Auckland duo take us back decades to the dawn of Psychedelia with a reminder of extraordinary it must have been to hear White Rabbit and Somebody To Love for the last time. Plenty of Kaukonen's eerie Raga edge on show here. Altogether wonderful.
I've liked the records of West Palm Beach, Florida's Surfer Blood previously and written about them on here before. They're an unassuming, unpretentious bunch. Straightforward breezy, guitar driven Indie Pop. Hooks and melodies to the fore.
They tick the boxes they've previously ticked with consummate ease. In some ways they seem like a Weezer for the modern world, with the irritating quirks ironed out. The Blood play everything with a straight bat and smiles on their collective faces.
On the band's Spotify page they are described, (surely with their approval), as 'the cleanest and nicest band in existence'. Hardly Punk Rock. A band marketing themselves quite consciously as washing powder. A cleancut bunch of boys and girl, who you could invite back to meet your mom with supreme confidence.
But in Surfer Blood's case you can't help but give them a pass. Because they do what they do very well. This is life on Sunny Street and frankly you can't help but think that is more than welcome right now. Serious points are being made if you listen more closely to the lyrics but the band sugar coat their message skillfully. They're journeymen middle managers of Indie now, ten years since graduation.
Carefree Theatre is a relentlessly consistent listen with almost every song getting a straight seven. There are a few moments when they surpass themselves. I'd pick out one on fifth track In the Tempest's Eye as a prime example. Two and a half minutes in they burst, suddenly and unexpectedly into the surf, (yes), harmonies that Pixies deployed to such spectacular effect on Bossanova. In many respects they are Pixies nice country cousins, (surfer, Surfer Rosa surely). They never bear their teeth. They're utterly housetrained. They're good to be around. I give this eight,
The year between 1965 and 1967 to state the blindingly obvious. A year significant enough music wise for Jon Savage to write a blindingly good book about it. Here's the Top Ten, as voted by punters of the Best Ever Albums site:
The Beatles - Revolver
The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds
Bob Dylan - Blonde on Blonde
The Rolling Stones - Aftermath
Simon & Garfunkel - Sounds of Silence
The Mothers of Invention - Freak Out
Simon & Garfunkel - Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme
The 13th Floor Elevators - The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators
The Kinks - Face to Face
John Coltrane - Ascension
And here are mine. The proviso being that I own them all on vinyl. :
1. The Beatles - Revolver
2. The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds
3. Bob Dylan - Blonde on Blonde
4. Buffalo Springfield - Buffalo Springfield
5. Simon & Garfunkel - Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme
6. The Byrds - Fifth Dimension
7. The Troggs - From Nowhere
8. The 13th Floor Elevators - The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators
Tapeworms. Yum! But hang on. Because this young Lille, France band of the same name have a neat Indie vibe going for them on their aptly named debut album Funtastic.
If the Stereolab influence is immediately evident right from the off, (it seems that this band has a similar influence these days as the Velvet Underground used to do), they use it well, and there's a giddy, fairground ride thrill to proceedings throughout.
While Tapeworms lose points for their name and lack of originality, they gain plenty for artistic impression as the record progresses. Funtastic fizzes like memories of long distant childhood parties.
While not up there with my favourite French Indie offering of this year, En Attendant Ana's resplendent Juillet, (from the early days of 2020), this one also has plenty going for it. Just take my advice, if you want to listen to it, go to Spotify rather than to YouTube as I was obliged to do in order to assemble this post. Far too many unedifying genuine tapeworm clips to wade though to get to the music. What were they thinking of!
The review of Spring Hill Fair in The NME, written by Biba Kopf from 1984. A good example of what good writing you could find in the music papers back in those days. Taking its subject matter seriously as it deserved.
Toulouse Punksters CATHEDRALE come up with the goods on their third album, Houses Are Built The Same, from earlier on this year. Their songs are built on a tried and tested formula. Sparky urgent melodic rhythms squaring the equation between Buzzcocks and Plastic Bertrande by singing in French and English. Tres Bon!
When I review bands that put out records that are so reminiscent of other, earlier things I judge the success of their efforts as to whether they have the necessary fizz and energy to make their efforts worthwhile. Although Houses Are Built The Same is clearly utterly rooted in the more melodic Punk and New Wave of '76 to '79, most obviously the British equivalent, it has all the requisite fizz and energy you could ever want, and no little charm of its own.
Born Toulouse. Nothing Toulouse! Cathedrale of sound! A record to start of your day or end it too. No reinvention of the wheel but excellent use of them. A positive Tigger of an album. 'Its tops are made out of rubber. It's bottoms are made out of springs.' Magnifique!
Sometimes a change is required. I might have come to this point. Moving my local from Rosie's to The Newcastle Arms to The Telegraph behind Newcastle Station. It's quieter, I can watch the football and the jukebox sounds better. All boxes ticked.
A few weeks ago, for reasons I won't bore you with, I went to my favourite record shop in town looking for a second hand copy of the Human League's Travelogue. They didn't have it, but as so often happens on these occasions in record shops , I left very happy with something else instead.
From Nowhere, the first album from The Troggs from 1966. Now I've long loved the Troggs. At least since my first year at university when I met a very sexy girl called Angie who was from Andover, (the band's home town), and she regaled me of tales of Reg Presley.
Even more so since reading James Taylor Marked For Death the great essay which Lester Bangs wrote about the band declaring them the absolute ultimate Garage band, even better than the legions of American bands of the same time and same stripe. He was quite right. Iggy also mentioned them, and Reg Presley specifically as a key formative influence.
Since before my lifelong musical standard bearers R.E.M. got together with the band to make Athens, Andover in 1992. Before the same band covered Love Is All Around, doing a pretty good job of it. Before Wet Wet Wet did the same thing on the soundtrack of Four Weddings and a Funeral and made a bloody awful job of it but still stayed at Number One on the UK for almost four months in 1994, providing a late nest egg of royalties for the band. Presley apparently spent most of his share on researching crop circles. Why, is some question to ask, as everyone knows they're created by drunken farm hands as an after pub jape.Well, each to their own.
I've coveted this album in its vinyl form for a while. Just for the cover really as it's an illustration of why people buy records and CDs are an utterly inferior alternative. Troggs is the short form of troglodyte of course. For the mythical cave dwellers. So here the band are, in matching cream suits inside a truly wonderful looking cheddar cave in Hampshire. Unstoppable.
And so is the record. The Troggs were destined never to be an albums band or gain much respect for what they did, but this is just terrific. Start to finish. Reg writes a few, there are a clutch of covers and of course there's Wild Thing. Written by Chip Taylor, originally recorded by New York band The Wild Ones. The Troggs brought it back and rightfully made it huge.
Over the coming years they had plenty of other sizable and notable hit singles but it's no surprise that was this song that came to define them in many respects.It was Number One in the US and New Zealand, Number 2 in the UK. Top Ten virtually everywhere else.
It defines youth, rebellion and the whole foolishness and awkwardness of youth and early adulthood.Sex, lust, teenage fumblings. The things that still couldn't be spoken about openly at this point but which Troggs delineate here every bit as well as The Stones or The Who but with a cheekier, nudge nudge, wink wink raunch and sauciness that became the band's calling card. It's Punk before Punk. It has an ocarina solo. It'a truly a thing of beauty.
Strangely, given how good it is, the rest of the record is by no means put into the shade by it. The Troggs were not one trick ponies. Of course they weren't great players by any means but you don't have to be to do this stuff well. But From Nowhere has a sweaty charm that still holds up.
Most importantly it's a record that demands to be heard in vinyl form.I tried listening to it on my computer on headphones and it simply doesn't have the same effect. It's recorded in Mono of course which is one factor but it's not just that. It's certainly a case here of format defining impact. Best of all, on the back sleeve you have profile pictures of the band where they're listed as Ronnie, Chris, Pete and Reg Trogg, eight years before The Ramones. And in the great spirit of teenage mags they're asked their favourite drink, parents names, hobbies and everything else you could possibly want to know about them. Wonderful!
From Nowhere is not the only thing you need by The Troggs but it's the best place to start. From there get yourself a Greatest Hits. Essential. You'll be surprised. Then you might like to delve into some of their seventies stuff when they stopped having hits. I was also directed to a 1969 solo album by guitarist Chris Britton called As I Am by a discerning record shop guy who knows his stuff. Whatever you do, don't diss The Troggs. They're worthy of respect. Lester knows. Iggy knows. Peter Buck knows. You should know too!
'We consciously thought about getting girl rhythms into music and concluded that female rhythms were probably not as steady, structured, or as contained as male rhythms. We wanted to keep the rhythms skippy and light,' Viv Albertine.
Fresh off the Melbourne Pop Production Line. Made me think of the first time I heard Courtney. Or Teeenage Fanclub. It's as good as that. Quite effortless. Immediately marks Low Key Crush out as ones to watch.
Strange, given that Bill Callahan's Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest was my record of the year last year, I haven't listened to his new one Gold Record right through yet. I just didn't like the pre-release songs I heard for the most part. Still this one, for Ry, is good. Utterly ridiculous. But fun. Will give the rest a listen later today.
Yesterday marked the release of the new Idles album, largely expected to catapult them to the major leagues. I only made it through a track and a half before switching to this, a far more ethereal option. Sentimento Mundial the second album from Mexicans Mint Field.
It's spectral, atmospheric slightly inconsistent and somewhat atonal. Not a record that I fell in love with but certainly interesting and vastly preferable in my book to being pummeled by Ultra Mono.
Tobin Sprout has been a sometime contributor to Guided By Voices extensive catalogue. He is also , according to his Spotify profile a Lo-Fi pioneer. His latest album Empty Horses is certainly worth a listen. And probably also worth coming back to.
It's an understated but confident record. Sprout clearly knows what he's doing. Nothing particularly sticks on first listen but it has a nagging sense of assurance that imposes itself on the listener. All sounded better second time round.
Old school is how I'd describe it. I thought of Neil Young on occasion. Let's face it, Young was old school' right from the off. Anyhow, a tender and likable record that probably keeps its finest moments for the last two tracks, All in my Sleep and No Shame.
The conundrum with compiling a Glam rundown is what to do with Gary Glitter. He needs to be here. So many of his songs are so great and so essentially Glam. But given that his behaviour at this time and later on in life were so abhorrent, I don't really feel like posting his songs here. For the record I'd go for Rock and Roll and Leader of the Gang as his best.
It's comforting to see major lights of C-86 easing into middle age while remaining faithful to their teenage essence. Take Rob Pursey and Amelia Fletcher, formerly of Tallulah Gosh, Heavenly, Marine Research and Tender Trap. They're taking a break from their day job in Catenary Wires to don another disguise, this time as European Sun and have just released an eponymous debut album.
These are songs for their constituency. The album cover a knowing tribute to the Warhol sleeve for The Velvet Underground & Nico with an ice cream cone with proud flake standing in for the iconic banana. European Son becomes European Sun. Brighton stands in for New York. Lovely.
So these are songs for those who came of age in the late Eighties at Primal Scream, 14 Iced Bears and My Bloody Valentine gigs. It has plenty of Velvets drone, plenty of wistful bah bah bas for forty and fifty somethings with growing kids of their own who probably prefer Grime. It's an altogether charming record. Slightly wistful. Greatly consoling.
Their Bandcamp page says it all: 'Proud members of Europe regardless of the place of the UK, and humble advocates for humanity, equity and justice in life, European Sun also make music.' Yes they do, and they should be treasured. The meek will inherit the earth. We can only hope so.
Irish singer and harpist Brona McVittie's second album The Man in the Mountains, sounded a momentous record to me from its opening notes and I fell deeper and deeper under its spell as matters proceeded. Pastoral Folk with a slight tinge of the horror of the early seventies, (think The Wicker Man soundtrack), it's a quite entrancing listen start to finish.
Comparisons have been made with Jane Weaver from some quarters and seem to make sense to me, though McVittie is more obviously rooted in Folk than Weaver is. But she takes a similar approach in drawing on early Seventies influences but updating them quite compellingly.
McVittie's rich, trembling voice is her obvious ace card, making the listener feel that they're wading through the stuff of Arthurian legend. But the arrangements are equally textured and evocative. The Man in the Mountains is clearly a deeply researched and thought through record but it doesn't feel forced or opportunistic, so well is everything realised.
One to kick of your shoes and immerse yourself in as you might do to a Sandy Denny or Vashti Bunyan record. This September has been a rich harvest for me this year in terms of utterly wonderful records. The Man in the Mountains is near to the top of the pile, ripe and golden and good enough to eat.
'A sound that reflected the dark edges of the city, a rock that rejected all known forms of rocking, that transformed Peter Hook's bass into lead instrument, that moved with the clanks and clunks of mechanised industry, that smashed glass and suggested the swish of cars on night's rainy streets, that made you believe that it was the desolate, echoey noise of the thoughts inside Ian Curtis's head.'