Tell me more: Gosh, what a arresting name: the name of militant feminist Valerie Solanos’ Society for Cutting Up Men manifesto.
The Lowdown: Putting on this CD without reading up on them, I anticipated, given their moniker, plenty of invective and angst-ridden posturing. But, boy, it’s a misleading name as this album has nothing of those emotions. Rather, S.C.U.M have a longing for psychedelia, space-rock, avant-garde and ambience. There’s a spiritual element to the five-piece as they ponder the essence of life, as on Sentinal Bloom: “What I hold as time/ Nothing without you/Buried ‘neanth the water.”
There are deep and meaningful thoughts, set to a soundscape of epic, swaying guitars and moody bass, reminiscent of shoegazing, My Bloody Valentine and Radiohead in reflective mood. The single, Amber Hands, is a triumphant, multi-layered cascade into pop’s bitterest tendencies. It takes some practice to master the art of S.C.U.M, but, equally, there is a limit to their often one-dimensional material, with some tracks drifting into a black hole of emptiness. Some tracks lack substance and diversity but the beauty of Days Untrue, Amber Hands, and Cast Into Seasons render them obsolete. I find the more I listen the more goodness I uncover.
Title: Junk of the Heart
Tell me more: The Kooks began releasing records in 2005-2006, when their pop/folk/ Beatles outlook was at odds with the Franz Ferdinand-led revival of all things 1981 and post-punk and Art Rocker was essential reading. But the public wanted more beyond noise annoys and two million copies of The Kooks’ debut album Inside In/ Inside Out made its way out of the shops and the internet sellers’ warehouses.
The Lowdown: That debut contained childish moments like Jackie Big Tits, but thankfully, the Brighton band are a little more grown up, and the themes reflect that maturity. But with maturity and progression through their 20s, comes the defection of the naivety and innocence that was an attractive part of The Kooks. The Great Pop Songs that made Inside In/ Inside Out so captivating are few, replaced by more solemn affairs such as Time Above The Earth, which never really takes off. However, in Rosie the love of a good ol’ rock out remains, and Petulia, despite its corny lyrics, sounds like the ideal soundtrack to the start of a summer barbecue. I just can’t figure out what the objective of Runaway is, while Killing Me has a riff that could have come from a 1980s Big Hair Californian chart hit. Junk of the Heart has apparently taken three years to complete, but it may be that this has been too long, with no doubt plenty of changes haven taking place in that time, many of them perhaps a hindrance rather than a help. But I have no intention of writing the Kooks off yet, and I am sure they can bounce back, if they put the junk aside.
Title: Gold Medal Famous
Label: Powertool records
Tell me more: I know nothing about them. The release came without a press release and the copy itself has little more than two photos of a glam-friendly band and a range of thanks, including codfish island, immunisation, left-wing politicians and “people who like to read books that aren’t crap.” On that basis alone, how could you not love ’em?
The Lowdown: Don’t’cha just love toilet humour and songs about sexual prodigiousness? Gold Medal Famous certainly do, with the track Justin Bieber referencing female private parts while I Want To Make You Come, is well, I think you get the idea. To be honest neither has any depth, and they feel like appeals to the lowest-common denominator, but at least they add some variety to the album. Porky is no prude, in fact, he wallows in the stuff every day. I mentioned variety there, and there’s plenty of that, from the electro-pop clamour of They’re Drinking My Punch, the gloriously space-cadet instrumental Party Theme and the Goldfrapp-esque synth and sexy vocals that is All The Shining Lights. To add to the ubiquitous, adventurous nature, there’s also the 70s-rock of Don’t Just Text Me, Call Me while Chemo Heavy Hard Core features inane chanting and a drum’n’bass beat. It’s like The Fall meets The Go!Team.
Title: Down For It
Label: Powertool records
Tell me more: Vorn Coglan has been busy. He’s also a member of Gold Medal Famous. Porky loved his previous effort, Vorn’s Modern Classics, with its tales of nights out in Wellington’s party central and waiting at a railway station as a body is scooped up from underneath a train. Chris Wilson of GMS is also heavily involved in this, as the Wellington music scene shows its incestuous nature.
The Lowdown: Vorn has a fondness for catchy songs, and equally snappy song titles, as Stop Making Bedroom Albums and You Don’t Have to Hate Yourself to Sleep With Me (But It Helps) attest. I have bought albums purely on the basis of alluring song titles, and this is one that might have caught my eye in a record store, if there were any left. Vorn tells tales about the embarrassment of going for free condoms at the family planning centre, of a Pavement fan who has worn the same band T-shirt since ’97 and living on the dole after chucking a job in. Even if his pseudo-rap on Formula doesn’t work, Down For It is charming and intriguing. This is New Zealand’s version of Chris T-T.