slot - will it be Tony Bennett? Will it be Rolf Harris?" Actually it could only ever be MJ Hibbett, sorting out the indiepop wheat from part-timer chaff with his songs of wryness (but, BBC, not strictly comedy) and great plain truth. He plays Leave My Brother Alone, a song that has been known to make people cry. He plays two tracks from sci-fi rock opera, forthcoming Edinburgh show and some time after that album Dinosaur Planet. Do The Indie Kid breaks all known records for taking up of the titular dance step, and features a surprisingly successful crowdsourced Music Of The Future. If your Twitter feed at around 2pm on Sunday featured a load of messages just reading 'happiness' or '#happiness', this was why.

    - Everyone went on so much about the packed out The Specific Heats church set last year, where they blew up their reverb machine with the first chord, that we couldn't miss them this time around. It was a wise decision, as the becaped Brooklynites' superior psych-garage effortlessly blew many a more hyped contender for this summer of surf-rock away within a song or two, most of the set from a forthcoming album. Leader Mat Patalano draws all sorts of coruscating noise out of his guitar, the drummer never stops grinning, and for once the echoey nature of the shed seems to work in a band's favour.

    - Somehow you knew the ever changing retro R&B (no, the original type) garage types The Loves would put on a show for their last Indietracks. For starters, they come out to the Star Wars theme with three dancers who proceed to strut their Ready Steady Go! thing to three songs during the set. Simon Love is wearing a cape. Next to him as emergency stand-in backing singer is Liz from The School. And so it proceeds through glorious semi-pastiche and Simon's banter ("this is from our third album, which recently went zinc"). Then they bring on Jesus, who looks suspiciously like Jimmy from the Bobby McGees in a sheet. They finish, in claimed honour of the Faces, by kicking footballs into the crowd "like a cut price Flaming Lips". It almost doesn't register that it all sounds better and more immediate live.

    - We've finally worked out Internet Forever. They're the patent pending of noise-twee. See, you've got the keyboard sound, Laura's vocals and the sense that it's hanging onto the songs for dear life, and Chris on athletic stand-up drumming, then Craig stage right putting a great mass of guitar noise on top of everything. They cover Dire Straits' Walk Of Life without referring to it being a cover. They attempt to get a Twitter rumour that Nathan from Wavves has died going. They claim their website is on Geocities, but you'll need to leave a message in the guestbook (it's not, obviously). Pete Gofton appears to add handclaps to half a song. Much as they know about what's around them, they're a great mallet of dissonance in the middle of the indiepop.

    - The cheering thing about Standard Fare is, even though they've been reviewed in proper newspapers and interviewed on national radio stations, they're still permanently surprised and not a little nervous to find people really like them and willingly turn out to see them. Then again, it's increasingly apparent that they have the aura of pop genius about them. They're aided by the reappearance, as seen at several popshows over the last year, of the Standard Fare Voluntary Dance Squad (pending group title), Philadelphia and Dancing in particular getting great swathes of people down the front moving. There's a new song, which we understand is called Suitcase, that's faster and equally fresh and contains a great Danny How guitar solo, and another new one that they hadn't finished so got Brad from One Happy Island to add a trumpet coda to before covering his own band's Mothball. Like their friends Allo Darlin', and Elizabeth is up near the front singing along, they're ready for prime time.

    - Slow Club are embarking on recording their second album at the end of summer, with just some Japanese dates and a couple of festivals between then and now. Hence, riskily for a festival where they don't strictly fit in per se, much of their set is taken up with new songs, those played mostly mining their affecting ballad range. They seem a little uptight before Rebecca breaks a stick during Because We're Dead, the pause seemingly allowing them to relax and really take off. By Giving Up On Love her tambourine stand is on the verge of collapse. The intimacy the pair can bring to any stage is oft said but true, as is Rebecca's vocal ability. But who knew the properly famous and signed band would be among the most ramshackle of the day?

    - The Pains of Being Pure At Heart were the final band on, the group taking the Indietracks ethos to a wider audience, and both before and during the set they were keen to talk up the unifying spirit of the event and the community into which they blossomed, thanking plenty of individuals as they go (and again with Sean Price jokes). The gods of electricity though aren't initially on their side. It's clear the guitars don't sound right early on, and after second song This Love Is Fucking Right there's a long pause to sort out whatever had malfunctioned. From then on you can almost feel their confidence and power grow until they really were playing to a level that the situation, and their own place therein, demanded. Three new songs were tried out, all edging back from the more synthy sound the last single suggested into more able waters. In terms of their own humbled demeanour, namechecking the Manhattan Love Suicides as the band that inspired them to form and one day make it over here to the festival, they eventually lived up to their heat.

    These we also saw: Veronica Falls (decent enough, but sunk after the hopeless start that saw them play two songs they thought were part of the soundcheck despite being 25 minutes after their stage time), Everybody Was In The French Resistance... Now! (too obscure a concept to headline, but few can banter like Eddie Argos and his closing just thought up rewrite for the occasion Formed A Side Project ("it'll probably make the Israel and Palestine situation worse")), Red Shoe Diaries (very useful, but could only stop for two songs), This Many Boyfriends (enthusiastic), Linda Guilala (too clean and uninvolved), La La Love You (five excitable Spaniards in pink jackets playing Ramones-on-even-more-cheap-speed punk-pop with endless enthusiasm, perpetual motion, one member not actually playing the instrument he's behind and not much stylistic variation), Antarctica Takes It! (can't remember), The Smittens (joyful, but not as good at jangly power-pop as)..., Boy Genius (see before), The Orchids (dated), Stars In Coma (seemed to just get going with the danceability when they finished), Tender Trap (saw four songs, the last Talulah Gosh's My Best Friend), The Primitives (OK, maybe they didn't really have the strong back catalogue), Winston Echo (whimsy is a good thing), The Blanche Hudson Weekend (saw one and a half songs and the inevitable blizzard of feedback ending), Shrag (half the set spent talking to musicians in the merch tent, the other watching a set not as good at that they did there two years earlier), The Pooh Sticks (packed the shed out! People with signs! Only one song we know, and that, On Tape, never played live before! Ah, but what we saw of the rest of it was very decent) That means that through circumstance we unfortunately missed Foxes!, Paisley & Charlie, White Town, David Tattersall, Springfactory and Sarandon.

    In summary: wonderful weekend by the abandoned stock, once again. And hello again to everyone we met. Any further questions?

    Our photos in full

    Saturday, July 24, 2010

    Playlist additions is having a week off

    Too busy to listen to loads of new music objectively at the moment, what with festivals and writing about festivals and warming up for festivals and all that. In the meantime, Brainlove Records is going on tour in September/October, and this is the player they've chosen to advertise it with, including an exclusive Napoleon IIIrd demo from the second album set for October:

    Brainlove Tour 2010! by brainlove

    28th September London CAMP
    29th September Norwich Knowhere Bar
    30th September Leeds The Well
    1st October Leicester Firebug *
    2nd October Dublin The Twisted Pepper
    5th October York Stereo
    6th October Cardiff 10 Feet Tall
    8th October Manchester Kings Arms

    (* Yes, of course it's us. Who else would be stupid enough to think Brainlove artists could draw a crowd in Leicester?)

    Dates are still being booked - contact John Brainlove direct for info.

    Thursday, July 22, 2010

    Latitude 2010: Sunday

    Want to know what this year's festival 'thing' might be? Bubbles. All over the place, they were. Especially kids with big wands that make huge bubbles.

    Some however had different, more left field ideas of the perfect festival combination.

    Having got out of the habit of needing to obsessively know who and what each new artist at a festival is in favour of letting chance rule early in the day, we don't know what we'd have assumed a local act called Cevanne would be like. Fair bet, though, that 'obtuse skank' would have been somewhere down the list.

    Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian, in fact, restlessly dancing across the stage to an equally jazz reggae melange made out of double bass, trumpet, cello, drums and Cevanne's own command of that typical ska instrument, the harp. There's a great sense of the theatrical in what she does, allied to lyrics both politicised and fantastical. It's always surprised us, being regular viewers of the skanking chaos whenever Summer Sundae puts ska on, that this sort of thing isn't more valued by more mainstream festivals, as it always slowly draws a keen crowd, especially when it's this energetic and undeniable.

    Last year's surprise Mercury nominees Sweet Billy Pilgrim got an Obelisk slot and failed to do that much with it - you can see their influences - Peter Gabriel, Talk Talk - but what they make of it, lush art-folk, veered too near the superior Leisure Society's range. After a couple of songs Spectrals by the Lake seemed more appealing - not a band/person (given it's Louis Jones alone on record) we've been particularly keen on the recorded output of, but again divorced from their stretch for a lo-fi aura their adherence to rock'n'roll and surf with psychedelic tinges and maybe a little Teenage Fanclub lurking somewhere makes more sense when you can hear properly the work that's gone into putting it together underneath.

    Downwind, especially from the comedy tent where Mark Watson drops in a Pavement lyric causing audible surprise around us in doing so (not really sure why, it's not as if people who've been on telly are banned from listening to alternative music), Mumford & Sons are being treated like homecoming heroes by the weekend's only real capacity crowd in the Obelisk arena, so much so there seems hardly anyone elsewhere on site. Especially not watching The Agitator, the current vehicle through which Derek Meins gets to shout at an audience. It's not as if he isn't putting the effort in either, hollering his injustice charged rhythmic stanzas all over the shop and across the syllables backed by ex-Maccabees sticksman Robert Dylan Thomas' athletically charging drums, occasionally launching into shaker action or essaying a crab dance across the stage. Frankly, we're not sure whether this is really good or what. We don't think anyone else is either.

    At 4.30pm, we were faced with a horrible four-way clash. Dirty Projectors, Kristin Hersh, Jesca Hoop and Mitchell Museum, two supported well by us, one an unmissable live experience, one a great of her craft. Three of whom we've also seen before, which is why we started out in Sunrise with Jesca Hoop. With the current vogue for away-with-the-fairies female singers of all types we can see why some may shy away from her high register-testing skittishness, daffy between song chat and songs about nature and dreaming, but there's little twee about it in the end, quirky maybe but grounded by a certain leftfield inventiveness. Not nearly as inventive as Dirty Projectors, however, as we make our excuses halfway through to watch Dave Longstreth pluck all sorts of wheedling, labyrinthine Afro-guitar magic out of the air against gymnastic polyrhythms and an astonishingly tight band, not to mention the intricacy of the harmonies. Something so individually opaque does feel a little lost playing out on the big stage to an audience who seem mostly to be sitting or laying down, but then Stillness Is The Move kicks in and reaches for the sky as much as Amber Coffman's vocal does, and everywhere pockets of resistance are falling to some approximation of dancing.

    Much more of that was going on at Yeasayer, probably the most packed the Word Arena got all weekend bar The XX on Saturday and possibly The National. Maybe it's down to their more dance-friendly direction, plenty of delay and retro synth suggesting a good founding in rave but with plenty, perhaps too much at times, going on beyond the surface. If things don't totally take off despite the size and willingness of the crowd until ONE turns up as the penultimate song, by the time they finish with Ambling Alp everyone esconsed in the centre seems to be singing along.

    You'll not get anything like that with These New Puritans, but they too have advanced the sound they emerged with with the aid of special black boxes, just in a completely different direction. A three-strong woodwind section and dual drumkit provide the light and, more commonly, heavy shade while keyboards and effects fill in the sound effects, taiko drums, orchestral sections, sub-bass and general deep disquiet around the textures of dancehall tribal conflict Hidden suggests, Jack Barnett up front like a paranoid preacher. Of course an album that great in scope isn't going to be entirely replicated well on stage, especially not in the open air in the middle of a glade, but the ambition is highly appreciated. More sub-bass filled the Word Arena in the approximation of an MRI machine as sampled on Charlotte Gainsbourg's similarly titled album. Gainsbourg makes for a fine frontwoman, as logically she should, and is in good voice but seems much more comfortable reinterpreting her father's work than relaying her own.

    Back to Sunrise, and to a full tent, and one really going for it at the front. The secret must have got out about The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart. You wouldn't think their scuzzy, lively, C86-y sound would suit these conditions as well as they do, but there's a warmth and inclusivity about it, not to mention two just as good new songs, that doesn't so much demand attention as suggest you join in the congregation admiring the strychnine laced floss of Kip and Peggy's harmonies and Kip's claim that as it's the first date of their European tour we're catching them at their happiest. (Hope not, they're popping up again in our presence this weekend) It's in this ordinary magic that they thrive.

    You can tell a lot from a Robyn Hitchcock festival audience, even one as small as that he played to. Playing a short set in the literary tent at Robin Ince's invitation, and watched by Adam Buxton, it's worth keeping an eye on those baffled by the lyrics and gnomic between song announcements and those who converted long ago but still probably couldn't place all the set in his sprawling discography. Over on the Lake Stage headlining slot things are changing for Beth Jeans Houghton. No big wig, no unlikely headwear, just a brown beehive, leopard print top and skintight leggings as her only concessions to previous sartorial oddness. Also gone is an acoustic guitar, switching between electric and banjo for a set of songs that while for the most part are still indebted to folk and rolling country take some unlikely deviations. A rockabilly and proud cover of Elvis' Devil In Disguise, for one. For another, a sweary cowpunk song dedicated to the band's tour manager for fishing Beth's sunglasses out of a toilet after she'd managed to both drop them in and then urinate on them. When the bass player's daughter comes on to dance to I Will Return I Promise the audience is putty in their collective hands.

    A little time spent with Jake tribute act The Fake Thackrays in the poetry tent, notable for one of the two singers neither attempting to replicate Thackray's baritone nor accent - that's how it works! - the festival for us finished not with headliners Vampire Weekend but back in The Word Arena with four men across the front of the stage, each dramatically spotlit like Samuel Beckett stage directing Kraftwerk. This was Grizzly Bear, for what they said would be their last European gig for quite some time, and it's not even the best lighting we've seen them in after the flashing lights in jars of their spring UK tour. Such concerns aside, they remain as special and spectral a live band as they were on that last occasion, the four part harmonies floating, towering and mysterious while always spot on, the interplay natural honed from a year on the road and however long playing together intuitively before that. Describing it somehow feels wrong, as if you were giving away trade secrets, when all it is is beautifully textured songs delivered to their optimum standard by four talented and inventive musicians, and sometimes music reviewing can only boil down to that. Furthermore, for a festival that had so much bad vibe around and which didn't start by pulling up any trees, it seemed it had come good over time.

    More photos from the weekend, at least for the bits we could get within range of or when our camera was working, on Flickr

    Wednesday, July 21, 2010

    Latitude 2010: Saturday

    You can't help thinking there's only one place where Robin Ince could introduce a guest with the words "he's a doctor..." and find the locale cheering. Dr Ben Goldacre, of course, running through the whole McKeith farrago, and an acceptable way to spend a few minutes in the knowledge that the queue to see Daniel Kitson in the theatre tent stretches back an impressive distance. Otherwise we're thrust into the audible space of more Lake Stage opening locals, The Cads, who have some interesting ideas momentarily making themselves known but are far too quick to stick to post-punk revival by rote, all hi-hat and standard indie disco rough guitar.

    You could argue that in their own way School Of Seven Bells are not stretching much of a boundary - shoegaze isn't exactly out of favour at the moment - but listen deeper and there seems a greater depth to their approach that belies the moments when Benjamin Curtis lets loose with an airy, atmospheric tidal wave of guitar noise. We'd venture, actually, that this is if you want to be picky more of a utalitarian air of coldwave, the continental sub-genre that values loops and minimalist structures forming a Martin Hannett inspired all encompassing sound. What stops it from icing over is the sonic wash that makes early Lush or Slowdive come to mind allied to the spectral harmony of the Deheza twins, lead vocalist Alejandra forceful when needs be, more often making like spaced out synthpop with the synths played down.

    John Grant on the Obelisk has a keen knot of followers who know the song titles down the front. You can see why given what has gone into his songs, and despite really performing to an audience that's half sat down trying not to tan too much despite the blazing hot circumstances (like that all weekend, actually, bar a couple of Saturday morning showers) he's doubtless won more followers with his wracked, lightly acerbic lyrics, heavy on emotional drag, capable of switching from wry to down in an instant, against Americana that just about steers clear of politeness.

    The indiepop hordes here for Belle & Sebastian get to descend on the Lake Stage for a fine example of where we are with this sort of thing now. Standard Fare are very slowly picking up a following for the simple things they do well. They may be a tiny bit ramshackle and untutored, and they seem a trifle nervous - Emma Kupa forgets the lyrics at one point, claiming afterwards they were playing the song so well she thought she was listening to the CD - but there's something at their core that rings true, likeable and above all else smart, hook laden and with a melodic ease counteracting the conflicted love of the lyrics. They sneak in a new song, seemingly faster than most of their output and on first listen equally as good. Meanwhile on the big rig Frank Turner is completing his transformation into an AOR fist raiser of sloganeering and self-regard, a long and uncomfortable way from where he started. And he doesn't finish with The Ballad Of Me And My Friends.

    Stephen Black, AKA Sweet Baboo, has a rather more downhome approach to translating his songs to the stage. The banter may be as long as the songs, but it's of that rare type where it's properly entertaining rather than making you want to point out how long his slot is. Similarly endearing are his countrified songs, hinting at all sorts of dark subject matter - he claims on playing his mother one song she replied "that's nice, is it about suicide?" - but with an odd and optimistic centre. Next, while James are on the Obelisk pretty much having to have the hits and songs people know forced out of them at least early on, over in the woods is Julie Campbell, the working name of Lonelady, all sharp haircut and artful disinterest. And all Manchester 1980 too, in an early Factory Records way, all nervy clipped guitar and punchily dark post-punk keyboards. Not something that'll leap out at the undiscerning, but worthy of further investigation. Meanwhile back at the sort of places where people willingly go The Maccabees are giving their album tracks a thorough run through with no great engagement, almost sapping what energy was there out of Wall Of Arms.

    They might be playing every second festival this summer, or thereabouts, but given headline status on the Lake stage Frankie and the Heartstrings - was that really Paul Heaton introducing them? - are up for the challenge. Given the civic pride we feel having been told that we were the first people to write about them way back when, there's been a lot of disquiet about their rise among people we otherwise trust. Well, poo to them. It was as if an electric charge ran through Frankie Francis (someone, incidentally, we ended up standing near quite a few times during other bands' sets, although not nearly as often as we found Nestor from Sky Larkin in our vicinity), as he switched from effusive praise for his Wichita label bosses to careering across the stage and onto the monitors, a consummate showman in waiting in front of his band's Postcard Records-recalling proper indie.

    But as we say, they're playing in our vicinity again this summer, and Archie Bronson Outfit aren't. At first notice, they seem to be wearing kaftans, or some sort of tribal smock. At second, the restricted sound levels really aren't doing justice to the kind of mania they can envelop an audience in. At third, it doesn't matter. It's still a full weapons grade attack that might flirt with the blues the band once lived alongside but, with an additional member adding noises over the top, prefers to cut into the air with serrated, occasionally disco dallying primordial propulsion in freakout clothing. That they offer a free T-shirt to the first person at the front willing to dance naked to Chunk is somehow fitting. That the one to take them up on it is a pasty bloke is unsurprising.

    With just enough time to bump into Cardiff scene majordomo (and fellow The Line Of Best Fit contributor, and day's enthusiastic Lake Stage DJ) Jen Long and then watch Islet wrestle each other to the ground, so to our headliners, heroes, champions and returning conquerors - their first UK gig in six weeks short of four years - Belle and Sebastian. Having seen them at one of their last gigs we knew that Stuart Murdoch was far from the shy introvert painted as during the Sinister years, but his properly funny repartee and charismatic ease between songs strikes us as the sort of person who if not having lived up for this moment then has mastered how to talk to an audience as if it were a one to one, even if over-preparation meant Stars Of Track And Field had to be dropped from the set for time. Indeed, one of the set highlights came when Murdoch revealed a dream in which he'd laid a challenge down to Stevie Jackson, which resulted in this:

    Fairly evident from the ending that they hadn't rehearsed that much.

    With a full string section backing, it was as if they'd never been away, adding enough light and shade to the earlier songs to make them work on the big stage - Fox In The Snow, with lighters aloft at Stuart's suggestion (that's what that is above), and Judy And The Dream Of Horses were particular highlights, and at last we can say we've seen them do The State I Am In - and showcasing two new songs from a new album out some time in the autumn, both progressing from where they left off although where they fit in the band's great scheme of things remains open to question. What doesn't is their back catalogue strength and that of Murdoch as a writer, and the intricate inter-band knowledge and ability that gives the songs justice when headlining a festival of this size. Even Funny Little Frog sounded great. An excitable group of fans at the front are invited onstage to dance to The Boy With The Arab Strap. Down at ground level, everyone understood just how they felt.

    All this, and the rare pleasure of seeing Ben Miller and David Cross duet on a version of Under Pressure. Who could resist?

    Tuesday, July 20, 2010

    Latitude 2010: Friday

    There was an odd atmosphere around Latitude this year, their fifth and our second. Known as a Radio 4/Guardianista kind of experience with its arts side and green, family friendly credentials, this year seemed more populated than ever by the younger, Skins-ier demographic, maybe a sideline of the unspoken belief of Melvin Benn and the festival organisers that last year's event had been aimed at too old an audience and almost certainly encouraged by the ramping up of capacity without the main areas being made any bigger. There was of course the horrifying news of two reported rapes, but that only became apparent to most people on returning home. Added to which the Sunrise Arena was closed for some time after a central canopy support pole collapsed in high winds, the main stage timings on Saturday changed, bands were sometimes going on more than five minutes early and the route from arena to car park changed without any informative signs. In fairness, most people were still friendly and the music stages didn't seem that much more packed compared to last year, but whether culturally or economically something seemed to have slightly changed.

    To be honest, we started our musical day at the Lake Stage with These Ghosts because we had them confused with Lonely Ghosts, the new project of one of Help She Can't Swim. These Ghosts, on the other hand, are locals who seem genuinely pleased and proud to be where they are more than lip service could ever cover. They brood in the style handed down from Buckley and Yorke through the first Muse album, filtered through second wave shoegaze and a mighty command of sonic theatrics aided by loops and synths. Aided by the handing out of DVDs of their new video, they get themselves a huge local hero response, which you can't deny even as you wonder if this sort of thing hasn't passed by in wider acceptance terms.

    Rose Elinor Dougall isn't quite accorded the same fortune. Already saddled with an early 25 minute slot preceded by ten minutes' changeover, These Ghosts overrunning and the stage's desire to keep on schedule despite there being an impending half-hour gap means she gets cut off after five songs, most of which see her glorious voice often hidden in the mix and the keyboard that provides Another Version Of Pop Song's central hook inaudible. Not that her setlist helps her much, comprising only the first two singles and two songs so new they're not on next month's very fine debut album. The closer, seemingly chosen out of spite only after being given the signal, at least showcases her maven genre-splicing abilities, progressing from almost power ballad beginnings to stratospheric shoegaze over the course of seven minutes. Interesting times. Y Niwl suit the setting even if their guitarist wearing a beanie hat didn't; given a wide open space and a baking hot day their surf instrumentals, all Link Wray twang and Farfisa organ, put aside the suspicion that others do this sort of thing better, so right for this place it seems.

    Scraped away from much of their own noise and distortion, Yuck prove to be the weekend's first pleasant surprise, not in reference to Daniel Blumberg bringing his sister on to sing backing vocals on Georgia, explaining that she'd spat water on the crotch of his jeans. On record they can come across as a less inspired take on Pains Of Being Pure At Heart distorted driving indiepop, but with the lo-fi fuzz less apparent other influences are allowed to breathe, most presently Yo La Tengo or Lou Barlow's contribution to Dinosaur Jr, proper melodies deliberately overworked and overdriven but somehow retaining a certain level of uplifting clarity.

    Sarah McIntosh, who to all intents and purposes is The Good Natured, played Indietracks a couple of years ago as a sole Casio-touting bedroom keyboard delinquent. Now she leaves all that to a rhythm section and backing tape, preferring to prowl the stage, drop to her knees and generally make like a dark disco Florence in even smaller hot pants. It's better than it could have been, uncertainly straddling post-Marina pop availability, but at the same time the thought occurs that maybe we should come back to her in a couple of years when the femme-pop boom has washed away and she can find her own voice. Finding his own voice in the monitors seems to be a problem for a clearly far from happy Britt Daniel of Spoon, at one point resorting to taking over Rob Pope's mike after finding his backing vocals are often louder than Daniel's lead. Maybe it was this and what seem to be other small technical issues that led to a seemingly uninvolved set, one that drew heavily on Transference while still making room for a surprising The Ghost Of You Lingers, the smart rhythmic thrust often lost on all but those at the front

    Maybe it was the aforementioned younger element at work, combined with the vertical takeoff of new folkies this year, but Laura Marling received a hero's welcome on the Obelisk. Her ascent from huddled communities to huge stages would be beyond a lot of people whose songs are so hushed and delicately arranged, but Marling pulled off the feat of keeping the passion and emotional charge of the sentiments when transferred to the big league, even when deigning to do a couple of songs without her backing band. As she has done recently her solo take of Night Terror featured a whistling solo where the violin previously went, with a closing glissando that proves every hit genre needs its own Roger Whittaker. Spectral stuff, but we couldn't stop...

    ...because over in The Word Arena that bit of Philip Glass-esque twinkly instrumental and monologue that Wild Beasts come on to was starting. Having seen them earlier in the year it's apparent that they've become something special live, a tight unit able to make a well oiled machine out of their arrythmic anti-funk interplay even before you've considered Hayden Thorpe's ridiculous, glorious vocal and the countertenor of Tom Fleming. They're increasingly resembling one of our most special bands, and people are responding with mass dancing in kind. But we couldn't stop...

    ...because a little way away from the Lake Stage, by the picnic tables and recycling bins, there's a bloke wandering around occasionally howling his head off to the heavens. Some might wonder whether the festival spirit has already overtaken some. A very few, us included, recognise that it's Mark Thomas from Islet, they're about to start, and as usual the line between genius and madness is about to be thoroughly steamrollered.

    Most of the talk about them has been centred around their lack of online presence, which is unfair as it suggests that mystique is now a band's only point of entry, and besides they do now. No, what Islet do live with the live band basics (two drumkits, mind) is difficult to quantify in mere words without feeling you're stealing their surprise soul on some level. The music, that's nearly simple enough - no-wave/art-rock percussive Liquid Liquid/ESG/Gang Gang Dance propulsion like Grand Theft Auto motorik, bits of proper songs and melodies and words drifting in and out as much as group yells and moments where they just about pull it clear of total collapse. Switching instruments, pounding away on various drums in syncopation, Alex Williams chasing Mark over the barrier with tambourine in hand... eventually the stage security panic and decide that what was a 45 minute slot will now be half an hour after all. It goes down as well as you'd expect with the band, who after two more songs attempt to launch in the collateral drumming of We Shall Visit and attempt to carry on well after the DJ has put some loud drum'n'bass on and the stagehands are attempting to take the kits apart, half of the band deciding they might as well take one more dip into the steadily growing throng (including Adam *and* Joe, and Frankie & the Heartstrings arriving mob handed halfway through what proved to be the last song) wondering what exactly is happening up there. Peculiar greatness, that's what.

    Which is some lead-in for Everything Everything to have to take up. They also do everything, albeit with a lot less manic presence but with a tendency to dip all over the place for their influences - synthpop here, R&B rhythms there, math close at hand, always room for a falsetto three part harmony amid those melodic moments that suddenly get swept away by an awkward moment of angularity. Like the XX, who we saw on this stage in similar conditions last year, it would probably make more sense with the wider knowledge of their forthcoming album, but their ADHD structurality demonstrates that it won't fall victim to safety first tendencies even if there's room for some form of odd crossover in it all.

    Not too long after they finish, Billy Bragg, participant in a well observed debate on British identity earlier in the day, wanders past. We'd have said something to him, but it's difficult to know exactly what to say in the immediate circumstances.

    Florence & the Machine were the day's headliners, but you pretty much know what that's going to be about and the gender of most of the people watching. This is a serious blog for slowly ageing men in dark back bedrooms, dammit. So, The National. It's well established that they've stealthily become one of the biggest guitar bands in the world without much of the world's music media noticing, but it's obvious that were he so minded Matt Berninger could round up any number of the people in the Word Arena, and doubtless thousands besides, into his own private army for nefarious purposes. It was like the rapture out there. Every break is greeted with a stadium-sized cheer, every song transmuted into an anthem, at times the community choir is louder than the not exactly restrictive guitar sound - Bloodbuzz Ohio and Mistaken For Strangers were particularly good for this. Buoyed on, the set overflowed with power and coiled spring tightness, confidence utmost, emotions on high. Berninger even broke out into the odd dance move, his baritone brooding and outbreaks of anguish somehow seeming more genuine than recorded output has ever managed, whether the heft of Slow Show or Fake Empire's insistent pull. In this situation, with this crowd, and with these songs, their imposing intensity makes all kinds of transcendent sense.

    Sunday, July 18, 2010


    We thought it was out weeks ago. It wasn't. It's out tomorrow. It is A Little More Suspicion In Our Fairytales Plz, the third album by Birmingham's restless noisemakers Ace Bushy Striptease but the first they're insisting you pay for. There's moments of careful loveliness, and there's moments where they seem to be throwing their guitar pedals at each other for sport. They know noise, and they know anthemry. You should know them too. *pause* Oh, alright, two records. You do already know Los Campesinos!, perhaps too well at times. They're putting out a limited edition 10" four track EP called, worryingly, All's Well That Ends, comprising reworked acoustic versions of four songs from Romance Is Boring.

    Public Image Ltd are coming back around, and Lydon promises/threatens the proceeds will go towards a new album. In the meantime pretend that really is Keith Levene and Jah Wobble up there with him at Shepherd’s Bush Empire on Monday, Bristol Academy Tuesday, Oxford Academy Wednesday, Leeds Academy Friday, Liverpool Academy Saturday and Glasgow AcadHAHAHANOIT'SNOT Glasgow ABC on Monday 26th. Meanwhile, we're not sure whether this counts as a gig or festival so let's play safe, as The Flapper in Birmingham spends Friday, Saturday and Sunday putting on the storming lineup of Off The Cuff - Chapel Club on Friday; Pulled Apart By Horses and &U&I (75% of Blakfish) on Saturday; and on Sunday the preposterous line-up of Adebisi Shank, Tellison, Tubelord, Shoes And Socks Off, Talons, an out of place Boat To Row, Maybeshewill and Hold Your Horse Is.

    But, frankly, fuck all that. We've got our own gig on. It's at Leicester Musician on Thursday, it's an Indietracks warmup, and a fiver on the door gets you MJ Hibbett & The Validators (we think the Vlads' only public runout this year besides the festival, as Hibbett's on Dinosaur Planet duty afterwards), Standard Fare (who we booked for this at the start of the year, advance working fans) and Lime Chalks. Fuller details on the Facebook event.

    When we talk about bands creating modern guitar pop in their own image, we like to think that we might every so often find a what-we-call-indie band who seem rootless, who aren't choppy riffs or falling apart at the seams like Pete might have, or at least not urgently drafting in a synth player. Where this is all leading is that Niteflights sound more like contemporaries of Orange Juice, or maybe the Subway Sect, then of whoever the schmindie band du jour are. Not doing a very good job of describing this, we know. What you need to note down essentially is that Niteflights are a band who are going somewhere, capable of crafting a pop hook as they are of upending expectations, unassuming and careful but ready to surprise and to lace the pot with lyrical cyanide.

    Perhaps because it's a short break between really major events, they're all at it next weekend. As you may have gleaned from the above, we're reconnecting with the Indietracks clan next weekend at Ripley's Midlands Railway Museum. Oh, for the peculiar delights of the acoustic acts on a steam train, the boiling hot tin church, the cafe and the signal box. We wrote a bit for their blog a little while back. That photo is quite old, by the way. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, as always seemed destined, The Primitives and hero of Indietracks '09 Eddie Argos' other band Everybody Was In The French Resistance...Now! headline, with strong backup from, as well as the three doing our do, Slow Club, Allo Darlin', David Tattersall, Ballboy, Internet Forever, This Many Boyfriends, Shrag, The Pooh Sticks, White Town (that White Town, yes), The Loves, The Just Joans, Red Shoe Diaries, Foxes!, The Blanche Hudson Weekend, Veronica Falls, The Smittens, Paisley & Charlie, Jam On Bread and so forth.

    Which is, to some extent, a right bugger, as our former favourite kick-off of our festivalling year Truck has gone and booked its best line-up in years. We could start with the headliners, Mew and Teenage Fanclub. Or we could just dip into the bran tub of a band listing and pull out Los Campesinos!, Future Of The Left, Meursault, Islet, Blood Red Shoes, the Mercury Rev Clear Light Ensemble, 65daysofstatic, Thomas Truax, Steve Mason, Pulled Apart By Horses, Summer Camp, Thomas Tantrum, Ace Bushy Striptease, Fucked Up, Is Tropical, Dog Is Dead, The Flowers Of Hell, John Otway... and that's far from hell. When are they going to get round to patenting teleportation for such occasions?

    Briefly through some others: Secret Garden Party ("brings people together by removing all barriers – you will do things you never thought you had the nerve or bombast to do". Gulp) have Gorillaz Sound System doing a headline DJ set, which seems to involve some people DJing under Jamie Hewlett animation. More bodily, they offer Mercury Rev, Joe Gideon & The Shark, Summer Camp, Helmholtz Resonators, Kitty Daisy & Lewis, Son Of Dave, Danny And The Champions Of The World, John & Jehn and The Crookes. Port Eliot Festival is primarily a literary event - Bill Drummond ("he’ll be teaching you how to build a bed"), Justine Picardie, Marina Hyde, Toby Young, Phil Daniels, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Margaret Drabble, Ferdinand Mount and Alex Bellos are there in that capacity this year. So is Luke Haines, reading from Bad Vibes with performance illustrations. There's set aside music too, chiefly for our purposes by The Leisure Society, The John Moore Rock and Roll Trio, Wilko Johnson, Fionn Regan, Kathryn Williams, Jim Bob, Alabama 3 and Danny and The Champions of The World. Also, live on stage, Jarvis Cocker's 6 Music show. Saturday's very more metropolitan 1-2-3-4 Shoreditch has, in among the expected arse, The Pre New (the new incarnation of Earl Brutus), Vic Godard & the Subway Sect, Rolo Tomassi, Vivian Girls, Fucked Up, These New Puritans, Wavves, Zombie-Zombie, Still Corners, Veronica Falls, Dum Dum Girls and Spectrals, as well as Peter Hook getting in the way as he tends to do these days. A day later comes Splendour at Wollaton Hall, Nottingham, with the Pet Shop Boys headlining and the Leisure Society, Dog Is Dead, Fists and Fyfe Dangerfield peeking out from under a festival whose second stage will be headlined by Shed Seven and Terrorvision. Non-hipster Londoners! Why not take your kids to Ben & Jerry's Sundae On The Common at Clapham Common all weekend? Oh yeah, because they'd be exposed to Scouting For Girls. But there's also Billy Bragg (love to see how he pitches this one), Slow Club, Doves, Idlewild, Kitty Daisy & Lewis, Frightened Rabbit...that headliner's put you off, hasn't it? Ah well. Sheffield is meanwhile being taken over for three days by Tramlines, and they're doing well out of it too - Future Of The Left, Blood Red Shoes, Standard Fare, Mystery Jets, 65daysofstatic, Pulled Apart By Horses, Dinosaur Pile-Up, Grammatics, Rolo Tomassi, The Twilight Sad, Screaming Maldini, Gallops, Three Trapped Tigers, Nat Johnson & The Figureheads, Chapel Club, Male Bonding, Is Tropical, Darwin Deez, Echo & The Bunnymen and a band called The Kooks who don't appear to be that Kooks. Someone should warn them.

    Our Mercury's in retrograde. After a good couple of years predicting five of the 12 Mercury Music Prize nominees, last year we slipped to four, as we recall without checking. The announcement for 2010 is made on Tuesday, but as we'll be writing up our Latitude experiences by then we'll have to knock them out now. So, step forward for your provisional nominatures... Delphic, Field Music, Fionn Regan, I Am Kloot, Laura Marling, Mumford & Sons, Plan B, Polar Bear, These New Puritans, Wild Beasts, The XX and an experimental jazz/folk/whatever record we don't know about yet. (Ah, the cop out. True, though.)

    Saturday, July 17, 2010

    Playlist additions 17/7/10

  • The A Forest - Polar White [Myspace] [Bandcamp]
    A bit Mum, a little bit Liz Fraser, a smidgen Psapp. They're from Dundee and say other tracks on their soon come album are more guitar based and take influence from Stereolab and Life Without Buildings. Curious.

  • Archie Bronson Outfit - Hoola [Myspace] [YouTube] [Spotify]
    From the album review what we wrote: "Hoola would be mistaken for the post-punk class of 2005 were it not for the maniac tension in Windett’s vocal and the constant sense that everything is about to totally take off." Listening again, it seems more disco-not-disco than we must have clocked then. Definitely don't remember that bit in the middle either.

  • Coltrane Motion - Please Call it a Comeback [Myspace] [Vimeo]
    So you read about and downloaded it from us; now you can watch it too.

    Coltrane Motion- Please Call it a Comeback from Milk Products on Vimeo.

  • Darren Hayman & the Secondary Modern - Two-Tree Island [YouTube]
    First stirrings of Essex Arms, the long promised second in Hayman's local county trilogy released 4th October and featuring guest appearances by the Wave Pictures, Fanfarlo and Emmy The Great. It already seems tailor made for us. We've heard a few songs from this live and it seems on snap reaction to be the triumphant folk record with a pleasingly dark undertow he's always threatened to release since going solo

  • Gallops - Oh The Manatee [live version on Soundcloud] [live BBC Introducing video]
    From a debut proper EP out on August 23rd, Wrexham's finest hitch up their Macbook-synth madness skirts and patent math-glam

  • Perfume Genius - Lookout, Lookout [Myspace] [YouTube] [Spotify]
    People who make a habit of talking about new music have made a habit of talking about Mike Hadreas, a Seattle singer-songwriter who Gareth Campesinos! has been going on about for ages. He restricts himself to vocal and piano in much the same way Bon Iver or early Sufjan/Elliott Smith was just vocal and guitar; cracked high vocals, often covered in reverb, lyrically diary cuts rubbed away to the meat and raw bone, sounding completely broken down by life.

  • Talons - Trevelyan [free download from MusicGlue]
    The more we hear them, the more we think Talons are setting new standards for British instrumental post-rock. The guitars surge and swell, the duelling violins add proper drama. Some of them will also form part of the Shoes And Socks Off full band experience on tour at the end of the month.

  • Ten Kens - Screaming Viking [Myspace] [free download]
    Talking about modern versions of glam up there, this comes equipped with a massive four to the spangly floor beat, only to undermine it with a quasi-Black Sabbath riffola. Sounds like vikings, certainly.

  • Wavves - King Of The Beach [Myspace] [YouTube]
    Nathan Williams, once a pharmaceutical friendly two-chord fuzzy riffmeister of little extraneous worth, goes hi-fi and turns into a natty, punchy surf-punk/power-pop tyke with proper sunny melody afront. It's his own Let's Go Surfing, in more ways than one.
  • Thursday, July 15, 2010

    Something to remind us of the holiday

    Let's get this done before STN festival season crushes everything. The last, thank goodness, of the retrospective charts of hitherto unlikely summer hits - as for The Ketchup Song, you'll have to make your own entertainment - alights on 25th August 1990. This one was Andrew Lloyd Webber's fault, y'know.

    40 Wet Wet Wet - Stay With Me Heartache
    Nothing to say about this, but then there's nothing really to say about the lower reaches of the official chart bar an appearance at 83 by Dread Zeppelin, the reggae Led Zeppelin covers band led by an Elvis impersonator, with their spliced cover of Zep's Heartbreaker with Heartbreak Hotel. They were different days.

    39 Whitesnake - Now You're Gone
    Not playing Download this year, uniquely among hair metal bands.

    38 Aswad - Next To You

    37 Sonia - End Of The World
    Oversung Carpenters cover by someone who over the last fifteen years or so has seemed intent on becoming her own punchline.

    36 Wilson Phillips - Release Me
    "The trio performed at the 79th General Meeting of the National Board of Boiler and Pressure Vessel Inspectors"

    35 River City People - Carry The Blame/California Dreamin'
    Funnily enough, the Liverpudlian folk-poppers led by Children's BBC's Siobhan Maher saw the latter get the bulk of airplay.

    34 The Steve Miller Band - The Joker
    A new entry and eventual number one on the back of the health and safety disregarding riding a motorbike out of a lift and into a crowded office Levi's advert. Some people call him Maurice, because he speaks of the pompatus of love. The twat.

    33 Bell Biv Devoe - Poison
    Never thought that name reflected entirely well on Michael Bivins.

    32 Deee-Lite - Groove Is In The Heart/What Is Love
    Also a new entry. Yeah, you all remember What Is Love.


    Not technically a one hit wonder - Power Of Love reached number 25 later in the year - but might as well be, and what a song for the ages it remains, albeit one where even the uncredited guest (Q-Tip) subsequently became bigger news than Lady Miss Kier, Super DJ Dmitri or DJ Towa Tei, despite the latter's key role in any documentary story of how far Kylie had fallen before the gold hot pants of doom. Interesting note here is it should have been number one but in w/e 15th September it and The Joker (qv) managed to tie on sales and having had the larger increase in sales over the week Miller took the hindmost. Never happened before, never since. It's more of a claim on number one than God Save The Queen ever had.

    31 Tina Turner - Look Me In The Heart
    Only possible were she in the surgery she maintains she's never had, surely. (Apart from on her nose after Ike broke it) Back for another tour, taking Sinatra's mantle of overt multiple farewell jaunts.

    30 The Hothouse Flowers - I Can See Clearly Now
    Piano-pounding emotional heft-heavy cover by sometime Eurovision pre-scoring break turn of a song really not designed to be over-emoted over.

    29 The Human League - Heart Like A Wheel
    The only top 40 single in a nine year period between Human and Tell Me When for "a sort of Yorkshire Abba" (Paul Morley)

    28 Primal Scream - Come Together
    Andrew Wetherall influence not entirely subtle.

    27 Prince - Thieves In The Temple
    From his own film Graffiti Bridge, so poor it's even failed to become the cult hit Under The Cherry Moon became.

    26 LFO - LFO
    On its way down from number 12, odd bassy synth techno featuring a Speak & Spell solo that was Warp Records' first top 20 single, angering NME kids and dads alike. Half of its constituency, Mark Bell, is now Bjork's regular sideman. Not to be confused with late 90s US boy band LFO, who released here as Lyte Funky Ones

    25 Technotronic Featuring Ya Kid K - Rockin' Over The Beat
    And Ya Kid K is the one.

    24 Elton John - Sacrifice/Healing Hands
    Elton had had a terrible time at the hands of both the tabloids, his own addictions and the record buyers at the time, having a number of singles stiff. One of them got picked up on late by a couple of DJs, so the label decided to reissue two as a double A side. Reg's first solo number one followed.

    23 Lindy Layton Featuring Janet Kay - Silly Games
    Wandering lonely for some time after Beats International folded, Layton had immediately teamed up with the original's singer (but not Jay Kay's mum, that was sometime jazz singer, TV comedian and impressionist Karen Kay)

    22 Mariah Carey - Vision Of Love
    Big old grandstanding what we would come to know as R&B, an early appearance for The High Note and apparently the song that inspired Beyonce to go that way.

    21 Craig McLachlan And Check 1-2 - Amanda
    The erstwhile Henry's difficult second single. Look-In never missed an opportunity to mention the band were originally called The Y-Fronts. Bouncer'll be releasing a single next!

    20 Tricky Disco - Tricky Disco
    And here comes Warp Records' second top 20 single, missing out by a week, a couple who started out doing industrial music as part of modern art installations and would become Technohead, of I Wanna Be A Hippy brief infamy, in the middle of which came this toytown techno. Artists, clearly.


    19 Madonna - Hanky Panky
    Good lord. So, starting with Justify My Love, Madonna had had her big career swerve of taking sex aggressively to the pop mainstream, something that could work just as long as you don't blow it by, say, releasing a glossy art print book featuring a number of photos of your bared primary and secondary sexual organs, which blows any mystique you might have once cultivated. In the middle of this she got cast as a nightclub singer in the not fondly remembered film adaptation of Dick Tracy, around which she put out an album called I'm Breathless. Her character was called Breathless Mahoney, see. The film won the Oscar for Best Original Song. It wasn't for this.

    18 Go West - The King Of Wishful Thinking
    Also from a film, Pretty Woman. The books say they had three top 20 singles after this, but we'd do well to name any of them.

    17 Cliff Richard - Silhouettes

    16 KLF Featuring The Children Of The Revolution - What Time Is Love?
    The first, and also least, of the four big KLF singles, though it did get back-referenced in most of their subsequent work. No idea who the Children were or whether they incorporated Ricardo Da Force, a man who really shouldn't have ended up working with N-Trance.


    15 Sting - Englishman In New York
    "Former Fulham FC player Moritz Volz recorded a cover version which you can hear on his website. It features the lyrics "Ja ja, he is an alien; a humorous Westphalian, he's a German man in West London.""

    14 Jive Bunny And The Mastermixers - Can Can You Party
    Humorous Westphalians might have provided some levity here. Did this sell exclusively to wedding DJs?

    13 Jon Bon Jovi - Blaze Of Glory
    Aren't solo side projects supposed to sound different from the main band?

    12 Together - Hardcore Uproar
    "Hacienda anthem of 1990", it says here, which we're pretty sure has been used to describe 86% of records released that year.

    11 Deacon Blue - Four Bacharach And David Songs EP
    Straightforwardly titled, at least. The lead track was I'll Never Fall In Love Again, with the girl getting a proper duet vocal out of it.

    10 Soup Dragons Featuring Junior Reid - I'm Free
    They'd been Sound Of New Scotland also-rans, tied in with being C86 also-rans, then became bubblegum rock also-rans, and finally hit big as baggy also-rans. Some good things - The High Fidelity, Future Pilot AKA, a collaborator for Isobel Campbell - at least came out of it all.

    9 Betty Boo - Where Are You Baby?
    She used up all my tissues cos there's more seriouser issues. Watch for her interpretation of air guitar.

    8 George Michael - Praying For Time
    First single from the none more portentiously named Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1. There was going to be a volume 2, apparently, but George junked it for unknown reasons. George Michael rarely bothers with reasons.

    7 MC Hammer - U Can't Touch This
    All the jokes here have long been covered, haven't they?

    6 Roxette - Listen To Your Heart
    Two Swedish men went on You Bet! once claiming they vowed they could recognise Roxette songs played on a muted stereo from the sound waves' affect on a candle placed in front of the speaker. Can't remember whether they succeeded or not but with that sort of claim surely results don't matter.

    5 Blue Pearl - Naked In The Rain
    Didn't we write about this the other week?

    4 New Kids On The Block - Tonight
    "We met a lot of people.....and giririririrls!" The one that namechecks most of their previous singles in the first verse. One source compares its sound to Madness. The buttons, and the pins, and the loud fanfares.

    3 Partners In Kryme - Turtle Power
    "They didn't say they'd be there in half an hour!" Partners In Kryme were an actual NYC rap duo who knew a film tie-in opportunity when it came up. These must have been one of the last true cross-generational kids' crazes, what with the warnings about turtles as pets and fears about sewer contents and general panic at the word 'Ninja' when 'Hero' would apparently do just as well.

    2 DNA Featuring Suzanne Vega - Tom's Diner
    Acapella folk succumbs to machines. Vega has worked out the date the song is based on, November 18th 1981. Even better, it was used as a test song in the encoding of the mp3 compression. One of DNA went on to co-write Goldfrapp's Strict Machine. It's basically a Schott's Original Miscellany in 3:47, this song.

    1 Bombalurina - Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini
    So why does the girl choose to put the bikini on at a beach if she didn't want anyone to see it? This was on one of VH1's summer songs specials last week, where aside from recognising the power of Timmy Mallett, who does to be fair sing it straight up even if we're not entirely sure what accent he's striving for, we're not entirely sure of the point of giving Brian Hyland's 1960 novelty hit, apparently covered at about the same time by Devo, the dancefloor backing of the day. Perhaps it's the same wave of nostalgia that took Jive Bunny so far. For your records the official line-up was Mallett with backing singers Dawn Andrews (now married to Gary Barlow) and Annie Dunkley. There was an album. It didn't contain many originals.

    Wednesday, July 14, 2010

    Clearer skies

    A long time since we've mentioned Under Alien Skies, the elusive Prestatyn duo having tipped our scales spectacularly back in February. Things have gone - alright, kept - quiet since, but we have a brand new track to share, which we had to get up online pretty much at first listen. Sonically? AnCo are there, as always an umbrella term for their beachfront sequenced weirdness in a descriptive hurry, but something nagging away says Yeasayer too (both albums). As before, though, nothing entirely sticks, not in description or in the texture of the track.

    Under Alien Skies - Overseas

    Right, one more old summer chart tomorrow, the playlist and Weekender stuff is busily being schedule posted, and we're off to Latitude for the weekend. We shall report back; in the meantime let us know if you'll be there too, and moreover who thought putting Dirty Projectors, Kristin Hersh, Jesca Hoop and Mitchell Museum, four artists playing no other festivals we're going to this year, on at exactly the same time would cause no angst whatsoever.

    Monday, July 12, 2010

    Tin label

    As alluded to yesterday, Wichita Recordings is ten years old today.

    Why should you care?

    (That's a new song, you're right)

    Oh, no real reason.

    Mark Bowen from Wichita contributed to Noughties By Nature

    Summer games

    For the third in our series of charts featuring notorious summer hits of yore we go to 25th August 1984 and break out the very worst novelty disco record of them all. We sense from that description alone you can already guess what it will be.

    40 Break Machine - Are You Ready
    It was 1984, the breakdancing thing was still at its height in a way Diversity will never attain. Produced by the team behind the Village People too, which is why you can scoff whenever someone says Dizzee's choice of collaborators has overcommercialised urban music.

    39 AC/DC - Nervous Shakedown
    Between all the hits everyone knows and occasionally loves there's a lot of drag like this.

    38 Nik Kershaw - I Won't Let The Sun Go Down On Me
    His first single, reissued as his third chart hit, and a Cold War satire as much as a man wearing fingerless gloves and snood can be a satirical figure.

    37 The SOS Band - Just The Way You Like It
    The band that did the Fatboy-bastardised Just Be Good To Me mark time.

    36 David Sylvian - The Ink In The Well
    For someone who often claimed to be uncomfortable with pop success in favour of heading down less likely avenues - this track alone features Can's Holger Czukay, Pentangle's Danny Thompson and jazz slide guitarist Phil Palmer - people would keep buying his records.

    35 Lionel Richie - Stuck On You
    Has never collaborated with any of Can or Pentangle.

    34 Billy Idol - Eyes Without A Face
    Mall rock'n'roll nonsense, so let's look beyond the 40 at some missed opportunities. Not just Edwyn Collins and Glasgow scenester Paul Quinn covering the Velvets' Pale Blue Eyes at 79; not just the Blue Nile at 96; not just the Associates' Waiting For The Love Boat at 81, which allows us to link to their fairly unlikely all told appearance on Number 73 (at 4:35, and we're fairly sure that's actual Oscar winner Andrea Arnold appearing just as Billy starts singing, confusing Professor Stanley Unwin as she goes - and there's a credit for 'Armourer'!); not just whatever the hell Mr Solitaire by Animal Nightlife is at 49. No, there's also Kraftwerk's Tour De France at 47 and the inevitable cover of Cliff's In The Country by Norwich Scene (there was such a thing) mainstays the Farmer's Boys. Most remarkably, at 57, Summer Holiday by Roland Rat's sidekick Kevin The Gerbil. We never knew this existed before now, and feel they may have gone a little overboard on the horns.

    33 Blancmange - The Day Before You Came
    The near enough modern equivalent of this would be if La Roux's next single was a cover of Electric Feel.

    32 The Bluebells - Young At Heart
    First go round, when it peaked at number eight, before heading back to the top in 1992 off the back of an advert for the VW Golf. The Golf gets more than its fair share of classic adverts, doesn't it? The Paula Hamilton abandon advert was for the Golf, as was the modern dancing Gene Kelly. Co-written by one of Bananarama.

    31 Divine - You Think You're A Man
    Do you see what he/she's done there?

    30 Cyndi Lauper - Time After Time
    Keeping Lou Albano in work just that little bit longer.

    29 The Pointer Sisters - I Need You
    Their brief moment in the UK chart sun would begin in 1984, Slow Hand aside. Trust we're all aware of the urban myth except it's actually true about the I'm So Excited video? Good.

    28 A Flock Of Seagulls - The More You Live, The More You Love
    Darren Day's theme song.

    27 Band Of Gold - Love Songs Are Back Again (Medley)
    Four years later, the idea was still turning in their minds. Slightly less likely to fill disco floors, though. Before 1.30am or so, anyway.

    26 Phil Fearon And Galaxy - Everybody's Laughing
    Fearon the subject of some discussion on a previous old chart

    25 Neil - Hole In My Shoe
    If even John Peel isn't entirely sure how to pitch your act...'re probably doing something right, even if the stagecraft could do with some work. The Brits actually invented a comedy song award just so they could credit it.

    24 Shakatak - Down On The Street
    From their Wiki: "In January 2010 the group's keyboard player Bill Sharpe was interviewed by Mike Howard on internet jazz funk radio station Vinyl Morpher Radio." Worth knowing.

    23 Spandau Ballet - I'll Fly For You
    Start of the decline - only one more top ten single - proving man cannot live by sharp suit alone.

    22 Tears For Fears - Mother's Talk

    21 Windjammer - Tossing And Turning
    We have no idea what this is, and we're not sure we want to know.

    20 The Kane Gang - Closest Thing To Heaven
    They were part of the blue eyed soul thing that enveloped northern UK around this time. They were mates with Prefab Sprout. It's said they wrote and performed the Ooh Gary Davies jingle. One of them wrote the Lighthouse Family's Lifted. Another was called David Brewis, which makes you wonder if he'll ever meet the prolific TV and film comedy music writer Peter Brewis and form an XTC-influenced sophisticated indie band out of spite.

    19 Rod Stewart - Some Guys Have All The Luck
    Not entirely something you can relate to when Rod's concerned.

    18 Tracey Ullman - Sunglasses
    Problem with this chart is it's all the right people with all the wrong songs. We'd love to use this bit to discuss Kirsty Maccoll, or Neil Kinnock, or David Copperfield, or Matt Groening, or hairbrushes, but they're all anomolous to this song.

    17 Queen - It's A Hard Life
    A video apparently the source of some facepalm amusement among Queen fans for what Brian May once called Freddie's "amorous prawn look".

    16 Miami Sound Machine - Dr Beat
    Estefan in excelsis, of course, an overworked metaphor eventually picked up by the long lost Mylo to unamusing effect.

    15 Elton John - Passengers
    "Wanna get off!"

    14 Prince - When Doves Cry
    If the internet is over at least his notoriously picky people won't read this.

    13 Jeffrey Osborne - On The Wings Of Love
    He's a funk singer who's on We Are The World, and that's about the limit of interesting things about him.

    12 Frankie Goes To Hollywood - Relax
    "Well, I certainly wasn't in a position to ban anything..."

    11 Iron Maiden - 2 Minutes To Midnight
    Coming in five minutes behind Wah! Heat.

    10 Grandmaster And Melle Mel - White Lines (Don't Don't Do It)
    So using the double negative, do do it? Grandmaster isn't actually Grandmaster Flash, he'd left Sugar Hill already and the credit was to confuse people. Duran Duran's career never recovered from their cover.

    9 Trevor Walters - Stuck On You
    Great rock'n'roll name. It was in fact a reggae Lionel Richie cover, if you can credit such a thought.

    8 Tina Turner - What's Love Got To Do With It
    Her third solo single, her US breakthrough, the title of her official biopic. Already 45 years old, thus already a glamorous granny in pop terms.

    7 Hazell Dean - Whatever I Do (Wherever I Go)
    Important, not for the never likely to be more than passing interest singer but because it was Stock Aitken & Waterman's first top ten single as producers or writers. Band Aid II would be only five years away.

    6 Laura Branigan - Self Control
    Not Gloria, the one most people remember because Pulp ripped it off on Disco 2000, but some grandstanding hi-NRG.

    5 Frankie Goes To Hollywood - Two Tribes
    Patrick Allen makes far better use of his stentorian vocal cords then E4 ever managed, while Holly, Paul and The Lads make the best of nuclear panic. Chernenko lived for less than a year after his part in the video wrestling match.

    4 Howard Jones - Like To Get To Know You Well
    "One of the big names to emerge in '84 is going to be Howard Jones" Peter Powell confidently predicted on the Top Of The Pops Christmas show after his two big hits of 1983. Thus of course this was his only other top five single. He's playing Bestival this year, preceded on the day by festival regular DJ Hojo Hits, a man playing nothing but Jones' work (and a front for a leading UK music blogger - not us, we said 'leading') who has long campaigned for the man himself to play the event. They've also booked Level 42, though, which must be just pixieishness on Rob da Bank's part. Jones, we learn, is also of the same Buddhist sect as Kevin Eldon.

    3 Stevie Wonder - I Just Called To Say I Love You
    A new entry, soon to be number one for six weeks. The sort of schlock that put people off the very idea of his Glastonbury set, and at the time hammered into the ground by means of The Late Late Breakfast Show's obsession with the supposed appearance of a piece of floating toast in the video. Heady days for Noel.

    2 Black Lace - Agadoo
    How does one 'grind coffee' exactly? And what is a hula melody? It was a French song of origin, picked up by Alan Barton and Colin Gibb as they had the previous year's top 10 debut Superman. This sold a million worldwide and gave the duo carte blanche to sneak onto the end of the Band Aid line-up on Christmas Top Of The Pops. Still going. Of course.

    1 George Michael - Careless Whisper
    Found dead with chocolate stains around his arse - initial police reports are that he died of a careless WisSTOP THAT RIGHT THERE. (Especially as we've just found the same joke online with Stephen Gateley's name used instead. Yeah, that works, using an entirely different person's song) Co-written by Andrew Ridgeley, the first Michael/Ridgeley single since Club Tropicana, and released while Wham! still existed. They've got to lose that sax solo.

    Sunday, July 11, 2010


    Dark Night Of The Soul? MAYA, or however she wants us to spell it out? Let others cover them. Tender Trap we thought long and hard about, given background and such, but STN has got a little hairslide-like of late. Let's talk about manaical Glaswegians instead. The depth of our influence was spelt out broader than perhaps ever about a month ago when we saw the long supported here Mitchell Museum play to eight people in our own home conurbation. No matter, at least we have the music. The Peters Port Memorial Service is getting some major league lovin' in Scotland but very little attention south of the border, which is everyone in England's fault. A million ideas are shoehorned into pop length rollercoaster avant-indie that nods to Flaming Lips, Unicorns, Modest Mouse and Why? but could only really be British for its charge towards offhandedness and lyrical idiosyncracies.

    Oh, loads to go round this week. Where shall we start? Tonight, that'd be best, at Cardiff's esteemed Clwb Ifor Bach for an alldayer for brain injury support service charity Headway Cardiff. The School headline, Gindrinker add their particular special sauce, Pagan Wanderer Lu is midway down the bill, some others are playing and it's all £6. Gil Scott-Heron plays Somerset House on Wednesday, the same night The Lovely Eggs and Hotpants Romance's joint tour arrives at Sheffield Penelope's and takes this section regulars Standard Fare as bait. They'll play for any old promoter, them. (More on this next week.) The thematic highlight, though, is Wichiten, Wichita Recordings' week of tenth anniversary gigs at the Highbury Garage. Each night will also feature special guest DJs and an indie raffle, whatever one of those is - is it like a meat raffle? - and the first 200 people through the door each night will receive a goody bag, like on kids' telly shows in the late 80s. Lissy Trullie headlines on Monday with support from the surely overdue some new material Those Dancing Days; Tuesday sees First Aid Kit spread their quiet magic with Peggy Sue supporting; the label's breakout stars (apart from Bloc Party) The Cribs bring Sky Larkin and Lovvers south with them on Wednesday; while in a true did-we-somehow-book-this-one-ourselves? fashion Thursday is opened by a band whose frontman was recently spotted doing the merch table for Pavement, Johnny Foreigner, followed by Frankie & The Heartstrings (so that's Huw Stephens down to DJ, then) before Los Campesinos! top the night as only Los Campesinos! ever can. Why can't we go, mum?

    The world perhaps doesn't necessarily need another overly fuzzed out no-fi band, but it's got a good one anyway. Slowcoaches are from Leeds and have the whole post-Jesus & Mary Chain loud pop thing going on with heavily distorted bass and a hint of something stewing beneath the dissonance in a Vivian Girls sense, exacerbated by Heather's offhand vocal style. Given more than two tracks on a Myspace they could easily show northern England has an equally strong hand to play in the noise-pop scene-ette.

    Our first festival of the year is next weekend, as we head east to experience the shady woods, crowded poetry tents and water-resistant ground of Latitude. Some controversy this year as Melvin Benn and Festival Republic have junked the Sunday midday slot without officially announcing it, but there's still plenty we'll end up missing to go round, from Belle & Sebastian's first UK gig in nearly four years with orchestra in tow to The Mystery Fax Machine Orchestra. You forget that Lovebox started off as Groove Armada's charabanc, so curious and relatively well financed eclectic is its range now if still with a solid foothold in the dance world. Roxy Music headlining. Wonder what they're like now. If Bryan calls Otis a freedom fighter or somesuch we vote they bulldoze the whole park at once. Down the pecking order... 2000 Trees is somewhere we always mean to go, both for its Friday/Saturday nature and its amiably jagged booking policy. We can't this year anyway, as it's sold out. Frank Turner and the Subways headline, as they do every small-to-mid-sized festival, but below them you've got the likes of Future Of The Left, Pulled Apart By Horses, Johnny Flynn, Kill It Kid, Maybeshewill, And So I Watch You From Afar, 65daysofstatic, Tubelord, Shoes And Socks Off, Three Trapped Tigers, Errors, Sparrow & The Workshop, A Genuine Freakshow and Cats And Cats And Cats. Guilfest boasts what new addition Thomas White calls "the most utterly bonkers line-up that I think I've ever seen", and once you've seen the likelihood of a stage time clash between the Wonder Stuff and Fucked Up, who appear seemingly at random in the midst of the band list, you can't help but concur. Rare is the festival that prides itself on booking 65daysofstatic, N-Dubz, Hawkwind, Alvin Stardust, Orbital, Mungo Jerry, Level 42, The Soldiers, The Twang, Delays and Young Knives and expecting families to go along with everything. Larmer Tree Festival, running Wednesday to Sunday, is on the End Of The Road site and acts as a kind of all round entertainment palette cleanser, boasting a lineup that thinks nothing of switching from Martha Wainwright, The Unthanks and Hypnotic Brass Ensemble to Cornershop, Frank Turner, The Bookhouse Boys, Voluntary Butler Scheme, The Heavy, Toumani Diabaté and Kill It Kid, who seem to be playing every festival this summer except any we're going to.

    - I Like Trains, as they now unexcitingly are, have finished recording their third album, He Who Saw the Deep. They say it's "a progression from what has gone before it... light and shade, hope and devastation, and we are taking a look at where we are heading instead of where we have been", but all bands say something like that. This being the modern world, they're having to get the fans to finance the thing through a series of pledges, including a number of gifts that range from signed copies and thank you notes to 'Play Alistair at Scrabble' and 'Partly broken distortion pedal.' They were four fifths of the way there when we last looked, so get in while you still can and make a band as happy as their world outlook will ever permit.