Indie Basement (11/27): the week in classic indie, college rock, and more
After two straight weeks of Indie Basements that were bursting at the seams with new stuff, it's a holiday week and there's not much in the way of new releases. That said: The Intelligence's Lars Finberg asks if you feel like Tinnitus Tonight on his new solo album; San Francisco quartet Cindy offer Free Advice on their second album; Young Marble Giants' classic 1980 debut gets a double disc reissue; and Jarvis Cocker's long-out-of-print first two solo albums are reissued on vinyl for Record Store Day Black Friday.
If you need more new album reviews, head to Andrew's Notable Releases. Otherwise, enjoy your holiday and we'll see you in December.
This week's reviews are below.
ALBUM OF THE WEEK #1: Lars Finberg - Tinnitus Tonight (Mt. St. Mtn)
Feel like Tinnitus Tonight? Lars Finberg of The Intelligence gets you on solo LP #2
Lars Finberg is weirdo garage rock royalty, with an especially stacked CV that includes The A Frames, Oh Sees, Wounded Lion, Unnatural Helpers, Puberty, Rubber Blanket and, of course, The Intelligence who he's led through an almost The Fall level of lineup changes. Unlike Mark E Smith, it's not a me-and-your-granny-on-bongos situation with Lars -- he's just released his second solo album. I'm still unsure what makes something an Intelligence record or a solo record, but I guess I should stop worrying and be glad Lars continues to pump out records of consistently high quality.
Within the first minute or so of Tinnitus Tonight it's clear this is a Lars Finberg record. There's a way he puts together his songs that no matter what the instrumentation is -- though usually guitars, bass and drums, but also a lot of synth this time -- it puts your teeth on edge in a good way. Tempos feel cranked to match stress levels. Guitars are somehow both taught and liquid, with surfy licks and wild acid leads. Hooks abound and they won't stop poking you. Paranoia surrounds, but he's mostly handling it, and he wants us to feel the same way. "My mind finally changed temperature," he laments in "Beach Bass" across a slashing, drony riff. "I've been too hot, I've been too cold, and I just want to be warm."
Tinnitus Tonight finds Lars trying to make the best of it in middle aged, relatively domestic adulthood. "What can you throw when you get old and all your things are too nice to throw?" he wonders in "Boy Division." On the wigged out "Public Admirer" he notes "There's nothing marijuana cannot solve / I joke / I see the devil when I smoke / and I see god when I don't" -- clearly neither option is ideal. Made with producer Chris Woodhouse, keyboardist Lauren Mikus and drummer Kaanan Mikus, Tinnitus Tonight was actually recorded at the end of 2016 around the same time as his first solo record and yet it feels very now. It's party music for the inundated and overstimulated. "I can't help it if it's too strange, I just let it arrive."
You should really watch Lars' new video for "Satanic Exit."
ALBUM OF THE WEEK # 2: Cindy - Free Advice (Mt. St. Mtn.)
Quiet is still the new loud for this hushed but never boring San Francisco band on their second album.
To quote the song "Burger Queen" from Lars Finberg's new album (see above), "The worst advice is free advice," but I'm sure that is not a diss or a reference in any way to the new album from his Mt. St. Mtn labelmates Cindy. But it is a funny coincidence. The San Francisco band make super chilled out indie rock, where they are plugged in but generally keep things at library volume. Their new album, Free Advice, is even more hushed than their 2018 self-titled debut and more self-assured, too. It takes strength to be gentle and kind, someone I once admired once said, and you can feel vigor in the quartet's restraint. Free Advice is reserved but never boring aural wallpaper. Think Galaxie 500, Low, '90s L.A. band Acetone (who had an album titled Cindy), Young Marble Giants (more on them below), or Flying Nun bands like The Jean Paul Sartre Experience.Songs like "Fixed Idea," "CSI Creeptown" and the title track move at a purposeful, gorgeous crawl, like sunlight through the curtains over the course of an afternoon, with singer Karina Gill's strummed guitar and Aaron Diko's keyboards forming a beautiful gasoline rainbow in a cloudy day puddle.
Young Marble Giants - Colossal Youth 40th Anniversary Edition (Domino)
Pretty much every song this highly influential post-punk trio recorded is on this double disc 40th anniversary reissue of their debut (and only) album
Welsh trio Young Marble Giants were an unusual band, decidedly post punk but in the most gentle way possible. They were like a demure cousin of Gang of Four or Delta 5: Stuart Moxham's guitar was plenty "angular" and his brother Phil's bass was funky, but they played quietly with a rudimentary drum machine ticking away and the occasional synthesizer coloring thing in. Singer Alison Statton made everything sound like a lullaby.
The band were only together for about two years, only released one album and two EPs, but their eerie, minimal sound has haunted those who have heard them over the last four decades, and they've proven to be highly influential. Kurt Cobain listed their debut, Colossal Youth, as one of his favorite albums, Hole covered "Credit in the Straight World" on Live Through This and you can hear Young Marble Giants less-is-more beauty in everything from Galaxy 500 to Stereolab to Cat Power to Belle & Sebastian to The xx.
Once a sought-after unicorn for post-punk obsessives, indie nerds and Kurt Cobain fans, Colossal Youth has been reissued a few times over the last 20 years and, now with streaming services, is well within reach of anyone who wants to hear it. Vinyl has been harder to come by, though, and this 40th anniversary edition may tempt those who have a copy of the Rough Trade original. In addition to the original album, it comes with a second disc that includes the Final Day and Test Card EPs, as well as demos that had appeared on the Salad Days compilation and a track from a 1979 various artists sampler. It also comes with a DVD of their November 1980 performance at NYC's Hurrah, which was their last-ever US show (they broke up not long after).
Having both of those EPs on one record and as part of this set is very appealing. Final Day's title track is one of their best songs, a short, powerful, and pretty nightmare of nuclear war; "Clicktalk," which opens the Testcard EP, is a playful instrumental that features great use of humming (I don't write that often). An essential album in a nice new package that's hard to pass up.
Jarvis Cocker - The Jarvis Cocker Record and Further Complications vinyl reissues (Rough Trade)
The Pulp frontman's first two solo albums get much-needed vinyl reissues for today's Record Store Day Black Friday
Jarvis Cocker released the fantastic Beyond the Pale this year with his new band JARV IS... which was his first studio album in more than a decade and is one of the best albums of the year. With some momentum going, his label Rough Trade have graciously reissued his first two solo albums on vinyl for the first time since their initial pressings for the 2020 Record Store Day Black Friday.
The Jarvis Cocker Record came out in 2006, about four years after Pulp called it quits. I remember being disappointed at the time but then I saw one of his solo shows, everything just clicked and I've loved it since. It features two wonderful songs he'd written for Nancy Sinatra's 2004 album -- "Don't Let Him Waste Your Time" and "Baby's Coming' Back to Me" -- which work just as well with him singing. In fact, I'd go as far to say that his rendition of the former is better than Nancy's (which he produced); his version of "Baby's Coming Back to Me" is very different than Nancy's and they're both great. Other pop numbers include "Black Magic," a psychedelic showstopper that makes great use of a sample of Tommy James & The Shondells' "Crimson and Clover"; and "Heavy Weather," a lovely Western-tinged janglepop number that could've been released in the heyday of Britpop.
Much of the album, though, is pretty heavy, with Jarvis pondering the evil that men do, the perils of middle age, and the extremes we go to hide our ugly sides. It's not quite as bleak as Pulp's This is Hardcore -- more thoughtful and less on the edge -- but when he sings "Not in front of the children / Fill their head with dreams / And hope to be like Bambi's mother / and die off-screen" on "Disney Time," you know he had some dark days leading up to this. Made with Pulp's Steve Mackey and Richard Hawley, Jarvis is a wonderful record that has great flow, and has gotten better over the last 14 years. This RSD reissue marks its first vinyl release in the US and comes with a bonus 7" featuring his never-out-of-fashion anthem "Cunts Are Still Running the World."
I'm not quite as enamoured with his 2009 album Further Complications, which he made with Steve Albini. (it's still a strange thing to type.) His lyrics, as always are great, but the bash-it-out rock just doesn't quite work, even though, on paper, the idea of a garage rock midlife crisis album sounds promising. But mixing Jarvis' personality, the very Stooges/Stones riffs and Albini's blunt, vocal-adverse/drum-forward recording style just doesn't quite work. There are some classics, of course -- "Leftovers," a Stonesy tale of middle age lust; shallowness anthem "I Never Said I Was Deep"; and "Homewrecker!" which sounds a little like the Batman theme -- but it's a record I never reach for.
This RSD reissue comes on white vinyl with a bonus 12" featuring dance jam "You're In My Eyes (Discosong)," with an etching on the flip side.
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