reviews december 2002

The Lollies, Taste (Fortune & Glory) CD

One for our Laurence, this. Two girls and a boy with a 60s pop fixation and a garage pop attitude. Occasionally too saccharine, but mostly just the right side of the line with the odd foray into pure fuzz blitz (Way Too Special) or Ready Steady Go frenzy (Goldcrush) or silly B52 romp pomp (Like Wow Groovy.) Office Romance is my favourite, but like the chocolate bars all over the sleeve, there’s plenty to choose from. 78 Alcester Rd, Birmingham, B13 8BB

Dipsomaniacs, The Tremelo of Her Mind.. The Strings of her Soul (Free City Media) CD

Fans of the Dipsomaniac take on psychedelic burnout will buy this regardless. Those who merely dabble would do well to take a swing from the bottle of Norwegian spirit that powers the band through these new tracks. Miles Away and Before Painting Your Murals are pop songs from the alternative dimension where the sequencer never took over the charts, The Byrds never split, outer-space remained mysterious and evocative and trombones became the instrument of choice for adding moody grit to gentle, achingly beautiful songs. Dipso Raga #1 and In Syd’s Garden are not pop songs in any dimension, stretching out over the quarter hour mark as they do, but still hit the spot and never becoming exercises in exotic blues progressions or solo grandstanding. 2999 California Street, #75 San Francisco, CA 94115 USA

The Green Acre, Hotch Arrow Jamaica (Santos/Room Temperature) CDS

It sounds like someone force-fed The Blockheads a full-fat diet of Karate and Slint then shoved some amphetamines where the sun don’t shine and locked them in a roomful of disorientating disco lights and fairground mirrors. Hotch Arrow Jamaica fairly zips along, full of tricksy little touches that never detract and always ready to morph quickly into something else and back before you can say "why didn’t you put an address on the CD?"

Josephine, This is Not an Advertisement (Lithium) CD

It’s so easy to just say The Velvet Underground, but at a time when every other review seems to be saying The Stooges, it’s at least a little bit different. I don’t know Jospehine and I don’t know a thing about Jospehine but from these 15 tracks I know that Josephine couldn’t care less. Easy, hard, different, the same, whatever, so what? There’s more important things in life. Things like whether a fag looks more stylish hanging down off the left side of the lower lip or the right side. And just what degree of frown is the coolest in photographs. And whether a band could laugh in an interview and still remain 100% aloof. And how many inches left or right a bass player could move on the stage without ruining the appearance of the most aesthetic band in the world. And at the heart of all this, the music. Always, the music. Just from the songs, I know Josephine are not a band with an empty core. Just from the vibe, I know that everything is aimed at putting the music across in exactly the right context. A cool context. This is not an advertisement for something. This is something.

Cruiser, Northern Electric (Devil In The Woods) CD

Northern Electric is what happens when you turn the studio lights off at night, when the instruments get together and play themselves. While you dream, they drone; as you chase your reflection across a frozen pond, they reflect melodies back and forth; as your thoughts fog over and deep sleep sets in, the instruments fuzz up and fade out. This is the sound of your subconscious and it’s a darn sight nicer than the racket you make all day.

Host, Mean Streak (HitBack) CDS

Sounds to me like somebody had enough of Camden, got really angry and twisted everything they’d ever heard by every same-old same-old indie band ever into a long stringy streak of bile. Somebody then decided no-one would ever be able to listen to it without committing murder immediately afterwards and so softened the spikes, flattened the lumps and cleaned up the splatterings. This resulted in something not so far removed from what somebody hated but with razor sharp

Various, Venus CD

Free with El Planeta Amarillo #5, Venus is one of those compilations that you know before you ever hear it. Names like Professor Popsuggle and The Loch Ness Mouse tell you everything you need to know about the soppy pop hour you’ll be letting yourself in for. The top turn here (by a country mile – and the reason it’s getting a review at all) is Tender Trap, the latest band in the post-Heavenly family tree with a glorious new album also out on Fortuna Pop. (5 Euros) Rafa Skam, c/ Villaviciosa, 48 – 2 Dcha, 28024 Madrid, Spain

4AM, Sex, Darwinism and the Jungles of Hades (Just One Entertainment) CD

Somewhere on the outskirts of hip hop there’s a place – a one-horse ghost town – populated by bad dreams. Techno Animal pass through there from time to time, Mark Stewart has been known to trawl through the dustbins in its back alleys, the entire mashed-up fuck-step aggro-noise trippers always start from there and it’s a favoured hang-out of Octavius – the noise/beats outfit that 4AM produces. 4AM knows his way around town, but for this outing he’s decided to stick to the badlands just outside, and to go there at sunset rather than late at night. The result is a record that’s still as edgy as the Octavius releases but without the barrage mentality, a collection of dark atmospheres and fractured, fragmented beats. 274 Shipley St, San Francisco, CA 94107, USA

Things In Herds, I Can Dancing and Walking (Trust Me) CD

Would you like a record that combines the majestic ease and soaring possibilities of Radiohead with a down-to-earth folk music sensibility? If yes, then your work here is done, Things In Herds are the band you’re after. If no, then you should really think again about what you’re doing with your life. Trust me, I’m a fanzine editor.

Bronnt Industries Kapital, Untitled EP (Silent Age) CDS

In amongst the assorted crap that fell out of the envelope with this one was a slip of paper which had obviously seen better days. Typed on it, at a slight angle, were these words: "It took fucking years to get even this far." A bedroom psychiatrist could read a lot into that. The frustration on so many levels: frustration at the amount of time it takes to get anything going; frustration at the level of success attained after that much time; frustration that the only way of expressing the frustration is to type lines onto scratty bits of old envelope. The same bedroom psychiatrist would listen to the record and see those frustrations reflected in its nachtmusik, music for dark films about dark cities where strangers meet in dark places in dark moods and have dark, fleeting and unsatisfying relationships. Maggots in the Rice is not only the nastiest title, but also the most moving of the six tracks, it’s an opera singer being let down by a loved one as a storm blows itself out and her life upside down. John Carpenter is the influence the band own up to. And it’s the right one.

My Computer, Vulnerabilia (13 Amp) CD

Rick Wakeman. This is very likely the only review I will ever write which begins with the words "Rick Wakeman." Fortunately for My Computer, there is no comparison to be made between Vulnerabilia and The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table or any of the other prog mythology that tumbled from the fingers of the caped crusader throughout the 1970s... Except (you knew it was coming) that if the Rickster could’ve written this album back then, he damn well would have. He’d have ripped the beards off all the goblins in Middle Earth to have made a record this big, this glorious, this compendious, this mind-bogglingly massive, this stylistically all-embracing. Dip in for a couple of seconds and you could be in French disco, at an intimate Radiohead rehearsal, rocking out on stage with (yes, I lied) Yes, chilling out in at a basement dub party or prancing round the Hacienda or off your tits wondering how House music can do this to your head. Listen to it from beginning to end and you can’t hear the joins and you can’t understand how it works and you know you can’t escape its polymorphous grip. Vulnerabilia? Invincibilia!

Letraset, Snowy Room (Chapter) CD

Scribble. P. Scribble. R. Scribble. A. Scribble. M. There. If I only had four letters to describe Letraset it would be these: Pram. If I had more, I’d include the other Brummie soft space-rockers, Too Pure’s early 90’s roster and more modernist concerns like Printed Circuit and Lali Puna. Although it sounds disturbingly, organically simple – lovely slow bass, smooth and distant vocals, instant atmosphere and groove – Snowy Room was apparently stitched painstakingly together from fragments the Australian duo recorded at the home of Robin Schmidt, manager of a local coffee shop. Throughout its seemingly too-short length, it moves dreamily from warm dublectro to short noisescape interludes and back again. Just like the cold snow and the hot sauna, the two are mutually complementary – each the preparation for and the comedown from the other. Just like the Letraset, there’s not much to say once its been observed in action. The simplicity and the results speak for themselves. PO Box 4292, Melbourne University Parkville, Vic 3052,

Brume, Zona Ventille (Elsie and Jack) CD

I was going to do the one about the new Brume sweeping clean, but seeing as Christian Renou’s been fondling found sounds for some considerable time now and, particularly, because this is the last Brume release it doesn’t seem respectful somehow. So I’ll just sneak the gag in by the back door. You’ll never notice. Which will also be your reaction to the record unless you’re prepared to put in some effort. And that’s how it should be. For me, musique concrete works best when you assimilate it into your aural environment without any conscious attempt to do so. Sitting exactly three feet from each speaker, craning forward and straining to hear every last nuance of what might be an intentional whisper of static or might mean that your next door neighbour has just turned their toilet light on – that’s not what music’s about. Music should live with you, not force you to live for it. So Brume’s lengthy almost-silences punctuated by snippets of I-know-not-what caress and embellish the sound of a 50cc motorbike speeding down Green End Road, they weave a magical gossamer trail around the muffled conversation of the French students lodging with Mohammed next door, they merge with the tapping of my keyboard and they fill the pauses while I’m waiting for inspiration. It’s the beauty of the everyday, abstracted and refined, and returned to its source. 12 Queen Terrace, Seaton Carew, Hartlepool, TS25 1BE

Pop Off Tuesday, Pop Ahoy! (Pickled Egg) CD

Pop Ahoy! is about right. Every now and again, the good ship Pop Off Tuesday sails dangerously close to pop music. Minori, up in the crow’s nest, telescope clamped firmly to her right eye calls down to the deckhands "Pop Ahoy!" and points to port. Hiroki, at the wheel, sights the oncoming monster, turns the wheel hard to starboard, resets the rigging and catastrophe is averted once again. Pop Ahoy should be the soundtrack to Blow Up. Non sequiturs, weird juxtapositions, the 60s, the past, the future, the what-was-that, the art, the edge, the pop, the underground, the beauty, the intensity, the love, the pose, the poise, the brilliant, glorious messy simultaneous confusion and order. What does it sound like? Like dub, like pop, like Liz Cocteau, like pop, like Stereolab, like pop, like drill’n’bass like pop, like funk, like pop, like techno, like pop, like jazz, like pop. Like everything and nothing else on earth. Like half an hour of Japanese magic. 19 College Avenue, Leicester, LE2 0JF

[Several of these reviews previously appeared in Careless Talk Costs Lives]

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