Indie Basement (8/27): the week in classic indie, college rock, and more
This week in Indie Basement: a lost treasure from 1980 from The Hawks (Stephen Duffy and Dave Kunsworth); Steve Gunn makes his prettiest record yet; Supergrass give their second album, In it for the Money, its first vinyl pressing since the '90s; Enigmatic Swedish pysch-funk band Goat are back with a new singles comp; and Eyedress keeps weird L.A. alive on his new album.
If you need more new album reviews: Andrew takes on Turnstile, Big Red Machine, Madi Diaz, Indigo De Souza, Halsey and more in Notable Releases. And for more Basement-friendly stuff from this week, we've got: The Fiery Furnaces reunion will last more than just Pitchfork; UK band Mildred Maude make shoegaze noise worth your time; Klaudia Schifferle of Kleenex / LiLiPUT has a new group; and MUNYA announced her debut album.
You should also check out Indie Basement Basement of the BrooklynVegan shop that's filled with albums and books hand-selected by me, including records by Destroyer, Silver Jews, Ty Segall, Galaxie 500, Low, Stereolab, A Certain Ratio, Super Furry Animals, Spiritualized, Can, Kraftwerk, Pavement, Slowdive, Weyes Blood, and more.
Head below for this week's reviews. See ya in September.
ALBUM OF THE WEEK #1: The Hawks - Obviously 5 Believers (Seventeen Records)
An unearthed lost treasure from shortlived band led by Stephen 'TinTin' Duffy and Jacobites' Dave Kusworth
The Hawks were a shortlived UK band led by Stephen Duffy and Dave Kusworth and formed in 1979. Duffy had just quit Duran Duran (he was their original lead singer) and was approached about starting a new group by Kusworth (still a few years from forming Jacobites with Nikki Sudden), whose band TV Eye had just broken up. With TV Eye members David Twist and Paul Adams, as well as ex Duran Duran bassist Simon Colley rounding out the lineup, the band were formed and originally went by Obviously 5 Believers (named for a Dylan song), before changing their name to The Subterranean Hawks which was then shortened to just The Hawks.
The Hawks rehearsed constantly, creating a tough yet sensitive sound that was somewhere between Sniff 'N' The Tears and Felt. They played live when not rehearsing, gaining a small but rabid following, and released their debut single, "Words of Hope," in 1980. They broke up not long after, unfortunately, leaving the rest of their material in the practice space. Those practices were recorded, however, and the dozens of tapes sat in a box in Duffy's house unopened as he went on to lead groups TinTin and The Lilac Time and later a solo career. In 2019, Duffy and Kunsworth met for lunch, caught up, and Duffy promised to dig out The Hawks tapes and release them. Kusworth died in 2020 but Duffy has made good on his promise, and here we have the band's debut album, 40 years after breaking up.
Duffy has said that The Hawks didn't make demos -- "we played live and I sang over the top, just to see what we sounded like" -- and refers to these tapes as "field recordings," but the 10 songs on Obviously 5 Believers show a band that seemed to have it all figured out. A bunch of them seem ready to go: "Bullfighter" is muscular power pop worthy of The Only Ones or The Soft Boys, "All the Sad Young Boys" predates The Smiths' mopey glamour, and "Big Store" is swaggering and effete a la The Monochrome Set. Other songs are rougher around the edges, and many clearly sound like cassettes that have been stuffed in a drawer for 40 years but that doesn't make the music any less compelling. The Hawks sound vital and alive on these recordings and it will leave you wanting more and wondering what might have been.
ALBUM OF THE WEEK #2: Steve Gunn - Other You (Matador Records)
Another subtle but spectacular record from one of our most reliable songwriters and guitarists.
After making five albums on the East Coast, Steve Gunn decamped from Brooklyn mid-pandemic to Los Angeles to work with producer Rob Schnapf (Beck, Elliott Smith, Cass McCombs) as well as regular collaborator Justin Tripp, and the change of scenery seems to have suited him and his laid back style. Other You is another gem from this great singer, songwriter and guitarist who seems to just be getting better.
Other You is Gunn at his dreamiest but also most self-assured. In particular, Gunn has really come into his own as a singer, sounding warm and comfortable, but also just a little worn and weary and his voice really fits with Other You's nostalgic, bittersweet tone. The many collaborators found on Other You also slide in with an equally unassuming manner. Ben Boye provides the twinkling, twilight piano of "Morning River" that recalls both Vince Guaraldi and Johnny Costa; Mary Lattimore's harp is woven seamlessly into the fabric of "On the Way" (though more prominent on "Sugar Kiss"); and Ben Bertrand's baritone saxophone on the motorik "Protection" is something you feel more than hear.
Other highlights include the vaguely sci-fi themed "Circuit Rider" ("the first time I have included a cyborg in a song," Steve says), the keenly observed NYC snapshot "Fulton," and the gorgeous, sad closing track, "Ever Feel That Way." There is a nonchalant elegance to the whole album, partly delivered by the songs themselves, and partly by Schnapf and Tripp's sumptuous production that makes everything float on an ocean breeze. It's gentle and jazzy, with an increased use of airy synthesizers to compliment his ever-thrilling guitar work that shoots off the subtlest of fireworks. You would never call Other You yacht rock, but it would make a wonderful soundtrack for sailing off into the sunset.
Supergrass - In It for the Money vinyl reissue (BMG)
Britpop greats' second album gets its first-ever vinyl pressing since its original 1997 release
Second albums are notoriously difficult -- you've got your whole life to write your first, and much less time for the follow-up, so goes the adage -- especially when your debut was a massive hit, but Supergrass didn't seem to have too much trouble. Written mostly in the studio and released in April of 1997, In it for the Money spawned four UK hit singles and the album went to #2. It also managed that other difficult trick of "same but different" and may have even achieved "same but better."
In it for the Money is amazingly assured for a group in their early 20s (frontman Gaz Coombes was just 20), creating a swirling psychedelic brew that sounded like all of 1976 distilled into one band, from punk to glam to prog, metal, and folk. It's almost all hits, including the storming "Richard III" and "Tonight", as well as the soaring power pop of "Sun Hits the Sky," and the gorgeous twilight beauty of "Late in the Day" which is one of Supergrass' best-ever songs.
This new reissue features the original album remastered from the original analogue tapes and it's the first time it's been available on vinyl since its initial release. It's also the first time it's been available on vinyl in the U.S. ever. It comes with a bonus 12" single featuring the wildly fun Bentley Rhythm Ace remix of "Sun Hits the Sky" and "The Animal" (originally a b-side to "Late in the Day") on the flip. The 3-disc CD reissue comes with an full disc of b-sides, demos, remixes and rarities, and another disc of live recordings.
You can pick up In it for the Money on vinyl in the BrooklynVegan shop.
Goat - Headsoup (Rocket Recordings)
Nice compilation of non-LP singles, b-sides and other rarities from Sweden's grooviest masked psych band
Makers of the finest psychedelic freakout, Italo-horror movie voodoo blood sacrifice dance party music in all of Sweden, Goat, have been mostly quiet since 2016's Requiem, having only released two 7" singles since. This inactivity has not changed much, but we do have Headsoup (a tip of the hat to the Stones but also a very Goat title) that's out today and collects odds-n-sods tracks from the last 10 years, including a number of non-LP singles, b-sides, alternate takes and more. There are also two new songs, recorded last year and both are killer: "Fill My Mouth" is sleazy flute-and-fuzz-fueled funk, while "Queen of the Underground" rides a heavy, trippy groove for nearly seven awesome minutes.
There is a lot of other great stuff here too: single-only tracks like 2013's blissed out "Dreambuilding," 2015's snakey, rhythm box-driven "It's Time for Fun," and 2018's cinematic "Let it Burn." Listening to this compilation does make you wonder if the single format isn't Goat's natural habitat. As good as their three albums are, they work within a very specific set of sounds and styles. A little goes a long way, especially when their definition of "little" is a doom-funk behemoth like "Queen of the Underground." Just keep 'em coming at a regular pace.
Eyedress - Mulholland Drive (LEX Records)
Nostalgic for the sound of early-'10s weird L.A.? Eyedress has your number.
Los Angeles based Filipino producer/singer Idris Vicuña has been making making glammy, twee DIY pop as Eyedress since the early '10s. While some artists associated with that sound and city may have fallen out of favor, Eyedress is still going strong and had success recently when his 2020 single "Jealous" became a viral hit via TikTok. Working to maintain the momentum, he's back with new album Mulholland Drive, out via Warp imprint Lex Records, that features a cavalcade of notable guest stars not to mention a whole bunch of catchy, melted pop songs. Among those guests: King Krule, who brings his moody, murky production style to "Chad and Gordy"; Dent May who sings a verse on the album's most immediate earworm, "Something About You"; Dâm-Funk who slathers his namesake sound on slow jam "Keep It Real With You"; and DIY punk Vex Ruffin who brings a claustrophobic energy to "Fulfil the Dream." The guest-free songs are good, too, including the gothy, angry "Brain Dread" and "Spit on Your Grave," the crystalline "Long Nights At The 711" and the yearning "Want You There Tomorrow." Nostalgia is baked into Eyedress' sound, pulling from the 2000s that were inspired by the '80s that were inspired by the '60s, while making room for the '70s, '90s and now, all recorded over the same cassette, with tracks bleeding through as the loop closes in.
Looking for more? Browse the Indie Basement archives.
And check out what's new in our shop.