Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Making MJ Hibbett happy doesn't make you stupid

One of the most wonderful things about Indietracks last weekend was the genuinely heartwarming and thrilling renaissance of MJ Hibbett & the Validators. Not that I'd written them off, or nuffink, just that they'd seemed to have stagnated somewhat. I was wrong and I feel foolish. I will never doubt them again.

So, if you're interested in making an old man moderately happy in a non-sexy way, then you should probably go and see MJ Hibbett's rock opera Dinosaur Planet, the details of which can be found in this infoadvetoriammercial.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Various - No More of Your Fairy Stories - an indiepop tribute to Ramones (Precordial Catch Records)

... or Stuff What I Bought at Indietracks, part one'.

I really don't like Ramones for some reason. There is no substance in my dislike of them at all, and like the sleevenotes on this album say, maybe I should look past the long hair and leather jackets and just embrace the pop a bit more.

It doesn't help when Helen Love are first up. I don't get Helen Love either, but after that things get immeasurably better. I decided upon listening to this album that I would pretend the songs were the artists' own, and then that might, subconciously make me get The Ramones. Well, it might work...

It certainly works on Liechtenstein's reworking of 'Danny Says', which is characteristically fucking awesome and reminds me again that here's a band that has yet to record a crap song. On a similar fragile theme is Summer Cats' version of 'Pinhead', which makes me forget I'm listening to a Ramones song for a couple of minutes.

Pocketbooks contribute a typically perky 'Don't Come Close', which sounds like it might all fall down at any second, but is desperately cute (in a GREAT way), whilst my urge to just give in to The Just Joans is brought even closer to reality with their 'Questioningly' - perhaps the best cover here.

Much credit to Pete and Marianthi for getting the Pains of Being Pure at Heart to contribute a track to the album. And to the band, for that matter. The mutual love-in continues apace.

As does mine with Horowitz and Allo Darlin'. The former's 'Judy is a Punk' is how I think The Ramones should've sounded, whislt Allo Darlin''s 'I Wanna Be Sedated' gives me the shivers, it's so beautiful.

The album ends with Vom Vorton's 'Pet Semetary', which starts off like 'Echo Beach', and the goes on to turn the song into some kind of maudlin opus. Alarmingly good stuff. And then there's Pete Green's comatose 'Blitzkrieg Pop', which I've even admitted TO HIS FACE that I really like. It's the perfect song for those post-Indietracks blues.

You can buy 'No More of Your Fairy Stories' here. Even if you're not a Ramones fan...

Monday, 26 July 2010

Weekends away: Indietracks 2010

'Weekends away: these were the happiest days/ill with the thrill of the chase....'

My first memory of this year’s Indietracks is Marianthi’s heart-shaped brooch. This sort of set the scene for the whole weekend, because, without wanting to get all Summer of Love on yo’ momma’s ass, it’s the one weekend where the love and passion of so many people comes bursting out.

It’s testament to how wonderful Stuart and Emma and Nat and Andy and Dan (and others I’ve probably missed out) are that we get to come and kick our socks off in the middle of Derbyshire once a year. And that’s without mentioning the good-natured-beyond-the-call-of-duty-ness of the volunteers at Midland Railway. As one of them said to me as he was tucking into his packed lunch on Sunday: “All we want to do is make sure people come and have a good time.” Mission accomplished, comrade. And then some.
I’m too tired to write out a proper review. And, what’s more, mere words can’t really relay how I feel about this precious festival, but here is a list of my highlights:

- Thinking, mistakenly, that the Red Shoe Diaries had stormed off stage after two songs on Saturday. When, in reality, they’d just finished their soundcheck. I’m an idiot.

- Watching my little boy enjoy his first music festival was a constant source of joy. I hope we’ve planted some kind of seed in his head and he’s not out robbing ironing boards off OAPs by the time he’s eleven, or something.

- Watching and listening to Mark Hibbett try and say “Parallelograms” in a “refreshed” state on Saturday afternoon.

- The Smittens. I never quite get The Smittens on record, but live they make absolutely perfect sense. The highlight of Saturday for me.

- Leaving early. Because of the need to get the boy to bed at a decent time, we left at about half six each day. But it was fantastic to know that you were going to sleep in your own bed each night. And to feel all refreshed each morning.

- Catching up with some amazing friends; the sort you feel like you see every weekend, when in reality some of them you haven’t seen for a year, but it doesn’t matter, because you can just carry on where you left off. I love that.

- Sunday morning on the lovely, deserted platform at Swanwick. And the little journey on the narrow gauge railway that leads to A SECRET PUB. One for next year, that.

- MJ Hibbett and the Validators. Boy, oh boy. What a bunch of pop fizz tunes. What an ace crowd. What a band. It’s only when you haven’t seen them for a while, that you realise what a gem of a band they are.

- The Cannanes. The ten or so people at the front knew what they were on about. I’m a big hairy brute, but then nearly had me in tears.

- Seeing another big hairy brute of a man sat on the floor, KNITTING. I’m all against the rosette and bunting brigade, but this was kind of special.

- The Specific Heats, who were, if anything, even better than last year, and whose new members seemed to have fitted in pretty much seamlessly.

- Standard Fare, who are now a big proper festival band, aren’t they? Yet still so meek and mild. Long may they last, and the new stuff sounds ace.

Honourable mentions go to The Hillfields and The Just Joans. I caught a couple of songs from their sets, and they sounded great on that whopping big PA on the indoor stage. And The Loves, for their highly camp half hour.

I don’t go to any other festivals any more. Partly because I can’t be doing with hordes of twats who think staying up all night, braying in a Home Counties accent, is fun. Nor can I handle the fact that everything thing on site is sponsored to within an inch of its life, including the stewards. But mainly because nothing will compare Indietracks, alright?

I’m really tired now. Is it next year yet?

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Thank Evans...

Just a very quick post before I take the nipper to nursery to tell you that the amazing Evans the Death have been added to the Sunday line-up of our weekender in September.

Which leaves us looking like this:

Saturday 25 September, Bunkers Hill. 2.30pm doors:
Allo Darlin'
The Sunny Street
Betty and the Werewolves
Milky Wimpshake
Red Shoe Diaries
The Pete Green Corporat Juggernaut
The Peterboroughs

Sunday 26 September, The Chameleon. 12pm doors:
Evans the Death
Emma and Ian from Pocketbooks (acoustic)
Scumbag Philosopher
Japanese Sleepers

But now - Indietracks...

Monday, 19 July 2010

'Twas the week before Indietracks...

Remember those Christmas Eves when you were a kid? The ones where you'd go to bed in a right old flap, wondering what ace presents you'd wake up to the next morning? Well, that's what the week running up to Indietracks is like, only you get little tasters here and there - little unwrapped gifts in the shape of warm-up shows.

Last night I went to one of these to see Plouf!, The Pete Green Corporate Juggernaut, Horowitz and The Parallelograms play in Nottingham. Okay, I missed the last two bands because I'd been packing belongings all day in preparation for moving house and I was knackered, but still, you could sort of sense the excitement in the air. The hardcore crowd of East Midlands indiepoppers were counting down the hours to the weekend. So am I.

The are warm-up gigs all over the country at the moment, and two more in Nottingham this week. On Wednesday Springfactory play with Boy Genius, Onward Chariots and Captain Dangerous at The Central.

The very next night The Specific Heats play with Horowitz and Burly Nagasaki at the Malt Cross. I really hope I can afford to go to at least one of these. Which cruel despot decided to put July's pay day on Friday?

See you on Saturday near the church.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Nottingham pop weekender: some form of order

We've finally managed to get some form of order out of the chaos that is organising the weekender in September. This has all been put down IN ART via the magical pen of Andy Hart. Here is his lovely flyer.

Ticket prices are £12 for the Saturday, and that gets you in to the Sunday afternoon show. Or, if you feel saucy and just want to come to the Sunday gig, then that's a fiver. Tickets for both are available on the door only, so make sure you get there nice and early.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Shifty disco

Either the rumours are true and Northern Portrait are making a real, quiff flattening scramble for pop superstardom, after Stefan's somewhat bizarre appearance on the Sky Sports website during the World Cup, or this video is one mighty pisstake.

Nothing would give me more pleasure than to see Northern Portrait on T4 every Sunday, live from Weston-super-Mare, but my spidey senses tell me this film for (the soon-to-be-re-released?) 'Crazy' might just be a spare time folly. Those beige curtains look shifty to me, for a start.

Still, none of this changes the fact that this song is endlessly immense.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Spaghetti Anywhere

You know you’re getting even older than you thought you were when you hear bands that sound like massive Belle and Sebastian fans to the point where they virtually ape their earlier releases. Bad thing? Absolutely not. Sure, B&S might be a flabby, bloated indiepop Dire Straits these days, but that shouldn’t take away from the fact that those first three albums were pretty much perfect.

Celebrating this are bands such as World Atlas, and Spaghetti Anywhere, who are from “Rome, Glasgow and East London.” Rehearsals must be tricky.

Spaghetti Anywhere specialise in those fragile pop masterpieces that B&S used to seemingly knock out whilst sitting on the loo. What’s more, they’ve made a video for ‘Love Again’ featuring two impossibly beautiful human beings, which sort of makes me melt. But I’m putting that down to tiredness. I’m a double hard bastard really.

Here's that video.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Opposites attract

Yes! A post about the legendary Paula Abdul song from the early 1990s.

There's always at least one new band you fall in love with at Indietracks each year, and this year I've had advance notice of which one it'll be. Cineplexx's new single, 'Tiger Trap' (and that's confusing matters to the most ridiculous degree) features Duglas from BMX Bandits and Norman Blake and should sound fantastic in the church as the sun begins to set at this year's festival.

'Tiger Trap' is the sort of hazy lullaby that I'm a complete sucker for and, even on a rainy Monday, makes the world a much brighter place. Seek them out at Indietracks, for sure. The single is released by Cherry Red today.

Meanwhile, through the angular pop window...

It gives me a little tingle inside to realise that Spraydog are still going strong, and it makes me even more excited that they have a new album out on the excellent Jigsaw Records label. Alas, it looks like ‘Impress and Defend’ will be the band’s last album, but they’ve gone down fighting, ‘cos here are (a lucky) 13 tracks full of ace, skewed pop that brings to mind Urusei Yatsua, Versus, Seafood even.And so there’s some really thrilling discordant stuff here like ‘Trading Zeniths’ that might not get heard by the indiepop community, and that’d be a shame. Or, if you’re after moments of pure beauty go in search of ‘Effort Syndrome’, which reminds me of the dear, departed San Lorenzo.

Basically, this is the sort of stuff I was listening to in The Wilderness Years of the mid- to late-90s, and whilst Spraydog don’t go for the revivalist button, they do remind me that there’s more to life than a ‘Be My Baby’ drumbeat and a perfect fringe. But not much more.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Futures and pasts

I'm in the process of moving house again at the moment, which of course means packing stuff up. I was throwing some CDs into a box earlier today when I came across an album I've not listened to in, ooh, it must be 15 years.

'The Real Ramona' by Throwing Muses remains a masterpiece that the band never even came close to topping. I bought this record when it came out because the whole world (well, as much of it as I could access from Grimsby) was in raptures about the band. The entire population of my age was split between who they'd want to marry; was it going to be Kristin Hersh or Tanya Donnelly. I was a Tanya fan, for your records. And this album became a staple of my getting-ready-to-go-out routine.

Listening to it now, it has a definite early '90s sound. Those slightly off-kilter, yet sharp guitars were being used on other 4AD releases, like Ultra Vivid Scene's 'Joy 1967-1990', and yet 'The Real Ramona stood out as a record full of soul for me. The nights I used to pretend to misunderstood to songs like 'Red Shoes' and 'Not Too Soon' were countless. Whilst songs like 'Golden Thing' turned a ridiculously shy 18 year old into a dancefloor regular.

Purists might say that 'The Real Ramona''s predecessor 'Hunkpapa' was the high point for Throwing Muses. They might be right, but I think that view is skewed slightly by the fact that the band were lumped in with a new wave of American bands making themselves known to the UK indie scene at that time.

Donnelly left the band after this album, and I never really got into The Breeders (and heavens, how 'Cannonball' grates now) or Belly. Throwing Muses are still going today, of course, but I lost interest completely after 'Red Heaven' which came out in 1992, and went in search of what I thought at the time were more interesting US bands. Still, listening to 'The Real Ramona' this afternoon has reminded me why I cherished it so much nearly 20 years ago.

Twenty years. Yikes! I better get on with the packing, before I die of old age, or something...

Friday, 9 July 2010

Dancing days

Oddbox Records, the label run by Trev McCabe in London, is making a push for the Second Wave of Indie/Dance Crossover (SWOIDC) by releasing a Smittens remix album. If you have terrible, terrible memories of dancing to Northside and Mock Turtles at a really shit house party just outside Lincoln in 1991, then a quick listen to 'Dancing Shoes: The Smittens Remixed' will banish them.

That happened to a mate of mine, obviously. Not me. No way.

Anyway, the album is streaming here, and you can buy it for three measley quid. What's stopping you?

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Brilliant at Breakfast

The last couple of days I've had that brittle feeling that something terrible is around the corner. I can usually get over it and put it down to tiredness, but if I get run over the number 10 bus to Ruddington at some point before the weekend, don't say I didn't warn you.

However, I think I've found something to calm myself down. It's a band called Brilliant at Breakfast, who, I believe, are from Indonesia. Their myspace page features three precious little songs designed to put a freshly washed duvet over your worries and whisk you off to somewhere a little less stressful.

Brilliant at Breakfast remind me a less peppy A Smile and a Ribbon, or, at times the late Harvest Ministers. They say their influences like in Sarah Records, but I think there's a little more to them than just that. I can hear some synthpop in here, too, and perhaps a passing resemblance to some of the less lounge Siesta pop. Whatever. It's pretty brilliant.

Whilst I've grabbed your gaze, the band have a single out on the prolific February Records at the moment called 'Almost Verbose'. I heartily approve of 'Nobody Ever Died of a Broken Heart'. This'll be followed up by an album on Paperplane Records later in the year.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Talk about the passion

There’s a lot said about the feeling of togetherness amongst the indiepop micro-scene, and I’m not really sure I agree with all of it, but when you’ve fretted madly over putting a gig on - as I did in the weeks leading up to the Cannanes/Sarandon show at the weekend - then it makes all the sweeter when it all, despite everything, feels right.

That’s what happened when I was stood there on Saturday night at about half ten, with the tension washed away by some supportive friends and a certain amount of dodgy continental lager. Sure, the gig wasn’t packed - far from it. But when The Cannanes start playing their songs, then you could be stood alone in the middle of Mansfield and the world would seem like a brighter place. The only downside to the whole evening was learning that I’d been pronouncing Cannanes wrongly for about 15 years, which was kind of mortifying. Still, when you struggle to say “statistics”, then nothing is sacred.

Tony came up to me half way through the gig. We were both a bit drunk, and he leant on my shoulder and said: "Frances from The Cannanes has the best modern folk voice in the world!" He said it about four more times, but I'll put that down to extreme refreshment, but for a while we were both convinced he was right. And maybe he is.

A pretty much perfect weekend (bar a deathly hangover yesterday) was rounded off by listening to the new Liechtenstein single, ‘Passion for Water’. I think it was Lynsey who said to me over the weekend, that she could tell from the first five seconds of this song that it was going to be wonderful. She wasn’t wrong. If anything signals that summer is here, then this song is it. Also, I'm pretty much sure this song is about Cleethorpes boating lake. I'll assume it is until told otherwise by someone in authority.

Look at me name-dropping people like I HAVE FRIENDS. Pathetic.

Friday, 2 July 2010

You! Me! Tomorrow night! The Cannanes! Nottingham!

Just to remind you before you book yourself into that babysitting job, that The Cannanes, Sarandon, Alberto Veto and Slowcoaches are playing in Nottingham tomorrow night (Saturday 3 July). It'd be a wonder and a delight to see you there.