"A Whole New Shape" by Happynessfits 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.
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.
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 Hairdressers, I 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!
Those Old Recordsis 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.