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London independent label Odd Box Records did a great job of seeking out and then shouting to the world about some exciting new music through volume 1 of their 100 Club 7" singles series last year, and for 2014 they're back to try and do the same again. Here we'll plunge our ears into this lucky dip of bands and see what's on offer. As is common for a label with a reputation for noisy guitar-pop, you won't find many songs getting past about two-and-a-half minutes, but there are a couple of anomalies.
Now entering their fourth year, Sock Puppets still sound as fresh as a daisy and their 49 second punk-pop-riot grrrl thrash 'Cute Boys Are Cute' is typical of its genre in terms of sound, but the energy means it hurtles over the finish line in a winning position. For 'Death Ray', which heads into the almost unknown territory of being over twice as long as their other offering here, they sound like a different band. Most prominently down to having a male lead vocal. Still, it's all about that classic combination of fuzzy guitars and a surplus of melody, something which makes it slightly more accessible and a big highlight. There's the slightest hint of The Cramps right at the end. One down and all is going according to plan.
Multicultural indiepoppers Bloomer come next, boasting members originating from the UK, Spain and Japan, but their songs originate from 1980s Britain and the rush of DIY guitar-pop bands that so many fell in love with. Largely their two contributions are recreations of the past, although it doesn't necessarily feel that way; again this is a band who ooze youthful exuberance and vitality. 'Adore' is pretty irresistible and you don't notice the gargantuan length as it pushes towards five minutes. It's melody and guitars again, and they don't fail. This is a giddy love song for those who don't really care much for love songs. Bonus points for sustaining a long guitar solo without boredom setting in. 'Long Slow Ride' is pretty much the same make and model, only it's that bit sweeter in the verses which are contrasted nicely by the darker chorus. If you squint a bit, you can just about make out the lyrics amongst the fuzz. Top stuff.
It's all about animals from here on in, starting with Brighton noise-pop duo Dog Legs. We get a second dose of riot grrrl inspired sounds on 'Toot Toot Hey', but it's combined with the kind of music you'd expect The White Stripes to make had they been a rickety bedroom band rather than a global chart slaying behemoth. It's loud, piercing and will leave your ears ringing for some time afterwards. Their eponymous track adds some experimentation to proceedings, perhaps the closest that this whole set comes to finding a new sound. That said, it's rooted in post-punk and new-wave, but not the bands you know, the obscure ones that other people talk about but you haven't got round to listening to yet. It's a bit weird to say the least, but that's rarely a bad thing.
City Yelps are less immediate, with their sound not being easy to pin down. What appear to be synths and softened drums give an almost dreampop vibe to the backing, but the near monotone vocals mean that we're again taken back to John Peel radio shows and fanzines that used to arrive on photocopied paper through the post, not simply land in your inbox. They don't break 4 minutes over the course of two songs. 'Saying Things For Effect' takes a few plays to sink in, but once you've got it then you'll be glad. As if having the word "yelps" in their name didn't continue the animal theme enough, their second contribution is 'Cats Mice', a song that rides on a wave of distorted synths, snappy drums that sound as though they're played on a the cheapest kit that money could buy, and more of that vocal monotone. This is as punk as anything else here.
Lastly comes King Of Cats, and the first side of his disc, 'Half Nelson', seems to take an age for anything of note to happen. This slow build gets there in the end though, as the guitar and drums gradually creep up on you while a deranged voice howls and screams in the distance. It's a tune that we could probably use the Marmite analogy on. Flip-side 'Bulldozer' (another animal creeping in there on the sly) is similarly atmospheric and consists of much the same. After the near faultless run of noisy indiepop, King Of Cats feels a bit like a curveball, but you can't knock him for making the music he wants to make, even if it means that the average punter might find this one a bit more difficult to love. All in all though, another splendid set of bands. Get on the case before they're all gone.
Buy the singles from the Odd Box Records' website
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