The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Manhattan Love Suicides, The Pastels, Heavenly, Camera Obscura - Time for a Twee Revival!
Miss Fliss 20/03/2009
With a scream of lo-fi-laden feedback, a clunk of Mo Tucker drums, a sashay of shiny tambourines, and the laments of a heartbroken gentle-soul voice all rife in music again, it seems the time has come for a C86/twee indie revival proper. In the last couple of years London club nights such asTwee as F*ck, Spiral Scratch, and The Beat Hotel have put on shows featuring bands that clap, dance, sing harmonies, sing in cutesy voices, bang drums as if for the first time, and turn the 'tremelo' effects to maximum. From the My Bloody Valentine and Pastels loving The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, to the Jesus and Mary Chain clatter of The Manhattan Love Suicides and Crystal Stilts, to the sunny bright 'ba-ba'-laden My Sad Captains, to the Orange Juice borrowings of Hatcham Social, and not forgetting the ultimate in the new wave of fey pop bands, Los Campesinos!
It's cool to wear your heart on your sleeve again (and compliment it with a heart patterned dress and hairclips), dress like Amelia Fletcher, and rejoice in being bookish or geeky or awkward or lonely. GIITTV faves The Pains of Being Pure at Heart cite albums by Rocketship and The Pastels as the best of all time, suddenly The Field Mice, Another Sunny Day, etc all have populated Myspace pages, and Camera Obscura and The Vaselines have made comebacks. But, who are all these bands? Let GIITTV's deputy editor Miss Fliss be your guide…
Beloved of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Rocketship is sunnyside up Californian lush pop. Stereolab mixed with cutesy boy/girl chiming 60s pop vocals and the distinct clatter of 80s indie guitars and drums. Hey Hey Girl is their most endearing and twee song from the album A Certain Smile. Now based in Portland, Dustin Reske still makes music, albeit in a new ambient, futuristic direction.
Another Sunny Day
A highlight of the Sarah Records stable, Another Sunny Day released a brilliant, hitting-the-nail-on-the-head genius single in the vein of an even more pissed off Smiths, called You Should All be Murdered, which surely goes down in history as the angriest fey song ever. Delivering vocals of rising-up-against-the-pricks, malicious intent, this song trundles along as unassumingly as a Field Mice ballad. Best use of banjo too. Sadly, the band only released one album, but this song is more than enough to go on in terms of leaving their mark.
K Records founder Calvin Johnson may well have single-handedly kickstarted the 'doesn't matter if you cant play for toffee' attitude that became rampant. With Mo Tucker style drums, sometimes using cardboard boxes and just bashing in one-two time child-like simplicity, with the screech of amateur guitar scrawled all over, and deliberately tone-deaf singing, Beat Happening still stand up as mavericks. They have sweet songs about bops by the sea, kissing, and general twee, shot through with pretty melody. Essential listening.
At the bitter end rather than the all out cutesy twee, The Pastels are oft-overlooked but classic song smiths. A lovely starting point is Nothing to be done on Youtube, a lilting, dulcet-toned, old school indie song. The Domino Records band are responsible for a whole host of indie names in their wake to the present day - even ones that aren't overtly influenced in sound, such as My Bloody Valentine, Nirvana and Sonic Youth, who were all famous fans.
The Field Mice
Responsible for some of the most sumptuous sugar-spun lovely little songs, and a key band on Sarah Records, The Field Mice sounded forever sad and lost in love. With the gentlest, plaintive male vocals and candy happy guitars, they are the ultimate twee band. Emma's House has to be one of the best songs ever written, with its harmonious dolorous lament over crunchy keyboard beats, so simple yet so effectively touching. The band to make your heart melt.
After Talulah Gosh dissolved, Amelia Fletcher put her talents to similarly bittersweet use in Heavenly. Her second project had much more punch and fervent intent, though, and always wins out for me. This was riot girl without needing to riot; understated affirmation of the female. Songs of the imperfections, disappointments, and dullness of love rather than candy coating it. For sheer anger delivered amidst silky pop innocence, speed toward the brilliant song Atta Girl with its I don't have to be cute/ right through and through and Fuck you! No way! encapsulation of defiance of a controlling man. The Heavenly Versus Satan compilation on K Records is vital listening.
Indie stalwarts that never quite get the recognition they deserve, Camera Obscura's songwriting has surely influenced a new generation of discerning indie fans. Acerbic, seen-as-surly, singer Tracyanne Campbell delivers elegant but meaningful lyrics about shyness, love and twee things like books and eating berries. Literate, witty, wry and with plentiful melody, bookish indie fans should look no further.