A Year in the Glitterhouse
By Chris Marling
Mudhoney, Flaming Lips, Tad, Boss Hog, The Walkabouts,
Screaming Trees, Afghan Whigs, Mark Lanegan, Bitch Magnet, Codeine,
16 Horsepower, Black Lipstick - the Glitterhouse back catalogue puts
those of most other labels to shame.
While the likes of Factory, Rough Trade or Mute may
be more obviously placed in the music hall of fame, Glitterhouse arguably
beats them all for sustained quality and refusal to compromise. Remember
this kids - it was Glitterhouse that introduced Subpop, and so Nirvana
et al - to Europe.
2004 was a bit special for them too, as they celebrated
20 years of distributing some of the finest alternative music from Europe
and the States around the globe - proof that doing it for love and not
money can work, even without number one hits or selling out to the man.
Below is a selection of their output from last year,
and a few gems that are on the near horizon. Check them out at www.glitterhouse.com
- there's a bunch of free downloads and if you can't find something
in this lot to whet your appetite, what the hell are you reading R*E*P*E*A*T
for? This is where it begins my friend, in the Glitterhouse. And they're
German. Go figure.
To celebrate the 20 years they've also released a
compilation called Nevermind - 20 Years in the Glitterhouse. It's a
cool £7 (yes, seven quid), is a triple CD box set, and contains
more than 50 tracks. Yes - fifty. Anyone who doesn't buy one is frankly
an idiot - all the bands reviewed in full below are on it too, so if
you think its your cup of tea, you'll get a good introduction to them
Now off to the shops with you.
Savoy Grand - People and What They Want
I saw this lot in Nottingham when I was at university, got a demo to
review and said "this lot will be huge" in our uni paper -
eight years on, and they've just put the finishing touches on their
debut full-length album. But you can't rush greatness, and greatness
this most certainly is. Beautiful minimalist soundscapes, People and
What They Want is a lo-fi masterpiece that will see a well-kept secret
explode into the nations consciousness. If Low or Codeine are your favourite
band, prepare to have them knocked off their perch by Savoy Grand.
Lampshade - Because Trees Can Fly
There is a strange correlation between being mad and lampshades - don't
ask me why, but there is. So when the opening strains of this came through
my speakers sounding just like Bjork, I though something was afoot.
But apparently not. Lampshade are a Danish/Swedish indie band whose
vocalist, Rebekka Maria, sounds just like her. Instead of all that arty
nonsense the crazy dumpy one insists on wrapping herself in, this is
a wispy, whispered sound that manages to rock as well, in a Slowdive
kind of way. Ethereal, shoe-gazing stuff at its best.
Rocket Redux - Rocket From the Tombs
Re-recordings of the classic pre-punk tracks from the short-lived band
which included David Thomas and Peter Laughner, later of Pere Ubu fame.
Dirty garage rock with suicide lyrics and brimming with graphic punk
nihilism, this collection polishes the sound on the classics while never
losing the freshness of the 1975 originals.
Portrait of David - These Days are Hard to Ignore
Norwegian lo-fi from White Birch frontman Ola Flottum that drips with
melancholy. The silences are as important as the sounds, showing an
already beautiful album has a depth of craft not often found. The sure
sign of the depth of personal feeling here is that I found myself trying
not to hear the lyrics - an album that truly looks you in the eye, daring
you to turn away.
Friends of Dean Martinez - Random Harvest
Featuring past and present members of Giant Sand, Calexico and Naked
Prey, its hardly surprising this is a bit special. You can't beat a
good pedal steel, and Bill Elm is certainly the man in that department.
Beautiful filmscapes underpinned with a sinister side, this edgy yet
laid back collection of instrumentals is stunningly panoramic yet also
personal and soft.
David Thomas & Two Pale Boys - 18 Monkeys on a Dead Man's Chest
Pere Ubu frontman Thomas doesn't get any easier to listen to with age
- his nor mine. Its more of the same from this strange bunch. Crazy
murder music that flits like freeform jazz in blender with b-movie sci-fi
screeches thrown in for added effect. If I saw these guys live and he
didn't play the whole set in darkness with just a torch shining under
is chin, I'd be wholly disappointed.
The Creekdippers - Mystic Theatre & Political Manifest
While recording Mystic Theatre, chief Creekdippers Mark Olson (of Jayhawks
fame) and wife Victoria Williams decided to write an album about what
he describes as "the criminals in the Whitehouse", and Political
Manifest was born. Every time I hear an American slagging off Bush it
fills me with hope, so getting an album that shouts it from the rooftops
was always going to be a good thing. The music is much better on Mystic
Theatre, but the sentiment of Manifest makes it worth owning too, and
any fan of traditional American music - from country and bluegrass via
gospel and blues to Dylan and Joplin gospel - will love it.
Cary Hudson - Cool Breeze
This solo outing from the Blue Mountain frontman sees him in familiar
country rock territory, but there's more quality and diversity here
than in previous offerings. The old time blues and folk roots still
shine through, but this is more accomplished, balanced and consistent
than before - a rough and ready blend of styles that is held together
by its honesty and musical mastery.
The Walkabouts - Shimmers
Hard to break down fifteen albums and twenty years into a dozen tracks,
so Shimmers is, in the words of Chris Eckman, "some of the towns
we have visited and some of the roads we have taken" - an apt description
of an interesting compilation that succeeds in capturing the essence
of the band. The folk/country rock tag doesn't do them justice, as there's
so much more to The Walkabouts, but like this it's a good starting point.
Dark, warped, beautiful music.
Woven Hand - Consider the Birds
Incredibly moving and emotional solo release from the 16 Horsepower
frontman David Eugene Edwards. With a voice to stop you dead in your
tracks and a piano/violin sound or rare intensity, like Nick Cave but
without the funny side. Without doubt one of the most powerful albums
I've ever had the pleasure of listening to.
Helldorado - Director's Cut
The Tarantino of alternative music, Helldorado take the epic storytelling
Nick Cave, the edginess of 16 Horsepower and the backdrop of Morricone
to create an 18-certificate blockbuster with all the swagger, sex and
violence you'd expect. From Dusk 'Til Dawn with a blindfold, but from
These sounds can be ordered from Cambridge's Rhythm
Records or look at the Glitterhouse