Then it’s the first full-length album, Pussy Whipped (1993). While Hanna’s delivery hadn’t developed or changed, the band had clearly been thinking about upping the ante and although the tunes are still pretty rudimentary they are more sophisticated than anything on the preceding releases. It’s a great album, full of fire and a lot of fledgling ideas and some solid tunes. In a way Pussy Whipped was the pinnacle of the Riot Grrrl movement, and after its release there wasn’t really anywhere else for the scene to go. None of the other Riot Grrrl bands in the
Campbell Neale makes some fantastic bits of ambient drone and doom and under his Birchville Cat Motel moniker he puts out some of the more accessible parts of his work. Seventh Ruined Hex (2007) is one of the best that I’ve heard (I don’t know if he still does but he used to put out about 15 albums a year) but it does have some seriously challenging elements – the high end screech that lasts throughout the 10 minute ‘Iron Goddess o’ Mercy’ for instance. The opener, ‘Ghastly Star’ is a brilliant piece of feedback confusion, and throughout its 18 minute running time a lot happens. At first it seems like a load of random computerised feedback scree but throughout come waves of beautiful low drones and swooping, ghostly waves of sound, it’s fabulous stuff. The two shorter pieces are pretty decent bits of drone and the 17 minute closer, ‘Bee’, is absolutely superb, it’s unsettling, distracting but ultimately enlivening noise.
Andrew Bird’s Armchair Apocrypha (2007) is an interesting and highly enjoyable bit of cerebral pop. There are some great, engaging songs here, and where Bird’s records can often be a bit of a chore this is a really endearing record. It’s not up to the standard of his earlier Mysterious Production of Eggs, but that is a phenomenal record. This is a little more mature, a bit more considered and more highly structured, but it’s no disservice to say it’s an adult piece of work and if anything it shows just how strong a songwriter he really is.
I love the first album by the Bird and the Bee (2007). I love the way that Inara George and Greg Kurstin have taken a kind of light-hearted bossa approach to slick pop music and made it sort of indie, sort of cutesy without being in any way twee. It’s a clever trick and they’re clever musicians, not surprising for the daughter of Lowell George and a long-time musical smart-arse. There’s something really charming about the whole set-up and while some of the songs don’t really work most of them are simply great, summertime charms.
Crusty old Jane Birkin had something of a critical renaissance in the early 2000’s and the second album from that period was 2004’s Rendez-vous. It’s a spare, spacious record with a very muted and open atmosphere which suits Birkin’s trademark breathy vocals really well. At this point a number of other people were keen/prepared to work with her and it’s a bizarre roll-call of guests on Rendez-vous from Brian Molko to Bryan Ferry by way of Francoise Hardy and Beth Gibbons. It’s an odd album but it’s also oddly successful, partly by virtue of its subdued, slightly sinister air. Interestingly it’s the kind of faintly claustrophobic atmosphere that Charlotte Gainsbourg has managed to utilise successfully on her recent albums too.
Finally it’s Junkyard (1982) by the Birthday Party. I’ve never really got the early part of