I'm glad people still make records that sound like this.
Tortured souls alone with sensitive, barely there, voices. Kristian Rosengren (Airliner) and Ant Harding (ANT) ply the same fragile bedroom acoustics on this split 7" ep. Overly precious they may be but that's no bad thing around these parts.
Airliner relies on guitar and piano lines to set the heart trembling during 'Always up to you' and the effect is beautifully sombre. His second track 'Happiness' is the real gem though I'd say. A normal 'she's left me' tale told so simply and basic that it's affecting in a way only the most obvious words can be. Nothing is elaborated on as Kristian whispers into a 4-track in bedroom isolation with the street sounds clamouring up against his window.
ANT has been cooing over his lady friend a lot lately I can tell you. He has been singing songs to her at shows with words that only he and she know and making happy-sad records instead of, well, just plain sad ones. I kind of miss the days when ANT songs were filled with line after line of the most heartbreaking love gone wrong imaginable. The kind of words you'd steal to melt girls' hearts up and down the country if only to see the look on their faces.
On this record you get both happy ANT and sad ANT, which is pretty much perfection. So the merrily strummed guitars on 'Mountains' and 'Breathe my name' do little to hide the sad shyness we've become used to with him. Nothing new then but I'm feeling thankful for just that.
With this five track E.P, My Teenage Stride have done their level best to encompass all entries in the Guinness Book of Hit Singles, Bartholomews World Atlas, and Bill Bryson's 'A Brief History of Time'. With just one listen to this 7" slab of vinyl you can draw a line directly from early 1960's Germany, to late 1980's Bristol, whilst taking in 1970's Detroit and 1960's California en route. And that's just the start of it.
The opening track, 'I'm sorry' falls somewhere between The Supremes and Sarah Records. The chiming guitar borrows a riff directly lifted from 'Will you still love me tomorrow', whilst the fey lyrics remind us of Bristol's finest pop roster of the last 100 years. If Diana Ross were dead, she'd be turning in her grave, if the Field Mice were in town, there'd surely be tantrums. The second track 'Everyone's to blame' segues neatly into more an indie pop theme. If this were released fifteen years ago, it would surely have come in a photocopied sleeve, possibly with a postcard of a railway station.
The b-side, which incidentally requires resetting your dansette to 33rpm, kicks off with scuzzball pop rock number 'Hamburg'. The obvious references to early period Beatles are monumental, not only name-checking the locale of perhaps their most influential and formative years, but taking onboard the sound as well. Listen carefully, you can almost hear the hoards of teenage girls screaming... close your eyes and you'll see John, Paul and George bobbing their mop-top heads in time to the music, whilst Ringo does something at the back with a drum kit.
'Cover up your eyes' is a return to standard guitar based indie pop, a nice simple pop song without airs and graces, that should be on someone's Desert Island Disc selection. It is without compromise to other influences, and has no real sense of self importance. That's what makes it what it is. Good, clean wholesome pop.
The curtain is brought down with 'Dance to the skeleton hand'. It sounds nothing like you would expect a song with that title to sound. With more than a passing nod to The Beach Boys, The Fat Boys and The Fonz, the final number arrives at the diner in a fin tailed '57 Chevrolet and sets off for an afternoon at the beach with it's sub-pop-surf-pub-rock soundtrack to keep us entertained. Remember Grease? You will when you hear this.
In all, a considered attempt, and certainly a great deal of fun - and that after all is what it should be about, shouldn't it? The only possible let down is the quality of production. It does sound very home made - but then again, that's a good thing as it reminds us that making music isn't just the realm of the Robbie Williams and J-Lo's of this world. It just makes me wonder how much better this record could have been with better recording facilities, a bigger budget and a John Leckie, a Nigel Godrich or a Steve Lillywhite twiddling the knobs. Could they be a Keane?, successors to The Libertines?, could they be the great new hope? Well, that's unlikely, but it is a worthwhile record. Check it out.