You’ve been living in a world forgotten!

Turns out the odd dose of indolence and slovenliness can save you more than a little embarrassment. Who knew?

I thought about posting this a good fortnight ago, but the iron had begun to cool and I’d still not struck – as is my wont I allowed the moment to pass… But actually the fates gave me a second chance when I noticed by purest chance that the record I’d been loonishly head-bobbing along to in the car was not actually the one I imagined it was. I’d been thinking it was the latest by rangy cowpokes, Omni, but whadya know? I’m an idiot. Turns out, when I eventually prized it from the stereo, I’d actually been listening to the band’s 2016 debut, Deluxe, rather than their 2017 sophomore Multi-Task.

In my defence, I’d just stuck the thing in the car stereo without looking overmuch at the track listing and ran with it heartily. Actually, this has turned out rather well, as it’s meant that I get to start all over again with the new one, having loved the previous one. It’s also meant that I’ve managed to avoid looking like a bit of a burke (go on, I’m just going to let you have that one…).

Omni

Omni are a trio from Athens, Georgia, led by sinewy guitarist Frankie Broyles, specialising in twitchy, funky post-punk and signed to one of my regular favourite labels, Trouble in Mind. (I think I did a post about how you can pretty much pick any of TiM’s bands and blow your paper-round money on them. And, that’s clearly still the case…)

I’ll stick to thinking about this year’s record today, but I genuinely can’t decide which of the two I prefer – they’re both wondrous, boisterous things that I’d wholeheartedly recommend you get hold of.

Here’s the first track on Multi-Task, “Southbound Station”:

 

You’ll have been struck by the very first bars, I’ll warrant:

“You said to meet at the centre of Lennox Square / I’m drenched in sweat / And you can bet I’m already there,”

and in best Pitchfork-style, I’m going to take that as some sort of mission statement for the band, although I’d better qualify it by saying I don’t think this is really middle ground stuff, I think they’re throwing you off the scent a little. It’s all a clever left-field ruse…

There’s heaps of feverish running around and general rootlessness all through the record – trains, hotel lobbies, RSVPs, mints on pillows – and even as this the first song moves into its next verse (“You said to meet at the corner of Boulevard”) you’re getting used to the fact that there’s more than a little misdirection throughout.

As well as this, I reckon I can also hear a fair amount of “found”, overheard snippets of rush-hour conversations, studiously collected and languidly delivered by bassist Phillip Frobos (and feverishly embellished by Broyles’ dot-to-dot guitar work). It makes the lyrics sound as disjointed and fragmented as the tunes themselves.

Musically, the songs are pretty chaotic too. Tight, zany, Devo-ish chords collide with each other like so many cartoonish cars concertinaed together after an unlikely traffic incident. Actually, I’ve said “Devo” (I’ve read XTC a couple of times too), but over the week I’ve thought again and again about Bill Harkleroad and Jeff Cotton’s Through-the-Looking-Glass guitar pieces from Trout Mask Replica. It’s all a bit breathless and hysterical.

Have a listen to “Tuxedo Blues” and tell me it ain’t so…

 

Cracking stuff and not for the first time, I’m left thinking “Where would we be without the good Captain?”

I was there in the room…

the-hecks-mirror-by-dan-paz-smallerMeant to follow up the last Trouble in Mind a little quicker than this, but hey-ho…

If the Beef Jerk offering somehow wasn’t lo-fi or strident enough for you, may I suggest the shriller, twangier and even more brilliantly-named the Hecks, also on Trouble in Mind, also young ‘n’ feisty and also hogging my car stereo.

Oh, and they’re really, bloody noisy.

The Hecks

The Hecks are a three-piece from Chicago, who are obsessed with strange guitar tunings, “intentionality” and Faust. The “intentionality” thing is an idea I’ve lifted from an interview they did with Chicago magazine LocalLoop, which I think translates as everything that comes out of the studio being done with and for a purpose. Do read the interview, their idea of guitar tuned in a particular way having to stay as they are, due to financial or technical limitations, is quite a fun one.

What’s particularly odd about all this is that one of the first impressions September’s debut album gives you is of raggedness and above all chance. Very little sounds as if it has been planned, polished or preserved.

You can stream a load of Hecks songs from the TiM SoundCloud page, and I’d recommend a good listen. Particularly fond of this:

 

 

From the first taut chords of “Sugar” to the awkward zeal of closer “Airport Run”, it’s a pretty uneven affair – whirling, clanking, twanging chords rub tattooed shoulders with drone and feedback-decked noise. It’s rough, Faustian stuff and, as I say, really noisy. I reckon, there’s always a place for dissonance, ugliness and a right bloody racquet.

And for those times, I give you…

Let’s move into the ocean, we won’t tell anybody…

beef-jerkThese days I oft times find myself haphazardly using up the last few of my eMusic downloads at the end of the month. It can be a slightly edgy, weirdly cautious business (I hate wasting things) and often culminates in my snagging another Latin collection of eager garage punk or (more often than you’d imagine) some murky new Soft Machine live set.

Well this month, I stumbled upon a new tack that I’ll employ more often. I chose at random one of my favourite labels of recent years – Trouble in Mind – and just go for it. A bit of rummaging around amongst the releases there and jackpot…

Beef Jerk

Beef Jerk are Australian and are part of the, er, burgeoning “dolewave” scene there (yes, really). And, in spite of my proverbial goldfish-like span of attention, have had the run of the car stereo for much of the week. Their debut record, Tragic, is a collection of demos that had been knocking around on the Internet for a couple of years before they decided to spruce them up and self-release them officially. TiM stepped in from there and have given it a proper release so that the inquisitive punters of the globe can get busy.

It’s a great little batch of fifteen songs that starts off promisingly (“Why are you so disagreeable? Table manners? Unbelievable”) and really kicks on from there. It’s absolutely packed full of loopy, jangly chords, dry lyrics, a few profanities and the odd sprinkling of Beefheart-ian rough sax. The songs do touch on a fair amount of everyday slacker business – caravan parks, shoplifting, drinking and general loafing round – but also take in mysterious Frenchmen, doomed fathers and flights to the seabed (“don’t forget the sunscreen lotion / fish fingers in the sun”).

I’m clearly not a musician and can only scratch my head and applaud songwriters Jack Lee and Mikey Branson’s ability to choose the right chords each time. I’m also very much impressed by the former’s prodigious ability to sing out of tune, and although press reviews frequently mention the Go-Betweens, I’d say Beef Jerk are more like another batch of Mark E Smith’s children (alright, grandchildren).

There’s not a lot of Beef Jerk around on the Internet (yet?), which could of course mean a couple of things, but I’m going to take the getting-in-at-the-ground-floor line. Fairly recently, you could actually stream the whole of the record from the band’s Bandcamp page, but until that returns (as they claim it will), you’ll have to trawl through the demos on Soundcloud or get a few tasters from YouTube.

This one’s my favourite:

 

(Particularly gratifying to see the pickup driver put the bin back up at the end, nice lads really…)

But this is also a great surging bugger of a song:

Chewing my own arm off…

Penny Smith - The Clash London CallingHaving spunked away invested the last of my EMusic credits for this period in loco Peruvian psychedelia, I find myself drumming my fingers on the dashboard of my laptop impatiently waiting for my refresh date.

I’ve apparently not planned this well.

Firstly there’s the new Field Music record already out and no doubt getting good reviews (impossible to imagine them being anything less than gushing…), which I will be compelled to get as soon as that darned Refresh Date rolls around.

Here’s a very fidgety “The Noisy Days Are Over” from the record:

 

(Really enjoying the Blockheads-style sax break…)

I don’t need to say anything about Field Music, they are what they are, and I’d invest all of a hefty lottery win into ensuring they stay that way (I live in fear of them packing it in…)

Also due out… ooh…  any day now, is a second record from Trouble in Mind’s Doug Tuttle, which I’m very much looking forward to hearing. Really, really enjoyed the first one and I’d be very surprised if I didn’t say so loudly on these very pages.

There’s this offering on the TiM site, which is sounding very promising too:

 

 

And then there’s a third record from another of my recent favourites, the increasingly Dylan-esque Kevin Morby, which is due out in April. And again, doesn’t this sound good?:

 

I’m chewing my own arm off, here…

All instant gratification…

ultimate-paintingAnd so it goes.

Another month has tip-toed past, its collar turned up to its eyebrows, and again I never noticed. Gah!

For a while now, I’ve been saying I’ll post some songs from the “recent” Ultimate Painting set at The Fleece, (yeah, I know January doesn’t seem very “recent” to me, either…) and now I notice they’re up for Green Man this year. Seems as good a time as any…

Ultimate Painting

If you felt sufficiently moved, you could describe Ultimate Painting as some sort of fey-indie-pop supergroup, in that the heart of the band is Jack Cooper from Mazes, and James Hoare from Veronica Falls, genuine next generation indie royalty, if you will, although still not registering high on my interest scale previously. I think I did buy the first Mazes record but it didn’t really stick and Veronica Falls are another band that have evaded me completely. I need to go back and do some revisiting there, because Ultimate Painting are just my sort of thing.

An Ultimate Painting album appeared towards the end of last year on the flawless Trouble in Mind and a swift trip through the reviews of it will bring you words like “autumnal”, “breezy”, “jangle” and more often than not “Velvet Underground”, which pretty much tells you what you need to know. I should say, though, that we’re not talking howling, screeching Factory period VU, more like 1969 VU – all light, uptight rhythm guitar and melody. I can’t be arsed to read all the reviews, but the other name that’ll definitely come up will be that of Teenage Fanclub and, hey, surely that’ll do it for you – the Gold Standard, after all.

To be fair (lazy pigeon-holing aside), Ultimate Painting have their own spindly, slightly melancholic sound, propelled by an energetic pair of interwoven, elastic-y rhythm and lead guitars, backed by their own austere rhythm section of spongy bass and cardboard box drummer. Both Cooper and Hoare take vocals, presumably backing each other’s songs, and giving anxious, slightly scruffy versions of each of the pair’s delicate tunes. It’s instantly likeable, and the lyrics bear a second (third) listen.

I’ve been reading a chapter in David Byrne’s book about how the ability to record music had a profound effect on live music itself. The gist of it is that live performances of songs were forced to change fundamentally as the recorded medium grew, and that the need to integrate with recording technologies has changed music irrevocably. I think he’s arguing against the tendency to assume that live performances should be reflections of recorded output (I say, “I think” – he’s a clever guy…). I’m not sure where this leaves Hoare and Cooper because on the night their performance sounded pretty much identical to their record – not a lot of improv or stagecraft. (Compare this with White Fence’s set later that night, which had versions of songs from his record that were almost unrecognisable…)

I’m quite happy with it, though, they sounded great on the night and I greatly enjoyed their set; and I suppose you could argue that with their record coming out pretty quickly, their songs had not grown from live performance, but I think from impromptu sessions backstage, when Cooper’s band supported Hoare’s in the US. However it was, I’ve a respect for songs that stand up on their own.

Favourite tunes are the self-titled opening track (which of course gives you a UP full house) and the beautiful, reassuringly fogey-ish, “Rolling in the Deep End”

Ultimate Painting

Rolling in the Deep End

Central Park Blues