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Rob Vs The Task Force – Week 9

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One of our most enjoyable and rewarding Twitter features is the New Song Task Force – where one group of community members suggest new songs for another group of members to vote on. The songs are showcased throughout the week with the results of the vote being issued on Sunday evenings.

We are always looking at ways to improve or expand our interactive features and so for the New Song Task Force we asked regular EIO40 contributor Rob Morgan @durutti74 if he would pen capsule reviews as he listens to each song for the first time (and second time just to make sure) then pick his three favourites. We also wanted to showcase each week’s songs with a bit more depth by seeing them from a listeners perspective.

We will publish Rob’s review of the week’s songs on Sunday afternoons after the voting has taken place. In the build up we are also asking people to rank their Top 3 of the week with prizes up for grabs if you match Rob’s Top 3 in order. So you may discover you have won a prize when you have finished reading this.

There is also a playlist of the songs at the start and links to any songs not on Spotify so you can listen along with Rob.

So here is Rob’s review of the Week 9 songs.

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The Essex Green – Don’t Leave It In Our Hands

Nice intro, reminds me of “Cannonball”. Wasn’t expecting the mixed male female vocals, that’s a good mix, nice harmonies on the chorus. Oh, hang on, is this the chorus? No – THIS is the chorus. This makes me think of the last New Pornographers album. Nicely building up in the second verse. The final chorus … Oh it does that thing I love, chucking in a new modulation on the melody and chorus at the end. That is fantastic, really didn’t expect that. I could play that guitar solo. I want to hear that again immediately. (Listens again). That’s going to take some beating. (Plays for a third time) What a great song.

Simmer – Juno

Gotta love some chorused guitar strumming. Intro has got my head nodding. Nice vocal mix, that little guitar lick is tasty. The guitars drone and jangle in a shoegazing way. Vocals too low for comprehension on first listen, which encourages another listen. I’m enjoying this. I bet they’ve worn out their copy of “Vapour Trail”. Those harmonies on the chorus really push things forward, very good.

(Listens while reading the lyrics)

This reminds me of Afterglow, a little known Australian shoegaze band on Summershine. That isn’t a criticism. This is growing on me. Nicely atmospheric.

Gruff Rhys – Oh Dear!

Gruff Rhys – energetic start, I need that this morning. Unexpected but rather cool string arrangement. Lyrical ideas intrigue. Reminds me of Glen Campbell for some reason. That is good. Ooh it’s doing that modulating thing I adore. Ends too soon for me. That means I’ll have to listen to it again. Not a problem. There’s something naggingly familiar about this song. It will come to me eventually. In the meantime this is great.

Whimm – Not My Kind

Good intro, rising tension… Oh hang on, that wasn’t what I expected to happen. This reminds me of the Very Things. A bit gothic, but recorded in my garage. Nicely discordant guitar. Ah, here’s the drummer, better late than never. Still sounds like the Very Things. Very peculiar mix. Where’d did that piano come from? And the saxophone. It’s not a piano? Oh. Dark and moody. This is winning me over, I want to hear it again. Overlapping vocals always a good idea. Second listen. Oh, the sax has been there all along. I can see this fitting into a Peel Show from 1985, I can almost hear him back announcing it.

A LilyPaint Me With Your Blood Again

“Rolling?” “Rolling”. I love that kind of thing. Quiet tension, lots of interesting little touches already, pizzicato guitar plucks… Is this the chorus? No? Ok the bridge into the chorus is fantastic. The chorus itself resolves the tension. There’s a lot going on but it’s well arranged, not cluttered at all. Second verse – I miss the bridge. I like the vocal a lot,  subtle harmonies on the chorus. The middle section nicely combines the quiet and loud contrasts. I’m saying nice a lot, this is really interesting, I want to hear it again. Five minutes? Didn’t seem like it was that long at all – a good sign. Second listen, I still think that bridge is the best and could have been expanded. What do I know?

PoppelConceived Ideas

A name I know from Josh Meadows’ It’s A Jangle Out There show. It’s possible I’ve heard this before then. It does sound a bit familiar, or maybe that’s the general vibe of early Teenage Fanclub. I’m guessing they are American, based on the air of slackerdom. I do like the build into the chorus – the arpeggio guitars are great. Good head nodding summer music. Hang on… It’s over? Too soon for my liking. Second listen while reading their Bandcamp page…. They’re Belgians? Well it doesn’t show. Definitely like that chorus and the guitar interplay. And that ending.

The ChillsComplex

No introduction necessary here, I’ve loved the Chills for many years, and there’s an instant familiarity to their sound. Martin Phillips still sounds conflicted and confused, the song rocks as passionately as “Male monster from the Id”. And of course I’ve heard this before, Pete Paphides played it on his show earlier this week. What can I say – it’s the Chills! Love the fairground organ on the instrumental section. The kind of intelligent melodic pop we’ve come to expect from the Chills. Hope the album is all as good as this.

Andreas Doraus & Gereon Klugs – Feelingsgefühle

This is just pure pop! Within seconds my head is nodding and my toes are tapping. My O Level German is being pushed too, spotting a few words as the second verse progresses. Subtle string arrangement and Beach Boys harmonies…. This makes me think of the long hot summer of 1976, for some reason. Perfect summertime pop music. Nice little breakdown towards the end… And a key change! Absolutely wonderful.

Mazzy StarQuiet, The Winter Harbor

Again no introduction necessary. Woozy, waltzing and graceful. It sounds like… Mazzy Star. The fact they’ve defined their own sound which has influenced so many since doesn’t diminish the power of their music. When the slide guitar and brushed drums come in, it’s really quite heavenly. I can see this soundtracking some moody scene in a film – the heroine gazes into a sunset…You get the idea. That’s lovely.

Mikey CollinsFalling

Simple opening allowing the lyrics to be heard immediately and they catch me straight away. Another song with male female vocals, especially the chorus. Oh I like the introduction of synths in the second verse. Use of the word “pricks” is a surprise, in such a gentle way. This is rather sweet, not in a sickly way. Second listen – the lyrics are becoming clearer. Intriguing. It sounds like falling in love. That’s appropriate I suppose.

Favourites?

3. Gruff Rhys
2. The Chills
1. The Essex Green

Though I do feel bad for Poppel – if the Chills and Gruff Rhys hadnt been in this week they’d be number two. Definitely a band to listen out for. But oh boy that Essex Green song is tremendous and I listened to the album after that and it’s all just as good.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rob writes about music and other less important subjects at his blog A Goldfish Called Regret (https://agoldfishcalledregret.wordpress.comand also creates podcasts for Goldfish Radio (https://m.mixcloud.com/robmorgan589) and hosts the Everything Indie Over 40 album listening parties over at @eio40LPParty

He never achieved his ambition of making a Sarah Record.

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We hope you’ve enjoyed reading Rob’s review of the Task Force songs. If you want to follow the New Song Task Force and get involved head over to @indieover40 on Twitter and check out the feature hashtag #newsongfaceoff

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Teenage Fanclub & The Postcard From Minneapolis

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Indie Encounters is a regular feature for guest contributors to reminisce about a memorable indie experience, whether it’s meeting a band, a special gig or even the moment that indie music entered their lives.

In this feature our very own Steve from @IndieOver40 recounts the day he met Teenage Fanclub

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Teenage Fanclub & The Postcard From Minneapolis

On the 5th August 1997, in a record store on Hennepin Avenue in downtown Minneapolis USA, I found myself face to face with Norman Blake of Teenage Fanclub and bizarrely trying to persuade him to write a postcard to a complete stranger in Essex.

Before I reveal whether Norman relented to my request I should explain first what we were both doing in a city 4,000 miles from our own respected hometowns in the UK and what had brought us together on that hot summers day.

By the time I wandered into that record store, I had been living in Minneapolis the best part of 6 weeks, working for an IT company, courtesy of a student exchange programme that had given me that holiest of all grails. A green card. I had just completed my first year at university in the UK as a 28 year old mature student and the prospect of a summer working in America seemed like an opportunity for adventure not to be passed up.

Against the recommendation of the programme organisers I had decided to roll into the US of A without a pre-organised job sorted. So when I stepped off a plane in New York in June 1997 I was armed with just a rucksack, $1,500 in cash & basically no idea what to do next. The fact I ended up in Minneapolis owed more to the fact that it was on the destination board of the next Amtrak departing Penn Station rather than any predetermined plan. After a couple of days of exploring the big apple I was itching to hit the road and Minneapolis was just as good a place as any. There was something enticing about the name as well. Minneapolis sounded like proper America.

I hadn’t taken anything with me to the USA in terms of listening materials. No walkman. No C90s. I decided that if this was going to be an adventure then I should leave behind any remnants of life back home and travel as a blank sheet of paper and that extended to music. Unfortunately the music scene in Minneapolis didn’t provide any tangible thrills per se. Most people I came into contact with seemed to derive most of their pleasure from Hootie & The Blowfish or Young MC in the case of the residents of the frat house from whom I was renting a room that summer.

Which is why I was excited to say the least when one day on the way to work I spotted a billboard announcing a gig at The State Theatre with not only Radiohead as headline act but incredibly Teenage Fanclub as support. I mean what an indietastic combination and right here in the depths of midwestern USA! I was working just around the corner to the State Theatre so I rushed straight round there and purchased two tickets figuring that I could persuade at least one of the small circle of British expats in the city I had fallen in with to go with me.

On the day of the gig I met up with a couple of fellow Brits for lunch, one of whom had already had contact with Radiohead earlier by selling Thom Yorke a smoothie at the department store concession she was working at. She had also discovered that Teenage Fanclub would be signing copies of the album they were plugging in the US, Songs From Northern Britain, at a local record store that afternoon ahead of the gig.

There was no way I was going to miss out on an opportunity to meet one of my idols and so after laying on the Brit charm with my supervisor back at work I was granted permission to disappear from work for an hour in the afternoon. On the way I decided to purchase a postcard to send to my best mate Shan back in the UK as I couldn’t let exciting events like this go unreported back home.

I should probably introduce Shan into the story at this point as without him there wouldn’t be a story. Shan (real name Paul) was one of my oldest friends and essentially my window to that late 80s early 90s indie scene. He always seemed to have a handle of what was hip and happening musically and so through Shan’s record collection I was introduced to bands such as House Of Love & Ultra Vivid Scene at a time I was still scouring Our Price to get the latest hip-house album by DJ Fast Eddie. So the reason why I was an indie kid in the first place was down to Shan and that included hearing Bandwagonesque for the first time over at his place.

So, there I was that afternoon, standing in a queue in a record store in Minneapolis waiting to meet Teenage Fanclub armed only with a postcard showing the city skyline and of course a CD of Songs From Northern Britain which I had just purchased for signing by the band. While I was waiting my thoughts were pretty much dominated by what I was going to actually say to the band. Trying to think of an interesting comment or question without coming across as a bit of a wally.

Which is when the idea started to germinate of getting the band to sign the postcard as well as the CD. My thought process was this. Wouldn’t it be a grin if my mate Shan got a postcard from Teenage Fanclub? It seemed almost genius in its simplicity.

As time was premium I decided to ask them just to sign the back of the blank card and then I would add the message later. However, I needed to at least have Shan’s address on the postcard to make it clear what my aims were. There was also the worry that they might sign in awkward places. So I hastily wrote Shan’s address on the right hand half of the postcard as is customary. By which point I was staring straight into the eyes of Norman Blake.

After exchanging the standard “alright?” introductions and mentioning attending the gig that night I came straight out with it. “You couldn’t do us a favour and sign this postcard to my mate in England, could ya? He’s a massive fan and it would be a right laugh if he got a postcard from you”. Blimey, it sounded ridiculous.

I was just about to bail out of the whole farcical plan with what remained of my dignity and simply hand over the CD for signing, when Norman uttered. “Sure. What do want me to write?” I was gobsmacked to say the least at Norman’s acquiescence but quickly pressed ahead with the plan and with a new found confidence. Instead of asking for just a signature I went all out & suggested he write a few words so that it looked like he was writing to Shan as if he was on an actual holiday.

I was suddenly concerned that this was in the realms of pushing it too far, but I needn’t have worried. After asking for my mates name Norman scribbled in thick black pen but with perfect clarity the following simple words. “Hi Shan, Having a great holiday. Wish you were here. Regards Norman Blake”. He then handed the postcard back and with a wink said, “That’s a great idea by the way. Your mate’s gonna love that”, or words to that effect.

Whilst Norman moved onto signing the CD, which I’d decided on giving to a lady friend back home, I stared at what he had written and was overcome with a sense of pride. That a plan had been devised, executed and successfully completed within the space of mere minutes seemed a major accomplishment. In fact I’d cite this episode in later years on job application forms as an example of how I had set and accomplished a goal in life. Such was my sense of achievement.

The rest of the band did their bit of course and signed the postcard and CD accompanied by quizzical looks and the odd amusing comment. I left that record store with a skip in my step and headed straight for the downtown post office where I waved goodbye to the postcard as it began its long journey to Essex.

A lot happened between that encounter with Teenage Fanclub and when I eventually discovered that my audacious plan had worked. I remained in the USA for another couple of months during which I had many adventures covering thousands of miles that took me through the midwest, deep south and eastern seaboard of that vast country. In fact, meeting Teenage Fanclub seemed to pale into significance compared to other antics and so by the time I returned to the UK I’d almost forgotten I’d even sent that postcard.

Which in a way added to the pleasure when Shan showed me the postcard the first time I visited him at home on my return. Seeing that scrawl in thick black pen again and that large Norman that seemed to leap off the white backed card brought back that summers day in Minneapolis with such clarity. It also looked much more bona fide as it now carried the US & UK post office stamps as evidence that it had travelled 4000 miles to reach it’s final destination. Shan also recounted his disbelief when he first picked it up off his hallway mat one morning but that he never doubted its authenticity. He knew me well enough to know it was the sort of hair brained scheme only I could come up.

So that was how I got Teenage Fanclub to write a postcard from Minneapolis. Naturally a photo of the postcard would have been a perfect accompaniment to this tale and so I recently text Shan requesting he send one over to me. Rather sadly his response was short but by no means devastating. “Lost that years ago” was simply what I received in reply rather than the desired photo.

At least the recipient of the signed CD wasn’t so negligent and so I am at least able to show some evidence of my encounter.

And as for the gig itself……that’s another story.

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