Thursday, 8 April 2021

Denise James "It's Never What You Say"

2020's evening project to fill the live music void was to finally use all those download coupons that came with records. Pleasingly, a surprising number of them still worked. 2021's project has been to get reacquainted with all those CDs I bought when I didn't have a decent turntable. A fair chunk of those CDs, mainly from the early 2000s, were never released on vinyl. Take for example Detroit's Denise James, none of her three full length albums ever came out on vinyl. I suspect, therefore, that there's very little clamour for her releases on discogs or ebay which is a real shame as they're all brilliant 60s-infused pop records that show a fine ear for melody and an appreciation of the works of Opal"It's Never What You Say" - from her third album, 2006's "Promises" on Rainbow Quartz - has been something of an obsession of late. Carried along by a strident beat, it really showcases Denise's terrific vocals, especially on the chorus which positively blossoms at around the 1 minutes 30 second mark. By the time Matt Smith's (Outrageous Cherry) trumpet comes in towards the end Not Unloved is daydreaming of reissuing it on 7". Who knows?...maybe someday a smart, pop-minded reissue label like Sundazed (they did just reissue Lilys "The 3 Way" on vinyl for the first time, after all) or Omnivore (remember their ace round-up of early Bangles recordings?) will shine a light on Denise's work and maybe even see fit to press it onto good ole black vinyl.



Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Magic Roundabout "Sneaky Feelings"

Unexpectedly, Third Man Records has released a fun slice of lost 80s indiepop in the form of Magic Roundabout's "Sneaky Feelings" which bears all the hallmarks you could wish for (dual tambourine action! Moe Tucker/Bobby Gillespie thump! roughed-up guitars! insouciant vocals!) from a mid-80s, Manchester-based collective who supported some of the greats such as The Pastels and My Bloody Valentine in their day. The provenance of this release is great: the 2 songs on the 7" (the other's title and lyrics name-check Gerard Langley of The Blue Aeroplanes for added period colour) were turned up by Ian Masters of Pale Saints and then reworked for release by His Name Is Alive's Warren Defever. Tonight's mission is to locate a copy of the 7" as it seems to have sold out at a bunch of the usual UK places - it was only released less than a fortnight ago - as is so often the case in 2021. In the spirit of recent posts on Not Unloved, there's a VHS-res (actually, upon reflection, it's better than that) video of "Sneaky Feelings" to enjoy:

The Interstellar Villains

In the year since Covid-19 struck the one thing that has truly burgeoned is Not Unloved's YouTube bookmarks folder. A couple of the most fun and hence most watched clips are courtesy of Australian early 90s garage/indie pop troupe The Interstellar Villains. With such a b-movie name, it's only fitting that their videos are decidedly low-res and packed full of 60s references (The Prisoner, Screaming Lord Sutch, Bridget Riley etc.) and fashions. The video for their "My Boyfriend Is An Outlaw" single with Alison Handley is a cheery little romp that could give Icky Boyfriends a run for their money in sub-Desperate Teenage Lovedolls archness:


If only they'd made a dent in my consciousness 30 years ago. Unusually, there is also a video for the flipside of "My Boyfriend Is An Outlaw" which is enjoyably Op Art-on-a-budget cool:


There's a winning waywardness to "I Love You', She Said" which certainly doesn't paint them as pouting- for-the-camera careerists. I suspect that The Interstellar Villains are well known to those more knowledgeable of the various personnel changes of The Scientists as Tony Thewlis spent a fair chunk of the 80s playing guitar for that legendary ensemble. It transpires, too, that Thewlis wrote one of Not Unloved's mixtape/cd-r comp faves of 20 years ago - the lead track on this - by The Scoundrelles which also memorably appeared on this ace Sympathy For The Record Industry compilation of wyld garage dunts recorded at London's valve amp mecca, Toe Rag Studios.

Tuesday, 23 March 2021

Judy Singh "Look Around"

 Judy Singh.


How is it possible that Not Unloved had never heard the name Judy Singh until last weekend? Honestly, it shows a complete lack of curiosity or whatever that a voice as warm and pure as Judy's could have eluded us until now. It took the appearance of a reissue of her 1970 album, "A Time For Love" (Majikbus, 2018), in the sale section of an online store for her to finally come to our attention. On first spin, the lp is a total joy which is sure to be reached for whenever a reminder is needed that the world can be a friendly, beautiful place. Judy's voice is so perfect, like some heavenly combination of Margo Guryan, Blossom Dearie and Dionne Warwick. The arrangements are straight out of the Bacharach & David school of subtlety and richness and the incredibly endearing "Look Around" has some timely advice for those of us who have just entered spring:

"All the innocence of spring in a blade of grass
Look round, just look around
Let the childhood in you sing when you look around"

Isobel Mckenna "Thinkers Rain Around The Town" (Vivarium Sounds)

There's no pattern to Not Unloved's work-from-home listening these days. It lurches from one extreme to another with vast differences in fidelity and volume. As with the Sorrow Family Band tape that caused heart flips last week, Isobel Mckenna's recent "BLUE KANUES" (Vivarium Sounds, download) has a lovely, warm, TDK D90 feel that locates it in a similar realm to, say, The Garbage and The Flowers' "Stoned Rehearsal". The lead track, below, has the delightful sleepy-eyed quality of, say, Mad Nanna trying to emulate the third Velvet Underground album.

 

If Not Unloved were keeping tally, "Thinkers Rain Around The Town" would be right up there with the best in our most-played songs in 2021 list. I have a hunch that if it had been released on tape or lathe cut by a shadowy group of New Zealanders rather than originating in Motherwell, Scotland (in the 90s, originally) it would be feted by those who used to scour Volcanic Tongue's or Low Company's much-missed weekly mailshots looking for keywords like Xpressway or Flying Nun. One to bear to in mind for the next bandcamp fee-waiver Friday (April, 2nd!) if ya dig tape hiss.

Thursday, 11 March 2021

Sorrow Family Band "Friends"

Midnight Mines have long been one of the most compelling groups in the UK underground and "Tiger Bites", the new tape from Mines member, Private Sorrow, is a thing of atmospheric wonder. There's not a weak track among the 9 instrumental pieces presented but the perky, laced with melancholy, "Friends" is the track which has carried off Not Unloved's garlands. It's a sublime 2 and a half minutes of playful drum machine and soulful guitar that practically begs to be looped for hours:

A fair few folks are, rightly, watching on in admiration at what is going on in the Swedish underground right now (Forlag For Fri Musik, Discreet Music, Happiest Place etc. etc.). I reckon those very folks will find lots to love on "Tiger Bites". It was released in an edition of only 26 so don't shilly-shally!

Tuesday, 9 March 2021

Dave Berkham "I Tried"

Last Friday Dave Berkham (of Portland, Oregon's paisley patterned pop troupe The Reverberations) released a couple of nigh on perfect gentle-voiced, heartfelt janglers for bandcamp Friday. "I Tried" is one of the loveliest tunes released in the 2021 so far and is certain to find favour among those counting down the days till the next issue of Shindig! lands on their doorstep and anyone who yearns for Ric Menck to step out from behind his drum kit and back into the vocal booth. For its part, "Younger Days" sounds like a lost Hollies-inspired Sneetches classic that really ought to grace a Bus Stop Label 45. Maybe it's time for Not Unloved to take up cosmic ordering in the hope that some benevolent saint can be cajoled into having these songs pressed onto 7" vinyl...