The Dirty Dozen - April, 2008

Well-travelled beatniks, white soulsters, thrash metal and Scouting For Girls. It could only be this month's singles round-up.

Feature by Nick Mitchell | 01 Apr 2008
  • Blood Red Shoes

Pitched somewhere between O Brother Where Art Thou? and The Pogues, The Ballad of Bess Houdini (3stars, 7 Apr) by Paul Vickers and The Leg is nothing if not intriguing. So we've established that SL Records have an ear for quirky, beatnik troubadours. Thomas Truax is further proof: Stranger On a Train (14 Apr, 3stars) is a skiffle ode to locomotive life that showcases his weird and witty narrative style. On the more conventional side of the singer/songwriter scale is Rory McVicar. No More Do I Care (3stars, 7 Apr) really benefits from repeated listens – a pleasant strum by the Norwich native. White, English, mid-30s, but Jamie Lidell does his best Stevie Wonder on Little Bit of Feel Good (14 Apr, 3stars). A less flattering tagline would be 'the male Joss Stone', but we know better.

Scouting For Girls have a new song out. It's called Heartbeats (1star, 7 Apr) and the beat is timed to a human heartbeat sample. Clever? About as clever as these fuckwits will ever get. It's a risky business calling your second single Listen Then Leave (28 Apr, 3stars) but then Midlands metalheads AFD Shift don't seem like a worrisome bunch. Their glitchy thrash is surprisingly listenable, even for this metal-sceptic's ears. The same can't be said for Las Vegans The Higher, whose UK debut single Dare (14 Apr, 1star) sounds like it's been marinated in The Feeling singer's melted hair gel. Less gloopy are Blood Red Shoes, who up their game with Say Something, Say Anything (7 Apr, 3stars). Although the subject matter is a family bereavement, its garage-punk blast is not at all funereal.

In these esoteric days of math-rock and Afrobeat, simplicity, it seems, is not a fashionable concept, but The Envy Corps use just that to good effect in Story Problem (21 Apr, 3stars), a rousing terrace-style chant that's more British Sea Power than Fratellis, thankfully. Make Model sing "we're here with a mission" on The LSB (21 Apr, 3stars), and with their major label backing and ear for bright punk-pop, this Glasgow mob could be on the cusp of ubiquity. A rich seam of indie runs through Canada, and even if you don't like latest exports Tokyo Police Club and their single Tessellate (21 Apr, 4stars) – and it's hard not to – you may at least have learned a new word. This column wasn't complementary about Lightspeed Champion's debut single back in January – 'distinctly ho-hum'. But Galaxy of the Lost (14 Apr, 4stars) is a huge improvement, big enough for single of the month. The lap-guitar tags it as folk-pop, but Dev Hynes' love-torn lyrics are in pointed contrast to the trad sound.