Bill’s Indie Basement (2/7): the week in classic indie, college rock, and more
Hello. This week: the new wavey fourth album from UK trio Shopping; onetime Belle & Sebastian member Isobel Campbell's first solo album in 14 years; Basic Plumbing (the late Patrick Doyle of Veronica Falls); Montreal psych band Double Date with Death; and a reissue of The Boo Radleys' shoegaze classic Everything's Alright Forever.
If you need more album reviews, Andrew's looks at the new Nada Surf and more in Notable Releases. Other Basement-approved new releases and news: the reissue of Crayon Fields' All the Pleasures of the World; Khruangbin & Leon Bridges are two great tastes that taste great together (also reviewed in Notable Releases); Pottery's debut album has been announced (and the first single is very good); The Radio Dept have a great new single and are reissuing Pet Grief; Spanish band Malenas are putting Pamplona on the indie rock map; and the new SAVAK single is terrific.
This week's reviews, reissues and other sundry items are below...
Shopping - All or Nothing
UK post-punk trio spice up their sound with a little new wave and pop production. It works.
Shopping have been making, danceable politically minded post-punk for most of this decade and have been one of the most consistently fun live bands as well. While they've always had something to say, over the course of three very good albums they stretched their taut, minimal, "angular" (RIP Andy Gill) sound about as far as it could. For their fourth album, All or Nothing, they veer a little to the right, adding synthesizers, more layered arrangements, and elements of pop production. Which in this case is a good thing. It's not a drastic pivot or a glossy makeover -- songs like "Initiative," "About You," and "Expert Advice" are clearly Shopping songs -- but there are melodies and hooks to match the band's still boundless energy.
"Follow Me" is a great example of the update, with more finesse on the vocals, atmospheric synths adding body, and plonky keyboards complimenting the driving, bass-heavy song. "For Your Pleasure," a manic anti-consumerist anthem, leans hard on the disco feel, adding electro handicaps just under thundering toms and a relentless kick drum. (Former rock journo turned pop songwriter Nick Sylvester did a great job on the mix; this record sounds great.) The interplay between Rachel Aggs, Andrew Milk and Billy Easter remains at the heart of All or Nothing, a natural progression for Shopping that accentuates their good qualities without taking away from what you liked about them in the first place. Which is all you can ask for from a group coming up on its 10th anniversary.
Shopping will be on tour with L.A. band Automatic, which is an Indie Basement-approved double-bill.
Isobel Campbell - There is No Other
The former Belle & Sebastian member and Mark Lanegan collaborator's first solo record in 14 years is a little too gentle for its own good, but it's great to have her back.
It was not supposed to have taken 10 years for Isobel Campbell to release new new solo album There is No Other, but here we are. It's one of those ground-in-gears-of-the-music-industry stories. Having ended her creative partnership with Mark Lanegan after 2010's Hawk, the former Belle & Sebastian member moved from Glasgow to L.A. and married studio engineer Chris Szczech and began work on a new solo album. Unfortunately, the label she'd signed with folded and, through a chain of still more unfortunate events, tied up There is No Other for over three years. “It felt like I’d retired,” Campbell sighs. “Or I was in prison," Campbell said. "To be told I could not release the record completely broke me and I started questioning everything, feeling very reluctant and shying away from everything. But if you’re lucky to live long enough, there are always going to be peaks and troughs.”
Now signed with Cooking Vinyl, There is No Other is finally out and, despite sitting on the shelf for all that time, doesn't sound dusty at all. Unless you're talking about Dusty Springfield, then it does sound a little like that. Isobel doesn't stray from the classic late-'60s sounds all of her records have touched on over the last 20+ years, with an even more magic hour L.A./Laurel Canyon vibe that reflects her current home. The production and arrangements, full of acoustic guitars, vibraphones, fluttering strings and flutes, compliment her honeyed voice which still has the power to melt icecaps. At times, like on "National Bird of India," the album recalls Delta Sweete-era Bobby Gentry, and she puts a droney psychedelic spin on Tom Petty's "Runnin' Down a Dream" that Spacemen 3 would appreciate. The record is a little too breezy for its own good, though, never fully sinking its hooks into you. But it's great to have her back and, now that the creative ball is rolling again, hopefully it won't be another 10 years before Campbell makes another record.
Basic Plumbing - Keeping Up Appearances
The late Patrick Doyle, who played in Veronica Falls/Sexy Kids/Royal We, leaves us with one last indiepop gem.
Patrick Doyle, who played in Veronica Falls, The Royal We, Sexy Kids and Boys Forever, was working on a new album as Basic Plumbing when he sadly died in 2018. With help from Helen Skinner (who played in Boys Forever and provided bass here), the album has now come out posthumously as Keeping Up Appearances, a title which now takes on a morbid sense of distinctly British humor. (Patrick was a sweet, funny guy.) It's also a reminder of what a terrific songwriter Doyle was, managing to continually mine gold from the jangly indiepop well like few could and make it sound fresh each time. "As You Disappear" and "Bad Mood" are the kind of minor chord, harmony laden songs that could've been on a Veronica Falls album, while "Constant Attention" and "Lilac" are bouncy gems. There's also a flirtation with Galaxie 500-style dreaminess on the lovely closing song "Strangers." It's a shame these will be the last songs will get from such a talent but it's good that they're with us now.
All profits from this album go to LA LGBT Center and UK charity CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably). Veronica Falls' debut album came in at #10 on the Indie Basement Favorite Albums of the 2010s list.
Double Date with Death - L'Au-Delà
Montreal band hide a couple of pop nuggets inside a mountain of crazed guitar psych.
L'Au-Delà, the second album from Montreal band Double Date with Death, would be worth buying on vinyl for it's vivid, surreal covert art (courtesy Belgian artist Elzo Durt) alone. Luckily, the music's pretty good too, an adrenalized brand of psych rock that stays mainly in the Oh Sees/Ty Segall shriekabilly garage, albeit with a French Canadian twist of the tongue. Amongst all the revved up, reverb-drenched riffing are "Fluorescent" and "Kodak," both lovely dreampop that are the real highlights of the album. I'm sure the loud stuff is more fun to play live, but these two songs are much more distinctive and hooky than anything else on the record. More of that (and Elzo's amazing artwork) next time, please!
DDWD have a couple of upcoming Quebec shows.
Boo Radleys - Everything's Alright Forever vinyl reissue
UK shoegazers' 1992 Creation Records debut holds up remarkably well and is getting its first-ever U.S. vinyl pressing.
Pale Saints' debut album The Comforts of Madness was just reissued and if you're looking for a nice companion to that record from the same general era, check out The Boo Radleys' 1992 album Everything's Alright Forever. In just three years they'd turn into sugar-sweet (and still good) Britpop, but their first album for Creation records was full-on shoegaze that hid '60s baroque psych melodies under an avalanche of noise. Apart from mixing frontman Sice's vocals way too low, Everything's Alright Forever holds up remarkably well and sounds much better than I remember. (By 1992 both Ride and Pale Saints had cleaned up their sound without sacrificing their charms; this felt muddy to me by comparison at the time.) Guitarist and songwriter Martin Carr was already showing pop songwriting chops on "Memory Babe," "Skyscraper" (which could've been an Oasis song with a more trad arrangement) and especially "Lazy Day" which is arguably the best 94 seconds in all of '90s shoegaze and has a guitar hook that, like teflon, will never leave your body.
This Music On Vinyl reissue is out February 28 and comes on orange vinyl to match the kaleidoscopic cover art. I was hoping they would also recreate the initial UK run that came with a bonus "Sunfly" 7" but alas, you're just going to have to settle for this shoegaze classic on wax for the first time ever in the U.S.
Looking for more? Browse the Indie Basement archives.