Bill’s Indie Basement (12/6): the week in classic indie, college rock, and more
Welcome to December! Where did the year go? This will likely be the last "regular" Indie Basement of the 2019, with year-end (decade end?) lists for the rest of the month. But we're going out on a high, with the second volume of G Stands for Go-Betweens, plus a whole bunch of groups who probably count The Go-Betweens as an influence: Melbourne's Scott & Charlene's Wedding, UK indiepop bands Suggested Friends and The Just Joans, James Haore's The Proper Ornaments and Argentinian band Las Kellies.
Need more new reviews? Andrew has lots more with with this week's Notable Releases. Need more Basement-approved stuff? There's: Jon Hopkins and Kelly Lee Owens' collaborative single; Shopping are back; UK band Porridge Radio, who I like a lot, have signed to Secretly Canadian; Crayon Fields' All the Pleasures of the World is getting a 10th anniversary reissue; and Caribou are finally putting out a new album (and the new single is great);
I was actually beginning to wonder if there'd ever be a Vol 2 of this Go-Betweens reissues box set series, given that the first one came out five years ago. Finally it's out, and for fans of the cult Australian band (and you'll have to be a big fan to shell out $200 for this), it's certainly worth the wait, collecting the last three albums from their original '80s incarnation, plus b-sides, radio sessions, a live album from 1987 and a double album's worth of demos for what was to have been their seventh album if they hadn't broken up in 1989.
The remastered reissues of the three studio albums sound great, and contain some of The Go-Betweens' best-ever songs, even if all three suffer to varying degrees from Big '80s Production. 1986's Liberty Bell and The Black Diamond Express comes off the best, sonically, and still has some of the gritty angst of their early more post-punky albums, alongside Grant McLennan and Robert Forster really coming into their own as songwriters. 1987's Tallulah is jam-packed with some of the band's best-loved songs. McLennan in particular ("Bye Bye Pride," "Right Here"), but producer Craig Leon, perhaps at the label's behest, was intent on turning them into Prefab Sprout with drum machines, synthesizers and just generally too much of everything.
Released in 1988, Sixteen Lovers Lane is arguably The Go-Betweens' finest hour, mixing sparkling-but-dialed-back production, and classic after classic, including "Street of Your Town" which is one of the finest examples of "happy music, melancholy lyrics." There's also the the sweeping "Love Goes On" (which owes a little to "Alone Again Or"), and Forster's perfect closing song "Dive for Your Memory," and so much more. I always wished there was a little more bite, but there's no denying the combination of McLennan and Forster's mostly acoustic guitars and Amanda Brown's violin and string arrangements. A classic.
If you're also looking for that bite, and less glossy production, the rest of the box has that covered. The live show, recorded at London’s Town & Country Club on May 10th, 1987, sounds phenomenal and is a lot closer to what The Go-Betweens were really like. "Bye Bye Pride" still has the oboe, but with a real drummer (the great Lindy Morrison) the song really comes alive, and this recording of Forster's "Spring Rain" is superior in every way to the studio version on Liberty Belle.
As for those 1989 demos, the 28 tracks are mostly demos and many of the songs would end up on McLennan and Forster's solo albums throughout the '90s. This is the first time any of them have been officially released and getting to hear them in this raw state is a real treat. The 112-page book has new essays by Forster, and notable fans like Luke Haines (The Auteurs / The Servants) and Cathal Coughlan (Microdisney), plus loads of rare photos, setlists, handwritten lyrics, diary entries, show flyers and more.
G Stands for Go-Betweens Vol 2 is not on streaming services (and neither is Vol. 1), but you can listen to the bonus material via NPR. The box set is sold out via Domino's U.S. store, but if you're desperate you might try the UK store or Rough Trade.
It would be nice if Domino would sell the studio albums individually on vinyl (perhaps it's a rights issue). And I certainly hope there's a Vol 3, as the three albums McLennand and Forster made as the Go-Betweens in the '00s makes for one of the best second acts ever.
Robert Forster toured the U.S. for the first time in 11 years earlier this fall (in support of his fantastic album Inferno), and it was such a positive experience for him, he promised to be back soon.
It's been three years since Melbourne band Scott & Charlene's Wedding (who spent some time living in NYC earlier this decade) released an album and they're finally back with this new EP. Apparently, the impetus for making it was they wanted to have new songs (and something to sell) at the Meredith Music Festival in Victoria, Australia next weekend. Whatever it takes, as Craig Dermody and the rest of the band are still making killer, surging indie rock with a melancholic lyrical streak.
The EP kicks off the with "Outsider World," a snarling two-chord burner that sounds like a 1977 CBGB jam session between Lou Reed, Television and Talking Heads. The rest of the EP follows in similar suit, if less ripping but equally engaging post-VU rock, be it the strummy "Boundary Line," the riffy, IMDB-referencing "Movie Game" and the very very Velvets-y closer, "Back in the Corner." There's a live feel to these songs, which are just rough enough around the edges and loaded with attitude, that gives them an appealing urgency. This style may be 50 years old but Scott And Charlene's Wedding make it their own.
London's Suggested Friends describe themselves as an "indie rock quartet with a firm grounding in queer identity, DIY punk roots with interweaving guitars of 90s indie" and that is as good of a description as I could come up with. There's a strong indiepop vibe here that makes them comparable to groups like Allo Darlin', Martha and Standard Fare (whose Emma Kupa is a new member of the band). I would say it's indiepop with an emphasis on "pop," as their new album Turtle Taxi, just released on HHBTM/Fika Recordings, is ultra-catchy, harmony-forward, and crunchy. (They're not afraid to drop a flashy guitar solo, either.) Singer/guitarist Faith Taylor has a clear, powerful voice -- she really belts it out -- and you could imagine Suggested Friends being huge in the early '90s (or the '80s). Popular tastes may change hourly, but music like this is pretty evergreen. You can listen to the album, and check out their new video for the distinctly '80s-rocking "The Apocalypse (It's Just a Day Away)," below.
Speaking of Fika, Glasgow's The Just Joans are another band on that label. Siblings David and Katie Pope have been cranking out charmingly shambolic, twee-leaning but feisty indiepop since the mid-'00s and their biting sense of humor (and thick Glaswegian accents) make for easy comparisons to The Vaselines.
Their new album, The Private Memoirs and Confessions of the Just Joans, will be out January 13 via Fika and the new single off the record is "Wee Guys (Bobby’s Got A Punctured Lung)," which is about the "feeling of growing up in and around Glasgow in the 1980s and 1990s when knife crime and casual violence cast a long shadow" where "boys will be boys" and the wee guys "were often victims of circumstance, class and geography." The song premieres in this post:
The Just Joans played U.S. shows around the time of the 2015 NYC Popfest and while they don't currently have any plans to return, they do have UK shows in January: London's The Lexington on 1/10 and Rainham's The Oast on 1/11.
We haven't heard from Argentinian band Las Kellies since 2016's Friends & Lovers but they're finally back and will release their fourth album for Fire Records, Suck This Tangerine, on March 27. The core duo of Cecilia Kelly (bass, guitars, vocals) and Silvina Costa (drums, percussion and vocals) made the album in Buenos Aires and by the sound of first single "Funny Money" they haven't lost a beat in the last four years, and their dubby post-punk disco sound -- think Gang of Four's "Damaged Goods" but a little more pop -- still crackles.
We premiered The Proper Ornaments' "Black Tar" elsewhere on this site earlier today but I wanted to include here as I wrote about their last album a mere seven months ago. James Hoare, who was in Ultimate Painting and Veronica Falls (among other bands), stays in his lane ('60s guitar pop) but few drive it as well.