Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Not many bands aren't improved by sticking a six foot blonde in front and The Jesus and Mary Chain would benefit more than most. They may have reformed (one of this years biggest Indie surprises).... but they're still the same messy haired, shade wearing squabbling Reid brothers.

On the other hand there are The Raveonettes.

Danish duo Sharin Foo and Sune Rose Wagner have taken the Jesus And Mary Chain template of fuzz guitar, feedback, mixed it with girl group melodies and added Suicide, Buddy Holly and surf guitar.

Usually all in the same song.

Add in a B move poster aesthetic (all good girls going bad and bad boys going worse) and a willingness to embrace the gimmick. A stand up drummer (not Bobby Gillespie). Add a dash more Mary Chain.

Ok the result may not be original and you can easily spot where they've got every one of their moves from (er would that be the Jesus and Mary Chain?), but it's still a bag of fun. And Sharin Foo doesn't look like either of the sulky Scottish Reid brothers. Result!

First album Whip It On is an 8 song dash through Garage Surf titles like Cops On Our Tail, Bowels Of The Beast and Beat City. The boast is that all the tracks are written in B flat minor and are no more than 3 minutes long. No more than 3 chords, no hi-hat and no cymbals. Whoever said Rock 'n' Roll was about no rules?

2003's follow up Chain Gang Of Love proudly screams from it's film poster style sleeve that this time it's written and recorded in B flat major. There is a difference. It's also produced by Richard Gottherer who produced the first Blondie records, co wrote My Boyfriend's Back by The Angels and co founded Sire. Put in those terms he pretty much built New York!

Chain Gang Of Love is an altogether shinier album. It plays with the idea of the innocence of 50's rock n roll and recognises that dumb lyrics are often the right lyrics. Sometimes a well placed "Yeah" can say more than 1000 other words.

In an interview on www.noripcord.com Foo describes their approach as "Both a homage and a little bit of satire. We're not totally romantically infatuated with American culture. On Chain Gang of Love in particular though, there's a real sentimental, nostalgic feeling in the lyrics and the music. There's a bunch of references to Buddy Holly and the Everly Brothers, and the kind of melodies from back then; good old-fashioned song-writing"

Lets Rave On has an impossibly fast racing pulse of a drum machine. It's just bass drum, but if it was an episode of Casualty, then trolleys would be crashing through doors and they'd be a lot of shouting.

The lyrics not only echo Buddy Holly, but are for those moments when you think you watch films at the drive in rather than from Blockbusters: "Lets rave on cos I know that you want to. Lets make out cos I know that you want to. Lets go down where the hearts are broken. Fix them all in time"

The Love Gang has a lyric about "Two delinquents in love". As a phrase it's pure 50's imagery. West Side Story and James Dean. Nostalgia for when it was Grease rather than Grecian 2000 and it was all fields and juvenile delinquents round here.

The band's lyrics are one of the pleasures. How about this gem from The Love Gang? "Chains black leather and sex. Yeah it's not that complex." Sounds like a quiet night in to me, but as a lyric it made me giggle a like a loon.

Of course the band think they're doing more than just providing me with giggly entertainment.

Foo told Noripcord that ""We kinda like the contradictions in the music. It's interesting for us to have the opposites - the really sweet, subtle, mellow vocals; poppy and a bit naïve - and then a fuzzy background that's very guitar and bass-driven and pretty intense.

"And to have a melody that sounds innocent, but with lyrics that are really decadent. It creates an interesting tension we think."

Little Animal has the opening line "My girl is a little animal. She always wants to fuck. I can't find the reason why, I guess it's just my luck." I'd keep quiet about that…everyone will want one! The opening chords are standard Mary Chain issue and there's a great fuzz bass sound.
The lyrics to the title track break one of the oldest rules of pop in an interesting way. All bands need to have a prison song and the cast iron law is that you are always a prisoner of your baby's love. The singer is always powerless and can never stop loving his baby.

That's the language of Pop. Sentences are served and rules are obeyed.

However on Chain gang of Love amidst all the "Huh" and "Yeahs" that echo round the song and root it to the original chain gang of Sam Cooke etc there is this lyric. "I'm just a prisoner of love. I'm serving time for something I can't do. They call it a crime, cos I'm not in love with you."

Could be Sune Wagner be the only man in Pop prison who doesn't love his baby?

Best track on the album though is The Great Love Sound. I don't want to harp on about The Mary Chain but it starts like You Trip Me Up and the (excellent) line "So I walk right up to you and you walk all over me" couldn't be more like JAMC if it was wearing shades and punching it's brother.

Love Can Destroy You is a White Stripes style country song. Woozy and disorientating like wind up jewellery box. The guitars overlap from each speaker and there's a regular chime that helps to keep the beat, which actually sounds like a squeaky hamster wheel.

By their 2005 album and Pretty In Pink they were able to call in favours from Ronnie Spector who sings on Ode To LA and there are also appearances from Suicide's Martin Rev and Mo Tucker from the Velvet Underground.

New album Lust Lust Lust is released this week on Fierce Panda. There are 3 d glasses to go with it and more importantly a terrific single, Dead Sound.


The guitars alternate between twangy and buzzy. Sune and Sharin's voices are wrapped around each other and combined in languid loveliness. Unusually the chorus is actually the quietest part of the song of the song (Yes you can change the laws of physics!) and it's got the tense pulse and impossibly pretty keyboards of Cheree by Suicide.

So once again The Raveonettes have used easily traceable sources, but it sounds so good that it would be churlish to complain. So I won't.

British Sea Power

Being a Wash 'n' Go musician does have it's advantages. Angus Young only ever has to remember to bring his satchel and school uniform and Iggy Pop knows he's never going to have to remember to iron a shirt.

But there is always room for a band who've got a dressing up box in the dressing room. A band who have really thought through their image.

Brighton based four piece British Sea Power are 2 albums deep into their career of being one of Britain's, oddest, most intriguing and literate bands.

The band name sounds like it should be found in the darker recesses of the lower shelf, between Railway Modeller and Practical Caravanning. Admit it. When you are in the newsagents buying porn, don't you always have a sneaky look down to the bottom shelf and Trout Fisherman?

Their stage sets are festooned with foliage and stuffed animals, their haircuts look like they've been imposed on them and their lyrics are filled with references to military and wildlife themes.

Something Wicked from 2003's debut The Decline Of British Sea Power has the opening verse.....

"Where the ancient oak leaf clusters grew/The deaths head hawk moth flew/Something wicked this way comes/The swallow is depicted there along your fuselage/Something wicked this way comes."

Musically you can trace a line through Bowie, Psychedelic Furs and Granddaddy. The Psychedelic Furs link is really in the vocals which often have that Richard Butler atonal sneer. However on a song like Blackout there's a definite Morrissey feel. The Bowie link is more for the guitar lines. They're really good and thick enough to plaster a wall with.

Given the band's enthusiasm for uniforms and songs about Field Marshal Montgomery (Favours In The Beetroot Fields) I'm a bit disappointed to see only conventional instruments listed...I demand First World War Poetry.

The band line up reads like a Public School register. Last names only. Yan, Hamilton, Noble, Wood. Report for band practice after prep! They've also upped the mystery quotient by meeting journalists at grid references rather than pubs.

There's a great performance of Carrion on Jools Holland. Yes the keyboard player is wearing WW2 style helmet. And when was the last time you heard a lyric to equal "From Scapa Flow to Rotherhithe I felt the lapping of an ebbing tide"


There's also a great moving statues video of Remember Me at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Peo0s75QDR0

Remember Me has a chorus of "Increment by increment." Again it's not the standard issue pop lyric but it does know it's pop history.

The downhill rush for the bus, of guitar bass and drums, sounds like the mighty riff from Victoria by The Kinks. And of course a band like British Sea Power who revel in the imagery of an imagined England will know all about The Kinks. And as the wilful awkward obscurists they are, they must surely also be Fall fans and so will know all about The Fall's faithful version of it.

Wilful and obscure...ok then. Lately is a brevity testing 14 minutes long while Apologies For Insect Life may well be about Dostoyevsky but it's hard to tell as the only intelligible lyrics are the repeated yelping of "Oh Fyodor, you are the most attractive man. Oh Fyodor, you are the most attractive man I know."

It's got a great step forward step back bass line and the drums and guitar alternately hold back then pile in. It's a thrilling ride.

The Lonely has the line "Just like Liberace I will return to haunt you with peculiar piano riffs." A line that actually scares me...it's camply threatening, like Liberace himself or the Sopranos Johnny Sack. The song itself could sit happily on Suede's second album and it's got some of the wooziness of Bowie's Aladdin Sane album.

The second album Open Season 2005 is a bit more straightforward, with less guitars and a bit more keyboards. But there again the band are never going to be too obvious. So long as they are releasing singles with titles like It Ended On An Oily Stage.

The word "ventricles" appears in Be Gone (and being British Sea Power it actually isn't the oddest choice of word in the song) and it may be the first time it's been used in a pop song since The Bozo Dog Doo Dah Band. Celine Dion's My Heart Will Go On might have been improved if only she'd been a bit more medically accurate.

New ep Krankenhaus is available as an (expensive) import but there is a free download through the bands website.

They gamely describe the lead track Atom as combining a pre school understanding of atomic theory with ancient wisdom in amplified rock music.

But they also do foliage and crowd surfing and those kind of post punk hard stares that are part Wilco Johnson part Paddington bear.


Are CSS just a bunch of arty Brazilian women who play smutty, sweary punk rock electro pop? Do they have a catsuit wearing half Japanese singer called Lovefoxx and a gay bruiser with a moustache that you could use to paint fences? Thankfully yes. Debut album CSS came out last year on Sub pop where it nestles incongruously amongst the back catalogue of Nirvana and Mudhoney.

Their name Cansei de Ser Sexy comes from a Beyonce quote and translates as "tired of being sexy" in Portuguese.

"Lets Make Love And Listen To Death From Above" was one of the best singles (and titles) of last year. It sounded like the band themselves as it veered from disco pickety guitar, frisky bass and a swooping theramin type sound to a splurging Spirit In The Sky meets Dr Who theme tune pile up.

One minute it's a foxy, slinky dancer on a better class of dance floor. Then it morphs into beery uncle at a wedding, stomping and gurning in altogether stickier surroundings.


"Patins" is a gleeful guitar rush, recalling the Riot Grrl acts or The Slits. The guitar and vocals follow each other closely. Now that's often a sign that a band have run out of ideas, or never had them in the first place. In this case though it just sounds absolutely right And Lovefoxx's vocal exuberance carries it off. "Whenever I look at you I don't know what to do. Whenever you talk to me I don't know what is true"

Adriano Cintra's male vocal line "Listen Baby I've got something to say" arrives in the song just like shouty bloke from the Sugarcubes used to. He's a bit more welcome, though, and I'm not going to argue with either him or his 'tache.

The song moves into Iggy Pop territory recalling the excellent duet with Debbie Harry ("Did You Ever") and Peaches ("Kick it"). It also sounds like they're packing for their holidays as Cintra and Lovefoxx sing alternate lines. "Your shirt, your shoes, your skirt your pants."


I really like Lovefoxx's vocals throughout the album. Although I've got to admit some of it is down to my own pervy preferences. I like the way she uses singing as a second language and there are definite parallels with Bjork.

On "Off The Hook" she sings "Why is it we stand so still, people gonna start thinking we're statues." Now there's no way that number of words should fit into the gaps into the song but she goes ahead and forces them to fit. It's a Bjorky moment.

I love Bjork's speaking voice with it's bizarre mix of Icelandic, American and Cockney inflexions. It's a voice I could listen to it all day without getting tired of. (Although I'd rather she talked about the bit where we both take our clothes off rather than the bit where she's telling me to go and unblock the sink. So that's my tip. Don't live with Pop Pixies unless you don't mind plumbing.)

About the sex and swearing. There's loads of it and it's really funny. (Obviously it's grown up and clever too!) One of their catchiest songs uses a synth chug, spiralling positively pretty pop keyboard lines and understated twangy guitar. It's called "Fuck Off Is Not The Only Thing You have to Show."

They've also used the whole celebrity culture and fashion scene. The excellently titled "Meeting Paris Hilton" has a chorus of "The bitch said yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah" while "Art Bitch" is about poo on a plate modern art where "Everything I do is featured on the pages of ID." Now I don't know much about art but I know what I like.....is opening nights with free drinks and nibbles.

"Art Bitch" has guitar lines that wriggle and squeal like The Dead Kennedys "Holiday in Cambodia" and the lines "lick lick lick my art tit suck suck suck my art hole"...Hmm. Did I mention the sex and swearing?

Guitarist Luiza Sa has said "We only realised how sexy some of our lyrics were when people started asking about them. We'd never sing that stuff in Portuguese, but it's very liberating to say those things in English." Actually they're fairly fluent in filth as liberated Luiza also Dj's with fellow band member Ana under the name Meuku.....which is Portuguese for "my arse."

"Alcohol" sounds like a Chas and Dave with it's crowd pleasing chorus of "Hey hey hey hey Do you wanna drink some alcohol." It's the most knockabout of their songs.

They did the rounds of all the festivals this summer and from my comfortable and mud free sofa they looked thoroughly entertaining. They've just supported Gwen Stefani on her tour of UK enormodomes.

Cynics might think that the elements that make up CSS are just too perfect. On paper they do sound like a cut and paste dream pop project, but on record and live the whole thing works well. So I think they're thoroughly Punk Rock (in a disco booty shaking way