Always on the look out for rare and bespoke ways in which to test out the sevens, this week I attempted Trial By Bicycle. So if you want to know which singles had me grinning despite slipping gears and arduous uphill mini-marathons, you have come to the right place.
Single of the Week!
Mariachi El Bronx - ‘Cell Mates’ (Wichita)
The Bronx, the hardnut punks who in a former guise made records that Henry Rollins might have listened to while making a nice tray of angry cakes, would probably be horrified to learn that after hearing ‘Cell Mates’ I went off to YouTube to watch a load of Three Amigos clips. But since I hail from the burbiest burbs and as a youth used to wee myself in video shops at anything bearing Chevy Chase’s name, they will have to forgive me. Thing is, I can’t - have never been able - to take anything remotely Rollins seriously. For starters, I used to be in a band with Kerrang-reading, Metallica-copyists who thought Lars Ulrich’s tightleggingsandnotop combination was a look worth aping. And I remember fondly them telling me of Henry’s spoken word tours, how his best friend WAS SHOT right IN FRONT OF HIM and it CHANGED HIS LIFE. I mean, I understood the essential WAARAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGH-ness of Rollins, but he looked like such a puppy dog with those hurt, dark eyes and long eyelashes.
But I digress. Because now that The Bronxers have decided to embrace their So-Cal roots and make an album flavoured entirely with refried brass, I love them. And I love how, when I come to write this column, there will nearly always be one record that takes me totally by surprise, for better or worse. This one, of course, is a rock piñata, filled with soaring melodic treats and tales of regret from a Mehican jailhouse. Whether this concept works for a whole album I neither know nor care, and let’s face it, I wouldn’t know if this was proficient Mariachi music any more than you might, unless we have some secret Norteno nerds in our midst. All I can say is that this singular song - with its jolly Tijuana Cantina, end-of-an-evening-soaked-in-Tequila, sheer Summer loveliness – is a peach.
The XX - ‘Basic Space’ (Young Turks)
Everybody’s favourite new band dawdle delightfully through release number two. And it’s quite literally a slow burn of a single, with its slurring, breathy, minor key cadence and the sort of carefully textured air (oh my, those gaps) most minimalists would give their right arm for. ‘Basic Space’ is extraordinarily beautifully produced and though that sounds like damned faint praise it really isn’t – especially given the bells, whistles and kitchen sink sort of programming which seems de rigeur these days. It sounds like a slow echo, it boomerangs between Romy and Oliver and both sound tired and sad. And the result is a wonderfully tender and calmly confident, polite pop record.
Lovvers - ‘OCD Go Go Girls’ (Wichita)
With this week’s best single title by quite some way (what would an OCD Go Go Girl do? Keep compulsively checking her nipple tassles?), the Lovvers continue to do their Stoogey thing and I for one am not complaining – this being a delicious racket which is recorded so wrongly (vocals low, hi-hat high) I was reminded of those eminently special Pebbles comps. With some pleasing flashes of Devo and the odd screech of Television, what this lacks in originality it more than makes up for in squally gusto. Top larks.
Memory Tapes - ‘Bicycle’ (Loog)
It probably says something about me that I can handle some forms of copyists more willingly than others. So while the rash of Joy Division drones earlier in the year had me gnawing my fists, anyone placing their feet a mile apart a la Hooky seems to slip under the Roby radar like a very accomplished limbo shimmier. This brings me neatly on to ‘Bicycle’, from Memory Tapes – some New Order debtors who start out all mid-90s shuffly electronica and Beloved choral choruses. A dimension of perv is added courtesy of some lyrics about wanting to pash off with your little sister, before they bring out the big guns at 3:50. And this is when ‘Bicycle’ loses its head completely; with a bass breakdown so wholeheartedly and determinedly nicked from ‘World In Motion’ even I have to say ENOUGH ALREADY.
Cassius - ‘Youth, Speed, Trouble, Cigarettes’ (Cassius Records)
With a title like cobbled clipboard checklist for a BBC3 commissioner, this should be all sorts of wrong. So it is to Cassius’ undoubted credit that ‘Youth, Speed, Trouble, Cigarettes’ has me rather amused. Albeit electroclash amused, of the sort which comes with a shouty chorus and a 4/4 beat which only relents when they bring the inevitable asbo sirens in. Me, I prefer b-side ‘Almost Cut My Hair’ – a dumb and thumping house re-rub of the Crosby, Stills & Nash tune about being a scissor allergic BECAUSE OF THE MAN, AND THE MAN IS BAD, EVERYONE. Having abandoned the trampy hippie bleat of the original, sentiments like ‘It was getting kinda long / It was getting in my way’ (I know boys, I know) appeal to the modern, recession-busting, DIYing Scrooge in me. Any record about cutting your own hair, it seems to me, is good. (See also: Pavement).
Miike Snow - ‘Animal’ (Columbia)
Coming over very much like an electronic Brendan Benson, I am a little bit in love with Miike ‘One vowel is not enough for me, I shall have two’ Snow. The last of their songs to bewitch was the Benny Blanco remix of ‘Burial’ - a peculiarly perky pop song which examined the doom of depression, failed affairs and the unlikely quandary of whether one should cry at one’s own funeral. And while that was a wibbly take on R’n’B with a decidedly un-shiny R’n’B subject matter, Christian Karlsson & Pontus Winnberg are on more glass-half-full territory here. ‘Animal’ is, if you can imagine it, Synchronicity-era The Police as sung by Peter Gabriel, except Swedish, and filtered through the sort of modern technological twinkliness that makes it sound no worse for either influence. Brills.
My Toys Like Me - ‘Sweetheart’
Listen at MySpace, here.
I experienced one of those very rare ‘Hold on, STOP. What’s this?’ moments when this came on, tumbling as I was perilously downhill, with brakes-worn paper thin. But risk injury to myself I did, and stop I tried, to pick up my pod and jab at it till I got my answer. And what it is is this: a properly funny, original pop song, which takes the sadly-departed talents of The Streets and reworks its modern parlance with an accompaniment of pared down blips and beeps. With lines like ‘You always end up getting changed in my room / Why’s it always my room?’ and ‘I can hear you giggling in the back seat / Cause you’re looking at yourself / And your health is rude’ delivered in a sort of Morcheeba-on-helium style, lead lady Francis Noon does sound rather kiddiewinkled in a mannered sort of way, but for once this is no bad thing. This is the second - capital eff - Fresh bit of poptronica to plop onto my desk this week and I have to tell you it is proper odd, and proper good.
Also out this week!
Vitalic - ‘Disco Terminateur EP’ (PIAS / Different Recordings)
Behold, he invented Justice when Gaspard & Xavier were still in les nappies! (Dix points!)
The Victorian English Gentlemens Club - 'Watching The Burglars' (This Is Fake DIY)
Some delicious Adam Ant-style ‘HUR!’ noises in amongst the exuberantly ramshackle indie pop. Listen at SoundCloud, here.
Soundcarriers - 'Caught By The Sun' (Melodic)
Psyche-folk United States of America-style jazzers! From Nottingham! In 2009! And yet really quite good! Will the price of admission to their single be your mind? (USA joke there!) Listen at MySpace, here
Riton & Primary 1 – ‘Who’s There?’ (Phantasy Sound)
Halloween House! From Erol Alkan’s stable of ravey madness! Sort of ace! If you like that sort of thing! Which I do!
Bloc Party - ‘One More Chance’ (Wichita)
Young Mr Tong is very good in the videothing, which has a particularly lolsome comedy keyboard man. Good po-face, Matt. Somebody give him a Curb-style sitcom.
The Answering Machine - ‘Oklahoma’ (Heist or Hit)
The Answering Machine sound very much like a sort of Mancunian Strokes, while ‘Oklahoma’ is upbeat pop about indie disco snogs / lack thereof.
Theoretical Girl - ‘Red Mist’ (Memphis Industries)
Elastica-chanelling, ace-fringe-rocking indie girl jerk-pop. Listen at MySpace, here.
The Black Box Revelation - ‘I Think I Like You’ (T for Tunes)
Wonder where they got the idea for their video from, eh readers?
The Silent Years - ‘Climb On My Back’ (Gift Music)
The Cinematics - ‘Love and Terror’ (Orchard Music)
Diskjokke - ‘Rosenrod’ (Moshi Moshi)
Listen at MySpace here.
Young British Artists - 'Small Waves EP' (Red Deer Club)
Listen at MySpace, here