May 1997 – single & track reviews – Rialto’s ‘Untouchable’; Fiel Garvie’s ‘For What I Love’; Fingerfood’s ‘In a Broken Dream’

27 May

Rialto: ''Untouchable'

Rialto: ‘Untouchable’

Certain names conjure up seedy cinemas clinging on to shreds of glamour yet wallowing in fag‑ash, filled with emotional twitchers. Some people, though, still call themselves things like Automatic Tomato and conjure up fuck all. Never mind.

Rialto (who’ve levered themselves out of the wreckage of the never‑quite‑up‑to‑their‑own‑blueprint Kinky Machine) have chosen the first type of name, and appropriately give out a glorious, jangling, melancholy racket that never forgets to let go of (a) a lethal wistful/cynical melody and (b) the sharpest lyrics this side of Jarvis Cocker. Like Pulp, it’s pretty close to Roxy Music without the distancing Ferry preen. Also like Pulp, it’s about twisted, creepy, yet ultimately honest and revealing pop. It’s about the people who know they’re not going to light up the sky, but learn to burn brightly in their flawed and misshapen way anyway, even if it only ends in a gutter.

Sorry to continue to state the obvious: those distinctive hangdog‑but‑yearning voices are also going to shout Pulp at anyone who hears this single. But there’s as many echoes of other immaculate shots of British loser‑pop here as there are of the Sheffield polyester sex gods. Lloyd Cole, minus the library ticket; Colin Vearncombe’s woundedly lovely Black, Furniture at their most dazed (Song For A Doberman, Slow Motion Kisses). The drum-rolls, twangs and epic yearning of the Walker Brothers; Bluefood; a suspicion of a moonlit, sharply maudlin Ray Davies.

Untouchable itself ‑ clenched organ and double‑drum rattle ‑ claws vainly at the departing, flouncing buttocks of yet another blown chance. Louis Eliot’s threats (“If you were an angel, I would cut off your wings / To keep you with me, I would do anything”) give way to disgust (“D’you think I’ll defile you if you were to get too close? / D’you think I’ll infect you? D’you think I’ll give you a dose?”) and finally to clarity (“First you wash your hair, then you wash your hands / Oh yeah, I think I understand…”). Unsurprisingly it ends at the bottom of a bottle. “I’ll drink until my skin is full / and then I’ll be untouchable.” If you’re going to be an outcast, go the whole filthy hog and make yourself safe from any more pain.

Lipstick Letters is more urban loneliness: the resignation of the left-behind. Coming back to a lonely flat with, not for the first time, no‑one in it but a letter propped up against the kettle. The soundtrack to another vigil of slouching at a table leaning on the windowsill staring out into the rain and twitching at the thought of your own redundancy: “I don’t know where you’re going, but / I know you’re wearing your makeup…”

King Of Karaoke turns things around, placing our Rialto‑blokes right in the thick of things. Right at that point when you regret choosing life, laughter and too much booze: when that little voice cracks into your head just as you’ve turned into a whooping marionette, and murmurs “idiot.” There’s a thick, drunken blur of music; a tottering loop of chilly, cheery calliope, and the scene’s set. “Every night’s another drunken pantomime. / You get that sinking feeling, and reach for your lines. / …When you’ve chosen what you want to say / just open your mouth and spread your wings.” And trip over your feet, and the tongues of your badly‑tied clown shoes. The start of something big, blundering, blootered… and beautiful, in a permanently-rumpled sort of way. Take Rialto under your wing, but keep an escape clause handy.

Fiel Garvie: 'For What I Love'

Fiel Garvie: ‘For What I Love’

Maybe it’s the Norfolk fens, the influences drawn from a home where there’s more water in the ground than there should be… but somehow Fiel Garvie (a dark phoenix from the ashes of whispered‑about Norwich nearly‑weres Passing Clouds) make music that sucks you down, that pulls and distorts everyday cares and passions into the territories of something old and atavistic. Go to get your dreams read, and some will tell you that you’ll have to go into those woods in your nightmares to find what you’re looking for. Here, you’re about to find it in the marshes and quagmires.

Fiel Garvie produce treacherous, eddying song‑worlds that shift under your feet like rotting, disintegrating houseboat floors three steps away from plunging you into the murk. Tearing noise‑guitars hack out tangled chords behind beat‑slipping drums, fuzzed cellos, angry random stabs of piano. Relentless bass and struggling voice splutter and gasp to keep the song afloat. Verses are founded on perpetually slipping ground, on the verge of collapse. Music sometimes struggles free into jangling tunefulness before being sucked back. Like ROC, like bits of Tricky’s baleful Nearly God project, this can sound at root like small‑town indie‑pop taking on the avant‑garde… and losing. It also sounds like life suddenly, and horribly, opening up just as you thought you had it pinned down.

In the middle of all of this, meaning drifts down in layers; successive sediments of significance. Keep playing the record, and it slowly screws itself into your consciousness. The husky alto rawness of Anne Reekie’s voice ‑ strangled by her logjam of clogging emotions seeking the light ‑ might suggest Polly Harvey, but the shredded but piercing sentences that escape her are more Kristin Hersh. A handful of broken glass and reflections, a tumble of confessions and threats shaken out of any rational order by the force of feelings and events, as with Speakover’s crop of cupboard‑rattling skeletons. For What I Love, impaled on the question of whether to tell or not to tell, lunges back and forth between altruistic silence and the force of desire. She Dotes On Him’s rags of gossip and accusation build up a net of whispers from a girl’s infatuation to madness, collapse… graves.

Fingerfood: 'In A Broken Dream'

Fingerfood: ‘In a Broken Dream’

Fingerfood are a suspicious, mysterious union between instrumentalist John Wills (of Hair & Skin Trading Company) and singer Pinkie Maclure (whose 1995 solo album, ‘Favourite’, came across like Bjork submerged in a peat bog). They deal in trip‑hop and ambient torch, dressing up their songs in Portishead organs and Glory Box beats with itchy post‑rock noise sculptures behind ‑ zithers, mad splinters of trumpet, surface noises scraped off walls and the smoggy air like crosstalk sound in a crowded tower block.

In keeping with trip‑hop’s retro‑fetish, the title track’s an eerily discomfiting cover of an obscure Rod Stewart/Golden Earring track from the ’60s, sonically sleazed up and unbalanced. If you’re sick to the teeth of the proliferation of stoned beats, film samples and people desperately cooking up the Portishead recipe, you should know that there are two things separating Fingerfood from the usual trip‑hop blandout. The first is Pinkie’s voice, a bizarre thing with the mobility of a greased roller‑skate; oozing easily/queasily between bat‑squeak and alto diva, moan and sigh, it doesn’t so much caress as knead.

The second is their subtle but active embrace of… well, unhealthier excitement. If Portishead seem stalked by stress and hijacked by rage, fighting off their worst feelings, Pinkie and John are actively courting them. This is more ‘Cabaret’ than ‘Diamonds Are Forever’: I Love It When It Scares Me is a flirt round the edges of fear and complicity, rattling like a Geiger counter as Pinkie purrs herself up into a frisson over organs, hissing steam cymbals, a kicking Cocteaus guitar loop.

Suggestions of nasty seductive games abound, something If Only You Knew does nothing to distract from. You could admire the way they’ve got Labradford/Laika chinky noises mixing with lo‑tech string machines and percussion, but your attention’s fixed on Pinkie’s corrupted crooning: “What perversity / just when I thought I was for real. / It’s a typical twist, and I turn. / You make me hotter than hell / and I say burn me, burn me please. / What are these rules we break together?”

Could be as vampy as Peggy Lee on Fever, but Pinkie’s voice squeezes poisoned paradise into it. “Don’t stand too close, / you’ll see it inside my soul. / I just lie to myself / to make it all seem beautiful, / and now I’m going to turn it all around / …I never felt so alone… / If only you knew / the damage I can do…”

Fingers worm out of the dark, and caress. Your skin crawls. You like it like that.

Rialto: ‘Untouchable’
Warner Music UK/East West Records, EW 107CD (706301909829)
CD/10-inch vinyl/cassette single
26th May 1997
Get it from: (2020 update) original single best obtained second-hand; song appears on Rialto’s eponymous debut album and can be streamed via streaming services below.
Rialto online:
Homepage MySpace YouTube Last FM Deezer Google Play Spotify Amazon Music

Fiel Garvie: ‘For What I Love’
Foundling, CDS FOU 002 (5 021449 650224)
CD only single
26th May 1997
Get it from: (2020 update) original single best obtained second-hand; song appears on Fiel Garvie’s ‘¡Vuka Vuka!’ album and can be streamed via streaming services below.
Fiel Garvie online:
Homepage Twitter MySpace YouTube Last FM Pandora Spotify Amazon Music

Fingerfood: ‘In A Broken Dream’
Foam Sounds, FOAM 1 CDS/FOAM 1T
CD/12-inch vinyl single
May 1997
Get it from: (2020 update) original single best obtained second-hand; song can be streamed on YouTube and
Fingerfood (now Pumajaw) online:
Homepage Facebook Twitter Soundcloud Bandcamp Last FM Last FM YouTube Vimeo Deezer Pandora Spotify Amazon Music

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