It’s not a very taxing day in Indie Basement, it’s a very light release week over this way. But there’s always a few things worth listening to: Brooklyn’s SAVAK release their most assured record yet; House of Love have a new box set on the way; Sweden’s Arre! Arre! are high on the hog on Ride the Universe; and UK dreampop band Engineers are reissuing their debut album on vinyl.
It’s a little busier in Notable Releases, with Andrew reviewing Kurt Vile, Tim Kasher and more.
Here’s more Basement-related news: Ride have officially announced the first of their ’90s-era vinyl reissues; The Dream Syndicate are playing The Days of Wine and Roses in full on tour this year; TRAAMS are back and their new single features Protomartyr’s Joe Casey; Billy Nomates released a new single; and I’m happy to report the first new Folk Implosion songs in 20 years are very good. And not exactly music-related but I’m excited for the new season of The Kids in the Hall.
RIP Chris Bailey and Gilbert Gottfried.
Next week will be decidedly more exciting in Indie Basement, with the release of new albums by Spiritualized and Fontaines DC, and a bunch more. You can pre-order the Fontaines DC album on exclusive, limited-edition transparent red vinyl in the BV shop and be sure to check out the Indie Basement section for more vinyl and merch selected by yours truly.
Head below for this week’s reviews.
SAVAK – Human Error / Human Delight (Ernest Jenning Recording Co)
SAVAK’s fifth album is their best sounding, most assured yet, mixing pop hooks and jagged edges
Formed in 2015 by Sohrab Habibion (Obits, Edsel) and Michael Jaworski (The Cops, Virgin Islands), SAVAK have become one of the most reliable indie rock bands in Brooklyn, makers of smart, hooky, taught, mutant punk. Human Error / Human Delight is their fifth album in seven years and is another winner. Jarowski and Habibion each write and sing, and have distinctive styles that lean toward power pop and angular post-punk, respectively, but as they’ve progressed it’s become more like two sides of the same SAVAK coin. Sohrab’s songs have turned more melodic, while while Michael’s songs have upped the slash and burn.
Sohrab is letting his Wire fandom show more than ever on this one, and that’s a-ok with me. (It worked for Elastica!) “Recanted (Free the Singer)” tips its hat to “Outdoor Miner” and is one of the album’s highlights, turning into a tale of weary paranoia, the kind expats in some tiny South American country might might tell over shots of some indistinct pale liquor. I also really like “My Book on Siblings,” which bounces on a manic beat with a riff that burrows into your brain quick. Jarowski, meanwhile, delivers maybe his best set of SAVAK songs yet, mixing big hooks and anthemic choruses with jagged riffage (and sounding a little like Sloan’s Chris Murphy) on “Baltimore Moon,” “Empathy,” and the somewhat sinister “Oddsmaker.”
SAVAK have gotten better as producers, too, incorporating drum machines and other electronics, and sometimes it sounds like they’re experimenting with sampling themselves. Human Error / Human Delight is definitely their best sounding, most assured record yet that also bodes well for Album #6, may it come sooner than later.
House of Love – Burn Down the World: The Fontana Years 1989-1993 (Cherry Red)
Eight disc box set collects House of Love’s output on Fontana, including hits, b-sides, rarities and 13 previously unreleased tracks
By the time The House of Love‘s self-titled debut was released by Creation Records in 1988, the band had already been scooped up by major label Fontana. Seeing hit potential in frontman Guy Chadwick’s songs (and cheekbones), Fontana quickly got the band back in the studio to make their second album. It was anything but quick, though, as House of Love spent more than a year and $1 million on the album, burning through studios, producers and brilliant lead guitarist Terry Bickers’ sanity. (Bickers was sacked in late 1989.) Released in July 1990, The House of Love (aka “The Butterfly Album”) is nonetheless great and contains such classics as “I Don’t Know Why I Love You,” “The Beatles and The Stones,” “Never” and “Shine On,” but the hype had faded.
The early-’90s were also a weird time for UK guitar music, a netherworld of indifference amongst grunge and rave in the years before Britpop, and House of Love never quite fit in. The band remained on Fontana till they broke up in 1993, releasing the very good, underrated Babe Rainbow in 1992 and not-quite-as-good Audience With the Mind the next year. The Creation era of the band — their excellent debut album and early singles — gets most of the attention these days but the Fontana albums hold up well, as shown on this new box set. Across a whopping eight CDs, Burn Down the World collects pretty much everything that House of Love released on Fontana, including the three albums and tons and tons of b-sides, outtakes, demos and live cuts, 13 of which have never been released before.
Some of these b-sides and outtakes, including the fantastic “Marble” and a whole bunch of songs titled “Love,” were actually released during the band’s original run on 1990’s Spy in the House of Love compilation. Here, Spy is expanded to three CDs worth of material including their cover of George McRae’s 1974 disco hit “Rock Your Baby” (recorded for NME’s 40th Anniversary), their cover of The Chills’ “Pink Frost” (b-side to “The Girl With the Loneliest Eyes.”) A lot of these odds and ends are as good as anything on their proper albums. There’s also a full-show recording of The House of Love live in Leicester in 1990, as well as recordings live in NYC in 1991/1992. There’s a booklet featuring rare and previously unpublished photographs, plus a new interview with Guy Chadwick.
Burn Down the World is CD only but we can hope for vinyl reissues of The Butterfly Album and Babe Rainbow. In any case it’s a good time to revisit those House of Love albums with their first North American tour since the ’90s happening this fall.
Arre! Arre! – We Ride The Universe (PNK SLM)
This Swedish band find inspiration in motorcycle gang imagery on their revved up third album
It’s been 60 years since The Wild One and almost 50 years since “Leader of the Pack,” but motorcycle gang culture continues to fascinate and inspire, especially in certain subsects of rock and pop. Swedish band Arre! Arre!‘s third album imagines them, as one song puts it, “Queens of the Road,” as they raise hell, break hearts, and ride those endless roads, cigarette dangling from the corner of their mouths. As you might expect, these tales are set to revved up, surfy garage punk with ’60s girl group sounds (and a little riot grrrl) running through their veins, but Arre! Arre! do it very well, and singer Katja Nielsen can really belt it out, whether its on rippers like “Good Cop? Bad Cop?” and “Ride or Die,” or soulful ballads like “Lover’s Town.” Whether they’ve ever actually ridden a chopper, Arre! Arre! command the streets through sheer leather-clad attitude.
Engineers – Engineers (Music on Vinyl)
Welcome vinyl reissue of UK dreampop band’s excellent debut album
Led by Mark Peters, UK band Engineers have been making gorgeous, blissed-out dreampop for nearly 20 years. With a sound as airy as little fluffy clouds against a clear blue sky, the band got a lot of comparisons to Slowdive early on but that never quite fit. Engineers mixed in lots of synthesizers with proggy rhythms and soulful melodies for a sound that put them closer to Beta Band by way of Pink Floyd and Ulrich Schnauss (who ended up joining the band in 2010). They have their own distinct style.
Having put out five albums over the last two decades (most recently 2020’s Pictobug), Engineers are still best known for their 2005 self-titled debut, partially because single “Home” ended up being used as the theme for HBO series Big Love in its fourth and fifth seasons. It’s a fantastic record, the kind of super psychedelic bubblebath music that sends you off to Rancho Relaxo while still holding your attention.
Released just before the vinyl resurgence via Chrysalis imprint Echo Records (Morcheeba, Moloko, more) that folded the next year, the album has been out of print physically since its initial release so Music on Vinyl’s gatefold double LP reissue, due out May 13, is very welcome.
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