Tuesday, 22 July 2014

The Hobbes Fanclub - Up at Lagrange (Shelflife Records)

Right on cue, in the week before Indietracks, The Hobbes Fanclub, have melted my heart.

Indulge me for a few moments. At the back end of 1990, the week before all my friends who'd stayed on for 6th form went back to school to further their accountancy careers, I started a job as an apprentice plumber and pipefitter on an oil refinery in North Lincolnshire. This was exactly the sort of thing that I wanted to do; to get out of the stolid air of Grammar school and around Real People again.

The money I earned (£1.50 an hour, which came to £57.25 for a 40 hour week after National Insurance was deducted) opened up a whole new world of music to me. Sure, I'd bought records before with summer jobs, but that money ran out very quickly. Now, I was earning. I spent most of the next two years hoovering up records from the likes of Pale Saints, Ride, Slowdive, Field Mice, Boo Radleys... that sort of thing. I look back on this period, rather daftly, as "my time". We never thought we'd have a time back then, of course; our "time" was going to last forever.

And it did and it doesn't and didn't and it does.

The Hobbes Fanclub may or may not have been listening to exactly the same records as me at exactly the same time. I think Leon is a day older than me, which is REALLY FUCKING WEIRD, especially when listening to Up at Lagrange and hearing its influences.

'Your doubting heart' and 'Outside Yourself' might have been re-recorded, but they make up two halves of the perfect single, and sit so beautifully on this album that the rest sounds like a singles compilation. 

'I Knew You'd Understand' is the Pale Saints at their most perky and winsome, and is both charming and yearning. It rattles along but lingers long enough to be caught and hugged. 

'Run into the sea' is The Hobbes Fanclub's take on Jesus and Mary Chain, and it's sight better than that band has managed for 25 years.

And then there are the modern shoegaze classics such as 'Why should you tell the truth?' and the crushing, closing duo of the title track, which has early Boo Radleys written through out like Cleethorpes rock, and 'Sometimes', which wouldn't sound out of place on one of the first four classic Ride eps.

I'm referencing these bands partly because I'm desperately lazy, but also because this album brings back a million feelings and memories - and it does it almost effortlessly. It's a classic album, and it'll be seen like that (by me) for years to come. I might even grow that pillarbox red bob back.

In short: this is the sort of record I'd have obsessed over when I was 16, just as much as I'm obsessing over it right now. A masterpiece from start to finish.
The Hobbes Fanclub forever.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Indietracks compilation - the 55 varieties

It's that time of year again, when we all get to listen to those bands playing Indietracks who we've never heard of. Or maybe that's just me not being cool enough, and perhaps this time next month I'll be having a Lonely Tourist tattoo on both inner thighs.

There are 55 tracks here. It's almost a prog rock album. Of course it's not, and it's criminally cheap to download, so why don't you go and do that. Let me tell you now that it's worth it alone for the storming new Hobbes Fanclub track 'Why should you tell the truth?'. If this is a teaser for the album, then we're all in for a treat.

I've got about a year's work to fit in between now and Indietracks, and in the meantime there's this. Please do come along if you at all can.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Tyrannosaurus Dead/Joanna Gruesome split single (Oddbox Records)

Everything is coming to a grinding halt.

But I'm sparked into a life again by a tremendous split-single from Tyrannosaurus Dead and Joanna Gruesome on Oddbox Records, which has made working 14 hours days seem less and less and important. Fuck it, it's not important at all to work 14 hour days, is it?

Jo-Gru commit last year's 'Weird Sister' opener 'Anti-Parent Cowboy Killers' to the single. Oh, it's all sweetness and light for about 12 seconds, then it creeps onto another level, all loathing, and power, and pep and - to be honest - deep, deep excitement. Joanna Gruesome are set to completely walk all over this year's Indietracks, and I can't wait to see them again.

Mind you, Tyrannosaurus Dead aren't half bad either. Their 'Post Holiday Dead Song' is somewhere between Seafood, Uresei Yatsura and the Pale Man Made, T-Dead make a beguiling sound, all drawling, cool vocals laced with a sad, vulnerable lyrics - all encased in a warm, comforting wall of fuzz.

They used to release singles like this all the time on seven inch when I were a nipper. Now it's all downloads and lost files on your computer. It's great to see Oddbox keeping the flame alive - this single is out on 21st July on the lovely plastic stuff.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Men Oh Pause - Pulse Check ep (Tuff Enuff Records)

Forget C86 revivalism, there's a new sound in town, and it's called Men Oh Pause, who make the poppiest anti-pop this side of Young Marble Giants.

This defiantly indie four-track ep from the often excellent Tuff Enuff shows Men Oh Pause resurrect the ghosts of Huggy Bear, Slampt!, Prolapse and several mid-90s US obscurities on the much-missed Troubleman Unlimited imprint. That's right - "imprint".

Featuring Jacindy Cartland from King Alfred, Man Of Leisure, Maureen Bourne from Leopard Leg and Flo Brooks from Chaps, Men Oh Pause sound almost too cool, with their playground chant vocals, underpinned by an impending sense of doom and/or claustrophobia.

"Sapphire and Steel" (named after everyone's favourite early 80s creepout sci-fio series) is the highlight here, a sinister Wurlitzer of a tune, that suddenly changes tack and turns into a growling drone pop delight. Imagine Free Kitten with a touch of the music hall. It's a heady brew alright.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Comet Gain: for better, for worse, forever

Oh, another Comet Gain album. For every fantastic night out that has been soundtracked by Comet Gain, there have been half as many drastic times where they've been more than a night nurse.

Over the last two decades, Comet Gain have been there for me, and even after a dozen or so proper listens of their latest classic, 'Paperback Ghosts' (Fortuna Pop!), this new runt to a litter of perfectly mis-shaped albums is way, way up there.

It's for the dreamers, schemers and miscreants. For those who have loved and for those that have lost and want to be lost. It's heartbreaking and genuine and a shot in the arm... and a kick in the head - just when you probably deserve it.

It has a song called 'Behind the House She Lived In', which is dancefloor filler that has the ability to reduce anyone to tears whilst they're flailing around at 1 in the morning. Then there's 'Breaking Open the Head Part 1' - a new wave shimmer and a complete attack dog of a pop song. Fights behind the youth club, a party you know you're not wanted at. A walk home from a terrible club on your own, in the rain. Go home and put a Comet Gain album on and FIGHT BACK.

And what is everyone else going to do because they haven't heard 'Casino Classics' or 'Realistes' or 'Howl of the Lonely Crowd' and now Paperback Ghosts? Those poor, lost fools. And they've never heard 'The Last Love Letter' - where David Feck's open heart is there in full, gory, bleeding beautiful detail.

When I first heard Comet Gain back in 1995, I was properly on my arse. On the dole, in a bedsit with no running water and having found myself newly single after splitting up with the person who I'd moved to Nottingham with. Times - and problems - change. Comet Gain keep on, keepin' on. And that is one of the most precious things in the world.

Needless to say, you need 'Paperback Ghosts' in your life - and whatever your life is like, this album will make it that little bit better. Go get.

Monday, 26 May 2014

New gig, new danger

In case you were worried, we're just about fending off the crypto-fascists here in Nottingham, although we think they stole some people from the audience at the criminally-attended Fever Dream/Cosines/Poirot's Boys show we put on the other week.

Not to worry, because, like the gluttons for punishment we are, we've got another show coming up. It sort of acts as an Indietracks warm-up for half the bill. The other half I'm deeply excited about seeing. It's been a while since we've been brave enough to put such a varied bill on, so if no-one comes to this one, we're going to start a popular revolution and sweep away the political elite. If we can be arsed.

Here, in a lazy way, is a teaser of what to expect. You can find the rest of the secrets to a happy life over on the right, and on facebook.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

The Yearning - If I Can't Have You (Elefant)

Remember back in the late 1990s when Belle and Sebastian were making that series of wonderful pop records that you thought would last forever? Then you might remember that they spent the most of the next 15 years disappearing up their own backsides and writing songs that sounded like Leo Sayer b-sides.

It is with this in mind that we should thank The Yearning for taking up the baton so effortlessly. 'If I Can't Have You' is a download only single from their forthcoming album 'Dreamboats and Lemonade' (which beats those Heartbeat compilations hands down as far as a name goes), also out on Elefant.

It's a crackling flame of a song, that begins with a gorgeous keyboard part that backs a plaintive lament about the old unrequited love conundrum. Seems the heroine of the song is bound to settle for second best here, and isn't that a sad old thing to behold?

Labelmates The School are clearly a big influence on The Yearning, but there are also echoes of formative Camera Obscure and (yes) Belle and Sebastian on those first three electric albums which now seem to be a lifetime away.

The Yearning have lived up to their name in a single song, and I hope I'm not feeling a bit fragile when I see them at Indietracks this year. A beautiful, painful pop song.