Bill’s Indie Basement (8/17): the week in classic indie, college rock, and more
This week’s trip to the Indie Basement features: the breezy, enjoyable new album from The Coral; new Field Music side project You Tell Me; a scuzz-punk band from Brooklyn called Brandy (they’re a fine band); the return of UK shouty indie-punks Sauna Youth; a lost record from high-concept troublemakers PFFR; and a track from Fresh & Onlys frontman Tim Cohen‘s terrific new solo album.
Elsewhere on this site I also posted about some relevant stuff to regular readers of this column: Stereolab are doing official remastered vinyl reissues of their back catalog, starting with the three volumes of their essential Switched On compilations. The other is the charming and quirky new TV series Lodge 49 whose soundtrack — which includes Broadcast, The Soundcarriers, Felt (Felt!), Lee Hazlewood, and Jack Nitzsche — is so honed to the tastes of this author it’s uncanny. It’s worth watching even if you’ve never heard of those groups but the soundtrack adds a wonderful extra layer to things.
The Coral – Move Through the Dawn
Liverpool band The Coral are a long way from the sea shanty psych of their first couple records. Co-leader Bill Ryder-Jones left the group after 2004’s The Invisible Invasion and, after a late-’00s hibernation, singer James Skelly brought The Coral back as a more straightforward pop-rock band, still with psych tendencies. 2010’s underrated Butterfly House dove into harmony-laden paisley pop, while 2016’s Distance Inbetween kicked up some dirt and fuzz.
Move Through the Dawn is The Coral’s ninth album and puts them back in sunshine pop territory, this time with a little more polish. They cite Phil Spector’s albums with The Ramones and Dion, as well as The Travelling Wilburys / ELO and the latter is the real touchstone to these ears, as are the other related Jeff Lynne productions of the ’80s (Petty, Harrison, Orbison). It’s more the arrangements and harmonies they’re looking to, and not so much the boomy ’80s production, and The Coral’s sound works great within those confines. This may be their most overtly pop album and, at an economic 34 minutes, it never runs out of gas or overstays its welcome. While someone should’ve told them that “She’s a Runaway” and “Undercover of the Night” are already other groups’ famous song titles, the actual Coral versions are pretty great (“She’s a Runaway,” especially). This is lite listening, but in the best possible way.
In related news, Bill Ryder-Jones looks about to announce something.
You Tell Me – “Clarion Call”
You Tell Me is Peter Brewis of Field Music and Sarah Hayes of orchestral pop group Admiral Follow. Their debut single is “Clarion Call,” a really lovely bit of sweeping baroque folk. “This song started life while on a train journey, which is referenced in the opening lines,” says Sarah. “It’s mostly about the idea of waiting: to feel ready to spring into action, to be free of fear and anxiety…and then realising it’s often good to push on in spite of these things.” Check it out:
Look for You Tell Me’s debut album in early 2019. The duo have already toured with The Vaselines and This is the Kit, and they’ll be on a 4-date headlining UK tour this fall:
10 october – glasgow – hug & pint
11 october – manchester – eagle inn
14 october – newcastle – cluny 2
16 october – london – waiting room
Tim Cohen – “Goodness”
The Fresh & Onlys were my favorite group from the late-’00s low-fi garage rock / weird pop explosion that I, perhaps wrongly, lump together to include West Coasters like Thee Oh Sees, Ty Segall, Grass Widow and The Intelligence, and East Coasters like Crystal Stilts (my second fave) and other Frankie Rose related bands. They never quite fit in with the garage rock scene, though. Tim Cohen was a better singer and songwriter than most of them, Shayde Sartin brought deep pop knowledge (and great bass) and Wymond Miles played like the Bunnymen’s Will Sergeant circa Heaven Up Here. (Kyle Gibson kept the indispensable beat.) There was nobody else quite like them and their prolific first four years produced a handful of underappreciated classics.
Cohen, along with Miles, is still keeping the F&O flame alive, but personally I wasn’t that crazy about last year’s Wolf Lie Down. Tim also releases solo records (and other records as Magic Trick) and he’ll release the new solo album, The Modern World, on September 28 via Sinderlyn. It’s his first totally self-recorded solo record in seven years and is maybe my favorite thing he’s done since The Fresh & Onlys’ Long Slow Dance. Much of it is, stylistically, music that would never be on a F&O record — tropical sounds, synthy pop (but not synthpop), soulful folk-pop — but it’s got that homemade vibe that made those records so charming. The cover art is a tip of the hat to Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits, and nearly every song does sound like it could be a single in some cult parallel universe, even if nothing on it sounds like Bob. You can stream the mellow, groovy and sunny jam, “Goodness,” where he sings “I am lost in the California Dream”:
Brandy – “Life Jail”
That a band would name themselves Brandy infuriates one of my coworkers every time their name comes up. I am paraphrasing, but it goes like, “How could this band name themselves this when Brandy [the R&B singer] is still an active artist?” The answer: this Brandy clearly doesn’t give a shit. About anything, probably. (Their name seems more likely to be about the liquor or the Looking Glass song in any case.) Made up of members of Pampers (a band I loved and miss) and Running, Brooklyn trio Brandy make murky, noise-damaged punk rock and want to crash, and subsequently, ruin your party.
Listen to them burn it all down on “Life Jail,” a scuzzy ripper from their debut record, Laugh Track, which will be out October 12 via Monofonus Press. What they lack in sonic clarity (and fucks) they make up for in sheer nihilistic velocity and energy.
Brandy have a couple upcoming NYC shows, both notable: a record release show at Union Pool on September 22 which is with Indie Basement approved band Warm Drag (tickets); and opening for St. Louis noise punk vets Drunks with Guns at Brooklyn Bazaar on October 12 (tickets).
Sauna Youth – “Percentages”
If you like your punk with slightly more fidelity than Brandy offers but still like it angular and shouty, UK band Sauna Youth — who made one of my favorite records of 2015 — will release their third album, Deaths, on September 7 via Upset the Rhythm. While the band’s punny name is jokey, Sauna Youth are serious, tackling social issues and more, while their snarling attack leaves little doubt they mean it.
With all the members having day jobs, the band set hard deadlines to avoid those titular distractions, giving themselves a five-month window to write and record the album. (That may sound like a lot of time, but when you’re punching the clock, it goes by fast). There’s a real sense of urgency here, as always with Sauna Youth, and the album leaps out of the gate with “Percentages,” a barnstormer that rails against human tragedy being reduced to statistics — while the song itself has been boiled down to 1:24 of seething disdain.
PFFR – Dark Louds Over Red Meat EP
You may known PFFR as the demented minds behind such twisted television as Wonder Showzen, Xavier Renegade Angel, and The Heart, She Holler, or at least as the disturbing logo seen at the end of shows like Delocated, Neon Joe, Werewolf Hunter, and At Home With Amy Sedaris. Before they were subverting minds via network TV, PFFR were a band, of sorts, making mutant proto-art-punk pop influenced by situationist art, early Devo, and other outsider sounds. They weren’t without hooks — John Lee was one third of ’90s-era poppy jokesters Muckafurgason — but melody was mostly beside the point.
PFFR, the band, has been retired for a while but there’s a new 7″ of previously unreleased material, titled Dark Louds Over Red Meat, that is just now seeing the light. John says the tracks here “are selects from an album we recorded just during the making of Xaiver: Renegade Angel. It was a horror soundtrack to a non-existing film, and we were hoping other people would make the movie from the album — a sort of reverse novelization idea.” PFFR have never had a problem conjuring nightmares and the music here is scary in the same unsettling way 70’s Residents albums were, though in a glitchy way that also recalls Tobacco. Just don’t put it on right before going to bed:
Dark Louds Over Red Meat will a available as a three-track lathe-cut square 7″ that comes with a 13″ x 19″ poster and a unique piece of original art made by PFFR. The digital version has an extra song to keep you up at night.