Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Standard Fare/One Happy Island

Remember that Standard Fare,/One Happy Island record I mentioned the other day? Well that lovely, lovely slab of orange vinyl from Thee SPC has remained on my turntable since. The difference between this time and last is that I’ve been flipping it over, and over, and over.

I didn’t know until I received the record that each band have recorded one of the other band’s songs and one original. I was dead excited when I got this record, which is why it superceded the Defiance, Ohio album, and I was right to be excited. Each band’s cover is brilliant, they’ve both managed to make a cover sound as though it could be one of their own songs. Neither band try to ape the style or sound of the other band, so what we’ve got here is basically a great original-sounding song by each band, just that they didn’t happen to write them.

Standard Fare bash out another couple of their perfectly-crafted, slightly jerky power pop, and I’m always surprised that they manage to have such a big, full sound as a three-piece, how do they do that? The lyrics are the new one are great (as always) and the delivery is in Emma’s easily recognised, irresistible style.

The One Happy Island side gives us more of their chaotic, yet tuneful indiepop. I’ve always like how their songs sound almost as though they were recorded in the kitchen while there was a party going on in the living room (and I’m not just saying that because of ‘Secret Part That The Other Party Doesn’t Know About’), and that they sound like they might just fall apart at any second.

If you’ve any sympathy for indiepop in 2011, your life will certainly be enriched by this bloody great record.

One question, what the hell is a ‘dixie cup’?

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Defiance, Ohio

I just got some new records* which meant I had to remove the record that's been king of the deck for two or three weeks now.

That record is the most recent album by Defiance, Ohio, 2010's Midwestern Minutes. If you're at all familiar with Defiance, Ohio you will know that they inhabit that much-maligned land that is the genre known as folk punk. The punks whine that it isn't punk enough, others moan that 'they can't sing properly', and as ever, these miseries are missing the point entirely.

I don't remember how I first came to hear Defiance, Ohio, but it was in around 2005/06. The first song I heard was 'I don't want solidarity if it means holding hands with you' which nailed me with it's raucous pop-punk chorus and brilliant lyrics. Maybe I downloaded some more stuff (it's all free on their website), maybe I didn't. In the 2nd half of 2006 I did a runner from Nottingham, and in the brief period I was knocking about the West Midlands before going abroad Defiance, Ohio happened to be playing in Birmingham. What's more, is that my friend Winston Echo had been asked to support them. So not only did I get to see Defiance, Ohio, but I got to go not on my own. That night I bought the 2nd Defiance, Ohio album The Great Depression (which doesn't feature I Don't want Solidarity...

A couple of years later, I ordered a bunch of stuff from No Idea Records, amongst it was the first Defiance, Ohio album, Share What Ya Got. More great folk punk made living in the absolute middle of nowhere - surrounded by a peculiar combination of rich-ass holiday-makers, hoteliers, and dull-as-fuck fellow minimum wagers - slightly more sufferable. I dreamt of running away to the bright lights of Northampton to strong-arm Winston Echo into staring a folk punk band with me.

Later still, I'm visiting a friend in London and we decide to go to the punk rock record shop as part of a weekend of whim-based adventures (newly-discovered comic book shop, chinese buffet, bag of coffee from swanky coffee shop, Euston Tap, falafel fail, falafel win, pub club, Boris Karloff's house), and I see that there's a brand-spanking new Defiance, Ohio album. I was vaguely aware that they'd released another album since The Great Depression, and I also knew this wasn't it. So I skipped their third album (I'll get it one day) and went straight to Midwestern Minutes.

In my cold little room at the back of a decrepit terraced house - only metres from the home of a young J.R.R. Tolkien - in a hinterland between work and work, marked by Xmas and New Year, I put on my new Defiance, Ohio record. I knew what to expect, and I basically got it.

The new album was and is very much in the same vein as the other two records I have of theirs. However, there was something about this album that really did something for me. Keys to locks, striking chords, brain kissing, heart warming, smile-wrenching. All that shit.

I didn't even turn the record over for at least the first half-dozen plays. There's a song on there about a rosy picture of the end times, which just gives me some kind of hope. Perhaps not true hope, I don't think I'm really capable of that kind of belief, but hope in the knowledge that other people are at least dissatisfied with everything as it stands and yearn for something else (and perhaps are relying on forces bigger than ourselves, or any groups or societies).

Of course, this sort of thing is a not uncommon theme for Defiance, Ohio. For instance:

fuck this city, and fuck this filthy air/ let’s build a-frames in the woods and just live there/ we’ll all eat berries and build fires every night and forget this mistake we call modern life.

Or how about:

are you angry? are you searching for a better way to live? are you waiting? have you been waiting too long? what holds us back and how to burn the bridges of a culture that taught us to hate and fear and live like cogs in a machine and not like lovers friends and kin.). I think I lost my train of thought..

Anyway, this album is the same, but different. I think that's exactly what we (or at least, I) want from a band we already love, isn't it? Something that isn't just a repetition of their previous output, but also, doesn't become something new entirely and thought it may still be a great record, not what you wanted from the band, and loses the reason you loved them in the first place? Go on, call me reactionary.

I'm not really sure why I started writing, but I'm just about done, now.

* The Standard Fare/One Happy Island split on Thee SPC, and The first Hang Over Lounge EP.