singles by choice
(albums when it's necessary)
29 December 2017
(listening with headphones)Avid Acutus
Funk F·XRII
Benz Micro LP-S
Linn Kilmax DS (Renew)
TEAD Mastergroove Mk 2
TEAD Vibe Phoenix / Pulse 2
Luxman P-1u
Sennheiser HD800

Every year Christmas Spacker gets worse. Or, really, it gets more average. I’ve used up all the best Christmas songs, and all the very worst Christmas songs. So I’m constantly on the lookout for anything Christmassy and interesting. The next Porky Pig Singing Blue Christmas could be just around the corner.

So, a single by a politically correct, ideologically charged socialist Oi! band is obviously going to get bought. It’s red (natch), and it sounds more-or-less like every other Oi! song you ever heard. I don’t know how many that might be. You might be like me, and only know the “ironic” stuff like Oizone and Hard Skin, or you might be some Skrewdriver-loving piece of shit. You just never know these days do you.

3

As above, so below. Indie band with pun name does red vinyl Christmas 7”. The ‘a’ is weirdly lumpy and disjointed. None of the parts fit with any of the other parts, and not in a good way. It seems all out of time, but it isn’t, and it seems far too long, which it is. The ‘b’ is a harmonium dirge cover of I’ll be Home for Christmas. I want to like this: it ticks a lot of boxes, but I just didn’t. I didn’t like it at all.

1

White vinyl now, as is customary for the Snowflake series. As also is customary, an original on the ‘a’ and a cover on the ‘b’. This time the pun gets moved to the title.

The title track is full, echoey, melodic, and Christmassy beyond its lyrics.

The ‘b’ is a cover of You Trashed my Christmas, sounding rather like the original, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

4

I don’t like business all that much. I’m not the biggest commerce fan, and I pretty much blame the internet for everything that’s wrong with the world, so I’m probably not going to like this.

Pjaro’s first song is called Foie Gras. This is something I like very much, which means a lot people will automatically hate me. But they almost certainly aren’t the sort of people I’d want to like me, so that’s fine. Being anti foie gras is like hating Donald Trump (who definitely likes business, commerce, and the internet). It’s an obvious, simple way to loudly proclaim your virtue. Do a quick tweet about how you hate Trump because he’s so racist (we all know that’s just you saying you’re not), leave a 1-star review for Fortnum and Mason on Trip Advisor with something about foie gras pasted from Wikipedia. Which you use all the time but never donate to. You’re an idiot.

The sleeve to this record has Leonardo’s Last Supper pastiched with Jesus in a pinstripe suit. Like virtually all protest art, it’s comically obvious. Mid-level Banksy.

One of these bands is more angry, the other is more indie. The latter, I prefer. I’m not sure which is which. I don’t think I’m going to like anything tonight. I feel like I’m getting depressed.

On a more positive note, it could also be that pretty much everything tonight came from a clearance sale, so may well be objectively crap.

2

Okay. This is more like it.

Side a gradually gets faster and faster, and the lyrics are “Shut the f–k up and f–k me you f–kin’ f–ker”, over and over again, until we get the sound of exaggerated porno sex moaning. Then some people sing “me saw me mamma” over and over again before it goes weirdly techno, then delta blues, with a banjo, then it finishes.

Then it all goes horribly wrong. The less said about the other side, the better. It’s actually much, much worse than the title makes it sound.

On Dual Plover, who should be deeply ashamed of themselves.

3

Maybe Dual Plover has got me in an antipodean frame of mind, but this sounds like Down Under had a baby with Need You Tonight. It also sounds a bit like Talking Heads, but that didn’t fit. Talking Heads are apposite though, as this is apparently the band of the bass player from out of off of The Strokes. (Obligatory “Are they still going?”) Very ’80s, anyway. Notice how I know where to put the apostrophe in ’80s? I also know how to pronounce the letter “H”. Together, today, these things make me a genuine intellectual.

3

I don’t like going on holiday. I like not being at work, but I prefer to do it at home. My wife says this makes me weird, but my therapist says it is quite normal. But I’m paying him, so he probably says what he thinks I want to hear.

This is a willfully “odd” record which reminds of the Dodos or the Dierdries, or possibly some other band beginning with ‘D’. Or maybe it’s another inch along the shelf and it’s the Envelopes. Reminds me of something though, and it’s okay. It’s plinky-plonky.

2

Remember when bands were all called The Something-that-doesn’t-go-with-“The”? Like “The Twang” or “The Music” or “The 1973”? (Feel free to insert expletive of your choice in the middle of any or all of those names). Had this band been called “The Marvin”, I would not have bought their record.

Said record is loud, tight, and angry, and surprisingly hooky given most of it is screamed. I bet they are fantastic live, even though all gigs these days are shit, because of the internet.

3

I don’t know who the heck Arborist is/are, but I sure know Kim Deal, which is obviously how this got through the door. We get a lovely country duet on which you can hardly hear Kim Deal. But she’s given it the thumbs up at least, so it’s got to be good, right? And it is, for sure. It has clicky woodblocks and a laconic fiddle, both of which make anything good.

The ‘b’ is sans-Kim, and sans-most-other-things. Just a guitar, a voice, and a lot of feeling. A very good record, but for some reason I can’t put my finger on, not quite special enough to be a ‘5’.

4

Hey, all you “Caitlin”s and “Caitlyns” and however else you think you might spell it. You’re called “Kathleen”. News, eh? My Mum’s called “Kathleen”, and she hates it. It’s just about acceptable when said with with an Irish accent, but not without. It’s worth noting that if Kathleen wishes to prolong the life of her favourite chair, she absolutely should not sit on the arm.

Hooton Tennis Club have a name that makes you want to punch them, their sleeve is almost wacky, and two of them have beards. It’s not looking good, is it? But god-damn it, if the ‘a’ isn’t a bit of a solid, up-market indiepop cracker. Perhaps slightly Loft-ish, if you need a reference point. Actually, no, it’s not. I don’t know why I said that. The ‘b’ goes on a bit, but is quite engaging. They have an excellent sound.

4

Earlier I saw Live from the Apollo. It was strange. I felt a bit like David Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth: an observer of something totally alien. I could, on a simple intellectual level, understand what was being said and done, but the interpretation and cultural meaning of it was absolutely unrelatable. Why are those people reacting in that way to what that man says? Why do those observations on Brexit produce laughter? Who are these strange creatures? Is comedy nothing more than relating your school-run whilst heavy-handedly endorsing multiculturalism and gender fluidity?

I don’t know what The Midnight Swim is, other than that it’s a film, and I only know that because it says so on the sleeve of this record. Going on the two songs here, The Midnight Swim has good music. Ellen Reid’s track, particularly. Rumbling running water, slow breathing, and distant tones make something claustrophobic and mystical. It has moments of beauty, and of panic, and it’s quite something. The other side is excellent too, and less obviously “filmic”. Even without the context of the film, I can relate to this. Terrific music.

4

The sleeve says the “first track sounds like a dark twisted fantasy about carnival in some cheap tropical spa. The other one will reach your guts and throw them upside down”. Self-reviewing music. Very meta.

The first one isn’t very carnival-y to me. Broadcast and Pram have ploughed the haunted carnival furrow much deeper. This is more like a shop full of clocks, with a couple of very old telephones joining in from the back room. It tips its hat to records, tapes, radio, and all that good stuff. Not just shitty computers and the stupid f–king internet. The ‘b’ is a kind of a watered-down V/Vm. It’s an experimental sound collage, but I didn’t find it all that interesting. The sleeve suggests playing at 33 even though it’s a 45. I tried it, and it wasn’t as good.

There’s a proper painting on the front, with the artist credited on the back. He’s called Tomasz Kowalski. I keep toying with the idea of changing my painting name to something Eastern European sounding, because it seems to be a prerequisite these days. They’ve put the opening of the sleeve on the wrong side (or more likely printed the front on the back and vice-versa) which is pleasingly perverse.

3

This reminds me of lots of things. Young Mark E Smith with an acoustic guitar. An English Jeffrey Lewis, A less novelty Mindless Drug Hoover. A semi-melodic John Cooper Clarke. An urban Harry Burns. It’s quite good. He’s right about the self-congratulatory telephone conversations. And he’s right they won’t let you on the next one. I detest mobile phones more than anything else in the world. Mainly it’s the cameras, but it’s everything else too. And he’s right about putting a suit on too. I love wearing a suit. Like Elaine said in Seinfeld, a suit on a man is like lingerie on a woman, but you can wear it outside. Or something.

I liked this record, but I agreed with too much of it, and it’s generally depressing, and I’m not sure it’s good for me in my present state of mind. I might put a bit of Steps on, get me moving and cheer me up a bit.

3

Steps will have to wait, because this is the latest Box Bedroom Rebels record, and that demands my full attention.

Judging by the packaging, things are going to get a bit My Bloody Valentine. The title of the EP, obviously, and shoegazey song names like Honey, Torch and Auburn. No girl’s name title though, which is the shoegaze touchstone. There’s a photo of a Jaguar or Jazzmaster or whatever it is, too. This time the BBR sealed envelope contains beautiful postcards. Damn, I love this label.

Judging by what it actually sounds like, it’s not very Valentines at all. Book, cover, etc. I never learn. No one does. The record is bloody great though. Dreampop, the inner says, and though I’ve never been quite clear on exactly what that is, it seems as good a description as any. There are Cocteau-ish guitar sounds, chorus pedals, murmuring, and floatiness, but tempered with a lo-fi grounding, like the way good sweet wine has acidity. I’m getting pretentious in my middle age. Or, as I think Alain de Botton once put it, more of a pillock.

The insert explains that Movie Brain is a one-man band, and it also beautifully articulates how important this music and this record are to that one man. You don’t need telling though, because every track has the feel of being put together with painstaking obsession. It doesn’t matter if something is recorded on a phone or a 48-track, you can always tell whether or not they mean it. Your Movie Brain man, he means it. This a terrific record, and it’s got enough about it that it’s going to get better the more you listen.

4