What Is There To Smile About?


Scotland’s Close Lobsters never quite fit in with any scene. Sure, they were on the C-86 compilation put out by the New Musical Express, and they recorded their records at indiepop central Leamington Spa with John A. Rivers. I suppose all of those references might give you an idea of what they might sound like. Their guitars certainly jangle and they sound earnest, but I would never suggest that they’re indiepop or C-86 (whatever that is). Their records have an uplifting brightness to them and dare I say it they even rock out a bit. That juxtaposition sets them apart in my mind.

The band stopped being a band back in the late 80’s after the release of their second LP Headache Rhetoric. Fast forward 20 or so years, sometime after appearing at 2013’s New York City Popfest the band decided to start making records again. Eventually two 7-inch singles containing new songs appeared, one in 2014 and another in 2016. Now finally, a third album was released in February. The title is a mouthful, Post Neo Anti: Arte Povera In the Forest of Symbols. The cover might give the impression that they’re a metal band and the title suggests that they’re into prog rock. Neither is the case. In fact, the album picks up right where Headache Rhetoric left off. Songs like All Compasses Go Wild, Now Time, and New York City In Space sound like older and wiser brothers of classics like My days are Numbered, Nature Thing, and Foxheads. The band have John Rivers back in the producer’s chair and the album generally feels like they never broke up. I always thought that The Close Lobsters sounded timeless because they never really adhered to any scene or sound. They continue that streak and stick to their unique sunshine drenched jangle while stretching and bending it ever so slightly to keep it interesting.

Strawberry Whiplash Back With a New Single

It’s another Saturday morning, so time for another dose of jangle-pop. Last week it was Austin’s Literature. This week we go a few thousand miles to the upper right for the new single from Glasgow’s Strawberry Whiplash. It comes in the form of a 7-inch single for better aural absorption. The A-side Stop, Look and Listen is another slice of sugar coated jangle from the band, harvested from the same cane fields as early Primitives and Darling Buds records. The single serves as a preview of their upcoming album Hits In the Car and comes with two exclusive B-sides,the gentler In the Blink of an Eye and the chugging Luck Is The Residue Of Design, to further tempt you to part with your hard earned cash.

mp3: Strawberry Whiplash – Stop, Look and Listen (7-inch single available from Matinée Records)

Reawakening the President

For some reason I had the idea that Wake the President had broken up. You don’t hear from a band for a couple years in these days of instant information and you assume the worst. Actually they kind of did disband sometime after releasing their first album You Can’t Change that Boy in 2009. They may have temporarily disbanded but when the president and vice president are twins you regroup and make a second record anyway, and that is what Erik and Bjorn Sandberg did. The brothers have just released their second album Zumutung! on their own label We Can Still Picnic.

Being a band from Glasgow, Scotland they innately know how to balance jangle, twee and bombast into a record. Since this is their second record they have settled down from the impulsive adolescence of the debut. Zumutung is also not so obvious in revealing its influences. Before you could tell they loved Orange Juice, now it’s not so obvious. The bouncy Elaine is the one song that could easily have fit on their debut, but overall the mood of the record is darker and introspective.  They now have songs with the  paisley jangle of the Close Lobsters in She Fell Into My Arms and In Youth There Is Pleasure. They also have a newfound side to them which is more intense that reminds me of the Delgados on songs like E.T and Sort of Blonde.  Former Delgados drummer Paul Savage produced the record and it seems like he has brought his former band’s moodiness into the mix. It makes Zumutung! a more interesting and enduring record.  It isn’t as immediate as the their debut, but it has a plan and a pace to it that gradually wins you over.

Stream: Wake the President – She Fell Into My Arms (out now on We Can Still Picnic Records. Buy Digital or Physical)

Watch: Wake the President – Elaine

Up the Down Escalator

Straight outta Edinburgh, Scottland come Edinburgh School for the Deaf. Their moody, fuzzed out maelstrom on the A-side to their virtual single is a sound not unfamiliar to their geography, and then the virtual B-side figuratively flips that sound on its ear getting introspective, delicate and quiet (also not unfamiliar to their geography). The only complaint I have about this record is that it ain’t  a physical record. It’s part of Bubblegum Records For Singles Project which limits each single to 200 downloads. I’ll take a download but I’ll still pine for a 45 that I can plop on a turntable and crank  up.

Here’s the A-Side Orpheus Descending:

And the B-Side Orpheus Ascending:

Edinburgh School for the Deaf’s debut long player New Youth Bible is due 13th June. In the meantime head over to Bubblegum Records to buy a download of this virtual single.

Long Lasting Flavor

My big complaint about bubblegum as a kid was that Bubble Yum, Hubba Bubba and Bubblelicious all tasted great at first but they never had any staying power.  After five minutes in your mouth all the sugary sweetness was gone and rubber bands had taken its place.  Scottland’s Bubblegum Lemonade have no such problem on their second album intuitively called Sophomore Release.  Somehow they’ve come up with a recipe where the sugary sweetness that initially hits your pallet lasts and lasts.

Called modern pop revivalists, Bubblegum Lemonade revive Biff Bang Pow, Teenage Fanclub, touches of Darklands era Mary Chain, and even humorously reference Aztec Camera in the song We Could Send Emails. The single Caroline’s Radio made my top 40 of the year and it shows up as track one to pull you into the album, and then one man band Laz McClusky goes onto beguile your ears for eleven more songs with  generous use of his 12 string Rickenbacker that rings, buzzes and jangles through these 12 songs.  He knows about pacing and mixing things up though, varying the instrumentation with glockenspiel, acoustic  guitar, wood blocks and harmonies. As I’ve listened to this quite a lot over the last couple weeks, the subtleties have slowly made themselves apparent like the beautiful watery Moose-like guitars on Autumn Sky and the way You Only Leave Twice sneaks itself into your head with it’s melody and flamenco guitar solo.  Bubblegum Lemonade’s Sophomore Release has long lasting flavor, so much that I bet if I stick it on my bedpost  it won’t lose it’s flavor overnight.

mp3: Bubblegum Lemonade – You Only Leave Twice (from Sophomore Release, order one from Matinée)