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The Proper Ornaments “Foxhole” – Review

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Experience has taught us that when Rob Morgan (@durutti74) is inspired by music to want to write about it then it has to be pretty special. On this occasion it’s the latest album from The Proper Ornaments that had him reaching for the Mont Blanc.

As we’ve come to expect from Rob, it’s a terrific read and a top review of a super album. So please read, listen and enjoy….

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The Proper Ornaments
Foxhole
Tough Love Records

Technical glitches can be a real pain sometimes. I had this review fully written and ready to send to EIO40 HQ this morning when I thought I would make one small amendment – and managed to delete the entire document, except for the opening paragraph. So here I am rewriting it from scratch with the memory of what was originally there in my mind and trying to make sure it matches that standard or improves on it.

In a way this is ironic as this is what happened to the album I’m reviewing, “Foxhole” by The Proper Ornaments. The band had recorded the whole album before realising that there was some technical glitch which made the entire recording unusable except for one song. Necessity thus proved the mother of invention, the whole album was rerecorded simply and quickly and is now available for you to enjoy.

The Proper Ornaments were formed by James Hoare (Veronica Falls, Ultimate Painting) and Max Oscarnold (Toy) and they issued their debut album “Wooden Head” in 2014. Whereas that album was a warm blend of fuzzy guitars with nods to Teenage Fanclub, Stereolab and 60s sunshine pop, the new album – recorded on Hoare’s eight track home recording unit – eschews the overdriven guitars and concentrates on chiming clean guitar arpeggios, lovely harmonies, simple arrangements and an emphasis on simple piano chords for most of the songs.

As such there are a new set of influences – the hushed ambience of the third Velvet Underground album, the gorgeous songs Gene Clark and David Crosby wrote for the early Byrds albums, those gentle songs Rick Wright wrote for early Pink Floyd albums – and more contemporary sounds too, I hear echoes of early Kingsbury Manx, Beachwood Sparks, Radar Bros and other bands who who create their own take on pastoral psychedelia.

The album starts bright and breezy with the opener “Back Pages” (nice nod to Dylan and the Byrds there) and the supposedly cheerful “Cremated (Blown Away)” before moving into a mid tempo melancholy groove which remains for most of the rest of the album.

Mostly the songs are short – only “Memories” expands beyond the five minute mark as it moves through numerous changes and sections. Re-recording the album on a limited number of tracks has forced the band to remove layers of excess and concentrate on what makes the music matter most – there is no room for extraneous overdubbing, allowing the songs room to breath. This could be a disaster but the songs stand up to the scrutiny well, every song has melodic hooks which sink in quickly and small changes to the arrangements can be as powerful as a hundred overdubs. For instance “The Frozen Stare” has such a spare arrangement that the addition of electric guitar arpeggios during the coda expands the sound in a magnificent way – simple yet potent.

This is an album which doesn’t need to shout loudly to make its point, and over time the lyrical motifs will become apparent. Many songs have a melancholy air, looking back on a half remembered past and trying to make sense of the present – songs like “Just A Dream” and “When We Were Young” are wistful remembrances. The key song here is “Jeremy’s Song”, where interlocking cycles of acoustic guitars back a repeated mantra of “Cry but don’t speak, don’t move at all, keep your head down in the foxhole”. Are they hiding from the harsh reality of modern day living? Who knows? Maybe I read too much into these things.

On the other hand there are songs like “1969” which appears to be about the moon landings which again surprises with a delightful descending keyboard part on the chorus, and “I Know You Know” which adds a slight country edge which harks back to the Stones-ish vibe of “Give Out…” era ballads by Primal Scream. The album closer “The devil” sounds like it was recorded in a school assembly (utilising Phil Spector’s School Hall Of Sound?) and ends the album with an upbeat feel, adding a small piano doodle at the end which is quite lovely.

The Proper Ornaments know that brevity is an asset – eleven songs swing by in thirty seven minutes and the melodies and moods linger long in the memory after each listen. This is an album which rewards multiple plays – each listen will reveal new little details and pleasures, with plenty of melodic twists and unexpected chord changes. Simplicity is its strength, a triumph from possible disastrous circumstances.

There isn’t a bad song on this album and the Proper Ornaments have created this year’s first essential listen. It is the perfect soundtrack for winter days and nights – place it on the shelf next to these other winter albums “More Sad Hits” by Damon and Naomi, “Songs For The Sad Eyed Girl” by Biff Bang Pow! and “Ask Me Tomorrow” by Mojave 3.

This album deserves to be heard, let it infiltrate your life and it will reward you with haunting melodies and thoughtful words which will stay with you a long time. Highly recommended.

Rob Morgan

 

You can purchase “Foxholes” at the Proper Ornaments Bandcamp page and you can also discover more about them at these links

Twitter

Facebook

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rob writes about music and other less important subjects at his blog A Goldfish Called Regret (agoldfishcalledregret.wordpress.com) and also creates podcasts for Goldfish Radio (https://m.mixcloud.com/robmorgan589).

He never achieved his ambition of making a Sarah Record.

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We hope you’ve enjoyed reading Rob’s review. If you would like to review something new, whether it’s new material or a re-issue then please contact us via email indieover40@gmail.com or Twitter @IndieOver40

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The Salient Braves “Guilty Until Proven Innocent EP” – Review

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Another email from Esther dropped in the EIO40 inbox this week. Reading what she has to say about music that has put a smile on her face, puts a smile on our face. The fact that she had turned her attention to a band on our own radar, a band thoroughly deserving of much wider attention and who we hope to hear more from in the future, had us doing a bit of a jig.

The Salient Braves describe themselves as “Purveyors of tuneful lo-fi indie-pop”. Head honcho, Matt Bailey, hails from Barnsley and they have just released their 3rd EP which is on John Hartley’s Broken Down Records. They also have plans for a debut album in 2017.

Those are just facts. What follows is rather more important. And that is what Esther thinks of the latest offering from The Salient Braves…

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The Salient Braves
Guilty Until Proven Innocent EP
Broken Down Records

The Salient Braves’ third and latest EP “Guilty Until Proven Innocent” picks up where their last EP left off. It’ s another great collection of witty lyrics and harmonising melodies. Thankfully they continue to wear their influences from that golden C86 era of indie pop on their sleeves.

The 4-track EP kicks off with the title track, a jaunty number about a run-in with the law and subsequent bad treatment by the authorities. There’ s a great warbling trumpet throughout, as if it’s the protagonist’s voice crying out to be heard about his injustices. It’s used to great effect as a solo after he declares “I’m launching an appeal ‘cos I don’t like the meals”.

Next track “My Alter Ego” is a woozy dream pop number, starting off with a beautiful keyboard and guitar melody. It is cleverly contrasted with cutting lyrics which starts with the line, “Your heart’s not in the right place, must be somewhere beneath your shin” and has a cool boy-girl vocal exchange. It’s easy to lose yourself in this song and it’s not nearly long enough  It’s the gem on this EP.

“Boy’s Night Out” is another infectious track which everyone can relate to about the woes of not meeting someone on a night out. The EP closes with an unexpected somber tune showing Matt Bailey’s versatility in his songwriting. Minor chords, a simple bass line and haunting backing vocals are all that are needed to create its mood. With tongue planted in cheek, or maybe just humbly, he states “I’m a rhyme barrel-scraping cynical bastard”. Well, either case, give us more!

The Salient Braves have floated under the radar far too long. Get on board if you haven’t already and check out their previous releases. You do not want to say one day that this band somehow passed you by. They are currently trying to raise funds through Crowdfunder to release their first album on vinyl “Delusions of Grandeur” in 2017. Help make it happen!

http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/the-salient-braves-delusions-of-grandeur-vinyl

You can purchase the “Guilty Until Proven Innocent EP” from the Broken Down Records Bandcamp page here

You can also find all things The Salient Braves related at the following links.

Bandcamp

Twitter

Facebook

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

A native of California, a wife and mother of two, Esther can be found escaping onto Twitter as @myrtleleaf to tweet about music, a life-long passion. She still mostly lives in the past. ________________________________________________________________________________

Thank you to Esther for a another wonderful review.

Watch out for further reviews, whether it’s re-issues or new releases. If you would like to review something yourself, you know where to find us.

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The Haywains “The Girl In The Holly Court Diner EP” – Review

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The Haywains are back and so is regular EIO40 contributor Esther (@myrtleleaf) with her review of their latest offering. This is the first release on new label Whoops! Records

Here is what Esther had to say about the new Haywains EP….

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The Haywains
The Girl In The Holly Court Diner EP
Whoops! Records

I can’t keep up with new gems hidden among the mountain of releases available in the many ways we discover music today. To add to that, I’m constantly discovering music from bands that passed me by in the mid 80’s and 90’s, my favorite eras in music.

So it’s with luck that I was given an opportunity to review this new release and revisit a group whose name and distinct retro cover art I was familiar with, though I had not followed their music closely. The Haywains had released several singles and two albums in the span of 8 years before disbanding in 1995. They reformed in 2013 for a reunion tour (25 years!), picking up right where they left off, where thankfully they continue to make great guitar pop, keeping the spirit of indie pop alive and well.

Their most recent EP, The Girl In The Holly Court Diner, is a batch of lively and catchy songs centered on love. The title track starts off with a great driving beat and an unexpected baritone I hadn’t heard in their earlier releases, but is lightened by a great melody. Another Boy’s Girl picks up the pace and adds a cool chord change as the song ends. LoveTorpedo! continues the theme centred around love with some alternating dual male vocals. The swooning It’s A Long Way Home When You Lose reminisces about better days (including a once winning football season). There’s a glockenspiel and keyboard and by now I’m won over by that baritone. The song fades to just guitar, it’s the perfect closer.

This EP is great place to start if you’re not already familiar with the band’s work.

The bundle of goodies you get with the EP

The Girl In The Holly Court Diner 7″ EP is limited to 300 copies so get in there quick if it’s up your street. All The Haywains releases are also available through their bandcamp page from which you can also link to their website.

https://thehaywains.bandcamp.com/album/girl-in-the-holly-court-diner-e-p
https://thehaywains.bandcamp.com/
http://www.haywains.co.uk/

http://www.whoops-records.co.uk

Esther

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

A native of California, a wife and mother of two, Esther can be found escaping onto Twitter as @myrtleleaf to tweet about music, a life-long passion. She still mostly lives in the past. ________________________________________________________________________________

Thank you to Esther for a another wonderful review.

Watch out for further reviews, whether it’s re-issues or new releases. If you would like to review something yourself, you know where to find us.

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Community Recommends – Murals

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WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO?

One of the most enjoyable aspects of the EIO40 community is being introduced to new sounds by discovering what music others are listening to, whether fresh off the shelves or something from the past that may have gone under the radar.

“Community Recommends” is an opportunity for members to write about an album or song that is a particular favourite of theirs and would like to share to the wider community. So have a read. You might like what you hear.

In this edition Rob Morgan (@durutti74) introduces us to …..

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MURALS “Violet City Lantern”

It’s probably not a very indie place to start, but back in 1983 Heaven 17 recorded a song called “We Live So Fast” for their album “The Luxury Gap” and while the frantic drum machines and chirping synths have dated the song, the sentiments expressed – the speed of life, the need to press on, to move to the next new thing – seem more current than ever. In this decade there is an overabundance of choices available – from Netflix to Spotify to YouTube almost everything is available within an instant. We are saturated with entertainment shows and music, technology drives us to investigate everything until we are drowned – it is all too much.

These days it is hard to find the time to get to know a record, to listen to it intently and in a number of settings, to get inside the songs and let them inhabit your life. Remember how you felt when you had a new album by your favourite band? The weeks of playing it over and over, how it would infiltrate into your world, become the soundtrack to that week or month, that party, that night out, that kiss, that argument. Life and music in harmony, the soundtrack to your life.

But it rarely happens these days. The overwhelming overload of availability leads to instant decisions – play a few songs from an album, decide it isn’t for you, move to the next one. I know I’ve done that, guilty as charged. But over the last few weeks I’ve played one new album over and over again, allowing it to sink in like the old days. I wasn’t instantly impressed but over time, the music had wormed its way into my heart, become part of my life.

That album is “Violet City Lantern” by Murals.

As I said, the first few listens were frustrating. Yes it sounded lovely – oceans of reverb, splinters of guitar lines, a double tracked vocal style similar to Steve Mason in the Beta Band. But nothing truly jumped out at me, the songs tended to change direction for no reason, there were occasional instrumentals, sometimes the sound of rain. It was pleasant enough but I didn’t feel like persisting with it. But I carried on, listening in different settings – in the car, or on headphones around the house – and slowly it all clicked into place. Maybe it was persistence, or maybe there was one song acting as the key to unlock the other songs.

The key for me was the fourth song “White Wheel”. It fades in gradually, a miasma of twinkling guitars and xylophones over a martial drum beat, then a simple melodic vocal from Jacob Weaver, and the song jogs along happily, like a lamb dancing through a spring field of grass, while ascending brush strokes of autoharp punctuate the song. It’s a beautiful sound, hazy and vague but engaging. And once that song had cracked the code of Murals, the rest of the album fell into place.

I must admit I don’t know that much about the band, they are a four piece from Louisville in the US and this is their second album and I happened to stumble upon it on Bandcamp a few weeks back. I’m sure someone more diligent than myself would be digging in and finding out about the members, but sometimes it’s better to let a band’s music exist in its own world, without getting bogged down by details of who made the coffee and who strummed the guitars. This is that kind of record – one to clutch to your heart and cherish, unknowing the details which could spoil the spell.

I’ve avoided writing about the music because it’s tricky to describe. There are hints of Galaxie 500, The Beta Band, early Purple Ivy Shadows, the “Beach Boys in a school assembly” wonder of the debut Fleet Foxes LP, but all refracted through a gentle lysergic haze. There’s enough reverb to satisfy the keenest shoegazer, but absolutely no distorted guitars. Each song takes twists and turns in unexpected directions, but always makes perfect sense.

Take “Watching In The Dark” for instance – it starts in waltz time with a gorgeous guitar melody for a minute before slowing down into normal 4/4 time and a different melody for the main song, while still throwing in a bridge in double time around the three minute mark, before returning to the main melody, and a brief coda restates the introduction melody in waltz time. All the changes in tempo and melody sound completely natural, nothing is jarring or off kilter.

Each song had a unique feature – “The Swimmer” has delicate washes of piano and strings, “One Thousand Pictures” has a reversed rhythm track (reminiscent of “Amazing Journey” by The Who) – and the brief instrumentals dotted throughout the album act as welcome breathers, a chance to gather thoughts. In that way, it is similar to “Alaska”, the debut album by Northern Picture Library, another unique proposition.

“Violet City Lantern” is an album which exists on its own terms, has its own internal logic and makes no concessions unless the listener is prepared to give as much as the band. But this is also an album with charm and beauty to spare, a gorgeous concoction of melody which will reward multiple listens. It may not appear on any publication’s end of year albums list, but it is a special album which will remain close to this listener’s heart. Allow it a chance and you may feel the same way.

Recommended songs – “Violet City Lantern”,“White Wheel”, “I Live Here”.

Murals – White Wheel

Listen to the album on Spotify or other streaming services, or purchase it from www.themurals.bandcamp.com

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rob writes about music and other less important subjects at his blog A Goldfish Called Regret (agoldfishcalledregret.wordpress.com) and also creates podcasts for Goldfish Radio (https://m.mixcloud.com/robmorgan589).

He never achieved his ambition of making a Sarah Record.

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Thank you to Rob Morgan for taking the time to introduce us to Murals. Hope you enjoy the music as much as we have.

If you would like to contribute to this feature by writing about a song or album that you think others would like, then we would love to hear from you.

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Community Recommends – @Dalliance68

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WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO?

One of the most enjoyable aspects of the EIO40 community is being introduced to new sounds by discovering what music others are listening to, whether fresh off the shelves or something from the past that may have gone under the radar.

“Community Recommends” is an opportunity for members to write about an album or song that is a particular favourite of theirs and would like to share to the wider community. So have a read. You might like what you hear.

In this edition @Dalliance68 introduces us to …..

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NORTHERN PORTRAIT “Criminal Art Lovers”

‘Criminal Art Lovers’ is the debut LP from Danish four piece Northern Portrait. The group was formed in 2007 and released this LP in 2010 on Matinee Records. It’s remained one of my favourite albums ever since.

It kicks off with ’The Munchhausen in Me’, glorious layers of chiming guitars with a vocal reminscent of Martin Rossiter with a bit of Morrissey thrown in. The guitar style that runs through the album is arpeggioed Rickenbacker which drives each song. Quite beautiful in it’s own right. Throw in some subtle harmonies and you get the Northern Portrait formula. Don’t expect a different guitar sound as the album progresses, they know what works and they stick with it.

Each song has the perfect mix of upbeat joyful guitar with lyrics which are less so, but as a number of groups have proved in past, this makes for some memorable songs.

Track number number two ‘When Goodness Fails’ is jingle jangle guitar heaven, ‘Crazy’ was the first song of theirs I ever heard and I never looked back. As a single it takes some beating. It grows slowly starting with gently strummed guitar giving lots of room for the vocal, as the song progresses more guitar lines are added until it reaches its joyful finale.

The album is full of lyrics that put a wry smile on your face “I may have lost but I haven’t lost the plot”, “As you walk on by please keep walking”.

‘What Happens Next’ rattles along at a great pace with a lyrics that remind me of some of David Gedge’s (which can’t be a bad thing) “There were times that when I couldn’t bear my own company, but those times changed when you were not there and there’s nothing left to see anymore”.

“That’s When My Headaches Begin’ has one of the strongest vocal performances on the album, one that you can feel the emotion in especially at it’s climax “Listen to the sea as it kisses the shore, like so many million times before”.

It finishes with ‘New Favourite Moment’, by this point I’m normally beaming inanely.

There’s not that many albums that I want to recommend to everyone but this is one. I’m hoping that we don’t have to wait too long before another is released.

Northern Portrait “Crazy”

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Thank you to @Dalliance68 for taking the time to introduce us to one his favourite albums.

If you would like to know more about the author then head over to our Meet The Community page, where there is an interview with @Dalliance68. That is definitely worth checking out.

If you would like to contribute to this feature by writing about a song or album that you think others would like, then we would love to hear from you.

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Strawberry Whiplash “Stuck In The Never Ending Now” – Review

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Esther (@myrtleleaf) is back with another review. This time she has turned her attention to the latest offering from Glasgow indie pop duo Strawberry Whiplash, who’s name is a Scottish indie heritage mash up of Strawberry Switchblade and early Creation band Meat Whiplash.

The album is released on Santa Barbara based Matinee Recordings and with Esther just down the road in San Diego, Scotland and California has never seemed so neighbourly.

Anyway, here is what Esther had to say about the new Strawberry Whiplash album.

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Although it’s December and deep into the winter holiday season, this album is not just breezy summer-sounding indie pop songs, as the clever cover that has the feel of a nautilus shell could seem to suggest. It’s an album of different flavors from Scottish pop duo Laz and Sandra McCluskey (if you haven’t already done so, be sure to seek Laz’ other music project Bubblegum Lemonade). So it’s been a great companion since its release last month throughout both sunny and rainy days here (yes, rain in Southern California!)

A country-inflected riff is the first sound I hear on album opener Every Day the Sun Shines Bright and right away I know this album will be a treat full of different sounds. There’s the punchy If Surface Were Depth and Halcyon, both in the same vein of C86 era Talulah Gosh. Time Takes You Away, the first song released is infectious, with its cool bongo sound.

The strongest songs for me, however, have a slightly dark and melancholy feel: Too Close to Call, which has the most beautiful guitar solo in the entire album, and the slower, dreamy Ride the Waves To The Shore, a swooning number with some more wonderful percussion that gives this song a sophisticated pop sound. Perfect album closer This Is All We Have is wistful and anthemic. Sandra sings with conviction, her voice remaining lush, ‘There is no more, there is no afterwards, this is all we have’. Just beautiful.

All twelve songs are varied keeping the album sounding fresh but familiar, and as the inside cover of the album proclaims, guaranteed to be 100% auto tune free.

 

Find Strawberry Whiplash and links to their music and sites on the Matinee Recordings website:

http://matineerecordings.com/item.php?item_id=262

Esther

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Thank you to Esther for a another wonderful review.

Watch out for further reviews, whether it’s re-issues or new releases. If you would like to review something yourself, you know where to find us.

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The Telescopes “Splashdown” Review

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Regular contributor Rob Morgan (@durutti74) recently took delivery of The Telescopes new re-issue courtesy of those wonderful purveyors of quality music Cherry Red and has very kindly produced a top notch review.

As we’ve come to expect from Rob “review” doesn’t really do it justice being more of an “insight” that runs much deeper than a simple appraisal.

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“Splashdown – the complete Creation Recordings 1990 – 1992” (Cherry Red)

Were the Telescopes really shoegazers? Let’s look at the evidence. Influenced by Loop, Spacemen 3 and My Bloody Valentine? Check. Made some of their best music across numerous EPs? Check. Signed to Creation Records? Check. So far so shoegaze. But there was always more to the Telescopes than met the eye. This overdue compilation of their four EPs and one àlbum for Creation (plus lots of extras) gives a fuller picture of their capabilities.

The story of how the Telescopes were signed to Creation is worth noting here. Their initial records were issued on Cheree Records distributed through What Goes On, a German label specialising in garage bands, Australian noise and other oddities. The Telescopes emerged in 1989 with a series of singles – “Kick The Wall”, “7th Disaster”, “The Perfect Needle”, “To Kill A Slow Girl Walking” – and an album “Taste” which were well received by the indie scene but lambasted by the music press for not being Loop or MBV. But they did well enough to establish a fan base for their nihilistic walls of guitar.

By the end of 1989 “The Perfect Needle” was sitting in Peel’s Festive Fifty, “To Kill A Slow Girl Walking” was doing well in the Indie charts and showed leaps forward in their musical development (not least the astonishing oceanic wash of “Pure Sweetest Ocean”) and somehow in the middle of this What Goes On goes bust. The Telescopes are now label-less with a newly recorded EP ready to go. Luckily Alan McGee was impressed enough to sign them to Creation Records and a fruitful two years of releases begins.

It makes sense that this compilation starts with the four EPs issued between 1990 and 1991 as this shows the development of the band. The “Precious Little” EP (saved from their label crash) gives a taste of their original noisy origins – the wall of distorted guitar which crash like waves across the title track – but gives hints of what is to come, the use of dynamics on “Deep Hole Ends”, the quiet tension within “Never Hurt You” and the organ wash during the bridges on “I Sense” show progress amongst the droning guitars.

The next EP “Everso” was issued towards the end of 1990 and is the equivalent of switching from black and white to technicolour. It’s not quite that the Telescopes went “baggy” but they took elements of the indie dance sound and mixed it into their music which itself was showing signs of a psychedelic influence. “Everso” revels in a funky bass line, male female harmonies and an urgent sense of wonder. On the EP the Telescopes take “Never Learn Not To Love” by the Beach Boys (it’s on their “20/20” album from ’68) and extend it into a spooked beauty. But then it was originally written by Charles Manson as “Cease To Exist”. The third song on the EP – “Wish Of You” – is barely 90 seconds long but exhibits their best features, a fragile drift of melody and ascending dynamics.

The third Creation single “Celeste” was my introduction to the band, watching the retina shredding video on “Snub TV” early in 1991 and I was seriously impressed – the song took the psychedelic wash of Spacemen 3 and grafted it onto the groovy undercarriage of the Stone Roses while producing an almost perfect pop song. The b side “All A Dream” is slower and is a beautiful wash of sound, a great combination of songs – there’s also a nine minute remix of “Celeste” which is very much of its time but worth a listen, you can hear the individual elements of the music being highlighted.

The fourth EP “Flying” was issued in the summer of 1991 at the height of shoegazing’s popularity but stands apart from the contemporary releases by Chapterhouse, Slowdive and Lush by fully integrating the psychedelic elements into the sound. Each of the four songs is a three minute gem, full of sitars, droning organs, tremelo guitars and soaring harmonies all bathed in a rich haze of reverb. It’s a unique sound and probably as far as they could take their take on modern psychedelia. After the success of the “Flying” EP, the Telescopes disappeared to work on their second album.

There is some conjecture about what the second Telescopes album is actually called. Is it untitled? Is it eponymous? Is it called “Higher ‘n’ Higher” after the words highlighted on the sleeve (a blown up extract from the insert, a full music book with chords and lyrics to each song)? The sleeve itself is a painting by Paul Cannell who had created the memorable sleeves for “Higher Than The Sun”, “Don’t Fight It Feel It” and “Screamadelica” the previous year.

Whatever it is called, the second Telescopes album takes a step back from the psychedelic bliss out of their 1991 singles and revels in an organic vibe, the sound of a group of five musicians interacting with each other in a room. All of side one of the album (the first six songs on disc two of this compilation) are linked by little snippets of a group jam session, giving the impression of the band performing live for the listener. Highlights include the late night shuffling jazz mood of “You Set My Soul” (gorgeous piano by Ed Ball here), a gentler reworking of “High On Fire” from the “Flying” EP and the oceanic ebb and flow of side closer “And”.

Side two is no slouch either, “Yeah” dares to stop mid song allowing all the instruments to naturally decay for 20 seconds before the band restart as if by magic. “Ocean drive” rocks out and ends with a little wig out before leading into “Please Tell Mother”, one of my favourite Telescopes songs. Every detail within the song is lovely, from the building layers of guitars to the sound of a wind up toy car being rolled across the stereo spectrum – it’s a perfect song.

The album closes with another beautiful song – “To The Shore” – which drifts off in a reverie of reverb. Sadly the album wasn’t well received at the time and apparently sold less than 5,000 copies. But those who bought the album loved it. I bought it on the day of release back in May 1992 and have listened to it hundreds of times, it’s an absorbing and delightful experience and there are few other records I can think of which have the same feeling within the music and lyrics. However tensions within the band lead to them splitting up after this album was released, though they reformed ten years later.

If “Splashdown” contained just the four EPs and the second album, that would be enough but Cherry Red have pulled out the stops in excavating some unreleased gems. Disc One concludes with four songs from a proposed fifth EP, a group of songs which work as remixes of their “Flying” EP – sometimes more instrumental in nature and sometimes with extracts from other songs of theirs (“16T#3” brings back the whale song from “Pure Sweetest Ocean”) and all four songs offer intriguing perspectives on their sound.

On Disc Two there are a handful of cover versions which are interesting curios (but no room for their brooding version of Tim Rose’s “Morning dew”? Shame!) and best of all the songs from their Peel Session from September 1991. I absolutely hammered my tape of this session at the time and it contains four songs which would be included on the second album, but these versions have the urgency and intensity and psychedelic swirl of the “Flying” EP. Indeed the version of “Please Tell Mother” is absolutely stunning, sounding like the band are playing on a cliff edge staring into an abyss. Or maybe it’s just me.

As ever with Cherry Red the packaging is immaculate, excellent informative sleeve notes and the sound quality is superb. The remastering has brought out new depths in the music – I’ve been listening to these songs for over two decades and I’ve picked up new nuances and sounds in this collection. The songs from side one of the untitles album have a new clarity, as if you are sitting in that jam session room with the band. An amazing sound experience.

So were the Telescopes shoegazing? Well yes but they were so much more than that, as this collection demonstrates. The Telescopes continue to this day producing invigorating and innovative music – their latest release “Hidden Fields” is excellent – but “Splashdown” shows them during their most musically fertile (and commercially successful) period. If you owned the original records there’s plenty new to discover. If you’ve only heard of the Telescopes through their reputation, then there is a wealth of great music to enjoy.


 Rob Morgan 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rob writes about music and other less important subjects at his blog A Goldfish Called Regret (agoldfishcalledregret.wordpress.com) and also creates podcasts for Goldfish Radio (https://m.mixcloud.com/robmorgan589).

He never achieved his ambition of making a Sarah Record.

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We hope you’ve enjoyed reading Rob’s review. If you would like to review something new, whether it’s new material or a re-issue then please contact us via email indieover40@gmail.com or Twitter @IndieOver40

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Something New Review – The Autumn Stones

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We are delighted to welcome our good friend and regular contributor as a guest reviewer for our Something New Review feature.

John Hartley AKA @JohnyNocash on Twitter has cast his eyes over the latest offering from Toronto based dream pop quartet The  Autumn Stones, who are Ciaran Megahey (voice, guitar), Marcus Tamm (bass), Michael Addario (drums) and Gary Butler (horns, guitar).

Here is what John had to say about the The Autums Stones new album “Escapists”

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If Ontario’s The Autumn Stones had been around thirty years ago, it is safe to say that a significant number of the EIO40 community would be reminiscing fondly about them now. Luckily for us, they weren’t. They are actually here: now.

Do not be mistaken. The Autumn Stones do not sound dated by any stretch of the imagination. It’s just that there are very few acts around at the moment making the sort of music that cannot be placed chronologically. There are no fancy keyboards that will sound wincingly old within a couple of years, no of-the-fashion guitar effects, just simple, great pop songs that by definition of their release are indie.

‘Escapists’ is the second Autumn Stones long player to enter the world since the band began over five years ago. Their self-released debut ‘Companions of the Flame’ came in 2011, then all went quiet for a couple of years before 2014’s burst of activity which saw the release of three singles. All three can be found bundled together in the first half of ‘Escapists’, an album which will have those who like a reference point casting their minds back to many a British UK indie band. A bit of Tindersticks here, some Chesterfields there, more than a hint of Jim Jiminee – not just the saxophone but the sometimes soul, sometimes frantic pace of their songs.

A careful approach to songwriting clearly in evidence, The Autumn Stones have created an album which – although one song short by my reckoning, but maybe it’s a Canadian thing, albums with only nine tracks. Alvvays are similar culprits – is hard to find fault with even if that was the intent. The new recording of single ‘End of Faith’ is one of the highlights, a brooding swagger of a song that Morrissey could have covered to improve his own last outing. ‘Spirit Shadow’ meanwhile is an angular, feisty example of the perfect three-minute pop song. Final track ‘Dark Age’ is as good an album closer as you will hear this year, encapsulating all the moods entertained in the previous eight tracks and doing exactly what an album closer should do: wrap things up nicely whilst leaving the listener wanting more.

Available on CD and on digital download through Bandcamp, ‘Escapists’ by The Autumn Stones would fit in amongst the majority of the EIO40 community’s various collections, and for only ten Canadian Dollars (about £4.90 in UK money) would make a valuable and much-loved addition.

John Hartley


Where to find The Autumn Stones:

http://www.theautumnstones.com
https://theautumnstones.bandcamp.com
Twitter: @TheAutumStones
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/theautumnstones

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

After spending the best part of twenty five years trying to write the perfect pop song John Hartley has turned his attention to writing about those who have done a much better job at it. He tweets as @JohnyNocash and gives away his music, generally for free. He is currently raising money to support men’s mental health charity CALM (@theCALMzone) at http://brokendownrecords.bandcamp.com/album/the-broken-heed.

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Thank you to John for a fantastic review and good luck to The Autumn Stones with the album.

Watch out for further reviews, whether it’s re-issues or new releases. If you would like to review something yourself, you know where to find us.

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Something New Review – The Train Set “Never California”

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Remember when Esther (@myrtleleaf) reviewed Dot Dash? So adept was she at the job that we had no hesitation in calling on her services when the next opportunity for a review arose.

Although not strictly “new” we let Esther loose on The Train Set’s recently re-issued collection of EPs and unreleased tracks.

By way of background The Train Set are from Crewe  (no need to elaborate on the etymology clearly) and were signed to Hacienda DJ Dave Haslam & Happy Mondays manager Nathan McGough’s Play Hard Records in the late 1980s releasing 2 EPs. They are Clive (Camel) Jones, Andy (Booty), Mark (Shiggy) Shaw, Adam Halford & Dave Hassell.

Here is what Esther had to say about the The Train Set’s “Never California” album

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For a band that released a couple of EPs and singles in the late 80s, the Train Set’s songs are as fresh-sounding as any good music released today. So it could have been a fairly new band whose music I was hearing for the first time.

I say this because it was only last summer that I discovered this band through a song (Sink Or Swim) posted on Twitter which immediately caught my ear (thank you Richard Weir @Rich_W27). I found very little info on them except for some videos on You Tube and an interview on the Cloudberry Records blog site. So I was thrilled to discover that the excellent Firestation Records was releasing a compilation of their music this summer!

Every song is uniquely written, straying from the typical song structure. It is upbeat guitar pop, fine keyboards balanced by great bass lines and steady but varying drum stylings within their songs, but with an underlying melancholy in the lyrics.

One of the darkest lyrics about an abusive relationship is in the haunting Hold On. Their big single, She’s Gone – the song that back in 1988 made NME’s single of the week – is a jaunty song with a train drum beat (there is such a thing) that contains the memorable lyric ‘the music goes on and on and ON and on’ and an outro that fades in a wild tangle of guitar. Stop Stalling (Sob Stories), one of the strongest songs, should have been a single. Clive sings in a crooning voice loosely carrying the melody up and down beautifully, and has a great driving beat in the chorus.

Throughout these songs there are brief interludes of finely crafted music that carry you away from the song before Clive’s voice reels you back in, as in the majestic Untouchable, about a stormy relationship. There are lots of strings, with an ending containing a hint of piano and acoustic guitar. On All Blown Over (The Recall), the opening bars make me think of the Bunnymen’s album Ocean Rain. The song ends with another beautiful stretch of piano.

This song is contrasted with the cleverly re-titled The Recall (All Blown Over), the same song perfectly re-imagined in a stark post-punk style. That’s All introduces congos and horns, and again I hear some Echo and the Bunnymen in Clive’s cries and even some Doors in the ensuing guitar solo following the quieter moments during the middle of the song.

Sink Or Swim is infectious and upbeat with gorgeous guitar and should have been at the top of the charts in 1988, it could easily be today. Harped On sounds like the Smiths’ Rusholme Ruffians, with added fiddle and a great refrain at the end. Yet another possible single.

The band’s influence of the emerging Madchester scene is reflected in the upbeat songs Gets Me Down, Beautiful Monster, Tell Us All, and they showed no signs of stopping in crafting their songs.

‘Never California’ is a collection of their EPs and unreleased songs, but with all strong tracks, this may as well be a greatest hits release. The generous stretches of music must have come off great at their gigs, something I hope new fans will get a chance to experience.

Let’s hope that the Train Set have more steam left in them for new music. I couldn’t resist the pun!

Esther (@myrtleleaf)


 Where to find The Train Set:

http://www.thetrainset.co.uk/
Twitter: @theTrainSet
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheTrainSet
Never California from Rough Trade: http://www.roughtrade.com/albums/94938
Never California from Firestation Records: http://www.firestation-records.de/CAT/fst121-thetrainset-nevercalifornia.html

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Thank you to Esther for a another wonderful review.

Watch out for further reviews, whether it’s re-issues or new releases. If you would like to review something yourself, you know where to find us.

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First Track On First Album – New FADS

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In this regular feature we celebrate that all important opening track on a debut album, because for some it may have been the first song they ever heard from that artist.

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In this issue will our resident feature curator John Hartley be partial to a bit of this after casting his fishes eyes over……

Artist: New Fast Automatic Daffodils
Album: Pigeonhole
Year: 1990
Track: Get Better 

As is quite often the case, the support band is a mere periphery to the main act, and it was exactly the case in summer 1989 when this young, eager and enthusiastic James fan sighed his way through the set by up-and-coming-Manchester-band New Fast Automatic Daffodils. I quite wanted to love them, but their angular, sparse sound, heavy in bass and percussion didn’t really work for me. So I left my interest there.

Two years later I could be found scouring the racks of Fenham Library’s cassette collection in Newcastle, borrowing ‘Body Exit Mind’ alongside a much-renewed and never-completed hardback copy of ‘War and Peace’. Here was an album that made sense to me, and I listened to it considerably. A further two years on and my friend and bandmate introduced me to a promotional copy of ‘Love It All’; in some parts better, in others inferior to its predecessor.

To this date, however, I have never given ‘Pigeonhole’, the debut album by New Fast Automatic Daffodils, much attention. I borrowed a copy from my brother-in-law and didn’t listen to it. I found it on Spotify and didn’t listen to it. Maybe it’s the cover artwork, which so often persuades me to listen rather than the other way round, or maybe it’s the recollection of the heat-induced impatience before the James gig. Who knows?

Opening track ‘Get Better’ is pretty much what we would come to love and expect from New FADS, as they would come to be known. It starts off sounding like warped vinyl, which would have fooled me if I wasn’t listening digitally. A pulsating rhythm punctuated by the band’s trademark percussion leads us into the flat-vowelled vocal delivery of Andy Spearpoint before an angry guitar riff announces its arrival. There really isn’t anything in this opening track that justifies my earlier dismissiveness. The album made the UK Top 50, which is a creditable achievement, especially given the tendency of the music press to lump the band in with the ‘Madchester scene’ when their sound and style couldn’t have been much further away.

As first track on a first album, ‘Get Better’ certainly marks a clear statement of intent; the sound and style of this changes little over the course of the band’s three albums. If you like this, then definitely explore their later works. Me, I’m exploring backwards now!


 ABOUT THE AUTHOR

After spending the best part of twenty five years trying to write the perfect pop song John Hartley has turned his attention to writing about those who have done a much better job at it. He tweets as @JohnyNocash and gives away his music, generally for free. He is currently raising money to support men’s mental health charity CALM (@theCALMzone) at http://brokendownrecords.bandcamp.com/album/the-broken-heed

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What first track on whose first album will John Hartley review next time?

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