Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Lost Soul: The Ladybirds

1964 girl group glee with the punch of Motown’s golden era gives The Ladybirds’ Handsome Boy the perfect pop-soul confection that, all things being right, would’ve seen it at number one for at least four weeks straight followed by a lifetime residency on the AM dial.

It didn’t work out like that, of course. In my hunt for this single, I saved some cash by picking up Philly Soul Girls which has 20 tracks every bit as good and a handful more even better, some of which feature the early songwriting marvels of Leon Huff and Cindy Scott, the latter of whom (everyone’s goddess of soul, surely) performs her own I’ve Got News.

If you’re heading over to funkadelphia to buy this CD, get some more of their fine output while you’re there. You must get a copy of Look In The Want Ads by The Emanons, which rigorous analysis – I want you to know that my testing was scientifically thorough to the point of exhaustion – has proven to be the twelfth best record ever made.

The first person to leave a comment saying Handsome Boy was written about them wins a World’s Biggest Liar mug.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Bruce Springsteen tribute album

We busted out of class had to get away from those fools
We learned more from a three-minute record than we ever learned in school

Play Some Pool, Skip Some School, Act Real Cool is a wildly ambitious project gathering 38 acts to each reinterpret a Bruce Springsteen song. Its success owes as much to the variety of the artists involved as it does to the quality of the source material.

Springsteen’s back catalogue offers a tapestry of riches from ensemble rock and roll to dustbowl ballads to woodsman folk to blue collar soul. At the heart of this impressive body of work is an organising principle based on Americana , particularly its 20th-century folklore with an emphasis on the modern fable of the teenager and the illusion of the American dream itself.

"I guess I would say that what I do is I try to chart the distance between American ideals and American reality.”
Those that view Springsteen’s output as being about cars and girls (rather than, say, “Wizard imps and sweat sock pimps, interstellar mongrel nymphs” or "the cops finally busted Madame Marie for tellin' fortunes better than they do") are missing the point. In the same way that people whose view of Springsteen’s entire career as a fist-pumpin’ stadium rocker is based on a cursory listen to Born In The USA radically misread that song’s anti-nationalist polemic and Springsteen himself, just as Ronald Reagan and his Republican apparatchiks did in the 1984 presidential election.

There is a far-reaching passion for the power of pop music in Springsteen’s lyrics (“As the radio plays/Roy Orbison singing for the lonely/Hey that's me and I want you only” or “Cause summer's here and the time is right/For goin' racin' in the street”) that shows him addressing the theatrical wonder of pop as much as he fights wider political issues.

It’s this wonder that I feel a lot of the bands on WIAIWYA’s fine compilation responding to. I know that some fans of the indiepop representatives on this album have expressed distaste that “their” bands are covering Springsteen. You’d think a more reasonable reaction would be to dismiss their prejudices and listen to the music that is adored by the bands they adore.

A chance to see 10 of the album’s acts (plus some special guests – not Springsteen himself, I imagine – although perhaps some of the more established names on the compilation) are playing at the Buffalo Bar this Friday.

Incidentally, a number of those indiepop diehards flooded the dancefloor at the popfest earlier this year when Blur’s Girls and Boys was played. The same people whose disdain for Springsteen is based in part on him being a “Mojo artist”. The same Blur who have graced the cover of Mojo more than once. The same Girls and Boys novelty summer song where the only difference between that and any other summer novelty chart hit or manufactured boyband song is the amount of the promotional budget that was spent on anal bleaching.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Captured Tracks and Woodsist Festival

A quick look in my diary reveals I can make this, although my bank manager just laughed at me and threatened to call the police if I didn't leave the premises immediately. So unless I win the lottery tomorrow, you all go and have a great fucking time. I won't be at all jealous.

Full line-up:

Friday July 3rd @ 979 BROADWAY BACKYARD
9:00pm :: Blank Dogs
8:15pm ::: Psychedelic Horseshit
7:30pm :::: caUSE co-MOTION!
6:45pm ::::: the Mayfair Set
6:15pm :::::: Gary War
5:45pm ::::::: Little Girls
5:15pm :::::::: Kid Romance
4:45pm ::::::::: Beachniks
4:15pm :::::::::: the Gutsies

Saturday July 4th @ 979 BROADWAY BACKYARD
9:45pm : THEE OH SEES
9:00pm :: VIVIAN GIRLS
8:15pm ::: Kurt Vile
7:30pm :::: Woods
6:45pm ::::: Tyvek
6:00pm :::::: Dum Dum Girls
5:15pm ::::::: the Fresh & Onlys
4:30pm :::::::: Brilliant Colors
3:45pm ::::::::: Ganglians
3:15pm :::::::::: the Great Excape -- reunion, pre-Home Blitz
2:45pm ::::::::::: the Beets
2:15pm :::::::::::: Real Estate
1:45pm ::::::::::::: German Measles
1:15pm :::::::::::::: Beach Fossils

979 Broadway btwn Myrtle Ave & Ditmars St | Bushwick, Brooklyn
JMZ-Myrtle, L-Jefferson, G-Myrtle-Willoughby | DOORS -4PM- | $15 | all ages

Dinosaur Planet

After conquering the world last year with his My Exciting Life In Rock romp, MJ Hibbett has announced plans to bestride the world - or at least the Edinburgh Festival - like a comedic cultural colossus. In interesting footwear. Mark? "They're my Theatre Sandals."

There will be no Dinosaur Jr covers - boo! - but this new one-man rock opera is "like 'War Of The Worlds' but with more dinosaurs, more jokes and a better ending".

Those of you who don't live near Edinburgh or who wouldn't go near the place in festival season (hello!) but do live in London can see a launch gig at the Wilmington on July 21 featuring Chris T-T.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Kendall Meade and Allo, Darlin' free gig Sunday June 21

One-woman hit factory Allo, Darlin' (motto: "have ukulele, will travel") celebrates the release of her new 7" ep - featuring no fewer than three top pop songs (the wonderfully titled Henry Rollins Don't Dance, Dear Stephen Hawking and Heartbeat Chilli) - by returning to the scene of one of her many great live triumphs, The Hangover Lounge, on June 21.

The excellent Kendall Meade is the key figure in Mascott, whose LP Art Project has just been released in Europe. Kendall's in the UK playing a small handful of dates with Mascott, and we're delighted that she and a few friends are going to treat us to a Hangover Lounge unamplified session this Sunday. Her "seductive tones caress the ear and the heart like a lover's whisper [and] her deceptively simple, folk-rock inflections and subtle lyrics linger long after the album has run its too-brief course" - that's what the legendary LD Beghtol said. We're not arguing.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Myron & E with The Soul Investigators

Like the best of The Soul Investigators’ records, Cold Game sounds as if it was recorded in the USA in 1967. A club soul groove with a finger-snapping rhythm, funky organ, breakbeat and strings and horns, this is as good as anything on the superb Keep Reachin’ Up album by Nicole Willis and the Soul Investigators.

Cold Game came out a few months ago on Timmion in the Soul Investigators’ homeland, Finland, but has just been issued on Stone's Throw in America. Work is underway on a Myron & E with The Soul Investigators album. It can’t come quickly enough…

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Crash Into June

Crash Into June is a lost classic by Game Theory, a Californian band from the 80s who mined the same rich seam of Big Star-style power pop as early REM only with added Paisley Underground psychedelic flourishes. You’ll most likely be hooked after one listen and won’t be surprised to learn that Mitch Easter produced it.

It’s a song about nostalgia and missed opportunities. I’ve got a sneaking feeling that the June of the title might in fact be a girl. Many of Game Theory songwriter Scott Miller’s lyrics were about girls:
I'm always conscious of trying to sound like something else, mostly something pretty old. The time when I started having record deals was unfortunately the time I thought the whole music business was finally going right down the eye of the toilet. I was really naive enough to think that groups like the dBs were going to rise triumphantly and define the 1980s, whereas of course it was, you know, Madonna. I remember feeling it was essential to hold on to this mid-sixties way of talking about a particular girl with a particular mysterious complexity the way Bob Dylan would, or something.

The last attempt at a reappraisal of Game Theory’s fine legacy came with the CD reissues about 15 years ago. Not much excitement was generated, and their albums are long-deleted. They’re just one of those bands who weren’t seen as cool enough - despite much of their music being fantastic – and are now an almost-forgotten footnote in pop history.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Outta Sight

Adventures in Stereo were one of those rare bands that had a very distinct sonic aesthetic and ice-cool image (see also: Galaxie 500 and Kraftwerk). Uniquely for such a band, they created pop nuggets that just made it over the minute mark. Nothing that wasn't absolutely essential was used in the making of their songs.

An old mate excitedly emailed me Adventures in Stereo's performance of Outta Sight on Scottish TV show The Beat Room, saying it had made his day. It made mine, too; I reckon it'll make yours.

Word on the street is that Jim Beattie drinks a little too much, a litte too often. A shame if that's the case. I hope he gets back inside the studio soon.


Pocketbooks put the dip in their hip and the glide in their stride for Footsteps, their first single and finest moment to date. Capturing the strut and sass of 60s girl group sounds with a melodica solo for that authentic Amelia Fletcher experience, Footsteps is released through itunes on 15 June, but you can download it here first. Or buy Pocketbooks’ debut album, Flight Paths, which includes Footsteps, here.