Here are the details of my swap with Dave.
Dawn Of The Replicants – One Head, Two Arms, Two Legs
Bought by Kicker for Dave
I was, and frankly still am, very excited about getting involved in this project. So much so that well before finding out who I would be paired up with, I started thinking about possible albums to send. My method for doing this was to sit at the computer and look behind me at the CDs on my shelves and find bands who I had more than one album by. I then looked on Amazon to see if any of those albums were being offered for 1p. (See, I know how this works.) Being a methodical sort, this involved me starting at A… The Auteurs… nope… B… Babybird … only the album everyone knows… C… Cheap Trick… nope (and anyway, this might just be me)… D… Dawn Of The Replicants. Now, then.
Here was a band I really enjoyed listening to back in the late 90s and who I still fondly refer to as Dawn and the Replicants after hearing John Peel do so on his long lamented Thursday night show. However, I couldn’t recall the last time I’d listened to any of their stuff and wasn’t necessarily convinced they’d be that interesting. Still, I started by putting their first album on (remarkably I had 5 to choose from) and giving it a go. It all came back to me – the strange creepy vocals – the mixture of pop hooks and disconcerting instrumentation – lyrics that on close inspection were very odd indeed. Ah yes, I now remembered seeing the band play at the Manchester Roundhouse (a venue I haven’t been to for years – is it still going?) before they became even slightly known. That Paul Vickers was an interesting bloke (probably still is.). I even found youtube footage of the infamous pilot’s helmet wearing loon and confirmation that the band really did breakdown (vehicularly) on their way there that night.
I spent the next week listening to all the band’s back catalogue and subsequently failing to get past D in my search for a suitable album so when my message from Liam arrived pairing me up with Dave, I was very much in a Dawn & The Replicants place. On his list of likes, Dave included Super Furry Animals, a band I do like (notably their debut album), but back in 98 had down the pecking order from Dawn et al. There is something of the eclectic sound of SFA in One Head, Two Arms, Two Legs, I think, and anyway, music is all about the moment, right? So, here you go Dave, the best band to come out of Galashiels since Fish out of Marillion. No, strike that, the only good band to come out of Galashiels.
Hope you enjoy it.
When this album arrived from Kicker, I was pretty excited to give it a listen. Back in the late 90’s, I was a fanatical reader of the Melody Maker, who seemed to rave about Dawn of the Replicants on a weekly basis. Despite this, I never got around to checking them out. I guess there were just too many acts around that I was getting into, which meant I didn’t have the time to listen to everyone who I should have. With this in mind, I was looking forward to seeing if I’d been missing out for the past 15 years.
Honestly? It looks like I have been, as Kicker has picked me a belter of an album. The general DotR sound features fuzzy melodies that lead to well-crafted choruses with subtly catchy hooks. I told Kicker I liked my indie to be a little quirky in places, and there is just the right level of that throughout the album, enough to be interesting, but not too much to be overbearing. There is also a slight hint of darkness and menace to these songs that elevate them above being just good indie-pop. Just little hints of distortion or a slightly sinister tone to Phil Vickers’ voice to create a sense of mood. A close comparison would be to Guided By Voices, a band Kicker mentioned he liked in his introduction e-mail [what a surprise! – TTW Ed.] and a band I have a big soft spot for too.
Trying to pick a favourite track here is quite a feat. “Candlefire” opens like an 80’s alt-rock ballad before giving way to the lush melodies of the chorus, whilst “Lisa Box” alternates between spacy keyboards and a slightly ferocious guitar riff. I’ve ultimately plumped for “Radars”, which is deceptively simple, but really effective. A triumph for the 2013 1p Christmas swap.
Standout Track: Radars
Pretty Girls Make Graves – New Romance
Bought by Dave for Kicker
When I got Kicker’s list of artists, I tried to put aside my delight at how good it was (got to love a list where the Auteurs are the third band listed) and decided to look for the acts that felt similar and, more importantly, were acts that I could use as a guide to the album I was going to buy him. Looking at the likes of Guided By Voices, Pixies, Pavement and Throwing Muses, I noticed that Kicker is partial to slightly angular US alt-rock from the late 90’s-early 00’s. I decided to get him something along these kind of lines, whilst at the same time trying to find something he hopefully won’t have. This led me to pick for him “The New Romance” by the sadly now-defunct Pretty Girls Make Graves.
What I love about “The New Romance”, and have done since I first heard it a decade ago, is that it contains elements of bands I love, whilst also sounding fresh and inspired. Their spiky post-punk at times recalls Sonic Youth at their most poppy, whilst the more forceful moments bring to mind a less electronic Le Tigre. Every now and then, a hint of At The Drive-In might sneak in, but there are enough original moments here to mark them down as a great band in their own right. Singer Andrea Zollo has one of those great voices which contains a certain toughness, but is capable of sounding tender when it needs to, with the gentle ending of “The Grandmother Wolf” being a prime example. When I checked Amazon, I really wasn’t expecting there to have been enough copies printed for it to be a penny, but as it was, I really hope Kicker enjoys it.
I was very pleased to find an album I didn’t know on my doorstep. Pretty Girls Make Graves are a band I was aware of through their sharing the Matador label with Guided By Voices at one time. Being a completist of the latter, I have a number of Matador compilations and one or two feature songs by PGMG. However, most of these tracks had generally passed me by and the only song I could reasonably accurately say I knew by them is their pretty good cover of Bow Wow Wow’s ‘C30 C60 C90 Go’. Time then to find out more about a band inextricably linked with punctuation and spelling troubling Shakespears Sister.
Turns out I actually had already heard 3 of the songs on this album (All Medicated Geniuses, This Is Our Emergency and The Grandmother Wolf), but didn’t recognise them when I heard them again. The album sounds like a cross between a less funky version of the New York dance-punk band Radio 4 and cockney electro-rock duo Curve without the shoegaze element. I am not sure why, but I expected them to be fairly gothy and at times was reminded of Siouxsie & The Banshees with a less angsty singer.
There were a number of things I liked about the album: the cover, the drumming, the fact the album was only 40 mins long (there really is no need for any album to be 80 minutes, is there?), the drumming, the quieter slower songs, the drumming and the electronic noises that occasionally appear. Did I mention the drumming?
However, there were also a couple of major things I didn’t like so much: the overly produced guitar sound and the lyrics, the banal meaningless lyrics. What IS it about? To be fair, the vocal style grew on me but I really wanted a bit more attitude.
Overall, I can see why the songs I’d heard before had never really made an impression after only a couple of listens previously, but after half a dozen further listens there are a few highlights to pick out. I particularly like literally the first thing you hear – an electronic buzz and the rim of a drum being hit suitably hard. This opening song, Something Bigger Something Brighter is definitely one of the highlights. I also like the short instrumental third track, Mr. Club (no problem understanding that one), the slower Blue Lights and closer, A Certain Cemetery.
This album is a freak of nature in that there are lots of little bits of it that I really like, but the whole turns out to be very much less than the sum of its parts for me. As the song A Certain Cemetery puts it: “When this is over, it’s alright.” Not great, but alright. Certainly better than that Siobhan Fahey band though.
Standout track: Blue Lights
What a really neat idea for music lovers with short arms and long pockets. I hope that the club invite me back for more and that you, dear reader, will be immediately signing up to take part.