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by Jennifer Cooke

20 Aug 2009

For some acts, even the title of “One Hit Wonder” is too extravagant an honor. For self-proclaimed “scabby witches from Glasgow”, Strawberry Switchblade, OHW status can only be claimed in Europe and Japan—in the US, they didn’t even rate as a blip on the radar screen, unless you were a moody teenager who subscribed to Smash Hits and bought creepers and Communards 12” dance singles at import shops with names like the Berlin Wall.

To such a teenager, however, the heady mix was unbeatable: morose but danceable electronic pop about certifiable anxiety disorders and unrequited love, sung by the Scottish love children of Siouxsie Sioux and Frida Kahlo after an explosion at the squaredance costume factory. Rose MacDowell and Jill Bryson wore getups and hairstyles so massive, so elaborate, it was a wonder they could even stand up, much less strum guitars or shake maracas. They covered songs by the Velvet Underground and Dolly Parton! Their record label (Korova) was named after a reference from A Clockwork Orange! I couldn’t have found a more perfect duo to worship if I had constructed it from whole cloth myself. My favorite subjects were depression, polka dots, dolls, strawberries, fishnet stockings and obscure British pop music. What were the odds of finding such a tailor-made treasure?

Strawberry Switchblade scored a #5 hit in England in 1985 with “Since Yesterday”, but by 1986, collapsing under the weight of all those ribbons, silk flowers and pancake makeup, they were history. Their eponymous album remains one of my favorite of that decade, and one that bears surprisingly frequent listens today. So even if your adolescent fantasy wasn’t to look like Blueberry Muffin working behind the MAC counter… give Strawberry Switchblade a try. I’ll bet you dollars to donuts it was their version of “Jolene” and not Dolly’s that first inspired Jack White to cover it.

“Since Yesterday”

“Jolene”

by Sarah Zupko

20 Aug 2009

Canada’s Spiral Beach has a unique performance style, putting on wildly interactive shows where the band kicks up their heels with the audience and even are known to cook for the crowd on occasion. These events routinely last until dawn. Now that is Concerts 2.0. Spiral Beach’s new album (The Only Really Thing) hits U.S. shores on 22 September and you can get a sense of their poppy sonic mayhem on this live video for “Domino” that we are premiering today. It’s one of the highlights of the new record. Full release details and an MP3 of the tune are below the jump.

by Christian John Wikane

20 Aug 2009

PopMatters’ Christian John Wikane talks about his massive project documenting the history of Casablanca Records that is running this week.

by Katharine Wray

20 Aug 2009

A literary/pulp mashup. At its best? That remains to be seen. Author Seth Grahame-Smith must have some real cajones to tamper with a such loved classic as Pride and Prejudice by adding a Zombie story line. This book trailer has a b-movie quality to it; a nod to the cinematic genre, hopefully. This will book could be a great as Danger Mouse’s mashup of the Beatles’ White Album and Jay-Z’s Black Album. Or as far-fetched as the stoner mashup of The Wizard of Oz with Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.

by Lara Killian

19 Aug 2009

Drawing on the author’s experiences traveling in locales such as Greece, Italy, Portugal and Turkey, Canadian writer Ian Colford’s first collection of short stories centers around a feeling of otherness, of always being the outsider, misunderstood by locals who mill through dusty urban streets and struggle to make their own way.

Colford’s protagonists range in occupation from teachers to research assistants to hotel clerks and even a minor felon, but each character shares in some way a resignation about his place in the host country. The expectation is always that the locals will remain at arm’s length, rejecting efforts at assimilation.

In each tale the central character is seeking a way to improve his life, and is largely unattached to other people or places. America is the destination of choice in many of the stories, the towns described along the way more like a mooring to drift alongside temporarily than a meaningful stopping point.

The author carefully avoids specifics that would connect a story concretely with a particular place. His measured prose sketches the gritty poverty that might accompany transient workers who slowly find their hope worn down under daily difficulties. Yet there is also a theme of random kindness that runs through the stories, when a secondary character sometimes shines a unexpected ray of hope or truth into the bleak everyday toil of the protagonist.

Colford’s collection will appeal to anyone who has ever wandered through a city off the beaten path and found themselves an outsider. Whether you relish the experience or find it uncomfortable, these stories proffer a spare, elegant window on a lonely, precarious existence.

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