It's Your Fault (Repeat)
Fanzine labels are great. They allow you to sample the different sounds coming out of various scenes around the country. If A&B had more financial backing, releasing singles would be something I'd definitely want to do. Anyway, this is Alcopop; they come from Cambridge and this four track EP has been released by the area's best zine, Repeat. Although they originally started out as a Manics zine, Repeat have now branched out to encompass all things indie and rock. This diversion in tastes is obvious when listening to Alcopop. They are nothing like the Manics. Instead, they play cool, un-political pop based around cheap keyboards and buzzing guitars. A very pleasant sound, all told, if quite unadventurous too. My favourite track on the EP is 'I Like You'. I suppose it could be considered the 'slow one' on the CD, but it's still packed with shimmering pop moments.
Why Did You Let My Kitten Die? (Fantastic Plastic)
I think this is the same Angelica that released 'Teenage Girl Crush' a couple of years ago. That was a brilliant little song, but for whatever reason, I never bought it. Too late to get it now I guess, but this single makes up for that loss a bit. 'Why Did You Let My Kitten Die?' is a cute song, complete with glockenspiel during the chorus, but has more sinister undertones if you listen to the lyrics. The B-sides are a bit throwaway, basically sounding the same as the lead-track, just not as good. The single as a whole is a worthwhile purchase, but by no means essential and I don't think Angelica have fulfilled the promise set by their debut single quite yet, but they're definitely working on it.
Scene From Augusta (Shifty Disco)
Beulah are the grandchildren of The Beach Boys, via Fountains Of Wayne, although I am loathed to label them as such because something about 'Scene From Augusta' makes me warm to them. True, this, their latest single, contains the rock tinged, high pitched harmonies which would lead to such comparisons but it is far less produced, and far more convincing. 'Scene From Augusta' does not bring us anything we have not heard before but is immensely likeable. [Jess]
Huwuno (Seriously Groovy)
Oh dear, what an embarrassing name for a record company. Ignore any prejudices you may have though, because Best are downright ace if this single is anything to go by. They cite almost all those American alternative rock bands of the late eighties (Pixies, Sonic Youth et al) as their inspiration, and, yeah, they may draw a bit too much from their influences, but there's no denying that 'Huwuno' is an exhilarating two minute blast of sugar metal, gliding from full throttle noise to harmonised fuzz with apparent ease. B-side 'Viva Minor Leagues' is a forty-five second assault of hardcore noise and when they become famous it's going to generate the most furious mosh-pit ever! Keep your eyes peeled for this lot, it can't be long before Kerrang! catches up with them.
I heard this on the radio a few times and whilst hip-hop is not usually my kind of thing, 'Deception' is a lovely concoction of crisp piano playing, funky basslines, smooth rapping and a highly contagious chorus. Very chilled out and cool, I can't wait till its summer so I can play this when the sun is streaming through the window. The B-sides are darker but still quite good. The best is probably 'Turmoil' which has a really creepy glockenspiel in it. so go on, check it out, listening to new types of music is really exciting, especially when it's of this quality.
In my opinion, there's always room for another quirky, acoustic-pop band in the world, especially when they apply their trade as well as Candidate. There's something about the title-track that makes me smile inanely when I hear it. Maybe its the gorgeous simplicity of it all, perhaps its those dynamic chord changes that lead into the choruses. All I know is that I like it, and I bet our milkman would be whistling it every morning it if he'd heard it too. The other tracks on the single are equally promising , particularly the swirling, slightly hypnotic sound of the piano-led 'Ten Principles of Statecraft', which slowly drifts to its subdued finale. Lovely music for quiet moments.
Cognoscenti Vs Intelligentsia (EMI)
[Please note: I got this on promo and reviewed it a month before 'hamstermania'!] Anyone been listening to John Peel recently? No doubt you'll have heard the Cuban Boys then, who've now signed to a big, bad major label. They are an unpredictable bunch, that's for sure. Their last single on Org completely passed over my head, but 'Cognoscenti Vs Intelligentsia' is an inane hybrid of cheesy synths and funny samples, all held together by a fantastically catchy tune. The fact that they're on EMI will probably mean that this'll go Top Forty at least. People will either think it's the most irritating record ever, or hail it rightly as a masterstroke of pop music for the masses. Buy it for your little sister and get the whole family dancing to it!
6 Track EP (Deceptive)
My first reaction to '6 Track EP' was one of disappointment. It has to be admitted that as an avid Elastica fan of four years ago, I had high hopes for a new collection of fine punk pop tunes. '6 Track EP' however, appears to be nothing more than a collection of b-sides. I do appreciate that bands ought to develop their sound between albums, but Elastica's reversion to dance music seems a little far fetched. The major improvement of Justine's vocals on the lead track 'How He Wrote Elastica Man' at Reading, instead of Mark E. Smith on this recording, helped me to warm to it more. There are some good songs on here- Donna's home demo 'Nothing Stays The Same', and the far more traditional Elastica song 'Generator' are my favourites. I hope these songs point to the new album rather than the dance tracks. Overall, I would say '6 Track EP' is one for the die-hard fans only. It hasn't much to recommend it other than being the band's first release for four years. [Jess]
EL HOMBRE TRAJEADO
Sleep Deep (Guided Missile)
This may be a bit old now, I'm not sure when it came out as I picked it up on impulse whilst in London one day. Still, if you do find a copy of this, or indeed any other El Hombre Trajeado record, do snap it up because on the evidence of this single, they are a band to get a little bit excited about. I guess the obvious comparison I could make would be with Tortoise, but El Hombre Trajeado certainly have their own sound. 'Sleep Deep' begins nervously, before the awkward guitars start and the stammering vocal kicks in. All of it is timed to perfection, and sends shivers down your spine. I'd love to see them live, but this single will easily do for now.
Bag Of Spanners (Spangle)
As promised in last issue's interview with the band, here is Fantasmagroover's third release, the quite lovely 'Bag Of Spanners'. The distinctive razor-sharp guitars and angular basslines are present as ever, but this time the band have gone all melodic on us. Maybe it's Paul Tipler's production, but the lead track is so much more streamlined than previous offerings, seemingly flowing out of the stereo. The best of the B-sides, 'Closing Down Sale at the Gun Factory' is a rawer proposition, Babbsy's shrill voice stuttering over some potent guitar chords. Oh yeah, it has a really cool drum roll at the start too. Nice work, from a consistently exciting band.
Here Comes The Music (Mercury)
I saw Fixed Stars at the Camden Falcon last summer, and they looked and sounded like stars. An air of confidence and swagger surrounded them, and they had a pack of glossy, shimmering rock tunes in their set- just like 'Here Comes The Music'. The title track, produced by Ian Broudie no less, is a burst of swirling pop, twisted together with sharp lyrics to produce a lovely combination. The B-sides are even more unashamedly pop, but 'Minimal Spaces' is particularly hard to dislodge from my brain. With tunes galore and major label backing (ooo-er- don't get many of those in A&B!) Fixed Stars have a great opportunity to fulfill the potential set by this single.
Some may say that Gel's time has been and gone; last year's Bratpop scene burnt out almost as soon as it started, and teenage bubblegum punkers are being seen as increasingly outdated, particularly by the weeklies. But, and I'm sure many of their fans will feel the same, I don't care! 'Sunshine' is packed full of energy, harmonies and power chords and it's such an uplifting song. If only they'd released it at the start of July, they may have even crept into the top forty! The B-sides are cool too. 'Pick Me Up' is very soppy and wet, but I can imagine it making even the most hardy, butch men weep slightly. You all should remember the other B-side, 'Yellow 12' from Snakebite City 6, and yes, this new, chunkier recording is just as good as it was back then. In some ways however, that also shows how little Gel have progressed, because that song must be almost three years old by now. Never mind though, this is still a great single throughout.
Millennium Dome (Naked Dog)
This 7 inch single came free with 'Here Be Monsters' fanzine, an essential purchase in it itself. As a free gift this is brilliant therefore, but it stands up as a fine single on its own ground. Glueball play lightning fast garage punk, and are the kind of band you can imagine watching in a really small and grimy club. The lead track is a hilarious criticism of the Millennium Dome- a must hear. It's backed up by three more nuggets of full-throttle, noisy punk, best of which is another cheeky slice of satire, 'New York'. Yeah, I've enjoyed listening to Glueball, they're loads of fun. Buy HBM and give them a listen too.
National Paranoia (Yoshiko)
After all the false starts and delays, I thought Inter's debut single for their new record company would never surface, but it crashed into number ten in the indie charts over the summer with the help of heavy John Peel airplay, and it was certainly worth the wait. Inter fans will recognise the crunchy guitar riffs and cheery tune of the splendid 'National Paranoia', but in my opinion the B-sides are even better! Particularly worth checking out is the urgent message of 'Keep It Inside', complete with soaring harmonies and, even better, a little guitar solo from Sid! It's all so well produced as well, just brilliant really and I can't wait for the album.
Jean Cell (Olympique)
This appeared mysteriously through my letterbox without much information, and hence I know very little about Interlaken. 'Jean Cell' is a pleasant single, faintly reminiscent of lots of things, but not directly ripping off anyone. The band's sound is quite ordinary; slightly epic, with a strong chorus and overall, it's nicely listenable but difficult to get inspired or excited by. I'm not usually one to pick up on things like this, but the production is noticeably rough as well.
Easy (Shifty Disco)
The eerie opening track 'Let's Move To The Country' sets the tone for an album that is subtle, fragile and mysterious. Smog, otherwise known as Bill Callahan, has produced an album that is reminiscent of the darkly beautiful songwriting of Leonard Cohen. Musically 'Knock Knock' is a blend of downbeat lo-fi and country, but lyrically it is much more complicated than that. The storytelling on this album raises so many questions, whilst providing so few answers. Even the innocence of children singing on 'No Dancing' fails to hide the poetry of a world-weary man. The lyrics therefore form the basis of the album, but that is not to say it is musically mundane. No, rather it is suitably understated, whipping up a delicate atmosphere that reflects Callahan's words. Try listening to 'River Guard' without being absorbed in the cabalistic life of the prisoner officer's tragic work, soundtracked by gentle guitar strumming and a haunting piano. Occasionally, the music does grip the listener more, such as on the chugging melody of the single 'Cold Blooded Old Times', but even then the lyrics are the most intriguing aspect of the song. Sorry if I've gone on too much about the words, but 'Knock Knock' is a fascinating album, consisting of dark, well-crafted tunes with, yes, a large poetic influence.
Super Sexy Razor Happy Girls (Grand Royale)
The press release for this describes Mika Bomb as 'bursting forth' with their debut single, and this is certainly true. The characteristic which hits you right in the face on the first listen is the energy of these girls. The 'ba-ba-ba-ba' chorus makes this an instant sing-a-long classic, a girl power anthem of its kind. The b-side 'Magic Boots' may be a bit silly, but in the same kitsch way that Vyvyan can be considered far superior to the technical impeccability of mainstream indie, 'Super Sexy Razor Happy Girls' as a single package is one of the best things I have bought this year. (Tim: actually I bought it!) [Jess]
The Aquatic Ape Theory (Lockjaw)
Oh yes, I like this! Three tracks by the deranged Monkey Boy, each of them brilliant and completely different form the one before. The first track, 'Fish For A Quid' is probably the most typical Monkey Boy track on the CD. Monkey Boy are no ordinary band however, and a typical track consists of a concoction of Disco Stu's buzzsaw bass and Paul's manic screaming combining together to form a crazy blend of rumbling metal, dynamic punk and swinging jazz. Second song, 'Deadmanjones' conjures up some of the band's live experience, with jumbled lyrics and tantalising pauses. Oh, and they've slipped a funky little keyboard solo in there too. As ever though, the best is saved till last. 'Journey To The God Of Monk Rock' is a sweeping epic, destroying everything in its path with its sheer noise. It features Rothko playing on it, totaling five bassists in all. There is such a depth of sound that you can really hear all those instruments at work too. Another fabulous single by this band then...come and enter the insane world of Monkey Boy if you dare!
Always Your Way (Org)
Org records have an uncanny knack of releasing debut singles by fantastic bands. Cay, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, the Cuban Boys... and now, probably the most promising band they've been involved with so far, My Vitriol. Whilst doing my homework this week, I must have heard 'Always Your Way' on the Evening Session every night. It's perfect fodder for Lamacq; four minutes of male-guitar-verse-chorus-pop-rock, but it's done in such a way that it makes you suddenly want to stop writing your essay on Bismarck's Germany and go out and rock like an idiot at a My Vitriol gig, along with hundreds of other sweaty punters. Yes, great tune, strong melody, tons of passion- I love it.
Too Many DJs (Pias)
Sometimes you buy a single, and after one listen you just can't stop playing it. You know what I'm going to say: Soulwax have produced one of these illustrious tracks. 'Too Many DJs' begins innocently enough, and it takes almost one minute for the killer chorus to come crashing in amongst a flurry of guitars and scratching vinyl. The band are then arrogant enough to hold the listener in tantalising suspense, before erupting one final time. It's bold, it's passionate, it sometimes even touches on exhilaration. An exaggeration? Give it a listen and hear for yourself.
Bad Head Day (Solar)
I can't seem to summon up the words to describe how very average Stargirl are. 'Bad Head Girl' is the kind of track you hear blasting out of a radio tuned to Virgin FM. Stargirl play female fronted, slightly chirpy rock with bland production and little passion. Not my kind of thing at all. Ho hum... yeah, that's about it. Oh, they were the first band to release a single over the Internet apparently, or so they claim.
The Iron Apple (Southern)
There's a bit of a funny story as to how I accumulated this. I went into the record shop as normal, and asked for the Union Kid EP, and it wasn't until halfway down the road that I discovered I'd been given this by mistake. Being ever interested in discovering new sounds as I am however, I decided to keep the CD and find out a bit more about UI. Essentially, UI are a post-rock band, basing their voiceless songs around intricate sounds and rhythms. I was rather concerned when lead track 'Mrs. Lady Lady' began with a few bars of funky bass, but it soon mutates into something far more to my tastes, with lovely little guitar lines running over the place. Second song 'Blue Pietro' follows in a similar vein, although it has a strange moog sound dictating proceedings throughout, which is occasionally disrupted by a flourish of dramatic sound. The rest of the songs on the EP are reworkings of these two tracks, and overall UI are more of an intriguing prospect rather than a revolutionary new force in the post-rock scene.
Otter Than July (Fierce Panda)
Wow, another of these Fierce Panda compilation EPs, and so soon as well. It starts off well with the slightly awkward Fraff and their contribution, the deliberately clumsily titled 'You Tripped Up And Messed Up My Rugs'. Nice scratchy lo-fi, with cool angular guitars. Rosita are lovely, 'Sugar' is one of the sweetest little songs I've heard this year, and those cooed harmonies are aural saccharine. I just wish I'd seen them at Reading now! Pop Threat...hmmm, I'm a bit undecided about them. 'Fallen Threat' is just a bit too ordinary really, and is far too long for a song that doesn't have many ideas in the first place. If you read fanzines on a regular basis, you must know about Hofman by now; agitated lyrics over a torrent of jagged guitar sounds and an intense beat is provided in 'The Girl With The Storm-Damaged Hair'. Probably the best song on the single. Mo-Ho-Bish-O-Pi are a lot of fun. 'Kate Is Cool' is out of tune, slightly disco influenced indie-pop with high pitched singing, what could be better? Certainly not Scribble, that's for sure. I loved the glam infested punk of their debut single on Shifty Disco, but 'See You Soon' is a brave attempt at something more epic that isn't pulled off very well. So, a bit of a disappointing finish, but all the bands are worth investigating into if you have the chance, and thumbs up to Fierce Panda again for giving us a slice of modern day indie on one handy compact disc.
Oxford (Plastic Cowboy)
The fourth in an ongoing series that has previously featured Glasgow amongst others, this EP does exactly what it says on the tin. Four bands from Oxford have recorded exclusive tracks which show just a small sample of the talent the city has to offer. All the bands have previously had singles out on the now legendary Shifty Disco label, starting with the delightful Four Storeys. Their contribution, 'Still Waiting' is a gorgeous, heartfelt tune, with strong country undertones. Reminiscent of classic Sixties songwriters, it is retro, but in all the right ways. Whispering Bob look set to be another fine proposition. 'Lucky Strike' is a deep, engaging effort with a strong, slightly brooding melody, that whilst may not be instantly memorable, certainly makes up a quality song. A&B favourites, The Samurai Seven, continue to mold their own identity into the often generic formula of punk-pop. 'What Have I said Now?' is a frantic sing-a-long with more guitar riffing than usual, but retaining the trademark harmonies and drum rolls. I've never liked Cody much, and 'Sleepy Park Royal' is not going to alter that opinion; disco influenced pop that drags on for far too long. A disappointing note to finish up on then, but overall this an EP that shows there's more to Oxford than a big university full of public school students.
Just one demo I'm afraid. When I saw Angel in September I was not very impressed: far too many Cobain-isms, with little in the way of original spark. It was with increasing interest therefore, that I listened to the lead track from this professionally produced CD demo, 'Glitterskin'. Its a tight little rock beast, with a cool rough-edged riff and really fat bass sounds. Unfortuantely its by far the best track on the demo, because the other songs slip into sterile, formulaic grunge. Actually, final number, 'Victim' sounds a bit different, and is much better for it. A sad solo acoustic is the only accompaniment for the singer before the expected distorted guitars explode into life. In conclusion however, I'd like to say that Angel do possess a glimmer of promise, but their songs at the moment are too often third-rate.
Contact: Jim (01252) 517053.
Issue 5 Contents
Issue 5 Winter 2000 © Tim Bragger