“You never give me your money/You only give me your funny paper/And in the middle of negotiations/You break down”
--John Lennon & Paul McCartney (1968)
Last column of the year and I’m scrambling to put it together. So it’ll be short one alas. However, I’ve decided to see out a great year for underground music by spotlighting two vital underground labels – Not Lame out of Colorado and Parasol from Illinois. Make sure you check the records out this holiday season at www.notlame.com and www.parasol.com respectively. On with the show…
Seize the World (Big Radio/Not Lame)
I had the privilege to meet up with Michael Carpenter early last year and listen to a copy of rough cuts from this solid & fascinating pop-rock album. A collaboration with Mark (Hitchcock’s Regret) Moldre, The Supahip is a tribute to the freewheeling pop-rock of 1968 to 1972, when pop was slowly but surely evolving into rock. Seize the World is also adamantly & unapologetically Beatlesque with fab songs like “Like Love” and “Tulsa” sounding like tracks John, Paul, George and Ringo just might have recorded after Abbey Road. Not quite sure about the cover of “Wouldn’t It Be Good” though.
Shaded Lodge And Mausoleum (Parasol)
The guitars shimmer, the vocals are otherworldly, the lyrics come across like cryptic alien languages and the production is epic and atmospheric. Welcome to the new album from the kings of subtle overstatement – David Jackson & Jonathan Scott aka Doleful Lions. It’s been three long years since the Lions blessed us with a collection of beautifully haunting songs that if you would just focus on the words would give you the willies for weeks on end. Tracks like “The Ghost That Haunts Your World Will Disappear,” “Satanic Blood” and “Slip Inside This Gateway,” gentle music aside, might have well been written by Slayer. Brrrr.
Wings (Not Lame)
Speaking of the macabre, the image on True Love’s Wings is a pair of wings, which has obviously been violently torn off a bird. Not a good start. Glad to report that the contents of Wings will soon make one forget its ghastly sleeve. The trio of Ray Kubian, Keith Hartel and Tom “The Squirrel” Beaujour do not mess around with the format that made sophomore effort – I Was Accident- so enjoyable. So expect loads of driving guitars, pummelling rhythms and strong melodies to dominate the proceedings. There are mid-tempo numbers that provide the welcome breaks in pace – “Hot Toddy,” “Asleep At the Wheel” & “Old Building” – but on the whole, one should strap oneself securely and then press play…
The Orange Peels
Circling the Sun (Parasol)
How does a three-piece band like the Orange Peels sound so um big? Simple: take the orchestrated nuances of Pet Sounds, marry it to the intimate folk-rock strains of Dylan & Big Star and saturate the resulting hybrid with the indie twee-pop magic of Aztec Camera, BMX Bandits, Orange Juice and mix well! The beauty of the Orange Peels is an uncanny ability to sound Californian and Scottish at the same time with such gorgeous tracks like “Long Cold Summer,” “California Blue” & “Boy In Space.” The delights of Circling the Sun are truly many and kudos to Allen Clapp, Oed Ronne and Jill Pries for delivering a minor indie-pop classic that would have suited the hipsters in 1975, 1985, 1995, never mind 2005. Highly recommended!
Hook Heaven – Volume 1 (Not Lame)
Forty tracks from the pop underground! Proof positive that the underground is alive and kicking. A prefect sampler and starting point if you’re beginning to believe all the good reviews that I’ve been giving artists and bands like John Hoskinson, Tim Lee, Vinyl Kings, Chris Richards, Tiger Mountain, Stephen Lawrenson, Vinyl Candy, The Heavy Blinkers, Jackdaw 4, Bowman, Kelly’s Heels, Star Collector, Eytan Mirsky, Frank Lee Sprague and the Shamus Twins. Can you really get too much (Hook) Heaven? Why don’t you find out for yourself?
Parasol’s Sweet Sixteen – Volume 8 (Parasol)
The same argument applies here with Parasol’s official sampler, now up to its eighth edition, which provides an excellent showcase of Parasol’s impressive roster of indie-pop bands. Some of my personal favourites are featured – Kevin Tihista, Unbunny, Timewellspent, Sukilove, The Like Young, The Green Pajamas and the like. In addition, you get tracks from bands just reviewed here – The Orange Peels’ “Something In You” and Doleful Lions’ “O Martyr Atlantis” – a great opportunity to discover the jewels of the pop underground of the ‘indie’ variety.
And with that, I wish you all a Blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year! See you in 2006!