A few months ago I wrote about this do it yourself ethos that has begun to flourish in the indie underground over here in the US. Record Labels popping up like dandelions in the spring and bands jumping from label to label with a 7 inch here, an album there and a cassette on another one. Back in March when I wrote that post it didn’t seem like there was a similar thing happening over in the UK. Fast forward to now and those dandelion seeds have blown across the Atlantic and are sprouting. Within the last two months I’ve heard so much good stuff originating from the UK that it nearly feels like the early 90’s again. The only drawback to this nascent UK scene is that a 7 inch single in the UK costs nearly twice what costs in the US, and that’s before you add in shipping. It’s not the man keeping me down it’s rock n’ roll.
This UK DIY scene is slowly making it’s way over to the States, with records, tours and more records starting to happen. Coming up later this month, San Diego’s Crocodiles are bringing their UK friends the Pens and Graffiti Island with them on a west coast tour. The Pens are an all girl three piece outfit from London who as far as I can tell, have yet to release a record that isn’t a split 7 inch. They’ve done singles with Male Bonding, Graffiti Island, and have a four way split coming on Art Fag that they share with the Crocodiles, Graffiti Island (again) and Dum Dum Girls. They’ll abandon the split singles (at least for one release) when their album appears on De Stijl next month. It’s called Hey Friend What Are You Doing and promises to be a shambolic, ramshackle affair with lots of noise to bury the melodies. Pens tour mates Graffiti Island could best be described as cave rock. The vocals are full of reverb and they like to sing about wolf men, and other primitive stuff. They’ve also had their share of songs on the old 7 inch medium, the latest being the Head Hunters single on House Anxiety. They have a bunch more on the way including the afore mentioned Art Fag split single, one on Sex Is Disgusting and 12 inch on Capture Tracks later this year.
Speaking of Sex Is Disgusting (the label), they’ve just released a limited edition (250) by Mazes, a band that answers the question what if the Woods’ Jeremy Earl had fronted Guided by Voices. Based on the a-side to their single it would have been very good indeed. Their mySpace is pretty funny, on it they state: “We wanna do rad things like back Mark E Smith and tour with Jonathan Richman… email us if you can facilitate stuff like that.” Mazes apparently have an album in the can, that they “wanna put out”, meanwhile look out for an upcoming split 7 inch with the Pens.
One of the more pretty sounding lo-fi bands of the current crop is Internet Forever who remind me of very underrated It’s Jo and Danny. Their songs are precious sounding but they keep the fidelity at the low end as not to sound to precious. Their cover of Beat Happening’s Bewitched is a prime example of just that. No records yet from this three piece, but that won’t be the case for long with releases lined up on Art Fag and Twenty Years of Boredom.
The Spectrals could be the UK doppelgangers of the Crystal Stilts except that their a bit more girl-group loving than the darker exploits of their Brooklyn brethren. The song Leave Me Be which I’ve pretty much killed has been floating around the internet for a good month. No physical releases yet from this one man band, but he’s promising a single and full album sometime in the near future on Captured Tracks. The Spectrals and Graffiti Island aren’t the only UK bands that Captured Tracks has signed up. Veronica Falls have promised a 12 inch record to the label, so I’m assuming that they have more than one great song that has been up on their MySpace for the last month all by itself, but it’s so hauntingly good that I’ve been going back quite often in hopes of some more. Veronica Falls are made up of former members of the Royal We, so I’m not too worried about them only having one good song.
Another London band (they’re all from London except for Mazes) is the duo Swanton Bombs who put out their Mammoth Skull ep at the very beginning of this year. They also made an album of demos that is available for free over at their MySpace. They seem to get compared to the White Stripes mostly by people who don’t know what they’re talking about. Yeah, they’re duo playing guitar and drums but piano plays a large part in their sound. It’s all very basic and some of the songs remind me of early Billy Bragg, but they also have these little prog-like parts in some of their songs that remind me of what the Mystery Jets were doing on their first record. They’re kind of a breath of fresh air if you are geting tired of the lo-fi distorted guitar sound that most of the other bands in this post specialize in.
Last but not least and hot off just signing with Sup Pop is Male Bonding who have done split 7 inches with the likes of Graffiti Island, Pens, Cold Pumas and Eat Skull. Based on all that, they may be the poster children of the entire scene. If the Spectrals are the bastard sons of Crystal Stilts then Male Bonding are the illegitimate child of No Age and Abe Vigoda. Abandoned by their parents they were raised by their grandparents Husker Du, or something like that. The split 7 inch with Eat Skull just came out and is pretty hot, expect an album sometime early next year on Sub Pop.
If you’re on the west coast you don’t want to miss the Pens/Graffiti Island/Crocodiles Tour starting next week. Tour dates after the click.Aug 19 RICKSHAW STOP San Francisco, CA
Aug 21 DOUG FIR LOUNGE Portland, OR
Aug 22 CHOP SUEY Seattle, WA
Aug 23 SMMR BMMR @ ROTTURE PORTLAND, OR
Aug 25 THE BLUE LAMP plus Ganglians + Christmas Island Sacramento, CA
Aug 26 CREPE PLACE Santa Cruz, CA
Aug 27 SPACELAND Los Angeles, CA
Aug 29 THE CASBAH plus No Age, Wavves San Diego, CA