Friday, April 30, 2010

The Softies - Goodbye

Here's a great tune from the Softies, one of a number of 1990s indiepop bands featuring the lovely voice of Rose Melberg. This was a b-side to their first release, 1994's Loveseat 7".

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Vaselines - Molly's Lips

To most of the world the Vaselines are undoubtedly best known as the band that Nirvana covered. I'm sure they don't mind when they get the royalty cheques, though.

Personally, I've always been a bit iffy about them. They did have a few really great tracks (particularly on their second EP, Dying For It) but a lot of the material they released sounds like the kind of music that bands make when they're only starting out and haven't really got the hang of songwriting yet. Let's call it "unrealised potential". But I don't want to be too critical because when they were good they were very very good indeed - as with this track from Dying For It, which later became one of those Nirvana covers.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Funeral Suits - Black Lemonade

Here's another plug for a gig this weekend by an up-and-coming Dublin band. I've put the Funeral Suits here before, but they're so good they deserve another post. They're playing Whelan's this Friday and I, for one, shall be there with bells on.

While I'm at it, I should also mention that the lovely Hello Moon are upstairs at Whelan's on Saturday for the monthly Any Other City night, another event not to be missed if you're around.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Petula Clark - Downtown

This may be the best-known song to ever appear on this blog, but I don't think anyone would argue with its inclusion, seeing as it's such a classic example of the '60s pop to which indiepop owes so much. Why can't every song be this good?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Chris Bell - You and Your Sister

Alex Chilton may be remembered as the genius behind Big Star but it's worth pointing out that he wasn't the only one. Chris Bell, who left the band after the first album, also made an important contribution to their early sound.

Chris died in a car wreck in 1978 without ever having released an album of his solo material but in 1992 Rykodisc put out a compilation called I Am The Cosmos which, if you're a Big Star fan, you really have no excuse for not owning.

This is a particularly lovely track, an inferior cover of which (by Kim Deal and Tanya Donnelly) appeared on the third This Mortal Coil album.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Soft City - 15 Years

Another new band I discovered via my inbox (thanks Phil!). The Soft City hail from New York and feature current/past members of Ladybug Transistor, Crystal Stilts, Comet Gain and a few others; and their self-titled debut, released just last month, lives up to what you'd expect from a pedigree like that.

Their most distinctive feature is Dora Lubin's clear, strong vocals, which remind me of sort of a cross between Natalie Merchant and Briana Corrigan (best known for her work with the Beautiful South). In fact Dora has such a big voice that at times it threatens to overwhelm the delicate jangly guitar pop behind it, and that could easily have happened if the songwriting wasn't strong enough but for the most part it is.

There doesn't seem to be a proper video for any of the album tracks but here's a live version of one. Check out their Myspace page for more.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Saints - A Minor Aversion

The Saints are best known for their debut single "(I'm) Stranded", one of the undisputed classics of the original punk era, but I think their second album Eternally Yours is the more interesting and the one that's best stood the test of time. It's still a punk record, at least in the way that term was understood at the time, but there are a lot of other things going on there too and you can hear the start of the progression that eventually took Ed Kuepper into Laughing Clowns.

This is a track from that album and is possibly one of the most biting, cynical songs ever written by anyone.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Rags - Strawberry Beds

If you're in Dublin tonight you could do worse than get down to the **** showcase [deleted for reasons most Irish readers will understand] at the Sugar Club on Leeson Street. Four up-and-coming Irish bands, €5. Terrible venue but you can't have everything.

The Rags are one of the bands playing tonight. They've made an appearance here before and I haven't really got anything more to add to that post, except to note that we're still waiting for the album...

This is from an earlier single of theirs. Still my favourite.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Billy Bragg - A New England

There's another kind of Billy Bragg video going around at the moment - check it out, it's worth it - but here's an early classic. I was a huge fan of his back in the day and could probably have posted any one of a number of wonderful Bragg songs from that era, but the Simon and Garfunkel thievery that opens this track always made it a particular favourite. I Heart smiley 8 Simon and Garfunkel.

Kirsty MacColl also did a nice, if not entirely logical, version.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Alphastates - Human Nature

I haven't posted any recentish Irish bands for a while so here's one. Alphastates were from Dublin and put out two albums in the mid/late 2000s before breaking up at the start of this year. I never got really into them (the whole electronics thing) but in small doses they were nice enough.

This is the title track from their second album.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Waking Hours - No Friend of Mine

The Waking Hours were a crowd of anglophiles from Richmond, Virginia, who released a number of independent 7"s in the early 1990s. That's about all I know about them.

This is a catchy little tune which, as far as I can tell, appeared only on a wonderful Brilliant Records compilation called Something Pretty Beautiful.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Brains - Money Changes Everything

Here's a vintage piece of early 1980s underground American college rock. It sounds totally mainstream today but I guess back then they were probably lumped in with the mullet-and-skinny-tie crowd who were all deemed by MTV to be "new wave", even if they weren't. Some of them were a lot worse than this.

This was their only real hit, and was atrociously covered by Cyndi Lauper a few years later.

ETA: Not sure what the problem is with this video. If it's not just a Blogger bug that goes away on its own by the weekend, I'll change it.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Medicine - Onion Flower

Medicine were a shoegaze band from LA, operating in the early 1990s and signed to Creation. They were never one of my favourites, as I always sort of felt that if you took the noise out of their songs you wouldn't really be left with much. Nice people though.

This is a decent track from their debut release, the Aruca EP from 1992.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Fizzbombs - Blue Summer

Here's a great little tune by the Fizzbombs, a 1980s Scottish band with links to the Shop Assistants. Actually, this sort of sounds like the Shop Assistants getting together with the Jesus and Mary Chain for a bit of surf-rock. Hard to argue with that really.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Falling Joys - You're in a Mess

I don't know too much about this band. They were Australian, and released a few albums in the early '90s, only one of which (the 1990 debut, Wish List) I've ever heard. It's kind of just your basic early '90s alternative rock, nothing spectacular. But there are a few nice tracks on it. Here's one of them.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

dEUS - Hotellounge

There are plenty of things to dislike about dEUS. They're arsey. They use capital letters obnoxiously. They're Belgian (ok, so maybe that's not the best reason). And they haven't put out a consistently good record in years. Frankly, I'm a bit surprised I like them at all - on paper, their blend of American-style indie rock and experimental avant-jazz/blues wouldn't appeal to me in the slightest. But on their first two proper albums, at least, the sheer quality of the songs (and their undeniable ear for the catchy pop tune underneath all the other stuff) allowed them to pull it off remarkably successfully. It's been downhill since then, though.

This is a relatively sedate one from their debut, 1994's Worst Case Scenario.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Monsoon - Ever So Lonely

Long before Bollywood infiltrated western culture there was Monsoon, a band formed in England by Sheila Chandra (a Londoner of Indian heritage) and two white boys. In an era rife with musical experimentation Monsoon really did stand out as unique, layering Indian instruments and lyrical concepts over new wave and bubbly Europop tunes. They could easily have been awful if it didn't work - but it did.

This one, from 1982, was their biggest hit. The song has aged really well, even if the video hasn't.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Even As We Speak - One Step Forward

This is an absolute classic of a Sarah single, and it's not terribly Sarahesque, I don't think. Which is to say there's nothing really twee about it - it's just a great pop song, one that would fit comfortably on any "alternative music" playlist (or whatever it is they're calling it these days). Plus, the first two lines of its chorus set off my snappy-couplet-o-meter every time.

That most unSarahesque of Sarah bands, Boyracer, did a decent cover of this on a split 7" with the Ropers.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Yeah Yeah Noh - The Time Beings

Here's another sadly forgotten '80s band. Yeah Yeah Noh were from Leicester and put out a few records in the middle of the decade which sort of blended post-punk, psychedelic and C86 type pop. Most of these were on the short-lived In Tape label, but Cherry Red kindly compiled them into a retrospective called Leicester Square: The Best of Yeah Yeah Noh which was released a couple years ago and which you should buy.

Here's one that was left off that compilation. It was a B-side to their 1985 single "Temple of Convenience", and its title would make a great band name. Somebody should steal it.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Bag-O-Shells - Markers

Bag-O-Shells were another Providence, Rhode Island outfit featuring the people who brought us Velvet Crush, the Springfields, etc. They put out two singles under that name in 1988 and 1990 on the Bus Stop label.

There are obvious similarities between Bag-O-Shells and their related bands, but to me this sounds a lot more like the kind of thing REM were doing in the early '80s than the twee sound the Springfields (and Bus Stop generally) became known for. I don't like it as much as the Springfields, or their earlier incarnation the Reverbs, but it's nice enough.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Cannanes - 1991

The Cannanes were sort of the Australian version of Beat Happening, but better. You've got to love a band that names themselves after one of their members - and keeps the name even when she fucks off after the first album.

This is from their 1994 album "Caveat Emptor" and is one of those songs that you listen to wondering how on earth the lyricist managed to get into your own head.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Voice of the Beehive - The Beat of Love

Come on, what wasn't to like about Voice of the Beehive? Great name, great clothes, fun 'n catchy pop tunes.

Admittedly their lyrics did walk the fine line between clever and stupid, and they didn't really have the songs to sustain an entire album much less the three they actually released. But in moderate doses they could be great craic. Plus I once saw them live, opening for That Petrol Emotion, and they put on such an impressive performance they were called back for two encores. How many opening bands can pull that off?

This is a track from their 1988 debut Let it Bee (another great title - I'm a sucker for great titles!), which was either the first or second album I ever bought on CD.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Chris Knox - Not Given Lightly

I'm overdue for another Flying Nun post and this one is timely, as it was recently announced that a whole slew of indie musicians will be playing a gig in NYC next month to raise money for Chris after his devastating stroke last year. I'd love to go if I was able.

This is his best-known track, either solo or as a Tall Dwarf - and as one of the sweetest love songs ever written, it well deserves to be.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Pop Will Eat Itself - The Black Country Chainsaw Massacreee

I was never a huge fan of the Poppies, even back in their C86ish days. They were always a little too much of a joke band and I didn't think much of their songwriting skills either - most of their material from that era sounds to me like the least interesting B-sides put out by other C86 bands. And anything from 1987 on, forget it.

This one's good though, a track from an early single (I think) which found its way onto the compilation album Now For a Feast, the only PWEI record I ever bought. Or ever will.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Serena-Maneesh - Drive Me Home The Lonely Nights

Here's a cracking little tune by a Norwegian band who were frequently described as shoegazers, although they were more than a decade late for that genre's heyday. Personally I find their MBV-esque material pleasant but not particularly interesting, while this song, which has more of a Delgados-meet-the-Cardigans feel to it, is absobleedinlutely fantastic. Not sure what they're up to these days, if anything.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Strawberry Story - Ashlands Road

When I first heard this band I thought they were Strawberry Switchblade, the 1980s Scottish duo of the delightful "Since Yesterday". They aren't, but the similarity is in more than name: both bands made sweet, sugary pop with angelic (and very very young-sounding) female vocals.

Strawberry Story came from somewhere in the north of England and put out a few singles, mostly in the early '90s. They got back together a couple years ago and released some new material on Cloudberry but I understand they've since split again.

This song appeared on the 1991 compilation The Waaaaah! CD which, if you don't have, you really should.