Monday, 30 August 2010

Hang, draw and quarter the DJ

Somerset, via Bournemouth, is a long way from Nottingham, and so another long car journey this weekend brought more radio station hopping, in the hope of finding something to chase the tedium away down the M1.

No such luck, of course. I've never been a big fan of the radio (I'd rather choose what I listen to next, ta very much), but it's only when you delve into the cesspit that is daytime weekend radio that you begin to realise how far the germ of modern, homogenised, watered down mass culture has spread.

Saturday mid-morning, and Patrick fucking Kielty appears on Radio 2. Kielty took over from Jonathan Ross - a self-important dullard if ever there was one, but at least he could argue that he had something to be self-important about, I suppose. Like his wages every week. Kielty, on the other hand, sinks to depths not heard since I was 12 by taking the piss out of people who try and do the Irish accent. He also tells us at least eight or nine times that, after he's got the slight annoyance of his well-paid job at the BBC out of the way today, that he's going back to Ireland for the weekend. And then he tells us each time how he's getting there, right down to the road numbers he'll be using. Anyone wanting to bump him off on Saturday would've had a decent chance. WHY DID NO-ONE DO THIS?

Kielty seems to be one of those modern "entertainers" (and that's in the loosest sense anyone's ever used a word) who think that if their agent gets them on the telly, in the papers and on the radio enough times, then people will love them. James Corden also suffers from this mightily disruptive ailment. Could they be more wrong? Answer: no.

Then there's "Jules", who tells us all how many traffic jams we're going to be stuck in with the sort of glee that can only make me think she was bullied at school. And if she wasn't, she certainly should be now, because she's possibly the biggest psychophant I've heard. And that includes that prick who's on Steve Wright's "Big Show" in the week. Jules laughs at everything Kielty says, and falls foul, in a very willing show of daft loyalty, to his centuries old gender-specific "humour" at every turn. Oh, yeah. Kielty has to remind you he's a man every five minutes. Presumably, he thinks that one day, he'll be deafened by the sound of middle-aged housewives' knickers hitting the deck. I have faith in womanhood, mind.

Of course Kielty could be an annoying wanker, but he might have decent taste in music, so we give him a chance. What saps! Scouting for Girls follows some awful Stevie Wonder pap, following a band called Train who should be derailed immediately and nationalised under workers' control so we can all kick fuck out of them for free.

Seriously, who the fuck makes chart pop music these days, and thinks: "Yeah, the kids are gonna love this rap about me taking them out for meal at Nando's, then proposing and putting a ring on a finger." AND ALL THAT SHIT. I heard castle rhymed with rascal in a song on Radio 1 this weekend. Lucky for the person singing that I didn't catch their name, that's all I can say. I was livid.

Truly, it's only when you listen to Radio 1 for longer than half an hour that you begin to realise the humming, throbbing mediocrity that 16-24s are force-fed nowadays. The DJs think everything "awesome" and "amazing" and they're going to tell you every ten seconds. I reckon if you said you'd just gone round and done a shit and a piss in their washing machine they'd proclaim it "awesome", before telling you that Radio 1 has Pendulum live from Reading this evening, and only then smacking you in the face for being such a dirty bugger.

Five Live, then. That'll be some kind of brief nod towards something of slight intellect, won't it? WRONG. I touch that dial only to find Fred MaCauley on a current affairs debate answering the question: Television or books - which has the more exciting future. FUCK OFF!

I switch the radio off and treat my Significant Other to a rendition of Morrissey and Siouxsie Sioux's 'Interlude'. Oh, how the miles fly by.

Download Chris TT's lost classic, 'Can't Stop Dreaming of Injured Popstars' here.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Notes and queries

The nights are drawing in, the leaves are starting to hit the ground, and there's a new series of X Factor polluting the Saturday night telly scehedule. What can save us?

What's that noise? It's The Notes, a mysterious London band who appear to be all over the internet on that there Twitter, Facebook, Bandcamp and Myspace. However, information on who or what they are seems harder to come by.

Fear not, though, 'cos all you need to know about The Notes is that they make the kind of primal indiepop currently peddled by the likes of Neverever. Add in some Joy Division basslines and some hot! jangly! guitar! action! and it's quite a heady brew, I can tell you.

Anyway, The Notes are Sam, Lauren and Aaron and they deserve your immediate and unconditional love.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Indiepop Days

You can't fart in the comfort of your own bedroom these days without reading or hearing about another Popfest, it seems. As well as the ones in Bristol, Edinburgh and Glasgow later this year, there's Indie Pop Days in Berlin coming up on 3-5 September.

'Chips favourites such as Bart Cummings, Pocketbooks, The Felt Tips, The Sunny Street, Le Man Avec Les Lunettes are playing, along with a smattering of German bands, and, as ever, the regulation Scandinavian troupes.

Anyway, it all looks a blast. I've never been to Berlin, and there's no way I can make this, but YOU SHOULD. You can get weekend tickets for just 30 euros, which I think works out at 4 guineas sixpence per band, and that, you have to admit is a bargain.

Also: look at that poster!

Monday, 23 August 2010

Right up my Sunny Street

I don't think I've mentioned our weekender in a few weeks time for, ooh, at least four hours, so I thought I would. The Middle Ones, Norwich's very own indiepop Peters & Lee (but without a blind man, of course) have been added as headliners for the Sunday. Ain't life grand?

Also playing the weekender are The Sunny Street, the multinational pop sensation currently residing in that London who feature members of Pocketbooks and Electrophonvintage and probably hundreds of other bands too (I don't know - I'm not hep enough to keep up, and there's always some washing needs doing).

Any road 'round, Roque from Cloudberry Records has gone and put together a video for a track called 'Insull', one of the tracks off the band's new album. It's pretty neat.

Today's top tip: Iceland own-brand cornettos are bloody lovely. You won't notice the difference, honest.

I'm very tired.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Warning: contains mild tweeness

Now, the last thing I'd like to labelled is twee, but since having a kid I've been a regular viewer of CBeebies. There's not a lot you can't tell me there days about Third and Bird, Zoo Lane, The Summer Song and Tommy Zoom. These programmes usually go on in times of extreme weakness like when I need a fag or am about to go mental from being forced to dance junior Metcalf's toy keybaord.

However, giving my son square eyes has it advantages, because these people writing the theme tunes for CBeebies programmes should really be the next indiepop heroes.

Take, for example, the Spanish pop of Charlie and Lola (itself a pretty ace band name):

Or perhaps, like me, you can just hear A Smile and a Ribbon covering the 3rd & Bird theme:

But my favourite at the moment is 64 Zoo Lane, the tune to could easily be an early Belle and Sebastian or Pines song.

Before anyone calls me twee, I'd like to remind you that I have been, more than once, involved in manual labour for a living and have owned a dog bigger than a lady's handbag. I do, however, like cats.

I'll leave you with the masterpiece: 'Summer Song'.

Normal service will resume when I've come into contact with Real Life at work this week.

Friday, 20 August 2010

"That's Mike. Oh, hi!"

I woke up this morning with the kind of hangover only a mixture of Harvest Pale and red wine can give you feeling pretty crappy. The internet has, however, perked me up no end.

And why, dear reader? Well, because Sourpatch have a new single out soon called 'Deli Dream', and I think it's possibly my favourite Sourpatch song in the world. It's out on HHBTM Records, and it's a song so flippin' uplifting that it makes you wonder how you get through the day without listening to it at least fifteen times. Which is what I did do today.

'Deli Dream' is a short, (bitter)sweet nugget pop spectacle. Happy and sad at the same time, it teases you into thinking that it' all going to fall apart at any second before lifting off for the stars all over again. In a year of great, great singles, I think this might be my favourite so far.

Mike from HHBTM was saying earlier that he wants to do some kind of big pop tour of the UK with Sweater Girls, Sourpatch, Afternoon Naps, Cars Can be Blue, Fishboy, Smittens, Keith John Adams, Lovely Eggs, Hotpants Romance, Tunabunny, Casper & the Cookies, and Titans. Comrades, if we don't make this happen, I'll have your guts for garters. Think on.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Tears Run Rings

Ah, now this takes me back to the summer of '92, when I was barely seen without either a Lush or Boo Radleys t-shirt out and about on the mean streets of Grimsby. Back then, if Tears Run Rings had made t-shirts, I'd have owned one.

The band, made of up ex-Autocollants, Laura Watling, and Evening Lights members are streaming their new album on facebook, and it ticks every one of my shoegaze boxes. Hazy, mysterious vocals, layers of fluffy (and sometimes cutely harsh) guitar, and a female voice in the background that is barely audible, but just has to be there. Oh, and some pretty pop sensibilities. This might just be the finest shoegaze record to emerge since Slowdive's 'Just For a Day'. You could say I like it a lot.

You can pre-order 'Reunion' from the ever-wonderful Tone Vendor. It's pay day next Tuesday, and that's first on my list of 'things to do' for the day.

Here's 'Forgotten', which comes from the band's previous album, 'Distance' that was released only a couple of weeks ago, apparently. I'm way behind...

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Summer Library interview

One of the things that happens when you start reviewing records on your blog is that you're inundated with loads of PR agencies sending you links to THE NEXT BIG THING. Most of these are shite of the first water, so it's always quite nice when someone who actually wrote the songs contacts you, without using every superlative under the sun, and asks whether you'd mind listening to their stuff. This is what happened a couple of weeks ago with a band called Summer Library.

Summer Library is Patrick Kelly, an New Yorker with a passion for Sarah band Brighter. Being a fellow Brighter devotee, I listened to his songs with more of an interest than normal, and loved them, so I thought I'd ask him a few questions. Here's what he said:

Tell me a bit about your background. Have you been in bands before?

I played guitar and sang in a band in high school called the BrokenDials. We played a lot of Pavement covers; we were really into that 90s US. indie sound. After graduating, we'd still play occasionallybut it was difficult because we go to different colleges.

Do you make music alone?

I used to write songs for the Broken Dials but we'd work on themtogether after I wrote the guitar part and lyrics. With Summer Library, I write and record my music alone.

How would you describe your music?

So far I've only recorded two songs, so it's hard to say. But overall, I would describe it as simple pop music, in the vein of SarahRecords. I like my songs to have catchy melodies sung over janglyguitar parts. I'm also trying to work on synth parts to add more to the music, like the organs in Rocketship's songs.

Your music reminds me of Brighter, Harper Lee, Lovejoy - that kind of stuff. Are you a big fan of these bands, and who are you other influences?

I really love Brighter, but I've never listened to Harper Lee or Lovejoy. I'm sure I'd like Harper Lee though because they are affiliated with Brighter. I'm very influenced by Sarah Records ingeneral - especially the Field Mice and Brighter but also St Christopher, Heavenly, and Another Sunny Day. The Pastels, Rocketship, and Galaxie 500 are also huge influences because they make simple songs that sound beautiful, which is something I aim to do.

What sort of reception does your music get locally?

I only started recording music under Summer Library about a monthago, so I've only gotten reception from my friends, many of whom are also musicians and music lovers and are very supportive.

Do you play live?

I haven't played my songs live yet. I may play some acoustic sets when I return to school, but it wouldn't sound as full without the bass, lead guitar, etc. This is definitely a downside of being in aone-man band.

What's the next step for your music? Are you looking for a kindly person to release it?

I'd like to continue writing and recording songs, but I know itwon't be easy to do when I go back to school. I won't be able to record, but I'll still have some time to write songs I'm sure. I would love it if more and more people began listening to my music, but I know I'll have to work harder and record more songs for that to happen. I've sent my music to a few blogs that were linked on yourblog, so hopefully they will have a listen. And yes, I'm looking for a wonderful person to release my music, but I'm sure I'll need more promotion, blog coverage, etc for that to happen, so we'll see. That would be a dream come true.

Who are your other favourite bands at the moment?

I've been listening to the bands I mentioned as my influences; just lots of indie-pop/anorak. I'll have to check out Lovejoy and Harper Lee soon. I'm sure they are lovely. Earlier this summer I saw the Pains of Being Pure at Heart play, and I'm in love with them, so that was great. I'm also a big fan of Surfer Blood and the Drums. I would like to get into more contemporary indie-pop, like Allo Darlin. If you have any recommendations, please tell me!

Listen to Summer Library at their bandcamp page.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Time to take sides

Whilst the Tories go about their despicable business of dismantling what's left of Britain's public sector, it's worth casting our minds back to the General Election of 1987, which Labour managed to lose so spectacularly after Kinnock and co thought it would be a great idea to shift to the right. The brutal recession that followed a couple of years later laid waste to hundreds of thousands of jobs (mine included), and showed the one true way to Tony Blair, as Thatcher took steps to wipe out more working class jobs

With the Tories at the helm once again, history looks set to repeat itself hundreds of thousands more jobs will go from a demoralised public sector - probably with a pathetic whimper from the weak and compliant unions - after the spending review in October.

Today, the Tories announced that the billionaire Sir Phillip Green, who owns a fashion empire in the UK, will head up a Whitehall spending review. He'll be tasked with telling Cameron how many thousands of people he can make redundant without losing any sleep at night. Apparently, the BBC today tried to get an interview with Green, but apparently he was away in the tax exile that is Monaco. If that isn't a vile joke, I don't know what is.

Which all leads me round to a new Pete Wylie song. Now I'm no fan of Wylie, nor am I an advocate of celebrating too much when Thatcher does pop her gold-lined clogs (cos let's face it - the damage has been done), but if this doesn't stir you up and make you want to fight back, then you're probably not on my side.

Wish I'd Kept a Scrapbook - a Tribute to Tullycraft (Unchikin Records)

You might remember the mooted Tullycraft tribute album from a while ago that was asking for donations to help get itself released. Well, it'll finally see the light on 14 September on Unchikin Records.

I'll admit to knowing next to nothing about Tullycraft, which I feel particularly terrible about. However, the line-up on this album was enough to get me interested. It's particularly thrilling to hear a posthumous Besties track - they contribute a thrashy garage version of 'Our Days in Kansas', which is ACE.

The rest of the album is made up of a Who's Who of international pop: Math and Physics Club, The Medusa Snare, The Smittens, Gold Bears, Moustache of Insanity, and a fucking stunning Darren Hanlon and Rose Melberg duet covering 'Our Days in Kansas', which reminds you that there's more to pop than trashy guitars and 'oh-ohs'. I must get that new Darren Hanlon record - his voice gives me the shivers.

Lastly, a mention for The Awesomelies, who really should be bigger than they are. Their version of Godspeed sounds like something from another planet. They better make it over here next year, or else there'll be trouble.

Download 'Every Little Thing' by The Medusa Snare here.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Pictures of starving children don't sell train tickets

If, like me, you were a bit gutted that the lovely cat from the petting zoo wasnt't at Indietracks this year, well, that's because the petting zoo wasn't there either? And why? Because Midland Railway is suffering from the internal contradictions of global capitalism too, you see, and it had to close the zoo.

Money is tight for the volunteers at the Railway, and they'd really like to get the new building at Swanick sorted out and finished. You can help. I realise I sound a bit like Terry fucking Wogan on Children in Need night, but they've set up a website where you can donate a few quid to help them get this done.

Before you do this, have a think about all those other bloody awful festivals in the UK that are manned by patronising, arrogant, abusive stewards, and then double your donation. Because the staff at Indietracks and Midland Railway in general are worth it.

Monday, 9 August 2010

The Whatevers for free

There's a sort of ragtag innocence about The Whatevers that makes me want to play their songs over and over again. The kind of unknowing pop genius that we saw with The Deirdres, and we see now with the likes of Standard Fare. The special mix of boy/girl vocals, that, if put together as perfectly as they are here, make a song completely irresistable.

All those things are here in two amazing songs that are available free on the Drums-related Holiday Records. 'Rhapsody in Blue Jeans' might sound harmless enough, but has the pure bite of all the best songs, as well as a pretty hilarious guitar solo half way through. It's the tale of youth, of falling in love, of naming names and that whole rites of passage thing that you think you aren're going through at the time, but, actually, y'know, you PROBABLY DID. Mix tapes, forming a band, boys trying make-up on, boyfriends wanting to duff you up. It was all there back then, and it's all here in one song.

There's a sort of line with the second song on the single, 'You and Your Twisted Romance', which seems to be about having to deal with a friend who has a (probably over-dramatic) problem relationship. It sort of rams advice down your throat, so listen carefully, desperados.
Download 'Rhapsody in Blue Jeans' here.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Viking Dress

I had quite a lot to drink yesterday afternoon and evening, so it's nice to be able to listen to something that doesn't make me think my head's about to explode. Not that I listen to Dr and the Crippens too much these days, you understand...

The new Viking Dress ep, 'Summarize' is such a record. Equal parts Felt, St Etienne and Cocteau Twins, but a definite langurous French air, these six songs are perfect for a hungover Sunday afternoon laid on your back staring at the ceiling.

'Lalie's Game' in particular is gorgeously affecting. A simple guitar phrase, with some shoegazey atmospherics and a kind of Jane Birkin backing vocal; these are things that I like, and this song has them over and over.

'Sophisticated pop' is an over-used phrase, and it doesn't and shouldn't mean Neil bloody Hannon. But if we're going to use it, then Viking Dress fit perfectly, and the 'Summarize' ep is most definitely in the vanguard of suave.

Should you too have a crippling hangover, you can order this record from the band's myspace page. And even if you don't, waste three or four minutes at work tomorrow and order it then.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Summer Library

Quite why there aren't more bands influenced by Brighter and Harper Lee is beyond my tiny mind, but at least Patrick Kelly, aka Summer Library, is going some small (yet beautiful) way to putting that right.

Summer Library have two completely gorgeous tracks available for nowt on their bandcamp page. You should put down that paint brush and go off and listen to them immediately, if you ask me.

Apart from those Keris Howard bands, Patrick says he takes his inspiration from Field Mice, Galaxie 500, the Pastels, and Rocketship. Do you need much more of a recommendation? Go listen.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

There's always something there to remind me

Whilst I was unpacking my records over the weekend, I took time to actually have a look at them properly. Record sleeves bring back such vivid memories, don’t they? Twelve inch snapshots of a moment in your life.

Anyway, perched at the front of the pile was The Housemartins’ ‘London 0 Hull 4’, a raw, exciting, twitching masterpiece, and (although I’m sure some of the more dull purists out there will argue that The Housemartins weren’t an indiepop band) the first indiepop record I owned.

My first meeting with The Housemartins came through my friend Jonny Dennis. I was 12, and he had an older brother who was into all the cool music that, during my years of listening to Elton John, I thought was complete gash. Jonny used to play me his brothers Smiths records when we were at primary school, and I used to think they were terrible. What an idiot I was when I was at ten.

I’d made the somewhat obtuse shift from Elton John to The Cure by the time Jonny started trying to brainwash me with The Housemartins. I’d seen adverts in Smash Hits for ‘Flag Day’ and ‘Sheep’ but I didn’t really pay much attention to them – like most of the population - until ‘Happy Hour’ came out. I remember this vividly: I was sat, as shy as anything, at a disco that our secondary school had put on to celebrate the fact we’d survived the first year. The DJ (who was an actual real-life vicar, and whose DJ sideline was called The Church Mice – twee or what?) put ‘Happy Hour’ on, and Jonny came hurtling up to me, dragging me up to do that weird dance the band do in the video. Of course, I didn’t, because that was way too gauche for me to do back then, but I secretly loved that song to bits.

Christmas 1986 saw me receive ‘London 0 Hull 4’ as a present. I’d asked my step dad if he’d by it for me for weeks, but he refused saying that they were gay and communists. True story. As if that made them sound any less exotic. I think my step dad worried quite a lot back then, because I was heavily into the Pet Shop Boys, Bronksi Beat and later Communards. Poor bloke must have been pulling his Daily Mail hair out.

I digress…

I can still remember the feeling of ripping off the wrapping paper that Christmas, and just gazing at that sepia and green cover. With Paul Heaton doing that dance. And ‘Take Marx, Take Jesus, Take Hope’ emblazoned on the inner sleeve. I’d never been so fucking thrilled.

Twenty-five years on (gulp!), and that album has lost none of its lustre. It remains a record you can go back to again and again to – as it says – take hope from. And although I think that ‘The People Who Grinned Themselves to Death’ is a better album, buying it didn’t fill me as much with joy as receiving ‘London 0 Hull 4’ did.

The mid-'80s were a weird time to be living where I did. Each night we’d see images of the heroic striking miners on the local news. Thatcherism was at its height, the Labour Party and the TUC limp and lifeless, and then along came The Housemartins. Now, I’m not pretending to have been a member of the Young Communist League in 1986, but that band taught me pretty much everything I needed to know about what was wrong with capitalism, and led me down the righteous path to socialism. Looking at the lyrics printed on the inner sleeve now, and they seem so resoundingly right in 2010, too.

I’m pretty sure there isn’t another record in my collection that has had such an effect of the rest of my life as ‘London 0 Hull 4’, anyway. That’s what I’m blethering on about. I wouldn’t feel like this at all these days (perhaps…) but I remember being slightly, properly traumatised when The Smiths and The Housemartins decided to call it a day within six months of each other. I dedicated the wall above my bed to Housemartins cuttings the day I read that in NME. Some honour, I can tell you.

The Beautiful South were shite, mind.

Monday, 2 August 2010

There's always this season

It's at times like this, less than two weeks before the new season starts, that you need comrades in the same situation as you. Step forward, then William Jones of suave pop fighting crew, Friends.

William, you see, is from Mansfield. Now living in London, he's started a blog about: "travelling on London Underground, music (especially music from my past that I've rediscovered), customer service nightmares, and (football-haters look away now) the pains of supporting a lower-league team. Plus more random pieces about things that drive me mad and make me happy. A mixed bag, really, like me. You don't have to live in London (or Mansfield) to enjoy it, I hope."

Ah, the pains of being tied to a shit football team at heart. Ahem. With Grimsby's date with destiny against Crawley approaching like a turd rolling down a hill, I can empathise. And William's blog has started off well (not that I'm in a position to criticise anyone's writing.

Some people I know are suffering the old post-Indietracks double dip depression. What I prescribe to others stuck in this funk is a listen to the beautiful 'Tights in August' by Shrag. If this is a teaser for the album, then I can't wait.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Oh! The Sweet Nothings

I'll be brutally honest here, and say that, despite comrade Pete Green being one of my longest standing friends, I really didn't the like the whole Corporate Juggernaut name. It was a bit too cabaret for me, and I'm not into forced fun. Great band, like. Just a bad name.

So, it is with great delight (for me, at least) that Pete told me a few weeks back that the name of the band was changing to The Sweet Nothings. Which is much better, eh?

I was chatting to Pete about football, music, the fucking Tory government, and LIFE IN GENERAL at Indietracks last weekend, and he was telling me that hid lean fighters were ready to go and record their debut album. It's just finding the time to do it, when everyone can fit it in between the daily drudge of work and the like. Well, isn't it always?

The band now have a keyboarderer (hurrah!) and are looking for a drummer after Rob finally found that Grimsby wasn't for him (we could've told him that yonks ago), and is moving to more far flung climbs like Weston-super-Mare, or something. So, if you know anyone who like trains, real ale, footy and left wing indiepop hymns, maybe you shoud give the band a shout.