A Good Provider
Granted, we might haveAlanis Morissette and ROBBIE WILLIAMS on our front cover once in a while, but if you've ever doubted NME's indie credentials, check out our FIELD MICE tattoos. So pride of place this week goes to a split single featuring newcomers ESPOSITO and, more importantly, gnarled indie veterans THE BITTER SPRINGS with perhaps one of the most witheringly brilliant pop songs of the year.
It begins with singer SIMON RIVERS being beaten about the head with a soda syphon by his lady friend and evolves into a universal discourse on masculinity so touching that it may be the key to the history of the universe. To a tune redolent of BURT BACHARACH's 'I'll Never Fall In Love Again', Rivers intones his tale of useless parents, incompetent lovers and unromantic partners with a poignancy that further compounds his reputation as one of British pop's best kept secrets - a lyricist with all of MARK E SMITH's venom and JARVIS COCKER's semiotic sensibilities in one handy, west London package.
"My mother said what a girl needs best deep down is a good provider", he barks like a man who knows what a good love hangover feels like.
Humour, drama and tragedy, then, and some whimsical pastoral pop from debutantes Esposito on the other side - a good episode of Porridge for the price of a seven-inch single.
United Colours Of Benson
The sleeve, inevitably, is in black and white. A symptom of the mighty TEN BENSON's inherent contrariness; as, thankfully, is the disc within. Lead track 'Mystery Man' includes what can only be described as bizarre monkey choruses, waspy noises and lots of clattering couplets about some nebulous fellow who has power over the whole wide world without anybody knowing quite how.
In Bensonland this is as conventional as your basic forward-defensive stroke; outside of it it sounds like THE CRAMPS reeling across the M1 after a bad night on the cough mixture. It also sounds like it was recorded somewhere very damp. In a wibbly-wobbly world of its own, then, and all the better for it.
Ending Up EP
In a just and fair world, this would be Single Of The Week. Why? Because there's suffering behind these grooves. A sample quote from Tracy, who owns the tiny Dreamy Records: "I won't bore you with my tragic details - how I'm so broke I had to steal this Jiffy bag out of the rubbish bin from my crappy temp job, etc - but I think it's important that you know."
Sob stories, however, rarely work with vicious, cold-hearted scribes, but though we might usually be inclined to administer a verbal shoeing to the author of such slushy lines as, "Wish somebody would make me cry", we ain't gonna. Why not? Because this slow, miserable record - which sounds like it was bullied at school by the first BELLE & SEBASTIAN album and is probably riddled with asthma and rickets - is actually rather t'riffic.
(both Guided Missile)
Continuing our walk in an indie wonderland, MOROCCO is a solo project from MICK DERRICK, the Scottish bloke from PROLAPSE.
On 'New Javelins' he witters artlessly about something or other over a backing which is remarkably similar to seminal Bristolians THE POP GROUP's laugh-along hit 'We Are All Prostitutes'.
All in all, the kind of record which sounds infinitely better in someone else's house than in your own.
Elsewhere, the fecundity of the London Underground is paraded proudly on a juicy seven-inch platter which combines the talents of HEFNER, PENTHOUSE (of whom more later) and the sublime SPEARMINT, whose 'Sky' shows that singer SHIRLEY LEE is a truly awesome songwriter in the breathless, pure-joy pop oeuvre. Totally ace, then, but we'd recommend that he stands further away from the microphone in future.
War Of Nerves
Thus far and no further. Write this on your homework diary, pop kids: there is nothing remotely postmodern, ironic or clever about unfettered toss like this. 'War Of Nerves' is a gripe about love and loss straight out of a sawn-off version of the LIONEL RICHIE song book, sung by a bunch of extremely attractive, wealthy women from west London who wouldn't know a dark night of the soul if they came home to find one fixing their Aga. No tune, no soul, no fun. Neeeeexxxt.
MANIC STREET PREACHERS
The second single from the 'This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours' album is a disappointing reflection upon a disappointing year's work for the beasts of Blackwood. Clocking in at a booming, bombastic six minutes long, 'The Everlasting' doesn't even have a clever title. What might be even more saddening to those brave maniacs who continue to live their lives by the laws laid down unto man by the MANIC STREET PREACHERS is that SOPHIE ELLIS-BEXTOR of the execrable theaudience is the special guest on the single's extra track, 'Black Holes For The Young'. A sorry state of affairs for all concerned.
Music For Annahbird
Retro-futurist electronica ahoy! For the benefit of those not in the know, that means PIANO MAGIC sound a lot like KRAFTWERK in the early-'70s, while 'Music For Annahbird', a rudimentary little electronic riff thoughtfully plastered with cyber tweety-bird noises, is unashamedly about a year long. More interestingly, flipside 'Music For Wasps' comes with the following interesting communique from Bad Jazz HQ: "Humans only make music for humans because only humans buy music. Wasps don't buy music so no-one makes music for them. It's all so bloody unfair."
From the tune within it we can infer that wasps are big fans of BRIAN ENO's 'Another Green World'.
Valley Of The Sows
Well there's a surprise: loads of horrible noise that sounds like MARK E SMITH trying to negotiate his way out of METALLICA's Marshall stacks on a dark night in hell. PENTHOUSE are back and while the onanist's bible with which they share their name has forced them to be rechristened 50 TONS OF BLACK TERROR in America, in dear old Blighty, Penthouse are still Penthouse. Tellingly, the sleeve of 'Valley Of The Sows' features a plate of meat photographed in a variety of domestic locations, demonstrating to all interested observers that, as well as wearing sharp suits and making a horrible (but mildly alluring) racket, Penthouse cook with electric - not with gas. Conclude from that what you will.
212 (THE Weya Funk)
Even we skinny rats of indie city have to get down and get funky once in a while, and what better companions in such an endeavour than London's own Latino B-boy rascals, BRONX DOGS (presumably Bermondsey Dogs wouldn't have worked so well). With '212...', they've finally taken the opportunity to make a record of their own, rather than just tampering with other people's, and, joy of joys, it hammers together a whole Record And Tape Exchange-full of dirty disco, funky soul and electro breakbeats and fashions them into something that would not sound out of place in a Starsky And Hutch chase scene. For the benefit of posterity, the Bronx Dogs are Richard Sen and Paul Eve - more of this soon, please. SPACE The Bad Days EP (Gut)
The worst thing about Space is that they're not half as awful as you wish they'd be. 'Bad Days' is approximately the millionth single to be taken from this year's 'Tin Planet' LP and amazingly it resolutely refuses to sound like some dreary album track. Indeed, in new remixed form, festooned with MANTOVANI strings and Spanish guitars, it sounds like another Number 29 hit with a bullet for the eminently punchable Liverpudlians. Wistful songsmithery by men who are clearly far too mental ever to be allowed anywhere near any wacky baccy, la'. The version of THE ANIMALS' 'We Gotta Get Out Of This Place', which they recorded for the Honda Accord TV advert, is included to boot. Another good single from another good singles band, then. Damn their eyes.
BROTHERS IN SOUND
Just Like A Day EP
From the lovely chaps at Regal who brought you THE BETA BAND, here's another scratchy, quasi-experimental racket for people who work in record shops to devour. Lead track 'Journey Song' is full of clacking breakbeats, Megadoggy booming bass and a few more of those NEU! keyboard noises that the government must be issuing indiscriminately to bands these days. 'Scene From A Boozer' is probably the pick of the bunch, sounding as it does like a breakbeat alliance between WIRE and THE BEACH BOYS. And it's got singing on it, and as HANK MARVIN's father probably told him, "You'll never have a hit record without singing, son."
Wahey. This is what this country needs. Lots more records with shouting on them. Debutantes FANZINE have opted for the rather unconventional boy versus girl shouting contest on 'Magazine Actress' and - what do you know? - it's totally ace violent, active music; the sort of thing that you could imagine them playing at 6am if there was a war on just to get the nation into the right mood for running around hurting people. Feedback belches from every pore, and in its entirety it sounds like a fire in an Idlewild factory. Possibly the first fanzine writers not to be blithering idiots, in fact.
Waltz #2 (XO)
Even Steven Spielberg, whose Dreamworks empire ELLIOTT SMITH now belongs to, would struggle to airbrush the maudlin singer-songwriter into a commercial artiste, you might think. And that would be your first mistake, for here we have a proper single, with proper words and a proper tune that you might well find yourself weeping to gently as you scrub the mould off your shower curtain. 'Waltz #2 (XO)' is, perhaps unsurprisingly, a countrified waltz kind of a palaver, with Smith's plaintive Alex Chilton-esque vocals to the fore, the subtext of which is that we're all useless, unreliable scoundrels, but Elliott Smith's gonna love us anyhow. A lovely sentiment for the season, all told.
THE MIGHTY WAH!
Heart As Big As Liverpool
Jeeeessssuuuusssss. 'Fairytale Of New York' with a scally twist and a chorus the size of Cheshire. PETE WYLIE returns from the dead for the umpteenth time in his career with a record of such preposterously huge, VERVE-esque proportions that it threatens to block out the sun's rays forever. Close your eyes and you can see a Godzilla-proportioned Wylie ploughing his way up from the Wirral to the Albert Dock and roaring this as the terrified populace scatter before him. A monster, then, though not necessarily a particularly convincing one.
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