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  albums - january 2009

 
 

Jesse Malin – On Your Sleeve (One Little Indian)

Jesse Malin is apparently some seminal New Yorker. Jesse Malin apparently, at the age of sixteen, invented punk. So why then, am I listening to Jesse Malin put in the worst version of Fairytale of New York ever? Seriously, Malin’s version is the only think that gives Ronan Keating the right to sleep at night.
Some of you might be sat thinking, “but this is Jesse Malin of Heart Attack fame, you can’t say that.” Well, I can, and I am. Just like any good juror, I’m not taking any past convictions into account, nor am I going to take this guy’s previous either.

These are some of the most shocking cover versions I have ever had to weep through, mainly because nearly every one is originally a classic. Do you Remember Rock and Roll Radio will have you shoving pencils into your eyes, as a way of forcing yourself to disconnect rock and roll from this mess of a song. Me and Julio Down by the School Yard is a cover of so little discernable reason to been brought into existence, I was convinced that it hadn’t been, and that I’d made the whole thing up as a way of spiting myself. Worst of all, yes, it gets that way, is his ‘version’ of Neil Young’s Looking for Love. An embarrassing cod soul version of a song I’m sure has never done anything to Malin. Why do you hate these songs so, Jesse?

Then there’s Jesse Malin himself, stood on the back cover in some cool record shop, looking like the cunt Richard Ashcroft would never dare to be. The inner sleeve reveals Malin’s reasons for covering each and every song, which reads like the defence of some Nazi war criminal. Actually, that’s not true. It reads like the ramblings of some self important moron, who’s convinced himself that he’s the most insightful human being since Robert Kilroy Silk opened his sly little mouth.

The only positive from this whole sorry musical affair is that it makes Bryan Ferry’s recent output seem somehow credible. And remember all, for every shit cover, there’s the original waiting for an apology.

Sean Gregson

 

Night Marchers – See You In Magic

“Mummy, what happens to rock and rollers when they go to heaven?”
“Don’t be silly, darling, rock and rollers don’t go to heaven.”
“OK, OK, rock and roll hell, then.”
“No, you misunderstand. Rock and rollers haven’t died since the mid-nineties. Instead, they go on and on, and on, and on. You know, in mummy’s day they used to call certain rock and rollers dinosaurs. Nowadays, they’ll out live us all and still be knocking out albums when the dinosaurs come back for part two.”
“So, does that mean that none of my favourite stars of today will ever die?”
“That’s right, honey. They’ll just go on, producing more and more substandard versions of shit they used to do well before they forgot why they were doing it in the first place.”
So my mum’s a bit of an idealist, but that doesn’t mean she’s wrong, people. Not by a long shot. Take Night Marchers lead singer John Reis, he formally of Rocket from the Crypt. I remember seeing this guy of top of the pops (that’s right, before Jools Holland became the HMV of terrestrial TV music programmes), he was big, brash, and looked like several blood vessels were all ready for the popping. That song, On a Rope, was the exact antithesis of this Night Marchers shit. As far as I can recall, it was about being hung... on a rope, of course. It was furious, brilliant, and over in the snap of a neck. Instead, we get the Night Marchers line “and I keep holding on, and I keep holding on, and I keep...”, you get the idea.
STOP HOLDING ON, JOHN. STOP IT. There’s a very good reason no-one will be there to catch you, when you fall. Die hards of the former Crypt will continue to buy this, which has the same effect on John Reis’ life as a state pension. There are much worthier charities out there, my friends.

Sean Gregson

 
 

Tangtype – Tangtype

Shut up and let me... no, this isn’t the first in a very short line of Ting Tings covers acts. Instead, I present you with the glorious Belgian duo that is Tangtype.

I am in love with Tangtype. I want to love them even more than I do. They’ve got these sounds, these waves, these tiny little moments of beauty. Then there’s the vocals, which are the best moments of the Cocteau Twins and Portishead. Tangtype sound like they’ve been produced by a man named David P. Spector-Lynch.

What impresses most, is that Tangtype never fall into pretentiousness, they never let the idea down. There’s no experiment for its own sake. Instead, each song feels crafted, as if every millisecond has been accounted for. This is headphone music. This is shut up and pay attention music. Tangtype are really quite good.

Sean Gregson


 
 

The Gay Blades – Oh Shot (Something In Construction)

The first track, which shares the forthcoming album's title, oozes groove. It's almost a blend of every Kings of Leon era, with the potential to rock every pair of socks from New York to New Delhi. Its bouncy beats get you strutting and ducking, and there's an enormous sense of fun without crossing the border into immaturity. It's worth listening to a few times, once you get over the fact that the song mainly consists of verse and riff. A significant lack of distinctive chorus lets the track down; although thinking outside the box is encouraged, there's a reason people still use boxes.

There's a slip of paper tucked in this album sampler, which promises great things. I hear talk of QOTSA and White Stripes, but can't find the evidence. And all in all it makes for an anticlimax.

The remaining three tracks have had the oomph removed. Yes there's pace but I have no urge whatsoever to move any of my appendages, unless you count reaching for the skip track button. There's something very similar to We Are Scientists earliest material. And how many people know of their earliest stuff? Exactly.

It's indie, it's a bit wonky, but it's everything I've heard before. The opening track was exciting. The rest, quite frankly, isn't. It probably would sound a whole lot better with that first track removed, because otherwise you're left comparing everything to what you've heard previously. It's a shame.

Thom Curtis

 

Shrag – Shrag (Where It's At Is Where You Are)

Apparently, this ten track CD is a collection of songs put out over five 7" singles. I've never heard any of the singles, and I'm quite thankful.
If melodies and harmonies tick your boxes, then Shrag haven't got the record for you. With probably about half the talent of Blood Red Shoes (despite having three more members,) and possibly even half the intellect, given that the songs bleed obviousness. Subtle lyrics that get you thinking, that's what we need. The kind that when you finally figure out what it's all about, the whole song makes perfect sense and often ends up amusing; instead of hard-hitting stomach-churning blatancy, which requires no imagination whatsoever and shares the same level of excitement as reading an encyclopedia.
I'm a little worried that exposing myself to this for long enough will result in a serious injury.
So, the basics, it's indie-ish semi-alternative-punk noise. The music is tuneful but was composed by preschool children, and seriously lacks depth. The vocals are monotonous, painful, and make the prospect of throwing yourself in front of a tram fairly inviting. The lyrics, as previously discussed, are the reason the term "cringe" was developed, and the whole package is just a joke. Someone will like this, I don't doubt that. But it's someone with issues who think everything's against them, or a serious hearing impediment.

Thom Curtis

 

So Shush - s/t

A duo, from Manchester? Shades of the Tings thought I. With influences stretching across 60s garage punk, 70s prog and innumerable 80s obscurities, Carole and Ian Shush are indie scene veterans who know what they like and, while some of their influences are obvious and apparent, are quite deftly producing music which, given their combination of influences and experience has a unique charm entirely of its own, something that is often missing in todays pop world.

Carole Shush has has a quirky vocal style that recalls both Bjork and Edith Piaf, breathlessly gamine and teasing against the ever more complicated arrangements of Ian Shush, one minute thrashing powerchords and sudden fuzzbox solos that lead into more reflective moments that hark back to the heyday of none other than the very great Hank Marvin. So Shush can carry a tune between them, this isn't just cranking the noise up and legging it, and there is an undeniable mainstream pop touch to songs like 'Do Make Me Feel' and 'I Believe In You' songs which could take the charts actually by storm with only some very slight gloss added at the mixing desk.

And what's this on final track 'Lucid Dreamer'? Only a stonking great prog rock keyboard intro actually worthy of Keith Emerson, or even Rick Wakeman! So Shush aposessed of a degree of nerve often lacking in today's music scene, and they've a vinyl collection that's probably the envy of their entire street. Simon Cowell, your fate awaits you ......

So Shush's album is available on iTunes, Live365.com, emusic, Last FM, Napster, 7Digital, Rhapsody, Groupie Tunes, Shock Hound, imeem, Youtube, Myspace and Amazon.com
www.myspace.com/soshush

Jon Gordon

 

Ivan Campo - 'Super 7'

The badge says it all: 'Ivan Campo'. Stars of Italian TV, Shepherds Bush Empire and BBC6. And there's a reason. The badge is black lettering on white background. The seven songs on this mini-album are, each of them, mini-epics of love, and loss, and love again, redemption and chord changes made all the more effective by Ivan Campo's resolutely laid-back jazzy acoustics.

The badge shows two palm trees which frame the name 'Ivan Campo', and first track 'Procrastination' is as light and breezy as amorning spent busking around the cafes of some meditteranean beach resort. 'I'll Be Back Again' is almost a real Beatles song, while 'The Curse' somehow recalls Clearlake's 'It's Getting Light' although without that songs escalated sense of drama. Ivan Campo eschew ponderous tomtoms in favour of maraccas and xylophones. All that's missing is a washboard, but Ivan Campo aren't trad revivalists, rather lounge bar sophisticates - although you'll probably only encounter them during daylight.

Where other acoustic enthusiasts go for ukelele's and home made percussive objects, Ivan Campo are an altogether slicker proposition, whose guitars are kept in proper cases and whose fur has a definite sheen. I will now decide exactly what to do with the badge.
www.myspace.com/ivancampo

Jon Gordon

 

Nick Butcher - 'Bee Removal' (Hometapes)

Nick Butcher is a Portland, Oregon based sound collagist and also a keen apiarist, which is the proper name for a professional bee keeper (I knew that - Ed.) Bees, as we all know, are sometimes difficult. Yes, they make honey, but they also guard this jealously with their stings, and American bees are often larger and bit more nervous than your average British bumble. So, Nick Butcher has recorded some relaxing anbient soundscapes with which to lull his bees into a state approaching torpor, during which he can safely remove honeycombs from his hives without resorting to chemicals, and also obviating the need for gloves and a mask.

I need to say that Nick Butcher's soundscapes are very relaxing indeed. Based around tape loops of single bass notes, radio static, clock chimes and guitar riffs, the cumulative effect of some of these pieces is a curious sensation of hidden power, perhaps an audio expression of the actual nature and mystery of the beehive. I am certain that, were he asked, Nick Butcher would maintain that playing tape loops of radio static and guitar both increases the quality of his honey and improves the temprament of his insect audience. His open air performance at last years SXSW was apparently a success. Who knows, perhaps his next project might involve a series of recordings aimed at containing or controlling Austin's infamous giant bat population, although this might involve utilising inaudible sound frequencies which might not come across too well on CD. I don't doubt for a second that he's already working on it.
http://www.nickbutcher.net

Jon Gordon

 

Russian Circles – Station

It’s possible to have repeating phrases and build atmosphere rather than cause boredom. It’s possible to build a song around repetition and create something textured and interesting. It’s possible, but rare. This 6 track (but at over 17 minutes not swift) album is crammed with ideas, texture and great songs. They’ve succeeded in creating something to listen to all the way through. Station is all ideas and skill transformed into something you want to listen to rather than compliment. The music moves in waves, movements even. Where music like this can so often be self-indulgent, it’s pretty compelling. I’d love to see them live. This is no longer a CD I’ve reviewed, it’s one I own.
It’s hard to be an instrumental band; it’s hard to have music get by without a singer and vocal melody. It’s hard to build pieces of music, adding texture slowly without getting tiresome. It’s hard to move from quiet and subtle to brutal and heavy in a way that doesn’t sound dull (it’s been done that often.) Russian Circles can do it and more. This is proof.
http://www.russiancircles.net

Christopher Carney

 

William – Self in Fiction

Despite sounding like a whole bunch of off-kilter art-punk bands, William maintain a charm in their own right. Track 2 suggests a tendency to go on for too long. But that’s about it. And it’s still a good song. Just remember though: If you can’t end the song, just stop. Really. Other than that, things are good. This is a catchy, clever and fun. Not brainless fun though, but not mired in thought. Aperture (track 7) is great: bass driven and eager and also slight and restrained, fragile even. In fact, from track 7 this album stops being a good album and becomes great. Shame it took so long. Self in Fiction is a good album though, full of life and thought – In a way Fugazi were continually capable of being. If they can stray from the formula and sound adhered to throughout this record they could become dearly loved. But more of this would become dull. Track 10 has a hidden track…It’s pretty.

Christopher Carney

 

Various: Stay In the Box 2 – Matchbox Recordings sampler

I love sampler CDs. This’ll be 39 or so reviews! Epic! Everyone submits 1 song and I judge them on it. In no more than 10 lines!

Box 1
I’d rather not have known that Mirrorview had a guy who used to be from Hollyoaks in them. I wouldn’t go and see them because of that. That information can only be unhelpful to them; it’s made it less possible to judge them on their merits. I think less of them already - Sucks for them. The song, The “Last Ride” is a bit predictable and it sounds dated, which you could get away with if there was anything else remarkable to say about it.
Goodbye Motel don’t have anyone from Hollyoaks in them. Well done. The singer does an OK early Bowie impression, which is a bit unnecessary. The song “All That Bad” almost describes itself. It sounds like the sort of thing Bowie does these days.
Itamar have a stupid name. Their song “You Were Right” is well-crafted but also dull.
Strangers in Paradise’s effort “I Know Why” is good. It is, if this is possible, epic and poppy at the same time. It might even be anthemic. It’s a promising introduction, but about 10 seconds too long.
Invert have an immediacy lacking in all the above. They are similar in style (and sheen) to the Start Something era Lostprophets. Not a bad thing.
Kristina Lovice Eriksen. Grandiose, piano-led girl pop. I’m bored of this and I’m marking it on a Kate-Bush-Song-o-metre, which is fitting as it would really like to be a Kate Bush song. If songs like Wuthering Heights are the high scores, this is just above the song Kate did for the Golden Compass where she rhymed Lyra with other words for what seemed like a year.”Lyraaaaa…Be a Deciderrrrrrrrr.” Truly awful.
Krishna Black Eagle’s song “Living Hell” has the lyric “Living Hell, in Paradise”. Fail
The Crazy Majority are rubbish. The singer should stop.
WhiteHouse song “Nobody to Blame” isn’t bad. It sounds like it was written for a travelling scene in Lost Cities of Gold though.
Simon Astley rhymes “shopping mall” with “anyone at all” and “believe in myself” with “more than just wealth”. Hate him.
The Vale’s singer needs to steer clear of the James Blunt singing style.
Karaoke Fish Tank are sexy…but the intro sounds a bit like Rock Lobster.
The Knowing are good and moody worth checking out further
Frisky Bison Presents are ace!! Like 100 reasons and Funeral for a Friend. FINALLY something worth keeping!
Triton Bloom has something about it too. It seems to be a few levels less powerful than it deserves to sound though. It’s a really good song though.
Do you know what is interesting and exciting about Jamie Kimmet; the 21st Agenda;; Reemo; Inner Voices and Dylan Lee Jones? Nothing.

Box 2
Welfare State don’t sound good. Songs about meeting a man and him telling you stuff are rarely good.
The Modesty Have offered a Clutch like song that pleases me.
Pars Petrosa keeps the momentum going. Box 2 is an improvement, so far on Box 1.
The Breakers are OK too, a folksier version of American radio rock. But only OK and a dangerous leaning towards mawkish.
Without Warrant have a name that doesn’t quite make sense, but they’re playing powerful and engaging rock. (Again with Lostprophets overtones.) so far BOX 2’s rockier tone (and overall higher quality) has brought a more interesting experience. Further down the CD Scott Olgard’s The Used esque angst and Double Damage’s Alice In Chains style Metal provides some respite from the drudge. I really like these. However I have heard nothing else on this second album that gave me anything other than the (quite depressing) insight - Sometimes, bands only get so far because they’re only so good. There are some extremes that at least stop the boredom though: Melanie Jean is truly awful for instance, as is Kizz Mac, but there is so much that demands a repeat of the question “What’s interesting about this?” More often that not on this 2 CD set the only things of note are how bad some of it is. No one should be able to get away with the lyric “this is how I want to die, just like a catcher in the rye.” (and for trying, Catman Cohen, you should be ashamed. ASHAMED!) The Catman Cohen song has no merit. None. At all. It is clown shoes. There is nothing good to say about the other acts on this CD. They are no worse than the other songs I’ve had to trawl through (and with the noted exceptions it has been a struggle). Various styles are handled with a similar level of mediocrity.
There is nothing worth saying about so many of these tracks (with the exception of Scott and Double Damage). On the whole this double album sampler has only a few tracks which suggest that the artist involved should be checked out. As hard work as this was, that’s about par for the course on a sampler right?

Christopher Carney

 

Paula Wolfe – Lemon (Sib Records)

Paula Wolfe supposedly ‘challenges the female singe/songwriter stereotype’. After one listen to Lemon, it’s clear for the word ‘challenges’ read ‘whole-heartedly reinforces’.

Album opener How Can I? is a dull diatribe about how rubbish women are, directed at the poor long- suffering men, and is, to be blunt, rather pathetic.

Sadly it doesn’t pick up after that, mid-tempo, acoustic-plucked, middle-of-the-road ballads about how tough it is being a woman, but not really doing anything about it.

Courtney Love, anyone?
www.paulawolfe.co.uk

Catriona Boyle

 

Shirley Lee – Shirley Lee (Missing Page)

Shirley Lee (that’s Mr not Ms) is the front man of Spearmint, who are apparently a cult indie band. The name rings a bell, but that might just be the Polos. Cult indeed.

This album certainly has that slightly dated but comforting old-school indie sound about it. Think The Lightening Seeds meets Pulp with a Badly Drawn Boy voice and you’re somewhere close.

Come On Feel The Lemonheads is a wistful, wee small hours of the morning track. Short but sweet, and definitely a charmer.

In a time when being indie means how tight your jeans are and how long your fringe is, this is a welcome blast from the past and a timely reminder of how unpretentious and uncomplicated indie music used to be.
www.myspace.com/shirleyleeuk

Catriona Boyle

 

Miranda Lee Richards – Light Of X (Nettwerk)

There’s a lot of cutesy, folksy-pop female singer-songwriters around at the moment, and most of them appear to be following the same instruction manual. Luckily though, Light Of X appears to have some real sincerity behind it, and it definitely not cast from anyone else’s mould.

Subtle and low-key, this certainly isn’t a Hoxton-hipster album, but one that needs a few concentrated listens to be appreciated fully. The song writing skills are finely honed, and it’s clear that this is Richards’ second album, experience is most certainly on her side.

Lifeboat is ethereal and wistful, with the echoey slide guitar and overlapping vocals giving the sense that this song almost comes from another dimension, a slightly unsettling feeling that it’s not quite in the same room as you.

Miranda Lee Richards also manages to nail a hint of country in her sound, without it sounding too contrived clichéd, which is no mean feat. Savorin’ Your Smile is the perfect example, with just the right amount of country (think Jenny Lewis not Dolly Parton) and pop.

Early November is a definite stand out of the album, combining Richards’ dulcet tones with menacing guitar chords, which are smoothed away in the chorus, leaving a vulnerable song in a hard casing.

A heartfelt album that definitely deserves your attention.

Catriona Boyle

 

A Camp – Colonia (Reveal Records)

Remember The Cardigans? They were cracking weren’t they. And let’s face it, side projects are never quite as good as the real deal. So A Camp, featuring Nina Persson from The Cardigans, have got a lot to live up to.

It’s clear Ms Persson is actually a damn fine musician, and not just the pretty face behind The Cardigans. Revealing a deeper, more mature sounding voice, Colonia sees her vocals take centre stage, with an edgy, world weary sound.

This album sounds like its set in a Narnian-esque fantasy land – all ethereal synths, floating trumpets, quivering strings and babbling brooks. At the same time the lyrics drag it into the present day with late night parties and broken marriages.

The Cardigans this isn’t, but a far more grown up, complex sound with smatterings of that perfect pop sound.
www.myspace.com/acamptheband

Catriona Boyle

 

The Trews – No Time For Later (Edel Records)

There’s a lot of good music coming out of Canada at the moment. Finally. And this album has been financially support by the Government of Canada. So it must be good. Handpicked by the government themselves to fly the flag for Canada amongst a sea of other very good flags.

Well who said governments know anything about music anyway.

This is dad-rock at its finest – they’ve toured with Status Quo for goodness sake, and they’re making no apologies for it. Embellished riffs, a country twang, and songs about girls, cars and guns. Hold Me In Your Arms has a touch of the Audioslave about it – big riffs and little else but Chris Cornell style vocals

Taken with a pinch of salt this is a pretty fun album, and I’m sure they can get themselves a lucrative contract with GuitarHero if Status Quo don’t want them on their next tour.
www.myspace.com/thetrews

Catriona Boyle

 

Steve Cradock – The Kundalini Target (Moseley Shoals Records)

Writing about this album is like trying to write about broccoli. It’s just a bit bland really isn’t it. Although at least it’s got the added bonus of being good for you, and being that lovely green colour. The Kundalini Target is neither green nor good for you, but it is bland and Kundalini does sound a bit like broccoli.

There’s nothing to report here – jangly acoustic, some off-key vocals and some dubious lyrics that we’ve all heard before. In fact there’s a sense of that with all of the songs – there’s something disconcertingly familiar about them. Perhaps Steve Cradock has completely ripped off someone else, or perhaps his songs are just that simple, who knows.

Blander that broccoli, and just in case you weren’t convinced, Paul Weller does additional vocals on half of the album.

Catriona Boyle

 

My Drug Hell - '2' (forthesakeofthesong)

10 years in preparation, Leicester's premier garage punk retro re-stylists turn in a sharply crafted collection of r'n'b stompers, each track given a dryly echo-free underproduction which enables the guitars and drums of Tim Briffa, David Preston and Sebastian Kellig to sound exactly as they do live, with none of that fancy reverb or delay stuff getting between the bands equipment and their speakers.

My Drug Hell wouldn't deny their indebtedness to the sounds of the mid-late 60s. They are quite up to assimilating these influences to suit their own particular uses though, and while the trio are very far from note-perfect copyists it is noticeable how much they occasionally resemble Ocean Colour Scene.

60s scene purists will note the bands carefully constructed recreation of a very particular moment in 1965 - the actual weekend the very first fuzz pedals appeared in the music stores of the east midlands, priced at around the equivalent of four weeks wages for your average musically ambitious lathe turner of those far-off b/w days. Purists will also know what songs with titles such as 'You Don't Need Me', 'D Is For Delinquent' and 'Mermaids, Goblins And Things' sound like without actually hearing them. But you should. Next time you're raking through the 'Psychedelia' section of your favourite record store, deciding which compilation of 60s obscurities to purchase, don't. Buy 'My Drug Hell 2' instead.

Jon Gordon

 

Burning Codes - s/t (Coded Recordings)

I haven't yet discovered whether Paul Archer is in fact related to Snow Patrol's Iain Archer. Paul Archer did contribute vocals to five tracks on the Patrol's 'Eyes Open' album, although whether they are brothers, cousins, or if it's just one of these coincidences that they share a surname isn't entirely clear from the info on the accompanying press pack.

This is really a side issue though. 'Burning Codes' is a thoughtfully performed and produced collection of songs which consist mostly of guitar and vocals, and it says something for the combined talents of both Paul Archer and his vocal accompanists that the album is in fact a minor masterpiece of minimal instrumentation and choral vocals which posess an almost gospel quality at times. The songs blend into each other seamlessly and the vocals are unanimously superb. I actually don't remember when I last heard a group of musicians produce an album of this depth and range while using (seemingly) so little in the way of instrumentation. And while it's easy to imagine the Snow Patrol rhythm section suddenly turning songs such as 'Circles' and 'All You're Feeling' into anthemic stadium rockers, the songs on 'Burning Codes' retain an ethereal, almost spiritual quality that lingers long after the final notes drift away. Snow Patrol fans (and there are a few of them) will appreciate 'Burning Codes' greatly.

Jon Gordon

 

Lights Action – Welcome To The Cold New World (Colt Signals)

First things first. The second track “Battle For Lovers” is available as a free download on February 18th , for one day only. Do your music collection a favour, and see that you grab a copy.

After a patchy opening track “Moscow” that oozed ambiguity and left the rest of the album open to go absolutely anywhere, Lights Action have fallen on their feet and delivered some clean, tight music.

There are some really deep tracks on the album, “Young Scarlett Young” features particularly rich string textures, along with a piano, and regular band set up. The pace fluctuates throughout the record, maintaining interest and evoking all kinds of emotion. But I'm certainly enjoying it.

You'll like this, if you like alt rock, (and also some of those bands whose genre I'm unsure of these days; as I'm scared to mention the word “scene,” but Story of the Year are a shining example. I'm not saying they sound alike, although there is a song called “Until The Day I Die,”
but there's certainly something about the vocals that are very reminiscent of such a band.) You'll like this if you want to find something new that actually features melody. You'll like this if you can appreciate music for what it is, and not what listening to that band says about you.

All in all, Lights Action have the sophisticated alternative rock sound, similar to that of A Silent Film, but with a subtle cheesey crust. I can't quite put my finger on it. It's close to being one of the best things I've heard in a while, but not close enough to be overlooked. Although all the songs aren't unforgettable, they're certainly very good. Well written, and expertly executed.

Thom Curtis

 

Diplo – Decent Work for Decent Pay, Collected Works Volume One

He’s the friend the cool kids want (current mates list includes M.I.A., Santogold and Spank Rock.) The man born as Wes Pentz is the guy which you’d also want remixing your track. He’d probably make anything in the charts at the moment reek with credibility and, essentially, the kinds of beats likely to make any crowd in the world go fookin’ mental.

This collection of five years work (four original tracks, eleven remixes and additional downloadable MP3s) brings an accessible collection from what is the tasteful music fan’s Tim Westwood. The ‘Paper Planes’ remix brings longevity to the M.I.A. pop hit, Kano’s ‘Reload It’ is also brought back to life with the help of Diplo’s seemingly wizard fingers. Over the CD only the Bloc Party and Peter Bjorn & John remixes fall flat. Flat, in this context, equal most DJs high points.

Diplo is perhaps most notable for bringing ‘Baile Funk’ to the forefront of hip-pop, the genre which before said M.I.A. and Santogold feature in their sound. The Brazilian genre from the depth of Rio’s hardest parties, which probably make most nights in British towns seem like a retirement camp, is everywhere on these productions. His included original tracks show his penchant for the sound best.

For fans of dance music, this is a must-buy for the New Year. Diplo is hot property, and with this early collection showing what he’s already done, the pace is set to ‘full throttle’ and Mr Pentz is sure to continue to make great techno, cross-over tunes. And then remix them.

Nick Burman

 
 

The Gentlemen - album sampler

Hailing from Sheffield, this four-piece do little to change the ‘northern rock sound’ cliché. At least this act takes themselves a little less seriously than many other collectives. Recent single ‘Push Back’ is pretty much a Britpop stomper. This is good for the first few listens, a dumb two minutes. The following tracks take some more interesting turns, though the song structures are so over-used already that you can practically hear the roadies setting up the token mini-organ for the climax of ‘I’m not Leaving.’

Front man Nicholas Noble has a strong voice which carries the tunes suitably. This album sampler contains songs which never go over the four minute mark, so that’s one rule of writing a good pop song they’ve followed. Certain parts sound quite mainstream in a ‘handsome men sing love songs’ kind of way. Hopefully they’ll stick with the lo-fi artwork covering the promo CD (their name engraved in red in a swirly font), yet they could do with getting a bit louder in places. The two years they claim to have spent playing endless sold-out gigs in their hometown might have got them in a rut whereby they don’t want to change their sound, but they’ve over practiced these current ones.

A decent collection which will no doubt get a few people interested. In the end though, a bit straight-up indie for today’s adolescents.

Nick Burman

 

The Qemists – Join the Q

Opening track, ‘Stompbox’ stars off as a bass heavy, siren calling drum’n’bass’n’U2 (with some screamo in there, for good measure.) It’s much the same as, if not identical, to the earlier Pendulum material. Drum’n’Bass based rock bands have made an explosion within the two respective scenes, and as an externality of that, Drum’n’Bass itself has rocketed to the top of the population’s popular dance music format. So the first track is all well and good, then ‘Lost Weekend’ is like a Metallica mash-up. The Kano featured ‘Dem Na Like Me’ is perhaps one of the best ‘club bangers’ on this LP. The production is top and the flow is perfectly formed to get a crowd bouncing.

Bands such as Pendulum, and last years Chase and Status’ rise to critical acclaim, has put the cross-over sound right in the thick of it. The Qemists are no doubt a crowd favourite, and within all the tracks on ‘Join the Q’ the sound has been mastered. Every trick in the book ticked off and a host of samples have been mashed up and thrown in for good measure. As the genre goes, it’s pretty mainstream, but there’s enough interesting bleeps and squelches to win over the techno/electro fraternity also. ‘Soundface’ features beat-boxer Beardyman in the best high-octane one minute thirty on the record.

Finale to the LP is ‘The Perfect High’. A blatant abuse of the bands power to master in one of the most hyper and preposterous openings to a Drum’n’Bass track I’ve ever heard. Imagine half a minute of ‘cloud’ sounds and a silly, gospel vocal over the top. It works, and to me no other genre would really be able to get away with it. The Qesmists in their current state are as good as Pendulum were when their debut was released. Whether they’ll follow the same path and end up being rejected by the scene which current bares them, only to be shunted to the centre of the music landscape, is yet to be seen. All I know is; when ‘The Perfect High’ drives back into the ‘cloud’ sound effect and ends in fireworks, there’ll be a lot of happy faces.

Nick Burman

 

Monkey Fighters - Key Rights Of Men


If you were to merge Queens of The Stone Age and Soundgarden together this would be the result. Bristol’s Monkey Fighters may have a comical name, but their music is anything but. Producing a sound which in recent times has only been achieved by American bands. Monkey Fighters have a progressive grunge sound but there is a hint of a jazz influence there, too. It is unusual to see a British band play this kind of slow- paced rock and do it well but that’s exactly what Monkey Fighters do, the music being perfectly suited to their talents. Their guitar driven sound shows that they take their influences from bands like Muse, Queens of The Stone Age etc. As these bands have gone on to produce great things, don’t be surprised to see similar things happen for Monkey Fighters. Once the word spreads , they will definitely have a loyal following all of their own.
www.myspace.com/monkeyfighters

Tim Birkbeck

 

Spencer McGarry Season - Episode 1

Episode 1 is the debut album, and the first (he says) in a stylistically-linked six album cycle, from Cardiff-based singer-songwriter Spencer McGarry – er – Season. For a new artist this may seem overly-ambitious (or even presumptuous given the current music industry climate), and with a backlog of 60 songs in the pipeline left over from previous band The Room Orchestra surely the sensible approach would have been to take the ten best and craft the highest quality debut possible. But Spencer McGarry is obviously keen to avoid labels such as “idiosyncratic” or perhaps even “eclectic”, and so for the benefit, or detriment, of Episode 1 he has cast himself as a 60’s mod-pop influenced three-piece, whose strengths lie in a tight soulful rhythm section, inventive song-titles and playful lyrics, and a melodic bite reminiscent of XTC.

The chief problem with SMS’s decision to produce, from so many potential options, an album with it's own distinct and consistent sound is Spencer simply hasn't written enough high-quality songs within the genre to justify this approach. However, there are four great pop numbers here. Album opener Oh Leonard and recent single A Paler Shade of Wit both combine up-tempo melodic basslines with the razor sharp guitar sound of early-Kinks that could turn the heads of a few Vampire Weekend fans. Elsewhere we find debut single Leader of the Chain Gang with its irresistibly catchy Shangri-La influenced call and response chorus, and the tight whimsical referential pop of The Unfilmable life and Life of Terry Gilliam.

The rest of the album is largely unmemorable, and suspiciously under-produced at times compared to the above gems. When Stupids Come To Town is an embarrassing slice of cod-funk that sounds like The Average White Band got stoned and sacked the horn section, while the uncharacteristically lyrically-sparse album closer We're Going To Dance The Night Away sounds like it was written and recorded in one alcohol-fuelled session. It's an ending that doesn't exactly leave you salivating at the thought of a sequel, and if Spencer McGarry is holding back any big plot twists or new characters for future episodes he may be wise to draft them in early (for what I can only guess will be "Episode 2"), lest this be another season to get cancelled before it finishes it's run.

Stephen Jessep