Tuesday, 30 December 2008

The Ex-Gurlfriend Reviewed

Most good. One not.


The Loves single, ‘The Ex-Gurlfriend’ is being offered as a free download, in a very twenty-first century kinda way. It’s worth expending some bandwith on this; why, it sounds almost like a lost Primal Scream demo from around 1987-88. It rocks, but in a soft way, but it’s not soft rock. It’s shambolic - if that terms is used in a positive way - ramshackle rather than messy.


Just when you thought that your credit couldn’t get any more crunched, up pop those loveable scamps at Fortuna Pop with another tempting chance for you to spent yourself further into the poorhouse: this the first in a series of EPs by those puppy-tailed garage scamps The Loves. Released in preparation for the appropriately-titled third LP ‘Three’, The Loves have clearly lost none of their signature bubblegum-rammed-with-razorblades charm - the title track and ‘Johnny Angelo Blues’ sounding like The Monkees drunkenly snuggling up to The Velvet Underground on a first date (but much more brilliant than that sounds, obviously).


Tiresome. Unfortunately that’s the first word that came to mind when I initially played this release. Repeat plays only reinforced the thought. This probably explains to some degree how the group have existed for eight years, released three albums and yet remained an unknown quantity.

On paper they tick all the boxes - clearly sixties influenced, female vocalist, organ and suchlike, but tune-wise they don’t cut it. The title track of the release comes across like a slowed down, pre-Screamadelica Primal Scream pastiche. All in all a bit of a dirge. Mercifully it clocks in at under three minutes. On ‘Johnny Angelo Blues’ the band attempt a haunting garage blues that should really be left to The Raveonettes or The Cramps. Finally we reach Around & Around which actually starts off quite jauntily but the male vocals have gone all wonky and really nasal and the backing vocals are so far back in the production as to be rendered pointless. At no point in any of the songs can one empathise with their lovelorn or put upon subjects - they all sound like they have deserved everything that came to them. There are tons of bands in the UK and worldwide bringing out far superior music in a Sixties vein (I’m not doing all the work for you - look on MySpace. As a starter for ten though try Sheetah and les Weissmuller or The See See) but these guys are unfortunately not a good advert for, or introduction to, the scene.


THE LOVES – THE EX-GURLFRIEND – www.myspace.com/lovetheloves

Pay attention. It’s free! This ep is free! Hurrah for loss-leaders! And given that their brand of sixties tinged Primal Scream (in their rawer moments) is pretty damn good, it’s worth every penny, and more.


A band who probably indulge in mistletoe and wine 365 days a year are SoundsXP faves Cardiff's The Loves and The Ex-Gurlfriend is a Nuggets-style garage toe-tapper about frontman Simon's hapless exploits with the ladies. It's free on download now but you're advised to pick it up as an EP on 12th January, as one of the extra tracks, Around & Around, is definitely worth the dosh. (out on Fortuna Pop)


To start with, let’s get the conceptual element out the way. This is the first of three three-track EPs that The Loves are giving away free, to promote their forthcoming album Three. Why? Well it’s going to be their third album of course.
The title track is slouchy sixties pop with some laid back Duane Eddy guitar bits. It seems too cool to make much of an effort, but pulls off a cracking tune with some cool shimmies and great back up vocals. Johnny Angelo Blues is a sweet swamp blues where The Loves take a trip to the wrong side of the tracks and while not coming back smelling of roses, the trip has been a gas and produced something cool. Around & Around is a weird one after the other two, a half written scuzzy tune and some poor vocals. It does sound like one of the other band members sang this, and because it’s all free we’ll let this one slip by.


Hurrah! It’s The Loves! Hurrah they are doing a thing where they give away three E.P.s featuring three songs each for FREE. In a rumbling, numerological build-up to the appearance of their third LP ‘THREE’. Three! Free! THREE!! Or something, maybe it's one track per E.P that's free? I dunno. How you’re meant to actually get hold of the things isn’t really adequately explained. Oh well. I’ve got my copy, so up yours. Try looking at this: www.myspace.com/thelovesep
Also, the cover art of this is marvellous, as is the spelling of the world 'gurlfriend'. Cheers.

‘The Ex Gurlfriend’ is ram-a-lam-a slinky, rolling on a bed of wibbling drone with sneery self-taunting vocals. It’s The Loves in raspy, trashy garage mode, yeah!

Then Loves blues mode kicks in good-style for the Nik Cohn-tastic ‘Johnny Angelo Blues’. It’s creepy crawly laced with nasty while-my-guitar-gently-bleeds solo-ing and a bombastic poor old Johnny Angelo ending.

My fave is the last track ‘Around And Around’, propelled on a jerky guitar riff, sounding like one of those marvo cheeky new-wave/mod pop songs you got in the early eighties played by young men with sort of chewed up haircuts and half-mast trousers and goggly eyes. Erm, Buzzcocks, Lambrettas, people on Stiff Records, scuffed knees and amphetamines.


Time moves on, and so, inexplicably, do The Loves. Just when you think you'll never heard from them again, they return.

Fans of the bubblegum garage pop they now seemingly peddle all the time will love the title track, on which Simon Love warns against killer ex-girlfriends, or something along those lines, anyway.

Johnny Angelo Blues sounds like The Monkees playing a Gallon Drunk song, and it perhaps a little too retro for these ears, but all is saved by Around & Around which takes that ramshackle Comet Gain approach to sweet pop songs, and sounds like it's about to fall to pieces at any second... but doesn't. It should be the lead track, really. But then it's not about killer girlfriends, and I suppose they're more fun.

Oh, I didn't mention that is the first in a series of a trio of three track eps to promote the band's next album, Three. And they're all free. Geddit? You can't really grumble.


It’s no secret – I’m great admirer of all this 60’s retro pop and Nico-era Velvet Underground soundalikes so I’m afraid that title track ‘The Ex Gurlfriend’ finds no favour. But let’s instead pick up on the positives and in this case that would be track 2 ‘Johnny Angelo Blues’ which has some deliciously scuzzy slide guitar very much in a traditional vein but with a slightly Jesus and Mary Chain macabre twist.


28 band members in, and you have to wonder whether The Loves head honcho Simon Love is an incredible talent or an incredible drag.

Judging from the content of this song, a trademark blast into the era that brought you such dictionary delights as “superbitchin’” and “what’s your bag man” (the '60s of course), not only is he intolerable for his band mates, but for girlfriends too.

It’s just lucky then that he can patch together perfect pastiches of the 1960s' greatest dance anthems. And even though The Brian Jonestown Massacre has the edge in all areas as the era's finest revivalists, The Ex-Gurlfriend still demands that you jive and groove to every last retro beat thus proving that Simon has both qualities by the bucket load.

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