Tags: Boomgates, Chapter Music, Dick Diver, Go-betweens, Paul Kelly, The Bats, The Triffids, The Twerps
Wild Nothing‘s Nowhere single from last year was an obvious tribute to the Go-Betweens. Australia’s Dick Diver have done one better. An entire album that could be construed as a tribute to that great band. The Melbourne quartet is the primary band of Rupert Edwards and Al McKay. They get help from the moonlighting Steph Hughs (Boomgates) and Al Montfort (Lower Plenty, The UV Race, Total Control and Straightjacket Nation). All four members contribute songs to the record which provides some variety, but for the most part they are all on the same chapter in the same book. Calendar Days their second album, came out in March to a quiet reception over hear in the US mostly because they don’t have a record label here.
They have been described by some as Australian strummy music. I’m not sure if it was meant as a compliment or not but it captures their sound in a nutshell. Doesn’t everyone love a good strum once in a while? What does strummy actually mean? In the case of Dick Diver: blue, laid-back, playful and breezy. They will make your heart ache. In fact, they could have put a sticker on the cover stating: Warning. May cause slight bouts of melancholia. There is nothing wrong with being blue though. Sometimes you need a little dose of the blues to make you appreciate the better times and this record seems to tug you into reflection with its easy melodies. Many bands worry about a sophomore slump, but Dick Diver sound like they really know what they’re doing the second time around.
stream: Dick Diver – Lime Green Shirt (from Calendar Days out on Chapter Music in Australia)
Tags: Fortuna Pop, Magic Marker Records, Tullycraft
So what does a band do when it goes into semi-retirement? Do they spend their days playing Canasta and Cribbage in a retirement home somewhere sunny? Take ship cruises in the Caribbean? Buy a Winnebago and hit the road in style? If you are the finest purveyors of twee-cuddle-core-hard-core-rock-n-roll then you make a new record and have DJ battles with other bands.
When Tullycraft went on hiatus back in 2009 they said they would no longer be playing live, but left the door open for more records. Four years later they have a new record in the Phil Ek mixed Lost In Light Rotation, but they seem to be sticking to their guns about not playing live. It must be killing them to be sitting on a stack of brand new corkers and not be able to rock a house with them.
The new batch of songs is filled with the rapid fire delivery of Sean Tollefson’s lyrics which continue to be full of references that I feel like I miss half of. One of the coolest things about Tullycrafts is that even if you are not an indiepop fan you can still become ensnared in Tollefson’s world. He paints a vivid picture and knows a good catch phrase when he comes up with one (“We took the bombs to the basement and the dance hall records out”). Sharing vocal duties with Jenny Mears is also a good idea. Her sweet pitch perfect voice counters Tollefson’s spindly delivery. The first single (and the title track) Lost in Light Rotation references B.I.S’s This is Fake D.I.Y. with its raygun-raygun chorus, but you don’t have to know that to enjoy the manic energy of this song and many others on this album.
Tullycraft put twee on the map in a lot of people’s books, and they continue in that same vein combining sock hop 50′s (From Witchita with love lifts the chorus of Bobby Freeman‘s Do You Wanna Dance and No Tic and All Tac recalls Tony Basil‘s Oh Mickey) with bespectacled sweater vest wearing, tattooed librarians (they start Elks Lodge Riots and buy their records at charity shops). Every scene needs a center and it’s good to have the center restored with the return of Tullycraft.
Now if they would just fully come out of retirement and play a few shows. I’m the forgiving and forgetful sort, and would totally not call them on it.
Tags: Bleached, Ex-Cops, Week Of Wonders
Bleached, Ex Cops and Week of Wonders at Chop Suey, Seattle | 1 May 2013
After that last Best Coast album, you probably thought the SoCal girl group beach thing was played out. I did, but then along come former Mika Miko sisters Jessie and Jennifer Calvin with their new band Bleached. Just to get past your initial eye-roll they need to be pretty good. They would have be a little different and bring something new to the game, right? I think Bleached realize this and they justify their sound by infusing it with some twang and dust. Like they’ve lived the seedier side of L.A. and maybe even been to Bakersfield more than a few times.
They’ve got the punk and country influences along with those surf ones we know so well, and they dialed up just the right mix of punk, twang, surf and pop Wednesday night at Chop Suey. They hit the X-Bangles-Breeders highlights of their debut album Ride Your Heart and mixed in songs from their previous singles and covers of the Ramones‘ Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World and the Misfits‘ Hybrid Moments. Fun times. This band knows to rock a road house.
New York City’s Ex Cops don’t dress in police uniforms (thankfully), and they don’t sound anything like you would expect a band calling themselves Ex Cops to sound like. Well, at least not what I imagine a band of ex cops would sound like. Their debut album True Hallucinations from earlier this year is a very good dreampop/shoegaze record and seemingly overlooked. The band fronted by Brian Harding and Amelie Bruun delivered ample doses of dreampop akin to the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Erik Blood and the Dandy Warhols that filled the room with waves of bliss. Harding’s and Bruun’s voices compliment each other well, in fact they blend into one another that really put the songs over the edge of goodness. Bruun also looks like she came out of the pages of Vogue so this band is easy to watch, but even when I closed my eyes they blissed me out.
Seattle’s Week of Wonders opened the show. With Orca Team on indefinite hiatus Leif Anders has started up a new band that infuses piña coladas and steel drums into the mix. This was my first time experiencing Week of Wonders in the flesh and they were a good time. Totally fun to see the band just rage full on, and reaffirming to see a trio conjure up this kind of post punk Caribbean racket. I might like them better than Orca Team.
Tags: Born Bad Records, La Femme
La Femme are dark wave surfers from Paris that ride waves of synths and guitars into a globally warmed tropical Berlin. Yes folks like D.I. predicted, they are finally hanging 10 in East Berlin. The future has spoken and it is now…or was it then? Time travel always confuses me.
This groop has read their share of le Carré spy novels, had their fill of Ventures records, probably have an original pressing of Les Visiteurs Du Soir by Mathématiques Modernes, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they listened to the Intelligence since they share a label with them in La France. Not only do they have the pedigree, but they know how to employ it. Their debut album Psycho Tropical Berlin is one of those records that immediately strikes you in your pleasure center.
Killer beats, deadly riffs, icy vocals all done with a mind to keep you interested and returning to it. Ahh yes, coffee, love, heroin and La Femme. I’ve already compared them to a bunch of bands, but each time I listen to the record I think of a bunch more of which they remind me. Synths, jazz, bossa nova, cold wave, new wave, etc. I can with near certainty guarantee that you will be unable to deny the fruits and temptations of La Femme. Go on bite into the apple, trust me it’s good.
Stream: La Femme – Nous Etions Deux (from Psycho Tropical Berlin out on Born Bad Records)
Tags: Minneapolis, Real Numbers, Three Dimension Records
Look at the numbers. The numbers don’t lie. My days are numbered. I’m a numbers guy. They did a number on me. Treat me like a number. I’ve got your number. My number is up. My Lucky number. Take a number. I’m not making these numbers up. These are Real Numbers folks!!
More great stuff from Minneapolis. They share a label with the Sleaze and are friends, but where the Sleaze travel in through the gutters of the world, Real Numbers roll through it on scooters. The band have a new record that was released earlier this month on Three Dimension Records. It’s a 12-inch called Only Two Can Play with six short sweet songs that mine untapped veins of Television Personalities, Razorcuts and Art Museums gold. This is jangly, modish and very accomplished pop.
Numbers permeate out lives. Put this record on while you balance the books, count your records or play Yahtzee. The Greek philosopher and professional Yahtzee player Proclus famously said “Wherever there is number, there is beauty.” Mathematician and record geek Philip J. Davis stated “The numbers are a catalyst that can help turn raving madmen into polite humans.” I don’t know Real Numbers personally, so I like to think that they’re raving madmen who are adept at polite pop beauty. I hope they continue to make more of it.
Tags: Matador, No Bra, Savages
Either I haven’t been paying as close attention as I use to or there just haven’t been that many new British bands riding waves of hype over to the United States. Maybe since nobody reads the NME anymore bands don’t reach critical mass outside their home towns these days. The UK’s Savages are an exception. Their single Flying To Berlin from last year deservedly got a lot of attention as it received appropriate comparisons to Siouxsie and the Banshees. The band reportedly were no slouches live either, so it was with some excitement that I attended their Seattle debut last night at Neumos. The band’s debut album Silence Yourself isn’t due until next month but that didn’t stop Seattle anglophiles from crowding into Neumos on a Tuesday night.
Savages have style. They’ve got cool clothes and hair cuts. You can tell they take themselves seriously. It’s eyecatching to see a band that dress and look their sound on stage. The music was stylistically cool too, but unfortunately it did not go much beyond style. I have been a Savages fan since hearing last year’s Flying To Berlin 7-inch and still consider myself one, but I doubt Tuesday night’s performance did much to convince someone who wasn’t already a fan that this band is truly great. Up to this point I had heard three Savages songs and liked them all. The problem was those three songs and maybe one or two others were all that stood out. The rest of them were muddled, uninspired and kind of boring. Not having heard the full album yet, it may have been a case of a bad night or poor sound at Neumo’s (which would not be the first time at this venue). Bass player Ayse Hassan seemed to be the heart of the band. Her riffs dominated the sound and seemed to be what the songs were built around. Sometimes singer Jehnny Beth stood out with her energetic and intense delivery, but most of the time her singing was monotonous and devoid of any melody or hooks. The same could be said for guitarist Gemma Thompson. Her playing seemed uninspired and tentative and was often overpowered by the rhythm section.
There were a handful of songs that soared though and they saved them for the end of the set. Both songs from last year’s single (Husbands and Flying to Berlin) stood out. The guitars took on a Gang of Four funk to them and Beth had a melody that she could really deliver. The band seemed to come alive with additional swagger when they played their stronger songs, so maybe it’s just a matter of building up a catalog of good songs. I just was hoping that there would have been more of those moments from this band that has gotten so many glowing reviews for their live shows. I left underwhelmed, but still a fan, just one with lowered expectations for the album.
I wasn’t sure about opener No Bra. She walked on stage took her shirt off and performed her set topless. Undoubtedly, she did it to get our attention, but it was actually distracting. After I stopped wondering why she took her shirt off, and would I be as distracted if a guy took his shirt off, and does she do this for all her performances, and does she like being on stage half naked, and does she take her shirt off just to prove she has no bra, etc. I decided that I kind of dug her monotone delivery over laptop beats. Not enough to buy one of her records though. She closed with Munchausen that reminded me of LCD Soundsystem’s Losing My Edge with its theme of I’m cooler than you one-upmanship.
Tags: Manic Pop Records, Neighbors
With each release, Seattle’s Neighbors get better and better. Last year’s John In Babeland grabbed my attention and held it the year long. The band are now readying their next release, an EP prophetically called I Love Neighbors and there’s a lot to love on it. They sort of shed some of their Pavement inspirations and go for a more jangly and noisey sound.
What You See In Me is the rousing scorcher track on it that will singe your hair or possibly cause a cerebral hemorrhage depending on your volume knob setting. It’s a blast like the Wedding Present‘s Brassneck or Boyracer‘s I’ve Got It and It’s Not Worth Having. I would certainly love my neighbors if I heard this blasting out their basement, even if it was at some ungodly hour.
stream: Neighbors – What You See In Me (from I Love Neighbors out in June on Manic Pop! Records)
Tags: Manic Pop Records, Zebra Hunt
When you need to get away, what do you do? If you have the means you physically get away. Get in a car and drive, or take plane to somewhere even further. If you don’t, can I recommend a little piece of vinyl that will take you down to the beaches of LA for a virtual spring break?
Zebra Hunt, hailing from Seattle have just released their first 7-inch single via Manic Pop! Records. In its tiny grooves contains the power of escape. The A-side Beaches of LA may have you skeptics thinking oh no not another beach-y surf song, but Zebra Hunt know you’re tired of the regular indie run of the mill and deliver a plaintive sad beauty that muscles in on Shins territory with its shimmering guitars and falsetto chorus. Last year’s killer Half Right makes an appearance on the flip side along with a new Nerves-y rocker Tomorrow. The little is record is packed full of killer pop.
If you don’t even have the means for the 7-inch or just like winning stuff, we’ve teamed up with Zebra Hunt and Manic Pop! Records to give away a copy Zebra Hunt 7-inch. Drop a line in the comments section to put your name in the drawing. We’ll announce a winner on Saturday, April 13, the same day that Zebra Hunt play their record release party at the Rendezvous here in Seattle along with Posse and Detective Agency.
Tags: Adorable, Bleach, Boo Radleys, Catherine Wheel, Chapterhouse, Curve, Ecstasy of St. Theresa, Headtime, House of Love, Lilys, Lush, Moose, My Bloody Valentine, Nyack, Pale Saints, Revolver, Ride, Slowdive, Sweet Jesus, Swerverdriver, The Bardots, The Telescopes, Velocity Girl
A couple of recent shoegaze album lists from Sounds Better with Reverb and Surfing on Steam prompted me to recall those heady days of shoegaze between 1988 and 1994. My recollection wasn’t about the great albums, though there were some, but about the EP’s. Those of us there at the time know that it was all about the EP. Albums were slow to come and often disappointing but the EPs came quick and were often a band’s pinnacle. Often a band would do a brilliant EP and then never reach the same heights on the album, or never even make an album. Here is my list of favorite shoegaze EP’s from that time.
The Boo Radleys - Every Heaven EP (Rough Trade)
I believe this got single of the week in Melody Maker and for good reason. The killer bass line of The Finest Kiss draped over by shards of blistering guitar are a recipe for single of any week. This EP along with Boo Up! and Kaleidoscope make for an unsurpassed shoegaze EP trilogy.
Interesting Info: If you hadn’t noticed this blog is named after The Finest Kiss, the lead track on this EP.
Stream: The Finest Kiss
Sweet Jesus - Real Babe (Rough Trade)
No one ever mentions Sweet Jesus when they talk about shoegaze which is a minor crime. At the time they got tagged as the T-Rex’s of scene. These guys released four ep’s and each one of them is a shoegaze classic.
interesting Info: Many people thought singer Ben Bently was a girl based on his singing voice. He also had a beehive hairdo.
Stream: Real Babe
Chapterhouse - Mesmerize (Dedicated)
Mesmerize was kind of a psychedelic curve ball after the blissed out Whirlpool album with its piano riff and tuba blasts. This is the pinnacle of the Chapterhouse discography. Four songs pushing the boundaries of what people thought shoegaze was.
Interesting Info: My roommate in college played this EP so much he nearly made me hate it. He would not only play it to death, but sing Mesmerize a capella at top volume. Weird.
Headtime - Have You Heard EP (Cherry Red)
Headtime probably got lumped into the shoegaze crowd because they favored a big guitar sound and had a slightly blurry fish cover for their first EP. The title track features some sitar which may be a first. In any event it’s a much better instrumental choice than the flute (hello Blind Mr. Jones).
Interesting Info: There is very little information to be be gleaned from the internet about this band. Richard Formby produced this EP. Headtime made one other EP called Graham before disbanding.
Stream: I Visualize
Moose - Jack (Hut)
Moose quickly eschewed the shoegaze tag on their first album XYZ, but their first two EP’s are firmly entrenched in the scene that celebrated itself. They would do an about face and get Mitch Easter to produce their first album and it would be brilliant. Not really a surprise since this is brilliant also.
Interesting Info: Moose toured the US opening for the Cocteau Twins in the mid 90′s.
Curve - Blindfold EP (Anxious)
Mining the industrial side of shoegaze, Curve’s first EP was pretty impressive. They had a rapper (JC-001) on Ten Little Girls, Wah Wah guitar on I Speak Your Every Word. The duo of Dean Garcia and Toni Halliday could do no wrong in the eyes of the British Press during the run of initial EPs. The Frozen EP and the Cherry EP soon followed, but didn’t reach the heights of this one.
Interesting Info: Toni Halliday put out a solo album called Hearts and Handshakes prior to forming Curve. Yes it’s as bad as the title suggests.
Stream: Ten Little Girls
My Bloody Valentine - Tremelo (Creation)
No shoegaze list is complete without the godfathers of shoegaze. The Tremelo EP upped the stakes for everyone. These were guitars!?!? They sounded like flutes and sound tubes. Kevin Shields could probably make his guitar sound like purring kitty cat if we wanted to
Interesting Info: I once interviewed Kevin Shields and asked him about his lyrics. That’s why I don’t get paid to do this.
Revolver – Venice (Hut)
Revolver were a trio of teenagers that took a powerpop bent on shoegaze. Their first two EPs (45 and Crimson) were spotty, but the third one really seemed catch them finally living up to their potential. Red All Over is great and their cover of Strawberry Switchblade’s Since Yesterday was a pleasant surprise.
Interesting Info: Revolver released on one album called Cold Water Flat. Singer and guitarist Mat Flint currently plays in Deep Cut.
Stream: Red All Over
Pale Saints - Half-life Remembered (4AD)
A concept EP about life in the womb. This EP was produced by Chris Allison who had recently worked with the Wedding Present and he did make them sound a bit more rocking. This is probably the most straightforward the Pale Saints ever sounded. If you bought the vinyl version of this, it had a freaky hidden fifth track called The Colour of the Sky. To hear it you had the lift up the needle and place it down. Your reward was Ian Masters shrieking at the top of his lungs.
Interesting Info: Masters left the Pale Saints after their next album In Ribbons and Meriel Barham took over singing duties on the band’s final underwhelming album Slow Buildings.
Stream: Half-life Remembered
House of Love - Christine (Creation)
This may be a stretch, lumping the House of Love in with the shoegazers, but I would argue that Christine is early and influential in the scene. It’s droning vocal and buzzing guitars would be a blueprint many subsequent bands would use.
Interesting Info: This EP featured Andrea Heukam who provided vocals on the Hill. She left the band soon after.
The Bardots - Pretty O (Cheree)
Veering toward the dreampop side of shoegaze the Bardots featured the feminine sounding Simon Dunford on vocals. Similar to Sweet Jesus, many people thought he was a girl when they heard him sing. The Pretty-O EP featured big hooks and great guitars. The younger me didn’t appreciate them as much as the older me does now. Both of their albums Eye Baby and V-Neck are worth seeking out as is their first single Sad Anne.
Interesting Info: The Bardots featured Krzysztof Fijalkowski on guitar, the brother of Adorable singer Pete Fijalkowski.
Stream: Pretty O
Ride – Ride (Creation)
This came out in the US on the Smile compilation which combined this EP and the Play EP. For my money Chelsea Girl and Drive Blind are unbeatable. Drive Blind would become Ride’s You Made Me Realize.
Interesting Info: Andy Bell went on to play in the mostly awful Hurricane #1 and then play bass in Oasis.
Stream: Chelsea Girl
Swervedriver - Duel – (Creation)
Up until Duel I didn’t have much interest in Swervedriver’s take on Dinosaur Jr. With Duel they started to forge a new path. This three song EP had no filler, but it was easy to overlook Plane Over the Skyline and Year of the Girl due to the fact the Duel blistered like a star in very close proximity.
Interesting Info: Swervedriver have a history of bad luck with record labels. They were dropped from Creation a week after the release of their best album Ejector Seat Reservation and then after signing with Geffen in the US, they were dropped just before their fourth album was to be released. It would be years before that album 99th Dream would see the light of day.
Lush - Mad Love (4AD)
Lush never really lived up to the promise of their first three EPs. Scar was the second in that line and if featured Lush free of expectations. De-Luxe and Downer are blissed out and blistering and Thoughtforms is a great shoegaze lullaby.
Interesting Info: After Lush broke up Miki Berenyi retired from bands, though she has been coaxed to come out of retirement briefly by Eric Matthews and Hard Skin. Emma Anderson went on to form Sing-Sing with Lisa O’Neill.
Slowdive - Holding Our Breath (Creation)
Slowdive were the downers of shoegaze. The mellow youngsters who sounded like they had been doing this sort of thing for ages. This EP featured one of the best Slowdive songs Catch the Breeze which would show up later on their first album, but it also contained the equally mesmerizing Shine and a cover of Syd Barrett’s Golden Hair.
Interesting Info: Slowdive would later become a techno group on their final album Pygmalion and then leader Neil Halstead would junk all of his effects pedals and go alt-country in Mojave 3.
Telescopes - Celeste (Creation)
Telescopes were the shoegaze band that never seemed to get any respect. They were on the right label and they had good songs, but never seemed to catch on. Maybe it was because their albums never reached the heights of the songs on the Celeste EP and its precursor Everso.
Interesting Info: The Telescopes are still around and are playing the Comet here in Seattle April 15.
February Fourteenth – Lilys (Slumberland)
The Lilys first incarnation was as a shoegaze band. Their first single may have been unfairly disparaged for sounding too much like My Bloody Valentine. Criticisms aside, it was uncanny how they took the MBV baton and ran with it on a shoe string budget.
Interesting Info: Lilys went on to morph into a mod pop band and scored a hit single and a Levis advertisement in the UK.
Stream: February Fourteenth
Ecstasy of St. Theresa - Fluidtrance Centauri (Free)
Shoegaze knows no borders. This Czech band were always on the perifery of the scene due mostly to geography and their tendency to change their sound every couple of releases. All three songs on this EP have classic quiet-loud moments that shoegaze fans cannot get enough of.
Interesting Info: Ecstasy of St. Theresa teamed up with British Sea Power in 2004 to release the single A Lovely Day Tomorrow sung in both English and Czech.
Velocity Girl - My Forgotten Favorite (Slumberland)
Not many American bands contributed anything new to shoegaze, but Velocity Girl with this single seemed to take what was going on in the UK and put their own mark on it. My Forgotten Favorite is a classic and the b-side Why Should I Be Nice To You is no slouch either.
Interesting Info: The original singer in the band was Bridget Cross. She left the band after the release of their first single I Don’t Care If You Go and went on to join Unrest.
Stream: Forgotten Favorite
Bleach - Snag EP (Way Cool)
Bleach were briefly shoegaze and then they became something else and then they broke up. The Snag EP was a perfect snapshot of that sweet spot. Bethesda still holds up after 22 years.
Interesting Info: I got nothing. They were from Ipswich?
Adorable – Sunshine Smile (Creation)
I always thought Adorable were more Bunnymen than shoegaze, but consensus says that they were shoegaze and who am I to argue? This three song EP is packed with two of the band’s best songs. Sunshine Smile crashes into the room and totally wrecks it and then A To Fade, which singer Pete Fijalkowski says was heavily based on the Go-Betweens Cattle and Cane, heals all the wounds.
Interesting Info: Fijalkowski went on to form Polak with his brother Krzysztof. He has most recently been working with House of Love guitarist Terry Bickers.
Stream: Sunshine Smile
Catherine Wheel – Black Metallic (Polydor)
One of the great things about these shoegaze EP’s was that the bands treated them it might be their last release, packing them with great songs. Catherine Wheel were no exception. Everyone knows Black Metallic, but buried on this EP is Let Me Down Again which I always thought was as good as the title track.
Interesting Info: Catherine Wheel were the most successful UK shoegaze band in the States, probably due to their heavier tendencies and willingness to tour. Singer Rob Dickenson is the cousin of Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickenson.
Stream: Let Me Down Again
Nyack – Savage Smile EP (Echo)
This EP was so good and then then the follow up album was kind of a let down. Nyack were from Nyack, New York (duh), but didn’t sound it. They sounded english and they had an English record label. The only give-away that they were from NY was Blondie cover. That aside This EP’s other three songs were all aces.
Interesting Info: Before they were called Nyack, they went by Aenone and released a similar sounding EP on Kramer’s Kokopop label.
Stream: Savage Smile