Scott Colothan
15:16 1st February 2005

After a three year hiatus (b-sides album aside) Doves are back with the truly sublime ‘Black and White Town’. Frankly, their return couldn’t come soon enough. Opening with slightly out of tune and strangely haunting pianos, before a confident rhythmic drum beat builds to a satisfying crescendo, ‘Black and White Town’ is both bleak and uplifting yet ultimately heart warming.  On top of all this, Jimi Goodwin’s intense refrain is typically rousing and honest. Unerringly northern to the core, Doves are slowly confirming their status as master purveyors of pensive and beautiful indie(ish) music. If this single is anything to go by, their forthcoming third album ‘Some Cities’ will be very special indeed.

‘The Good Ones’ by The Kills tells the story of the band’s intense yearning and futile pursuit of an elusive good time. God these rock stars can’t half be difficult fuckers to please! No wonder so many of them turn to hard drugs. Hopefully, The Kills will steer clear of such debased temptations, as they have a great knack for writing corking tunes. ‘The Good Ones’ is no exception and is ace in a minimalist and crude kind of way, with the simple electronic drum beat and chugging guitar riffs perfectly complimenting singer Alison Mosshart’s blasé vocals. Much as we’ve come to expect from The Kills, ‘The Good Ones’ is one hell of a dirty beast.

Resembling a certain brand of cigarettes with the song titles ominously included as health warnings, Narco’s ‘Evil Brother’ wins hands down as the best CD cover of the week, if nothing else. The lead track has a scuzzy-late seventies-electro-punk-vibe, and despite the gusto of it all, the way in which the tune is delivered is a bit inane and passé. It’s the kind of tune a mid-life-crisis racked Dad might dig out of his dusting record collection to convince you he was once cool. Thankfully though, the funky b-side ‘Getting Low’ resurrects proceedings on the strength of the petulant snarl of the line “I’m a rat and I don’t care”. Not in a long time has self-deprecation sounded so good.

A few years back Mark Joseph released a couple of independently released singles, which although they weren’t particularly our cup of tea, they were innocuous enough and cracked the top 40. Well with the whiff of success in the air, the music industry has dug its grubby little claws into Mr Joseph. The result is, at best, repugnant. ‘Lady Lady’ is criminally over-tweaked with sickly sweeping strings, bland orchestrals and a swooning synthetic chorus.  In fact the production is so clean and impeccable that ‘Lady Lady’ ends up being sterile. It’s boring, anthemic crap that makes Travis look positively profound and earnest.  Still it’ll probably sell by the bucket load.   

Despite the guitar riff that so blatantly rips off The Datsons’ ‘In Love’ that The Marble Index could be taken to court, ‘I Believe’ is a pretty stomping affair. Hailing from Ontario, Canada yet with an unquestionably British sound, The Marble Index serve up a highly palatable din. Singer Brad Germain has a guttural and instantly likeable style and while it’s hardly inspiring stuff, it’s the kind of tune that would make you move on a night out. B-side ‘Days Seem Longer’ sees Clash-esque guitars mixed with soaring vocals - in fact it comes as no surprise that Scott Shield, formerly of Joe Strummer’s band The Mascaleros, produced the single.

M83 they’re electronic, French and significantly sound nothing like Daft Punk or Air. Judging by ‘Don’t Save Us From The Flames’, M83 are something worth getting excited about… in fact, I’d be the first in there to rescue them from a raging inferno. The track is a beautiful concoction of soaring synths, breathless vocals, rhythmic drums and guitar squeals. It’s all positively euphoric and more importantly unlike anything you’ve heard before, and that is a rarity! Elsewhere, the gorgeous and plaintive b-side ‘Until The Night Is Over’ is the warm stomach-glowing come-down after the ecstasy of the lead track. Dazzling. 

On their eclectic new EP, Mountaineers manage to sound incredibly familiar, yet they’re impossible to pigeon hole. The trio make a textured, diverse sound and within the four tracks they encompass happiness and sadness, and acoustic guitars and electronica to create an irresistible sound. Opener ‘Spoke Into The Future’ is pop-driven with 80s synths and leaves you warm, whereas ‘Everything’ is downbeat with simple piano keys and a marching chorus. Elsewhere, ‘I Would Go Anywhere With You’ is a sad, romantic tear-jerker. Although the passionate final track ‘Do You Know, Do You Know’ is not as personal and stirring as the other tracks, it does nothing to take the sheen off the EP as a whole.

Despite having a bit of a crap name and a drummer that looks too much like Chris Moyles for our liking, Stuffy/The Fuse’s ‘Where’s The Captain’ is a highly entertaining ditty. The track is a 3 minute angst ridden blast of paranoia, edginess and scrawling guitars that leaves you exhausted after just one listen. Incredibly, singer (and drummer) Stuffy G sounds like a pissed off Frank Black after just being kicked in the balls as he spits the fantastic line “Don’t Call Me A Weirdo”. The band are due to work with Steve Albini later this year – what a mouth-watering prospect that is!

Capping off a great week is The Jim Muir Slideshow with ‘Popular Art/As Equations’. Packed with clever lyrics and slogans, throughout the four tracks Jim and co. intelligently comment on the fabric of today’s society. The melodic and Eels-esque ‘After The Fireworks’ explores the futility of depending on drugs for an endless hedonistic trip and aptly asks “What’s next for your whole life?”. The highlight, however, is ‘I Don’t Want To Be A Man’ which is a sparse and moving attack on the evil and ills in the world caused by men. It’s honest and poignant song writing, even if in lines like “I don’t want to cause the pain, pain that makes the whole world suffer every day”, Jim does it a bit personally sometimes.