Tuesday 31 May 2011

Q: Are You Falling In Love?

A: Yes.

For some reason I didn't really feel either of Gold-Bears' singles so I wasn't expecting a great deal from their debut lp but I gave it a whirl anyway since it was on Slumberland Records.  It came as a sweet surprise, therefore, to discover much to admire on it, especially the title track, "Are You Falling In Love".   The idea of overlaying a Belle and Sebastian-reverent tune complete with strings and sleigh bells with the sound of a swarm of bees disappearing up a vacuum cleaner turned out to be a fine one.  Who would've guessed that?  Elsewhere there are a bunch of guitar sounds to cherish (the start of "Tally" was surely pinched from The Field Mice's autumn store of intros!), some immaculately recorded tambourines (anyone who doesn't have a weakness for them, please see a doctor now!) and plenty of impassioned vocals.  It all zips by at quite a pace but still finds the time and space for subtlety and detail.  So far it's stood up well to repeated plays and I suspect that with the addition of some summer sun its appeal will only grow.

Handily, I've just noticed that you can embed boomkat's player on yr blog so, er, don't take my word for it! (Like you'd be so dumb, anyway!)

Jad Fair @ Stereo, Glasgow (31/05/2011)

So, Jad Fair played and, as expected, it was a bit of a riot!  With Jad's shows, there's always a story to tell afterwards and this time that story concerns his...er...bendy guitar (!).  I'm pretty sure I've never witnessed a show where the guitarist physically bent the neck of his guitar in the pursuit of sound and sensation and I've certainly never seen a show which finished with the guitarist playing an instrument whose neck has become separated from its body before!  Crazily, the neck bending antics yielded some great sounds.  If someone had blindfolded me and told me that I was in fact listening to a live Jad Fair album that had been left next to a piping hot radiator all winter, I would've believed them.  His set was studded with frequently aired gems from yesteryear like "Red Dress", "This Could Be The Night" "Roman Candles" and "Bashful Jad" but all were made lemon fresh by Jad's loopy-eyed energy and the odd lyrical tweak.  His Jad-libs (sorry - couldn't resist that!) were a hoot e.g. "I may not a Beatle, but I have a Beatle's needs" and from the length of some of his mid-line pauses, he could, in a Crocodile Dundee style, say to Harold Pinter, "Ha ha ha, that's not a pause.  THAT's a pause!".  Gilles Rieder on drums was a rock, all maximum feel and, crucially, minimum chaos - a great complement to Jad.  A true highlight was when the pair left the stage and Jad, breathing hard and sweating from his exertions, sang a cappella while Rieder drummed on the stage-front and then the floor.  Tremendous!

Saturday 28 May 2011

Bashful Jad in Glasgow!

Not long now till Jad Fair lands in Glasgow!  I can't think of a better way to make the most of the spring bank holiday - Monday, 30th May - than nipping along to Stereo at ~7pm for some hot Jad action.  Like a lot of the good stuff in my life, I have The Pastels to thank for bringing Jad to my attention via their two heart melting collaborations with him.  I have so many great memories of Jad's previous Glasgow shows.  For example, being at The Art School at silly o'clock in the morning watching a punk and a skinhead merrily (and I do mean 'merrily', they were having a fine old time!) kicking each other while Jad's group, Half Japanese, ground (musically, not in the Beyonce booty-shaking sense!) away on stage or seeing the cutest, most sweetly gormless baby popping up periodically at the window of Monorail when he played an in-store there.  And the less said about the time I 'lost' my spectacles during the disco after his show with Teenage Fanclub aboard the Renfew Ferry, the better!  If the optimistic, packet-of-Dolly Mixtures colours of Jad's most recent artworks (see the pic, above) are any guide, 2011 finds him on fine form.  I do hope so.  Roll on Monday!

Wednesday 25 May 2011

Terry Malts "Distracted"

It's just so impeccably clean!  I've never seen a picture of Terry Malts but, from the sound of "Distracted" from the group's debut 7" on Slumberland, I imagine that they sport neat Sta-prest trousers, gingham button-down Ben Shermans and Y(ale) cardigans.  "Distracted" isn't the A-side but it's the song I'm drawn to most.  Not that lead track, "I'm Neurotic", isn't a top punk-pop blast - it is - but "Distracted" is just so catchy (and not just because of the sensible steal from The Go-betweens' "Lee Remick"!) and crisp that it's utterly irresistible.  It may have been recorded cleanly - the vocals in particular - but it's by no means anodyne; the guitars, for example, churn and spin before spinning so fast that they tumble over giddy and laughing in the last 20 seconds.  Slumberland has form when it comes to releasing bubblegum punk -see this smashing Parasites single - and I'm glad that they've embraced it once more. 2011 is the year of my power pop/punk epiphany after all.

Monday 23 May 2011

Pick the Cat's Eyes up!

If the truth be told, there was practically a 0% chance that I would've picked up on Cat's Eyes without the help of friends.  All that puff in the Sunday supplements about  gigs at the Vatican, a guy from The Horrors collaborating with an opera singer and an album released on a  major label (spit - ha, just kidding!) would've ensured that.  However, a word to the wise from a trusted friend is usually enough to make me put my prejudices to one side - at least for the duration of a YouTube clip or two - and so it was this time.  Fortunately, the first clip I watched was this:

From the way it glides into view kinda like "Svefn-g-Englar" did so memorably all those years ago to Rachel Zeffira's soft as snow vocals, it's a subtle charmer that makes you feel the loss of Trish Keenan a little more keenly.  By contrast, the next clip I watched was this little hurricane:

Faris Badwan's preposterous vocals really should have me running for the hills but, inexplicably, I dig 'em big time and Zeffira's contribution is, once again, wondrous.  Just listen to the playful way she sings 'I'm gonna go where the sun don't shine' like an even girlier Judith Boyle...smashing!  It's a wild ride of a tune that, unfortunately for the tardy ones who missed the "Broken Glass" double 7" in February, doesn't appear on the debut album.  It would be great hear it blasted out just once at a record hop to see if it causes dancefloor dodgems like it would in a fair world!

From an initial spin of their full length, there's nothing quite as tumultuous as "Sunshine Girls" but that's okay, as there are plenty moments of genuine prettiness to be enjoyed.  Sure, there is the odd jarring Badwan moment but they can't take the shine off what is, for me at least, an unexpected treat.  Thanks for the tip S, it was a good one!

Tuesday 17 May 2011

Kevin Shields' progeny

Had I had the time when I bought it, I would've written some thoughts on (the appallingly named!) Ringo Deathstarr's "Colour Trip" cd (Club AC30).  I would've mentioned that I saw them supporting Dean and Britta (February 2011 @ Stereo in Glasgow) when that duo were performing 'The Songs of Galaxie 500' and that J and I had quipped to each other that Ringo Deathstarr were obviously performing 'The Songs of My Bloody Valentine'.  I would've mentioned, too, how I had had the same Showaddywaddy (<--- only click this link if you are emotionally robust and have another catchy song to hand with which to flush out yr ears afterwards!) suspicions that I had had on first hearing The Manhattan Love Suicides i.e. that they were a mere facsimile of something that in its day was truly new and creative and hence dangerous.  I would've said, however, that, as with TMLS, I unequivocally enjoyed their music regardless of any doubts about about its borrowing from the past.

I mention all this now because I'm experiencing it yet again with No Joy's "Ghost Blonde" album (Mexican Summer).  No Joy purloin from the same artists (fill in the blanks!) as Ringo Deathstarr so won't satisfy those searching for the merest glimmer of originality in their music but, as with RD, they do make a very pretty noise.  A noise that when it hits high gear is more than a little exhilarating such as when the drummer bludgeons his kit to death about 1 minute and 26 seconds into "You Girls Smoke Cigarettes?" or during the rampaging first couple of minutes of "Hawaii".  I suspect that the 21 year old me would have haughtily dismissed both groups (and probably their labels, too) but I'm not 21 years old any more and I don't really need each new record I buy to be the saviour of music.  I guess, to some extent, that's due to my having a bit more disposable income and knowing that if I buy a stinker or even just a pleasantly average record, I won't have to sit and stare at it resentfully for ages before I can afford to buy another one.  Mind you, in retrospect, I did buy the entire recorded output of Secret Shine, so even as a 21 year old I wasn't averse to a bit of MBV plundering!  I guess what all this rambling is trying to say is that I like No Joy and Ringo Deathstarr while being fully cognisant of their historical debt*.

* - heh heh...just to illustrate that you can't trust anyone..I whipped the phrase 'historical debt' from this l.p.'s title

Sunday 15 May 2011

Glasgow Indietracks warm-up (July, 25th 2011)

A welcome side-effect of the Indietracks organisers bringing groups to the UK who maybe couldn't afford to come otherwise, is that these groups tend to fit in additional shows around the country so, even if you don't pitch your tent somewhere near Butterly on the last weekend of July, you still get to see some exotic out-of-towners.  For example, I'm pretty sure that it's thanks to Indietracks that Glasgow has witnessed revelatory performances from New York's Paisley patterned janglers The Specific Heats in recent years.  This year's Glasgow Indietracks warm-up show is something of a Matinee Records spectacular with 3 of that label's finest set to grace The Captain's Rest's (barely elevated!) stage: Seattle's Math and Physics Club and local heroes The Hermit Crabs and Bubblegum Lemonade. As if that weren't treats enough, Chicago's heartfelt Camera Obscurists, Very Truly Yoursare also on the bill; talk about a stellar lineup!  If Bubblegum Lemonade do make their live debut, it'll be first time I'll have seen one of Laz McLuskey's groups since, ooh, The Stepping Stones supported BMX Bandits in Kilmarnock something ridiculous like 16 or 17 years ago; and they said it wouldn't happen!  If it turns out that Very Truly Yours' exquisite jangles and melancholy melodies are half as good live as they are on record, it'll be a night to cheer the soul.  So, thanks must go to the Indietracks organising committee and, of course, to Half My Heart Beats for doing the legwork to make this unmissable show happen. It's great to have something to look forward to.  Roll on July!

The utterly charming poster for the show was created by Andy Hart*.  On my old blog I wrote glowingly about Andy's illustrations for the indiepop tribute to The Ramones and I'm similarly knocked-out by this piece.  I strongly recommended getting to know his cast of cool kids and b-movie characters.  What a talented fellow!

* - There's a dandy interview with Andy on the Eardrums site that features some more of his artwork.  Smashing!

Tuesday 10 May 2011

Amor de Dias "Dream (Dead Hands)"

As of today the debut album from Amor de Dias is streaming on the Merge Records site.  I tend not to listen to records ahead of their release date as it diminishes the thrill of walking home from the record shop wishing and hoping but I couldn't wait to hear "Street of the Love of Days" so an exception was made.  So far I've made it to the seventh song and, well, haven't been able to move to the eighth yet.  "Dream (Dead Hands)" is without doubt the prettiest 3 minutes and 47 seconds of new music I've heard since 2010 gave way to 2011.  It's as intimate and as beautifully clear-voiced as Chuck and Mary Perrin at their "Violets of Dawn" best.  It's as delicate and moving as Blueboy at their "If Wishes Were Horses"/"Unisex" best.  I'm sure I've written of this phenomenon before (ain't nothing new under the sun, sonny!), but I know when I truly love a song because when it plays I can't really decipher the words, can't focus on them.  My guess is that so much of my head is taken up trying to appreciate the sheer beauty of the music and the voices and the arrangement that higher brain functions like language just have to take a back seat for a while until it's all processed and understood and its place in the pantheon of my favourite music established.  This inability to fully grasp the song, however, means I'm compelled to play it over and over again to the point where I get a bit over-emotional and all fizzing with the need to evangelise about it.  It happened when I first heard The Field Mice, it happened when I first heard Alasdair from Amor de Dias's other group The Clientele and it's happening now with "Dream (Dead Hands)".  Just the other day I was lamenting the fact that I hadn't heard too many genuinely brilliant albums so far this year.  If the remaining 8 tracks are as majestic as the first 7, "Street of the Love of Days" will be one of the few.  Excitingly, it's only 7 days - 17th May - until the vinyl and cd hit the record shops.

Tuesday 3 May 2011

Share The Joy

This blog isn't called Not Unloved for nothing. Recently I've read a bunch of lukewarm or even downright negative reviews of the latest Vivian Girls record, "Share The Joy" (Polyvinyl), so it seems only right that somebody shows them that they're not unloved.  I bought it yesterday - not exactly quick off the mark, I know - and after a few plays I just don't understand the gripes. It's possible, maybe, that a little part of me is championing the underdog but, really, there's nothing on "Share The Joy" that sounds limp or under-cooked or uninspired.  That's not to say that it's the greatest recorded work since wax cylinders but it's certainly not worthy of derision nor to be greeted with disappointment or a shrug of the shoulders and dismissed as just another Vivian Girls record.  Sure, they've made 3 broadly similar albums in their short career to date, but each one has been different enough from its predecessor and moved their sound forward enough to be worthwhile and to not be considered a retread.  It's to their credit that they've stuck to their core sound.  I'd rather they did that than go all overblown and Smashing Pumpkins on us or take to producing chill-wavelets or whatever genre Altered Zones is soiling itself over these days.  It feels like their main crime is to not be the new thing any more.  I'll bet that if they had cheekily sneaked out "Dance (If You Wanna)" as the debut single by a fictitious group, a bunch of bloggers - Not Unloved included - would've written enthusiastically of its innocent peppiness. Mind you, when I heard lead single "I Heard You Say" I was taken by it immediately.  Had its guitar solo graced a private-press wimp scuzz side from 1967, I suspect that folks would've talked glowingly of its primitive emotional pull.  It's beautifully recorded, too; just the right fidelity.  There have been some snide remarks about the playing on the record.  For example, Pitchfork decried Cassie Ramone's soloing on "The Other Girls" as being 'flat and stiff as dry spaghetti' .  Listening to it, however, I was struck by how unbearable it could have been had it been played by some pompous (probably male) goon with a whopping ego and a girning face intent on ramming more notes than necessary into every second.  Give me Cassie Ramone's rudimentary soulfulness over that any day!  Rather than addressing each of the negative comments I've read in turn, I'll just finish by saying that I'm relieved that I didn't let those comments deter me from buying "Share The Joy" as it has enough pop thrills and charm to earn it a place in my affections and a good few plays.

Sunday 1 May 2011

Shimmering Stars "East Van Girls"

Seems like Shimmering Stars' brilliant single (Almost Musique) sneaked out last year while my foolish ears were turned elsewhere.  Lead track "East Van Girls" marries that winning early Vivian Girls-in-the-garage production style to a lovely tears-on-my-pillow, pre-beat boom melody.  The result recalls a less Jesus and Mary Chain reverent version of fellow Everly Brothers admirers (Shimmering Stars tackle "Let It Be Me" on the flip of this e.p.), The Raveonettes.  Generously, Almost Musique have shared all 4 tracks on the e.p. available via their Soundcloud page.  Kudos to Pebble Records for having the smarts to snag a few copies for the UK.