Saturday, 31 January 2009

The Hermit Crabs - Correspondence Course (Matinee)

There's a general consensus that this new ep isn't as good as The Hermit Crabs' debut record, Feelgood Factor. But I can't say I really agree.
As ever, the band's songs are immaculately produced, and the exquisite opener About You Before is crystal clear. It also reminds me a little bit of Lush's later stuff, which is nice.

The title track is a complete joy, and explodes at the end in a way that reminds me of The Windmills at their most powerful.

Turn the Clock Back - I'm sure the band won't mind me saying - is very Camera Obscura, and is therefore extremely pretty indeed. It's also (as the title reveals) a bit of a weepy old thing.

Things are pepped up again with the Housemartins-esque I Don't Know How, which, it seems to me, would be a good track to do the washing up to.

It's good that The Hermit Crabs are around. In the absence of Monkey Swallows the Universe they've filled a gap in my record collection that was in danger of becoming very dusty indeed. Correspondence Course is a tiny triumph.

Friday, 30 January 2009

Pocketbooks and The Loves on tour

Pocketbooks are set to go on tour with The Loves in April, it seems. Liz from The School is booking dates for an indiepop double-header, which should result in some ace shows. Pocketbooks will be releasing their debut album in April; The Loves their third.

I love Pocketbooks very much. As a band and as people. There'll be an interview up here soon, but first make do with this wonderful live version of Falling Leaves.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Days spent wandering

Yesterday I had to go to Leicester for work. But the meetings I had were four hours apart, so I had loads of time to have a very slow wander around the city centre, and meet a friend for a pint during his dinner hour. I like days like this.

After I'd rummaged through Leicester's excellent open air market (stopping only to buy some old badges), I carried on through the Lanes district and found myself a bit lost. That was until I realised that I just around the corner from The Princess Charlotte, which is sadly closing down.

The Charlotte is one of those provincial UK venues that every little touring band stopped off at a few years back (see also The Narrowboat in Nottingham or the Northampton Racehorse). It was a complete and utter shit hole, but it had a soul that none of the venues sponsored by lager brand have today. People used to virtually live in these places, and you could always go in and see someone you vaguely knew, or at least get chatting to someone about music or footy or stuff. Maybe it's because I'm getting old and curmudgeonly, but that doesn't seem to happen much these days.

My most fond memory of The Charlotte is going to see Prolapse play there with Leicester's ace Kooky Monster (Julie Fairgreave from The Mai '68s was their singer) and The Council, which were Mark Hibbett's old band. I suppose it was 1993 or 1994. Anyway, it was such a thrilling night. Prolapse were my favourite band at the time, and remain a favourite. I get goosebumps just thinking about how good they were live, and how good they were that night. They were pretty amazing the next night at the Narrowboat in Nottingham, too.

I must stop whittering on about The Past, but when so much of it is disappearing it's hard not to get all misty-eyed sometimes, isn't it?

Here's Autocade by Prolapse. Ignore the homemade video, and just listen to the music. The bit where Linda sings, "Say I'm weak, and say I'm greedy" makes me shiver. This reminds me of long nights out in Nottingham and being on the dole and somehow managing not only survive on £35 a week, but also have an amazing time.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

May goes POP!

May's gig has taken an unexpected turn for the excellent, and Electric Pop Group are now going to be playing with Northern Portrait, Red Shoe Diaries, and Horowitz. I'm gonna change the venue, too, 'cos I really don't want to mess this one up.

Anyway, what a way to go out!

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

The Family Cat

The Family Cat were pretty much typical of a lot of British indie bands at the arse end of the 80s and early 90s, in the fact they just weren't sexy enough to emulate the likes of Lush or Curve or - heaven forbid - The Stone Roses, yet had a live following every bit as fanatical.

Going to a Family Cat gig between 1990 and 1992 was one of the most exhilerating things a teenager could do. Indeed, they might have been like a lot of indie bands around in that way that they sold loads more t-shirts than they did records, but in many ways they were completely different; they weren't shoegazers and they weren't baggy. And they weren't The bloody Senseless Things.

I first heard The Family Cat whilst listening to John Peel's 1989 Festive Fifty. Numbers 50 and 49 were Inspiral Carpet tracks. Then came The Family Cat's mesmerising Tom Verlaine, which sounded like The Field Mice playing a Spaceman 3 song. It still gives me shivers and transports me back to a horrible period of my life where I lived with my Dad on a tiny house next to by-pass in North East Lincolnshire. I was earning £1.50 an hour at the time, all my friends were still at school, my Dad was drinking rather heavily, and so I sort emersed myself in listening to late night radio and buying indie records from Andy's Records in Grimsby.

Tom Verlaine isn't the greatest song ever written, but it reminds me so much of those days that I can hardly bring myself to listen to it now. But every time I do, I'm still struck by its power.

Anyway, I immediately repaired to Andy's Records and bought the band's mini-album Tell 'Em We're Surfin. It's still fresh today, despite sounding like it was recorded in the middle of cow pat.

The band's run of singles after the mini-album firmly pinned them to my heart forever. Remember What it is That You Love had a very fashionable quite verse/noisy chorus thing going on; Place With a Name is probably as near to indiepop as they came and had the beautiful Concrete and Pass Away on the b-side; Colour Me Grey was my 'feeling fed-up' teenage anthem for a few good months and featured a pre-superstardom PJ Harvey on backing vocals; and Steamroller - the band's biggest hit - was about their love for Southampton FC, and was a massive in provincial indie discos, as I remember.

After that, I moved to Nottingham, and I think I sort of left The Family Cat behind in Grimsby. The band's second album, Furthest From the Sun, got played to death, but it wasn't really the same, and by the time of the last lp, Magic Happens (ironically their most successful), I was still buying every single, but only really out of duty.

But for the adventures of going to down to London to bounce around at sweaty gigs in the early 90s, I'll always love The Family Cat dearly. As their t-shirts said: All other bands are dogshite.
Well, that's not strictly true, of course...

Monday, 26 January 2009

Camera Obscura interview

Camera Obscura, you might have noticed, have signed a big fat worldwide deal with 4AD. Hurrah! The band were good enough to answer some questions in the run-up to releasing their long-awaited new album.

What's it like being part of a new fashionable music genre after being together for such a long time?

I don't think we've ever really felt part of anything fashionable. We've always just got on with it and made the music we make, but i think thats helped us to keep going, cause we've never been seen as part of a fad that fades away or goes out of fashion.

How's the Glasgow scene at the moment? Any new favourites?

Its always a bit of a hotbed really. Theres not really been a particular Glasgow sound of late, but theres always loads of bands starting up and doing their thing, frequently with a lot of the same folks popping up in the new bands. Dananananackroyd seem to be doing really well. The Just Joans and The Second Hand Marching Band are worth a listen.

How have you found recording the new album? Does it get easier with every release?

I think after the last album, which was the first time we'd used a producer rather than doing it ourselves, it has become a lot easier. We can put our trust in Jari and we know he'll push us to make the best record we can make. The last time was a bit of an eye opener, and it really helped us up our game as players, cause we'd never had anyone pushing us in the studio before. That translated into playing live too, which we were really happy about.

Does it frustrate you that you appear to be more popular overseas than you are in the UK?

It would be nice to sell as many records here as we do in the States, obviously being from here we'd like to do well here.

How do you think this will ever change?

The recent change of label will hopefully see us moving up a gear in the UK, which we're really excited about. Number 39 with a bullet. The last two albums have come out on Elefant in the UK, and whilst we love the folks at Elefant, and its been quite a nice feeling to be a scottish band on a spanish record label, making records in sweden and then playing to people all over the place, we've effectively not had a UK label, so this is a massive change for us.

Who would you say has helped you the most in your time together as a band?

If it hadn't been for John Peel, a lot of people would never have heard of us way back. So from that point of view, he was our biggest supporter from the word go. Doing the sessions for him too was a massive boost to us, especially the challenge of the Burn's Night session, when we went off and wrote new music for some Robert Burn's poems. Nothing like a deadline to actually get you into a creative panic.

How did the Tesco advert music come about? Did you have a big decision to make as to whether you said "yes", or wasn't that your decision in the first place?

The Tesco ad was down to the ad company approaching us to use Country Mile as they really liked it and thought it fitted the advert. Theres a lot of companies we really wouldn't be happy using our music, but everyone needs shopping, right. It got our music across to loads of new people in a way that releasing a single never would. At the end of the day, after investing so much in the music we make, we want as many people as possible to hear it.

What's the best thing about being in Camera Obscura?

Just getting to make the music we make and travelling all over the world playing it. It makes all the hours of hanging around waiting for things to happen at soundchecks and the tedium of flights and long van drives worthwhile.

And what does the next year hold for you all? Anything new and exciting on the horizon?

We've just been working on the new album and getting ready for it to come out. We're very excited to be working with 4AD, they have such a great reputation, and it feels like ages since Lets Get Out Of This Country came out, so we're all raring to get going and get playing again, and have this new album out for people to hear.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Mascot Fight - Pantomime Hearse (Cassette County)

It's so easy to misjudge Mascot Fight if you've only seen them live. I'm no musician, but their songs can often be quite complex, and they have to have perfect sound at their gigs to make them sound right.
Take the simply gorgeous opener here, Terry is the Chicago Sun. Live it's often completely hamstrung by the bass being too high in the mix - here, it's heartbreaking.
Pantomime Hearse starts at a canter. Danger Man buzzes around like a sort of flowery Buzzcocks pop shock, and ends with a wonderful Pavement-esque guitar solo, before falling apart completely.
I've mentioned That's a Photocopier... here before, and I still love it's tale of 9-5 woe. But it's City Bones that's the real treasure of this album. It starts quietly before Sean Dodds' plaintive, fragile vocal comes in. Then prepare to weep buckets as the most melancholy chorus in pop hits you straight in the goolies. Tragedy has rarely sounded so good.
That they follow it up with the jazzy throwaway pop Thinking in French makes me smile. Also, it's a bit sexy. Blush.
They're showing off now, and even manage to get a sea shanty during an 'interval' two thirds of the way through the album. Which leads nicely in the darkness of Diego Barnes, with its tense verses and underlying atmosphere of violence. It's like the soundtrack to a night in a Wetherspoons in Doncaster town centre. That's right.
I moaned in an earlier post about the demise or disappearance of three great Derby bands as we entered the new year. The one that makes up such a fine quartet has written an album that fills me full of joy and makes the loss just that little bit easier.
If I were you, I'd download the whole of Pantomime Hearse here.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

I'll popshow you mine if you popshow me yours

I'm going to miss organising gigs so, so much after May. It's a massive, massive stress of course, but I completely love it. But it seems Jaynie and Richard at Don't Start Feeling all "Romantic" are starting to put shows on in Nottingham again, so all is not lost.

The April and May gigs are coming together nicely, now. Red Shoe Diaries will be supporting Northern Portrait in May, and the venue is booked for The Motifs and The Crayon Fields is April. All I need now is a band with a drum kit and bass amp to play with them. Any ideas?

Friday, 23 January 2009

Maths and Physics Club

I've been in love with Math and Physics Club ever since I heard their debut ep 'Weekends Away' a couple of years back. And all this despite them not being called Maths and Physics Club. I really will forgive them anything.

Charles from the band was good enough to answer some questions for me:

You seemed quite a prolific band to start with, and now things have gone quiet. Was this always going to happen, or are you saving yourselves for something spectacular?

Nothing spectacular, I’m afraid. Several of us have children now, so it became really difficult to make time for music. Quite a bit of our last EP was done over email because our schedules were too full to get together in person. I’ve got twin boys that are almost two now, and as they get older I’m able to free myself up a bit more, but I suspect our output will remain sporadic from here on out.

Are you as happy with the first album as you could have been?

It’s easy to get caught up thinking about little things I wish we’d done differently or spent more time on, but overall I think it’s a solid first album for us. It’s a pretty accurate reflection of where we were as a band at the time.

Do you think Matinee Records is your natural home?

Yeah, definitely. We like working with Jimmy, we’re fans of the other bands on the label, and there’s no pressure to tour, which we knew we wouldn’t be able to do given our families and day jobs.

Who writes the lyrics in the band? Are they personal, or simply made up?

I’ve written the lyrics for the songs we’ve recorded so far. Most are not personal. I write the chords and melody first, and when I’m developing the melody I usually come up with a line or two of lyrics that I like, so I just continue to build a story around them. Lyrics are always the last thing to get finished. I don’t consider myself to be a very strong lyricist, so I tend to labor over them. I was still working on lyrics for the album on the same day I was supposed to record the songs.

The song 'Weekends Away' is one of my favourite of the last few years. How did the lyrics for that come about? It sounds as though real love went into that song. Is travelling one of your favourite pastimes?

Weekends Away is probably my favorite for lyrics. It was inspired by weekend driving trips with my wife. I was trying to capture that feeling of escape from the stress of daily life, and the romance of traveling with someone you love. No doubt the title was in my head from the opening line of The Lucksmiths Southernmost, but I actually didn’t realize it until someone pointed it out later.

Similarly, 'Cold as Minnesota' is both brilliant and incredibly descriptive. What's the story behind that song?

Thanks very much. I definitely laboured over the lyrics for this one. I had a few lines written from the start, and I knew it was going to be about a bitter relationship, but it took a while before I was happy enough to leave it alone. James, our guitar player, actually came up with the line “there is a chill as cold as Minnesota.” I had originally written a different line using Minnesota, but then James suggested changing some of the words and I realized it really captured the song.

What are the plans for the new album? Any radical departures? And will it also be released on Matinee?

We’re just getting started sharing demos and ideas for the next album, but I’m hopeful we’ll be able to release something later this year. I wouldn’t expect any radical departures, though it will be the first time we’ve recorded without our violin player who moved to Denmark last year, so we may end up bringing in more session players and using some different instrumentation. And yeah, I expect we’ll keep putting out records on Matinee until Jimmy decides to cut his losses!

Who are your favourite bands right now?

I’ve not been able to keep up with many bands over the past couple years. I think Northern Portrait is pretty amazing. I also loved the last Cats on Fire album on Marsh-Marigold, and “Night Falls Over Kortedala” by Jens Lekman. Other than that it’s been a lot of Raffi and Sesame Street, though lately my kids have been into “Pop Fly” by Justin Roberts, which is great indiepop for kids.

Would you all like MAPC to become your day job?

Is this a trick question?

Can you really sum up your love for music? What does it mean to all of you?

When I was about 13 my brother moved back home after living in Athens, Georgia for a few years and introduced me to REM. Since then I’ve been obsessed with music and bands. Like a lot of music fans, there’s a soundtrack for every period of my life which helped get me through those times, good or bad. So in that context it’s humbling when people write to let us know our music has been important to them in some way. It means a ton to us.

The Besties are back!

Rejoice, rejoice! The Besties' new album is out at the beginning of February. It's called Home Free, and is out on Hugpatch Records. Here's the track listing:

01 Right Band/Wrong Song
02 What Would Tim Armstrong Do?
03 Helgafell
04 Nightwatch
05 The Gothenburg Handshake
06 Birthday
07 M.F.D.
08 St. Francis
09 Julie Jane
10 Man Vs. Wild
11 79 Lorimer

You can pre-order it not from Hugpatch in the US by paypalling $10 ($15 Int'l) to I'm about to do that right away.

I desperately hope that The Besties come to play in the UK again soon. I put them on about 18 months ago in Nottingham and it was easily the best gig I've been involved in.

The gig was on a Monday night, right after Indietracks, and I was tremendously tired. I didn't think anyone would show up. An unknown band from Derby called The Deirdres were playing, and Tom from Lardpony had said that were "good, but ramshackle". A Smile and Ribbon also played, and were wonderful. Svante's dancing lives with me to this day.

As it turned out, The Deirdres were a revalation that night, about 50 people showed, and The Besties rocked our indiepop socks off. I've rarely been in a room so full of joy.

So, you should all buy the Besties album - just so they can come and play down the road from me again. Okay? Here's Prison Song:

Thursday, 22 January 2009


There are few finer things in life than walking to work in the dark, I find. I love the fact that you can walk along streets really anonymously whilst it's relatively quiet on the roads, and you can see the city in the near-distance all lit up and pretty.

Since we moved a couple of years ago, I've been spoilt for routes to work. I can either go across Trent Bridge and down London Road, or I can take the more scenic way and go over Lady Bay Bridge, and across the Cattle Market. I love this bit of Nottingham because it's been totally unspoilt and it still has the original buildings standing from the late 19th century.

The Cattle Market is particularly ace, because it still has cobbled streets and is completely pitch black in the morning at this time of year. There's still a fruit and veg wholesaler who sells from there, and sometimes he's opening up, but most time you're just completely alone in this run down industrial estate on the edge of the city centre. I'll probably get murdered there now.

To put the top on this Billy Liar-esque daily experience I usually listen to some music (note to murderer: I won't hear you coming). This morning it was Adorable's bloody ace album, Fake. Adorable were a great band that seemed to get lost in the rush by Creation to sign a load of retro shite at the beginning of the 90s. Anyway, my favourite track of theirs is Sunshine Smile. They all look completely gorgeous.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Underachievers no more

Camera Obscura (officially better than Belle and Sebastian for many years now) have signed to 4AD in Europe. Isn't that wonderful news? New albums and dates to be announced soon, according to their lovely website.

Bubblegum Lemonade - Doubleplusgood (Matinee)

Bubblegum Lemonade are the sister band of that other food-related Matinee band, Strawberry Whiplash, and I keep changing my mind as to which I prefer.
Doubleplus good starts off with the very 'now' sounding A Billion Heartbeats, in that it sounds a bit JAMC-ish, and I'm a bit bored of that, really. But things soon start going with the dreamy Beautiful Friends which has a wonderfully noodly guitar bit, and a definite Byrds thread running through it.
Indeed, much of Doubleplusgood takes heavily from either early Primal Scream taking a lot of from psych-pop, but y'know there are worse things to be listening to on a Wednesday afternoon at work.
I'll Never Be Yours is probably the best track here. It's a dainty little thing, with a gently flourishing chorus, and then a mad take-lots-acid-and-say-groovy-instrumental bit, which really appeals.
That this is a pretty album goes without saying. Whether it'll ultimately be judged as one of the essential lps of 2009 really depends how things go this year, perhaps. Do they call these things "slow-burners"? They do? Doubleplusgood is a very pretty slow-burner, in that case.

How do you solve a problem like IKEA?

The thorny issue of cd storage is beginning to rear its ugly head chez chips. Things are getting out of hand when you have cds stacked on top of cd towers, and so it is with some trepidation that this weekend I plan to spend a fair chunk of my wage packet on some kind of shelving whatnot to finally sort them out.

I have a big issue with people displaying records as though they're ornaments. It's that sort of "look how many records I've got" thing that makes me think that these people don't really like music as much as they like the idea of owning music. Which is a bit vile, isn't it? Especially when it's so bloody expensive

Anyway, cds are a flippin' pain in the arse, if you ask me. They take up too much space and the cases inevitably break when you've moved house as much as I have. I certainly can't be arsed to transfer everything to the PC (I think I'd rather watch golf all day for the rest of my life than do that), so I'm going to have to make the hellish trip to Ikea, or somewhere. But that means braving the twats who seem to delight in wandering around there with baby Fellatio strapped to them using an authentic hemp papoose, and then coming back home and losing my rag putting the bastard thing together. Where's the fun in that?

If anyone has any suggestions on where to get some cheap, yet effective, cd storage I'd love you forever.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Everything changes and everything stays the same

I'm trying to ignore the mainstream media today, all of which is engaged in some kind of wank-fest over US capital's latest choice of lapdog. 'A moment in history' gushes the BBC, ever subservient to the ruling class. Any good Marxist will tell you that it's not people like Ob*ma who are the agents for historical change.

The Enemies of Reason puts it nice and succinctly, and there's a more in-depth critique here. Defenders of Obama's populist revolution point to the fact that he'll reverse Bush's abhorrent laws on abortion and sexual health, and will improve access to healthcare for the working class - but surely that's the very least any reasonably sane person would do?

For the next 24 hours, however, everything's alright forever for those whipped up by the spittle-encrusted frenzy of bourgeois mass media.

Time for a very tenuous music link. Everything's Alright Forever is, of course, a rather brilliant Boo Radleys album from 1991, and was my choice of getting-ready-to-go-out music during that summer.

It's somewhat overlooked because it preceded the supple Giant Steps and the positively pert Wake Up - both of which sold loads more - but it remains my favourite Boo Radleys album.

I used to put this on whilst backcombing my hair and arranging my fringe before getting the 18.53 bus from Irby-upon-Humber to Grimsby, whereupon I'd sit in The Barge for at least two hours before my more sensible friends deemed it worthy to come out. The we'd go to Gullivers and dance to Neds Atomic Dustbin and The Smiths and Lush and Mudhoney. A load of goths would sit in the corner and would come out and do that weird two-steps-forward, two-steps-back dance to either Terror Couple Killed Colenel or Bela Lugosi's Dead. Back then I thought Tuesday night's at The Barge and Gullivers were the centre of the universe. Well, they were, really. It's where I met Pete Green, and Emma Hall from Pocketbooks. Such a breeding ground!

Anyway, where was I? Yes, Everything's Alright Forever, if you're not aware, is this sprawling psychedelic shoegaze pop mess, and it's utterly lovely. Especially if you were young and stupid and into hallucinogenic drugs like a big idiot. I haven't listened to it for ages, mainly because my vinly version is just about worn out, but here's one of my favourite tracks from it, the wonderfully intense Lazy Day. Look at Sice's hair!

Monday, 19 January 2009

Under marbled Millichip, the FA broods

I was getting the bus back from the pub on Saturday afternoon, and to see the two remaining old-style floodlights at the City Ground on full beam was a tremendous sight to behold.

Forest's ground is, if course, relatively modern and swish compared to most of the grounds in the Third and Fourth divisions, even in these days of out-of-town retail-o-stadiums. My team's current ground, Blundell Park, remains steadfastly bleak, yet has a comfy charm that most others lack. You know where you are with Blundell Park; you're roughly half way between Cleethorpes and Grimsby. And that's a comfort, believe me.

To portray the fact that grounds before Sky came along could really be places of mass, socialised worship of your team, rather than the atomised 'experience' you get at most grounds today, take a look at the cavernous stands at Turf Moor, Burnley, from the video of The Fall's masterly 1983 track, Kicker Conspiracy. Shame that Burnley were only getting about 6,000 through the gate each week, really.

Not before time

This morning I got into work and found a bar of Cadbury's Fruit & Nut in my mailbox in reception. Is this how stalking starts? If so, I'm all for it.

Waiting back to hear about whether people can play/host your gig is one of the most frustrating things in the world, along with not being able to murder everyone who works on Top Gear. Why can't people just come back and say yes or no?

I'm beginning to annoy myself, though. The shows aren't until April and May. Which reminds me - I must arrange my 80th birthday party some time before the end of the month.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Friends - Single Friends (Summerhouse)

Back in about 1992, or something, I spent a good few months completely obsessed with the notion of Englishness. I remember moving to Nottingham and spending my dole days wandering around the older parts of the city pretending to appreciate the architecture and thinking that England was perhaps the most romantic place in the whole world. I think seeing Suede at Trent Poly did funny things to me.

I was, of course, being a massive fucking prick. But if I'd heard Friends back then, then I probably would've hunted them down, camped outside their front doors, and moved in with them. Friends, to me, are the most English band I've ever heard. And I mean that in a completely non-wanky non-1992 way.

Single Friends is a best of, basically. It comes only a few short years after the Best of Friends compilation, but I don't care, because the songs here are, without exception, pretty amazing.

The first four songs on this album deserve a biscuit. You'll Never See That Summertime Again remains one of my favourite songs ever, and whilst it's the most maudlin pop song you'll hear for a long time, it's kicked up the arse by the triumphant This is the Start. And then come two great big soppy love songs in Into the Sun and Beautiful to Me, which is an acoustic version. It's quite remarkable to think that all four of these songs were on one ep released back in 2006.

It's William's icy clear English singing voice that wouldve had the 19-year-old me in raptures. On songs like As Years Go By it sort of glides perfectly over the music, but he can also rough it up a bit, like on the James-y The First Day of Spring - complete with feral yelp at the end!

But it's the drop dead melancholy that makes Friends special. The stiff upper lip of I'll Never See You drips with fake optimism after the end of a relationship, as William chirrups "We don't belong here any more". Before admitting that he might not survive another winter, before remembering that he doesn't need the other person at all. That's the spirit.

But then it's all undone with Wanting, which is heartbreak and longing set to an acoustic and synth background. Stunning, really.

Quite why Friends aren't celebrated more is beyond me. For sensitive souls everywhere there really isn't a more perfect band, and Single Friends is a glorious carnival of hope, loss, love and daydreams. Listen to Far and Away - an anthem for running away from your problems - and tell me different. You won't be able to.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

The eyes have it

Hazel Blears is getting twitchy about "the signals" the UK government is sending out to young Muslims in Britain, mainly because Labour has used its normal doublespeak when talking about the recent murder of men, women and children in Gaza.

Boo-hoo to Blears. She seems to have conveniently forgotten that she voted in favour of the invasion of Iraq and against any public investigation on it and the subsequent - and ongoing - imperialist occupation by UK forces. She also voted for increasing the number of days a suspected terrorist could be held without charge in a UK prison for interrogation.

According to the BBC, "Ms Blears said ministers needed to make sure that people 'don't feel that there's hypocrisy and double standards'". A bit fucking late for that, isn't it?

I interviewed Hazel Blears once. I came to the conclusion that she was actually a robot. Look at her cold, dead eyes next time she's on telly.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Please release me

I've decided, what with my new found time on my hands, that I'm going to start a little CD-R label in April. Nothing fancy - just three or four tracks from bands I like each time. And the CDs will be free, apart from posting and packaging.

The first one will have tracks from Pocketbooks, The Crayon Fields and Horowitz on it. And maybe one more. My friend Andy Hart will be working his twinkle fingers on the sleeves, so it should be a cute little package.

It's things like this that will make me into the next Ian Faith. No wonder Zavvi has gone bust. Running scared, you see.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

The Lucksmiths - First Frost (Fortuna Pop!)

I'd heard some horrible blasphemous rumours about this album at the end of last year, about it being all "rock", and having "guitar solos". Cuh, I say to them. Cuh.

The fact that this is yet another treasure of a Lucksmiths album shouldn't be a surprise to the righteous, of course, but it's a surprise just how good it is.

Apparently, it's a bit of concept album. Run to the hills! Then come back again. Because this album is all about the countryside vs the city. And not in "lets go and hunt some little foxes way!", I hope you understand. And it looks from the sleeve like a log cabin the middle of nowhere has triumphed.
Beautiful packaging leads to beautiful songs. "Good Light" might be the sound of Lucksmiths yore, but so what? If it ain't fixed carry on using it anyway, as the old saying goes. The song features some wonderful self-pitying lyrics, and we all need to wallow sometimes, don't we?

"California Popular Song" seems again to champion the countryside - or at least warns against the lure of the big city, with the almost ridiculously sad lyric: "Your eyes are bright with wine/And, oh, so are mine."

I think I can honestly say that I've never really 'connected' with many Lucksmiths lyrics before... until now. I've usually liked their songs for their jangly effervescence, or the fact that they're just the sort of quaint stuff that makes a 30-something feel at ease with singing at the top of his voice in a nightclub. But on First Frost nearly every song screams: "This is you, you lummox!" And isn't that a wonderful thing when you think that sort of thing left you when you were 15 and listening to Meat is Murder in a dark room with only a candle for company?

And just when I think I've found the song that saved my life - in this case the National Mitten Registry - it turns out it's been written from the perspective of the woolly hand garment. Denied!

But take this immeasurably great album however you want to. It's going to get me to work and back again through the remaining winter months. Take that, mitten!

Say "Yes!" to Comet Gain on a Saturday night

It seems that Comet Gain will go to the ball, and will play a greatest hits set on the Saturday night of London Popfest. Which is super news for me, as that's the only day I can go down there.

You, on the other hand, should buy a ticket for all four days. Here's the line-up so far:

Comet Gain
Colin Clary (of the Smittens - and friends!)
Milky Wimpshake
Julian Henry (The Hit Parade)
The School
Action Biker
The Middle Ones
Help Stamp Out Loneliness
Tender Trap
The Pete Green Corporate Juggernaut
Betty and the Werewolves

I desperately hope Tender Trap play on Saturday, too. I've not seen them for nearly seven years now! And seeing Liechtenstein without being either way too hot or in Birmingham will be a treat, too.

I booked my bus ticket to London yesterday. I can hardly wait.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Just for a day

There are many terrible things about the drudge of wage slavery, but one sticks out a mile.

You know that awful thing at work where someone asks you: "So, what music are you into?", and you suddenly freeze, look straight ahead of you, and wonder if they've got the new Summer Cats seven inch or not, before blurting out: "Well, my favourite band ever are The Smiths"?

You do know that, don't you?

Well, The Smiths usually get rid of this unwanted conversation quite handily, because the person asking you is expecting an in depth conversation at the new Kooks record (or at the very most, they want to show you how cool they are by mentioning that they bought the Kings of Leon lp yesterday).

So, imagine my surprise today when my stock Smiths answer was met with: "Yeah, I liked The Smiths, but I was more into Revolver and Lush and Ride. Have you heard of them?"

What was a really fucking boring meeting about conference venues (that's right) turned into an hour-long, enthusiastic chat about Ride's first album, whether Miki or Emma was best, and whether Blind Mr Jones were the greatest lost shoegaze band ever.

Proof, then, that although work is 99 per cent shite, the 1 per cent that involves talking about Slowdive's masterly debut album makes it worth getting out of bed in the morning.

In remembrance of such oases of glee in a sea of pointless hours, here's Slowdive's tremblingly beautiful Catch the Breeze, which still makes my eyes moist after all these years.

Jukebox jury

At some point I am going to write a post about my favourite pub jukeboxes. But, before that, this Saturday myself and a friend are going to go on a pub crawl and find a pub in Nottingham with a decent jukebox. Whether such a place exists any more, or has passed into the mythology is another matter. Whether it's too cold to move from the first pub we go to on Saturday might also warp our findings, but I can't be held responsible for the weather, now can I?

I shall report back. I'd be interested to hear other people's jukebox hotspots, mind.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

The School let it slip

Liz from The School told me earlier today that they'll have a single and album out later this year, which is ace news, isn't it?

The single is out around May time, and the album shortly afterwards. I'm sure they'll be playing loads of dates around that time, so it'll be worth keeping an eye out. in fact, they're always playing, so keep both your eyes out.

And I defy anyone not to have a wonderful time when watching The School. A particular ramshackle evening comes to mind, when the band were playing with Saturday Looks Good to Me and Horowitz and the bloody awful Stealth in Nottingham a couple of years back. Horowitz had just played one of the most drunken sets I'd ever seen, and Saturday Looks Good to Me were just dull. On came The School and were so charming that most of the 20 people in the audience fell in love with them. Sigh...

Go, on have a listen. They're one of those bands that can't help but write nifty little pop songs.

She likes solo Morrissey

2008 was a bad year for my favourite Derby bands. The Deirdres announced their hiatus as half of them swanned off around the world like filthy students; Lardpony succumbed to parenthood and the responsibilities it brings; and Plans & Apologies called it a day completely.

Which leaves Mascot Fight. And they're not a bad band to be left with at all. The band played at Indietracks in December and were great. I like them because they're not afraid to mess around with the indiepop blueprint a little bit. They're also not your usual fringe and cardigan band. But they do write cracking, sometimes slightly maudlin, indiepop songs. And they're more often than not really quite funny indeed.

Mascot Fight have their debut album, Pantomime Hearse, out very soon. You can pre-order it from their website, apparently. Anyway, you should buy it and you should look out for a song called Terry is Chicago Sun', which is completely beautiful.

Here's the video of another track off the album, called That's a Photocopier (Not a Chair). Have a listen for the Smiths/Morrissey lyric.

Monday, 12 January 2009

International pop frenzy hits East Midlands city

I've decided I'm going to put a couple more gigs on before my summer hibernation deadline, and they're both going to be ace.

In April The Motifs and The Crayon Fields are coming over all the way from that Australia, and in May Northern Portrait, who I'm potty about, will be playing. Both gigs are in Nottingham. There'll be more details as and when I get my increasingly large arse into gear and book venues and all that jazz.

There won't be jazz. Just thought I'd better make that clear. No jazz.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

The Loves - The Ex-Gurlfriend ep (Fortuna Pop!)

Time moves on, and so, inexplicably, do The Loves. Just when you think you'll never heard from them again, they return.

Fans of the bubblegum garage pop they now seemingly peddle all the time will love the title track, on which Simon Love warns against killer ex-girlfriends, or something along those lines, anyway.

Johnny Angelo Blues sounds like The Monkees playing a Gallon Drunk song, and it perhaps a little too retro for these ears, but all is saved by Around & Around which takes that ramshackle Comet Gain approach to sweet pop songs, and sounds like it's about to fall to pieces at any second... but doesn't. It should be the lead track, really. But then it's not about killer girlfriends, and I suppose they're more fun.

Oh, I didn't mention that is the first in a series of a trio of three track eps to promote the band's next album, Three. And they're all free. Geddit? You can't really grumble.

Burning Hearts

Burning Hearts were brought to my attention by a post on anorak from Matthew at Shelflife. Apparently, Burning Hearts are Cats on Fire drummer Henry Ojala, and Le Futur Pompiste singer Jessika Rapo. They've got an album out on Shelflife really soon, and going by the songs on their myspace page, it'll be wonderful.

I'm so pleased that Shelflife is still with us. For a while it seemed to disappear completely, but it's label that seems to unearth these really beautiful songs from time to time.

Anyway, Burning Hearts are ace. The new lp is called Aboa Sleeping. And it's available from Shelflife from February 10th.

The Queen is dead

Should we really be surprised that Harry Wales is a huge racist? It's in the blood, after all. In the 1930s the British Royal family actively supported the Nazi regime in Germany. It's widely believed that Elizabeth Windsor's mother, the now deceased Queen Mother, gave a copy of Mein Kampf to a friend, saying, "Even a skip through gives you a good idea of his obvious sincerity." She called black people "nig-nogs" or "blackamoors". And she backed white minority rule in Rhodesia. And so the die was cast, you could say.

There has been some outrageously poor reporting on this story in the mainstream media. Sky News basically went with the line from Clarence House that this was "all done in jest." Yeah, fucking hilarious for the "paki" who had to sit there and take it, I imagine.

The BBC mimics this line, and lets the Clarence House statement go uncontested. In the name of''balanced reporting', I presume.

Republic, the anti-monarchy organisation, offered a pathetically limp response, that read:

"Harry's comments are a disgrace and may seriously harm our armed forces. Racism can have serious consequences for our services personnel, for morale and for recruitment. We must expect the highest standards from someone who is not only a serving officer but who is also in line to be our Head of State."

Yes, we musn't let anything get in the way the British army's violent imperialist adventures overseas, must we?

Having Prince Phillip, the bigoted dinosaur of the current Windsors around as your Grandad can't help, of course. But those looking to excuse Wales as "misguided" need only look back three and half years when he dressed up as a Nazi SS officer for a fancy dress party. Crazy times.

The real irony about this is that the story was broken by the News of the World, the hideous Sunday newspaper owned by Ruper Murdoch. This is a paper which manages to vilify anyone who doesn't have a white face at just about every turn. Immigrants or asylum seekers are their prey. Yet a royal being racist sells papers, doesn't it? Even the most die-hard of Britain's soft-racists are fed up with reading about how much a week benefit an asylum seeker is supposed to be getting, it seems.

The Royal Family should be abolished immediately. That goes without saying. But the really sickening part of this story is that Harry Wales seemingly has plenty of apologists out there a the BBC and Sky News.

Ingrid Seward, the toadying editor of the tawdry Majesty magazine is quoted as saying:

Yes, it would be very offensive if Harry went around calling people Pakis in a racist way but this was not meant, you know, it was meant more of a nickname.

"I mean, Harry's mates call him Ginge or Ginger - that could be equally offensive to people with red hair."

This is the sort of shit we're dealing with, people. Please make it stop.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

How to look imploring

Horowitz, as you may already know, are a two-piece pop band from Stoke-on-Trent and Nottingham. They always play at the bottom of every bill. I'm as guilty of this as anyone else.

Any road round, I've finally got 'round to listening to their new single on their myspace page. It's called How to Look Imploring, and, my word, it's simply ace.

You should, of course, buy this single from Cloudberry Records, but just so you make sure you know how Horowitz make fizzy pop much better than anyone else right now, you should also listen to it here.

The Guild League - Speak up (Matinee Records)

I don't think you can really call The Guild League Tali White's "side project" any more, can you? This is the band's third album, after all, and they're easily as prolific as The Lucksmiths.
I'd heard - or seen, I suppose - a song from this album back in October time. It's called Suit Fits, and it's amazing, and it's on here. And I'm going to go on about it a bit, because it's the best Guild League track EVER. Wow.

1. It contains the lyric "I'm shining shit 'til it's in style".

2. And then that's rhymed with: "I'm head minister in the ministry of style".

3. Tali White sings like he's giving someone a proper bollocking.

4. There's this great bit he breaksitdownnow, and sort of raps.

5. The ending is completely jubilant. I like a jubilant ending.

Anyway, that's five reasons in song that you should buy this album immediately. Others include delicate little flowers like The Idea, or the jazzy pop of Where's the Colour.

Limited Express is another highlight. It revisits White's pet subject of travelling and architecture and landscape. It's a real joy to listen to songs that talk about places where ordinary people live. Limited Express acts as a kind of four minute soap opera about trains whizzing through towns. And that's what all good songs should be about, isn't it?

It's one of pop's joys that The Guild League are around. To me, they're a sort of nifty secret that gets told every three years or so. Speak Up probably won't feature very prominently in indiepop tittle-tattle, but that's sort of fine by me.

Last night I dreamt that Morecambe beat Grimsby 3-0

I woke up this morning convinced that Morecambe had beaten us 3-0. At home. And so I laid there in bed in a foul mood for five minutes before coming round and realising that it was actually half past five on a Saturday morning.

Today's game against Morecambe isn't the biggest game of the season, but it's aroused interest because Town's chairman has put his hand in his pocket and we've signed Adam Proudlock on a two and half year deal. Which is encouraging. We've also signed Stuart Elliot who had an amazing season with Hull a few years back, some bloke called Dean Sinclair from Charlton (both on loan),and JP Kalala on loan for the rest of the season.

Newell's is steadily putting together his own team. I should think there'll be a decent crowd at Blundell Park today. I wish I was going. Stupid lack of money.
UPDATE: It's been called off because of a frozen pitch. Another week unbeaten.

Friday, 9 January 2009

The Marxists

I always find it quite fascinating to read books about socialism and communism that were published before the break up of the Soviet Union. Then, the analysis is so much better, in my opinion. I couldn't really begin to explain why this is (I'm sure Karl Marx must have an answer somewhere), but I suppose an author writing about living, breathing socialism (albeit of a warped kind) is much better than some of the dross that has come about since official communism died at the beginning of the 1990s.

Anyway, at the moment the book I'm reading on the loo is The Marxists by C Wright Mills. Some have described Wright as a libertarian socialist, but I'm not so sure. I know very little about him, so if anyone else does - or has read any his books, I'd be interested to find out more.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Things to remember you by

The last week in February promises to be rather special. Not only is it the London Popfest, but also Crystal Stilts are playing in Nottingham.

I love Crystal Stilts mainly because they don't sound like another A Smile and a Ribbon rip-off. And nor do they sound like they're trying too hard to sound like a badly-recorded Primitives b-side. Or maybe they do. And maybe that's why I like them.

Anyway, I've heard mixed reports of their live show, but if their album is anything to go by then I shall fall in love all over again. Again.

Would-be-Goods - Eventyr (Matinee Records)

Would-be-Goods skirt around and underneath the scene like some kind of elegant swan. Or at least a very clean Canadian goose.

'Eventyr' is their fifth album, and it's delightfully understated. And there are holes in these songs. Holes for them to breathe. Where before maybe the band have gone full-throttle down pop avenue, with 'Eventyr' there's time to really explore Would-be-Goods.

The album starts with the typical pop rattle of stuff like Sad Stories and The Girl at Number 7 - but in between there are songs like In Bohemia (in which, okay, Jessica Griffin sounds like she's singing "Oh, bulimia!"), and the stunning, fragile Venusberg which is by far the strongest track here.

Elsewhere, Melusine sounds a little like early Morrissey, and whilst Pleasure Island isn't about the theme park in Cleethorpes, it's very nearly as much fun, whilst Temporary Best Friend is sophisticated pop fun at its very best.

What makes this an album you'd like to sleep with on the first date is that there's nothing else around like Would-be-Goods. They aren't Swedish. They don't want to sound like a Jesus and Mary Chain b-side. They don't have beards. They're unique, and they're yours and they're mine.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Hello. This is a short first post to tell you that the paper version of a layer of chips fanzine is no more. How ever will you sleep?

Come back every now and again for reviews, interviews, and news on indiepop happenings. And maybe a little bit of politics now and again. Who knows? I do.

See you soon.