Indie Basement (3/11): the week in classic indie, college rock, and more
This week in Indie Basement: Bodega are still hacking the system on their second album; The Boo Radleys release their first album over 20 years; Widowspeak continue to beguile on their sixth album; Belfast band Junk Drawer make a jangly racket on their new EP; and I look back on Ride's Going Blank Again and The Fall's Hex Enduction Hour on their 30th and 40th anniversaries, respectively. If you were expecting to see Loop's Sonancy reviewed this week, they moved the release to March 25.
Lots of other records came out today, too, and Andrew listens to Jenny Hval, Drug Church and more in Notable Releases. In other Basement-friendly news: Pavement made a video for their viral b-side hit "Harness Your Hopes"; Destroyer orders a burrito in his new video; Horsegirl announced their debut album; Automatic announced their second album; and Gruff Rhys is pissed.
Speaking of Pavement, their Spit on a Stranger EP is getting reissued on vinyl and you can preorder it in our shop, along with that Terror Twilight deluxe reissue. You can preorder the Horsegirl and Destroyer albums, too. You should also check out the Indie Basement mini-store which is loaded with hand picked stuff by yours truly.
Also: will you be in Austin next week for SXSW? BrooklynVegan will be throwing day parties at Cheer Up Charlies on Thursday and Friday and you can RSVP now.
ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Bodega - Broken Equipment (What's Your Rupture)
Brooklyn's Bodega continue to search for signs of life in our tech-addled world via catchy new wave post-punk on their terrific second album
Four years and one still lingering pandemic since releasing their terrific debut album, Brooklyn band Bodega are still trying to break out of the endless scroll. Armed with a new lineup of the band, leaders Ben Hozie and Nikki Belfiglio have not run out of targets to take down, and sound sharper, shinier and angrier on their terrific second long-player.
"This city’s made for the doers," Hozie declares on "Doers," a song that bring a little hip hop swagger to their taut post-punk / new wave style while clarifying his hometown is for "The movers shakers. Not connoisseurs," and, in a twist on Daft Punk, notes the grind is making him "bitter harder fatter stressed out." It also feels like a song that could've existed in the world of '80s day traders, but is updated for our era where our days are even more regimented:
Ten minutes: Ted talk
Ten minutes: Notepad
Ten minutes: Amazon
Ten minutes : planning my next ten minutes
Hozie and Belfiglio are canny constructors who have clearly studied how to put together songs that hit immediately and stick with you. Songs like "Statuette on the Console," "C.I.R.P.," "How Can I Help YA?" and "Territorial Call Of The Female" are packed tight with memorable hooks, riffs, and all-caps slogans worthy of a line of t-shirts. Bodega would probably be good jingle writers if that idea didn't turn their stomachs.
While their approach can appear detached or glib at first glance, Bodega are searching for the humanity under all the marketing and screen time, and the most affecting songs on the album deal directly with this. "Wonder what evolutionary reason for melancholy is?" Hozie muses on "Seneca the Strong," while "Pillar on the Bridge of You" and "All Past Lovers" are affecting modern love songs, and "After Jane" is a a touching lament to dead friends in the style of Endless Scroll's "Charlie." The album may be full of references to social media, targeted ads, and other modern (in)conveniences, but it's clear the Broken Equipment is us.
Widowspeak - The Jacket (Captured Tracks)
Another beguiling album from this talented duo
Widowspeak's sixth album started as a concept record about a fictional country band, "Le Tex," but as singer-songwriter Molly Hamilton worked on the songs, they drifted into other, often more personal territory. Listeners who haven't read the band bio that accompanies The Jacket might not even pick up on the narrative but -- no knock against Hamilton's evocative, character-driven lyrics -- words have never been central to Widowspeak's appeal. Hamilton and guitarist Robert Earl Thomas make music that's a vibe, a mood. Specifically: nostalgic, Sunday morning music, be it The Velvet Underground or Kris Kristofferson. (They don't really sound like Mazzy Star, but the comparison is easy to make.) Recorded with Daptone affiliate Homer Steinweiss at his Diamond Mine studios, Widowspeak are in fine, dreamy form on The Jacket. They are a band you are happy to have stay basically the same, though Steinweis brings a little snap to some of these songs, adding keyboards to the wonderful "Unwind" and "The Drive." But Hamilton's hushed vocal harmonies and Thomas's twanging, atmospheric playing remains the star of the show.
The Boo Radleys - Keep On With Falling (Boostr)
First album in 23 years from shoegaze/Britpop vets, and first without original songwriter Martin Carr
Of all the bands who got their start in the original UK shoegaze scene, The Boo Radleys probably did the best at navigating the '90s. They began as one of the most discordant groups in the scene, but with their wildly ambitious 1993 album Giant Steps the band began to expand their sonic reach in all directions. Two years later, with Britpop in full bloom, bandleader Martin Carr took the Boos into full pop mode and scored a huge UK hit with the title track of their 1995 album Wake Up! They kept going through the end of the '90s, releasing two more very good albums (1996's C'Mon Kids and 1998's Kingsize) before splitting up in 1999. With Slowdive, Ride and Lush making a return in the last decade it should be no shock that The Boo Radleys are back, but it is a surprise that they're doing it without Carr, who wrote every song on the band's first six albums.
How do the Boos do without Carr? Pretty good. It's definitely more of a democracy this time around, with singer-guitarist Sice Rowbottom, bassist Tim Brown and drummer Rob Cieka sharing songwriting credits on all songs and creating the record remotely, sharing files between each other and Brown producing. If there's any wonder about what it was like in the '90s, the band's album announcement is pretty telling: “The freedom of sharing files, comments, praise and concerns made it possible to quickly make music where the beauty of the songs shine through. As with all Boo Radleys music, there were no limitations on structure, instruments, and sounds, but this time we all had freedom to express our thoughts about the music we were making.”
The songs on Keep On With Falling all fall sonically in that mid-'90s era of the Boos, with a lot of orchestral pop, as well as forays into reggae, and jazzy Cardigans-style kitsch, but not much in the way of shoegaze. Which is fine. Sice, who released a solo album as Eggman in 1996 that this sounds a lot like, is still in great vocal form, especially on the more soaring numbers like "Tonight," "I Can't Be What You Want Me to Be," and the title track. Best song, though, is "You and Me," which successfully steals heavily from Side 2 of New Order's Power Corruption and Lies while making it their own. Sice, Rob and Tim were clearly happy making this one and that definitely comes through in the songs.
As for Carr, he's got a new solo album on the way too.
Ride - Going Blank Again (Creation / Sire)
Ride‘s 1990 debut, ‘Nowhere,‘ is one of the defining records of the original shoegaze scene, but it's follow-up might be even better
When Ride's second album, Going Blank Again, came out in 1992, I immediately thought it was better than their debut, Nowhere. Then in the last 10 years, Nowhere has emerged as the "classic" Ride album -- it does have "Vapour Trail" -- and I got swayed. But with the 30th anniversary of the album this week, I pulled it out again and I was right the first time. Here's a bit of my retrospective feature on Going Blank Again:
Released on March 8, 1992 in the UK by Creation Records and the next day in the US by Sire, Going Blank Again was the sound of utter confidence backed up by great songs, creative arrangements, muscular playing and production that makes everything shine. You feel it from the first song, "Leave Them All Behind," a towering statement of intent that mixed shoegaze guitar heroics with one of their best-ever basslines, constant crushing drum fills, elements of dance music, and organ cribbed from The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again." It thrills across all eight minutes, and is one of the great album-openers -- and set-openers -- of all time.
Junk Drawer - The Dust Has Come to Stay (Art For Blind)
Belfast group do nervy indie rock right on their new EP
Led by brothers Jake and Stevie Lennox, Belfast band Junk Drawer have been around for seven years or so, making nervy indie rock that's not miles away from the '80s Postcard Records scene (Orange Juice, Josef K) or newer groups like Omni or Car Seat Headrest. Emotions run high in Jake and Stevie's voices, and they can go from a jangle to a roar in a heartbeat. This EP is their first release since their 2020 album The Road House and is a good introduction to the band. You can get yearning, angsty pop ("Tears in Costa"), Television-y dual guitar workouts ("Railroad King"), chiming indie ("Suspended Anvil") and ragged noise ("Middle Places"). That's what I call a square meal.
The Fall - Hex Enduction Hour (Kamera)
The Fall's dense, cacophonous, controversial and brilliant fourth album turns 40
In addition to Ride, I wrote about another album having an anniversary this week -- The Fall's 1982 album Hex Enduction Hour. While their previous album and singles were good (and the Slates EP from 1981 is one of their best), this was The Fall's first great album and the kickoff to a very fruitful next 10 years. Here's an excerpt from the feature:
A big part of Hex Enduction Hour's impact is the band's two-drummer attack. The Fall toured America in the summer of 1981 but drummer Paul Hanley was only 17 at the time and too young to play at many of the clubs they were booked at, so they got original drummer Karl Burns to fill in. He worked out so well that when they got back to UK, Smith asked Burns to rejoin the group.
The wallop that this six-shooter lineup bring is evident in the opening seconds of Hex Enduction Hour; "The Classical" smacks you across the face with thunderous drums, Paul's brother Stephen Hanley's driving bassline, the dueling scratchy guitars of Craig Scanlon and Marc Riley, and Mark's exclamations of "Hey fuckface!" Unlike most of the songs on the album, this was written after Karl rejoined the group and his and Paul's dual rhythms are central to the song's appeal.
Read the whole thing here, and RIP Mark E Smith.
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