Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Motifs

The Motifs have created a magical world where songs are jingles, two minutes equals an epic, melodies haunt reveries, handclaps are to the fore and lyrical content features paper boats, envelopes and umlauts (“the dots above your name”). I wouldn’t be at all surprised to discover at some later date that The Motifs had, in fact, been brought to us by the Children’s Television Workshop and the letters P-O-P.

Contemporary comparisons are most obviously Broadcast’s spectral analogue electronics and Camera Obscura’s easy pop gift refracted through Beat Happening’s simple formula of underground growl and sunshine-laden tunes found on Black Candy.

More particularly, however, The Motifs’ refreshing naivety had me reaching for those old Trixie’s Big Red Motorbike records for the first time in years (“Trixie’s Big Red Motorbike they make you feel happy/Trixie’s Big Red Motorbike your feet become tappy”) as well as the Marine Girls for their DIY harmonic guile and magnificent teenage solipsism (remember how Flying Over Russia compared living under communism’s unflinching rule with having to do what you’re told by your parents?).

You can also hear Dolly Mixture’s snappy approximation of punk’s teenage dreams and 60s girl group wonder in Melbourne’s The Motifs, who in their simply charming take on DIY pop sound right now like the best thing in the world to be listening to.

Edwyn Collins art exhibition

An exhibition of drawings
The Smithfield Gallery
21 October – 1 November, 2008

Edwyn Collins’ legendary music history as one of the UK's most respected singer songwriters, runs from his early years as the founder of Glasgow’s acclaimed indie rock outfit Orange Juice in the late 1970s and early 1980s, to a long-standing solo career which continues into the present day, most recently releasing the solo album Home Again, on Heavenly Recordings.

Collins' creative output has not been confined to music however. The son of an art
lecturer, Collins began sketching at school and later trained to be a draftsman. From the outset one theme demanded his attention: British Wildlife.

Whilst building his musical career, Collins harboured a private dream to revise and
update the Cabinet Edition of ‘The History of British Birds’, first published c1880. The detailed draughtsmanship of each coloured plate fascinated Collins and encouraged
him to replicate these images with outstanding precision. However, bird illustration
soon became incompatible with the life of a successful pop star and the hobby waned.

Having suffered a life threatening brain hemorrhage in February 2005, Collins’ life was put on temporary hold. Affecting his main motor skills, speech and walking, the
priorities of survival dominated the next period of his life. However, it was during the process of rehabilitation, and gradually regaining his abilities, that Collins again refound his love of illustration. Whilst speech, playing music and mobility were taking their time to recover, Collins focused his attentions on art. Re-learning to draw with his left hand, from October 2005 Collins has drawn one bird, studiously, every day, each titled and dated, and mapping this extraordinary process of recovery via art.

For the very first time this October, Edwyn Collins’ drawings will be exhibited in a
London gallery, detailing a diary of recovery and an impassioned rediscovery of a love of illustrated bird life.

Listings information:
Edwyn Collins: British Birdlife
21 October – 1 November, 2008
The Smithfield Gallery
16 West Smithfield
Tel: 020 7489 7550

Safety Meeting Records - free CDs

You all know about the Mountain Movers, right? Course you do. Their label mates, Weigh Down, have, in Welcome To The Family Zoo, made an elegantly restrained, moodily brooding album. It’s unassumingly melodic like Wilco, compellingly artisanal like the Pernice Brothers, and attractively lugubrious like Grand Archives.

Safety Meeting records have kindly sent over a copy of that album, as well as ones by Quiet Life (woozy rock and bleary-eyed country) and Crooked Hook (intense psychedelic-stoner rock) to give away to a lucky reader. A competition is needed. Right. Look at the photograph below:

Which of the following is true:
a) Last Of The Summer Wine – The Musical
b) Stop making me look at those ugly cunts. My eyes will turn to stone.
c) L’Oreal - because we’re worth it.
d) Shampoo shortage felt keenly by geriatric pub rockers.

Any answer will do, to be honest, but priority may be given to UK residents so I don’t have to fill out a customs form at the post office.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Lost Soul: Bobby Reed

If you don't know Bobby Reed's The Time Is Right For Love you might be familiar with the song as St Etienne sampled it heavily on Spring.

It's included on the Soul Spectrum Vol 2 album, which is about to be reissued.

The b-side, also from the pens of the mighty Van McCoy/Joe Cobb partnership (isn't it about time they had a career retrospective? It would be quite a compilation), If I Don't Love You, is almost as strong as the superlative a-side. It isn't getting the reissue treatment, so I've uploaded it.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Puddle interview

One teacher said he didn’t know if I’d grow up to be a genius or a madman. For a long time I thought I’d have to choose.

An excellent interview with George Henderson of The Puddle was published in this week's issue of NZ magazine The Listener.

A new Puddle album, The Shakespeare Monkey, is out soon on Fishrider. Label boss Ian Henderson describes it as:
Over 60 minutes of top notch Puddle stuff from gentle mental psych-pop to yelping Stooges-infused garage rock and featuring strings (real ones, played by Alan Starrett who has played on some Bats and David Kilgour albums) and a monkey choir (not real, sadly - It's hard to find a good singing monkey in Dunedin).

Monday, August 18, 2008

Better Than Before: Martin Phillipps and The Chills

The Chills’ story is strewn with death, breakdowns and bad luck. Their first three singles – Rolling Moon, Pink Frost and Doledrums – combined west-coast psychedelia, primitive garage rock and a knack for great pop tunes so effortlessly that they bear comparison with the best three singles from any band. The only problem is that the other material wasn’t nearly as strong; this inconsistency was compounded by a revolving line-up, which meant that many years passed until The Chills lived up to their early promise.

Reading The Chills’ potted biography, we learn that “The Chills story is as much the story of Martin Phillipps”. It wasn’t until 1995, however, that the band became known as Martin Phillipps and The Chills; the following year saw the release of The Chills’ greatest album – in fact, their one truly great album so far – Sunburnt.

I’ve talked about the varying merits of The Chills’ output over the years with a number of people. All of them, with one exception, have picked either Brave Words or Submarine Bells as their best album; Roger Shepherd, founder of Flying Nun, who I spoke to at a gig in London a few years ago, was absolutely certain that Sunburnt was by some distance Martin Phillipps’ greatest effort.

Another of The Chills’ former label bosses, Alan McGee, writing in The Guardian a couple of weeks ago, said, “It was in 1991 that I realised how utterly classic and timeless the Chills are.” A shame he didn’t recognise The Chills’ classic or timeless qualities when he was promoting them; it’s surprising, perhaps, that McGee doesn’t talk about Sunburnt in his article, because as an emotionally racked, tortured and tormented masterpiece it surpasses any one of McGee’s traditional triumvirate of doomed lost pop classics: The Painted Word, Pink Moon and Sister Lovers.

Sunburnt is the point in The Chills’ history where all of Phillips’ strengths – throwaway pop chants, snappy garage rock, soaring harmonies, lysergic gloom and sweet despair – coalesce.

In songs like Surrounded and Premonition a powerful sense of claustrophobia and paranoia pervade; Lost In Future Ruins is the sound of a should-be legend resigned to a footnote in history rather than lasting fame:
Oh sweetie could you please not play that music
I’m not in a sentimental mood…
It appears that time has moved on without me
Like a toy that disappeared for good

This feeling is reinforced by the title track of Phillipps’ first album since being dropped by Warners. When he sings “I climbed on a mountain then fell on the land,” he’s referring to the post-Warners stress of being label-less, no longer being invited to Madonna’s parties and the day he went up a mountain with three tape recorders to find inspiration to write new songs, only for all of the tape recorders to break down within half an hour of each other. Apparently, Phillipps’ breakdown followed.

Eight years after Sunburnt, a strong set came in Stand By; encouragingly, Phillips is writing new material. A number of new songs, including Ticking Timebomb, were performed in Dunedin recently. Now, will someone get that man in a recording studio? Thanks.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Vivian Girls

Below is the press release for the Vivian Girls' UK tour, album re-release and new single. Note the hysterical description "newest breakout sirens of the New York loft-pop brigade" (who were the previous "breakout" "sirens"? what the fuck is "loft-pop"? more Pete Astor jokes, thanks all the same). Quickly forget it, buy the album when it's out because it's ACE and get yourself a gig ticket. I'll be propping up the bar nodding along contentedly down the front with ver kids.
Release Date: 6th October 2008
Label: In The Red
For fans of: Jesus and Mary Chain, The Vaselines, the Shop Assistants

“The Vivian Girls drop sweet girl-group melodies into proto-shoegaze squalls the way the Jesus & Mary Chain used to and the way groups like the Aislers Set, C86s-ers the Shop Assistants, and the Manhattan Love Suicides have done with female vocalists. They keep the Shangri-Las’ melodrama to boot.” —Pitchfork

As recounted in songs by Comet Gain and Walker Kong, the “Vivian Girls” are the seven sisters who feature in Henry Darger’s posthumously published fantasy epic, The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What Is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinnian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion. Tribute has also been paid by everyone from poet John Ashberry to Sufjan Stevens, ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, Camper Van Beethoven, Fucked Up, the Residents’ Snakefinger, and ex-Maniac Natalie Merchant—and now by Brooklyn noise-pop band the Vivian Girls.

With their debut 7-inch, ‘Wild Eyes’ on their very own Plays With Dolls Records having already sent out waves of panic and adoration to the outer limits of the underground pop contingent, the Girls have become the newest breakout sirens of the New York loft-pop brigade. Within seconds of hearing their seductive three-part vocal harmonies lushly interwoven with chest-pounding waves of beautiful feedback, it’s obvious that their songs are hard to resist, especially if you find yourself keen on the mid-’80s noise pop trifecta of The Jesus & Mary Chain, The Vaselines, and the Shop Assistants.

The Vivian Girls’ self-titled debut album appeared recently on Mauled By Tigers Records in a vinyl-only edition of 500 which sold out before the band had completed their recent three-week US tour. In The Red now proudly presents the re-release of this essential pop platter in both vinyl and compact disc formats. Swirling noise topped with sweetly angelic vocals is a lush concoction, so expect your fruity neighbours and your attention-starved friends to chime in with unabashed praise when you spin this record.

The re-release of the Vivian Girls album will be preceded by a 7-inch single with two exclusive songs including ‘I Cant’ Say’.

The band are on tour in December! Dates below….
02-Dec London Brixton Windmill
03-Dec London Old Blue Last
04-Dec Nottingham The Social
05-Dec Liverpool Club Evol
06-Dec Glasgow Captain’s Rest
07-Dec Leeds Cockpit
08-Dec Coventry Colosseum
09-Dec London Madame Jojo’s - White Heat
10-Dec Manchester The Deaf Institute
12-Dec London Vice Kills Proud Galleries
13-Dec Bristol Club Kute at Cooler

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Lost Soul: TSU Tornadoes

That’s the Texas State University Tornadoes (named after their university and, in a possible nod to the MGs, a car, the Oldsmobile Tornado), the house band for the Ovide label.

Ovide act Archie Bell and the Drells added lyrics to an instrumental from the Tornadoes’ live set: Tighten Up sold three million copies. Shamefully, the Tornadoes didn’t get a writing credit. On the back of their work with Archie Bell, however, Atlantic picked up the Tornadoes and released two singles.

The first of those, Getting The Corners, is similar to Tighten Up, only with a greater rawness, urgency and dynamism; its b-side, What Good Am I, is even better. A snapping funk backbeat, sweet horns and soulful strings, What Good Am I should have sold three million copies.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Rock'n'Roll With The Modern Lovers

All the files below are the promotional material for Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers' UK tour of September 1977.

Offical Autobiography. "I started chasing girls from age five onwards."

Offical Autobiography part2: "I put a band together when I was ninenteen, called it the Modern Lovers and I've been changing and growing ever since."

Biography (Hype Version): "Armed with a turquoise stratocaster (this is a guitar) and a lot of nerve he sang his songs."

Album Press Release: "Recorded in the finest bathroom money could buy".

Album review: Teenager In Love

Sounds album review, June 25 1977

Tour Press Release: "Jonathan will sing in these places for either two and a half hours or as long as is necessary." Some bloke called David Hepworth is one of the press officers.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Douglas Armour

If you were smart enough last year to buy Douglas Armour's debut single, Prince Of Wands, a bewitchingly bright jangle pop song that managed to be shimmering and enigmatic as well, you might be surprised by his album, The Light Of The Golden Day, The Arms Of The Night.

That surprise will become a pleasant revelation after a few plays, however, because Armour proves himself to have a quiet mastery of majestic electronic iciness and subtly alluring guitars that suggest a kinship with Magnetic Fields, New Order and Postal Service, as well as any number of 80s chart pop tunes.

This album’s deftly crafted electronic pop radiates a confident glow; all that’s needed to take it into your hearts is a few plays. If Armour gets featured on a film soundtrack like The Shins, with whom his music shares a particular pop nous, then we will, thankfully, be hearing a lot more from him.

The Sean Price Is Right

When some loud braggart tries to put me down
And says his school is great
I tell him right away
Now what's the matter buddy
Ain't you heard of my school
It's number one in the state

A compilation of Fortuna POP!’s greatest misses, Be True To Your School is a mixture of the sublime and the ridiculous, of bedroom pop glory (from both the guitars and samplers divisions), DIY sonic wreckage, classic songwriting and cackhanded tomfoolery.

The only person who could possibly like all 25 songs on this album is Fortuna POP! owner, Sean “Never Knowingly Profitable” Price. That’s how it should be with all good indie labels. Still small enough after 12 years (yes, I know Fortuna POP! had its 10th anniversary last year, but as the album’s sleeve notes confirm, The Truth is never allowed to inconvenience whatever version of history FP! is writing) to bear the mark of one man’s taste (or, if you prefer, vision), FP! is a heroic tale of one man’s dogged pursuit of bankruptcy in the name of musical mentalism.

A few acts on this compilation are not, to my mind, represented by their best song. But that’s not the point. The point is for the label owner to show off what he thinks are his label’s greatest moments, or at least provide a capsule of what the label stands for and has achieved. Job done. Here’s to Sean’s bank manager indulging him for another decade.

My thanks to John “Never Knowingly Oversold” Jervis of WIAIWYA for this post’s headline.