singles by choice
(albums when it's necessary)
10 January 2016
(listening with headphones)Avid Acutus
Funk F·XRII
Linn Kilmax DS (Renew)
TEAD Mastergroove
TEAD Vibe 1.5 / Pulse 2
Lehmann Black Cube Linear
Sennheiser HD800

For the last couple of months we’ve had the builders in, and the whole stereo has been packed up in boxes. This has, of course, not stopped me buying records.

Now I find myself faced with an intimidating pile of vinyl dating back to probably October. The first batch is a load of 90s crap I picked up cheap somewhere.

I used to like these back in the day. I think they were on Wurlitzer Jukebox, which was a great label. Or possibly they were on Kranky, or Earworm. I don’t know, but it was something like that. They made very repetitive, dreamy, gorgeous sounding, accessible droney type stuff, of which this is a fine example.

This record, according to the sleeve, has two proper ARPs on it. Wow. Imagine having those in the house. Getting married and growing up has, I know, saved me from filling my house with vintage electronics and a clinically insane amount of hi-fi. There are so many things for which I must (and do) thank my wife, and not having a busted Fairlight in the spare room should go on the list.

I have a feeling that Mahogany had to change their name by adding an extra ‘n’, though that could have been a different band. Was there also a similar sounding band called ‘Mahogony’ or some other mis-spelling. I don’t know now. My memory’s not as good as it used to be. Or maybe it is. I can’t remember exactly how good it used to be.

I’m not certain I listened to this at the right speed. I did ‘A’ at 33 and ‘B’ at 45. Who knows.

4

This is a proper blast from the past. I briefly ran into Stump for the first time in about thirty years when I bought that C86 reissue, remake, reboot thing. In common with all other reissue, remake, reboot things, I regret buying it. Never go back, that’s what I always say, though apparently, these days, I say it more but mean it less. Camper van Beethoven said it too, but they probably meant it. That said, I probably meant it when I was their age. The age they were when they said it, not now. They’re older than me. “Lights, Camel, Action!” says the sleeve. (And, if I recall correctly, the singer: I haven’t played it yet.) God preserve us from “wacky” music.

Here we go. Yes, I had this on a tape when I was about 12. It’s an odd one alright. That weird frog noise thing, which they probably had to do with a proper tape loop, that brittle country-ish guitar, and that pleasing ascending/descending chord sequence. Haven’t heard the word “bonk” in a while, which is definitely good. That said, people say “sleep with” now, which means there’s no way to say “slept with” without everyone inferring sex, and mostly when people say someone “slept with” someone, no sleep was involved. He slept with her by the bins in Lidl car park after shift change. Tracey Emin’s tent: everyone I slept with. So her parents, siblings; what made it meaningful. That’s the problem with language “evolving” the “evolution” is generally driven by of idiots who don’t know how to use language. The rest of us realize it’s fine as it is, we just need the odd new noun.

3

The last time I heard a Welsh band doing something about suicide it was Goldie Lookin Chain telling me they wouldn’t fall off a roof “like the flid Rod Hull”. GLC are, of course, bad, which makes them, if you can quantify such a thing, at least fifteen or twenty times better than “the Manics”. I’ve only ever seen that one episode of M*A*S*H with the woman keeping the chicken quiet. I haven’t even seen the film.

But we aren’t here for “the Manics” are we (whose interpretation is as dull and pompous as you’d expect), but for Fatima Mansions. Born from the ashes of Microdisney, who famously covered the theme tune from Sons and Daughters, and partial progenitors of Bubonique (Theme from “Chicken Arse”), they were an odd bunch who perhaps didn’t get the attention or acclaim they might have, had they played it a little bit straighter.

Hilariously, wilfully difficult and obtuse, they here reinterpret lousy old Bryan (Brian? who cares) Adams’ borefest as some kind of dubby trip-hop pastiche with a nonsensical abstract jazz breakdown, a couple of porn samples and not so oblique references to wanking on the bus.

2

Affiliated, in the eyes of many observers, at least, with Stump, HMHB were a far smarter, classier outfit, even though they did occasionally sail a bit too close to the wacky wind. The completist Satan sitting on my shoulder made me buy this (for a matter of pence) because I only had it on 12”.

I had a bit of Subbuteo stuff myself. I had Wednesday, obviously, England, and Brazil. Kids always like Brazil, because they don’t have sufficient independent thought yet to make up their own mind. Many people never develop that skill, and will always support Brazil. I think my goalies all got trodden on, but it didn’t really matter, because Subbuteo was rubbish, so I didn’t often want to play it. Test Match FTW.

HMHB sounded very angry back in ‘86. But, as I remember it, your options were getting all unnecessary about “Thatcher” or rolling your jacket sleeves up and getting down Club Tropicana. There was no middle ground.

Not two of my favourite HMHB tracks on here, but right enough. I don’t often listen to the very early stuff, preferring the This Leaden Pall to Four Lads era (with the exception of Godcore, which I’ve never got on with.) Don’t like much really, do I? But what I do love, I love passionately.

3

I’m not sure what the titles are here, but we have seven songs. You always got value for money from Damaged Goods, even if you didn’t get much else.

I think I saw Phantom Pregnancies a couple of times. I loved all that shit. That trashy, fuzzy, shouting girls stuff. I wanted to love proper US Riot Grrrrl, with girls to the front, and worthy sexual politics, but a lot of the music didn’t do much for me. (I still don’t get Sleater Kinney. At all.) However, the rougher, shoutier, (generally) less politically and ideologically charged English stuff was right up my alley. It was more fun, and more enthusiastic, even if there was the odd bloke knocking about. (Never did Huggy Bear any harm.) Sometimes, it felt like the gender line-up of the band was the most important thing, and as someone who, I think and hope, really doesn’t care at all about a person’s sex or sexuality, that wasn’t important to me. Music for the sake of music. Also, I love trashy noise and enthusiastic shouting.

Rent Boy Assassin want to see Michael Heseltine dead in a colliery. Little bit of politics ladies and gentlemen, yes indeed. So, unsurprisingly the lyrical content of their stuff hasn’t aged all that well. It’s not cool to wish anyone dead, okay kids? I have no idea what the Phantom Pregnancies want, I was too excited by the noise they made, and much of their diction isn’t the clearest.

Rent Boy Assassin had a great name, and made the most of it by doing the Ramones thing of calling themselves after the band. So we have Rent Boy Mick, Rent Boy Stephen M, and Rent Boy You What? performing for our pleasure. I bet they’ve all got kids and proper jobs now, probably in IT, or NHS middle-management. Of course, the best way to bring down any system is from the inside, yeah? You can probably stop worrying about Michael Heseltine now. Tick him off your list.

3

A bit of early 90s low-countries indie from an underrated, presumably mostly forgotten band. The a-side is a lovely, hooky song you could easily imagine Taylor Swift doing. (Sorry, it’s been Taylor Swift All-Day Sunday on one of the music channels today and I’ve probably had too much.)

On the b-side we get a Television Personalities cover (another band I’ve never quite got in the way a lot of people seem to) and it’s all fairly middling. The ‘A’ is excellent though.

Enough old stuff already. The rest of the page is new-fangled modernity.

3

Okay, not, perhaps that modern. The Aislers Set belong to the era of most of the records above, but this one apparently dates from 2009. It’s on Emotional Response, which is a great “collectors” label. Purple vinyl, inserts, no middle, full-strength indie, you know the score. The Aislers track is Amy singing and strumming, and some herbert going away at a banjo. The flip has Amy again, with Stewart Anderson (from out of, well, everybody really) in full band mode, with a big, fat, fuzzy bass, and lots of “la-la”ing. Yes!

The insert tells me that Emotional Response are putting out a – are you ready for this? – tribute to Crabstick! I know! I can’t cope either! That’s the sort of thing that truly gladdens my heart.

Cracking record, but it all seems a bit insignificant now I know there’s a Crabstick tribute album on the way.

5

More Emotional Response. Green vinyl, no middle, inserts, but backwards groove, so the needle drops in the middle and finishes at the circumference, like a Keith Monks or Loricraft cleaner. More fuzz bass. Lovely.

Enemy Anemone has Jen Turrel, who a sticker on the front tells us was in Boyracer, but then, who wasn’t? Cougar Vox are described as “Slits inspired”. Now, that’s a fine place to take inspiration, but the two songs they have here are good enough to not need any forty-year-old comparisons to sell them. But, if we’re doing comparisons, Enemy Anemone sound for all the world like Girls at Our Best. If you want a great record, get their album. Or get this one. It’s great too.

5

A reference to Lucifer Over Lancashire? To Sonic Youth’s record label? Neither? Neither, it seems. Holly has, as usual, a bloody great guitar sound, and they’re working that proggy angle that’s been developing in the last few records. Like Magic Onion, parts of it really, really, remind me of something, but I don’t know what. I think something I heard in the 70s as a child, and haven’t heard since.

The record is supposed to look like a fried egg, but the white on the label doesn’t match the white of the vinyl. DJ Scotch Egg did the record that looks like an egg thing years ago, and he did it better.

When you cook a fried egg, cook it in butter, baste it, and cook it slowly, at a low temperature. It will redefine your expectations and possibly change your life, depending on how bad your life is right now.

2

Too late for Christmas Spacker 2015, but a very early candidate for 2016, a festively red split seven. Menace Beach (bad name) have an original composition with a very loud guitar (the sustain, listen to it).

Cowtown do the truly awful Paul McCartney song, and it sounds just like the original. Why? You know how, that, like, Heston Blumenthal, yeah, well he might make something that looks like a dog turd, but actually it tastes of delicious salted caramel? Well, doing this song like the original is kind of like that, except that the dog turd actually tastes of dog turd. Okay, it’s not as bad as the original, but it’s very much like it. Still, could have been worse. They could have done Hey Jude.

Pro tip: when covering a song, choose one that’s not irredeemably bad.

2

The “up-to-date” thing’s not going as well as I hoped. Back to 2008 now, red vinyl, on Enraptured, 33rpm. I didn’t realize they’d been going as long as this. The first Eat Lights song I ever heard was Bound for Magic Mountain. It blew me away, and I still think it’s the best thing they’ve (he’s?) done by a mile. This is good though. All guitar and real drums, but with Neu!-ish (Neu!vian?), Hawkwindy elements that make it sound very backward looking, but also forward looking, if that makes sense. Which, reading it back, I realize doesn’t. To continue the 70s theme, I’m listening to this on vinyl, through massive headphones, sitting on a beanbag.

4

More of the above but harder, more repetitive, not as well pressed, and on purple vinyl. Sound.

3

Hinds used to be Deers, who made two absolutely cracking singles which now, by the look of it, command a King’s ransom. There’s quite a lot of buzz about them in the mainstream press at the moment, so I guess they’re all over. No idea who Parrots are. I hate parrots. They creep me out, with their black tongues, power of speech and, for a bird, virtual immortality. They’re wrong. Just wrong. Parrots are the kind of thing that might make me believe in The Devil.

These Parrots (, The) tear into some garage rock, and they don’t half give it some. Good fun, but a bit generic. Hinds do a pleasantly sloppy take on the Headcoatees, er, classic. Whereas Cowtown were never going to satisfactorily polish the turd they chose further up the page, Hinds have taken on a finely cut gem, and though they do it just fine, their contribution to the canon seems a bit superfluous.

3

A reissue from 1979. I’ve never heard of the band or the song before. It has an old-fashioned futuristic feel, and I could imagine the degenerates in Total Recall dancing to it. The lyrics point out that you’ll never change the past, which reminds me of my favourite bit in Beavis and Butthead. They’re watching (I think) the video for Karma Chameleon, and mistake its Showboat setting for the some kind of science-fiction dystopia. Beavis remarks that “the future sucks, change it!”. Butthead sagely replies “I’m way cool Beavis, but I cannot change the future”.

B-side makes me think of John Carpenter doing a Christmas song. John Carpenter should definitely do a Christmas song.

2

I have no idea what this is, but I liked the sleeve. It’s a bit Julian House, though obviously not quite as good. You know, that sort of 70s industrial packaging vibe. The a-side bears no Trace (pun intended) of any Primitives I know, but sounds more like an original song, perhaps one by Flowchart. The b-side has original elements in it: a bit of guitar at the beginning, and Tracey (I presume) singing.

I thoroughly enjoyed that, and may have to invest in the rest of the Reworked By series. I’m a sucker for a 7” series, which conveniently brings us to:

4

The final instalments of the slightly underwhelming Polyvinyl Singles Club box set thing. Red colours of vinyl this time, and all the usual grumbles about it being hard to get the records in and out of the sleeves still apply, though they’re not quite so tight as the first few were.

I don’t get on too well with Mr Bazan’s voice or delivery: I bet he has a beard, and he sounds like he takes himself a bit seriously. The a-side was pretty boring, but the B is much more enjoyable. It sounds like a demo, but that’s kind of the point of this series.

3

Kishi Bashi get, or gets, (I don’t know if it’s a person or a band, sorry) a lovely fiery orange coloured vinyl. A-side is some kind of baroque pop thing with (sampled) strings. B-side has that slightly out-of tune, twangy steel strung guitar that they all have these days. I’m starting to think it’s one step up from the bloody ukulele. There’s a screechy violin (always good) and it’s all the kind of folky Americana that The Great Pop Supplement was so keen on a few years ago.

Back when this series started, around a year ago, I complained that the sleeves would not tile together to make the picture on the front of the box. Well, with this final instalment we get a big poster which is made up from all the individual record sleeves! Hooray!

3

Last one. Come on Blikk Fang, make it a good one.

Okay, someone likes Gary Numan. Unfortunately, it’s not me. Hang on, is this Kevin Barnes? It doesn’t half sound like him. Yes, it definitely is. “I’d die for you, just not today” says the lyric. Oh yes, Kevin. Oh yes.

I contributed to the Kickstarter which resulted in The Past is a Grotesque Animal. Though I enjoyed the film, I regret watching it, because it demystified an artist I admired, into a person who, frankly, I didn’t. I had a similar experience with the Slint documentary (and yes, I dropped the big money on the box set). Now I’m at that age where the musicians who were important to me at the time in a person’s life when music is most important, are all writing books, or worse, releasing box-sets, or worst of all, reforming, I face a fork in the road. The decision is easy, but it seems I lack the willpower to make it.

4

It wouldn’t be singles night without a couple of Great Pop Supplements. White vinyl, copious sleeve notes, and one of the label’s most dependable recurring characters.

We get a largely instrumental noodling, driving piece which sounds like a long unresolved introduction, and also like it’s playing at the wrong speed. It’s great. MV is an excellent guitar player. On the ‘B’ he gets the acoustic out but, wait, don’t run away, because what he plays is very much worth hearing. Simple, clean, concise music.

4

Proper old-skool GPS now: 6-inch lathe-cut polycarbonate in a cloth bag; sleeve notes printed on clear plastic; and original print on impossibly delicate tissue paper; and bits of a torn-up watercolour. Woodcraft Folk (I only found out the other day where they got their name, quite by chance) make the odd folky nonsense which made me stop buying the label in the first place, a mistake for which I am now, literally, paying. Movement’s piece flows, quite hypnotically. This is the best sounding lathe-cut job I’ve heard.

3

Creation-ish indie pop. Trying too hard to tick all the boxes. That thick vinyl that I don’t like. I think the sleeve is 3D, but I don’t have any glasses.

2

Clear vinyl, clear sleeve (they tell you to remove the sticker with the band’s name on). Said vinyl has what looks like the insides of a party popper embedded in it. A side is meandering repetition, AA side is a bit “quirky”, which is never good, and has whistling on it, which is appalling.

Things I never want to hear on a record: whistling, a ukulele, a saxophone, a “gravel voice”, that autotune thing where it sort of snaps to the note, wackiness.

1

Tim Gane from out of off of Stereolab doing his new thing, on the Ghost Box Other Voices series. You can tell it’s him. It has Stereolabby sounds, and that Stereolab chord change (obviously limited to the era when they actually changed chord mid-song). The first side is mellow and laid back, the second is driving and optimistic.

Sleeve art is the same as the rest of the series, so great. This one uses a red palette because they’re all the same but different.

4

Still on Other Voices. Side one is plinky-plonky percussion which somehow makes me think of Carry on Up the Jungle. Tonka, Tonka, stick it up your honker. Valerie Leon. It may just be the band name and the title.

Side two, Golden Green, is fortunately not a Wonder Stuff cover. It keeps the same peculiar rhythms as side one,, but puts a jazzy walking bass and a flute over the top. Things come, and go, and build, and layer. I have absolutely no idea what you would call this, and I lack the energy to even try describing it. Get yourself a copy, and let me know what it is.

4

Amityville? Alas there’s no more reference to Lovebug Starski than ToiToiToi made to the Wonder Stuff.

Back on GPS, but no coloured vinyl, no inserts, no nothing really. The Hanging Stars have a style to their sleeve art, which is commendable, and looks lovely, but I don’t think it suits their music. You expect gothic American folk, but you get an English take on 60s west-coast psych, sometimes veering into country. They sound quite like The SeeSee, sometimes a bit like The Essex Green, who I miss terribly. They have good songs, three of which are here. They have an album coming out soon I think, and I’m looking forward to it.

3

Here, as Finbarr Saunders would say, is a nice package. We get a folded/bagged sleeve (still the only proper way to release a 7” single); seven songs (@33rpm); a lyric sheet; and a sealed envelope containing a download code (Bandcamp, so you can get proper FLACs), a sticker, a kind of press-release type sheet, and a little bag containing Eerie Summer branded hearts (not real ones: the stylized shape) and ghosts (not real ones: there’s no such thing). So clearly, this is effing brilliant regardless of the music. (Did you know “irregardless” is now accepted as a real word? I’ve told you: the idiots always win: there’s more of them.)

But what about that music? I suppose you have to mention Best Coast from when they were good, but Eerie Summer have a gentler, warmer vibe. Their songs are lovely, fuzzy, a bit mysterious, and it’s all done like they mean it. A first-class record and, emphatically, a lovely package. Get yourself some aural pleasure while I go and buy whatever I can find off Box Bedroom Rebels.

5