I only wanted something else to do but hang around

Stars (reissue) coverStars Dubstar Food Released: July 1995 / March 1996 Highest UK Chart Position: 40 / 15 Available on: Stars — The Best Of…

If Saint Etienne encapsulated the sound of the big city, then Dubstar were the sound of the suburbs; sad and disconnected, wearing imitation designer clothing from the local market. The trio formed in 1993, signing to Food after they sent in a demo consisting of nothing more than a cover of Billy Bragg's St. Swithin's Day (a full version of which can be found on their first album, Disgraceful). This is their debut single, although it was also their fourth, reissued after they picked up popularity during the latter half of 1995.

Is it asking too much of my favourite friends
To take these songs for real?

Stars is about escape, and of failure. The dream of being taken away from a dreary existence in a backwater town and becoming something special. Her friends look on in quiet contempt, silently wanting her to fail, as she tries to escape through her singing. Even her lover doesn't believe that she can succeed. Perhaps she's singing on an empty stage; perhaps the stars in question are the performers, and only after they've gone out, can she venture out and practice for a fairytale ending that is never going to come.

What makes the single creepy is Sarah Blackwood's delivery. It's disinterested, sounding flat and dejected apart from the chorus, when she's fantasising about her escape. The music seems to owe a lot to ambient bands like The Orb, giving the song a very electronic and elegiac feel. The repetition of certain sound effects throughout helps to underscore the narrator's dissatisfaction with her dreary suburban existence.

If that sounds rather miserable, well, it is. But sometimes you need to hear the sadness within, and this record manages to capture a powerful frustration with reality. It also served, as this type of record often does, as a career map for Dubstar themselves. After the initial hits, the second album flopped, as did the third. The band’s working relationship became strained, and they eventually decided to disband in November 2000; the stars having gone out for them after seven years of being together.

The Future's So Bright

I’m sure there was a reason…

I Told Many, Many People

Just the one song this week. I first heard this a month ago, but missed the DJ announcing who it was. Thankfully, everyone’s favourite WXYC DJ, Susie, played it this Wednesday, so I was able to track it down at last.

Xiu XiuI Luv the Valley OH!

(how many songs use US state abbreviations, I wonder?)

okay, having just come across this, I feel that I have to post it as well. It's not everyday you find a Gregorian chant version of Heaven Is A Place On Earth, after all…

UnknownHeaven Is A Place On Earth

(I'm so very, very sorry)

currently playing: Kathy McCarty — Living Life

Spolier Warning For Some

There’s hope for Brian Krakow.

currently playing: Patti Smith — Because The Night

When You Wish Upon A Star…

Nings and Roundabouts CD coverWhite Horses And Shooting Stars Pullover Fierce Panda Released: May 1995 Highest UK Chart Position: Did Not Chart Available on: Nings And Roundabouts!

One of Britpop's major sins was what it did to the indie community. Suddenly, to get anywhere, you had to conform to the aesthetic: melodic 60s-referencing guitar pop, Attempts to do something different were looked on with some suspicion, and bands who weren't already established and didn't fit in had a tendency to disappear quickly. Pullover were one of these bands, managing to get signed to Starfish/Big Star and recording an entire album, only to have it junked before it was released. The band recorded another single and then decided to split. All that remains of Pullover are the singles that they released through the indie label Fierce Panda. White Horses And Shooting Stars was the second of these 7" singles, and can be found in CD form on the compilation Nings And Roundabouts.

It's great, whilst at the same time being almost completely out of place with all the groups surrounding them; strings and guitars mesh along with the sweet lyrics adding up to create something very twee indeed. If you managed to cut this record, it would bleed hair-grips and rainbow gel. You can imagine it being set upon by the other records in the shop; Oasis and Blur holding it down while Supergrass give it a wedgie, then throwing it off the counter and into the depths of the 50p discount box. Listening to them sing "Follow your dreams when you're awake / you can be the icing on the cake", you want to give them a big hug and protect them from the ravages of the world. It's a bit late now, though.

In retrospect, Pullover’s mistakes were to form a year early, and a lack of Scottishness. In 1996, Belle & Sebastian carved out a successful position as the kings of all things twee, discovering an audience that supported (and still does) many bands of a similar style. A rescue mission to the discount bin have been mounted, but by that time, Pullover had taken their toys and gone back inside, hiding from the bullies that gave them such a hard time. As if to underline this, the last thing they recorded was a cover of Wham!’s Last Christmas. They gave their hearts, and we threw them away.

We've only sold six tickets so far...

Not exactly what you want to hear whilst queuing up for a concert. Our fears of being all alone in the venue were quickly overcome by the fear of the drunken blad guy wandering down the street, yelling at us about “South Sex” and AIDS and holding a pint glass in a menacing manner. And Oxford is supposed to be a cultured town…

Luckily, there was something of a run on the tickets, or else the Zodiac grabbed passers-by and gave them free entry, because the hall was fairly well-packed by the time Stellastarr* came on. Support came from Audiothief, a local band from Banbury, and The Subways (who won a chance to appear on the New Band Stage at Glastonbury this year); nothing earth-shattering, but a pleasant enough diversion for two hours.

Stellastarr** then came on, playing most of their album plus a few new songs. I still have trouble defining exactly what they sound like; today I'm going with "Aztec Camera as filtered through 90s grunge projected on a cinema screen", which makes no sense to me, so don't worry if that sounds like gibberish. Anyway, they were good; lots of yelping, a topless drummer wearing Elton John-style glasses (and a black tape star across his right nipple), and lots of rock star poses. I have no idea why they thought it would be a good idea to come to Oxford, but I'm glad they did. A big boo to the girl who stole all the set lists, though. Especially since she stole the Stellastarr* one from under the nose from two girls who had positioned themselves in just the right spot to get it at the end of the set, only to be denied when the other girl swooped in at the end, while everybody else was clapping. If you see someone in green fishnet tights, socks, and handbag, ask her to share next time…

* There should be a moratorium placed on American bands using punctuation marks other than apostrophes. It's all fun and games to begin with, but then you end up with a band like !!!, who are just asking to be taken round back and beaten senseless by members of Compulsive Copy Editors Anonymous. With big, stompy hobnail boots, obviously.

currently playing: Oasis — Stay Young

Somewhere Across Forever

Blue eyes, blue hair, not going to leave here without you Blew my chances, chances, chances Ooh Let’s go When I finally find the words I’ll be coming back for you If I decide to rule the world I’m still coming back for you…For you

Bench Time

This bench cost 30,000GBP, and is specially designed to be uncomfortable to sit on. Yes, we’re not entirely sure, either…

*ringring*

There’s nothing like a bout of tinnitus to prove just how good a concert was, is there?

currently playing: my ears, funnily enough

Tyger, Tyger, Burning Links

Hmm, Apple.

The best US opening for a documentary in the history of cinema.

The Supreme Court finally gets around to deciding that Enemy Combatants have access to the US court system.

You're free, Iraq! Your new unelected leaders are thinking about imposing martial law, but they can tell us to go home whenever they want. Except they won't. Still, you must feel a warm glow now that we've given you your sovereignty back, eh?

The Guardian's coverage of Glastonbury 2004. (my short review, gleaned from the BBC: Oasis stood for an hour and ten minutes - nice one, lads. Perhaps next time, Liam could speak? Scissor Sisters - so cool. Goldfrapp - erm, nice tail. Basement Jaxx - lots of costume changes. That was all I saw)

currently playing: Belle & Sebastian — If She Wants Me