Sunday, 27 May 2012

Pocketbooks on film

As at Indietracks last year, I find myself getting all emotional watching Pocketbooks on this. I feel so fiercely proud of my old friend Emma. The other lot aren't bad either...

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Shrag - Canines (Fortuna Pop!/WIAIWYA)

In a tired, post-recessionary UK, it's easy to understand why people stick their head under their duvets and weep themselves slowly to sleep. Times is hard, alright, but times are also fantastic. In love with these times in spite of these times, indeed.

Shrag embody the exact opposite of Cameron's drab, bitter Britain. The world isn't "broken" for Shrag - and if there's anything around to be smashed to bits, then they'll do it ta very much. 'Canines' is a manifesto for the hard times, but also a clarion call that we can still have good times. We don't have to do what we're told, and we don't have to be told what to do. Shrag make you feel you can do anything.

'Canines', the band's third and best album, is like a greatest hits collection. Remember rushing out and buying 'The Head on the Door' by The Cure and wondering which song they'd release as a single next (just me?); well this record is just like that.

Those who saw Shrag tear across the UK with Tunabunny a few months back will recognise many of these songs, and so 'Tears of a Landlord', 'Chasing Consumations', the wonderfully New Order-ish 'On the Spines of Old Cathedrals' (a song they'll look back at in years to come as a four minutes of perfection to be deeply proud of) and the barking threatpop of 'Tendons in the Night' will all give you that warm glow of familiarity.

Then there's the glam sex-stomp of 'Devastating Bones', in which Helen King sings: "You've got devastating bones, and I'd like to call them home", whilst the rest of the band add, saucily: "I think you might need those knees for kneeling." Open the window and loosen your collar when that comes on. And send the in-laws out to walk the dog.

Don't think for one moment that Shrag all are sex perverts - oh no. There are tender moments here too, such as the twitching, insecure lines of 'Flinching at Forever' and fairytale closer 'Jane With Dumbbells', which is genuinely moving.

Real, instant pop albums like this only come along once every three or four years. This time it's Shrag's turn. Still in love with these times.

Shrag headline the Nottingham Indiepop All-dayer on Saturday 29th September.

'Canines' is released on Fortuna Pop! and WIAIWYA on 9th July

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Summer's here with Bart and Friends

Ah, the sun is shining, I've skived off work early, and I'm sat in the garden with a pale ale and my legs out. Can life get any better? Well, only if you listen to the new Bart and Friends track Matinee Recordings have sneaked out on their soundcloud page...

Right - I'm off to build a slide. You heard me.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Amida - My Life as a Trashcan (Jigsaw Records)

Back in the mists of time, when we did crazy things like put gigs on at Junktion 7 in Nottingham, we booked Amida to play, only to be told by the venue that the soundman had cried off at about 4pm on the day of the gig. Amida had already set off from Manchester, and we didn't have their mobile number. They turned up to find an empty venue. I still think they hate me for that.

If so, then I'm not just telling you that there new ep is the bee's knees just to try and get back on side. Nope, it really is a thing of rare beauty. And with eight tracks to choose from, you can really call it  an ep at all, it's more of mini-album that comes in at nearly 19 minutes.

Amida choose their influences well; the eponymous opener comes on like the Bachelor Pad covering one of The Creepers' more frantic moments. It's all over the places in the most thrilling of ways, whilst 'A New Low' sounds like a more wired Jonathan Richman, with its gloriously grating guitars.

'I Was Rude, You Were Fun' is a big saucepot of a song, with tragi-comic lyrics, a piano that never quite wins the battle with the ragged guitars, and a vocal that makes you want to twirl around the room. It's quite thrilling stuff.

There's a dark edge that runs throughout, especially on tracks such as 'Thank Constantine', but it's on songs like 'Starstruck and Forever', which sounds like The Wedding Present's underrated late 90s stuff, that Amida really hit the mark. The sneering delivery makes it all so deliciously defiant, which, together with everything else, makes this record really quite precious.

If Amida ever want to come back to Nottingham, we promise we'll be in next time.

Monday, 14 May 2012

From the heart of Town

There’s been an awful lot written over the last 24 hours about the climax of the Premier League season – mainly about how it “couldn’t be matched for drama”, or it’s why we all love sport.

Let’s get a few things clear about yesterday’s games – most of them had little to do with sport or recreation. Under capitalism sport exists to make huge profits – that goes without saying. And it’s the working classes that pay the most to ensure that sport – and in particular football – continues to be big business.

We may like to think that we’re buying into our team when we hand over those notes and get a replica top every season, but of course we’re not. We see nothing back financially; there is no sense of deep-seated democracy in this action, more a sense of inevitability that you’ll carry on doing it, because it’s what you’ve always done, and you think it might – in some small way – help your club.

There’s certainly very little return emotionally on this transaction – especially if you’re a fan of the clubs outside the top four or five of the Premier League who actually have a chance of winning something.

And yet playing and watching sport is so important to us. As our working lives become more stressful (and that’s if you’re lucky enough to have a job), then taking part in these collective actions is a vital part of those smaller and smaller parts of our lives we can call recreation.

There was a very good tweet doing the round yesterday, that said: “I'm a City fan. I think we bought the title. It's within the rules. If you don't like it overthrow capitalism.”

Well, if you insist.

Under socialism the profit motive would be taken out of football forever. Seeing as so few clubs these days actually break even (a state of near virtual panic a by-product of making rash, expensive decisions to buy success), then you’d think most chairman would welcome this.

What’s more, the clubs should be democratically run with the board made up of the players, the club staff and the fans – in short, those that actually know what it takes to give something to keep the club running.

We don’t live in a socialist paradise, of course – not yet, anyway. So how can this happen? Fans can run the clubs tomorrow without any leap of imagination at all. Indeed this already happens with some success on and off the field at clubs like FC United and Chester FC, and should be a blueprint for all clubs of any size. It also makes “my” club’s supporters’ trust’s decision to simply give away a load of shares to its despotic chairman all the more frustrating. A chance well and truly wasted.

There needs to be an end to the passive involvement with football (and all sports) by spectators. We shouldn’t merely be turning up every week to watch our team (that’s if you’re not so disillusioned that you still actually show up), we should be involved in the real, day-to-day running of our clubs.

At the moment our commitment to our team is manipulated by whether they’re doing well in the league or not, and we, as fans, have a very limited influence over the outcome of that. That would surely change if we had a more active role in how they were run, and what they could provide us. What we can have right away is a say on the immediate and long-term future of our clubs, and that should be our right today, straight away.

It seems unfair to deny Manchester City supporters their moment in the sun, but if they want to change the game they purport to love so much, they, like every other football fan, should start to take it back from the corporate thugs who ripped it away from us in the first place.

Up the Mariners.

Friday, 11 May 2012

For heaven's sake, just split up now

Andy Hart of a fog of ideas blog and various things he calls "tumblr" (whatever that is) has done us a flyer for that gig I was rambling on about amidst the trauma of the in-law visit earlier in the week.

I'm not really sure what those young ladies are doing, but it's going to be splendid. Whilst you sit up night after rubbing yourselves at the thought of these four bands being in the same room on the same night, hear this from Mike Turner at HHBTM:

ORCA TEAM "Restraint" pre-order is now live.
On CD or LP, which you can order just the album or the deluxe edition. What's in the deluxe edition you ask. Well a silkscreen totebag, a button (or for you european folks a badge), a live cassette with a silkscreen j-card, and if you pick the vinyl version color vinyl. The color vinyl copies will only be for direct mail-orders either from HHBTM or some great mailorders that have always carried HHBTM records in the past will be getting copies as well, or you might be able to get one from the band on tour with the handful of copies they will receive. Only 50 pre-orders being taken, 50 color vinyl for the pre-order, 25 color copies to the band (more than likely sold before they get to the UK this summer), 50 copies split over other fine mail-order shops, and 25 for folks who don't want the deluxe version but order early. Act fast, won't have them long. Orders will be shipping 2nd or 3rd week of June.
Don't let me down by not buying this album. It's a masterpiece.

In other news, and call me behind the times if you want to, whippersnappers, but I've just listened to that version of 'Crash' by Belle and Sebastian for the first time. Nurse! Pass me the gun.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Here's where the story ends

I've spent much of the Bank Holiday weekend in the kitchen sorting spoons in an attempt to try and get away from the in-laws who are one of their interminable visits, and wishing I was at the Oddbox Weekender.

All this has led me to think forward to the ace stuff we've got coming up over the next few months. For our Indietracks warm-up show on 5th July we've got four bands who have never played Nottingham before. September Girls have been added to the bill, and I'm dead excited about seeing all four bands.

Via the magic of the young person's YouTube I can bring you songs by all four bands. Magical!

Sea Lions - Grown Up

September Girls - Hells Bells

Orca Team - I Dream

Joanna Gruesome - Lemonade Grrl

Such is the power of the Indietracks that I've been led, kicking and screaming, into doing warm-down show. This isn't where we jog around the festival site stretching our hamstrings or anything, no - it's where The Smittens play with Standard Fare and August Actually at The Chameleon in Nottingham on 10th July. It's going to be the best way of dealing with having to go back to work, believe me. So I'll see you there.

Lastly, Milky Wimpshake one of my favourite bands ever have agreed to once again play the Nottingham Indiepop All-Dayer on 29th September. I hear on the grapevine that this could be the last ever gig at The Chameleon under the ownership of local legend Nick, so, if it is, we need to make it extra special.

I'm relying on you.