Bill’s Indie Basement (12/1): the week in classic indie, college rock, and more
Welcome to the second installment of Bill's Indie Basement, aka "five things I like a lot." This week we've got a memoir from Robert Forester of The Go-Betweens, a whole bunch of Saint Etienne reissues, and buzzsaw pop from Los Angeles' Flat Worms. Plus, two premieres: one a collaboration between two French-language acts, and a band whose name sounds like they might be French (but aren't). Check those out below.
If you need more, check out new music from Field Music, The Liminanas, Django Django, and U.S. Girls. And if you missed the first edition of this feature (with The Fall, Lars Finberg and more), check that out here.
There was real magic in the complementary but contrasting songwriting styles of The Go-Betweens founders Robert Forster and Grant McLennan. Literate and melodic, but each attacking from different perspectives, they gave us such classics as "Lee Remick," "Cattle and Cane," "Bye Bye Pride," "Just Like Spring Rain," "Streets of Your Town," "Dive For Your Memory" and many others that in a parallel universe could've been, should've been hits.
In this book, Forster -- the artier, more urbane of the pair -- offers a look at his and McLennan's 30-year friendship and musical partnership that endured through highs, lows countless label woes, romantic entanglements, the dissolution of the band, solo albums, a '90s joint attempt at being a screenwriting duo (who knew?), the band's reformation in 1999 and, sadly, ending with McLennan's sudden death in 2006. The book takes some surprising turns -- especially during the '90s -- but Forster never goes the salacious tell-all route. It's warm and witty, and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, much like his songs.
Unlike, say, Viv Albertine's first memoir, I'm not sure if Grant and I is a book I'd recommend to anyone unfamiliar with The Go-Betweens, though as The Smiths, R.E.M, Sleater-Kinney, Nick Cave, Orange Juice, and others drift through the narrative it might appeal to fans of '70s/'80s/90s indie rock. Anyone with even a passing knowledge of the band, though, will be drawn in by Forster's prose and self-effacing humor. It's the best thing I've read this year.
You can pick up a copy at Amazon.
I saw Montreal's Corridor for the first time a couple weeks ago as part of the M for Montreal festival and was really impressed with their distinctly Francophone brand of high-energy, nervy pop. Their album from earlier this year, Supermercado, is terrific and should appeal to fans of early XTC and Feelies as well as current groups like Uranium Club or Omni. Corridor have just released a new single, "Deux Coeurs," which is a collaboration with French artist Halo Maud who put out an also terrific EP, Du pouvoir, this year via Michel/Heavenly. Corridor explain how the track came about:
The song was composed in late 2015, originally destined to be on Supermercado. It didn't make the album because we couldn't find a vocal melody. After seeing Halo Maud on tour in France, we thought that her voice could be the key for this particular song. We sent her the recordings of what would become "Deux Coeurs" and she came up with those unbelievable vocal tracks that could've never come out from us.
Halo Maud's bewitching vocals really do take the song to a new level. Now how about a whole album of this? The song premieres right here. Ecouter:
UK band Saint Etienne, who released their very good ninth album Home Counties earlier this year, have yet to make a bad record. If you wanted any of their older records on vinyl, though, you had to accept the rather exorbitant prices of OG vinyl on Discogs or Ebay. Not anymore, as the band just repressed almost their entire catalog on wax, newly remastered with exact replicas of the original artwork and inner sleeves. The band say they're the best pressings to date and the ones I've heard do sound great. They're UK only but ordering from Amazon.co.uk still only comes out to about $20-$25 each (shipping included). I was especially happy to get 1997's Good Humor, which found the previously synth-based trio decamping to Sweden to record with a live band and Cardigans producer Tore Johansson. The band also repressed Continental, which was previously a Japan-only compilation of non-LP singles, b-sides and outtakes, all of which are pretty good.
For super-fans, Saint Etienne just gave two of their fanclub-only releases -- 1995's I Love to Paint and 2006's Nice Price! -- their first-ever vinyl pressings. The records have demos, alternate versions of songs that would appear on studio albums, and other curiosities. Unlike the other vinyl reissues, these two are limited edition with only 1000 copies of each made. They're available now and there's a Christmas Vinyl bundle at a discounted price that comes with a holiday card signed by the whole band (Bob, Pete and Sarah).
I like a lot of what some still call indiepop -- jangly, sometimes twee, sometimes very noisy, usually melodic pop -- but I'll admit too much of it is made by people who a) aren't very good musicians and b) who equate turning your amps up to 10 with "rocking." (Indiepop can definitely "rock," by the way, it just doesn't happen a whole lot.) One group who suffers from neither of those problems is Los Angeles trio Flat Worms who consist of Will Ivy (Dream Boys, Wet Illustrated), Justin Sullivan (Kevin Morby, the Babies) and Tim Hellman (Oh Sees, Ty Segall). These guys probably wouldn't ever use the word "indiepop" (and might be annoyed to see me doing so here), but even though every song on their debut album (out now on John Dwyer's Castle Face label) is a total ripper, there is a nonchalant air to things, especially in the vocal delivery, that equates more to The Jesus & Mary Chain and The Wedding Present than X or The Germs. (Buzzcocks, maybe.) This is cinderblock-on-the-accelerator punk for Vespa riders who dig Godard and Truffaut, and who wouldn't hesitate to trash the place, but would come back the next morning to help clean up.
Philly-by-way-of-Austin band Literature are no more, sadly, but frontman Nate Cardaci has turned his other group, Tres Oui, into a quasi V2 amalgamation, drafting Literature bassist Seth Whaland and former member Steven Garcia. (They moved back to Austin, too.) If you dug the bouncy, jangly, ebullient and insanely hooky music Literature made, you'll be pleased to learn Tres Oui are cut from the same cloth. Their debut album, Poised To Flourish, comes out February 9 via Shrimper/Revolver and we've got the premiere of its corker of a first single, "Seance." This is a real earworm number that has me thinking of groups like Aztec Camera, Trashcan Sinatras and Eggstone. (I'd be willing to bet they like The Go-Betweens, too.) Warning: the "whoa-oh" chorus could be stuck in your head for days. Listen: