Sunday, 28 October 2012

Lardpony: return to pop innocence

Prepare yourself this winter for the return of one of pop music's greatest lost bands. Straight outta Derby, Lardpony are making a return to the first team squad after a few seasons out with babies, solo projects, and beards.

Lardpony, as if you didn't know, are a pop phenomenon. They are Tom, Pod, Nathan and, replacing Mandy on keyboards, Swap Chilka. Their comeback gig isn't in Las Vegas, but Las Maze on Mansfield Road in Nottingham. I think that's a lot more sexy than some glorified slot machine in the middle of a big beach, don't you? It's on 6th December, by the way.

I first came across Lardpony way back in about 2003/2004 time when I heard their 'I'm in Love (With a Noxious Gas)' on Myspace. On a good day, this is in my top ten songs ever.

I think I've probably put Lardpony on more times than any other band, mainly because they're so brilliant. They write pop songs that are so clever they could teach A-Level biology in a secondary school. Their songs are about werewolves and robots and love and stuff. Their first album, 'This is Lardcore', released in 2006 merely hinted at how good a live band they were. By the time of their second, 'The Greatest Invention Ever' in 2007 Lardpony were an unstoppable pop force.

'The Greatest Invetion Ever' includes songs like 'Trance Anthem' a half-sinister synth-pop masterpiece about putting a hug target under hypnosis. Come on - we've all considered it.

Then there was 'Who Loves the Sol?', Lardpony's second best song. It's the sort of tune you put on when you've just about had enough. It's a world-weary tour de force that makes you realise that, actually, life's pretty bloody great when the sun's out and you've got a bit of money in your pocket.

Then they decided to pack it all in for a few years, the swine.

But now, they're back, and that's exciting. To prime yourself for the inevitable Christmas Number One, Lardpony have decided to give give up their entire back catalogue for free - including some NEVER HEARD BEFORE demos.

Prepare to empty your heads of all other pop songs for the foreseeable. Lardpony are back, and they're after you. You may as well lay down and have your tummy tickled by them right now.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Fever Dream - EP (Underused Records)

Truly, we are living in blessed times, for it seems that not a week goes by without another record being released that I'm instantly falling in love with. This week it's the turn of Fever Dream's mysteriously titled 'EP'.

Fever Dream seem to have been around for about a year now, mainly playing in London, and releasing a single earlier this year on Underused Records, run by Grant and Rob of the wonderful, lost Hillfields. And if I'm sounding a little vague, it's because I haven't got a press release for this new single.

I booked Fever Dream for our Christmas Party gig on December 8th in Nottingham on the strength of hearing one song, and so it's an absolute joy to hear six of the beauties. Here they veer between dreampop and urgent post-punk or New Wave. It'd kind of like discovering your older, cooler brother or sister's record collection in the space of 25 minutes.

Whereas 'Suspense' is Magazine at their most visceral, 'Poyekhali!' almost takes a trip into goth country, but is saved by a broken choirboy vocal and scattergun drums before building and building and just, all of a sudden, taking off into the sky somewhere. It reminds of Moose or Boo Radleys at their most powerful. It's thrilling, to be honest.

The ep ends with Alchemy a numb, dreamlike nursery rhyme that makes you feel like you're dropping off to sleep in the bath. This is how all songs should make you feel, and opener 'Glue' repeats the trick by sounding like a song that would sit easily on Pale Saint's flawless 'Comforts of Madness' album from way back when (still can't listen to that record too often, even after all these years).

Six songs, then, that show more invention, more emotion and more pop nous than most bands manage in six years. You best buy it.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

The Sugargliders - A Nest With a View, 1990-1994 (Matinee Recordings)

If you want the definitive review of this wonderful album, then go and read this piece of breathtaking writing from In Love With These Times, In Spite of These Times (the best music blog there is, really). I'm not going to try and review this record now, because Kieron, as usual says it so much better than anyone else out there, but indulge me for a moment, if you will...

Today, during my lunch hour, I popped into one of the the old Selectadisc premises on Market Street in Nottingham. It's now home to Baklash - a "vintage" clothes shop that has just relocated from its dilapidated premises around the corner on Parliament Street. I wasn't in the market for a crimplene shirt, you understand; I was being nosey and killing ten minutes before I had to go and sit behind my desk for another four hours.

I went into the basement of what we used to call "top Selectadisc". Down here they used to sell the tapes, VHS videos and t-shirts. I spent a lot of time down here and "bottom Selectadisc" (also on Market Street and now empty - the last tenants being... a "vintage" clothes shop). Anyway, down in the basement there's just a load of clothes, but I just stood there for a moment and thought back to when I'd arrived in "the big city" from Grimsby and remembered how wonderful it all felt. I've been in a bit of a funny mood today.

It was down there that I bought a Sugargliders t-shirt, along with a Sweetest Ache one. They were my two favourite Sarah bands, y'see, and I could take as much as I would leave with the label. Down the road, in "bottom Selectadisc" I used to leaf through the rows and rows of seven inch singles from labels such as Sarah and Summershine (Selectadisc used to seem to have LOADS of Summershine Records) knowing full well that, if I put my hand in my pocket and bought the ones I wanted, it'd probably be two days until I my dole came through and I could eat again. Of course I bought the records.

Oddly enough, the girl I was going out with at the time had a friend at Trent Poly who actually had a sugarglider as a pet. A mere coincidence. I wasn't attracted to her because of this fact.

I digress!

Anyway, I wandered out of the old Selectadisc building this afternoon and contemplated twenty years in Nottingham all afternoon. I thought about all the places we used to go and the places we go to now, and how things have changed...

Funny, then, that I should get off the bus tonight and head home to find that the Sugargliders retrospective had winged its way from Matinee in the US. Bitter sweet serendipity, that, and it's been playing all night.

Like I said, Kieron says everything that needs to be said about this album, but for it to land today of all days, is a pretty wonderful thing. What you have here, comrades, is the most perfect indiepop - a tribute to defiance, hope and the beauty of finding confidence in a simple piece of spinning plastic. Thank heavens we have that left, at least.

Excuse me for rattling on, but why not save your own life and buy this album, eh?

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Baffin Island - Baffin Island (wee POP!)

Writing about a record made by your friends is a difficult thing to do. Mainly because I know that if I don't say that the new Baffin Island ep isn't the bee's knees, then they'll hunt me down and duff me up. Thankfully, that's never going to happen, because this self-titled single is wonderful.

Treading a fine line between the graceful death disco of Camera Obscura, and the pop thrill of Free Loan Investments, Baffin Island make it all sound very easy indeed. If 'Sorry for Myself' sounds too upbeat to mope to, then you can be sure that 'This Year' is just the right side of downright maudlin. Or perhaps you'd like to immerse yourself in the Wurlitzer pop of 'That Summer', which taunts you with a ghostly visitation.

Baffin Island, as you might already know, is the place geographically equidistant between Boise and Glasgow, and so 'We Were Meant to Meet', the closing track here, is kind of apt. The best song here, it combines a kind of coy world-weariness that is the hallmark of all the best love and lost and then found again songs. It's pretty much perfect - a sort of downbeat northern soul classic, if you will (and you will).

As a side project to the Hermit Crabs and The Very Most, the Baffin Island make a splendid job of actually being better than those two bands. A super group.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

The Spook School - Here We Go (Cloudberry)

I saw The Spook School at this year's Indietracks, and, although not really expecting anything from them, it was one of those moments where you instantly fall in love with a band within about five minutes. This doesn't happen very often.

This, their debut for Cloudberry, manages at once to sound like the legendary Deirdres, but with more of knowing nod to the mid-90s US underground. It also sounds like it would fit onto that wonderful first Airport Girl album quite easily, which is a huge compliment.

But perhaps The Spook School's most obvious influence are The Pastels. Not being the world's biggest Pastels fan doesn't mean that I think this single is one of the most exciting things I've heard in quite a while. By the time the gentle distortion fades away at the end of 'Here We Go' you immediately want to go right back to the begin again. This is what pop music is all about.

'Here We Go Again' is available to buy from Cloudberry on Monday. Make their day.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Pale Lights

Pale Lights have the sort of musical pedigree that, even before you listen to any of their songs, makes you want to hug them close. They count among their number ex-members of the long, lost, and legendary Kicker, Comet Gain, Crystal Stilts and Cinema Red and Blue.

Pale Lights have an eponymous single out now on their own Calico Cat label, and it's the sort of thing you don't hear too often. Some might call is classic indiepop (whatever that is), but these songs ooze of the sort of effortless cool that other bands have to pay for. I'm particularly taken with 'Boy of Your Dreams', which sounds like The Felt Tips playing their favourite Echo and the Bunnymen song, and the understated beauty of 'Ghosts of Youth' which makes me think of how Roy Orbison would sound if he wasn't actually dead and was into indiepop.

The whole ep makes me want to sit and play the record over and over again - y'know, like you did in the old days. Take a listen to the mod-ish 'She Won't Ever Calm Down' and tell me you don't want to get off the settee, get dressed up and go out dancing. And how many records do that to you now that you're that age?

Classy, sexy, smart and essential.