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  albums - tasty 20
 
  - Air Formation
- The Scaramanga Six
- Tad Dreis
- Aerogramme
- Berkeley
- 3 Doors Down
- Twinkie
- Turbonegro
- Hellfire Sermons
- Neave vs The Jazz Cigarettes
- Vermont
- The Go Betweens
- Sharko
- Black Box Recorder
 

Air Formation - Ends in Light (Drive-In Records)
Aaahh...back in 1992 life was altogether a more simple prospect, that didn’t involve bills and worries and all the rubbish that goes with late 20-something existence. Back then, life was lived for going out twice a week, and frustration meant not being able to get your fringe right in time to go into town. I’d be happy with any old fringe now.

Nowadays, of course, things are much different. Until I slipped the new Air Formation album into the cd deck that is. Air Formation are unashamedly BIG fans of Slowdive, Pale Saints, Ride and the rest, and that, readers, is okay for me.

‘Ends the Light’ drips atmospherics, and before long I’m partying like it’s ‘92 again. One can tell the band off for so obviously copying their heroes, but when they make such a sweet sounds as this, it’d seem nasty to do so.

For the record, my favourite track is ‘Brightest Star at Night’ - which apes the guitars and drums of much of Ride’s landmark ‘Nowhere’ lp, and features a vocal that has me all a quiver.

Never mind all this shouty rock shite that’d about at the moment, for pure nostalgia, and a chance to wallow in the moments where all that mattered was hairspray and a pout, this is all you need.  

 
 

The Scaramanga Six - Strike! Up the Band (Wrath)
Like label-mates, Farming Incident, the Scaramangas - as I believe they are called, are a little bit scary.

Imagine a heavy metal Cardiacs, all time changes and angular guitars and frankly odd vocals, and you’re sort of near their sound. After gigging like big gigging things for ages now, they’ve released this, their debut album. And it’s not too bad. They’re never gonna be my kind of thing - but then what is - but for those who like the racket of Eighties Matchbox with the odd clever bit thrown in, then ‘Strike’ might just grab you where it shouldn’t.

 
 

Tad Dreis - Solitaire For Two (Hedgepig)
Quite what Tad Dreis would make of the Scaramanga Six, or indeed vice versa, doesn’t bear thinking about. Tad is no doubt a sensitive soul, and for that I think he and I are perfectly suited.

‘Solitaire for Two’ is a wonderfully unassuming album, much in the vein of Darren Hanlon, especially opener, ‘I Said I’ which strums along very nicely indeed. Only on the slower songs, such as ‘Back in  a Few’ does Dreis’ whimsy get the better of him, as he out-Kinks himself, so as to become sickly.

Still, for one poor track there are plenty of good ones. Indeed, what’s this? Yes, next up is ‘Bureau de Change’ - a song so bouncy it could be...ermm..a powerball....(can you get powerballs these days by the way? The amount of powerballs I lost in the guttering...) I digress! Top marks for ending this smashing little indie-pop record with the truly moving ‘The Kitten and the Widowmaker’, which not only has a wonderful title, but is also a lesson in the stark ballad. Hurray! Go on...buy it!

 
 

Aereogramme - Sleep and Release (Chemikal Underground)
May I be struck down by a thousand salivating on-line fanzines, but I just can’t get my head around this band. Whilst others see their quite/loud, stop/start business as something of a breakthrough, sonically, I see it as guitar wankery of the highest order. And so it continues throughout this infuriating album. Where Aereogramme could sound like a very copy of Built to Spill, they insist on whacking everything up to some ridiculous level....and then doing it again, and again....kids eh?

 
 

Berkeley - Hope, Prayers and Bubblegum (Supremo)
More metal kids playing indie rock. Or is it the other way around these days...I get lost. Berkeley remind me a lot of the Manic Street Preachers. A lazy comparison, but that’s as good as you get today I’m afraid. I need a cup of tea, not this load of rubbish. I need pop music! Now!

 

3 Doors Down - Away from the Sun (Republic Records)
I said I need pop music! How dare you...3 Doors Down.....come along with this Pearl Jammy rhubarb and spoil my day! If you lived three doors down from me, I’d send the police round. Rowdy swine!

 

Turbonegro - Ass Cobra (Burning Heart)
Now then, it’d be good to see ...say....Sum 41 in a scarp with Turbonegro, because on the evidence of ‘Ass Cobra’, there’s only be one winner. And that’s probably because Turbonegro make proper punk music, in the style of say Crass, or some of the other 80s hardcore/punk survivors, whose names escape me this late at night.

I won’t say that this dunks my biscuit any, but it scares me, and that’s something I quite like when listening to music. It doesn’t happen enough nowadays, but ‘Ass Cobra’ reminds me of listening to John Peel late at night when I was little and laying there, not daring to move in case the nasty punk band came and got me. I really am a bit weird....and so is this. Strangely alluring.

 
 

Hellfire Sermons - Hymns: Ancient and Modern (Bus Stop)
One doesn’t like to dwell on football too much - these are indeed dark days for Grimsby Town, but as that old lush Jimmy Greaves said, it’s a game of two halves. As is this brilliantly eclectic lp.

In their excellent review of ‘Hymns..’, In Love With These Times In Spite of These Times’ rightly pointed out that there were plenty of small bands from the late 80s/early 90s who were lost under the rush towards baggy and then grunge. Such a band was Hellfire Sermons from Liverpool who released a few singles here and there between 1987 and 1993, all of which are collected here for posterity.

What’s so great about this compendium is it’s diversity.  Starting off with tracks like ‘Freak Storm’ and ‘Quicksand’, they come on like a more angular, intelligent version of James, but by the time of ‘Sarasine’ and ‘Bill and Sarah’ it’s pretty clear that it was at the altar of the Pixies that they were worshipping.

Nothing wrong with that of course, but that’s not the whole picture. Liverpool has a famously incestuous music scene and it’s pretty easy to see where the Coral get their influences from when you listen to ‘H.O.N.E.Y.M.O.O.N’ - a kind of electric sea shanty.

The change comes around track nine - ‘Covered in Love’, a brilliant , tense, snake of a song with a chorus that Frank Black would love to be able to write these days.

I loved early James, and I adored the Pixies, so this is something of a treat for me. But Hellfire Sermons were certainly not copyists - think of them as innovators, and cherish this album.

 

Neave vs the Jazz Cigarettes - Neave vs the Jazz Cigarettes (Nunny Records)
Grimsby - a place not normally know for its musical prowess, or indeed anything else except a decayed fishing industry, run down estates, and people living under the continuous fear of unemployment.

And so Neave vs the Jazz Cigarettes are the product of this particular sense of living, and, my, does it show.

There are seven tracks of such desolate brilliance here, that it’s hard for me not to think back to all the shitty bedsits that I rented in Grimsby and Cleethorpes. This is the sound of the underground, or the underclass, if you’re that way inclined, not a group of spoilt tarts in short skirts. Neave vs the Jazz Cigarettes have lived it. And so we get themes of divorce, factory work, disused car parks. ‘North East Lincolnshire Pastorale’ literally spells it out for you, as Tim Neave tells you, over a poppy Mogwai backing track that, well, living in Grimsby can be a pretty numbing experience.

Anyone who’s lived in a town they forgot to close down will instantly empathise with the ideas at work here. There’s nothing swish or clever going on, just that Neave is telling it like it is. And that really doesn’t happen too much any more, does it?

Contact: Phyll on 01472 350056/07950 516085 or e-mail: Phyll@Doomlord.fsnet.co.uk

 

Vermont - Ins Kino (Tblissi Recordings)
The latest in a long tradition of London based bands who wear nowt but black, Vermont seem to have been around for some while now.

This is their debut album - funded by a friend’s redundancy money (!) - and features 13 tracks of lovely pop music, sometimes in the style of Stereolab (‘We Are Not Yet For Sale’, ‘Chaos For Beginners’), other times taking their own thrash-folk route (‘Bullfight in Bogna’).

I dunno if this is the album to break Vermont out of the dull round of London venues - there seems to be something missing to me, but as a one off, stand alone album it’s a pleasantly revealing introduction.

Contact: info@vermontmusic.co.uk

 
 

The Go-Betweens - Bright Yellow Bright Orange (Circus)
A band that needs no introduction to fans of guitar pop, this is the Go-Between’s eight studio album, and it has to rank up there with the best of them.

First classic is the achingly sorrowful ‘Poison in the Walls’ which literally demands you throw your hands up in the air and sing along with the chorus. But to pick out one track from the ten on offer her would to be churlish - they’re all wonderful in their own perfectly formed way. ‘Crooked Lines’ is the lush ballad, ‘Too Much of One Thing’ the quirk pop song.

Those who know the Go-Betweens work know what to expect - ten tracks of brilliance. For those that don’t, then maybe ‘Bright Yellow Bright Orange’ is the ideal place to start.

 
 

Sharko - meeuws2 (Bang! Music)
Mad as eggs, frankly. And there’s 15 track of the nonsense to get through. They’re Belgian. And I’m not gonna mention Plastic Bertrand, oh no, not me...

Half of this infuriating album is excellent, when Sharko decide to go for the pop jugular, the other half of the time they decide to be pompous art rockers, which bores the tits off me. Pink Floyd, they are not, nor do they deserve to be. And he sounds a bit like Sting on some tracks. Don’t listen to me....I love them really...

 
 

Black Box Recorder - Passionoia (One Little Indian)
This, on the other hand, is quite simply a revelation. Having done nothing in the pulling up trees arena for the last five years, Black Box Recorder have recorded what is one of the best POP! albums of the last twelve months.

Opener, ‘The School Song’ is marvellously clever, with the sound of children chanting ‘Black Box Recorder’ over a house beat, before that most alluring of chanteuses, Sarah Nixey, pretends to be a schoolmistress! Grrrr....

Luke Haines and John Moore have written a great album based on past experiences, that, whilst being clever is also populist. A mix of Ladytron beats and Sophie Ellis Bextor dancefloor fillers rest nicely alongside more traditional BBR fayre, such as ‘British Racing Green’ and ‘When Britain Refused to Sing’, whilst new single ‘These Are The Things’ gives Kylie or Sophie EB a run for their money...or at least should do....

Then there’s Nixey singing of her upbringing in the 80s, listening to synthesisers and worshipping Andrew Ridgeley. Absolutely ace.

Best track? ‘The School Song’ is hard to resist, but ‘Girls Guide For the Modern Diva’ is so sugar sweet cute that it just about wins the day.

This is a very modern album. Very clever, you see. Try listening to this next to some of the new ‘rock’ bands that think they’re onto something new and ‘revolutionary’ these days, and your ears will make sure you do the right thing.

 

Twinkie - Album sampler
They may have the most tweesome name in tweedom, but mark Twinkie down as anorak wearers at your peril.

This sampler, which features their new single, ‘Crime’ is chock full of the sort of racket that stops, starts, and then starts again, whilst vocalist Moo hollers on about something or other. Very old skool indie.

Live, Twinkie are peerless. On cd, they do, it has to be said, lack a bit of the urgency that their stage presence gives them, but whilst they come on like a heavy metal Lungleg, then I, for one, will continue to buy their records. Possibly the East Midlands’ best kept secret, seek them out at www.twinkos.org.uk