When Lou Barlow of Sebadoh hollered "Gimme Indie Rock" on the seminal single of the same title, it was a clarion call to the independently minded spirits who were creating some of the most thrilling and vital music of that era (the early 90s!) He couldn't possibly have known that within a few years, and for the next couple of decades, the term Indie Rock would come to be synonymous with the greyest, blandest, most emotionally repressed, joyless music imaginable. Pretty soon, any bunch of four, crap-haired, poorly-dressed oiks would bash out some turgid, major-chord piffle while belching some of the most lame-brained odious lyrics they could compile with a thesaurus and a speak and spell machine. Rubbish like Cast, The Wombats, Scouting For Girls, Embrace, Stereophonics, The Kooks, The Enemy and any tripe associated with the Gallagher brothers just dribbled out like vomited porridge, sounding every bit as appealing.
So, no tears were shed then when it was announced by publications like The Guardian and Q Magazine that Indie Rock was dead! But like so many of these proclamations, it was based as always on sales figures and chart positions. As if chart positions have ever been a barometer of quality!!
In an age when fresh new creative bands and artists are releasing their own music through their websites, or indeed giving the music away free....who really gives a fuck about chart positions or numerological success? Not we at the ~Streetlamp~ that's for sure! So, I'd like to write this week about three acts who go against the grain of Indie Rock in almost every way....three duos(okay,one is almost a duo - they have a drummer as well!!), all boy/girl, all of whom shimmer with sparkling creativity and who radiate beauty in a world of lumpen, hoary, artless twaddle.....
We start with the rather sultry and smoky Psychic Dancehall; a coming together of Chuck Rowell of San Diego noise-poppers Crocodiles, and Hollie Cook, daughter of Sex Pistols' drummer and all-round good egg Paul Cook.
Psychic Dancehall tap into that sleazy, neon soaked world of noir-jazz drinking hostelrys and 60s pulp kitsch; creating a chemically enhanced backdrop of musical menace in which (and this is purely for Griff) The Shangri-Las wrestle with Suicide in Joe Meek's studio under the approving gaze of Gary Clail....now surely THAT must have piqued your interest!!
The songs were written purely by soaking up the late night aura of San Diego's artier, more decadent culture spots and simply translating the ideas into song, recorded lo-fi style in a loft apartment in the very heart of the city. These experimental recordings were snapped up by Art Fag records (as beautifully apt a moniker as could be) and have been released as the couple's debut album 'Dreamers'; an instant classic possessing a few songs that I'm sure will already be jostling for space in our Festive 30 for this year....even if this is only January.
The album is available to buy, or indeed listen to for free at both Bandcamp and Soundcloud; and if you like your Pop music sexy, dark and dangerous, then why are you reading this and not heading over there??
Next up is the latest signing to All Tomorrow's Parties own record label; a trio featuring a boy/girl focal point, bearing the name of Tennis. Now, if you read my eulogy to All Tommorow's Parties a few weeks ago, you'll know that I champion their independent purist aesthetic, so you'll know that this band will probably be a bit special. And indeed they are!
Now, All Tomorrow's Parties may have a reputation for noisy, math-rock, guitar music and avant-garde, experimental electronica, but if you remember they were founded upon an original idea from Belle & Sebastian, so obviously there have to be Pop roots at the foundation of what they do. And certainly Tennis provide Pop in spades. Have a listen...
Admit it....that was pretty dreamy! And thankfully, that's what all their music is like. Created by husband and wife team Patrick Riley (guitar) and Aliana Moore (vocals), and with help from drummer friend James Barone; the idea for Tennis came after Patrick and Aliana acquired an old sailboat and spent 7 months on the eastern seaboard. Upon returning to land, they immediately began charting their voyage in song, the result being their debut album 'Cape Dory'.
As January grinds on in a puddle of grey rain, what better way to bolster your Vitamin D intake than by basking in the sun-dappled pure Pop of Tennis? Their newest track 'Origins' is a perfect Winter-blues buster with a rather seductive squelchy organ sound that's bound to incur some nostalgic shivers among some of you out there.
Their albums can be streamed at their Bandcamp page, and you can pick up some free downloads at their Facebook page.
And so to our third duo, an Anglo-American boy/girl coupling named Big Deal. Kacey Underwood and Alice Costelloe both play guitar and provide vocals, the two having met when Kacey taught Alice to play guitar, in particular how to sound like Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr.
The fact that they both share vocal duties and that there is no drums or bass, or indeed any rhythm section at all, puts all the focus onto the delicate fuzziness of the music, and the Nancy-and-Lee-isms of the vocals, therefore condensing the very dramatic into the very intimate....
A lot of the thematic pull of the songs seems to build around the suffocating sexual longing that appears to exists between the two collaborators. This dynamism propels the music with both a sense of thrill of the new, with a more reflective sense of nostalgia....like the love affair at the centre of Betty Blue (only without the eye-gouging madness).
Big Deal have an album called 'Lights Out' available to stream once again through Soundcloud, and they have some other tracks available at their Soundcloud page.
Great stuff so early in the year! I'm guessing that all three of the bands will feature in 2012's Festive 30. And I can also predict that Griff will especially like Psychic Dancehall, Ray's favourite new band are Big Deal; which leaves me with Tennis....and I'll have that any day!!
Indie Rock is dead!! Let's all go piss on it's grave!!