This is going to be in a leaflet but I thought I’d add it here as an intro to the last 12 months of lockdown. It’s a brief introduction to the music section of Nerve Magazine. Always remember folks that music and politics are forever intertwined, don’t believe anybody who says otherwise.
The Screaming Target writes for you
Welcome to the music section. And so, to quickly get to the point, who would have imagined, just over twelve months ago, that we would be running headlong into a pandemic, lasting now for over a year. And, as I write this piece we still haven’t seen the last of it according to the news (but does anybody read the news now).
So, how has it affected the music industry? Is it in a good way or a bad way, and from that, what information can we amass from looking at various music situations. Both national, local and beyond. Australia comes to mind here in terms of different communities across the globe having had to deal with the pandemic. The British lockdown since Christmas being particularly harsh, lasting over three and a half months.
In terms of musical curtailment the obvious activity that comes to mind is playing live. But add to that finding a recording studio open (if you lack the facilities yourself), rehearsal spaces closed, and having to keep in touch with absentee band members.
But it appears from listening to the various different musical adventures that arrive in the office, nowadays it’s via computer (no CDs anymore), that many of the artists I’m listening to at the moment wish to reflect this unease felt by society through the music they produce. The albums reflect the age group (mostly young people) who find themselves placed in this particular moment in time.
Many are for the first time experiencing loneliness and in some cases forced celibacy. One of the songs featured a few months back would focus on the problem of addiction which has become an issue for some during lockdown. Young, and old for that matter, are now having to find better methods and coping strategies to be able to deal with specific problems that might arise. Now finding that network systems have been taken away, perhaps due in part to the Covid restrictions placed on us.
As I mentioned before it’s not just young people who are struggling in these changed situations. Older people too are finding normal social interaction becoming harder through the closing down of normal networks. Due to everything going practically online. It could be said though that social interactions within society are becoming more difficult anyway.
So what are the musical ideas that link the various bands together and grace the pages of Nerve website at the moment. It seems that a fusing together of different styles seems to pervade most of the recordings, well, the ones I select anyway, I try to look for alternative bands. Pop is I feel is too well served in other places.
An example of this is the experimental boy/girl duo from Iceland, BSÍ. Their latest album seems to mix ambient DIY sounds with riot girl punk rock. The band found the title of their latest platter “Sometimes depressed but always anti-fascist” on a t-shirt promoting mental health. This seemed to suit the anarchic nature of the bands alternative asthetics.
Another artist called simply Ade. His latest platter “Midnight Pizza” describes a certain voyeurism in terms of spending too much time on social media at home. He sees this as an indulgence of sorts, similar to having a midnight pizza. Considered not good for your health.
This being the product itself, and the late hour it’s being consumed. But what the heck, you do it anyway. Based in New York Ade plays most of the instruments on the album himself. Once again it could be described as a mixture of different styles taking in aspects of indie rock and world music. Through this, he creates a hybrid and takes the urban genre into a new and exciting direction.
And finally, Ariel East. I reviewed the album a few months back. But now it neatly fits into the sequence presented here. “Try Harder” draws upon memories of teenage years spent in suburban Texas. The songs touch on themes of alienation, hence the title of the album “Try Harder”, she hopes that people can perhaps come together through the record.
And so as we move out of lockdown (hopefully) we can perhaps look back retrospectively as to how the arts have been affected by the events of lockdown. It’s interesting to note that the work produced at this time is of a very high quality. Perhaps with the touring schedule put to bed the bands can concentrate on the music. It seemed to work for the Beatles.
At the end of one of my reviews, I prompted the idea that musicians would look back at what work was produced during lockdown and would sigh and wish lockdown could return, you just can’t win can you.
Concerning the local scene, many venues have closed for good leaving a gap of places groups can perform. Not just local bands but touring bands as well. Hopefully this can be rectified at some point when the hospitality sector gets back on its feet.
The DIY possibility was the way many types of scenes had begun in Liverpool, you could include all types of art works here, not just music. And in its wake it would help to bring forward new talent.
I remain optimistic that if this kind of route is followed, rather than the usual small cluster of venues who will try to promote a certain scene. Which has probably been manufactured to suit whatever purpose (and what is that?)
Rather a musical culture that autonomously emerges from the grassroots. In a future issue I will discuss with local bands how lockdown has affected them in the past twelve months and a way of moving forward.
So, Phew! After the ranty bit here are the tunes folks, it’s a mixed bunch this month, variety is the name of the game.
Bachelor is a collaborative project between two musicians, Jay Som’s Melina Duertre, and Pale Hounds Ellen Kemper. Having both previously been fans of each other’s respective musical efforts. The friendship was cemented after the two bands played at the same gig, where afterwards they decided to keep in touch. Regular correspondence followed over the months finally deciding to put this musical project together.
The collaboration seems to work. The album being an interesting mix of musical styles The tracks, hard rockin’ at times, are overlaid with brilliant harmonies. These stand out as many albums I feel of late lack this quality of arrangements and musical versatility.
At times sounding like a cross between The Beach Boys “Pet Sounds” and the rock/folk crossover of Led Zeppelin’s “Houses of the Holy”, this is good company indeed.
The album begins with a song destined to become a staple of classic indie rock, “Back of my hand”, the world weary lyrics have the touch of magic that made Elliot Smith and The Moldy Peaches so brilliant.
The question remains as to why they didn’t put this out as the first single as it’s such a strong song in itself, but that said it makes a brilliant first track. The alternative textual feel carries on with the second track, “Sand Angel”, the kind of kool trip the Stooges would take you on, with a relentless riff this reminds me of “Dirt” from the second Stooges album. Like the aforementioned track this builds in intensity throughout.
This blending of styles, as mentioned before, was the hallmark of bands like Led Zep who would effortlessly glide from folk to hard rock.
Written and recorded last year pre-lockdown for two weeks in January comes out on Lucky Number at the end of May.
BSÍ – Sometimes Depressed…But Always Antifascist
Available as download on Bandcamp
Also available as vinyl limited to 400 copies
“Sometimes Depressed…But Always Antifascist” the title inspired by a T-shirt logo mixes low-fi melancholy ambient tunes with riot girl surf punk.
The two styles reflect the bands alternative moods. The ambient side could be described as a reconciliation with being human. Depression, anxiety and loss. The realisation then that you cannot overcome everything in this world. And being at peace, upon this new found revelation.
The riot girl side talks about women dealing with negative male energy. Males that exhibit these tendencies are called “donakallar” In Iceland. The punk style of the songs reflects optimism for the future away from oppression. And perhaps looks towards a female world revolution.
BSÍ are one of the most unconventional bands from the DIY/DIT (do it together) scene in Iceland. It comprises the boy/girl duo Sigurlaug Thorarensen (drums vocals) and Julius Pollux Rothlaender (bass guitar, toe synths) written and recorded during the pandemic The group would like to feel the album offers us a hope for the future. And we can look towards sunny summer days again. It’s an optimistic record then.
Ade based in New York has probably made one of the most innovative albums of 2021 in terms of creating a new style of music.
At a cursory first listen, you could be mistaken for thinking it’s just another urban themed album. But on closer inspection he skillfully mixes together various musical and non-musical sounds to create what could be called sonic exploration. And through this process creates a new urban hybrid perhaps.
In art terms, you could call Ade a cut and paste artist, making what could be described as a series of sound collage’s from various sonic materials he has assembled together.
I think what also makes this album different is the wide musical palette that he draws inspiration from, indie rock, Latin and rhythm and blues.
The atmosphere painted in “Midnight Pizza” is a series of vignettes about an urban lifestyle in the depths of New York, which include strange relationships, staying up late and eating midnight pizza. That being just a few of them. But, perhaps from personal experience I’m sure in years to come Ade will think back and say yes, that was a great pizza. It’s also a great album well worth checking out.
Seprona – Phone Me Back
Available as download on Soundcloud
Seprona produce their own brand of bouncy Scouse pop. Based in Liverpool the band take their cues from the history of classic Liverpool anthem rock.
They describe their musical leanings as Funked up indie pop. The coral gets a name check here as do others but The Coral seems to fit the bill in this case.
The new single “call me back” about a drunken tiff. it’s the morning after the night before that’s another song isn”t it. The character of the song is desperate to get his girlfriend to call him back after the row.
But how many phone call songs have there been in the history of pop? My favorite is “He’ll have to go” by Jim Reeves Which has the male protagonist calling his wife / girlfriend to tell her she has to leave the bar and the guy that she’s drinking with and come home.
The power though rests with the woman. The song written in 1959 could be seen as quite revolutionary really for a male songwriter to talk about such things in the patriarchal south in America at that time. But looking at the credits I found it was co written by Audrey Allison with her husband Joe so there you go folks it’s a brilliant country song.
As of writing I have no information on local gigs as yet. But it’s worth checking if the band are playing any live gigs soon; they seem like a good live prospect. As they have played a few support slots with up and coming bands, till the pandemic put an end to live gigs of course. It will be interesting to see what else is planned in the world of Seprona.