I lucked out as a kid. Even though I was cursed with strict, worrisome parents who always made sure my curfew was earlier and my allowance more meager than all my friends, I lived by a Tower records. Now, that's not all that thrilling these days and not much more thrilling back in 1983, but for this kid it it saved my sanity for two reasons.

First, it was the only place my parents let mewalk to at night by myself - due, i suppose, to it's established nature. How, they thought, could I get in to trouble at Tower? (of course, "going to Tower" became the excuse for all sorts of late night mischief) .

Second of all, tucked in the back, past the Naked Eyes records was the best import/independent section this side of - well it doesn't matter 'this side of what' since Iwouldn't have been allowed to go there anyway- but, trust me, it was great.

I was thirteen at the time and it all seemed a huge mystery to me - all these records with weird covers by bands that nobody had ever heard of. For about a year, just looking at them was enough to feel different, but it was only a matter of time (and saving up that damn allowance) before I made the big step. I can't say for sure what the first record I bought from that mysterious section was, but I seem to remember it being the 'She's Lost Control' 12" by Joy Division. I took it back to my friend Ed's house (I wasn't sure what my parents would think of this stranger in the house) and after debating whether or not it was on the wrong speed (until his infinitely cooler older sister finally yelled through the heater vent that it was indeed how it was supposed to sound) I slowly began my descent in to the world of music that was, believe it or not, even more challenging/rewarding than U2.

Fortunately, this was a time before marketing folks and discovered that you could dress shit up as cool, & you could actually judge, to some degree, a record by it's cover. I began buying all sorts of records simply because the covers looked interesting and this led me all over the musical map.

Aside from a dreadful experience with Psychic TV, most of these records had at least some merit- but the one-THE record that defined what I had been looking for-was 'Never Understand' by the Jesus and Mary Chain. I loved the noise and the stark red cover, but most of all, I loved the pureness of melody and how the whole affair was over in two and a half minutes. Without realising it, I had discovered punk. Not the Punk of the Sex Pistols or the Ramones - I had heard those bands but I was too young to realise what was so important about them - besides, they weren't MINE like the Marychain suddenly was.

So pop music became punk rock to me. It was only a matter of time before I'd discover the Jasmine Minks, Primal Scream, the Pastels, early Pop Will Eat Itself and My Bloody Valentine, Subway Records etc. etc....Even though I strayed at times(folks..I got heavily in to grunge for a while,please forgive me), I always came back to these records because, whether I realised it or not, they instilled a belief system in me. I could apply the bluntness, the immediacy, the drunkenness, the sweetness, the irreverence, the sloppiness, the AMBITION to all aspects of my life - for the first time, music went beyond my stereo.

In a perfect world, these bands would be huge. Little did I know, some years on, I would discover a world (not a perfect one, mind you) where these band WERE huge. It was the US indie-pop world & I could write a book about what bothers me about it, but it definitely has it's merits. People that I've met at shows etc. have turned me on to tons of great bands and I've even managed to meet some life long friends amidst the shy,shuffling lollipop suckers.

What perplexes me most about it is that I see a lot of bands that are supposedly influenced/inspired by this pop-as-punk aesthetic, but who embarassingly miss the point. They've taken the Amelia Fletchers and Stephen Pastels & distilled all the bite out of them - leaving only a vapid cuteness.

This is why calling the Aislers Set an indie-pop band is completely missing the point. Sure, they play on indie pop shows and that's a big chunk of their audience, and sure,most punks would be too preoccupied with the fact that "they're not punk" to realise that they are - but how else can you explain the fact that I've seen them play shows where they've been totally drunk, sloppy and cracking up, and they have still got the audience in the palm of their hands? They were getting enthusiastic applause (including mine) after somersaulting through songs you might not even recognize on record. Which brings me to the point of an article that you may have been convinced had no point.

Now, although an Aislers Set record isn't at all the same thing as an Aislers Set show, they're able to coexist as 2 parts of the same thing without disappointment from either end.

The first record, 'Terrible Things Happen, is a highly singular record in the indie pop world. It's one of my favorite records of the 90's & despite all it's reference points (Beach Boys, Jesus & Marychain,TV Personalities), it stands alone as a haunting, reverb-drenched statement to what (head Aisler) Amy Linton was going through at the time. It's about heartbreak, redemption, travelling & finding yourself. It sounds like the colder bits of Autumn where the sun only shines for an hour or so, yet you can sing along with every song. It's got a layered dense-ness to it that I attribute to Amy playing about 80% of it herself - drums, guitar, bass, singing, keyboards-with the band only contributing to a handful of songs. The upbeat songs are fun and insanely catchy ('Long Division' makes it on to most mix tapes) but the slow drawn out ones are the most rewarding in the end. 'Marys Song' gives me chills at the exact same point EVERY time. It's much more than just a collection of songs - it has a definite mood and is best listened to as a whole - and after the record's over, I feel pleasantly spent.

So now it's time for round two - which, legend has it, can make or break a band. Now, I haven't asked them about it or anything, but it seems to me that they did something deliberately smart on 'The Last Match'. The layered one woman show has been replaced with the full band playing on almost all the tracks which lends a noticeabley more upbeat, live quality to the record while still retaining the Aislers sound.

Amy is clearly into great music and she has the rare ability to turn her influences into her contemporaries. What I mean is that you can tell she's been listening to lots of the great 80's pop I was blabbing about earlier (there's even a cover of 'Baloon Song by the awesome 14 Iced Bears), but she's ended up coming up with a batch of songs that seriously rivals her influences.

This isn't some degenerated copy but a record that can be added to the canon of the great inspired pop that it's influenced by. I actually dig it when a band wears some of their influences on their sleeve and still comes up with something fresh - it's harder than it sounds. I think the key in the Aislers case is that Amy has a unique sense of melody & a distinctive voice. You wouldn't call her voice perfect, but it's definitely cool and a lot of time is spent on harmonies and layers when she records, plus, her melodies are distinct enough that you could easily tell if someone was biting her style.

The record starts off with 'The Way To Market Station', which I have a totally unfounded theory about. It somehow sounds exactly halfway between the sound of the first album and this one. It's the only track that has Amy playing all the instruments and it really succeeds in bridging the two records - saying goodbye to the old sound like an amicable breakup and hinting at the more airy qualities to follow.

And what follows is pure brilliance - a record that sounds equally great at a party or in your bedroom, but best in your walkman on your bicycle. Going FAST. And while Amy's clearly the leader, the rest of the band all fit in perfectly to realise her vision. Wyatt, the other guitarist, contributes three songs and despite the criticism that they seem to be getting, I love them. 'Lonely Side of Town' is perhaps the sweetest song on the record and it's only one minute long! The addition of Jen on keyboards was a brilliant idea and it's only a matter of time until they're all co-writing songs and gaining even more depth.

Depth, what a rare word to be using these days to describe a pop record, but trust me, this is a record you'll return to over and over.

I'm listening to it right now - actually, I've done nothing but listen to it the whole time I've been writing this just to prove to myself that I believe in it - that I believe what I'm saying is true and, as a parting gesture, I'm going to flip it over again. The Aislers Set UNDERSTAND. They effortlessly bucked the legends by producing a flawless second album - one that's grown out of the first one yet stands on it's own.

So, when's the next one? I'm gonna go to Tower and check. I'll be right back, Mom.











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