Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Two If By Sea

There are some bands with terrible names that I've really liked over the last couple of years. Chariots of Tuna spring to mind - although they changed their name to, erm, Onward Chariots, Evans the Death, and here's another one.

Two If By Sea (what?) are another one of those long distance relationship bands between Teresa Daniele (formerly of The Haircuts), Lisle Mitnik (Fireflies/Very Truly Yours), and Kevin Clark (Homeville Circle/Wooden Owls). They have a 5-song 7" vinyl EP, 'Staysail', available soon on the deeply dependable February Records.

Influences are a big thing 'round these parts, and easy to hear Field Mice, Slowdive, early Lush (especially around the first couple of eps), and a dash of Francophilia. And I've nearly always loved a band who've taken the time to cover 'Strawberry Fair'.

So, as the snow weeps down outside, and I wonder how the bloody flip I'm going to get to work tomorrow, Two If By Sea are calming my nerves and ironing out my brow. I await the name change with mid-range patience.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Sourpatch: one more time with feeling

As you will see in a couple of weeks time when I get round to doing a half-arsed review of the last twelve months, Sourpatch have entered my life and made it altogether a happier place this year. Which is why I don't really mind getting excited about something which is happening NEXT YEAR.  Crazy, I know, but I still can't quite believe that Sourpatch are playing in Nottingham.

I get so nervous about putting overseas bands on. What if things are done differently abroad and all the bands get their own dressing room with grapes and shit? What if they want - gasp! - feeding? All these fears have been allayed over the years by bands like Electric Pop Group and Northern Portrait who have just got pissed with the rest of us. And why wouldn't they?

I digress. And I shouldn't 'cos Sourpatch ruled my world in early summer by putting out an album so heartfelt and so raw that in the time it's taken to write these three paragraphs, I've reached for it and put it on again. And, come the end of next February, they'll be playing in our favourite Nottingham venue, The Chameleon.

Also playing will be Horowitz, who's 'Popkids of the World Unite' album has, I'm led to believe, landed successfully at Thee SPC and will be landing on your doormats over the next couple of days.

Completing the bill will be Alka Seltzer, fizz punk poppers Town Bike, all the way from that Liverpool and probably still wearing matching outfits. Please note I can't be sure about that last fact, because there's a recession on and they might have had to resort to wearing their own clothes for a while.

Anyway - despite it falling on the same day as London Popfest, I really do think you should come along. Then speed through the night down to London to relax with the other 207 people in Europe who like indiepop. It's the done thing, darlings.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Vom Vorton - Plots and Plans ep

One of the delights of putting gigs on is being totally blown away by bands or acts that you have no illusions in. I'd never seen Tom Morton's Vom Vorton act before, and although I loved Lardpony, I was expecting a nice, pleasant acoustic set. I should've known Tom was better than just that.

I managed to pick up the Vom Vorton 'Plots and  Plans' ep on Friday night, and, if anything it's even better than Tom's performance that night. The songs are tiny masterpieces about Paul Gascoigne, huge volcanoes, sweaty builders, love, life and the joy of being the underdog. Lest we forget that all great songs feature these themes. Well, some of the time...

Tom, of course, is somewhat prolific - or at least that's the way it seems to me. He seems able to knock these great little pop songs out at will, and these were all recorded on his own, in his own house over the summer and autumn (remember that?)

The ep ends with 'Supervolcano' - a sort of lo-fi, defeated-yet-triumphant call to arms that Lardpony used to do so, so well. It drips with the sort of understated brilliance that runs through these five songs, and it leaves you gasping like a geriatric Alsatian for more. If you follow me.

I paid three quid for this tiny treasure, and it shouldn't cost you much more. See the Vom Vorton website for more details.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Standard Fare+the Felt Tips+The Sweet Nothings+Vom Vorton: keeping you warm this winter

Despite the fact that it's about 690 degrees below zero outside, Standard Fare, The Felt Tips, The Sweet Nothings and Vom Vorton are putting their mittens and scarves on and playing a gig in Nottingham tomorrow night. I really think you should be there too. Here's the facebook page for more information.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Abolish the monarchy and buy indiepop records instead

The next UK royal wedding will be on 29 April, then. The same day Hitler got married, so they tell me. Those who do not learn from history...

Until that toxic day we have more than enough pop music to save our souls, starting today with the new Eux Autres album, 'Broken Bow'. I was listening to this all the way to poor old Stoke-on-Trent and back yesterday, and, somehow, it made everything marginally better.

It's a bold, brassy, melancholy, but ultimately triumphant album, and I can't wait to see them live early next year after missing them like an idiot when they played Indietracks a couple of years ago.

You can download 'Queen Turner' here, and 'Go Dancing' here. They'll improve your day in spades.

Looking forward to records is hard in these days of easy-to-find internet leaks, but I'm proper looking forward to the second Bubblegum Lemonade album, cunningly titled 'Sophomore Release'. I may have made 'You Only Live Twice' available for download before, but fuck it, it's so good that you should download it again.

'Sophomore Release' is available for pre-order from Matinee Records right now, and judging from the tracks I've heard from the album, it's going to make a late dash for those end of year polls. Cuddly, like a favourite jumper this album I reckon.

Whilst you part company with your hard earned on these excellent records, those in the UK might like to ponder on that fact that we're paying for Prince William and that horrendous Sloane he's marrying to be ferried around at their vile celebration of excess. Buying these two releases might not get rid of the parasitic Windsors just yet, but it's a tiny step in the right direction.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Soaked in this fever

Inbetween transatlantic trips in a sealed train to Stoke, Derby, Manchester and Birmingham this week, I'm going to try and fit in some ace new music. Should I stay awake, that is...

Baffin Island, you might remember, are the result of some kind of orgy between The Very Most and Hermit Crabs. The result is a three-track single on EardrumsPop that makes this cold weather seem almost tropical. 'You Invited Me' reminds me of a more laid-back Eux Autres (more of whom later), whilst 'You Make Two Weeks Two Days' sounds like a more depressed School (this is a good thing - honest.

Deliciously, the final track is a cover of Math and Physics Club's 'Darling Please Come Home', and it's as cute as a button. I love this song hard, and this stripped back cover works perfectly. More people should cover Math and Physics Club songs. In fact, I demand a tribute album.

When I have time to scratch my arse, I will bring you news of the aforementioned Eux Autres and a new album from Bubblegum Lemonade. Right now, my tea is ready and I need to bed down for double Coronation Street before another 12 hour extravaganza tomorrow. Life glows.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Incoming. Upcoming.

Speaking of HHBTM records, myself and the boy Fog of Ideas Andy will be putting the mighty Sourpatch on at The Chameleon in Nottingham on 24 February. That's next year, if such a thing still exists by then. I'm completely giddy about this, because 'Crushin'' is one of my favourite albums of this year and ever. If you haven't heard it, buy it for yourself for Christmas, and then go and see the band when they tour in the US and UK from 14-26 February 2011.

Next Friday (26 November) is the last 'chips gig of the year. It's the Sportswriter's Pop Personalities of the year Standard Fare, ably supported by The Felt Tips from that Glasgow, The Sweet Nothings from Sheffield, and Vom Vorton (ex-Lardpony and Of Mice and Mental Arithmetic) from the Land of Good Pubs - Derby. It'd be a delight to see you there. Here's a facebook event page thing. It's a fiver to get in, or three quid if you're out of work. Meet me at the bar.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010


I'm a bit surprised how many folks are kinda digging it, as they are so much of a live thing. It's like the intensity of Kristin Hersh, and the frailty of Cat Power sometimes. People in Athens either love or hate them; but there is just something about them that inspires people to create. I just offered to do a poster to start, then it became a record, then I did the sleeve, then I shot a video, now I'm about to start on the new sleeve and start work on another video.They even have pulled me and some others out of their shell to start their own bands. It's weird but a lot of their thing is their live show.

Not my words, comrades, but the words of Mike Turner, general secretary of Happy Happy Birthday To Me Records, about a band called Tunabunny, who he describes as potentially being the most important band he's worked with. He's clearly smitten.

Listening to Tunabunny's debut album on HHBTM it's pretty easy to see why. Although Mike thinks it's a live thing, the band make a few MP4s sound pretty exciting too. Tunabunny are some kind art rock mess. Intense, scrappy and often all over the place (this sorten of heightens the thrill, though), but underneath that lies a beating pop heart.

Certainly the 15 tracks on Tunabunny's album constitute what the kids are calling today 'a journey'. Comparisons could range from a seriously loose Spacemen 3, to a pissed up Throwing Muses. Then there's a touch of Talking Heads tension in there, to bind it all together. It's pretty memserising stuff.

Last year I thought Crystal Stilts would become this kind of band. They sort of let me down live. I'd saw my left ear off to let Tunabunny whip my heart out and beat it around a bit.

You better buy this record, really. Else Father Christmas won't be visiting you this year.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Gale twat

It's seems that Aaron Porter, the toady president of the NUS, prefers to line-up with the establishment, police, BBC, Sky News and mainstream press in condemning the occupation of Millbank during this week's protest against the increase in student fees.

Perhaps he might have some faith and confidence in the membership of the NUS, and then take a leaf from Clare Solomon's book, who on this Thursday's Jeremy Vine show on Radio 2 firmly stuck it to Tory MP Roger Gale. Solomon is from the SWP split Counterfire and ULU.

What's mildly amusing about this - apart from Gale being genuinely ruffled - is that he used to be a pirate radio DJ for Radio Caroline. In later life he was director of children's telly at the BBC during the late 70s, thus beaming horrible right-wing rays into the brains of people my age. Gale also supports capital punishment, the kinky devil.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Caught by the fuzz

You might want to think back over the last five years and consider the great pop moments. It's a fair best that amongst them will be a performance by Horowitz - a series visceral, life-changing moments when you realise that pop music can bring people together for two and half minutes. All of those brief episodes are on the new Horowitz album, 'Popkids of the World Unite!'

This record brings together Horowitz songs from 2004-2009, and the hits don't stop. Anyone with half a brain knows how great the likes of 'Tracyanne', 'Hug Target', 'Government Center', 'Drop the Hat', 'How to Look Imploring' are. Instant pop hits mainlined straight to your brain, but also real passages that stay with you forever.

Sure, Horowitz on record are nowhere near as blistering as they are live - but then all things are relative. Moments like this don't come around very often, to whimper about sound quality seems a little churlish.

it's Christmas in a few weeks. Remember when you were little and wrote lists of presents you wanted Father Christmas to bring? Well, this should be right at the top of it. In a year of glorious pop albums, 'Popkids of the World Unite!' is a fitting bookend.

'Popkids of the World Unite' is available now to pre-order on CD in a gatefold digipack with immediate digital download from Thee SPC.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Milky Wimpshake - My Funny Social Crime (Fortuna Pop!)

A miserable Monday morning in Nottingham in the mid-90s, and on the way back from signing on I slip into Selectadisc and rifle through the seven inch singles I can't afford. There's the usual hipper-than-thou slew of American emo that was never gonna cheer me up. Then there, shining like a glittering penny in a pool of shit, was 'The Deviation Amplification Spiral' by Milky Wimpshake. I had a fiver in my pocket and no food in the house. Of course I bought the record...

A decade and a half later, I'm still wrapped around Milky Wimpshake's little finger. They're still here, fighting and loving harder than most; and I'm still here wondering quite why every band can't be like them. What's more 'My Funny Social Crime' is probably their best album yet. Heck, even 'Clicking It' from 'The Deviation Amplification Spiral' makes an appearance here. I think that might have something to do with dialectical materialism, but I can't be sure.

What's so special about buzzsaw guitars, popcorn bass and rattly drums? Everything - that's what. Especially on 'Broken Again' - a modern northern soul classic, or  'Itchy Feet on a Tuesday Night', which makes the case for going out and having fun during the week, rather than accepting pointless work again the next morning. If 'Itchy Feet...' isn't the anthem for the fightback against this vile government, then it bloody well should be.

And then, wonderfully, there are some real moments of pathos. Such as on the gorgeous 'Patchwork', which features what sounds like a cello. It's waiting to be on the next but two series of 'This is England'. If you ever want a song that sums up what loving, living with and then losing someone is all about, then look no further.

By the time Amelia Fletcher comes along and duets on 'Eyeball to Eyeball', you think just about anything's possible. And that's pretty much how Milky Wimpshake have made me feel for the last 15 years. Whether it be on one of their irresistable records, watching one of their unspeakably life-affirming live show, simply having a quick chat to Pete Dale before or after a gig, or re-reading those Slampt! liner notes all over again - this band mean more to me than more of the supposedly "important" things in life ever will. It's not a flirtation or a dalliance or a fling; it's a lifelong love story. Don't ever change.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Happydeadmen - Eleven Pop Songs (Fraction Discs)

Happydeadmen were around in that Sweden at the beginning of the 1990s, and 20 years later, Fraction Discs have decided to release their debut album 'Eleven Pop Songs'.

At first listen, 'Eleven Pop Songs' sounds very much of its time. Remember that slew of late '80s/early '90s indiepop bands who clogged up most of the latter stages of the 'Sound of Leamington Spa' compilations? You know those lot; the ones who'd listened to way many Lloyd Cole records than is good for anyone. The sort of bands that would make Deacon Blue sound like Huggy Bear. Well, Happydeadmen could easily be put in a box with that lumpen lot, if you wanted to do that.

But you'd be wrong to, sonny. There's more trickery at work here than a few jangling guitars, some turn ups and a bad Morrissey impression. Happydeadmen had more craft, more guile and more pop in their pores.

You can see it in 'Emilia', which starts off sounding like The Smiths' 'Jeane' before strutting away on its own path with a drum track that makes you want to get up and start shadow boxing. But Happydeadmen had a sensitive side, too. See the soaring 'We Swim' and the gorgeous 'Silent Sigh City' for immediate evidence of this.

Best track here is 'Heaven, No!' a perky rockabilly shuffle that brings to mind The Man From Delmonte's rarely-reached best. Here, Happydeadmen kept it simple, and there's lovely middle eight of chiming guitars, before we get back to some serious crooning to the end of the song. Top stuff.

Happydeadmen's legacy is clear for all to see, and can still be heard in the likes of Acid House Kings and Danish brethren Northern Portrait. What they had at the beginning of the 90s has been replicated and tweaked by countless others. Why not go right back and get in at the start?

You can order 'Eleven Pop Songs' from the Fraction Discs website.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Pipas for the people

I've finally managed to get over my Felt Tips obsession, and have MOVED ON. Now I'm back to my occasional obsession with Pipas.

Pipas first entered my life when Jimmy from Matinee started sending me stuff to review for my old fanzine, tasty. The release that popped my cherry was the 'A Short Film About Sleeping' ep, an innocent mix of swaying, lush pop that sounded completely new and fresh way back then. My heart was theirs

This was quickly followed by the dreamlike album, 'A Cat Escaped', with classics such as 'The Conversation', 'Run Run Run', 'Barabapa' and 'Old Kent Road'. Every one a smash hit, and every one now a dear friend.

The 'Bitter Club' ep (with the stunning, desolate 'Jean C') and then The 'Chunnel Autumnal' album followed. Almost immediately you wanted the next release and it came with in September 2006 with the 'Sorry Love' album, which saw them move into something a little more... electronic.

It's hard to describe the feeling of warmth when you put these records in your player. The knowledge that, for the next 30 minutes ('cos Pipas songs are short - it's pop you see) you'd be whisked off to a world without stress or bills or work or illness or fucking Tories.

And so it was in November 2005 that my friend Sandy told us that Pipas were to play their last ever gig upstairs at the Betsey Trotwood in London. The Betsey, of course, is tiny. Where better for one of my favourite bands to play their last ever gig. We'd be there.

Rushing home from work, getting changed, running to the train station, on the train - we made it. Drinking cans of terrible lager as we hurtled through South Leicestershire to stave off the excitement. Or to make us more excited - who knows?

We meet Marianthi (or was it Sandy?) at King's Cross and walk to the Betsey. There's Sandy (or was it Marianthi?) - there's, seemingly, the whole of the London indiepop mafia. For a provincial, this makes this momentus occasion even more thrilling.

The gig goes by in a whirl of crushed shoulder and craning necks, and then Pipas are apparently gone forever. We'll not see them again. Only Sandy had got the wrong information! Pipas live! We'd inadvertently spent the best part of £120 on seeing a band at the Betsey. Can many people say that?

It was bitterly cold that night, that I remember. But we stocked up on booze after the gig, made the short walk back to St Pancras, and get in to bed at about half past two. Only four hours until we get up for work. But we can listen to Pipas to stave that off, I guess.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Back to the leisure centre

In the barmy, early days of summer before this Coalition government bestowed their "delicious" cuts on us, I wrote about Harry Redknapp and Swansea Recreation Centre.

Apt, then, that Swansea Recreation Centre get back in touch with me at the same time that Redknapp is busy mouthing off to anyone who will listen about how he's threatening not to mouth off any more. Oh, such a loss! Please don't 'arry! Your cheeky persona and blinkered, backward views on certain aspects of the game I love really are the only things that keep me going at a time like this.

Not really; I'd be happy to never see your face or hear your stupid voice again.

The same cannot be said, however, for Swansea Recreation Centre, who have gone and made video for their nonsense-classic, 'Aquatic Finesse'. You might not understand a word they're going on about here, but they make more sense to me than the Spurs manager and professional "character" ever will.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Inclined Plane - Paw Meds/Mary, All the Time (February Records)

Happy November. You know it's November when you're biking home and you suddenly become blinded by a big red leaf that's decided to attack your face. But there are worse ways to crash into the back of a parked car.

Crashing straight into November is the new single by Hartford psych-pop outfit Inclined Plane who have, apparently, played with the Pains of Being Pure at Heart in their time. The new single 'Paw Meds'/'Mary all the Time' is the very essence of autumn; it's a warm, fuzzy slice of pop that instantly banishes any blues you might have about Things and Stuff in a huge pop explosion. And that's hyperbole!

You might want to compare Inclined Plane to bands such as Specific Heats, who also make this kind of pop music seem so effortless. You might, because the two bands seem to share a sense of the ridiculousness of pop, and what makes it bright and sparkly when everything else around you is the most beige.

You can listen to both tracks at the February Records website, where you can - nay, you must! - pre-order the single, which is out on 30 November. It's the perfect Christmas present for your depressed uncle.