Monday, 30 January 2012

Azure Blue - Rule of Thirds (Matinee Recordings)

There's a terrible, terrible tendency amongst some pop fans to think that anything that comes out of Scandinavia is immediately to be pounced on and rubbed up against without any kind of rational thinking. It kind of annoys me slightly. Nationality and imaginary borders mean nothing in life, and therefore in pop music.

Let me say this: 'Rule of Thirds' is brilliant. It's the kind of electropop album that most often strive to make, but very often fail by trying to be too clever. Tobias Isaksson, who seems to be something of Real Pop Hero in his native Sweden, doesn't have to try too hard. Each of these songs seems to float by in a kind of cosy dreamlike state, never really asking you to think too hard, but always managing to catch your attention.

Azure Blue are the musical equivalent of Coronation Street, you might say: comfortable; assured; definitely pleasing; and certain to appeal to 65 year olds from Wigan. That last point might need some work, but you get my drift.

It's about ten years since I discovered Matinee Records (or Recordings, if you will). Back then they were putting stuff out by The Windmills and Airport Girl and it was great. Right now they're putting stuff out like Azure Blue and it's still as great. That there is the definition of not only a great group of bands, but a wonderful record label. Long may it continue.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Tigercats: in the vanguard of the new pop army

There are way too many good records coming out all at once at the moment. I'm getting old and struggling to keep up with the pace. I've hit the pop wall. So, when I'll get around to writing about the new MJ Hibbett & the Validators and Azure Blue albums I don't really know, but I will.

For now, I've been listening to the new set of songs from Tigercats for about the past week. The rough versions of the songs (which don't sound too rough to these ears, but then I know NOTHING of the recording process) are from an album out in March (I think) called 'Isle of Dogs' that will be released (again, I think) on Fika Records.

This album reminds me of a lot of things. It reminds me of being young and hearing Suede for the first time on the Evening Session and missing my bus into Grimsby because I didn't want to leave the radio.

It also reminds me of moving in to a crap flat on Mansfield Road in Nottingham with paper thin walls (BUT WE WERE HAPPY) and playing 'Breaking God's Heart' by Hefner over and over again whilst drinking cheap wine and gin.

One song reminds me of Northside, but - hey - that's okay.

Perhaps my favourute track on Isle of Dogs is 'Banned at the Troxy' - the heady tale of a night out that sounds like something ace off the first James album. It's simple and ambitious and a little bit sexy all at the same time, and it makes me want to go out and get drunk with people I hardly know.

See, if I was 16 right now I'd think this album was sent to save my life. 'Isle of Dogs', along with the new Allo Darlin', Shrag and Evans the Death records - that's quite a quartet to impress your slightly less cool mates with. Converting them is the easy part.

What Tigercats has come up with is a manifesto for what it means to be alive, to be in London and to be living life. Like Suede did twenty (gulp) years ago, and like Hefner did a little bit later. Those other three bands I mentioned earlier are doing it to, and however old you are you should cherish these times, because they're golden days for pop.

Tigercats - Banned At The Troxy from Niklas Vestberg on Vimeo.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Shrag+Tunabunny+Horowitz poster

Here's a poster for our upcoming Shrag/Tunabunny/Horowitz gig, courtesy of my fellow promoter, Andy Hart.

Don't forget to buy your tickets for this!

This has been an advertisement.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Fuck the Jubilee: a call to arms

The recent talk of this year's grotesque Jubilee parade, with all its yacht-shaped gifts, made my mind wander back ten years to anothert state-run display of Windsor worship. Back then I was heavily involved in the Socialist Alliance, a very wobbly, often tense, eternally doomed lash-up between the biggest extra-parliamentary left groups in the UK (bar a few of the more wacky ones, and Scargill's Socialist Labour Party).

We stood a candidate in the 2001 General Election and got a pretty respectable 3.7 per cent. On the back of this, the next year I organised a week of anti-Jubilee activity in Nottingham, culminating in a gig at the Rose of England in the city.

Three bands played, including Chris TT and humblebee's old band The Regulars. I charged a quid on the door and over 100 people turned up.

As I wrote in the Weekly Worker at the time:

"... the gig was predominantly attended by those of a non-political persuasion. This proved an excellent opportunity to expose a layer of young people to the Socialist Alliance's politics, and even when Chris TT, during his set, said that he opposed militantism, he was met with a hail of abuse from just about everyone in the room! All in all, a great success, and it is agreed that we will organise further, similar events later in the year to raise the profile of the SA amongst students and younger people in the city."

Ah, the optimism of youth! The Socialist Alliance was all but dead by the end of the year.

I was thinking about doing another gig this year. If anyone wants to get involved in any way (bands, other promoters, yacht onwers - anyone who wants to help out really) can you drop me a line and we'll try and get something sorted.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Tunabunny - a plague on your UK tour

I've managed to get a sneak preview of the Tunabunny side of their new split single with Shrag, which is out coming out in time for their tour of the UK in late Feb/early March, and, as ever the band has surprised me.

'Locusts' builds on Tunabunny's new found pop sensibilities, but adds a touch of new wave menace to it. Think Gang of Four mixed with early, better, Throwing Muses and you'd be about there.

To say I'm excited about seeing Tunabunny in March is an understatement. Sure, they aren't you typical indiepop band, but then I don't dress in aprons and rosettes all the time, you know. Some of my best friends wear North Face fleeces.

I really wish I could share 'Locusst' with you - suppose you'll just have to wait and buy the split single at the gigs. Especially, erm, at the Nottingham one


Monday, 9 January 2012

Allo Darlin' - Capricornia (Slumberland/Fortuna Pop!)

If the last Pocketbooks record had reminded you a little bit of Kirsty MacColl, then the new Allo Darlin' single, 'Capricornia' brings back long afternoons listening MacColl's ace 'Kite' album, whilst trying to plot a way out of not coming out of my bedroom for the entire summer.

'Capricornia' offers up the same kind of hazy melancholy, and is frankly beautiful. I suspect there are plenty of people waiting for Allo Darlin' to trip up after their faultless rise and rise, but this isn't the single that'll let them down. And if this is a signpost the forthcoming album, 'Europe', then Allo Darlin' will be ready to take on the world. And they will.

'Capricornia' is released on February 13th on Fortuna Pop! and Slumberland, with 'Europe' out some time in May on the same labels.

Allo Darlin' - Capricornia by Slumberland Records

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Pop music will save you before capitalism ever will

Happy new set of disappointing and ever-more-maddening days.

First day back at work for me today, and I did nothing. I tried to make it all better by treating myself and my significant other to an Italian meal at lunch that we can barely afford, and it sort of worked for about 40 minutes, until the crushing realisation of a million deadlines and "critical" fucking "paths" stretched into the year like a turd that won't flush.

But, lo! What is that in yon distance? No, it's not London Popfest (which of course you must all go to); it's something just a week after that, in Nottingham, and it begins with Sh and ends in rag. It also begins with Tuna and ends in bunny. And finally, it begins with... you get the picture - Horowitz are also playing.

That's right, you downtrodden proles. You might be losing your job, your hair, your teeth and most of your mind through the deadening thud of late capitalism smashing a hammer into your face every morning, but at least you can rely on good old pop music to give you a momentary high every now and then.

And so, it is with great pleasure that Andy from a fog of ideas and myself (hello) are putting on the mighty Shrag, the terrifyingly good Tunabunny (from that USA) and the Midlands very own pop tarts Horowitz at The Chameleon on Friday 2nd March 2012.

If you simply must, then you can buy a ticket for this night of many dreams here. There'll be a pay on the door option if you want to play fast and loose with us, but we expect this little fella to be a busy one, so don't come running to us when you're stuck downstairs, unable to get in, listening to Nick the owner hone his stand-up routine. What do you mean you won't be able to tell the difference?

To get your juices running clear, here's a little taster of all three bands.

Horowitz - I Need a Blanket

Tunabunny - (Song for My) Solar Sister

Shrag - Rabbit Kids