Bill’s Indie Basement (7/27): the week in classic indie, college rock, and more
It's another banner week in the Indie Basement: Swervedriver's best and least heard album gets a much-deserved reissue; a whole bunch of indiepop musicians get together to cover Comet Gain and pay tribute to the label they used to be on; new Slumberland band Peel Dream Magazine recall the heady, moody sound of the late-'90s; Anna Calvi figures out how to capture her bravura live show on a record; plus Chilean psych duo The Holydrug Couple and Vancouver smartasses Dumb.
More things I liked this week: I highly recommend watching Jason Mantzoukas' edition of Amoeba's "What's in My Bag?" video series; the new Protomartyr/Spray Paint collaborative split is rad; ADULT.'s new single is my favorite from them in a while; who knew that Calvin Johnson, Patrick Carney and Michelle Branch would make such a sweet team?
Swervedriver were one of the best groups of the original shoegaze era but by 1995 interest in the genre in their home country (and label, Creation) had moved on to Britpop. Unlike some bands (Ride, Lush), Swervedriver stuck to their guitar pedals while trying to expand upon their sound with their third album, Ejector Seat Reservation. It was still heavy, but there was an equal emphasis on melody and maelstrom, adding elements of Bowie and Bolan to the mix, not to mention a string and horn section. It's Swervedriver's best album and loaded with memorable songs, including pile-driver "Bring Me the Head of the Fortune Teller," the poppy/heavy "The Other Jesus," elegant first single "Last Day on Earth," and soaring closing cut "To the Birds." Ejector Seat Reservation has no bad songs and still really holds up.
Unfortunately, not that many people got to hear it as Creation Records dropped Swervedriver and deleted Ejector Seat Reservation a week after releasing it. (They had already been dropped by U.S. label A&M, and this album never got a stateside release.) After being out of print for over 10 years there was a UK CD reissue in 2008, and now Music on Vinyl is giving it a deluxe vinyl repress, available in the U.S. and elsewhere, on August 24 (preorder). The double-platter set has the original album on the first disc, and four b-sides/rarities on side 3 (including "Last Day on Earth" b-sides "Maelstrom" and "The Director's Cut Of Your Life"). Side 4 is left as an etching. There were more songs from this era they probably could've put on here instead of that etched side (like "Plan 7 Star Satellite 10" and "Flaming Heart" which were hidden bonus track on the original Creation CD) but it still looks like a nice set. You can stream the original album here:
UK indiepop label Fortuna Pop, which released records by Comet Gain, Allo' Darlin, Shrag, Aislers Set, Joanna Gruesome, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and many more, ceased operations last year after more than two decades of great music. They had five days of farewell shows in London, label founder Sean Price moved to Japan and that's all she wrote.
Except for this. There's one last Fortuna Pop 7" coming out as part of the label's Jukebox 45s Singles Club. It's a cover of Comet Gain's classic 2000 single "You Can't Hide Your Love Forever" by The Fortuna Pop All-Stars, a We Are the Indie World type of thing:
Over twenty bands contributed, with the music recorded by a crack band featuring Amos Memon of Fanfarlo (drums), Emma Kupa of Mammoth Penguins (bass), Laura Kovic of Tigercats (keys) and Paul Rains of Allo Darlin’, Ben Phillipson of Comet Gain and Sam Ayres of Flowers (all guitar) at Soup Studios in London. Mikey Collins of Allo Darlin’ then recorded percussion at Big Jelly studios in Ramsgate, and The Victorian Horns aka Gary Olson (trumpet) and Kyle Forrester (sax) of The Ladybug Transistor put down their brass parts at Gary’s Marlborough Farms Studio in New York.
Vocals were recorded in various studios and kitchens around the world, with Amelia Fletcher of Tender Trap, Daniel Ellis of Martha, Lan McArdle and Owen Williams of Joanna Gruesome, Adam Todd of The Spook School, Bill Botting and Elizabeth Morris of Allo Darlin’, Jeff Greene and Dan Greene of The Butterflies Of Love, Lisa Horton and Iain Ross of Bearsuit, Katherine Whitaker of Evans The Death, Silvi Wersing from Chorusgirl, Helen King of Shrag, Rachel Kenedy of Flowers, Pete Dale of Milky Wimpshake, Darren Hayman, Pete Astor and Simon Love all contributing. Giles Barrett at Soup Studios then made sense of it all and mixed the track.
The song sticks pretty close to the original but its fun to try and pick out voices, and the whole thing holds together well despite being put together in pieces all over the planet:
As for the b-side, Fortuna Pop say "DC Feck of Thee Comet Gain International Psychedelic Pop Conspiracy may have had more than a hand." Order your copy here.
Peel Dream Magazine is the musical brainchild of NYC musician Joe Stevens who used to be in band Honey Wild. With a name that is a clear nod to iconic BBC DJ John Peel, Stevens here filters his love of '60s psych through a decidedly late-'90s, early-'00s indie rock lens, recalling Lilys, Stereolab, American Analog Set, and Broadcast. Their debut album, Modern Meta Physic, will be out October 5 via Slumberland.
The album's opening track, "Qi Velocity" is a good example of what to expect, thick with scuzzy guitar chords, warm muted organ, pinging electronics and hushed, close harmonies. (There is more than a little of Broadcast's "Unchanging Windows" here, too.) The song premieres in this post and you can stream it right here:
It's been over five years years since Anna Calvi released One Breath, but she's finally back with Hunter, due out August 31 via Domino. For me, Anna has so far never quite gotten her unbelievable live show, powered by her jaw-dropping vocal prowess and guitar-shredding abilities, onto an album, but she might've cracked it this time. "I've waited 5 years for this moment, I’ve waited until I felt this music was right, that I could stand behind it and feel it’s the best and most honest art I could possibly make," said Anna in a statement. "I gave everything to this record, all my love, all my passion, every inch of me is found in this music. Now I let it go and I hope it finds you." She made the album with producer Nick Launay, who has helped Nick Cave capture his swagger on tape over the years, and her band on the LP includes Portishead’s Adrian Utley and the Bad Seeds’ Martyn Casey.
The first single, "Don't Beat the Girl Out of the Boy," does seem worth the wait. "It’s a song about the defiance of happiness," says Anna. "It’s about being free to identify yourself in whichever way you please, without any restraints from society." It's also got an instant earworm "doo doo" hook, booming drums, strident guitars, a big chorus, and some powerhouse wailing / soloing near the end. Big and confident, the song never flies into bombast territory. Despite its size, it still took me a while to come around to it but am now very anxious to hear the rest of the record. The (literally) steamy video, which was choreographed by FKA twigs collaborator Aaron Sillis, is great too:
Chilean duo The Holydrug Couple are back with Hyper Super Mega, their first album in three years, which will be out September 14 via Sacred Bones. Feeling a little burnt out after Moonlust, Ives Sepúlveda Minho and Manuel Parra regrouped and spent a lot of time listening to classic pop records from the '60s, '70s and '80s which reflects in the more immediate songwriting style heard on first single "Waterfalls." Their newfound focus on songwriting and hooks, mixed with their psych style, brings them more in line with Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Tame Impala, though still on more of a bedroom pop scale. It's a nice, slinky, chill appetizer for the album:
The Holydrug Couple play Desert Daze in October but no word on other North American dates yet.
Vancouver's Dumb make loud, snotty, smartass indie rock with wirey guitars and buckets of attitude. It's like a whole band made of Jimbos from The Simpsons and Eddie Haskels from Leave it to Beaver by way of Los Angeles 1980 new wave punk. (Except Canadian.) Their shouty, catchy songs rarely go past two minutes, but pack in maximum hooks and choruses. If you are a fan of Minneapolis' Uranium Club, what Dumb do is a whole lot like that.
Dumb just released a new album, Seeing Green, which they made with Jordan Koop (Wolf Parade, You Say Party, the Courtneys) who captures a real live energy to the record, which is what you want with stuff like this. Dumb are at their best when they let a little melody in, like on "Party Whip," "Soft Seam" and "Mint" which emit a slight Pavement vibe. They may drip sarcasm from their name down, and seem to be railing against everything, but Dumb are smart, and the hooks are undeniable.
Dumb wrap up North American tour this weekend. Check out dates here.