Rip Off Your Labels

Angular Records have become lauded as saviours of the indie heartland, the terrain that was laid to waste in the great post-Britpop purges and which many had believed to be lost forever, banished to midnight slots on 6music. With humble beginnings, Joes Margetts and Daniel re-mortgaged their Brockley cardboard box to fund ‘The New Cross’, a disc that has quickly attained the status of legend. Remaining copies have a street value of some £20,000 and have caused more gang warfare than an import of Iranian heroin. Art Brut’s own ‘Formed A Band’ even entered the UK charts at No. 1 and stayed there for six weeks.

But, two months on, the musical landscape has undergone significant changes. The release of a new Streets album has sent the fawning NME into the inner-city council estates, in search of the next hoi polloi poet. Morrissey is a panellist on Big Brother’s Little Brother. Alex from Franz Ferdinand has married Abi Titmuss and given birth to three Leicester City footballers. Art Brut’s image consultant has not answered their calls for the past three days. In such an inhospitable climate, what hope is there for the middle-class art student? As they ride out onto the battlefield, brandishing a new CD called ‘Rip off your Labels’, I decided to investigate.

Frankly, this record could not get off to a worse start. As you realise that it kicks off with The Vichy Government, a band turned away from the Phoenix Nights auditions for being too risible, one can only marvel at the single-mindedness with which Angular have followed their suicidal impulses. As for the song, Vichy clearly paid attention to my recent Carrion Camping review as this re-recording features a higher quality of keyboard and pleasing, crisp production. However, this only allows you to hear clearer still how inept the song is. Truly these men are a lost cause.

In their wake come The Violets. Several times I have had the misfortune of watching this deadly-dull threesome’s excuse for a live act, as they mine the vacuous quarry of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs for inspiration -a redundant enterprise if ever there was one. The direct lift from Madness’s ‘The Prince’ indicates that they possess at least a rudimentary acquaintance with Classic British Pop, so why on earth do they opt to bury it under quasi-gothic posturing? I hear that The Violets are about to decamp to California, and I can only hope that the native temperament of the West Coast will be more amenable to such illiterate bluster.

Track three has been touted as the centrepiece of this collection. Bona fide celebrities Art Brut invited a handful of Angular urchins into their luxury Mayfair studio for one afternoon, to provide backing vocals on their ‘Top Of The Pops’. The result is sycophantic enough to turn the stomach, as a queue of hopefuls eagerly cast aside their individuality and are assimilated into the grinning coterie. A poet such as Dickon Edwards would weep at the sight. It is my belief that anyone willing to contribute to the vanity project of these Neolithic pub rockers should, for the benefit of society, be held in a detention camp. I have written to our next Prime Minister, Mr Michael Howard MP, suggesting as much.

Seeing that the next song had been contributed by The Fucks, I reached for the skip forward button. What I heard made me stop- a ramshackle blend of Casio melodies with Belle & Sebastian whimsy that confounds expectation and effortlessly surpasses the preceding three tracks. It is let down by unimaginative guitar lines and puerile lyrics, but in this it is by no means alone.

This is followed by The Long Blondes, a gritty Yorkshire quartet who have been teleported in directly from 1981 to augment the ‘new wave’ flavour that Angular haplessly aim for throughout. Their sleevenotes boast that they “do not listen to The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix or Bob Dylan”. Imagine that for a moment, if you will. A band that are instead influenced by Roxy Music and David Bowie. Why hasn’t anyone thought of that before?

The Showboys are a collective of musicians whom Luke Haines has excommunicated from The Auteurs over the length of his career. They initially formed a tribute band, before quickly having ideas above their station and deciding to take revenge by writing their own poisonous parodies. Luke Haines, this is your legacy. If an ounce of honour lingers in your bloated frame, you ought to kill yourself today.

The Swear’s contribution is ‘Advert Boy’, a repetitive slice of shouty power-pop in which the singer informs someone from the roster of Elite modelling agency that should he wish to, he would be welcome to touch and kiss her. If the young lady were ever to gatecrash a Strokes aftershow party, she would soon find out that they most certainly do not wait for permission.

As an offering from The Boyfriends kicks in, I note with satisfaction that at least one band was honest about their abilities and simply committed a rudimentary cover of New Order’s ‘Ceremony’ to tape. Preparing to sing along, I realise that the song has been renamed ‘No Tomorrow’, and the sonorous tones of a karaoke Morrissey contestant send me into a deep trance. I dream that I hear Young Marble Giants after visiting an ‘all you can eat’ Mexican restaurant, Rachel from Friends sobbing over the scratch on her Gucci handbag and a schoolboy masturbating behind the bike shed, but regrettably I am unable to pass judgement on the qualities of Sweetie, Elizabeth Harper or Gifthorse.

Noting that the Lovers of Today, a fey indie outfit that are, to their own confession, too shy to play live concerts, had offered the one-minute ‘Short Nasty Shock’, I feared that this promising outfit had been lost to the white noise of Atari Teenage Riot and their ilk. On reflection, this would have been a preferable fate to the one which has befallen them. The Lovers follow their comrades, lemming-like, over the clifftop and into the trap of laboriously replicating records that nobody liked when they were released 20+ years ago.

My old friends Luxembourg have firmly established themselves as the best band to ever come out of Luxembourg, and ‘Let Us Have It’ is a wonderfully eloquent plea for fleeing Taliban leaders and other bogus asylum seekers to stop trying to enter this tiny, beautiful, but already over-populated country in Western Europe. “Take it easy, no-one will get hurt/If you relax it will be painless”, croons David Shah as he ushers the wogs back onto their banana boats and far away. Indeed, the Trotskyite idiot David Blunkett could learn a lot from some of these pop groups.

Finally, as you think that the SE20 postcode must by now have given all it has to offer, and there can be no more creativity lurking in the darkened Deptford alleyways, your suspicions are confirmed by the appearance of The Rocks. This song is a remix, so we are blissfully spared yet more sub-Marr jangles/pseudo-punk riffage. A regrettable side-effect is that the chalk-down-blackboard, caterwauling vocals are left far too exposed. The effect is not unlike Patti Smith after her grandchildren were careless with the keys to the cocktail cabinet.

In conclusion, I like what I hear and the future is definitely bright for Angular Records. Long live the New Cross! Come on kids! 7/10