Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Ex-Void

I say: the two essential members of Joanna Gruesome (come on, it didn’t quite work after Alana left), who are sounding fresher and brighter (they might not agree with those words) than the half-hearted last JoGru record.

Using the heavy metal umlaut in their name is surely a nod to Husker Du. The MBV debt is still obvious and restricted to the bent notes and sonic savagery of Isn’t Anything, and Ecstacy’s clearer tunes.

They’re my new favourite band. You‘ve got to see them live.

They say: “Taking influence equally from Black Sabbath’s “Into The Void”, D.C.-area hardcore legends VOID, and Raincoats number The Void, the group ‘Ex-Vöid’ was formed and began to compose short power-pop songs with titles like Boyfriend, Angry (At You Baby), Lying (To You Baby), and My Baby Is a Communist.”

So there you go. A difference of opinion. You can make your own mind up this way:



Friday, 11 May 2018

Young Scum album

The green shoots of the indiepop revival came through 2 years ago with Young Scum’s Zona ep and then bands like the BV's and Say Sue Me. Their album confirms something’s really starting to happen.

Young Scum do this with high-octane riffs, the jangle turned up to 11, spirited romanticism by way of Aztec Camera’s High Land, Hard Rain and the utter assurance that Jim Beattie was the talented one in Primal Scream. It’s got the potential to inspire a full-scale indiepop resuscitation.

It doesn’t hurt that Alvvays, who include Hummingbirds and Primitives covers in their set, are doing serious business. It’s all part of the escalation.

If nothing else, anyone still mourning the passing of Allo Darlin will have found a new favourite band.

Tape fans, make your way to Citrus City
Vinyl fans, your needs are met by Pretty Olivia


Thursday, 10 May 2018

Shit Bitch

“I love getting head from you, but you give me a UTI.” Royal Heady is the best, filthiest and, er, catchiest DIY punk song since Fuck Marry Kill by Daddy Issues. Then there’s the pay-off line: “dirty dick, I can’t piss.” You need this song in your life.

If you were in any doubt where Shit Bitch are coming from, there’s a hymn to an Australian TV presenter referencing “Carrie Brownstein, the coolest girl I’d ever seen.”

It’s not all crunchy riffs and energetic tunes - Kings Way edges into ballad territory proving Shit Bitch’s melodic power makes them genuine contenders whichever way they play it.

By Christmas they’ll surely be bigger than The Courtneys at the very least.


Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Lachlan & Snowy - Six Songs and Six More Songs

Is there a new genre called ‘Australiana’? *quickly Googles* Nope, don’t think so. So let’s say that Australiana is where dolewave got a bit drunk and mopey, played some Bakersfield country records and decided ‘that's sort of what we should be doing’. Bands like Dag, Lower Plenty, Ciggie Witch and Grandstands.

Lachlan and Snowy - or Lachlan Denton and Liam Halliwell who are both moonlighting from Ciggie Witch and The Ocean Party - are doing this new Australiana.

Six Songs and Six More Songs feature pretty much that evocative and tender sound with suburbia’s low-level alienation. Apart from one song, Do What U Wanna, which sounds like Velcro. You remember Velcro. *quickly Googles what happened to Velcro* Oh, that’s Ashley Bundang who’s in Ciggie Witch with Lachlan and Snowy.

The typically incestuous Melbourne scene at work with predictably lovely results.


Monday, 30 April 2018

Famous Problems - Hey! It's Raining!

For a decade starting some point in the late 1990s, The Butterflies of Love were the tallest band in the world who walked tall. They wrote nothing but hits, but only hit some of the people some of the time.

Their last album was called Famous Problems - there were no better albums in 2007, trust me on this. This new band Famous Problems is The Butterflies of Love without Daniel Greene, who checks in at under 6’2” so presumably had to go.*

This new mini album isn’t far off Jeff’s contributions to the Butterflies. Which means fuzzy Nuggets pop, REM’s early garage rock tempest and witchy ballads. The title track - a pop song with two exclamation marks for the price of none - features whistling and is obviously a convincing plea to help write the next Monkees album.

A favourite? Tough call. But if I’m picking one then it’s I’d Do It A Thousand Times. It’s epic, distraught and superbly alive to love’s twin obsessions, pleasure and pain. It takes the classic American songbook to the bar and plies it with whisky until its heart breaks. And then collects a Grammy. Posthumously.



*Dan Greene is, Jeff acknowledges, “the best songwriter in the world”, and certainly proved that when he made We've Walked In Hell And There Is Life After Death as The Mountain Movers, which is one of the best 10 albums of the last 10 years. Trust me on this.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

The Hit Parade - Happy World

Syvlia Plath once trilled: "My Heart Leaps Up When I Behold A Mailman On The Street.” If I remember correctly, and I'm seldom wrong in these matters, she was anticipating the arrival of a new 7" single with a teenager's boundless joy and excitement.

So it was that The Hit Parade’s latest epistle from the frontline of failure reached Did Not Chart Towers, with a letter from Julian Henry promising: “I’m about to go on a spree of releasing 7” singles of songs as I write them, which is how I started off back in 1984.”

Happy World says “I’ve got to explain, my pop group brings relief from pain”, which is a poetic offering of ‘we do what we have to and if anyone likes us it’s a bonus’. It’s a tacit nod that things aren’t much changed in The Hit Parade’s world.

If that lyric and the intent to release more quality 7" singles in die cut sleeves weren’t enough to convince you Happy World is a return to The Hit Parade’s glory days, then the song’s similarity to their platinum-coated old favourite Heuvos Mexicana and the chorus namechecking their 1988 greatest hits collection “With Love From... The Hit Parade” will.

The Hit Parade have thumbed their noses at austerity and cut the dealer price of this record, so you can get it for under a fiver. It would be seriously remiss of you not to.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

The great vinyl rip off

No week passes when indie labels don’t release albums on both vinyl and limited vinyl runs. This itself isn’t new - in the 1980s Creation, for example, released albums by bands such as My Bloody Valentine and The House of Love with a free 7” single.

These pressings sold out in a week. Their purpose was improved chart positions and to make the weekly music press and national radio aware that there was demand, even excitement, around their acts.

In 2018 when charts don’t matter and there’s no weekly music press it’s a much more cynical affair.

I understand that some of the smaller indies do this because then they can sell more by mail order, giving them a greater profit than selling to shops through a distributor (or maybe more realistically a better chance of breaking even). I'm cool with that, but many of the bigger labels are quite ruthless.

For for the bigger labels, the vinyl cash cow frustrates the artists as much as the fans. Last year Tracey Thorn said last year that “the comeback of vinyl is an absolute pain in the arse when you're making a record. Grrr.”

Her album Sister released this year? Well, it might have been released last year: “You could hear it an AWFUL lot sooner if it wasn't for the MASSIVE time delay caused nowadays by vinyl pressing.”

We’re in the position where vinyl sales make the tills ring because they’re sold at such exorbitant mark ups. Record companies need vinyl more than musicians or fans because it’s the only way for many of them to make a profit. So much so, they dictate an album's release date.

No wonder when you consider that YouTube is the biggest source of music in the world, playing billions of tracks annually, but in 2015 musicians earned less from it and from its ad-supported rivals than they earned from sales of vinyl.

The market for these vinyl releases is people with a lot of disposable cash. Labels know they don't have to wait for Record Store Day (or Black Friday or Christmas) to fleece punters. Let’s look at some recent examples:

Whyte Horses - Empty Words
Limited edition, signed and numbered double vinyl + download £20.99
Limited edition, signed and numbered double vinyl £18.99
Double vinyl £17.99

Comment: £2 for a download code? This is the future. At least half of the new albums I’ve bought this year haven’t had a download. We’ll have to pay for them all in the future because labels want us to stream on Spotify as well for more royalties, however small they may be.

Tracyanne & danny
Indies - only, colour vinyl with bonus 7" £24.99
Standard £18.99

Comment: the free 7” is no longer free. It’s an extra £6.

Eels - The Deconstruction
2 x 10” translucent yellow vinyl £25.99
Box set £52.99

  • 2 x 12” translucent pink vinyl in printed sleeves.
  • Printed box on uncoated paper
  • CD digipack
  • 28 page perfect bound lyric booklet with exclusive photos
  • 12” artwork print
  • A4 digital handwritten “rusty pipes” lyrics signed by e
  • E “tip & strip” pen

Comment: FFS, this is really taking the piss. I don’t know what a “tip & strip” pen is, but it sounds like the sort of promotional thing magazines used to give away to promote an album when record companies had millions floating around from CD sales.

Superorganism
Gatefold 180 gram vinyl LP + insert in luminous sleeve + MP3 download code 23.25
Gatefold 180 gram vinyl LP + 4 page booklet + MP3 download code)18.75

Comment: Luminous print must be pretty expensive and you don’t even get the booklet. This release’s poster campaign didn’t mention any of this. It said only: “THE DEBUT ALBUM NOW STREAMING ON SPOTIFY.”

Yo La Tengo - There's A Riot Going On
Limited orange vinyl 2xLP £19.50
2xLP £19.50

Comment: The only instance this year I’ve seen where both versions are the same price, although in some shops the limited limited is £2 more. A month after release, both versions are very much still available.