Smog Glasgow: Cathouse, Wed 25 Aug.
In the past, Bill Callahan, the man behind Smog, has released records that bordered on the excruciating. Not, by any means, excruciatingly bad, but full to the brim with harrowing tales of ruined relationships and failed romances. As Callahan has it, referring to a brief period of homelessness, ’I had no problems feeding myself. It’s hard to look at a weeping man and
not give him money. I have continued my musical career in the same vein.’
In short, Smog made the sort of tender, beautiful. gruelling music that broken indie-kids seek out to confirm their bleak outlook on life. Then, almost out of the blue, came Knock Knock, a long player featuring themes that, at times, border on the optimistic. ’
Admittedly, Smog have not quite ’ I ,1 ,4 ,f but the ' ‘ " “i
turned into Slade, bitterness towards former
paramours that filled earlier
releases is replaced by a kindlier tone. Does this mean that Callahan has mellowed with age? Apparently, ‘A change is as good as a rest.’
Knock Knock is also an album where toe-tapping country-rock tracks vie with the more typical maudlin and sparse arrangements. So was Callahan gearing up to storm the pop charts with his new direction? ’It’s more of a case of absurdity, as pop music is so easily tipped into the absurd with the inclusion of the merest of incongruities.’
For new listeners, these incongruities make Smog an attractive proposition, rather than a difficult listen. But will the forthcoming performances feature the new,
Who’s there?: Bill Callahan
more accessible, material? According to Callahan, ever the taciturn interviewee, ’I will be promoting recent releases.’
Given that this is the case, fans and future fans alike should head for the Cathouse post-haste. For, if those annual round-ups in the music press were more than fatuous exercises in unit-shifting, Knock Knock would be as good a candidate as any for album of the year. In the same way that Bonnie ’Prince’ Billy’s I See A Darkness rendered the harrowing hilarious, it is now possible to have good old-fashioned fun listening to Smog. (Jack Mottram)
I Knock Knock is out now on Domino.
LIVE PREVIEW The Amphetameanies
Glasgow: King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, Sat 21 Aug.
Q:What do you call a ten-piece ska band who write their own songs? A: The Amphetameanies. Observant readers will have noticed that that was not a joke, which is exactly the point The ’Meanies are keen to make.
’If we wanted to, we could make a packet playing novelty Madness
111 THE LIST 19—26 Aug 1999
Get into the ska: The Amphetameanies
medleys to students, but we don't — we put a lot of effort into writing our own songs,’ says Gordy, a founding member. ’Some of the band actually hate ska,’ adds Emma, who shares singing duties, ’so we end up with a lot of different influences coming through.’
This means that the Ampheta- meanies' recorded output sounds a little like Bis arguing with Mark E. Smith about how great the Specials were. Which puts the band in
something of an awkward position; old skinheads dismiss them for not wallowing in nostalgia, and potential new fans are put off by the fact that ’ska band’ tends to be seen as shorthand for ’novelty act’. Not that the ’Meanies are bitter. According to Alex, guitarist and songwriter, ’We set up the band to have fun, and to get audiences to have fun. The main difference between us and other bands in Glasgow is that you come to our gigs to dance and jump about.’
And fun they have, from their recent gig opening T in the Park to thousands of over-excited punters, to an appearance in Paris, reference to which sparked an intra-band debate on the extent to which their audience was naked. So, if you balk at the idea of paying to see a one-trick pony, pork pie-batted ska band, but enjoyed the ska sound of old, The Amphetameanies are a must-see. (Jack Mottram)
I The Amphetameanies release a split single with the Newton Grunts on their own Flotsam & Jetsam label in September. Both bands also play The Attic, Edinburgh, Fri 20 Aug (see Planet Pop festival preview, page 70).
LIVE PREVIEW Tom Hingley/Clint Boon
Baggy: a valid music movement or just an excuse for gurning Mancunians to sweat themselves sober in silly trousers? Ask Tom Hingley. As former singer with Baggy leaders lnspiral Carpets, he’s more qualified than most to have a pop at pop’s most ill-fitting genre.
’The worst thing about that era was definitely the liggers and drug dealers that used to hang around. The lnspirals were all about the music and having a great time but people like that really affected the spirit that things were done in. A lot of good music came out of Madchester, though. People still think very fondly of that era.’
Hingley is not one to rest on his laurels. Currently working his way across Britain on his first solo acoustic tour, he has no doubts as to what the future holds. ’Whether there are 50 or 500 people at one of my gigs, when they go away they’ll know that I’m a singer in my own right and that I’m not simply "Tom Hingley: ex-lnspiral Carpets”.'
Further proof that there is life after baggy may be found with Clint Boon. Hingley's former bowl-headed writing partner is now fronting the modestly monikered Clint Boon Experience. ’I’m proud of what the lnspirals did — it was beautiful but it’s been nicely sealed off now. It would be really sad if I sat around dreaming about the past all the time.’ And as for the future . . . ’I’ve got energy, I’ve got tunes and I’ve got a great band so why sit around doing nothing?’ (Sarah Dempster)
I Tom Hingley plays Glasgow: King Tut's Wah Wah Hut, Thu 26 Aug. His album Keep Britain Untidy is out in November. The Clint Boon Experience release an album, The Compact Guide To Pop Music and Space Travel, on Mon 6 Sep. They will play King Tut's on Fri 77 Sep.
Comeback kids: Boon and Hingley the
way they were or k “
1 :v STAR RATINGS": .i ,‘qu-skt'tf " Unmissable ' .--~k*** Very ood - : *H- ‘Wort ashot ' it , Below average it You’ve been warned