Reviews - Week 40

Now is then cover

The Windmills

Now is then - Cd Lp

Matinee Records

Regardless of the mood you are in, you know that you are listening to a quality recording as soon as you hear the first few bars of this soft and beautiful third album by the Windmills. However be warned, like most really good albums despite the fact that it is obviously worth listening to, it still needs several plays for its true worth to be appreciated. Comparisons to the Go-Betweens in particular are easy to make and perhaps should be avoided. This band has its own identity and collectively and individually Roy Thirlwall, Rob Clarke, Tony and Dan Pankhurst and have composed 11 very fine tracks each stamped with their own lush, laid back style.

‘Ever to Exist’ gets the album off to a fine start but the other three of Roy Thirlwall’s individual compositions are also very strong, particularly the title track itself and ‘Summer Snow’ actually provides a slightly harder edge, which the band handles just as competently as any of the other tracks. On the other hand the intriguingly titled group composition ‘Beach Girls 1918’ has all that a quality pop track needs without offending the listener by being too ‘catchy’.

This is a great little album once you get to know it and this band have a lot of natural song writing and musical talent. Listening to it, inevitably makes you ask is their back catalogue as good and whether their obvious talent will continue to show through in future releases. Definitely worth more than just a listen.

djo

 

 

Private transport cover

The guild league

Private transport

Matinee Records

Do you remember how the Lucksmiths used to sing about 'The great dividing range'? Well - now Tali White (their lead singer) is singing about crossing it. Because 'Private transport' is a record about love and London and the bits in between, and I'm not only saying that because it sounds pretty. In time (I've owned 'Private transport' for almost three months now) I've come to see this record as a collection of poems. They're poems made up of music as well as words - it's not just the lyrics that make each song feel like a perfect hymn to something or other, but the way music gives them life, too. Like that moment in 'Siamese couplets' where the way he says the whole town stops for falling rain is enough to make you imagine it even if you don't know the words.

Musically, 'Private transport' is... er... it sounds like... Well, truth be told, it sounds like the Lucksmiths. Not really like them but I've got no other way to describe it other than a looser, funkier, jazzier Lucksmiths. Tali and his friends - and there's a whole lot of them: the Guild League on this record are made up of sixteen people, including members of the Fairways, the Lucksmiths, Sodastream, Poundsign, the Aislers Set, Red Raku, Art of Fighting, the Killjoys, and Blackeyed Susans and yes, that makes them (much as I hate this word) a supergroup... what was I on about?

Oh yes! Tali and his friends play around with different musical styles a fair bit: there's a song that I - at least - consider a waltz of sorts ('Cosmetropolis'); an acoustic sort of song that Tali sings like an angel and makes me want to cry ('Balham Rise'); a particularly well-written and oddly but aptly titled instrumental ('Baggage handling'); a song that gives birth to what's been acknowledged as indiepop hip-hop ('Siamese couplets' and, trust me, it's not half as scary as it sounds and actually pretty good). Finally, there's an a cappella gospel that constantly reminds me of the Housemartins when it shouldn't ('A faraway place'). Which, by the way, is not only the closing track of the record but a moment of exceptional, soul-redemptive beauty at that too. Seemingly inspired from the way the waves crash against the shore (sand goes out, wave comes in), it is the sort of song that makes me feel like flying.

Lyrically, ‘Private transport’ is a collection of love letters or rather love notes, a travelogue of all the places one can visit on the way from Australia to London and back (which with a round-the-world ticket is pretty much everywhere) and lists of things that describe Tali's life. At least, that’s what I think it is but I have an overactive imagination as you should know by now. In any case, it is beautiful, clever and witty and full of spot-on lines that break my heart that seem to come at least two in every song. From 'small hopes are defeated small battles are won as we swim through the fog and the fear and the feuds because London swings like a lover's moods' to 'nights spent alone walking blind towards home, holding fast to the things we believe in' it paints a colourful and touching picture of a modern life spend around the globe in a way that makes you envy it, and I know someone who claims that this is the mark of a pop genius.

No, really.

Dimitra Daisy

 

 

The fifth column cover

U.n.p.o.c.

The fifth column

Domino Records

U.N.P.O.C. Until November Perhaps, Or Christmas The fifth column: Clandestine group or faction of subversive agents who attempt to undermine a nation's solidarity by any means at their disposal.

One of the above is a Real Definition, from an interweb Encyclopedia. The other is a daft definition, that came from U.N.P.O.C.'s web-page. It shouldn't be too hard to work out which is which. U.N.P.O.C.'s web page will also tell you that the initials appeared on the helmets of Russian cosmonauts and that they graced a range of tinned food in the country of Unpokistan.

Its this sort of marvellously creative silliness, combined with an underlying intelligence and awareness that makes U.N.P.O.C. such a delight. 'The Fifth Column' is their debut album, released last month to the sound of journalists muttering about Brian Wilson and frantically searching the modern interweb to find out what, exactly, U.N.P.O.C. really does stand for. (I know this because I found the reviews whilst thinking about Brian Wilson and searching the modern interweb to find out what, exactly, U.N.P.O.C. did stand for.)

Anyway, what's it all about? What can you expect? What's all this talk of 60s legends, and can any of it be justified?
Taking those questions one at a time:-

U.N.P.O.C., or Tom Bauchop as he's otherwise known, are about soaring vocals, offbeat lyrics and charming eccentricity. You can expect an album of atmospheric, slow-burning pop gems that start from nothing and build around you - an album that improves with subsequent listens and can make you smile and sigh at the same time.

The obvious comparison is to The Beach Boys,but that doesn't mean you should expect some sort of surf-tinged nostalgia. This band is never so predictable. The songs draw from a variety of styles, metamorphosing as they continue into something completely different from what you might have been expecting. Often the songs begin quiet and small and then just go...off somewhere...off, into the Mind Of Bauchop - and what a strange and beautiful place that seems to be...

There's a scousepop feel to 'Amsterdam'; a Galaxie 500-style guitar wall at the end of 'Come In'; a dark, brooding suspense to 'Nicaragua'; a flat, ranting style at the end of 'I Love You Lady Luck' of which Mark E. Smith might approve and, perhaps, a hint of a salsa beat in 'I Don't Feel Too Steady On My Feet'.

Certain tracks stand out - 'Here On My Own' is a masterpiece of echoing angst, 'Some Kinds Of People' displays sunny harmonies over kitchen-sink dreams of corner shops - like a deranged surf 'She's A Lady' and 'So In Tune' sets a disjointed, vaguely manic narrative to more soaring vocals ('Old ladies help me cross the street, they're so kind') - the refrain 'Cos I love you/ I'm so in tune' sung appealingly off-key.

It would be a shame to criticise the fact that the recordings sound a little home-made. Although there's more than enough talent here to suggest that, given a little more financial support, U.N.P.O.C. could go on to iron out those kinks and create an 'easier', more commerical proposition I genuinely hope they do not do so. The joy is in the strangeness, in the veering away from what is expected. U.N.P.O.C. must remain unhinged, unspoiled, unpredictable and (allow me one more 'un') - crucially - unaffected. These feel honest and immediate, and a little rough. And that's the way I like them.

I must confess that I don't know what the album title really refers to - what, if any, part of the nation U.N.P.O.C. are trying to subvert - the album begins and ends with what may be references to the title - hints of wartime interrogation in 'Amsterdam' and talk of insurgency in 'Nicaragua' - but, whatever their target is, it ought to be just a little bit worried. It already feels like they could sneak into the centre of music industry and take whatever they wanted. If the enemy is so charming, why bother fighting?

No, U.N.P.O.C. aren't our enemies. Not yours and mine. Not unless they're going to destroy us by making us smile, and sing, and enjoy life just a little bit more.

And those initials? Well, I've decided they stand for 'Uniquely Nice Pop On CD'.

Of course, they don't. But I'm sure they won't mind.

Ian Anscombe

 

 

 

 

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