|albums - march 2009|
Hats off to Fashoda Crisis for the angriest and snidiest record we’ve had the fortune to review this month. There’s a saying that sarcasm is the lowest form of wit (but the highest form of intelligence) and it’s not often that it features so heavily in music. It took me quite a few listens just to fully convince myself that Fashoda Crisis were not a bunch of fascists but were in fact a bunch of Daily Mail reader-baiting sarkey buggers. Time after time the acerbic lines cut home – ‘it was that great big black fella’ describes as part of a sketchy witness statement, ‘if his face his brown, if he wears a backpack it’s Guantanamo’, ‘we don’t need trial, we don’t have the time because everyone’s a terrorist’ in ‘Land of the SOP’ and ‘they said the pen was mightier than the sword, they weren’t right – I’ve got the scars to prove it’ in ‘Moremonkeythanman’.
Musically these tracks have a DIY sound but do not suffer from it.
Definitely with a nod to Rollins and Rage Against the Machine, occasionally
the melodies are even more awkward than the content but invariably
they seem to straighten out into euphoric choruses which, despite
their bleak messages, seem to leave you feeling uplifted rather than
lectured. Sure the grasp of black sarcastic humour helps to stop things
getting too oppressive. But musically a couple of these tracks are
immense. ‘What God Meant to Say’ is probably the best example – the
stop-start guitar line at the beginning being very difficult listening
but eventually opening up into the best fist punching, screaming at
the top of your voice outro seen since RATM’s ‘Wake Up’. We should
be getting angry about things that go on around us. If we can do that
while throwing out some great tunes at the same time then even better.
Newly signed to Big Scary Monsters, The Tupolev Ghost return after
recent line up changes with a self titled mini album. Twisting and
turning, the 4-piece create a ferocious beast, filled to the brim
with vicious guitars and snarling vocals. Obvious comparisons can
be made with other post-hardcore bands but the band’s musical ambition
does not cease there and they appear keen to experiment with their
sound. ‘Giant Fucking Haystacks’ pile drives its way through six epic
minutes of sprawling guitar riffs. ‘The Night’ claims they’ll “feel
bad when the money comes.” If money follows success, The Tupolev Ghost
best prepare for feeling very bad. Endorsed by Kerrang, the band’s
appeal stretches far wider musical territory and critical and commercial
acclaim looks certain to be theirs.
I could fill an entire paragraph with a list of bands Black Lips
draw their assortment of riffs and sneers from, all of them from the
late 70s CBGBs scene - Heartbreakers, Flaming Groovies, Dictators,
Ramones, Voidoids, throw in the rockabilly stance of X and the gritty
thrust of the early Velvets - but are Black Lips a noteworthy homage
to some very influential bands or a jokey retro pastiche? Listen to
the entire album, and this took a bit longer than I thought it would,
and the answer is quite probably jokey pastiche.
So grunge might be back in fashion, but let’s just leave it to fashion shall we? The odd flannel plaid shirt is fine, but a whole album of watered down Hole? A bit unnecessary. And yes, it’s a lazy comparison just because Kenelis have a female singer, but the first half of their album is distinctly Hole-like – shouty, growly. and loud. The second half takes a more sensitive turn, with some slightly more tuneful ballads. Reverse Effect is an absolute howler though- literally. We get that you’re upset love, but do you really need to shout in that awful way?
Far be it from me to dictate to bands which genres to attempt and
which not to, but for Kenelis it’s definitely time for a new one.
It's a slot on Jools Hollands show or nothing for this raw throated
upstart, and he's already clocked up quite a number of guest appearences
at the Beeb, but exactly what do you do next after one of your songs
has featured in a Land Rover advert? Probably retire, were I Jon Allen.
Rasmus Faber is in fact the brains behind this operation – the guy behind the mixing desk orchestrating the whole thing, rather than the one behind the mic.
There’s a slightly ‘muzak’ feel to this album, like the kind of stuff you’d hear in a lift – simple off beat chords, nothing remotely controversial or particularly creative, and far too laid back. It’s a bit like the music on The Sims – you’re aware it’s there but it’s almost too non-descript to notice.
One mid-tempo track with smooth r’n’b vocals blend into another and
before you know it you’re halfway through Where We Belong and nothing’s
happened. Perhaps for those who enjoy a good rave on a Saturday night
this would be perfect for a Sunday, but it’s simply too inoffensive
to cause anyone to sit up and take notice.
Well this is jaunty. Kind of circus-y, with kazoos and all. And that’s pretty much how ir remains all the way through – sounding like a rather glorious mish-mash of kids’ tv theme tunes, reggae and that weird Popcorn track from the 80s, as well as wee bits of TV on the Radio and MIA
Kaka, to put it bluntly, is pretty impossible to describe, but it’s
definitely worth wrapping your ears around if you’re in a ‘and now
for something completely different’ kind of mood.
Well this was shaping up to be a nice slice of electronica before the vocals kicked in. Sounding like a cheesy eighties girl group, they really do no justice to the rest of the music, and make it sound a bit cheap.
The saxophone on Inside (Looking Out) Reprise really does push the cheese boundary levels – it’s all a bit like a dodgy film score, probably for a scene set in the rain.
The Old Man And The Sea is a slightly more promising title, and indeed a more promising track, eerie and mysterious, with a bizzarely intriguing voice over about fish. The voice over on the next track, Dear Sleep though, certainly doesn’t cut the mustard, and is again another example of why this really should’ve been an instrumental album.
This is perhaps slightly too Shakespeares Sister and not enough Aphex
Twin to be taken seriously, but for background ambience it’ll suffice.
Super Science Fiction opens with an interesting song; almost spoken word over a repetitive guitar lick, it's practically Franz Ferdinand meets Robbie Williams later and disappointing records. However then, suddenly, the vocals transform into a Yorke-esque wailing voice that sweep beautifully above the backing, which unfortunately, is still doing the same thing.
But, don't just a book by its cover, because there are some treats in store. The next track “Lone Planet” is more Bombay Bicycle Club and features a far more linear alternative indie approach. And the next “Aurienteering,” is another style all together. An upbeat Radiohead, for sure. Following that, Rufus Wainwright has gone indie, whatever next.
This album, despite initial skepticism, isn't bad at all. It, as
demonstrated in the opening four tracks, showcases a range of styles
and moods, and there's bound to be a song for everyone, and a few
with the opposite opinion. But for the great tracks, the interesting
chord progressions, time signatures, sounds and contrasting moods,
it's certainly worth a listen or two. Certainly a bit different to
everything else that is going on at the moment, and whether you class
that as a good thing or not is totally up to you.
He makes it sound easy, JJ Cale does. Even the least complicated
guitar riffs take on an air of understated mastery when in the hands
of the man best know for his collaborations with Eric Clapton, another
musician not known for his tolerance of time wasters. 'Roll On' is
a quite remarkable piece of work by anyone's standards. The relaxed
jazzy blues of 'Who Knew' and 'Former Me' which open the album are
effortlessly breezy five finger exercises which nod towards Satchmo
and ragtime, and the subdued bluesy solo of 'Where The Sun Don't Shine'
fades a little to quickly: my only actual criticism of 'Roll On' is
its seeming brevity.
Any artist who classifies their music under the tag of ‘ambient/experimental/ritual doom’ leaves the listener with a clear idea that this is not a record of paint-by-numbers indie. Dark, moody and focused, the tension is subtly built throughout, taking the listener on a, at times terrifying, religious and spiritual journey. Sounds swirl and crackle over the humming drones ever present in the numerous layers of atmospheric noise until finally ‘….Justice Served.’
The follow up to ‘New General Catalogue’ has been a long time coming, over four years in fact, a time that has unfortunately seen Redjetson disbanded. However, the band have teamed up with Gizeh Records to allow their final recordings to be released in the form of their second album. Initial listens suggest crimes against music would have been committed if these recordings were never to see the light of day. The epic, slowly building tension of their early tracks is still present and one can only dream of how incredible these finished songs would have sounded live, always Redjetson’s greatest strength. ‘Soldiers and Dinosaurs’ opens proceedings in impressive style with double tracked vocals adding to its monumental feel. ‘For Those Who Died Dancing’ was present on the last few Redjetson setlists but like so many songs here its impressive treasures are slowly revealed over a number of listens rather than a quick, seedy flash. Like their debut, this album must be listened to as a complete album, as only then can its careful sequencing and fluency be fully appreciated- a skill lost to many of today’s ipod generation. Buy it, give it the time it deserves, and an incredible album full of emotion, sweeping guitars and undeniable passion will soon be revealed.
At first sounding like a hyperactive child let loose in a treasure chest of a music room, careful listening however reveals real craft and control. Psychedelic, fuzzy drones are at the top of the menu but these are soon followed by a substantial helping of free jazzy sounds including a saxophone, at times sounding like a crazed monkey. A double disc affair, beautifully packaged, the second disc features three different live compositions with no let down in intensity. A record stuffed full of delights, but one that requires focused listening, free of distractions, to be fully appreciated.
'Gloom Bloom' starts of with a deceptively fey and moody instrumental
and I always enjoy hearing a band soften its listeners up before delivering
its real noise assault. Which coming from We Are Hex is a tumultuous
blast of what they used to refer to on the US college circuits as
'math rock' spliced against the gothic mainbrace of Jilly Weiss's
selfconciously european vocal which perfectly complements the strident
narcissism of 'Bottom Of My Belly', the doomy synth romanticism of
'Easy Vision' the blank eyed nihilism of 'No FM/No AM', the toybox
catastrophe of 'No Enemies'.
We broke a golden rule of reviewing here at Tasty to bring you this
one. You’ll spot the warnings scattered over the pages of Tasty –
we don’t review MP3s – only real media like CDs and vinyl (hell, we’ve
even done tape). But in the true spirit of cooperation and for Boney,
one of the small group of Tasty gig alumni, we downloaded the MP3
press release version of this album. Plus, there’s not many albums
named after physicists.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are some absolute beauties on here.
‘Your God’ sounds like it was forged in some industrial revolution-era
factory, all hissing and pounding with a rubber bassline but a cast
iron melody – pure genius. And ‘The Strong Nuclear Force’ brings in
all the tricks from ‘In Debt to’ the vocal overdubs, the parpy synth
lines and general off kilter take on pop. But all this is tinged slightly
by the clunky album opener ‘Zebra’ which is a lo-fi garage sound that
just seems under-produced to me, not raw. And time and again the sound
levels seem to top out and distort (though who knows if this is deliberate
or not) on ‘Haircut Generation’ and others. Fortunately the aquatic
sounding ‘The Sky is Too High’ seems to be free of these fidelity
issues and serves an uplifting, warbling, mainly instrumental prelude
to the outro track ‘See Life’.
If the first 80 seconds of Grammatics’ debut album are anything to
go by, then you would be expecting an Aphex Twin-esque ambient journey.
But, ‘Shadow Committee’ soon gives way to a tight, stomping guitar
riff and Owen Brinley’s beguiling vocals, getting this LP off to an
interesting start. What follows is an intriguingly ambitious collection
of songs, which are both dramatic and interesting in turn. The synth-laden
’D.I.L.E.M.M.A’ is followed by the album’s two high points, as ‘Murderer’
and ‘The Vague Archive’ each have a brighter melodic feel with both
songs echoing Sigur Ros. As well as the complex backing music, the
vocals of Owen Brinley also bring much quality to this album. Sounding
like a crossover of Matt Bellamy and Justin Hawkins, Brinley gives
each song a light and airy impression, before the guitar parts take
the track away to somewhere much more lush and atmospheric. Grammatics
have left no stone unturned in their attempts to be different and
innovative on this debut effort. Long may it continue.
Joe De Saulles
Mariam Wallentin and Andreas Werlin return with the follow up to last year’s critically acclaimed debut, ‘Heartcore.’ Enchanting opener ‘Island’ slowly reveals itself, swirling and sweeping, with a vocal delivery reminiscent of Kate Bush. Influences however are irrelevant here as this is a record stuffed full of individuality and inventiveness. Each track feels like a unique seed, lovingly cared for, now blossoming into something quite stunning and unpredictable. Sounding like Bjork fronting Scout Nibblett drumming, rhythms regularly change shape, leaving the listener wrong footed. However it is this unpredictability that will lead to repeated plays and save this album from simply being slotted back onto the shelf, a fate it certainly does not deserve. At times beautiful and hypnotic, at others primitive and tribal, this is simply an album of outstanding quality.
Based in Austria and now entering their second decade, Valina are a band that seem to keen to replicate the sound of their fellow mid-90s contemporaries. Opener ’Calendaria’ sounds decent enough on first listening, with its heavy guitar riffs sounding reminiscent of both Blink 182 and Green Day. But, what lets the side down is the quality of Anatol Bogendorfer’s vocals, which sound both tired and weak. The remainder of the album follows along the same path, with the menacing nature of the backing music unrelenting. Things pick up later on with the emotive sounding ‘Eye’s A Window’, but this is a highlight amongst what is ultimately quite an uninspiring album.
Joe de Saulles
Sometimes I get albums that I'm unsure are actually destined for
release, that seem more like packages sent by bands to major labels
(do such things yet exist?) as introductory packages. Such an album
is very definitely 'Acrobat'.
The year is 1996, and in a hastily converted furniture warehouse
in Stockport an embryonic lineup of Doves has formed and are recording
their first acoustic demo tracks. Actually I'm making this up a bit,
since Our Brother The Native did in fact form in 2004 and are one
of a growing number of bands whose work is compiled over the internet,
with the band themselves living hundreds of miles apart in different
corners of the US, patching their recordings together as they make
them and yes, the results of their efforts did remind me almost instantaneously
of Doves, but also quite a number of other ideas sprang to mind here.
Dieter Schoon is, it says here, the music fan's friend and the music
journalist's foe. Really? I've never even heard of him before now.
Perhaps he endured a critical mauling in the Swedish press a year
or two back. Which he probably didn't deserve.
Mars is Italian. Fact. Lisa Masia and Marina Cristofallo are both,
says their press blurb, martians. What their neighbours in Shoreditch
make of this isn't yet known, but this 10 track album contains sufficient
charms to placate even the most virulently anti-human alien creature,
whether it's the echoing fragility of 'Passing By', the doom laden
virulence of 'My Liver Hurts', the airless psychosis of 'Honorable
Horrible Friend' or just the infectious glee of 'Electric Fits'. 'Lilies
grow on Mars, if you don't believe us go there' say Lisa and Marina.
I'll get my coat -