Archive for November, 2009

Fanzine update

In a recent post about fanzines (https://craighaggis.wordpress.com/2009/10/09/193/) I declared “The fanzine is dead, long live the fanzine” describing how the printed, stapled zine has found a new medium online.
I wrote that the zine was “a footnote in the history of the counter-culture” but I’ve since discovered evidence that, in fact, the printed zine is enjoying a quiet renaissance.
The Independent newspaper in Britain recently published a piece, headlined The scene that smells of zine spirit and found that the fanzine community in the UK is the healthiest it’s been for a decade. It reported that zine fests or symposiums are growing.
Check out the article here: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/features/fanzines%E2%80%94the-scene-that-smells-of-zine-spirit-1792675.html
The net appears to be aiding the zine scene as it can promote itself better and means quicker payment via paypal and therefore quicker shipping.
A weekend ago, here in New Zealand, where I currently live, I attended the annual Wellington Zine Fest, which received some coverage on Radio National. There was a range of zines, with many being personal ones or featuring cartoons. There wasn’t too many zines focusing purely on music, nor any sport ones, sadly. Surprisingly, it was busy and shows there’s quite an interest in the DIY print culture.

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Who? Katy Carr

Title: Coquette
Deluce recordings
Tell me more:
Carr transports herself back to Wartime England, where she takes on the characters of many women of the era who played such pivotal roles during such arduous and fearful times, from the entertainers like Marlene Dietrich to coquettes and women who worked in munitions factories.
The Lowdown:
Carr weaves a string of evocative tales of life in the ’40s. This is a very European record; the sound of English folk, with occasional French vocals and a truly Teutonic song, the brilliant Berliner Ring, which bears similarities in essence to Goldfrapp’s Seventh Tree.

Carr is certainly full of ideas and she isn’t afraid of subjects like the death of a loved one. With her backing band The Aviatiors (cruelly uncredited) has produced a mystical, ethereal record. In addition, the Art Deco-influenced artwork which has Carr dressed in wartime clothing, from glam-wear to factory apparel, fits the mood.

With so many female artists following a very tired formula (hello Katie Melua) it’s highly refreshing to see a woman go against the grain, in terms of music, writing and concept.
Carr is a qualified pilot having served with the RAF.

Who? delgirl

Title: Porchlight
Creative NZ
Tell me more:
Deirdre Newall, Erin Morton, Lynn Vare are delgirl, playing, between them, ukelele, trumpet, bodhran, and banjo.
The lowdown:
Gothic hymnals and “spaghetti western theme music” are among the ingredients of an album that is like few others. All songs are individually written and that individuality is clear. They each have a story, for example, Morton’s Dying Seal, about the discovery of an animal on a beach that may or may not be about to meet its maker. Or Vare’s song “for the lonely”, Waiting. For all the singular writing input, they sound exceptionally cohesive and you can detect three people working assiduously (in a studio somewhere in the hills) and with a common purpose.
To uncover the origins of the group’s name, look at the names of the protagonists.

Who? The Phenomenal Handclap Band

Title: The Phenomenal Handclap Band
Tummy Touch records
Tell me more:
Using the term melting pot for bands dipping into a variety of genres has become a bit of a cliché. But with contributions from the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and TV on the Radio and delving deep into their love of Blondie, ESG and Can this debut can be described as truly pan-global.
The lowdown:
Disco, not disco. The late 70s in the late zeros. Prog rock into the early days of new York hip-hop; the Go! Team shags the Tom Tom Club; a trip around the world in an hour; an orchestra on the streets; the next thing Lady Gaga will rip off … It ain’t what you do … it’s the way that you do it. And the Phenomenal Handclap Band do it extremely well indeed.
There’s nine band members doing the clapping.

Who? The Clonius

Title: Between the Dots
Tell me more:
Debut album from The Clonius aka Paul Mohavedi, an Austrian based in America (a relative of Arnie perhaps?).
The lowdown:
The Clonius do something quite good, but they do something that’s been done many times before, by numerous people. A so-called “beat navigator”, Mohavedi blends soul, jazz, downbeat, breakbeat, sampling … electronic music for the laidback. It’s great at a cafe on a Sydney beach, or a Sunday barbie with the lads and lasses. It serves a purpose but floats by on the stereo and track 10 isn’t much of a progression from the opener.

Who? Matt Joe Gow and the Dead Leaves

Title: The Messenger
Liberation Music
Tell me more:
New Zealand artist now living in Melbourne.
The lowdown:
The lovely Maria at Liberation was certain Porky would like this album, although the site summary does say country music and heavy metal may get less preference than other styles. But Porky is an open-minded kinda pig so let’s rock and roll. It’s earthy, intriguing and good value: Given the earthy nature of the songs I would imagine Gow and co would listen to Cash and Parsons on the tour bus, and have Taylor Swift at the bottom of the shoebox. Come To Mama, She Say kicks along at a thigh-slapping rate; while The Light possesses oodles of harmonica, organ, and electric guitars.

Who? Gearloose

Title: The Tenth March
Tell me more:
Gearloose is basically Christchurch musician Steven King. He’s also recorded a self-titled album (that’s the cover above).
The lowdown:
I’ve always felt they do things differently in New Zealand’s South Island, and thank goodness for that. Dunedin is renowned for its student scene, Christchurch has it’s distinctive bands and if you dare venture to Gore you’ll hear Country music, Kiwi style. The six tracks on this EP were recorded after King fell for a very good female friend he’d known for two years. Ah well, we all know what happened next and King tells the tale of woe with sensitivity and that ol’ ‘live and learn’ attitude. His voice isn’t especially strong but he can tell a great tale with the soundscape of folkish harmonies, guitars and synthesizers. The album’s just as good.


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As a teenager during the 1980s, music was best consumed underneath the table, like a dog with a bone it had pinched from above.

Big hair and shambolic, flourescent clothing wasn’t for independent sorts who’d bemuse our parents (and most of our peers) with our preference for Echo and the Bunnymen, Lloyd Cole and the Commotions and other long-named bands. Indie kids were to be seen, but not heard.

The radio and the charts were an endless stream of post-new romantic synth pop, and all sorts of corporate-grown recycled product.

But I had fallen in love, with a band by the name of the House of Love. I was smitten and it would take some time for me to get over the inevitable parting.

In my mid-teens I was of that breed that was too young for punk and too immature for post-punk. We’d missed a lot, and there was little of substance to make up for the shortfall.

In my small north-eastern Scottish town I would be recommended, by the plumbers and joiners of the distillery that provided me with my first wage, Brothers in Arms, Queen Greatest Hits Vol 1 and the latest album by Level 42, which I would buy at John Menzies in the High Street (and truth be told I actually quite liked).

Then, at the equivalent of sixth-form college, those ears were turned to the Jesus and Mary Chain, the Cocteau Twins, The Smiths, New Order and Primal Scream, who with 60s revivalists, The Thanes, would perform at my first ever gig, in Aberdeen.

In 1987 indie music was preparing to say its goodbyes to shambling, the floppy-fringed sub-genre whose godfathers were The Byrds, and which even Bobby Gillespie was one the Ace Faces. It had been the dominant scene for a couple of years and produced some of the decade’s finest pop records. But all scenes have a lifespan.

Baggy, Madchester, rave, techno and grunge were months, or years, away.

There was a vacuum, and into that came the House of Love.

Led by Guy Chadwick, he was ably assisted by his ‘Paul MacCartney’, Terry Bickers, a German Andrea Heukamp, New Zealander Chris Groothuizen and Pete Evans. Heukamp would leave after the first two singles, Real Animal and Shine On.

Destroy the Heart was the single of 1988 and John Peel’s listeners agreed, when voting in their Festive 50. A monumental self-titled debut and a fourth single, Christine, followed; Fontana snapped them up and released an album, confusingly also called The House of Love (but known generally as Fontana) and a re-released Shine On gave them their sole British chart hit.

But Bickers had left, famously while travelling on an English motorway, and some say the gloriously tense, edgy sound had been removed.

Two albums followed, Babe Rainbow in 1992, which I personally think almost matches their debut, and the seminal ahead of its time Audience With the Mind a year later. And that was it. One minor UK hit was scant reward for their immense talents.

Chadwick went solo, recorded a decent album in 1998, and in 2005, in a surprise move, the band reformed – with Chadwick and Bickers having set aside their, ahem, bickering to reform for a tour and an album, Days Run Away.They were softer but hadn’t lost their edge.

What made them so good? I often wonder if they were just another indie band but there was something mystical, almost spiritual about HoL. I was an impressionistic teen, lacking in self-confidence and I found a bedfellow in the band, the same way others my age did with The Smiths.

There was nothing in the lyrics that was aimed at creating a new world or addressing current trends, just simple heart-filled lyrics about love, lust, life and everything inbetween. Chadwick’s beautiful voice, Bickers’ deranged guitar playing, the intense musical relationship between the four.

The albums have been re-released in the past few years along with a series of compilations so there is clearly still considerable interest in the band, more than 15 years after the original line-up split up.

As part of this article, I tried to contact Chadwick or anyone involved with the band to find out what they’re up to and arrange an interview. Emails went out to addresses (or presumed ones) of people associated with the band such as Suzi Gibbons, Mick Griffiths, the company who dealt with their PR for the previous album, the unofficial website and Art and Industry, which released Days Run Away, to no avail. So where are the House of Love?

The only reply I received was from Dave Roberts of the unofficial website, who had been told by Terry Bickers in May that the band were “rehearsing new material and planned to record a few songs “in the not too distant future”.

Here’s hoping.

The excellent unofficial website can be found at: http://hem.passagen.se/nyholm/holindex.html

The cover for the debut album: no words, just two gaunt faces.

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