With the kind of completely refreshing otherness that made Bjvrk a routine visitor to the shaded box about four years ago, ‘Alarm Call’ belts in on a tide of [a]LFO[/a] bloke Mark Bell‘s enchanting squishing noises and joy. “You can’t say no to happiness!”, she yells, which seems a bit harsh, but the can-climb-mountains, shall-run-barefoot-through-area-of-great-natural-beauty mood of this song is horribly persuasive.
Like all relentlessly joyful people, ‘Alarm Call’ is exhausting. But, really, exhausting in a very beautiful way.
At last: Orson Welles fronting Heavy Stereo. Rock’n’roll genius.
Produced by Alan Moulder, the indie kingdom’s Warwick The Gothmaker, ‘Wheelkings 1973’ is the first chapter in the story of One Lady Owner, a group of gentlemen from Manchester who, ironically, in car terms, look rather more like they’ve been slept in by tramps on an area of waste ground. They are, of course, the new Oasis.
And the plod begins, as the voice of Steve Dougherty, kind of more suited to saying something like, “Cressida, my spidery child, the dark one must be sated ere morning,” renders slightly ridiculous this passable debut.
Good riff, one must conclude. Much as soldiers in the Gulf War must have often looked to the skies and said, “Still. At least it’s good weather.”
THE LANCE GAMBIT TRIO
Left Bank 2
The music from that car advert where people hold up signs saying what they’re really thinking or feeling, but more importantly, this is the xylophone cheese souffli that accompanied the ‘Gallery’ section of kids’ art programmes hosted by Tony Hart, who – for readers under 25 – was a strange Scoutmaster-type who spent half his time enthusing at botched potato cut murals sent in by eight-year-olds from Stoke-On-Trent, and the other mediating between two animated Plasticine figures unable to resolve the tension in their dysfunctional homosexual relationship.
Or so it appears now.
Anyway. Who Lance Gambit? At weekends, you’ll find his name is ‘Stereolab’.
Rather like those LPs you find at car-boot sales that were designed to ‘test the stereophonic spectrum of your new high-fidelity music centre’, Beastie Boys’ DJ Mixmaster Mike‘s records are more remarkable for annoying with their scientific wizardry than enthralling with their musical worth. Hence, this: warring spliced factions of incidental music to TV adventures from the mid-1970s, and some vaguely feisty rapping. Less an inspired juxtaposition. Somewhat more, as Roland Barthes had it, than a turd on a skateboard.
And yes, five years on, there still is only one way to live your life according to the ghastly and pompous Levs. And here they come, rampaging through the undergrowth, like five blokes in a ‘Who Can Look Most Like An Allotment?’ contest to prove it.
A strange notion, updating a Levellers song. Surely a deepest betrayal in the world of unicycling and ritual slurry daubing that they and their mates inhabit, even to the free thinker it seems a bit like updating consumption, so a whole new generation of people can enjoy coughing blood. But still. Sit and enjoy, while Simon, Jeremy and the other fools burble on about ‘overpasses’ and ‘factories’ and lots of other things which in their quiche-raddled minds you find in Brighton, rather than the more realistic ‘shrubberies’, as the didgeridoos rumble on like a gastric virus.
Meanwhile. Heard the one about the crusty trying to pull? He took a girl back to his squat, and offered to show her his itchings.
‘File Under Modern Quirky Pop’, announces the sleeve as you reach for your revolver with a mission to eliminate all Madchester cinema organists. Yet here is Clint Boon, undaunted, with what one can perhaps best describe as a postmodern treatise on the Internet and Manchester cafi bars, conducted with eyebrow arched, and a Leslie Phillips-esque narration. “I guess I’ll just scoot along… and open a new website”, he chuckles. “Call it Mr Boon, play that tune”.
Nice one. Fop one. Quite unlikely to get sorted.
Not for nothing did Witness spend the large part of this year being referred to as ‘Nick McCabe’s mates’. From Wigan, and recorded in the converted chip shop owned by their guitarist’s mum and dad, it would be fair to say that Witness sound in no small way at all, rather like The Verve.
Specifically, it’s the ‘Something for the mums’ version of The Verve, rather than the ‘Crikey! I’m an astral voyager and I don’t wear shoes either’ The Verve: the bits where there’s a bit of a warm guitar noodle before the tune kicks in again. The interesting thing with Witness is that it doesn’t. All poise and heartbreak, with none of the incipient madness, here there is tasteful heartbreak and mournful introspection but not much else besides. Really, it’s just five cats and their bag.
The pale thin boy looked out of the window and watched his breath mist the cold glass. Sad to be so alone, so misunderstood. His fingers clasped the locket around his neck containing a favourite fanzine review. “Oh,” he cried. “Will I ever find love?”
“No son, you won’t,” replied his mother. “You’re far too much of a wanker.”
Such is the plight of Salako, the softest men in Hull. Their feelings always sinister, they are condemned to walk the earth in a superior indier-than-thou aura where their songs about fluffy clouds simper softly and smugly onwards, oblivious to the risk of immediate hospitalisation by affronted local brutes. Thus, ‘The Moonlight…’ is deliberately sweet and cloying, and misses the point, unlike their labelmates Belle & Sebastian, that though their idols, Felt and The Go-Betweens may have been a bit wet, they were at least trying to write pop songs.
Outside, eternal darkness fell. The boy sighed.
“Shit,” he said.
Confusing bunch, Ash. Their singer has started dressing like a fitness trainer in a men-only gym. He shaved his head in a funny way because it made him look like he’d had exploratory neurosurgery. Then there’s the fact that the band are only ever pictured sitting down or leaning against something.
And do you know why that is? It’s the same reason that Steve Lamacq looks as thin as that! No, it’s not because he’s got rickets! It’s because indie rots your bones! Anyway. Enough exciting speculation. Here’s the same old fraggle balls.
Or, as the spectacularly untethered Ig announces rather more truthfully: “I gat sheeeet”. And indeed in 1974, James Osterberg had precious little to look forward to for the next couple of years apart from The demise of The Stooges, and playing lounge dates with Ray Manzarek from The Doors.
Yet if the big old diaphanous glam frock Velvet Goldmine has any purpose at all, then prompting this piece of dubious reissue charlatanry must be it, as the might of these songs from the last Stooges show at the Michigan Palace in 1974 are undiminished in their dissolute, Dolls-like, piano-bashing, end-of-the-line glory. “I co-wrote this selection with my mother,” he drawls on the B-side. “It’s called ‘Caaack In My Paaacket.”
It was true. More often than not, he did have a cock in his pocket. Meanwhile, this was rock on the rack.
Radiohead may be able to say that Nigel Godrich did theirs. Massive Attack can say they did their own. Meanwhile, only the Lil Bunnies can truly claim that their record was recorded by Fuck Hare and The Shit Rabbit. This record features a rabbit crudely drawn to resemble a penis on the cover, which is good because if you can imagine that, only a lot louder, in a well, then that’s what this sounds like.
‘Fuck you’ advises the sleeve. It may be right. But until we find out, we shall speak no further on this matter.
Royal And Ancient
Loosely ‘The post-rock Divine Comedy‘, Club Giants are the point where Slint meets Scott Walker, which in turn presumably makes this a spiderland of a thousand dances. Formerly to be found pointing incriminatingly at great altitude in Joeyfat, here singer Matt Cole deadpans a tale of his own great and divine Royal power.
There’s a telling moment on this record, where he casts an imperious gaze over a man gathering rubbish after his royal feting: “They called him King Fred The First/It was the stupidest name they could think of at the time”, and the suspicion is that it’s a terrible, terrible line. Then you realise this is exactly why it’s in there. Between the laughter and the uncomfortable wince, that’s the Club Giants.
Prompting the question: exactly how scared can you be by a bloke called Derrick? This is the Sep‘s situation, now that brother Max Cavalera has gone off to be gruff in Soulfly: how to doomily crush all hope of a respite from unending pain and torment when your singer comes from Cleveland. You just do the same old same old, it appears.
And apocalyptically chilling it is. But it didn’t tickle my viscera, Lionel.