MARCH 2006

Rumble Strips - No Soul (Transgressive 7")

Not merely is the title misleading - it's a bare-arsed lie. If there's one thing this record has it is soul. It has brass too, which draws the predictable Dexy's comparison you'll see everywhere but the sheer cleanliness of the sound and the striking purity of the serenading puts me more in mind of James circa 'Hymn From A Village'. The b-side, 'Motorcycle', is just as good and brims with teenage fantasizing for one's lot to be bigger, faster, shinier. It tells the story of a boy cycling into dreamland and wishing his wheels had engine or could even fly and, shit, how that would impress all the girls he'd whizz by on the high street. I love those sorts of sentiments: its the complete antithesis to that 'my car's bigger than your car' bollocks. There's a legendary 1,000 Violins album from the late-eighties full of songs like this. 'No Soul' is one of the great debut singles - such a shame then that it has to be so limited.

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www.rumblestrips.co.uk

Kris Drever - Beads & Feathers (Reveal 7")

It's to be regretted there aren't more singles like this. By that I mean mainstream folk records on the 45rpm 7" format. I'd love to have a boxful of little black frisbies by Kate Rusby, Eliza Carthy and the like. But they don't exist. That's down to economics I suppose. 'Mainstream' is probably something of a problematic word too when talking about folk music, but you know what I mean - this record has Radio 2 and Cambridge written all over it. And John McCusker too who plays a handful of accompanying instruments - beautifully as ever. 'Beads & Feathers' is nice in a ponderous, reflective way. But I must admit I find the bead and feather currency particularly anachronistic in the same week I joined the masses and bought the Arctic Monkeys album. That said, 'Farewell To Fuineray' on the b-side is splendid enough and a damn sight better than some of the other records I've wasted my money on recently. [I'll name names: The Infadels, Milk Kan, Foreign Born, The Maybes... and, while we're about it, that last Subways single was bit Dick & Dom wasn't it? What was that about?]

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www.krisdrever.com

Dartz! / The Maybes? (Xtra Mile split 7")

The Dartz! side of this split is brilliant: super-groovy guitar playing, strange trajectories, unexpected whooohs! A real on-the-money deal-closer. I suppose, if you were being ultra-critical, you might say 'Fantastic Apparatus' is a wee bit dated; they could be a cleaner-sounding US indie-punk group from donkeys years. But I suspect they've got a lot more tricks to show us yet so it'd be foolish to pre-empt. Great song, shame about the name. How ironic then that we must say the complete opposite when it comes to The Maybes. 'Stop, Look & Listen' is the sort of track you want bury in concrete and deposit at the bottom of the ocean. Truly horrid.

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www.xtramilerecordings.com

Samara Lubelski Spectacular of Passages (Social Registry CD)

I really wanted to like Spectacular of Passages but I'm not sure if I do. Perhaps after a few listens I might adjust my view and come to regret this hasty appraisal but I just can't help thinking that there are others out there who do this sort of thing better. Ladybug Transistor offshoot Finishing School to name one example. I mention them because I notice the name of Gary Olson among the credits and I assume it's the one and the same. We have warmth and tenderness in equal measure, we have a soft-focus Sixties feel, and we have a range of instrumentation that melts in the mouth - you name it: baroque flute, harmonium, upright bass, cello, mellotron, celeste, pianette and clavinette (both of which flummox the spellchecker). Yet, what this album lacks are memorable songs: everything is unquestionably pleasant, evocative and beautifully rendered, but nothing lives up to the title. I'll play it again and hope to be proved wrong (not least because it cost me £12) but, in truth, I just wish all those expensive instruments were given the same treatment the violin endured on her magnificent 'In The Valley.' In other word, flung into the furnace of her imagination and melted slowly into formless clumps of molten drone with occasional bursts of glowing loveliness like dashes of volatile magnesium. I think it's the lack of grandeur in Spectacular of Passages that disappoints me. With In The Valley I fall completely under her authority: it is so disorientating and strange I'm spellbound, I invest my trust, I switch off my mind and float downstream because I feel she knows what's she doing and I wouldn't want to argue. But with the pop song format that authority has gone, she floats down from the clouds and rejoins the crowds.

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www.thesocialregistry.com

Jens Lekman Oh You're So Silent Jens (Secretly Canadian CD)

'Black Cab' takes as its foundation the harpsichord intro from 'I've Got Something On My Mind' by The Left Banke (already I'm impressed: one of the great ignored groups of the Sixties has got a cheque coming). Then comes the maudlin navel-gazing. The tone jars, it's more akin to The Go-Betweens covering 'There Is A Light That Never Goes Out' but the overall combinations are exquisite, like several flavours on the palate your not expecting to work but do to wondrous effect. Beautifully depressing: 'I killed the party again. I ruined it for my friends. Oh you're so silent Jens. Maybe I am. Maybe I am.' Oh the night and its epiphany! If I wasn't so overjoyed by this album I think I'd be dewy-eyed with recognition. We all know what it's like to kill parties, don't we? We've all missed the last tram and walk home mizzled and sullen, no? Oh well, aren't you the popular one. Anyway, it's a gorgeous track. I've played it fifteen times in a row. Good album too all told. There's much going on, so many influences, be they subtle, sampled, or straightforward covers, I feel I need some sort of bibliography attached. I want to know about every nuance, every inspiration. I want to adopt the whining cat from 'F-word.' It's not a perfect record by any means; being a collection of singles, EPs and so on, it has fluctuations in quality. But the many highs eclipse the brief lows, and for someone like me who has never bought a Jens Lekman record before it's a godsend. Highly recommended - especially if you're into TV Personalities, Belle & Sebastian and Left Banke samples.

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www.secretlycanadian.com

Voice Of The Seven Woods – An Hour Before Dawn (Twisted Nerve 7”)

This comes in a big poster sleeve of recycled card and fresh black ink, which I guess you’re meant to unfold and pin on the wall, in whichever room you meditate, and be mystified by. The Voice, you ask. What voice? I can’t hear a voice. The Seven Woods. Where are they? Hampshire? Scotland? Can I pick mushrooms? I don’t understand. That’s because you think too much. This music requires no thinking. Just chill. It sits ably between - bearing in mind my limited knowledge - Jack Rose and Bert Jansch, although they would be on higher stools and have more expensive strings of course. But this has quality written all over it, as they say, and if you listen carefully to ‘Sky Of Grey’ you might just hear that elusive voice.

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www.twistednerve.co.uk

Be Your Own Pet – Let’s Get Sandy (XL 7”)

Talking of Bert Jansch (as I was if you read the previous review), whereas he fused traditional music with jazz to create new modes of musical expression, so Be Your Own Pet blend noisy-trash-pop with breathless speed-indie to produce delightful new advances in brevity. Actually, smart-arsed half-witticisms aside, I’m genuinely pleased to hear a sub-one-minute pop song that’s actually listenable and vaguely pleasant and not just aural vomit from the musically bankrupt. I would dance to this, definitely. Though not in public of course – don’t be silly, they could be desperately unfashionable in six month’s time.

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www.xlrecordings.com

Ruby Tombs – Those Who Can’t (Art/Goes/Pop 7”)

Personally, I just can’t get enough of that crazy art-pop sound and this is one of the artyist-poppiest records around at the moment. It makes Franz Ferdinand sound like Air Supply. The sleeve, a black and pink affair, has Metropolis-like Robots on one side and a photomontage cut-up on the reverse, some half-headed woman with FIZZ, POP and BANG coming out of her. The label is called art/goes/pop – how NOW is that? So, having established all the art-rock credentials why is the band called Ruby Tombs? That’s a goth name. It conjures up images of vampires, vaults and deathly lovebites. And, as any poet will tell you, assonance should be used sparingly; you should never use it in your band name. That’s my opinion anyway. Look at the evidence: The Moody Blues, Def Leppard… Er, actually, they’re the only two I can think of but I’ve made me point. Those that can, do; those that can't, pick fault.

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www.rubytombs.com
 

Television Personalities – All The Young Children On Crack (Domino 7")

There are some records you love, and there are some you hate, and then there are those that have you scratchin’ yr head in utter confusion. I really don’t know quite what to make of ‘All The Young Children On Crack’ – it is one of the most extraordinary singles I’ve heard in years. Not in a good way, and not in a bad way – I’m just utterly perplexed by it. On a very deep, unfathomable level it is perhaps profoundly beautiful, in the same way that Tracey Emin’s unmade bed is profoundly beautiful, but you really have to contemplate hard and forget everything you think you know about, er, everything. One can’t help but sympathise with its underlying torment: smack, crack, children on – especially when you hear stories of eleven-year-old girls collapsing in class after smoking heroin, if such tales are true and not urban myths (you can never be sure with the British press). Anyway, this is the sort of stark and uncommercial record that Domino Records like to toss out every now and again and they deserve credit for it – even if all such fancies are comfortably financed merely by a week’s sales in Arctic Monkeys button badges. Check out the b-side too which finds the TVPs in their romantic mode.

 
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www.dominorecordsco.com