reviews april 2003

The Earlies, 25 Easy Pieces/ Long Road (Again) 7"

You’ve heard this before, a thousand times, but you never knew what it was. You heard it on the day you dropped into this torrid world of ours and for the several months prior. You hear it just before you are awakened on a Summer morning by a shaft of sunlight caressing your eyelids. You hear it when you are in love. You hear it when you’ve finished off the half a bottle of wine you said you’d keep for tomorrow and now it’s two in the morning and aren’t the stars beautiful.. Long Road (Again) is the sound inside your head, the comfortable sound of the womb, the gentle beat of your heart, the warmth of the sun, the deep white-speckled blue of the clear night sky. It is all of these, played quietly and without fuss on the myriad instruments you’d associate with any Elephant 6 band, and it is now available whenever you need it. 25 Easy Pieces is equally as beautiful, but more easily described: High Llamas in a daze.

The Static Waves, Lily Struts in Waltz Time Towards The Blinds (Sorted) 7"

It’s a mini adventure. Dinosaur Jr have invaded The Static Waves’ bedroom and started recording on the 4-track. The band steam in and wrestle their equipment back. The fighting is intense, veering first the Mascis gang’s way (tune/noise) and then to the ‘Waves (noise/tune) and then back, followed by a period of tense regrouping and eyeballing across no-man’s land before The Static Waves’ mum comes back from the shops ("Stop that right this minute!") and pulls the plug. PO Box 5922, Leicester, LE1 6XU

DJ Ordeal, You Win For I (Sparticus Stargazer) 7"

Plenty melange from the Ordeal man. There’s more beats here than on his John album, but still lots of the orchestration of other people’s sounds into his own new sonic order. You Win For I jacks about with some weird-ass spoken word record ("When new one fight, will kill old one.") and a lazy-ass piano loop that doesn’t quite. Delicious is. It plays with the rpm of a big band jazz track you’ll be familiar with and somehow blends it into a pulsating disco track you probably aren’t. On the flip, Marianne is the pick of these four, a trip down memory lane for 80s chart-hounds, a trip down paranoia drive for anyone who likes a record to keep an even beat. Or any kind of beat. Joanna rounds things off in a self-descriptive cockney rhyming kind of way. Ian Cordell, 158 Seven Sisters Road, East Sussex, BN22 0PB

Trencher/ Kurt Schwitters (Erosive/Victory Garden) 7"

So Trencher set their equipment up and just as they are about to start playing a force majeure deluges them in the used engine oil from a large and poorly maintained farm vehicle. Trencher are somewhat surprised at this turn of events, but carry on regardless. Their intended set of pristine pop songs is transformed in a twisted barrage of rock sludge. Trencher are somewhat surprised at this turn of events, but carry on regardless. They immediately slap a bunch of tracks down onto one side of red vinyl, drink piss from a cider bottle passed to them by Lemmy and hit the road in an old Transit. To fill the b-side of the single, they call in Kurt Schwitters who makes the sound of a man dancing barefoot on a hotplate trying to recite the alphabet while eating five gobstoppers. Trencher are somewhat surprised at this turn of events, but release the record regardless.

Of Montreal, Jennifer Louise (Track & Field) 7"

The irony of this one is lovely. On the b-side lurks There Is Nothing Wrong With Hating Rock Critics. On the press release lurks a clipping from the NME which, correctly, pins down Jennifer Louise as "prime-period pulp.. strange but secretly brilliant." There is nothing wrong with hating clever-clever and contrary bands. But it’s hard when they’re this good.

Primitive Painter/Pulby, split (Dead Digital) 7"

When this arrived we had Tin.RP staying with us, over from France. The weather had been a bit hit-and-miss so we were looking for something to do indoors. Sitting at the breakfast table, opening the post, the Enigma machine doodled on the cover of the single was the inspiration for a day-trip to Bletchley Park – on what turned out to be the hottest day of the Summer, with a compulsory tour guide so enormously, tediously inept that any chance of enjoying the visit was slowly drained away. Thank you, Dead Digital. Primitive Painter occupy the "1914" side of the disc. Theirs is a hard-edged electro, softened by fuzz and beep lines that at twice the rpm would make this acid. On the "1954" side, Pulby betray Human League influences but somehow make them work with a guitar on top. PO Box 94, Manchester, M19 3WY

Minmae/Seaworthy, Where The Stars Shine Bright At Night (Background Frequency) 7"

"Homemade sounds. Homemade records. Homemade sleeves." It says. Two bands crafting aural curlicues with which to decorate and enhance silence on their 4-track recorders. One man (Peter King, of course) cutting the discs by hand onto acetate. One label painting the moon against darkness on the sleeve. One release (so far) on Background Frequency. Let’s hope it’s the first of many. PO Box 72, Westmead NSW 2145, Australia

Darren Hanlon, Video Party Sleepover (Steady Cam) 7"

I never went on any kind of sleepover when I was a kid. And we never had popcorn at the pictures – we always took our own sandwiches – let alone at home. Then again, we didn’t get a video recorder til I’d moved out so it wasn’t really an issue. Darren Hanlon obviously had (a) more friends, (b) more technology, (c) more popcorn and (d) more fun than me. Or else he’s making this song about what a good time he had up. Video Party Sleepover is storytelling like Evan Dando can do storytelling, that just seems natural as a song in a gentle 60s bubblegum-through dark glasses kind of a way. I can forgive Darren his happiness then, because his song makes me happy now. PO Box 72, Westmead NSW 2145, Australia

Silo, K2 (Swim) 7"

It’s like being on a carousel running through treacle with huge bass bins lashed around the perimeter, directing sound inwards. As the ride slowly revolves, the bass finds your resonant frequency and the drone powers the vibration of your inner core. As your horse slowly rises and falls, the tone rises and falls by an amount on the limits of perception and you oscillate inside. An insistent, unstoppable, beat echoes through your mind, then stops, then starts again as you drift into drowsiness. You begin to think that you won’t listen to this one so loud through the headphones again. PO Box 3459, London, SW19 6ES

Melodiegroup, Summerness (Matinee) 7"

Flip to the b-side for 1989. As years go it’s not exactly 1969 and, yes, as songs go it’s not exactly 1969 either but it is one that’ll make you think Roy Thirlwell is sitting on the other side of the room, strumming his guitar and singing it just for you.

Dalmation Rex, My Dog's Got A Bucket On Her Head (Sorted) 7"

There was Donald Where’s Your Troosers by Andy Stewart and Blue Jean (ahem) by David Bowie but songs about trousers are not as common as you might think. (Assuming you’d ever thought of it. Which you hadn’t.) Dalmation Rex add one to the total with 28 Button Oxford Bags ("The best strides that I ever had were..") on the underneath of this white vinyl treat. Gruff garage Beefheart with silly-billy would more or less cover all you need to know. I like it. PO Box 5922, Leicester, LE1 6XU

Various, The Littlest Album (Stereo Solution) 7"

One minute each for twelve Scottish bands at 33 on a 7" album. By definition, moments of beauty are fleeting but intense, and come from Bozilla (big buzz bass, sounds like a bootleg of Flat Eric with a vocal track you’ve never hear that fits perfectly), My Legendary Girlfriend (a blast of their usual), Salvation By Stories (spoken intro, rough riff, pinging fade out, feels like an epic), Thee Moths (recorded badly, a midget gem of boy/girl pop) and, saving the best til last, The Hector Collectors (also recorded badly, but described beautifully as "BMX Bandits meet Half Man Half Biscuit.")

Thee Moths, The Need (Tiny Pop) CD

Trees and Rain is the most magicalest of the magical moments on this album. Fumble. Click. Hum. The near-silence of a tape recorder recording someone arranging a guitar comfortably on their knee. The nothing doing while microphones are pointed. Then. Acoustic guitars picking out a Bagpuss melody while a folk song hovers above, fragile and wispily beautiful. Then the phone rings, and it all stops. "Hello? Yep. Just a second." Click.

OKOK Society, Gwaith Dirgel EP (R-Bennig) 7"

A friggin’ mess. What is it? (Mix’n’match tape splicing, haunting, static gurgle.) What does it mean? ("A comment is needed on these tracks? You will never pin it down.") Why are they doing it? (See above.) It doesn’t make any sensenseensensense. But I keep listening in case one day I work it out. PO Box 35, Bangor, Gwynedd, LL57 3ZF

Meets Guitar/Taunus, split (Bearos) 7"

Meets Guitar you may also know as Gavin Baker from Billy Mahonie. As with the last Meets Guitar release, his side is simple, layered, arrangements of picked and lightly strummed guitar. Sometimes singing. Sometimes not singing. Always enticing. The best is The Old Place which has singing and banjo and sounds like a lonely hick in a barn. Taunus you may also know as members of Gaston. This is their first release and they too layer up guitars, but add gossamer beeps and rippling tingles. PO Box 7179, Birmingham, B29 6RA.

209, Take me I’m yours (Bohemian Records) CDS/ Dizzy Valise, All these things (no label) CDS

There ain’t much to do round these parts so I find myself at the keyboard on a Saturday night getting fucked up on Miller writing reviews for y’all…

Life round here’s pretty much dictated by whatever’s on the digital TV music channels. Sure you get the odd Junior Senior style pop nugget but when you’ve got Ian Van Fuckin Dahl on constant rotation you begin to wonder whether the Sunday hangover’s got more to do with the detritus being pumped straight into yr head by the town centre DJs and less to do with what you end up pissing against the wall.

Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes I long to be out there among the Saturday night masses twitching along to DJ Alligator, checking out a fight or two in between the pubs. But tonight, well tonight's your night.

The first thing to drop through my letterbox this week is a CD from 209. A band straight out of the Linkin Park ‘Shouty Shouty’ box. That said, it isn’t at all bad. There’s three mixes of the same track on here. The Linkin alike lead track is, as I said, pretty damn shouty shouty. Track three is a make weight acoustic rendition – more brooding shouty. It’s the remixed track that really packs the punch though. This is fantastic – a new genre that I will call Electro Shout. Now I’m a sucker for anything like this – Michael Jackson, Grandmaster Flash - all beat box, scratch DJ stabs and electro synth. Hell, I may even slip down town and rock the dance floor with this one.

The next jiffy bagged gem is a fantastic three tracker from Dizzy Valise. I happened to meet one of the Dizzys (as I’m sure they hate to be called) in Liverpool at a Merz gig. Meeting people who ‘are actually in a band’ themselves is generally something to be avoided as they are usually ‘actually in a SHIT band’. I should know, I’m in one. I’ve had their disc on constant rotation for almost two days now. Normally this is the sign of a nervous breakdown or the end of a relationship. However I’ve got Captain Beefheart’s Batchain Puller in reserve for these occasions.

Hell, this is fantastic. The first two tracks make you warm in the way Radiohead used to do before they wanted to annoy the fuck out of people. These people generate EMOTION – remember when music had that? It’s the third track, even though it’s a novelty of sorts, that made me listen again. The DVs have taken the appalling nineties dance squawk of Gala’s Freed from Desire and shown that in every lumpen hulk of bilge there is true beauty.

Forget Travis’s Britney bollocks, that could have been done by any third rate ‘local indie’ band. This is an inventive reworking that demands listen after listen… kind of like Elbow’s Destiny’s Child rehash – but in a completely different style (no xylophones...). Dizzy Valise are so wonderful they’ve even put some lovely downloads on their website at for y’all to listen to. (MC)

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