John Andrew Fredrick has spent the last three decades as the sole constant in one of music’s most perfect and unheralded rock outfits, the black watch. Using the Beatles as a tracing template, Fredrick has applied a kitchen-sink approach to the album at hand since his 1988 debut, St. Valentine, the opening volley in a catalog that would ultimately encompass 15 albums and five EPs, all of which inspired varying levels of critical halleleujahs and a deafening chorus of crickets at the nation’s cash registers. Fredrick will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our band new feature with him,
Damn Vandals are from London (Hampstead, to be precise) and their riffs and rhythms hark back to a fine time (uh, that would be the ’70s) when bands rocked without apology, without a hint of irony. They’ve told me (full disclosure: we’re great, fast friends; we’ve toured together, hoisted a million and a half steins together in two million pubs, I stop at their flat when I’m in London, they’re coming to stop at mine this summer) they play music that they love playing rather than listening to somehow, but I think they’re being unduly modest. Plus they’ve gotten heaps heavier as they’ve gone along. Brothers Jack Kansas and Frank Pick (aliases, obviously) compose twisted yet terrifically accessible pop rock songs around familiarly unfamiliar riffs that utterly wow you with their power and bite. If the Psychedelic Furs and the La’s and \ Led Zeppelin had a lovechild from a three-way, well, Damn Vandals would be the kissing cousin–slightly naughty, very bright, a tough kid with a yen for great books–of said kid. The guitaring here–and I am it stands to reason a serious sucker for bands that proffer twin-guitar attacks–is simply spectacular. Start with Rocket Out of London and work your way back to the debut. This is the sort of band you hear and involuntarily go a-head-scratching: Why aren’t they huge? Music World, what’s the matter with you? These guys write such cool songs. There’s such a hum in your head created by Damn Vandals, right from the start of each and every song: they’re past masters of wah-wah and wailing tones, and the melodies grab hold of you and don’t let go. There’s something relentless about them. There’s more than a hint of joy. It’s like controlled abandon, reckless meticulousness. And the rhythm section–Chris and Martin (not noms de guerre)–is enviably tight and inventive.
The Spires are from Ventura, Calif., and they’re the closest thing you’ll find (save the band fronted by yours insincerely) to Creation and 4AD heyday era 1988-1995. They handprint and assemble their own records and CDs and they don’t seem to care whether or not they reach all that many people and for that I admire them as immensely as I revere their songwriting and production that doesn’t attempt to sophisticate their dreamy and unadulterated three-to-four minute sonic gems in any form or fashion. I can’t stop playing “Pretty Lonely In A Car.” It’s no wonder good old Jack Rabid’s creamed all over them, journalistically, in The Big Takeover; if there’s a band working out of Anywhere, USA and they sound English and they sound good, Jack’s gonna discover and tout them. Mark you, you won’t have to spend a lot of time quote-unquote getting into them: almost instantaneously, you’ll dig their vibe. Beautiful textures and subtle riffs and layers and layers of prettily distorted guitars. Simply brilliant.
The World Records
The World Record’s guitarist/songwriter/frontguy Andy Creighton played on The Gospel According To John, taking over/helping out in the studio when our king/key axeman Tyson Cornell got too busy with his publishing company to breathe, practically. We saw Andy’s terrific pop band play at this French sports bar in Echo Park where we often play (and won’t any more on account of they’re stopping having music, sadly) and we were just so impressed we had to steal Andy away for the spell of an LP–or half one, at least. His melodic sensibilities are leavened/enhanced by a real yen for wild dissonance that isn’t so very much in evidence on songs like the classic “We’re #1” so I daresay we can take a bit of credit in inspiring him to be a little less perfect and precise in terms of his considerable musicality. The World Record are really the answer to the question some might pose with respect to Fountains Of Wayne and why don’t I like them more or even very much? It’s because you haven’t found Andy Creighton’s band yet. You’ll forget all about questions like, “Why don’t I like Fountains Of Wayne?” You’ll forget about the, for me, immeasurably over-valued Big Star too. Now I’m gonna duck out of the way of the inevitable flak that’s hurtling towards me before I reach the end of this sentence, even. I know, indie gal and guy, that you are in love with Sister/Lovers and the other ones whose names I never remember because I have tried to like them so many times—and failed because the vocals seem so thin, as thin as the guitars sound thin. I like thick. I am thick, I’m sure, about Big Star but everybody has some sacred cow that they’d sooner see put out to pasture than right there in the barnyard. You don’t have to listen to me, you know! Listen to The World Record instead. Any band that calls one of its records Guitars Forever gets my vote, my credit card, a key spot on my turntable and in my heart.