The Last Significant Statement To Be Made In Rock'n'Roll - The Indelicates
The Indelicates are the perfect example of magnificent ridiculousness; the perfect epitome of the love/hate nature of Pop. They write songs that delight in throwing daggers at the music industry whilst clearly revelling in the seedy, decrepit glamour of it all. The Indelicates are pure Pop Art Terrorism; the sound of a group fully aware of the inescapable fundamental hypocrisy of their situation but battling on regardless because there is no other way. There is no option. They know the history lessons inside out, throw all the right references into the pot, and hold pistols to their collective heads. They have the sense to call their debut single ‘We Hate The Kids’ and their second ‘The Last Significant Statement To Be Made In Rock'n'Roll’. Simultaneously celebrating and damning hate, cynicism, glamour, art, sex and the politics of the terminally teenage, The Indelicates throw down the gauntlet, knowing full well there will always be someone there to pick it up and a million others to blithely trample it to ashes. The Last Significant Statement To Be Made In Rock'n'Roll? Of course, of course. Until the next last one, at least. We wouldn’t have it any other way.
The Light Of 1,000 Televisions - The Artificial Sea
I know nothing about The Artificial Sea other than that they are a Brooklyn based duo with a rather astonishingly fine album called City Island out on the small French label Travelling Music. It’s an album of ravishing ideas that pull together fluid beats, perfectly tinny electronics, found sound textures and samples and a mesmerising voice that conjures thoughts of Cocteau Twins, Bjork or Electrum. It’s all gloriously downbeat, beautifully desolate, naturally twisted and hugely impressive. The sound of raindrops glistening on the eyelashes of angels with dirty faces.
You Broke My Heart - Lavender Diamond
It’s nearly a year since I first heard Lavender Diamond, and it’s a real treat to see Rough Trade reissue the fantastic ‘Cavalry of Light’ EP with it’s compellingly insistent lead cut ‘You Broke My Heart’. I said it then, and I’ll say it again, ‘You Broke My Heart’ is a wonderful folk stomp that does exactly what it says on the tin. And trust me, you’ll be gathering up all the bits and gluing them back together just in time to hit ‘repeat’ so you can throw yourself into the whole damn addictive experience again.
Canned Happiness - MV & EE With The Bummer Road
I have to say I was dubious about MV & EE with the Bummer Band. The idea of anything being labelled ‘freak folk’ or ‘avant rock’ should be enough to put anyone off, after all. I admit I had them down as a bunch of self-indulgent 21st Century hippies. I had them down as suspicious spiritualists ensnared in tie-dyed daydreams of the late 1960s. But then the first lines of ‘Canned Happiness’ hit me. “You can’t pay the rent with happiness, you can’t pay the rent with love.” Right on, man! So much for the free love and peace shtick then, and if we are to cast our reference points backwards (as it seems we must), then MV & EE’s Green Blues set on the Ecstatic Peace label is more East than West Coast; is the Velvets first album meets The Fugs and Jefferey Lewis. Sure, it all occasionally gets a little too self-indulgent and veers uncomfortably close to the land of the Deadhead, but mostly Green Blues is a huge, hypnotic, shimmering beast of a record: the sound of a world collapsing on itself and delighting in the horrific beauty it sees reflected in its eyes as it does so.
Me, The Peaceful Heart - Tony Hazzard
From one extreme to the other, and a bit of classy reissue action courtesy of Rev-Ola (well, who else?!). Now John Carney has told us in the past about the glory of some of Lulu’s sets, and it was Lulu of course who originally hit with ‘Me, The Peaceful Heart’ in 1968. It was just one of a multitude of mid to late ‘60s hits penned by Tony Hazzard. Gene Pitney, The Hollies, The Tremeloes, Manfred Mann, The Yardbirds… the list goes on and on. All of them hitting the charts with masterfully crafted Tony Hazzard songs, each of them copper bottomed Pop classics. And it’s no surprise that Mickie Most pens a testimonial on the back sleeve. The Tony Hazzard sings Tony Hazzard set of 1969 brought together many of those hit songs with a host of top session players of the time and listening to it now is like immersing yourself in a heady haze of Technicolor Pop sensation. Sixteen slices of sublime two and a half minute bursts of delight. Pure joy wins out again.
We'll Meet At Emily's - My Teenage Stride
Pure joy wins out too in the Ears Like Golden Bats set by My Teenage Stride on the Becalmed / Wood Bee labels. I’ve written in the past about how I love My Teenage Stride, and this album gives me no reason to change my opinion; which is that are few contemporaneous groups making such finely crafted Pop that sings with all the right kinds of references. And on Ears Like Golden Bats there is definitely a strong sense of historical context, as My Teenage Stride knowingly cast their net over the ocean of (lets be lazy for a moment) independent pop and rock and come out with some sparkling gems. Opener ‘Reception’ has a gorgeous Sea and Cake shimmer that’s drips with a Grant McLennan sheen. Sometimes too it hints at Moose from their Honeybee days, and incidentally, wasn’t that a simply lovely album? Has it been reissued? If not, why not?
‘That Should Stand For Something’ meanwhile kicks off into Jesus and Mary Chain country, whilst ‘Reversal’ is prime time Chills; a heavenly pop hit cloaked in guitars that echo off the heartstrings and glisten in the moonlight. ‘We’ll Meet At Emily’s’ meanwhile has hints of The Times circa This Is London or Up Against It. So starring in an imaginary movie soundtracked by soaring Mod Pop it is, then.
And if that all perhaps suggests that Ears Like Golden Bats is an album without a particular identity then it’s far from the truth. For whilst My Teenage Stride revel in their world of books and films, nodding this way and that, it always sounds resplendently natural. When we glance back at 2007 some nine months hence, this will surely stand as one of the finer albums of the year, and no mistake.
Lentin - The Shot Heard 'Round The World
When I wrote about My Teenage Stride in the past I made some reference to a resurgent Pop Renaissance in Brooklyn. Naturally that was a journalistic conceit, but still, let’s add the name of Shot Heard ‘Round The World to the list that also includes the mighty Pants Yell! Pathways, Metric Mile, Besties et al. Their Ten Songs for Town and Country set on the Mountain Landis label is really rather delicious in a low-key, slightly ramshackle kind of way. Pianos mix with tambourines, handclaps and glockenspiel, and whilst the album was recorded in a Vermont cabin there is definitely a West Coast feel to some of the tracks, which sees ghosts of Buffalo Springfield and the Byrds drifting around the edges of vision. It’s opener ‘Lentin’ that I come back to again and again, however, with it’s Esiotrot like feel and suggestions of Pants Yell! Can’t get much better than that.
Before The Altar – Tradition
I’ve long held a large amount of admiration for the blocksblocksblocks recording club of Toronto. They always do things with the right mix of d.i.y aesthetic excellence and couldn’t give a fuck about fashion attitude. Which of course means that they are probably hopelessly fashionable, but whatever. I had two releases by them in the mail recently and both are fantastic. First up is the eponymous set by Tradition, about which I know nothing other than the fact that it has a dark depth and barren surface that has dragged me in. With its early Beat Happening simplicity and pounding heart on the sleeve pared back soul, it’s a compelling listen.
Badlands - The Blankket
Every bit as good is the Be Your Own Boss 3” release by The Blankket. I remember that blocksblocksblocks were the first label to really make me excited about the 3” format, with a fantastic pair of Barcelona Pavillion releases. Well this one is up there too, featuring four cover versions of Bruce Springsteen songs. Pick of the crop for me is the version of ‘Badlands’ which comes over as a fantastic Calvin Johnson / Jonathan Richman moment. Thing is, this record, and the likes of Ballboy’s ‘Born In The USA’ are for me immeasurably better than the vast majority of Springsteen’s own records. Just goes to show maybe that the best songwriters are not always the best recording artistes.
© 2007 Alistair Fitchett