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coverpic flag Norway - Full Moon 186 - 11/10/11

Various Artists
Tweest And Shout: 20 Years of Perfect Pop
Perfect Pop Records

Time's flying by. It's already more than ten years since Perfect Pop Records celebrated it's 10 years birthday with a night on the town and the nice sampler Bestrummed!. A couple of weeks ago it was time for the 20th anniversary with two evenings of partying at Café Mono in Oslo. Many artists from the PP stable were present on stage, including a resurrected Time Lodgers as fine as ever, Firefly Effect, An Ananas & Jessica Fletchers (briefly out of hibernation), Monobird featuring Gary Olson (of The Ladybug Transistor etc. fame) and Elvira Nikolaisen, Je Suis Animal, The Bartlebees and Astroburger. For me the highlight was the resurrected classic line-up of The Loch Ness Mouse including Emil Nikolaisen behind the drums and Morten Holmqvist on bass. The LNM is maybe the band I have witnessed alive most times in my life and they sounded at least as good as in the late 1990s and early 00s round the release of their debut album. This little pop quartet knew how to rock back then and certainly hadn't forgotten the ability. No time for ballads! The set included lots of hard-hitting versions mainly of gems from the debut album and even a short version of the homage to the original LNM drummer "Bryan Hayes"!

But no Perfect Pop birthday is perfect without an anniversary album. And here it is. Time to shake, baby: Tweest And Shout! The album includes some old, some new, some borrowed, but no blues. Let's start with the oldest stuff. Time Lodgers' "Here We Go Again" was recorded in the 1990s and stems from the Last Train anniversary compilation No Music Requests. It fits even better now that the band is back, and it is in fact one of the greatest offerings here, with glockenspiel, ba-ba-ba-ba-singing and lots of other 1960s over- and undertones. Joyous! "Vivid In My Mind" by Firefly Effect is not that old; it was released earlier this year on the band's second album Try Again, Fail Again, Fail Better. It's one of my favourite tracks off that album. The Loch Ness Mouse's "Small Scale (3000 Feet High and Still Rising)" was released on a split seven inch platter a few rainy summers ago. It's no doubt the most well produced song of the album, a nice, slow and somewhat soul-filled ballad (this is not the LNM live-band of 1999 or 2011, mind!), closer to the band's last Perfect Pop offerings Key West or 11-22 than the most recent one New Graffiti. "Persnickety" by The Original Silly Pillows is a French cabaret sounding something. Especially funny since this is an all American band. Previously released on a non-Perfect Pop EP in 2008.

The new of Tweest And Shout means previously unreleased songs and covers the majority of the album. It can be divided into a rock, a pop and an oddity section. The rock section of a Perfect Pop platter means pop-rock, with a bit sharper guitar edges than the average from our Perfect record company. Here are competent to great offerings by Astroburger ("China Blue") and The Chairs ["New Lips (As Big As Hips)"]. The best in this category, however, is the new band The Vacuum Dreamers with veteran members from other Perfect Pop bands such as The Tables, The Blind Bats and Astroburger. Their "Thank You, Spirit" starts with an American west coast guitar intro, but soon moves east into Velvet Underground terrain, like a non-gloomy pop-version of "All Tomorrows Parties" if you can imagine. Great! The song might be a thank to the west-coast band Spirit, fronted by the late Randy California and his stepfather-in-law. A band that most definitely deserves to be thanked! The Vacuum Dreamers' debut album will be out in just a few weeks.

Of course the pop songs closer to pure perfect pop dominate, and some of the above "rock" bands have tendencies towards this category, too. We can put The Bus Shelters' "Face Like A Butterfly", LNM99's (meaning Loch Ness Mouse with about the same line-up as the live offering above) "P.J. Olsen", American Suitcase's "Polar Nights" and "Invented Soul, Shocked By Rock'n'Roll" by Maracas Maracas in this bag. Special mentioning to Je Suis Animal and Monobird. Je Suis' offering "Tale From The Sea" really has a slow rolling wave effect, shimmering distorted organ and guitars and splendid female vocals gliding a little above sea level. When brother Jørn Åleskjær left Loch Ness Mouse a few years back, the intention was to concentrate on song-writing and leave the band concept. He didn't manage for long, and Monobird is the result. "Clock Factory" gives reverberations of British 1960s psychedelia of the eccentric and whimsical kind. Tweest And Shout has been released as a real 12 inch vinyl LP. There is also a CD-R around without any cover. The latter includes one more song by Monobird, "Carrier Pigeon", in the singer-songwriter vein with some exquisite guitar picking. If you check the Perfect Pop home page, you'll find a third Monobird song, a homage to the record company we're dealing with, called just "Perfect Pop 20 Years"!

Then to the oddity section. An Ananas includes members from Jessica Fletchers (the same goes for The Bus Shelters). The ananas' warning "Beware Of Emos" sounds something like Lou Reed fronting The Residents. Hilarious! Varioola is a side project from Elin Grimstad of Je Suis Animal and Henrik Esse of Bad Apples. "Small Arched Windows" is a bossa-nova easy listening lounge kind of song with plentiful of flutes around. It doesn't fit more comfortably in the Perfect Pop bag than "Beware Of Emo", but demonstrates Perfect Pop's generous release policy.

This leaves us with one more song and band,

The Bartlebees. This trio can best be described as Germany's version of British Television Personalities. The Norwegian band The Tables, whose members started Perfect Pop in the hazy days of 1991, was also very inspired by the jangly TVP when the band got started a few years earlier. And The Tables' front man/vocalist and Perfect Pop's grand old man calls himself Bartleby, so there had to be a connection between the German and Norwegian camp. I don't quite know what category "Thumbs Off!" by The Bartlebees belongs in, but it certainly has borrowed a lot from early TVP except the broken English. Speaking of borrowed, Dan Treacy, front man of Television Personalities, once stated something like: 'Original? No, we're not original, we ripped it all from the Byrds!'. The same goes for most of the Perfect Pop catalogue, comprising more than 60 singles, EPs, mini- and maxi-albums by now. It's rooted in the 1960s tradition when the art of cunning tunesmithcraft reached its peak. And there certainly pops up a Byrds' sounding guitar now and again on Tweest And Shout, too. The album doesn't plough a lot of new soil, but includes lots of cunning tunes, lyrics and productions not heard too often in the new millennium, nor in the 1990s for that matter. It can hardly be any better.

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