Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Big Quiet 7"


Big Quiet explode out of the traps with their debut 7", the Mitch Easter-produced "Maura & Dana" (Unblinking Ear).  The title track which previously graced the group's cassette, zips along at pace, casually tossing out radiant melodies and guitar lines that make yr heart beat faster and have you yearning for the days when Velocity Girl were at their peak.  It's a shame that Parasol Mailorder is no more.  They would've sold a bunch of these.  With their descriptive adroitness, I would have ordered a copy in a heartbeat.  When I finally get my hands on a physical copy, I'm going to relish turning the volume knob on my amp to dangerous and blasting the flip, "Style & Pace".  After a restrained intro, guitars, bass, drums and cymbals hurtle unstoppably as Marisa Cerio belts out a terrific vocal that should have admirers of Sleater-Kinney itching to hear more.  If this single and Ex Hex's "Rips" are any guide, it would appear that Mitch Easter is on the form of his life.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Sweet Pearl / Saun & Starr

Sometimes the word 'love' just ain't strong enough. In the case of Memphis act Sweet Pearl's 1981 soft funk miracle "You Mean Everything To Me", not even 'adore' nor any other word you care to suggest that's even stronger than that can express my feelings towards it:


"So, tonight let me hold you once again
Whisper sweet encouraging words
That would make me feel that you're my only man"

So gentle, so romantic and what an admirably restrained production. It's got a real recorded-late-at-night sound, too; the musicians delivering relaxed performances wholly devoid of the urgency of daytime. Unfortunately, as is so often the case with music of this ilk, the ritual checks of collectorsfrenzy and popsike revealed original Leopard Head label copies to be pricier than my wee wallet can handle.   Thus far I haven't spotted any legitimate or even dubious grey area reissues or, for that matter, CD compilations that would tide me over until the miracle 50p charity shop find that's destined to happen at some point (dream on, Not Unloved!).  Let's hope BGP or the venerable Kent label sees fit to restore it to print on 45 in the near future. 

Q: How did Not Unloved first encounter "You Mean Everything To Me"?

On a similar tip (do people still say that - probably not, I'll wager), Saun & Starr's "Look Closer" single from a bit back now crops up as the lead track on their debut lp for Daptone.  It still sounds stunning:


Easy brilliance, huh?  It's scarcely imaginable that two voices could be more complementary.  When the sun finally sticks around long enough to justify a trip to the beach, I'll jauntily paddle in the Firth of Clyde with it on my headphones and it'll be the best.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Happyness "A Whole New Shape"

"A Whole New Shape" by Happyness fits into what I used to call 'Evening Sesson pop' after the 90s early evening BBC Radio 1 show that generally played more accessible indie stuff than John Peel.  In those days, a lot of the time I dismissed a lot of the 'Evening Session bands'.  They seemed less individual, easier to assimilate and hence less interesting than the more visionary, at times awkward, groups championed by Peel.  Embarrassingly, they also seemed like they were trying to be cool.  These days, all that seems a very long time ago.  Now that I'm 100% older and 72% less snobby, I'm able to enjoy simple thrills (yr listening life can't be all about Half Japanese or Keiji Haino can it?) where I can find them so "A Whole New Shape" has earned its fair share of spins:


A little bit Pavement, a little bit Teenage Fanclub etc., it's full of familiar, comforting sounds for a fellow of my vintage.  It's up there with Hooton Tennis Club's touching "Jasper"  for youthful charm, too (the 'Woo!' at the start!):


Maybe, given my new mindset, I should revisit bands like Yuck or all those Evening Session bands I haughtily spurned two decades ago.  We'll see.

"A Whole New Shape" is on the reissue of the group's debut album "Weird Little Birthday" (Moshi Moshi)

Monday, 25 May 2015

The Tamborines "Said The Spider To The Fly"


On a recent work trip to London I made the obligatory trip to Rough Trade East. This time, I took a list as browsing time was limited and their stock so ample.  Top of that list was "Sea of Murmur" by The Tamborines.  Due to a hectic gig schedule of late I haven't had a chance to fully assimilate its myriad charms but one song that made a big dent in my heart on first listen was "Said The Spider To The Fly":


Timeless sounding, sensitively sung and impeccably played and recorded, it's a real heart-stealer from that first slightly hesitant drum crack.  There won't be many fresher sounding songs released in 2015.  It's Teenage Fanclub, Allen Clapp or Spinning Coin great and that guitar cascade of the last minute or so is a real balm for my gig-bruised ears.  "Sea of Murmur" is out via the group's own Beat-Mo Records.  I hope tracks from it have been cropping up with regularity on stations such as BBC 6Music as it would be a real shame if it fell through the cracks. 

The Tamborines play the Liverpool Psych Fest this September.

Vital Idles


Scant minutes into the first show by the Good Press Gallery house band, Vital Idles, on Sunday, 24th May 2015 at Glasgow's The Old HairdressersI knew they would be a group I would clutch to my heart.  Informed by the sounds of the early 80s DIY revolutions in both the UK and New Zealand, they zipped through a succession of ever more adorable songs.  'The Garden' was a high-point.  Sensibly, someone saw fit to film it:


Jessica, the singer, is a terrific performer prone to bouts of vigorous dancing and insouciant mic use.  Sure, not all the notes she hits are the expected ones, but this ain't opera and sometimes a bit of wrongness makes things right.  Each of the elements of their sound is as it should be: rhythms are thumped out unfussily on a minimal drum setup, the bass is tight and propulsive and the guitars have the immediacy of Buzzcocks or Crystal Stilts.  Manchester-based label Comfortable On A Tightrope has just released a tape of Vital Idles demos.  Get it on bandcamp or from the label.  Oh,and if you've ever wondered how the children of Messthetics might tackle The Smiths, then wonder no more:



Their inauguration into playing live was such a blast that I can't wait to see Vital Idles again. Somebody make it happen, please!

Monday, 18 May 2015

2 new 7"s from Those Old Records


Those Old Records is a record shop in Rugeley, Staffordshire.  They run a mailorder and also a label which has just issued a couple of excellent Emidisc acetates from the 60s (bought from a former Sounds journalist, apparently) on 45 for the first time.  "Tangled Web" by Bedford's Spell is a lilting dose of soft psych from the same orbit as The Action's trippier, less overtly soul-influenced material:

"

Equally enjoyable is "Train" by John Williams which oscillates between a tightly wound Brit R&B shuffle and looser, more psychedelic structures: 


How something so distinctive wasn't deemed worthy of a release at the time is a mystery!  Those Old Records have to be commended for allowing the music of John Williams and Spell to finally take its rightful place on 7" vinyl.  Sterling stuff.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

The Event


Had I been home when the postman arrived today I would have struggled not to give him a hug as the parcel he had in his bag for me contained the lp on which this giddy-making slice of British Invasion revival (it's from 1989 not 1965) POP appears:


Now, that's how to open an album!  I think it's safe to say that the singer has heard Alex Chilton.  If you'd asked me a fortnight ago if I'd ever heard The Event before YouTube's algorithm kindly suggested I give them a whirl, I would have told you unequivocally that I hadn't.   I would, of course, have been entirely wrong as a good friend had included them on a compilation for me a few years back.  I must have been so snowblind from the avalanche of other great pop songs on that disc to notice it at the time.  On first listen "Pop Think In" was only one of a number of tracks on "This Is The Event" to set the pulse racing. "She's Our Girl", in particular, is pop art POP at its best:


Getting to grips with "This Is The Event" (Voxx) over the next few weeks is going to be a blast.