21.5.12

DENIM : Summer Smash EP (EMI, 1997)

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It must be "a sign". The sun came out this afternoon - for the first time in weeks it seems - & then this prescient pop gem randomly popped up while I was shuffling through iTunes. So it's only natural that I should post it here, right?

I'm sure you're au fait with the whole agonising story by now. Back in August 1997, Denim were poised to unleash their surefire "top 10 with a bullet" masterstroke, the radiant "Summer Smash" 45. The band had recently completed a highly successful tour support with Pulp (themselves at the peak of the notoriety, Jarvis having wittily clambered onto the Brits' stage a few months earlier), & Radio 1 had added "Summer Smash" to their all-important daytime schedule. Thousands of coloured vinyl 7"s, CD & (I've been led to believe) cassette singles had been pressed & were stacked in EMI's warehouse, ready to be shipped out to the country's record shops (& there were still rather a lot of those back then remember). At which point... Diana, Princess of Wales' chauffeur driven limo slammed into the Pont de l'Alma underpass at high speed & EMI, in an incongruous display of "good taste", cancelled the record's release for fear of further upsetting the grieving nation. All copies of "Summer Smash" were recalled & swiftly incinerated, & the band's completed 3rd album - the elusive Denim Take Over - was subsequently aborted, while Lawrence unceremoniously dropped. Rumour suggests that - actually - EMI had been wanting to off load Denim for some time, & opportunistically used The Queen Of Hearts' untimely passing as a convenient excuse (surely not!). Having vanished overnight, "Summer Smash" became an instant collector's item (copies now fetch £50+ on eBay), while the Denim Take Over master tapes were spirited away to a maximum security vault, several miles beneath Abbey Road (though glitch-ridden mp3 are available online if you know where to dig). A handful of "Summer Smash" EPs fortuitously escaped the rout however, & Lawrence himself claims to have liberated a box of each format before they were junked, so perhaps he's allowed a few to leak out over the intervening years for posterity's sake, & to help perpetuate the myth?

It's strange to think that, if "Summer Smash" had made it onto Top Of The Pops, we might now fondly look upon Lawrence as an eccentric one hit wonder, a momentarily amusing 90s equivalent of 70s chart chancers Sailor or Chicory Tip, rather than the Lieutenant Pigeon-inspired Syd Barrett figure he's since been idly painted as? And it's chilling to consider that he may have become a staple of those ghastly "100 Hit Songs Of The 90s"-type compilation shows that have littered the nation's t.v. schedules for the last decade as a result - a narrow escape, sir! (It's a tragedy that Lawrence's proposed appearance on Ant & Dec's show, driving a dodgem in Mozart attire, never transpired though.)

So then, here's "Summer Smash" in all it's sunburnt splendour, backed with the "Sun's Out" (bed & breakfast weirdness in Paignton with Little & Large) & a wholly appropriate Moogie cover of Terry Dactyl & The Dinosaur's "Seaside Shuffle". As usual, I've tossed in a couple of interesting, contemporaneous extras: the instrumental edit of "Internet Curtains" (b-side of "It Fell Off The Back Of A Lorry" & employed throughout the current Lawrence Of Belgravia documentary), the promo-only "Glitter All Over Again" (recorded with The Glitter Band - Lawrence must've been in Glam Rock Heaven!), & the unreleased "Lorra Laughs Cilla". The latter is taken from the suppressed Denim Take Over tapes, but has since been rehashed as "At The DDU" for Go-Kart Mozart's Tearing Up The Album Charts LP. It took me a l-o-n-g time, but I warmed to the gloriously absurd Go-Kart Mozart ("the world's first b-side band") eventually, despite Lawrence's reckless attempts to sabotage the affecting pathos of his lyrics with teeth-grindingly garish & contradictory "novelty rock" accompaniment - "He made The Smurfs sounds like The Blue Nile", as the NME once put it. In case you haven't been taking notes, almost all of Denim Take Over has been plundered for the Tearing Up The Charts & the imminent On The Hotdog Streets albums, albeit with a careful few lyrical amendments ("Denim Take Over" becomes "Lawrence Takes Over", "City Of The Dead" becomes "Mickie Made The Most, etc). Lawrence's songwriting remains stunningly poignant on occasion, bleakly hilarious (or downright barmy) on others, further proof that he didn't senselessly scupper his muse after Back In Denim, it was merely downsizing & self-medicating. That said... I'll always prefer The Splendour Of Fear to Denim On Ice, OK?

4.5.12

OPPOSITE SEX : Opposite Sex (2012)

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Believe it or not, curating as poorly written & seldom updated a blog as this one still doesn't deter cheerfully demented folk at obscure "austerity measure" record labels from sending me -albeit very occasionally - gratis copies of their latest releases. I choose to ignore them on the whole, as I don't want to waste time & space writing about music I'm not 100% enthusiastic about, but Opposite Sex's eponymous debut is simply way too good to let slip by without a mention (huge thanks to "micro independent" Fishrider for the promo copy).

From Gisborne NZ, Opposite Sex's unorthodox, accidental pop songs have already acquired the unguarded approval of Marc Riley, so chances are you may have heard a song or 2 by them already, providing you're Radio 6 inclined (I'm not). Musically, they're informed & motivated by Rough Trade's fertile 1978-80 period, & the entire LP is a glorious kaleidoscopic collision of many of the principal Peel-endorsed bands from that first "D.I.Y. aesthetic" era. The influence of The Raincoats, The Homosexuals, Mo-Dettes, Delta 5, Flowers, & Family Fodder is particularly evident, but they also hark back to the Flying Nun-instigated Antipodean underground too - particularly the brilliant Shoes This High, & lesser known Marie & The Atom - while, elsewhere, their faltering melodies & stumbling rhythms suggest a more than passing knowledge of the C-86 movement's unkempt angularities (e.g. the Ron Johnson junta). Several tracks sound like Dolly Mixture grappling with a thrift shop copy of the Cabaret soundtrack - faintly bizarre, but rather magical - Weimar influenced songwriting is that last thing I would've expected a Kiwi post-punk band to indulge in, frankly! Semi-randomly, Opposite Sex's general disposition reminds me of The Shop Assistants devil-may-care dash through their untutored cover of Mötorhead's "Ace Of Spades" (from their November '88 Peel session) - i.e. a band totally undaunted by it's lack of conventional "ability", eagerly playing to absolute limit of it's talents in a triumph of catalytic amateurism. Enthused, witty, arty, risk taking, & with a conspicuous lack of pose, Opposite Sex sound near perfect to me right now. And Peel would've adored them, most definitely.

A loose trio, formed around Lucy Hunter's tumbling basslines & unaffected vocals, Opposite Sex's ingenious bricolage of skewed guitar mauling (Fergus Taylor), frenzied drumming (Tim Player), & Nuggets-style organ scree (dunno) scrambles along, raw & unfettered, with a pulsing naiveté borne of a remote & hurried gestation. Following a brief exploratory visit south to support The Puddle, Lucy & Tim have since moved islands, relinquishing Gisborne's Northern seclusiveness for Dunedin's less remote, & far cooler (in both senses of the word) Southern climes. Fingers crossed, their relocation won't infringe on the guileless "home made" simplicity (& relative lack of expertise) that makes this debut LP so outstanding?

The album has been picked up by Occultation for British release. No chance of live dates here just yet however, according to Fishrider the band are so skint they can't afford to travel back to NZ's North island for gigs, let alone the U.K. - another reason why you should buy the LP & not just rip it off from some dodgy blog.

You can listen to the album here: oppositesex.bandcamp.com