The Dirty Dozen - September, 2009

This month a rock star's nephew gets in on the act, a historically named new Scottish band emerges, and <b>Nick Mitchell</b> gets an education from Ian Brown

Feature by Nick Mitchell | 27 Aug 2009

It’s an added bonus when a song expands your vocabulary. Stellify (**, 21 Sep) is the new single by unlikely wordsmith Ian Brown, but it’s also a verb meaning ‘to become a star’. Brown’s celebrity may be secure for now, but if he keeps cranking out forgettable tunes like this he may find himself burning out before long. With two rappers in the September sack, Speech Debelle’s victory in the Single of the Month stakes for August has not gone unnoticed. First up is First Lesson (***, 7 Sep) by Big Dada artist Juice Aleem. His rhymes are fast and furious, but the Evil Nine remix here is better than the original. Lethal Bizzle has followed in Dizzee’s footsteps by crossing over to a mainstream audience, and Going Out Tonight (**, 21 Sep) will soon be all over the radio like rash, thanks to its beefy electro kick and no-brainer lyrics. More synthetic sounds can be heard from frYars, the musical moniker of 19-year-old Londoner Ben Garrett. Olive Eyes (**, 7 Sep) is more than a little reminiscent of the throbbing electro employed by The Knife, but without that duo’s subversive chill this is just a bit too vacuous.

It seems France can produce decent bands after all. Following Phoenix’s rather good recent album, Fat Cat endorsed Get Back Guinozzi! release debut double A-side Low Files Tropical / Police & Thieves (***, 14 Sep). With dub-drenched beats, doubled-up vocals and twangy guitars, it sounds bizarrely brilliant, but they’d benefit from stronger songwriting. Suffering from a similar predicament are Wildbirds & Peacedrums. My Heart (**, 7 Sep) isn’t a bad song, but it’s as if the Swedish band feel they have to make it as sonically quirky as possible, undermining their own sincerity with childlike steel drums and marimba.

London trio Phantom stick to more conventional instrumentation on Great Pretender (***, 28 Sep). Elsie Martins’ crystalline voice slinks between the shadows cast by gothic guitars and scratchy, echoed FX on this alluring debut single. There’s nothing dark about San Franciscan duo Girls’ second single Lust For Life (****, 21 Sep). Despite the title, Iggy Pop had no hand in this song: whereas his effort is laced with the dark stuff, this is sweetly naive, from the opening line of ‘I wish I had a boyfriend’ to the jingle-jangle garage-rock guitars. Coming to an indie film near you.

It would be easy to be cynical about Stardeath and White Dwarfs. Firstly, the name. Secondly, the fact that singer Dennis Coyne is the nephew of Flaming Lips frontman Wayne. But don’t write them off as mystic musical beneficiaries, because New Heat (***, 6 Sep) is actually very good, in an MGMT meets Late of the Pier kinda way. Swapping trippy star-gazing for careening blues rock, New York-based Alberta Cross are set to unveil their debut album this month. Before that comes ATX (**, 14 Sep), a single that reveals the band as 70s worshipping anachronisms. Sure, they know how to rock, but so do a million other bands.

Which brings us to the paradox of Twin Atlantic. On their new single You’re Turning Into John Wayne (*, 7 Sep) the Glasgow band bemoan the Americanization of our culture. Granted, the vocals are unmistakably Scottish, but in every other way they sound like any punk-pop band from across the pond you care to mention. A perfect antidote to such generic fodder is the orchestral indie-rock of The Seventeenth Century (the Glasgow band, not the historical era). Roses in the Park (****, 14 Sep) is a swelling, gorgeous composition centred on a Fleet Foxes-like vocal tableau, embellished with strident horns and subtle glock. A worthy Single of the Month.