Reviews - Week 58


Trembling Blue Stars

Southern skies appear brighter

Elefant Records

"I could almost be too much in love"

B-sides will always be my never forgotten secrets, always just mine. And I'll always be young, silly and naive enough to think that, sometimes, I'm the only person in the world who ever had the thought to turn over a piece of vinyl to see what could be hiding on the other side. Stupid I know, but how could I not be ever-so-slightly charmed by certain songs that felt like another persons cast-off? Or songs that had been banished next to the run out groove on side B because of their inadequacies?

And when I found those songs I would bask in the blissful obscurity of them knowing that shunning the lead track for this was about as adventurous as my life would probably ever get.

These days, such is the cruel, selfish, one-sided nature of a CD, I don't get to call extra tracks B-sides as much anymore. And really, I can't hide my foolish emotions and attempt to get dewy eyed as much anymore either, it's just not the same. But special things can still happen and, yeah I know, they were never really just my secrets anyway.

So then, lurking bashfully at song number 4 on the new Trembling Blue Stars e.p is 'Hurry home through the crowds'. Gently plucking guitars, handclaps and words about being so much in love couldn't sound much better than this. Its heart stopping, lovelorn like unrequited love is and enough to make you talk to that girl you've seen dancing at gigs around about town, if only you weren't such a shy soul. Bob Wratten has penned enough songs like this over the years and left them blinking their eyes far enough down the track listing for one hundred secrets of mine.

Elsewhere, lead track 'Helen Reddy' is all lilting female vocals and driving rhythmic guitars, a bit 'Mobile Safari' era Pastels if you like. Or maybe it is a rich auntie to its poor, unfortunate cousin 'The Rainbow' that Trembling Blue Stars put out way back in 1997. Unfortunately, words fail me for 'A Beginning of a Kind' (straight forward, rock-ish) and 'Open Skies' (plain soppy) for a few of the wrong reasons. Hardly inspirational songs but thankfully Bobby's voice has saved many potentially dull moments like these over the years. That's what makes him so special. I

In fact maybe, more than anything, it is just reassuring to hear his voice again. So I can once again swoon at the way his voice can taint almost all the happiest moments with at least a tinge of sadness.

Ian Cowen





Woody Allen likes guitar pop

Marsh Marigold Records

Do you remember the Catalysts? Because that is what I remember the first time I played Miniskirt. Or rather not the Catalysts themselves but those demos of theirs that Felicite released this time last year - and the conversation I had about them with my friend Nick when he played them to me.

"Hey! That one's good!"
"Yeah, that's what happens when something is original."

So that's what I thought about during the two and a half minutes of 'Be here with me', the first song on 'Woody Allen likes guitar pop'. It didn't last much longer though because 'Sonnige tage' came along to make me bounce and wonder. "How can a band sing in German and yet make a song I like so much?" I wondered while bouncing. And, "how can a Japanese band sing in German and make a song I like so much?" (I don't like Japanese pop much.) Also, "how can a Japanese band that sings in German make a song so good for dancing?" (because 'Sonnige tage' is good for dancing the way Belle & Sebastian's 'Judy is a dick slap' is, that is, very good.) Wondering while bouncing isn't very easy which explains why I wasn't so good at it.

When that was over and I sat down again, panting, Miniskirt had switched back to singing in English but the German accent remained, as did the questions in my spinning head. How can a mostly Japanse band with a German singer who sounds like Stephen Pastel make songs I like so much? How can a band write songs that are about the most obvious of pop cliches (love, falling in love and falling out of love) and yet sound irresistably charming? How can a band load their songs with the simplest of lyrics and still have them sounding so lovely? How can a band write a song that begings with the line "sometimes I think you are all like Pooh the bear" and still have me saying they are adorable?

I don't know how Miniskirt can do all this, but believe me, they can. And they can do a lot more too: describe the world in the year 2055 and namedrop Thelonious Monk in an effort to prove that "it is love that keeps us together, forever, forever, and it will never change"; repeat the word forever in the loveliest of ways, a way that gets straight to your heart; and combine shoegazing guitars with the most innocent, heartfelt-sounding girl/boy vocals in the whole wide world. And that's only what they can do during the 3 minutes and 44 seconds of 'Tongue information'. And 'Tongue information' is only in the middle of this record.

They can also name a song about being so sad and lonely you're feeling nobody's on your side 'Woody Allen likes Japanese noise rock' and make that sound fitting. And they can sing it in a way that lifts my heart all the way to heaven as I type these lines. They can turn glowing fish stickers on a wall into a symbol of the fact that "between us everything's still alright" while repeating "these fish glow in the dark" over and over again and still fail to sound annoying.

And they can write 'Her blue contact lenses make me crazy' to steal my heart and make the world a better place, because the world has always needed a song with the words "we are having a happy time, happy life" sang so heartbreakingly so badly, it's no wonder their first real fan has been known to sing parts of it out in restaurants and subways. And then they can follow it up with a few sad, sweet popsongs about breaking up and missing you but never giving up hope that get slower as time goes by but never for a moment fail sound charming, every phrase uttered, repeated, sang in near or not-so-near harmony by Edgar and Sachiko a pop manifesto in itself, another something to warm my heart and make me smile.

And they can leave me amazed and wondering how they can do all that.

Dimitra Daisy




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