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  albums - november 2005

 

 

Alex Gomez – Metallic Blue Electric (Deltalectric)
Not much info at hand regarding this bloke, in fact no info at all, and good, let’s listen without prejudice, as Georgey might say. Let’s just say the LP does exactly what the ttile suggests – it is definitely blues done on an electric guitar, whether it’s metallic is open to question. What it is though, is very roughly recorded and/or produced, and “Sticky Icky” borrows from the Stones’ “The Last Time”, not that they never borrowed riffs of course. I’m guessing all this has been recorded by the artist himself, such is its lo-fi ness. And it certainly doesn’t suffer from that. If you like your blues rough as a badger’s arse and more lo-fi than Beck’s earliest offerings, then I suggest you hook up with this feller. You’ll not be let down.

(
www.alexgomez.biz)

Dave Procter

You Judas - Discover Mutiny (Fight Me)
Like a waking beast shuddering back to life from hibernation (or in this case, Derby) You Judas are quite a scary proposition. It seems in the 2 years that its taken to produce 'Discover Mutiny' You Judas have managed to assimilate most of the CNN feeds from bad news around the globe and they are hell bent on exorcising these demons via the undoubted acerbic nature of their music. Make no mistake, this is openly hostile and aggressive - the sound of four men who have reached their limits with the leaders of our world and have nowhere else to go but deeper and darker into their art.

There is a definite recurrence of Bleach-era Nirvana about this - all that pent up energy and emotion spilling out. But this is tempered by brooding precision and attention to detail. 'Rats with Wings' builds then sinks, then changes tempo then twists and distorts its way to its own death whereas 'One Day Your Money Will Mean Nothing' is more easily aligned to a post rock ancestry including the likes of Shellac. Whereas the disguised threat of the title track is rendered with arguably the calmest song, 'American Empire' follows it up sounding gratifyingly like Tool, complete with Maynard screams.

'Entropy' [Inevitable and steady deterioration of a system or society] is exactly what it says on the tin, spiralling into a decreasingly cogent rant through its 3 minutes. Bringing this apocalyptic collection to a conclusion is 'You Will Discover the Casualties are Heavier than Expected' starts off in what could loosely be described as standard thrashathon but the 4 minutes of slightly phasing ghostly white noise at the end reminds you that You Judas are anything but standard. Two years well spent.

SB


The Eighteenth Day of May – s/t
Imagine a West Coast-fixated Fairport Convention with a less shrill Kirsty MacColl on lead vocals, and that’s a pretty summation of the output of this folksy five-piece. With members hailing from the US, Sweden and the UK, and featuring a guest spot from the Olivia Tremor Control no less (who they’ve supported live in the past), TEDOM decorate their psychedelic meanderings with flute, mandolin and viola and claim to be followers of bands such as The Charlatans and The Brian Jonestown Massacre. It’s just shame they’re not quite as interesting. 

Debut single “The Highest Tree” and it’s b-side “Sir Casey Jones” has received praise from NME and airplay on XFM, and both are reasonably jaunty numbers. However, they are rare examples on this mostly one-speed LP.  “Deed I Do” attests to the band’s self-proclaimed Spacemen 3 influence but without that group’s hypnotic allure, and too many of the other songs slip by without capturing the listener’s attention. 

If TEDOM can find a way to shake off the shackles of restraint and inject a bit more excitement into their music then they’ll be a much more enticing proposition. As things stand they’re more a case of nice idea, shame about the execution.

Will Columbine


Nervous Nellie – Don’t Think Feel
I love it when bands start a hotly tipped rock album with a easy listening melodic tune, i.e. the strokes “is this it” or the velvet underground’s “Sunday Morning”, then rips into three minutes of guitar distorted masterpieces! Just like what Nervous Nellie have proven they can do here. The soothing sound of “Cancer” stops abruptly and dives straight into “Personal Elvis” a track that sounds like one of the guitarists is stood with his instrument edged right into the amp giving it some impressive sounding feedback.   

This debut shifts between edgy savage guitar music, like “Million Dollars” (think jet’s second album if they dare go country punk rock!…please don’t fella’s!) To a southern drawl of country blues, like “Homemade phone” its easy listening Indie rock that you can relate to, the lyrics sound simple but are effective and hits you as soon as you sit down, relax and listen. 

Simon Hambrook


J. Mann - Too Much Theatre (Middle of the Road)
Sounds like J. Mann has an interesting background - multi-named (J.Mann being Jordan Mitchell's 3rd or 4th reinvention at least) and well travelled (Russian University, Peru, Barcelona and a crossroads in Ireland amongst others). Yet there is a sincere and warm tone to his voice which gives this recording a homely quality despite its quirky take on the whole kind of rockabilly/country scene.

For pretty much a whole album of acoustic guitar, J.Mann continues to tease new and exciting sounds and ways of playing out of his trusty 6-string. From the impossibly highly picked riff of 'SSB Radio' to the deliberately over-plucked bass strings on 'It's Loud in the City' there's something to keep you interested. And if it still doesn't, well, the average song length is only about 2 minutes so what have you got to complain about?
www.jmannmusic.com

SB


 

Stretch Arm Strong – Free At Last
I thought I’d heard of these guys before. In fact, this is the band’s bid for the big time after a decade of hard graft supporting bigger names like Rancid, Pennywise and Good Charlotte. With a CV like that you’d expect a tight, polished album and that’s pretty much what you get. 

Now, I admit that I normally wouldn’t go out of my way to listen to bands like this, but it sounds reasonably good to these ears. Certainly, its upbeat, defiant tone is highly preferable to some of the mewling bollocks that found its way into the charts a few years back when skate-punk was in vogue. Tracks like “When All Else Fails” and “To the End” strive to encourage positive thinking rather than mosh pit violence, and to cap it all there are some decent melodies to boot.  

Has it made me a convert? No. However, if you’re a fan of the genre you could do a lot worse than check this album out forthwith.

Will Columbine


The Zephyrs - Bright Yellow Flowers on a Dark Double Bed (Acuarela)
Although 'Bright Yellow Flowers..' is described in the press blurb as their most accessible album yet, it's difficult to picture how this Edinburgh-based band could ever be anything other than accessible. The production on this record is so natural and organic that I would defy anyone to find it difficult to listen to. So does that make it easy listening music? Not necessarily in my eyes.

This is a kind of alt. folk/country fusion that seems to throw up at least one unexpected key change or vocal on each track. The beautiful languid slide guitar of 'Galicia' flows into the almost hymnal choir in 'A Friend'. Reminiscent of some lo-fi American alt-folk bands like Centromatic, The Zephyrs are cruising at a different speed from a lot of the current British crop, and are a lot better for it. on the down side, not having the explosive choruses of The Broken Family Band or the maudlin atmosphere of Lionshare means the album can get a bit samey - it might have been good to mix up the production a bit. But a great record to listen to on a lazy summer Sunday morning.
www.thezephyrs.com

SB


Emporium – Silver Brainwaves
A rather boring start to an album I think, or the whole album in general! In a nutshell: think one of the Beach Boys quitting only to discover electronics and acid. Oh…wait a minute that was rather fantastic!?…any way moving on quickly! You know when you’re in a restaurant and you hear that horrible keyboard play an everlasting dull piano demo, that I am sure is stuck on repeat? Well it’s kind of what this album sounds like!  

Alright I suppose for your nana and granddad to listen to after a good old game of scrabble, but for any one else who doesn’t want to listen to elevator background music, please steer clear! 

Simon Hambrook


 

Artisan – Promo EP
This pleasantly soothing collection (which, at 9 tracks long, turns out to be more of an LP…sirs, you are TOO generous!) comes courtesy of a London-based acoustic duo who were also childhood friends back in Devon. Ah, bless! They liken themselves to Radiohead and Turin Brakes, among others, and one of ‘em plays a mean double bass. 

I can certainly hear the influence of Yorke and co. in the vocal style, chord progression and weird tremolo-tinged solo of “Without This”, and the skittering techno drum patterns are very “Kid A”. Indeed, there are many interesting noises and tweaks to capture one’s attention.  

The more straightforward opener “I Hold My Breath”, meanwhile, would sound great on the soundtrack of a teen romantic-comedy…which is meant as a compliment, by the way…and overall each song has something to recommend it. Good to hear someone trying to do something a bit different within the acoustic idiom, and proof that the West Country can produce more in the way of musical talent than the repulsive Reef. Well done, chaps.

Will Columbine


Gav Dunn - It Ain't All Peaches and Sunshine
There must be something disturbing about living in the east Midlands at the moment. First You Judas and The Swarm unleash their scary albums on us this month, then Gav Dunn sends in this - an un-categorisable work somewhere between madness and genius.

It's a bit reminiscent of Chris Jones (another East Midlander I might add) and loosely described as modern haunting psychedelic folk. Some of the guitar parts are sublime, like the finger picking on 'Oranges'. The haunting part obviously comes from Dunn's very distinct vocals, or in some cases vocal mixes which include masses of echo and chorus which gives it the sound of the twins from the Shining. It's a really beguiling mix when the guitars are so clear at the front and the vocals kind of float disembodied through the tracks. And in 'Who Are You', Dunn throws in an additional touch of Mark E. Smith 'burning his toast-ah'.

Not a comfortable ride, but like driving through Belgium on the way to Holland, worth it in the end.

SB


Steveless – Popular Music in Theory
Wow, not every album has my head thumping in the first five seconds, so job done Steveless! Track opener “Bored” instantly thrashes into a scuzzy scatter gun guitar mess which is followed by Dan Newman’s distorted vocals, sounding incredibly like the fall’s frontman Mark E. Smith. This is followed by “Waiting” which is over in under a minute, but who cares because when you hear a song so messy and shambolic like this one, you wouldn’t mind if the whole album was like it!  

What’s also impressive is the fact that they don’t follow the normal ‘call and respond’ output of the bass and guitar, they go a step further by throwing in the synth and drums then mix it together and spit it out piece by piece, not caring how tight they can be but how fuzzy and spontaneous they are! 

This Guitar fuelled album is a joy to listen to, mainly because of the devilish sounding synth and metal bashing drumming, that will make all the DIY bands out there go back to the drawing board! What bands shouldn’t be afraid of these days is feedback! Which doesn’t scare Steveless at all! It’s the most heavy debut I’ve heard in ages and I’m glad finally this band have proven it can be done. 

This is popular music in theory according to Steveless, it gives me hope that if as many people will listen then others might follow and do something even more impressive than this album. 

Simon Hambrook 


The Swarm - Red Paint on the Odessa Steps (Fight Me)
Sweet Jesus. Sit yourself down in a comfy chair with a nice cup of milky tea and relax...because it will be the last time you do for the next 40 minutes. Ushered in by a squadron of flying Angels of the North, the Swarm release their debut and it's a brute. The singles from the demo have been brushed up (probably wire brushed) in the studio and fight their way out of their CD-R shackles to terrorise ears that had only just recovered following counselling from the first Swarm onslaught.

You want to go on? Well Ok, but don't blame me if you have nightmares. A bit of cursory research reveals that the improbably nice sounding Olly Toogood is responsible for some of the guitar and electronic incantations behind The Swarm and also You Judas. Ahhh, it all becomes clear. But the main guitar grunt for The Swarm is provided by Ryan Delgaudio. I reckon if Ryan does the guitars, then the devil must write the songs. 'The Night the Rope Broke' pulsates through 5 minutes of metallic sounds like a rave in a Nissan factory which is a bit reminiscent of some of the NIN remixes on  the Fixed ep, not the world's most accessible record. 'The Lost Friend Left Alive' judders and growls it's way through 10 minutes of gut wrenching mangled guitar and tortured screams. I would not recommend playing this when entertaining a lady friend at a first dinner date.

It's so good to listen to a record that really provokes a reaction, doesn't just drift along like the millions of hertz of radio bandwidth that will simply drift off into space to be a record of human indifference and apathy. I'm going for a lie down now. But I don't think I'll sleep. Are you brave enough to take on The Swarm?
www.intotheswarm.com

SB


Cobra Killer Vs Kapajkos – ‘Das Mandolineorchester’  (Monika)
Although I run risk of being called a ‘square’, or whatever term the kids are using these days, I have not previously come across the music of Cobra Killer. Now given that this release is a re-recording of selected tracks from their back catalogue with mandolin orchestra Kapajkos I though it might be wise to find out what Cobra Killer sound like without the mandolins. So into the murky waters of cyber-space. Their website offers no information what so ever and after some searching the most I could discover was they sound a bit like Chicks on Speed or Le Tigre. This makes this project sound like a very dubious idea. 

However this is not the case. On the whole the record works beautifully. By and large it simply sounds like very hectic East European folk. The tracks ‘Heavy Rotation’ and ‘Mund Auf Augen Zu (Stecker Raus Ich Dreh Durchid)’ are especially crazed and alarmingly catchy. One complaint is that a number of these songs sound terribly similar and my attention was starting to flag towards the later tracks. However this rather odd idea has worked very well. Le Tigre playing klezmer is about the sound that’s achieved on this release. A very strange album, but all the better for it.   

Michael Pearson


Groove Divinities - s/t
I like Otis Redding, James Brown, Jamiroquai and the Rolling stones all for different reasons. I now like The Groove Divinities and from the first listen too! It is soul, rock funk? I haven't a clue but my head is nodding and my foot is tapping and that's good enough for me!

Dave McDonald


 

Trinovantes - s/t
An awesome start for the Trinovantes, a metal crunching guitar sound rips through “Peace by Piece” easily followed by the funkiest bass line that’s present through out. Especially on “Travelling” what sets the structure to any decent tune these days is a dark thumping bass line. And a Moog! Every band should fit the sound of the Moog into there music! Not only do they use that but also a keyboard? This brings out a clever mixture of heavy guitar riffs, into a blend of electronic punk which works nicely. 

But, this all is spoiled by one thing…her voice! Its so irritating! Its like the bands little sister stomped her feet until she could sing her silly school girl lyrics in a whiny squeaky tempo!  

All in all, a tight fitting musical sound, but the two sides just don’t gel. 

Simon Hambrook


Sweet Billy Pilgrim - We Just Did What Happened and No One Came (Wonderland Avenue)
Well, I can’t even expect to be surprised at how good this album is. Having already release what is one of my favourite singles of the year, it looks like Sweet Billy Pilgrim have managed to transfer that quality to a full length album as well.

The whole thing is nothing short of beautiful, and that isn’t a word I use lightly, I save it for special occasions, but I fell like this collection of songs deserve such an accolade. From start to finish the quality of song writing on offer is amazing, certainly belying the fact that this is SBP’s first full length album. If this is the band in their infancy, I can only dream of what other wonders may lay in store.

I really hasten to give comparisons and try to create some sort of formula as to the sound of Sweet Billy Pilgrim, it’s difficult, since they have a sound that is very much their own. It is a sound where guitar, piano and banjo sit comfortable alongside incredibly delicate laptop arrangements and soaring vocals, sometimes the songs break into what can only be described as cinematic in scope, while others sound as though they are being whispered directly into your ear, on a cold winter night. They pretty much defy any categorisation, and frankly that is a good thing, there are elements of folk/ country, but they certainly couldn’t be described as either, there are echoes of the likes of Anthony and the Johnsons and Sigur Ros…. But they sound like neither band.

Let’s just be happy that they exist and they sound as wonderful as they do. Go and seek out this album, I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

Drew Millward


Xiu Xiu - La Foret (Acuarela)
Aside from massive apologies to Xiu Xiu and Acuarela for taking so long to review this album, massive praise for releasing what is one of the toughest listens (in a good way) I've had this year. Xiu Xiu is Jamie Stewart who cross references art, music and literature to write incredibly intense songs about personal experiences and the human condition.

'Clover' sees the album open with the artist already sounding on the brink of breakdown, accompanied only by a few taps of the xylophone. The unholy juxtaposition of this minimalist start next to 'Muppet Face' which rings into existence with a flurry of xylophone and beat box adds to the change of mood. The press blurb describes the chorus admirably as a wind tunnel of guitar (must remember that one) and is pretty much spot on. The album flits between this kind of full-on industrial white noise and the eerily minimal, down to the bare bones of Stewart's frail voice and a selection of quiet accompaniment which can mutate at any given moment into a glorious cacophony. 'Pox' is just about the most accessible track I could find, a sinister electronic maelstrom which could just about find it's way onto MTV2 if it weren't so downright scary. Hard work, and not entirely enjoyable - at times you feel you are actually undergoing the journey that the artist went through to inspire the songs, but certainly a journey worth experiencing.
www.xiuxiu.org

SB


The Looking – Tin Can Head
This 11 track piece of talented, highly mature and well composed blend of an album is sung by a vocalist named Todd Carter. Carter can sing, and he can sing well, and the result is a free flowing blend of musically rich tracks with deep trance-like lyrics. All the above added with tight production makes The Looking sound first-class. There’s a subtle, yet noticeable 80’s influences in Tin Can Head, on one hand parts sound like The Smiths, but on the other it sounds like more recent Radiohead recordings (since they went “Creative”) but yet is changes and becomes different again entirely… Confused, get it and you’ll see. I like it a lot and as a result it has yet to come off the stereo. My main reason being that it is profoundly deep, each time I listen I get something new, tiny little sounds just added and introduced where it matters, long instrumentals where you do just disappear. From the dreamy flowing sounds on ‘Lily Mansions’, to the well constructed ‘Spinoza’. A lot goes on in ‘I’m your Labyrinth’ (my personal favourite) along with ‘Love From The Moon’, the darker sides of the album. It sounds current yet familiar; ingredients for a good combination of escapism in my opinion.

Sarah McDonald


Sarah Glynn - To Sweeten Up (Rocklittleface)
Immaculately produced and well written songs, with not a negligible amount of creativity, Sarah Glynn has talent in both her voice and her performance. It's also kind of helpful when certain tracks are earmarked for listening for us hard pressed reviewers. And sure enough, all the recommended tracks were very nice. Nice. Very listenable. Jingly jangly guitar pop delivered by an attractive young woman. Very marketable. Would I listen to it again? Not a chance - not to say it isn't good, but you could hear the same thing from a dozen similar bands any day on your local radio station. I think that Sarah Glynn has something more to offer, something darker or more personal. But it's an easier road to follow the alternative route, to commercial success. Decision time?

www.sarahglynn.com

SB


Early Man - Closing In (Matador)
Sounding like the fat spotty son of black Sabbath gone hard so he can beat up the bullies who wedgied him and called a wiener (he grew up in America). This pair of New York hipster metal heads have produced a straight up onslaught of heavy rock. Whacked full of simple and inter changing riffs early man prove they’ve definitely learnt their trade which probably secured there tour with fu Manchu and the up and coming Mastodon support slot. 

They’ve got the guitar noise as crunchy as my mum’s friend with osteoporosis’ bones, and the snares that snap like a 15-year-old girls thong. Which makes their delivery perfect, especially on tracks like “thrill of the kill” a dirty chugging rock song that has the line “you’re dead like a rat so say your prayers”. Early man are going to do you hard.  

The album does seem to suffer form a lack of identity however, at points early man try to be a different band each song like a who’s who of influences with clichéd lyrics to match, single “death is the answer” could have been written by Ozzy at his most paranoid. So maybe the die-hard metal fans will leave these well alone. Never the less “Closing In” is a statement that two men dressed like Vikings are going to ram your face with straight up rock, no noodles. With songs like “Fist shaker” “Brain Sick” “Raped and Pillaged” you should probably see them live too. Even if just to see the men who are going get laid more then a thousand music reviewers put together, this year.

Pete Williams


The Hundred Handed - Our Dead Language
Hmm. I'm not getting this. Typically whinging Englishness abounds and the guitar in 'the charging political thriller "51st State"' just seems to grate. I can even see our glorious leader squirm in his ivory towers at the accusation ' who the hell are you deceiving?' - ooh, hard hitting.

I did think that 'Under the Honeymoon' (whatever that means) had an interesting chanty style chorus a la Adam and the Ants, but that aside, nothing to see here. Sorry.
www.hundredhanded.com

SB


Dina D’Alessandro – Is it safe?
Is it safe had so many promises. The beginning was exciting, it started so well then just…well flopped. I thought, “ok vocals a little like Delores O’Riordan” (without the celtic hint) then it just well didn’t develop into anything. It starts off so well with great intensions but just could not sustain the distance. It ends up sounding lifeless lacking any sort of substance. There is some ambiance and life however on ‘wait for me’ and ‘I thought I’d be there’ but the remaining tracks lack interest and require greater melody. Without this, tracks such as ‘dream the day away’ sound dreary, unmoving and have a tendency to sound repetitive. I have no doubt that with the inclusion of an additional spark or constructive direction, Dina D’Alessandro could reach a fuller potential. Less of being ‘all over the place’ and more of being something to ‘hook on to’, disappointing for me im afraid.  

Sarah McDonald


 

Desert City Soundtrack - Perfect Addiction (Deep Elm)
Perfect Addiction is an album that draws you in slowly, somewhat I imagine like a Slug soaks up the salt you threw over it. Quite possibly as painfully if you feel what Matt Carrillo’s been going through writing this.           

Piano led macabre pop is what Desert City Soundtrack do and they do it well. From opener “Last Night Floor” kind of aqualung self abusing over phantom planets cheeky American faces, through to the beautifully sad  “Batteries” and the mantra like guitar thudding through “It’s not that Bad” are all high lights.           

The problem with this sort of piano led musical extravagance is it all can all sound vaguely similar and I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt Cory Gray to lay off the sustain peddle he’s been surgically attached to. But there is something extra in what DCS have achieved here. Lyrical laments draw you in and the epic musical build ups like “No signal” offer something more and its on the less heavily laden piano tracks like “it’s not bad” that I find DCS show strength.

Perfect addiction will definitely take you somewhere if you let it; but not like Willy Wonker taking Charlie in the elevator.

Pete Williams


Schizo Fun Addict - Atom Spark Hotel (Canarsie)
Perhaps the postman knew something when he left this record leaning against the door to tasty towers rather than slotting through the door with the other stuff. A beautiful piece of clear vinyl to be sure but that was the last thing I liked about it.

New york lo-fi-ers Schizo Fun Addict sound like a cross between The Jesus and Mary Chain and Velvet Underground trapped in  a large industrial unit and trying to beat their way out armed only with their poorly tuned instruments and dirge-like songs. Does every song have to sound like it's been recorded in a warehouse? Apparently yes. Not for my sensitive ears I'm afraid.

SB


Magnetophone – ‘The Man Who Ate The Man’ (4AD)
It’s been almost four years since Matt Huish Saunders and John Hanson aka Magnetophone released their debut record. Now following Matt’s move to Taunton and a back and forwards British Postal Service situation we finally have their new record, and just to show the kind of friends talent can win you they have a little help from the likes of the sisters Deal, King Creosote, PG Six and James Yorksten. Yowza!

What is instantly obvious on first listen to ‘The Man Who Ate The Man’ is that Magnetophone are obviously passionate about what they do. You can hear the love and emotion that goes into it. It is far too easy for music with a lot of digital tomfoolery and electronic backing to end up cold and clinical but this record couldn’t be much further from that. The aptly named ‘Lets Start Something New' leads us into the record and is quickly followed by the grooving and stomping ‘Kel’s Vintage Thought’ which coupled with a song like the ‘Only Witching You’ll Be Doing’ shows that they have a real grasp of big and brooding guitar music as well as the more electronic side of things. The more electronic side to their musical is always present throughout but it is on the bombast of ‘Benny’s Insobriety’ that you are reminded of just how in tune with the digital side of music they are. However it is from the collaborations with two Scottish folksters that the albums highlights grow, the two songs with King Creosote on vocal duty and James Yorksten's helping hand on the penultimate track prove to be spine chillingly beautiful and allow you to forget the very seldom moments where they don’t quite hit the mark.

‘The Man Who Ate The Man’ is a rollercoaster of moods and musical landscape and a record which will have you returning again and again always to find something new.

LD


Viva Stereo - Patterns of Behaviour (Much Better/Fence)
Despite band member relocations, personal adversity and monotonous grind of working full time day jobs, Viva Stereo return with their second album and smash any preconceptions about sequels being tricky or difficult. Whereas 'Optimism is Not a Curse' was cinematic in conception and production, full of reserved introspection, 'Patterns of Behaviour' is more like a local Ritzy disco, bursting with dancy tracks but displaying the full range of the human condition from the euphoric to the the broken.

Written in a much reduced timescale than 'Optimism...' this shows through in a positive way. It is far more immediate, more passionate than it's predecessor. There is still the trademark guitar-synth Viva Stereo sound on 'Syntax Errors' but generally the album is far more electro-based, perhaps a result of the difficulty of practising together as a band when all the members live in different towns. Whatever the reason, there is an air of zeitgeist about the sound, a feeling of hope amongst despair, escape from drudgery like Tara Mascara's virginal vocals on 'Patterns of Behaviour'.

Not that there are not the darker moments. The angular sound of 'Star Sign Girl' could be straight of Primal Scream's 'Evil Heat'. The four and half minutes of samples from a Jimi Hendrix video form a poignant backing to the macabre melody of 'Gone', even the Pete Townsend outro. But that is nothing compared to the schizophrenic menace of 'Come See the View' which somehow combines a bluegrass guitar riff with the most demonic vocal effect I have ever heard in an otherwise light hearted ditty.

'Patterns of Behaviour' is packed with great tracks - it is impossible to just let it play in the background - you will start bobbing about or even full-on jig in your room. Songs like 'My Own Enemy' work great on a stereo but will also cause mayhem at a gig or on a dance floor. It's a testament to the band and their producers that the sound they consistently get from their battered instruments is so pristine. It's a testament to the band alone that they have managed to stay together, produce and self finance such a classic record. It is now time for you, dear public, to show your appreciation and buy this album.
www.vivastereo.com

SB


Tracy and the Plastics - Culture for Pigeons Dual DVD/CD (Too Pure)
Tracy and the plastics is the brainchild of lesbian feminist video artist Wynee Greenwood. Consisting of three aspects of her fractured self, Tracy, Nikki and Cola. In essence two parts D.I.Y. video instillation, one part basic lo-fi electronic punk.           

Lets get the DvD aspect out the way first. This is a prime example of why a lot of people don’t like fine art, because it’s an un-engaging spectacle made to support someone’s fractured ego that insults its viewer’s intelligence. It even comes with your basic complimentary use of abstract images. Like the press report says “it’s part band but one that lives in the realms of fine art.” Yawn.           

Culture for pigeons does have some really ok driving electro punk energy in parts, which suggests that if Tracy and the Plastics reformed as the video artist Wynee Greenwood and did a solo album it could most likely be amazing. Some how I don’t think that’s the point here though.

Pete Williams


The Bats - At The National Grid (Egg)
Kiwi troubadours The Bats return after a 10 year hiatus (that's even longer than Peter Mandelson goes between Cabinet positions) to release their 6th album.

Having supported the likes of REM and The Wedding Present in the past, The Bats are clearly confident about where they have been, what they are doing and where they might be heading. This is unadulterated pop-rock with a distinct antipodean swagger - you would find it hard to write such songs in a damp bedsit in Bolton. There's a modest kind of grandeur at work on the likes of instrumental 'Hubert', the sort of track that a band can only come up with after playing together for years.

This isn't normally my bag but on this occasion I'm pretty impressed. I may have to accompany Metcalf on his next live jingly jangly pop foray.
http://homepages.paradise.net.nz/thebats

SB


The Mass – ‘Perfect Picture of Wisdom and Boldness’ (Monotreme)
Sweet Baby Jesus and the Orphans (now they were a band) what do we have here? From the moment the first guitar riffs rings out you know you are in for something a little bit special with The Mass. A mixture of everything that’s right (or maybe wrong) with rock, from hardcore to math, from metal to just being hip swingingly fucking danceable, the Mass really don’t let you get a moment to quite take it all on board. Just when it seems to make sense everything shifts and then there’s a saxophone wailing in your ear. I kid you not. The thing is no matter how I try and explain this to you it will sound bloody awful but it truly isn’t.

Tight riffs, repetition, heavy as hell rock but with an edge of jazz sounds like the worst idea a band could have but the Mass had that idea and quite frankly its better than all of your ideas I’m sure.

The Mass are simply really REALLY fucking good…no really.

LD


Ed Parrish - Race Against Time
Eek! "Singer song writer caught in 1980's timewarp produces middle of the road tribute to Simple Minds". Or headlines to that effect. Dull as 2nd year Mechanical Engineering student at a cheese and wine party.
www.edparrish.co.uk

SB


Vinny Peculiar - Whatever Happened To Vinny Peculair (Shadrack & Duxbury)
A retrospective of 'selected out tales and inserts 1989-2003', this album could teach a few of today's pop pretenders a thing or two about song writing and performance. I have to admit to not being very familiar with the work of Manchester's Vinny Peculiar, but following this release I will be watching out for the release of new material with interest.

Drawing on a myriad of influences (or perhaps being influential himself) the twelve tracks showcased here demonstrate a passion for twenty years of UK pop heritage and a self awareness that is candid in an industry where self delusion and grandeur is rife. 'Showcase Time' sounds like vintage Bowie but is an ode to musical fame that never managed to surface. 'Slow Television' recorded in 2000 is a searing critique of poor quality television. God knows what Vinny Peculiar would make of the current crop of X Factor/Come Dancing/Changing Rooms pulp that plops off the studio production line.

Some of the later songs on the album are a bit frenzied and confused, perhaps documenting Vinny's state of mind at the time. But this is a staggering piece of work considering most of the material is back catalogue.
www.vinnypeculiar.com

SB


Cam Butler – ‘Go Slow’ (Broken Horse)
You may recognise the name Cam Butler and well you should, as he is the leader and guitarist with one of Australia’s finest exports Silver Ray, the harbingers of big, long and beautiful wonder. Well ‘Go Slow’ builds on what Cam has done with that group and skews it into a slightly different angle. Songs are shorter and more direct perhaps with a slightly more haunting and country edge to them. Think Neil Young's darkest moments minus the vocals and with a little more groove or maybe Ry Cooder writing kind of sexy bush ballads. It is a sound sparse at time and yet full at others. Cam Butler’s music is that to get lost in.

LD


Adam Evil and the Outside Royalty - s/t
This is about as near as we will get to a super-group in Tasty this month, a 7-musician based behemoth of a band from Pittsburgh who clearly see nothing wrong in fully absorbing musical influences and regurgitating them in a freaked up alt-glam vomit. Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie ways heavily in both the melodies and the lyrics. in fact, I'm sure that half the lyrics from 'Just Past Laughing' actually are Bowie lyrics. This track also features a wacky bended guitar hook most recently deployed by the likes of Supergrass.

The influences just keep coming thick and fast - T. Rex, Mott the Hoople, ELO but Adam Evil and his comrades keep ploughing out the tracks like Nottingham's Hellset Orchestra in spandex. 'Welcome to the Underworld' is a guitar-fuelled, horn-toting mosh fest a little bit more up tempo than most of the other tracks.

The unremitting nostalgia of the album, coupled with too many childhood days having my fathers multitudinous collection of ELO LPs inflicted on my ears finally take their toll and caused me to turn off. A good bet if you fancy something a bit of the beaten track.
www.adamevil.com

SB


 

Deerhoof – ‘ Runners Four’ (ATP)
If you have an interest in the underground music world then I imagine you will have heard of if not heard anything actually by Deerhoof by now. They have been heralded as saviours of the underground rock and pop scene, as fresh new visionaries for a new generation of music lovers. Hell if you have a read through the press release its hard not to believe music will be irrevocably changed after the release of ‘Runners Four’. Well that’s not quite the case but for all the hype and nonsense surrounding it, it is however a great album. Deerhoof manage to create a sound that occupies a space somewhere between discordant and childish beauty. It is a sound packed with naivety and yet is singularly mature as well. It is easy to hear a Deerhoof song and dismiss it as simple but if you actually listen then hidden depth and complexity are let bloom into fruition. However you look at it though it’s hard not just to be swept away by the joy and passion of the whole thing. At times when listening to Deerhoof it becomes hard not to just sit there and smile.

While claims that this record is comparable to the likes of ‘There’s a Riot Going On’ or ‘Exile on Main Street’ are a little much, Deerhoof’s ‘Runners Four’ is still a complex and deeply entertaining non-disposable pop record that can bring much joy to our lonely modern lives.

LD


Dogkennel Hill - All the Kings Horses (Whitelight)
'All the King's Horses' has taken three years to commit to the recording studio apparently - almost the same amount of time it has taken me to get round to reviewing it. And after three listens I'm still not sure whether or not I should have waited another three years.

Opener 'Little Matters' is a slow ballady bluesey number full of melancholy, heart felt vocals and thick mid-west American accents. Which would be fine, if Dog Kennel Hill weren't from England. I'm not usually so averse to this kind of faux-country but generally the accents aren't so hammy. Hell, some artists even sing in a (gulp!) English accent. 'Starting to Slide' is an intriguing track - definitely more of a traditional English folk structure but featuring steel string guitar, pianos and more ham accents.

I think I may be suffering from review fatigue - there are plenty of good tracks on this album - I'm just suffering some kind of gut reaction to the fact that the band was formed from the fallout of The Quireboys. Don't let yourselves be so easily misled readers, I think Dogkennel Hill may be more skinny fit Nick Cave drainpipe jeans than Quireboys leather trousers. You decide.
www.dogkennelhill.com

SB


Test Icicles – For Screening Purposes Only (Domino)
Listening to this album wasn’t, for me, all that more pleasurable than whacking oneself repeatedly in the face with a frozen cucumber. Apart from reasonably catchy single “Circle. Square. Triangle”, there’s a lot of screaming, atonal guitars, flirtations with hardcore and thrash metal…the kind of stuff that has “cult band” scrawled over it in big red marker…and it’s this limited repertoire that makes pretty much every track sound exactly the same. 

Ultimately, Test Icicles are the archetypal noisy support act you get at gigs and vaguely enjoy whilst waiting for the better bands to come on.
www.test-icicles.com

Will Columbine


Animal Collective – ‘Feels’ (Fat Cat)
For those of you not familiar with the Animal Collective or their associated label they are a group of musicians working under pseudonyms (Panda and Geologist for example) and are hell bent on bringing experimentation and beauty back into pop music.

‘Feels’ is the title of the latest audio adventure from Animal Collective and a more fitting title I cannot find. The record is a collection of moods, shifting woozy joy, contemplation and ultimately sheer beauty. Like the album previous ‘Sung Tongs’ a large chunk of ‘Feels’ seems on the surface to be a sort of Beach boys infected avant-pop, like Brian Wilson taking too many drugs and losing his...oh hang on. Anyway as soon as ‘Did You See The Words’ playful whispered intro gives way to the chant-like vocals and stomping drums its hard not to be hooked on the Collectives energetic pop riot. ‘Grass’ is a sound full of yelping vocals, sweet harmonies, and tweeting bird samples and like ‘The Purple Bottle’ it shows Animal Collective at some of their animalistic and wild best. However there is much more to them than just pounding off kilter pomp so we get tracks like ‘Banshee Beat’ where a subtle whisper will have you leaning into your speakers to hear more or ‘Loch Raven’, a breathy dreamlike lullaby complete with electronic twinklings and soft piano melody.

Animal Collective have created an album that’s complex yet accessible, full of pop melody but far from vacuous or throwaway. ‘Feels’ is a musical merry-go-round, dizzying and fun and at the same time shows them to be some genuinely ambitious musicians.

LD


Winter Equinox – Safe and Sound
What an unexpected surprise to find this seemingly unsolicited CD on my doormat one morning and all the way from Canada no less! The pleasure of being made to feel so important, if only momentarily, was only surpassed by playing the album and discovering how good it actually is (and the stickers and badge went down a treat!). 

“Two Eyes” is like three songs in one, starting off as something akin to The Beloved (remember them?) circa “The Sun Rising” before exploding into Explosions in the Sky guitar frenzy, and finally floating back down to earth on a shimmering bed of clarinet, oboe and xylophone. Needless to say it’s a bit more eclectic than your average post-rock band. 

This may have something to do with the line-up of the band being comprised of classically trained musicians, and it’s to their credit that they’ve resisted the urge to show off and kept the music relatively simple. Neither are they ashamed to get a bit funky on the bass on “Scenic Caves” or to venture into Aphew Twin territory on “Shiny New Penny”. An excellent album and one that could well end up in my top ten of the year.

Will Columbine


This Is Indie Rock – Volume 3 (Deep Elm)
Third instalment of the compilation series that promises to run and run, ‘This is Indie Rock – volume 3’ is designed to ‘document the music, spirit and resolve of the independent artist’. Each of the instalments 12 exclusive songs which have previously never been released by a whole host of bands from a whole host of genres all chosen from an open submission to Deep Elm. What this means is a compilation that is fantastically varied and that allows bands the world over to get people out there to hear their music. And as ever Volume Three holds some beauts.

Openers Free Diamonds are ridiculously good pop, Annuals song ‘Nice Day’ is a country tinged piece of folk mastery that will have tapping and rocking along, Element’s Sparta-esque rock is a sure fire winner and Reed KD’s gentle electo-pop will warm even the coldest cockles.

Yes, as ever there will be songs you don’t like but that’s not the point. With every compilation you will certainly discover a couple of bands you will want to embrace into your life and musical collection (for me on volume 3 I will give my musical heart to Annuals and Reed KD). I for one hope this series carries on for along time yet casting its musical net ever wider. Deep Elm aren’t just making compilation CDs with the Indie Rock series, they’re performing a valuable public service.

LD


Fixit Kid – The Easy Way Out
You can tell why John Peel liked Fixit Kid. Apart from their admirable DIY ethic and anti-corporate stance, they sound for the most part like Shellac or Fugazi with a penchant for stoner rock riffs. And as if that wasn’t enough, there’s even some cool My Bloody Valentine-type swooping guitar on “Dead Hooker” and a free-jazz explosion in a Spiritualized vein halfway through “Exrobot”. 

Sounds like my perfect kind of album, so it’s a shame to report that it didn’t sustain my interest all the way through its 40-minute runtime. Despite the formidable power and aggression behind the songs a lot of it was just too sludgy for my taste, although I’m sure others will find much to enjoy. 

When all is said and done I like what this band stand for more than the music they actually produce, but at least they sound as though they’re screaming for a reason, which is more than can be said of Test Icicles.

Will Columbine


Quack Quack – S/T (Run of the Mill)
With the birth of Quack Quack onto the Leeds live music circuit gig going punters were given a well needed dose of intelligent Kraut-rock perhaps missing from many of our meagre little lives. They quickly were elevated (sometimes physically I hear) to the dizzying heights of being one of Leeds finest bands and one of them received a medal from a queen…maybe.

Now for the first time on record we can have them in our homes! Quack Quack treat us to Can-ean wonder buckets of audio songs. It is tight, shake ass and get down sweet thing simple audio complexity. Keyboards become other worldly, bass grooves and drums just let us know it ain’t time to stop the dance yet. This, you bastards, is why we have ears. Come hear Quack Quack and don’t let them ever stop the rock or I will punch you in the mouth.

LD


Castanets – First Light’s Freeze (Asthmatic Kitty)
The debut full length from Castanets entitled ‘Cathedral’ was a record packed full of subtle beauty. It was creaky and sparse and so it was intriguing to know what the man behind the project Ray Raposa would de next. The answer turns out to be write an even better album.

‘First Light’s Freeze’ is a dark and brooding record of distant country music. It somehow feels even more stripped back than its predecessor and is full of strange instrumentation and thematically deals with the mythology of war and friendship. With such heavy themes the album could easily disappear under a dour cloud but Raposa’s song writing means this isn’t the case as he weaves a compelling and beautiful story. Couple this with a host of friends lending there services including fellow airways inhibited kitties Sufjan Stevens and Rafter Roberts and what we have is a gratifying slow-burning wonder tinged with country, jazz and rock that should propel Raposa into a whole new musical stratosphere.

Luke Drozd


Terry Edwards – terryedwards (Sartorial)
Terry Edwards is a complex chap musically, maybe personally as well for all I know. If you look at his back catalogue and the musicians he’s worked with, including Tindersticks, Jesus & Mary Chain and Tom Waits, it’s plain to see he has a passion for music and a diverse one at that. This solo outing sees him create an album of dark soundscapes, sometimes unsettling and odd (Homicide/Suicide), at others pure and beautiful (Hepworth). It is mixture or free-jazz laments, electronic pulsing and avant-garde musings.

‘Terryedwards’ is an album of ghosts and drifting wonder, perhaps in part due to the devastation Edwards felt at the passing of John Peel, and one that needs and deserves the investment of time. A strange and honest musical work.
www.terryedwards.co.uk

LD


Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – ‘Summer in the Southwest’ (Domino)
As a rule, I’m not one for live albums. I have friends who bask in the glory of finding a live bootleg or album by their favourite artist but I just have never really got it. It is quite frequently of poor quality and generally inferior to the rest of their output. Of course there are exceptions to this rule such as Bob Dylan’s ‘Hard Rain’, Tim Buckley’s ‘Honeyman’ and now Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’s ‘Summer in the Southwest’.

From the moment the live version of ‘Master and Everyone’ suddenly started rocking out I realised this was going to be a cut above the usual fare. I have never had the privilege of seeing Will Oldham live (I had to sell my ticket to Green Man at the last minute this year) but have heard stories that his shows can be life-affirming and joyous or off-key and awful. The concert featured on this disc is certainly the former with us being treated to reworkings of some of Oldham’s best as the Bonnie Prince as well as a couple of Palace numbers (including one of my all time favourites ‘Pushkin’). Some songs are pared back and bleak and at the drop of a hat they can be raging and full of vitriol.

‘Summer in the Southwest’ is a live album as good as any of Will Oldham’s studio efforts that shows us a different side to the mysterious troubadour and will captivate even the harshest of critics with the brilliance and flare of some of the reworkings contained within. A must.

LD


The Fiery Furnaces – Rehearsing My Choir (Rough Trade)
Lovely idea, writing a whole album about your grandmother, spanning her life from the 1920’s to present day, but can this work musically? In parts I think it can and does. The instrumentation is varied to say the least. On the more orthodox guitar, drums, piano parts the whole thing works wonderfully, and produces a very evocative effect, the piano sections adding an often mournful depth. Sadly however the flow is often disrupted by what I can only describe as electronic/dance freak-outs, which to my conventional ears become almost unlistenable. So on the whole a very mixed bag of eclectic treats and frustrations, with time however there’s much to enjoy and discover.  

Ron Beasley


Meets Guitar: ‘Meets Guitar’
Oof! Records continue an incredibly consistent year with this release. Meets Guitar is in fact Gavin Baker, (of Billy Mahonie and Jet Johnson,) and here has delivered an album to sit in the increasingly crowded new/anti folk/country genre. Full of earnest guitar playing this has sincere chug to it that’s reminiscent of JJ Cale.  

This is a great record to listen to by yourself; the perfect time would be about 15:30-16:00 on a Sunday afternoon as the sun sets and the light in your living room diffuses. You’re sitting on the sofa trying to read your newspaper in the half-light and not really thinking about anything.  

The music has a consistent ‘mood’ to it but as well as being its strongest point it’s also its biggest flaw. As an album it lacks fireworks. There are no songs that I had to hear again and again. None of the songs are really long enough, of what there is I liked two instrumentals; the opener ‘The End of the Band,’ and ‘Rekkedal.’ 

I think that like a lot of debut albums it’s promising without being essential, but there is enough here to keep you coming back, to hold your attention till he puts out something really good. If, in fact, this is a ‘debut,’ from the press release I get the impression that loads of stuff is about to be available. Maybe there’s something better there, but you won’t regret buying this, if only as an album you’ll listen to on a Sunday.  

MJL


Doug Hoekstra – Su Casa, Mi Casa The official live bootleg (Headroom)
Quite a little treat for anyone who enjoys their slice of folk/Americana. Here, Hoekstra presents a compilation of live recordings made in America and Europe between 1999 and 2003.

The instrumentation varies from just Doug and his guitar and harmonica, to drum accompaniment to full band backing. Interspersed there is some chat/banter which may only interest existing fans, but that said, it simply adds to this warm and charming collection of songs. 

Ron Beasley


The Boy Least Likely To – The Best Party Ever
With that title and cartoon animals all over the cover, I was still unprepared for the sheer depths of twee that are plumbed on this record. Honestly, there are several moments on this delicate, fragile petal of an album that make Belle & Sebastian sound like Black Sabbath in comparison. Opening track “Be Gentle with Me” puts me in mind of a more introverted Polyphonic Spree although I can’t explain exactly why. The lolloping “Fur Soft as Fur” with its jaunty banjo is good too…in fact there’s a veritable glut of xylophones, Casio keyboards and recorders…and “I See Spies” is an enjoyable pop moment. 

Problem is that other tracks such as “Paper Cuts” are a bit precious for their own good, and lyrics like “I want to pick peaches off of a cherry tree” just set my teeth on edge.

What the heck…I’ll give it 3 out of 5, if only because I sense someone’s tongue being very firmly lodged in their own cheek.
www.theboyleastlikelyto.co.uk

Will Columbine


Skippy and the Bellbottoms – What Happened to Turn Signals?
A thoroughly comprehensive wad of papers arrived with this one…not only the standard biog but photos and press cuttings to boot! Always nice to be kept informed. This album is the brainchild of one Jeff Maynard who, judging by the number of other bands he’s in, is one very busy bee. He writes all the songs and plays pretty much every instrument. The accompanying letter from producer Arrison Kirby informs me that “the music on this disc falls into the same category that Wilco, Beck or My Morning Jacket might be grouped into”. That’ll be Americana then.  

If that’s the case, “Life Looks Better in the Fall” is pretty indicative of what to expect. It’s nice and a bit dreamy in a Neil Young/MMJ kind of way, but the vocals don’t have the plaintive urgency of Young or Jim James. Instead they come across as a bit dreary and (sometimes) out of key. “Stay Home, Brother” does indeed sound a bit like Wilco and is, thankfully, one of the few instances when the album breaks into a trot, but there’s nothing here that ranks anywhere near Maynard’s quoted influences.

Will Columbine