Saturday, March 03, 2012

Red Shoe Diaries "When I Find My Heart..." (Fika Recordings)

We can't help feel that over the years Nottingham has punched rather below its weight when it comes to *bands*. Great hip-hop, labels and e-zines yes, but never a convincing tradition of pop bands. So it's now the turn of Red Shoe Diaries to try and put Notts on the map with their new 10" extended play on Fika Recordings.

Fika, of course, being the tea and cake repping Anglo-Swedish label - spookily enough established at just the same time as Grindcore Karaoke - that gave us Horowitz's heavenly "Knitwear Generation" cassingle this time last year. Despite a little (thankfully halfhearted) criticism of their releasing cassettes, doing so remains an important statement, and the most cursory glance at the US hardcore scene for example will demonstrate that there are no shortage of new bands releasing new records on K7. We all have a preferred hierarchy of formats - our own is foil cylinder > wax cylinder > shellac 78s > flexi-disc > lathe-cut / 200g / 180g vinyl > cassette > compact disc > mp3 > 8-track cartridge - but the nub of this is that bands and labels should take control over every aspect of their oeuvre, and it's gratifying to see that, whether proffering vinyl or cassette, Fika set so much store in getting the package *right*.

As to Red Shoe Diaries, forza Nottingham! The songs here are charming tales (not always with happy endings) of unfulfilled dreams, of life changes, of the selfishness of adults, of broken hearts, of Paris, of a surfeit of wintry weather. Musically, the EP teems with bright, Saturday afternoon soul: the excellent lead track "The Love That You Read About" is typical, as its rushing, upbeat Butcher Boy-ish drive rubs up against some darker lyrical themes, while "Fossil Fuels" burns with the same natural energy (see what we did there ?) and humour as the Hermit Crabs' somewhat underrated offerings for Matinee Recordings. "Snowbird" parades a vibe midway between Kicker and "Casino Classics", driven by groovesome bass and interspersed with handclaps (and applause), before the piano-tinted "Ice and Snow" - also a download single, just to throw another format into the mix - deftly plays off girl / boy verses, recalling the gleaming melancholy of later California Snow Story. Matters conclude with the more reflective final track "Encyclopaedic Pain", which documents the moving-in thing with the same pathos, if not the plectrum-shattering scratchiness, of the Wedding Present's "Don't Laugh". It also includes our favourite line of the year so far.

And when we say "soul" - and God knows we've got into knots (and fights) about this before - what we mean is this: how we discovered Comet Gain (and perhaps how they once discovered Dexy's) and realised that "soul" was our preserve too, not just that of the cool kids. Or the way that McAlmont and Butler released "Yes!" and it was an instant confirmation that everything Suede had ever done had, indeed, been as terrible as we thought. And "When I Find My Heart..." kicks against the modern purveyors of 'glam-racket', mostly flighty indie boys with unhealthy Britpop fetishes, in just the same way. We can't hail it our favourite 10" of all-time: no record made by mere human beings, as opposed to deities, can compete with "Two Kan Guru", or "Slates", or plenty of those beautiful Sarah artefacts. It can, however, lay a fair claim to being the best 10" EP of grown-up pop since "So Said Kay", and that is not something we lightly say.

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