albums - feb 2004
- Leah Callahan
- Now It's Overhead
- The Broken Family
- Fierce Panda - Decade
- Herman Dune
Motormark - Pop;up (PopChild
Scottish electro punk duo Jane Motoro and Marko Polo Roid turn synths into a
destructive machine, so much so that it will leave the honest hard working
electro funk artists like Ladytron crying onto their latest carefully ironed
uniform. Motormark are a breath of fresh air in the anger and passion they
combine to liven up a genre that sorely needed it. The erratic and frantic
electronica coupled with distorted drum beats, sit in well with Jane’s
uncompromising in your face vocals that could best be described as
(Ladytron) mixed with Bjork and flickers of Tori Amos, having a Sunday
afternoon drive in a formula one race car.
The instrumentals at times are as diverse as Kieran
Hebden’s new project Four Tet, a case in point being the provocatively
titled ‘Crimes Against Pop’, starting off with the same noise as someone
trying to use a phone keypad whilst they are still talking to someone on the
phone, yes, it is that infuriating. The track then settles down to quite a
friendly electro pop offering with Marko’s frenzied almost rap style vocals
kicking in. Despite the futuristic style instrumentals, the lyrics at their
best are full on, defiant and punk natured, as in ‘Flexitime’ (featuring
neat backing vocals from Amanda Mackinnon);
“I don’t love work flexi time nine till five or five to
We’ve had a few narrow escapes, drank straight from the bottle aint cheap
It is hardly surprising that Motormark have drawn
comparisons with fellow Scots The Rezillos. ‘Pop; Up’ is a bold kaleidoscope
of head tripping electro that is very refreshing in this age of “have guitar
will sound like NME wants me to” bands that are about these days. The flashy
‘Love us’ is an electronified take on the Manic Street Preachers track ‘You
Love Us’ that flies in the face of our stiff upper lipped humble British way
of doing things. The is a neat hidden track at the end with a ‘Moldy Peaches
2000’ style acapella introduction before transforming into a neat disco tune
about being merry. This album certainly has the potential to leave a mark in
the minds of the unsuspecting music loving public.
- Even Sleepers (Baraca)
Since embarking on the seemingly endless quest of recording my CD collection
on i-tunes, I have been faced with many a quandary filling in the genre box.
Are Coil industrial? What exactly is Alt-country, and where the hell would
you file Leonard Nimoy?
There are some records that
defy classification, and this debut solo effort by Leah Callahan, erstwhile
vocalist with several Boston based art-rock bands, is certainly one of them.
Eastern European folk, Polka, Tin-Pan Alley Jazz, flamenco, its all here in
a startling assortment influences.
The songs were written
completely a cappella, with minimalist accompaniment added later by fellow
Bostonian Shaun Wolf Wortis, who, obviously subscribing to Mies van der
Rohe’s tenet that “less is more”, left Callahan’s melodies well alone, to
the extent that in places, the songs appear sketchy and half finished. This
was doubtless the intention, and adds greatly to the ambiance. The sparse
uncluttered music, often comprising only acoustic guitar, keyboard and on
“better than you” a solitary bass; allows freedom for Callahan’s sensuous
vocals to come to the fore, reaching it’s logical conclusion on the closing
track “Strip Mall”, which eschews accompaniment altogether,
The nearest comparison that
springs to mind is Tom Waits, not necessarily due to any musical likeness,
although there are shades of Waits’ 80’s output in Wortis’ choice of
instrumentation and DIY store percussion on a couple of tracks; but more in
the formers’ ability to sound quite unlike any body else. And, like Tom
Waits, Callahan has managed on “Shocking Pink” to convincingly capture the
sound of inebriation. With the possible exception of Les Dawson, this is the
best impression of anyone playing piano whilst half-cooked that I have
heard, and perfectly sums up the after-hours mood of the album.
Even Sleepers sounds like the sort of music
that would be perfectly suited to playing at 3am in a hotel lounge, but the
kind of hotel that only appears in David Lynch movies. It’s most excellent,
if slightly spooky, and will be going on the i-pod as soon as I can think
how to describe it. Goth-Folk? Nu-Polka? Christ only knows, but I like it.
Now It’s Overhead - Fall Back Open (Saddle Creek)
Well, when this was handed to me I thought Christmas had come again. A band
on Saddle Creek fronted by Andy Le Master (producer of Azure Ray, Bright
Eyes and many more), featuring those birds from Azure Ray, Guest
contributions from Michael Stipe and Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes). All this, I
must confess had lifted my expectations a little.
Surprisingly I was not too disappointed. The list of
names and bands that contributed to the album should give you a pretty good
idea as to what Now It’s Overhead sound like. If you imagine Bright Eyes,
Azure Ray (before they went too dull), The Faint, REM… aw, you get the
picture. They are very much the sum of their parts, and with parts of such a
high quality, that is most satisfactory.
The electronics do grate a little at times, but it is a
minor concern when the quality of song writing is so high. The highlights
for me are the more stripped down moments, tracks like ‘The Decision Made
Itself’, folk infused acoustic rock songs that wouldn’t be out of place on a
Bright Eyes album. High praise indeed.
Oh yeah. They remind me a bit of the Fire Theft only
better, and not quite as much as Pink Floyd.
Good, very good indeed!
Imagine if you will…A world where computers had feelings,
the ability to play guitar and write some bloody great songs.
It will never happen, I hear you cry, but this could be a
reality in less than ten years.
P.S. While I have the chance, I must recommend that you
go and purchase a copy of the Vinyl Box Set by Bright Eyes. It’s great!
Sergeant Buzfuz – Fire Horse (Audio Gland)
Part of the anti-folk glitterati, this is the Segeant’s second long player,
and mighty enjoyable it is too. Flitting between some of Hefner’s slower
moments, and the more freeform Misterlee, ‘Fire Horse’ could well be the
latest in the genre’s classic albums, of which there are now a handful.
The trick with this album is
that it pokes you on the nose when you’re not expecting it. The title track
is a beautiful thing, all acoustic guitars and piano…but it’s preceded by
the…erm…spiky ‘Cactus’. This sort of wanton awkwardness carries on
throughout the album, and very welcome it is too. Oddities like this come
along once or twice a year, and are often forgotten come the end of year
round-up…and maybe this one will, but for this week at least, I’m hooked.
Nutronstars – Carltonpop!!! (demo)
Half the time it’s hard to tell whether I think Nutronstars are utter shite,
or genial pop tarts. Take ‘The Spider Song’ for example; it sounds like Felt
playing with the Osmonds. Now is that a good thing or not, because I’m
confused. I do know that ‘White Room/White Noise’ is rubbish, and sounds
like something Sid Vicious would’ve done had he lived and joined Sigue Sigue
Sputnik. However, it’s not all bad news down Carlton way, because when
Nutronstars stop trying to be squeeky pop kittens, they’re actually quite
good. ‘The Over 60s Drop in Centre’ reminds me of Chris TT at his most
whimsical, whilst ‘The Girl From the Chain Gang’ could almost be a Modern
I think what I’m trying to say, is that pop
music shouldn’t be forced. The Lucksmiths, Pipas, Bearsuit…all of these
bands make great pop music, because they’re not trying to be some kind of
kerrazzy Bis copyists. Nutronstars are halfway there. Now they need to
finish the job.
The Broken Family Band – Jesus Songs
(Track and Field)
Having garnered rave reviews from tasty’s very own gig ferret, Drew
Millward, the Broken Family Band seemingly have our seal of approval. ‘Jesus
Songs’ is a little seven track gem from the UK’s very own yankophiles, who,
incongruously, list Slayer as one of their influences.
I’m afraid a rock’s out of the
question here, as we’re treated to some classic alt. country. It seems the
Band have a surplus of Jesus songs; ‘Walking Back to Jesus’ has three parts
here and each are particularly fine, especially Part Two, which sees Steven
Adams’ voice breaking into a near howl.
With ‘Jesus Songs’ it’s hard
to dismiss The Broken Family Band as mere copyists, because, along with
Herman Dune, they’re probably the best at what they’re doing right now. Me,
I’m off to strap some chaps to my legs and listen to Billy Ray Cyrus….
– Decade: Ten Years of Fierce Panda (Fierce Panda)
Back when I thought I knew everything about everything, Fierce Panda were
looked upon with scorn. They were Simon Williams little project, and he
wrote for the NME, and was therefore THE ENEMY! Looking back now that I’m
older, fatter and balder, Fierce Panda’s early releases show up most of the
new British labels for the dullards they are. Some of the early tracks here
being back fantastic memories; it's very hard to forget just how thrilling
Supergrass’s ‘Caught by the Fuzz’ is, and it still sounds wonderful. And
Kenickie’s ‘Come Out 2nite’ makes me shiver…but that might be something to
do with Lauren Laverne..
Eventually, of course, things
went a bit tits up and Fierce Panda started putting out records by Coldplay
and Embrace and The Music. It gets better near the end with Six by Seven and
Death Cab for Cutie, but Fierce Panda’s original ambition to become the 90s
version of Sarah Records may have fallen short, but times change and
fashions move on. Around ten of the tracks here are worth your money – not
a bad return when all’s said and done.
Re-arrange Me (Fortune & Glory Records)
As the Pet Shop Boys once said to me in the queue for the Post Office, I
wouldn’t normally do this kind of thing. And so I feel dirty and used after
a pleasant forty five minutes in the company of Mu-Kau. In truth, this is
probably the kind of music I’ve slagged off a million times whilst being
subjected to some crappy wine bar, but in the confines of my bedroom on a
cold winter’s morning, it makes for sublime listening. I’m not gonna even
try to introduce you to the sort of dance sub-genre that Mu-Kau specialise
in, because am I stupid, but suffice to say they lie somewhere between pop
and funk. Punk? Don’t be silly!
My favourite is….ooh, well
there’s a thing, I don’t know. ‘Baby Steps’ and ‘Loose Threads’ have a
certain something, with their 70s funk stylings and the almost Two-Tone
brass on the latter. But all ten tracks leave me with a warm glow. Yes, it’s
that good that I’ve widdled myself….
[50,000][Dead Sharks] (Extremely Liquid)
Ahhh. Happy times at
Tasty towers. Since being weaned on the mp3s from the Team website last year
and after receiving several Extremely Liquid newsletters, still the long
awaited mini-ep failed to materialise. Then bingo! Straight after my
Shreddies this morning the letter box rattled and the beautifully packaged
5-track mini album dropped through the door.
I hate 'post-rock'. The term
'post-rock' that is, not the bands lazily described as producing it.
Describing a band as 'post-rock' does not give credit to the way this type
of music is multi-layered and almost orchestral in its composition. It also
sells short the sheer hard work and vision required by bands such as Team
who not only write, perform and produce their own records but also have to
set up their own label to distribute them.
As album opener 'Model
Lisbon' rumbles to life it is hard to believe that this sound is produced by
just four people. Just when 'Myopia' is beginning to drift into a prissy
sound reminiscent of Six by Seven's worst moments it crashes and mutates
into something far more sinister. I clearly remember listening to it the
first time and nearly crapping myself (in a nice way). 'New Capital
Athletics' still sounds good nearly a year on from my first listen and after
a brief respite the record closes with the awesome 'Breeze Block Big'. None
of the song titles make any sense but the sounds certainly do.
Sure there are touches of
Fugazi and smidgeons of Mogwai but from start to finish [50,000][Dead
Sharks] is the sound of a band truly committed to their own music. You don't
self finance your own record unless you reckon it is good and this self
belief comes through in every song. The best thing to come from Leicester
since Walkers crisps.
Go Rimbaud - SONGS IN BAD TASTE
If Go Rimbaud were a meal, they would be a buffet and a tasty one at that.
I hesitate to use the word eclectic to describe their first E.P. "Songs
in Bad Taste". The word reminds me of dodgy world music festivals and too
much cannabis, so I shall call it "diverse in the extreme".
The first tune "The Ground Zero Tourist Song" is my personal fave. It had
me dancing in the bathroom, and has been hummed to death by our household.
"Frankenstein", a pissed party pogo piece and will be played at my next
drunken gathering and I am sure it will attract the attention it deserves.
I am not a Drum and bass connoisseur so I shall reserve judgement on
"Collateral Damage". The Intro sounds like Joey Beltram, which is no mean
feat (perhaps I am showing my age here). It was good to hear some
experimenting with guitar in this genre. Thumbs up to the band for having a
crack at a D&B tune.
What do they sound like? Imagine Velvet Underground, Belle and Sebastian
and Radiohead in a techno club having a scrap, on acid supplied by Jim
Morrison. Nothing like that.
Does this diversity show a lack of musical direction? I think not.
Perhaps Go Rimbaud are just thrashing out tunes and discovering where their
talents lie. I am happy to listen to them until they find out.
Angelmark - Angelmark (Resplendent)
Ah, relax as we take you away to a land of your dreams,
where all your ultimate fantasies can become reality……. Oh, I’ve given too
Again I have been dealt an evil hand on the CD front.
From the sounds of things (with the exception of Herman Dune) I have once
again been transported back to Breman 1984, only this time I have fortunately
found myself on the set of an erotic feature film recorded within the
confines of a new age commune.
I can only assume that this will be available
throughout the country at all braches of Shared Earth and from your local
This cannot in any way be taken seriously, when I think
about all the fantastic instrumental music that comes out of Canada, it
makes me think I must have done something wrong to deserve this.
Piffle of the highest order.
Imagine if you will……A mediation session with a man in a robe, who is
comfortable with his nudity. The sound of mother earth.
Herman Dune - Mas Cambios (Track and Field)
Yeah! This is great. Lo-fi Swedish Americana played by
two brothers, who to be fair you would be a little worried about leaving
your kids with ( I don’t think they’re on the register or anything). I had
the satisfaction of seeing this lot not to many weeks ago, and I have to say
the live performance is better than what is captured here, or maybe it’s
just different. Either way both forms of Herman Dune (live and recorded) are
bloody great. I’m sure that I compared someone else to St. Thomas at some
point, but here there is an undeniable similarity ( both Swedish have quirky
lyrics and like American things), there is a little bit of Neil Young…….. I
hate comparing bands.
I’m sure you will know if this is going to be your sort
of thing, and if we are honest it is a niche market.
Imagine if you will…….a cowboy, on fjord, with a guitar and a Dictaphone.
Without a horse.