Bill’s Indie Basement (4/6): the week in classic indie, college rock, and more
As Andrew noted, it's a jam-packed week for new releases. In addition to what's in the Basement this week, I also recommend new albums by Sloan (which I may talk more about next week), pysch-rock supergroup MIEN, Hop Along, and Dr. Octagon. As for Indie Basement this week, we've got the debut from UK group Goat Girl, the romantic, gothy swagger of Bambara, phlegmatic garage punk from Chicago's The Sueves, suave, sophisticated jazz-pop courtesy Bart Davenport, and the return of pop savant Part Time.
Need more? Johnny Marr's new single is pretty good; Handsome Boy Modeling School are back; so are The The; the new Melody's Echo Chamber single is excellent; and Scottibrains brand of "motorik psych-kraut wig-outs" is my style of noise.
Brooklyn's Bambara once knocked people back with sheer volume and a menacing stage presence, but have grown to be a more textured, nuanced group. Their brand new album, Shadow on Everything, is their best yet and brings high drama, big hooks, impressive musicianship and production, and, maybe above all else, real swagger.
As I've said before, Bambara could pass for a 4AD-signed post-punk band from 1982. The drums are thunderous, guitars shriiiing and bend with a spaghetti western twang, and frontman Reid Bateh narrating these vivid, gothy vignettes with just the right amount of melodrama. (This record flat-out sounds great.) Shadow On Everything also makes time for more atmospheric tracks like "Steel Dust Ocean" that compare favorably to Nick Cave/Rowland S Howard or The Wolfgang Press. Too many groups who pull from these influences stick to shades of black, but Bambara's world is both technicolor and widescreen.
Bambara playa release show for Shadow On Everything on April 13 at Alphaville in Bushwick, with Weeping Icon, and Giggly Boys (tickets).
London quartet Goat Girl get compared to bands from their label Rough Trade's formative years -- Raincoats, Swell Maps, The Fall -- and this writer is a little guilty of that too, but having spent a fair amount of time with the group's excellent debut album, I think they sound entirely modern. Mind you, it's primarily guitar, bass, drum and voice but there is nothing that shouts "retro" or "pastiche." And of the current groups in the scene they're often lumped in with (Fat White Family, Shame, to name two), Goat Girl have the highest hit rate, with nary a dud across the record's 19 tracks.
If 19 sounds like an awful lot of songs, only one of them cracks the three-minute mark, and a few of them are ethereal connective tissue. Goat Girl have a great ear for melody and a distinctive close harmony style that makes them instantly recognizable. Again, most of these are excellent in a smoky, late night, two-drinks-too-many kind of way, with just a little country influence (but more in a Fall kind of way). I mentioned swagger with Bambara and Goat Girl really have it too; boozy, woozy and warm. Lyrically, they are impressionistic, with some anger seething just under the surface, and a general less-is-more approach. (Dan Carey's production adds some nice touches but mainly stays out of the way.) Terrific singles "Cracker Drool" and "The Man" are just the start, this is a tight, impressive debut that gets better with repeat listens.
Having just toured around SXSW, Goat Girl will be back to open for Parquet Courts later this year.
It's been a while since we've heard from Part Time, aka often brilliant Californian David Loca who operates from a twisted parallel pop universe. (His last album, the great Virgo's Maze, was three years ago.) While he perfects his next record, he's just dropped a new Part Time single, "Faded Rose (Shattered Love)." From the opening synth chords and electronic handclaps, we're deep in 1986 territory here, and the video pulls you in deeper with what is clearly poking fun at Robert Palmer's MTV oeuvre. Director Kevin P. Kearney elaborates:
The video aims to throw a wrench in our modern odes to classic 80s MTV videos that would normally objectify women and mesh that juxtaposition with a weirdo Texas Roadhouse aesthetic. David wanted to capture this essence inspired by music videos of Robert Palmer and I wanted to encapsulate that idea through textured animation techniques, giving a more modern touch to a classic aesthetic.
The video, which is a lot of fun (as is the song), premieres in this post and you can watch it here:
Bart Davenport has been making music for around 25 years now, first with San Francisco's The Loved Ones, then The Kinetics, before launching a solo career in the early '00s. He is a master of the kind of sparkling pop that was favored by '80s groups like Aztec Camera, Prefab Sprout, The Style Council and Everything But the Girl. He's formed a new band, Bart & The Bedazzled, and they'll release Blue Motel on April 27 via Lovemonk Records.
Both "The House That Built Itself" and "What's Your Secret (Cleo)" are great examples of what Bart does so well, taking those sonic touchstones -- jazzy chords, saxophone, fluid basslines -- and making them his own. In other hands it could become instant cheese and, while these songs are the smoothest of the smooth, Bart has pretty impeccable taste. Of the two, I like "What's Your Secret (Cleo)," with its guitar line that nods to The Cocteau Twins, just a little better but they're both terrific.
Bart and the Bedazzled will be on a West Coast tour starting next week. All dates are here.
Chicago's The Sueves make nihilistic, party-in-the-gutter garage punk, the kind that sounds like it could be the last night on earth. That's not what they're preaching, mind you -- at it for over 10 years, they'd be a failure as a doomsday cult -- but there's a real burn-it-down attitude to their performances and recordings that is hard to fake.
The band, who used to count Max Clarke (aka Cut Worms) as a member, just dropped their second album for Hozac, R.I.P. Clearance Event, a title which also underlines their devil-may-care spirt. It's strychnine-fueled stuff that barrels along like a trucker on cheap speed. When not blazing past, the record is punctuated with sound effect interludes, perhaps allowing your heart rate to return to normal. Fans of everything from Hasil Adkins to Hot Snakes, listen up: