It doesn’t matter that the sun don’t shine, It only matters that the sun is in our hearts

Great though those Madagascar tracks are they’re not really staple PP fare, in that they’re not ticking any of the boxes that I try to stick to with this blog. (Not British, not new and not ever likely to get a chance to see them.)

Here’s something a bit more like it…

Poq

I don’t really go a bundle on synthesisers and by and large the eighties were hardly for me a golden era. So I find it hard to take seriously the current trend in Indie pop to revert to some of the blunt and bouncy traits of that time. Well, tomorrow evening, bright young things the New Young Pony Club are coming to the Guild Hall and I shall not be going, for those reasons. Although, I am tempted to turn up just to picket the place. C’mon, lads, think of the children!

By now, if you’re particularly sharp (and still with me), you might have guessed that I’m slowly working my way round to doing one of those “exception that proves the rule” type devices.

Poq, though, are another Welsh band gigging around the area – they recently supported the Toy Band – and they use electronics pretty effectively. They are in fact the exception that proves the rule (see!) as far as synth bands are concerned, and they do a nice line in proper pop songs.

This dog it won’t stop barking
Fills my head with things I’d best forget
All night it calls unanswered
Cries for help that fade into the dark

Apart from the fact that they’ve done a session for Channel 4 and have made a few appearances on various radio stations, their Myspace page doesn’t really give much away about the band themselves apart from “50% of the band went to university, the other 2 have asthma”.

So much for in depth background knowledge… Did I mention they were from Wales?

The Myspace page is worth visiting, though in that they seem to update their blog pretty regularly, but the jukebox doesn’t seem to allow for downloads any more. I say “any more” because somehow I’ve got three tracks that I’m going to post here, although I’m not sure how I got them.

Come and Join the Mob

The Hi-Tec

Loud Dogs Next Door

Accordion Music

If you can have dance music, or work out music, can you have lying-awake-at-night music? I’ll have to contact the relevant authorities…


Madagascar

Well, assuming that you can, I’ve found the perfect soundtrack, gotta be. Just bought this album from Emusic by American band, Madagascar, full of slow waltzes and polkas, and played on accordions, glockenspiels, various percussions instruments and (rather wonderfully) the occasional musical saw. Vocals are pretty limited, used more like other backing instruments.

Madagascar are made up principally of the Lambright Brothers, Anthony and Michael from Baltimore and have recorded two albums. I’ve done a bit of searching and the tracks I’ve posted here are available from their website, (plus two others), and when you’ve been enchanted by them, you can buy the albums through Emusic.

There is also a link on their site to this Youtube video, a clip from a 1919 silent film called “The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari”, which Madagascar have apparently written background music for:

At the moment, the king of the accordion is ex-Neutral Milk Hotel man, Jeremy Barnes with his whirling, demented A Hawk and a Hacksaw records. I’ve seen him play, he’s first class entertainment, but I’m not sure I’d buy the record. Madagascar are different though, playing a sort of nineteenth century ambient music (if that makes any sort of sense). The songs are long, slow and surprisingly beautiful.

All That Spring You Could See Halley’s Comet

Son of a Hunchback Lithographer

When you moved in, you still had your looks

I’ve recently come across a rather self-consciously cool magazine called Kruger, which I think I picked up at the Novacaines gig. It’s all clever graphics and experimental typographical effects and is clearly aimed at your discerning NME types. Based in London, it’s clearly too cool for us West Country inbreds, but it’s a worthy little project.

Anyway, the Kruger website is worth a visit and has a Singles Club (not that sort of club) that I’d recommend you joining (although if you choose not to, it’s a pretty fair bet that some of the featured records will be appearing here too…).

The first record features Cardiff band, the Toy Band, and is a really good start for Kruger – someone there clearly has good radar. All jerky, “new wave” riffs and catchy hooks, it’s a real grower.

The Toy Band

The Toy Band are Jamie, Joe, Jim and Pete and are, erm, from Cardiff. And that’s about all I’ve managed to find out so far about them. I’ll let you know if I can get in touch with them. Did I say they’re from Cardiff?

Anyway, what you need to know is that both the tracks posted here are good but I particularly like the first one, “Anthony’s Legacy”, which has these rather sad lines:

We gathered round in the playground
To watch you win all the fights
Oh how it’s changed
Now you’re stuck in the mud
And we’ve all lost our confidence.

I think these songs are among the strongest I’ve heard for a long time and I shudder to think that we live in a world where songs like these make little impression but Radiohead albums sell by the lorryload…

What’s the matter with you guys?

Anthony’s Legacy

The Riff Song

Good work Kruger!

It’s coming my way…

OK, hands up, who’s read Jane Eyre?

Of course, you have. So you’ll know what I mean when I talk about mad women in the attic, right?

Rasha Shaheen

Probably not the most sensitive term, I can imagine, but I can’t think of a better way to describe the brooding, slightly unhinged menace of the songs of Rasha Shaheen.

And if I use the word “gothic” you understand that I’m not talking about Marilyn Manson and his playmates, right? (Have to say, I don’t find myself talking about Marilyn Manson very much.)

Rasha’s songs are certainly what you’d call gothic in a Bertha Rochester, setting-fire-to-beds sort of a way, tinged with bitterness and the sense that reason hangs by a slender thread at times. They do make you feel a little uncomfortable…

“I was walking on my own, happily on my own,
And then suddenly, now I am confused by your presence,
Overcome by the whirlwind you create in my body
Oh Lord, is this what it feels like?
The beauty and the harshness combined in a moment.”

It’s not all just intense lyrics and moody atmospherics, though, the instrumental effects are pretty interesting too, most of which I believe is done by her own self.

Born in Kuwait, bought up in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and North Wales, Rasha seems to have had an eventful life before settling in Bristol, and playing in various bands there. She also has a number of other projects on the go, including a few I’ll try to include in future posts.

I’m posting a number of tracks which are available on her own site or her Myspace page, all of which are available on her own album, “Hatshepsut” (that’s the well-known ancient Egyptian warrior queen, in case you were wondering, not the household breakfast cereal…)

Animal

Fingers

Pirates

Breathe

I’m so alive, just thinking of a better place to be

One of the things that makes up for staring moon-faced out of the window at another rainy Bank Holiday Monday is the fact that at least you got to go out Sunday night (instead of staying in and preparing lessons for the morning).

So, last Sunday night I seized the moment and ventured out to see what was billed as a Clean Living night at the Brunswick. Clean Living is a new label based in Monmouth in case you’re wondering, and not some Christian Holiness Conference. As yet Clean Living have only one release to their name an EP by local boys the Novocaines.

So I was pleased to see that there was also a support band, in the shape of Cheltenham’s Tell Tale Hearts who were full of energy and commitment but looked a little, er, under rehearsed at times. Actually I say that but they were fine really, I don’t have a problem with things going wrong on stage (as they did a couple of times) if the attitude’s right. And it was, in spades. They played fast and loud, with a couple of decent songs and a really neat line in customised guitars. Speaking briefly to the guitarist afterwards, he was spitting feathers about how they’d played, but as I say, I thought they were pretty good – any band that announces itself with a Ramones cover is doing something right in my book.

The Novocaines

I’d enjoyed the Tell Tale Hearts set and hadn’t really noticed how loose they’d been until the Novocaines came on and the difference was really apparent. Blessed with a really tight and powerful rhythm section that drove their songs on at an absolutely cracking pace, and which provide the canvas on which guitars and vocals were energetically hurled. They are, it has to be said, an exciting band to watch. In total contrast to the Tell Tale Hearts who were clearly trying (big time), the Novocaines made it all look rather easy. There’s nothing very extravagant about the way they look on stage but they just look like they know what they’re doing. Singer Matt spent the evening swaddled in jacket and hoody, bassist Adam, looked rooted, static even, in a waythat only bass players can. But the sound was something else – it was compelling stuff.

And again, don’t take my word for it (why would you?)

I’m not clear from the publicity whether the Novocaines are from Gloucester, or as one piece said, the Forest of Dean (there’s a world of difference, believe me), but they looked every bit as fresh as the next young things that are gigging in London, filling the pages of Time Out and NME.

And…

I reckon I actually have a bit of an exclusive here in that Clare from Clean Living has sent me a track to share. I don’t think this appears anywhere else, so get in there!

Isolated Love

The Novocaines’ (and Clean Living’s) debut release is a four-track EP, available from the Clean Living website.

You say Watoo Watoo, I say Wattoo Wattoo…

Watoo Watoo

I don’t usually do a lot of this, but I’m going to post a few more songs from the Watoo Watoo album that I spoke about in my last post.

I’ve had a chance to listen to some of the other tracks available from their own website, and they’re great.

And if you don’t believe me…

The Golden Castle

This performance was recorded in 2004 for French station TV7 Bordeaux, and is apparently a bit of a rarity in that they don’t seem to do that many live recordings. Watoo Watoo are essentially Michael and Pascale, husband and wife from Bordeaux, and are, of course, not to be confused with the cult French animation superbird Wattoo Wattoo, that was popular in the seventies.

(A mistake I have rather perversely encouraged by the misleading picture above…)

Tuesdays Secret

Raccrochez, C’est Une Horreure

These tracks are part of the Curiosites? album, which you can download from here or buy as part of a “twofer” deal from the wonderful Letterbox Records.

Smear Your TV with Honey…

Just some quick catch-up stuff at the moment, although I promise to be back with some more music very soon…

Fuzzface have contacted me to say that there new single is out now (in fact for a couple of weeks, if truth be told…). Intriguingly titled “Not Now I’m in a Hot Tub”, it’s got that grinding Small Faces organ sound that made me pick them out in the first place. You can buy it from iTunes and you can hear it at their Myspace page. good effort boys!

Additional Moog have also e-mailed to let me know that their new single, “Four Track Soul” is available for download, currently for free from their Myspace page. And believe me it’s a cracker, a really excellent, laid back Americana track, with shades of Wilco and loads of Byrds-y guitar work (I know, I’m doing that defining-bands-by-other-bands, lazy journalism thing that I complain about in other Blogs…). Really beautiful stuff anyway. I’d say buy it, but you don’t have to! Snag it.

The track I have posted here was passed onto me by the excellent Letterbox Records, and comes from a rather fine French band called Watoo Watoo (nope. No idea…) who have the sort of sugary sound that I don’t always go for, but today, it’s all good (especially the jazzy keyboards).

They have a website that is rather thin on detail about the band but is absolutely choc-full of free downloads. In fact they have rather nobly made their first two CDs available for free download, and I’m currently wading through some rather colourful French indipop… Nice stuff.

Perdu – Watoo Watoo