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  albums - mar 2006


Ministry of Sound Sessions Mixed by DJ Sneak - Sneak Beats (Ministry of Sound)

Oh dear - exactly the sort of insipid house music which leaves me weeping in a corner somewhere. Not edgy enough to ever gain any attention and not mellow or complex enough to act as decent chill out music. Obviously it's a mix album (with a few of DJ Sneak's own tunes thrown in) but it really does sound dated. And at two discs/30 tracks long, it's not exactly a quick listen either. For diehard fans only.



Young People – ‘Five Sunsets in Four Days’ (too pure) 

Young people have been slogging away on US indie scene for a good few years now racking up a string of devotees and a reputation for joy infused blues and country inflected music. Now with them signing to Too Pure they may finally get the wider audience they deserve. As an appetiser to their Too Pure full length, Young People give us ‘five Sunsets in Four Days’ a record of simple, catching songs that manage to be bluesy but never blue, upbeat and joyful but never fickle or lightweight. Stripped back and with the addition of some beautiful female vocals and simple percussion it comes off sounding like Scout Nibletts more fun and accessible sister. If this was as much of a joy to record as it is to listen to then these guys must really enjoy being in the studio.

Luke Drozd

Miller - Complete Buffonery (Fred's Crack)

Well, where to start? Mike Miller may well possess quite a lyrical skill. He may be able to hold together some catchy 80's synth based tunes on a Casio. he could probably start quite a realistic They Might be Giants cover band. So it's mystifying why he can't write a song which won't offend anyone.

His bowel activity, 'Missing Him, Missing Limb' an ode to sex in a relationship when one partner has lost a leg and even a song about fishing called 'Master-Baiter'. Everything seems like it has been written for a Bernard Manning summer season at Blackpool. Even the punk pop electro tunes get irritating after 20 minutes or so.

I'm sure there is some genius hidden within this album somewhere, some deep and profound messages to the the people. but they must be well-hidden.



volcano! – ‘Beautiful Seizure’ (Leaf) 

Leaf have long been a benchmark of quality consistently releasing compelling and challenging music from a variety of genres. That said though it is not a record you associate with your louder more rocking end of the musical spectrum. However all that is set to change with the release of volcano! (little ‘v’ and exclamation mark please) and their record ‘Beautiful Seizure’.

volcano! create bizarre rock music spewed forth by men with far too much talent then they obviously have any sensible idea what to do with. Melodic and heart-wrenching one second and cathartic and urgent the next songs chew up time signatures like a hungry child whilst not being able to decide whether to let you enjoy yourself or force you to sit up and listen. Vocals can be beautiful near hymnal deliveries before suddenly erupting and spluttering at you like Thom Yorke fronting a new wave punk band with both his eyes in the same direction.

‘Beautiful Seizure’ is a record that is ambitious whilst avoiding pretension. It is rabid and violent yet utterly charming and a more fitting name for this record and volcano!’s sound I cannot think of. A Beautiful Seizure indeed.

Luke Drozd

Atlantic Jaxx recordings - A Comppilation Vol. 2 (Atlantic Jaxx)

Originally conceived as Basement Jaxx's own label for putting their early stuff out, over the years they have taken on a number of kindred spirits and released the odd compilation such as this. There's generally quite a big latin jazz, world music influence on this particular compilation, neither of which interests me greatly I'm afraid.

By far the best tracks on the CD are the Basement Jaxx tunes which, if nothing else, proves the record buying public aren't always wrong. 'We R Computa' leaps out as the stand out track for me, not least because it breaks up the samba and flamenco nonsense of it's neighbouring tracks with a much more mainland European electronica vibe, like a Kraftwerk record misplaced in HMV in the Mariah Carey section.



Proton Proton - #2 (Self released) 

Seeing the title of this CD the transparent plastic ball rolling about in the internal workings of the CD case got me very excited. Yes, us physicists should get out more often. Imagine then as the opening track “Plates” hits me with McLusky-esque snotty vocals. Ace, Falkous would deffo approve. There’s imaginative use of noise, toy pianos, percussion, drums and summat called a gass, which as anyone who’s seen Leeds’ That Fucking Tank would probably hazard a guess is a cross between a guitar and a bass, and they also share a similar driven instrument led attitude. Fave track is “Mars”, can’t shake the physics off now, but there’s nothing remotely rubbish on here anyway. Are you still with me, yes? Then try

Dave Procter


Fleeting Joys – demo 

Hero-worship can be a dangerous thing, especially when it comes to shoe-gazing. To say Fleeting Joys are a fan of My Bloody Valentine is putting it lightly…it sounds like they don’t listen to much else. But with Shields and co. having bracketed the entire genre with two seminal albums, is there really anything more to add?  

“The Breakup” is case in point; ethereal boy/girl harmonies meet swathes of swooping, layered guitar, heavy on the reverb with a dash of synth and hold the mayo, only jettisoning the dance leanings of the Valentines in favour of a more linear 4/4 beat. Pounding instrumental “I Want More Fear” also demonstrates the rock aspect to be more prevalent, and the remaining three tracks continue in the same shimmering vein. 

A lot of work has obviously gone into this and credit where credit’s due; it hasn’t taken FJ three years or a complete loss of sanity to achieve what sounds like a spot-on approximation of the Loveless “sound”. It’s just that ultimately it’s all a bit pointless.

Nobody expects a musical leap forward like it’s 1991 but surely it’s always better to innovate than imitate?

Will Columbine


Various: Dance To The Radio – What We All Want (DanceToTheRadio) 

And so to the final offering – by the time you get to reading to this review you’ll have already read several others saying what a great compilation this is and it’ll already be sold out and selling for stupid amounts on eBay. And rightly so, really. What Whiskas and his comrades at DTTR are doing is getting loads of publicity for Leeds’ bands while the laughable New Yorkshire tag still gets the idiot journos in London excited by bands up here, not that these are all Leeds’ bands nor that they need praise from the NME to be any good, I should add, and what better way than via a label unafraid to put releases out with such variety. What we have here is 22 tracks, covering a lot of different styles, and to do this CD justice review-wise, it’d take a long time and inevitably involve me making decisions about which songs I like the most and which ones I’m not sure about and ones that are crap, not that I spotted (m)any of them. There’s a lot of interesting music on here and my advice, such as will be heeded by you the punters, is put your faith in this label and get it asap. You probably won’t like every song, but 1 thing is certain, bored is summat you will never be listening to this. Respect to the lad Nichols. Web stuff giving info on the artists and other necessary details at – now be off with you.

Dave Procter


Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti 5 – ‘House Arrest’ (Paw Tracks) 

This is the second Ariel Pink release on the Animal Collective’s Paw Tracks label, following last years excellent, genre-hopping ‘Worn Copy’. ‘House Arrest’ continues in a similar vein to that earlier release, but is considerably more accomplished. For those who have not had the pleasure of listening to ‘Worn Copy’, either through slothfulness or ignorance, it was a bizarre mixture of genres all presented in a lo-fi indie pop fashion. Most enjoyable it is too. My one reservation with that release was that the mixture of different musical styles was almost too disparate, or ‘wacky’, it felt as if I couldn’t really get a handle on what Ariel Pink was trying to do. Much as I liked ‘Worn Copy’, it did feel a little forced at times. 

‘House Arrest’ suffers from none of these flaws. Although still combining different musical styles in completely unexpected ways (‘West Coast Calamities’ mixture of sixties surf pop, Adam and the Ants and country being a typical example) the sound is more consistent, it all sound as if it’s being played by the same individual, which ‘Worn Copy’ did not at times. Also the songs on here are of the highest calibre. 80’s popular music seems to have been a massive inspiration for this release, but 80’s popular music combined in peculiar fashions. For example the track ‘Flying Circles’ combines New Romantic sty lings with early hip-hop, which sound like a dismal idea but surprisingly it works. The stand out track has got be ‘Getting’ High In The Morning’, full of stadium rock clichés and primitive synths. It reminded me of ‘Walk This Way’ at points, but in a good way! Due to the mish-mash of styles the music on ‘House Arrest’ is difficult to pin down and I realise that my descriptions are woefully inadequate. Suffice to say this is a brilliant album of leftfield pop that I recommend in the highest terms. I can imagine the lo-fi production of this release aggravating some people, but for me it simply adds to the charm. 

Michael Pearson


Looner – s/t 

I’d already listened to this album a couple of times before I read the accompanying letter and learned that it was the work of a duo rather than a full-band – fancy! It seems, in this instance, having fewer cooks around definitely improves the flavour of the broth.  

The sparse treatment definitely suits “Outside” and “My Time”, and the implementation of human beat-box on these tracks and several others is inspired. The percussive climax of “All Right” would have made the Beta Band proud, while “Don’t You Know” makes it more than obvious that the pair have been listening to Gorillaz just a little bit. Throw in some chiming guitar, a solid grasp of pop and voila! Indie/goth/hip-hop anyone? 

If there are any major improvements that need making, it’s in the lyrics department (“The future is bright when things go my way” being a particularly bland example), and I still have a love/hate relationship with singer Zoe Roche’s low-register vocal style. However, anyone who can approximate a less annoying Brian Molko deserves some kudos. The bottom line is this is a CD that I’m still coming back to again and again.

Will Columbine

Massive Attack - Collected (Virgin)

Bit of a red herring here. While the actual released version of this album will feature all sorts of extra goodies on a bonus CD such as reworked and unreleased material, this promotional copy only includes a single disc, making up a retrospective of previously released Massive Attack tracks.

I'm always circumspect about 'best ofs' or 'collections', normally a sign that a band is trying to cash in, often before splitting up. There's no official word on the fate of Massive Attack though this CD does feature one new single featuring Terry Callier which we reviewed last month. A token effort or a sign of things to come? Who knows. But placing all these album tracks together on one CD does provide some interesting comparisons. It charts the development of Massive Attack from their soulful beginnings on 'Blue Lines' and ' Protection', through the darkness that was ' Mezzanine' and right up to '100 Windows'. I don't apologise for thinking that the latter was by far the weakest of the four albums and perhaps signalled a band in decline, ready to call it a day. I hope they prove me wrong.



Witch – s/t (TeePee) 

In which J Mascis and pals decide to form a heavy rock group and pay tribute to the gods of metal. It starts off well enough; anyone who is a fan of Kyuss and, in particular, their excellent “Thumb” will find much to appreciate in the opening “Seer” which is pretty much the same except slower and with the lyrics “I was lost…just a sad man/I had no future/But then one day/I met a man/I took his hand…” threatens to be stoner rock’s first song about a latent homosexual coming out of the closet…that is until the obligatory wizard makes his entrance. Something of a missed opportunity there. 

“Soul of Fire”, the only track here that weighs in under the four-minute mark, also packs a punch thanks to its dynamic mix of rawk riffage and hardcore drums. Unfortunately the rest of the album fails to keep up the pace, too often disappearing into inconsequential Iron Maiden-esque widdling. At least that band has old leather lungs Bruce Dickinson to shriek you awake…the piss-weak vocals on display here can’t really compete. As for Mascis’s supposed talent as a drummer, in truth he’s rather sloppy, and it doesn’t help that the drums sound like they were recorded in a decompression chamber. A nice try, but I’ll hold out for the new Dinosaur Jr album…this one’s for dads and the bum-fluff brigade only.

Will Columbine


Ral Partha Vogelbacher – ‘Shrill Falcons’ (Monotreme) 

Ral Partha Vogelbacher are a band not a person. Just thought that would be a valuable thing to straighten out right off the bat. They are basically the brainchild of one Chadwick Bidwell, a chap from San Francisco with a mind made for bizarre lyrics and eccentricities about events that hover somewhere between the real and fake, the odd and the normal. Lending their invaluable talents to the proceedings and making up the backbone of Ral Partha are the wondrous souls from Thee More shallows Dee Kelser and Jason Gonzales who bring there formidable baroque pop sensibilities to the record. Stick this much talent in a studio and the results were always going to be good. However what actually happened is the result turned out to be really fucking good.

The rye wit and turn of phrase that has been present in Bidwell's earlier work is still here in droves as he tells stories of artists, sturgeons, national parks and falcons, stories full of paranoia and humour, joy and bitterness that are baffling and wonderful. It ends up being a bit like Bill Callahan but with a sense of fun. Musically though this record far exceeds anything Ral Partha have done before. With the watchful eye and talent of Dee Kelser the songs on Shrill Falcons are complex pop scattered with discord and noise that swell and ebb till they are bursting at the seams. Its like listening to audio worms that burrow into your mind and then lay there fetid music eggs directly into the part of your brain that makes you love music. It don’t matter if you want to hate it or not, the worm won’t let you.

‘Shrill Falcons’ is simply and purely a marvellous record, far more that the sum of its parts and every bit ( in fact dare I say on occasions better) than its entire members previous musical output. Ignore all those bastards in the popular music press telling you this and that is the ‘first essential album of 2006’ and listen to me. THIS is the first essential album of 2006 and I know what’s best for you all. Besides I’m pretty sure if you don’t buy it then you will die with a small nagging feeling in your soul meaning you will never truly be able to rest.

Luke Drozd


Cat Power – ‘The Greatest’ (Matador)

I have had the pleasure of witnessing the awesome power of Chan Marshall aka Cat Power in the flesh. It is a chilling and sensuous experience indeed. On record she has always managed high levels of metered beauty but often I couldn’t help but find some of it gently washing over me and disappearing out the back door. Thankfully this is far for the case on the new record the aptly titled ‘The Greatest’. Not only is this a collection of probably Marshall’s finest whole collection of songs to date but she also made sure that everything else about the record encompassed the album titles high level of self belief. She got Al Green’s song writing partner and guitarist Mabon Hughes in to play guitar as well as his hi Rhythm band mate and brother Leroy Hughes to chip in. Add to that the fact it was recorded in Memphis in a studio used by the likes of Bob Dylan and Stax and you know you got a winning formula.

Those familiar with Cat Power’s sound will much of what to expect from the records general tone though that wont stop them being surprised by the quality of the song writing here. Marshall’s sultry tones gently coo over a series of gentle Memphis inflected songs like a female Al Green making a simple country-folk record. ‘Lived in Bars’ is a soft lament that feels like the end of a night in the middle of a long summer while the simplicity of ‘Where is My Love’ allows Marshall’s voice to really shine.

This record has warmth and integrity and simply couldn’t be anyone else. It really is ‘The Greatest’ indeed.

Luke Drozd


The Hope Blister – ‘Underarms and Sideways’ 

‘Underarms and Sideways’ is a double album, well too separate albums to be precise. In fact in order to really explain I will venture back to the beginning. ‘Underarms’ is a reconstruction made itself from the Hope Blisters album ‘…Smile OK’ by 4AD founder Ivo Watts-Russell. It was originally released in 1998 as a limited edition CD and then slipped into the realms of geek aficionados. This is where it gets a bit more confusing. Ivo became aware of the work of Markus Guenter and was particularly struck by his album ‘1981’. He soon fell in love with it and began to notice a sort of aesthetic match between it and ‘Underarms’. Ivo contacted Guenter and found out he was a fan of Ivo’s music too. Would you believe it. So this led towards talk of Markus Guenter doing collaboration and he agreed and decided he’d like to create a re-interpretation of ‘Underarms’. This became ‘Sideways’ the second album in this pack. So in all we have a reconstruction and a reinterpretation of a reconstruction. Simple, huh?

‘Underarms’ itself is a gentle instrumental work of absolute subtlety. It is about shifting moods and emotions with prolonged lilts and drones that are trance like and seem to alter the passage of time for those who let themselves get taken in by it.

The track-by-track reinterpretations of ‘Underarms’ that make up ‘Sideways’ are a slightly different proposition. While they retain the idea of shifting of feelings throughout the piece they feel somehow colder and less alive than their predecessors. Whether this is intentional or not I couldn’t say but it makes for an album that is at times rather vast and beautiful and at others a little soulless.

This reissue reconstruction reworking double CD is at times compelling but ultimately a lot of the time it serves to be more of a curiosity than an essential piece of music.

Luke Drozd


Quasi – ‘When the Going Gets Dark’ (Domino) 

Quasi has been the musical partnership between Sam Coombes and Janet Weiss since 1993. Mainly focussed around drums and keyboard they are a band intent on capturing the nuances that life’s ups and down dole out to us all, and to them as musicians and friends. Unlike their last record ‘Hot Shit’ which stripped back there sound somewhat, Quasi have returned with a record that has rock music at its very core. The music is immediate and vital, a sort of rock music with a soul. The duos ability to harmonise and complement each other both vocally and musically, particularly on the excellent ‘Merry X-Mas’, further compliments the swirling, distorted sound.

A thoroughly enjoyable album ‘When the Going Gets Dark’ is what so much rock music should sound like. However it never really pushes the envelope that stage further to make it breathtaking and a couple of weaker moments do rear their heads. Still a record well worth checking out mind.

Luke Drozd


Micah Blue Smaldone – ‘Hither and Thither’ (North East Indie) 

As the first notes plucked on Hither and Thither ring out from your speakers it is instantly obvious that you are in the midst of something extremely special. Indeed this is a feeling that is only reinforced as the record slowly unravels itself before your very ears.

Smaldone is a man who cut his teeth on punk rock and became fascinated with pre-war blues and ragtime. After years of obsessing over and making the songs of that era his own he began to write songs of his own employing the integrity and soul that these early recording artists had possessed. It is clear from the songs present on his second full length that rather than being an imitator of this music he feels and believes in it and so lending the proceedings complete credibility.

Smaldone is a man who believes in the minimal when it comes to his music and most the songs present here are finely picked on guitar complimented with occasional simple vocal arrangements. It’s the sound of a man born in the wrong era, a man who sounds like he’d have been far more at home in the time of the vaudeville shows and yet it certainly doesn’t feel contrived or forced. However it is on the complex and beautiful instrumentals where Smaldone's talents are truly allowed to shine with an early Fahey like edge.

Micah Blue Smaldone is a man in possession of a pure and raw talent, a man channelling the souls of many a bluesman fallen in a bygone era into his own unique and powerful stories of love, loss and dark times and right now I don’t think that’s ever been more relevant.

Luke Drozd


Celebration – ‘S/T’ (4AD) 

Celebration are just that. The musical equivalent of the hippest, sexiest party you’ve never been invited to Celebration sport a catalogue of gut-wrenchingly good tunes that you would dance to were it not for the fact next to them your dancing would be shit and everyone would hate you. Tight and pulsing drum and percussion fire songs along whilst organs, keyboards and lord knows what else pulse and swirl all around. Add to this Katrina Fords vocal gymnastics and you have a dark and twitchy record full of density, twists and turns. Celebration are purveyors of serious fun and way more than just another funky group of rock star hopefuls for the skinny jeans and haircut concept brigade to dance to. Pass me a tambourine cus I feel some impromptu bedroom accompaniment coming on. 

Luke Drozd


Modey Lemon – ‘The Curious City’ (Birdman) 

As a review this is going to be rather useless I’m afraid, simply because I cannot decide whether I like this album or not. Some of the tracks are very good others not. In general Modey Lemon sound a bit like a mixture of Hot Snakes, Devo, King Crimson and Kula Shaker. Now anyone with a modicum of common sense will see where the problems in this formula could lie. Which is what makes this album so variable in terms of quality. For example ‘Bucket of Butterflies’ is excellent, mixing rock and roll, post-punk and progressive rock to wonderful effect. On the other end of the quality spectrum the song ‘Red Lights’, which starts well enough but goes very Kula Shaker very quickly. Maybe that’s a bit of an unfair reaction, but that was what immediately popped into my head when listening to that track. The rest of the album continues in a similar vein, some of it rather good the rest not. Given I still can’t make up my mind about this that will have to suffice as far as conclusions go. 

Michael Pearson


Both Cheese – 8TRX Demo (B.C. Records) 

This is quite simply dismal. Garage / funk. Says it all really. The only interesting thing about this release is the incredibly poor production quality, which brings a certain amateurish charm to the proceedings. However I would be willing to bet substantial sums of money and indeed any number of my internal organs that this is not a stylistic decision, merely the product of financial necessity. If these songs were recorded properly then they would have no merit whatsoever, and if the best you can say about a band is that the recording of their album is terrible then it’s a bit of a poor ‘do’.

Michael Pearson


Glyder - debut album

So hot off the press and up top date that the band have still not thought of a name for their album? Amazing. Unlike their music which is an aged metal which simply drips with all of the classic metal cliches - the pick slides, the chugging guitars etc. All performed admirably proficiently and without an ounce of originality. Truly formidable. In honour, my CD player seemed to generate an allergy to pub metal and develop a fault midway through the album so it's not all bad news.



Telford Mining Disaster - Rodeo Wine

I love the name of this band. But it's not until some way into the album that the country and western roots alluded to in the title 'Rodeo Wine' come through. It sounds like the Telford Mining Disaster are quite an unruly mob and are just interested in doing what they want, not pandering to any trends or A&R types. But they switch styles from mid west hoe down to Beach Boys pop with unnerving ease. This is not the sort of thing that I would normally go for, but in this case there's something strangely alluring about the vintage guitars, it's like being on the set of a western movie way back when they were first being filmed.



Caroline – Murmurs (Vital Distribution)

Coming from something of a musical family dynasty, one might have expected Caroline Lufkin to produce something of note during her lifetime. But you’d have been hard pressed to predict it would be something as precious as this.

Murmurs is a velvet musical box of tiny, fragile pop masterpieces. There’s allsorts in here, from trumpets and whistles, to the understated crunchy percussion that Bjork has used so well over the years, but none of them samples, further proving that this is an album that has been slaved over for some time. And it’s been worth it. ‘Pink & Black’ sounds like Kate Bush before she got all old and swarthy, whilst ‘Sunrise’ barely exists. Imagine late Slowdive with better vocals and a genuine sense of deep love that’s gone into ‘Murmur’. What Caroline has produced is not only special to her; it should be special to you, too.

Sam Metcalf

The Fallout Trust – In Case of the Flood 

Not to be confused with the loathsome Fall Out Boy and their particularly shite brand of Yank rock, the Trust instead peddle the kind of thinking man’s indie we Brits do that much better. Any band with three classically-trained siblings in it could easily fall foul (when they’re not busy arguing) of producing something pompous or unnecessarily technical. As it turns out, this is a more than decent debut. 

Let’s ignore the press sheet (something I’m more than happy to do considering it’s the same length as a small novel) and its citing of Arcade Fire and Super Furries as intrinsic to the band’s genetic make-up…the undeniable influence here is that of Radiohead. It’s there in the crunchy, Depeche Mode drum-loop at the start of “When We Are Gone”, in the bordering-on-hysteria vocals all over “When There’s No Cold to Feel”, and the break-beat and guitar sound on “Cover up the Man”. They even manage to sound like both a ‘Head influence (Pink Floyd) and devotee (Elbow) on “TVM”. Crikey! 

The overall theme of pre-natural disaster would no doubt sit quite happily with Yorke and co. Well, it’ll be interesting to see what they come up with once they’ve taken Amnesiac off repeat-play, and the Supergrass stomp that is “Washout” at least proves they have other avenues available to them. Still, a good album and one I’d listen to over Hail to the Thief any day of the week.

Will Columbine

Soledad Brothers – The Hardest Walk (Loog)

The Soledad Brothers return with their poppy, dirty rhythm and blues.  ‘The Hardest Walk’ rarely lets up in pace, and should please fans looking for something to put their new frock on to, before going out to the Ritz.

’The Hardest Walk’ follows in the great tradition of white blues albums, and I don’t think it’s too wild to say that most of this wouldn’t sound out of place on a Johnny Cash album. ‘Crooked Crown’ is a particular delight, with some ace harmonica action and a general feeling of brooding menace. It fair makes me want to don a cowboy hat and do some spastic line dancing. And if that isn’t high praise I don’t know what is. Highly enjoyable from start to finish.

Sam Metcalf

Jaed - Dirty Days (Instant Karma)

If you'll forgive the sub-Richard Stilgoe-esque pun, I'm getting jaded with Jaed already. Two singles and now the album in about three months and I still struggle to find anything new to say about them. I think it is clear that front woman Vanessa Eve would have been quite happy being lead singer in Hole or L7 but as it stands, continues to pedal her wares via the medium that is Jaed.

Adolescent tortured rock of the type that could successfully fill many minutes on T4 Sunday is the order of the day. Or maybe it's just me being an old git. More likely a little bit of both. There are a couple of lumbering slowies to break up the more angsty tracks but nothing that breaks the mould. Buy it for your teenage niece for Easter maybe.


Sandy Dillon – Pull the Strings (One Little Indian)

This is frankly terrifying.  Written when Dillon was recovering from cervical cancer and MRSA, ‘Pull the Strings’ is an insight in the dark mind of a woman on a quite remarkable journey to recovery.
Half the time you think you’ve just walked into some kind of twilight circus world, where painted demons are teasing you, the other half you simply can’t listen because it gets too harrowing.
Imagine, if you dare, the devilish work of Robert Johnson, mixed in with the odd hip-hop beat and all sung in the kind of voice that makes Tom Waits sound like Aled Jones.

It’s clear daylight, and I’m scared shitless. If that’s the way you like your music, then you’ll love ‘Pull the Strings’

Sam Metcalf

Electroluvs - Bubblewrapped (Ninthwave)

Hot on the heels of their exquisite 'Boy Don't Bother' ep last month, the Electroluvs spoil us some more with the release of their second album, 'Bubblewrapped'. Add to the electro-melodic popiness of the singles some slower, more melancholy tracks and Bubblewrapped makes a very splendid package indeed.

There's a punky ethic at work during 'On Thin Ice' and 'Wicked Girl' features some superb threateningly sexy vocals. There's even some honky tonk piano and steel string silliness on title track 'Bubblewrapped'. If you don't  love the Electroluvs then I shall be very disappoited in you. no, really.
watch 'Teenage Timebomb' video


Cannonball Jane – Street Vernacular (Fortuna Pop!)

Cannonball Jane is where indie pop meets hip hop, and I bloody love it. ‘Street Vernacular’ reminds me of the coolest J-Pop, but with a typically New York attitude. If Luscious Jackson had half the balls they said they did, they might make something as good as ‘Street Vernacular’.

First great song is ‘Hey! Hey! Alright!’, which sounds like Huggy Bear playing a Bucks Fizz song – it’s pop at its height – the sort that makes you want to jump around like a 12 year old, even though you’re the wrong side of 30. Well, I can’t talk for you, obviously…

Meanwhile, back at the melody shack, ‘Breaker Breaker’ is quite clearly Bis-influenced – indeed much here reminds me of Bis, but that’s no bad thing – whilst ‘Add a Wrap’ starts off like Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and ends up showing that Jane can write a soppy ballad with the best of them.

This, thankfully, isn’t as an eclectic album as it could’ve been. It stays pretty much on track throughout. It’s simple pop music, but with a very mod twist. And it’s absolutely wonderful.

Sam Metcalf

Nebula – Apollo 

Having found the last Queens of the Stone Age album to be somewhat light on entertainment value, I was kind of hoping Nebula’s fourth offering would supply a much-needed dose of heavy rock heroin. Alas, it was not to be. 

Having not heard any of their previous releases it’s impossible to know if this marks any kind of decline, but it’s testament to the group’s ability (if you can call it that) that they can make a three minute fuzz-fest sound like a half-hour wank-jam and twice as unwelcome. Comprising two parts recycled Monster Magnet riffs to one part 2nd hand Hendrix solos, this is a record crying out for a tune anywhere near as catchy as “Feel-Good Hit of the Summer”. Unfortunately, crying doesn’t always get you what you want. 

If you want to hear a real stoner rock album, go buy Spine of God, slip on your headphones, lie back and luxuriate in its druggy warmth. Just don’t waste your money on this rubbish.

Will Columbine

Remedy Inc - Short Bad Quarter of An Hour

This is certainly pretty original. Remedy Inc. do the whole rap/metal crossover thing, partly in English, partly in German. Not like Run DMC and Aerosmith then. More like some of the collaborations on the 1993 Judgement Night soundtrack album actually, you know, Helmet & House of Pain, Cypress Hill and Sonic Youth etc.

The guitars are tuned low and the hardcore rapping is even lower. But oh dear. Then it loses its way. The chugging guitars give way to some self indulgent vocal wailing that sounds terrible and the whole thing just rumbles on with little variation for over an hour, dammit. That's a bit unfair, 'Midnight Barbecue' promises a bit of a change with some watery guitar and popping bass overlaid by some breathy female vocals. But sure enough it descends into a wanky axathon.Give me strength.


Mike K – A Simple Story Simply Told 

I’ve had bad experiences with albums made by young men locked away in dark rooms with too much equipment to hand, so it’s my great pleasure to report that the results of Mike K’s years of blood, sweat and tears didn’t make me want to throw my Ipod under the wheels of an oncoming bus. In fact, it’s growing on me with every listen. 

Layers and textures are the name of the game here, so it’s fairly useless to try and describe individual songs when they all flow in and out of each other in one big glorious mess. You can sometimes make out the twang of a guitar string amidst the collage of sound, but otherwise it’s only the vocals and percussion that are identifiable. In fact, it’s only when Mike switches off the tape loops and sits down with only his acoustic for company (“RazorCloser”, “Sleepwalker”) that we discover he sounds more than a little like Badly Drawn Boy. For the rest, think Spiritualized without a backbone. 

This isn’t music for all occasions by any means, but if you’re in the mood to get lost inside your head you could do a lot worse than lose an hour to this little opus. Mike K may not be in the Phil Spector league just yet but with a little more time and effort, who knows?

Will Columbine

Various: The Trip Curated by Jarvis Cocker & Steve Mackey

What's the expression? You can please some of the people all the time, you can please all of the people some of the time but you can't please all the people all of the time. Such is the lot of the compilation album. Though quite what the point of this record is baffles me. A disparate mix of world music, mod, rock and anything else you care to think of sees The Fall juxtaposed with Moondog, The Beach Boys with Animated Egg and David Essex with George de la Rue. They all seem to be covers versions - that's about the only advice I can give you.

If you have very eclectic taste and a great deal of patience then why not battle your way through disc one. a prize to the person who makes it furthest through disc two before pressing the skip button...


The Green & Yellow TV – “Sinister Barrier” 

Within seconds of slipping this little number into my CD player, I was overcome by expectations of an Elephant Six-style psychedelic opus to end them all. Those harmonies! Those chorus-flecked guitar chords! Sadly, this wasn’t quite the mind-melting experience I had hoped for, although it does have its charms. 

The Green and Yellow TV have been making waves on the LA music scene since the late ‘90s and have garnered praise from Pitchfork Media and Filter Magazine along the way. So credit where credit’s due; the unwary listener might initially disregard tracks like “Carrot and a Stick” and “Temporary Fix” as overly retro, only to find sooner or later that their respective musical and metaphorical hooks are lodged well and truly in the brain. 

That’s why it’s all the more discomforting to hear the legacy of Oasis (not to mention a dead-ringer for Liam Gallagher) on “Monday, Tuesday”. Elsewhere, I hear similarities to English beanie-hat wearers The Bees and Seattle power-pop legends The Posies, only not as good as either. 

Perhaps I’m just getting harder to please, but when 80% of groups parade the same influences and bands like Super Furry Animals can run rings around this kind of stuff in their sleep, you have to raise the bar a little. Those notoriously “hard-to-please” LA rock critics must be more easily satisfied than the press sheet gives them credit for. Ultimately, Sinister Barrier is a record that’s consistently ok rather than anything extraordinary.

Will Columbine

Justice - s/t (Ed Banger)

Funny how appearances can be deceptive. To look at this cover you would think that Justice was some shite metal band, not two hyper cool French DJ dudes. Xavier de Rosnay and Gaspard Auge have been touted as the next Daft Punk, but then they are on Daft Punk's manager's label. And there is definitely traces of that funky gallic sound on this CD which features five original productions, including the scuzzmongous single, 'Waters of Nazareth' plus nine other remixes of other artists, including Fatboy Slim, Mystery Jets, Franz Ferdinand and Britney Spears.

This is impressive stuff for such a young duo. They successfully blur that edge between old fashioned indie rock and dance to a point where the rival kids won't know what's hit them when this is played in both the indie bars and the towny clubs. If you had to summarise the sound of their own tracks, it would have to be squelchy dirtiness.

The remixes accept a similar fate with most of the artists being completely mashed up to the point of non recognition. Which has got to be a good thing for a remix hasn't it? This is all very good - give it a listen.


Various: The Trip - Curated by Joey Negro

Another one of these curious compilations but this time much more fun. You can't beat kicking off with a John Barry Bond number and follow that up in quick succession with the 'Theme from the Avengers' by Laurie Johnson and 'National Express' by The Divine Comedy and you are on to a sure fire winner.

There's a definite retro chic about disc one, and it's not confined to the 60's. The middle of the track list is dominated by bleepy synth pop and disco tunes. there's even room for Dusty Springfield's 80's comeback number 'Nothing has Been Proved'. A mysterious and beguiling mix of artists and tracks. unlike disc 2, by which time I had had enough and hit the skip button...


The Witnesses - Black Eyes and White Lies 

It was explained to me that The Witnesses had essentially written this album in a rented barn somewhere unsavoury in the hills above New York City, where they battled with the constant distractions of being shat on by uninvited pigeons. Whilst a reluctant roadie was employed to keep the banshees, the coyotes and the spiders at bay, The Witnesses were able to pull Black Eyes and White Lies out of the proverbial hat. 

Does this sound like an album recorded in these circumstances? Does the music portray the image of the band playing beneath a bejeweled night with only the mischievous wildlife for company? Does it hell. It sounds like garage rock, pure and simple.  

But my god… what a damn good garage rock band they are. 

This is a great linear rock album, which would make for a brilliant accompaniment to breaking the speed limit on a Saturday night. 

The musicians are beyond competent; the guitar is bright, heavy, evocative and immediately reminiscent of some later Jimmy Page work. The bass is punchy, and well, goddamn loud and as a bass guitar should be played. 

Don't Kiss and Tell is alarmingly Dylanesque (That's the electric-Dylan for all of you Melvins out there. No shouts of 'Judas', please.) and this shouldn't be the case, not from a bunch of young yobbos from New York. Yet that's the way the band are … they keep on surprising with their unrelenting musical prowess. 

Thank heavens that this band doesn't abide to the tiresome juvenile ideals of the we-learn-our-instruments-on-stage ilk. These guys know their stuff and for a straight Rock 'n' Roll album, Black Eyes and White Lies provides a highly agreeable sound that's best appreciated loud enough to shake old 'enery out of bed.

Alex Clark

Kieran Hebden & Steve Reid - The Exchange Session Vol 1 (Domino)

Self indulgent instrumental stoner nonsense or cutting edge, boundary breaking extemporisation? It's a tough call so some details might help. Made up of just three passages (though they range from 6.38 to 15.45 long), The Exchange Session is largely a jam session between percussionist Steve Reid and Fourth Tet's Kieran Hebden. There's a lot of bleeping and minimalist knob twiddling (in the studio at least) while Reid actually provides the main fill of the sound with his reverberating cymbal work and spasmodic toms.

But as jams I think the tracks suffer. They do tend to build, such as in 'Soul Oscillations', but then it's like there has to be the nod and a wink across the studio as the two artists finally snuff out the remnants of the song in an unsatisfactory ad hoc manner. Obviously this is a bit difficult to avoid when improvising, but then that is why people sometimes take days over crafting a song, let alone an album. On the plus side, 36 minutes is a good time slot for the work- not too long but giving plenty of time to explore some interesting ideas and changes in tempo.


Ms John Soda - Notes and the Like 

I can’t help but like this European glitch fused with strings, electro pop filth. Apart from the occasional teachings or statements of Stephanie Bohms vocals on the penultimate track “sometime stop sometimes go.” It just reeks of that horrible European mind set that doesn’t really get it or have any sense of humour, maybe I am wrong but it emphasises the difference between being British and cool and being a European drip faced wet pants square.

That’s it though really the other songs are all of a standard that many bands fail to achieve and this is only a side project. Both Bohm (from “Couch”) and Micha Acher (“The Notwist”).  Each song has original combinations of electronica beats and programming with Bohms soft voice and string sections. “Hands” is a prime example of this and a great song However there’s more to Ms john Soda and they take up a more guitar driven side in “No one” and “Out lined view” which helps them get away from the generic studio produced sound. 

“Notes and the Like” is a prime example of two musicians doing European electro pop well in which they rarely put a foot wrong and adding enough to keep it fresh and interesting. It’s like making a soup out of fresh vegetables. They are still using the same vegetables as the old ones it just tastes nicer.  

Peter Williams

Ludes - The Dark Art of Happiness

This album opens with a seriously contemporary feel about it - the sound of the now, if you will. It sounds very angular, stop-starty, raucous sing along choruses and clattering guitars. So it should be no surprise to hear that there was a lot of studio help from the team which brought us records by The Futureheads, Maximo Park and Bloc Party. It sounds so similar to these bands in places that what you have top ask yourself is whether there is any point to it.

Happily, in this instance there is more than enough quirkiness surfacing during the rest of the record that any doubts should be squashed quicker than you can say Futuremaximoparty. 'Sailor Boy' is under two minutes long and belts out like punk-shanty hardcore with a stomach churning rumbling bass line. And 'Mr Benson' is a whimsical ditty over toy keyboards about suburban deviant sexual experiences - no easy topic to cover in two minutes.

A slight ska element also seems to come to the fore quite regularly and 'Song for a Friend' sounds like Pogues-fuelled bust up at closing time in a Dublin bar. So welcome to the fold, Ludes, you are most welcome.


Sickoakes - Seawards 

For Sickoakes long awaited debut Seawards is a classy accomplishment. It stinks of it. I myself don’t normally rate concept albums ever since fear factory “digimortal”. But when its this good and understandable my meagre brain finds plenty to explore an that’s where the fun is in a band like Sickoakes, each song or opus is backed with layers of intermingling instruments and repetitious guitar melodies, where your ears can frolic around in like two down syndrome children playing tag.  Somewhere in the realms of early Mogwai, Explosions in the Sky or Godspeed You Black Emperor. However less orchestral.

The repetitious melodies although building up or driving their songs along particularly in “taking the stairs instead of the elevator.” Can give the listener a pang of boredom now and then but it is only on initial listening generally. The album is really an enjoyable experience and its in Sickoakes use of restraint where they show a more thoughtful and respectable approach to this increasingly busy genre. Of course they do hit familiar epic Godspeed territory on the huge “Wedding rings and Bullets in the same golden shrine” Parts 1 and 2. But it’s so good when it happens it doesn’t matter besides the songs two parts cover a considerable musical landscape. 

Even when they use audio clips over the songs, which can always be a little dubious, its done sparingly and the actual sounds are interesting enough to draw you in further. The end of “Oceans Hold” has the vague sound of screaming but its tantalisingly ambiguous.

Going back to use of repetition “taking the stairs instead of the elevator “ Is a little tedious, I guess that’s life imitating art. Ha ha. Aside from that however Sickoakes have brought a respectable offering to us all. And we should be grateful.  

Peter Williams