Friday, April 18, 2008


As the Greatest Pop Song Of The Year So Far, a giddy, summery fairground ride round pop’s candyfloss stands, came out in January, we can all be forgiven for overlooking Big Umbrella by Kings Have Long Arms (featuring Candie Payne).

Big Umbrella has the instant pop quality of The Lightning Seeds’ Pure, the effortless, horn-drenched reverie of The Pale Fountains’ Thank You and the brutal wistfulness of Pulp back in the days when they were, you know, a different class.

There’s a video, which is, naturally, ace.

Can’t think where they got the idea basing a summer pop song on an umbrella motif, though. It’ll never work....

The b-side’s rubbish and they have no other good songs, but in Swan Lake Thomas Tantrum have made a glorious single that takes the ramshackle drive of The Cure’s Just Like Heaven and steers it towards snarling buzzsaw punk. Oddly – marvellously – the quiet bit in the song sounds exactly like Go For Gold! by Girls At Our Best!. The singer you suspect wants to sound like Kate Bush but – gloriously – sounds like Clare Grogan. So what if they never make another song this good. I doubt if they will. I’ll have forgotten about them by next week and something else shiny and new will have seduced me by then. That’s pop music, and Swan Lake is a great pop song.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The White Sisters

The White Sisters was Jeffrey Borchardt of Honeybunch and Velvet Crush’s first band, also featuring Lawrence Bethe on drums and Derrick McBride on bass. Their debut single was produced by Butch Vig in “the fall of 1985” at Smart Studios in Madison, Wisconsin, featuring the songs Misery, Me & You and Nothing Out There. It was released by Boat Records and Tapes, a label about which I am otherwise entirely ignorant.

For some reason, I have a spare copy of this single, so if anyone's interested (and has something I might want) let me know and we can sort out a swap.

A second and final single, Big Girl and A Love Like Lead, came out on the great Picture Book label in 1988. It was produced by Steve Marker, co-owner of Smart Studios with Vig, both of whom went on to form Garbage. The producers, you will notice, did not exert their personal taste upon these White Sisters recordings.

Honeybunch flexi

Kris was after Nothing But Trouble by Honeybunch, which was on the Milky Way No 1 flexi (1991) along with Merry-go-round by Small Factory and Sunshine Shower by The Bachelor Pad.
So here's that flexi. Marvellous. Everyone's happy now.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Phil Wilson gig

I didn’t start this blog to get even more showbiz pals, but in this blog’s near two-year existence, Phil Wilson, officer, gentleman and pillar of the indiepop world, has emailed me on at least two occasions (and only one of those times was to threaten me with a restraining order unless I stopped bothering him).

Phil (we’re on first-name terms) is playing at The Gramaphone on Commercial St in London tomorrow night. Buy tickets here while you still can.

Also on the bill are Pocketbooks, The Postcards and Still Corners. Rumour maintains that those Pocketbooks people will be backing Phil on a few songs, so it really does promise to be a great night out.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

(You'd Better) Straighten Up And Fly Right

The clear winner in my rump-shakin’, crowd pleasin’, frottage actuating DJ set in Malmo was, using the time-honoured measurements of fist-pumpin’ euphoria, face-splitting grinnin’ and physical intoxication, (You’d Better) Straighten Up And Fly Right by The Devonnes.

This record has the sass of the greatest 60s girl group songs, probably the best bass line ever (I played this song to that Mark Monnone, bassist of The Lucksmiths, a few years ago: he stood stock still, transfixed, agog, for the entire song; non- bassists among you will react by smiling and dancing) and a double neat trade in killer lines: try “I can be like an old used car/I’ll quit on you if you drive me too far” for size.

(You’d Better) Straighten Up And Fly Right was found in GWP’s vaults and issued by Kent in 2005. You can find it on the compilation GWP NYC•TCB and should do so: that CD contains essential cuts such as Debbie Taylor’s feisty Don’t Nobody Mess With My Baby, which wouldn’t have been out of place on the Hot Wax release schedule, and Little Rose Little’s blind devotion on the club soul of He’s What I Need.

Best of all, Honey Man by The Modettes sounds like it’s the blueprint for Dexys’ Tell Me When My Light Turns Green; only Honey Man wasn’t issued until 2005. Perhaps it’s here that we have to speculate, as the academic David Luke did on the genesis of the Grimms' Fairy Tales, that for profound human reasons, both The Modettes’ and Dexys’ songs came into being independently (polygenetically) in quite separate cultures.

Monday, April 07, 2008

The Pastels in 1984

We started putting records out about 1982 and I think people just felt encouraged by us because we've always tried to be as honest as we can in our music and uncontrived and also really tried to demystify the aspect of being in a band that's got a record due...
Something from the archives: The Pastels’ first Peel Session, recorded on 17 January 1984 (first broadcast 7 February 1984).
Tomorrow The Sun Will Shine
Trains Go Down The Track
Something Going On
Stay With Me ‘Til Morning

The band on this session was:
Stephen Pastel (guitar, vocals)
Brian Superstar (guitar)
Martin (bass, vocals)
Bernice (drums)
Aggie (vocals, organ)
Joe from Henon (guitar, vocals)

“Joe from Hendon” is Joe Foster, then of the TVPs, whose album later that year, The Painted Word, was the closest contemporary kindred spirit to this line-up of The Pastels.

Both The Pastels and the TVPs in 1984 were obviously big fans of the Modern Lovers: in the latter’s case, their Someone To Share My Life With wouldn’t exist without the Modern Lovers’ Someone I Care About; in both bands’ cases, and especially The Pastels’, they shared the wretched dejection, the insularity and desolation, the Velvets’ drone, the torment and the romantic power of the Modern Lovers’ classic debut.

Two Pastels’ demos from around that time, Oh! Happy Place and Supposed To Understand, also make essential listening. Even without Rose and Jill from Strawberry Switchblade on backing vocals, Supposed To Understand in demo form still sounds like one of the best songs The Pastels have ever written.