I Blame The Teachers


That's what I miss these days.

Gushing. The ability, the passion to gush. I feel like I haven't had it in ages, and I blame it on the soul sapping tentacles of school more than anything (blame the education system! It's always a good bet). But, despite a head that is swirling from sleeplessness and that is full of too many concerns about irrelevant issues I can do nothing about, here goes nothing.

The Playwrights then, and Good beneath the Radar (Sink and Stove). Gushworthy? Crushworthy, even? Well goddammit, yes. And yes. And yes a third time just for the hell of it. Actually, thinking about it, of course that ought to be 'an enormous Yes!' Just like ole man Larkin wrote about ole man Bechet, except wasn't it Young Man Bechet he was writing about? I don't remember.

Anyway, here come the young men...

The Playwrights look like the Subway Sect. Sort of. Granted, they don't have the grey school jumpers, and they don't hold their guitars as high, but hell, that's hardly the point. The point is that the Playwrights understand the importance of uniform, know the value of adding razor wire edges to Pop. Like the Sect, the Playwrights are instinctive, intelligent and incendiary, are smart, serious and scathing. What more do you want fer chrissakes?

Because I am old, the Playwrights remind me of so many great bands from my past. So as well as the Subway Sect, I'm reminded of the Wolfhounds, and that's a mighty fine thing to say, and believe me I don't say it often because really the Wolfhounds made some of the greatest records ever. But it's warranted, because the Playwrights conjure the same notions of fabulously oscillating guitars meshing in dynamic directions, all of them strangely headed straight for the stars. The Playwrights also have the good sense to occasionally punctuate those swirls of guitars with bursts of horns that recall for fleeting moments Lora Logic at her energetic youthful peak and assorted other instrumentation that marks them out as marvellous post-modern purveyors of Pop that prickles.

The Playwrights also remind me of Blue Aeroplanes. Maybe it's something in the Bristol air, but certainly there's an Aeroplane edge to the incorporation of found tapes into the mix; a Blue tinge to the manner in which everything seems to leap balletically around the stage of your mind. The Playwrights have a wonderfully poised awkwardness, and Good Beneath the Radar is as fine an album as you will hear this year or any year. What the hell are you waiting for?
Speaking of the Wolfhounds, I'm also forced to think of them when listening to Panda Love Unit's excellent ´Fireworks to Stick Us Together' EP (Awkward), at least on lead track ´Know Yr Heritage' which is a monstrously great hunk of hurled words over glacier guitars (remember, or go seek out the Wolfhounds' ´Blown Away'). Throw Swirlies chimp-rock into the mix, and you're gonna be about there, and in fact that sleeve reminds me a lot of Swirlies monumental Blonder Tongue Audio Baton, so there you are.

In Issue Three of Careless Talk Costs Lives the inestimable Michael White writes with typical insight about the wonderful Sportique. He calls their Sportique No. 9 album (Matinee / WIAIWYA) a 'volley of righteous indignation, pitch-black humour, and the sort of sharp-cornered hooks that Wire and The Fall used to throw down'. Of course he is spot on, and naturally it's impossible for me to say much more than that, so go get your copy of Careless Talk and Sportique No. 9 this instant.

In the aforementioned article, Michael notes how Sportique are, like the Kinks and TV Personalities, 'boldly, defiantly English'. Well, in a similar vein, MJ Hibbett and the Validators' This Is Not A Library is an exploration and dissection of the state of the nation, a peculiar evocation of waspish midlands England that comes across as warmly nostalgic. The sleevenotes say 'it's about love, it's about pubs, it's about life and death' which means of course it's all about the imperative Pop themes, which is fine by me. Musically it's kind of a collision between Half Man Half Biscuit, early Wedding Present/loads of mid ´80s trashy thrashy guitar-pop bands and vintage Animals That Swim. Personal faves would be ´the back of the sofa' and ´holdall is the new name for midland mainline lost property'. Divertingly charming and a charming diversion.

© 2003 Alistair Fitchett