Just happened over to Ted Leo’s site, you know, to see if he was actually gonna release another album this decade, and noticed that he had a youtube clip of….
…The Small Faces on German TV. Ok, he only has a snippet of the performance, the lads doing “What’cha Gonna Do About It?”, but still….
In the absence of anything to really talk about (I’m on ski vacation at the moment), I will note that I had that same Small Faces clip on MY blog nearly a month before Ted Leo. I’m at least a month cooler than him!
Those of you who know me, know how accurate that statement might or might not be. Be back in a coupla days!
There’s a good chance if you’re reading this blog that you’re familiar with Robert Pollard and his work solo and fronting Guided By Voices. Rightly so, too; Pollard is a one in a couple million talent. One of the things that will always be associated with GbV is their lo-fi approach. Mention lo-fi and the mid-1990′s, and it’s all about Guided By Voices.
The thing about GbV is that they weren’t lo-fi by choice; that’s the only avenue of recording available to them early on. One of the things that made them so memorable was that through the hissy, flat 4-track production you heard a group desperately trying to unleash their inner arena-rocker. What sucked was that in their wake, a bunch of folks happened along also toting their own four-track recordings; problem was, they were slumming it; one band I know of took their own pristine digital recordings, played them through speakers and recorded them through a single open mic, and released the latter, messier sounding tape.
And so but there were some folks who were doing lo-fi in much the same spirit as GbV–the lo-fi wasn’t and end unto itself, but rather a necessity, and buried beneath the muddy production lurked songs that ached to be full-on multitracked masterpieces. One totally obscure and unknown artist came at it from exactly the same method and background as Robert Pollard; she’d been recording and making music in her living room long before there was a lo-fi movement, making cassette tapes for friends of her songs. Her name is Linda Smith, and I’m betting you’ve never heard of her.
I stumbled across her thanks to a mailing list I was subscribed to at the end of the 1990′s. We’d do a mix-tape trade between members of the list, and the person who made me a tape put four Linda Smith songs on it. I’ll admit that they weren’t the four songs that bowled me over the fastest on that tape, but they were the four that stuck with me the longest. Unfortunately, finding further information on Linda Smith was difficult at best; seems there are at least 2-3 Linda Smiths out there making music…but only one doing it like *this* Linda Smith. I finally found a copy of collected songs on CD called “Preference” back in the days when the late, great Quaker Goes Deaf was open on North St. in Chicago, and on hearing Ms. Smith in her glory on all 19 songs on that CD, I’d definitely say the Pollard comparison sticks…except when it comes to being prolific.
So, anyway, in the interest of bringing a deserving artist to some folks who might dig her stuff, here are those same four Linda Smith songs that put their hooks deep in me back in 1999:
“The Space Between The Buildings”
Smith put out a pretty nifty disc two years ago called “Emily’s House” that I heartily recommend; that one you can find at iTunes or on Emusic, so if you dig this stuff, throw a deserving artist a few bucks, willya? She’s also working a new band called The Window Shoppers (great name, that), but it’s very much a departure from her solo material; you can easily find them on Myspace and give it a whirl.
From Steve comes word that Finns Motel will be playing SxSW this year on the same bill with The Figgs. Gaaaah! Must….get….to….Austin…. (sadly, probably a no-go; I’m heading out to Utah to ski all next week, and that’s the winter/spring vacation.)
You know I love them Finn Moteliers. But here’s a cool video I found of The Figgs doing one of the best songs to come out last year, “Jumping Again”. This was recorded from what looks like a cellphone in a record store in Wisconsin.
The sound is terrible.
Seriously, the drums sound like Quaker Oats boxes, there’s no bass, and to call the vocal quality “tinny” is a compliment.
And yet, this is one of the most compelling live vids I’ve stumbled upon. First off, I can tell you from firsthand experience that playing guitar or bass *and* trying to sing is awfully tough. Imagine rubbing your stomach and patting your head, and now imagine doing that in perfect synchronicity for 3-5 minutes straight. Yeah, it’s tough. I cannot imagine, then, how tough it is to sing a vocal counterpoint, where your vocals aren’t even matching up with the lead vocal. To be able to do that and actually stay on-key seems an even greater feat.
So yeah. When this clip hits the 40 second mark, it consistently gives me chills. Take it, lads!
Ok, probably you came up with someone pretty fast. Here’s the thing though: how old is the band/artist you thought of? I mean, back when indie rock wasn’t a cliche and was something pretty damn cool, The Velvets were on everyone’s list of influences, whether you were Pavement, Velocity Girl, The Pixies, Galaxie 500, or whomever.
These days? Not so much.
That random quick thought wandered through my transom after hearing the debut album from a nifty little band from Leeds who call themselves The Manhattan Love Suicides. (The MLS for short, and no, if you stumbled onto this blog looking for Real Salt Lake updates, boy are you pissed at google right now. The band is named after a series of short films by notorious NYC director/photographer Richard Kern.) The MLS cheekily and proudly cites the Velvets as an influence, alongside such stalwarts as The Jesus & Mary Chain, Galaxie 500 and (ulp, no really, keep reading!) The Beat Happening.
So, ok, sure. I’m curious at least, just because these folks have a list of stuff they’re into that would seem more appropriate to 1987 than 2007. Aaaaand? Holy crap, two listens in and I’m smitten like a schoolboy in love, two weeks worth of listens has me convinced that this disc is totally wonderful and absolutely essential.
The MLS can cite all the influences they want…and occasionally when they slow it down, they do sound kinda G500-ish, or kinda Velvety….but mostly they sound like a 2007 version of the best C86 band that ever was, The Flatmates. Since (unless you got drunk before a Game Theory show in 1988 in Matt Netzer’s apartment in Columbia Missouri) you don’t know who The Flatmates are, think of what you’d get if you combined The Primitives, The Darling Buds, Lush, The Pastels, and The Jesus & Mary Chain into one band…suffice to say, it is a sound that utterly rocks my world.
What’s exciting to me about The MLS is what they can do that the folks who they’re influenced by couldn’t. In 10 minute doses, The Primitives, or Darling Buds, or Lush were utterly brilliant. Longer than that, though, and it all started to sound alike, and listener fatigue set in pretty quickly. The MLS manage to vary things nicely with acoustic (!) guitars, keyboard fills, and even a delightfully off-key viola (a nod to John Cale, I suppose) that keeps this effort consistently interesting.
They’re a UK band, which means they love the guerilla press thing; not too many details about who’s in the band (they’re a four-piece), and reports from across the pond have them playing 10 and 15-minute gigs (The Reids would be proud of their stamina) before storming offstage. Cool, I dig a band that’s willing to play the mystique game; that’s one of the best things about UK bands–they get the importance of “image” much more than US groups do. In any event, I’m totally absorbed by The Manhattan Love Suicides, and I think you’ll dig ‘em as well.
Here’s a song to listen to:
And this just makes me keep punching the repeat button on the CD player: The MLS cover “Indian Summer” by The Beat Happening. This, folks, is how you do a cover: it pays homage to the original, but then does something totally different and exciting than the original ever thought to. I love Beat Happening’s version of this song, but my soul is possessed by the MLS version.