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.