Thursday, November 25, 2010

In and Out of Print

It's twenty years since Happydeadmen released their first album Eleven Pop Songs, and probably almost as long since it went out of print, at small Swedish label Ceilidh. It actually is quite strange that it's been unavailable for so long, since it's up there with the first Popsicle album and Hep Stars' It's Been a Long Long Time as one of the best Swedish pop albums ever. However, this fact has given it a 'holy grail' status and it has also been virtually impossible to come by even in Sweden.

What about the songs then? Happydeadmen's sound was not really all that unique as there were plenty of other groups around at the time playing jangly guitars (The Watermelon Men, The Playmates etc.) but what separated Happydeadmen from the rest were their purely indiepop influences, while the other bands were part of the garage rock revival in 80s Sweden. The Watermelon Men had probably listened to American and Australian bands, while Happydeadmen sounded like British groups on Creation.

The reissue has finally been taken care of, by Swedish label Fraction, and it is a very faithful reproduction of the original LP, down to the pastel cover art. It includes the 11 tracks and has not seen any remastering. I seem to recall a Japanese reissue with some bonus tracks, but if you really want to hear the 7" version of "Silent Sigh City" you can always get the Classics: A Decade In Pop compilation which is still in print.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Perfect Pervert

Photo by rezflicks on Flickr.

The Girls At Dawn are sadly no more, but before leaving us they gave us a fantastic full-length, released by garage authorities Norton. An album was a natural step after a 7" on HoZac, a 12" on Captured Tracks and another 7" on Tic Tac Totally (which doesn't seem to have come out yet). Up until now, The Girls At Dawn have seemed perfectly suited for the 7"/12" format and one of the reasons I've been so keen to hear the LP is to see if they could pull it off. And I don't think there's any doubt that they have.

Although the title (Call the Doctor) and the cover photo might give you associations to riot grrrl groups, these 12 pop songs are much more rooted in 60s garage and the few female performers within that scene. I suppose lots of groups can bash out 12 songs in 20-25 minutes, but what is most impressive about this set are the melodies - especially the vocal and harmony on "I'm Alone", and "They're Waiting" (The Sonics reference?).

The recordings sound as thin as a bad 7" rip on Back From the Grave (this is good, of course), with a touch of chorus on the guitars to supply that gothic touch which I guess is part of the idea of the band. "Reach Me (Don't Forget Me)" sounds like the most elaborately arranged one, and works splendidly with its 12-string overdubs during the breaks.

Norton also have TGAD featured on their Rolling Stones covers singles club. "That Girl Belongs to Yesterday" (never actually recorded by the Stones) is backed with The Gaye Blades' take on "Ruby Tuesday". The question is, what happened to "Fox In the Woods" which was my first favourite by the band? Whoah, my question was just answered as I downloaded the new (and free!) Tic Tac Totally comp. There is was!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Looming Clouds

There have been at least three classic releases on the garage revival scene this year, and they're all by bands I haven't previously been familiar with.

First, and probably the the most criminally overlooked by me, is San Diego's The Loons. One look at the Vox and Rickenbacker wielding musicians on the cover could tell you that. And it gets worse when you find out they're a veritable super-group led by Mike Stax of The Tell-Tale Hearts (and the equally great Crawdaddy's and The Hoods, as well as being the editor of Ugly Things magazine since 1983!). In fact all the members streamed together from previous obligations in other bands around 1995. Having been on the scene for 15 years, this is still only their third effort. If all three bands in this post have to be pinned down to the sound of one year, these guys definitely have the '66 sound of Love and The Pretty Things nailed. All the songs are solid garage-psych, and in fact Glen Ross Campbell of The Misunderstood plays on a couple. I don't really have to divulge any more since the whole album is available on Spotify, unless you want to buy it from Bomp! of course. Oh,and if you like it you definitely have to listen to The Higher States' two LPs.

The strangely named Frowning Clouds however, are a bunch of fresh-faced kids from Australia. With two fantastic eps behind them, they now have a longplayer out on classic Aussie garage label Off the Hip. Listen Closelier sounds as authentically '65 as anything recorded at Toe Rag. Going straight for the r'n'b sound of The Rolling Stones and early garage groups like The Eyes, they manage to sound completely derivative yet somehow still magically exciting.

The Magnificent Brotherhood out of Berlin, are definitely the most psychedelic of this lot. Building on the reputation of 2008's acclaimed self-titled debut and a live lp, the release party for new album Dope Idiots was held only a few weeks ago. It sounds like they've found The Music Machine's fuzz pedal and a Vox Continental organ that The Doors scrapped in 1967, and the results are anything but mediocre. The album is self-released on green vinyl and can be picked up from their shop.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Mushrooms Cloud the Sky

After two great singles, "I'm Dead" (HoZac) and "Je Ne Suis Pas Trés Drogue" (Trouble In Mind), French yé-yé time machine The Limiñanas are back with a full-length. It is the tastemakers behind garage label TIM (and garage group CoCoComa) who have taken upon themselves to release the LP, and their unique sleeve art is nicely adapted to the new format.

Musically, it's another home run for Marie and Lionel, with some help from their faithful guest vocalists Mu and Nadege. This is the best re-creation of the wild sound of mid-to-late 60s French artists like Antoine, Delphine and Ronnie Bird in recent years. It has been done before: April March, Fabienne Delsol, Cécila et Ses Ennuis... but it hasn't been done enough!

Most of the record stays within the lounge-friendly midtempo zone, but slows done on the "Bonnie & Clyde"-like "Berçeuse pour Clive". Since that was the b-side to their previous single, perhaps they should have left the a-side off this album, as it is very similar to opening track "The Darkside" (not a Shadows of Knight cover). "Chocolate In My Milk" mines the same Nancy Sinatra territory as their Italian colleagues Vermillion Sands, but perhaps not quite as skillfully. The duo are on top their game however, on the ultra-cool "Je suis une go-go girl" and the oriental-flavoured "Tigre du Bengale" (also included as an instrumental).

Pick up the 12-track vinyl (download code included) from the new TIM website now, along with the latest 7"s from Personal & the Pizzas, Wounded Lion and Vermillion Sands.