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  albums - march 2008

 
 
 

Hot Chip – Made in the Dark (EMI) 

Having neatly avoided having a difficult second album by releasing the fantastic ‘the Warning’ Hot Chip return in early 2008 with an even broader repertoire of jewel-like pop. The band almost defy comparisons and categorisation, as they flit from electro to structured pop, to breakbeats and back to downtempo ambience with little fuss and total authenticity. 

The sound has filled out, with fatter beats on occasion and more meat on the synths, although the vocals retain the trademark delivery replete with glitching repetitive choruses and falsetto harmonies. It is the second track however, which is the first hint that this album is about to veer off White-Album-Esque unchartered territory. Two minutes in, amid the chiming lilt of the chorus the song stops, the listener is informed that they are about to experience the ‘sounds of the studio’ and a blaring, looping synth breaks out. A clashing breakbeat melds around the madness and imperceptibly the structure slowly changes back to the original song and the chorus resumes. It is a statement of intent. 

It doesn’t all work so wonderfully though, a couple of the arrangements are a bit too busy and one or two moments of abstract irrelevance detract slightly, but any criticism must be tempered by reference to the exquisite beauty of the downtempo tracks here. We’re Looking for A Lot of Love, Made in The Dark and One Pure Thought recall the subtle dub of the debut album with nods toward Kraftwerk and Belle and Sebastian. Sandwiched between the expansive glittering funk of Hold On and Bendable Poseable, it is in those introspective moments that the development of Hot Chip’s songwriting ability is demonstrated, all three tracks are beautiful, restrained and lushly produced. 

If I wish one thing, its that the band paid as much attention to the beats as they do to the rest of the music.  All too often, the drums seem to be added as an afterthought and although the band aren’t overly reliant on beats as the mainstay of their sound, they do seem to neglect the percussion as an art form in its own right. 

But, slight gripes aside, it is a good album. The stand out singles in the vein of Over and Over and Boy From School are not as readily evident, but there’s a sense that the band have ideas spilling out all over the place and plenty more to offer. They might have just saved EMI’s bacon.
Listen to the full stream of this album from this link
www.hotchip.com

Ian Anderson


 

Les Savy Fav - ‘Inches’ (Wichita)

Ten years in the making, Les Savy Fav’s ‘Inches’ brings together nine very different seven-inch records, (eighteen tracks in total) that were originally released on a variety of labels but are intended here to provide fans with almost certainly the best history lesson of all time. 

By presenting their singles in reverse chronological order these highly established Brooklyn-based post punkers allow for their developed sound to slowly unravel tune by tune. The first ten songs were all recorded in 2002-03 whereby a favoured slimmer, stripped down sound was embraced making the first half of the album more of a set piece than its second half. However from the very start ‘Hold On To Your Genre’ and ‘The Sweat Descends’ amongst others are fantastic examples of how dancefloor rock should be done. In fact, the band have been flying high on this angular, art-punk sound for some time now that it’s surprising how long it’s taken for current bands to catch on.

The band’s earlier days are represented on tunes like ‘Blackouts on Thursday’ and ‘Rodeo’ where the sound is murky and altogether much rougher than LSF’s later work. Here Butler’s bass takes a back step while the soaring guitars and Harrington’s untrained vocals excel. When the album ends you ask yourself, why after ten years has this band not become superstars? The answer...well you tell me. ‘Inches’ therefore is a product of a lot of hard graft from a forward-thinking band that shows intelligence and class. Underrated maybe, but I assume the reason behind this reissue is for audiences to realise just how bloody ruddy important this band really are.

Amie Kimtpon 

 

Truckers of Husk - Physical Education EP (My Kung FU)

The Cardiff music scene is a bubbling cauldron of hot talent. Most notably of course Los Campesinos is first to the tip of your tongue, but look beyond the radar and you will find much much more, especially, Truckeres Of Husk, one of the most exciting, experimental bands to explode out of Cardiff in recent years. Their EP 'Physical Education' is an absolute triumph of sonic excitement. The band's songs are intuitive and daring. Shoegrazing you may call it but the epic atmosphere and the absorbing and clear music makes the band a pure delight to listen to. I am yet to catch them live, but am determined to experience their music live, melodic, progressive and inventive rock Truckers Of Husk are a band well worth noting. If The Early Years are to your taste this band will sit very comfortably with you. 'Salad Ballad' off the EP absolutely blew me away the first time I heard it and continues to do so. The band's music is clear and organised, every element of the music is allowed to come through to its full extent, each note and each tone is perfectly placed to create a sonic experience of epic proportions. 'Salad Ballad' uses strings which make your hairs stand on end, if only the band utilised strings to their full extent, an orchestra backing Truckers Of Husk would be truly epic. I can see a BBC Electric Proms place on the horizon already. Seek out Truckers of Husk and be totally absorbed, play it loud and then turn it up some more, this band is destined for great things their sense of musical composition is perfect.

Gareth Ludkin

 
 

Various: Discovered – A Collection of Daft Funk Samples (Rapster) 

Ever wondered where Daft Punk obtain their samples? Seemingly mainly from an eclectic selection of old funk records is the answer. Thumb your way through their extensive back catalogue and you’ll find hidden away in all the copyright information that Da Funk contains a sample from Tata Vega’s ‘Get it Up’ and that Robot Rock consists of one part drum machine, two parts sampled analogue synthesizer from ‘Release the Beast’ by Breakwater and one part original vocoder.   

Really though, who cares? 

Unless you’re a huge Daft Punk fan, it’s hard to see the appeal of twelve tracks selected, not because of their individual brilliance, but rather because they contain an element which Daft Punk decided to incorporate into their own music. Often, the sample is only used as an intro, or a short fill, meaning that the essence of the track is something else entirely, and unrelated to Daft Punk at all. 

This lack of quality control means that although there are a few great tracks here, mostly its incidental to the reason why the track is here in the first place.  All of which makes it seem a bit of a pointless exercise.
http://www.rapsterrecords.com/discovered

Ian Anderson

 
 

The Whip - X Marks Destination

Hailing from Manchester The Whip should have no problem becoming the pinnacle of the most recent dance based scene. Making their name from high profile support shows for acts such as Justice.
Although only housing ten tracks the album is a marathon in electro house music. With each track averaging out to about five minutes it's not one to calm you down on a Sunday morning. The classic Mancunian feelings (kicked off with Joy Division) of endless grey and disappointment crops up most heavily on Frustration. Sirens is the best thought out track, predict smaller stages at festivals this year becoming a giant huddle of emotion when the chorus kicks in. In the terms of the more out and out dance tracks Divebomb ticks all the right boxes and is sure to kick up a storm, as did Crystal Castle's remix of said song last year.
The Whip do need to learn to control their instrumental lashings though. Songs such as Fire and Blackout probably have more effect in a live environment. Both of these could have been shaved by at a least a minute on record otherwise they certainly don't disappoint on their debut. There's enough quality here to balance out the quantity and The Whip should keep Manchester on the map for many more moons.

Nick Burman

 
 

Screaming Eagle – Wake Up The Dawn 

I’ll be honest, with a name like Screaming Eagle and promo material that talks of ‘doom jazz’, ‘swing influences’ and ‘Slavic literature’, I was unsure what to expect. I have not found much jazz or swing on this album, but what I have found are three talented musicians with a great chemistry who have made a cracking first album. I’m not an expert on Slavic literature, so I’ll have to take their word on that one. 

Openers ‘In The Dark’ and ‘A Kick In The Face’ rattle along at a cracking pace with great riffs and solid vocals. The former incorporates subtle tempo changes and neat lead guitar work which accentuate the main riff. The latter is propelled by the blistering bassline and frenetic drums before applying the brakes to merge seamlessly into the excellent First In, Last Out. Possibly the best song on the album (although there is stiff competition) this builds slowly to a transcendent chorus and a tight groove which is expertly developed by the band. 

The middle suite of the album consists of two instrumentals ‘NBR I’ and ‘NBR II’. Both songs have the feel of a jam session but are well conceived, meticulously crafted and delivered with verve and pomp. The band all pull in the same direction, each instrument flowing free but cohering enough to complement the overall sound.

Their songwriting ability is further demonstrated in the closing third of the album. ‘Raining Diabolus’ and ‘Sphere Of Influence’ continue the trend of solid riffs, excellent drumming and subtle segueways from one song to the next. This reinforces the impression of a band jamming but the clever sequencing indicates that this is not merely spontaneous and instinctive. The last song Pandaemonium is anything but, and instead represents a considered musical meander which retreads paths laid down by the preceding tracks before gently bringing the album to a close. 

In conclusion this is an impressive debut album which gets better with each spin. They are clearly talented musicians in their own right, but also have the ability to apply this talent as a tight unit. The album is sequenced very well to showcase the variety of the material, and the merging of one track to the next ensures a seamless transition. On the song Saplent the singer repeats the refrain ‘Where’s the income coming in from?’ With the quality of this album it is not a question that should be taxing them for too long.  

Richard Ash

 

Vincent Vincent and the Villains - Gospel Bombs (EMI) 

Foursome that sounds nothing like the sounds we know today. 

The album ’Gospel Bombs’ is a complete cocktail from the 50’s and 60‘s, mixed with modern rock’n’roll from the 90’s and today.

The album starts with ‘Beast’ a track played with a Hispanic guitar with rock’n roll influences. The difference is Vincent Vincent created a powerful intense and soulful new sound to the music he creates.

Being the beating heart of the band, Vincent Vincent feels that creating an album of perfection is what was needed to be done, and he wouldn’t accept anything less. He has completed that task quite successfully.

‘Blue Boy’ is a cute little number whilst ‘Sins of Love (Wah Do)’ gives us a darker insight to the band with colder lyrics and harder tones yet still keeping on with those 60’s harmonies and vocals sounding a little like Elvis! 

Gospel Bombs, which will be released on March the 10th 2008, sticks faithfully to three particular genres, Indie, Rock’n’Roll and Rockabilly.

‘On My Own’ , which was first released in 2004 with Smoking Gun Records, then re-released in 2007 shows the more funky, up-beat light side of the Villains, whilst ‘Cinema’ offers a great intro, building up with drums and powerful vocals which tell a story, this being the most unique quality the band have, as their songs all carry a meaning and tell a story, not necessarily a tragedy or drama, yet still, a story, which shows how Vincent Vincent writes truly from the soul. This is reflected on each of his tracks. 

‘Sweet Girlfriend’ is a typical example of 50’s boy band harmonic sounds and cheesy lyrics. It’s refreshing and a great comeback to a Buddy Holly style of music, whilst ‘Telephone’ is an up-beat track with the same funk as Jet’s ‘Are you gonna be my girl’. 

The band conclude their work with a nice finish titled track ‘The End of the Night’ ending our journey with a soulful acoustic guitar building up to a beautiful melody.  

Vincent Vincent and the Villains have stolen the essence that once made music and brought it back with their new funky unique and creative style.

To describe the album best I can, think Vincent Vega driving his car in Pulp Fiction with the wind rushing through his hair. This album should have been playing.

Justine Bartolo 

 
 

Eftus Spectun - The Talons Snag Binary (Void of Ovals)

Remember when you were at school and you would get asked to write essays on obscure subjects like, 'What is Art?' and 'Do People have Free Will?'. Well 'The Talons Snag Binary' reminds me a bit of that.

Never the most accessible or commercial side of the music world, Void of Ovals have released an album which consists of one 15 minute track which I am pretty sure has achieved what I thought might be impossible by not having any single consecutive notes on the single guitar forming any kind of chord, melody, progression etc known to music scholars (not that I am counting myself in that elite group of course. Not settling for that, there are some shambolic spasmodic shifting drum sounds which could equally have been caused by someone knocking over some pans in the background. Some tonal groaning about midway preludes what makes for a very minimal and, dare I agree with the press note hand written on a post-it, tense, mid section.

Is it a type of jazz? Maybe some would argue that. But it does tend to lead me to question the whole definition of the concept of music - would some people actually find this pleasurable to listen to?. Not that I am ever likely to pull this out of my CD collection again and have a quick listen. So Eftus Spectun are either heroes or villains. Fully pushing the boundaries as far as they can be taken. Or maybe just taking the piss. Still better than listening to another identikit singer songwriter though.
www.voidofovals.com

SB

 
 

Dagger Brothers - You Don't Have to BE Mad to Be in the Dagger Brothers But it Does Help (Void of Ovals)

As if Void of Ovals had not perplexed us enough month, they release this album by the Dagger Brothers which is as far from Eftus Spectun as you could possibly get.

Cheesey keys are the order of the day with a budget retro synth sound pretty much present throughout. Bizarre (what the BBC would call 'irreverent') lyrics abound (I'm sure part of the first track they are singing about meeting 'the monkey's silver penis' which would surely give even Underworld a run for their money in abstract imagery.) Add into the mix the fact that most of the vocals are either crooned like slowed down version of Elvis or growled like Orson Wells and the whole effect sounds like a prank recording by a bunch of GCSE music students.

Having said that, I seem to have listened to it an awful lot this month, not to mention inflicting it on several of my friends. There's something infectiously catching about this series of one minute pop songs that seems to have got me singing about him wearing 'a shirt over his shirt, and a hat over his hat' and 'Do you remember the 80's?'.

But is there maybe a clue at the end of the album when the light frivolity of the earlier sings seems to give way to the more 'serious' 'Is That You Mitty?' which is all arch goth-synth pop and even clocks up at a respectable 3 minutes long? A bit like very early Simple Minds when they were cool (yes kids, I know it's hard to believe but Simple Minds really once were cool electro goths). Is this whole album a yearning for the past, a tongue in cheek look at what the Dagger Brothers really want to record? Or is it just a piss take again? Damn it Void of Ovals - you are messing with my mind.
www.voidofovals.com

SB

 
 

We Are Scientists - Brain Thrust Mastery (Virgin EMI)

About four days after I thought I had got myself a very special personalised copy of 'Brain Thrust Mastery' I realise that having my name printed on the CD sleeve wasn't actually an honour but some cunning ruse to prevent piracy. Damn those lawyers at EMI.

But what of the music? Well with the departure of Mike Tapper, Chris Cain and Keith Murray seem to have augmented their previous sound with additional overdubs, bits of keys and an overall smoother production. Opener 'Ghouls' lumbers into action over a slow guitar effect and repetitive vocal round but never really gets going despite some ostentatiously heavy drums towards the end of the track. No such problem with 'Let's See It' which has 'future single' stamped firmly through it and features all the trademark WAS catchy guitar riffs and sing-along yelpy choruses. 'Chick Lit' has a similar pedigree - I'll cancel my subscription to Gardener's World if this does not make it as a single. Slightly ahead of 'After Hours' as my favourite song on the album, 'Chick Lit' has an insane squealing guitar line and a disco-funk bass riff which ticks all the right boxes.

So far so good then? Well maybe not. Interspersed between the aforementioned gems are a number of baffling, and in some cases, plain lazy, songs. 'Lethal Enforcer' comes straight from the 80's pop stable of Tears for Fears. 'Impatience' sounds like an amalgamation of Editors and The Killers - a combination which may appeal or may equally turn you right off. There's further slack with the croony 'Spoken For' and slightly lumbering 'Altered Beasts' (though the latter does feature some deliciously scuzzy bass). 'Dinosaurs' sounds like it is kicking up a storm suitable for an album finale but then there is another 80's reprise with the surplus track 'That's What Counts'.

All that said, it's hard to be too critical of what is in essence still a very good album. But the bar was set very high by 'With Love and Squalor'. All that youthful energy seems to have been somewhat tempered and replaced by schmaltzy retrospectives in 'Brain Thrust Mastery' as the band grow up and move on a bit. Still an excellent album but I get the feeling like old school chums that We Are Scientists and myself may be slowly growing apart.
www.brainthrustmastery.com

SB

 
 

Calvin Party – Godard’s Girlfriend (Probe Plus) 

Calvin Party are not a simple phenomenon - smooth and staccato, brash but subtle, artsy yet traditional. Their contradictions are evident throughout, and they are set to polarise opinion with this fourth album. As for my own opinion, the best that I can say is that I am still working on it! 

Take the songs ‘Best Friend’ and ‘Try’ for instance. The former goes like this: ‘You’re my best friend, the one I call when I’m so lonely. You’re my best friend, you’ll never be my lover’. The lyrics have a certain onomatopoeic quality and match the lazy, undulating swing of the guitar and vocals. Contrast this with the clipped ‘Try’ which begins with just the singer: ‘Along comes a gifthorse wrapped in a blanket, along comes an ambula-a-ance. Along comes Vanessa, Amy and Theresa, some bossanova da-a-ance. We-e-ell’. The song then bursts into life with abrasive jangly guitar, strangled vocals and ends just as abruptly as it began. Hmmm… 

The following two songs are melancholic, moody affairs. The title track captures the poignancy of being in love with a person you can not reach – ‘I’m in love with Godard’s girlfriend, she don’t know my name’. The achievement of this song is the manner in which the sentiment is given room to breathe, and not fettered with unnecessary instrumentation. ‘Broken Flowers’ is exceptional, a work of unassuming grace and beauty. The deep haunting cello to begin, the depth of emotion conveyed by the delicate vocals paving the way to an impossibly perfect chorus. But then, and herein lies the band’s maddening essence, they go and completely ruin it. The drums become fast and harsh, the delicate guitar turns to a rasp and the singer starts wailing like a banshee. What convinced them to end such a beautiful song like this I will never know.  

Elsewhere ‘Just Keep Falling’ is fun and vibrant, and ‘Veronica’s Song’ has a laid back Country vibe with excellent Stonesy guitar licks. In contrast ‘Hey Nothing’ pretty much lives up to its name and I fail to see the point of the stuttering ‘Sleep On The Rug’. To finish ‘Loss And Gain’ is another classic with rising vocals pitched against a descending riff, a strong chorus and absurd lyrics like ‘I named your son Brendan! Go!’ Typically, they then lapse into an inane five minutes of heavy drum beats and the singer whispering ‘Psycho psycho geography’ ad nauseum. Argh!! 

Calvin Party sound like a band who are in a perpetual state of experimentation and self discovery. They are a shifting sand of mood, texture and style but come across as sincere and without pretension or affectation. Their originality can at times lead them up blind alleys, but there is more than enough quality here to excuse these errant excursions. With this album they have forged a sonic tapestry whose tonal threads interweave to form a capricious but engaging work.  

Richard Ash

 
 

Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks - “Real Emotional Trash” (Domino) 

Stephen Malkmus has one of those quietly-attained, fuss-free pedigrees that seem to have formed before anyone could notice.  Having cut his teeth with lo-fi legends Pavement, and performed with the likes of Sonic Youth and the Silver Jews, “Real Emotional Trash” finds Malkmus on his second outing with the Jicks, now boasting former Sleater Kinney drummer Janet Weiss amongst their ranks.  And, on what is his fourth album since Pavement’s demise, he has lost none of his wit and is still capable of producing perfect, off-kilter pop songs.

Starting off with the scuzzy rock of “Dragonfly Pie”, and the frankly weird, what-the-hell-is-this-song-about “Hopscotch Willy”, it’s not until “Cold Son” with it’s Crowded House-style chorus that Malkmus’ famous eye for social commentary begins to show itself with the genius lyric “who is it that said that the world is your oyster, I feel like a nympho stuck in a cloister”.  He revels in spotting the details in life but reigns it all in within each song, forcing a closer listen to spot the next lyrical gem, and thus encouraging a thorough emersion in the album as a whole.

The whole record takes on a jam-session feel a certain points, particularly on the ten-minute title track, and the feeling is one of, “yes Stephen, we know you can sound like you are turning your guitar into a ray gun, but on with the album, man!”  The resultant noodling is a minor quibble though, because when the simple beauty of “Gardenia” arrives, replete with Weiss’ backing vocals, it shows that this guy can write an out-and-out pop song too without straying too far from his kooky, indie ethos.

Malkmus cannot resist one last blast of fun, with “Elmo Delmo” and it’s misleading flower-power whimsy, which suddenly plunges you into a wig-out haze of schizoid drumming and distortion.  Closer “Wicked Wanda” is the encore if the Beatles were still around on their umpteenth farewell tour, its Sgt Peppers-style strings, orchestral backing and distorted finale putting the final polish on a real delight.
http://www.dominorecordco.com/realemotionaltrash

Stuart Bowen

 
 

Gusto Extermination Fluid - The Cleaner 

This album from Gusto Extermination Fluid is one of those albums that you don’t really know how to approach. With its very dark industrial sound it wouldn’t be out of place being played at some electro club. With industrial music only appealing to a specific type of audience it will be hard to see this album selling well outside of its intended fan base. There is not a track on the album which is shorter that five minutes and with each song’s repetitive nature, this album is very heavy going. You would have to be a die hard fan of this music to listen to this album from start to finish because it is just a little too much to take in one huge chunk. This album is clearly for people who are more into their underground music as I cannot see it being well received outside the barriers of its fan base. Gusto Extermination Fluid have given themselves a very narrow market and it will probably benefit them and others if it stays that way. 

Tim Birkbeck

 
 

Neon Neon – Stainless Style

Synthesizers? Yes. Drum machine? Yep. Lush harmonies? Double tick. The best debut of the year so far? Definitely. The Super Furry Animals man, Gruff Rhys and LA producer Boom Bip team up for a project which reads like the plot outline of a 70’s comic strip but sounds like the future all those electro-indie-disco fanatics promised us would occur one year on from The Klaxons’ penetrating the mainstream. Boom Bip’s effortless production on ‘Dream Cars’ and ‘Trick For Treat’ makes you want to bottle your own ears while recent single ‘I Lust U’ loses non of its sense of detachment with lyrics referencing a modern money driven society. With up and coming female hip-hop duo Yo Majesty appearing on ‘Sweat Shop’ Neon Neon are definitely making all the right moves for a Gorrilaz style music scene take over.

‘Raquel’ moves a little too much towards the Calvin Harris side of the bed-wetting-electro spectrum but don’t fear, because there’s enough of the good stuff here (‘Luxury Pool’) to keep you occupied. And just as you though Gruff Rhys had gone completely electro-mad on us album closer ‘Stainless Style’ reminds us all why he’s here in the first place. With a choir lifting you above the sonic clouds these two leave you wondering what just happened and if it is was even real. But it is real, and it sounds this good, so thank God for that.

Nick Burman

 
 

Does It Offend You, Yeah? – You Have No Idea What You’re Getting Yourself Into

With a name as parent friendly as your pet rat ruining your Sunday best this is definitely one band your Mum won’t be replacing Abba with. What this album isn’t is an easy one, what it is a lot harder to pin down. Mixing 80’s vox with Rage Against The Machine styled guitars, glitchy, squelchy sounds parading around adding even more confusion to the mix. Long parts of instrumentation get you in the party mood, while the vocals get you even more up for it. Live highlight and single ‘Let’s Make Out’ appreciates the fact that it hasn’t been re-recorded and produced to oblivion. DIOY,Y pull off the single best straight up Indie Pop tune of the year in ‘Being Bad Feels Pretty Good’.

If it’s noise you want, it’s noise DIOY,Y are willing to give. Weird Science, Battle Royal and Doomed Now are all tracks which boggle the mind with effects which sound like a Tetris theme tune. The band warned us of an album which would sound a lot more like the eighties than anyone expected, luckily we’ve avoided the worst of it and ended up with a full on party album. And, first time around at least, no can complain at that.

Nick Burman

 

MGMT – Oracular Spectacular

When ‘Time To Pretend’ came on the radio with all its layers of sound, brilliant lyrics (“We've got the vision, now let's have some fun/Yeah it's overwhelming, but what else can we do?/Get jobs in offices and wake up for the morning commute?”) and the dull look at the life cycle and the way everyone thinks about themselves and little things which don’t matter I for one thought this was a band which would push forward anything which other bands were doing at the moment. It’s a shame to say though that compared to ‘Time To Pretend’ the rest of the album seems more than a bit wet. The harmonies on ‘The Youth’ sound nice, while the acoustic lead ‘Pieces Of What’ adds diversity to mass build up of instruments but as a whole the album bores. Every song averages out to about four minutes, and everyone seems to be twice as long as that again. With blatant influences from 60’s/70’s prog pioneers such as ELO and Pink Floyd, Oracular Spectacular seems out of place, out of time, and unnecessary. Maybe the only reason they signed to a major label is because they’re the only people who’d put millions into a hype, a hype which has made MGMT seem like the future, when all they relay seem interested in is copying a past.
www.myspace.com/mgmt
www.whoismgmt.com

Nick Burman

 
 

Illuminatus – The Wrath of Lambs

O dear. Even the striking artwork can’t save Illuminatus - a band as pretentious as their name suggests, plus their Promo people haven’t got the grasp of Primary school grammar. According to said promotion people ‘this is a band without a scene’ - in fact their scene is any metal music ten years old and useless to the 21st century. “We died so that the faceless stay rich”, the whole record sounds like a socialist propaganda tape, and the lyrics of apparent ‘depth’ end up sounding like some kind of average Joe whose seen one too many Trevor McDonald news reports. On the title track they even seem to think it’s necessary to tell us “the government are in control”. They’ll be big in China, but until they get some sense the rest of us are going to keep our faith in bands that have proper points to make.

Nick Burman

 
 

The Death Set – Worldwide

The Death Set: a collection of people who like making noise and a lot of it - bringing us up to speed with the 22nd century. Mixing Be Your Own Pet’s screechy, post-punk racket with Does It Offend You’s electro theme they sound like all those balls in a kids play pen popping open to reveal a special rainbow of MDMA shooting from each one equalling an ecstasy trip for your ears. Mass singing of seemingly nonsense lyrics adds to the fun. Do the band themselves understand what they’re on about? I don’t know but if they don’t let’s hope it stays that way.

In times of congestion, global warming and almost sudden recession these lot don’t care because the mainstream is pants. Let these underground noise lots run the world... watch out charts, ‘cause here comes “the motherfucking Death Set.”

Nick Burman

 

Scanners - Violence is Golden (Influx)

So this CD has been kicking around my flat for a couple of months, no sleeve notes and only a minimal press blurb included. So maybe not worth reviewing at all you may think. But like many a good album, it is because it is so good and warrants a number of listens that it has taken so long to write about. So first things first - apologies Scanners for my tardiness.

So without the benefit of a printed glowing recommendation from whoever or lavish sleeve art, how do this London 4-piece get their point across? The answer is 'Joy', the pounding power chord riddled opener that is the best statement of intent that I have heard from a band in ages. This is followed up with the gentler, more wistful single 'Lowlife' where singer Sarah goes all fragile on us.

Scanners seem unashamed to wear their influences clearly on their sleeves. 'In My Dreams' sees Sarah doing a more than passable Polly Harvey vocal and 'Changing Times' explodes into life after a beautifully stark reverby guitar intro. So four songs down and four singles no problem.

There's a change of tack in the middle of the album with the more upbeat poppy 'Bombs' and a retro Zepellin-esque vibe to 'Evil Twin' with it's eastern scales. A bit of Goldfrapp is acknowledged in the electro waltz of 'High Flyer' while 'Look What You Started' and 'Violence is pure Frank Black/Pixies.

So with all these name checks flying around you could be forgiven for thinking this is an incredibly derivative album. But it is to Scanner's very great credit that they have the talent to flit effortlessly between all these styles and apply their very own watermark straight through them. A formidable record from a very impressive band.
www.myspace.com/scanners

SB

 
 

Witch – “Paralyzed” 

The press sheet for this, Witch’s sophomore effort, offers up the usual clichés about how the band is “no supergroup or side-project” and how they’ve “learned to play to each other’s strengths”. Given that they also admit to never practising and only rarely play actual gigs surely makes a moot point of both claims, but let us not be distracted from the main reason we’re all here…what’s the album like? Hmm, not as good as last time…and last time wasn’t that great to begin with. 

Now reduced to a trio, and in a courteous bid to gel better with J Mascis’s hardcore punk drumming style, Witch has shrugged off the stoner rock shroud and sped up, and it doesn’t really suit them. They may still have one foot in the arena of ‘80s metal (“Eye”) but tracks like “1000 MPH” and “Mutated” have more in common with Mudhoney than Iron Maiden, and you’d be hard pressed to find an infectious riff or, indeed, memorable tune amongst the nine cuts on offer here. Dare I admit that I got bored and fast-forwarded through the last few tracks? Fuck it…I’ve said it now.
www.teepeerecords.com

Will Columbine

 
 

Scott Matthew - Untitled (One Little Indian) 

If you’ve been watching Project Catwalk, you’ll know who cheeky chappy, rake-skinny, bushy-bearded Ross is. If you don’t, then the fact that him and Scott Matthew look awfully alike well be of no use at all. There are probably a lot of comparisons to be drawn between song writers and fashion designers, but on the suspicion that I lost most of you at Project Catwalk they would be rather fruitless. Perhaps Glamour will have me. 

Scott Matthew makes cutesy, plinky-plonky songs with some dark and brutally honest undertones. His delicate vocals and stretched to breaking point on almost every track, although towards the end of the album he may actually be crying.  

There’s a decidedly melancholic feel throughout the whole album, combined with lush string arrangements and flutters of piano. Think Elbow but with slightly less oomph. 

Abandoned, Little Bird and Laziest Lie are highlights, balancing just the right amount of heartache, banjo, gloominess and sincere lyrics.  

Music, fashion... it’s all art innit? I’m off to Glamour.

Catriona Boyle

 
 

Kila – Gamblers Ballet (Kila Records) 

Perhaps it’s because it’s the day after St Patrick’s day, but I’m finding myself strangely endeared to this album, even though I can’t understand a word they’re saying. (That’s not the result of one too many Guinness’s, the album is recorded in Gaelic). 

Granted Gamber’s Ballet will be for a rather niche audience – an audience who probably knows the meaning of the words Ceilidh, and own a tin whistle. But once in a while it’s nice to here something a little more like music use to sound, and Kila certainly are that. 

As well as traditional Irish influences, there’s also a Spanish/ Mexican feel to Cardinal Knowledge, as well some Middle Eastern sounds throughout the album.   

The name of track six, Fir Bolg, must translate to something along the lines of ‘shake it’ and sounds a lot like music belly dancers. Odd but very effective. 

Completely unlike anything you’re likely to be listening to right now, Kila’s uniqueness makes them worth a listen.

Catriona Boyle

 
 

The Ike Reilly Assassination – Sparkle In The Finish/ Junkie Faithful (Rock Ridge Music) 

Double are never a good idea really are they? Unless you’re Smashing Pumpkins, which The Ike Reilly Assassination certainly aren’t. Sounding like a much more watery and whiny version of a nineties punk rock band, mixed with a the kind of ban who play barn dances, assassination sounds like a good plan to me. 

Sparkle In The Finish is full of up-tempo guitar heavy ‘the world is rubbish’ rants, that all start sounding the same by about track six. The nasal, straining vocals don’t help, and even the singer sounds bored. 

Funnily enough, if you make it to the second CD, it doesn’t get much better. Junkie Faithful sounds dated, tired, and completely irrelevant to anyone, save for a small group of Americans. The slower tempo tracks make it sound like the whole thing’s going to grind to a halt at any moment, and the one, four five chord sequence is done to it’s absolute death. 

Never mind a double album, even one album is too much here.
http://www.ikereilly.com

Catriona Boyle

 
 

Lenny Kravitz – It’s Time For A Love Revolution (Virgin Records) 

Ah Mr Kravtiz, that purveyor of generally bland music with the occasional blinder of a rock song thrown in. And he never seems to get any older. Well a Gill Scott-Heron type revolution this is not, but generally Kravitz stays away from being completely bland, and merely dips his toe in the pond occasionally.  

Love Revolution doesn’t open the album very well, and although the sentiment is there, it needs a good kick up the backside to sound like it really means it. The rock and roll scream at the end of the track is particularly embarrassing.  

Some strings pop up on Good Morning, but sadly only make the track feel like somewhat of a drudgery.  

There are glimpses of proper rock and roll though if you look hard enough. The riff in Love Love Love is almost Prince-esque, and although the lyrics are a little cliché (don’t need no television/don’t need no movie stars) at least Kravtiz isn’t singing about his fast cars and fast women. 

Lenny Kravtiz is capable of a dirty, rotten rock and roll funk track now and again. Sadly for the rest of the time he turns into a bit of a big girls blouse and wants to sing about broken hearts. At his best he’s a protégée of Prince and James Brown, but at his worst he’s best friends with soggy boys Maroon 5.
www.lennykravitz.com

Catriona Boyle