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  albums - november 2007



The Weakerthans – Reunion Tour – Burning Heart Records 

Small town Canadian life permeates through this record like Manchester flows through the sound of the Smiths, or Sheffield is conveyed by the Arctic Monkeys. Expressed through the cynically executed mundanity of the lyrics, the expansive structures of the songs and the simple, bleak textures.  The sound is stereotypically DIY, lyrically, there’s tales of sheer insignificance, amplified as if to emphasise some Zen-like quality in their unappreciated utilitarian existence. Musically, the pace is rarely above mellow, the guitar solos meander and the vocals are worked into the thread of the sound, rather than being showcased for the singer’s natural talent.  Everything is played out neatly and tidily. It works, but it can get bogged down in the details, becoming meaningless and transient.  Musically, there’s often nothing to set the band apart from literally hundreds of straight up indie bands, and its here that the Weakerthans are exposed as flat, slightly limp and lacking in depth. Songs like Tournament of Hearts simply pass you by and wash over the listener. 

But, there’s beauty lurking within, particularly on some of the slower, more carefully executed numbers like Virtue the Cat Explains Her Departure, which is a tale as per the title. Amazingly, it’s actually quite touching, with an aching, slow burning pace and intensity which creeps up almost imperceptibly.  In a different vein, the spoken word of Elegy for Gump Worsley is an interesting diversion, but the main substance of the album, the band at their most comfortable, is, like their Canadian hometown, desolate and forgettable.

Ian Anderson


Felix Da Housecat – Virgo Blacktro and the Movie Disco – Wall of Sound

A real mixed bag from the veteran producer. Some of the tracks on here, like Moviedisco and Its Been a Long Time sound exactly like other people’s old music, those particular tracks both coming across as a eulogy to Air’s Moon Safari.

But, when Felix finally stumbles across his own original ideas its very very good. Sweetfrosti gets stuck into a brilliant little hook immediately with off kilter lyrics and nice production tweaks and suddenly everything sounds excellent and original. Similarly, when drawing on all that experience and channelling it into the funk-charged minimal electro brilliance of Monkey Cage, it works really well.  Another stand out track is Tweak, which is a grimy slice of minimal house.

But, there’s an abundance of cheap vocoder tricks which would even put Cher to shame.  From Like Something for Porno, to Radio and on to I Seem 2b the1, Future Calls the Dawn and Night Tripperz Felix shows a worrying tendency to add grating and dated vocal effects. A shame, because with a little less Euro-pop standard vocal talent and a bit more class, this could have been an essential album.  As it is, there’s some wonderful singles waiting to be released and a lot of dodgy filler.

Ian Anderson


Marc Bolan & T.Rex - 30th anniversary vinyl singles 

Never learning to drive for fear of premature death, on September 16th 1977 his greatest trepidation came to pass. A speeding car driven by partner Gloria Jones hit a tree on Barnes Common instantly killing the legend that is Marc Bolan. To commemorate his death as well as to coincide with the pleasing vinyl revival, Demon Music have released three 7” limited edition beauty’s which praise three of Bolan's biggest hits along side previously unavailable b-sides.  

At the peak of his existence this inspiring singer/songwriter and guitarist whose hit singles, outlandish fashion sensibilities and unique stage presence with T.Rex in the early 1970’s helped cultivate the glam rock era. Criticised by many and adored by more, Bolan's over sexed lyrical style and image helped widen the scope of popular music still influencing many of today’s popular artists. His place in musical history has well and truly been marked out while his glam-era pop idol/far out hippy status is still celebrated to this day. 

Opening ironically with a song about cars ‘Metal Guru’ was the bands forth and final number 1. Released in 1972 its almost cheesy nature manages to tick every glam rock box. The rolling riff and catchy chorus all bundled in with a swagger that defines this great band suggests that no wonder ‘Metal Guru’ topped the charts for 4 weeks. Next up and the first of three b-sides (taken from tapes uncovered by a seriously dedicated Norwegian fan) is ‘The Slider’. Simple and raw in its approach yet somewhat beautifully adorned in its output ‘The Slider is probably meant for T.Rex purists. However ‘Children of the Revolution’ also released in 1972 is one of those instantaneous classics. This teenage rebellion-based tune was critically blasted for its change in the bands overall tempo, however its immediately recognisable riff allows it self to burrow deep inside your brain leaving a highly satisfying dent. Less distinguished is ‘The Leopards’. Here the band offers up a more Rock n Roll simplicity accompanied by typically obscure lyrics. Stripped to its bones, hand claps to boot T.Rex produce a sound here that The Velvet Underground would be pleased to call their own. ‘20th Century Boy’ needs no explaining and is as infectious as Marc Bolan himself, proof of a genius. Lastly ‘Teenager in love’ (Marc and Gloria’s acoustic duet) is the weakest of all the tracks as it’s just not that good. Half way through the song Bolan adopts a highly questionable and extremely unnecessary Elvis impersonator vocal performance, but it’s amusing none the less.   

Bolan's mind was unusually in the extreme and the sound of his music was equally unique, extraordinary and revolutionary with hits aplenty. By 1974 however the glitter was beginning to diminish and the formula of glam rock was looking tattered. By the fateful mini-ride of 1977 it all came to an end. He’d sealed his place in the many hearts of a generation and left behind a whole private universe of his art to ponder over, which inevitably and rightly so have stood the test of time.

Amie Kimpton


Dylan Donkin – Food For Thoughtlessness (Wall of Sound) 

Dylan Donkin. What a name. Whether his music is any cop or not is a mere detail really. But for arguments sake Food For Thoughtlessness is a boring sounding collection of songs. Dylan himself even seems to sound disinterested as his drags his voice through pseudo country songs. Granted he is American, but that country twang on The Commonaut does not sound 100% authentic. Fall Through The Wall has so blatantly ripped off the guitar from Street Spirit by Radiohead that it’s embarrassing, and certainly isn’t going to fly with an English audience.  The piano Dylan uses on Yolk sounds horrifically out of tune, and not in a cool arty way either.

Food For Thoughtlessness has certainly got an air of the ‘can’t be bothereds’ about it. It seems most of the time Dylan barley articulates his words properly and the musicianship is of a basic level. Whether or not Dylan is capable of more or not is up for debate, but as he hasn’t bothered with this album, why should you.

Catriona Boyle


Paperlung – Balance (Shify Disco Records) 

Paperlung is the new band of Boo Radley’s lead singer Sice. You know the ones, the one that had that one good song about waking up. Bizarrely, Sice now sounds more like a Pet Shop Boy than an indie-pop front man.  Musically though, Sice doesn’t seem to have evolved at all. The Ashes Of Your Life shows some hope of being something other than generic watery indie pop with its string-laden intro, spiky guitars, and a chorus so full of melody its reminiscent of the Beach Boys.  

Sice appears unable to leave his nineties dreary indie routes behind, and A Cautionary Vision Of  The Future sounds like a Stereophonics track. And not one of their better ones either. Track 9 is entitled ‘Same Mistake’. You can work that one out for yourselves I think. Perhaps by the time the next decade rolls around Sice will start making some decent music.

Catriona Boyle


Clone Quartet – Well-Oiled Machine (Small Town American/Tiger Trap) 

Well this is a bit exciting. Funky electro riffs combined with stabby guitars and proper non-elctronified vocals. Album opener Carousel will start your shoulders wiggling and by the end of the album you won’t be able to contain yourself.  

Although nu-rave is certainly on its way out, Well-Oiled Machine is one last hurrah proving , that when it’s done properly, it’s not just about prancing about in fluorescent slogan emblazoned t shirts from New Look. Twenty Five (Kane Was A Curse) is almost industrial sounding, with heavy guitars and shouted vocals mixed with manic synths. Now quite sure what Orson Welles would make of it though.   

Clone Quartet have got their vintage synth noises down to a tee- some of the sound like they’ve been recorded directly from inside a LaserQuest. Sadly though, as Irish accents often do, vocally the band sounds more like an American college rock band than the Irish boys they really are, especially on Hold On. Sort it out boys. 

The title track, Well-Oiled Machine is an absolute jumble of instruments, from flute  to military style drumming, via computer game riffs and dirty guitar. Funnily enough though it sounds rather good.  

Yes it’s been done before, and will undoubtedly be done again, but unlike everyone else, Clone Quartet have nailed the indie/dance hybrid squarely on the head.

Catriona Boyle


Collaborator – Moving On  

Moving On, to put it bluntly, is a close to a perfect example of ‘dad rock’ that you could ever hope to find. No, not the slightly dodgy music that dads listen to, but music made by actual dads who, whilst listening to some dad rock one day thought, ‘I could do that’. And, rather upsettingly, someone let them.  

Cue Moving On. Over sincere and very dodgy sounding vocals, annoying 3 note guitar riffs, and general cheeseiness ensures. Using a Michael Moore sample to prove you’re down with the kids is more than cringe-worthy, as is the spoken word section on Canada.

Whether Collaborator are actually looking for a musical career or not is really neither here nor there. Dad rock. For dads, and now made by dads.

Catriona Boyle


Fair To Midland – Fables From A Mayfly: What I Tell You Three Times Is True (Universal Republic Records) 

If you can get over the rather pretentious album title enough to actually play the CD, then you’ll find some rather pretentious music inside. Fair To Midland are singed to Serj Tankian’s label, and his influence is a little more than subtle throughout the record. The words ‘vocal style’ and ‘complete rip off’ might be thrown around. Granted though, there are worse people to imitate and it’s nice to here some rock with a bit of attitude instead of all this namby -pamby emo stuff.  

There are some quiet points, but they’re usually followed by an onslaught of loud. Some of the lyrics featuring townspeople and the like are a little over the top, and generally there’s not a lot of sense to be made from them, but hey who cares when you’re rocking out.  

In today’s current market Fair To Midland will sound a little dated, but it’s good solid stuff and that kind of music never goes out of fashion.

Catriona Boyle


Cats On Fire - The Province Complains

From Finland, Cats On Fire come with mellow, chilled pop tunes. Heavily influenced by bands like The Smiths, Pulp and Belle and Sebastian. Tuneful pop melodies are abundant on this album, which induce a nod and a toe tap once in a while. However I did find the album slightly bland, many of the songs ran into each other to create one over all mellow mash of chilled pop. Disappointingly bland but with some interesting highlights, their music has a long way to go to match Belle and Sebastian et al.
Gareth Ludkin 


VietNam – VietNam – Kemado Records 

Soaked in whiskey and drenched in blues, sounding familiar, retro, brand new and warmingly affected, New York four piece VietNam craft hard to pin down blues combined with swirling feedback and nonchalant sonics. Imagine Spacemen 3 charged with a shot of Rolling Stones and you’ve pretty much got it. Vocally, Michael Gerner flits between Dylan and Jagger as showcased on ‘Preist Poet and the Pig’ where the lyrics flow effortlessly like those of Dylan, painting metaphoric imagery and ringing with genuine emotion and swagger. 

Production is homely and organic with guitars pinging loud off the top of the treble and then fuzzing warmly during Gerner’s lamenting, mournful introspection on ‘Apocalypse’. The album could have been conceived in pretty much any era, but most people would probably place it in the very late 60s or early 70s. It’s no bad thing, after the constant recent re-hashing of 1975-84. 

Mr Goldfinger is an anthemic, wheezing, sure-fire single, with Garner opining that ‘money and class is just a pain in the ass for me’, its not Shakespeare, but I defy you not to be whistling it much later in the day. The song breaks into a scuzzy waltz and grinds to a rousing halt.  

It’s the lengthy ballad ‘Toby’ which showcases the ability of VietNam to build a wall of feedback and intensity. But there’s a bit of a dip in the middle the album with ‘Gabe’ fading slightly into the background, ‘Welcome to My Room’ sounding like an out-take from the Second Coming and ‘Hotel Riverview’ taking the blueprint of ‘Toby’ and not really building on it. But closing track ‘Summer in the City’ recalls Spiritualized at their gentle slow-burning best and the finale ‘Too Tired’ is a powerful parting shot; Gerner protesting and opining about a broken relationship while the lead guitar of Josh Grubb wails through a meandering solo. There’s some pointless jazz-skiffle ten minutes end to remind you to turn the CD off too, which is nice of them / shit.

Ian Anderson


Mick Jagger – The Very Best of (Rhino)

Oh no Mick, don’t do it. Don’t re-release your solo efforts onto an unsuspecting public! You probably haven’t heard much (any?) of Mick Jagger’s eponymous work. Arguably for good reason, given that most of the music was released in the mid to late 80s and was pretty dated even then. The ravages of time and fresh faces with fresher ideas caught up on the blind side of Mr Jagger during his solo career, rendering a lot of this work, even the more recent efforts, obsolete immediately to all but die hard Stones fans.  Tellingly, his collaboration with Bowie, which should be dynamic and clever, is a cod-funk re-hash of Dancing in the Street and it works about as well as the Chernobyl reactor. 

The sleazy gold lame tinged 80s disaster that is Just Another Night is sheer dad-in-the-disco kitsch, but even with its 80s snare snap and cheesy synth it pales into the realms of good taste next to Lucky in Love “suddenly I’m dangerous, I’m betting on a filly down at the track, a natural born winner that’s a fact,” – heard enough yet? Yeah me too, sorry Mick.

Ian Anderson


Various - Out of The Woods and Trees (Dance To The Radio)

If you're looking for a quality Christmas stocking filler for under a fiver for that difficult-to-buy-for indie youth, look no further. This budget label sampler from revered Leeds label Dance To The Radio features no less than 20 tracks and paints a very healthy picture of the state of the indie nation. Naturally, there are some names here which are more familiar than others. The Pigeon Detectives, the biggest band on the roster in terms of chart success and radio play, contribute 'Left Alone', which swaggers and bounces along in the band's usual cheery fashion. Other areas of familiar territory are proffered by Forward Russia, with their most recent single 'Don't Be A Doctor', and Howling Bells, whose supreme quality shines through here like a big shiny thing with extra polish. Of course, we already know that these bands are ace, so what about the up-and-coming bands, the bands that will shape the future sound of the label?

Well, from what's featured here, it's certainly promising. A band called You Slut! are never going to get much airplay, but their soaring instrumental post-rock is capable of great things, as showcased here on the excellently-titled 'MyBloodyJesusExplorerOnFire'. The slightly startling sound of Grammatics on 'The Manageress' is in parts like listening to the aural equivalent of a quadratic equation, but nevertheless it had me reaching for the repeat button, erm, repeatedly.

Elsewhere, The Chapman Family do a passable impression of Maximo Park whilst delivering a deceptively catchy tune (which obviously somewhat spoilt the impression for me). Vessels slow things right down with the stunning post rock ambience of 'Happy Accidents', which lulls the unsuspecting listener into a dribbling, semi-conscious state before delivering a few sharp smacks around the ears. Very nice if you like that sort of thing. Nods of respect should also be given to The Wallbirds for the loveable, sing-along country pop of 'Desperate', and to Shut Your Eyes And You'll Burst Into Flames for the rather irresistible dance-rock of 'Futures Rewired'.

Indeed, there isn't one single track here which could be even remotely described as a stinker, which is an amazing feat to say there are 20 tracks here by 20 different bands and artists. It's got the quality, it's got the quantity, it's a bargain and it should be on your letter to Santa.

Tony Robinson


The Ironweed Project - Dustbowl (Fat Northerner) 

The man behind The Ironweed Project, Aniff Akinola, describes himself as a ‘hip hop alchemist’. He croons like a Barry White, who’d sold his soul in Mississippi and gotten into drum ‘n’ bass. Throughout the album, titled ‘Dust Bowl’, I’m waiting for the singer to break out as the Chef from South Park and ask me to suck on his chocolate salty balls or tell me that he didn’t bother making proper music “cos he got high”.

Dust Bowl is perhaps more interesting in its concept that its musical achievements. It’s an open invitation for collaborators, who are encouraged to download Ironweed’s instrumental tracks and remix them to be released alongside his next main album.

‘Get on the Floor’ would make a great dance-floor hit with its funk style and by the fourth track, things seem to be picking up; ‘All By Myself’ opens with Moby-esqe vibes. The strengths of this track lie in the glimpses of the Seasick Steve-style blues guitar riffs and the absence of the Barry White crooning. But it suffers from a weak skittering drumbeat, which does not add strength to the floating vocals. It’s the same story with ‘Lovemakers’ that has some good guitar licks and ‘Brown Sugar’, which starts well with a female vocalist but both plummet when Aniff’s Afroman imitation begins. There is little definition between tracks due to Aniff’s limited vocal ability; more musical input would improve The Ironweed Project immensely.

This is novelty music, which instils a need to laugh out loud. The Ironweed Project cannot be taken seriously. But maybe Aniff doesn’t want it to be. 

Jenny Williams


Bassboosa - s/t 

Bassboosa’s ambient self-titled album opens stunningly. ‘Cry’ has a funky bass line, good beat, satisfying melody and a beautiful piano line that glides over the top. Band members, Tim and Jasmine, seem to have created a perfect balance between electronic and acoustic pop. Listening to this track makes you want to be as wholesome as their atmospheric music.

Whilst Jasmine’s vocals are certainly expressive, tracks ‘Wish I Didn’t’, ‘Dry Clay’ and ‘Little Hell’ suffer from a lack of confidence and an overreaching for high notes, which are essentially jarring. Jasmine is at her best when she sticks to the low notes and produces sultry perfection. Definite influences in vocal style are drawn from the likes of Alanis Morrisette but are also reminiscent of Alisha’s Attic and Lucie Silvas. 

‘Lost’ has a brilliant melody but the standout track is unquestionably ‘Wicked Game’. This track is, disappointingly, a cover but nevertheless a cover covered well. More disappointingly, the track serves to highlight the lack of strength in Bassboosa’s own material, which has the danger of dissolving into a bland mush.  

It’s well- made moody pop, demonstrating excellent production skills and providing a creative variation of vocal and instrumental arrangements, to give an engaging listen. It even has aesthetically pleasing packaging. But, ultimately, this duo fails to stir any excitement.  

Jenny Williams  


To Rococo Rot - ABC123

This time around, Berlin-Düsseldorf trio To Rococo Rot cut the drums, bass, and analogue crap and stick to a single computer and a Yamaha vss30. Influenced by the works of John Cage and open-space theory, ‘ABC123’ sounds like a digital light show for the deaf where blocks of coloured light bulbs blink to rhythmic patterns. Don’t get me wrong, the ‘deaf ’ bit is not a sly remark on the record’s cacophonous textures. In fact, it’s entirely un-cacophonous and therapeutically beautiful. The razor sharp sparks of ‘Freitag’ cut right through its pillow-soft foundations, resembling the nocturnal delights of The Knife. It’s precise, subtle changes make for fascinating timbres without sounding overly-premeditated or calculated, which is a common slandering of similar minimalist electronic music. The petite twenty-one minute arrangement make-for-a twenty-one minutes well spent and a-twenty-one minutes of brilliantly discreet music to tip-toe to. ‘ABC123’ proves just how To Rococo Rot’s newly found “short time frame, simple setup” works entirely in their favour. 

RJ Rodriguez-Lewis


Mrs Duncan - Granny Takes a Trip 1980 (Topplers)

Topplers Records summer release ‘Granny Takes a Trip’ is every charity shopper’s dream. Topplers Record execs claim that they actually found this recording of an elderly woman spouting her old-skool blog-before-there-were-blogs-like holiday thoughts, in a charity shop. Two thirty-minute recordings take us on a trip with Mrs Duncan through France, Holland, and Belgium. The best bit in first recording titled ‘Paris, France, Holland, Belgium’ is when Mrs Duncan counts over twenty potatoes on her plate during one of her first holiday suppers. The streak-ridden, inconsistent soundscape that accompanies the spoken word begins underneath the voice, but during second recording ‘Mae West, Riots, Broken Bones’ it overstays its welcome and takes away from Mrs Duncan’s voice.  

Instrumentation is ambiguous and shallow, sounding like an awkward attempt to fill up space in its contrasting textures and no real connection to words spoken. The real triumph here is the decision to release these recordings, but not the decision to include instrumental mumblings about Mrs Duncan’s mumblings, which make the parts where Mrs Duncan’s words are free from the musical accompaniment all the more enjoyable. At this point, a musical voice pattern emerges within her sweet Scot accent, round and consistently gentle. It’s a recording of stark contrasts: the homely and warm mould of Mrs Duncan’s voice and the conflicting, bleak, instrumental interruptions. The musical accompaniment makes me really angry, which makes me more jealous that I didn’t find Mrs Duncan’s original recording myself.

RJ Rodriguez-Lewis


Shatner - Thirteen O’Clock 

Let’s get it straight – there is no genre known as “space pop”. There was the theme tune to ‘The Jetsons’ and that crap Star Wars album but back here on terra firma it’s merely the over-use of the Foo Fighters favourite effect, the flanged guitar. Or so I would argue, although Shatner are veterans of it, but then they do seem to have a mild affection for Star Trek, which I hate. I shouldn’t like this, but I do.

In fact, I’m surprised I haven’t heard of Shatner before because they’re a really funny, really on the ball kind of group. They’re not a comedy band, but they know how to be blackly humorous and witty and their lyrics have genuine invention. Added to this, their tunes are pretty catchy and in all, they put me in mind of their fellow Leeds residents, Kaiser Chiefs.

And I think there lies the problem. I would go as far as to say Shatner are cleverer and wittier than Kaiser Chiefs, but they haven’t got anything that’s as insanely catchy as the Kaisers. It’s almost as if Shatner are too knowing to be taken seriously, and that’s why they’ve ended up as the bridesmaids. Either that, or someone spotted they were from Leeds and thought they were Chumbawamba.

In one of those parallel universes their Canuck namesake was so fond of visiting, it would have been Shatner that were Leeds’ premier musical satirists, but I would heartily recommend a listen to ‘Thirteen O’Clock,’ if only to hear ‘Nude Woman’ and learn how to chat up girls properly. 

Chris Stanley


Computerchemist - Atmospheric (Terrainflight) 

With the advent of home computing and music software getting cheaper and more powerful by the week, it’s inevitable that a large proportion of the music that gets composed and downloaded will be made entirely in the garage or garden shed. This may be no bad thing, especially if you’re an anti-capitalist with scraggy dreads and an acoustic guitar. It’s remarkable to think of the potential at one’s fingertips, given that there is more computing power in a modern scientific calculator than was available to the NASA scientists that put a man on the moon.

Which brings me, with calculated neatness, to Computerchemist, also known as Dave Pearson. The Staffordshire songsmith has his own home studio with oodles of kit and likes to make expansive, stellar-influenced ambient beats. The title track of his latest release contains sounds gleaned from Cluster-2, a satellite that monitors the earth’s magnetic fields. You can’t get much more expansive than outer space, and as all of the tracks weigh in at seven minutes plus, you can’t accuse Dave of being bereft of ideas.

Quite what Dave wants to achieve with his home studio is his business alone, but back on planet Earth I’m afraid the likes of JK and Joel won’t be interested whatever the concept. But what I will say is that ‘Atmospheric’ shows a genuine love of soundtracking and psychedelic mood music, and I’m sure if Mr. Pearson pursued that alley, his music would find a wider audience. 

Chris Stanley


Gecko - Terrible Lizard 

British rap artists seem doomed to failure before you even open your eras to them. There’s just something about the British public that won’t accept the image of mean streets and guns, even though this country seems to be facing the biggest social crisis of its history. It’s not acceptable to compare say, Cheltenham to the south side of Chicago.

So what’s the solution, given that rap music is incredibly popular and something for British kids to aspire to? Simply put, to create your own voice with it. Mike Skinner had unprecedented success with his Mockney aesthetic but that didn’t make him “real,” rather a parody that nobody but students and listeners to the Radio One Breakfast Show would look up to. No skinny British kid has managed to sound convincing yet.

Will Sanderson-Thwaite (AKA Gecko MC) gives it a go and is surprisingly adept at making his words fit the music. He knows what he is (which is not a wannabe gangster, but something closer to a street performer) and so his words come laced with a heavy dose of sarcasm and humour. Anyone who can include the line ‘Samwise prefers the Shire to Mordor’ in a rap about how talented he is (‘Terrible Lizard’) is not only worth listening to, but piss-funny to boot.

For an entirely self-produced album it’s a brave move, and Gecko has clearly got testicles the size of oak barrels to put himself up for ridicule. After all, white rappers have always got a rough ride, such as Eminem and Vanilla Ice (too white and too shite, respectively), but if Will S-T can raise his middle finger correctly then he shouldn’t have too much to worry about. 

Chris Stanley


Jeans Goes POP! - In Glorious Technicolor 

Naming your band after one member can sometimes be a dangerous business. It sets out who you are, your mission statement. For example, the Tom Robinson Band followed the lead singer’s sexual politics and his love of out-of-town driving. Steve Miller Band were naturally cynical and sardonic. It can sometimes fail – if The Kooks had named themselves after Luke Pritchard, they’d be too offensive to play on the radio.

The prize for stupid is as stupid does is Paul Jeans, the one man nucleus of Jeans Goes Pop! He’s a multi-instrumentalist (the last three syllables can sometimes be found inside brackets) whose debut is as flighty and fancy-free as any chart fluff. Loads of piano, some tasty rhythms and jingly-jangly guitar spread across eleven tracks, ‘In Glorious Technicolor’ isn’t what I’d term pop exactly, but I’d treat it just the same.

At its heart, ‘In Glorious Technicolor’ is like chewing gum for your ears. There are no big hooks, no catchy choruses and nothing offensive. It’s well-made but it’s like something designed and manufactured by IKEA, in that it serves a purpose and doesn’t stand out. Likeable enough, but it’s all a bit…meh. 

Chris Stanley


The Straights - Something Here 

For a demo to contain thirteen tracks, you’ve got to assume that the band behind it have the kind of musical fluency and tightness for the likes of Prince to sit up and take notice. On the other hand, you might find that it contains everything the band have ever recorded plus the kitchen sink, leading to a shake of the head about a lack of quality control.

Happily, The Straights’ demo doesn’t outstay its welcome and is as competent and enjoyable as any independent indie band can create. Although we’re strictly in the middle of pub rock territory, you can imagine that a lot of these tracks give a lot of people a lot of pleasure on a Friday or Saturday night. There’s enough cheeky, rough-hewn charm with flashes of The Coral and The Zutons to fill an hour, at least.

In terms of musical inspiration we’re not going to see The Straights win an Innovation In Sound award anytime soon (not unless they recruit the landlord from the John Smith’s ads for the Mercury Prize Panel) but for straight ahead roister-doistering, The Straights get it just about spot on.  

Chris Stanley


The Wombats - A guide to Love, Loss and Desperation

So one short trip to a record store with a tenner and you have the debut Wombats record in your hand. However, maybe you're too eager to find out what the album will consist of. Here's a tip, just look at the first three words of the tracklisting: "Tales Of Girls (…)", and there you have it. Matthew Murphy must have had a fair few traumatic relationships. He's filled 13 tracks to the brim with anecdotes of love, lust and break-ups. His tolerance for the female gender must be at the end of its tether. Sure, we've already had the likes of Jack Penate and (god forbid) Scouting for Girls singing about romantic walks and pretty faces but 'A Guide To Love, Loss & Desperation' really takes the biscuit. Well at least they warned us with an album title and a tracklisting that does hint at the present inside of the box, and at least they've provided us with some of the most infectious songs of 2007. 'Kill The Director' gave teenage boys and girls a fatal dose of anticipation earlier this year and the oh so hilariously ironic 'Let's Dance To Joy Division' also upped the anti on this year's indie scene. And these anthems set the band a pretty high standard to match with the album. There is the odd howler here and there lyrically, quote "Go to Santa, go to Santa, go go go", but the tune itself on 'Lost In The Post' is addictive and interesting. But again, anybody who's been out with the lead singer is probably a bit jealous right now. We have Laura, Suzanne, Patricia and a couple other anonymous entries - poor things. But that's pretty much all the weaknesses done and dusted; now we can focus on the good times. The Wombats are aware of the regular pattern that I noticed on this debut, evident in 'Here Comes The Anxiety' with the lyrics "I'd say that this is saddest song I ever wrote. No hint of a smile, or the usual quirky anecdotes", now I'm amused. 'Dr Suzanne Mattox PHD' is fantastically upbeat, cheery and danceable. Predict a fun-packed sweaty gig for those that have tickets for any future Wombats dates, expect claps and jumping for an hour and a bit – tiring stuff. Those fans that worshipped the demos and saw the Liverpudlians' early gigs will adore this and refuse to let anybody borrow it. Expectations have been met for the beloved but maybe not for the sceptics. But the only people that won't be smiling by the end of this record are…Laura, Suzanne and Patricia and yeah, the others….Although Suzanne could still be smiling - she has a PHD.

Jamie Milton


Fury UK - Face of Adversity

Iron maiden-esque style shines through the excellent guitar solos which caught my attention immediately. The lyrics are meaningful and sung clearly, so you can actually make out what the songs are about on first listen, which is a rarity nowadays.

By the second track, "Natural Disasters", I am hooked and want to hear more. I am more than intrigued to hear what this band have to offer.

"Words You Say" starts at a slower pace than the opening track "Kruega" which has heavy riffs, angry lyrics and really sounds like Iron Maiden on punk, not too disimiliar from Maiden's days with Paul Di'anno. Natural Disaster; the second track is ace. The lyrics and vocals are clear, sung with both passion and power joined with amazing finger-ripping guitar solos. This theme continues through with "Breakthrough", "Wicked Glass" and "The End".

I really liked "Truth", and its philosophical take on life, with the lyrics concentrating on the struggles and battles involved, all contained with excellent guitar solos, I have to applaud the guys on this track.

I found "Dream"and "Words You Say" to be more melodic, with the lyrics being akin to Dio, telling a story throughout the songs.

"The Lost Soul", which is the end track, contains a beautiful and haunting guitar piece and really shows off the uniqueness and talent of the guitarists. Halfway through the track pauses, the tempo slightly speeds up, and there is excellent arpeggio work which introduces the vocals which add to the feel of the track.

Sonia Waterfield


Tusker Coalition - Self-titled (Basilica) 

This is an eclectic mix of hip hop with elements of hardcore culture and grime, with pulsing rhythms and a peculiar introduction of dark hardcore sounds it seems quite underground. “Confrontation” features a basic hip hop beat with pure emotive lyrics, with hi-hat beats and string accompaniment, followed up by the openly and equally dark “City Limits”. The slower, chilled beats don’t lose the effect of the original beats we first heard, but the combination of electric sounds give this album a strangely eerie aspect – which works. The clear beats in “Base Existence” bring back the roots of hip hop, with the grimy bass line and rusty snare and bass drums, whereas “Never so young” features new faster rhythms and ascending bass rhythms. This is pure soul in music, the passion and original concepts are there and producing a hard hitting and moody atmosphere. This is to be played loud underground. 

Lid Smith


Seratone - Equilibria

This is an ecclectic mix of rock/indie with a unique style of emo chucked in. The style is fresh, energetic, combing synths and ripping guitar riffs. The vocals are strong, pushing through lyrics of pain, frustration and heartbreak. Songs such as 13, Flaw, are in my opinion, songs of pure frustration, where as Phrantic has a great beat, combining slow melodic synths. Shine Alone, Try, No Parts are all slower tracks with powerful lyrics and excellent harmonious moments.

To me personally, Wide Awake, the last song stands out as my favourite. It is an acoustic track, which is tenderly sung and put together, giving a serene and tranquil feel, and a total surprise.

Sonia Waterfield


Cobblestone Jazz - “23 seconds” 

I can appreciate jazz, I really can, as nearly all music genres have some element of jazz or blues merged into the mixture, but I cannot listen to this for more than four minutes. If that. However, I do like the mix of Jazz and dance/electro, as it seems like an ingenious idea, but it just hasn’t worked quite right here. This sort of jazz fusion with electro mixes could pass easy listening in a lounge bar full of middle class grey suits or beatnik French students, or even a lift, but it is simply impossible to listen to at any other time. Each beat is representative of the last (the same) and its far too repetitive to release as mainstream music, but it’s the same speed, same beat, same floating melodies that make this, well, tedious.

Lid Smith


Shit Outta Luck - Family Tradition (Organized Crime Records) 

A preliminary scan of song titles such as Anchors Down, Drunk Ta’ Hell, Drank Up The Rent and Friday Night Fights and it should come as no surprise that Shit Outta Luck are not given to whimsical melancholic balladry. They like drinking, Milwaukee (their hometown), drinking, trucking, drinking, fighting and drinking some more. 

The chugging sludge of opener ‘The Slum Crew (Friday Night Prelude)’ serves as a fitting backdrop to their bile-soaked call to arms. From here She’ll Pull You Down swaggers in with a grinding riff and guttural vocal reminiscent of Sick Of It All in their pomp. The remainder of the album sticks with the formula of straightforward riffs, monstrous vocals and indiscriminate rage. At times vocalist Shawn sounds as though he has swallowed the microphone and is trying to coax it back up his larynx by downing neat whisky, gravel and razor blades. At other times the band shows a little more guile, such as the end of India Wisconsin or the start of Drunk Ta’ Hell where the lead guitar begins to find some expression. However, this is short lived and we are quickly returned to the alcohol-fuelled assault. 

And that’s the problem, there is very little variety here. The band keeps plugging away with the same guitar tone, the same vocals and the same lyrical themes repeated ad nauseam. There is nothing ostensibly wrong with the songs but you just find yourself wanting a little more. The frustrating thing is that they show fleeting glimpses of more considered songwriting, but are quickly drawn back into their unfiltered splenetic fury. Again there is nothing wrong with fury per se, but if there is only fury it loses its meaning and impact. The last third of the album suffers as a result of this. 

Shit Outta Luck say of themselves “We are just six dudes that like to drink and play music. Come drinking with us and interesting things will inevitably happen”. Who can really argue with that? They are just an honest band releasing their pent-up anger in a structured manner, and allowing others to vicariously do the same. Who cares if they are not the most sophisticated band in the world? Besides, if you criticise them too heavily they may turn up at your door with bottles of whisky and start doing interesting things. Now you wouldn’t want that would you? 

Richard Ash


Monkey Fist - Between the Lines

Heavy, energetic and powerful. That's how I would describe this album. It is pumped full of heavy guitar riffs, powerful vocals with great melodies.

The first track, Pleasure, has a great opening riff, with vocals reminding me of a certain Phil Anselmo (Pantera). The track focuses on the pain of life, with the chorus concentrating on "bleeding and broken", with the vocals and guitars reflecting the lyrics perfectly.

Take It, This Time, Between The Lines, Distortion and Purity are all good, fast, heavy thrashy tracks which power through the anger and frustration being put through via the lyrics.

Drifting takes a different tone, starts off slower, with good guitar work, then 40 seconds in, everything shifts. The guitar work becomes really heavy, with powerful vocals. The lyrics are about confusion, and drifting through life. The drifting in and out of the vocals from heavy to clear is a good reflection of the track.

The Last Good Bye has an excellent intro when the track fades in, containing only anguished screams and a simple drum beat. The vocals clearly describe anger and frustration, then the track kicks in after 1min into screaming vocals.

The live tracks added at the end of the album are an excellent touch. If Anything (live) is fast, heavy, energetic. I like the vocals and the strength on this song which is akin to Fear Factory in its style. I Wrote This Song For You (live) has a slow intro, is dark in its feeling, has great opening riffs. Again, it has a Fear Factory-esque feel to it, which up-beats to Pantera-esque thrash. A great mix to end the album with.

SL Waterfield


Zico Chain - Food

This is an album the listeners can really get their teeth into, so to speak. The vocals throughout this album are sultry, sexy and angry, and are backed up by addictively catchy guitar riffs which really make the album. Food is jam-packed with vibrancy, energy, is addictive and bouncy while tackling serious subjects of everyday social life. I haven't stopped listening to this album, it really has got me.

Pretty Pictures is a mix of heavy rock & thrash. I love the vocals on this track, it has a very addictive, bouncy beat and I am instantly drawn in. The 80's rock vocals are akin to helloween/testament with heavy rock backing, great mix. Ace guitar riffs. You can really get your teeth into this track.

Where Would You Rather Be? has an excellent "bouncy" riff on guitars for the opening, with sultry, sexy vocals throughout which sound similar to Seb Bach (Skid Row) and Zakk Wylde (Black Label Society) and has a really catchy chorus which will have you singing along too.

Food, Preach and Anaemia are all excellent tracks, with Preach following the same suit as the others - another bouncy track, while Anaemia being the heaviest track of the album with heavy guitar riffs and dark vocals.

Junk, (as you may gather from the name) is about drugs, being hooked on them, and so on and again is a catchy song. I love the whole package of this song; the vocal range, the backing of the drums and the guitars. This song had me going, I was dancing to this instantly, excellent stuff.

Roll Over concentrates on the way people use weaker people than themselves, by getting them to roll over.

On No Hoper Boy I get a slight feel of T-rex/Marc Bolan coming through, not sure why, but its definitely there. Again a great song and a lot mellower than the previous tracks.

Your Favourite Client deals with the situations of a down and out prostitute who self harms. It has very deep lyrics and tackles the topic in a great style. Even though the theme is depressing, Zico Chain really manage to make the song cheery and enjoyable.

Nihilism. This track is deep and dark compared to the previous songs. The guitar riffs are more industrial and the vocals come across more reflective.

All Eyes On Me. Wow!!!! I absolutely adore this song. The track starts off pure and simple, then it really kicks in. The song is about all eyes being on a person who seems to carry a lot of guilt, and anguish, and wants people to stop pitying them. Seems to have a Geldof feel about it, but what a great track.

SL Waterfield


Tom Stevens – Home (BMI) 

Some artists are prolific, others, are not. Tom Stevens is not. This, his third album follows 1982’s Points of View and follow up Another Room, released thirteen years later. That would seem to equate to roughly one song per year. Could it be that he suffers from awful, all encompassing writers block? Perhaps he has a proper job?  Maybe, like Michaelangelo, he just takes his time?  Whatever the reason, Home is now upon us and it lands slap bang in what seems to be the most eminent (in terms of sales) period for singer songwriter types in years.  Unfortunately this is not to Stevens’ advantage; because while there is nothing bad about Home, it is devoid of anything to set him apart from literally (and I mean that literally) thousands of other artists. Simply put, presenting a tightly knit collection of decent songs with a hotch-potch of different styles, accomplished guitar work and thoughtful subject matter is not enough.  It almost breaks my heart to say it, because by the sound of it, Tom is a nice man, with a nice house and family and a lovely home studio which inspired him to pen the album.  

And there, I suppose, is the whole crux of the matter, he’s competing with people who don’t have any of those things, people, who just want to get out and play every night and who write a song in the morning, one over lunch and a normal meal in the evening. 

Ian Anderson


Groove Armada – 10 Year Story – Columbia 

Last month, I tore into Groove Armada as a bunch of past-it dance veterans, plying dated rubbish and cynically cashing in on every bandwagon going throughout their career.  This month, it’s time for some fancy footwork, hasty adjustment of attack angles, military-style diversionary tactics and oh yeah go on then, I admit it. This is a great double CD. 

By letting the artists, rather than the record company, direct how to celebrate managing somehow to survive as a dance act for 10 years, Tom Findlay and Andy Cato have compiled a compelling pair of mix CDs. Findlay has chosen the best dancey bits for an uptempo jaunt through the more colourful moments of the back catalogue while Andy Cato has chosen some downtempo slow-burners, presumably for stoners and people who hold dinner parties or whatever. 

The uptempo CD is not bursting with surprises, but it is high on quality, well produced and slickly mixed. The pulsing, Nu-Yorican Soul style groove of Eazy, melds subtly into Love Sweet Sound with its deep funky house vibe percolating through to a couple of remixes and rarities until the original version of I See You Baby drops at track six. The inclusion of the original, not the overplayed commercial (literally) version is typical of the careful approach taken by both Findlay (who mixes the uptempo selection) and Cato to present something new or unpredictable as often as possible.  Other stand out choices are the inclusion of a dub version of Get Down, which fits the mood of the uptempo CD much better than the original skank-a-long and on the downtempo CD the inclusion of the swirling, ambient Presence remix of At the River which sounds considerably fresher than the time-worn original.

I was very sceptical when I put this one on. About the band, about the downtempo CD, but the inherent quality of the production on songs like Think Twice and careful re-editing of some of the more familiar moments in the GA back catalogue make it very listenable. If you like, or liked, Groove Armada, buy it.  If you were thinking of buying the ‘best of’, don’t. Buy this instead.

Ian Anderson


Lines of Leaving - Lines of Leaving

Finnish four piece complete with two mohawks and protest songs about the cost of Oprah's eyebrows and lyrics such as "Free porn for Moslem murder shots". They seem to be trying a little bit to be all non-conformist, "More and more we fill our needs / Controlled by over-marketing" they shout on "Fistula". And it strikes me, the thought's there, the intention is all well and good, but this does sound an awful lot like a bad, early, System of a Down demo.

Phil Coales


The Royal We - The Royal We (Domino)

They quit after doing this. Why? Because they had "done it". Like Electrelane, who went on "indefinite hiatus" just a week or so ago, The Royal We perfected their art, then stopped. Twee, indie, Glasgow. Album highlight is single "All the Rage", though that's as it manages to be slightly more direct than the rest of this debut - slightly faster, more urgency, more sustained (second longest track, at just under three minutes. The longest is indie's cover version of choice of late, "Wicked Game", which closes the album in subdued fashion.) It's slightly simple, but slightly lovely. Although "Please be patient at the station" is one of the worst rhymes I've ever heard. Overall feels a little like an EP on the way to becoming a fully fledged debut album... but then again, is there anything here left unsaid about The Royal We?

Phil Coales


Tillmanns - A Careless Lifestyle

New Order and winding guitars and minimalistic electro and rain and rain and rain, reflected in an awesome 80s-tinted mirror. Tillmanns are a German duo. This record is pretty short but kind of sums up autumn: sweeping in phases, quiet in patches, but overall largely retro-centric electro that evokes the spirit of New Order, or something else, some other, synth-based electronica band, here in 2007.

Phil Coales


Junior Boys - Last Exit (Domino)

It’s not often I find thoughts of sex and Russ Abbot sharing my headspace. This is fortunate of course, but trying to summarise this reissue of the Junior Boys debut album these two disparate elements have finally come together in an unholy union.

I like the Junior Boys, and there are some damn fine songs on this album, such as Bellona, with it’s dreamy overlapping vocals, and Birthday (in both its ‘normal’ and remixed form) which was a stand-out track at the gig I attended a wee while back. Their blend of minimalist electronica and fragile, plaintive vocals can be bewitchingly atmospheric. Unfortunately, when I think the word ‘atmosphere‘ I immediately start singing the Russ Abbott classic in my head. It’s a mental tic I’m trying hard to remove, but no luck yet...

And the ex-Madhouse star’s hit record isn’t the only 80’s connection in my head right now. A lot of the tracks have the feel of synth pop from that decade. The beginning of ‘Under the Sun’ had me thinking of ‘Just an Illusion’ by Imagination which, strange as it might sound, wasn’t a bad thing. It’s not always successful though. ‘When I’m Not Around’ in particular sounds like a discarded Hall & Oates track from the era.

But where’s the sex? Good question. Although it’s a well crafted album, it’s a bit of a tease. All the tracks indulge in foreplay, with seductive intros that promise good times ahead but, with a few notable exceptions, once they slip into their groove they plateau leaving you wanting more. Perhaps it’s an unavoidable consequence of the chill-out style of the album, but it seems a shame when the tracks showed such initial promise.

Last Exit has moments of brilliance but an overall feeling of disappointment. A bit like sex with Russ Abbot. So I’ve heard...

Matt Latham


The Nightjars - Towards Light (Reveal)

It would be nice to be able to say I was aware of this Manchester band 2 years ago when, according to the internet, they had a buzz about them, but that would be a lie. I’m playing catch-up now, but it’s no chore. They have that swagger typical of Northern bands, and their tightly constructed bursts of music are blasted out in melodic frenzy.

This would be enough to recommend them, but when a band can deliver the following verse (from MDMA) you know they’ve got something.

‘I never smoked those 20 cigarettes. I want to tell you that you're one of the most intelligent, entertaining, thought-provoking, quintessential Englishmen in this room and I feel a sense of great pride to have so many good, good friends and I never realised how much love was in this room and in this city.’

I can’t really top that, so I won’t even try.

Matt Latham


Men in Speedos - At a Kalamazoo Near You (Red Label)

It’s always a worry when someone you know presents you with something artistic they’ve created. “Can you read this book I’ve written?” or “What do you think of my short film?” are questions that invariably fill me with dread as there’s always the chance you won’t like it. Then you’ve either got to hurt your friend’s feelings or try to lie convincingly – neither of which are good options.

I should at this point, for the sake of fairness, declare my interests. I know of the Belfast-based Men in Speedos through my girlfriend who is friends with one of its members. He sent her the album and I ended up hearing it over a period of weeks, not knowing who it was by but finding it much to my liking. When I finally asked who it was I was pleasantly surprised and am now committed to spreading the word. I’m also relieved that next time I meet him I don’t have to lie when he asks ‘what did you think?’

The album comes under the broad category of electronica/dance, but within that there are a variety of styles, ranging from the Air-like of ‘A Moment on Your Own’ to the dub ambience of ‘Chain of Events’. The tracks are broken up by various samples such as aircraft announcements and even someone relieving themselves. In my view the best of the bunch are ‘Bladder Jazz’, ‘Farting Chipmunk’ and ‘The Beta Lounge’, but there’s so much here that repeated listening is throwing up new favourites all the time. If I were giving out beachwear advice it would be a different matter, but it’s definitely worth giving these Men in Speedos a go. You can hear samples at:

Here endeth the plug…

Matt Latham


Enter Shikari – The Zone (Ambush Reality)

You would think that the much hyped debut album, sell out tour and eclectic mix of rock and trance would mean that the b-sides and rare tracks album “The Zone” would be well worth waiting for…well, not exactly. The first track “The Feast” is no less brilliant than the others from “Take to the skies”, with the stamping rhythm and insane collection of lighter guitar riffs and heavy distortion and the typical trance element, and the same goes for the second track “Kickin’ back on the surface of your cheek”. Another decent track is “Acid nation”, but even this fails to win a higher title – It just doesn’t stand out particularly. However, why would you ruin a perfectly good track from the first album in a nasty remix? It shouldn’t be allowed! I love the raw trance and hardcore merge, but not when it’s been dicked around with in a studio to produce something pretty shit. It doesn’t work with this. We like the scratchy, emotional music, with fewer alterations, closer to the original sound. It’s an average b-side album with average remixes and live versions, but other than the two introductory tracks, there is no real incentive to actually go out and buy this album. A bit of a let down, really. 



Vashti Bunyan – ‘Some Things Stick In your Mind – Singles and demos 1964 - 1967’ (Fat Cat) 

Following the success of the re-release of her debut record from 1970 ‘Just Another Diamond Day’ and her brand new record ‘Lookaftering’ the God’s of music have smiled upon us all and delivered a collection of early recordings from Bunyan for our delicate ears to feast on. Well more precisely they were delivered by her brother John who found them in his attic so to him we give thanks, as this double album collection is a work of rare beauty.

Coming long before the folk songs of the Diamond Day years these short and snappy tracks are tiny slices of pure 60’s pop and are all the better for it. Showing Bunyan’s ability to craft a perfect catchy song with a handsome dollop of whimsy that leaves you yearning for more, the crackles and hisses that exist here from the old acetates merely add to the fragile wonder of the recordings. A lost gem is again delivered onto a lucky music loving public who will have to do their damnedest not to fall in love with the song ‘17 Pink Sugar Elephants’.

Luke Drozd


Animal Collective – ‘Strawberry Jam’ (Domino) 

After a couple of stunning releases on the excellent Fat Cat label Animal Collective return with a new release and a new label with .Strawberry Jam. on Domino and as you’d expect its bloody great.

We have all the trade mark animal Collective aesthetic values with there visceral and primal noise-making coupled with a beach boys-esque sensibility toward song writing and hooks. One need only listen to the superb opener ‘Peacebone’ to see this, with its bubbling keyboard hook and squelchy bass sounds tying together a rather clean and straight forward vocal performance minus much of the fuzz we are used to, but with the added primordial scream by way of a choral harmony like a beast from the bowels of the earth unleashed.

And so the record continues somehow seemingly effortless teaming a hazy sixties pop slant with a primitive animalistic and unique sound that can only be Animal Collective. As always a wonderful and essential release.

Luke Drozd


Annie Barker - Mountains And Tumult 

It’s difficult to be a female singer-songwriter who wears her heart on her sleeve to be taken seriously after a certain Canadian female singer-songwriter (who I’ve promised myself I will NOT name) wore a similar heart on a similar sleeve back in the ‘nineties. It’s not that they’re not good, it’s just that we feel we know what we can expect – angst, gender-politics, loser blokes and liberation through mundane things like alcohol nights and rainy days.

I’m not going to pretend that for the price of an Annie Barker CD you get anything startlingly different, because you don’t. Barker has a fine voice, some smart lyrics and an ear for the melody, it’s just that she’s not all that you might presume. A lot of the arrangements on ‘Mountains And Tumult’ are more like mini-operas in their length and complexity. Annie hasn’t gone for the standard verse-chorus-verse thing; at times, she’s almost emitting a stream of consciousness. This makes her latest release both perplexing and entrancing. It takes two or three listens to get into it.

No bad thing, in my opinion. I’m no expert in either song-writing or singing, but I can tell what’s affecting and what’s gibberish, and Barker stay’s firmly on the side of the former. Opener ‘Kissed Me’ in particular has a self-consciously early-nineties feel – a bit of worked-on percussion that works a treat. In this respect, we’re not breaking new ground, but when you compare it to blandness like Leona Lewis (who, by the way, has just set an important record – ‘Most Leona Lewis CDs Sold in One Week In A Chain Store of Simon Cowell’s Choosing’) then it would be a shame if people had a go at Annie for peddling the same old thing. She’s no Alanis (damn, I wasn’t supposed to mention her), in fact more like Liz Phair, but then again, the world don’t move to the beat of just one drum, does it? 

Chris Stanley


M.I.A – ‘Kala’ (XL) 

I have to say right off that a hated M.I.A’s debut release ‘Arular’. I found it grating and frankly over-rated pap. I therefore almost didn’t even bother listening to this when it dropped on my doormat. I would have been missing out on a rather special little record if I hadn’t mind, for ‘Kala’ is an addictive, fun and political record all rolled into one.

Whereas her debut seemed to be trying too hard, forcing itself in the listeners face, ‘Kala’, recorded at various points as M.I.A was off on her travels supposedly having a break, feels far more effortless and is a better record for it.

Her travels seem to have had another effect on the music as well as M.I.A has enlisted help from a variety talented musicians and percussionists from the places she ended up. The results mean a rich blend of world influences with tight beats and lyrics that gives most the tracks an overall addictive quality so they become wedged so firmly in your mind there’s little chance of shifting them (in particular the deliciously good ‘Boyz’ which is essential listening in its own right). The only real bum note is the embarrassingly bad ‘Mango Pickle Down River’ which sounds like Rolf Harris trying get ‘Hip-Hop’ and is unadulterated pap. Still one hiccup is excusable when you expected to hate the entire record I guess.

Luke Drozd


Air Conditioning – ‘Dead Rails’ (Load) 

Air conditioning construct beautiful yet grim ear-piss that seems to have been dredged from the lakes of hell. It is the sound of drums and guitar being used for magnificent evil like Lightning Bolt and Athletic Automatons abusive father kicking their genitals inside their tiny bodies. Turn it up loud and listen to the sounds of your speakers falling to pieces for this my friend is a record to do just that.

Luke Drozd


Monotract – ‘Trueno Oscuro’ (Load) 

From the moment that the electronic white noise comes blaring from your speakers you know that Monotract mean business and that you’re in for something rather special. ‘Treno Oscuro’ is an album populated by guitar, drums and programmatic elements interweaved with Nancy Garcia’s bizarre yet captivating vocals. Part audio battle, part sinuous and graceful charm, the songs here wander and stray along a path of their own frequently ending up in a very different place from where they begun. A stunningly frighteningly and frighteningly stunning album indeed.

Luke Drozd


Naomi & The Courteous Rudeboys - Beautiful Beings (Omward Bound) 

A band that sound like So Solid Crew being fronted by a supermodel, Naomi & The Courteous Rudeboys are the musical equivalent of jackdaws. They don’t so much have influences as styles they copy and muck about with, and as long as none of them are country and western, I don’t mind that at all.

‘Beautiful Beings’ is a smorgasbord of different musical offerings, and without wanting to mix my metaphors, we end up with a kind of sushi platter. From the title track (funk) to the insane block party of ‘Flamingos’ (Latin) to the brilliantly named ‘Naan n’ Curry’ (ambient) there’s not a type of music NCR don’t try (aside from maybe Teutonic techno) and succeed in. It’s a great, fun album, recorded in the California sunshine and straight from Santa Cruz, that at times can get a little jarring (most truly great albums, although playing you something you haven’t heard before, have a common sonic basis) but doesn’t outstay its welcome.

Obviously better for the summer months, when we get them that is, ‘Beautiful Beings’ may yet be added to that growing list of exceptions that prove the rule, namely it’s better to be a master of one trade than a jack of all of them. U2 take note. 

Chris Stanley


Dirty three – ‘Dirty Three’ & ‘Horse Stories’ (Bella Union) 

Dirty Three have been having a pretty good year really.  The band has enjoyed stints curating the prestigious ATP festival and members have enjoyed success with side projects like Warren Ellis’ Grinderman along side Nick Cave, and Jim White’s Collaboration with Nina Nastasia on ‘You Follow Me’. In order to celebrate this the good folk at Bella union have taken it upon themselves to reissue the bands first two records, the self-titled debut and the amazing ‘Horse Stories’.

For those of you who have yet to delve right back to the bands beginnings either through laziness or not being able to get hold of the records you now have no excuse. Both records prove essential listening and there is a rawer quality on these early albums that I find truly beguiling especially on the debut, but for me there is no beating their second release ‘Horse Stories’ a record that I believe still stands as the yard stick for all their music and is possibly one of my favourite instrumental records to date. Like an old friend returning from their travels its good to have these little gems back.

Luke Drozd


Scout Niblett – ‘This Fool Can Die Now’ (Too Pure) 

Scout Niblett is back with her fourth full-length album and I for one am glad. After hearing her collaborating on a million and one American alt legends records its about time we heard her at her best, back on her own terms, and this time she brings some help along with her in the form of Will Oldham on four duets which turn out to be some of this excellent records highlights. Sometimes two peoples vocals seem to just melt together and considering both here have such distinct vocal styles it wouldn’t be surprising if they grated but instead its like mixing together oral honey.

The rest of the record is Scout Niblett on top form, all passionate vocal and stripped back musical turns coupled with those loud indignant outbursts we have grown to love, and with them we probably have Scout Niblett’s most complete sounding record to date. A unique and exciting talent.

Luke Drozd


Jonny Trunk presents ‘Now We Are Ten’ (Trunk Records) 

Trunk Records have been running for ten years now and yet I ,probably like most of us, had never heard of them. Even more strange though is that you will have heard a lot of the music in their catalogue. Let me explain.

Trunk is run by one man, Jonny Trunk, a man with a bit of a fetish for the lost in the music world. So far on his label he has brought us unreleased music from films like The Wicker Man, Kes and Dawn of the Dead, the entire Deep Throat soundtrack and the cosmically enchanting music to the Oliver Postgate TV series The Clangers. A label of ‘sex, music and nostalgia’ as the press release says. Now ten years down the line Jonny has decided its time to educate us ludites and put out a cheap compilation CD to show us all what we have been missing. A mix of tracks from current releases and a few unreleased gems, ‘Now We Are Ten’ offers up an enticing blend from the impossibly stunning music of Sven Libaek (whom some will recognise from the Life Aquatic soundtrack) through the spacey Clangers music to some unreleased Herbie Hancock. Now that is a hell of a ride my friends.

Trunk Records deserves to be a British institution considering the service it is doing for the world of music. It deserves its own parade and a day named after it in fact. I suggest we all write to the Queen and demand it and if that crazy old bat wont listen then by God we’ll march down to the palace, sound-system in tow and play her the Clangers soundtrack until she damn well agrees…Who’s with me? WHO’S WITH MEEEEEE!!!

Luke Drozd


Nina Nastasia & Jim White – you Follow Me’ – (Fat Cat) 

A collaborative album from one of folks most beautiful songstress’ and Dirty Three drummer Jim White, this is a record about keeping things sparse and simple. The idea of Jim White, this is record of Nastasia on vocal and guitar duties and White working the drums. What this leads to is at times staggeringly successful, at others not so. When it works we have Nastasia’s voice swooping over the recording whilst White leads and punctuates the music leading it down strange tracks and adding a more complex structure to the music. When it doesn’t however it ends up sounding messy and White ends up dominating taking something from the subtle beauty of Nastasia’s song writing. The good however does outweigh the bad and overall this is a rather brave and impressive record that sees Nastasia heading back towards the slightly more experimental sounds of earlier releases.

Luke Drozd


The Twilight Sad – Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters (Fat Cat) 

Due to a crazy work schedule and living transiently for longer than I care to think about I have had this album in a stack of CDs to review for a long long time. This means two things 1. I should apologise to band and label for the lateness of the review and 2. I have had plenty of time to become acquainted with it. Now the second point can have one of two results on a reviewer. I will freely admit to both issuing good reviews to records that I have later learned to hate and bad reviews to ones that have won me over after months gone by. This, the debut full length from The Twilight Sad won me over straight away and in the proceeding months it has continued to hold a place in my heart and ears as new tones and textures reveal themselves from within the deceptively catchy hooks hidden within (for evidence of this just listen to the stunning ‘That Summer, At Home I Had Become The Invisible Boy’ and then try to dislodge it from your mind. Impossible!).

The Twilight Sad create a sound that takes in so much and delivers a unique musical package. Elements of fellow Scottish heroes like Arab Strap and Mogwai (I bet they are getting sick of those two cropping up in reviews by now) are certainly in there but this is mixed with a far sharper ear for subtle and rich song writing lending these songs a somewhat timeless quality. There’s is a mix of folk, pop and the right amount of white noise that helps create a record that is one of the best debuts for some time. The only thing to top this however is their live sound which is an amazing and humbling experience. In short buy this record, see them live and fall in love.

Luke Drozd


The Pyramids – ‘The Pyramids’ (Domino) 

During sessions for the throbbingly rhythmic Archie Bronson Outfit album ‘Derdang Derdang’, The Cardinal (Sam Windett) and Arp (Mark Cleveland) fused their beardalicious brains together and sensed a hankering for something murkier, nastier and more frenzied. Naturally then came the delivery of The Pyramids.  

Rather than naming themselves after the great architectural features of ancient Egypt, the duo looked towards something a little more earthbound and familiarised themselves with the legacy of the original garage rockers whose adolescent minds were induced by a number of stimulants in order to churn out freshly underdeveloped chaotic riffs across America. The Pyramids certainly fit this lineage and throughout the album this philosophy echoes sharply around their dirt-blues inspiration.  

Staying true to their garage-rock roots The Pyramids recorded on an old 16-Track deep in the British countryside hidden away in a makeshift studio (a mere barn). Written in under a week such rural detachment allowed them to utilise their psychedelic tendencies and insistent burning urgency. The result is a seedy and edgy garage rock stomper of an album, reminiscent of the groups that inspired the band’s name. 

‘Pyramidy’’s psychedelic siren induction soon initiates Windett’s wailing vocal delivery as ‘White Disc Of Sun’ emerges with a similar enclosed vitality to that of ABO’s earlier fury-stained endeavours. However a sterner outing is made available with ‘The Pyramids’ in comparison to ‘Derdang’ and severe in its approach ‘Piblokoto’ looms in an agitated manor to which occasional jolts of shrieks are applied. When the drastically sedated ‘Guitar Star’ instrumental is thrown in things are instantly yanked up by the scruff of the neck with ‘A Gala In The Harbour Of Your Heart’. Its raw immediacy sweats over a hot stove of guttural persistence and its here you truly understand the nature of the bands breathless one take ethos.   

With the whole album over in half an hour it’s a record that feels like a primordial grunt and unlike many side-projects this does not disappoint.

Amie Kimpton


Kidda - Album Sampler from 'Going Up' (Skint)

This four track sampler from the Brighton based DJ/producer Kidda acts as a prelude to the main release of his forthcoming album 'Going Up' in 2008. So should you be chomping at the bit or quaking in fear behind the sofa?

Well instantly with opening track 'Under the Sun' you can see why Skint signed up Kidda - it fits like a glove into their brand of upbeat, cut-up party vibes. Cher clearly has a lot to answer for as the over use of the pitch corrector on the vocals makes this a slightly annoying listen. But then so was the birdy song. 'Smile' is similarly schizophrenic. Laid back soulful grooves very akin to 'Don't Be Afraid of Love' era Lo Fi Allstars are slashed into with a pretty heavy-handed mix of the theme from Ski Sunday.

'Strong Together' draws up the same feelings as I felt when I had the misfortune to hear Mika's 'Lollipop' earlier this morning. 'Hey y'all' sees a return to the Lo Fi's territory mixing soulful grooves and vocals with a housey beat. And this is perhaps the main problem for me - this EP sounds a bit dated already and frankly the cut-ups are a bit shoddy in places and the beats aren't that catchy. It's perfectly listenable but there's better examples of this type of music out there if you want to find them.



Make Me!- “It Only Hurts the First Time" 

Brewing from San Francisco’s deep lustre of a pop scene come Make Me! Armed with debut album “It Only Hurts the First Time”, the gender equal quartet perform more pathetic-pop than first grade pop-punk riot. Sadly lacking in excitement, Make Me! make you switch off.   

2 girls 2 boys, labelled with “post-riot grrrl” Make Me! have the write up, but no actual record to secure it. Match that with the indent of sugary French pop- it’s something that’s been done before, and done before better.  

If we’re talking pop status, Make Me! are in the Primark stilettos of Danni Minogue right behind the jimmy choo wearing Poppy and the Jezebels Kylie-like alter ego. Featuring The Horror’s trademark new wave keyboard (prescribed on a heavy regime of anti-depressants), Make Me!’s debut isn’t dire, but more irritating then anything else. 

Opener “Oakland/ San Francisco” leads an obviously American, chirpy pop lead with the remaining 8 songs dissolving within each other’s increasingly annoying whine.  

Ever encompass the urge to listen to ‘wanna-be’ riot-pop branded grrrl , album tracks “Mazel Tov” and “Tatoo’d on Eyeliner” will always be there edging your displeasure for everything uselessly American. 

Delightful if you’re deaf, Make Me! have taken half the sounds of indie’s godfather’s of the 90’s and drowned it. “It Only Hurts the First Time” doesn’t present the exciting-fun pop plastered over it’s cover, more a soundtrack set to boredom.

Erin Kubicki


Conil - Strange Part of the Country

Conil's an odd proposition. Its hard to do his music justice without saying something that might put potential listeners off. 'Urban Celtic Folk' might be as close a description as you're likely to get, but at times there are elements of surfer rock and lounge chucked in for good measure. Now, a combination of those things could so easily sound like so much hippie toss, but this album walks the tightrope superbly, never once descending into Jack Johnson territory. Its actually one of the most atmospheric albums I've heard in a while, with cellos, detuned piano and strange distant clangings all adding to the brooding melancholy. Conil's powerful, almost Eddie Vedder-ish growl narrates proceedings, with ten tales which could all potentially soundtrack a morning after. As the nights are drawing in, 'Strange Part of the Country' would make a perfect mood album for those long dark nights of the soul.

Andy Glynn


Jimmy Eat World - “Chase This Light”

Another one of those bands who-will-always-be-defined-by-one-album (Clarity), you gotta give Jimmy Eat World some sort of credit for having stuck through the last 14 years and music genres (especially the rise and fall of emo, in which they’re constantly cited as one of the earlier bands), only losing one member and more or less staying true to their sound. Chase This Light sounds a little more polished then their older recordings as well as lacking the aggressive weightier songs like ‘Bleed American’ or ‘Pain’, but it’s still a good album that sounds pretty much like what you would expect next from JEW (so don’t let it be the first you hear if you’re not a fan). Check out: ‘Electable (Give It Up)’, ‘Big Casino’, ‘Chase This Light’, and ‘Let It Happen.’



The Sequins- the death of style 

The death of style is the eagerly awaited long player from lo-fi indie pop newcomers the Sequins, who are based in Coventry, and have been steadily building up an underground fanbase in the UK for some time. Sounding like Thom Yorke fronting the Lucksmiths via Gang of Four, ‘the death of style’ is a slice of pure indie pop joy, packed full of whooping vocals over energetic melodies. Opener ‘Catholic Guilt’ had me hooked from the first listen; boasting a rattling spiky drum beat, jerky guitars, fragile yearning vocals, and self-deprecating lyrics, there’s nothing here which would make this song anything but brilliant.  

The rest of the album continues in a similar vein; highlights including the wonderfully catchy ‘let’s go drinking in the morning’, a powerful ode to love, loss, and alcoholism, and ‘the French way of life’, a sarcastic look at those who adopt the French language and culture in a feeble hope of bettering themselves; the song is permeated with snippets of French phrases over post punk-esque guitar riffs. Finally, ‘everyone loves the sequins’ is a slice of indie self-satisfaction full of lyrics such as “your friends told you of a band that you should hear, they might just save your life…everyone loves the sequins”.  By rights, everybody everywhere should love the Sequins, and the strict £8 price tag befitted upon this album by tough love records is well deserved. 

Natasha Wynarczyk


Jaymay - Autumn Falling 

Let me ask you a question; Whats the difference between Cat Power and say KT Tunstall? What about Billy Bragg and James Blunt, or Kimya Dawson and Alanis Morissette? What makes one lot cult heroes while the others are universally derided? They all basically do the same thing don't they? There are literally legions of boys and girls with acoustic guitars out there, and it takes something very special indeed to mark yourself out from the next person, the risk of drifting into radio 2 territory ever present. It'd be churlish of me to attack the Jaymay Album; it shows a really accomplished singer with a beautiful voice playing some very professional-sounding songs. Its all very pleasant, but lacking any sort of spark which would differentiate it from anyone else down the local open-mic night. I can't quite escape the feeling that my mum would probably like this and while thats not necessarily a criticism in itself, its hard to imagine anyone getting especially excited about any of these songs.

Andy Glynn


Saves the Day - “Under The Boards”

Since I’ve always loved Saves The Day’s olllld stuff (because, seriously, whats not to love about a group of New Jersey teenage boys singing songs about missing their mom) I am probably not the best person to review this record. With that it mind, when compared with the lyrics from Through Being Cool and Ups & Downs it’s like Chris Conley has started moving backwards from the bittersweet poignant observations to…well…miserable teenage poetry with lines on Under the Boards like ‘I live my life alone and in love with pain’ and ‘alone is how I stay from the womb to the grave.’ However, there is a method to Conley’s madness. According to, he told them that Under the Boards is number two in a three-album concept loop, in which 2006’s Sound The Alarm “is an expression of discontent, Under the Boards is reflection and remorse,” and Daybreak (due next year) is “acceptance.” Sonically, you can hear Glassjaw’s effect on the band. I’m not bullshitting. Saves The Day is now officially 1/2 original members (Chris Conley and David Soloway and vocals and guitars) and 1/2 Glassjaw (Manuel Carrero on bass and Durijah Lang). While the poppier songs ‘Can’t Stay The Same’, ‘Bye Bye Baby’ (which is crazy-catchy) and ‘Get Fucked Up’ seem like the usual Saves The Day, the audible differences is in songs like ‘Getaway’, ‘Because You Are No Other’ and ‘Turning Over In My Tomb’ have a grungier and heavier bass line with more precise drumming that almost counteracts the emo poetry (example, ‘Woe’). Arb fact: ‘Woe’ was the first song Conley wrote after In Reverie.  I listen to this album too much to say I hate it, so I’m not going to pass judgement until Daybreak comes out. Until then, unlike Chris Conley, I’m holding onto hope.



Nelson Bragg - "Day Into Night" (SideBMusic)

A record as rooted in the sound of the 60s and 70s as this is not about to transform the public perception of Bragg from his role as Brian Wilson's percussionist. But the experience of touring the 'SMiLE' album has imbued Bragg with a fine musical judgement and an ear for summery tunes and harmonies that would stand up alongside, well, much of the Beach Boys' work.
It is a rare treat to hear a debut album as assured and complete as these 12 tracks sound. From start to finish, echoes of The Byrds and REM are matched with highly intimate lyrical narratives that dwell on darkness and love.
Opening track 'Forever Days' immediately calls to mind Mike Mills' brief moments as frontman on REM's seminal album 'Out Of Time' while the guitars veer from Stairway To Heaven territory ('Turn the Darkness Into Gold') to bottleneck Hawaii on a gorgeously drunk cover of George Harrison's 'Dark Sweet Lady'. 'Tell Me I'm Wrong' presses all the right buttons for a classic summer driving song before 'Return the Love You Take' mines gentler acoustic territory.
The theme of darkness pervades the more down-tempo songs in the second half, including the haunting keyboards at the end of 'Death of Caroline'. Things get a little heavier on 'Tell Someone', followed by pangs of regret on 'A Father's Foolish Will', a very personal apology for being away from home for so much of the time.
Inevitably, one track on here was going to scream Beach Boys and 'Every Minute of the Day' borrows the harmonies familiar to so many. Fortunately, the modern production and range of styles prevent this becoming a tribute album to anyone. Although he is unlikely to trouble any chart, Bragg has made a work of great integrity and warmth that would stand up well in any decade.

Chris McCague


A Crime Called...- “Burn”  

I could have probably named this bands influences without even looking at the press sheet. Think Incubus vocals with Finch vs. Deftones riffs and a slightly nu-metal bassline. If you like those bands and think a mish-mash would be awesome then hey, whatever floats your boat. But if you’re looking for an original album, you won’t find it here.



The Scratch- ‘Night Bus or Milk Train’ 

The Scratch are the latest winners of the XFM Manchester unsigned band competition, releasing their second album ‘night bus or milk train’ on their own record label Ponyland Records, after having been greatly championed by XFM’s Clint Boon. ‘Night bus or milk train’ is an album which is heavily influenced by the 1970s punk scene as well as 90s ‘Madchester’; front man Andy’s voice is half Johnny Rotten/half Ian Brown, an interesting combination but one which works. This is an album which is best enjoyed at a loud volume to give proper credit to the punky guitar riffs and background yelping. 

New single ‘numbers’ has echoes of early Manic Street Preachers, starting quietly then building up via a fantastic guitar crescendo to an angry chorus full of lyrics which James Dean Bradfield would be proud of writing. ‘Sister psychosis’ is their more mellow acoustic song, a jangly psychedelic ballad which slightly reminds me of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. If the chilis weren’t so rubbish. ‘Out faking the fakers’ is a return to their original garage punk roots; Andy furiously sneers and spits his way through the song, his voice leaping majestically over a crisp guitar riff.  

Overall, ‘Night Bus or milk train’ is a fine indie punk album. Whilst they draw greatly on their punk influences the album is simply not a rehash of a music genre that saw its finest hour thirty years ago. It’s an album that is very fresh, and very now, and one which indicates exactly how much they deserved their title of ‘best unsigned band’. 

Natasha Wynarczyk


MS Thomason - “Under The Birch Tree” (Welikedanger!) 

‘Under The Birch Tree’ is the album from acoustic singer M S Thomason and is the third release from Welikedanger! Discovered from playing in his bedroom through late-night drunken webcam posts, the album sounds as simple and stripped-down as his DIY ethic. I am not a big expert on acoustic, and so I can’t say this album is especially exceptional- but don’t try to dismiss it as another release from whiny British acoustic warblers, give it a listen. Less Damien Rice, and more Elliot Smith-esque (especially on tracks like ‘What Is Hell?’ and ‘Under the Birch Tree’), there is a quiet, haunting edge in the music that sends you reaching for a blanket. In it’s simplicity, it’s a good winter album.



1000 Hertz - “Input The Output” (In At The Deep End Records) 

At first I was mistrustful of any screaming that wasn’t attached to some type of metal (core) but I was already tapping my feet to the music, so I’m glad I didn’t fastforward through the second track, because ‘Wake Up!’ is a fucking kickass. Even if you’re not into ‘punk rawk’, it’s hard to deny that 1000 Hertz have a safe-as drummer who must have ridiculous-sized biceps. The result is machine-gun tempo coupled with punk hardcore guitar riffs that stop-start into mini explosions. The singing isn’t that great, but the growling overpowers it especially in songs like ‘System Fail’ and ‘One Too Many’. It’s a good album, and next chance I get I’m going to try and see it live. I hope their show is as intense as their recording.



Low Low - Low Low Low La La La Love Love Love 

There are moments on this album (from the only alt-country band in the world who can give you RSI just typing their name), which evoke such a sense of sadness and defeat in the face of the world, that you wonder if it should carry some kind of warning for anyone with a history of depression to steer clear. Bleak, it most certainly is. At times, its beautiful, but at others the songs are so slight as to barely be there at all. Its almost dinner party music, albeit for people for whom dinner consists of a bottle of Jim Beam. Only on the demented Mariachi of, 'the Messy One' does the tone lighten up a bit, with every other song travelling a similar anguished road. Once they hit their stride they don't deviate very far, and a little more variety wouldn't have gone amiss. Still, If you're planning to have a really good sulk, ideally in a darkened room, I heartily recommend this album as the soundtrack.

Andy Glynn


David Ford - Songs for the Road 

'Songs for the Road' is the ex-Easyworld frontman's second album of 'have guitar- will travel' melancholy. Despite the obvious Tom Waits influence that runs through the album, Ford's falsetto actually suits these songs far more than you'd imagine. At times its hard to get your head round the fact that such world-weary songs are coming from a man under thirty. Go to Hell is a wonderfully bitter opening, almost sung through clenched teeth. So long as you overlook the horrible, Eagles-y 'Train', this is an album that really has few weak points. Ford seems as comfortable belting out gleeful Northern soul ('Decimate') as suicidal bar-room folk (the title track).

If you're looking for a good old-fashioned fashioned crooner then David Ford might just be your man.

Andy Glynn