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Tuesday, October 21, 2014Waiters – What For Art Thou

waiters Ahh, Waiters. I was writing about Sex Hands earlier today, and that put me in mind of our first Split 12″, recorded back in the Winter of 2011 I think, and if I recall Waiters were the first band we actually recorded.

I’d had plenty of good results with the Toad Sessions by then of course, but I was still nervous, and the Waiters songs are the first and (and to date still the only) songs where I personally have made technical mistakes which threatened our ability to use the actual recordings themselves.

It turns out that by sheer good fortune we were able to work around my errors and for all they were one of the most low-profile bands on that Split 12″ (except maybe Dolfinz who seem to have quietly drifted off into non-existence) I am still so proud of the songs they did with us – that sense of sad, lazy melancholy still feels to me like some of the best stuff I’ve ever recorded.

I offered to help them record an album in the same way afterwards, but for apparently they wanted to work at a slightly slower and more deliberate pace. It’s a shame, but that kind of thing happens with bands, and you can’t push anyone into something they aren’t entirely comfortable with, particularly not at this level where none of us are getting rich out of any of this.

Anyhow, Jon moving to the States seemed to put the brakes on a Waiters album permanently, but I forgot that a while back they asked me about this recording. I loved the songs, but at the time I said that I thought it would be financially a bit crazy, because 12″s are expensive to press, and you can only really sell a four-song EP for so much.

CF Records in Belfast, however, seem to have disagreed, which is excellent news. They specialise in short-run and limited edition releases, and clearly have a lot more experience in this area than I do, and I am delighted this release has found a way in the end because the songs are fucking ace. If you look at the rest of their releases you’ll see what I mean – so much good stuff.

This stuff embodies so much of the stuff I love about Waiters. I love Joe’s voice – just a little bit flat, in a way, but with such a warmth to it. When he sings sad songs you really do believe him, and for someone who likes sad music as much as I do that’s quite a big deal. The rhythm section chugs along mechanically but a little uncertainly, almost as if it is struggling to hold the whole song together. I don’t think these lads rehearse all that much, so that ‘about to stumble to a standstill’ feel may be simply an aesthetic choice or it might simply be what was actually happening in the room when they recorded.

Grey Matters and Mirror Threat are just gorgeous songs, and classic examples of that thrumming rhythm, slightly plaintive vocal delivery and unobtrusively downbeat atmosphere which make Waiters songs so compelling, and which made me so excited about the first Split 12″ when I pulled them off the desk and started the mixing process. I sincerely hope that between Joe’s stuff with Water World and Sex Hands, Perry’s fantastic Comfortable on a Tightrope stuff and umm… well I’m actually not all that sure where Jon is living now, that they still find the time to keep this band going, because they are bloody ace.

Waiters – Vacillate Wildly from Song, by Toad on Vimeo.

Sex Hands – Pleh

sexhands Listening to this has been a surprisingly nostalgic experience for me. The reason for this is that Gay Marriage, Chandler in a Box and The One Where the Stripper Cries were all recorded and mixed by myself for our first ever Song, by Toad Split 12″ some three years ago, and hearing their proper versions on a full album is rather an emotional experience, albeit in a quiet little way.

Invariably I find myself listening to the album versions of those songs and wondering if they are somehow closer to what the band wanted than what they got from us, or whether they preferred the performances or whether they simply rattled all the songs together in one session and these are just the current versions, rather than any kind of improvement. This is sort of creepy ex-boyfriend behaviour, I acknowledge that, but it’s almost impossible not to fall into the trap.

Without wishing to insult the band, it’s something of a weird thing to find what is basically a smart-arsed concept band by its very definition (all the songs are about episodes of Friends, in case the song titles above didn’t give it away) progressing from a few catchy singles into the relatively legitimate territory of releasing a debut album.

In a way, once you get the joke, you could argue that the band itself doesn’t need to exist much beyond that. ‘Friends? Yeah, right. Oh wait! Holy shit, they were fucking serious!’ and that’s about as far as you have to go.

Except this is a really, really good album. I am not allowed to use the word ‘garage’ to describe them, because apparently they have never been anywhere near a garage, but you know what that means as a sort of stylistic shorthand of course: rough-and-ready guitar pop songs, with plenty of growl, a bit of thrash from time to time and muffled vocals.

And, basically, the tunes are fucking great. From the instrumental guitar intro of Space Song, to the faintly surreal experience of listening to hugely hummable songs like On A Break whilst knowing exactly which intensely tedious dead horse the Friends writers were flogging at the time they wrote all the source material. Christ, that fucking thread just refused to fucking die. But it’s a cracking song.

And this brings me to something which might sound like over-rationalisation: the number of times people go into intense critiques of what depth and what subtlety they find in pop music, when this is almost by its very definition anti-intellectual. It’s shallow and basically frivolous, and let’s see what the writers at places like The Quietus or Pitchfork, where the serious music writing is done, actually make of this. I mean, it’s about Friends, for fuck’s sake, meaning that as soon as you have anything serious to say you are already being mocked by the nature of the record itself. It’s like music writing has been pre-satirised.

So really there’s nothing to be said about this. It’s a weird, silly record with awesome tunes and you should buy a copy because it is hugely enjoyable to listen to. It’s just pop music, I suppose.

Sex Hands – Chandler in a Box from Song, by Toad on Vimeo.

Thursday, October 16, 2014Jonnie Common – Trapped in Amber Album Launch Shows

Jonnie Common Album Launch Digiflyer

Jonnie Common‘s glorious new album – yes, seriously, glorious – is being released into the world on Halloween of this year (pre-order your copy here) and to celebrate, we are arranging some launch shows. And they will be fantastic. Therefore you should come.

Aberdeen is (tragically) going to be the last Citizen Mule gig, so please give the silly oaf (Stevie, not Jonnie) a good send-off. The Edinburgh show is in the rather gorgeous Pilrig St. Paul’s, halfway down Leith Walk, and on the Saturday night in Glasgow the Save-As Collective have a special night planned, with a Miaoux Miaoux DJ set and everything.

The album is great, the shows are going to be great, I am just chuffed to bits all round with this whole business. And not a cynical comment in sight. What’s happened to me? It’s like I don’t even know myself anymore.

Thursday 13th November – Aberdeen
At Downstairs, with Christ and Colin Austin – tickets £5 on the door

Friday 14th November – Edinburgh
At Pilrig St. Paul’s with Wolf – tickets here.

Saturday 15th November – Glasgow
At the Glad Cafe with Wolf & Ross Sutherland – tickets here.

And just for fun, here is Jonnie’s new single.