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Friday, January 28th, 2005

Where'd You Learn To Kiss That Way?

Someone over on the Merge message board recently posted the challenge, “Without using “belle and sebastian” or “camera obscura” define twee”. I hope he wasn’t really trying to play stump the chump, because there’s a dead simple answer to that one – The Field Mice.

The band most closely identified with the Sarah Records label, London’s Field Mice pretty much laid the template for wispy, depressing and sensitive UK pop music – without them, you could argue that there would be no Belle & Sebastian or Camera Obscura (and some would argue that that would be a better world, but we’ll ignore those mean people). Long a favourite of the cardigan-wearing crowd, their sound went beyond acoustic mope music, creatively integrating electronic elements into their sound and even rocking out once in a while – they did own electric guitars and distortion pedals, although they likely stepped on them very very gently. Mostly a singles band, the band’s three albums have just been expanded and reissued. I’ve got the Where’d You Learn To Kiss That Way double disc compilation which I think encompasses almost everything they put out – I don’t think there’s anything else on the albums that I especially need to have.

I like the Field Mice, but am also a fan of their latest incarnation, Trembling Blue Stars. Formed after lead Mouse Bobby Wratten split up with fellow Field Mouse keyboardist Annemari Davies, the fallout from this breakup provided Wratten with plenty of songwriting material. The outfit released one album of breakup songs, and then in what may be the most masochistic personnel move in the history of indie rock, Wratten enlisted Davies to sing backup on the band’s next two records – she was singing songs written by him about her breaking up with him. Davies left the band after that, and a new lineup was assembled for Alive To Every Smile, which featured a much more upbeat and lively sound which I quite liked. Since then, they put out A Certain Evening Light, a compilation of rarities, in 2003, and a new studio album, Seven Autumn Flowers, just came out domestically this month. I mean to pick it up eventually.

Alive To Every Smile came out in North America on SubPop, of all places, and their microsite for the album is still up, as is the sample mp3 of the first TBS song I heard and the one that absolutely hooked me – “The Ghost Of An Unkissed Kiss”. Check it out:

MP3: Trembling Blue Stars – “The Ghost Of An Unkissed Kiss”

And for some Field Mice samples, the ever-helpful MP3.com is a good place to start.

And speaking of Camera Obscura, I was surprised to notice on their website a message from last December that co-lead vocalist John Henderson is no longer with the band. Despite this loss, work a new record continues, presumably with Tracyanne taking on all vocal duties. A shame, their voices worked quite nicely together.

Ryan Adams fans will be pleased to see he hasn’t curbed his prodigious output one bit – he will be releasing no less than three albums in 2005: Cold Roses, a double album recorded with his current backing band The Cardinals, is out April 19, and 29 and Jacksonville will follow at some point later in the year with touring to follow. Some samples from one of the records can be heard on his website.

MusicTap has the low-down on the next three Cure deluxe reissues, Seventeen Seconds, Faith and Pornography. These should be out in April.

Maybe it’s just the cosmos lined up against me, but it seems that every time Canadian Music Week rolls around, my concert is already filled up, usually with non-CMW events no less. This year, I’ve got three shows in five nights spread across CMW weekend (Ambulance Ltd on March 2, Steve Earle on March 4 and Keren-Ann on March 6). Technically, I have two open nights, but I seriously question whether I’ll have the energy to make it five nights in a row of show-going.

However, now that the CMW schedule seems to be finalized, I can at least make a list of shows I would consider going to if I did have the constitution of a younger man:

Thursday, March 3:

A Northern Chorus, Damon & Naomi @ The El Mocambo

Justin Rutledge @ The Rivoli

The Remains of Brian Borcherdt @ The 360

Friday, March 4:

Hinterland @ Clinton’s

SS Cardiacs @ Rockit

Great Lake Swimmers @ Healy’s

Friday Morning’s Regret @ Holy Joe’s

Magneta Lane @ The Horseshoe

Tahiti 80 @ The Reverb

Saturday, March 5:

Gentleman Reg @ The Comfort Zone

The Telepathic Butterflies, The Frontier Index @ Healy’s

Jay Bennett @ Lee’s Palace

Not a bad lineup at all, I may well end up going to something on the Thursday or the Saturday, but there will be no club hopping. Note – this is not a recommended schedule, just a laundry list. I’m sure it’s logistically impossible to hit every one of these performances.

24 fans who tried to call the number displayed for dead Debbie’s mom a few episodes ago might have found themselves talking to Carlos Bernard (Tony), Reiko Aylesworth (Michelle) and Mary Lynn Rajskub (Chloe). Because since they’re no longer in the show, they have nothing better to do than answer the phone and talk to obsessive fans (bugmenot: wow@mail.com / sowhat).

np – Ride / Waves

By : Frank Yang at 9:23 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. Torr says:

    Unfortunately that new TBS album is really bad. The most TBS-by-numbers thing you can imagine.

  2. Gary Campbell says:

    Frank, you left out one crucial part of the Field Mice chronology: The Northern Picture Library.

    Basically, after playing a number of Field Mice gigs, Annemari developed bad stage fright and the band essentially stopped touring. This did not sit well with all members, and between the studio-only approach and Bobby and Annemari’s constant sucking face, the Field Mice split.

    So, as a studio-only band, the remaining Field Mice released a album and three singles under the name "The Northern Picture Library". The music is slightly more electronic in nature, but it’s still very much in the Field Mice/Trembling Blue Stars vein.

    Cue breakup and Trembling Blue Stars story…

    Most of the Northern Picture Library stuff was reissued a couple of years ago.

  3. Frank says:

    Torr – that’s too bad, I really liked "Alive To Every Smile". I also have the rarities comp downloaded somewhere, I should actually listen to it sometime.

    Gary – yeah, I know. The post was getting too long as is, and seeing as how I have no Northern Picture Library stuff nor have I heard any, I didn’t want to comment on it. And this way, you get to contribute your wisdom! Gary Campbell, ladies and gentlemen. Let’s give him a hand.

    Okay, I’ll stop being a dick now.

  4. Gary Campbell says:

    Interesting extended biography of The Field Mice/Northern Picture Library/Trembing Blue Stars can be found here:

    http://…/

  5. karen says:

    i hadn’t heard very much northern picture library either until recently, but partly thanks to my sister i’ve really fallen in love with "insecure" and "last september’s farewell kiss."

    it’s always great to see field mice content.

  6. cool guitar girl says:

    twee pop = heavenly!