Friday, July 29, 2011

THE LOST CAVALRY "Desert Tracks"

Last time we came across The Lost Cavalry, almost a year to the day, they were amongst freezing waves and roaring seas. Here they are amongst scorched deserts and sand dunes but the sound that made that debut EP so inviting is still wonderfully intact despite the geographic shift. The London-based five-piece have not been idle in the twelve months since “Waves Freeze To Rolling Hills”: running a club night, adding guest Hammond organ to the Christmas Number One That Never Was ('Motherfuckers' by The Loves), gigging around the capital this summer and writing the original score to “quirky UK indie comedy” film “Booked Out”. And although a single song feels paltry after the wait at least there is a second EP not far behind (due for release in October, although this “is unfortunately slipping already...”)

But what a song “Desert Tracks” is. Although ominous of subject matter (a song about “abandoned diamond mines, Namibia, sand and horses” with the line “we’ll be lucky if we make it out alive / run while you can”) it has the same breezy, uplifting arc as the first EP, a rolling indie-folk caravan of mandolin, concertina and marching drums. The similarities to Fanfarlo (lead Cavalry man Mark West’s former group) are still there but increasingly The Lost Cavalry sound like their own band. Highly recommended. And maybe sometime soon The Lost Cavalry caravan will travel a bit further North?

Desert Tracks is self-released on the band’s own Two Six Heave label. It is available digitally (officially) from Monday.

The Lost Cavalry Desert Tracks [BUY]

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

THE BATS PAJAMAS "The Bats Pajamas"

How does a new band looking to record their debut album go about working with legendary producer – sorry recording engineer - Steve Albini? Does he answer speculative calls? How do you get his telephone number? And at what point do you talk money?

Actually all this information is clearly available online. And Albini is quite open about his criteria: “I charge whatever the hell I feel like at the moment, based on the client's ability to pay, how nice the band members are, the size and directly proportional gullibility of the record company, and whether or not they got the rock

Whether The Bats Pajamas are simply nice or they have “the rock” (or both), the Toronto band’s self-released first album was recorded last year by Albini at his Electrical Audio studios in Chicago. The trio – Katya on bass, David on guitar and Guy on drums – deliver a tightly drilled and muscular garage rock with touches of medium-pace math-rock.

There’s several references to class-rooms and college life (and young adulthood lust in ‘Feral Moans’) but The Bats Pajamas sound more mature than these songs suggest and recall earlier – and not so adolescent – bands such as Minutemen or The Oblivians or more recent progenitors like The Black Lips or even Albini’s own Shellac. There’s also a steely rasp or edgy intensity to David Hartman’s vocals that speaks of hard-luck and bitter experience rather than the rosy-cheeked optimism of the college freshman. Alongside these tense rock nuggets, the band also deliver more light-hearted moments (the short, sharp name-calling of ‘Bloody Liar’) or a looser college-rock sound (the insistent shuffle of ‘Math Was Magic’).

There are a few songs that drift into less memorable, mid-tempo idling but the better moments outweigh these: the down-and-dirty garage-rock bite of ‘It’s Too Late’ or ‘Beat On’ or when they up the mischief as in the excellent final song ‘Go Bowie Go’ which gloriously riffs (literally) on ‘Queen Bitch’. The Bat Pajamas have album number two in preparation. Whether Albini is involved or not, album number one shows they already “got the rock”.

The Bats Pajamas The Bats Pajamas [BUY]

Sunday, July 24, 2011


Telephones Rouges were formed in 2007 in a small town near Pontevedra on Spain’s North Western coast. Prevailing Atlantic winds have clearly blown a whole history of underground rock their way for Telephones Rouges seem intent on squeezing five decades of musical references into this one EP, their third release. Hence you’ll hear post-punk, shoe-gaze, psyche-rock, garage and krautrock all in the blender with the resulting mix served up with a righteous punk anger.

The EP kicks off with the raw surf-punk guitars and new wave keyboards of ‘Helio’. A yelped vocal suggests abandon as much as anger but any sense of delirious fun is dashed in a brutal and ear-bashing climax (much like the finale to the revenge tale video that accompanies it). ‘Du Bist Dran’, sung in German, maintains the frenzy of its predecessor’s conclusion but with denser, thrashing guitars and terser shouting (mainly emphasising the word "angst" - no translation needed). ‘Sr Ruiz’ puts the buzz-saw guitars into Sonic Youth overdrive with even more anguished screaming.

The fast-paced, droning krautrock groove of ‘Toma o Caminho’ sounds like Electrelane covering The Stooges or the more contemporary Wooden Shjips. ‘Morte Como Solución’ invokes the proto-punk intensity of Pere Ubu and Suicide or fried acid-rock à la Spacemen 3. In their brain-melting and decade-hopping twenty minute trip, Telephones Rouges also manage to shame the monolingual by singing – no screaming – in Galician, Spanish and German. However it’s not their language skills that stand out but their angry channelling of myriad underground influences into this noisy garage-kraut-punk hybrid.

“Radiocontrol” is the first release on new Barcelona label Mama Vynila Records, available on 10” vinyl limited to 500 copies or free of charge via Bandcamp since “distribution of this kind of music is our main objective”. A worthy aim successfully delivered with release numero uno.

Telephones Rouges Radiocontrol [BUY]

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Electrelane have been on indefinite hiatus for nearly four years. So tonight’s gig was simply a return rather than anything that could be construed to break my self-imposed ‘no reunion gigs, no greatest hits tour’ rule. Simply a return. But what a return.

After such a lengthy absence, I nearly managed to miss this gig despite buying tickets within days of them going on sale months ago and despite it being an inked-in fixture on the calendar. But a speedy dash across town got me to Academy 3 on the dot of the 9.20 start time and just a few minutes before the band themselves. Despite their ten year-plus history prior to the 2007 announcement I had failed to see Electrelane live.

What struck me as the four piece opened with ‘Gone Under Sea’ was the heads-down-get-on-with-it meticulousness of all four musicians. Only Verity Susman behind banked keyboards made any form of eye contact as she sang – but despite her voice swooping between sombre and shriek for these early songs she was fairly deadpan in her expression. All four had a quiet, intent focus on the intricate repetitive riffs, tight rhythms and slow rise and fall of these songs but without any hint of trepidation or rustiness. From the Stereolab-meets-Neu trio of opening songs the band moved on to include violent Sonic Youth-style guitar string bending and noise from Mia Clarke, squonking saxophone during ‘Only One Thing Is Needed’ and great noisy instrumental wig-outs like ‘Blue Straggler’ (and a host of others I failed to name with accuracy). And for all her initial impassivity, Susman did a fine line in long-haired head-banging at these moments.

If some songs were greeted with cheers of recognition the climaxes seemed to be met with even greater cheers and applause – in recognition of the damn impressive playing plus the visceral power of the songs that sometimes never quite made it on to record. A late-set cover of Bronski Beat’s ‘Small Town Boy’ was a pleasant diversion but I felt it a bit unnecessary – large parts of the crowd clearly disagreed by their reaction. The main set finished with an energetic sequence of their longer instrumentals complete with crowd delirium, dancing and lesbian mosh-pit. This energy was re-awakened and channelled for the encores into the short, sharp new wave pop of ‘I Want To Be The President’ and their cover of ‘I’m On Fire’ – not as delirious as earlier moments but a fun conclusion to a blistering ninety minutes.

Each member of the band deserves plaudits but it was their combined power and assurance that was thrilling tonight. Tonight’s gig, their first UK performance in nearly four years felt like neither a dress rehearsal nor a swan song- but a band at the height of their powers. Electrelane only have 3 more UK gigs and a handful of festivals planned. And then? Well I’d be able to cope with another hiatus if I knew a return like this was guaranteed.

Monday, July 18, 2011


Last March “The Chevreul EP” showed Rob Jones, Mr VBS, spreading his sonic wings to embrace chip-core alongside the bubblegum-pop soul groove of debut album "At Breakfast Dinner Tea". Released today on Split Records comes Voluntary Butler Scheme album number two “Grandad Galaxy” and it shows that “The Chevreul EP” was neither a side-step nor a clearing out of non-album tracks: its sound is fully embedded in this record and in fact all four tracks appear.

The disparate domestic preoccupations from the debut album continue here – remembering PIN codes, hiring cars and throwing frisbees – but also as Jones sings on Astro “I’ve been looking for a little more elbow room”. So this record retires some of more euphoric Jackson Five moves from the first album (no obvious ‘Tabasco Sole’ or ‘Trading Things In’ comparators) but expands the scope sideways: familiar and cosy, pipe-and-slippers croon-pop butts up against more novel and quirky electronica. So ‘The Height of A Frisbee’, ‘Shake Me By Shoulders’ and the calypso-inflected ‘Don’t Rely On It, Don’t Count On It’ all fall in the former camp: genteel, funny-sad ditties about growing old or feeling like a circus clown, dreamy ruminations with great melodies.

‘Do The Hand Jive’, a fidgety but addictive glitch-fest of stop-start rhythms and stuttering chants is the fulcrum between these and the short, glitchy instrumentals like ‘Sky Shed’, ‘Hiring a Car’ or ‘Umbrella Fight’. As I’ve said before, ‘Satisfactory Substitute’ sounds exactly what you think DJ Shadow’s ‘Organ Donor’ recreated in a suburban West Midlands back bedroom would; but the others in this camp are closer to Plone-meets-The Pooh Sticks, playground-tronica with touches of twee power-pop.

If the first album made its mark by looping riffs and beats, this record does so by slicing them up. “Grandad Galaxy” can come across as a humbler, more introspective record than its predecessor at times which is curious for an more experimental and adventurous one. At fifteen tracks and a leisurely pace the album could definitely have been leaner but it feels niggardly to criticize its homespun, laid-back charms and catchy playfulness. Especially when The Voluntary Butler Scheme remains the home to delicious cardigan-wearing flights of fancy: "and though astronomers say it’s a dream away / I want to live my life on the moon”.

The Voluntary Butler Scheme Grandad Galaxy [BUY]

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Mark Lanegan survived hard drugs. Isobel Campbell survived Belle and Sebastian. Together since 2006, this odd couple pairing have now made three albums of superior Lee-and-Nancy torch ballads. Tonight their short Latitude Festival warm-up tour made a stop at the unlikely setting of Lancaster Library. The Get It Loud In Libraries initiative is about getting young people into their local libraries I presume. I don’t know how successful it is (and there weren’t too many youngsters in for this particular show) but it promotes an impressive range of bands and also provides a fantastic opportunity to see artists in intimate settings (although I would have expected tonight to take part at the junction of the Westerns and Romance sections rather than in front of the Sci Fi and Fantasy shelves).

The disparity of the pairing of their voices and their grunge-versus-twee backgrounds is also emphasised by their appearance and stage manner. She is prim and reserved in pastel blue print dress and cardigan, singing mainly with eyes closed. He is tall and grizzled in sombre black and browns and, although hardly effusive, his face is contorted with all manner of facial tics and stretches as he peers suspiciously through narrowed eyes.

Backed by an excellent but unshowy four piece band, Campbell and Lanegan keep it low-key: they never speak between songs and hardly acknowledge the audience - which makes for some frosty silences between the songs early in the set which don’t flow seamlessly into the next (to be fair the overly respectful audience contribute to these silent pauses too).

I get the impression Campbell (the mastermind of the operation) is intensely shy and doesn’t enjoy performing live (they appeared more relaxed and chatty off stage) and Lanegan takes his cue from her. Campbell, studio perfectionist by all accounts, also appeared to be castigating herself at times – she positively grimaced at her own cello part in ‘Eyes of Green’. But the songs are what count and especially bathed in the summer evening light within this fine and cosy municipal Victorian building. Her kitten-purr (a little too subdued tonight) and his gravelly growl make an intoxicating combination; and the songs that stood out are the ones when they combine rather than alternate with each other – ‘Time of the Season’ and ‘Salvation’ particularly this evening.

If anything this gig got progressively quieter as it went on so by the penultimate song of the main set ‘Salvation’ it was simply their two voices and acoustic guitar. This was followed by a sexy and smouldering ‘Come On Over (Turn Me One)’ before they left the stage - to loiter around the library’s public computer terminals – before returning for a two song encore. Definitely not ‘Sci Fi and Fantasy’, and maybe not a blockbuster either, but a bookish evening of cool allure.

The Set List:
(‘Sunrise’ was not performed)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


William The Contractor’s debut album “Tall Stories” was released at the tail end of March on Stockholm’s excellent (and excellently named) Crying Bob Records. Given his choice of name and the photo of a solitary and stern-looking Swede you might expect this to be a solo album, the work of a well-travelled troubadour and his battered, trusty acoustic guitar. However “Tall Stories” is much more sophisticated and complex and surprising than that.

Markus Bergqvist (as William The Contractor is known to friends and family) plays virtually every instrument on this record but makes it sound like a full-rounded, tightly drilled band even when songs start quite humbly. So yes you get quietly strummed intros to say ‘Old Witch’ or ‘Daydreams’ (and the video below is of a solo performance) but on record they soon blossom into gently orchestrated folk-pop that reminds me of the polish and melody that recent Herman Dune albums bring to the tag ‘anti-folk’. But there’s a greater variety on this debut record. You’ll find the bluesy folk-rock of tour-diary-in-song ‘My Little Man’, the curious finger-picked folk balladry of ‘Lady and A Snake’, the Dylanesque hoe-down of ‘Old Witch’, the rousing anti-capitalist (I think) anthem 'Black Gold' or the country banjo revenge tale ‘Hanna Hanged Him High’ which sounds most like label-mates Friska Viljor.

Elsewhere, the autobiographical ‘Warehouseman’, opening with solitary organ and downcast strumming, creates a sombre tone that reminds me of the sadly departed St Thomas (and particularly his similarly named ‘Cornerman’). But despite some of the suppressed bitterness in the verse (“I’m sick and tired of the shit I take / when I work as a warehouse man / my old man died of a heart attack / and I don’t really understand who I am”) there is joyful optimism in the chorus (“take my hand and teach me how to laugh and smile again”) a technique repeated in several of these bitter-sweet songs.

Bergqvist can date precisely when he sang publicly for the first time: 2006 at this father’s funeral. This sense of coming to music through personal tragedy explains the emotional weight wrapped up in these songs. Some are light and playful, others more intense and even morbid but if all feels fresh and engaging even when the lyrics become more fantastical or abstract or the tone becomes more downbeat. “Tall Stories” finishes with the wistful reverie of lost love and healing ‘Above the Clouds’ in which Bergqvist sings “I’m looking for a reason to get out of bed”. Well he’s had his share of tragedy, heartbreak and routine physical labour but luckily for the listener his songs are indeed a reason to rouse yourself. Berqvist did infact work as a warehouse man and contractor but as William The Contractor he proves an adept and versatile artisan; and “Tall Stories” is the spoils of well-served, if more recent, apprenticeship in musical craftsmanship.

William The Contractor - Black Gold by Cryingbob

William The Contractor Tall Stories [BUY or BUY]

Monday, July 11, 2011


So nine months on from their first and five months on from their second, Blind Atlas today release their third single digitally and on CD. And it’s their boldest, most ambitious release yet.

I first heard ‘Iron Wall’ live when Blind Atlas supported The Acorn back in May 2010. It was their final song and was electrifying: a slow almost-dirge-like song that builds in intensity, using repeated phrases (“come back home / come back home my Iron Wall / heart and soul / please don’t go”) to become something strange and shamanistic that concludes with raw scraping and bowing of strings and harsh beating of drums and percussion. There’s no distinct narrative to the song that I can discern, it’s more impressionistic with its strength in the strange primal power it emits. The song was played back to an audience attending the band’s Art and Music event earlier this year were their drew, scribbled and painted in response to the curious sounds of ‘Iron Wall’. The images created during this session are featured extensively in the artwork accompanying the CD release.

If ‘Iron Wall’ ploughs a different furrow to the band’s previous classic Americana country-rock, the other two songs return to familiar terrain. ‘Mary Anne’ is a grizzled weepie, a slow acoustic number with singer Ross Thompson sounding broken and wretched (and a little like a softened Jay Farrar) amidst gorgeous female harmonies and rich pedal steel. It could easily pass for Gram Parson and Emmylou Harris in the 70s or The Jayhawks in the 90s; yes that ‘classic’ in its simple authenticity.

‘My Proud Mountains’ is a Townes Van Zandt cover. It follows the mood and style of the preceding track but rather than lost or unrequited love this is a poignant, shiver-inducing hymn to home. This tale of a man’s arduous journey through changing landscapes is sung with such conviction you’d think it was written by the band who in no way show any nerves in covering such a revered singer-songwriter.

All three songs show an extra confidence in song-writing and in delivery: Blind Atlas are not afraid to keep it sparse and simple or to push themselves in new directions. The production (from Christian Madden of The Earlies) is understated, sympathetic and sounds gorgeous. It’s a bold move to release a seven minute track of spooky tribal drums and dark incantations - but it works and shows a courage that deserves to be rewarded.

Blind Atlas - Ironwall by BlindAtlas

Blind Atlas Iron Wall [BUY]

Friday, July 08, 2011


Race Horses played a Marc Riley session tonight (listen again here) and I suspect once booked for that a Manchester gig was wanted or needed to go alongside it. Hence they were added to this bill with the dreadfully-named Babeshadow who were already scheduled to be playing The Castle Hotel. Whatever the reasons or sequence of events that led to this, seeing the Welsh psyche-popsters in the intimate setting of The Castle was a dead cert even if did mean having to buy tickets for Babeshadow and hope it wasn’t an expensive mistake.

To kick off the evening, a pitiful eight people watched Gabriel Minnikin (not listed anywhere in advance) open for both bands. Damn shame: he and his steel guitar player (and trumpet player for final song) deserved better. Then the numbers did swell as 9pm arrived and as Race Horses started to set up. Now I had heard there had been a line-up change for Race Horses – and it turned out to be an addition: a fifth person on keyboards but also taking up guitar and bass too. And this brought a extra dimension to this set of largely new songs – the expanded Race Horses had the additional hands to engage in some imaginative instrument swapping and extra roles. So for some songs we got two drummers, for others twin keyboard players and so on.

On the first listen some of these new songs appeared to smooth out the erratic kinks, time signature changes and music-hall motley throw-the-kitchen-sink-in approach of first album “Goodbye Falkenburg” (shame) but they also retained the playfulness, energy and great, great melodies. What was also added was a stomping Glitter Band back-beat, a distinctly Pulp-esque feel to ‘Sisters’, a double dose of new wave keyboards and unless I’m mistaken a new song about mince.

Out of a ten song set, all but three (‘Pony’ segued into a furious ‘Grangetown 02920’; the finale ‘Marged Weni Blino’) were new but this did not lead to any disappointment. Race Horses delivered this new material as though they had been playing it for years: the five-piece played as a tightly drilled machine but also made it feel loose and fun and easily able to indulge in some distinctly noisy wig-outs too. It all augurs well for their second album but crucially shows what an excellent live band Race Horses are. After those intense noisy passages the final, lengthy ‘Marged Wedi Blino’ concluded with just Meilyr Jones singing in Welsh over solitary organ. God it was beautiful: rousing, humbling, monumental. For a moment it felt like this sweaty pub venue was transformed and we were witnessing the birth of a new national anthem for Wales.

OK the cask ale may have led to a flight of fancy there but it was a special performance. Once over, the packed and heated room emptied swiftly. Feeling generous I stayed to see Babeshadow. I nearly didn’t get passed the haircuts (I’m so petty) and then the sound-check was a strong signal to leave but somehow I stuck to my rule of giving any band the benefit of doubt over two songs. I didn’t get to the end of the second one. Babeshadow have major label backing and clearly have eyes on the “big time” (and I suspect some of the heavily female audience for them tonight was paid/lured/groomed by said label). Earlier Meilyr had joked that one of their new songs was played with a backing track. “We were semi-pro. This takes us to pro”. But the backing track failed tonight so “we’ll always be semi-pro” he joked. Sorry Race Horses: you always been pro in my eyes and tonight you showed everyone, including the nominal headliner, why.

Thursday, July 07, 2011


Dirty Beaches is the alias of Alex Zhang Hungtai, born in Taiwan, resident in Vancouver and with a well-stamped passport between. Despite his intercontinental globe-hopping, Dirty Beaches influences seem highly specific: splicing the dark synth no-wave of New York’s Suicide with some fifties rock ‘n’ roll posturing, and locating it all in the current US no-fi scene. Following earlier split single releases, the San Diego label Zoo Music released the first single from “Badlands” last July with the album following in March 2011. This summer via a West Coast-East London partnership between Zoo Music and Italian Beach Babes, “Badlands” is only now getting a limited UK vinyl release.

The album starts with the minimalist nightmare grind of ‘Speedway King’: dislocated Presley-like yelps and phrases over industrial machinery noise, it’s more claustrophobic ‘Lady In The Radiator Song’ weird than “Roustabout” cinemascope swagger. The next two tracks provide more identifiable rock ‘n’ roll hooks: an insistent Peter Gunn bass line on ‘Horses’ , more of those lip-curling yelps over tinny drum-machine rhythms for “Sweet 17” but also whole heaps of sinister on both. The repeated anguished cries of “sweet seventeen” suggest more disturbing intentions that taking a high-school date to the prom. A compressed mosquito-buzz rhythm and tense crooning power the longest track on the album ‘A Hundred Highways’ but both are savagely interrupted by flashes of twanging guitar and sudden, explosive noise (falling masonry? Dropped pianos? A bell-tower being demolished?)

After these brutal assaults both ‘True Blue’ and ‘Lord Knows Best’ ease into a (relatively) softer gear, all Roy Orbison romantic crooner mode including spoken word interlude (“I just want you to know / that my heart will always be true”) and falsetto harmonies for the former and a gentle mirror-ball dance swing for the latter. Finishing the record are two instrumentals, bastard off-spring of Bowie’s “Low” album. ‘Black Nylon’ is a sleazy synthesizer belly-crawl through oppressive, dark beats; ‘Hotel’ is a sparse, sleep-deprived drift full of ominous chimes. It’s a curiously low-key fade-to-black finale to an album that has excelled in spooky provocations and controlled visceral assault.

The album title may come from a Terrence Malick movie but a better cinematic reference point is David Lynch. Lynch is an over-used comparison for music that combines the macabre, the innocent and the surreal but it really does fit the bill perfectly for Dirty Beaches. “Badlands” is a sonic distillation of the snakeskin-clad rebellion of "Wild at Heart", the shadowy malevolence of "Eraserhead" and the twisted subversion of Bobby Vinton romance in "Blue Velvet".

At 22 minutes long, it could be argued that Hungtai has yet to prove himself over a full album but there is a purity to keeping it short and (not-so) sweet that works for this record. And you don’t want to spend too long its dark embrace.

There may be a wider UK release later this year but for the moment there are only 500 vinyl copies for the whole of UK and Europe via Italian Beach Babes (or possibly your local indie record shop). And this limited release coincides with Dirty Beaches first UK and Europe dates including Manchester on 16 July (supporting Wu Lyf as part of the Manchester International Festival) and a headline show at The Victoria, Dalston on 19 July.

Horses - Dirty Beaches by absentminded

Dirty Beaches Badlands [BUY]

Wednesday, July 06, 2011


My last encounter with Enraptured Records was Eat Lights Become Lights excellent “Autopia” album in March. Released this week on the same label is an EP from Land Observations aka James Brooks, previously one-third of post-rock minimalists Appliance. For this EP, a sampler from the forthcoming album of songs all inspired by the major Roman roads that criss-crossed Britain & Europe, Brooks creates beguiling simple motorik rhythms out of layered guitar. Now if Eat Lights Become Lights is a pulsing, nocturnal ride through the urban dystopia, complete with electronic textures and juddering drums, the motorik of Land Observations creates the opposite effect. This trio of songs are bucolic simplicity itself delivered with a soothing delicacy of touch.

Two of the three songs on the single, ‘Viae (in C major)’ and ‘Octavian to Augustus’ adopt a similar approach: tense plucked rhythms with more languid and dreamy guitar over the top. The differentiation is subtle between these two but ‘Fosse Way (Fragmented)’ is a noticeably more drowsy and contemplative affair. Although there is repetition to their meticulous construction, rather than those sturdy (and perpendicular) feats of Roman engineering, these songs make me think more of the natural world in those times, of green fields, chalk horses, untamed hedgerows and empty skies: more pagan joy than imperialist perfection.

Brooks, also a visual artist, is creating a photographic archive of “land mass, surface area, thresholds and boundaries” to accompany the full Roman Roads projects. Maybe this imagery will set me right on what I hear in Land Observations. But for the present, truly, ignorance is bliss. The "Roman Roads" EP is available digitally or as a limited edition, numbered pressing on coloured 7” vinyl with hand-finished sleeve art by Brooks.

Land Observations - Viae (in C Major) - edit by Type PR

Full versions of all three tracks are also on Spotify.

Land Observations Roman Roads EP [BUY]

Monday, July 04, 2011

KING POST KITSCH "The Party's Over"

Well he impressed with the single in May, and now Charlie Ward aka King Post Kitsch impresses again with his debut album. Out now on Song By Toad Records, “The Party’s Over” is ten tracks of top-drawer basement-pop. Now the contrasts on that four track single may not be as stark across a full-length player but there is still oodles of versatility – and quality. Only the title track from that single makes this album (an interview with Manic Pop Thrills reveals sixteen songs in total were recorded for the album and single) but ‘Don’t You Touch My Fucking Honeytone’ still wows. And setting its blazing rockabilly-garage power-pop in amongst other tracks does nothing to contain its relentless energy. Some songs follow its lead but with less twang and less bite. ‘The Werewolf Hop’ in title alone sounds like the kind of 50s rockabilly that inspired The Cramps and it does have some crunchy guitar riffs but also softer moments with a sense of tiredness and regret: tough but tender. The angular guitar, semi-sung vocals and jumpy beats of ‘Bricks and Bones’ make it sound like a Glaswegian take on a demo from Beck’s “Odelay”. ‘You Talk Too Much’ is bitter-sweet indie-rock with some bluesy riffs thrown in; and the swirling keyboards and swinging soul-pop of ‘Walking on Eggshells’ has a whisper of the Euro-cabaret of Bowie’s “Lodger”. My references may be spurious, King Post Kitsch’s versatility is not.

There are other quieter songs like ‘The New Gang’ and ‘Closing Time’ but the pick of these is ‘Fante’s Last Stand’ which follows, in utter contrast, ‘Don’t Touch...’ in the album’s running order. I find myself torn as to which of these, loud versus quiet almost binary opposites, is my pick of the album. Imagine a stripped-back Beta Band discovering the wonder of the music of the Mali delta and the African kora and you’re only half-way there to capture the mystery and beauty of ‘Fante’s Last Stand’.

The album loses some momentum in the final stages as the last couple of songs adopt a more reflective and melancholic bearing but this is a minor quibble (and easily addressed by shuffle). A recent call went out seeking a drummer for King Post Kitsch live shows - now there’s a prospect to look forward. There’s a meticulous home-studio aesthetic to these songs as befits a the work of professional sound engineer but the sense of playfulness, the burly riffs and the killer tunes all suggest a successful transition to the live stage is but a formality. Following the demise of The Beta Band, Steve Mason adopted the regal moniker King Biscuit Time for several years before rejecting it for his own name. Charlie Ward has travelled in the opposite direction, a lo-fi auteur assuming the title of garage-pop head of state with aplomb. The King is dead. Long live the King. And the party, dear subjects, is far from over.

King Post Kitsch - Walking on Eggshells by Song, by Toad

King Post Kitsch The Party's Over [BUY]

Friday, July 01, 2011


Summer’s here and gigs thin out as festival season approaches but there’s still plenty to choose from. Tonight alone there are four gigs all worth catching on featured on this month’s mixtape: Julie Baenziger aka Sea of Bees makes her (I reckon) fourth Manchester appearance this year already, this time headlining at the Deaf Institute; at Dulcimer in Chorlton, Wooden Wand is playing (latest album "Death Seat" on Young God Records ); there’s a new band night at Night & Day including Deadwall from Leeds (subject of yesterday’s post) and in Fuel in Withington Mcr Scenewipe are hosting their monthly FREE gig night with four bands including another welcome Yorkshire visitor Just Handshakes (We’re British).

Also this month is Manchester International Festival with its Björk residency and separate strand of gigs including some local bands getting (hopefully) a bigger stage including Plank!, Air Cav, Golden Glow and Young British Artists. Plus Wu Lyf in a tunnel; more exciting is that support for this is Dirty Beaches.

As ever a mixtape [58 mins / 64 MB] of bands playing Manchester this July to help inform your gig-going decision-making - link in the post below this one.

Monster Island The Anchor Age [3.31] (2 July Kings Arms BUY TICKETS)
Let’s Wrestle Dear John [5.25] (25 July Night & Day BUY TICKETS)
Race Horses Grangetown 02920 [7.07] (7 July The Castle BUY TICKETS)
Sea of Bees Marmalade [11.09] (1 July Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
Just Handshakes (We’re British) Tenfoots [13.40] (1 July Fuel BUY TICKETS)
Vivian Girls I Heard You Say [16.30] (17 July Ruby Lounge BUY TICKETS)
Math & Physics Club Darling Please Come Home [19.40] (26 July The Castle BUY TICKETS)
Moustache of Insanity What’s The Point [22.57] (26 July The Castle BUY TICKETS)
Driver Drive Faster Gravel Dents [27.50] (19 July Band on the Wall BUY TICKETS)
Paris Suit Yourself Craig Machinsky [32.26] (11 July Night & Day BUY TICKETS)
Yacht Dystopia [36.25] (25 July Ruby Lounge BUY TICKETS)
Memory Tapes Wait In The Dark [40.34] (7 July Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
Marques Toliver White Sail (demo) [44.19] (5 July Band on the Wall BUY TICKETS)
The Suns Interstella Love [49.24] (14 July The Castle BUY TICKETS)
Deadwall The Wakefield Questionnaire [52.25] (1 July Night & Day BUY TICKETS)
Wooden Wand The DNR Waltz [55.57] (1 July Dulcimer BUY TICKETS)

And not forgetting:
1 July Letters to Fiesta + Foreign Hands Fuel / 2 July Ghost Outfit Kings Arms / 4 July S.C.U.M. Ruby Lounge / 4 July The Kill Van Kulls The Castle / 4 July Death Cab For Cutie + The Head and the Heart Academy 1 / 5 July Vetiver Band on the Wall / 6 July Tame Impala Sound Control / 9 July Karima Francis Deaf Institute / 9 July New Hips + Cowtown + Victories At Sea Gullivers / 14-16 July Amadou & Mariam New Century Hall / 14 July Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan Manchester Cathedral / 14 July Bright Eyes Academy 1 / 14 July Folk Apocalypse Night & Day / 14 July JP Cooper Deaf Institute / 16 July Trojan Horse Ruby Lounge / 16 July The Violet May Night & Day / 16 July The Suzukis Roadhouse / 19 July The Miserable Rich + Walton Hesse Band on the Wall / 19 July Electrelane Academy 3 / 22 July Two Gallants Night & Day / 26 July Caitlin Rose Academy / 28 July George Borowski Deaf Institute / 29 July Dignan Porch Fuel


Mcr Gigs in Music Mixtape: July 2011 [58 mins / 64 MB] - download here