Romeo Trading Co. – The ‘Uniform’ E.P. (Dumb and Blonde)
Your greatest strength is often your greatest weakness; it’s always that which is most ridiculous that people love the most. To some people, Bowie’s transformations into various personae is insincerity writ large, to others it is evidence of a fearless creative genius. It is individuality that clicks, not sameness: only a very specific key can unlock a door. So it is always a shame when a band smooth over their edges by over-production. The Uniform E.P contains some strong tracks, but they feel too perfect, as though each part had been recorded seventy-nine times.
In my laudatory live review of the band, I mentioned that it would be good to have Martin Hannett smashing glasses in the background, and that still applies. Their best song, ‘Watching’, would be fantastic if it were starker and spikier. It is still good, but underwhelming. The last song, a remixed version of Uniform, hints at the kind of textures that they are capable of, but aside from that it is all a little flat. Their promise remains unfulfilled, but promise they do have.
Host – Mean Streak (hitBACK Music)
Living in a house without central heating, only those erratic convection heaters, I tend to do a jig whether there is indie pop on the stereo or not, thus making it difficult to determine accurately (on a scale of 1 to 10) Host’s toe-tapping quotient. My guess? 6, mainly for the A-side, which comes on like an insipid version of Popscene, even down to the singer’s voice, which is pure Albarn, though without the edge. The lyric talks of a “nation waiting for something to happen.” Indeed.
Nemo – Piccadilly in Sepia (Goanna Records)
When Jamie, Nemo’s singer, gave me his band’s latest single I was appreciative, interested and butterfingered. At least four times in his presence, I dropped it to the drink-sodden, begrimed floor of the club we were in. “Look, if you’re not going to look after it then I’ll take it back,” said Jamie. “Sorry,” I said, before dropping it again.
So, was it worth picking up? On the whole, yes. The A-side, Piccadilly in Sepia, with its nu-romantic pomposity is undeniably catchy. Unfortunately, it sounds just a bit too much like a Gary Le Strange song. After Le Strange’s razor sharp parodies, the title and lyrics are impossible to take seriously: “We are naked on the underground. There are trillions!”
Red Jetson – . . . The Sky is Breaking (Steinbeck)
Post-rock pop sounds like an oxymoron, but lately it has proved not only conceivable but a manifestly appropriate direction for rock music in our time. Whether in the form of Cass McCombs’ droning nursery rhymes or Red Jetson’s accessible Mogwai-meets-Radiohead epics, the post-rock crossover into the mainstream is obviously not far away (Hope of the States and Cooper Temple Clause being the prime examples). People complain that post-rock does all it can to avoid a tune, but on ‘. . . The Sky is Breaking’ one can hear that far from being a cul-de-sac for musos it is actually the starting point for a new way of thinking about song structures, without fearing melodies. Red Jetson are a band to watch out for.
Barcelona Pavilion – Mp3s
Hailing from hip Toronto, whose burgeoning music scene has already seen Les Georges Leningrad and The Hidden Cameras emerge, Barcelona Pavilion’s minimalist aesthetic is the austere backdrop for some searingly direct lyrics. “How are you people” is very successful, inciting people to have fun by participating. Not exactly fighting for the right to par-tay, and all the more pleasant for it. Less interesting is the New Materiology, a shouty-woman screaming for whatever the title means (I won’t feign to understand). Even if it meant what I think it means (a science of matter), then just shouting about it is not going to further your cause. Signed to Ben and Tjinder from Cornershop’s label, they are worth a look, but don’t touch just yet.
Ex-Rental – Demo
There is something surprisingly light and frothy, poppy and silly, about Ex-Rental. In my live reviews (here and here) of the band I had mistaken the duo’s dark, low-key style to signify a faux-seriousness on top of chintzy music, but the more one listens it becomes clear that they really are as lightweight as they initially sound. The final song on this demo, titled eponymously, is promising (somehow managing to legitimise slapped bass), but something is still lacking.