The weekend passes all too soon but with its passing at least comes the Monday Music Review, this week brought to you in association with Paul Westerberg's Folker.
Once upon a time, at the height of Brit Pop, an unassuming bunch of Scotsmen wrote an album that would unite nations, end world conflict and allow us to communicate peacefully with life on other worlds. Its sun drenched indie pop would rule the charts and non believers everywhere danced in the streets to the sounds of Teenage Fanclub's Grand Prix.
Unfortunately reality got in the way, none of the above ever happened and to this day Londonist is still trying to work out what went wrong. Why did the collective record buying public fail to clutch The 'Fannies and their collective joyous harmonies to it's collective breast (Fools! They're all fools!), and will anything bring them to their senses so that they rush out this lunchtime to buy Man Made?
Or will it be a load of old arse?
Quite frankly no, and the simple fact that it isn't makes it Londonist's record of the week. Well, that and the fact that in our humble opinion it's the best TFC record since the afore mentioned Grand Prix.
Unsurprisingly the most in-depth review in the online press comes The Scotsman where Fiona Shepherd sums up their endearing four star charm as indie shamblers with a love for the pop sounds of the 60s and 70s. It is of course this loveable shambolic attitude that explains why TFC have been laregly ignored by the many. In an industry where bigger is often misconcieved as better and those who shout the loudest get heard the most the boys have been happy to do their thing with minimal fuss. Fiona goes on to say that
they do what they do because that’s what comes out and they’re good at it - the same thing that was likely said around the release of their last album and the one before that and the one before that...
which is no bad thing after all.
There’s not really anything to fault here, unless continuing to write good songs is a fault.
So there may be nothing of earth shattering significance to the 21st Century but Teenage Fanclub can still scatter their musical fairy dust:
fine examples of the sort of beatific, retro, folk-infused pop that tends to accompany vintage film footage of hippies handing out flowers and swaying serenely.
In fact the only thing to give Fanclub traditionalists coronaries is their making the album in Chicago.
Londonist only managed a quick listen to the album before posting but we're not going to veer far from Fiona on this one. 12 tracks of gentle West Coast 60s pop that although may not field any potential 'big hits' stands as a fine body of work with at least a few tracks rising to the utter brilliance of Sparky's Dream or Going Places, most noticeably Slow Fade and Fallen Leaves. Only Born Under A Good Sign breaks the mould by collapsing into an extended wig out, reminding us that although TFC are happy ambling along they still remember how to rock in a good way.
Jools Long on MegaStar likes the album enough to give it 3 stars: This is still their characteristic twinkly loveliness carried over via the means of harmony but not enough to make a lasting impression! If you were asked to hum one tune after you'd switched off the stereo, we bet you a fiver you'd struggle. Maybe not, but we'd bet another fiver that it's back on the stereo before long.
Over on The Guardian Adam Sweeting sums up four stars in two short paragraphs which can be summed up as:
The punkadelic blast of early Fanclub has given way to a lyrical folk-pop feel...and the band's always excellent harmonies sound preternaturally warm and smooth...the vocals are squarely in the Byrds/Beach Boys tradition, at times almost outshining their role models. It's a difficult album to dislike.
With the ascendance of The Magic Numbers, HAL and the interminable rise of The Thrills, alongside a general shift in buying patterns towards the tune laden, radio friendly indie pop of Coldplay, Keane, Snow Patrol etc etc this should be the perfect time for Teenage Fanclub to find themselves with non stop airplay and a platinum selling album. But somehow we feel that our reality cheque is going to bounce once again and that's probably just the way the boys like it.
The 'Fanies play the Astoria on 1st June.
Now Londonist admits to not really having followed the ups and downs of geek rockers Weezer although we loved the video with the Muppets in. Liked the song too. So let's take a short trip down this ol' information superhighway to MySpace and check out the new Weezer album. Make Believe kicks off with sludge stomp Joan Jett meets Steve Miller single Beverly Hills and to be honest never really lifts off into the return of the clever catchy indie pop that they once announced themselves to the world with. Remember Buddy Holly?
So what's wrong? Nothing especially. It just seems that whilst Rivers Cuomo was completing his degree before completing his recording career he's been listening to lots of post grunge punk pop stadium filling rock. No biggy if that's your thing but increasingly it seems that straight up rock records are becoming ever more soulless as they mine further paths back into rock history - a criticism that we'll happily hurl at the new Oasis album (popping up on a random web site near you if you're unlucky enough). The album is underpinned by pretty straight forward onetwothreefouronetwothreefourchugchugchugchug guitars that break out into big building choruses and the odd solo that veers dangerously close to big hair metal. Elsewhere you can't help but shout 'that's a Pumpkins riff and that's Nirvana' (such as on Hold Me) or 'hey, doesn't that sound like Garbage', or even worse such as with My Best Friend, 'couldn't that have been done by Busted?' There are the occasional flashes of jaunty piano and even the obligatory lean towards 80s Brit synth pop - it's the new nu-metal - thankfully kept to just the one track. And so it continues with only the occasional hand clap to lessen the interminable uninspiring drone. If we can think of anything better to say than this is so fucking average then we'll update the post later but we never want to hear this record again.
Still who are we to complain? Weezer will be playing Brixton on the 14th and 15th of June whilst we're still trying to work out the fingerings on Em.
Dave Simpson at The Guardian is a little kinder with a three star:
elsewhere, there are familiar Weezer trademarks such as handclaps, bad cardigans, buzzsaw guitars, horn-rimmed glasses and at least one immaculate pastiche of Joan Jett's I Love Rock'n'Roll. Most curiously, a chunk of almost straight-faced love/self-doubt songs show that while these geeks may not inherit the earth, they can play their competitors at their own game.
Kitty Empire gives it The Observer's album of the week saying, after a brief history of the band's career and noting Cuomo's oddball rock geek behaviour, the band's fractious nature and Rick Rubin sponsored therapy, that
most tracks here sound like they could be singles, proving that Cuomo has been diagramming song structures long into the night.
We'll stay on the American West Coast for a while, detouring to the Fitzgerald Casino Hotel in Reno, Nevada where Willy Vlautin, frontman of Richmond Fontaine, is watching
in the alley below
two guys are getting in a scrape and
above they're all yelling and below it's the insane,
the alcoholics and the ruined and the framed.
Vlautin's window in The Fitzgerald looks out over 11 tales of Reno's dispossessed: the drunks, the damaged, the debt ridden, the dead and the dying. The detritus of the Land of the Free with their stories brought to you as a tumbleweed of spartan lo-fi alt.country, Vlautin's voice cracked and broken (in a similar manner to Connor Oberst of Bright Eyes), the band stripped right back, the sound as defeated as the album's many protagonists. This is a beautiful record, the soundtrack to a 21st Century Grapes of Wrath as filmed by Jim Jarmusch in grainy 16mm b&w. At times it's a slow bluesy shuffle (Disappeared), others gentle picked guitar (Welhorn Yards), it even strays into the uplifting college rock country strum of Don't Look And It Won't Hurt. At all times it's painfully honest in it's writing:
Her husband's fist, her swollen face, her broken ribs and missing hair,
her crumbling voice, her soft white skin and blonde hair
No charges did she file.
It's a country backroad away from the more upbeat Post To Wire that finally brought them to the UK's attention after almost 10 years on the road and the Wilco/Whiskeytown comparisons will have to be exchanged for new Springsteen/Waits ones, all hovering under the gaze of Woodie Guthrie. Not nearly enough people will get to hear this record but you should at least check out a couple of tracks from Post here before heading off to buy this one.
Over in The Observer, Sunday rock fans, Kitty Empire describes The Fitzgerald as a worthy, if smaller scale, companion to Springsteen's recent songbook, Devils and Dust
Richmond Fonatine play the Lyric Theatre Hammersmith on19th May.
Now there's nothing Londonist Music likes better than being sent albums to review and there's nothing we hate more than getting our calendars messed up and losing the release date. So with all apologies we just have time to mention Fog's 10th Avenue Freakout which was released last Monday and not this one. For the sake of reference we're going to say that Fog's latest fuses the dischordant sampled beats of DJ Shadow with a lo-fi cut & paste garage ethic and the avant-garde jazz direction Radiohead took with Kid A and Amnesiac. At times it's slides happily into the atonal such as on the title track at others there's an almost Eels like dark poppiness (Holy! Holy! Holy!). Gentle, almost classical piano parts fuse with disembodied background voices, simple plucked guitars sit next to cellos and saxophones and all through Andrew Broder's distopian vision of a world that's lost touch with it's soul
Jesus Christ is my American idol
He's the Brand New Funky President!
Victory is certain, this much is certain,
And if it's not, you can always
Start the video game over...
Consistently intentionally, intelligently challenging, shifting direction and rewarding for those prepared to take the trip.
Arriving in the same package as Fog was Boom Bip's Blue Eyed In The Red Room which came out waaaaay back in February. But we're going to break the rules by dropping in a quick note because. Well 1) because we can and 2) because we love the damn thing so much. Lush spaced out dance tunes that weave their way through the same tranced spaces as Orbital and Lemon Jelly whilst walking hand in hand with the retro-futurism of Vangelis's Bladeruner score. Perfect for lazy summer evenings in green spaces. There's an almost child like innocence at work in tracks like One Eye Round The Warm Corner and still time for a wee space rock wig out on Aplomb. Only two vocal performances: a nice eerie voodoo monastic chant from Gruff of SFA that turns into the carnival from hell with Edge styled guitar and then then there's the final track. The Matter (Of Our Discussion) sung by Nina Nastasia left us agape of jaw and moist of tear duct. A shimmering spring rainfall of silken kisses from a lover too long gone, if this song doesn't break your heart then you're quite possibly dead already. Autoharps twinkle sunlight bouncing off the water and then all to suddenly it just fades away on you. An assured place on our top 10 of 2005.
If you want to send Londonist free music for us to review then please do so. You can check out the terms and conditions (no good reviews unless accompanied by bribes of three figures or more) or email us for more details and pleasant chat. (MM)
Just one final thing. People on the mobile network Orange are suddenly going to be popular, as the BBC reports that extra tickets for Glastonbury Festival are being made available to them tomorrow. Poor old O2 have to resort to putting on their own festival but it's a bit like playing in the UEFA cup instead of being allowed into the Champions League. Details of the the extra tickets for Orange customers are a bit hazy but if we get any more news on it, we'll update this post. (K)