It’s been a busy month or two since the last instalment of Trans-Atlantic Underground, and I have some superb material to cover. The point of this column is to give coverage to underground music from the UK, USA, or further afield. Therefore it’s a pleasure to say that one of the most spellbinding, flat out brilliant things I’ve heard under any circumstances is TBA’s Anulle. Hailing from Tbilisi, and educated in the USA, Tusia Beridze is currently releasing on Germany’s Max Ernst label. Her album is a genre-transcending mash-up of downbeat electro, sugared angst, and classical function. “Zinavs,” could be a ballroom Yellow Magic Orchestra, “Okean K” a bedroom Squarepusher. “Smashed,” spoken-sung in a fashion that recalls Miss Kittin and Aimee Mann, is one of the best evocations of romantic despondency I’ve ever heard. This is truly jaw-dropping stuff.
Stateside, I recently received a fantastic demo CD from Denton, Texas. Sharing a name with a pre-World War Two Uranium research body, The S-1 Committee wear summery new-wave well. “Black Snow” stutters in the manner of Jeffrey Lewis taming Hit to Death era Flaming Lips. “Orange and White” utilizes a Pixies-esque bass line and some lush keyboard. Singer/lyricist Mike Munywoki does a wonderful job of delivering sharp lines casually. On the above it’s all about the dismembered roads, like Frank Black and valium. However, other songs like the beautiful, High Llamas style “Summertime’s a loaded Gun” reveal a different set of tricks, with “blue eyes turning red by ten.” The Committee’s three guitarists also manage the best Johnny Marr impression I’ve heard in a long time between them. Plenty of bands have image and bluster at the moment. These guys are simply excellent.
Elsewhere, Flying is a New York based three-piece that most certainly do a fine line in lateral indie. Their gig partners include Polysics, USAISAMONSTER, and Deerhoof. The demo material here points towards a similar level of cult acclaim. A piano-led “Last Trick” recalls Stephen Malkmus’ finest contemplative moments, while “My Mission” nods to Erin Mckeown with added carefree realism. Meanwhile, Boston’s The Irreverend’s specialize in ultra-commercial, alt. countrified bar rock. Their recent self-titled EP manages to sail as close to the FM wind as possible without sinking. “Annalise” makes like the Replacements at their least belligerent, imploring a love interest to escape “before the songs we hate all happen to us.” “Ghettos on Fire” could be collaboration between Jesse Malin and Weezer. A brew best served three beers in, and none the worse for it.
Across the pond, We Work at Tesco but we’re well Gangsta innit… have sufficiently impressive music to back the front of their superb moniker. These are novelty beats and rhymes to kill with. Check out their cover-remix hybrid of the Futureheads take on “Hounds of Love” for evidence. Former ice cream van driver and Ladytron live bassist Pop Levi is putting Merseybeat back on the map by adding a heady dose of soul, funk, and day-glo. “Pick Me Up (Uppercut)” is an impressive bastardization of the Banana Splits and Prince. “Flirting” aches with touches of Jerry and the Pacemakers and Dion. He’s just been picked up by Invicta Hi-Fi, and the anticipation for his s
Spring album should start now.
Last, but by no means least, I must mention The Visions. These guys used to be the last incarnation of The Dawn Parade, a band that helped prompt John Peel to call Bury St Edmunds “the new Seattle” around 2001. A “Single of the year” plaudit from Rolling Stone‘ s Well hung at Dawn followed in 2002. Several line-ups later, their Into the Nightlife album is being prepared for a summer release. Half of the songs are old Parade ones, which is justifiable given their quality. The new band sound a lot more intentionally commercial (think Simple Minds, U2), but its pre-cursor was always about populist ambition. Genius songwriter Greg Macdonald continues to lead, and “Hole in My Heart” still echoes the Undertones, Pulp, and The Smiths in a damp subway, even if it’s backed by strings nowadays. “Wider than the January Skies” could be one of Bono’s best songs, while “Cambridge Girl” approximates Bob Geldof and Ryan Adams masterfully. Given the right type of airplay and distribution, this album could deservedly sell loads. I’ll sign off bopping to stadium rock, toy-hop, and offbeat romance, safe in the knowledge that there’s plenty of special music bubbling under.
Photo of S-1 Committee by Jonah Lange, courtesy of their splendid website.