Louder Than War – A Label Review

The ethos of the label seems to be striking the right balance between entertainment and intelligence: there’s no cleverness about any of these records or the bands for that matter, just honesty in the approach and directness in their message.

http://shop.southern.com/brands/Louder-Than-War.html

John Robb is rapidly turning into that cliché, “a very busy man”. As well as running Goldblade, kick-starting the Membranes off again after what really has been far too long with a very fine single and a great performance at Incubate (where he co-curated with us), he’s started a new label – named after his website – Louder Than War, who have got themselves a snug distribution deal on Southern Records. Better than that, Louder Than War is knocking out a batch of very fine singles from small bands not really known outside their group of associates, three of which have really grabbed us.

It’s enough to turn you to drink…

Like John as I do, this is not a puff piece for his sake. I’m writing this because in my opinion you should get all three of these singles as they are extraordinary, for a number of reasons. The ethos of the label seems to be striking the right balance between entertainment and intelligence: there’s no cleverness about any of these records or the bands for that matter, just honesty in the approach and directness in their message. Nothing here will change the world, but no-one’s looking to. The Rats single is about a David Fagan’s niece, for fuckssake.

The first record worth your time is Fawn Spots' Spanish Glass, which is a killer slice of loud and foot-to-the-floor fuzz pop; the vocals are smeared over the top of a juddering rhythm, the song has a sort of jaunty, determined “skiffle” about it that reminded me of Teenage Fan Club, back when they were covering Ballad of John and Yoko and falling off stages in pubs. The video is boss too and somehow captures the ruddy cheeked and carefree nature of Fawn Spots’ worldview.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZTq3NYuUJZk

Then we have Mueran Humanos’s thrilling Culpable – again boasting a killer video – which is an incredibly exciting electronic charge; dark and moody, scuzzy and dense this trance-out nods to the sort of warm electronica Blanck Mass do as well as reminding me a bit of Black Celebration-era Depeche Mode. The whole thing is offset by Carmen’s beautiful vocal which arches over the track like some Marianne/Russalka figure exhorting another suicidal charge – it’s incredibly Gothic and supercharged. The b-side, Amuleto, takes that famous and funny indicment of crap pop artistes by some US lawyer and creates a heavy and queasy bass-led soundscape over the top of it, replete with declamations and thumping drums: the stuff of nightmares.

http://vimeo.com/47903477

Finally Rats on Rafts release their first international single – Emma Sofia. This is a jangle pop blast that has more to do with the likes of early Primal Scream or The Pastels and is scruffy enough not to sound twee or mannered. The b-side is a killer track, Kevin Cabbage Town, one of the band’s greatest early live numbers and hinting at their love of Can – albeit one that has been put through their inimitable Rotterdam squat pop filter. The video is "interesting" and harks back to TisWas more than anything else…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FBThNrgV91Y