Various Artists – Album Roundup

Serious pop music: I love it. Of course most pop music has been made with a serious attention to getting the sound right, such as it is, but then there’s the stuff that applies the language and sensibility of pop to its chosen themes in a manner that looks way beyond the superficial concerns of the mainstream. Obviously the ‘popular music’ label has ended up including tons of stuff, such as extreme metal and progressive rock, that have pretty much nothing to do with pop, but while DIN Martin’s filigreed post-punk is hardly in the pop mainstream (and is certainly a lot more gloomy than anything that charts these days), but there’s still something distinctly pop about this.

Various Artists – Singles and EPs

This track, this EP, is a remix in one continuous utterance of the Hanetration EP Tenth Oar which I reviewed in my last roundup of short releases. Tenth Oar was divided into four tracks, while the Barren Waste EP I reviewed in the same roundup was called A unified idea split into meaningless pieces, which may explain why they stitched this into a continuum. The piece evinces the same sort of tonal continuity as the source from which it is constructed, and its sounds are recognisably the sounds of Hanetration’s release, but it is very much its own thing, with very much the sound of Barren Waste …

Various Artists – Album Roundup

Da Waffle House Boys are all about loyalty; don’t even think about suggesting patronising some other fast food franchise, and definitely don’t even mention IHOP, motherfucker. The beats on True Facts are smooth and irresistibly funky, and the flows that they float are a lazy, infectious slick on their surface, giving the lie to any impression you might get from the deeply cheeked tongues of these lyricists that this music is principally satire or pastiche. No, this shit is funny, and it’s self-deprecating, and it pokes holes in all of rap’s clichés, but it’s hip-hop to the core, and it’s as head-nodding as pretty much anything I can remember hearing.

Various Artists – Singles and EPs

If you want to you can put your own rap to this beat, you can slip your own beat beneath the words, or you can chop both into a stew of your own devising. From my perspective, as a reviewer, the habit of packaging a single with its bare beat and an a cappella is an absolute godsend, enabling me to get another sense of each component, and doing a certain amount of my analytical work for me. The beat here has a heavy enough drum part, but the piano filigree that tops it works with the lyrically melodic bassline to evoke that combination of optimism and regret so characteristic of the UK underground’s more contemplative moments…

Various Artists – Singles and EPs

It’s a hard lesson to learn, when you realise you’re not likely to hit the big time with your art, and you’ve already invested so much, with so little to show for it in material terms… it certainly can make you feel like an underachiever. Ben Black seems to conflate his focus on his work (rather than work) with a persistent immaturity, and looks wistfully around him at the homes, wives and cars of his friends. ‘How can I look my children in the eye/ and tell them Daddy didn’t make it because Daddy didn’t try?’ he asks, though, which more or less answers his own questions.

Various Artists – Singles and EPs

A thin-sounding electric guitar (maybe a Telecaster), an electric piano, filtered through the glitchy sound of dusty vinyl, and looped in incomplete gestures that sound like a needle jumping. It’s the sound of nostalgia, the sound of distance from a desired space that the imagination is better equipped to apprehend than the senses. The uppercut combinations of the kick, when it enters, are located firmly in the here and now. That’s the heartbeat of the subject, the locus of the act of remembering. Such a simple psychodrama between so few musical elements seems a shaky scaffold to hang anything off, but when the female voice enters…

Various Artists – Album Roundup

I can just imagine the conversation We Are Warm had at an early rehearsal, going through that abominably tedious process of trying to think of a name: ‘well,’ someone must have said, in a last ditch effort to bring some method to the madness, ‘what sort of band are we? What are we like?’ And so began the enumeration of their characteristics… They got it right. If my irritating verbosity were brutally limited to a single adjective, ‘warm’ might well be it. Warm melodies, warm chord sequences, really warm vocal harmonies, warm tones on every instrument…

Paranoid Android – Paper God (new wave)

Punk was like some kind of natural catastrophe: in terms of the frantic pace of pop-music it happened an eon ago, but the shockwaves that spread outward from its point of impact, like a tsunami, get more powerful the more open ocean they traverse. Our understanding of popular music before punk is now characterised by a growing awareness of its crypto-oppositional qualities; and the narrative of its subsequent history is dominated by its influence on all kinds of rock music, and a lot of electronic music as well.

Doll Fight! – Morning Again (punk/ riot grrrl)

It’s easy to form a punk band: just get some drums and guitars, make up some punk songs, and play them at some punk gigs. If you’re not too sure exactly how to do it, just listen to some Lagwagon or Blink 182 records: you can sing about getting drunk and being a bit naughty in a car; if you’re boys you can sing about girls; if you’re girls you can sing about boys. Perhaps you can get your parents to pay for a ‘top local producer’ so your recordings can have that slick, glossy sound with rich, full range guitars, tight drums and perfect harmonised vocals…

Galapagos Now! – The Beards Of London (garage/ roots rock)

Lyrics slam meanings across one another in collisions of imagery that are sometimes poetic and profound, but always imbued with acid sarcasm and sour humour. Galapagos Now! are not all about the words however: the arrangements of their songs take on the shapes of their meanings, borrowing vocabulary from garage rock, jazz, folk and other sources. There is an unhinged quality to proceedings, and an anarchic unpredictability that constantly rewards the attentive listener (while probably confusing the hell out of the inattentive).

Sissters – There’s A Party In My Mouth But You’re Not Invited (post-punk/ noise rock/ art-punk)

The word experimental is over-used in descriptions of avant-garde music, and is not always meaningful: who are we as listeners to judge whether an artist is conducting an experiment, or whether the sounds we hear represent their mature practice? However, experimental or not, There’s A Party In My Mouth And You’re Not Invited contains a feast of invention. From start to finish there is no recognisable ready-made rock gesture that has not been transformed, re-purposed and re-imagined.

Cockdaughter – Cockdaughter (noise rock)

In 1917 Marcel Duchamp put a pissoir in a gallery: unfortunately, nearly a century later, many people still don’t get it. Those people will have trouble with the presentation of something as deliberately shambolic as Cockdaughter’s eponymous debut as a finished artwork; but it’s precisely to challenge that sense of the polished and refined as the exclusive token of an utterance’s validity that music like this is needed.

Diane Marie Kloba – I Am An Unknown Artist (avant pop)

‘Avant pop’ is a term that has been bandied about at various times, in various contexts, and it is one that Diane Marie Kloba has applied to her own work… It may take some listeners a while to hear past the somewhat challenging surface of this music. Once they do they will find a probing, enquiring creativity that is intellectually and emotionally stimulating, but also sweet natured, and motivated by a generosity of spirit.