WATERCRESS Spacegirl (Creeping Herb)

No biog with this, so all I can tell you is that Watercress appear to be Irish, and they play zany, jaunty pop choons that sound a little like Zuno Men with a heftier (although still not hefty) production budget. Too much of this stuff can’t be good for the body and soul, but in the form of a three-track CD like "Spacegirl" it’s the perfect antidote to the institutionalised glumness that makes up the (admittedly fantastic) contemporary music scene.

WATERCRESS Holiday (Creeping Herb)

WATERCRESS Bummer (Creeping Herb)

Belfast’s answer to Zuno Men (how’s that for obscure?) return with a single lifted from their soon-to-be-released debut album "Bummer", a jangly, seasonal number thoughts of which are totally obliterated by "Bathtime", a song about the joys of listening to music whilst having a bath, during which Watercress kick into a kind of acoustic funk rock that is utterly charming ("I find when I get wetter that the music sounds much better"!) Third track "She’s Leafy" seems to tread the, possibly not small, middle ground between Elvis circa 1956 and Guided By Voices’ "I Am A Tree" - invigorating for a short while but you’ll know when you’ve had enough.

...which might not bode well for the full-length Watercress experience which arrived from Kev a few weeks later, and certainly an initial listen suggested "Bummer" might be a case of enthusiasm and exuberance triumphing over basic songwriting talent. But stick with it and you may find it an oddly charming experience. There’s all manner of oddness woven into the rush and bustle: radio, glockenspiel, mandolin, trumpet, trombone, banjo, harmonium, violin and plumbing (it says here), plus all manner of production trickery that manages to enhance proceedings without ever sounding gimmicky. Then there’s the gentle humour of some of the music (alongside the not so gentle humour of almost all of the lyrics!) - "Gravity" strikes up with a foggy notion of Dave Brubeck’s "Take Five" (something Pavement did first, admittedly, but then again what didn’t they?) and "Plastercast" begins with someone singing Hendrix’s wah-wah guitar intro from "Foxy Lady"! And how about moments such as the string arrangement on "Candlemaker" that suggests a rare talent at work.

"Bummer" isn’t a perfect debut though: I could’ve done without the ten minutes of insects that bridge the end of "Fire In The Cup" and the almost obligatory DIY techno ‘hidden’ track (and the less obligatory DIY punk ‘hidden’ track that follows it), especially if it made room for "Bathtime", for me Watercress’ best song and sadly absent here. And at times listening to "Bummer" may leave you feeling as though you’ve been bludgeoned insensible by an over-enthusiastic younger relative with a box of Christmas crackers. But otherwise full marks for effort, and a gold star for the packaging, which takes the form of a cardboard box that’s almost exactly the same as wot pre-recorded open reel tapes used to come in in the good old days.