Thursday, 25 October 2012

Mud Pie Sun - Wooden Circle

This is back-porch psychedelia like the last two Woods albums. It's strung-out folk. It's spare and sometimes despairing like Big Star's Sister Lovers. They say they were inspired by the noises being made on Flying Nun way back when and since they mention it, yes, there's a bit of David Kilgour's Here Come The Cars and there's definitely some of The Bilders' skewed pop. I bet over the years Mud Pie Sun have worn out their copies of Younger Than Yesterday and The Notorious Byrd Brothers. Wooden Circle was recorded between 2004 and 2011. When they were younger they released three tapes in the early 90s as Mud Pie. You can hear on new track Church Of Bitter Souls a kinship with the old K stuff, particularly Beat Happening.

Maybe if this had been released on a private pressing in 1974 Light In The Attic would have picked it up. As it is, it's released on a private pressing in 2012 by the two guys from Philadelphia who are Mud Pie Sun. It's a pretty special artefact.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Fear Of Men - Mosaic

Fear Of Men are compellingly dramatic like The Sugarcubes, they write songs that are are mysterious, grandiose statements like The Sundays' Reading, Writing and Arithmetic, and mine a rich seam of strange wonder in their pop that recalls Mute by The Catchers.

They cover The Chills' Pink Frost and have even got a song called Doldrums, so you know in part where their beguiling melancholy comes from. Mosaic is the third single by Fear Of Men, which makes it a double hat-trick (all their b-sides are amazing, too) of stylish, swaggering gems.

Mosaic by FEAR OF MEN

Baffin Island

Baffin Island - the musical and geographical meeting place of Idaho's The Very Most and Glasgow's The Hermit Crabs - sound like they share a love of Jonathan Richman, The Lucksmiths and Camera Obscura. This is a very good thing, obviously.

The warm melodic swirl, gently tugging tune and acute regret of ep opener suggests that Surrender To Jonathan - one of JoJo's key albums, but a little overlooked, I've always felt - is Baffin Island's starting point. No great surprise, as The Very Most have a wonderful song called Jonathan Richman, but this ep is no mere pastiche and stands up very well on its own.

We Were Meant To Meet

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Big Wave - Only You

Big Wave's Only You zips along punkily like Kenickie and deliriously manic like The Flaming Lips when they go pop, which means it's closer to Leavers Party and Another Year Or Two from their The Roots Of Love tape. It makes me think of Help Stamp Out Loneliness (only without so much of a stomping soul influence) and I'm not at all surprised they've got a gig coming up with The Tuts. It's out on 7", November 5. What else do you need to know? OK, it's on "beer" coloured vinyl and you can order it now.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Ralph 'Soul' Jackson: The Alabama Love Man

Some things you should know about Ralph Jackson:

1. He got his soul sobriquet from the legendary Rick Hall of the equally legendary FAME studios.

2. He gave himself 'the Alabama love man' name for good reason: "I may sing my songs from the gut but they come from my heart. I learned very early that women appreciate attention, I’m not singing for women, I sing to them."

3. He was inspired to write music after hearing Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett. It shows.

4. He's been making music for 50 years.

5. The Alabama Love Man is his first album. It's a masterclass in southern soul.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Freqnik & WDRE: Favela B-boy Funk

Favela B-Boy Funk is killer Latin funk, huge drums and sensual horns, caught somewhere between 70s original jams and 80s hip hop beats. Did someone say Joe Bataan?

There's not a lot of difference between the soul revival songs and the old school hip hop tunes coming out these past few years. They're all coming out on 7", too, maybe so they can be held up to the classics they're emulating or sampling. And there's no better jam right now than this debut 7" from New York producers Freqnik & WDRE.

Monday, 8 October 2012

The folkin' brilliance of Charles Latham

Don't think you know Charles Latham? Bet you know Hard On, which Withered Hand covered. And if you know the world weariness of Phil Ochs, the sweet melodic intuition of Paul Simon and Michael Nesmith's downhome country, then you know Charles Latham.

Latham's songs are equal parts funny, wry and desolate. His observational thumbnail sketches will slay you. How about the opening lines to the ironically solipsistic My Perfect Church, "I pray from my toilet seat, make my holy life complete/My god hears me when I speak, can yours say the same"?

Or the pathos of Applications For Employment, "Interview after interview, beg for jobs I don't wanna do"? These songs and more, all bittersweet beauts, are on Legend: The Best Of Charles Latham. The whiskey-soaked misery keeps on coming on new album Fast Loans, a collection centring on financial woes:

Inevitably, Latham is cash poor. There's a UK tour in November and a kickstarter, which you can use to buy Fast Loans. Oh, and UK gig promoters, he's got some dates in his diary to fill.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Sex and the indiepop scene

There was a very muddleheaded rant recently in which the author got his pants in a wad about Ariel Pink and then discards a lot of bands he doesn’t much care for in the catchall slight “twee”. What the author has done here is sign up to the rockist criticism of indiepop “twee” so he can use shorthand to belittle some bands he’s heard of.

Let’s propose that he really does think that Ariel Pink, Le Tigre, Electrelane, Bis and CSS are indiepop, hence twee, and let his critique stand:
“If you spent any part of the last twenty years in indie clubs in British tweecore strongholds such as Norwich, Leeds or Sheffield, you may well be familiar with this pseudo-feminism. Remember all those guys who really loved Le Tigre or Electrelane or Bis or CSS, but ultimately might as well have been in the triples-for-singles meat market up the road when it came to putting their money where their emancipatory mouths were? I certainly knew a few. The sense that the sexual democracy of that scene is a sham, amounting ultimately to the perpetuation of the same old male privileges in a more passive-aggressive way, is one of the (many) things to have consistently undermined twee's claims to political credibility.”
These observations quickly fall apart like a cheap toy. Let’s say some meathead had tried to pick up a Le Tigre fan, a woman familiar with their feminist songs. Wouldn’t get very far now, would he?

I’m pretty sure I would’ve found out sometime in the past 20+ years if Norwich, Leeds and Sheffield really were strongholds of indiepop. You mean the mainstream indie clubs, don’t you? Sure, I bet that happens. It’s incredibly unlikely to happen in an indiepop club because the scene is so small. Most people know each other for a start.

However, I did direct a group of lads into London’s Buffalo Bar after an indiepop gig a year or two ago. I’d escaped to the pub above the venue – they sell pints, rather than overpriced bottles – and outside a man asked me “what’s the fanny like down there?” I knew him and his mates would get nowhere.

I also knew that my mate had promoted the gig and needed some more paying punters through the door for the club night that followed the bands. I advised the young men that they should try their luck. They paid their money and were back out before I’d finished my drink. And I’m a quick drinker.

I know you’re trying to have a go at men by saying that “the sense that the sexual democracy of that scene is a sham, amounting ultimately to the perpetuation of the same old male privileges in a more passive-aggressive way”. What you’re really doing, though, is insulting the women. You think that female indiepop fans fall for that kind of crap? They will assure you they don’t.

Pop Songs Your New Boyfriend’s Too Stupid To Know About lists bands because it’s a celebration of the indiepop scene. It attempts to do for indiepop what Arthur Conley did for soul in Sweet Soul Music.

I’m not having a personal go at you, mate, but I think you’re way of your depth when you talk about indiepop. I yield to no one in my love for soul music, but you having a dig at Tullycraft is about as helpful as me slagging off Kylie for Step Back In Time. I’m certain that Kylie doesn’t “remember The O’Jays” but her fans don’t need me pointing that out, just as indiepop fans don’t need you projecting that Pop Songs Your New Boyfriend’s Too Stupid To Know About is "all about making a woman the intermediary in an exclusively male antagonism”. Not least because it isn’t. It’s a fun pop song.

OK, the pathos of Tullycraft’s scene celebration in the context of being dumped doesn’t work for you. How about the sadness of not being tall enough to get the girl of your dreams and your old car getting you laughed at by girls? That’s I Wish by Skee-Lo. It’s another fun pop song with a sad side. There are thousands of them.

Calling out indiepop’s male fans for being party to a sexual sham simply doesn’t follow in my experience. Perhaps some of what you describe happens, but nowhere near as much as you think and I bet nowhere near as much as in other genres.

What’s most naive of you, however, is your inability to recognise that all music genres are at some level about sex. Music is about sex; whatever the subculture it’s the same dance (sex), just to different music.

I wonder if you’re falling into the trap of thinking indiepop fans are twee, therefore bloodless and sexless. You should have been at Bowlie in 1999. It was a festival that Belle and Sebastian – a band whose popular album If You’re Feeling Sinister is named after their song about wanking – fans met up to drink and see some bands, but many to have sex.

There were a lot of relationships cemented that weekend, ones that had formed on message boards. None of those many liaisons I knew about could be described in the terms you ascribe to indiepop men.

I know that was 13 years ago, but I still see some of the same faces – and the same bands – at gigs. Yet indiepop is a fluid scene – people drop in for a while or love one band and stick around a while for some others. It would be foolish to say that everyone in the scene at any time likes the same things or has the same beliefs; it would be fair to say, though, that those long-term fans don't match the criticisms you level at them.

You should go to an indiepop club. A word of advice, though: don’t try to pick up anyone with the line “would you like to come back to mine to see my Baby Lemonade flexidisc?” It’s as unlikely to work as it would be to see a male indiepop fan “making a woman the intermediary in an exclusively male antagonism, which is in this case also a debate about taste in which the girlfriend is invited to act as adjudicator”.