Look. When we're singing praises to the likes of Wormrot, we sort of understand why our recommendations are so comprehensively ignored, although we certainly don't condone it. But when a band like this comes along - adept at being melodic, mournful, poppy, warming, everything you lot purport to adore - you still don't listen... *sigh*.
'Make Me Smile' has a light footedness to it that lifts you out of the 4am reverie left over from 'Short Stories...'. This is a fresh and breezy song; lovely use of an almost mariachi sounding trumpet adds a sunshine edge to an already summery song. It has a lightness of touch that the Divine Comedy honed so well. The sun is kept shining with 'Are You Listening To Me Now?'. As before there is a darker undercurrent to the lyrics than the music suggests. Musically the song rides along, and you can simply loose yourself in its infectiousness, then take a deeper listen and it tells of a lost relationship, reminiscing on its journey. A chiming guitar swings you into 'Bridges'. It has a loose, hooky-bass texturing the darkening feel of the song. The vocal has a edge to it that recalls Ian Curtis' monolithic delivery. As the song progresses, it touches deeper into Joy Division and The Cure's territory. It's not trench-coated goth, but has a more introspective touch and enriches the album by its contrast. The song almost has a reprise built into it, lead by some guitar lines that would fit on any Richard Hawley album. 'Bridges' builds and builds into a nine-plus minute trip.
'Falling Star' is preceded by a lovely little wry soundbite on the meaning of love. Then, after 'Bridges'' epic grace, 'Falling Star' dances and swirls and turns out to be one of the best songs on the album. It has a true irresistibly that will always get you dancing, but it is a excellently crafted song, that has flashes of Belle & Sebastian, but stands tall in such company. With another crackling intro, this time lifted from Gershwin's 'Summertime', 'The Robin Song' ,echoes 'Summertime''s note with a bluesy harmonica. Another sharp lyrical picture is painted, delivered like some lost Lou Reed track from his 'Berlin' album. 'The Robin Song' meanders slightly and your attention almost wanes, then the all is pulled back into the song with some genteel and masterful guitar, then the song stretches out, almost overstaying its welcome.
After 'The Robin Song''s wander, 'Make Me Happy' is inevitably concise, yet not throwaway. A rich rush, namechecking Morrissey and recalling his former band at there brightest. It's not quite a Smiths homage, but it dances happily in their bequiffed shadow until switching it up with some classic rock 'n' roll Telstar guitar. Then those horns make an enchanting return. The Short Stories take us into the album's last couplet of songs. 'We're Still The Same' has a slower waltz-like feel to it, a lament with the refrain "we're still the same somehow". And so to the end and 'Angry Young Man (2)' returns us to where we began. Our "young man" has been through a journey and is looking forward. The song works lovely in the context to end the chapter of 'Send My Love To Everyone'. It then codas in an unexpected splendor that is noisily grand. With this album The Short Stories have given us a mature, crafted, at times enchanting album, that stands out for simply being about the art and pleasure of the song.
See more at The Sound of Confusion
27th September 2013 - read it on the website here
The Short Stories are a Bristol-based indie pop group, which was formed
by long-lost school friends Tim Rippington and Stephen Miles in 2007. Tim
Rippington was the second guitarist in both acclaimed late 1980’s C-86
band the Flatmates and a latter line-up of cult act, the Beatnik
Filmstars. He has also fronted his own bands, the Five Year Plan and the
Forest Giants, and with the latter group he recorded four albums. Stephen
Miles has worked as a drummer with various West of England groups,
including at one point Bristol-based indie chart toppers Modesty Blaise. While
the pair had been close friends at school, and Miles had been a fan of
Rippington’s first group the Inane (which he had formed with Rob Pursey,
who has since gone on to success with both Heavenly and Tender Trap),
they had lost touch afterwards, and had not seen each other in over
twenty years when they met again through the internet in 2007. Rippington
was looking for a drummer to help him record some songs he had written
after the break-up of the Forest Giants, and invited Miles after they
had initially met up again in a Bristol bar to accompany him. When at
those sessions he discovered that Miles both also wrote songs and played
guitar, they, however, quickly instead forged a songwriting
partnership. There have been three previous Short Stories’
albums, ‘Short Stories for Long Nights’ (2008), ‘The Night is on Fire’
(2009) and ‘Small Mercies’ (2010). The group’s fourth album, ‘Send My
Love to Everyone’, which came out in May, however, has proved to be a
change of direction in several ways.
Released on Rippington’s own Breaking Down Recordings, rather than International Lo-Fi Underground, the label of Beatnik Filmstars’ front man Andrew Jarrett, it finds the Short Stories moving on from the thrashing, discordant lo-fi rock of their previous three albums and playing music with a much cleaner, airier sound. Fuller in tone, ‘Send My Love to Everyone’ is also the first album that Rippington and Miles have not recorded as a duo, but with their new band which consists of bassist Geoff Gorton, drummer Simon Harrison and keyboardist Kay Farnell, and also for this recording special guest, cornet player Harry Furniss. Both Rippington and Miles are divorced fathers of two, and ‘Send My Love to Everyone’, in contrast to the Short Stories’ darker, earlier records, finds them, while acknowledging the pains of the past, looking towards the future with a tentative optimism. The album is opened and closed with Miles’ ‘Angry Young Man’. a brassy, breezy number which has Miles humorously concluding that, while he is more resigned to the ways of the world than he used to be, he has still not quite lost the youthful anger he used to feel at its injustices and callous stupidities. The second eight-minute version of the song concludes the album in a surging, triumphant rush of orchestration. The meandering, softly bubbling ‘Short Stories for Long Nights’ has it three protagonists – a financially struggling thirty-something; a self-harming teenage girl and a recently widowed pensioner – each taking life-saving comfort in music. The elegiac ‘The Robin Song’, which features strings and like ‘Short Stories for Long Nights’ was also written by Miles, opens with a swooning a cappella female vocal and, although about death and loss, is the most tender of tributes and love songs to someone who was “there, always there.”
Tim Rippington’s songs include the punchy ‘Let Me See You Smile’, which is about the thrill and buzz of a blossoming potential new romance; the exuberant ‘Make Me Happy’ about taking pleasure in the simple things, and ‘We’re Still the Same’ which reflects affectionately and with gentle humour on the rekindling of his and Miles’ friendship. ‘Send My Love to Everyone’ is first-rate, an album of instantly catchy melodies and down-to-earth lyricism and genuine charm. Pennyblackmusic, keen to know more, spoke to both Tim Rippington and Stephen Miles about its making and songs.
PB: The first three Short Stories records came out very quickly and within the space of two years from each other. ‘Send My Love to Everyone’, however, has had a much longer gestation period. It has taken you three years to get this album together. Why has it taken so long? Was it just because you were making the step up from a duo to a full band?
STEPHEN MILES: It was partly that, although the band has been in place for a while. We wanted to make this one sound different and a lot more finished and polished, so we spent a lot longer recording it.
TIM RIPPINGTON: The first album, ‘Short Stories for Long Nights’, was literally thrown together a couple of months after we had met again. When we re-met up I discovered that Steve both played the drums and also had written some songs, so we got together really quickly and just knocked the record out. We wanted to find some people to play with, but then we went through that usual thing of finding musicians that were not necessarily suitable or who had their own agendas or whatever, and so we carried on making records just on our own. After we had done ‘Small Mercies’, the third album, we thought that we really couldn’t take in that format any further, and that we should really try and get a proper band together and concentrate on making a good record. We have had the songs in most cases for a couple of years.
PB: ‘Send My Love to Everyone’ is a much more upbeat title compared to ‘Short Stories for Long Nights’, ‘The Night is on Fire’ or ‘Small Mercies’. Why did you decide to call it that?
TIM RIPPINGTON: We wanted a title that was more upbeat. It was a deliberate thing. We went through quite a few names before settling on that. I am in a much better place now than when we were making some of those earlier albums - It was quite a dark time for me - and ‘Send Your Love to Everyone’ is also a reflection upon that.
STEPHEN MILES: The front cover of the album has a photograph of a pier on it. It is almost like a postcard. The lyrics are perhaps a bit deeper, but they are almost the kind of thing that you might jot down on a postcard. That is another reason why we chose that title.
PB: A lot of the songs on the album –‘Short Stories for Long Nights’, ‘Make Me Happy’, ‘The Robin Song’ and ‘Angry Young Man’- seem to acknowledge that, while things can sometimes be very bleak, you have to grab at what hope there is. Do you see this as the main theme of the album, promoting that concept of hope?
STEPHEN MILES: We didn’t set out to have a main theme for the album. It is not a jolly album. It is not a hide-your-head-in-the-sand album, but that idea of “Things aren’t always so good. Let’s try and look on the bright side a bit” definitely became a major part of it. I think that part of the reason why it took longer as well is because we wanted to make the music reflect that. That is why we have a trumpet on some songs and greater orchestration on tracks like ‘The Robin Song’ and ‘Angry Young Man’. We were trying to get away from the distorted guitars and drums that we had always done, and to bring that emotion through. Tim and I shared the song-writing as we have always done, and he had written gloomy song after gloomy song in the past, and so I told him that it was about time that he wrote something cheerful (Laughs, and he came up with both ‘Make Me Happy’ and ‘Let Me See You Smile’.
TIM RIPPINGTON: I wasn’t feeling especially depressed, but it is a lot more difficult to write songs about happy things. If you are feeling in a bleak place, it is easy to get out a guitar and get those sort of emotions out, but it is a lot harder even if you are feeling upbeat about things to write upbeat songs without them sounding really crass. ‘Make Me Happy’ in particular was written about something that was going on in my life at the time, but it was a deliberate attempt to up the poppiness and show people that I could write a happy song too (Laughs).
PB: ‘Short Stories for Long Nights’, as well as being the name of the first album, is also the title of the second song on ‘Send My Love to Everyone’. Was that song originally recorded for the first album?
TIM RIPPINGTON: No, it wasn’t. Steve came up with that title for the first album, and then after we had released it he decided to write a song of that name as well. We had that song several years ago, but like quite a few of our songs it was written and did not come out for ages. We have been keeping that song because we felt that we needed a full band to make it work.
PB: That song is very much about the saving grace of music, isn’t it?
STEPHEN MILES: It is. It sums up for me a lot of what I have always thought about the redemptive qualities of music, and also of literature and of art in general. I guess that it ties in as well with the hope message of the album as well. All the three characters in it find conciliation or the promise of conciliation from good art.
PB: While you didn’t set out to have a theme, in light of both that and ‘Make Me Happy’, do you think that the other main message of the album that it is often the small rather than the major things that can make the difference between making things better for us?
STEPHEN MILES: Yes, certainly…
TIM RIPPINGTON: I think we have both come to that conclusion. We have been around since the punk days. That was when we first started getting into music, and when you get to our age you realise that you’re not necessarily going to change the big things by going out on marches and demos and that kind of thing, but if you concentrate on some of the smaller things in life that you can often make things better both for yourself and for other people. I have found out particularly since I had kids that the things that you do that actually make other people happy are some of the most worthwhile things that you can possibly do. I have been in bands since I was seventeen and eighteen, and life in those early days was about being in a band and trying to make it as a group. You can pretty much cocoon yourself into that life for a long time, and it only as you get older that all of a sudden you discover that the world is a little bit different than from living in that zone of cafes and studios and basements.
PB: Are most of the songs on the album autobiographical?
TIM RIPPINGTON: To an extent. There is probably something autobiographical in every one of mine. They are not always necessarily about me. They might be about someone else, but it is often someone that I know and, of course, they are always written from my perspective.
STEPHEN MILES: Not necessarily. I don’t know, for example, any of the people in ‘Short Stories for Long Nights’. None of them are me. None of them are people I know. Some of them are bits of people I know I suppose, but I certainly couldn’t name anybody who fits any of those bills. ‘Angry Young Man’ is partially autobiographical. Certainly the main line is about me, but some of the other ones are slightly tongue-in-cheek. ‘The Robin Song’ is entirely autobiographical. It is written about my mother who died during the recording of this album. It is designed to be about all the good things that she left behind and good times that she had, rather than regretting that she is gone, which is quite a good way of handling loss. Although it is autobiographical, I would hope that other people would take something from it without necessarily knowing any of its history.
PB: There is a female vocal on ‘The Robin Song’. Who did that?
STEPHEN MILES: That is my mum singing at the beginning of that song. She had a fabulous singing voice, and performed in choirs in all parts of Bristol. She could have been a major singer, but had to give it up to go out and make a living. Much later on in life I taped her one day, and of course now that she is gone I regret not doing that much more. The recordings of her come from that tape.
PB: ‘We’re Still the Same’ is one of your songs, Tim. Is that about your and Stephen’s renewed friendship?
TIM RIPPINGTON: That comes down to me trying not to be so miserable too (Laughs). When I wrote that song, it was going to be called ‘It’s Not the Same’, and Steve said, “No. no. You should call it ‘We‘re Still the Same’. It sounds less melancholic.” It is about how everything is different in our lives now, but it concludes that we are still essentially the same people.
PB: Did you really meet again as the song portrays in a dodgy pub in Bristol down near the docks?
TIM RIPPINGTON: Yes, we did. Steve got in touch with me through the internet. When MySpace was still popular, he found me through that. Bristol is probably like many other cities in that it used to have a lot of dodgy pubs down the docks, but when I say it was horrendous I didn’t mean that it was grimy and horrible. It was one of those places with loads of TV screens. Steve lives quite a long, long way out, and about twenty miles away in Weston-super-Mare, so we picked a place in the centre of town, but it was the sort of place that neither of us would go into normally. My previous band the Forest Giants had just broken up. When I had known Steve at school, he was totally into his music, but I hadn’t known that he wrote music as well and I was quite surprised when we met again shortly after that he picked up his guitar and started playing songs to me.
STEPHEN MILES: I have always
written songs. I wrote poems and stories as well, but I hadn’t shown
them to a lot of people. I wrote a lot of songs before I started playing
drums in groups, but when I began playing in them I largely stopped.
Some of the songs on the first two albums, and a couple of the songs on
the third album as well, were written twenty, twenty-five years ago.
PB: You seem to come from very different schools of songwriting. A lot of your songs on the album, Stephen, – ‘Angry Young Man’, ‘Short Stories for Long Nights’ and ‘The Robin Song’ - are fairly lengthy, while yours, Tim –‘Make Me Happy’, ‘Let Me See You Smile’ and ‘We’re Still the Same’ - are much shorter and snappier. Have you very different musical tastes?
TIM RIPPINGTON: That reflects the fact that we have different musical influences. Steve is a big Velvet Underground fan, and he is a big fan of them live. He has got a massive archive of their live recordings. They did live often very different versions of the same song, some of which were quite lengthy, and he is a big collector of those. I come from more of a pop background, and am into song writing bands like the Go-Betweens and Galaxie 500 - bands like that and whose songs have a beginning, a middle and an end. Everything in the Short Stories is a meeting of two different sets of influences coming together.
STEPHEN MILES: I don't think I've ever heard a Belle and Sebastian record, and I don't think Tim owns any Television. We both, however, like the songs the other writes even when they are just acoustic guitar and vocals basics; if we didn't, we couldn't work together!
TIM RIPPINGTON: I would say though that we actually both write songs that in quite a similar style, despite the differences in our musical tastes. Arranging the songs is usually trickier though, and we often go through quite a few variations before we come up with something that both of us are totally happy with.
PB: How often do you get together to work on new material?
TIM RIPPINGTON: The hours have got unfortunately less and less. When we first formed the Short Stories, Steve was doing teacher training in Bath and he used to stop off in Bristol on the way home, but he now works at a secondary school in Weston where he also lives.
PB: What plans do you have for the future in light of that? Will there be another Short Stories album?
TIM RIPPINGTON: There will be another Short Stories LP, although it may take us a couple of years to get round to finishing it. In the meantime we are making a few videos for songs on the current LP which we'll be posting up as and when over the next few months. Gigs are less likely because of Steve's other commitments, but if something really good comes along I'm sure we'll try to fit it in. I met Stuart Murdoch at the End of the Road Festival recently and gave him a CD, so you never know! I have some plans as well to release some songs under another name just because Steve and I don't get that much time together, and I get itchy fingers! The band will be called the Charlie Tipper Experiment and I'm hopeful to get some recordings done and out in 2014, and maybe a bit of touring too before we get back down the Short Stories in earnest.
PB: Thank you.
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
And on that note, there's one truly scintillating song, "Are You Listening Now?" which is next-level fine. Lyrically reflective yet upbeat, it takes everything about our favourite Forest Giants songs ("Postcards", "Beards", "Closure") and imbues the brew with irresistible poppiness, too. Even better, we have it on good authority that a version of it is going to be a single. Which may be the best news we've heard all week, and certainly eclipses all this royal baby nonsense.
LOUDER THAN WAR - JULY 2013
What happens to angry young men when they’re not that young anymore? Rob McNamara finds out from The Short Stories.
Everybody knew the affronted young teenager with a chip on his shoulder. He wanted to be in a punk band that played hard and harshly. He wrote lyrics that spat bile about the government, his boss and anyone who had the audacity to question his view of the world. As the years went by, he met a girl, got married, had kids and took an office job.
He started hearing and seeing things differently. His music tastes changed from the Sex Pistols and the Clash to breezy and clever guitar pop. His bile became cynical, yet detached observations and now he lightly chuckled at the ridiculousness of life rather than trying to change the system in vain. Then, one day, he picked up his guitar again. I can only presume this is what The Short Stories are alluding to on the track Angry Young Man, Send My Love To Everyone’s centre piece. It’s an enchanting ditty that will brighten even the dullest of moods with its tinkly piano and trumpet.
The album bobs along inoffensively yet pleasingly at times. It ventures into Small Faces and Belle and Sebastian territory via Hammond organ and sparse brass that has you thinking of Rico Rodriguez. These are little kitchen sink vignettes that allude to the mundanity of life without trying to glorify it. Like everyday life though, not everything goes to plan here.
There are endearing songs about tabloid editorial content, confusing mobile phones, love, footballers’ escapades and even a mention for misquoted Morrissey lyrics. On Short Stories For Long Nights the protagonist from Angry Young Man has happily reached middle age and the tone has become acquiescent. Are You Listening Now and Let Me See You Smile follow similar lyrical and musical themes.
However, Bridges, The Robin Song and Angry Young Man (Reprise) are far too lengthy and arduous to retain anything but a passing interest as the record veers into terrain that is flat and needlessly repetitive.
Burrow through all that though and you reach the apex of the album on Make Me Happy, with its airy acoustics and 50s guitar break that is enhanced by harmonica and trumpet. This is the track that will hook you in – its simplicity is infectious.
Overall these songs are more suited to the three-four minute pop capers that colour the album rather than the lengthy, needless jams that do nothing but draw things out and underwhelm. As the once angry young man settles down to a yielding existence, he loses a bit of focus. There’s a really good record in here, it just slightly oversteps the parameters.
All words by Rob McNamara.- See more at Louder than War
The Short Stories - Send My Love To Everyone x (Breaking Down Recordings)
“Send My Love To Everyone”, the fourth album from Bristol’s The Short Stories, is intrinsically and deliberately lodged in the world of middle-aged indie, and as onlookers to the recent “Scared To Get Happy” mini-festival in London will testify, it is a niche of sizeable interest. The Smiths and the gentler aspects of The Velvet Underground unashamedly provide the cushion to the album’s arrangements, but the fresh-faced youthful naivety of C86 now must be replaced by the reflective, worldly-wise outlook that life’s experiences have provided.
Opening track and bandcamp single “Angry Young Man” exemplifies this succinctly – “I Used To Sit In Confusion And Cry/Now I Laugh But I Still Don’t Know Why”. The unwittingly catchy hookline – “The Sun Will Rise Again” precedes a sudden left turn in proceedings halfway through the song, when its straightforward mid-tempo saunter veers haphazardly into a passage resembling the last attempt at a knees-up at the end of an exhaustive party.
Julian Cope entitled his debut album “World Shut Your Mouth”, and left it till album three to release his now famous song of the same name. The Short Stories upstage him with “Short Stories For Long Nights” – their debut album title finally nailing itself to a song by album four. This is the pearl of “Send My Love To Everyone”, somehow emphasised by the fact that this is the only lyric adorning the CD artwork. Working on the central theme of The Smiths’ “Rubber Ring” – about how “A Song Could Save Your Life” – The Short Stories expand on this celebration of escapism by eloquently depicting three examples; the overwrought teenager, the penniless short-term worker and the lonely widow – who turn to the “Short Stories For Long Nights” for valued respite.
“Make Me Happy” features two instances where the band take a humorous dig at themselves and their influences. No young band could ever authentically carry the lyric – “I Was Wandering Here Alone/Trying To Understand My Mobile Phone”, and they prove to be more than aware of a certain vocalist’s (not completely deserved) reputation with the couplet – “You Were Singing A Happy Song/I Think It Was By Morrissey But You Got The Words All Wrong”. “Are You Listening Now” confidently encases itself in the brain with immediacy and should with any justice or sense be the band’s next single – with the necessary backing this could provide the group its long overdue recognition.
The rest of “Send My Love To Everyone” coasts along inoffensively enough but doesn’t possess the magnetism and consistency of the songs detailed here, and a ten-minute re-recording of “Angry Young Man” to conclude the album could be commendably viewed as a worthwhile rounding device, but betrays itself as unnecessary filler.The album is available from the label website for just a fiver, and is definitely worth inspecting for that price.
Review by Lee McFadden
The Short Stories - Short Stories for Long Nights
Bristol Rocks - 2008
Short Stories guitarist and singer Tim Rippington has a hell of a pedigree - guitarist in the Flatmates during their brief career attempting to be the new Blondie in the mid 80s, guitarist in the legendary Beatnik Filmstars for over 12 years (give or take), and in between he has recorded a whole host of records of his own. Tim's last project Forest Giants was sometimes accused of sounding too 80's influenced, but given that he started making records in 1980 that's hardly surprising. However, rather than trying to "update" that sound for the modern era, Tim's latest collaboration with ex-school mate Steve Miles has led us back in time rather than forward - by about a year in fact.
Short Stories for Long Nights has the song writing and production values of a record written circa 1979, and its no bad thing for that either.. Bands such as Television, the Buzzcocks and early Joy Division/Orange Juice records are clearly influences, but this record is far more than the sum of its parts. Opening track "Cover Star" should have been a 7" single - its perfect for the medium, a kind of 60s/70s rock track which the White Stripes would love to have written. "Heroes" takes a different track almost immediately, with a Roxy Music-esque keyboard over guitars and rolling drums, which abruptly changes course mid-way through the song and builds with some great harmonies as Tim sings "But when you go, its not the story's end" - the song is about how life can never end tidily like most novels, but just drifts along from generation to generation.
Tears Before Bedtime is almost 9 minutes on the chord of E, with few words and a lot of excellent guitar playing, whilst Play Your Cards right is a perfect two minute pop song which reminds me for some reason of the Pogues. Elsewhere, 0-60 is a real 1979 romp which even features the chords to Boredom and Anarchy in the UK during the feedbacky coda. Temple Meads features Mo-Tucker-esque tom tom drumming and some great seaside keyboard playing, while Today is a Galaxie 500-esque two chord song about a bad day going on too long..
Listening to the words alone, you'd be forgiven for thinking that this LP would drain the very life-blood from you - both songwriters have clearly been through some unhappy times - but the music is always uplifting, shifting in tones and keeps you interested throughout. Its a great debut LP, and I look forward to the forthcoming second LP with interest..