Everett True and his First Ladies Of Rock
I still write for a few other places. One of these is the excellent NYC femme-focused magazine, Bust, for which I write a regular column, Everett True and his First Ladies Of Rock, a short consumer guide look at some of the fine, unheralded, female-led bands around.
I’ve been on at my contact at Bust to put together a mix tape of these artists to give away free with the magazine itself – as it seems a natural extension of the column, and fun. Simultaneously, I figured I could put all these columns together for my new Something Awful column. So I did. Here are the results.
The Perfect Summer Femme-Pop Mix Tape
OK. Listen up. What I have here for you is a virtual mix tape, almost exclusively but not entirely made up of femme pop bands from 2010 that I’ve written about, first on my own blog, and later, tidied up and made attractive for American consumption, for New York’s totally rad Bust magazine. I’m just stoked that there are so many fucking sweet bands around, you dig? It feels sweet and it sounds sweet and man if I was any less of a fucking male music critic than I am I’d write something corny and undeniably chauvinistic along the lines of… “And their photos all look fucking sweet, pinned to the underneath of my office desk where I can reach down easy and…” But I’m not, so I won’t.
I’m just happy to be here.
I said, listen up. I know you’re itching to get away and indulge in some tired masturbatory fantasy involving the day Jonny Greenwood broke his wrist fetching firewood from the great outdoors so you had to stand in at the last moment headlining Glastonbury while Rostam Batmanjingle looked on enviously from the sidelines, but fucking PAY ATTENTION. I mean, even assuming my editor’s going to zip all the following files together and put them in one big Mediafire file for you to download (Editor’s Note: No), it doesn’t hurt to pay attention just for once.
So here’s the deal. These bands share a certain commonality. No, it’s not that they’re all female-led (but they are). No, it’s not that their music comes saturated with reverb and sweet ’60s harmonies (though most of them do). No, it’s not that all of them love The Shangri-La’s (though, frankly, if I discover that any of them don’t, they’re straight off in the dumper). No, it’s not that they’re all active in 2010 (even though they are).
Guessed what it is yet?
I like all of them.
So, before we begin: Articles written as lists are a yawn, even lists written by so fine a critic as my good self. So I thought I’d intersperse descriptions of certain bands with quotes drawn from this fine blog site that I discovered via Google Alert yesterday, and a handful of random shit drawn from my PhD blog and other places. It’s up to you to work out which is which.
1. Best Coast – “When I’m With You”
“Radiohead (yawn), Coldplay (triple yawn), U2 (yawning so hard it feels like the entire world is going to collapse into my mouth and I’m going to choke on the fumes). You know something? What shocks me the most is their fans’ lack of imagination and the most rudimentary of research skills” – Everett True, Blind Blake vs Coldplay, 2009
Like Viv Girls with a fuzzbox. What more need to be said? This song is as laconic and crush-worthy as even She And Him’s “In The Sun.” And, um … as I just said, what more needs to be said?
2. Woom – “The Hunt”
“Xiu Xiu’s tourmates, Woom, are tremendous, right now. In fact, they’re so obviously Everett True’s Favourite New Band in the World, someone should tell him. Yes, the net result of their influences (or, more accurately, their raw intuition) ends up somewhere like Young Marble Giants, but it’s our YMG, for the 21st century (actual influences, according to Sara: Terry Riley, Bridget Fontaine, 1970s performance art guru Jerome Rothenberg). Between them, Sara and Eben clack woodblocks, manipulate samples, and drive around massive blasts of bass the way Scout Niblett plays drums. Vocal hooks and melodic guitar lines are dropped in periodically, but more like samples than the bones of the songs. They’re NOT, in any respect, ‘amniotic’ – they sculpt space, as in air, with sounds that are staccato, irregular, angular, never liquid. Their best ‘songs’ sound like the moment that ideas came together for Thriller, or ‘Into the Groove(y)’, the Sonic Youth version.”– Alexander Tudor, Drowned In Sound
I don’t hear much Young Marble Giants or Calvin Johnson. Folk always assume that because something is minimal or quiet it sounds like something else minimal or quiet. That’s like assuming Iron Maiden sounds like Swans sound like Afrirampo sound like Oasis because they’re loud. This is way more weird Americana than early-’80s spooked Gothic. I do hear “Into The Groove(y),” though, and a touch of Clive Pig and Miu Mau (see below), some Holly Golightly and former Careless Talk Costs Lives cover stars Young People, even. Sara’s list of ‘actual influences’ seems spot on to me. I can imagine the dancing, the fun, the woodblocks – a sound that is not tied even vaguely to one era. I guess you could call it cute, but only because it’s melodic and inventive and sweetly surreal and blissfully refreshing.
3. Neverever – “Coconut Shampoo”
My entire life is centred around this three-minute blast of pop perfection: immaculate, heart-wrenching, the sort of pop that made you never want to give up your portable Dansette mono record-player. Anyone who ever fell in and out of love to those early Go-Go’s B-sides — or had their hand held by Jane Wiedlin — knows what I’m talking about.
4. The Monster Women – “Lost At Sea“
The Monster Women list their influences as: B-52’s,Young Marble Giants, Shangri-Las, Detroit Cobras, Joan Jett & the Runaways, Exotica!, ’60s garage girl groups, Ladytron, Cat Power, Electrelane, Tiger Trap, Barbara Manning, Connie Francis, Xavier Cugat, Hanoi Rocks, Duran Duran, the Cure, Brigette Bardot, Francoise Hardy, Serge Gainsbourg, Mr Airplane Man, Edith Frost, Velvet Underground, David Bowie, Deerhoof, Blondie, etc…
Within seconds you know they’re either going to be the new Softies or the new Vivian Girls. Either way it makes music criticism redundant when a band knows its sound a thousand times better than any hapless boy hack. Ravishing.
5. Las Kellies – “Bochaton“
OK. I know I’m showing up my Brisbane provincialism, but if you can name me just one cultural artifact from Buenos Aires that’s more fun and exciting and fertile that this sparky trio of Devo fans, then I will parboil your first-born and fuck the remains. I have two albums of this music, and ALL OF IT is fun and beautifully concise and funny with harmonies and scratchy guitars and clattering rhythm and everything. It’s probably a real good job they’re destined never to tour Australia (where I live), as I would probably suffer a fatal heart attack if I saw them play live.
6. Super Wild Horses – “Golden Town“
From Melbourne. It’s The Fastbacks! It’s Dolly Mixture! It’s every ace local band you ever wanted to see wrapped up into one tumultuous stripped-back whole, with drums that rattle and guitars that rattle and vocals that shout blissfully into the distance. It disappoints me, the way that everything that isn’t the Gories still disappoints me, but Bangs alive, that ain’t hardly Super Wild Horses’ fault!
“A good critic is authoritative; passionate; surprising; open minded; entertaining; interesting; well-informed; committed; original; free thinking; independent” – Simon Frith, taken from The Cambridge Companion to Recorded Music, p. 280
Damn, that’s me failed on four counts.
7. Vivian Girls – “When I’m Gone“
The guv’ners (or rather, gov’nesses) of this particular micro-scene. Weird then, don’t you think, that the Vivian Girls are the most punk-orientated of the entire glorious, sun-melted caboodle? (They get the Ramones in a way that no one before or since Shop Assistants got the Ramones.) Or, as one wise man put it …
“I love the fact that it’s hard for people to understand. We’ve said before that it’s always been a great thing to get certain people to go away thinking, ‘Oh dear, she can’t play the drums!’ ‘Fine, if you think it’s all a gimmick, go away!’ It weeds out people who wouldn’t care anyway” – Jack White, The Observer Interview, 2004
8. Tiny Microphone – “Candy Says”
People get me confused sometimes. I’m fundamentally a fan of music, not of music criticism.
This Velvet Underground song is not a song I would recommend you covering, especially if you’re a member of those Californian fucktards called The Like and have no idea of melancholy or depression or the blues except for that one day your mother hid your Tiffany’s Gold Card from you, and you held your breath for a whole TEN seconds before she relented and gave it back to you. Thankfully, Kristine aka Tiny Microphone is not The Like and understands that the best time to listen to music like this is when you’re feeling asleep and that the best band to come out of Detroit in the past 10 years was not The White Stripes, not even the Dirtbombs, no, but the gorgeous ennui-laden, all-female Slumber Party.
9. The Hot Toddies – “Seattle“
The Hot Toddies are from Oakland, California. No wonder they sing about the Pacific Northwest.
I once spent a terrifying night in Oakland with three chairs wedged against my motel door, but you don’t want to know about that. You want to know how it’s possible to sound a little like Alvin And The Chipmunks singing The Vaselines or one of those limp-wristed jangle-pop bands, while creating bubblegum pop like the ’60s and K Records wrote it – bubblegum pop with a sharp tongue that tells of wet dreams and surf paradises, like the Pink Ladies from Grease reinvented for the Internet age. Every town should have one.
Damn, why did I have to mention Alvin And The Chipmunks? No way are the Hot Toddies ever going to ask my band for a support now.
10. Miu Mau – “Musu no hikari“
Just shut up for once, and watch. Pure minimal Laurie Anderson genius.
“[Pythagoras’] basic rules of tone relation are the basis of counterpoint. I follow those very religiously. Those are physical laws of the universe which cannot be altered- that’s the way they are and the way that tones and scales are put together” – Moondog, Perfect Sound Forever interview, 1998
11. Lust-Cats Of The Gutters – “Jet Boy, Jet Girl“
“Think about it: what is your job? Truth be told, very few people genuinely give a crap whether you like a song or not. I mean, your best friends might, but almost everyone reading anything you like only cares about whether they are going to like it or not. Your job is to describe it well enough for them to consider whether they might like it. If you say you like it and they like most of what you like, then that makes it easier – just giving a description with no measure of endorsement doesn’t really help. The question we ask our friends of anything they’ve experienced is normally ‘is it any good?’ That’s all: describe; recommend” – Correspondence from an Everett True “fan”
Fuck all the naysayers. This is Plastic Bertrand’s “Ca Plane Pour Moi” as viewed through the only filter that matters: punk rock. Lust-Cats Of The Gutters will never be this great again. Their music thrashes all over the place – in a nasty, tinny, tuneful, vivid way – recalling such luminaries as The Raincoats, The Shaggs, Ramones and red-painted broken fingernails raking their way across your back in the throes of passion
12. The School – “All I Wanna Do“
Who among us hasn’t wanted to be Tracey Ullman wanting to be in The Ronettes at least once in her or his life?
13. Veronica Falls – “Found Love In A Graveyard“
Veronica Falls and Neverever and Sexy Kids all originated in the same short-lived yet totally brilliant Glaswegian band The Royal We. Man, The Royal We were seven shades of brilliant. Man, the Neverever song is seven shades of brilliant. Man, this Veronica Falls song is seven shades of brilliant. Get the idea yet? I LOVE THIS MUSIC!!
“Somebody was trying to tell me that CDs are better than vinyl because they don’t have any surface noise. I said, ‘Listen, mate, life has surface noise” – John Peel, DJ, date unknown
14. Allo Darlin’ – “I Wanna Be Sedated“
See the comments regarding The Velvet Underground above (from the Tiny Microphone entry), and triplicate. Fucking Green Day and U2 and Pearl Jam and the rest of those bloated corporate cunts should be taken outside and forced to snort a truckload of ground-up return copies of Rocket To Russia until they understand this one simple inviolate rule: DO NOT TRY TO COPY RAMONES. If you want to cover them, don’t even think about it. Whistle, go limp-wristed, whatever … but do not attempt to copy them.
Allo Darlin’ has a ukulele and the sweetest of female voices, so they’re off the hook on all accounts.
15. Soda Fountain Rag – “Don’t Kill The Clowns“
Do not listen to this song. Its demand upon you will be insatiable. It will not let you rest for months afterward.
16. Frankie Rose and the Outs — “On Girlfriend Island“
The exact point where Dum Dum Girls meet Vivian Girls … which is barely surprising, given that Frankie Rose has drummed with both, and Crystal Stilts as well. Wait… Dum Dum Girls are missing from this mix tape? We need to rectify that, immediately!
17. Dum Dum Girls — “Blank Girl“
LAST MINUTE ADDITION: Dum Dum Girls play fuzzed-up, blissed-down sun-drenched femme fuzz … have I used that word yet? … pop. The ladies understand Joey and Dee Dee because Dee Dee and Joey always understood the ladies. The drum beat is pure early Vaselines, for what it’s worth. And the harmonies are pure Lower East Side.