BOS ANGELES – BEACH SLALOM

Image

Bos Angeles could well become a byword for incredibly blog worthy British bands who disappear, possibly as victims of their own internet-based success. We had one single fleeting year of Bos Angeles before they split up, and maybe that was all they were ever going to give us in the first place. For me, their breakup was akin to Kurt Cobain getting tired of the world and killing himself so as not to sell out.

The Bournemouth 3 piece was easily misrepresented. I remember reading a review in Loud and Quiet of one of their live shows, and some paraphrasing of the article has always stuck with me, but here is the actual article and this is the actual quote:

Even without knowing that Bos Angeles’ bassist wears a backwards baseball cap this evening, you can probably guess what kind of music this London trio peddle. I mean, they’re called Bos Angeles! As such, they neither shy away from their American slacker influences, nor take themselves outrageously seriously’

Maybe this is one piece of bad journalism; they weren’t from London and Bos Angeles is actually local slang for Bournemouth’s ‘most likely to get stabbed in toilets by prostitute’ suburb, Boscombe, but it’s easy to be fooled by some of their song names too. Perhaps they undersold themselves; ‘Beach Slalom’, ‘Makin Waves’ and ‘Endless Summer’ do conjure up welcome, but clichéd images of sun-drenched, beer swilling Californian days and sound like classic surf pop song titles. The truth is that Bos Angeles is a long way from such idealism, and the band’s sound is much more routed in the semi-depravity of dreary Boscombe reality than in what one would suppose to be their influences.

The humble pulse of the bass line and drums drive ‘Beach Slalom’ forward, allowing the song to progress with energy until it reaches the crescendo of crashing symbols and a simple, glowing, Joy Division-esque guitar line which gives a feeling of incredible intimacy. The song has a genuine shivers-down-back-of neck-sending quality and at the culmination of their ‘break out’ offering it’s as if we have come to an understanding with Bos Angeles that they are not necessarily a buzz band with a bright future, but haunted by demons and the possibility of mediocrity. It had me crying into my Red Stripe, basically.

At the end of their career Bos Angeles released a chronological 21 track album on the brilliant Tye Die Tapes, of everything they ever recorded and they called it ‘Taking Out The Trash’. The throbbing bass line and drums, borrowed from surf-pop, act as the heartbeat for most of the album, but it does include slower, shoegazey moments  such as ‘June’ and the super lo-fi Keel Her cover ‘I Hate it When You Look at Me’. The other blog-friendly tune, ‘Days of Youth’ and the searing guitars of ‘If Our Parents Were Gone’ are also highlights, continuing the album’s concurrent theme of regret and missed opportunities. It’s seems almost bitingly ironic that they are kind of a surf-pop band, such is the austere nature of their sound and lyrics. Perhaps Bos Angeles are to scrappy surf-pop what a bleak, rain-ruined visit to an ex-English seaside resort is to a day spent on Santa Monica beach. Sure, it’d be easy to feature-spot the similarities but overall the tone and end result are very different.

I saw the final incarnation of the Bos Angeles line up live in London a few months before they split up, and although it was a tight performance there wasn’t an obvious sense of enjoyment in togetherness. For any band there’s probably a skill in knowing when to stop and resign yourself to the ethereal mysticism of the ‘hyped band’ history books, but here’s to never forgetting Bos Angeles.

Advertisements

TEENAGE COOL KIDS – QUEER SALUTATIONS (2007)

Teenage Cool Kids

In their 2007 debut LP Teenage Cool Kids typify what it is for a band to be indie-rock. The genre can be be all encapsulating in it’s vagueness and it can be a flimsy definition for any band, (discuss: were The Kooks an indie-rock band?) but from a relatively simplistic indie-rock platform, Teenage Cool Kids created a distinct sound, which did justice to their cult-like status. The band’s 4-piece set up is instantly recognisable and provides a stable base for the album, with twinkly interjections alongside riffs that become catchier and catchier with every listen.

One such riff acts as a set up for the title track, the first song on the album. What becomes apparent however, is the lyrical intent of the album, which is obvious from their first words of ‘Queer Salutations‘ – lead vocalist and songwriter, Andrew Savage, sneers out the words ‘you were rolling on X the night that we first met‘, which provides the punch that the slightly punch-less production prevents the guitars from doing. In the second song, ‘Awkward Type of Girl‘, Savage’s vocals almost exactly follow lead guitarist, Bradley Kerl’s, sharp guitar line through the chorus. This crude technique of explicitly matching the vocals with the guitar melody serves to translate the frankness of the lyrics in their totality while they poke fun at various subjects -‘put on a record, he doesn’t get it/ “I’m not a fan of shallow indie he admitted”‘.

Savage’s vocals are snidely tuneful and their importance cannot be underestimated – they carry the melody of the album, driving it forward and it’s the vocals that stay with you days after listening. Nowhere is this clearer than in ‘Self Abuse‘, for my money the best song on the album. Once again a twinkly riff launches into Savage’s barefaced, almost insolent vocals – ‘there’s so little I have left to scream about’ and the song culminates in the eminently shout-alongable final verse, when all four band members gang up on the lyrics to yell them out – perfectly conveying the sheer joy of being in a band together whilst bemoaning some ex-girlfriend or other.

Famously, Savage is now one of two lead songwriters and vocalists in New York’s fantastic Parquet Courts. He explained in an interview how his songs come about, first as a collection of lyrics which relate to each other in someway and the actual music, normally just a few chords, comes after that. Obviously he was saying this as Parquet Court’s Andrew Savage but it is hard not to extrapolate and say that this is how he wrote songs for the album Queer Salutations, too. Some lyrics from the 5th song on the album, ‘Excursions into Philosophy‘ read:

‘Two years almost two this day I sat where we once sat like I was visiting a grave, you told me here in confidence the only time that you got off is when your brothers friends threw rocks at you and forced you to eat dog shit and called you names that you make your lovers call you when they’re fucking you

these words, like many others on the album, don’t necessarily have rhyme or rhythm but are fitted into the song through an extraordinary act of enjambment and confidence, and ultimately there is always a sting in the tail come the end of the stream-of-consciousness. The above lyrics aside, perhaps, Savage proves himself to be a savvy and pithy wordsmith on the album, jeering throughout at various aspects of youth culture he thinks may be contrived, with sarcastic put-downs.

In terms of their sound, Teenage Cool Kids put their cards on the table for Queer Salutations – ‘Reasons Why‘ acts in parts as almost a replica of Built to Spill’s ‘Reasons‘ – and it’s hardly ground-breaking for modern bands to draw on 90’s influences, but Queer Salutations is snappier and blunter and erudite in a more pissed-off way. Savage recorded three albums with Teenage Cool Kids, a band who seemed to become ever so slightly disillusioned come the end of the second record, but with Parquet Courts he has re-harnessed his energy, and it sounds like taking the piss out of teenage kids who think they’re cool is as enjoyable for him now as it was in 2007.

GROSS MAGIC – SWEETEST TOUCH

It’s great to be able to have a favourite song.

Gross Magic are, or more likely, were, a one man Brighton-based project from Sam McGarrigle. Searching now for the Sounds of Sweet Nothing Bandcamp page where you used to be able to buy Gross Magic’s 2011 8 track EP ‘Teen Jamz’, you are met with Bandcamp’s profound and polite statement: ‘sorry, that something isn’t here’.

As far as I know, Gross Magic’s last live performance in the UK was at a charity gig put on by McGarrigle’s Dad in Brighton in March and there are no signs of activity since then. One day there will be a Searching for Sugarman-esque documentary about the quest to find members of Gross Magic when it turns out the ‘Teen Jamz’ EP played a pivotal role in breaking down the sectarian divisions in Syria. What is certain, however, is that the grungey fuzz of that riff still gives me a warm feeling in my crotch and provides an ideal backdrop to the carefree falsetto of the vocals while the song maintains the perfect ratio of glitter and garage rock. It’s really really cool.

The E.P. is a fruity set of lo-fi, poppy jams, listen to ‘Yesterdays‘, ‘P.Y.T’ and ‘Teen Jamz‘. That’s most of it. The bassist of Gross Magic’s live band is now solo-operating under the name Von Stonholdt, more bedroom jamz recorded on a £20 microphone, yeah? Check out ‘21st Century Problems‘.