reviews september 2008

The Delmontes, Carousel (LTM) CD
A Saturday afternoon in June 1980, that was when I saw them and I still remember it. An under-developed teenager who had difficulty in passing as an eighteen year old and thus gain entry to the exciting netherworld of pubs and small clubs where many a gig was held, this was an opportunity to see bands that wasn’t to be missed.

The Meadows Festival in Edinburgh, a collection of fairground rides, miscellaneous stalls and competitions that was held one weekend each summer. One other attraction was a truck doubling as a stage, upon which local bands played to a varied assortment of casually curious and discerning in-the-know souls. How I wished that one day I would be amongst the latter.

In those days my home town was passing through what might be thought of as its brief moment in the spotlight somewhere near the indie cutting edge, though the word “indie” hadn’t been coined yet. The Postcard label was just about to announce itself and the baton of Caledonian cool would soon be spirited along the M8 to Glasgow where it has been jealously kept ever since, but for one moment in the passage of time Edinburgh was fertile ground for what was then termed “alternative” music.

The Fast Product label had shut itself down as it was beginning to become “big”, the spectre of success and its inevitable compromises was something to be avoided. Back then some people were genuinely idealistic about the new music scene, fools that we all were. Fast Product had released records by the likes of the Human League (an earlier experimental incarnation of the electro-popsters you may be more familiar with), the Mekons, and the Gang Of Four – as well as others that included some obscure Manchester band named Joy Division.

Staid old Edinburgh with its secret arty pretensions had very quickly moved on from the punk typhoon and was producing bands such as Another Pretty Face, The Scars, The Fire Engines and Josef K amongst many others.

That afternoon The Cheetahs played a set bedevilled with PA issues, I chuckled when the singer’s microphone wouldn’t work and the band directed some ire towards the poor chap on the sound desk. Mowgli and the Donuts played their psychedelic rock, already brave remnants of a receding musical style. After their set the guitarist came and chatted to some friends I was standing with who informed him that his band were crap, he accepted this good natured japery with a laugh.

Then another band started up, jaunty keyboards supplementing the core guitar/bass/drums triumvirate and a girl in a baggy blue coat sung. I liked them. I stood and listened to their songs, one of my mates informed me that they were called The Delmontes. I really liked them. Someone in the crowd near the front of the stage reached up with something, the singer took the proffered toy trumpet and blew upon it cautiously. All too soon they were leaving the stage, but only after charming an impressionable adolescent with their sophisticated alternative pop. I discovered that they had a record out on a local label called Rational Records, I bought it. I played it an awful lot.

The band occasionally featured in the music press. The following year they had another record released, again on the Rational label – I played that an awful lot too. A few more mentions in the music press, and then nothing more. I supposed that they must have split up as all bands do eventually, for over a quarter of a century – nothing. I still played the two 7” singles occasionally and remembered, then one day ... then one day I found out that somebody had put out a CD of old and unreleased Delmontes tracks. Of course I bought a copy immediately, listening to it was a rather strange experience. Twenty two songs, thirteen of these by the band I remembered and nine by the same band who had fired off two members and tried to become another band entirely. Some good stuff, some very good stuff. The sound very much belongs to its time, we are all marked by the times we live in perhaps. May you live in interesting times, dear reader. Vibrant keyboards, spiky guitars, robust rhythmics and mannered vocals – interesting times for this old codger anyhow. I clutch this artefact with its attendant nostalgia and recommend it to you – but what else would you expect me to do? (Laurence)

Indietracks Festival 2008 @ The Midland Railway, Butterley 
So here we are again, back in deepest Derbyshire for Indietracks 2008. A cruel clash of dates meant that your correspondent could only attend Saturday’s events so Sunday’s goings on will remain unrecorded within the pages of this journal. Still, Saturday looked good to me as the old jalopy spluttered to the railway heritage site where this singular jamboree takes place. Gosh, a few more in attendance than last year; perhaps three or four times the crowd are here compared to last summer’s get-together. The organisers have stepped up things a little too, there’s an ambulance and first-aiders as well as some security chaps keeping an eye on proceedings. Most impressively, somebody’s arranged for scorching sunshine to be laid on for the weekend – that must have taken some doing.

Being a hot day I immediately make for the church. The smallest of the three stages, it’s constructed of corrugated metal and the windows cannot be opened. It’s a bit like a scene from a Baptist chapel in the deep south of America, with everyone languidly fanning themselves in the pews whilst the minister sermonises. Instead of a hell and fury pastor we get a band called Mexican Kids At Home, they turn up late and lay some wishy-washy feyness upon the stewing assembly. They redeem themselves with a strong end to their set and there’s a bit of a breathless stampede to escape out into the open air. I go and get an ice cream.

Town Bike are rocking the outdoor stage, that being the back of a strategically parked truck. They’re loud, simple, straight-ahead youthful fun and their members wear ten-pin bowling shirts upon which is printed the band name. Little touches can make all the difference. I venture another visit to the inferno that is the Church for Still Corners, who provide the first bit of class today. A girl singer with an impressive voice, some shoe-gazey guitar atmospherics, and an appreciative response from a knowledgeable audience. Time for another ice cream.

Ah good, Slow Down Tallahassee are on the outside stage. Oh dear, they may have had a little too much to drink. Some missed cues and false starts mean that this may not be the set that they look back upon with the greatest pride, but an uneven performance from this gang will often beat the best that others can offer. I spy some familiar faces here and there amongst the throng, naturally they hurry off in the opposite direction when they note your correspondent’s approach but some are cornered and cannot escape a chat with this old bugger. Ice cream, anyone?

Actually, there’s a nice, friendly, laid back atmosphere to the whole day and everyone seems to be enjoying themselves very much. I make sure I’ve got a good spot in the Church in plenty of time for The Just Joans. Somebody seems to have turned up the heating but this lot are worth a bit of heat stroke I reckon. They play witty songs with some aplomb and don’t appear to take themselves too seriously. This freshness combined with an easy charm and simplicity make them ones to cherish. An ice cream would be nice right now, good idea.

There is a Terminator-like security operative watching over us, straight backed and unflinching in leather gloves and mirror shades. One cannot but help feel safe and secure with this vigilant sentinel protecting us from whatever unspoken dangers may lurk, it’s hard not to feel sorry for the chap though as with such a good natured crowd our guardian will very likely have to wait for another day to kick ass and crack skulls. He could get himself a 99, though.

I think that I would have quite enjoyed the Roadside Poppies if they’d left their misbehaving beat box at home, their set was blighted by this malfunctioning technology which prevented them from just getting on with it and showing us what they could do. A pity, as they seemed to have plenty. Liechtenstein are outside, an all girl outfit purveying pleasant if unspectacular guitar indie. Perhaps a vanilla cone on the way to the big shed.

I’m drawn there by The Parallelograms. One just cannot come to a shindig like this and not catch The Parallelograms. They do the same as they always do, delight any lucky enough to be in the vicinity with their fun-filled shambolics. Back out into the sunshine for Red Pony Clock, they’re rather brilliant. Eight manic Mexican-Americans with a quirky world-view, and the off-kilter talent to deliver a musical fizz-bomb. A sense of humour and a genuinely unusual approach, they’ve got lots of instruments and they know how to use them. Best band I’ve seen in a while, stars of the day definitely. An ice to celebrate!

It’s back to the big shed for Pocketbooks who keep the quality level high with a set consisting of paperback short stories and swinging keyboards with pop harmonies. Steve is the official event photographer, I’m impressed with his professionalism. A boiling day and he’s wandering around in a heavy jacket because all his bits of gear are contained in its various pockets. On the outside stage The Kabeedies are giving it their all, plenty of energy and all that. I fancy another ice cream, actually.

I’m too late to get into the Church for Lardpony’s set. It’s heaving inside but I stand outside and listen as they draw enthusiastic applause from those inside. Same again when Harvey Williams (he used to be Another Sunny Day) plays. I stand outside listening at the windows with a few dozen others who weren’t quick enough to be in place at the right time. Those assembled outside politely applaud each song, unheard by those within, unaware of our appreciative presence without. I find this to be strangely charming idea. I think an ice cream might be in order.

In the big shed Comet Gain are playing, or are they? Their big sound seems well suited to the echoing vastness of this cavernous venue, but something appears to be amiss. One of the Liechtenstein ladies is playing bass and some chap’s wandering around with a piece of paper in his hand. Later the facts of l’affair de Comet Gain are revealed to me; only one member of the band bothered to turn up, leading to some last minute recruitment being done. The stand-ins did such a good job that surely nobody would miss the regulars if they were to get the chop. It’s been a long day and I gallantly force down one more ice cream in the services of journalism.

So that was it for me. I hear that there were some fine performances on Sunday but I’m glad that I caught Red Pony Clock and The Just Joans, either of these would have been worth the trip by themselves. It’s an axiom of football that you never notice the referee when he’s had a good game, you only become aware of him when he errs. Bit like that with sound men, when they do a great job nobody pats them on the back but they can ruin any set with a few misplaced knob twiddles. So an imaginary round of applause to the sound technician types of the festival is in order, thank you gentlemen.

Technology has its dark side too however, a few performances were bedevilled by glitches in rhythm machine tracks which messed up the bands concerned. I wonder if it’s preferable for music to express humanity with its inherent imperfections rather than be oppressed by a remorseless tyrannical beat. Will this festival be even bigger next year? This year’s seemed to be a great success and I suspect that it might lose some of what makes it special if it were to “go large”, there will be many with good memories of this weekend I’m sure. I seem to have gone off ice cream since I got back though. (Laurence)

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