The teletype keeps offering up that staccato rhythm as more breaking news hits our airwaves. More new albums by brand new bands (to me, anyway). Get those dinner tea-trays stabilized, our program is about to begin.
I stumbled across Dignan Porch’s pre-album release single “Electric Threads” quite by accident in Bandcamp’s ‘if you like’ section. I was immediately drawn to the song’s poppy sense of dread, retro organ fills, and faint fragrance of McCartney in Band on the Run mode, particularly those chorus-pedalled lead guitar lines. Couldn’t wait to hear more. The full album Electric Threads is a wonderful mix of eclectic noise-meets-pop coated songs. Some are just straight up 1960s-influenced English pop a la the Kinks (“Pictures”) while others work in fabulously weird but alluring keyboard sounds (“Hidden Levels”). Keyboards really do define this album, giving various songs a surreal, other-wordly feel, “VR Park Keeper,” “States Revealed,” and “Ancestral Trail” particularly. Then there’s “Mesmerized” that combines organ and guitar in an exquisite tension. Rivalling “Electric Threads” for should-be feature single is the Shins-like “Simulation One,” though “Hounded” is a close second. The outlier track here is “Walk!” where an edgy rhythm guitar attack suddenly converts the band into a 1979 new wave outfit. With Electric Threads Dignan Porch really set the bar high for reinventing the power pop sound.
On album II The Blusterfields jam together an impressive array of sonic influences over what amounts to a double album’s worth of material. There’s mid-1960s jangle guitar cropping up here and there contrasting a 1970s boogie rock and roll feel with a hint of 1980s indie poprock, sometimes all in the same song! But if there’s an influence hovering over everything here it’s XTC. “Tool Belt” is channeling Andy Partridge hard. You really get the XTC feel from the vocals on “Fear of Depths” (and what an ace lead guitar tone!). The band even manage to bend the Swindon sound in a 1970s rock guitar direction on “Into the Light.” Not that that’s a problem. Who doesn’t love XTC that reads this blog? And it’s not like Colin and Andy are making much use of it these days. Ok, that out of the way, the album seems to be roughly divided in two, with the first half giving off more 1970s vibes while the latter half bridges the 1960s-meets-1980s indie sound. Check out the great lead guitar opener to “Bad Penny” on what sounds like a Badfinger vamp. Then “Not in Denial,” “Johnny Paycheck,” “Scraptown” and “Henry’s Swing Club” all amp up the 1970s boogie rock sound, with a few Beatlesque touches. Things start to turn on “It’s a Tricky Thing” with its smooth poprock Odds-meets-XTC elan while “International” has got that Beatles Hard Day’s Night album guitar sound. “Agent Zero” sounds like it combines the B52’s with a Dukes of Stratosphere sensibility. I could go on – there’s really so much to like here. If you dig smart lyrics and are tired of pining for an XTC reunion, get off the couch and introduce yourself to The Blusterfields.
No, that is not Richard Thompson singing lead on The Tubs new album Dead Meat. But man does it sure sound like it. Except that Thompson and company never produced anything quite as poppy pleasing at “Illusion Pt. II.” What a rollicking good time! And it sets the pace for the whole album. What follows are songs with a folk singer’s melancholy heart and a pop band’s lust for hooks. This tension is inventively put together on “Two Person Love” which features a Futureheads pinched lead guitar sound that quickly gives way to a more jangle rhythm texture. “I Don’t Know How it Works” hits you right in the melodic solar plexus, all crashing rhythm guitar and trippy organ shots, while those Richard and Linda Thompson-like male/female harmony vocals are there to trigger the shivers. Then “Dead Meat” has a Specials-like vocal intensity in the verses that alternates with buoyant guitar work and sweet harmonies in the chorus. Meanwhile “Duped,” “That’s Fine,” and “Round the Bend” are all a rush of folky vocals and unstoppable guitars. If you ever wondered what might happen if a seminal folk act decided to turn on the pop faucet, this is it. Dead Meat delivers folk music you can jump up and down to.
The Roves’ Needle Factory comes off like the consummate party sing-along album. You can practically see the indirectly lit living room and guys with guitars playing effortlessly, leaving plenty of space for you to join in. But listen closely and all this ease masks a high degree of precision in the performance. Like all those endlessly touring bar bands, they just make it looks easy. That demeanor is all over the brilliantly understated “I Am The Flood.” It’s got an easygoing swing reminiscent of an early 1970s Van Morrison, the Band, or Brinsley Schwartz. You could hear more edgy modern influences on “So Thankful” like Titus Andronicus or Twin Peaks. Then again, “Drug Deal” rolls out with what sounds like the unique poprock charm of NRBQ. Is that a hint of Dylan on “Archway Blues” or the Stones on “Sunday’s Lost”? Hunches confirmed – this is a band with solid rock and roll chops. Personally, I hear a candidate for the late Beatles cavalcade of curio characters on “Mr. White.” Should be single? Definitely “Alberto Zi and the Uptown Three.” So catchy.
They say thousands of new songs are being released every day. No wonder the teletype never stops clacking. You can follow up on these stories yourself by clicking the links above.
Photo courtesy of James Vaughn’s amazing Flikr collection.