Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Loom, by Fear of Men (on tape)

This burning, bright red cassette is my latest treasure. I feel glad to still own the means to play tapes. With this Fear of Men album I'm reminded of certain 4AD bands but without the faux nostalgia/dreaming of older times... This is music that feels very new and of itself despite any subtle signs of influences.

I saw Fear Of Men playing as support when Dignan Porch released their album a couple of years ago. I remember Fear Of Men creating a heavy, fuzzy sound, so Loom surprises me with its softness and gently ethereal sounds, especially the vocals. Some of these songs have more of a singer/songwriter feel to them, stripped back, simple and not sounding so much like a full band. There is an incredible atmosphere to the songs, as well, though. This is really dreamy, hazy, swirling stuff, but not so much about layers as there's a sense of quiet that lets the songs breathe. Somehow, with Loom, I'm suddenly transported to a quiet, secret woodland haven.

I love Jess Weiss's voice, in particular. It seems to me it is not coming from someone who is overly conscious of the act of singing or being a singer/aspiring star, and nor is it striving as such, but remains very natural and clear, in a subtle but strong way. I really look forward to more gigs by Fear of Men, now, and getting caught up in their dreamy world.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Elefant Records' 20th Birthday party

An excellent Elefant Records party at the weekend. Coinciding with the anniversary of John Peel's passing on, it felt right to be at a night filled with upbeat indie and lofi pop bands, joyously running amok! A fledgling outing for Amelia Fletcher's new band with her husband, Rob Pursey was really welcome. Acoustic guitar and voices alone laid bare how wonderful Amelia's voice is, and how it's one of the best sounding voices in pop, ever. To hear her singing fill up the room so much, with just gently strummed strings backing it felt really moving. When Rob joined her on vocals, the music was very reminiscent of Magnetic Fields ‐ no bad thing, especially as they're pals!

Evans The Death may have passed me by up till now. I think they played a Twee as F*ck Night years ago. Hearing them live, their music really appealed. Strong vocals, and atypically structured indie guitar rock backing, quite chaotic as well as heartfelt. A lively set, and me and my friend were really sold! 

Another draw of the evening for me was Wild Balbina, all the way from Spain. I'm always after recommendations of Spanish indie, and Elefant Records is something of a bastion for such things, so there was already a feeling that I'd enjoy this band. All female singing, fuzzy guitars, and a surfing feel. Excellent fun!

Bought the single and a mini album on vinyl, one for me, one for a friend. Also got a Helen Love album for my boyfriend, and there was a free Elefant Records sampler on double CD which can't be bad!

I love the Parks and Recreation quote in the title of Wild Balbina's mini album!

Eat Tacos is one of the best recent singles of any band, so much fun. I really hope Wild Balbina have much success and can come back to the UK really soon.

Collectors Records, Kingston

For shame, I have not paid a visit to good old Keith's record emporium in Kingston, Surrey, this year. I was lucky to catch the shop before it closed the other day, and Keith kindly stayed open a bit longer so I could browse. He is one of the most knowledgeable of music shop owners, being able to answer my random questions off the top of his head, and add anything of interest or make recommendations along with stirling answers. He's keen to refer to his various books of charts for accuracy, and I love that instinct. Plus, he always has the latest Music Week on the counter, which all together creates the atmosphere of a traditional record shop, and I really appreciate all that.

We chatted about 4AD Records and how scarce the 80s and 90s stuff is on the secondhand market. He was able to supply me with a batch of 7 inch singles from the likes of Wolfgang Press, Modern English, and Colourbox, and I decided to buy them all up. I'm already set on Modern English, and there's a Colourbox fan in our midst, so it was just a punt on the Wolfgang Press stuff, a name I was familiar with years ago (oddly convinced they were goth, but they're offbeat dancey). Really pleased with Modern English, and it was a curio to give the other singles a spin if nothing else.

I have to explain how New Model Army records came to be in my swag. I never thought the band were for me, too bleak and industrial sounding maybe. But recently I was reading about the history of Archway Towers, and there was an interview with Joolz from New Model Army, and the band wrote a gloomy ode to the tower in the 80s, which I listened to and liked. So I bought a few singles on vinyl out of intrigue, and now I might be getting to like the band... I see they're touring soon, which would be interesting.

Not pictured above, but also a purchase from Collectors Records, Kingston, was the first Exploited album on vinyl ‐ A birthday present for a friend ! I'm sure they will love the PUNKS NOT DEAD spraypainted cover alone...

Lastly, I got an album by They Might Be Giants. This band are a bit too wackily quirky for me at times, but a few songs are really innovative and fun. I bought the album for my feller, and it's been appreciated. My favourite here is They'll Need a Crane, which I have on VHS on an indie compilation somewhere:

Monday, 6 October 2014

Record fair shopping: The Frank and Walters

Another cracking Soundbite record fair. The bargain indie box contained lots of curios. I've always got room for more early 90s indie 12 inch singles in my collection. I thought I'd give more Kitchens of Distinction a whirl, and The Frank and Walters were a familiar, positive name from mid 90s radio (just been listening to Indian Ocean and it takes me right back). A House are a band that one of our nice, loyal readers recommended to me personally, so had to be bought! These singles all came in at £2 or less each. 

I also had to buy a set of four 7 inch interview/picture discs of The Cure. I could probably listen to Robert Smith read several Dickens' novels uninterrupted and not feel anything but cheerily comforted, honestly!

The Frank and Walters EP had me dancing right away. They are incredibly worthy of greater investigation, and make for another addition to the long standing reasons why I should have been born between three and five years earlier than I was... The songs Happy Busman and Humphrey are even more sunny side up and brilliant than their titles.

Another of their songs I've found recently is Indie Love Song, which is from just a couple of years ago, as The Frank and Walters remain active (hooray)...

Something jaunty from the mid 90s too:

The Frank and Walters are playing Shepherds Bush Empire next month supporting Wonder Stuff and Carter USM. But it's sold out. Between this and Vashti Bunyan's church gig selling out, I feel a bit sad. Just have to buy all their albums, then...

The Kitchens of Distinction single is nicely swirly, and A House sound good and jangly though this song may be atypical of their stuff. 

Nice to note that Edwyn Collins was producer for the A House single, as well as The Frank and Walters one. I didn't realise he'd done so much production, but it must've all been fortifying for writing those episodes of West Heath Yard.

Record fairs are so good for unturning stuff I might otherwise not.

Go Kart Mozart, live in Bristol, 12th September, 2014

Hats off to The Brilliant Corners for organising the above event at The Exchange in Bristol over one weekend recently. Chance to catch the rarely seen Go Kart Mozart, as well as Amelia Fletcher's latest excellent musical endeavour, and lots of other great bands and nice touches in the mix. 

Having missed a Sarah Records inspired live event in the city this year, it was time to jump at the above. Sadly, I have to admit that it was only possible for us to hang round for the first leg of the event, with Go Kart Mozart, and how hard it was to miss Amelia Fletcher sing with both The Brilliant Corners and her new band The Catenary well as missing the incredible Haiku Salut, missing out on more free gummy bear sweets, and just the general ace atmosphere. I love Bristol for gigs. There is such community, and so much of a free and easy feel. It's an incredible city.

We did get the chance to chat to Amelia Fletcher on the Saturday, which was kindly and lovely. You can still get hold of copies of issue two of The All Thrills No Frills Music Bill paper fanzine, from the Etsy shop with this link, resplendent with a really in depth article on and interview with Amelia Fletcher/Tender Trap.

Go Kart Mozart/Lawrence were written about in our first issue of the fanzine, and since the event had the title of Fanzine, I managed to bring a bunch of copies along. Why do I keep ending up drinking halves and folding and stapling fanzines in the pubs of Notting Hill? I even copied the fanzines up in the area beforehand too. I ran out of staples, and have to apologise for that. Copying up issue two went awry and had to be forfeited for sale as well, which was glum.

There were some smart Go Kart Mozart keyrings on sale on the merch table, alongside copies of The All Thrills No Frills Music Bill fanzines... Earnings from the fanzines basically went on the keyrings. Sad that there were no Go Kart Mozart Tee shirts though.

It was surreal hearing that Lawrence had made it and was in the building about to perform. I mean, the last tour was pretty much all cancelled and I had never seen the band live up to then. I felt a genuine excitement, anticipation that I don't often get at gigs anymore, having been to so many. It was the most brilliant extravaganza of 70s style synth pop, and I was startled at the lack of dancing.

Couldn't really have asked for too much more from the setlist, it was an even mixture of stuff from all the albums. No Denim songs is a shame but totally expected. Some heckling requests for them, though not Felt for a change. I haven't much love for Felt in the face of Lawrence's newest material. I can't understand all the indie kids that go for all that, its comparably drab and they're missing out on ridiculously bright, fun, amusing, off kilter pop like no other with Go Kart Mozart.

Setlist, as transferred from my handwritten one on the back of some hotel stationery, went pretty much like this from memory:

West Brom Blues
Lawrence Takes Over (excerpt)
Come on You Lot
The Sun
Summer is Here
Electric Rock and Roll
We're Selfish and Lazy and Greedy
Donna and the Dopefiends
Glorious Chorus
Drinkin' Um Bongo (!)
White Stilettoes in the Sand
(a new song)
Donna and the Dopefiends (again!)

The most memorable, enjoyable gig in years.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Still hooked on Viv Albertine's book!

Found these photos that I took of Viv Albertine at Strummerville festival, in 2010. I remember it was such a lovely festival feeling - hot bright sun and excitement. I was so giddy to rush down the front to hear Viv sing, the first time I'd ever heard her.

I blogged then:

She was great, such humourous lyrics, and a really unique approach to songwriting, lots of personality and a mission to make statements were bound up in things. It was just her and her Fender guitar and her quiet seemed more powerful than a full band. So true. I have seen Viv play live since, and those feelings were reinforced.

I've been so engrossed in Viv's book the last week or so. I ended up staying up till gone 1am one night, unable to move or put the book down. It's so zippy and so packed full of feelings and experiences. Viv-id!

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music Music Music, Boys Boys Boys, by Viv Albertine

Thanks to Faber Social for putting on a good show at the Lexington last night. It was the launch of Viv Albertine's new rock autobiography, Clothes Clothes Clothes, Music Music Music, Boys Boys Boys. You could order a gig ticket + the book beforehand, then collect your copy of the book at the venue on the night, which I thought was fun. Free badges and postcards to pack into your free tote bag too - and I also came away with a pair of Viv-style stripy tights, which was a nice touch.

I expected to see an absurd vision in a darkened gig room of squinting old punks, poring over pages of her lively verse, as we awaited Viv's arrival on stage.

I'm sad to report that Viv had to leave the venue, an hour before stage-time, due to some sad personal news, and understandably having to head off. It was an emotional thing to be party to. John Robb, who made an announcement, worked hard to keep the night one of celebrating Viv. Old friends, boyfriends and rock colleagues gathered on stage to give fans an insight into Viv.

Tessa Pollitt (bandmate, who'd done some stonking dub/reggae DJing through the evening), producer Dennis Bovell, an old school friend, and Viv's first boyfriend (!) all stepped up on stage to reveal fond and funny stories and anecdotes. I'm hazy now, and regret not jotting down notes afterwards - maybe I'll add anything that comes back. But I remember there was also a lot of stuff about The Slits, some of which even our compere, the punk expert/musician/music journalist John Robb seemed to be hearing for the first time. My personal favourite was hearing how the band had secretly 'borrowed' a mixing deck from Yes when they were on tour away from the studio, and Ari Up got a pen knife and etched ARI WOZ HERE onto the pristine mohogany wood! Insight from their producer, the dub legend Dennis Bovell was really valuable too - how excellent the band were as musicians despite what anyone wants to say about them nowadays; how long-established musicians struggled to learn to play their bass parts, and how unique Viv's guitar playing style was. It was also good to hear it be emphasised that the Slits were a punk band - not post-punk, as they get mis-labelled - they were there all along, young and in the thick of it all with the key bands involved.

I can't begin to imagine how tough things are for Viv right now. But I wanted to write up this blog as planned, to say what a good night Faber Social put on in difficult circumstances, and now also to say how sad I am to hear Viv's news. I hope she gets to take the time she needs, and all her fans will - I'm sure - totally understand her need for perhaps not going on with any promotional activities or anything right now. But here is to the book's success, as Viv is a lively, vocal, much-needed inspiration, and in Viv's word's rock biographies tend only to be written 'by twats', and generally only by men too.

Animals That Swim, Pullover, Abuse fanzine, and the spirit of 90s indie

Thoroughly enjoying creased up old issues of Abuse indie fanzine from the mid 90s lately - tatty old, black and white Xeroxed pages, heavy on typed cut and paste text and messily pasted backgrounds, only one staple in the top left-hand corner - nostalgia!

I remembered Animals That Swim again, and put them on as I read the fanzines, excited as a kid at Christmas. I bought one single at the time. But I do have one album that I came across in more recent years, the one that has the brilliant Faded Glamour on it, a classic indie song.

Their album Workshy sounds fantastic too. Particularly enjoy Pink Carnations (maybe ignoring the lyric about the big white turkey) and Smooth Steps. I miss that sophisticated, lyrical, wistful kind of indie that the 1990s produced a lot of. Whipping Boy and Jack were other bands of that ilk, also sadly missed by me.

I also marvelled at a Pullover interview in Abuse fanzine, as few shards of this sublime pop band survive. I have written about Pullover in the paper 'zine of this blog, they are a sadly lost, forever-to-be-treasured, indie-pop band of the mid 90s. I am still besotted with their pop songs, and I cherish the 7" singles of theirs that I have. I felt a bit of a pang to see the band's home address (a flat in Camden - but they're back in Manchester now, I think) 18 years too late. And the fanzine editor had a demo tape of their album - never released, to this day - which I really do not wish to exit the world without ever hearing!

Reading about the 90s indie gig scene again feels strange. It seems like such a small world now. And the spirit so different - the unabashed enthusiasm and rallying for little bands and challenging the music press status quo. Also the power that fanzines had to make new bands - they were useful and focal outlets and bands took the writers seriously as such forces for the good. The internet and digital music and all that goes with it - plus the lack of power/centrality to any kind of music press now - make things so much bigger, more out-there, less defined; not to mention how carefully corporate and hegemonic things have become in that dilution process. Even just reading about it now, in those battered, photocopied pages, it gives a real sense of how it felt like a community, one big exuberant party, involving a small number of specific little scrappy venues, that we'll never see the like of again.

Friday, 30 May 2014

I wonder if anyone else in the world has ever bought albums by Donald Fagen and Brian Jonestown Massacre, at the same time...

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Currently playing

1. Neko Case: Man

I heartily recommend Neko Case's recent album, The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I love You. The song Man seems to send a nice anti-macho message with lyrics from different gendered perspectives, and overall is just quite simply a rousing great pop-rock tune. The album also has a high point in the graceful but catchy Calling Card.

2. Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros: X-Ray Style

This song keeps getting jammed in my head, since I went to a recent Strummerville night, with Ray Ganges on decks playing this, plus a bunch of other Strummer-related material, good reggae, old punk, and so on. I feel like as I get older, I prefer the work Joe Strummer did post-Clash, for the many more moments of tenderneess, intimacy and easygoing, breezy, calm sense. See also:

3.Joe Strummer: Sleepwalk

4. Viv Albertine: The Madness of Clouds

Really enjoying Viv Albertine's unique approach to music making - interesting sounds and her style of playing guitar and singing. Greatly anticipating her new rock biography too - not many books around that are by female musicians, frankly, plus there is that female perspective of punk that seems to have been written out of history.

5. Robyn Hitchcock: Keep Finding Me

Any excuse for a song by Robyn Hitchcock, really. This is a recent discovery of mine as I still have so much to explore of his glorious canon of work. He is rarely off the stereo in this house.

6. Go Kart Mozart: 

Only Lawrence could cover a Roger Whittaker song with such electric pop panache and perfection. But just when will Go Kart Mozart play London again... Last tour didn't even include a London date and got cancelled. We're waiting! Also, Go Kart Mozart are forever the mightier, better band of his career and we will never fathom this reverence for Felt this has been going on in recent years. Lawrence would agree too! Recommend all the band's albums (plus his work on Denim as well - synth pop excellence). I was going to link to Electric Rock and Roll on here, but Youtube doesn't have that one.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Nat Johnson

My favourite song at the moment is by the solo singer-songwriter Nat Johnson:

I was delighted to discover her music recently by way of a surprise gig, with live violin along with acoustic guitar and her wonderful, reflective vocals. Really moving music - something so powerful in the quiet. I also really appreciate singers who are natural and gentle in their singing. I can't wait to investigate more of her music, and hopefully more gigs some time too - I think the Union Chapel in London on a summery Saturday afternoon would be just perfect.

Whole host of stuff to listen to by Nat on her official website.

Lou Reed Lou Reed

Luke Haines's tribute in song to Lou Reed is great for lacking in sentiment (lyrics), and just inducing a smile instead:

My own tribute to Lou Reed:

(a sketch of Lou, representing him in the era when he auditioned for the part of Timothy Lumsden in the sitcom Sorry - here he is with an old dish of lasagne from his mum, the caption being 'Oh Mother! I'm only eating this lasagne before it starts walking to the Post Office to draw out its pension. Which is long overdue, I might add!')

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

The Beauty of Earls Court (set to be demolished)

Earls Court features in a song by the revered Robyn Hitchcock - the lyrics, more than a decade old, seem to have been strangely prescient:

It opens with the couplet: 

Money makes the world go wrong
So what, who cares?

It goes onto sing sweetly of 'the Beauty of Earls Court', which is 'like the canyons of New York (but not as filthy or cool)'.

But then - given the possible future fate of Earls Court - comes a real gut-punch of a line and sentiment:

I've got to find another home
I've got to find another home

It's pure coincidence, but just carries such huge resonance in the circumstances.

Earls Court not only faces loss of its large, grand, beautiful, original art deco exhibition centre/concert venue - but the loss of community and housing with such huge impact.

This is about displacement of people, above all.

To get up to speed with the campaign, please read on here

Save Earls Court campaign has been going strong with support of affected residents, and you can follow their plans on the official website:

From the campaign site:

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and Hammersmith and Fulham has approved the demolition of the world famous iconic, art deco Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre. 

The Earl’s Court Area Action Group believes that decision is wrong. It is now campaigning to save an asset that is of vital importance to the capital's economy. Together, Earl’s Court’s twin exhibition halls provide West London's largest exhibition/ conference space and concert venue. Despite assurances, it transpires no tangible replacement facilities will replace a loss, which economically and culturally defines the area. 

Additionally, against the majority wish of its residents, a community’s perfectly adequate homes will be demolished in the name of a hungry developer’s bottom-line profit. This is ill-conceived scheme pushed through at the expense of the area's economic and cultural well-being and needs to be halted.

The Earl’s Court Area Action Group urges you to sign its petition to Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government asking that he calls in the applications due to the conflict of interest for Boris Johnson in his capacity of Mayor and head of TfL, which owns a substantial part of the development site.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Punk's Penetration

Don't Dictate by Penetration is one of the great punk anthems/singles. I've just started investigating the band's albums, and I wonder why they aren't a more widely/wildly acclaimed band. It's one of my bugbears that endless punk programmes get made about the Sex Pistols and maybe they'll throw in a bit about The Clash, Buzzcocks, et al. But female punk bands rarely get a sidenote mention (hardly even The Slits or X-Ray Spex), let alone the celebration in such ways. I want to see documentaries and books and DVDs and front covers and art exhibitions - surely we can all do the same old tired old punk bingo by now and we need so many more of the other bands of the time to come out of the cracks of history? Crucially, female bands to get that spotlight at last?

There must be so many untold stories. The mediateque at the BFI in London has a superb documentary on Huddersfield punks, including some of the experiences of female fans of the time. There's that whole wealth of non-London punk that needs proverbially writing into history, too.

A couple of full length albums up on Youtube,by Penetration, and they're truly excellent:

Came across an interesting interview piece on Penetration over at Eccentric Sleevenotes, including about their split and then much later reformation (and in fact, the band are touring a bit in a few months).

There is also an interview with Viv Albertine on the same site, which is worth a read. I'm greatly looking forward to Viv Albertine's forthcoming autobiography, and her solo stuff in recent years is pretty damn ace too.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

New Brian Jonestown Massacre album

It'll sound heaps better when the physical album is spinning on my stereo, but for now the new Brian Jonestown Massacre album being previewed online sounds like something to get really excited about. The last album, Aufheben was an ace return to form, and Revelation keeps on in that pounding drum style (which I really welcome), with a mixture of dance music rhythms, tuneful guitar lines on an array of pedals, and sounds of strings and horns thrown in, and some interesting vocals. Hints of Strung Out in Heaven might be creeping in, as there's so much pure, 60s  pop melody - well, there so often is, but it's the pedals and style, sometimes stripped back too. There're wacked-out sounding vocal treatments, as well, so it's on a similar trippy vibe to the previous album, with some songs quite a lot slower. All in all, sounding really rich and great.

The preview is over at this Vimeo link here.

Bring it on!

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Current listening: Taffy and Hufdis Huld

Just discovered a squally guitar band from Tokyo called Taffy on Club AC30 label.

Quite a different-sounding, nice cover of a Cure song here:

Had a nice Saturday morning moment when I ran down the stairs eager for post and my Hafdis Huld album was actually there waiting for me - good to start the morning with a new album. I really recommend her first album Dirty Paper Cup, which is from 2006 - not sure how she passed me by until recent years, but I am hooked currently. Lots of pure and sweet vocal melodies over gently pretty guitar pop, with folk inspiration and some interesting percussive instruments. This album has involvement from the folk artist Boo Hewerdine (who also worked with Roddy Woomble when he did his solo work). Surprised to see some of the songs on Hafdis' album are co-written by Chris Gentry - nothing online or in the sleevenotes to suggest it is he from Menswear, but I can only guess it is and that it's perhaps because her former band Gus Gus were around at the same time as them.

Some more from Hafdis Huld as she's so wonderful:

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Hafdis Huld

Listening to lots of Hafdis Huld, an Icelandic solo singer. Mainly gently acoustic, tuneful, twinkly-pretty songs. First discovered a few years ago when I received a stash of CD singles for reviewing for a music website - namely, a song sung in Icelandic about Spiderman (Kongula, which has a fun video of a spidey-suited man larking about, unable to scale a tree).

Lately, I feel like pretending I'm in Nordic climes in order to brace wintry times. This video by Hafdis helps:

Hometown Hero is another great song, with the chiming keys and electro beat in the mix:

There's a real playfulness and sweetness to Hafdis's music. I regret not getting to see her live last year in a café round King's Cross way. It was a gig put on by another site I used to write for, Glasswerk.

Hafdis seems to play cute for cameras but it seems like she has a genuine and fun sense of child-like wonder at times regardless too. This video involves her chasing down elves on a patch of wild land in Iceland, tempting them with blueberries, and talking about them dreamily. I like a pop singer who isn't afraid to be heart-on-sleeve silly and fun.

She's also sung some more serious sounding folk stuff in her native tongue, which is up on Youtube too. I think I must buy some of her albums soon, as she's had a few by now.