Saturday, November 23, 2013

Math & Physics Club "Our Hearts Beat Out Loud" (Matinée Recordings): Weekend Nachos "Still" (Relapse Records): Bubblegum Lemonade "Some Like It Pop" (Matinée Recordings)
In the sunny cold and kicked leaves, autumn gales shake album of the year contenders down from the trees in earnest. First to fall at our grateful feet comes long-player number three from Seattle pop kingpins Math & Physics Club, as they decamp to Dub Narcotic to juggle the heroic Smiths-isms of yore with lashings of Olympia soul and a few spoonfuls of C&W, further honing the(ir) sublime art of the regretful, but hope-filled chiming indiepop song in the process. If taster 45 "Long Drag" remains a slight outlier with its handclaps and fizzy rhythmic nous, it's certainly not the only 24-carat jewel on display: the first half of the record especially oozes an easy majesty, fuelled by the potency of "We Won't Keep Secrets", the song that first ushers you over the threshold; while towards the end of the piece, it's the familiar-sounding but pristine "That's What Love Is" which unfussily but remorselessly hoovers up most remaining plaudits. Math & Physics are BACK and... well, you know the rest by now.

"Still", by Chicago hardcore / powerviolence outfit Weekend Nachos, may not seem the most obvious listening companion to "Our Hearts Beat Out Loud", but don't walk away just yet: firstly, both bands have now maintained vertigo-inducing quality levels for three LPs in a row, which is not at all simple; secondly, both have a real gift for moulding songs (and albums) that are trim and tight, excising superfluity and padding; thirdly, both have hearts that truly do beat out loud, and passions worn proudly on sleeves. With their first two albums and early singles, Weekend Nachos showed that they're as home with seven-minute sludgefests as one-minute wig-outs, and everything inbetween: but "Still" tends towards the shorter, as they parade twelve new slabs of coruscating nihilism over the course of 22 minutes, with only earlier 7" "Watch You Suffer" and the title track (the songs that close each side of the vinyl) breaching the three-minute mark. The lyrics offer a wider palette than most of their contemporaries, too: Weekend Nachos remain almost painfully sincere, as epitomised by the bleak emotional torrents of the single and the scene awareness of "S.C.A.B.", which mocks middle-class combos who sing about issues like police brutality but get their sole take on it from other bands' lyric sheets. Dark, grim, unforgiving, infernal and pulverising, the Nachos still *slay*.
Across the seas, Glasgow's Bubblegum Lemonade slay too, but in a somewhat more measured way. With fearful symmetry, they too dare frame a third album: once again, 'difficult' be blowed, for "Some Like It Pop" perfectly captures how the Lemonade have skipped from one new plateau to another to become one of the most assured bands of their oeuvre. The record comes on the heels of the sun-dappled dazzle of instantly heartening single "Have You Seen Faith?" and at times "S.L.I.P." could be the brothers Reid fronting the Razorcuts, such is the dedication to capturing a prized indie-pop sound, a journey which throws up constant and knowing nods to Creation Records, to Creation's roots in 60s' mod and psychedelia and, when the fuzz kicks in, to the pure pop cravings of the bands that graced Bristol's splendid Subway Organization for a few halcyon years. Were we to be actively threatened with a spell in a Siberian gulag for failure to pick our favourites, then as well as the gorgeous preceding 45 we would nominate "Famous Blue Anorak", "Dead Poets Make Me Smile" and "Your Valentine (Takes Me Back In Time)": but in truth, there's nothing here that doesn't glow with the warmth of at least a thousand bonfires.

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