singles by choice
(albums when it's necessary)
7 August 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

Let’s talk about David Bowie. Since his death there has been an astonishing amount of, frankly. bollocks written about him. Everyone fighting and shouting over each other to let everyone know how cool they were because they had a copy of “Ziggy” at school, and how totally not trans-phobic they must be because they were always so down with “The Dame”’s “androgynous sexuality”. All you fifty-year old ex-NME staffers and full-time talking-heads, when you heard all those boring old farts banging on interminably about the sixties (man) did you not swear to yourself that you would not, ever, turn into them? I did. And, so far, I haven’t.

When Bowie was alive I always thought too much was made of the characters, and far too much made of the supposed concept albums. Let’s be honest, the concept of Ziggy Stardust is pretty loose, starting off with some vague end-of-the-world idea that never gets mentioned again, then having two or three songs which presumably refer to the titular Ziggy, and four or five which don’t. Diamond Dogs is sketchier yet, with hardly any references to its supposed theme. Great records, but I’d say they have loose lyrical motifs at best, not a full-blown concept tying every track together. The “Berlin Trilogy” is similarly overstated as a coherent entity: Low and Heroes are kind of the same, but Lodger is nothing like them or to do with them, linked only by its geography. This still puts them on far firmer conceptual ground than Sergeant Pepper which, so far as I can tell has a cover which may be something to do with one of the songs. And is rubbish. (The record, not the cover.)

Luke Haines on the other hand, follows through on his concepts. All the songs on the Baader Meinhof LP are about Baader-Meinhoff. All the songs on New York in the 70s are about New York in the 1970s. All the songs on Rock and Roll Animals are actually about rock and roll animals for crying out loud.

Most of the songs on British Nuclear Bunkers aren’t technically about anything, because they don’t have words. (All of side one is instrumental but for a BBC announcer implying we are likely to die.) But you don’t need words. You get the point. 80s FM synths, stark, foreboding, depressing. If Belbury Poly and the Ghost Box roster make us nostalgic for a time that didn’t exist, Luke Haines is reminding us of a time that did, and of a threat still living. Electronic screams. Vocoders sound like men in radiation suits. The theme is stark, relentless, and hopeless.

I grew up in the 80s. An anxious child who grew into an anxious man. This is terrifying.

4

It might be a bit strong to say I want to get this out of the way, but I’m not particularly in the mood for experimental noise tonight. Thing is though, I have to listen to it, because the rule in our house is that no seven-inch record goes on the shelf until it’s been properly listened to. (With larger records it’s more of a policy, but I still try to stick to it.) This little bugger has been sitting quietly in the corner for far too long. It needs to go on the shelf, and before that it needs to go on the Acutus. I bought this because it’s on Box Bedroom Rebels, which is as close as you’re going to get to a guarantee of quality. Relax. Everything’s going to be fine.

The record’s two tracks (which I think are two halves of one whole, split across sides like they always have to do with Steve Reich pieces) are more musical and less abstract than I expected. This is not the random Metal Machine Music approach to noise, but something far more sophisticated and far more rewarding. This stuff does not happen by accident. Scraping rhythmic wheels of Glider’s ilk give way to heavenly tinkles, then we drone. No instruments, just droning noise, birdsong, bubbles. Crashing – what?s –. Tension. Your imagination goes crazy processing all these cues.

Though it lacks instruments, melody, sustained rhythm. or even a scale, what Yeah Yeah Yeah Industrial do is still, inarguably, music. Sound which creates emotion. Further, there is structure, something formal underpins all of what happens here. Really, very excellent. There’s a CD with one 78 minute track, but I am so hipster I don’t have a CD player. On Saturday I ordered a Colombian pour-over with barely a flinch. I disgust myself sometimes.

4

Speaking, as we were, of Box Bedroom Rebels, they recently released an EP by Lost Tapes, called Lost Tapes EP. Not to be confused with this single by Lost Tapes, called Lost Tapes.

Here, the band don’t recapture the magic of the BBR release, but still turn out a couple of nice ’80s-without-the-bombast echoey poppish numbers.

4

Coming on all like a folkish take on Elephant 6, this is irresistibly nice music which could have been made by any number of shambling no-hopers at any time since the late 1960s. It sounds like about a million things, and it matters not at all, because it’s catchy as hell and so damn likeable. Side b is a more deliberately difficult, mantra-like affair about getting a ladder. When you get it, can you do the blind at the top of our stairs?

3

On Moshi-Moshi, so we can be pretty confident where to file this one. This particular off-centre indiepopper shows it’s different from everyone else by having two people sing in slightly silly voices, one high and distant, the other low and right in your ear. (I have on headphones.) And also by being way too long. Side b is short. Not offensive by any means but, sadly, not particularly good either.

2

Joanna Gruesome’s name must have seemed pretty funny at first, and now they’re stuck with it. Like all those kids called “Albie” or “Millie” or “Charlie” which suit a baby or toddler but not an adult, or stroppy teenager. Then there’s Talulah Does the Hula from Hawaii, which is the best name for anyone, of any age, ever. But we’re getting off-topic. That’s usually good: it means I’m in one of my “up” moods, which I enjoy a lot more than my “down” ones.

The last Joanna Gruesome album was a little bit lost on me (though I heard some of it walking back from life drawing today and thought I should give the whole thing another go), and this sounds a bit more like they used to sound. They have that happy knack of sounding like a whole bunch of other bands, but always being identifiably themselves.

On Fortuna POP!, which I hear nothing ever will be again. Very sad. Go and find me a label that’s released less duffers than Fortuna POP! and I will show you a very good label indeed.

It’s particularly nice that there are proper sleeve notes explaining the songs, and that not only is the sleeve artist credited, but the source of the sleeve artist’s work gets a credit too. Class. And a belting single.

4

Not to be confused with The Jessica Fletchers: there’s clearly something about Murder, She Wrote that resonates with indie-popsters. (But not with me. Columbo to Murder She Wrote is a bigger fall than The Stone Roses to Second Coming.) I haven’t listened to The Jessica Fletchers in a good while, and I don’t think Jessica and the Fletchers have either, because they’ve been spending all their time listening to Talulah Gosh. But there’s nothing wrong with that, I’ve done it myself. They cover further staple indiepop bases by also sounding a bit like the more up-tempo moments of the Aislers Set, and, if you accidentally play it at 33rpm, Darklands-era Jesus and Mary Chain.

A lot happens in the five-or-so minutes covered by these two tracks, and it’s a lot of fun. Yes, you’ve heard it all countless times before, but you enjoyed it countless times, and you’ll enjoy this too.

All the sleeve art, including the double-sided lyric card, is a combination of jarring blue and pink that makes everything hard to read. That deliberate perversity gives them the final nudge up to a …

5

Buzzcocks are one of those bands where I’m quite unashamed to say I only like the hits. Orgasm Addict is a masterpiece, but I don’t need the other eleven on the album that sound like the prep sketches for it. Michelangelo burnt his prep work so people would think he was a genius who made that stuff up as he went along and got everything right first time. What a guy.

Boyracer, well, you probably know Boyracer. It’s the sound of the indie disco. The good one, that plays Tracey Ullman and Mousefolk, then plays Hard Skin and people get the joke, not the one where it’s Step On, Sit Down and Size of a Cow every night. Boy-girl clattering, stamping, slightly ramshackle, catchy as heck, fun fun fun, but with plenty of dry lyrical edge to stop things getting safe and sweet.

4

“You’ve started dressing age inappropriately / Which is fine by me” is an excellent way to open a song, but it’s not even the best thing about Sweetheart I Can Tell: that’s the bass sound. The “my record is skipping” acoustic guitar solo is pretty great too. And there are three other top class tunes here to enjoy.

Classic sounding bittersweet indiepop, which I can’t help but feel won’t get the attention it deserves, in my house at least. There are about three thousand seven-inch singles in here, and it’s going to go in among them, in among the unsorted “C”s, with Crabstick, Cactopus, and Council Flats of Kinsbury, and it might or it might not get pulled out and played at some future time. Likely I’ll see it whilst flicking through looking for something else and think “oh, that’s a good one”, or maybe even pull it out and sit it on top of a speaker with a dozen others that all don’t get played, despite best intentions.

Girl sings one side, boy sings the other, abrasive, thoughtful, just very slightly oddball. Get it. Listen to it more than I probably will, because it deserves someone to.

3