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  albums - february 2007

 


 

McQueen- Break the Silence (Demolition)

It’s a sad fact that if you’re a woman in the music industry these days you either need to be a pop princess (Kylie et al), slag off someone else’s band (Beth Ditto, Lily Allen) or be a token girl band member (Abi Harding- Zutons, Aristazabal Hawkes- Guillemots) to get even an ounce of recognition.  

So McQueen, an all girl metal band, will have a bit of a struggle on their hands then. But judging from Break the Silence, they’ve got more than enough confidence to do it. Leah Duors vocals are some of the best heard in a long time. Her most obvious contemporary is Brody Dalle, however, where Brody lacks sweetness and light, Leah is able to deliver some quality “don’t mess with me” vocals, as well as a softer edge to her voice if she feels like it.

In a rather predictable fashion, most of the songs on Break the Silence appear to be about the opposite sex and failed relationships. But then again, what do most men write about?

The Line Went Dead is a punk diatribe against an unwanted man, with a hugely catchy chorus and some clever guitar work. 

McQueen seem to sit somewhere between dirty, dark grunge and upbeat pop punk. The fusion of the two results in some brilliant riffs and tunes with a darker kick behind them (Bitch and Don’t Know How to Break it to you).  

This band is bringing something new to the table. Now if only people would sit up and take notice.

Catriona Boyle

 

MyOwnFlag - ‘I Think I’m Made Out Of Robots’ 

After the initial listening, I was actually quite surprised to find that Bristol post-rockers MyOwnFlag has only 3 members. They create a huge sound, drawing from influences such as Tool, and QOTSA, but adding their own angry, loud elements.  

The majority of the time I spent listening to this 7-track album I was wondering where the hell bands like this have been hiding for the last decade, as since the previously mentioned influences you could count the number of decent post-rock bands on one hand. Not only do MyOwnFlag help restore the faith in this type of music, but when a track like ‘Venkman’ grabs you by the throat and tells you what’s going on, you can see that it is anything but dead and gone. 

However, the remainder of the time I was listening to this music, I was wondering if it was possible to create more than one guitar/bass tone on an album. Don’t get me wrong, the production is brilliant, but after a few songs of almost identical guitar sounds it starts to get a little tiresome. The interesting instrumental ‘Wireless’ adds a little variety to the album, which is a welcome addition to the slightly repetitive aspect of songs like ‘Intervention’, which although are decent enough songs, tend to slightly bore the listener with the various stop-start sections. 

It has to be said that ‘I Think I’m Made Out Of Robots’ is a skillfully crafted piece of music which would be welcome in any Rage Against The Machine fan’s record collection. Followers of heavier, aggressive music can’t go far wrong checking out this band, but if the bands mentioned do nothing more than make you ask “Is that the band that has the singer that looks like Bob Marley?” then you should probably steer clear. 

Joe Doris

 
 

John Cale – Circus Live 

Recorded mainly during last year’s blackAcetate tour, Circus Live is a journey through John Cale’s 40 year career; one which has seen more erratic changes in direction that a pissed up bluebottle. Never one to shy away from innovation from his earliest days with LaMonte Young and the Velvet Underground through his proto-punk 70’s to his most recent Dr Dre influenced hip hop dabbling; Circus Live revisits and reworks a wide range of Cale’s diverse back catalogue.

Opening with the drone of the Velvets’ “Venus in Furs”. Cale’s current band is tight as a gnat’s chuff and definitely rocking; The Modern Lovers’ “Pablo Picasso” becomes a dense groove, with Cale snarling and hollering as though he’s moments away from beheading another unfortunate chicken. “Helen of Troy” gets the heads-down hard rock treatment. “Gun” is transformed into an almost funereal dirge, with dissonant samples and industrial clankings, descending into leaden guitars that make My Dying Bride sound positively chipper.

 The album’s harsher rock moments are in stark contrast to Cale’s more avant-garde leanings, such as  the elegant, stripped back arrangement of “Hanky Panky Nohow” and “Set Me Free”, and the remarkable otherworldly, sample laden sound of “Look Horizon” and “Magritte” from 2003’s HoboSapiens.

  Like many of his studio albums, Circus Live is definitely not always easy listening, but is proof that well into his 60’s John Cale is not content with simply resting on his (quite considerable) laurels, but is still striving to explore his own musical direction.

Leighton Cooksey

 
 

Silver Sun – “Dad’s Weird Dream” 

For me, Silver Sun’s self-titled debut is one of the great lost classics of Britpop, appearing at the tail-end of that sorry excuse for a movement in a blizzard of Beach Boys harmonies and Cheap Trick chainsaw guitars. For my money, it’s every bit as good as Weezer’s “Blue Album” and probably better. Yet despite rave reviews, by the time their sophomore effort came out few people were paying attention anymore and SS had to be content with merely being big in Japan. 

So it’s heartening to find out that they’ve stuck with it long enough to put out album number four and that it’s still very much business as usual. The title track might round things off with some bizarre (in this company) Pink Floyd acoustic guitar wanderings, but otherwise three minute servings of power pop rule all the way from “Hi Scorpia” to the penultimate “You Can Love”. James Broad hasn’t lost his knack for a surreal and often perverse turn of phrase when it comes to lyrics, either. Even if it doesn’t reach the lofty heights of what they achieved back in ’97, it’s good to have Silver Sun back again.
www.silver-sun.co.uk

Will Columbine

 

The Hedrons – “One More Won’t Kill Us” (Pinnacle/Measured)

Having been recently unimpressed by The Hedrons live experience, it gives me mild pleasure to report that the album showcases their strengths a little better. With big crunchy guitars, the noise reigned in and the pop leanings pushed to the fore, what we have here is a mildly entertaining 40 mins of Debbie Harry sparring with The Bangles at their most rocking. The singles are, however, still the best tunes by far, and anyone expecting anything edgier than your average Natalie Imbruglia record will be disappointed.
www.thehedrons.co.uk

Will Columbine

 
 

Plate Six - Battle Hymns For a New Republic (One Little Indian)

Ahhh, the glorious sounds of hardcore. Plate Six are a three-piece from Alabama, USA who eventually dispensed with bass players and preferred to launch their own particular sonic assault armed with just two guitars and a drummer.

Inevitably this leads to at least one guitar part concentrating on playing a rhythm section, quite often through stacks of distortion. but it does also allow enough leeway for some intricate entwined guitar parts which really allow Plate Six to push to the limits what they can get out of their amps and drum kit.

The influence of acts such as Fugazi is obvious and acknowledged since Plate Six have opened for the DC hardcoresters. But there's also a slightly playful attitude which comes through in the dual vocals which is more reminiscent of Sunderland's This Ain't Vegas.

My favourites were 'Losed' which briefly starts off like The Kaiser Chiefs 'Oh My God' before twisting into a much angrier rant where the guitars are like great slabs of noise slamming across the track but delicately punctuated with a crisp, clean bridge very so often. It's also hard not to like the immense 10 minute long 'Maximalist Anthem' which is stacked full of ringing guitar lines but consistently self destructs in great swathes of distortion the likes of which I've not heard since French rock noire outfit Call Me Loretta's last album.

One small grumble would be the overriding oppressive nature of the record which is so intense at times as to get a bit claustrophobic. But that is the nature of the beast. I'd still rather listen to this kind of music which you can tell has been forged through blood, sweat and tears than some cheeky throw away pop stuff any day.
www.platesix.org

SB

 
 

Her Majesty's Orchestra presents...a Christmas List (Sauce)

I'm sure that this 'Christmas List' arrived some time after Christmas but then it wouldn't be the first time I'd lost a CD down the back of the sofa for two months before reviewing it so we'll reserve judgement on that.

It's definitely a roller coaster ride through this release as barley 4 minutes in and we are already on to the first of 6 versions of 'Holiday Dream'. The twee gift wrapped Christmas pop is also cunnigly wedged between a few filler tracks that are pretty interesting. The bendy stringed, 26 second 'Ist of the Season' and Gravelly 'Ms Christmas Tree, I love You' create a glorious psychedelic yet festive vibe which frankly would have made by recent holiday season go a lot faster. But the best thing is it's all free thanks to the good people at Sauce Records. So get your free MP3s here http://www.saucerecords.com/her_majestys_orchestra.htm

SB

 

Jamie T - Panic Prevention (Virgin)

For Jamie T 2006 was most definitely his year, his career started to take off with his residency at a London bar and suddenly everything quickly began snowballing! His tour dates rapidly began to sell out, he got his first top twenty hit with ‘If You Got The Money’ and received praise from everyone from Zane Lowe, who tagged ‘Back In The Game’ as the “Hottest Record In The World” to Paul Simonon who he supported at the BBC Electric Proms, and with the release of his debut album ‘Panic Prevention’ early this year it seems that Jamie doesn’t plan on 2007 being any less exciting! 

Panic Prevention exhibits the genre defying genius of young Jamie T, his hybrid style shows influence from a wide spectrum of artists from The Clash, Billy Bragg and The Specials to Rancid and Drum and Bass artists. The result is Jamie’s very own uniquely splendid sound. His simple yet catchy beats are the perfect backdrop to his complex and vivid lyrics. Almost like diary entries, his lyrics tell us of the boozy, blurry world of the city-dwelling adolescents. Jamie unashamedly tells truths about what the young do; fight, drink, take drugs and party, but don’t let this give you the wrong impression. Jamie T is in no way a one dimensional song writer only concerned with the jovial. We are also given the horrific and gruesome account of self destructive alcoholics and drug addicts in ‘Shelia’ and the bitter sweet reminiscence of the past in ‘So Lonely Was The ballad’.   

‘Panic Prevention’ has managed to capture the spirit of the DIY method of making it in the music business. Despite some tracks being re-recorded with his new band, creating a louder and more ‘finished’ sound than previously heard, Jamie has still somehow has managed to capture the ‘bedroom recording’ quality.  The snippets of dialogue between tracks make the record reminiscent of the series of home made mixed tapes from which the album was named after. At one point we even here Jamie referring to the recording of ‘Brand New Bass Guitar’ as the “scrappiest version of that I have ever done in my life” the rough bedroom-like recording makes up part of the genius of Jamie T, you really feel that what you are hearing is Jamie’s version of the truths in his own life.  

This album was expected to be good, and in every possible way Jamie has exceeded all expectations, ‘Panic Prevention’ is a near perfect record with everything from undeniable dance floor fillers to ballads of sorrow and tales of debauchery. It looks like 2007 is going to be a pretty good year for Jamie as well!
www.jamie-t.com

Laura Tate

 

Crevecoeur - #1 (Drella)

French three-piece Crevecoeur ('broken heart') produce a cinematic soundscape with this their first release. Instrumental from start to finish (with the exception of a few lines from a Speak and Spell toy) there are no obvious signs of 'Frenchness' in the record but a definite tilt towards dusty roads, spaghetti westerns and Mariachi music. And there are also the rather obvious clues in the song titles such as 'We leave the ranch', 'El Matador' and 'Singing on a Dead Horse'.

'We leave the ranch' does vaguely hint towards a European flavour with its intro but then the horns break in to join the Spanish guitar and any pretensions towards cafe culture and smoking Gauloises fades away. 'The gasman and me' sounds like Quentin Tarantino or Robert Rodriguez could be lurking just around the corner, or Serge Leone is pulling the strings behind the scenes. This is the strength and maybe also the weakness of the album. If you don't like those old movie soundtracks then you are unlikely to like a collection of pop songs based around them. Even the brief interlude of 'L'equarisseur de songes' with its OK Computer  era Radiohead style ending can do little to hide the fact. But if like me you are a fan, then '#1' is a real soundtrack treat.
www.myspace.com/6226587

SB

 
 

Kila & Oki - Kila & Oki (Kila)

This turned out to be a huge unexpected treat of a record and reminded why we must try not to be so dismissive of, or quick to label, 'world music'. I mean, what is 'world music' anyway? Music produced anywhere other than in Britain and USA? Music made up of indigenous musical sounds? Traditional folk? It's a cheap and lazy trick to label things as world music, especially with so many acts beginning to combine their cultural heritage with contemporary influences, especially in Scandanavia (such as The Knife and Adjagas).

Kila are based in Ireland and Oki is an Ainu musician from northern Japan. Not much common ground there then. But the hypnotic sounds of Oki's Tonkori (a kind of ringing guitar-banjo hybrid) and his vocals in native tongue combine perfectly with Kila's trippy but dizzingly skilful collection of instrumentals - hammered dulcimer, guiro, claves, shakers, plastic whistle, low whistle, marimba and mandolin to name but a few (and god knows what they all do) all make an appearance and seem to effortlessly fuse the eastern and western cultures without seeming trite or fussy. Well worth a listen.
www.kila.ie

SB

 
 

Buswell - Buy Me New Shoes (4th Street)

It perplexes me why some record companies make the choices they do, both in the artist they choose to pass over and sometimes the ones they actually do decide to release. Buswell (Shaun) is yet another singer-songwriter depicting his (albeit slightly more interesting than most) life via the medium of music and his folk pop songs.

Backed via a sea of musicians who should probably know better then to indulge Shaun his 45 minutes of vinyl time, 'Buy Me New Shoes' just has no resonance with me whatsoever. Four listens straight through and I can't remember an interesting thing about it. Boswell can sing and knows how to compose a song, the band can play but this is still a niche that I cannot get into. Sorry.
www.boswellmusic.com

SB

 
 

Electroconductor - About Time (Nucleon)

Electroconductor aka Arlo Giunchi is a producer from the Uk who likens his music to Moby, DJ Shadow and Aphex Twin (though I would say definitely more like the first two and not like Aphex Twin). And why not aim for something like that - think of the $$$s those chaps have made between them-Moby must have sold a million cars on his own. Strange then that 'About Time' opens with a track that sounds like a Dire Straits b-side from 1978.

Sadly this is a theme which continues throughout the album - it just sounds dated. I think all of the keyboard sounds and the synths on display here have been done to death, possibly as long ago as by Jean Michel Jarre. 'Carbon' is a bit new age, a bit trancy but also a bit meandering. 'Change Your Mind' on the other hand, is just a bizarre mix of breakbeats, synths and keyboards that would sound more at home as a gameshow theme tune or uplifting shopping music in a funky furniture store - way out man.

When the first three tracks of an album all make the wrong impression it is normally sign that things aren't about to get better. 'Decipher' is a bubbly, synthy piece that nurdles along quite manfully and does a good job of pulling things round but it's not long before I'm realising this just isn't going anywhere. This would have been a good album 10 years ago - now it just sounds cliched.
www.electroconductor.com

SB

 
 

Various Artists - On the Bone Compilation No. 1 (On the Bone)

Blimey - seems like I'm handing out a lot of criticism in the last few reviews this month - let's hope Leeds laddos On the Bone can turn things around with the release of their label curtain raising compilation.

Featuring 19 tracks all by artists who have played at the 'On the Bone' gig nights, this compilation is pretty much what you would expect from local promoters with a much broader world view. There are the worthy local bands who do a good job, play to twenty of their mates every time they have a gig but are never going to get any further. There are those who are jumping on the latest NME bandwagon for their sound. There are those who jumped on the NME bandwagon a few years back but have since been chucked off again. And there are those precious acts who transcend current trends and the local fixation with a Leeds 'Scene' to knock out some of the finest tunes around. But it's a testament to the work that Tom and James have put in that 13 of the acts allowed them to use unreleased material.

First up - it is worth pointing out that this is a guitar album. Admittedly this includes the full spectrum of axe sounds from Monster Killed By Lazer's machine gun delivery of doom prog metal 'Zombi' style to Ben Wetherill's impish folk ditty ' He Rolled her to the Wall'. But there is no room for any electro or even new wave. Which is the Boners' prerogative (and in fact a pretty telling summation of musical tastes in Leeds at the moment). The most techy thing that occurs on the whole album is a bt of a drum pattern by worriedaboutsatan, but even this is wrapped in a post rock quilt.

Gravitas is supplied by the likes of The Somatics and The Scaramanaga Six. Cool as fuckness is supplied by That Fucking Tank, even if their track 'Lands and Body Cool Off' is already two years old. And whimsical beauty is maintained as ever by the magnificent Champion Kickboxer. So go on, it's only a fiver, why not treat yourself.
www.onthebonerecords.com

SB

 
 

Baby Calendar - Gingerbread Dog (Beartrap)

Baby Calendar are a hermetic bunch to say the least. They play a childish form of pop music that's totally withdrawn from current trends and protocols. Throughout the course of the album a lazy electric guitar meanders down jovial corridors of quiet, self-satisfying amusement and when they can be bothered, Tom Gorrio and Jackie Biver converse through song in such an easy-going, unhurried manner that it's impossible conjure the sufficient energy to make out the lyrics. 

The music that Baby calendar play is by no means disagreeable, it's just that it's, well, frustratingly twee at times. If you were to reach Jimi Hendrix via a séance and you asked him what he thought of these recordings, I'm sure the planchette would fly madly from the Ouija board via the 'goodbye' icon. 

I couldn't possible lift a favourite song from the eleven that appear on Gingerbread Dog; most of them after-all just sound like variants of the first track.  

One thing I thing I find satisfying and to a degree, satiating, about what Baby Calendar have given us is the album-sleeve artwork. In a typically twee and naïve style, a picture depicts a gingerbread dog taking flight in a hot-air balloon and travelling hastily in the direction of some forbidding snow-capped mountains. The dog looks understandably distraught as his sadistic one-time friends watch placidly on. Nice work, guys. 

Check out their web site at www.babycalendarmusic.com to find the delightfully lugubrious image.

Alex Clark

 
 

Big Sir - Und Die Scheibe Andert Sich Immer (GSL) 

Here we have an arresting album of airy jazz from Big Sir, a band that is the lovechild of Juan Alderete de la Pena of The Mars Volta and Lisa Papineau, of Air. 

'Und Scheisse Andert Immer' is an audio gallery of really great grooves and ambient, unhurried pop. It's a great soundtrack to that loved-up attic above the house-party where the rooms' occupants, swathed in a dim red light and with MDMA coursing through their arteries loll about on beanbags, blissfully unaware of the coming of day. It's a real drag trying to write a constructive review whilst Papineau's sibilant vocals rob you in the kindest possible way of your train of thought and perhaps I should take heed - succumb to the inevitable catatonia that she and her very capable band are inducing.  

For the serious fan of psychedelic jazz, there is some exquisite upright bass on 'Song Bong Blue' that should satisfy. Aw! To hell with this, the whole album really works as a stand-alone body of work and it'd be creatively derelict of me to simply list the pros and cons of each song; if you like Bonobo, then Big Sir are for you. I'm reaching for the beanbag…

Alex Clark

 
 

Souls She Said - As Templar Nites (Goldstar) 

Souls she Said are shit at selecting names for albums. They're probably worse at picking band names. In fact, I was halfway through reading their press release, full of cringe-worthy hyperbole from the pen of somebody altogether new to creative writing, before I figured out which was the name of the band and which was that of the album. 

The Souls She Said experience was, frankly, starting to look bleak and pretty incorrigible until I played the record. For fear of sounding as tepid as their press release, I shan't say that I fell from my seat during the first song, but I was damn close. The dirty, dirty sounds of this record on the whole are dizzying, punchy, coarse and for a young man, downright satisfying.  

The music is always disjointed in a fairly orderly way; it's sure to get right up the noses of any middle-aged stiff listening, but isn't that exhilarating to know?

This is counter-culture rock music and it occasionally it borders on the alternative dance styles of Leeds' own, The Music. Especially of their second album. As the singer belts out his psychedelic vocals from an echo chamber (or whatever pieces of digital reverb equipment these cat’s are using), his riotous band maraud beneath him elevating the singer to an almost benign footing. 

Riverbloat, conjuring wretched images, is the standout track here. The burning guitars put me in mind of a red-hot cheese grater being drawn over my hand. The guitars, in stark contrast with the equally sanguine bass and vocals, make this song very satisfying indeed. I doubt this band will be lost to the mire of insipid rock pretenders, but go forth and check them out without delay. 

Alex Clark

 
 

The Ian Fays - The Damon Lessons (Homesleep Music) 

The Ian Fays, comprising of four sisters from California, are a sugary pop group, whose ambition and desire outweighs product. Their press release tells me that whilst they're not punk, they're also not 'not punk'.  This ambiguous act of removing themselves from any pigeon holing before panicking and seeking the sanctuary of conformity reflects itself to a degree on these recordings.  

The Ian Fays swathe themselves in a very definite pop sound before venturing forwards to broach the tricky subjects of alcoholism, boyfriends, breakups and other juvenilia. Each song drips listlessly into the next and whatever the punk comment means to the band, they have very little to offer to the punk fan. It almost seems as though they've adopted the punk branding as a means of reaching a wider audience via paper and the written word. And when I say 'they', what I probably mean is whoever is in charge of marketing on behalf on this band have been pushing the 'punk' style in order to drum up larger audiences. No longevity here, I'm afraid, it was quite an ordeal just making it to the end of the record.

Alex Clark

 
 

Various - Sauce Records Compilation (Sauce)

The admirably DIY Sauce Records specialise in the free MP3 downloads and this freedom from sales targets and all the hassle that goes with that unleashes the massive range of imagination on display on this compilation.

The one constant throughout is the lo-fi garage sound which links Birns Pail's rambling soliloquy 'Do You Want To Lose Control', Academy's Bowie-esque 'The Ornamental', The Wundergerground's clickety, icy but beautiful 'Siren Theme' and all the other tracks on here. Don't get me wrong, this will not be to everyone's liking and a couple of the more, dare I say it, conventionally tuneful ones were the turn offs for me. But then I am odd. One man's pleasure is another man's poison and all that and there is more than enough pleasure within these 16 tracks to keep everyone happy. Have a click on Sauce's website, download some stuff and make a contribution to original new music.
www.saucerecords.com

SB

 
 

X-1 - Hypnosis/Electrified (Curvve)

Alright, so not strictly and album. In fact there's only two tracks but remixed 3 times each and weighing in around a hefty 45 minute mark, I've decided to sling this CD in the albums section. Fickle, that's me.

Hypnosis is an electro house track that dabbles with with both ambient and high energy house, the result of which, I have to conclude, is highly successful. Whenever it sounds in danger of becoming just like a Cubase demonstration some new sound effect whistles out the speakers or fades across the room. It's a bit old skool and there's not a lot of difference between 'Hypnosis' and 'Electrified' but then so am I. Thumbs up.

SB

 
 

The Citizens – Post Cro- Magnon Drift (Yellow Ball Records)

Oh no it’s another one of those albums that you get through the post and you instantly think ooo, er, hmm not sure I’m gonna like this one. With an uninspiring title, band name, front cover image there was little to change my opinions. Of course the most important thing is the content. And it proved to be nothing at all worth of note. It really felt a bit bland the album just drifted through my ears, little did I pick up or enjoy apart from the catchy lyric “There’s a Leopard playing Tennis” apart from that, one for the dads I think.

Gareth Ludkin

 
 

Traffic Lights Pretend To Be Stars - Untitled

DIY records can take two forms, good; being endearing, entertaining, different, well thought out and put together with love. Or secondly, bad; which is painfully awkward, dodgy, fairly catastrophic and possibly the work of a passionate but completely mis-directed individual. This record unfortunately falls in the second category, the singing is out of tune, sore and downright poor, the guitar which accompanies this home recording is plain, talentless and has no rhythm. I actually had to turn this racket off mid way through the second track as I could bear no more. This was certainly no endearing, masterful piece of small time dedicated genius, not this time anyway. On the back Andre even signs his own death warrant by stating that “you can blame me for that shit via email at tlptbs@gmx.net. Please do!

Gareth Ludkin

 
 

Herman Dune – Giant (Source Etc) 

Despite an impressive 12 Peel sessions and releasing several albums since their birth, ‘Giant’ is my introduction to Herman Dune. I fully expected ‘them’ to be a person, possibly a man and his band, one of those singer songwriter sorts you see, but no, Herman Dune is a family and Herman Dune is their family name. Or at least their stage name? Let’s say hello shall we, There is Ya Ya… or David, I prefer Ya Ya, Andre, Neman and new addition (to the band, not the family) Lisa, who is their younger sister.  That’s cleared that up then. They’re all pretty spread out as well, with various family members based in Sweden, France and New York… despite this, the bands musical roots are firmly in American folk music, leading some to label the band Anti-folk, but the songs are too sweet to encompass the punk ethics of the genre. The songs on ‘Giant’ are firmly rooted in love and story telling not punk politics.  

In an apparent move away from previous releases, Herman Dune have expanded to include a brass section and also brought in the some vocal support from girl group The Woo-Woos. Their presence and impact are immediately felt in album opener ‘I Wish That I Could See You,’ a rather upbeat song about leaving a loved one and wondering if they’ll wait for you to get back (Now that I am across the sea / I wonder if you’re gonna wait for me / or if you’re gonna find a new boy to spoon / I wish that I could see you soon). A truly joyful song about the insecurities of love and the unpredictability of life.  

Unfortunately, the rest of the album doesn’t quite measure up to it’s opening track. That’s not to say the rest of the album is poor, it’s just ‘I Wish I Could See You’ is a real joy. As the album progresses it starts to drag a bit, it clocks in at just under an hour, but some vocal melodies and themes seem awfully reminiscent of previous songs on the album (for example, on ‘1-2-3 Apple Tree,’ Ya Ya sings “you know how bad I’d like to be with you”) and of the 16 tracks only a few stand up to repeated listening. The percussion on ‘No Master’ is a glorious moody clanging roll, punctuated by The Woo Woos beautiful vocals. The spoken introduction to ‘Take Him Back To New York City’ offers a feeling of intimacy and the horns give the song a gentle sway which is quite charming. 

But the album has such a slow gentle pace and the 16 tracks feel too much, filling in with instrumentals (Baby Bigger) and near instrumentals (Mrs Bigger) which really don’t add to the package. As they’ve released ‘I Wish I Could See You Soon’ as a single, I’d recommend buying that ahead of the album, also if you dig a little deeper you can find some fantastic covers on Myspace.  

MS

 
 

Emm – Summer EP (Bluebird) 

Apparently, Emm lives in rural Gloucestershire, detached from the world. Maybe if he got out a bit more he’d realise that he’s but one of a thousand singer songwriters vying for a place in the hearts and mind of the record buying public. His press release is particularly modest, not full of the unnecessary hyperbole that most record companies saturate many with and for this, I can give him a fair listen. I can’t see a tracklisting anywhere though, so I’ll gloss over individual tracks.

The problem with this genre is that it is packed, and therefore to gain attention in the standard folk singer with acoustic guitar herd, you’ve got to have something special, a unique voice, a flamboyant guitar style or inspired lyricism. I detect none of this. And therefore, this really could be anybody, anywhere, with a guitar. It’s not bad, but a bland, palatable fare, which passes by without really ever grabbing your attention or emotions sounding like a more wistful Badly Drawn Boy. I might keep this CD around in case I need help sleeping.

MS

 
 

Steve Adey – All Things Real (Grand Harmonium) 

Originally recorded with an orchestra, it was shelved in favour of a more intimate approach and re-recorded with friends, one assumes that the grand technicality of an orchestra diluted the fragile drawl of Adey’s voice, which is the key component to this record. Opening with the distant chiming of church bells which give way to a brief, gentle, melancholic piano instrumental sets the tone for this bleak tale. Straight into Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’s ‘I See a Darkness,’ the first of two covers, you can see this isn’t an album for lovers. In fact, I’m only two tracks in and it’s successfully bringing me down. Evoking an emotional response I’m sure he desires. If I was depressed, I’m sure this would have my crying into my pillow, but I’m a bit more chipper than that, so Adey’s got a fight on his hands if he wants to get me sobbing.

‘Find The Way’ is slow and stark. Notable for the space afforded in the instrumentation to let his voice shine through. The second cover on the album is Bob Dylan’s ‘Shelter From The Storm.’ A slowed down piano ballad in which Adey takes Dylan’s lyrics and delivers them with a weary, steely determination born out of surviving hardship through gritted teeth. 

The albums full of dark lullabies, which I must admit I found hard to absorb on first listen. Songs of heartache are hard to listen to when you’re not heartbroken, but still I can’t deny Adey’s ability to convey raw emotions with a gentle beauty for which he should be and will be commended.

MS

 

The Triffids - In the Pines RE-release (Domino)

The Triffids and me. Personal history lesson 

In the beginning there was live performance. Then there was vinyl and the people rejoiced. At last, a way of preserving the music of the ages! 

Then there came cassette and this is where I came in. It’s 1988 and I’m trying to expand my musical experience beyond INXS and Stock Aitken Waterman (very tricky when your only local record emporium is Woolworths!). I’m a sci-fi dork and so my eyes are drawn towards a band called ‘the Triffids’ (good old John Wyndham). I buy ‘Calenture’ and love it and so later go out of my way to purchase ‘The Black Swan’. Both great albums, but, much to my shame, I pursue the band no further. 

January 2007 and I‘m offered the chance to review their re-released CD, ‘In The Pines’. Not only do I re-discover an amazing band who were criminally overlooked, I uncover the following facts: 

1) The Triffids recorded 'In The Pines', January 1987, in a country shearing shed on the edge of the Nullarbor Plain. A major influence on the group's sound was their geographical location, living in the world’s most isolated city on the west coast of Australia, facing a cold ocean and backing onto a huge, empty desert. The isolation infused The Triffids' early work with a feeling of emptiness and loneliness. The band were also influenced by the music of Patti Smith, Kraftwerk, Television and early Talking Heads.

2) The album that followed, Calenture, carried over the songs ‘Blinded By The Hour’, ‘Jerdacuttup Man’ and ‘Trick Of The Light’. Another track from the album, ‘ Bury Me Deep in Love’ was  used in ‘Neighbours’ for Harold & Madge’s wedding (but don’t hold that against them!).

3) They ended up on the cover NME’s first edition of 1985, which predicted it would be “The Year Of The Triffids”.

If you want to experience a band creating a world view unlike anything you’ve ever experienced, I recommend you check out the Triffids. John Wyndham wrote of a society who could no longer see, allowing the Triffids to change the way society functioned. In their own way, the band lives up to their namesakes,  unless you can name another band who writes a song from the perspective of an embalmed corpse in the British Museum? Don’t follow the example of my teenage self– two albums are not enough. Immerse yourself in the Triffids!

Matt Latham

 
 

Phil Lewis – "Ancient Light" (MadRabbit Records)

Phil Lewis' first mistake was to send out a press pack in which he calls Bob Dylan a "boring twat". Unfortunately for this Welsh singer-songwriter the reviewer that his latest offering wound up in the hands of had to remove a copy of Bringing It All Back Home from the CD player in order to give his album a listen. Ulcer-inducingly funny how fate works out sometimes, isn't it? Never mind, Phil: I'll play nice ;)

Ancient Light marks Lewis' return to music and from reading what he has to say about the album it's clear quite how much effort has gone into its making. The CD contains some tasty little pop nuggets and the lyrics, while never anything to break the mould, are of good quality throughout. The album's main downfall, however, is that for something so deeply rooted in the realms of pop, it doesn't contain much in the way of hooks (which, for the non-musical amongst us, are not to be confused with hookers. These are women who make you pay for sex. And not in a revenge kind of way.) This seems to be a running theme with Lewis' music and if he could just turn up the quality control on his melodies he'd be onto a winner.
Catchiness aside, there are a healthy number of stand-out tracks on the album. Beautiful, for example, has a bouncy rhythm just impossible not to tap your feet to and certainly the most accessible song on offer.
My only other gripe with Ancient Light is that it's all just way too overdone. Lewis himself, though taking on songwriting duties for every track, only appears as vocalist, whilst producer Lawson Dando plays no less than eleven instruments (and all at once it sounds, given some of the arrangements). As a suggestion, Phil Lewis may do well to consider a more toned-down, lone wolf-like effort for his next release – without the temptation to hide behind a band his songwriting could really come into its own. To summarise, Phil Lewis has made a promising, if flawed record and I genuinely look forward to hearing his next release.
www.myspace.com/phillewis1971

Riley

 

Shock Rock - Compilation (Wall of Sound) 

Although perhaps a little late, Wall of Sound have decided to celebrate the glorious partnership of indie and dance that has emerged over the past year with a compilation of the finest (and not so finest) glowstick brigades. 

It’s a tricky balance, mixing your beats, samples, riffs and weird noises, and sadly not something every band that tries manages. The Gossip demonstrate perfectly how to strike the balance- Standing in the Way of Control is a corker of a track would sound perfect live or on a dance floor. 

 CSS name check Death From Above, who also feature on in the album, in the title of their song Lets Make Love and Listen to Death From Above. CSS could do with listening a little closer to DFA, and then perhaps they’d be able to produce something that sounds a little better. 

If new rave is definitely the hybrid genre for you, then chances are you’ll love Shock Rock. But as with any compilation, it’s a bit hit and miss, and, ironically, it’s really only the big guns that have been doing this stuff for years (DFA 1979, Soulwax) that come good in the “new” rave category.
www.wallofsound.net

Catriona Boyle

 
 

Findlay Brown- Separated by the Sea (Peacefrog)

After the brilliant “Come Home” single, Findlay Brown’s somewhat eagerly anticipated album is here. Separated by the Sea is everything you’d expect it to be. Gentle, beautiful and heart wrenching.  

Opener I Will is a stripped down track featuring acoustic, voice, and a lovely twinkling noise in the background. Loneliness I Fear is greatly enhanced by a string section which compliment Brown’s delicate voice perfectly, without drowning it. 

 Losing The Will to Survive picks up on the folk theme that runs through the album, with the addition of some simple drumming, giving a more up tempo feel. Separated by the Sea is really about the quiet, fragile, heartfelt tunes, with their layered vocals and picked guitar.  

Don’t You Know I Love features something practically unheard of in music these days… a sitar. Naturally the whole song takes on a sixties hippyish feel, and what would have been a simple love song transforms into something else entirely.  

A brilliant collection of songs captured perfectly on Brown’s debut.
http://www.findlaybrown.com

Catriona Boyle

 

Joakim- Monsters and Silly Songs (!K7/ Versatile Records)

This album is rather confusing. From the title, I was expecting some kind of sweet lovely happy type songs. But instead Monsters and Silly Songs is some bizarre electronica/dance music/ goodness knows what hybrid.  Luckily though, it’s rather good.  

Sleep in Hollow Tree is a dark industrial stomping number which also sounds the music they play when you’re queuing up to go on the really scary rides at theme parks. The next track I Wish You Were Gone is a much happier track, with some off beat indie guitars and a dance floor baseline and some spoken word vocals.  

If it’s quality musicianship you’re after, this isn’t the right album. However, if you love cheeky little computer game sounds, loops, and a whole manner of strange noises go and buy this now. 

Monster #2 features some screechy ,scratchy, squeely noises, and then  finishes after 32 seconds. Curiouser and curiouser. 

But then a melody appears and all is not lost. Peter Pan Over the Bronx begins with a melancholic piano melody and very sad sounding synth noises and believe or not is a bit of a tearjerker in a minimalistic kind of way. 

At a whopping 16 tracks this album is a bit of a beast to get in to. With the continued chopping and changing of musical styles it doesn’t hang together well as a whole piece of work. However, it’s a clever idea, and although some tracks come across as rather self indulgent there are definitely some good ideas.
http://www.joakimikaoj.com

Catriona Boyle

 
 

Little Barrie - Stand Your Ground (PIAS/ Wall of Sound)

You would be forgiven for assuming Little Barrie is a Jimi Hendrix side project with The Shins’ frontman James Mercer filling in on vocals. This luscious blend of Indie and Funk is something quite refreshing when compared with a lot of the generic bands that seem to be cropping up all over the place nowadays.  

The opener ‘Bailing Out’ has to be one of the most exciting pieces of music I’ve heard in a long time, with the bluesy guitar tones perfectly complimenting Barrie Cadogan’s smooth vocals. I can imagine that at live shows this little gem gets the heads nodding and the feet tapping with no problems. “Love You” and “Pin That Badge’ also follow suit, hooking their melodies inside your head and refusing to let go. 

On the other hand, songs like “Yeah We Know You” show a softer side to their songwriting, with the different approach revealing how diverse this band can be, even if it is within their virtually self-made genre. The penultimate song on the album “Why Don’t You Do It” also displays this aspect of the band, with the heartfelt guitar riffs that would feel at home being jammed out in a smoky jazz bar.  

Unfortunately, as you may have guessed, not everything about this record is silky smooth. The deep yet sharp funk guitar tone seems to be a repetitively recurring theme throughout the record, but I suppose for this they can be forgiven seeing as though they simply have some bloody good tunes. A band that makes your feet involuntarily tap can’t be bad at all, and for that reason I highly recommend you listen to this band as soon as possible.
http://www.littlebarrie.com 
Watch video to 'Love You'

Joe Doris

 
 

The Decoys - Songs About Girls

Opening with some early Manics style guitars, 'Town Up' promises great things but just manages to achieve a C+ as the vocals become a bit frantic and the tagline begins to grate after the 90th repetition.

That Manics comparison continues throughout the record, in no small part to the vocal inflexions of singer James Elder who could do a passable James Dean Bradfield. The Decoys used to be called K2 and they also won the Miller unsigned battle of the bands back in 2003. It seems then that this is an attempt to re-launch or re-brand a career that has been in neutral for a few years. Nothing wrong in that and the song writing is accomplished. But whether in terms of achieving a sound that is 'now' (and god knows I have no interest in listening to another nu-rave band or the latest screamo offering) or steadfastly sticking to their rock-pop guns, the Decoys just seem to be lacking something for me. They are talented enough but just leave me feeling like digging out my original copy of Generation Terrorists.
www.decoysband.com

SB

 
 

Emulsion – “Blue Sky Objective” 

Obsessed with Nintendo as a child, little wonder Nathan Koch’s brand of electronica sounds like a platform game played under the influence of Valium. It may appeal to fans of early Aphex Twin and Boards of Canada, mixing many of the same ingredients; waves of synth, crunchy beats, and the occasional ghostly voice, only this time with more 80’s handclaps and console blips. Yet, individual tracks struggle for an identity of their own and, I must admit, I found myself skipping through the last few selections in the vain hope of finding something just that little bit different.
www.lensrecords.com

Will Columbine

 

?Alos- Ricordi Indelebili (Vidaloca)

Well she looks a bit odd on the cover but it turns out that ?Alos possibly is mad as a hatter. ?Alos is the invented character of artist Stefania Pedretti, a figure of a scarred woman she painted who comes to live as her onstage persona. Keeping up so far? And the ? - that I deliberate too.

The tracks are not given titles as such, but dates of the events that the songs themselves describe - like an aural diary if you will. Neat idea, and from this we can assume that much of Stafania Pedretti's past was extremely disturbed. 'Profumo 1994' is based around a quirky, squeeky electro melody which gets augmented half way through by some seriously dropped guitar-sound-of-doom type noises.  Pedretti's acidic snarling vocals rasp through it like a blunt knife through the carcass of her past.

There is no respite with 'Luglio 1996' which has a faintly industrial drum pattern and some more disconnected guitar work providing a passage of dispersed sounds rather than any coherent melodies as such. But Pedretti's vocals have now got an even greater added sneer which would be difficult to make sound anymore hostile and aggressive.

Fortunately some lighter moments are at hand with the squeeky samba beats of '27 Gennaio 1997' and even the spartan percussion of 'Aprille 1999' accompanied  by the nearest that Pedretti gets to conventional vocals is an interesting piece.

This is an album full of invention and a complete slap in the face to a lot of contemporary music (I can't see ?Alos being nominated next to James Morrison at next year's Brit Awards). Pedretti has crossed a number of styles and uses instrumentation in a completely unconventional way which is a breath of fresh air. On the downside, after 20 minutes of her nasally whinnying vocals they sure get annoying - like someone putting your ears through a cheese grater. But to maintain the kitchen utensil theme, anyone who manages to get a string sound like the plucking of an egg slicer ('21 Gannaio 2003') over the top of a murderous oscillating beat a la Aphex Twin is surely worth more investigation.
www.signorinaalos.com

SB

 
 

Mt. – “Lethologica” 

There are some people that will tell you that post-rock isn’t proper music, or rather that it’s the kind of music that anyone could churn out. On the contrary, surely any band working within the instrumental framework has to work twice as hard to deliver the emotional punch without a human voice to aid them. Now, that’s not to say that Mt. are in any way a lazy bunch, but “Lethologica” is pretty textbook stuff; off-beats, arpeggios, loud bit, quiet bit, etc, and while it’s well-executed not once did it make the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end.
www.motivesounds.com

Will Columbine

 
 

Prometheus - Corridor of Mirrors (Twisted)

Writing about trance music is, by definition quite difficult (it's called trance for a reason). And despite the press release claims to the contrary, this is most definitely a trance record. Fortunately it is also a very good one and brings a few interesting twists and changes to the turntable so words don't fail me completely.

Premetheus (aka Benji Vaughan) is also renowned producer and works with co-conspirator Joe Williams in the housier duo JUNK which enjoy play from the likes of Steve Lawler, Sasha and John Digweed. Prometheus' great strength is in bringing that catchier, tuneful housey edge into the trance field to put his own very personal stamp on this album. There is no glacial minimalism here - tracks such as 'Drug Sock' although based around a simple 4/4 beat and a few sonic whooshes also drips with samples, synths and tinkly melodies. 'The Logic of the Polyphonic' is evidence of Prometheus' harder edge with a distorto gnawing sound overlying the more conventional ascending riff.

All very good indeed. As a weakness, and by no means directed at just Prometheus himself, the whole trance genre is sounding a bit tired to me. Over the last 10 years I can't really thinks of anything that has progressed the sound a great deal and for all of its housey accoutrements, Corridor of Mirrors does still sound a bit like a CuBase demo. But if you haven't heard a lot of trance in the past then this album would be great taster.
www.twisted.co.uk

SB

 
 

Dyfrig Evans – Idiom – Rasal Miwsig 

Mixed English and Welsh tunes from ex-Topper frontman. The product mind is pretty consistent in terms of songcraft. Melodic, full of all sorts of instruments, and mellow enough to calm a raging bull, and yet still rocking enough to blow away cobwebs. It’s definitely got the feel of Snowdonia, running throughout it, with some delicious SFA moments and on occasions, more than a hint of Longpigs. Therefore, ace.

Dave Procter

 
 

Yes Boss – Look Busy – DTTR 

By the time you read this review, the LP will have been out for 2 weeks, and you’ll probably have made your mind up by now. For those that haven’t, let’s fill in some background. Yes Boss are Noah and Gavron, a couple of Leeds’ lads who’ve grabbed the grime mantle and are spinning it in their own hip-hop way. Noah’s lyrics are the focus, with Gav’s beats keeping it all together. Some of the rhymes hit the spot, some are well, a bit painful. “Indie Kids”, while a good satirical dig at the current crop of haircut bands who think looking right is more important than knowing how to write, is a case in point. Telling people to think for themselves by slagging them is unlikely to work, and make worse the situation discussed. Maybe it’s me. “Tongue In Knots” is probably joint best moment with “Meet The Boss”, but this LP feels more like a collection of songs rather than a cohesive piece of work. But what do I know?

Dave Procter

 
 

Y Ffyrc – Oes – Rasal Miwsig 

The return of ex-Catatonia members Mark Roberts and Paul Jones, in another Welsh language offering, and sounding very SFA from the word go. It’s a rock LP that has more in common with “Fuzzy Logic” than any other LP you’re likely to hear. Is that Gruff Rhys on the phone for a word and some royalties? Based on the review so far, you’d expect the glammyness of Bowie and Bolan, and we have them. Despite being a complete rip-off, there is something oddly nice about it, probably cos it’s in Welsh. Dunno.

Dave Procter

 
 

Tia Carrera – Untitled – Australian Cattle God Records 

Now the stuff I’ve reviewed from this label before has generally been the dog’s bollocks. Sadly, I have to report that this is just bollocks. 64 minutes of self-indulgent wankery, with the shortest “song” at 7’36”, tells its own story. If you like the sort of sludgy, heavy, never ending and going nowhere riffing, then you’ll love it. If, however, you’ve not been locked in a studio with as much weed and booze as required to produce this, you’ll probably rather have your ears cemented up.

Dave Procter

 
 

The Snake Trap – At Home In A Hostile World - Australian Cattle God Records

This next lot are all instrumental too, crucially there seems to be a point to all this. There’s variety, there’s different tempos and styles used. The songs don’t last all week. There are ideas. There seems to be a goat sampled on “Untitled”. Are you listening Carrera?

Dave Procter

 
 

Piskie Sits – The Secret Sickliness (Wrath records)

The Piskie Sits are a band you certainly need to bear with to appreciate. The vocals sound a bit rough throughout, the music a bit fractured. I first heard their single and really didn’t enjoy them a great deal but there are certain tracks on this album, which manage to raise my opinion of the band, however they do not have sing along melodies and beautiful vocals. The band, are rough, a challenge to listen to but in the end a rewarding one perhaps. You really need to listen closely to take it all in. A niche record but I do like it even if it doesn’t show in this review. I mainly find myself a little confused, good or bad well that’s up for debate. 2.5/5

Gareth Ludkin

 
 

Vinny Peculiar - The Fall and Rise of Vinny Peculiar

It’s something that is very hard to get right all the time, and in the case of Vinny Peculiar, I can’t imagine many people giving it a second listen.

Cheeky/funny bands like Ben Folds Five carried it off because they wrote some cracking songs, and then made funny with the vocals. Even then, their appeal had its limits.

The other way to go is to complement a wicked sound with razor sharp lyrics in the vein of Beck, or if you think about it, the Beastie Boys.

From listening to Vinny Peculiar, it feels like the words came before the rest, and the result seems to be lacking in long-term appeal.

The most frustrating song has to be ‘Playing on the Pier,’ which comes half way through the album, so by this time you might have already given up. It starts off great, with a soft bass sound, drums that fade in nicely and a delicate melody. Then some doped-up version of Harry Enfield’s ‘Kevin the teenager’ goes off on one about donkeys.

‘Revolt into Style’ starts promisingly but drags on until eventually you’re left with a hefty saxophone solo that is quite hard to tolerate.

Again, ‘Showboating’ sounds great – really pretty, with some great sounding hooks, but even then, it fades out with a tacked-on muted trumpet solo.

You could argue that it’s not supposed to be taken seriously, and you need to just get over yourself and enjoy it. That may be true, but there’s a way of delivering on that, and Vinny Peculiar don’t.

Nick Wood

 
 

The Mood Elevator – “Married Alive” Album (Laughing Outlaw Records) 

“Re-release”, eh. It’s a phrase that in the eyes of the indie cognoscenti is about as credible as “Myspace records”. Although some bands have found a level of success with their most commercially accessible singles released to a mass audience after an initial limited run (see Nine by ¡Forward, Russia! or any single from The Killers first album), it is often viewed as a way of a band cashing in on their one good idea. Detroit’s now defunct The Mood Elevator re-releasing their second album four years after its original release date is something that might be viewed with disdain, especially seeing as their then multi-instrumentalist and producer Brendan Benson is now a global superstar with the Raconteurs. So, is this shameless cashing in or something the world needs to hear? Let’s find out. 

Opener Boycott is all loud guitars and unashamedly pop vocals. Despite it sounding very like garage rock circa 2003 (well, that is what it is), it’s got a lot of charm and it happens to be the only track on the album where band lynchpin Chris Plum’s lyrics make you smile rather than cringe. Watch Your Girl continues along a similar path and there is a creative use of the studio as an instrument, a technique Benson seems to be a master of. So far so good, but the album takes an acoustic turn with Anglophile and the majority of the remaining tracks have little of the rawness that made the first two so appealing. In fact a lot of it sounds very similar to early/mid-period Beatles, but without the choruses that made the Fab Four fab. It’s not bad; it’s just not very good. The acoustic grunge of Beginner’s Luck is a great example of a song that could have been great, but a half-hearted chorus and some join the dots lyrics (“She got sacked/By a computer hack/It was a sneak attack/Nobody had her back”) put paid to its aspirations of being anything more than average. 

All in all, this album has the potential to be as good as anything by any of the Detroit bands that got anywhere, but save for one or two fully realised ideas, it’s patchy and definitely less than the sum of its parts. A modern classic? No. Worth a re-release? Not really. If you want to hear a band that does this sort of thing better, there are plenty around, and Brendan Benson’s in one of them.

Patrick Dowson