Huh.... 3 1/2 weeks between entries. That's pretty woeful. Let's see what needs to be said. I entered a record store last week and purchased a CD. I hadn't done that for quite a while. It's a lost art disappearing at an alarmingly rapid rate in the 21st century. Within 5 years, I hate to admit, it'll be a niche pasttime. I get a lot of stuff for free, and lately my life and house have been so cluttered w/ audio goods that I said to myself I would not purchase anything 'til year's end. Considering I've forked out cash for FA the last 3-4 months, I figured I was doing pretty well and rewarded myself with the latest CD by the Sand Pebbles, Ceduna (Sensory Projects). You foreigners have probably never heard of 'em, though if you're a 'Strine and have the vaguest clue, they've most likely been orbiting your planet somewhere the last 5 years. This is their fourth album, their first, Eastern Terrace, being released on the ace Camera Obscura label back in '02 to great acclaim, and their subsequent two slipping off my radar somehow. Caught 'em live a few times over the years, most notably supporting Love back in '03, but it's taken until now to really sit down again and enjoy the wonders of this band. They feature a couple of old geezers - one-time script-writers for Neighbours, even (seriously, their contributions to the show, which included references to Peter Bagge and the Devil Dogs, made it a hoot to watch for a few years) - and a few younger guys in the ranks. Old-school collector friends of mine w/ too much time on their hands don't dig 'em much. They think the 'Pebbles' brand of psychedelia is tepid in the extreme, and to that I say they speak from the wrong orifice. There are, for instance, different brands of psych. There's your freakout/let's-make-a-racket genre as practiced by Acid Mothers Temple, Amon Duul, etc., there's the minimalist drone variety as perfected by Spacemen 3 back in their hey-day, and on the flipside is the type indebted more to pop songcraft balanced w/ a sense of the loopy. It's the latter that the Sand Pebbles perfect. I can think of half-a-dozen bands off the bat they remind me of: Byrds, Moby Grape, Dream Syndicate, Love, Yo La Tengo, Neu!, Television, Jefferson Airplane, '80s Died Pretty, etc. But seriously, they don't really sound like any of these bands. Not in total. Bits and pieces are stolen and borrowed and thrown into a stew which absolutely no-one else is doing (or at least doing this well) south of the equator. I guess I'm getting old, but this album has been the perfect piece of company which never talks back the last week and a half. When the fuzz guitar breaks out on the opener, "Red, Orange, Purple and Blue", mid-song, there's no going back. The metronomic pulse of "Wild Season" has me thinking of the ultimate meeting point twixt Neu! and Younger Than Yesterday-period Byrds, and the rest of the album never takes a break from the quality. I dig this a whole bunch. I heard it on the radio (3RRR/3PBS, thanks) a fair bit before purchase, took the plunge and glad I did. It came around to me the old-fashioned way. I'm prone to having my head in the sand when it comes to anything contemporary (and esp. local!) which is worth giving a fig about, but I'm glad to say there's a whole sea of disparate shit in Melbourne town which is worth lending an ear to: Sand Pebbles, Ooga Boogas (uh, really), The UV Race, Hotel Wrecking City Traders, Beaches, The Fading Fires, Jane Dust, Pathetic Human, etc. Yeah, I'm buddies w/ most of 'em, but that's not relevant. Seriously. Whatever the case, Ceduna is one of the best albums released this year, here, there or anywhere.
Some Brit by the name of Nick sent me an A5 fanzine a few weeks back. It's called Niche Homo and I dig it a whole lot. Reminds me of some of the better 'zines from the great boom of the early '90s: Superdope, Wipeout! and Feminist Baseball. Pure, raw fandom for all the best u/ground shit currently happening w/ zero doubt on their mind. Information, reviews, interviews, rants. You get the hep contempo stuff like Pink Reason, Times New Viking, The Shitty Limits, Oxbow (and Whipping Boy!!)'s Eugene Robinson (a good read) and even some goods on Dawson and The Scene Is Now. Aw, shucks. Reading this makes me feel about 100 years old, but I'm all the better for it.
My listening habits have gone haywire the last 12 months. Lately it's been medieval music, Jacques Brel, Dr. John, Thelonious Monk, old Jamaican rocksteady, Michael Rother's excellent series of solo albums in the '70s/'80s, Ali Farka Toure and Bob Wills, but the biggest surprise has been my sudden conversion to the greatness of The dBs. I previously had them written off as a load of '80s college-rock twaddle all too closely aligned to the REM school of putzery, and boy was I wrong. Their first two LPs - 1981's Stands For deciBels and '82's Repercussion - are A-grade art-pop caught somewhere in the netherworld of Big Star-style Memphis power-pop and the cerebral art-rock of Television or '81 period 'Ubu. Whilst it doesn't possess the grit of the best u/ground sounds of its day, the hooks a-plenty combined w/ often totally unexpected twists and turns in the songwriting department have me thinking the band were more than just a bunch of major-label failures. Both of these are combined on one CD on Collector's Choice, and you need it.