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.
One thing about Melbourne, Australia’s Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever is that I can never seem to get their name right. It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, you know. How many bands have four word names these days? People are lucky enough to be able to remember two word band names. It seems that their US label Sub Pop realizes this, shortening the band’s name for their US debut to Rolling Blackouts C.F. I don’t know if this is better though. It isn’t a whole lot easier to remember, and it gives the impression that there is already a band named Coastal Blackouts and these Blackouts are from some country with the initials C.F.
Another thing about Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever is that they jangle. You hear the likely suspects (Bats, Clean, & Feelies) in their sound, but their jangle comes from a more classic rock corner of the universe. Their sound can best be described by the Close Lobsters‘ cover of Neil Young‘s Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black). They sound like they’ve done their time on the bar circuit, and taken their lumps winning over hard drinking, blue collar fellows in dungarees.
One more thing about Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, they’re show this past Tuesday at Barboza here in Seattle was a lot of fun. The five piece band featured three guitarists and singers, but their secret weapon, which all great bands will attest to, was their rhythm section. Every song was anchored by some great bass riffs which was really apparent live. That firm mooring allowed the guitarists to really go into their hyper-manic-riff mode trading licks and often vocal spots. This band seems to be very well oiled machine.
One final thing about Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, they do a mighty fine cover of the Orange Juice classic Blueboy!
Seattle’s designated openers for all Australian jangly type bands, Zebra Hunt did just that. On this night I found out:
In Australia, zebra is pronounced with a short ‘e’.
Zebra Hunt’s second LP is coming out May 19.
The band now seems to be a permanent four piece.
They have got a brand new set of songs that rivals the ones the made me fan in the first place.
They just keep getting better!
They might actually be Australian judging from their ace cover of the Go-Betweens‘ Was There Anything I Could Do?
Taking on America with an extensive 25 date tour is ambitious for any band, but when you’re Chook Race, a little known three piece jangle pop band from Melbourne, Australia it’s downright impressive (and maybe a little insane). The band made its way into Seattle Wednesday night to play the Victory Lounge, a bar with no stage in East Lake. This is one band I thought I would never see in Seattle, but after self-releasing their first album, Chicago label Trouble in Mind signed them making their second LP widely available in the United States as well as this tour a reality.
Singer and guitarist Matthew Liveriadis has a slight monotone delivery, but drummer Carolyn Hawkins provides a beautiful juxtaposition with her backing harmonies. The trio played an energized and jangly set inspired by the Bats and Close Lobsters mixing soon to be jangle pop classics from their first LP with ones of a slightly more classic pop sound from their new second album Around the House. In their short existence the band already have a stash of A-list songs and they didn’t leave any of them out including jangly diamonds like Dentist, Time, Sometimes and Hard to Clean and Older. The band’s tight sound and laid back attitude easily won over the likely already won over folks in attendance and made us all appreciate the long trip they had made to get here.
Like minded Seattlites Zebra Hunt opened for Chook Race with a set that consisted almost entirely of new songs (Half Right was the only old one). Apparently the new album is nearly ready and based on this evidence I would agree. One song really stood out with its Feelies-like crazy rhythm, even slowing down and then rebuilding itself into something quite raucous. Zebra Hunt has still got it!
If they keep putting them out, I’ll keep buying them and counting them down. Here’s my take on the 2014 singles scene. You don’t need eharmony to find a great single, just peruse this list.
1. Wildhoney – Sixteen Forever (Photobooth)
Baltimore band’s second single is even better than their first. Effortlessly great shoegaze. Look out for their debut LP early in 2015.
2. Charles Bradly & LaRose Jackson – Luv Jones (Daptone)
This one came out of nowhere and flew under most everyone’s radar. Charles Bradly and LaRose Jackson sound great together and the flip side has him sounding a bit like the Specials. A certified classic.
3. Primetime – Tied Down (La Vida Es Un Mus Discos)
UK group influenced by Wire and Elastica, only they don’t steal riffs. Solid debut single that indicates greatness.
4. Primitives – Spin-O-Rama (Elefant)
Classic 60’s inspired, sunny psychedelic single.The Primitives stormed back on the scene with this record.
5. Giorgio Murderer – Primitive World (Goner)
Buck Biloxi’s alter ego obsessed with Star Trek. Insanely insane.
“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!
You can only buy so many reissues of the Monochrome Set, Close Lobsters and Josef K, until you feel like you’ve been cheated. Actually no one has ever seen fit to reissue a Close Lobsters album. What the heck? Obscure and influential, these bands seem to generate a lot of interest from record collectors, but there are very few current bands that I could link to any of those bands. That was up until a few weeks ago when I read this @poolhoneys tweet, and now thanks to Baltimore, Maryland’s Expert Alterations I no longer have that problem.
Playful bass lines percolate to your ears while moody vocals and jangly guitars abound on their self-released cassette/bandcamp EP that deserves to be more than just a cassette/bandcamp EP.The EP is five songs. The first two tracks Venetian Blinds and A Bell display some superb Scottish influenced power jangle, while Midnight Gardens could be a distant relative of the Monochrome Set’s He’s Frank.
This trio also released a split cassette with the equally excellent Wildhoney for the this year’s Baltimore Popfest. Between these two acts alone, Baltimore has an indie pop scene to envy!
Los Angeles’ Dream Boys remind me of time not long ago when the first Tyde album came out. I was surprised how a band from Los Angles were able to sound like direct descendants of Felt. Back then when record stores were the only place you could buy music there was what’s called an import section and a certain American record buyers would search that section out because that was where all the best jangly pop stuff came from.
I doubt that Dream Boys peruse the import section of their local record store. Is there a record store these days that even has an import section? In fact you could argue that they don’t need an import section for their influences. Their own back yard is overflowing with potential inspirations. The Paisley Underground scene of the 80’s and of course the ground zero of everything that is jangle the Byrds. Dream Boys have two songwriters one favoring the UK flavor, the other seems to prefer the LA flavor. So you get the best of both worlds here.
Whether you dig the sounds of the Tyde, Bif Bang Pow, Long Ryders, the Bluebells, Close Lobsters, Felt, the Three O’clock or the Byrds there is something for you on this album. It will remind you of any of the above, or it may make you search out some of those bands to find out how Dream Boys got here. No matter the direction of your approach, this exceptional album will satisfy. Guaranteed!
Seattleites have been blessed with quite a lot of good record stores, and most of them thankfully are still in business. Our luck in having so many outlets in the city to spend money on records may be tenuous at best, but as they say carpe diem. That is exactly what Chris Mac has done by starting up a new record store / mail order. The store is called Jigsaw Records, and is due to open it’s doors here in Seattle this Saturday. As I said, Seattle has more than its fair share of record stores, but up to now it did not have one that focuses on indiepop. Jigsaw promises to do just that. The store will sell records from small to tiny labels from around the globe, and it promises to be all things “indiepop, power pop, indie rock, lo-fi pop, twee, and pretty much any other kind of fun pop music that we fancy”. So, if you’re looking for a pop record from Europa, Peru, the Philippines, or Swaziland, Jigsaw is the new place to stop on your treasure hunt . Not sure if there are any indiepop bands in Swaziland, but if there are I bet you’ll be able to pick up their 7″ single at Jigsaw.
The store opens this Saturday morning at 11am, with the grand opening festivities starting 7pm that night with Math & Physics Club making their return (has it really been two years since they last played) and D. Crane from BOAT playing. The store is located in Ballard in the upstairs part of Resolution Audio and Video at 5459 Leary Ave NW, probably right next to Dissonant Plane another record store in the same space that specializes in drone, noise and death metal. So while you’re filling up on sugar coated pop, you can also get your allowance of death metal all in the same stop. Talk about convenience.
If you’re interested to read more about the state of Seattle record stores, the Stranger interviews a handful of the city’s proprietors for an article in this week’s issue. One of the questions they ask the group is would you open a record store now? The article doesn’t talk about Jigsaw, but it would have been interesting to get the perspective someone doing just that.
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 Juice, the 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.