Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Lilys - Ginger

Lilys have made a couple appearances on this blog already but they definitely deserve another one for this, an utterly fabulous bit of shoegazey bubble gum from 1994. The kind of song that reminds you why you fell in love with pop music in general, and indiepop in particular, in the first place.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Style Council - The Paris Match

The Style Council isn't normally my cup of tea - but then their songs don't normally feature Tracey Thorn on vocals, as this one from 1984's Café Bleu does. The music is really just your basic cocktail jazz (again, not something that tends to feature prominently in my collection) but it showcases her voice to spectacular effect, making it a must-have for any serious Tracey fan. You can skip most of the rest of the album though.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Lois - Valentine

Just messing about with the new Blogger templates... let me know what you think. Anyway here's one from the great Lois Maffeo, part of the K/Kill Rock Stars/riot grrl axis of the early 1990s. It's from her first album, Butterfly Kiss, which was produced by the Young Marble Giants' Stuart Moxham and bears more than a passing resemblance to that band. Not all her songs are as strong as this one but her angelic voice is enough to carry even the weaker material.

The closing couplet on this gets me every time.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Veronica Lake - Emma Maybe

Here's something a little more obscure (I'm sure Gentle Despite would be amused at the thought of being less obscure than anyone, but at least they had the Sarah brand to prevent them sinking completely into the memory hole). Veronica Lake wouldn't have been out of place on Sarah, next to bands like Eternal and Secret Shine whose music also blended twee and shoegaze. They came out of Ann Arbor, Michigan, and released music on a number of different labels - surprisingly not including Slumberland, who I would have thought would be a natural home for them given that Slumberland sort of patented the shoegazey twee sound in America - before vanishing into the ether some time in the early or mid 1990s.

This is a gorgeous track from a compilation 7" called Winter's Mist, on the Silver Girl label from San Diego.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Gentle Despite - The Darkest Blue

Another Sarah band that I know very little about, except they were apparently from Leeds and they put out two utterly lovely 7"s of soft and somewhat depressing (actually I think the proper word is "melancholy") indiepop. Gorgeous, but maybe not recommended if you're in a dark mood.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Galaxie 500 - Listen, The Snow is Falling

More early '90s shoegaze, from Galaxie 500's third and final album This Is Our Music. This is actually a cover of a Yoko Ono song, which means either that Yoko's music isn't nearly as bad as it's usually portrayed, or that Galaxie 500 were utter geniuses. Personally I could go either way on that.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Bleach - Dipping

Here's a forgotten gem from the early 1990s. Bleach were from Ipswich and, as I recall, fancied themselves an indie-rock band in the mode of early Nirvana (whose debut album they named themselves after), and were somewhat alarmed to find themselves lumped in with the shoegazer crowd. But then the same was true about Catherine Wheel and if they weren't shoegaze - at least to start with - then I'm Camilla Parker Bowles.

Bleach also have the dubious distinction of having the single worst song ever on a record I otherwise like a lot. It's on their second EP, Eclipse; it's called "Wipe It Away" and it's truly, epically, horrifically bad. Just take my word for it. Though having said that, the one time I saw them live, the fella I'd been chatting to in the crowd got all excited when they started to play it and said "I love this song!" No accounting for taste I suppose.

This is from their 1991 debut EP Snag. No idea why the lopsided sound.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Pants Yell! - Stop Making Music

Here's something a little more up-to-date. Pants Yell! hail from the Boston area and have released a number of records of hummable uncluttered folk-influenced indiepop. That they named one of their albums after Young Marble Giants/Weekend singer Alison Stratton probably tells you all you need to know about what they sound like (but with male, or occasionally male-female vocals). I still can't make up my mind whether their name is awful or brilliant.

This track originally appeared on a 2005 7", '83 in '05.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Medium Medium - Hungry So Angry

Here's another '80s one-hit wonder, with one of my favourite songs of that era. Like some of APB's work, it's a really good example of a band taking a sound I'm not generally mad about (i.e. funk) and making it absolutely irresistible.

I wonder why this song never appears on Cherry Red compilations. Admittedly it doesn't have much in common with the rest of their catalogue, but it's still a great song and one of the label's most memorable.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Felt - The Final Resting of the Ark

While I'm generally more partial to Felt's Cherry Red era - particularly the earlier recordings when their sound was primarily defined by Maurice Deebank's stunning guitar work - in 1987 they put out two releases on Creation that nearly match the Cherry Red stuff in terms of quality, though stylistically completely different. The Poem of the River and Final Resting of the Ark EPs are two of the quietest things they ever did, acoustic in spots, Lawrence's voice almost a whisper and altogether very understated compared to the rest of their material. They're just lovely records to listen to, although as always with Felt you do have to ignore the lyrics at times.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Primitives - Shine

The Primitives were also something of a one-hit wonder, their 1988 single "Crash" being the only song of theirs that most people remember. That's not entirely unfair because it is far and away their finest moment, but they did have a few other nice tunes. This is one from their Difficult Second Album, Pure.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Belle Stars - Sign of the Times

Some bands become one-hit wonders because their hit single is their only really commercial track and the record-buying public doesn't "get" the rest of their stuff. Some bands have plenty of radio-friendly tunes but become one-hit wonders for inexplicable reasons - just sheer bad luck I guess. And some bands become one-hit wonders because all their other songs are crap. The Belle Stars, sadly, fell into the last category (you knew where this was going, didn't you?). But what a great little pop song that one hit was.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Band of Holy Joy - Manic Magic Majestic

I've posted a couple Holy Joy tracks already but not this one, even though it's probably my favourite. The title track to their superlative 1989 album, it showcases Johny Brown's flair for the snappy couplet, as well as his incomparable gift at depicting true romantic love amidst the squalor of modern urban life. And if that weren't enough it's also one of the loveliest, catchiest tunes they've ever recorded. "How can you not be swayed/By all that is displayed?" How indeed.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Big Star - Kangaroo

With the sudden and shocking death of Alex Chilton yesterday, now is as good a time as any to rectify a glaring omission from this blog. Big Star were, of course, one of the most influential bands ever, at least on the type of music you're likely to find on this site - I'd read a lot about them before I ever heard them, just from the number of bands namechecking them in the music magazines I poured over obsessively as a teenager. I think I finally just went out and bought a Big Star album on the assumption that all those great bands who loved them couldn't be wrong. And they weren't.

All of their records were great but, like a lot of their fans, I'm particularly partial to the darker third album, Third/Sister Lovers. And this is my favourite track on it - in fact, one of my all-time favourite songs by anyone ever. (I know people always say things like that when someone dies, but take my word for it - whenever I've had to do a "favourite songs" list this has been right up near the top.) The reported history behind it is that the band were falling apart and hated their producer, so they took this simple little love song and threw all sorts of odd sound effects on it just to give each other headaches, with the result that it ended up being incredibly offbeat and haunting. But it's still a simple little love song at heart.

RIP Alex - you will be so, so missed.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Heavenly - Lemonhead Boy

There are some things in life you anticipate so eagerly that the moment they finally transpire is etched into your brain forever. For me, Heavenly's debut album was one of those things - I can remember as clear as a bell when this landed on my desk (God, I miss that job) and my whoop of excitement the instant I realised what it was.

It would have been one of the all-time letdowns of my life if it had failed to live up to the standards they had set as Talullah Gosh but, fortunately, it didn't. There are twee pleasures galore on Heavenly vs Satan (also one of my favourite album titles ever, as it happens) and I really could have posted just about any of its tracks. But this is the one that just edges it for me. Three and a half minutes of pure and utter indiepop perfection...what more could you want?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Jilted John - Jilted John

This definitely falls into the "novelty act" category which I spoke disparagingly of a couple days ago, but I'll overlook that for the moment since I really enjoy this song. Besides, the lines were a bit blurrier in 1978.

I have nothing really to say about Jilted John aka John Shuttleworth aka Graham Fellows because I don't actually know anything else he's done, so I'll just let the song and video speak for themselves. It's worth watching for the backing characters (absurdly dressed guitarist + New Wave Bez) alone.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Chameleons - Up the Down Escalator

Jesus, I can't believe I haven't put up any Chameleons yet! Their debut album, Script of the Bridge, still stands up as one of the classics of its era, and of a genre which is often lumped in with post-punk but could more precisely (if clumsily) be described as early-to-mid 1980s guitar-driven pop-rock.

The Chameleons did the "guitar" aspect of this better than most, their calling card being the huge and amazingly haunting wall of sound behind Mark Burgess's, erm, distinctive vocals. It's interesting to note that the album's producer, Colin Richardson, generally works with thrash metal bands - I'm not sure what his CV was at the time he was selected for this release, but whoever chose him (and for whatever reason) definitely made the right call. It's just an incredible record from start to finish, and still knocks me out everytime I listen to it.

Back in the days when I still harboured hopes of learning to play guitar well enough to be in a band of my own (it would have helped if I'd been arsed to practice once in a while), I always wanted to cover this song.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Mission of Burma - That's How I Escaped My Certain Fate

It was announced over on Thrill Pier this week that Mission of Burma are to play an Irish gig sometime in May, so that's as good an excuse as any to put them up here. MoB came out of the Boston punk scene in the early 1980s but took a much more experimental approach than their contemporaries, their music serving as sort of a bridge between the sounds of Northern English post-punk and the harder American "noise rock" bands.

Due to my young age at the time I discovered them only towards the end of their existence - when they were already planning to bail out, due to Roger Miller's tinnitus - and never got the chance to see them in their prime. They developed something of a legendary status, obviously helped by the fact that they didn't last long enough to make a bad record (or "sell out", as we used to call it), and I remember a tremendous hype around the 1990s reissue of their short catalogue on CD.

MoB reformed a few years ago - Miller now taking to the state in firing-range headphones - and have released a couple records, which I confess I haven't got around to listening to. This is probably due to my inherent suspicion of post-reunion material, which usually turns out to be cack, although in this case it seems to have been pretty well-received. Anyway, if you're in Dublin, get to that gig wherever it is.

This is one of their best-loved (and most-covered) songs, an atypically straightforward punk track from their classic 1982 album Vs.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Story of Hair - Big Melt

I haven't posted any Dublin bands in a while so here's one for you. Story of Hair combine superbouncy, supercute pop songs with lo-fi and occasionally quite noisy guitar sounds. They're often a bit too self-consciously quirky for my tastes, running the risk of the dreaded "novelty band" tag, but they have got a few irresistible tracks, like this one from their 2008 debut album Cheap Rate.

Friday, March 12, 2010

PJ Harvey - Plants and Rags

Sort of a natural progression from yesterday's post. Unlike most of the rest of Dry, this one could almost be a gentle ballad - it has those foundations anyway, though they're very quickly run over by dischordant violins and Polly Jean's typically creepy lyrics. You don't really hear this song mentioned when people are talking about great PJ Harvey tunes but it's probably my favourite.

I've always heard a bit of this in the Verve's "Bittersweet Symphony" too - something about the structure. Maybe that's just me though.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Au Pairs - Set-Up

Another overlooked post-punk band. Au Pairs were a lot like the Gang of Four musically, and shared a similar political outlook; but their lyrical focus was on gender issues, which they approached from a feminist and lesbian perspective. Among the subjects they addressed was the horrific mistreatment of Irish women in Armagh Jail in the early 1980s - another example of British post-punk bands showing more interest in what was happening in their own backyard than a lot of their contemporaries in the more overtly political punk scene did.

Three decades on (yikes), Lesley Woods is still speaking up for marginalised people - now as a human rights barrister who specialises in immigration cases. She's one of my heroes.

This is from their 1980 debut album, Playing with a Different Sex.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Magazine - Rhythm of Cruelty

I think Magazine are somewhat under-appreciated. Not that they aren't highly regarded by those who remember them, but you just don't hear as much about them as some of their contemporaries, and I wonder if the Kids These Days even know about them at all.

Musically I guess you could say they straddled the line between the Buzzcocks' punk-pop and the more arty sounds of bands like PiL or the Fall. They were infinitely more listenable than the latter two, but much bleaker than the former - particularly in terms of their lyrics which, let's just say, appeal to my inner misanthrope.

This is a truly magnificent single from them, which also appeared on their second album, Secondhand Daylight.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Joe Crow - Compulsion

Here's another classic early '80s piece of minimalist post-punk dance-pop. Joe was a member of the Nightingales but is probably at least as well known - admittedly that isn't saying much - for this song, which appeared on the absolutely essential Pillows and Prayers compilation (and seemingly on every Cherry Red retrospective ever released since then) and was also covered by Depeche Mode's Martin Gore on his decent enough Counterfeit EP. A great little tune.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Belle and Sebastian - Seeing Other People

I'm absolutely wrecked from my weekend away, so here's one I don't need to think up anything to say about because if you're here, you probably know it already, and if you don't you shouldn't be wasting time reading about it. Just listen.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Ropers - Cool Self

Here's a lovely song from another Washington DC-area band. The Ropers shared a few members with the early Lilys and also shared their serious My Bloody Valentine fetish, although this particular track, from their 1993 Sunbathe EP, is (indie-)poppier than most.

There are a couple ex-Ropers still together - and still shoegazing - under the name (The Sounds of) Kaleidoscope.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Lush - Sweetness and Light

Here's an absolutely gorgeous early Lush track. I've always loved this song, but it took on an even greater significance for me several years ago, quite by accident. I was visiting Istanbul, and taking a commuter ferry across the Bosphorus on a warm sunny autumn day; I'd been having a great break, and was excited about being about to set foot in Asia for the first time, and absolutely loving the scenery and the weather and the whole newness of it all... and suddenly my iPod shuffle landed on this song, which I love soooo much, and I was just so content with everything in the universe at that moment, I honestly thought I might explode from sheer silly happiness. Er... maybe you had to be there.

Anyway, isn't this a gorgeous track?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tommy Keene - Strange Alliance

Tommy Keene came out of Washington DC at a time when its music scene was almost totally dominated by go-go (an indigenous relative of hip-hop) and hardcore punk, so it's not surprising that his smart, catchy power pop went somewhat under-appreciated. It's not that he deserved to be huge or anything, but there was a stage in the early '80s when Big Star revivalism was everywhere and there's no reason he shouldn't have been able to benefit more from that bandwagon.

This is the title track from his 1981 debut.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Hurrah! - Who'd Have Thought

I've always thought of Newcastle's Hurrah! as one of these bands who had solid roots in '80s indiepop but aimed a bit too obviously for mainstream success and ended up as also-rans in both categories. I blame U2, who took them out of the club circuit where they belonged and had them playing stadium gigs before they were anywhere near ready. A fate that befell all too many bands of that era, unfortunately.

This was their biggest hit, from 1984 on Kitchenware.