Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Withered Hand - Horse Shoe (Fortuna Pop!)

And just as quickly as this song grab your heart, rips it out of your body and stamps on it... it picks it up and kisses it better again.

'Horse Shoe' is the sort of soul-stirring, draining, joyous, happy, sad, FUCKING FANTASTIC four minutes that comes along in song form once or twice a year. It's a tune that you can listen to with a group of friends on the best night of your life, or completely alone on the worst.

Quite what it's about is open to interpretation. Have Withered Hand written a song about losing a loved one way before their time? Is this about a lost romance? Could it all be a metaphor for something else altogether? It's really up to you to make your own mind up on this one - Dan Willson's done all the hard work, you need to put a shift in.

Over on the b-side 'Not Another Sunny Day' is a prime piece of melancholic pop, which seems almost lightweight compared to its majestic partner on the a-side, but that's to do it an injustice. It'd make a perfect lead track any other time.

As January drags winter through another week of horror stories from our wonderful masters in Westminster, then 'Horse Shoe' offers something in desperately short supply at the moment: solidarity. A song to rally around - on every political level. I hate to use the word anthem, but that's really what it is. An anthem for hope. Grab it.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

The Hobbes Fanclub: "I'm the obsessive one, Louise is the cool one and Adam is the wise one."

After spending last year gadding about around the world playing to rapt audiences, The Hobbes Fanclub return in 2014 with a new new album that promises much. I spoke to Leon, vocalist, about the rest of the band, and the new record. Leon was born two days before me. He was deeply in love with Ride back in 1990, and used to visit Grimsby regularly with his Dad. I feel we have something...

You started off sending tapes across the world - this much I'm sure you're bored of talking about. So, what's the best thing about actually being in a proper band?
It's good having someone to just knock about with and you can't play gigs with an email collaborator. We've had some really fun trips away together. Eating cheesy chips and paying £4 for a can of Carlsberg in a Sheffield Travelodge on a Tuesday night can be a real bonding experience.

What is The Hobbes Fanclub about?
Adam reckons its getting laid and taking drugs but that must be after I've gone to bed.

How do you rate the other two members?
They're great and I couldn't have done this without them. I'd never fronted a band before and they're both a few years younger than me and give me confidence to go onstage and to write songs. I reckon I'm the obsessive one, Louise is the cool one and Adam is the wise one who can play all the instruments in the band better than any of us.

What's the songwriting process? Are you IN CHARGE? 
I mostly instigate things and some of the songs in the live set predate Adam and Louise's time in the band but on the album we've started writing some stuff together. A lot of songs start with me doing a demo but they can change a lot once we start playing them as a band.

What's the best bit about being in The Hobbes Fanclub so far?
It's hard to pick a best bit as there have been so many. We've been able to play Indietracks, been to Paris and New York, supported The Pooh Sticks, plus done two Nottingham Alldayers in a row which must be a record surely? Telling the stage manager and sound guy in New York to go fuck themselves for cutting our set short was a highlight too.

How have you found trying to put records out? It seems such a struggle these days.
I think we've been pretty lucky. Everything we've released has sold out and we've never had to wait too long for another offer to come in for the next release. I suppose the hardest thing is funding everything that goes into making a record. We're lucky that labels like Shelflife will stand the cost of pressing but obviously (and understandably) at our level there's no such thing as an advance to actually record the thing, so you either have to pay a studio or build one.

Who is the most inspiring person you've met through being in The Hobbes Fanclub?
We met a funny guy called Ham in a bar round the corner from the venue when we played in Paris with Tender Trap. He's inspired me and Adam make as much money as possible from the band and then retire to a life as a Parisian lush, gliding between tables and seducing lovelies.

Tell me about the new songs; different to the old songs?
We've evolved a bit, as no one wants to play on or buy an album with ten 'Outside Myself's on it, but we still sound like us. Theres a few slower songs and a few noisier songs but its still pop.

And tell me about the album. When is it out, etc?
It's coming out on Shelflife and should be released in April/May. Its nearly finished but we've got to fit in with Shelflife's release schedule. Its taken us a while as we had an aborted attempt at recording at a local studio and in the end I've recorded us myself at home so we know we'll get the sound we want. I think that's why my next door neighbour moved out.

None of us are getting any younger, but do you wish you'd met the other two 20 years ago?
I spotted The Spook School and Joanna Gruesome outdoing each other with their youthfulness on Twitter this week but Adam has pointed out that 20 years ago him and Louise were only 13 so I'm not sure it would've worked. Also all the songs I wrote back then were shit so I'll take this now and be grateful.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

The Lucksmiths - Cartography for Beginners (Matinee Recordings)

It's only when you get right in the middle of this double album that you realise how special The Lucksmiths were, and how much, in a time when indiepop seems to be going through a bit of a downturn, they're missed.

With lovingly-written notes by another avatar of pop majesty, Darren Hanlon, 'Cartography for Beginners' is the story of a band that started out as an almost folk-punk-pop outfit, then morphed, wonderfully, into some kind of pure pop machine, before flickering beautifully before their death with a more relaxed, introspective sound. It's all here.

The Lucksmiths came into my life around 2000 when I started a paper fanzine called Tasty and had just about given up on indiepop altogether. Along with Spearmint and a few others, this band (and that label), opened up a whole new world for me, and I'll be forever grateful.

There are songs here that evoke such strong emotions, such as 'Smokers in Love', 'Untidy Towns', 'Southermost', 'A Downstairs to the Upstairs', 'The Cassingle Revival' and the immense 'Stayaway Stars' which is perhaps one of the most beautiful songs that will ever be written.

They burned bright again near the end with 'Sunlight in a Jar' and 'After the After Party' when most other bands would have slipped into mediocrity. That they kept up such magnificence for 16 years is testament to a quartet who have love in their hearts and pop music in their soul. Like all the best bands, then.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

New Year, new popshow

The first gig of the year is now finalised, and although Seabirds have had to pull out, we've got the mighty Night Flowers to step in and take the strain.

This promises to be a night of high taste and strange lager. There are more details in this mysterious flyer by Andy Hart below, and you can register your interest here.