albums - dec 2004
Siobhan Parr -
The Lights in this Town are Too Many to Count (IRL)
This review has taken me ages to write as I have been blowing hot and cold
about Siobhan Parr since I first heard a snippet of her album whilst up a
ladder decorating. I tried listening to the album a number of times but
failed to capture that initial gusto. I realize that what was needed was an
hour alone in a comfortable chair with a couple of whiskies. With a little
effort this album can be a very pleasant experience indeed.
I was surprised to hear that Siobhan
is a Londoner, her voice sounds like classic American country/blues. I would
like to make comparisons to the greats of that genre, but unfortunately I am
not au-fait with the talent. Siobhan's lyrics are mature and intelligent, a
further surprise then, to discover she is only 19 years of age.
I do have some gripes with the
album. It is a collection of love songs and you need to be in the mood for
such an emotional onslaught. This focus on the "Love thing" may have been a
conscious decision, but her next offering needs to spread the lyrical net
wider to get my dollar.
The album starts off strong with
"lose my dress", a great foot tapping number with a beautiful plucked
guitar. This and the fourth track "any other way" are my favourites. I
notice they are both accompanied by "Graham Henderson" on keyboards and
additional guitar, so thumbs up to that collaboration.
Clearly the lady has taste, with a
live cover of Tim Buckley's "buzzin Fly" for the encore. I haven't heard the
original of this track (shame on me) but she does the song real justice and
I love it. It allows her to show off her vocal gymnastics and great vocal
range as she moves effortlessly through the scale.
I have a hunch that Siobhan will
throw a great live gig and would love to see her in an intimate little club.
– ‘Summer of Abaddon’ (Touch and Go)
I’ll start this by saying one thing, I fucking love
Pinback. For a good few years I have followed what they’ve produced
continually annoyed but the lack of attention and credence they receive and,
before their move to Touch and Go, constant frustration at the struggle it
was to get hold of any of their material (the are perhaps linked me thinks).
had known about the imminent release of a new album for some time and as you
do with any band you love waited with both excitement and worry, what if
this is the time it alls goes wrong?
immediately evident even from the first few bars that this isn’t the case
with 'Summer of Abaddon'. ‘Non-Photo Blue’ demonstrates the sound that is
synonymous with them and leads onto sender a song nothing short of
stunning. Pinback manage to somehow bring together Brian Wilson-esque
harmonies with a sinister edge coupled with grooves and repetition and
continuous hooks and end up sounding like no one else but Pinback
‘Fortress’ works as a perfect example for exactly what makes Pinback such a
thoroughly inspiring band utilising live instrumentation, programmed beats
and pitch perfect harmonies. This builds and guilds along together layers up
and then piece by piece is pulled back down.
it is in the finale ‘AFK’ that all the stops are pulled out and Pinback may
have found their greatest song to date. Thumping drums lead into a
passion-fuelled masterpiece, both angry and loud and thoughtful and gentle.
this is said with every new Pinback release but in a fair world Pinback
would be played on the radio and this album would pull them from the
relative obscurity they seem to hold to the view of an adoring public. We
can but hope.
Elliot Smith - From a Basement on the Hill
Authentic artists such
as Elliot can be used to gauge the depth and integrity of modern music, just
as the declining amphibian population indicates the state of our ponds; both
are the first to suffer from a poor state of affairs. This offering
sprinkles together the ethereal touch of Aqualung and the tenderness of The
Finn Brothers, with the coup de grace being a splash of body swaying sixties
flower pop. ‘Let’s get lost’ encapsulates the poignancy and depth of Elliot,
while the zapping ‘Shooting Star’ demonstrates he possessed energy and
diversity until the end.
DAC Crowell - 04 - 83 (Suilven)
DAC Crowell has apparently been making music for over twenty years and this
double CD is labelled a 'retrospective' comprising six tracks which cover
most of this period, three at quarter of an hour, two half hour tracks and a
slim six minuter. Interestingly the shortest track is the lame duck here a
with an indistinct wheezy clattering sound that betrays both DAC Crowell's
industrial music roots and perhaps why they where given up long ago for the
kind of music which makes up the rest of the album.
These long-form tracks are each based
on a synthesiser wash/drone into which various melodies are are faded in and
out, so on 'ahnomia' a synthesised sound suggesting a softly stroked harp is
played off against a more fizzy metallic synthesis in increasingly
noticeable washes. This can be compared to the track 'rising invocations'
where the background is a fuller sound with more bass and the other main
sound has a more tinkly vibrato feel to the melodies.
Both the half hour tracks follow a
similar methodology and at various points individual sounds bring to mind
Elaine Radigue, Pauline Oliveros and Steve Reich, however the overall feel
of the album is that of the early Seventies synthesiser bands from Germany
that DAC Crowell mentions in his notes and the instrumental (rather than
sample based) ambient music of the early nineties. 'rhapsodic' a track
recorded as group called LVXUS seems to acknowledge this and halfway through
a simple live drum motif is woven into the synth washes, the drumming has a
very full sound which allows a decent attack and decay to be heard and gives
the track an edge and provides a distinctive voice both on this album and
from the general ambient soup. If this all seems a bit New Agey I would say
the main distinction is that here slightly (very slightly) rougher sounds
and textures make an appearance, although after ten minutes of the same
leitmotif the ear adjusts to any rough edges and so the effect becomes much
the same and so it's all a matter of your tolerance of such things,
personally I prefer a drone with more bite and to me this is like a warm
bath of sound - pleasant enough, but after half an hour you realise that the
day is slipping away and the water's been slowly cooling down.
– Icecaves (Little Kiss Records)
It gives me a glow inside to receive amazing little
albums like this. Hot dog! Jumping frog! Foma are from Alberquerque, and
they make such a fantastic little noise.
‘Icewaves’ is a brute to peg down, mainly because Foma use the odd piece of
off-kilter indie rock to augment what is basically a sweet, sweet indie pop
sound. But I give them extra pocket money for using a violin. But to get
back to pop again; Foma do it just as good as anyone else. Whether it be the
full on jangle onslaught that is ‘3D Mansions’ or the more ethereal, brittle
beauty of ‘Junior’, POP! music is at the very centre of Foma.
there is more to Foma than just a stab at jangle pop. ‘Rooftops’, for
example teaches the vastly overrated Flaming Lips a thing or two about
anthemic space-pop, and can rock out, angular style, like Pavement when they
want to – see ‘Sydney Smathers’.
which makes ‘Icecaves’ a very pleasing, decidedly old-skool indie pop album.
Not indie pop in the sense of hairslides and hello kitty, but sometimes that
can becomes far too sickly, but very much a pop record all the same. I
Instant Species - Plan E
Plan E is Instant Species’ 5th self-produced and released album
since forming in 1997. While most would have lost all faith and gone back to
the day job, Instant species have plugged away largely it would appear, for
their own amusement, which is more the pity, because this is fab.
depressing that an industry seemingly preoccupied with dredging up wannabes
to mould into carbon copies of the latest fad in their quest for a quick
buck; can overlook those bands that do not conform to the latest zeitgeist,
but instead have not forgotten that music is first and foremost about
is life, which leaves Instant Species to entertain themselves, and who ever
else happen to listen, which if there were any justice would be .
nothing ground breaking here, just a collection of great tunes, none of
which can be easily pigeonholed. By releasing their own records, Instant
Species are able to record whatever takes their fancy, without being
concerned with the constraints of conforming with a particular genre.
ranges from the straightforward punk of Find Yourself and No Centrefold
through the sweetly melancholic country of “Scott Free” (had me reaching
several times for the repeat button), culminating in a charmingly perverse
hidden track, which sounds uncannily like Vic Reeves’ spoof of Barry White.
Me Nothing starts out like the Kinks’ Dead End Street, before launching into
a chorus that earns innumerable brownie points for its “wooo wooo wooo”
backing vocals. Formula 1 dabbles with disco, while Night In The City is an
infectious blend of the Strokes with a dash of, dare I say it, Shawaddywaddy
minus the cheese.
sounds like the band has had a whale of a time making this album, they
haven’t cut corners on the quality; how many demo cd’s come with not one but
two home produced promotional videos? Not just crappy home videos either,
there is as much imagination and humour gone into these as in the music.
Species’ refreshing eclecticism deserves the kind of praise lauded on that
of The Coral a few years back, and I’m baffled, frankly, that they have yet
be signed whilst the industry bigwigs continue to peddle dross of the
who cares, as long as the band continues to produce stuff of this quality on
their own there is hope. In the meantime, its available from their website,
The Prefects –
Are Amateur Wankers (Acute Records)
I have loved punk for many years, vehemently and passionately at times. I
loved it enough to spend a chunk of my late teens playing a punk band and I
even wrote a paper on its history and ethics once. I therefore thought I had
a pretty good Knowledge of the subject. If that’s the case then how could a
band as good as the Prefects never surface on my radar?
who like me have never previously had the pleasure of the Prefects before a
brief history may be in order. They were formed in 1977 in Birmingham and
over the space of only a few years they mutated from an above average punk
outfit into the purveyors of post-punk songs as good as anything from the
Fall. Before releasing any records proper they pushed themselves further and
were reinvented as the Nightingales. It is now thanks to Acute Records that
we get to hear all the Prefects sessions plus a couple of live tracks to
collection of tracks proves many of us may have been missing out on a
hearing an important and brilliant band. From the earlier more traditional
punk sounding numbers like ‘VD’ (Peels favourite apparently) an ‘Escort
Girls’ to the early post punk tracks which show there want and need to be
more than just another punk band by utilising more angular complex songs
structures and experimentalism (saxophones anyone, or maybe guitar and
clarinet duet solos). This is shown on two of the best songs you probably
never got to hear, the slow almost stoner-esque ‘Going Through the Motions’
and the superb ‘Total Luck’. But perhaps the crowning glory of this record
is the wonderful 10 minute masterpiece about a pub bombing ‘The Bristol Road
Leads to Dachau’, a song that should be heard by anyone who truly loves and
prefects were a band who deserved more recognition when they were making
this music and who definitely deserve your time and attention now.
– Night of the Killer Longface (RCR)
Anyone who’s seen Misterlee’s often captivating live show will not be
disappointed by how his nightmarish epics turn out on this, the second
Misterlee makes a fucking terrifying sound. “Slug from the cup of blame”,
are the first words Lee Allatson screams on this album, and you know you’re
in for a bumpy ride from there on in. There are samples of wicked laughs,
bone shaking drums and moans and groans I last heard on the ghost train at
Skegness. And if that’s not enough to fill you with dread, I don’t know what
rarely does the spookiness let up on this album, notably on ‘Kind’, but even
that has something not altogether right about it.
can imagine Tom Waits fronting a bunch of music playing zombies from ‘Night
of the Living Dead’ then you’re pretty much near the sound of ‘Night of the
Killer Longface’. Misterlee scare me Mummy.
of Colonies of Bees – Customer (Polyvinyl)
Customer is nothing if not complex. Its three different release formats (LP,
CD and Japanese release) are three different interpretations of the same
album all of which are an amalgamation of traditional instrumentation and
electronic interventions. It is simple and complex, it is minimal and full,
and it is an album almost beyond categorisation.
specialises in tracks that would be more truthfully classified as movements
than songs and from first hum to final thrum they are multifaceted works of
wonder. What this album really deals with is a sense of emotion and one that
is constantly changing. It can be relaxing and hypnotic and then feel
claustrophobic and tense. Every track is constantly surprising and leaves
never knowing quite what you should think of it.
album is a joyous celebration of a band doing what they thought was right
whether anyone else paid heed or not. In doing this they have given us a
fresh, startling and noteworthy musical experience that truly defies
The Morning After (Fortuna Pop!)
In a world that is and endless repeat of the fucking X Factor, any kind of
high art should be accessible to the masses. Thank heavens, then, that
Would-be-Goods are here to save us all.
Morning After’ is easily the best WBG album so far, and their most
accessible. This is a record that makes me feel happier on a cold winter’s
day. It makes me want to do that little heel kick thing that Eric Morecombe
and Ernie Wise used to do. But not in public, you understand.
this is album crammed with great pop songs. From the opening rush of
‘Pantomime Devil’ and on through ‘What Adam and Eve Did Next’ and onto the
dainty baroque strummings of ‘The King of Lace’, Jessica Griffin and co –
and the co this times includes the sublime Lupe Nunez-Fernandez from Pipas
- have made a truly strong album.
the guitar playing here is fantastic, and Peter Momtchiloff makes the who
thing swing so well with his choppy Smiths chords and gentle strings here
and there. When he wants to rock out (in the gentlest sense, of course), he
can, most notably on the title track and ‘Miss La-di-Dah’. Elsewhere he
picks a mean string of the beautiful closing track, ‘Dear St Valentine’,
possibly my favourite here.
you’re feeling a little damp this winter, simply listen to ‘The Morning
After’ for that…errm…woolly double glazed effect. Then get Ted Moult round
to listen to it. Pop at its most righteous.
Kate Maki – Confusion unlimited
Kate Maki is a Canadian singer songwriter who was recommended to me in the
interview he did with Tasty last month. Now what man alive won’t take the
advice and judgement of Howe Gelb seriously/ not me that’s for sure so I got
Kate to send me a copy…it didn’t arrive. Royal fucking Mail again folks.
Thankfully Kate was good enough to realise that I have little to know
control over the postal service so sent me another copy. I say thankfully
because this album is a true treat.
plays country-tinged folk that aches with laidback candour. On tracks like
strangest Dram she sounds startlingly like a cross between Jolie Holland and
Laura Viers as lap steel and a whole host of other subdued backing glides
along effortlessly with Kate. That is very much how the whole album feels.
Its intimate and relaxed, the kind of album you find yourself leaning into
to the speakers to listen to, as if this will help you and the music become
This is a
record full of hushed tones, plucked melodies and drifting simply stunning
songs. To top that off it comes with a recommendation from Howe Gelb. How on
earth can you possibly ignore this?
Co Star – Keep it
Light (Only Ever Records)
I do wonder about some people. Y’know..when they first pick up a guitar or
whatever, and decide to form a band. Do they set out to be different, or do
they just think that they’re different?
path Co Star took, it hasn’t really worked. ‘Keep it Light’ falls between
many stools. It’s not emo. It’s not rock. It’s not indie. Sometimes this is
a good thing, of course, and maybe I’m just trying to pigeonhole them
because I’m a lazy bugger, but I’d beg to differ. Most of this album falls
into the same dull territory that the Manic Street Preachers seem happy to
inhabit these days. And I hope that Co Star don’t take that as a compliment.
people will love their rocky musings. But rarely has there been a more apt
title for an album.
The Icicles – A
Hundred Patters (Microindie)
It’s such a joy to know that this band are still together. Scoot through the
tasty archives to find a review of The Icicles’ last album, and there’s an
interview somewhere too. But back to the now, because the fag end of 2004
sees the band release their second wonderful album. ‘A Hundred Patterns’
reminds me of the Popguns at their best, and is girl-flavoured pop at its
can imagine the sweetest sound you’ve ever heard, spread thickly across your
favourite bread, then you don’t even get close to The Icicles’ majesty. Not
only that, but this album came wrapped in a dress pattern, complete with an
Icicles sewing kit. Now that, readers, is class.
music? Well, take your pick from all 11 tracks here. My favourites are the
way cute ‘Happy Place’ which has some of the best keyboards you’ll hear on
any song EVER, and ‘Snowman’ which is just the most perfect pop song I think
I’ve ever heard.
this way; if you don’t buy this album your life will be dull and empty. Do
you really want to take the chance on not hearing one of the best albums
2004 had to offer? I thought not…
Owen – I Do Perceive
Mike Kinsella has been rather prolific when it comes to his recording carer
to date including stints in Cap’n Jazz, Joan of Arc and Owls. Utilising the
skills and experience he gained from this rather illustrious list in recent
years he has begun recording solo work under the pseudonym ‘Owen’ and I Do
Perceive is the latest full length form this solo offering.
kinsella achieves with I Do Perceive is a sort of rich and personal record
of lush acoustic numbers frequently sombre in tone and often with a subtle
complexity. A track like ‘That Tattoo isn’t Funny Anymore’ demonstrates this
as well as anything else present here as a small tight repeating guitar part
opens up into a full meandering number. This tends to be true for much of
the album as it features some rather warm and complex music and pared back
problem I do have with this release is though I don’t know if it has enough
to it to keep it form being more than just another nice set of acoustic
songs focused around heartbreak. It too easily steers towards being
self-obsessed and heartbroken for the sake of it and can fail to continually
kinsella gets it write it can be a beautiful experience to share but I’m
just not sure if he has the talent to avoid sounding like another grown man
who should, well, pull himself together I guess.
Various – GoJonnyGoGoGoGo Favourites Vol 1 (GoJohnnyGoGoGoGo Records)
My word, that’s a pain in the arse to type. GJGGGG is Jonny from Leeds, a
somewhat legendary gig promoter who puts on ace gigs and the odd all dayer
or five. This is his life.
Thankfully, Jonny gets the piss poor Motormark out of the way straight away,
and so it’s not a problem that they’re sub-Sheep on Drugs schtick fills me
full of dread, cos you’ve got a whole album to look forward to after track
one is out of the way.
some great bands on here…Jeffrey Lewis serves up his usual great
narrative-pop with the garage-tastic ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’,
whilst Bearsuit go mental on the superb-duper ‘Rodent Disco’, Milky
Wimpshake make me shiver at just how good they are with ‘I Love You. You
Weirdo’, and bugger me if that isn’t The Chemistry Experiment’s ‘You’re the
Prettiest Thing’, which really is the prettiest thing.
Compilation albums are more often than not a touch dodgy. This one is most
definitely not. Hurray for Jonny. The little go-er.
Aloha – Here Comes
Everyone (Polyvinyl Records)
It’s an oddity to say the least to choose the vibraphone as the base element
in your bands sound but that is just what Aloha have done. This is however
justly one of the many wondrous and surprising things about Aloha.
Aloha have managed to create in the writing of Her Comes Everyone is one of
the most complete pop records in years. They have then taken this and soaked
it in ambience and complex layers leaving us with a dense and charming
and flow as elements of jazz-rock and pop collide. This results in hazy
melodic gems like the wonderful Summer Away a song about moving on and
forward whilst always wondering about what we leave in our wake. These sit
side by side with tracks like I Don’t Know What Else To Do a jazz steeped
song one part Karate one part The Shins with an almost Eastern European folk
slant to it.
a band whose songs aren’t about any one element. The complex harmonies
created by every aspect of the band from vocals through to percussion sit as
one entity and its difficult to imagine the tracks arranged any other way.
This is Prog in many ways but it avoids ever sounding pretentious but
instead trades this for integrity and a refreshing sound that is all of
Elliot – The Long Way Round (Independent Records)
This in a ‘nice’ album. In the way that Aled Jones is ‘nice’. Or tomato soup
is ‘nice’. I’ve nothing really against it, but maybe it shouldn’t really be
here. A bit like Nottingham Forest.
Elliot used to be in some band or other that were a wow on the mid-90s
underground scene over here in the UK. I’ve lost the press release, so I’m
gonna have a stab at Delta. I apologise if I’m wrong.
‘The Long Way Round’ has plush packaging and a modern sounding retro
production, if that makes sense. It’s a singer-songwriting album, half
acoustic, half anthemic. If that makes your dinner party go with a swing
then you know where to put your cash. Me? I’d rather go for a veggie burger
with Napalm Death, truth be told.
– Is Your Revolution Merely For Display? (Engineer Records)
From first chord you immediately know what you’re getting with Arameus.
They’re loud, complex and pretty damn good.
album demonstrates a new talent on the hardcore scene as Arameus scream,
yelp and sing there way through eight tracks which sound like Small Brown
Bike being attacked sporadically by a crow with a love of complex metal. We
have tight and complex guitar riffs that spiral and build around a mix of
gruff screams, pained squawks and sung elements. The overall result is
packed with anger but most importantly it’s also packed with talent.
This is a
formidable effort for any with an interest in music that is heavy in volume
as well as integrity.
Stars – Melody Rules Everything (Handclaps and Fuzz)
Nutron Stars are mucho fun. And the title of this album is possibly very
great indeed. Hailing from the grubby Nottingham of Carlton, this band make
great little pop songs using, yes that’s right, handclaps and fuzz, and a
drum machine, and sound a little bit like very early Carter the Unstoppable
Sex Machine. Hurrah! Especially on ‘Surfing the Sunshine’. They’re basically
the sort of band that should be playing at every office party ever.
make me want to dance. Which is to be commended. ‘The Psychic Fire Brigade’
has far too many ‘ba-da-ba’s than is safe for my hips to ignore. This
feeling is repeated of many occasions throughout this deliciously funky
little mini-album. I think I may want to snog Nutronstars. Lucky them.
Panda Bear – Young
Prayer (Paw Tracks Records)
Prayer is a son’s refection on the death of his father; in particular it is
Panda Bear from Animal Collective’s reflection about his deceased parent. It
is an album concerned with soul searching, honesty and looking for the
meaning in events that we have no control over. It is often difficult and
musically complex and to top this off all songs are untitled. This could
result in a self-obsessed and pretentious piece of work of no relevance to
anyone else other than Panda Bear himself. Thankfully for the main part this
is not the case.
named as it is the whole experience of the album does feel at times
spiritual and cultish, like being sucked into some odd American collective
and giving them all your money before a ritual suicide that corresponds with
the summer solstice. It can also sound tender and is a work obviously rooted
in mood and the changing of atmospheres rather than traditional songs. This
for the most whilst being rather challenging is ultimately actually rather
rewarding especially on track 5 which as about as joyous as nonsense can
ever truly be. However I will admit that at times I did tire of its seaming
lack of structure. The other side to this is though that it is this
unstructured near innocence that ultimately dragged me back each time, a
conundrum that has meant I can never really decide quite how I feel about
rewarding if often demanding release.
The (International Noise Conspiracy) – Armed Love (Burning Heart)
All hail the finest communist rock band in the world! By rights, I shouldn’t
like this at all, but I bloody well do. If an adrenalin rush is what you
need, then stick ‘Armed Love’ on, because it’s knocked the sleep out of my
eyes this morning.
folk music turned up to number eleven. It’s the sound of a band straining
every sinew to play music they love, and get across the message they NEED
to. Listen to the passionate entreaties in ‘Let’s Make History’, or ‘The Way
I Feel About You’. Sure, this is also music filled with every rock ‘n roll
cliché in the book, but so bloody what.
Redskins jamming with the E Street Band. Imagine the sound of the
underground turning into a mass movement. Imagine if this really was the
soundtrack to the revolution. Utterly joyous.
Lucie Idlout –
E5-770 : My Mother’s Name (Arbor)
think a small history lesson is needed before we begin. In the 30’s and 40’s
the Canadian Government allocated the Inuit population with disk numbers
depending on their geographical locations as their Inuktitut names made them
hard for the Canadian administrators to identify. This led to Lucie's mother
being official known as E5-770. How crazy and frankly frightening is that?
social history out the way, lets get onto the music. Lucie Idlout plays what
can most simply described as dirgey rock. It is often industrial sounding
and clangs and crunches along. The lyric are often personal and with a high
social conscience whilst avoiding being preachy but the real basis of the
music is strong, at times somewhat folk and country tinged, rock almost like
a female Johnny Dowd.
Idlout demonstrates she is a refreshing presence in a scene that lacks
credible female talent.
The Subcons – Time Has Come
There’s a man on the inner sleeve who looks like a young Bernard Butler.
This is a good sign.
Subcons number the tracks on this sprawling album from 6-18 – the SCAMPS!
I’m not sure why they do this, apart from some kerrraazzy concept thing that
I’m missing. Any road up, as they don’t say round these parts, ‘Time Has
Come’ is, in parts a jolly enjoyable affair. The Subcons remind me a little
of the Boo Radleys around that brilliant time between ‘Everything’s Alright
Forever’ and ‘Giant Steps’ which spawned so many great, great songs. Except
that The Subcons have less of a tendency to turn everything up dead loud.
Which is okay, ‘cos I’ve got a blinding headache. Instead, theirs is a quite
psyche-pop, tinged with gentle touches of folk, which gives this album a
very warm, fuzzy feel.
yourself inside a psychedelic ball of cotton wool, and just snuggle down
with The Subcons. They do, after all, deserve your hugs.
Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – The Doldrums (Paw Tracks)
Ariel Pink is the first non-Animal collective band to have had the privilege
of appearing on the Paw Track roster and was discovered in its previous
incarnation as a demo CD-R distributed by the man himself. Animal Collective
loved and now wants us to love it to.
in lies the problem, as it’s not the easiest thing in the world to love. On
first listen its hard to shake the feeling that perhaps your listening to a
chewed tape or the Beach Boys lost underwater demos as extremely lo-fi pop
(recorded with only a guitar, keyboard and 8-tarck tape) jerks and hisses
from the speakers. It is an album of often sinister, constantly bizarre
tunes akin to a radio broadcast on The Twilight zone.
what you do realise on repeat listening is that what first seems like the
messy work of a man with obvious mental worries is actually phenomenally
complex pop with a definite leaning towards Bowie, for instance all the
primitive drum sounds throughout are produced with his vocals and you soon
realise that hidden within there are wonderful harmonies and a kind of
childlike sense of fun and wonder.
well be the nonsense put together by a human oddity misusing music as a form
of expression or equally it may well be the wondrous work of a an inspired
and deeply talented individual, but I think its probably an amazing
combination of the two.
Spraydog – Mint Hand
Hey, hey, hey! This is a great little album. I remember when there were a
lot of little bands like this doing the rounds, and their absence has made
the dangerous world of indie a lesser place for their leaving. Think The
Family Cat, think Backwater. Think for a minute at just how good the fuzzed
up guitar and ramshackle drum kit can sound.
Spraydog take their cue from Sonic Youth and the like, but they wouldn’t be
the first, now would they? No. What sets Spraydog apart from the rest of the
smaller indie world at the moment is their adherence to a formula that works
for them. Whilst other people rave about just how ‘far out’ some bands are
using loads of different instruments, the old-fashioned bugger in me is
drawn to the fact that Spraydog can make a bloody ACE sound with just a
couple of guitars, a bass, some drums and a couple of vocal lines. In short,
this takes me back. Great stuff.
‘Prince’ Billy / Matt Sweeney – Superwolf (Domino)
Yes it’s finally here. I know that since earlier this year when first
mention of a new Bonnie ‘Prince Billy release was hinted at fans have been
awaiting it with much anticipation. Oldham by now is a cult figure
surrounded by a great deal of rumour and story and his music is often met
with mixed reception (many fans were less than happy with his covers of his
early Palace songs given a rather country leaning earlier this year for
instance). What makes this release, under his pseudonym Bonny ‘Prince’
Billy, slightly different from others is that rather than being a solo
effort the songwriting duties have actually been shared here. The individual
in question? Matt Sweeney. Now I must stress this isn’t merely an Oldham
album with Sweeney guesting, rather a literal sharing of song writing,
Oldham being responsible for the lyrics and Sweeney looking after the music
side of things. The big question this poses then is, ‘Does it work?’. The
very simple answer is thankfully yes.
evident from even the first song that Sweeney and Oldham have a close
understanding of each other and their abilities. Instrumentation marries
with vocals beautifully as if this were always the way the two wrote songs.
By track three it is evident that we have Oldham on fine form with the mix
of sinister wit tainted with a smutty humour as together the two of them
sing of taking someone over there knee and spanking them mercilessly. It is
also the track on which you realise the diversity of musical talent Sweeney
possesses and brings to the record. Goat and Ram sees him putting Oldham’s
vocals to a guitar riff soaked in prog glory and achieves a sound like
Queens bastard brother. This is not to say this album strays to far from the
Bonnie sound or benchmark. Bed Is For Sleeping is classic Oldham and with it
we get a beautiful semi-lullaby that basks in melancholy. The closing
number I Gave You also has echoes of Oldham’s solo song writing and is a
pained lament full of fragile bitterness as only he can write.
on the kind of more considered and directional song writing we heard
displayed on Master and Everyone, Superwolf proves he is still one of the
most intriguing individuals in contemporary music today. It also marks the
first realise of a partnership that seems to bring out the best in both
parties. Lets hope this sort of anti-Simon and Garfunkel don’t leave it as a
one off freak occurrence.
Stressed Vol.1 - ‘The Finest Underground Noise in the Midlands’ (Stressed
This compilation boasts the finest underground noise form the Midlands. Now
stop sniggering many fine things have come from the Midlands (including
myself) so why not some fine underground noise as well. And to be fair this
compilation actually does actually live up to its title as well.
compilation will always be a mixed bag, the Revels of the music world if you
will, there are certainly some gems in here. Dragonflies Draw Flame’s own
blend of melodic rock akin to the Jam being attacked by some punk kids is a
personal favourites is Lardpony’s electro pop love tale of the woes of
loving those who do you no good, in this case a noxious gas. Following this
in Flight Program deliver some first class heavy punk tinged rock not unlike
a less thuggish consumed. However there are stinkers (the Coffee ones if you
like), Fallen Friend are nothing short of painful, The Atoms prove three
chords can be misused and today’s poor mans Muse are You Judas.
that said this is a fine little comp that is certainly worth grabbing a copy
of and having a listen. Who knows what gems the midlands has in store for
Skandinavia (Blobal Warming)
Essentially a vehicle for ex-Bellatrix singer/songwriter Eliza Newman,
Skadinavia bridge the tricky crevasse between metal, operetta, The Corrs and
Norse mythology. I imagine that if you trawl deep enough into the bottom of
a crevasse you find all sorts of nasties that would have been best left at
the bottom of a crevasse. The same could also be said about listening to
Is it me
or does the frankly bizarre opening line of the album 'I am a hunter of
love' sound like it is sung slightly out of key? I'm not sure. I am sure
however that some things are best not mixed. Two of those I would say are
metal riffs and violins. Add to that the undeniably powerful vocals of Eliza
and you have created a cocktail of sound that frankly makes me cringe at
By far the highlight for me
is 'Swim' where the overdrive and distorted guitars are kept at bay long
enough for a rather beautiful ballad to be formed. But before long the
Zeppelin rip off 'Dark Days' has stomped all over my ears.
There is hope here but this
is the sound of a band who have yet to really decide what sound suits them
best and who have thrown every metal genre in to the mixer.
Mama Scuba - You're a Long Time Dead, So What's the Rush? (Redemption)
Hurrah for Leeds boys Mama Scuba! When I was telling long time Tasty
collaborators from Wrath Records how great this album is the simple response
was ' It should be - it's taken nearly five years.'
I don't know the details of
the album's inception but it is definitely a tour de force in indie spaz pop
with just enough sinister snarly undertones to keep a bitter and twisted
individual like myself interested. There are moments which are so bleak such
as 'The Untouchable' that they would have Leonard Cohen reaching for the
Kleenex. Then these cheeky chappies disguise some deeply disturbing
character traits in an upbeat Christmas type jingle on 'Snow'.
I'm not really one for lyrics
but these make for a pretty grim reading, universally morbid. But this is
not reflected in the songs themselves which out-quirk Franz Ferdinand and
out-rock The Hives. It would be lazy to categorise this as art rock as there
are clearly more influences on display like Echo and the Bunnymen and The
Pixies. Already with recognition from Melody Maker, The NME and Radio 1 it
would seem that those 5 years making the album were well spent.
New General Catalogue (Drowned in Sound)
New General Catalogue is an attractive
proposition. With photography in the sleeve that instantly creates a strong
ambience, I have hopes for this offering from Red Jetson. They don’t last
Striving to be Radiohead they seem to
have got waylaid listening to Keane. It’s a familiar pitfall for musicians
growing up on a diet of The Bends (a classic album but I always end up
listening to OK Computer); it is an easy profile to imitate, but not
necessarily to do well. They are trying to be epic and ambient, with some
tracks hitting 7 or 8 minutes, but there is little depth to it; a guitar
with an echo doesn’t make for a soundscape.
When the tracks are isolated from each
other they start to sound a bit more interesting, playing them through a
random selector, they hold their own a little better. Maybe the album is a
little premature, the band perhaps needing to broaden their horizons before
settling in to producing 11 finished tracks.