Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Flats "Country / Moonwalk" (Sweat Shop / One Little Indian): The Fall "Night Of The Humerons" (Cherry Red)

Flats get a lot of abuse. For being squatters, for getting press, for being related to Alan McGee. Now by all means slag them off for their music, which many of you do: but please play the ball, rather than the man.

For what it's worth, we quite like the sound that Flats make, although I am a little surprised that anyone else does, unless those old Riot City comps have been selling rather better than I thought. Anyway, after last year's pulsating "Never Again", which, primarily thanks to nicking a Thrilled Skinny riff ("It's A Good Doss") had a tune and everything, these two numbers on the follow-up 7" may neglect the melody side, but they do instead imbue a certain lo-fi punk rawness (of the sort which was two-a-penny in 1980, but has virtually disappeared now) with definite twinges of 'metal' influence.

"Moonwalk", the AA side, is our favourite. It starts off sounding like a bootleg of Napalm Death at the Mermaid circa 1985, and then stomps around all over the place (perhaps that's how the craters appeared), alternating pacy pound with thudding, slower sections until it finishes with a proper bloodcurdling shout, the sort Dean Jones would be proud of. "Country", the A, actually has a riff of sorts, which pounds relentlessly on while Dan yells something about demanding an apology. We think this may be the song about the teacher who physically abused him at school, in which case his anger is more than justified. Either way, there's happily still no discernible production, which suits proceedings perfectly.

We'd embrace Flats even more warmly if they sang about the political instead of the personal - which would after all be in keeping with the traditions on which One Little Indian was founded, as well as the Discharge T-shirt being sported on the back of the sleeve: but to be fair we guess they've looked at bands like the Fall, and how their decision, early on, not to go down that road actually gave them much greater longevity. We think that Flats make a lot of sense in 2012: it's a breath of fresh air to hear a new generation playing this kind of thing, making them - if nothing else - an antidote to just about everything that's wrong with modern 'alternative' music.

As are the Fall, in their way. After an honestly top-drawer album, "Ersatz GB", "Night Of The Humerons" was their Record Store Day 7" and on first listen yes, it's pretty rubbish. Newie "Victrola Time" has the wife improvising on keys for a minute or so before Smith, after warming up with a couple of mangled screams, starts randomly shouting in the usual manner. While entertaining enough Salford vaudeville - a bit like the "Reformation" single, but without the urgent two-note bass riff which anchored it - it's not a patch on any of the fine songs on their long-player. And on the flip, there's a perfectly passable, if still largely pointless, live version of "Taking Off", from that album. But "Victrola Time" grows modestly with repeated rotation, and what "Night Of The Humerons" has in common with the Flats 7" is that it at least sounds like *opposition* to the morass of mundane music we're being mis-sold all the time.

We might, if you catch us in an unguarded moment, privately concede that neither of these records are really that great. But for now, Flats and the Fall are two bands, if borne of very different eras and ideals, who are least swimming as fast as they can against an incoming tide (a mainstream, if you like) of woeful "indie" conformity. This requires plenty of splashing, thrashing, and spluttering: that's why it won't always make for entirely comfortable listening. 

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