Sunday, 28 October 2007

Ballad of a Mixtape

There’s something about this time of year that makes me want to listen to Comet Gain.
Maybe the slightly autumnal title of their last album 'City Fallen Leaves', or perhaps it’s because they seem to be absolutely freezing cold in the video for the excellent 'Fists in My Pocket' (see below). Then again, maybe it's just because their records sound so reassuringly warm; all soul drenched organs, handclaps and lo-fi guitars, so gloriously analogue in their rendering that even the CD's sound like dusty vinyl LP's. Forget Vitamin C and extra layers of clothing, Comet Gain are just the tonic for these bleak autumn/winter days.

Comet Gain cut their teeth in the early 90’s alongside Riot Grrl trailblazers Huggy Bear (whose bassist Jon Slade currently plays guitar for the band) and their albums sound like compilation tapes made by someone in possession of an infinitely cooler record collection than your own. Taking in Northern Soul, 60's girl-group pop, garage rock and punk, as well the customary nods to The Go-Betweens, and The Pastels, Comet Gain draw from a diverse gene pool without ever managing to sound like anyone but themselves.
They released 2 albums on the impeccable Wiiija label during the nineties before the entire band, bar guitarist/singer David Feck, walked out to form under achieving indie-poppers Velocette. Unabated, Feck continued to record under the Comet Gain moniker with a variety of collaborators (including Kathleen Hannah of Bikini Kill/ Le Tigre fame) before settling on the bands current line up. They’re currently signed to Kill Rock Stars and their most recent album 'City Fallen Leaves' is surpassed only by their striking debut LP 'Casino Classics' in terms of quality. Check out the video and mp3 below and and get a taste of a band for whom ‘indie’ isn't a byword for overpriveledged kids in tight jeans.
A new album tentatively titled 'Broken Record Prayers' is being prepared for release sometime in the near future. Live dates, hopefully, will follow.

Comet Gain - Why I Try To Look So Bad

Video: Fists In The Pocket

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

The Cribs - Our Bovine Public

Conceptually The Cribs are something of a contradiction. One minute they're declaring war on the commercialisation of Indie, the next playing at the V Festival. A band that, for all their championing of labels like K Records and Kill Rock Stars are far more likely to occupy shelf space between Babyshambles and Dirty Pretty Things CD’s than behind obscure US punk 7 inches. Allegedly opposed to laddish Rock n Roll clich├ęs, they’re still best known for guitarist Ryan Jarmans drunken dive (onto a nearby table) at the NME Awards. The tension between the rhetoric and the reality is undeniable. Our Bovine Public then is The Cribs attempt to set the record straight; to redraw the line between what they stand for and what they are against.

Attack is often the best form of defence: Within 13 seconds of the opening note they’ve spat out the first verse and hit the chorus running. The production might be cleaner than before, but it’s done little to temper their vitriol. Indeed, it’s the sheer bloody minded righteousness of Our Bovine Public that makes The Cribs case for the defence so convincing.
Naturally, there’s nothing adventurous in the format. This is the same verse/chorus punk rock we've heard a million times before, served up with the bands customary serrated guitar lines, pounding rhythms and bellowed choruses. It’s just The Cribs do this sort of thing so much better than everyone else, which is most likely the cause their ideological quandary; songs this catchy inevitably tap into a consciousness far beyond their idealised world of fanzines and obscure Punk labels. All the Jarman brothers can do is ride the wave as best they can.
Fittingly the track climaxes with the pay off 'I’ll never regret not one thing I've done, but you would never exist without maybe I do', a lambaste at the bands who’ve appropriated their sound but none of their ethics.
Who knows, if they’re that bothered maybe the next album should be the bands ‘In Utero’ or ‘Metal Machine Music’, a wilful self sacrifice to disassociate themselves from their legacy of The Pigeon Detectives et al. It would, afterall, be the 'punk' thing to do. Until then let’s just enjoy The Cribs for what they are: a band with a deft hand for crafting raucous indie-pop anthems, of which this is one of their finest.


I Met Her In The Bin

Pre are my favourite band at the moment.

If they look familiar thats because they count Akiko from Comanechi and former members of Todd and Seafood amongst their number. Featuring more basses than guitars, Pre's shapeshiting artnoise sounds a little like Black Flag re imagined as a No-Wave band; thunderous hardcore bluster colliding head on with arch art school aesthetics. Their debut album 'Epic Fits' barely incorporates as many minutes as it does songs and is one of the most viscerally thrilling records I've heard all year. Terrifying and danceable in equal measures, its delivered with a commendable enthusiasm for creating as loud a racket as humanly possible. The lyrics are predictably incomprehensible, but with song titles like 'I Met Her in the Bin' who really cares.
See below for the snappily titled 'Fuck is Fun' video.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Lonely Ghosts interview

Lonely Ghosts is the solo guise of Help! She Can't Swim co-vocalist and resident guitar mangler Tom Denney. Originally conceived as a means of killing the hours during HSCS downtime, Lonely Ghosts status has quickly risen way beyond that of your average side project. Listening to the ubiquitous myspace demo's it's not hard to figure out why; beneath the lo-fi guitars, distorted vocals and Casio keyboards lie some of the finest pop tunes I've heard in a long while. To date Lonely Ghosts have supported Final Fantasy and Bearsuit, toured the UK with The Tumbledown Estate and recently contributed a track to Volume 1 of the excellent OIB Records Split Series (along with Munch Munch, Gay Against You and the aforementioned Tumbledown Estate). I spoke with Tom to find out more...

1. Given you are already in Help! She Can’t Swim what were your motivations for starting Lonely Ghosts?

Just to experiment with different ideas that wouldn't really work within the band. Also to test myself and see just what I can do on my own without any other people to bounce ideas off. Last summer the band had a bit of down time because people were moving to different towns and travelling and stuff so I had the opportunity to actually give it a shot. I ended up writing a lot of stuff and I just decided to give it the name Lonely Ghosts.

2. Do you view Lonely Ghosts as a band or project? Are there any plans to recruit a permanent band line-up to play your songs live?

At the moment I guess it's a one man band. I have other people play live with me sometimes but I still think the live show is developing. I haven't decided on one way of playing these songs live so for the moment I'm going to try out different things. I think it'd be cool to get a fixed band together some time though... I just need to find people interested in playing my songs so if any one's interested please get in touch!

3. How does the writing process differ from your band stuff, do you find it easier or harder to write and arrange material by yourself?

I seem to write a lot as I record. I come up with the bulk of a song on one instrument and just record that and then I work around it, making up other parts and vocals and programming drums. sometimes it's easy and sometimes it's not... I was nervous when I started that I was going to suck at writing on my own but I think I'm getting the hang of it.

4. What do other members of Help! She Can't Swim think of Lonely Ghosts, have they been supportive or nervous?

They've been supportive, I've actually got Leesey playing clarinet and doing some backing vocals on my mini album.

5. How have the gigs been received thus far? Any particularly memorable experiences?

I went on tour with the tumbledown estate playing joint sets together and we ended up playing a gig at a friend’s house party in London in a tiny box room. It was pretty mental. we'd just done a gig in Luton and drove down to London and got there pretty late. The people in the house were moving out the next day and so they were burning their furniture in the back garden. Everyone was wasted and we played in the smallest room in the house and played all our backing beats through a stereo cranked up to the max. We even had a crowd surfer. It was a messy night!

6. How did you get involved with OIB?

OIB Records is a label that was set up by a few of my friends in Brighton and has turned into a little collective which I'm now involved in. OIB is great!

7. Are there plans to release more material following your track on the OIB split? Will you be releasing the myspace stuff or newer bits?

I recently finished recording a mini album which will come out early next year on OIB. I've also got a full album written which will also come out next but I haven't finished recording that yet. The stuff that's up on my myspace will come out properly on these records as well as a lot of other stuff. I'm very excited about the mini album coming out. I recorded most of it at home and then went and finished it off with Justin Callaway who recorded the last Help She Can't Swim album. I think it sounds pretty different to what I've done with HSCS. It's still indie and pop and noisy in places but just from a different angle.

8. If you could take 2 bands of your choosing on tour with Lonely Ghosts who would you bring?

For a fun punk tour maybe The Thermals and Mika Miko. For a pretty/dark tour Xiu Xiu and Final Fantasy. For dream tour reform My Bloody Valentine and Neutral Milk Hotel.

Lonely Ghosts - 'Battle Ships' (Demo)

Volume 1 of the OIB Records Split Series features the Lonely Ghosts track 'Predictions' and is out now.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

'What the fuck is.. oh, it's the bass'

Despite the best efforts of the teenagers who served as babysitters for me in the 80's and early 90's, the hipper musical trends of the era generally went over my head. 'E' was understood as a prefix to a number to be avoided in my food products, rather than something you had to take to enjoy House music, so the thinly veiled drug references that frequented Top of The Pops at the time went over my head. Similarly, the whimsical melancholy of indie music, and in particular The Smiths, with their downtrodden tales of alienation and 'going home and wanting to die' somehow failed to resonate with me at the tender age of 7. Much to the frustration of my temporary teenage guardians, it was the sounds that emanated from my Commodore 64 computer that proved most stimulating to my musical palette, and many an hour between the ages of 4-10 were spent with my Fisher Price tape recorder pressed up against the screen compiling lo-fi mixtapes of 8-bit monosodium glutamate.

Its 2007 and things have moved on (I'm now a fully paid up member of the Morrissey fan club), but Freud would undoubtedly cite my affection for lo-fi boy/girl Canadian 8-bit duo Crystal Castles as a subconscious desire to regress to these halcyon times of youth. Regardless of such psychobabble, Crystal Castles are ace. I first came across the band via their track 'Air War' on a Rough Trade sampler sometime last year and I've been smitten with their distinct brand of glitchcore ever since. Whilst their 7-inches on the uberhip Merok label are now sold out, the Fisher Price can mercifully be left to gather dust as Hype Machine have enough of their material (as well as their remixes for the likes of Liars, Klaxons, Bloc Party et al) up for download to satisfy even the most ardent completist. Counting 'blank expressions on girls' and 'knives' amongst their influences, Crystal Castles sound like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs might if you replaced the guitars with gameboys- a violent cacophony of indecipherable girl shouts, Atari bleeps and 8-bit electro bass; punky in attitude, poppy in execution.

They're touring the UK in a few weeks on the Vice curated Unitaur with the similarly great These New Puritans, and since it's free there's really no excuse not to go see them.

Check out the live video of their excellent remix of Klaxons 'Atlantis to Interzone' remix below and go here to download more Crystal Castles stuff.