Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Comet Gain - Howl of the Lonely Crowd (Fortuna Pop!)

Reports of the death of Comet Gain have been greatly exaggerated. That’s the first thing that hits you when you listen in awe to the first three minutes of opening track ‘Clang of the Concrete Swans’ – a tribute to the lost, disenfranchised, downright downtrodden. Like the best Comet gain songs, it’s a rallying cry for those on the edge of society, and finishes with Feck imploring: “Let their howling hearts be heard.” It’s five minutes of pop majesty that brought tears to these eyes on my way to work this morning. My defiance is my number one, though…

And just when you think it doesn’t get any better than that (and you’d be forgiven for that), there’s the indiepop northern soul of ‘An Arcade From the Warm Rain That Falls’, another tale of the futility of modern life. But again, Comet Gain offer us hope after all. These are songs about belief and hope as much as they are about the daily drudge. And that’s why this album is so special, really.

If you want tearjerkers, then ‘Howl of the Lonely Crowd’ has ‘em. ‘She Has Daydreams’ reminds me of my dear, departed Tompaulin; or the spoken word beauty of ‘A Memorial of Nobody I Know’; or perhaps The Saddest Song Ever in ‘In a Lonely Place’, with it’s story of short-lived love affair and the almost too beautiful “I was born when she kissed me/I died when she left me” lyric.

And there’s the footstompers – there’s always the footstompers. Try the metallic rush of ‘Yoona Baines’, or the frankly funky ‘Herbert Huncke, prt 2’. Or maybe you want to pure pop of ‘Thee Estatic Library’, which sounds a little bit like The Fall at their poppermost. But with better singing.

Their live shows over the last few years might have been sketchy (at best), but when Comet Gain can hide themselves in a studio and come up with something like this – an album easily as good as their ‘Realistes’ masterpiece, then you can pretty much forgive them for anything.

The music will save us.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

First Indietracks bands announced

A press release from Indietracks Towers reaches me. I shan't add anything else, but these headliners and other bands make me wish it was July already...

International indiepop favourites Jeffrey Lewis and The Hidden Cameras will be among the headliners of this year’s Indietracks Festival, held on July 29-31 in the grounds of a picturesque 1950s steam railway in Derbyshire. 

Weekend tickets are now available at an early bird discount price of £60, and day tickets are available for £32.50. This price is available until Friday May 6. After this date, weekend tickets will be £65 and day tickets £35. Tickets for children aged 5-14 are £6 for a day ticket and £10 for the weekend. Under-5s get in free.

Since his official debut album was released by Rough Trade in 2001, New Yorker Jeffrey Lewis has become one of the front-runners of the anti-folk movement, performing across the world with a diverse range of artists including Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, Devendra Banhart, Thurston Moore and Beth Orton. He has been described as “the best lyricist working in the US today” by Jarvis Cocker, and as “the Big Apple’s best-kept secret” by the NME. He is also an accomplished comic book artist, with his own comic book series “Fuff”, and has lectured across the world on Alan Moore’s cult graphic novel The Watchmen.

The Hidden Cameras, hailing from Toronto, have released seven albums, including three albums and an EP on Rough Trade, and are the brainchild of singer/songwriter/guitarist Joel Gibb. Their live performances are often elaborate, high-energy shows, featuring go-go dancers in balaclavas and choirs, and their most recent album, Origin:Orphan, saw them described by the BBC as “a serious and sophisticated musical force to be reckoned with” and “a mind-blowingly good gigging proposition”.

The festival has also announced seven further artists from across the globe: Math and Physics Club (US), The Wendy Darlings (France), The Sweet Nothings (UK), Next Time Passions (Greece), Very Truly Yours (US), The Garlands (Sweden) and Zipper (Spain). Further headliners and day bands will be announced shortly.

Over 40 indiepop bands will be playing at the festival across four stages: the outdoor stage; the indoor stage, the church and on the steam trains themselves. The festival will also host a range of art and craft workshops and a selection of discos after the bands finish.

This is the fifth annual Indietracks festival, which takes place at the Midland Railway in Ripley, in the heart of the Derbyshire countryside. The site houses a whole range of lovingly restored steam diesels and locomotives. Festival goers are allowed to have unlimited rides on the steam railway over the weekend and full access to other railway attractions including a farm and museum.

Previous headliners at Indietracks have included The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Teenage Fanclub, Camera Obscura, Los Campesinos, The Wedding Present, Au Revoir Simone and Art Brut.

Early bird tickets are available until Friday May 6 by calling the Midland Railway direct on 01773 747 674 or by visiting

So now you know what to do, don't you? Oh, and excuse me whilst I mess myself about being able to see Next Time Passions.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Milky Wimpshake, The Chameleon, Nottingham - 19/03/11

Outside, and Nottingham’s Old Market Square is the usual mixture of drunken bodies, arguing couples and stag nights intent on drinking their way through as many foul-tasting bottles of cheap lager as they can lay their wages on.

Inside, Milky Wimpshake have just left the stage after giving a performance that only they can give; a masterclass in pop thrills and mayhem that makes everything outside the venue look as futile and downright dull as it actually is.

It looks so easy when Wimpshake do it, and you wonder why every band can’t do this. Vocals, guitar, bass, drums: it’s simple, but it makes the sort of mind-blowing sense that other, lesser bands can’t seem to fathom. Why try so hard when all you need are songs about, love, relationships, politics and sex?

Tonight, Milky Wimpshake fizz through all of these topics and more. They play a heart-warming mixture of old and new, including an explosive version of ‘Dialling Tone’, which has even the woman at the front in the blue jump suit on her feet and pounding the floor with her feet. This is pure pop music in front of an audience who can’t get enough. It’s not that busy in here by any means, but the 30 or so people seem like a thousand when Milky Wimpshake create the kind of atmosphere that only they can.

Afterwards, Pete Dale is having a fag outside in the alleyway, as the hordes of Saturday night revellers veer past, just yards from us. We’ve just had a better time than they’ll have if they continue to drink Bacardi Breezers until the next morning. He’s as humble as ever, despite just playing the best show I’ve seen for months and months. Someone compliments him on his jumper. He shrugs and says his wife bought it for him. Inside that jumper beats a pop heart so pure that we all pretty much want to smother him in kisses. Next time.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Got any Stooges?

The summer stretches out before us like a fox that’s been run over by a Land Rover, and there are a thousand (well, a few) pop events on the horizon that are simply unmissable.

When I were a lad, you waited patiently all summer to go and spend four days in a field on the outskirts of Reading for your kicks, nowadays it’s all very different. There is a popfest in just about every major European capital, as well as those dotted around the US, and in the UK provinces there are all-dayers and the like, as well as the mighty Indietracks.

You might notice up there on the right is the date of this year’s Nottingham indiepop all-dayer. We decided that last year’s two-day stress-fest, despite everyone seemingly enjoying it, was just too much for our crumbling minds and bodies, so this year we’re fitting the best pop music into about ten hours on Saturday 1 October.

Time flies, and this will be the fourth all-dayer/weekender we’ve done. The first one was in 2008 at the tiny Lee Rosy’s tea shop in Nottingham. Since then we’ve done two at Bunkers Hill, but a double booking at the venue last year led to Very Stressful Scenes half way through the Saturday’s afternoon when we had to shift the whole PA downstairs.

But, onwards. This year we’re at the loveably knackered Chameleon, right in the very middle of Nottingham. There are some more names to add to that list up there, but they’ll become apparent over the next month or so.

Before that, and on 28 July, I’m putting on a special Indietracks warm-up show in Nottingham. I’ve got two-thirds of the bill sorted, but I shan’t reveal any names because both of them are playing the festival that weekend, and I don’t want to spoil anything. Suffice to say, I’m wetting my pants about this one.

But first, it’s Milky Wimpshake on Saturday night. So much pop right now, and so much fun ahead. I love this time of year.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

The Louche FC

I very often these days ignore emails from press officers telling me how fantastic a new band on their roster is. Mainly because they're usually not, but some Elbow-wannabes, and we don't really need that in our lives, do we?

However, I'm glad I followed up an email about Manchester's The Louche FC. Not only do they have a great name, but they make some very pretty pop music indeed. There are two tracks available to listen to on the Sways Records bandcamp page.

'Back Bedroom Casualty' is strident, confident and a little bit cocky, and reminds me a little bit of the first time I heard Evans the Death. But  it's 'Only in a Dream' that pinches the prize. A sort of doo-wop shoegaze mini-epic with soaring guitars that bring to mind Swervedriver before they went completely shite, 'Only in a Dream' would really be the first song at your forthcoming wedding if it didn't have death disc connotations.

if The Louche FC play outside of Manchester and nearer to Nottingham any time soon, I'll very proably go and stand at the front and fall in love. As it is, I'm thinking of making the trip up there to see them on 31 March in Fallowfield.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Let's Whisper - The Shortest Days (WeePop!)

Having never really completely fallen for The Smittens on record (and I feel guilty for that, believe me), the new Let’s Whisper album, ‘The Shortest Days’ makes me wonder if I shouldn’t go back and listen to them all again. 'Cos, y’see, Colin Clary and Dana Kaplan have made the best album of the year so far here.

The pair have been around for ages of course, and have been making music under the Let’s Whisper monicker for the best part of a decade, but what they’ve seemingly done here is wrap up all the best indiepop sounds of the last few years and put their own decidedly cute twist on it.

And so ‘Evy and Sarah’ – along with a few others – has hints of Allo Darlin’ more introspective stuff, ‘Heart on my Mirror’ is the same kind of gentle scattergun pop as Pipas excel in, whilst ‘Meet Me on the Dancefloor’ makes me think of Andersen Tapes’ or Pocketbooks’ more sassy moments.

But as we fast approach Spring in the UK, and when we should all be looking forward to sun-filled days outside of pubs, inside sweaty gigs, and generally feeling glad that the winter months are behind us, then ‘The Shortest Days’ drags us back to reality, like all the best records do. Even it’s name reminds us of the bittersweet, as do songs like the deceptively affecting ‘2 Hours’ and ‘Leave this Town’, which reads like the most heartbreaking break-up letter ever.

It’s easy to write off Let’s Whisper as a side-project of a band perhaps more feted by Those in the Know, but that would be to undervalue an album like this. It’s only March, but I’d bet by the end of the year I’ll come back to this and realise it has more depth, joy, happiness, and big pop moments than 99 per cent of the rest of albums released this year. It’s a must, quite simply.

Order 'The Shortest Days' here.