Nearly Perfect Albums – #46  Boxer – The National

Mistaken for Strangers – The National (2007, Beggars Banque Records)

‘Boxer’ was a record that I bought on impulse after reading a review of it in a magazine.  The author wrote about the songs on the album and how they resonated with her.  She was in a miserable relationship with an older man who she had outgrown and she had barely spoke to him in months.  She was scared to leave him because she thought her parents would be disappointed with her.  She made the songs, the singing voice of Matt Berninger, the way the music flowed over it all sound so utterly marvellous that you couldn’t help but want to hear it.  So I went out and bought it and haven’t regretting it for one second.

It was my first introduction to The National and one that I am eternally grateful for, I mean sure I would have heard them somewhere else and sure I would have read other reviews of their other records, but as someone who has tried and (largely) failed to carve a career out of writing about music, that review was outstanding and exactly the sort of thing that a journalist should be writing.  I used to dream about writing reviews that are so captivating that someone will buy a record just because of what I have written about it. 

Anyway, let’s talk about the actual album, ‘Boxer’ is a rather grand record.  It kicks off with ‘Fake Empire’ which is swept in by a simple piano riff and crowned a few minutes later at its crescendo with a brass fanfare that feels gently triumphant.

Fake Empire – The National (2007, Beggars Banquet)

That triumphant feel remains throughout the album and for the most part is actually amplified across the album by its music rather than Matt Berninger’s trademark baritone, which whilst exceptional, is often a little bit refrained.  An example is in ‘Apartment Story’ which is utterly absorbing, Matt’s vocals are perhaps deliberately hushed, especially when the backing vocals join him.  What’s not hushed is the guitar riff that floods the song and the simple piano that accompanies it.

Apartment Story – The National (2007, Beggars Banquet Records)

Despite the triumphant feel (and I’m toying with replacing ‘triumphant’ with ‘confident’) there is still a theme of loss and tragedy running through the album, certainly in its excellent middle section.  That starts in ‘Apartment Story’, runs through ‘Slow Songs’ and then reaches its zenith with ‘Start A War’ where loss or a breakup I would imagine, is pretty much the only thing on the agenda “Walk away now and you’re gonna start a war”, Matt sings as an uncomfortably claustrophobic rhythm settles in.

Start A War – The National (2007, Beggars Banquet Records)

For me the standout track comes close to the end, track 11, ‘Ada’.  Which kind of emphasises the whole music thing.  The piano (played by Sufjan Stevens) on here is as perfect as a piano can be, the brass, all solemn and church like, is perfect, the crash of guitars at around the three minute mark is perfect and deliberately overpowers Matt’s repeated ‘Ada’ mantra which is relegated to the background.  It’s a brilliant song.

Ada – The National (2007, Beggars Banquet Records)

I can’t remember the name of the journalist who that original review of ‘Boxer’ but if you are on the off chance, reading this, thank you.

Oh and as its New Years Eve, we’d better have a blast of this.

Retrospective Musical Naval Gazing – #5 (1995)

The second year of my editing of the music pages of the student paper allowed me to expand my end of year top ten to a top thirty of both singles and albums.  I won’t go into details because most of it was garbage (and number 24 actually was Garbage) but suffice to say it was an eclectic mix of indie, hip hop, trip hop, techno, house and electronica.  It drew criticism.  A female wrote in and called me a misogynist because I had apparently put a song that glorified domestic violence at Number One, whilst a chap called Simon called me an idiot for leaving out ‘Alright’ by Supergrass. Swings and Roundabouts.  Simon if you are reading, ‘Alright’ by Supergrass, is shite and so are you.

We Don’t Need Nobody Else – Whipping Boy (1995, Sony Records, Taken from ‘Heartworm’)

‘We Don’t Need Anybody Else’ doesn’t quite glorify domestic violence (although, you could argue it has a funny way of showng it) but rather looks at the unhealthy and complex relationships that can escalate with unpredictable consequences.  Yes it has that lyric “I hit you for the first time today….Christ we weren’t even fighting…” and everything that it seems to indicate but it is so much more that line.  The intensity of the lyrics as they are delivered and the way the music explodes around it, is, and remains, staggering.

Most people argued that the song at number two should have been number one and in retrospect they were probably right as it was this: –

Common People – Pulp (1995, Island Records, Taken from ‘Different Class’) and it is still quite simply one of the greatest songs by any band anywhere in the history of music.  It doesn’t sound it but ‘Common People’ is actually quite a political song because underneath those irresistible hooks is anger at those who identify as working class to try and be more authentic.  It is a record that defined a generation.

Elsewhere in the Top Ten were tracks by the likes of Oasis (‘Some Might Say’ at Number 9), Radiohead (‘High & Dry’ at Number 8), Black Grape (‘Reverend Black Grape’ at Number 6) and Ash (‘Girl From Mars’ at Number 4). The rest of the top ten were tracks where a guitar could barely be heard.  At Number Three for instance was this :-

No Government – Nicolette (1995, Shut Up and Dance, Taken from ‘Now is Early’) which despite being released three years earlier got a well deserved re-released and was something I described as “Majestic jazz infused magnificence”.  Which of course it is, but its also full of laid back breakbeats and Eartha Kitt style vocals.  It still sounds marvellous today as well.

At Number five was a track that ushered in the next big scene to emerge out the dying embers of Britpop,  At first the press called it Amyl House, and then after several of the main acts starting hanging out with indie pop stars it morphed into Britbeat but that was terrible and so in a hail of trumpets, 303s and arpeggiators, the NME proudly invented ‘Big Beat’ in homage to the colossal beats that Fatboy Slim threw into a series of remixes of indie pop classics.  Me, I put it a bit more simply when I made ‘Leave Home’ a single of the week.

 “Throw out your Suede records you sad indie losers and dance like bastards to this instead

Leave Home – Chemical Brothers (1995, Virgin Records, Taken from ‘Exit Planet Dust’)

Finally at Number Ten, a record that I still love today. 

Release Yo’ Delf – Method Man (1995, Def Jam Records, Taken from ‘Tical’) – it was the first in a hip hop triple header, at eleven was Gangsta’s Paradise and at twelve ‘Criminology’ be Raekwon.

Retrospective Musical Naval Gazing – #4 (1994)

1994 was the year I discovered the joys of writing, firstly through a small record shop produced fanzine where I wrote reviews of bands I’d seen in London and then through the student newspaper, where I had inherited the rather grandiose title of Music Editor.  A position I think I held simply because no one wanted to do it and I owned my own CD Player. 1994 was the first year I actually got to publish my top ten tracks of the year to people regardless as to whether or not that the wanted to read them or not. 

If they read those pages they would have seen this sitting unsurprisingly at the top of the tree: –

Live Forever – Oasis (1994, Creation Records, Taken from ‘Definitely Maybe’) – When Oasis were good and back then when they first emerged swaggering into view, they were very very good, there wasn’t a band who could touch them.  My notes on this back then read

“…even if their chest thumping bragging is a bit annoying you cannot deny that right now, after the self pitying nonsense shovelled around by the grunge bands, music needs Oasis.  It needs their attitude; it needs their songs and it definitely needs the way that Liam drags out a one word syllable…

I think I was absolutely right as well.

At Number Two in the 1994 rundown was this: –

Caught by the Fuzz – Supergrass (1994, Parlophone Records, Taken from ‘I Should Coco’) – I listened to ‘Caught by The Fuzz’ for the first time in the car of a Sony Records Employee who was driving me to interview a band called Molly Half Head who were playing at an Arts College in nearby Farnham.  It blew my tiny mind.  Supergrass managed to pack more energy and style in just over two minutes than most bands managed in their entire careers.  Something I revelled in telling the singer of Molly Half Head when he tried to tell me forty minutes later that his band had made ‘The album of the year’.

Elsewhere in the Top ten were tracks by Beck (‘Loser’ at 3), Beastie Boys (‘Sabotage’ at 4) and Elastica (‘Connection’ at 5). But those tracks feature on here all the time so luckily at six, seven and eight were tracks by bands that perhaps don’t get talked about as much as perhaps they should.

(I Wanna) Kill Somebody – S*M*A*S*H (1994, Hi Rise Records, Single) – such was the controversy surrounding this record that S*M*A*S*H deleted it a week after it was released.  This didn’t stop (and in fact, it helped) it becoming one of the most ferocious songs to get into the Top Thirty, it didn’t talk about killing people, it actually named several Tory MP’s who deserved to be hung from the nearest lamppost (“Virginia Bottomley, especially”).

Seether – Veruca Salt (1994, Minty Fresh Records, Taken from ‘American Thighs’) – back to the original review from 1994, which hasn’t aged terribly well.

Until some genius forms a punk band that only play country and western covers and calls it ‘The Huck Finns’ Veruca Salt remain the only band named after a child from a book that you need to listen to, and that includes you Belle and Sebastian.

Pink Carnations – Animals That Swim (1994, Elemental Records, Taken from ‘Workshy’) – Something that I thought at the time was quite a bold and leftfield pick, I was probably trying to be a little bit obscure and cool. 

Retrospective Musical Naval Gazing – #3 (1993)

In 1993 I was at college and my end of year lists were written on the reverse of some old Sociology notes all about Robert Merton and his theories of Anomie.  It was a great year for music but what stands out is not what is on that list but what isn’t.  The Boo Radleys don’t feature, Bjork doesn’t feature, Suede don’t feature, The Breeders don’t even feature and if (and possibly when) and my list is rewritten, this is the one year that would almost certainly be entirely changed.  1993 is undoubtedly influenced by my girlfriend at the time.

Pushing all those missed opportunities to one side, this, topped my Top Ten.

Today – Smashing Pumpkins (1993, Hut Records, Taken from ‘Siamese Dream’) – which was for about three months everywhere.  It was the track that all the cool people in all the cool pubs were dancing to.  It has one of those guitar riffs that is instantly recognisable (if you forget that another band Stiltskin ripped it off chord for chord about two months after it was released and went straight in at number one) and is one of the few tracks from grunge explosion of 1992 and 1993 that has stood the test of time.  Talking of which let’s look at the track at Number Two.

Sodajerk – Buffalo Tom (1993, Beggars Banquet Records, Taken from ‘Big Red Letter Day’)

In 1993, Buffalo Tom were something of a well kept secret, despite the fact that they had played on the main stage of the Reading Festival and had in the previous two years released a series of essential singles that should have turned them into one of the biggest bands in the world but for some reason unbeknownst to the entire human world, they did not.

1993 was the year that I turned eighteen.  I remember having a small party on the edge of some woods.  We had a few bottles of cider, a tinny stereo and some home made cake.  My girlfriend made me a tape for that party and that tape dominated the party due to it being more relevant and exciting than anything on offer that evening.  That tape which rose to legendary status in our friendship group, provided the tracks at numbers three, six and nine on my end of year Top Ten.

At Number Three was this: –

Thundersley Invacar – Collapsed Lung (1993, Deceptive Records, Single) – A Thundersley Invacar was a small (usually) blue car designed especially for those with disabilities, my wife’s grandad had one.  Collapsed Lung were a kind of half rap half grebo act who a few years later would become household names when they had a hit with ‘Eat My Goal’.  ‘Thundersley Invacar’ was one of their first singles but it definitely wasn’t the third best record released in 1993.  It might scrap into the Top Thirty if I were to rewrite this list.

Something else that probably wouldn’t make the Top Fifty if I rewrote this list would be this track sitting at Number six: –

Eject – Senser (1993, Ultimate Records, Taken from ‘Stacked Up’)

I remember absolutely raving about the debut album by Asian Dub Foundation when it came out in 1998 and sending tracks from it to a mate of mine who sent me a letter (remember letters, they were great) telling me that “Asian Dub Foundation are shameless Senser rip off merchants”).  They weren’t they were much better.  Number six, what the hell was I thinking?

The only track from the list from 1993 that might be in the right place on the original list was the track at Number Nine

Stutter – Elastica (1993, Deceptive Records, Taken from ‘Elastica’)

Retrospective Musical Naval Gazing – #2 (1992)

1992’s end of year list was scrawled on a piece of paper that was tucked inside an old folder that I was using for my ‘Business Studies’ course.  The fact that there was more writing about music in that folder than there was about Business Studies probably tells you everything you need to know about what I thought about studying Business Studies. 

My 1992 Top Ten was very indie heavy something that wouldn’t change until around 1995, but it’s still even today a very good list.  Some of the entries are in different coloured pens as well, which probably means I was doing something like revealing a different song every day or some such nonsense, but sat at the top ten, in blue and underlined was this: –

Medication – Spiritualized (1992, Dedicated Records, Taken from ‘Pure Phase’)

‘Medication’ is an astonishing record, it starts all whispered and vulnerable sounding but descending into a complete avalanche of guitars, feedback, and crashing drums.  It is classic Spiritualized, and whilst it may not be their finest moment and ‘Pure Phase’ may not be their greatest album (it kind of bridges a gap between their two monoliths and gets overlooked because of it, well by me at least) back in 1992, it sounded incredible.

1992 was of course, the year that I somehow managed to get myself a proper girlfriend, one that would shape my world for at least the next 16 months on and off and much of the top ten (and tomorrows) is heavily influenced by her and my friendship grounds as well.  For instance at Number Two was this: –

Summer Babe – Pavement (1992, Big Cat Records, Taken from ‘Slanted and Enchanted’) – which is a record that I still utterly love and was a record that she introduced me to. It is a track, for a reason that I have long since forgotten, that I always play every time I sleep somewhere new, this is mostly done via headphones now, but when I moved into my halls at university, it was played very loudly.

Elsewhere in that Top Ten at numbers four, seven and eight respectively are tracks by other bands that I still love today more than thirty years after first hearing them

Sheela Na Gig – PJ Harvey (1992, Too Pure Records, Taken from ‘Dry’) – the first time I head PJ Harvey I was eating a bowl of Rice Krispies.  She was the featured artist on a Channel Four breakfast programme and her debut album ‘Dry’ was everywhere at the time.  By the end of that day I had ‘Sheela Na Gig’ on 12” and it remains in the vinyl cupboard today.

Creep – Radiohead (1992, Parlophone Records, Taken from ‘Pablo Honey’) – Near the start of 1992 I went to London to see Kingmaker, the train was late and by the time I got to the venue (which I think was the Town & Country Club) the support band was near the end of their set.  That support band was Radiohead and even though I saw three songs, they were still someway better than an entire Kingmaker set.

Reverence – Jesus and Mary Chain (1992, Blanco Y Negro Records, Taken from ‘Honey’s Dead’) – In December 1992, I saw the Jesus and Mary Chain at Brixton Academy and it was and still is one of the greatest gigs that I have ever been to.

Retrospective Musical Naval Gazing – #1 (1991)

The recent rundown of the best tracks of the year has sent me into some sort of musical nostalgic revelry.  I have for the past month or so been compiling list of playlist of my favourite tracks from every year since 1991.  These may or may not turn into some sort of series over the coming months but until then, over the next few weeks I will present five or six tracks one from each year 1991 to 2021 of the songs that made my end of year top tens.

Let’s start with music that is now well over thirty years old, and if that doesn’t make at least one of you feel utterly ancient then I’m going to give up and go and live out my days in a comfy home and watch daytime telly.

1991 was a landmark year for me, for a start it was the year that I became a proper music aficionado.  It was the year I started going to gigs with mates and the year that I kind of threw off the shackles of childhood and starting investigating girls, cigarettes, alcohol and staying out later that ten pm. It saw, according to last three pages of my old CDT text book, brilliant life changing music releases from Nirvana, Primal Scream, Teenage Fanclub, Leatherface, The Wonderstuff and the KLF but the track that topped my singles of the year list was this: –

Pearl – Chapterhouse (1991, Dedicated Records, Taken from ‘Whirlpool’)

Which is still sounds brilliant today.  The drum sample, the whispered vocals, the feedback laden guitars, everything.  In the summer of 1991, shoegaze sounded fresher and more exciting than pretty much anything that I had listened to before.  That was of course until the Reading Festival when Nirvana arrived on a Friday afternoon played before Chapterhouse and killed the scene dead.

Nirvana featured in the Top Ten as well, with ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ being placed quite low at Number Seven.

Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana  (1991, Geffen Records, Taken from ‘Nevermind’)

At number two in my rundown that year was this:-

The Concept – Teenage Fanclub (1991, Creation Records, Taken from ‘Bandwagonesque’)

It was the brilliant run of singles lifted from ‘Bandwagonesque’ that made me start to enforce the One Song per Band rule, because below ‘The Concept’ at Number five was ‘Starsign’ such was the draw of ‘Bandwagonesque’ at the time.

Elsewhere in the Top Ten at Number Three and Nine respectively were these two blasts of indie pop marvellousness.

Size of A Cow – The Wonderstuff (1991, Polydor Records, Taken from ‘Never Loved Elvis’) – I listened to ‘Never Loved Elvis’ again the other day and I’d forgotten just how must reliance there was on fiddles and mandolins running through it.

After the Watershed – Carter USM (1991, Rough Trade Records, Single) – Of course, Carter USM would be catapulted into musical history a few weeks later when live on TV at the Smash Hits Poll Winners Party, Fruitbat would suddenly fly through the air and rugby tackle a clearly baffled Philip Schofield to the floor.

Nearly Perfect Albums – #45 – Capacity – Big Thief

Haley – Big Thief (2017, Saddle Creek Records)

When a band names their debut album ‘Masterpiece’ a bunch of alarms start ringing.  It is a bold move, because ninety nine times out of hundred, that album will not live up to its name.  However, Big Thief proved to be that one in a hundred exception.  This of course begs the question as to why I am sitting here telling you all about the bands second album ‘Capacity’.  Because, it is even more of masterpiece than ‘Masterpiece’.  That’s why.

The central theme of ‘Capacity’ is one of friendship, love and family.  This runs all the way through the record, from its cover, featuring singer Adrianne Lecker, as baby being held by her uncle, to the songs which name checks friends and family.  Its pinnacle is ‘Mary’ which is a five and half minute love song dedication to Lenker’s best friends from childhood.  Lenker sings fragilely over a gentle piano as a proper cascade of vivid lyrics tumble out of her mouth with ease.  It is the most remarkable five and a half minutes out of a remarkable forty one minute album and frankly if you only listen to one song today, it should be ‘Mary’.

Mary – Big Thief (2017, Saddle Creek Records)

It’s not all quiet whispered folk rock songs that are full of emotional lyrics and vast soundscapes though.  The title track for instance is a sweeping affair, full of crashing drums and spiky guitars that sounds a lot like the guitars do on a Throwing Muses album, they whirl away, again it’s marvellous stuff.

Capacity – Big Thief (2017, Saddle Creek Records)

The albums centrepiece is a track called ‘Mythological Beauty’ which details rather horrifically the way a mother comforts a child in the backseat of car after some sort of bad accident.  There are lyrics about “Soaking up blood” and about “not letting my baby die”.  Lenker pretty much screams (well, a Big Thief sized scream that is, which is more of a quiet growl) this last bit and her voice and the guitars for matter sound really close to breaking.  When you consider that for the majority of this record, Lenker’s voice barely gets louder than a hushed whisper this sudden explosion of emotion is both stunning and surprising. 

Mythological Beauty – Big Thief (2017, Saddle Creek Records)

There are lots of bands that write songs that develop into stories.  Stories that the band want to share.  Stories that introduce us to characters who may or may not be real.  Stories that tell us about times when a person has been subjected to some terrible things or stories of past loves, or past memories of happiness are relived.  There are very few bands who manage to make those stories, those characters, those events seem so human.  Big Thief do that, and on ‘Capacity’ they certainly do it better than perhaps any other band has done for the last ten years or so.

The thing I love about ‘Capacity’ is the way that Big Thief mix the darker moments (as seen in ‘Mythological Beauty’) and blend them with the lighter moments.  They also rejoice in it, that is what makes it human.  It is literally a rough and smooth kind of record. Wounds heal, people adjust, they live with the scars, however they are made. ‘Capacity’ is a truly a thing of wonder.

Black Diamonds – Big Thief (2017, Saddle Creek Records)

Merry Christmas everyone, No Badger Required is back on Boxing Day with the start of a series of posts which are expected to be the musical equivalent of retrospective naval gazing.

The No Badger Required End of Year Top Ten Tracks

Number 1

2-Heh-V – DAMEFRISØR (2022, Permanent Creeps Records, Single)

So on the last working Friday before Christmas, a day commonly known as ‘Black Eye Friday’ around my way, comes the No Badger Required Track of the Year.  A track that dropped as far as back as the spring and one that has been on heavy rotation ever since.  A track that combines the feedback addled guitars of shoegaze, robotic synths, computer aided samples, and soundscapes so deep that you need crampons just to venture into them.  It is a track, to keep the analogy I rather clumsily started at the top of this paragraph going, that has given the rest of the music on offer this year a black eye.

Welcome then, if you haven’t heard it yet, to ‘2-HEH-V’ the wonderful second single from Bristol’s superstars in waiting DAMEFRISØR. And I‘m hoping that you have all noticed the capital letters in the name.

When a computerised vocal at the start of a song tells you that it is “Perfect”, the best thing you can do is listen, and then agree, because folks, ‘2-HEH-V’ is just that, perfect in every way.  You are pretty futile to resist its charms because it will win you over, so you might as well just give in now.

As the computerised voice fades away, up strikes a synth straight out of the Big Book of Synths Chapter on OMD.  That is accompanied by a faint mumbly bass, some crashing cymbals, about a dozen or so screeching guitars and a desperate vocal that drips with biting sarcasm fuelled out of tired apathy that asks you repeatedly: –

Are you Over it yet? Cos, I am

The way the vocals are also spat out against the backdrop of everything else going on around it is frankly a beautiful thing, it moves the song from simply being very good to one of utter greatness.  ‘2-Heh-V’ is a song that will pretty much sound brilliant wherever you hear it, be live in a club or in a field, or in a lounge at three in the morning or at noon when the world has started to slow down.  It is a song clearly inspired by My Bloody Valentine, by Primal Scream and by the Chemical Brothers and it is utterly stunning and a worthy winner of the No Badger Required Track of the Year.

I know what you are thinking….Is this a one off, will the rest of their tracks be anywhere near as good? Well a few weeks back the bands released ‘Horizon’ which serves as a taster for the debut album which will be released next year and I think the future looks very promising indeed.

Horizon – DAMEFRISØR (2022, Permanent Creeps Records, Single)

The No Badger Required End of Year Top Ten Tracks

Number 2

Pavlova – Colour TV (2022, Tip Top Recordings, Taken from ‘How To Ask’)

There are very few songs that can make me dance around a kitchen whilst making soup.  I mean its not something that I make a habit out of, for starters dancing whilst holding a sharp knife is not encouraged. However, the first time I listened to ‘Pavlova’ I did exactly that and to be honest with an opening line that tells you, “I took to dancing, it wasn’t an epiphany….” it seemed utterly foolish to do anything else, even if it meant burning the onions. 

You see normally if a band recorded a song where the chorus hinged around a lyric as simple as

 ‘Come on Over, Anna Pavlova

I would laugh them out of town. 

I definitely wouldn’t dance around the kitchen holding a knife and sing it back at them as loud as I can, but damn it that is pretty much what I have just done, because ‘Pavlova’ is brilliantly simple and brilliantly brilliant because of it.  It’s not just the lyrics about hangovers and dancing though, it’s the way that what sounds like a keyboard (or is it a piano?) tinkles away subtly behind the guitar, like it knows it’s place.  It’s the way the hook from the guitar soars and transports the song to an altogether different place.  It’s the way the vocals switch ranges (and the way that opening line is delivered is really quite remarkable).  Its just an incredible song.  Like the best bits of Gene, Suede and that mob from Manchester that Rule #2 of the No Badger Required Manifesto forbids me from mentioning all rolled into one glorious flamboyant beast.

Colour TV make that sort of song, because they are that sort of band.  A band that deserve to be, and almost certainly will be, anything that they want to be.  They have an ability that most bands would chop off a leg to achieve.  Their songs belittle their tender years, the maturity in their music (and this is only their second release) is astonishing.  The ability to write songs that are so lyrically evocative and so damned catchy is rare and this lot have it bundles.

Talking of astonishing the closing track on the bands second EP ‘How To Ask’ is almost as good as ‘Pavlova’.  A seven minute track about heartbreak that is as poignant as is epic that draws out every inch of emotion that you might have in its final couple of minutes. It’s the sort of song that a fifteen year old me would have scrawled the lyrics to it on the back page of an exercise book and then marvelled at how intricate the arrangement of it is, whilst weeping into a pillow about the fact that no one wanted to kiss me (and to be honest I still do that a lot thirty years later).

For Belugas – Colour TV (2022, Tip Top Recordings, Taken from ‘How To Ask’)

Oh by the way, this is the 400th No Badger Required Post. Have a secret number related track in celebration of that.

The No Badger Required End of Year Top Ten Tracks

Number 3

Men on the Menu – Flossing (2022, Brace Yourself Records, Taken from ‘World of Mirth’)

Heather Elle, used to be the bassist in Bodega, before the pandemic allowed her the space to re-evaluate her life.   She then decided to form the band Flossing and has since then released two Eps full of art rock stompers.  The second of those EP’s ‘World of Mirth’ arrived earlier this year and its opener ‘Men on the Menu’ is an incredible three minutes of industrial synth pop with (and I almost shudder when I type this) a breath-taking saxophone solo stuck in the middle of it.

Its an angry song, lyrically very visual as it name drops Sonic Youth, The Rolling Stones and the Stone Roses in the same breath as sticking a fork in the bollocks of blatant misogyny, manipulation and aggressive masculinity. Its an incredible and assured sounding record.

I once said that ‘Men on the Menu’ is the sort of track that sounds best when played exceptionally loud at a grimy warehouse party at around one o clock in the morning. Well, the other day I tried this, only it wasn’t exceptionally loud, and it wasn’t a grimy warehouse party, but rather a cottage in the wilds of South Devon at the arse end of a 70th birthday party.  It was about 1am though and it turns out I was right it sounded bloody amazing.  I mean no one danced and everyone gave me some odd looks and asked me to “Put U2 back on”.  My arguments that I was doing a musical scientific experiment fell largely on drunken and deaf ears as I was shoved out of the way and ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ regrettably filled the lounge for something like the twentieth time that night.  Honestly, you can’t help some people.   ‘Men on the Menu’ was the greatest song that was played that night by some distance and I played ‘Where’s Me Jumper?’ at least once.  That’s how good it is.

‘Men on the Menu’ features on the second Flossing EP ‘World of Mirth’, which was released towards the end of summer.  It is an excellent EP, all the tracks fuse electro and indie in a devastating way.  The second track is ‘All We Are’ and the way in which the vocals switch between distorted and whispered mumbles to full on shouting in the chorus fills you with energy

All We Are – Flossing (2022, Brace Yourself Records, Taken from ‘World of Mirth’)

The first Flossing EP was called ‘Queen of the Mall’ which got a release back in September 2021 and has a much more indie rock sound than ‘World of Mirth’.  Its still pretty ace though.

On Read – Flossing (2021, Brace Yourself Records, Taken from ‘Queen of the Mall’)