Thursday, 29 November 2012

Per Purpose - Warburton

Nervy like the Subway Sect and teetering on a breakdown like Richard Hell and the Voidoids, Warburton lasts for two minutes because if it went for any longer it would collapse under its edgy energy.

This Brisbane band's previous records leant more to agitated pop - maybe they'd seen Life Without Buildings at the Annandale Hotel and never got over it - but this, this single really nails frenetic hardcore with upstart punk. Did someone mention Husker Du?

Like I said, all over in two minutes. What next? Play it again. And again.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Southern Comfort: Silver and Gold

This is desolation in slo-mo, a sustained haze like Galaxie 500's Today. The line "I'll watch TV all day now because there's nothing else to do" reminds me of Alan McGee saying he rescued Jim and William Reid from a life of sitting in a small East Kilbride flat watching videos of TV adverts.

There's definitely some of the Mary Chain's dark hypnosis in Southern Comfort's naggingly ragged bliss, maybe like the Dum Dum Girls if they'd never heard the Shop Assistants. They cover Neil Young's Don't Cry No More Tears on the b-side, which makes sense, but I want more Southern Comfort originals. Or whatever they'll be called after the whiskey company makes them change their name.

I got this record from Wooly Bully in Melbourne, the city's newest record shop. One of the older record shops suggested I go there after I asked for new stuff in the Bitch Prefect/Dick Diver/Scott & Charlene's Wedding vein. John from Woollen Kits co-runs it and this was one of his recommendations. When Wooly Bully get a mail order service, it'll be the place for overseas orders.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Constant Mongrel - Everything Goes Wrong

Constant Mongrel have got riffs that could blow the doors off Jesus Christ. Two thirds of them play in Woollen Kits, but they're way more tough, atonal and out-there. Their closest Australian counterparts might be Super Wild Horses and Royal Headache, but their feral noise is closer still to The Gordons' no-fi nihilistic Future Shock and (barbed) Wire's early art-punk explosion.

Everything Goes Wrong is also the title of a Vivian Girls album, but I doubt if Constant Mongrel knew that. If they do now, I bet they don't care.

Fact corner: mongrel is slang for a morning semi. “I was talking one day about how annoying it is to have a mongrel in the morning. You need to go to the bathroom but you can't really take a piss. We came up with the idea of having a mongrel all the time.”

Thursday, 15 November 2012

A week in indiepop Melbourne


Elizabeth Morris of The Allo Darlin drops in to London's trendy Hangover Lounge to ask me if I would courier some money to Mark Monnone she owed him from their recent Australian tour. I agree.

I check the package for drugs. I don't want to spend the first day of my trip in Australian customs being filmed for the TV programme Nothing To Declare. There is just a wad of money and an intricate line drawing of a naked woman being mauled by a Bengal tiger.

Monday 5 November Mark Monnone meets me at Melbourne airport. I hand over the package. He doesn't mention the line drawing and I don't ask about it.

Tuesday 6 November Mark has a barbecue. The only indiepop news to report is that Mid-State Orange are plotting their comeback. The Orange's architect, Louis Richter, has drafted in Mark on bass. The Orange's second album was ditched after about 6 years of demos. I hope Louis gets his shit together this time!

Wednesday 7 November

The Zebras at the Workers Club
The Zebras were going to play as a duo tonight. Due to illness, the duo is reduced to Jeremy, who combines his considerable Byrdsian guitar skills with a laptop. This is sweet stuff.

Thursday 8 November

Monnone Alone, Glaciers, Bored Nothing, Big Tobacco at the John Curtin Bandroom

If there's a shoegaze scene in Melbourne, then it's Glaciers and Bored Nothing. Both bands are great (which means they're not shoegaze, so let's call them bands that 4AD should look out for, or if Mazzy Star are after a support band for their new lp, then they should look no further). Bored Nothing have an album out. It's only on CD - no vinyl issue is planned - but don't let that put you off because it's excellent.

Here's a photo of one of them. I don't know which. I didn't claim to be a professional. Or sober.

Big Tobacco are definitely not the Joe Pernice band of the same name. They've got raggedy tunes and ruggedy rhythms. They're still not the finished article, but on this display file them under 'very promising'.

Monnone Alone is actually Mark Monnone and two others. They're better now than a year ago, which means they're very good. They rhyme "sexier" with "dyslexia" and remind me of The Rubinoos.

Friday 9 November

Milk Teddy album launch at Polyester Record Shop

If Brian Eno had an indiepop band, I bet it'd sound like Milk Teddy. Their closest UK contemporaries are Dignan Porch. I can't fault them or their album, Zingers.

They number Alexis Hall of The Motifs - 5% the world's greatest songwriter, 95% goofball layabout - who I harangue about making another Motifs record. She declines because her computer's broken and since she left university she's got a job and is too busy.

After much cajoling, Alexis concedes that there might be another Motifs record in 3 years or so. There is a chance she's saying this just to stop me nagging her.

Friday 9 November

The Last Leaves, Cat Cat, Shopgirl at the Gasometer

Shopgirl play two-and-a-half-minute punk-pop songs. I know, a lot of bands do that. I can't think of many that do it well and I definitely can't think of any current band that does it better than Shopgirl.

Two of them are from Canberra and one from Adelaide, so getting together is problematic; the one woman in the band - the shopgirl, perhaps - has a brilliant voice. They don't have any songs online. You should have seen them, though! I won't forget this gig.

I know, you're thinking why didn't I record a song or at least take a photo? This is why: I was wrapped up in the gig. It's not my natural instinct to think 'this is great, I shall record it in some fashion for later'; my natural reaction is to surrender to the moment. I go to gigs in the hope that something this good will happen. Every photo or video in this blog post I had planned to take in advance.

Cat Cat have a song called Pavement, which I don't think is about the band, but you get the idea that they might like Pavement. Their very fine Uralba album suggests that they do, but that's just a small part of their magnificence.

Before The Last Leaves play, I ask Marty Donald what's the difference between them and The Lucksmiths: "we're noisier." They are, too, because there's a full drumkit and they sound like Marty's been listening to American indie rock instead of the Wedding Present and Housemartins records that inspired The Lucksmiths.

They have ten songs and they play them all. They rock it out (Marty told me that at previous gigs, people had called for them to 'jam it out'; something that for sure never happened with the Luckies) and the songs have an intriguing desolation that might come from living in the hills of Victoria.

What this footage (and I know it's really dark - my lighting crew didn't show up) doesn't reveal is that someone in the audience thought the song was called The Nazis Drove Me Home.

Saturday 10 November

Bitch Prefect at the John Curtin Bandroom
I've organised drinks with old friends before I find out that Bitch Prefect are playing. I have no choice and duck out of the drinks midway through. I'm so glad I did. Bitch Prefect have two guitars, drums and no bass: they're terrifically trebly and my ears are ringing with their clattering jangle. When I get back to the pub I'm grinning so much my friends all say that they wished they'd have gone to the gig as well.

Sunday 11 November

Anthony Atkinson & the Running Mates at the Union Hotel
The Union Hotel on a Sunday is like the Hangover Lounge, only with more kids. There's a moshpit of 5-year-olds. It's wonderful. Anthony Atkinson's two albums for Candle are among the most underrated on the label. Atcko has gone more country rock in the 6 years since his last record - one of the Running Mates is on pedal steel - and he's got Marty Donald and Louis Richter in his band now. It's a low-key, heartfelt and warm ending to a week of great gigs.

Friday, 9 November 2012

The Wolfhounds: Cheer Up

The Wolfhounds were on the C86 compilation before C86 became a metonym for indiepop and metadata for greedy ebay vendors. The Wolfhounds, then, were indie back when that meant being on the outside, only they were even more on the outside than their contemporaries.

They were always too raucous to be indiepop and always too pop to be awkward rock. If those two dominant styles on the C86 compilation had a meeting point, it was The Wolfhounds. This should have meant that The Wolfhounds were part of everything but it actually meant that they weren’t easily classifiable, hence never quite got picked up by enough people.

I suspect they hold a certain disdain for C86, which is why when they returned 6 years ago to the ICA for the C86 anniversary gig they turned up the volume so fucking loud. They were making a point they didn’t belong, when of course they never did. They would, back in the 80s and early 90s, have been more at home in the USA, perhaps on Homestead or SST, than on the outside of any British scenes.

In 2012 The Wolfhounds don’t belong on the revival circuit, so this new single is very welcome. From the sledgehammer bass, sardonic lyric and awkward melodic kick of Cheer Up you know this is a good return. Security is stronger still; it reminds me of The Anti-Midas Touch which itself reminds me that no band ever really followed up what The Wolfhounds did. This, then, is unfinished business.

Eux Autres - Tilt The Crown

Eux Autres – siblings Heather and Nicholas Larimer, aka The White Stripes if they really did make great records, aka a less depressed Eels, aka the band that carves its riffs in the garage and fine-tunes its hooks in the Brill Building –are back with a three-track ep that gives you more value for your entertainment pound than anything else.

If there’s a street in America that does for musicians what the Hollywood Walk of Fame does for film stars, will its curators please give Eux Autres a call? The USA should be giving this band a permanent public monument to their creative achievements.

Dear John by Allo Darlin

There has to be one transitional moment for any band that makes the leap from shouldabeens to stardom. It could be a life-changing gig, an instant of international infamy or, in Allo Darlin’s case, a song.

Much as I admire the many strengths of Allo Darlin’s second album, Europe, it consolidated their position as purveyors of smart guitar pop rather than took them to the next level. Dear John, though, has the extra kick to take them further still. I would say it sounds like Orange Juice (Louise Louise) or early Smiths or Jonathan Richman in 84, but it sounds most like Capricornia, which means it sounds like Allo Darlin, only better.

This is pop music as simple, urgent and infectious as it gets. It’s clever, too, from the dramatic enjambment to the cheeky pinch of the Modern Lovers’ “don’t let our youth go to waste” reconfigured as the pay-off line “don’t let the evening go to waste”.

UNSCIENTIFIC EXPERIMENT: I DJed this (ok, it was my turn to on the ipod) at a barbecue this week. No one of the 20 people present had ever heard Dear John before. Everyone present started to move. Hips swayed, toes tapped and soon a group of three started full out dancing. Dear John is an instant hit. People get it straight away. Does the digital age have its equivalent of the old grey whistle test? If so, this was it and it passed.

Dear John is the b-side of Allo Darlin’s xmas single, Only Dust Behind, which is itself a lovely song – especially with the image of the lawyer throwing champagne up in her hair – but xmas 2012 will surely be remembered in the Allo Darlin annals as the moment they crossed over.