albums - mar 2005
Heart Like a River (Polyvinyl)
Ten years is a long time to invest in a band. You have to really believe in
what you’re doing to carry on making music in the same outfit for a decade
and its obvious firm their music that Ida do.
specialise in are harmonies, think Low inhabiting the Beach Boys bodies.
Actually don’t that’s horrific. From the opening moments of Laurel Blues the
albums first track you are immediately aware that you are about to witness
something very special. The vocal performances on this album lean towards
understated and hushed but somehow the layering of the three performers
vocals and the mix of male and female make them seem all encompassing and at
Like a River excels at managing to be gripping and diverse but extremely
subtlety. They manage to move from tracks where drones and overdrive hum
away to simple beautiful jazz infused moments like Late Blues, the track
Geoff Farina wishes he’d written. It is this diversity that allows an album
that is nearly an hour long seem like it was barely on.
like a River is an album to be basked in, one to let yourself fully get
immersed by. It astonishes that after 10 years a band can sound this fresh
and produce what is a truly stunning album. Is it too early to be uttering
the words ‘one of the albums of the year’?
Buckners – See You In Court
A six track, very swish demo from the US, which sees The Buckners doing
their College Rock thang very competently, but without ever making anywhere
near moist. There are more chunky guitar chords here than you can throw a
sweaty plectrum at, but where’re the guile? The craft? The POP music?
nearest The Buckners get to exciting is closing track ‘Confident’, which
sounds like an old REM track, but at the end of the day, it’s not really
worth wading through five tracks of plodding indie rock to hear something
which could only be termed as ‘good’. A shame, for they’ve clearly spent all
their pocket money on packing ‘See You In Court’.
awaits me, I’ll bet.
The Sound Explosion - The
Sound Explosion (Captains of Industry)
Yeah! Let's hear it for rock 'n' roll! There is no doubt that The Sound
Explosion seriously know how to rock. Massive Bonham-esque drums and more
than a smidgeon of Zeppelin mixed in with lyrics about excess and drugs (I'm
assuming the line 'spends all his time looking for a mainline' is not
documenting a man's search for commuter train services).
The songs are big and
posturing, much like the band themselves. And let's face it, they have to be
with titles like 'Shotgun of Love' (Spinal Tap alert). Fortunately The Sound
Explosion can pull these kind of things off due to their excellent song
writing and impressive delivery. There is a riff round every corner and a
sing-along chorus every step of the way (I can't believe I've got 'Shotgun,
Of Lurrve' stuck in my head!) There is plenty of nifty guitar harmonics on
'Living in the Caves' and 'Night Train' sounds just plain fab. 'In the City
provides just a little bit of a bluesey breather before, again heavily laced
in Led Zep influences before the rest of the album kicks off until the end.
Impressive stuff and you've just got to love the drumming.
Wimpshake – Popshaped (Fortuna Pop!)
Aahh..the mighty ‘Shake. For nearly ten years now this wonderful flop ‘n
roll band have lightened up my life with their tales of love, loss and dirty
‘Popshaped’ is no different, thanks goodness. Pete Dale still sings about
girls he’s never gonna get, the welfare state, and the little man fighting
back. And all above the greatest indie pop music.
album is a collection of new songs and older stuff that never made it to
record, or is dead difficult to get hold of these days. And how lovely of
them is that?
the show! ‘Pearshaped’ is the first classic you’ll come across here. A cover
of a Nev Clay song and featuring fantastically sardonic vocals from Cath
Tyler, it’s jangletastic in the extreme, AND manages to slag off Patsy
Kensit, and that’s just about everything a great pop song should, don’t you
Elsewhere, there’s the psych-pop of ‘Don’t Get Down (Get Even)’ – a great
big swirly, deftly threatening song about the masses taking the power back –
YEAH! – and remind me a lot of songs of The Housemartins’ ‘London 0 Hull 4’
album. And that’s high praise in my book, so there.
Meanwhile, back at pop central, ‘Needed: Heart Handbook’ is the song that
the Shangri-Las never quite managed to record. But perhaps the greatest song
here isn’t a Milky Wimpshake song at all. The medley – for want of a better
phrase – of Daniel Johnston’s ‘True Love Will Find You In The End, and
Jonathan Richman’s ‘Don’t Let Our Youth Go Waste’ is truly spine-tingling,
and possibly embellishes even the brilliant original versions of both songs.
For once, Milky Wimpshake play it totally straight – and with wonderful
followed up by the desolate ‘Cheque Card’, in which Dale sound both angry
and desperate at the same time. Utterly beautiful.
this is easily the best album of the month, and is up there with the Pipas
album as the best this year has given us. And as long as Milky Wimpshake are
still making records, then the world will be a more just place. Amen.
Palm Reader (Polyvinyl)
So what do you do if your two bands both suddenly fold? Well in the case of
Steve Sostak of Sweep the Leg Johnny fame you grab your alto sax round up a
few other musicians (including a classically trained pianist) and put
together one of the most original sounding and remarkable bands to put out a
record for a while.
they start, they groove they rock. ZZZZ’s idea of music is unlike anyone
else’s. A bizarre mix of sort of dance punk, gypsy folk and anything by
Danny Elfman this saxophone led oddity is serious, fun, enjoyable and absurd
all at the same time. It is an album that is packed with tension heightened
by the female and male vocal duel that is ever present but also in the bands
ability to move form angular dance ability to drifting sonata.
ZZZZ are unusual and diverse
and may not be everyone’s cup of tea, however those who don’t take a listen
will definitely be missing out on a treat
Marmaduke Duke - The
Magnificent Duke (Captains of Industry)
Here's a novel concept (forgive the pun). An album where every song is based
on a chapter of a book that the artist's parents wrote. Not only that, but
the books chart the subject's decent into madness. Got that? Then I shall
start off well with a ferocious beast of an opening track followed up by the
wonderfully melodic 'An Egyptian and an Imposter'. By the time we get to
'Fridge and Fromage' things are going a little bit weird - growly distorted
guitar parts and a very minimalist percussion part - this is actually very
But this is a long album
(it must have been a long book) and there is only so long you can keep
messing about with time signatures. While there is a lot of interesting
stuff going on, in the vain of bands like Lords and Bilge Pump, there is
also quite a bit of self indulgent twaddle. I think things came to a head
when a friend came round and asked if I was listening to Pink Floyd.
Don't be deceived, this is
a good record. But like you wouldn't want to read a whole book in one
sitting, you wouldn't necessarily want to listen to the whole of this in one
Draper – One Two Three Four (Planting Seeds Records)
You don’t hear many albums as cute as this, that’s for sure. Whether Draper
will thank me for saying that, I’m not sure. However, in a world that is
full of really shite female singer/songwriters, then she is a shining light
Three Four’ is an album of mainly acoustic folk pop chimes, sung in a
delightful voice that immediately enchants. Think if the Famous Five got
together around the camp fire after solving the mystery of the black
handkerchief – well, yes, this is what they’d listen to whilst chomping on
world that lacks a Suzanne Vega album, then Linda Draper is king. Or Queen,
I suppose. Hurrah!
Explosion – Black Tape (Tarantula)
The Explosion’s debut album has left me in somewhat of a quandary. Do I like
it or loathe it? It’s a tricky one.
Tape’ basically bridges the gap between your average pop punk affair and the
raw garage sound more recently perpetuated by the likes of the Bronx. On its
rawer more impassioned moments it can get you stomping along but these are
sadly too infrequent and give way to a more bland poppier side which suffers
from production that scrapes away the last bits of edge left on the record.
all in all The Explosion are a truly average offering and end up sounding
more like a contained blast rather than the uncontrolled car bomb the name
Be Pilots - This is What You Fight For (Captains of Industry)
We Will Be Pilots make rampant, guitar fuelled music with nasty barbed
lyrics that would form a great soundtrack to smashing up your local
Starbucks Coffee House to. In fact, 'Pretend It Doesn't Hurt' sounds like it
may have been recorded while doing just that as it descends into mayhem and
about smashing up your local convenience and the like is that you can only
really do it once, then it's trashed. And so with five tracks of this ep
gone, everything is 80 miles per hour, all the vocals have been fuzzed up
with distortion and I'm waiting for something a little bit different. And
finally Geisha delivers something a little bit different - some of the
vocals aren't swamped in effects and suddenly everything is right with the
sound like a fab band to me and I look forward to seeing them play live some
time soon. But a 30 minute live set and a 40 minute album are two separate
things and I reckon the Pilots might need to find a few more surprises in
their flying jackets to make it work on record.
A Band of Outsiders (Blue Orange Records)
Ahh..wonderful synth pop music. I used to hate you, now I love you. Mainly
because of bands like Potion. Potion make romping, bruising, sophisticated,
fuck-you pop music, and in Annie Maley they have a true star just waiting to
be found and made into an international queen of the free world.
of Outsiders’ never really lets up. From ‘25th Century’ – an ode
to Buck Rogers it seems – onwards, Potion’s sound is that of a modern pop
band running wild through the history of music. They even make the banjo
sound sexy. Beat that George Formby!
where things do let up a little, the quality never dims. Take ‘Til The
Morning’, which, oddly, sounds a little like The Smiths around the time of
‘The Queen Is Dead’…but with a drum machine.
think that’s the beauty of Potion. While they are essential a synth pop band
– they have enough about them to realise that a love of Bis and Depeche Mode
will not an album make. All hail them, then for taking in even a bit of
Latino – oh yes! – and following it up with something that wouldn’t sound
out of place on an Orb album.
is a phrase that is too often used, but there’s no better one for Potion.
They might scramble your eggs sometimes, but on the whole I think that’s a
good thing, don’t you?
PAiL - Blue Man on the
Sun (Moderate Roger)
I've been a while putting this review together for various reasons and I
reckon for the whole time my opinion of the record has been fluctuating
backwards and forwards. But now that the moment of reckoning has come, I've
definitely decided to give a thumbs up (for this week at least).
Like a bastardised version of
the Waltons, PAil features three members of the same family, including a
Dad. But unlike Hanson, PAiL are heavy as Rik Waller's lunchbox and vocalist
Seb Koehorst has a voice that would scare the shit out of Faith No More's
Mike Patten. That is, when he decides to scream, the rest of the time is a
rather reedy vulnerable vibrato, and that my friends is the one thing I have
been unsure about.
There is no denying the
quality of the demonic riffs, the popping bass lines and the precise (if a
bit tinny at times) drumming. Obvious comparisons would be The Deftones,
early Headswim (before Parlophone tried turning them into the next Radiohead)
and Biohazard. In some moods the mixture of light and heavy vocals can grate
a bit - just scream Piet! But having the benefit of quite a few listens this
mixture is what might make PAiL stand out from the crowd - it is not one
long onslaught but a journey between light and dark.
Dayjob – S/T (Bad Taste)
Quit your Dayjob are quite obviously weirdoes. The photo on the press
release said as much before I even listened to the record. However on
listening to their music this is more than confirmed. As spiky almost surf-esque
quitar and bass synth churn and repeat over tight drumming you know these
boys aren’t all right. Oh no, they’re bloody brilliant.
catchy songs that will make you want to dance are the order of the day here.
Most songs feature one or two riffs repeated with the same stance taken with
the lyrics. For instance on a track like ‘Tanktop’ we get a repeating groove
with the phrase ‘Tanktop, take it off’ repeated over the top. Now I know
that doesn’t sound much but trust me it is wonderful.
bit of joy into your CD collection and get yourself some quit your day job.
As the opener clearly states ‘The Freaks Are Out’ so come join them.
Tyler - Banjo Music#2 (Justwhattheworldneedsmore)
It's true what they say about nice things coming in small packages, or, in
this case, in next to no packaging at all. No press release telling me how
this disc was going to change my life or who had written what about the
music, just a disc with 20 songs crafted on traditional instruments with
Ronseal, this is exactly what it says it is - banjo music. I would never
have though of myself as a banjo lover, the odd bit of folk and country
maybe, but a whole album of banjo - never! I couldn't even tell you if this
represents good banjo playing or not but it sure is a dang fine hours worth
of britches-twitching music. Recorded in the spring of 2004, it effortlessly
catches the feeling of summer days, just hanging out, somewhere nice and
quiet. Even the odd fiddle accompaniment has me thinking of bubbling brooks
and cowslips rather than square dances or George Formby.
one of those surprise packages that makes reviewing demos worthwhile. I
don't know why you should like this but if you don't then there must be
something wrong with you.
McGees – Wee Twee Album (demo)
Twee album of the month alert! The Bobby McGees are, as far as I can make
out – a twosome who make delightful indie pop, with a broad Scottish brogue
duelling with sugary female vocals. Fans of the late, lamented Prolapse will
know just how well this works, but the BM’s are nowhere near as threatening.
Indeed, they wouldn’t say ‘boo’ to a duckling.
Friends’, ‘You’re Not My Friend Anymore’ ‘Butterflys’…I think you’re getting
the picture here. And it’s ACE! They even use a recorder and I don’t hate
them! There are only six tracks here, and I want more. More, I tells you!
Sons of Otis -
X (Small Stone Records)
7 Songs, 55 Minutes, and some of the heaviest bass lines you are likely to
hear…..ever. I’m actually feeling a little bit sick listening to this, if
anyone was searching for the musical equivalent of suffocation I may very
well have found it, may I present to you Sons of Otis.
There is something incredibly
satisfying to hear a band whose (from what I can gather) soul ambition is to
created some of the heaviest music known to man. Now, I don’t want to cast
any sort of aspersions here, but I’m guessing that whisky and a cocktail of
narcotics were involved in the recording of this album, it would only be
reasonable to assume that. If you are looking for comparisons in a similar
ball park would be Kyuss, Clutch or even Dead Meadow…. You get the picture
very heavy, very slow and very good.
Another one that Metcalf would
probably frown upon.
Antihero - This is an Emergency
Like their Sheffield based peers, 65 Days of Static, Antihero manage to
subvert the mainstream take on guitar bands with subtle changes to
arrangements but also via the use of Korg load of samples and sequencers.
Possibly following some kind
of deep seated emotional anxiety born of school discos past, 'Don't Trust
the DJ' is almost the perfect embodiment of guitar/electronica crossover -
urgency, precision, great hooks and enough of a sound to keep the punters
bopping away at the front of the venues. By far the most successful tracks
on this album are the ones which utilise electronic gubbins to the full
effect. The notable exception being 'UK Garage Girl' which is a sub-pop
When they get it right,
Antihero are a frighteningly good proposition. Sometimes they go a bit off
kilter and the result for me is a couple of songs which aren't particularly
bad but just seem to be a bit sluggish. But when you've got absolute
blinders too like 'Who's Looking Out for Number 1' who cares?
Coastal Café – Old Cartoons
‘Old Cartoons’ has some of the most beautiful packaging I have seen in a
while. The CD case is a small hard backed book, its pages full of beautiful
photographs. Tucked away at the back almost as an afterthought is the album
itself. It all has a sense of joy and innocence, something By Coastal Café’s
music seems to be trying to capture as well.
occasions throughout the 21 tracks compiled here from between ’96-’00 they
manage this. Lo-fi home recordings with frequently muffled vocals hum and
hiss from your speakers with a definite sense of charm to them. This is an
intentional pared back aesthetic, one that is supposed to welcome
experimentation and shows a lack of preciousness and musical clutter.
for all the charm her I cant help but feel this super-lo-fi duo can
sometimes stray to far from the idea of song and melody and the naivety just
document rather than an album, its impossible to deny the charm of By
Coastal Café. ‘Old Cartoons’ manages to be grating, childlike, artistic and
grown up all at the same time. A truly unique body of work.
Various - Dance to the
Radio - Leeds (Dance to the Radio)
Congratulations to Whiskas and the Transmission crew on finally getting
their record label together. Having been putting on top quality gigs in
Leeds for the last few years they are now releasing this compilation as an
introduction to the label as well as a retrospective and forward look at the
Leeds music scene.
That said, anyone who is after a bit of metal, electronica or the many other
genres which are eschewed here in favour of what could most broadly be
described as angular rock, will be disappointed. But this is in effect a
prospectus for the label and there is enough good stuff on display here to
make it a worthy release in its own right.
It's also interesting to
compare some of the bands who have clearly got something about them and who
promise great things in the future with those journeymen bands who may never
have any great success outside the shores of West Yorkshire, no matter how
worthy they are. It's not always about talent - it can be drive, commitment,
opportunity and the many other things that can make or break a band.
As for the music, highlights
are provided by a stupendous return to form by This Et Al and the
frighteningly talented and innovative O Fracas who continue to try out a
whole range of styles and compositions which would scare off your run of the
mill bands. Being 747 and the Scaramanga Six maintain their usual quality
and Baby Food take us back to the 80's with their twisted take on synth pop.
I believe the term is
something for everyone...
Bob Collum & The Welfare Mothers
- The Boy Most Likely To…(Atomic
This is some pretty nice stuff. Good tunes. I’m sure I would enjoy it a lot
more if it were a bit warmer.
I’m just rambling now aren’t I
?.....It’s just that I’m struggling to put down how I feel about this album.
And the over riding sense I get is that it is ‘nice’, don’t get me wrong,
that is not to question the quality of the song writing or the musicianship
involved, it’s just I prefer my ‘alt-country’ a little more bitter and booze
soaked….know what I mean? There are plenty of tracks on here that wouldn’t
sound out of place being played over some teen existentialist crisis on ‘The
OC’, probably when some pretty girl has trample over the heart of some
pretty boy, and the possibility of them ever having uber pretty children
slips further from grasp.
I bet my mum would quite like
Settlefish – The Plural of the
Choir (Deep elm)
‘The plural of the Choir’ is the kind of album any band wishing to describe
them selves as indie rock would love to make. Settlefish's latest full
length offers an indie rock record of maturity and diversity. From the
opener, the gently building ‘Kissing in Chaos’ it is clear we are witness to
something special. Songs are built and stripped, pushed and pulled so just
when you think you’ve worked it out it all changes. It can be angular and
tense or gentle and haunting.
In some ways ‘The Plural of
the Choir’ is a sort of concept album in that it is Jonathon Claney's way of
exorcising and reflecting on elements of his life after the breakdown of a
relationship. This allows us to hear what is an honest album peppered with
regret, joy, longing and bitterness. It is a collection of songs that
because of this really work better as an entirety. It is in short the sound
of a band creating something unique and inventive.
Dugong - Quick to
the City (Bombed Out Records)
It is quite a feat for a band to fit quite as many
hooks and heart crushing melodies into just six songs as Dugong have done
with this latest offering. Along with such an achievement they have created
a (very nicely packaged) document of a band playing at the top of their
comparison to 2003s ‘Hat Danko’ this really strikes me as a much more mature
and developed collection of songs. Where ‘Hat Danko’ was content with
anthemic choruses and amazing hooks, ‘Quick to the City’ is slightly more
complex. With the band incorporating much more ‘mathy’ guitars and frantic
bass lines, the album has been given a far harder edge (listen to ‘Ain't
Seen No Trouble Like Mine’ for evidence of that.),While at the same time
never loosing the melodic sensibilities of previous offerings. Musically
they sound tighter and more assured, and a strong vocal performance from
Matt Broadbent makes this, in my humble opinion, the best Dugong release to
date. It is definitely the sound of a band that have matured (kind of like a
fine wine) and found their feet, to create some of the best heartfelt punk
rock this nation of ours has to offer (I will not be using the ‘Emo’ label,
it’s better than that).
Eleven Minutes Away – Arson Followed Me Home (Deep Elm)
A mix of Punk, Hardcore and Metal, ‘Eleven Minutes Away’ are all about tight
rhythms and anthemia songs. Sing along choruses are pulled together with
snarls and screams. Guitars churn out tight heavy rhythm whilst occasional
metal flourishes lace the lead. All this joins together to make what is
essentially pretty energetic and enjoyable but that suffers from production
that removes all the edge form their sound. What this means is we never
really get anything that lifts this release above being merely quite good.
You’re Next (Small
Another slow burner from the chaps at Small Stone, this time from the
all-female rock-outfit Bottom (please don’t be swayed by the name, this is
really quite good). Although it is undoubtedly heavy as hell, the whole
album is punctuated by some great hooks and some pretty damn good melodies,
albeit swathed in layers of wailing guitars, vomit inducing bass and feed
There is a definite stoner
element to the music presented here, but as with other bands on the label,
they avoid the pit falls of the genre, and aren’t just content to plod from
one crushing power chord to the next, instead opting for a more interesting
approach to song writing and structures, in a similar vein to Isis, Neurosis
or High on Fire.
I can’t imagine Mr. Metcalf
would enjoy this too much.
Bitmap - Micro/Macr0
The gentle eccentrics at Gentle Electric must have completely lost track
of time, as 'Micro/Macr0', the new album from ex-Salako genius Luke
Barwell ('the Brian Wilson of Hull!'), is probably one of the sunniest,
most summery, lemonade-drinkingest records to have been released in a
damp, freezing January. This may have been a deliberate ploy to appeal to
those of us who like a bit of climatic escapism in our music ("hmm, it's
foggy and raining - stick some reggae on"), but I reckon that a few rays
and the scent of freshly-mown grass in the air would stimulate sales of
this record no end. Still, I'm sure they know what they're doing.
Whether you like 'Micro/Macro' will probably depend partly on what you
made of 'Alpha Beta Gamma', Luke's last LP as Bitmap, as it's largely the
same kind of thing, with some much worse track titles and a good few
stealthy musical mutations... the Beach Boys-y ones have been rocked up in
a bit more of Beatles-y way, and the sound of Luke's one-man-band is
generally liver and warmer. The electronics are more spread out, which I
appreciated but also slightly resented, as I always want to hear more
electronica going on - my favourites on this lp are the tracks which have
more electronic-type structures, like the delicately dubby "Soft Bombs in
the See-Thru Forest", and the title track, which is taken over by a big
moogy growly bassline halfway in. Throughout the album, there's a strange
tension between these moments of oscillator-based beauty and their jaunty,
poptastic fellows - even after several listens, it never quite resolves
itself, and so the record as a whole doesn't flow so smoothly as the
first... it's one of those albums where you'll end up skipping different
tracks when listening at different times, as the pace constantly changes.
This will annoy some people.
Luke's songwriting remains a thing of beauty... the lyrics still have that
wide-eyed optimism and the innocent fascination with nature, which might
have been embarrassing in other circumstances but which make perfect
un-self-conscious sense when allied to the appealing simplicity of the
music. And even if the lyrical themes completely pass you by (which was
the case for me with some of the downright twee sounding tracks like "Oh,
Mahima"), you'll find that the uncompromising catchiness of the tunes will
hook you in. It took me a few listens to fully appreciate the extent to
which this record is a progression from 'Alpha Beta Gamma'... initially I
thought it had a few 'filler' tracks which could have been lost, but when
I tried to identify them, I found they all contained moments of
indispensable golden pop perfection (except 'Blood For Money' which we
really could do without). It's a more relaxed and self-confident record
than the first album, and though it lacks the bite of the songs from the
'Black Arts In The Town Hall' EP, I feel that it's a worthy sequel and
deserves every success.
Josh Rouse - Home
I bought Josh Rouse’s first album, Dressed up like
Nebraska, when it was released but owned it for two years before I really
got into it. Now I would probably consider it one of my favourite albums.
Consequently I’m not going to be playing hard and fast with my opinions on
his new release Home.
Unfortunately, having listened to the record a few times only curiosity is
going to make me play it again. There’s nothing on the album that screams
wrong at you, but all the tracks merge into one radio friendly hum of bland
production values. The last four tracks do raise their heads above this fog
of banality, and you think
maybe I’m wrong. This is good. I like the drumming on track…’
put the album on again only to realise that 30 minutes have passed, it’s
track 7 again and you’ve listened to the first six tracks but thought it was
just one. Maybe (hopefully) I’m wrong and all Rouse records take a couple of
years to crack. But I dunno...
like this: You know you have some music that no matter how long you’ve owned
you’re still reluctant to lend it to a friend because you know you might
have to listen to it soon. Instead you answer;
give me a blank tape/CD/minidisc and I’ll copy it for you.’
anyone of my mates borrow this, even after they’d joined the army.