Bill’s Indie Basement (2/23): the week in classic indie, college rock, and more
It’s another overstuffed edition of Indie Basement, this week with six items up for bid. We’ve got a new Kero Kero Bonito EP that has them putting down their laptop and picking oup guitars and drums; indie cult hero Lawrence (Felt, Denim) returns with his first new Go-Kart Mozart album in six years; the debut album from dementedly poppy Insecure Men (Saul from Fat White Family); a new EP from Swedish musician Sibille Attar; Quilt offshoot Olden Yolk; and an obscure rarity from Seattle’s ’90s art-punk underbelly, Bend Sinister (pre Intelligence/A Frames).
More Basement-approved music from this week: Belly finally shared a song from their first new album in over two decades; Parquet Courts + Danger Mouse = really good; Australian artist Hatchie is like a modern update of The Sundays (with help from a Cocteau Twin); and Wreckless Eric is back.
Kero Kero Bonito – TOTEP EP
Up untill this month, London trio Kero Kero Bonito were known for shiny, somewhat ironic laptop pop with songs about our obsession with technology and social media. Then last week they dropped “Only Acting,” their first song recorded as a band using guitars, bass and drums. It was a surprisingly smooth transition from bleeps and bloops to distorted guitars and this week revealed that was part of a new EP titled TOTEP that features three more band-oriented cuts. All four work like gangbusters, transforming the group into savvy, sophisticated pop that any twee-friendly popfest would kill to have on their lineup.
KKB are still using synthesizers, still make danceable fun music, and apply their cut-and-paste aesthetic to the finished product — “Only Acting” gets chopped up cleverly at the end — but they seem invigorated by the possibilities of real instruments. There’s a mid-’90s vibe here which is exemplified on the EP’s best cut, the soaring “You Know How it Is,” that is like the best song The Cardigans never recorded, complete with a jazzy, fuzzy guitar solo. Here’s to more like this:
Sibille Attar – “RUN”
Sibille Attar has been active in the Swedish music scene since the early ’00s, having been part of bands [ingenting] and Speedmarket Avenue, and released a solo EP and album in the early part of this decade. After a five year absence, Sibille is back with a new EP, Paloma’s Hand, which will be out April 27 via PNKSLM. Her music is atmospheric and sumptuous, with a close harmony style and penchant for minor chords that gives it all a slightly sinister edge. The first single, “RUN,” is a real stunner. Set to a marching dirge beat punctuated by tabla and a violin line that sounds like it’s being dragged through the rain, it’s mournful and absolutely gorgeous.
Insecure Men – S/T
Saul Adamczewski always seemed like he was steering the ship in Fat White Family while Lias Saudi was going crazy as frontman of the band, and the times when Saul wasn’t there, FWF suffered. With Insecure Men, Saul really gets to shine. You can hear some of the same late-’70s/early-’80s touchstones as Fat White Family here, but Saul (along with best friend Ben Romans-Hopcraft) takes a breezier, pop approach which is really appealing. (It’s more Captain Sensible or Ian Dury instead of The Fall and Nick Cave.) Insecure Men are like a demented, out-of-their-mind cruise ship house band, making deeply weird music while still trying to make the newlyweds and retirees dance.
There’s real ramshackle charm to the 11 songs here, from the DIY indie disco of “Teenage Toy,” to the new wave rocker “I Don’t Wanna Dance (With My Baby)” to the seaside exotica of “Cliff Has Left the Building.” Lyrically, this record might be as twisted as Fat White Family (for example, “Mekong Glitter” is about onetime glam-star-now-convicted-pedophile Gary Glitter) but it goes down smooth.
Go-Kart Mozart – Mozart’s Mini-Mart
Go-Kart Mozart is the current musical venture of Lawrence, who previously fronted highly-influential ’80s indie band Felt and ’90s Britpop fringe element Denim. Eccentric to put it mildly, Lawrence can still bring the goods as Mozart’s Mini Mart, out today, shows. It also shows that cult status doesn’t pay the bills. “I’m living on a tenner a day…take a look in shop doorways/curled up on the floor/you’ll see me with no future,” Lawrence sings on the deceivingly chipper “Relative Poverty.” Elsewhere he sings frankly about what it’s like “When You’re Depressed,” compares himself to a cigarette butt in a Coke Can, and sings of a “New world in the morning” that never comes (a reworking of Roger Whittaker’s folk classic).
Yet Mozart’s Mini Mart, his fourth and best GKM record (and first in six years), is not a depressing record…per se. There’s a sardonic, knowing humor to these lyrics, not to mention in the amazing artwork and packaging that makes knowing references to Lawrence’s infamously OCD tendencies. (“The playing of individual tracks out of sequence is forbidden” and “To ensure maximum efficiency always wash hands before handling this product.”) More importantly, even the darkest bit of mirror-holding is set a catchy melody. Lawrence has a love for novelty pop, and on this album he plays around in English music hall, keyboard-preset bossanova, soft rock, and low-rent glam pop. It’s fantastic — this is my favorite Lawrence album since 1992’s Back in Denim — but if you aren’t really a card-carrying member of the Lawrence Fan Club it’s not likely to sway you.
Also out today: the long-overdue reissues of Felt’s first five albums (the other five will be out later this year).
Bend Sinister – Tape 2
For fans of Lars Finberg, the man behind The Intelligence and A Frames (and his great 2017 solo album), comes this vinyl pressing of obscure recordings by the mid-’90s band that would become A Frames, Bend Sinister. Yes they’re named after an album by The Fall (or perhaps the Nabokov novel), and the mutant, angular, distorted sound A Frames would perfect is evident here, albeit in even lower-fi recordings. Still, the no-fucks-given aggression, backed by real smarts, makes it work. There are rippers, there are noise experiments, and if you don’t know who Lars is at all, this is not the place to start (he wasn’t even a member at the start) but for fans of art-damaged garage punk there are many diamonds in the very rough here:
There are only 400 vinyl copies pressed, so if you’ve read this far, order now.
Olden Yolk – S/T
Last but not least this week is the debut album from Olden Yolk a group which began as a solo project for Quilt’s Shane Butler but grew to include fellow multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Caity Shaffer, and is now a four-piece band. If you are familiar with Quilt (he and Anna Fox are that group’s main songwriters) you’re not going to be surprised by what you hear on this album, but that’s totally ok. Shane’s style — melodic baroque psych folk, with strong krautrock tendencies — is in very fine form here. He cited Can as an influence and you really hear that in the skittering drums and way they were recorded. It’s the songs, though that really make this and “Takes One to Know One,” “Cut to the Quick,” “Gamblers on a Dime,” and “Hen’s Teeth” are as good as any he’s made with Quilt (who are still, thankfully, a going concern).