Posts Tagged ‘Post War Glamour Girls’

Mi Mye have announced details of the final single to be released from their 2016 album The Sympathy Sigh. The Wakefield quintet will release the soothing and melancholy ‘Methadone Church’ alongside a re-imagined ‘He Believes In Me’ featuring the vocals of James Smith of Post War Glamour Girls.

Inspired by Hemmingway’s ‘The Old Man and the Sea’, the album earned the band praise from the likes of The 405 and The Line Of Best Fit. (Aural Aggravation can’t take any credit here: we’re miserly bastards at times when it comes to praise and even selecting what we cover.)

‘Methadone Church’ is a thoughtful and beautiful song that deals with Jamie observing life around him at his place of work in Armley in Leeds. He explains “Chad and I were leaving the studio where I work and when we got to the bus stop we saw a mother with twin girls walk past us. The girls were identically dressed and the mother had blood on her top lip. That’s all the song is, just that, I wrote it as soon as I got on the bus. It’s a track that doesn’t judge or comment, it’s just what was there.”

The other side of this new single features a new version of album track ‘He Believes In Me’ sung by James Smith of label mates and long standing friends & collaborators Post War Glamour Girls. Jamie recently co-produced the band’s  Swan Songs album.

When asked on what made him so keen to collaborate with Mi Mye, James said “I adore the man and it was an honour to be asked to sing on He Believes in Me. To voice Jamie’s inner monologue of confusion and fear toward a religious maniac ranting and grabbing people on the streets of Wakefield was a more spiritually uplifting experience than that preacher man will ever have.”

So get your lugs round ‘He Believes In Me’  and enjoy….

Advertisements

Hide & Seek Records – 21st April 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

This being a Post War Glamour Girls album, there’s a lot to chew on, and I’ve played Swan Songs on the bus to and from work most days for the last month and a half in an attempt to really let the songs embed and to unravel. It’s not because Post War Glamour Girls make albums which are difficult or lack immediacy, but because there’s just so much to extract, and each listening reveals more. I’m still discovering new details and dimensions in their 2014 debut, Pink Fur, and suddenly, here we are at album number three.

And with album number three, they’ve made it a clean sweep of awesomeness: not a case of third time lucky, but a straight hat-trick. Few bands can claim such a record, although Post War Glamour Girls are unlikely to gloat, or even reflect on this achievement: chances are by the time the album tour is under way, they’ll have filled the set with new material which may or may not feature on album number four.

Swan Songs is by far their most commercial and accessible album to date, but it would be a chronic error align that in any way to them selling out, and in many ways, it’s equally their knottiest, thorniest release thus far. Yes, they’re contradictory and contrary, and that’s precisely their appeal. And while they always sound uniquely like Post War Glamour Girls – there really isn’t a band going – or, indeed, previous – who sound quite like them, they’re spectacularly varied in their style, and you never know what to expect from album to album. This is music born from restless energy and a drive to create something new, to challenge the band and their fans in equal measure. The one thing that is seemingly guaranteed is the quality of the material.

Swan Songs is most certainly their most eclectic-sounding album yet. The overall tone of the album is altogether less down than its predecessor, Feeling Strange. The downcast, brow-beaten self-loathing is replaced by a roaring defiance, at least in part. And, of course, it has all the band’s trademark qualities, honed to a new level of sharpness.

The album’s opener, ‘Guiding Light’ comes on like a cross between Big Country and The Wedding Present circa ’92 with its spiralling celtic guitar motif and stadium-fulling chorus – before making a 90-degree swerve only Post War Glamour Girls could pull off, with James Smith veering off into one of his densely-packed rants. You only catch snippets of the lyrics, but in the space of a minute he’s here, there and everywhere, pulling in what appears to be a reference to Gang of Four and macroeconomics with a line about ‘guns before butter’.

‘Chipper’ is more common PWGG terrain, and finds Smith in brawlingly nihilistic form, howling, bleating and hollering over a murky backing of guitars that jangle and warp and bend as the driving rhythm section powers on relentlessly. At the middle eight, it heads off on another trajectory, Smith coming on like a brutalised hybrid of Mark E Smith and JG Thirlwell on top of Alice Scott’s icily calm backing vocals. If ever a band knew how to work contrasts, it’s Post War Glamour Girls.

Conjuring a brilliantly visual image while working a dubby post-punk seam, the more understated ‘Gull Rips a Worm’ marks something of a departure, with Smith revealing a more soulful side in his melodic vocal delivery. Meanwhile, ‘Big Trip’, which recently found its way onto Radio 1 thanks to a shout-out from fellow Leeds legends Pulled Apart by Horses, is a brilliantly gruff and darkly grounded paean to escapism. It might not quite rank with the time the uncensored version of Rage Against the Machine’s ‘Killing in the Name’ was spun at teatime on a Sunday during the Top 40, but it’s pretty subversive. It’s also indicative of the band’s mass-market potential, given the right exposure.

Awkward buggers that they are, the two sets I saw them perform following the release of Feeling Strange, showcased unreleased material in favour of either the latest album or their rapidly-expanding back-catalogue. These shows hinted squarely at a more direct pop sound, and while Swan Songs is a long way off this, being neither direct or upbeat and poppy, the second half of the album is the closest they’ve come to creating unadulterated pop in the studio.

‘Polyanna Cowgirl’, which featured on last year’s live album, is a big, reverby song that draws together elements of classic dreampop with vintage mid-80s postpunk and even more overtly charty music of the same era. Ah, such different times… And so, they manage to imbue the song with a certain nagging nostalgia, as well as a pining wistfulness. The hefty welter of drums and driving bass render it uniquely Post War Glamour Girls, but the multifaceted harmonies and chiming guitars, expansively produced, bring that cinematic slant to the finished product. The shimmering ‘Golden Time’ wafts and warps gently before ‘Sea of Rains’ drifts into I Like Trains territory, but Smith’s bleak lyrics render it a very different animal: ‘The lust you tried to drag from the soles of his shoes / is the worst excuse for loneliness I’ve ever had to use,’ he reflects, grimly.

 

 

The jarring, splintering, ‘Welfare by Prozac’ sees the band ploughing headlong into the Fall-like realms they stomp with aplomb, Smith duelling with Scott like vintage Mark E and Brix, a snarling, spitting inscrutability counterpointed by a melodic yet icy tone, while squalling guitars break over a thick, strolling bassline.

Now, I’m a huge sucker for a monster closing track. On past form, it seems Post War Glamour Girls are masters of the monster closing track (even if Feeling Strange perversely delivered said monster track as the penultimate song in the form of ‘Cannonball Villages) and Swan Songs proves no exception, with the seven-minute ‘Divine Decline’ building from nothing to a raging behemoth of a song. ‘Love and hate stem from the same cell,’ Smith croons, before the whole thing erupts. ‘All I ever wanted /as to be a better to better person / and I’m working on it constantly / working like a dawwwwwg!’ he growls. It’s a storming finale, and no mistake, as the band whip up a dense maelstrom of sound.

As is so often the case, Smith channels a vitriolic rage which one feels is largely directed toward himself. It’s a recurrent aspect of the album’s lyrical content: ‘My manners aren’t amazing / My poetry is pisspoor / My attitude’s an anathema,’ he snarls self-critically on ‘Chipper’. At the risk of too closely, or even mistakenly, aligning the art with the artist lyrics with lyricist and assuming the role or armchair analyst, one can’t help but wonder on the evidence his lyrics, coupled by his driving of the band’s relentless forward trajectory, if he isn’t fighting himself every moment of every day, and if Post War Glamour Girls aren’t some means of his justifying his existence to himself. If this is some kind of therapy, then – from a purely selfish perspective – our best hope is that it takes a good few more albums to purge himself yet, and that the title is more a reference to the conceptual contents of the album rather than an indication of the band’s final sign off. Because, not only is Swan Songs a killer album, but a cohesive and rich set which is the work of a band really hitting their stride and riding on the crest of a wave.*

 

Post War Glamour Girls - Swan Songs

 

*The success of this closing punchline is limited, not least of all on account of the fact that swans’ natural habitat is inland and on / by rivers, lakes, and ponds, and therefore unlikely to be tidal or otherwise, meaning that swans are rarely found in an environment where waves are common. But every review needs a punchline, right?

Leeds Post-punk quartet Post War Glamour Girls have shared a video for their new single ‘Organ Donor’.

The video was made by the band’s own Alice Scott and James Smith and is the product of several sleepless nights staring at the glitchy, strobing visuals that accompany the track, taken from the band’s upcoming third album Swan Songs.

But enough preamble already, just watch the video here: it’s ace.

 

No Sleep Records – 16th September 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

I have to admit, I’d been wondering what was happening with Battle lines. Following the single releases ‘Colonies’ and ‘Hunting’ (split with Post War Glamour Girls), and a storming set at the Brudenell to launch it, there was talk of an album when I chatted with the band afterwards, and then… Well, they seemed to drop off the radar. Carly had mentioned work and all of the things that get in the way of doing things, although it was some time ago, and I’d had a few pints during the evening and what with work and an endless stream of new releases demanding my attention… well, I sort of forgot about things. I’m sorry for the fact that this makes me the same as pretty much everyone else: I blame the ‘net age, the insane pace of our post-postmodern culture, where memories are overlaid and replaced in an instant, buried in the endless blizzard of shiny new things, images, sounds, more bad news and another media frenzy over the latest celebrity scandal. And so, a guilty late review of an album by a band I’m a big fan of.

While I’m looking around at intangibles to blame, I’m also aware that I’m feeding my own anxieties and understanding more the pressure on any artist, in any medium, to devote as much time to promotion as to the production of actual art. It’s all about the momentum! Paradoxically, to weather the storm that is the blizzard of social media, one is required to contribute to it further, and constantly. If you’re out of the public eye, you’re forgotten in a flash. It’s an absurd situation, of course: artists need to retreat in order to produce. In an over-loud world, silence is good, and importantly, silence from a band means they’re likely holed up working on material.

Battle Lines, individually and collectively, have been getting on with their lives, and thankfully, have been doing the things that are important, instead of fretting over their public profile. The press release apologises for their apparent absence, but is matter-of-fact about things:

It’s not a secret that we’ve been very quiet over the last year… There’s no big story, we love each other, we’re as good friends as we’ve ever been. Life has moved on for all of us, and we now reside in New York, London, Brighton and Leeds, geography prevents us from touring, but it can’t prevent us from releasing new music.

And so, while I was busy being distracted, Battle Lines slipped out their debut album, a record I’d waited more years than I care to count for: having first discovered them in their previous guise as Alvin Purple, I’d been captivated by the quality and richness of their dark, post-punk influenced material and the incredibly assured live performances they gave so consistently.

The switch to Battle Lines marked a refocusing: the energy which effused from their earlier songs was directed more inward, and the material displayed an almost ascetic discipline in its execution on those first single releases and in the live shows, more clinical, more icily intense than their previous incarnation.

This is all captured perfectly on Primal. The sparse title track and album opener hints equally at The XX and Closer era Joy Division. But then, glacial electropop undercurrents and thunderous tribal drumming also define the sound. And the sound… the fact they’ve taken their time over this means that the sound is honed to perfection. There isn’t a note out of place. That isn’t to say it’s overproduced within an inch of its sterile life or stripped of its soul: they’ve pulled everything to tight as to render it almost claustrophobically dense, a work which offers an insight into a near-obsessive control over the output. In context, it makes sense:

There’s an honesty about the notes which accompany the release which is at once uncomfortable and refreshing:

Lyrically this was an incredibly dark place to go to, I had come out of a relationship that became mentally abusive; looking back I wondered who I had become in excusing that kind of behaviour. This is what drove me in the album, those darkest moments became a journey of self discovery and a realisation of who I really am and what I deserved.

When life is out of control, what can you do but obsess about the things you can control – your art? But from darkness comes light, and creativity can be so cathartic. As dark as Primal is, it contains some truly beautiful and magnificently uplifting musical moments. Carly’s vocals at times soar so high as to disappear from the register of the average human ear, but ‘Sea of Fear’ is a swelling anthem of a track, and the sunburst shoegaze of ‘Smother’ ripples with the joy of drinking in clear air and rediscovering the potentialities of life.

‘Outsider’ is built around an insistent motoric beat and exploits the quiet / loud dynamic, bursting into explosive shoegaze wall-of-FX guitars which call to mind Ride in their early years, but as is always the case with Battle Lines, Carly’s ultra-high-frequency vocals means they don’t really sound like any of their forebears, or their contemporaries.

Of their single releases, only ‘Hunting’ has made it to the album. This is a bold and admirable choice, and one which makes a statement: a statement which says that \Primal is an album proper, a document, and not a ‘Hunting’ is, of course, a belting wall of noise driven by a twitchy disco beat and shuddering synth with metallic screeds of guitar peeling off a Donna Summer groove, over which Carly comes on like Siouxsie Sioux, breathy and intense.

The album concludes with ‘Riot’, a richly-layered and uplifting song which blossoms in a screed of guitar noise over an insistent rhythm section, the drums and bass tight and locked into a sedate groove.

Primal displays remarkable poise, and as much as its architecture is concerned with the turbulence which inspired its lyrics and overall tone, its coherence and control are remarkable. But rather than feeling soulless in its clinical execution, there’s a clear sense that Primal is about holding it together and showing just what can be achieved through sheer will and determination and the exertion of mind over matter. Despite the obstacles, personal and geographical, Battle Lines have (meticulously) produced a powerful album that was more than worth the wait.

 

Battle Lines - Primal

Christopher Nosnibor

It makes sense for a band renowned for their killer live shows to release a live album, but it takes a band with a certain amount of guts to make that album a project that’s part of a festival’s proceedings, and to go for the live album by way of their third full-length. Post War Glamour Girls have got guts, alright, and Live at St Austin’s was recorded as the ‘watch a band record a live album’ Sunday night session at the end of this year’s Long Division festival in Wakefield.

They open with a very curious hybrid of ‘Sestra’ and ‘Brat’, which respectively stood as bookends to their debut, Pink Fur. In parts completely unrecognisable in relation to either of the originals, it’s a more sedate and altogether less fiery reworking. James Smith shows remarkable restraint, his rowdy raving replaced by a crooning style, which sits alongside some soulful harmonies, the likes of which haven’t been heard from the band previously. Structurally, it’s also completely different… and comes to an abrupt and ungainly halt that sounds like the tape being chewed. Well, it is live, after all. Anything can happen and you only get one take.

‘That’s probably it for music,’ James quips. ‘I’ll now be doing my stand-up set’. Granted, there’s a lot more music and no stand-up, but you wouldn’t put anything past this band. So premiering a new track from their upcoming third album by way of a second track is pretty much par for the course. There’s something of an early- to mid-eighties guitar pop feel to ‘Polyanna Cowgirl’ (commercial pop was seemingly a fair few shades darker then), and it boasts a bold and hooky chorus.

If making their first album a greatest hits / best of set seems like the obvious a to go, you know that’s precisely what you’re not going to get, and second album Feeling Strange (released less than six months before this performance) is largely shunted to one side in favour of their debut, new material, and a handful of covers – which, naturally, are off the beaten track and are drawn in from far out on the left-field (and their version of Elvis Costello’s ‘Shipbuilding’ is as moving as it is unexpected… not that it should be expected for a band who’ve previously covered Robert Palmer).

The vinyl, which presents an abridged version of the occasion to present a different aspect of the set-list (in an alternative sequence) omits the spiky, goth-tinged rendition of ‘Stolen Flowers Rust’ and two of the tracks culled from their second album, presumably on account of space. ‘Cannonball Villages’ (not on the vinyl) is one of the standouts of Feeling Strange and builds an immense, dark, brooding twisting epic journey. As Smith growls the refrain ‘I knew the moment I laid my eyes on you / that I would do anything to get my hands on you,’ it sounds as much like a threat as an expression of desire. Closer ‘Count Your Blessings’ – a bleak choice of a set-ender, if the truth be told – is also omitted from the vinyl, and the fact that such a great rendition can be relegated to the download is testament to the depth of their material – and of course, their unswerving perversity in selecting unreleased tracks and covers over others. Single cuts like ‘Jazz Funerals’, ‘Southpaw Stance’ and ‘Felonius Punk’ don’t get a look in

The slowed-down version of ‘Black Dolphin’ and the dreamy version of ‘Gustave’, on which Alice takes lead vocal duties, offer very different perspectives on established songs, and the piano motif which runs through the Curesque take on ‘Red Terror’, with its crazy reverb action, again places the familiar in an unfamiliar context. The addition of organ and keys to a number of tracks also adds a new dimension to the sound.

Live at St Austin’s works precisely because of its imperfections and its – superficially, at least – perverse set-list. As a live album, it captures the immediacy of a band who thrive on live performances, and at the same time, are all about taking risks and showcasing new material. Go to a PWGG gig and you’ll see a band testing themselves and the audience with new material. This makes the inclusion of debut single ‘Spitting Pearls’ all the more surprising and welcome. They’ve probably played it about twice since its release: it’s a personal favourite, and they more than do it justice here, Smith finally unleashing his full-throated Tom Waits holler. It’s fucking brilliant, and met, briefly, with a stunned silence.

Live at St Austin’s is an honest live album: it’s not that the sound is rough, because it isn’t: but in places, the instruments aren’t perfectly balanced and there are some dud notes and off-key harmonies. And that’s precisely why it’s so good: it sounds like you could actually be there, it’s not dressed up and overdubbed and polished to studio quality. It’s very much a document of the band that Post War Glamour Girls are, a snapshot of a band who are continually evolving, forever restless, always trying out new arrangements and new material. And yes, they’re the kind of band who place art over commerce, who really are bursting with creativity and are making music for the right reasons. And they truly are one of a kind.

 

Post War Glamour Girls - Live At St Austin's Cover

Too Pure Singles Club – 30th September 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

I’ve been saying that Post War Glamour Girls are one of the best bands to have emerged from anywhere ever since I first clapped ears on their debut single, and never once have they disappointed since, thus justifying my opinion. Actually, it’s not an opinion, it’s a fact. And here they are on a split 7” in the mega-cool Too Pure Singles Club series on a Leeds showcase edition shared with Menace Beach. The occasion? The 45th anniversary of legendary Leeds record store, Jumbo Records. I’ve spent a fair few quid in there over the years, and the fact they’re still trading is a testament to the fact it’s as great an independent music outlet as you’ll find.

The two tracks couldn’t be more different: Menace Beach’s ‘Hex Breaker’ is a hazy, fuzzed-out lo-fi drifter, a mid-tempo slow-burner that sounds like it was recorded on a condenser mic. With laid-back vocal and hefty, plodding riff, it’s something of a departure from their conventional feedback-drenched motoric slacker indie. That said, it’s still a brilliantly loose performance and boasts an effortless melody that’s breezy and accessible. File alongside your early Pavement EPs if you do that ‘by style’ thing. If, like me, you file your vinyl alphabetically, you might struggle with this.

Despite what the title might suggest, the PWGG offering on the other side, ‘Welfare by Prozac’ is anything but sedated, a characteristically tense and angular burst of post-punk that’s over and done with in a fraction over three minutes. It packs so much in, too: a nagging, jangling rhythm guitar is cut by a howling angular lead. A stonking bassline and thumping tom-led drum track meld together to provide the backdrop to the contrasting vocals: Alice’s nonchalant monotone is the perfect counterpoint to James’ wired hectoring, calling to mind the best of Brix era Fall and then adding a twisted pop sensibility.

This is a perfect example of why 7” singles are cool, and why not only records, but the split single endure. A split MP3 release just doesn’t cut it.

 

PWGG Menace Beach Split