I wasn’t there in 1977. I wasn’t there when punk tore a fresh hole in the stratosphere. I wasn’t there when The Clash landed, or the Sex Pistols. But we’re going back even further than that. True to the postmodern spirit that brought so much of this narrative to the fore, post-punk was always, as Simon Reynolds pointed out, “less of a genre of music than a space of possibility.” That space was never chronological: Television, Talking Heads, Suicide, and several others were creating post-punk music long before punk broke. I wasn’t there either.
When Silence Yourself arrived, I was there. The marriage between post-punk’s avant garde, bass heavy riffs and punk’s unrelinquished desire for melodic populism hadn’t really been found since Bloc Party‘s debut in 2004 (if we’re being generous), and certainly not perfected since the Manics put out The Holy Bible 10 years prior. There were no manifestos left in rock music, it seemed. No more heroes. Savages had a manifesto. They ran it on the cover of their debut album.
“Shut Up” remains the most exciting piece of guitar music created in the 21st century. Like Tarantino, it didn’t borrow from those existing tropes; it stole. It was Magazine‘s “Because You’re Frightened” frisked and shaken for everything it had, and it was still utterly loveable, because, frankly, no one else had the balls to do it.
Three years on, Savages remain a glorious anachronism. Fay Milton, drummer for the London four-piece, is in ebullient form when I speak to her. The band are notoriously careful about what is (and, more often it seems, what is not) disseminated to journalists; every step of their journey is meticulously planned, with lead singer Jehnny Beth casting a cautious tone across many of the band’s interactions with the press. I ask Fay what she’s been listening to recently: “Um… my last played song was “Nutz On Ya Chin” by Eazy-E.”
We both laugh. I feel like this might be a blessedly uncautious interview.
When did dream pop become this decade’s lingua franca for kids with keyboards? At some point in the last decade, something tripped: Beach House became critical darlings; Bat For Lashes got Mercury nomimated, twice; M83 actually had a Top 40 hit. Christ, even The Sundays are back together. All of which suggests that Love is a Fridge, the sophomore album from Berlin duo Me and My Drummer, may have arrived at something of a zeitgeist.
However many shades of scarlet you care to mark between them, there are essentially two kinds of break-up song. If you’ve ever heard Elvis Costello & The Attractions‘ 1986 marvel Blood & Chocolate, you’ll know that the divine form of each can be found there: both the giddy, sarcastic glee of “I Hope You’re Happy Now” and the devastating “I Want You”. And while it’s clear that Basia Bulat‘s Good Advice pitches for the former’s optimism, there is more than enough doubt cast in the record’s frailer moments to make this a complex, emotional affair.
Some works of art take a little time to appreciate, of course. Your friend protests an early defeat: it’s a slow burner. It heats up halfway through the trilogy. It takes a few listens. Undoubtedly that can be true, and I don’t mind waiting; in the meantime, you’d better know how to tell a goddamn story. Five seconds into Lissie‘s My Wild West and I’m hooked, the opening instrumental rattling to a close just as it’s picked up pace. Already, I don’t care where she takes this story. I just know I’m going to enjoy hearing it told, and she’s not even opened her mouth yet.
“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” I don’t know if BOA ever went through a Camus phase at college, but they seem to have channelled some of the goalkeeper’s poignant spirit into their music. Freshly signed to indie label Hand In Hive – the folks who also brought us Drunken Werewolf favourites Saltwater Sun – the band have just unleashed their debut single, “Holier”. And boy, is it a dazzler.
Grace Mitchell has got this sewn up. They’re calling it “post-Yeezus“, but this is post-Born To Die: husky vocals honeyed with a slight Southern slur; pop melodies played out on huge, moody piano chords, strung together with that ballad-in-the-club production; and lyrical narratives that snake through a few well-worn metaphors to get to the same message: break the rules, stay up late, live fast, die young. “We live the DJ life, We go out every night.” In 2015, this is about as route one as it gets. Christ, there’s even a song called “Bae”.
Dolores Haze, you will remember, is the real name of the 12-year-old girl at the centre of Nabokov’s Lolita. At the centre of the room-spinning stupor these four Swedish women induce with guitar, drums and gutteral howls, there’s a similar mesh of innocence and experience to be found. This is the young band, after all, who describe their style as “goth sex, diva couture,” while sounding like they still kick out the jams in their parents’ garages.
The signposts are erected for all to see. I Thought The Future Would Be Cooler begins with a few tentative prods at a synthesizer, like a child exploring the instrument for the first time, before the song unfolds into a taut, Moroder-ish paean to human mortality. It’s a fine tradition, and one that stretches back well beyond YACHT‘s DFA Records background: rigid disco-punk melodies have long been the de facto soundtrack to your band’s pronouncements about, like, the future and stuff. You get to look like you don’t give a fuck, eyes now permanently rolled into the back of your head, while making it clear that you secretly do give a fuck, because politics. It’s a tricky balance sometimes.
Richey Edwards once said that he hated Slowdive more than Hitler, and while the benefit of hindsight may render the comparison a tad unfair, you could certainly argue that they have a lot to answer for. As well as the slew of obligatory reformations, shoegaze reluctantly reared its head once more around 2007, offering a whole new generation the chance to feel like they’d taken a bit too much ketamine and fallen asleep in a microwave. Enter Ringo Deathstarr, the Texan pedal-botherers now on their fourth album.
Five long years in the waiting, the release of Divers marked a sweet release for Joanna Newsom fans. Though many were still processing the unfathomable grandeur of 2010’s Have One On Me (sprawled across a three-disc format more befitting a Final Fantasy saga than a folk album), the scarcity of live shows only added to the artist’s mythical status. If there’s any concern about tonight’s performance, it’s that of living up to her critical beatification.