Singles for the week starting 6 June
Sons and Daughters, Young Knives, Thomas Tantrum and Die! Die! Die! - all in this week's singles review, just for you...
Sons And Daughters
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Newsflash! Poverty isn't much fun. You're probably discovering this right now, as your boss reveals that he's spent your pension on a flame thrower to cremate away all the homeless people begging outside your office door. Still, there is the occasional indie band that gets so frustrated with being poor that they resort to writing a decent tune - the desperate swines! - and therefore accidentally cheer the rest of us up. That's where Glasgow's Sons and Daughters have come up trumps.
'Breaking Fun' doesn't exactly sound like the name of a party tune, and in accordance with your groggy, bleak-eyed expectations that's exactly what it isn't. But on the other hand, it is a spooky, anthemic and downright addictive tune which you could probably have sex to - assuming your girlfriend hasn't left you for being poor of course! LOL!
Er... let's cut to the details. The song creeps in with some Eraserhead-style electric shock effects and an ultra-sparse bass and drums combo. At this point it makes sense that the group have previously worked with Suede's Bernard Butler, because the tone is darkly oriental and forbidding.
This is all pretty good. But then the chorus comes in: a hedonistic stomp that feels like the moment you cease caring and start throwing your toaster across the kitchen like a liberated chimpanzee. It's a release - but also a kind of social realist piece of cinema, which you can enjoy without worrying about toaster expenses.
And then? Then the chorus happens again. And again. Until it becomes fun to be in a foul mood, which let's face it - were all in anyway! Indie wins again.
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Knowing as you probably do that the Young Knives have embarked on a UK tour, speeding across the country in a solar powered bus with the words 'SPONSORED BY ARTROCKER' plastered on the side, you might well be cynical or suspicious about our choice to give them single of the month. Readers! As if we would use our own reviews section to plug our nationwide tour. Besides, the dates will have ended by the time you read this, otherwise they'd be Album of the Month for the second issue running... cough cough.
On a different note, the reason why 'Human Again' deserves your attention is that it's simply a classic pop song - with not just one but TWO great choruses (in these austere times, you're lucky to get two of the things) all wrapped up with the band's trademark balance between melodic bliss and seize-the-day urgency.
Essentially a song about the moment where, at 11.35pm, you sense that things are getting a bit hedonistic, but contrary to this inner-warning system you actually step on the gas (reasoning that you’ll be “human again” tomorrow), the song captures the insecurities of party time while cunningly making it all the easier for us to enjoy the damn thing. For Henry, the “long legs are a fantasy”- but the breezy, hand-clapped party tune suggests that it’s not going to bring him down.
Very few pop bands in this era are as stupid, lovable and lovably stupid as the Young Knives – and for this reason we should hold them to our bosoms like big fat mammas and squeeeeze – until they politely ask us to let go, anyway.
Spit Out Your Teeth/It's Possible (Part One)'
(New Heavy Sounds)
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The fishnets 'n peroxide atmosphere of 90s grunge acts such as L7 manifests itself - albeit in a slightly darker shade - with Black Moth's contribution to this split single 'Spit Out Your Teeth'. "It's strange, but I feel there's something more..." croons the mysterious singer through what you can only imagine are black lips. Rumour has it The Crow is being re-made: these guys would make an ace soundtrack contribution.
Over on the flipside, progressive metallers XM-3A are taking a break from singing about invading robot armies to go all Talking Heads on our asses, courtesy of 'It's Possible (Part One)', which contains an almost Prince-like funky chorus amidst its stomping, riffing relentlessness. "It's possible! Not impossible!" howls singer Tom throughout, and with this tune motivating your buttocks through a pair of headphones, you might just find he's right.
Hot Hot Summer
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There’s nothing like a bit of blind optimism to get you through the British summertime. In fact, it’s the only thing that gets most of us through. But you know what that blind summer optimism is currently missing? A soundtrack! Step forward, Thomas Tantrum.
On the surface, ‘Hot Hot Summer’ is a slice of sun-kissed guitar-pop full of rattling guitars and catchy hooks – the sort of track that’s sure to provide ample stereo fodder for a car trip down to the coast. But work your way down to the song’s core and you find a heartfelt tale of romance that adds depth and leaves us excited to see what they’ll do next.
Inca Gold II
(Color & Vision Records)
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Psychedelic dreamscapes are the dish of the day for this London based act - and despite ambient guitar lines that spiral off into wig outs, alien burpings and swooshing synths, it's a pleasure to report that they've got a pretty firm grip on composition too, making for an altogether mellow trip (which somehow recalls all those 80s Jim Henson fantasy movies like The Neverending Story and Labyrinth... weird).
Penguins Kill Polar Bears
(Mountain Halo Records)
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Tough day at work? Then let us suggest this Edinburgh-based post rock cocktail of a single: ‘Sapling’ drifts along like on a warm Cure-like groove for a good five minutes, pausing for an intense Mogwai-ish crescendo along the way. Meanwhile, singer Ben Proudlock handles things with a kind of accessible weariness, which brings stadium stormtroopers Snow Patrol and King Creosote to mind. It’s a casual kind of fling, but certainly not a regrettable one.
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Nice to find out that Abbey Road studios can still whip a gorgeous-sounding single into place; 'Don't Worry' is a fairly traditional gospel-soul pop song, complete with Al Green organs and a wah-wah guitar solo. It's a decent tune too: the basic gist being rainy day reassurance. Tasty!
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A perfectly competent cut of gothic folk from the US here, in which Greg Jamie appears to be secretly collaborating with (what we can only assume are) supernatural bugs to plot "how to make life stay."
All of which sounds like an HP Lovecraft plot - whereas the music here isn't quite that spectacular; 'Bugs' is merely pretty in its shade of moon-blue.
Whole Picture EP
(Lazy Acre Records)
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Fire-side acoustic warmers from Coventry here, courtesy of a chap called Steve Jones, whose interests seem to include twinkling xylophones, cozy female harmonies and romantic ballad-pop. Musically he’s backed by the kind of band in which the drummer slaps a box rather than playing the drums – but lazily romantic songs like ‘Something Worth Keeping’ make this EP tricky to resist, especially when you’re utterly knackered and just want to mong to something comfy.
(In The Name Of/Columbia)
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New York two-piece Cults might yet step up to the challenge laid down by Sleigh Bells, to make genuinely subversive pop music for teenagers with evil minds. 'Abducted' isn't quite the tune to do it however; a classy single which captures the heartbreak of the '60s Motown girl groups, it has a captivating chorus - but depends entirely on it, with no other ideas to dazzle or intrigue. Close, but no Top of the Pops.
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Capturing the twinkling promise of a night out on the tiles, 'Parakeets' sees Fiction continue their drumstick-tapping, guitar-echoing brand of pop music with gorgeous results. The falsettos alone are enough to release a few endorphins as you reach for that hairbrush.
Die! Die! Die!
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Hailing from New Zealand, a country not exactly setting the world alight with its musical talent and three albums in, Die! Die! Die! Die! have yet to really crack the UK market. ‘Wasted Lands’ the second release from the recently released album ‘Form’ is a fast and furious slice of noise pop. Both guitars are played at breakneck speed but it’s the energetic and solid drumming that really stands out. There’s a nice underlying melody in there too that shines through nicely in the quieter moments, but generally it’s a record that’s best played loud!
Honey All Over
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Somewhere between SFA and that surprisingly serious electro pop outfit Neon Neon, there exists a Welshman with a big love for melody and kitsch. Knowing Gruff Rhys’ other bands, it might not come as a surprise to find these elements embedded in his solo work.
‘Honey All Over’ seems to re-imagine The Beach Boys’ ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’, traveling through a carnival of vocal harmonies and swelling rhythms - while gently reminding us that pop can be pleasant too.
Beneath The Lighthouse EP
(Angle Park Records)
Scotland’s Pose Victorious boast a nice Undertones-ish bite in singer Ross Millar, and their playing is tightly psychedelic enough on ‘High As The Sky’ to suggest Hawkwind jamming under the night sky. On the other hand, their tunes can feel a bit indie-for-beginners and directionless. Highlight of the EP comes with the aptly titled ‘Autumn Leaves’, with its melodramatic hint of ‘Diamonds Are Forever’.
The Beatnik Summer EP
(Speech Fewapy Records)
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Throwing together the lead guitars of the Pixies, the g-force of the Foo Fighters and the vocals of, well, Dodgy (can’t win ‘em all!) Black Heart Generator have crafted a sound that hangs together pretty effectively.
The title track of this EP has a distinctly ‘Debaser’ feel to it, from the queasy lead guitars to the Kim Deal-style bass-led verses. Meanwhile, ‘Suicide Tuesday’ even uses the intro melody to ‘Caribou’ as a motif (the cheeky scamps!) This uber-influence is forgivable however, as singer Greg Smith is at least pleasingly demented (and thankfully nothing like Frank Black), plus there’s a darkness and compositional ambition to the tunes which elevates them above the status of tribute act.