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Archive for June, 2015

PINS are a Manchester four-piece, all of them women. This might be 2015 but it still seems to be a bit of a novelty for all-girl bands despite The Runaways and The Slits showing in 1977 that there was no reason why women couldn’t do dirty rock’n’roll or F-you punk. Pins

Wild Nights (Bella Union) is the band’s second album, and has been garnering quite a bit of attention in old England. But PINS are pretty much your standard indie rock act, popular in the student bars, and with comparisons to the likes of the Jesus and Mary Chain and Sleater-Kinney.

Oh Lord, for example, is achingly repetitive, humdrum and monotone. That isn’t the best example to use as the album is far more varied. Curse These Dreams is full of jangly riffs and breathy harmonies; hell I think a shoegazing comparison might be coming on. The themes are pretty much as you expect from a bunch of northern upstarts: the lure of being young, of partying and the confessions that arise from this. The title is a giveaway. Again, nothing new, standard stuff in fact, but you can’t fault them.

House of Love isn’t a paen to the brilliantly poetical English band, even though the font used for the track titles is the same one that HoL used on their magnetic debut. Spooky. Instead the song is about a strip club. Wild Nights is an album that is all over the shop, veering from dreamy pop to dirty indie rock, and the quality reflects these swings.

Pins 2

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A CORNER OF THE PORKY STY is home to a music collection, most of which I would describe as very good or great. Outwith these are a sizeable number of truly brilliant albums: pioneering and groundbreaking works and some that just regurgitate the past but make it sound gloriously hypnotic anyway. Among these are the House of Love’s debut, several by the Clash, The Specials, The Doors, the Super Furry Animals, Franz Ferdinand and …… et al.

But for several of these I have to be a in a certain mood, I don’t want to chill out listening to The Clash’s ’77 debut, after all. An exception is The Associates 1982 meisterwerk Sulk. One short word, but an emotional word and emotion is everywhere within. It’s a record for many moods.

Cruelly lumped in with the New Romantic scene, they, like fellow Caledonian stars Simple Minds, were anything but flimsy and garish. Alan Rankine and Billy MacKenzie were two housing estate lads with a Bowie fetish that resulted in a hastily-done cover of Boys Keep Swinging for their debut single. The Affectionate Punch (1980) and Fourth Drawer Down (81) moved the palate on, heaving with jaunty, electro pop songs (on the debut) and languorous, epic symphonies such as White Car In Germany on their second. If those sounded disjointed and uninhibited, Sulk was a masterful display of a band that knew where it was going and what it wanted to do. It was full of ambition and intent.
Sulk

SULK, OF COURSE, CONTAINS THE Top ten British hit, Party Fears Two, and the also successful follow up Club Country, but it isn’t at all a singles album, it’s a descent into industrial mayhem, jollity, Teutonic-esque experimentation and the most insane, joyful vocals since Isaac Hayes. The first side is the moody half, beginning with the eerie instrumental Arrogance Gave Him Up. There’s a cover of Gloomy Sunday, a song as wretched as the title suggests, and Nude Spoons in which MacKenzie screaches at his best/worst to make a soup of beautiful chaos.

MacKenzie’s voice was extraordinary. It was a timbre that was utterly unique, mesmerising, and gymnastic in ability, the Dundonian being blessed with being able to go from deadpan to falsetto in the same verse. As a young teen, Billy’s father, after a night out at the pub, would bring home some of his drinking buddies, wake up his son, and get him to sing pop standards to the amazement of the drunken huddle.

This side contains Bap de la Bap and No, two of my favourite Associates songs, both as individualistic and enthralling as any of the more favoured singles. No stands out for its grim piano chords, hair-raising vocals and a bass throb hit perfectly by Michael Dempsey, the unheralded third member. The opening lines “Tear my hair out from the roots/ planted them in someone else’s garden” sets the mood.

Bap de la Bap is a monstrous effort, all haunting harmonies and pounding bass. Afterwards I’m two parts in despair, three parts feeling the sort of high only achieved through pleasures not requiring textiles.  The second side begins in a similar vein, with Skipping, noted for a couplet that bemused me for years. “Ripping ropes from the Belgian wharfs/ breathless beauxillious griffin once removed seemed dwarfed.”

It’s Better This Way is something of an underrated Associates track but, again, is one of my personal favourites on an album littered with classics. And then comes Party Fears Two, still the perfect pop song, Club Country and they finish off with another instrumental (unusual given MacKenzie’s voice makes Sulk), nothinginsomethingparticular, which mutated into the single 18 Carat Love Affair. Associates

The Americans didn’t like the track listing and shuffled it all around, with all the singles plus It’s Better This Way (which could well have been a single) and a cover of The Supremes’ Love Hangover which was the other A side to 18 Carat Love Affair. That was the end product but the tale of the recording of Sulk is a legend in itself. Having wangled a big advance from the record label, they then splashed out on hotel rooms for MacKenzie’s salmon-loving whippets, hours and hours of expensive studio time, and, somewhat unexpectedly, substances not found in high street pharmacies.

Nevertheless, there was a lot of hard, intense work going on; these weren’t slackers, these were committed and headstrong young men in the studio. The effort, the promotion and the hilarious Top of the Pops appearances in a brief but illuminating few months took their toll, and before 1982 was out the band was gone. MacKenzie continued to record under the Associates name, but other than some delights on 1984’s Perhaps, such as the swooning Waiting For The Love Boat, he never again reached the heights of the Sulk year.

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THE MOTHMEN’S 1980 post-punk collection Pay Attention! has long been forgotten among the welter of top-notch albums of the era.Mothmen

It was only the second release on the seminal On-U Sound records, and was oblique and weird enough to nestle nicely among the likes of Rip Rig and Panic, the Au Pairs and The New Age Steppers.

Now it’s been reissued, the first time it’s appeared on CD or digital, with the some bonus tracks.

The Mothmen emerged from the ashes of two legendary Manchester groups – rubbish comedy/satire band Alberto Y Lost Trios Paranoias, and the first line-up of Factory Records band The Durutti Column (even more rubbish).

 It’s a missing part of the early On-U Sound Records story and a great example of early-80s British DIY post-punk. The Mothmen exhibit psych-tinged tunefulness on tracks such as Not Moving and Change Direction. Then there’s the repetitive Teutonic rhythms of Mothman.

You can see in some ways why they didn’t have a great impact at the time, with laborious tracks such as Mothman, an exercise in trying to outdo Can with meaningless, long-form tracks that tended to fill up album space. But equally, the ideas, the desire to break free of the norm, resulted in wonderfully discordant sounds. Pay Attention! doesn’t happen overnight, it requires a number of listens to even get the gist of it, a process that will either result in a resulting happiness or leave you lusting after Dollar.

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FISHRIDER RECORDS IS A SMALL, boutique label based in Dunedin that spits out unheralded works that Porky has slavered over in the past. It’s been an outlet for a fair number of new acts, and the latest to call Fishrider home are Death & The Maiden, with a debut of the same name, after the 19th century Edvard Munch engraving.Death & The Maiden

They comprise founders Lucinda King (bass, vocals) and Danny Brady (synths), and Hope Robertson (guitars, drums).

There’s no getting round it, Death & The Maiden is stark and tense. It has a gloomy overview with songs about love and loss, albeit with a sense of hopefulness. Its shadowy, ethereal sound was no doubt given a heft by being recorded at the None Gallery in Dunedin, where many experimental and electronic records have been laid down.

The opening track Victory is curiously reminiscent of laidback post-punk types Japan, while Flowers For The Blind is a hypnotic, a pop song for a TV science programme with King’s breathy vocals giving it a sense of gravitas.

Civilisation, meanwhile, has a Ladytron-esque emphasis on synths and biting lyrics. Death & The Maiden is a record that requires patience; it’s too engaging to be labelled experimental, but too languorous to be pop.

Fishrider’s sister label in the UK, Occultation Recordings, meanwhile, also have a new album, from the hitherto unknown The Granite Shore, which features a cavalcade of musicians with long histories, such as Martin Bramah, ex Blue Orchids and Factory Star, and the June Brides’ Phil Wilson.

The Granite ShoreOnce More From The Top is an album steeped in 60s story-telling and English pastoral folk of the early 1970s. It’s a concept album of sorts about a band that reforms, traversing across England, “I shall dance from here to Norwich in the rain, as long as clouds come out to see me in my pain,” sings Nick Halliwell on Nine Days’ Wonder. While there is an array of talented indie musicians onboard, this is the baby of Halliwell, who is the songwriter, producer and the label head.

By Fan Club Newsletter No.44, our mystery act addresses the myths their fans likely possess, and eerily almost barracks them into doing the right thing, “You might think it’s enough, when we’re out on the road, to buy our first album again as a download/ But we need you to come, to know every new song so it’s not just the hits where all sing along.”

After Death & The Maiden this is an easy listen. It has engaging songs, and a simplicity that is commendable.

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