Photo from Bob Carlos Clarke/Rex USA/Everett Collection
It’s been a while since the last one of these hit the internet. The Q1U has been burried under a stack of a records for the last few months. I was cleaning the basement the other day and uncovered it. Inspiration hit and a list of songs was assembled with an initial unintended musical slant . A little rejiggering, and it became an ode to the female of the species and my favorite basementcast yet. See what you think.
Wax Idols – All Too Human (Hozac 7″) Mocket – Bionic Parts from Bionic Parts (Punk In My Vitamins) Soul Swingers – Brighter Tomorrow from Wheedle’s Groove – Seattle’s Finest in Funk & Soul 1965-75 (Light In the Attic) P.S. Eliot – Sadie from Sadie (Salinas)
This is kind of a repeat except it’s on a different label. Last year I was hit over the head with killer record from Las Kellies an all girl band from Argentina who all take the last name Kelly the way the Ramones all adopted the surname Ramone. Kellies was their third album but my introduction to them. The record is now getting a US release on 5 July courtesy of Fire records. Kellies melded angular post punk riffs from the likes of Wire via Elatica with the fat beats of Bronx sisters ESG whose Erase You they cover on the album. It was one of my favorites albums of last year and well worth picking up now that it is getting a domestic release.
For a band that released a few singles, a posthumous EP and only 1000 copies of their only album, a three disc box set might seem like overkill for an obscure all girl band from the UK. Dolly Mixture may have been better known at the time of their existence as Captain Sensible‘s back up singers. Captain Sensible of the Damned had two hit singles in the early 80’s away from the Damned. Both (Happy Talk & Wot) were campy, nudging in on Ian Dury territory and of course over the top, but more importantly employed the backing vocals of the Dolly Mixture.
Dolly Mixture were a force to be rekoned with in their own right, mixing the pure pop of 60’s girls groups with a bit of glam, mod and punk. They were a precursor to indiepop and can claim a direct influence on the Riot Grrrl movement. They were an all girl band who stuck to their guns, not caving to major label males’ demands that they let men play the music on their records leaving them to just be pretty faces. It’s sad to think that this is one of the reasons they were forced to self-release their debut album the double record Demonstration Tapes which actually only contained demos. Listening to it today, it sounds perfect as ‘just’ demos though maybe a little warbled because of less then pristine storing of the masters. Their voices still shine through and are pure as the driven snow, the guitars, strings and percussion evoke a Tamala/Motown sound that probably would have been lost if they had been produced. One of the three discs in the box set contains the Demonstration Tapes double LP (the album was also reissued on vinyl as an extremely limited edition of 300 copies as well). The second disc compiles their singles and the third disc contains a few covers, some demos and tracks that fell between the cracks.
The liner notes were written by Bob Stanley of St. Etienne. Stanley is a long-time fan and even counted Debsey Wykes at one time as a member of the St. Etienne’s touring band. There Wykes met Paul Kelly who compiled the songs for this box set restored them from crusty old tapes and did the layout for the release. You may remember Wykes and Kelly were in Birdie together in the late 90’s and early 00’s. Birdie put out two rather nice records that kind of continued along the Dolly Mixture path but added in a little Free Design and not surprisingly some of the mellow dance vibe of St. Etienne.
So you may ask, what kind of influence does a band that existed for a few fleeting moments 30 years ago have on today’s bands. You need look no further than Sweden’s Liechtenstein. Yeah, there are quite a few bands out there today that you could tag with a Dolly Mixture influence, but Liechtenstein, besides being a trio of women who play their own instruments, harmonize and make pop songs that can sound sweet and innocent on one side and then on the next cop a punk attitude. Their debut CD Survival Strategies in a Modern World came out last year on Slumberland, but not ones to rest, have just released a new 7″ single on Swedish label Fraction Discs.
Vivian Girls, Best Coast & TacocaT at the High Dive, Seattle | 13 February 2010
It feels like every time I click a link three’s a new lo-fi girl group that I’m smitten with. It all started back in 2008 with the Vivian Girls and their reverb-laden harmonies that brought back memories of the Shop Assistants and Black Tambourine. The Dum Dum Girls soon followed and grabbed everyone’s attention last year with their version of Phil Spector girl group who has a thing for the Jesus and Mary Chain. Just to prove that things move pretty fast these days, Best Coast appeared late last year firing off three quality 7 inch records that are good enough to almost make you forget about Vivans and Dum Dums.
What makes Best Coast so good? There are the songs themselves with their aching hallucinogenic quality that seem to conjure sun bleached images of days gone by, but it’s Bethany Cosentino’s voice that carries it all home. She uses reverb like everybody else these days, but she doesn’t need it. Borrowing Vivian Girls drummer Ali Koehler Best Coast hit all the high points, and there are quite a few, of their four singles, they also played a few new songs from their upcoming album. One of them was called Crazy, or some variation, and as Cosentino repeated the chorus, I couldn’t help but think of Patsy Cline. Not because it sounded country or had twinkling piano in it, but because Cosentino’s voice sounded so good, transcending the lo-fi aesthetic that she’s chosen to drape the songs in for the time being. Cosentino’s foil in Best Coast is Bobb Bruno who plays a baritone guitar which they thought was stolen the night before in Vancouver, but later found after the gig. The band seemed quite bummed out by the loss of Bruno’s guitar and apologized more than once for not being able to deliver the full Best Coast sound. Bruno tried to replicate on his riff’s on a borrowed bass guitar form Katie of the Vivian Girls, doing his best Peter Hook imitation. He mostly persevered, but sometimes had to resort to playing tambourine. It really didn’t matter, Cosentino’s voice and songs were more than worthy of taking center stage and no apology was necessary.
After Best Coast, the Vivian Girls had their work cut out for them. The two bands are cut from the same cloth, but where Best Coast’s melodies prevail, the Vivian Girls bury theirs beneath heavy bass and guitar. Sometimes I don’t even think that there is a melody to be buried. That wasn’t always the case. I think their first album could be considered a classic, but the set they played focused mostly on their newer material which is a bit more difficult. A lot of the songs seemed to blend into one another, with Katie’s bass dominating everything. We got a break from the drone when they put down their instruments and did their a capella cover of the Chantals‘ He’s Gone. It was a break, but not a very good one, especially when you compare it to the original. The set wasn’t a total bust, Lakehouse, Can’t Get Over You and Tell The World stood out, but it wasn’t their best. I worry that the band are struggling to come up with songs that match the magic of their debut and by focusing on their newer material it made that fact all the more painfully obvious.
TacaocaT started the night off with their updated, more humorous version of riot grrrl, sprinkled with a little bit of Young Fresh Fellows. They played some new songs as well as old favorites Leotard, Dry Land Is a Myth (the Kevin Costner song), Volcano and Basement, an ode to their ‘condo’. Great fun even if they didn’t play Peeps, which Katie from Vivian Girls kept shouting for. If you haven’t heard their album Shame Spiral, do yourself a favor and get on over to their label Don’t Stop Believin’ and order yourself up a copy.