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....

MisterPrime

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

Potluck

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"