welcome to Bill’s Indie Basement: the week in classic indie, college rock, and more
Some of you may remember I used to do a weekly wrap-up for this site called This Week in Indie. This is not that, but maybe its TWII's second cousin twice removed. Herein will be a mix of things I like: mostly new, mostly music, but maybe sometimes not. Occasionally it might include things that aren't "indie," per se. We'll see!
I already wrote about Montreal's awesome Corridor (who I saw play last week) and those long-overdue Felt reissues, so this week we've got: a new singles compilation from the mighty The Fall, the solo debut from The Intelligence's main brain Lars Finberg, synthy krautrock from Switzerland, Luke Temple pseudonym Art Feynman, and a spooky new video from Grooms.
Check out all five below...
With 32 studio albums under their belt -- not to mention EPs, live albums and other releases -- The Fall's discography can be extremely intimidating to the uninitiated. Where to start 40 years into their prolific existence? While "let me make you a mix" might be my real answer, you could do worse than putting on the just released seven-CD (!) box set Singles 1978 - 2016. This is the first-ever comprehensive collection of The Fall’s singles that goes across nearly as many labels as they’ve had band members. This takes you from early low-fi classics like "Totally Wired" and "The Man Whose Head Expanded," through the very fruitful Brix years ("C.R.E.E.P," “Cruisers Creek” and "Hit The North"), their ‘90s dalliance with a major label Phonogram (“Telephone Thing,” “Free Range,” “Idiot Joy Showland”), stops at Matador (“Why Are People Grudgeful,” “Behind the Counter”), Domino (“Bury”) and so on. Throughout, as John Peel once said, The Fall are always different, always the same. Punk, rockabilly, and Can-style rhythms form the backbone for Mark E Smith’s bilious lyrics/delivery with reggae, country, techno and other passing fancies added to the mix here and there.
The A-sides take up the first three discs, with the b-sides consuming the other four, and many (many!) of those songs -- like “Repetition,” “Psycho Mafia,” “No Bulbs,” “L.A.” -- rank among their best ever songs. Still, at 117 tracks, this may still not be the definitive “where do i start?” answer, though Discs 2 & 5 drop you straight into their poppiest period when they actually had UK hits. Mind you, The Fall at their most normal is still more than most people (including my parents) are able to take, even when you’re playing your classic country-loving dad their version of Hank Williams’ “Just Waiting” (not single or a b-side, just an example, but do check out 1992’s Shift: Work). There really aren't that many clunkers here, but just know some of their best stuff is deep cuts.
The box set, out today (11/24), isn't streaming yet but here's a playlist of 21 of their singles:
Like The Fall and Mark E Smith, a lot of people consider The Intelligence and Lars Finberg one and the same -- on early records like Boredom and Terror that was essentially true (he played everything). Here we are, though, with a Lars Finberg solo album which begs the question, what’s the diff? He tells us that while The Intelligence began as a solitary project, band member collaboration “pushed it from a little wooden puppet to a real live boy.” This time, working in his childhood hometown of Bakersfield, CA, he wanted to go it alone. “I wanted to devolve back in time by pasting junk together myself and try making a new entry in a new catalog. Or maybe I just want even more of all the credit.”
As for "all the credit," a lot of cool people help out on this record. Ty Segall served as co-producer, and it features appearances by Mikal Cronin, Shana Cleveland (La Luz), and Melvins walloper Coady Willis, among others. The surfing-at-angles sound -- which heads in some new territory here -- and the skewed worldview, however, are all Lars. Few can tightrope between bleak, funny and charming like Finberg, and he’s especially sharp here, whether the subject is love and death (“Benevolent Panic”), connecting with others (“Ambiverts,” “Alone Alas”) or health care woes (“Empty Network”). The anything-goes freedom of a solo LP, and having Segall as a sonic foil, pays off in spades too, with some of the wildest, coolest, weirdest arrangements Finberg has done in some time. Never, of course, at the sacrifice of big, meaty hooks. Lars is one of a kind, and Moonlight Over Bakersfield finds him at his sardonic best.
Here We Go Magic main man Luke Temple, who has also released a handful of solo records under his own name, reinvented himself this year as Art Feynman, filtering ‘70s slinky Nigerian funk and krautrock through charmingly loose low-fi four-track recordings. That album, Blast Off Through the Wicker, proved to be the freshest thing he’d done in ages. He’s already back with a new Art Feynman EP, Near Negative, which will be out December 15 via Western Vinyl. The first single, “Monday Give Me Monday,” might be a catchier pop song than anything on Blast Off -- light and breezy with a funky guitar riff that twists around a two-note keyboard line. Luke’s playing really shines on the jammy second half of the song, dropping an extended solo that manages to sound impressive and tossed-off at the same time.
If you can only listen to one current groovy krautrock band from Switzerland, make it Klaus Johann Grobe. If you can listen to two groovy krautrocking bands from Switzerland, make your second choice Neutral Zone -- which is actually Klaus Johann Grobe producer David Langhard. He’s been making records under the Neutral Zone moniker since 1995, apparently, but the just-released Hogofogo is the first to be widely available. Drawing major influence from Kraftwerk (dig that [Trans Europe Ex]press photo) and bicyles, Langhard knows his way around bleeps and bloops, crafting lush, mostly instrumental music, though subtly autotuned spoken word samples provide vocals of sorts, like on “Cycling Champion.” It’s the more inconspicuous production touches like that make Hogofogo really shine, as when you realize the ambient street noises on atmospheric “Industrie” are actually the rhythm track. There’s also a point in the same song where what seems like a chirpy digital glitch is also 100% intentional. (This is an excellent headphones album.) There are also zoomy motorikk bangers ("Toujours le même," “Merckx”) and at least one song where his working with KJG rubbed off (“Led73” which gets its title from either sampling the opening notes of “No Quarter” or recreating it exactly). There’s even a proper pop song, the glam-ish “The Bigger the Pile,” to close out the proceedings that, if it doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the record, makes for a nice bike ride off into the sunset.
I’ll wrap things up with Grooms' new video for “Softer Now.” The album it’s from, the recently released Exit Index, is a dark one; tilted, alien and a little disturbing in a surreal sort of way. Director Edmond Hawkins, who does visual effects for Saturday Night Live, matches that with visuals. “After listening to the song, but not knowing what it was about, Edmond had this idea of someone being messed with by crowds of people, but you don’t know why,” says Grooms frontman Travis Johnson. “Or at least, he didn’t tell us. The vague menace of that worked really well with the song, and the album in general really.” Edmond also made the mask the main character wears in the video which, at one point, becomes jarringly lifelike. The black-and-white photography is gorgeous and it’s more than a little creepy: