Wednesday, December 20, 2006

hardnoise. untitled. suspect packages. 12"

now we definitely weren't going to bring you any more verbals until our 2006 round-ups, now due in the third quarter of 2007 (ish), but this single will not feature in those. not because it isn't brilliant (it is), but because it doesn't quite fit into any of the lists we were contemplating, being a welcome reissue of a classic from 1990, in the same brilliant sleeve, which jumped out at me from the record rack the other week. o happy day.

engineered by avuncular ukhh legend no sleep nigel, subject of one of hhc's excellent homestyle interviews early this year, "untitled" is a feast of untapped energy - the epitome of a debut single, in any genre. it's a strange beast in some ways, having no choruses or conventional hooks (both of which are the curse of modern rap music) and instead it flips between tight, fluttering instrumental passages and heavy, public enemy-inspired bursts of machine gun rapping. basically, it's a masterpiece of the sort of scratching and big beats of which zygote - to be bigged up within these pages anon - would heartily approve.

we've been dusting off all sorts recently - derek b, mc duke, caveman, "14 days in may" - but "untitled" still seems the least dated, most vital statement of uk hip-hop from that post-c86 era, and confirms that hardnoise are about the most aptly named band kind of ever. like other groups of the time (the mayfields spring to mind) they did nothing save release a couple of brilliant singles, but if their follow-up tune, "mice in the presence of lions" could also get a new pressing from the nice suspect packages peeps, that would be fab. then, can we can get on to the urgent need for hijack and son of noise retrospectives, given that their 12" singles are still going for upwards of twenty quid secondhand, even when you can find them. plus, as it's christmas, can we add our annual plea to santa for a bogshed comp ? cheers.

compliments of the season to you all. and now more than ever, peace.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

sportique. the inn on the green, ladbroke grove. 16th december 2006.

"i can't believe that love is all that remains / as i search the early hours for the secrets they contain"

while snugly ensconced in our spick and span new premises at in love with these times, in spite of these times mansions, london england, it is fair to say we still have plenty of vinyl lying around. amongst the gems which we're prone to trip over are three of our most treasured possessions: the "sad kaleidoscope" flexi, "sorry to embarrass you" 12" and "big pink cake" 7" - irreplaceable treats that continue to register in any sensible all time lists. but is it really so, really so strange to suggest (as we're about to) that sportique's legacy more than holds a candle to that of the great razorcuts ?

if you slide your memory forward to the grandiose but cosy creation albums, and then set those against both sportique's own spectacular run of gorgeous vulnera-pop early 7"s and the fact that their last two albums are amongst the best of the heady 00s, sportique do have a back catalogue (aah, witness "the kids are solid gold", "don't believe a word i say", "modern museums", "definition 79"...) which is quite formidable (that's french for formidable) and maintain their position in our eyes as still, frankly, the knees of bees. whisper it softly - not least to my 16 year old self, as you mess with kids' own favourite bands at your peril - but i think that, on balance, the sportsters may have outstripped even the razorcuts as gregory webster's finest popular music incarnation.

anyway. as we hid from the chill of this particular saturday night underneath the westway, our seditious conclusion was underlined when a reconstituted sportique mk. IV (rob pursey having vacated the office of bass guitarist, at least for the moment) kick off their parliament club slot with "if you ever change your mind", a reminder of the humour and self-deprecation that has crept increasingly into mr webster's writing over the years, while still sitting atop a lovable musical melee of melody and confusion, not least when it finishes with flapping drums in a very random manner. ("he's new", explains gregory of the drummer).

false endings aside, the set is as solid as ever, with at least a trio of unreleased songs - approximate titles "tables are turning", "invisible" and "big wide world" - to rub shoulders with the past, ably represented tonight by the driving guitar-pop of "anatomy of a fool" and, most smile-inducingly of all, the evergreen "love & remains". live, you lose the keyboards and the extra guitars which illuminate the songs in recorded form: but this is, as ever, aptly compensated by the superdistinctive vocal. let off the leash in the live environment, it is so perfectly, identifiably the same voice which helped propel "summer in yr heart" or "big pink cake" to legendary status. a bit like seeing yo rosehip at the glebe last month: such things are made to warm your soul. when sportique finish with a flourish with "other people's girlfriends" from 2003's "communique no. 9" set, they have been on stage for little more than twenty minutes, although to be fair that's longer than the entirety of that last album. even so, it is a little of a disappointment to have to regroup at the (friendly and not outrageously priced!) bar so soon after our involuntary foot-tapping had begun.

on sunday, i listened to sportique all day. they claim that there will be an album next year. if this is true, then such overdue product will make us very happy. for what it's worth, i still fervently believe that sportique have got at least one dub record in them, but i guess that may be a topic to pursue another time.

for now, this post is just a christmas card to say that yes, sportique are still out there. and they are, still, "getting closer..."

Friday, December 01, 2006

fucking rosehips. beatnik filmstars. horowitz. port vale fc. 18th november 2006.

as the world and his wife have been spending much of this mild autumn reflecting on the 20th anniversary of c86, with even the broadsheets commissioning bafflingly well-meaning yet super-uninformed pieces, it would be remiss of us not to join in. not least lest you get the impression from yr inky fingers that the significance of the anniversaire lies merely in it somehow having paved the way for all those "indie" bands who've recently "crossed over" from packed clubs of haircut-challenged apparatchiks to the supermarket shelves (much as nicky wire remains a devout worshipper at the temple of c86, arctic monkeys and franz ferdinand don't necessarily epitomise what the scene means to us… and while, to mr. caff corporation, bob stanley himself, "it lit the touch paper for the stone roses, then oasis and eventually all manner of million-selling acts"…. we're not - totally convinced of that either. or perhaps we just don't want to be…)

in the terms that now seem to demarcate whether a band is cool or not, i.e. the charts, it's hard to see quite why c86 has become so "celebrated". [warning: if you're not a certified trainspotter, please skip the next couple of paras...] some cursory interweb research informs me that of the 22 bands on the original tape, there were seven who managed to go on and net top 75 hits (i.e. the "proper" chart, where only weekly sales counted). indeed, a few went on to scale the heights, obviously with invariably worse material - who could have guessed that it was the soup dragons who would strike the highest chart position, a giddy no. 5 with "i'm free". fuzzbox and primal scream were equally unrecognisable from their mid-eighties vintage by the time they respectively scraped and dented the top ten. and the wedding present went on to a career of minor hits, rarely troubling the scorers, although at least when "come play with me" hit the top one-0 in '92, to the obvious chagrin of bruno brookes, they were still playing fairly shambling, self-conscious stuff, even if at about a quarter of their old pace. plus, it was a nod to the old-skool by being vinyl-only.

the chart impact of other bands on the cassette was negligible, to put it politely. age of chance and the mighty lemon drops mustered half a dozen hits between them, but without ever even breaching the top 50: and stump crept only up to number 72 with "charlton heston". having said that, slightly more excitingly, three other bands from the compilation managed some top 100-breaching in the immediate wake of c86 - the bodines' "therese" must be the best song ever to peak at number 76, the shoppies' "i don't wanna be friends with you" was surely too good for number 77, and half man half biscuit's "trumpton riots" ep was robbed to the tune of about 81 places when it peaked at er, no. 82. still more intriguing - thank you polyhex - both primal scream's elevation singles, "gentle tuesday" and "imperial" peaked at - you guessed it - no. 86... er, i'll get my anorak. keen mathematicians should now have deduced that the combined chart action of the pastels, a witness, wolfhounds, mccarthy, mackenzies, the shrubs, miaow, the servants, mighty mighty, bIG*fLAME, close lobsters and bogshed was nil.

so, if only four of the 22 bands properly hit the radar, and did so while sounding frankly nothing like they had in 1986, why the staying power of this monster that the n.m. express created, or, more accurately, collated ? well first, we know (even if the IoS and grauniad etc don't) that the c86 tape itself was just the label, the wrapper, "a thinly veiled excuse for something more". an excuse i eagerly latched on to, which i have never regretted (can you tell ?), because crystallising the scene itself achieved something - bringing the whole phenomenon in initially digestible form to just-teens like me, and allowing us to start our own forays into that brave new world.

and why did we want to ? because, to quote prolapse, the eighties were crap, and because even this boy could tell that c86 was about doing it for fun, for "enthusiasm over ambition" (as the nme itself belatedly recognised the other week, when joining in the spate of revisionism by hailing the original cassette as one of their "classic albums"), about picking instruments up and expressing yourself. memo to world (and wife): it was never about uniformity, never really about "twee", and was surely the polar opposite, rather than the precursor, of much recent, alleged "indie" tosh. surely babyshambles or the kooks are just the kind of thing that m.e.s. was getting at when he talked about all the new groups, you know, the ones that act like peasants with free milk ? (and i know that eyebrows have been raised concerning comparisons we've made between c86 and grime, but think about it... majors falling over themselves to sign young, new talent on the basis of rough and exciting vinyl singles, demos and mixtapes: followed by overcooked and underwhelming albums which manage to airbrush out all the elements that made the original records so great... a tale as old as the record industry itself… )

yet when it comes to producing evidence for why the movement was so important, words - especially our faltering ones - can't really do it justice. in reality, it's all about the music. we've posted over at our myspace blog what our cd86 would have been, if we coulda been bob stanley for a day... i honestly still adore every song mentioned, songs which not only lit up my '86 to '89 and bring back a frightening range of candy-apple memories, but which still give me righteous shudders even today. and if you played these, you'd get across the key to 1986's longevity far more than our inane blog ramble could ever do. note that our selection also seeks to address (confront) mr stanley's absurd sleevenote ramblings that "the mckenzies [sic], a witness, stump... were genuinely dire..." - since when did st. etienne come up with anything a scintilla as catchy as "mealy mouths" or "disposable razors" ? we haven't been so incensed since mark lawrenson dissed monsieur d. trezeguet as the "poor man's thierry henry" - much as we love thierry, could he cut it in serie a ?… NEGATIVE.

um. there are still many in fanzineland for whom c86 owes far more to mcguinn's original fringe, and the vulgar paisley fripperies of the summer of love, than 1976's own marvellous summer of hate. our views on that are well-known and well-rehearsed, and indeed have often been rehearsed (and broken up) on railway platforms or in pub car parks: namely that many of c86's finest exponents were at least equally informed by *PUNK*. "are you scared to get happy ?" and then sarah records certainly were, and in a way that modern indie-pop labels for the most part just aren't. back then, in so many cases, the template was still fairly clearly the sniffin' glue mantra from 10 years before i.e. "here's a chord. here's another one. here's another one. now start a band". and that reminds me... the reason for this reverie is that stoke-on-trent recently hosted its own "twenty years on" tribute - specifically, to the anniversary of the first ever rosehips gig, to their assumption of mark p.'s words: but the wider spirit of all things c86 was very much in evidence.

now strictly speaking, eleven-piece sports combo port vale f.c. were not actually part of the gig, but we felt able to treat their home game with swansea city f.c. (as popularised by teen anthems' lovable 7" tune of the same name) as a first taste of the conurbation, something to whet our appetite for the main course of post-subway org reminiscence that was yet to unfold. port vale are renowned as the only football team named after a place that doesn't exist, but a jaunt up to vale park is no exotic pseudo-narnian odyssey: while most lower div grounds are penned in by houses, vale park sits in a wasteland of its own, not unlike peterborough's london road, with huge embankments behind the stand that you can skulk in when the game is quiet or, as today, moribund. as we had been vociferously warned by certain insiders, vale's burslem home was a bitterly, bitterly cold theatre of shattered dreams, and hosted a fixture in which despite their tremendously unimpressive performance, the away side stole the points with two injury-time goals: by this time i could hardly feel my digits, so was grateful to be heated up by some champagne football from city's lee trundle as he engineered the theft of those three points with a lethal finish and then a casual feint, a tiptoe through the tulips as the latter were tended by statuesque defenders.

next up, albeit a slight distance later in time and space, were energetic indie-punkster trio horowitz. i choose my adjectives carefully, for once, as the thing about horowitz is that labelling them as "indie-pop" is the truth, but not the whole truth - for, especially live - or, indeed, when suspicions mount that one of their number may have o.d'd on the shandies - they can make a cracking, fuzzy racket. the way the boys throw themselves around during "sister" (as they did at the spiral scratch happening down in chalk farm not too long before) is testament to this. unlike their date in that london, they were unencumbered this time by portions of their audience missing the start of their set to watch southend beating manchester in an adjacent bar, and celebrated the punters' full attention by playing standouts from their lo-fi album "frosty cat songs", like the uruseish "i need a blanket" or the altogether rocky "amy acker and the curious paper tiger". in doing so horowitz helped restore my inner warmth with their combination of pavement's wryness and the futureheads' spryness. i could even feel my feet again by now.

the beatnik filmstars' set then reiterated why it's such a crying shame that "in great shape" has not been flying out of record stores. while we've been focussing our own listening on "barking", the new 'extras' collection which is gratifyingly full of strong recent tracks as well as alt. takes of things older (with the beatniks, their diverse range of styles and song lengths and production values has always been a major part of their rather major attraction, and if you were one of those who felt "in great shape" was a little too clean-lined in places, then "barking" will give you yer proper fix of militant lo-finess!) this was a reminder of the memorable manifold melodies strung across the last album proper: tonight's proceedings being bookended by the glowing, driving indie-pop of "the greatest of minds" and the current beatniks theme song, "really quite bizarre" (even without the scratching of the studio version, "RQB" is always an instant pick-me up, especially from the moment that the bassline appears and drills straight down to yr headnodding, foot-tapping core...) in between there is plenty to enjoy. so of modern beatniks' stuff, "i am a soul singer" rubs shoulders with "play that wonky music" - while there's a back catalogue surf too, in keeping with the night's happy saunter down memory lane: the ever-popular "now i'm a millionaire" and the unassailable "new boyfriend in black suit" accompanied by rarer outings of "wing off a plane", "tearing apart my world" and even, for a cockle-drying minute or so, the groove farm's "baby blue marine". while for us the real revelations of "barking" were actually found in the strength of the beautiful, curving, tearjerking ballads slipped in amongst the 31-track total ("clothes", "cold" and "coup de soleil", the latter two being brand new examples of the filmstars' serene side, the kind of (cough) *g-500ish* thing that the forest giants managed earlier this year with "namesakes" or "stars"), this evening was all about their big-hitting rock and roll, a rollicking reminder of their textbook semi-chaotic shout bonanzas.

if any of the living-room 'bands' i was once in had ever garnered any kind of momentum, or indeed made it out of the living-room, one of my keenest private fantasies was that we would promptly abuse our new-found fame by playing a live set that consisted solely of everything that bubblegum splash! ever released, in order. so we would have opened with "if only", rattled through the "splashdown!" ep and then delivered the coup de grace with the two tracks from the second subway comp. bam! pow! take that, reeling popkids.

we can enviously report that it appears a staffs-centric remix of this dream, in which the rosehips provide the relevant tunes, has been lived by the fucking rosehips of sheffield, england, even if they don't yet do the whole chronological back catalogue thing. the fact that the said fucking rosehips are probably in my humble estimation one of the best bands in the uk at the moment may be of concern to purists, particularly as it is not crystal c. to me whether they actually officially exist, but there you are. you could ask what kind of world we (well, i) live in if one of the best bands i've seen recently is a rosehips tribute band, but i would just say: my friend, it is a just world. half of their greatness is done for them, because as tonight rammed home again, the rosehips had the songs, they really did. still, most tribute bands have the comfort of knowing that the groups they are recreating are either dead, or living in ivory towers far removed even from the unique lustre of the likes of stoke on trent's glebe. the fucking rosehips, on the other hand, had the stakhanovite task of passing muster in front of an audience of the real rosehips. for that they need immense credit - we would have been petrified.

and they passed said muster with honours. an opening salvo of "middle of next week" and "room in your heart" showed that the offhand vox, the thrashing guitars and trampolening bass were all present and correct: the drumming, however, deserves special mention. the guy was just battering a snare, with insane glee in his eye. twas brilliant - it was if he was imagining the thing was one of his worst enemies. anyway, proceedings got progressively manic with a version of "something happened" that started off yet faster than the original, and then just accelerated into the middle distance before exploding, thus ending up outpacing even "dead end", the original rosehips' shortest, most punkcore tune, which followed it. better still, it wasn't long before the good ship f.r. was clambered aboard by original keyboardist rocker and pete rosehip on second guitar - this was now like a fantasy version of live aid (or, for younger viewers, live-8), especially when the six of them launched into a cut and shunt "sad as sunday" before rolling back the tides of time with "all mine", "shouldn't have to say" (avec most vigorous boy backing shouts), and "just another girl" which always was i think the point where the rosehips and bubblegum splash!'s music, dare i say it, most overlapped... and then, inevitably, "so naive", in surreal, artful remix medley form. meriel had the vocal absolutely, delectably pucker. ooh, and i must mention that they did "the last light" too, bringing back to mind the way that particular ballad (dare we say torch song ? no, best not) always just oozed lovely, gooey fuzz from the speakers. and that was, nearly, all.

but now. i must gather myself. for i have a feeling that yo rosehip then ascending the 'stage' to deliver the first verse of "designer greed" may be one of the greatest things i have ever witnessed. that feeling of heart scaling sky, like the one and only time i saw the fall strike up the opening bars of "the classical": or when marcus stewart equalised against huddersfield at wembley stadium and i accidentally broke the world high jump record. in a matter of moments, the feeling of listening to their songs as a youngster just came sprinting back to me, a rush that lasted right until yo then slipped back into the audience, visibly relieved it was over and leaving meriel fucking rosehip to do the "u2 cd / plays in my xr3" party piece. then it really was all over, and the room collapsed, dissolved and span in smiles, and spat at the toecurlingly freezing world outside.

and we come back to the reason why musical anniversaries and reappraisals aren't always so much wasted paper, or these days just wasted pixels. we can test the strength of the tricks that our minds play on us, when they tell us that old music was always better than new music, or vice versa. we can pontificate about "scenes" and "movements" and what they meant to us and whether they still mean it to us. and we can use it as a prompt to actually do things, to engage with like-minded people, to hop on a train to another city and make a day of it, to enjoy the music just because it's there and not care about chart positions or press labels and in doing so to feel a respect for the younger yourself again. and this must all seem spellbindingly obvious, i know, but it's an obviousness i haven't engaged with enough recently, and probably wouldn't have done had it not been for digging out all these old tunes again. say it loud: i'm c86 and, for once, i'm proud.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

calling all cars: in love with these times, in spite of these times HAS MOVED. if you need the new postal address for any reason, just drop us a line!

good day. this is just a 'holding' post - sorry for lack of updates. so many records, and at the moment more than even ever before, so little time. all i will say in my defence is that there are good reasons, if not particularly exciting ones, for the lack of posting action. i'm just not going to tell you them.

but trust me i would much rather be waxing wordical about the wondrousness of the new things i've been listening to - a-bomb, the butterflies of love, math and physics club, the hit parade, the beatnik filmstars ("barking!"), a.p. and dj griff, horowitz, sotatila, looking for an answer, manicured noise, pipas, give up all hope, kelman, the manhattan love suicides... these are all great acts of whom i am likely to tell you more anon, whether on this blog or in some city pub. plus i have been recently rediscovering filthkick.

this weekend i am hopefully seeing the fucking rosehips and napalm death, amongst others. not on the same bill, admittedly, but if we ever get into the promotions game, don't worry all that will change. (similarly, if you do ever need to empty your venue quickly of paying customers, perhaps for a fire drill or because you wish to run your business into the ground for tax reasons, in love with these times in spite of these times djs are always* available...)

* subject to availability.

ferenc, RIP.


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

sarandon. the completist's library. wrath records. cd compilation.
napalm death. smear campaign. century media. cd album.
wiley. eskiboy (da 2nd phaze). boy better know. cd mixtape.
lovejoy. england made me. matinee recordings. cd ep.

if, having marvelled at the best peel tribute yet, you wondered whether anyone was making music like that now, then angular minimalist trio sarandon provide the answer. um, it's "yes".

"the completist's library" is their story so far, a tale told over 4 seven-track 7"s. an average track length of 1 minute 22, by my calculations, makes it the second most economical lp this year, behind narcosis' "romance" (1 minute 11, since you ask). put simply, this means more tunes for your money: a honeyed aggregation of bIG*fLAME, the yummy fur and the keatons, with fallish bass, weddoes-ish guitars and, latterly, some majorly ace staccato trumpet work.

as someone who was there and knows, the reason that many of us formed indie pop bands in the late 80s was that it was far easier to teach yourself david gedge's chord sequences than, say, greg o'keeffe's tumultuous fretspanking. not only do sarandon have a mastery of the hard arts of post-beefheart c86ism, but they seem to be getting better and better at it: the most recent ep, "the june bride" (which features cameos from phil wilson and fLAME's alan brown) is the most striking yet.

all we need now is someone to take on the more blissed-out experimental mantle of mackenzies, jackdaw with crowbar etc...

ilwttisott standouts: don't say no. prove it. kitten. virginity.

the new napalm death album, in some ways, is their "cold house". at the heart of it is their increasingly-hardcore influenced take on thrash/grind, the slimmed-down four piece line-up suiting a rawness not too far from venomous concept's excellent "retroactive abortion" set. this on its own makes "smear campaign" almost "leaders not followers part 3", only this time with the classic tunes all being original napalm compositions. but even more intriguing is the way that they still want to stretch themselves.

so. the likes of "weltschmertz" and "in deference" introduce keyboards and female backing vocals. more dramatically, picking up on past cuts like "morale", the last 10 minutes of the cd - the title track and the bonus song "atheist runt" dive headlong into swans-ish industrial territory, replete with doomy, almost choral vocals. some of the guitars on "runt" could be a witness, in their less melody-minded moments. the echoey, slow, drum-led atmosphere carries more than hints of "from enslavement to obliteration" opener "evolved as one": a blast from a past when a three minute song from napalm was a rarity rather than the norm.

don't fret - the m.o. of "smear campaign" is still political anger, channelled mostly through alternately high speed, and groove-heavy, metal epitomised by the tracks listed below - but as a sign of the band's power right now, the willingness to keep testing their audience is welcome. i hope they don't find us wanting.

ilwttisott standouts: fatalist. freedom is the wage of sin. shattered existence.

jme's "boy better know" imprint is probably the best new label i've come across this yr - a series of mixtapes, from the likes of tinchy stryder & jme himself with apparently one from jme's brother skepta in the works - which are not only half the price of yer normal cd, but are just as fresh as the major label grime releases haven't been. the latest in the series is from the original eskiboy - wiley.

to me, wiley's tunes fall into three categories. the first are the in-yer-face, make-ya-dance speed grime likes of "wot do u call it": ably represented here by "eskiboy" and "ice pole". on these, his cheeky chappy patter and same-word rhymes work the most magic.

the second are the icy, introspective, slightly more fractured numbers: still infused and informed by grime but seeing wiley's lyrics more vulnerable, and rhythms more variable. these (e.g. "doorway") were the highlights of his slept-on xl records album, "treddin on thin ice". however it seems that this type of tune has largely er, melted away (save perhaps for "saw it coming", with jammer, jme and others, which is one of only a few of the tunes-with-guests that really works).

the third are the workaday crossover hits, usually co-opting r&b warblers or over-obvious samples: we've had to put up with too many of these, even on the roll deep album. still, it did register him higher chart placings than the solo singles. unfortunately, this body of work is also much in evidence herein. there are more than a half dozen slovenly and unimaginative efforts, like "be yourself" and "i like the way": as well as some halfheartedly okish comedy ones like "carry out orders" and "grim". what this all adds up to is that this is the most commercial, and therefore overall the least exciting, of the many splendoured boy better know mixtapes so far.

also, sometimes you think that wiley doth protest too much - when the 1st line of the album is, "i know you think i got dropped from xl, but that's not the case", and elsewhere he ruminates that, "how can they say my career is over?"... still, its nicely, stylishly self-conscious. like the chesterfields' "best of friends".

so, something of a curate's egg, but an eski curate at least. also, this being boy better know you get a few bonus tracks, including a pointless but enoyably mentalist god's gift freestyle, a musical sleeping tablet from alex mills and best of all, yet another run-out of arch rivals more fire crew's timeless "oi!" truly, every time i hear that song my grin is ear to ear. it should be a bonus track on every album ever released, not just this one.

ilwttisott standouts: ice pole remix. u ain't real (with syer and brazen). saw it coming. so amazing.

lovejoy's delectable ep sees them follow up the sweet highs of their "everybody hates" album with a set that is in the mould of simpatico's wonderful "postal museum" and "club life" singles in the way that it boasts just the right blend of electronics and guitars. "brightness falls" is the epitome of this, a thoroughly modern apotheosis of indie-pop topped off by richard preece's ever-vulnerable vocals, which manage to sigh and swoon at the same time. around them, beaumont-ish acoustic guitars (presumably paul stewart himself ?) trip in and out of softly layered beats, and trim little guitar motifs that could have graced any indie classic of the last quarter century caress yr ears, like waves lapping on the shore at hove.

the rest of the ep sees "are you analogue or digital ?" merge "reproduction"-style synths with early soft cell b-side melodies, "in the rain" sound somehow better here than on the june brides tribute, perhaps because instead of attempting to match the glorious guitar-scratching of the original, it is reinvented as a lovejoy song, full of space and knowing gorgeousness, and "made in england" musically eavesdrop on a snog between harper lee and the cure while preece picks up on quintessential anglo characteristics like twitching curtains and hopeless nostalgia. it's one of the few laments for england which lyrically chimes with my own feelings on the subject.

also listening:
goatwhore "alchemy of the black sun cult". this is on the new terrorizer cover-mount. great when a band can live up to such a fab name.
new order "truth". "movement" has always been fine, but each day, it gets slightly better.
boyracer "yr unspoken desires". i swear i will get the latest 'best of' soon.
the lucksmiths "the aviatrix". think is off "the green bicycle case ?"
huon. c86. from "hung up over night" on 555 - nowt to do with c86, but few songs get better to the heart of london.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

the fall rule. also:

brighter. if i could see / wallflower. sarah records, 7".
slayer. christ illusion. american recordings. lp.
deicide. homage for satan (666 mix). earache. download-only single.
terrorizer. darker days ahead. century media. cd lp.
narcosis. romance. calculated risk products. cd lp.
the gresham flyers. shiftwork. barrytown, 7".
full crumb. nightingale stew. a-well aimed blow to the thorax. cd-r.

firstly, having seen the fall at 93 feet east, and still sweetly reeling from having been happily bludgeoned by the two bassists, the sweat, a maurading and tank-like "what about us ?" and yet more new no nonsense looping tunes, i must iterate publicly what i have long asserted amongst friends, namely that if you know anyone who doesn't "get" the fall, they cannot and should not be trusted. you can like the fall or hate the fall and that is your duty and right, but if you don't understand why the fall are so feted and rated, you must leave the building now. that is all.

and then (swoon)... brighter. ok i must at the outset confess that in reality they have not, outside of my dreams, resurrected their old label in order to release "if i could see" and "wallflower" (out-takes from their classic sarah album "laurel") as a double a-sided single. unlike most label bosses, clare wadd and matt haynes were responsible for perpetrating gratifyingly few crimes against music, but in my befuddled, oversentimentalist mind not allowing those songs to see the light of day was up there with not releasing action painting!s "laying the lodger", not running with the golden dawn's "no reason why", and not releasing the orchids' beautiful "thaumaturgy" about a million years earlier. anyway, if, back in '91, this my fantasy brighter single had happened, it would i promise you have been a seismic global event to rank alongside those effortlessly serene "solace" and "sensitive" double-headers: at my age, i feel i need not be ashamed to aver that listening to them can still reduce me alternately to tears and insane joy.

however, the bonniest news of this long yr is that "if i could see" and "wallflower" have at last received their unbelievably overdue official release, courtesy of matinee recordings' new brighter compilation, "out to sea", a "laurel plus" (the plusses being various prev. unreleaseds, and 5x tunes from the two great little flexis that are mine forever, thanks to two judiciously-spent 50p coins a decade and a half ago) to help sate completists and to provide a companion for the equally fabulous "singles 1989-1992". obviously, even aside from the single that never was, "out to sea" is the business. also, please note that the very first track on it is still, for me, the greatest song of all time.

in other news, i went to a christening in h*mpstead not that long ago. it was, obviously, lovely: part of our duty as witnesses to the solemnity was to reject satan and his various works. nevertheless, as a rule one should show some caution in such sweeping commitments, else recent deicide and slayer releases risk neglect. it seems touchingly inevitable, rather than in any way sinister, that deicide released their new (download-only) single on 6.6.06: and that slayer, on new lp highlight "cult", manage to rhyme "666" with "crucifix" as if they were singing lyrics first scrawled on their folders at school earlier that day, rather than words penned by fortysomething men of the world and veterans of the entertainment industry.

while young blood like demiricous are making old-style slayer thrash more worthy of serious veneration, slayer, especially vocally, now seem much more mainstream, probably in the realisation that these days it's far easier to knock spots off maiden, say, than newer kids on the block. tempering their obsession with christian iconography only to throw in more less cartoonish references, to modern warfare and foreign policy, there are some coruscating moments (and "flesh storm" is a bracing opening tune) but overall my appreciation of "christ illusion" is probably rooted in warmth and nostalgia rather than any suggestion of it being near the cutting edge.

"homage for satan", o.t.o.h., carries more menace, not least because glen benton's guttural rasp makes the tom araya of 2006 sound like amelia fletcher in comparison. reports reach my ears that the whole album is this good, which would be quite a result, because "homage" comes roaring out of the blocks in a way that not many lps of this ilk manage, and even manages to incorporate some overextended guitar solos without causing me to rush for the exits (while guitar solos, in general, are of course a *BAD* thing, there are exceptions: carcass sneaked some in to later releases, while there's even one of sorts in bubblegum splash's "the 18.10 to yeovil junction", and that's one of the finest tunes kind of ever. drum solos, on the other hand, are unacceptable, unless you're lindy morrison). anyway, brilliantly produced, with the hooks and clean lines to the fore notwithstanding the onslaught of benton's gargled growls, this single was a very pleasant surprise.

when, after a 17-year hiatus, the reformed terrorizer declared their second album "darker days ahead", we could not have known that virtually as it hit the streets, guitarist jesse pintado would die, still in his thirties, following a diabetic coma. rarely can a return have been so brutally nipped in the bud. sadly, "d.d.a." is not the grindcore classic we yearned for - you'll need to look to the two lock-up albums for recent evidence of mr. pintado's skills in that direction; yet the legacy that we are left with is still enough to ensure the band will be fondly remembered for the right reasons, with "darker days" being a thick, earthy, hulking mass of death metal, which despite a welcome revisiting of "dead shall rise" is very different from the pacy, still nr-sublime "world downfall" debut, and as such terrorizer are laid to rest having covered all the bases.

so if the next great grindcore album was not to come from the supposed progenitors of the whole movement, then who ? perhaps wigan, united kingdom's own narcosis, touted as inheritors of the carcass / napalm death tradition ?

well, not quite. "romance" is an instantly appealing record, a score of songs in as many minutes, a high-speed collision of a.c., flyblown and "reek of putrefaction" that rarely settles into a groove for more than about 4 seconds before its stop-start drums and breakneck guitars regroup and then recommence battle with the shrieking vocals. invigorating, challenging and most of all fast, i commend "romance" to your record players utterly. it is not, however, the unallayed early-90s style grindcore which it is being sold as in certain quarters.

a similar kinda thing applies to the gresham flyers, a london-based sextet whose debut "shiftwork" 7" seems to be badged as recalling pulp vs. the wedding present. in fact, it's much better than that might suggest, a keyboards-to-the-fore indie pop song of seemingly indeterminate vintage that starts with the clean melodies of early mighty mighty and, when the boy vocals come in, seems to jump back through time to become a new wavey paean to the listlessness of clocking on, and off, and on.... but always informed by the more contemporary knowing pop wiles of the likes of bearsuit. a highly enjoyable single.

the mysterieux full crumb have links to trilemma, lo-fi thinking man's indie-popists of the very early C21st - this is detectable in their compact guitar musings arrayed across 38 minutes of cd-r, which range from chunkier outings like "clamber asunder" to a sweep of precious early-hood balladettes most notably "life is not a stream" and my current drug of choice, "nightingale stew". in another place, i once waxed words on teruo's "too wide eyes" 7", and "stew" wonderfully pinballs between many of the same reference points: guitars softly criss-crossing, minimalist lyrics refusing to over-intrude (see also f.m. cornog), a kind of serenity seeping into the speakers as if to gently berate you for having overdone your immersion in "christ illusion" and to demonstrate to you what you'd been missing. by all accounts full crumb are super-prolific, so there are mountains of cd-rs of this kind of thing, but "thorax" is the one that you need purloin for this.

finally may I recommend the following links in blogland:

- the daddy of all things 'proper' indie and my 1st port of call these days for new developments in c86ville; leading me to:

- one of the few blogs that I've truly found fascinating, and with which I am in worringly wide agreement on all matters of musical "taste";

- this excellent post on c86, which - amongst many other things - rams home the point that revisionists everywhere forget: for some of us, c86 was a reaction, a post-punk d.i.y. revelation, and not the conservative "anti-hip hop" etc force it now seems to be portrayed as (a tangent, I know, but indie, hip-hop, and metal subgenres on both sides of the atlantic were all equally fresh and exciting in '86);

- ooh, and check these most entertaining words on the same subject, much as I disagree with any disparaging comments on the mighty phalanx of ron johnson bands.

next time, if my current listening is anything to go by (which frankly it usually isn't): wiley, lovejoy, manage, sarandon, napalm death.

um, in the words of one of my old bosses, you may go now.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

jesse pintado

there are a number of reasons why I haven't had time to post for a while, and why I won't have for a little while yet… but this is more sad news, I'm afraid, given how recently I posted here about grant mclennan, and thus steers my own tangled affaires firmly into the shade.

it's a while since I got to shake his hand at ulu, but jesse pintado, of the (recently reformed) terrorizer, the sparkling lock-up, and of course once part of the new blood that eventually so revitalised the more-than-great napalm death - one of the classic british rock bands - died this week, following a diabetic coma. it was only a matter of days since I'd last listened to his playing, and not too long after I'd recreated the band photo pose on "utopia banished" at the imperial war museum, in which he of course featured...

and even aside from what we have taught you about napalm and lock-up, I gotta make clear that everything you have heard about terrorizer is also true - yes, their "world downfall" debut, inspired (check the credits!) as much by l.a. compadres nwa as by slayer, is grindcore's "reign in blood", with all that entails. and while I will, I have no doubt, shortly be enjoying the terrorizer comeback lp, it will be with rather more than just a tinge of sadness.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

i have been to a number of fine gigs recently, albeit tending towards the old-skool - we saw obituary again during the world cup, and they are a fantastic live band - like heavenly, you really don't appreciate why they're quite so popular until you see them in their element. we also went to see the wedding present a few nights before that: at the end of the day, they have got the songs, they really have got the songs. they were my favourite band nineteen summers ago and they weren't too far off again: "you should always keep in touch with your friends" and "everyone thinks he looks daft" were the necessary nods to 1986, sweetly ramshackle but somehow the more affecting for it, but plenty else went right - "dalliance" and "kennedy" as the usual blissful walls of guitars, while "mercury" is such a sweet, evergreen song, and a closing "octopussy" was, similarly, so tenderly weighted… and last week, we even went to see british sea power, albeit they were playing a wedding party on a boat on the thames - whether they are also available for bar mitzvahs, i know yet not, but I found myself tapping my feet to them surprisingly easy.

anyway, this friday night, after a very fortuitous piece of late night web-surfing had revealed not only that the legendary secret shine had reformed, but that they were about to step out on to the boards in our very own manor, we traipsed down to the water rats to see them, at what in fact transpired to be their "official" comeback gig. on arriving at said venue there was a fire engine parked outside, momentarily prompting fears that a stage-struck, supershy 'shine had managed to get themselves stuck up a tree or something. luckily, it turned out that they were in the venue all along, and so, as part of a slightly disappointing turn out of punters, we watched secret shine live for the first time in - well, it must have been a dozen years.

i have never wavered from my love for secret shine, not least because i always felt they were somewhat better than the bands they were seen as trying to imitate - i got the impression, back in the day, that they would have traded aged relatives to sign to creation, but the point for me was that the way they had travelled from the equally brilliant but timid likes of "unbearable", "after years" etc to the dizzying headiness of "loveblind" or "deep thinker", without ever losing their (high-pitched!) vulnerability, made them stand head and shoulders above the kind of self-absorbed fashionable guitar noise that mcgee was selling at the time. in a sense, secret shine ended up getting it in the neck both from dyed-in-the-wool sarah recs traditionalists (for not sounding like a sarah band), and from everyone else (basically, for being on sarah). some of my mates, tending towards that second camp, have said vastly disparaging things about secret shine in the past, which considering they liked bands like my jealous god or thousand yard stare, still makes me bristle to this day.

so while those secret shine t-shirts i proudly wore at college have long since expired, i very much enjoyed watching them play a set packed with new songs (but don't worry, "loveblind" was in there too: as were "into the ether" and (i think) "ignite the air")... the decade of inactivity doesn't seem to have done much to dampen the impact of their double vocal attack and spiralling guitars, and the mix of delicacy and fire in their songs remains, um, untouched. hurrah for that.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

bubblegum lemonade "unsafe at any speed" (mp3): strawberry whiplash "boy in the bubble car" (mp3)

after all that, the in love with these times, in spite of these times dream world cup squad is as follows. and yes, i know it's hard to explain the absence of ooh, gattuso, sancho, fabregas, barnetta and especially cupre, but that's the challenge, innit:

buffon (ita), ricardo (por), lahm (ger), sorin (arg), cannavaro (ita), sagnol (fra), zambrotta (ita), grosso (ita), heinze (arg), meira (por), vaschuk (ukr), maxi rodriguez (arg), zidane (fra) (capitaine), pirlo (ita), riquelme (arg), ronaldo (por) (young player of the tournament by kilometres), ze roberto (bra), maniche (por), mascherano (arg), robinho (bra), juan (gha), klose (ger), torres (esp).

but yes. this whole "myspace revolution" seems to me, like much of the interweb, 1stly to be for a generation more youthful than me, and 2ndly mainly to be a(nother) forum for the attention-seeking, rather than a genuine outlet for the disaffected or obscure. yet in terms of being the perfect road map to find all those bands that you'd forgotten about, would never otherwise have heard of, or who never got round to doing a website, you can't really knock it, and some of the parallels with the 80s' zine scene (not least the sycophantic networking and occasional over-preciousness of it all) are undisputable. (i have dutifully assembled the most perfunctory myspace possible for this "site", too, although i am not yet sure why - any hints for what to do with it are exceedingly welcome).

anyway, i hereby exempt from all this moaning both bubblegum lemonade and strawberry whiplash. it would be insane to suggest that bubblegum lemonade are quite as good as their name suggests (i.e. some frighteningly exciting melange of bubblegum splash! and baby lemonade, who between them produced two of the greatest 7" singles ever pressed, and that's even before we get on to flexis): similarly, it could only be folly to imagine that strawberry whiplash could match a sliver of the combined joys of strawberry story (or, mildly less convincingly, switchblade) and meat whiplash, but don't worry, neither band is that far off. their joint recognisably scotch buzzsaw pop sound is best displayed on the lemonade's "unsafe", which starts with a "hey hey hey" and some most familiar drum machine and fuzz and brings to mind within about 0.01 instants just three words namely jesus, mary "and" chain. as ever, the song would be only half as good without the generous helpings of feedback which are kind of spooned in in dollops every so often, like angel delight. mind you, strawberry w.'s pristine "boy in da bubble car" is similarly essential, again with that shoppies / baby lemonade / fizzbombs / early primitives feel. between them, the lemonade and the whiplash give new meaning to the phrase "glasgow kiss". yes, you could say this all sounds like 1986 (nowt wrong wit that), but then again people are saying that about the demiricous album, which is equally brilliant. i really can imagine, when i stayed up to listen to john peel 20 years ago, him playing these, as crackling, fizzing flexis - the way i was first introduced to bubblegum s., and so many others.

in other news, the new paul langley 12" (on 4x4) is excellent. i really think that john peel would have loved that, too.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

this is nothing to do with music but hey!

this world cup has been fantastic. the france-brazil match was high enough quality, but tonight the italy-germany encounter was really top-drawer. fabulous stuff, and in the end a deserved win for the italians with a superb performance and two extraordinary finishes. it takes much to enthuse me but tonight i was putty in the hands of two great sides. and again, again, again the gulf between england and our "rivals" is so many oceans wide.

already i am so looking forward to the final. and music (however much i am enjoying ooh... the new speech ferapy mp3s, for example) must wait.

Monday, June 19, 2006

darkthrone. the cult is alive. peaceville records.
tender trap. six billion people. fortuna pop! records.
tinchy stryder. i'm back u know!! boy better know.
demiricous. one. metal blade records.
harper lee. he holds a flame. matinee recordings.

firstly, i have decided to revert to lower case for a while as capitals sometimes seemed a little too trenchant.

secondly, the world cup so far has been brilliant and anyone who says otherwise is, in the words of the close lobsters, too loose on their lips and, indeed, talking rubbish. apart from england, virtually everyone has put in one great performance.

thirdly, i can feel already this is going to be a good year for albums. admittedly, that is not so surprising when nobody apart from techno djs appear to be releasing singles, but so far in 2006 we have already had what i consider really strong long players from forest giants, c-mone, boyracer, life?, taskforce, blade, the beatnik filmstars. i have a few potential candidates to add to this list.

darkthrone demonstrate how much genres are about perception, even sleight of hand. they portray themselves in interviews etc as yer typical super-intense heathen scando black metal duo, walking cocktails of mindaltering substances and occultist tendencies soundtracked by a doom laden pseudo-satanic mesh of guitar. yet the first few seconds of "the cult of goliath" sound more like lamented leeds punkers lorimer, while elsewhere the relentless, pacy guitar riffs wouldn't always be out of place on a motorhead record, or even something punker (a few shouts of "oi!" would well suit the opening chords of "graveyard slut"). plus sometimes the drumming reminds me of the rolling ramshackleness of thrilled skinny. you also get the single "too old too cold" which is probably the best metal single of the year, which may be coincidental to the fact it is also the only metal single of the year, unless you count sports metal, cartoon metal or chart metal, which i don't. if you can overlook the lack of variety over ten or so tracks, you may be as pleasantly surprised as me by this one.

the new tender trap record also feeds in to the recent, very welcome tradition of albums that are actually solid all the way through. purged of the electro experimentation that fosca-ised their first album, the easy hooks and winning harmonies make me think of marine research, whoever they were - the single "talking backwards" is an obvious highlight, but it fits seamlessly in to the other would-be hits ("fahrenheit 451", "ampersand", "applecore") nestling in a lovingly crafted mix of scrummy girl group wiles and more modernist swooning indieness. the only disappointment is that the title track is merely a sly update of "c is the heavenly option" rather than a cover of the great song by doom.

there is at last a tinchy stryder mixtape, which wiley has got into the shops, and it is refreshingly raw - a point driven home when tinchy hits kano's "mic check" with a style about three galaxies to the left of the much tamer territory which kano now inhabits. best tunes "stryder", which loops back wiley's "next level", on which he previously guested a bit, "ground-under" and "new mc's" are all unencumbered by production values and much the better for it - and wiley turns up too, on a copyright-defying "uptown girl". the main thing about "i'm back u know" is that it's odds on that if a proper label had signed up tinchy, he'd no doubt have released the usual lily-livered sell-out record that all the other grime mcs have done. as it is, you get to hear him while he's still street, and the sinking basslines reiterate that this is still garage at least as much as hip-hop. ruff squad gwan.

demiricous, meanwhile, bring to mind a different variety of treats, namely at times everything from slayer to napalm to terrorizer to carcass to the e.n.t. of "damage 381", while admittedly not quite ever being as good as any of those bands. even so, "one" is a selection of headnodding tunes which enjoyably schlep from grindcore riffs to trad metal growls to speedcore, and it is a record i will be returning to. later this evening, hopefully. indeed, it's probably the best of all of these 33s.

and there is just time for a single, well, an ep. slavish devotees of harper lee like me always entertain the fear that a new release might pale as against previous efforts. that would, after all, be pretty forgivable. but it never quite happens. "he holds a flame" is actually pretty uptempo, even if tightly corralling familiar, controlled layers of misty keyboards and a handful of carefully picked, repeating guitar notes. i think it's about the boy who can't let go. i recognise him as much as anyone, a kid (whatever his age) who thinks that clinging on to long-dashed hopes is somehow romantic, when the reality is simply that he's desperate and not thinking straight. and so, tied up in the trademark harper lee melancholy, we have a pathetic, aching paean to the girl who's moved on, a theme not unknown to us avid harper lee monitors. the hopelessness of the sentiment doesn't make the song a scintilla less moving: indeed, the "longer" second version of the tune is much the better, simply because you need more time to fully bask in the joyous glow of a new harper lee single before it gets laced with the acres of regret hewn by keris howard's relentlessly determined and unrequited words.

and "william blake" could have been a single in its own right too. it is important to me firstly because, while joy division never needed a drum machine, they would have wrung this kind of nervous energy from it, a song that would have sat happily on harper lee's imperious second or third albums. it matters to me secondly because principles count, and i think it follows on from their stellar debut 45 "dry land" in the images it conjures up of a boy who stuck to those principles, facing out on to the waves that had been crashing against his window right since the days of "frostbite": while carefully leaving hanging the question of whether he's bitter, or proud, or somehow both. the nursery rhyme quality of the words kinda follows the simple pattern of the chords: and the cascades of picked guitar strings are the sound of the rain battering down throughout, not drip, drip, drip but a torrent of soul searching.

finally and most importantly, congratulations to tsega and matthew on your beautiful baby girl. peace.

Sunday, June 04, 2006


A window of opportunity has appeared for random scrawling. Please therefore feel free to mentally correct the likely slew of factual / proofreading errors or dire grammatical faux-pas as you go...

Morrissey, Alexandra Palace, 1 May 2006: Beatnik Filmstars "In Great Shape" (The Track And Field Organisation): Forest Giants "Welcome To The Mid-West" (Cherryade)

After the event, it appears that most people I know were also at the Ally Pally on bank holiday Monday, proving that Morrissey and Mark E. Smith are still the only artists whose gigs I frequent who can really lay claim to an audience that properly spans all ages, professions and music tastes. Odd, really, especiaIly as Moz's own range has never been dramatically versatile, but that's the force of his cult of personality, and yes perhaps also the legacy of all those alcoholic afternoons, when we sat in your room, listening to the Smiths: and that, now and then, they meant more to us than any living thing on earth. On ee-ea-aa-aa-a-rth, on earth...

First four songs were about as blinding as you could hope for - the middle-aged chanteur taking no chances and stepping up to the mic for "The First Of The Gang To Die" with a justified swagger. The tune's sweet but soppy wiles helped counter the fact that, beautiful as the venue is, the huge blank floor still makes it resemble little more than a decoratively over-elaborate aircraft hangar. In quick succession we then got "Still Ill", "You Have Killed Me" and "The Youngest Was The Most Loved": the place was rocking. And the new one about gang lords also boasted an immediate appeal.

After that, though, the set deepened further into new LP territory, with gradually diminishing returns as the power of his dramatic entrance was diluted by the length of the set, even where interspersed with the odd re-run, like "Girlfriend In A Coma". By the time "How Soon Is Now ?" closed things off, the attack had wilted rather. Still, subsequent arguments in pubs and curry houses revealed that some of my compadres reckoned that the set (and particularly the encore of 2 1/2 minutes) were too brief! They were most wrong about the encore, because "Irish Blood English Heart" was tip-toppingly short and sweet, an absolutely cracking canter thru a wrongly-maligned classic comeback single. At least as much a great statement as a great song.

We also found that Morrissey's ban on the Palace staff from serving meat had led to an early run on spring rolls, with nothing left for us ageing slackers to ingest by the time we arrived save for an unsatisfying selection of KitKats (Nestle - tut tut) and crisps. With tickets at mid-thirties a head they could at least have bussed in some veggie burgers, instead of more confectionery.

And did I mention that Sons and Daughters were supporting ? If not, then there was probably a reason for that.

The day before that, I had seen the Beatnik Filmstars at Pow! to the People, that august popular combo now officially being BACK [with] "In Great Shape". I know that you shouldn't call it a comeback, because they'll say they never went away, but starved as we've been of their famously lopsided musical oxygen for nigh on seven years, it damn well feels like a comeback to me. What I will refrain from is describing "In Great Shape" as a 'return to form': not because it's bad - it very isn't - but because the Beatniks never lost form. Like Ronnie Mauge, in my mind anyway.

I should be upfront and say that it's not (yet ?) my very favourite BF album. Nor can I pretend I'm helplessly in love with every single track. Then again, as there are 23 of them, that would be a tall order for any band, this side of Nasum. But realistically, it's very hard to see what more one could ask for for the price of a CD. Not when the album starts with the Beatniks-are-back (sorry…) feel of "Really Quite Bizarre", an immediate, effervescent aggregation of fuzzy guitars, superlooping Fallish bass and scratching over which Andrew Filmstar reads out fast food freezer instructions and laments distinctly unmerrie consumerist modern England - a theme that reasserts itself in the revisited popgem "Supremer Queener". Not when "I Eat Healthy Food" runs with the maniacal indie-billy vibe of "New Boyfriend" or "Bigot Sponger". Not when "Ocean Breeze" is the most romantic thing to have come out of Bristol since Rovers did City in '92. Not when "Wonky Music" digs into that more Pavementesque feel that made "Laid Back and English" so compelling, topped off with splendid "wo-wo-wo's". Not when "It's Not What You Know" tiptoes lightly on indie-rock perfection. Not when "The Greatest Of Minds" recalls the unfussed, uncluttered, vibrant noise-pop that decorated some of "Phase 3" and "Inhospitable" - you know, like "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous". Not when "World Wide Fashion Crisis 1998" harks to those past outings with collided semi-acoustic softness, distorted spoken word and joyous guitar / keyboard silliness. Not when "And Here's One I Made Earlier" is one of several songs whose sparseness and space pick up the regret of post-Beatniks projects Kyoko and the Bluebear: the loops and shuffling samples placed just right (the "PCs and vegetarians" line could be directed at me, but I'm not going to argue at the wealth of sadness and subtlety…) Not when, from nowhere, "I Was Shot At In A Drive-By Shooting" exquisitely describes the march of Mickey D and friends, revealing itself as an oddly effective ballad about cultural homogeonisation. And certainly not when "When You're Dead" is - oh God - such a horribly moving, wonderfully affecting, tragic and romantic hymn.

It's true there isn't really anything here with quite the insatiable energy of "Milk" or the ultra-ramshackleness of "Climbing Mountains" (ooh, and wasn't it great to see them open at the Barfly with "The Family That Plays Together" ?), but while I've had reservations about some other old lags' albums (Mozza, for one, as well as Boyracer's merely very good "A Punch Up The Bracket"), "In Great Shape" is a contemporary declaration that none of the classic Beatnik Filmstars essence has been lost. Props to Track & Field for that.

Right. Every review of the Forest Giants starts with mentioning the bands they used to be in. I'm gonna skirt that (hey, I once reviewed Tender Trap without referring to Talulah Gosh, and I love Talulah Gosh) because the reason you need to buy "Welcome To The Mid-West" is nothing to do with any other bands and everything to do with the fact it is the year's brightest reminder that guitars can still sound great and ache and echo and contort and dance and summon up all kinds of feelings to reflect love and life and pain. Yes, guitars, the same instruments used by Dirty Pretty Things, Kaiser Chiefs et al: I certainly needed reminding of it. And "WTTMW" is a dense, fuzzy er, forest of the things.

"I Don't Think You Understand" is the claustrophobic opener, and one of the heavier songs, a distorted vocal giving way into a pounding chorus. Its shadowy texture and booming bassline can't help but bring to mind Joy Division: ditto the kinda Hannett-ish laser effects that encircle the increasingly fractured singing, before everything culminates in a sorta pretty rolling haze of Fallish vocal barbs and six-string disarray. But the feel of the LP as a whole is perhaps better set by the succeeding tracks - more bitter lyrics, but duelling with jauntier hooks (such as the "Inbetween Days" motifs of "So You Think You're Unhappy ?"), and crafty, dogged New Order style guitar lines allowed freeish rein amidst yet more pummelling chords. Plus that gift that the Wedding Present always had, of lyrics you can empathise with and that trail off just at the right time, leaving instrumental swells to ram home the anger and regret. Witness the single "Planes Fly Overhead" (eulogy in here), which fits uber-snugly into the album's cross of noisy nihilism and peeping melodic optimism. We should have learned the lesson long ago that sometimes you need a few slabs of reverb and distortion to properly capture emotion, and that's probably the reason why some of the Mary Chain comparisons have got wheeled out.

Then comes "The Message", second best song ever of that name. Deviating frighteningly from the template, it glistens flirtatiously, all super-Sarah Records balladry: I can almost imagine it on that shimmering, mightily underrated Rosaries 7", although they wouldn't have added the keyboard glow and violin that make it sound like, ooh, Vinyl Japan recording artists Slumber, if you remember them. Paula's crystal-clear vocal starkly counterpoints Tim's fuzz-painted voice of the opening five tracks, and bridges the two halves of the album beautifully. It's blip not trend though, because then the shambling old-skool fuzz of "Wasted" (er, second best song ever of that name) even musically recalls peak-era Flatmates (shhh) or "Don't Talk Just Kiss"-era TWP (please remember that, to me, these are near-unbounded compliments). The next track is even better - for the guitars on "Closure" make me want to wander out into the street and hug random passers-by, even as the disgust and vituperation in the lyrics suggest quite the opposite response. And still they come - "Stars" picks out all the things that made "Darklands" so desolate yet beautiful and drapes them matter-of-factly around Dean Wareham's soul inside. Killing the pace of previous songs in favour of a well of shimmering guitars, the melodies are given all the excuse they need to jump up and around the longing and melancholy of the words. The guitars weave their way rapidly skyward once the vocal disperses. And then we drift into the slow burn of "Namesakes" - a very barren, rainsodden song, pointing fingers, upset, lyrically abrupt, musically delicate. Her new friends are so much plastic. The bass and keyboards compete to wrest the song from the simple jangle of guitar that underpins it all. They kind of get there in the end.

"In Sequence" saw them feeling their way, and had some great songs, but "Welcome To The Mid-West" attacks in formation, hints more at darkness, and well repays a few listens (it was on the fourth that it really hit me, somewhere in the middle of "Stars", on the top deck of the 37 as it bombed it down towards Battersea Rise). When a whole generation is giving up on guitar music because of what the NME is pushing these days, it's as well to have such moments of rediscovery.

Anyway. Other listening, some new some not (there is frankly loads in the queue for my increasingly stolen moments with my headphones, and an even bigger pile of stuff very unlistened to not least thanks to the glut of goodness described badly herein), but honestly, these are all great:

Hood "The Rest Of Us Still Care" (from "The Lost You" CD single on Domino): Irritatingly, it seems that Hood are currently enjoying an extended hiatus, presumably to try and give other bands a chance to catch them up. It's a fat chance. A song like this is criminally discarded on a hardly-pressed LP taster, like "Dead Souls" all over again - when Hood are the only band who can turn their mind to so many genres at the same time, in the same song, and still come up reeking of roses.

The Lucksmiths "A Hiccup In Your Heart" (CD EP on Matinee Recordings): The title track we already know, but any excuse for new Lucksmiths product in this particular very small corner of south west London is worth raising a VB to. Also, track 4 flirts with POLITICS and sometimes that transcends just soppy stuff about relationships any day.

Chris Liberator & K.N. "Soba Grey" (Maximum Minimum, 12"): the "Classic Silver" 12" from Liberator and various randoms is nearly as good, meaning Max / Min is back with a vengeance.

Regal Players "Rude Boy" (12" on Frog Records), Hector "Paper Cash Cheese" (12" on Frog Records): Players, and their frontman, with 2005 grime exercises. Kind of a whole genre it's difficult not to get excited about. A bit like C86.

Jeff Walker and Die Fluffers "Welcome to Carcass Country (sic)" (CD LP on In Grind We Trust): Frankly, I can't sensibly begin to describe this, but perhaps this will be my gateway to learning to love country standards. Bill Steer and Ken Owen also guest, which raises the evil thought that they could have released this as a Carcass comeback album. I'd have liked to see how Terrorizer magazine took that.

Tullycraft "Polaroids from Mars" and "Leaders of the New School" (both from "Disenchanted Hearts Unite" CD LP on Magic Marker): This is a really strong record, now I've tracked it down, their best - and lyrically, especially, you can hear how their songwriting has developed without ever stopping them sounding quintessentially f.e.y. Musically, the Wedding Present influences really come to the fore - ooh, that reminds me, I'm going to see them soon (clashes with Sportique, annoyingly…)

Negative Approach "Total Recall" (Touch & Go CD): Knew I'd like it, it was just getting round to buying it. NYC seemed the right place, given exchange rates right now.

Unsane "Blood Run" (Relapse, CD LP): It's the simplicity of it all - just shards of guitar noise tracing the elastic bassline that leads the way, and an occasionally-welcome shouty vocal - that makes the best songs here: but it can bit a get samey, so best taken one track at a time.

Sick Of It All "Die Alone" (from "Death To Tyrants" CD LP, on some label): Not bad, if a bit Raging Speedhorn-like - though they've (wrongly) come a long way from the likes of "Injustice System"...

East River Pipe "Druglife" (from "What Are You On ?" CD LP on Merge): Yes, I know, I kind of went hunting for ancient New York acts. The album doesn't offer much that's new, but seems a little more focussed, even if still as minimal as ever. But I already like at least half of it a lot.

Flood "Testing The Water" (self-released, l guess): Best of the CDs I bought from the guys hustling round Times Square and further down Broadway. He's from South Bronx, the birthplace of hip-hop if you subscribe to the gospel of KRS One. Very roughly recorded indeed, but the two opening tracks, esp "What Are You Thinking Of ?" could be great, especially if the P Brothers could get hold of him next time they're scouring New York for MCs. Flood himself seemed a nice enough (if fairly hard) bloke.

Whew. All done, in the usual rush. Next time, something more important.

Thursday, May 11, 2006


um, i have just heard the news about grant mclennan. it is i guess less than 2 years since i forsook the denmark v czech rep q/f to see the go-betweens at the barbican. it was so nice to enjoy something about that postcode for once. i had seen robert play solo before but that was the only time i ever saw g.w. in the flesh. my brother and i went to see the go-betweens film and then had a lovely dinner and then enjoyed grant + robert on top form.

i am very sad now.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Just a quick one.

Not to admire the spirited mischievousness of the Jasmine Minks' version of "The Instrumental" on the very welcome new June Brides tribute album knocking spots off the Manic Street Preachers' interpretation on the same record (although recent readers of this journal will be unsurprised to know that the best track, and possibly also the worst, is the Television Personalities' remarkable take on "I Fall"…)

Not to register my more-than-mild delight that A Witness' "I am John's Pancreas" has definitely now been reissued on Euphonium, with a few handy sleeve notes, and full lyrics no less. Fact: it is one of the 100 best albums ever made.

Not to remark my utter unsurprise that engineer Martin Nichols, curator of many pearls at his White House studio (chief amongst which include past works by Brighter and Secret Shine) has worked minor miracles with his remastering of Heresy's "Face Up To It" for its Boss Tuneage reissue CD: again, some entertainingly thorough sleevenotes throwing open the whole audiophile fallacy.

Not even to note, having seen The Loft at Track and Field's Pow! to the People, how the guitars were assiduously crisp and chiming and clanging, even when recreating their second greatest ever moment, namely the chugging instrumental groove in the midst of "Why Does The Rain" (their greatest ever moment, the guitar solo in "Up The Hill And Down The Slope", was consumed instead by a healthy acreage of fuzz). Hey, at one point it crossed my mind that if the Loft were any better, they'd be the Windmills.

No, this is simply because it's the local elections tomorrow, I'm still hearing people telling me that the parties are all the same, and that's when, across my city at least, there are plenty of fascist candidates standing. So this week music takes a step back, and whatever it is waiting for me at work will at least have to wait for once, just as long as it takes me to get down the polling station and put my X somewhere else.

Next time: Morrissey and the Beatnik Filmstars.

Now there's a thought...

Listening, on the way home from Brick Lane tonight (my true friends are golden...):

Asaviour "Borrowed Ladder" (from "The Borrowed Ladder" CD on Lowlife): this is really not bad.

Pariz 1 "Notts City" (from "Uncomplicated Vision" CD on Street Dreams Entertainment): this is not bad at all.

Lethal Bizzle vs, Test Icicles "Mind Your Head" (V2, 7")": this is good...

Mr. Ti2bs "Inner City Rap" (12" on Kemet): this is very good.

Lady Sovereign
"Blah Blah" (Island): contrary to my expectations, this EP is very very good.

Arab Strap "Speed-Date" (CDs on Chemikal Underground): this is, actually, pretty great.

Forest Giants "Closure" (from forthcoming "Welcome To The Mid-West" CD on Cherryade): and this is very great. This rules.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

An Evening With Bolt-Thrower.

OK, so at the end of the day it was hardly a private tête-à-tête with the band, but when the Camden Underworld is sold out, there is an inevitable intimacy - the involuntary sharing of sweat and body odour between the punters crammed into its labyrinthine corridors - not to mention the, er, thickly-veiled homoerotic camaraderie between the massed ranks of stagedivers who keep popping up and being swatted down throughout this all-too-rare London set from former Peel faves and astute war correspondents Bolt-Thrower ("established 1986", as their natty range of leisurewear has it, and yes, it's been the best part of two decades since I first encountered their metallic swirl, even if at the time they were the only band on Strange Fruit's Hardcore Holocaust whose songs breached the three-minute barrier, and at the time, that - as well as the fact they have never been a hardcore band - was a bit of a no-no).

But now, as George Michael would have it, we're all older. And the thing about Bolt-Thrower is that even with a formidable back catalogue, their recent records are up there with much of what they've ever done (see also: Sportique). Last year's "Those Once Loyal" set is a colossal, confident record, and tonight returing vocalist Karl Willetts is certainly in the pink, perhaps hamming up slightly too much the frontman role, although getting the atmosphere spot-on with the odd shout ("Never compromise!", "Fear nothing!" and, best of all, the utterly unnecessary, "We are Bolt-Thrower!")

Anyway, they started with "At First Light", the album opener, with its terrific snaking riff, and things settled down into a rumbustious, rumbunctious set which plucked most tracks from the last two records, inlcuding my favourite, the super-danceable "The Killchain", but plenty from former glories, even if there was sadly no "Attack in the Aftermath" or "Through The Eye of Terror". This being the Underworld, vision was severely restricted through the rows of headbanging thirtysomethings in front of me, but by occasionally craning my neck around a pillar I was able to get the odd glimpse of the 3/5ths of the band who were outside my general line of vision. I think I can safely say that even in my excitable teenage years discovering this music, I never expected that I would be sufficiently exercised about it to be excited by the prospect of seeing it performed in the flesh in 2006, but then I guess at the time I never realised the need for a proper escape from the "everything's urgent, all the time" mantra of the day-job. And while Bolt-Thrower are a world away from my higher passions of hardcore or grind, of Flyblown or Napalm, with their slower, chewed-down harmonies and more conventional chord shapes, theirs is a compelling enough form of entertainment, and their lyrics still as coherent a commentary as contemporary musicians can offer on the pinstripe insanity cheerfully masquerading as "global politics". Before we knew it, the encore came and went, finishing with the controlled tumult of "Loyal"'s closer, "When Cannons Fade". And we were left with Bolt-Thrower's friendly fire ringing in our ears.

A Tube Ride With C-Mone.

And then it was back upstairs and into the night, slotting the earphones into place for the tube journey back across the river. Which found me reacquainting myself with the new C-Mone record, "The Butterfly Effect". She has an album out at last because Son Records, Londoners with a keen ear for Notts rap (like me), put their money where their mouth is and actually get some stuff on the streets. Now I would probably rather see a new Cappo album, or get my hands on a single from Mr 45 or Lee Ramsay, or persuade Scorzayzee to come out of his self-imposed retirement, but anything new out of Nottingham still pleases me no end. And this was always a reasonably tantalising prospect, 'specially after her very good Son 12" last year (party tune "Stan Bac", present and correct here) and, before that, an astonishingly slick Nick Stez-produced Dark Whisper white label which boasted three superb songs.

Bad news first. Albeit that Stez remains largely at the controls, "The Butterfly Effect" pitches not unheavily for the crossover market and on a few tracks that shows a little too much. In the spirit of open-ness, I will name and shame them as "Disfunctional", "Ride", "Watching U", "Nightvision" and the well-meaning but saccharin "The Nina C-Mone Effect". After all, brilliant as "1980" was, it opened trapdoors rather than doors for Estelle.

But, fittingly for Easter, there is plenty of good news. While most albums these days would only really justify an EP, the rest of the songs here would have made, ooh, a great Sarah 10". First, the other Marga Boys, Ramsay and Pij, join Stez on production duties for the bouncing recent single "Second After Second", whose cheesy party feel contrasts with more righteous lyrics ("I hope all the fighting and killing was worth it"). Then, the good ol' P Brothers turn up on "Inside Out", which might lack their usual hobnail beats, but compensates with shuffling Beastie-ish breaks.

The cocky "Catch Me If You Can", with its 70s car-chase funk motif, would make a fine companion piece to her former Outdaville colleague Tempa's Joe Buhdha-produced "Ya Get Me?" and "Article 5" plugs into the same vibe, even if lyrically it majors on contemporary themes of stop and search and low achievement in education by black children in the UK. Indeed, the songs gain in power when C-Mone takes aim for the political jugular, whether on "Second", which lines up governmental greed against refugees and pensioners' plights, "Inside Out" ("Against guns / against drugs / I don't give a fuck about your funds") or the sisters-for-themselves celebration and, I think, a previous 45, "Black Widow".

While under-exposed labelmates Cappo and Midnyte pleasingly join others on the posse cut "Magnificent 7", it's "Ode To Hip-Hop" which has the realest community feel - like a Notts-focussed take on Blade's recent "UKHH" album cut, it exudes a soulful, over-arching positivity without tipping into the sickliness of the worthy but wetter tracks gently dissed above. It's rare my cynical faculties are overridden by such unallayed sunniness - there must be magic in them thar beats.

And I have to mention the accent: NG7 is hardly a flow you hear in the rap they play on the radio, but C-Mone's East Midlands lilt gives the songs a bit of extra range, a homely dynamic which stateside accents can't provide in this genre any more. "Think I've bigged up quite enough people over the past couple of tracks" she chides herself at one point, although thankfully it's only a couple of songs later she manages another full minute of shout-outs.

So, as she later cheerfully admits, "I'm not quite ready yet... but I got a lot of heart". Aah. And yes.

Going To The Pub with Stewart Lee.

It was also good to see Stewart Lee again the night before (in London's defiantly untrendy New Cross). I can't easily imagine Peter Kay or Alan Davies turning out on £4 pub back-room bills too often, but not too long after I got his DVD for Christmas, the darkhearted comic, Fall fan, ex-Alan Parker Urban Warrior guitarist and now-presumably minted Jerry Springer librettist was taking the corner stage in the Amersham Arms. Still pushing the same envelopes ("I've got nothing against the Catholic church - they're actually my favourite form of clandestine global evil" he intones without a flicker) and still angry and bitter, though I'd still love to hear more of his experiences at the hands of Christian Voice etc in the media over the past few years, Lee has lost his youthful gait and developed a hangdog pallor that, dare I say it, seems to suit his act better.

recent listening:

Finlay "Rad Wagon" (from "The Fall Of Mary" CD album on Fortuna Pop!): If you got Million Dead and Bearsuit in a room together, and forced them to play drinking games whilst listening to the Fall and Pavement, their subsequent jam session would probably produce a great little skewed fey-rock song like this.

Galaxie 500 "Submission" (from "Peel Sessions" CD): With a band so feted who produced so little, it's always great to hear previously unreleased recordings, and the Peel sessions set is a lovely adjunct to the three albums. They cover the Pistols with more verve than you might expect, cascading carousels of guitar meaning it still sounds rather special.

Morrissey "You Have Killed Me" (Attack, 2xCD, 7", etc, etc): 'Fraid so. It wasn't so long ago I was talking about how Jim Reid and how that even at his most pedestrian, he still seemed to have a warm songwriting knack that he couldn't shake off, no matter how he tried. And now Morrissey, a potential treading-water gold medallist, returns with minimal effort, with a song that he could have easily have penned in a bored moment or two whilst blithely plucking gladioli from his windowboxes, or perhaps gazing reverently into a mirror. And yet its ineffably easy majesty is handsome and arresting, his voice still a beautiful instrument more than a blunt one. For me, the three minutes of this work better than the forty or so minutes of "Ringleader of the Tormentors" in getting the basic point across: that he is in Italy, he loves it, and he feels renewed. For now.

recent reading:

Phil Stant "Ooh Ah Stantona": Terry Marsh "Undefeated"

If like me you can't stomach the thought of reading volume after volume of Wayne Rooney's 'memoirs', then the stories of Messrs Stant and Marsh remind us what sporting autobiography should be about. While neither writer is unduly troubled either by self-doubt or any semblance of editing, both have stories of real interest to tell which never revolve around the modern sports-celeb diet of making scintillions of cash and then spending it all on gambling, clubbing and sordid group sex adventures.

Stant managed to buy himself out of the army at 24, courtesy of a few hundred quid advanced by an obliging Hereford United that got him out of bomb disposal duties. His description of service in the Falklands, helplessly watching the Mirages bombing his comrades' ships, leaves you in no doubt about the distance between his experiences and those of the modern player. Plus, the photo of him accepting his sponsored car from a Mansfield Skoda dealership is priceless: now, you get paid-for Lotus Elises even in yer average 3rd division players' car park.

Former fireman and commando Marsh, of course, literally fought his way out of the Marines, and has an even less prosaic story to tell - it's not every world boxing champion that goes on trial for trying to murder their ex-manager. But again the absence of ghostwriting, and a pronounced fondness for swearing, give "Undefeated" a real freshness.

recent viewing:

The end, after a long and lingering demise, of Bristol Rovers' play-off ambitions. Though for once I will apologise to Craig Disley, for responding to my "luxury player" epithets with an out-of-the-blue scorching half-volley.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Beaumont "Closer" (from "No Time Like The Past" CD album on Siesta). Forest Giants "Planes Fly Overhead" (Cherryade, mp3 single). First thoughts on new Boyracer ("A Punch Up The Bracket" CD album on 555). And stuff.

Late at night in EC whatever, I find that I have to write about something I actually want to. So here is one more post than I anticpated, for what it's worth, this tax year...

My dossier of evidence as to why singles rule over albums has already consumed much of the forestry of south-east England, but Brighton's Beaumont are the latest exponents of this admittedly least controversial of theories. For "Closer" would be a great single: aching and refined, it's a grown-up popsong of the ilk of "Brighter" or "Night After Night". (And the closing brace of the banjo-panzer "Heartfelt" and the uber-serene "Red Red Petals" are two tunes I wouldn't kick out of the B side). But fine songs can risk getting lost in the fudge of an album, especially when the genre - especially without Keith Girdler's angelic vocal counterpoint to Cath Close's sultry sighs - is basically nu-coffee table. I will always admire Paul Stewart and, I suspect, continue to invest in his discography - witness the beautiful majesty of "Closer"'s orchestration, and the way the piano is as delectably svelte as that on "Clocks", say, is cloyingly nauseating - but, as ever, I think he'd be better served by singles.

Which brings me to Forest Giants, and their download (only) single. I think it's important to keep singles alive in any way possible, much as I wish this was a 7", or indeed anything tangible, but in the brave new world which this 'zine likes to inhabit, I know that labels without promo budgets can't afford singles as loss-leaders. It's not like the majors, who spit out the usual 2xCD single, one with remixes by current press darlings, one with lame previously-unreleased-for-a-reason extra track, plus a limited numbered 7" etc etc yawn, and a few weeks later emblazon "featuring the hit single..." on the inevitably underwhelming LP.

Anyway. One of the best 7"s of this century was, of course, the same combo's "Postcards" (let us leave aside here the technicalities of whether it ever actually got a proper release). That tune demonstrated how the humble single can be more than just an album taster: how the space of three or four minutes can be the ideal vehicle for snatched reminiscence. "…We can watch the planes / fly over Catbrane Hill / coming into land / no, really, it's a thrill..."

More than two years later, the aeroplanes are back in the Filton sky. "Planes Fly Overhead" is a three minute runway of sound: a huge hulking fuzz of reverb, brilliantine keyboards and faintly hazy guitars, anchored only by some staccato Fall riffs and a pacy throb of a bassline, which culminates in an extended fade, hewn from a mazy tagliatelle of frazzled chords and vocal "aahs". Don't get the wrong idea though - this is not the indolent blissed-outness of the likes of Air Formation, where the vocal becomes merely another harmony, another eddy in a wash of wispy psychedelia. Instead, "PFO" is like a marginally more boho younger brother to "Postcards", still identifiably an indie-pop song rather than a head-in-the-clouds shoegaze anthem, mainly thanks to the matter-of-fact timbre of Tim's voice. "Tell me once again what constitutes failure", he asks, possibly mindful of a world in which getting a street team to rustle you up a few thousand downloads might catapult you into the mid-reaches of the top 40 and (ephemeral) success in the eyes of your fickle coterie, whereas simply making great records to fervent but limited acclaim, as frankly many bands are doing on a semi-regular basis, is regarded as something akin to eking out the bins round the back of Sainsbury's.

A word for one of the B sides, too: "Gone Away" is one of those songs where the Giants jettison the noise and veer instead into what can only be described as Galaxie 500 territory. (Not enough bands do this, which is remarkable when you consider the perfect simplicity of "Today", say). Anyway, it's a nicely plain, rolling ballad, reeking of delicate sadness, which plateaus gently from time to time around the chorus rhythm. You find yourself tumbling back awhile, to the moment when you first got the Beatnik Filmstars' "Maharishi" taped for you, and saw it translate the draggy dolefulness of the Galaxies to a Bristol postcode for the first time. In today's fevered pop world you rarely encounter this kind of measured restraint (sigh) - all the young groups now, well, yes, they act like peasants with free milk, but also, they are scared to bare themselves. Here the lyric is someone in awe of their subject: but it's down to earth, no frills, no histrionics - sensitive, without being melodramatic. That is all too rare in guitar bands these days. It's also, incidentally, one of the reasons why the Wedding Present were one of the best groups ever and not, as many would still have it, one of the worst.

Moving from 45s to 33s - well, sort of - I am, slowly, getting used to the new Boyracer album. I just don't quite feel it yet, somehow. Certainly the lyrics are as equal turns corruscating and evocative as ever: as Father Ted once said, "there's nothing wrong with the lyrics". But for some reason, even though the music is still pacy and anxious, there is more space in here, less of the essential Boyracer claustrophobia. There's still plenty of very welcome noise and feedback - but more of it sacrificed to poppier keyboards, and echoey and slightly clattering drums. I'm only six or seven listens in, but at the moment, the greatest trax seem to be the turbocharged punk bulldozers - like "Stand By Your Words", which sounds like a scrap in a hardware store, or the edgy sentiment of "Yr Love It Lies To You": though I'm quite taken with the deliriously hook-filled "Contradictions", the mid-80s evoking "Secondhand Youth", and the slower "The Toilets of Northern Europe", which has a "Songs of Frustration and Self-Hate"-era feel. I reserve my most sneaking fondness for "Kids Don't Follow", which with its scratchy early-Wedd Pres plectrum-flaying goodness makes up for the marginal disappointment of not being encrusted with as much screaming amplifier hum as earlier outings (including 2004's marvellous "Absence Makes The Heart Grow Harder" set).

From Wedd Pres to Dead Prez, who team up with some more gnarly C86-era old timers, namely Public Enemy, on the latter's collabo with Paris, "Rebirth Of A Nation". Now even I, who still count "Apocalypse '91" and "Greatest Misses" as quality outings, am under no illusion that PE haven't really delivered since, but as with "New Whirl Odor" a few hours (well, ok, months) ago, there is usually a track or two worth minuting. This time, it's "Can't Hold Us Back", in which the Dead Prez and Paris presence gives proceedings a darker, tougher edge than normal ("you'll have to pop me to stop me") and counterpoints the increasingly cartoonish roles of Chuck D (hard rhymer extraordinaire, all-round good egg) and, of course, Flav (Channel 5 reality star with attention deficit disorder)...

Other listening right now includes:

Chas and Dave "Ain't No Pleasing You" (Towerbell, 7"): The second greatest chart conspiracy of all time was when the BBC and the forces of law conspired to keep "God Save The Queen" off the top spot in silver jubilee '77. The greatest, however, was when MI5 and other agents of darkness and anti-Rockney agitators saw fit to relegate this particular crowdpleaser to no. 2, when everybody knows it was flying out of record shops left right and centre. And, as anyone who saw them play this at the 100 Club last month knows, they've still got it...

Taskforce "3 Fingers" (from "Music from the Corner Volume 4" CD on MFTC): At last, a new street anthem for London's dispossessed... I'm really glad I've given this LP a few listens. If you loop this with Lowkey's "London", you get the sound of this city at the moment, and that's dark, cold and defiant.

Life "You Know Who" (from "Realities of Life" CD on Zebra Traffic): While "What Our Estates Have Become" is still the highlight (and goes very well with the TVP's "All The Young Children On Crack..."), the trilogy of battle raps, "You Know Who", "Come On" and "Rebel Soul" are all really strong, even inamongst all the conscious choons. A big album from the Phi Life Cypher lynchpin.

NineHundred and 9 "X-Force"(new 12" on Powertools): Was all set to tell you this was merely very promising, bassy, playful stuff from a newcomer, but surprise surprise it is apparently none other than a pseudonym for an artist I already bore you about at great length (as if that narrows down the field). Anyway, this joins "Part Of The Union" and the new McAffer / Syber Symon record on RAW in the early medal contention for 2006's London techno olympics.