Our single of the week comes from Portishead

A rather diverse set of releases this Monday, with seasonal offerings rubbing shoulders on the shelves of the remaining few music stores out there with eerie wonders and ‘80s throwbacks.

Clash is a fan of festive musical fare, but must insist that indie outfits adhere to certain rules and regulations. One, make your Christmas song a belter, and two, don’t you dare to dress up like an arena-filling rock combo from the days of VHS and rocket yourselves into someone’s circulatory system in a microphone shuttle just for shits and giggles.


Actually, Hot Leg’s yuletide offering isn’t that bad, not in the grand scheme of things, said scheme known as a singles round-up and summarised in word form below…

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Single Of The Week

Portishead – ‘Magic Doors’ (cover pictured)

Portishead’s ‘Third’, now the fuss over their comeback has died down, probably stands up as the band’s most complete album ever. Yes, the debut, ‘Dummy’, made incredible waves, but it was absorbed by the mainstream and dissected into near-meaningless via a thousand placements on television dramas and acceptance as a ‘coffee table standard’… *shudder*. ‘Portishead’ upped the dread, the eeriness that was present on ‘Dummy’ but softened by overplaying, but it didn’t truly grab the senses despite its success on both critical and commercial fronts. Their latest, though, places a stranglehold on its audience, and ‘Magic Doors’ is one reason why this grip never loosens. Listen to this and shiver – Beth’s vocals have rarely resonated with such emotional fragility, clearly developing in texture with age, and the backing from Messrs Barrow and Utley weaves and writhes like a fanged serpent, licking its lips with a click-click beat, just waiting for its moment to strike you down. That it never does is part of the song’s fascinating appeal – it builds its tension but never releases, leaving the listener chilled and desperate for closure, for the exit sign and relaxation. But stasis locks and the effect is lasting.

Portishead – ‘Magic Doors’

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Also out today…

frYars – ‘Visitors’

Featuring Depeche Mode’s Dave Gahan, this offering from experimental London songwriter frYars sounds a lot like… yup, you guessed it. A little Pet Shop Boys too, when Neil Tennant is at his most introspective and anti-pop. Not that ‘Visitors’ doesn’t have a thick air of pop about it – it’s just that said atmosphere has been thought extinct since ’86. An interesting diversion from so much predictable singer-songwriter fare.

The Leisure Society – ‘Last Of The Melting Snow’

Gorgeously arranged and subtly affecting folk from a new collective led by Nick Hemming, formerly of Christian Silva (whose Christian Hardy appears here) and also a member of the superb Sons Of Noel & Adrian. It’s a romantically woozy number, vaguely festive of tone but not restricted to airings only at this time of year. A good introduction to what’s clearly a very good band indeed.

The Wombats – ‘Is This Christmas?’

Yeah, it’s all holly jolly blah blah. But it’s not as great as Reuben’s ‘Christmas Is Awesome’, pretty much the only seasonal number you need from a rock act. It came out last year and should do every year henceforth.

The Wombats – ‘Is This Christmas?’

Hot Leg – ‘I’ve Met Jesus’

Yeah, it’s all holly jolly blah blah. But it’s not as great as Reuben’s ‘Christmas Is Awesome’, pretty much the only seasonal number you need from a rock act. It came out last year and should do every year henceforth. (As an aside: just how old is Justin Previously Of The Darkness? He looks as if he’s aged 20 years in two.)

Kaiser Chiefs – ‘Good Days Bad Days’

Yeah, it’s all holly jolly… No, wait. Sorry. Kaiser Chiefs haven’t released a Christmas song. Perhaps they should’ve. The days of “wwwwooooooaaaaaahhhh” are gone, and with them any traces of a decent Kaisers single, it seems.

Selfish C*nt – ‘England Made Me II’

Saw these guys a few years back. They didn’t sound like this. They were all ‘art’, and shoddy with it. Crap in other words. But this… This is cracking. It’s kinda what I wanted the Sex Pistols to sound like when reading about them as a kid, only to be crushed by their cartoon cheapness upon actually hearing them. This… This pounds away at your skull like a jackhammer. Bloody brilliant in other words.

Selfish C*nt – ‘England Made Me II’

We Are The Physics – ‘Bulimia Sisters’

Glasgow’s WATP – three Michaels and a Chris – bring their 2008 to a close with the release of this, the latest track lifted from their ‘…Are OK At Music’ debut. Yep, it sounds like Devo plugged into the mains after downing several shots of Goldschläger… And we’re completely fine with that. They’ve a phenomenal live show on them, so catch WATP at your next convenience – click HERE for dates and a Culture Clash Extra interview.

Snow Patrol – ‘Crack The Shutters’

Remember when Snow Patrol could rock, and rock hard? Us too, so we can forgive these now-regular forays into ballad territories (heck, it sells, so fair play them). Someone, somewhere, will have A Moment to this in the next week; we’ll pop on ‘Songs For Polarbears’ instead and party like it’s 1998. Do they still play ‘Starfighter Pilot’’ live?

Video Nasties – ‘Albatross’

Frenzied garage clatter from London five-piece, sounding not too dissimilar to The Horrors at their most at-your-throat. Thumbs up, in short. And quite possibly pants down. Listen to the track on ClashMusic.com HERE.


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