A version of this article originally appeared in the 11 April issue of NME
1. Manic Street Preachers – Jackie Collins Existential Question Time
We’ve been waiting with one hand on the feather boa to see what might come from the Manics’ first return to Richey Edwards’ lyrics since ‘Everything Must Go’. The first peek beneath the tarpaulin reveals a leopard-print beast that shakes off the weight of accumulated myth with a stern, gruff riff, betraying Steve Albini’s production in a heartbeat. Described by the band as “oblique, skewed punk pop” influenced by Pere Ubu, The Skids and Pixies, it picks a deft path between their past and their present. The track opens sweet and restrained, with the understatement of later work, before the refrain of “Oh mummy, what’s a Sex Pistol” breaks into the mile-a-minute, veiny-throated, word-spitting ferocity of old. Full circle and full throttle.
2. Camera Obscura – French Navy
Spring time, and all thoughts turn to kisses. All thoughts, that is, except those of Scottish swoon-pop empress Tracyanne Campbell, whose mind is permanently bent that way anyway. Leading off her band’s new album, ‘My Maudlin Career’, is this breathless memento of whirlwind summer romance, Tracyanne sounding anything but regretful as she coos, “We met by the moon of the silvery lake/You came my way… said I want you to stay”. The food of love, indeed.
3. Detachments – The Flowers That Fell
Morbidly obsessed with lost love and unhealthily fixated with A Certain Ratio and early Cure, these boys’ peevish refusal to seek musical therapy for their tuneful pathologies is our gain. The London quartet are now working on their debut album with a rich line-up of producers, including DFA’s Tim Goldsworthy, Andrew ‘Screamadelica’ Weatherall and Salem, that reflects the anticipation.
4. The Wave Pictures – If You Leave It Alone
If you put a Rumble Strips seven-inch on at the wrong speed, it might sound like this wonderfully weighed-down and melancholic, tuba-haunted tale of late-night horrors. Filled with the wry, weary despair of Absentee, The Handsome Family or Tindersticks, it’s a gentle cry of semi-suicidal despair. There are hints of Scott Walker and Herman Dune but music this sweetly, simply soporific needs no qualification.
5. Toddla T – Shake It
Italo house meets dancehall in this collaboration between Sheffield’s coolest sounds and ‘fidget house’ maestro Hervé. We didn’t come into it expecting depth, so tortured socio-political observations like “Girl just shake it, shake it/Come on and get naked, naked” do not disappoint: it’s just about the booty. The video,
a cheeky Sheffield homage to Daft Punk’s classic promo for ‘Around The World’, features a shell-suited Lothario grinding on the ladies and getting roundly rejected before finding dancefloor romance with
a TV-bonced beauty.
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6. HEALTH – Die Slow
Los Angeles noise gluttons HEALTH have clearly learnt well from their ‘HEALTH//DISCO’ remix album: their first single since their self-titled debut pistons their abusive racket into a cold, metallic electronic mould. As vindictive as the title suggests, this is grinding industrial punk that achieves a kind of beauty by virtue of its grim relentlessness. Like Ministry reimagined by Liars and voiced by School Of Seven Bells, it’s the cries of the ghost lost in the machine.
7. Bleech – Is It True That Boys Don’t Cry?
Remember the halcyon days of Britpop? Sunshine, cheap lager, radios blaring gobby Cockney vocals, boys in eyeliner and girls in clompy boots, flags, glitter and fringes? London teenage trio Bleech are definitely too young to, but this energetic rummaging through late-period Lush, Sleeper, Elastica and every grungy young woman that ever took up a guitar and refused to pout, still manages to resurrect Cool Britannia’s faded glories faster than the sight of a ‘Quoasis’ T-shirt. Managed by Andy Ross, who discovered Blur, they’re hard-gigging, hard-rocking and hard to resist on this debut single.
8. KASMS – Male Bonding
It might initially come as a surprise, on hearing Kasms’ bratty Banshees sound with its hints of ’90s shrieking nutjobs Daisy Chainsaw, that this is partially the work of ex-Test Icicle Rory Bratwell. Listen closer, though, and those shredding screamo tendencies can be discerned beneath the ominous vampiric veneer of this hugely exciting track, recorded live on to reel-to-reel tape. “Daddy likes to dance”, howls Rachel Mary Callaghan. Terrifying in the best way.
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9. The XX – Crystalised
We hope you hadn’t forgotten about this London quartet, one of our New Noise choices for this year. This, their awesome debut single proper (out April 27), is astounding, powered as it is by the moody, intimate vocal interplay of Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim. Mooching around cavernous dubstep spaces with reverberating bass and sultry acoustic guitar, it’s as sexy and dark as the Westway at night.
10. Delphic – Counterpoint
Recent Radar stars Delphic whirl an obvious fascination for the Factory Records output of New Order and Durutti Column right into the present with the techno transcendence of Underworld and the euphoria of Friendly Fires. “Tell me nothing’s wrong”, pleads singer James Cook over aching guitars and strobing synths, and who are we to burst his bubble? For these six minutes, everything’s perfect.
Don’t miss the next issue of NME, on sale from Wednesday 15 April, for the latest 10 Tracks You Have To Hear, featuring Eminem, Green Day and Dizzee Rascal.
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