Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Wildhoney: Seventeen forever

This has got everything last year's debut 7" ep had - squalling guitars, rapid-fire drums, gales of twisted noise - only more. It's almost perverse that Seventeen ("slow swing" etched on the run-out groove) gets the a-side billing when Get Out Of My Dreams and Soft Bats ("dream thing" on the run-out groove) share the b-side when those songs have got more zip in their engine.

No matter. This is Ecstasy-era My Bloody Valentine and early Pale Saints pop. I'm certain you're not bored of Joanna Gruesome yet - how could you be - but Wildhoney are more than 'if you like JoGru you'll love Wildhoney'. Way more. Because if I'm in charge of the charts then this goes to number one.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Lunchbox Loves You

It seems too strong to say that Lunchbox have been written out of history simply because they were never in it. They wouldn't have existed without Rocketship - whose jubilant keyboards and punchy guitar riffs inform Lunchbox's moves - who themselves haven't even got into the history books.

But Lunchbox Loves You, their 5th album, deserves at least a footnote of its own in pop history. Any 1 of these 10 songs could turn winter into summer. Past forays into shoegaze are gone and pop is all over the place. So Lunchbox Loves You shares sonic space with The Aisler Set's The Last Match, Beulah's When Your Heartstrings Break and The Fun and Games' Elephant Candy.

Sweet though this is, sickly it ain't. Like The Beach Boys, Lunchbox hide sadness in sunbeams. On Another Dance Floor they're just "trying to forget myself...I could be someone else". They're from California. Of course they are.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Owl & Mouse: Somewhere To Go

Spite seldom sounds so sweet as it does on Don't Read the Classics: "how I wish you could have been a fucking man". Owl & Mouse's Hannah Botting came to London from Australia in 2008. She bought a cheap ukulele and taught herself to play by learning Magnetic Fields songs.

These quietly energetic and stylish songs remind me of Alan Horne's description of Subway Sect, that the idea is to "work not with power, but with weakness and introversion".

Sure, no one who went to the Download festival is going to embrace this spare and haunting ep, but anyone who a few years ago dismissed Owl & Mouse as somehow too lightweight will be converted. Because Somewhere To Go is a very substantial and richly rewarding record.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

The Chills live

Martin Phillips sourced and selected 97 Chills songs - "rarities for the fans only", including demos, live takes, studio out-takes, radio sessions, jingles and soundtracks - and released them in 2000 as the Secret Box triple CD.

Phillips wrote notes for each song. Here are 3 of the live takes:

Declaration - Captain Cook, Dunedin, 5/5/84
There are those who have tried to re-write history so that The Chills were pop star wannabes and this annoys me because we consistently played at least as powerfully as most of our peers and our success was not due to selling out to the mainstream with obvious hits. There is no such thing. I have always written from the heart whether it's punk pop, novelty, dark atmosphere, or whatever.

Frozen Fountain - Captain Cook, Dunedin, 5/5/84
Sure, with hindsight, my little anti-deity rant seems immature, but on a good night this was a very powerful song and it's one of the main reasons this project came into being as it is fondly remembered by many of our earlier audiences. My voice seldom lasted until the end of this song and certainly not on this performance.

If This World Was Made For Me - Rumba Bar, Auckland, 25/2/82
Once again, this is the only available version and it has the earlier 'Martin's Paradise' lyrics. Terry Moore always thought that this indicated a new direction for the band and it features one of his first "bass breaks".

Thursday, 5 June 2014

The Shivvers

They spelt their name wrong like The Beatles, they played power pop like The Raspberries and knew their British Invasion bands - all pitch-perfect melodies, punchy hooks and tremulous drama - inside out. They should have been bigger than Cheap Trick and anyone who bought a Blondie record would have loved them. If they'd heard them.

Like Big Star, one of their most obvious influences, and any number of Nuggets garage rock lost classics, they flew under the radar. What we've got now is the 11 songs recorded from 1979 to 1981 which would have been their debut album. Remastered and fresh as new paint, this is what a rock'n'roll group sounds like when there are no marketing and A&R departments meddling with a simple and pure aesthetic.

The Shivvers self-released one 7" in 1980, Teenline, which is everything you'd want in a pop single. Wait until you're very rich to buy an original of that, one of power pop's holy grail. In the meantime, Sing Sing's issue of the album - gatefold sleeve, poster, extensive sleeve notes - is worth its weight in blood diamonds.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Gold-Bears: Dalliance

Buy this record if you:
  • like super-charged guitars
  • have played This Love Is Fucking Right! more than any other song by the Pains Of Being Pure At Heart
  • thought the Gold-Bears were pretty neat but all they needed was to turn up the amps even more
  • wondered what those very first Stereolab eps would sound like if they'd never heard the Silver Apples
  • know, deep down, that The Wedding Present never got better after George Best
  • get excited by manic pop thrills

Don't buy this record if you're:
  • a fucking moron

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

The Chills

"When we first recorded Kaleidoscope World we thought, 'This is a definite radio song.' We thought the same with Doledrums. But they didn't get radio play, so I don't worry about it now."
NZ Herald, January 16 1987

"I'm continually writing, so as a result we're doing about 30 songs at the moment. There's another 16 completed ones we could be doing, and the basis for another 150."
TNT magazine, 1987

"What I want to do is catch those feelings that you have which aren't named. They're sort of not anger and they're not sorrow. They're those strange feelings I want to make universal so a person in any country could hear the bit of music and know what it meant."
I Love My Leather Jacket press release, Flying Nun UK, 1987