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  albums - april 2008

 
 
 

The Fall The Rise - Interlopers (Revolver) 

The Fall, The Rise are going for a very densely populated sound bracket with this their debut effort. Somewhere between the now frankly bloated genre of modern emo/screamo and alternative rock/metal route TFTR have found their niche. And they stick to this niche throughout Interlopers’ ten tracks.  

On first listen it is hard to distinguish from track to track and this potentially could be their downfall…. or their greatest boon, when appealing to the oft easily pleased listening audience. Indeed with play on MTV2 and Radio One of leading track and overall stand out track “Bite Your Tongue and Walk Away” they could get the break they have clearly been striving for in their four years of being band. 

It is overall relatively “heard it all before” with nothing to mark their sound out as their own which is not helped by Martin Hurley’s consistent, but in general by numbers voice that rarely changes its narrow range apart from the occasional scream. 

Those who are fans Deftones or Hot Water Music and are looking for a new band with which to hammer their eardrums wouldn’t go far wrong with The Fall, the Rise and so whilst they are nothing special they are clearly good at their chosen craft it is just a shame they come across so uninspiring. 

Download (but pay for it you pikey!): Bite Your Tongue and Walk Away, Sleeping With Both Eyes Open 

Christopher Sharpe


 

Layabouts - Layabouts 

Finally, nearly 3 years since forming, Layabouts get the UK release they’ve always deserved. After having being hyped up in Spain for years now, it is about time the UK has a chance to see what this band are all about. After a prestigious support slot with Fountains of Wayne on their Spanish tour earlier this year, Layabouts appear to be in a rich vein of form, and with a visit to the UK this summer, Layabouts can prove their worth yet further. Their self-titled debut is 40 minutes of pure, solid garage rock at its very best. From the fierce riffs of ‘Fine for Me’, the lead single, to the final thrashings of ‘Cut My Strings’, it’s a ‘hundred mile an hour record’ that appears to echo their live performances. However, if there is a dark shadow over this album, it is that it is too solid for its own good.  There is nothing that stands out about this record; it covers no new ground and also has no clear cut hits. The album is further plagued, with lyrical atrocities such as ‘Decisions must be taken so quickly, so easy… in the sunshine’. Nevertheless, it’s a good effort from an up and coming group, but you sense that Layabouts will make it no further here in the UK unless more killer tunes are written. Despite this, it’s well worth a listen, and it’s clearly worth watching these guys live. 

Sean Phillips

 

Hercules and Love Affair - Hercules and Love Affair 

DFA Records have struck gold once again with this release. If it’s jaunty, disco pop that you’re looking for, then this truly is the album for you. In reality, Hercules and Love Affair just shouldn’t work; a mass concoction of all eras of dance music intermingled with hints of soul, funk and pop…surely it’s a recipe for disaster. It’s not…It’s far from it.  Hercules and Love Affair have created an album certainly to be proud of. The album flows effortlessly from start to finish, from the Inner City-esque ‘You Belong’ to ‘Blind’- which must surely be the most exciting dance single released so far this year. Andrew Butler’s irresistible soul voice just seems to glide in perfect harmony to the funky bass line and drums.  It’s a faultless vocal performance from start to finish, and this ultimately makes for a superb album. However, the album isn’t perfect. Not by any stretch of the imagination. Apart from ‘Blind’, it’s an after-party record. It’s more stripped down and melancholy than most dance releases, and as a record, certainly won’t make you hit the dance floor, as it’s more reserved. In addition, the track listing further complicates things. ‘Free Will’, as good a song as it is, just doesn’t compliment the opening song slot, whereas the next song ‘Hercules Theme’ would have been a much wiser choice. Furthermore, the record seems to derail slightly after the soaring heights of ‘Blind’, in that there are no stand-out tunes. All in all, Hercules and Love Affair is not exactly what all the hype made it out to be, but it’s a solid start for Hercules and Love Affair and I’m sure that it will still be one of the best dance records of this year. 
http://www.myspace.com/herculesandloveaffair

Sean Phillips

 
 

The Kooks – Konk

Business as usual for the arse faced drama-school boys. They’ve since ditched bassist /drug barrel and potentially only believable character in the band Max Rafferty for a more concentrated, hard working band. This split of friendship in the band doesn’t even rise to the surface; no emotion seems to appear anywhere close to the lead singer Luke’s voice. For a WHOLE twelve tracks.

Not much has changed since Indie In/Inside Out, the productions gone sickly sweet for extra Topshop girl approval. Latest single ‘Always Where I Need to Be’ would make a corpse wiggle it’s hips for the sake of indie pop purity, even if the lyrics make little sense. This is probably a good thing though as most of the time they’re about how much attention he gets, mainly female. Whoever decided to try and recreate a Foals tune as the intro to a song about how much “I know you wanna make love with me” should be shot.

Not much to say otherwise. It drags on, it’s so full of itself it nearly disappears into oblivion by track seven. Three acoustic tracks in a row (including the hidden one at the end) should send your three year old to sleep, unless they have ADD in which case they smash the player up until you put some Does It Offend You, Yeah? on. Two albums in they should keep themselves atop their lofty tower of indiedom until the next one, when they’ll have to get a bit more aggressive with the competition. And find some new influences.
www.kooks.co.uk
www.myspace.com/thekooks

Nick Burman

 

Matthew Ryan - Matthew Ryan Vs. The Silver State (One Little Indian) 

Matthew Ryan has been a figure on the American songwriting scene for some time, bubbling under the surface but never quite hitting the mainstream. He’s shared a stage with Badly Drawn Boy, Turin Brakes and Lucinda Williams, and he’s doted on by writer Nick Hornby and songwriter Josh Rouse. In short, he’s an artist of quality, a musician’s musician. He’s also highly prolific, this being his eleventh release in as many years. 

Album opener Dulce Et Decorum Est is a great introduction to his style. Reminiscent of Springsteen at his fragile best or perhaps a mournful Ryan Adams, this is soulful, political, brave music. It’s also a great little tune, building quietly to something rather epic. 

American Dirt has the majesty of U2 without the pomposity. You can practically smell the pain here: “My eyes were blue, now they are bruises”. Piano ballad It Could Have Been Worse is another expansive slice of Americana; like casting your eyes across some great canyon. 

On Jane, I Still Feel The Same you start to feel that you’re party to something rather special. There are no tricks here, no overdubs or mountains of reverb, just a voice and a guitar for the majority of the track. 

Final track Closing In feels like the long journey home after a tiring trip away, the strummed electric guitar gently folding around your ears. 

It’s an album of vulnerability, but also compassion and faith. There’s a vein of honesty and empathy running through every track. A delight to the ears.
Watch video to 'Killing the Ghost'

www.matthewryanonline.com
www.myspace.com/matthewryan

Chris Moffatt

 
 

The Black Keys - Attack & Release (V2/Cooperative Music) 

Black Keys fans were understandably concerned to hear that legendary left field producer Danger Mouse would be producing their fifth album, Attack & Release. Worse still, the band had been hanging out with Thom Yorke and supporting Radiohead on their Summer tour of the US.  

However, fans can rest easy. The Black Keys haven’t done an Amnesiac, and while their new release has the crisp beats and sinister synths that characterise Danger Mouse’s work, this is still a solid blues record at heart.  

The opening two tracks sound like Jet would if they had an ounce of authenticity about them, or Kings Of Leon if they weren’t so annoyingly smug. It’s the sound of the deep South, but it’s commercial and listenable. Strange Times is a little reminiscent of the great but short lived DFA 1979 and screams first single.  

Psychotic Girl sounds like the unlikely collaboration between Neil Young and Gnarls Barkley. The vocals are distant and ethereal. The guitar’s threatening; the detuned piano menacing. It works beautifully, but you wouldn’t want to meet it down a dark alley. 

The middle track on the album is split into two “sides”, a concept somewhat alien to CD listeners. The first half is a gentle, electronica tinged reminiscence while the second half has been touched by the hand of Led Zeppelin; two minutes and eleven seconds of ball-busting riffs and guttural screams. 

Same Old Thing is an intriguing blend of hip hop beats, Beastie Boys’ flute and distorted electric guitar, while Oceans and Streams sounds like it could be the ideal next cover for Amy Winehouse. Closer Things Ain’t Like They Used To Be is a perfect conclusion to the album – no frills blues with stirring Hammond and a great refrain. 

The blues are a difficult genre to master. For so long the preserve of purists and musos, modern artists who take on the field do so with the spirits of Lead Belly, Robert Johnson and Howlin’ Wolf looking over their shoulders. The Black Keys and Danger Mouse have managed to take the tradition, add sprinkles of hip hop, rock and electronica, and somehow produce an album that acknowledges the past but looks to the future. They’ve walked the tightrope and they’re safe on the other side. This is an important album that deserves to push The Black Keys right into the mainstream.

Chris Moffatt

 
 

Frank Turner - Love Ire & Song (Xtra Mile Recordings Ltd) 

Frank Turner used to be in a bad punk rock band called Million Dead. Now he’s a bad singer-songwriter. There’s not much more to say. 

Why should any self respecting music fan devote any time to an artist with Blink 182, Rancid and Jimmy Eat World in their Amazon Wish List? More to the point, why should they listen to a singer-songwriter who claims that he wants to “write simple acoustic music without sounding like James Blunt”, then proceeds to make an album that sounds like James Blunt singing in an American accent with a bit of violin on the top? 

There’s something so cold, soulless and horribly calculated about this album, it’s as if someone’s pushed James Blunt, Sam Duckworth and Biffy Clyro into a blender and whisked up this god-awful concoction. 

The lyrics are pure sixth-form poetry: “I wish that she had cared for me but in the end her ideologies occupied the fortress of her heart”. Relationships have ended for lesser crimes against the English language. 

There are really no standout tracks here. Some are slightly faster, some are slower. Some are marginally more annoying than others (Photosynthesis). One’s a bit louder than the others (Imperfect Tense). Eventually they all merge into one mediocre pool of lift music. The kind of music that Radio 2 stopped playing because it was too boring. 

It makes sense that Turner has been hanging out with Sam Duckworth, Biffy Clyro, Hadouken and Jamie T. All artists united by the power of marketing over musical quality. 

There’s an old saying: “If you haven’t got anything good to say, don’t say anything at all”. Frank Turner would do well to heed the advice.

Chris Moffatt

 
 

KIKO – Slave of My Mind – Pias Recordings 

Serious techno, pared down to minimal components, sparse, angry and industrial. Settling down and listening to KIKO requires a little forethought. KIKO has remained faithful to the 808 and the 303, the iconic bass and drum machines which make up for in authenticity what they lack in modern day amplitude, so you’re going to need something other than the feeble speakers of a laptop computer, or an MP3 player to get much pleasure from it.. Secondly, you’re going to have to play it very, very loud. 

If, you are able to do so, prepare to be rewarded. KIKO has produced an album which is rooted in techno history, but he hasn’t simply faithfully recreated the sound of Detroit in 1982. Rather, he has produced delicate sonic frameworks, using harsh machines. The result can be mesmerizing; the listener appreciating how much effort it must have taken to get those sounds from that equipment. 

There is straight up four-four techno here, with fat, thudding beats and a cacophony of rhythmic clicks and whirs underscoring the dark matter. But often Kiko veers off into the realms of industrial new wave and Ital Disco, the structure of each song always smeared and hidden beneath layers of grimy squelches.  

The use of likeably obscure vocalists provides contrast and interest, thoughtful arrangements ensuring that they don’t just sound ‘tacked on’ as can sometimes be the case with techno and dance music.   

On the whole, Slave of My Mind is a hard listen, but a rewarding one.

Ian Anderson

 
 

Polydream – Send Me To The Sun (Polydream Ltd)

How can a record that tries so hard to be the very definition of 'Alternative Rock' wind up being so painfully mainstream?
 
For a long time, so-called alt.rock has been evolving its own particular cliches, just like any other music genre. You know what they are: plodding rhythms, banal lyrics, overwrought vocals, yada, yada. And they are all over this debut LP, in a frankly rather soulless collection from a band that was voted best new artist in the Madison area of Wisconsin last year. And I really pity Madison, if this effort is the pinnacle of their collective creative energies.
 
Opener 'Catch Me If You Can' could have been an album track from The Fray as covered by The Goo Goo Dolls, until the band wheeled out a massed choir of school children from the half way point, thinking this was their equivalent of Pink Floyd's 'Another Brick in The Wall'. Nope.
 
Several generic, radio-friendly tunes later, 'Luster' serves up a reprise of Coldplay's 'The Scientist' for much of its length before turning into another song from The Fray with the help of some pretty strings.
 
But there is hope. 'In the Daylight' and 'Tonight' respectively showcase some fine, if over-polished, production and Jonathan Knudson's impressive vocal range. The middle section that transforms 'Luster' from a piano-led ballad to a rock anthem is a fine piece of songwriting. And on closing track 'Montana', the band belatedly discover the art of rhythm with a bouncy little number that hints at some energetic live performances.
 
For fans of Virgin Radio, Polydream's debut album may be a must-have purchase. I suspect the rest of us will demand a little more originality before we part with any hard-earned cash.    
http://www.polydreammusic.com

Chris McCague

 
 

Heath Street – Heath Street (Tinderbox)

Dominated by intricate folk-pop creations, Heath Street's sound draws equally from the stateside country-rock scene (Bruce Springsteen and Ryan Adams) and the modern Irish folk-pop trend (especially Damien Rice). The result is a mainstream hybrid of intelligent lyrics, arty guitar picking and a warm, rich voice made for Sunday afternoon FM radio.
 
Fans of modern folk-rock will adore the songwriting craft, the soulful melodies and bright, acoustic fingerpicking here. Upbeat track 'The One Time' is a possible single with its repeating refrain, oh so simple lyrics and a hook that consists of precisely two notes. And I could swear that 'Falling Softly' is a missing gem from Duke Special's last album. The piano is played with feeling, particularly on 'Breeze', which briefly threatens to reach the level of a masterpiece, but fades out just when a great crescendo of an ending seemed imminent. Elsewhere, Karl Huth's touches of fingerstyle guitar are a perfect accompaniment to Scott Fruhan's crystal clear voice.
 
The album's most vulnerable moments are the result of trying to be different, perhaps just for the sake of it. The fragmented patterns and shifting chords of 'The Snales' are almost as odd as the eccentric family they document, whilst 'Cambridge Song', closely reminiscent of Damien Rice's 'Dogs', is courted by a marimba that knows it is out of place but wants to join in anyhow.
 
But when the main singer and songwriter on a record is also a sound engineer, a few quirks should be expected. It is to Fruhan's credit that he has allowed for plenty of space and honesty in the simple-but-polished production, letting each song breathe - sometimes with just one instrument accompanying the vocals.
 
If the chorus melodies were turned up a notch or two, a bright future beyond the New York City coffee-house circuit might be just around the corner. 
http://www.myspace.com/heathstreetmusic

Chris McCague

 
 

Day One - ‘Probably Art’ (One Little Indian Records)

You may think that you’ve never heard of Day One before, but think again. Back in 2000 this Bristol duo released their “critically acclaimed” debut album ‘Ordinary Man’, which even if you didn’t hear it you’re probably familiar with a selection of the songs. Music for the LP was used in Cruel Intentions, The Big Tease and TV productions such as Six Feet Under and Trigger Happy TV as well as several advertising campaigns. All that and we’ve not herd a peep from them since, until now.

‘Probably Art’ is a mish mash of trip-hop bristolian beats, but from beginning to end it appears incredibly out of date.  Throughout the album Phelim Byrne blabbers on about mundane stereotypes tediously rapping (if rapping is what he is trying to achieve) about the obvious and constructing rhymes that are hilariously predictable. In its weak attempt to appeal to the masses ‘Saturday Siren’ has a predominantly (poor) indie feel to it with light guitars and plodding drums dominating the sound, while ‘Give it To Me’ sounds like two over aged men attempting to be ‘down with the kids’ as they rope in Will.i.am to give the song a stronger hip-hop quality. They fail miserably.

This album may have, just may have had some relevance or appeal five to ten years ago, but a lack of progression in the lyrical narrative and a sound that’s repetitively been done before leaves the listener extremely uninspired .

By Amie Kimpton

 
 

The Drift - Memory Drawings 

Given the sheer amount of genre cross-pollination out there, I'm amazed it took long for someone to cover post-rock and jazz in manure and shove them in a greenhouse somewhere. The resulting cuttings seem pretty promising. The Drift deal in big atmospheric soundscapes but with a weird sense of something bubbling underneath in the rhythms,  ready to break out at any second. Its the sound of being trapped in a lighthouse during a thunderstorm. They won't appreciate me saying it but I'd imagine this'd be perfect music to take heroin to.

Andy Glynn

 
 

Last Harbour - Dead Fires and the Lonely Spark 

'I have no good will for this world...' sings Kevin Craig on the fourth track on this album, 'Revengers Waltz'. Believe me, it shows. Rarely has anyone sounded so resigned and broken. Its like hes stared into the void. Songs start as slow staid funeral marches and build to giant clattering crescendos of mocking violins and anguished howls. While the volume and pace of this record are pretty restrained, the emotion and tension are cranked up to eleven and you'll feel like you've been through the ringer by the end. Not an easy listen then, but totally compelling.

Andy Glynn

 
 

Springfactory - Springfactory 

Glee! Harmonies! Music that says nothing bad will happen, ever, and even if it does it doesn't matter because everything'll sort themselves out eventually. This is the sound of someone flicking through the presets on their keyboards, hoping they'll chance upon 'the Bis sound'. Jaunty? You have no idea. The biggest existential dilemma faced on this album occurs, eight tracks in, when they forget to put the hoover round. Ace. If music production was put solely in the hands of CBeebies presenters then all pop music would sound like this. I think we should seriously consider it.

Andy Glynn

 
 

The Envy Corps – Dwell (Mercury Records)

The opening track "Wires & Wool," starts off with a sombre tone, that settles you back in your chair and prepares you for an album of delicate mellowness. However, half a minute later, a quirky upbeat riff comes out of, apparently, nowhere, and breathes new life into the song, forcing you to radically rethink the three-piece from Iowa. And it really sets the pace for the album. Melodic indie with slow vocals gently overlaid, occasionally introducing electronic sub-tones, such as in "Keys To Good Living."

With wonderful song-writing ability, The Envy Corps produce the kind of music anybody could listen to. Although there's nothing that blows your mind, it's all perfectly enjoyable. Just sit back and absorb the music as you're taken on a wondrous journey through the twelve tracks.

Clearly influenced by many great bands, I personally draw from the album, the sounds of artists like Elbow, Radiohead, Stephen Fretwell, and The Doves, with the two highlight tracks being "Party Dress," and "Baby Teeth," which come towards the end of the album. Real gems that stand out before the album finishes in an atmospheric tangle at the end of "You'd Look Good In Wings, Pt II."

All in all, impressive stuff, and well worth a listen. And if you have time, a few listens.

Thom Curtis

 
 

The Kills – Midnight Boom (Domino)

Consisting of just Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince, The Kills are producing a highly addictive, sought after, and powerful sound. With punk, indie and electronic influences, the group also feature some of the grimey, crunchy sounds, similar to that of Portishead's latest material. Although the music press often draw reference to the White Stripes, I feel this isn't at all relevant. Yes, they're a male and female duo, but they're tuneful. And thus, very different. You could think of the sound similar to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but again, more tuneful. Mosshart has a fantastic voice, like that of PJ Harvey, which gracefully compliments the catchy backing. Simple guitar plucks and equally simple beats form the music, which altogether has a very raw and grungy feel. It's a beautiful sound though, it really is. Highlight tracks are "Cheap and Cheerful," and "Last Day Of Magic," although a lot of the material sounds very similar, with the exception of a slower, more ambient, atmospheric track, "Goodnight Bad Morning," which draws a close to the album in a strangely contrasting manner. It doesn't leave you thirsty for more, you feel your thirst for interesting music has been perfectly quenched, and I suppose that makes it a success.

So to conclude, I'd simply say it's fucking awesome. Get involved and buy a copy for everyone.

Thom Curtis

 
 

Elle Milano – Acres of Dead Space Cadets (Brighton Electric Music)

You'd expect, with a name like Elle Milano, a solo songstress, who is going to wail on about this and that, and generally be quite naff. You know, a Katie Melua or Norah Jones who think they've got the "edge." Well, you'll be happy to hear, they're a three-piece exciting band who now call Brighton home.

The opening track, "Laughing All The Way To The Plank," explodes out of nowhere (namely silence if you've just put the CD in,) and instantly blows your mind. I'm hard to impress, but crikey Moses, this is brilliant.

The little write up tucked into the CD claims the band make "angular, articulate, angry, witty, and archly knowing guitar rock" music. I thought this a little arrogant and far-fetched upon first reading. Until I listened. It's oh so true. The albums features sounds from every element of the rock spectrum, although the pace generally remains pretty high. An indie-pop blend that makes you want to jump around like a loony and do all kinds of unimaginable things that could no doubt result in personal injury. It's music like this that makes you want to be in a band.

It's really annoying when you have to write critically about a seemingly flawless album, I won't lie. But there's so much energy embedded within the wonky unpredictable brilliance. This is just stunning.

A highlight track is "Curiosity Killed The Popstar," featuring a mentally haunting introduction that finds it's exciting pacey self just in time before you hide behind the sofa for fear of being eaten alive by some mysterious organism emanating from your speakers. Another great is "I Know It's Good But I'm Playing It Down," but to be fair, they're all just fantastic. What a pleasure the the ears. An audio orgasm, if you will.

Thom Curtis

 
 

The Child - Think Loud 

Nick Schinder, founded his band in Buenos Aries, Argentina, toured it round Barcelona and has now set up in London to treat us Brit-sters with some of own medicine. 

Their music has a simple appeal as solid pop-rock: you couldn’t knock it down even if you had all the Brit-school chart-toppers on your side. It’s got attitude, oomph and an even a little angry protesting. Encapsulating their energy and demonstrating their talent, their album offers enough variation to keep you entertained. Stand-out tracks, ‘Ugly Town’ and ‘Grow Old With You’ really are brilliant pop-rock. Sing-alongs in their prime, they have classic cheeky guitar licks thrown in for good measure,  

The Child’s songs explore all matters, from common experiences of love and ‘flying the nest’ to summarising and criticising the human species: they’ve got everything covered. Track ‘Humans (The Report)’ attempts to sum-up the human condition: “an abstraction they call “money” it’s the measure of their worth […] they believe in property, and nations, and borders” to abridge. Lead singer, Nick, delivers his message with an athletic vocal performance, allowing his melodies to soar in Jeff Buckley-style. 

The Child are here to be enjoyed and certainly help the deficit of Britpop giants, such as Supergrass, who The Child are clearly influenced by. Commercial enough to do well but not commercial enough to be musically condemnable, The Child have nailed the pop-rock equation to produce classic tracks. Britpop is back with Argentinean class.  

Jenny Williams

 
 

Cantaloop - I.C.H.I.L.E 

Cantaloop are back, after a long break with this, their new LP I.C.H.I.L.E. It’s a complex, diverse and challenging return right from the off, with hints of soul, funk, jazz and hip hop all kicking in at various points in the record. Opening track ‘Brotherhood’ is a fine return, embellishing all the elements that Cantaloop excel in: funky guitar riffs, cunning lyricism and tight, intense drums. The album also includes a gem, in the final track; ‘Real Thing’, a remix by Fun Lovin’ Criminals of one of the earlier tracks on the album-it is truly excellent, and goes to show what as bit of expert guidance on their next record could do for Cantaloop.  

Being best friends with Fun Lovin’ Criminals, should surely escalate this record to the heights of the mainstream, however, it won’t at this stage. I finish listening to this record utterly confused. Yes, Cantaloop challenge themselves by playing with many genres, however I think that this ultimately works to their disadvantage. If you imagine the album is a food blender, they have shoved all the bits of fruit (i.e. the songs) into it, and all the pieces have remained hard and haven’t broken down - therefore no smoothie is made. I.C.H.I.L.E is a hard listen: all the different parts float off in different directions with no overall direction. Where you have to admire the brilliant individual performances from the members of the band, it just doesn’t gel into the perfect article. It’s clear that Cantaloop have some of the finest musicians about playing in their band, and musically they are superb, but the album certainly is not, because at the moment it’s too wild and all over the place to make any lasting impression. 

Nevertheless, it’s a fine return, with a number of very good songs, and I get the impression that with some control on the next record, Cantaloop could soon be one of the biggest bands about. And based on Chinese whispers, Cantaloop are an act to behold live, so catch them soon, because this record, although not perfect is very promising.
www.myspace.com/cantaloopnufunk 

Sean Phillips

 

Akira the Don - Thieving  

A few years ago, a certain ‘MC’ called Robbie Williams released quite possibly one of the worst albums of all time in ‘Rudebox’. From the moment I first received this CD, I was pretty sure that I was going to feel the same thing. First of all, I was almost offended by the Blur-mocking artwork, then I almost passed out when I discovered that this mixtape spanned nearly 75 minutes. I honestly felt that this was doomed from the start. 

And I’ll be honest, it’s a 50/50 record. Frankly, half of this album is utterly pointless. Full of filler tracks that fulfil no potential and spark no excitement in the mind of any listeners. Possibly the worst of the bunch has to be ‘Oh! (What a Glorious Thing)’. It seems Akira the Don (aka Adam Narkiewicz hasn’t got a clue where he stands in terms of his musical direction. It appears to be a stab for mainstream glory, but the grim reality is that it is frankly rubbish.  

On the other hand however, where Akira the Don sticks to his guns, he produces some decent songs. Opener ‘Thieving’ becomes a stomper, after you’ve seen through the horrendous opening. ‘Boom feat. Lethal Bizzle’ is a sure-fire winner too. So, all in all, when Akira the Don puts his mind to it, he produces some songs worthy of mainstream attention, however, until he discards all the ‘rubbish’ songs he writes, he will get nowhere. The biggest problem of this record is that it is a mental challenge. Having to wade your way through 21 songs, where some are great and some are painful, is a tough ask in itself. So for next time, I strongly suggest that Akira the Don chooses the 11 best songs he writes, and then bangs them on a CD- that way he will gain wider appeal. However, if you want a bargain, it’s well worth forking out five quid for this mixtape. Five quid for the seven or eight good songs there are on here is definitely money well spent.
www.myspace.com/akirathedon 

Sean Phillips

 
 

The Triffids - Treeless Plain (Domino)

The sound of 1983 Australia is now available for you to sniff and step carefully around in yet another form (see the back catalogue of Nick Cave...), this one courtesy of Domino Records. Recorded in 12 midnight-to-dawn sessions, or something, we get a virtual image that's reflected off the surface of a The Monks CD case at an angle of refraction that, in terms of degrees, is not far from Bob Dylan's honorary doctorate in music... You see, the thing about this is... it is actually the little odd things that make this record sound great, or interesting. Which is something that can't be said for most of modern pop music. Like the feedback on "Old Ghostrider", or the variation of the bass rhythms (more noticeable on later Triffids albums). The oddities become currency: this is something you wouldn't be familiar with in 1983 or in 2008, despite the happy-go-lucky advice of "Place in the Sun" sounding less like "folk rock" than modern indie pop. Is it Nick Cave? With a more English accent? Covering Pram songs?

It's easy to see how "Treeless Plain" quickly decentralises: but still, this is called "Treeless Plain". It does sound like music should sound when it's slightly too hot and you're tired and in the middle of nowhere and in a car. A welcome re-release, then, if only if it puts into context how pisspoor The Wombats etc. are at making their "brand" of pop music something that can stand out by itself.

Phil Coales

 
 

Soular - Love Crash Heal

It's not hard to become tainted by association. When was the last time you were moved to use the verb "muse" in conversation? Poor Soular, then. Surely impeccable all-round knowledge of classic rock musicianship and an accurate method for doing that "falling and then soaring" thing means that if you like rock music and that's all, Soular are great. The fact that it's an album full of songs about relationships makes it seem dreary at times, though, and the ending-on-a-quiet-note-contrasting-with-the-rest-of-the-album stuff is a bit, well, dreary. Yeah, almost cliched. If it's in danger of becoming a bit of a bland "all-round, contemporary, US rock" album, though, it's saved by the musicianship. Where Soular's intensity is lacking, or where lyrical ingenuity lets them down, the bass playing, the drumming and the beating heart of this music just won't let you push Soular over.

Phil Coales

 
 

Pigeon Detectives – Emergency (Dance To The Radio) 

According to the label, this is an ‘exclusive watermarked preview copy’ of tracks from the Pigeons new album, Emergency. I must say, I feel quite privileged, although I’m not sure how you’d go about watermarking a CD. 

So after almost a year after their debut, Pigeon Detectives second album is a ‘more of the same’ type affair. Perhaps slightly less frantic than its predecessor, Emergency sees the band settle down and become a little more comfortable with their mid-tempo, mass appeal chorus, pleasant enough brand.  

Nothing To Do With You is a charming acoustic track showing the Pigeons softer side, simple but heartfelt. 

I’m a Liar ups the tempo and show some of the energy of their previous record, complete with a riff-tastic guitar solo. 

Overall Emergency sees Pigeon Detectives in a slightly mellower form, still with all the same ingredients, but slightly less spicy. If you liked them before, you’ll still like them, but it’s unlikely to make you fall in love with them.  

Catriona Boyle

 
 

Daniel Lanois – Here Is What Is 

I know you’re thinking it, and you’re probably right. Journalists are lazy. That’s what press releases are for. So hand me a cd with a name, a title and ‘cd’ on it and I’m not going to be best pleased.  

So I could trawl the internet to discover who Daniel Lanois is, but I’m just too lazy. So I guess that just leaves the music to write about... 

Sadly though there’s not much to say on the front. He’s simply a substandard Richard Hawley, almost copy cat vocal styles, but without Hawley’s flair and drive.Voice, guitar, piano, and odd excerpts of interviews with whom I can only assume is the man himself, that sound nothing more than egotistical. And very uneventful. 

Lovechild, a piano instrumental, is tender and beautiful if nothing else, and worth the rest of the whining average -ness of the rest of Here Is What Is.  

Technically there’s nothing wrong with it, but like us journalists, it’s a bit lazy.

Catriona Boyle

 
 

Amy Studt – My Paper Made Man (19 Recordings) 

Remember Amy Studt first time around? She was an angsty, stoppy teenager, billed as the UK’s answer to Avril Lavigne. Well let’s hope she’s shaken that off with this album. 

Although still looking rather stroppy on the sleeve, My Paper Made Man does seem to be a step up for Ms Studt, if not just for the inspired title. 

Now more Alanis than Avril, this album sees Amy exploring music further, branching out with instruments, song writing and vocal ability. Sad Sad World showcases Amy’s rather range-tastic voice from a her low rumblings to her up in the heavens squeal at the end of the track. 

Her sugar-sweet vocals are combined with dark, string laden tracks creates a well rounded and certainly more grown up sound. 

Distancing herself from earlier clichés, Amy Studt is now a lady to be taken seriously, showing more maturity and depth than her one-dimensional contemporaries such as Lily Allen and Kate Nash.  

Dark and haunting, delicate and enthralling, My Paper Made Man is one hell of a coming of age.

Catriona Boyle

 
 

Athena – Breathe With Me (Embraceable Records) 

Despite sounding like one of those awful dance groups with a female singer, Athena couldn’t be further from it if she tried.

It certainly won’t get you on the dancefloor, but it will make you stop and listen. A lilting folk sound, Breath Like Me is reminiscent of early Joni Mitchell, particularly on Green Eyes. 

Simple but timeless, the vocals and song writing speak for themselves, it’s the organic bread of music.

Catriona Boyle

 
 

Naughty Jack - Good Times

More albums should have stories to them. Real-life 'son of a preacher man' Naughty Jack (AKA Adam Morely) fled to the solitude of an abandoned house in the Peak district for a week and after what we can only imagine was some kind of mystical epiphany, returned to society clutching this album. Its a warm, up-front collection of songs, which really do sound like someone playing in your living room. Its this personal feeling, perhaps more than the songs themselves, which make this album hard to dislike. You might not think so yet, but one night, when your woman's left you, your friends aren't answering their phones, and the corner shop's out of mid-priced whiskey; you'll need an album like this.

Andy Glynn

 

Millencolin - Machine 15 (Burning Heart Records) 

Fifteen tracks, not one over four minutes?  It must be the long awaited new album from Swedish legends and purveyors of the punk-pop blast Millencolin!  Forged in the same melting pot as Bad Religion and The Offspring but boasting their most relevant and bang-up-to-date sound yet, you get the feeling that Millencolin have been shrewdly biding their time for the three years since last release, 2005’s Kingwood, ensuring that “Machine 15” will only add to the quartet’s two million worldwide sales.  Enlisting the help of former cohort Lou Giordano (Sugar, The Ataris and Sunny Day Real Estate) on producing duties, this is the kind of pop-punk that the likes of Fall Out Boy and Elliot Minor only dream they could emulate and frankly, it’s good to have them back!

From the outset, it’s apparent that Millencolin intend to keep the new listener and the loyal fan equally on their toes, the title track firmly stepping on the rock peddle before “Done Is Done” operatically changes the pace.  It’s as epic as it gets at just under the four minute mark but what’s this?  A string-led interlude?  It looks like these old fellas will teach those newbies a trick or two by the time this album’s done!!!

“Detox” is summer distilled into three and a half minutes, all glistening harmonies and a stamp-along choruses that would even lift Winehouse from her stupor, whilst the tongue-in-cheek “Come On” is its sexy sibling, smothering its naughty innuendo in shimmering, smile-inducing swathes of trademark Millencolin guitar.

Preceded by cheeky filler “Centerpiece”, the furious steam-train that is “Who’s Laughing Now” is apparently about a high-earning Swedish football player but could easily be applied to Millencolin themselves, and stamps a great big “fuck you!” all over the pounding drums and punishing riffs.

It’s exhausting stuff and “Saved By Hell”, again incorporating strings and a change of pace, is a chance for a well-earned breather before it fails to stifle another clean slice of pure punk on its epic choruses.  Only closer “Endpiece”, which sounds like the pipes cooling down on a heating system, is out of synch with everything that has come before it, but it takes nothing away from what is a thoroughly enjoyable romp.

Millencolin are, despite mutterings from some quarters, not too old and still a very important part of the rich rock palette.  Listen and learn, newbies, you know who you are!
http://www.millencolin.com

Stuart Bowen

 
 

O Fracas - Fits & Starts (I Can Count Records)

Three years in the recording, involving large numbers of bassists and with both the Cribs and Forward Russia breathing down their necks, here, from Leeds, is O Fracas album, finally. And were those three years wasted? 

When a band sets itself a difficult agenda, along the lines of 'we absorb any influence we think we can use, whether jazz, folk, funk,assorted ethnic sounds and of course, Erase Errata'  then three years in the studio starts to seem a bit of a rush job: 'Fits & Starts' has an uneasy pace attached to even its quietest moments. And if this album represents three years work then do not show surprise if I mention that one or two of the albums tracks actually sound a bit dated, relying on scraping guitars and strident rhythmic backflips which almost belong to another decade. Assuming that the 12 tracks are in chronological sequence then O Fracas - the band that was nearly just The Fracas - are presenting to us an incomplete work in progress which properly falls into shape around track 9, as the Yorkshire collective suddenly stop copying and start drawing actual inspiration from their influences, two years down the line. The later tracks are a hypnotic amalgam of ragtime, klezmer and punk, recorded in a roofless music hall as an elderly Tom Waits shuffles offstage in the background. That was the best bit anyway. Mediocre O Fracas ain't.

Jon Gordon

 
 

Big Linda - I Loved You (Ursa Major Records) 

When you can boast that rock royalty such as Jimmy Page and Robert Plant have attended your live shows, your debut album will have a lot to live up to.  Thankfully, London quartet Big Linda more than deliver on “I Loved You”, an album borne of mysterious benefactors, chance meetings and a chemistry that no amount of record company money could create.

From the lead-off, buzz-saw guitars of “Suddenly Attacked” to the experimental distortion of closer “Just Passing”, Big Linda bask in the aura of good, old fashioned rock’n’roll.  They rightly offer no apologies for throwing everything from ACDC, Free and Led Zeppelin into the mix and then spewing out their own immediate and vital take on it all.  Whilst the initial reflex is to bemoan this as nothing new, the fuzzy guitars, ferocious drumming and knowingly retro production by Andy Wright leave you feeling much more refreshed than you should listening to supposed “copyists”.  

Latest single, “Golden Girl” is a ridiculously catchy case in point, the caterwauling yowls and whoops of Rob Adler cartwheeling around the joyous guitars and hand claps, before shifting down a gear for “Another Way”, to create the album’s quiet highlight, although even here, Big Linda struggle to contain themselves and just about stifle a yearning to flail into action.

The acronym-tastic “IDELU” lurches and veers between the spiky, stop-start choruses to an otherworldly, ethereal mid-point that only makes the finale even more vitriolic, particularly when you learn that it actually stands for I Don’t Even Like You, an ode to a misplaced proposal by the wrong girl on February 29th (really!).

Choosing to cover Thomas Dolby’s “Windpower” may seem an odd choice given other points of reference readily available, but by removing the speak-and-spell vocals and extracting the mobile ring tone-quality of the original, and replacing it with the echo of some retro rock vocals and tribal drumming, it is transformed into a visceral, six-minute monster of feedback and distortion, and it sounds damn good for it! 

The quality up to this point is such that the simple pop-rock of “Jenny Don’t” and the huge, American-highway sized guitars of “Get It While You Can” nestle in the shade, rather than being the best tracks on most other albums.  The standard is quickly raised once again with the gigantic “Gone”, a song that fits so much into its six minutes that it vies with “Another Way” for the standout track award so vociferously, you’d sell your own grandmother for ring-side seats.

As the album begins to draw to a close, “15 Seconds” swaggers filthily from one sleazy riff to the next via Adler’s throat-shredding vocals, offering an aural nudge in the ribs as if to say, “let’s turn it back up a few notches!”, whilst “Forgiven” cements those Black Crows references, sounding like it could have sat comfortably on “Amorica” without anyone noticing.

Many bands get likened to Led Zeppelin and rarely do they either actually live up to the hype or stay around long enough to prove that they were not just one-offs.  Big Linda rightly deserve the comparisons, but also feel very fresh and “now”.  On the evidence of this debut, big things will come from Big Linda, mark my words.

Stuart Bowen

 

Joan As Policewoman - To survive (Reveal Records)

Joan As Policewoman has a richness and soulfulness of sound unparalleled by any other artist in recent times. Joan Wasser’s captivating voice is clear and strong, a focal point for the record. As a follow up to her debut ‘Real Life’ this album had a lot to live up to, but it seems that she’s pulled it out of the bag, with a sound which has gone beyond the realms of her debut with the introduction of new and exciting riffs, styles and sounds. Each song has something new, something different, the difficult second album has become a triumph for Joan Wasser as she looks to be going from strength to strength. Listening to her records and seeing her live there is a real passion for music which comes across in the meaningful lyrics and music. On stage she is as completely absorbed as I am now, listening to the record. Brooding yet jovial at the same time Joan Wasser’s music really is something to behold, a triumph for the singer songwriter. Thank you Joan As Policewoman.
www.myspace.com/joanaspolicewoman

Gareth Ludkin

 
 

Shout Out Louds – Our Ill Wills (Wasted Youth)

The undisputed spiritual home of indie pop, Sweden, has produced many a fine band over the years; The Shout Out Louds are one such band. Now on to their second album the band has returned after the triumph of their debut with another album soaked in irresistible indie pop gems which get inside your head. For some reason in Sweden they just know how to write catchy, cheerful melodies and absorbing songs. From the Concretes, to Peter Bjorn and John, I’m From Barcelona and the Shout Out Louds the songs are bright and breezy, perfect for an indie disco, a summers day, a day in the park. It must be something in the Swedish water. Produced by Bjorn Yttling (Peter, Bjorn and John) the album has a very Scandinavian feel, musical input comes from Absentee, and Lykke Li and more. The perfect accompaniment to your day and a joy to listen to, pick up a copy of ‘Our Ill Wills’ on the 12th May.

Gareth Ludkin

 
 

The Mountain Movers – We’ve Walked In Hell And There Is Life After Death (Fortuna Pop)

This is my first introduction to The Mountain Movers and by the sounds of the press release they are an incredibly arty bunch. This 12 song debut of cheery melodies and sensible melodies belies a slightly strange obsession with the devil, the cover is adorned with pictures of nuns and devils drawn by leader singer and primary school teacher Daniel Greene, and track titles include ‘The Devil Always Wins’, ‘The Devil Takes’ and ‘The Afterlife What The Devil Wants’. Despite the title and interest in the devil the album is a happy melody rich collection of songs, with horns galore and soothing piano the album is a relaxing listen. Written in a shed these songs have balance and composure, well performed and well written this album is a welcome introduction to The Mountain Movers. Enjoy and pick up a copy on the 12th May.

Gareth Ludkin

 

John & Jehn - The Debut Album (Universal) 

John and Jehn are a two piece male/female duo in the style of the White Stripes, Raveonettes, Kills, Ting Tings, and presumably a million forthcoming clones, their USP being that they’re from France. 

Their music is an unlistenable dirge which somehow combines the worst elements of the Velvet Underground with the poor drumming of a young Meg White and the inept electric guitar noodling of your local sixth form college band. 

Opener D.O.M. is a tiresome spoken word ode that goes on for far too long and will probably be extremely popular at art gallery private viewings. “Does everyone love me?” John intones repetitively at the close of Love Me. No, they don’t. 

The Fall sounds appropriately like the kind of song that Mark E Smith will have played at his funeral. The song is so badly produced my speakers started to resonate awkwardly towards the end of the track, leaving me with a headache. It’s literally painful to listen to. 

The second side of the album, nauseatingly titled “Side Jehn”, doesn’t offer much more. It’s almost exactly the same as the first side, just with some electronic bleeps added. Oh, and there’s a woman whispering a bit on one of the less annoying songs, just to make it more annoying. Don’t expect any melodies either, that would be far too “pop” for these scenesters. 

Why was this album made? It’s curious that Universal, a label who proclaim so virtuously to support new artists, should choose to back a band so clearly devoid of talent. 

Somewhere along the line a misguided A&R man has decided that we need to hear these two lovebirds twittering away to each other over distorted guitars and Korg presets. But in the same way that love letters should remain private, their content often being meaningless to outsiders, this music should never have been released. 

Dazed and Confused magazine will slobber over this album like a bulldog in a butcher’s shop. That should be reason alone to avoid this aural mishap like the plague.
http://www.myspace.com/johnjehn

Chris Moffat

 
 

Blood Red Shoes - ‘Box of Secrets’ (V2/Mercury)

Blood Red Shoes have worked extremely hard to get this debut album out. Since 2004 the duo has released seven singles and an EP on five separate record labels while touring the country with a mammoth 200 live performances. With all this dedication and hard work the listener has to question whether all this was really worth it.

From start to finish ‘Box of Secrets’ possesses a relentless pace that never intends to stop and think for a minute. On one hand this can be seen as a good thing as Laura-Mary Carter’s vocals lie comfortably over the scuzzy and occasionally addictive guitar, while Steven Ansell’s ability to build the tempo and drive the songs with his pummelling drum beats really moulds the songs together. However occasionally the pair struggle to find enough substance and appear to settle for using quirky noises to fill spaces rather than sticking will a fool proof formula of adding extra vocals or even an additional guitar. As well as this some of the songs sound strikingly alike and tunes such as ‘Take the Weight’ and ‘This Is Not For You’ tend to drag the middle of the album down slightly.

Nevertheless Blood Red Shoes are a band that have attracted a devoted fanbase and although there are some negative points to this album the listener should still fully appreciate the finer things on ‘Box Of Secrets’ with stand out tunes such as ;Forgive Nothing’ and ‘You Bring Me Down’. After listening to album in full several times you do feel as though the band have a better album in them and for such a young band there’s plenty of time for that. Roll on album number two!

Amie Kimpton

 
 

The Courteneers - St. Jude (Loog / A&M)

Apparently other reviewers have called The Courteneers the “new Oasis”. How could they? After all, they’re from Manchester. Their lead singer’s called Liam. He spouts self-important garbage about how his band’s first album is like the second coming of the Stone Roses. Oh, and they sound a fair bit like Oasis. 

So not an unfair comparison, then. But the real question is whether a world of Lightspeed Champion, the Klaxons and Hot Chip really needs another Oasis. Haven’t we all grown up and moved on a bit? 

So to the music itself. Well it’s toe tapping enough. Some decent tunes here (Cavorting), the compulsory Libertines rip-off track there (Bide Your Time). The only real departures from rock-by-numbers are Yesterday, Today and Probably Tomorrow - an acoustic track with a hint of Morrissey about it, and the excellent Please Don’t - a Motown influenced track with a lot of Morrissey about it. 

Sadly the one thing missing here is quality control. If It Wasn’t For Me is the kind of derivative racket that even the god-awful Paddingtons would have turned down for being too boring. Kings Of The New Road is the track that the Kings Of Leon didn’t feel was good enough for a B-side.  

Thankfully things pick up again towards the end of the album. Not Nineteen Forever already sounds like a summer festival classic, and single Acrylic finds its home as a hidden track. 

All in all it’s a pretty good effort. It’s certainly not as radical as the Stone Roses first album, and it’s not as powerful as the punch that Definitely Maybe still delivers, fourteen years after its release. Had it been released three or four years ago, it would have been lapped up by an audience riding the crest of the Razorlight-Libertines influenced jangle rock of the time. As it is, it feels like too little, too late.

Chris Moffat

 
 

Crystal Castles – Crystal Castles

From Canada’s linear and shiny surface bounce dirty electronic types Crystal Castles with their opinion splitting debut. Opener ‘Untrust Us’ is a great slow burner, could be Manic Miner theme tune whilst setting the tone with a track that at least half average people could listen to without complaint. That’s as far as the fence sitters will go though – Alice Practice is a slap on the hand from Gameboy electronics and screeching vocals while only four tracks in Magic Spells (and its six minute running time) tests the hardiest of fans like myself.

’ XXZXCUZX ME’ is an almost Punk number from the combo followed closely by ‘Air War’ and ‘Courtship Dating’, debatably (but personally) the sky high highlights of this ever baffling album. ‘Air War’ swings from Japanese chandeliers with gun fire underneath while being a dance floor track indie types and hard core techno fans alike will unite to in 2008. ‘Courtship Dating’ starts off like a Timbaland number but soon evolves into Crystal Castles’ very unique version of a modern R’n’B romantic ballad. Though the lyrical meaning of these songs, at first (screw that, any) listen without a lyric sheet won’t arise to your senses in a tongue you might understand - the vocals weave themselves into the music seamlessly and just get the tracks into a more standard dance-esque shape than they would be otherwise. As they say: dance is a language better than words.

In a recent interview Crystal Castles’ music man Ethan stated they just wanted to make a noise. A glorious noise this is, a marmite band to the extreme and though the original 2006 promises of ‘Nu-Rave’ becoming the mainstream theme tune ran away from the fans’ grip as soon as Klaxons won the Mercury Prize Crystal Castles prove that that mentality is still there. Fuck off your parents, fuck off your teachers and fuck off your peers; just make sure your doing what you want while you’re at it. And if that’s making an album like this, so be it.
http://www.myspace.com/crystalcastles

Nick Burman

 

Her Name is Calla - The Heritage (Gizeh)

Although strictly speaking this is a bridging mini-album rather than a full-fledged release, there is little here that is small or insignificant in any way. We've been drip- fed a series of EPs and single releases over the last couple of years by the Leicester-based Her Name is Calla but never tested a long player until now.

First things first - set aside some time to listen to this. If you want verse-chorus-verse format and a standard set of 8 songs neatly interspersed with silent three second gaps for your CD player to read then stop now. Although only 6 tracks in length, The Heritage is a monumental effort which needs to be absorbed in its entirety.

Opener 'Nylon' draws a hissing and clicking breath for a few seconds before commencing proceedings with a solemn simple drum beat in plenty of reverb. This track had a previous life in a slightly different composition and mix on 'The White and the Skin' EP and here I will draw a controversial comparison - I preferred the raw, stark beauty of the original where the scraping of the fingers on the guitar's strings and singer Tom Morris' pauses for breath formed as much an integral part of the performance as the incredible guitar line. Where once there was closeness, an almost claustrophobic intimacy, on the new mix there is masses of reverb - a depersonalising cathedral clad amount. But that is why it still works. There are no half cocked notions of grandeur here - 'Nylon' builds into a huge crescendo until the descending grind of guitar gives way to just the sound of a distant feedback or projector noise.

Next we move into the 9 minutes plus of 'New England'. If 'Nylon' was huge then 'New England' is truly monumental. With a broadened palette of sounds encompassing some doleful brass and elegant strings 'New England' serenely gathers momentum, mainly by Morris' increasingly urgent vocals. Then there is a sudden break into a slightly different key - the swirling accompaniment drops away and is replaced with a pounding, stately bass line. Then all hell is let loose as a psychedelic mix of wailing sax, guitars and drone grinds to its cataclysmic conclusion. This is pure 'Scenes From the Second Storey' God Machine - and as one of my favourite albums of all time, fits the bill perfectly.

A quick pause for breath is required in the various whirrs and bleeps of the 'non-song' 'Paying for your Funeral' which sounds like someone moving heavy furniture including a piano around in a large warehouse. It shimmers, it drones and throbs and before you know it you have recovered from the preceding rigours and are ready for 'Wren' - perhaps the most accessible track on the album. There's a simple clean guitar line and beautiful choral harmony to go along with the cello outro - breathtaking.

To conclude, 'Motherfucker! It's Alive and It's Bleeding' seems to straddle the best aspects of the other tracks on the album - delicate and powerful in equal measure. When you hear the words 'This is punishment, This is anger' you can absolutely not doubt the conviction. As you are left to ponder what kind of unjust, miserable world the members of Her Name is Calla inhabit to produce such a starkly morose album with barely a glimmer of hope in sight, you are left with the distant whir of the projector until it eventually clatters off its reel (or whatever that strange background noise has been throughout). If you have the patience then you are even treated to the 'hidden' track 'Long Distance Runner'.

So what to draw from all this? Well firstly, if you have any real feelings in your body it would be impossible for you not to be affected by this album in some way (I'm drained after just writing about it). It's easy to say 8 minute song, big loud finale, long song titles - got to be post rock. But it's so much more than that - there's so much human richness involved. I wouldn't say there is light and dark, more like different layers of darkness, but there are definitely moods and atmospheres changing throughout which is exactly what you need across an album so it does not feel too samey (especially so when some of your songs are so long). But more than that there is just so much attention to detail, like the whole whole thing has been an obsession.

As I said to begin, Her Name is Calla tend to quite quickly polarise people into lovers or haters. But if you give this record just half a chance you will be rewarded ten fold. Truly staggering.
www.hernameiscalla.co.uk

SB

 
 

Maybeshewill - Not for Want of Trying (Field)

Another massive success for Field in putting out yet more of the East Midlands prodigious musical talent. This immaculately produced and presented album from Leicester 4 piece is the latest in a long line of strong releases on the Field label which is rapidly forging its way to being a musical force to be reckoned with for its uncompromising house style and it's consistent quality.

'Not for want of trying' is a powerful and varied album of mainly instrumental tracks which flicker subtly between crunching guitars, film samples, bits of keyboard and programmed loops and massive drum parts. Despite some of the slightly post-rock song titles, Maybeshewill probably fit in more easily to an electro-industrial category. In addition there is plenty of mathy and techy guitar going on to mix things up.

After the initial looped prelude of 'Ixnay on the Autplay' you are hit by trilled and reverbed guitars of 'Seraphim and Cherubim' which crash monstrously into a stomach crunching guitar riff. It's heaviest is perfectly offset by the airy synth parts which drag the whole thing together and tie in the other clean keys. This is shit-kickingly good - like Ann Arbor at their finest.

There's plenty of keen instrumentation too. 'I'm in Awe, Amadeus' features the complex interweaving guitar sounds which Derby's You Slut! excel in. There's other local influences/similarities in abundance - great slabs of bluesey guitar form the cornerstone of tracks like 'C.N.T.R.C.K.T.' which could easily pass for Death of London or their precursors TEAM (albeit with Maybeshewill's delicate touch of electronics twisted in there.

Other stand out tracks must surely include the title track 'Not for Want of Trying' which first pounds you with humongous chords then fires a machine gun blast of guitar riffs at you before breaking way for the simple piano line overlaid with a poignant film sample - 'Well I'm not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get mad!' And it sure sounds like the band do as they give our eardrums the full force of their impressive sonic barrage.

I could tell the first time I played this album that I was going to like it and the review has only come about weeks and tens of play later. This could be the soundtrack to a thousand Manga films - maybe that is why Maybeshewill are so popular in Japan. It's the perfect combination of guitar and keyboards played with a ferocious energy and commitment that make this one the highlights of 2008 for me so far. Catch them on a rare tour during May.

SB