Indie Basement (2/11): the week in classic indie, college rock, and more
Happy Second Week of February! In this installment of Indie Basement, we've got reviews of new albums by Spoon, Ride's Andy Bell and Trentemøller, plus a new Baxter Dury Best Of. I look back on Blur's self-titled fifth album and Pavement's Brighten the Corners as both celebrate their 25th anniversary.
Need more new album reviews? Andrew looks at Big Thief, and more in Notable Releases. And for still more, here's some other Basement-related news from this week: Wilco are playing Yankee Hotel Foxtrot live in NYC and Chicago; they've making a documentary out of Simon Reynolds' post-punk tome Rip It Up & Start Again; and audiobooks, who made my favorite album of 2021, have a fantastic new single.
The Indie Basement section of the BV shop is loaded with virtual shelves of great records, including classic albums from The Wipers, Pixies, Deerhunter and more, not to mention preorders for anticipated new albums from Wet Leg, our exclusive translucent red vinyl edition of Fontaines DC's Skinty Fia, Destroyer and more.
Head below for this week's reviews.
ALBUM OF THE WEEK #1: Spoon - Lucifer on the Sofa (Matador)
Spoon's 10th album is another entry in one of the most consistently great discographies of the last 25 years.
Is there band from the last 25 years with a better track record than Spoon? They continue to make a case for it with their terrific new album, Lucifer on the Sofa, that I reviewed elsewhere on the site. Here's an excerpt:
This is not a return to the Spoon of Girls Can Tell or Kill the Moonlight, records that were so spare you could pick out every instrument on every song. Spoon sound BIG here -- it's a modern studio album -- but these 10 songs crackle with electricity. "The Hardest Cut," a snarling number with clear roots in ZZ Top, is pure Texas boogie but also pure Spoon. You can hear the curl on Daniel's lip in his delivery. "The Devil & Mr Jones" is another track that plays with traditional rock tropes -- Stonesy riff, Santana-y leads, deals with Satan -- but does so with such style and palpable energy (and nicely subtle sax), that they make it their own.
Read the whole review here.
ALBUM OF THE WEEK #2: Andy Bell - Flicker (Sonic Cathedral)
The Ride singer-guitarist reworks unfinished songs from throughout his career on this excellent double album
Andy Bell's new album is a bit of sonic time travel. You notice even before listening: the album cover features a blurry but clearly much younger Bell, a portrait taken during the shoot for Ride's 1990 debut, Nowhere. And the songs are ones Bell had started but never finished from throughout his career, including a few that date back to the early '90s. He dusted them off during lockdown, brought them into focus and recorded them at his friend and onetime Oasis/Beady Eye bandmate Gem Archer's studio. “When I think about Flicker, I see it as closure,” says Andy. “The cognitive dissonance of writing brand new lyrics over songs that are 20-plus years old makes it feel like it is, almost literally, me exchanging ideas with my younger self.”
What a treat Flicker is. The songs have a youthful energy, with a melodic style that feels very '90s but Bell has brought maturity to them, as well as the blissed out sound heard on 2020's The View from Half Way Down to them as well. It's the best of both worlds: an 18-track double album that breezes by, full of jangly Britpop ("World of Echo," "Love is the Frequency"), groovy psychedelia ("Riverside," "Jenny Holzer B. Goode," "Sidewinder"), ethereal melodies ("It Gets Easier," "The Looking Glass," "The Sky Without You"), contemplative folk pop ("Gyre And Gimble," "We All Fall Down"), and more. There's also "Something Like Love" that sounds like a first cousin to Ride's "Vapour Trail" that takes an entirely different, dreamy orchestral path. On it, Andy sings, "Lost in a reverie of future days," a phrase that's also a good description of this album.
Baxter Dury - Mr. Maserati - Best Of Baxter Dury 2001 - 2021 (Heavenly)
Baxter Dury celebrates his 20th anniversary as a solo artist with this tight retrospective of his personal career highlights
“I don’t really think I warrant a ‘best of’ album,” says Baxter Dury, but with this year being the 20th anniversary of his debut album, Len Parrot's Memorial Lift, and with six albums under his belt, it's not unwarranted, either. So here we have Mr. Maserati -- the title dug out of his great 2017 single "Miami" -- that features songs from throughout Baxter's 20-year career which spans records released on Rough Trade, Heavenly and PIAS. It's a tight, 12-song collection, that skips some singles like "Francesca's Party" (from 2005's Floor Show) in favor of deep cuts like "Carla's Got a Boyfriend" from 2020's The Night Chancers, but the album has great flow -- clearly Baxter chose his personal favorites. It includes some of my favorites, like "Claire," "Miami," "Cocaine Man," and "Leak at the Disco," and is a good representation of what Baxter does so uniquely. Mr Maserati's also got a new song, "D.O.A.," which he wrote with his son and has him playing around with modern hip hop production that definitely fits into Baxter's louche, shabby chic, marble-mouthed vibe and may point to where he's heading next.
Trentemøller - Memoria (In My Room)
The Danish producer dives deep into '80s goth and '90s dreampop
Over the course of the last 25 years, Danish musician Anders Trentemøller has made everything from glitchy techno and house, to '80s-inspired gothy indie rock and most points in between. With Memoria, he enters his mind palace, crafting shimmering, shoegazy dreampop. Much of it is instrumental, with dark, liquid basslines, real drums and lots of synthesizers and heavily treated guitars that sound like mist rising off the lake. It's all very '80s/'90s UK indie -- there's are songs titled "Darklands," "Like a Daydream" and "Linger" -- by way of Ulrich Schnauss, M83 and the Drive soundtrack. The songs with vocals, courtesy Lisbet Fritze, are terrific, especially the elysian "No More Kissing In The Rain." Play loud and float away.
Blur - Blur (Food / EMI)
Blur finally cracked America with their self-titled fifth album -- and single "Song 2" -- but did so on their own terms. 'Blur' turns 25 this week.
Blur's self-titled fifth album turned 25 this week. It's the one with "Song 2" (the "Woo-Hoo" song) that finally gave them a U.S. hit. The whole record holds up and I looked back on it in a retrospective. Here's just a bit of it:
A lot was made about Blur's embrace of indie rock at the time -- that Q cover story opens with Blur attending a Pavement show in NYC and hanging backstage with the band and Sonic Youth, and -- adding to the lore -- both this album and Pavement's Brighten the Corners came out on the same day in the UK. But listening to the album now, 25 years on, it's still very clearly, first and foremost, a Blur album. Albarn does not temper his English accent, nor does he make an attempt to alter his melodic style. Musically, "M.O.R.," "On Your Own," and "Movin' On" could have been on any of Blur's three previous albums with different arrangements, and "Look Inside America," about Albarn's love-hate relationship with the US, sounds like the cousin to Parklife's "End of the Century." But the performances, arrangements, lyrics and production mark a new era for the group. "The new record is no more American and no less English," Albarn told SPIN's Sylvia Patterson in the magazine's August 1997 issue. "It's just us."
Read the whole thing here.
Pavement - Brighten the Corners (Matador)
Maybe not the first album that comes to mind when you think of with these '90s indie rock icons, but Pavement‘s fourth album has aged particularly well.
The whole "Damon Albarn and Stephen Malkmus are Friends" storyline was tied up nicely in a bow when Blur's self-titled fifth album and Pavement's Brighten the Corners both came out in the UK on February 10, 1997. While you can hear the American indie rock influence on Blur, not so much the other way around. But Pavement's album, their fourth, has aged particularly well. Here's a bit of the 25th anniversary look back I wrote:
As many others have said, Brighten the Corners also seems like it should've come immediately after Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain. It's the more obvious follow-up, coming in at a tight 45 minutes with just-polished enough production and loads of hooky songs with earworm choruses, while still maintaining that shaggy dog feel you want from Pavement. The wig-out that is Wowee Zowee -- a spotlight draft dodge that felt like an intentional shot in the foot -- may just have been the kind of One Last Wild Night that leads a group, who were all hovering around 30, to make a relatively sober but still wonderfully loose record like this.
Dig into the whole thing here.
Pavement are reuniting for a tour later this year, and are finally giving their final album, Terror Twilight, a deluxe edition this spring. You can pick up some of their albums on vinyl in the BV shop.
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