Sunday, 31 January 2010

Various - The Matinee Grand Prix (Matinee)

I love that Matinee continue to put these albums out, as a sort of taster of what pop nuggets the casual observer can find on the label. It's how I first became aware of Matinee, and for that I'll always be grateful to Jimmy for having the time and love to bother.

Of all the Matinee compilations over the years, this is perhaps the most diverse. Yes, you know what you're going to get from the likes of Northern Portrait, The Lucksmiths (whose posthumous presence here reminds that a supreme band has fallen), and Tender Trap - and that's ace pop sketches.

But there's also the mysterious Clay Hips' marvellous, understated electropop masterpiece in 'Disappointed', which brings back the best moments of Baxendale or Fosca. And that's backed up by Simpatico's fragile 'Australian Idle', and most excitingly, Maths and Physics Club's 'I Keep to Myself', which builds on the soft synths on their last ep to exciting effect.

Three tracks out of eleven doesn't mean that Matinee is about to turn away from the meat and potatoes indiepop, of course, but it's a pleasant surprise to find an indiepop label that's not afraid to step off the beaten track now and again. A smashing little snapshot of an always loveable label.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Endless fun

There aren't many occasions when I wish I could go and dance in a disco these days, but after a day of stress at work, then you sort of need some release right?

So, you can listen to This Many Boyfriends, 'Allo Darlin', Pocketbooks, Northern Portrait, the bloody lovely Awesomelies - and you can revel in that, of course.

But blimey, crikey, just like I used to stick on a Ned's Atomic Dustbin record (what?) to bash the blues away when I was nowt but a nipper in Grimsby, then nowadays I'm lucky enough to know a song called 'Endless' by Kissamatic Lovebubbles which gives all the thrills I need.

I was lucky enough to see the outpouring of love that The Regulars gave Pete Green, but how I wish I'd seen 'Endless' played by Kissamatic Lovebubbles. The bands sound so similar, so alive and so fresh, even though they're both dead and gone.

But pop doesn't die, right?

I've might've had a drink.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

New Socks

I feel like a whole new world has opened up in front of me, because after finding out about The Awesomelies earlier this week (and did that album get me through a dull Monday night in Lincoln, or what?), then Becky from the band went and pointed me in the direction of the New Socks album, which is available to buy and listen to here.

I like lots of things about this album: the fact that a little kid introduces each song; the strangely spooky cover art; the fact that it's totally different from The Awesomelies, yet is equally as precious. If 'People and Love and Plants' or 'I Trying to be Nice' don't cut you into little pieces then you're probably a Chelsea fan, or something.

I love it when his kind of thing happens. The fact that this music has been out there for a while only makes it more special, because it almost certainly means there's even more, equally ace pop secrets waiting for me - and you - to discover them.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Make way for The Awesomelies

I’m not sure if they waited for The Besties to break up before revealing their true magnificence, but the Awesomelies are… awesome, as they say in that there America.

They’re from Athens, Georgia, and are Becky Lovell and Ian Rickert, who, between them have been in Bands That I’ve Never Heard Of like Folklore, Fairmount Fair and New Socks (which is actually a really nice name for a band, isn’t it?)

The reason I’m telling you all this is that the Awesomelies have a free album to download called ‘Make Way’, and it’s full of bouncy, primitive, hypnotic synth-pop songs that you can download for no money at all. Well, what you should do, of course, is donate at their band camp website, but I bet you don’t.

“We'll definitely have more new music later this year after I move back to Athens,” Becky told me. Can’t wait.

Allo Darlin - Dreaming (Fortuna Pop!)

There seems to have come a point when as soon as Elizabeth Morris opens her mouth, this wonderful pop song emerges. I'm sure you remember 'Henry Rollins Don't Dance' and 'The Polaroid Song' from last year, well, if anything, this tops them. It's beautiful, swooping pop music that starts off like The Drums' 'Let's Go Surfin', before gliding into this kind of cuddly, sad song that you sort of brings back memories of lying on your back on some grass in the summer and staring at the sky. It's enhanced by the kind of baritone from Monster Bobby from The Pipettes that is so low that it'll probably burst your testicles (or testicles substitute for the vegetarians and ladies in the audience) if you play it loud enough. Recommended so hard.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Hexicon - Something Strange Beneath the Stars (Haircut Records)

Half of 'Allo Darlin''s band have got fed up with mad, dictatorial ways of that massive meanie Elizabeth and formed their own band. And this is their first single, I think.

It's pretty great, actually. 'Something Strange Beneath the Stars' reminds me of some of the Boo Radley's poppier moments from around 'Giant Steps', and features a lovely bit of brass after the first verse. And let's please not mention the Flaming bloody Lips...

B-side 'Still Here' is a gentle strum that mentions pin cushions quite a bit. I'll admit I don't understand what it's on about, but it's pleasant enough.

Elizabeth better watch out, then. Nothing less than a democratic pop revolution will do.

In other 'Allo Darlin' news, Elizabeth told the Anorak Forum that their album will be with us soon. If anything can come close the brilliance of the Standard Fare album this year, that's got to be a contender.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Hopeless is the venue

The gig that Ian from Horowitz put on last Saturday might have showcased some ace bands, but it showed just how far Nottingham venues have fallen over the last twenty years.

Maybe it's because I'm not 20 any more, but spending three hours in a pub that think selling Stella Artois is exotic and plays Megadeth at full tilt isn't my idea of fun. Beautiful young goth people roamed hither and thither, and I felt an immediate sense of doom, and general decay. Apt, really.

On the walk home I got to think about the venues that meant so much to me when I first moved to Nottingham. Again, maybe it's because I was young and that I'd just escaped from Grimsby - a place that spat on you if you didn't conform to the norm down the tiniest detail, but there seemed to be loads of places you could go back then.

Places like Sam Fay's, which used to put on gigs every Monday night where you could go and sit in a dark corner and lose yourself for a few hours. Or the Hearty Goodfellow, which had the daftest name ever, but seemed like a beacon of bohemian drinking. Ditto the Dragon, which had an ace jukebox and a million friendly crusties to cadge fags off.

But the finest of all was The Narrowboat, a now demolished venue in a building that somehow made it past the construction of the godawful Broadmarsh shopping centre. I used to go to the Narrowboat at least twice a week in the early- to mid-nineties to see bands whether I liked them or not. It was the sort of place where you grow up and learn to understand people a little bit more, I think. Or maybe I'm being dramatic.

Anyway, it's just been pointed out to me that Prolapse have been defunct now for a decade, and that's just disappeared. The best gig I think I've ever seen in Nottingham (or perhaps anywhere else, come to think of it) was Prolapse at the Narrowboat, and I think I've probably mentioned this before over the last 12 months. But so what, it gives me a chance to post a you tube clip of the mesmerising 'Chill Blown'.

It also leaves me wondering if other provincial cities and their small venues have suffered like this in the name of "progress" and "redevelopment" over the last two decades. Most probably...

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Women's Basketball

Tweefort Records from Conneticut are putting out some really zippy little pop records at the moment, the favourite one of mine is Women's Basketball's 'Like an Octopus...', which is available for free download from the label's website.

Women's Basketball is apparently a one man band that started out as a purely songwriting project, but has now grown to TAKE OVER THE WORLD.

Anyway, the album is full of edgy, messy, neurotic pop songs, and it's great. Just don't listen to it after a bottle of gin.

Download 'Calling People I Used to Date' here. I think you get the picture from that song title, eh?

King Kenny

"You can wag your finger till your finger's sore
Shake your head till it shakes no more"
- The Housemartins, 'Get Up off Our Knees'

Today I had to write a story at work about the power company Eon creating "hundreds" of jobs in Nottingham. that's sort of fantastic news for fans of shitty call centre jobs in the East Midlands, but delving a bit deeper I found out that Eon had, the same day, announced that they were making 600 people redundant in Rayleigh - most of whom, it seems, found out by reading the story in the local paper. Nice.

About two hours earlier I received an press release from the GMB union reacting to the tiny drop in unemployment figures in the UK announced today. In it, Paul Kenny, general secretary of GMB, said: "Paul Kenny GMB General Secretary commented on today’s unemployment figures. He said, “We may be turning the corner on unemployment with a fragile recovery but those without jobs and young workers are paying a very high price for this banker’s recession.

"The multi–millionaire elite who run the finance sector have resumed gorging themselves with bonuses as if nothing had happened. Like the untouchable and unaccountable landed aristocratic elite before them their grip on political power will have to be similarly ended. This must be an issue at the general election.

"In recent months the governor of the Bank of England has taken it upon himself to comment on fiscal policy and he is now calling for cuts in public services which is not his remit. Given the fragile recovery underway Parliament should take full responsibility for both monetary and fiscal policy and the governor, who abysmally failed in his banking regulatory role, should be put out to grass.”

I could spend all day picking this posturing nonsense apart, but the one thing to take into consideration is this: Paul Kenny earns a reported £81,000 a year, plus a car allowance of a futher eight grand on top of that. So, it's a bit rich for the general secretary of a union representing some of the lowest-paid workers in the UK to start talking about the (admittedly vile) bankers "gorging" themselves.

According to an article in Workers Liberty last year, Kenny isn't alone in dragging in a hefty wage. Take a look:

Bob Crow (RMT) - £79,564 in salary, £26,115 in pension contributions, £13,013 expenses
John Hannett (USDAW) - £81,742 salary, £16,389 pension contributions
Billy Hayes (CWU) - £83,530 salary, £14,190 pension contributions
Sally Hunt (UCU) - £63,743 salary, £7,612 pension contributions, £2,705 car benefit (start of June 2006 to end of May 2007)
Paul Kenny (GMB) - £81,000 salary, £21,000 superannuation (pension contributions), £8,000 car
Dave Prentis (Unison) - £92,187 salary, £23,603 pension contributions, £11,646 expenses and car benefit
Derek Simpson (Unite-Amicus) - £62,673 salary, £16,156 pension contributions, £13,333 car allowance, £26,181 housing benefit
Mark Serwotka (PCS) - £82,094 salary, £26,104 pensions contributions, £2,245 additional housing cost allowance and additional housing cost supplement
Steve Sinnott (NUT) - £99,846 salary, £23,963 pension contributions
Tony Woodley (Unite-TGWU) - £59,333 salary, £9,552 pension contributions, car fuel £3,360
Matt Wrack (FBU) - £66,389 salary, £44,281 pension contributions, £5,134 car

For as long as I've been involved in left-wing politics I've always had the idea that any elected working class representative should take the average wage of the people s/he's representing. Clearly, this is not the case in the UK's mostly spineless, bureaucratic union hierachy. So, whilst the fight for union representation in the workplace remains as important as ever during a time when attacks on workers become ever more brutal, so too is the fight within the unions to make them truly democratic and representative of their members.

Hark at me!

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Withered Hand in Nottingham

After a bit of a break after the all-dayer, I've decided to fire up the tired old promoter engine, and book a few shows before Indietracks shows us all how it's done.

The first of these is Withered Hand/Red Shoe Diaries/Pete Green Corporate Juggernaut show in March. Here's the equine-related poster Andy did for me.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Kissamatic Lovebubbles

The first time I heard Kissamatic Lovebubbles was in the early 2000s, or whenever it was that that Shelflife Picnic Basket international pop compilation that I always bang on about came out. The band contributed 'Total Hangover', and I was smitten.

Oddly, it was around the same time that I "met" Marianthi and we started sending each other emails about music and stuff, and I'd stuff a copy of my fanzine in the post to her every couple of months. I didn't know it then, but she was (and is) close friends with the band, having been an integral part of the fantastic, vibrant scene in Athens at the end of the last century.

I've listened to Marianthi talk about all these bands that seemingly came together all at once in Athens and I'm always filled with envy. It must've been a fantastic time.

The reason I mention all this is because there are concerted efforts to get Kissamatic Lovebubbles back together, which would be fabulous a far as I'm concerned.

Christos has made me a cd of all of the band's songs, and wrote a note on the sleeve. It says: "For three years Kissamatics rocked our world. I loved them to bits. The first time I saw them... they left my speechless!

"I think back to that and it feels timeless... the fact that I will never be able to feel like that about a set of songs again kills me. But Kissamatics still make me feel young and a bit carefree, even if I don't sport big hair anymore. For three years Kissamatics were the best noisy band in the world."

Saturday, 16 January 2010

The Electric Pop Group - Seconds (Matinee)

More? You want more of The Electric Pop Group's choral indiepop? Good job, because this long-awaited second album is finally out on Matinee.

My first encounter with this band came in 2008 (or was it 2007?) as I was lay prostrate on the bouncy castle on the air next to the main stage at Indietracks. I felt awful after a couple of idiots old enough to know better had kept half the camp site awake all night by pretending to be hilarious, pissing about on the kids playground all night.

I think it was 2007

The Electric Pop Group's brittle hymns helped me through that horrible afternoon, and nothing much has really changed. The production is better than on the first album, and so, perhaps, are the lyrics, but there's still that warm, fuzzy feeling you get after each song.

Musically, the bands spans the gap between Brighter or Harper Lee and the more visceral thrills of, to pick a random example out of the air, Another Sunny Day. See 'I Know I Will' for evidence of this.

Only vert rarely do things get truly glacial, like on 'Drawing Lines' or 'In the Back of My Mind', but more often than not they peddle the perfect mix of hazy melody and pure pop. 'My Only Inspiration', placed slap bang in the middle of the album is the very essence of this, and remains perhaps my favourite Electric Pop Group song.

For sure, you're not going to hear many of these songs at your local indiepop knees up, but for nights in during a cold winter, you'll struggle to find another album that'll keep you company as well.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Pale Sunday - Shooting Star (Matinee)

I thought Pale Sunday were long gone, and so it's a great surpise to have them back. It's also nice to know that not much has changed. There's still Gustavo's shy, slight voice, and then chiming guitars, and the melancholy melodies.

The title track is a gem, and perhaps the most commercial-sounding thing the band have ever done. The themes are still the same; unrequited love and all of that, but not many bands do it better.

The other belter here is 'Before I Found You', which reminds me, lyrically and musically, of labelmates Math and Physics Club, with a touch of Siesta's louche, lounge-pop thrown in.

'Unknown Half' closes with a tale of one night stands and other such filth. Close your ears, mother, Pale Sunday are playing.

Field Music on tour

For those of you that like that sort of thing, then Field Music are playing loads of shows over the next month or so. The dates are:

Feb 24th - GLASGOW Nice n Sleazy
Feb 25th - LEEDS Brudenell Social Club
Feb 26th - MANCHESTER Islington Mill
Feb 28th - SHEFFIELD
Mar 1st - BIRMINGHAM O2 Academy 2
Mar 2nd - OXFORD O2 Academy 2
Mar 3rd - LONDON Scala
Mar 5th - DUBLIN Crawdaddy
Mar 6th - BELFAST The Pavilion

You can buy your tickets here.

Northern Portrait - Criminal Art Lovers (Matinee)

To say I was looking forward to this album is rather a big understatement. After managing to see Northern Portrait twice last year, this album seems to have been a long time coming.

This Danish band seem to divide opinion between those who think they're nothing much more than a Smiths tribute band, and those, like me, who are TRUE and RIGHT, who think that they make swoonful, gliding pop music.

And you know that if Morrissey made an album anywhere near as good as this, then people would be wetting their pants. But that's by the by...

Most of the tracks here will be familiar to those who saw the band at their UK shows last year. "Hit" single 'Crazy' is here, as is 'What Happens Next' from their second ep. Songs like 'The Operation Worked but the Patient Died' are already faithfully etched on my brain, and closer 'New Favourite Moment' makes me shiver and think back to Northern Portrait's triumphant Indietracks performance last year.

Now, I'm pretty excited to have this band in my life, but it does make me wonder just how thrilled I'd be to discover Northern Portrait if I was 14 years old. I think it'd be comparable to your first extra curricular fumble with that boy or girl you've had your eye on all the way through double maths, or getting drunk on Skol for the first time. Life-changing, in other words.

Alas, I'm too old to have my life changed too much by music nowadays, but if you can't remember the Soviet Union or the when the Tories were in power, then brace yourself...

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Airport Girl are old

All pop songs should be two and half minutes, right?


They should be six minutes, two seconds and be called 'The Foolishness That We Create Through Love is the Closest We Come to Greatness' by a band called Airport Girl. This, I'm sure you're all aware, is one of those songs you just kno - even if you don't know who it's by or what it's called.

Why do you know it? Because when you were young and beautiful at 1am one Tuesday night, you'll have danced yourself stupid to it, and thrown your arms in the air to the chorus, before rushing off to the loo to be sick. Then you'll have gone home, happy as a bastard.

To commemorate the fact that it's now a decade (!) since it was released, Fortuna Pop! are making this colossal pop avalanche free to download from their website. You only have to give them your email address, which they'll sell to Big Bastard Corporation Inc. - well, Sean has to recoup those Pains airfares one way or another...

If you've not heard this song, be prepared to fall in love all over again.

All... then nothing

There are days when I couldn't give two hoots about music and trying to keep up with the latest three and seven eighths inch cd-r release on Pisskitten Records.

And then there are days like today, when you take in the majesty of the Saturday line-up of London Popfest; when you listen to the Northern Portrait album for seven hours solid (there's a whole bunch of Matinee stuff you should order immediately - reviews coming when I get a minute to scratch my arse); and when you confirm a date in Nottingham for a band as precious as Withered Hand. And then Stefan from Northern Portrait emails and says they're thinking of coming over to play in the UK in May and maybe I can sort them out a gig, and whatnot.

I really needed all these things happening at once because they've got to last me through two days working in Birmingham starting from tomorrow. Bittersweet, I think, is the word. Or is that two words?

Sunday, 10 January 2010

The Hi-Life Companion - Say Yes! (Plastilina Records)

I'm way too impatient, this much I know. I'd listened to this album by The Hi-Life Companion about three times and I was about to leave in the pile doomed for the charity shop, and then, halfway through the title track on the fourth go 'round, something clicked, and I realised that this less-than-heralded release could well feature heavily at work for the next month or so.

It was the spikier songs that caught me first; songs like 'Times Table' or the smiling 'Night Comes Down', which could have easily found a home on Ride's 'Going Blank Again' album, which its dreamy harmonies and the way it pays out at the end of nearly every line.

For the whimsical librarians among you, there's songs like 'You're the Greatest', which sounds like one of mini classics that Belle and Sebastian used to knock out effortlessly before they turned into a cabaret act.

And that's followed up with with 'One Man Team' - a metallic new wave rush that reminds me a bit of early, exciting Elastica and features some excellent handclaps.

The dreamlike title track is where this album hits its peak, a foray into David Lynch land, with eerie, wispy vocals and gentle - yet menacing - picked guitars fighting it out with strings.

The album ends with the epic 'In Your Heart, a Cathedral', which builds and builds without ever threatening to be overblown or ruin what has come before it.

'Say Yes!' is available to downloand now from the usual places that complete confuse me, but if you want a physical copy (and you really should for the wonderful cover artwork alone), then you can order it from Plastilina Records of Peru soon.

Download 'Night Comes Down'.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Trisha Yates Fanclub

Spangles, Jim'll Fix It, Spacehoppers, Rubik's Cube - BRILLIANT.

Okay, so there's something slightly too knowing about the name of Stewart Boyracer's new band, the Tricia Yates Fanclub (Trisha being an early 80s character from UK kidsoap Grange Hill - and we're talking pre-Danny Kendall here), but just listen to the music.

I was talking yesterday to a couple of friends about how, although we all love Comet Gain, they - to us - don't really seem to mean it any more. The drunken performances, the no-shows, the way they don't really seem to be bothered about people who take so much from their wonderful songs. This might be a completely misguided preconception, of course, and we hope to see Comet Gain rise again to such blissful heights.

I'm off course here.

In the absence of a Comet Gain you can rely on, why not try the Tricia Yates Fanclub - that's what I'm getting at. Their songs have the same snotty-nosed sass as Comet Gain at their mighty best, and in 'Bruised Underdog' they have one of the best songs Sportique never wrote. They're a bit of fluff alright.

Remember sun

It's Saturday morning, and through the crack in the curtains I can see that Nottingham is covered with horrible, nasty, freezing snow. The central heating hasn't kicked in yet, and if I didn't have to take Ted swimming today, I'd be tempted to stay in bed all day.

It's at times exactly like this that I long for a bit of summer fun. Not that I like the heat or hot weather, but it'd be nice to walk down the street without five duffels on and without adopting a gait that betrays a clean pair of underwear.

A message on facebook catapulted me back to that performance by The Specific Heats in the church at Indietracks last year - live set that crackled with excitement and sweat and smiles, and left those packed into that corrugated iron hut wandering around afterwards, looking at each and mouthing: "Did you see that? DID YOU SEE THAT?".

It's kind of wonderful then, that deep into a horrible winter, The Specific Heats are on the Tom Robinson show tomorrow night. You can listen to the show for the whole of the next week here, and let yourself drift off to warmer, happier, damper times.

Download The Specific Heats' 'Take the Wheel'.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Shrag: socialist pop salvation

I make no apologies for another Shrag post, because they're ace. And fresh from gadding around the European countryside, Helen answered some questions for me.

How did the European tour go? What was the best/worst/funniest moment?

European tour was great! It was completely insane, we played in all sorts of strange and wonderful places - on a boat in Lyon which one of the best shows ever, a fish restaurant, a huge gothic farmhouse in the middle of the Italian was exciting for us cos it was our first proper tour on our own, we got treated very well and met lots of lovely people. The distances we had to drive were crazy - the last four dates we ended up being in the van for around 11 hours a day, which could have been trying, but we were lucky as our tour manager/driver Al, from Boxcar recordings, turned out to be an absolute legend. He looked after us and never got annoyed by the schedule, or with my incessant losing of articles of clothing/glasses/items of considerable value (I left my Mac atop of a broken down tractor somewhere in an Italian field (i got it back)) and in fact my memory of the whole trip was that we spent the whole time laughing, albeit in slightly deranged fashion. Also, the deep connection between European motorways and sex was a source of fascination, what's all that about? Every time we stopped at a service station there'd be these funny little booths with travel sex toys proudly on display, or not even just sex toys/devices, but sundry sex-themed accessories - a pair of fluffy slippers designed like a pair of breasts, so you wore one breast on each foot, a neck pillow designed like a giant horseshoe-shaped cock...obviously this provided us with hours of aforementioned deranged hilarity, much of which is documented in the tour diary we made, which morphed into a horror movie when we got to that Italian farmhouse (watch this space). So yeah, we got the bug for sure. And, we got lots of invites back, so we hope to return, maybe when it's a bit warmer out there next time though..

How did the remix of 'Rabbit Kids' come about? Were you approached, or did you approach?

We were approached; but Tony Tronic is a friend, he did a remix of one of our earlier singles-'Talk to the Left'-that we really loved. That song was basically a protest against overuse of supposedly 'sexy' talk when getting it on with someone, and Tony Tronic remixed it so that it ended up with us being the ones talking dirty. So, we liked his sense of humour, and he always does something unexpected, so we said yes.

What's up next? The second album?

Yes we've finished recording the second album, it's being mixed at the moment. We're excited about it. The last album was written over the 5 singles and didn't really feel like an album so much as a document of what we'd done so far. It took a long time to record cos of various personal crap that was happening at the time, so when it came out it was more a sense of relief than anticipation; this time feels different. We recorded it relatively swiftly and with a sense of it as a whole album all the time...not that 'Life! Death! Prizes!' (that's the name of the new LP) is a concept album or anything, but we've consciously tried to get together a strong set of songs that we think work well together. I'm impatient for it to be ready. There will also be a second single released just in advance of the album...

You seem sort of set-aside from the normal indiepop scene. Is this intentional?

There's no intent, I'm just not sure we're strictly speaking an indiepop band. I guess we're generally a bit more at the shouty/noisy end of the indiepop spectrum, if such a thing exists (that sounds weird). We've never consciously identified ourselves with any particular type of music - when people ask us what our band sounds like there's usually a collective "Um......" and then some mumbling about 'pop' and 'punk' and 'shouting' which is probably unhelpful. That said, I'm genuinely excited about what you call the indiepop 'scene'; there's lots of bands/promoters/Djs etc that I love doing some really interesting stuff AND, in our experience at least, everyone is consistently incredibly supportive of each other. It's been a treat to see Indietracks become what is is, for example. We've been very lucky in the shows we've been asked to play and the chances we've been given and I am entirely uncynical about it.

What do you make of people comparing you to Huggy Bear now and again? I loved Huggy Bear and I love Shrag, but I can't see many similarities, can you?

Yeah I love Huggy Bear too, immensely, but I agree that I don't always understand the direct comparison. To a certain extent I think if people see girls shouting, or boy/girl vocal exchanges, the reference point will, somewhat lazily perhaps, spring to mind, but I think we are usually musically, structurally, very diffferent. I mean the comparison doesn't annoy me - I'm flattered cos I love the band, and maybe there are occasionally certain points of confluence/influence, but in general I think if you asked someone what Shrag are like and they said 'huggy bear', you would be mostly misinformed . I always think that if there is a riot grrrl influence on what we do, it is one which has been mediated through tonnes of other stuff before it gets filtered through us; which is to be expected as all five of us have really quite different musical tastes.

Who or what is the most important influence on Shrag?

Without wanting to sound saccharine I think the thing that has shaped us above all else is a sense of friendship, we started off just as mates in Brighton, all big music fans who would go out dancing or playing records or whatever and really got along. Probably spent too much time in each other's company..and then it was a case of starting to realise what we could enable each other to do if we started doing stuff together, it was a series of totally welcome surprises. Also, looking around and seeing other people making music and gradually seeing the way things could be possible - a sense of collective excitement and/or stupidity.

Do you want to be big pop stars? if it happened, what would it mean to you, do you think?

If being a big pop star meant the fun would increase and we would get loads of action and we could afford to not work and make music when we wanted, then bring it on! But we're not and never have been careerist about it, if anything we began with the opposite of a masterplan (a servantplan?).... I don't think there's much danger of us becoming popstars in any case, but the other thing is - and I know this is kind of a cliche but it's something I've witnessed on more than one occasion - bands who've 'broken through' or whatever occasionally start to look like they're not enjoying it any more, which seems kind of sad...

Having said that, I think we've definitely got more ambitious as we've become more confident in what we might be capable of, and of course we want as many people as possible to hear what we've done, but mostly that ambition is directed towards enabling ouselves to continue making that music without bankrupting ourselves and John Jervis (wiaiwya), and having as much fun as possible whilst doing so. Recording and touring and all that is so expensive! if we could remedy that it would of course be brilliant, cos we love it more than anything.

What's your favourite Shrag song and why?

This changes all the time. Usually it's heavily influenced by how recently we've written it, I always get infatuated with the last thing we've done for a while. So, at the moment, I like Rabbit Kids, it's our newest fully-finished song, but it's also one of the poppiest things we've done and that will always please me. I always feel that the poppier something is, the more important it is that the lyrics are pitched just right, and I'm content that I've done that with that song. It's something I've wanted to write about for a while - my lifelong hatred of goodbyes, and the attempt to rob them of their horrible potency and finality by crystallizing memories through various cultural reference points - books, records, places, whatever - and when we did the music I thought this is probably the one. So yeah, I like a good pop record and we tried to make one with Rabbit Kids. Other than that, I think I can say we all have a soft spot in our hearts for 'Hopelessy Wasted' off the first album, i think we surprised ourselves with that one at the time and we're still dead proud of it.

Which way will you vote at the general election, if at all?

I'll vote, though it will more or less be a protest vote as we are of course hurtling inexorably towards a Tory government headed by an unbearably smug moron. I wish I could say something different, but like everyone else I feel dramatically uninspired/ let down by Labour, so it will probably be the SLP.

Who's your other favourite band at the moment?

I'm a massive Love Is All fan and they are about to release their third album which I am impossibly excited about, so I'll say them. The first two albums - especially Nine Times That Same Song - seem to me to be everything pop records should be, they are intensely melodic, exciting, HUGELY funny, and both joyful and melancholic - it never gets stale, they rule.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Shrag remixed

Tony Tronic (who he?) has done a remix of Shrag's 'Rabbit Kids', and it's like 1990 all over again. Shrag are in the vaguard of the indie/dance crossover revival and it's time to throw your hands in then air like you just don't care. And buy a pair of flares.

Stop playing those Mock Turtles records and download the remix from here.

Don't you reckon Mr Tronic has made it sound like an Aqua song?

Sunday, 3 January 2010

We Show Up On Radar - A Loaf Of Bread, A Container Of Milk & A Stick Of Butter (Hello Thor Records)

We Show Up on Radar, aka Andy Wright, has been knocking around Nottingham for a few years now, and despite getting one of his tracks on an advert, it's not quite happened for him as yet.

That might change with this ep, of course. I've only been privy to 'It Should be You and and Me', a love song which opens with the line: "You called an air strike on my heart", and then carries on with the wartime analogy by mentioning the Great Escape and Steve McQueen and the rest.

It's a very pretty little thing, anyway, and brings to mind prime Elefant 6 stuff. My only gripe is that, just as you think you'd like to wallow in another few bars of the lovely melody, it suddenly stops. But then I suppose that leaves you wanting more...

WSUOR is/are playing a load of libraries in February. Geeks!

Saturday 6th February (4pm) - Nottingham Central Library
Monday 8th February (6pm) - Leicester Central Lending Library
Tuesday 9th February (6pm) - Leeds Central Library
Wednesday 10th February (6pm) - Sheffield Central Lending Library (TBC)
Thursday 11th February (6pm) - Norfolk & Norwich Millennium Library
Friday 12th February (6pm) - Bristol Central Library (TBC)
Saturday 13th February (4pm) - Cardiff Central Library

The A Loaf Of Bread… EP - featuring 6 songs - will be available to download from all major digital download sites, and for sale as a strictly limited handmade CD from Hello Thor and from the library gigs.