Thursday, September 28, 2006


On a Saturday night spent at home last week, an opportunity that would ordinarily see me quaffing champagne, eating sushi off a Japanese girl’s lithe body and cavorting with blonde lovelies before ushering them out the door and pointing them in the direction of Rod Stewart, all while listening to The Orchids, I watched the moveable television feast of Parkinson.
Razorlight played on the show, which confirmed that they’ve made the leap from they-really-are-shite to now-surely-everyone-in-the-land-will-recognise-their-shiteness.
Listening to the song they played – I don’t know what it’s called, but “Shite” seems to be the order of the day – compounded my puzzlement that they’re called indie. I don’t know much about their label – Vertigo, quite possibly a major’s subsidiary, but there’s nothing on their roster that should trouble you, unless you like the Rapture, which a lot of people seem to do – but let’s make this quite clear: Razorlight are only marketed as indie because they play guitars.

When “Shite” started it was quite clear it was a fairly flimsy rip off of Don’t Dream It’s Over by Crowed House, a band so monumentally stupid that they didn’t know which country they were from and so fucking Shite that only New Zealand would claim them as their own.

It was obvious that someone from marketing had told the stylist – can you imagine it? You’re so Shite that even as a grown up you don’t know how to dress yourself. I can imagine a Windsor knot being a bit tricky or a bustle causing some consternation, but, really, they'repaying someone to dress them in jeans and t-shirt or a suit just like they already own, only more expensive, is throwing away what little money they’ll have until Crowded House sue their arses for royalties – to make them look “indie”. This styling process for Razorlight largely involves having their hairbrushes confiscated. That is all. Everything else as it is and they could work in a bank (which is where they’ll be in two years’ time).

Now, I know xFM like these boys because it’s AOR and the NME like them because it’s like Tr*vis all over again (I once saw them at T in the Park. It started raining on them. I think my cries of “why does it always rain on you? Because you’re cunts,” were a little too long to be either a cutting or classic heckle, but I had to get it off my chest), but there’s nothing indie about these boys. They just play guitars.

It’s like saying Alanis Morrisette is indie because she plays a guitar. She’s not. She’s a cunt.
Or claiming that U2 are indie because they’re a guitar band. They’re not. They’re cunts. Do you see? Yes, I think you do: Razorlight are not indie. They’re cunts.

Disclaimer: this does not mean that the indie cannot be cunts. They can. For the prosecution we give you Bobby Gillespie. Cunt. On a major label. Er, he was a cunt before then.


Someone called Pete - hello Pete and thanks - sent us this email:

On Saturday 18th November, the Rosehips will be organising a gig to commemorate the 20th anniversary of playing in Bristol and signing to the Subway Organisation. The Fucking Rosehips, (ace Rosehips tribute band) will be reforming for the occasion to play a set and Rocker (ex-Flatmates, ex-Rosehips) will be playing a dj set of records from the era. It's just an excuse for a get together really but we are looking for suitable bands from the era who may fancy reforming as a one off especially for the night!

I don't know which is more surprising - that the Rosehips have reformed or that there's a Rosehips tribute band. Investigations reveal that the latter write their own songs nowadays, so you won't be seeing the same set played twice. Even if you did, it wouldn't matter that much seeing as it might be all you get for the next 20 years.

You'll notice that the missive doesn't say where the gig is, but my 50p and free flexidisc is on Bristol.

Monday, September 25, 2006


Scotty Amore, ace keyboardist for the Butterflies of Love and internationally renowned t-shirt designer (loved in both New England and England) , has made a crazy video for the Mountain Movers' Not Quite Yet which you can watch on that fashionable youtube.

Songwriter Dan Greene points out that "Not Quite Yet is probably the only song to quote St.Augustine and paraphrase Socrates...". We won't argue with him on that point.

This doesn't mean that Not Quite Yet is or ever will be a single or even that the album is ready to hit the shops. The album's looking more likely to come out early next year.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


Ill health – don’t panic, fate’s grim hand has surrendered its grip round my neck – forced plans to attend the Betsy Trotwood to witness the return to the stage after four years of Harvey Williams to be abandoned.

I phoned in my apologies to the man beforehand and he politely accepted them after pointing out that previous comments issued here may have been “unnecessary”. He was right. Sorry, Harv. More interestingly, he did say that he’d be playing two unreleased songs. Coo. I wonder what they were like.

Harvey said that if the reaction was good, he’d get off his arse and play some more. I hope it went down well and that he’ll be gracing the stage again soon.

I’m From Barcelona on Friday in Brixton, though, now there was a gig. A jubilant pop explosion that you think resembles a kindergarten party until songwriter Emanuel Lundgren checks your thoughts with, “This is like a children’s party, only with alcohol!”

Such is the immediacy of this pop riot, hall strewn with outsized confetti and balloons, that the first song, Treehouse, by some distance the worst song on the album - now, I love the album, it’s right up there with Fugu and Absentee in the best releases I’ve grabbed this year, but you’ve got to admit that on record Treehouse is a grade A stinker – sounds great.

Of course, for all the carnival atmosphere and joie de vivre – bands have so much more fun when they’re not, you know, actually playing instruments – there’s a certain knowingness to proceedings. Lundgren confidently predicts, “This place will self-destruct in five seconds,” before counting down 54321 to We’re From Barcelona.

The knowingness is underlined when they finish the set with a version of We’re From Barcelona (was that a vocoder I heard in there?); they know that it’s their best song, the reason why they’re on the brink of something big. Much as I love the album though, I don’t think – and I bet the band share this reservation – it’s a crossover album.

With performances this irresistibly buoyant, they’d have picked up loads of fans on the festival circuit if they’d toured it over the summer; what they really need is a successful band rich enough to take in excess of twenty pop kids on the road as their support act.

The alternative path to success is to slow down the tempo, get some strings and take it seriously. That would be only a temporary success, however. I’m thinking of the Polyphonic Spree, whose orchestral pop allowed rock hacks the licence to invoke any number of 60s greats when what they were really hearing was the less cheerful moments of Scott Walker and Richard Ashcroft’s second album.

Much better keep the upbeat pop dynamics. There was always a horrible sense with Texan Tim DeLaughter and his white-cloaked brethren that they would one day turn up at the MOBOs and firebomb the place to publicise renaming themselves the Specials KKK and new release Jail Nelson Mandela.

Friday, September 15, 2006


Havey Williams, a good friend of this parish, related this story during an exchange about tonight's I'm From Barcelona gig:

'As Johnny Johnson said to me last night, "we never used to buy tickets in advance for indie shows, how come we have to now?" That girl is *so* old skool.'

We didn't. You turned up, paid your money - or, if you were lucky enough to be enjoying sexual congress with the drummer every other Wednesday or had leant the support band your tambourine, got in free - and an evening of feral pop frenzy was yours. Now, though, we have to buy tickets in advance. There are reasons for this:

1/ Gigs are the in thing. I think this is tied into both the massive popularity of festivals - people want that experience all year round - and the resurgence in public taste of guitar-based music, which is conducive to the gig environment. For ver youth of today, verily gigs are the new clubs. People - quite rightly, I think - don't want to pay £20 just so someone plays someone else's records all night (and expects his own record deal/sexual services of disco foxtresses/not to get called a wanker when he waves his hands in the air - yes, we're thinking of you, Norman) don't want to pay £5 for a bottle of water and don't want to listen to techno. They have spent all week listening to music on a computer/ipod/faceless digital medium and they want to feel the electricity crackle.

2/ 300 capacity for this IFB show, yet it will sell out (at the time of writing, there are 3 tickets left). Indiepop is the most popular it's ever been. The interntational pop underground has gone overground - 150,000 youtube plays for just the one IFB track. They played some Hoxton bar last night, too. We never used to buy tickets in advance because gigs never used to sell out.

3/ Venues have started to take fire regulations seriously. Camden Barfly was closed/got its knuckles severely rapped/delete as appropriate just don't sue me* in the late 90s for over-selling. My suspicion is that they certainly still do so, just not as badly *ditto.

Harvey was also sage enough to point out that "it's much easier to sell tickets in advance than it used to be. You no longer have to open a box office, or employ someone to be at the end of a phone, you just get in touch with Ticketweb etc & they'll do it all for you."

We are paying for the convenience. Of course, I wouldn't mind just turning up, handing over some cash and walking in - I've no intention of shagging any drummers and I raffled my tambourine for charity - and I do mind the booking fees some places charge, but at least indiepop is so popular. I might think differently if it gets so popular that every gig I go to I have to drink beer out of plastic fucking cups, but for now everything, I think, is looking up.

This is probably a good time to mention that Harvey will be playing three songs on Monday night at the Betsey Trotwood in Farringdon in support of headliners H Bird. I don't know how much it is to get in, or where to get advance tickets, if indeed there are any, but I'm taking some time out at the weekend to "service" Harvey in return for a free ticket, seeing as he hasn't got a drummer available for that function. See you in Bunhill Fields Cemetery by William Blake's grave, Sunday at 3, Harv. I'll be there with an aubergine and a marmoset. The usual. Any vloggers out there, piss off, we're not interested.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


Some friends despair that record shopping in NYC ain’t what it used to be. They’ve probably taken the easy pickings, the standards you snap up for a quarter of the price in the UK; what’s left you might have to dig a little deeper for or – dare I say it – expand your monocultural tastes to encompass more genres of music, but it’s still a rich land grab in NYC’s world of vinyl.

True, it is possible to snap up rarities at prices that, after you’d sold them on in the UK or that crazy long tail economic frenzy of ebay, would easily cover your air fare, but I’ve never been in the buy-and-sell market. Anyway, it’s hard enough lugging home what I’ve bought for myself and, not being great mates with my bank manager, the “temporary overdraft” farrago might be just a bit too much.

Bleeker Street is the obvious place to start; on this, like other trips, I go into Generation Records just off Bleeker on Thompson first. It’s the sort of place where you can still find bargains for under $5. Like Judy Henske’s Little Bit Of Sunshine…Little Bit Of Rain; and Sandy Denny’s Like An Old Fashioned Waltz. Admittedly, the Denny sleeve has suffered some damage, but the vinyl is in ex shape, so for $3 I’ll live with it until a better sleeve comes along.

Bleeker Bob’s is worth going into, even though it’s overpriced. They did, though, provide the biggest disappointment of the shopping fandango. Imagine – both Merry Clayton albums, and both too scratched to consider buying. At $25 each they were a little heavy, especially as they’d been marked VG. However, the records weren’t VG; they were G (that marvellous record collecting anomaly where G – Good – means good for nothing). It was like watching ebay move from the virtual to the real world: someone claims a fucked record is in decent nick and overprices it.

I did buy Swedish band Ola and the Janglers’ Let’s Dance album – still sealed – which, at $25, seemed entirely reasonable. This was because I hadn’t heard their late-60s material. Very generic 60s pop with a Merseybeat hangover (in 1969!) and a standard attempt at light-psych. Still, some very attractive trousers are sported on the sleeve, if skin-tight and made by a colourblind tailor is your idea of attractive. That purchase was all my fault, of course, but maybe Bleeker Bob’s isn’t really worth going in to…don’t put it at the top of your shopping destinations, anyway.

If you want to hear how the 60s really swung in Sweden, look no further than the triple CD set Stora Popboxen, which came out about 10 years ago (that’s when I got mine, anyway). The earlier Ola and the Janglers’ material on that is worth a listen, along with pre-Abba bands the Hootenanny Singers (Bjorn) and the (far better) Hep Stars (Benny). There are some stone cold classics on there, most notably The Beathovens’ Summer Sun (an aching lament that Ray Davies at his peak in the years 1965-7 somehow forgot to write; Scandinavian friends who know more about this than I, however, warn me that their other material is not up to scratch) and Steampacket II’s Take Her Anytime, a fuzzed-up soul psych-out with an insistent pop pulse that blows away any reference to Rod Stewart and Brian Auger’s Steampacket venture. The song was released as a single in the UK under the band name The Longboatmen; the 7” has just been reissued. If I had the silly money – 7 quid; did I mention I was skint? – I’d buy one today. If I had the really silly money - several hundred pounds - I'd probably buy 50 new records instead of the original 7".

For anyone interested in the roots of the Swedish guitar pop genesis – some might say genius – Stora Popboxen’s a good place to start. Copies of it are probably still littering the sale bins in Sweden, so if you’ve got a friend there, call in a favour.

More on record shopping in NYC later.

Saturday, September 02, 2006


As predicted, Jeff Greene gave away his one copy of the new Butterflies album (to get it mastered or something technical; I mean, we don't mind demos round here, and we did predict he'd fall through on his promises again). Drummer Neil O'Brien has stepped up and promised us a copy of the album next week, when we visit his New Jersey homestead...and on the basis of their performance on Thursday, we are anticipating a work of godlike genius, given that their gig was the most intense guitar-pop-driven spectacle since the 1980s. We're thinking here of when Terry Bickers last had that hold over an audience, when he could, as John Peel remarked in his Observer column, draw you in (Bickers has never been able to do that since 1988 and by Jesus we've been and watched him a few times since just to see if he could still summon that power; he can't); or of the pure beat pop dynamism of East Village, hypnotic thrums all, spellbinding alchemy that even now attendees talk about wide-eyed and in hushed tones. The Butterflies have upped their quotient to three guitars, each of them with the same power that Bickers once had. This was truly an astonishing show.

Our favourite comment of the Fortuna Pop festivities came from John Jervis, who explained why the MJ "My mum calls me Mark" Hibbett 'competition' attracted so few - none, let's be honest - entrants. Not because there wasn't really a prize on offer. No, it was because "his mum never calls him". Thanks, John, and sorry, "MJ", for opening wounds like that. We expect you've written a song about it, and we look forward to hearing it.