Monday, 31 August 2015

ZX+ - Don't Drink The Water

Lancashire's one man band releases latest ragbag of ideas, invention and razor sharp guitars.

Remember when indie meant music unshackled by label or audience expectations, rather the bland compromised genre it subsequently became in the wake of '90s Britpop? If you do or wish you did then you'll probably like Don't Drink The Water by ZX+. A ragbag of no fixed genre but brimming with energy and razor sharp guitars.

ZX+ is not a home computer revamped and re-branded by Sir Clive Sinclair, but the musical conduit for one Stephen Evans. The Lancashire-based musician has written, sang and played pretty much everything on the album, bar the drums. Neatly trimmed and non-indulgent for a self-produced record, it shape shifts between up-tempo wordy romps à la Arctic Monkeys and melodic McCartney-esque folksiness, with some Cardiacs style quirkiness thrown in for good measure.

This feeling of not quite knowing what to expect is one of the record's main strengths. The album opens with The Crazies which contains quiet/loud dynamics and Mick Ronson style guitar hooks. From thereon in were treated to delicate folksy instrumentals and rum tales over punky backing, all held together by excellent musicianship, attention to detail, quality song writing, and Evans' northwestern brogue. A highly enjoyable album that deserves to be heard.

Click here for ZX+ on Twitter.
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Monday, 24 August 2015

Papernut Cambridge – Nutlets 1967-80

An aural love letter to pop's last age of innocence. Papernut Cambridge's latest LP pays homage to the soundtrack of their youth.

One album I enjoyed last year was There's No Underground by Papernut Cambridge. A strong LP which mixed suburban sadness with soft psychedelia and '70s glam. It was a record that wore its influences on its sleeve. Those influences are now honoured in the form of 10 cover versions on their latest LP, Nutlets 1967-80.

It's a fan's labour of love. An unashamed sepia-toned trawl through the tracks of one's youth. At first glance it's a disparate selection of tunes but on listening it all makes sense. So what ties all these songs together? Apart from being of the same decade (almost), they all share a melodic inventiveness, invite you to sing along, and have a high feel-good factor.

There are big hits such as Jesamine and Love Grows Where My Rosemary Grows by The Casuals and Edison Lighthouse respectively, along with tracks not so well served by oldies radio stations – Lynsey de Paul's Sugar Me, Alvin Stardust's Jealous Mind and What Ruth Said by Cockney Rebel. The album ends with PC's take on Mikey Dread's 1980 track Rockers Delight. The reggae rhythms slightly at odds with the rest of the album's bittersweet pop, though no less engaging.

The 1980 cut off point is telling. By this time Thatcher was in power, the Cold War was at its height, music was getting increasingly digital, more machine based and somehow colder and less human. And though things wouldn't always stay that way a chapter of pop's history had ended. This album serves as a fitting tribute to those times. Redolent of flared jeans, star jumpers, Angel Delight, Smash instant mash potato and spending pocket money on 7” singles sold from a provincial town's white goods store.

This idea of the 1970s as a golden age of innocence has since proved to be somewhat misguided but this collection proves that the decade did at least have some great tunes. Pop would never be so unashamedly catchy again. Hats off to Papernut Cambridge for highlighting these overlooked gems.

Nutlets 1967-80 is an infectious, highly enjoyable companion piece to There's No Underground, and as with their previous recorded output is available on various formats, each containing different versions and mixes. It will put a spring in your step, a smile on your face, and tunes in your head that won't leave for days. You can't ask for much more than that can you.

Click here for Papernut Cambridge's website.
Click here for Papernut Cambridge on Twitter.
Click here for Gare Du Nord Records.