Caffs, not corporations: a singles round-up

[glamorous harrow, July 2017]

Welcome back to in love with these times, in spite of the times, the ever-grumpier fanzine from the country in which being allowed to change your mind is apparently undemocratic, however many people are up for it, however idiotic or tainted your original decision was, and however long ago it took place.

Ooh, anyway, a singles round-up… we haven’t had one of these for a while, have we? Back in the early 2000s, we’d fire out one a month, usually in excitable lower case, usually beginning with some extensive digression before, if you readers in your younger days were lucky, eventually getting to the 'substance'.

Anyway, we found ourselves up near Stonebridge Park the other day. Long story, involving somebody who feels the need to pilgrimage to literally every station on the London Underground. We’re increasingly realising as we accompany him how many tube stations really are in the middle of an unremarkable nowhere, all reminders of the flipside of the grand promises of Metroland. Anyway, some of you may know Stonebridge as the home of the Ace Café, the transport caff once the favoured haunt of the Rockers in the 1950s and 1960s; and as we mulled over its latest, somewhat self-conscious makeover, we remembered that tale of the café jukebox and the North Circular raceway.

The deal was this: one of the bikers would get ready, as his mates lined up a platter that mattered from the juke. As the vinyl flipped into place and the needle fell, biker boy would run out to his waiting steed and go for a spin around the block. He had to be back in the Ace by the time the single finished. If he was, he’d have officially become a Ton-Up Boy, because you couldn’t make it around the ‘raceway’ in 3 minutes without having hit 100mph on the straight. Presumably, you could cue up a 2 minute rock and roller to give your racer no chance, or try to sneak on a bluesier four-minute 45 and give him all the time in the world. In the days before radio dared play rock n’ roll, the café jukebox was the easiest place to get your fix of all the new releases, so it’s probably safe to say we’d have been the ones safely indoors, nursing a fry-up and a cuppa and trying to listen to every single record rather than risk our callow necks outside.

As we mulled over the options you might have in that scenario today (psyche out rival bikers by cueing up “Velocity Girl”, help out your mates by putting on the B-side of the 2nd Gentle Despite single), we realised that it was high time for our own high-speed singles round up, one which recognised that a decent 45 can feel like it is worth risking your life, and more importantly, your reputation for. And also one which recognised that we haven’t reviewed any singles for more than six months. (Though it’s worth emphasising that the tunes mentioned below are but the tip of an iceberg of absolutely amazing 45s in 2017 so far: next time we catch up in the street or in the pub or skulking at the back of a venue there’ll be plenty of time for us to bore you about all the others, we hope).

Inevitably, after all that build-up, the first single on our pile isn’t actually on vinyl at all, which would have confused the hell out of north London 1958. Aussie combo Last Leaves, apparently last seen shacked up in the Dandenongs, feature a few names you’ll know, and who have starred in bands that we’ve penned eager words on over past decades, but I think it’s probably sufficient to let their music do most of the talking. The LLs recently announced their presence via a terrific contribution to Matinée’s “Matinee Idols” v/a comp, a swashbuckling belter of an indie pop song called “Something Falls” whose urgency and plaintiveness reminded us a soupcon of Hate Week’s near-flawless single last year, even if it drew back from the latter’s charmingly unsculpted chaos. This second Last Leaves song to hit our ears is “The World We Had”, a single on Melbourne’s Lost & Lonesome Recording Co, and it proves their upcoming album is going to be well worth looking out for, being an aquaplaning jumble of jangling guitars and erudite musicianship that knows just how to balance the sadnesses of growing older with the joy and vitality of modern, unashamedly in-yer-face pop music.

Coming from a slightly different angle, Crayola Summer’s “I Know Who We Are” (on Emotional Response) is one of those random records that comes out of nowhere and instantly embeds itself as both an earworm and a mini-classic. Everything about it is just right: it’s a cherry-red flexi-disc in wraparound pic sleeve, whilst the music within basically captures 14 Iced Bears’ “chrysalis moment” when, around the time of their first s/t, they rapidly evolved from post-anorak jangletastic to sweetly psychedelic shambling semi-chaos. “I Know Who We Are” takes these reference points and runs with them, very fast: the zig-zagging post-Bears bassline is a particular treat. It could have been released any time in the last 30 years or so, in all honesty, but it was born to grace a flexi like this.

We think you all know about the Fireworks by now, one of the best new British bands of recent years. Now with new lead vocalist Beth Arzy on board, their latest 7” EP, a Shelflife / Opposite Number joint, continues to see them luxuriating in the finest indie-pop traditions: the lead tune “Dream About You” is the smoothest and most instant, if perhaps marginally less raw than their first 45s, and it’s accompanied by the pretty ace “We’ve Been Wasting Time”, a buzzing minute and a half of down-the-line pop noise that co-opts Mary Chain fuzz with early Primitives, and our own pick “Better Without You Now”, a sublime jangler that picks up where the Razorcuts-y “Back To You” or “The Ghost Of You” had left off. We’ve now worked out that Cherry Red will get up to doing the “C17” box set comp in about 2046, at which point it feels pretty clear that one of these will have to be on it.

Erm, we’ve had cause to rep for the Charlie Tipper Conspiracy (née Experiment) a few times over recent seasons, too. Their train-themed “Network” EP, the final instalment of a trilogy on their own Breaking Down label, sees them continue to flit between light and shade, powering into view with the driving, horn-bled toe-tapper “Cross Country”, but the clincher for us is the closing Ian Curtis tribute, a cover version of “Disorder” which takes the template Low used for “Transmission” (switch down the pace, ratchet up the tension) and does it absolutely beautifully, especially when one-man brass section “Iceman” Harry Furniss rolls up. It’s reminiscent of Tim R’s earlier work with underrated Bristol genii Kyoko, a slice of slo-fi heaven.

The Jasmine Minks leave a wealth of jewels in their mighty wake, a cavalcade of characterful music that we unaccountably slept on for a good couple of decades until “I Heard I Wish It Would Rain” finally convinced us to delve properly into their Creation and later back catalogue. The latest addition to their ouevre is “Ten Thousand Tears”, a 7” on Oatcake Records all proceeds of which go to Motor Neurone Disease Scotland, and it’s a solemn, wry look back at life (with a plea to make the most of it) that is really made, for us, by the combination of Tom Reid’s gorgeous vocal and its brace of beautiful guitar instrumentals.

Last of all though, we can’t let this opportunity go by without mentioning the recent Burial single. Cool as ever on 10” in regulation matt-black Hyperdub sleeve, “Subtemple” continues the man’s journey of confounding us all by somehow managing, year upon year, to make each new release even more fragmented and subliminal than the previous one, as he progresses towards the position where Burial’s journey from “dance music” to “not even music” will be perfect and complete. It’s also now that we realise the urgency for the human race to create a viable time machine. Not just to try and head off chumps like Trump and Farage, but because we would *love* to go back to the heyday of Ace Café armed with a copy of this, and to see the sheer confusion it would have unleashed.


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