See Real Estate perform their new album ‘Atlas’ in full

In addition to streaming their latest album on iTunes this week, Real Estate gave fans another chance to experience Atlas before its release next week, playing the album in full for NPR’s first listen live. In what must have been a strangely muted atmosphere – Alex Bleeker’s early dance invitation doesn’t get much uptake – the band played through the new material before closing with a brief encore; the hour-long set ended with a cover of George Harrison’s “Behind That Locked Door” (although I’m not sure why I told you that, since NPR haven’t included the encore in the version of the video available after the event. Sorry).

Watch the performance here, then (surely) buy the album when it comes out next week. Look out for a review on these pages sometime soon.

The Boo Radleys – Does This Hurt?

“Wake Up Boo!” wasn’t the only, or indeed first, Boo Radleys song to find the band giving themselves a name-check. In 1992 they put their name to a whole EP, which I found pretty funny at the time, especially as it meant that the Boo! Forever EP wasn’t even named after its A-side, “Does This Hurt?”.

Kicking off side two of The Boo Radleys fantastic 1992 album Everything’s Alright Forever, “Does This Hurt?” is the apogee of the Boos’ sound at this early stage of their career: really very tuneful and melodic at its core, but with layer upon layer of guitars, guitars and more guitars in varying degrees of fuzziness. (Check out the final third of “Smiles Fade Fast” for another great example of what I mean).

Over the top, and contrary to what most of their contemporaries were doing with the vocals, lead singer Sice is given all the room he needs to deliver, in his own fragile way, a crystal clear lyric. Martin Carr was already starting to gather a vast collection of influences, and had never intended The Boo Radleys to be anything resembling a straight up shoegazing band. By the time of their next album, the many-garlanded and impressively wide-ranging Giant Steps this eclecticism would start to bear fruit.

By the way…

“Boo! Forever” wasn’t the first Boos song to get the self-naming treatment: that honour falls to “Boo! Faith”, a cunningly renamed cover version of a New Order classic, recorded for a Peel session, and given the full Boo Radleys guitar-fuzz treatment.

Cheatahs – Cut The Grass

Consider this a shoegazing playlist bonus: a London band bringing to life the glorious moment when Swervedriver, Dinosaur Jr, My Bloody Valentine, Teenage Fanclub went on a massive pub crawl together and wound up agreeing to form an ultimate melodic shoegazing noise-rock supergroup.

If only. If only that had actually happened. And given that it probably would have had to have taken place in the early 90s, that’s just about enough time for Kevin Shields to have finished his guitar parts by now, so the timeline more or less works.

You can find out more about Cheatahs at the Wichita Recordings web site: http://www.wichita-recordings.com/artists/cheatahs/

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Simple and Sure

And so the progression from rough and ready fuzzy shoegazing to all-out summer pop is complete for The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. This is about a handclap away from the twee shelf, but let me be very clear about something: that is no bad thing.

From a self-titled debut awash with lo-fi fuzz to the shininess on show here is… actually it’s not that much of a stretch. The melody and the knack for casually tossing out something catchy has always been in their music; it’s just no longer obscured by feedback or reverb.

Lovely, happy stuff.

The new album, Days of Abandon, is out on April 22nd.

http://www.thepainsofbeingpureatheart.com/

Gruff Rhys – American Interior

It’s back solo work for Gruff Rhys, he of Neon Neon and Super Furry Animals. American Interior sees him in pursuit of alleged ancestor John Evans, on a trail of discovery through America.

American Interior is an exploration of how wild fantasies interact with hard history and how myth-making can inspire humans to partake in crazy, vain pursuits of glory, including exploration, war and the creative arts

This, the title track from the forthcoming album (and book, and film, and app), sees Rhys in mostly familiar musical territory: a gently progressing series of chords; Rhys’ lifeworn vocals that seem to exist in a minor key all of their own. And then, gloriously, he busts out a guitar solo, and the crowd goes wild.

American Interior will be out in May, on Turnstile Records. Before then, lucky SXSW-goers will be able to catch Rhys showcasing the new material and accompanying film.

http://gruffrhys.com/
http://american-interior.com/

Listen to the new School of Language EP, ‘More Fears’

School of Language is the solo offshoot of Field Music’s David Brewis. Like Field Music, and like The Week That Was (the solo project of his brother and fellow Field Music musician, Peter), School of Language is smart, snappy, highly un-self-conscious, and deserves a wider audience.

Not that this is music that demands an audience: it is so neat, well-placed, and unprepossessing that it simply refuses to rush you or leap into your arms and plead for attention. It’s almost introverted and reserved; you have to make the first move. Luckily for you that move is now as simple as clicking a play-like button somewhere below. After that, simply sit, wait, listen and enjoy.

A full album, Old Fears will be out on April 7. Until then, feast your ears on the More Fears EP, which contains musical snatches and reworkings of old School of Language songs.

Old Fears is available to pre-order from http://www.field-music.co.uk/

The Mary Onettes – Naive Dream

It’s been a while since I checked in with The Mary Onettes. Nearly seven years have passed since their self-titled debut appeared, featuring outstanding and nostalgia-inducing cuts like [tracktitle]Lost[/tracktitle] and [tracktitle]Void[/tracktitle].

Since then they’ve released two more albums, and are now set to release a mini-album said to be inspired by science fiction and old photography books. [tracktitle]Naive Dream[/tracktitle] is track two on the album, while the first track, [tracktitle]Silence is a Gun[/tracktitle] is also available on Soundcloud:

[tracktitle]Naive Dream[/tracktitle] is in their familiar breezy electro/synth-pop style, albeit not quite as overtly 80s-nostalgia-inducing as much of their earlier work, but some ghostly guitar effects and a tiny pitch wobble add a subtly unsettling feeling of mystery and suspense.

[albumtitle]Portico[/albumtitle] is out on Labrador Records, March 4th.

Ringo Deathstarr – Imagine Hearts

This is psychedelic trippy shoegazing at its finest. Can I coin the term disco-gaze? Glitter-gaze? Whatever, it would have given Saturday Night Fever an altogether different vibe, I know that much. Listening, I wish it went on for longer; dancing, I’d be glad of it’s brevity – you could suffer some painful disorientation if you tried to groove to this for long.

Lyrical themes – summertime, dreams, colours – match hazy, woozy guitars; vocals are hushed, and occasionally sound like they’re double-tracked with a twin that’s been through a reverse filter; everything’s just a bit warped from having been out in the sun too long,

I’ve go memories in my soul (imagine hearts)
I’ll drown (imagine hearts)
And I’m dizzy with these hits (imagine hearts)
I’m losing

imagine hearts, imagine hearts hearts
imagine hearts, imagine hearts hearts

Morrissey – Your Arsenal

It’s a curious sensation, reviewing an album I know so well. Normally I find I have to listen about a dozen times to make sure I’ve caught the hooks I want to catch, and heard the lyrics that need to be heard. [albumtitle:Your Arsenal], though, is an album I can pretty much play through in my head, note for note, sound for sound. Word for controversial hate-baiting word.

I’m almost jealous of anyone who gets paid to write a review of this re-issue; I know they’re all about my age (or possibly older – ha!) and even if they’re not Morrissey fans, or secret Smiths-reunion piners, they’ll probably know much of this material pretty well. Some might even be able to quote their own 22-year-old reviews, add in a few references to how the mix is different for the remaster, and hey presto – once written, twice paid.

The NME style bible at the time presumably said something along the lines of “Morrissey: say bad things whenever possible. If you can’t say something bad, say nothing at all”

There’s not a great deal to say abut the remaster: it’s certainly louder, clearer, brighter than the 1992 release. Perhaps a touch too bright in places, but that might just be a side-effect of a side-by-side comparison with the original, which now sounds suddenly quiet and muddy in a way I hadn’t previously noticed. But at least the running order has been preserved, and there have been no late substitutions, other than the appearance of the US Mix of Tomorrow in place of the original.

More interesting is the response provoked by the album, and the behaviour of its creator around the time of its release. [albumtitle:Your Arsenal] was feather-ruffling, ire-inducing Morrissey in his pomp. Later he would release a single, [tracktitle:Boxers], and an album [albumtitle:Southpaw Grammar], that revealed him to be enthralled by a certain violence of grubbiness; he would appear, not for the first time, to applaud gangsters as heroes. But for now, for a brief period, all was calm: the furore over [tracktitle:Bengali in Platforms] had largely passed; [tracktitle:Asian Rut] had stoked only minor controversy.

All was calm. And then, less than two weeks after the release of [albumtitle:Your Arsenal], Morrissey performed in the middle of the bill at Madstock, a Finsbury Park concert arranged by a reunited Madness. As the band struck up [tracktitle:National Front Disco], he draped himself in the Union flag.

[tracktitle:National Front Disco], in which the song’s protagonist, David, to the disquiet of his family and friends, shimmies his way into patriotic extremism. You go the disco, Morrissey sang to a field of Davids, because you believe in “England for the English”, “Because you want the day to come sooner”.

There’s a country; you don’t live there
But one day you would like to
And if you show them what you’re made of
Oh, then you might do

Suddenly that quiff looked different. Suddenly, everyone looked at you different. Suddenly that backing band took on a new dimension: good old time rock’n’roll, from a time before, when perhaps Davids did live in that country.

The NME, whose style bible at the time presumably said something along the lines of “Morrissey: say bad things whenever possible. If you can’t say something bad, say nothing at all”, concluded that whatever the truth of Morrissey’s views on race, it was no longer possible simply to evade the question. Unfortunately, evasion was Morrissey’s métier; back in his days in The Smiths, questions were raised – ridiculous questions, but questions all the same – about the lyrical content of songs like [tracktitle:Reel Around the Fountain] and [tracktitle:The Hand That Rocks the Cradle]. Writing in The Sun, Nick Ferrari, attacking the tone of one song to the lyrics of another (and inventing a few lyrics of his own while he was at it), wrote a piece under the headline “Child sex song puts Beeb in a spin”.

Morrissey was rightly outraged, but he fumbled his response. Having already faced down similar accusations once before, this time the unreliable narrator made some unfortunate remarks about context: sure, you can find child-molesting in there if that’s what you want to find, but “you could do the same with anyone. You could do the same with ABBA”. (Does make you wonder, doesn’t it? Why have The Sun never run an exposé on the extremely controversial content of ABBA’s songs?)

Ridiculous from Morrissey, of course, and not helpful. “Make of this what you will”, he seems to be saying, “and I know you will make something of it – I know what I mean, and I don’t really care how you, or anyone else chooses to interpret it.” Later, Morrissey would do better: a regular at the law courts, sometimes of his own volition, he would receive apologies for accusations of racism (but also a ticking off for not giving “the drummer” his dues).

But back to Finsbury Park: the Morrissey on stage with the flag and the skinhead girls backdrop is the Morrissey with the wink and a snarl that says “look! I’m doing it again!”. It’s knowing, just as are so many of his recent statements on eating meat, the Chinese, The Queen, anything. Morrissey is essentially a troll. Not a hideous troll, not a particularly bullying troll, just the hit and run sort with a knack of delivering the kind of half-baked opinion that should be dismissed, dispatched and disregarded, as is the case right up to that moment where someone, inevitably, has to pipe up with “actually, he might have a point, you know…”. He’s not going to explain himself in a satisfying way, so you might as well stop asking. Fans will continue to enjoy the music. AA Gills will continue to swing their gilded hatchets.

And Morrissey will continue to avoid the issue:

The reason why [tracktitle:The National Front Disco] was pounced upon was really because – if I may say so – it was actually a very good song. And if the song had been utter crap, no one would have cared.

He does have a point; if not about the reasons then about the quality. The frenetic energy, the stomp and stomp some more glam-rock attack of [tracktitle:National Front Disco], and album opener [tracktitle:You’re Gonna Need Someone on Your Side], together with the consciously old-fashioned rockabilly of [tracktitle:Certain People I Know] had freed Morrissey from the travails of the much unloved [albumtitle:Kill Uncle]. Doing something new, breaking free, had invigorated him, and it’s no surprise that his collaborators in chief on [albumtitle:Your Arsenal] – Boz Boorer and Alain Whyte – went on to form a long and fruitful collaboration with Morrissey.

If Morrissey is going to be misinterpreted even when he’s being open and honest, then you have to say his reluctance to explain those supposed ambiguities starts to make more sense.

Two singles from the album – [tracktitle:We hate it when our friends become successful] and [tracktitle:You’re the one for me fatty] – weren’t big hits, but their lyrical lightness and general end of the pier jollity take some of the heat off, but their best work is in setting up a playful (almost) party atmosphere for the relentless ocean waves of [tracktitle:Seasick, Yet Still Docked] to smother. Huge cymbals accentuate the rise and fall of a simple bass, picked melody, and persistent acoustic strum; through the song’s long, lonely five minutes, a background wail gradually asserts itself behind a lyric of rare bleakness.

I am a poor freezingly cold soul
So far from where
I intended to go
Scavenging through life’s very constant lulls
So far from where I’m determined to go

Well, you gotta throw a bone to the “Morrissey is so depressing” crowd from time to time, and the bigger the bone, the easier they catch it.

[tracktitle]Seasick, Yet Still Docked[/tracktitle] is one of the crowning glories of Morrissey’s solo work; with [tracktitle]We’ll Let You Know[/tracktitle] it shows, when given half a chance, that his vocal melodies really stand up. Also majestic, if in a very different way, is [tracktitle]I Know It’s Gonna Happen Someday[/tracktitle]. A confused David Bowie, seeing it as Morrissey’s stab at a track like his own [tracktitle]Rock n Roll Suicide[/tracktitle], covered the track pretty disastrously on [albumtitle]Black Tie White Noise[/albumtitle].

Where Bowie erred was in reading [tracktitle]I Know It’s Gonna Happen Someday[/tracktitle] as something from his own time, when really, like the radio snatches and static that bookend the track, it feels older and grander: if anything it belongs to those early days of the Top 40, when Al Martino and co would sing with great gusto and no little sincerity their songs of love and loss, hopes and fears. If Morrissey is going to be misinterpreted even when he’s being open and honest, then you have to say his reluctance to explain those supposed ambiguities starts to make more sense.

Tegan and Sara feat. The Lonely Island – Everything is Awesome!!!

I haven’t seen The Lego Film yet but from the tone of the clips I’ve heard, and from this, I’m already expecting great, wonderful things.

Written by Shawn Patterson, and produced by Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo, “Everything is Awesome” is just an incredibly, insanely, delirious slice of fun; it’s a perfectly realised pop masterpiece; it’s… it’s… well, look, it’s completely awesome and there’s no sense even trying to deny it. I just don’t want to ruin this by listening to it non-stop for the rest of the day. Right now, it’s like a huge bar of chocolate sitting in front of me, just tempting me, but it’s ok, because I can have a couple of chunks and then put it back and save the rest for later. Or maybe I could just have the next row, and there will still be plenty left.

Half a bar will be ok, right?

As long as I don’t get to that stage where I leave one row in the packet; four chunks that I somehow think represent my triumph of willpower over the temptation to polish off a whole bar.

Oasis to re-release Definitely Maybe for 20th anniversary

That secret Oasis announcement teased on Facebook yesterday? No, not a reunion, but a reissue of Definitely Maybe to celebrate its 20th anniversary. The new version will be remastered, and available in as many formats as Tony McCarroll can shake a drumstick at: CD, digital download, 3-disc special edition, 12″ LP. The non-album content include a disc of what looks very much the b-sides from various Definitely Maybe singles and not much else other than the standalone single “Whatever”, and a disc of rarities of the demo and live recordings variety. If you’ve always wanted to hear Oasis play “Digsy’s Dinner” live in a shop in Paris, this is the disc for you.

Poor old Tony McCarroll, by the way: after his out-of-court settlement in 1999, I can only assume that he will receive nothing in the way of royalties from the reissue of Definitely Maybe, while suffering the ignominy of knowing that everyone with an opinion will be raking over the dead corpse of his drumming all over again. And everyone with an opinion will be saying exactly what they said the first time around: it’s not that great. In McCarroll’s defence, I’d like to point out that it’s not as if the rest of the band are throwing out free-form jazz improvisations around his beats; his pounding is perfectly in keeping with what everyone else is doing, and at least he isn’t inventing new vowel sounds.

The 20th anniversary edition of Definitely Maybe will be released May 19.

Black Hearted Brother – (I Don’t Mean To) Wonder

When Neil Halstead isn’t working on beautiful acoustic solo albums, or getting ready for Slowdive reunion gigs, he likes to hang out with Neil Mark Van Hoen, and Nick Holton and release electro-gaze anthems under the name Black Hearted Brother.

I’d say the man has some talent, but that much is obvious already. Besides, it would be unfair to single out Halstead: Black Hearted Brother is very much the joint creation of all its contributors, and both Van Hoen and Holton have a history of collaboration with Halstead that passes through Halstead’s solo albums, past Mojave 3, right back to the Slowdive days, when Van Hoen was educating Halstead in the ways of the electronic and the ambient.

Not that there’s much evidence of the ambient on “(I Don’t Mean To) Wonder”. Taken from the 2013 album Stars Are Our Home, it’s a rousing slice of buzzing, percussive shoegazing – a sort of Jesus & Mary Chain meets everyone who’s got reverb.