Manchester Apollo


This Is Just A Modern Rock Song

Much like a Tequila Sunrise binge during Happy Hour, ‘THIS IS JUST ANOTHER MODERN ROCK SONG’ is basically a succession of cheap shots disguised by fruity colourings to make them look more attractive as the multi-limbed indie-folkpop Lotharios once again set out to prove there is far less to[a]Belle & Sebastian[/a] than actually meets the eye.

There is the ubiquitous mention of the mysterious young lady travelling across town, the cautiously-pummelled acoustic guitar, the coy literary references and, of course, the central theme, to wit: [I]”This is just another modern rock song/This is just a sorry lament/ We’re four boys in our corduroys/We’re not terrific, but we’re competent”[/I].

An entire music industry trembles with rage and embarrassment. “Damn!” it mutters. “We’ve spent the past six months watching our arse-kicking also-ran guitar bands stiff at Number 63 because the charts are chocful of pug-ugly rubber-limbed pop tartlets like [a]Steps[/a] and now those sneaky sneaksters Belle & Sebadoh-or-whatever-they’re-called swan in with a flopsome fringe of a ditty which a) takes the piss out of our bands, b) would undoubtedly have swaggered into the Top 20 (unlike most of our bands’ releases), and c) really and truly rubs it in by having the gall to last for over seven swayingly bastard cheeky minutes. The poncey love hounds!”

Still, at least we’re safe up here. I mean, did Belle & Sebastian really honestly think we’d fall for such a cheap commercial shot? Oh. Bugger.

Unsung Couples
[I](Gold Hole)[/I]

Funny how things change. When we were kids the only abstract entertainment we had was from a strange tripped-out crew called BARK PSYCHOSIS and maybe a bit of TALK TALK madness if MARK HOLLIS was particularly pissed off with his record company. Now you can hardly move for bands casually disregarding the rules of the corporate pop game and sitting around in huddles making fantastic records, scarcely caring if they sell more than about five copies.

‘Unsung Couples’ is a case in point, a vigorous instrumental piece that still sounds like a marvellously happy accident, all flickering guitars and luscious rhythms and bold musical strokes which combine to deliciously hypnotic effect. Overall? Kinda like a really stoned MOGWAI massaging SIMON & GARFUNKEL‘s tired little feet, he lied sensationally.

Shorley Wall

Crap name, great record. Northern fivesome make tremendously sensitive single about love, loss and deserted seaside towns which will seduce any sad old yahoos who still hold a soft spot for THE DREAM ACADEMY and PREFAB SPROUT. Bonus points for big kettle drums (NB: much like Kettle crisps, not to be boiled to make Cup-A-Soup, kids), sound effects of waves and seagulls, and an extra cuddly prize for having the sheer audacity to make a record which is about as relevant to 1998 as Man About The House.

[I](Superior Quality)[/I]

Generally loathed around these parts, but you couldn’t accuse MOVER of shirking any challenge. ‘Stand’ and ‘Junk’ represent the sixth and seventh tracks to be dragged from their debut album in a less-than-subtle attempt to annex their homeland. ‘Stand’ is the winner here, a big-hearted, large-lunged soul thing with ragged vocals and raucous strings. It’s sexy, it’s slightly silly and it shits on El Wellster‘s ‘classic’ white tab Levi’s from a great height. Quite good, then.

Cedar Room

Jee-zoo, they don’t make records like this any more. Once upon a time DOVES were dancey goofheads SUB SUB, which may well explain why they’ve taken such an off-kilter approach after turning into three grizzly Blokes In A Manc Guitar Band. Heavyweight popsters in a very literal sense, theirs is a world of thunderous handclaps, deafening reverb and 64 layers of narcoleptic guitar.

Survivors of the Doves‘ live conflicts may care to remember this is their second best tune, the one that goes, “I tried to sleep alone, but I couldn’t do it”. Passing tourists may care to muse over the concept of U2 playing chess with SIX BY SEVEN. Belle & Sebastian may care to watch their pimply little backs.

Fengan Nemo

The great thing about all these Neu Wave Of Neu Wave experimental jazz bohos making records is that because they never waste any energy on digging up lyrics, they can be especially creative with the few words they do actually need to use, ie, the song’s title. ‘Fengan Nemo’ is an impeccable case in point, sounding not unlike a Monty Python character, which rattles along with all manner of ‘quirky’ electronics and ‘skitterish’ rhythms.

The bad thing about all these Neu Wave Of Neu Wave experimental jazz bohos making records is the fact that sometimes they really aren’t as good as the titles.

Slow Down
[I](Working Class)[/I]

In the 1970s, Radar would have worn cheesecloth shirts and been really good mates with 10cc. Now their brand of slick guitar flotsam (replete with immaculate 20-part harmonies, natch) is somehow seen as cool and dynamic because it will probably get on the Xfm ‘A’-list and even the fact that ‘Slow Down’ is sullied by the kind of ‘shite’ ‘axe’ ‘solo’ that even Mister Jeff Leppard would turn his piggy little snout up at will surely not stop Radar‘s inexorable rise towards the Top 145. How did it go again?


Usual gurning, grinning, manically paced froth from neo-legendary sarf Londoners who, even after ten years of thrashing around the world still sound as though their recording sessions regularly take place in a dustbin in Deptford. Worth honking out for their insane live cover version of ‘The Rockafeller Skank’, which is such a genuinely horrible listening experience we can only presume it is included on the CD to re-emphasise the glaringly obvious point that SNUFF‘s attitude towards commercial success makes Belle & Sebastian resemble CELINE DION.

Dance Girl Dance
[I](Cooking Vinyl)[/I]

In which former WEDDING PRESENT el presidente Mister DAVID GEDGE strives to convince the world that he is now mature and sophisticated and big chums with BACHARACH and SPECTOR and GAINSBOURG.

To this end he has employed keyboards which pretend to be violins and lady singers who pretend to be, uh, grand pianos and it’s all jolly and the plan is only slightly undermined by the fact that when he performs live he still occasionally dances like a shot rabbit, which is something that Bacharach and Spector and Gainsbourg would never, ever allow themselves to do, no matter how tipsy.

Last Christmas

You’ve got to hand it to them. Princesses of ’70s MOR, oft described as ‘Prince Charles’ favourite band’, cover seasonal WHAM! classic at the precise point when Charlie‘s public image is more sympathetic than ever, when the song’s writer, one G MICHAEL, suddenly finds himself truly credible for the first time in his life, and when Christmas itself is lurking just around the corner. Genius on three different levels, we reckon. Unlike the record itself, which, of course, is a load of half-dicked hi-energy guff.


One of the most peculiar things we’ve ever seen in the live arena (and, darn it all, we’ve seen Bum Gravy and Scrotum Clamp, so we know what we’re dribbling on about), ALABAMA 3 persist in their perplexing quest to embrace the world of Elvisostisy and, uh, complete all the other important things on their lengthy agenda. Like cleaning the leaves out of the pond. “Let’s go back to church!” they enthuse, like some ghoulishly enthusiastic mutation of DR HOOK and HAPPY MONDAYS on Prozac while the beat thumpity-thump-thumps on. Wise words, we’re sure, but God help us if Alabama 3 ever decide that doorstepping would be a more effective awareness-raising tactic than touring.

Wrong Notes
[I](Loose Sounds)[/I]

Never really managed to grasp the GRAND DRIVE mettle before, as it were. ‘Wrong Notes’ is another one of those cotton-eyed, Kentucky-fried slow-mo hoedowns where nothing much happens, but when it does it’s really quite slow and emotional and expertly done and sort of a teensy-weensy bit like TEENAGE FANCLUB without the charm.

Little Less Nothing
[I](Track Record)[/I]

Elasticated, muscular hardcore noise from Brighton. Picking through the wreckage you might discern something which once resembled a tune, much as the various corpses littering Seven used to be human. Smart, tense and splendidly violent, this is the kind of record which would pick a fight with STEREOPHONICS, just because it thinks it should. As one wine bottler said to the other, “Corking stuff.”

Dogs Die In Hot Cars
[I](Fortuna Pop!)[/I]

Dense, ricocheting indie rock noise which sounds as though it cost, ooooh, ‘1.49 to record and is actually much, much meaner than you’d expect from a band called TWINKIE. Riffs growl. A man called MOO goes danga-danga on bass. Choruses go “Ay-yay-yay-yay”. Aggressively. Three months too late to capture the whole canine-slaying heatwave farrago, but we suspect it’s the dogs’ own fault, anyway. They should use public transport like the rest of us.

No Regrets

The man doth, of course, protest far too much. For someone who has taken every opportunity to whinge on about past Take That types, old managers and, quite possibly, previous milkmen who left red top instead of that nice creamy silver top, to release a song called ‘No Regrets’ is marvellously irrational behaviour.

Anyhow, this is the one with NEILs TENNANT and HANNON doing backing vocals and looking on bemusedly as Rob proves just how he has ‘No Regrets’ by getting himself into a right old lather about how few regrets he actually has. “I don’t want to hate, but that’s all you’ve left me with”, he announces cheerily. Then he bungs on this climactic, theatrical ending which makes you stop and think, “Hmmm. Now that is rubbish.”

Ambulance Chaser
[I](Arctic/Pinnacle Labels)[/I]

Lush, pale and tastefully interesting electronic pop noises from Wales, hampered only by the fact that MELYS aren’t from Paris, don’t talk [I]les bollocks de cosmique[/I] and show absolutely no inclination to rip off ‘Out Of The Blue’.

Intriguingly, we are told that ‘Ambulance Chaser’ is all “about the paths we choose for ourselves”. As opposed to our elves, presumably. This is particularly poignant considering that later on in the same press release we are informed that, “This will be the band’s last release on Pinnacle Labels since the record company has been the latest victim of the current panic and malaise gripping the music industry. The decision has been taken by accountants…”

Nurse! The screams!