Bill’s Indie Basement (7/20): the week in classic indie, college rock, and more
It's a big ticket week in the Indie Basement, with some real high profile stuff...at least as far as this column goes. Ty Segall and White Fence team up for a terrific new album, glammy Britpop vets Suede have a new one on the way, plus vital reissues from Felt and Haruomi Hosono, plus new Brooklyn act Eyes of Love. And I was all set to wrap this up and then Klaus Johann Grobe released a new single. This week is damn near essential!
Ty Segall and White Fence's Tim Presley are both highly prolific musicians, prone to side projects and collaborations, with a love of low-fi DIY production that kinda obscures how good they are at their instruments. Joy is the second album they've made together (third if you count the White Fence LP Ty produced) and they are truly complimentary forces, with Ty shining a light on their hooky songwriting while Presley keeps things manic and just a little esoteric.
The album blasts through 15 songs in 31 minutes, with most being lean, riff/hook/chorus delivery devices under two minutes. Ty's last few records (including this year's great Freedom's Goblin) have been pretty ambitious, but Joy seems to be a low-pressure system where they're free to be you and me, and sound like a variety of '60s British Invasion groups all jumbled together. You can hear The Kinks, The Who and the Fab Four in super-catchy songs like "Body Behavior," Good Boy," "A Nod," and "Do Your Hair" while still making room for noisy freakouts like "Other Way" and "Prettiest Dog." Even with the epically weird "She is Gold" and pretty, acoustic album-closer "My Friend" (which both clock in around five minutes), the record flies by and Segall and Presley's Joy is infectious.
Suede reformed in 2010 and managed to pick up right where they left off with nary a wrinkle in their immaculately pressed trousers. I think 2013's Bloodsports is their best LP since Coming Up, and 2016's Night Thoughts was a worthy follow-up. They're set to release their eighth album, The Blue Hour, on September 21 via Warner Music. Where both those albums were made with their '90s producer, Ed Buller, for this one they've paired with Alan Moulder who has worked with My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Nine Inch Nails, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, and many more.
While the guitars do seem to be cranked up, Moulder-ized a little on new single "Don’t Be Afraid If Nobody Loves You," the record also features a choir, an orchestra and a spoken word piece. That sweeping side is on full display on the gorgeous, high-melodrama first single "The Invisibles" (a very Suede song title). Brett Anderson's ability to go from deep intonation to high falsetto remains intact and I'm anxious to hear the rest of the record.
I really wish Suede (who some in North America still know as The London Suede) would tour on this side of the Atlantic, it has been too long since they have (and their 2016 Primavera Sound set a few years ago was great [on the livestrea]).
Swiss duo Klaus Johann Grobe, they of the incredible basslines and incredible grooves and whose 2014 album Im Sinne der Zeit has remained in fairly constant rotation in my life since its release, are back with their first new music since 2016's also-wonderful Spagat der Liebe. Their new album, Du Bist So Symmetrisch ("You're so Symmetrical") will be out October 27 via Trouble in Mind and you can check out the first single, "Discogedanken" ("Thoughtless Disco"), right now.
The track starts off in a pensive mood. Arpeggiated synths give an a old-school "cue flashback" vibe, while an ethereal, droning analog synth lead cuts through the fog like a flashlight, and the bassline tips its hat to Angelo Badalamenti's Twin Peaks theme. Then after a minute of that pure atmosphere, the drums kick in, the bassline tilts in a funky direction and they make it immediately clear this is a KJG tune. It's all about the vibe and the groove, which is mellow and melancholy but decidedly danceable. They dropped this out of the blue (or at least Zürich) this morning and I have already listened to it about 20 times:
Brooklyn songwriter Andrea Schiavelli, who used to play in Nude Beach and Punks on Mars, has been making music with Eyes of Love for a few years now -- a nom de plum that allows for folky guitar pop, nervy post-punk jams, jazzy experimentalism, chamber pop, and other styles under one banner. (Eyes of Love, the band, also features Lily Konigsberg [Palberta, Lily and Horn Horse], Sammy Weissberg [The Cradle, Sweet Baby Jesus], and Paco Cathcart [The Cradle, Shimmer]). If Eyes of Love are a bit all-over-the-place, style-wise, it's all very good. You may remember Eyes of Love's 2016 EP and now the group are releasing their debut album, titled End of the Game, via Wharf Cat on August 17.
We've got the premiere of "Players of the Field," which is guitar pop in a very New York style, owing more than a little to Lou Reed in its jangle and Schiavelli's delivery, with some of Arthur Russell's élan in there too. It's spare and just a little gritty, with some nice production touches in the chorus, and it doesn't overstay its welcome:
Cherry Red reissued the first five of Felt's albums back in February and now the other five albums will be out September 14. For fans, this back nine (I know, five) are almost entirely gold, the years where crucial organist Martin Duffy's magical parts warmed the band's sound, and the production met main man Lawrence's ambitions. Like the first five, these have all been remastered and, in some cases, "revisited" by Lawrence, and are available in gatefold sleeve vinyl, or on CD in a box with a vinyl 7" from around the same time period plus a booklet of rare photos, liner notes and more. Preorders are available now.
I would say four of the five are worth picking up. Forever Breathes the Lonely Word, released by Creation in 1986, is generally regarded as Felt's masterwork, with shimmering songs, Lawrence at his most lyrically romantic (and vocally Tom Verlaine-y), and Duffy's brilliant playing all over it. It's just great song after great song, including "Rain of Crystal Spires," "Down But Not Out," "All The People I Like And Those That Are Dead," and "A Wave Crashed on the Rocks," being particular highlights.
A close second is 1988's Pictorial Jackson Review which has been tinkered with by Lawrence for this reissue. From the press release, here's the story on the original track order: "A last-minute panic though ended in the dismantling of the track list. Two of the songs that did not seem to fit were replaced with two songs that absolutely definitely did not fit." Those tracks that did not fit (I agree) were two Martin Duffy instrumentals and here Lawrence restores the originally intended tracklist, adding back two songs. An improvement! The LP finds Lawrence at his most Dylanesque (lyrically and vocally, maybe too much so for some), and has some real classics on it: "Apple Boutique," "Ivory Past," and "Don't Die on My Doorstep." This and Forever are tied as my favorites.
Also "revisited" is 1987's Poem of the River which gets rid of the mixes done by Cocteau Twins' Robyn Guthrie and replaces them with the original mixes by the album's producer, Mayo Thompson. "Stained Glass Windows In The Sky" is one of Felt's best songs, and there are a couple extended, jammy workouts here ("She Lives By The Castle," "Riding the Equator") that really highlight what an ace band Lawrence had during the mid-to-late '80s.
The other gem is Felt's final album, 1989's Me And A Monkey On The Moon, which was produced by The Sound's Adrian Borland and found Lawrence embracing '70s country, as heard in the very nice slide guitar work courtesy BJ Cole. The electronic keyboards Duffy plays have dated a bit but Lawrence's songs, among his most personal and witty, have not. Me And A Monkey On The Moon was a bit of a head-scratcher at the time but now seems like a precursor to the direction he'd take with Denim in the '90s and Go-Kart Mozart this decade.
That leaves 1988's Train Above the City which is the weirdest record Felt ever made: eight cocktail jazz instrumentals complete with xylophone. (The story goes that Lawrence does not play on this record at all.) Those cheap keyboards on Monkey sound even cheaper here; this one's for completists only, though the 7" that comes with the CD box (I still don't understand this packaging decision with these) has Felt's classic non-LP single "The Final Resting of the Ark."
Speaking of packaging, and this may change with these five, but the "gatefold" sleeves of the first five reissues were on the flimsy side, though the records themselves sounded great. Listen to a few songs from these five:
It would be nice if Cherry Red would round up those non-LP singles that they've included with the CD boxes onto one vinyl LP, or reissue comps like Gold Mine Trash, Bubblegum Perfume and Absolute Classic Masterpieces. A fan can hope.
Best known over here as one-third of influential Japanese synthpop icons Yellow Magic Orchestra, Haruomi Hosono also made records with two other notable groups first (Tin Pan Alley and Happy End), not to mention many solo records before during and after his work with YMO. Five of those solo records, showcasing Hosono's wide-ranging dexterity across a variety of styles, are being reissued by Light in The Attic: 1978's Paraiso, and 1982's Philharmony, and 1989's omni Sight Seeing are out August 10, while 1973's Hosono House and 1978's Cochin Moon are out September 28. Only omni Sight Seeing has been released in the U.S. before and each is limited to 1500 vinyl copies worldwide, and preorders are available (including bundle options).
Hosono has fans in everyone from Van Dyke Parks to Mac DeMarco ("the main reason I've continued making music since I was like 19") and these records willfully defy pigeonholing. Hosono House owes much to what was going on in America (this could slip in between Steely Dan, Harry Nilsson or Randy Newman); Paraiso, as the title ("Paradise") implies, takes a tropical vacation in the South Pacific while Cochin Moon (released the same year) hints at where Yellow Magic Orchestra would head. Philharmony is probably his most acclaimed solo work that melds his many different interests into one electropop tour-de-force, and omni Sight Seeing has him visiting a variety of styles from around the globe.
Philharmony is most likely to appeal most to those familiar with Yellow Magic Orchestra or the kind of alt synth and dance music of the last 40 years but all five of these are at least worth needle dropping. Here are a few choice cuts: