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Bobby Wratten, of The Field Mice/Trembling Blue Stars fame, has posted an interview he did with a Spanish publication named Supernova Pop in July, in which he dismisses The Field Mice as being "like baby pictures", and asserts that only some songs on the first two of Wibbling Blue Stars' albums were about his breakup with Anne Mari (or is it Annemari?).
I also, think of The Field Mice as being like baby pictures; we were learning and it's not something I really want to look back on.I'd never want to listen to a Field Mice record whereas although I'd rather not I could stand to listen to a TBS record if I had to! If I were to be judged on anything I'd want it to be TBS. I think the songs are better and the records are better produced and more adventurous.Then again, in my opinion, The Field Mice had something that's missing in Trembling Blue Stars; a sense of passion perhaps? And from a technical point of view, they can be hardly called shambolic; even their early 3-chord guitar-and-drum-machine songs (Emma's House, for one) are skilfully put together, and other tracks (Missing The Moon and Indian Ocean, to name two) show a technical polish far removed from what one could classify as juvenilia. Unless one means that they don't show an excess of enthusiasm.
I like all kinds of music, a lot of which has no direct influence on the music I make myself. But,there are four people who I'd say have directly influenced me(in TBS) and have inspired me more than any others; Jeff Tweedy, Robert Smith, Mark Hollis and Brian Eno.
Harvey Williams was great; he first part of his set he played on an electric piano, doing mostly newer songs (i.e., from his 1990s album on Shinkansen; there wasn't a raft of new material), though he then picked up an acoustic guitar and played a bunch of older songs, including You Should All Be Murdered and I'm In Love With A Girl Who Doesn't Know I Exist. It was great to see him performing these songs.
Then there was Rose Melberg's set, which was sublimely lovely. She played acoustic guitar and sang, with a friend from Vancouver (where she lives now) accompanying her on vocal harmonies (much in the way that Jen Sbragia did in the Softies). They played for about an hour, doing recent songs, a few older songs (including The Softies' It's Love, which many in the audience sang along with), and some covers. The highlight of the set by far would have to be the cover of The Field Mice's The Last Letter; Rose started it almost apologetically, concerned that she may be committing sacrilege of a sort, proceeded to play a beautiful version (imagine said song as a Softies song and you've got it) and finished to rousing applause. Anyway, there's a video here:
There is a MP3 of Trembling Blue Stars doing an acoustic version of The Field Mice's Missing The Moon on their MySpace page. Stripped down from its synthpop baroqueness to one guitar and vocals, the song gains a new immediacy and poignancy. Go and download.
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The latest in LTM's line of Sarah Records rereleases is an Aberdeen retrospective, one of the bands linking Sarah Records to American teen sitcom soundtracks. This includes various songs from the Californian band's career, both during the Sarah days and afterward (their most recent releases date back from 2004!), and contains a cover of The Field Mice's Emma's House.
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Anyway, I'll probably end up picking them up, for the handful of songs not on the Where'd You Learn To Kiss That Way retrospective released by Shinkansen some years back (now also out-of-print), and also for the liner notes which they are said to have.
I'm listening to The Wake's Harmony and Singles (the LTM repackaging of the stuff they recorded for Factory/Factory Benelux in the early 1980s). They sound very much like New Order circa Movement, down to the drumming sounding identical in places, with similar digital reverb, the same keyboard sound, and angsty, ambiguous lyrics delivered with Caesar's Bernard-Sumner-imitating-Ian-Curtis-esque vocals. It's much in the way that early In The Nursery sounds like Joy Division, only more so.
It's funny to think that they're the same band who released Tidal Wave of Hype, an album of Blueboy/Field Mice-style jangle-pop with baggy and indie-dance influences and songs about provincial discos, obnoxious people, masturbation and John Major, on Sarah Records. Though, come to think about it, probably not much odder than New Order having done a football anthem and a Balearic acid album.
Anyway, if you're ever disappointed that New Order didn't record enough albums in the early 1980s, this CD is for you.
(Come to think of it, one could do a compilation of "songs/albums/artists that sound like New Order but aren't". I'll volunteer this CD, The Bodines' Heard It All and The Field Mice's Missing The Moon.)
Yes! The entire back-catalogue of the greatest English indie band ever, The Field Mice, is being rereleased on CD, by LTM (they're the outfit who specialise in obscure Factory Records rereleases and such). The CDs will be Snowball + Singles, Skywriting + Singles and For Keeps + Singles, and will feature unreleased tracks and detailed biographical notes (I wonder how they'll differ from Clare Wadd's candid writeup of the Mice's history in the Where'd You Learn To Kiss That Way booklet.)
I just came back from the Heligoland CD launch, which was pretty good. The DJ (Electric Sound of Jim) actually played some Field Mice (Missing The Moon, actually) which made my day. Too few of us Mice fans in Australia.
I also got a look at a copy of the newly-pressed new Sir album, titled Trapped In A World Of Make-Believe, that Jesse had with him. It looks quite promising; the artwork looks very crisp, and the track listing has various songs they've been playing since The Night I Met My Second Wife. I look forward to hearing it, and probably spinning it in a DJ set or three.
(And speaking of DJ sets, hopefully there'll be some good news about those in the not-too-distant future. Watch this space for details.)
Oh, and Ninetynine have a new 4-track EP coming out. (Yay!) Unfortunately, it's only coming out in the US and UK; Cameron says it's because nobody's interested in putting them out in Australia. I wonder why that is; whether it's scene politics rearing its ugly head, the local market being too conservative to accept casiopunk as a valid genre, or collateral damage from the Back-To-Basics Rock Revival. Anyway, time to keep checking Twee Kitten, I think.
And the Heligoland gig was good. They played some new tracks and some older ones, in their usual æthereal style, and as an encore did their cover of Kraftwerk's Neon Lights.
French radio station Planet Claire Aligre has a lot of MP3s of live shows by indie bands including Piano Magic, The Field Mice, Art of Fighting, Cat Power and more. (Annoyingly, the site requires Java for actual links to appear. If Java doesn't work on your machine, you can manually pull the URLs out of the page source, though.) (via S?x and Sunshine)
A package from Twee Kitten arrived today; in it were two Northern Picture Library CDs today (their album Alaska and the Still Life compilation of EP tracks). They're very good, containing lots of lush, layered, skilfully crafted tracks, ranging from pop to ambient soundscapes to electronica. There's a real sense of progression there from the fey pop of the Field Mice, and an increased sophistication and maturity. (As opposed to the later Trembling Blue Stars material, which is mostly boring and weak.) Also, Annemari's voice really shines in this material, more so than in the earlier material. (Hmmm; I may well have to revise my list of favourite female vocalists.)
I also got a copy of Fosca's On Earth To Make The Numbers Up, but am not as yet overly impressed. It's mostly 80s-retro synthpop production (with extra cheese!) and too-clever-by-half, vaguely self-deprecating lyrics; a bit like Baxendale, only somewhat flatter and less varied, and it starts to grate after a while. Maybe if they made their chord progressions and sequences a bit more varied, or just made their songs shorter...
I spent part of today listening to some Northern Picture Library MP3s I found on AudioGalaxy. I must say they were good; somewhat more sparse and experimental in places than the Field Mice's output, and going to some interesting places (from the ambient trance of The Way That Stars Die to Love Song For The Dead Che, an excursion into Dubstar/Single Gun Theory territory, to the various exercises in Humblebee-style noise), along with some very nice soundscapes (Catholic Easter Colours comes to mind). There's a real sense of evolution there; it's interesting to imagine what may have happened had the crash not put paid to it.
But of course, it didn't go on like that. She left him and he put out four (and counting) Prozac-bland albums about it, never again approaching the aesthetic level or heartfelt sincerity of earlier projects.
I wonder whether any of the Northern Picture Library material is still, by any chance, in print...
It's good to run into people who appreciate brilliant, long-forgotten bands few others have heard of. I went to the Empress Hotel this evening to check out the bands. The first up was a touring English indie duo named Partition; two guys with a guitar and a drum machine singing slightly humorous indie numbers, with a subtle Sarah Records feel in places, only a bit more punk in others. (Among the songs they did was one about thinness obsession to the tune of Billy Bragg's New England, and a slightly punky yet touchingly heartfelt rant-over-guitar-strumming piece about having fancied some girl for 10 years and then finally going out with her for two disastrous weeks, which reminded me a bit of The Cure's So What), finally ending with a funny little dance to a drum machine pattern. Whilst on stage, they wore white T-shirts, reading "APART" and "APRAT".
Afterwards, I noticed that one of the members of the group (Martin) was wearing a T-shirt with the Field Mice soundbite "CHOCOLATE LOVE SEX" printed on it; I asked him whether it was a Field Mice reference, and it was. It turned out that he used to go and see many of their gigs when they were around (late 80s/early 90s), and was into the whole Sarah scene. Anyway, we ended up talking a bit about bands and such. He also mentioned that Partition have written one Field Mice-inspired song, but they didn't play it tonight, as it's not finished yet.
Anyway, Partition seem like a fairly interesting outfit; with any luck they'll record something soon.
I've been looking around AudioGalaxy (with the Linux client) and it's brilliant. For instance, I just found out that there's a lot of Field Mice stuff listed, including long-deleted vinyl-only gems (songs like Humblebee, Song 6 and so on); not to mention live Slowdive tracks (albeit some let down by dodgy MP3 codecs), Lush rarities and even some Paradise Motel (other than their cover of Drive, that is). The range is much wider than on KaZaA, which is mostly widely available things. Which is good if you're a teenage mook wanting to pirate the latest rap-metal hit, but not so good if you're a dedicated trainspotter looking for obscure old singles and mixes.
Today I picked up two CDs: the most recent one from Trembling Blue Stars (which is getting better than his previous ones, with nods to The Cure and The Smiths in evidence and some interesting electronic textures (though his drum loops still sound a bit Phil Collins in places); however, it's not quite up to the Field Mice's standard IMHO), and the new Silver Mt. Zion (which comes with a rant about the state of the world, and isn't quite as overbearingly morose as the first one; not that that's a bad thing).
Site of the day: The War Against Silence. Record reviews, more thoughtful than most. (Their article on The Field Mice, going on to Sarah Records and the whole question of pop melancholia and optimism, is quite worth reading.)
Today, I went down to Collectors' Corner and found a copy of Trembling Blue Stars' Her Handwriting (they were a solo project of one of the Field Mice). I found it a bit underwhelming; it's relationship-breakup angst, but done in a relatively ordinary way. Anyway, I've posted a review of it to Records Ad Nauseam. (I also managed to pick up Single Gun Theory's Flow, River of My Soul, which has apparently been deleted for ages.)
Apropos of nothing: the 3RRR Radiothon is on now, so those Melburnians in the audience who listen to said station should think of subscribing and helping to keep them on air.
Speaking of the Field Mice, it's a small world; I just found that the only Field Mice website is run by someone at Monash, whom I'm probably two or so degrees of separation from, and quite possibly passed in corridors in years gone by.
I've been listening to the Field Mice retrospective a lot recently; it has grown on me. I think I might have a new addition to my list of favourite long-defunct bands, joining the likes of Slowdive and The Paradise Motel.
This afternoon, after Far and Wide finished, I wandered down to Heartland to see if they had any CDs I'd be interested in (I wouldn't mind getting the Robots In Disguise album, except that nobody seems to have heard of it). As I looked through the store, I noticed that the CD they were playing was really good; sort of quiet indie-pop, with plaintive, almost Morrissey-esque vocals and shoegazer reverb. I didn't find anything I had been looking for, but I did leave with a copy of The Field Mice's Where'd You Learn To Kiss That Way? retrospective 2CD.
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