Indie Basement (9/11): the week in classic indie, college rock, and more
Happy Friday! This week in the Basement we've got the return of Manchester band Doves; the return of The Flaming Lips' classic early-'00s style; and a new retrospective from Paul Weller's socialist disco band The Style Council. Plus: Naked Roommate (ex The World), Brandy (the punk band not the R&B singer), and Canada's Freak Heat Waves.
Is that not enough for you? Are you not entertained? Andrew reviews more stuff in this week's Notable Releases. If you need more Basement-approved stuff, check out my Top 30 of 1990 and then incredulously ask me how Repeater could not be there.
Head below for this week's reviews...
ALBUM OF THE WEEK #1: Doves - The Universal Want (Heavenly/EMI)
A very welcome return from widescreen Manchester rock band -- their first album in 11 years is one of their best.
I reviewed Doves' terrific new album elsewhere on the site:
It was a jolt when Doves popped back up earlier this year with "Carousels." Not only that they had returned, but that it was so good. Powered by a sample of the late, great Tony Allen, “Carousels” has all the band’s earmarks: a soaring chorus, production that is both big but understated, and Jez Williams’ world-weary vocals. When the dancing guitar riff comes in two minutes in, "Carousels" becomes a classic. I am happy to report that there’s a lot more where that came from. Doves’ first album in 11 years is a real triumph.
Jimi Goodwin, Andy Williams, and Jez apparently began working on new material two years ago, just to see what might happen, which was well before their 2019 reunion gigs in the UK. “We didn’t tell anyone for a couple of years and just kept it our kind of secret, which was nice I suppose, “ Jez told CelebMix. “It meant that there was no pressure.” It’s clear they were happy with what they created and there is no going through the motions on The Universal Want. You can feel the passion and creative spark on all 10 tracks, and the band’s sound -- a warm mix of acoustic and electric guitars, a jazzy rhythm section, electronic flourishes and swaying, post-Radiohead Britpop melodies -- fits them even more comfortably now.
Read the full review here.
ALBUM OF THE WEEK #2: The Flaming Lips - American Head (Warner Bros)
Fans of 'The Soft Bulletin' and 'Yoshimi' will dig the mellow, trippy vibe on The Flaming Lips’ most satisfying album in over a decade.
I also reviewed excellent new Flaming Lips record separately, but here's a bit of it:
Flaming Lips albums have always been neck-deep in psychedelic imagery, but where they used to sing about “Feeling Yourself Disintegrate,” here we get “Weed,” “LSD” and “At the Movies on Quaaludes.” The latter, which is where the album gets its title, is one of the many pretty songs on the album, with a young Coyne dreaming of escaping Oklahoma City while not doing anything about it: “As we destroy our brains / Till we believe we're dead / It's the American dream / In the American head.”
And the songs really are lovely this time out, from the very Soft Bulletin-esque “Will You Come Down / Will You Return?," to the twangy and nostalgic “Watching the Lightbugs Glow," and the dark, transportive “Brother Eye” with its very hypnotic keyboard hook). Psychedelics enthusiast Kacey Musgraves turns up on two songs, singing harmonies on "Flowers of Neptune 6" and in full duet mode on the terrific spaghetti western style "God and the Policeman."
Read the whole review here.
The Style Council - Long Hot Summers: The Story of The Style Council (UMG)
Paul Weller's jazzy '80s post-Jam band gets a brand new multi-disc retrospective
When Paul Weller disbanded The Jam in 1982 at the height of their popularity, he pulled the kind of swerve that still gives some whiplash. Teaming with former Dexy's Midnight Runners keyboardist Mick Talbot, they formed The Style Council who took music cues from jazz, tropicalia, Motown and disco, fashion cues from the French New Wave, and a lyrical direction that had Margaret Thatcher in their sights. They were particularly influential to this writer, and my continued love of light jazzy pop and white jeans can be traced back to Paul and Mick.
Like a lot of music made in the mid-'80s, not all of what The Style Council did has aged so well. There were some dodgy dalliances with rap and no shortage of pretense, but The Style Council also made some wonderful music, singles especially, like "My Ever Changing Moods" which never fails to make me feel better than before I put it on. When they were great, they were great.
The band are getting a new best-of compilation, Long Hot Summers: The Story of The Style Council, on October 30. It's 37 songs across two CDs or three vinyl LPs, and includes all their singles, plus extended mixes, deep cuts (including "Man of Great Promise," one of my favorite Style Council songs), and a few rarities. There's also a booklet that includes rare photos, an introduction by Paul Weller, a new essay by Lois Wilson, and sleeve-notes from ‘super-fan’ and actor Martin Freeman (The Office, Fargo, Black Panther). For vinyl fans, this is a decided sonic upgrade from 1989's The Singular Adventures of the Style Council which crammed an hour's worth of music onto a single LP.
You can pre-order Long Hot Summers and while you wait for it to arrive just listen to the "My Ever Changing Moods" video on repeat:
Naked Roommate - Do the Duvet (Trouble in Mind / Upset the Rhythm)
Former members of Oakland's The World still making catchy, agitated post-punk, now with more of a low-fi synthpop angle.
I was a big fan of Oakland band The World, who brought a fun energy, and decided socialist bent, to familiar skronky post-punk styles. The band busted up at some point in the last year but Amber Sermeńo and Andy Jordan have continued to make music as Naked Roommate and just released their debut album via great Chicago label Trouble in Mind. The point of view is still the same, as is their ability to craft very catchy songs, but they've now doing it with more of an electropop style. Do the Duvet is a twitchy, itchy blast, recalling everything from The Waitresses to Chicks on Speed. Songs about babies, or making them, have the highest hit quotient and "Je Suis Le Bebe" has beaten Jordy at his own game.
Freak Heat Waves - Zap the Planet (Telephone Explosion)
Dark and disconnected synthpop from Canada
As Freak Heat Waves, Thomas Di Ninno and Steven Lind mix classic post-punk signifiers -- goth, dub, industrial, "angular" guitars -- with hip hop and other modern sounds. You could almost imagine these two signed to 4AD in 1987, putting out records alongside Colourbox and The Wolfgang Press. Zap the Planet, the band's fourth album, is dark and swampy synthpop, like Germans trying to make a reggae album on synthesizers even though they've never actually heard reggae, just had it described to them by Grace Jones. This is not to say Freak Heat Waves are from Germany. They're from Victoria, BC. It's just got a weird, disconnected vibe featuring a lot of elements that shouldn't work together but do. I'm especially partial to the loungy slow-jams, like "Let it Go," that sounds like a 5 AM taxi ride home after a particularly debaucherous night. You may need a shower after listening.
Brandy - The Gift of Repetition (Total Punk)
The Brooklyn garage punk band, not the '90s R&B singer
Brandy, the Brooklyn mutant garage punk band who are not concerned in the least about people confusing them with '90s R&B (and recent Verzuz battler) of the same name, are back with their second album of phlegmatic scuzz. These guys fly the No Fucks Given flag pretty hard, but The Gift of Repetition does offer some telltale signs of effort put into these eight songs, which all rip pretty hard. There is much shouting along with jagged guitars and distorted everything, including synths this time. The songs are catchy and simple and darkly funny, with titles like "Clown Pain" and "Insane Screensaver." Tyvek and A-Frames come to mind, though, from the title down, The Fall are clearly a big influence.
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