Monday, 27 January 2014

Let's Wrestle by Let's Wrestle

Let’s Wrestle did the difficult third album with their second album, Nursing Home. Mike Lightning’s sledgehammer bass and Wesley Patrick Gonzalez’s furious guitar worked against each other like the blades of a pair of scissors. If, as their debut single claimed, they wished that they were in Husker Du, then that seemed to be the manic, melodic mayhem that would take them to hardcore heaven.

But where Let’s Wrestle early records had - maybe through sheer exuberance over expertise - sounded wonderfully like songs collapsing, Nursing Home sounded like the band itself collapsing. And they did. This third album features a new line-up and reverses the anarchic vim of I Wish I Was In Husker Du; instead of "the death of an indiepop fan" it's the rebirth of one.

“I could sound like Neutral Milk Hotel,” Wes claimed on I Wish I Was In Husker Du - incidentally, if there was a better single in 2007, I’d love to hear it - and later singles I Won’t Lie To You and I’m So Lazy suggested that with those tunes, he probably could.

This eponymous third album shows that he can sound like the elegant Elephant 6 modern psychedelia of Neutral Milk Hotel and, more accurately, Beulah. It shows that Let’s Wrestle can sound like the Lovin’ Spoonful (the complexities of young love rued and celebrated in under 3 minutes), that they can do grand orchestral pop like The Zombies (melancholy and melodrama in equal measure) and they can, like The Kinks, write about their London friends and lovers in Islington Green and on Queensbridge Road.

This is as much the rebirth of an indiepop fan as it is an album by a fan of psychedelic pop. I'm filing my copy between Odessey & Oracle and When Your Heartstrings Break.

Let's Wrestle is out on Feb 10.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Odd Box 100 Club Series Vol 2

Sock Puppets - Cute Boys Are Cute
A riot in under 50 seconds, snappy like First Base and day-glo like Helen Love, Cute Boys Are Cute is young, dumb and full of cum. This song is a breathless, giddy, quick fuck.

Bloomer - Long Slow Ride
I don't know if this is about sex or a bus journey - quite possibly both - but it hammers along like mid-80s Pastels, equal parts dirty and dreamy, fuzzy noise and pin-sharp melodies. Another hit.

Dog Legs - Toot Toot Hey!
The first record from one of 2013's most exciting newcomers is an absolute gem. Smart, sassy punk-pop like The Go-Go's We Got The Beat only grungier and more teenage. Huggy Bear never sounded this good. I bet they wish they had.

City Yelps - Saying Things For Effect
You know how in the 80s Flying Nun released the records that weren't quite pop enough - the ones they weren't sure what to do with - in black and white sleeves? The ones that drew from the less obvious parts of Lou Reed's back catalogue and early krautrock? They were all pretty special. So is this.

King of Cats - Half Nelson
I worry for the psychological health of any teenagers who have sex to this music. I should worry, too, for King of Cats, but it's too late for them. They're fucking weirdos who've created a space between Daniel Johnston and the Butthole Surfers, and I'm very glad they did.

Subscribe now or hope there a few left over for individual sales.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

The Valdons: Stop, Wait A Minute Girl

This is music's romance, right here. Back in the day The Valdons had a local following - sadly, nothing more - for their group harmony funky soul. They had a couple of their tracks compiled on 'Twin Cities Funk & Soul: Lost R&B Grooves from Minneapolis/St. Paul 1964-1979' on Secret Stash 2 years ago.

Last year, they dusted down a couple of early 70s demos and with Secret Stash's house band cut the funkiest new couple of minutes you're likely to hear for a long time. Good? Oh, this could be a lost Curtis Mayfield track from 71. That good.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Trick Mammoth: Floristry

What bands play upbeat songs that are touched by such sadness? What bands luxuriate in melancholy sweetness with such rich despondency? The Smiths and The Cure. Here's another: Trick Mammoth.

Trick Mammoth belong to a lineage that includes Hatful of Hollow and Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me. They create the sort of literate, romantic pop music that was indie's high-water mark before indie became a byword for sounding like U2 and before Britpop's 60s rock heist.

They remind me of another New Zealand band, The Verlaines, whose early records matched love's desperate urgency with a fierce poetic intensity. Floristry had me reaching for Hamlet - how many bands can you say that about? - and Ophelia's "fantastic garlands", and the death and the maiden motif.

I've no doubt that Trick Mammoth made Floristry sound as good as they possibly could. And it sounds fantastic. They're all about 19 years old. Everyone else will be playing catch-up if they get any better.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Clearance - Greensleeve

"Nobody writes them like they used to/So it may as well be me," Belle and Sebastian reasoned on Get Me Away From Here, I'm Dying. Clearance don't actually say that, but the intention is clear: breathe new life into Pavement.

It makes sense: Pavement are gone and, Mirror Traffic aside, Malkmus's solo work has been inconsistent, and Preston School of Industry's brilliance wasn't repeated by Spiral Stairs' one album.

But these 5 songs don't stray into pastiche. Firstly, they're too good; secondly, Pavement didn't exist in a vacuum. So there's the bold hooks of Big Dipper and the crisp pop of Let's Active in here and given a different slant.

Quite simply, the reason I bought this 7" and not Stephen Malkmus And The Jicks' Wig Out At Jagbags album is Greensleeve sounds better and fresher and hungrier.

Clearance probably aren't helping themselves by using artwork so close to Slanted and Enchanted for this single, but get past that and this record has magic all its own.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Orange Juice by Stanley Brinks and The Wave Pictures

This is about alcohol, tobacco and ephedrine, and a little bit of orange juice. The drink, not the band. It's like Paul Simon with a reggae rhythm (my five pounds says Stanley knows Weather Report by The Tennors) and there's a hint of the ragged sparsity of Blur's Coffee and TV.

This song even gives you the opportunity, if you were that way inclined, to shout "guitar solo" but I rather suspect crowds of fans will be shouting along to the delicious pay-off line "the radio sucks balls". In matching life's hangdog vagaries with love's jubilation, Orange Juice lifts gloom into hard-won glory. It's pure musical joy.

You can buy this orange vinyl 7" from Fika or at Stanley Brinks' Hangover Lounge gig on January 19, where you can have your own alcohol and orange juice (ephedrine not supplied).

Just watch the video. Everyone's having so much fun!

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Amelia Fletcher OBE

Amelia Fletcher was appointed OBE in the 2014 New Year Honours list for services to Competition and Consumer Economics. Amelia’s work in hobby bands like Talulah Gosh and Heavenly didn’t contribute to this recognition, yet it seems strange, almost counterintuitive, that a figurehead of indiepop – an underground music scene based on egalitarian principles – should accept the Officer of the British Empire.

We have to, though, separate quite clearly Amelia’s hobby (indiepop) and her professional status (former chief economist at the Office for Fair Trading). Honorifics are handed out to senior civil servants almost by rote; no-one in indiepop will ever get one for charitable services to musical endeavour.

Much as I enjoy the anti-rock indiepop of Talulah Gosh’s I Can't Get No Satisfaction (Thank God), it obviously made no impact on The Rolling Stones. It’s a great little pop song. No more, no less.

When full-time rock stars Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were offered knighthoods, only the former accepted. The Stones are so establishment that it was only mildly ironic that Jagger became Sir Mick.

What these honours do to people whose main activity is in the counter-culture is assimilate them into the establishment. Had John Lydon accepted the MBE he was offered some years ago, then that would really have been the final nail in the Sex Pistols’ pantomime coffin.

When the Rastafarian poet Benjamin Zephaniah rejected the OBE he said: "I get angry when I hear the word 'empire'; it reminds me of slavery, it reminds me of thousands of years of brutality, it reminds me of how my foremothers were raped and my forefathers brutalised.”

However, there are different immigrant experiences. Amelia’s Jewish paternal grandparents left Poland for East London in the 1930s. As Amelia has made no public response to her acceptance of the OBE, I’ll suggest that her family’s experience of the empire, and Britain’s acceptance of her family in pre-WW2 Europe, might have persuaded her that her family would be proud of this assimilation.

Many years ago, Amelia told me about a particularly vituperative attack of Talulah Gosh in the NME by music journalist Steven Wells that called for them to be put in Nazi concentration camps. Amelia wrote Wells a 5-page letter explaining why, especially given her family background, his analogies were particularly undignified and disingenuous.

Wells, known for writing in capital letters rather than being even in the suburbs of intellectualism, replied with a short note to the effect that ‘we’ll never agree’.

I expect you’re reading this because you’re an indiepop fan to some degree. Indiepop is a much broader church than its detractors would admit. One of its major protagonists has an OBE for unrelated activities. As a republican, I’ve tried to understand why Amelia would accept this honour.

For fun, and because the more interesting debate to be had is indiepop's middle-class bias, I’ll leave the last word to Dan Treacy: