Monday, July 24, 2017

Play A Brand New Tune From Basic Plumbing (Patrick From Veronica Falls, Boys Forever) Here!

Patrick Doyle is in Veronica Falls. He's also in Boys Forever. Regular readers of this site will recall how much I enjoyed the debut album from Boys Forever, reviewed by me here. And I'm happy to report that Patrick is now making new music under the name Basic Plumbing.

The new track is called "LILAC" and it's the first taste of the upcoming Basic Plumbing album that Patrick's working on now. The spry song already has a video and you can play that below. There's a slightly harder riff running through this one than on earlier tracks, and I thoroughly dig how the song seems to be paying homage to the simple pop charms of Modern Lovers numbers while simultaneously sounding a bit like something from The Pastels. Fans of C86-inspired modern indie-pop should also love this and have just as tough a time getting it out of their heads as I am now.

After you've played this a few times, head over to the Boys Forever Facebook page, or band's Tumblr site for more details on the upcoming Basic Plumbing project and the music of Patrick Doyle.

[Photo: Band's Facebook page]

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Fol De Rol: A Few Words About The New Album From The Fall

The only 2 things for sure in this life are death and taxes. Oh, and that Mark E. Smith will keep making Fall albums. He's made so many albums that I'm almost certain that I'm not the first writer to come up with that clever quip. The newest album, the sinister New Facts Emerge, drops on Friday on Cherry Red Records and it's a delightful bit of nastiness.

I say that 'cause, frankly, there's something unsettling here and something murky. First big track "Fol De Rol" pounds in, all drums and harsh riffs under the usual Mark E. Smith screed-speak, while the sharper "Brillo De Facto" pursues a nice rhythmic path. Elsewhere, the title cut marches in like something off of This Nation's Saving Grace, all proto-Brit rock pieces stitched up neatly, while the wonderfully-titled "Couples Vs. Jobless Mid 30's" sprawls out in a fine clatter, Mark E. Smith worked up as usual about...something. More interesting is "O! ZZTRRK Man" where the fellow seems to be singing through a megaphone, the effect like one of the more difficult numbers off of I Am Kurious Oranj. The spry "Gibbus Gibson" saunters a tiny bit, a bright spot amid the otherwise dark clutter of New Facts Emerge, while the racket of closer "Nine Out Of Ten" offers up one of the best Mark E. Smith compositions in recent memory, and certainly one of the loudest, I think.

The line-up of The Fall for New Facts Emerge is Mark E. Smith (lead vocals), Peter Greenway (guitar, synths, backing vocals), Dave Spurr (bass, Mellotron, backing vocals), and Kieron Melling (drums). The band here is a remarkably tight unit, throwing down nearly Krautrock rhythmic bits that jostle up against clattering guitars and scratchy Smith yelps and growls. An alternately purring and roaring beast, The Fall here on New Facts Emerge sound a bit angrier than any line-up of this outfit has lately and that's a good thing, Smith recalling the fire of his earlier stuff in spots on this 2017 release. Concisely malevolent, New Facts Emerge is a surprisingly strong showing from The Fall, a band that have released compelling and utterly unique music in 5 separate decades.

New Facts Emerge is out on Friday via Cherry Red Records. More details on The Fall via the band's official website.

[Photo: Uncredited promo picture]

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Chasing The Sun With Helvetia: A Quick Review Of The New EP From Jason Albertini (Built To Spill) And Crew

Jason Albertini was in both Duster and Built to Spill. The sound of those bands has informed that of his own Helvetia, who are due to release a new EP called Sun Chasers next week.

The title cut bursts forth with a real acid rock vibe, while the more languid "She Crashed" unfurls like an early Built to Spill track mixed with an early Dinosaur Jr. one. If that comparison suggests that Helvetia are in favor of loose, guitar-based slack anthems, then so be it. This is, after all, very good stuff, the musicians cultivating the same sort of feeling that one found on so many American indie records in the Nineties. "Cross Bone Pile" works up a sort of precise post-rock rhythm that recalls both Jawbox and Polvo a tiny bit, while EP closer "Yes Yes" channels early Grandaddy with a dash of mid-period Pavement in the service of a really excellent down-tempo number.

Sun Chasers by Helvetia is sure to please other fans of Built to Spill and not just 'cause Jason Albertini is in the current line-up of the band. Helvetia offer up a similar blend of slacker rock (for lack of a better term) and inventive indie-pop that favorably stands next to the work of all those bands I name-checked above.

More details on Helvetia via the band's official website, or on the band's official Facebook page. Sun Chasers will be out next week and you can get more details via the Joyful Noise label, or on the band's Bandcamp page.

[Photo: Uncredited photo from the band's Facebook page]

Monday, July 17, 2017

Melody Says: A Few Words About The Superb Universal High From Childhood

Taking a chance and changing involves risk, you know? And for a band, it involves a whole lot of risk, especially if said band is a critically-acclaimed outfit crafting their much-anticipated second album. And yet, when a chance pays off, all those risks were worth the taking.

Happily, all the chances Childhood took on the path to second album, Universal High, were worth it. The new album, out Friday via Marathon Artists, is, admittedly, a bit of a stylistic shift into new territory but the material is so wonderfully melodic and -- to use an overused word -- "soulful" that only the most churlish of fans could fault Ben Romans-Hopcraft and the rest of the band for taking the big risks that have been taken here.

As soon as the record starts, with the smooth Brothers Johnson-like Seventies soul-pop of "A.M.D.", a fan could be forgiven for being surprised by the shift from, say, "Solemn Skies" on 2014 debut LP Lacuna to this but, really, the progression feels entirely natural, with the band laying down a supple groove as Ben Romans-Hopcraft coos like Prince on this and other cuts here. The buoyant first single "Californian Light" positively bounces out of the speakers before the sublime "Cameo" makes its appearance. Ben drops into the track, near spoken word-style, before the big chorus bursts forth, sonic sunshine out of your speakers. The effect is a transcendent one and it's one of those moments that feels entirely familiar, a welcomed holdover from the first era of this band's career when big-with-a-capital-"B"-moments graced early singles like "Haltija" and "Pinballs", early bits of 21st century indie-pop that got this lot briefly labelled a bunch of proto-shoegazers.

Of course, there are loads of more conventional pleasures on Universal High -- the fuzzy "Melody Says" and the roughly anthemic "Too Old For My Tears" -- but it is the future soul of stuff like the title track here that thoroughly captivates, the effect on this one a stunning and breathtaking one that reminded me what it was like hearing "Blue Velvet" for the first time back in 2012. Still, for every similar big moment in something like "Don't Have Me Back", there are more subtle charms to be found throughout Universal High -- the nods to the futuristic soul of A.R. Kane I can hear in "Understanding", the Serge Gainsbourg-covers-Barry White groove of "Nothing Ever Seems Right" -- and those charms seem very distinct from what the band offered some 4 or 5 years ago on their early singles. And yet, what captivates here as "new" for this band still sounds like evidence of the altogether-natural progression this band needed to make because if album closer "Monitor", for example, echoes about a half-dozen acts (Hall and Oates, O.M.D., Japan, The Associates, Donna Summer, Pulp), it echoes them in a way that doesn't feel like a band trying on a bunch of new hats for the heck of it. What we can hear is something organic, something true, and -- dare I say it again? -- soulful. And it's soulful in the way that pop music was in the era when Prince could pull off something like "Pop Life", or even earlier, when Curtis Mayfield was dropping rock licks into tracks like "Future Shock", and Bowie was sampling the joys of Philly soul on "Young Americans" in the Ford years. Universal High is, similarly, a genre-blending, convention-busting, risky record, but one that will reward attentive listeners who are ready to embrace music like this.

Childhood -- Ben Romans Hopcraft, Leo Dobsen, Jonny Williams, Max Fantin, and Thomas Fiquet -- are to be commended for taking so many chances here. And they're to be praised for pulling off so many so well. The whole "difficult second album" trope is famous for a reason and that reason is that bands have been too ambitious, too soon. Wisely, the fellows in Childhood keep things grounded, no one getting any idea that they needed to re-invent things here. And yet, they have re-invented something. For every fan that the band loses because nothing on Universal High sounds just like "Blue Velvet", they'll gain another 5 because of the fresh currency of what's here. The sound is the foundation of a new sub-genre, something that blends Seventies soul with Eighties New Wave via an approach from the world of modern indie. Universal High is flat-out superb, and this wildly tuneful and wonderfully lush record is an easy contender for one of the best releases of 2017, for sure.

Universal High is out on Friday via Marathon Artists. More details on Childhood via the band's official website, or the band's official Facebook page.

[Photos: Joyce Ng]

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Stop And Smell The Roses: A Look At The New Television Personalities Tribute Album From The Beautiful Music Featuring Dot Dash, Skytone, Robert Scott Of The Bats, And More

If you enjoyed the recent Television Personalities reissues from Fire Records, reviewed by me here, I think it's safe to say that you're going to love the new Television Personalities tribute album from Called Holding Hands Under A Cloudless Sky - A Tribute To The Television Personalities: Vol. 4, the set features a whole lot of great contemporary indie bands covering the songs of Dan Treacy and Television Personalities.

I suppose the first note of significance here is that this set contains a cover song from Dot Dash. The D.C.-area outfit, opening for Ultimate Painting this Wednesday at DC9, is notoriously reluctant about recording cover versions but here they turn in a spry and lilting run at "Jackanory Stories", from And Don't The Kids Just Love It. It is one of the clear highlights here on Holding Hands Under A Cloudless Sky - A Tribute To The Television Personalities: Vol. 4. Another is the Nuggets-y take on "Look Back In Anger" turned in by Spain's The Yellow Melodies, all big hooks and New Wave-style keyboards. Elsewhere, Robert Scott of The Bats offers up a gentle rendering of "Stop And Smell The Roses" from The Painted Word, as does Japan's The Penelopes who make the song a near VU-style drone. The Milestone Band, featuring members of Sarah Records mainstays The Sweetest Ache, turn in a stab at "Honey For The Bears" that bristles with pure fuzzy-pop delight, the original TVP standard here envisioned as an early Teenage Fanclub number. Skytone take a real rarity, "The Boy Who Couldn't Stop Dreaming", and turn it into a truly sublime thing, perfect harmonies and simple chords on an acoustic guitar hitting a near Gallagher Brothers-like level of directness. I live only 20 miles outside of Washington, D.C., and yet somehow I've never heard of The Dupont Circles but I am on the lookout now thanks to their gnarly cover of "How I Learned To Love The Bomb" here, all punk-y attitude and bad intent, while London band Chester also bring a bit of the old punk-pop to "Silly Girl", the original a standout on And Don't The Kids Just Love It. Also worth mentioning is "You Are Special And You Always Will Be" from New Zealand band The Puddle, who here render the Closer To God track in the manner of a Robert Forster-sung tune from mid-period in The Go-Betweens' back-catalog, Treacy's songwriting chops here given special attention.

Full of lots of great music besides the tunes I've mentioned, Holding Hands Under A Cloudless Sky - A Tribute To The Television Personalities: Vol. 4 will be out soon via TheBeautifulMusic. Be sure to keep your eye on the label's website for more details. And if you are one of the first 100 to order the album, you'll get a bonus disc!

[Photos: Dot Dash photo by me; album cover courtesy Wally Salem]

Thursday, July 13, 2017

What The World Is Waiting For: My Look At The Mammoth New Manchester Box-Set From Cherry Red Records

I suppose what first amazes is the sheer variety of music here. Despite my pics in this review, Manchester North Of England: A Story Of Independent Music Greater Manchester 1977-1993, out tomorrow on Cherry Red Records, is not a box-set of just the usual suspects in the story of the city's musical past. This is not just 7 (!) CDs' worth of The Fall, The Stone Roses, New Order, and so on. What it is is perhaps the most comprehensive look yet at this town's rich legacy, a legacy that continues to this day, of course.

Now, despite the nearly 10 hours of music here, and despite the generous 7 discs, and the enormous booklet and lengthy essays, someone's gonna complain about the omission of The Smiths. And while that band's music is not here for what are presumably rights issues, Morrissey is here along with every other Manc act you could possibly think of. The set is, to put it simply, an amazing thing for anyone who's been a fan of punk, post-punk, New Wave, baggy, acid house, or Britpop in the 16 years covered here.

It's time to dive in so let's look at each disc a bit as I attempt to control my raving about this collection.

Disc 1 of Manchester North Of England: A Story Of Independent Music Greater Manchester 1977-1993 wisely starts a bit earlier than Joy Division (pictured above). What's here to kick things off is "Breakdown (demo)" by The Buzzcocks, DeVoto-fronted and perfect in its economic attack. Setting a pattern that will spread over 7 discs, the set uses a big name to start off each disc to kind of give you what you expect before showering you with some obscure riches. Highlights here next to Joy Division and Magazine cuts, are the essential "Cranked Up Really High" by Slaughter and the Dogs and the near-pub rock of The Distractions whose "Maybe It's Love" sounds like a real classic. Elsewhere, a rarity from Jilted John livens things up before stunners from The Nosebleeds and The Smirks burn up the speakers. A final revelation on this one is "The Kill" by Spherical Objects, all Joy Division-y angst mixed with a Magazine-style sense of paranoia.

"Rowche Rumble" rudely kicks off Disc 2 and it's further proof of the unique and enduring charms of The Fall (pictured below). Also here are fine tracks from The Chameleons ("In Shreds"), The Blue Orchids ("The Flood"), The Durutti Column ("Lips That Would Kiss"), and A Certain Ratio (the bouncy-and-bright "The Fox"). Also here are more obscure numbers like the sleek New Wave of "My Cherry Is Sherry" by Ludus, the clattering raga-rock of "Does It Matter Irene" by Mothmen, and the absolutely wonderful "Yesterday's Love" from Any Trouble, Clive Gregson's band that ended up signed to Stiff Records.

Disc 3 sees an awareness of Manchester's importance seep through the material from Graham Fellows' "Love at the Hacienda" to disc-opener and dancefloor-filler "Temptation" from New Order. It is here that one can hear the impact of Factory Records and the beginnings of what we can see now was the Manchester sound coming into its own. So much of Disc 3 is significant, from the shiny electro-pop of "Looking From a Hilltop" from Section 25, to "All At Once" by Stockholm Monsters, all early New Order rhythms dressed up as a happy pop tune. Elsewhere, there's the lo-fi ramblings of "Working And Shopping" by Tools You Can Trust and the noisy and direct "Kitchen Sink Drama" by the criminally underrated A Witness. Since so much of what's on Disc 3 is important (and enjoyable), it seems fair to say that this disc stands as one of the most solid parts of Manchester North Of England: A Story Of Independent Music Greater Manchester 1977-1993.

The first pleasant surprise on Disc 4 is the appearance of rare, early James track "Chain Mail", a number that reminds a listener to include this lot in with the list of the big names in Manchester rock. A very early Inspiral Caprets track ("Garage Full of Flowers") foreshadows the Manchester wave that would sweep UK indie in the early Nineties even if this cut is more Nuggets-era noodling than anything else, while "Whistling In The Dark" recalls the band, Easterhouse, that I think some people -- me, at least -- once called the Commie U2, big hooks and big ideas still bristling with life 3 decades or so later. Also anchoring Disc 4 and providing a sense of time and place are a few numbers from C86-mainstays Big Flame and The Bodines, reminders of the pure joys of following Manchester indie in the tail-end of the years dominated by The Smiths.

If The Smiths are not here at least Morrissey, pictured above, is. His "The Last Of The Famous International Playboys" anchors Disc 5 of Manchester North Of England: A Story Of Independent Music Greater Manchester 1977-1993. Similarly Bradford's fey "Skin Storm" reminds one of what Morrissey's stamp of approval could do back then for a new band. Elsewhere, Chameleons spin-off The Sun and The Moon deliver "C'est La Vie", a slice of superb alt-rock that is, like the band's one album, smart and complex music that deserves a retrospective all its own, while "Voodoo Ray" by A Guy Called Gerald had to be here, all odd beats and warped rhythms offering up one of the seminal numbers of the acid house era. "24 Hour Party People" by Happy Mondays (pictured below) takes its place here as a sort of new standard of the age. The band was, like a few in this era and in this city, attempting to invent a new music, one that would be perched between indie rock and dance music.

Disc 6 wisely uses a flip-side from The Stone Roses (pictured up top) to make a case for the band's greatness and importance to the city's legacy, the shuffling, lopsided rhythm of the tune prefiguring so very much of what was to come out of this town in the early Nineties. Similarly, a few numbers from that era ("Box Set Go" by The High, "Big (edit)" by New Fast Automatic Daffodils) sound remarkably good still, while a few, namely "Shall We Take a Trip" by Northside, sound hopeless prisoners of the past. Still, that aside, lots of Disc 6 is fantastic, from New Order spin-offs (Revenge, whose demo of "7 Reasons" juts up nicely against early Electronic single "Getting Away With It"), to surprisingly strong guitar-based indie numbers from The Train Set ("Hold On"), The Mock Turtles ("And Then She Smiles"), and The Cygnet Ring (the excellent "18 Daze").

The final disc of Manchester North Of England: A Story Of Independent Music Greater Manchester 1977-1993 necessarily includes Oasis (pictured above) whose career changed the course of British pop and inspired a whole new generation of bands from the city. Naturally, the set ends with them, the demo of "Columbia" from 1993 signaling a sea-change in popular music in Manchester and England, while other numbers from Sub Sub (the pre-Doves lot's trippy "Space Face") and 808 State (the essential "Cubik") simultaneously indicate a temporary lull in guitar-rock as dance-y stuff was taking over, at least for a few years before the Gallaghers would hit it big. Admirably, this collection finds room for the non-rock numbers from the era, with fine tracks from Intastella, Lionrock, The Chemical Brothers, and Hypnotone indicating another legacy of Manchester. Still, it's the numbers here that blend the dance elements with the rock ones that succeed the most ("Sproston Green" by The Charlatans, the heavy-beating "Sons Of The Stage" by World Of Twist).

Shockingly comprehensive, Manchester North Of England: A Story Of Independent Music Greater Manchester 1977-1993 is an amazing piece of work. These 7 discs give a crash course into why "They're from Manchester" was a phrase that one could use for decades to convince someone to listen to a new band, or an obscure track. That notification that a group was from this city was usually enough to get one's attention, and here are dozens and dozens of reasons why. The folks at Cherry Red Records have performed a Herculean task here but they've somehow provided just enough music from Manchester's history, post-the first wave of punk and pre-Britpop, to offer up a near-encyclopedic musical portrait of the city, its people, styles, fads, and trends. Genre-hopping and somehow entirely cohesive, Manchester North Of England: A Story Of Independent Music Greater Manchester 1977-1993 presents a musical compilation that flows effortlessly, never once sounding forced in its leaps across styles. The peaks, valleys, and odd detours in that the path from early Buzzcocks to early Oasis is a fascinating journey and any listener with even a marginal interest in any of the bands here, or the city itself, would be wise to get this as soon as possible.

Manchester North Of England: A Story Of Independent Music Greater Manchester 1977-1993 is out tomorrow via Cherry Red Records.

[Photos: Mostly from Pinterest, credit to original photographers]

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

We Need To Talk About Some Basics: A Quick Reminder That The Numbers Station East Coast Tour Starts Tomorrow

A few months ago I posted about the new EP from the relatively-new D.C. band Numbers Station. The members of the trio are bassist Michael Honch (ex-Dischord band Alarms And Controls), bassist Mike Markarian (ex-Oswego), and drummer Stefan Bauschmid (from Garland Of Hours). And I'm here now to tell you about the band's first tour that kicks off tomorrow in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with Boston-area band Ghosts Of Sailors At Sea. The tour will, of course, have a D.C.-area stop and that's gonna happen Sunday at Galaxy Hut in Arlington, Virginia. And the other dates featuring the 2 excellent acts are listed in the poster below.

The 4-Song EP from Numbers Station is out now via the link below, and it's a release that I reviewed here. It's a bold EP from a trio of expert players who together manage to make serious music without any sense of pretension. I'm sure that the band will be performing more tracks than the ones on this fine EP on this tour, and Sunday at Galaxy Hut. More details on the band via their official Facebook page.

[Photo: Uncredited Facebook photo]

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

We Know So: A Few Words About The New Dasher Album

There is something primal and unhinged about this music. Of the many new album releases this week, Sodium by Dasher, out Friday on Jagjaguwar, is perhaps the most challenging while being the most rewarding. Brutal and pummeling, the tunes of Dasher on this, the band's debut LP, are dangerously effective.

Opener "We Know So" sees leader Kylee Kimbrough brutalize both the drum-kit and her windpipes. The song positively roars, a deafening echo of both early Stooges and early harDCore, think Iggy strutting around as frontman of Void and you'll get an idea of what's being unleashed here. If "Resume" continues that whole hardcore vibe, the more expansive "Teeth" moves in other directions, part stoner rock and park No New York, loose waves of twangy guitar finding spaces within the still-punishing drum hits. The excellent title cut continues in a similar vein while the bristling-and-brief "Go Rambo" races past with a near-metal-like sense of fury on the instruments. At their best, like on the Big Black-styled "Slugg", or the Live Skull-like "No Guilt", Dasher manage to channel a whole lot of diverse influences in the process of refining their own brand of brutalist rock. Uncompromising and direct, the tunes on Sodium ooze a malevolent rage that feels wholly natural, like the dark undercurrents that ran through early Black Flag recordings, or the rhythmic unease that permeated Fun House. And, to their credit, Dasher manage to make this stuff relatively nuanced throughout (see closer "Get So Low" with its instrumental flourishes underneath Kimbrough's scorching vocals and harsh-but-precise kit-work).

Full of stunning displays of musical force, Sodium by Dasher is a remarkable record that straddles about a half-dozen different sub-genres with deadly ease. Fans of bands with punch, whose music makes you actually feel alive as a human being, should immediately seek this out. An invigorating blast, Sodium is out on Friday via Jagjaguwar. More details on Dasher via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Anna Powell Teeter]

Monday, July 10, 2017

Pulling All The Facts Together: A Few Words About The Fine New Album From The Stevens

From Melbourne, The Stevens sound a whole lot like American band Pavement. I suppose they'd appreciate that comment. They also sound a lot like the best bands from New Zealand circa 1987. I think they'd understand that that was a compliment too. Their new record, the simply-titled Good, is out on Friday via Chapter Music. It is a fine record that should please fans of angular indie-pop.

The Stevens is guitarists Alex Macfarlane (Twerps, Tyrannamen) and Travis MacDonald, with bassist Gus Lord (Twerps, Boomgates, Tyrannamen), and drummer Matt Harkin. Their stuff, like marvelous lead track "Chancer", is simple and uncomplicated. It is also, however, bright pop that rides the sort of riffs that bands like Twin Peaks and Parquet Courts routinely crave here in the States. If "Cruiser" suggests Pavement by way of Columbus, Ohio's fine Connections, then the more laconic "Pulling All The Facts Together" chimes like an old Clean track, or a slower Superchunk number from the mid-Nineties. Elsewhere, the fine "My New Hideout" refines a sense of post-punk pop that bears worthy comparisons to recent numbers from EZTV, while the lilting "Keep Me Occupied" is poised somewhere between Luna and Talking Heads, a duel between long guitar-lines and jittery, nervous rhythms. The press material for this group mentioned that they opened for R. Stevie Moore and one can certainly hear the influence of that guy in something like "Good Co.", while the supple "Furnace Town" nods in the direction of Television and The Feelies with its sharp hooks. At their very best, like on the fuzzy closer "Thirsty Eye", The Stevens make all of this look and sound effortlessly easy, the Flying Nun-style tune-age rubbing up against NYC post-punk for a marvelous effect.

Certainly not the kind of album that is going to change the world, nor the sort of band that would dream of attempting that, The Stevens, instead, have decided that they were going to synthesize the high points of all your favorite records and crank out something simultaneously familiar and fresh. Good is 18 songs of sharp, and sharply-observed, indie-pop that charmed me instantly.

Follow The Stevens via the band's official Facebook page. More details on Good via Chapter Music.

[Photo: Tahlia Palmer]