Bill’s Indie Basement (8/9):the week in classic indie, college rock, and more
Well this has been some week, and I’m feeling gutted about the death of David Berman. Purple Mountains’ debut is in the running for my album of the year, and I was really looking forward to seeing them play this weekend, but above all else it’s just a massive loss. Berman was a one-of-a-kind writer and I hope he has found peace.
The show must go on and this week, which wasn’t much for new releases of Indie Basement variety, we’ve got: news of Comet Gain‘s first album in five years, a new compilation from ’90s cult Glasgow band The Yummy Fur, the cut-and-paste tropicalia of Monster Rally, reissues of records by The Boo Radleys and Haircut 100, and a new single from Australia’s EXEK.
If you are craving new album reviews, Andrew’s got you covered with Notable Releases. In other Basement-adjacent news, I am hoping to catch some films in BAM’s very cool Punks, Poets, and Valley Girls series which runs this month.
Comet Gain – three songs from Fireraisers Forever!
Comet Gain, the cultishly loved UK indie stalwarts led by David Feck, are back with their first album in five years, titled Fireraisers Forever! and out October 11 via Tapete. Like last year’s “If Not Tomorrow” single, the album was recorded with James Hoare (late of Ultimate Painting) with help from Joseph Harvey-Whyte (Hanging Stars) and then handed over to drummer/producer M.J. Taylor, who worked on 2002’s Réalistes, to shape it into a finished product. Feck says Réalistes is the closest cousin to the new album and he gives this description of the new album’s lyrical content:
[It’s]songs about the evil greedy mirage of world religion, Victor Jara and those poets and teachers killed for believing in love and words, about the forgotten who are blamed for everything and can’t rise up from their knees to fight back, about the high street Kali-Yuga, occult terrorists with low IQ but high ESP, about the Godfrey Brothers, about Lou Reed’s mourning dog on a road trip trying to bury his masters mullet somewhere in the desert, about those stuck in the glory days of their past myopic of the present and all the other usual losers and romantics we always bang on about – with added melody and stomp … giving no real answers but pointing fingers and prodding you in the back … in defiance of just staying silent and letting the morons win.
You can get an early taste of the album via minute-and-a-half snippets of three songs that all seem to be thumbing their nose to the powers that be: the mod-pysch freakbeat stomp of “The Institute Debased”; the gentle “Bad Nite At The Mustache”; and “We’re All Fucking Morons” that features lead vocals from Rachel Evans. Color me Officially Excited for this album.
The Boo Radleys – Wake Up! vinyl reissue
The Boo Radleys began life as died-in-the-wool, noise-loving shoegazers but main songwriter Martin Carr always had a fondness for classic songwriting and pop that fought its way through the noise on singles like “Everybird,” “The Finest Kiss,” and “Lazy Day.” The band’s first album for Creation,1992’s Everything’s Alright Forever, favored the maelstrom approach, but 1993’s Giant Steps took that title, cribbed from Coltrane, to heart and dialed back the noise and let Carr’s songcraft shine a little more as the band experimented with dub and dance music.
It was around this time that Creation signed Oasis, and the band’s runaway success really changed everything for the label. Where bands like Ride and The Boo Radleys were once content to make “cool” indie records, there was now pressure to compete with the Gallaghers in the charts. Ride’s attempt, 1994’s mediocre Carnival of Light, did not work, but Martin Carr came from the same school of pop as The Kinks, The Beatles and The Zombies and proved to be a natural. The Boo Radleys’ fourth album, Wake Up!, was released in March 1995, at the height of Britpop, and ranks alongside Pulp’s Different Class, Oasis’ (What’s the Story?) Morning Glory, Supergrass’ I Should Coco and Elastica’s self-titled debut as a classic of what was an incredible year for music. (Blur’s The Great Escape, also came out in 1995 but…eh.) The eubuellent, horn-filled first single “Wake Up Boo!” is a song, like Katrina & The Waves’ “Walking on Sunshine,” that was made to be played the minute the weather gets nice, and was a Top 10 hit for the band that stayed in the UK singles charts for most of the spring and summer. The album went to #1 and, while none of the other singles from the album did as well, the whole album is loaded with smart, sunny pop like “It’s Lulu” and “Find the Answer Within.”
Those three songs are all pretty sugary, though, but the record balances them out with dreamier, melancholic numbers like “Fairfax Scene” and “Reaching Out from Here” (my favorite on the album), confident, psychedelic rock songs like “Twinside,” “Martin, Doom! It’s 7 O’Clock,” and “Joel,” and the album ends with the truly lovely, stretched-out “Wilder.” It never really got much attention in the U.S. and if you’ve never heard, give it a spin below.
Used OG vinyl copies of Wake Up! aren’t insanely expensive, but they aren’t cheap either, so this new Music on Vinyl edition is welcome…and it comes on turquoise vinyl. It’s out September 13.
Monster Rally – “Sister Owls”
Cleveland-based musician, producer and crate-digger Ted Feighan has been making breezy, groovy, tropicalia as Monster Rally for most of this decade, sampling forgotten exotica, easy listening and jazz records and turning them into something new. It’s a little like The Avalanches, but more laid back and perfect for sunset listening as the tiki torches get lit and frozen drinks get poured. He’s gearing up to release new Monster Rally album, Adventures on the Floating Island, on September 20 through Gold Robot Records and Ted says the record explores themes of “amnesia, discovery, exploration, and mysticism.” The new single is “Sister Owls,” which takes jazzy, smoky piano and horn blasts and layers them with a live rhythm section. It’s like ’90s hip hop meeting the ’90s lounge resurgence on a very secluded, very beautiful beach. Serve with an umbrella and, voila, the track premieres right here:
You can pre-order Adventures on the Floating Island which is limited to 750 lilac vinyl copies and 250 very cool-looking “mango punch pinwheel” vinyl copies. You can also catch Monster Rally at this weekend’s Outside Lands Festival in San Francisco where he’ll be spinning Friday and Saturday on the Cocktail Magic Stage. He’ll also have an art exhibit of his found paper collages (which are like a visual extension of his music) at Shepard Fairey’s Subliminal Projects gallery in Los Angeles from August 17-24 and Monster Rally will perform on opening night. Learn more here.
Haircut 100 – Pelican West vinyl reissue
Keeping with the tropical themes is this vinyl reissue of UK band Haircut 100‘s 1982 debut album, Pelican West. Chief members Nick Heyward and Les Nemes had been in a bunch of bands together since the late ’70s (Rugby, Boat Party, Captain Pennyworth) and all of which, in name at least, seemed to be leading up to what they’d do in Haircut 100. “Boat Party” would also end up as the title of the b-side of their infectious debut single, “Favourite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl),” a revved-up, bongo-and-horn overload of blue-eyed funk that sounds like being on a yacht just off St. Barts. They looked the part, too, with blond, perfectly coiffed hair, linen pants and cable-knit sweaters. “Favourite Shirts” went to #4 in 1981 and they followed it up with an even bigger hit, “Love Plus One,” which added marimba and smooth sax to their sound, and that song dented the U.S. Top 40, too, reaching #37 and hitting even bigger on MTV.
Both those tracks would feature on their debut album, Pelican West, which was produced by Bob Sargeant who was working similar magic with The Beat around the same time (and would also produce one of my all-time favorite albums, The Woodentops’ Giant). Sargeant really knew how to meld classic British pop with tropical sounds and disco, in an organic way (no drum machines or synths) that still sounds great today. The rest of the record follows suit and if there’s nothing that trumps “Favourite Shirts” and “Love Plus One,” then “Fantastic Day”(a #9 UK hit), “Lemon Fire Brigade,” and “Love’s Got Me in Triangles” come pretty close. I’m not sure the band’s real life was anything like their image, but Pelican West is a fantasy world where I’d still like to visit.
Original copies of Pelican West are plentiful and cheap, but this new Music on Vinyl reissue (out 9/13) comes with a second disc featuring “Boat Party,” a pretty great extended mix of “Favourite Shirts,” a great Chic-esque instrumental, “Ski Club,” and a couple other hard-to-find tracks that justifies its existence.
What I’d really like to have reissued is Nick Heyward’s great 1993 solo album, From Monday to Sunday. He put out a very good 2017 solo album that’s worth checking out, too.
The Yummy Fur – Piggy Wings compilation
Glasgow band The Yummy Fur existed for most of the ’90s, making a scratchy, scruffy, punky racket (shades of The Fall) that made up for lack of fidelity with attitude and humor. The group was led by John McKeown, the band’s only real constant, though late ’90s incarnations included Alex Kapranos and Paul Thomson who would go on to form Franz Ferdinand. (McKeown would form 1990s in after.) John Peel was a fan, as were The Gossip, and the band made three albums and a bunch of singles during their seven-year run, all of which are out of print and not on streaming services. With the group reformed for a second time this decade to tour North America, the good folks at Rock Action (the label run by Mogwai) are putting out The Yummy Fur’s first-ever best-of compilation.*
Titled Piggy Wings, it’s a tight 14 songs, hitting most of their best material, including “Plastic Cowboy,” “Roxy Girls,” “Supermarket,” my favorite song of theirs, “Policeman,” and more. The album’s out October 18 (pre-order) and they’ve made a new video for opening cut “Department” (originally on 1998’s Male Shadow At Three O’Clock) which incorporates live footage of vintage ’90s and 2010 reunion variety (including what looks like footage from their Brooklyn show at Market Hotel). Check that out and a YouTube stream of “Policeman”:
The Yummy Fur’s late fall tour, which is with Bodega, hits Brooklyn on December 3 at Elsewhere Zone One (tickets). Paul Thomson, who had to bow out of Franz Ferdinand’s tour after shattering bones in one of his fingers, will be part of the band, as will original OG YF member Dino Bardot (who also plays in the current lineup of FF).
EXEK – “Unetiquetted”
Australia’s EXEK are keeping up their prolific streak with a new album, Some Beautiful Species Left, that’s on the way September 6 via Digital Regress. You can take that title in either an optimistic way (“There are still some beautiful species left in the world”) or pessimistically (“some beautiful species left the world”), though given the band’s general output my money is on the latter. That said, first single “Unetiquetted” is among the poppier things EXEK have ever done, which is to say…still not that poppy! But it’s not a bleak dirge, either; instead, sort of dark alien synthpop not too far removed from Bowie’s Berlin period or what Eno was doing around the same time. Perfect for dancing or curling up in a ball in the corner, depending on your mood.
EXEK say a fall North American tour is planned. Stay tuned.