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  albums - april 2006

 

 

Barbar Luck - Care in the Community

I had a bad feeling about this album before I'd even fumbled it into the CD drawer… my PC was reluctant to play the record at first and I can appreciate why.

Here is a band whose arrogance is outweighed only by ignorance. They believe that all bands should contain the essence of Bobby Dylan, The Beatles and The Kinks. Gimme a break.

Rock 'n' roll shouldn't be bound or restricted to creative boundaries. It should be free to evolve and it should be a product of what the hell it wishes to be. That is why we use it as a soundtrack to our rebellion and anarchy.  

Care in the Community is awful. Its only redeeming feature is that it's hilariously awful. It's packed chock full of phony attitude, it's as credible a rock album as is anything by Hot Chocolate and the ideals are tiresomely sobering. (Care in the community? Please…).

The lyrics are often lazy in a manner suggestive of reggae, 'cept it yields none of the fun or warmth. The music is relatively interesting in an unassuming way, but in no stretch of the imagination does it rescue the album.

Movies is a gruesome track in a variety of dimensions, the lyrics I wanna make movies with you/ Bollywood tomorrow is puerile, unintelligent and do you want to know what the worst thing about it is? It's sung in the style of Eric Clapton's take on Knocking on Heaven's Door.

My Friend used to be (A Mad Axeman) is as excruciating as… hell. What do I care… whaddyou care? This is audio doggerel.

I don’t think I've met anyone who would enjoy this album, and I've spent five years at art school.

Alex Clark


 

Julies Haircut - After Dark, My Sweet

This album could have been monumental. It claims to be a celebration of 1960's electric jazz and indeed, it does conform to the free-form psychedelic ideals of the period, but sonically, it isn't really comparable.  

After Dark, My Sweet repeatedly noses in the direction of the creative period of Hawkwind whilst Lemmy was the driving force behind the band. There are moments on this album that sound almost as though they've been lifted from Hall of the Mountain Grill, or Space Ritual. However, unlike either of the former the music here never quite reaches the unbridled power of those Hawkwind records.  

After Dark, My Sweet is really only an indication of what the band are capable of achieving. On hindsight, this album is a rough sketch-- a first draft of a record. I should hope that their music migrates well to the stage. A good live performance will save this band's bacon, but if they adhere to the music as it is on the album then I should dearly that hope they choose a rotten support act in which case, it would be relativity that saves them from certain embarrassment.  

Ingrid Thulin is the best track here. It recycles some earlier ideas and passages from Liv Ullman and the heavy reverb-soaked lead guitar is impressive and reminiscent of live performances of Led Zeppelin's No Quarter. Hell, on the odd occasion that Julie's Haircut actually apply themselves, they become a brooding animal, ominous and marauding. C'mon guys, you've set the bar with this one, if only the rest of the album was this good.   

Julie's Haircut is an unspeakably crap band name, but since I never was one for appreciating the importance of staying quiet, I shall reflect on it anyway. If, for instance they have been as literal as to name themselves in honour of girlfriend Julie's brand-spanking new haircut, then I recommend that Julie reconsiders her choice of hairdresser in the future. Well, if her hairstyle is as lame as the music that she inspired…

Alex Clark


 

Fazzini - Sulphur, Glue the Star 

What a delightful album. Fazzini has no regard for current trends, rules or creative boundaries. This solo musician (formerly one-third of A Small Good Thing.) has filled an album full of sounds of the absurd. 

Whether it be haunting stories of ghost sightings in a Madrid hotel room, or the lysergic-soaked sounds of water bubbling, swooshing and streaming out of the speakers, Fazzini has an eye for the surreal and he delivers his psychedelic folk album, Sulphur, Glue The Star with devastating aplomb.  

This is a folk album, but Fazzini certainly doesn't adopt the cider approach (if you don't know what I mean by that, spend a bank-holiday weekend on a campsite in Devon at the height of summer, then you will). No siree, Fazzini sings macabre lyrics to a tender acoustic guitar that go along the lines of down in the dell, the smell of rotting flesh lingers and I hit her hard and fell into the sand laughing, her pencil neck to the sky.  

There are three tracks on this album that are simple dicta-phone recorded spoken word pieces. These all bring to mind Lovecraft or Algernon Blackwood narratives. They are welcome surprises that make the album a thoroughly memorable experience.

Alex Clark


 

Oceansize - New Pin 

During the course of these two tracks, it was necessary to verbally remind myself that I wasn't listening to Incubus. Don't get me wrong, Incubus are incredible and to sound like them is virtuous to an extent, but imitation is rarely credible.

Perhaps I was a little unjust a second ago-- I don't believe Oceansize are simply imitating Incubus; they're better than that. But they do sound remarkably similar.  

New Pin, with its crystal clear guitar tone layered over what I believe to be either frantic Morse code guitar stutterings, or vinyl-scratching(!) is an immediately likeable intro.  

The vocals are too low in the mix. A lot of the time, the only vocals that can be heard with any kind of definition is the theatrical deep breath that comes as standard before the singer plunges into another deep lamentation about junkies and confidence set-backs and other adolescent preoccupations.  

The instrumental break at the midpoint is lavishly multi-tracked, yet it sounds over-bearing and consequently it's fairly two-dimensional. 

Superfluous to Requirements is much better from the get-go. The structure is similar to New Pin, but this time it is an intermittent and unassuming piano that strolls over a hectic and distorted guitar that is generic rock, but agreeable nonetheless.  

The vocals are more distinct this time, but it's still difficult to hold any lasting interest in the narrative.  

The instrumental breaks are much better here and they're are testimony to the fact that Oceansize can be realistically compared to the band that I'm moments away from name-dropping again. 

Like most bands, Oceansize will benefit from the live stage-- they need it to justify the strange combinations of playing both calm and vivacious music simultaneously. 

I would go see Oceansize play live, but I don’t think I'll be parting with any amount of money for Everyone Into Position. I'm happy enough with my Incubus albums.

Alex Clark


Burning Wizard - Sky High (Howler)

This album opens up right in your face with title track (and probably best) Sky High. With lead singer shouting so close to your eyes you can see that horrible little white head under his moustache, on the tip of his upper lip.

Following the same generic layout as early Fu Manchu, (not that late Fu Manchu is any different). Stoner rock you can call it, although true stoner rock for me is more along the lines of Electric Wizard’s “Dope throne”.  All the staple rudiments of dirty rocking are here: group chanting, rolling riffs, reverb soaked vocals and references to getting high there is even the emotionally charged rock ballad, titled Black Navigator which can also be used to describe my friendly morning bus driver, Clyde. “ I am drinking again. I think I might need some friends” the front man tells you, shit what a rough patch he’s been through. Still that doesn’t justify this terribly poor effort. 

Ballard aside, Its all done extremely well however and all the bases are covered they know what there doing, its just half way through the album your interest just wavers, then you realise there’s nothing here really to make you come back or even beg for more. It kind of just rolls out in front of you or better still just bumbles along and then is gone, like a stoned hobo or nomad keeping a leisurely pace. Maybe its because every song seems to be the same tempo, in fact yeah that’s it.   

Final track “Pass it on” almost destroys any merit this album has with its infernal repetitious sample whirling round in a last ditch hazy psychedelic guitar twiddling exercise that burning wizard force on you as if to drive home the fact that they are definitely in the pigeon hole that they have chosen for themselves and no other. Despite all this Burning Wizard do the rest properly “13 x around the World”, the duel guitar riffage on “He’s a Rat” and “Slow Down” especially, show you that they’ve got rock hard or stone (er) balls, earning themselves two of my chubby (middle) fingers up in front or their pink eyeballs.

Pete Williams


Stereolab - Fab Four Suture (Too Pure)

Man: “Is this an album or isn’t it?”

Womn: “No its not, it’s a collection of 6 limited edition 7 inch singles.” 

Man: “So its not an album then?”

Women “Well…..”

Man: “Humph” (under his breath) “stupid slut can’t even answer a simple question.”

Women: “Frankly darling I don’t know how to feel about it.”

(The women gets her death ray out of her handbag and aims at the mans fat clammy forehead)

Women: “how do YOU feel about this?! ”

KAPLOOMF!!!! 

Any way. Essentially Fab Four Suture is six A-sides and six B-sides so hopefully every song has the possibility to be excellent Stereolab pop.  Beginning with “kybernetika Babicka Pt1” a choral sample, polka driven track that slowly adds more dynamics as it goes along. It’s interesting and good. After this its Stereolab seem to be going through the routines for the first 6 tracks (largely A-sides, although not in order).  Luckily as Fab Four Suture doesn’t hold together as an album, each of the first 6 tracks is different enough, and if you are a fan then you’ll probably enjoy it.

Its From Seventh track “Vodiak” that stereo lab start to deliver. Fast up-tempo and drums hammering away full of fills with lead singers’ effortless whispering vocals reminiscent of Nico.  From here it stays good with track like “Excursions in to oh, a oh” containing a brilliant breakdown that comes from nowhere, and the down tempo “Whisper pitch” and “window weirdo”. 

Fab Four Suture shows Stereolab are still a great band although there are signs here that if they’re not careful they could easily become forgettable. 

Pete Williams


Be Your Own Pet - Be Your Own Pet (X1)

BYOP are record labels gay wet dream. You can tell by the size of the press release. 

You’ll be hard pressed to have not seen some other review or comment on this album. I’ve seen a few and they’re all balls, most are a prime examples of why you shouldn’t buy any magazine that even smells like NME or kerrang anymore. Most of them start with the quote “I’m an independent motherfucker…etc etc.” or something about these wild TEENAGERS being TEENAGERS. Anyway forget it.  

Be Your Own pet is a frantic debut and it is good. Jemina has got the distinguished voice that’s capable of delivering what’s needed from screams to croons like a sex cat! (Probably from all the school musicals she was in), but it’s the rest of the band that hold it together and actual manage to deliver a credible document of raw rock and roll, “Lets Get Sandy (Big Problem)” all be it an occasionally popular angle of it. You can actually tell that they do listen to Bad Brains, Stooges etc. and its not just PR banter.  

Riffs are constantly changing, simple and All over everything and the drums are raw as a Serial masturbators foreskin, they even manage to through 12-bar blues at some point without sounding wank. When they approach there version of anything down tempo “October, 1sst account” its wickedly soulful, this is where jemina gets to show she can sing if she wants, which is disappointing and there are enough genuinely good raw rock’n’roll songs on this debut to allow it to live up to all the drivel people have been…drivelling.  

One thing though, and I think they know it, if the band just bumped Jemina and made another straight up thrash band, they’d make a really good one. Then I’d be there to help jemina figure it all out.  She’d be like “What Happened?” and I’d just tell here to shut up and get in the car.  BROOOM BROOOM!

Oh yeah the last song is about the dead rising.

Pete Williams


 

Burns Out Bright - Save Yourself a Lifetime (Deep Elm) 

Holy fuck!!! I think they must have Phil Collins on drums, such is the over production on the drum intro to this sorry excuse for an album. The sleeve notes tell a sorry tale of a band so deluded and confused, it’s almost a tragedy that they are at large in the community….

 “… The almost impossible process of making a career in music that disregards commercial viability, marketing trends or other things ruining music today.”

It’s quite fortunate for them then, that when they have distilled down their uncompromised artistic vision they are in fact a band that sound remarkable similar to Fall Out Boy,  and as such, incredibly commercially viable, and at the cutting edge of current marketing trends. Thank fuck for fortunate timing!!!!

Piss poor on every level.

Drew Millward


 

Dozer -‘Through the Eyes of Heathens’ (Small Stone) 

Each and every Friday and Saturday night I have awful visions of women in provincial towns, up and down the country, donning their boob tubes, slapping on some ‘CK one’ (cos it’s well classy) to the strains of ‘I Will Survive’ and a plethora of other chart flotsam and jetsam to head out to a low quality ‘night spot’ for a night of Alco-pop fuelled debauchery, concluding most likely with a sordid sexual encounter with a gent who works in the construction trade…

I don’t know where I was going with that one really. But I think my point was that while these women have their soundtrack of chart muck, and early disco, I imagine this album to be the perfect warm up for a manly night out of beard growing, whisky drinking and meat eating.

It’s fast, heavy and extremely good. Since I am the proud owner of a beard, a fan of whisky and enjoy eating meat (beef being a personal favourite) this album suites me fine.

Drew Millward


 

Two Gallants -‘What The Toll Tells’ (Saddle Creek) 

What the bloody hell can I tell you about this band that the NME haven’t blown their load over already? Eh? Well surprise-fucking-surprise, they seem to have latched on to yet another band that is pretty disposable….

I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t impressed with the album to begin with. It has a certain charm, and if you are a fan of Bright Eyes more stripped down moments, with a touch more blues, it may well float your boat (personally it made me want to go and listen to Bright Eyes, but as they say ‘different strokes for different folks’). I spent about a week with this album on my MP3 player, and although in no way awful, I found myself getting pretty bored with about 85% of it, to the point where I really couldn’t face listening to it any longer….. Hey, maybe it is my short attention span.

What I can say is that there is some pretty strong song writing on display throughout the album. There are some nice tunes (some dicey lyrics), but ultimately it’s not an album that will have you running back to it many years from now. But maybe that is the point…. But I’m a musical snob, and think about these things too much.

Drew Millward


 

The Unit Ama - S/T (Gringo Records) 

If I said I wasn’t hesitant about reviewing this CD, I would be lying to you, and myself. Having seen The Unit Ama, and a large number of occasions, I was really at a loss as to what to expect. On occasion I have seen them play shows that have left the audience speechless, yet on others left me (I cannot speak for the rest of the crowd) somewhat confused and a little disappointed, but what I will say is that on the strength of this record, it was most likely my mood, and not the bands performance that is to blame for such a conclusion.

What is on offer here is a pretty much stunning array of music, and musicianship. The band is in no way afraid of breaking songs down to its components, steering off from more obvious paths…. Yet never so much as it comes across as self indulgent of pompous. It’s as if the songs are allowed to just flow, ebb and mutate into one another, the whole albums seems to play like one of the best improvised sets ever recorded.

Bass lines flow and pulsate while guitars come in fits and starts with some awesome drumming holding everything in place. The album goes in so many different directions and packs in so many ideas, it’s at times difficult to keep up, but it really is worth the time and patience.

Drew Millward


My Latest Novel – ‘Wolves’ (Bella Union) 

New Bella Union signings My Latest Novel have certainly been setting tongues wagging in the music press. Being hailed as the next Bell and Sebastian lazy journalists across the country have been scurrying to their live shows in hope of being noted as the man/woman who first told the nation that these guys were the bees knees. Well now we have the debut record so it’s this lazy journalists time to give his two pennies worth.

‘Wolves’ begins in an subtle and unassuming manner as if its just sidled into a room with you and your only half aware of it. As opener ‘Ghost in the Gutter’ then slowly but surely lets its presence be know by developing into a track full of drama and beauty. And this is very much the flavour of the record as a whole. It is an album with folk music at its heart but one that knows how to construct a perfect pop hook with it. At times it is lilting and subtle as on ‘The Hope Edition’ and it shows where those Bell and Sebastian references are coming from. However it can also be powerful and brooding as in the awesome industrial folk slant that is the albums finest moment ‘When We Were Wolves’, a song about simple repetition that will have the hairs on your neck up and lodge itself in your subconscious for a long time to come.

My Latest Novel are more than the Bell and Sebastian comparisons suggest. Offering a similar warm Scottish folk leaning as the likes of King Creosote they are purveyors of a dry wit and a quality of songs that will deservedly win them a place in many a music lovers record collection.

Luke Drozd


Cerberus Shoal – ‘The Land We All Believe In’ (Monotreme) 

I first received a copy of Cerberus Shoal’s latest album at the end of last year and it quickly became a record on near permanent rotation on my stereo. Inhabiting a world somewhere between Tom Waits and a Tim Burton soundtrack it is a bizarre and diverse clomping album full of dark worlds and surreal musings yet it is tied together with a complexity and beauty that make it truly compelling.

‘Wyrm’ is a bizarre stomp that wheezes and thuds along in woozy and unsettling manner for what seems to be the shortest 10 or so minutes ever and then is followed by the utterly weird ‘Pie for the President’ a pop song of sorts that feels a bit like having your ears filled with a wonderful audio funfair. However what stops this aural avalanche descending into preposterous nonsense is the simple fact that it’s all bound by some stunning vocal and musical performances and arrangements. The shared male and females vocal duties are balanced perfectly and the varied and complex instrumentation show a band who know exactly what they’re doing.

Cerberus Shoal won’t be to everyone’s taste much like Marmite or Dr Pepper but believe me if you give it a go and let them slowly probe your dirty little mind with their nimble audio fingers you may just find yourself falling head over heels in love.

Luke Drozd


Mclusky – ‘Mcluskyism’ (Too Pure) 

Mclusky are no more. Three albums, a plethora of gigs and huge bucket of rock on this welsh three piece have hung up there guitars and said goodnight. However to ensure there good name has a legacy they leave us with ‘Mcluskyism’ a best of compilation of there a-sides. Mclusky play balls out, piss in the wind for the hell of it rock music that makes you want to punch people out of sheer joy. They are a band with a filthy mind and sense of humour to match. How many bands can you think of with songs called things like ‘Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues’ or that feature lines like ‘My love is bigger than your love/we take more drugs than a touring funk band’ or ‘hopeless hepatitis piss wreck Molotov cocktail monobrow shithole’. Not bloody many I bet.

Mcluskyism is a final two fingers up to us all and a bloody great thing it is too. I will miss you Mclusky you big bunch of daft cunts you.

Luke Drozd


Lords – ‘This Ain’t A Hate Thing, It’s A Love Thing’ (Gringo) 

At last England’s finest booty-shaking Beefheartian sex tourists Lords have their debut full length out to teach the world a new way to love and be loved. A three piece who ooze raw musical sex, Lords show us Blues don’t have to make you blue and if only you’d just put your hands on the girls ass and start to groove then boy the world would be a much better place. Tight and complex like a good woman Lords music is riffs, tight beats and pure of soul, and it will make you a better human being and lover to boot. 

So ladies and gentleman turn it all the way up, that’s right all the way. Now grind and grin your way to inner salvation with one of the greatest bands you are likely to let into your life. Lords love you and I demand you love them back.

Luke Drozd


Polaris – S/T (Gringo) 

13 years and Polaris are only on their second record, now that’s a band that believes in taking their time. But hey who cares its worth the wait after all.

Polaris play there own blend of harmonious and compelling rock music that is brooding and complex as well as immediate and full of joy. With members of Bilge Pump and Quack Quack in their midst you know as well as I do you should buy this album, if not how the hell do think your gonna be able to look your family in the eyes?

Luke Drozd


Josephine Foster – ‘A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing’ (Locust Music) 

German is a beautiful language isn’t it? Now hang on I know what you’re thinking and that’s exactly what I thought before I had the pleasure of listening to Josephine Foster’s new record which is comprised of 19th century German folk songs sung in their native tongue. Now I realise that that sounds like a dreadful concept but in the talented hands of Foster we are treated to a series of utterly stunning folk songs where dreamlike electric guitar dances around gently picked guitar and Foster’s own distinctive and captivating vocals. This is a record that is other worldly and not of our time and one which will not only show you that indeed German can be as beautiful as any of the romance languages but that whatever Foster decides to turn her hand to turns to gold. A true delight.

Luke Drozd


Gamelan Son of Lion – ‘Metal Notes’ 

Minimal and like nothing else out there, Gamelan Son of Lion are a New York based ensemble who play gongs and metallophones to create repetitive folk drones. Actually played may be a better word for it as 'Metal Notes' is a resurrection of records made some two decades ago released only on cassette. This is a long lost gem of an album of trance inducing compositions that may not be something you want to listen to very often but is a totally beguiling and original work of music.

Luke Drozd


Loose Fur – Born again in the USA (Drag City) 

Side projects yield mixed results, and this, the second effort by messes tweedy and O’Rourke, under the name Loose Fur, is indeed just that, the overall result being inferior to their own, more serious work, Tweedy’s with Wilco and O ‘Rourke as a solo artist, or more recently as a member of Sonic Youth. It seems as though they just wanted to let their hair down and make some classic rock before returning to more familiar surrounds. The vocals are shared around, as are the writing duties, with Glen Kotche playing the rest of the music. There are some great songs here, which will appeal to both fans of Wilco and O’Rourke, but in an attempt to kick back and ‘rock’ the long meandering instrumental sections become overindulgent and tiresome, it’s a pity, because at its best this is excellent. 

Ron Beasley


Drowsy – Snow on Moss on Stone (Fatcat) 

Another acoustic/folky release from Fatcat, with more Scandinavian heartache. Mauri Heikkinen, aka, Drowsy, is a 23 year old Fin, who’s second release, ‘Snow on Moss on Stone’ is another in an ever increasing list of folk/pop acts from the northern reaches. Here the mood is one of slight melancholy, with sound being warm and cosy, the overall sound being unmistakably Scandinavian, in fact, one is reminded of label mates Amandine, with their rustic fuzz and creak. Several listens later and I am still undecided as to the qualities of this album, is this a warm, sweet delight of an album, full of hope and reassurance, or a slightly lacklustre effort, where second language lyrics and singing become tediously annoying and fey, not sure, I probably hope the former but fear the latter.  

Ron Beasley


Ant – Footprints through the Snow (Homesleep Records) 

Former Hefner drummer Anthony Harding went to Italy to record this collection of acoustic ditties, and the overall result is quite nice. It’s a small collection of heartfelt numbers that could happily appeal to the new generation of radio 2 listeners, in the best possible way that is, but lets hope for Ant’s sake that doesn’t happen, and he remains in the heads of a smaller and altogether more appreciative audience. 

Ron Beasley


Mazarin – we’re already there (Bella Union) 

New UK home for Mazarin in the form of the excellent Bella Union label, but the sound will be as familiar as ever to existing fans. I remember buying their first album, ‘watch in happen’ some years ago, I came across it whilst sifting through a rack of miscellaneous sale items in HMV, and have been a fan ever since, and the new album delivers more of the same fuzzy pop. So if its catchy American pop that your after this is as good a starting place as any, but for all of their catchy soft furnishings, like with previous albums, a darkness and deeper content lies just beneath the surface, content that will give the work the longevity and repeated listening that it surly deserves.  

Ron Beasley


Barzin – my life in rooms (monotreme) 

Second release for Canadians Barzin, first on London based label Monotreme, and what a delight it is. This is a masterpiece in slow, melodic melancholy, occupying similar territories to the early work of the ‘Red House Painters’ and original slow core luminaries ‘Low’. Assured and confident song writing complement its languid mood and the only disappointment arrives when it ends. Highly recommended. 

Ron Beasley


 

Samara Lubelski – Spectacular of Passages (The Social Registry)  

Samara Lubelski is another in a seemingly endless supply of talented Brooklyn based folk artists, and here she delivers a few treats. Musically ‘Spectacular of Passages’ is wonderful, full of lush sixties folk influenced arrangements of strings and horns that wash over you in a wave of loveliness. The songs bounce along, all delivered with confidence and self-assurance, the writing is strong and the playing is a joy, so the only thing standing in your way is whether Lubelski’s slightly whimsical childlike voice is your cup of tea. 

Ron Beasley


 

Tom Brosseau - Empty Houses are Lonely 

Like everything I review this month it took me ages to work out whether or not, or how much, I liked something. Like March couldn’t decide if it was the beginning of spring or the end of winter so I couldn’t tell if something was good or merely mediocre. Anyway, like March I’ve come out on the sunny side and no more so than on Empty Houses are Lonely from Tom Brosseau. 

On listening to this it becomes immediately apparent that Brosseau has a fantastic voice that sits between the earnestness of Ryan Adams on Heartbreaker and the whimsy of Devandra Banhart. (Which to my ears is a very good thing.) In fact where this album was in danger of falling down is they didn’t know how to produce such a potent instrument, (or so it seems to me.) It sounds sometimes like it was recorded in high seas and he and his guitar slide keep sliding past the mic.     

There is a demo-ish quality to these songs, like Brosseau just rolled up and sang his part unaccompanied; it leaves you grasping in frustration for the melody. Sometimes there is full instrumentation, other times it is so sparse its like they recorded outside the window when he playing at a wake. In a rambling near incomprehensible statement in the press release Brosseau hints that this album has been culled from 3 previous LPs and perhaps this explained the disjointed feeling. He doesn’t say whether these other three are available. 

Generally the fuller the sound the better the song and ‘Dark Garage’ is my favourite. A driving harmonica, a cogent melody and the yearning swoop of his vocals bewitch you. You will carry the mood and melody of this song around for weeks. Similarly the opener ‘Fragile Mind’ and ‘How to Grow a Woman from the Ground,’ are stellar achievements, songs that you’ll keep coming back to no matter how underwhelmed you were on first listen.

MJL


 

LOB - Geography 

Christ knows what to say about this. I don’t really have the necessary vocabulary to describe it but here goes. Imagine the arrhythmic horn playing on Miles Davis’ Bitch’s Brew, now instead of having it against a wall of atonal multi-instrumentation have it crawling over an ambient electronica palette. Add some inspired militant drumming and some conversational sampling.  

Imagine the sort of the music they play in a trendy bar on a quite Tuesday night, (the type of bar where everyone is up their own arse doing coke,) but make the music a lot darker so rather than the soundtrack of someone having a good time this is the soundtrack of someone twitching in apoplexy, their synapses misfiring. 

If you accept that everyone should own at least one multi-textured instrumental album, which I do, then this is it. If only because the musicianship is in a different league to most of the records that this will be bracketed with. 

MJL


 

Butterfield 8 - Butterfield 8 

The inlay is set up to make this seem like a film soundtrack and there is definitely that side to it but it doesn’t seem consistent enough in mood for that; I don’t know if there was limited studio but you get the impression listening to it that they wanted to try as many different sounds in the time available so here you get a Mexicali sound, here you get Big band, have some Ragtime. 

Inevitably with this sort of approach it is a little hit and miss but when it soars, it really soars. Particularly favourites for me are ‘St Lyle Drive’ and ‘The Lurch.’ 

But, and it’s a big but, you can run but you can’t hide from the production on this album. Wherever this was recorded had the acoustics of a wind tunnel and the atmosphere of a clinic. It takes so much away from this record; rips away its soul. Don’t get me wrong the songs are good, written, performed, arranged well but it lacks an edge, you’d probably rather see this lot play live. 

It was recorded in 1988 and re-mastered for this release. Maybe it should have been re-recorded, maybe live. 

MJL


 

Howling Bells - S/T 

Howling Bells don't give much away. Indeed, it was only after a few tentative questions that I ascertained Howling Bells was the name of the group, as well as the album.

Also, with no press release (good heavens to Murgatroyd, I hear you cry… that's right; no press release, no lengthy and pointless lamentations about being raised by wolves and the like.) they correctly leave their music to do the talking.  

Jaunita Stein's haunting and often melancholy vocals bring to mind select performances of P.J Harvey, Bjork and Debbie Harry. Stein's efforts are heartfelt and undeniably passionate; you can't help but be feel as though Stein believes every word she sings. 

The band's contribution is elegant, individual and not governed by the lyrics. There are electric guitars in abundance and they seem quite capable of nearly every motion. The single-note twangy guitar solo on Ballad For The Bleeding Hearts is dripping with tremolo and makes the otherwise fairly innocuous ballad a stand-alone song that's easily worth it's salt. And check out the seagull swoops on Setting Sun… all of this goes to show that this is not merely a vocalist's album; there should be plenty of guitarists who'll get a kick out of Howling Bells. 

Howling Bells is a good album; there is something to laugh to, cry to, groove to. I'd say the only drawback is that because Stein's vocals are ever present, loud and commanding, it's difficult to appreciate them with a monumental hangover. Sunday morning listening, it ain't. Wait for nightfall, light the Nag Champa incense and slide into a hot bath with a glass or two of red wine. 

Alex Clark


3 Hostwomexicansandationofspanners – ‘Pegasus Bridge’ (Noisestar Music) 

One of the more unwieldy band monikers I’ve come across in recent times, I think in the interests of brevity 3Hostwomexicansandationofspanners (apologies to the band if I’ve spelt it wrong) will for the purposes of this review be referred to as Band X. Glancing at the track listing of ‘Pegasus Bridge’ I’m inclined to like Band X. Song title’s include ‘Topless Dudley Street Fighting’ and ‘Coked Up Supermodels Licking Shit Off a Blind Vicar’s Cock’. Unfortunately the material on this record isn’t quite as strong as the track titles might suggest. Some of the tracks are very good, heavy sleazy rock like the Jesus Lizard used to excel at, with vocals that are a cross between Blood Brothers style screaming and Mike Patton – esque warbling and barking. The track ‘Rock Song’ is particularly good. But for about 50% of this album Band X seem to be going for a kind of hectic punk-funk, not dissimilar to the Black Eyes. However they lack the energy to pull off this sound, so a number of the songs come across as a rather tedious post-punk dirge. Which is unfortunate as a number of the tracks are rather good. So although not quite fulfilling the promise of the song titles, ‘Pegasus Bridge’ is not without merit. 

Michael Pearson


 

Psychic Ills – ‘Dins’. (The Social Registry) 

Apparently this is Psychic Ill’s first full-length release, and as such it is an incredibly accomplished album. I suppose the closest reference point would be the free form exploration of bands such as Black Dice and Double Leopards. But that’s not to suggest that’s all that’s going on here, in fact the eclectic nature of the material on ‘Dins’ is remarkable. Psychic Ill’s go from a combination on tribal drums and free folk on ‘East’, to Krautrock on ‘January Rain’, to Double Leopard style freak out, drone on ‘Electric Life’. These different styles merge seamlessly from track to track, and indeed within tracks themselves, meaning the album works beautifully as a whole. An interesting and challenging album. 

Michael Pearson


 

Nebula – ‘Apollo’ (Sweet Nothing) 

This band contains ex-members of Fu Manchu, and the album is called ‘Apollo’. Taking these factors into consideration you’d probably guess that Nebula are a stoner rock band, and rightfully so. Unfortunately they’re not tremendously good at it. I find stoner / doom rock most successful when it’s horribly slow/ heavy / repetitive see Sleep, Melvins, Acid King etc. ‘Apollo’ simply sound like Queens of the Stone Age b-sides, Very uninteresting. Except for the excellent psychedelic guitar at the beginning of ‘Future Days’, which bafflingly also contains sample of a goat or sheep bleating. My housemate informs me that Nebula’s earlier releases are of a higher quality, which I couldn’t possibly comment on, but this has left me cold. 

Michael Pearson


 

Gultskra Artikler – ‘Pofigistka’ (Lampse) 

This is excellent. Four tracks of warm electronica and folksy guitar pickings, created live by two Russian gentlemen. Jackie-O-Motherfucker would be the most obvious reference point. Also included are remixes of the first four tracks, including one by Svarte Greiner of Deaf Centre (who’s ‘Pale Ravine’ I recently purchased and I strongly recommend). Although in general I’m sceptical of remixes, these are of a very high calibre, reworking the themes of the original tracks with subtlety and grace. The remix of ‘Silvet Kotlet’ is especially good, eventually building into lush white noise and static. A wonderful album. 

Michael Pearson


 

Daft Punk - Musique Vol. 1 1993-2005 (Virgin)

The duo who made the vocoder trendy again release this compilation of audio and DVD videos more than 12 years after their first record. How many tracks was it before I realised that the dodgy copied cassette tape wasn't knackered with dropping out sound - these damned Frenchies were actually using a really weird drop out on the mix. It's these two things that daft Punk are probably most identifiable by and this compilation demonstrates plenty of both techniques.

Similar to The Chemical Brothers in that they were one of a number of bands in the early nineties who benefited from the new found cross over of influences between mainstream indie and dance, this album is a pretty impressive record of their back catalogue and features all the hits front he original underground sounds of 'Around the World' and 'Da Funk' up to the more commercial 'One More Time'.

Three remixes of Ian Pooley, Scott Groove and Gabrielle get the typical Daft Punk treatment and complete an anthology of a tracks which both heralded and secured Daft Punk as one of the most innovative and successful electro acts of the past decade.

SB


Various- At the Controls Mixed by James Holden (Resist)

There is an awful lot of emphasis in the press release and from the commentary provided by James Holden about this CD on how although many of the artist might seem a little incongruous together on one compilation. The reason for this, Mr Holden explains, is that the tracks just belong together in terms of sentiment and atmosphere. And it would be hard to disagree as Apparat flows into Plastikman into Massive Attack etc effortlessly.

So it is some incredibly disengaging and incongruous when every 15 minutes or so a disembodied DJ sounding voice intrudes on my trippy listening experience by announcing that this CD is for promotional use only and not for resale. How bloody annoying. I can understand the artists not wanting to get ripped off before it is even released but if you are going to heavily emphasise the seamless mix qualities of a mix CD (it is not a straight forward compilation with gaps in between after all) then it's not the best idea to keep throwing in some anti-piracy measure which really disrupts the flow.

That said, this is a really good record and at least when you buy it dear readers, the annoying announcements will have been removed from your copy.
www.jamesholden.org

SB


 

Casiotone for the Painfuly Alone - Etiquette

Casiotone for the Painfully Alone is one Owen Ashworth and as his moniker may suggest he deals in misery and melancholy all relayed via his battery powered keyboard and sullen, detached vocals. He’s recorded three albums in this vein from his bedroom, all character studies about alienated hipsters, the starving artist and girls who won’t return his calls. However on this fourth release he steps outside the artistic limitations he’s set for himself and adds further instrumentation to his traditional drum machines and crappy synths. Pianos, organs, flutes, drums and some steel guitar all make an appearance. Despite reservations that the essence of CFTPA may have been distilled by his musical progression and seemingly having a bit of money thrown at him, this new album is tremendous. Musically the album is  downbeat synth pop with touches of country, techno, bubblegum and even piano driven jazz on ‘Don’t they have payphones wherever you were last night’, (this man has a tremendous way with a song title) which sounds like something Tom Waits would be making if he’d been born twenty five years later. The album has definite lyrical nods towards a more stream of consciousness Stephin Merritt and Morrissey both of whom would have been proud to write a lyric as good as “Send a letter to mom and dad, say ‘Mom and dad the money’s running out’ pause ‘Got a letter from mom and dad, they didn’t send me anything’. All this is delivered in a style so deadpan and as close to speaking as it is to singing that it smacks of a lovable wryness and bone dry humour. Honesty, clarity and the mindset of the social misfit are what CFTPA gives us in bundles and who here can say that doesn’t sound resoundingly appealing in a world where humourless, ego ridden, dimwit walking haircuts like Razorlight are allowed to exist.

Jamie Collings


Laroca - Friends in Far Away Places (Just Music)

What starts off promisingly with some minimally bleak loops and building melodies in opening tracks 'La Douleur Exquise' and 'Looking Like Lions' never really manages to kick on and break out of the pleasant but nurdling electro meets world music vibe. Loads of flute and tinkly electric piano give it a summery, holiday chill out feel, a bit like Air. But on a Sunday afternoon with a litre of coffee swilling round my guts, there is only so much chilling out I can do and the rest of the album tootles along in much the same vain. As a felllow writer wrote this month, much to like but little to love.
www.laroca.co.uk

SB


Leya - Watch You Don't Take Off (Rubyworks)

The Leya single 'In Your Hands' got a a review last month and was given a tentative thumbs up. Sadly this album does nothing to convince me of anything more than a tentative thumbs up. The tracks on the single are absolutely indicative of the content of the whole album and their seems very little effort to veer away from the path well trodden by Coldplay and Snow Patrol. Vocalist Ciaran Gribbin may have 'one of the most extraordinary voices' but after 11 tracks I found the whole experience so unremittingly dismal that I wanted to sit in a corner and cry.

That said, I'm not a big fan of Coldplay or Snow Patrol. But millions of people are I guess, and they will not be disappointed. For the rest of us, 'Watch You Don't Take Off' should probably only be approached in small bite size nuggets
www.leya.info

SB


 

Yea Big - The Wind That Blows The Robot's Arms (JIB) 

After what must be about the third or fourth straight listen I'm beginning to get this. At first, I'm not sure, it may have been the often schizophrenic bleeps and crunches that didn't really seem to amount to a song, then the song's over, then another one starts and something interesting is happening, then that one stops. The lack of a coherent flow may have disgruntled me, and giving three tracks together the same name highlights the lack of being able to select a track you remember for enjoying particularly, but now I understand. Each track is succinct little nugget of experimentation and ephemeral electronica that play together like a little robotic stream of conscious. Soon elements and sections emerge that hint at more interesting sounds and rhythms that most exhibit in a whole album,  and then before you know, it's gone. What may have first appeared as the albums possible downfall in good time, and a bit of listening effort, becomes the albums curious beauty. Stefan Robinson is a true inventor, and has created here a true listening pleasure.

Will Edmonds


 

Liner - Proper Tunnel Vision

Liner are somewhat of a curios offering. Typified by a very clean, well produced and melodic guitar style, there are a number of stand out tracks on this album. But these are equally punctuated by tracks which are really a bit too poor to even make it onto the album.

The first couple of tracks occupy the latter ground, containing as they do, some pretty middle of the road jangly indie that fails to grab the imagination. Single 'Money' stands out a bit from the crowd but much of the album just meanders on with harmonies and melodies that even Extreme would have rejected in the early 90s.
www.linermusic.com

SB


 

Free Diamonds - There Should Be More Dancing (Deep Elm) 

Deep Elm, long time purveyors of fine, self-proclaimed 'emo' music, must have seen the market forecast, and incase you didn't know, emo is out kids, indie rock roll ( whatever the hell that is) is in. But rather than peddle out the same crap other labels would be content with, like they did with 'The Emo Diaries', Deep Elm showcase some great bands that unfairly get poked into the new trendy pigeonhole. Newcastle's Free Diamonds were touted on the first 'This is Indie' compilation and were quickly signed up to release their debut album, 'There Should Be More Dancing'. And it's bloody ace. The album is pretty one track, but that track is the best one I've heard in a long time. At times a bit pop punk in the vein of Audio Karate, at others just great party indie dance fest whilst vocalists Scott Anderson and Paul Cosgrove yelp and squark in the best possible way. Despite the fun they are clearly having they exhibit a knowing unpretentiousness, with a clear idea of the music they want to make and more importantly to get people dancing. Dance Motherfucker, Dance.  

(Disclaimer: That is a reproduction of the liner notes, I do not intend to offend, unless that's the point.)

Will Edmonds


Tad Dreis - Play To Remember (Hedgepig)

Tad seems like a thoroughly pleasant and well-balanced chap and as such has produced another pleasing little album with 'Play To Remember'. This isn't going to make you sit bolt upright and take immediate notice, but if you are planning any road trips this summer there couldn't be any better backing track than this. Winsome little tunes with delicate acoustic guitar and a good slice of harmonica thrown into the mix mean there is little to dislike. Whether I'll still be pulling 'Play to Remember' out of the CD rack in a year's time I don't know but for now it will be the soundtrack to the start of the summer.
www.taddreis.com

SB


 

Hefner - The Best of Hefner 1996 – 2002 (Fortune and Glory)

Over the course of 20 intrusive songs, Darren Hayman takes us on a bittersweet journey through the highs and lows of adolescence. If Hollyoaks ever did a purely musical accompaniment to their show, this indeed would be it.  

With this album being around 98.5% vocals, it makes for a demanding listen. The music is modest, yet satisfying and it's a shame really that most interesting musical parts are largely eclipsed by the overbearing vocals. 

Have you ever been on a road trip where some irksome kid won't shut the hell up and all you want to do is listen to the thrum of the open road for a few moments? This album puts me in mind of such an experience.  

The lyrics are often lame and irritating, but I can see why they may be appealing to a 17-year old sociology student from Cardiff, or such.   

Buy this album if your young and your itching to be rebellious. Simply steal some words and ideals and you may be set on your way to realising your anarchic ambitions. 

If the former doesn't sound too appealing, don't bother with this album. You'll probably not like it.

Alex Clark


ReCoup - Worthwhile (Inititiate)

This mini-album contains many interesting elements and a number of good tunes via the combination of live and electronic equipment. It has been incredibly well detailed and crafted into a record via production, sampling, looping etc, but to the detriment of having any a lot of soul or originality. Opening track 'Origins' is a pleasant enough electronic bubblebath of sound, but could just as easily have been written by Jean Michelle Jarre. There are some some keyboard effects on 'Understand Me' that could have come straight from Queen's Radio Ga Ga' and the vocals in general actually degrade what might otherwise be a more interesting and minimal instrumental album.

Drum beats seldom break up, sticking steadfastly to the rather bland and obvious giving much of the album a single pace, even when other parts and over-dubs are leading in another direction.

All of which is not to say this is not a pretty good record. The general overview would be of a pretty good ambient techno album which I would definitely listen to for a chill-out vibe. But we have been spoiled with the likes of Orbital, Daft Punk etc in the past and it is not easy to see where ReCoup can force an oeuvre for themselves with this kind of derivative sound.
www.myspace.com/recoup

SB


The Dresden Dolls - Yes, Virginia (Roadrunner)

First let me begin by telling you that not only to the Dresden Dolls have a section of their website dedicated to hate mail, there is actually a fully fledged internet forum despising them. So, unlike the scores of faux-tortured indie and pop bands we listen to every month, the music of the Dresden Dolls very definitely invokes a reaction.

The sound itself? Singer/pianist Amanda Palmer and drummer Brian Viglione forge some kind of crazed baroque cabaret operatics infused with Vaudevillian dancehall cabaret. Palmer has a strong if not pleasant voice that manages (just) to counterbalance her heavily percussive style of piano playing. Sing along tunes - don't bother looking here. A detached appreciation? Perhaps.

Bizarrely the Dresden Dolls have opened on tour for Nine Inch Nails (probably the source of much of the vitriol of the hate mails). Personally, I wouldn't mind if I never heard anything of them again. But I'd much rather listen to this sound of two people genuinely pursuing their artistic and musical goals than any of the indie pop clones that pass across the tasty turntables every month.
www.dresdendolls.com

SB


The Vines - Vision Valley (EMI)

It may be a bit of a clue that nearly the whole of the press release for this album was centred around the personal problems and subsequent recovery of Vines singer Craig Nicholls. It is a pretty good idea to give people something original to associate with this album as the music is unbelievably bland.

Too many chugging three chord choruses all cemented with the same Nicholls vocal glue drag Vision Valley into the dirt. Although there is something unmistakably sunny in the whole disposition of the record, it's a kind of hazy sunshine, seen through drawn curtains. The one exception is 'Going Gone' which is a great slowy (even though it does sound like a bit of a rip-off of 'Moving' by Supergrass). It's lilting chorus and strings fully compliment Nicholls vocal style and leave the rest of the rockier tracks standing.
www.thevines.com

SB


 

Ben Harper - Both Sides of the Sun (Virgin)

Singer songwriters are ten-a-penny these days. Indeed, turn the dial on a radio and whatever station you land on, you can rest assured that you won't be waiting long until Damien Rice, Jason Powter, Jack Johnson and the like are pouring their mainstream and cliched lamentations through the speakers.  

Ben Harper is a singer songwriter, but he bucks the trend of the former and occasionally droll musicians.  

Better Way, with its tabla percussion, sitar and eastern drones demonstrates Harper's cultural flair and dedication to breaking free of the shackles of mainstream manipulation and arm-twisting. 

It is also evidence enough that Harper is a capable student of the George Harrison school of musicians. Like Sgt. Pepper's Within You Without You, Better Way offers a western take on Indian influences and with it being the first track on the record, it certainly relieves the listener in a sense that he knows he is not about to embark on an album full of glorified busking.  

From the culturally flamboyant opening song, Ben Harper journeys back into the western world and more precisely, back to the burgeoning rock 'n' roll scenes in England during the 1960's. Please Don't Talk About Murder While I'm Eating is a glorious Rolling Stonesesque rocker that should satiate the appetites of every Stones enthusiast worth his salt. 

The rest of the album swings between anti-political and anti-war demonstrational folk, Stones-like rock and, of course, the whimsical and non-threatening daydreams of George Harrison.  

Both Sides Of The Gun is a sonic pleasure. Hopefully it will become a revered model for the recording male singer songwriters of tomorrow.  

37 years may have passed since George Harrison was at the zenith of his recording days. During that time, we've flirted with the chaotic ideals of punk, we've marveled with wide-eyed wonder at the explosion of rave and we've flirted with punk yet again.

In the nineties, Oasis nodded in the general direction of the creative talent of the Beatles, but this is the naughties and Ben Harper has arrived to bridge the 37-year gap and breed rejuvenation into the music of George Harrison. And that's no bad thing; well, he was the best Beatle, wasn't he?

Alex Clark


 

The Television Personalities - My Dark Places (Domino) 

This album is quite unique, in the sense that there’s a new flavour (and even a different genre) in each tune… but each tune gets a bit repetitive and borderline annoying. I like a lot of the musical elements on this album though, such as the honky-tonk piano in ‘Velvet Underground’… this song is actually cracking me up now – I can’t work out if they’re taking the mick or paying tribute to people. Not sure I’ll be able to figure it out - I don’t think I can tolerate listening to it for a minute longer. My head is done in. Argh!

Catherine Porteous


 

Morrissey – Ringleader of the Tormentors (Attack)

Listening to this album on a trip to the hellhole that is Mansfield the other day reminded me why I’ve loved this man for most of my life. Quite simply, nothing makes me feel the way Morrissey’s voice does. Even now, as ‘Ringleader’ blasts out of the stereo, I’ve got goosebumps.

This album is his best yet. Better than the fantastic comeback that was ‘You Are the Quarry’. Gone is the tiresome tirades against judges and old, irrelevant foes, back are the lyrics that paint so many vivid pictures in the listeners head.

‘Dear God Please Help Me’ is the first jaw-dropping track, with talk of ‘explosive kegs between my legs’, and the lush backdrop of strings and synths. ‘You Have Killed Me’ is his best single in years, and is reminiscent of ‘Sheila Take a Bow’ or ‘Panic’ in places.

In other places, like ‘The Youngest Was the Most Loved’ or ‘In the Future When All’s Well’, Morrissey seems at his most confident for years, certainly since the months post-‘Viva Hate’. But the two real stand-out tracks on an album full of classics are the epic ‘Life is a Pigsty’ and the chiming ‘On the Streets I Ran’, which reminds this listener of ‘Paint a Vulgar Picture’.

But to be pick out two of three tracks at random would be to do down a quite fantastic album. Morrissey’s finest since ‘Viva Hate’, and probably the best he’s managed for 20 years. Stand aside the rest of you, the world won’t listen.

Sam Metcalf


Immune - 1/f (Gizeh)

A pretty short title for what otherwise is an epic album, in many senses. Clocking in at just a touch under an hour makes 1/f pretty long, especially in these short-spanning attention days of MTV, not to mention time-pressed reviewers. But also the ideas and styles which range through the record cover areas as diverse as rock opera to the almost classical composition of '***'. In fact a lot of the second half of the record plays much like a single composition, effortlessly flowing from track to track with composite lulls and crescendos of both musical activity and tempo.

It is easy to see why certain bands are referenced in the press release. The organic pulsating beats and loops which crop up on a regular basis are very Sneaker Pimps circa 'Splinter' in the way they are overlaid with a heavy vocal mix. And there is more than just a sinister undertone and a warped style to 'Selling Screen' and 'Monkey' to reminisce about Tool. But there are some other unexpected sounds for a record like this. Step up 'Low'-era Bowie in the use of hypnotic horns and mutes in 'Sum' for instance.

This is a deeply complex and atmospheric album. Like a soundtrack in it's bare minimalism in places then bursting and fighting its into musical life. Schizophrenic, disturbing, dark for sure. But more than anything a piece of immense beauty.
www.be-immune.com

SB


Tender Trap  - 6 Billion People (Fortuna Pop!)

The mighty Tender Trap return after a lengthy gap with their second album. And it’s a beauty. Less synth-heavy than their debut, ‘6 Billion People’ has hints of Kenickie-esque guitar pop, especially in the single, ‘Talking Backwards’. Elsewhere, Amelia’s voice remains as unique as ever, especially on tracks such as ‘Inuit Beauty Queen’ which toys with your pop antennae without really ever exploding, but is all the better for the tease. Similarly, ‘I Would Die For You’, on which Amelia’s voice is at its innocent best, skirts around wonderfully without ever smacking you between the eyes. And I like that.

If only the awkward buggers would play outside of London sometime, then I’d be totally happy. As it is, I’ll have to make do with ‘6 Billion People’, and make no mistake – it’s one of the best pop albums you’ll hear this year.

Sam Metcalf


Various - They'll Have to Catch Us First (Domino)

This collection of 14 tracks from Domino's roster not only serves to remind us how a label which hits corporate pay dirt can still manage to keep its principals and release some seriously interesting stuff. In fact it would be fair to say that Domino could probably release one of these compilations every 6 months such is the strength of their current roster - an impressive thought.

But for the time being, this hour long CD oscillates between old favourites such as the camp splendour of 'L.Wells' by Franz Ferdinand, the minimalist genius of both Psapp and Juana Molina (who start and end the compilation respectively) and crams in some meaty filling in the form of the magnificent 'It's Getting Light Outside' by Clearlake and 'Taste the Last Girl' by Sons and Daughters. Aside from 'My Dark Places' by The Television Personalities where I have to agree with Kitty Porteous's review above, this is one compilation that is definitely worth buying and at only £2.99 you could still get change from a fiver for a pint.
www.catch-us-first.com

SB


Matias Manser – Home? (Manser’s Garage Home)

Someone’s been listening to U2. Matias, I think, is from Germany, home to a lot of Hasselhoff lovers, and therefore he can be excused for not having the balls to set himself aside from the macho rock that pollutes most of ‘Home?’. Frankly, this sort of stuff belongs in 1990 alongside those ill-advised cowboy boots and Bryan Adams album you bought.

Sam Metcalf


Francois and the Atlas Mountains – The People to Forget (Stitch Stitch) 

Francois? He’s French?! Well…yes, but don’t let that put you off; ‘The People to Forget’ is a beautiful collection of handcrafted songs, tied together with the lovely, handcrafted sleeve that completes the warm DIY feel encompassed in the recording (plus he sings in French and English!).

Recorded in Bristol in the Cube cinema in 2005, its one of those albums where you feel like you’re sitting in the corner of the studio, quietly watching the band. There are a few bits of squeaking and clicking from various instruments in the background, but it never feels contrived like so much ‘lo-fi’ often can. This is simple, honest music, set off by Francois’ quiet vocals that, along with the lyrics, have an almost child-like quality in the same vein as Olly Ralfe. There are more low-key songs here, but ‘I’m So Glad I Met You’ and ‘The People To Forget’ break up the intimacy nicely with some lovely drum-machine-led bounciness. ‘We’re An Army’ is an amazingly understated and unpredictable song, which like a lot of the material here makes you sneak up the volume on your hi-fi. This is a recording full of beautiful sounds, which never gets too twee despite Francois’ sweet melodies and innocent lyrics, and it will be well worth a trip to The Packhorse to see them on 24th June.

Nic


Shack – The Corners of Miles and Gil (Sour Mash Records)

Masters of the Puniverse, Shack have, as we’re constantly being told, been around forever. I’d sort of written them off as having something to do with Oasis, but this beautiful little album has proved me wrong.

‘Corners’ is chock full of beautifully laid back pop songs, with not an Oasis power chord in sight. In many ways this makes me long for summer even more than I am anyway. It’s perfectly produced from start to finish, and reminds me a little of Nick Drake or the Young Tradition. Beautiful  for a Sunday morning.

Sam Metcalf


Dictaphone – Vertigo II (City Centre Offices) 

Dictaphone are Oliver Doerell and Roger Doring, and they make intricate jazz-electronica with assorted clicks and beeps creating a strange, multi-layered environment that requires multiple listens to get into. Its all very understated and minimal, yet manages to produce a really substantial sound which surrounds the listener. It’s a huge framework made up of various noises, that you can’t hear all at once but know are there, and every time you listen back to it its almost a totally different experience. There are a few samples thrown in of snooker matches and radio broadcasts etc, and saxophones and clarinets which lead the ‘pieces’ along and provide the melodies for the majority of tracks. Vertigo II is a really interesting recording, although if anything there is just too much going on here to allow you to fully get into the music.

Nic


Don Mescall - Innocent Run (Curb)

Our Don's surname is only one letter away from being a highly intoxicating Mexican liquor. And drinking too much mescal would probably have a similar effect as listening to this album in its entirety - bewilderment probably followed by nausea.

Not to say that Irishman Don can't write a tune (or carry a tune for that matter) because he clearly can. But the whole album is so samey and single paced from start to finish that you have to keep re-checking that you haven't got the CD player on repeat. When some slightly eastern sounding guitar arrangements on the dubious sounding 'Father to a Son' are actually the highlight of the first half hour then you've got to have real commitment to see the full CD through.

'Innocent Run' may have been the heart-broken outpouring of mid-divorce Don, but if the resulting MOR schmaltz is the product of this creative catharsis then maybe he would be better writing songs for other artists which would at least provide a more varied delivery.
www.donmescall.com

SB


Various - The Other Side, New York (Resist)

The idea for this compilation series is that it highlights the 'other side' of tourist destinations with a selection of music - presumably to get into party mode - and a DVD with less well known places to visit and spend your money. It's clearly aimed at a certain type of listener. The New York disc represents paydirt for Fischerspooner who select a few tracks that could be heard in any wannabe 'edgy' bar between New York and Berlin. It's understandable a tourist doesn't want the soundtrack to being knifed outside a crack den but even so the best tracks here are eurocentric and the better US tracks are ancient. The mixing could have been done in iTunes which begs the question why buy a compilation album these days when you could do something more accomplished yourself. The DVD on the flipside is presumably this compilation's USP yet is sub MTV infotainment filler, half an hour spent online would be a better way of finding interesting places to visit.

Richard Faith


Whirlwind Heat - Types of Wood (Brille)

With an album cover that would rival Spinal Tap's 'Smell the Glove' for cheesey suggestiveness and very un-PC imagery, it's a bit of a surprise to hear that Whirlwind Heat's sound is inspired by the crisp drum sounds of wholesome crooners Cake's 'Fashion Nugget'.

Maybe I'm not down wiv da kids and I don't swoon at the mention of Jack White but this CD sounds terrible to me. A musically pared back underground, garage punk ethos underpinning philosophical contemporary ponderings? Or juvenile ramblings and poor musicianship camouflaged beneath a sea of fuzzy distorted bass which should never have escaped the bedroom where it was originally spawned? It's a close call.
www.whirlwindheat.com
www.typesofwood.co.uk

SB


Archie Bronson Outfit - Derdang Derdang (Domino)

My first impressions of this CD were that someone had decided to find out what a heavy blues version of the post-punk revival would sound like (angular guitars and strained vocals are never far away, and this is released on the same label as Franz Ferdinand) and the thought still lingers.

However the more one listens to this album the more the heavy blues undertow comes to light and displaces the immediately apparent nods to the past even if it never loses the air of mass strikes, petrol bombs and cold war paranoia, although looking at the newspapers this could almost be perfect timing.

The songs are forcefully played and form a coherent set of lively, claustrophobic tracks veering between looser tracks like the opening 'Cherry Lips' and highly regimented ones like 'Kink' dispersed throughout the album.

It has to be said that the coherency does mean the second half of the album blurs together until the final track. This is 'Harp For My Sweetheart' a nursery rhyme like ballad, with soft vocals and strummed guitar for company, which totally wipes away the air of darkness pervading the album and suggests there is more to the group than following current (or past?) trends.
www.dominorecordco.com/site/minisites/derdang

Richard Faith


Soular - Waiting for Tomorrow

Despite some rather unimaginative song titles ('American Dream', 'Take Me Away', 'Tomorrow Never Comes' etc - I mean, come on!) the first couple of tracks on this album definitely impress. At first listen you would expect this slightly whining vocal and aggro-rock vibe to come from some spotty oiks from the Home Counties of England. So a surprise then to learn that Soular hail from Albuquerque, New Mexico. but perhaps the influence of all those wide open spaces comes to the fore in 'Take Me Away' which has a really strange but inviting distorted production sound.

Vocalist Marsh Shamburger (I swear to god that is his real name - it must have been tough at school) makes up for his unfortunate moniker by possessing an impressive range of styles ranging from Matt Bellamy style yelps right through to spacy Lennon-esque crooning.

There's also a breadth of musical styles on display here - 'You Taste You feel' definitely sounds like a digeridoo was employed in the midst of a folky Zeppelin style stomp. All of the songs are well written though the later half of the album does tend to drift towards a less inspiring college rock sound. However, with each listen I have found something else I like about the album, probably due to the quite complex layering of sounds styles,  so maybe this one has the potential to become a real grower.
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