Wednesday, 10 May 2017

The Sneetches - Form Of Play: A Retrospective

The Left Banke, Raspberries, Buffalo Springfield, Fred Neil - you can tell a lot about The Sneetches from the acts they covered. They made pitch perfect pop with the psychedelia and powerpop on standby and enough originality to step out of the shadows.

The mid-90s saw a deterioration of classic rock influences with bands playing crude, banal pastiches. But from 1987 to 1995 The Sneetches played it with enough distance and homegrown tunes to come up with their own essentials.

Ironically, they were ahead of their time. Not that many people were interested in the very Beach Boys influenced Sometimes That's All We Have album, even with a Creation reissue in 1989. The heritage rock sound came later from bands who specialised in grandiose overinflation.

If you want something subtler, then The Sneetches are for you. They didn't sell a lot of records and weren't connected with any kind of movement, possibly because there's an honesty and genuine craft to their music. This compilation is a good starting point. It doesn't include 54 Hours, which for my money is their finest moment, but there are plenty of other hits that should have been.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Shit Girlfriend or shit Record Store Day

Shit Girlfriend released their fine debut single Mummy's Boy on Record Store Day. You might not have noticed. If you're what's become RSD's core demographic - classic rock fans of a certain age with plenty of disposable income - you definitely didn't notice because you were most likely queuing to buy one of these:

Shit Girlfriend didn't get any extra exposure because they released their splattered-vinyl single on RSD. But raising the single's profile didn't seem to be the purpose. The only benefit I can see is economic because it can retail at about 30-40% higher than normal.

It's easy to point out the hypocrisy in this move if Shit Girlfriend or their record label had been espousing any DIY ethic. If they were then I missed it. What they were doing is what most indie record labels do - release a limited version on coloured vinyl and a bigger run on standard black vinyl.

Indies do this to generate excitement at the tills - or more accurately their mail order department - simply so people buy the record before they get sick of it through endless streams.

Shit Girlfriend's single gets a bigger (or less restricted - honestly, and despite how much I enjoy the record, it's got a shelf life and one pressing was probably enough) release on May 19 on black vinyl. This is a new variation on the sales market the majors pulled in the late 1980s.

Back then labels were promoting CDs against the dominant cassette format (vinyl was already in decline) following the hardback/paperback model book publishers have always done. Pay more, get the better version.

However, the simple fact is that indie doesn't do very well on RSD. All non-heritage rock formats struggle (if you want to know how soul fails, I wrote about that a couple of years ago). This year saw the reissue of the first 4 Television Personalities albums. I don't know of many better albums. Even the 1991 reissues do very well on the second-hand market. But RSD isn't the time to reissue them.

I expect those Television Personalities albums will sell eventually (even if interest in them peaked around 5 to 10 years ago) but until they do they've got the stigma of being unsold RSD stock sitting in shops. The £29 asking price will have to come down to under £20 - the buyers aren't core RSD demographic so the price has got to reflect that.

Maybe next year the indies can take RSD off. Then whatever specials they were planning to do they can instead release just to independent record shops at prices the people who want them can afford. They'll be left with a lot less unsold stock and a lot more goodwill.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

The Stroppies

Whoever's writing Melbourne's rock family tree has got another branch to work on. The Stroppies are Steph Hughes (Boomgates, Dick Diver), Gus Lord (The Twerps, Boomgates, The Stevens) and some names I don't recognise but are surely already in several bands I must hear.

The Stroppies aren't really about Boomgates' crashing garage rock or Dick Diver's suburban love songs, even if a few of their songs could fit into either of those bands' back catalogues. They're more about reaching out and searching for Raincoats' sratchy suss and Young Marble Giants' sense of space.

There's a tape with 7 songs. Start here:

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Girls in the Garage

The Girls in the Garage compilations make a fun series showcasing the flames that the Brit Invasion spark lit on the USA's young women. It widened its search to unearth gems from Europe (you must hear The Plommons from Sweden Beatles tribute Last Train To Liverpool), Singapore (you do want a version of Yummy Yummy Yummy sung in Chinese) and Australia (you really want Little Pattie's He's My Blonde Headed, Stompie Wompie Surfer Boy).

Some of the albums' liner notes haven't aged that well ("a trip down Mammary Lane", anyone?) but the compilers' enthusiasm and research can't be questioned.

Two of the last compilations were reissued for Record Store Day. I can't really fault the records, but I don't see the market for them. They were offered at £20 each, which is about the maximum you'd pay second hand.

Yes, I know some nutjob paid £91 for Volume 9 Oriental Special, but if I based my financial planning on what someone did once on ebay I'd be in the poorhouse.

Anyway, I'm sure you'll stumble across some of the compilations in the used racks or even unsold stock sitting there in the new releases. There's some novelty, some beat group classics, some surprises (yes, that is Cher in 1964 singing Ringo, I Love You) and a lot of the sound you've heard being made in recent years by the underground distaff scene. This is where it started.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Peter Perrett returns

The last time Peter Perrett released an album, 1996's Woke Up Sticky, it was at the top of the year's best releases.

The 3 albums he made with The Only Ones from 1978 to 1980 set the template without which the Manic Street Preachers would have been a pub rock band, The Libertines a Kinks covers band and The House Of Love stuck at home listening to Bob Dylan outtakes.

Perrett releases a new album, How The West Was Won, on June 30. The title track owes something to the Velvet Underground's Sweet Jane, but that didn't stop me ordering the album. You just know that many of these new songs will be freshly minted classics.

There's no word on a tour. Did you see The Only Ones live 10 years ago? Brilliant stuff. Perrett, though, is unpredictable. He had to be smuggled out of America, seven dates into a 20-date support tour with The Who, after deliberately running over a six-foot Chinese car park attendant who had been hassling him.

If there won't be any Perrett gigs, then perhaps his new label Domino could form a tribute band. A young Johnny Marr got kicked out of The Only Ones’ dressing room more than once. Robert Forster sang The Only Ones’ The Whole Of The Law at his 2010 “15 songs about London” gig, mimicking Peter Perrett’s louche drawl perfectly. He then offered his services as a singer if anyone was going to start an Only Ones tribute band.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Rocketship - Outer Otherness

It’s fair to ask why Rocketship haven’t released a pop classic as insistent and instant as I Love You Like The Way That I Used To Do, I'm Lost Without You Here or Hey, Hey Girl in the last 20 years. It's fair to answer that no one else has either.

Outer Otherness finds Rocketship in krautrock territory using what sounds like a 1980s drum machine sparring with a hypnotic, mournful keyboard tune last seen on a beach in Ibiza when everyone was coming down and marvelling at the mysteries and wonders their altered minds had conjured.

Even if *that* doesn’t quite get you unfurling your TUNE! banner it will get you holding up a scorecard declaring “NINE OUT OF TEN AT LEAST” before sticking it on repeat.

This is a split 7” single with Pia Fraus (from Estonia, geography fans) who trade in a superior line of blissed out shoegaze, all airy melodies like Wild Nothing and celestial psychedelia like Melody’s Echo Chamber. They’ve been releasing records since 2001, so I’ve got some catching up to do because this is a very good sound.

Friday, 24 March 2017

The Lucksmiths - how to tour on a budget

The Lucksmiths did their first European tour supporting Belle and Sebastian in 1998. They wrote to them asking to play, then flew from Melbourne to Amsterdam just in case they got the gig. They did.

They then toured the UK on their own, signing ('signing') to Fortuna POP! the following year. The Lucksmiths became experts at touring on the cheap. This involved scavenging bagels from dumpsters, getting a brewery to sponsor them and asking audience members if they could sleep on their floor after the gig.

"We'll have to go on forever, as we can't do anything else. We might have to be like ESG and get our children to be The Lucksmiths 20 years down the track."

This was 2002. The Lucksmiths are now all parents. The family band prediction is on.