June 24, 2014

Today's Hotness: Johnny Foreigner, Fashoda Crisis

Johnny Foreigner -- Always The Barmaid Never The Bar (detail/transform)

>> A new release from Clicky Clicky top-faves Johnny Foreigner turns any day into Christmas, and when the release is dropped on us as a total surprise, well, it is that much more enjoyable. So imagine the glee we felt Monday morning heading back to work/drudgery after a delightful holiday at the beach when an email from Bandcamp announced the arrival of AlwaysTheBarmaidNeverTheBar -- Live Recordings 2013-14, a new live album from the Birmingham, England-based noise-pop titans. The title of the 19-song set is self-explanatory: the collection indeed does contain live recordings captured during the last 18 months, a period of time during which Johnny Foreigner gestated and released its triumphant fourth LP You Can Do Better [review/postscript]. AlwaysTheBarmaidNeverTheBar features recordings of a number of tracks from that LP and its precedent, the 2012 Names EP, but if anything the collection is remarkable because of how well it covers the quartet's 10-year career. Sure, there's nothing from the band's "lost" first full-length WeLeftYouSleepingAndGoneNow, but there is a cracking version of the early, early tune "Candles," which was part of the Every Day Is A Constant Battle compilation that was, along with the rest of the band's rarities, gussied and put on Bandcamp back in 2010. The legendary "The Coast Was Always Clear" is included, as are cracking versions of older singles "Dark Harbourz," "With Who, Who, And What I've Got" and "Eyes Wide Terrified." Perhaps even more exciting than the breadth and depth of AlwaysTheBarmaidNeverTheBar are the blazing and tight performances. The pulsing live version of the terrifically affecting "Riff Glitchard" may in fact be definitive, and the dynamic and seemingly effortlessly great iteration of "To The Death," fronter Alexei Berrow's chronicling of living in the wake of a friend's suicide, is also a marvel. The band's personality shines in smatterings of hilarious stage banter. And the whole damn set is available as a pay-what-you-like download, which is totally amaze considering the quality and quantity here. That said, Johnny Foreigner do have something new for sale, in the form of a new You Can Do Better T-shirt, the purchase of which also entitles the buyer to a download of the new, four-song Candyland session, which was recorded live in the band's studio in Birmingham. Details on the shirt/session deal are right here; listen to all of AlwaysTheBarmaidNeverTheBar -- Live Recordings 2013-14 via the Bandcamp embed below and click through to give the band some money for it. Our highest recommendation.

>> Early this month we had an editorial powwow with Mr. Charlton about the then-new Hard Left single and the discussion turned to our increasing disappointment with the lack of political engagement in contemporary indie rock. During the exchange we grasped for examples of bands doing such work these days (in addition to Hard Left, of course, which has since announced a second, equally potent single). We did come up with a couple of course, but for some reason we didn't recollect at the time one of the strongest exemplars: the mighty Southend-on-Sea, England-based agit-punk concern Fashoda Crisis. The trio Monday released its third long-player, a brawling yet sophisticated 11-song set of filth and fury titled Almost Everyone is Entirely Average at Almost Everything. We recall an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer about the surprising popularity of Jane's Addiction (this was around the time of the release of Nothing's Shocking), and that the article included a fan quote dubbing Jane's "thinking man's metal" or some (gender-insensitive) such. Well, Fashoda Crisis certainly qualifies as "thinking man's punk." Its thrilling collection commences with the incisive line "amnesiac electorate you have relapsed and left us with a system that worships television politicians," and proceeds from there scooping out satire, manifesto and social criticism to any takers. Fronter Sim Ralph characteristically berates the objects of his white-hot ire in a vitriolic voice not unlike that of Black Francis at the Pixies-man's most unhinged. Mr. Ralph is no slouch when it comes to "unhinged," either: Fashoda Crisis' "Everything: The Musical," a highlight of the new album, features the comically bizarre, syncopated lyric "don't question my version of events, I'm wearing pajamas." Underpinning the anger and weirdness of Almost Everyone is Entirely Average at Almost Everything are tight, dynamic performances and intelligent songwriting. It makes the set indelibly refreshing, not only because it dares to rouse some rabble, but because it is so well-executed and well-conceived. Almost Everyone is Entirely Average at Almost Everything was released digitally by Fashoda Crisis Monday, and will be issued on vinyl later this year; fans who purchase the digital download receive a £7 discount on the LP when it is ready to ship. The set is on offer now in various bundles via Bandcamp, with added inducements coming in the form of t-shirts and posters and badges for the discerning punk fan. Fashoda Crisis are slated to perform July 5 at The Ace Hotel in Shoreditch, London, and Aug. 28 at Gwidhw, Cardiff, for those of you reading these words from the opposite side of the Atlantic. In the meantime, soothe your savage breast with the sounds of Almost Everyone is Entirely Average at Almost Everything via the embed below. We last wrote about Fashoda Crisis here in late 2012.

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