Sunday, 19 April 2015

26th April: Sarah Records documentary screening in Glasgow

Next Sunday the Monorail Film Club is presenting a special screening of Lucy Dawkins"My Secret World: The Story of Sarah Records" at the Glasgow Film Theatre.  Following the screening I (!) will be chairing a Q&A with Clare Wadd who co-ran Sarah Records with Matt Haynes.  I've written before of my love for Sarah Records, so it's a great honour to be asked to do it.  Last May, I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Sarah Records themed weekender at Bristol's Arnolfini Centre at which the film was premiered.  It was a blissful weekend from the film itself, to the exhibition of Sarah Records memorabilia, to the walking tour of Bristol ("Look!...there's There And Back Again Lane!") to the live performances from The Orchids, Secret Shine, The Catenary Wires (Amelia from Heavenly's new group - debut single out NOW on Elefant of Madrid) and the living breathing art exhibit, Julian Henry.  It really was, to quote The Sweetest Ache, a heaven scented world for a couple of days.

What a majestic record! Unbelievably, only a b-side, too.  Incredible.

There's a Facebook event page here.  Here's what I wrote for it:

I was ripe for Clare Wadd and Matt Haynes’s Sarah Records. At the turn of the 90s I was a pretty timid teenager looking for things to help sand-off the rough edges of life. When Sarah released one heart-meltingly beautiful single after another by the likes of The Sea Urchins, The Field Mice, The Orchids, The Wake etc., I was in. Sarah stood out because it proudly celebrated beauty and unashamedly celebrated sensitivity; things which irritated the more laddish element writing for the rock press at the time. They got some savage reviews and were dismissed as “limp-wristed wimp pop”. Professing to a love of Sarah Records was more often than not met with a disparaging sneer. It only made me love them more. Sarah was about more than just music, too. I looked forward to reading Matt and Clare’s writing on the record inserts, fanzines and newsletters almost as much as I did to hearing their new releases; it was so passionate, erudite and slyly funny. Sarah didn’t shy away from the political - check The Wake’s “Major John” and wasn’t ‘Fuck the poll tax!’ etched into the run-out groove on the a-side The Orchids’ “Underneath The Window, Underneath The Sink”? - and it was inclusive: female, male, gay, straight, all were welcomed by Matt and Clare. Like Postcard before it, Sarah produced some wonderful ephemera. There were 5” flexidiscs, the aforementioned newsletters, gorgeous cut and paste fanzines, balloons, the butterfly design Heavenly carrier bag which, inexplicably, got up the noses of the more dunderheaded heavy metal tee wearing types on my university course and so much more. The records consistently looked fabulous, too. When Matt and Clare called it a day in 1995, I was genuinely a bit heartbroken. Happily, however, time has been kind to their uncompromising vision and impeccable taste, what with Lucy’s documentary and a soon to be published book. Even former foe the NME recently proclaimed Sarah to be second best indie label ever. Something which rivals Canadian punks Fucked Up covering Another Sunny Day’s rollicking “Anorak City” in terms of sheer unexpectedness.

Lucy tweets about the film at: @SarahRecordsDoc

The Wake "Clouds Disco" 7" (FBN 94)

Yesterday's Record Store Day at Monorail Music was a blast.  As ever, I bought a load of Record Story Day exclusives that I undoubtedly would have bought on any other day of the year: The Liminanas 7", the Hinds/The Parrots split 7", the third archival Half Japanese box, the new Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings 7", Night School's Rose McDowall reissue 12" etc..  I also bought the NF Porter reissue "Keep On Keeping On" / "I Can Only Be Sure" despite its 12.99 asking price because a) the SONGS and b) I'm no Daddy Warbucks so affording the originals is the stuff of delusional daydreams for me.  The record I had been looking forward to picking up most, however, was The Wake's subtly shimmying "Clouds Disco" 7".  It was a highlight of the cd version of last year's "Testament" compilation but belongs on 7" vinyl.  Caesar's vocals are so gentle and great and those keyboards sway as organically as seaside grass.  It's a sweet reminder that The Wake's melodies, heart and uncluttered arrangements are always welcome.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Spinning Coin "Albany"

Sometimes you go to a show and there's an unfamiliar new local band on the bill and you're not really expecting too much of them so you're chitting and chatting but then they play a song and it stops you mid-witter.  That song then plays in your head on and off for days so you get fired-up with evangelical zeal, hellbent on telling the world, only to remember that it's 2015 and that unless you can let people hear the song in question, it'll be forgotten in the time it takes to read 'View 4 new Tweets'.  The last time that happened?  When I heard 'Albany'" by Spinning Coin at Audio last December.  Helpfully for evangelists, it has now been posted to Winning Sperm Party's  - they're releasing the group's tape - Soundcloud page:

What an endearing slice of weed-dazed, vulnerability! A friend astutely mentioned the name Further on hearing them. To that I'd add Tomorrow's Tulips. I suspect that the Burger Records' collective hearts will pogo when they hear it. If the rest of the tape is as affecting it'll be a must purchase.  From the two times I've seen them live, however,  I know there are at least two or three more stunners, one of which is in the vein of Teenage Fanclub's unageing, untouchable "Everything Flows".


Sean Armstrong, one of the singers in Spinning Coin, has just made available his solo version of "Albany" and it's a dreamy, Alex Chilton-like affair.  Plain lovely.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Marshall Scott Etc.

For many years now, Saturday mornings have started with sleep-listening to Brian Matthew's Sounds of the Sixties on BBC Radio 2.  As with Peel's show, he plays such a wide range of material that I never like everything but every once in a while he'll play something new (to me) that cuts through the haze and has me scurrying to the internet.  This week it was romantic beat merchants Marshall Scott Etc..  Unusually, my search turned up a great British Pathe video in which the group step Mr Benn-style straight out of a gentleman's outfitters - check the guitarist's tartan trews! - into the grounds of Woburn Abbey to mime their tender 'Same Old Feeling' single:

Looks like the drummer went to the Ringo Starr school of larking about and smiling!  With its easy charm and sun-steeped melody, it's hard to believe that 'Same Old Feeling' wasn't the handiwork of a bunch of tanned Californians.  Now to find a copy on 7"...

Thursday, 12 February 2015


A trip to a record shop just isn't complete without at least one 7" sneaking into your bag is it?  The other week it was a new Vampisoul release which pairs a Colombian original by Elia Y Elizabeth with a cover another of their songs by Elefant Records' Single.  'Alegria' by Elia Y Elizabeth is beautifully constructed: verses of gentle, sunny day funkiness that slip with ease into a chorus of brassy exuberance.  It's just so endearing!  Vampisoul's parent label, Munster Records, has released this fine looking item by the sisters which, should it find its way into, say, Monorail's racks (hint!) will find a willing purchaser...

Single's take on 'Soy Una Nube' on the reverse is a more beat-driven affair that skulks somewhere between the brilliant bri-nylon pop of Saint Etienne circa "Nothing Can Stop Us" and a US 70s cop show theme.  An unexpected ESG sample seeps in around halfway through and pops up again at the end by which point you've already reached for the modern tools of evangelism.

Single is a duo (ha!), both of whom - Ibon Errazkin and Teresa Iturrioz - were in the eternally elegant Le Mans whose 90s records for Elefant were things of gentle wonder, especially their double 10" "Saudade" which still gets semi-regular spins on the Not Unloved turntable.  It's great to be reminded of their music and good to hear that they're still making lovely records (which sometimes have freaky covers!).

Glaswegians: As of 2 days ago Monorail had at least one copy of this essential 7" left.  Get on it!

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Honey Radar "Chain Smoking on Easter" (Third Uncle/Treetop Sorbet)

In true Not Unloved fashion, I feel the need to outline the typically haphazard way in which the outstanding Honey Radar lp "Chain Smoking On Easter" came into my life.  A while back my pal R asks if I follow (fanzine/podcast) Dynamite Hemorrhage on Twitter.  I say 'no' but duly rectify that.  DH then tweets with pride that one of the Ugly Things writers has listed it among their favourite things of 2014.  Being nosier than is decent and an obsessive digester of favourite things lists, I scour the aformentioned 'The Best of 2014 According To a Bunch of Ugly Things Writers' page and let out a little gasp when my eyes alight on this description:

Honey Radar Chain Smoking on Easter (Third Uncle) LP

Kitchen-sink psych-punk (ala Swell Maps, Television Personalities) using economy as a calling card, interspersed with ‘60s licks, noisy bits and a harmonious instrumental interplay. An assault of sixteen tracks blasts forth in a mere 21 minutes, and brings to mind the earliest moments of Pavement.

Maybe 32 seconds into streaming the album's arresting opener on bandcamp I was manically searching for a UK distributor.  Luckily Rough Trade had the smarts to stock it so a costly and fraught airmail experience was avoided.  There isn't a wasted second or the semblance of something I'd change given half a chance to across the entirety of this record and I certainly wouldn't be plum crazy enough to wish it had been recorded in a plush studio and not in the Richmond, Indiana home of Jason Henn.  At around 1 minute and 47 seconds, I used to believe Primal Scream's "Velocity Girl" to be the ultimate short duration pop song.  Then I heard The Charlottes' even shorter "Are You Happy Now?" and realised it wasn't.  At 47 seconds, however, "Alabama Wax Habit" makes the pair of them look like ponderous prog epics.  It makes its point and makes off with your heart in just 47 seconds.  Its tinnitus inducing (only in the left ear if you listen on headphones, mind) ultra-high pitch jangle is a sound beamed straight from my dreams.  In three decades of jamming Robert Pollard never happened on a more succinct but fully realised meeting of sound and melody.  "Birds Reunion" is the loosest, free-est recent rendering of the classic early Flying Nun Records sound.  In summary, "Chain Smoking on Easter" is pure orange sherbet and the most easily lovable missive from the US underground I've heard in years..  Thinking back, I don't recall being so concussed or made so madly evangelical about a record since "Eyes Rind as if Beggars" by The Garbage and The Flowers jump-started my heart and flooded my brain till it couldn't take anymore.  The new Twerps lp, the Go-betweens box set, those Pip Proud reissues etc. will have to wait to earn my love as Honey Radar won't be budging from my turntable any time soon.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

The Ringleaders "Grin and Bare It"

Secret Stash Records of Minneapolis, USA have been poking around in the archives of  the 1960s Chicago based One-derful! family of labels for a 6 disc compilation series.  In the process they've happened upon some tremendous hitherto unissued soul gems which are now taking their rightful place on 7" vinyl.  "Grin and Bare It" by The Ringleaders is a crisp, horn-filled beat-stepper that'll make a welcome addition to any Northern Soul DJ's box.  "I've Got To Find My Baby" on the flip is far mellower group soul fare which again features some wonderfully soulful horn lines and a few moments that would have made lovely samples for Wiggs & Stanley in the early 90s.  Two top quality sides and easily the best unreleased soul cuts to reach these ears since that sensational Up Tights 7".

Hear lengthy samples and buy it here (US) or here (UK).