Friday, February 27, 2009

Who Wants to Be Loved Anyway?

Last night was a Flying Nun marathon of sorts. There was an event put on at Kings Arms for someone's birthday - invitation by word-of-mouth only. I met up with some local Anoraks before the gig at 9pm and I was out 'til 1am, if remember correctly. There were only four gigs, but it seemed to drag on endlessly. Probably because most of the artists don't get to play too often and insisted on playing every song they knew!

First out was Matthew Bannister (ex-Sneaky Feelings), accompanied by a woman (his wife I assume) on flute and harmonies. He didn't play any Sneaky Feelings songs, mostly new songs, some of which were from his first solo album under the moderately funny One Man Bannister moniker. If was a gentle and fairly countryish set, perhaps a bit too slow at times.

Next were Able Tasmans, one of few Auckland-based acts on Flying Nun (despite the Abel Tasman national park being located on the South Island). Now, I've heard A Cuppa Tea and a Lie Down and Store In a Cool Place but didn't actually remember many of the songs. So they didn't really get me going until they did "What Was That Thing" from 1987. Not my favourite band on Flying Nun, but definitely a good gig and very interesting to see. They also had the biggest crowd watching them, with plenty of people dancing and singing along!

The Puddle were on last and by that time most people had given in to fatigue, and the crowd persistently thinned out during their set. It was a long set, and quite tedious at times. I had somehow expected a 'professional' band now that Henderson had got a stable line-up with him at last, but that's not how I would describe them at all. It started out great, with some stand up drumming from George's brother Ian. But we soon got to hear some bad guitar sounds and they completely stopped three times to tune up. Still, there were moments of briliance in there, and I'm glad I (and about 20 other people) had the stamina to stay til the end! They did several songs off of their first album Into the Moon (1990) and quite a few off last year's The Shakespeare Monkey, which I picked up at the gig. It's definitely a lot better than I expected after what I'd heard.

Heard For Stolen Ears

I hope you're all going to Foolin' Around tonight - at least if you're in Glasgow. There's already a second event booked, based on the certain success of tonight's Liechtenstein gig at Stereo! This is the poster for the April event, sporting two of Australia's most interesting acts at the moment - The Crayon Fields and The Motifs. There'll be some fantastic local support acts as well, but they're yet to be confirmed I think. The background is of course adapted from Man Ray's The Kiss (1930). I'm really glad I could help out with this since I failed to get them a gig in Malmö.

If you make it down tonight you'll also have the chance to pick up a cheap copy of Liechtenstein's new ep Everything's For Sale (Drill Building). If not, you'll have to order it all the way from Swedish Fraction Discs!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I Wish I Wasn't a Flexi Disc

Bobsy was kind enough to send me a rip of The Enormous Room's only vinyl release, a 1986 12" on Sharp - "a label owned by the mighty Peter Sharp who ran a supermarket in Peterborough and liked good music". The Enormous Room were from Watford and Mark told me he failed an audition for them before he joined The Mayfields! Before this I'd only heard their Medium Cool flexi "I Don't Need You" from earlier in the same year. That's a great track, but it's the second song on the flexi (also on the 12") that sets the tone for the more sombre four songs here. Here's the titletrack, with some fantastic jangle. You can find the flexi over here.

CLOUD 89 The Enormous Room - 1000 Different Words

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Painting the Day

I went to my first gig in Auckland yesterday. Fabulous Japanese duo Tenniscoats visited, and blinded me with an even more beautiful set than at Triptych two years ago (where they also played together with The Pastels). The collaborative album still isn't out but apparently there's a new Tenniscoats album called Temporacha, which Mark Parallelogram picked up at the gig. I would've done the same if I had a job! It was nice to meet someone for the UK and it seems he's enjoying himself as much as I am.

Rachel Shearer supported them and the whole thing was at Cross Street Studios, a kinda Stereo/Mono place (Cross Street particularly reminds me of the dodgy side lane Stereo is on). Great to see a band like Tenniscoats can pull a decent crowd in Auckland!

End of the Summer On Summer Street

This is my street, looking west down from Ponsonby. About 25 metres in the other direction is Ponsonby Road, which reminds me a bit of Byres Road. The first day was spent exploring this area, with my summer mix playing in my earphones, and looking for the lost unicorn. Two things struck me - the sometimes deafening song of the cicadas is everywhere, and the green man's appearance is accompanied by the sound of a Star Trek phaser being fired.

The next day I literally walked around the whole city centre. I went into our nearest supermarket New World and learned that most European products were expensive (McVitie's digestives only comes in a half packs!)and they don't know how to make a decent pork pie. I've met most of Auckland's Anorak members (coincidence: I picked up a book about underground cinema in Onehunga's Hard to Find Books an hour before meeting Chris and finding out he works there).

Ponsonby Road leads onto K' Road, which is where it's happening. Artspace is here, as well as the Auckland office of The New Zealand Film Archive. They've got a big collection of films, shorts and amateur footage that you can watch for free. I looked at two pieces by Len Lye on my first visit - Colour Flight and Color Cry - but I have to get back there soon to check out the Chills documentary, Topless Women Talk About Their Lives and some more Flying Nun related material.

I swung by bFM's office on the Auckland uni campus and filled in some sort of application for people interested in helping out. It didn't seem impossible to get a show, or at least try it out - so we'll see if they get in touch soon. My list of songs is almost up to an hour now...

On the B-Side of the World

So I've been in New Zealand for almost a week and you might wonder what I've been up to. But first some words about London. I flew in three days earlier to meet some friends and, of course, see Crystal Stilts at the Windmill! There were three bands playing and I had really been looking forward to seeing Let's Wrestle for the first time. Last year's impressive In Loving Memory of... ep set my expectations high and the trio didn't disappoint. I'd missed A Classic Education from Italy at Indietracks, so this was a good chance to catch up, even though they played for far too long. Then Crystal Stilts came on and did what can only be described as the best gig so far this year, although their dialogue seemed limited to Patrick from Sexy Kids, who was standing in front of me. It's true that they're even better than on record, and the atmosphere at the very front of a packed out Windmill was tense. And it was very satisfying to finally see Frankie Rose, standing up behind the minimal drum kit she played. Somehow I managed to get this great shot in the middle of the heaving crowd.

I popped in to Rough Trade East as well, to pick up the new Electricity In Our Homes 7", and found that they'd already got a shipment of Ipso Facto cds (the release date was the following Monday). So I got one of those even though they were 10 quid. Essentially, it's a Japanese release of the "Six and Three Quarters" single and the one-sided "Ears and Eyes", plus two new songs and the brilliant "Balderdash" from their first 7". Seems like they're not entirely happy with that recording anymore since "Bladerdash" is called a demo here, and the a-side is completely absent. The ep is simply called IF... and RT should still have copies since there were loads when I was there, otherwise get it from the label - Vinyl Junkie.

Late Sunday evening I got aboard the plane and two airborne dinners and breakfasts and a 2-hour walk around Hong Kong airport later, I was in a melting car on the way to Ponsonby, where I'm now staying at no. 11 Summer Street. Here's the difference between the view out my window a week ago and now.

Malmö, Feb 12th.

Auckland, Feb 17th.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Pop Factory On Strike

Quite a catch, eh? (The last one is not a cd, it's my bed.) Especially so since it's all from the $1 bins of Real Groovy - probably Auckland's biggest record store and also the one with the most extensive section of second hand vinyl. I didn't really find much of note (or at a decent price) among the lps, but as I started browsing the cheapo cds I first found The Gentle Waves' first album, that I've put off buying for about 8 years, and then Looper's Geometrid which I've considered for nearly as long. The Belle & Sebastian thread continued when I found Rough Trade's Colours Are Brighter set of childrens' tunes, to which the Scots contributed "The Monkeys Are Breaking Out of the Zoo". So that was pretty good, all that for roughly £1!

But then I found the original of Brittle Stars' self-titled album, and I nearly cried out loud. Had I found the Castaway Stones cd as well I would have fainted I tell you! I didn't, but instead found The Heartworms' brilliant During. This is by far the best bargain I've ever made.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

For Our Elegant Castle

The first album from Pocketbooks should be available from How Does It Feel to Be Loved in a few weeks, although the official release is not until summer. The cover conveys the London themes of the lyrics and the springlike feel of the music. Taken on a day when Primrose Hill was inhabited by an unusually high number of indiepop fans and artists, the photograph was taken by me 1½ years ago.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Door Marked Summer

I was playing "Sunflower" by The Springfields earlier today and realised I had to do my summer mixtape now, because summer is only a week off for me. I've been working on it most of today and originally I was planning to do another 2-disc set, just like last year, as I had more than 160 minutes of music to start with. But after I'd trimmed it down to one cd of 60s songs and one of newer stuff, I decided to do just one cd - in theory making it twice as good... These are the songs I scrapped:

Aberdeen - Super Sunny Summer
The Groove Farm - Crazy Day Sunshine Girl
BMX Bandits - Come Summer
The Explorers Club - Don't Forget the Sun
The Clientele - These Days Nothing But Sunshine
Fireflies - Summer Has Gone
Pas/cal - Summer Is Almost Here
Cub - Summer Samba
Skywave - Summertime
The Love Letter Band - Popgun Summer
Po! - Summer Pudding
Brent Cash - Good Morning Sunshine
The Chrysalids - Sunny Guitar Pop
The Dagenites - Now That Summer's Gone
The Shangri-Las - The Sweet Sounds of Summer
The Impact Express - Sunshine Day
The Hollies - Everything Is Sunshine
Hearts and Flowers - Try For the Sun
Marianne Faithfull - Morning Sun
Gemini - Sunshine River
The Stillroven - Sunny Day
The Rare Breed - I Talk to the Sun
The Millenium - Some Sunny Day
The Zombies - Walking In the Sun
Samantha Jones - Surrounded By a Ray of Sunshine
The Looking Glass - Silver and Sunshine (How Wonderful Is Our Love)
Margo Guryan - Sun
The Factory - Try a Little Sunshine

Thus making up a 'lost' mix on its own. Look at the final tracklisting below and decide for yourself if I was right to choose those songs instead. There has been a lot of deliberation on my part, for the record. What I've been trying to imagine is walking around the streets of Auckland with these songs in my ears, and those that didn't feel right I skipped. There are some old favourites by The Springfields, The Summer Suns, The Autumn Leaves, Jan & Dean, Revolving Paint Dream, Marine Girls, Skypark and The Sunshine Company. A few bands from the Lost Jukebox series, like the peculiarly named Fluff and Fargo. New music from The Sea Lions and Cocoanut Groove. Recent discoveries like Inner Dialogue, and The Stolen Picassos who've just been featured at Fire Escape Talking and the Cloudberry blog. Roque also posted the absolutely wonderful cassette track from The Ammonites! Be sure to check out the interview with the former bandleader. "Your mind's somewhere else but your lips are smiling" is a title of a post on this blog, but the line is originally from Louis Philippe's "Hot Summer Evenings" from the classic Ivory Tower album. And I'm especially pleased with the inclusion of The Sunsets as the penultimate track - with the title track from the Hot Generation! comp of Australia & New Zealand garage groups! "We live to be free, give our hearts to the sea." The cover pic is part of the documentation of Hreinn Fridfinnsson's The House Project (1974) - a conceptual work built around the inversion of a house, with wallpaper, curtains and all the rest on the exterior of the house instead of the opposite. This was done in Iceland, which is of course very far away from New Zealand, but it's a convenient metaphor for the inversion of the seasons that I will soon experience. The rest of you will have to wait another few months. Which is also how long you'll have to wait to hear this!:

(Both pictures should be enlarged on clicking.) Unless you can prove that it is already summer in your part of the world of course, and I'll give you a download link.

Imagine zooming in on the door of the house, just maybe it will say 'summer'.

EDIT: Ok, so the wait is over since it's 'almost' summer, at least in some parts of the Northern Hemisphere. I'm only at CLOUD 91 so far, so I have some catching up to do to make this 100...

CLOUD 100 V/A - Summer's Just a Kiss Away

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Mauritius Penny


I couldn't wait til I get to New Zealand, I had to have an outlet for music now. So I've decided to do a proper podcast this time, which should be registered with iTunes soon. This was partly inspired by the wonderful I Smiled Yesterday series, of which the 6th instalment should by up at Slumberland HQ any time. The HIAYH podcast carries on from #, and NOW, #1 is here! There's no concept beyond the spectrum of styles, which will be the same as at Don't Die On My Doorstep. How do I pick the songs then? Well, I always keep a list of songs that I hear and think "I have to do something with this song!". So every time that list reaches 50-60 minutes worth of music there will be a new podcast. If I get to do a radio show in Auckland, the podcast will simply be aired on FM radio in addition to being a digital download. Here's what's on #1.

To subscribe to the podcast, use the link in the sidebar. Or download the file from the link above if you don't want to subscribe.

There Is No Strength In Reaching Out

One of the records from the tail-end of 2008 that I missed, was Tellus About the Moon's debut ep on Letterbox. TATM was one of the Swedish pop bands that turned up in the wake of Days and The Electric Pop Group. They're from Gothenburg as well and their bass player is also in Electric Pop Group and The Lost Homeboys. Musically, they'll remind you of Cats On Fire, The Felt Tips and successful Matinée signees Northern Portrait, especially due to the overbearing presence of singer Nicke in the mix. Their songs are a bit more open-ended though and the production a bit more tinny. That's fine by me of course, but you get the feeling they'd rather sound like St. Christopher given a chance. The second song "Hate" was one of the first they had on Myspace, in 2007, and it still sounds great. My favourite however, is "Sharktooth" which starts off with a great guitar hook coupled by another then yet another guitar track in the background. "Sharktooth" and "Nomore" (which is the opening track) does make you wonder if there's a thought behind this compounding. Either way, Harvey likes them, and that severely limits your say in the matter! Download "Nomore" from Letterbox and shut it.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Why Am I So Beautiful?

I'd been completely oblivious to the fact that Joseph Losey made a film of Modesty Blaise in 1966 until a few weeks ago. It has to be one of my favourite films now, with Monica Vitti as Modesty (with an almost unbearable Italian accent) and Dirk Bogarde as the marvellously atrocious Gabriel. Anyway, the reason for this post is that there are now almost as many CLOUDs posted here as there were DROPs at The Rain Fell Down, and that should be reason enough to review the top ten. The last round-up was in June last year, and among the songs posted since then these are the ten most appealing artists.

1. Remember Fun
2. Hurrah!
3. Niza
4. The Motifs
5. Las Escarlatinas
6. The Wild Poppies / Cocoanut Groove / The Someloves
7. Honeycrash
8. The Carrots
9. James Dean Driving Experience
10. Aventuras de Kirlian

Remember Fun wins by quite a margin, as did Series Two in the label category of the TweeNet poll. But I doubt any ex-RF members have downloaded away to their hearts' content to tip the votes! The Matinée fanclub poll results are now published as well.

Monday, February 2, 2009

I'm Not Your Jesus So Will You Get Off My Cross

Wake the President's first album has all the trappings of a classic pop album. It's got the perfect opener in "Something to Turn Up", whose stripped-down sincerity makes you focus on the lyric. Which is among the best to originate from Erik's H6 pencil. I absolutely adore how the most feathery of melodies can carry lines such as "with conscious choice you charged my heart with an unfathomable bill - so cut me right up
into a thousand little pieces, it will tell you how many days we've spent apart". That blends seamlessly into the agitated "Professor" which immediately lets you experience the band at a head-on charge. Guitars into overdrive and cymbals crashing, but never powerful, never stealing the scene. The bass works incessantly in the background, gracefully tip-toeing through the chorus. A new, and much improved version of "Mail, Alice" follows, one of the sides off of their first single. But the undisputed stand-out track on this album (all classic albums need one, don't you know) is "Miss Tierney" - the song they've always threatened to make but a threat they've not made good on until this treat. It's a perfect pop song, about love of course, that wears its influences so well they're unrecognisable until the concluding floor tom echoes out like the essence of Crumbling the Antiseptic Beauty distilled down to one beat. Naturally, it has also been picked for a single release, to follow the album out in March by another month. I couldn't find a decent-sized picture of the album cover, so pictured above is the forthcoming single which is shared by Je Suis Animal. "Miss Tierney" is the centrepiece of the album, but I fear the fact that neither this nor Je Suis Animal's "Fortune Map" (from Self-Taught Magic From a Book) is exclusive will cripple the sales of this fime item.

At ten tracks, You Can't Change That Boy arguably contains one single too many and leaves us with six completely new delights. Both "Remember Fun?" and the titletrack are old singles, but those of you who haven't heard them should eagerly devour them - like vintage bottles of wine saved for right moment. The a-side (I hope this will be available on vinyl!) ends with the quiet "Wake" which introduces piano and castanets to what wouldn't have been a totally inappropriate wake for Grant McLennan. The biggest joy on the b-side for me, if 'joy' hadn't been hopelessly out of place in this context, is "The Security Place". Another new song for me, and another piece of evidence in the ongoing case for Wake the President's constant self-improvement. With a more sprightly production there are no bounds to where the next record might take them. But the refined, studio incarnation of Wake the President isn't so bad either, as the heart-breaking closing track "A & E" proves. Too tender to survive the crudity of the live environment (or perhaps merely the clientele of Glasgow's gig venues), they never play it live. So if lines like "our courtship seems so long ago, your middle name should be indelible" and "too warm for friendship, too pure for love" is the subscription you need, as your doctor, I recommend you to buy You Can't Change That Boy as soon as it's available from your local vendor.

Some of the songs referenced in this post, are playing over here.

I'm In Colour Too

Remember that radio show I did for Marion at Dublab? Well, it's now playing in their Dubstream. I admit I couldn't get my head around it at first but it's essentially all the shows listed that play in that order and it then starts from the top again. Fun On the Lawn Lawn Lawn is near the end of the current stream, and seeing as it's now "Ale - Best of 2008" which is playing I should be on within the next two hours.

And there's Marion's latest instalment of Not Quite Punk, which is a best of 2008 as well. Many good selections in there! Also recommended is the Lucky Dragons live set, which might be good taste of what to expect at Krets on Friday!

And while you're at it you should listen an old Not Quite Punk set which has Pete Hahndorf of TweeNet sitting in to play some of his discoveries from his long sojourn in Asia. This is already in the archive and can be played whenever you wish. I'll let you know when mine's archived too, and maybe a bit more convenient to get to!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Snowflake In My Eye

It was snowing as I went out the doors of Retro half an hour ago. As I cycled home with the snow falling in a gentle wind, I realised I hadn't been outside while it's been snowing this winter. And I wasn't even freezing despite only wearing a t-shirt under my jacket. Because I'd just been to Daniel's post punk special of So Tough! So Cute!. I'd warmed up with Delta 5's singles comp before going to the pre-party and ST!SC! turned out to be great tonight. I got to hear some of my requests (White Night, Ipso Facto) and left just after he finally played Dislocation Dance ("Violette") and just before the rush to the wardrobe. Whilst cycling, I thought this is probably my last taste of clubbing for a while. Certainly in Malmö. It's sad I'm missing the surely amazing PENS gig Daniel is putting on (for which he gave me the flyer above). Might be their fist gig outside the UK even...I'm not sure.

What was quite hard to imagine though, was the extreme difference in weather circumstances between today and where I'll be just over two weeks from now. I continued cycling and longed to be home so I could play Two If By Sea's "Pale As White". As I entered my street I encountered a fresh coat of white and the trails from my tires were the first marks made upon it. Did I really deserve this honour, I thought?