Welcome to Bliss/Aquamarine - alternative, underground and indie music.

ALBUM REVIEWS

GARFIELDS BIRTHDAY Typically Stereo CD/Download (Pink Hedgehog)
SIMON FELTON The Cost of Living CD/Download (Pink Hedgehog)

Highly underrated jangle/powerpoppers Garfields Birthday celebrated their 25th anniversary in 2020. Their first couple of years were dedicated to home recording, but from 1997 onwards they took their music into the studio, and the new compilation Typically Stereo selects 23 tracks from across their 23 year history of studio recording, including alternative mixes and previously unreleased tracks, all remastered for this release.
Thick Ear is harmony-laden janglepop tinged with US folk-rock. Ambulance is crunchy powerpop adorned with joyous ba-ba-bas. Eye to Eye is a prime example of 90s noisepop, with rumbling bass and distorted vocals, its chorus soaring and anthemic yet infused with bleakness and melancholy. We Know Your Name is an absolute classic of bright jangly pop, which I count among my all-time favourite songs of this genre. Molly's Eyes distills the best bits of 90s above-ground indie music into one song, the main part of the track coming across like a cross between Ride and Teenage Fanclub, while also taking a stomping detour with tinges of Blur. Sugar Pop is as addictive and uplifting as the title suggests. Punch and Judy Man is super-catchy, Beach Boys-referencing summer pop. Cambridge is gentle and dreamlike, with shades of 60s folk-pop and ornamented with a lavish string arrangement. Cool Your Jets is top-notch powerpop, heartily recommended for fans of the powerpop output of labels like Sugarbush or Big Stir. These are just a few of the fantastic songs on offer here. In short, Garfields Birthday are unsung heroes of guitar pop. Their music sits comfortably alongside indiepop, janglepop and powerpop bands, yet they seem to be rarely mentioned by fans of these genres. Let's hope this great compilation changes that.
Garfields Birthday's Simon Felton has also released a number of solo albums. His latest, The Cost of Living, is home recorded yet far from lo-fi, and favours a largely synth-based approach. Drowned in Sound is effervescent early 80s synthpop with an indiepop heart, which would sound right at home on Happy Robots Records. Casualty Ward is melancholic observational pop underpinned by a knotwork of snaking piano and augmented by bursts of spiky noise guitar and fizzing synth. Butter Fingers is sentimental, wistful keyboard-led pop that could easily have been a chart hit in the days when the charts still had room for music with depth. Uninspired Child is classic guitar pop juxtaposing strummy jangle and atmospheric distortion, underscored by a bouncy drum rhythm and topped off with smooth vocal harmonies. Both albums here are highly recommended and available at www.pinkhedgehog.com

ARREST! CHARLIE TIPPER Red LP/Download (Old Bad Habits Label)
Latest album from Bristol band Arrest! Charlie Tipper, who include members of The Flatmates, Beatnik Filmstars, The Groove Farm and Rorschach, and were formerly known as The Charlie Tipper Experiment and The Charlie Tipper Conspiracy. The LP is pressed on heavyweight red and black marbled vinyl, with artwork by Ian Jay (ex-Half Man Half Biscuit), and a printed inner sleeve with lyrics. The music here is often noisy pop with roots in the 1980s underground, which travels into other territories with the original and effective addition of instruments from outside the usual guitars-and-drums format that's the norm for this genre. The lyrics deal with relevant contemporary issues, such as the need to keep social media-fuelled negativity and stupidity out of your life (Bubble) and a forceful attack on those who misuse the important value of free speech to spread hatred and fear (Freedom of Speech), the latter song an effective meeting of searing noisepop and something more psychedelic with its hypnotic repetition and whooshing cosmic synths. Hurt is deeply melancholic pop, inventively overlaid with mournful cornet and the spacey whirrs of an analogue synth. Poets is fuzzy buzzy noisepop with an ultramelodic, harmony-driven chorus, combining the spirit of the C86 era with contemporary commentary on gentrification. Don't Leave Me Alone is thoughtful, personal pop, with an inventive arrangement taking in cornet, retro organ and synthesised strings. A recommended listen for those who love 80s indie pop while also appreciating forward-looking musical innovation. Available in limited numbers at oldbadhabitslabel.bandcamp.com

TERRY EDWARDS Very Terry Edwards triple CD box set (Sartorial)
TERRY EDWARDS Stop Trying to Sell Me Back My Past (vol 1) double LP (Sartorial)

Terry Edwards celebrates his 60th birthday with the career-spanning triple album Very Terry Edwards, featuring 60 tracks recorded across 40 years. There are solo tracks along with his early work with The Higsons and collaborations with countless other artists, the music covering almost every imaginable genre. Blues, tango, jazz and classical appear alongside punk, noise and experimentation, as well as the alternative pop sounds that are more often covered in Aquamarine. There's the jerky, angular, funk-infused post-punk of The Higsons, the woozy electronic pop of kNIFE & FORk, and the dreamy ethereal indie pop of Lush. The Wolfhounds' My Legendary Childhood is punchy 80s indie pop overlaid with joyous bursts of trumpet and wailing sax. Stuart A. Staples' Say Something Now juxtaposes dark, melancholic songwriting with skronking sax. 18 Wheeler's Stay combines sunny powerpop with the atmospheric haze of shoegaze and a luxurious string arrangement. The Nightingales with Vic Godard's Commercial Suicide Man is spiky, twisty-turny underground pop with a punk spirit. Snuff offer a melodic punk-pop song and a horn-driven surf instrumental. Darren Hayman and the Secondary Modern's Art and Design brings together chug-along DIY pop and banjo-led folk, with something of a punk snarl to the vocals. Entirely different from everything else mentioned above is The Havering Youth Orchestra, with their rousing, dramatic performance of Sibelius' Finlandia. Truly something for most tastes on this album.
Also available is Stop Trying to Sell Me Back My Past (vol 1), compiling the EPs of cover versions Terry Edwards recorded in the 1990s, including the Cure covers EP intended for release in 1994 that never actually surfaced at the time. There's a trumpet-led version of The Jesus and Mary Chain's Never Understand, the guitar feedback of the original replaced by squalling sax, and a ska reinvention of The Fall's Totally Wired, with Terry accompanied by members of Madness and Serious Drinking. Three Miles Davis pieces get the noise treatment, with inspiration from fast and furious punk and speed metal, while The Clash's Version City goes funk, The Cure's In Between Days features thrashy punky elements alongside Motown influences, and The Damned's New Rose is played by a classical string quartet. Find out more at www.terryedwards.co.uk

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