After Guided By Voices reunited in 2012, the band went into recording overdrive. Robert Pollard’s abilities to be prolific were always known – at any one time, he could be working on a variety of projects – but few would have suspected the band would release three albums of brand new material in a little over ten months. Their comeback disc ‘Let’s Go Eat The Factory’ was a return to many of the ramshackle lo-fi experiments that filled the much-loved ‘Alien Lanes’ and while it sounded great upon release, time has allowed a little rust to set in. Some of the moments that sounded like welcome imperfections now sound like generic GBV filler rather than lo-fi quirks. Thanks to a few amazing tunes – and a really catchy single in ‘Doughnut For A Snowman’ – it’s worth a spin once in a while, but looking at the much bigger picture, it ranks somewhere in the mid table of the band’s vast output.
‘Pop Up Jim Bob’ comes seven years after Jim Bob’s previous studio album, but in that time he’s been doing anything but resting. There have been Carter USM reunion gigs; two massive and critically acclaimed solo tours and, as J.B. Morrison, he’s written award-nominated novels. You can say what you like about this man, but you could never accuse him of being lazy. Compared to his Carter days, Jim’s solo work has sometimes been overlooked, but as those who were present at any of his “National Treasure” shows – or have been lucky enough to catch him at other times with pianist Chris-TT – will attest, he’s lost none of his lyrical bite. Those still paying attention after 1997 have known the pleasures of Jim’s sweary cookery teacher (‘Mrs. Fucking MacMurphy Teaches Food Technology’), Ray Davies-esque romances transplanted to the inner city with added heroin for the heroine (‘In The Future All This Will Be Yours’) and supermarket unrest (‘The Tesco Riots’, a number that melds a very Carter USM-ish lyric with the kind of bluesy arrangement you wouldn’t have found within a hundred miles of his previous band’s albums). With most of his best work carrying a strong narrative, Jim has continued to be one of the UK’s most distinctive songwriters, regardless of any musical differences.
To the Average Joe, the Britpop movement is likely best remembered by two major incidents: the Blur vs. Oasis rivalry which reached its peak in a race for the #1 spot in August 1995 and Jarvis Cocker’s stage invasion during Michael Jackson’s appearance at the Brit Awards in 1996. Neither had anything to do with the music itself, but were both big enough to over-excite the tabloid press. Those with more of a musical interest might also associate the period with great music from The Bluetones and Cast; hit-makers that managed regular chart appearances, but due to neither band having a tabloid friendly loudmouth a la Noel or Liam, weren’t always so sharp in making themselves known outside of the music papers. Both deserved much bigger success than Oasis.
For regular readers of NME and Melody Maker, Britpop covered a wider range of things and among the many indie bands that both helped shape that movement and subsequently rode on the coat-tails of the scene’s big sellers, there were a whole host of other guitar-driven heroes. For every two that made the charts, there were a dozen that were often left chasing that big breakthrough, despite regular press. In many ways, ‘Super Sonics’ is their story.
Towards the end of 2019, Yard Arms released ‘A Glossary of Broken Humans and Beating Hearts’, a gloriously downbeat EP featuring indie-pop sounds that drew its main influence from Kitchens of Distinction. The duo would occasionally rise from their gloom to offer something a little more Cure-like in places but, in the main, the music carried a beautifully melancholic sound. It was one of the finest releases of the year.
Another release in the series of Music For Gloves digital EPs raising money for Spanish hospitals during the Covid-19 pandemic, Banana & Louie Records present four unreleased tracks from two cult singer songwriters, Kelley Stoltz and Carwyn Ellis.