albums - tasty 23
Matinee Autumn Assortment
- The Steinbecks
- The Windmills
- The National
- Gary Jules
The Long Winters
- Small Victories
Future Kings of Spain
- The Twilight Singers
- Astropop 3
- Romantic & Square is Hip and Aware
- The Liberty Ship
- The Regulars
- Matinee Autumn Assortment (Matinee)
It is a measure of the this
fantastic label's brilliance that it can simply chuck out cheap priced
samplers of the quality of this one. I don't want to go over the top about
how great Matinee is....but I will...
Let's have a run through of
the tracks then. Would-be-Goods get all feisty on us, with the
Sleeper-playing-'Jeane'-alike that is 'Morning After' - something of a
paean to the hangover I think, and more songs need to be written about
that particular evil, if you ask me. Then we have the gorgeousness of
Graeme Elston's voice with Slipslide's awesomely melancholy 'Love Splits',
which melts a few things this side of the keyboard.
It's great to be able to say
you can skip over the Lucksmiths' 'After the After Party' - not least
because on any other compilation it'd be the best track by a country
smile, but we've heard it before, so we'll concentrate on the sheer
loveliness of a new Harper Lee track - 'Autumn' - which compliments the
new Brighter compilation perfectly, adding perhaps even more melancholy to
this bands' ouevre.
The Pines' 'Rainy Day' and
The Liberty Ships social documentary - 'Baseball Caps and Novas' slip down
very nicely thank you, and Airport Girl's 'Ive Seen Mexico' could truly be
heartbreaking if you let it. And then, as if that wasn't enough, The
Windmills come over all Echo and The Bunnymen on us, rocking out on
'Summer Snow'. Well, when I say rocking out, I mean in a very understated
way, of course.
This marvellous little
bugger finishes off with Pipas' short and sweet, but very sweet 'Don't
Remix' and a...erm.. Lovejoy remix of 'Night on Earth' called 'Strike a
Pose'. The contrary swine.
All in all, a perfect little
The Steinbecks - Branches and Fronds Brushing The Windows (Microindie/Low
More Aussie indie pop fun,
and there's a lot of it about these days. The Steinbeck's second album
(well, this is more of a mini-album to be honest), is a very fine thing
indeed. One wouldn't put The Steinbecks in the same league as The
Lucksmiths, but then not many bands can claim that at the moment, but they
make agreeable enough, slightly quirky indie pop, seen best in the most
fun track here, 'Mens Suit Hire', whilst 'Morell Bridge' and 'Trying too
Hard' shows the band can do the big song just as well as anyone else.
Not as immediate as I
like my pop music, but then I need things nice and simple, so don't take
that as a slight on what is a very perky record indeed.
Windmills - Now is Then (Matinee)
Recorded over seven days....but spread over two years. It'd be interested
to see which tracks were recorded when, because this is most definitely an
album of two halves.
have the more traditional Windmills sound of 'Ever to Exist' and 'Beach
Girls', which, by the way, are two of the most gloriously soppy songs
you'll ever hear. And then there's the more rocky stuff, like 'Now is
Then' and the brilliantly relentless 'Summer Snow'.
can't make up my mind which is the old stuff and which is the new. And is
possibly doesn't work like that anyway, because even older material like
the sublime 'Walking Around the World' rocks out, albeit in a very gentle
so I'll comfort myself with the fact that this is another very good
Windmills album. It's probably not as immediate as some of their earlier
work, but you still get Roy Thirwall's cuddly yet gloomy persona and all
the minor chords you could wish for. And, to be honest, what else do you
The National - Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers (Talitres Records)
sound like a Tindersticks album title, and the vocals therein may sound
very Staplesonian, but this is not, repeat NOT a Tindersticks album, okay?
this is a gorgeous, dark, dense piece of American alternative rock, if
that phrase doesn't sound so immediately hackneyed. Sure The National can
sound like Tindersticks - the first track could be that of a tribute band,
but it's debatable as to whether even Tindersticks could write something
of the beauty of 'Patterns of Fairytales' or 'Lucky You' both of which
come right at the end of 'Sad Songs..', and both of which evoke memories
of Johnny Cash more than Staples' mob.
Quite why The National have given this album such a, let's face it,
cliched title is beyond me, it's so much better than some Nick Cave
lookalike band. Sure, these are dark songs, but they're also pretty
joyful, at least to me. Then again, it's 4pm and it's dark already, so
this album is perfect for winter. Until Spring, then, I'm with the
Gary Jules - Trading Snakeoil for Wolftickets (Sanctuary)
sure what Wolftickets are, but never mind. Actually, are they tickets to
go and see the ex-Gladiator snarl in a leotard? If so, I'll have two
digress. This, of course, has that gorgeous version of 'Mad World' on it,
and it's worth it just for that. But dismiss the rest you must not. Anyone
who marvelled at the last Neil Halstead album will love this too. It
features the same kind of Cat Stevens/ Simon & Garfunkel loveliness that
is perfect for a cold winter night in.
keeps it simple throughout, and this album is all the better for it.
Whether it be the the gentle pickings of 'Umbilical Town' - an ode to not
being able to leave your hometown, or the banjo-tastic 'Princess of
Hollywood Way', which makes the current round of singer-songwriters sound
as lumpen as Napalm Death. And, did I mention, there's that version of
'Mad World' on here too? I did? Oh...well, it's ace. As is the rest.
Madrugada - Grit
Coming from the land that
spawned Aha and bad Eurovision Song Contest entries, you could be forgiven
for expecting the worst from Madrugada. But write them off at your loss -
this album is a real gem.
lazily described as 'rock' their third album is full of atmospheric and
melancholic blues and country riffs with the odd bit of proper 'rawk' thrown
in for good measure. Singer Sivert Høyem has a voice which sounds like it
was raised on 40 Marlboro reds a day - not at all gentle but still retaining
a sensitivity simply by cranking up the power when required. He sounds like
a man who has grown up in a place where there is only 2 hours sunlight each
day and for the rest of the time is spent in endless introspection.
could be drawn with Nick Cave and the production is very raw, really
bringing the most out of the sandpaper vocals and scratchy guitars. Album
highlights are the mantra like opener 'Blood Shot Adult Commitment' and the
single 'Majesty' but the whole album is a beautifully sculpted music-scape.
Apparently they are the best selling artists in Norway and on this showing
will be giving other Scando Rockers such as Sigur Ros a good run for their
a fine line between excellent indie rock and They Might Be Giants. And the
Long Winters, on this album at least, fall on the right side of that line.
That is, not the They Might be Giants side, who I will never forgive for
'Birdhouse in Your Soul' being played at every indie disco throughout my
album, then, is pretty good. It's not brilliant, and I'm not gonna fill my
nappy over it, because maybe I've heard this thing about a hundred times
over the last ten years, namely in the guise of Velo-Deluxe and Scarce in
the mid-nineties. But I'm not gonna argue with a band that can kick out
something as appealing as 'Scared Straight', which out Lips the Flaming
Lips for kooky, sugar sweet pop. Meanwhile, it's follow-up 'Shapes' maybe
even reminds me of latter day Smiths, especially the guitar line which
bops around all over the place, and if the line 'I'm counting on you to
throw more than...shhhaapppes' doesn't stick with you for a week or two,
then you're a brain dead Radiohead fan with no friends and penchant for
Harry Potter books.
The Long Winters go a bit wonky, like on 'Prom Night at Hater High', which
goes all Jools Holland on us for a bit, but when they can revert back to
something as gorgeous as 'Cinammon', I'll let them off.
said, nothing new here. But why look for the something that isn't there if
'When I Pretend to Fall' is good enough in itselflf.
Randi Russo -
Solar Bipolar (Olive Juice records)
New Yorkers have always
been the leaders of the pack in telling dark tales, but none do so with more
sincerity and poignancy than the Patti Smith mixed with PJ Harvey and a hint
of VV Kills on vocals of Randi Russo, in her NY garage punk and antifolk
style. She cynically and succinctly tells the life story of too many
people in ‘League Of The Brigands’:
'I took all of the
pain from youth and I passed it onto you. You'll probably find a brand new
love and do to her what I did to you, and we'll keep that cycle of hurt
why are the pretty ones always so cynical? The album features a fascinating
narrative song about rebellion from society’s norms ‘Lucy’s Plan’, which is
a snazzy The Clash type tune, which sharp and bouncy guitars Russo’s raw and
crisp vocals tell a compelling story. The popular theme of lost love gets
the Randi treatment in ‘Matchless’, a PJ Harvey style number in both the
darkness and sincerity of the track. ‘So It Must Be True’ dissects the
nature of optimism sharper than Voltaire in ‘Candide’. In her own inimitable
way the nifty New Yorker, with the aid of creeping guitars and clattering
percussion shows there is a darker side to reaching for the stars:
keep on seeking something from outside, you draw yourself back into your
Having previously contributed to an antifolk compilation ‘Call It What You
Want This Is Antifolk’ with revered artists such as Adam Green, Jeffrey
Lewis and Major Matt Mason USA, Russo is gaining the respect of fellow
artist and music lovers at a growing rate. It is good to see honesty and
frankness being rewarded, if there is any justice this cactus will continue
to grow in a world of rose tinted spectacles.
Dave Adair (Adairneil@aol.com)
Small Victories - Holding On Hopefully (Boobytrap Records)
An angry band has
emerged from the Welsh valleys and proclaim to be about far more than music,
as the prevalent message on the inside cover of the album sleeve urging
people to read the lyrics preferably before the listening to the music
signifies. This way you won’t try and fit them together because they don’t,
apparently. This almost indulgent proclamation will have alarm bells ringing
in many readers ears, haven’t we been down this unconventional and defiant
route with a welsh band before? That is the inevitable Manics comparison out
of the way and hopefully people can take off the blinkers and see this
offering for its true value. The lyrics are angry, defiant and almost
spiteful in places, which is borne out in ‘The Weight’:
thought this feeling would go away as I got older. Well, how wrong can
someone be? Even as I sit here now – getting closer, losing interest by the
music still plays an important part, as it is quite soothing in a Doves and
Elbow type manner to soften the impact of the bitter lyrics. Previously
released single ‘Go Back To Bed America’ is a case in point, whereby
vocalist James Chant leads a bemused protest against America in an ever
topical tuneful rant. Chant’s Guy Garvey style vocals sit neatly with
tingling piano and crisp guitars, incorporating a distinctly Elbow sound in
tracks such as ‘Come What May’ and ‘The Weight’. Unfortunately, this
uncompromising, sincere and emotive offering does represent a small victory
in the fight to impart an ounce of integrity into the music industry, with
all the hype that surrounds so many shallow and empty bands that shall
remain nameless. However, it is to be hoped that they will keep on producing
Small Victories until the battle is won.
For more information see
Dave Adair (Adairneil@aol.com)
Captain Wilberforce –
Dreams of Educated Fleas
With a name like Captain Wilberforce I half expected the
kind of bigoted tweedy ex-serviceman who writes letters to the Daily Mail to
complain about the influx of illegal immigrants in Esher. As the opening
track developed I was sorely tempted to write to the Mail myself to complain
about the number of young people these days that insist on singing like Thom
Vocals aside, the first couple of numbers built up
nicely, with shimmering guitar and washes of keyboards and vocal harmonies
reminiscent of British Sea Power’s subtler moments. Then, as “Making Apple
Juice From Oranges” began, I had to get up to check that I wasn’t actually
listening Radiohead by mistake. The riff sounds instantly familiar, but the
song is so bloody infectious, that my initial reservations were soon
forgiven (although this was slightly marred when the damn thing was still on
a loop in my head at 3am).
“Dark Clouds, takes a slight change in direction, slowing
the tempo a little and coming on like Grandaddy performing Sergeant Pepper
era Beatles, with the following “Born Again New Man” mixing a T-Rex glam
stomp with Roobarb and Custard style effects.
The closing track, “Excuses,” concludes matters nicely
with a low-fi doodle backed with minimal acoustic guitar and accordion, and
the sound of a lapping tide. Very nice, in a Badly Drawn Boy sort of way.
All in all, while some of the more obvious similarities
suggest Captain Wilberforce have not quite managed to make the break from
their influences and define their own identity, the quality of the song
writing is generally pretty high, and there is enough individuality here to
recommend a listen.
Future Kings of Spain-
Future Kings of Spain (Red Flag)
The task of
overthrowing The Thrills as Ireland’s leaders of the new rock revolution is
always going to be a difficult one, but if unpretentiousness, amateur
philosophy and frenetic noise are anything to go by then the conspiracy has
begun. The opening track and previously released debut single ‘A Place for
Everything’ has raw energy epitomised by the high pitched vocals of Joey
Wilson, with accompanying crashing guitars. This can only be described as
The Hives being fronted by Corey Taylor the ex Slipknot front man.
The album soon settles down, as
thrashing guitars and noisy vocals give way to nifty grunge/NU metal with a
hint of pop instrumentals plus melancholic and philosophical lyrics. Prime
examples being ‘Simple Fact’ and ‘Hanging Around’, the latter number
capturing feelings of rejection and longing:
‘What you can’t know now, Is how
I feel to know that you are going, that you are going.’
There is more than a hint of
Queens Of The Stone Age in ‘Face I Know’, as the pace picks up again with
thundering guitar riffs and angry vocals. This song adds to the variety of
the album and gives it some energy, thus ensuring that whatever mood you are
in be it a jump around the room energetic one or a morbidly philosophical
one; there is something for you on this intriguing debut offering.
Dave Adair (Adairneil@aol.com)
Fonda 500 - Spectrumatronicalogical Sounds (Gentle
welcome back to one of tasty's favourite bands, who kick off 2004 with an
ace album. The kind souls at Gentle Electric have taken up the Fonda 500
cause, so hurrah! to them for allowing us all to hear some of the best
psychedelic pop music around at the moment.
'Spectrum...' (and this is what I shall call, for fear of tiring my
fingers out) sees Fonda 500 breaking through the boundaries of their usual
weirdness, and into new areas of frazzled pop. Yes, they do carry on about
pesky bumble bees, and yes, they do make a lot of funny old noises about
Casio keyboards (and indeed with them), but this, the band's second album,
is so much more together than it's predecessor, which often came across as
a bit of a half-arsed idea.
band make a sound akin to the Monkies being put through a heavy metal
sieve. Sounds awful? Well, it's not, and for over an hour, Fonda 500 get
the funniest looks from everyone they meet, especially on track 30 (!!),
which consists of a scholarly voice bidding us goodnight, then giving us
just enough silence before coming back to life. You have to be there
time, it's a great Fonda 500 album, rather than half a great one. Long may
the bumble bees continue to inspire them.
Guilt - The Mirrors and Uncle Sam (Munich Records)
There is no man called John
Guilt - how confusing. Yet how can one not fail to love a record that
features a banjo for its first three minutes.
Okay, so at times John Guilt
sound like a group of pissed up tramps washing their socks in cheap rum,
but, viewers, sometimes that's a very good thing. Especially on tracks so
quintessentially American as 'Howl' - which could easily have been in an
80s Brat Pack movie and is therefore quite entertaining. Follow this up
with the Jeff Buckley-esque 'Red/White/Blue' and what you have here is a
band that on their upcoming UK tour are sure to wow a thousand scurffy
oiks still bemoaning Pavement's downfall.
Not that that would normally
butter tasty's toast. But you would have to be a cold hearted slab of
marble not to warm to many of the tender tracks here. A gentle triumph.
Much in the same vein, but
rocker in a harder way, are Greg Dulli's new band, The Twilight Singers.
If you were around in 1991, and listening to anything on Big Cat records,
then this will appeal. Me? I was around then, but much of Big Cat's stuff
left me cold (I keep typing 'Bog Cat'...mmm), apart from Scarce, of
course, but then they were pretty much peerless at the time.
I'm rambling. On with this
album, which infuriates and excites in equal measures - a bit like
Emmerdale these days. For every Bob Hope ('Teenage Wristband'), there is a
Andy Sugden ('The Killer'). In other words, half of this album is
brilliantly wild fun, the other half is wet and dull. And a teenage
US readers will have no clue
what this review means. In fact, many UK readers will think we've lost the
plot. They may be right. But it's probably best that way....
Astropop 3 - Allies and Stepping Stones (Planting Seeds Records)
The first we've heard from
Planting Seeds Records in some time, but, on the evidence of this fabulous
album, we hope they don't take so long to get back to us.
This is a marvellous romp
through fuzz-pop territory. Starting off with the gambolling lamb that is
'Forget Tomorrow', which brings to mind the much missed Adorable, and
through the equally catchy 'Nothing Without You'. Astropop 3 can also do
Lush very well indeed, and on 'Fade on Your Own' it's just like 1990 all
over again. Super.
In places this album does
slip into mediocrity - 'Anything' and 'Cubicles' are neither welcome nor
pleasant, but on the whole, what we have here is some prime American indie-pop.
The Experimental Pop Band - Tarmac &
Flames (Cooking Vinyl).
down to earth Davey Woodhead of The Experimental Pop Band has been writing
music for years and is the epitome of the work ethic that is what makes the
Indie scene special. This bold venture sees Ladytron style electronica,
typical mournful Monday morning Indie and Mick Skinneresque white rap are
thrown into the brew to create an interesting broth. The subject matter of
the songs tends to be commentaries on societies underbelly regardless of the
genre TEPB are adopting. ‘Crow Ventura’ a The Streets tribute song is a
great example of this, a narrative of a luckless youth who suffers more
abuse than alcohol on a Friday night. ‘Can’t Stand It’ takes a bitter walk
down the well trodden path of one night stands in one of the electronica
based offerings. The experiment intriguingly extends to adopting a 13 era
Blur sound in ‘Gothenburg’.
most impressive thing about this album is the authenticity of it, as Davey
Woodhead is more qualified that a lot of musicians who comment on the
mundane nature of life in slow lane because he still does the boring low
life jobs. The characters and situations portrayed through experimental
medium could be happening anywhere in this country. An album full of life
loathing lyrics is usually very hard to take, but when it comes with such
variety it makes it all the more compelling.
Dave Adair (Adairneil@aol.com)
Various - Romantic and Square is Hip and
This is sacred ground, of course. Not many groups have had the nerve to
attempt a Smiths cover, yet here we have a whole album of them from
Smiths are my favouritestestestest band in the world - EVER! - and so I
should simply take one glance at this seemingly worthless piece of pudding
and stamp on it with my slippers, but hang on a moment! What's this? A
fuzz-polka version of 'I Know It's Over' by Pale Sunday? A even more
sinister than the original version of 'This Night Has Opened My Eyes' by
Pipas (who are on such a great run of form that they could burp into a
microphone and it's be great)? And just over there is a beautifully lush
version of 'Girlfriend in a Coma' by Lovejoy. Add to this Simpatico's -
excuse my French - fucking stunning version of 'That Joke Isn't Funny
Anymore', and the Liberty Ship's almost metal (stop laughing!) version of
'Sweet and Tender Hooligan' and things have turned out fine again.
to be a downside. There just has to be. In fact there are two. The Pines'
overlong version of 'Ask' and The Guild League's far too twee version of
'Panic'. I know 'Ask' is an attack wrapped up in a whimsical pop song, but
it shouldn't be this whimsical!
No matter, because the best is saved for last. The Snowdrops give us such
a fantastic working of 'Bigmouth Strikes Again', that any small blips can
instantly be forgotten and we can all start smiling again.
Matinee bands could pull something like this off. And, by crikey, they
The Liberty Ship - Tide (Matinee)
Being the best band in Nottingham isn't exactly difficult these days (or
any day come to that), but The Liberty Ship are just that by a country
mile. 'Tide', the band's debut album on Matinee, only confirms this fact
a pleasure to have watched The Liberty Ship strut their stuff (in a gentle
way of course!) on many a stage over the last two years or so, and so
'Tide' to me, seems like something of a coming of age. Here, at last,
after a few false starts, is the the new real Liberty Ship album, complete
with Marc Elston's love of both Rickenbacker guitars and analogue synths...and
more importantly, great pop music.
amply shown on the first great track here. 'Chords Drag You Down' is a
tense yet fragile little bugger, with Marc's voice brilliantly understated
throughout. And that crackle from the synth in the background gives me
goosebumps. And it's quite warm in here.
course, The Liberty Ship are no one man band - the tracks that Rachel
sings on have often been some of the best The Liberty Ship have given us.
'The Final Kick' is a good example. Almost thrown together, it brings to
mind latter day Smiths, and in particular 'Unloveable'....but maybe at
comparisons don't really do 'Tide' justice. The Liberty Ship have been
compared to all manner of 80s bands, from Hurrah to East Village - and I
suspect Marc and the band are chuffed with this. But like that other great
Elston album of the last 12 months - Slipslide's 'The World Can Wait',
'Tide' is a mighty album in its own right. It doesn't need comparison with
anything else, because, let's be honest about it, when it pisses all over
most of what passes for 'indie' music these days, this album could just
about be the best place for anyone to start listening to indie pop music.
Especially when this album contains such a precious gem as 'Coast', which
manages to bring emotions of summer days and desperately unhappy winter
nights all at the same time.
The Liberty Ship have managed to produce an album that was always within
their grasp - thank heavens! One can only look forward to what they're
gonna produce next.
The Regulars - Effortless (Bearos)
The Regulars were not known to many during the five or so years they were
together, but, judging by the quite lovely sleevenotes, they meant an
awful lot to those who were familiar with their fragile pop.
late to the Regulars, unfortunately, and only managed to see them live
once. However, 'Effortless' has come to my rescue. This is quite a
beautiful album, collecting together just about all of the Regulars work
under one roof, and housed in a familiar cut and paste, fanzine style
sleeve, which always goes down well around these parts.
seventeen tracks therein see Pete Green and his men and women take on the
banality of every day life through the medium of glorious POP! Everyone
that will have encountered this precious band will have their own Regs
favourite. Personally, I find 'University of Rain', 'It Isn't Him', 35
Hours' and the epic 'Lincolnshire Skies' nothing less than indispensable.
thing about The Regulars is that their particular brand of brittle pop
seems like it's about to fall apart at any moment. From Pete's wavering
voice, through the loose, beautiful noise behind him, this could all come
to a standstill at any given time. Thankfully, it never does.
'Effortless' finishes with the romping, celebratory 'Today at Last',
easily the most accessible of all Regulars tunes, and a great way to leave
us. Railing against the every day mundanities of work and the frustration
it brings has always brought about the very best in kitchen sink pop - The
Regulars simply carried on that proud tradition. And for that,
'Effortless' deserves to played until you drop. Utterly essential.