a lot of this is self-indulgent bananas
Weíve all got a favourite obscure band, a band that we call our own, that we almost revel in because no-one else knows them and, frankly, no-one will. We love them because theyíre ours. This 4 CD set has been out for a while now, but is full of such bands. Bands which made it big Ďlocallyí (ie about 4 states) in America, but which the rest of the world remained solidly oblivious to. The Gants, The Zakary Thaks, Dave Allen and the Arrows...perhaps aficionados are aware of these, but to the general public they mean zip. But this is great stuff. Every track is a lost classic, made by frat boys in garages, out for stardom but who made an impact with just one song...Stop-Get A Ticket, Mindrocker, I Wonder. Songs which in a sane world would now be classics, as familiar to all as Let It Be or Wonderwall. Which is what makes this set so essential. Ignore the crappy 60s cover art (a throwback to the original 70s Nuggets compilation) and the rather sanctimonious essays inside Ė along the lines of I discovered this, therefore I am cooler than you Ė you must buy this now. I kneel in wonder at The Gants.
Whereís Wolfie (Parasol)
Wolfie Ė a quite strange name for a rather strange band. The album sounds like it was recorded in someoneís front room, and knowing this type of thing, probably was. Yet although resolutely lo-fi it has a charm and innocence of its own. A lot of it is reminiscent of Bis in many ways, with tinny synth parping away in the background, but has none of the self-consciousness of the Scottish band. Good stuff.
Godspeed You Black Emperor!
Slow Riot for New Zero Kanada E.P. (Kranky)
The problem with this EP is thereís so damn much going on itís hard to describe. One way would be quiet/loud/quiet again/loud again/repeat until finished, another would be to say more instrumental rock with no lyrics. That would be a cowardís way out. And cowards are clearly not what Godspeed You Black Emperor need or want. Instead you get the odd speech sample, sometimes unintelligible, often nonsensical non-sequiteurs. Itís reminiscent in many ways to much of DJ Shadowís work but without the beats; all about atmosphere, ambience and depth. Instant on the first listen Ė that first crescendo on the first track (there are no titles) hauls you in by the metaphorical balls and then challenges you to listen further.
...sings the songs of the Shangri-Las (Ochre)
The master of the downbeat returns with four tracks from the girl group pioneers. And of course, theyíre the most over-wrought, harrowing listen youíll have all year. Do not listen if youíre feeling the slightest bit fucked-up, because all it will achieve is making you feel worse. Top marks, then, Dave.
Kleenex Girl Wonder
Ponyoak (March Records)
The Graham Smith is an arrogant beast. Not content with perhaps the most conceited album title...ever! in Graham Smith is the coolest person alive he now regales us with tracks from his home studio/dorm room, for us to gasp in awe at and convince ourselves that yes indeed, he is the second coming. So he might then be forgiven for his past sins, bearing in mind that Ponyoak, despite the odds, is actually quite good. College rock without the self-importance, Smith successfully manages to blend 60s style sweet pop songs with outlandish lo-fi weirdness. Graham Smith Is The Strongest Person Alive (OK, self-effacement is not his strong point) edges along tentatively at first before exploding in a rage of positive self-pity and, later, confidence. Ark Of Godiva is perhaps the strongest track lyrically and musically (Young men undress our fair queen with their eyes/ And she likes to think they're blind/But such hideous thoughts find a home in their minds/So she rides to the great divide), but itís perhaps a pity that it lies buried one third of the way through the album. Good stuff, then, but outstays its welcome somewhat.
twenty twenty sound (EMI)
A Levitation side project, this lot have been touted as part of the nu-psychedelia fad and hailed as majestic antecedents to a chain that started with 60s garage. Yet in fact theyíre not. This album just noodles its way through forty minutes and itís difficult to discern any appreciable change in mood, or even much trace of psychedelia. It just drifts at times, each track seemingly identical to the last and leaving you in no doubt as to what comes next. Nu-Ocean Colour Scene, anyone?
Terror Twilight (Domino)
Ah, Pavement. Saviours of the picket fence, tortured geniuses of the underground, and kind to animals to boot. Their last album Brighten The Corners was disappointing, a feeble limp round the local neighbourhood, kicking up in the dust a couple of interesting singles but really no playground bully. Terror Twilight on the other hand is a much truer return to form, allowing itself gentle experimentation whilst letting the Pavement template shine through. Itís even got a tribute to Swindonís princess of pop Ms Piper on it. The vibe is of lazy summer afternoons lying in the park, doing not very much at all but watch the people go past and have a quiet chuckle. This is profoundly happy yet mellow record, rocking out when needed, maudlin perhaps at times, but nevertheless not having much of a care in the world. Itís produced by the same Nigel bloke that produced OK Computer, but donít let that put you off. This is no sonic experiment in misery. Itís the sort of music you play in the garden on a hot August afternoon, and you donít care if the neighbours get annoyed. You play it in your drop-top coupť, elbow on the windowsill, breezing through a fashionable street full of beautiful people. You crank it up on a cold evening and it reminds you of what you did the last time the sun shone. Got it? Good. Also, try to get the version with bonus CD-ROM for extra fun.
Jet Generation (Matador)
Itís hard not to laugh when you see the sticker Matador have put on the CD box. WARNING, it reads, this is the loudest album ever recorded. Playing at normal volume may cause irreparable damage to stereo equipment. Use at your own risk. That sticker is almost worth the purchase price alone. It sounds like one of the gimmicks that schlocky 50s horror films had as tag lines; If you die of fright watching this picture XYZ Movies, Inc, will pay your family $1 million life insurance. Itís the sort of thing that is GUARANTEED to drum up a few extra sales. So our purchaser takes the disk home, puts it in the player, and, just in case, cranks down the stereo a few notches, you know, ícos these record companies are no fools. BOOM!! His head explodes. For once, the gimmick holds true. There is nothing on Earth that sounds anything like this album, apart from perhaps other Guitar Wolf albums. Itís a haze of distortion, vocals drowned out by fuzz guitars played at ten thousand miles an hour by Japanese blokes with a peculiar grasp of English and of American garage rock. Itís like The Ramones decided that they wanted to be in Grease, only a version that takes place in Tokyo and which forgets about saccharine-sweet tunes and concentrates on low-down, sweaty lock and loll, as you hear several times through the course of these 35 minutes. There is no bass; it isnít needed. Song titles are irrelevant. Hell, this CD is so loud it could hang round on street corners and proclaim itself to be the future of music, and everyone would agree, if only for the fact nothing else was audible underneath it. Itís the most remarkable thing youíll hear all year. Your head will pound at the end, if the stereo pulls through, but come the final chord of Can-Nana Fever, youíll know that you are a better person, a better rocker, for owning this record. Now go wash your hands.
E Luxo So (Blast First)
Another year, another Labradford album. And, despite being the best band named after a northern town (OK, so maybe there arenít many more) they think they still have something to prove. Itís not actually that this Labradford album is much different from the last Labradford album Me Medea Oranja, or that this is a huge artistic step forward. Labradford albums have always been about the sum of the constituent parts rather than individual tracks, the mood being more important than the mode. That they inaugurated a so-called Festival Of Drifting speaks volumes. So, then, E Luxo So drifts around for forty minutes, not really going anywhere but doing it in a suitably blissed-out manner, coming back to motifs from time to time and generally invoking a feeling of two in the morning on Sunday at Glastonbury when youíve just about had enough, want to go home but thereís still a day but you need a rest. You could fall asleep quite comfortably to this album, and that is a Good Thing. You could write a book listening to this, or even a zine. Itís not quite background music, but itís a struggle to pay it full attention for the whole way through. Whether thatís the intended goal, who knows.
In Shop We Build Electric Chairs (Professional Music 1984-93) (Recordhead)
Unwieldy title for a strange, completely anonymous album. A series of lo-fi ďexperimentsĒ that to an untrained ear sound like a few drunken pissabouts done after getting back from the pub. Thatís not to say this is without merit, Itís just you need to know what youíre letting yourself in for. Itís tough to listen to the whole way through; thereís little in the way of anything even vaguely hummable. There are probably avant-garde noise theorists who will dissect this to pieces, and conclude that Ceramic Cock Einstein is a savage critique on phoney academic study, and give a long drawn-out treatise on why in fact Drum Solo is the most tuneful piece on the whole record. Only at the end of final track Those Little Bastards Will Bite is all finally revealed, if you know what youíre listening for. Terrifying experience isnít far off. Professional it certainly ainít.
Neutral Milk Hotel
In The Aeroplane Over The Sea (Merge, Import)
It would be very easy to consign this album to the bin marked ĎSecond-hand shop NOWí after one listen. It sounds terrible, badly mixed with whiny vocals, over-loud drums and over-zealous brass. Yet strangely, a while after the first play it draws you back in. Still you donít get it, so it gets hidden under the Sleeper CDs for a while. I mean, surely sulky pouty old Louise Wener is better than this gubbins, right? Wrong. Very wrong. This is the sort of record where, months after the original purchase and many aborted play-throughs later, an epiphany will take place. Suddenly, you will know all the tunes. Not that youíve been humming them or anything, itís just itís like youíve been familiar with them all your life, taken them to bed with you, curled up with them and theyíve sung you gently to sleep. Youíll realise that the production, the drums, the brass, Jeff Magnumís whiny voice, all of these seem perfect in retrospect. Two-Headed Boy, Oh Comely, the title track, all of these and more will suddenly make sense and pull you in deeper. And round and round youíll go, immersing yourself in this remarkable album, wondering how you managed to live without it all this while. Itíll just take time. patience is a virtue, so they say.
I discovered this, therefore I am cooler than you
Do not listen if you're feeling the slightest bit fucked-up
Itís even got a tribute to Swindonís princess of pop Ms Piper on it
You could write a book listening to this, or even a zine
surely sulky pouty old Louise Wener is better than this gubbins