Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Noise annoys

There were many positives about the Motifs/Crayon Fields/Heptagons/Standard Fare gig last Saturday: I was with a group of friends I love and admire and cherish for being patient with me when I'm being a selfish twat and dragging them everywhere; there were also quite a few people at the gig, which is always nice; and it confirmed to me that The Crayon Fields are really quite a splendid band indeed, and that I can't get their songs out of my head even now.
But one thing spoilt the evening, and it's the hoary old chestnut of gig etiquette. I'm not a complete fascist when it comes to expecting people to hang on to every word spoken or song, or every note played or every beat drummed; but it would be nice if people didn't stand right at the front of the stage, turn their back on the act playing, and talk like a huge, loud clown to their baying mates.
We've all been through this of course. I remember when me and Jamie went to see Darren Hayman at Junktion 7 and paid seven bloody pounds for the privilege of listening to two fucking Guardian-reading twattocks behind us talk about how their mortgage is costing them each month. It's costing you an extra seven pounds to talk about now, was what I meant to turn around say, but of course I didn't - I just kept turning around and glaring like a big scaredy-cat. That's what most of us do, isn't it? Apart from the really brave people who approach the noise and tell it to be quiet. But there aren't many of that breed around.
And so, yeah, the gig went fine, when you could actually hear it.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Standard Fare interview

A week between updates. How have you coped?

Those of you idle, silly or plain unlucky enough to not have seen Standard Fare yet have missed out big time. I might have been 'tired and emotional' after the Mariners excaped relegation on Saturday, but they played a blinder at Sumac.

They've also been good enough to answer some questions for me.
How did you all meet?

Andy: Dan and Emma met when their previous bands played a gig together, both bands fell apart around the same time and so they started playing together, they needed a drummer and had seen Andy play before in Dan’s brothers band. They liked what he was doing and so asked him to join them and he said yes.

And where is the band based? Is it Sheffield?
Dan: Yes we're now based in Sheffield, we started out in Buxton but relocated in 2007 when Uni studies made Andy move to Sheffield & Emma move to York. Sheffield was a nice middle point with lots going on musically.

Can you tell me some of your musical and non-musical influences?
Andy: My drumming isn't influenced by my taste of music its more Dan’s and Emma’s. Graphic design and Typography, Eating and Cooking Soup, Asking Questions, Colours.
Dan: Evan Dando of The Lemonheads for the way he can lift up a whole song with a few clever words or a simple melody, Green Day for the passion and urgency they can portray through their songs.
Emma: Sam Cooke, Fleetwood Mac, Blondie, Guster, The Be Good Tanyas, Camera Obscura, and Randy Newman. Non-musical would be films by John Waters, The Graduate and Some Like it Hot and the big influence for writing songs is the stuff I want to say to people but can’t articulate at the time.
You've been picked up by Thee SPC. How did that happen? And were you aware of the label beforehand?

Andy: Emma was looking for interesting musical goings on in Sheffield and found the label, sent a demo and Darren from Thee SPC liked it and the rest is history.

Are you happy with the single?

Andy: Absolutely. Definitely. Completely.
Dan: We love playing the song and to see it put on vinyl is a really cool experience, we're also really pleased with the positive response we've had towards it. It feels like we're on the right track.
Emma: I love it, it’s fantastic hearing our band coming from spinning vinyl.

How do you decide where to play and when?

Andy: I usually just say 'yes.'
Dan: We try to play as much as possible, we’ve become friendly with a few promoters who put us on or at fundraising events such as a Sheffield Live! Event we did recently. Darren, our label man, has got us some gigs further afield in the past few months which has been great.

What makes playing music in your band so special?

Dan:We’ve been playing together for almost 4 years now pretty much every week and from that consistency we’ve got this energy when we play together. When it comes to new songs, it's the excitement of not knowing what we'll each bring to the song and how it will turn out.
Emma: I can come to a practice or a gig feeling stressed, tired, ill or depressed and as soon as we start playing it all dissolves and the music takes over and nothing else matters. I only get that from playing with Dan and Andy. I also think there’s room in our music for us all to do interesting things and (within the confines of indie/pop/rock) create something original.

When are you aiming to take over the world?

Andy: I dont want to take over the world, i'd just like to mark it with our 'wicked tunes yo'.
Emma: It starts tonight - from tomorrow you'll see our name in every train station, on every bus and in pretty much every airport on the planet. We still plan on taking things one step at a time but a global advertising stunt seems to be the next logical step!

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Songs that saved your life, part 3

Back at the beginning of 1990, during my last few weeks at secondary school, I'd pretty much have done anything to go and hold hands with this one girl in my class. She liked cool music like Soup Dragons, Bachelor Pad, The Charlottes and... ermm... Mega City 4. I pretended to like cool music, and brought in John Peel's Festive 50 to play in the common room during break and dinner.
That year, Can't be Sure by The Sundays topped the chart, and this girl (we'll call her Sally, because that was her name) really liked the song. The Sundays had just released their debut album, Reading, Writing & Arithmetic - this collection of stripped-back yet somehow lush - semi-acoustic, almost craft-y pop music, and it was getting all the right reviews.
Me and Sally got talking after listening to the tape over and over again at school, and she asked me if I'd bought the Sundays album one Friday afternoon, and could she borrow it. Of course I lied and said that I had and that I'd bring it in for her to borrow on Monday.
Saturday morning I rushed out and bought Reading, Writing and Arithmetic from Andy's Records in Grimsby, and spent the rest of the weekend listening to it, over and over so that I could comment on any track at the drop of a hat.
Thing is, even if I wasn't being a stupid 16 year old trying to impress this girl in my class, I'd have listened to that album over and over, because it's so innocent and charming and almost pure. And it was so different to what was around at the time, as most of the rest of my mates were going apeshit over the deadly dull Stone Roses.
Joy remains my most favourite track off the album - a record that I always associate with growing up, starting to go out, and, yes, holding hands with Sally.
These days, I put it on when I'm doing the dusting of course. The passing of time, and all it's hideous crimes, and all that.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Life Has it in for Us - out now

The first volume of Life Has it in For Us is now ready to order. Track listing is:

MJ Hibbett & the Validators - One of the Walls of My House Fell In
Moustache of Insanity - You and Things
The Hillfields - Delivered
Pocketbooks - Summertime
The Crayon Fields - How Loved You Are
Northern Portrait - I Give You Two Seconds to Entertain Me
Give it Ups - Four Day Week

You can order it by sending £1.50 by pay pal to and you'll get a free badge. Bargain or wot?

Friday, 17 April 2009

Songs that saved your life, part two

I'm not going to rattle on about this song for too long, because it would do it an injustice. Suffice to say that, back in 1990, when things were particularly shite in the Chips household in North East Lincolnshire, or Humberside as then was, then this song made getting out of bed and going to work on an oil refinery just about worthwhile.

Kurt Ralske is beautiful in this video - there's no doubt about that. And when those guitars kick in, it takes me back to Laceby and being on my own and heaving this up to ten on my Dad's Kenwood turntable. And just singing along like my 16 year old life depended on it.

And then, of course, it was off to see Town the next day. Happy, happy, sad, sad times...

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

The Legends - Over and Over (Labrador)

I'm totally ashamed to say that I'm woefully ignorant as to who, what, where and when The Legends are. Turns out it's Johan from Club 8 and Acid House Kings. I always feel foolish when things like this happen, but then I'll just have to accept that I'm no longer the thrusting young indiepop buck I once (never) was.
I ramble! This is a very neat little album indeed. it starts off like Cher singing the opening bars of The Cure's Pornography album (yes - that good), before the sublime Seconds Away sets the tone for what's to follow; fuzz, distortion, feedback, sythensizers, mangled guitars and some serious pop.
Always the Same features vocals from Liane Moccia and sounds like something from the first few Primitives singles, and then there's the wistful Monday to Saturday - a sort of swinging 1960s girlpop thing, and wonderfully throwaway.
Other times The Legends sound like they're about to break your heart at any second. See Heartbeats, during which you hardly dare breathe, just in case it all collapses.
That it's followed by the storming Dancefloor, the sort of song that the Pains of Being Pure at Heart could probably put their name to, is almost laughably perverse. In the best possible sense.
Over and Over is one of those albums that you want to end... but only because you can start listening to it again. Remember those?

Sunday, 12 April 2009

It was 20 years ago that Popguns had to delay the release of 'Landslide'

I'm going to see Grimsby play Notts County tomorrow. Only my second game of the season, and I've probably been averaging about two games a season for the last five or six years now, such is my continuing apathy towards Football in the Modern Era.

I used to go to every home and away game from the age of about 15 until I was 19. These were good times to be a Town fan, of course. The horrible mid- to late-80s gave way to Alan Buckley's wonderful brand of passing and movement, and players like Shaun Cunnington, Gary Childs, Dave Gilbert and the moustachioed John Cockerill were busy waltzing around Fourth and then Third Division opponents on a weekly basis. Even Keith Alexander looked good playing for a Buckley team.

There's been much ruminating on the 20th anniversary of Hillsborough over the weekend. I've just finished watching the repeat of Match of the Day, and it was strange to see Alan Hansen talking about it and appearing genuinely upset. In a time when hyperbole regarding the emotions around football is so common, it was a rare thing to see someone struggling for words to display how he felt.

Anyway, on the day of the Hillsborough disaster I was stood watching Town draw 1-1 will Hereford. You could spread your arms out either side of you and you'd still not bump into someone else in the Pontoon that day, so it was a very strange feeling indeed to be in a ground with two and a half thousand other people, whilst an hour up the road people were being crushed to death.

Town's already antiquated electronic scoreboard kept flashing up how many people had been reported dead. It still only got to about 12 by the time the final whistle went on a match that no-one was taking any interest in at all. So, it wasn't until I got home and my Dad was glued to the telly (he hates football, but loves a disaster) that I found out the full extent of what had happened.

They say that Hillsborough turned football into what it is today. I'm not sure that's much of a fitting tribute to the people who died, really. But then I'm not really sure about much in football these days.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Songs that saved your life, part one

You can wend you way through life forgetting a thousand songs, but there are those that stay with you, those that tend to end up on every mix tape you used to make. Songs like Fanciable Headcase by King of the Slums.

I first heard this track on a John Peel show, I think. I'd not heard anything like it before, and I've not heard anything since.

King of the Slums emerged from a mid-90s Manchester scene very much in the shadow of The Smiths. And they didn't sound anything like The Smiths. Sarah Curtis's electric violin sounds red raw, Charley Keigher's passionate kitchen sink vocals, and some guitar work that rode roughshod over much of the delicate picking that was around at the time. They were altogether a thrilling prospect.

The Vicious British Boyfriend ep appeared in February 1989, and had the most delicious cover art; mad racist Enock Powell's face right slap bang in the middle of a pink Union Jack.

Fanciable Headcase, the ep's lead-off track, is immense. Keigher's lyrics were always vivid and vibrant, but here he surpasses himself. "I'll be your vicious British boyfriend, you can be my fanciable headcase," he growls to an unknown partner. Who could resist? Not me.

The track lasts nearly five minutes, but it feels like two and half. The violin ducks and weaves like never before, and there are enough spine-tingling moments to make you turn the heating on. It's an epic pop song. And you don't get many epic pop songs, do you?

I listened to this track over and over again this afternoon at work, in preparation for the long weekend, and all that it might bring. I used to listen to this track over and over again when I was getting ready to go out, when I was young and daft enough to "get ready" before going out. This song still has the magic, alright. It made me want to go to the pub immediately, and disappear into the night with it playing loudly in the background, like the old days.

"One swallow, doesn't make a summer. But one'll do for now - well, as if I had a choice."

As it is, I'm staying in with spaghetti bolognese and some washing to do. Times change, but this song doesn't. Thank heavens for that.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Lost in nostalgic reverie. Again.

Northen Portrait poster
Originally uploaded by indiehorse
Look what James did. Of all the posters he's drawn for me, I think this is my favourite.

I was looking through some old records last night, and came across the Shelflife Picnic Basket compilation, which I suppose is getting on for eight or nine years old now.

This record was the one that sort of got me back into listening to indiepop after a few years hiatus. It's lovely. It's got dreamy stuff like Summer's Here by The Pearly Gatecrashers on it, and Why Don't You by One Night Suzan. And it reminded me of why Po! where such a great band, and made me an instant fan of Pinkie.

I played this album over and over again for the best part of three or four months during a pretty torrid time in my life, and so I was a bit loathe to put it on again last night, but it's still full of beautiful songs. And the best bit is that it doesn't really bring all those confused feelings I had back then rushing forward now. Which must mean something.

And then I put on the Elefant Dosmiluno compilation, from around the same time. I always remember wanting my bedroom to look like the room on the front of this record.

My absolute favourite track on the album is a song called Highlights by Beef, which is this defiantly maudlin melodrama that instantly clicked with the situation I'd got myself - and others - into.

The saddest things is I know absolutely nothing about Beef, and have never heard any of their other songs. Their discography on the Elefant website says that everything is sold out. Which is probably where I should leave it.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Probably the best blog post in the world...


And not just because Kieron mentions this humble little fanzine, obviously. ILWTT was the main inspiration behind my old fanzine, tasty. The fact that it gets better and better hardly seems fair on us mere mortals. But thank goodness it does.

Whilst you take that amazing group of words and feelings in, take a listen to Stewart and Jen from Boyracer's new band, Cheap Red. Especially Let's Start a Riot, which is both innocent and filthy at the same time.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

She was only a grocer's daughter

We know Thatcher as the biggest scourge on working class solidarity Western Europe has seen inlast 30 years. A woman who set the blueprint for Labour to dismantle the welfare state and marginalise the trades unions. She knows herself as... um, actually, she probably doesn't know herself at all the moment. Just drink that in the for a moment. Doesn't it make you feel all warm inside?

Then consider this: apparently Thatcher wakes up to find out her husband has died every day of her life, so severe is her senility. I find that kind of comforting, too.

Whatever you think of her (hopefully) imminent passing - whether you will skip outside and get wankered in the pub, or whether you'll allow yourself a sigh of resignation at the damage to she did to this country (and, by association others) and realise that it's too late to be celebrating and that you can get pissed any day of the week, thanks, let it be known that Chumbawamba have nailed their flag to the post by offering their Thatcher death single for pre-order.

It'll probably be complete shite, like, but you have to admire the sentiment.

Kids Love Lies - Count in my Head (Cherryade)

The glottal stop can be a cruel mistress, as is evidenced on Kids Love Lies' new single. I am clearly old enough to be the great grandfather of Kids Love Lies, but that doesn't mean I can't spot an affected accent when I hear one.

Which is a shame, because Count in my Head is the sort of song you'd love to get ready to go out to if you were 18 years old, and had sexual tension coarsing through every hair on your head. But to me, it sounds like forced fun.
It doesn't much better on the Sleater Kinney-ish Fight Face, which gives me a bit of a headache. But things are rescued a little bit with the acoustic version of Perfection, which at laeat doesn't descend into the realms of the operetta.

If Kids Love Lies calmed down a bit and didn't try and be so cool, it'd be a start. Underneath it all, there's some lively little songs waiting to get out. Pity they're being drowned at the moment.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

High hair and cheek bones

I have a problem: I'm not completely sold on Cats on Fire. I don't even own any of their records, and I don't swoon every time I see the singer's immaculate hair.

Why is this?

It is some kind of snobbery because everyone seems to think they're the bees knees and I want to be curmudgeonly? Could be, cos this is why I refuse to fall for Pains of Being Pure at Heart, I think. Or could it be because, like so many bands who have had such an initial rush of good songs, their newer stuff seems, well, a bit bland? Maybe. Or perhaps it's because I completely jealous of the singer's immaculate hair and cheek bones. Probably.

Whatever, Cats on Fire are a band I'd quite easily fall in love with given half the chance. And I might have the chance now that Matinee are releasing their new album, Our Temperance Movement, as I have a serious crush on just about every Matinee release ever. Anyway, we'll see.

Of more pressing and vital news from Matinee is that the label is gearing up to release the Electric Pop Group and Northern Portrait albums any time soon. What a time to be a pop fan!

Lovely Eggs+Horowitz+Pete Green CJ flyer

Here's four of the best from Andy's upcoming gig in Nottingham.

I'd urge everyone to come to this gig. It's at a tea shop for a start. And all the bands are excellent. And it's hopefully the first of many Fog of Ideas gigs in Nottingham.

I know very little about The Lovely Eggs other than what you can find on You Tube, but they sound thrilling.

This week has been murder at work again. And next week my new boss starts. It can't get any worse, I suppose. That's going on my gravestone when I die of tired.