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  albums - august 2006

 

Tapes N Tapes – ‘The Loon’ (XL) 

By now you’ll have heard much about Tapes N Tapes, their meteoric rise from indie obscurity, their 10,000 CDs independently sold to store by themselves, the Pitchfork et al rave reviews. Comparisons have been bandied around and include everything from Pixies to Cream to Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. To top it all off there is much talk of experimental, left-of-centre and even bewildering music. Now as you can imagine this raises a mans hopes skyward and when you expect so much its inevitable that you will indeed have your hopes come crashing down around your ears. In this respect Tapes N Tapes certainly deliver.

‘The Loon’ is a pleasant enough indie rock record with catchy hooks and lots of psyche fuzz. It can at time be full of stomping energy (Crazy Eights), sinister fun (Cowbell) and even rather sexy (In Houston) but it is sadly not catchy enough to be a great pop record, not bewildering enough to be avant-garde and not interesting enough to make me want to go back for more. Overall a rather deflating experience indeed.

Luke Drozd


 

Russian Circles – ‘Enter’ (Flameshovel) 

‘Enter’ was recorded by Greg Norman, who has also worked with Neurosis and Pelican amongst others. This gives a fair indication of the material on ‘Enter’, a mixture of the progressive metal of bands such as Isis and Envy and post-rock bands such as Mono and Explosions in the Sky. Russian Circles are in fact very similar in terms of sound to Pelican and The Capricorns; they use the dynamics traditional to post-rock but combined with metals love of ‘the riff’. A popular sound at the moment, but Russian Circles do it with style. Without vocals to distract, ‘Enter’ is completely absorbing, the riffs and motifs flow well into each other, too often music of this ilk can simply sound like an assortment of riffs bolted together. But real thought has gone into the composition of ‘Enter’; and this makes it a very rewarding record. 

Michael Pearson.


Miss Violetta Beauregarde – ‘Odi Profanum Vulgus Et Arceo’ (Temporary Residence LTD)

‘Odi Profanum Vulgus Et Arceo’ is apparently a famous Latin phrase meaning ‘I Hate The Common Crowd and I Spurn Them’ and it proves to be a more than fitting title for the 20 minute spastic temper-tantrum that is the music of Miss Violetta Beauregarde.

A mixture of fractured and broken electronics, vocal yelps and snarls, and surprisingly addictive beats the 16 tracks on this record are a little like someone you love smashing your face in with a hammer whilst feeding you tranquilisers and sugar cubes. This mix of Le Tigre and DJ Scotchegg should be irritating and anger inducing but under its grating and obnoxious exterior is actually some remarkably appealing songs with some of the best bloody titles I’ve ever read (‘I’m the Tiennamen Square Guy and You All Are the Fucking Tanks’ anyone?).

Miss Violetta Beauregarde is in a world and league all of her own and has proved she is a force to be reckoned with and good on her too.

Luke Drozd


The Sleepy Jackson – “Personality. One Was a Spider One Was a Bird” 

The incredibly garish and overblown cover art suggests either a work of genius that will topple “Pet Sounds” in the symphonies-to-God stakes or a grand folly to end all grand follies. What a shame that the music falls so very resolutely in the middle, especially since we at Tasty have conclusively proven that TSJ can’t cut it as a live act either. Seems poor old Luke just can’t get a break. 

The opening salvo of “You Needed More”, “Devil Was in My Yard” and “God Lead Your Soul” (in context the most commercial track of the bunch!) is pretty good, but most of what follows doggedly refuses to deviate from the formula of country/folk guitar, played at mid-pace, swathed in strings and harmonies. Meticulously arranged they may be, but it doesn’t stop the whole affair becoming rather tedious very quickly.  

Intentionally or not, it seems Mr Steele has created a glossy 70s AOR record. So yeah, if any of you out there thought Phil Spector’s involvement actually improved “The Long & Winding Road”, this may be the album you’ve been waiting for. For the rest, there’s nothing here that Mercury Rev didn’t surpass some time ago.
www.thesleepyjackson.com

Will Columbine


Giddy Motors – ‘Do Easy’ (Fat Cat) 

‘Do Easy’ is the long awaited follow-up to 2002’s debut from Giddy Motors, the Steve Albini produced ‘Make It Pop’, and it is obvious with the first few bars its going to be something rather special indeed. Brutal and urgent opener ‘Sick’ with its opening line ‘I'm in a sick situation, my girlfriends dead and all my relations are laughing’ is debased and hilarious as well as being a wonderfully complex song. The Jesus Lizard flavour of ‘Kapow’ is a series of jarring chords and sophisticated, repetitive rhythms that sinks under your skin like the worlds most charming parasite and the brutal blues of ‘Down With A High Heel’ is deliciously addictive like Coke with an extra few tablespoons of sugar in each can and to hell with the consequences.

Giddy Motors are a blend of 90’s US alt-punk ala Shellac but with intricate elements of blues and jazz hidden just below the surface and a mean sense of humour not entirely dissimilar to ex-Welsh rockers Mclusky, and ‘Do Easy’ shows them to be a UK rock band with its very own distinctly glorious agenda. 

Luke Drozd


The Black Neon – “Arts & Crafts” 

On paper, a blend of Kraftwerk, The Rolling Stones and Spacemen 3 is a potentially mouth-watering prospect. Sadly, The Black Neon fails to inject the reality with anything other than boredom despite the aid of some of Krautrock’s finest…umm…krautrockers. All the best tracks here are instrumental and I doubt very much that any similarity to Inspiral Carpets was intentional (it’s all in the organ sound, trust me), but there ya go.
www.memphis-industries.com

Will Columbine


Aaron Stout – ‘Queens Live In Caskets’ (Monotreme) 

I’ve had the privilege of having had a copy of Aaron Stout’s debut record ‘Queens Live In Caskets’ on CDR now for quite some time and now thanks to the wonderful folk at Monotreme this little gem will now be readily available to all mankind.

‘Queens Live In Caskets’ is a fragile and varied wonder by young singer-songwriter Stout, a man with a rich and distinctive voice like treacle laced with arsenic. It begins with the slow, march-like rhythm of ‘The Coronation’,  which is reminiscent of early Bowie pop, before slowly fading into the simple beauty of ‘Space Station’, a song that showcases Stout’s ease at understated beauty.

However it is in the two of final tracks of the record that his finest work is left to shine. The ghostly and haunting ‘Fountain Of Youth’ complete with its eerie whistled backing proves to be the records most beguiling number and is followed by the Papa M like splendour of ‘The Ballad Of Curtis Jones’, both of which are songs that demonstrate Stout’s ability to create much out of little.

‘Queens Live In Caskets’ is a record full of understated wonder as well as hidden treats and layers, ones that are only really revealed as you become more familiar with the record. A bit like finding a gracious new friend with a wealth of stories to tell.

Luke Drozd


John Southworth - Yosemite (Double Dragon)

Yee gods - this has got to be the most uber-twee album opening ever to ooze from my speakers. Not that this should be a surprise when the PR bumph lists phrases like 'sense of innocence', 'tenderness' and 'green magic' (what the hell does that mean??) and informs us that Southworth gets his inspiration by touring the notoriously gentle Canadian countryside. By train. 'General Store' and 'Applecart' set my teeth on edge a bit but dammit, 'Simple Simple Boy' takes the biscuit, sounding like that god awful 'Halfway up the Stairs' song that Kermit's nephew Robin sung on the Muppets. Jesus, why do Ii know that?

But after this shaky start there a couple of more upbeat numbers that make it worthwhile sticking out the album. 'Baby Lily' sounds a little Tom Pettyish, and 'Constantinople' is a quirky little Waltz. All told though, a bit too sweet for my bitter tastes.
www.johnsouthworth.com

SB


Protest the Hero - Kezia (Vagrant)

This album is apparently a 'situational requiem' - that sounds very posh. But it also demonstrates a dizzying amount of musical proficiency as this bunch of 19 year olds crank out a full breadth of guitar techniques. But the over riding effect of this is to chop up the album and even individual songs into disjointed segments that make for quite an uncomfortable staccato listen.
To request a free Protest the hero Sampler CD email Vagrant Records with your postal address.
www.vagrant.uk.com

SB


The Heise Bros. – “Listen & Learn with…” 

JAMC vocals take on 60s garage rock with a bit of country tonk thrown in for good measure, there are several points on this rather likable collection from the brothers Heise that suggest a more tuneful Eric Gaffney (he of Sebadoh fame). Minus point: there’s not quite enough variety to prevent the LP running out of steam after a while. Plus point: doing the same song (“Figure Anything Out”) in three different styles is really rather special. File alongside the Richard Burke album and Lost on Purpose EP that I reviewed a couple of months back…perhaps a co-headlining tour might not be a bad idea?
www.theheisebros.com

Will Columbine


The Lost Patrol Band - Automatic (Burning Heart)

Although Swedish punk guru Dennis Lyxzen (now that is a good name for Scrabble) was a big hit in Refused and the (International) Noise Conspiracy, this record is a bit flat. Do The Lost Patrol Band have to pay Status Quo royalties for the stolen riffs in 'Don't Make Me Wait'? These 12 rapid fire punk pop songs come thick and fast but don't really hold a great deal of substance. There's only so much you can do with this genre and what might be OK and refreshing for a single begins to wear a bit thin on a long player.

SB


Headlights – ‘Kill Them With Kindness’ (Polyvinyl) 

When the gentle string quartet opening of ‘Kill Them with kindness’, the debut full length release from Illinois three piece Headlights, begins its hard not to have your ears pricked. Sure enough as this leads into the main body of ‘Your Old Street’ it swiftly becomes clear this is indeed a record to embrace. One part Mates of State, one part Death Cab but with a hint of Belle and Sebastian but with the overall effect being very much their own, Headlights are a band with their shoe-gazing feet firmly planted in the world of hook laden indie pop, one where finely crafted melodies hide the darker powers at work lyrically underneath. As with much of the work of Ben Gibbard fleeting listens can miss the heartbreak and emotions buried within and when coupled with such shimmering keys and programming along side its solid backing the results are dramatic and frankly impossible to resist. The finest mix of melancholy and harmony you’ll find this year.

Luke Drozd


Outl4w - Get in the Van (Inl4w Wreckords)

At first I thought that this was a bunch of 'Riot Grrls' and was willing to put up with it. Then I thought that it sounded like a bunch of overactive adolescents with no shame. We all saw School of Rock right? This sort of thing should be stopped. God awful.
www.outl4w.tv

SB


Absentee – “Schmotime” 

Drunken sex, crap sex, ugly girlfriends, relationships gone sour…I might wish Daniel Michaelson more luck when it comes to affairs of the heart if only the musical results weren’t so damn good. That voice (Mark Lanegan sounds pre-pubescent in comparison) still astounds from the first few seconds of “More Troubles” but any accusations of gloominess are unfounded thanks to the group’s fine pop sensibility, not to mention the obvious air of self-deprecation. 

It’s not all seedy vignettes either. “Getaway” is three minutes of driving indie-rock, while “Duck Train” and “Treacle” reveal themselves to be as pretty as any of the finer moments from Pavement’s swansong LP. If the only thing preventing you from buying into said band’s world was Malkmus’s oblique turn-of-phrase, Absentee might just be the answer to your prayers. It’s certainly reassuring to hear both American and British influences being mixed together without either one dominating the overall flavour.
www.absenteemusic.co.uk

Will Columbine


Malefice - Relentless (Hangmans Joke)

This is a powerful and impressive performance from Berkshire bruisers, Malefice, very definitely in the Slip Knot mould. Rapid fire precision riffs, down-tunings and impossibly rapid drums. But I do find it hard to tell one track apart from another. Maybe it's my age. But I would suggest that there is a formula to being successful in this market: drop guitar tuning + semi-tone key changes * (double kick pedal speed + raucousness of vocal) = success %. In 'Burning Shadows', Malefice actually dare to deviate from this formula (though admittedly double the kick drum rate per second to compensate) and introduce just a bit of, wait for it, actual singing. Yes. And it is by far the most interesting track of the bunch. A lesson there perhaps?
www.malefice1.co.uk

SB


 

INME – ‘Caught: white Butterfly’ (Snapper Music) 

What makes people do this? What makes young men with loving and caring families do this to their fellow man?  INME probably have parents who love them and yet rather make them proud by doing something useful what they do instead is produce appallingly bland croon rock that is the aural equivalent of sexually assaulting elderly strangers and nicking their shopping.  If their address were on the press statement I’d probably post this back with a poo in the jiffy bag but I’d be worried those poor, sweet parents of theirs may open it and they’ve been through enough already.

Luke Drozd


Toxic - s/t (Because)

A massive 80 minutes of leftfield dance tracks to celebrate the third anniversary of the 'Toxic' club night in Paris and the recent mini tour of the UK. This covers such a broad spectrum of freakozoid sounds that it would be difficult to sum up but there does seem to be a tendency for sample heavy tracks, old skool disco and rap from the 80's, cut and paste art and err, detachable penises. There are appearances from recent Tasty reviewees Revl9n and Justice but also tracks from way back by Tuff Crew, The Fearless Four, ESG and Maurice Starr. Obviously aimed at the club scene but varied enbough to make it a decent listen at home too.
www.toxic-area.com

SB


Various Productions - The World is Gone (XL)

Imagine if they made grime beats for people who like indie music. Or the grime dub step equivalent to what lamb were to drum ‘n’ bass. 

The mysterious duo of Ian and Adam that make up Various along with all the guest vocals, charge up absolutely raw violent beats that could compare with mark one and the virus syndicate easily, if not heavier, whist in other parts effortlessly moving to relaxing acoustic electronic melodies without loosing the distinguished and original sound to the music. It is this characteristic that holds the album together which opening two tracks make apparent immediately. “Thunnk” with its buzzing electronic beats and cinematic violin hits, going straight in to the haunting vocal melodies of “Circle of Sorrow” becomes almost Celtic.

If you remember a game called Speedball there was a team known as Brutal Deluxe, which is exactly how you could describe “The World Has Gone” as an album from first impressions.

The problem that arises with an album like “The World Has Gone”  is that although Various have set out in there own direction and will no doubt gain a strong fan base, it can feel at times like a watered down version of a genre for popular consumption.

From the heavy dub vibe of “Don’t Ask” to the brutality of “Hater”, “Soho” even album highlight “Sweetness” and title track “The World Has Gone” with its eastern string hits, there’s a dirty, evil undercurrent that just doesn’t get fulfilled with all the feminine vocals trying to sweeten it up. Various really need to cut their balls open and rub salt into the heaving sacks. 

Pete Ubu


Captain - This is Hazelville (EMI)

I'm not sure what all the fuss is about with Captain but they will probably get me into a lot of trouble somewhere down the line. This is a Trevor Horn produced effort and is typically smoothed over to within an inch of it's life. There are some luscious male/female harmonies which either demonstrate a staggering voice from vocalist Rik Flynn or an overuse of effects. Female vocal counterpart Clare Szembek by comparison has a pure, innocent type voice to die for but is too often restrained in the background of Horn's musical new world order.

There is a definite retro swagger in places and many a track will have you grasping with that elusive ' what does this remind me of' question. No surprise that stand out tracks are the chosen singles, 'Frontline' and current single oh oh oh 'Glorious' - you'll see what I mean when you listen to it. 'Wax' also has a nice pomp to it but I found the whole album eminently listenable but easy to forget despite it's assured song writing and assured performance.
www.captaintheband.co.uk

SB


Mika Miko – ‘C.Y.S.L.A.B.F’ (Kill Rock Stars) 

With only two songs just breaking the two minute boundary and very raw production, ‘C.Y.S.L.A.B.F’ is a not a terribly subtle record. An equal mixture of lurching garage punk and jerky post-punk in the vein of Erase Errata and the Scissor Girls, all the while with screamed / shouted female vocals, the whole album made me want to flail around my room like a mad bastard. There’s no a great deal going on hear beyond that, but for that to be a criticism would be missing the point somewhat. Gloriously throwaway, I’m of the opinion that Mika Miko would be excellent live.

Michael Pearson


The Victorian English Gentleman's Club - s/t (Fantastic Plastic)

It's not often that something this refreshing comes along and rattles your cochlea. The VEGC crank out heavily bass led jerky agit-pop songs typified by their quirky falsetto three way harmonies and choppy drumming.

If I'd never heard The Pixies I would think this is the most brilliant thing ever. But I have heard The Pixies so there are times when you're just left thinking 'that was a bit of a rip off!'. But if you are going to copy someone  for style and energy then you cannot fault their choice of role models and this collection of ten 3-minute gems stands up pretty well in its own right. 'Ban the Gin' could be straight from the lips of Black Francis himself accompanied by the Dealster on pounding bass - utterly brilliant. I bet they make for scary drinking partners though.
www.thevictorianenglishgentlemensclub.co.uk

SB


The Victorian English Gentlemens Club – s/t (Fantastic Plastic Records)

The Victorian English Gentlemens Club aren’t in fact a tophatted bunch of moustachioed dandies who make bets and engage in duelling. As one might expect, they are very much in the NME-endorsed post-punk vein, albeit with a few more atypical, although not absurdly alien, influences thrown in along the way. First track and debut single ‘The Tales Of Hermit Mark’ is awful. Half-arsed yelps, like Adam Ant gone bashful. Something like I imagine The Horrors sound like (not having heard them yet). Things start improving a little with ‘My Son Spells Backwards’, and from then on there’s a marked upturn in quality. ‘Impossible Sightings Over Shelton’ starts off all Joy Division-like until it gets bored of itself and decides to have a wonderfully bubbly chorus stuck in there. Other standouts include the irrepressible ‘Ban The Gin’ and the rathter splendid ‘Under The Yews’, the latter of which has a chorus reminiscent of Devo at their best. ‘Dead Anyway’ is excellent, providing a bit of a change of pace as well as, female vocals on the verses notwithstanding, offering a pretty convincing White Stripes impression. All in all this is good stuff, working hard to overcome a quite frankly mediocre opening couple of tracks and managing to show a bit of character along the way. Well done Gentlemens.top arrow

Craig Wood


Liam Frost & The Slowdown Family - Show Me How the Spectres Dance (Lavolta)

I feel a little bit sorry now about my review of the Liam Frost single 'The City is at a Standstill'. After hearing the rest of the album I think that there is a lot more to hi than I first considered.

I still think there are large elements of Ed Harcourt in the music - the big songs with horns, mandolin' keys, guitars all thrown in and a similar vocal style. But there is also some intricate picked guitar work such as in 'If Tonight We Could Only Sleep' and 'The Mourners of St Paul's' which builds with some rumbling drums in a bit of a cheesey Christmas single stylee. But 'This is Love' quickly dispels any lingering doubts with it's bittersweet sound and lyrics which drift a little hopelessly into the filigree of mandolins in ' Is This Love'.

If it was down to me then it would be P45 time for the Slowdown Family (apart from the occasional female backing vocals) and I'd lose all those big accompaniments which muddy the otherwise superb melodies and string work. But it isn't down to me and this format won Ed Harcourt a Mercury nomination so why should Liam Frost change it?top arrow
www.lavoltarecords.com

SB


Peaches – ‘Impeach My Bush’ (XL Recordings) 

Out of sheer laziness and lack of enthusiasm I’m going to simply refer anyone who’s interested to my review of the single ‘Downtown’, also in this months reviews and taken from this album. ‘Impeach My Bush’ is essentially the same as ‘Downtown’, but dragged out to album length, so most of the tracks aren’t anywhere near as catchy. More electro punk / funk by numbers. With song titles such as ‘Fuck Or Kill’, ‘Tent in Your Pants’ and ‘Slippery Dick’, the only thing I can think of that accounts for Peaches popularity is the saucy / obscene lyrics. If that’s what people are after then my suggestion would be the fucking Outhere Brothers over this. 

Michael Pearson


Revl9n - s/t (Because)

This is a really difficult record to listen to. It lurches between styles and tempos but remains overwhelmingly aggressive which is a little unusual for an ostensibly electronic based album. Opening track 'United' has a touch of Senser meets Skunk Anansie about it but is soon swapped for a quirkier Euro techno of 'Muscles'. Single 'Someone Like You' is a much more minimal effort and 'Walking Machine' just sounds like downright dirty distorted disco.

Like much of the stuff we get to review from Scandinavia, and particularly Sweden, Revl9n have managed to pass over the vagaries of musical fashion and have developed their own individual indie-electro-disco hybrid. Ultra dancey but hard edged too with getting into the realms of ear bleeding techno. This may be the future my friends.
www.revl9n.com

SB


Lambchop – Damaged

Kurt Wagner has always had a knack of making the mundane sound gorgeous; never more so than on the opening track “Paperback Bible”, in which he sings transcripts from “Swap Shop”, not the Noel Edmonds Saturday morning multicoloured variety, but a National Public Radio show in which listeners phone in to buy and sell items on air like a low tech eBay.

This everyday banality only reinforces the idea that Lambchop’s music is written on Wagner’s back porch. “I could have waited here all day”, originally written for Candi Staton, sees Wagner describing a housewife’s day to day ennui “you’re dripping wet from a midday shower. Soon you’ll be drying off your dick. I want to be romantic about it, but there’s really not much more to it.”

Lambchop’s 8th album is their darkest to date possibly as a result of Wagner’s recent cancer scare, and is not an easy album to love on the first few listens. Persevere though and its sublime and starkly understated beauty starts to bore its way into your consciousness.

Following Wagner’s vow to write a song a day, which resulted in the slightly overlong and unfocussed double “Aw c’mon” and “No, you c’mon”, this time he took his time; the arrangements and the attention to the smallest detail brings to mind the obsessive craft of Brian Wilson. This is a brilliantly produced record, which to the casual listener may seem sparse and minimal. But turn it up, and closer attention reveals an incredible depth and range.

A group consisting of such an expansive an ever morphing line-up (15 on this recording) must have to exercise considerable skill and restraint to avoid descending into a cacophonous riot, but on Damaged, every note sounds considered, and the hushed spaces between of equal importance.

In “A day without glasses” Paul Niehaus’ steel guitar gives a rare hint of Lambchop’s Alt-Country roots, and Deanna Varagona’s Sax makes a welcome return. Throughout, an electronic soundtrack and grand string arrangements weave into the mix, and above it all, Wagner’s sonorous hushed croak narrates themes of sorrow, regret and mortality, with darkly humorous asides.

The closing track, the mischievously titled “The rise and fall of country and western civilisation” is almost cathartic, the usually genial Wagner ranting “damn they’re looking ugly to me” raging against bigoted locals of his native Tennessee, whilst joking at his recent surgery “..I still hold my hip each time I sneeze”; a redemptive end to what might be Lambchop’s best yet.top arrow

Leighton Cooksey


Resonate - Sonic Collision

Not quite simple enough to call Resonate an emo band or math rock. Look - no wristbands and no make up on any of the press shots. I can see the comparisons with the likes of Biffy Clyro and inevitably Succiopero but that is down more to a mastery of dynamics and an intensity of sound that belies their meagre 18 years of age. 'This is How We Smile' is a caged beast of a song, lurching between raging fully out of control to quivering in a corner for safety.

There's a range of styles on display on this EP and the bass and guitars are in a constant state of creative tension with one another while letting the drums pin the whole thing together. One criticism would be that after 6 tracks the heartfelt vocals are in danger of becoming a little whining - it would be interesting to turn the vocals down on them a little to give a completely dimension to the music. This happens briefly at the start of '30 Minutes to Think' which delivers a much more subdued feel then obliterated by the wall of noise in a neat contrast. But overall I'm pretty impressed and wouldn't mind catching these chaps live.top arrow
www.resonateonline.co.uk

SB


The Plastic Constellations – ‘Crusades’ (Frenchkiss Records)

Pop-punk as a genre is home to a multitude of absolutely godawful bands and records. The third record from The Plastic Constellations is one of the better exemplars of that kind-of-thing. Owing a lot to labelmates Les Savy Fav, from the guitar sound to the passionately yelped vocals. This is an engaging long player that’s well worth paying attention to if you are partial to a bit of that kind of thing. At its worst, it is merely anonymous, utilising choppy riffs and familiar dynamics to not much of an end. But at their zenith, including moments such as ‘Sancho Panza’, The Plastic Constellations show they can write infectious tunes worthy of the cream of their ilk. For my tastes, patches of this are tarnished by a little overwroughtness, but each to their own. They do lack the variety and flair for the original that marks out Les Savy Fav as special, but The ‘Constellations deliver a powerful and, in places, wonderfully loose record. ‘Crusades’ is glossier than the slightly rawer ‘Mazatlan’ from a couple of years ago, but is nevertheless a well-crafted and inventive record, and one that deserves to be popular amongst those with a fondness for the punkier elements of Les Savy Fav.top arrow

Craig Wood


Dextro - Consequence Music (16k)

Although there is little in the way of PR with this CD (in fact, there is nothing as either none was included or I lost it) that cannot detract from the fact that 'Consequence Music' is a very enjoyable piece of work. In fact, not having someone telling you how wonderful a band are and how they aimed to recreated the atmosphere from within a fourteenth century knight's jock strap in musical form is a blessed relief. Let's concentrate on the tunes shall we?

'Consequence Music' would probably get slotted into the CD rack somewhere between ambient electro, ambient techno and post rock. if you had a three dimensional CD rack that is. There is a certain Celtic warmth about it, much like Tasty's long term folky favourite Daniel Patrick Quinn has eschewed his flutes and mandolins in favour of a moog and a sampler.

On the downside Dextro rely heavily on introducing beats and drums in and out of their songs in order to provide a changing dynamic and I can't help but feel that maybe a couple of songs are too long as they go through this no drums-drums-no drums cycle one too many times. But then it's always different when you sit down to review a record than when you are just listening to it for pleasure. Long tracks become your enemy unless they are very good. Fortunately in the main, Dextro make the long wait worthwhile.
www.dextro.co.uk

SB


Richard McGraw – “Song & Void: Volume 1” 

I found “Butter Hill” (track one of this admittedly well-packaged CD) to be four minutes of rather ponderous piano balladry. Unfortunately most of the other songs seem to follow suit in terms of being unbearably slow and solemn. The one beacon of light is “Natasha in High School” which doesn’t sound a million miles away from Sufjan Stevens, but the overall vibe is of someone taking themselves and their art far, far too seriously and with a voice halfway between Bryan Ferry and Johnny Borrell.
www.richardmcgraw.com

Will Columbine


Various: Ministry of Sound Sessions Mixed by Axwell (Ministry of Sound)

The latest mix tape (for that is basically what it is right?) from MOS sees Swedish new kid on the block spinning his Scandic remix magic over two discs of current and more distant dance tracks. The first disc is meant for play in clubs and is more house orientated but there is a great acidy/trancey section in the centre featuring Whirlpool's 'Disco to Disco' and Underworld's 'Two Months Off'. As for the rest, you might as well get down to your local Gatecrasher franchise for the same thing. But Disc 2 is a different kettle of smoked herring altogether...

As a disc designed to be listened to at home 'In the Villa' (I wish!) this part is much mellower and really gets into a trancey vibe about 3 or 4 tracks in with some Sebastien Ledge and Eric Prydz remixes. All good stuff. Buy the CD, better still, buy a villa in which to listen to it.
www.axwell.co.uk

SB


Blood On The Wall – ‘Awesomer’ (Fat Cat) 

Released on Brighton’s excellent Fat Cat Records ‘Awesomer’ isn’t the most contemporary record you’ll ever hear. That’s not a criticism as such; it’s simply to say its clear what bands Blood On The Wall are fond of. This reminds me a great deal of the sort of messy indie guitar music that Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr, Sebadoh et al pedalled in the late 1980’s/early 1990’s. Hazy and fuzzy most of the time, with strong melodic sensibilities, if you’re a fan of any of the afore-mentioned bands then it’s more than probable this will push your buttons.  

In general all the material on ‘Awesomer’ is very good indeed, a pleasing mix of guitar noise and melody. Particularly good are ‘Reunite On Ice’, which is what Sonic Youth might sound like if they weren’t so unnecessarily pretentious, and ‘Going To Heaven’, which sounds like Sebadoh at their most introspective. Given its numerous references /similarities to indie bands of yore, ‘Awesomer’ has left me considering the purchase of a lumber-jack shirt. This is a good thing.

Michael Pearson


Mains Ignition - Mainstropolis: The Lifestyle (Boss Engine)

A refreshingly unusual sounding album this that seems to slip in and pick pocket your loose change rather than brazenly stick a knife in your face and mug you for all you've got. This makes me think of a cross between Psapp and the Gorillaz. Heavy bassy melodies with charmingly twee interjections of vocal harmonies. There's also just enough quirkiness and big beat sound in places to suggest the likes of Bentley Rhythm Ace or Fatboy Slim. Good time music for the summer.
www.mainsignition.com

SB


Shooting at Unarmed Men - Yes! Tinnitus!

Oozing with menace and spite, you can’t help but feel as though every word screamed in the following songs, is screamed directly at you. Indeed, the singer of this group is a very angry man indeed and soon, you’re about to know all about it. 

The lyrics can be frustrating. Hell, maybes it’s just the inherent Yorkshire cynicism in me, but it certainly seems as though the words, ‘all the king’s horses, stick a dick in my sister’, is designed to be sung boisterously in imitation to a prude as a means to distress or horrify. Gimme a break… it’s just a bit naff, isn’t it, readers? 

Fortunately the music doesn’t carry any explicit narratives and it’s just about hot enough to slough the skin from anyone’s face foolish enough to sit too close to the speakers. When the band is in super-heavy mode, they’re as good as any peer in the world of three minute disposable rock. When they do thoughtful compositions, they tend to go unnoticed.   

A Horse by Day, A Horse by Night really sets the standard for this album. Most of the albums’ content seems to be enjoyed only for as long the song plays. The song fades away and with, the listener’s acknowledgement too.  

Yes! Tinnitus! Is nothing new; you’ll have heard it all before in one form or another and it’s redeemed only by a music fit to smash your head against a wall to.

Alex Clark


Loudaphone - On the Alpha Line

A big anthemic opening a la Doves with big swirling guitars and pounding drums suddenly gives way to a bit of a weedy acoustic bridge. Others would say that this is a delicate change of pace and introduces some heart tugging melodies. But I still reckon it is a bit weak. Loudaphone seem to specialise in indie college rock and have fully subsumed the influences of Radiohead Snow Patrol and Coldplay. They also remind me a bit of Four Day Hombre but tend to go in for the old overdrive pedal a bit more than the Hombreros. Great if Coldplay decide to split up after the last album.

SB


 

Comets On fire – ‘Avatar’ (Sub Pop) 

After 2004’s critically acclaimed ‘Blue Cathedral’ many have been waiting to see where the freak-outs and feedback would take them next. Its fair to say that few probably thought it would lead to the tighter, more considered and accessible follow-up that is ‘Avatar’.

Much of the sound that made people fall for Comets on ‘Blue Cathedral’ is still here but this time round they have reined it in somewhat and the results are like Electric Ladyland's more aggressive brother. It is a mass of riffs, psychodelia and swooning Hammond and of course those proggy freak-outs are still in there in droves. However added to this we have a more delicate side to the proceedings with tracks like the almost ballad-like beauty of ‘Lucifer’s Memory' or the Arabian tinged ‘Sour Smoke’ ensuring the record is one with a far greater sense of dimension.

Comets On Fire have managed to take that next step after a well received record and have avoided the pot-holes and pitfalls that many stumble into. ‘Avatar’ is a glorious number, a record coated in melodious and intelligent warmth whilst maintaining a sense of desperation and urgency throughout.

Luke Drozd


Moneen - The Red Tree (Vagrant/Hassle)

Much like tasty comrade Columbine, I can find little of interest in this kind of mid-Atlantic emo sound. In fact I didn't realise that I had listened to three separate track after 10 minutes - I thought they were all the same one. The kids with the wristbands and mascara will probably love it though so I will let them ponder the pseudo-intellectual song titles such as 'There Are a Million Reasons For Why This Will May Not Work...And Just One Good One For Why It Will' and work out how to get them to fit on their iPod screen displays.
www.moneen.com

SB


 

John Kastner – “Have You Seen Lucky” 

John Kastner has played with lots of bands and put out lots of records. John Kastner has co-written songs with some of alt-rock’s biggest names. John Kastner “is a busy man” according to his publicists. Yeah, busy writing songs that sound like The Smashing Pumpkins (“Broken”) and Foo Fighters (“Trainwreck Magnetism”, “Hold Me Up”, and most of the other songs here), only slicker and blander. There’s a potential killing to be made so long as US teen dramas keep using this kind of B-grade rawk to bolster their soundtracks, but I doubt Dave Grohl will suffer any sleepless nights in the meantime.

Will Columbine


The Dears - Gang of Losers (Bella Union)

Lots of big songs and big production abound here in this album of two parts. The first section kicks off with single 'Ticket to Immortality' and the latter part starting with 'You and I are a Gang of Losers'. No discernible difference in styles actually - maybe it was just a printing error on the case that left a gap between tracks 7 and 8? Common motifs tend to be quite a big bass drum sound and tinkly honky tonk saloon pianos. Not immediately catchy but certainly not offensive either.
 


Thom Yorke – The Eraser (XL)

Do you like Radiohead?  If yes then you will like this, if no, you will not.

Ron Beasley


The Stabilisers - Wanna Do the Plastic Brane Love Thing (Acid Jazz)

Despite initially being sceptical on seeing the Acid Jazz logo (through a hatred of the music, not the lovely label that this turns out to be) this album throws around enough ridiculously catchy melodies to keep even the most attention deficient, Sunny D drinking youth in check. Quick punk pop tracks (many of them, 17 in fact) just keep coming at you. The Stabilisers could teach today's wannabe punksters a thing or two and still have time to throw in a few cross genre classics such as the shoegazy 'Belinda', ska-flavoured 'Drunk Again' and the slashy retro pop of 'Deadfish' for example. Proof if ever any were needed that there is no greater inspiration for a top album than a good sesh down the boozer.
www.thestabilisers.com

SB


 

Leichtmetall - Wir sind Blumen 

Karaoke Kalk is a German record label of which I know nothing about. One thing I can say of them is that if so much as half of their other signed artists are as delightful and quirky as Leichtmettall are, then I for one will be tracking them down.  

On 'Wir Sind Blumen' (which translates into English, as 'We are Flowers'), Leichtmettal have produced ten extremely elegant songs that range from twee German electro-pop to haunting children's nursery tales.  

Anyone who found a lasting satisfaction in A Hawk and a Hacksaw's Darkness at Moon, may well find delight here.  

With forty minutes of tasteful bleeps, whistles and other colourful sound embellishments (all of which this author is powerless to do justice to in words), even the most hardened Kraftwerk junkies should find plenty to satisfy here. 'Der Große Tag' is undeniably a tasteful nod towards the epic, 'Autobahn'. 

Fuchschen is an excellent song of whimsy that should appeal to not only young and impressionable children, but also to those of us who spend our office days romantically pouring over the likes The Brothers Grimm and daydreaming of being lost in a world governed only by imagination and fancy.  

The real treat is the fact that the only vocal delivery in the song is the sporadic utterance of the title. It may well be lost in its native tongue, but English speakers will no doubt appreciate that it sounds very much like the singer is naughtily slipping two swear words into the music. 

For those of you who like guitars in your music, you've lucked-out here; I thought I heard a ukulele on Au Bord De La Seine, but that is about as close as you'll get to any trouser-testing knee benders.

Alex Clark


George Byrne - Foreign Water (Laughing Outlaw)

Foreign Water is a wonderfully laid back effort from George Byrne. His languid vocals are effortlessly teased along with some nice acoustic and slide guitar pieces or occasionally accompanied with a slightly bigger host of musicians that fill out but don't crowd out the intimate feel. There's a definite air of Mutations-era Beck about the use of the harmonica and guitars, not to mention a certain vocal similarity. Definitely one to while away the winter hours while dunking jammy dodgers in hot tea and reading the Sunday papers.
www.georgebyrne.com

SB


The Low Lows – Fire on the bright Sky (Monotreme)

Another excellent release from Monotreme, this time in the form of some dark brooding southern gothic sounds, the music veers from hushed sweetness to raucous reverb whilst never loosing its warmth or sensibility. This will appeal to any gentle soul with a fondness for the forlorn sounds made familiar by the likes of My Morning Jacket and Catanets.

Ron Beasley


Pacific Ocean Fire - From the Station to the Church We are Under the Same Stars (Sorted)

Pacific Ocean Fire are many things. Weary country boys like Centromatic and South San Gabriel. Acoustic noodlers like Dreamend. Indie folksters like The Broken Family Band. Then they throw in some other stranger influences demonstrating a yearning for yesteryear which shows a bit of a similarity with British Sea Power in their boundless hunger for successfully incorporating retro pop sounds in an otherwise completely incompatible Americana. I'll be damned if I can work it out. But I do know that the the second track 'Death on Your Birthday' is almost a replica of the opening track 'Summer Engines', just played at a slower tempo. At least I think that is what is happening. I also know that the male/female vocal harmonies on 'Leaving Dusty Footprints' are only inferior in their beauty to the sporadic bouts of slide guitar which yelp across this track. I imagine a live performance from POF would be a powerful experience. In the meantime I will make do with this record.
www.pacificoceanfire.com

SB


 

The Russian Futurists – “Me, Myself & Rye…An Introduction To…” 

It’s not glaringly obvious that this is a “best-of” compilation culled from three previous releases, and given the distinct 80s vibe I can only conclude that the name is meant to be ironic. Sweeping synth and Beach Boys melodies abound, but despite some nice production touches everything is a bit too samey and the most accomplished track (“You and the Wine”) doesn’t crop up until the very end. Let’s hope the songs are arranged chronologically; at least that would hint at some improvement.
www.russianfuturists.com

Will Columbine


The Gentlemen Losers – s/t (Buro) 

Take two finish brothers, a generous amount of late nights, a good dollop of romantic tendency, a dash of Vincent Gallo and a sprinkling of jazz, adjust volume to taste, sit back, and listen to immediately.  

Ron Beasley


The Skygreen Leopards – “One Thousand Bird Ceremony” 

4 albums and an EP into their career and it’s still Haight Ashbury, 1969 in the minds of these denizens of the San Francisco psychedelic underground. This wouldn’t be a problem if their output were anywhere near in the same ball-park, but fifteen doses of folk-drone, tuneless singing and the occasional bleating goat doesn’t really do it for me. So The Incredible String Band weren’t the most vocally adept pair, but how the Leopards can see fit to drag Nick Drake and The Monkees into the equation is beyond me. What happened to all those “pop hooks” promised in the biog? Damn lying hippies!

Will Columbine


 

Indian Jewelry – Invasive Exotics (Monitor) 

Don’t be fooled by the name, this is no wishy washy  hippie shit, instead it conjures visions of bead wearing burkes falling to their death, perhaps down a large ravine, or from a moving train with only their beads remaining intact before they too meet an end, this via spontaneous combustion. How does this happen? ‘We are not sure’ say officials, ‘we are currently carrying out an investigation, although witnesses have been slow to come forward, everyone seems a little confused by events’. Hmm….. 

Ron Beasley