Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion

Grumbling-Fur-The-Ballad-of-Roy-BattyWith everyone else frolicking around at Green Man, End of the Road or other such sunny paradises, I’m currently left at home, working the days and feeling a little sorry for myself of an evening. No worries, I tell myself, I do still have September’s Psychfest to look forward to and am increasingly turning to the organisers to choose my next favourite bands…

Grumbling Fur

These are an interesting pair, featuring on the Saturday in Liverpool and generally getting a good deal of coverage in all the interesting places of the net. Only looked them up because of Psychfest but when I did I realised I’d sort of been there all along, buying one half of the Fur (?), Alexander Tucker’s records for a few years now. I had no idea that his unconventional brilliance was one of those behind Grumbling Fur (probably better…), but to be honest I really don’t think there’s any way I’d have spotted a link even if I’d been paying attention – there’s not a lot of Portal or Old Fog in either of these new releases with Daniel O’Sullivan.

I bought Glynnaestra a month or so ago from Fopp in Bristol, and listened to it pretty exclusively for the next few weeks until, lo and behold, Preternaturals came out… Consequently, the two records are pretty much intertwined in my head, with no space between them at all. I quite like that really – they almost seem like one big (quirky) double album.

As I said, there’s been a lot written about them recently, most of it trying very hard to cultivate some sort of neo-psychedelia element to their sound and to be fair, Tucker and O’Sullivan’s Albarn-esque confessions of Misadventures with Mescaline have pretty much fed into this.

But I can’t see it to be honest, far too much like a lo-fi dance record to go that way for me, an idea that usually turns me off to a record pretty darn quickly. Occasionally, though, a record is strong enough that even if the cut of its trousers is all wrong, the crown jewels still come through (that’s an analogy I’m going to regret when I read this back…). I’m generally pretty quick to dismiss anything that has a few too many electronics in it (and conversely, far too ready to shell out on any group of long hairs that brandish guitars), but this all works.

Both records (as I said, currently inseparable in my head), are choc-full of studio fumblings, “found sounds” and dubby playfulness. But what stands out most for me are the soft, measured vocals of both men that emerge from time to time from the spacey confusion around them. The obvious but still stand-out track is The Ballad of Roy Batty, with its Tears in the Rain monologue which even though I have no affinity at all with Blade Runner, I still find intensely and inexplicably moving:

 

 

Really looking forward to seeing this in September…

Now I feel so much better…

LaHellGang_291113Being one of the more self-conscious (not to mention idle) bloggers around, I’ve been increasingly aware that these days most of the material eddying from these parts is pretty, well, Latin. Great dollops of chicha, second (and third) helpings of cumbia and side dishes of Spanish indie… Maybe I should just carry on ladling it out, but I guess that in the interests of balance and fairness, I could make it clear that I do spend a fair amount of time listening to other stuff…

So, anyhow, I give you La Hell Gang.

La Hell Gang

We-e-e-ll… turns out that La Hell Gang are from Santiago and whilst technically this makes them as Latin as everything else I’ve been posting recently, in spirit they’re as far away from the accordion folk sounds of Cumbia as it’s possible to be. In truth, I didn’t realise any of this until a good couple of weeks after I’d started enthusiastically tucking into the boisterous guitars of Thru Me Again (released last month on Mexican Summer – the “thru” bothers me, by the way…). But by then, it was all too late.

Some wag has made a flippant remark on one of the La Hell Gang vids on YouTube referring to Sigur Ros, but you shouldn’t let that bother you (no matter how much this also bothers me…) It’s principally a massive slab of psych-ey, guitar-dominated indie-rock – vocals well down the mix, drummer on half-time, wah-wah and all manner of other jiggery-pokery echoing about the place. And, my friends, I really like it. Maybe, you will too…

 

One of the reasons I didn’t link this lot to their Chilean chums The Holydrug Couple and Föllakzoid is that I initially misread their name as LA Hell Gang (while we’re onto things that bother me…) and to be fair it’s not hard to make some sort of languid biker gang connection, when you see the photos and hear the first strains of Inside My Fall.

Actually, I’ve only just found out that despite reading to the contrary (I’m sure) Thru Me Again is not actually their first record – 2009’s Just What Is Real was released in South America (and probably over here) on BYMRecords. And I’ve just found it on Emusic too. First listen tells you it’s a much more garagey affair than the new one, and makes you realise that no matter how raucous and coarse the new record sounds, there’s actually been a certain amount of “maturing” going on here… Scary!

Witness..

 

Looking forward to getting into the childish stuff!

Energetic and sincere, addictive and accessible…

vicente pratsI’m going to talk about Spain again, which seems a bit ridiculous – it’s over a month ago that we were there – but work has barged in again and, gosh darn!, I’ve done almost no posts about it. What’s the matter with me?

In fact, it was almost a month later before I picked this record off the shelf and ripped it to my laptop. Criminal, really…

Vicente Prats

Came across this record on the Discos Amsterdam website, as it featured heavily on one of the 39 Sonidos de Juan Victorio podcasts which the owner of the shop does periodically (and which are worth a listen, I should add…).

I’m now not clear whether the gentleman I met in the shop in Valencia was actually Juan (he said he was) but at any rate, when I asked about the Vicente Prats record both he and his lady friend became very enthusiastic (far more so than my cack-handed Spanish could cope with…).

Vicente Prats is a Valencia-based singer and band leader who clearly has a strong connection with earthy, powerful pop songs – songs that display old-fashioned pop sentimentalities, unashamed, unrepentant.

Interviewed, here, for Efe Eme magazine, he wears his heart well and truly on his sleeve:

“I make pop songs that are energetic and sincere, addictive and accessible, just as pop has always been. Songs that you can sing and hum along to, that will remain with the listener.”

Here they are playing Tiempo Perido on YouTube:

 

The record I bought in Valencia is his self-titled debut, released officially this year, I think, but actually written and recorded at home five or six years earlier. And it’s a lovely, rich collection of eight songs. Reviews of it make mention of the Byrds, Big Star and Los Brincos (need to look that one up), but unsurprisingly the strongest influence that comes through is from everyone’s favourite band, Teenage Fanclub. Now the line between “influenced by” and “blatant copyist” is a little bit in the eye of the beho¡der. I just don’t have a problem with bands sounding like one of my much-loved, pet sounds – there’s not been enough from them in recent years, in my book – but I suspect there’ll be those who hear this record and think that it’s just too close to the Fannies. Fair enough, but you’re missing out, my friends…

 

And by the way “Tiempo Perdido”, is currently free to download from Sr Prats’ Bandcamp page.

¡Vamonos!

¡Bocata de sangre! ¡Bocata de sangre!

Archivo-adjunto-al-mensaje-620x403Well, Spain was a lot of fun, but regrettably it’s been gone for a couple of weeks now. I would’ve been back on here earlier but I’ve been sprawled open-mouthed in front of the World Cup rushed off my feet with work.

Valencia was my favourite of the cities we visited and I could go on about it for a while given the chance. Suffice to say it’s a beautiful city with a lovely green river-bed park running through the heart of it. And there’s a fair few more-than-decent record shops where a so-minded tourist can easily lose a few hours… My favourite one was Discos Amsterdam which as well as having your standard Indie, Psych, Metal sections, was also well-stocked with Spanish and Latin American records. I spent a happy couple of hours there and met owner Juan who was patient with my Spanish and was politely surprised that I listened to his podcast.

Siesta!

As it turned out, the record I really wanted to buy by Valencia’s own krautrockers Siesta! had already sold out which was a shame. I’d done a little bit of prep before leaving for Spain (I think I wrote about it…) and was quite intrigued by what I’d heard on YouTube and Bandcamp. Turns out the vinyl record itself had only 300 pressings but the band have made the mp3s available on their Bandcamp page for free.

Woop!

It’s a cracker of a release as well – noisy, aggressive, full of energy. Siesta! are two Valencianos called Pepe and Jonathan who both play drums, keyboards and synths and are clearly big fans of synthy motorik sounds and a fair dollop of psychedelia. Not so many lyrics, but at least they’re all in Spanish (which I kind of approve of).

 

Rather charmingly, Siesta! describe themselves as “losers” and “two pissed off monkeys with drumsticks”. More specifically, there’s the aforementioned nods toward Neu and Can, but there’s actually quite a lot of scampering post-punk lines that I can hear too, some Cure, some Bunnymen – not my favourite references these days, but it all kinda works. It all makes for quite a nervy, adrenaline fuelled listen, pretty much the direct opposite of a restful snooze in the afternoon…

 

[By the way, if you were wondering, a “bocata” is apparently a sandwich made with French bread…]

Bang and bang and shoot.

SpeedyOrtiz_MA013 (1)I’m not getting to many gigs these days, a sad state of affairs that has been brought home to me by the recent White Denim and Flamin’ Groovies disappointments but even more so by the one date I have managed to make recently, a cracking evening at the Exchange in Bristol, in the company of Speedy Ortiz.

Speedy Ortiz

I’d forgotten quite how small the Exchange is. It’s tiny, the stage area not a whole lot bigger than a largish front room. But really, that’s great, if you’re one of the lucky ones with a ticket in your pocket and a lurid green band fastened tightly about your wrist. The whole standing expectantly in front of a stage, pint in hand, waiting for the band thing was as feverishly strong as ever, and I found myself making unrealistic promises to myself almost instantly. Two really strong support bands later (Personal Best and Empty Pools – both local, both terrific and both to be posted about at a later date, I promise. No, really…) and I was enjoying myself so much I was even beginning to think Speedy Ortiz were going to have trouble living up to expectations…

No worries, there, Speedy Ort-eez (we were to learn) were tremendous – rowdy, difficult and the ideal mixture of taut sloppiness to complement their awkward, harsh, delicate songs. Singer Sadie Dupois is (I’m sure I read) a poet and some sort of semi-academic talent, although I may be making this last part up, but is of course something of a pale beauty, as well. I don’t have a good visual memory, generally, but the image of Ms Dupois in her immodestly short skirt, bashing the shit out of her guitar is one that I think will linger… (I’m a little embarrassed to say I can remember precious little of the rest of the band – although on the recordings I can be heard saying “the drummer’s a bit of an animal, isn’t he?”, so I can’t have been slobbering all evening…)

It was a great set, running through a lot of material not on Major Arcana, the Real Hair and Sports EPs featuring heavily. Didn’t know these two records at the time, but I’ve quickly sorted this. There were superb versions of “Gary”, “Indoor Soccer”, “Plough” and “No Below”, a song she said she wasn’t keen on any more, but which I always find moving.

Actually, listening to the recordings, the band were excellent, no mean achievement seeing as regular guitarist Matt Robidoux has just gone on “indefinite hiatus”. Stand-in guitarist Devin McKnight did an admirable job (good enough for me to remain oblivious to the changes until yesterday…)

A lightning 45 minutes of feedback-drenched, fearsomely-loud overexcitement was over in a heartbeat, and in no time we were out on the street, ears ringing to the strains of encore “Taylor Swift”. A fair old racket, indeed.

All things considered, the recordings haven’t come out badly at all. I commend to you the following:

Gary

Plough

Doomsday

Casper (1995)

I will find a way…

flamin-groovies

I think I may be becoming a bit of a Jonah…

With last week’s White Denim disappointment still fresh in my mind, I’ve just been informed that the imminent Flamin’ Groovies tour of various Spanish cities has today been cancelled, due to the hospitalisation of Cyril Jordan.

As a teenager, I was obsessed with the Shake Some Action record, as were all my circle of friends – a graceful, effortless slice of Sixties pop that I still return to pretty regularly. Get well soon, Mr Jordan.

Gorgeous stuff…

 

Imagine if I’d gone and bought a ticket to, say, the Barcelona gig last night…

Fuera de aquí

0001969555_10The Lord giveth, and the Lord apparently taketh away.

Bugger.

I’m just hearing that White Denim’s Bristol date, a gig I’ve been looking forward to for far too long now, has been rescheduled from Tuesday 20th May to the 27th. The main problem with this is that the White Denim ticket pinned to my noticeboard has been sharing pride of place with a gleaming plane ticket to Madrid with 26th May written on it…

(You’ll understand, I hope, that this is a metaphorical ticket I’m talking about here – indeed, it’s a metaphorical noticeboard these days – and even I’m not daft enough to keep plane tickets on a metaphorical noticeboard.)

But anyway, yes, we’re off to Spain again, Madrid and Valencia this time, and as well as furiously boning up on my Spanish, I thought this time I’d do a bit of homework on Spanish indie. Consequently, I’ve spent this month’s Emusic allowance exclusively on records from Spain, and it turns out that’s not quite the act of folly that it sounds…

Terrier

Terrier are a boy-girl-boy-girl ensemble based in Madrid who have a record out on the Sonido Muchacho label of the same city, called Un Cadáver en el Mar. It’s a good old sixties twang-and-thrash affair which reminds me a lot of the Limiñanas records I was plugging last year. I can’t find anything in English about them and try as I might I can’t get much sense out of the Spanish music press sites (insert your own NME-related joke here…) so they’ll have to remain shrouded in a certain amount of old-fashioned mystery. I’m OK with that…

Here’s a clip of a track which is not on their new record but was apparently the lead track of a 2012 ep. It’s called Fuera de Aquí (Away from Here) and you can picture me with it blasting out of my footballer-sized headphones as I board a plane for sunnier times…

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