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  albums - september 2007




Chocolate Tannoy - Melting Pot 

Melting Pot is the latest album from ambient producer Ian Sanderson under his Chocolate Tannoy pseudonym and as you would expect from the co-creator of last years Helium (as part of the Urban Myth Club), it is an excellently produced, epic and atmospheric album full to the brim of subtle electronic touches, samples and sweeping arrangements.
I liked this album. However after a number of listens I formed the opinion that this wasn’t exactly breaking any new boundaries in this genre. I can’t help feeling like I’ve heard several similar albums over the last few years; the sweeping dark orchestral arrangements, the obligatory flirtation with world music on several tracks, sound effects of waves and/or rainfall, down-tempo drum and bass, and echoing piano solo’s were all present and correct. But being a fan of this kind of music I tend to think that these are good things.
The one small problem is that (and with most other ambient albums I feel), you can sometimes forget the album is actually playing at all. The ambience is sometimes too much and as a result it blends into the background and often becomes dangerously close to being routine. This is a shame as the understated touches which make you appreciate Sanderson’s production can be missed.
How would the general public take this album? Quite well I think. Sanderson has produced another multi-faceted and accessible album, which is quite at home on a Sunday afternoon, dinner party or post-club. But I just can’t help thinking of what the godfather of ambient, Brian Eno once said “ambient music must be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting”. After listening to this album, I couldn’t agree with him more.

Andrew Bayliss


Little Dragon - Little Dragon

Now I’ve always been partial to a bit of Swedish music…okay I admit it tended to involve the guilty pop pleasures of Abba, Roxette, Ace of Base and that ultimate offence, Europe’s final countdown. But other than destroying what little reputation I had as a teenager, I feel my sins have given me suitable experience to be able to tackle this debut offering from the latest pop / funk band to arise from the country considered to be the third largest exporter of music in the world behind the UK and the USA.

Little Dragon is the self-titled debut album from…you guessed it, Little Dragon. They comprise a four piece collective of school friends hailing from Gothenburg and are made up of Erik Bodin (drums), Fredrick Källgren (bass), Håkan Wirenstrand (keyboards) and the vocalist Yukimi Nagano.

The evocative opening song of the album, ‘Twice’ was released earlier this year as part of a double A-side together with ‘Test’ to widespread critical acclaim. The rest of the album I am pleased to say follows suite with a crisp and delicate reinvention of the pop and funk genre. The understated, harmonic voice of Yukimi dominates the album, which is not a bad thing as her voice is reminiscent of a Scandinavian version of Corrine Bailey Rae crossed with Bjork and Kate Bush. Other highlights include ‘Place to Belong’ and ‘Stormy Weather’. 

By and large, I quite liked this album. It grows on you until you have an overwhelming urge to listen to it again and again. I would recommend this.

Andrew Bayliss


The Mirimar Disaster - The Mirimar Disaster (Undergroove)

The first thing I notice here is the striking artwork that accompanies The Mirimar Disaster's debut full length release. People have argued before that artwork/imagery shouldn't matter and "it's all about the music". I've always been of the opinion that artwork can shape the way you visualize an album, which adds to the overall listening experience. This is certainly the case here. Poignant, unique, and disturbing shouts the skinless fighter pilot in full flight gear.

The success of bands such as Isis and Mastodon (thanks in no small part to Neurosis) has catapulted underground metal to heights previously unheard of, spawning a whole new generation of music and a mingling of genres to such a stage where simple labels are no longer a valid method for categorising a band. The Mirimar Disaster is one such band, and their infusion of down-tuned sludge and pummeling metal is sure to attract fans of a variety of different genres.

On first listen it feels like there's something missing here. Something which would make this band sound so much better. Then I suddenly realise it's merely the fact I haven't turned it up loud enough. What I find particularly striking after the initial spin of the album is the feeling that it never stops. Not once do they revert to pretension or pseudo progressiveness, purely to fill a gap. Yet subtlety and melody is ever present amongst the intensity and distortion, something that keeps you focused on the music and constantly wanting more.

Opener 'Persius' is thrown straight at you; a ceaseless storm of harsh guitar melody and pounding drums, reminiscent of Mastodon at their best. Seemingly taking influences from all directions and harnessing them without so much as a whiff of plagiarism, the band have created their own very unique sound. Ian's depraved vocals are instantly recognizable, in the same way that Karl Middleton raised more than a few eyebrows ten years ago with Earthtone9. If you heard this in a club, you'd recognize it instantly. And not many bands can attest to that.

The album is no easy listener (most of the songs are at least six minutes long), which makes it all the more rewarding when you make it through the whole thing. Nine minute epic 'If Lockheeds Could Speak' envelops you effortlessly while your senses endure a constant battering. The Tool-esque 'Let Them Stay Behind' is by no means a come down either; the pace and intensity remains here and throughout, with even moody instrumental 'Her Tides Bear No Compassion' keeping you immersed and holding on tight before 'Black Dawn' concludes the album on the same high that began nearly sixty minutes ago.

These five lads from Sheffield have proven here that if you're going to make this kind of music, it's grime, not polish, that wins the day. This is noisy, raw, bleak music that only the urban wasteland of a British inner city area could inspire. An unrelenting barricade of crushing riffs set in a desolate world of municipal decay and oppressive grey skies, The Mirimar Disaster have released a debut album that will surely prove they can hold their own in an age where originality is craved and innovation is expected; where genres are constantly being reinvented, molded together and redefined. The future of extreme music has never looked so bright, and quite simply, The Mirimar Disaster are one of the most important bands in the UK right now.

Jimmy P


The Shadow Project – A Beauty to Fight for (NRONE)

Instrumental music is becoming a tough field to crack. With the wide variety of post-rock, atmospheric bands it’s hard to sound fresh and different. However against all the odds The Shadow Project not only matches other atmospheric, post-rock bands but blows them out of the water. To describe their sound is hard – describing post-rock, atmospheric, progressive bands is always a challenge. But in terms of other notable bands, they sound like a more melodic Mogwai, A more English Explosions In The Sky and an equally spine chilling Early Years.

‘All the Pretty things’ – the lead track on the album – Is a song of pure escapism, the band show stunning talent with an ear for what really does make you tingle, they seem to show an ability to close your eyes involuntarily, letting you sink into a warm swirl of beautiful melodic music. There are no aggressive, jagged guitar riffs, jerky effects or pretence. Their music is smooth, relaxing and, warm, really warm. Coming from Felixstowe, Suffolk – the county in which I also live – they happily disprove my theory that the majority of music coming out of Suffolk is shit punk music. The Shadow Project is a sensational band, easily equal to Explosions in The Sky, perhaps......, even better. I will certainly endeavour to catch them live on one of their forthcoming dates. They are a Stunning band well worth your support. 5/5

Gareth Ludkin


Various - 'Construction Time Again?' (Something In Construction) - label sampler

'Construction Time Again?' is a collection of tracks from bands on the venerable London-based label Something In Construction. As usual with these kind of things it's a fairly mixed bag, but there are more stonkers than stinkers here, and one potential gem lurking amongst the chaff (more of that later).

Stockholm 5-piece Blackstrap kick things off with the excellent fuzzed-out guitar monster that is 'Winning Speech'. Something tells me that they may own some Jesus & Mary Chain records. Next up is The Silent League formed by Justin Russo (keyboardist with Mercury Rev circa 2004). 'Aeroplanes' is a delectable slice of melancholic chamber-pop not dissimilar from Mr Russo's former band infact.

You're probably already familiar with Loney, Dear (and if not, why not?). Just to recap, Loney Dear is basically just Emil Svanangen, a Swedish multi-instrumentalist who produces works of electro-folk genius such as the track featured here, 'The City The Airport'. Mesmerising.

Aussies Damn Arms offer up 'Homewrecker' next, a frantic blast of shouty vocals and jagged guitars that makes you feel like you've been picked by your ears, thrown around the room a bit, and then plonked back down again. Which is nice. Other Passengers are next with 'Sick Sick' which, at over 7 minutes, is by far the longest of the 11 tracks featured here. Unfortunately, most of the track is tuneless nonsense. Shame.

The aforementioned gem lurking amongst the chaff is 'Hieroglyphic' by New York's The Jealous Girlfriends. Sparsely arranged guitars combine with hypnotic vocals to create a gloomy-yet-oddly euphoric atmosphere. 'I don't know why you care - 'cause I don't' is the repeated central lyric to send the tingle to end all tingles down your spine. Magical.

Christiansilva shows up next with 'The Chopping Board' which despite only being two and a half minutes long contains enough ideas for about 6 songs. Needless to say the effect is slightly disorientating as the track veers all over the place trying to find it's own path, finally settling on an as-yet-undiscovered brand of space-rock. Bags of potential here though and definitely one to watch

Grimy guitars and unsettling noise are provided next by Susu on 'Steal My Air'. Since when did they own the air anyway? Akira the Don turns up next like a bad smell, spouting his dull juvenile rap all over the place. Yawn. Moving quickly on to Kid Casanova who proffer 'Tearing You Apart', a straight-ahead bluesy retro-rocker which although not unlistenable doesn't really do enough to impress. Thoroughly unremarkable.

Rounding proceedings off are The Leisure Society with the lovely folk rock of 'A Richer Dust'. It makes you want to go out have a picnic. Naked. 'We love everyone who loves us'' they sing. Awwwwww. Why, we love you too.

With this release, Something in Construction have successfully demonstrated the great diversity of sound of the bands and artists on their label. Whatever Something in Construction are constructing, I reckon it's going to be mightily impressive.

Tony Robinson


Architecture in Helsinki - Places Like This (Sony)

I suspect we've all been there, a few drinks, a gig, an unknown band, with keyboards, and loud bass, playing what sounds like twisted cop funk, complete with an outlandish swaggering frontman with a gargantuan growling B52's style voice, he, flanked by a cute girl with a sweet harmonic lilt and a ballsy rhythm section preside over the proceedings like giants, and we dance, drunkenly... “got to get their cd, got to get their cd....”

“Fiver? what a bargain,” all the while convinced its absolute genuine musical genius, “i'm the new Malcolm Mclaren, me.” Bring the CD home, forget all about it, finally listen to it one day and think, “jesus, did I really think this lot were any good?”

Architecture in Helsinki are that band.

They play a lightweight funk sound with some minor tweaks, but nothing interesting really happens. The singer groans and rattles his way through the album, the female vocalist is lost under his thunder, meandering in the quiet bits, all intricacy is curtailed by thundering simplistic bass. So throwaway it should come with a recycling logo. Then it goes on for forty more minutes.

Ian Anderson


The Young Knives - ....Are Dead ....And Some (Shifty Disco)

A re-release of sorts, with the band's original label offering their debut seven track mini album ....Are Dead and follow up EP Rollerskater in one package. It smacks a bit of corporate desperation, Shifty Disco chasing the success they maybe deserved, but didn't ever have with the band back in 2002-3. But, an opportunity to grab two rarities with one hand shouldn't be missed if the music is any good, and thankfully, its great.

It certainly makes you realise that the Rakes, among others, simply blueprinted the Young Knives formula and adopted it as their own. That said, there's more to the Young Knives than angular recollections of dreary suburban mundanity. Substance for a start, and wit, and a lovely gravel infused delivery by frontman The House of Lords a.k.a Thomas.

Splatterings of horror punk with touches of Sparks, Wire, Pavement et al. make each track genuinely interesting and a refreshing change from some of the formulaic new indie music coming out of Leeds, London and Sheffield. They've got a rare blend of suitably macabre delivery and unconsciously obtuse songwriting that comes across as unpretentious, rather than stylised. It can probably be attributed to growing up and writing songs in a place like Ashby De La Zouch, rather than amongst the scenesters and fashionistas.

Rollerskater stands out, a crystalline beacon of purely crafted pop amongst the fug of darkly assembled tracks. While it showcases the Young Knives' ability to create radio friendly masterpieces, the remainder of the collection flatly states their desire not to, ever again. It's an enigmatic touch of genius in my opinion.

Small town mini heroes most definitely, just be aware that it may take some of the lustre away from your new favourite bands.

Ian Anderson


Kosheen - Damage - Moksha Recordings

Kosheen have been around for a long time now, hailing from Bristol and originally releasing drum and bass dub plates, they emerged from the long shadow cast by the fall of trip-hop with their last album Kokopelli. Shifting the dynamic of their sound away from their Bristolian roots, towards the middle of the road, was successful, spawning a top ten hit single (All in My Head) and decent album sales on the back of it.

Damage is a regression back into Massive Attack and Portishead territory, with vocalist Sian Evans sounding remarkably like Beth Gibbons on a number of tracks. On the remainder she is strikingly reminiscent of Annie Lennox. High praise, but the album is bereft of originality, in either production, which is too much like any number of Bristol artists from 1999 or the vocals, which lack 10% of Gibbons' haunting melancholy and 10% Lennox's powerful clarity rendering them charmless.

Ian Anderson


Steveless - Mistakes in all the Right Places (Cherryade)

This is what I imagined that Enter Shikari would sound like when I read the hype. Enter Shikari, in my opinion are an awful combination of cheap crappy synth parodies of what they think dance music might sound like and rubbish metal. Steveless are one of the most original bands I have heard in ages.

The album opens with what sounds like Johnny Cash gently lamenting over
grindcore and then makes less and less sense as time goes on. Largely sounding like it was recorded in an aluminium bunker, using a broken 303 and a drummer on amphetamine, most of the songs judder to a halt under a squeal of feedback, cut into synth overdrive and are pummled into submission.

The vocals are generally low in the mix, which is always a brave move, but some excellent bass fretwork and impressive uptempo drumming keeps everything in line, allowing rants and general keyboard abuse to sit alongside happily.

Very occasionally a catchy hook breaks out and a semblance of order is
maintained, it even gets a bit funky for a moment. A clever trick, leaving you hanging, waiting, anticipating the crash of thunderous drums. These breakdowns are up there with anything that can be reproduced digitally and show what can be achieved when you understand how to write a dance tune and can play decent metal. Brilliant, original, chaotic, essential.

Ian Anderson


Techno Squirrels - Plastic Makes it Possible (Rave Police)

Despite having recently personally experienced a rather traumatic vegetable patch-uprooted-by bushy-tailed vermin phenomenon I cannot help but look upon this debut album by Techno Squirrels favourably. They have a curiously under-stated version of ambient-techno that holds a cinematic quality which would surely move seamlessly to soundtracks at some point. The opening of the album itself is a microcosm of this approach. 'Repeat 'til fade' is a gentle ballad type affair unusually used to start a long player but with great effect.

Production is to the nth degree on every track but not in a way which leaves the music sounding dry and mechanical. Every part is considered and every note feels like it matters.

The overall effect is really quite odd. I've probably listened to this album more than any other over the last few weeks yet still can't really pick out any obvious stand-out tracks. As much as the upbeat 'Hurt Me' pulls the album to the dancier spectrum, the spacey 'Ecstatic' is equally as uplifting but in a different way. But there is definitely an unidentifiable sense of purpose and an enigmatic charm to 'Plastic Makes it Possible' that will keep it on my CD player for a few more weeks.



Wheat - Everyday I Said A Prayer For Kathy & Made A One Inch Square (Empyrean) 

It is never a good idea to apologise to your editor about your laziness in the body of the review you’re writing. In some cases, the explanation helps the review. I had this album listened to a couple of days ago, but I had nothing to write. I had a list of influences I heard in Wheat and not much else. That would have made an awful review, so I thought I’d wait a bit (the review is already WELL late and I don’t have the internet at home at the moment so I thought a day or two wouldn’t make much difference to my standing as a reviewer, but might at least have some bearing on the quality of review…MIGHT.  

I’ve returned to this album a few days later and the influences are still as strong. There are musical and tonal similarities with Spiritualised and Dinosaur Junior, especially in the first few songs – track 1, for instance has a very Masciis-esque solo. The latter songs keep these influences and add an awful lot of Pavement. 

I’m glad I let some time pass though, because that initial “Man that sounds like [those other bands]!” has given way to listening to the songs on their own. They aren’t bad at all - laid back in the extreme, with that mood sometimes being replaced with weary (if you can make someone notice the difference that’s quite a skill). It’s always dangerous to do and you may end up with that “quiet heartbreak” that American alt-rock does so…often. (Mercifully this album only skirts the line). Track 10 (Exhausted Fixer) is the best song on the album, standing apart from the rest in style and quality. (Maybe that contrasts makes me like it more, and understand this: it’s not that different to the other stuff on the album, it’s just more individual and better.) 

Just so you know I love all the bands I compared Wheat to. I think they’re awesome. So, while I’m questioning the originality, at least I’m reminded of really great things. I don’t think that’s enough to make an album great. There has to be more. As it is, the songs are pretty and also pretty good. I’m keeping their music but I’m not sure I’ll seek it out. Wheat strikes me as band to listen to when you’ve had enough of their influences for a bit. Avoid the final track. Put track 10 on a mix tape for a friend.

Christopher Carney


Alex Cornish - Until The Traffic Stops (Bellevue Records) 

In the absence of any discernible musical talent, the dream for any music critic, especially at fanzine level, is to find that most elusive of things, which is an artist nobody else has heard about so you can proclaim them from the rooftops triumphantly. After years of searching and false starts, I’ve found him. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Alex Cornish – the man I’m putting my money on to be bloody huge.

I’ve no idea what he looks like. He could be ninety stone with a massive bushy beard with sparrows living in it, but I don’t think that would matter, because his debut album ‘Until The Traffic Stops’ is brilliant. There’s a depth and clarity unexpected beyond the stark black cover of his record, but it’s a perfect companion to see you through autumn and winter. The songs wrap themselves around you like a blanket, but that’s not to say it’s one of those cosy records that are so easy to dismiss. There’s a cynicism and biting wit you’d expect from someone who’s been messed about by the industry before, and new single ‘My Word What A Mess’ brilliantly dissects past disappointments.

I’m not kidding; there are moments in the tracks that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up in appreciation. There’s a difference, I think, between being a performer and being a songwriter, and Cornish has made an album that stands up to the tightest musical scrutiny. It’s difficult to believe that such a beautiful, orchestral sound could be created in Alex’s bedroom and a small studio. It boggles the mind why this lad isn’t already massive.

It’s an emotional record. At first, I was worried I’d be disappointed because his previous singles had been excellent, and most of the time, subsequent albums go on to be full of filler. Not a bit of it. The second emotion was delight, because it’s a complete, concrete triumph. The final emotion I felt when ‘Untied’ finished its eight minutes was sadness – soon, Alex won’t need fanzines to review his records because he’s going to be a star. What a fantastic leaving present, though.

Blokes don’t deal in emotion, just facts, so I’ll state them. Alex Cornish has created one of the best albums I’ve ever heard. You can repeat that millions of times and I’ll stand by it, because it’s true. Absolutely stunning. 

Chris Stanley


The BDI’s - The BDI’s   (BDI Recordings)

The BDI’s have been knocking out in various forms for about ten years and to be fair I’ve heard of none of them. But, happy day, I’ve had a listen to their current incarnation and their album is great. Not just indie great, but genuinely, inventively, surprisingly great. The BDI’s are full of soul, funk, style and good music and by thunder, they deserve success.

Their debut is like all those Stevie Wonder records you pretend to listen to but never actually do. I wouldn’t be surprised if Little Stevie himself is currently giving this album a butcher’s just to remind himself how great he used to be. It would be unfair to single out single tracks for praise because it’s a tremendous body of work but ‘Still Get The Same Old Kick’ sears with a throaty intensity that’s as good as anything a British soul band could produce.

Shameless homage it may be, but the BDI’s shouldn’t care. They’ve created a record that’s as needed in today’s music scene as a serial killer is in future series of Big Brother. Listen out for this trio and you won’t be disappointed. 

Chris Stanley


Rory McVicar - Rory McVicar  (Series 8) 

The latest great hope for male singer songwriters with guitars and feelings, Rory McVicar seems to have kept a step ahead of the rest by landing funding from the Arts Council (well, it’s plastered on the back of his record, so unless he’s an obsessive fan of it…). Usually, that means he’s played it himself on a pygmy nose flute, but it’s just the tried and trusted formula of guitarist with full band.

It’s not bad – the lyrics are mature for one as youthful as McVicar and there’s a nice length to the record, meaning it doesn’t outstay its welcome. One positive thing McVicar has managed to do which can only help his career is give his record depth, by veering away from the traditional pitfalls that dog some solo artists and dropping in a few musical tangents and unusual motifs within his songs. Okay, so he’s not David Bowie just yet, but there’s enough here to suggest that as he progresses, the world will see a lot more of Rory McVicar, Arts Council or no. 

Chris Stanley


Various - Hallam Foe Soundtrack (Domino)

Film Soundtracks seem quite often to be a mere afterthought, quickly thrown together after the auteur has crafted his filmic vision. More often then not, budget dictates what can and cannot be tied to the soundtrack. This is famously demonstrated in the case of Martin Scorsese almost bankrupting some of his productions on outlaying musical rights. In the case of Hallam Foe, attention is immediately drawn to the fact that this is a film collection that oozes potential quality. All the acts are drawn from the diverse and very sassy Domino records stable and the quality is high throughout. Indeed, any collection that kicks off with Edwyn's Blue Boy is onto a winner. The track that led a thousand beautiful boys to pick up guitars and sing delightfully is an evergreen, the sound of an endless summer. Coupled with a sprinkling of other gems, this is a near irresistible snapshot of the Domino catalogue. Personal favourites are the sublime Argentine electronics of Juana Molina and the quirkiness of Psapp. James Yorkston delivers the irresistible Surf Song, with the lyric capturing the emotions contained within a nascent relationship just beautifully. Wistful sounds also prevail throughout the Movietone offering, Ocean Song, a track that appeared on their last album. (Too long ago) Label stalwarts Franz F offer up an especially recorded track in Hallam Foe Dandelion Blow, and come off just this side of angular. I’m sure that label mates Pram may have offered some gladly received trademark spooked jazz shades to proceedings, but will save judgement on that until after I’ve seen the film. A justified Silver Bear Best Music in A Film award winner recently in Berlin for this album, Hallam Foe demands your best attention.

John Kertland


Alaska in Winter - Dance Party In The Balkans (Regular Beat)

Featuring members of both a Hawk and A Hacksaw and Beirut, Dance Party certainly promises to deliver. As stars of the new Mexican music scene, the album has already received airplay and critical acclaim. Don’t be kidded though, this is certainly not traditional Balkan music in any sense.

Glancing at the cover the song titles seemingly almost all reflect a wintry chill. This is certainly conveyed in the music which rarely deviates from glacial electronica. Close Your Eyes features trumpet and the engaging voice of Zach Condon, closer maybe to the Folktronica tag that has been applied to AIW more than once. This is truly mighty blissed out and the sort of thing that best listened to on a cliff-top, in winter. AIW into Beach House territory occasionally, most notably on “Lovely Lovely Love” (great title) which warms the cockles just when you’re needing it most. A pleasant diversion and a brand new (mind) dance that may just grow on you.

John Kertland


Various - In The Mind Of Jamie Cullum (District 6 CD)

I have to admit that I have never been a fan of the man Cullum. I seem to remember that the debut album lived in the kitchen for a while, but ended up unloved and unmentioned by the other members of the family. This silent treatment is usually reserved for most daytime pop music too. Which is what Jamie Cullum produces isn’t it? Saccharine shards of sweetness that drive Radio 2 and commercial radio, punctuating work time. So, the inspiration behind the man in the form of this compilation should be an intriguing listen. Which it is initially, with the sleepy grooves of Nina Simone and Luiz Bonfa opening the set. Jamie goes all “street” with Brown Paper Bag, the Roni Size tune. I can’t listen to this in the same light since I checked out the You and I version on Tru-Thoughts recently, (which is an essential purchase incidentally)

So, Jamie gets some cred in here, which can only be a good thing. Unluckily, this is quickly overturned by the presence of the overblown Cinematic Orchestra and their cut “All Things to All Men”, which is only partly rescued by Roots Manuva. Elbow are the indie in the sandwich with “Station Approach”, whilst the mighty fine Donovan gets a prime Hurdy Gurdy man album cut in with “Get Thy Bearings. Well, at this point you could start forgetting the fact that you may have considered this as a cash in at the start and fidgeted warily. In fact, that’s exactly what I did when I saw the Bad Plus on the tv quite some time ago, but realised that the idea of a “Jazz” act covering contemporarary leftfield Indie and otherwise just about worked. That considered, I still prefer the Aphex version of “Flim “which is a mini-masterpiece, of course. A varied choice then, an easy target too for the detractors. It may be fair to say that this is not an essential selection but delivers a decent enough clutch of cuts for the enquiring ear needing a pointer to Jamie C’s output.

John Kertland


Karim Fanous - Stir Crazy (Quite Great)

This debut album is the result of four years gigging and living the London musical life. However it’s a rather different mirror on that scene than the one inhabited by Misses Allen and Nash. Here are tales of parting (So Long Jenny J) and of unrequited attraction. Melodies abound all the way through this set, with “Thin Bits” being a rousing opener. Perfume (Not the Paris Angels classic of yore) is inspired by the book of the same name. This really does rock very nicely, reflecting a variety of influences such as the Black Crowes and Prince. With a sound that sits well between melodic pop, rock and soul it’s about time that Karim had your attention. After all, he’s paid his dues. Well worth checking out.

John Kertland


Ben Lee - Ripe  (Cooking Vinyl)

Ben Lee is an Aussie and former member of the outfit Noise Addict, this being his debut release for Cooking Vinyl in the UK. Prior to that he’s scored Triple platinum number 1’s in Australia and collaborated with the Beastie Boys, Kylie, and Evan Dando among others. An old musical lag who has been knocking on the door now for quite some time. So, a tale of success and collaboration that spans 15 years, with a live show that apparently is a “must see”. Most of the songs here are observational paeans and musings to the everyday. “Watching American Television” casts a sideways glance at media imperialism and lack of choice, whilst Numb throws some Blur/Kinks shapes. Slickly produced power-pop throughout that recalls at turns both Cheap Trick and Nickelback.” Love me Like the World Is Ending” has single written all over it, and is a glorious opening blast. “Sex Without Love” should be all over the radio, with a Posie’esque feel that can only be good. An optimistic vein runs through all the songs, a carry on regardless outlook. Distinctly not emo then, this is a collection of well crafted tunes that can only enhance Mr Lee’s rep as a power-pop figurehead.

John Kertland


Parasites – Retro-Pop

Having read the press release I expected the worst, but the album was not too bad really. This style of music ultimately to me sounds out-dated and over played. It’s music I’ve heard before and kind of grown out of. Parasites are in an American Punk Rock style and do it fairly well but punk rock is punk rock. I don’t really have any major qualms with the music it is well played, well constructed and there were a few songs that were quite enjoyable such as Ronnie Is A Psycho. The name of the band and album title however did little to inspire any sense of excitement. The album with 15 songs was too long, very similar throughout and is an acquired taste I had when I was about 13. I feel like I’m being a little harsh, bringing my own musical prejudices into the music but I can only tell you my honest opinion and it reminds of fairly poor American punk rock, a genre I believe had it’s day a long time ago. 2/5

Gareth Ludkin


My Little Problem – All these Things (Life is Easy records)

My Little Problem is now an eight piece band led by Simon James, whose lo-fi indie pop is mellow, broody and seductively enjoyable.

A wide range of instruments are incorporated into the music to create rich sounds and intricate melodies. Set for release on September 24th the album is a very enjoyable listen, first created in his bedroom, My Little Problem has moved into the studio. The quality of the recording on the album is noticeable. In each song you can pick out the layers of sound and the various instruments layered in.

My enjoyment on some songs was only slightly spoilt by the harmonica which at times felt unnecessary, but this is only me nit picking. Overall it is an easy album to listen to, perhaps alongside a book. It is not an album I find easy to listen intently too. It is much more suited to atmospheric moody melodies, perhaps to lull you off to sleep. The back end of the album becomes a bit tiresome and by the end I was glad it had finished. But none the less it was an enjoyable listen, perhaps more so in parts than as a whole. 3/5

Gareth Ludkin


Violet Violet – Bitchbox (NRONE Records)

Violet Violet are a three piece from Norwich, who seem to be making an Impact across the country. After reading several other previous reviews I found Bitchbox a Largely disappointing album. The album is very basic and I don’t find Violet Violet doing anything exciting or new. The guitar riffs throughout many of the songs become fairly annoying, lame and the music lacks any sort of interest. Many of the songs sound empty and the sounds don’t knit well together.

Track 4 ‘Love this Band’ starts off badly and does not improve. These three girls seem to have been reading the NME far too much of which their music sounds idiosyncratic, shapeless and uninteresting the music is generally boring and unimaginative. The whole album is on one level with no variation of pitch, mood or style until the last track. The Album is let down by poor guitar and drums, which sound very basic and the one thing I really hate on the album are all the little squeaky noises they seem to enjoy so much on ’Love This Band’ – which can only be described as high pitched hic-ups – This review has probably just made me sound extremely pretentious, and a bit mean (I hate being mean) But unfortunately I didn’t enjoy the album. I say unfortunately because I really hoped I would like it but it just didn’t work for me. 2/5

Gareth Ludkin


The Go! Team – Proof of Youth (Memphis Industries)

At long last the Phenomenal Go! Team are back with a long over-due second album after their brilliant 2003 debut ‘Thunder Lightning Strike’ which over the past four years has been sampled more times than you can shake a stick at.

Proof of Youth takes another step up from a band that’s defies all convention and is the most playful and energetic band around today. Proof of Youth reflects the bands anti-production ethic. I defy anyone who says they couldn’t dance to this album. September 10th is the date. Put it in your diary and save your cash. This is a must buy album!

The Go! Team have put their fans through an agonisingly long wait for this album. Over the past few years their band have taken their party to the people in all corners of the world , and after four years of fairly non stop touring the band must have been gagging to get started on the new material and it comes across in the music which is fresh and exciting. Proof of Youth continues where Thunder, Lightning Strike left off and goes so much further. It is a standout album from the word go. The band’s full throttle assault holds nothing back and explodes out of the speakers and into the room, it cries out to be played loud and is irresistible to dance to.

The Go! Team pride themselves on making music which is nothing like you’ve ever heard before. They are a highly experimental group making music others dare not and can not. At the hands of Ian Parton and co a wide range of aural treats explode in the most perfect way, synchronised to perfection. Each song is stunning and stands out, each one is thoroughly well thought out, and creates an album of brilliant song after brilliant song. The Go! Team have been criticised before for making white noise, and music which is little more than short intros to songs. For those who ever believed this was true, this album is proof that The Go! Team are a highly imaginative, explosive, engaging band, making music no one else in the world can.

There are easily recognisable sounds on Proof of Youth from ‘Thunder Lightning Strike’, such as Ninjas party vocals and dance troop sound, alongside Harmonicas, enveloping drums and racy rhythms. Bubblegum pop and white noise in equal measure accompany input from Public Enemy legend Chuck D, the original Double Dutch Divas, Maryland’s pint sized Rapper’s Delight Club, Marina from Bonde Do Role, Amsterdam based Solex and Washington DC’s Fredrick Douglas All Star Cheer Team. Each song has been so well crafted there are no empty moments, no dodgy bits, no cracks, and no weaknesses. The Go! Team are back and they are more sublime than ever. This is the party album of the next five years or at least until a third Go! Team album comes our way. 5/5

Gareth Ludkin


Commander Keen - My Tascam Dreams (Hackpen)

Despite being the brain child of a singular Glaswegian, Stuart Torrance, Commander Keen commandeers some fine guest musicians to play the beguiling selection of strings, brass and other traditional parts on this most atmospheric of mini-albums. Full of abstract whirrings and clicks, it takes the cinematic qualities of Sonver and combines them with a more earthy Scottish folk ethic. This is also reminiscent of the sort of stuff cropping up in Leeds quite a lot at the moment - Vessels, Alt track etc. 'She Dances' provides a fittingly regal end to this release with its unfolding harmonium part and increasingly urgent synths. Blissful.



Eisley – Combinations (Warner Reprise Records) 

Generally, the pretty girls do not make the good music, and so the fact that Eisley features three blonde (or depending what picture you’re looking at, brunette) waifs does not fill me with optimism. 

Granted, they’re not entirely awful but they’re not great either. One of the girls can sing rather well, and musically Eisley have a well rounded band. It’s their song writing skills that let them down. With a sound that sits somewhere between Evanescence, Avril, and general pop, their songs (Taking Control in particular) feature far too much repetition, and the band obviously think they’re onto a winning formula as they rarely stray from it.   

Come Clean shows promise, a light pop anthem with a sing a long at the end reminiscent of Dashboard Confessional’s now legendary MTV unplugged.  

It seems in this case, the pretty girls make the slightly above average music.

Catriona Boyle


Mr Huw - Llond Lle O Hwrs A Lladron

Llond Lle O Hwrs A Lladron is welsh for Loads of Whores and Pirates, which gives the game away that Mr Huw is indeed 100% Welsh, including the lyrics, which made this kind of hard to review. 

Dont let this put you off though, as the music is catchy, with an upbeat feel to the tracks, swinging guitars, and keyboards backing the songs up. These14 tracks range from mellow tunes to heavier, grungier anthems, which goes to prove this band have a great diversity. 

If I was prolific with the welsh language, I'm sure I would be singing along, however, I have to do with humming.

Sonia Waterfield


Laika Dog - Mercury (Enable Music) 

Straight away your immersed into the first track, Get Away, which throws itself at you with its in your face attitude, by the time you recover from the onslaught, you’re confronted with Best Learning Curve, which has foot-tapping, southern country rock undertones, a great chorus which has you singing along to before you know it. 

Forever And A Day in contrast, is mellow, chilled and lets you catch up with the soul searching, lyrics, powerful guitars and a rawness about this track. By now, you may be sat there querying why the lead vocals seem strangely familiar. This is because, for those of you who remember Terrorvision, would be aware of Tony Wright who fronts Laika Dog and ex member of Terrorvision, is back on the road. Tony Wright, who hails from Bradford, Yorkshire joined with pals to form Laika Dog, recorded a demo and toured the UK with the release of their first album "Forever and A Day", which sold almost 2000 copies. Now, eighteen months later, Laika Dog return with their 2nd Album, Mercury which is a definite must!!! 

Sonia Waterfield


Joseph Arthur -Nuclear Daydream & Let's Just Be 

Joseph Arthur was born in Akron, Ohio, became a song-writing obsessive in Atlanta, Georgia and later moved to New York where he now resides. In 1996, Arthur would become the first rock artist to sign to Peter Gabriel's Real World label, releasing four albums on the imprint between 1996 and 2002. In July 2005, Arthur released the album Our Shadows Will Remain in the UK through 14th Floor Records.  

Last year, Michael Stipe, alongside Justin Timberlake, Chris Martin and Arthur himself amongst others, recorded six different cover versions of Arthur's poignant track In The Sun, taken from the album Come To Where I'm From, in an effort to raise money for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. 

Joseph Arthur has released Nuclear Daydream and Let's Just Be in the UK through 14th Floor Records on September 3rd.  

Nuclear Daydream is Arthur's fifth full length album which is composed of 12 songs, which consists of hauntingly beautiful tracks which have an enchanting, ethereal quality, which reflect the lyrical content of romance and despair.  

This album has a mix of rock, chill out, mellow and melodic overtones which makes it a great album to sit out on a summers eve and let your senses drift away. 

Lets Just Be was written after Arthur's last tour with his new band The Lonely Astronauts. This album is an eclectic mix of weird and wonderful, and has a lot more grunt than Nuclear Daydream. This really puts Arthur's gritty vocals into place, showing how flexible this artist can be. 

The first track, Diamond Ring, reminds me of T- Rex, with Arthur's vocals ringing out, not unlike Marc Bolan's, and the guitars having a more rockier style to them, with Good Life confusing the senses with its intro leading you into a great rock track with a catchy beat. Spaceman has David Bowie/Ziggy Stardust running through this track, very similar to Starman...but still a good track.

This album may not be to everyone's taste due to the sometimes warped intros, however, I believe you should give it a listen, you may never know.... 

Sonia Waterfield


Stuffy & The Fuses - 'Angels Are Ace' (Sourpuss)

I expected/hoped for petulant angry youth making a vicious angular racket. This is produced by Steve Albini but the cover (rather worryingly) looks like something Muse might consider (presumably there's a nod here to Wim Wenders 'Wings of Angels', honestly a handwritten bit of card would've sufficed) and it begins with what sounds like a Sgt Pepper Beatles-era pastiche... I'm being wrongfooted at every turn... it's an instrumental opener, 'The Champagne Socialists Mid Term BBQ Pt 1', hm... very arch.

And then suddenly in gallop some drums and we lurch into the 'Ahhhh Song'. Have you heard it? It was a single. It's POP!- spirited and effective and loud. Mark Lamarr played it on Radio 2 sitting in for Jonathan Ross. The Devil is in the detail. It sounds like Blur being slightly metallic, 'Song 2' with girlish 'aaahaaahaaahs' replacing the 'woo-hoo's'.

So they've got my attention but then the third track comes on and it sounds like The Kills... but po-faced. Nobody wants to deliberately sound like a po-faced The Kills, do they? Just what are Stuffy/The Fuses about? What did Steve Albini make of them?

More songs, I'm reminded of other bands momentarily such as The Brakes, Ikara Kolt, The Cardiacs even.

It becomes evident that this is going to be an album length album. I'm disappointed. I wanted something incendiary and bewildering, a 20 minute statement of intent/suicide note. A recording that sound like it was made because it absolutely had to be made even if the band splintered/ruptured into shards of skin and bone doing so.

But that's not what Stuffy/The Fuses are about. I think they want a career.

They just remind me of lots of other bands. Some good bands. Linus, a bit, not enough. On 'Kitten Kaboodle' they sound almost like Huggy Bear. Almost. But there's a lot of (read 'too much ') noodly keyboard in the way.

I wanted to be floored by this, to feel old and confused and having to hurriedly reassess everything I'd understood to be the correct order of things up until the point I heard Stuffy/The Fuses, but instead I'm left thinking of bands from before, revolutions come and gone. Perhaps I'm putting too much on Stuffy/The Fuses shoulders. Perhaps I should just accept them for what they are.

'Fear Me Gajin' grabs my attention- it's a bit Urusei Yatsura. It's the most loveable song here. A surefire indie disco hit, bright enough to start insurrectionary fires in teenage hearts, smashed against rocks, lungs full of tar, heads full of hate-filled optimism. If they put it out as a single, buy it.

Very 1993.

Stuffy/The Fuses will either vanish (which would be a shame, there's real promise here when they let rip) or be huge (you heard it here first). The keyboard palyer needs to be restricted to one finger solos only. Preferably the middle one. Aimed forthrightly at old indie farts like me.

Andy Hart


The Bluetones - 'The Early Garage Years' (Cooking Vinyl)

This compiles demos and the like from 1994 on. At the time I was aware The Bluetones were preferable to Shed 7. People who didn't buy into the whole Britpop thing considered them the real deal, people who definitely did buy into the whole Britpop thing considered them wankers... well, around my way. Perhaps it was different where you were. Anyway I was off doing my own thing to pay close attention.

This is actually alright. Perhaps that's the curse of so many bands of that era and that 'tag', being alright wasn't nearly enough.

The songs I recognise as 'hits' are all present and correct: 'Are you Blue Or Are You Blind?'; 'Slight Return' and 'Cut Some Rug'- clearly The Bluetones dug The Smiths and The Stone Roses. There's even a sniff of the early Creation sound, the 'psychedelic punk' formula- perhaps that's just my ears now. It's very Mark And Lard on the Evening Show. Comforting almost, a heater on in a shitty damp bedsit, a mug of tea and a roll up and the radio on- or perhaps that was just my life then.

The home recordings at the end of this CD are particularly charming. The simpler the recording process and the more winning the early Bluetones sound.

Will anyone buy this if they're not a Bluetones fan already?

The CD having ended and I can't help feeling somehow angry (not that it's ended or directly at The Bluetones). Britpop was uniform and conservative, the moment that independent guitar music coalesced into lumpen 'indie'. The Bluetones sound cosy even in these early demo recordings. Britpop soundtracked the early Blair years, was complicit in it... nostalgia for that, a time of giving in and giving up seems wholly perverse. It would've been nice to hear The Bluetones spring some surprises, reveal some edges smoothed away in the step up to Britpop super middleweightism, but they don't.

Shed 7 are on the comeback trail, by the way.

Andy Hart


To My Boy - 'Messages' (Abeano)

Fucking hell, Grandad, it's Electro Pop! Loud! Confusing! Barmy! Mighty Bubblegum Anthemic Electro Pop! And Utterly Necessary!

This is genuine Electro POP! too not some shut-in mimsying about with a Casio ineffectually.

Steve Albini should've produced this, but in To My Boy's futureworld of now Albini is entirely redundant.

To My Boy are all crashing synth stabs and hard pummelling nutty beats (I can say that, I'm 37). This will seriously piss off your parents (particularly if you're 37, especially if your parents met during the Britpop years), alienate your nu-folk loving chums and confuse any of your pals who stick to their rock orthodox texts like they were glued to them.

This is implicitly POP!

The vocals are pleasingly portentous, they match the music for sheer audacity and brio. To My Boy make me grin.

It's good because you can dance (madly) to it or you can pose to it (suck your cheeks in) or you can listen to it on the bus and the world around you won't matter.

'How can you feel alone when you're in the zone?'

I suspect you can do aerobics to it too.

I hear all sorts of random elements here: the first Le Tigre LP; Phil Oakey; 'Zardoz'; 'The Logans Run' movie; Add N to (X) and terrifying Eighties dayglo memories. But it's resolutely POP!

Smart and barmy in equal measure.

'Oh Metal! We Admire Your Form. Our Bodies Are Warm. Let Us Marry...'

What a magnificently complete LP.

'I wonder are you happy? Because I'd like it if you were happy'

Are you scared to get happy?

Andy Hart


The Ponys - 'Turn The Lights Out' (Matador)

The Ponys sound suave, louche even. You know how cool Thurston Moore can be? Sometimes The Ponys sound like that.

They've been blessed with a Steve Albini production in the past and also been produced by Jim Diamond (Dirtbombs, Electric Six, Detroit Cobras).

They come from Chicago.

Here they produce themselves with assistance from John Agnello who co-produced Sonic Youth's 'Rather Ripped' LP and recorded and mixed Dinosaur Jr's 'Beyond' comeback LP.

Both those records are good pointers to the sound here. There's something else going on too though that makes The Ponys sound very much like themselves: a layered approach to sound that you can get lost in, buried under, consumed by.

Some of the songs you could groove to, some you can plain kick back and nod out to, others you can do both. Cosmic epiphanies as you freakout under 40 watt dim bulbs. Picture the kids making out in the desert, on the mountain side, in 'Zabriskie Point', the house exploding in slo-mo at the end. That's how The Pony's sound on 'Turn The Lights Out'.

The Ponys can sound stately, orchestral, elegant, on 'Shine' crystalline guitar lines ring out like your looking directly into the heart of the sun, The Ponys have a sense of drama and the epic but they're never overwrought, they avoid histrionics- thank fuck! I'm guessing The Ponys are creatures of the night, they're familiar with lowlit bars and neon signs fritzing in back alleys. That vibe permeates this record. It's occasionally quite beautiful.

They come from Chicago and they are a ROCK band.

But savvy, with smarts.

There are nods back to the sixties and the seventies, sure, but also the eighties and nineties too (has that put you off?). Ultimately it's a record very much of NOW. The Sonic Youth comparison should be seen as favourable, they sound like SY but with all the noodly quiet/loud fannying about left out. This makes a great companion to 'Rather Ripped'.

It's a solid heck of a record, The Ponys deserve to step up a few rungs in your consciousness. They have the tunes and they have the chops and the licks.

Andy Hart


Magic Bullets - 'A Child But In Life Yet A Doctor In Love' (Words On Music)

Disappointed by the Voxtrot LP?

Magic Bullets from San Francisco sound like Voxtrot when Voxtrot are on fire.

There's a hint of The Strokes (early) about them too.

Magic Bullets nod back to the Eighties, to Orange Juice and The Feelies, there's hints of the Bunnymen.

The guitars chop and chime. I'm reminded of The Bodines, but a more muscular solid sounding Bodines.

Phil Benson's vocals occasionally spin off into Kevin Rowland-style vocal gymnastics. There's something refreshingly earnest about the way he sings.

Magic Bullets perform with passion and soul. You could get swept away on the choppy swells they whirl up in your heart.

'Yesterdays seen better days', the opening track is so complete you may be forgiven for leaving it on repeat. Try not to though, it's a terrific LP, the cover is understated, it doesn't give away what's hidden inside. It seems like a rare find. It is.

Poignant, bittersweet, defiant, romantic.

Some trumpet would've made it indispensable.

Andy Hart


Pikelet - 'S/T' (Chapter Music)

Pikelet is Evelyn Morris from Melbourne, Australia.
In her mid-twenties, Morris is a drummer in a couple of Melbourne area hardcore bands, Baseball and True Radical Miracle.
Pikelet, however, her solo project make folky ambient crushpop, all gossamer honey strand harmonies, accordion, skittering pitter patter drums, layered washes of vocals and tender but tough intimacy.
I'm reminded, to some degree, of Virginia Astley's 'In Gardens Where We Feel Secure', Pikelet don't share the same cow's mooing/churchbells ringing approach to ambient but there's a sense of the same pastoral fragility coupled with a solid purpose and substance that marked '...Gardens...' apart as something significant and markedly at odds with the times it came out in.
Ambient folk or however you choose to describe it is, of course, very much the thing right now but Pikelet sound, for the most part, fresh, new, unencumbered by a 'scene'. Co-produced with, and mixed by, Tortoise/Sea and Cake producer Casey Rice you could make a case for nods to each of those bands, Pikelet's sound/approach however is distinctive, individual. At it's crispest and sharpest Pikelet are all tessellating lace and ice water, sunlight dappled streams and candlelit speckled crystal, smeared sun's rays and wide open spaces.
Pikelet's songs are stories unravelling/knitting into a satisfying enchanting whole. It's a quiet record but it has it's own power.

Andy Hart


The Bird and The Bee - 'S/T' (Blue Note)

Inara George and Greg Kurstin are from LA, they make an elegant electronic light as a feather jazz-inflected pop.
It's supremely and ultimately exhaustingly pleasant, even the track 'Fucking Boyfriend' sounds terribly polite and mannered.
Ultimately, I can't help thinking that if Victoria Beckham wanted to relaunch/revive/resurrect the dessicated husk of her pop career rather than sling herself onto/into the Spice Girls reunion she should have got Kurstin in to produce a set of twinkly sparklers like the one's on display here.
It's the sort of thing you can imagine Sophie Bextor-Ellis trotting out on This Morning or T4 the moment before you go and put the kettle on.
Sterile, inoffensive (even with the use of the word 'fucking'), not actually bad, I imagine this'll be huge.

Andy Hart


Viva Voce-  'Loves You' (Full Time Hobby)

Viva Voce are husband and wife, Kevin and Anita Robinson, originally from Alabama now residing in Portland, Oregon.
This a compilation of some picks from their previous releases- 4 albums of material already including last year's much praised 'Get Yr Blood Sucked Out'- they've supported, and seem pretty tight with, The Shins.
This is a kind of rock record, you know indie rock, it reminds one of The Flaming Lips or The Breeders. You know it's got attitude, it's a little cosmic, the guitars go up to eleven, they get into a groove, they do a lot of boy/girl 'bah bah bah-ing'
They remind me, most pointedly though, of It's Jo and Danny given a Zane Lowe makeover.
They'd whip up a festival crowd I'm sure on a wet, listless bank holiday weekend afternoon.
It's pretty formulaic though, they take some joy in that formula, that keeps the interest up, but it's still a pretty overdone formula.
Tommy Saxondale would nod along to it in his van.

Andy Hart


The Loves 'Technicolour' (Fortuna Pop!)

'The Monkees play The Velvet Underground'.
Actually the Loves are selling themselves short.
Opener 'Je T'aime Moi' is a glorious swirl of guitar and organ rolling on and on, seven minutes of fringe in the eyes ecstasy. POP!
'I My She Love You' kicks off like 'Louie, Louie' (a good thing), all jabbing keyboards and a busy vocal. You can throw yourself around the place with wild girly abandon to his one. POP!
'She'll Break Your Heart... Again' slings samples about here, there and everywhere, it has some massive pummelling drums (smartly swiped from Anna Karina's 'Rollergirl'?) and a glorious lovelorn bratty/pretty boy vocal... fuck! I love this song. POP!
Be still my beating heart.
'The Rainbow Connection' was originally a hit for Kermit the Frog and is a moment to reflect... you can curl up to this one. 'The Rainbow Connection' is a salve for wounded broken hearts. The Loves are here to heal you. POP!
'Xs and Os' could be the ghost of Hue Pooh, or the Teenage Fanclub if they'd stuck with the name Superdrug and rode a glam wave. POP!
'Honey' is brilliant. Another excuse to dance as if your life depended on it... and it does, don't ever forget that. It's over in 1 minute 20. NONE MORE POP!
'Jazz My Bads (For JT)' could be The Bristols or something, a proper garage groover, with more brat vox and some stellar snotty guitar work. I turn my collar up for this one and chew on a matchstick. POP!
'Sad' is another moment's respite... I could imagine Eugene Vaseline singing this one, but who needs him? I presume this is Simon Love handling the main vocals. He's beyond gifted. A pin-up for the ladies, someone to aspire to being for the lads, or either way around, whichever suits. I rock gently from side to side, I'll admit a tear falls... but what's this? It ends with an impromptu organ driven knees up. Everything's going to be alright! POP!
'Summertime' is a collective bright sunny smile. A reminder that 'yeh, everything is going to be alright and here's why'. POP!
'How Does It Feel To Be Loved?' asks some profound questions. Fortunately we're on a merry-go-round and can contemplate the answers as we spin 'round bobbing up and down, our grinning gobs full of chewy. POP!
'(Gimme Gimme) The Good Times' could be Gregory Webster but, no, it's Simon and The Loves. If 'Technicolour' was a Sid and Marty Kroft movie this would be the scene at the end when everything has been resolved, giant psychedelic monsters and bowlhead kids party as one and the picture freezes on The Loves leaping as one into the air. Job done. POP!
'Goodbye' brings proceedings to a close, fittingly. A LULLABY!
Godbless The Loves, between them and Liz Love's band, The School anxious popkid's of the world can unite. TIP TOP POP!

Andy Hart


Pram - The Moving Frontier

Moments of this album, Pram's 9th since forming in 1990, are spooky. Some tracks are eerie. Most of the vocals are soft. It's not a very excited, happy-feeling record, but then again if you're going to call it post-rock, then post-rock normally isn't. Some songs, particularly in the mid part of the record, seem to crawl along, and others still seem like they're attempting to be experimental "Kid A"-era Radiohead songs. Occasional bland moments and unnecessary effects (for instance the grating feedback on "Salt & Sand") do drag the record down at times, but songs like "Iske" and "The Empty Quarter" seem to walk the fine line between using effects for the sake of weirdness and actual spooky, haunting electonica in a way that is Pram's forte. Pram have always been about creating an atmosphere with their music, rather than something that can easily be described in musical terms - borrowing from post-rock, jazz and dub to carve out a melodic but meandering sound of their own. The musical equivalent of a lonely, night train journey at winter - feels haunting at times, but not enchanting enough to warrant repeated listens.

Phil Coales


The Soho Dolls - Ribbed Music for the Numb Generation (Filthy Pretty)

And so to the album that has had a longer gestation period than an elephant. I cast my my mind back to 2004 when I received the original version of 'Ribbed Music...'. Ah yes, those were the days - I was still a wage slave plotting my escape from the rat race with my trusty work colleague best mate during our ever lengthening lunch breaks. Then we had a listen to this CD and it seemed to sum up all the crap we were complaining about. It was just a hand printed CDR with a  few tracks seemingly crafted from the most minimal samplers and drum machines. But man, the songs - such brilliantly sleazy stuff and all performed by 3 girls who would wear school uniforms and prance around in a squash court in their videos. What's not to like?

So fast forward 3 years and here we have the release 'proper'. My mate and I have both long since left our old jobs but what has happened to the Soho Dolls? Well, firstly only Maya remains from the original line up and is joined by a gamut of gothic looking blokes who look like they spend far too much time blow drying their hair. To be honest, I'm not sure what the hell they all do - the present sound is no fuller or complex than the original demos, in fact a lot of the songs lose something by being cleaned up and glossily produced. I want to hear all the hisses and clicks that set off this brand of electro sluttery first time around. But I'll hold my hands up - some tracks sound improved - the oppressively claustrophobic 'Vampire' particularly befitting from a clean up on the mixing desk.

Otherwise I have so many mixed feelings about this record I have found it hard to write about it. Clearly Maya is a brilliant song writer - there are about 9 tracks on this album that instantly get into your head and refuse to be forced out, no matter how many guitar bands you have to listen to. 'Pleasures of Soho', 'No Regrets' and the Ladytron-esque '1724' are all superb. But they set such a high standard in the past that I want even more from this record. It seems to me that 'Ribbed Music...' is the culmination of the machinations of the music business on what was already a highly creative and free-spirited piece of work. It's also taken 3 years to get here - it's not exactly dated but it is very much a sound of now rather than the sound of something fresh (which is what it was like when the demos first arrived). It's genius. It's flawed. It's sleazy. It's so very Soho Dolls.



SixNationState - SixNationState

SixNationState is a frankly awful name for, well, pretty much any sort of band. Shame, then, about the music - my preconceptions are discarded a minute into second track "Keep Dancing", which sounds roughly like Kid Harpoon leading The Coral through a three and a quarter minute indie rock anthem. The summery, bouncing pop of "Caught The Sun" and the slightly angsty "I Hate The Summer" (notice a theme?) seem to suggest that this is the album The Zutons could have recorded for their second offering instead of the reasonably tepid effort that came around. "Taking Me Over" and "So Long" roar (at least the excellent vocals do) along deliciously as possibly two of the best, upbeat indie anthems of the summer gone by, although there aren't really any tracks on this 12 song long debut that are markedly worse than the rest. Shame that it's come around so late, then, but for those cheery weekends this autumn that the sun does decide to make an appearance at, choose a wide smile, choose toe-tapping indie rhythms and choose SixNationState.

Phil Coales


A.Rex - Moving Backwards 

With two groups now named for the most feared dinosaur in history (even though that one in Jurassic Park that spat everywhere gave me nightmares when I was a lad), we’re now able to place them in some kind of arbitrary ferocity scale. If T.Rex were the glam rock gods who sleazed in your ear all night and left a grimy stardust trail all over your shoulder pad, then A.Rex are the ones who invite you in for a cuppa and a quiet game of cribbage.

The Texan twosome (which makes them sound like a wrestling tag-team) have a revolving sideman policy much like The Cure, but while they’re not mould-breaking like Robert Smith’s posse, A.Rex certainly make a sunny, quirky piano-led half an hour and even though they compare themselves to Coldplay, don’t let that put you off and try and get round to listening to a few of their tunes.

They’re derivative and nothing outstanding, certainly, but there’s enough charm, handclapping and sweet ‘n’ low in songs like ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’ and ‘I’m Not The Only One’ to afford them a place on a soundtrack to a movie as quirky as they are, and sometimes it’s better to take a chance on someone dependable than assume the worst of them. But Sugar Ray and Granddaddy might want to send a copy of this album to their lawyers. Just kidding. Try it out, why dont’cha? 

Chris Stanley


Soiled - Shambolic Pyschotic (Elm Lodge)

'Shambolic Psychotic' is not an easy album to write about. In fact it's not that easy to listen to either but that's a matter for later discussion. But we like a challenge so I've given it quite a few listens.

It seems in a lot of places the traditional concept of songs has been dumped in favour of different musical parts that warp and slide over each other - no simple 3 second pauses between each track. In style the music itself ranges from freeform sampling set within eerie soundscapes to more structured lo-fi industrial music. For example 'Night Van Kidnap' manages to cruise between those two points and back again within the space of  4 minutes. The faster, beatier parts not being too far away from some of the Coil remixes of Nine Inch Nails.

Other parts seem to be full of hissing static and clutter as unseen projectors whir and clatter. 'Ikiller' is a particularly nasty piece of work, some tonal bleeping does little to brighten up the deliberately bleak throbbing backing. But this is nothing compared to the unremitting machine-like hum of 'Brain Guacamole'.

As an album 'Shambolic Psychotic' gives me an overriding sense of claustrophobia and bleakness. Now that could be seen as a bad thing but in this case I'd still give it a whole hearted thumbs up. There's a temptation to want your music easily formed into palatable pieces which can be consumed with little expenditure of effort and energy. I would forgive anyone who simply turned their back on this after 10 minutes of listening. But they'd be missing out on the increasing level of complexities that appear with every listen, the hidden dance vibe of 'Major Chunter', the gentle vibrato on 'Steve's Self: Lost in Transit', the gurgling epitaph of 'Where We Too'. Soiled aka Marcus H occupies a harsh musical world. Dare you join it too?



Les Savy Fav – Let's Stay Friends – Frenchkiss 

A bit embarrassing this one.  I listened to it once, slightly out of earshot, and now I’ve lost the CD. 

What I do remember is that it sounded totally the opposite of how I imagined.  Fair enough, I was only going on the cover for guidance, which depicts a lovely painted forest scene. Oh and the promotional material; but I expected Belle and Sebastian and I got something closer to a fight between the Datsuns and Arcade Fire, with the Datsuns winning the fight quite easily. 

I remember that it was really quite good, loads going on, plenty of instruments and good songs.  I shouted through to the kitchen for it to be turned up at one point and Mrs Ian Anderson, tersely, responded; ‘this is a bit thrashy for half ten in the morning’, which was a fair point. 

There’s hip, posturing, vocals a plenty and variation, subtle changes, obvious changes, clever lyrics and… shit I really need to find the CD. 

I’ve written ‘lo-fi’ on a piece of paper next to ‘Les Sav’, so there’s a good chance it has a bit of quirky/clunky production too.  I just had a sneaky look on their myspace and they’re from Brooklyn, which is suitably exotic for their influences to be very eclectic and for them to be some kind of currently-esoteric soon to be playlisted type of band. So yeah, at least check out their website or something. Brilliant band, I think.

Ian Anderson


Oceansize – Frames - Superball 

Listening to Oceansize, it’s possible to fleetingly feel nostalgic for those wilderness years of 1997 to 1999, when you had to dig a little deeper to find decent music. Anyone for the Bloodhound Gang and Toploader on the cover of NME? Or Limp Bizkit on the radio? Nasty memories.

But just below the surface of possibly the drabbest musical period of recent times, bands like Spiritualized, Mogwai, the Beta Band, Mercury Rev and the Flaming Lips were churning out epic, progressive, droning melancholy, which I clung to like driftwood (aargh even worse memories!), having taken the leap overboard into the swollen rancid waters. 

In small patches of insignificance, Oceansize recall the progressive and heady sonics of those aforementioned bands, but Christ do they take their time about it. Every single song builds at a pace that even the craftsmen working on La Sagrada Familia would describe as ‘ponderous’.  

The main criticism is that often there’s not really enough going on, in the subtle parts of each song, to make you want to listen again. Its just a bit ploddy and dull. 

For the sake of brevity, and partly through a yearning for it, I’ll sum up: 

All in all, a bit of a duffer.

Ian Anderson


For Friendship Sake - “Demo 07” (self-Released) 

On local label Zone 6, FFS are a small pop-punk band in a big London hardcore scene. They recorded Demo 07 in their bassist’s bedroom in about an hour so that they could have something to give out at shows while supporting Set Your Goals on their UK tour this summer. With a short intro and 3 songs, Demo 07 is what you’d expect: a collection of rough-cut pop-punk songs with bouncy guitar riffs and high-vocals. Deeper into their songs you hear some of that London hardcore with the drum build-up in ‘Start Your Shooting!’ and gang vocals in ‘Sinking Ships’. Halfway between Blink 182’s Dude Ranch and New Found Glory’s S/T album, fingers crossed FFS stick through the shitty recordings to keep putting a smile on the scene.

Willa C


Asking Alexandria - “The Irony of Your Perfection” (Hangmans Joke) 

I feel bad for Asking Alexandria. I have family in Dubai, their hometown, so I know the scene there is limited to the occasional alternative CD that sneaks it’s way in and whichever mainstream band is doing a world tour. And that’s exactly what they sound like: some kid picking up a JamisonParker album and mixing it with the kind of moves they saw Metallica bust at the annual Desert Rock Festival.

While they may easily be cited as the ‘bestest, hardest band in all Dubai’, that doesn’t actually mean they’re good. They have heavy riffs and a pissed-off attitude with a growl to match, but if you balance that against the fact that about 3 minutes into every song they start whining pitifully. Along with song titles like ‘Numb in a Matt of Screams’ and ‘Bitter Revenge, Sweet Tragedy’ they get a gold star for effort but a whole lotta red ‘x’s for a weak argument.

Willa C


Descent - “This Violent Reality” (Corellian) 

As much as I hate metal-except-for-a-few-bands-which-I-can-easily-count-on-one-hand, I can still tell the difference between bad metal and good metal. Voted Top 10 Unsigned Bands in Terrorizer two years in a row, Descent are paralysis inducing-head-bangingly good. Even if you have to be careful with any band described with one of the ‘core’ subgenres, if this is what ‘death thrash core metal’ like then definitely check out Descent tracks ‘My Failure’, ‘Nothings Changed’, ‘Bust of the Fallen’ and ‘Empty Words’.

Willa C


Motion City Soundtrack - “Even if it Kills Me” (Epitaph) 

The thing that makes MCS stand out from the fresh-faced California boys singing about girls and spat out by the Decaydence/Drive-Thru pop-punk machine was Weezer-fanatic Justin Pierre’s crazy big hair, NHS-style specs and self-depreciating lyrics littered with pop-culture references along with upbeat guitar riffs and Moog!

Their second album was produced by Blink 182’s Mark Hoppus and saw them become more mainstream so no-one knew what to expect with their third album. Even If It Kills Me at first sounded like they’d traded their synth-guitar balance for a Hellogoodbye-style of just laying those electronic beats thick over every song. But after a few more listens it seems The lyrics are more fractured but still with quirky, classic lines like ‘let’s get wrecked on Pop-Tarts and sex!’ in songs like ‘It Had To Be You’ and ‘Antonia’. Now I can’t stop listening to it.

Willa C


Boltdown - “Omnicide” (Hangmans Joke) 

Never judge a book by it’s cover, but with Boltdown’s album cover of a skeleton wearing a bomb and surrounded by..uh..skulls; you can guess what this Newcastle four-piece sounds like. Metaaaaal, of the brutal sort. Stand out tracks: ‘Act and the Mind Will Follow’, ‘Blind Faith’ and ‘Forced To Submit’. I have a headache now.

Willa C


Russell Joslin - Dream Token (2+2 Records) 

Sleep can do funny things to you. Keith Richards memorably thought up the riff to ‘Satisfaction’ in his sleep, which was in no way drug-induced. Paul McCartney woke up with the song ‘Yesterday’ buzzing around his Scouse nut, although at that point it was called ‘Scrambled Eggs,’ which may have had something to do with the fact his room was next to the hotel kitchen. Music is replete with such examples of that hyper-state between sleep and waking being an aid to creativity.

Russell Joslin, in my opinion, needs a psychiatrist. He has issues. They come out in his sleep, and now he’s even singing them. Okay, you got me – I don’t think he’s naturally a raving nutter, but his debut album is deliciously twisted enough to make me waver over that conviction.

Using an acoustic as his main springboard, Russell brutalises the instrument, twanging strings and scything across the soundhole like scratching a particularly nasty sore, and his vocals rip across his music, conjuring a picture of the London Underground’s most confrontational and therefore least popular busker.

‘Dirty Company’ and ‘The Belly of the Beast’ are great examples of Joslin’s own particular brand of acoustic madness – he’s a great wordsmith and vocalist and in performance must be quite something. Tune-wise there are elements of The Coral, The Zutons and certain songs off the La’s debut album, but surprisingly despite his vocal delivery Joslin hails from Brighton.

I’m not sure how popular this will prove to be in the long run, but for what it’s worth I loved it. It’s been a long time since a singer-songwriter consciously inhabited the darkest of corners, and for that I applaud ‘Dream Tokens.’ At times it seems like the minutes of an anger management therapy group set to music, but for a genuinely unsettling and brave debut, this album demands attention. 

Chris Stanley


mewithoutYou -‘Brother Sister’ (Strange Addiction)

The Press release certainly offered a lot ‘The sound of a band breaking boundaries and bringing forth a new era in music’ however their music to me does not live up to a band who are bringing forth a ‘new era’ of music. The singer on this album seems to be trying to sound a bit like Brighteyes, unfortunately it’s not quite working. The lead singers voice in my opinion is the weakest part of this whole album, although it is bearable and sees to change throughout the album. Many of the songs have some interesting hooks and riffs The bonus track ‘January 1979’ is an attractively up tempo aggressive song, as is ‘Nice and Blue (pt two)’.
Throughout the album I have not found myself listening particularly intently to the words. The vocals seem to have quietly passed me by but I have found myself enjoying the album the more I listen.
This is the bands 3 release, the first officially released in the UK. I can see elements of Modest Mouse creeping into these songs, I can’t quite pick what it is. I would not say that this and was breaking boundaries but they are a worthy listen. See what you think.

Gareth Ludkin


Ray Lamontagne - Till the Sun Turns Black 

Intimate and comfortable, Ray Lamontagne's 'Till the Sun Turns Black' is a refreshing change to his last album. I feel like I have stepped into his private life of cherished memories gone by, his coarse jagged vocals whisper in your ear whilst Spanish style guitars, violins and pianos fill your head.

This album flows well and is perfect for a sensitive soul, like a good book taking you to another time and place that anyone can relate to.

Stacey Wilkinson


Charlie Parr – Jubilee

Released quite some time ago this year – March I think – I have only just managed to get my lugs wrapped around this hearty, traditional country blues album, which instantly takes you back to Texas and the American countryside. Recorded in a garage this album really is home grown. Charlie Parr’s country lyrical style layered on basic instruments. The music is sensible, reliable and trustworthy. Much like a trusty old tractor this music will keep going and going it’s still got its place. Every so often it’s nice to be taken back to traditional country American blues far too few people are embracing, Get your banjo’s and Harmonica’s out and lets have a ho down!!

Gareth Ludkin