Still no FTP access (apologies to fans of Duel, Tanya and Mike) so you get a review instead:

BELLE AND SEBASTIAN – “The Stars Of Track And Field”
THIRD EYE BLIND – “Never Let You Go”
LFO – “Summer Girls”

MJ Hibbett reckons that Black Box Recorder rip off Half Man Half Biscuit, and that Belle And Sebastian saved music, but what If You’re Feeling Sinister feels like most to me is HMHB’s McIntyre, Treadmore and Davitt album: ten sonically similar, apologetically strummed tracks stuffed to the lid with cultural references and poignant/funny/quotable detail. The B&S has prettier tunes, but the HMHB has more oomph and pound-for-pound more detail too: Liverpool and Widnes, Terry underwear, S & M and Bible Studies (which a friend of mine who sleeps with Scottish girls tells me was realism as well as detail, but oh well) up against Kendo Nagasaki, ELP’s Tarkus and 70s’ tennis players.

A fair match, you might think: the reason Half Man Half Biscuit don’t get taken so seriously is that B & S talk about culture while HMHB often talk about music, and talking about actual other records on your own records causes the same creepy metafeeling as when soap stars watch real soaps. Or any soaps. Which of course they never do, but there’s why.

(Black Box Recorder’s rubbish and disappointing album in fact sounds like the Pet Shop Boys would if they actually were ironic. And thick.)

But this details thing is plainly pretty key. Stuart Murdoch didn’t get to No.15 in the national singles chart by writing big sweeping general songs about love and loss and life and What It All Means. (Then he’d have got to No.1 instead). The success of B & S is founded on just those little touches of observational intimacy that make indie boy-poets reliably cream themselves. And truthfully it’s just the whole realism thing again: if Murdoch drops enough creative-writing-course one-liners in there it’ll make it seem like he’s writing about people who (gulp) actually exist: detail gives a veneer of authenticity to indie pop at the same time as it creates that bogus sense of diaristic intimacy we know and love from web journalling. I’m being much too harsh, as Belle And Seb are in my view great, but that’s what I think’s going on.

Mind you it’s possible to get detail very, very wrong. The reason LFO’s “Summer Girls” is so loathesome isn’t the tune (no problems there) or the singing (leery tongue-out stuff but not truly hateful), its the calculated layering of the details which aims to turn the song into a three-minute trailer for some ghastly 90s coming-of-age flick. I think it’s anachronistic to have Abercrombie and Fitch up against New Kids, but who cares? The smugness of the New Kids mention in itself is enough to make you lunge for the Stop button like a snake had fanged you.

Where LFO screw up is in thinking that the details are what matter when you fall in love (or lust). No, what matters, as in what eats your time and mind up, is the other person. I went to see more shitty films in 1992 than I ever have since, but I couldn’t remember anything about any of them because I was more concerned with looking into my loved one’s eyes stroke copping a feel. I certainly couldn’t remember enough to even mention them in a bloody pop song. The one bit in ‘Summer Girls’ which rings even slightly true is when the guy sings “I stole your honey like I stole your bike”, because that’s the kind of weaselly stuff he understands.

That’s why Third Eye Blind’s track works, when they go into the semi-spoken bit and the guy remembers the simple things, the mood rings, and then he can’t remember what else he remembers so he just talks about her instead. Chuck Eddy always used to talk up ‘bubblegrunge’ but it’s taken until now for somebody to actually have a go at it, and lo and behold it turns out to be power pop anyway. Only it’s power pop with a shot at radio play because it sounds glossy and committed, like it takes care of itself and not like it’s wishing it were ’74 again.

It’s a guilty pleasure in a way, but I can get off on the crystal production and wholesome guitars and wimpy big-pop vocal stances, enough that I’ve caught myself rather wishing I had a radio again. I can’t exactly follow the narrative, something about someone’s mother, but then again if you can catch all the details it sometimes means you’re not paying attention to the important stuff, anyway.