There Is Nothing Wrong With Hating Rock Critics

Stella Rocket
Call me a moody old git who doesn’t get out enough (and who doesn’t listen to the radio or read the music press), but I have no idea what is happening in the world of the Pop Single. Perhaps this is for the best And, perversely for someone starting a label devoted (for now) to releasing 7” singles, I have next to no idea of what’s happening with ‘underground’ singles either. A recent trip to Monorail in Glasgow had me glancing through the 7” boxes with furrowed brow, wondering who the hell all these records were being made by. I felt like a clueless oik, so settled for things I knew: a vinyl copy of the very wondrous ‘Letter From Belgium’ by The Mountain Goats, the split Deloris / Braving The Seabed 7” that features the classic Deloris tune ‘the point in the war where we knew we were lost’ and a second hand copy of the Purple Hearts’ ‘Millions Like Us’. I was almost tempted to check out an Aberfeldy single but after listening to their contribution to the Rough Trade Shops’ Indiepop compilation, I figure I made the correct choice.

Anyway, in the last few weeks then I’ve made a little bit of an effort to listen to some singles. I ordered a whole batch from the Track and Field organisation, for example, and have found them to be almost universally fine stabs of Pop. The Loves, in particular seem built for the 7” format. Their triumvirate of ‘Boom-a-bang-bang-bang’, ‘just like bobby d’ and ‘shake yr bones’ is as classic a trio of Pop singles as I have heard in a long time. If I was a kid today I’d want to be in The Loves. Oh, and Of Montreal. I’d want to be in Of Montreal too, if only for the fact that they have a song called ‘there is nothing wrong with hating rock critics’. The fact that they also make some of the most glorious soft-psychedelia influenced sounds is an added bonus of course.

There’s an echo of psychedelia in the sound of Mum too, though in their case it is distilled through caves of electronica rather than through guitars and organs. On their four track ‘Dusk Log’ EP then, Mum sound like, well, like Mum: all ambient textures and glitches falling on your head like acid raindrops; Autechre seducing The Sugarcubes behind the bike sheds with promises of amber encased tears and gifts of tarnished silver pendants shaped like echoes. It’s all eerily enchanting stuff, the sound of fairytales dressed in overcoats, of razors dipped in candyfloss.

Speaking of sweets, I’ve had a soft spot for Kinder Eggs for a long time. Not that I ever had them when I was a kid. Oh no. My own interest in Kinder Eggs stems from the early ‘90s when I stumbled on Mark Pawson’s excellent little zine cataloguing some of his favourite Kinder toys. Mark Pawson did loads of amazing little zines and photocopy art back at the time, but my favourite was always the Kinder zine (though the one with the collection of plug wiring diagrams ­ stitched together with yellow and green thread to mimic the earth lead, as I recall - ran it a close second). Suitably inspired I started buying Kinder Eggs myself, but the toys never seemed to be as good as the ones in Mark’s fanzine and I kind of lost heart after a while. Maybe I just missed the Golden Age of the Kinder Egg.

The reason I bring this up is that opening the ‘Asking For Trouble’ 7” box is a bit like opening a Kinder Egg. Not that it’s made of chocolate (note to self ­ investigate potential in chocolate packaging for records), nor even remotely egg shaped, but rather that lurking inside the box there is a Mystery Gift. Mine is a double part Gift: a little plastic cheetah (well it has the build of a cheetah but the stripes of a tiger) and a strange fold out plastic sheet that looks kind of like a sub-aquatic scene. It’s a little surreal, and better than any toy I ever got in a Kinder Egg, with the possible exception of the little aeroplane with the bent propeller and the cherub that left a trail saying ‘I love you’ from its rubber stamp wheel. These things are important.

Oh, and the box has some 7” records inside too! And a mini fanzine! A true Pop Experience, to be sure. The music, from four bands (A Roman Scandal, Denim and Diamonds, Uter and Sunnyvale Noise Sub-Element) veers in the direction of electronica dressed in awkward fitting thrift store jackets; underground experimentation with one eye on Glitch, another on Detroit (more Derrick Carter than The Dirtbombs, though) and a third on the telly. That’s a telly tuned to snow, naturally.

Speaking of Derrick Carter, there’s a definite old Detroit Techno feel to the Beyer And Lenk ‘Heartbreak’ single on Novamute, and that’s no bad thing. Now I’ve been out of touch with this kind of thing for years, so it matters not to me that this is the product of ‘legendary’ Swedish Techno DJs and producers. What matters instead that it’s a fine gritty techno house sound that grabs my feet and head in equal measure, demanding that both move in neat ways they’d all but forgotten about.

Also from Sweden but on a totally different tack are Stella Rocket and Monkey Strikes, both of whom offer up stabs of Pop/Rock attack for the excellent Planekonomi label. At their best Monkey Strikes momentarily sound like an awkward offspring of Sleater Kinney and The Vibration and though it veers too far into the lumpen Rock landscape for me, at least there is that fleeting moment to fall back to. Stella Rocket meanwhile are a far more intriguing prospect with a fine Pop hook up their sleeve. Single ‘Animals’ is a delicious confection with a tune that swirls in your head like caffeine sweets on acid; guitars and harmonicas meet and snigger in the murky light of nightfall whilst a gang of girls slip down side streets singing their hearts out to the stars. Flipside ‘Lip’ meanwhile stomps along like a swaggering butterfly swigging pink lemonade spiked with tequila. Stella Rocket are the sound of innocence simultaneously being flushed down the toilet and desperately trying to be reclaimed. Bloody marvellous. An album is due in October. I can’t wait…

© 2004 Alistair Fitchett