What a difference a day makes. Today was a day of positives. Aimless wandering down previously uncharted streets and photographing the usual kind of nonsense is always guaranteed to make me feel better. I found a great peeling billboard and some fantastic old weathered shuttering near Smithfield Market which made me ridiculously happy. Yes, yes, my life is that sad.
Tonight’s show is excellent too and makes my heart leap and skip like a pacemaker on speed. Sure, it isn’t exactly pretty, but it sure is righteous and raucous, and that’s a million times more appealing than tentative and twee. Because I’ve had just about enough of sweet. So the Patty Winters Show have atrocious dress sense, but within the space of a song win me over with their stabbing, Stebbing guitar, rifle crack drum and tube train rumbling and rolling bass. The duotone vocal assault is cool too. What’s more they keep it short and, if not sweet, at least bitter and biting. I even buy their single.
I don’t buy anything by Smokers Die Younger, but when I’m back home I’m going to fire up the Paypal account and snag me their 7” and CD releases on the uberhip Thee Sheffield Phonographic Corporation label. I just hope that the records can do justice to their monstrous live noise. Halfway through their set I’m texting Carrie to tell her I’m watching what looks like a bunch of Year 11 geeks making a shocking hardcore Krautrock meets Black Flag riot of clattering mayhem. That’s really unfair though, because they look more like Year 13’s at least. Or maybe I’ve just reached that point in life where anyone under thirty looks like a kid. You know, that point when you think all the policemen are thirteen. And if you don’t know then ah, you have that delight to look forward to. Just you wait. Anyway, back to the point: Smokers Die Young remind me of the fabulous Uter with overloading amps and a delirious disregard for the volume knob. They make my ears ring and I want to shake their sweaty hands in thanks. Of course I don’t because I’m not, as a rule, a fan of sweaty handshakes and anyway want to stay in my shadowy corner of the room. But theoretically…
Now theoretically, the new Darren Hayman And The Secondary Modern album is a generally relaxed, occasionally spiky, electronically tinged country folk Pop album. Actually, not even theoretically. It kind of just IS. It’s also rather delicious and though some may think this the talk of a heretic, I kind of prefer it to pretty much anything that Hefner ever recorded. Live, however, the songs performed tonight take on a different character. They growl and soar, turn up the volume and roar. They sound magnificent, especially on opener ‘Art and Design’ which makes me crack a smile. Yes! In public! Good job everyone is looking at the stage and therefore doesn’t see it. And ‘Let’s Go Stealing’ is just too tasty for words. I swear to god it sounds like a magical hard/soft Pop gem that takes off for the ceiling and doesn’t stop until it is snogging the galaxies. Lucky galaxies, is all I can say. As for ‘The Pupil Most Likely’, well, on record it is a melancholic haunting of a tune, and if live it loses that soft, sad touch, then there is a knowing nod and wink that replaces it that is almost as delightful. Darren has always been a great writer of observant ‘character’ songs, and this new album has some of his best yet. Of course maybe I just feel a certain extra warmth towards it because many of the songs make reference to schools and teachers, but whatever. I’d actually really love to see Darren in front of a class. He’d be a natural teacher. I can just see him telling a class of Year 10 about the chord that they play in Neighbours when something tragic happens. Learning made entertaining! Result!
Anyway, a rambunctious ‘Pull Yourself Together’ and the rollicking sweetness of ‘Good Fruit’ notwithstanding, I still think that it’s the new songs that are the highlights of the set. And no, I’m not just being the class swot.
Well, maybe just a little.
So it is then that I head out into the sweet September night of Bethnal Green and make my way westwards, ever westwards with a heart that skips with a lighter beat and a head that is focused and true. There are things to make and do. There are ideas and intentions bubbling. Pasts dissolve and reconstruct themselves with a surer resolve. The kids are alright. And so are the grumpy old duffers.
How much do I love The Lodger? I love them a whole lot. I have all their singles and have played them to death. I have their Grown Ups album and for a time there it was easily the most played record of the year. It has been superseded by several others in the past months of course, but that’s just the way of Pop. Doesn’t mean I love it any less than I ever did. Doesn’t mean I have forgotten all about them.
I was really excited about seeing them play a show too. Shame it never happened. Or at least, I’m sure it did happen, and I’m sure that they were every bit as thrilling as they sound like they would be, it’s just that I couldn’t face hanging around to see if the reality meshed with my dream.
Blame it on my infamous grumpiness. Blame it on the weariness of another hard week in school. Blame it on old age and changed priorities. Hell, blame it on Arctic Circle and My Sad Captains if you like.
I don’t know anything about Arctic Circle except that they made me go back to my hotel and set my Facebook status to ‘Alistair is wanting to kill twee indiepop bands’. I couldn’t believe how people were lapping it all up. It sounded to me like a horrible mess of incompetent dullness. Not there is anything wrong with incompetence, it’s just that if you are going to be a bit, you know, ‘shambolic’ then you need to bring something special to the party. And I’m sorry to play to up that increasingly infamous grumpiness, but honestly, after even just a handful of songs I wanted to commit either suicide or genocide.
To make matters worse of course, on these multiple band bills, all the second and third division groups insist on outstaying their welcome. And spend ages setting up their tambourines and fixing their bangs in the mirror. There should be a law against it. Someone should fix a timer switch to the power and set it for fifteen minutes. Twenty at most. If you can’t play a great set in that time, then why are you bothering? Forget those volume limiter things, it’s time limiters that we need.
To be as fair as I feel like being (which isn’t very) My Sad Captains didn’t spend too much time setting up. But I’ve seen them play before and had not been excited on that occasion so wasn’t really expecting much. They didn’t fail to live down to my expectations. They reminded me a little of Velvet Crush, but without the fizz and fuzzy Pop confectionary. In fact, without the velvet. Or the crush.
I think I lasted four songs before growling to myself and wondering what the hell I was doing there. Life’s too short and all that. An earnest young chap near the stage was furiously scribbling into a notebook, and I wonder if he was thinking the same? Probably not. He was probably writing something about a new Indie Pop renaissance or something. And no, I’m not feeling particularly charitable these days. Why should I be? It seems to me that people are setting their sights so low and are too delighted when they hit the targets that are nestling in the grime.
Not that I think The Lodger are guilty of this. I still love them and their records dearly. It’s just, well, you know, one has to be careful of who one hangs around with. Which probably goes a hell of a long way to explaining why I was the lonely fucker standing on his own all night, but since when has the world of Pop been a popularity contest? Oh yeah, it’s always been one. My mistake.
Anyway, I no longer care if being wayward and cynical leaves a lasting impression on anyone’s heart or not.
And actually, as a postscript, here’s a neat story. My Facebook inbox this morning had a nice email from Sarandon, who are currently recording a new album for the legendary (and recently resuscitated) Slumberland label. They sent me a trio of MP3s from the sessions, including what will be the title track of the album, a startling little number called ‘Kill Twee Pop!’. It sounds like Big Flame at the indiepop disco of your dreams. Which means it sounds fucking great. Oh yeah, and Slumberland were responsible for the vinyl release of the Lodger album. So thankfully it’s not just me. Some people do get it. It all fits.
Right, I’m off to make some ‘Kill Twee Pop’ badges. Who wants one?
Attention all you lustrous London socialites! Looks like there’s a cool show to go see on October 12th. Details below. I still can’t quite believe The Sun wrote about Stars of Aviation. Perhaps that’s just some tongue in cheek myth building. It’s not like any of us are going to admit to being Sun readers after all, is it? I do know for a fact, however, that some old duffer at Tangents (ah, remember that?) once said that they were "a sweeping success, conjuring up notions of Galaxie 500 sucking on The Pastels, or The Clientele riding Telstar Ponies into the sunset." And now I can’t believe that The Sun and Tangents have been mentioned in the same context. Hurrah! for post-modern blurring of low-high art thingamajigs.
Enough already! Tell us about the show! Line up: Stars of Aviation + The Just Joans + The Felt Tips play Twee as F**k vs Uberstompf night at the Macbeth.
Address: The Macbeth, 70 Hoxton Street N1.
Date: Friday 12th October 2007
Price: £6 on the door, £5 with flyer or concessions, or online. Tickets can be bought online at: http://www.wegottickets.com/event/21984
Description: From Brighton, and featuring up to nine members, including bassoon, trumpet, accordion and keyboards, Stars of Aviation play indiepop music which is melancholic, orchestral and exhuberant in turn. 2006 French-language single, Marie et l'accordeon, was met with widespread acclaim and described by The Sun as "stylish and beguiling". This is their second headline show in London this year, following the a sell-out audience at the Buffalo Bar in May. Support comes from The Just Joans and The Felt Tips, two shining lights from Glasgow's indiepop scene.
Yes, yes, this is all very old news, but gosh, how good are those first Silver Apples albums? I remember the fuss about their rediscovery that blossomed out of the whole Post Rock / Wire magazine hipsters scene back in the ‘90s but to be honest that froth of interest only made me more determined not to listen to them. So how much of an idiot was I then? Pretty damn big, but meh. And anyway, I’m actually kind of pleased I had not bothered then because it’s giving me the delight now.
And it’s all thanks to Jeffrey Lewis. I was playing his records last night again, and in particular spinning that awesome ten minute ‘history of US punk’ track. I remember a few years ago I was making mixes that kicked off with that cut, and then proceeded to follow it with just about all the songs that he name-checks and plays segments from. Somehow though even then I didn’t bother to investigate ‘Oscillations’. I am at much more of a loss to explain that particular lapse in attention though, for at the time the hipsters fuss about Silver Apples had abated somewhat, and Lewis’ take on the song made it sound like some scary acoustic guitar led space-rock Joy Division moment. Of course the original sounds very different, but somehow also the same. Pretty bloody marvellous anyway…
So I’ve been working most of today whilst listening to those late ‘60s recordings and loving every moment. Go Silver Apples!
On the subject of Jeffrey Lewis, I read somewhere in a list of upcoming shows that he was playing in Falmouth on October 19th. And then I read another list of tour dates, and the Falmouth slot was conspicuous by its absence. I’ve got my fingers crossed that he really IS venturing that far down into the South West, as it would be a rather fine start to the half term holiday. Otherwise, a quick trip to Brighton might be in order…