Indie Basement (6/23): the week in classic indie, college rock, and more

Summertime, and the livin' is easy. Except this week which was absolutely bonkers with music-related announcements. It's a little calmer on the release front, though: I review new albums from alt-rock vet Lloyd Cole, Wand's Cory Hanson, former Twerps frontman Martin Frawley, Mexican psych deo Lorelle Meets the Obsolete, and Aussie punks Cable Ties, plus a new box set from Specials offshoot Fun Boy Three.

It's a reasonably quiet week over in Notable Releases, as Andrew reviews new ones from Militarie Gun, Amanda Shires, Peso Pluma, and more.

As mentioned it was a crazy week for news, with new record announcements from SlowdiveAphex Twin, Woods, and Freak Heat Waves; Yo La Tengo announced their 2023 Hanukkah run; Magnetic Fields announced 69 Love Songs anniversary shows; Dutch band Lewsberg will tour North America for the first time this fall; and Mandy, Indiana will be playing shows here in December.

Plus The Cure were in town this week, and if you go see Wes Anderson's new movie Asteroid City, keep an eye out for Jarvis Cocker.

RIP The Pop Group's John Waddington, and Butthole Surfers drummer and Slacker star Theresa Taylor.

Head below for this week's reviews...

lloyd cole on pain


Lloyd Cole - On Pain (EarMUSIC)
Some things just get better with age as Lloyd Col,o shows on his 13 solo album

Lloyd Cole sounded impossibly suave and sophisticated on his 1984 debut album, Rattlesnakes, when he was just 23, so it's no surprise he's aged gracefully over the last 40 years. He's older and wiser but still making mistakes and getting by the best he can, and singing about it with his distinctive, literate style and smoky croon. Cole is a quiet innovator too; 2019's excellent Guesswork found him remodeling with synthesizers, and he continues in that direction with On Pain, his 13th full-length. "The album may be nearing commercial death," Lloyd notes, "but my career has been in that state for almost 30 years and here we are, still, and I still want to make albums. I still want to be heard." For this one, Cole worked with producer Chris Merrick Hughes, who was behind the boards for Tears for Fears' Songs from the Big Chair, as well as his former Commotions bandmates Blair Cowan and Neil Clark, for an album is both confident and comfortable. Songs, be it about his own life or others, play like short stories. See: "The Idiot," a warmly romantic song about Iggy Pop and David Bowie in the mid-'70s that has them fantasizing about cleaning up and moving to Berlin. "How are we still alive?" the song's narrator asks over lush synth backing. On Pain marries old and new while rarely looking back.


the complete fun boy 3


Fun Boy Three - The Complete Fun Boy Three (Chrysalis)
Short-lived but great Specials offshoot get the all-encompassing box set treatment, with loads of rarities and unreleased songs

The Specials broke up in 1981 shortly after the release of what many consider to be their greatest single, "Ghost Town"; Terry Hall, Lynval Golding and Neville Staple formed Fun Boy Three, while Jerry Dammers refashioned The Specials as The Special AKA. In some ways, FB3 felt like a direct spin-off of "Ghost Town," with a dark, claustrophobic sound heavy on voice and percussion. (You can hear the band's continued influence in everything from Massive Attack to Sleaford Mods.) FB3's debut single, "The Lunatics Have Taken Over the Asylum," was released just four months after "Ghost Town," and laid out a bleak vision of what they saw with Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan in power. The song was originally written to be a Specials song, and when the the reunited lineup of The Specials finally got around to making a new album in 2019, they re-recorded "The Lunatics" for that. "Nothing's changed!" Hall, who died last year, told Uncut at the time. "When we wrote it we had Reagan and Thatcher and we thought things couldn't get worse."

Fun Boy Three only made two albums: their 1982 self-titled debut, which featured "The Lunatics" and single "T'Ain't What You Do" (featuring Bananarama) which both went Top 10 in the UK; and the David Byrne-produced 1983 album Waiting which brought in baroque, orchestral elements and darker lyrical themes, and also included their version of "Our Lips Are Sealed" that Terry Hall co-wrote with Jane Wiedlin of The Go-Go's. (They wrote it while having a short love affair; both bands' versions were hits in the UK, a year apart.) Before releasing Waiting, Fun Boy Three had never played live, but after assembling a band -- featuring backup singers and a cellist -- they broke up shortly after the only tour for the album.

This new box set collects everything Fun Boy Three recorded. In addition to their two albums, it includes their non-LP singles, like "Really Saying Something" (another Bananarama collab) and their inspired cover of Gershwin's "Summertime," plus 12" mixes, b-sides, dub plates and more. There are also a handful of previously unreleased recordings, including a cover of "96 Tears" and various rough mixes, club mixes and alternate versions. There's also a full live album, and a DVD featuring all their music videos and television appearances, plus a booklet with rare photos and extensive liner notes.

The Complete Fun Boy Three is out August 4 via Chrysalis, and if five CDs and a DVD is too much for you, they're also reissuing the band's two albums and compilation The Best of Fun Boy Three (a good place to start) on vinyl the same day.


martin frawley - the wannabe


Martin Frawley - The Wannabe (Trouble in Mind)
The former Twerps frontman asks "what am I doing with my life?" on his second solo album of bummed-out but hopeful janglepop

Martin Frawley, who used to lead Melbourne's Twerps, titled his 2019 solo debut Undone at 31 and at first glance things don't seem to have gotten a lot better for him on its follow-up. "I'm the wannabe / half assed musician that noone wants to see," he sings on The Wannabe's self-deprecating title track. "Drink driving on the M3 / Working all day trying to forget about the old me." Frawley says the song is meant to be humorous, but the old adage "funny 'cause it's true" comes to mind here. It's hard to resist a good barstool poet, and Martin is definitely one of those, with a wide romantic streak to go along with his more destructive traits. As The Wannabe progresses, though, it's clear that Frawley is trying to be a better man, partner and father, be it on the sweet and dreamy love song "Lola" or the ode to his son, "Proud." His ear for melody remains sharp and few artists put as much creativity into strummy pop, as seen on the bouncy, bummed-out single "Heart in Hand." That one is also at the heart of Frawley's appeal -- sunny melodies and melancholic themes remain an irresistible combination.

lorelle meets the obsolete datura


Lorelle Meets the Obsolete - Datura (Sonic Cathedral)
Sixth album from this Baja, Mexico duo is a dark trip to the dreamscape

“We liked the idea of a flower that opens at night,” says Lorelle Meets the Obsolete's Lorena Quntanilla of the poisonous vespertine-flowering plant for which the Mexican duo's sixth album was named. “A type of Datura grows all over our neighbourhood. People try to get rid of them because they are afraid of their dogs eating them, but they always regrow again and again in the same places.” Deadly but beautiful is a good descriptor for the band and album that mixes psych, krautrock rhythms and vintage synths with moments of elegance and pure noise. Datura is a swirling descent into the dreamscape that at times feels inescapable. With its throbbing keyboard riff, "Golpe Blanco" soundtracks a head-crusher of a bad trip, while "Invisible" (a tribute to the late Q Lazzarus) is closer to Beach House territory. Even on the album's poppier material, like "Ave En Reversa," the duo work in some pretty freaky freakouts. Lorelle Meets the Obsolete have carved out a unique corner within a well-explored universe (see also Broadcast and Beak>), and Datura is as enticing as it is unnerving.


cory hanson western cum


Cory Hanson - Western Cum (Drag City)
Virtuosic performances and soaring melodies highlight the Wand frontman's third solo album

Wand frontman Cory Hanson explores Western mythology and origin stories on his third solo album. (He's definitely got a thing for this, his last solo LP, Pale Horse Rider, explored similar themes.) Tales of revenge and violence, told in poetic metaphorical abstraction ("Through solid gold binoculars, the tears of the snowman froze right to his face") are all means to an end to throw down some serious instrumental prowess. Working with an ace band, including his brother Casey and Wand drummer Evan Backer, Cory works his way through a myriad of Western rock styles, from southern-fried twang, to Crazy Horse-style ragged glory to sweet Laurel Canyon sounds and proggy precision. He is adept at all of them and, like with the last couple Wand album, mixes strong melodies and songwriting with virtuosic performances. There are some jaw-dropping guitar parts -- see all of "Driving Through Heaven" -- and you may get your "twin leads" quota for the year on one listen through. Nothing here is quite as lurid as Western Cum's title, but Hanson delivers plenty of hot guitar wankery with lots of panache.


cable ties - all her plans


Cable Ties - All Her Plans (Merge)
Superior strident, shouty punk from Melbourne; their most nuanced album yet

Cable Ties singer/guitarist Jenny McKechnie has a dexterous voice that can go from a whisper to a wild wail and back. Not dissimilar to the late Poly Styrene of X-Ray Spex, it's probably the most striking element of this Australian trio's sound but it's also a erfect match for the high-octane punk/post-punk found on their third album. When she shrieks "OHHHHHHH NO!" on "Perfect Client" -- one of the many burners here -- it's like a triple shot of espresso. As with their first two albums, this is explosive, angry, compelling stuff and her urgent guitar playing rivals her pipes. (The rhythm section of bassist Nick Brown and drummer Shauna Boyle are no slouches, either.) Cable Ties are not a one-trick pony, though; McKechnie uses more of an inside voice on the bittersweet "Mum's Caravan" and the weary "Deep Breath Out" that closes the album. All Her Plans may hit you over the head with a baseball bat, but it also nurses you back to health before taking another swing.

Looking for more? Browse the Indie Basement archives.

And check out what's new in our shop.

Thee Oh Sees banner