Tuesday 26 June 2012

The Resonars "Long Long Thoughts"

The Hollies and The Who are two 60s groups that, given my tastes, I always feel I should like more than I actually do.  Bar the odd song, however, I've never really gone a bundle on either but for some reason when The Resonars mixed one with the other on their recent-ish Trouble In Mind single "Long Long Thoughts" I was properly seduced.  From the bubblegum 'La la las' of the intro to the intermittent, manic Keith Moon-style drum battery it's relentlessly and irresistibly upbeat.  Just why I never got round to buying it before recent stints behind the decks is a mystery.  It would've sounded amazing blasting from the PA on Record Store Day or at the Aggi Doom 7" launch.  Silly me.  Ah well, it's in my record box now so if I ever get asked again...

(I got mine from those lovely Pebble Records kids!)

Tom Carter (Charalambides/Zaimph etc.) fund

A few weeks ago I was sat in my car outside Mono cheerily scoffing my dinner, anticipating that night's show.  The headline group was due to be experimental icons Charalambides.  Unfortunately, however, the show didn't take place as Tom Carter from the group was taken seriously ill in Germany and couldn't make the trip. Since then Tom has been in hospital in Berlin and a recent statement posted on the Volcanic Tongue website said the following:

"Due to the severity of Tom’s illness, his hospitalization away from home, and the projection of a possible prolonged recovery, Tom and his family will certainly incur a more than significant financial burden. There will be medical bills as well as possible travel and housing expenses. It is thought that a considerable portion, if not all, of Tom’s recovery must take place in Berlin. A fund is being established to receive donations to offset these costs.".

This fund has now been established, the  details of which can be found at helptomcarter.org.  In addition, a number of Tom's friends and collaborators and some of the labels who have released his work have set up their own fundraising initiatives. Information about Volcanic Tongue's fundraising can be found here. It's admirable and good for the soul to see people getting involved to help a friend in need. If you can help spread the word, please do.

Wednesday 20 June 2012


Guitar Wolf's arrival in Glasgow a few weeks ago would appear to have precipitated a bit of a Japanese punk binge for Not Unloved.  The trio's show at Mono was a truly punishing affair with waves of eardrum scouring distortion lashing the audience from the megalithic PA with scant regard for the harm it could cause.  It was, of course, brilliant.  Sure, I didn't go home humming any of their tunes (were there any? - Next Big Thing doesn't think so!) but I did go home exhilarated, my heart beating faster. I guess with Guitar Wolf, as with a lot of other Japanese noise acts, it's the extremeness and the physical attack of the sound which counts, not the melody. Seeing Guitar Wolf, Masonna, Keiji Haino / Fushitsusha etc. is a bit like going to a firework display in that you start out excited just to be there, whoop a bit at all the little bangs and then a MASSIVE bang happens and afterwards all the quieter fireworks that were previously fun no longer seem as exciting; all you crave is the MASSIVE bang.

Watching Guitar Wolf videos on YouTube to whip myself into a frenzy before their show, I rediscovered Teengenerate .  They were one of the exotic bands for sale in the Rhythm catalogue in mid-90s.  I remember chuckling at the listing for the 7" they shared with a band called Bum.  Happy, innocent days.  Listening to their roaring "Smash Hits" compilation on the mighty Estrus label is always a thrill.  As with Guitar Wolf, the more distorted and furious they get, the better they are.  Their ram-raiding cover of Mark Hollis's pre-Talk Talk group The Reaction's "Talk Talk Talk Talk" ups the ante on the original and makes vast swathes of the more recent garage punk groups sound a bit tepid.

Sure they're a whole lot more pop than Guitar Wolf and Teengenerate but Shonen Knife are still inhabited by the punk spirit - they did record a whole album of Ramones covers after all! - and their new album for Damnably is a bouncy, melodic joy. After the first couple of plays it feels like one of their best.  The title track "Pop Tune" takes catchy to hitherto unimagined levels:

"Psychedelic Life", Not Unloved's current favourite from the album, is an endearing stomp through hippie cliches (incense, peppermint tea, meditation etc.) with added recorder solo that comes off like a schoolgirl's take on a Shocking Blue single.  They're doing a UK tour in October and there's no way Not Unloved  won't be at the Glasgow leg of it at Oran Mor on the 5th.  Not after year's blasting appearance at Nice'n'Sleazy.

Tuesday 19 June 2012

Ortheia Barnes "Never Ever Leave Me"

Kent Records releases so many 45s that it's easy to fall behind.  That and the fact that the price of their singles has gone up in the last year or two to the point where you don't get much (if any!) change out of a tenner mean that, unless a chap's pockets are as deep as Daddy Warbucks', it's best to do a bit or research before disbursing any cash.  The conclusion of tonight's bout of online rummaging is that Ortheia Barnes' "Never Ever Leave Me" is an essential purchase.  It may not be a Detroit stomper but what it lacks in tempo it makes up for in atmosphere and class.  That it's classy is no surprise given that it's a Dave Hamilton co-write/production.  Hamilton's productions often feature something a little a different and in this case it's a deliciously restrained flute solo which ends with a cheery flutter. It'd be an ideal early evening number for an All-nighter in a once glorious ballroom. In that context it would probably have me wiping a convenient speck of dust from my eye.

Tuesday 5 June 2012


To my mind Jubliee released at least 2 of the greatest pop singles ever and both were by Marie Applebee.  Ever since I bought "Here Come The Girls Volume 7: The Trouble With Boys"  from the record department of John Smith's bookshop in the mid-90s, my favourite song from the girl-group era has been Applebee's sorrowful "Down By The Sea (End of Summer)".  Marie's voice is simply incredible.  At times as intimate and soft as any I've heard while at others as emotion saturated as the most melodramatic of West End musical stars'.  The music, too, shows similar contrasts from the restrained, mournful intro to the tear-stained strings and broken-hearted bells of the chorus.  I've seldom heard a melody fit a tune better and there aren't too many songs which capture the regret at romance gone wrong better than these:

The waves keep pounding on the shore
As each wave breaks it hurts me more
To realise that you left me
One foolish quarrel made us part
But when you left you took my heart
I miss you so down by the sea

or these:

And as the waves keeps breaking
My lonely heart is aching
I've loved you from the very start

In every sense, "Down By The Sea (End of Summer)" is a POP masterpiece and I'd say as good as anything produced by Phil Spector or any of the other more highly revered production teams of that era.

The other wondrous Marie Applebee single is much less dramatic, much less orchestrated but just as brilliant.  "Toom Toom (Is a Little Boy)" is a stripped-back slice of proto-K Records naivety that again showcases Marie's utterly beautiful voice to full effect.  It, too, is on Sequel Records' "The Trouble With Boys" cd but DJ copies of the original 7" can be picked up fairly cheaply (which just goes to show that in the ebay world there's not always a correlation between the quality of a record and the price it commands!).  To the best of my knowledge Marie only made one other single: a bouncy version of the song "Dear Mrs Applebee" which was made famous in the UK by David Garrick.  It's good and worth owning (it doesn't cost much - I got mine for a £1.50 a few years back) but it's not in same league as the other two.  It's funny.  I have multiple albums by some bands but wouldn't necessarily describe them as favourite groups and I only have three 45s by Marie Applebee but she's unquestionably one of my favourite artists ever.

Monday 4 June 2012


Until a couple of weeks ago my knowledge of Estonian music extended to just a few of the wondrous works of Arvo Pärt and the odd track by Norman Blake-produced guitar swirlers Pia Fraus.  Thanks to Shelflife Records, however, I now know and love a little of the work of a third Estonian musical act: Picnic. On their new 7" they bravely remould a couple of very familiar songs into their own image.  Roger Nichols and Paul Williams' "We've Only Just Begun" starts off hazily before the "Isn't Anything" era guitars whip it into soft peaks.  In terms of purity, Marju Taukar's voice sits towards the hallowed Trish Keenan Mary Perrin end of the spectrum of great female voices.  So lovely. 

On the flip, their version of Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "Say A Little Prayer"  is relocated to a place where sunny day strums meet whooshes of jet age electric guitar and little percussive taps vie with bolder beats for space.  Again, Taukar's vocal is central; more urgent and wider-eyed this time.  What a fantastic single.  Time to find their debut album, I reckon.