Joanna Gruesome at the girls are

It’s been a year since the release of Joanna Gruesome’s debut full length, Weird Sister, and the impression it left remains unfading. While critically praised from both sides of the Atlantic, it’s perhaps one of the most unsung records of recent times; reflecting the age of its creators, its glorious and abrasive petulance only heightens with age. It’s an album that has proved indelible, uncovering hidden depths with every listen, rather than revealing itself to be hollow at the core, like many albums that prevail upon first impressions.

This 12” split with Trust Fund ison first inspection, fast paced and melodically-driven. Opener ‘Jerome (Liar)’ recalls the glory days of C86 in its melodic discordance and a chorus that is indie pop perfection. Elsewhere, ‘Coffee Implosion’ and ‘Satan’ are snippets of the band at their most hushed and introspective; the latter being a comparatively stripped down and languid reworking of one of the more contemplative moments on Weird Sister.

For all their likeness to the “shambling” sounds of yesteryear, it’s frustrating to read misguided critics dismissing Joanna Gruesome as 90s revivalists, just as much as it is to see overt pigeonholing of singer Alanna: comparisons with female front-women of yore are plentiful – fromBelinda Butcher to The Breeders – while they are no doubt merely complimentary, it would be fairer to say that Alanna has her own respective qualities. Here, she sounds more confident vocally, veering from soft refrains to sporadic clamour, and the band stick to their accomplished formula of melding genres and sub genres to triumphant effect. Ultimately, if this is just a snapshot of what else Gruesome has to offer, then a full-length follow-up could not come sooner enough.


Joanna Gruesome at NME

Reeks Of Effort describes itself as ”a DIY label sticking it to the squares”. Its latest release, a split 12” between proto-indie foursome Joanna Gruesome and no-fi Bristol musician Trust Fund, is full of two fingers up abandon. Joanna Gruesome lead with the brittle and infectious ‘Jerome (Liar)’ – which sounds like The Wedding Present hiring MBV’s Bilinda Butcher to front a cover of The Breeder’s ‘Doe’ – alongside a slicker take on ‘Satan’ from last year’s ‘Weird Sister’ debut and the delectably shouty ‘Coffee Implosion’. But Trust Fund, aka Ellis Jones, is the real revelation, merging Sufjan Stevens’ saccharine alt.folk with Elliott Smith’s melancholy and bursts of quivery indie-pop like Palma Violets doing the ice bucket challenge.


Throwing Muses at BEAT

Since forming in Rhode Island in 1980-whatever Throwing Muses have been alt rock royalty and their uncompromising frontwoman/leader Kristin Hersh has been an indie rock legend setting the world to rights ever since.
It’s almost impossible (and probably kind of offensive) to condence Hersh and Throwing Muses complicated history into a brief introductory paragraph. That said, in a nutshell, it goes something like…

At 16 Kristin was involved in a car accident that dramatically changed how she hears music (she describes it as being like ‘a kind of possession’), she formed Throwing Muses (originally Kristen Hersh and the Muses) with her step-sister Tanya Donnelly, they (along with the rest of the band Elaine Adamedes and drummer Becca Blumen who were later replaced by Leslie Langston and David Narcizo) released their first EP in 1984, subsequently signed to 4AD records and toured with their friends the Pixies.
Kristin has (pretty openly and publicly) dealt with at different times being diagnosed with schizophrenia and later bipolar disorder. You can read about some of this in Kristin’s book Rat Girl, which is essential reading, kind of like the alt rock version of Ghost World or a way gnarlier Lena Dunham. The Muses have had a rocky time negotiating their fierce uncompromising creativety within the music business, at times down right rebelling against their former long-time label Warner and according to Hersh being left pretty much flat broke.

Throwing Muses have just been out on the road proving they’re still a killer force live and have finally released an epic new album Purgatory/Paradise, a 32-track record accompanied by a 64 page book of essays. As far as I’m concerned Throwing Muses is Kristin Hersh and Kristin Hersh is Throwing Muses, so when the Muses came to town I went to have a chat with her about their latest record and being shitty…

Click through for the interview.


Throwing Muses at Drowned in Sound

We spoke to Throwing Muses, Fifty Foot Wave and solo artist Kristin Hersh across the ether of the internet last week. Having just arrived home in New Orleans, she was fresh from a series of UK shows which saw the Throwing Muses trinity (Hersh, Tanya Donnelly, Dave Narcizo) reunited and touring Purgatory/Paradise. Released late last year, this was their first new studio album in 10 years: both a wonderful, skittering, haze of the Muses fuzzy-inspirational music and a flat-out beautiful object as well, with an accompanying book of words from Hersh and illustrations from Narcizo.

Despite the limitations of the email interview format, a series of call-and-response communications that can sometimes frustrate, Hersh’s responses came through in the same engaged, lucid and upfront voice that can be heard in her highly entertaining twitter feed, a fascinating contrast to the oblique mystery of her lyrics. Although battling jetlag (both her own and her iPad’s at one point), perhaps the common thread here is the honesty and lack-of-rockist-bullshit that characterises her music and the thoughtful answers which she nevertheless was able to provide.

Click through to read the interview.


Throwing Muses at Collapse Board

I listened to nothing but the new Throwing Muses LP for one week in my car. Maybe you’ve heard it already – but even if you have, I’ve no doubt that you’re clamoring for my thoughts on it.

Hold up a minute. A crucial point first.

We load our senses with memories. One smell or sound can trigger some other thought that’s completely tangential. And music, which seeps into so many nooks and crannies of day-to-day living, mingles with a buncha people and places in our heads. You know how it is – a friend or sibling loves this one album to death and plays it over and over and over, until he tires of it and stops. Few years later, a stray song pops up on the radio, and you think of him. I use the male pronoun, because my brother adored Steely Dan when we were in high school and would play Katy Lied or The Royal Scam in the car any chance he could. (“Yeah, I’m doing this,” he’d say, and soon came “Chain Lightning” or “Kid Charlemagne”.)

This is crucial, you understand, because the memories we tie to a thing do color our judgment. Critics, of course, tend to eschew these tangents for the sake of that bastard prince Objectivity and its almighty father Authority. However, as we all know, I have no authority whatsoever – and so, rather than the usual track-by-track analysis and retrospective gazing for Purgatory / Paradise, I’ve decided to list the thoughts that have been floating around all week. The original plan was one for each track – but that’d equal 32 bullets, and the Twitter zombies don’t have time for that. We’ll see.

Click through for the rest!


Lunchbox at Dagger

I’ve always liked this Bay Area indie pop trio (well, husband/wife of Tim and Donna and then whomever on drums…at one time it was my old pal Shannon Handy….this record is mostly just Tim and Donna though) but never went ape-crazy over ‘em like a lot of my pals did. Well, this record is where I go ape-crazy as this is a terrific pop record! They’ve done it….melodies, harmonies, horns, everything (fans of Rocketship will not be disappointed)! It’s their first record in over a decade (Tim and Donna were still making music , but under a different name) Right from the get-go, “Everybody Knows” opens it up with a rush of sugar straight to the brain followed by the slightly less sugary “Tom What’s Wrong?” followed by another pure rush of “Will You be True?” You freaks want more? Check out the righteous,jangly “Another Dancefloor” or the soaring “I Go Mad”, but honestly, there’s not a band song on here. At ten songs in just under a half hour it’s the perfect length for a pop record (IMO) and not a minute wasted. Drop that old Hanna Barbera lunchbox off at the Goodwill and pick this one up, you won’t be disappointed.


Tunabunny Live Recording at Southern Shelter

Click through to check out Tunabunny’s Athens Intensified set.


Luxembourg Signal at Collective Zine

This one came into the review pile a couple of times so I thought I might as well review it. Apparently the album has been a bit delayed so we have a bit more time to review it…which is good as we do like to take our time on occasions while we are busy doing important stuff like watching TV, working, watching/talking about football, re-homing red-back spiders that appear on the BBQ, sitting around doing nothing and other such exciting pastimes. As revealed by Captain Fidanza last week, we only get £200 per review and that’s not always enough to tempt us into action. Last week I found a CD that I was sent in January 2013. It must have got misplaced in the shipping crates when I emigrated to Australia. By my reckoning I am now 21 months late with that one but I am determined to review it at some point. Maybe. I might do anyway – if you see a review of mine of a compilation featuring various UK indie bands you will know I have achieved my goal. Anyway, the mention of shoegaze in the blurb that came with this release also tempted me. Not only that, but this band features members with history dating back to the 90s in ex-Sarah Records band Aberdeen as well as Trembling Blue Stars who some people who read this site might be familiar with. The blurb also mentioned The Popguns – anyone remember them? One of my very first ever gigs was The Popguns playing at ULU with The Frank and Walters and The Cardiacs. There’s a useless fact for you. The opener “Dying Star” is a slow-burning hypnotic track and sets the stall out nicely for the listen ahead. There is a poppy side to the sound but there is enough distortion on the guitars to give this a shoegaze side too. It takes me back instantly to my teenage years, when Slough Festival threw together a bunch of shoegaze indie bands for a one-day festival, and, to days when the music press was talking about those bands as being part of The Scene That Celebrates Itself. Good to remember how daft they liked to get when talking about music and lumping stuff in together. Someone somewhere decided that The Mock Turtles fitted in nicely with bands like Ride, Lush and Slowdive – “Can you dig it?” This scene creation is not something the press has taken up recently with their Emo Revival gibberish – they’ve always done it. I’d been listening to what they called T-shirt bands around that time too – bands like Carter USM and Mega City Four who made great t-shirts and when you went to a gig everybody was wearing a t-shirt of one a number of bands from that so-called scene. I think that was the explanation for that one anyway. You could add Senseless Things, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin and Pop Will Eat Itself amongst others to that set. I’m going off at a tangent here. Let’s not forget Thousand Yard Stare either though. Also, it did make it easy to identify others into the same type of music and I made a lot of friends from other schools who would get the same train up to London as my friends and I as they were all wearing Mega City Four or Ned’s Atomic Dustbin t-shirts. If we hadn’t been wearing those band t-shirts some of those kids probably would’ve started on us or stolen our cans of Tennent’s Super or something but as it was we became friends.

Anyway, back to this band. Whilst shoegaze is an influence here there is a clean sound too which adds to the dream/indie pop sound going on here. The next track starts more upbeat, with jangly guitars and the vocals at the start in particular remind me of the female vocals in Belle & Sebastian – kind of light and airy. Nice song. The female vocals lead the majority of the tracks but there is a guy singing too and it’s a nice contrast. There is an early highlight too in “She Loves To Feel The Sun” which is gorgeous, tinged with sadness and pretty much everything I want from an indie pop song. One of the tracks on here features Dale Crover of The Melvins on drums by the way. It’s also worth noting that the members of this band are based in London and Los Angeles and I can only admire the fact that they can make this work from such a distance. I’ve enjoyed this – it’s taken me back a few years and off on some tangents. Thank you.


Lunchbox at Polaroid

Il nome dei Lunchbox non lo sentivo da un pezzo. Mi richiama alla memoria un periodo a cavallo tra i Novanta e i Duemila in cui cominciavo a cercare indiepop in Rete, e scoprivo per caso i primi mp3 legali su Epitonic o la prima versione di Emusic. Era un’epoca pre-Pitchfork, di NME già ci si fidava poco e il criterio di votazione di Indiepages era l’unico che contava. I Lunchbox uscivano su etichette fighissime come la Magic Marker e la 555 Recordings dei Boyracer, quindi erano ok. Non sapevo niente di loro, però da quel che ricordo mi piaceva quel suono orientato a certi Sixties tipo Stereolab un po’ più ruvidi e sbrigativi.
Intanto la band di Berkeley, California, si riduceva sostanzialmente a un progetto dei soli Tim Brown e Donna McKean, ma ammetto di essermi perso nel frattempo il loro periodo come Birds Of California. Quando mi è arrivato questo nuovo Lunchbox Loves You, che segna il ritorno alla denominazione originaria, ho provato una sincera fitta di nostalgia. Quanto sembra ingenuo oggi quel periodo di mezzo, in cui di certo altri puristi delle fanzine per posta e delle religiose collezioni di sette pollici già si lamentavano della decadenza dei tempi.
Ma è bastato far partire la prima traccia, l’appiccicosissimaEverybody Knows, per levarsi dalla testa pensieri tanto noiosi. Qui c’è una sera di festa da American Graffiti, la radio della Cadillac non smette di suonare i Beach Boys, il jukebox scintilla, al ballo di fine anno l’intera orchestra di archi e fiati è in smoking, le ragazze battono le mani e i ragazzi si mettono in ginocchio per dichiarare il proprio amore. I Lunchbox mescolano melodie e rumore al punto giusto, sovrapponendo strati di chitarre acustiche ed elettriche, aggiungendo qualche tastiera retrò (è una specie di clavicordo quello che sento inWill You Be True?), e lasciando quel tocco Elephant 6 che pareggia il pieno d’estate, sorrisi e arcobaleni. Tom What’s Wrong? e Die Tryingsono in assoluto tra le cose migliori di sempre a firma Lunchbox. Grazie Jigsaw per averli riportati al presente. Un amore totalmente corrisposto.


Primitives at Dublab

Although the original line-up that The Primitives started with in Coventry (England) included PJ Court, Keiron McDermott, Steve Dullaghan and Pete Tweedie, before releasing their first and successful album, “Lovely”, in 1988, Tweedie had already been substituted by Tig Williams, and Mcdermott was replaced by the platinum blonde Tracy Tracy, the band’s true icon. Coming out of the independent scene that bands like The Jesus & Mary Chain, The Wedding Present, My Bloody Valentine and Primal Scream came out of, this line-up found the perfect balance between the crystalline guitars of The Byrds, the agility and speed of the Ramones and the unforgettable melodies of Orange Juice. Their return after a long hiatus is nothing short of classic. Their new songs are fresh, powerful and reminiscent of the band we used to and still love.