Thursday, 30 December 2010

Euphoria 2010

Milky Wimpshake in full flight. Nottingham, 25 September 2010
In the absence of lists, there's one stand out moment from this year of pop for me, and that was on the Saturday night of the Nottingham weekender. That's right - I'm celebrating a gig I was partly responsible for putting on. The indiepop scene is a dot.

Downstairs that night four of my favourite bands played one after the other in a packed pub that was full of smiling faces and beating hearts. It was like we'd won for a couple of hours, you see. There in that little pub was a group of like-minded souls there to listen to Horowitz, Betty and the Werewolves, Milky Wimpshake and Allo Darlin'.

There have been times in the past when things at gigs have just clicked and the outside world of work and bills and government attacks on us all seem a million miles away; The Deirdres after Indietracks 2008, for example, or Prolapse back in 1994 at the Narrowboat (and I will stop going on about that one day). But that night in September was perhaps better than both of those occasions, because the anticipation was so high, and those bands didn't let us down. Not even the Mariners conceding a late equaliser to Altrincham could spoil things.

Sandy (whose photo that is up there) called the atmosphere "euphoric". I couldn't possibly comment, but somehow that gig shone a ray of sunshine into an exhausting, dispiriting year that was only made bearable by some fine, fine music and the thrilling fightback of some sections of the student population in the UK, and abroad.

So, thanks to Allo Darlin', The Felt Tips, Standard Fare, Sarandon, The Cannanes, Evans the Death, Matinee Records, The Sweet Nothings, Marianthi and her dedication to the Midland Mainline ticket office and all at Atomic Beat and Spiral Scratch, Northern Portrait, MJ Hibbett and his Validators, Sourpatch, February Records, Eardrums Music, Summer Library, The Indietracks crew, Tender Trap, Fortuna Pop!, Math and Physics Club, Bart and Friends, Scumbag Philosopher, Apple Orchard, Andy at a fog of ideas, Alan Connell, Baffin Island, Transmittens, The Awesomelines, Boy Genius, Electric Pop Group, Milky Wimpshake, Sourpatch, Withered Hand, Shrag, and loads of others I've almost certainly missed. And good bye Keith Alexander.

Oh look - a list.

See you next year.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Reissue, repackage

The song 'Dear Morrissey' on the Felt Tips 'Living and Growing' album earlier this year sort of sums up how I feel about the man himself these days, but, of course, The Smiths remain a very different proposition.

I always cringe slightly when people say a band or a song changed their lives, because they don't really, but The Smiths certainly affected the way I look at things when I was a teenager - and that's carried on throughout my life. I can't really say that about any other band (although maybe The Housemartins come close).

So, I was a bit excited when the usually mental Morrissey Solo forums chucked out a gem of a link where you can download some previously unreleased Smiths stuff that spanned the entirety of the band's time together. For some people this will hardly register, of course, but for me listening to these 'new' songs gives me the sort of weird mixture of excitement and wonder that I felt when I was first listening to The Smiths aged 13.

Tracks like the rough version of 'Death of a Disco Dancer' manage to pack as much wonderment into five odd minutes as most bands do into their lifetimes. Listening to the John Porter version of 'Sheila Take a Bow' - something I'd only read about in books up to now - is like discovering that Father Christmas is real after all, whilst discovering that 'Frankly Mr Shankly''s forgotten brass parts made it an even more cute slap around the face brings only the biggest smile.

Excuse the hyperbole, but, for me, this is all pretty wonderful stuff. It very nearly brings back that feeling of going out and buying a Smiths album and taking it home and putting it on your turntable for the first time. And in a year which I think has been packed with brilliant albums, singles and live performances, finding these new old songs seems like we're maybe a little bit vindicated for carrying on playing in bands, putting out records and going to gigs. Not that we need it, of course...

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Festive fayre

A layer of chips will now sign off for a few days (please don't cry) whilst it eats itself stupid and drinks too many bottles of Bath Ales (why am I talking in the third person?). But before I go, here are two Christmas songs you won't hear on the radio over the next few days because the world is UNFAIR and DIRTY.

First up is Vom Vorton's version of the Fountains of Wayne's 'I Want an Alien For Christmas'. I once fell asleep during the Fountains of Wayne at Reading Festival. 1997, I believe, but Vom (Tom) makes it all better by being Vom (Tom).

Secondly, there is Oxo Foxo's deeply gorgeous 'It Never Snows at Christmas'. This is one for those in the audience who will be enduring a turkey ready meal for one on Saturday. Our hearts are with you, comrades.

Happy Christmas.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Bubblegum Lemonade - Sophomore Release (Matinee Records)

I can't say I really like the lumping together of any kind of 'Scottish sound', but it's hard not to spot the Caledonian influences on Bubblegum Lemonade's second, wonderful album.

There goes some Aztec Camera on 'You Only Think Twice', and there's a slew of 'Darklands'-era JAMC on stuff like 'Girlfriend Ghost', 'Maybe Someday', 'She's Got a Gun' and 'We Could Send Emails'. Add in a touch of Byrdsian jangle and you've got a potion that's pretty hard to resist.

Laz McCluskey, for it is he, is nothing if not prolific. The beauty of this album is not that it's a JAMC-revivalist's wet dream, no; it's that it's at the same time steadfastly consistent without sounding like twelve slightly different versions of the same song. 'Sophomore Release' gives you a dozen pop gems without breaking sweat, and it's a huge hit with my 15-month old who goes crackers dancing every time 'Caroline's Radio' comes in. He's got taste

Not a Scottish record, then but very much a record from Scotland. I'm sure Roddy, Jim and William will be happy to have Bubblegum Lemonade as peers on this evidence.

You can buy 'Sophomore Release' from Matinee Records here.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

A Christmas message from Lorna

Lorna have been rattling around Nottingham for so long now, that it’s very easy to forget they exist. Well, when I say “rattling”, I mean in the quietest, most polite sense possible, y’see, because they hardly play locally at all and they’re forced to put their records out on an American label.

The reliable Words on Music has has again stepped in to release Lorna’s new ep, ‘The Ghosts of Winter, which is available electronically only until February next year. It’s a beautiful thing, and those that rattle on about Low’s Christmas songs need to check out Lorna immediately, because they’re way, way better.

Sure, the songs are so quiet they’re barely there, but there’s a real beauty at work here - a subtle pop nuance thrown in here and there which makes for something approaching the beguiling.

There’s plenty of lo-fi bands around at the moment who try and sound like Lorna. And yet Lorna aren’t lo-fi at all. They might not bleed from the fingers through every song, but that doesn’t mean they don’t give their all to produce something that makes Christmas a whole lot more beautiful.

The EP, priced at just £4 will be sent out digitally to your email address, and can be purchased via Paypal from here.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Never (ever, ever) enough

I’m not really one for end of year lists. It’s all a bit clinical to me, and different records can mean more to me than others at different times of my life. However, if you’re putting a gun to my cat and forcing me to pick my favourite record of the last year, then it has to be Sourpatch’s - ‘Crushin’’.

What’s so good about this album? What isn’t, more like. From sugar sweet ‘intro’ with the kids setting the scene, the album just rips my heart in two every time. It’s not got tired after so many months. Every time a tune so perfect finishes you think the next one can’t possibly top it, and yet it does it best to. It’s an emotional onslaught - a kind of shock and awe on your pop senses and nerves. It’s also, as I’ve found out this last month, perfect music to listen to on the early morning bus.

My only regret about ‘Crushin’ is that I didn’t get hold of it earlier. I wasted a good six weeks of 2010 without this album, and I feel very ashamed about that.
Right in the middle of the album is also probably my favourite song of the year. It’s called ‘Water Without Land’, and it features the lyrics: "Our days are numbered, our days are already gone/And when you remember me, remember me fondly/When you remember bme, remember the good things." And that just kills me every time.
Yesterday I had to take the longest train the world to Northampton. A cold, windy, raining Wednesday afternoon, and a change at Tamworth station - a collection of buildings that could be ripped straight out of a Joy Division video. In my headphones were Sourpatch, somehow carrying me forward on the slowest London Midland train in the world.

Stepping out of Northampton's lo-rise, endlessly upsetting train station, and things don't get much better. A huge double carriageway splits the the town in two and the cars speeding down in threaten to drown out the music. Yet Sourpatch win through - they always seem to.

Alone in a cell-like room in a grotty Travelodge on a Wednesday night in a London commuter town. A shit kebab shop across the road offers up the only thing that I'm going to eat tonight. The last song on 'Crushin' - 'I Want You Either Way' seems like the perfect gallows humour.

This is one of the many reasons why I think 'Crushin' is my favourite record of 2010. I'm not even totally sure it was released this year and not last, but who cares? As a soundtrack to a year when people's lives have been thrown into further confusion by a government who want to ram home the UK class divide that still - ridiculously - exists in 2010, then sometimes 'Crushin' has been the only thing that makes any sense at all.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Quiet is the new loud (perhaps)

And so back down to earth with Alison Eales' fantastic little ep on EardrumsPop, which, you think, was written to soothe a fevered brow, such is its influence on my mood.

Using nowt more technological than a guitar, a keyboard and a folks-y voice, Eales's 'Land and Sea' might not shout from the rooftops about how great it is, but the magic is there in the songs, whether it's in the wistful 'Land and Sea', or 'Vigils', which could either be a Tindersticks song, or something from '... Arab Strap'-era Belle and Sebastian.

Best is last, as it should be. 'Overblown Gestures' is modern folkpop at its peak, a sort of sea shanty that makes you want to hold hands with the person next to you, whoever that might be.

Sat here in the suburbs, waiting for a fridge to be delivered, these songs make perfect sense. But they'd also make sense sat in front of a bullying computer at work, or waiting for a train, or driving home for the night. They just make perfect sense. Okay?

You can download 'Land and Sea from the EardrumsPop website, or listen to it here.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Stop the press. Please.

The full weight of the state is now committed to airbrushing over the Coalition government's violent attacks on students from poorer backgrounds, by playing out a ridiculous farce about Charles Windsor's car being surrounded by a group intent on overthrowing what makes Britain so virtuous. That being two wildly over-privileged idiots driving around London in a Rolls-Royce Phantom VI, apparently.

Friday's mainstream newspapers screamed about "terror" and "thugs" and "anarchists". According to the Daily Mail, Parker-Bowles had "terror in her eyes". Good. For a few seconds she experienced the day-to-day feeling of those at the mercy of the government's vicious programme against the working class in the UK. A taste of her class's medicine was working its way down her throat, until she coughed it up again, relying on the might of the security services to take her and her ridiculous husband to their vital date at the Royal Variety Performance to watch Cheryl Cole lip-synch her way through her next insipid piece of drivel.

Everyone from David Cameron down to the ever-spineless NUS and Labour Party leadership was on hand to decry those who faced up to Windsor and Parker-Bowles, as well as the violent tactics of the police against those determined to show that they won't just accept the status quo and what Nick Clegg calls "reality".

Until the fairytale nonsense of the Royal Family and all its vile wealth, power and influence is dismantled, then people - especially during a time of austerity and attacks - will become angry. Rightly so, and more power to them. But let's not get sidetracked into thinking this "outrage" is anything more than a story vastly over-promoted by the capitalist press and media in order to drown out the core issues surrounding the increase in student fees and the wider anger at the government's assault on the working class in the UK (and abroad, whilst we're at it).

Still, I'd rather be poked by a wooden stick than Charles Windsor, wouldn't you?

Friday, 10 December 2010

Various - The Matinee Holiday Soiree (Matinee Records)

One of the few reasons to look forward to Christmas is the regular festive Matinee ep or album. This year's offering is called the Matinee Holiday Soiree, and when you've got the combined talents of Northern Portrait, Math and Physics Club, Strawberry Whiplash, Bubblegum Lemonage and Champagne Riot then the end result is going to be pretty special.

Northern Portrait kick off things with 'Leave the Trees Alone', a paean to the humble fir which we gaudily dress each year. It's so Christmassy that you feel like breaking open the sherry.

Strawberry Whiplash's 'Santa Needs a Holiday' continues the pretty obvious theme, and sounds a little like 'Twisterella'-era Ride. And there's very little wrong with that. Take a break, Santa!

This is the first time I've heard Champagne Riot, and whilst 'Xmas Safari' isn't as instant as the two tracks before it, the refrain of "the same routine" hits the spot perfectly.

Bubblegum Lemonade are on a roll right now, and 'White Noise Christmas' is a lovely piece of dronepop - the sort of thing you want on your headphones to drown out the Queen's Speech at 3pm on Christmas Day. Or is it 2pm? Whatever...

Math and Physics Club bring a touch of decorum to proceedings with 'It Must Be Christmas', a reflective piece which namechecks all the right things, but comes off sounding deliciously cynical. Christmas again already, eh? Math and Physics seem to be longing for summer.

So, when your around your folks house on 25th, and your Mum tipsily suggests putting on that bloody Cliff Richard* album for the 15th year in a row, pour her another glass, sit her down and out The Matinee Holiday Soiree on the stereo instead. She'll thank you for it.

Download Strawberry Whiplash's 'Santa Needs a Holiday' here. And then go and buy the ep here.

*Of course you could also tell her about that Cliff Richard cover that Northern Portrait did, but that's properly best forgotten...

Monday, 6 December 2010

Goats on Boxes! This Thursday!

Wake up, sleepyheads. This Thursday Goats on Boxes are putting on a live show that will be so much fun, you'll want to cancel Christmas. See that poster there for details, and I'll see you on that table I always stand on at the back. Catch me if I fall.

There's more info on facebook, here.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

The holiday season starts here

As someone who has felt some sense of duty to try and see both sets of parents over Christmas each year, MJ Hibbett & the Validators' new Christmas song rings oh so true.

The festive period has long become ore a boring chore than a chance to relax and enjoy a few days off w*rk, but this year I'll be marking 29 December down in my diary as the day when I don't to give hastily bought gifts to people who don't really want them, drink another can of shit lager, and eat my own bodyweight in pastry. From now on 29 December is ours.

'The 29th Day of December is available to download from here, or as part of the Christmas album 'MJ Hibbett & The Validators' Christmas Selection Box' from here.

Right, I'm off to put the Christmas tree up. The fun never ends...

The Momeraths

It seems kind of apt that at a time when Pocketbooks are recording their second album, along comes a band who sound like they've been listening to 'Flight Paths' on repeat for the last 18 months. Well, there are worse ways to spend your time...

The Momeraths release the 'Your Winter Blues' ep through their bandcamp page on 20 December with the sound of early Pocketbooks performances echoing in the background. The girl/boy vocals, the handclaps, the guitar shapes, the perky bass - all that's missing are some keys.

This isn't a criticism, you understand; Pocketbooks released perhaps my favourite album of last year, and there's every chance that 'Your Winter Blues' could stick around the playlist for some time to come. The songs here, and on the band's other two releases 'Millipede Stomps' and 'A Single Cup of Tea', portray a refreshing sense of pop naivety - and I like that.

At times there are also hints of Free Loan Investments, particularly on 'The Boyfriend Song', which, despite being decidely upbeat tells the tale of love betrayed and could the snotty little sister of FLI's 'Kick His Balls Out'. Spunky stuff.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Art is Hard

Happy December, chumps. And, if like me you're already tired of looking for Christmas gifts for people you don't really see all year, then you'll need something to divert your attention. I have just the thing.

Plymouth is hardly the centre of anything, but I'm hard pressed to think of any decent bands or record labels that have come from there. That might change with the advent of Art is Hard Records, whose second releases is a terribly exciting split single between Exeter's New Years Evil and Falmouth's - that's right, Falmouth's - The Black Tambourines (there's a clue to what they sound like in the question).

New Years Evil might have a ropey name but 'Shame' reminds me of a lot of late 80s/early 90s indie guitar pop, like The Family Cat, or maybe even a hint of Wedding Present, and has an ace, noisy ending. It's dreamy, nostalgic stuff for me, anyway.

The Black Tambourines 'Tommy' sounds particular now in a Frankie Rose/Neverever way. It's all about reverb and muffled vocals and atmospherics and rushed drums. And it's all pretty ace, really. They sound like they'd be pretty wonderful live, too.

Art is Hard are making this single a labour of love. They've been working with a number of their favourite south-west photographers and each 7" comes with an original print, as well as a full 5 track digital EP and a limited edition zine. Impressive stuff.

You can listen to both tracks here before you start ordering.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Two If By Sea

There are some bands with terrible names that I've really liked over the last couple of years. Chariots of Tuna spring to mind - although they changed their name to, erm, Onward Chariots, Evans the Death, and here's another one.

Two If By Sea (what?) are another one of those long distance relationship bands between Teresa Daniele (formerly of The Haircuts), Lisle Mitnik (Fireflies/Very Truly Yours), and Kevin Clark (Homeville Circle/Wooden Owls). They have a 5-song 7" vinyl EP, 'Staysail', available soon on the deeply dependable February Records.

Influences are a big thing 'round these parts, and easy to hear Field Mice, Slowdive, early Lush (especially around the first couple of eps), and a dash of Francophilia. And I've nearly always loved a band who've taken the time to cover 'Strawberry Fair'.

So, as the snow weeps down outside, and I wonder how the bloody flip I'm going to get to work tomorrow, Two If By Sea are calming my nerves and ironing out my brow. I await the name change with mid-range patience.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Sourpatch: one more time with feeling

As you will see in a couple of weeks time when I get round to doing a half-arsed review of the last twelve months, Sourpatch have entered my life and made it altogether a happier place this year. Which is why I don't really mind getting excited about something which is happening NEXT YEAR.  Crazy, I know, but I still can't quite believe that Sourpatch are playing in Nottingham.

I get so nervous about putting overseas bands on. What if things are done differently abroad and all the bands get their own dressing room with grapes and shit? What if they want - gasp! - feeding? All these fears have been allayed over the years by bands like Electric Pop Group and Northern Portrait who have just got pissed with the rest of us. And why wouldn't they?

I digress. And I shouldn't 'cos Sourpatch ruled my world in early summer by putting out an album so heartfelt and so raw that in the time it's taken to write these three paragraphs, I've reached for it and put it on again. And, come the end of next February, they'll be playing in our favourite Nottingham venue, The Chameleon.

Also playing will be Horowitz, who's 'Popkids of the World Unite' album has, I'm led to believe, landed successfully at Thee SPC and will be landing on your doormats over the next couple of days.

Completing the bill will be Alka Seltzer, fizz punk poppers Town Bike, all the way from that Liverpool and probably still wearing matching outfits. Please note I can't be sure about that last fact, because there's a recession on and they might have had to resort to wearing their own clothes for a while.

Anyway - despite it falling on the same day as London Popfest, I really do think you should come along. Then speed through the night down to London to relax with the other 207 people in Europe who like indiepop. It's the done thing, darlings.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Vom Vorton - Plots and Plans ep

One of the delights of putting gigs on is being totally blown away by bands or acts that you have no illusions in. I'd never seen Tom Morton's Vom Vorton act before, and although I loved Lardpony, I was expecting a nice, pleasant acoustic set. I should've known Tom was better than just that.

I managed to pick up the Vom Vorton 'Plots and  Plans' ep on Friday night, and, if anything it's even better than Tom's performance that night. The songs are tiny masterpieces about Paul Gascoigne, huge volcanoes, sweaty builders, love, life and the joy of being the underdog. Lest we forget that all great songs feature these themes. Well, some of the time...

Tom, of course, is somewhat prolific - or at least that's the way it seems to me. He seems able to knock these great little pop songs out at will, and these were all recorded on his own, in his own house over the summer and autumn (remember that?)

The ep ends with 'Supervolcano' - a sort of lo-fi, defeated-yet-triumphant call to arms that Lardpony used to do so, so well. It drips with the sort of understated brilliance that runs through these five songs, and it leaves you gasping like a geriatric Alsatian for more. If you follow me.

I paid three quid for this tiny treasure, and it shouldn't cost you much more. See the Vom Vorton website for more details.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Standard Fare+the Felt Tips+The Sweet Nothings+Vom Vorton: keeping you warm this winter

Despite the fact that it's about 690 degrees below zero outside, Standard Fare, The Felt Tips, The Sweet Nothings and Vom Vorton are putting their mittens and scarves on and playing a gig in Nottingham tomorrow night. I really think you should be there too. Here's the facebook page for more information.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Abolish the monarchy and buy indiepop records instead

The next UK royal wedding will be on 29 April, then. The same day Hitler got married, so they tell me. Those who do not learn from history...

Until that toxic day we have more than enough pop music to save our souls, starting today with the new Eux Autres album, 'Broken Bow'. I was listening to this all the way to poor old Stoke-on-Trent and back yesterday, and, somehow, it made everything marginally better.

It's a bold, brassy, melancholy, but ultimately triumphant album, and I can't wait to see them live early next year after missing them like an idiot when they played Indietracks a couple of years ago.

You can download 'Queen Turner' here, and 'Go Dancing' here. They'll improve your day in spades.

Looking forward to records is hard in these days of easy-to-find internet leaks, but I'm proper looking forward to the second Bubblegum Lemonade album, cunningly titled 'Sophomore Release'. I may have made 'You Only Live Twice' available for download before, but fuck it, it's so good that you should download it again.

'Sophomore Release' is available for pre-order from Matinee Records right now, and judging from the tracks I've heard from the album, it's going to make a late dash for those end of year polls. Cuddly, like a favourite jumper this album I reckon.

Whilst you part company with your hard earned on these excellent records, those in the UK might like to ponder on that fact that we're paying for Prince William and that horrendous Sloane he's marrying to be ferried around at their vile celebration of excess. Buying these two releases might not get rid of the parasitic Windsors just yet, but it's a tiny step in the right direction.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Soaked in this fever

Inbetween transatlantic trips in a sealed train to Stoke, Derby, Manchester and Birmingham this week, I'm going to try and fit in some ace new music. Should I stay awake, that is...

Baffin Island, you might remember, are the result of some kind of orgy between The Very Most and Hermit Crabs. The result is a three-track single on EardrumsPop that makes this cold weather seem almost tropical. 'You Invited Me' reminds me of a more laid-back Eux Autres (more of whom later), whilst 'You Make Two Weeks Two Days' sounds like a more depressed School (this is a good thing - honest.

Deliciously, the final track is a cover of Math and Physics Club's 'Darling Please Come Home', and it's as cute as a button. I love this song hard, and this stripped back cover works perfectly. More people should cover Math and Physics Club songs. In fact, I demand a tribute album.

When I have time to scratch my arse, I will bring you news of the aforementioned Eux Autres and a new album from Bubblegum Lemonade. Right now, my tea is ready and I need to bed down for double Coronation Street before another 12 hour extravaganza tomorrow. Life glows.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Incoming. Upcoming.

Speaking of HHBTM records, myself and the boy Fog of Ideas Andy will be putting the mighty Sourpatch on at The Chameleon in Nottingham on 24 February. That's next year, if such a thing still exists by then. I'm completely giddy about this, because 'Crushin'' is one of my favourite albums of this year and ever. If you haven't heard it, buy it for yourself for Christmas, and then go and see the band when they tour in the US and UK from 14-26 February 2011.

Next Friday (26 November) is the last 'chips gig of the year. It's the Sportswriter's Pop Personalities of the year Standard Fare, ably supported by The Felt Tips from that Glasgow, The Sweet Nothings from Sheffield, and Vom Vorton (ex-Lardpony and Of Mice and Mental Arithmetic) from the Land of Good Pubs - Derby. It'd be a delight to see you there. Here's a facebook event page thing. It's a fiver to get in, or three quid if you're out of work. Meet me at the bar.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010


I'm a bit surprised how many folks are kinda digging it, as they are so much of a live thing. It's like the intensity of Kristin Hersh, and the frailty of Cat Power sometimes. People in Athens either love or hate them; but there is just something about them that inspires people to create. I just offered to do a poster to start, then it became a record, then I did the sleeve, then I shot a video, now I'm about to start on the new sleeve and start work on another video.They even have pulled me and some others out of their shell to start their own bands. It's weird but a lot of their thing is their live show.

Not my words, comrades, but the words of Mike Turner, general secretary of Happy Happy Birthday To Me Records, about a band called Tunabunny, who he describes as potentially being the most important band he's worked with. He's clearly smitten.

Listening to Tunabunny's debut album on HHBTM it's pretty easy to see why. Although Mike thinks it's a live thing, the band make a few MP4s sound pretty exciting too. Tunabunny are some kind art rock mess. Intense, scrappy and often all over the place (this sorten of heightens the thrill, though), but underneath that lies a beating pop heart.

Certainly the 15 tracks on Tunabunny's album constitute what the kids are calling today 'a journey'. Comparisons could range from a seriously loose Spacemen 3, to a pissed up Throwing Muses. Then there's a touch of Talking Heads tension in there, to bind it all together. It's pretty memserising stuff.

Last year I thought Crystal Stilts would become this kind of band. They sort of let me down live. I'd saw my left ear off to let Tunabunny whip my heart out and beat it around a bit.

You better buy this record, really. Else Father Christmas won't be visiting you this year.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Gale twat

It's seems that Aaron Porter, the toady president of the NUS, prefers to line-up with the establishment, police, BBC, Sky News and mainstream press in condemning the occupation of Millbank during this week's protest against the increase in student fees.

Perhaps he might have some faith and confidence in the membership of the NUS, and then take a leaf from Clare Solomon's book, who on this Thursday's Jeremy Vine show on Radio 2 firmly stuck it to Tory MP Roger Gale. Solomon is from the SWP split Counterfire and ULU.

What's mildly amusing about this - apart from Gale being genuinely ruffled - is that he used to be a pirate radio DJ for Radio Caroline. In later life he was director of children's telly at the BBC during the late 70s, thus beaming horrible right-wing rays into the brains of people my age. Gale also supports capital punishment, the kinky devil.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Caught by the fuzz

You might want to think back over the last five years and consider the great pop moments. It's a fair best that amongst them will be a performance by Horowitz - a series visceral, life-changing moments when you realise that pop music can bring people together for two and half minutes. All of those brief episodes are on the new Horowitz album, 'Popkids of the World Unite!'

This record brings together Horowitz songs from 2004-2009, and the hits don't stop. Anyone with half a brain knows how great the likes of 'Tracyanne', 'Hug Target', 'Government Center', 'Drop the Hat', 'How to Look Imploring' are. Instant pop hits mainlined straight to your brain, but also real passages that stay with you forever.

Sure, Horowitz on record are nowhere near as blistering as they are live - but then all things are relative. Moments like this don't come around very often, to whimper about sound quality seems a little churlish.

it's Christmas in a few weeks. Remember when you were little and wrote lists of presents you wanted Father Christmas to bring? Well, this should be right at the top of it. In a year of glorious pop albums, 'Popkids of the World Unite!' is a fitting bookend.

'Popkids of the World Unite' is available now to pre-order on CD in a gatefold digipack with immediate digital download from Thee SPC.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Milky Wimpshake - My Funny Social Crime (Fortuna Pop!)

A miserable Monday morning in Nottingham in the mid-90s, and on the way back from signing on I slip into Selectadisc and rifle through the seven inch singles I can't afford. There's the usual hipper-than-thou slew of American emo that was never gonna cheer me up. Then there, shining like a glittering penny in a pool of shit, was 'The Deviation Amplification Spiral' by Milky Wimpshake. I had a fiver in my pocket and no food in the house. Of course I bought the record...

A decade and a half later, I'm still wrapped around Milky Wimpshake's little finger. They're still here, fighting and loving harder than most; and I'm still here wondering quite why every band can't be like them. What's more 'My Funny Social Crime' is probably their best album yet. Heck, even 'Clicking It' from 'The Deviation Amplification Spiral' makes an appearance here. I think that might have something to do with dialectical materialism, but I can't be sure.

What's so special about buzzsaw guitars, popcorn bass and rattly drums? Everything - that's what. Especially on 'Broken Again' - a modern northern soul classic, or  'Itchy Feet on a Tuesday Night', which makes the case for going out and having fun during the week, rather than accepting pointless work again the next morning. If 'Itchy Feet...' isn't the anthem for the fightback against this vile government, then it bloody well should be.

And then, wonderfully, there are some real moments of pathos. Such as on the gorgeous 'Patchwork', which features what sounds like a cello. It's waiting to be on the next but two series of 'This is England'. If you ever want a song that sums up what loving, living with and then losing someone is all about, then look no further.

By the time Amelia Fletcher comes along and duets on 'Eyeball to Eyeball', you think just about anything's possible. And that's pretty much how Milky Wimpshake have made me feel for the last 15 years. Whether it be on one of their irresistable records, watching one of their unspeakably life-affirming live show, simply having a quick chat to Pete Dale before or after a gig, or re-reading those Slampt! liner notes all over again - this band mean more to me than more of the supposedly "important" things in life ever will. It's not a flirtation or a dalliance or a fling; it's a lifelong love story. Don't ever change.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Happydeadmen - Eleven Pop Songs (Fraction Discs)

Happydeadmen were around in that Sweden at the beginning of the 1990s, and 20 years later, Fraction Discs have decided to release their debut album 'Eleven Pop Songs'.

At first listen, 'Eleven Pop Songs' sounds very much of its time. Remember that slew of late '80s/early '90s indiepop bands who clogged up most of the latter stages of the 'Sound of Leamington Spa' compilations? You know those lot; the ones who'd listened to way many Lloyd Cole records than is good for anyone. The sort of bands that would make Deacon Blue sound like Huggy Bear. Well, Happydeadmen could easily be put in a box with that lumpen lot, if you wanted to do that.

But you'd be wrong to, sonny. There's more trickery at work here than a few jangling guitars, some turn ups and a bad Morrissey impression. Happydeadmen had more craft, more guile and more pop in their pores.

You can see it in 'Emilia', which starts off sounding like The Smiths' 'Jeane' before strutting away on its own path with a drum track that makes you want to get up and start shadow boxing. But Happydeadmen had a sensitive side, too. See the soaring 'We Swim' and the gorgeous 'Silent Sigh City' for immediate evidence of this.

Best track here is 'Heaven, No!' a perky rockabilly shuffle that brings to mind The Man From Delmonte's rarely-reached best. Here, Happydeadmen kept it simple, and there's lovely middle eight of chiming guitars, before we get back to some serious crooning to the end of the song. Top stuff.

Happydeadmen's legacy is clear for all to see, and can still be heard in the likes of Acid House Kings and Danish brethren Northern Portrait. What they had at the beginning of the 90s has been replicated and tweaked by countless others. Why not go right back and get in at the start?

You can order 'Eleven Pop Songs' from the Fraction Discs website.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Pipas for the people

I've finally managed to get over my Felt Tips obsession, and have MOVED ON. Now I'm back to my occasional obsession with Pipas.

Pipas first entered my life when Jimmy from Matinee started sending me stuff to review for my old fanzine, tasty. The release that popped my cherry was the 'A Short Film About Sleeping' ep, an innocent mix of swaying, lush pop that sounded completely new and fresh way back then. My heart was theirs

This was quickly followed by the dreamlike album, 'A Cat Escaped', with classics such as 'The Conversation', 'Run Run Run', 'Barabapa' and 'Old Kent Road'. Every one a smash hit, and every one now a dear friend.

The 'Bitter Club' ep (with the stunning, desolate 'Jean C') and then The 'Chunnel Autumnal' album followed. Almost immediately you wanted the next release and it came with in September 2006 with the 'Sorry Love' album, which saw them move into something a little more... electronic.

It's hard to describe the feeling of warmth when you put these records in your player. The knowledge that, for the next 30 minutes ('cos Pipas songs are short - it's pop you see) you'd be whisked off to a world without stress or bills or work or illness or fucking Tories.

And so it was in November 2005 that my friend Sandy told us that Pipas were to play their last ever gig upstairs at the Betsey Trotwood in London. The Betsey, of course, is tiny. Where better for one of my favourite bands to play their last ever gig. We'd be there.

Rushing home from work, getting changed, running to the train station, on the train - we made it. Drinking cans of terrible lager as we hurtled through South Leicestershire to stave off the excitement. Or to make us more excited - who knows?

We meet Marianthi (or was it Sandy?) at King's Cross and walk to the Betsey. There's Sandy (or was it Marianthi?) - there's, seemingly, the whole of the London indiepop mafia. For a provincial, this makes this momentus occasion even more thrilling.

The gig goes by in a whirl of crushed shoulder and craning necks, and then Pipas are apparently gone forever. We'll not see them again. Only Sandy had got the wrong information! Pipas live! We'd inadvertently spent the best part of £120 on seeing a band at the Betsey. Can many people say that?

It was bitterly cold that night, that I remember. But we stocked up on booze after the gig, made the short walk back to St Pancras, and get in to bed at about half past two. Only four hours until we get up for work. But we can listen to Pipas to stave that off, I guess.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Back to the leisure centre

In the barmy, early days of summer before this Coalition government bestowed their "delicious" cuts on us, I wrote about Harry Redknapp and Swansea Recreation Centre.

Apt, then, that Swansea Recreation Centre get back in touch with me at the same time that Redknapp is busy mouthing off to anyone who will listen about how he's threatening not to mouth off any more. Oh, such a loss! Please don't 'arry! Your cheeky persona and blinkered, backward views on certain aspects of the game I love really are the only things that keep me going at a time like this.

Not really; I'd be happy to never see your face or hear your stupid voice again.

The same cannot be said, however, for Swansea Recreation Centre, who have gone and made video for their nonsense-classic, 'Aquatic Finesse'. You might not understand a word they're going on about here, but they make more sense to me than the Spurs manager and professional "character" ever will.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Inclined Plane - Paw Meds/Mary, All the Time (February Records)

Happy November. You know it's November when you're biking home and you suddenly become blinded by a big red leaf that's decided to attack your face. But there are worse ways to crash into the back of a parked car.

Crashing straight into November is the new single by Hartford psych-pop outfit Inclined Plane who have, apparently, played with the Pains of Being Pure at Heart in their time. The new single 'Paw Meds'/'Mary all the Time' is the very essence of autumn; it's a warm, fuzzy slice of pop that instantly banishes any blues you might have about Things and Stuff in a huge pop explosion. And that's hyperbole!

You might want to compare Inclined Plane to bands such as Specific Heats, who also make this kind of pop music seem so effortless. You might, because the two bands seem to share a sense of the ridiculousness of pop, and what makes it bright and sparkly when everything else around you is the most beige.

You can listen to both tracks at the February Records website, where you can - nay, you must! - pre-order the single, which is out on 30 November. It's the perfect Christmas present for your depressed uncle.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

The Loves: Decemberists

I hope it's not just me who thinks The Loves' new single 'December Boy' is the best thing the band have ever done. Or that it should be number one this 25 December. Here, have a look for yourself...

The Loves has always been there over the last decade, haven't they? Stumbling from one drunken line-up to another, seemingly teetering on the verge of implosion - and this might well be the drunkest yet, of course, but it also sounds from this single and the band's performance at this year's Indietracks, that it's their best yet.

Shame they're planning on splitting up next year, then. I'm no fan of those internet petitions, but this might warrant one.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

OMAMA exit stage left

The Beko digital singles label has been quietly building an impressive back catalogue of download-only singles, available to rip to your hard drive every Monday.

Hey, I sounded computer literate for a moment there.

The label has released what may be a posthumous single from Derby's Of Mice and Mental Arithmetic - the band featuring members of the wonderful Lardpony and might Deirdres. Seems that OMAMA may well now be laid to rest, but if that's the case, then the three songs collected together here and are a fitting tribute.

Sounding way more polished on record than their often anarchic live performances, OMAMA sound almost cute at times. 'Gobble Die' carries all the glorious interwoven madness/genuius that The Deirdres perfected so well, whilst the Very Sad Indeed 'Fish Cannot Carry Guns' is sung in the most heartbreaking voice Sophie can muster. It might be the best song about maths ever, too.

Closing track 'Ants and Bees are Communists' opens with the line: "A think patriotism is a form of facism", and then goes on to include a bit of Roger Whittaker whistling, and ends up as a hymn against conformity. It's sweet, in a slightly sinister way...

Whatever, if this is OMAMA's parting shot, then it's a great way to remember them. You can download the single (and loads more) from the Beko website.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Christmas-ish gig stuff

If, like me, you're already on full wind-down towards the sorry annual festival of eating too much, drinking ridiculously coloured drinks you'd normally turn your nose up at, and kissing your Nan on the lips that is Christmas, then you'll do anything to pretend it's nearly time to pack in work for a few days and do some quality sitting down.

... and breathe...

With this in mind, this year sees the return of the layer of chips Christmas Party. Past highlights have seen Pete Green playing whilst showing everyone his testicles through a unfortunate hole in his jeans, Jamie doing his Noddy Holder impression a bit too loudly inbetween songs so that everyone heard, and failing to give away a Jim Reeves record as a raffle prize. Oh, what laffs.

This year's shoddily arranged jamboree will feature the might of Standard Fare, The Felt Tips, The Sweet Nothings and Vom Vorton. It's all happening on Friday 26 November at The Chameleon in Nottingham. Get there for around 8pm and you won't miss anything at all.

You can register your interest by pretending you're coming at either the facebook page or the page. Don't bloody fib to me, alright?

Sunday, 24 October 2010

True colours

... and whilst we're here, this video is worth a look. Former Oxford University Conservative Association president, and now BBC political editor, Nick Robinson shows displays his version of direct action.

There's something hilarious about the float-y nature of those banners. But they're not quite as hilarious as Robinson's face when he's snapped the placard in half. My word, have you ever seen anyone so pleased with themselves? Twat.

To the manor born

Day by day, week by week, the Coalition government's vicious plans become more vivid. The limiting of sickness benefit to just 12 months (after which time, presumably, you're miraculously sprung free of illness from your bed, I presume) was last week's stick to beat the poor with, this weekend it seems that The Guardian is getting wound up about the plans to slash housing benefit.

Quite right, of course. But, the Labour Party and its cheerleaders at The Guardian seem to have a very short memory when it comes to 'social cleansing'. As one of the people who comments on that piece points out, Labour's way of dealing with "illegal" immigrants was to put them into prisons they called "detention centres", often splitting children from parents at a time when surely they needed them most.

So, John Cruddas can bleat all he likes, but he was, by association, responsible for letting Labour's horrific, racist immigration policy carry on for 13 years, well away from the limelight the issue deserved. And if that wasn't 'social cleansing', I don't know what was.

The issue with housing all seems, to these propertyless eyes, is to do with the British obsession of owning a house. Those in council houses who can afford to buy privately should do, we're told. Why should they? Why should anyone have to land themselves with a mortgage they'll probably never end up paying off?

Like the Tories in the '80s, the Labour Party oversaw a property price boom at the beginning of the new century, and did nothing at all to regulate it. Private landlords, egged by the fact that "property development" was the new, hip thing for 30-something professionals to be in, have been left to mop up and gentrify areas where, for decades, people in or our of work have been able to live affordably. The Tories' latest move is the natural conclusion to a depressing series of events.

This has happened all over the country for years now, of course - mainly in traditionally rural areas, where the rich have been able to buy a (relatively) cheap 'place in the country'. See also: holiday cottages in villages made up of... tourists. Authentic, it isn't.

In real terms, wages have been in decline since the 1970s, and with hundreds of thousands about to be chucked on to the dole queue, this situation can only get worse. Being forced to live somewhere merely because of your financial situation isn't anything new, but this latest wave of attacks on the poor looks likely to ghettoise a whole new generation. Good news for landlords and the NIMBYs - not so clever if you find yourself at the mercy of the welfare state for a few months, it seems.

Tomorrow: back to some indiepop bollocks or other.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Northern Portrait - Life Returns to Normal (Matinee)

Light relief amongst the darkness comes my way today via the new Northern Portrait seven inch, as ever, on Matinee Records. Ironically, it's called 'Life Returns to Normal', which is probably pretty apt, but doesn't feel it right now.

Fear not, dear listener, for Nothern Portrait are here to swoon away you deepest woes. They might not be able to give you a secure job to pay the rent and the bills, but they can give us a song so lush, dreamy and life-affirming that it makes your author forget that he was mere yards from Cameron and Clegg today, and couldn't do a fucking thing about picking them up and chucking them in the Trent. It's the least they deserve.

The most you deserve, is another wonderful Northern Portrait song. And you've got it in spades. 'Life Returns to Normal' soars, it swoops, it tugs at your heartstrings. It's a love song about those people who are always there for you. If you're lucky enough to have those people, you're get this straight away. If you're not, take solace in a pretty perfect pop song and call it your best friend.

Download 'Life Returns to Normal' here.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

A lie told often enough becomes the truth

If you're one of the half a million people who have, just this afternoon, been promised a terrifying, uncertain future by someone with a £4m trust fund sitting in his arse pocket, then I sympathise, and I hope you get very angry about it. The regal way in which the Coalition government plans to destroy the remaining social fabric of the UK is beyond rephrension.

Alan Johnson, the shadow chancellor said the one useful thing of his political career this afternoon, when he stood up and pointed at the Opposition benches, and mocked: "Some of those people over there have today got what they wanted when they entered politics," or words to that effect. He was right. And then he ruined it all by explaining why Labour's version of capitalism would be so much better.

Now, if the unions manage to fuck this opportunity up, then they may as well disband into one amalgamous cesspit and call themselves charities who can get you cheap hoidays when you need them.

Showing the way is an outcry from the excellent Happy Happy Birthday to Me Records (HHBTM). Last Thursday both HHBTM and The Smittens were shocked to find out that Fox News talking head John Gibson (who is very openly opposed to gay marriage) was using the Smittens song 'Something Sassy' as trailer music for his radio show not just once, but it seems to be a new trail that is getting much use.

The Smittens, who have two openly gay members with one being in a legal gay marriage in Vermont, and the label HHBTM which releases records by other gay artists are quite rightly protesting against the use ofthe song, and want to let people know we did not approve the song being used in the first place.

So, they issued a press release. Here it is:

Arch-conservative Fox News Radio Host John Gibson - an avowed opponent of gay marriage, and one of GLAAD’s 2008 ‘Worst Anti-Gay Voices’ - has used the track ‘Something Sassy’ by Vermont indie band The Smittens as his new bump to emphasize just how ‘sassy’ racist and homophobic sentiments are.

The band, of which two members are gay, were surprised and appalled by the news. Dana Kaplan, who plays and sings with the band, said: “The Smittens were pretty shocked to hear our song ‘Something Sassy’ being used as bumper music for John Gibson’s radio show. We find it pretty ironic that someone in his team has not done their research properly – two members of the band are gay and one legally married her spouse in Vermont! As you can imagine we’re not big fans of John Gibson and don’t want our music associated with his offensive views. guess it just goes to show you John - ‘ We are Everywhere’”

Good luck to The Smittens with that. And to everyone else who might lose their job/house/sanity when the vicious cuts announced by the UK government today take effect.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Train not stopping

My friend Emma mentioned on the young person’s Twitter yesterday that she’d now lived in London longer than she’d lived in her home town. I had that sort of realisation a couple of years ago about Nottingham, and it’s a strange sensation. Do you now belong in this place, rather than that? Why do you continue to go back to that place, when this is now really your home? Well, there are loads of answers to that one, of course…

Like many people I know who either resisted or rejected the lure of London in their early 20s, I have a strange relationship with the place. I both love and loathe London. It can be thrilling, exciting, romantic and just about the best place in the world if you’ve got a few quid and hours to spare.

However, it’s also filthy, anarchic, lonely and displays more than any other place I’ve been (apart from Paris, perhaps) the vivid, cruel differences between rich and poor.

When you’re from the north of England and you’re young, London may as well be on the other side of the world. And when you go there the first time, it really does feel like you’re going on holiday to somewhere wild and exotic. That feeling never really goes away, no matter how many times you visit the place.

But going back home is better. The warm, rich northern accents at St Pancras are the first sign that, in a few hours, you’ll be back to normality – away from the maddening rush and almost surreal London atmosphere. And as the train heaves on through north London and you only have the “delights” of Bedfordshire to look at, well, you don’t really mind that much, because it’s over with. You’ve seen your mates, you’ve been to the gig, you’ve spent nearly four quid on a pint of bitter that tastes like soapy water, and now you long for the more gentle confines of normality again.

I understand completely why people fall in love with London. I like to fall in love with it for 24 hours about three or four times a year. I also understand why people call it the greatest city on earth. It can feel like that when you have some money, and you’re strolling through the streets with your friends to London Popfest, or to some out of the way pub that they’ve found, where you can sit all night and laugh, and laugh, and laugh. Or when you follow your team down to London and you have this ridiculous sense of belonging to the black and white – a tiny team from a small town in the north, and you’re there representing them in one of the biggest cities on earth. How does that happen?

But going home is the best bit. There’s a lot to be said for falling off the train, taking a midnight taxi and walking down anonymous streets until you see you house in the distance. And then you think: “Blimey, I was in London three hours ago.” And that never fails to amaze me. Simple things.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

The 70s were terrible

Allo Darlin' left for their US tour yesterday, after a year where they've rarely been off my turntable. Or CD player. Or whatever it is that plays music on my computer. So, bon voyage.

To celebrate, here is a new-ish video for 'If Loneliness Was Art', which features death-defying rooftop escapades with Fab lollies. And where else can you find such a heady mix? This is such a special song.

From the sublime to incontinent: tonight I'm djing at a 70th birthday party. I'm not sure how we got here. I hope there's some septuagenerian indiepop fans in the audience.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Tiny Fireflies

I think I've finally stopped listening to The Felt Tips album over and over again, which I needed to because ‘A Life More Ordinary’ was rattling around my head during an Important Work Meeting the other day, to the extent where I nearly stood up and started doing a karaoke version of it.

Time, then, for something a little more relaxing in the shape of Tiny Fireflies’ new single, out on EardrumsPop. This is Lisle and Kristine from Very Truly Yours, and they make the sort of languorous pop music that you want to dive into. ‘Holding Patter’, ‘Snow’, and ‘End of the World’ (a cover of the Skeeter Davis song) walk in that perfect netherworld where Slowdive meet St Etienne. You might want to call it etheral pop - I could never be so gauche.
You can download this sweet little single now from EardrumsPop.

Monday, 11 October 2010

New Socks, new album

You know those desperately cloying, folk-y songs that every mobile phone company uses on their deeply dispiriting adverts at the moment? Those tunes that probably get played at every middle class, Guardianista dinner party to prove how kooky and alternative they are? Well, you might be forgiven for thinking that the New Socks album, 'Picture Story Friends Goodbye' was full of those kind of songs. You'd be wrong, of course.

There's more soul in the opening track 'Move Away' than there is on the entire soundtrack to 'Juno'. An album out love, life, losing touch with your childhood and friendships can touch all of us, surely? And yet this is not drippy hippy trip. There's a punk undercurrent to the work of Ben Morey, Molly Kerker and Becky Lovell that keeps this album honest.

In places it reminds of Jonathan Richman. In others, you can hear The Icicles, especially on 'Trampoline'. There are echoes of Jeffrey Lewis elsehwhere, and, yes, there are tender touches. 'Betty' makes you want to shut out the world can cosy up with some candles, but this is an essentially a pop album with a snotty nose. New Socks never forget this, thank heavens.
"We write honest, mostly autobiographical songs that sound like you're talking to a friend," says the press release. I can't really put it any better than that, so I won't try any longer.
Here's a link to the band's Kickstarter page, where they're raising money to do a short vinyl run and tour. Give generously.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Felt Tips interview

The Felt Tips' album 'Living and Growing' has been rolling around my head since I started listenig to it a couple of weeks ago, in a way that no other record since maybe The Standard Fare record has. Anyway, I did an interview with Miguel and the band...

How long did the album take to get together and record?
The album is one of the main things we’ve been aiming for over the last few years so in that sense it’s been 5 years in the making. 'Boyfriend Devoted', 'Lifeskills' and 'Not Tonight' are long-standing Felt Tips favourites where as 'Garden of Roses', 'Silver Spoon' and 'Double Bluff' were put together for the album. Last year we got funding from the Scottish Arts Council to record the album and we blew the lot on what we consider to be the best studio in Glasgow - CaVa. We think most people who have heard our stuff would agree the album sounds better than our previous recordings. The recording, mixing and mastering was done in a pretty short 7 days. Maybe that was a good thing as it stopped us over-embellishing the songs. Some of the band were worryingly enthusiastic about putting mellotrons and African percussion in.

You must be really happy with it, right?
We’ve been sitting on it for almost a year and the fact that we still love it after listening to it so many times shows it must be good. The best thing is people’s reaction when they hear it, which so far has been extremely positive.

Have you all really gone off Morrissey that much?

Firstly, the song doesn’t reflect everyone in the band’s view of Morrissey, although we can all relate to the song’s sentiment. To be honest really, Morrissey is the secondary character in the story. Secondly, Morrissey has nothing to worry about anyway as our love for him started at such a high level that it’s possible for us to have lost some interest in him but still love him at the same time.

'A Life More Ordinary' is brilliant. Where do the lyrics come from?

Thanks. They come from personal experience mainly. I (Andrew) used to worry about these things a lot. Basically, I was pretty sure I had nothing interesting to say. Then one day I realised that this concern was an interesting thing in itself and the idea for a song was born…

You aren't backward about lyrics regarding sex. Are the lyrics to 'Lifeskills' at all autobiographical?

We sing about real life however it presents itself and won't shy away from tackling subjects some people might find distasteful. 'Lifeskills isn't autobiographical but it is based on what people have told us, although one band member has lots of stories about being up to all different kinds of mischief as a teenager in public parks. One of the lines was slightly different until an ex-drummer's ex-girlfriend told us we'd got some of the details wrong. We were happy to take her word on the matter.

What's your favourite song on the album?

Neil: For playing 'A Life More Ordinary', for dancing 'Engaged for a Visa' and for cycling 'Silver Spoon'

Miguel: I am especially pleased with how 'Garden Of Roses' and 'Silver Spoon' worked in the studio. 'A Life More Ordinary' is the one that I enjoy most playing live though.

Kev: Difficult to pick a favourite as some of my favourites Felt Tips songs didn't make it onto the album, but really pleased with all that did - 'Boyfriend Devoted' and 'Lifeskills' were the songs which first got me interested as a fan before i joined the band, but i like the raw honesty of 'Dear Morrissey' and the bravery of 'Not Tonight'. I love the way Andrew jumps around on stage while playing 'Bought and Sold'!

How did you enjoy Indietracks this year?

It was great to play Indietracks again and to see how it has grown but still have the same intimate feel to it. We were surprised when one of our answers printed in the interview we did with them was altered, perhaps they felt sensitive which I suppose suits a festival like Indietracks. There is something truly magical at the church, but we were thrilled to play at the indoor stage this time and are delighted that we have now played both and would love to play at the festival again.

Is the scene in Glasgow as great as it appears?

It's hard to keep a persepctive on it as we live here but so much of the music we love comes from this city. Indiepop is obviously big here for lots of reasons. There is certainly a lot of mutual respect and support between bands which is nice and makes things a lot easier. There are still bands we really hate and would rather disappear but we couldn't possibly say who could we!?
Apart from the always amazing number of interesting bands constantly emerging from Glasgow, there has been for many years an important support from certain Scottish institutions, helping bands to grow and develop. Now that these institutions will suffer dramatic changes, we wonder what the future holds for the scene in Glasgow.

What's next for the band?

We're rehearsing new songs at the moment, two of which are very uptempo. The album launch is next month and then we will start promoting the album with some specially selected gigs; Glasgow Popfest, we're also playing Nottingham, some cities in Sweden and some places in Europe for early 2011.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

The blues are still blue

George Gideon Oliver Osborne (ha - Gideon! What a twat!) might find it very easy to just "get on with it" when he knows he's got a £40m trust fund to fall back on. The rest of us aren't so lucky, of course.

The stench of rotting capitalism coming out of the Tory conference in Birmingham this week only serves to remind us of a couple of things: a Tory is a Tory is a fucking Tory; the bastards never change, they just get a secondhand car salesman's haircut. Secondly, the mainstream press now seems to dictate government policy more than at any time I can remember.

So, this week I've been depressed and Absolutely Frigging Furious in equal measure. The further ghettoisation of the poor, the degredation of already inhuman prisons into workhouses (workhouses, for fuck's sake!), and the actual promise of mass unemployment makes me yearn for an organised workers' party more than ever. Not that it's going to happen any time soon, like...

Gideon's boss, David Cameron will this afternoon ask "what is fair in an age of austerity". What he really means by that is that he doesn't think it's fair for people to be claiming benefits whilst the "wealth creators" get on their bike. These wealth creators, of course, include those close to the Tories in the City who will, come December, rake in another round of vile bonuses in the name of propping up capitalism. Whilst those being unfair in the dole queue will have to start looking at like without any housing benefit.

That's fairness in 2010, is it?

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the NHS is being privatised inch by inch. The department Mrs Chips works for is up for tender next April, and one of those interested in taking over the podiatry department in Nottinghamshire is an investment banker. Do you hear that, Nye Bevan?

It's at times like this - in these dark days - that you have to turn to the pop, don't you? Which is why, to try and beat the gloom, I've decided to organise an early Christmas gig in Nottingham. It's on 26 November at The Chameleon in Nottingham. Standard Fare, The Felt Tips and The Sweet Nothings are playing. Tories not welcome. Or anyone called Gideon.

Ha! Gideon!

The pop fightback begins here. We'll win.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Hellfire Sermons - Luminous Crocodile (Hidden Heatbeat Records)

It's all reviews 'round here these days...

Hellfire Sermons return after what seems like forever away. Their last album was a compilation on the Bus Stop label calle 'Hymns Ancient and Modern', which collected all their singles between 1987 and 1994 together in one deliciously awkward package.

And now 'Luminous Crocodile' has appeared, and it's equally as awkward. Decidely lo-fi (you almost feel like you're sat in a rehearsal at times), this album wrestles with itsel throughout. Just when you think you're about to launch into perfect pop, there's a mangled guitar, off-centre bassline, or out of tune vocal to keep you in check. And that's not such a bad thing now and again.

And then there's 'Gone to Ground', which is something of an epic, but again fails to really take off when you're about to close your eyes and shake your head in a really pretentious way.

But you can do on 'Mystery of Life', which harks back to the early Hellfire Sermons sound. A sort of Fall meets the Pastels, it's the best track here. It grunts, it growls, but it's groovy too. Just listen to that bassline; dare I say it - but it's a little bit primal and sexy.

Pop fans might find this album difficult. But pop fans should give it some time. Underneath that muddy production is a heartthrob of a record. Just don't let on you know, like. We wouldn't want Hellfire Sermons going soft on us...

Download 'Mystery of Life' here.

Friday, 1 October 2010

The Felt Tips - Living and Growing (Plastilina Records)

There have been so many wonderful indiepop records released over the last couple of years, but perhaps the quintessential one is 'Living and Growing', the debut album by The Felt Tips, the Glasgow four piece.

It's odd that this album's coming out at the same time as the new Belle and Sebsastian record. The two bands are so similar - yet so different. The Felt Tips are set to release a classic collection; Belle and Sebastian limp on, seemingly intent on taking part in some kind of self-parody. Oh, and 'Living and Growing' doesn't have Norah bloody Jones to ruin things.

All life is here: sex, religion, relationships, Morrissey... it's a rich soup of wonderful, heroic pop songs. And, get this: it was funded by the Scottih Arts Council, which might make 'Living and Growing' something of a rarity in the very near future, once the bastard Tories have cut all funding to organisations like that... in the name of "promoting enterprise".

Well, here's something that screams enterprise. Guitars chime, Andrew Paterson's vocals soar and have that folksy Scottish lilt that makes each song irresistable.

'Garden of Roses' shines brightest, but it's followed closely by the perky 'Engaged for a Visa', the frankly filthy 'Lifeskills' (which has an outro that Marr would've been proud of in 1985), 'Dear Morrissey', which tells the tale of disillusionment with your childhood hero (we've all been there), and 'Not Tonight' (another been there, done that moment).

The beauty of this album is its brutal honesty. It's not scared to pick its targets and shoot at will. It means something, for heaven's sake, and that' totally precious.

Download 'Garden of Roses' here.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

The Bearsuit departure

Ever fancied seeing Lisa from Bearsuit in period dress? Well, here's your chance. I think this is what those in the know call "something of a departure" from Bearsuit's previous sound, isn't it? Catchy as a bugger, mind...

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Shrag - Life! Death! Prizes! (WIAIWYA)

There needs to be a place for everything in my deeply compartmentalised world, and I've no idea any more where to put Shrag. With their new album, 'Life! Death! Prizes!" they've confused me no end.

When we saw them at Indietracks a couple of years ago they thrilled the pants off me. They reminded me of seeing Huggy Bear at the Narrowboat in Nottingham all those years ago. They reminded me of the stunning rush of excitement that I used to get from seeing Prolapse all over the country. And most of all they reminded me that great music doesn't have to be hairbands and glockenspiels all the time.

But they're not an indiepop band - far from it. Not that it matters, of course. Still, I can't help feeling that they're turning into the new Long Blondes. Not that that matters, either, of course. But anyone who went to see those last few Long Blondes gigs will know what an unedifying experience that was.


'Life! Death! Prizes!' is as good an art pop album as there's been for a decade. More memories: it reminds me of that Ikara Colt album that was so badly ignored at the beginning of the last decade. It also gives out more than a lot of the more generic indiepop bands do nowadays. It's thoughtful and it's got soul. It's also inventive and it's got perhaps the best single of the year in 'Rabbit Kids'. It's a tricky bugger, for sure.

But it's perhaps on its slower, more atmospheric tracks when it really hits the spot for me. 'Faux When We go Courting''s slightly sinister playground tune might be the best example this (not that it's a flippin' ballad, you understand - just more understated), especially with it's "And deepest in the darkest of June/I dissolved in your room", it's got a killer hook.

'More Than Mornings' brings back the successful formula 'Forty-five 45s' from a few years ago, and is perhaps the album's most affecting track. It's pretty genuinely sad! As is 'Coda', the last track here, on which Helen and Bob show off half-decent-voices-ta-very-much.

And at the end though, it's down to you, innit? Can you bring yourself to fight your way through the crowd of hipsters to continue to hold Shrag to your heart? Me? I'm holding on tight for now.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Hockley Autumn euphoria party 2010

I've not been posting as much lately, partly because I've not had much to say, but mainly because I was ABSOLUTELY SHITTING TERRIFIED about the Nottingham indiepop weekender this last Saturday and Sunday.

Would enough people come? Would the PA turn up okay? Would Pete from Horowitz be able to bring a bass amp with him? How were we going to cope with lugging the PA and all the gear downstairs with us half way through the day because the venue had double booked us?

The answers: Yes, plenty. After a minor terrifying delay, yes. Of course he did - he's a walking miracle. With ease - Harvest Pale has strength-giving properties.

Everyone and everything came together this weekend. The atmosphere in Bunkers Hill during Milky Wimpshake and Allo Darlin' has been described by some as "euphoric". Hyperbole? Maybe, but only just.

Y'see Milky Wimpshake unleashed the sort of pop energy that only they can. Christine started crying when she was playing the still awesome 'Don't Let Our Love Go to Waste/True Love Will Find You in the End' medley. Most of the rest of us just stood there and gawped.

But there were many, many more moments.

The Peterboroughs started off the day with their last ever gig and were self-effacing enough to make the whole thing charming.

Stefan from Northern Portrait might have been playing alone, but he filled the room. The songs remain the same even without the band. It helps that he's a cute as a button, of course.

The Sweet Nothings were playing their first gig with a new drummer, and you really couldn't tell. They played with a new found confidence - wallflowers no more.

Horowitz, followed by Betty and the Werewolves, followed by Milky Wimpshake, followed by Allo Darlin' - that's about as near perfection as it's going to get, and so it proved.

I don't remember getting home on Saturday night.

Sunday passed in a blur, and I was flagging until Evans the Death popped up and made me feel better just by playing a few pop songs. Crushingly young, they made me feel like a dinosaur with a Zimmer frame, and they for sure won't be playing in such small places as The Chameleon in Nottingham for much longer, but it was nice while it lasted.

I left The Chameleon on my own halfway through The Middle Ones' set. I didn't want to be there when it ended. I wanted to go home and pretend that people will still listening to pop music and having fun, even if I was too tired to be there with them. So I left my co-promoters sorting the money out, and, umm, pulling pints, whilst I jumped in a taxi and ordered a curry.

The euphoria's been replaced, inevitably, by wearisome reality. Still, at least we can start planning for next year...