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   Monday, November 08, 2004  
Like Christmas in shop windows and TV ads, year-end lists seem to appear earlier and earlier. Uncut's 'Best of '04' actually turned up in October (the 'November' ed.) and what a stinker it is. At numbers 1 & 5 is music which is at least 35 years old (Brian Wilson, Bob Dylan) while the rest of the top end is over-stuffed with downbeat gloom merchants - Tom Waits, American Music Club, Leonard Cohen, Richmond Fontaine, Nick Cave, the Mark Lanegan Band - their paeans littered with phrases like 'bleakly corrosive,' 'sad but livid,' 'weary resignation,' 'intimations of mortality'.. 'pain-blasted'(!). Good grief, their office party must be a real hoot!
Growling and moaning does not automatically equal 'good'. In fact, it almost never equals good, at least around here. All you tortured, chain-smokin', hard-drinkin', haggard-featured blokes and your so-called personal demons begone! reallyrather simply cannot take you seriously (Exhibit A).
At least Uncut did get something right (ie reflect this blog's bias) in placing Sufjan Stevens higher than Devendra Banhart (and way higher than Iron&Wine) but then they go and blow it by totally missing out la belle Joanna. (And though this little lot are regularly coralled in nu-folk tours d'horizon this blog can't agree with the commonly underlying 'if you like one you'll like the others' message. reallyrather says: Sufjan yes!, Sam Beam not really; Joanna Newsom yes!, Devendra not really.) Of course, Uncut's list is hamstrung in the same way as even the most free-thinking UK radio shows, ie. they only rate/spin records that they've been sent free copies of, predominantly stuff which has had a formal UK release or distribution. Which, given the global ease of access to records released anywhere, anyhow is increasingly anachronistic. But then hey, if they did start trying a bit harder there'd be no point in blogs like this...

"Playing London made me realize how much I need to play London more. The audiences were very curious and open to the show. Packed bars were silenced by the first notes of songs. I think aesthetically I suit the U.K. very much. The people there seem much more open to discovering things that they are unfamiliar with, as opposed to waiting until someone tells them it's good and then going to the show." Hmmmm. Packed bar? Silence? It's not quite how reallyrather remembers the Windmill in Brixton back in spring when Gentleman Reg opened a bill also featuring Denison Witmer and Charlemagne. But this blog does recall thinking, 'This guy Reg, improbably blonde but there's kernels in them thar tunes. Watch that space'. And into that space has recently dropped album no.3, Darby & Joan, and a proper little belter it is, too.
'A persistently infectious, smartly executed pop album,' summed the Toronto Star recently. Which is pretty close except it hints at mere proficiency and omits the engagingly personal character of this very attractive collection. It is indeed great pop, 12 tracks with nary a dud from 1 thru 11. (The last track is a dud but just as on the otherwise foot-perfect last offerings from matt pond PA and Nadine it's helpfully placed at the end so allowing it to be omitted without breaking the flow.) Strong tunes adroitly rendered by a varying small ensemble with fine understated production by Dave Draves and Reg himself.
There's the three obvious 'hits' (they won't be, of course, but you know what I mean): Over my head, driving, breathless and laced with some North American New Wave-y handclaps & synths; clattering fizzer It's not safe driven along by some great clicking, kicking percussion; and The boyfriend song (what a giveaway) which as a close as Reg gets here to the sound of his other gig, The Hidden Cameras. While those are the most immediate none are cut so brilliantly sharply as opener Bundle with it's crisp counterpoised guitars. (Actually, bits of the guitar work on here echo the sensibility of Richard Lloyd at some midpoint between Television and Matthew Sweet.) The mid-tempo loveliness of First time everything resolves midway into a hefty rocking chug as generic and pleasing as pizza. Don't bring me down behaves similarly.
Does the boy have a similar way with the slower song? 'The absolutely gorgeous All my love is one of the album’s many highlights,' said this review while another suggests Untouchable is the album's 'gem'. But for this blog the prettiest of the bunch has to be You make me tall which drops like rain through trees. And there's a lightness of feel thoughout emphasised by Vermue's vocal (frequently multitracked or harmonized) which veers from breathy (fey?) to high, cutting clarion.
"OK, so it's a good album but it's only available in Canada, it's going to be too complicated/expensive to get hold of," you're thinking. Wrong. The exchange rate's in our favour and super-efficient retailer absound will get it to you for £10.12 inc. p&p, likely within the week. Go on, give it up for Gentleman Reg Vermue...
Gentleman Reg / Three Gut Records

Next gig on the horizon is the first of The Magic Numbers' three nights at The Borderline where the show will be opened by Brighton's '60s girl-group throwbacks The Pipettes. They're all synchronized hand moves and polka-dots dresses (you can hear them over here) and promise a live experience just about the polar opposite of...

..reticent pop minstrel Kevin Tihista, whose shows are described as 'rare and nerve-wracked' in the lastest ed. UK music mag Comes With A Smile. Interviewed, the man himself adds, 'Sometimes it is next to impossible getting up there.. I just feel embarrassed, lame, and scared.' reallyrather will be partying on down with Kevin at London's Water Rats on Dec 2...
   posted by SMc at 9:34 AM |