Dollars To Pounds: ‘Strate To The Top

April 02, 2008

Thanks to jokers like the Wombats, Scouting For Girls and One Night Only, the currency of indie-pop has become so devalued that, these days, to admit to an occasional weakness for nice boys with guitars playing songs that sound good on the radio is about as socially acceptable as secretly photographing your neighbour’s kids in the paddling pool. But we can’t listen to doom metal and kuduro all day, right? Luckily there are still a few gangs of clued-up suburban whippersnappers putting just enough spin on the old formula to pierce our jaded defences. There’s been a lot of industry agitation surrounding Essex lads Magistrates in the last couple of months, and justifiably so.

Magistrates, "Make This Work"

When pasty British rock bands strive to incorporate ‘the funk’, they usually come unstuck pretty quickly. Unless they are the Average White Band obviously – funkiest Dundonians ever. However, emboldened by Hot Chip’s heart-on-sleeve geek soul and Klaxons’ falsetto forays, Magistrates are going the whole hog, to the point where ‘Make This Work’’s nearest neighbour is Prince’s ‘Erotic City’. Elsewhere they summon the spirit of Paul Weller right about the time when he tried to piss off the blokes in parkas by wearing cycling shorts and stroking Mick Talbot’s hair. They have eight songs so far and at least five of them are stone-cold killers. Keep an eye.

Another band I’ve been tailing for ages finally have their debut album out this month. Cajun Dance Party’s ‘The Colourful Life’ is as gilded and ambitious a piece of pop classicism ever attempted by a band who aren’t actually available to promote the album because they’re about to take their A-levels. Bernard Butler has proffered a guiding hand without quashing any of their school music room enthusiasm and the result is infectious. When I first listened to the finished album I did wonder if, beguiling as their cloistered optimism is, maybe it’s all a bit too earnest and vanilla to properly love? But let the carnal leers and the booze-sodden cynicism come later. Maybe even as soon as the second album they’re threatening to release later this year.

There’s nothing very original about Birmingham’s Johnny Foreigner, especially if you’ve heard The Get Up Kids, Urusei Yatsura or Pretty Girls Make Graves. But their songs are cute, as are the cartoon ghosts in their videos.

Mystery Jets, "Two Doors Down" (Live on BBC6 Music Session)

BUT. Showing everyone else exactly how indie-pop should be served are Mystery Jets. I’ve run into guitarist Will several times this year—usually in the company of producer Erol Alkan lurking like a suave bodyguard—and he kept telling me how the second M-Jets album was going to be really different and pop. And he was right. Once you’d got over the fact that Blaine’s 50-something prog-loving Dad was in the band and they played most of their early gigs in an old boathouse on Eel Pie Island (and looked like it, too), their singles were always triumphant, hum-in-the-bath affairs. But now, even more so. First there was ‘Young Love’ which pulled the classic, never-fails trick of having a female guest vocalist (in this case Laura Marling) sing the third verse and then harmonise on the climactic chorus. Brill Building 101! ‘Two Doors Down’ might be even better. Charmingly, it gets so carried away in its loved-up giddiness that it forgets that if the girl Blaine wishes to romance indeed lives two doors down, then he probably wouldn’t be able to hear her dancing around her room “to a worn out 12” of 'Marquee Moon'”, there being another house in the way. Logic be damned. Above is an acoustic version they played on BBC 6Music, but you should really go and buy the proper thing on 7Digital because the sax break is incredible.


From The Collection:

Dollars To Pounds
Dollars To Pounds: ‘Strate To The Top