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   Friday, July 26, 2002  
Tim and Greg, songwriting engines behind West Coast heroes the Mother Hips, put out an acoustic duo album of new material, Ballpoint birds, Aug 10. "It's a pretty folk-oriented record," says Greg. "It's sort of like the more mellow acoustic songs on any of our records. It's very mild, and it really concentrates on the songs and the vocals". Hmm..the words 'Crosby,' 'Stills,' and 'Nash' spring to mind, even more so in the case of putative supergroup The Thorns[?]. Down on the ranch in--yup--California, Matthew Sweet, Shawn Mullins and roots-rocker Pete Droge recently got together and rustled up a dozen 'old school acoustic' compositions which it's hoped will get a release in '03...

Day jobs of the Stars No3:
"It used to be called selling out but I call it survival." Austin pop kid - sorry, grown-up bloke with responsibilities - Darin Murphy talks about the art of TV ad jingle-writing. See/hear his latest star turn selling sandwiches nationwide. Better still, get his own albums - reallyrather weekend revision: Solitarium...

Still in Austin, RiverCityNews anticipates a modest little 2-day music fest. there in Sept. Lots of up&coming acts looking for a break - Wilco, Ryan Adams, Jayhawks, Caitlin, Emmylou, Gillian, etc, etc... $35/£22 for a 2-day ticket! Maybe it'll rain...

Small world, etc...
the damnwells support Josh Rouse on US dates thru Aug...and Centro-matic will be touring with The Bigger Lovers in September. As far as reallyrather is aware, the only place these acts have met before!

UK gig action update:
Beachwood Sparks
Aug 6 Spitz, London
Aug 7 Barfly, Cardiff
Agu 8 West 13, Glasgow
Aug 9 Barfly, Sheffield
Aug 10 Princess Charlotte, Leic.
Aug 12 Night & Day, Manchester
Aug 19 93 Feet East, London
The Tyde
Aug 19 93 Feet East, London
Aug 20 Cherry Jam, London
Aug 21 The Social, Nottingham
Aug 23 West 13, Glasgow
Aug 25 The Walk, Newcastle
Aug 26 The Freebutt, Brighton
Aug 27 Water Rats, London
Sep 26 Brighton, TBA
Sep 27 London, Queen Elizabeth Hall
Sep 28 Fareham, Ashcroft
Sep 30 Dublin, Spirit
Oct 1 Birmingham, Ceol Castle
Oct 2 Milton Keynes, Stables
Oct 3 Salisbury, Arts Center
Oct 4 Leicester, International Arts Center
Oct 7 Sheffield, Boardwalk
Oct 8 Edinburgh, TBA
Oct 9 Glasgow, Arches
Oct10 The Cluny, Newcastle Upon Tyne
Sep 19 Manchester, Night & Day
Set 20 Birmingham, Academy
Sep 21 Aberdeen, Lemon Tree
Sep 22 Edinburgh, Labelle Angel
Sep 24 Leicester, The Charlotte
Sep 25 Bristol, Fleece
Sep 26 London, Dingwalls
Sep 28 Tunbridge Wells, Forum
(The Philly four-piece gamely take on all-comers - and Aerosmith - with their new anthemic swagger, deaf to those lamenting the demise of the 'old' Marah sound. "Wot, no Slo Mo?" they cry, mourning the squeezing out of dobro ace Mike Brenner. But what's this? Barfly, Camden Aug 12: 'Slo-Mo'. Could it be the "techno-dobro mad scientist" himself?)

A couple of one-offs:
Perky folk-popsters The Waifs play the Union Chapel, Islington Aug 22, maybe touting new (Oz-only) 5-track EP London still. They just filed a lengthy update on what's been happening ("..a film crew was shooting a Japanese porn movie in the room next door..")
...and Hope Sandoval plays the Bloomsbury Theatre Sept 13...

Big Polyphonic Spree feature in today's Independent; this time last week it was the Be Goods. Crikey, look smart Starlings,TN, could be you next!
   posted by SMc at 11:48 AM |

   Monday, July 22, 2002  
So just how many copies does a well-received roots-pop indie record actually shift? Say something like The Pernice Brothers' The world won't end which scored no.5 on Uncut's year-end Best of '01 chart. Answer: around 15,000, which doesn't sound like a whole lot but it's enough to get by on, apparently. The guys have been holed up in the wilds of Vermont thrashing out material for a January-slated follow-up and chief Pernice Joe tells the Boston Phoenix all about the fevered creativity: "We’ve been having some good horseshoe matches up here [and] I’ve been out in the canoe a few times."

Talking of Uncut, all bets are off regarding this year's 'Best of' list as they award the Flaming Lips' latest 5-and-a-half stars out five. "The greatest album released in Uncut's [5-yr] lifetime," they foam, leading a pretty much unanimous critical chorus. Saturday's Times called it 'a landmark of intergalactic brilliance.' Are there any contrary voices out there? Step forward the New York Post: 'It's hardly a pleasure to listen to. The title track is particularly grating with its simplistic repeated melody and tortured-cat screamed vocals. When the Lips aren't experimenting, they borrow melodies from Cat Stevens ('Fight Test') and Tangerine Dream ('In the Morning of Magicians') - one star.' Make up your own mind - Warners are currently streaming the whole album...

Mojo/Uncut Best of '02 guess list update:
Doves - The last broadcast
Cornershop - Handcream for a generation
Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
The Streets - Original pirate material
Lambchop - Is a woman
Boards of Canada - Geogaddi
The Coral - The Coral
Flaming Lips - Yoshimi battles the pink robots
Tom Waits - whichever
James Yorkston & the Athletes - Moving up country
Alison Moorer - Miss Fortune
Eminem - The Eminem show
(Subs bench: BeGoodTanyas/Blue Horse; Caitlin Cary - When You Weren't Looking)

"Personally, I have no aspirations to sound all artsy-fartsy like a lot of the British pop bands," says Alex Livingstone of Grand Champeen somewhat splendidly. Swizzle-stick chats to the band who also say, "there’s a chance we’ll head over to Europe in the late Fall..."

Eric the guitarist loves hitting his guitar. Jason the drummer really loves hitting his drums. And Greg the bass is damned if he's going to be bullied out of the picture. The Hurricane Lamps come at you pretty much straight between the eyes through the course of latest album Tilting at windmills, but it's not a Heavy affair. Even 'muscular' would be misleading. With trebly chord riffs skidding across 33 minutes of tightly-focussed, combustible indie pop-rock, the Lamps occasionally generate the helium-filled thrills of, say, '60s Who (but a Power Pop/Nuggets retro trip this definitely isn't). They're a trio and don't try denying it, channelling their energies into a string of driving lo-fi crackers like 'Parade', instrumental 'Perfect Taco #1' and 'Suffocate'. (On the latter and also 'The List' the band would seem to have nailed the art of the arresting intro.) The palette really only broadens at the end where pedal steel's unexpectedly dropped into the mix on 'Stranded', to excellent effect. To these ears there's an occasional echo of someone like Tom Robinson when vocalist(/songwriter/all-round mainman) Eric pushes the top end. With half the tracks clocking in under three minutes, the band earn triple bonus points for bringing each one to a proper full-stop (cue reallyrather rant on the laziness of fading - sometime maybe). The band have got a sound and they're not gonna mess around. Are you ready, Jase? 2-3-4...
   posted by SMc at 1:04 PM |

   Saturday, July 13, 2002  
Tribute Album Alert! Continuing this blog's public-spirited advance warning service, a Teenage Fanclub trib. has been sighted on the horizon. Among those diving for covers: Counting Crows (Start Again), Michael Carpenter (Neil Jung), Ken Stringfellow (Every Picture I Paint), The Gigolo Aunts (Alcoholiday), etc etc. Surely a 'Best of' collection from the band themselves can't be too far off either?

If good things come to those who wait Wheat's 3rd album should be very good indeed. The interminable saga of 'Per second, per second..' continues. At least they've got a new label - Aware have picked it up after the badly-timed demise of Nude - but bafflingly it seems it won't see the light of day until sometime in '03! They'll likely have no.s 4 and 5 in the can by then - what about resurrecting that hoary old beast the triple album, guys?

'Equal parts Superchunk pop bluster and Soul Asylum/Replacements guitar ache,' was one distillation of Grand Champeen's Battle cry for help, now out in Europe via Munich Records. This Austin-based outfit come barrelling out of the speakers like a herd of steed with opener Cottonmouth and it's pretty much downhill, brakes off, all the way. The blazing twangy pop'n'roll continues on through 14 feisty tracks only pausing for breath a couple of times (the desert echoes of Sparks and concluding drinking song The angel's stare). They've certainly got plenty of heart but the soul's a bit harder to detect. They're tight and they sing & holler in tune, characteristics not always shared by, say, fellow Texan rousers Little Grizzly but George Neal's crew will do for reallyrather...

It's not hard to imagine Grand Champeen tearing the house down live but there's no sign of them coming over. If you're looking for that kind of action, similarly direct roots-rockers Stateside blow through the Borderline Oct 1 brandishing their '01 release Twice as gone ... "Roots pop for now people" is promised by the Boondogs on their site, as is a new album in August. According to Allmusic's classification, similar artists include: 'Whiskeytown, The Jayhawks, Lucinda Williams, The Replacements, Big Star, R.E.M.' Never heard of any of 'em ... And still they come. "Taking root somewhere between Costello's This Year's Model, Rubber Soul-era Beatles and Wilco's Summerteeth," are Big Silver according to US men's glossy Details. "There's plenty of twang but underneath the pedal steel and slide guitar there are great pop hooks and storytelling.." 2nd album due in Sept...

reallyrather has heard but a track or two from the Horse Stories album but recommendations from People Who Know have been flying in. As will be mainman Toby early next month to promote the UK launch:
Aug 1 12 Bar Club, Soho
Aug 3 Borderline, Soho
Aug 4 Golden Lion, Camden
Aug 4 The Windmill, Brixton
plus a stack of radio spots...

..and talking of radio spots, listen to Dan and Sally from Hem chatting recently on NPR about Rabbit songs (which finally seems to be going places - recently hit no1 on the Amazon chart)...
   posted by SMc at 2:05 PM |

   Saturday, July 06, 2002  
So Rilo Kiley say farewell to Barsuk and throw in their lot with Bright Eyes and the rest over at SaddleCreek records. The Nebraska label will put out the band's 2nd album, The execution of all things, on October 1 which is great but ages away. In the meantime, anyone looking for a peppy indie-pop fix should maybe consider something like the recent Rocking Horse Winner album, Horizon. Depending who you read it's either 'absolutely captivating .. a golden indie record,' or 'a flavorless rehash devoid of any real creative substance'. reallyrather falls somewhere in between. Certainly Horizon does absolutely nothing new and might have been released anytime in the last 15 years. But if you're not looking for vertiginous leaps of creativity and just want a car-load of crunchy/twinkly guitar pop for the summer, this delivers. Sounding a bit like Rilo Kiley on steroids after a quirk-bypass op, tracks like Novelty, Orange blossom and Miss you rock crisply and catchily. When songbirds sing initially threatens a detour to lighter-waving country but a sharper sensibility soon asserts. A good melodic standard's maintained, only a couple of the 10 tracks failing to satisfy. Jolie's high vocal is strong, guitars are big, drumming's light 'n' snappy and the swish production keeps the right side of slick. Unchallenging, totally accessible indie-pop devoid of cheesiness - sometimes it's all you really want...

Back on the home front, Arnold offer samples of the 5 tracks on their upcoming EP. Words like shimmering, lush and desirable spring to mind...

Touting garlanded new EPs of their own, the Beachwood Sparks / Tyde collective comes to the UK in August - dates so far:
Aug 6 BSparks / Spitz, London
Aug 8 BSparks / Barfly, Cardiff
Aug 19 BSparks+The Tyde / 93 Feet East, London
Aug 20 The Tyde / Cherry Jam, London
Aug 27 The Tyde / Water Rats, London

"Their tunes are happy. They are about Nice Things like the sun. Being strong. Calling your dad. We defy you not to fall under their influence," said this week's NME of The Polyphonic Spree's recent Barfly show. Fancy testing your resistance? They're coming back at the same venue this Thurs 11 July (and they all fit, apparently)...
   posted by SMc at 12:43 PM |

   Wednesday, July 03, 2002  
It's all coming back to me now...
Preceeding Myracle Brah at the Barfly last week were Philly psych-pop freak-outs the Three-4-Tens whose show culminated in a hail of feedback and Ye Trashing of Ye Instruments. To be specific, their hyperactive bass-player decided to test his guitar's aerodynamics, launching it like paper dart from one side of the stage to the other, crashing into the wings stage-left. Phew, we gasped, rock'n'roll. And now a little relief is in order as reallyrather realises it has come across this character - his name's Jamie - before, back in April at the Borderline. He's also in Marah. reallyrather watched the whole of their show that night from the staircase which descends in to the venue stage-left, at almost precisely the spot where I now estimate a flying bass guitar would've landed, had our excitable hero so chosen. But there wasn't much chance of anyone overheating that night as they showcased the shiny new Marah sound. Float away with the Friday night gods finally surfaces next week but you can hear the whole thing here if swaggering, anthemic rock'n'soul does it for you...

"Older readers will note Blood Brothers striking resemblance to the theme of Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads? Younger readers will probably just melt" -- The Tyde waste no time in pasting up NME's review of the new 3-track EP just out on Rough Trade...

...and on the subject of British TV comedy landmarks, the first series of Peter Kay's brilliant Phoenix nights begins a re-run Thurs July 4, six spanking new epidsodes to follow (hurrah!). Devotees of this tale of one wheelchair-bound northern bloke's heroic efforts to breathe new life into his Working Mens club drum ace Steve Gadd! (Steely Dan, Paul Simon, etc, etc; the tapes are a staple on the Clapton tour bus, apparently). Channel4, 11pm...

NY's Hem bring their poised folk-pop back to the UK later this year:
Thu Sep 26 Brighton, venue TBA
Fri Sep 27 London, Queen Elizabeth Hall
Sat Sep 28 Fareham, Ashcroft
Mon Sep 30 Dublin, IRL Spirit
Tue Oct 1 Birmingham, Ceol Castle
Wed Oct 2 Milton Keynes, Stables
Thu Oct 3 Salisbury, Arts Center
Fri Oct 4 Leicester, International Arts Center
Mon Oct 7 Sheffield, Boardwalk
Tue Oct 8 Edinburgh, tba
Wed Oct 9 Glasgow, Arches
Thu Oct 10 Hartlepool, tba

Also coming back for half-a-dozen dates in August are nicely off-kilter indie-popsters Death Cab For Cutie. Band-member Chris Walla seems to be developing a sideline as producer. As well as the Death Cab albums and The Long Winters, he helped out on Andrea Maxand's attractive debut. Anyone into DCFC will find plenty to enjoy on Angel hat (Montesano, 2001). Mostly a solo effort, Maxand accompanies her light, pointed vocal with chiming, slightly edgy electric guitar, Walla judiciously layering both instruments to produce some lean, promising alt-rock. Peace on tv, Velveteen and Learn how to crawl stand out; the latter is the only track with rhythm accompaniment and bodes well for a new release later this year on which Maxand re-records several Angel hat tracks with a full band. Old hat, maybe...?

Amazing, just amazing ... Jo Whiley's record of the week this week on her daytime BBC Radio1 show? Remixed with beefier guitar, out soon on FiercePanda, it's Soldier girl by The Polyphonic Spree! Go see/hear for yourself...
   posted by SMc at 9:44 AM |