I don’t know about you but I can’t tolerate music reviews which prattle on about things like the “zeitgeist” and “ennui” yet singularly fail to let the reader know if they actually liked a certain album, song or single. I also hate this modern habit of foisting genius or legendary status onto people, who quite frankly don’t deserve it, Bobby Davro is not a legend, Frank Skinner is not a genius, for F**k’s sakes, there’s even a “ Post Office Ken” myspace page, he of the highly irritating TV ads featuring those dreadful warbling Irish wooden heads from Westzone or Boyslife or whatever they’re called. People are actually leaving him messages!“Ken, you legend”, “Ken u iz da Biz”“Ken you genius”etc, etc -. No, No, NO! Have these miscreants had transorbital lobotomies?Ken is an annoying tool, a vacuous corporate marketing tool- a living legend or genius? – I think not. This sort of nonsense fills me with a sense of ennui and surely cannot reflect thezeitgeist?
But back to the subject in hand, is The Indelicates debut album “American Demo” any good? Well, I can say, hand on heart it really does deserve the accolade “ F**king genius.” At this early juncture it’s already a strong contender for album of 2008. I had of course expected something special given the quality of the singles that have been released and the demos that have been floating about online for a while, but this has exceeded my already high expectations by a country mile. In short The Indelicates have produced a stunning debut album that can be enjoyed on many levels and covers a myriad of issues. It’s the sound of a band really finding their voice. They’ve rarely sounded more assured and passionate, and to quote dear old Johnny Rotten they really do seem to “mean it, man.” “American Demo” does that rare thing in music these days and actually challenges the listener’s preconceptions about pop. I can happily report it’s not always a comfortable experience, for example “Unity Mitford” is a beautiful song, musically and lyrically (“Like Romeo and Juliet/In a bunker, shot through the head”) but hang on a minute, should I really find this song moving, after all isn’t this about one ofBritain’s most notorious Nazi sympathisers. Yet here I am singing along like Doris Day baking apple pie with a tear in my eye, about the lady, who many believe may have had Hitler’s baby.
“New Art For The People” may initially seem to be a heart wrenching, darkly romantic tale of obsessive love, “And it’s so sad but they’re so glad/ that you’re so bad for me/The dark days ahead and the blood/ on the bed and the cover of the NME” But wait -there’s something else happening here too, it transpires it may actually be more about self importance, selfishness, single mindedness and self harm, an obsession with a new aesthetic and exploitation in the name of art – Yes, let us make this new art and change the world, except ….nothing really changes, the world remains indifferent.
“If Jeff Buckley Had Lived” is an evocative poetic slice of genius which deals with how Jeff Buckley may have been treated if he had not foolishly disregarded the Health and Safety Executive’s prudent advice -“No swimming in rivers wearing steel toe capped boots, whilst listening to Led Zeppelin” “If Jeff Buckley had lived/And his voice still was heard/On the weak second album /And difficult third” Indeed, would Jeff Buckley have been so revered in life as he is now in death, could he have sustained the promise and have earned the iconic status that has posthumously been bestowed upon him- or would he have suffered what is commonly known as “the back lash”“If Jeff Buckley had lived/He’d have been short on the throne/And counted his life out/In an old rockstar’s home”
The album also features the singles, “Sixteen,” “Julia, We Don’t Live in The 60’s” and fantastic reworkings of “The Last Significant Statement” and “We Hate The Kids” all of which seem to take on a new potency within the framework of an album rather than just merely being great tunes in isolation. There is also the new single “America” which could well be an alternative west end show stopper in a parallel universe, complete with dancing soldiers and marching bands. It knocks Bernstein’s and Sondheim’s song of the same name into the proverbial cocked hat.
“American Demo” is powerful, angry, funny (yes kids they do have a sense of humour) poignant, honest, thought provoking, at times incredibly moving, and utterly brilliant. At the end of the day (sporting cliché alert) what more can you ask for from pop music?The Indelicates tackle challenging subjects with a lightness of touch and a subtlety, which, at times, make the Manic Street Preachers tendency for heavy-handed overwrought bombast appear about as consequential as a 2 Unlimited single. They have certainly raised the stakes, and posed the question- can this album be bettered in 2008? –Or is “Everything that follows a footnote?” We shall see, purchase “American Demo,” you won’t be disappointed and of course you could well contribute towards making The Indelicates uncomfortably fashionable.
Phew! An Indelicates review that doesn’t mention the famous PD’s –Polka Dots or Pete Doherty, …Oh… erm…… …
“The Last Significant Statement To Be Made In Rock n’Roll” -By The Indelicates
Sometimes to understand the present we must look back into the past…………………..
Once upon a time, old school chums Julia Clark-Lowes and Brighton based “musician”/promoter/children’s TV actor, Monster Bobby read a magical book “The Manual: How To Have A Number One The Easy Way “ by Bill Drummond. So inspired where they by Mr Drummond’s instructions they decided to form a girl group with a sound and image that harked back to the halcyon days of the Shangri-la’s, of Motown, of Phil Spector’s “wall of sound”, and back to a time when female groups ruled the pop world “before the Beatles came along and ruined everything” and so it came to pass…. The Pipettes were born. However, in time, Julia decided, this was n’t something she was comforatble with, it was a lie , fakery, smoke and mirrors and told the band of her plans. Alas, this was when things turned nasty, Monster Bobby (living up to his name “Bobby”) refused point blank to let Julia leave, even going so far as appointing renowned celebrity lawyers Alan Dershowitz and Robert L Shapiro to study the small print in her contract and to block Julia’s escape from this polka dotted gulag. Tragically two original members of the Pipettes backing band the Cassettes were killed in the blood bath that ensued, as full-on war erupted in the musical world of Brighton. Yes artistic types in the area were routinely “wacking” each other and being a guitarist, a singer, a bassist or even a drummer, proved to be one of the most hazardous forms of self expression during those dark and violent times. The victims were many, yet horribly Luke Pritchard survived unscathed and this was the real tragedy of the “Brighton Indie-Pop War.” But even such futile acts of random violence failed to soften Bobby’s attitude “Lady, you’ll not sing in this town again” he pronounced as he threw his head back and laughed manically whilst chomping on a cigar and stroking his malevolent, hideously misshapen cat, the rancorous Dr. Sample. But Julia had already made up her mind, bullying wouldn’t cut it and she kicked Monster Bobby in his nob .
She later met a dashing young fellow called Simon, a poet, oracle and Brighton’s very own haruspex, a chap who believd in truth and justice and a chap who shared Julia’s musical vision and together they started to hatch a cunning plan aimed at bringing some semblance of peace to the war torn Brighton music scene…………………and then they thought “nah , F**k it let it fester,” and moved to Lewes
Well that’s what I’ve been told , ok so maybe it’s been slightly embellished over the years, possibly added to, and interwoven with half-truths rumour and innuendo, the official version is simply that Julia left to pursue other interests. Maybe she didn’t see updating the girl group template as simply shaking your ass, smiling and doing a mans bidding ? (Listen to “Our Daughters Will Never Be Free” for an insight.) Since those dark days Julia and Simon have since emerged with a new project, “The Indelicates” and along with the addition of Alastair Clayton, Kate Newberry & Ed van Beinum, they have produced a pop band of great wit, savage intelligence and heart.
They have released a number of critically acclaimed singles via “Sad Gnome” and “Weekender Records” and, to add to the ever-growing list of exciting releases due in 2008, the year will also herald the release of their debut album. The Indelicates are a band who are original, passionate, and clearly have something of substance to articulate to the masses…..if only people would turn off Gary bloody Barlow and listen…but we’ll say no more as Simon Indelicate possesses a far more eloquent tongue than us. Mr VP had a chat with Simon, and it soon became apparent he was utterly out of his depth, in fact within minutes his brain was waving a little white flag of surrender as Simon eloquently machine gunned his questions into a thousand tattered pieces which fluttered away on the breeze like so much cheap confetti ….……
VP: Lets surreptitiously combine the traditional how you meet/form a band introductory question with the awkward question…..Here goes… How did you meet up? Was this at a time when Julia was in her polka dot Period? Where you indeed perceived as kind of male Yoko Ono the big difference being the band didn’t break up and nobody got shot. Did you both have the same ideas as to the musical direction you wanted The Indelicates to take?
S.I: I hardly think that the difference you refer to is THE big one – I can think of several bigger differences, at least one of them underlined by the fact that I have never seen anything referring to me as the male Yoko Ono before. Besides, I thought the Beatles ruined everything? Surely that makes Yoko one of the good guys. Also, don’t be so confident that no one got shot – you don’t know what happened to the first Becki. (For the avoidance of confusion, here is a winking smiley face… 😉 .) As for having the same ideas: no. That would have made communication rather pointless and the evenings dull. We had similar ideas roughly concurrently.
VP: Following your debut single in 2006 “We Hate The Kids” you’ve released two singles this year “Julia, We Don’t Live in the 60s” “Sixteen” as well as an Ep “The Last Significant Statement To Be Made In Rock n Roll ” you also have your debut album due for release in March, do you have anymore details, a track list? The title? The producer? Any surprises ??
SI: The album was produced by Brian O’Shaughnessy who did all of Denim/Felt/etc, Screamadelica and Star Trekkin’ by The Firm. The title ? I can say that we had several titles and that we chose the one that made us the most nervous (“American Demo”) As for track listing and surprises – well: there are no songs with Pete Doherty in the title for one thing, it could arguably be described as ‘neoconservative’, it has a steel drum on it, it’s 53.7 minutes long and it has vocal cameos from 17 people.
VP:Billy Bragg once sang “mixing pop and politics he asks me what the use is….”, would you describe your music as in anyway, protest music or political?
S.I. Yes. Making an attempt at truth is something I value in music. We are educated, thoughtful types who read books and argue about political issues – so it would be deeply dishonest of us to write songs about how much we enjoy fun. I don’t enjoy fun particularly. I’m violently allergic to alcohol; I’m monogamous by inclination and have never found heartache particularly interesting. I do care about truth and society and ideas – so I write about them. I can see why being political is regarded with suspicion, though. Too often, political acts are no more interesting than the satire on the News quiz – mentioning the names of politicians to get a recognition laugh. That Ann Widdecombe, she’s fat isn’t she, eh? Blair’s a poodle, Bush is bad, globalisation’s bad, and war is stupid. Musicians who make such statements should pay more attention to information theory – simply, that the information content of a statement is reflected in its surprise value. It is not unexpected that an angry young lyricist should think war stupid, nor does it impact the way that war is perceived – its information content is therefore zero and its cultural value worthless. It is perhaps a small ambition, but I would hope that our lyrics have information content greater than zero.
VP: You don’t write songs about “hot chicks”, “fast cars “booty” or “bling,” this has led to some to label you “clever” and (whisper it,) even pretentious, what would you say to such ludicrous accusations?
S.I: As I say, it is not pretentious to say what you think as clearly as you can manage. It IS, on the other hand, pretentious to do anything other than that. It is pretentious to conceal your meaning behind words and sentence structures not commonly understood (as the postmodernists do) just as it is pretentious to imitate dumbness from an assumed position of smartness. More though, I think when people rail against pretension in music, it is because they think it should be constrained within a base definition of low-culture that they themselves impose. It seems to me that if rock and roll has a function at all it is to subvert the mainstream – but this means it is defined by the mainstream, a stream which changes. In the fifties and sixties the mainstream was an American society that feigned a buttoned up, suburban, rational civility while it allowed grotesque segregation and lived in constant fear of a bureaucratic nuclear annihilation; a counterculture that retreated into drugs, dancing and slack was precisely the right one to move the world forward. The world did move, the hallmarks of that counterculture became the mainstream. Now the globalised mainstream feigns an anti-rational, opened-top-button, city based creative civility while it allows appalling poverty and lives in fear of faith-based terrorist annihilation; a counterculture that retreats into drugs, dancing and slack doesn’t deserve the name. If that’s too pretentious for ya, kids, then you can fuck off into the irrelevant stupor you belong in 😉
VP: There seems to be a lot of things going on, Julia’s photography, The Band Who Must Not Be Named, The Book Of Job- the musical, John Kerry JK47, The Bathroom Choir.. With so many ideas whizzing around do you both have trouble sleeping?
S.I. Yes. We do. And thank you for bringing all that up, it makes sleeping even harder when you have to schill it yourself…
VP: The song “Waiting For Pete Doherty To Die”, it could be said caused a bit of a stir, for all the wrong reasons. You don’t want him to die, you quite like his music, but was it more of a comment on the feeding frenzy and the build ‘em up knock em down mentality that’s whipped up by the media? And if so don’t you think that maybe that people who court the media are asking for trouble?
S.I. It isn’t a comment on the media in particular, it’s as much a comment on the kids who allow themselves to be conned. I’m fine with the media, much of it is ace. The Pete Doherty thing is just sick all over. Heroin is not romantic or interesting – its just depressive selfishness in powdered form. People who can only talk about how on drugs they are or aren’t boring. People who, as a consequence of informed choice, dribble in front of you are repulsive. People who encourage it are worse. More specifically, as I’ve already said, drug-addicts peddling romanticised nationalism are not what is required to oppose our current mainstream. It is not unexpected to be presented with a Byronic rock star with a smack habit and an apparent death wish, so such an artefact has zero information content. In self-aware moments like ‘Fuck Forever’, Pete Doherty is really excellent, it’s the sound of something I used to love dying, and that excites me. Or, more to the point excited me. It’s kind of old news now.
VP: You seem to be huge in Germany, what do think it is that you’ve touched within the German psyche to produce such adoration?
SI. It is our love of laughing at the misfortune of others while listening to high-tempo comic orchestras.
VP: The internet has had a profound effect on music and entertainment, where it’s almost a case of access all areas. One view is that this has created a lack of anticipation , albums are leaked, you hear a song on the radio and in seconds it can be downloaded, there’s no thrill of hunting down that obscure track…its all on tap now.. Do you think this culture of instant gratification is devaluing music, or is this a new and exciting age that has taken the power from the huge recording corporations and given the artists more creative freedom
S.I.: This is a much bigger thing than music. I think that the free and unrestricted movement of data (including recorded music) is a massive, brilliant, epoch-defining concept. From my computer I can already tap into almost the entire sum of human knowledge within moments, and so can nearly everyone else in any free society. Bloggers in Burma can be heard around the world. Areas of scientific research with hidden connections and unforeseen applications can find each other in ways that have never been possible before. Artists can access any influence, any idea, anything at all that will spur them on to better and more informed work. Any negatives, any little concerns about copyright or wistfulness for bygone ages, or gains and losses of power by guitarists and cd salesmen are so minute in comparison to this utterly incredible change that I can barely comprehend why anyone would bother to bring them up.
VP: What with the likes of Prince and Radiohead pretty much giving away their music, 2007 has been described by some as year zero for the music industry. Looking back on the year what have been your musical highlights?
S.I.: The Flesh Happening are amazing, as are Philip Jeays, and Lily Rae – you should Google them. Carter USM reforming was brilliant, but you should listen to their new projects too, I just got Jimbob’s new album and it’s really fantastic. Post Soothing Out on Art Brut’s album made me sob like a chucked teenager. I saw a band in Worcester called Red Zebra who were very good indeed and we went to the new staging of Cabaret which was even better.
VP: The Nostalgia factor? What your view on this deluge of criminally naff acts reforming and milking the cash cow just one more time (I’m of course referring to bands like Take That, Spices, Boyzone- and lets face it, it’s only a matter of time before Steps are reinvented as “iconic”, “cool” or “legendary”)
S.I. “I don’t have one, it has no effect on my life whatsoever. Except to say that I suspect when Gary Barlow says that he could rule the world he really, really means it. We should watch him. If he ever gets arrested outside a beer hall, don’t let them broadcast the trial.
VP: Who would you say are your heroes/ sources of inspiration (musical or none musical?)
S.I.: I don’t really approve of artistic heroes – they encourage the view that art is privileged above other crafts. You wouldn’t get very far as a joiner if you spent all your time writing blogs about how kind and normal the guy who took you on as an apprentice is. I feel this acutely as I get very star struck when I meet people I admire and find myself entirely unable to have worthwhile conversations with them – rarely getting beyond, ‘I likes your albums, Mr. Haines’ before leaving hunched in a miasma of shame. I also think that when people ask who your influences are, the answer they usually get is just a list of credible people that the artist wants to be seen to like. I would like to be seen to like Luke Haines, Carter USM, Milton, Swift, The Who and Ezra Pound. When I think about it, though, on at least one occasion we’ve recorded a solitary handclap on a single to make it sound like Supertramp – but I can’t very well say them now, can I?
VP: What would you hope for in 2008, be it on a personal level or indeed on a global scale?
S.I.: Solvency. And voluntary universal atheism.
VP: If I were to walk into William Hills and place a bet on yourself and Julia appearing within the glossy pages of “Hello” in the next five years would I be wasting my money?
S.I.: Depends, you might get a good story out of it. And now you bring it up, Julia did reorganise a shelf yesterday and our living room is looking particularly classy and welcoming.
VP: Which five words would you say are the most clichéd and least significant to be used in rock n’ roll?