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  albums - oct 2004


Mando Diao – ‘Sampler’ (Majesty / EMI)
The latest band to come along, guns a-blazing, claiming to restore everyone’s faith in Rock and Roll (though to be honest I never actually lost faith but never mind). Like the Strokes, the Hives, the White Stripes, etc, Mando Diao come along with the usual dose of what seems to be irony free self assurance that, yes, they are the greatest band in the world. But are they any good let alone that good.

Well it’s odd because on first listen I was sitting there picking out chunks that sounded like the aforementioned bands and while they do sound good I was less than moved. However its subsequent listens that did it for me and in particular the final track ,‘The Band’, that has brought me around to Mando Diao’s way of thinking. While comparisons to bands like the Strokes will remain unavoidably, for me its there leanings towards a more Stones-esque feel for Rock that makes this enjoyable.

This isn’t to say they are or will attain such levels of greatness (despite there own opinions on the matter) but they are still an entertaining listen and, mark my words, they will be huge.

Luke Drozd

Coley Park – ‘Across the Carpet Stars’ (Shady Lane)
Missing Beachwood Sparks? Well fear not, for Coley Park are here to fill those psych-country boots.

Laid back and hazy, Coley Park’s debut is a late night and gently album which drifts along in a sort of psychedelic blur. Like the first Shins album, this has its feet set in a retroistic fuzz, but where that was an accomplished gem throughout, this often seems to meander along. It certainly has its stronger tracks though like the gentle lollop of ‘Lucky Butterfly’ and the spooky standout of ‘The Pigs are Gathering’.

While a bit too short and with its weaker moments this certainly bodes well as a taster of what Coley Park are capable of and of things to come.

Luke Drozd

Citizens Here and Abroad – ‘Ghosts of Tables and Chairs’ (Omnibus Records)
Citizens Here and Abroad are a band whose focus seems to lie within layers and complements. Guitars play similar melodies with slight alterations between them creating a simple depth. This is then heightened and complemented by achieving a similar tack with the vocals where lines and melodies are shared before one meanders off as male and female harmonies intertwine and change with admirable results.

This as a whole is hushed and subtle evoking reminders, especially on a track like ‘Appearance’, of acts like Pinback. At the same time though this is still for me very much an album with its heart in rock music but with underlying pop sensibilities. ‘Enter the Elevator’ proves this with fantastically quirky keyboard that becomes surrounded by restrained guitar and vocals which build and harmonize to a rocking good chorus.

That is very much what Citizens Here and Abroad appear to be about. Building and layering music that maintains an intelligence and subtlety. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Luke Drozd

Dada Pogrom – Apocalypso (Grid Records)
When perusing the press release for “Apocalypso”, I was fascinated to learn that “the universe is entropical at all levels of it’s existence and, according to the current cosmological theorems, finite and limited…the order of force and time that governs all entropy, is the very root of beauty and is the inspiration for Dada Pogrom”

Happy that that was all cleared up, and safe in the knowledge that there would be no wankiness here, I went on to read that “Apocalypso” is an Aggressive statement on the horror of war and strife”.

The first track wastes no time in informing us that “war is a pogrom, it’s a festival of death”, funny, I thought it was usually a bit more complex than that. Unless you count some sort of future intergalactic conflict fought with death rays and starcruisers, the nearest this comes to soundtracking the despair and futility of human conflict is “manubalista”, which only manages to sound like the old Atari arcade classic Missile Command. I remember typing out pages of Basic on a BBC micro and managing to create a similar effect in about 1983.

There is a minimal retro sound throughout the album, in keeping with some of Dada Pogroms stated influences such as Kraftwerk and Devo, and there are also shades of early Front 242, the result of which is that it sounds as cutting edge as Chas And Dave let loose in the BBC radiophonic workshop.  

While the lyrics are somewhat trite, or at best naïve, there are some highpoints musically (amongst some exceedingly dull ones), “Stay Alive” mixes Arabian influences with a reggae rhythm,  and “The Sky” is pleasant enough, sounding a little like Jean Michell Jarre. But therein is the problem. For a record that claims to be a hard hitting statement on man’s inhumanity to man, adjectives like “pleasant” seem a little wide of the mark. While Dada Pogrom looks to find “Beauty in Darkness”, “Apocalypso” fails to be quite dark enough.

Leighton Cooksey

Harper Lee – All Things Can Be Mended (Matinee)
Never matter how much things are going your way, or whether you’re enjoying life to the full, there’s always Harper Lee to bring you down.

But you know, I don’t think I’d have it any other way, and, what’s more. I like being miserable. My record collection is full of so-called ‘miserablists’. Wallowing can be a good thing now and again, and Harper Lee are the perfect soundtrack to a night in with a solitary candle for comfort.

‘All Things Can Be Mended’ is such an album. Sad is too soft a word to use. From the bleak bedsit on the front cover, to the pastoral delights of the sparkling, yet somehow maudlin, indie pop inside, this is an album for the broken hearted amongst you.

Just look at the titles of the songs: ‘I Don’t Need to Know About Your Wonderful Life’, ‘This is the Sound That a Heart Makes When It’s Breaking’. This is proper, grown-up angst, not some pretend-gothic nonsense that hangs around city centres trying to skateboard.

Favourites include the aforementioned  and somewhat glacial, ‘This is What it Sounds Like…’, and the fantastic ‘Autumn’, which featured on a recent Matinee sampler.

Heck, Keris and Laura even get a bit upbeat near the end, with the sprightly, ‘Everything’s Going to Be Okay’. But it doesn’t last long, with the closing track ‘There Is a Light in Me That’s Gone’, where Keris laments the fact that his indecisiveness has cost him dear.

In short, this album gives me goosebumps, and, along with the recent Pinkie and new Tears in X-Ray Eyes album, serves as one part of a supreme triumvirate of pop music for the autumn and beyond.

Sam Metcalf

Los Skeletones  - Witchdokta (Hackpen)
 Los Skeletones are a London Based three piece, but after listening to their debut album you could be forgiven for thinking that they crawled out of the Deep South, with Love and Hate tattooed across their knuckles. 

Mixing tales of pimps, porn starlets and assorted other low lifes, with slabs of hard rock, southern boogie and funk, Los Skeletones sound like kings of Leon jamming with Sly Stone, whilst tanked up to the gills on hoodoo juice.

On the Title track, bassist & Vocalist, Senor Al, howls and yelps like a cross between James Brown and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins with piles, while the band is as tight as a ‘gators arse, whipping up a thick psychedelic gumbo.

“Porn Girl” jumps from a perky up-tempo light funk to a leaden Sabbath-esque riff, “Cowboy Blues” begins as a Chilli Peppers style ballad before sliding into a Led Zep Boogie. Elsewhere there are shades of US Stoner-rockers Clutch, while “Work Detail throws a little Hip-Hop into the mixture for good measure. 

 It’s seedy, grubby and rather good fun.

 Leighton Cooksey

War Against Sleep – Messages (Fire Records)
From the recently revamped and revitalised Fire Records comes this little beauty. War Against Sleep is Duncan Fleming and a few friends helping out here and there, and ‘Messages’ is the sort of oddity that sometimes creeps its way towards the tasty heart from time to time.

Fleming sounds like he’s both permanently pissed and pissed off. Especially on the sprawling ‘The Secret Sea’, which features a lovely brass instrument of some sort or other. Or the ten pints of vodka and an acid tab that is ‘Again Love Smashes Up My Mind’. Pretty much whichever track you pick, you’ll hear Fleming drawling something or other, like a more handsome, articulate version of a city centre tramp.

So, if you fancy listening to sound of the underbelly of the city in the small hours, listen to ‘Messages’. It might freak you out a bit, but I don’t think War Against Sleep would have it any other way.

Sam Metcalf

Ciccone – Eversholt Street (Human Recordings)
Ciccone seem to have come on a great deal since I first heard them about two years ago. Sure, they’re not world beaters or anything, but in the absence of any decent female-fronted indie bands, they’ll do just nicely.

‘Eversholt Street’ is full of jerky pop moments, from the impressive recent single, ‘Look at You Now’, with it’s scarily alluring refrain of ‘Give me fifty pee/and I’ll show you a good time’. Blimey, matron.

I quite like a band which shares vocal responsibilities around…y’know a bit like Westlife or Take That, and so Ciccone get brownie points for letting the boys have a good old sing song now and again.

There’s very little to say about this album apart from that it’s a really good pop album. And after listening to some of the stuff this month, that’s sometimes all I really need. Hurrah for Ciccone!

Sam Metcalf

Tears in X-Ray Eyes – The Way We Live Now (Test Tube Records)
It seems an age, but TIXE have only been in my life just over two years now. In that time the band – pretty much Tim Closs and a few close friends – have released one divine debut album and a handful of singles. But ‘The Way We Live Now’ is surely their finest hour to date.

The press release says that the new album sees a sea change in the sound of TIXE. Personally, I can’t see that much has altered, and that’s a good thing. Opener, ‘Don’t Be So Beautiful’ has that unique TIXE sound – where every chorus drips with melancholy and every verse sounds like it should be at number one for every Christmas ever.

Maybe the TIXE sound has become a little harsher on some of the tracks here. ‘Love is Suicide’ fair rattles along, with choppy guitars behind Closs’ ever fragile voice. But what always remains is a lonely defiance to most of these songs. TIXE can make even the most twee of ‘do-do-dos’ sounds as though they’re being threatened by a great big hammer.

The only time things stray off course slightly on this album is on ‘Electricity’, which, to these ears, sounds terribly like a very bad Suede cover. But that’s the only criticism. And for every ‘Electricity’ there’s the something to wrap yourself up in, such as the simple elegance of ‘Nothing on Earth’ – which is quite heartbreaking if you’re in the right mood. Or the wrong mood, as it were.

Outside of London, TIXE are anonymous. This is one of the greatest tragedies in modern pop music. ‘The Way We Live Now’ – a vision in pink – must surely change all that.

Sam Metcalf

Yeah, Its Supposed to Sound Like That…Volume 2 – Compilation (Colchester Records)
Compilations can prove to be a very difficult prospect for reviewing and Colchester Records make this task even harder. A label dedicated to releasing anything they believe is musically deserving means what we have here is a collection of tracks that range from Hip-Hop to Electronica to Country. Although I found that a good chunk of the material here not to my taste (well some stuff would struggle to be any further from it), there are some great tracks on this 17 track comp. The beautiful lilting Electronica of Epochés ‘Epochés Song’ is followed by the surf-punk joy of ‘Grow Fins’ by The Tommys. Now, how’s that for variety? This compilation also boasts a track by Muleskinner Jones, taken from his excellent mini-album ‘Death Row Hoedown’ and a compelling old-school inflected electronic number from Hatstandy Andy.

However there is also some dire turnouts. Puffinboys electro dub is truly awful and The Party and Kill Dizney prove to be two truly dreadful outfits from different ends of the musical spectrum.

A compilation by it very nature will always feature stuff you’ll love and hate, both of which for me are certainly represented here. This CD will allow you to discover bands you probably wouldn’t  otherwise get to, while at the same time ensuring that you get to avoid some other bands from this day onwards. Thank heavens.

Luke Drozd

Chungking – The Hungry Years (Gut)
Quite why this album was not released at the beginning of the summer, rather than when we’re all putting our mittens on is beyond me. ‘The Hungry Years’ is mighty impressive, in a sort of ‘lay out in the park with a frisbee and a picnic on a hot summer’s day’ kind of way. Sure, this’ll be heard in every terrible bar in the Lace Market in Nottingham come Christmas, but if you can overlook the fact that most people who’ll buy this album won’t really like music – they just like shopping, then it’s remarkably easy to listen to.  My favourite is ‘Voodoo’ which is great for doing the dusting to. All swish , sashaying rythms and falsetto vocals. Chungking – they make the housework fly by.

Sam Metcalf

Twinkie - Twinkie (Avebury Records)
Wonderful wonderful Twinkie. Not only are they the nicest bunch of people you could hope to meet but they also write more tip top tunes than you could throw your left over HMV vouchers at.

This album mainly features material found on 'Crime' with enough remixes and new songs to make it worth its weight in gold on its own. Debbie and Moo's vocals weave together as effortlessly as ever and every song is an individual gem. Final track 'TK-1' is pure guitar pop magic and the bizarrely titled 'Guess the Weight of my Wife the Horse' has a groovy space synth vibe that would bless any 1960s sci-fi movie. 'Mondomingo' still sounds as fresh as when it was aired on Radio 1 by Mark and Lard and you can never listen to enough songs called 'Aaardvark Barracuda Columbian' can you?

This is a fine record and you should buy it. But who compared Twinkie to Portishead in the press release? No!

Shane Blanchard