Strawberry Whiplash hail from Glasgow, pay homage to Strawberry Switchblade and Meat Whiplash in their name, are Lawrence ‘Laz’ McClusky’s other band (Bubblegum Lemonade is the other) and have just released their first LP Hits In the Car via Santa Barbara’s Matinee Records. Strawberry Whiplash are probably many other things as well, but those are the facts.
Listening to Hits in the Car you quickly realize that they are most definitely many more things as well. For Strawberry Whiplash, McClusky still writes the songs, but hands over most of the vocal duties to Sandra (no surname given). She has a sweet pop voice that brings to mind Tracy Tracy of Primitives, Sara Cracknell of St. Etienne and the Shangri-Las. Sugar sweet, but a voice only gets you so far. Fortunately she has some great songs to sing. McClusky seems to have an endless stream of inspiration. Some are classic pop in the vein of the Primitives and Lovelife era Lush, some mine the same Astrud Gilberto vein of pop that Beaumont and Arabesque, did while a few of the songs sound almost shoegazer-ish and one even made me think of the Ramones (I think of the Ramones quite often even when not listening to music).
I liked the previous EP’s from Strawberry Whiplash, but they didn’t really allude to how good this record would be. Hits In the Car is a record that upholds the rich Glaswegian indiepop tradition started long ago by Orange Juice, the Pastels, Teenage Fanclub and the Vaselines. Probably 30 years from now, kids will be Tumbling Strawberry Whiplash songs to each other via surgical implants. Why wait for the nostalgia trip? Get in on the ground floor!
I remember the first time I saw the Lucksmiths live. I was living in Washington, DC and the band was over playing their first ever DC show. It was at the Galaxy Hut in Arlington, a tiny bar where they clear away a few tables to allow bands to play when they have bands. It was around the time of A Good Kind of Nervous, their third album and the first one to be released here. I also remember they had a new single they were selling too, their first single for Matinée, the Untidy Towns 7″.
Not sure what to expect, I had dragged my girlfriend, my sister and her boyfriend along to the show anyway. I don’t remember if the place was packed, but it was pretty full, and with people who may or may not have been fans of the band. The Lucksmiths proved to be charming fellows as I recall and their jovial infectious songs and personalities easily engulfed the tiny room. Tali sang and played drums standing up and with brushes!? Marty played his guitar like he was in the Wedding Present and Mark’s bass playing had a groove and adroitness to it that belied their twee songs. Marty was the main songwriter and he had a clever way with words that could bring the mundane to life. I hopped aboard the Lucksmiths train that night and never got off.
I had the opportunity to see them play and few more times over the years but I was still kind of bummed they never made it back to the States for a farewell tour after announcing that they were calling it a day. As a farewell to everyone that couldn’t make it to their farewell shows the band have released a DVD of their final show at the Corner Hotel in Melbourne. It features a cover painted by Mark Monnone, 30 plus songs few special guests and top quality sound. The DVD also contains a short film that follows the band on their run-up to their last shows and final recording session. So if you missed those final shows, or have been a fan but never had the opportunity to see them live, it is your good fortune that the Lucksmiths are not camera shy. So, darling roll the window down, come round if you’re not too busy and get your copy today from Matinée here in the States or Lost and Lonesome in Australia.
I need to take a break from this list making business. What better way to do that than with some mulled wine. Since you can’t download spirits, how about some holiday music? Matinée records down in Southtown (ie. Santa Barbara) have gotten into the festivities. After decorating their coastal live oaks, and hanging their wet suits out to dry they’ve put together a five song holiday ep containing original Christmas songs by the likes of Math and Physics Club, Northern Portrait, Champagne Riot, Bubblegum Lemonade and Strawberry Whiplash. New traditions are always a good thing, so why not try out these brand new holiday songs?
If the eggnog isn’t doing it for you and one mp3 isn’t enough to help you shed the holiday blues, then here are a few extra holiday songs of the cover variety to help you through. Math & Physics Club have offered up their version of Marshmallow World. Up here in Seattle, it hardly ever snows so we have to invent ways of making it a white Christmas by OD’ing on sugar.
Moving a little ways down the coast to Oxnard, Catwalk are busy getting ready for the holidays with their best Alvin and the Chipmunks impersonation. Wonder if there’s a way to play and mp3 at 45 rpm to really make it sound like the Chipmunks?
It seems like nine times out of ten, I end up buying a CD at import prices because I can’t wait, or have doubts that it will ever get released domestically. That is not the case with two excellent new albums that saw the light of day earlier this year over in old Europe. Patience has finally paid off with Cats On Fire and Wake the President making their domestic appearances this week. Is it serendipity or just dumb luck? No matter, we have two stellar west coast indies to thank for this godsend. So if you live in the US and had the restraint or foresight to not buy these at import prices, you are now presented with the perfect opportunity to get two great albums at domestic prices.
I remember during the presidential primaries, the question that Hillary Clinton posed to try and differentiate herself from Barak Obama was: Who do you want to take that 3 o’clock in the morning call? The answer of course is Wake the President. Fronted by twins Bjorn and Eric makes them doubly capable. Portland’s Magic Marker records has provided the fix that all Orange Juice fans need by putting out Glasgow’s Wake the President debut album, You Can’t Change that Boy in the USA. The album was released earlier this year on Electric Honey Records which you may remember as the student label at Stow College in Glasgow that discovered Belle and Sebastian. How’s that for pedigree?
You may think that Cats on Fire is kind of a bad name for a band, but since I don’t speak Finnish I’m giving the benefit of the doubt that there was something lost in translation in the name of this Finnish band. If you are one of those people lamenting the fact that Morrissey has finally gone off the deep end with his worst album ever, then Cats on Fire will be a refreshing breeze on your uncompressed pop sensibilities. Incorporating rockabilly, janlgy guitars and delicate smooth voice of Mattias Björkas, then Cats On Fire are going to be your cup of tea. The first Cats on Fire album, The Province Complains came out on German label Marsh-Marigold and was relegated to import status here in the States. That is no such problem with album number two, Our Temperance Movement. Matinee, will be doing honors of putting out the album at very reasonable price. Cats on Fire will also be at the NYC Popfest in May for the second year in a row, if you are so inclined.
The Lucksmiths are back with their first new album since 2005’s sublime Warmer Corners. It’s not like they’ve been away that long though. Last year they opened the vaults with a career spanning double cd called Spring a Leak that was one of the best stop gap releases in the history of such things. The band even made the trek over here to the states for a tour last fall. So they haven’t exactly been missing in action, but it has been some time since their last album of all new material. The new record which has been christened First Frost was apparently recorded in a run down shack in Tasmania, where they had to fight with mice to get all of the songs recorded. You can read all about their recording adventures down in Tasmania from Marty Donald’s recording diary. Chris Townend, who has worked with Portishead and former label mate Darren Hanlon, is did the honors of producing the album. So what does it sound like? The band have put up a trio of songs from the new record on their MySpace page. The whole thing hits the streets at the end of this month.