Sunday, 31 May 2009

Only a prawn in Cleethorpes

Not many bands came to Grimsby to play when I was growing up. If you wanted to go and see some of your favourite bands you either had to sneak across the Humber Bridge to The Adelphi, or get on this horrendous huge black bus with Mick Jagger lips on the side (honest) run by a company called Solid Entertainments, which would whisk you off to Nottingham or Sheffield, or, if you were feeling really saucy, London.

And so imagine our delight when Cud announced they were going to come and play a show at the Beachcomber in Cleethorpes. It was 1989, I was thin, and my Dad was going to let me go to the gig. Well, he had no choice... Times were good.

I'd taped Cud's first Peel session the previous year and had played it relentlessly. Their debut album, When in Rome Kill Me is a masterpiece of scratchy, sometimes noisy pop music, and it had become a firm favourite. It still is, in fact. To say I was excited about seeing Cud just a few miles from my house was an understatement.

And yet I remember absolutely bugger all about the show itself. I remember the week leading up to it, and I remember me and my friend enthusing about the gig afterwards. But I don't recall a single moment. Ho-hum.

Anyway, yesterday I came across their first, superior Peel session on the Perfumed Garden blog. You can download it here.

Cud went really, really shit in the early 1990s. They sort of followed The Soup Dragons into the world of baggy, only more belatedly. Which was a shame. Whatever - here's some live footage of Cud at the peak of their powers.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Les Clochards

Did you know Peter Momtchiloff had a new band? No, me neither. But he does, and it's called Les Clochards.

Les Clochards have a rather fantastic album out soon called Sweet Tableaux and it makes me want to be French even more than I have done since I was nine years old.

You can find more stuff about The Tramps here, and I'll review their ace album when I haven't got so much work to do.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Songs that saved your life, part 5

I don't do it much any more, but I used to spend hours alone late at night listening to music, sat in front of the stereo with piles of records all around me, and a bottle of wine or two to keep me company.

I used to think, during these drunken episodes, that I was somehow deep and feeling it, man. That I was really, like, connecting with my favourite pop stars. And I used to sing along to every note, sounding like a castrated hyena, throwing ridiculous shapes with my hands and arms, and shaking my fringe around as though my life depended on it.

Then my Dad would arrive home from the pub with Chicken Maryland, drunk, and insist on watching Prisoner: Cell Block H. Which sort of spoiled my deep, poetic moments.

There were plenty of songs that used to get a regular airing during these deeply unromantic witching hour sessions; The Boo Radleys' "Finest Kiss"; The Fall's "Bill is Dead"; The Edsel Auctioneer's "Our New Skin"; New Order's "Bizarre Love Triangle"; The Housemartins' "Flag Day" and Morrissey's "Late Night, Maudlin Street".

"Late Night Maudlin Street" knocked my socks off when I bought Viva Hate as a still-in-mourning Smiths fan of 14. Yeah, you see, cos it WAS ALL ABOUT ME and my parents' endless divorces and living in virtually every small village in Lincolnshire before the age of 12. Yeah, Morrissey wrote this song for me. And I actually kept believing that for some years, up to an embarrassingly late age.

I don't believe he did write it for me any more. Although I'm pretty sure "King Lear" is all about me. Don't try and tell me otherwise.

Anyway, for late nights in front of the stereo getting drunk on £1.99 bottles of wine and thinking that the whole world was against me, then "Late Night, Maudlin Street" is right up there with the best. I suppose I could've picked any Smiths song before this, but this is probably my favourite Morrissey song, and I was just at the right age for a good old mope along to it.

Here, rather wonderfully, is quite a nice live version of it.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

The Drums

You know when you can't work out whether you really love or really hate a song or a band? Well, I got all confused when I first heard The Drums on the indiepop list.

I couldn't quite work out whether their fizzy synthpop sounded like something off the soundtrack to Mannequin, or was a cute as a button. It only took a couple of listens to remind myself that music should be fun and make you feel happy and to place myself in the cute as a button camp.

Have a listen to I Felt Stupid and see what you think.

Drum Club have an EP coming out this summer titled Summertime! on Twentyseven Records.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Boy Genius - Blame Love

Boy Genius are from New Yoik, don't you know, and have been described as the "quintessential American college rock band." Please! Come back! They're much better than that.

Blame Love is a punchy, confident, humdinger of a song. Lying somewhere between Lloyd Cole, The Chesterfields and Jonathan Richman it's the sort of spunky little bruiser that you can imagine bouncing around to at a gig, or, indeed, miming along to in front of the mirror as you're getting ready to go out for the night. It moves, it grooves, it, ermm... proves (sorry, went a bit Keane there) that you don't have turn your guitars up to 11 and a half to make ace music these days, and that Boy Genius have pop coursing through their veins AS WE SPEAK.

Have a gleg at the band's myspace page for details on ordering the single

I get my kicks on the A65

A trip to Lancaster and Morecambe the other day saw me "Dj-ing" (man the lifeboat!) in the car with the ipod. At least one of my co-passengers squealed (well, perhaps purred is more apt) with delight when Felt's "Primitive Painters" came on, describing backing vocalist Liz Fraser as "a lovely howling banshee." Hard to disagree, I'm sure you'll agree.

I never really got into Felt. They were far too mysterious for an impatient teenager to make any effort with, but "Primitive Painters" defies any explanations of beauty by getting more and more elegant as it goes on. Just as you think the next guitar shimmer can't get any more spine-tingling, the one after that floors you all over again. And Liz Fraser and that voice finishes the picture perfectly.

It certainly made Morecambe even more humdrum when we got there, anyway.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

You do all the driving

There are very few better ways than coming back from a fantastic week away with friends in the North Yorkshire Moors, than sticking Math and Physics Club on in the car and just taking in the scenery. It really is beautiful up there. But I think I need another week off to recover from this one.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Indiepop for free - Saturday 16th May

I'll use the hundredth post on my blog for blatant spamming.

If you come down to Sumac on Gladstone Street tomorrow night (Saturday) you'll get to see Northern Portrait, Red Shoe Diaries, Horowitz and Electric Pop Group for free. Well, I might ask you quietly for a donation at some point during the night so that our Scandinavian friends can keep themselves in crispbread, but apart from that you can take advantage of the heroically cheap bar at Sumac, and generally revel in the altogether friendly atmosphere the place emits.

Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Cats on Fire - Our Temperance Movement (Matinee)

There haven't been many more bands that have quite captured the indiepop zeitgeist as much as Cats on Fire over the last couple of years. Scandinvian? Check. Ridiculous good looks? Oh, yes. A million packed out London gigs over the space of two weeks? Of course. And so why haven't they grabbed my imagination so much? I'm not so sure...
It maybe comes down to the fact that I've never really tried listening to their songs enough, because one and half listens into Our Temperance Movement and I'm beginning to see what all the fuss is all about. Sure, a lot of what Cats on Fire is style and is stylised, but you can say that about a lot of indiepop at the moment. I won't mention names, of course, because I'm a good boy, but if you're going to do something obvious, make sure you do it well. And that's what Cats on Fire do.
And so when they sound like Felt on Lay Down Your Arms, at least they do it really well, rather than just putting on the voice, or the guitar part or the production.
If there's one thing missing, its humour. Apart from the fact that sometimes Matthias Bjorkas tries so hard to sound like Morrissey that he ends of sounding like Euros Childs. But that'll be the accent, I suppose. He probably thinks I sound like... ooh, I dunno... Duncan Norvelle.
Still, that is a minor gripe. Because there's songs here like Never Sell the House, which is so beautiful that you can do without the knowing nods and just pretend to be lonely and misunderstood again. And if you really, really are lonely and misunderstood then you're in for a treat.
Or, if you really fancy a piece of Marr-ish nostalgia, dance around your handbag to Steady Pace. I know I will later on. Or, if you're feeling really saucy, do that bendy-knee dance to the Housemartins-esque Tears in Your Cup, which really does it for me.
And so I think, eventually, I've fallen for Cats on Fire. I'm sure we'll make a lovely couple.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

The Lucksmiths split!

It seems so. This just in from Mark Monnone. Maybe it's for the best...

Dear close friend of the Lucksmiths,

We're really sad to have this news to tell and sad to tell it to you like this, but the Lucksmiths have had a beautiful run, and we're putting them to bed for the last time. It's not you, it's us, so please don't feel too bad. We're playing some shows in Europe in July which were already booked, and then we're doing a victory lap of Australia in August.

We love you all, and hopefully we'll see you soon.

This is all coming out in a press release in a couple of days, but we thought we'd mention it to you personally... in a group email.

Much love,

Marty, Marky, Tali and Louis

In other news, I implore you to come and see Northern Portrait and The Electronic Pop Group and Red Shoe Diaries and Horowitz on Saturday. There's a poster up there all about it. It's what The Lucksmiths would've wanted.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

The Seven Inches - Openness and Honesty ep (Indie-mp3 Records)

That other half of Lost Music, Tom Bartlett, has also now started up his own label, and Leeds indiefop stalwarts The Seven Inches are on its first release. I've not seen this band for some years now, but this fantastic ep has made me want to seek them out all over again.
The title track takes me back to early Comet Gain with Ian Cockburn's rough growl tempered by Emily Clavering's matter-of-fact vocals, and a cheery background. It's a proper little strumpet of a song.
The Rowing Song reminds me why The Seven Inches are sometimes unfairly derided as some kind of comedy band, in the fact that it's about a minute long and shouldn't be taken too seriously at all. But it's closer To Boldy Go which steals the show. To Boldly Go is to The Seven Inches what The Foolishness We Create... was and is to Airport Girl; a sort of indiepop epic. It's beautiful, and bittersweet and longing and funny and sad all at the same time and I love it.
It's good to have The Seven Inches back. It really is.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

The Kick Inside - Oh Vanity! (Oddbox Records)

This is the first release on Trev from Lost Music's new label, and it's a particularly perky way to start. The Kick Inside make a very spikey, sophisticated pop noise, and Oh, Vanity, whilst suffering from an overlong, somewhat clumsy middle eight (or whatever its called - I'm not Brian May) still manages to charm the pants of you by time it fades away.
Meanwhile, It's Always the Quiet Ones sounds a bit like Duran Duran. Honestly. There's something very early 80s Top of the Pops about it. All it needs is brass. That's not something to be ashamed of, of course. Could it be Haircut 100 I'm hearing through the deliberately stripped-back production? Maybe...
Whatever - there are far worse ways in which to launch a new label. And whilst maybe The Kick Inside won't quite win you over just yet with this single, there's enough here to keep me interested.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Songs that saved your life, part 4

The end of school couldn't come quick enough for me. I'd somehow managed to pass my 11+ and had ended up at Caistor Grammar School - a place that, save for a few exceptions, parents bought their kids into by giving them extra-curricular private lessons from the age of 3 months.

I very soon found myself at the bottom of the academic pile, and on my way out of school at the age of 16 with just three other people from my year. But the last year at school was bearable because of a teacher there called Chris Pulford, who was about a million times youger than anyone of the other decrepit specimens. Pulford liked good music. He introduced me and some friends to bands like Throwing Muses and James and Bradford and The Wedding Present, and he took to us Rock City in faraway Nottingham to see Jesus and Mary Chain and James, and it all seemed thrilling for a very short time.

Of course, it was a load of shite.

Anyway, Pulford made me a tape that had James' hard-to-find-even-then live album, One Man Clapping, and then on the few minutes that were left on the b-side, he put some Wedding Present tracks on. One of them was 'You Should Always Keep in Touch with Your Friends'.

I'm not all the biggest Wedding Present fan - far from it, in fact. But this song was so perfect for a time when I truly thought that I'd never see my far cleverer, more dedicated friends ever again. I still shake the bastards off 20 years later.

When I left school in the early summer of 1990 I spent an awful lot of time in Grimsby getting drunk on Thunderbird (blue label only - I wasn't hard enough for the red label stuff) and dyeing my hair black. And I didn't keep in touch with my friends for a good eight months, because I thought they'd be doing all that cool stuff that sixth formers do, and I'd just got a job as an apprentice plumber, and why would they want to speak to me, eh? But they did, and that was nice. And that's why this song will always be quite important to me. So there.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Horowitz - Drop the Hat

There's a new track on the Horowitz myspace page which everyone must hear immediately. It's called Drop the Hat. Horowitz never fail to come up with something completely different from their last completely different sound, and this time is no different. Drop the Hat sounds like something Beulah might be singing if they weren't so disappointingly extinct by now.

I've really no idea why Horowitz aren't mentioned in the same breathy way as POBPAH are at the moment - maybe they're just not pretty enough. But I can assure you Pete has tight buttocks and Ian likes jazz and does a fine line in jumpers.

NB. This is not a dating agency. Letters of marriage proposals to the band, please.