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  albums - august 2007

 

 

The Answer - Rise (Special Edition) (Albert Productions)

Oh dear, oh dear. I'm not sure what question Northern Irish classic-rock four-piece The Answer are the answer to, but I'm guessing it's something along the lines of 'name the band with the most vomit-inducing, unoriginal tunes packed full of cringeworthy Americanisms and clichéd lyrics delivered in a faux American accent despite the singer actually hailing from Downpatrick in Northern Ireland.' As you can tell, I'm not their biggest fan. Imagine my horror then, when after being subjected to the abomination which is the 11 track album, I discovered that this is a 'special edition' which includes a second CD of supposedly 'bonus' material even more turgid and pointless then the album itself. For a few minutes there whilst listening to the acoustic version of 'Into The Gutter' I was actually clinically dead.

Attempting to take some positives from all this is difficult, but I suppose The Answer do display a certain drive and energy in some of their tunes, it's just a shame that that energy is misplaced in rehashing a lifeless brand of American riff-heavy blues rock which has been done miles better before elsewhere. The first single off the album is 'Into The Gutter' - I couldn't have put it better myself.
http://www.myspace.com/theanswerrock

Tony Robinson

 

Young Marble Giants - Colossal Youth (Domino Reissue)

Simon Reynolds refers to the post-punk period as a period of experimental over-reach, an attempt to incorporate other disparate musical threads such as jazz and reggae into the music. This theory is not a new one by any means, and it may be fair to say that in the 21st century light of day this 1980 reissue is that modern idea made sense. But, that's not strictly the truth when it comes to YMG music. It's much more than that. I have a big soft heart for YMG. Teenage at the time that Colossal Youth originally appeared, I loved the warm edges around the music and sense of gentleness in the grooves. Others seemed to loiter around the metronomic drums and icy vocal of Alison Statton .I felt secure with the sparseness and the less is more ethos. Like Kraftwerk, they constructed their own instruments, the drumbox being the most notable DIY job. This added quite significantly to the uniqueness of the records. For me at 18, in the English countryside, this music was a type of almost rural soul. Coming from somewhere that seemed familiar and alien at the same time. As Kurt C noted much later, YMG were a kind of shared secret. Just you and a few friends. That's the way that Colossal Youth made you feel. Facts on YMG were short, existing in an age before any great mass media and adding to the mystique. The album was originally championed by Peel, the way that he enthused over a lot of lesser music around that period. However, YMG were different. So were the groups that followed YMG demise, the Gist and Weekend. Anyway that was later, and in the meantime I'd recommend this reissue for the cold war feel and mystery of The Taxi. I'd recommend it for the part in Eating Noddemix (Check Google for explanation) where Alison pretends to be an American. I'd recommend it for the nagging refrain in Wurlitzer Jukebox, "he doesn't hear...."Also the fact that Brand New Life is probably the greatest song about doors and doorbells that you'll ever hear. It's also very lovely. All credit to Domino for adding Peel Sessions and the two EP's too. A unique post-punk totem and one that more than justifies the talk and the recent short-term group reformation. Still out of time and still out there, at last, a reissue that is totally essential.

John Kertland

 
 

UXL - Can I Dream Again? (Mab Records)

UXL belie their bland moniker with an album of soulful rock and strong lyrics. Taking Zep as a template, and sharing the same black country roots, they deliver a listenable set of songs. Why, a palatable sax even pops up on Stranger. Title track Can I Dream again recalls the slick thrill of Cheap Trick and transports this reviewer back to a time where intelligent rock wasn't necessarily Yes or even Radiohead. Also, a Posie-esque undercurrent appears in New Dawn Waiting, which can only be good. Crafted well and having paid their dues, UXL are authentic rockers. . After supporting legendary German rockers Magnum recently their live credentials have been boosted considerably. Overall, athemic stuff that bears repeated listenings.

John Kertland

 
 

Joff Winks Band - Songs for Days (JWB)

This is certainly intriguing stuff, starting like an out -take from a 70's Harmonia album. Then, straight into engaging balladry that boasts some delicate textures. With an Air-like middle eight, Revisited Song takes the listener nicely out of the day to day rock reference points and into Winks world. The songs are variations on a theme, those being the strange little life coincidences and occurrences that build a varied canon of potential song writing material. From instrumentals inspired by gardening (It Grows In Me Garden), through to childhood reminiscences in Morning Sun, this is an eminently listenable excursion in to the dark side of modern prog, previously tackled by Mew. It shouldn't really work, according to the 5 tenets of rock. (Speak to me later about these) However, by the time Cast Adrift appears as cut 4 on the album, this listener was well and truly loving the mood. Milo rocks a little, gently though. Not too loudly. Overall, and without hesitation, I recommend this album as a tonic to this sodden summer. I swear the sun came out as Wink's ode to gardening began.

John Kertland

 
 

Gallon Drunk - From the Heart of Town (Sartorial Records) 

Gallon Drunk grew out of the pub circuits of north London in the early nineties to enjoy a minor success, largely eclipsed by their own dedicated cult following.

‘From the Heart of Town’ was released in 1993, at a time when the group were at the zenith of their musical worth and commercial recognition. Despite that, their music is wonderfully hermetic and at no point, does it pander to a more mainstream audience. It’s difficult to pinpoint where Gallon Drunk’s roots lie – sure there’s the blues nuances, but that observation is really too tenuous to be able to pick out individual musicians that’ve leant themselves significantly to Gallon Drunk’s sound. My partner reckons they sound like Nick Cave, but having never listened to the man’s music, I have to take her word for it – it would go some way to explaining why Nick Cave likes them so much. 

Whatever you make of their sound, the songs on this album are marauding, yet urgent, often dark and always compelling. Arlington Road is a particular favourite of mine; whilst its sleaze and decadence is profound, it still retains an almost delicate and careful composition – nothing ham-fisted here, a great rock song that yields grace and maturity beyond reason.  

This reissue of From the Heart of Town is certainly to be a treasure revered by both old and new fans of Gallon Drunk. New purveyors of dark rock who like their music abstract and extremely loud must surely find delight here.

Alex Clark

 
 

Gallon Drunk: Tonite… The Singles Bar (Sartorial Records)

‘Tonite… The Singles Bar’ is an album consisting of two parts. The first ten tracks are a compilation of the band’s single-only releases and the remaining seven are taken from a live set performed at Chicago in 1993. This is good news indeed for the Gallon Drunk fan. There’s the selection of music, previously only available on limited-issue sell-thru vinyl. No doubt a welcome release for fans of the band who’ve yet to convert to ‘downloading’, or for those who don’t believe in taking royalties out of the artist’s hands by way of bootlegging. And then there’s the live show to boot, but we’ll come to that shortly… 

The singles are great fun; from the indulgent and giddy guitar tremolo on the instrumental, ‘Miserlou’, to the hysterical wailing of ‘Ruby’, there’s plenty of material here to rekindle significant interest in Gallon Drunk  

The Live in Chicago set is a novel inclusion to an already ample collection of music and the Gallon Drunk fan must feel as though he’s in for a treat – he’d be imagining himself enjoying, at his leisure, a superb collection of singles; each one a flavoursome and beguiling treat that takes him back to years gone by when he first heard these records. When the Gallon Drunk fan is satisfied that he’s gotten enough enjoyment from the singles, he’ll ease the volume up, sit back and let the good times flow. Gallon Drunk will rent the air above him; he’ll bathe himself in the sonic orgy of the music and he’ll become drunk on the golden tumult of the likes of ‘Arlington Road’ and ‘Just One More’. 

But sadly, and is so often the case, reality doesn’t live up to fantasy. Here, the concept clearly outweighs the product and the Live in Chicago set is ghastly.  

The music is there in all its glory, but the thing is, it’s just that the recording and presentation is just so fucking awful. Turn your radio on and place a cushion over the speakers – that’ll give a clue as to the sound quality. It all reminds me somewhat of a double compilation album of Jimi Hendrix’s music that I bought some years ago. It was part of a now dreaded ‘At His Best’ series and lurking somewhere on Disc 2, amidst some truly rotten stuff, is ‘Morrison’s Lament’ (it’s now the lament of everybody who’s heard it, believe me). It was a studio jam between Jimi Hendrix and The Doors and in theory, it was to be legendary – perhaps even the blues jam to which all other blues jams are compared. It wasn’t. What with Morrison sounding like he’d just drunk a gallon of something considerably more potent than Stone’s Best Bitter and the rubbish recording quality, it was a nightmare. Rock music is endearing because of its imperfections, but when it’s imperfect because of lousy recording/ production, that’s just what it is – lousy.

Alex Clark

 
 

Look Mexico - This is Animal Music (Bear Trap) 

As with marvelling at the spectacle of the fat man; snacking your eyes on his undulating rolls of flesh and enjoying the sight of him wolfing down the creamiest bun in the west, not for pleasure, but by mere obligation to maintain his girth, Look Mexico have that natural, and quite irrational, ability to instil a cosy sense of warmth in their audience. 

Here is an endearing album of songs which sway meanderingly through avenues of jovial pop and very mild rock. It’s the toasty sound of roaming Stratocasters and buoyant vocals which give this band their signature sound. And even the 26-stone chump in the party hat, guiding a wedge of cake between his mandibles with a well-primed fist can acknowledge that.

Alex Clark

 
 

Shaker Heights - Magna Doors  (Matchbox Recordings) 

The Shaker Heights have been compared to Keane, which I think is a bit of an unjust comparison. I mean, The Shaker Heights are actually good. For a four-piece they manage to make some fairly inventive music (usually, you have to have about nineteen members like Arcade Fire) and their debut ‘Magna Doors’ conveys the impression that we may be seeing a talent in the making.

The first four songs on the debut album create as strong an opening as I’ve heard in a while. ‘All About White Out’ and ‘Waiting On Me’ especially have a power and excitement about them that illustrates all that’s good about provincial music-making in Britain.

I don’t want to go over the top, now, and spoil it, so I’ll just reiterate that The Shaker Heights are a band that if there’s any justice should go far. Let’s face it, if cretins like Pete Doherty can create front-page headlines for being a very flimsy Xerox of Keith Richards, then a band with genuine talent and presence ought to be recognised by people with half a brain. I’ll be looking out for this group.
www.theshakerheights.sh
www.myspace.com/theshakerheights  

Chris Stanley

 
 

Troy Faid - Troy Faid 

You could find a million reasons not to listen to another troubadour as long as you lived. If you live in the Thames Valley, there’s a whole lot of water to be bailed out. If you don’t, some bugger’s always got a cat that needs feeding. Modern life is fast – we need a soundtrack to reflect this. Mind you, if that were true, we’d be listening to Rammstein every time we went to the dentist.

Point is, you could easily dismiss Troy Faid and his collection of songs. But you could do worse than to take half an hour and stick it on. The ten tracks on Faid’s debut are entirely created on an acoustic guitar, and as such it’s as stripped as it’s possible to be outside of Christina Aguilera’s shower.

Troy can play his instrument superbly, his songs are wry and have that nice outsider-chic solo artists are so fond of applying to their material, and it’s a quality release. There are elements of the Beta Band and a bit of Chris Rea (but not in a cack, Alan Partridge way) and with any luck, you’ll be hearing more of him soon. Very promising.
www.myspace.com/troyfaid

Chris Stanley

 
 

Vialka – Plus Vite Que La Musique (Self released) 

I bring you the review of this album without the usual helpful aides of a press release, album sleeve, or the internet. But it’s about the music right so who cares? One more thing. The album is mainly sung in French. So if you’re looking for an in depth analysis of the lyrics, or even just a few subject themes, I’m afraid you’re on your own. So that really does leave just the music. Luckily for everyone involved, Plus Vite Que La Musique features a lot of instrumental sections, which is for the best really as the vocals can at times sound like a group of fighting gorillas especially on Everyone’s Talking (No One’s Listening). Perhaps the combination of gorilla vocals and an English title is trying to make a point.  

Plus Vite Que La Musique is a strange but rather satisfying collection of songs. What it lacks for in detectable emotion it makes up for in quick witted musicianship and experimental song writing. Let your curiousity get the better of you.
www.vialka

Catriona Boyle

 
 

Archive of Everything – Hello Children (The Simulated City Records) 

Hats off to Archive of Everything, they appear to have succeeded in making the ultimate indie drivel album. Whiny vocals, weird pronounciation (mid- dull instead of middle) 3 note guitar riffs, 5 note piano riffs, mid to slow tempo, and loud quiet loud sections.  Fans of Keane grab your copy now to help while away the hours before your beloved drug ridden band return. The rest of the world, run a mile from it.
www.myspace.com/archiveofeverything

Catriona Boyle

 
 

Simon Le Fort – Tuesday Blue (Alto Records) 

Apparently Simon Le Fort has been compared to John Lennon and Bob Dylan. Well that’s set everyone up for a fall hasn’t it. Unsurprisingly Tuesday Blue isn’t concealing an Imagine or Blowin’ in the Wind. Fusing the genres of jazz, swing, pop and folk, Simon Le Fort creates a very listenable album. Although some of the subject matters may be a little tired – the 9 to 5 dirge on Tuesday Blue, the lush string instrumentation gives it a new lease of life.  

The Cullum/ Buble et al comparisons can be easily made, but Simon’s distinctive voice makes him rise above the jazz muppets into a category of his own. As the album continues the Dylan comparison becomes more and more obvious, particularly in the opening lines of The Way That Life Goes, when Simon’s talking/singing style is a mirror image of Dylan’s.  

At 14 tracks, Tuesday Blue is a lengthy one, but the variety in songs just about manages to keep up interest through out.  

This album would do nicely as dinner party/coffee table fodder. But given a chance, and kept well away from pigeon holes, it has the potential to become a favourite.
www.myspace.com/simonlefort

Catriona Boyle

 
 

Esther O’Connor (O’C Records/Cargo) 

I always find self released debut albums a bit of a worry. The cynic in me starts to wonder ‘why didn’t you get signed?’ and ‘why did you need to create your own record label just to get your album out?’ Occasionally the optimist replies with some spiel about ‘sticking it to the record label fat cats’ and ‘not compromising for the industry’, but it very rarely gets a word in edgeways. 

And so Esther O’Connor releases her debut album of her own record label O’C Records. (See what they did there?) And to put it bluntly, it’s rather dire. O’Connor’s voice is over sincere, way too heavy on the vibrato (Mariah Carey, anyone?) and it seem shes yet to decide whether she’s going for “feisty female” or “delicate flower” style vocals, because flitting between the two does not make for pleasant listening.  

Musically Esther probably attempts to sit alongside fellow Scot KT Tunstall and veteran Suzanne Vega. Sadly she doesn’t even match up to Tunstall. Fair play to Esther for writing her own songs, but at age 23 she doesn’t seem to be clear of the teen angst yet, making for tired sounding generic songs.  

Those who like their soppy over sentimental girl power clap trap then you’re onto a winner here. However if you prefer your songs with a little more realism and character, trot on.
www.myspace.com/estheroconnor

Catriona Boyle

 
 

Caro featuring Charlie Batchelor – The 4th Way  (Wb Records) 

Caro is the invention of  Suffolk based songwriter Phil Harding. He has enlisted various musicians, including vocalist Charlie Batchelor. Sadly even if Harding had used the most talented musicians in the world this album still wouldn’t be up to much. Charlie Batchelor’s vocals are in dire need of some pitch bender action, sounding flat pretty much throughout The 4th Way.  

Most of the tracks sound like songs from the soundtrack of naval gazing nineties teen drama Dawson’s Creek – wishy washy, jangly guitar, angst inspired lyrics. And then we get to the piece de resistance, the cover of Leonard Cohen’s masterpiece Hallelujah. Now I’ve heard some abysmal covers in my time, but this takes the biscuit and the biscuit tin and the entire cupboard. Those heartfelt lyrics have been transformed into insincere, insipid meaningless words with some lacklustre strumming the background. Dire. 

Perhaps with a little more development and some new ideas this collection of musicians could have come together to create something a bit special. But this collection of songs sound too formulated, old and tired.
www.myspace.com/philthepowerharding

Catriona Boyle

 
 

William D Drake – ‘Yew’s Paw / Briny Hooves’ (Onomatopoeia / SheBear) 

It’s a brave or foolhardy man who releases two records on the same day on two different labels but that’s just what William D Drake’s gone and done with the release of Yew’s Paw, a record of 13 solo piano pieces, and Briny Hooves, an album of more singer songwriter orientated offerings. Both offer highs and lows and show a gifted songwriter at work who can score both hits and misses.

Yew’s Paw is a record brimming with energy and ideas with its cyclic piano tracks taking in points throughout history of instrumental music including stop-offs at vaudeville, ragtime and neo-classical. It has a feeling of antiquity at times like a strange lost 78 or some bizarre score to a lost silent movie. However for all its energy and scope and quirky signature work it can also wander off track getting lost in itself and feeling to a degree aimless.

Briny Hooves provides a very different side to Drakes bow. An off-kilter gothic pop album at heart it owes as much to folks like Nick Cave as it does to new pop masters such as AC Newman. At times this leads to genuinely touching songs like the Beach Boys nodding Ugly Fortress or the rather lovely January Night. At other times though this means we are greeted by over the top bombast like on Requiem For A Snail or the rather boring Serendipity Doodah.

William D Drake is a man of obvious talent and breadth and content to try his hand at a host of sounds and styles but whereas his American contemporaries ala Sufjan Stevens seem able to pull this off in droves, Drake’s offerings can feel flabby by comparison. That said within these two slightly average records one rather lovely one certainly resides.

Luke Drozd

 
 

Dizzee Rascal – ‘Maths + English’ (XL) 

Heavy praise has been laid at the feet of London’s most sort after rapper over recent years, with Mercury Music nominations and many hailing him as the best British MC EVER! Even better than Daz Sampson! So to quote Mr.Rascal’s own parlance ‘what’s all the hyping for?’

Well as it turns out from a listen to the young rappers latest offering, Maths and English, it’s for one of the most infectious and glorious records I’ve had the fortune to hit my doormat in a long time. Maths + English is grime made accessible but without losing the balls-out, punk-infused charm and vitriol that that scene embodies. Here is a record that is in turn brutally honest and angry and also filled with a joyous party atmosphere (check out Flex and tell me you don’t want to try your hand at a spot of boggling). Dizzee Rascal is a musician honing his craft who knows how to satisfy his audience without compromising his craft and I defy any to resist a record that has rhymes as inspired as those found on the Lily Allen collaboration Wanna B ‘Beef aint nothing new to me, you wally/Why don’t you just kick back, be jolly/Stay at home with a cup of tea, watch corrie’.  Consider me a fan.

Luke Drozd

 
 

Aids Wolf Vs Athletic Automaton – ‘Clash of the Life-Force Warriors’ (Skin Graft) 

Aids Wolf and Athletic Automaton seem to both be bands capable of polarising people’s opinions. Loved and loathed in equal doses I have to say, in regard to both, I have always fallen by the former side of the line (particularly in regards to Athletic Automaton who, along with Boris, could seemingly bring on an earache in my ex-girlfriend in seconds). What makes this split release particularly interesting though is that on top of each band performing a couple of their own tracks, (and in each case some of their strongest to date) members of each group ‘defected’ from band to band creating a series of collaborative tracks forged in the studio like some sort of ungodly audio battle. Now I am fully aware that this fort of fare often falls flat, sounding like a bunch of wailing wanking chimps (and if I’m completely honest yes that happens on a couple of rare occasions here) but Life-Force Warriors contains enough intrigue, venom and musicianship to make it a genuinely enjoyable record rather than merely an interesting musical experiment.

Luke Drozd

 
 

Dan Deacon – ‘Spiderman of the Rings’ (Car Park) 

A one man musical tour-de-force, a travelling showman of growing legend and a man with a masters in electro-acoustic composition (he has the certificate to prove it), Dan Deacon is fast becoming the talk of geeks and music lovers the worlds over. My real surprise then on hearing this record is how on earth I’ve never heard the music of this genuinely original composer-cum-performer before, especially considering this is his 7th record in four years!

Spiderman of the Rings is a record of upbeat, addictive and occasional irritating electronic compositions that proves to be more addictive than smack glazed doughnuts. Only the most steely browed of music fans will be able to resist the wondrous charms of Wham City or Trippy Green Skulls.

With Spiderman of the Rings Dan Deacon proves that music can be complex and endlessly fun in equal measure. This may just be the closest thing to summer we will have on these shores this year.

Luke Drozd

 
 

A Hawk and A Hacksaw & The Hun Hangar Ensemble – ‘S/T’ (Leaf) 

Those of you who managed to catch the recent A Hawk and A Hacksaw live tour with the Hungarian ensemble Hun Hanger will be fully aware just how thrilling and evocative the combination of the two groups really is. To ensure that we the fans don’t forget this the excellent Leaf records have put together a strictly limited CD release featuring collaborations of brand new AHAAH compositions as well as reworkings of traditional songs. As if that weren’t enough it also comes with a DVD charting some of the highlights from the last two years of almost continuous touring that AHAAH have embarked upon and showcasing why the group have earned themselves a reputation as a truly breathtaking live experience.

Featuring a mix of sounds that takes in Hungarian, Romanian and Klezmer influences this release proves to be one of the most arresting of the groups career so far. The breadth of sounds present is magnificent shifting from gentle, melancholic beauty on opener Kiraly Siratas to a breathtaking solo piece on the cymbalom from Hungary’s Balazs Unger (which will have your jaw dropping to around your knees). This is a magnificent and startling record and one I strongly suggest that you go out and procure a copy of before the limited numbers dwindle and you have to explain to your children in forty years time why they never got hear this little gem.

Luke Drozd

 
 

Efterklang – ‘Under Giant Trees’ (Leaf) 

Since 2003 Efterklang have been weaving their own blend of cinematic and poetic compositions. A hard band to pin down in terms of genre it has always felt like that they are a group obsessed with pushing and developing their sounds and ideas as far as is physically and mentally possible. This as a listener is obviously great news and never has it been truer than on their latest release, the limited edition mini album Under Giant Trees.

From the very moment the first notes ring out from the speakers and the chill runs down your spine their in no mistaking that Efterklang have lost none of their passion and skill for crafting gentle and stirring arrangements that build and envelope. Falling Horses is an expansive delight that builds and recedes continually revealing new and intimate textures and layers whilst the sparser Towards the Bare Hill is near tear inducing in its rousing percussion and drums led march.

Under Giant Trees is a record that seems to sit heavy on your chest, through a sort of claustrophobic and sweeping beauty that simply takes your breathe away and completely fills your consciousness. With a record this accomplished and intimate already under their belt this year one can only guess as to the giddy heights that their next full-length release, out later this year, will reach.

Luke Drozd

 
 

3RD Rok - Small Whisper Ins 

Now we’re in the post-Eminem era, it’s not meant to matter whether you’re white, upper-class, a squatter or even someone who actually likes David Cameron – you can sing about what you want, how you want, and anyone who disagrees can find themselves a bollard to sit on. Lily Allen, Just Jack, Kate Nash, Arctic Monkeys and The Pigeon Detectives (to name a few) all sing about their local areas, soft drugs and boozing with aplomb and nobody bats an eyelid. As it should be.

But there has to be a tipping point where the genre of self-referential music veers into self-parody. It would be cruel to refer to Small Whisper Ins as such, because I can’t decide whether it’s a conscious attempt at humour or just an unfortunate coincidence. 3rd Rok (a.k.a. Joe Poulton) is a young rapper from the Stoke Newington area, and the closest comparison you can make is The Streets. He’s not a bad rapper, if lacking in vocal elasticity that the very best exponents display, and there’s a decent amount of piss-taking in his better efforts on this debut (the title track is a fine skewering of the pretentiousness of all those MySpace endorsed artists), but tracks like ‘To Live and Die in Stoke Newington’ and ‘Good Times in the Delta’ allude to the kind of urban flavours the aforementioned Allen has made her own. Either Poulton is being “ironic,” or he’s just a year late.

That said, there’s some good backing tunes, a few ideas of consequence and a gung-ho spirit on Small Whisper Ins. It’s just a gnat’s wing away from being anything more than eyebrow-raising.
www.myspace.com/graphiterecords

Chris Stanley

 
 

Napoleon IIIrd - In Debt To (Brainlove)

A long overdue effort on my part to put words to one of the most creative talents around at the moment. Napoleon IIIrd exists in a world in which anything can happen musically. It's also a world full of exasperation at the current state of affairs. Sometimes buried within the kaleidescope of bells, brass, cheesey synth, drum machines and eerily chorussed vocals; and sometimes heralded as glorious flotsam and jetsam above this magnificent sonic ocean are a series of lyrical cries for help, anguished pleas but more often than not uplifting calls to arms. In fact, the opening song proper after the instrumental 'Introduction to A' is actually called 'This is My Call to Arms'. Followed by the rousing previous single 'Defibrillator' and the outrageously good 'The Conformist Takes it All', this makes up a seriously impressive trio of songs. If only everyone would listen to his mantra 'Average is not the best you can do.'

'Anti-Patria' delivers a deliciously twinkly, military-esque stomp of music devoid of the usual layering of organ but with added lashings of drum machine to compensate. But my favourite track of the album is 'Hit Schmooze For Me' - a reproach to 9 to 5ing delivered with a triumphal swagger that refuses to let you get depressed about that 7 o'clock alarm call. It's just packed with stark lyrics that stick in your mind like a diamond bullet - 'Was it you that set my alarm to execution this morning?', 'Let's go to bed at 9 o'clock in the evening so we will be fresh to serve', 'and then we can sleep late on Saturday' - it brings home the stupidity of it all. Remember folks - in the words of Boney 3 himself, 'This is not my life, it's just a day job, it's what I do to pay the rent.'

The only minor failing of the album is that having set such a staggering pace in the first half, the second does struggle to compete somewhat. Not to say that it is not still good. But all things considered, this is a mesmerisingly good record which you can't afford to be without, if only to use as a guide book to modern life.
www.myspace.com/boney3

SB

 

The Measure (SA) - Historical Fiction (Team Science)

As stagnant as the July floodwater that’s still standing in your basement and like the Legionella that could well be forming in it, you might just want to avoid ‘This Measure (SA)’. Their business at first glance appears to be in demonstrating just how mundane a pop/ punk crossover can be. However, grasp the nettle; seize the day – delve deeper still and it becomes apparent that through their lyrics, This Measure (SA) are assuming a position of omnipresence and although their press release doesn’t confirm it, the songs and messages are intended to be a kind of audible lexicon to the muddled and directionless adolescent. This reviewer’s rating – one-and-a-half headstocks out of five. Now if you’ll excuse me, I should go down to the basement and check on the local wimp whom I permitted to make a home for himself down there – I’ve haven’t heard from him since the rains came.

Alex Clark

 
 

Weatherbox - American Art (Doghouse) 

Weatherbox are a soft-core grunge/ punk/ alternative/ contemplative-soul searchin’ combo who’ve arrived in style to put you in your proverbial place. And woe-betides he who impedes their collision course with mainstream glory…  

Weatherbox are the pseudo-American dream; they’re all attitude, yet they pack the same kind of popcorn-punch as ‘American Pie’ did, or the hugely forgettable ‘Dude, Where’s my Car?’ The west is the best, I can now say jestfully. Their lyrics and messages are belted out with such potency that any young man subscribing to the trials and difficulties of adolescence will almost certainly become empowered by them; if he should walk down the road listening to this album on headphones, he’ll be powerless to stifle his all-new vigorous and attention-grabbing stride. In fact he’ll be owned by it. Confidence set back? Pah! What fucking confidence set back? 

But of course if you’re not that young man whom subscribes to the trials and difficulties of adolescence, then you may be looking (now that aint right – listening would be more appropriate, methinks) awhile before you find anything satiating in ‘American Art’. A student guitarist may find inspiration in one or two power-chord progressions…

Alex Clark

 
 

Captain Polaroid – Other short stories and better works of fiction (Filthy Little Angels)

The comparisons with Brighteyes have been made before, and these comparisons are inevitable. Many of CP’s songs on this record sound irresistibly like Brighteyes. However Captain Polaroid is his own man and his music needs not these comparisons.

Captain Polaroid has a stripped down bare sound. Each song must stand up on its own merits and this lo-fi nature of his song writing is an integral part of his music. CP is crafty and uses ingenuity in his songs, each one has a little something which makes it different, quirky to the one before. Captain Polaroid will never reach mass appeal with this music but I do hope that as many people get to appreciate his own unique style of song craft. D.I.Y bedroom music is far from dead from the looks of this album.

Gareth Ludkin
www.myspace.com/funkyasfudgefanzine

 
 

Arrison Kirby – Part 3 (El Deth Records)

There is lots of sadness in this concept album about a journey across Japan. But the melancholy is slippery and frequently hides itself behind one of the craziest spectrums of noises, scrapes and genre-hopping you will hear. Showing little regard for conventional song structure, Arrison Kirby has crafted a largely instrumental soundscape with a twist of Tokyo electronic madness and a half-measure of punk rock.
 
The start of the journey is deceptively straightforward - piano riffs, which form the undercurrent of much of the weirdness that follows, marry with a male voice choir before the opening titles to 'Are You Being Served' so very nearly kick in on 'Jim On The Plane'. The cute keyboards, cuckoo noises and general fairground cheese that follow may be Kirby's way of mapping the unfamiliar sounds of Japanese city life or just a plain annoyance depending on your tolerance level for this kind of thing.
 
If you can get through this to track 5, you will stumble into more conventional and rewarding territory, beginning with a stirring instrumental which cuts a little deeper than the preceding songs. Then the journey takes a wistful turn with 'Sad Bus' using all the black keys to send a cold shiver down your spine before you discover you've just been softened up for the fierce shouty punk of 'Tokyo' which successfully conveys the chaos and sensory overload to be discovered in Japan's largest metropolis.
 
'Nagano Return' will invite comparisons with the Flaming Lips with its cutesy melody and wavering vocals before 'Chippu and Mimi', which is hopefully a tribute to the shy creatures on the album sleeve but probably isn't, embraces the world of late-1990s computer game soundtracks with mixed results. The sadness returns with 'Goodbye Again' which, in something of a microcosm of the album, bounces with appealing ragtime piano only to collapse into a slow imitation of a bad keyboard demo before finally degenerating into angry white noise.
 
Over the course of the record, Kirby's sonic originality may impress and charm you. It may also irritate and disorient depending on your mood and choice of narcotics. But considering its the work of a 27-year-old DJ and producer from Tennessee, its certainly unexpected. 
www.eldeth.com

Chris McCague

 
 

Mitch & Murray - The Bleak End Starts Here (Regular Beat) 

Black Country gang of four Mitch & Murray (not to be mistaken for neither the telly star/author nor the mortgage company) emerge with stunning debut The Bleak End Starts Here. While they offer an intricate tapestry of soft-spoken tunes, the modest studio-packaging influences the experience to sound like a 12-song sweet-nothings whispering session. Vocalist/guitarist Benjamin Jones’ hushed delivery is so strikingly dulcet it’s deceitful, and one almost forgets that the songs are actually full of dismal longing.  

Despite the weightlessness of M&M’s musical construct, a ghostly flavour of folk-like frailty, the work maintains this incredibly heavy magnetism, speaking of sentimental escapes from frantically intense soul searching. Beginning with the straight-forwardly titled, “Love Will Treat You Like A Dog” the vastly leisurely pace creates an unearthly presence of vaporous space, and while the cautiously-crafted works sound incredibly vulnerable and intimate, they sound exceedingly distant. Instead of sounding exhausted, it sounds endearingly earnest and twinkles with emotive delight. The sparkling closer “Rabbit Chaser” opens with an atmospheric and cloudy drone, and while providing an alternative to the raw acoustic sounds that dominate the record, it warmly illustrates a beloved memory. The nebulous instrumentation provides a magical infiniteness about itself, painting a poignant sense of childlike, wide-eyed wonderment. It’s this breathtaking tenderness that makes The Bleak End Starts Here the beginning of something awfully exciting.  

Rhyannon Rodriguez

 

Elektrons - Red Light Don’t Stop

You may know Luke Cowdrey and Justin Crawford as The Unabombers, but Red Light Don’t Stop is their debut as the elusive Elektrons. Working much like a party in musical form, it’s the perfect soundtrack to complement a dance floor full of sweaty gyrating pelvises downing ocean-size amounts of alcoholic nectar. Full of unexpected variety, it’s a musical snack mix that offers something to catch the fancy of every palette. “Get Up” is a bombastic, celebratory anthem that gives a face-lift to James Brown classic, while “Dirty Basement” is a sultry, sex-infused call to those sticky, bump-and-grind-satiated house parties. It operates much like a dance compilation in its multifaceted musical directions, featuring the cutting edge of contemporary sounds coming out of Britain in the last thirty years, including soulful R&B, acidic ass-bumping disco, and the haughty sounds of MCs and grime, all with a sense of pop accessibility. I simply cannot wait until this record is raped by corporate marketing strategists so it is capitalistically shoved down our throats until our ears bleed.
www.elektrons.net
 

Rhyannon Rodriguez

 
 

Eugene McGuinness – The Early Learnings of Eugene McGuinness (Double Six Records) 

Another day, another debut album from a male singer/songwriter offering a new slant on the everyday mundane. Eugene McGuinness however does it with a little more style and flair than the average. Monsters Under The Bed charts the cloud of apathy that that descends over all of us from time to time using an organ some group vocals and naturally a hand clapping section. It’ll make you want to get out of bed and do something. Honest. 

A delicate and stripped down collection of songs The Early Learnings of… has a quaint charming feel to it drawing on influences from Rufus Wainwright to the Shins to the occasional reggae rhythm on the bizarrely titled A Child Lost in Tesco. 

Madeleine is a wonderfully melancholic fragile piano ballad with a deliciously black and bitter core.  

Making the mundane seem a little nicer to listen to and not so hard to bare, Eugene McGuinness’s take is certainly a melodic and unconventional one.

Catriona Boyle

 
 

TD Lind – Let’s Get Lost (Tall Tale Records) 

Launching into Maroon 5 sounding track with those power chord progression played on piano, Let’s Get Lost doesn’t get off the best of starts. I’d like to say it gets better after that, but well, I’d be lying. The second track, Falling is again far too much like a power ballad, an unpleasant form of song which sadly TD Lind’s voice lends itself to all too easily.   

One Fine Day is so full of self assuring reach for the sky type lyrics it’s hard to stomach, and would sit nicely as the theme tune to a nineties TV teen drama. Nasty.  

Let’s Get Lost overall is just a wee bit eighties country happy clapping (listen to Jesus Christ if you fancy a good laugh) sounding to have any credible place in someone’s CD collection. A hidden away guilty pleasure for those who like that sort of thing, maybe. And not to put too fine a point on hit, but maybe he should just, ahem, get lost.

Catriona Boyle

 
 

Prinzhorn Dance School - Prinzhorn Dance School (DFA)

Prinzhorn Dance School have a reputation - they're signed to Death From Above and are notorious for not having a myspace. However, they're not a dance / funk / electro act, and they're not Luddites. This debut album contains songs that often do not use more than two instruments at the same time, and vocals that are distinctively primitive - mainly supplied by Tobin Prinz (also guitars / drums). Lyrics are oft-repeated and spoken out - shouty single "Up! Up! Up!" being a prime example. This stripped-back, two-member approach (line-up completed by Suzi Horn, vocals / bass / drums) leaves you with a sound more akin to that of Blood Red Shoes than that of The Rapture. If for some reason you weren't expecting this, these 16 tracks may strike you as being based all too heavily on similar ideas. It's not a boring album - the shout-along lyrics and the occasional good guitar line see to this - but it doesn't hit you as being intrinsically exciting. Despite being SHOUTED and REPEATED the lyrics are commendable for tackling well elements of modern day British culture, in a slightly more clever way than the "drug dealer crashed into a chicane / sort of sums up where we live", society-bemoaning lyrics of art-indie contemporaries, Good Shoes. Songs aren't explicitly about drugs and conspiracies - instead they are well-written, catchy, and, erm, pack a message: "Do You Know Your Butcher", "Worker" and "Don't Talk To Strangers" spring to mind. Prinzhorn Dance School, then: minimalistic with simplistic values, yet fun and culturally astute. Worth your pocket money if you like artistic integrity as well as the more sing-along aspects of bands like Blood Red Shoes - just don't expect it to sound like Klaxons.
www.prinzhorn-dance-school.com

Phil Coales

 
 

The Maple Room - A Glimpse of the Inside 

The Maple Room are a 6 piece rock/thrash band, who include in their influences such bands as From Autumn To Ashes and Funeral For A Friend, the latter whom they  supported at a sell out show in November 2005 in the Netherlands. 

Formed in 2003, The Maple Room were signed to Funtime Records in 2004, released their debut album "Uncover Everyone" in 2005 and where then picked up by Four Aces Records (UK) and re-released "Uncover Everyone" into the UK market in 2006. 

So far, The Maple Room have played copious shows and festivals all throughout Europe, which included support shows for such bands as Bullet For My Valentine, Funeral For A Friend and many more. 

As soon as I heard the first track from this album; Sleeping Satellites, it left me wanting more.

I could already tell that this band was good. You can definitely hear the Funeral For A Friend influences,  However, The Maple Room have their own, interesting and unique style which is fresh. To totally understand this, you definitely have to check them out, either on their website www.themapleroom.net or via www.myspace.com/themapleroom

The Maple Room have their style; it varies from heartfelt, melodic tracks such as The Endeavour; which really shows vocalist Jef Van Doninck's range and intensity; to the other side of the spectrum, with tracks such as Love Suicide; which not only proves that these guys can really power out the music and vocals with a great emotional intensity that grips you, but includes groundbreaking mosh parts.  

After listening to this album I can certainly tell why this band is in demand, with an energy that bursts out at you through the speakers, if you close your eyes, you can almost imagine you are there in the moshpit. 

I will certainly be keeping an eye on this band, The Maple Room have talent, and I’m not talking in small amounts. Their music is tight, their vocals are excellent and their style refreshing. I would not be surprised to see them gracing our screens on MTV2 very soon. 

Rock/metal fans take note of this review and go out to give The Maple Room a listen. A “Glimpse Of The Inside” will be released by Shave The Area Records in September 2007. 

Sonia Waterfield

 
 

Kevin Drew – Spirit If 

Broken Social Scene fans the time has come!
Ever since I heard the band was taking a break since their last album I was a little depressed. Then Kevin Drew decides to release some solo work and everything seems right again (in the world of music). Spirit If is going to be the first in a series of "Broken Social Scene Presents" albums. According to Arts and Crafts Drew has addressed his favourite topics: fucking, fighting, fearing and hope... what a classy guy. 

I get the impression that Drew wrote all the songs on a spur of the moment, they just came to him without having to worry about bridges, verses, or a mother flippin’ chorus. Besides who needs structure when you’re Kevin Drew. Every song on the album seems very effortless and yet every song is saturated with layers of beautiful, beautiful sound. I know I’ going to change my mind but so far my all time favourite track is “F—ked Up Kid”, which makes a great ‘walking to supermarket’ song.  

The great thing about this album is that now I can pin point Drews’ style. If you ever wanted a glimpse of what’s in his head, this album is a good chance to figure it out. After completely listening to this album, inside and out all I’ve wanted to do since is go to a park, grab a bottle of wine and spend that entire day listening to his work.

Watch video to 'Backed Out on the...'

Navi Lamba

 
 

Stars – In Our Bedroom After The War 

Stars steal another passing grade with their third album, In Our Bedroom After The War which will be released September 25th. Decent band, unfortunately it felt like the album was crammed with too many filler songs. There were a couple of really great tracks such as, “My Favourite Book” and “Take Me to the Riot”.  

The rest of the album took a bit of a nose dive.  

Overall, I do not see myself listening to rest of the album with such enthusiasm. I felt very impatient with it and listening to the album as a whole felt mildly like a chore. Although, I must say it was a good effort, the musical composition felt more structured and the album sounds like it has constantly been “under the knife” before the band was satisfied with its sound.
Watch 'Take me to the Riot'

Navi Lamba

 
 

Steve Angello Presents – Sizeism (Compilation)(Ministry of Sound) 

Remember when Ministry of Sound used to put out fantastic compilations by genuinely interesting DJ’s? No? Me neither. All I recall is years of shit adverts on TV, corporate schmaltz and low rent packaging.  So, quite an arduous task for Steve Angello to win me over and avenge all that triple pack cheesy rubbish with this double mix CD. 

Kicking CD1 off with ‘Bring on the Light’ and a delicate mix of vocals and synths mixed using only the melody into the more minimal sound of ‘Agoria’ by Les Violons Ivres is a great way to start, showcasing a two very difficult skills (mixing without the beat as a reference point and making the whole thing quieter without abruptly cutting from one record to the other when the louder record ends).  The second track has a very gentle two-step rhythm and the backing of a violin which ebbs and oozes to the ambient synths. It’s great to hear a violin being used on its own, rather than as part of a powerful orchestral sound. Haunting and delicate, the task of mixing out of that and into anything else is a tough one, so Steve decides not to bother and fades into the next record.  There’s nothing wrong with this, and it’s often the mark of a half decent DJ to fade elegantly rather than clash two unworkable pieces of music together. But, this isn’t a ‘live’ mix and it always disappoints when DJ’s don’t take risks or plan truly impressive, well thought out sets when they cut a mix in the studio. 

Still, there’s nothing really to fault with the selection of records, memories of the classic ‘Afro Left’ are rekindled by Peter Bucci with ‘Hay Consuela’ and Lustral’s ‘Everytime’. Both are seamlessly smoothed into one long, looping sun setter, complete with a blissful, dreamlike Café Del Mar at sundown-esque breakdown.   

Its on from there into more serious bassline led sounds, an almost imperceptible change in pitch (during the breakdown) allows the next record to up the intensity slightly.  The mix never strays too far from a basic premise of deep house, but it’s always at the edges of the genre, nestling against the kind of high quality electro that is fashionable right now and the sort of high quality trance that used to be, back when Sasha and Digweed’s Northern Exposure series began in 1994. 

Nowhere on the CD can this particular soundclash be showcased more aptly than on Michael de Hey’s ‘Compound’, which, put simply, is one of the most wonderfully produced house records I have ever heard.  It has real mid-set appeal; not flashy enough to be an end of the night euphoric blast, it relies on an enormous amount of detail in every aspect of its construction. A seriously well thought out placement of a great record by Angello. 

Unfortunately, it would appear that for the sake of marketing, Angello has been asked to include his remix of ‘With Every Heartbeat’ by Robyn. Its not that it’s a bad record, the crisp production and minimal use of the vocal mark it out as a decent overhaul and the cascading angry keys in the middle give it some class, but, it just doesn’t quite fit here. In fact, it fits so badly, Angello has to practically stop mixing, play the damn thing, and rebuild the whole set again. 

Starting the rebuilding process with a track as electro-magnificent as Air Conditionne by Julian Jeweil is pure genius.  Look out for this featuring on the next Simian Mobile Disco compilation, in every decent club you ever go to and be sure, that even if you don’t buy this album, and you don’t bother reading the rest of this review, that you buy this single. 

Jewiel certainly sets off a seemingly unstoppable runaway electro train which is abrubtly derailed by nothing other than an acoustic guitar, which must be the musical equivalent of leaves on the line. In a true ‘what the fuck?’ moment, the listener is treated to a duel between an electronic bleep and a junior version of Paco De Lucia.  It certainly is something different, and it works really well when it shouldn’t work at all, bringing the curtain down on a wonderful set.  The name of the track if you’re interested is ‘Umbrella’ by Steve Angello and Sebastian Ingrosso. 

CD2 is much more sparse and minimal than CD1.  A blend of progressive house and tech-electro, each track is much longer and less cluttered than the first record.  There’s some real gems on it though, and it shouldn’t be overlooked.  Klack, by Who’s Who? (one of Angello’s pseudonymns) has a lovely metronomic structure and a fragile melody that would be perfect music for driving along an empty motorway as the sun rises. 

Predictably, the mixing is faultless; Angello has an opportunity to showcase the art of playing almost entire records simultaneously and subtly working in aspects of each to create a more interesting whole.  A mix more for the purist than the casual listener, this is almost the perfect foil to CD1. 

The first high quality record, with cross-genre appeal, to emerge from Ministry of Sound in eons.

Ian Anderson

 
 

The Tacticians - “Some Kind Of Urban Fulfillment” 

The Tacticians are a London based Indie/Rock quartet made up of Ollie (vocals & guitar), Joe Jr (guitar), Al (bass) and Mark (drums). 

The band is fronted by Ollie and Joe Jr, who, with their smooth and harmonious vocals give make this versatile and a great album to listen to, no matter what mood your in.  

The lyrical content is intellectual and clever which gives you an insight into how the band look at life in a light-hearted way, dealing with such issues as, temptation, failure heartbreak and love.

Don’t be fooled though, as the music through this album is cheerful, up beat and catchy. I find myself humming the tunes long after this album has finished. 

The first track “Respectfully Proceeding” comes in with a great melody which automatically lifts your mood and is combined with a contagious energy which makes you want to sing along and tap your foot. 

“Hardcore Porn” is a not only a great song, but also told from a one of the band members real life experience. You can hear the emotion and feeling coming through the vocals which gives this song a nice edge. 

The Tacticians really show their versatility when it comes to “Honey, you aint needed anymore”, with its rock style drums and guitar riffs, and the angry vocals. 

The Tacticians have played at various venues, including Bloomsbury Bowling Lanes and The Water Rats (London), where they received rave reviews. 

The track which stands out for me personally is, “Dance Like Nobody’s Watching”, as it sums up what this album is all about. 
www.thetacticians.com
www.myspace.com/thetacticians 

Sonia Waterfield

 
 

Kick In The Eye – Rock and Roll Revisited (Aftersound Recordings

Not quite a Letter from America, but an A3 envelope from Canada containing a wonderfully DIY packaged CD featuring Candian duo Kick In The Eye’s “full-length exploration of the roots of rock and roll”. It seems I’m in for quite the musical journey. 

Rock and Roll Revisited is essentially that. Old fashioned rock and roll songs featuring the obligatory slightly flat country twang, 12 bar blues, harmonica (played by someone named ‘Huggybear’) and lyrics revolving around girls and cars.

Fresh sounding this is not. The songs follow the formula of a genre laid to rest some time ago, but if it’s the original rock and roll you’re after this’ll satisfy your appetite nicely.

Catriona Boyle

 
 

The Nash - “Kicks And Glory” 

The Nash is an Anglo- American quartet made up from band members John Tirado (vocals, guitar), Luis Segura (drums, percussion), Angel Cubero (bass) and Brett Lomas (lead guitar). 

The Buzzcocks, Matthew Sweet, Queens of the Stone Age and The Deftones are this bands influences, and you can certainly hear these floating through the tracks, with a rock sound without being too heavy. This album is a must for all rock and pop listeners. 

After the first listen of this album, I was hooked. Their songs are full of vibrancy, energy and are definitely catchy. The guitar riffs are powerful, with the lead guitar solos shining through, giving each track a special moment. 

Kicks and Glory starts the album off with its tight riffs, excellent vocals and by the end of this song, I was singing along to the chorus. it’s a very catchy song that stays with you.  

“Go On” is quite similar in its style to T-Rex with the vocals and guitar style. This shows the flexibility of the band and its ability to adapt but keep the strength and style.  

“Said And Done” brings another unique style to the album being heavier, and the end sounding very like the old Iron Maiden.  

“The Lady Stone” is a lovely, chilled track which calms down the feeling of the album and shows John Tirado’s excellent range on vocals.  

I can understand perfectly why this band is so in demand, with an up and coming tour throughout the UK after previously touring the UK, Europe and the USA, sharing stages with Iggy and the Stooges, Supergrass, Primal Scream and The Buzzcocks.  

Overall, I really loved this album, the freshness in their style,  with  the mix between melodic and heavy tracks, pure, clean vocals and the infectiousness of the tracks.  I will certainly be purchasing this album when it hit’s the shops, they have gained another fan. 
www.myspace.com/thenashers
www.thenash.com

Sonia Waterfield