Saturday, April 30, 2016

You're Gonna Have To Play It Cool: A Look At The 2 Magnificent Move Reissues From Cherry Red

You know, I came to The Move late. I thought that I didn't really like the band based simply on hearing "California Man" and "Brontosaurus" which, truth be told, I knew mainly first from the Cheap Trick versions.

And then I heard "Blackberry Way".

Yeah, I had been stupid before that. Sure, I had read about The Move in every Who biography I devoured as a teen, those tomes where The Move were spoken of as this legendary U.K. band that never quite made it here. And, yeah, I should have known better but things really didn't click until I heard an import Move compilation thanks to a record store friend who spun it for me far too late in my life.

Now, I'm thrilled to regale you with news of these 2 magnificent and expertly-assembled Move reissues from Cherry Red Records. Move and Shazam! are each presented in multiple-disc formats with loads of radio sessions and rarities, and the overall effect of hearing 5+ hours of Move music over the course of these 2 releases is a revelation. Think the band were just psych dabblers? Spin the covers on the final disc of Shazam!. Think the band were only mod wannabes? Spin the near-chamber pop on any side of Move.

Released in 1968, Move, released here in a 3-CD edition, shines -- at least in spots -- as the equal to the Beatles' output in roughly the same era. The line-up here -- Roy Wood on multiple instruments and vocals, Carl Wayne on lead vocals, Ace Kefford on bass, Trevor Burton on guitar, and Bev Bevan on drums -- hits all the right marks as they rattle through what sounds like a greatest hits album. "(Here We Go Round) The Lemon Tree", "Flowers in the Rain", "Fire Brigade", and "Cherry Blossom Clinic" -- some of the finest singles of the psych era, really -- they are all here.

What's also of note are other tracks (like the superb "Useless Information") and smart covers ("Weekend" by Eddie Cochran) that buttress the strength of this release, even in its mono form on Disc 1. On Disc 2 we've got stereo mixes and alternate takes as well as singles like "Night of Fear" among others. And then on CD 3, we have a whole bunch of radio sessions and interviews that make a pretty good case for the strengths of The Move as a live act. If the studio cuts and singles further the idea of The Move as The Great Psych Band, then these live cuts -- especially stuff like a cover of The Byrds' "So You Want To Be A Rock And Roll Star", and a live version of "I Can Hear The Grass Grow" -- serve as evidence of this band being a set of superb musicians who were perhaps too polished to be peers of the fiery Who and too rough-around-the-edges to be thought of as equivalents of The Kinks.

Down to a four-piece with the departure of Ace Kefford (Burton switched to bass), The Move moved forward. Eventually, Rick Price would take over bass duties and the band would record Shazam! for release in 1970. Coming at the tail-end of the genuine psychedelic movement, the album broadened the sound of The Move considerably. While familiar singles like "Wild Tiger Woman" sound like The Move we all know and love, longer cuts like "Fields of People" push the sound of the band into what was then becoming known as progressive rock. Admittedly, these longer cuts are harder to take for those of us who want stuff like "Beautiful Daughter" on auto-repeat. The sound on the prog stuff is harder and the musical path certainly one that is more experimental. That said, The Move were still capable of crafting utterly beautiful pieces of pop in this time period: "Blackberry Way" and "Something" are here as singles of the era, as well as alternate mixes of "Omnibus" and other earlier cuts.

Disc 2 of Shazam! serves as a showcase of the band's sheer versatility. Who would have thought that the same band that did "Cherry Blossom Clinic" could also do a pretty good take on that Janis-standard "Piece of My Heart"? Or that Wood and his crew could make stuff like "Higher and Higher", and even "California Girls", sound like Move originals? Even a perhaps-misguided cover of "Sound of Silence" very nearly works largely due to the intentions of the musicians here.

Looking back now, it makes perfect sense that I got into The Move so late, even after reading about them before. They remain a hard band to pin down, and one that switched styles a bit in the space of a few years. If the genius -- (is there any other word to describe him?) -- of Roy Wood tends to overshadow the contributions of the other members of The Move, that's a real shame given the wonderful vocals of Carl Wayne, and Bev Bevan's risk-taking on the kit. Too psych to be a pop band, too polished to be r'n'b heirs like Mick and Keith's Stones, far too rough to be another Beatles, The Move were a band of their time who kept their eyes on the horizon of experimentation. With far lovelier melodies than anything Syd and the Floyd folks could dream up, Wood and The Move made music that was considerably countercultural at the time even if it sounds now more like great mainstream pop. Quite simply: some of the best singles of the era are on these collections. If it's damn-near impossible to summarize The Move in 2 releases, Move and Shazam! make a pretty good case for this being nearly all the Move you need.

Now, of course that's not true 'cause I for one am anxiously awaiting and hoping that Cherry Red Records is prepping more Move reissues even as I type this. But until that day, please grab these sets as soon as you can. Move and Shazam! are out now (they dropped on Friday) via Cherry Red Records. There is so much greatness here that one can only listen and marvel at what The Move accomplished in a mere 2 or 3 years and what this music hints at in their collective futures (Bev and Roy Wood in ELO eventually).

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Catching Up With The Blissful Pop Of Mercury Girls

Well, the band have been blazing a trail on the Internet for some time now but they've finally settled down and found a home on Slumberland Records. That's fitting for a variety of reasons, not least of which is how much this new Mercury Girls single sounds like early SLR bands Black Tambourine and Lilys.

Shimmering, expertly produced, and a sort of sonic narcotic, "Ariana" is just a blast of energy. There are bits here that sound like the expected C86 pioneers as well as other parts that recall the sort of things that thrived on 4AD records back in the label's heyday -- think Swallow's "Sugar Your Mind" or "For Love" by Lush.

Mercury Girls are, presumably and hopefully, working on a full-length record now. I simply can't wait to hear it and I urge you to get hip to the sounds of Mercury Girls before they get huge.

Follow Mercury Girls via the band's official Facebook page and, naturally, via the band's new home, Slumberland Records.

This New Boys Cut Is Gonna Charm Your Socks Off

A few months back, I was raving about "Ever Before" in posts like this one. By the time that the first EP dropped from Boys, reviewed by me here, I was a firm fan of the Swedish band led by Nora Karlsson of the also-excellent Holy. If it was possible to be even more in love with the music of Boys now than I was then, it's 'cause of stuff like the new single. Called "Happy Hour", the cut is a rolling mass of indie styles all wrapped around Nora's laconic-yet-forceful vocals.

Now more of a band proposition than on the earlier EP, Boys are making music that is reminiscent of stuff like the work of Broadcast and Stereolab but which stands on its own as something unique and not entirely beholden to any obvious genre (despite owing a debt to several). The new EP will be out in May via PNKSLM and I am very eager to hear even more new music from Boys.

Follow Boys via the band's official Facebook page, and via the band's label, PNKSLM.

Friday, April 15, 2016

A Word About The New One From All India Radio

All India Radio is one Martin Kennedy. He makes music that is, for lack of any better description, electronic music. That said, what's on his latest album, The Slow Light, out today, is closer to the stuff that Eno and his cohorts produced a few decades ago. That music is instrumental doesn't make it electronica, or new age even if those genres are nearly touched on here.

There is treated piano on "Dark Star" which made me think of some earlier superb Harold Budd albums, and the vocals on "Galaxy of Light" -- Kennedy's daughter, I think? -- recall nothing so much as The Moon And The Melodies, the excellent collaboration between the already-mentioned Budd and the members of Cocteau Twins. "Redshift", meanwhile, has a touch of what sounds like a jazzy soundtrack from the Seventies percolating in the background, while album opener "Blueshift" is spacious sonic experimentation that is very nearly Moby-like in terms of accessibility.

The tunes on The Slow Light are pretty good examples of how to do this sort of music. Rather than get bogged down in the trappings of dance music, or stuttering electronica, Kennedy has on this All India Radio release made instrumental music that feels human and which remains poised somewhere between 1980's Eno and Penguin Cafe Orchestra.

Follow All India Radio via the official website here.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

New Music From Close Lobsters Is Here!

It's been a few years since the band put out a new single, and less than a year since Fire Records did the universe a favor and reissued the band's entire classic back catalogue, but now The Close Lobsters are here to offer up music every bit as affecting and inspiring as the sounds on those previous releases. "Under London Skies" is an epic rave-up that name-checks the leader of The Only Ones among other seminal London touchstones.

The cut, the first taste of a new EP due out soon on Shelf Life Records, is in-line with "I Kiss The Flowers In Bloom" in terms of sound and sonic affect. If Burnett and the boys have now survived being indie survivors, it's due to the strength of song-writing at the heart of the music of The Close Lobsters. Surely this cut is as chill-inducing as recent releases from Comet Gain, or even the best moments from the reunited Go-Betweens' output about a decade or so ago, and -- it goes without saying -- every bit as good as the tunes on the releases that made this band such a cherished act in 1987-1989.

Play "Under London Skies" here and then keep your eye on the Shelf Life site for news on the new EP from The Close Lobsters.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Play New Moles (Richard Davies) Track Here!

I'm here to share with you 2 pieces of very good news: the first is that there's new music from The Moles being made. And the second bit of news is that The Moles will be playing some rare U.S. dates in 2016.

Following on from the fantastic compilation, Flashbacks And Dream Sequences: The Story Of The Moles, the folks at Fire Records are now prepping a new album from The Moles and first cut, "Damian Lovelock", is here to whet your appetites. The single, named after a sports broadcaster who happened to be in the Celibate Rifles at one point in the past, is a blast of odd, noisy pop. I cannot wait to hear more from The Moles in 2016.

Keep your eyes on the Fire Records site for more Moles news.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

A Word About The New September Girls Album

The new one from September Girls dropped on Friday and I'm here to tell you why you should grab it. Age Of Indignation, out now on Fortuna POP!, is bold, hard stuff that recalls the best music from Curve and Lush. If the band's name would make you think that the Dublin 5-piece were fans of Big Star, you'd be mistaken. If their earlier releases would have you peg them as shoegaze revivalists, you'd be closer to the truth, though still a bit wrong. "Jaw On The Floor", for instance, revs up with a bit of menace that hints at earlier Jesus and Mary Chain and Loop cuts as much as it does the more obvious shoegaze reference points. The wonderfully-titled "Catholic Guilt" rides a superb rhythm into a Swervedriver-like rave-up of guitars, bass, and drums.

Elsewhere, on the album's title cut and the softer "Love No One", the band do remind one of "Hypocrite"-era Lush, albeit with a harder edge. However, the insistent hooks of "John of Gods" and the hypnotic "Quicksand" place the music of September Girls far closer to the sound of bands like Queens of the Stone Age, or even Radiohead, than anyone from the class of C86.

Overall, Age Of Indignation is a sharp distallation of the sound of September Girls. If their first releases hinted at something more in debt to feedback-explorations, the 10 songs on this album more firmly etch their way into your memory. These are confident cuts that blend elements of a dozen styles from the post-punk era into something vaguely beholden to the pioneers of shoegaze but which sound overall like music that is beyond genre.

Age Of Indignation by September Girls is out now via Fortuna POP! and you can follow the band on their official Facebook page.

[Photo: Jeannie O'Brien]

Friday, April 1, 2016

A Quick Review Of The New One From Bleached

The new one from Bleached dropped today. This is a good thing and I say that as someone who came a bit late to this party. In fact, it was Dan Searing (The Saturday People, Glo-Worm) who raved about the band years ago when I was chatting with him at a Lorelei/Babies show in D.C. He was right: this is mighty good music and Bleached have found a way to make big tunes with the tools of indie. And the cuts on Welcome The Worms, out today on Dead Oceans, are more of that sort of stuff.

If "Keep On Keepin' On" and "Sleepwalking" are all big Jesus and Mary Chain hooks with a pop sheen, then "Sleepwalking" is some admirable attempt to channel both The Slits and The Shaggs in a more serviceable fashion. The catchy "Wasted On You" is as smooth as an early Go-Go's cut and as sharp as a Stooges single. Balancing the needs of indie and pop, Bleached make music of a sort that is in short supply these days. Using an approach not unlike that of The Primitives (though of a decidedly harder edge), Bleached update Sixties styles with an Eighties sense of production. This is superb alt-rock that recalls bands as diverse as Belly and L7 and is every bit as accessible.

Bleached -- Jennier and Jessie Clavin and Micayla Grace -- crank up an impressive racket on Welcome The Worms and it's one that is largely melodic and bright. That said, the band venture into new territory on the near-shoegaze, near-grunge explorations of "Desolate Town" and "I'm All Over The Place (Mystic Mama)", for example. Those two cuts hint at a more experimental side to Bleached and offer up proof that the band is comfortable outside of riding maximum Ramones riffs to the other side of glory.

Welcome The Worms by Bleached is out today via Dead Oceans. You can find out more about Bleached via the band's official website.