“You’d better respect the music comin’ atcha, ‘cos we’re gonna get done any minute.” Uh-oh, here comes trouble. It’s a situation every young rapper’s faced: you’re laying down some new rhymes, bragging and busting it like a real Hilfiger boy, when the recording session has to be abruptly terminated. See, there’s only so much you can deal with before your confidence, your flow, is broken, and a geography teacher bearing down on you with a textbook and a bad attitude is just too much. Emergency broadcast over.
This, allegedly, is what happens in ‘Miss Parker’, a record that takes the novelty idea of your 14-year-old brother rapping in his classroom and makes fabulously stoopid musical currency out of it. In charge, and well out of the range of the fearsome Miss Parker, is big brother Morgan Nicholls, another ex-member of The Senseless Things to escape the dark shadow of fraggle and make dance music with an intensely sunny optimism. Nicholls and his other partner here, Rose Smith, currently moonlight in Delakota, but ‘Miss Parker’ is way superior to anything that band have yet achieved.
Take a massive skanking rhythm, overheated Hammond runs and some properly frazzled guitar action. Top it off with Smith flatly cooing, [I]”I love you/I love you”[/I] like a one-woman Luscious Jackson and the precociously fly William Nicholls MCing furiously into his Dictaphone. Very naughty. Within two years, the rapper will be profoundly embarrassed by his juvenilia. More fool him.
There is a line on the B-side here which goes, “My wheelchair sinks into the sand like blooms fractured and torn”. Come on, the game’s up: are we really meant to take this shit seriously? Even Richey wouldn’t have got away with that. ‘Six’, too, is the sound of four aspirational but fundamentally quite dull sixth-formers trying to be terribly clever about [I]compromises[/I] and [I]religion[/I] and possibly even [I]existentialism[/I], man, and to revolutionise pop at the same time.
The end result has all the radical spirit and philosophical depth of Duran Duran circa ‘Seven And The Ragged Tiger’, which is not, incidentally, a compliment. And sure, there’s nothing wrong with pretension [I]per se[/I], but please, save us from the witless having a crack at it. Especially these arseholes.
A clomping beat and delicate acoustic samples initially make it appear as if Lucky Pierre is some wry melancholic cousin of Kid Loco, but the jokey Star Wars answer machine message tucked away at the end of the gently absorbing ‘Chloe’ gives the game away. Lucky Pierre is, in reality, obsessive child of The Force and Arab Strap singer Aidan Moffat, squandering some of the money from his new Go! Beat deal on this terrifically beguiling seven-inch.
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Superficially, even less happens here than in the hushed environs of a Strap track – there aren’t even any mumbled paeans to heartbreak and wanking. But this is a prodigiously gifted minimalist at work, particularly on the flip, ‘Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child’, where he combines Satie-esque piano, sombre violin (reminiscent of Tony Conrad), stealthy, sputtering beats and a passing operatic soprano to truly haunting effect. Would’ve been Single Of The Week if it were raining.
Tomorrow Never Comes
Lost Girls, like almost everyone in the singles pile this week, have a fair bit of previous form – being Patrick Fitzgerald of the deathlessly fine Kitchens Of Distinction and Heidi Berry, faintly medieval songstrel once of Creation and 4AD.
The aesthetic here is predominantly space-folk, all dissolute wailing and crepuscular atmospherics, so that ‘Needle’s Eye’ comes on like a late-’90s update of This Mortal Coil‘s ‘Song To The Siren’.
Dot Allison returns with a certain hipper cachet, as the former singer in the ‘Screamadelica’-fixated One Dove and current ubiquitous presence on the style mag circuit. In essence, though, she’s cruising the same territory as Lost Girls: lulling comedown electronics, tiny melodies drifting in and out of consciousness, and a breathy attention to emotional detail that betrays close study of Tim Buckley. Lovely stuff, the both of them.
“Coming to a town near you/Experimental sounds”, sings Martin Merchant inaccurately and, even in the big serious face of Mansun, no-one this week can compete in terms of naffness with Audioweb. If history remembers them at all, it won’t be as clogging purveyors of stodgy dance-rock – butch fx unconvincingly masking a bland soul – but as the last band to thank onstage the Ginger Prick who pushed Britpop too far. “Chris Evans, nuff respect” – that was their epitaph. Hopefully.
A couple of years back, the excellent Cul De Sac (one of those American bands, like Pell Mell, who made what is broadly post-rock years before the term was invented) recorded an album with their hero, experimental folk guitarist John Fahey. As detailed by Sac leader Glenn Jones in his candid sleevenotes, it was a fractious process, chiefly since Jones wanted Fahey to play the kind of mellifluous acoustic freak-outs he patented in the ’60s, and Fahey wanted to play detuned electric cranking noises, chiefly. Interesting record, actually.
Anyway, this seven-inch is Cul De Sac‘s sweet revenge; an exquisite and pretty faithful cover of a 30-year-old Fahey song, done in a style one suspects he now despises. Curious, but terrific nonetheless.
Wa-hey, as they say. Likeably prattish big beat that’s not a million miles from the kitchen-sink/trousers-round-ankles miracle that is Bentley Rhythm Ace, only spoilt by a crappy, sped-up vocalist babbling about [I]”girls of the nite”[/I] like [I]Benny Hill[/I] on Nazi crank.
With a certain grinding inevitability, there is an unsuccessful fraggle in their ranks – Colin Owens of Scorpio Rising, a band whose degree of success made The Senseless Things look like The Beatles. Next week: The Tamperer is revealed as Mega City Four’s lovely Wiz. Sure we’re joking?
The charmless oaf from House Of Pain slopes back, proving his horny-handed hip-hop blues credentials by a) sort of singing in a moody seen-it-all-living-on-the-streets, philosophical tough guy fashion; and b) playing the guitar, which the press release seems to treat as humanity’s finest achievement since the moon landings. For people who find Beck a little too avant-garde – Gomez fans, possibly? And a hit, I fear.
Begins with the shipping forecast, which is always good. Proceeds as a blustery, rustic and slightly disturbed strumalong that sounds like the work of quasi-mystical idiot savant farmhands from somewhere in the Midwest. Or like very early REM, which amounts to pretty much the same thing.
In fact, Peeps Into Fairyland – nope, me neither – are a Scottish five-piece blessed with the patronage of Idlewild and, more alluringly, with a swayingly off-kilter song that manages to be both intimate and anthemic at the same time. No mean feat, frankly.
One last born-again indie type for the road, then. Ellis Island Sound is focused around mid-’80s NME cover star Pete Astor, who used to be a kind of cooler Lloyd Cole figure fronting smart early Creation bands The Loft and The Weather Prophets. Now apparently sworn off singing, he contents himself churning out many, many low-key singles with Ellis Island Sound (or even more frequently as The Wisdom Of Harry), most of which sound just as good as this: two rich instrumentals that have a warm natural feel to them and slightly unexpected beats, like a less bleak take on the Lucky Pierre thing.
Not quite as wine-from-water genius as his recent and improbable Regular Fries remix, for those of you taking notes.
Right, brilliant. You’d have thought that, after the almost complete failure of major labels to break new ‘alternative’ bands last year, they’d have realised the public are getting a tiny bit sick of being flogged tenth-rate copies of records they already own. Time for something a little more original, maybe – there are enough excellent and relatively original records by British bands on indie labels reviewed here, for starters, to give these dicks food for thought, maybe?
What a marvellous idea. Muse are a three-piece from Devon, won the new band competition at last year’s festival of wannabe corporate lickspittle, In The City and, we learn, have just signed to Madonna‘s Warner-affiliated Maverick label. Their debut six-track EP is chiefly distinguished by being slightly more influenced by ‘OK Computer’ than ‘The Bends’: a small point, for sure, but one which infinitesimally separates them from the serried ranks of awful Radiohead clones who’ve been signed, ignored and rapidly dropped in the past 18 months or so. Shit shit shit shit shit And all the best, lads.
“A collectable souvenir EP!” screams the cover a tad desperately, as Plastic Cowboy attempt to define the underground music of a city in four short sides of seven-inch vinyl.
Trawling through ‘Glasgow’, then, we’re presented with cobblers (The Yummy Fur and The Karelia) and decent Tortoise-isms (El Hombre Trajeado) alongside the reliably brilliant Mogwai in slightly less pensive mood than of late. ‘I Can’t Remember’ is all hard-working beats, sternly pounded piano and economic but forceful riffing. And precisely nothing like the deep, dark wonder that is the ‘Gwai‘s forthcoming ‘Come On Die Young’ long-player, he observed, mysteriously.
A more effective exercise in destroying local stereotypes, the five acts showcased on this ten-inch sampler prove there’s more to Mancunian music than out-of-control monkey boys and king-of-the-world cockheads.
The wilfully erratic Badly Drawn Boy‘s the only remotely familiar name here, in good if slightly creepy form on the lounge meets country slink of ‘Jewel Thief’. Following ‘Glasgow’‘s Hombres, the math-reveries and librarian funk of Dakota Oak prove that every city compilation needs a decent Tortoise band. Sirconical works in the same furrowed-brow drum science terrain as DJ Shadow, and Andy Votel captures the drugged lab technician vibe of Warp’s old Artificial Intelligence series. Best of all, though, are Mum & Dad, whose ‘Children With Psychic Powers’ mixes warbly Yma Sumac exoticism with dysfunctional Autechre-style electronica, and is quite the weirdest thing I’ve heard in some time. Well done.
There’s a theory that most post-rockers are really earnest heavy metal kids in art school trousers, that the shameless musicianship that underpins those limber, etiolated grooves is really just a swotty reconfiguration of dumb-ass thrash. The best thing about Billy Mahonie is how they use this to their advantage.
So, while the likes of ‘Little Feet’ are precise and pretty enough in a straight-outta-Louisville kind of way, the real treasure here is ‘Are We Rolling’, which is mathematically planned, but also profoundly hairy and pissed-off sounding, too. Clever but stupid, if you see what I mean.
Moderately famous jazz singer and some middle-aged New Yorkers in skinny ties get together to make rather tired power-pop. Sort of powercut-pop, actually. The chorus appears to float around in a manner reminiscent of A-ha‘s ‘Take On Me’, albeit in a roughed-up kind of way, so that it sounds, oddly, even more dated still. What’s the point of that, then?