Article by KevW
Musicians stepping up to do their bit for good causes is hardly a new thing, but it quite often involves bands who have enough money to pay off the deficit of a small African country in their bank accounts asking for your cash in return for a dodgy charity single that will quickly be forgotten. Perhaps this is a good gesture, but if they dipped their collective hands in their pockets they'd probably raise even more money than the record they're flogging. 2015, maybe more than any other year I can think of, has seen smaller independent artists releasing genuinely good music with the proceeds going to worthy organisations (The Broken Heed, Wake The Deaf' compilation...). This new limited edition cassette and download release by Small Bear Records is essentially two albums in one: a new eponymous collection from New York area lo-fi indie/punk/shoegaze group Schizo Fun Addict, and an eponymous new album from St Helens underground noiseniks The Bordellos, and the proceeds from this mammoth album (it is two full albums, one on each side) will go to Save The Children. The artwork is supplied by Stone Roses legend John Squire. It's a splendid package for sure.
Firstly then, to side A and eleven new recordings from Schizo Fun Addict. In a way this shows some kind of split personality for the band, or maybe just the enthusiasm and ideas to flit between DIY -sounding scree and quite stately, well-produced pieces. Their inventiveness also comes through, kicking-off with the rumbling squall of 'Lake Of Fire' which mixes raw punk with samples, electronics and an unhealthy level of distortion. But that's nothing compared to what else they deliver. 'Her Name Is Love' is a ragged clatter with affected vocals, before totally changing course for a brief interlude of poppy female vocals. Like their entire side, it's all over the shop, but in a good way. There are hints of '90s slacker-rock on 'Make A Stand', only with angrier vocals - again this is lightened by the softer female voice before it becomes more urgent and closer to classic alt-rock/punk and also '80s indie (Josef K is referenced). The changes are often quite dramatic, with the pure lo-fi pop of 'Lotion Chills Beast' feeling less abrasive, and 'Beggin For Shelter' following suit to a degree and being something of a stand-out. The minute-long 'The Pale Horse' uses early '90s big beats like those made chart-topping by The KLF.
The real surprise comes in the shape of 'Dream Of The Portugal Keeper - Part 2' which is a sweeping, gorgeous dreampop number with both voices sounding splendid and the end result being a classy, slightly cinematic indie/pop song that punctures the entire vibe of the album by sounding like an entirely different band. But it's followed by 'To Love' which is similar, if not quite as grand, and is another reminder that Schizo Fun Addict are by no means one-dimensional. For example, 'A.M. Story' hovers between Cocteau Twins-esque dreampop and the noisier end of shoegaze. Then it's back to the sound of home-recordings with 'Diesel Dolphin' which consists of a beat that barely holds itself together and a crude, stripped-back arrangement that's almost totally devoid of production. If you think this is a bad thing then think again. As well as the aforementioned '90s alt-rock sound, there are faint echoes of Syd Barrett here, and that's rarely a bad thing. 'Schizo Fun Addict' is wonderfully disjointed and you never quite know what's around the corner - not just from song to song, but from second to second. It should be enough to make listeners unfamiliar with the band to delve into their back catalogue for some more pleasant surprises.
And so to The Bordellos. Uncompromisingly lo-fi at times, the band have occasionally thought about flirting with a more polished sound in the past, but never really embraced it, which is what has earned then the cult status they have. They open with the excellent, wistful 'I may be reborn' and then waste no time in letting you know their current stance, as 'Chocolate my new rock n' roll' and 'Hallucinations' both sound like demos recorded on a knackered old four-track - something which only adds to the character. Both have neat melodies too. Then they dig out the fuzz that some may associate with some of their past releases. 'Hit it' screeches and contorts at times, taking the wildest '60s garage and warping it further. Even here there are flashes of a potential hit record, something that The Bordellos seem determined to avoid at all costs. 'King of the bedroom' feels like it was recorded using an old box as a drum kit and whatever instruments they could find lying around. It also continues their recent fascination with the phrase "pork sword". The crudeness of some lyrics and recording techniques so far is suddenly brushed aside by 'Melody inn' in much the same way that Schizo Fun Addict did with their contribution. This is still lo-fi but is quite affecting, especially lyrically.
"Smile you soft get, smile" is the lyrical refrain to 'Soft get smile', a song that's another reasonably bare-boned affair but is rather nice with it. Whether the two bands on 'KASSETTE' decided that they'd both have quieter, more tender mid-sections to their albums before hand is unlikely, but it's exactly what happens. 'Star light' is even softer with distant vocals and a minimal arrangement, and 'Temperature drop' shows a very humane and compassionate side to a band who've often been quite blunt in their subject matter and this has the effect of holding your attention - a valuable asset on a double album. You could say the same about 'The girl belongs to yesterday' which is a tale of lost love that feels more intimate thanks to the (lack of) production which is typically warts and all. It's fitting that the last song on the album is another engaging, simply-arranged but nicely written track called 'Who's too blame' where The Bordellos manage to talk about shagging like rabbits during the Manchester acid scene without sounding crass in any way. It's strangely romantic. You never know what to expect from each passing Bordellos release, and word was that this would be one of their most lo-fi to date. Well, it probably is, but its all the more compelling for it, especially as they forgo the noise for a more pensive approach much of the time. As a whole, 'KASSETTE' is a very good record for a very good cause, so instead (well, preferably as well, but don't bother listening, just donate the money and give this priority) of any upcoming cheesy or stadium-shaped charity records that the megastars may have in the pipeline why not treat yourself, and Save The Children, to something a bit more interesting.
Schizo Fun Addict's website
The Bordellos' website
Buy the album
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