Album Review: Popup

Popup -’A Time And a Place’ (Art Goes Pop)

Popup have now been around for several years, but this is their debut LP. And instead of rushing it at the first whiff of interest, it’s paid off that they’ve developed it over time. Debut single ‘Lucy, What You Trying To Say?’ was released over two years ago, and appears again here. The album has been made with help from the Scottish Arts Council (now that’s what I pay taxes for, not for bombing the shit out of countries where the infrastructure’s already collapsing).

Whilst some idiots (without listening properly) might dismiss them as ‘another jangly guitar band from Scotland’ more fool them, frankly, because there’s excellent tunes on here, and some fantastic lyrics, that can hold their own with the likes of Pete Doherty, Alex Turner and fellow-countryman Aidan Moffat. I think my favourite might well be ‘we shared a cigarette/turned out he had tourettes’ from the aforementioned Lucy…

Over the course of thirteen tracks, right from opener ‘Love Triangle’ to closer Lucy, there’s witty, biting lyrics and excellent tunes. ‘Love Triangle’, by the way, is about siamese twins cheating in love. This is a warm, exciting debut that makes you want to hear it again and again. Whilst much of the plaudits at the moment for debut albums for scottish bands are for Glasvegas, let’s make sure that we all pay heed to Popup.

****

A Time And A Place is available to download now on iTunes and eMusic, and is released on Art Goes Pop on October 6.

Lucy, What You Trying To Say?

Chinese Burn

Popup website/Popup’s myspace

The world’s gone mad…

The world seems to be in serious economic turmoil,and it’s getting worse.

As a teacher, one of the things I do with classes, particularly if they have a double period, is to give them a general knoweldge and current affairs quiz to see what they know.

Sometimes it is nothing short of depressing to find out how little they know about the world they live in. Families no longer seem to buy newspapers, and whilst the know what Peter and Jordan are up to, there’s seemingly very little awareness of their own history or what’s going on in the world. ‘What’s this got to do with me?’ The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist…

Whilst my parents and I haven’t always agreed on politics, at least they encouraged me to take an interest in the world around me and to get involved.

As a teacher in Scotland, two days have been given up to striking by Unison, whose workers not unreasonably want a decent wage. Living where we do, the impact of HBOS being bought out is still waiting to be felt.

I don’t put my political views down my students’ throats, it isn’t on, though I will rip shreds off kids who make racist remarks (the Polish are getting a lot of stick around where I teach), but it depresses me to think that people think that politics cannot change the world, or that it has nothing to do with them.

So, in support of the workers and those who are really struggling at the moment, these are for you:

Billy Bragg -’There Is Power In A union.’ mp3

These are two different versions of the Angelic Upstarts’ track ‘Solidarity. First the video…

…and a different recording of the song

Angelic Upstarts -’Solidarity.’ mp3

Album Review: RTX

RTX -’J.J. Got Live RaTX.’ (Drag City)

Another violently cool release from Drag City…

Four years ago, Royal Trux was disbanded by its’ founders and main runners Jennifer Herrem and Neil Haggerty. This is the third album that ‘junkie icon guitarist’ Herrema has put out under the RTX banner.

Being on Drag City, rightly or wrongly clearly makes this violently cool, to a certain sorta indie hipster, though the roots of this album have far more to do with pre-grunge metal. Not the eighties boys who spent more time on their hair than thier riffs, but those who had Sabbath, Zeppelin and Van Halen running through their veins. The fact there is a picture on the back of a girl with a leather jacket with a picture on it of a tiger gives you the sorta aesthetic we’re dealing with here. Though with a fair bit in common with the likes of early Mudhoney and Royal Trux too, obviously…

So, is it inventive? No, but it’s a lot of fun, and it has a hell of a lot of balls. The sort that would see the likes of The Darkness off pretty quickly, whiilst threatening the likes of The Black Crowes and ZZ Top into leaving pretty sharpish while they were at it. There’s a cover of the barbarians’ ‘Are You A Boy or Are you A girl?’ which given how scary Herrema can no doubt be at times, seems quite appropriate.

In this day and age, this kinda seems almost violently anti-commercial and perhaps all the better for it.

***1/2, no on second thoughts ****

RTX -’Cheap Wine Time.’ mp3

J.J. Got Live RaTX is released on October 20 on Drag City.

RTX’s myspace

Great Scottish-set films

Finally saw Hallam Foe yesterday, an excellent film set in Edinburgh.

It’s quite fun, sitting down watching films and recognising your (adopted) home town in places recognising many of the sights. And as usual, a story that is very different from your own life. Dark in places, but very funny in others. Very much worth checking out. And if you didn’t want to see it, just because the last time you saw Jamie Bell he was in Billy Elliott, then shame on you!

An excellent soundtrack, not all scottish indie, but three fantastic tracks that I think everyone should hear:

Orange Juice – ‘Blue Boy.’ mp3

Franz Ferdinand -’Hallam Foe Dandelion Blow.’ mp3

Sons & Daughters -’Broken Bones.’ mp3

Other great scottish set films would include: Restless Natives, Sweet Sixteen, Local Hero, Gregory’s Girl, Shallow Grave, Trainspotting…oh and I’ve never seen Brigadoon or Greyfriar’s Bobby.

Hope you’re enjoying your weekend…

A sort of book review

OK, that’s a bit of a lie. But I am currently reading Mark E. Smith’s Renegade, and it’s an excellent autobiography. He takes no prisoners, makes no apologies and the book’s the better for it.

So why not some Mark E. Smith related music?

One of the things that clearly rankles with him is the accusation that Brix Smith, the Fall’s onetime guitarist and one time Mrs. Smith made The Fall poppier and more accessible. (I notice that the Fall essentials on iTunes still has a picture of Mrs and Mrs M.E. Smith. Wonder what he has to say about that?!) This track is from 1995, when Brix was back in the band again.

The Fall -’Don’t Call Me Darling.’ mp3

One of my favourite Fall tracks, which is saying something, from 1985′s This Nation’s Saving Grace, probably still my favourite Fall album.

The Fall -’Spoilt Victorian Child.’ mp3

Of course, he has collaborated with other folks. This was the track that finally saw him on Top Of The Pops in 1994, with the Inspiral Carpets:

Inspiral Carpets -’I Want You (featuring Mark E.Smith).’ mp3

This track was originally credited to Mouse On Mars featuring Mark E. Smith and called ‘Wipe That Sound’ in 2005 (I know this true, I have the 12″). Then last year, they collaborated for an album together under the name Von Sudenfed on the album Tromatic Reflexxions, which called it ‘That Sound Wiped.’

Von Sudenfed -’That Sound Wiped.’ mp3

Anyone else read it?

Presenting…It Hugs Back

Another new release bag through the door…somehow, already I cannot stop playing it!

Signed to 4ad, out on tour soon, and with this track already downloadable from iTunes and out on 7″ on Monday…what are you waiting for? Like Arcade Fire, Bruce Springsteen and Sonic Youth discovering that they’ve got common ground…b-side take apart’ is also pretty ace and goes further down the Sonic Youth route.

It Hugs Back official site/It Hugs Back myspace

Album Review: The Residents

Album review: The Residents -’Bunny Boy.’ (Mute)

Some things you just can’t make up…

“Not long ago, an unsolicited DVD arrived at The Residents’ studio. Since the location of the group’s private inner sanctum is a closely-guarded secret, the appearance of the disc was definitely regarded as a little strange. Other than the occasional piece of junk mail, nothing ever arrived at The Residents’ intimate work space without an invitation. But the envelope containing the disc bore a familiar return address, so, after first ignoring it for a few weeks, The Residents finally opened the package and put the disc, crudely-labelled “Postcards From Patmos,” into a DVD player.

Fascinated, the group watched as a most curious document unfolded before their eyes. It seems that a former colleague, known to everyone as “Bunny”, had become convinced that his brother had disappeared on the Greek island of Patmos. After weeks of vainly attempting to get assistance in locating his lost sibling, the man detailed his plight in a series of videos. Technically inept, The Residents’ former friend was reaching out to them for assistance. It seems the man had heard of YouTube and other internet video websites, but he had no idea how to upload his pathetically primitive cry for help.

Uncertain as to whether they were watching evidence of a real problem, ignored by friends and authorities, or the gradual breakdown of a once-stable personality, The Residents were nevertheless moved by their friend’s dilemma and immediately decided to offer their help. Using their colleague’s return address and last-known phone number as starting points, they attempted to reach him but got no response. Determined, they contacted other friends and former co-workers of the man, but no one had seen him for months. It was as if he had disappeared.

The group then thought the best solution was to upload their friend’s video exactly as it was given to them, but after watching the DVD several times, they came to the conclusion that it was simply too crude – even for YouTube. The lighting, sound quality and camera work were so substandard that their friend’s cry for help would never be seen. While posting the videos might be a labour of love, the group’s energy and affection was obviously misplaced. But what could they do?

After brief consideration, the answer became obvious and the original “Postcards From Patmos” DVD became the inspiration for The Residents’ latest project. Changing the name to The Bunny Boy in honour of their missing friend, the group recorded an album of pop songs based on the contents of the original DVD. Then, continuing to feel pathos and inspiration for their colleague’s situation, they re-created the original “Patmos” videos.”

So what does it sound like? Weird, oddly listenable, and one you keep coming back to.

***1/2

The Residents blog/The Residents’ MySpace