I know I said last week that I wouldn’t make any more suggestions for Xmas gifts, but that was written up a few days before this piece of vinyl was delivered by the postie.
It was a few weeks back that I suggested that Birling Gap, the album released earlier this year by The Catenary Wires, would be worth your effort. In doing so, I made passing reference to the existence of Swansea Sound, a band in which Amelia Fletcher and Rob Pursey are also involved, along with Hue Williams, formerly of Pooh Sticks.
I’ve been giving my support to Swansea Sound through bandcamp, making a number of digital purchases along with a rather splendid black t-shirt which simply says ‘CORPORATE INDIE BAND’ in white writing across the chest. More recently, I bought the new Christmas single on 7″ vinyl and put in my order for a vinyl copy of Live At The Rum Puncheon, the debut album which was released at the end of last month.
It turns out that I’ve grown quite fond of the album quite quickly. I suppose at this juncture it’s as well to offer up the band bio as found on bandcamp:-
“Swansea Sound: a band that came into being during lockdown and decided that fast, loud, political indiepop punk was the answer to being stuck indoors. Who needs introspection?
Hue Williams is reunited with Pooh Sticks singing partner Amelia Fletcher (ex-Talulah Gosh, Heavenly). Rob Pursey (also ex-Heavenly) and Ian Button provide the noise. The band has played one gig in real life – but there will be more in 2022.
Three of the tracks were released as singles, all of them now impossible to obtain. ‘Corporate Indie Band’ was a limited edition cassette, ‘I Sold My Soul on eBay’ was a one-off lathe cut that got auctioned on eBay (with a £400 winning bid), ‘Indies of the World’ was a 7” inch single that briefly hit the UK physical charts, but quickly sold out and plummeted back out again. And, to coincide with the LP pre-release, ‘Swansea Sound’ is released as a limited edition cassette. (1st September 2020 was the date when Swansea Sound Radio was re-branded by its new corporate owners and the name became available.) The song is a requiem for that lost radio station: a DJ describing his final day at work before his show is ‘rationalised’ out of existence.
Swansea Sound took their name from a radio station, and they even use its abandoned logo. Something modern, acidic and angry has taken up residence in a familiar, borrowed frame, just as it has in these indiepunk pop songs. You can throw yourself around to Swansea Sound like it’s 1986, but if you catch the lyrics you’ll remember you’re in 2021.”
So here’s the thing. I reckon, after doing this blog for over 15 years, I can assume most of the regular readers are quite fond of upbeat, punchy and rhythmic tunes, and if such tunes happen to come with intelligent, hard-hitting and occasionally nostalgically warm lyrics, then we are likely on a winner.
Live At The Rum Puncheon brings it all. Twelve tracks with a running time of 35 minutes. It’s occasionally an angry album, with the ire reserved for the way the industry (in its widest sense) is sucking the life out of musicians. It’s impossible not to laugh, but at the same time feel resentful at the lyric:-
“I sold my soul on Spotify (get a doctor, someone get a doctor)
I’m earning 0.000000000000001p
But several thousands follow me”
That’s from this song, one that I included in a mixtape a few weeks ago:-
The rest of the album is just as catchy, and much of it is just as frantic sounding. It has not all caustic and clever rants, so you can be assured it’s not an indie Rage Against The Machine for the 21st Century. The nostalgia is there in many places, not least in the song The Pooh Sticks in which Hue and Amelia, cleverly and wittily, pay homage to their old band. There are a few numbers such as the quite gorgeous Pasadena, with its longing for places imagined but not yet visited, where the pace does slow down, while I’m OK When You’re Around is a love song that you can dance to.
Oh, and then there’s Freedom of Speech, which pops up towards the end of the album. I wonder if you can work out who they were thinking of with these opening few lines:-
I said hang the DJ
Cos I hated reggae
Every shy man’s best friend
I was so sensitive then
I’m still sensitive now
But my profile’s going down
Oh my world is accursed
I endorsed Britain First
Where have my stage and my audience gone?
Where are my people and what has gone wrong?
I got to fight for my
Freedom of Speech
Freedom of speech
I got a license to preach
It’s my Freedom of Speech
He’s not the only one in their sights, with later references to ‘butter ads, for ex-punk dads’ linked into MAGA, q-anon and Steve Brannan……
I know a lot of folk out there are reeling from the news that the annual Indietracks festival is no more, with some wishing there had been one last farewell. If that had been the case, then surely Swansea Sound would have been the perfect bill-topper on the closing night, playing all the tunes from this incredibly enjoyable album, with perhaps some songs from their former bands to have added to the occasion.
It really is incredible to think that the members of Swansea Sound were part of the indie scene, in different guises, some 35 years ago, and today have made a record every bit as essential, and worthy, of anything any of us might have in our record collections that now span the ages.
Here’s the link to bandcamp if you don’t think you can pick up a copy from a decent record store close to your home.