Friday, 28 May 2010

Scumbag Philosopher

There's a lot to be said for being a miserable and cynical and (possibly) in your late thirties. It means you've seen fashions come and go at least three times, you can remember the Soviet Union, and you can moan about how much a packet of Quavers used to be when they weren't an extortionate 47p like they are today.

It also means you can laugh really hard at those who seem to think that every movement they make during the day (and I'm including those of the bowel in this) should be so instantly fascinating that they have to share it with the world. You know the sort...

Now, I'm not averse to being a gobshite all over the internet, and I can be as needy as the rest of them when it comes down to it, but it's rather satisfying to know that, out there in deepest Norfolk, there's a band who are writing splendid songs about that thing they call "social networking".

Before Scumbag Philosopher were called Scumbag Philosopher, they were called Fuck Dress. Suffice to say, they're never going to make it onto Radio 2 with that kind of attitude, but they are going to make it onto my Great List of Songs 2010, with 'Social Networking Site' - the video to which you are about to enjoy...

So, whilst the internet might have given us a load of self-obsessed, whining morons (physician, heal thyself!), it's also been responsible for this ace pop song. Lol, :-), etc...

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Indietracks: it's all becoming clearer

Uber-cool indiefolkpop darlings Slow Club have been added to the bill at Indietracks, along with the either-love-them-or-hate-them Everybody Was In The French Resistance…Now! (and I quite enjoyed them a couple of months ago, since you ask).

So, dear pop dreamboat, that line-up now goes a little something like this:

Friday 23 July
Everybody Was In The French Resistance…Now!
+ Allo Darlin’ + Veronica Falls

Saturday 24 July
The Primitives + Love Is All + Ballboy + White Town + David Tattersall (Wave Pictures) +
The Smittens + The Orchids + over 20 more bands.

Sunday 25 July
The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart + Slow Club + The Pooh Sticks + Shrag + Standard Fare +
The Specific Heats + over 20 more bands.

A full list of bands playing on each day is available here.

After May it's June. And after June it's Jul-indietracks-y. Yeah!

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

A summer's dream: the Bart Cummings interview

I've been listening to that new Bart & Friends album I was rabbiting on about the other day constantly since Friday. One of the great things about it is you can listen to it five times in one hour. Suck on that, stats fans.

In a fit of love, I emailed Bart Cummings to thank him for sending me his new record, and then I asked him if he'd mind doing a bit of an interview. Him being the lovely bloke he is, he of course said yes. So, here's what he had to say.

How do you go about picking and choosing your co-conspirators for each B&F album?

It’s pretty intuitive, just people who I think I’ll enjoy spending an afternoon with and who will compliment the songs musically. On the first cd 10 songs about cars and girls it was a different lineup for each song and in a couple of cases Josh (sugargliders) and Laura (autocollants) were chosen because I was after someone to write the lyrics as well as sing.

With the present lineup, the idea for that came about 18 months ago. I hadn’t done anything musical since 2001. I hadn’t even so much as picked up a guitar. Mark was up helping me paint my house and I asked him if I wrote some songs would he help record them. And its kind of grown from there. I’ve outsourced a bit of the recruitment to Mark.

Tell me the best things about being in The Cat's Miaow, The Shapiros and B&F?

The other people in the bands. I’ve been really fortunate that each of those bands has had exactly the right lineup for what we were trying to achieve at the time. The music we made was good, but it’s the time spent with the people in the bands that means the most to me.

The most daunting thing about the present lineup of B&F is that everyone involved, from the drummer through to the producer is a better guitarist than me and also has a songwriting catalogue every bit as good if not better than mine. It can be a bit intimidating at times. I generally apply the rule when forming a band of surrounding myself with people more talented than me to make me look good, but this is ridiculous.

Your songs are so short; is this something that happens consciously - or just something you can't really help?

It’s a bit of both. I do try to be concise. If something isn’t working or adding to the song I tend to edit it out. Because the songs aren’t written with a live audience in mind it does allow me to have them any length the song requires. But take “Memories fade” for example, its got an intro, 2 verses, 3 choruses and an instrumental bit and still only goes for 2.02, You can put a lot into 2 minutes. With songs its not just what you put in that matters, its what you leave out as well.

Why did you pick 'Blue Moon' to cover on the new record?

I like the lyrics, specifically the line “you saw me standing alone, without a dream in my heart”. It’s a bit cheesy I guess, but I still like it. I’ve always been fascinated by the Elvis’ version from the sun sessions as well.

The covers to your records are beautiful. is this an important part of the whole recording/releasing a record process to you?

Thanks, I do like the CDs to look swish. The Cat's Miaow and Shapiros CD sleeves were done by a extremely talented guy (refer to above rule about surround yourself with talented people to make yourself look good) called Steve Crushworthy. He was a fan of the bands so you didn’t really have to explain things to him, just let him get on with it.

The sleeve for Make you blush was done by the very talented Matt Edwards who may be familiar to you for his blog Skatterbrain. I quite liked the sleeves he was doing for his monthly mixes so I asked if he’d like to do the CD sleeve.

Who is making music that excites you at the moment?

Is this the question where I pretend to be hip and in touch as apposed to a sad old bastard who only listens to music recorded pre 1995? My favourite band from the past couple of years would have to be the Motifs. Love the songs, the harmonies, the whole package. I’m also quite partial to Very truly yours, Metric mile, Zebras. Summer cats, Fireflies and countless Swedish bands. Its probably not an era of greatness, but its definitely an era of “lots of very good things”

What do you do in real life when you're not being a pop star?

I’m a librarian, specifically working in collection development. I buy all the books, dvds, cds etc for 12 libraries. It sounds more fun than it actually is, I’m not endlessly swanning round bookstores with a credit card. I’m mostly staring at a computer. Oh, and there’s a wife and kids as well. They take up a surprisingly large amount of my time.

And would you want to be a full-time pop star?

Oooh no. I couldn’t handle the stress of worrying if a song I was writing was going to pay the rent. I’m by nature pretty shy so the whole performing thing has never been big on my agenda either.

I do occasionally get envious of Mark when I get emails from him on tour in Europe or hanging out with indie legends in Brooklyn, but I get hugs from the kids and a kiss from my wife when I get home from work each night so I figure I’m in front. Either way, the boat has long sailed on me becoming full time pop star.

What's next, musically, for you?

I’ve retained the core of me, Mark and Louis and we’ve added Jeremy from the Zebras on drums. We’ve done 1 day recording which went really well and we’ve got 5 songs ¾ done. I need to redo the guide vocals. We tend to record really quickly. I live out in the provinces and only come into Melbourne once every 6 months or so to record. We rehearse a song for 15 minutes, press record then move onto the next one. Ive got a few songs half written which im hoping we’ll record later this year, so all going well another 8 song ep early next year?

You can, and you should, buy Bart & Friends' new album 'Make You Blush' here.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Getting sweaty with Betty (and the Werewolves)

Hey! Whilst I try and do something to stop me melting in this heat, I don't think I told you that Betty and the Werewolves are now confirmed for our all-dayer in Nottingham on September 25th, did I?

Well, they are. Hurray! I'd like to think the gig will be to celebrate the two year anniversary of their debut single, 'Euston Station'. Here, have a look at this.

There will be one or two more bands to announce, and if we see anyone we fall in love with at Indietracks (or before) we might extend the whole thing and put something on on the Friday night, too. But that sounds hopelessly ambitious.

Back to sitting on the top shelf of the fridge for me.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Bart and Friends make me happy

Hot, isn't it?

Which is why I'm sat inside listening to the new Bart & Friends album, "Make You Blush", and wondering how the whole world didn't explode when Pam Berry and two of The Lucksmiths got in a studio together to make an album.

Mark, Louis, Pam and Bart from The Cat's Miaow are most of Bart & Friends, and the sleeve notes to this album would have you believe that it's been produced by James Dean. All those people come together to perform songs as adorable as 'These Words Are Too Small' or 'Memories Fade' - both of which remind me of bands as diverse (well, you know what I mean) as Brighter and Belle and Sebastian in their long-gone prime.

But it's hard not to come back to Pam Berry's voice. That downbeat, lush, wonderfully familar voice that almost like no other in pop is like an extra instrument, and Bart and his mates provide the perfect backdrop.

My only gripe is that it's only eight songs long, and my the time of the almost tear-inducing 'Weave Your Name', it's nearly time to say goodbye - and then press play again, obviously. They leave us with 'None of These Things', which is about the only time the guitars sound threatening.

The eight songs come in at under 15 minutes, but it's a 15 minutes that'll live with for a long time. 'Make You Blush' has been the soundtrack to a weekend on the Lincolnshire Wolds for me this past two days. It's made a great weekend just about perfect. It'll do the same for you, wherever you are or wherever you're going.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Getting a life with This Many Boyfriends

Talking of whom, here's the first proper release from This Many Boyfriends on the increasingly wonderful Thee SPC.

You might have TMB down as some bunch of shouty racketeers who can't play their instruments for toffee but who are, you know, great when you're drunk. You're completely wrong. 'I Don't Like You (Cos You Don't Like The Pastels)' and 'I Should be a Communist' show a band that have found their pop core pretty quickly and aren't willing to shift. The latter even nicks the bass line from 'Barbarism Begins at Home' right near the end, the cheeky scamps.

'#1' takes a Jeffrey Lewis turn, before 'Trying is Good' cranks things up a bit and takes the last train to Fuzzville and manages to take the piss out of those bands who want to remain in their micro-indie scenes. You might want to call it the new 'Punka' - I couldn't possibly comment.

Hey, what's this? It's the 'Be My Baby' drum beat on downers, and it's an ANTHEM called 'Three Year Itch', which, if it were released by Vivian Girls, or someone like that, would be drooled over from a great height. Lauren even does this spooky spoken-word thing half way through. Think 'Remember (Walking in the Sand)' but for the drainpipes generation.


'Diaries' reminds me of Mascot Fight or Plans and Apologies or any other ace Derby band you might want to mention, whilst the weepy 'It's Lethal' ends this life-affirming record on a stubbornly downbeat note. But so what? Here's an EP that sounds like it was recorded by people having fun, and that's a pretty fantastic thing to hear.

'Getting A Life With' is available now to pre-order on CD with immediate digital download from the This Many Boyfriends website, whilst 'I Don't Like You ('Cos You Don't Like The Pastels)' is available now as a free-download from the Thee SPC website.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Yeah, (I) like (The) Whatever(s)

The Whatevers are Mike and Kate from Leeds, and in their own words they make "indiepunky teenpop mess".

That's a pretty cool description, but there's so much more to them than that.For a start there's those voices. They're almost like Standard Fare in reverse; Mike is all raw and vulnerable, Kate has the pretty vocals that meander all over the shop. And if you want to add another song to this year's cannon of instant classics, you should look no further to 'Rhapsody in Blue Jeans', which reminds me of Po! or The Girl With the Replaceable Head, or something like that, anyway. I'm not kidding you, this is a song that you've been waiting years to hear. Want heartbreaking lyrics? A killer harmony? A mad guitar bit halfway through that sounds like it's being played by a bag of rascals? You get all of that, you lucky so-and-so.

There are other songs, oh boy there are other songs. Some of them sound like the best Jonathan Richman songs he never wrote (and I'm not even much of a fan of JR), other sound like those amazing early Hefner tunes on 'Breaking God's Heart'.

They're really very special, and, together with This Many Boyfriends, Leeds now has at least two splendid pop bands.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Young Michelin

Young Michelin are from Aline in France. Now my French is, erm, mal, but sometimes you don't really need to know what someone's singing about to recognise a great pop song. And here's a band that proves just that.

Young Michelin combine a typically suave version of French pop, with some wickedly catchy early-Sarah bursts of colour that perhaps often lean too much towards The Wake, but so what, eh?

The band have a new ep out on Avingnon pop label La Bulle Sonore, which features four tracks, including my favourites; the deeply new wave 'Je Suis Fatigue' (hey, I know what that means and everything!), and the beautiful 'Teen Whistle', which is my favourite and builds and builds to a point where you just want to let go and let it smother you. It's pretty lush.

It's these sort of Anglophiles that make my Franchophilia even worse.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Math and Physics Club - Jimmy Had a Poloroid (Matinee Records)

Rejoice, rejoice, for the only thing that could save this week - a week where we've seen an old Etonian and his fag take power of people's lives in the UK (they call it the "new politics", apparently. Sounds like a throwback to the mid-19th century to me) - is a new Math and Physics Club single. And, by crikey, they've delivered.

'Jimmy Had a Poloroid' is a gentle dancefloor-filler; the sort of song that will make you throw your hands in the air like you just don't care and waggle your legs around like a duck with Alzheimer's. It's a joyful experience, make no mistake, and although it strays a little form MAPC of old, it pays homage to the sounds of Matinee past. Think Liberty Ship, or the other Elston brother "vehicle", Slipslide. With a bit of latter-day Camera Obscura or Allo Darlin' thrown in. It's a whole mess of fun.

On t'other side is the deeply unseasoanable 'The Sound of Snow', which reminds of me of the slowies from The Smiths' 'Hatful of Hollow'. So you can get your kicks from swooning along to that once you've down from the pop thrill on the A side.

If this is a taster of what's on the forthcoming MAPC album, 'I Shouldn't Look as I Do' then this year's pantheon of amazing pop albums will have another entry.

You can buy 'Jimmy Had a Poloroid from the ever-reliable Matinee website.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Apple Orchard - A Month of Spring (Haymarket Records)

Another single with the word 'month' in the title must mean it's nearly summer, and so what you'd normally expect from Apple Orchard are some prime late-Sarah sounds. But not this time around. This time, they've dived head first into some wonderful shoegaze that reminds me of buying and listening to those first few Ride eps. And for a while, that band were my life.

High praise from me, then for this blistering single, which is full of hazy harmonies against a background of crushing pop noise. Think Ride's 'Drive Blind' or 'Like a Daydream', but without those Thames Valley accents.

Apple Orchard may of course revert back to type with their next release, but if this is to be a one-off trip into indieboy guitar shredding, then it's a very welcome diversion indeed. More of this kind of thing, please.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

The Month of June - Call it Art (February Records)

God, my head hurts.

The Month of June is Michael Murphy of Manchester By the Sea, and his new single is the first release on the recently-renamed Febraury Records, which used to be Tweefort, as I'm sure you know by now.

'Call It Art' uses the vocoder, but Cher this isn't. It's an almost funky, fizzbomb of a song. A sort of indiepop drum 'n' bass, if you must. It's also a perfect summer song. Go on, open the bus window and stick this on your new-fangled em pee three player.

On the b-side, there's 'Daffodil' - a more straightforward pop song, with a chorus that will accompany your every waking moment from now until eternity. There's also a nice bit of trumpet from Brad San Martin of One Happy Island. I'd go as far to say that 'Daffodil' is the best song here.

Last up is 'She Went Away to Hate', a bizarre, dense, almost shoegazey dollop, which isn't making my hangover any better, and would make you very scared indeed if you were listening to it in an old haunted house or in the middle of Doncaster on a Saturday night.

Ones to follow, for sure. You can download The Month of June's new single here.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Up the Mariners

Today, Grimsby Town play at Burton Albion in what could be our last ever game in the Football League. I thought I was past feeling melancholy about this a few weeks back, when it looks we were dead and buried. But, somewhow, Town being stubborn Town, we managed to cling on like a flabby, incompetent limpet, until the last game of the season. We need to win, Barnet need to lose or draw. Imagine having to rely on bloody Barnet.

So this morning I've woken up with a weird combination of senses: half excitement, half dread that come ten to five this afternoon, we'll have slipped out of the Football League, maybe never to return.

So many memories of going to Town matches are running through my head today. Watching the first great Town side under George Kerr finish in the top half of the old Second Divsion year after year (and come with a whisker of being promoted to the top division in 1983-84); seeing Alan Buckley's first season start awfully only to change a few months later into a time when you just knew something great was on the horizon; the back-to-back promotions that followed when Town, spurred on by that midfield of Gilbert, Cunnington, Cockerill and Childs, played the finest football most supporters had seen at Blundell Park; the amazing rush of Wayne Burnett's golden goal in the Auto Windscreen's Final in 1998 (a moment that threw me and my mates about a million feet in the air, and then brought us all immediately to tears). All of these things - and loads, loads more - make today so vital yet so sad.

I can't get a ticket for the Burton game, and nor can I really afford to go (one way or another I'd end up spending a fortune on booze in a town where the football team's nickname is 'The Brewers'.) So I think I'll just ignore the match until ten to five, then scan the results on telly, in that sort of Russian roulette way when you're eyes fall on all the others scores but the one you're looking for.

To celebrate/mourn today's result, here's my favourite ever song about Lincolnshire (heck, it's one of my favourite songs ever). It's 'Lincolnshire Skies' by The Regulars.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

One step forward, two steps back

I'm getting up really early to cast my pointless vote in Kenneth Clarke's constituency tomorrow, as I've got to be at a work do tomorrow night.

My heart is full of dread at the Tories getting in, just slightly more than the thought of five more years of a right wing Labour government. I'll never vote Green, and Nick Clegg is the head of a party that has no qualms at all about co-operating with the Tories to push through cuts at local council level. He also has a name that sounds like a cough.

So, I'll walk down Trent Boulevard to the polling booth with a heavy heart, past the idiotic Green candidate who always thinks he's got my vote as he nods at me with a knowing smile, and throw away my "democratic rights" for another five years. It's all very depressing.

They say (they being the mainstream state and capitalist media) that this campaign has been "fascinating" and has "re-engaged" the electrate. Utter bollocks. The media is happy because, as never before, it has the whip hand. it's influenced this election more than in any general election I can remember, and has forced the three main parties in a desperate scramble to the bottom of populism.

It's at times like these when The Housemartins ring most true:

From the front page news to the interviews
Its sink the reds and lift the blues
They pretend they're differing points of view
But it's only different shades of blue

But the implications I mistook
Until I found out whose side you took
And now with paper in my hand
I'm beginning to understand

See you on the other side...

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

There and back again with Standard Fare

Remember where you were when you first heard 'How Soon is Now', or 'Sensitive' or 'Barbie Girl'? I remember where I was when I first heard Standard Fare's 'Philadelphia'. I first listened to the best song written about cream cheese ever in my office at work about two years ago when I was, staring into the nurse's college across the road (not like that, you mucky pup) writing a particularly dull article about venture capitalism. As if there could be any other kind of article...

I turned the volume on my computer up, loosened my tie and flippin' nearly wet myself.

Two years and one remarkable album on, the 'Fare are releasing this big, bold oompah bastard as a single, and it better go to number one on seventeen planets, or else. You can get it on 12 July, but before that, here's the video.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Deadly duo

After moaning on a while back about there being a real lack of indiepop videos, there have, OF COURSE, been loads.

The latest two to come into view are a great lo-fi film for Tender Trap's ace new single, 'Girls with Guns', set in Bristol and featuring the ladies in the band as a group of crazed killers. Fact... or fiction?

The second is for Betty and the Werewolves' new single on Damaged Goods called 'Paper Thin', which I've been listening to over and over again for the last few days. I've completely ignored this band up until now, and it's my loss and I feel terribly foolish.

'Paper Thin' is pop at its finest; life-affirming, earth-shatteringly pretty, and downright exciting, and if you don't fall in love with this song and video, then you've got a brain full of really cheap tea leaves.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Two Step Horror

Those of you who yearn for something a bit more relaxing after a day out watching your team tease you for another week, should take a listen to the latest WIAIWYA free download single from Free Step Horror (ouch).

Imagine Spacemen 3's later stuff played on a washboard and then played at 33. Then, treat yourself to a nice cup of tea, shut the curtains and let this little beauty wash over you. It reminds me of the days when you weren't ashamed to pretend to be a bit mystical and out there, maaann...

Not that I ever did that, I hope you understand. That was for Levellers fans and the like.

Anyway, you can download the single from here.