Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Wurld Series - Air Goofy

Things I suspect Wurld Series have:
  • a collection of obscure psychedelic albums
  • some old effects pedals held together by packing tape
  • Mr Big The Medicine Man’s phone number
Thing I know they have:
  • a confrontational tape of tuneful noise
That tape is Air Goofy on the consistently excellent Melted Ice Cream label. It’s dispatched in a shrugging ‘take it or leave it way’. I’m taking it. It’s really quite brilliant. I bet they know that. How could they not?

I know - believe me, I know - a lot of bands are compared to Guided By Voices, but with Wurld Series it’s right on the button. They take Robert Pollard’s  “four Ps”, pop, punk, psych, and prog, and make hook-laden songs that have more ideas in them than some bands manage in a whole album.

And some of these songs are under a minute long. Oh, in case you’re worried about the prog thing, the longest song bows out in under 3 minutes.

Wurld Series even manage acid folk on Regional Perspectives and temper The Fall’s raging lunacy on AH’s 56th Dream. I’m still finding things in these songs. They’ll last.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

I Love Your Lifestyle - Fire

Punk's fire and fury with pop's instant bite and hardcore's melodic mayhem. It's a win-win-win situation. They boast guitar proficiency even if this is DIY, like The Only Ones did in punk's amateur hour, and it sounds great.

I can see them fitting in with British acts like Shit Present or Playlounge, all shredding guitars and chaotic tunes.

I Love Your Lifestyle (it's either an emo band name or sardonic, either way I'll pass on the t-shirt option) have a great way with song titles and waspish lyrics. Try their debut ep I Was a Loser in School or Nice Jacket. Not. and No Time For Major Fuck Ups from last year's album.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Dag - Benefits of Solitude

Another year, another great album from the Australian underground. Benefits of Solitude is a country record - despondency and alienation in equal measures - and an indie album looking to Microdisney's terminal doom and the wan light of early Smiths singles.

It's in the current Australian tradition of The Twerps - see also Lower Plenty, Ciggie Witch, Grandstands - and their kindred spirits Real Estate. Benefits of Solitude was in the same record bag this week as the new Real Estate album - even if the latter's In Mind is a welcome return to their best form, I know which one I prefer.

There are so many great songs on this album. Like a boxer I'm not knocked out but dizzy from the blows. I can't yet pick a favourite. Some of these songs will stay with me for years. Try this one for starters:

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Foxy Morons

The sound of the suburbs intensified. The frustrated teenage dreams of living in a commuter town amplified by living in Tasmania, an island 150 miles away from the Australian mainland.

This is spare music, simple and brittle like the Marine Girls with a wayward punk spikiness like The Slits and broken-down strumming like The Cannanes. Each song only uses about 3 chords because that’s all they need to. It works.

Under The Sea might have a little too much in common with Girl Ray's Trouble - quite possibly coincidentally, so I won't hold that against them. These are early days and it sounds good whatever way you hold it up.

Home suggests where they might go next. It takes the Modern Lovers-style two-note twin engine guitar and keyboard drone of Mainland and turns out a woozy keyboard recalling Quasi’s Featuring “Birds”.

But Mainland tells us one of this 5-piece band has already gone. So this might be the last we hear from Foxy Morons (I know, the band name isn’t the greatest joke in rock history, but that seems to be a thing with Australian bands).

There's quite a Tasmanian scene at the moment. Unless Unity Floors’ Moving To Melbourne becomes the new Australian underground's anthem, it's a window to watch.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

How to win Fortuna POP! gig tickets

Rough Trade are offering a pair of tickets to the Fortuna POP! farewell gig to the person who (best, I presume) answers the question "Who's the best Fortuna POP! band & why?"

Let me help you here. I have form. Some years ago, Rough Trade were offering a bag to the person who best explained what records mean the most to them. Sean was desperate for the bag. Times were tough before the Pains Of Being Pure At Heart royalties came in.

Among my suggestions were "I'm on My Way" by Dean Parrish, because it was the traditional closing song at the Wigan Casino. And Fortuna POP!'s tagline is "more soul than the Wigan Casino". Which is a line from Bob's Brian Wilson's Bed. So I suggested that as well.

Sean won the bag. Did he thank me? Did he fuck.

Anyway, out of the same altruistic (mine, not Sean's) spirit, I've separated the FPOP! discography into bands who might help you win, and those who won't.

Oh, before you write your competition entry, remember that Sean's a sensitive boy. He blushes easily:
As the bass player in Airport Girl I find it difficult to be overly ethusive about our records in these mailouts. As anyone who knows me will tell you, I am virtually ego-less, possessing a sense of modesty similar to that of Mahatma Gandhi.
Bands you should write about for the competition
The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart
Allo Darlin'
Mark 700
The Butterflies Of Love
The Lucksmiths
The Mountain Movers
Let's Wrestle
Withered Hand
Mammoth Penguins

Retirement homes
(bands Sean gave the kiss of life to, sorry that image pains me too)
Comet Gain
Tender Trap
The Primitives

Band too early for the Luscious Jackson revival
Cannonball Jane (or how that Le Tigre comeback could have sounded better)

(file under whatever happened to)
Taking Pictures
Discordia (there were releases on other labels, should've have been bigger than DJ Shadow)
Mick Travis (they couldn't have been bigger than Tompaulin, but it was worth a try)
John Sims
Cinema Red and Blue
Karl Smith

Bands named after songs 
(It worked for Biff Bang Pow! but this isn't Creation)
September Girls
Cocoanut Groove

Also worked for Creation but not Fortuna POP!
Airport Girl - the label's Oasis. Two brothers...actually, it was really Rob Price who let Sean play the same bassline for every song at gigs; in the studio, Rob played the actual basslines.

Not really Fortuna POP! bands, they were on other labels (at least that's how I think of them don't @ me)
The Aislers Set (nothing not to love)
Spraydog (it seemed like every label had to release a record by them in the late 90s - they were good, but it was a long time ago)
Chain And The Gang
Crystal Stilts (that first album still sounds phenomenal)
Peter Astor
Club 8
The Pipettes
The Wave Pictures
Milky Wimpshake
The Proper Ornaments
The Ballet

Bidding war losses
(before Fortuna POP! upped their promotional and recording budgets, some bands fucked off after making brilliant debuts)
My Sad Captains

Bands stolen from other labels
(after Fortuna POP! had a promotional and recording budget)

Bands inherited from Track & Field
The Loves
Herman Dune
Darren Hayman
The Ladybug Transistor
Steven James Adams (sort of)

Bands I can't remember very well

Band with a drug dealer on speed dial* so all touring bands' favourite support act
The Chemistry Experiment (*allegedly - don't sue me, I know some of you are responsible parents with respectable jobs)

Darren Hayman bands
Darren Hayman & The Secondary Modern
Hayman, Watkins, Trout & Lee
Darren Hayman And Emma Kupa
Darren Hayman And The Long Parliament
Darren Hayman

The DIY years
(actually, any of these might win, they're current and fahionable and very good)
Joanna Gruesome
The Spook School
Evans The Death
Flowers (alright, Bernard Butler produced them, but they're noisy and I've run out of categories)

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Download cards with vinyl are wanted

Some record labels are grumbling about including download cards with vinyl pressings. Given the low redemption rates - between 5 and and 25% and dropping all the time, according to a survey of labels by Vinyl Me Please - it's easy to see the labels' frustration at the additional cost.

The alternatives, though, are either prohibitively expensive or inconvenient. I'm not prepared to pay Spotify £120 a year to stream music I already own. If they have it, of course.

YouTube is free to use, but you can't access any other apps if you're listening to it. Yes, I know it's a visual medium, but I don't need to stare at an album cover for 40 minutes.

Record labels have a different idea about the value of downloads than the record buyer. They want our email addresses so they can spam us with their newsletters. No thanks.

If you're demanding a download is sent to an email address, many people use an old hotmail address that they never otherwise check. If as happened last week, you demand a name and email address but I get the download directly, you'll get something like this:

Direct email marketing doesn't work. Labels know how effective download cards are. Before bitching quite so much about download cards, perhaps they can share the efficacy of their email marketing.

There are many better ways to reach fans - if I like a band or label, I follow them on Twitter. I don't need an email as well.

Some labels know this, of course. Which is why they let you download the album via one of your social media accounts. So they can use your account to harvest more contacts for their spam. Mate, I only want the Loyle Carner album download, which I've paid for, you don't get anything in return:

We know that technology drives music consumption. So when people had an ipod they had thousands of MP3s. Someone left a comment on my blog a few years ago claiming authority on music because he had over 100,000 MP3s. He reminded me of the young man I met at a party who had 11 Jonathan Richman albums. Great, I thought, we've got plenty of common ground to chat. But he'd never played even one of them.

The people who want downloads now are music fans. Storing them on a separate hard drive (or several hard drives) is fiddly and expensive, but still cheaper than a year's Spotify membership.

Unlike that student who had thousands of MP3s he's never listened to, I have a job. This means most of my music listening is done either commuting or at work. So I find the download card very important.

Of the 3 albums I bought last week, I've played the one without a download card the least. If I really loved that album I'd have digitised it so I could play it more. Which reminds me, sometimes the album really isn't very good, which is the only time I don't use the download card.

It's worth labels using quality as a metric - did the unsuccessful albums have a lower download rate? If so, they might just not be very good. The buyers have spoken.

What's never mentioned is that a lot of CDs come with download cards. This isn't so weird when you remember that a lot of people use laptops without CD drives. The CD is about the same price as the download, so they may as well have a CD for back up purposes, and because they want a physical object.

I don't know what the answer to this problem is. I know for sure that if labels stop making download cards then the saving won't be passed on to the buyer.

I do know that a centralised streaming service like Spotify isn't the answer for me. Free access to the album on a streaming service for vinyl buyers might work.

Free download at point of purchase from the label, which Numero Group do, doesn't work unless you live in the same country. You know about overseas postage rates, right?

And the answer is definitely not 'fill in this postcard with all of your details then pay for a stamp and post it to us' which Rough Trade tried in 2006:

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

The Whooperups

This is generic without being derivative. That's some trick to pull. The Whooperups - misleadingly named after a Victorian term meaning "inferior, noisy singers" - do simple fuzz, close harmonies and instantly accessible pop. 

Yes, other bands do that, or try to do that, but they don't do them with gently fizzing guitars quite like this. These are exhilarating songs.

Sure, the band numbers moonlighting members of The Spook School, Charla Fantasma and Wolf Girl, but they don't sound like those bands. They sound different. What? You really want comparisons? Okay, try Mercury Girls and Veronica Falls in a sort of 'if you like them you'll love this' way.

The past - the scent of an old perfume, the pains of being 17 - is as alive in these songs as the present. Which makes The Whooperups' future look very good.