Sunday, 29 March 2009

MJ Hibbett & the Validators - Regardez, Ecoutez et Repeatez (Artists Against Success)

Since The Great Indiepop Revival of the mid-2000s, some of my happiest moments have been spent at MJ Hibbett & the Validators gigs. And, as the decade draws to a close, it seems apt that Regardez, Ecoutez et Repetez is all those wonderful times wrapped up in a beautifully packaged compact disc.

This album's been a long time coming, of course. Mark Hibbett has been honing these songs during his solo gigs and with the Validators for what feels like forever, but it's here that they sound at their fullest, most round, and joyous.

The rattling rush of Being Happy Doesn't Make You Stupid kicks things off, but it's the kooky Do More, Eat Less and the ACE Best Behaviour that really set the tone of the album. On previous Validators records Emma's voice has often been an afterthought, it seems to me, but here she actually adds a whole new, exciting dimension to the songs.

And what's this! Red Black Gold is a throwback to Hibbett songs of yesteryear. Y'know, songs like You Fucking Hippy, or Red and White Sockets. Red Black Gold rocks, and appears to be an account of an old Soviet conspiracy. And then, half way through, the songs changes completely and starts paraphrasing Ask by The Smiths. It's most queer.

My Boss Was in an Indie Band Once sounds like Jo Boxers' Boxerbeat sung by car mechanics. And is therefore fantastic. It Only Works Because You're Here is the best song he's written according to Hibbett, and is gently, prettily world weary - like all the best songs.

And the hits just keep on coming. I can quite easily show solidarity with We're Old andWe're Tired (and we want to go home), which laments the fact that gigs start and finish ridiculously late, when all you want to do is get home in time for the ten 0'clock news.

But! The highlight of this wonderfully assured, confident album is Leicester's Trying to Tell Me Something. A paean to the ever-changing cityscape of the East Midlands city, Hibbett mourns the fact that most of the places he grew up loving music in and meeting people who would be friends for life, are disappearing in the name of "progress". I think people of a certain age can empathise with this.

So, this is easily the best Validators record so far. And as long as we have Mark Hibbett's views on life set to music we love, then the world will be a slightly better place. Oh, and whilst I'm at it - congratulations to Tim the drummer for the production. Which is superb.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Nottingham pop weekender

Not only are The Motifs, Crayon Fields, Heptagons and the mighty Standard Fare playing at my show on April 25th, but news reaches me that Andy H is putting on The Lovely Eggs, Horowitz and The Pete Green Corporate Juggernaut on 24th April. That's the night before, of course. You didn't really need me to tell you that.

Here's the details:

A Fog of Ideas presents:

The Lovely Eggs + Horowitz + The Pete Green Corporate Juggernaut

live at Lee Rosy's Tea Shop on Friday 24th April

Doors 8pm

Entry £5

This can only mean one thing: NOTTINGHAM POP WEEKENDER!

Here's a facebook link to my gig.
And here's Andy's.

Monday, 23 March 2009

NYC Popfest - line-up announced

It's when you see line-ups like this that you wish you had loads of money and weren't completely terrified of flying. Although I'll never understand the commotion over The Ballet...

* * * * * * * * * *

Thursday May 14th
Venue: Cake Shop

Knight School (NYC)
Soft City (NYC)
Dream Bitches (NYC)
The Metric Mile (NYC)
My Teenage Stride (NYC)

* * * * * * * * * *

Friday May 15th
Venue: Don Hills

Don Lennon (NYC)
The Tartans (CA)
( secret band )
Liechtenstein (SWEDEN)

+ Mondo Indie Dance Party

* * * * * * * * * *

Saturday Afternoon FREE show!
Saturday May 16th
Venue: Cake Shop

Hidden Ghost Balloon Ship (MI)
The Hat Company (OH)
Strega (NYC)

* * * * * * * * * *

Saturday May 16th
Venue: Bell House

Computer Perfection (MI)
Eux Autres (CA)
The Secret History (NYC)
Pants Yell! (MA)

* * * * * * * * * *

Sunday All-Dayer
Sunday May 17th
Venue: Cake Shop

Boy Genius (NYC)
Afternoon Naps (OH)
Very Truly Yours (IL)
The Smittens (VT)
Rose Melberg (CANADA)
The Icicles (MI)
Casper and the Cookies (GA)

* * * * * * * * * *

The NYC Popfest runs from 14-17 May.

Stone the Crows

Just when you thought the Bob Crow/CWI/Communist Party of Britain European election lash-up couldn't get any worse, the campaign's new website launched this weekend, with the strapline: "... it's a black and white issue."

Now, no-one is suggesting that this campaign, which has risen from the recent Lindsey Oil Refinery dispute (and others around the UK) is at all racist, but it has overtly nationalistic overtones, and the strapline is rather unfortunate.

Quite what Crow - a wonderful speaker when he gets going - is doing getting himself involved in this is beyond me. The No2EU (hey, it's txtspk, kids!) promises to free European workers from the yoke of The Lisbon Treaty, but also urges you to vote for it to keep the BNP out. We've been down this road before, comrades, and it still hasn't worked. What did Lenin say about learning from your mistakes again...?

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Nat Johnson - Easter mini tour

The ever-wonderful Nat Johnson is touring England over Easter. Nat, as you probably know, used to be in Monkey Swallows the Universe, so she has oodles of form. You should go and see her.

Standard Fare

Standard Fare may be added to the bill of The Motifs gig next month. I love Standard Fare for many reasons: the crackling female vocals; the way each song seems as though it's about to fall apart before it roars off into the stratosphere again; the fact that, in the days of ridiculous band names, they have a quite self-effacing one; but most of all - because they either refuse to be part of, or seemingly have no knowledge of "the scene". And that quite appeals to me.

Darren from Thee SPC who is putting out their excellent split single with Slow Down Tallahassee said as much when he asked for a gig for Srandard Fare, and that only made me like them more.

Huge win for Town yesterday against Gillingham. Such has the been the misery of this season that I made a decision last week to try and live a normal Saturday instead of sitting in front of Sky Sports News with a bottle of wine, drowning my sorrows as another last minute goal is conceded. Yesterday I went into town, bought the second series of Early Doors on DVD for a fiver from Fopp, and watched that from half two until five before checking the results.

I wish I could afford to go to the match regularly. And the train situation is useless between Nottingham and Grimsby. It's so much less nerve-wracking being inside the ground. Watching a game via vidiprinter is CRAP.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

West Midlands blues

Hubba, hubba! Friends have been announced as playing Indietracks. I can't wait! I've been waiting nearly ten years to see this band, and now I'm going to see them 20 miles from my house. I'm all a tremble.

Sorry. I've been in the West Midlands for two days. It does these kind of things to you.

Q: When is a Science Park not a Science Park?
A: When it's in Wolverhampton.

Also, it was most certainly not the day to be wearing a duffel on the train back to Birmingham. First horrendous sweat of the year just about survived.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Tales of a fanzine writer, part 328

Back in the early 90s, when it was all fields 'round here, I used to run a fanzine called Atomic with a friend I met through an ex-girlfriend. I never really wanted Atomic to become as big as it did, but my mate thought he was the next Bill Drummond (we've all known one of these annoying types, right?), and so we started to print more and more copies each month, until, by 1994, we were printing a ridiculous 15,000, complete with a glossy, colour front cover, and packed full of advertising that were having to sell ourselves over the phone to indie labels like Nation and Big Cat. I think 4AD advertised with us, too. Heaven knows why.

Each issue came with a free seven inch single, and my friend decided to step it all up a further gear by putting out two albums on cd, picking four bands off the the albums, and going out on tour with them around the country.

It was a complete disaster, of course. Both of us were still signing on, and so we had little money. Everything we made off the back of Atomic we spent on food, cos all our dole went on printing the bloody thing. It was a bit of a vicious circle.

We should've known on the first night of the tour that it wasn't a good idea. I think about ten people turned up in Derby. It was embarrassing. But that was something of a high point. No-one turned up in Stone (and I have no idea why we thought putting a gig on in a glorified village just outside Stoke was a go-er anyway), and things reached a nadir at the Cockpit in Leeds.

I asked The Edsel Auctioneer to headline the Leeds gig. So, there were five bands playing that night, and the lonly people to turn up were three of Pale Saints, who were linked with The Edse Auctioneer, of course. What's more, my "friend" decided that he'd had enough and "missed his train" to Leeds, leaving me to panic like mad, and try and placate the bouncers who had be sent to talk to me by the manager of he Cockpit and try and get some money out of me.

But the worst thing was that I'd let The Edsel Auctioneer down, and I sort of worshipped them back then.

Here's The Edsel's brilliant Stickleback single to download, courtesy of the wonderful and fascinating Pyrolyse Bred blog. I first heard the band on a John Peel programme in 1989 when they were in session, and they did this version of Blind Hurricane that I fell in love with immediately. If anyone has that Peel session, I'd be eternally grateful. My tape copy long since disappeared.

That disastrous couple of weeks made us end Atomic, mainly because we'd fallen out, but also mainly because we realised we didn't have a fucking clue what we were doing. It was a brilliant time thinking back, though. I got to talk to most of the bands I really loved at the time, and followed Prolapse around on tour like a daft puppy. Happy days. Not that I'd want to do it all now, of course...

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Projekt A-ko - Yoyodyne (Filthy Little Angels)

Darren from Filthy Little Angels emailed me a few Projekt A-ko songs from the band's new album yesterday. They're mostly great - a real old school indie sound, which reminds me of mid-90s bedsit land.

Projekt A-ko have three members of Urusei Yatsura in their ranks, of course. I remember seeing Urusei at the Old Angel in Nottingham years and years ago, and they were dead ace.

The three songs Darren emailed me aren't much removed from the poppier side of Urusei. Molten Hearts is particularly great, and sounds a little like AC Acoustics, or any of their contemporaries around that time, like Seafood for example.

Here Comes the New Challenger is probably my favourite, with plaintive spoken vocals and frantic guitars in the chorus, and a lovely female vocal hovering around in the background.

Anyway, the album is called Yoyodyne and is out on 20 April. I'd buy it if you're of a certain age and fancy wallowing in some nostalgia.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Life Has it in for Us artwork.

So much to answer for

Today I went to Manchester for work, and ended up in Vinyl Exchange on Oldham Street. I love this place deeply, and have spent many happy hours leafing through the cds upstairs, and the wildly expensive vinyl in the basement (there was a Shop Assistants 12" in there today for £25. £25!), which could quite easily bankrupt a boy.

One of the first things I learned when I started going to Vinyl Exchange is that there is a certain way of looking through the cd section. None of them are stored in cases - all are in little plastic wallets. So, if you want to look through them all before you die, the best thing to do is take a handful off the racks and flick through them. It took me a good three of four visits to work out why people did this. But I learnt. And record shop etiquette remains vital, of course, if you are to get ahead in the world.

I love Manchester completely. It's architecture is handsome (despite latter-day attempts to turn the city centre into a metallic-clad mini-London); its people are friendly; it proper pubs are the best I've been to the UK; and its music scene is always vibrant, of course. I'd only live in one city in the UK other than Nottingham, and that's Manchester.

However, platform 13 at Piccadilly could do with being less depressing and remote. But that's a minor gripe, our kid.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Across the great divide

This weekend I went down to south to see some family. To Christchurch, to be exact, which is just oustide Bournemouth. The new Morrissey album was played over and over again in the car, as well as both Housemartins studio records. I'm not stuck in the past, honest.

There's a lot of rot talked and written about the north-south divide, but there's a definite sense of coastal towns on the south coast being more affluent than their northern counterparts. My father-in-law was telling me that the beach huts on a beach near Highcliffe were thirty-two grand a year to rent. The ones down the road in an even posher area were over a hundred thousand. This is basically for renting a garden shed on a beach that is freezing cold for six months of the year.

I'm sure I'm generalising massively, but everything seems so well maintained down there. And I really didn't feel as comfortable strolling down the sea front at the weekend as I do whenever I visit Scarborough or Morecambe or Skegness or, of course, Cleethorpes. Faded glamour is overrated, but it's not half as overrated as a beach-side cafe that sells grape and brie sandwiches.

I also went to Southampton, which I'd never visited before. Post-war town planners have a lot to answer for, that's all I can say. In Southampton, it seems to me as though some knobs in the city hall played a drunken game of pin the tail on the donkey when it came to working out which roads would go where after it was bombed so heavily during the last war. We went around one baffling road junction-cum-roundabout, and stood in the middle of the massed lanes of traffic were a row of houses that looked ridiculously sorry for themselves. But not as sorry as the poor sod who was coming out of his front door at the time. Horrible, really. Oh, but it has a new, large city centre Ikea. Big wow.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Are you scared to get happy?

This week has been murder. Lack of sleep, a boss who is in the final throes before he moves on to another job (and has therefore fully wound himself down almost to a standstill), and it's been freezing. If anything had got me through this week is the Pocketbooks album, which just gets better with every listen.

But something small has cheered my right up as I head into a weekend of visiting The Bloody In-laws, and that's the fact that my friend Andy is putting his first Nottingham gig on. Which I think is marvellous news.

His gig will be on 24 April, with The Lovely Eggs and Horowitz playing. And hopefully Betty and the Werewolves. Which makes that weekend a full of pop extravaganza, what with the Motifs and Crayon Fields gig the next day.

I wish there were another ten Andy's in the city willing to put stuff on that I liked. Or even vaguely liked. But there aren't. And so we plough on, losing money on shows and handing out flyers to the disinterested ans relying on a bunch of loyal friends to pad out the audience. Well, it's either that or go down to London twice a month. And I don't have the patience for London twice a year at the moment.

Still, we have the pop. And summer's nearly here, which means sitting in parks with friends and having picnics and playing drunk games of football and sitting outside pubs until 10pm. I really can't wait for all that.

I need to stop moaning.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Life Has it in For Us, Volume 1

'Life Has it in For Us Vol. 1' is nearly ready to go. This'll be the first release on my cd-r label, and will be available at the Motifs/Crayon Fields/Heptagons gig in Nottingham on 25 April.

I excited about this, because it has some ace bands on it, namely: Pocketbooks, The Hillfields, MJ Hibbett & the Validators, Moustache of Insanity, Northern Portrait, The Crayon Fields and Give it Ups.

It'll be free, but if you're ordering from the UK it'll be £1.50 p&p, £2.50 Europe and rest of the world. But you should be at the gig, of course. Dur.

Andy Hart of a fog of ideas fanzine is working on the artwork AS WE SPEAK. Woo!

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Bishop Allen tour

Bishop Allen have announced a big fat tour, and - gasp - they're coming to the UK at last.

The full tour is on their website, but the band is in Manchester on 6 May, London on 7 May, Cardiff on 8 May and Reading on 9 May.

I'm going to start camping outside each venue simulataneously like a crazed Cliff Richard fan. And so should you.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Pocketbooks - Flight Paths (How Does It Feel to be Loved?)

As I get older Mondays are becoming harder to bear. Weekends away with friends you see briefly and should see more and brought into sharp contrast with a Monday full of tetchy emails demanding things of you should've done on Friday afternoon, but were too excited. Because you were going away to see friends you see only briefly.
This Monday is no better than any others, but it's different because I've come home with a copy of Pocketbooks' superior debut album. Pocketbooks, as I'm sure you're aware, are probably the best live band in England right now. And if Flight Paths is anything to go by, they're probably the best band on record, too.

Half of these songs are familiar to me; they've been a staple of Pocketbooks' live set for a year or so now. And yet you can still get a thrill from the delicate pop rush of Cross the Line - a song so jubilant that all those nights watching this band come flooding back, and then... AND THEN!... there's that bit where Emma sings: "When you know the last word's mine", and you, well, you just nearly start crying and punching the air, so something equally as flamboyant.

But Pocketbooks have other brilliant songs, of course. Like Fleeting Moments, which fair scoots along, and sounds a little bit like something off The Housemartins' second, superior album. Or Sweetness and Light, which is the kind of whimsical melodrama that Pocketbooks do so much better than anyone else at the moment.

Maybe whimsy is too twee a word. 'Cos Flight Paths is packed with the sort of every day, kitchen sink detail about life, relationships, London life, holidays away and break ups. Heck, Every Good Time We Ever Had lists most of them explicitly.

Remember those albums you listen to when you're laid on the floor of your bedroom and you've just done something completely life-changing? Or you're just about to? Well, this is one of those. Listen to Flight Paths, and go out and find the one you love.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Parallelograms split

Parallelograms, the Sheffield band who made hairslides look effortless, have split following bassist Markie's emigration to New Zealand.

Tonieee, veteran of indiepop bands such as Plouf! and Velodrome 2000, said he and singer Meriel didn't right carrying on without Markie in the band. Aww.

Tonieee says he might be looking at getting another band together, but in the meantime, Parallelograms have a posthumous single out on Cloudberry Records very soon. I'm sure it'll be a fitting tribute.
I just got back from London Popfest, where I saw a grand total of two bands. I'm rubbish. But I did manage to pick up a copy of the new Pocketbooks album, which will be getting countless plays when I rid myself of this stupid hangover.