Blog : Posts tagged with 'indiepop' : Page 1

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Independent

In which we fill the weekend with music


A bit of a musical weekend, this weekend. A bit of a busy one too: there’s always too much in this town to choose between.

It started off with Big Pink Cake. Or, at least, the Big Pink Cake Indiepop All-Weekender, starting off on Saturday at the Cube. It offered free cake, so really there was no choice. Plus, Dimitra is always saying that we should go and see Pete Green, largely because he’s one of the best stars of indiepop to emerge from Grimsby in recent years. He does things like: release songs to benefit the Lincolnshire Wolds Railway,* too.

So, we ambled down to The Cube on Saturday afternoon for the free c… I mean, for the first stage of the Big Pink Cake weekend. The first few bands, including Mr Green, were to appear in the bar, which is really rather cramped. We saw a stream of bands play to the small crowd: The Short Stories, Countryside, Secret Shine, and at least one other band that weren’t on the roster. The singer of said band held up their CD and said that anybody there could have a free copy; the audience carefully avoided eye contact. No Pete Green though. He’d been moved to today’s setlist. Ah well.

After nipping out for food at Café Kino, we returned for the evening bands, over in the cinema. Being a cinema, each band had picked a film to be screened behind them, their choices all rather interesting. There was: something black-and-white from late-50s Britain,*** chosen by French band Electrophönvintage; La Dolce Vita, chosen by The Westfield Mining Disaster; Convoy, picked by Amida, March Of The Penguins accompanying Santa Dog, and classic British film Les Bicyclettes de Belsize showing behind The Pocketbooks. That does, really, tell you more about each band than I could explain myself.**** We weren’t really impressed by the sound quality, though, or the way that the first song of each set turned into a sound check. I definitely wasn’t impressed by the rather rude people in The Pocketbooks’ entourage who got up and started dancing, getting in everyone’s way and being generally annoying and offensive.

The Big Pink Cake weekender did – being, you know, a weekender – extend through to today, with an afternoon of bands at the Mothers Ruin. The bill included Pete Green (moved from Saturday, apparently) and Tender Trap, a band beloved of all C86/Sarah tweecore fans and/or economics experts everywhere. However, we didn’t go along, because we’d left on the Saturday feeling relatively uninspired. As luck would have it, in our meal-break down at Café Kino, we spotted a poster for a rather better-sounding gig that was on at the same time. So, instead, we spent our Sunday afternoon at the Scout Hut down on Phoenix Wharf.

At the Scout Hut we saw Jam On Bread and Mat Riviere, in the middle of a joint tour, supported by local band Boxcar Aldous Huxley. I’ve seen Boxcar Aldous Huxley before, and they were very good then; they were very good again today, with tales of Francis Dashwood, the responsibilities of the free press, and messianic movements in 19th century Canada. They were followed by Mat Riviere, who performed kneeling on the floor with a variety of keyboards and samples; and Jam On Bread, who had both a ukelele and a beard, and played both brilliantly.

I was sitting listening to Jam On Bread’s***** set, and I couldn’t help thinking: you know, his accent sounds a bit, well, Grimsbyish. Not really northern but not really southern, a bit flat and dull but with the full complement of vowels.****** But, of course, he couldn’t be: it might be a small world, but there’s no way that two stars of pop music, both from Grimsby, would both be playing gigs in Bristol on the same afternoon. And then: his lyrics mentioned that he wasn’t Swedish, because he was born in Grimsby. Gosh.

We didn’t get time to speak to Jam On Bread after the gig, so I didn’t have time to confirm his Grimsbyness face-to-face; but the internet seems to think it’s true. So: we did get to see a top Grimsby-born indiepop star this weekend, after all. It just wasn’t the one we’d been expecting to see when the weekend started. I think we might well have seen the best one, though.

* one of the country’s shortest steam railways, and hence in need of the donations. It will, if ever finished, be notable for being the country’s straightest steam railway, a good ten miles long and with utterly no curves. At present it runs for about a quarter of a mile, but it does have a somersault signal, which is obviously a plus point.** I should point out that Pete Green’s song does largely blame Richard Beeching for the line’s original closure: in reality it didn’t shut down until 1970, whereas Beeching was sacked from the British Railways Board in ’65.

** I believe they built it with spare parts bought from the Ffestiniog after the abandonment of that railway’s mechanical Tanygrisiau resignalling scheme, but I could be wrong. If any LWR or Ffestiniog people who know better read this, feel free to correct me.

*** easily dated from the railway carriages featured, if we’d got a better look at it

**** No, really, it does; although it would take rather more space to explain why. Maybe that will be a blog post for next week some time.

***** His real name is Steve Carlton, or at least, that’s what it says on the Internet

****** To be contrasted with the nearby Hull accent, which only uses one vowel. “E hed e slerce ef terst, smerked e feg, end went dern the rerd”

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Sound and music

In which we go to see The Boy Least Likely To


As soon as we get home, we’re out again. To a gig, at the Louisiana, to see The Boy Least Likely To, hard at work promoting their new album that’s just been released. We were slightly confused when we arrived, to see that according to the posters the gig was on Monday, March 24th, and we’d turned up on a Tuesday. After checking our calendars, we went in. Inside, there’s not much room in the Louisiana. It’s quite a cosy place, so cosy that we quickly spotted that a good chunk of the pub was taken up by support band The School tucking into their tea.

The first band that came on were The Fox And The Bramble, an electric/acoustic duo who dashed about the stage swapping instruments, and made slightly-twee twinkly sounds with children’s toys. I spent a while wondering which one was Fox and which Bramble; the internet says the name comes from Aesop, though.

They were followed by The School, as I mentioned. We’ve seen The School before, so we knew what to expect; but we were slightly disappointed. They didn’t seem as good as they did in November. The sound didn’t seem to be mixed quite right, with keyboard and vocals overpowering the rest of the band.

The Boy Least Likely To had sound troubles of their own. “Violin isn’t plugged in,” one of them shouted, after the first song. “Too much violin,” he shouted after the second. They are apparently only a duo normally, but on-stage they mysteriously expand to a full band, like one of those toys for dropping in water. I have to admit to not knowing very much about them; but the gig left me wanting to find out more.* Their frontman smiled broadly, and flicked balloons back and forth with the audience in a genial way, never missing a beat.

* they do have a blog, and they’ve already written about last night’s gig on it.

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Clever Girls Like Clever Boys Like Clever Music

In which we see Pelle Carlberg


We were hoping, when we moved here, that there would always be lots of exciting little gigs to go to, given that this city is always supposed to have an exciting music scene. Last night, we went to the second one we’ve been to since we moved to, to see one of our favourite Swedish indiepop acts, Pelle Carlberg. Swedish indiepop? Yes, indeed. A classic genre, I’ll have you know.

Not many other people seemed to think so, though. We were the first people there – indeed, when the first act, Made From Clouds, started, we were the only people there. “Have you heard of Flight Of The Conchords” he bantered, at the end of the first song. “This feels like the episode where Bret left the band and Jemaine was left on his own.” There’s nothing wrong with resembling Flight Of The Conchords to my mind, though.

Other people did start to filter in, although as usual at small gigs a lot of them were friends of the local bands, coming in for one band and disappearing afterwards. Pelle Carlberg arrived, too, and sat down next to us, to listen to his support. Slowly, people who had come to listen to him specifically started to appear.

The main support, who’ve been following Pelle round the country, were pretty good. Called “The School”, they’re an indiepop band of the Cardiff school, with cheerful melodies and tinkly glockenspiels. We bopped along in our seats, with smiles on our faces.

Pelle Carlberg himself tends to get compared to Belle and Sebastian. On the posters for this tour, certainly. Having a song in his set called “1983 (Pelle and Sebastian)” possibly doesn’t help that; and his gawky dancing style does remind me slightly of Stuart Murdoch. Generally, though, his songs are slightly more biting, less vague, about reality rather than hypothetical dreaming teenagers. After listening to him, you know exactly which airlines he refuses to use* or which journalists he doesn’t like any more. He’s very good at it, though, and moreover, very catchy. We might have been bopping in our chairs to The School; for Carlberg, we were bouncing about and singing along. As there were only about 15 other people in the audience, we think he probably noticed.** Rather than have a merchandising stall, Pelle had a carrier bag, and invited everyone to come up to him to buy stuff from him after the gig. We went up and bought a Pelle Carlberg cloth shopping bag, embarrassed and happy and giggling. On the side it says “Clever Girls Like Clever Boys More Than Clever Boys Like Clever Girls”, one of his best (and best-known songs).*** And then we walked home, bouncing and cheerful and whistling his choruses to ourselves.

* Ryanair, in case you were wondering.

** not counting the members of The School who had stayed to listen.

*** It’s on Youtube; I recommend it.

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Review Time

In which music and trains make us happy


Every month I promise myself to start Blogging Properly again, and every time I’m tired.

I still haven’t mentioned much about last Saturday: a mysterious midwinter pop festival, somewhere on a train between Ambergate and Pye Bridge.* We arrived early, and lurked around the railway station warming our hands by the fire.

First band. The Deirdres are some of the most enthusiastic people I’ve seen on the stage for a long time; they haven’t become cynical enough to hide their enthusiasm yet. They bounce about between different instruments, fight over the percussion, banter with each other and put themselves down, but their joyfulness comes through in the music. They’ll accidentally start Demo Mode on their Casio and apologise for it sounding better than they do; and Russell Deirdre has a picture of a steam train on his glockenspiel case, which has to be a good thing.

Second band. The Poppycocks have applied a lot more polish to their work, and have turned the amps up a bit whilst the audience weren’t looking. They’re bright and cheerful, with a hint of 1960s bubblegum and brocaded jackets; and waste no time getting The Deirdres to work on a few organised dance moves. “This song’s called The History Teacher, it’s about, er, a history teacher … so maybe for this one your actions can be books, turning pages, things like that.” Miles Poppycock had a badge on his lapel that he’d snaffled from somewhere around the railway station. Finding myself stood by him later on, I sneaked a quick look: it said “I’ve been on the Santa Special!”**

Headliners: The Icicles had come a long long way, indeed, so much so that everyone in the audience was invited to sign a Christmas card for them. As we were lurking around the gig early (see above), we got to sign it first! So if any Icicles are reading this, we’re the couple who had plenty of space to write long messages like “Thanks for coming so far”.*** Their tour manager, on the merch stall, is a very friendly chap too. We walked off the train into the empty marquee, to find them in place and almost bursting to play. “Do we just start? Is anyone else coming?” “Nah, everyone else is staying on the train,” I said, and after a few seconds’ confusion they kicked into their first track.

As for the music: it’s the sort of thing that I’d never say no to, sweet vocal harmonies over jangling guitars, and good enough for me to buy the albums straight after the gig. The song about Gretchen’s cat***** was a bit too sweet and romanticised, at least if her cat is anything like mine, but you might call it a kind of romantic lullaby. I wanted to mention the music first, because every other review of the Icicles probably mentions their matching and home-made stage outfits first – in fact, I enjoyed myself during the first two bands by spotting members of the Icicles, by spotting the hems of their stage outfits peeking out under their winter jackets. That’s not important, though – it’s important as part of the experience,****** but not compared to the music. The whole experience – dark winter cold, the 1950s steam train, the fire-lit footplate – gives the festival an amazing atmosphere; but the music is what we were there for.

Other people who were probably there: The Autumn Store, and this chap on Flickr.*** I was planning to take the camera myself – but discovered too late that all my batteries were dead. Arse.

* It was Kim’s idea to go. Thank you!

** This is a British railway museum, and it’s December. Of course there’s going to be a Santa Special.

*** Or words to that effect

**** I checked very thoroughly to see if he’d caught either of us in the background anywhere. He hasn’t.

***** I was a bit misled, as I saw a song called “Gedge” on the setlist and thought: “ooh, a song about The Wedding Present.” But, no, Gretchen Icicle’s cat is named after David Gedge instead.

****** The Deirdres, too, had themed stage outfits, customised appliqué t-shirts with their names on; and they make them to sell to the fans, too. The Icicles sell badges made from their fabric offcuts.

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I Love You, You Imbecile

In which we like Swedish music


Why is it that Sweden has so many good bands? Why is it, in particular, that it has so many good indiepop bands? I don’t understand it. It’s a shame more of them aren’t better-known in England; I wish I knew more about them, to tell you about them. I’m sure Dimitra could compile a list of 103 excellent Swedish indiepop bands who started in their teens and have only ever released on vinyl,* but I can’t, and I wish I could.

I’m almost tempted to start posting “Obscure Swedish band of the week” on here, though. Recently I’ve been listening a lot to the latest Pelle Carlberg album, In A Nutshell,** which is very very good, and very very catchy; cheerful tunes and sharp lyrics. When someone comes up with song titles like “I Love You, You Imbecile”, how can you not love their writing in return? Not to mention “Clever Girls Like Clever Boys Much More Than Clever Boys Like Clever Girls”. And, as for the catchiness, I’ve been loudly singing “Middleclass Kid” to myself all morning. Go out there and listen to him, because he makes intelligent, witty, and extremely listenable records.

* I’m exaggerating. Sorry, Dimitra. But not by much. I did have one band in mind that she’s told me about in the past, a teenage brother and sister I think, but I’ve completely forgotten everything she told me other than that they were very very good.

** Which Kim told me about. Here’s your footnote!

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Going Up In The World

In which we note someone’s spreading fame


The band Camera Obscura are clearly going up in the world. I noted, a few months ago, that one of their songs had popped up on a Tesco advert. Never mind about that, though: today, they were on the front page of The Guardian, up above the masthead. Admittedly, only because a Guardian reader had written in with: why weren’t Camera Obscura listed in your recent “1000 albums to hear before you die”* list? It’s better than not being there at all, though.

True Camera Obscura fans, of course, will be spending next weeked at the Midland Railway Centre, in Derbyshire. Their bass player, Mr Gav “King of Partick” Dunbar, is doing a DJ set there, in a heated marquee at Butterley railway station. Now, to my mind, that’s how you judge you’re doing well. Never mind the Guardian front page; once you’ve got your marquee heated, you know you’re on the up and up.

* not to be confused with the entirely unrelated book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, of course.

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Commerciality

In which we recognise some music


I was pleased and slightly surprised the first time I heard the band Camera Obscura on the radio. I was even more surprised the first time I turned on the radio at random and heard a Camera Obscura song playing.*

We were sat, lazing about watching telly, the other night, and the adverts came on. There was an advert for Tesco clothes. With, I was rather amazed to realise, a Camera Obscura song as its backing. “Bloody hell,” I said, fainting slightly. However famous they keep on getting, I’m not sure I’m ever going to get used to it.

* it was on Radio Two, at about 4am on a Sunday morning; I was driving home from a certain Theatrical And Social Club and had just dropped a friend off at her house.

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The Last Days Of Winter

In which we encapsulate things


Still recovering from my awful, hacking-cough cold. For The Mother, who thinks I have had bronchitis continuously since August, this is more evidence that I am leading a terribly dissolute lifestyle and need to stop having sex, stay indoors watching TV, and go to bed at 9pm every night just like she does.

In lieu of a proper entry, it’s time for One-Line Album Reviews. Hurrah! In which, FP tries to come up with pithy lines about some of the albums he’s bought recently.*

The Victorian English Gentlemen’s Club, The Victorian English Gentlemen’s Club: you can’t hum it, the same as you can’t pronounce the name after a few gin and tonics very easily; but it’s some good, chunky angular music to listen to in the car.

The Aliens, Astronomy For Dogs: Like The Beta Band doing rock, which isn’t too surprising really. Rather good.

Gossip, Standing In The Way Of Control: A bit much hype involved, which (also) isn’t surprising really. It’s not a bad album, but they’re not as good as, say, The Kills.

Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly, The Chronicles Of A Bohemian Teenager: Note to self: unlike TVEGC (see above), do not put this on in the car. You will fall asleep, probably at a busy motorway intersection, and kill hundreds of innocent pensioners on a coach en route to Southend.

And that’s most definitely enough of that.

* thus ruling out all the dronerock the Dronerock Fairy has been sending this way. Although the forthcoming Blonde Redhead album is rather good. Erm, so I hear.

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Saturday

In which a song reminds us of Scotland


…is one of my favourite cosy, romantic songs. It’s by The Clientele, and it goes something like:

The taxi lights were in your eyes
So warm again, St Mary’s spires
The carnival was over in the rain
And on and on, through Vincent St
The evening hanging like a dream
I touched your faith*
And saw the night again

When I lived in Edinburgh, I thought it was a song about the city. After all, the Clientele did record one song definitely set in Edinburgh,** and it has both a St Mary’s Cathedral (with distinctive spires)*** and a Saint Vincent St. Glasgow, though, has both too.

And in your arms, I watch the stars
Ascend, and sleep
The loneliness away for a while
Your fingers wide and locked in mine
I kiss your face, I kiss your eyes
Until they turn to me and softly smile

Edinburgh or Glasgow, I wish I was up in Scotland this weekend. I’m sure I will be again soon.

* Until writing this post, I thought it said “I touched your face”. Listening very carefully just now, for the first time I realised it’s actually “faith”.

** A B-side called “6am, Morningside”

*** Actually, it has two St Mary’s Cathedrals, just to confuse people. One of them, the Episcopalian one, has three distinctive spires that are a major city landmark, especially when you look down the length of Princes St. The Catholic one, on the other hand, is tucked away inconspicuously behind a shopping centre.

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What will you do when the music stops?

In which we listen to The Pipettes


As I said yesterday, I’ve been listening a lot recently to the debut album from The Pipettes, released a few days ago. It’s light, bouncy, pop music, always trying to evoke school discos and teenage fumbling. The band deliberately tries to come across, it seems, as a modern indie version of a 1960s girl group; hiding the musicians behind the scenes and relying on the singers to front the band.

It’s a very nostalgic record – a band full of twentysomethings, aimed at twentysomethings, singing at the emotional level of fourteen-year-olds abandoned on the dancefloor. Even when they’re singing about sex, they still sound somehow childish. It’s not surprising to find that they’re fairly closely connected to The Go! Team, whose debut album – which I do like a lot – always strikes me as being the auditory equivalent of a TV talking-head nostalgia show. The Pipettes are similar, a nostalgia band for the London indie scene; you could never imagine this record having been made anywhere other than south-east England.

On the whole, though, it is good to listen to. It’s an easy listen, and there are some good tunes and hooks in there. Whoever is writing the songs knows how to put a catchy melody to equally catchy lyrics, even if the lyrics of one song – “It’s Not Love (But It’s A Feeling)” – always make me think of that cosmetics commercial with Anna Friel in it.* They will probably do quite well. By the end of the year they’ll be a Radio One staple, cropping up on Radio Two occasionally too;** then by the end of next year we’ll be wondering what happened to them.

* You know, the one with the corset and the dirty smirk. That is Anna Friel, isn’t it? The particular lyrics are from the chorus: “touch a little tighter, eyes a little brighter”.

** Actually, I have to admit here, the first time I heard them was on Radcliffe’s Radio 2 show, which I listen to if I’m still travelling at that time of night.

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