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   Monday, April 24, 2006  
Personally, I blame Angela from the Magic Numbers. She was hardly the first, of course, but ever since that shaggy quartet's deceptively stealthy assault on Mount Pop throughout last year it seems that no-one can set off from base camp these days unless they're packing a blasted melodica. This blog recently saw five bands inside a week all of whom at some point whipped one out. This instrument's charmless drone is the new badge of cutesy indie-pop cred and, frankly, it's got to stop.
There may be a touch of Linda McCartney Syndrome going on here since its always The Girl in the band who - if you will - does the blowing. The Boy Least Likely To's show at King's College, London was the latest incidence and actually Linda McCartney regularly comes to mind when watching their frontline keyboard player/vocalist/cake dispenser (not the sweetly diligent Bahar who's always stuck out back). Playing in her partner's band, there's sometimes the same willowy blonde semi-detachment and a slight air of dilletantism which, hey, perhaps we'd all have if it was our latest novel that was parked in the Top50 bestsellers list having shipped over 100,000 copies. She's known in the band as 'Amanda' but (as her book itself laments) the art of keeping secrets is all but lost.
Shrugging off their early musicbiz scepticism and instinctive reluctance to play the game, The Boy are now a hard-gigging troupe busily racking up those road and air miles here and in the US. And it shows. Twinkly stomp is their thing with an ever more fervent emphasis on the stomp; crackers like I see spiders and Be gentle with me have never sounded so strong. The set remains much the same - all the album plus a couple of great b-sides - but this is OK since every uptempo song is a joy, and that's most of them. With no stand-out voice or personality its all for one and one for all. At times all seven are singing at once but such harmonies as there are aren't terribly nuanced and this blog can't help thinking a little work in this dept. would reap disproportionately big dividends. Catch them for free at HMV Oxford St this Wednesday 6pm or else see/hear their recent KCRW session, stompiness necessarily muted but still quite ace...

...and they're also among the early committers to the latest addition to the UK festival scene, The End of the Road festival at Larmer Tree Gardens on the Dorset/Wilts border 15-17 Sept: 'We are avoiding sponsorships in order to keep our creative freedom, and in order to avoid littering the beautiful venue with commercial banners. Therefore, we are so grateful to all bands who come for the fun of it and who play for a smaller fee than they are used to...'

There was a melodica double-header down at the RoTa freebie in the Notting Hill Arts Club's concrete bunker on a cold 'n' wet Saturday afternoon. First sinner was Jude Rogers, who has become The Girl in The Band Michaelmas, rounding out their melodically efficient guitar pop sound with organ and bv's. Nice enough but a bit too straight really, plastic toy or no plastic toy. It was a rare outing for C-86 veteran Amelia Fletcher's latest incarnation Tender Trap that was mostly responsible for filling the room. More blocky unambitious bedroom jangle which peaked with their non-hit Oh Katrina. The spirit of the committed hobbyist has long hovered over this scene (and it remains A Scene complete with A Look - think Thora Birch in Ghost World) and priorities were laid bare when drummer Claudia, on loan from The Magnetic Fields, blurted out that they had to end their set in order 'to feed their kids and get to the theatre.' Excellento...
[tender trap]

To the Luminaire two night earlier for this blog's new band of the moment My Sad Captains. Being The Girl in the Band, Cathy Lucas, she of the drowsy visage and uncompromising fringe, naturally gets melodica detail though in a daring break with protocol guitarist Nick also gets a go. Resembling a refugee from some anthem-wielding Scando-rock outfit like Kent, Nick's weapon of choice, a shiny blue Les Paul, is also a bit out of indie kilter. And as for Jack's bass, well...tho' thinking about it, 'cool bass guitar' could well be an oxymoron. Band leader Ed, however, truly understands, the ineffable rightness of his red Telecaster being but the most visible indication. Less superficially and more importantly, there's the songs. Not that it'll mean much to anybody just yet but they came and went something like this:

Ghost song
Bad decisions
Hide and seek
All hat and no plans
Against the grain
Run run run (?)
'a new one'
Building blocks
Change of scenery
+ one more

The loping loveliness of Ghost song is an early demonstration of the band's canny grasp of song dynamics, vocal assists from Cathy bringing the tune to a heady swell. She's also a game brass section replacement in the out-and-out indie-pop delight that is Bad decisions. Some thrilling guitar rushes (more, please) elevate All hat and no plans which already has the feel of a minor classic while Building blocks, another set peak, has some of the tumble and spark of the Stone Roses' Waterfall. Set against stuff like this songs such as the perfectly likeable Against the grain sound almost pedestrian.
Naturally enough they're still putting it together live and an air of self-consciousness hovers (tho' not in the crowd where your correspondent must report outbreaks of what can only be called dancin'). So then, My Sad Captains: not earth-shattering or particularly original-sounding (yet), merely hideously enjoyable. Watch this MySpace...

From music you can't yet buy to music you can and, if you know what's good for you, jolly well should. Songs from Cannibal sea, latest release from The Essex Green, dominated the band's recent one-off show at 93 Feet East but their relative unfamiliarity did little to dim the pleasure rippling out across the surprisingly well-filled room.
Still '60s-drenched but strangely 'now', Chris, Sasha, Jeff and co. introduced us to the on-the-money pop of This isn't farmlife, Don't know why (you stay) and Penny & Jack, the album's opening 1-2-3 and lightly rolling beauties like Rue de Lis and Sin City from the band's bucolic flipside. Coming on at times like a more ship-shape, less shaggy Mendoza Line, covers of Canned Heat's Going up the country and Grin's Everbody's missing the sun slotted right in. Can't remember if they gave us the driving pop shimmer of Cardinal points or the jangly, sub-anthemic sway of The pride but Sasha definitely had her melodica moment somewhere along the line. This blog has always thought albums like Cannibal sea should come with a free tambourine. If, like reallyrather, you always keep yours close at hand prepare to wield it now...

Spotted at the show, James William Hindle - hardly surprising since various Essex Greeners (or the extended family thereof) have contributed to his last two grievously overlooked releases [see rr 9 June 05 and 14 Sept 03]. A limited edition mini-album of stripped-down bedroom acoustica called Joshong has also just emerged on Early Winter Recordings...

And remember, folks: End this melodica madness NOW!
   posted by SMc at 12:45 PM |