Seabirds "Real Tears" (Matinée Recordings): The Flatmates "You Held My Heart" (Archdeacon of Pop / Local Underground / The Subway Organization): Carcass "Captive Bolt Pistol" (Nuclear Blast)
The kettle's on: time to round up three neat new 7"s.
As you may have gleaned from our trifling contre-temps in the White Swan the other night, we don't necessarily share the increasingly fashionable view that the indie-pop scene of 2013 is rosier than that of say, 1987. Revisionism, it seems to us, cuts both ways. Nevertheless, little gladdens our hearts more than the raft of sparkling, new British bands (see also the Hobbes Fanclub, the Fireworks) who have picked up their cudgels to conscientiously dig the foundations for some kind of new indie-pop order. And Nottingham's Seabirds join that club with this, a positively shimmering, blue-vinyl first 45, housed in a great sleeve that brings to mind those lino-cuts you used to do at primary school, albeit rather more elegantly executed.
"Real Tears" presses most salient buttons, starting with butter-wouldn't-melt jangling chords yet ending in the stark, zero-bpm half-light, imploring usto "sing about death". In between, this disaffected distant cousin of B&S nonchalantly swigs a premium-strength brew of Butcher Boy, Tompaulin and approx. 92 of this fanzine's Scandinavian pop heroes, boasting appropriately dewy and glistening verses, an unassailable boy/girl chorus and, just so you don't get too comfy, a slightly unexpected, skanking instrumental - lifted by a seemingly improvised guitar part - before they take a second or two to work out how to make it back to the chorus again. There are also, rather terrifically, lyrical references to vampire bats, which we'll need to get the bottom of.
The song reminds us about the shock, the power, of *actually* crying. We're so used to tearfulness as a metaphor, or as the currency of every soap opera and every other pop song, that we forget how physical, how palpable, how rare - in every sense - it can be in adulthood: Seabirds subvert such clichés with no little style. (This may be no surprise, given the apparent personnel connections between Seabirds and former Fika signings, the gently-swaggering, got-soul Red Shoe Diaries). And, in keeping with the visceral theme, this lot are happily unafraid to let their electric guitars actually *sound* like electric guitars, always a pleasant surprise in this tediously 'stripped down', mobile phone ad-friendly day and age.
Although we refuse to condone its pun-tastic title, B-side "Oh Buoy!" lets you feel the burn too, unveiling more chords which tangle and chime, and unfurling a fluttering butterfly metaphor to reveal a "beauty I never knew". It's fair to say that the butterflies, the bats and the 'birds all meet with our seal of approval.
After the thrill of new blood, our remaining 7"s presage comebacks by two once-celebrated combos whose records we once sought out religiously, usually after hearing them during Peelie's 10 to 12 slot. The New Flatmates (live review here) return on a seeming slew of labels, with their first single in twenty-five years, a brace of freshly honed two-and-a-half minute pop songs, dashed with the rugged and ragged charm that defined their original run of hits, if not, for our money, managing to improve on them. (Which returns to our original theme, I guess). Lisa Bouvier's "You Held My Heart" is high-speed, stoutly enjoyable and ever-so-slightly shouty indie fare shot through with myriad hooks, reminding us a little of We Are Going To Eat You in their prime, but Martin Whitehead composition "One Last Kiss" on the flip is possibly even better, starting with the familiar drum-intro thump of the old-school Flatmates before nicely blending smart classic pop action, cast from the mould of "Tell Me Why", with politely slurred guitar distortion. Majorly bad sleeve, though.
As for the indomitable Carcass, "Captive Bolt Pistol" (on grey vinyl!) is a first single in 19 years, and immediately recognisable as the handiwork of Liverpool's one-time gods of grind, rhythmically fusing Bill Steer's gnawing cascades of gnarled guitar and Jeff Walker's petrol-slurping growl. The verses, in particular, provide a haven - a veritable sunken garden - in which to swoon and reminisce about the band in their prime, but the song's arrangement seems a little perfunctory, to lack a little personality, notwithstanding the sumptious glaze of guitars which appears late on. In truth, grunted vocals aside, "Captive Bolt Pistol" is musically clean and almost commercial, the production sharp and aerodynamic: it's pitched midway between "Heartwork" and "Swansong", a thousand spinning galaxies away from the claustrophobic mud and quicksand of their first album. It's great- it's Carcass, how could it not be? - but, like "You Held My Heart", this is a new outing that can't scale the band's past, Himalayan peaks (the second album, the Peel Session) but that instead hovers, proudly enough, at base camp.
Lyrically, the single laments the maltreatment of animals (it's a rather forensic description of the weapons used to stun cattle in the slaughterhouse - "Hilti DX-750 / Low-velocity recoil, lock and load") and, together with the self-explanatory "Intensive Battery Brooding" on the other side, is a welcome reminder of the ethical credentials that always underpinned Carcass and their oeuvre: getting exercised about animal cruelty seems to be viewed nowadays as a bit "1980s", just as having any kind of social conscience is generally regarded as passé, but Carcass are rightly still unfuckwithable on these issues. We can't help ourselves from looking forward to the LP.