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   Thursday, March 05, 2009  
'Here comes the springtime again...'

A mere three years after this blog first caught them live, an album with the name My Sad Captains down the spine is finally within sight. Stolen Recordings will put out the quintet's debut Here & elsewhere this summer. Interesting to see which songs have made the cut - Building blocks is there, for instance, one of the oldest (and now least played live) but there's no place for another old favourite, Hide & seek. Which is a bit of shame but, happily, all is not lost...
[my sad captains][hide & seek mp3]

[Not that the Captains would be the first to toss away pearls. Anyone remember Gingersol? Similarly song-oriented if slightly more Americana-tinged, Steve Tagliere & Seth Rothschild put out one of the great lost debut albums in Nothing stops moving and quite a few more top tunes subsequently. Sticks and stones was one which never made a record but if you like what the Ed Wallis & his band are doing, you'll likely appreciate this.]

More minor miracles from other blog favourites of similar vintage:

:: Like Mascott finally getting a UK release! Reveal will be putting out Art project (see rr's top 10 for 2008) next month; it was perfect at 24mins but the UK release has been bulked out with bonus track Oh Peggy...
[mascott][on reveal]

:: And the new Gentleman Reg record being easily available over here, like in shops and everything! Jet black has yet to reach reallyrather Towers but no matter, the last one Darby & Joan stills sounds box-fresh...
[Gentleman Reg][buy Jet black]

Altogether less surprising but no less delightful for that, cracking new albums from M. Ward and Loney Dear. In turbulent times its good to have things you can rely on and Matt and Emil deliver the goods once again. It would be easy to crab both collections as merely 'more of the same' (as indeed they essentially are) but that would grieviously undersell the rarity of the melodic and compositional alchemy these guys bring to the party.
That said, Ward's is possibly the more completely satisfying effort this time round. Both Hold time and Loney's Dear John represent concerted exercises in beefing up, like their predecessor records had been spending time down at the gym. To this end, true to their origins, pop classicist Ward deploys electric guitar & rock 'n' roll drums whilst chilly North European Svaningen goes the synthesised electronica route.
At Bush Hall last month, Ward tossed Chuck Berry's Roll over Beethoven into the set. It was a completely straightforward take, uninspired and unnecessary, but it did suggest a likely point of reference for the more strident moments on Hold time (To save me, Never had nobody like you), ie. early '70s Roy Wood when he was merrily ransacking the Berry/Jerry Lee/Spector vaults fronting The Move and Wizzard. Or just under his own name; if, say, this were to turn up all Zooey-fied on She & Him Vol.2 would anyone be surprised or, indeed, disappointed?:

Something like Be-bop-a-lula would've been a more fertile live proposition than Roll over Beethoven but at least the '50s cover on the album, the shuffling Rave on, yields mellow gold, a standard also attained by Ward's own Epistemology. Ward can roll out the tumbling acoustic warmth of the likes of Shangri-La and For beginners seemingly effortlessly while the cracking atmospheric instrumental Outro gives Richard Hawley food for thought. But it's pretty much all great, really... is the new Loney, dear. Emil throws in one or two new chord changes but the songs remain essentially the same; yes, we really have heard it all before. Yet the marvel is that it still works its magic, repeatedly ascending pop-tastic heights; Violent, Dear John, Summers, Harsh words, I was only going out, all can be added to the canon of motive, swooning ecstacy...

But deeply pleasing as these two releases are, for some unaccountable reason the most played record round these parts this past month-or-so is from a highly-derivative and seemingly rapidly disintigrating NZ band. Cut Off Your Hands lost their UK deal before their Bernard Butler/Stephen Street-produced debut You & I saw the light of day (and then only in the US), and the guitarist and drummer have both since separately quit. “The aim of the band wasn’t necessarily to create something brand-new or frighteningly original, which is obvious when you hear the songs," said singer Nick recently. Splendidly frank and, frankly, splendid:

   posted by SMc at 3:12 PM |