Friday 28 October 2011

Tomorrow's news today: Indietracks 2012

My word, those lads and lasses who arrange Indietracks are on the ball. Spurred on by wild, salacious internet rumours that this year's event would be the last, they've only gone an announced next year's Olympic-busting dates. The world's best music festival will be held from 6-8 July in 2012.

A missive from Indietracks HQ read like this:

"We have decided to hold the festival earlier than usual this year. Usually the festival takes place on the last weekend of July, but we became aware that clashing with the Olympics that weekend might have meant higher travel and accommodation prices for bands and festival-goers.

"Tickets are due to be on sale shortly, and will be available from the Midland Railway website.

"Any bands wishing to apply to play at the festival should e-mail with a short biography and a web link to their music by November 30, 2011."

You know what to do, pop-makers.

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Those times were good times - Fortuna Pop! is 15

You might have Sean Price down as a miserablist with a penchant for outlandish leather jackets, and you'd probably be right. But, remember, his OWN BLOODY BAND were responsible for this...

... and his label, Fortuna Pop! has been putting out hit after hit after hit for the last 15 years. This label, along with Matinee was responsible for getting me back into indiepop at the beginning the last century, and for that I salute it, Sean and all the bands who have given us such precious records over the past decade and a half.

Not one to ever hide his light under any kind of bushel (and why should he?), Sean and his tiny dwarf helpers have put together a kind of Glastonbury for sensible people. But in the fucking week, when I can't make it. The twats!

For those that can - here's the details. You'd be a fool, or an overworked wage slave not to be there.

In the meantime, wet your pants whilst listening to some of F-Pop!'s finest current cuts.

Monday 24 October 2011

It's Christmas

The very beautiful (and I mean that in every sense) Haiku Salut have been added to the bill of our Christmas gig on 10 December at The Chameleon in Nottingham. There are some details over there on the right, and there's the possibility of a very special guest which we're dead excited about.

In the meantime, immerse yourself in this.

Tuesday 18 October 2011

Standard Fare - Out of Sight, Out of Town (Thee SPC/Melodic)

Ah, there were times back in the dim and distant past when you’d wear the vinyl through on your favourite albums, when you’d sit in your room with a pile of books whilst the other kids played outside, or smoked in the bus shelter, or went into town because they were brave and – apparently – knew how to have fun. And when the snowballs hit your bedroom window and you heard the catcalls and you knew you would NEVER go out again, you reached for the volume button, pulled the covers up a little higher and lost yourself in the music filling the air.

The songs that saved your life, and all that crap.

Perhaps the two things that make me wish I was 14 again this year have been the Help Stamp Out Loneliness and Pocketbooks albums. This is the third, and – I think – it tops the lot.

Standard Fare’s second album (let’s not shit about with the word ‘sophomore’, please) rips through your mind after half a listen. It’s what they call nowadays “viral”. It’s a masterpiece of three people coming together in the most perfect way and if they better this, then I’ll be surprised and wildly happy at the same time. Mind you, I thought they’d never top ‘The Noyelle Beat’, but they have. They have by some considerable distance.

What they’ve given us all here is a collection of songs that, whilst deeply personal to the band, resonate deeply. One listen and empathy, amongst other emotions happy and sad, will pour out of you.

It begins quietly with the deftly understated ‘Look for Lust’ before ’05 11 07’ grips your hand and chucks you into a train and straight into the middle of some kind of spontaneous romance. Time, then, for the dark skiffle of ‘Suitcase’ – a single so criminally ignored earlier this year (by me too). ‘Suitcase’ is remarkable for myriad reasons: the guitar performance of Danny How; the bounciest of all bass lines by Emma Kupa; the supposed-meaning of the lyrics; and how Standard Fare get around those lyrics by coming up with such a tune. It’s breathtaking.

‘Dead Future’ evokes the spirit of The Housemartins at their perkiest, whislt ‘Darth Vader’, right at the centre of album is Standard Fare’s most perfect moment so far. It’s only three and half minutes long, but it feels epic – a sort of gentle torch song which is either about a parent/child or adult/adult relationship, I can’t quite work out which, but I’m not really sure it matters that much – it’s just a beautiful song.

Enter How again with his guitar and the rattle and rush of ‘Bad Temper’ a complete and surely a future live favourite. Somehow, that’s topped by the hilarious ‘Older Women’ – a sort of ‘Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others’ for the 21st Century, it’s the best display of the sometimes sly humour running through ‘Out of Sight, Out of Town’.

Just when you thought you’d heard it all comes ‘Half Sister’, and it’s a reggae (that’s right) song about rediscovering a long lost sibling. A terribly serious subject, of course, but Kupa manages to keep smiling by asking a series of questions to the mystery subject of the song, such as ‘Do you like Steve Earle?’ It’s a remarkable song in many ways – not least the fact that Kupa is singing about this kind of thing “in public”, but also because it just throws you. It’s this light reggae song about discovering you have a sister. Where the fuck did that come from?

Closing is the wonderful Duane Eddy rush of ‘Crystal Palatial’ – a typical (and I mean that in a good way) Standard Fare paean to lost love, in which Kupa’s yearning is almost too much for her already fragile voice. There’s yearning here, and she means it. The rest of us better leave the room.

In many ways this is Danny How’s album, in the fact that the guitar playing on it is wizardly. Then you listen to Andy Beswick’s hammered out, second-perfect drums and you think he holds it all together. Then you go to Emma Kupa and you hear those elastic bass strings and THAT voice, and you think Standard Fare are all about her.

None of these things are true, though, because they’re just so very much a band - a gang, if you will.

Standard Fare, for just over half an hour, on ‘Out of Sight, Out of Town’ make the music that would’ve saved you from the tuff kids outside back then, just like this music will save you from the all that crap out there now. I think they call that “timeless”.

'Out of Sight, Out of Town' is out on 12 December.

Sunday 16 October 2011

Imaginary Friend

Those bemoaning the lack of action from pop geniuses Pinkie, Lovejoy or Harper Lee can take solace in the fact that the gentle, shypop mantle has been passed from the south coast to the north west. Enter Imaginary Friend, who make the sort of introverted, awkward, melancholic music as those bands mentioned up there, and they make it very well indeed.

So, if you haven't locked yourself away for a weeked recently you know have the chance by nipping over to Imaginary Friend's soundcloud page. Prepare to wallow in the majesty of it all.

If you think I'm fibbing, then have a listen to this.
Summer Junction by ImaginaryFriend.

Sunday 9 October 2011

Men approaching middle age don't cry

Sometimes it does you good to look back at things and wonder how you got here. In fact sometimes, it's pretty much essential.

I've been listening to my first love a lot of late. The Cure were the first band I really, really fell for when I was about 11 years old. I'd made the leap from Shakin' Stevens to Elton John to Simple Minds and onto the Cure in about 18 months. Shakey just wasn't cutting it any more, and, to be honest, how he could he follow tracks such as 'This 'ole house' (the first seven inch single I ever bought), 'Green door' (the third) and 'Lipstick, power and paint' (I wasn't that fucking desperate).

I cannot explain Elton John to this day, and even at that age, I remember being heavily disappointed with the 'Ice on Fire' cassette I received for Christmas.

Simple Minds I thought were Way Out There and weird and groovy - we all knew and know they weren't, aren't and never will be.

It was 'Lovecats', of course, that snared me. Who couldn't be seduced by that perfect pop single? I listen to it nowadays and it sounds like something from another age (which, I suppose, at 27 years old, it sort of is), but it still comes across as one of the most exotic things you'll ever hear. So, when 'The Head on the Door' came out I bought it with some pocket money, and played it to death.

You might think this sounds silly, but I still think 'The Head on the Door' is one of the most perfect pop records you'll ever hear. Sure, it sounds terribly '80s in parts (the brass on 'A night like this' is particularly telling), but me and few others started asking for 'Inbetween days' and 'Close to me' to be played at school discos, and we thought we were the bees knees, even though were all had mullets and were wearing those terrible flecked trousers that are probably dead cool now.

For the next five years The Cure, along with The Smiths (and for a horribly short time, The Housemartins) were my favourite band. I gulped back their entire back catalogue, straining to pretend that I immediately fell in love with 'Pornography' and 'Faith' and 'A Japanese Dream'; and never really listening much to the last side of 'Kiss me, kiss me kiss me'.

What's perhaps worse is that I started dressing like Robert Smith. Or perhaps a fourth division version of him. The hair was pretty good, but the rest of it left a lot to be desired. There was a distinct lack of decent goth shops in Grimsby in the late 1980s, and so I had to make do with a black and white paisley shirt from Burton, some black jeans from BHS and a pair of massive trainers out of Freemans catalogue.

I read 'Ten imaginary years' like it was my own personal bible, over and over again, and spent the summer of 1989 pretending I could draw and copying every Cure single cover out onto square bits of paper. Whilst the sun burned down outside, I listened to 'Seventeen seconds' on loop and pretended to be aloof and interesting by not speaking to anyone for two months.

By the time of 'Disintegration'I was still clinging onto The Cure, but having my head turned by Ride's first three eps, which seemed more "now" and vital than a band that had been going for over a decade (and when you're 16 that seems an awful long time, doesn't it?), but I still took the day off work experience to go and see The Cure at the NEC in Birmingham, where we had the worst possible seats, and I bought the worst possible bootleg t-shirt.

Shoegaze beckoned and I dropped The Cure. I didn't buy another album, apart from the patchy 'Mixed up' double LP that came out in 1990. Sure, we all boogied on down to 'Friday I'm in love' in Gullivers every Tuesday night, but now bands liked The Family Cat, Lush, Kitchens of Distinction and Slowdive meant more to me than The Cure.

That I still listen to The Cure more than these other bands, though, must mean something. I just don't really know what. A case of not ever really falling out with your first love? Well, I never really loved Shakin' Stevens, I guess...

I just wonder if 11 year olds these days feel the same way about Bombay Bicycle Club. I hope so.

For your records, this is my favourite Cure song. It's overblow and pompous, romantic and dramatic. I was probably all of these things once. I'm only some of them now.

Wednesday 5 October 2011

The heat of the moment

It's sort of difficult to put into words how ace last Saturday's indiepop all-dayer was. It was a lot of things: very hot; nicely busy; less for some notable people who weren't there through no fault of their own; and at the time really quite stressful. But, in the middle of a fucker of a week at work, I sure wish it was 11am on Saturday 1 October again right now.

Reviewing your own gigs is the work of megalomaniac, perhaps ("and so you're perfectly qualified to do it, Sam!" I hear you cry), so I won't, but many, many thanks to all the bands who came, took part, played their pop-filled hearts out and, y'know what - actually hung around to watch their peers. I love that.

There were plenty of ups and downs, like the Great Merch Stand Beer Spillage of 2011, but everyone got through that like there was a war on - and their often was with the woman from Clinton Cards downstairs, bless her. But I'd like to think we all not only got through the ebbs of flows of the day, but we actually, y'know, enjoyed ourselves, and got really too sweaty.

If I'm desperately pushed then my extra special moments came during the following acts: The Whatevers, Help Stamp Out Loneliness, Milky Wimpshake, and the amazing scenes (as the young say) during a set by Standard Fare that rose above any superlative I've ever heard. Just you wait until you hear their new album.

Thanks to comrades Ian, Josey and Alex for their support and work on the day. Let's do it all again next year. Oh, in fact let's do it all again on 10 December when, hopefully, we're all getting together again at The Chameleon for Just Handshakes (We're British), Moustache of Insanity and August Actually., plus the enigmatic One to Be Confirmed.

In the meantime, here's a video, courtesy of Martyn Clayton, of Let's Whisper. If there's a better way to kick off an all-dayer you can take it with you and piss off.