Category Archives: You May Have Missed…

Louise Pop – Time Is A Habit (2012)

Ah, the hot, sticky rush of pop music made with guitars. It’s right up there with the first flushes of new love and scoring the winner in an FA Cup semi-final.

Austrian band Louise Pop released Time Is A Habit back in 2012, a perfectly presented package of pop…

louise pop

Strains of all manner of spiky, sugar-rush guitar music can be found here: indie, new-wave, punk, surf and beyond. Blondie, The Libertines and The Wombats are just some of the bands that spring to mind.

Title track ‘Time Is A Habit’ is a wonky, whimsical treat that could be Wire covering The Kinks. Possibly.

Click to watch the video

‘Conceptual Dance’ sounds like Elastica and cheekily references Right Said Fred. No, really. The vocals sound so much like Justine Frischmann you’ll be scampering to check the band line up in the liner notes.

‘Broken Bits’ and ‘Slow Motion’ are angular, arty evocations of post punk. ‘Deep In The Jungle’ has a Slits-esque down-in-the-playground atmosphere. ‘Blue Lights’ is an indie anthem made for the nerdier end of the late night dancing scene.

The best thing about this band may be the lyrics, eschewing a lorry load of witty bon mots as…

“Never trust a country boy”

“Run down by a speedboat”

“I don’t give a fuck about the colour of your eyes”

A beautiful notion of friends making music about love and life with wit and energy…

http://luisepop.bandcamp.com/album/time-is-a-habit

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El Gran Chufle – Waitecas (2012)

El Gran Chufle have two personalities. Their 2012 album, Waitecas, is a realm where one needs to dig…

el gran chufle

The surface is a vicious rock ‘n’ roll surf sound. A dark time of surf however where danger lurks round every corner. This is music that would accompany Tarantino hitting up the ’50s… cherry red Mercury Coupe’s chewing asphalt while coiled snakes squirm on sun-baked rocks.

These are songs are spicy and delicious, practically dripping in BBQ sauce. This is a place where skeletons twist and boogie in a sightless death dance.

Listen to the evil guitar on ‘The Strangers’ and the blood will quicken in your veins. ‘Terremoto’ is a strutting gang of mariachi outlaws. ‘Acid Laguna’ stabs while dances.

click to listen to ‘Terremoto’

Yet this isn’t just a work of Cramps-ish rockabilly. As the album cover suggests, there are whole layers of tectonic plates shifting under the surface. There is stately post punk bass, shoegaze somnambulism, organs that veer from meditative to funky…

‘Waitecas Dream’ has Slowdive undertones powered by a cruising rhythm section that glides like  Magazine. ‘Fire and Wine’ is a magical song, where, in an isolated field far from civilisation, a mysterious group of people in having a pagan sing-song, to Gods undefined. Highly evocative of Quilt’s ‘Cowboys In The Void’, so if you love that, you’ll love this. ‘Le Rebel is a slice of Lumerians-esque space funk…

click to listen to ‘Le Rebel’ 

The sheer unpredictability of Waitecas is just one of its strengths. El Gran Chufle use their core repertoire of sounds but take us to a variety of exotic locations. They take us down with them through the layers of their imagining…

https://elgranchufle.bandcamp.com/album/waitecas

Monroeville Music Centre – Choose Your Own Adventure (2013)

The success of Monroeville Music Centre isn’t so much their flawless recreation of 1970s and 1980s electronica but in the vibrant manner of the music. So much retro music of this type is sterile and dour, but their album, Choose Your Own Adventure breathes with life, energy and humour. More than just exhuming the music of yesteryear Monroeville are reconnecting us, the audience, with our long-dimmed feelings of optimism for the future. There’s such a child-like sense of wonder permeating the album that the excitement is contagious.

Humour is a key ingredient. The majority of electronic music on bandcamp is good but reeks of teenage boys in their bedroom taking it all a bit too seriously. MMC are clearly having fun, and that feeling is transmitted to the listener. Moreover, there is a slickness and professionalism at work which sets them apart from many electronic acts.

I’m not entirely certain what Monroeville Music Centre are and if they are serious or not. Check out their website (here) to see what I mean. Mystery in the 21st century is a rare commodity. I could find out more about the band but really I’d rather not.

So let’s look at some of the highlights from Choose Your Own Adventure, released in 2013.

cover - monroe

Kraftwerk’s Metropolis looms large in it’s clinical future-awe sheen. Here and there you can discern the the squelchy, queasy soundtrack by Goblin to Romero’s Dawn Of The Dead. The latter seems a safe bet to cite as an influence. considering Monroeville was the name of the mall, setting of the cult zombie satire.

Many of the songs are shining, energetic electro-pop cut from the same cloth as The Human League. You can imagine these songs being mimed in an over lit studio for Top Of The Pops in the early 80s, brimming with bad haircuts. To hear ‘The Cave Of Time’ click here.

‘The Perfect Planet’ could almost be an electro-pop version of ‘She Sells Sanctuary’. ‘Invaders From Within’ is slower with an almost warped and decaying sound emanating from the synths. ‘Motorcross Mania’ is practically too blaring for containment, breaking up into white light.

‘You Are A Monster’ has a relentless ardour, not a million miles from a chiptunes cover of ‘The Bad Touch’.

Short and magical.

Helicon – Take The Ride EP (2011)

Helicon: a ragged gang of guitar wielding scallywags who weave light from darkness and bring chaos to order. Discipline never sounded so undisciplined. Groove never felt so random.

There are dozens, if not hundreds of bands operating within this BJM / space-rock framework but Helicon are a band apart. The sheer size of their sound is overwhelming; noises produced then moulded; caressed then weaponised. Talking about individual elements of their songs and sound can be tricky as the sum is greater than the parts, when it all comes down, sense and reason are surrendered.

Helicon are a band with a large supply of EPs under their belts. Let’s head back to 2011 to take a look at one of the best: Take The Ride. cover take the ride ‘The Point Between Heaven And Hell’ is a ketamine tornado of whirling calamity, a long, bejewelled marathon of jangling guitars and hazy harmony. Starting with a dying helicopter, fading rotors glinting in the sun. Past 2 minutes the song shifts into angry life; methodical, stomping drums beat a bloodthirsty holler. Past 4 minutes a Jesus & Mary Chain meets Joy Division’s ‘Atmosphere’ vibe comes down, along with shoegaze vocals. Female backing vocals add a dreamy gloss. Spun with style and precise pacing this is an exquisite way to start the record.

Watch a rehearsal ‘The Point Between Heaven And Hell’

‘Truth Or Consequences’ takes us deeper, with a heavy BJM groove. Over 7 minutes the waves of guitar build up enough pressure to make ears pop.

‘Hiding In The Shadows’ fuses what appears to be sitar and didgeridoo before kicking in with frisky drums and bold vocals. More fleet footed than the previous tracks but without trading in hypnotic patterns of mind control.

Superb stuff, and there’s plenty more where that came from…

The 66 – Storm EP (2010)

Imagine a band which combines many of your favourite bands from the North West: the La’s, The Verve, Oasis, Stone Roses… What you would want though, is a band that pays homage but with the originality and passion to offer something new and vital. Rock ‘n’ roll music that transcends the physical into something both emotional and spiritual. The 66 were such a band.

Those mysterious skyjets, The 66, glinting in the sun, detectable from their vaporous chemtrails from their flight into the unknown. Existing 2007-2011 and releasing a handful of material, let’s take a lens to the EP Storm

cover the 66 storm

Hear Storm on Bandcamp (and note the reasonable price…)

‘The Storm’ kicks up sand and pours forth from your speakers. Whirlwinds of guitar buzz, savage lines of stinging attacks. A stomping stop-start of sleaze. At just 2 minutes 22 seconds it’s short but whets your appetite for more.

‘Red God Man’ throws up the sound of rock music performed with style, guts and passion. Daubs of bluesy guitar build the chorus to a high of euphoria, Danny Rimmer singing “Red dog, dead dog, blow your fucking head off”. What works here is knowing when using a swear word in your chorus feels like a cheap trick and when it matches the emotion attained by what has gone before. It works here as the listener is left anticipating the lyrics as they emerge. The first time you hear this song you will be singing along, that, friends, is the key to a successful song.

‘Hidden Glove’ rips through you, ninja level riffage and juggernaut rhythm section. Pure rock ‘n’ roll swagger. Want a song to drink tequila and dance to? You found it. And here’s a smoking acoustic version.

The keening lament of ‘Break of Dawn’ offers psych strings painting plucked petals with blood. Strummed mariachi guitar constructs the kind of Oasis B side Noel was always striving for. Dissolving into wispy nothingness leaving an air of mystery, much like The 66 themselves.

‘Money Men’ dances from your speakers, shuffling and uplifting like a long-lost La’s track and eliciting the same sort of happiness such a discovery would create. Another snake hipped chorus, more whiplash guitar, more freewheeling abandon… An immaculate release from a band that deserve wider recognition; ahead, behind and beyond their time.  cover the 66

(The song ‘Bordello’ isn’t on the EP but here’s a live version anyway…)

Total Victory – The Pyramid Of Privilege (2011)

Sharp guitars, sharp vocals, sharp songs. Everything about Total Victory is sharp.

Wire, Gang Of Four, Alternative TV are their forebears, not just in sound, but in style and attitude. Here, the words are as barbed as the hooks. This is a band demanding answers in a world of platitudes.

They released their debut album, The Pyramid Of Privilege in 2011. Let’s take a look back at some of the highlights.

cover

‘Fiat Lux’, after a brooding intro, kick starts with a scintillating cavalcade of probing guitar and a relentlessly pounding rhythm section. Capturing a late night drive through the post industrial towns of Northern England this is a beautiful 21st century successor to Joy Division’s ‘Interzone’. This blows up with the cathartic release of ‘Let there be light’ from singer Dan Brookes’, screaming into the night, oozing ambivalence over whether he is triumphant or incandescent.

Click to listen to ‘Fiat Lux’

‘Omnivictory’ heralds Total Victory’s long, loving dalliance with Gang Of Four staccato-funk. Slices of sharp guitars team up with twitchy drums and bass: barely controlled aggression battles weary resignation, fear of information overload, refusal to sublimate.

‘1700 to 1703’ electrifies with a high wire, neurotic shower of guitar fireworks. Not a million miles from ‘One Day’ by The Fall as Dan Brookes yells to make himself heard. Thrilling.

‘Conservative Girls’ is a stand out with a remarkable, intelligent set of lyrics pitching a satirical love discourse interjected with Ballardian dystopian-porn imagery. Dan Brookes’ lyrics would grow sharper and more pointed by their second album, National Service, but this shows his craft growing nicely.

‘So you bring your new girl home, you say you’ve fallen in love, you say you’ve fallen in love / with traffic islands, supermarkets, shopping centres, that go on for ever…’

‘The Singer’ unwinds over 10 minutes as a low key song-story, like an early Fall album track, say Room To Live era. That is until past the 4 minute mark when it kicks off into a frantic flat out race. Soaring with a dedication to the 4/4 beat that borders on the hypnosis-inducing, along with effects drenched whirlpool guitars and pile-driving bass. Then… it all settles back into the Smiths’ mope soap. Then back to the 100 mph death ride, the bumper scraping the central reservation.

My only complaint would be that ‘Can we cool down Venus’ is one of those tracks where Total Victory come alarmingly close to sounding a bit indie guitar pop. If that’s what tickles yer pickle then more power to you, personally it’s a sound that brings to mind hipsters having a conversation about organic quinoa.

The beauty of Total Victory is that they may nod towards iconic post punk bands but only use these influences as a starting point. The Pyramid Of Privilege stands as a fascinating, innovative starting point for a band with brains, guts and a heady appreciation for the power of matching a questioning nature with guitars.

http://totalvictory.bandcamp.com/album/the-pyramid-of-privilege

Wire – Red Barked Tree (2010)

“Opera in the age of fragmentation”

With every passing year Wire’s Red Barked Tree becomes ever more relevant. A bile flecked broadside depicting a nation ruled by betrayal, treachery and inanity. A nation divided and subjugated. A nation elated by false hopes and distracted by glittery shinies. And yet within discontent, Wire plant the seeds of hope and look for the victory of common sense. Fighting with sharp words and sharper guitars, Red Barked Tree sees Wire fighting hard.

Wire do need better publicity though. Sure, their initial trio of groundbreaking post punk albums (Pink Flag, Chairs Missing and 154) are hailed, correctly, as iconic, but since their reunion their career has been so low-key that Sherlock Holmes could overlook it.

So, in 2010, when Wire released the brilliant Red Barked Tree, it received positive plaudits, but not the kind of attention that should befit a game changing band releasing an album that could possibly be their best.

cover wire

The line “Opera in the age of fragmentation” sums up Red Barked Tree. Overcrowding, decay, ecological disaster, bureaucracy, stupidity and alienation are just some of the issues here. It’s not a downer though, as the songs are performed with such brio, verve and fervour. There may be discontent, but’s an anger mixed with style, wordplay and immaculate hooks. The album is chock-a-block with tantalising songs from start to finish.

‘Please Take’ heralds the album with what could be the catchiest, funniest Wire song in their repertoire. As soon as it starts you know Wire have hit pay dirt with a casual gait and jaunty guitars. I won’t spoil the chorus for those who haven’t heard it, but it’s one of the best you’ll ever hear. When the song dissolves the band kick it back into gear again, offering said chorus for a grateful listener.

I won’t hear another word
Another sugared lie
I won’t be a part of your
Latest alibi, so,
Please take your knife
Out of my back
And when you do
Please don’t twist it…

‘Now Was’ continues the pace with a high energy shimmer bemoaning look-back-bores (see The Fall’s The Infotainment Scan for an album of such anti nostalgia vitriol) with the bad pun but great sentiment of “You’re the wizard of was”.

‘Adapt’ starts with a riff surprisingly close to ‘Wonderwall’ (go check if you don’t believe me) but is in fact a slowly spun, bubbling, resigned ballad, dispensing advice for the apocalypse such as “Adapt Chekhov to family crest”.

‘Two Minutes’ is a rampage of anger and pummeling mechanical guitars (check out Nnon by The Woken Trees for a band influenced by this kind of punishing post punk) and everything you need to know is summed up with the lyrics: “A dirty cartoon duck covers the village in shit / possibly signalling the end of western civilisation”.

‘Clay’ has a lolloping start but builds into a rising bubbling swell. ‘Bad Worn Thing’ features more brilliant wordplay “Jam sandwich filled with Uzied peelers” and bemoans the “overcrowded nature of things”. ‘Moreover’ has a machine gun delivery of problems and solutions.

‘A Flat Ten’ (not ‘A Flat Tent’ as one lyrics website has it) has a furious, but controlled velocity with Colin Newman’s delivery an immaculate display of wordcraft and delivery.

‘Smash’ has a terrifying salvo of guitars and an almost power pop immediacy (incidentally, the drums provide a crisp, neurotic backbone throughout the album). ‘Down To This’ is an ominous tale; lamenting dissolution.

Finally, ‘Red Barked Trees’ closes the album with intense acoustic strumming backed by bouncing, skittering bass thst grows in stature to a grandstand climax. The repeated “To find the healing red barked trees” offers hope in suggesting a cure for all the problems that have been outlaid over the course of the album.

Red Barked Tree is untethered from Wire’s back catalogue to a degree that Mark E Smith would find impressive. It’s almost as if their history itself does not exist. This is unmistakably a Wire album but the band sounds so fresh, so vital, so urgent that this could easily be mistaken for a debut album by a young band wearing jeans too tight for them. You wonder if it would have been worth putting a different name to this, to stop reviewers reaching for their copies of Pink Flag. The bottom line is, however, this is an excellent album regardless of Wire’s heritage and influence. Intelligent, passionate and immaculately constructed, this is a dazzling album.