Sunday, 28 November 2010

Tiger Trap - Tiger Trap

Why is it that there are so many sub-genres of indie rock that are the subject of ridicule and derision at the hands of other indie fans? Surely the fans of music made by outsiders for outsiders should realise that its pretty much against all indie ethos to mock people for their musical leanings. Perhaps they're doing it ironically? The term “Emo” for example was, and to an extent remains, a put-down and an insult. Bands have tried to avoid being labelled as emo for as long as the word has existed and fans have likewise struggled to avoid the taunting jeers of their fellow music fans.

However some genres openly accept their labels. Embrace them even. I can think of no better example of this than Twee Indie-pop. No sub-genre has gone more out of its way to play up to the idea of what it should be. Sweet harmonies, jangly guitars, girls with short hair and innocent voices and lyrics that are totally nonthreatening. The overriding element of sweetness in twee indie makes it seem rather inconsequential and unsubstantial, a fluff piece to the rather more serious articles of Indie-rock. But the sweetness often betrays a rather acute intelligence on behalf of the artists creating it. Twee developed what punk always aimed for. A network of tiny tiny labels made up of groups of friends who make music together. A real sense of musical community. Places like Olympia, Washington in the early 1990's were hives of musical activity with many of the bands playing sweet, slightly punky, indie pop. Beat happening, one of the more successful of these bands, were right at the heart of it with their front man, Calvin Johnson's record label K. They pumped out many of the great indie-pop records of the 90's including this post's main focus. The first, last and only album from Tiger Trap.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Become What You Are - Juliana Hatfield

Sometimes music doesn't fall through the cracks straight away. There are more than a few records and artists who make a splash then slip away quietly. “Become What You Are” by Juliana Hatfield is one of these records. For a few weeks in 1993 Juliana Hatfield, ex-bass player for indie pop band The Blake Babies, was the “it” girl of the, then booming, indie rock scene. She was all over magazines and MTV and her album was selling pretty well. But as so often happens, her fame declined, her follow ups didn't sell as well and a dispute with her label lead to one of her studio albums being left on the shelf after being completed (“God's Foot” is still in the archives at Atlantic as of 2010). Nowadays Juliana's success is not really remembered, even though she still gets covered by the American music press when she brings out a new album. Despite having fame pulled out from under her, she continued to make music and now records and releases her music on her own Ye Olde Records label. She has never made a better record than “Become What You Are” but her efforts have been consistently good. Her song writing has matured as has her voice, but it still retains the girlish quality that has always made her music charming. In some ways Juliana seems much more suited to the life of a hard working indie musician than a star. Her autobiography, “When I Grow Up”, gives the impression of a woman who loves music so much that she cant do anything else but is not completely prepared to expose her self as one needs to to be a star. Juliana Hatfield is an intelligent and complex person, not qualities that are really conducive to super-stardom. The music of “Become What You Are” is the same but with the pop sheen and sparkle that made it a brief hit in 1993.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Moonhead - Thin White Rope

-->Guy Kyser scares me. At least his voice does. He is the only singer I have ever come across that I am convinced wants to kill me. But I do get the feeling he would feel sorry about it afterwards. Every word he sings on this record is growled with such ferocity and anguish that it can only come from a thoroughly dark place. He seems so tortured and carved up by these words that forcing them out of his mouth causes him serious pain. Whilst this should be a rather unsettling thing to hear, and it can be at times, it is also totally compelling. You can’t help but want to hear about what is causing this man to snarl so much. You are both wary of his anger and intrigued by it.

Thin White Rope are considered to be one of the bands from the paisley underground. A group of bands from the western states who were infusing 60’s rock with punk sensibilities to create some of the better records from the early 1980’s. However TWR really have little in common with bands like The Long Riders or Rain Parade. There are elements of that scene in this record but it’s altogether a much darker affair. The desert imagery, the big, wide open space of the sound and the anger of it all made Thin White Rope stand apart from their peers. Probably in a corner, looking a bit pissed off.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Can You Fly - Freedy johnston

There are few records that have ever been described as perfect. There are even less that have actually deserved such high praise. Can You Fly is one of the ones that does. Village Voice music editor Robert Christagau called the second album from New York based singer songwriter Freedy Johnston “a prefect album” and so far “Can You Fly” has marked a career peak which he has never quite equaled. That might sound like a relatively unfortunate circumstance for an artist to find himself in but its not as if Johnston hasn't gone on to do anything else of note. It’s just that, despite every later album of his containing some amazing songs, he never has replicated the complete feeling of this one. These songs belong together, on one record. It’s as simple as that. They each have their place on the album and they all fit perfectly.