Saturday, August 26, 2006

In Praise Of Norman Records

Northstation - This Town Is Drunk Again

For the past eight years I have been buying the majority of my records from Norman Records, a mail order company based on an industrial estate in Leeds. Despite living in London and having access to the likes of Rough Trade and Sister Ray, I’ve stuck with them, mainly because they put sweets in with my orders, but also because I’m a lazy bum and I can’t be arsed to get on the tube. It’s dead simple – they send round an email every Friday, listing all the releases for the following week, along with reviews to give you an idea of what you’re getting. You email them back with what you want and they package it up and send it to you. I’ve never received anything with a bent sleeve, I can’t remember the last time I bought something from them that I didn’t like, plus you can even ask them questions about stuff and they’re not scathingly dismissive as the majority of record shop employees can be - I should know, I used to be one.

Since the NME transformed itself into the indie rock equivalent of Heat magazine, I’ve become reliant on owner Phil and the gang to tell me what to like, and unusually for a company in the business of selling, they are quite happy to slag off their wares. Can you imagine a greengrocer saying, “Me bananas are jubbly, but me plums are facking sour and will give you gut rot.” It’s not going to happen is it? But Team Norman is quite happy to give sub-standard fare a right good kicking. Here’s Phil’s review of the Starsailor single ‘In The Crossfire’ from last year –

“Am listening to the new Starsailor single called In The Crossfire. His voice really doesn't feel like someone is drilling in my head with the wrong drill bit. Oh no. It is not about the most pompous bombastic thing you've ever heard. Oh no. It's a delicate flower of a sung by someone with possibly the best voice in the whole world ever... Sarcasm aside, the tune's not actually that bad, but that goose of a man insists of punctuating some reasonable guitar indie fayre with his total cock of a voice. Christ it makes me so furious I'd kick my own head off if my legs were bendier…”

Brilliant. It’s thanks to them that my record collection has the odd lathe cut 8” and various other obscure slabs of wonder that I would probably never have got to hear if it wasn’t for them. Take this wonderful album ‘Wagtail’ from Northstation, which I picked up last week. There’s only three companies carrying stock in the entire world, and Norman Records is one of them. It’s limited to 121 copies so I am one of the privileged few to be clutching an actual copy in my sweaty palms. And what a clutchable thing it is too. It comes in a sleeve made from light blue felt. The sides stitched together with red thread and a little brown bird with a button for an eye has been sown onto the cover. They’ve done this 121 times so each bird is unique (apparently, mine is called ‘Pierre’) – if you follow this link here you’ll be able to see every single one.

I’d almost be happy if there was no CD living in the felt nest but of course there is and it’s a cracker. It’s twinkling noisy, messy electronics with a touch of the folk about it. I’ve posted ‘This Town Is Drunk Again’, with it’s dubbed out drums, clanging melody and bit where everything distorts into a blizzard of white noise. It reminds me a bit of Feedle in places, which can only be a good thing. Northstation is Steve Fanagan and it turns out that this is his third album as Northstation and he also records under the aliases Moose Eats Leaf and Wrecking Ball, as well as running the Slow Loris label and working part-time as a sound engineer. Another great discovery, all thanks to the wonderful world of Norman Records.

Visit Steve Fanagan's website here
Visit the Slow Loris label website
Head to the Norman Records website and join their mailing list and order the Northstation album (if there's any left)