Manchester Standards

a0151909486_10 Apparently this release was announced back in May, but I somehow managed to miss it. Christ knows how (apart from the Manchester scene in general not being all that great at the sort of relentless, fixed-grin, Blairite PR which you need to take you to the very top) because this amazing compilation album contains some of my favourite rough-and-ready guitar pop songs of the last few years, by some of my favourite bands from a city I’ve had more to do with musically than anywhere else other than Edinburgh. And I live in Edinburgh.

I don’t normally do this, but to give you an idea how excellent I think this release it, here is the tracklisting:

Side 1:
1. Former Bullies – Plantetarium
2. Daily Life – Alabaster
3. Temple Songs – $$$$$$’ $$ $ $$$$$$$$$
4. Waiters – Tomorrowland
5. Float Riverer – Pio Pio
6. Sex Hands – Way No Way
7. Hotpants Romance – Stop Escaping
8. Peace Signs – Hands Are Shaking

Side 2.
1. Gnod – Creedon’s Clearwater Revival
2. Butchers – Holding On, Hanging On
3. Weird Era – Summer Heights
4. Brown Brogues – Treet U Beta
5. Klaus Kinski – Riffy Bugger
6. The Bell Peppers – Bell Pepper Hop

If you’ve spend any time at all reading this blog over the last couple of years you’ll know that Sex Hands, Waiters, Former Bullies, Brown Brogues and Weird Era are firm Song, by Toad favourites. And if you’ve been round our house for a drink in the last couple of years, you’ll know that Tomorrowland, Treet U Beta and Alabaster are songs I absolutely will not stop playing at absolutely every available opportunity, even two or three years after first buying the singles. Truly awesome, awesome tunes. Why they are not FUCKING HUGE I have no idea. Probably because the world is just plain wrong about music, I guess.

I mean honestly, it offends me that people are getting all upset about that dreadful Robin Thicke video, not because it isn’t one in a very, very long line of offensively misogynistic pop videos, but because the music is so utterly fucking banal and he himself is such a desperately, dismally tedious cunt that absolutely no-one should have any fucking idea who the fuck he fucking is anyway.

What they should be doing is listening to the wonky thrum of Tomorrowland and wondering how to head-bang to such a slow song. Or rushing to explore the rest of the Brown Brogues back catalogue. Or wondering when the blazing fuck Weird Era will ever get around to releasing an album.

I don’t know all of the bands, of course, only about half. The Bell Peppers’ surfy stuff and the psychedelia of Temple Songs sound really promising, but I haven’t heard that much by either band yet, and the rest of the record – about half, in fact – is composed of bands I’ve never heard, although I’ve heard of a few when chatting to my Manchester pals about the various side projects they’re involved with. In fact, despite there being fourteen different bands on this album I reckon there are probably only about twenty musicians involved, given the Manchester DIY scene’s habit of shuffling musicians around and dealing out a few like a hand of cards and calling them a new band. That’s an exaggeration of course, but not by all that much.

The album itself is unified by its lo-fi recording aesthetic and pop sensibilities, but the style drifts from punk to psychedelia and from shoegaze to surf. It may be a little bit deliberately obscure, but it’s not deliberately hostile to the listener. You may or may not like the aesthetic of lo-fi guitar music, but believe me pretty much every single song on this (which I recognise, anyway) is a hugely accessible pop gem – even the Weird Era tune, and they generally bury their hooks and melodies as deeply as anyone else on here.

And herein lies the inherent contradiction which I love about the lo-fi garage revival: the style took me aback pretty significantly at first, and a lot of bands actively try and court noise, distortion, and more or less anything which will make the sound as un-playable to Radio1 as possible, but deep down this movement has produced the most instantly hummable, infectiously enjoyable pop tunes I’ve heard in years.

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