Friday, September 04, 2009

Au Revoir, Rickie Lambert



Of our vintage, having seen the sales of Ellington, Roberts, Stewart, Hayles, Agogo, Cureton, Browning, Taylor, Scott Sinclair (who will be the best of all) and that self-regarding carthorse Zamora, many of whom have played (most inexplicably, in the latter's case) for a fair time in the top flight, the departure of Rickie - who won't - is no huge surprise, although quite how a fellow third division team that was allegedly about to go bust can stump up the best part of a million quid upfront, plus allegedly half a million a year in wages, is yr typical modern-day football mystery.

The reality for Rovers, not that any of the message board surrealists will accept it, is that up to £1m, spesh in these straitened times, is great money for a 27-year old who was bought for £200k and has had one prolific season out of three, given that as soon as Southampton started playing "double your money" with him, he was out the door anyway (and fair play to him). And it's lost on these stubborn online Gasheads that Lambert, like Ellington, Agogo and Hayles, was not born or bred in Rovers ranks but signed by Rovers from a smaller club, no doubt with a (more modest) promise of increased pay and profile, just as the Saints will have offered him this time. Some of his play, and link-up with the Hi-Life Companion-sponsored Jo Kuffour last season, showed he had so much more than just the (sometimes quite spectacular) goals, and we will not forget the moment that we entered the play-off places for the first time that whole season we went up (it was in the 86th minute of the 46th game, thanks to his header at Hartlepool: we'd been 16th in the table in March). So. Once again, thanks for the memories, but don't play too well this season, 'la.

* * * * *

"My head is full of my fanzine and the flexi-label that I'm helping to start, I'm excited by it because it's something I WANT TO DO! Tell people about groups that they have'nt heard of but they are gonna love, put out flexi-discs so that they can hear them and hopefully make them happy."

That's a quote from This Almighty Pop! #2, late '88. Substitute CD-R for "flexi" and we're not that far off scenes of today, no ? Anyway, CD-Rs is exactly what the esteemed This Almighty Pop! are doing right now, all these years on, and that includes Horowitz's new single. Title ("Super Snuggles") ripe for emblazoning on a range of baby-gros ? Check. Supercatchy fuzz-distort pop melodies from the off ? Check. Vocals sung from the bottom of a vertiginously deep lift shaft ? Check. Chorus the size of a colliding galaxy pile-up ? Check. Another great single from Horowitz ? Checkmate.

The BMX Bandits were once, of course, "BMX, pure sex", but this year they give us the tender-eyed romance of the "BMX Love" EP on Elefant. One side-effect of David Mitchell's choice of the Muppets' "Rainbow Connection" on Desert Island Discs was our realisation (just as when the scales fell from our eyes and we worked out that the Field Mice drew so heavily from the Wake, or that Napalm stole half of what they knew from Repulsion) that Duglas Stewart drew perhaps his heaviest inspiration from Jim Henson.

Still, we've always loved the Bandits, even though there's a solid argument that we'd adore them at least as much had the only songs they ever released been "E102", "Sad?" and "The Cat From Outer Space". (Ooh, and "Johnny Alucard"). But it's just taken us 20 years to get to appreciating the modern BMXers for what they are *now*: a golden, traditional, song-driven band, soothing melodies guided by a slow tiller, a lullaby quality at times that makes these the original "songs for children", unsullied by fashionable cynicism. Which makes this EP the best M.O.R. you've ever heard.

In contrast, the "Because Because Because" 12" on Slumberland from the increasingly splendid Cause Co-Motion! is a carefully-ordained shambles, more of that Messthetics vs early-14IB thang, the six tracks peaking with side two's frantically-drummed but *um.... special* "Leave It All" and somehow rather heartbreaking closer "You Lose" ("You never win / oh no / And get jealous / Oh yeah / And then you lose..."). No tune longer than two minutes odd, either, which is absolutely as it should be. Individually colour-splodged sleeve, too, in case you were (wrongly) prevaricating over placing your order.

Signed Papercuts "Of My Heart", a 7" on the increasingly-reliable Cloudberry, took a while, but its pained-boy and plaintive-girl voices help unfold a shimmering kind of very trebly half-Sarah, half-shoegaze brittle beauty, especially in its last, more fevered, minute where the extra rush sounds like the noisier bits from Aberdeen's "Byron" EP (or that bit off Je Suis Animal's "Secret Place"). Still torn as to whether or not this would have benefited or lost out from better production, but we're definitely in favour of the way both singers stretch so hard to reach the high notes. They damn nearly pull it off, too.

If you were in an indie band at the turn of the 80s / 90s, you know, there was literally no room for manouvre if you weren't prepared to "go baggy": your choices were to split up, or to pretend that there'd always been an Ecstasy-inspired element to your music. Only a few bands, maybe the Weddoes or the Family Cat, spent any time at all persisting with that old-fashioned indie-strum thing, even if the FC shouldn't have bothered and TWP did so by heavily flavouring it with some noise from across the Atlantic, and even they managed a brief flirtation with the wah-wah pedal (check "Come Up And See Me"). Anyway, Pale Man Made, one-half of a Cloudberry 3" CD-R with Swedish waifs Leaving Mornington Crescent remind us of one of those bands that would have been left (wrongly) with nowhere to go, and given that the alternative was sounding like My Jealous God, that would, in day, have been the honourable decision. In 2009, pleasingly, there are no longer such severe strictures against sounding honourably indie, and so PMM's Weddoes-Pavement churn makes them one of the best of the new Cloudberry crop for us, especially the way that "In Your Bed" sounds like a meld of a young Andrew Jarrett and the first Candy Darlings single (before, of course, they too went disastrously baggy).

And staying with Cloudberry, there's this Boa Constrictor / Cavalcade split CD-R, too. It is forever the destiny of Swedish bands, whatever the genre, to be somewhat taken for granted: had Comet Gain released BC's "Out Of Nothing" on the back of "Casino Classics" it would have been hailed as garret-room genius, but Boa Constrictor will remain relatively uncelebrated because they're not British, and are possibly sober. Brits the Cavalcade, on the other hand (who ironically sound a little like they might be from Sweden, but actually hail from Preston) take us back to the days of sweet jangling, days we occasionally hanker for, albeit in much the same way as pompous Major John hankered for village cricket, warm beer and his short-lived soapbox. "Meet You In The Rain" has the kind of twinkly late-80s charm that makes you wish it had been issued on cassette, describing the travails of some poor sap (you know, like Burgundy in Lear) who gets soaked waiting for the beau who never came. (A bit like "Popsongs Your New Boyfriend..." or "Fuck Me I'm Twee", I don't think you're supposed to emphasise with the protagonist, but then again we were the only ones who saw a dark side to "Weekends Away").

While unable to muster quite the excitement that Pete Paphides managed to re: classy grown-up Glasgow indie-poppers Butcher Boy, we've been skanking to BB's "A Better Ghost" (a download single on How Does It Feel ?) and reflecting that it's rather a shame that Butcher Boy, like labelmates Pocketbooks, seem to get lumped in with scene godfathers Belle & Sebastian (the fact that BB and Pocketbooks, whilst great bands, sound very little like each other to even vaguely-tutored ears is another indicator of the sheer wrongness of the ubiquitous big Belle comparisons). Anyhow, catching up with this one again reminds us that while "React Or Die" ("new and sumptuously-packaged LP...contains a couple of smoochable tracks with that... cultured, melodic, sauntering, breezy Hermit Crabs / Math & Physics feel..." apparently) might be less Smithsy than the first album, and also a little less instantly loveable, it reels you in by mildly amping up the folksy quotient instead, and by John Blain Hunt having taken either a conscious or unconscious decision to sound more Scottish. Oh, and if you'd ever wondered (we're sure you haven't) what Butcher Boy might sound like on Viagra, listen to Wake The President.

'Allo Darlin's "Henry Rollins Don't Dance" is intelligent, sassy, witty, tuneful - so what's not to like ? While the press release has, as most do, the unintended effect of making it sound like one of the worst records ever made, AD actually do this kind of faintly whimsical but many-carat indie-pop thing so much better than most, plus they're the only band with an apostrophe at both the start and the end, which must count for something. The one thing that demeans the smilingly likeable lead tune here is that simply by mentioning our Henry, Ian MacKaye and Bad Religion, it kind of makes you think "mmm, this is good but I could be listening to Minor Threat". And however good AD (sorry, 'AD') are, they ain't ever gonna be that good.

Just as you won't but be reminded a little of Action Painting! by the Socialist Leisure Party 7" (which we're bound to get round to one day), you can't but be reminded a little of the much-missed Lunchbox by the Birds of California side of the latest split seven-inch treat from 555. The three songs (this is a 33 rpm record) on the Birds' side from ex-Lunchbox personnel engagingly intertwine reverb, indie jangle and spirited brass in a way that takes its cue from Lunchbox's "Summer's Over" mini-album but which takes it a little further, giving it a spacey, even dubby vibe. Over on the other side, BC's Kristin Mess provides contrast to BoC's little soundscapey experiments with four acousticky tunes, so fragile you feel they are liable simply to break at any time.

And talking of contrast, the next tune appears to be Korpiklaani's "Vodka", on Nuclear Blast, which I think is only available on vinyl in their native Finland, but luckily it was also previewed on a Fear Candy CD back in the spring. Even as I type I'm not entirely sure whether this is so-bad-it's-good, actually bad, or actually good, but the fact it puts a smile on our face every time probably justifies you making that call for yourself. Somehow, this alleged folk-metal anthem is the huge novelty hit that time forgot, a kind of "Cotton Eye Joe" for the Terrorizer (mag) generation. The normally ale-obsessed Finns even pronounce "vodka" as "What Car ?", giving the chorus one more nudge towards the bizarre. While a whole album of this would frankly be purgatory (it's called "Karkelo", for you masochists out there), for three minutes "Vodka" is nearly as wonderful as weird, the latest inheritor of the mantle of "All The Young Children On Crack" or maybe "The Message Is Love". Also, while this single is not very metal (as Vyvyan would have it) it is much more metal than lots of blatantly non-metal things. Like Lordi, Bring Me The Horizon or the least metal band ever, the appalling Trivium. Leaving Mornington Crescent are more metal than Trivium.

Greater minds than us have drawn the indie-pop public's attention to Cheap Red's eponymous debut on 555, an album featuring the undervalued Jen Turrell (most recently of Mytty Archer fame), our hero Stewart A. and both halves of Kanda on 2 CDs with a fairly impressive roll-call of remixers on the second. So we can only suggest that you read here and would then add just two things: firstly, that if like us you are still feeling severe pangs of loss at Boyracer's demise, it's not impossible to listen to the wonderful "The Hurt On Her" and "Everyone Works So Hard" (nil to do with the Wake!) and think how in another life they could have been a great Boyracer double-A. And second, that some of the remixes, in our view are even better than the originals: we're particularly fond at the mo of the Bracken, Jib Kidder, Steward and Simpatico (long time no hear!) reworkings.

And although we can't hope to sum Liechtenstein's "Survival Strategies In A Modern World" up more deftly than the starry-eyed adulation of Lady MM's sleeve notes, we're going to *try* to rein in our usual verbosity and capsule it in a way that does justice to the perfect economy of Liechtenstein's own compositions... so... "Survival Strategies" is a candy-yellow 10" whose grooves trace the sound of the Dixie Cups channelled through the Dolly Mixtures, Talulah Gosh and Free Loan Investments (while still managing to bring to mind other treats from the Shop Assistants through to the Slits), shortish songs with twinkling, trebly guitars and impeccable harmonies that, without ever sounding forced, fit like a glove. There.

Perhaps their poppiest track of the year though is could-have-been-a-53rd&3rd single-in-day "This Must Be Heaven", saved for a "Searching For The Now" split on Slumberland with fellow Gothenburg triumvirate the Faintest Ideas: but it's actually the Ideas who come out on top on that platter, with two corking songs, of a quality that only the Bright Lights and Boyracer (ooh ooh AND check out the racer's peel session download - free from this site - more tunes than the titles suggest will be familiar to you, but oh how the last track in particular churns and slays as only the 'racer could) have really managed at the same velocity, and that remind you that there is no level on which the Faintest Ideas did not make brilliant *POP* music. The consensus seems to be that they are now no more, in which case we can only say that they will be very sorely missed.

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