Friday, September 01, 2006

Electrodiscowonkpop at its finest

Little write-ups such as this one touch upon the way Flying Matchstick Men have come to polarize today's Glasgow music crowd. You either love 'em or you loathe 'em. Pick a side.

Of course, fellow Scots Bis are namedropped in that piece, a band known for its Powerpuff Girls-inspired pop and childish potterings, which -- much like Flying Matchstick Men -- staunchly divided fans in the mid-1990s. However, Flying Matchstick Men dislike such comparisons.

The Glasgow act prefers to travel its own path, one that curves and dips like the "electrodiscowonkpop" (their term, not ours) Flying Matchstick Men have become known for. That sound was showcased on the unsigned group's last single, "All Your Secrets," which was released back in February. It's a track that features sampled snatches of everything from Arcade Fire's "Rebellion (Lies)" to Franz Ferdinand's "Take Me Out" to the equally ubiquitous "Funkytown" by Lipps Inc. So playful it threatens to leap out of your headphones and do hopscotch across the room.

Hear it for yourself. Download: "All Your Secrets" by Flying Matchstick Men.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Look out below -- The Fizzbombs

"If you weren't in at least two different bands," vocalist Andrew Tully once said, "something was wrong."

Such was the state of Edinburgh's music scene in the mid- to late-1980s: incestous and chaotic. (Tully, for example, was in both Rote Kapelle and Jesse Garon And The Desperadoes.) Vinyl, instruments, and ideas were frequently exchanged. Lineups morphed, as members departed to spawn their own bands, only to return soon after. Regular gigs were a rare occurence, so schedule conflicts were hardly a concern.

Of those acts, The Fizzbombs ranked at the bottom of the Edinburgh music food chain, below the influential, white-noise popsters Shop Assistants and the Rough Trade-aspiring Jesse Garon And The Desperadoes. (Three members of The Fizzbombs were previously in the latter group.)

The low standing is on account of The Fizzbombs cutting just two releases: the single "Sign On The Line" and The Surfin' Winter EP, which showcased the group's affinity for surf rock. Included on that EP is a thick, fuzzy cover of Neil Diamond's "Cherry, Cherry."

Hear it for yourself. Download: "Cherry, Cherry" by The Fizzbombs.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Hate is all you need

The Beatles were broadcasting hippie optimism to 350 millions folks worldwide when they performed the tune "All You Need Is Love" during the "Our World" special. The Delgados? Well, they certainly weren't reaching the same vast audience, but their message was just as powerful and immediate: All you need is hate.

Of course, much like The Beatles' number, this little pastiche is done with a smidge of humor (an element of the song oblivious to most Beatles zealots, methinks). With "All You Need Is Hate," lines such as "I believe it's better to inflict than to attempt relief" and Hate is everywhere/Inside your mother's heart and you will find it there" are particularly dispiriting, sure, hinting at a dystopia that perfectly contrasts The Beatles' utopia, but the track's sunny backdrops burn away a fair bit of the grey clouds.

With Dave Fridmann (known for his production work with The Flaming Lips) on board to produce, the music is grandiose, soaring, flippantly pompous. "All You Need Is Hate" manages to achieve the same sweeping anthem status as The Beatles' number, only with far more thorny subject matter -- a feat more impressive, to say the least.

"It was an inspired song and they really wanted to give the world a message," Brian Epstein once said when discussing "All You Need Is Love. "The nice thing about it is that it cannot be misinterpreted." Let's pretend he was discussing The Delgados' tune as well.

Hear it for yourself. Download: "All You Need Is Hate" by The Delgados.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Al Larsen's side project

While still fronting K Records mainstays Some Velvet Sidewalk, lo-fi connoissieur Al Larsen took a three-month sabbatical to Glasgow starting in the fall of 1994. While there, he toured the U.K. as a guest guitarist for The Pastels, gigging with acts such as Movietone, Cornershop, and Comet Gain. Larsen also spent time with The Pastels in the studio, and what emerged was the five-song EP Klein International Blue, released by Domino Records in '95.

Four of the tracks are original while the fifth is a cover of Van Morrison's classic "Slim Slow Slider." Lyrically, the reputed drug song is a big departure for the enigmatic Larsen, who once penned an ode to ice cream and an album based on the themes from the children's book Danny And The Dinosaur.

However, Larsen and his Pastels crew do pull it off. The song's opening has a hypnotic feel to it, with Larsen delivering vocals more detached than Morrison's. Halfway through, the "slim slow slider" punctures the vein, delivering the hit, as clipped guitar parts rise to a crescendo. Then the track continues to drift along -- blithe, lazy-eyed, lolling – until the final lyrics: "Everytime I see you/I just don't know what to do."

Hear it for yourself. Download: "Slim Slow Slider" by Sandy Dirt. Also, here's the original by Morrison.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Egg's latest collection of can't-miss, can't-find indie rock

I already covered Egg Records and their fantastic An Introduction To 1988-1991 here, but felt the desire to revisit the label since another compilation has been issued.

Titled Souvenirs From Egg Records, the collection will feature nearly twice as many tracks as its predecessor and three times as many artists. Also, if it's anything like An Introduction To 1988-1991, Souvenirs will prove to be wildly popular. (An Introduction sold out long ago and has even become difficult to track down on sites such as Poppolar; I've already secured meself a copy of the new comp.)

A quick history lesson for the uninitiated (and those too lazy too click on the aforementioned link): Egg Records, which was based in Glasgow, kicked around for just three years ('88 to '91), during which it churned out just five singles, a live album, a studio album, and a four-song compilation EP. The label primarily focused on Scottish bands, but did feature one from across the Atlantic (Canada's Change Of Seasons). In 2003, Egg returned to reissue its original catalogue; it also expanded its releases to include artists not originally on the label's roll call, such as New Zealand's The Bats.

One of the bands featured on the new compilation is Scotland's The Prayers, described by the NME's Stephen Dalton as a band who's "fragmented beauty sites somewhere along the Pale Saints/Lush/My Bloody Valentine axis." The Prayers released two singles for Egg during its initial run: "Fingerdips" in November of 1990 and the 12-inch "Sister Goodbye" that same month.

Hear it for yourself. Download: "Puppet Clouds" by The Prayers.