Bill’s Indie Basement (5/24): the week in classic indie, college rock, and more
Memorial Day Weekend is upon us and, to quote The Undertones, here comes the summer, at least psychically, but I’m hoping for a few more weeks of spring. You needn’t go to the farmer’s market, though, as we’ve got a bumper crop in Indie Basement this week: Cate Le Bon‘s beautiful, weird and unrelentingly sad Reward; The Intelligence are back with their 10th album of sardonic surf; Halo Maud gets remixed by Deerhoof’s Greg Saunier; plus killer new singles from Manchester’s Proto Idiot and Melbourne’s Terry.
Not enough for you? Andrew reviews the very good solo debut from Hayden Thorpe (Wild Beasts) and more in this week’s Notable Releases and I also like the new Josephine Wiggs, and the Amyl & The Sniffers’ debut is fun too. (Morrissey’s covers album is out today, too, but I’m not so interested for a myriad of reasons.) For other Basement approved items: you can listen to The Gotobeds’ great, guest-filled new album (which I’ll review next week); Marika Hackman goes synthy and it works; and LA band Girl Friday are a nice mix of Flying Nun, The Bangles and Hole.
Enjoy the long weekend (hopefully you get one) and we’ll see you next week.
Cate Le Bon – Reward
“There’s a strange romanticism to going a little bit crazy and playing the piano to yourself and singing into the night,” Cate Le Bon says of her fifth album, Reward. It’s a record unlike anything she’s ever made before, be it the process or the results. She spent a year by herself in Cumbria in the Northwest of England, learning woodworking — making tables and stools and chairs — by day and writing songs on piano at night. (She’s already an accomplished mug-maker.) She made the bulk of the record in Joshua Tree with a familiar cast of collaborators, including Warpaint’s Stella Mozgawa, Stephen “Sweet Baboo” Black, H. Hawkline and Josh Klinghoffer, but piano remains at the heart of it, giving most of the record a much more introspective, melancholic — ok, unrelentingly sad — feel.
Take for example the opening song which is titled “Miami” and is covered in saxophone, but would never be mistaken for Gloria Estefan. “Love neglected by reward,” she mournfully sings, letting out a resigned “OK” as those saxophones blurt low and slow along with Cate’s “ahh ah”s. Even when she sings “I love you, I love you, I love you” on the great “Daylight Matters,” it’s in the loneliest way, adding “but you’re not here.” And on “Home to You,” its cheery keyboard hook is counterbalanced by beautiful but heartbroken “ahhhhh”s. Le Bon says as much in the “ahhs” as she does with actual words.
There are a couple upbeat songs on Reward. “Mother’s Mother’s Magazines” sounds like a mossy version of Tones on Tail’s post-punk club classic “Go” and could’ve been on either her album Crab Day or one of the albums by Drinks (her collaboration with Tim Presley). As could the clockwork “Magnificent Gestures” which features backing vocals from Kurt Vile. But mostly it’s somber and gorgeous, while still from another world (or at least Wales) like all of Le Bon’s albums. She seems to be entirely incapable of “normal,” and thank goodness for that, all her albums seem to be seen through a dark green filter.
My favorite song on the album, apart from “Daylight Matters,” is “Sad Nudes,” which seems to invite mishearings of “sad news” and wears anguish like a blanket. “It moves through you,” she sings, letting out a little sigh that goes straight to the gut. Sometimes it’s ok to wallow.
Cate Le Bon is even better live than on record and will be on tour soon. She’s playing Brooklyn’s Elsewhere on June 24 (tickets) and will open for Kurt Vile and Dinosaur Jr at SummerStage at Central Park on July 25 (tickets).
The Intelligence – Un-Psychedelic in Peavy City
“I’ve been dry for nine months, so I’ve been bored for nine months,” Lars Finberg cracks in “L’Appel Du Vide,” the opening song on The Intelligence‘s 10th album. But then, like he’s running back to the mic for a rejoinder to himself, he blurts out “Also ain’t felt awful in nine months!” This is The Intelligence’s 10th album in 20 years, first in four years and first since main brain Lars Finberg gave up drinking, but not time nor sobriety has dulled his wit or warped worldview.
The Intelligence are still a tightly coiled group, musically, and the new lineup — which Finberg says is a little more of a symbiotic group than we’ve had in a while — sound great. Like always, songs are prone to shringy guitar explosions and occasionally indulge in some musical witticisms, like the güiro percussion you need for a song called “Lower Rider” that is funky in a German post-punk way (and not in a War way) and may be, like a few songs here, about the boredom and terror of touring. “Get inside the van, get inside my heart / They’re one and the same” goes another standout, “Mute Me,” that ends with Lars realizing “I think I need a raise” as “raise” turns into repeated cries of “erase” and then “erased” as the guitars get wilder.
Mostly, though, Un-Psychedelic In Peavy City finds a Finberg who has mellowed. At least a little. Where older Intelligence records maintained a constant level of paranoia and depression that was just on the verge of totally freaking out, the mood on Peavy City is more eye-rolling bemusement. “Strange Suit” is a good example of where his head’s at these days, imagining the state of the world as a trip Barneys. “We can’t turn away / new noose a windsor knot / Rapture’s on the way / negative crap you not,” he sings against a typically acidic surfy riff, as things get crazier while he maintains cool. “Chaos below the suites / Gators prowl around / Thrashing boat shoes swinging / I revel it…it’s your turn now.” He may be on the wagon, but he’s not buying off the rack.
While there’s been no word on an Intelligence tour of North America — the last time they played NYC was opening for Sparks/Franz Ferdinand combo FFS at Terminal 5, I think — the band will be on the road all over Europe where venues treat bands like the valuable artists they mostly are. Go see them there!
Halo Maud – “Fred” (Greg Saunier Remix)
Halo Maude‘s Je Suis Une île was one of my favorite albums of 2018, and I wrote of it: “If the Melody’s Echo Chamber album wasn’t enough French psych pop for you, here’s this great debut from her former bandmate, Maud Nadal. Alongside the spot-on, modern-but-classic production, Maud’s voice is the real star, somewhere between Bjork and Birkin, always selling the emotion even when you can’t understand the words.” If you haven’t checked it out yet you really should. One of the quieter songs on the album, “Fred,” has just been made a little louder by Deerhoof drummer Greg Saunier. He turns it into something more danceable but also weirder. The remix premieres in this post, check it out:
Even more exciting, Halo Maud is coming over for her first-ever North American shows. It is a tour, but almost entirely in Canada, but it does start with two NYC shows: Coney Island Baby on June 12 and and free show at Lincoln Center’s David Rubenstein Atrium on June 13 (part of NYC France Rocks fest). Maud will have her full band with her and you should go if you can. She then plays Montreal, Quebec City, Ottawa and Toronto. All dates are here.
Proto Idiot – “Find Out For Ourselves”
Manchester trio Proto Idiot have been around for a decade or so, making garage punk that owes a little to first-gen British invasion, ’70s power pop and the artier side of British punk. (With a fuzzy, flinty bass sound and shouty choruses, they also remind me of ’00s-era band The Young Knives, who I liked a lot.) Which is to say, they make a racket but they also clearly know what they’re doing. The band are set to release their third album, Find Out For Themselves, on July 19 via Third Uncle and we’ve got the premiere of one of the album’s most immediate songs, not to mention its quasi-title track, “Find Out For Ourselves.” Powered by a sleazy, in-the-red riff, this is an insanely catchy, sneakily complex pop song with a chorus you’ll be shouting along to before its two minutes are up. It’s worth turning up loud:
I am still kicking myself for missing Proto Idiot when they toured around Gonerfest 2017. They’re going on tour in July with almost all dates in Germany, so if you’re gonna be in Hamburg or Leipzig or Berlin or Karlsruhe around then, check ’em out.
Terry – “Spud”
Australian band Terry, which includes Al Montfort of Total Control, Dick Diver and other bands, released the underrated I’m Terry last year and will return with a new 7″ EP titled Who’s Terry? (Sense a theme?) The record features four more nuggets of politically minded, bash-it-out jangle pop. The lead track is “Spud” which opens with a wobbly keyboard line before the acoustic guitars and drums chime in, with some horns, too, to spice things up. “What to do with a spud like you?” the song asks, and if you’re wondering who the tuber in question might be, the music video clears that up, as the band, wearing homemade military uniforms, push war room toys around a poster featuring Australian Parliament member Peter Dutton. (Google helpfully suggests a related search “Potato Peter Dutton.”) I’m not so up on my Aussie politics, but the song is — like most of what they do — very catchy in that shambolic indie pop kind of way. My vote goes to Terry:
Who’s Terry is out July 19 via Upset the Rhythm. Do you even have to ask if Mikey Young mastered it?