albums - sep 2004
The Projects – Let’s Get
Static (Track and Field)
London’s The Projects have that sort of studied cool that all of the
Capital’s bands of their ilk seem to pull of without trying. They look
fantastic, for a start, and, my word, is ‘Let’s Get Static’ sounding good.
Rarely off the tasty stereo
here in Nottingham for the past few weeks, this album is the sound of a band
whose music is pop in the purest sense. Instantly catchy, unfussy – yet at
the same time, bastard clever – and stylish, most of ‘Let’s Get Static’ hits
the spot every time.
The first brilliant track is
the mildly menacing ‘If There Are More of Us’, with it’s great refrain of
‘Our hearts/Are connected’….before the count to eight begins and the chorus
swoops in, taking you with it.
‘No Revolutions’ is my
favourite. With it’s chiming keyboard opening, the twin lyrics are sung so
sweetly against a building backdrop of guitars and synth that this song fair
brings a shiver to my spine.
For those bored with the
endless noodlings of Stereolab, but who yearn for some POP in their synth-inspired
indie, The Projects are the band for you, and ‘Let’s Get Static’ is easily
one of the albums of the year.
Yoria - I’ll Be Awake (12 Records Inc)
Ok, I like this guy already; there is a boy and a cabbage driving a car!
That is ace! Best album I have ever heard……… Only joking. It was just the
cabbage in a car, it got me excited.
carrying on along a similar path, I really cannot fault this album. I have
listened to it a few times and it just gets better each time. You will find
it filed firmly under ‘Power Pop’ and in my eyes that is, by no means, a bad
track here is real saccharine sweet pop music. Arthur’s voice reminds me of
an amalgamation of Paul McCartney and E of Eels, and I guess the music is in
a similar ballpark. World class pop melodies, with the slight left field
leanings of Eels….. yup I’m happy with that image.
Class. I’d go and get it if I were you……..
What are you waiting for, go, look on Amazon or something!
The press release for this CD describes the music as “giant textured pop”.
This gives an indication of the sound that these dashing young fellows are
going for, although what makes it ‘giant’ is anyone’s guess. The sound they
do end up achieving is distinctly MOR. A lo-fi Phil Collins is probably the
best way to describe it. What is most frustrating about this release is that
it’s not utterly shite; in places it has the grace and pathos of some of the
Blonde Redhead’s recent releases. These moments are rare however, most of
the time the music is incredibly pompous, and the attempts to create an epic
sound fail miserably, it simply ends up as a mush of cheap sentimentality.
The track ‘Breathe’ is particularly grating, with the vocalist imploring us
to “breath sometimes” in annoying falsetto. This album has left me
thoroughly depressed about the state of modern music.
Flipron – Fancy Blues and
Rustique Novelties (Tiny Dog Records)
A veritable freak circus of an album, in which Flipron decide to scare the
pants off us by taking us through a world I’m pretty sure doesn’t exist
outside of Doncaster.
And so we have the not very
welcoming ‘Rusty Casino’s Casino Rustique’, the alcohol-sodden ‘Big Baboon’
– a song about a soothing simian.
Err,..yes. Onwards if you
dare. The music is a sort of knackered out blues, with a touch of jazz
thrown in, but it’s all fucking frightening stuff. Consider, if you dare, a
song called ‘(Dead Lovers, Reborn in the City, Reunite in Passionate)
Impact’, and then forget about it instantly because you’ll never sleep again
if you don’t. This is the sort of of music your Nan warned you about when
you were younger, and, y’know, it’s not half bad.
Dreamend - As if By Ghosts
This is the second release from Graveface Records to reach tasty in the last
couple of months and exceeds the already high standard set by Black Moth
packaging is excellent. Apparently each album cover features an original
unique photo from the early 1900's (though mine was definitely some kind of
1950s childrens' party) and also includes an original a ghostly
negative of an early century scene.
The songs on the album
demonstrate just as much beauty and detail as the sleeve. A combination of
atmospheric guitars bathed in super echo, xylophone and thumping percussion
knit together to produce a record that is seamless and flows from track to
track. This is the sound Mogwai would have made if they'd spent the
last 10 years drinking tea instead of Tennants Super.
Go and buy this
record and get not only a work of musical love but also your very own
original artwork. Go on, that's an order!
Mankowski – The Intimates
This album begins very promisingly, with a largely instrumental track
‘Illumine’. This is sort of instrumental folk crossed with really mellow
post-rock, kind of like Unwed Sailor. Unfortunately this is not indicative
of the content or quality of the rest of the album. Guy (I’m sure he won’t
mind the informality of first names) has an excellent voice, not dissimilar
to Nick Drake’s or Jeff Buckley’s. In fact Nick Drake is evidently a massive
influence, the rest of the album seems to be trying to re-create that sound,
but including elements of indie-pop.
problem is not with Guy’s voice, or songwriting, but the production,
specifically the guitar sound. To be blunt the guitar sound is fucking
horrible, and inappropriate to this style of music. It’s far too jangly,
almost more suited to funk than the sound Guy seems to want to go for. The
opening to the track ‘Lift The Tide’ is a case in point. Which is a shame
because on the whole Guy has written some perfectly competent, if unoriginal
songs, only to have them ruined by the production.
Sufjan Stevens – ‘Greetings
from Michigan, the Great Lake State’ (Rough Trade)
Following the success of Sufjan Stevens ‘Seven Swans’ earlier this year, the
good people at Rough Trade have decided its probably time the English public
were allowed to sample the alums predecessor and so we have the official UK
release of ‘Greetings from Michigan’.
‘Michigan’ is, as the title
suggests, a series of songs about the state of Michigan, Stevens’ home
state. Stevens dons his tour guide outfit and guides us through towns and
cities, through people’s lives and jobs, and through times both good and
bad. The result is a concept album weighing in at over an hour of
From the first subtle tones
that greet you on the opener ‘Flint (For the Unemployed and Underpaid)’ it
is hard not to be fully immersed in the world that Stevens paints for you.
As with an album like Laura Veirs ‘Carbon Glacier’ Stevens music is capable
of being rooted very much in a sense of geography and emotions allowing you
to feel the cold and desolation of the harsher Upper Peninsula in ‘Oh God,
Where Are You Now’ or the desperation of the jobless in ‘Flint’.
That is not to say this is a
downbeat affair. Yes it is steeped in Melancholy but the music, laced as it
is with banjo, piano and horns, carries a positive feeling and Stevens
hushed voice, teamed with that of his backing choir, shows a passion for the
state that you can’t help but be embraced by.
Stevens claims this will be
the first of an ‘album for each state’ project. A mammoth task by anyone’s
standards but one that I will be monitoring very closely indeed. Come on and
‘Say Yes! To Michigan!’
TEAM - Penalyn (Captains of
The press release
that came with this album goes on about setting suns, desert skylines and
malevolent lingerings. You do not need to know this. What you do need to
know is that this debut album from Leicester's premier purveyors of
alternative guitar noise is likely to be one of the best records you will
listen to this year.
Despite weighing in at just a touch over 30 minutes, the ten tracks on offer
expand on the broad styles already showcased on the '[50 000] [Dead Sharks]'
ep. There is a new found bluesey swagger in the form of 'Resonate
South' and '[50 000]' , the sort of sound John Lee Hooker might have made if
his mum had bought him a distortion pedal for his 18th birthday. 'Shapessnakescake
Games' delivers a heap of classic 2 minute punk metal and there is even room
for what could be classed as slowy with Canada Fields.
The band's own production
has clearly paid off as the record captures everything that a live
TEAM performance stands for: thinly disguised aggression underpinned with a
ruthless tight efficiency. Dave and Scott's lyrical harmonies are perhaps
one of the most unlikely combinations in music but they work their magic all
the way through. And the guitars. So super-chuggy in 'Racing Line' and mixed
in with the spazzed up vocal that they will make your boots shake.
For a band just over
a year old the song writing is polished and innovative, the delivery
ruthless. Can I recommend this album any more highly? Probably not.
Jackson – Album sampler
For some reason the press release boasts that the recording equipment used
for these tracks has been previously used to record John Peel sessions,
which is a pretty dubious claim to fame. I assume it’s in there so that if
anyone simply glances over the press release and sees John Peel’s name they
will assume that Blind Jackson have recorded a session with him. Whoever
wrote it must be a person of very dubious moral character.
itself is a kind of jangly post-punk effort, if you think Magazine and Hot
Hot Heat you wouldn’t be a far off the mark. In all fairness though there is
a lot more going on here in terms of influences, the track ‘In the club’ has
a real ska sound to it. Rather worryingly the song ‘Mess it up’ sound very
similar to Bradford’s finest, Terrorvision. Personally I find this sort of
thing rather grating, but if you are of a jollier disposition than I, and
are after music you can dance like a mad bastard to then it might be worth a
listen. I believe it’s this sort of nonsense that Guardian music writers
refer to as ‘edgy’.
A Box of Odd (Sheffield Phonographic Corporation)
This seems to be a CD sampler for Sheffield label Thee Sheffield
Phonographic Corporation, indeed their first CD release, having up until now
a mere three 7” singles available. According to the sleeve notes part of
their manifesto is to have “no songs that go on for more than three
minutes”. Now on closer inspection some of the songs smash the three minute
mark by as much as twenty or thirty seconds! Does this prove that their
manifesto is hard to put into practice, untenable even?
leaving behind such pedantry to discuss the music what is on offer here is
trashy garage rock, with plenty of surf and psychobilly influences. This is
a fine sound to go for if done well. The problem is that most of the tracks
on here are distinctly average. The tracks by the Motherfucker’s are
especially tedious. Not that they are bad, but there is nothing to put them
above the average. Competent is probably the best way to describe it.
certain tracks do stand out. The Special Agents ‘Guitars that go twang! In
the night’ sounds like the Munster’s theme music, which is definitely a
complement. The Beachbuggy track ‘Deathray’ from the Albini produced album
‘Killer-B’, has a sleazy stomping groove which is oddly compelling. The
wonderfully titled ‘Now I got worms’ by Texas Pete is a jaunty surf
rockabilly number which is quite enjoyable. But these highlights don’t
manage to raise this compilation above the average. Ultimately none of these
songs make me want to don a gaudy Hawaiian shirt, quaff beer or ‘party’.
Which I assume is the point.
Gravenhurst - Flashlight Seasons (Warp Records)
This is very much a last minute review, but I couldn’t let this issue of
Tasty slide by without the inclusion of a review of this album. I just
wouldn’t be doing my job properly, would I?
mainly the preserve of the more electronic end of the spectrum Warp have
been spreading their wings a lot more recently, and given the strength of
this latest offering we should all be offering up great thanks for this new
found freedom. Gravenhurst is he project of Nick Talbot, on the strength of
this album one can only assume some foul fate befell the poor chap recently,
as this is one of the most doom laden recordings I have had the pleasure of
listening to since ‘I See a Darkness’ got me in the party mood all those
years ago. There is more than just the atmospherics that Will Oldham’s
masterpiece and ‘Flashlight Seasons’ have in common, there are strong links
between the two when it comes to the sound, structure and lyrical content of
the music, and that is far from being any sort of criticism.
there is a strong feeling of the ‘American Gothic’ feel of Oldham or Molina,
Gravenhurst is a much more Anglicized take on what is a very American
musical form. The echoes of bluegrass and traditional country, are replaced
by a much more English Folk element, and a would be naive to not mention
Nick Drake as at least an evident influence, with more than a touch of
Elliot Smith in places. You may have noticed a similar dark brooding
connection between all the artists/bands I have mentioned, if you are
feeling a little down in the dumps this is not a record to be listening to.
been on my record player solidly now for two days and I can see no good
reason as to why it would be taken off soon. The quality of songwriting is
of the quality that it seems as if these songs have existed for ever as if
you have heard them in a dream before but could no longer remember them. It
is rare that there is an album of this quality released by a British artist,
and not an NME cover in sight. ‘Damage’ and ‘Damage II’ are some of the most
heartbreaking songs you are ever likely to hear, the same could be said of
the record as a whole.
I am off
to drown my sorrows, as I mourn the passing of a month that has furnished us
with albums that I will still be listening to in twenty years from now.
Various - Hey! Where’d the
A compilation of tracks by bands I have never heard of from a label I’m
clueless about, Humblebee Recordings. Although based on this compilation it
doesn’t take a massive inductive leap to work out their modus operandi,
lo-fi indie pop. You know the kind of thing, slightly melancholy pop music
made by people who were forcibly buggered at boarding school and wear
scarves irrespective of the weather. Not to resort to stereotypes or
The tracks on here are,
obviously, of variable quality ranging from the really quite good to utter
dog shit. On the dog shit end of the spectrum the vocalist for The Lil’
Hospital has one of the most nasal voices I have ever heard, making their
track ‘Pretty Kissin’ unbearable. Also the National Splits song is simply a
mistake, a whining sub Brit-Pop dirge. On the really quite good end of the
spectrum the State of Samuel track ‘Why’ has a quite nice Elvis Costello
power pop vibe, which provides some much needed variety. Also The Diskettes
song is excellent, lovely, sad, pop music. The interplay of male and female
vocals, slightly reminiscent of the Moldy Peaches, is used to good effect on
The rest of songs lie between
these two extremes, and are fine if you’re a fan of this genre. Having not
mentioned this band thus far I’m afraid I’m going to have to now; if you
like Belle and Sebastian you will like this. If not avoid it like the
plague. One plus point is that it’s excellent value for money, twenty four
tracks and I think it costs around eight dollars. That is if you can stand
twenty four tracks of this stuff. I can’t and am going to listen to some
Slayer before I start to contemplate the purchase of a scarf.
That Fucking Tank -A Document
of our First Set (Jealous Records)
John Peel once said something like ‘there’s more bands per square metre in
Leeds 6 then there is anywhere else in England’. That Fucking Tank are one
of the ongoing hoards of truly fresh and astonishing bands still pouring out
of the area. And with this release we have their debut EP.
Comprising of two thirds of
Kill Yourself, That Fucking Tank are a drummer and guitarist duo hell bent
on producing noisy, angular but danceable instrumental rock. ‘A Document to
Our First Set’ proves that That Fucking Tank are any bit as good as other
bands with similar M.O.’s. like the bastard children of Q and Not U and Oxes,
the five tracks present here groove, churn and lurch along to form one of
the most compelling debuts you’re likely to hear for a long time to come.
My advice to anyone is simple:
Go to see them live and buy this EP. Its probably going to prove to be one
of the best releases of the year. Yes, That Fucking Tank are That Fucking
Friends – Late Night Early
Survivors of many an underground release, Friends suffer from having a name
associated with a shite sit-com. The only way to overcome this has been to
have released a succession of pretty fantastic albums, and ‘Late Night Early
Morning’ is just one of those.
Those au fait with the Friends
sound should be in no doubt that this is yet more fantastic, very English,
indie pop. All the way from the twisting, turning ‘The River Flows’, through
the glacial, summery ‘Some of the Things – which might just be the sweetest
love song ever written and makes me a bit goose-bumpy, all the way through
to the three minute warning of ‘Dark Side’, which is a glorious thrash, with
those ever so catchy descending chords. My, that was a long sentence.
The fact of the matter
remains, that if you want to listen to one of the best, intelligent indie
pop bands since Kitchens of Distinction buggered off, then you should
worship at the temple of Friends. They’ll never be as annoying as six twats
in a New York flat.
Hellset Orchestra - Demo
The Hellset Orchestra are purveyors of frankly bizarre ditties that sound
like the soundtrack to some obscure Hammer Horror movie, complete with
gothic sounding organs and a Frankenstein sample on the appropriately
monikered “ ‘Come into my lab’ he said”.
Presumably whoever (or
whatever) was behind this curio had their tongue firmly planted in their
cheek, because it’s about as scary as Kenneth Williams in Carry on
Screaming, and twice as camp.
Like Electric six it treads a
the fine line; depending on your point of view it either totally rocks or
it’s utter pants, however, what swung it for me was the moment towards the
end of “Thank God it’s Judas” when it appears that Animal from the Muppets
has made a cameo on drums.
Whether or not the joke could
be sustained for more than the length of a couple of EPs remains to be seen,
but if you are looking for a musical interlude for the middle of a Vincent
Price double bill, this is just the ticket.
Thee More Shallows -
More Deep Cuts (Monotreme)
When Thee More Shallows’ debut came out a few years ago, its delicate whimsy
caused it to pretty much live in my CD player for a hell of a long time.
Since then the wait for the follow up has seemed endless and nerve racking.
Could they really manage to make an album that was as good as ‘A History of
Sport Fishing’ again? So when the wait was finally over and a copy of the
new album ‘More Deep Cuts’ arrived on my door mat, it was a good few days
before I dared listen to it for fear of disappointment. As it turns out my
fears were thankfully unfounded.
With ‘More Deep Cuts’ we have
a collection of intelligent, thoughtful songs inflected with wit and poetry.
Musically Thee More Shallows pour together strings, guitars and programmatic
noises and beats to form what is some of the most absorbing music currently
being made. What this record shows is that ‘A History of Sport Fishing’ was
very much the beginning of what Thee More Shallows has to offer. The
collection of songs present on ‘More Deep Cuts’ is truly an example of their
best work to date. From the moment it begins with a bizarre gradually
accelerating programmed beat you know this is different. Songs of paranoia,
loneliness and mass graves are abound but they are each so beautifully
conveyed you find yourself submerged in a hazy, contented state, and with
‘Freshman Thesis’ we have Thee More Shallows crowning glory so far. A song
full of downtrodden bitterness that starts off whispering in your ear like a
conspiracy you shouldn’t be part of, and ends in distorted pounding fuzz.
The lyrics to this and every song always help to elevate the music as well.
Just listen to the immaculate and minute observations present here and it is
clear that you are in the present of true storytellers.
I really can’t express how
much I love this record. It serves as a document as to what everything about
an album should be. A remarkable achievement.
The Twilight Singers – She
Loves You (One Little Indian)
Without reading the press release – which, of course, I’ve lost – I’m not
really sure what the purpose of this album is.
No matter, for on the whole,
it’s usually enjoyable, or at least more enjoyable than an album of cover
versions should ever be. For examples of this look no further than the
wrought, spine-tingling version of ‘Strange Fruit’, or the ace version of ‘Hyperballad’,
which makes Bjork’s effort finally sound like the kid’s playground anthem it
surely is. Hell, Greg Dulli even makes a Fleetwood Mac song sound
listenable. Extra points for attempting ‘Summertime’ and making it sound
like a heroin comedown. Whatever one of those sounds like, I know not, but
my Nan always warned me it might sound like this.
One gripe might well be the
consistently terrible production, which makes much of this record sound like
it was put together down a very deep well. No matter, for all else is most
Whirlwind Heat - Flamingo
Ah, Whirlwind Heat, you weird little chaps. This is a mini album of 10
tracks a lone minute in length but of varied tone and quality.
A band whom obviously have a
lot of fun making music, Whirlwind heat have a sound hard to pin down. Some
like ‘The Bone have a sort of pop amble to them but then suddenly you’re
thrown into the moog led noise of the quite brilliant ‘Meat Packer’.
This is, for want of a better
phrase, a bit of a giggle, with some genuinely enjoyable moments of
off-kilter Pop with a leaning towards the Dismemberment Plan’s more
discordant offerings. However with it being so short its hard to get a good
feel for the record or settle into any of the individual tracks. I do
however await the future Whirlwind Heat releases with much (confused)
Pinkie – Sharon Fussy
(Planting Seeds Records)
It starts and ends with a flock of seagulls wailing. The bird, not the band.
And the bits in between are just about as perfect as it gets.
So, if you’re feeling a little
frail or fragile, ‘Sharon Fussy is for you. Take its tender hand and skip
through the melancholy daisy field of ‘Someone I’ll Never Be’ or ‘Say After
Me’, but be aware that this album will never break sweat. And that, my
friends, is a very good thing indeed.
The seagulls are apt. Alex
Sharkey lives in Worthing, where this album was, I take it, writte and
recorded. Listening in, it seems as though Sharkey did a lot of walking
around this southern outpost before submitting anything to tape. So, is this
is a concept album? Nothing so vulgar, but, if it does have a central theme,
it’s that of loss and of one left behind. I might be hopelessly wrong, but
that’s what it means to me, and it’s very special indeed. Cherish this
Andrew Morgan - Misadventures
in Radiology (Broken Horse)
Its not very often an album grabs you by the jugular the moment you first
put it on, commanding you to take notice and listen. Well that’s precisely
what you get from the first note of Andrew Morgan’s debut pop epic,
‘Misadventures in Radiology’.
This is an album many years in
the making which has gone through highs and lows and nearly wasn’t completed
at all, and because of all these factors that came along with its
conception, it sounds like a pure labour of love.
It is an album of grandiose
and often theatrical sounding pop music soaked in years of layers of
strings, guitars and piano. However it achieves the sound without ever
sounding self indulgent or overblown. Morgan’s voice has a beautiful breathy
quality to it like he’s singing just behind you the whole time. It is
undeniably similar to the likes of Connor Oberst or Elliot Smith in its
qualities. It also comes as no surprise to learn that the album was recorded
at Smith’s ‘New Monkey’ studio before his untimely death. Fraught and
emotionally charged lyrics draw the comparison closer. Lines like ‘And as I
stagger around London / With tear betrayed eyes / There’s more hole than
heart left’ from ‘This Awful Room’ could have come straight from the mind of
Dark, discordant but filled
with love this is a bold statement of arrival from Morgan and an album that
can quieten and mystify. If anyone can fill the gap Elliot Smith has left
for many music fans, it’s Morgan.
The Shivers – Move All You
Blimey! The Shivers are MODS! And they’re pretty damn good too. ‘Move All
You Wanna’ has more in common with the All Girl Summer Fun Band or The
Icicles than it does the blooooooody Jam or something equally as shite.
‘Tiramisu’, for example, is full of the stop/start, ramshackle garage pop
that often comes out of the US.
On other occasions, such as
the racey ‘Pixydust and Voodo’ The Shivers make me want to dance that funny
jerky dance that you can only do after about ten pints of lager, and this is
very good thing indeed.
I’m not sure that I’m ready to
convert to the Sta-prest cause just yet – I don’t really have the arse for
it, but if The Shivers are what passed for Mod these days I might stop
laughing at people on scooters. It’s a start, isn’t it?
Justin Rutledge - No Never
Alone (Shady Lane)
I can’t be the only person in this world who has been increasingly
disappointed by Ryan Adams career. When ‘Heartbreaker’ was released there
was something so immediate and truthful about it that you couldn’t help but
embrace it. Adams subsequently has produced a series of records that
consistently fail to live up to the example set by that record and a void
was created as we waited for something to follow.
Now what never occurred to me
was that this void would be filled not be Adams but by another, namely
Justin Rutledge. ‘No Never Alone’ doesn’t simply have the quality and scope
that the best of Adams’ stuff has, it possesses more of both. From the first
track ‘Too Sober To Sleep’ we are greeted by a series of painfully open
songs about love, loneliness and all that comes with them. Yes I am well
aware that this is nothing new and that anything even leaning towards
Country has all of the above, but when it’s done this well that really is of
no consequence. And besides, when you’re graced with lines like ‘Goddam my
liver when it’s thirsty / Goddam my wallet when it’s dry’, how can you
resist. Its Rutledge’s way with words that always shines through on this
release, elevating it far beyond other melancholic Country amblings. On ‘Lay
Me Down Sweet Jesus’ we get what sounds like a traditional Country lament
and you’d be forgiven for thinking this tune has been sung on dusty porches
in Tennessee for decades. Listen to the lyrics however and it becomes clear
that this is a prayer for a new era; ‘Lay me down sweet Jesus / In the holy
war zone / By Jerusalem’s cancer / By my baby’s blood’. This idea of being
rooted in tradition but always maintaining a contemporary edge is a binding
element throughout the entire record.
This is also an album of
variety, where full band tracks, solo guitar musings and instrumentals have
been perfectly placed to ensure you can’t help but listen to it in its
entirety as a whole work.
To top it all it also
features what may be may favourite song of the moment, ‘The Suffering of
Pepe O’Malley (Pt III)’, a song that makes you want to grab a whiskey and
sing along whilst doing your best to hold back the welling of ears you can
feeling building. A track with one of the greatest titles ever and that
features the rabble rousing line ‘There’s only booze hounds here’. How can
Quite simply one of the finest
examples of a singer/songwriter, and one of the strongest albums, I’ve heard
in a long time.
The Telepathic Butterflies –
Songs From a Second Wave (Rainbow Quartz)
Hey, hey, hey! Take me back to 1967, daddio. For the TB’s…erm…the last
25-odd years haven’t happened. Not that that’s such a bad thing, as this
excellent album could easily be the best Beatles album that was never made.
Although lumped in with the 21st
Century wave of psych-rockers, The Telepathic Butterflies have more in
common with indie-pop, or even the Posies than a bunch of purple cord
wearing acid kings. Or indeed, The Beatles.
Throughout this album, but
particularly on tracks such as ‘Four Leaf Clover’, Rejean Ricard’s guitar
sound is very much George Harrison. Meanwhile, ‘Love (is) For Hire reminds
me of the Beatles’ arch enemies, The Brach Boys.
Although winter is approaching
faster than my cat to the back door when it’s hungry, The Telepathic
Butterflies have made the perfect summer album for the winter. Contrary, but
Radio 4 - Stealing of a Nation
Being the owner of a record shop must be an increasingly frustrating job. As
bands cast creative nets further and further a field, how do you go about
categorising music? Buggered if I know. And here to make life even more
difficult is Radio 4 and there new album ‘Stealing of a Nation’. Disco Punk
Groove Dub Rock anyone?
This is the follow up 2002’s
politically charged ‘Gotham!’ and its immediately obvious these boys still
have a lot to say about the state of the world and a need to dance whilst
its being said.
From the opener, and first
single, ‘Party Crashers’, it is clear that Radio 4 have spent the time since
their last offering honing their sound to be more than merely a band
standing in ‘Gang of Four’s shadow. This is a track that stomps and grooves
along shamelessly and sets the tone for what is to follow.
Radio 4 subsequently display a
talent and taste from Punk through Reggae to Disco. And while this could end
up sounding bloody dreadful (and for other bands treading a similar path
has) Radio 4, as with fellow New Yorkers !!!, somehow keep it in check. That
is not to say this is perfect for on (very) occasional moments it doesn’t
necessarily gel as well as it should but these are too seldom to really
Coastal – Halfway to You
(Words on Music)
I dunno, if like me, when you were a angry teenager, that you used to put
some music on to fall asleep to – Slowdive were always good for the job –
just so that you could listen to as much music as possible during the day?
You did? Oh, gooooodddd. Because Coastal are the new band it’s ok to fall
asleep to. And I don’t mean that in a nasty way, oh no no no no no. I mean
in the way that ‘Halfway to You’ is chockablock full of those dreamily slow
songs that Low try and make and fail. Coastal pull it off every time though.
See ‘We Won’t Last Another Year’ for confirmation of Coastal’s ability to
lift the mood using song that has roughly 1bpm, or the dreadfully sad
‘Drift’, which is even SLOWER.
Suffice to say, you’d go loopy
if you tried to listen to a Wedding Present album after this. Because it’s
Secret Machines - Now Here is
I’m always worried for bands that have to release an album surrounded by
hype and high expectations and Secret Machines definitely are one such band.
With a lot of people awaiting the release of the debut album ‘No Here is
Nowhere’ the pressure was really on for them to live up to these
expectations and deliver the musical goods.
From the first tight groove
laden opener that is ‘First Here is Nowhere’ it is clear these expectations
have been met. It’s a nod to musical eras both past and present as riffs
chug and repeat without ever seeming boring or monotonous. This may not be a
very cool comparison to throw in, especially so early in the review, but I
can’t help but hear a leaning to Queens’ early back-catalogue. The bass line
throughout his track is just the sort of solid Prog. Deacon used to dole out
This isn’t to say this is in
anyway derivative or a poor example of Prog. for those ho weren’t there the
first time around. Far from it in fact. As subsequent songs come and go it
becomes clear that Secret Machines wish to forge a path of their own. But it
would be hard not to sense a certain allegiance to that era of Rock when the
likes of King Crimson and Pink Floyd where noodling their way into the
worlds musical psyche. It does this however whilst always retaining a fresh
and new sound. Quite a feat really. It should also be made clear that this
isn’t merely nostalgia on display. Songs like ‘Leaves Are Gone’ display
bittersweet contemporary pop sensibilities that evoke much of the wok of Ben
This is an album full of a
series of great moments that may seem like they shouldn’t sit together
comfortably on one record. However, this they do. Songs like ‘Nowhere Again’
and ‘Lights On’ will be firmly lodged in music lovers internal jukeboxes the
length and breadth of the country. Secret Machines are, to quote the band,
quite simply ‘blowing all the other kids away’.
Daniel Patrick Quinn - Severed from the Land (Suilven Recordings)
Well this is a bit of an odd one. Only six tracks
long, but an album. Recorded in a bedroom but sounding far more polished.
Only the fifth release from Suilven but including a beautiful copper card
cover featuring (what I assume) is the artist's own sketches.
With titles such as 'A Wide
Wooded Valley', 'Nine Standards Rigg' and 'Ettrick Pen' this could easily
fall into folky nonsense that you would imagine a wooly-hatted hiker to
listen too between 10 mile yomps. But it's not all walking. Despite
expressing a penchant for walking the hills Quinn has created a rich
tapestry of soundscapes by weaving synths, cello, guitars, trumpet and well
nigh any other instrument he seems to have been able to lay hands on.
Tracks are almost
psychodelic in nature and ebb and flow like the seasons themselves. My
personal fave is Nine Standards Rigg which features a rambling lyric about
marauding Scotsmen and standing stones - not your normal song writing
So why not try it?
It's really rather splendid and you might just find yourself listening
to it every five minutes like I have been doing. Fell walking, of course, is
Johnny Domino – Solid Ground
(Artists Against Success)
These Johnny Domino are an all-powerful groove beast. Smoking a pipe. This
was evidenced recently at a tasty fanzine gig in Leeds, when the East
Midlands quartet shook their funky thang to great effect.
‘Solid Ground’ builds on these
phat foundations and tops up on POP! For this is easily the Dom’s most
accessible album to date.
The band have tightened up a
great deal since their last album, and this is showed best in tracks such as
‘I Heart 1883’, which remind me of The Fall at their poppy best, and ‘U R My
Oar’, with it’s almost Stump-like rhythm and great keyboards. It’s maybe
Marc Elstons keyboards that have improved the most since the last time we
heard from JD. Whilst on previous albums they’ve merely added to the sound,
this time around they often lead from the front.
However, always at the front
of the stage is vocalist Jim Convery, who is both scary and engaging at the
same time. Seeing the band live confirms this, but it’s no mean feat to come
across like this on a record.
So, if you aren’t already a
convert to this particular brand of pissed-up pop, then you flippin’ well
should be. ‘Solid Ground’ tells you that. And so do I.
Giant Sand - Is All Over…The
Map (Thrill Jockey)
It’s been a long time since we had an album of all new Giant Sand songs. We
had Covers Magazine and a series of other Gelb-ian releases, but we’ve
actually been waiting since 2000’s ‘Chore of Enchantment’ for the next
instalment proper from Giant Sand. Well its time for a collective sigh of
relief to be released because the new album from Howe and cohorts is finally
with us. About bloody time.
‘Is All Over…the Map’
apparently sounds to like the last five years according to Howe. What this
means for us is an album that is nearing epic proportions in its musical
scope. In a song like ‘NYC of Time’, Howe leads us through rock, avant-garde
and splashes of lounge in the space of just a few minutes. That’s a hell of
an undertaking for anyone. Its songs like this that give the record and
overall feel somewhere between Giant Sands previous crowning glory ‘Chore’
and last years ‘Blacky Ranchette’ album.
Yes we have smatterings of
dusty rock straight from Howe’s porch in Tucson, as in tracks like ‘Cracklin
Water’, but we also have another side of Mr. Gelb too. The one unleashed on
rocking numbers like ‘Remote’. What this shows is a man who, in his late
forties, is truly on top of his game.
As ever it’s no one element
that allows any record born from the mind of Howe Gelb to achieve its
results. Although these albums would not exist without the man himself, they
always feel like a collaborative effort. Howe growls and strums away whilst
the likes of John Parish, Scout Niblett and his Danish band help to shape
and mould the final product
At times hideously infectious,
as in the slack, string slapping moment that is ‘flying Around the Sun,’ and
at others just plain beautiful, this is an album that’s going take some
bettering with whatever project follows, and yes I’m going to say it, I’d
even say its better than ‘Chore’.
Giant Sand have hit upon
something wondrous and, to paraphrase the man himself, just in the ‘NYC of
Odessa Chen – One Room Palace
England, a supposedly civilised country. A country, we are told, to be proud
to be a part of, where we have freedom and choice. If this is truly the case
then why in the world does a musician with the level of talent possessed by
Odessa Chen not have a label or distribution in this country? Absolutely
Chen's talent is in crafting ghostly, uncanny
songs flooded with drama and feeling. Evoking the Album Leaf fronted by
Scout Niblett she can construct songs capable of soaring and being intimate
in equal measure. Chen possesses a voice that is intense and powerful yet
capable of absolute delicacy. At times intensely sad and often warm and
charming, and offering a skewed view of a less than simple world, ‘One Room
Palace’ highlights Odessa Chen as a shining light in Americans independent
Razor Bianca – Sixguns of the
The live review on the back of this CD’s slipcase promises ‘Mother Fucker
heavy’ riffs and a ‘solid groove’. What we actually receive is somewhat
short of either of these.
Razor Bianca are a band whose
songs never seem to have any real desire or passion to them, they simply
exist. The three songs present, although never actually bad, merely amble by
and are also hampered by somewhat poor production leaving the mix disjointed
with dull sounding guitars and flat vocals.
The live review also promised
feedback, a synth unit and loop effects, none of which I could find on this
This CD generally has the
sound of anyone of the hoards of student based rock bands up and down the
country but to be fair, this release probably isn’t highlighting Razor
Bianca at their best and judging by the press perhaps their live sound is
where Razor Bianca really shine.
Alex Gomez – Always Never
“Lets just call it Punk Blues” reads the press release that came along with
this CD and a fairer description of Gomez’ music you will not find.
Gomez occupies the ground
between Kelly Joe Phelps’ early slide work and the twisted industrial sounds
of Johnny Dowd. Slide Blues tunes are churned and wrenched from his guitar
while he spits and rasps over the top venting about women, drugs and life in
‘Always Never’ is an
uncomplicated album best listened to loud and when Gomez gets it right he
can really nail an absorbing, soulful and also contemporary Blues song. This
is shown in full effect on the ballsy Blues of ‘Back to the Grind’ and the
more down-tempo but equally compelling ‘Rolling Stone’.
It is down to only a couple of
moments that this album is sadly let down. The opener ‘Macon Bacon’ shares
the same vocal pattern to its chorus as ‘I Like Candy’, a song I truly
detest and so making this track an instant no starter for me.
However when all is said and
done ‘Always Never’ proves to be an instantly captivating experience.
Trashy, depraved and bluntly honest, Gomez is helping to give Blues a
contemporary edge it often seems to lack.