Words: Nicola Guerra

The Monolith Cocktail has been exchanging posts with our pen pal partners at the leading Italian music publication Kalporz for the last two years or more now; an exchange that continues unabated in 2021. This month Nicola Guerra introduces us to the Italian band A MINOR PLACE; a group who it seems leave smiles on the face with some well-chosen eclectic covers.

A MINOR PLACE  ‘It’ll End In Smile’
(Self-Released) 29th January 2021

Sad songs to be happy, happy songs to sink into a miraculous nostalgia. It sounds simple in words, but who can really do it with notes? I have a short list, but it would be misleading in approaching It’ll End in Smile, the new double self-produced effort by the Teramo band A MINOR PLACE.

Let’s start from the end; in this double disc there are covers of Vic Chesnutt, Tom Waits and the Marine Girls songs (and two others that I won’t reveal): that’s ‘Splendid’ by Chesnutt, ‘In the Neighbourhood’ by Waits, and ‘Second Sight’ by the Marine Girls. How much happiness can you store in just three songs? I still cry with Chesnutt, but the tears have happiness written all over them between water and salt.

What about nostalgia? You may say, we have more right to be nostalgic now, thinking back to our disfigured normality. But here nostalgia is overloaded with love; the songs do not live in the present but neither do they regret the past. They are simply suspended, they are a snapshot immortalized in a precise historical moment, which each of us has been lucky enough to experience at least once in our lives.

Here comes ‘Love’ and we are reminded why we always need POP; why we need the soundtrack that will make us nostalgic for having been happy tomorrow. And that’s the secret; listening to songs that give you the feeling of being stuck in a timeless bubble, capable of bringing a smile to your face even when the situation doesn’t call for it. This is A Minor Place’s skill: distilling pure joy in three minutes, cutting out the essence and sticking it on posters that remind you that your happiness may not last long, but if you carry it with you it can replace any medicine.

Songs flow like credits and when you listen to them again you are almost moved, as if you were really the protagonist told in sunny songs like ‘Sunglasses’, romantic ‘Christmas in Summer (Greetings from Aldo and Derna)’ (one of my favourites, with doo-wop-like choruses and electric guitar to unhinge certainties at the end); or just perfect because they are tinged with strings and colours, as if it were the simplest thing in the world ‘Total Football’. But what is simple is only the ability to be a band that really believes in it. These days, believing in something is fantasy. To believe that a smile can change the world is something magical.

Ah, I’ll tell you; the other two covers are ‘For a Spanish Guitar’ by Gene Clark and ‘Capricci’ by Ban-Off (a garage-punk band from Teramo). You already have a smile on your face, don’t you?


Review
Nicola Guerra



GIRL BAND  ‘The Talkies’
(Rough Trade)  LP/ 2019


I often travel to Ireland for work and the thing that most intrigues me is to observe the differences between the Anglo-Saxon and Italian working class. We are both in the shit, it is clear, but the approach to the exteriorization of feelings is quite different. You can perceive it in any daily gesture, in the common life but above all in art. Music, as such, is a litmus test of general dissatisfaction; while in Italy the baggage of “committed singer-songwriters” has been gradually replaced by a frivolous and unconscious approach, in Ireland noise (not necessarily made with traditional instruments) seems an excellent alternative to all this crap. In short, all angry and frustrated, but here in Italy, we rebel shaking with the summer hits of Giusy Ferreri while in the UK the Idles with foaming anger sing, “My blood brother is an immigrant, a beautiful immigrant, my blood brother’s Freddie Mercury, a Nigerian mother of three, he’s made of bones, he’s made of blood, he’s made of flesh, he’s made of love, he’s made of you, he’s made of me, Unity”, and the Irish Girl Band respond with a second album more claustrophobic than their debut four years ago, Holding Hands With Jamie.

The Talkies, published again by Rough Trade, is more than a record; it’s state of mind, a delirious but lucid attempt to escape from the fears, which often inhabit our psyche. Surely Dara Kiely, voice of the Dublin quartet, is mainly responsible for the suffocating climax that you breathe in this record; he screams, spasms, anxious breaths and the same fear that the animal has when it is cornered. The music that accompanies the deliriums of the frontman oscillates between industrial, noise and dance from the bowels of the earth, indulging anger, frustration, the few oases of peace “ambient” (the lullaby that queries the post-punk assault of ‘Laggard’) are just a physiological breath, the breath of air that serves not to suffocate, the attempt to look away towards the imminent end of the world.

Incredibly cohesive, sharp, direct, difficult to digest and yet as fascinating as all things that speak of real life, the second album from Girl Band is a manifesto of the intolerance of a generation that wants to escape and at the same time react, without having any idea of how to do.

We are really in a tight spot and the four sound killers slam it in our faces, not playing to show us something but giving us directions on how we should behave.

Nicola Guerra








You can find all the previous Kalporz posts here….



 

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