It Hurts Even More Than You Thought
April mixtape part 2

Steal A Car - Wet Dog

I see Everett is frothing about Wet Dog, and this song in particular, in the new issue of Plan B (my goodness, are we up to issue 11 already?). That doesn’t surprise me, as it was Mr True that turned me on to them a few weeks back when we dropped into Brighton for the weekend. I’m glad he did, glad he passed on a copy of the Live At PURR album and DVD that this comes from, because this song has beguiled me ever since.

Paring back to the bare essentials of rock’n’roll, Wet Dog rely, indeed insist on the mesmerising heartbeat drum of Mo Tucker (or indeed of Anne Shop Assistant), the dolefully melodic bass of Slant 6 and the razorwire sharp guitar picking of Delta bluesmen rocking on the porch in the blanching sun. It strangely reminds me too of The Visitors and Hope; all down to phrasing and the way the words travel up and down along the spine, like the waves on Sidmouth beach.

Meanwhile, word on the street has it that Wet Dog are Vic Godard’s new backing band, and that he considers them the closest to the original Subway Sect he has worked with. Now that’s some mighty accolade, and if the rumours are true, it appears they may be working together to record the original Subway Sect album together. I for one await developments with a mixture of excitable expectation and grouchy trepidation, for whilst I am sure that Wet Dog would sound fantastic, I have nagging doubts that say the context would be all wrong and that sometimes the great lost myths should stay just that. After all, who was really convinced that the reality of the finally executed Smile really lived up to the legend?

Brother ­ Organ

What more reason do I need to proclaim, once again, the utter genius of Vancouver’s The Organ, than the release (finally!) of their 2004 Grab That Gun set in the UK by Too Pure. Now Bristol based Sink And Stove of course released a clutch of these recordings last year on the classy Sinking Hearts EP, but it’s good nevertheless to have the album in its entirety out there, weaving its seductive way into our psyches. And in case you weren’t aware (or convinced ­ yet ­ though how could you NOT be convinced?) The Organ are seductive indeed. With a pin sharp jangle (as in jangled, tangled nerve endings as opposed to cheery vacuity) and a darkly melodic aesthetic, The Organ are a 21st Century continuation of blueprints laid down in the ‘50s by Buddy Holly, fleshed out in the ‘70s and early ‘80s by Blondie, then warped and weirded out in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s by the likes of Throwing Muses and Jesse Garon And The Desperadoes, whose barely-held-together-with-string-and-stickytape joyous desperation The Organ still remind me of most. And I know I’ve made that connection before, and that it runs the risk of becoming a tired and unwelcome comparison (rather like my Playwrights / Wolfhounds connection), BUT, and here’s the rub: both of these groups happening NOW run the risk of disappearing into the media soup, of being barely recognised and cast aside before they have chance to fully blossom. Don’t let that happen. Clutch them to your bosom and shower them in your love.

And incidentally, whilst we are talking about The Playwrights, please don’t forget that their English Self Storage set is out NOW and waiting to pleasure your souls with its songs of unruly suburban solitude. The sound of love and hate has seldom sounded so transfixing and satisfying.

On The Radio - The Concretes

Kicking off an album with a piano riff right outta ‘Daydream Believer’, as The Concretes do with this opener from In Colour, should tell you a lot about a band. It should tell you that they are knowingly in thrall to the magic of Pop; that they understand the importance of looking back in wonder and of never standing still. And that’s part of the appeal of The Concretes; they have always sounded like a thoroughly modern confection. With sugar-coated melodies encrusted in precious diamond tears, they have effortlessly juggled the darkness and light of the human condition, and with In Colour they have again made marvellous Pop Art. It’s the sound of super eights for the iMovie generation; is the artful collision between gaudy confidence and brittle, nervous, head-in-hands shyness; is the sound of the raggedly beautiful people running to hide out in the dunes, burdened by haunting visions of improbable rejection and a knowledge of beauty too pure to survive.

Fetch, Boy! Fetch! - Boy Omega
20 Fingers 20 Toes - Goodnight Monsters

Christ, what is it with Gothenburg these days? Why does everything that comes out of that city of angels kiss my ears and slips tendrils of infatuation into my heart? And here to the clamour is Boy Omega and the Black Tango set (on Stereo Test Kit in the UK). Recorded at home by one Martin Henrik Gustafsson with the help of friends who provide backing vocals, sax, violin and cello accompaniement and “breathing”, amongst others, it all adds up to a richly dark musical miasma of loss and longing, just like all great Pop ought. At times recalling the soft and gentle despair of early Elliott Smith, at others the quirky Pop experimentalism of Beck or Ariel Pink, Black Tango is a tempered ramshackle record of 21st Century folk music that understands the value of brief meanders and intermissions (half it’s twenty songs are under two minutes, and almost half of those are under a minute) and the importance of simply great songs (this track, and the wonderful, oddly Cure-esque ‘By Midnight We’ll Give It A Go’ are classy moments you could easily find yourself addicted to). Gothenburg, my heart belongs to you.

Meanwhile, over the Baltic in Finland… there sit a dynamic duo called Goodnight Monsters with the fruits of their labours clutched tremulously in their hands in the form of their The Brain That Wouldn’t Die album (on Bone Voyage records). Now album opener ‘Girl’ is fundamentally, and unashamedly, The Association’s ‘Windy’ appropriated and twisted to their own tweepop needs. Needless to say it pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the album, whish is all softpop inspired no-fi Indiepop with a lounge psych undertow that is both peppered with reference points moored in Pop’s past and utterly contemporary all at once.

It reminds of when Groovy Little Numbers did ‘Windy’ on their sole 53rd and 3rd single; a record that, incidentally, introduced me to the delights of The Association and the genius of Jim Lambie to the world. I keep thinking of when his Zobop floor installation was at the Tate St Ives, and of how amazing it would be if it were there right now alongside the glorious Elsworth Kelly exhibit.

But I digress. Back to Goodnight Monsters: with their edifyingly eclectic mix of sounds and peculiar angles, they strike the pose of the smart outsiders at the school dance, all awkwardly knowing and tremulously anticipatory of the lives yet to be led. Theirs is a world of hope, wonder and excitement. You would do well to join them in it.
Get Me - Winnebago Orchestra

Okay, so here’s a memory for you: Barrassie railway station, late 1980s. They’ve just pulled down the old wooden waiting room on the Glasgow platform side and the bridge has been replaced by a bright orange metal monstrosity. There’s gravel on the ground where there was once grass, and on the pathway outside the station, just under the road bridge, someone has sprayed the words ‘meat is murder’. In my battered Aiwa personal stereo there is a tape with the name ‘The Cudgels’ scrawled in biro on the side; in my ears their sound of Smiths meets C86 indiepop has me smiling in the early summer sunshine.

Now I lost touch with the Cudgels shortly after this memory, and never thought much, if anything about them again until this CD dropped into my hands the other month. For it seems that from The Cudgels’ (Mark Radcliffe favourites and “beloved of fanzine writers around the globe”, or so it seems) tentacles later reached out to Rumblefish, Oporto and eventually to this bunch, the Winnebago Orchestra. Seems too that there is a link into Blue Aeroplanes with the inclusion of former Aeroplanes guitarist Caroline Trettine in the mix. All of which has me chuckling to myself about how easy it is to let things pass you by that you really ought to not let pass you by. Then again, it’s often a treat to suddenly have your eyes and ears popped open by such treats, and certainly the Winnebago Orchestra’s Fifteen collection on Tuition (currently home to Roddy Frame and The Go-Betweens amongst others) is nothing if not a treat.

Their label mates should really act as a reference point for where the Winnebago Orchestra are coming from, and yes, they do often live up to the expectations those names would demand, not least on this album opener which breezes into life on the wings of a wild mountain country guitar wail. Elsewhere there’s more country ramblings on the delightful ‘Midnight Blue’ a brief instrumental paean to ‘Cherry Red’, and a lovely cover of The Jazz Butcher’s ‘Angels’.

The Winnebago Orchestra are the sound of an Indiepop generation grown up and showing the wealth and breadth of influence that understandably went either unnoticed or unknown twenty years ago. They sound all the better for it.
You Broke My Heart - Lavender Diamond
A Hiccup In Your Happiness - The Lucksmiths
Marie Et L'acordeon - Stars Of Aviation

I don’t remember who pointed me in the direction of Lavender Diamond, but I’m so glad they did, because this song is a wonderful folk stomp that does exactly what it says in the title. From the ‘Cavalry Of Light’ EP available from the band’s website, this thrills and chills in equal measures, with Becky Stark’s vocals throwing lassoes of moonlight over an organic backing that grows and grows to a deftly restrained crescendo; all raindrop bells and clashing piano chords and not unlike the softly psych orchestrated sounds of 18th Day Of May. There’s also a spilt 7” available on Cold Sweat which they share with Devendra Banhart’s The Queens Of Sheba, and whilst I’m no great Banhart fan, that should help you see where Lavender Diamond are coming from.

I am, however, an enormous fan of Australia’s The Lucksmiths, and this latest single lifted from their wonderful Warmer Corners set (on Matinee or Fortuna Pop) merely cements their place in my heart even more. Lilting and lush, this song settles on your shoulders like a Spring sun and weaves a gently melancholic spell around your spine. And with another three non-album tracks up to the same standard, you would have to be dim or demented not to pick up a copy post haste.

I’d suggest you pick up a copy of the Stars Of Aviation EP as well, but as it’s not available at the moment in any form other than some streaming tracks via their MySpace page, that might prove a mite difficult. But please do go and check them out on the Interweb, because they are fine pieces of suburban softpop that show how the band have developed their Clientele meets Galaxie 500 aesthetic into new, verdant ground populated by light bossa grooves and dreams of ambulations down dreamy French boulevards in the fading evening light, accordions echoing off the cobbles.

© 2006 Alistair Fitchett