Drug-induced toilet catastrophes
- Anna C savours some sugar mice

THE WORKHOUSE- The Coldroom Sessions

Formed in Oxford and now based in North London (where else?), The Workhouse (who, I am surprised to have found out, are on their third album) have past been famously described by the NME as ‘the new priests of the cathedral of sound’. At least, that is, if you worship at an altar where, instead of our Father sweet-talking the choirboy, Joy Division are on their knees in front of Sigur Ros while the baggiest of all baggyness, Ride, twiddle their rosaries and mutter a few ‘hail marys’.

Like something from John Murphy’s ‘28 Days Later’ soundtrack, stark and haunting instrumentals of chugging bass and dark synth paint a picture of early 80s New Wave, a resplendent Ian Curtis-esque vocal adding to this effect throughout. Spattered, then, with a lovelorn and sad feel in places, it’s not all gloomy though; the magical, dreamy ambience of tracks like ‘Drag Queen’ and ‘And we watched the waves’ detract from the somewhat unnerving fact that The Workhouse prefer their songs to be over seven minutes long. While I would usually write such a band off as over-indulgent dross, something of which they are perhaps guilty of all the same, there remains something mesmerising about them. Brooding and atmospheric, there is no doubt that The Workhouse are an experience. And there is a penguin on the cover. I wonder if it’s homosexual. The clergy would most definitely not approve.

The 26th September, 2011 was the birthday of one of my most favourite people and this was released then too. Whoops.


SUGAR MOUSE- Mouse Xcore

Bringing dark electro/shoegazing/riot grrl-ness to the streets of Norwich, Sugar Mouse share a mutual love of feedback, samples and fuzz pedals. They were formed as an experiment to see how far they could take the traditional set up of guitar, bass, vocal and drum (machine) in terms of its sonic boundarys (their words, not mine). Six months later, they had over two hours of material written.

So why does this EP only have three tracks on then and why is its grand finale a live session and interview with a very annoying local radio DJ? With a strong desire to be different but not quite achieving originality just yet, I am not sure that I like them at first. It might be down to the fact that I was eagerly left expecting ‘Robo-Drum Noize pop’ and got, well, indie cabaret. Still, my indecision is actually a good sign- there is one thing that is true and that is that Sugar Mouse are bold in the way that that they are at least trying to challenge the way we think about new music. Though they are far less dynamic than they claim, the effort in the detail is also appreciated. Not only does ‘Mouse Xcore’ comes in a cute sweetshop paper-cover and a bribe in the form of a real sugar mouse but 3D visuals for their live shows are also in the pipeline. Whether this is because Sugarmouse are trying to make up for their music in other ways or complimenting it is for you to decide.


LINDA ORTEGA- Little Red Boots

Canadian singer, Linda Ortega, has had the imaginative nickname of ‘Indie Lindi’ bestowed upon her. Unfortunate really, as it tells you nothing about her sound. The fact that she is on the same label as gave us Death From Above 1979, and that she has recently performed backing vocals for Mr Brandon Flowers, doesn’t either.

No, where the ‘indie’ part does come in, however, is where Ms Ortega has spent the past decade as a face in Toronto’s independent music scene, earning her deserved comparisons to Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris for the fact that, she, er, sounds a bit like them and is probably also as generally fabulous. Though her lyrical content is often bluesy, the mood remains upbeat-circa Scananavian lovely Miss Li- during album opener and energetic single ‘Little lie’, a cutesy banjo-driven ditty in the cheerful ‘Bluebird’ and a swaggering title track.

However, whilst these tracks are initially interspersed with pretty melodies, that do add a welcome romanticism and gutsy attitude to this mammoth twelve tracker, it must be said that Ortega does get more than a little whiny towards its end. Despite the optimistically twinkling instrumentation of ‘Dying of another broken heart’, this marks a turning point in that it is hard to remain positive in the face of a barrage of the PMT-induced ballads that form the latter half of ‘Little Red Boots’. Indeed, as her breathy vocal rises to a cliché at the end of the rather sad ‘So sad’, one is almost left forgetting the thing that had started off so promising- feeling instead that, while undoubtedly talented, Lindi is still yet to utilise the best bits of country music. And, the shame is that this isn’t true. But there’s something that says that maybe even Lindi believes it is. Maybe she laments the fact that, despite people also using Johnny Cash as a reference point for her music, there is little sign of his originality and grittiness here. She does go so far as to proclaim loudly that she’s ‘no Elvis Presley’, after all. Maybe a note out of his book is what’s needed. Apart from the drug-induced toilet catastrophe. That would be rubbish.

This is her debut album and was released 24th October, 2011, my friend’s birthday and the anniversary of the day I first met my husband. So I was too busy to write this. Better late than never though.


Anna C