Tuesday, January 30, 2018

New Direction: A Quick Word Or Two About The New Foundations Compilation From Varese Sarabande

The Foundations remain a band usually labelled a "one-hit wonder" despite the fact that the group had a few hits besides "Build Me Up Buttercup" back in the Sixties and early Seventies. And, yes, the other obvious one was "Baby, Now That I've Found You", the track that leads off the fine new compilation from the band The Very Best Of The Foundations, out now from Varese Sarabande.

The Foundations also remain the sort of act from the past usually the subject of cheap, rip-off comps from labels you and I have never heard of. And that's all the more reason to applaud Varese Sarabande for finally putting out such a nice, single-disc collection of the music of these guys. The Very Best Of The Foundations delivers about an hour's worth of some of the best soul-pop one is likely to encounter from the era, with numbers like "New Direction" and the peppy "Back On My Feet Again" sounding immediately like songs that should have been big, big hits too.

And if a lot of the success of the songs of The Foundations is down to singer Clem Curtis, just as much credit needs to go to pop-wizard Tony Macaulay who wrote so many of the best tracks here. Better known, perhaps, for his compositions for Edison Lighthouse and other bands of that ilk, his songs here seem to fit perfectly the unique pop-soul blend of The Foundations' approach. Stuff like "In The Bad, Bad Old Days (Before You Loved Me)" and "That Same Old Feeling" swing with the sort of confidence and pop-sass that the very best, biggest singles of the era also possessed. And listening to these numbers now, it's sort of sad to think that they weren't not hits as big as "Build Me Up Buttercup", for instance. Elsewhere, "My Little Chickadee" is a touch wistful, while "I Can Take Or Leave Your Loving" has a jaunty edge that suggests era peers like The Beau Brummels, for instance.

Still, not every number here is a Macaulay gem as the odd "Solomon Grundy" shows. A near bit of bubblegum rock, the cut is, like a few others here, thankfully presented in its original mono single version. And for that reason, and many others, the folks at Varese Sarabande are to be praised for bringing out such a fine composition of this lot, one of the best British pop acts of the Swingin' Sixties.

The Very Best Of The Foundations is out now on Varese Sarabande.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Caught Up In My Own World: A Brief Review Of The New Album From Montero

The new record from Montero, Performer, out Friday via Chapter Music, is the sort of thing that is going to get labeled glam rock or something but the music here is far more intricate and complex than that label would otherwise indicate. What's here on Performer is beautiful and trippy in the manner of the best songs from The Flaming Lips and MGMT.

Other reviewers will likely highlight the presence of Jay Watson from Tame Impala on parts of this, or the fact that the record was recorded at Mark Ronson's studio, despite this really being the work of just one man: Ben Montero. That Ben has managed to create an album so distinctly otherworldly and defiantly tuneful is something to be praised as, given the glammy aspects of what's here, it could easily have turned into a project that was too kitschy and precious.

A lush number like "Caught Up In My Own World" is a real headphone epic, while "Vibrations" sounds decidedly like both John Lennon circa Walls and Bridges and that second album from Temples. The cut rises easily about its considerable inspiration points to stand on its own as something really original, and certainly a bit more tuneful than the music of the much-lauded Foxygen. Elsewhere, the elegant "Aloha" nods however slightly in the direction of acts indebted to both progressive rock and those intent on charting new courses in the post-rock landscape. There is a slight sameness here as the numbers pile on the same sort of ascending chord structures in each track, the effect very much like listening to Jeff Lynne run up his keyboard in search of the big hooks for those songs he composed for the Xanadu soundtrack. And if something like "Tokin' The Night Away" feels decidedly slight, it's at least wildly tuneful and pleasing to the ear. Ben Montero has mastered this sort of thing and deserves far more praise than those guys in Foxygen, in my opinion, but he desperately needs to expand his sonic attack a bit as he probably can't survive simply on the strength of his big melodies forever.

Performer by Montero is out on Friday via Chapter Music. More details on Montero via the official Facebook page.

[Photo: Maria Damkalidi]

Sunday, January 28, 2018

The Works: A Few Words About The New Sunwatchers Album

The new record from New York's Sunwatchers, II, out Friday on Trouble in Mind Records, is the sort of release that's darn hard to describe. Incorporating elements of drone rock, flashes of jazz fusion, and hints of near-prog with an almost No New York-aesthetic, the band unleashes torrents of noise and bits of skewed melody in a fashion that suggests both madness and a level of genius lacking in lots of what passes for truly alternative music these days.

A listener can find lots to latch onto in a track like "The Works", for instance, as the Can-like rhythmic hook drives things forward, even as free jazz sax skronks arrive at crucial points in the cut. Elsewhere, "The Hot Eye" rattles and percolates like the best material from The Magic Band, while the more straightforward "Silent Boogie" sees a sort of Sun Ra-like sense of abandon guide -- however loosely -- the players through the cosmos, horn-bursts and drum-blasts peppering the proceedings around the heavy, central riff of the tune. That the tune actually swings says a lot about why I loved II so much. And for all that, the band is still capable of truly getting out there, as the epic-length "There Are Weapons You Can Bring To School" shows, the band venturing into territory that suggests artists as diverse as Mingus and King Crimson.

The players in Sunwatchers -- Peter Nye Kerlin (bass), Jim McHugh (guitars, keyboards, harmonica, piano), Jason Robira (drums), and Jeff Tobias (sax, keyboards, etc.) -- deserve all the credit here for really challenging a listener while delivering something entirely listenable. Sunwatchers understand how to push the envelope even while finding a scarp of melody to toss our way in the midst of the stirring of the chaos. What is here is extreme but not obtuse or un-enjoyable. This is music that is bold and brave, but also music that remains easy to love for more adventurous listeners.

II is out on Friday via Trouble in Mind Records.

More details on Sunwatchers via the band's official Facebook page. The band is playing D.C.'s Rhizome on Friday with the legendary Eugene Chadbourne, and Time is Fire, with details here.

[Photo: Uncredited promo pic from label]

Friday, January 26, 2018

I Get Frightened Too: A Few Words About The New, Lost Television Personalities Album From Fire Records

There have been a wealth of Television Personalities re-issues in the last few years, and a reader has only to click on that TVP tag at the bottom of this post to see my take on those. And for a band that's long been deserving of the proper treatment in terms of re-issued music, it's been Dan Treacy's lucky day as his genius seems more appreciated now than back in the Nineties. Now, seemingly out of nowhere, a lost Television Personalities album has been unearthed. A sort of demo version of Closer To God (1992) in some ways, the record works on its own as a document of Treacy in the era.

Beautiful Despair, out today on the fine Fire Records, is an album that was recorded in 1990 with just Jowe Head and Dan Treacy. The tracks are, in spots, a tiny bit lo-fi, but they are every bit as original and inventive as the best Treacy compositions. At times here, like on the funny "Love Is A Four-Letter Word" and the title cut, Treacy edges into the sort of territory later covered by Jarvis Cocker in Pulp. Elsewhere, "I Get Frightened Too" oozes a kind of bedsit drama, while the excellent and subtly soaring "Goodnight Mister Spaceman", from the band's Closer To God record, sees Treacy and Jowe Head attempt a Bowie-style number on a limited budget. That the song works so well says a lot about the seemingly-unflagging talents of Treacy in the era in which these cuts were recorded. "My Very First Nervous Breakdown", also from Closer To God, is suitably claustrophobic in this version, while "Honey For The Bears", also from that same record, is languid and sublime in the rendition presented here on Beautiful Despair.

A genuine curiosity for fans of Television Personalities, Beautiful Despair works as both a document of Dan Treacy's methods as a songwriter, and as a record on its own. Decidedly intimate, and wonderfully under-produced, this is one record that reveals a great deal about how the legendary Dan Treacy crafted such enduring material, in this setting with only Jowe Head (Swell Maps) helping him out.

Beautiful Despair is out today via Fire Records

[Photo: Alison Withers]

A Few Pics From The Inara George (The Bird And The Bee) Concert In D.C. Last Night

Inara George is the much-loved vocalist of The Bird and the Bee, the act she's in with Greg Kurstin (producer of recent work from Foo Fighters and Liam Gallagher, among others). She's been on the road lately in support of her latest solo album, Dearest Everybody, out now. Last night she hit D.C.'s DC9 but I wasn't able to attend. However, Michael Lynch kindly contributed his shots from the gig for the site.

For more on Inara George, please check out her official website, there you'll be able to find more details on her latest solo record, Dearest Everybody.

[Photos: Michael Lynch]

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Dreaming Still: A Few Words About The New Album From Holy

The new album from Holy, All These Worlds Are Yours, drops on PNKSLM Recordings tomorrow. That it is a sonic marvel shouldn't be a surprise given the label that it's on. But that it is extraordinary and downright otherworldly in spots is sort of a revelation. What's here on this record is some of the most out there and wildly-tuneful indie-pop one is likely to encounter in 2018.

Opening track "Night on Earth" bursts forth from the speakers like Phil Spector mixing The Glitter Band, all booming drums and echoed vocals, while the more stately "Dreaming Still?" marches to the heavens on the backs of a bunch of chord-patterns that nod in the direction of acts like The Flaming Lips and Radiohead without all those pretentious bits. The tunes here are, understandably, big -- huge, really! -- and the measure of the success of this record is that, unlike offerings on those Foxygen's albums, for instance, the music here feels like something that is genuinely capable of transporting a listener elsewhere. I mean, the title cut is a near-epic, undulating over the course of nearly 9 minutes in rolls of Spiritualized hooks and bursts of Broadcast-style melodic invention. That sort of retro-futuristic indie-pop rears its head again on "Wish" which sees Hannes Ferm, the main member of Holy now, offer up coos and purrs like something from a Komeda record. Rather than seem like another in a long line of bands who are pursuing that sort of thing, the music here remains utterly unique and unlike anything else you are going to hear anywhere. In some spots here, Hannes also manages to work in some near-chamber pop-levels of a sort of a classicism that recalls the best tunes from The Left Banke or The Zombies, rendering "Heard Her" and "In Lack of Light" nearly charming and old-fashioned despite the trappings here that seem so downright trippy (for lack of a better adjective).

I really have a hard time being objective about releases on the PNKSLM label simply because they have yet to put out a dud. So, sometimes I have to step back from one of their releases and sort of force myself to assess it impartially. And, forgetting for a moment all the great releases from PNKSLM in the last few years, All These Worlds Are Yours still feels revolutionary in sonic terms. It is a record that sounds so original that my references to a few easy comparison points up above seem like lazy writing on my part. But the truth is that it is simply damn near impossible to describe what's here in words. Holy have made an extraordinary record that will blow your mind, really. Make plans to crank it up from your sound-system, or mark time to put on the headphones and drift away, but find your way to this record and buy it as soon as you can.

All These Worlds Are Yours by Holy is out tomorrow via PNKSLM. More details via the official Facebook page for Holy.

[Photo: Marcus Wilen]

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

You Say All The Nice Things: A Quick Review Of The New Album From Ty Segall

There is simply no stopping Ty Segall at this point. He is very nearly entering into a Robert Pollard prolific-sort of territory with the wealth of material he's intent on releasing. His newest record, Freedom's Goblin, is out on Friday on Drag City. That it is perhaps his finest record to date is not hyperbole as this double-album is positively stuffed with goodness, even when accounting for a near-quarter-hour jam that closes the record.

Freedom's Goblin succeeds as much as it does simply for the ease with which Segall has this time out harnessed all the parts of his delivery in the service of remarkably strong songs. It is, in a way, his Daydream Nation. And if that means that parts of this are a bit messy, and sprawling, then that's true too.

On numbers like "Rain" and "Cry Cry Cry" Segall lets forth melodies that are lovely and beautiful, with nods in the directions of Lennon and Bowie throughout. That the melodies are not buried in feedback and fuzzy rock bits is what elevates many of the compositions on Freedom's Goblin in my estimation. There is -- even given the length of this record -- a refinement here that suggests Ty is more in control of his strengths than ever before. Even as numbers like "You Say All The Nice Things" and "My Lady's On Fire" echo bits from the back-catalogs of both T. Rex and Syd Barrett, the cuts seem less indulgent than similar ones on earlier Segall releases, more precise in their weirdness, if you will. Elsewhere, a funky-and-odd cover of a Hot Chocolate nugget succeeds and pushes the release forward without derailing things, while "I'm Free" sees Segall try as hard as he can to sound more like Brian Jones than Bolan for once, with a listener impressed at how wonderful the end-result is. Near the end of the record, the peppy "5 Ft. Tall" burns through about a dozen familiar tricks from the Ty Segall trick-bag, and, rather than feel routine, the song feels transcendent, the sound of Segall harnessing so many things and fully maturing into his powers as a pop wizard. Even as the epic "And Goodnight" closes Freedom's Goblin as one might expect -- in a monster freak-out -- Segall seems to have earned these dozen moments of indulgence.

Freedom's Goblin is, despite its length, so sharp and focused that I'm even more impressed with Segall than I was a few years ago. It used to feel as if Ty was returning too frequently to the same handful of records for his inspiration, but here he's seemingly digested them and moved forward. Sure, there are noise-y bits here, bits that are just awash in feedback, but, for the most part, Freedom's Goblin is about Ty Segall and his abilities as a craftsman of songs. For a guy who I thought couldn't surprise me anymore, color me surprised, downright amazed at how much I thoroughly loved Freedom's Goblin.

Freedom's Goblin is out on Friday via Drag City. More details on Ty Segall via his Facebook page.

[Photo: Denee Segall]

R.I.P Mark E. Smith (March 5, 1957 - January 24, 2018)

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Best Of Intentions: A Brief Review Of The Fab New Album From The Spook School

There's a note of defiance that rings almost immediately during the start of the first song on the new album from The Spook School and it's a wondrous thing. "Still Alive" kicks off the band's third album, Could It Be Different?, out on Friday via Slumberland Records in America, and the cut is, like so many here, bursting with a youthful pep that is positively contagious. If the band started out a few years ago betraying a few debts owed to the C86 generation, they're decidedly owned those inspiration points this time out as this record is gloriously self-assured and wholly original.

The Spook School -- Nye Todd (guitar and vocals), Anna Cory (bass and vocals), Adam Todd (guitar and vocals), and Niall McCamley (drums) -- have used the cuts here on the new album to sort of stake out territory that few other indie-pop acts are likely to pursue with such fearlessness. And if the lyrics of songs like "Body" and "Bad Year" look at matters that are personal, and matters that hint at how personal matters can shape larger political concerns -- or one's entire outlook on the world -- the music is largely bright and buoyant, and the sort of thing acts as disparate as Spearmint and The Wedding Present routinely pulled off a few decades back with a similar sort of sonic force. Of course, those acts didn't quite put themselves out there in lyrical terms as boldly as the members of The Spook School do here, but that's why Could It Be Different? is such a triumph. And as the lyrics of "Alright (Sometimes)" make clear, things can be shitty in the era of Trump, so shitty that folks would be forgiven for giving up hope entirely. And where The Spook School succeed here is in making highly personal music that feels downright revolutionary in its directness. There's a universality in stuff like "High School" that hits a listener, regardless of the fact that this lot are from Scotland, and that their individual back-stories may be quite different than mine or yours. What's here are anthems for those looking for the light, and if the chiming "Best of Intentions" and the fuzzy-and-buzzing "I Only Dance When I Want To" do not inspire even the most jaded of indie listeners, then everything is wrong with the world.

A successful melding of the best songs from the best bands of the C86 generation, along with a few dozen dashes or so from the generation or two of American indie-pop acts who kicked up a fuss during the early days of Slumberland Records, Could It Be Different? is a joyously invigorating refinement and sharpening of so many things you and I have loved over the course of the last few decades. And for all that, it feels new in its POV and damn near revolutionary in its humanistic concerns. If things are getting you down, spin this and sing along when the lyrics go "Let's pretend we're doing fine" and maybe, just maybe, these little indie-pop gems will make you feel a little bit better as the very best pop usually does.

Could It Be Different? is out on Friday via Slumberland Records in America. More details on The Spook School via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Chris Bellou]

Monday, January 22, 2018

In Your Beat: A Quick Review Of The New Django Django Record

The U.K. band Django Django have gotten a lot of press over the course of the release of their previous 2 records. And now, with the band's third album, Marble Skies, about to drop on Friday, the band is sure to get even more attention. Out on Friday via Ribbon Music, the album is another in a string of supple pop masterpieces from this lot.

If the title cut nods in the direction of unexpected inspirations -- like maybe The Zombies and The Moody Blues -- the sharper "In Your Beat" bubbles and percolates like a classic O.M.D. number. Elsewhere, the light-as-air "Champagne" flits past effortlessly, while the sleek "Surface to Air" purrs in a blast of perfect electro-pop. If there's a certain sameness here, at least the music of Django Django feels unforced and natural, the sort of updating of New Wave and post-punk foundations that seems like something a little bit new each time you hear it. On certain numbers here ("Sundials", "Fountains"), the band hit at a kind of breathy electronica that briefly suggests a few years spent listening to records by China Crisis and The Associates. And if the members of Django Django don't have quite the same knack for composing big hooks as Billy Mackenzie did, at least this lot -- David Maclean (producer/drummer), Vincent Neff (vocalist/guitarist), Jimmy Dixon (bass), and Tommy Grace (synths) -- seem to be on a mission to push a certain kind of modern indie into new shapes, for broader audiences. Simple and yet never boring, the music of Django Django keeps a listener enchanted even as it remains a bit airy and ephemeral.

Marble Skies is out on Friday via Ribbon Music. More details on Django Django on the band's official website, or the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Fiona Garden]

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Punishment: A Word Or Two About The Pleasures Of The New EXEK Record

The new record from Australia's EXEK, Ahead of Two Thoughts, out Friday on the superb Superior Viaduct label, is the sort of thing in dreadfully short supply these days. Reminiscent of challenging earlier releases from acts like Crime and the City Solution, Public Image, and In Camera, the album is full of sharp edges and surprising bits of beauty. Brutal and yet oddly lovely in spots, Ahead of Two Thoughts is the sort of post-punk that 2018 desperately needs more of. Read on!

How to describe a band with such a sound? I suppose I could say that "Elevator Etiquette" slinks like something leftover from Unknown Pleasures, the guitars and bass charting out a veritable path to Hell? Or I could explain how "U Mop" echoes both early P.i.L. and Pere Ubu with some measures of abrasive success? EXEK here are pursuing a very unique muse, and the result is that their music sounds utterly unlike anything else one can find in contemporary indie-pop in 2018, hence the dated comparison points. Elsewhere, "Prawn Watching" traces an angular form of angst, while the near-catchy "Punishment" positively purrs in spots, nods in the direction of Simon Bonney stuff abounding. The players here -- Albert Wolski on guitar and vocals, with Andrew Brocchi on synthesizer, Henry Wilson on bass, Sam Dixon on the drums, and Nell Grant on saxophone -- have a real rapport and the resulting music sounds natural, unearthly, and a bit eerie, but always unforced in its refinement of earlier bits from the band's obvious inspiration points. That said, Ahead of Two Thoughts seems fresh and focused, a brutally uncompromising updating of all the best bits from the geniuses of post-punk.

More details on EXEK via the band's official Facebook page. Ahead of Two Thoughts is out on Friday via Superior Viaduct.

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

Rules: A Quick Review Of The New Album From Khruangbin

The music of Khruangbin defies description. It is a blend of Seventies drive-in movie-stuff, Tex-Mex rhythms, and a mix of about a dozen world music bits and pieces. The band's newest record, Con Todo El Mundo, out Friday on Dead Oceans, is a blast of energy, and one of the best releases of a week littered with big releases.

On a number like "Maria Tambien" there's something going on that sounds like surf rock of the sort that Tarantino might throw onto the soundtrack of one of his flicks, while "Shades of Man" nods faintly in the direction of Seventies soul. Elsewhere, "Rules" and "A Hymn" are more languid and expansive, while "Lady and Man" bops along with a real sense of looseness, a bit of free jazz jutting up against something closer to an odd pop tango, for lack of a better comparison point.

Khruangbin -- Laura Lee on bass, Mark Speer on guitar, and Donald “DJ” Johnson on drums -- are one of the most unique acts in the post-punk world today. Their music is utterly unlike anything you're going to hear these days, and it is also infectious and a whole lot of fun.

More details on Khruangbin via the band's official website, or official Facebook page. Con Todo El Mundo is out on Friday via Dead Oceans.

[Photo: Mary Kang]

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Taking Our Time: A Look At The New Album From Skytone

The new album from Canada's Skytone, Janglewaves, out now via TheBeautifulMusic.com, is something approaching yacht rock, with echoes of Milk and Honey-era Lennon and early Eighties Lindsey Buckingham abounding. It is also, if that statement didn't get your attention, the band's very best record to date. Effortless tuneful and near joyous in its execution, Janglewaves is the sort of thing that should get Skytone a whole lot of new fans.

If "Taking Our Time" and "Bright and Better Days" positively chime with a real rollicking grace, the more intricate "Second Hand Shops" offers up a kind of indie-pop that is eager to blend a few familiar genres at once. The title suggests a kind of self-awareness that indicates Skytone know their audience quite well, while the hook charms in a bigger, less anorak fashion. It is a big song, of indie-minded concerns. Elsewhere, "Lonely Holiday" rides a riff that sounds a tiny bit like something from Josef K with more modern production, while the sleek "Slow Down" suggests a whole generation of AM Radio tunesmiths from these shores from a few decades past. And to say that the music of Skytone here on Janglewaves owes as much to, say, Robbie Dupree as it does to Crowded House, is to say that the band have really hit a peak here in their output. The effortless blending of a whole lot of influences in the pursuit of that commonality from the band's many influences -- the big pop hook -- has allowed Skytone to make their most personal, sharpest record to date. Janglewaves is, quite obviously, a huge leap for this band and the sort of album that is easy to love and enjoy.

Janglewaves is out now via TheBeautifulMusic.com. You can get more details below, or via the band's official Twitter feed.

[Photo: Uncredited from the band's Bandcamp page]

Friday, January 19, 2018

Sweetness And Light: A Few Words About The New Album From The Fiction Aisle (Electric Soft Parade, Brakes)

The Fiction Aisle is, more or less, Thomas White from Electric Soft Parade and Brakes. The band's music is superb, and in line with the sort of thing one heard on later Boo Radleys records, for an easy comparison point. The new album from The Fiction Aisle is called Jupiter, Florida and it's out today. I really can't stress enough what a wonderful listen this one was for me.

Tracks like "Gone Today" see White favor a kind of languid spaciousness in his sound that is inviting rather than indulgent, while the downright lovely "The End of the Affair" suggests those Aztec Camera records where Roddy Frame favored smooth production and sleek surfaces in his sound. "Sweetness and Light" percolates like the best sort of Britpop stuff that White clearly draws a lot of inspiration from even still, while the longer "Memory" is trippy and closer to what Spiritualized was doing at one point in the past. If Thomas White is using parts of the output of The Fiction Aisle to explore some interesting sonic corners, he's also clearly a strong songwriter and one who is interested in classic forms. Looking to predecessors as diverse as Lennon and Bacharach, White can pen a really strong hook, like on "Some Things Never Die", even as the final cut on the record, the epic "Will I Get Where I'm Going Before I'm Ready?", nearly drifts away even as it gently enchants with waves of the melody-line coming in like slow ripples from a distant ship on the horizon.

Jupiter, Florida was such a pleasant surprise to me that I am almost angry that I hadn't heard of this band so much earlier. The Fiction Aisle make beautiful and affecting music that both fits with the sort of Brit-rock I consumed some decades ago, even as it expands the genre in some interesting and unexpected ways.

Jupiter, Florida is out today. See the link below. More details on The Fiction Aisle via the band's official Facebook page.

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

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Right Time: A Brief Review Of The New Album From Salad Boys

New Zealand's Salad Boys manage to draw upon a whole range of influences but, invariably, descriptions of their sound usually involve a lot of references to earlier generations of Kiwi bands like The Clean and The Cakekitchen. Comparisons to those Flying Nun Records legends are apt as Salad Boys favor a kind of ruminative alt-rock that features a lot of superb guitar-lines wrapped around a strong hook. The tunes on the band's new record, This is Glue, out Tomorrow on Trouble in Mind Records, are as engaging as those on earlier releases from this lot, so rest assured that the winning streak of Salad Boys is continuing, even as the band explores other avenues of sound.

Opener "Blown Up" channels stuff like Television, while the next 2 cuts -- the languid "Hatred" and the sharp "Psych Slasher" -- nod in the direction of David Kilgour and The Clean, and offer a neater approximation of early Hoodoo Gurus jams, respectively. There's so much here in the space of just 3 cuts that a listener can only marvel at how exceedingly excellent and consistent this band have remained. Salad Boys can really do no wrong as most of This is Glue is just as good. Elsewhere, stuff like "Right Time" and "In Heaven" suggest a lost team-up from Nirvana and Sonic Youth, while the punchier "Under The Bed" and "Scenic Route to Nowhere" blend stabs at a kind of C86-inspired approach to tunes that are very nearly examples of straightforward power-pop. Of course, there's something a bit undone here, and it's that sort of ramshackle charm that makes the songs of Salad Boys so memorable and affecting. If mellower numbers here like "Going Down Slow" indicate a softening of this band's sonic attack, the pleasures remain subtle and lingering ones as even the less obviously-catchy cuts on This is Glue succeed upon first listen.

A record that is more consistent than the band's last album, This is Glue is that rare release that possesses a bit of mystery and complexity even as it unveils pleasures that any listener can easily obtain. The most excellent kind of post-punk, the songs of Salad Boys are some of the best you're likely to hear in 2018.

[Photo: Brian Feary]

This is Glue is out tomorrow on Trouble in Mind Records.

More details on Salad Boys via the band's official Facebook page.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Stupid Kid: A Few Words About The New Sultans Of Ping F.C. Reissue From Cherry Red Records

I discovered The Sultans of Ping F.C. for myself. Rummaging through used CD bins in London shops on my first trip to the U.K. back in 1999, I saw a bunch of discs from the Sultans. They looked cool, and the song titles were silly -- "Where's Me Jumper?" and that -- and so I bought a few and fell in love with the band. Similar to an act like Ned's Atomic Dustbin, The Sultans made ramshackle, New Wave-y punk-pop that tickled the funny-bone and set the foot to tapping. Thankfully, the first record from the group, Casual Sex In The Cineplex (1992),, is being reissued with a whole lot of bonus tracks thanks to the folks at Cherry Red Records.

The debut is, of course, as buoyant as ever, with the tracks here foreshadowing the sort of thing one would find a bit later on early releases from bands as disparate as Ash and Supergrass. "Indeed You Are", "Stupid Kid", and "You Talk Too Much" positively bounce with energy, the riffs sharp and the tunes exceedingly punchy. Yes, the songs here are a bit goofy and funny but the humor fits, and rarely does Sultans of Ping F.C. seem like a joke band, as they invariably ride a hook as hard as they ride any funny bit. Elsewhere, there's some near-loveliness on "Veronica" and real power-pop punch on "Kick Me With Your Leatherboots", a tougher song than you probably remember this band being capable of producing. On the whole, Casual Sex In The Cineplex (1992) holds up fairly well, rarely sounding dated or 26 years old.

On Disc 2 here we get the rarities, singles, and EP tracks and whatnot. "Crash Pad Chick" roars impressively, while a live version of "Football Hooligan" returns to a familiar concern for this band (footie). Elsewhere, there's an EP version of "Stupid Kid", and "Riot At The Sheepdog Trials", one of the band's best known bits of goofiness. And who couldn't love a band who'd pen an ode to "Robocop" complete with a sample of star Peter Weller?

At their very best, The Sultans of Ping F.C. were capable of making largely disposable punk-pop that found itself caught between the death of one genre and the rise of a few others. Perhaps if the band had come up a few years later, they'd have had more success and found more acceptance. Still, in the drab pre-Britpop wilderness of 1992, The Sultans of Ping F.C. were a big, bright explosion of power-pop that -- remarkably -- still sounds fantastic!

Casual Sex in the Cineplex is out in a fantastic 2-disc edition from Cherry Red Records on Friday.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Future Is Ours: A Quick Review Of The Fab New Album From Half Japanese

Jad Fair has been making music as part of Half Japanese for decades. His voice and sensibilities are unique ones in the alt-rock world. That the quality of his music has not wavered is something to be applauded and celebrated. And another reason to celebrate is set to drop on Friday when the band's newest record, Why Not?, is released on Fire Records.

The title cut and the fine "The Future Is Ours" sally forward on the back of the odd energy that Jad always puts into this sort of thing, while the buoyant "Amazing" chugs in the manner of tunes from acts as disparate as Ty Segall and The Rolling Stones. The magic of Half Japanese is that this sort of thing feels fresh -- always -- even as bits and pieces of this strike at familiar reference points in a listener's memory. Elsewhere, the slightly dangerous "Demons Of Doom" and the silly-but-sinister "Zombie Island Massacre" blend a kind of B-movie schlock POV with a Nuggets-like unruliness. This is Rock-and-Roll, after all, and Jad Fair and his players here -- John Sluggett, Gilles-Vincent Rieder, Mick Hobbs, and Jason Willett -- never lose sight of the goal of making raucous music. Sure, there's humor here but Jad Fair is a determined front-man first, and not just some writer of funny songs. Still, Fair is to be commended for creating music this infectious and -- dare I say it? -- inspiring. There's a real joy infused in the tracks here that recalls early Jonathan Richman classics, peak Robyn Hitchcock compositions, and -- of course -- earlier gems from the rich and deep Half Japanese back-catalog.

Why Not? is another in the recent string of fine and gently subversive records from Half Japanese, Jad Fair being on a bit of a roll as of late. Delightfully skewed in spots, sharp and rocky in others, Why Not? re-affirms the continuing greatness of this guy, and the players here. The band is on point, and Jad Fair remains throughout one of the best front-men making alt-rock these days. Let's hope and pray he continues to crank out material like this for a good long while.

Why Not? is out on Fire Records on Friday.

More details on Half Japanese via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Owen Thomas]

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Hype: A Look At The New One From Shopping

The new record from Shopping is nearly here and it is the sort of thing worthy of a lot of hype. Called The Official Body, the record drops on Fat-Cat Records on Friday and it's every bit as rhythmically fierce as the band's previous releases, maybe more so.

If opener and lead single "The Hype" features a title that seems to acknowledge the excitement around most of this group's work, it's a good thing that the music actually lives up to the...hype. Elsewhere, the spindly "Asking For A Friend" sounds a tiny bit like both The Raincoats and early Sleater-Kinney stuff, while "Shave Your Head" nods in the direction of hardcore sensibilities, and the more languid "Control Yourself" bubbles with a kind of dub-heavy momentum. At their very best, Shopping manage to render even a slight number like "My Dad's A Dancer" with a nimble sense of purpose, and a whole lot of lyrical wisdom.

Blending the influences of U.K. post-punk and a kind of riot grrl-worthy sense of mission, Shopping have so far managed to release records of unflagging energy and genuine infectiousness. The Official Body is perhaps the band's strongest release to date with nary a moment of dissipation to be found on the album.

The Official Body is out on Friday via Fat-Cat Records.

More details on Shopping via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: CJ Monk]

Suck You Dry: A Few Words About The New Live Album From Mudhoney

It seems hard to believe that Mudhoney have never released a live album until now. There probably were live releases here and there from the band over the course of the last 30 years, but the upcoming LiE, out Friday via Sub Pop, represents the very first, wide-release live record from these legends. And it's a scorcher, as if you couldn't guess.

The story of Mudhoney is the story of a band constantly striving to break free of the grunge label. No matter how ferocious their music -- take a listen to early Nineties single "Suck You Dry" here rendered absolutely incendiary -- the band sort of got perpetually lumped in with a lot of groups from the West Coast who weren't quite as raucous. Mudhoney could slow it down occasionally, but at their very best -- like on the surging mid-Nineties anti-anthem "Judgment, Rage, Retribution and Thyme", here a beast -- they harnessed some sort of weird primordial rawness that was both caveman-like and genuinely dangerous. Even on a relatively recent number like "I Like It Small", the band seem to be steering into the storm, the instruments creating a racket that owes as much to the Nuggets generation of groups as it does to the hardcore punks who whipped up noise on these shores a good decade or so before Mudhoney took up together as an early grunge offering. And for a band who remained consistently witty, a surprisingly strong cover of "Editions Of You" here delights in an un-ironic and straightforward way, the glam classic from Roxy Music made over into a roaring bit of business.

If you're a long-time fan of Mudhoney, you're gonna love this live album as it's the one you've always wanted to hear from this band. If you're a relatively new fan of these guys, LiE is a good introduction to these legends of the Pacific Northwest. A real crash course in the harder edges of grunge, this live Mudhoney release is essential.

LiE by Mudhoney is out on Friday from Sub Pop Records.

More details on Mudhoney via the band's official site.

[Photo: Vincent Vannes]

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Fear In The Future: A Look At This New Terminal Mind Reissue

Terminal Mind from Austin, Texas made very sharp, angular post-punk in an era when folks were still genuflecting over the Sex Pistols. That they managed to advance the form, in a sense, says a lot about their skill, even if they remain a bit unsung. Things should change now thanks to the upcoming reissue of the band's stuff from Sonic Surgery Records.

Recordings, out Friday, collects all of the band's stuff and the release serves as a crash-course into the work of this fine bunch of Texas punks. "I Want To Die Young" bristles and pops with the sort of energy one found in early Gang of Four recordings, while "Fear In The Future" is a bit more assuredly original, less jittery post-punk and more angular art-rock. Elsewhere, "Obsessed With Crime" owes a faint debt to early Talking Heads and Police records, while the catchy "Refugee" bounces like a darker version of the sort of thing XTC were doing early on. Terminal Mind produced original material at times, but their best stuff seems still of the era and comparable to what a few others were attempting back then. This is not to say that that band's songs were derivative but that the group never really got a chance to pursue their own vision the way other, longer-lasting acts did.

Both a fascinating picture of the scene in the era, and a collection of bright and sharp post-punk, Recordings should serve to force a reassessment of Terminal Mind. The band certainly deserves a lot more attention and there's a lot to love here for fans of the genre's pioneers, and anyone interested in the early days of post-punk and proto-hardcore in America.

Recordings by Terminal Mind is out on Friday via Sonic Surgery Records.

[Photo: Ken Hoge]

Friday, January 12, 2018

Pics From The Camper Van Beethoven / Cracker Show In D.C. Last Night!

One has to give credit to David Lowery seeing as how he's out on the road fronting 2 legendary and much-loved alt-rock bands at once. Thankfully, they are touring together so that makes it kinda easier. Camper Van Beethoven have been around for more than 30 years, and Lowery's post-CVB project, Craker, have been going strong for nearly as long. Both bands rocked the 9:30 Club in D.C. last night and Davis White attended and thankfully shared some pics.

The bands are both on tour now and the acts will feature at a big fest in Athens, Georgia next week, along with Robyn Hitchcock, and Camper Van Beethoven side-project The Monks of Doom (due to release a new album in March).

For more details on Camper Van Beethoven:

For more details on Cracker:


Camper Van Beethoven, live at 9:30 Club, Washington, D.C., January 11, 2018. Photos by Davis White

Cracker, live at 9:30 Club, Washington, D.C., January 11, 2018. Photos by Davis White


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Looking For The Way Out: A Quick Review Of The New Stuart Kidd Album

Stuart Kidd, Stu, has played on dozens of great records from Dr. Cosmo's Tape Lab, to BMX Bandits, to Gorky's main-man Euros Childs' stuff, to that awesome Jonny record (Euros Childs with Norman Blake from Teenage Fanclub), to the Linden album. These have all been fine projects but leave it to Stuart to manage another masterpiece on his own. Where Are The Strange People?, out now, sees Stuart Kidd, here billed as KiDD, offer up a release that is sure to appeal to fans of those previously-mentioned recordings, as well as listeners who appreciate Super Furry Animals and mid-period Boo Radleys, for example, as well.

If "Little Flower" sounds a lot like the sort of lyrical number that Martin Carr would commit to tape, "An Afternoon in April", and especially the languid "Cyan Seren", suggest that Kidd not only spent some time playing music with Euros Childs but that he also listened to a bunch of Gorky's Zygotic Mynci albums. Elsewhere, the superb "Baby Bird" melds a spry Kinks-in-the-Swingin'-Sixties-style hook with an effortlessly infectious vocal-line. If "Misty's Golden Years" is impossibly catchy, it's also oddly reminiscent of the sort of thing one might have heard back in the bubblegum rock era, all easy Beatles-inspired bits melded together in something a bit silly and fun. Near the close of Where Are The Strange People?, Kidd gets a trifle political on "Looking For The Way Out", a rumination on Brexit and the aftermath of that vote that still manages to offer up one of the biggest hooks on the record. Stu's vocal performance on this one is wonderfully relaxed and confident, even given the dire concerns of the lyrics of the tune.

Stuart Kidd can, as far as I can tell, do no wrong. A multi-instrumentalist of immense talent, he's here a fine front-man for what is essentially his own one-man band. And yet, there's nothing really lo-fi here, Kidd having instead followed the lead of artists like Gruff Rhys and Martin Carr in crafting something intimate and expansive. This is wonderfully melodic music that has enough familiar traces to appeal to fans of a load of Britpop-era acts, but which is also adventurous and risky enough to earn Stu Kidd a whole load of fans whose knowledge of, say, stuff from BMX Bandits and Euros Childs isn't very deep. Kidd's managed to make something with all the charm of the records of those acts, but with even bigger hooks and big, bright swathes of melodic charm.

Where Are The Strange People? is out now. You can get more details via Stuart Kidd's official Facebook page, or the link below.

[Photo: Pic from Stu Kidd's Bandcamp page]

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Crystal: A Few Words About The Debut Full-Length Album From Jaguwar

Oyemi, Lemmy, and Chris make up the German trio Jaguwar. The band cranks out fairly impressive material that skirts the edges of the shoegaze-y and ethereal rock genres. At their best -- usually on the tracks where Oyemi takes over on vocals -- Jaguwar manage to produce material that seems like a fuzzier take on the Cranes template, or a less messy updating of Toenut stuff. When Lemmy sings, the band's tunes seem slightly more conventional, even as each Lemmy-fronted cut sounds suspiciously like a group trying very hard to sound like Pornography-era Cure, an admirable mission all the same. Still, all that being said, the band's debut full-length record, Ringthing, out Friday on Tapete Records, is an invigorating affair, and a record that nearly delivers as much as it promises.

"Lunatic" roars with a whole lot of punch right out of the gate, and the catchier "Skeleton Feet" blends bits of near-glam-rock like Placebo, or early Manics, with the roar of Isn't Anything-era My Bloody Valentine. The cut is immediately the sort of thing that's hard to dislodge from the brain, as is the more lyrical "Night Out". Elsewhere, "Gone" and "Crystal" sprawl a bit and unfurl with a whole lot of invention. If "Whales" is a little too close to the braying of Robert Smith on lesser, more current Cure records, for my liking, at least "Away" chimes impressively in the style of of early Ride singles, all noise and hooks churning with abandon.

The music of Jaguwar is not entirely an original proposition but the band has a lot of energy, and they manage to imbue these largely-familiar styles with a great deal of spark and verve. Along with Canada's Beliefs, Jaguwar are re-inventing the shoegaze template for a new century. That they seem less concerned with unleashing a pure sonic assault, or drafting feedback-drenched woozy rockers, and more invested in making big, melodic hooks out of noise, says a lot about their intentions as musicians. I look forward to hearing even more from this band in the future, but for now, I highly recommend what's here on Ringthing.

Ringthing is out on Friday via Tapete Records. More details on Jaguwar via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Maks Pallas]

Monday, January 8, 2018

Tasteless: A Brief Review Of The Debut Album From London Band Shame

From the promo pics and marketing hype, you'd think that London-based band Shame were the second coming of The Libertines or something, all Britpop dirtied up (even more) for a new decade. And to label the band so cavalierly would be to do them a disservice as the group's debut, Songs Of Praise, out in the US via Dead Oceans on Friday, is far more varied and distinctive than one might otherwise guess. Shame seem intent on creating a very big commotion in the very best way possible.

If openers "Concrete" and "Dust On Trial" offer up more mature takes on the sort of late period Britpop once dropped on us by the likes of Hard-Fi, then superb early single "One Rizla" proves that Shame are the real deal and not just (very late) bandwagon-jumpers. The cut is full of bad intent and there's loads here that should appeal to fans of not just British stuff but Yank acts like Afghan Whigs, for instance. Elsewhere, "Tasteless" and "Donk" are serviceable shout-y anthems that seem suitably grimy, while the more menacing "Gold Hole" seems more original and well-considered. There's a hint here of stuff like early Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds numbers, even if the threat levels are more juvenile and less Biblical. Still, Shame manage to bring a lot of real unease to things here on Songs Of Praise, and if each number is not entirely as distinctive as one would like them to be, at least Shame are getting it done with a lot of racket-and-rage. A minor misstep with mellow closer "Angie" is forgotten when a listener returns to Fall-inspired numbers like "Friction" here, and one is rewarded by the band's energy on this one, and others on the record.

Songs Of Praise is not perfect, so it seems less likely to be the sort of thing unfairly hyped by guys like me who usually fall all over themselves in praising anything like this from England. Still, Shame make fairly workable and effective rock and, more often than not, Songs Of Praise succeeds at both advancing the template for this sort of thing and obliterating the memory of loads of lesser Britpop bands from a listener's mind.

Songs Of Praise is out on Friday via Dead Oceans. More details on Shame via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Courtesy of the band via the label]

Sunday, January 7, 2018

A Few Words About The New DVD and Blu-Ray Edition Of D.O.A.: A Rite Of Passage (And Your Chance To Win A Copy!)

The 1980 film, D.O.A.: A Rite Of Passage is finally back in print. The folks at MVD Entertainment Group have brought the film back into print in spectacular fashion. And at the end of this brief review will be your chance to win a copy of the Blu-Ray/DVD set.

Kids today don't understand how hard it was to view clips of certain bands back in the Eighties. Sure, there was MTV -- if your cable system carried it; ours didn't until I was 19 -- but it was unlikely that MTV was going to show clips of, say, The Dead Boys and Sham 69, right? So, even if you knew all of these punk records, and read Creem and other mags, it was unlikely you had ever seen the bands perform with any kind of real force and fury. This is precisely why D.O.A.: A Rite Of Passage (1980) was so important, and such a vital and cherished document of the punk boom for those coming of age in its aftermath.

Ostensibly focused on the rise and fall of the Sex Pistols, the film contains a wealth of footage of not only that lot, but loads of other bands. Heck, I'd say that the live clip of X-Ray Spex performing "Oh Bondage! Up Yours!" in a rehearsal room is worth the price of admission alone. Still, the Pistols clips are amazing and dispel those lingering doubters who said that the band was better on record, or just the punk Monkees or something. Seen here positively burning through numbers like "Anarchy in the U.K." and "God Save The Queen", the group seems still the sort of thing capable of starting a riot. And yet, as the film illustrates, their stops on their U.S. tour were greeted with a kind of car-crash curiosity as wannabe punks -- in some cases -- show up to wear funny shades and gawk at the Brit legends. Still, for those who do want to revel in the Pistols' dissolution, D.O.A.: A Rite Of Passage (1980) does contain that famous clip of Nancy Spungen and Sid Vicious positively strung out and still managing to be the most annoying couple on earth. Tragic and oddly funny, the clip is just unlike any other rock star interview bit you've seen in any other film.

Apart from the Sex Pistols material, the film is rife with other vital punk acts. Aside from the previously-mentioned X-Ray Spex, Billy Idol and Generation X turn in a blistering punk-pop performance, and Sham 69 drop a few live versions of some of their better tunes. On this side of the Atlantic, Dead Boys tear things apart with a fury that many may have forgotten they possessed.

The concert bits are interspersed with clips of Brits wandering around and dealing with the hellishly-drab conditions of Britain circa 1977. These segments are fascinating time capsules of how grim things were, even as Yanks were disco-dancing with abandon on these shores. D.O.A.: A Rite Of Passage (1980) serves still as a nice portrait of how bad things were in England, and why punk had to happen, at least in the United Kingdom, as youth rage positively boiled over with good reason.

The bonus features on D.O.A.: A Rite Of Passage are listed below:

High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation of the main feature
Original 2.0 Mono Audio (Uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
12-page booklet with liner notes written by John Holmstrom, founding editor of PUNK Magazine
Dead On Arrival: The Punk Documentary That Almost Never Was - A feature-length documentary about the making of D.O.A. A Rite of Passage produced by award-winning filmmaker (and former MTV Senior Producer) Richard Schenkman (HD)
Reversible artwork
2-Sided Poster included
Original Theatrical Trailer
Limited Edition Retro 'Video Store Style' Slipcover / O-Card (First Pressing Only)
Rare Sex Pistols photo gallery

And, for whatever the faults inherent in its original construction as a feature, D.O.A.: A Rite Of Passage remains the most vital look at British punk ever committed to film in the era. Certainly there's little of The Clash here, but they've got their own Rude Boy film. For the sheer volume of Sex Pistols footage here, and the clips of a few other important acts, D.O.A.: A Rite Of Passage remains the definitive portrait of an era whose best records continue to inspire so many musicians and fans even now. The folks at MVD Entertainment Group have done an amazing job with this one.

I have one extra copy of this set to give to one reader courtesy of MVD Entertainment Group. Please email your name and address to me here at kenixfan [at] gmail [dot] com.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

The Fire Again: A Quick Word About The New EP From A. Spencer (ex-Paint Branch)

A. Spencer Goldman played in Paint Branch (with John Davis of Title Tracks and Chris Richards of Q And Not U) for a bit, and he's got a project called Fulton Lights that's ongoing, but it's the latest EP offered up as A. Spencer that I'm concerned with today. Cicatriz, out now, is a collection of affecting neo-roots music that I thoroughly enjoyed. The lack of pretension here is something that charmed me as, given the genre, it would have been easy for the players to get lost in the touches that give this the mark of authenticity, rather than the tunes themselves.

And, to his credit, A. Spencer has crafted 3 solid songs here that don't need a great deal of embellishment to succeed. The title cut surges on the back of a supple hook that recalls songs from bands as disparate as Iron & and Wine and Yo La Tengo, with guitar-work from Adam Ollendorf (Kacey Musgraves) carrying things forward, while the more down-tempo "Wagging The Dog" sees Spencer adopt a more elegiac tone, even as the melody-line maintains a quiet jauntiness. The closing track on this EP, "The Fire Again", is haunting nu-country, for lack of a better description, a bridging of a few genres via a simple melody, strong hook, and assured vocals.

The players on this all deserve credit but A. Spencer is the guiding hand here, rendering this sort of music with such ease that one forgets how easily this could have been overdone. Spencer has kept things direct and uncomplicated, and the touches here -- slide guitar, a slight twang in vocal delivery -- that place this within some sort of definable genre tradition, feel natural and unforced. This is serious music, but not music that ever feels unnatural for the players. And as the final cut here on the Cicatriz EP makes a lyrical reference to Nirvana, a listener is reminded that this is yet another avenue within American indie, and one being explored confidently by the musicians involved with A. Spencer.

Cicatriz by A. Spencer is out now.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

This Is My Song: A Few Words About The New Anton Barbeau Album

I'm trying to figure out if I even want to review the new album from Anton Barbeau or not. See, I typically only review things I'm at least moderately enthusiastic about. And I can't really say that I liked Antronica 2, out tomorrow on the otherwise-fine Gare Du Nord label, even as I did sort of admire Anton's odd skill at making almost bad-on-purpose Eighties-style electro-pop.

A number like "Go! (1987)" sounds precisely like the kind of stuff that those no-name bands on the soundtracks of buddy cop movies used to peddle, while the more enjoyable "This Is My Song" at least presents a faint simulacrum of the sort of thing Howard Jones and his ilk foisted upon us back in 1985 or so. The more subtle soundscapes of the lush "Dolphins On Drugs" almost make up for the annoying chirpyness of stuff like "Ski Racer", a truly unnecessary piece of work. Elsewhere, "Rain Rain" sounds a tiny bit like non-hits from The Cars, while "Milk Churn In The Morning" ruins a nice hook with some ludicrous lyrics.

Anton Barbeau is a fine musician, and one whose earlier work appealed to me, but Antronica 2 is one joke repeated for nearly an hour. And it remains a joke that was never funny in the first place. I just don't understand why someone would use their talents to make something intentionally awful in so many places? This reminds me of the tunes in that Drew Barrymore/Hugh Grant movie where the Brit played a guy who had been in a big synth-pop band, only the songs here are not as good, nor as purposefully funny. Antronica 2 offers a note-perfect recreation of the very worse dregs of the end of the New Wave boom. Fans of Reagan-era Christian Rock, or compilation fillers might like this but I really didn't, even barely tolerating it on a purely intellectual level.

Antronica 2 by Anton Barbeau is out tomorrow.

[Photo: Uncredited promo image from label]

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Most Impressive Reissue Of 2017 Was This Fall Singles Box From Cherry Red Records

I know I'm a bit late here, but it took me until the holidays to finally work my way through this 7-CD set. The Fall Singles 1978-2016, out now from Cherry Red Records, is a truly impressive project that collects every single from The Fall over the course of nearly 40 years, along with -- in the deluxe 7-disc edition -- a quartet of discs featuring all the relevant flip-sides from the era. The set is, in a word, magnificent, and nearly the perfect Fall compilation.

Discs 1 to 3 here cover all the A-sides from The Fall released from 1978 to 2016 so, yeah, all the big "hits" are here, from "Bingo-Master Breakout", up to "Hit The North" to "Susan Vs. Youthclub" and on to even more recent numbers from the band. As a consequence, the surprises here are ones of consistency as the Fall pursue a variety of styles over the course of a few peaks and valleys in the last 4 decades, with a surprisingly strong maintenance of quality over these 40 years. And, it goes without saying, that the tunes from the era when Brix E. Smith was in the band remain the strongest still, with numbers like the essential "Cruiser's Creek" and the morose "Living Too Late" seeming like works of genius, even now. At their very best back in the Eighties, The Fall hit a kind of creative peak that rendered their music somehow more accessible and in sync with the alt-rock times, even as it remained willfully cryptic and obtuse. Still, any band that can rattle through "Couldn't Get Ahead" and a ramshackle cover of The Kinks ("Victoria") in the same era deserves our respect even now, even if the band went off the rails and lost (some) wind from its sails later in the late Nineties.

The remaining 4 (!) discs of The Fall Singles 1978-2016 cover the band's flip-sides over the same years with the selections veering from essential rockers to morbid curiosity pieces. The lyrical-and-languid "I'm Into CB" remains too good to be considered simply a flip, while "C.R.E.E.P." positively swings (still), and "Rollin' Danny" rides a hook that is nothing less than borderline unhinged. Similarly, "Dead Beat Descendant" roars with a kind of beatnik glee, and "Glam Racket" bristles with a genuine sense of bad intent. Still, not everything here is so good. And while the law of averages says that 4 discs of B-sides cannot possibly be a 100% good proposition, at least The Fall kept things interesting over the course of portions of 5 actual decades. Mark E. Smith remained, if nothing else, a crank who was committed to the production of Rock and Roll, even if he sometimes sounds like he's lost some of the plot (for real this time) towards the end of this 7-CD set, with the material on some of the B-sides from this century seeming to be work meant for Fall completists only.

The Fall Singles 1978-2016, out now on Cherry Red Records, is absolutely essential. For whatever era of the band you're a fan of, or for whatever weird reason you must own nearly 5 dozen songs relegated by Mr. Smith to the flips of his singles -- and singles you probably already own in some form -- this is the set for you. Deranged rawk, lyrical musings focused with a diamond-like intensity on the spark and fire flitting inside the brain of Mr. Mark E. Smith, the 100+ selections here make up a collection of some of the most vital post-punk recordings ever produced.