albums - october 2010
Over the past decade, Clinic have released five albums full of wailing organs, gritty guitars and an overall love it or hate it kind of sound. Album six was always going to be big for the Liverpool based four piece; they could stick with what they know and release another generic Clinic album or they could push the boat out, take some risks and write something altogether new. Happily they have gone for the latter option with ‘Bubblegum’, an album that is much more relaxed and accessible than their previous releases, without losing their sound completely.
Album opener ‘I’m Aware’ starts with dreamy vocal oohs that lead into a lazy acoustic rock sound. As the album progresses there are a lot of moments like this, laced with charmingly simple string sections and lots of psychedelic wah-wah guitars. The obscure organs and gritty guitar tones of old are much more subtle within the tracks, creating a more edgy sound in what would otherwise seem like your average pop record. ‘Radiostory’ contains a bizarre monologue that after a couple of listens I can’t quite decide if I like or not,: It is a very inventive interlude in the middle of the album, but at the same time it comes along a little unexpectedly and then is forgotten about by the time next song ‘Forever (Demis’ Blues)’ comes shuffling along.
As the rest of the LP plays through, you do feel like everything
has become all too familiar in this new Clinic sound. The songs although
diverse in style do become quite predictable (if you ignore the monologue
at least) and by the time the last note is played in album closer
‘Orangutan’ I was reluctant to listen to it again. There are some
great moments in ‘Bubblegum’ and I think this new style is a positive
change in Clinic’s career, however I do feel like it needs a little
tweaking in future releases to stop it becoming too repetitive. 6/10
What to expect from the drummer from The Libertines and Dirty Pretty Things? Not this, I can tell you. I enjoyed this very unique mini-album, and it surpassed my exceedingly high expectations for, if anything, its individuality. It can only be described as a blend of Queens of The Stone Age and The Dillinger Escape Plan, but toned down and with Jamie Oliver on vocal duties.
The Invasion Of … provides music that is easy to listen to, yet possesses that hook that so many of these type of bands lack. Like the band, each track has its own uniqueness (you can tell I’m running out of words for unique and individual now …). Although, the opening track “The Invasion of Venice” and “Pedantic Romantic” are personal highlights on “373”.
The musicianship is nothing to be admired. It’s not overly technical, it’s not complicated. Because it has no need to be, this is a quintet of lovers of music. You can hear it in this debut. They write brilliant songs that have heart and soul. A band to watch for the future, I reckon. I’m putting on my bet.
Non-US debut release from Californian 4-piece. God, what IS it about
this genre? I suppose post-rock and its various hybrids shouldn’t
be immune from average sounding music but when the planet is filled
with bands of a similar ilk, the tunes have to work pretty hard to
raise an eyebrow these days.
A startlingly unstartled 5.5/10
Much maligned word Prog. At its best you have things like the muscle-popping opening of Yes’s “Close To The Edge” (an introductory 2 minutes that The Mars Volta would sell their souls for), “Just the Same” by Gentle Giant, and Genesis’s rather majestic “Watcher of the Skies”. At its worst, you get ELP, Dream Theater, Spock’s Beard and, well…this.
For the uninitiated, rather than sounding like any sort of prog at all, this album is probably best described as a smooth sort of old school AOR by numbers, the likes of which is currently being pedalled, most notably, by Mika and the Scissor Sisters. The prog references (and we’re talking really bad 90’s Dream Theater prog), are presumably employed to explain the overplayed drums and the cheesey synth sounds.
“Silence Won’t Steal” is sabotaged by some quite appalling fromage blues rock soloing that grates against rather than compliments the rest of the material. Double bass drum pedals thrash away pointlessly at the end of every bar. “Grown Too Small” is presumably meant to showcase the band’s “impelling quirkiness” but comes off like a horrific Mika tribute while “Ophidia” stutters its way along its disjointed time signature like a reject from a Scissor Sisters demo session. “Tide and the Mast” is probably the worst thing on the album. Almost embarrassingly stick-your-head-in-the-sand bad.
Stylistically this album is such a mess, it may as well have been
written by 11 different bands rather than one. This is exactly the
sort of fare dished out by third year music students handing in their
album for end of year assessment at educational establishments up
and down the country. The band are obviously good players but appear
to completely lack taste of any kind. Is it any wonder prog gets a
bad name when it’s associated with mince like this? 2.5/10
Founded by brothers Maurizio and Marcello Vitale in 2005, this is the second offering from the Neapolitans, and quite a chin stroking affair it is too. The album is named after Henry James 1898 proto-gothic novella, ‘The Turn of the Screw’, and the band considers their music best described as “sonorous Anglo-Saxon music with traditional Italian and Mediterranean folk songs”. Alrighty then. For the plebs at the back, opener “Calce Spenta” is an unsettlingly odd tune, moving from drunken guitar rock singalong to quite sinister breakdown before blossoming into a bizarre waltz ending; “Naguine” is much better; a track that is ‘influenced from a French imaginary story telling that seems have no resolution’ with a spoken word narrative over “Tommorow Never Knows” style drums punctuating a staccato guitar and flute landscape. They experiment with random found sound on “Giro Di Vite”, and while the lyrics are impervious to any sort of analysis, being that they’re in Italian, and I can’t speak a word of it to save myself, when they succumb to a moment of weakness by including the rather dull “Nouve Forme Di Chiusura”, their helpful description of the song as “the daily fight against ephemeral trends” really does tell you all you need to know in order to press skip. This sin of momentary dullness is however forgiven on presentation of the final track, the rather stunning interpretation of Domenico Modugno’s “Amara Terra Mia” and it wholly succeeds in sucking the listener into a dark noir-ish Nick Cave-inspired netherworld. Lovely.
The intellectual reasoning behind the individual tracks is quite
lofty, and there is the sense that they are in danger of taking themselves
a mite too seriously, which puts them slightly at risk of looking
like twats – even the likes of Nick Cave and Gallon Drunk (the two
most obvious influences that come to mind) had the wisdom of irony
to take the edge off. If they learn this though, it’ll stand them
in good stead. Otherwise this is reasonably passable second effort.
It must have been a 4 years ago now. A drizzly, cold autumn night of the type that Leeds seems to specialise in. My mate and I were bemoaning the fact that we had agreed to venture into LS1 and review a little known band from Manchester in a venue which was long overdue being shut down. We left about 3 hours later raving about this band and their manically charismatic frontman who lurched and spasmed around the stage while playing pop songs which the Pet Shop Boys would have snapped a hand off for. That band was Performance. Then nothing for ages – it was as though the band never even existed. Even the website was hardly ever updated and it was almost like the band had never existed.
Fast forward to 2009 and we receive a sneaky download single from them. And it’s brilliant. Then nothing for nearly two more years. Thank Christ this second album has now finally arrived.
Performance are one of those bands that are full of contradictions. Red Brick Heart is unashamedly pop, exactly the type of stuff which would (and should) make a big splash in the mainstream market. Yet at the same time the band resolutely refuse to pander to the market, even seeming to treat any semblance of success with a refreshing disdain as though achieving any kind of high profile would be the worst thing that could happen. On a micro level the songs are fizzling electro pop and every single one is like a finely crafted piece of work – there’s no room for slack or mediocrity on this record.
As you would expect from a band with a published author as lead singer, the vocals are a strong suit – not unnecessarily verbose or flowery but cleverly pithy. Hooks abound throughout – the glorious mid section of ‘Let’s Start’, the very start of ‘Unconsoled’ which crackles the album to life, and big synths in ‘The Living’ and ‘15’. There’s a little nod to fellow Mancunians The Smiths in the sprawling Marr-esque guitar lines of ‘Reptile’ and every so often Stretch’s delivery drifts pleasingly towards its most Mancunian with big northern vowel sounds bursting through. Harmonies and backing vocals are layered on by guitarist Laura Marsden, giving the album a little taste of the Human League or more recently Heads We Dance.
If the breathless pace was getting too much for you there is the well placed gentle instrumental ‘Eleanor’ at the mid-point to provide a little respite before the excellent ‘Let’s Start’ ushers in the final few tracks which are seemingly a little rockier than their predecessors, even verging on a Killers vibe in places.
Performance have put together a modern pop classic here – expect
them to disappear into a recluse like obscurity for the next three
years while we are spoon-fed inferior pop fodder by label friendly
bands who would be unfit to even apply Performance’s eye liner. 9/10
It’s no secret that there’s a revival of psychedelic and retro rock afoot, it’s just that those doing the reviving have so far been antipodeans: Tame Impala, Jet and Wolfmother to name but a few. But new album ‘Alive as You Are’ by Darker My Love is more retro than Jimmy Hill’s kipper tie, big lapelled suit and wonky chin beard all put together… and they’re from Los Angeles. Darker My Love skip around the hippy decade picking up influences where they can but could best be compared to The Byrds, with their quintessential early 60’s sound.
This album is undeniably enjoyable and songs such as ‘18th Street Shuffle’, ‘Split Minute’ and ‘Rain Party’ revisit our musical past beautifully and eerily well. Yet an equal and opposite amount of moments can also be found here that are so “then” that they do little more than make proceedings sound dated. ‘New America’ has all the worst twee naivety of The Kinks whilst tracks such as ‘Maple Day Getaway’, ‘A Lovely Game’ or ‘Trail The Line’ are bog standard 60’s pop plod-a-longs that imitate a decade of forgotten fillers.
Alive As You Are contains some real charmers as the band know their genre inside out but tarnishing these efforts is the knowingly “retro” feel of the whole thing. It’s also frustrating to plough through eleven tracks without finding a single moment where the band put their own mark on the album; it disappointingly lacks identity. Credit to Darker My Love for imitating with aplomb but why restrict yourself with a self-imposed formula that is not deviated from? Bands such as The Byrds sounded the way they did because of production and sonic limitations and rehashing this so faithfully seems somewhat pointless. A comforting album and a perfectly executed walk through the past, just don’t expect much more. 7/10
Do you like Alt-Rock? Do you like late 90's American College-Rock?
Is it really awesome in 2002?
I've had enough of bands just being OK. You have to do more than play well. You have to do more than have a good voice.
They'd be good if so many other band hadn't already got to where
they want to go first. If you like late 90's alt-rock and you haven't
really listened to anything else since you heard Dizzy Up The Girl,
you'll like this. It isn't bad. You can only hate it if you're tired
of nothing changing. An album for fans of the genre. For people who
hear an album they love and hope all time stops so that everything
sounds like it. For people who only like Incubus' slow songs.
I was hoping that I'd get to say “the best thing about this band is that they were nearly called Full Intercourse and then I realised that that would mean I would have had to listen to another awful band and try and find something to say about them. If only to stop myself sinking into despair.
Chris Murray, we are told has compromised, bowed to pressure and compromised on his band name. Why didn't he choose 'Whispering Eye' as a band name? Maybe he hasn't seen Role Models.
This is, as one of the other press comments says “universally fine”
I think that was meant as a compliment. The Band of the Eye have certainly
quoted it as such. I read it as a yawn.
I think some of the songs in the middle of this album would have gotten a better ride from me if getting to them hadn't been such a chore. The last 3 songs sound like they're probably better again. Unfortunately I'm reviewing the album and not individual songs, so all I can think is this isn't worth my time. So I'm not wasting any more time on it. Not even to take a cheap shot about the gift of an album title.
I was thinking that I was going off music. I have just written 2 reviews and they weren't complimentary. I didn't enjoy anything about them and felt jaded and sad about it. I thought it'd put me in a grump and that would make reviewing this a problem. Fortunately this struck me as being is entirely different. The main project of one Charles Looker.
This album is none of the things I've grown tired of. It doesn't sound like it's trapped in the past, even while using Medieval chant vocal patterns. It sounds like something all its own. It sounds like the product of being influenced but doing something that is Charlie Looker's own. This in itself is to be applauded. I am having trouble describing what this album is. I enjoy it and it is not pop or rock. It is experimental and underground. It is challenging and inventive.
That this strange, experimental artful and intriguing album is also
enjoyable is a testament in itself. I am always intrigued when something
seemingly impenetrable is actually tuneful and reveals its own beauty.
The music uses as much of the dramatic spectrum as it can. Is it what medieval experimental folk rock would sound like? Yes. For the first time ever, I think, I am going to agree with the bands description of the sound of the album. “Extra Life combines elements of Medieval chant, metallic hardcore, dark neofolk, abstract modernism and lush pop. The music is cosmic in scope.” Yes. Yes it is. It is also pretty great for it too..
I never used to like stuff like this!! I am however very fond of this.
From Seattle, Hotels stake a claim to the title of Antipodean Debauchees,
their influences clearly include some of this country's relatively
recent Mockney chancers and also The Strokes. That and some glossy
synth pop is the basis of the Hotels sound, and I can appreciate the
impression they must make around the waterfront. First track 'Hydra'
fairly rattles along in a vaguely Strokes-ish manner, with a keyboard
making all kinds of additions to an already frantic tune, but Hotels
are only just warming up. Next track 'Near The City' is a more assuredly
eloquent power ballad whose chimed echoes are tailor made for drivetime
and that's probably what Hotels are really about, in an unironic style
that just hasn't reached these shores previously.
They've a heap of plaudits and recommendations, Shabby Rogue. Enthusiastic
gig reviews from just about anyone that's ever seen them play live,
plentiful national radio exposure and I think I'll need to add my
own approval here as 'By Hook ...' is quite likely the best folk rock
album I've heard in ages This is partly as I don't get to hear very
much new folk music, and I also think Shabby Rogue might've reached
my stereo sooner had they more of a label behind them, which they
very definitely should.
There’s been rather a lot of hype about this band. The ex-Placebo drummer’s new hobby. Except he’s not timekeeping, he’s singing - an odd transition, you may think. They’ve been described as everything from Queens of The Stone Age to Gary Barlow, from Metallica to New Order. Let’s see what they’re made of.
As the first track, and subsequently the first single from the self-titled debut, “So Sad” begins to play, I can definitely hear the Queens of The Stone Age influence. It’s a bright, positive start, and so far lives up to expectations. “Alone” follows suit, providing a catchy chorus and well written music. However, it’s at this point where things start to go downhill.
After the first few listens the whole way through the album, I found myself skipping around 70% of the tracks. Not because they are necessarily bad; they’re just really dull. I was bored, and I’m quite embarrassed to say it. After the first two good tracks, the album curveballs down the line of mediocrity. What started off as something unique and potentially great, veered off into another anonymous collection of nothing.
Steve Hewitt spent three years putting this album together. You’d think it would be sufficient enough time to write good songs. But there are two good songs on that album, the first two. Hewitt wasted three years of his life writing numbers such as “Come On Say It” and “Away From Me”. Maybe he should have stayed with Placebo, who are currently enjoying massive success off their latest album, “Battle For The Sun”.
I’m not saying “Love Amongst Ruin” is awful. They have the opportunity to “jazz up” a few of the songs, and it would make it much better. But they appear to have fallen into the trap that many of their type of bands do; writing songs that have no life to them - a waste of good music.
After all the hype, I was really disappointed with this album. Hopefully, Mr Hewitt can produce something of better quality next time round, if he gets the chance. It would be best for them to erase this mark of shame from their minds, and start again, as “Love Amongst Ruin” is distinctly adequate.
Numbering just 5 tracks in total I had quickly dismissed this CD into the EP pile. But as it turns out that was to be a grave injustice to this little epic. As soon as the thunderous opening of lead track ‘Lionized’ growls out of the speakers it’s clear that Gifts from Enola are a substantial band. The sound is broadly post rock you might say, but it is definitely more towards a more techy math approach with little guitar riffs percolating through on a regular basis (albeit often delivered with a crunching self belief.)
There’s a little bit of light relief between tracks with the odd sample and even a spot of gramophone at the start of ‘Dime and Suture’.
Songs structures are largely instrumental organic – seemingly building then deconstructing like a jam session, albeit a very tightly played jam session. Occasion vocal shouts and wails interlude between the guitars but in the main it is the guitar dynamics which hold precedence.
By the time we reach the finale of ‘Rearview’ we are perhaps a little de-sensitised to the great slabs of noise which Gifts from Enola can create – this track would stand up on its own very nicely though. Lovely high guitar screams are reminiscent of You Judas but these are wrapped up in some nice rhythmic pared down interludes which accentuate the more ferocious parts.
All in all this is a fine confident effort here from the Virginia
based Gifts from Enola. Get your copy soon and you’ll have a few months
to take it all in over the winter as the band take a well earned sabbatical
before returning in 2011. 8/10
Guitars, summery pop harmonies, swathes of reverb and phasing, Abby
Go Go utilise these in notably equivalent amounts and, without sounding
as if they're putting a lot of effort into it, deliver an archetypal
collection of PsychePop genius that can more than stand comparison
with some of the notable benchmarks of the genre, such as the BJM's
'Bravery Repetition And Noise' and The Asteroid #4's 'An Amazing Dream'.
Not everyone's cup of Tchai but I rate stuff like this hugely, the
sound of actual musicianship as opposed to sequenced and overproduced
electronics (what have they done to Marina's Shampain, ma?) that rely
far too heavily on button pressing. And Abby Go Go could, if they
wanted to, produce a whizzing, swirling, kaliedoscopic remix of their
first album that would make exactly what's the right noise in today's
mainstream, but it would just sound like another load of sequential
circuitry, aimed at a slightly younger audience than the previous
load of circuitry, and so on and so on -
Okay, this one took me by surprise, in a great way. Presumably, the title ‘Darker Later’ is a reference to Nick Drake’s Bryter Layter. So let’s start there: Take everything you know about Nick Drake (acousto-hippie-folk-pop), then think of the exact opposite. If you’re thinking of oppressive walls of unrelenting prog-metal, then you’re part of the way there, if not, then that analogy was probably a bit crap, but you get the idea. They’re loud.
To me, ‘prog’ is usually a swear word, conjuring up memories of being intensely bored and listening to things called ‘guitar solos’ so when the PR sheet that came with this CD called Humanfly ‘psychedelic post-hardcore band turned prog-merchants’, my heart sank.
Luckily there’s an emphasis on the metal and not so much prog. Humanfly play a unique brand of sludgy, slowed down metalcore, with influences from prog-rock, Hardcore, grindcore and stoner metal threading their way through concrete slabs of sheer noise.
Often, with records like this, the noise becomes overwhelming and though it’s all good, the desire to switch off kicks in. Not so with Humanfly, a band whose noise is a schizophrenic, amorphous blob of styles that’s constantly shifting and changing without ever sounding overcrowded or contrived. Besides, it’s easy to love a band who have tracks titled ‘This is Where Your Parents Fucked’ and ‘English and Proud and Stupid and Racist.’ They’re clearly the most punk-rock prog band ever.
The last two tracks of this record, Darker Later and Heavy Black Snow show off the band’s versatility. It’s probably safe to assume that the first is a nod to Nick Drake, being a sparse, minimally instrumented acoustic track. The second, heavier track is a seventeen minute epic that flows perfectly, with predominantly spoken word contributions from Rose Kemp which are punctuated with atmospheric, swirling sounds that swell and ebb throughout.
Darker Later is filled with the kind of audio onslaught that leaves your ears ringing when the deafening silence at the end of the track kicks in. The frankly dangerous disregard of listener’s eardrums coupled with a musicality rarely seen in metal makes Darker Later one of the best albums of this year. 9/10
This, The debut album from Norway’s Spirits of the Dead is Mind blowing. Seven huge, almost-overpowering slabs of Fuzzy, heavy Psych-rock. Make no mistakes, this is the band that Wolfmother wish they could be. Overwhelmingly massive, overdriven riffs give way to solos that are immense, but never once sound wanky. Yes please!
Second track, ‘The Waves of Our Ocean’ is a perfect example of what Spirits of the Dead do: It’s all chunky bass lines and pounding drums in a way that’s not too dissimilar to Queens of The Stone Age, but with added Ian McCulloch-style wailing over the top. This is basically what is so brilliant about Spirits of the Dead, they clearly owe a massive debt to bands like Led Zeppelin and The Doors, but these overarching influences are dotted with glimpses at the influence of more modern bands.
At seven tracks long, I’d written this off as an EP before i’d even heard it, but it’s just not. The noise on this tiny silver disc is just so substantial and heavy, it’s a wonder that it can be contained at all. This self-titled release is most definitely an album: it’s confident, textured and just plain epic (in the truest sense of the word). If you’ve ever loved Sabbath or Zeppelin or any other band who can be identified by just their last name, you’ve definitely got space in your record collection for this. Albums this perfect hardly ever get made these days and bands this good have basically stopped appearing. I know it’s not cool to like things anymore, but there’s seriously not a bad word to be said for this album. 9.5/10
What might be repetitive for some might indeed be fun for others. What Pow! Pow! offer you with their latest release is an invitation to join them in their perception of the latter. Last Days of Earth is, occasionally, quite an enchanting techno presentation that seems to have an underlying tone of happiness, suggested by their easy, major rhythms. The Beach, for example, is accessible, enjoyable listen, not least because it precedes White Eagle; an innocent and catchy 5-minute dream, suited for young indie boys in love. To use a comparison, this album is not as deep as what their Norwegian electronic counterparts, Royksopp, may offer, but more simplistic and, consequently or otherwise, not as memorable. That is not to say that it is not worth a listen. Indeed, there are moments of beauty. The ending track Escaping Gravity is a nifty conclusion, filled with layers of hypnotising sound. What’s apparent is that Pow! Pow! must have been completely immersed in this record. As such, to fully appreciate it, a listener must have the same mindset as them - after all there are practically no vocals for the listener to relate to. It just so happens that the mindset is one that is quite specific to them. I do not want to say immature, but I just did. 6/10.
This is quite a satisfying divergence from the fuzzy metal that Jason Simon is known for, from his band Dead Meadow. His self-titled debut proves to be a thoughtful and sincere acoustic affair providing enough diversity to make it unique and, indeed, intriguing. The opener is aptly titled Let’s Begin and is quite a haunting song, and cleverly subdues the listener, preparing them gently for the mellow and excellent third track Good Hope Road. This song is the epitome of relaxing; a pleasing 6 minute lullaby of woozy Hawaiian guitar complimented by intricate yet modest plucking that makes you want to go to sleep – in the best way possible. The rest of the album continues in this way, supplying highs and lows, all carefully constructed to keep your attention. Not as accessible as a Conor Oberst album but one can certainly note comparisons in some of the songs’ progressions. Overall one is almost left with a sense of fulfilment come the end of this album. A forty-five minutes very well spent and enjoyed. 9/10
Intending to listen to something unobtrusive and simple in my Corsa’s CD player, it soon became clear that this album was not one that should be listened to in the background. Indeed, it appears that Ruarri Joseph has a story to tell so I turn up the volume; cautiously letting my guard down after the short and sweet opener Nervous Grin. The second track, An Orchard for an Apple, reminds me of Damien Rice on 9 Crimes, as he ends his song repeating with the phrase “That’s alright”, albeit with an almost gushing and annoying optimism. This optimism, juxtaposed with simple and repeating acoustic guitar chords produce rather corny songs and by the end of the album it is easy to grow tired of its tedious familiarity.
It has to be said that after ten minutes, the volume goes back down. The music just fails to make a lasting impression. Hearing “Don’t save me a seat, don’t buy me a drink...I’m much further gone than you think” from track 5 As Always, the listener might be fooled into thinking that they are just about to experience some real bitterness, some anger even, but Joseph then goes all Christian and apologetic “...still I hope I’ll see you around”. Why Ruarri? Why do you want to see them around? You don’t want them to buy you a drink but you’re more than happy to catch them in Tesco? It doesn’t make sense! This album lacks sincerity and purpose throughout. And if there is purpose, it is hidden under a pile of predictable and frankly one-dimensional song-writing.
Ten years; a decade of riff-tastic rock from the Bristol mob that is Left Side Brain. To celebrate this momentous occasion of their inception in the year 2000, LSB have launched “Rifftrospective”, a collaboration of their best songs from first three albums “Collider”, “Action Potential” and “Equal and Opposite”.
“Rifftrospective” was mainly released to attract newcomers to what Left Side Brain are all about - and boy, they tell the story well. Blending god-sized riffs (hence the title of said album), Feeder-style vocals and epic choruses in songs such as “Exit Route”, “Sayonara” and “Well Well Well”.
I find myself surprised as to why I’ve heard very little of LSB before. There is no reason why they shouldn’t be up in the higher echelons of the hard rock/metal fringe along with the likes of Breaking Benjamin and Lostprophets. I was very impressed with this greatest hits collection, all from a mere ten years. LSB are definitely one of the best British rock bands of the modern age, and “Rifftrospective” highlights their grand résumé.
The only criticism I can find of this, what can only be described as awesome, band is the lack of creativity. Their songs appear to be rather formulaic; there is no branching outside of their comfort zone. Maybe this is a reason why they haven’t achieved mainstream rock success; yes, LSB are very good, and they can play extremely good music. But there is no experimentation or differentiation and this hinders their ability to climb the ladder. Every single song is a big riff, chorus and vocals. Why not try acoustic or instrumental pieces? Why not use different instruments? It’s all a bit too similar for my liking.
Nevertheless, this is a fine collection of songs, and worthy of a decent-sized article in Kerrang! or NME. “Rifftrospective” is a superb choice of Left Side Brain’s greatest and I look forward to hearing more from the band with the monster riff.
‘Scatterbrain’ sees the return of The Xcerts after their extremely successful debut album, ‘In The Cold Wind We Smile’. Having described their debut as a ‘greatest hits’ of songs from the bands early years, frontman Murray Macleod seems very positive about his bands second outing. He says it is “a proper album that paints a much more vibrant picture”, and he also praises the help of their new producer Mike Sapone (Taking Back Sunday, Brand New) who they saw as the fourth member of the band during the recording process.
The album itself starts off feeling very unsettled: Opening track
and introduction to the album ‘Tar’ is a mess of guitar feedback,
clattering drums and bass drones which after building to a chaotic
peak breaks into the title track from the album that is reminiscent
of the early 90’s grunge era (think Nirvana – ‘In Utero’ and you’re
getting close to the mark). But it’s not a sound that particularly
suits the band; the guitars are too nicely played, and the screaming
vocals sound extremely out of place. It is a relief to me then that
from the third song onwards the band seems to settle into their own
groove. They sound at their best in songs such as ‘Distant Memory’,
‘He Sinks. He Sleeps’ and lead single off the album ‘Young (Belane)’
where they get in touch with their more commercial side. Sounding
like all generations of Weezer mashed into one eleven song album they
are fun, aggressive and extremely passionate. Macleod puts on a great
vocal performance switching from shouting to singing instantly and
seamlessly at times, while the songs themselves range from angry and
angsty rock tracks to slow, reverberant power ballads. The result
is a very well crafted album that is full of potential hit songs.
It really is a pity then that those first two tracks seem so out of
place, without them ‘Scatterbrain’ would be virtually faultless. 7/10
First things first. Who else thinks that 'Thirty Pounds Of Bone' by Method would sound like an altogether more interesting album? I can just picture the crowd of beards and tattoos growling out of an advert placed in the back pages of Kerranng, and probably sounding like an agreeable metallic din at that.
Johny Lamb has gone it alone though, and he plays all the instruments on what is his second (or is that sophomore) album. I need to say he's done a lot of it quite well, considering the entire recording was done in his bedroom in less than a week. Guitars, harmonium, ethereal vibes and percussion, it's a very professionally done home recording, suggesting that Johny Lamb sleeps in a 36 track bedroom. Wasn't done on a 4 track Tascam, at any rate.
What I'm less impressed by are the lyrics to Thirty Pounds Of Bone's
songs, some of which don't do much for Johny Lamb's singing voice.
Some of the rhymes eg: 'singing fables down the cables' are a bit
less than inspired, and third track 'All For Me Grogg' with its plaintive
refrain of 'where's my shirt?' just sounds a bit feeble. Take a look
under that Waterboys album Johny, the one that's hardly been off your
stereo since 1994.
I'd just finished reading a newspaper article celebrating the 50th anniversary of the legalisation of DH Lawrence's 'Lady Chatterly's Lover' when along comes Marmaduke Dando, acerbically witty singer songwriter in the manner of Neil Hannon, Momus and occasionally Morrissey - and he's a fully paid up Lawrentian to boot : the CDs inner sleeve contains a colourful 100 or so word quote from Lawrence, one which is very unlikely to have seen publication in his lifetime.
Never really struck me as much of a loungebar sophisticate, old DH. Only too easy to imagine him spluttering through his moustache while attempting to put a banjo tune together for that 'Lizard' poem we got at school, in between throwing pieces of coal at nuns and admiring those newfangled 'futurist' ideas from Milan. Unlike Marmaduke Dando, whose musicianship is melodic and restrained, a lot like a sort of edgier Divine Comedy, employing actual pathos as opposed to Hannon's seaside japery.
Gets a bit samey over 10 tracks though, I really was listening out for a musical flourish, for a break from the repetitive keyboard-led strictures and structures, away from the unvarying tone of mildly shocked cynicism, awaiting the arrival of a trumpet or slide guitar or even a female voice to shatter the ever thickening fug of ever decreasing options, the sound of blinkers going on, the entire desperate spiralling that arrives with crushing finality at the park bench and sherry denoument of 'The Last Embrace' ....
Pulp fans, this one's for you!
Electro-rock. Doesn’t your heart die a little bit inside when you hear this appalling genre? It makes you think of Pendulum, who are actually just drum and bass, not actually what they call themselves, and Hadouken! who are equally as awful. So when I read a bit about Zeropunk, I was ready for 40 minutes that I’d have lost to time. I feared it would be another fusion of electronic and rock with unequal proportions of 99% electro and 1% rock. If that.
However, I was deeply surprised with the anthemic opener of “Welcome To The Future” - it was actually very impressive. I found myself liking it, which almost never happens. Unlike most bands of their genre, Zeropunk actually manage to fulfil the genre’s title, providing a superbly mixed melee of rocky riffs and synth accompaniments that would put Enter Shikari to shame. Personal highlights would include “Welcome To The Future”, “Rabbit Hole” and “Rain” - they provide a real intelligence in the writing of the music, a real melodic feast of a cyber journey.
It would be at this point in a review that I would stop praising and start condemning. But I can’t find much to condemn, if I’m honest. Zeropunk have managed to create an album that is diverse, yet still sticks to their electro-rock label. Although you can hear obvious influence from bands such as 30 Seconds To Mars and Nine Inch Nails, they’ve managed to acquire their own unique sound in a genre where it’s hard to make your own stamp.
Zeropunk are definitely a band to watch out for, and I urge people to support them. Their self-titled debut is out on 25th October, and I will be one of the people in line to buy it. It’s a brilliant album, with very little to criticise, and a lot to reward
Normally reading the press release for any music is a bad idea because they are awful. Poorly written or just poor. The Scottish Enlightenment's press release was a bad thing to read because it's the best thing about the package I was sent.
It's fantastic. It made me desperate for the album that it was promoting to be great. It made me worried about what listening to the album would would do to me. I was expecting to be challenged by what the album contained. In fact I was expecting a sledgehammer of emotion, song and argument. I was expecting actual cognitive dissonance because what I had known for so long was snatched from me and replaced by something I'm not ready to comprehend. (seriously, the press release is an amazing piece of prose)
That was not what I got. On first listen I was massively underwhelmed and it is, really, only because I am reviewing this album that I am listening again so soon.
However, the second listen (and the subsequent listens I did of my own volition) have revealed songs that are beautiful. Songs that are insistent but gentle. Most of all they are songs that are admirable in that they are incredibly personal while also allowing room for the listener to put themselves onto the song. What I thought was an album that could be out on in the background has slowly become an album I put on very often and listen to. I would very much like to write them a letter. Great Scott! Not THAT kind of letter!
Which reminds me, if you're going to make a Back To The Future Reference on you album, you had better not screw it up. Here it's unnecessary. (look at the track listing to see what I'm on about).
Scandinavia is a funny place for music; it’s home to the hardest, darkest metal you’ll ever hear but it’s also the spiritual home of pop. From ABBA and The Cardigans to the Girls Aloud writing team, Scandinavians have been carving perfect pop for decades. So as heavy and jagged as the Norwegian band Blood Command are, there’s no escaping their pop sensibilities.
'Ghostclocks' is the new album from this five piece and it struts around with a confidence and attitude unbecoming of a mere début. You see, it's both heavy and screeching but not crude, it's complex and clever but unpretentious and most of all, it's outrageously catchy. Front woman Silje Tombre screams her way through tracks such 'Party All The Way To The Hospital' and 'Red Ruin' before gear-shifting into melodic harmonies and poppy choruses with such aplomb it hardly seems like the same singer. Her vocal gymnastics leads us in and out of screamo, thrash and power pop with staggering ease. As heavy as this five-some dare to venture, they remain emotive and intimate no matter how crazy things get or how much Tombre wails.
Why? Well probably because there's no ignoring that this record is a collection of quintessential pop wonders. Each middle eight or chorus brings with it huge, accessible melodies that offset intense and hectic verses with that kind of expertise that makes you want to physically bite into the music it's so satisfying.
If we're hunting for weaknesses, it's fair to say that the songs don't vary enough (the guitar tone, drum sounds and production on each track is identical), power pop metal certainly doesn't carry broad appeal and there's nothing devastatingly new going on here, but the sophistication in the song writing alone makes this record a towering debt. Indeed, with the future of heavy music still appearing uncertain, Blood Command have provided a remarkable road map for the future and other bands should take note. 9/10
Ninja Tune are celebrating this year; twenty years ago Jon Moore and Matt Black (Coldcut) decided to create a label that wasn’t influenced by trends, fashion or selling millions of records. Instead they wanted people to hear cutting edge, eclectic and fresh new music. Artists that were actually good at what they do being given the opportunity to get their music heard with none of the hidden extras that come from major labels. Ninja Tune was born, and now they want to celebrate turning twenty in style. Along with many other events and a hefty Ninja Tune XX box set being released one of their most prized artists, King Cannibal, decided to celebrate by making a ‘mix tape’, a bit of a retrospective but with over 250 tracks used in just over an hour…
The album is split into twenty tracks, all representing a different side to the label such as ‘Big Tunes. Big Hits’, ‘How About Some Rock & Roll’ and ‘King Of The Junglism’. Prefaced by an introduction that states “The purpose of this little demonstration is to give an idea of everything you always wanted to know about Ninja Tune” this is exactly what you’re going to hear over the next hour or so. Everything from the big releases such as Roots Manuva ‘Witness’ and The Cinematic Orchetra ‘All That You Give’ to lesser known artists such as Amon Tobin, The Qemists and of course the founders of the label, Coldcut. It is a journey that twists and turns, keeping you on your toes and never stopping for a breather. It is seamlessly mixed together, both as an album and within each individual track, occasionally surprising you with the use of samples that you will recognise but maybe not know where from. I have got a few bits and pieces from the label over the years, but nowhere near enough to be able to say that I’m an expert in all things Ninja Tune, however I was impressed with how many of the samples I recognised just from my everyday music listening.
I think it would be fair to say that King Cannibal has done an excellent
job with ‘The Way Of The Ninja’; both its concept and execution are
a great way to celebrate twenty years of Ninja Tune in 70 minutes.
It will leave you heading straight to the website to try and find
out where some of the samples came from, and consequently will no
doubt increase any Ninja Tune fans record collection and get any newcomers
off to a good start. 10/10
This release marks the return of Ninja Tune after their 20th anniversary box set and also the debut by San Francisco based Eskmo.
Twisting and turning throughout, refusing to submit to the rigid chains of pigeon holing, this album presents a varied and extremely rich musical palette. Ghostly synthesised vocals haunt regularly, astride warm, emotional layers of beats and absorbing rhythms. Switching frequently between glitch, dubstep, electronic and R’n’B provides a fascinating and unpredictable experience for the listener but one that can also prove occasionally frustrating and fragmented, as no sooner have you started to immerse yourself you are transported swiftly elsewhere.
Containing a number of excellent tunes does not an excellent album make and while there are amazing displays of potential here, Eskmo has simply made a pleasing record, leaving his masterpiece to come. 7/10
Partly inspired by the devastating Greek forest fires of 2007, ‘Trials’ is the second album by Birmingham’s shady bard and follows their well received debut ‘From The Ground Up’.
Engulfed at times by impending destruction, the album is at times, as is to be expected, bleak and harrowing. However there is much beauty to be found amongst the darkness, although hope seems to be receding quickly “…I though that I would pull you through, and I thought that I would pull through to, but pulling through is hard to do, and it can be the end of you sometimes”… The fear is translated, terrifyingly at times, through the fire and death imagery present throughout, lending great empathy to the protagonist.
Despite this disastrous setting, much of the music is joyous, possibly defiant in the face of adversity as the glorious trumpets strike up an awe inspiring last rebuttal to the fast approaching flames. At times sounding like Nick Cave injected with a heavy dose of explosive flamenco rhythms, whilst flirting with the emotional brilliance of Mercury Rev, this is an album that is simply nothing short of breathtaking. 9/10
Teebs, who can surely be described as a protégé of Flying Lotus, releases an album two years in the making, a time of great change and tragedy.
Buzzing with energy and conjuring up magical images of dancing, vibrant colours, an aura of positivism appears to be draped lovingly over this release. Beats are gentle, shimmering underneath multilayers of soothing rhythms and entrancing soundscapes. Tracks slowly come into focus, entering at a leisurely pace before disappearing gracefully, never once outstaying their welcome. Beautifully produced and carefully sequenced this is hopefully a sign of more to come from the Los Angeles scene in which is Teebs is well established.
Formed by the glamorously titled Luigi and Marco Amicucci and Richard Moon in the firmly unglamorous north east town of Darlington, Populator bring more than a touch of synth pop nostalgia to the board with their album ‘Pop’.
Like all the best artists in the genre, Populator are able to encompass the darker side of life within their sound so as not to over-sweeten what could be saccharine sweet. Lots of slightly off kilter minor key changes mean you are unlikely to hear Populator follow The Pet Shop Boys onto Top of the Pops (sorry, that’s a lot of pop/pet/top words all close together there) but their song writing skills are certainly as taut as anything Tennant and Lowe could muster.
Instead Populator are very definitely in that darker arena shared with the likes of Depeche Mode and more latterly Ladytron. The Mode comparisons are very heavy, increased by the similarities in vocal styles (and even synth effects) between the two bands.
The one weakness of this album would have to be the similarity of
a lot of the songs – the voice/synth/beat combinations suffer from
a bit of a lack of individuality – as you approach the end of the
CD it does tend to seem that one song very much blends into the next,
even the promise of a slightly harder edged ‘Maybe’ which threatens
to be a bit Front 242 before retreating to familiar territory is not
helping much to define individual tracks. But if that’s what you do
then that’s what you do – you wouldn’t expect Motorhead to throw in
a quick folk song in the middle of one of their albums. 7/10
It’s taken a little while to get round to this review as the Mr Twist has voyaged the length of Britain and back again before ending up on my desk. But on listening to the album you get the feeling that this will only ever be a bit of a slow burner anyway, hopefully negating our tardiness.
Proceedings commence brightly with quite a cool scratchy guitar intro to ‘I Come round again’ but sadly this is the high point of the track. There are elements of lots of good stuff in there but they seem to grate against each other rather than work together in one harmonious offering. Again, ‘On and On’ start s really well (even if the bass does seem to make the track more staccato than it needs to be or benefits from). If the slightly incongruous simplicity of the chorus could be given a bit of a makeover, this track would definitely be blazing it’s way in the charts (whatever that might signify) .
There’re nice three-part harmonies in several places and the odd slow section as in ‘No Better Time’ works really well. But equally there seem a lot of instances where the songs get a bit X-Factor croonery, and a few which perhaps seem a little underdeveloped, leaving a whiff of pub-rock about them.
All in all it’s a tantalising whiff – Mr Twist sound like they have
the makings of a fantastic album within them, sadly this isn’t it
but it will be interesting to hear how they progress as a band. 6/10
Whoah there. More than just a little bit of potential to wet myself with excitement when this little beauty dropped through the letterbox. Anyone who has already heard the guitar-mentalist EP releases ‘Scorpieau’ and ‘I hate this, do you like it?’ would be frothing at the mouth waiting to get their mits on this little monster. But you know, you hear the singles then there’s always a few disappointments on the album aren’t there? Aren’t there?
Well in this case any fears of mid-album mediocrity are quickly allayed as we are quickly fired through ‘Scorpieau’ before being plunged headlong into the down-tuned fury of ‘NASA vs ESA’, let up for air in the rich overdubs and post-prog breather of ‘The Let Down’ before being chopped up and spat out into little pieces by the ridiculously expert ‘Son of CERN’. You see this isn’t brainless guitar hacking and vocal caterwauling of your average metal band. It’s the skilled chaotic rantings of four lunatic musical geniuses.
I think it was midway through ‘The Pin’ when the power of this album really sunk in. Mainly because I was listening to it at rather high volume when my car and I parted company with the A19 at high speed, spun around a couple of times, slid sideways and ended up at 45 degrees in a tree with smoke billowing out of the engine (bloody CD player cut out though.) Amid this carnage (and Mrs B deliriously spitting her Chipsticks everywhere in shock) I was able to calmly turn off the engine, remove my glasses and work out how we were going to get ourselves up to Newcastle. You see, compared with the bedlam of listening to Chickenhawk, this little spin seemed relatively smallfry (though the deceased large beast that was the cause of the derailment may bag to differ.)
There’s an undeniably life affirming quality to really good metal
(quite literally in my case it would seem) and ‘Modern Bodies’ just
churns it out in quantity and quality. You’ve already been softened
up but just when your defences are at a low ebb, the ridiculously
heavy churning riffs of ‘Keronsene’ will batter any semblance of resistance
out of your body. This album is loud. This album is heavy. This album
might even scare you straight off the road. But I’d give it another
go just to find out. 9/10