Indie Basement (5/28): the week in classic indie, college rock, and more
Happy Memorial Day Weekend! How is May over already? Things are getting back to normal, finally, kinda, but time seems to be continuing at its breakneck pace. Hopefully we can slow down a little over the holiday. This week: UV-TV craft wonderful, hooky guitar pop on their third album; Can finally get around to releasing a live album; Lou Barlow finds inspiration in family and home on his terrific new solo album; Cheval Sombre releases his second space folk album of 2021; plus Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine's Jim Bob shares the first single from his new album, and Bertrand Burgalat shares the hallucinatory video for the title track from his upcoming album.
If you need more new album reviews, Andrew looks at black midi, DMX and more in Notable Releases. If you need more Basement approved stuff from this week, I've got you: 2018 fave audiobooks shared the first single from their upcoming album, Girl Ray's new Hot Chip-produced single is fantastic, and BC Camplight is back, too, with a great new single.
Today is also the 30th anniversary of one of my favorite albums of the '90s -- The Wedding Present's Seamonsters. I talked with frontman David Gedge about the album, the new double vinyl reissue, why Steve Albini is misunderstood and more.
Have a great long weekend, welcome to summer, and see you in June. This week's reviews are below.
ALBUM OF THE WEEK: UV-TV - Always Something (Paper Cup)
Led by Florida transplants Rose Vastola and Ian Bernacett, Queens trio UV-TV have been one of NYC's best hidden gems for the last few years, blending punk energy and pop smarts into a jangly rush informed by shoegaze, C-86-style indie and strum-n-thrum American groups. It's the kind of stuff that was everywhere on college radio in the '80s and isn't so in fashion these days but still sounds great when done well. UV-TV do it very well on their new album, which is their first record made since moving from Gainesville to NYC, their first with new drummer Ian Rose, and first made during a global pandemic (among other 2020 problems). They take the tummolt in stride.
Always Something sounds like the best of 1985 alternative smooshed into one band, and reminds me of everything from R.E.M. and The Go-Go's to The Mighty Lemon Drops and The Primitives, with little dabs of Young Marble Giants, The Passions and The Wedding Present. (Also: early '90s stuff like Lush and Velocity Girl.) Guitars shimmer and sometimes roar, drums are heavy on the toms, the bass drives the melody and Rose Vastola has one of those clear, soaring voices that fits perfectly into this kind of scruffy, cardigan-friendly earworm rock. There's not a dud among the nine tracks, and they really have a way with a chorus as "Back to Nowhere," "Distant Lullaby" and "Wildflower" will show you on one listen. UV-TV are also, thematically, very much of the '80s mope tradition, with opening track "Overcast Forever" being a direct descendant of JAMC's "Nine Million Rainy Days." It's the kind of record that says it's ok to stay in because it's raining somewhere -- and it's always something.
Lou Barlow - Reason to Live (Joyful Noise)
Between his work on the new Dinosaur Jr album and this, Lou is on a creative hot streak
Lou Barlow is on fire this year (like he was in 1996). He contributed one of the best songs on Dinosaur Jr's excellent new album Sweep it Into Space, and his new solo album shows that song was no-one off. Made after moving his family from California back to Massachusetts, Barlow says the feeling of togetherness inspired him in a way he hadn't felt in a while. “I had been struggling for a way to connect both my home life and my recorded life but this record is the first time I've integrated that," Lou said, adding, "People have this vision of me as this heartbroken, depressed guy, but this record feels so true to who I am, to this rich life I now have full of people I love. The songs culminated over the last five years to show that music has returned to its central comforting role in my life. Now I’m home."
No song exemplifies this new positivity more than "Love Intervene," a song about the power of love that manages to be warm and heartfelt without a speck of saccharine. "The sentiment seems almost out of my range sometimes," Lou said, "Believing in love is like that, it can always be bigger but remain so elusive." There are dark moments, too -- "Thirst" is almost vampiric -- not to mention many great strummy Lou-and-acoustic numbers ("I Don't Like Changes," "Over You"), but this is a more positive, full-bodied Lou Barlow experience. Reason to Live finds him experimenting synthesizers and with more expansive arrangements, like on the gorgeous eco-conscious title track and "In My Arms," both of which feature some impressive, spectral guitarwork that lifts things to another realm. Still, the songs on Reason to Live all have that signature shambly, hissy sound, which is exactly what you want. Between Sebadoh, Sentridoh and Folk Implosion, Lou is the original lo fidelity all-star, after all.
Can - Live in Stuttgart 1975 (Mute)
Their sound has been ripped off for 40+ years, but this first-ever official Can live album can still blow minds
Komische icons Can were a legendary live band, with freeform performances that didn't feature setlists or even songs; instead they played lengthy improvised jams that swerved and grooved with pinpoint precision thanks to the musicianship (and apparent telepathy) between keyboardist Irmin Schmidt, guitarist Michael Karoli, bassist Holger Czukay and incredible drummer Jaki Liebezeit. And yet during their original 1968-1977 run as a touring band, Can never released a live album. They tried many times, but according to the band something always went wrong. Technical difficulties, instruments entirely disappearing from the mix, the recording truck leaving before the show, etc.
Some 40 years later this is being remedied thanks to intrepid bootleggers and the wonders of modern technology. Mute, via Can's Spoon label, are releasing a series of live albums that are being overseen by Schmidt and producer/engineer Rene Tinner. The first of those, Live in Stuttgart 1975, is a wonder. While bands have been stealing their vibe for 35 years, the original artifact still has the power to blow minds. The 90-minute performance, broken up into five sections (ranging from nine to 36 minutes), ebbs and flows, with the dramatic twists of a beach read page-turner. Again, they didn't use setlists, and for this recording Can were between vocalists, so there are times when this dexterous mass suddenly forms into something you recognize -- the descending riff of "Vitamin C," the funky groove of "I Want More" -- but just as quickly reassembles as something else. Where they will go next, who knows, but it's thrilling to be along for the ride.
Cheval Sombre - Days Go By (Sonic Cathedral)
Cheval Sombre's second album of 2021 features more ethereal space-folk with help from Sonic Boom, Dean Wareham and more.
Cheval Sombre released Time Waits for No One, his first album in eight years, back in February and he's taken that title to heart and is already back with its follow-up. Like Time, Days Go By was produced by Sonic Boom and features appearances by Dean Wareham of Galaxie 500 and Luna. The two records are very much of a piece but where Time was a rumination on mortality, Days Go By has a more buoyant feel, from the breezy strings to the cover art that is similar to Time but notably lighter.
Days Go By is the sound of the ice melting and buds sprouting on trees. Even more than the first, this album is powered by droning electronics and strings, a single note that sounds like a sunbeam through the clouds, flashing occasionally like a lens flare as Cheval whisper-sings his mantras. Its tranquil beauty works even when there's barely a strummed guitar, but when things go for more lush arrangements -- "Well It’s Hard," the zero-gravity "Sunlight in My Room" and knockout penultimate track "Walking at Night" -- Cheval achieves transcendence.
Jim Bob - "The Summer of No Touching" (Cherry Red)
First single from Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine frontman's new album 'Who Do We Hate Today'
Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine's Jim Bob released Pop Up Jim Bob, his first album of new material in 7 years, back in August, which felt like Gandalf's return at the Turn of Tide, showing up when we needed him most. The album was made pre-pandemic but, maybe more than any other record released in 2020, it felt, lyrically, like a crystal ball or flux capacitor may have been involved in the creation of songs like "You're Canceled and We're Done" and "2020 WTF!" Jim Bob couldn't tour the album so he did what so many others did during lockdown -- he made another album.
Who Do We Hate Today will be out August 20 via Cherry Red and looks to be another snapshot of our modern insanity. While he shoots through a decidedly British lens, Jim Bob's themes are universal. Song titles this time include "Shona is Dating a Drunk, Woman-Hating Neanderthal Man," "The Earth Bleeds Out" and "The Summer of No Touching." The latter is the album's first single and Jim Bob sets a familiar Peak Lockdown scene -- noting "It was Christmas for conspiracy theorists / tin hat milliners and snake oil careerists" and referencing 28 Days Later with "the streets were completely deserted / I pretended I was Cillian Murphy" -- all set to a Clash-y riff. It's clever and catchy and a little depressing, but also wryly funny 'cause we made it though to the other side. Hopefully. And if not, hopefully Jim Bob will be there to write a song about it.
Bertrand Burgalat - "Rêve capital" video (Tricatel)
Shot in during pandemic curfew, Bertrand Burgalat offers a hallucinatory look the "dream capital" of Paris at night
These days you don't get a lot of amazing music videos that feel like there was more than 10 minutes thought put into them, but there are still a few, like Kings of Convenience's "Rocky Trail." Add to that list Bertrand Burgalat's hallucinatory video for "Rêve capital," the title track from his upcoming album. It's set in a desolate Paris, imagining (via Google Translate) "A night walk in the city CAC 40, between J.G. Ballard and Annie Le Brun."
The video, directed by Blandine Rinkel and features dancers Dorine Aguilar and Clément Gyselinck, matches the eerie, synthphonique vibe of the song and was shot in hotel Les Bains Paris and the streets of a Pigalle after pandemic curfew. A capital city, the capital of dreams, but also the dreams of capitalism, all in one dreamlike, stunning short. Watch on a big screen if you can.
Rêve capital is out June 11 via Tricatel, and Bertrand is reissuing his great debut, The Sssound of Mmmusic, on that day, too.
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