Sportique - Communiqué no.9

matcd024  /  April 2003
Sportique - Communiqué no.9
cd   $8.50

10"   $8.50

digital   $6.00

other digital:   Apple Music     Amazon     Spotify

Sportique - Communiqué no.9

matcd024  /  April 2003

London's venerable pop pranksters Sportique release their third mini-LP Communiqué No.9, the follow-up to last year's astonishing Modern Museums, on April 28th. This time around they lament the passing of more radical artistic movements and attitudes prevalent in the late 60s and early 70s, touching on a bewildering number of musical touchstones along the way. Produced by the hottest property in London right now - Liam Watson at Toerag (The White Stripes, The Datsuns, Billy Childish) - this is the sound of music stripped of modern artifice. Songwriter Gregory Webster brings the same awareness of pop's back pages to this latest project as he's done since emerging with seminal jangle-pop pioneers Razorcuts (now also available again through Matinée Recordings), and his band of veritable indie-pop legends (Amelia Fletcher, Rob Pursey & Sir Mark Flunder) orchestrate the whole affair as effortlessly as we've come to expect.

  1. The Edgeware Kick-back
  2. Arthouse Cinemas
  3. Angry Street
  4. Other Peoples' Girlfriends
  5. Tips For Artists Who Want To Sell Records
  6. Stereotype
  7. Communiqué no.9
  8. Requiem for the Avant-Garde


"Communiqué No. 9," Sportique's new mini-LP, is an 18-minute volley of righteous indignation, pitch-black humour, and the sort of sharp-cornered post-punk hooks that Wire and The Fall used to throw down as effortlessly as falling asleep disappointed and waking up tired. Sportique might be misinterpreted as the bitterest band alive if their wit wasn't so mischievous and their playing so full of joy. "Don't give up, get angry," they sing, and it simultaneously sounds like a threat and an invitation to a party. Much like its predecessor, 2002's "Modern Museums," "Communiqué No. 9" rails against the diminishing presence of true outsider culture, targeting in its cross hairs the empty subversion of underground film ("Arthouse Cinemas") and musicians who willingly submit themselves to major label grooming ("Tips for Artists Who Want the Sell Records"). The latter has become an exceptionally ripe topic in the short time since it was written, what with the phenomenon of Pop Idol reducing the artistic, aesthetic and romantic complexities of music-making to a simple triumph of mugging and technical finesse. Like the Kinks and Television Personalities, Sportique are boldly, defiantly English, singing about what they see because to assume any other perspective would be fraudulent. Surprisingly, the band remain all but invisible at home while their records are released to international acclaim by California's Matinée Recordings. Still outside looking in, still using the small but mighty forum of the pop song to make a bad situation seem better - if only for two or three minutes. Sportique might not always sound this way, but they will probably always feel right for the times.   --Careless Talk Costs Lives
quite what this collection of power-punk essays is doing emanating from a label stigmatised as "jangle" (although ca's matinée recordings again shack up with royal berkshire's premier musical stable wiaiwya for this, sportique's third album) may be a moot point (aside from its four perpetrators' history as accepted indie royalty) but to those of us who still attempt to stick up for the old wave of new wave even in its more primitive forms, this revisiting of art-rock roots is an instant classic. you don't even have to hear the songs several times over before you're sold on them. although you might as well. two things that are probably apposite to mention at the outset. first, unlike "modern museums" which first shoved them unerringly in this direction, there are no leftovers from the time when the tender vestiges of indie-pop were a palpable part of the sportique lexicon. in a way that's a shame, we know, but it gives the album even more consistency, while those classic early tunes - "the kids are solid gold", "don't believe a word" - will exist forever, and we can all still dig them out and enjoy them when the grandchildren come round. second, amongst all the influences - so many plucked from the fecund era of '77 to '79, but of course - we seem to be hearing the fall much more than we did last time round. it may just be the keyboard (e.g. amelia's sublime two-note motif in the run out to "arthouse cinemas") or perhaps just the transparent music industry disdain that runs through the record (and thru gregory webster's excellent recent interview in here), but it's clearly a good thing. and while we do still entertain empire state-high hopes for the fall's upcoming album effort it is vastly unlikely to be as delectable as this, if we're going to be realistic. the vision of the communiqué is clear: from "don't give up, get angry" on the title track to "the DJ's playing things so wilfully obscure... a cosy little scene / and i'm bored" on "requiem for the avant garde", and replete with phil ochs quoted on the inner sleeve on the process of struggle, there is a feeling that the boat needs to be rocked. as to the communiqué's drafting, inspired strokes of the pen include "the edgeware kick-back", first seen by us over a year ago, and "other people's girlfriends", which got us early last autumn, both prime punk cuts more blistering than the london marathon. and although the ghost of young wire looms large, "arthouse cinemas" (another song that's been part of the live set, and that is spent largely on one chord) sees sportique give us "american indie film blurred" rather than "french film blurred" . meanwhile, "tips for artists who want to sell records" is just that - knowing contempt, outside the mind of mark e. smith anyway, has rarely been done so well. and "stereotype"'s helter-skelter pogoing-pace, authentic, unenfranchised lyrical simplicity ("i won't conform!") and musical infectiousness make it pile into yr heart like x-ray spex covering the specials at 78 rpm - you really could swear that it had been recorded in 1977 by the brightest teenagers on the block, and it should - so should - have been a single. it would have been matinée's first sub-one minute single, but what a record. really. oh yes, and the closer, "requiem for the avant-garde", despite its slightly gauche opening, is in fact no more oblique than tipping "here comes the summer"-style keyboards into a lucky dip of sloganeering, fruity melodies and a verse which (we imagine unintentionally) apes half man half biscuit's "styx gig (seen by my mates coming out of a)". it's possibly the poppiest piece of sunshine here, with bonus points for false ending. you will also know our views on records that last 18 minutes - i.e. they are ace, almost regardless of the content therein. in this case, however, there are legion other regions to be cheerful. this album is a riot of colour and sound, with the nihilism of the buzzcocks' "boredom", the knowing cynicism of the adverts and the prickly melodies of the stranglers. their next album could go anywhere - we quite fancy the direction of the ruts or atv, if the welcome surprise of marginal nods to the echoey clatter of dub by drum n' bass axis flunder and pursey on the title track count for anything - but we're looking forward to it already. and with this record hitting stores just when gregory's beloved jake and dinos have stepped out of the lyrics of sportique's "tiny clues" to finally make it to a turner prize nomination, sportique can "revel" in this the rather less prestigious award of their second consecutive ilwtt album of the month. but hey, from tiny acorns...   --In Love With These Times In Spite Of These Times
Sportique continues with pop-sprinkled post-punk on Communiqué No. 9. Where Modern Museums gave listeners angular tracks in a short time, Communiqué No. 9 drives along at a quicker pace, but still in the vein of late-'70s/early-'80s groups such as Wire, the Fall, and Gang of Four. In the 17 and a half minutes that make up Communiqué No. 9, the record starts out a tad flat with midtempo driving bass and guitar. The last half picks up the pace, with the Buzzcocks-sounding track "Other Peoples' Girlfriends" and the punchy, dub-like title cut. A highlight of the record is a wide, creeping tune called "Tips for Artists Who Want to Sell Records." As the name suggests, the track is a satirical little piece commenting on scenester groups that pose to get on a label. Keyboards definitely add depth to the record, an element that hints at the more modern indie feel of Deerhoof, which looks to some of the same influences. Sportique offers up an appropriately energetic post-punk pop record with Communiqué No. 9.   --All Music Guide
Though they may have originally garnered attention for being the band Amelia Fletcher retreated to following the dissolution of Marine Research, Sportique have gone a long way to refine their brawny Falls-meets-Weddoes rock blueprint. Recorded at Toerag, the same studio where The White Stripes laid down their lauded 'Elephant', 'Communiqué No. 9' is all sneer. The eight songs here work from a bare-bones background: thumping bass, whistling organ, and brittle guitar. Over that comes Greg Webster's wry Marquis Cha-Cha delivery, howling phrases like "Welcome to the manifesto!" over stuttering riffs. 'Angry Street' pops and pulses, propelled by Fletcher's hiccupping keyboard line and Webster's taut strums. Webster does recall both Nikki Sudden and Mark E, especially the way he draws out syllables in lines like "I'm not nach'rally fusssaayyyyy". All of these elements make for an invigorating rock record, one that channels the past without gratuitously aping it.   --Shredding Paper
Communiqué No. 9, the new album from Sportique, Gregory Webster's current combo, sees it mining its Situationalist-inspired art-pop roots - think Gilbert and George fronting Wire for a series of Subway Sect covers at a down-market gallery opening. Nine songs, 17 minutes, 22 seconds - now that's mod. Fact: Sportique is the most interesting band in the Matinée stable.   --The Big Takeover Magazine
Sportique don't mess about. This is our music. They've swallowed everything from situationism to new-wave to dub, from Warhol to brit-shit to modern marketing, and vomited it up into eight illuminating lumps of angry pop. 'Why are all my best friends other people's girlfriends?' he complains. And in 'Tips for Artists Who Want To Sell Records' I get the feeling that they've been in London too long. Or at least seen how it works. 'Stereotype' is magnificent: 'I can't work! It's too hard!' he yells. Love it, all 55 seconds. But if there's one underlying message it's gotta be 'don't give up, get angry.' When Primal Scream are dribbling into their medication, prematurely admitted to various senior persons homes, this lot will still be pogoing down the high street of rock'n'roll, or at least Punk Rock Avenue.   --Wide Open Road
This is the third album from Sportique; and at under 17½ minutes, their shortest yet! Like last year's "Modern Museums", it still follows somewhat in the 1979/1980 punk/post-punk style of Wire, Buzzcocks, etc, except that this album is a little more subdued, and not as overtly punk as "Modern Museums" was at times. Oh sure, there are still punky moments, including "Other Peoples' Girlfriends" and the minute long "Stereotype", but it doesn't get as angry and shouty as the previous record (though there is a song on this album titled "Angry Street"). A few of the songs slow it down a bit, though, like "Arthouse Cinemas" and the humorous "Tips For Artists Who Want To Sell Records", as well as the title track, which also incorporates a bit of dub influence. Definitely an exciting record all around! MTQ=8/8   --IndiePages
London 4 piece Sportique return with their third mini album. Over 17 minutes they deliver 8 tracks of spunky punky Buzzcocks influenced power pop. At times, it sounds very 1977 in its anger and disillusionment at the times that we live in. 'Other People's Girlfriends' makes the perfect 7" with its chunky fast punky guitars. 'Arthouse Cinemas' is very indie cinema in its tone and is well played by all band members. 'Tips For Artists Who Want To Sell Records' is a perfect guide of what not to do to get signed and is played out in just over 2 minutes. 'Stereotype' is speeded up to 90 MPH and lasts 55 seconds. How great. The title track meanwhile has a dub vibe. This is what indie pop should be about. It's fast and fun and near perfect pop.   --Pennyblack Magazine
Sportique has never been an easy band to peg. Despite playing loosely within the pop milieu of the rest of their Matinée Records labelmates, the band has tended to lean more heavily toward a retro art-rock sensibility and less in the twee-pop direction of its peers. Blurring the line between serious artistes and art pranksters, London-based Sportique plays off mod-ish pretensions against complex interests and cerebral themes. You can, however, trace a trajectory of the band's career to arrive at Communiqué No. 9. Formed by songwriter and vocalist Gregory Webster after the demise of his first band, the Razorcuts, and time spent in smaller, short-lived projects, Sportique's first output was a mélange of the Jam, Wire, and the Pastels, made rougher by Webster's growling, punky delivery, and their 1999 full-length debut, Black Is a Very Popular Colour, caught some notice for its throwback to a time when pop and punk in the same sentence evoked anything but Southern California. Its sophomore release, 2002's Modern Museums, solidified its reputation with critics, but also found Sportique abandoning the softer side in favor of the angular post-punk of bands like Gang of Four, as well as thematically focusing most of the tracks on art and culture. Communiqué No. 9 continues this shift towards artsy nostalgia, and may even be the full realization of it. If the title track to Modern Museums was Sportique's critique of a vacuous British art scene, then Communiqué No. 9 is a call to arms, or perhaps a call to art. Unabashedly influenced by situationist art and the politics of the late '60s and early '70s art world, Communiqué No. 9 is a time machine back to a radical and mod scene where culture was a form of activism. Which, when it's put that way, sounds pretty pompous. But what allows Sportique to pull it off is a sense of humor, conveyed through the music and lyrics alike, which makes it difficult not to smile while still taking Webster and company at their word. Whether seriously funny, or funnily serious, Communiqué No. 9 drips with carefully controlled historicism. Part of that can probably be attributed to producer Liam Watson, who's had his hands all over the current surge of garage-revivalism, but it couldn't have been carried off so well without the ability of the band to make it genuine. Webster's spiky guitars and thickly accented vocals are still in attendance, albeit with maximum efficiency and few wasted notes, but the rest of the sort-of-supergroup band contributes immensely to the sound. Rob Pursey's bass gives the disc a dense and fuzzy bottom-end, adding to the street-level-revolutionary retro feel, and drummer Sir Mark Flunder manages the post-punk skittering beat with precision and a keen ear for replication. But it's Amelia Fletcher's keyboards that give Communiqué No. 9 its reach. The punchy organ sounds fill the disc with a timelessness, like a skipping stone between the music of the '60s, '70s, '80s, and on up to the present, and reinforces that keys and organs were as integral to art rock bands as were guitars. Lyrically, Communiqué No. 9 is as spare as the band's music, sometimes to the effect of disaffection. "Arthouse Cinemas" plods through a slow-paced delivery of short couplets like "American... indie... films / Blurred", so drawn out that it's hard to maintain, well, focus. However, the effect is used later on the disc for the title track, and here Webster manages to make the long gaps between lyrics work to his advantage, turning the revolutionary fervor and throaty whisper of "We are getting closer" into something truly menacing. When not inciting people to throw art bombs, Sportique mixes up a little bit of clever cynicism to produce some wryly funny tracks, two of which are definitely highlights of the disc. "Other Peoples' Girlfriends" comes as close as any other band in recent memory to emulating the Buzzcocks (if Pete Shelley's voice were given a slightly more Johnny Rotten-like twang), with Webster lamenting, "Why are all my best friends / Other people's girlfriends?" On "Tips for Artists Who Want to Sell Records", Sportique turns its critical eye on other bands, particularly poseurs who are looking to sell out. It's a funny track, and the invective comes off a lot more smartly than the typical punk tirade against commercial whores. Add to it the straight-up, fast and furious punk of "Stereotype" and the slightly artier "Angry Street", and Sportique delivers a disc that isn't so pointedly monochromatic as to be annoying. If there's a downside to Communiqué No. 9 it's that the album really doesn't do much to forward any kind of art revolution. It's a history lesson, really, a look back in time to a past that Sportique obviously idealizes. However, Sportique itself doesn't really offer more than empty slogans, and Communiqué No. 9 is itself as much artifice as art. However, there's a sly grin to all this, something picked up on the last track, "Requiem for the Avant-Garde". After musical intros of plunking piano and guitar/bass breakdowns and a tense melody, the song slinks into a straight pop mode, with Webster and company offering an almost postmodern critique/acceptance of the failure of art to overcome. As Webster and Fletcher harmonize on the opening verse, "Have yourself a cocktail / The DJ's playing beats so willfully obscure / It's the new sensation / A cozy little scene, and I'm bored", Sportique echoes the apathetic end of art as activism, even as it skewers the same. If a discourse about art is difficult to take as art itself, at least Sportique offers a variety of ways for enjoying Communiqué No. 9. At only eight songs, most of which barely scratch two minutes in length, the disc can be appreciated as a collection of quick, punky tracks that strip music to a melodic core and have fun with it. It can also be appreciated as an homage to the post-punk bands of the past that have obviously influenced Sportique's direction, particularly Wire and Gang of Four. Or, if intellectual considerations are what floats your boat, Communiqué No. 9 can be approached for its statements about the art scene of yesterday and today. The disc is, in fact, all of these things, and for that Sportique deserves a decent helping of praise. It continues to be one of the most interesting bands in the indie pop scene and Communiqué No. 9 only further cements Sportique's reputation as a wry, slippery band that actually has something to say.   --Pop Matters
In issue three of Careless Talk Costs Lives the inestimable Michael White writes with typical insight about the wonderful Sportique. He calls their Communiqué No. 9 album (Matinée/WIAIWYA) a "volley of righteous indignation, pitch-black humour, and the sort of sharp-cornered hooks that Wire and The Fall used to throw down". Of course he is spot on, and naturally it's impossible for me to say much more than that, so go get your copy of Careless Talk and Communiqué No. 9 this instant.   --Tangents
"Accentuate the brand," Gregory Webster of Sportique wryly suggests to would-be pop stars on "Tips for Artists Who Want to Sell Records," a punk-pop manifesto on the group's latest mini-album Communiqué No. 9. If the CD title makes you think Sportique are leading a revolution, you're sort of right. Their primary focus is making tightly wrapped, melodic punches that draw from late 70s punk (think Buzzcocks, Stiff Little Fingers) without sticking too closely to it. Yet they're also incisive social critics who like to probe into the relationship between making art and making money (their last release had a song with the telling title "Art and Shopping"). That they have a sense of humor about their message makes it work, as does the fact that they're not narrow-minded. On Communiqué No. 9 Webster's just as likely to ask the musical question "why are all my best friends other people's girlfriends" as he is to ridicule people whose lives conform to stereotypes or wish there was more room for avant-garde art in society today. Sportique's call for action on Communiqué No. 9 mostly comes down to that last notion, to the fact that art is hardly about art anymore, that it's all about money. With 8 explosive tracks in a compact 17 minutes and 25 seconds, the CD not only embodies the do-it-your-own-way independent spirit of genuine artists, it makes you feel revved up to go create something yourself. Spread the word, pass this CD to your neighbors and you might end with a block filled with rebellious artists inspired to spend their time creating instead of just consuming.   --Erasing Clouds
Sportique manages a rare event on this album: It creates a timeless record. That doesn't necessarily mean that generations of music lovers will embrace Communiqué No. 9 like it's the second coming of The Beatles, Bob Marley or The Clash. Sportique can't hold a candle to that kind of talent. Sorry fellas. Sportique does manage, however, to cut across genre limitations as easily as if they're mere suggestions: This record would have sounded just as home coming out of 1977 along with the punk explosion, 1980 with the post-punk free for all, in 1983 alongside new wave eccentrics or even in 1992 with the rise of the alt-rock one-hit wonder. The distance from typical genre/time connotations doesn't come from a trip to the rock'n'roll smorgasbord in '90s mix'n'match fashion, either: Communiqué No. 9 simply straddles an impressive expanse of rock history. With the ear for buzz-saw melodies of Buzzcocks and a stripped-down minimalism that's one part '90s lo-fi, one part post-punk experimentalism, Sportique creates a record that balances punk's rough edges against a sometimes challenging use of space. In the day of overproduced punk records, it's shocking. A thin guitar buzz that drives "Arthouse Cinemas" into your ears with the same clang as early Clash or Spiral Scratch-era Buzzcocks. The title track offers a different direction, a political-rant style number built around an extra-simple keyboard melody played on keys with the cheesiest tones this side of kids' music that ventures through drop outs and bursts of sharp guitar ready to burst any happy post-punk bubble the band could create. Communiqué No. 9 even boasts a sharpened sense of irony, as songs like "Tips For Artists Who Want to Sell Records" and "Other People's Girlfriends" boast every bit of sarcasm that's implied by their titles.