The Clash and The 'Jam

12 February 2012 by Steve Lamacq
The Clash and The 'Jam

Never mind Cabbie’s Choice Redknapp (to a man, all London taxi-drivers have converted to the god of Redknapp), if you think that he’s had a busy week, you should have been round at ours.

The phone hasn’t stopped; the gigs haven’t abated. And the new records! Out of the blue, we’ve had some great new records, not least the forthcoming album by CEREMONY, which may well be the best true American punk rock album of the year – already!

It is a record which sounds like dissent (Do you know what dissent sounds like? And how long it’s been since dissent was all the rage?).

In fact, there I was in a 6Music studio playing it loudly to myself when The Clash walked in, first Jones, smart and surprisingly smiley, followed by Simonen, ever so slightly shy still, but a man of real presence.

For an hour we talked about their ‘London Calling’ album, which will feature in the latest series of 6Music Classic Albums Of the Day in the not too distant future, its vast array of influences traced and lyrics unravelled.

It is, as they concluded their “Jukebox” album, bringing their favourite musics together and taking the Clash hammer to them. Most importantly though, they stake ‘London Calling’s claim to be a genuine punk rock record, defined by punk’s attitude that you could do whatever you wanted. Punk was about liberation and freedom (which even by 1979 when ‘LC’ was recorded was an attitude that had become quickly confused).

I’ve been rerunning the interview in my head ever since, while trying to tie together all the other loose ends of the week: KATZENJAMMER’s buoyant but brief thigh-slapping folk-pop set at the Borderline on Monday and GRIMES twisting and turning electro-pop at Madamme Jo Jos on Tuesday.

And last night HOODED FANG at The Barfly, which was probably as close as any Canadian band has come to digging up the bones of the Pixies and waving them in your face.

HF, or ‘Hoodie Fang’ as they were billed, have a pretty good album out here soon (it’s the one that got them nominated in the long-list for the Canadian version of the Mercury Prize last year).

They also know how to flirt with the natives: “We have some limited editions of the album for sale….”

Cue their Winehouse-haired bassist: “So we can make some money for beer. And to ride on the toob …..and fish and chips.”

The Redknapp-loving Cabbies couldn’t have said it better.

KATZENJAMMER @ The Borderline

SCOOTER by THE MICE

2 February 2012 by Steve Lamacq
SCOOTER by THE MICE

Timing. It’s so under-rated. The dramatic entrance! The supply to people’s demand! Pop music is all about the timing really.

So little did they know it, but when The Mice released ‘Scooter’, their timing – at least for yours truly – was perfect. Unceremoniously ditched by my first long-term girlfriend and threatened with the sack by NME for not being able to spell (fair point), this album’s rage filled a lot of emotional gaps.

‘Scooter’ is one of the great lost pop-punk albums. In that period in the late ‘80s, where American hardcore was evolving in numerous directions (toward grunge and new forms of College Rock), ‘Scooter’ is that bridging record between Black Flag and Green Day (in an early interview for Radio 1, Billie Joe Armstrong admitted being a huge fan of the album).

Released in the UK by What Goes On Records (also responsible for some of Soul Asylum’s best/early work), ‘Scooter’ is a terrific, seething collection of songs; both politically and personally driven.

It is a big soap-box of a record.

Railing against American imperialism (‘Not Proud Of The USA’), hurting in a way, only a broken heart can hurt (‘Second Best’) and mourning their own awkwardness (‘Little Rage’), they shift from berserk, pop-punk fury to something approaching teen melancholy.

Honestly ‘Second Best’ still makes me want to punch walls. The fury, the frustration, the head-caving-in lyric…

Unfortunately for the band, apart from me, their timing was out. Lost in a swell of American underground records and too early/too rough and uncompromising for the pop-punk wave that would follow, ‘Scooter’ was their only LP.

A half-finished follow-up was abandoned when they split on tour, ahead of some European dates (which meant I never got to see them live either. The bastards!).
But what a record this was.

The expanded reissue of the album ‘For Almost Ever Scooter’ is one of 12 lost albums being featured in our eMusic: takeover which started on Monday, also highlighting a few of our tips for 2012 and some of our favourite albums from last year.

Find out the rest of our Desert Island Discs here:

You can find The Mice LP here:

ZULU WINTER

31 January 2012 by Steve Lamacq New Band Of The Month
ZULU WINTER

There is a nice continuity here, as ZULU WINTER (finally!) follow ALT-J as our Band Of The Month.

Both display a new subtlety in pop; on the one hand the economic lushness of Alt-J, on the other the smooth-edged, driving guitar-electro pop of ZW.

They say: “In a really lovely way, it wasn’t that calculated, we locked ourselves away for nearly a year, didn’t play any shows, didn’t have any management and we decided we just wanted to make music for ourselves.”

“We wanted to avoid any external influence before we had the body of a record done because as soon as anyone listens to it they have an opinion and like it or not, you do kind of pay attention to it.”

Breaking cover to release their debut single ‘Let’s Move Back To Front’ and record a session for us (see it here), ZW now return with Single Two. Where ‘Front’ had elements of David Sylvian’s Japan (“We’ve never really listened to them till last week”), this is a more ballsy record.

The opening pulses sound straight out of white-boy funk from 1982; but then it coolly shifts into a roving, mesmerising piece of poetic electro courting; like Romeo & Juliet set in the gleaming cyber-palaces of London’s City.

It is both futuristic and old-fashioned.

All analogue synths and crooning: a tale of fantasy and desire. It’s not even their best track!

“We wanted to write great songs that were interesting enough to draw people in. So pop songs with depth, with texture, with love and work and tailoring. We didn’t just want to bash something out.”

And there’s the big quote. I’m all for not just bashing something out. I like the idea of time and trouble and a bit of care; of influences which stretch further than the competition (just have a look at the recent postings on their website if you want more evidence).

‘We Should Be Swimming’ is released on Feb 27 on Play It Again Sam Records.

ZULU WINTER are also one of our Five Tips For 2012 featured on eMusic this week (starting January 30) alongside our favourite albums of last year and various theories on pop music. You can find ZW on eMusic here:

There’s also Gabrielle Aplin: Beaty Heart: The Crookes: and Sissy & The Blisters:

E...Go!

30 January 2012 by Steve Lamacq
E...Go!

Whether because the cold has gone to their heads and frozen all sense of logic, or possibly because the rest of the Rock Music World were out when they phoned, eMusic came to us and asked if I’d curate their website for a week.

Bjork, they said (as if taunting me, Bjork being my least favourite musician on the planet) had staged their first takeover. Do you fancy it?

I like to think at these points that I am relatively ego-less and comparatively modest, but in truth it took about two seconds to say yes; a show of ‘biting their arm off’ that was probably a bit embarrassing.

Still, having been involved in various e-mail conversations with them and one very thorough long-distance phone call, conducted while I was shivering outside the pub one night, they’ve proved to be very nice folk.

They listened as I wittered on about old punk records and new bands and now, after much hard work on their part, it’s all go.

You can see the results here:

They’ll be more stuff posted throughout the rest of the week, including some wayward rants about music, the bands who can dig us out of a hole and “Why I still love Billy Bragg” (among other people).

Have a look if you get a second. Thanks very much

Steve

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