Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Name Game

I spent a good chunk of last night stuck on a name. While listening to a couple of albums by Cats on Fire, I was perusing the liner notes, as we do, and my eyes kept being drawn to a behind-the-scenes guy named Nick Triani. Why did I know that name? Triani had mixed one of the albums, and he was the first person thanked by the band on another. I finally gave up and went to the Web in defeat. It took about 30 seconds to realize I knew Triani from an indie-pop band he was in back in the '80s. I should have known.

The Bridge was from the Staines and Egham area, and they only had a couple of singles, but there was an A-side from 1986 that was a real keeper. "Shame is a Girl" was written by bandmate Mark Davies, and one of Triani's songs was relegated to the B-side. At one point, the Bridge was signed to Chrysalis, but this 7" came out on Norwich indie Backs Records. Backs was a record shop, label and distributor, and I can't help but wonder if our pal the Swede knows this lot from his days when he had his own shop. When you listen to this one, you may be transported to the sounds of Prefab Sprout in the band's earliest days. That's what I hear, anyway. If the Bridge grabs you, I highly recommend 'Face Down Everybody Looks The Same', a band compilation Firestation released a few years ago. Getting tough to find these days, but worth the hunt. There is a Triani song on that one called "Problem Child" that is my favorite from him. Sounds like the Wake circa 1985.

In the '90s, Triani was in Supermodel, a band you may know better than the Bridge. He has gone on to make quite a name for himself as a presenter on Radio Helsinki and as a producer and label head (Soliti) in that part of the world. Thus, his connection to the aforementioned Cats on Fire and, it turns out, a number of other bands I plan to dive into in the coming weeks. This turned out to be a pretty fun way to spend an evening. Here's that 7":

"Shame is a Girl"
"The Loveless"

Monday, September 18, 2017

Forster's Intimate Evening in Nottingham

Nottingham correspondent MisterPrime returns with a look at a special night he had on the 5th of September when Robert Forster opened the current leg of his book tour to promote 'Grant & I: Inside and Outside the Go-Betweens' at the Nottingham Rough Trade. I'm full of envy and elation in equal measure. Take it away, MisterPrime...

I'm not really much of an autograph hunter. Above and beyond the uncomfortable level of social interaction necessary to acquire them, I don't generally see the point. I went to the album launch for 'English Tapas', the latest by the Sleaford Mods, at Rough Trade Nottingham earlier in the year, saw a storming pub-sized performance by the band and picked up my copy of the record -- on very fetching red vinyl, I might add -- without feeling its intrinsic worth to me would be very much increased by it having the words "Cheers, Jason", or equivalent, scrawled somewhere on the cover in permanent marker, for example.

I can think of three notable exceptions that I have in my possession, though. One is a copy of Sugar's 'Copper Blue' on cassette, it's inlay card signed by Bob Mould. My wife -- then girlfriend -- got that one for me at a signing at Nottingham's much-missed Selectadisc record shop, presumably in 1992, as I was too nervous to queue up and ask for it myself. I also have a ticket for a Wedding Present gig at the Wherehouse in Derby (also in '92, February, in fact, the helpful Scopitones Web site informs me) that I got David Gedge to sign for my wife -- then girlfriend -- who wasn't able to make it to the gig for some, presumably common-sense, reason. The social interaction aspect was somewhat alleviated on that occasion by the fact that my friend Dave was already having a conversation with Gedge about the possibility of selling some of our fanzines off their merch table. And now I have a lovely signed copy of Robert Forster's book, 'Grant & I: Inside and Outside the Go-Betweens' that I picked up on my way to see the author promoting it with songs and chat -- again at Rough Trade -- and then got Mr. Forster to inscribe afterwards whilst he was enjoying a well-earned latte and a piece of carrot cake.

Now, it just so happens that a combination of factors (I'd inadvertently sat right by the signing table -- actually more of a rough-wood stand-up DJ bar incongruously padded up for the twin-turntables -- Forster was raring to go, signing-wise, and in general the usual crowd at Rough Trade is a little too cool to storm straight to the front) meant that I was just second in the signing queue –- after one very eager couple whose photo I had to take with the Great Man. Had I hung around for a minute or two (gone to the bar or the loo) I'd certainly not have bothered to join the room-length queue that eventually formed to shake the hand and secure the signature. That said, this was one event that certainly seemed worth the commemorating.

The evening had been billed on the Rough Trade Web site as a more compartmentalised event where journalist Pete Paphides would interview Forster before an audience Q&A and a short live set. In fact, it took the looser form of a couple of hours worth of a more 'In Conversation' format. This meant that, after his introduction, Forster strode in with his guitar, sat down just a few feet away from me at the front of the room and opened proceedings with a rendition of "Rock and Roll Friend". It was a magical moment, real hairs-on-the-back-of-the-neck stuff. He explained how the woman he was seeing at the time had asked him to write a song about her -- she worked nine to five, he was out nights with the band; he, typically, wrote about himself, but from her perspective. And then, better still, a little later on he played "Karen", something more than I'd have hoped for, and a beautiful rendition, despite a preceding disclaimer that these were "the words of a 20-year-old" and he might very well forget them. (He didn’t!)

Paphides kept things on track, giving the conversation a broadly chronological structure and, as an avowed long-time fan, asking the sort of questions that made a follow-up Q&A redundant. He even refused to bring up a couple of anecdotes from the book for fear of spoiling the audience's eventual enjoyment of it. Forster was as urbane and avuncular as you would hope, not to mention scrupulously frank and honest -- and very entertaining. He used the guitar to make particular points -- about the chords he learned from Roddy Frame, for example, on tour with Aztec Camera and used to take his songwriting in a more popwardly direction. At one point, he illustrated the way that Grant's classic "Cattle and Cane" came together -- playing first the bassline and then the guitar part and then singing the first verse. (I'll swear he even adopted a slightly-more Grant-like vocal tone.) And as for the songs... well, suffice to say he played "People Say", "Part Company", "Head Full Of Steam" and "Darlinghurst Nights" -- taken on their own, a succinct enough little set of classics from the Go-Betweens canon -- and finished off with solo numbers "Learn To Burn" and "I Love Myself (And I Always Have)", though I must (shamefully) admit I'm somewhat less familiar with his more recent work.

It was a thoroughly entertaining -- often spellbinding -- evening. The intimate surroundings of the Rough Trade bar giving the feel of the kind of living-room gig you would not expect to catch an artist of this caliber in. (I must admit I'd almost missed it myself. Thanks, Brian!) Apparently there were, criminally, still a few tickets available at the door; perhaps the Curse of the Go-Betweens lives on....

As for 'Grant & I', it's been a great book so far. The prose is sharp and poetic but always warm and full of life and wit, just as you would expect. I'm only about a third of the way through, but that's because I'm deliberately reading it slowly. I definitely recommend picking up a copy -- autographed or not....


Friday, September 15, 2017

A Welcome Return... Even As We Speak

Nearly a quarter century since the Sydney-based band recorded its last single for Sarah Records, Even As We Speak has made a triumphant return to the new-release racks with a 10" on the always dependable Emotional Response Records. If you're a cynic who thinks, oh boy, another Sarah band cashing in on the wave of goodwill for the once critically abhorred label, then you haven't actually listened to the five-track 'A Black Forest' 10". This is inspired indie pop that will surely be lauded in December as comeback of the year by the same fickle press that was so wrong about Sarah.

For the record, the press was actually far kinder to Even As We Speak than many on Sarah. I'm grouchy because, having mentioned Beth Arzy's first band earlier this week, I thought of this clip I will never be able to shake...

With that off my chest, on to more happy news from the Emotional Response and Even As We Speak camps. You have been able to stream and download 'Yellow Food: The Peel Sessions' for a few years now, but that's not enough for those of us who want to hold the merchandise, is it? John Peel loved Even As We Speak, and the band was one of only a handful of Aussie groups that recorded a session for him. A few others, in case you are interested, were the Birthday Party, the Triffids, the Go-Betweens and Laughing Clowns. Later this month, all four sessions Even As We Speak recorded for the BBC in 1992 and 1993 will be available on CD from Emotional Response. You can give it a listen on the EAWS's bandcamp page:

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

New Indie Pop From a Couple of Old Favorites

Whenever there is an announcement pertaining to Pete Astor, that's top of the fold banner headline news in these parts. Astor released the best album I heard in 2016, and he's followed that up with a move to Hamburg-based Tapete Records, home to favorites like Lloyd Cole, Robert Forster and the Monochrome Set, and a 7" set for release in November. Here is a preview of the two-tracks. Like the songs of 2016 album 'Spilt Milk', James Hoare of Ultimate Painting, Proper Ornaments and Veronica Falls remains Astor's confidant on "Water Tower" and "What a World". Preorder here.

When your labor of love is a blog that focuses on indie pop, you're never going too many posts without the name Amelia Fletcher popping up. Lately, it feels like Fletcher is sharing the title of quintessential indie-pop heroine with the great Beth Arzy. If you only know her from previous bands Aberdeen and Trembling Blue Stars, then you haven't been paying much attention the past couple of years.

Arzy has been populating my year-end lists as a member of both Lighting in a Twilight Hour and the Luxembourg Signal, and now she adds a third active band to her resume. Jetstream Pony just released its debut 7" on German label Kleine Untergrund Schallplatten, and the following two songs prove Arzy still isn't stretching herself thin. If you're wondering who is playing the fuzzy guitar below, that's indie stalwart Shaun Charman. You know him from being behind the kit in the early years of the Wedding Present, Popguns and, more recently, the Fireworks. You can order the "Like You Less" b/w "Had Enough" single at Discogs.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Gedge Gives 'George Best' Another Go

As the story goes, in early 2008, as the Wedding Present was putting the finishing touches on 'El Rey,' David Gedge suggested to producer Steve Albini they record a "live" version of debut album 'George Best' right there in the studio. Albini wasn't too enthused, but Gedge talked him into it with assurances the exercise would be quick. Gedge was looking for a simple old-school recording sans studio multi-track wizardry... like something for John Peel. The timing was right too. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the album, the Wedding Present had spent much of 1987 performing 'George Best' in its entirety, and Gedge would never know these songs again like he did then. Well, at least not until the 30th anniversary. Sorry, couldn't resist.

Nearly a decade later, the Albini-produced 'George Best' is getting an official release. Andrew Scheps, producer of 'El Rey' followup 'Valentina', has mixed 'George Best 30'. The result is an album that is immediately identifiable but, as it says in the press kit, "those ever fast, ever jangly guitars [are] warmer, bigger and more modern, more... Albini!" There might be some die-hard fans out there shaking their heads at a new recording of a classic like 'George Best', and the cynic in me also pondered whether some of the best love songs ever written could or should be delivered in the studio by a mature and grizzled Gedge. Having heard the album tonight, all I can say is, trust him. Nothing wrong with a healthy debate, but there were reasons why Gedge thought these songs might benefit from a new airing.

'George Best 30' will be released Sept. 22 via HHBTM Records, and you can preorder now. For an extra $13, the limited deluxe version includes colored vinyl, a square button, screen-printed insert poster and screen-printed tote bag. Give the 'GB 30' version of "Shatner" a good listen.

Thursday, September 7, 2017


Here are a few dishes I feel like I'm never going to get to unless I do it right now. Hopefully, there is something here you'll want to put on your plate.

Still Hoping to Change the World Through Music
Way back in March, our hero, Paddy Joe, resurfaced with a less-than-polished looking video (maybe recorded on his phone?) for a new song titled "America." We all know about Mr. McAloon's health issues, and he continues to appear quite a bit rougher than the days when he regularly visited the pop charts. All indications would point towards disappointment... until McAloon opens his mouth. Stunning. Like the entire 2013 album 'Crimson/Red', listening to "America" feels like a miracle. McAloon has much to say too. My favorite line: "Liberty welcomes everyone, now she's blushing in the sun." There is no news of an impending album. I think, for now, we should be content with McAloon surprising us with a video like this every once in a while. Be well, Paddy Joe.

More on the New LP From the Granite Shore
As promised, I return with preorder news on 'Suspended Second.' Official release date is still Oct. 13, but copies are expected at Occultation HQ in about a fortnight. With that in mind, preorders are being taken now. Here is the label's description of your vinyl ordering options:

The standard edition is a 180g stereo LP in a laminated gatefold sleeve with full-colour printed lyric inner. The deluxe adds a second mono LP, CD, A3 poster, 12" insert with an essay and two laminated full-scale Tarot cards. It's very limited and available only from us and Fishrider.

Occultation reminds us the rates on the deluxe edition are preorder prices. Expect an increase once stock arrives. Here's more from Occultation:

The events of the last year have hit the label hard. The cost of making records has shot up due to the weak pound; although we press vinyl in the UK, most raw materials are imported. We're offering the Deluxe LP at a discounted price until copies actually arrive, as an incentive to preorder, and you get MP3s immediately. The price will then go up as high quality in small runs is expensive.

In other words, if you want 'Suspended Second' in all of its glory, don't dawdle. Preorder now. Here's another song from the album...

Must Be the Irn-Bru
I have no idea why the best indie-pop has been coming out of Scotland since 1980. Just keep it coming, I say. Here is another in a long line of Glaswegian bands I have been enjoying the past few weeks. I know very little about this trio. It appears Marble Gods have only been around a short while, but this catchy four-song cassette leads me to believe this is one band to track. Hopefully one of my pals from my favorite city on the planet will catch them opening for someone.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

A 'Very Most' Excellent Summer

After a two-week visit, Mom has abandoned the music room for the friendly confines of Illinois. In short, I have my records back. Was searching for inspiration a few minutes ago and see that CC is highlighting the work of Idaho's own Josh Ritter today. That has me thinking about my favorite band from the Gem State. The Very Most is an indie-pop outfit out of Boise whose music, according to their bio, "exists in a pretty little spot on the Venn diagram where The Beach Boys, Camera Obscura, New Order, Teenage Fanclub, and The Wedding Present meet." This would be a good time to open and close your hands on each side of your head while making exploding noises with your mouth. Mind blown.

In 2009, the Very Most released an EP for each season of the year. All of these were eventually collected as one album, 'A Year With the Very Most.' It works very well as one piece, and there isn't a duff note to be found. With summer quickly coming to a close, here are a couple from 'Summer EP.' For those of us from the Pacific Northwest, "A Mid-80s Lower-Middle Class Family Summer Road Trip" is a geographic goldmine. There are references to Spokane, Lake Coeur d'Alene and a couple of forgettable rural Washington towns...

We're all playing the game
where you call out letters from the signs.
M in motel
N in Wenatchee
O in Pasco
P in "Please kill me!"

With the feel-good "You're in Love With the Sun," we learn your secret, but you have to share because "your summer love he's loved by everyone." If you fall for the charms of the Very Most, and I'm confident you will, check out their bandcamp page. These singles, EPs and albums may be tough to find in your local mom-and-pop shop, but just about their entire discography can be found at your fingertips.

"A Mid-80s Lower-Middle Class Family Summer Road Trip"
"You're in Love With the Sun"

Monday, August 28, 2017

Finally Found a Way to Get Forster's 'Grant & I'

Last summer, I couldn't wait to read Robert Forster's book 'Grant & I: Inside and Outside The Go-Betweens'. One year after its release, I still don't have the book. It has been a most difficult find for those of us on this side of the world, and I have had to get creative. Nine days from now, Forster will embark on a book tour through the UK. 'Grant & I' evenings will include a reading from the book, a conversation and live performance. With stops like Nottingham, London, Glasgow, Dublin and Manchester on the itinerary, I know many of my friends will be there. I hope one of my blogging pals takes the time to tell us all about the special night in their town.

OK, most of the rest of this post is for the benefit of my fellow Yanks who have been desperate to get a hold of 'Grant & I'. There must be a few of you out there, right? I am on Monorail's email list, and a few days ago the Glasgow record shop sent a pre-order note for the book. These will be copies signed by Mr. Forster when he visits the shop for the 'Grant & I' evening on Sept. 7. For those planning to be there for the big night, customers can select "collect in store" on the pre-order page and pick up the book before the event and get the book signed in person. For the rest of us, Forster will sign the book, and Monorail will mail it out on Sept. 8. Having already ordered mine, I can tell you how much this will set you back. A signed copy with postage to America will set you back £24.49. As I'm typing this, that's $31.57. After a yearlong wait, money well spent in my book.

Here are all of the dates for the upcoming 'Grant & I' evenings, and let's listen to the last joint composition by Forster and Grant McLennan. The song was released on Forster's melancholy 2008 album 'The Evangelist'. At the time of the release, two years after McLennan's death, Forster told the Independent that McLennan had the melody, song structure and the first five lines of the lyric. Forster finished it. I'm not sure there is another song I have listened to more the last decade.

5th September 2017: Nottingham, Rough Trade Shop
6th September 2017: London, Rough Trade Shop
7th September 2017: Glasgow, Mono
8th September 2017: Dublin, The Gutter Bookshop
12th September 2017: Liverpool, Leaf
13th September 2017: Manchester, Anthony Burgess Foundation
25th September 2017: London, The Shaw Theatre
5th November 2017: Hamburg, Nachtasyl
6th November 2017: Berlin, Maschinenhaus in der Kulturbrauerei
7th November 2017: Frankfurt Am Main, Brotfabrik
9th November 2017: Regensburg, Buchhandlung Dombrowsky
10th November 2017: Köln, King Georg
11th November 2017: Reutlingen, Vitamin
12th November 2017: Manchester, Louder Than War Festival
28th November 2017: Sulzbach-Rosenberg, Capitol Bild & Bühne

"Demon Days"

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

'Strange Fruit' at the Produce Stand

It has been an interesting couple of days. Here in the Pacific Northwest, eclipse fever had become an epidemic. Basically, everyone in the Puget Sound area headed south to catch the eclipse in totality. Something like one million visitors descended on the Oregon Coast alone. Mrs. LTL really wanted to go. I didn't want to go at all. We compromised with a quick trip east and a bit south through Snoqualmie Pass and into central Washington. We left on Sunday morning and were rafting down the Yakima River by lunchtime. Sure beat all of that traffic going down I-5. The family, including my mother visiting from Illinois, went ahead and stayed overnight on the east side of the Cascade Mountains.

Early the next morning, we headed a bit further south in search of a nice spot to see the eclipse. We ended up at Manastash Ridge, a mountain with a beautiful viewpoint of the valley at about 2,700 feet. We didn't get a total solar eclipse where we were, but the sun was 95 percent covered and well worth the trip. You'll have to take my word for it. My camera didn't care for the eclipse.

By now you might be asking, what does this have to do with music? I'm getting to that. On the way home, after lunch at a roadside diner worth the trip alone, I was told to pull over at a produce stand that can only be described as in the middle of nowhere. The town was called Thorp, population 240, and Thorp's commerce boiled down to the structure pictured below and a gas station next door. As Mom and Mrs. LTL shopped away, I more or less stood in the corner, hands in pockets, staring at my shoes. After about 15 minutes, I noticed some stairs to a second floor that looked like might be full of antiques. I decided to head up. Among the A&W root-beer mugs, vintage dishes, clothes and toys, I did see a stack of old albums, but I didn't even go straight for them. I wasn't in the mood to look through worn copies of REO Speedwagon and Leo Sayer. From upstairs, I could see my party was about to wrap things up down there. I went to the albums for a quick peek. Wow, this was not your usual '70s schlock.

Gasps turned into giddy laughter as I spotted one tremendous record after another: The Wedding Present on Peel, a Lush EP from 1989, the only SST-era fIREHOSE album I didn't have on vinyl, singles by Kevin Rowland, Propaganda and the Teardrop Explodes. How could this be? How could I get back those 15 wasted minutes downstairs? Before I could get through the rack, it was time to go. Just as well. I didn't have a lot of cash in my pocket anyway. As I descended the stairs in triumph, my mind was racing. Whose records were these? How did an album on Peel's Strange Fruit label get to a fruit stand in the sticks? The person in front of me in line was buying zucchini. Now I'm putting a ZTT 7" on the counter. A surreal moment, to be sure. Great albums don't grow on trees, but maybe they do in Thorp, Washington.

Mom is in the music room for another week. So, no turntable access, but I do have that Peel Session from the Wedding Present on the deluxe edition of 'Tommy' as well. Let's give that a listen. Recorded Feb. 11, 1986 and broadcast 15 days later, this was the first of nine sessions Gedge did for John Peel's show. Listeners would learn early the band knew how to pick a cover. Yep, that's Orange Juice's "Felicity."

The Wedding Present - "Felicity" (Peel Session)
The Wedding Present - "What Becomes Of The Broken-Hearted?" (Peel Session)
The Wedding Present - "You Should Always Keep In Touch With Your Friends" (Peel Session)
The Wedding Present - "This Boy Can Wait" (Peel Session)

Saturday, August 19, 2017

My Top 10 Releases From Firestation Records

If you didn't get the chance, please catch my interview with Firestation boss Uwe Weigmann from earlier this week. To continue the celebration of three new releases (the Siddeleys, Elephant Noise and the English McCoy) out this weekend from the influential label, I thought it would be fun to compile my 10 favorites from Firestation. In order to make it easier on myself, I decided against including all various-artist compilations. Otherwise, almost every spot would be from 'the Sound of Leamington Spa' series, and that wouldn't be a very interesting read, would it? Also, I more or less resisted including 2017 releases. Those need more time to percolate. Apologies to Yeah Jazz, the Sullivans, the Bridge and scores of others. I'm sure a top 20 would have been a breeze. I believe all but one of these 10 are still in print. So, indie fans, get out there and support one of the best labels out there!

LTL Presents: Top 10 Releases From Firestation Records

1. Andy Pawlak - 'In the Kitchen' (2016)
Six songs recorded in his kitchen way back in '85... a whopping four years before the masterpiece 'A Shoebox Full Of Secrets.' Firestation said this one was for fans of Aztec Camera, Friends Again, Prefab Sprout, the Pale Fountains and early Everything But The Girl. Can't get any more in my wheelhouse than that!

2. The Hardy Boys - "Wonderful Lie" (2015)
I had been searching for this tough-to-find 12" single practically since Stella Five released it in 1989. Then one day, poof, Firestation reissues it with so much care you would swear it was the original.

3. The Bodines - 'Shrinkwrap' (2007 and 2017)
Seemingly out of nowhere, Firestation unearths three strong tracks from 1988. This will not be the last band from NME's 'C86' cassette to make this list. My one beef... I bought this one when it was available only on CD. Earlier this year, a 12" became available. Do I buy it again? Probably. It's a sickness.

4. The Big Gun - "Heard About Love" (2016)
The 7" from 1986 was blown out to a 12" for those of us obsessed with obscure Scottish indie pop. You know who you are. The two songs from the original are joined by a wonderful old split-single flexi -- to my knowledge, the band's only other official release -- and three previously unreleased demos.

5. Close Lobsters - "Steel Love" 7" (2012)
It was a big year for Close Lobsters. The band reunited to play Madrid Popfest, their first live show since 1989. A few other popfests would soon follow, and the fellas have remained fairly active ever since. Only 200 hand-numbered copies of "Steel Love" were made, and they were first sold at Popfest Berlin that year. The A-side was a demo recorded in 1990. The B-side was a live recording of "Head Above Water," captured in 1989. It was a tough one to track down, I can tell you.

6. Hipflasks - 'A Lovely Scar' (2016)
I trusted Firestation and bought this one without ever hearing a note. Sure glad I did. The CD contains just about everything the short-lived Newcastle upon Tyne band did between 1986 and 1988. You're bound to hear the Love Parade and Orange Juice all over this one.

7. The Love Parade - 'All We Could Have Been' (2015)
Both of the band's classic singles from the A Turntable Friend label are here, along with just about everything else they did in 1989 and 1990. Essential listening, indie-pop fans!

8. Nivens - 'From a northumbrian mining village comes the sound of summer' (2006 and 2016)
My obsession with the Woosh label is what initially brought me to these lads, but when Firestation released this comp on CD in 2006, I foolishly passed on it because I thought I had all I needed. I was wrong. Unlike the Bodines debacle (see above), it all paid off in the end because the album was rereleased last year... on vinyl, this time. Woo-hoo! "Yesterday" is just about the best bit of jangle you'll ever hear.

9. The Bloody Marys - 'Sixteen Hail Marys' (2005)
Was this the fifth-best band in Hull? I only knew the 1986 "Paris"/"Party Hour" ‎single, but I loved that 7" so much that there was no way I could pass this one up. Still think that's their best, but there are plenty of other nuggets from 1985-2004 on this compilation.

10. Emily - 'A Retrospective' (2016)
I bought this one for all the tracks on the ultra-rare Esurient Communications single "Stumble," but most of the compilation contains unreleased gems. The acoustic version of the Creation-era song "The Old Stone Bridge" is sublime. The wallet was a little light on the day I purchased it. So, I went for the double CD instead of the double vinyl. Now I'm full of regret.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Q&A With Uwe Weigmann of Firestation Records

You need only look as far as my annual list of the best reissues to know nobody mines the UK indie-pop archives better than Berlin-based Firestation Records. They are the rare label that can get me to buy an album without ever hearing a note. I know it's been vetted by the best. By the best, I'm referring to Founder/Label Manager Uwe Weigmann. So far this year, Weigmann and his team has had me spinning the likes of the Apple Moths, Keen, Asia Fields and the Pressure Group. It's an exciting time right now as Firestation has a trio of releases hitting the shelves this Friday. Let's catch up with Weigmann to hear about new albums by the Siddeleys, Elephant Noise and the English McCoy, as well as some big news on 'the Sound of Leamington Spa' series.

Linear Tracking Lives: The original releases from the Siddeleys are rare, highly coveted and extremely expensive. Since the late '80s, there have been few reissues. In 2001, Matinée Recordings put together a terrific compilation featuring their singles and Peel Sessions. In 2015, Firestation did a very nice job with the "Sunshine Thuggery" 12". How will your upcoming release, 'Songs From the Sidings,' differ from these previous reissues?

Uwe Weigmann: 'Songs From The Sidings' partly contains demos which Johnny Johnson recorded with Torquil MacLeod of Reserve between 1985-1986. Apart from it you will find demo versions of classic tracks such as "What Went Wrong This Time?" or "Falling Off Of My Feet Again," which the band recorded as four piece in early 1986. The CD version contains liner notes by Johnny along with some rare band photos.

LTL: 'Songs From the Sidings' is not the only release you have coming out on Aug. 18, but the Siddeleys are certainly the best known. Can you tell us about the bands Elephant Noise and the English McCoy and the impending reissues that feature them?

Uwe: Both the English McCoy and Elephant Noise are faves of mine since the early '90s when I bought their records from the secondhand record shops in London. Their releases became ultra rare soon after. We already worked with Elephant Noise some years ago when we included one of their songs on the seventh part of 'the Sound Of Leamington Spa' series. It took years to locate the members of the English McCoy. I nearly gave up on it until the last year when members of the band get in touch with us via e-mail. I already had a tracklist in mind for the album but did some changes on it when I found out that there are even more recordings by them which were unknown to me before. There are still some cool songs by them which didn't made it onto the album.

LTL: What Firestation releases do you listen to with the most pride? Why?

Uwe: Of course, I have some personal faves. Without a doubt the most important release for me will always be FST 001, Bazooka Cain – Viele Grüsse. I have so many great memories of this release. Maybe it was the best time of my life when it came out in 1998. "Annahmeschluß" is one of the greatest songs ever written. I was also very proud to release records by some of my favourite bands or artists, such as Sensation, Andy Pawlak and the Bodines.

In recent years, the album by Skint & Demoralised was very important to me for various reasons. It was the last current indie-pop band I was in love with. Also, I will never stop raving about this record. I deeply regret now that we haven't released the bands third and also last album when it came out some years ago. I am also proud to have put together FST 100 - 'Still Mad At Me? 15 Years Firestation Records 1998-2013'. It took me a year or so to organise everything for it, put together the tracklist, write the liner notes, locate photos and so on. It was great fun! Another big fave of mine is "Listen" by SouLutions, a 7“ single we released three years ago together with our friends from Sundae Soul Recordings. The record was sold out within a day.

LTL: Many of the volumes in the the popular 'Sound of Leamington Spa; series are no longer available. Any chance we could see more editions? Could the previous volumes be brought back in print? On vinyl?

Uwe: Yes, unfortunately nearly all of them are no longer available. We just sold out FST 100 which included the seventh part of the series, so we only have copies left of volumes 1 and 6. We will not print the previous volumes again. Some years ago I wrote that I will not continue the series, but I changed my mind a while ago. There should be news on it by the end of the year.

LTL: 'The Sound Leamington Spa' series must have been so much work but a real labor of love, I'm sure. Just how hard was it to track down all of those obscure bands and songs? Do you have a particularly tough or unusual tale about any of your chases?

Uwe: Yeah, partially it was hard to track down some bands. It was relatively easy to put together part one. I wrote a fanzine back then and was in contact with some of the bands already before we compiled the first part. After the success of part one, it was obvious that we had to continue the series, so to track down more bands I wrote a lot of letters to old addresses which I found on the records or in fanzines from the past. I think I sent out more than 100. Some returned with the note "addressee unknown," but many bands got in touch after they received my letters. It was amazing! I tracked down the members of A Strange Desire after I found out that one of them wrote a reader's letter in Record Collector magazine. I wrote to the magazine, and they helped me to get in contact with the band. That was great!

Classic UK indie-pop from the 1980s and early 1990s was my biggest love back then. It was the greatest fun to compile the series. I became a bit tired about it when other labels tried to copy the series. That was one of the reasons why I stopped the series temporarily.

LTL: What '80s indie-pop band would you love to see become a part of the Firestation family? What is the one band you were most disappointed to see get away?

Uwe: Metro Trinity is the band whose back catalogue I always wanted to put out. They released my favourite indie-pop 12" single of all time. We're already worked with Jonny Male a couple of times when we released the first volume of 'the Sound Of Leamington Spa' and later the second album by Sensation. Unfortunately, most of the their recordings seems to be lost. We can't locate them. I already got in touch with a lot of people about it, but so far, no one could help on it. I will not give up on it. Someone out there must have those songs. I would love to reissue the "Episode Four" 12" single or put out the unreleased recordings by all-time faves such as the Painted Word, Fruits Of Passion or the Friday Club. Also, to release the "lost" second album by Del Amitri or a retrospective by Hello Sunset would be a dream come true.

There will be a lot of retrospective releases from us in the near future. Recently, I found out about a band from Liverpool which I never heard of before. Their songs are so amazing that I still can't believe that they never released any records when they were around in the 1980s. Hopefully, we can put out a compilation by them before the end of the year. Everyone who is in love with bands such as Aztec Camera, Prefab Sprout, Friends Again or the Bridge will love them. I am sure!

"Everyone who is in love with bands such as Aztec Camera, Prefab Sprout, Friends Again or the Bridge will love them." I don't know about you, but that warms the cockles of my heart. Can't wait for that one. Many thanks to Mr. Weigmann for taking the time to do this... and during such a busy week too. As my back and forth with Uwe wound down, I couldn't help but ask him about his mention of the Friday Club. Although I do have the 7", as some of you may recall, the 12" extended version of "Window Shopping" has been my most sought after piece of vinyl for as many years as I can remember. I told Uwe if he could find a way to reissue that one he would be my hero for life. Sounds like that could be a tall order. So, the search for my white whale continues...

To celebrate Firestation's imminent reissues, next time on these pages I will countdown my top 10 all-time favorite releases from the label. Stay tuned. In the meantime, don't forget to preorder your copies of the new albums from the Siddeleys, Elephant Noise and the English McCoy!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

An Album Once More From the Granite Shore

If you're a regular, you no doubt remember me fawning over 'Once More From the Top' by the Granite Shore. It was my top album of 2015. If you factor in all of the love and care that went into the packaging, it's my favorite album of the decade. As our friends at Occultation Recordings wrote to this blog at the time, "[o]f course, from a 'business' point of view this is ludicrous. The album was recorded quickly so fairly cheaply and actually we spent more on the sleeve than on anything else. Then we added a 32-page booklet (that cost almost as much as recording) at no extra cost to purchasers. Hmm. Never quite got the hang of capitalism, did we?"

I have no idea what label founder and Granite Shore frontman Nick Halliwell has up his sleeve in terms of packaging for the band's forthcoming LP, 'Suspended Second,' but in terms of the music, I'm certainly drawn to this latest video. Phil Wilson of the June Brides, also a member of the Granite Shore, put together the clip for "Where Does the Sadness Come From?"

Halliwell decided to leave the narrative found on 'Once More From the Top' this time around. Occultation has described 'Suspended Second' as an angry pop record, and news of the day did much to shape its content. As writing began in spring 2016, Halliwell says, "Suddenly, we were overtaken by what felt like a national self-harming anxiety episode, which then went global." In other words, all of those hooks may get your toes tapping but will do little to hide the state of affairs. What more can you hope for from a pop album?

'Suspended Second' is expected to be officially released on or about Oct. 13, but the label says test pressings have already been approved and that the plant may be able to turn the album around quite quickly. Occultation is hopeful they may be able to begin selling 'Suspended Second' on their own site by the end of the month or early September. News of a deluxe edition should be announced soon. Stay tuned.