I was listening to the thoroughly marvellous ‘Blue and Green and Tangerine’ set by The Onlookers this week. The Modernists amongst you will have been way ahead of me on this of course, both in picking up on this Detour release and in revering the 1982 ‘You and I’ single. Expect a track from the legendary ‘lost’ Vic Coppersmith-Heaven produced album to be on the next Unpopular mix. It’ll be followed in close sequence by a cut from Whiteout.
Now I don’t know what you think of Whiteout. I heard they were big in Japan, but they certainly never seemed to get the respect they deserved in the UK. Perhaps they suffered from being both behind and ahead of the times. Marginally too late to benefit from the post-Madchester hysteria and a little too early for the white heat of the Britpop wheeze, they nevertheless left some sparkling Mod inflected Pop.
My memory is shaky at best, but I am sure that Whiteout first came to my attention through the Esurient / Saint Etienne axis. Certainly the ‘Next Big Thing’ 7” came out on the Angel Town label which was, I am sure, connected to the Saint Etienne gang in some way. It was certainly a splendid rush of Beat Noise, invested with a sound that resonated of teenage obsessions with Small Faces and The Creation fed through the lens of The Stone Roses. I loved it and love it still. And wasn’t there a special event planned in 1991 with World Of Twist, Saint Etienne, The Claim and Whiteout? As I say, my memory is shocking and all I have to help is a tiny advert clipped from Melody Maker. July 3rd at the Hammersmith Palais. Did that come off? I don’t remember anyone writing or talking about it. Except me, a decade ago, in this piece for Tangents.
I am more certain on the fact that Whiteout seemed to slip from view for a couple of years after that. All I heard was a tape of demos that Kevin sent me in 1993, dubbed over a promo cassette of Cornershop’s ‘Lock, Stock and Double Barrel’ EP. The Whiteout demos were on one side, some wonderful Espiritu tracks on the other. Great stuff.
When those demoed tracks started appearing a year later on vinyl and CD they still sounded great. Nothing wrong with a bit of polish. They were on the Silvertone label who had famously given us those Stone Roses records of course, and I am sure that Whiteout were being placed as some kind of Second Coming. They weren’t, but that was more than fine. Certainly songs like ‘Jackie’s Racing’ were more Rod than Ian, whilst tunes like ‘Altogether’ and ‘Detroit’ were most assuredly less dreary than the Ocean Colour dullards who sadly seemed to steal the scene.
The ‘Bite It’ set still sounds great to my ears, as do parts of the 1998 ‘Big Wow’ set which I admit passed me by at the time. It’s that first single and those demos to which I return most regularly though: the sounds abd times of such promise and wonder. In more ways than one.
The Angel Town label single seems to be difficult to find, so I have recorded the two tracks direct from my vinyl copy for download here.
Great news, Pop Pickers: There is a new Alpaca Sports single due for release this Wednesday! It’s a digital download from the Swedish ‘Luxury’ label and here, as an Unpopular exclusive, is a sneak preview.
I’m sure many of you will see the title and wonder if it’s a cover of the Beat Happening number. It isn’t, but I do believe it to be every bit as wonderful. I’m sure you’ll agree.
It feels as though there has been something of a spotlight on Lawrence of late, what with the ‘Lawrence of Belgravia’ film and various Felt books. I understand there have been several features in the music press too. This is as it should be, for Lawrence’s is one of the great Pop stories; his records some of the greatest, period.
There is something of a received wisdom amongst many that the peak of Lawrence’s creative output is carefully bound within the decade of Felt. I think there’s a mistake to be made there. I should know. I’ve made it myself. For whilst I immediately adored the ‘Back In Denim’ record, it took me a great deal longer to understand the brilliance of ‘Denim On Ice’. The ‘Novelty Rock’ concept was difficult to warm to at first, particularly in the light of the artful legacy of the Felt years. In more recent times, however, I have come to adore the Denim records even more than the Felt ones. If pressed at gun-point to choose between the entire Felt and Denim catalogues I would wriggle, squirm and evade the issue for as long as possible before plumping for Denim. That will sound like sacrilege to some and unreasonably perverse awkwardness to others. True nonetheless.
What then of Go-Kart Mozart in that equation? Well, I admit that with the release of ‘On The Hot Dog Streets’ the position of that particular Lawrence incarnation in the pecking order is far from easy to place. Certainly those who cling to the theory that the Lawrence timeline from Felt to Denim to Go-Kart Mozart is one of diminishing returns will find that ‘Hot Dog Streets’ at least forcibly challenges such a perception and at best turns it, if not on its head, certainly sends it sideways with some quizzical glances.
Personally I think ‘Hot Dog’ is easily the most accessible and accomplished Lawrence record since ‘Denim On Ice’ (the tragically aborted hit-that-never-was ‘Summer Smash’ aside). In its way it’s up there with ‘Back In Denim’ as a peculiar protest record; a collection of songs that exists almost entirely within its own carefully mythologised context. Complete with sleeve-notes.
It is certainly every bit as artful as anything Felt recorded. It just happens to be painted in gaudier colours from an altogether seedier and stranger palette. It’s a Pop Art picture of Dorian Gray that has been caught mid way between glamorous Jeff Koons’ sheen and ruinous syphilitic destruction. By turns euphoric, unsettling, touching and sneering (often flipping from one to the other on a whip-quick whim), the record makes for a peculiarly accurate snapshot of our times that may yet prove to be both as of its time and timeless as The Sex Pistols’ debut was at the tail of nineteen seventies.
Lawrence has (in)famously stated that he always believed he could (and indeed would) be a bona fide Pop Star. So is ‘On The Hot Dog Streets’ the record to make that happen, or will it do little more than cement his already established reputation as something of a cult oddity? In a parallel world it’s of course the former. But then in that parallel universe it’s a moot point because he is already bigger than Jesus. Or at least John Lennon.
Sadly in the harsh light of reality one doubts that ‘On The Hot Dog Streets’ will allow Lawrence to trouble ‘The One Show’ again, but you never know. Stranger things have happened. Most already to Lawrence.
'On The Hot Dog Streets' is released on June 25th. Pre-order the double-vinyl set here, or the CD here. Limited numbers signed by Lawrence. And remember: "Get dirt on your needle with West Midlands Records"!
In yesterday's post about Lil’ Chief records I forgot to mention The Eversons, whose ‘Summer Feeling’ set has been another firm favourite around these parts recently. I don’t know, all these monstrously summery sounding records and not a sunny day in sight to enjoy them. ‘Could it ever get better?’ indeed.
It’s heartening then to report that a decade down the line Lil’ Chief is still going strong, making various plans to celebrate that birthday in style, and still releasing wonderful sounds. Most recent arrivals from the label through my door are these two blue vinyl delights. I’m sure most of you will be way ahead of me on Princess Chelsea’s ‘Cigarette Duet’. I’m reliably informed it was one of those ‘YouTube’ hits. A viral something or other. The Young People will know... Well whatever, this 7” has been released in honour of a European tour and very fine it is too. Apparently there is a lovely pink vinyl pressing of the ‘Lil’ Golden Book’ album from which the single comes. I bet they look lovely together.
As for the other blue disc that came from Lil’ Chief this week, well it’s the rather sublime ‘Whale Rocket’ set by Cool Rainbows. And cool it most certainly is, inhabiting that blissed-out landscape of bleached surf meets dream-pop that sometimes feels like it’s been done to death these past few years but still sounds so seductively irresistible. I was hooked by the gorgeous ‘Fake Tattoos’ from the (free!) Lil’ Chief compilation ‘These Shaky Isles’ and I’m delighted to discover that the rest of the album is every bit as fine. If only we could have some sunshine here in Devon then this really could be the perfect soundtrack for sunny summer daze.
I headed over to Norman’s recently ostensibly to pick up the new Cocoanut Groove 10”. It’s a gem of sparkling baroque Pop, but you knew that already didn’t you? Of course you did. I mean, you followed through on the link from the excellent ‘July’ cut on the second Unpopular mix for May didn’t you? Didn’t you?
Well, if you hadn’t already followed that trail to the Swedish base of the Fraction label and you live in the UK you can save a bit on postage with Normans. If you’re anything like me though you will spend that saving on something else that grabs your attention. For me it was this glorious red vinyl remastered edition of the 1996 ‘Relaxing With...’ collection by Bristol’s finest Head rockers, uh, The Heads. I had all but forgotten about The Heads actually, but it is fine to be reacquainted. I always had them filed away as something in the vein of The Seeds meets Loop, and this collection does little to divert my feelings. So that’s a relief. The included download code grabs you additional cuts from John Peel sessions and other assorted odds and ends. It almost makes me want to dig out my old leather coat and grow my hair.