Switched On by the Fireworks

fireworks

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to waste my time. So many bands these days go two or three songs into their albums before actually delivering a decent hook. There is no such problem with the Fireworks. The London band do not dillydally. Buzzy guitars blast out as soon as you hit play. Sharp pop inspired by the Buzzcocks and the Shop Assistants jumps out and swiftly grabs you and pulls you out of the dull world and into something kaleidoscopic and exciting.

The record opens with With My Heart and Runaround, the best one-two punch of any record in recent memory. With My Heart starts with a Mary Chain cacophony and then Emma Hall launches in with her cool delivery. Runaround quickly follows with its clamoring guitars and undeniable chorus, and it doesn’t let up. You might think that they couldn’t sustain this shockingly good barrage of great songs, but they do. Hall trades vocal duties with guitarist Matthew Rimmell to keep you on your toes and his Corner of My Mind and Let You Know offer up a more autumnal sound to even out the pace of the album

The Fireworks may sound like a throwback to the late 80’s UK underground and the C-86 scene to some, but a record this good never goes out of style.

stream: The Fireworks – Switch Me On (LP, CD and MP3 available from Shelflife)

Close Lobsters Give Us Something To Smile About

LIFE112_Cover

“Things will never will be the same” sings Andrew Burnett on the A-side of the Close Lobsters‘ new single. Maybe not quite the same, but the more things change the more they stay the same. The seminal C-86 compilation that the band appeared on has just seen a reissue that extends that cassette into a three CD set and Paisley, Scotland’s Close Lobsters who have been dormant for some 20 odd years (their final album Headache Rhetoric came out in 1989) have just released a brand new 7″ single on Shelflife records here in the US.

Time has not altered the sound of their bittersweet wall of jangle an iota, nor has it diminished their knack for writing adroit pop songs. The two on this single sound like they could have come from the lost follow-up to Headache Rhetoric. Now Time is a six minute epic that walks a fine line down memory lane without really looking back. The flip side is something of a love letter to the United States with Burnet landing in the canyons of NYC in ridiculous heat then setting out on the road on a bus to Chicago. The dusty guitar solo in the middle almost makes you feel the hot breeze in your face.

Who knows if this single is one-off thing or the start of  Close Lobsters phase II? I’m just still pinching myself that this new single even exits.  Welcome back fellows!

stream: Close Lobsters – Now Time (The 7″ single is available from Shelflife Records)

What Is There To Smile About?

Close Lobsters - Forever Until Victory

Allmusic describes them as neo-psychedelic jangle pop, the Trouser Press said they established a distinctive sound above the din of C-86 janglomania.  Others claimed they were part Orange Juicethe Church, Only Ones and Echo and the Bunnymen.   Whatever the case, Scottland’s Close Lobsters were stuff of which legends are made.  Unlike so many other bands that get labeled with the C-86 tag, the Close Lobsters were actually on that hallowed NME cassette.  Their song Firestation Towers was included on the compilation, and soon after they signed to Fire records and put out their first proper single, I’m Going to Heaven to See If It Rains.  Then in a matter of three years, Two albums, an EP and a bunch of singles, poof!  They were gone. Along with Animals that Swim and Moose, the Close Lobsters are one of those bands that I’ve always hoped for a reunion and a surprise new record.  A reunion doesn’t look too promising as lead Lobster Andrew Burnett has gone off in an enirely different direction with his latest project CLS Kunstwerk, but the Close Lobsters do have sort of a surprise new record coming.

Their two albums Foxheads Stalk This Land and Headache Rhetoric are well worth seeking out.  Foxheads was reissued a few years ago, but Headache Rhetoric is shamefully out of print.  Both of these records as well as the What Is There To Smile About EP still get frequent play in my house. I knew that there were a lot of stray singles, b-sides and compilation tracks that the band had released, and I’ve always hoped that someone would compile all these lost jems and put them out.  It seems that the band and their label have been thinking that there are enough people like me to actually go and release a record that does just that.  The CD is titled Forever, Until Victory!  It’s due to come out in October on Fire, and on it you can expect to get that C-86 track, first two pre-album singles  Going To Heaven To See If It Rains and Never Seen Before, nearly all of the What Is There To Smile About EP as well as stellar covers of Neil Young’s Hey Hey My My (Into the Black), the Only Ones‘ Wide Waterways, and Leonard Cohen’s Paper Thin Hotel.  If you already have all of these songs in one format or another, then maybe the fact the two of the Lobsters themselves (Andrew Burnett and Graeme Wilmington) have remastered all of the tracks.  Most likely if  you are a longtime fan this will fill in the gaps.  If you’re someone looking for and introduction to a great band from the 80’s this is good place to start.  Either way, there is lots to smile about.

Cheers to Cloudberry Cake Proselytism where I read about this reissue in his interview with Andrew Burnett.

mp3: The Close Lobsters – Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)

mp3: The Close Lobsters – Nature Thing

mp3: The Close Lobsters – D.D.I.R.N. (conspicuously left off of this compilation, found on the Great Fire of London compilation)

You can pre-order the Close Lobsters, Forever Until Victory from Fire Records.  See the full track listing after the click….

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Vivian Girls at the Funhouse

Vivian Girls at the Funhouse, Seattle | 31 May 2008

I’m not sure what’s going on over in Brooklyn these days, but with the Crystal Stilts,the Vivian Girls and Pains of Being Pure at Heart it seems like a full on C-86 revival over there in New Amsterdam. The Vivian Girls who seem like the perfect combination of Shop Assistants indie pop, Lush attitude and guitar chops, and Undertones pop sensibilities brought their brand of blissed out pop to Seattle on Sunday night. The Vivian Girls have caught my fancy with a punk ethos, cool name (Go rent In the Realms of the Unreal) and even better songs, so I had been looking forward to this show for quite a while. With a couple seven inch singles and a sold out debut album under their belts, they seem to gaining momentum and following. Not to worry for those of us late to the party, that sold out album will get reissued this fall on In The Red on both vinyl and cd. Mark your calendars.

Even though the album is sold out (only 500 pressed), these girls are pretty much unknown at this point. They seem like an unassuming bunch and kept a positive outlook when the sound guy was having a little trouble getting the reverb just right on the vocals, so the trio stood around on stage made nervous small talk while the sound guy looked for the right button. With the reverb finally worked out they dove into their quick and too short eight song set. They seemed a bit nervous and in a hurry, but it was completely unwarranted. Their sharp harmonies and and catchy melodies won me and everyone else over with ease. The lead vocals were all handled by Cassie who also plays guitar, with most of the harmonies sung by drummer Frankie though Katy (bassist) did get her share as well. Eight songs in about 20 minutes, it was short but really, really good. Hopefully they’ll be back again once the album gets reissued, and play a little longer.

mp3: Vivian Girls – Tell the World

mp3: Vivian Girls – Damaged

mp3: Shop Assistants – I Don’t Want to be Friends With You (from Anything Will Happen)

mp3: Lush – Bitter (from Gala)

Also check out this Pink Couch Session of the Vivian Girls doing an acoustic version of I Can’t Stay. You can also download an mp3 of the track: Pink Couch

More photos and set list over at my flickr.