Bill’s Indie Basement (10/26): the week in classic indie, college rock, and more
Have you figured out your Halloween costume yet? I haven't but I think i'm just going to stay home and watch Mad Monster Party for the 153rd time and listen to Sisters of Mercy's Floodland on repeat, because what more do you really need? The scariest thing in this week's Indie Basement is the cover art to Ty Segall's all-covers album, Fudge Sandwich. There's also: B.E.D. which is Baxter Dury collaborating with Etienne De Crecy and Delilah Holliday; Buzzcocks are reissuing their first two studio albums on vinyl; Swiss duo Klaus Johann Grobe go full disco; Young Marble Giants singer Alison Statton reunites with her Weekend collaborator Spike; and a new band from Italy with a weird name, Qlowski.
If you need more Basement-approved music that's out today: I am digging the Pill album, SAVAK's Beg your Pardon, the Public Practice EP, and the Dean Wareham Vs. Cheval Sombre album. There's also new Swervedriver, Bob Mould, Steve Gunn, Jessica Pratt, The Good The Bad and The Queen, and Royal Trux records on the way, and I really like Protomartyr's cover of Preoccupations' "Forbidden." But, hey, I would.
I was writing last week how covers albums can be a crapshoot, and yet here we are with another pretty good one -- Ty Segall's Fudge Sandwich -- that fits my "reasons for existence" criteria which include: "Does this bring something new to the song?" "do they make it sound like they wrote it?" and "do they sound like they're having fun?" Ty pretty much accomplishes all three here, and it's much better than its title and cover art both of which I find mildly off putting.
He definitely succeeds in making these songs sound like his own: Funkadelic's "Hit It and Quit It," and Spencer Davis Group's "I'm A Man," get turned into garage rock psychedelic soul and he cranks up both Neil Young's "The Loner' and The Grateful Dead's "St. Stephen" into punk ripper territory. Gong's "Pretty Miss Titty," Sparks' "Slowboat" and Amon Duul II's "Archangel Thunderbird" already fit Ty Segall's airier side as is and are dealt with reverentially. The best songs are where it's new territory for the song and Ty. War's classic "Lowrider" has the funk and horns stripped out of it and replaces it with proggy synths, a thudding beat and some menacing vocals. The best track on here by a mile, though, is his totally inspired take on The Dils' "Class War," which he slows down, doubles the length of, and covers in acoustic guitars. He turns it into a '60s protest song that rivals the original. “Ty Segall answers questions that Tony and I never even thought to ask with his version of ‘Class War,’” raved the Dils’ Chip Kinman. “I LOVE it!” So do I.
Is this a record you need? While I haven't heard the cassette he just released at an art opening (in a quantity of 55), this is below both Freedom's Goblin and the album he made with White Fence and I probably like it more than the GOGGS album -- of of which came out this year. Even a lark from Ty Segall he made on his own, like this, is better than most other people's records they worked months on.
Punk greats Buzzcocks are known for being a singles band -- if you own only one of their records it should be the entirely essential Singles Going Steady and if you can only own two, add their DIY debut Spiral Scratch 7" to that -- but they made albums too. Three of them were released in the band's initial prime run, with the first two, Another Music in a Different Kitchen and Love Bites, both released in 1978. For the LPs' 40th anniversary, Domino Records is reissuing both of them on vinyl, remastered from the original quarter-inch tapes for the first time, with reproductions of the Malcolm Garrett designed sleeves, plus eight-page booklets full of photos, and new liner notes by noted rock and cultural writer Jon Savage.
Of the two, Another Music from a Different Kitchen is the more essential. It's got classics "I Don't Mind" and "Autonomy," and some of their best non-single songs ("Fast Cars," "No Reply," "Get on Our Own," "Love Battery,"), plus Martin Rushnet's production still sounds great and it's a genuinely gorgeous silver and orange sleeve. Love Bites shows a lot of growth both in songwriting and arrangements, and contains what is a contender for their best single, "Ever Fallen in Love," plus "Just Lust" and "E.S.P." but, personally, the deep cuts don't land as often as they do on Another Music. You can listen to the new remastered versions of "I Don't Mind" (from Another Music) and "E.S.P." (from Love Bites) below.
Both reissues are pressed on 180 gram silver vinyl and come with a cool Buzzcocks "carrier bag." Preorders are available now. Hopefully we'll get reissues of Singles Going Steady and Another Kind of Tension (my favorite Buzzcocks studio album) in 2019.
Not to do too much recapping, but Baxter Dury sang on an Etienne De Crécy record a few years back, they got along and started fooling around in the studio and brought in Delialah Holliday of Skinny Girl Diet to sing as well, and B.E.D. was made. "We made it in about two to three weeks; we just spent a bit of time in Paris pissing around and the album came about really quickly," Baxter told Drowned in Sound. "I did a track for Etienne a couple of years ago and we just bonded. He's got a nice studio in Paris so I took some stuff over and everything came from there. Those songs are quite personal as well. It was really easy to make. I didn't think about it that much until I listened back to the recordings and it was actually my PR, Matt Fogg, that persuaded me to release it."
It's a good thing they did release it, as B.E.D. is another charming, catchy, sometimes profanely funny release from Baxter Dury (who made my #1 album of 2018). But it's much more of a collaboration here, as the name implies. It's a weirder, wobblier record and even more like a short story collection than his records usually are. Short is a key word here: nine songs, 19 minutes. Nothing overstays its welcome, though sometimes you do wish they'd stick around a little longer, like the funky, way-less-than-two-minutes "Centipedes" which comes to a halt when it's only getting good.
Baxter's lyrical sketches remain vivid: opener "Tais Toi" is told from the POV of a perplexed lover, fascinated and attracted even when he doesn't know what she's on about: "Skinny, but she's sharp-eyed / low brow, big lipstick / drinking my coffee, shutting down my system," Baxter says, stream-of-consciousness style, while De Crécy's backing gives a frantic vibe of being overwhelmed. "Tais toi, she says. What does she say? 'Tais toi.' Why? Fuck knows," he says, exasperated, clucking his tongue. ("Tais Tois," by the way, is French for "shut your mouth.") It's a very overheard conversation moment, one of many on the record. On "Only My Honesty Matters," a bitter hipster takes down all he sees, thinking he's cleverer than he is. "We're just obvious: listening to Florence and the Machine and having a roll-up...impotent, white obvious people with shocking clothes and awful music....I don't like anyone's music."
Baxter is mostly in speak-sing mode here, leaving the real singing and the hooks to Delilah who sounds like she comes from the same streets as Baxter, which is a very different flavor than the more winsome vocals of Madeline Hart who graced his last three albums. She also takes full lead on a couple tracks, "But I Think" and the openly emotional "Fly Away" (one of the LP's best). This is a much more urban record than he's made since 2005's Floor Show, gritty and streetwise. This may be seen as more of a stopgap to his next record but I hope we hear more from B.E.D.
When the short-lived but influential Welsh band Young Marble Giants broke up in 1980, Phillip and Stuart Moxham formed The Gist, while vocalist Alison Statton formed Weekend with guitarists Simon Booth and Spike (Mark Williams). Weekend made jazzy, loungey acoustic pop with tropical and highlife touches that beat Everything But the Girl, The Style Council and other "back-to-jazz" UK groups to the punch. They only made one record, 1982's La Variete, but it remains a wonderful pop record and cult classic that still sounds great. (It would make a good 1982 triple play with Haircut One Hundred's Pelican West and The Beat's Special Beat Service.) Cherry Red reissued the album on CD in 2006 with a bunch of bonus tracks, which is out of print but it's on streaming services.
While Weekend didn't last long, Statton and Spike went on to make a few other records together, including four in the '90s. They reunited for a new album, Bimini Twist, which is their first record together in 20 years. They made it entirely on their own, mostly in their homes, and it pretty much picks up where they left off. "Distraction," with its bossa nova beat, could've been on the Weekend album, while "Alone Together" is strange, beautiful, disquieting and unlike anything they've done before. The record is maybe too laid back at times, there's still loads of creativity in the production and generally pastoral arrangements, and Statton's voice remains clear as a bell and the star of any record she's on.
For fans of Statton's two most acclaimed groups, Alison, Stuart Moxham, and Spike are teaming up for "an evening of talk and music" at London's Cafe Oto on November 11 that promises a "best-of set of their whole career." (more info). YMG reformed for some shows in 2015...maybe they'll do so for their 40th annivesary in 2020 too.
Swiss duo Klaus Johann Grobe's Im Sinne der Zeit was one of my favorite albums of 2014, and still gets regular play in my apartment, with its zoomy, kruatrocking grooves and killer basslines. You can still hear traces of that sound on their new album Du Bist So Symmetrisch, which is their third for Trouble in Mind, but KJG have mutated into a much more electronic group that has its sights on the dancefloor this time. Looking back, those basslines on Im Sinne der Zeit were very disco, but the surrounding music was not so it put them in a different context. Here, the popping, octav-bouncing style is of very clear intent -- let's boogie.
Mind you, this is some nonexistent 1980 space disco you might have found in Blade Runner, where prog, soft rock, and new age all collided on the dance charts. "Der Koenig," and "Von Gestern" and "Out of Reach" (a rare English language cut and the album's clear "hit") are all killer fantastic. "Watte in Meinem Kopf" is a slinky midtempo jam that is closer to Kool and the Gang than Kraftwerk, and "Zu Spät" drifts its boat into yacht-rock territory and might be my favorite song on the record. (Again this is all within the context of Klaus Johann Grobe, not Kenny Loggins.) As usual, the grooves and basslines are beyond reproach, and if this is the least Trouble in Mind sounding album the label (more known for garage rock and heady psych) has ever released, it continues their winning streak. Klaus Johann Grobe, meanwhile, continue to operate in their own universe and it's one I'm always happy to visit.
One other thing: album cover art ain't what it used to be (I'm looking at you, Bob Mould) but Du Bist So Symmetrisch design is a thing of beauty.
Hailing from the northwest Italian city of Ravenna, Qlowski have been making music for a few years now, with a sound that pulls from early-'80s DIY post-punk (Television Personalities, Liliput, The Clean). Having released an excellent EP in 2016, they're back with a new four-song 7" titled Pure as Fear that's out November 30 via Bologna's Maple Death Records. There were dark streaks running through that first EP which are now more prominent, with a much tougher sound to boot. With some music like this, vocals can be an afterthought, but both Michele Tellarini and Cecilia Corapi are real belters, bringing real urgency to the four songs on this EP. Pure as Fear was recorded by Maple Death domo Jonathan "His Clancyness" Clancy, and mastered by the ever-busy Mikey Young of Total Control. We've got the premiere of the EP's lead track, an organ-fueled stormer with just a touch of gothy atmosphere. Listen to that, and their first EP, here:
Qlowski will play an all-day show/festival called "Maple Death Sunday Service" which is put on by their label at London's New River Studios on November 18. There are a ton of bands playing this: Cindy Lee, Middex, Oblate, Hesitation, Havah, Gimp World, Otherworld, The Wound, Object Agency, Sabasaba, Holiday Inn, Secret Flight, Hallelujah, Brutal Birthday, and Frisk. Tickets are on sale now.