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albums - may 2009


 
 

We Were Promised Jetpacks - These Four Walls (Fat Cat)

Anyone with a queasy stomach for a band being lavished with praise, look away now. The rest of you, I shall begin. 'These Four Walls' is without doubt the finest thing I have heard this year, and possibly one of the best albums I have heard in the last five years. Yes it's that good.

From the moment that 'it's thunder and it's lightning' comes racing out of the blocks, we're treat to eleven songs of pure unadulterated bliss. I almost feel guilty for getting to review this. Almost I said.

Singer Adum Thompson sounds not unlike a highland, bastardised version of Frank Black and Ian McCulloch. His voice ranges from a primal, guttural shout to a sound that is so tender and optimistic that it is almost hard to believe they come from the same larynx. Thompson is at his most powerful on recent single 'Quiet Little Voices' which is the most intense and frenetic four and a half minutes you will hear this year. My personal highlight of the album though, which took some selecting believe me, is 'Conductor'. A beautiful, melodic, glacial piece of music, with Thompson's vocal at it's most tender.

'These Four Walls' is lyrically so astute, that each song is like it's very own play for the day, complete with it's own soundtrack. Anyone who can write a line as euphoric as 'so take heart in being born, quite so young' then turn out just as easy a line so full of desperation and want as 'in any which direction, call me, I'll run for you, I'll come for you, I'll die for you' is definitely a force to be reckoned with.

On the whole 'These Four Walls' is everything Bloc Party strived for with 'Silent Alarm', but with about a hundred times more passion and integrity than 'the Party' ever managed to muster. They have the Sigur Ros soundscapes (no surprise when 'Ros producer Ken Thomas is at the helm) married to a pop sensibility that wouldn't be out of place in the Xenomania hit factory.

WWPJ are a vital shining light, sticking their heads above the parapet in a modern climate of mediocre, mundane, contrived bands that are force fed to us on a daily basis by the mass media. Celebrate them.
www.myspace.com/wewerepromisedjetpacks
Watch video to 'Quiet Little Voices'

Shaun Goldsworthy

 

Fink - Sort Of Revolution

Fin Greenall aka Fink is apparently a singer-songwriter, producer, club DJ and John Legend collaborator. He's certainly got a lot of strings to his bow this lad. Just as well really as the singer-songwriter affair has led to an album of pretty drab, run of the mill tunes that are instantly forgettable.

I'm always wary of anyone who professes to have soul, and I believe Fink would be this kind of person. As an interesting side note some of the songs including the piano led 'Move On Me' were co-written by John Legend, yes Grammy award winning John Legend. Also a man called Son of Dave who was a member of 90's LEG-ENDS Crash Test Dummies (you know the ones had that song 'mmm mmm mmm mmm mmm') does something on one of the tracks. Excitations, I thought they'd never start.

Shaun Goldsworthy

 

Millimetre - Heliography (Orectic)

According to the press release this Millimetre's third album and it's a bright, resonant work. I must have been tuned into something else (unfortunately I wasn't) as it was one continuous drone from the opening track until, the heavenly sound of silence descended upon me after what seemed like forever and a day. The best song on the album (I use this term comparatively) 'Malachi's Dream' sounded not unlike hot chip with all the fun, excitement and hooks suctioned from them by something akin to a thousand Dyson vacuum cleaners.

I mean credit where it's due, it's a rather unique effort this album. It comes in a shiny silver packaging, which is rather novel and snazzy. Also Millimetre hasn't went for the run of the mill music by numbers, he's tried to create soundscapes and seems to be trying to push a boundary of sorts. He just seems to have forgotten to make his music interesting. Back to the drawing board?

Shaun Goldsworthy

 

Vessels - Retreat (Cuckundoo)

'Retreat' is a collection of songs including mostly remixed efforts of their previous release, and some unreleased tracks from the Leeds based five piece. So basically i'm reviewing previously released songs backed by a bunch of remixes from indie luminaries such as Hood and Errors. Probably one for the die hard Vessels fans then?

'Walking through Walls' is decent enough effort. Slow, quiet post rock type affair. Melodic build up with intertwining guitars, with sparse electronic beats and a gentle vocal. You can tell Vessels influences as soon as the music kicks in, no bad thing in my opinion and i'm probably a fan of most of the same bands Vessels aspire to be.

However something about them leaves me a bit cold. Saying that I find it hard to judge them on 'Retreat', as the rest of the album is made up of the aforementioned remixes. The Errors remix is the highlight of these, so all you Vessels die hards this is probably the album for you.

Shaun Goldsworthy

 

Black Saturn vs. subduxtion - Ancient Kingdom (Alrealon)

‘Ancient Kingdom’ is the first full length release project coupling Black Saturn’s spoken words with subduxtion’s ‘noise’. An innovative album, the beats remain dark, haunting and at times claustrophobic. Static sizzles throughout the opening track, ‘Simulation Failure’, threatening to catch alight at regular intervals. The pictures painted by the lyrics certainly aren’t pretty but are occasionally lost amongst the distorted beats. Slightly nauseating at times due to the undercurrent created by the crackling distortion, complete listens are certainly a challenge but a challenge that is worth undertaking due to the nature of the rewards on offer. This is an album for those that have enjoyed recent offerings from the likes of Saul Williams and Argumentix.

Mark Whiffin

 

The Birthday Massacre - Show and Tell - Live In Hamburg (Reporecords)

Another cliché of a female fronted metal core band. You know the ticket; ‘voice of an angel’ vocals laid over crashing guitars and a machine gun beat. The Birthday Massacre are Evanescence done slightly better. Only slightly however, due the added extra of a sparkly synth.

A rather vague live album that tests your concentration through sheer repetitiveness. At times it is hard to tell the difference between two songs, leading the listener to deduce that a lack of inspiration arose in the studio. ‘Remember Me’ and follower ‘Unfamiliar’ sound so similar, a quick glance at the track number is necessary, to make the brain certain that it is a different song.

There are a few dotted, and quite frankly pitiful attempts to become menacing that leave you feeling embarrassed - note ‘Lover’s End’. ‘Weekend’ seems to have the promise of a supreme fanfare rock out, but unfortunately misses the target before it‘s even properly begun.

However, the songs are performed with a skilled embrace and enthusiasm by very able musicians. Not one note is missed, neither is one warble out of key. They are undoubtedly accomplished and have won various badges through live performances, but maybe a jab of originality would have brought this material to life.

An average rock band for middle America’s pre-adolescent rebels. Paint by numbers alternative that simply doesn’t understand the aesthetics of the genre.

A forced ‘Bullet In A Bible’ that has unfortunately given a bullet in the head.
http://www.thebirthdaymassacre.com/

Eloise Quince

 

Soiled – Slothmotion (Elm Lodge)

I think there may be more than just a grain of irony in the press release accompanying this album when it states that it is a ‘departure from previous releases’ and contains ‘commercial textures’. Well, it doesn’t say so as such, it’s more of a succinct stream of consciousness which has been committed to paper about the music but the idea is intimated. As though to knee-jerk us against this idea, opening track ‘Escape from eglwyswrw’ is an unrepentant throbbing number which is not really softened at all by the film sample or the occasionally keys. The laser beam synths which occur at the midpoint remind you further that you are entering the alien sonic world of Soiled.

But sure enough, right on cue, the warm strings of ‘Parelled World of Common Sense’ offer up a slightly more accessible side to ‘Slothmotion’, even though they overlay a backdrop of mechanical hissing cicadas. Similarly the melodies of ‘Click this Maybe’ have a unique sound that manages to combine the poppiness of Orbital with the lo-fi analogue tendencies of Black Moth Super Rainbow. At the polar opposite of the emotional scale is the rumbling bleakness of ‘Hynagogia Jump Start’ and the stellar isolation of ‘Drifting in and Out of Leonards Orbit’.

We live in an age where nearly all music is a soundtrack, - it’s for going out and dancing t, it’s for driving to, it’s incidental to your favourite TV show, it’s on your iPod while you go running. But like some kind of warped Vangelis, the found and synthesised sounds of Soiled demand that you listen to them purely for the sake of listening, and for that I applaud you sir.
www.myspace.com/soileddirtybeats

SB

 

MJ Hibbett & the Validators - Regardez, Ecoutez et Repetez (Artists Against Success)

There’s a lot to recommend about an album that starts with a sample from the 60’s ‘Fantastic 4’ cartoon and contains references to the Inhumans. But just like the forthcoming Trek reboot in-depth geek knowledge isn’t required to enjoy the newest offering from MJ Hibbett and the Validators - a collection 13 tracks that is best described in their own words as “thrilling pop songs about the reality of life in your thirties“. There are plenty of stand out fast paced tracks, like the insanely catchy ’Do The Indie Kid’ which comes with it’s own timewarpesque dance moves and their ode to duffing ‘We’re Old And We’re Tired (and we want to go home)’. But for those of us who have been around 30+ years it’s the melancholy tracks like ’We Can Start Having Fun’ and ’Leicester’s Trying to Tell Me Something’ that can make you stop for a moment and make you think about the life you‘ve led. This has to be the best produced, played and tunefully sung Validators album I’ve heard; and while a tiny bit of me misses their old lo-fi stylings hopefully this album will help them find a wider, and much deserved, audience. (If you want to try before you buy the opening track is available as a free download from www.mjhibbet.net)

Andrew Livesey

 

Sneaky Sound System - s/t (14th Floor)

A revolution has occurred; the dawn of dance music with brains. An accomplished album of Metronomy style tweaks and beeps with soul filled vocals supplying the sugary softer edge to razor sharp songs. The only problem is that it is about five songs too long.

First track ‘I Love It’ is probably one of the most joyous songs on the entire album, the sort of track that you would play full blast in the height of a summer heat wave, windows down and shades on. It actually oozes cool. ‘Pictures’ leans towards ELO inspired disco riffs and sickly sweet electronica beats. A few tracks later, ‘Kansas City’ certainly captures the listener’s ear with shiny Doppler effects and a chorus catchier than swine flu. The album takes a slow downhill slope from here as it becomes monotonous and quite repetitive. However, ‘Because of You People Say I’m Crazy’ kicks the party back into action for it’s three minutes and forty-six seconds of techno dreaminess. The album ends on a fairly weak acoustic whine of a song, ‘Where Do I Begin?’ about disheartening lost loves and wishing for a perfect Prince Charming.

Forget about beginnings, Sneaky Sound System have finished the race and are on the podium. Just maybe not for a gold yet, but it is certainly within reach of their glittery electro mitts.
http://www.myspace.com/sneakysoundsystem

Eloise Quince

 

Various: It’s a Misery Business (Rhino)

Eesh... self billed as a “collection of the ultimate contemporary anti love songs”, the songs that appear on it are designed to please many of its fairly broad target audience. Putting Cute Is What We Aim For and Slipknot on the same album, was always going to be a dubious choice, and likewise putting more universally respected and liked artists such as Biffy Clyro on there leaves me scratching my head. I like a lot of these bands. Paramore are the best new American pop punk band of this decade without doubt, lead singer Hayley Williams has enough charisma and popularity to be a modern day Debbie Harry and Kids in Glass Houses are an exciting new band that the UK should be proud of. The same respect goes to Gallows who have singlehandedly brought the UK punk scene back to the world stage and Madina Lake who brought a refreshing and exciting new sound and concept with their debut album that dropped in 2007. But putting these bands on an album with Simple Plan and Nickelback who are heralded as the main reason to buy the album is a bit dubious, though admittedly the latter’s inclusion Something In Your Mouth is their best song since How You Remind Me.

Overall as a compilation though this album is very strong and all the song choices are some of their artists best and biggest songs and all possess a bite that make this the perfect mixtape, for the adolescent Kerrang! Reader on Valentines Day.

CTS

 

Tracy Gang Pussy – Number 4

Whoever thought up this abysmal name should be very ashamed of themselves. Though maybe seeing as TGP (as I shall insist on calling them from hereon) is the result of some linguistic mishap by these four Frenchmen who seem to like eye make-up, tattoos and piercings quite a lot.

There’s no press release with this one (in fact, not even a sleeve) so I shall summarise their ilk as succinctly as possible. It’s punk rock. Allegedly slightly Scandinavian rock’n’roll, but definitely punk rock in my book. And actually they are pretty good – I was expecting something as horrible sounding as their name. And a couple of songs have a very catchy, familiar sound to them, such as ‘Miss Negativity’ (though it’s entirely possible this is a cover or has been used on a film somewhere – I just don’t know and don’t have the inclination to find out.)

But after a whole album of this stuff I feel physically weary – there’s only so much you can do with the same guitar and drum sounds and things ceased to be interesting after about track 6. But then I’m not a big fan of traditional punk rock so if this style is your thing then I would think that you would lap it up. Me, I’m off to put on some nice soothing black metal.
www.myspace.com/tracygangpussy

SB

 

Leathermouth - XO (Epitaph)

Frank Iero of My Chemical Romance has always been very vocal about his appreciation and fandom of hardcore, frequently name dropping bands like Black Flag, as both inspiration and aspiration. Leathermouth is his between MCR album noise mongering project.

Whilst the Minor Threat, Black Flag, American Nightmare, Misfits influences are certainly there, Leathermouth’s sound bears more in common with more contemporary hardcore bands, a listen to the opening track 5th Period Massacre instantly draws aural likeness to Norma Jean, The Hope and some early Underoath.

As the album progresses however the main likeness is that of the British hardcore scene The Ghost of a Thousand and Gallows but Frank Iero though a favourite with the My Chemical Romance fan base seems to lack the same charisma as Frank Carter and his hardcore ilk. Saying that however Frank’s vocal performance on the album is solid, his screams piercing and his barked chants give a certain catchiness to layer over the proficient guitar work of Rob Hughes, Ed Auletta and pummelling bass and drums of John McGuire and James Dewees respectively, in particular on the stand out I Am Going to Kill the President of the United States of America.

As titles like that and musical style suggest the lyrical basis of much of the album is the anger and frustration of Frank Iero at domestic and international issues, ranging from psychiatry to school shootings. Unlike his day job’s leader singer Gerard Way however, Frank Iero lacks the same capacity for lyrical prowess, with lyrics serving their purpose but lacking any real weight, and reading more like the whining of a hormonal male teenager after his MySpace girlfriend has dumped him. So Ollie Sykes standard essentially.

Overall however XO is a very competent debut album and whilst its success is no doubt based on who the band’s lead singer is, as a hardcore album it is more than above average, and is one of the best hardcore debuts of the last decade.

CTS

 

Maybeshewill – Sing the Word Hope in Four-Part Harmony (Field)

A small admission – there was more than just a little tingle of excitement when this little beauty popped out of its jiffy bag cocoon and straight into the CD player. Debut album ‘Not for Want of Trying’ was one of the unexpected highlights of 2008 for me – full of thundering tracks that married a subtle lightness of touch with a sledgehammer ferocity to drive hoe their point. I’d have thought it was pretty much impossible to improve on that record but with ‘Sing the Word Hope...’ Maybeshewill might just have done it.

Early signs were good with the brutal single ‘This Time Last Year’ adding a euphoric touch to the visceral ruthlessness. But with album opener ‘You Can’t Shake Hands with a Clenched Fist’ the sound returns to a more direct approach with chunky riffs built up in a choppy way over an airy synth line – in a weird way in reminded me of some ‘Angel Dust’ era Faith No More – no cunning time changes or tricks – just power. But what this album does so brilliantly is temper these moments of excess by consistently introducing moments of calm, be it within a singular song or in separating the noisier numbers from the quieter ones. And so it is that slowly brooding ‘Co-Conspirators’ subtly links ‘You Can Shake Hands...’ and ‘This Time Last Year’ – the latter which has developed an even greater complexity of sound at album level due to added fizzing effects panning around the speakers – ear frazzlingly good.

Time for your break then, and ‘Accept and Embrace’ provides that soft interlude of piano and synth before the fuses are blown on your listening device by the bludgeoningly magnificent sound of ‘How to Have Sex with a Ghost’ which has been heard being played at high volume from my car stereo around the Leeds area for the last month or so. A little like a more mathy, instrumental version of Leicester comrades TEAM, Maybeshewill just keep finding new and powerful ways of exploring the dynamics of their own hardcore version of post-rock. Yet it may well be the slightly unexpected ‘Our History Will Be What We Make Of It’ which provides the lasting memory of this album – the track being riddled through with poignant samples from Winston Churchill and Edward R. Munroe, all the more pertinent now given the current economic plight and our apparent inseparability with consumerism.

The album resulting from all these tracks only lasts around 30 minutes but it condenses more feeling, more social comment and more inventiveness into its short, taut duration than most people will manage in a lifetime. There can be few greater compliments.
www.maybeshewill.net

SB

 

Gravity Field - S/T

I am always astounded when an individual has the talent and the creativity to go into something and do it alone. Even better when they come out of that something and have created something magnificent. My favourite rap album is Mos Def’s Black On Both Sides on which he played nearly all the instruments, did all the vocals, wrote some of the best lyrics ever and had a hand in producing most of the songs on it. That album could now reasonably be called a classic of the genre.

Gravity Field is almost the same. John Bassett wrote, recorded and produced the entire album aside from drums, and has come out with something resembling end-of-the-world music. Whilst not entirely original – Bassett is clearly influenced or coming from the same influences as bands such as Muse with his utilisation of heavy riffs as well as a strong understanding of atmospherics; Bassett is very good at what he does and it all comes together to create a perfectly polished finished article. Perhaps the most evident influence is Led Zeppelin with identifiable influences in all aspects of sound, though perhaps most evidently in the vocals and guitars. However Led Zeppelin are not a bad band influence to have, or a bad band to resemble in terms of sound, and let’s be honest...they haven’t been around to use it for the last couple of decades so open season had to be declared at some point. The use of loud-soft dynamics and computerised effects add further sonic layers to the album.

The main criticisms of I have of the album are the occasionally repetitive songs that occasionally leaving you thinking a track is on repeat, with similar intros to ‘Lost Forever’, ‘Psychoanalyze’ and ‘Sheeple’, in particular providing this feeling and as a result it becomes rather refreshing when ‘Illuminati Apocalypse’ begins with drums instead of guitar. Whilst Basset’s musicianship and obvious talent in crafting his songs (in particular on ‘Psychoanalyze’ with a fantastic bass driven breakdown and fantastically heavy guitar riff, that you can’t help but nod your head to), and the album itself clearly reflect a very talented and ambitious artist, you feel that he perhaps feels to tied to the norms of the prog-rock genre, that has long been a dinosaur and the unfortunate butt of far too many jokes.

So for a debut into a genre so full of similar sounding and well known bands, Gravity Field is a phenomenal achievement, it’s heavy riffs and modern production making it a must listen for any fans of that genre, and it’s accessability making it a good starting point for many of the new generation of rock fans who may not have ever heard a prog record before. However some of the ideas begin to grow repetitive and easily become familiar, occasionally to a negative extent and you can’t help but get the feeling of having heard these songs done before. When done this well however, one can argue whether it really matters.
www.gravityfield.co.uk

CTS

 

Cake - B-Sides And Rarities

I like covers, and so do Cake it seems as over 60% of this album is made up of them (with ‘Warpigs‘ deemed so good it’s in there twice). Luckily they have a good pedigree in this area as evidenced by their popular rendition of Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive”. What has come as a bit of a revelation, at least to myself, is the diverse musical tastes of this band with an obvious affinity with the country sound as evident on the excellent cover of ‘Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town’. Meanwhile their take on ‘Mahna, Mahna’ has also rinsed the enduring bad taste from my mind of that late 90’s Vanilla effort.

The only downside to all this fine coverage is that their self penned tracks can seem a bit overwhelmed by comparison, although any outing of ‘Short Skirt, Long Jacket‘ is good in my book.

Oh and the album packaging is scratch and sniff, mmmmm fruity.
http://www.cakemusic.com

Andrew Livesey

 

Viva Stereo – Roar Lion Roar (Much Better)

Due to a combination of technical failure at Tasty towers and subsequent ineptitude on my part, this is the first of two Viva Stereo reviews this month. Although released in December 2008, the pesky disc sent for review got entrapped in an old PC with a terminal CD drive fault and was only freed with some serious spannering. That said, it was my fault entirely that I then forgot to review the album so better late than never, here it is now.

‘Roar Lion Roar’ is the third of Viva Stereo’s albums proper (ignoring the remixes and unreleased b-sides of ‘Rarities and Improvements’) and sees the four constituent band members slung across the UK in different cities. Rather than using this geographical disparity as an excuse to call it a day, in ‘Roar Lion Roar’ it feels like each band member is given the room to push their own ideas further than before and each set of songs sits adjacent to each other with mixed success. For instance opener ‘Another Night Out’ and ‘War Paint’ tread familiar territory with their electro indie take on the futilities of Saturday nights out, getting drunk and doing it all again. By contrast, ‘This is Not an Exit’ is far more brooding with guest vocalist Diana de Cabarrus taking centre stage. There’s a similar gravitas to ‘Everything Goes Wrong’ where this time de Cabarrus’ vocal forms a poignant backing vocal to Stuart Grey’s lead.
But there are also moments which don’t really appeal to me. The homage to Jesus and Mary Chain in ‘Knee High Boots’ is obvious but a little limp and the mechanical beats on ‘Glass’ don’t sound that far removed from a standard demo programme on an 80’s keyboard. But there are strong performances to the end with ‘The Seaward’ – a gentle shantyish type song with the lilting vocals of fellow Fence Collective member Malcolm Middleton. And final track ‘Suffocation’ finishes off the album brilliantly bringing together some fizzing samples with a subtly building live sound – the hallmarks of a Viva Stereo live performance.

So I’d take issue with the press release assertion that this is the band’s most cohesive record to date – it lacks the overall atmosphere of debut ‘Optimism is Not a Curse’. Instead I’d say it’s more an interesting collection of curios that each have a little something to offer in their own right without relying too much on the others.
www.vivastereo.com

SB

 

Queensrÿche - American Soldier

Queensrÿche have always been one of those bands for me that you hear about but never listen to. From my understanding they’re a progressive metal band that work best within a high concept construct on their albums reaching a peak with Operation: Mindcrime, a now 20 year old album. As a result you would expect Queensrÿche’s creative juices to perhaps dried up a bit by now. Perhaps coming into their now 12th album first, instead of visiting one of their late 80s, late 90s heyday albums is a bit unfair.

My consensus is that it is nothing of the sort however. Whilst I can assume, evidently past their peak (some would argue that they have been for six albums now) their sound does for the most part remain resolutely their own, and whilst often sprawling in terms of content, sound and in particular vocals the band does play to their strengths on this album – very heavy guitars and a concept that is brought to fruition successfully.

The idea behind this record was to take interviews with and records of servicemen ranging from World War Two all the way to the Afghanistan War, and then write an album of songs from a first person perspective, as if lead singer Geoff Tate was in the dust, smoke and fire of war, with shaking hands stuck fast to a gun pointed in the direction of a Vietcong. As a result the album is considerably detailed and dense lyrically and thematically, perhaps as no surprise to a more established listener of Queensrÿche..

These themes never clash with the music, and the two in fact complement each other perfectly despite the slightly repetitive nature of both. For the most part melodic and heavy when need be the guitars, drums and bass provide the perfect soundtrack for an epic tale of war and all the emotions that go along with it. These emotions are expressed to best effect by the servicemen themselves in the recorded interludes and samples that are used often to replace vocals themselves – as seen on ‘Unafraid’ which uses the interviews with servicemen on the verses whilst Tate himself sings on the choruses and this is a technique used frequently and well.

In fact the only major disappointment on the album are Tate’s vocals which are frequently flatter and muddy sounding, perhaps as a result of a character he is attempting to portray or perhaps mainly due to his age, unable to maintain a power he perhaps possessed earlier in the band’s career, and he often comes off second best in the album’s more balladesque sections.

Clearly a band still capable of immense creativity and a lot more interesting than the vast majority of bands on the modern scene, Queensrÿche attempt to reach levels of genius that they used to possess and they do retain a pride in their sound, that though occasionally repetitive and lacking in heavy hooks and let down to a certain extent by the vocals is still very likeable, and this is an album they and any fans that still believed in them should be immensely proud of.
http://www.queensryche.com/

Chris Sharpe

 

Hollywood Undead - Swan Songs

The middle part of my teenage years was built upon MySpace, as are or more specifically were much of Hollywood Undead’s fan base. The “were” is important, because all the cool kids say MySpace is dead. They say the same thing about rap-rock, but evidently Hollywood Undead weren’t listening. If this album had come out ten years to coincide with the peak of Limp Bizkit’s career and the start of Linkin Park’s it would have sold a gazillion records and made the six rapper/singer/screamers in Hollywood Undead set for life undoubtedly. Rap-rock died early in the 2000s thank god, with only Linkin Park living on to have a proper career, perhaps as a result of their lack of adherence to cliché.

Hollywood Undead’s sound screams of cliché, most evidently in the rapping. Underneath the Marshall Mathers and Mike Shinoda thieving vocals lie some of the most embarrassing and misogynistic lyrics “There’s no other place I’d rather be than Los Angeles, come on shake it for me baby” or how about “Dude is it really true you screwed my mom? FUCK YA BRO THAT PUSSY WAS BOMB!!!!”. In fact if there was no rapping on this album it would be immediately soooo much better because the actual singing vocals whilst very unoriginal they are bearable. Similarly the songs that use guitars are immediately elevated above those that don’t and make the songs comparable to Linkin Park B-Sides or early singles, in particular ‘Young’ and first single ‘Undead’, which are actually fairly good as pump-up songs for going to the gym or as soundtracks to appropriate video games – as those two song are.

The music itself isn’t terrible despite the fact the majority of the songs are. ‘Black Dahlia’ is perhaps the best example of both aspects of the group’s sound, the heavy and distorted guitar in the chorus and the synthesised violins and beats working well together to create a fairly accomplished and listenable sound. The band were clearly trying to make each song sound good on its own, and aside from the vocals a lot of the songs do have a certain level of individuality. The quiet-loud dynamic on “This Love, This Hate” for example works extremely well and draws comparison favourably for once to Eminem – ‘Like Toy Soldiers’ sprung to mind when listening bizarrely, though lyrically Eminem remains a King to Hollywood Undead’s peasant chatter.

Similarly these songs can be insanely catchy, though as usual lyrically challenged I found myself singing along to ‘No.5’ perhaps their best known song whilst do the washing up, though I’d never want anyone to overhear me. Clearly a guilty pleasure at best Hollywood Undead, deserve respect for manipulating social networking to the extent that they can get a #22 record in America and establish a hardcore and committed fan base, creating a sound perfect for being very drunk to, being demeaning to a girl with or getting pumped up to (evidently their main and hobbies unless they’re lyrics are a very intricate pastiche) as well as for their most part very cool masks. That’s about it.
http://site.hollywoodundead.com/

Chris Sharpe

 

Cryptacize - 'Mythomania' (Asthmatic Kitty)

Speedy rhythms, languid vocals, evocative tunes that conjure images of palm fringed lagoons and softly irridescent sunsets, and songs that seem to hark back to that golden moment in early 60s US pop that gave us Skeeter Davis and Bobby Goldsboro, 'Mythomania' is a gleeful trawl through the underside of the American music world's loungecore styles that manages to remain quite firmly on the entertaining, veering towards glamorous, side of eccentric. The albums' title track captures all of this wondrously, combining glitzy percussion, a heartfelt confessional style of vocal that hearkens back to the heady daze of the Shangri-La's and some throwaway guitar thrash that skilfully prevents the entire exercise from deteriorating into a sentimental nostalgia fest.

Cryptacize themselves openly acknowledge creative debts to people I've never actually heard of, such as Roy Smeck and Adolphe Jacobs. They also avoid sliding to far in the direction of either surf guitar or a mere rehash of some mono-era production techniques. Cryptacize definitely wish things were a bit, y'know, different though. Conventions in mainstream songwriting have altered more than slightly since 1962, and (e.g.) Bryan Hyland's 'Sealed With A Kiss' probably wouldn't make it past the demo stage nowadays, but the trio are very much a celebration of classic US pop, from a time when bands were big and songs generally had a bit more, y'know, heart about them. I don't know what Cryptacize are planning on next but I've a pretty neat sounding Urbie Green album they might want to hear.
Video: 'Blue Tears'
http://www.myspace.com/cryptacize

Jon Gordon

 

Sam Isaac - 'Bears'

The press release for 'Bears' reveals a host of top flight music industry connections at work behind the scenes' of Sam Isaac's 12 track debut. Zane Lowe is a prominent backer, and the recording process has involved Art Brut producer Dan Swift, musicians from the Royal College of Music and also (this nearly scuppered the entire project) a diseased mackerel. NME club dates in the pipeline too, so Sam Isaac's definitely got it, right? I saw Coldplay on an NME tour and wasn't that impressed at the time, but what do I actually know, about anything?

Two things I must bring to your attention. Firstly, Sam Isaac is possibly more than one person. 'Bears' is very far removed from the collection of acoustic based singer songwriterisms that I was expecting to hear. There is a very accomplished backing band providing Sam Isaac with more than adequate arrangements for his songs, which do initially resemble Coldplay while tending towards Americana of the Green On Red school (look them up, the 80s US Teenage Fanclub), and Isaacs himself has a nervy insistence to his vocals that Chris Martin could probably make use of.

Really, 'Bears' is a summery, anthemic pop record that Radio 1 and 2 are already playing, the sort of good natured minstrelsy it's difficult to take offence at, and Dan Swift's production deftly maintains the momentum throughout. I need to bring a second point to your attention though, and that is that 'Bears' is an entirely independent self released album, and I cannot help wondering if Sam Isaacs might yet wish he'd released a record of this calibre - and it does sound very well made - on an actual label, such as Domino or V2. I just think that he might.
Video : 'Hold This Ladder'
http://www.samisaac.co.uk

Jon Gordon

 

Fightstar - Be Human (Search and Destroy)

Third offering served up from the sulky five piece and to be honest, it’s nothing special but it is perfect for working out any underlying angst you may have locked away in the depths of your soul. Occasionally melancholy drives into the scene with a sixteen piece string orchestra, but this isn’t quite enough to push this uninspiring attempt at an album up the musical ladder.

No happiness lies here in twelve tracks of utter misery and the lyric, ‘I don’t love you,’ a recurring refrain throughout most songs. The opener to the album, ‘Calling All Stations’ is a bit of a waste of time, whiney and pathetic. Then track three, ’War Machine’ kicks in with gusto and the beautiful arrangement of that sixteen piece orchestra leading the flow of the song along with Rugby School‘s Sixth Form choir, making it harmonious, heartbreaking and absolutely stunning. Fightstar are on top of there game with this one, seeming comfortable to take the leap into something more epic. A truly breathtaking song, which is unfortunately overshadowed by the rest of the album’s drivel.

‘Mercury Summer’ is not completely abysmal with a wonderful sparkling riff and melody, but it lacks every breath of life that ‘War Machine’ manages to pour uncontrollably into your ears. The trudging drum beat reoccurs, pushing you ever further into a pit of depression with ‘Chemical Blood’. A heavier song, with Simpson’s ever cheerless vocals laid out over a network of creeping guitars and a machine gun beat. Finale, ‘Follow Me Into The Darkness’ aspires to be great, with the vocals taking a significant leap into the high pitched, holding tension throughout with suspended chords and violins galore, but it falls short of it’s goal for not taking that little extra leap into the unknown that could have launched this song into the stratosphere.

Not for the faint hearted, ‘Be Human’ serves up despair and gloom in double portions, but lacks the imagination to make it a sincerely fantastic album. Probably the most frustrating thing is that the potential is there, it is seen in ’War Machine’. Fightstar need to pick this up and run with it before they are beaten at their own game.

Eloise Quince

 

Hundred Reasons – Quick The Word Sharp The Action

A gentle piano intro soon transforms into high-octane head-bop-rock, and Hundred Reasons' fourth album appears to be a real winner. In fact a re-release after losing their record label to a Universal buy-out, it has been put out on the band's own label, and from the opening track, I'm glad they have. “Break The Glass” is a stonker; energy, rhythm, melody, harmony and delivery. Larry Hibbit's backing vocals are taking a much more predominant role in this album than earlier releases, adding a whole new dimension to Hundred Reasons' sound.

“No Way Back” follows, and the sound is still high quality, some really well-structured songs. Although taking a slightly more pop-punk twist than usual, the album does feature some maturer tracks, such as a personal favourite “Slipping Away.”

Be on your guard with this album, “The Shredder” is a horifically violent, gritty, noisey mess – and has the unwanted potential to cause cerebral infarctions. Tragically out of place on what is a pretty good album in all fairness.

This re-release features four bonus tracks, which don't really offer as much as the album, but still aren't bad; “A Little Way Back” is a softer take on the previously mentioned “No Way Back.”

In conclusion, a great album with some killer tunes, and with the exception of “The Shredder,” the album works well as a whole, which is something the HR albums have lacked since the debut Ideas Above Our Station. The vocal harmonies are working blissfully and awesome guitar licks are being pulled out of the bag left right and centre. Yes, yes, yes.

Thom Curtis

 
 

Push-Pull - Between Noise and The Indians

It is very hard to define exactly what genre Push-Pull would fall into. They produce an unbelievably unique sound that edges towards progressive rock. Not a single song on the album Between Noise and The Indians sounds the same as another, they each have their own individual feel and sound to them. This can be difficult to pull off on an album but somehow Push-Pull have managed it with quite a degree of success. The album title Between Noise and The Indians is quite a fitting title as some of the music that Push-Pull produce may be perceived as just ‘Noise‘. They use a lot of reverb and feedback in their songs, creating lots of screeching sounds which can be a bit harsh on the ears so this individuality is not going to be to everyone‘s taste. That aside, you can’t dismiss the amazing talent of this band- their use of crazy electronics, shredding guitars and haunting vocals mean that Push-Pull should have the formula for a great band. Push-Pull may not capture the mainstream audience to be topping music charts across the world, but there’s no doubting that they know how to make great music and keep it original at the same time.

Tim Birkbeck

 
 

Go: Audio - Made Up Stories

In a time when pop punk’s popularity is on the rise once again, Go:Audio have chosen a great time to release debut album Made Up Stories. Go:Audio are seen as one of the best unsigned acts in the UK and listening to this album you can understand why. With bands like You Me at Six and Tonight is Goodbye carrying the torch for the scene, Go:Audio have just followed their lead. It’s not that Go:Audio don’t have their own take on the pop punk genre, but it seems apparent that without these current bands Go:Audio would not have the success they have had. There are even songs on this album which make you think they have just stolen riffs completely from pop punk gods Blink 182. The song Drive to the City sounds like it has been written by American break through act Forever the Sickest Kids, rather than having any original sound. As a band they do have talent and you can see why they appeal to a certain audience, they just lack originality and the freshness that’s required to help make it big. As with most pop punk bands they have a ‘fun’ approach to music. They play lively, upbeat music with catchy riffs and lyrics you can sing along to. Something that I do find completely unnecessary is the use of synth in the album, it doesn’t really add to the sound of the band and just seems pointless to have included it. Made Up Stories is clearly going to sell well as Go:Audio have already managed to gather a huge fan base. It’s just a shame that a young band that clearly do have talent haven’t managed to produce something new and original.

Tim Birkbeck

 

Telegraphs - We Were Ghosts (Small Town Records)

The blurb accompanying this, the debut album from Brighton band, Telegraphs, states this was recorded during the dwindling days of the relationship between front man, Darcy Harrison, and bassist, Hattie Williams, and subconsciously documented the “dramatic changes to their lives”.

Anyone expecting a reflective, ponderous record, as I was on the back of this, is going to be in for a shock. It’s a bit like going to the fridge for a bit of comfort eating only to have the fridge door repeatedly smashed against your head. And I mean that in the best possible way.

This is an emotional record, but in a balls out, all guns blazing way. Beautifully crafted with big guitars, plenty of bass, haunting riffs throughout, harmonies screamed from the heart, all dragged along at a hectic, breakneck pace. Proper, aggressive, rock.

As to how biographical of the relationship this record is isn’t clear but it is good news to hear that our two ex-lovers remain close friends, as this is a band it is certainly worth hearing more from. Not least because, if this does in fact lay bare the relationship in all its glory, it is one of those manic, highly charged, thrill a minute, car crash of an affair
that you rarely walk away intact from.

This is a strong debut. As the last track so eloquently puts it, “What’s So Good About Goodbye?”. On this showing, goodbye is the last thing I want to hear.
www.telegraphsonline.co.uk

Jim Johnston

 

Los Albertos - Dish It Up (Chief Recordings)

The press release accompanying this, the third album to be recorded by Brighton 6 piece, Los Albertos, as “another bowlful of grinning seaside ska”. As descriptions go, it’s pretty accurate.

Los Albertos are not just another poor man’s Madness tribute act. True, the lead singer does sound very much like Suggs, but I think this is more down to the general twang of the southern accent than a genuine homage to the Madness front man.

What they do serve up is bouncy, chirpy two-tone, over 11 jazz infused ska tracks. It’s everything you expect from a ska band, the toe-tapping percussion beats, bounce-along bass lines, with a huge dollop of lavish brass on top, and an attitude throughout of refusing to take life too seriously.

Political and introspective this is not. And whilst some of the lyrics can only be applauded - “Life is too short, Working is shit, So on Monday morning, Call in sick,” being a prime example from 8th track Call In Sick - you‘ll do well to pick them out as it’s the tunes rather than the words that will fill your head. And feet.

However, as an album this doesn’t quite catch the attention as you would hope. Whilst each track remains toe-tappingly catchy, tracks do start to become familiar as you work further up the listings and are quickly forgotten once each tune finishes. It hints at a fantastic live show, but it’s something you have to draw out of it as the record itself doesn’t offer up that feeling of spontaneity, vibrancy and fun that I suspect Los Albertos in person provide.
www.losalbertos.co.uk

Jim Johnston

 

Grand Theft Bus - Made Upwards (Forward Music Group)

This, I am informed by the press release, is the third album from Canadian 4 piece Grand Theft Bus, and has just been nominated for Best Alternative Recording in the 2009 East Coast Music Awards. Must have been a slow day on the East Coast.

The same press release refers to this offering as ”Powerful - Catchy - Eclectic”. I can think of at least 3 things wrong with that statement.

It’s not powerful. It’s twee and inoffensive beach pop. It’s not catchy, the lyrics seemingly having been written shortly after the purchase of a “My First Rhyming Dictionary”. And it’s certainly not eclectic. If it wasn’t for the definite pauses between tracks you’d be hard pressed to realise there were 11 different songs on here, each sounding almost identical to the one before it. You’d find more variety in a pen of cloned sheep than you do listening to this album.

Which is not to say I dislike this effort. I don’t, far from it. I can’t actually think of anything damning to say about it. But at the same time, I couldn’t honestly say I like it either. It’s not unpleasant, but does little to grab you. It’s the sort of sound you expect to hear running on the closing sequences of one of those drivelly American soap offerings of the O.C and the like. Passable as the sound track to a generic sunset, but as an album? Instantly forgettable.
www.grandtheftbus.com

Jim Johnston

 

Ben TD - Tiny Movements (Lo-Five Records)

This is a soft, melodic, not unpleasant but ultimately uninspiring folk offering.

The press release would have you believe this is a “homespun record filled with wonder, an eclectic collection of songs”. What it in fact is, is a one paced acoustic meander in no particular direction and is, lyrically, ordinary at best, and at its weaker moments, of which there are many, on a par with a 5 year old in its simplicity and lack of content.

Given that Ben TD is a native of Australia now settled in Glasgow, it’s disappointing that the journey hasn’t provided the artist with something more to say than has been committed to CD here. It’s hard to believe the words have been worked on here, as the impression given is that of simply saying the first thing popping into his head at the time.

If Mr TD was offering some sort of insight into his soul this would be forgivable, but in this instance it seems to be more the general ramblings of someone without a great deal to say.

Which is a shame because, musically at least, this is beautifully crafted. The guitar playing is technically excellent and succeeds in creating a sound that is gentle, deep and warm. As an instrumental this would be the perfect soundtrack to a sunny afternoon doing nothing in the garden, but is spoiled by an ordinary, directionless and uninteresting dialogue. An album summed up rather aptly by penultimate track, Shoes Too Small, and the singers plea to “Give me something in my life”. I hope that ‘something’ is given soon as currently this is a singer desperate to have a message but having nothing to say.
http://www.myspace.com/bentdmusic

Jim Johnston

 

Krazy Baldhead - 'The B-Suite' (Ed Banger)

An electronic symphony of urban decay, designed for the soundtrack of a b/w film set on the 15th floor of a half-derelict tower block, perhaps even the episode of The Secret Millionaire where the bloke with the chequebook gets mugged. Posessed of a certain gritty charm and swagger, 'The B-Suite' mostly succeeds as a 16-part exercise in what is probably best described as Noirtronica (originating as it does from some carefully hidden studio in France) and only really slackens when Krazy Baldhead's instrumentation seems to lag behind their ambition, which is orchestral. The combination of hard bop rhythms, funked up slap bass and clavichord and some inventive vocalising is married to a continuously inventive set of keyboard styles. Just add some samples from TV shows and radio and 'The B-Suite' would sound a lot like one of Big Audio Dynamite's late 80s albums, so if your copy of 'Megatop Phoenix is wearing a bit thin, 'The B-Suite' will at least provide an adequate replacement.
Video :http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R8BuOXKCsTU
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krazy_Baldhead

Jon Gordon

 

Buffalo 77 - 'Memento' (Autonomy)

Every now and then I get a CD that is basically a complaint. 'Why aren't I a 12" vinyl release?" it seems to ask in varying tones of aggression/morbidity/querulousness ... 'Memento' has a sleeve that really was designed for a larger scale than the four inch format we all use today, and the music is similarly large scale, power ballads bursting out of vintage semi-acoustic guitars, backed with pounding, epic drumbeats. 'Mementos' very clearly has one eye on the teen soap soundtrack circuit while the other is gleefully observing the gap in the UK country rock market which Snow Patrol are vacating, or at least Buffalo 77 appear to hope they are, as this ten tracker is very much a Snow Patrol album minus the slow numbers. Either monumentally inspired or overblown and derivative, depending on your own level of cynicism, if you're the sort of person who flicks radio stations (or even turns it off) whenever the likes of Del Amitri appear on the airwaves then 'Memento' probably won't float your boat much. And why aren't CDs bigger? Is 'Memento' available on vinyl? Great sleeve anyway.
Video - 'Hard To Breathe'
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Buffalo77/14772065505

Jon Gordon

 

Autorotation – Everything is Everything (Teknostan)

What is it that differentiates self proclaimed shoegaze electro from a seemingly amorphous multi-instrumental track overlaid with meandering vocals? You could find yourself asking that very question after listening to the opening track of ‘Everything is Everything’. You might even search your house to see if you have another CD player operating at the same time as there are various points where it sounds like two tracks are colliding and interfering with each other when in fact they are supposed to sound like that. Go figure.

More traditional ground is achieved with ‘Green Army Choir’ but more often than not the effect is quite cold and impersonal. One exception may be ‘Flika’ where vocalist Robyn Sellman sounds very much like silky voice chanteuse Charlotte Gainsbourg, giving a much need warmth to proceedings. This track is quite reminiscent of Orbital (or indeed the recent Paul Hartnoll solo work) but thereafter I found little to excite me on the album until the very end when a doleful piano outro brought proceedings to a close. So although there were definite glimpses of something special surfacing from time to time, enough to pique the interest at least, there seemed to be far too much attention paid to adding levels of programming and in turn, then trying to sweeten the whole thing up with a vocal with variable success. I would try and reduce the number of tracks that feature the same vocal production and then let the electro fend for itself a bit more – all we have at present is an unsuccessful melange of both.
www.autorotation.org

SB

 

Scott Matthews - Elsewhere (Universal/Island)

There’s music that grabs you by the shoulders and forces you to listen to it, and there’s music that’s good for having on in the background while you go about your day. That isn’t to say it’s bad music, because it isn’t, but it’s also, well, just not that interesting.

Scott Matthews seems to tread the line between the two. He isn’t bad – he’s technically proficient and has a touch of Rufus Wainwright about him, in that songs start quiet and build to a rising crescendo. If he stuck with this all through the album it would be an excellent album, but in his quieter moments the melancholic effect is lost and it’s just slightly boring.

The strings are slightly Everything Must Go-era Manic Street Preachers, which isn’t unwelcome, and the guitar parts sound like a slowed down Patrick Wolf or like Johnny Flynn’s slightly drunker brother. Two songs stand out: Fractured, which has that lovely crescendo ending, with Scott wailing like the ghost of Jeff Buckley, and 12 Harps which features Robert Plant on vocals.

There are lots of worse ways to spend 52 minutes. Lyrically the album’s almost instantly forgettable but it’s a good thing for background music. If that’s all you’re after then this album is perfect, but if you want something to fall in love with and really concentrate on, you won’t find it here.
http://www.scottmatthewsmusic.co.uk/

Rebecca McCormick

 

 

In Case of Fire - Align The Planets

In Case of Fire’s debut is phenomenal, it would be the highlight of lesser band’s careers no doubt as Align The Planets is a statement of intent so infused with dynamic momentum and clout that it sweeps up the listener in a wave of sonic supremacy and dumps them bleary eyed and somehow stronger miles away from their comfort zone.
The opening salvo of first two singles ‘This Time We Stand’ and ‘The Cleansing’ ignite the record and the band run for cover, but unlike other bands that put their best songs at the very start of the record and then leave the rest bloated with filler, In Case of Fire never fizzle out. The pounding staccato of ‘Align The Planets’, the majestic ‘Plan A’ with its soaring vocals and overwhelming final minute for example make every song a potential single and ensure this is a record that will jam itself into your CD player or iPod and refuse to let you listen to anything else until you’ve finished these astounding twelve tracks. And then you’ll press play again.

You can identify the influences, the off-world operatic themes of Muse and 30 Seconds to Mars, the progressive ear of The Mars Volta and the occasional grinding riffs of Queens of the Stone Age, but these are never negatives, for such a band to finally burst on the scene with songs as impressive as these and with such influences and still sound unique, fresh and fascinating requires something truly special.

THIS is the finest debut of 2009 thus far... make no mistake.

Chris Sharpe

 

Metric – Fantasies

Have you ever seen the film adaptation of Stephen King’s 'It'? The film is split into two parts: the first half is ace; the second is a bit of an anti-climax. Well that’s what Metric’s fourth album “Fantasies” is like.

Opening track, ‘Help I’m Alive’ is excellent. All stabbing guitars, sugary vocals and shifting rhythms; it’s the cleverest song the Breeders never wrote. Next up is ‘Sick Muse’, which is built over a nagging ‘Personal Jesus’ groove and has “future single” scrawled all over it. Third song ‘Satellite Mind’ is another tight piece of writing and features a lovely forced vocal melody, and ‘Twilight Galaxy’ is a slower electronic track with another great twisting vocal.

So that’s the first four tracks dealt with, but what about the rest? Well, bizarrely the album’s biggest flaw is its consistency. The remaining 6 tracks certainly aren’t inferior – they are easily on a par with the opening four - they just don’t bring anything new to the table. As such, I found my attention waning the more the album progressed, right up to the dying seconds of ‘Stadium Love’, which drifted into silence with barely any impact at all. And that’s a real shame as with a few more ideas, a bit more variety and a willingness to experiment, ‘Fantasies’ could’ve been a corker.

Jonathan R Groves

 

The Bobby McGees – L’ Appropriation Bourgoisie De La Bobby McGee’s (Cherryade)

I fully expected to hate this album. In fact, halfway through the first play, I’d already come up with an amusing ‘bag of sugar’ analogy to slate it. But like a vile ectoparasite, ‘L’ Appropriation Bourgoisie De La Bobby McGee’s’ has grown on me. Rather a lot. Damn.

Anyone already familiar with the Brighton’s premier face-paint wearing, rainbow-clothed aficionados will know what to expect from their debut long–player: 15 ‘blink and you’ll miss ‘em’ tracks of ukulele, brass and anything else they could find in the school music cupboard.

‘Go Tiger Go!’ is the album’s finest moment, a robustly buoyant singalong which amusingly rhymes “pint of cider” with “Nancy Sinatra”. But to be honest most of the tracks on this little gem are of a similar high-standard, being equally well-written and boundlessly entertaining. Special mention also goes to the album’s clever-clever lyrics, which flow effortlessly into each other despite the considerable speed of their delivery.

On the downside, the a cappella ‘Buckfast at Tiffany’s’ isn’t exactly a pleasant experience, and although a perfect background foil to Jimmy’s Krankie-esque rasp, Eleanor’s punctuated, breathy vocals can grate somewhat when pushed to the fore. But hey, when you’ve got an album this consistent and entertaining, who cares about such minor blips? Looks like I’ll have to save that bag of sugar gag for another time.

Jonathan R Groves

 

Tom Allalone & the 78s – Major Sins pt 1

Tom Allalone & the 78s are kind of hard-drinking, hard-partying degenerates you only find in the seediest dives in town. Or at least that’s what their press release tells us; after an hour of listening to 'Major Sins pt 1' I suspect they are completely the opposite.

Opening track 'Crashland', with its brash horns, soulful vocals and Big Sound™, sounds exactly like early-eighties Billy Joel. This is definitely not what I was expecting from Eddie Cochran’s bastard offspring.

The other 11 songs fall into one of two categories: late night ballads and up-tempo rockabilly. Out of the rockabilly tracks, 'Hell Hath No Fury' shines brightest, but is too well polished to have any real kick. The ballads fair much better: pick of the bunch being the rousing 'This Teenage Crush', which features cracking vocals from Tom and the boys.

There are plenty of other plus points, too - “Wounded” is a decent ringer for “Lonesome Town” and the vocal harmonies on “Silly Old Moon” would make Brian Wilson proud - but they’re not enough to make me recommend an album which, on the whole, was too safe and formulaic to hold my interest.

Jonathan R Groves

 

Morton Valence – Bob and Veronica Ride Again (Bastard)

“A concept album?” I spluttered, a dribble of milky tea running down my undefined chin. “I didn’t know people were still doing that…”

This debut offering from Morton Valence loosely follows a pair of love-birds named - you’ve guessed it - Bob and Veronica. But this has more in common with Lou Reed’s ‘Berlin’ than ‘Tales from Topographic Oceans’, each song containing a murky beauty all of it’s own.

Highlights? How about the tremendous ‘Chandelier’, which out-lushes Mercury Rev for dreamy orchestrations? Or the slow crawl of ‘Nobody Understands’? Or the Tindersticks-esque ‘Ordinary Pleasures’? In fact, the only low point is ‘Falling Down the Stairs’ which is both musically and lyrically weak, but even that busts into life around the 2:40 mark.

In case I still haven’t made it clear enough, ‘Bob and Veronica Ride Again’ is an excellent piece of work which deserves the love and attention Morton Valence clearly put into making it. A massive thumbs up for this one.
http://www.mortonvalence.co.uk

Jonathan R Groves

 

The Wave Pictures - If You Leave It Alone

A Wave Pictures show in April 2009: the set list is largely made up of the sing-along, standout, kooky and fast tracks from debut album 'Instant Coffee Baby'. 'Long Island' is absolutely killer as always. New single 'If You Leave It Alone' is, by contrast, slower, sadder, more introspective.

A Wave Pictures show in May 2009: the repeated chorus of 'Kiss Me' is replaced with 'My Kiss'. Now, I can smile knowingly at the girl sitting next to me when she comments on how David Tattersall really is a rather good guitarist. There are still abstract moments: 'My Kiss' has verses telling us "how I landed on the wicked witch", and "how he swims with the fishes". Yet now, "he" is "your father". And 'Come On Daniel' is a song that begins with a scene composed of "lager, flat lager". The scenes might be a little more domestic, and a little familiar. The love songs are maybe more straight: see 'I Thought Of You Again' and 'Nothing Can Change This Love'.

The Wave Pictures' new album has a more composed mix. After the slower, perhaps even melancholy title track, 'Canary Wharf' ("Lack of money pinned me down") slides towards the autobiographical. The relationships are less rooted in fantasy, and the songs with quicker guitar parts, more complex bass lines, and more dabs of Jonny Helm's percussion - 'Tiny Craters In The Sand' in particular - get you to nod, and get you to smile. The rest of the album could be seen as 'flatter' in terms of hooks than the first album, but then that only emphasises how well written the refrains of 'Tiny Craters In The Sand', 'Strawberry Cables' and 'Bye Bye Bubble Belly' are.

A better interpretation would be that the Wave Pictures' new album is written by a more mature, more reflective Tattersall. The finished version of 'Strawberry Cables' is a joy: "this is mine, it isn't anybody else's, now", and repeat. You don't have to dance with a lopsided grin to this album, and it still has the self-consciously laughable lines - most notably on 'Bye Bye Bubble Belly'.

It's a bit different.

It's really quite good.

"And Catherine Ridler told me to tell you, 'I wouldn't give up anything if I was you'."

Phil Coales

 

Faith No More – The Very Best Definitive Ultimate Greatest Hits Collection (Rhino)

If you made it past that ridiculously lengthy album title then congratulations. But the journey will have been worthwhile for the 18 varied and recognisable hits that are included on disc 1 alone. But to start off it’s worthwhile having a think back about the contribution Faith No More made to the world of rock and the way they were able to appeal to both death metallers and MTV brigade alike. First of all, it’s easy to forget that most of Faith No More are bloody ancient – they were knocking around in bands way back in the seventies. Mike Patton was only brought in as the vocalist after Chuck Moseley pretty much had a drug fuelled breakdown which was cited as the reason the band ditched him. Even Moseley was not first choice – believe it or not Courtney Love tried out with Faith No More at the start of their career. The second thing to note is that the core of Gould, Bottom and Bourdin remained steadfastly ruthless to the last, chopping and changing line ups constantly. Even founder member Big Jim Martin was not exempt from such treatment and primarily as a result of clashes with Patton he left the band after the Angel Dust album. But all this in-band turbulence had the result of producing a sound where rather than complement each other as musicians, Faith No More actively sounded like they were raging war with each other, especially live.

In some ways, despite the rather lacklustre way in which CD1 is put together in a mainly chronological order, the story of the band unfolds through the sound of the tracks included. It’s clear from even the limited use of Moseley-sung tracks on this compilation that he struggled vocally and as a result the band floundered with ‘R’n’R’ and ‘We Care a Lot’ (although the latter was successfully resurrected by Patton). But after making the messy transition from Moseley to Patton, the band found themselves a formidable frontman, both vocally adept but incredibly charismatic to boot. In fact live, opinions varies between people who would say that Patton was certifiable, regularly writhing and convulsing around the stage and people who just thought he was a bit of a twat who sometimes dressed in a school uniform. But he took the songs on ‘The Real Thing’ and forged Faith No More into MTV darlings, largely due to the success of ‘Epic’.
But arguably the strongest FNM album has to ‘Angel Dust’ which contributes the bulk of tracks on this disc. It saw the band move away from their funkier origins to a starkly darker place, albeit interspersed with FNM’s own particularly twisted take on humour. It was around this time that Faith No More seriously arrived, supporting Metallica and Guns n Roses on world tours. This saw Patton taking more of the limelight (including famously drinking a shoeful of piss which someone had thrown on stage) and Jim Martin being further marginalised (though in fairness he hardly turned up to most of the studio sessions for Angel Dust, the guitar parts largely filled in for by Bill Gould) and eventually leaving the band.

The tracks from ‘King for A Day’ document Patton’s seemingly obsessive preoccupation with lounge music and were as polished and refined as his new dinner jacket wearing stage persona was (and all the more disappointing for it.) There is a mini reprise in the form of ‘Ashes to Ashes’ and ‘Stripsearch’ but by this stage Faith No More were pretty much over. I’d rather remember them by the ferocious live sets at the Phoenix Festival and for punching Terry Christian on The Word.

But the real bonus here is, aptly enough, the bonus disc. There’s certainly some duffs (like the ridiculous ‘Das Schutzenfest’ but most of these tracks are real goodies which could easily have graced any of the studio albums. ‘Absolute Zero’ sets the tone with its razor wire guitar and forms a more natural bridge between ‘Angel Dust’ and ‘King for Day’. ‘Light Up And Let Go’ doesn’t sound likea Faith No More track at all but it is bloody good. ‘The World is Yours’ retreats back into Angel Dust territory but there’s a nice nostalgic nod to the past with ‘Sweet Emotion’ from 1989 – all bubbling bass and cheesey synths with Patton’s voice still sounding youthful and college like.

So I’ve rambled enough. It was more like a nostalgic look back for me but if it kept my attention for over 750 words then hopefully someone who is new to Faith No More may want to pick up one of their records and give it a spin.

SB

 

Post War Years - The Greats And The Happenings

It is raining outside. Kinda heavily, then it stops a little, then it thins. I am hoping that it'll die out in the next couple of hours, because I have an exam in just over two hours. That I will need to walk to. Bummer.

It is also raining inside. From my speakers. Heavily at times. At other times, the rain might be a little funky ('Red and Blue'). It might have a little character. But it doesn't seem to know what it's doing. Just when you think you've got a decent minute of electro-pop, the urgency disappears and the songs falls apart. Luckily, it's not too absorbing. I can revise to it. The rising bass and guitars and the moody synth of 'The Red Room' are quite nice. The vocals are half-said and they range in their methods of attack. It is 'well done'. 'You have pulled something off quite well'. (But I think it's actually meant to be absorbing. Bummer.)

Phil Coales

 

Various Artists: Brand Neu! (Feraltone)

Comes with a quote from Bobby Gillespie. And Noel Gallagher. I'm not a big fan of boring music in general, but the Oasis track on here ('I Can See It Now') is one of the better ones from them that I've enocuntered. Oasis can sit with Sonic Youth as one of the older generation of bands on this compilation - an interesting idea in theory, seeing bands such as Holy Fuck, Foals, School Of Seven Bells and LCD Soundsystem contribute tracks 'inspired by' the krautrock legends. Well, loosely inspired, it would seem - grooves such as LCD's 'Watch The Tapes' and Fujiya & Miyagi's 'Electro Karaoke' are not 'rare', arguably borrowed largely from the efforts of the previous generation of Neu!-philes, and only a few tracks have been specially recorded. Plus, the Sonic Youth track, as Ciccone Youth - 'Two Cool Rock Chicks Listening To Neu!' - is just pretty bad (Kim Gordon talks in hipster drawl over a Neu! track...). The two best songs actually come courtesy of former band members themselves - La Düsseldorf (Dinger) with 'Sketch 1_08' and Michael Rother's 'Neutronics 98'. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the rest of the record just isn't that interesting.

This is the sort of record that you would ideally give to your friend, 'Ben', who fancies himself as a bit of a 'rock'n'roll' fan, with all the Primal Scream leanings. It has the big names on it, and it will turn your friend onto Neu!, but you won't feel very good for making him sit through Kasabian's 'Stuntman'. It's sure to soundtrack the sort of parties that sound that they might 'actually be alright' - but then, you turn up, and it features Kasabian.
www.feraltone.co.uk

Phil Coales

 

Share - Pedestrian (Forward Music Group)

Hailing from Canada, that one fact on its own explains a lot about this album. The feeling created is of a different pace of life, of vast, open soundscapes and a lack of any urgency to get across them.

You get the sense that Share are a band with a message. The problem is, I can’t quite pick up on what that message is. The slow, monotonous beat is an ever present, you find yourself waiting for each track to kick into life and on the rare occasions they do, they soon wander off in any direction other than the one you thought and hoped. Rather than pick up the pace, they instead pick up the volume, but the same plodding beat remains.

Parts are experimental, but these again bumble along at the pace of an old man in your way in the street. And much as with the old man, you find yourself just wanting to give them a push, a kick, anything to just speed them up. But he’s old and you can’t, so you remain stuck, dawdling on, missing the point because it never quickens enough to rouse your interest to make you care.

This may well go down well on the jazz scene, which seems to the world Share inhabit, where style is the bigger factor than substance. But it’s difficult to make a case for it here, so I won’t.
www.sharetheband.ca

Jim Johnston

 

Great Lake Swimmers - Lost Channels (Nettwerk)

'Pulling On A Line' is a song that marks out Tony Dekkar's vocals and song-writing as akin to those of the old REM. That, and 'Palmistry', introduce a sprightly album from the Swimmers. "I'm just pulling on a line, on a line / And sometimes, it pulls on me" is a clear refrain that lifts out of the lilting and delicately layered 'Everything Is Moving So Fast'. "What kind of wisdom / And what kind of thought / Must there've been to scatter you" is a contemplation set in the Thousand Islands of Ontario, Canada, where the album was recorded, and where the vocals, the guitars and the drums have gained a breeze, and a history. It feels like a subdued tapestry, and it submerges over the course of the second half of the album, ending with the line, "like the unstoppable river, your beauty is gentle, but forceful and fast". The beauty of the Great Lake Swimmers is gentle and steeped in history - you could call it plain-sounding, yet Dekkar's voice is absorbing and, at times, chilling, with a whispered quality about it that makes the poignant lines linger, hauntingly.
http://www.greatlakeswimmers.com/

Phil Coales

 

Tommy Tokyo & Starving For My Gravy – Smear Your Smiles Back On (Warner Music, Norway)

This has to be one of the weirdest albums I’ve ever heard. The press release likens this band to Bob Dylan, Lou Reed and Arcade Fire, amongst others, and I can hear those influences but I also think they sound quite a lot like Half Man Half Biscuit. I have half a dozen things written down that this album is a little bit like, but none of them really encapsulate it fully.

It’s a little bit folk, a little bit medieval, a little bit baroque, a little bit like a slower Gogol Bordello. I like the harmonica, a lot, and I guess that’s where the Dylan comparisons come in. I also really like the plaintive backing vocals. The vocals are in general really good, although with some weird pronunciations, but we’ll put that down to the fact they’re Norwegian. I particularly like the song Abraham’s Hat. It almost sounds like an Irish folk song, of the type written long ago by men far away from their families. I like that a lot.

Weird this album may be, but it’s a joy to listen to. I can’t really quantify why, because it is like nothing else, but it’s a bit surreal and very professional and interesting and really, if you like any of the music I’ve mentioned above, you should check it out.

Rebecca McCormick

 

Goddass - My Beautiful Sin

If you are a fan of the new breed of metal bands then you are about to hear your new favourite band. Goddass are another metal band to combine heavy guitar riffs with melodic vocals but before you jump to conclusions thinking ‘so they sound like everyone else’ this is not the case. Goddass have a very clean and polished sound and they know their limits. Unlike many bands who try to be too heavy making the melodic parts sound ridiculous, Goddass seem to have found the middle ground of the two and make a phenomenal sound. Goddass could best be described as the love child of Bullet for My Valentine and Blessed By A Broken Heart. This band have exceptional talent, and this is utilised to the full in their debut album, which is nothing short of excellent. Goddass were picked up by EMG records as they were gaining great support in the underground scene. It now seems clear that it won’t be long until they are making headway world wide and tearing up stages along the way. Don’t be influenced by all the hype, however, just check out My Beautiful Sin and discover that Goddass are a band that can live up to expectations.

Tim Birkbeck

 

Run Through The Desert - Break The Silence

Run Through the Desert is made up of former members of Sound Garden and Audioslave which straight away gives you an indication of the type of music they are going to produce. The slow ‘epic’ rock sound produced is of a very high quality, but may not appeal to the wider audience. This is ‘easy listening’ - music you could listen to if you just want to sit back and relax, very calming and not too hard on the ears. Clearly talented it is difficult to imagine, however, that Run Through the Desert will have the same level of success that Sound Garden and Audioslave had before them as perhaps the glory days for this genre of music has come and gone. Also the rather droning lyrics don’t exactly make this album stand up and grab the audience by the throat. Support for this band is going to be very ‘niche’ but if you are looking for a CD you can put on and just chill out while listening to, then Run Through the Desert would be a good choice.

Tim Birkbeck

 

El Dog - 'The Lamps Of Terrahead' (Lo-Five)

What really gets me about bands like El Dog, and these more often originate from the US than from here, is that the more they stretch and occasionally strain themselves to create their owen jealously guarded musical enviroments, worlds of self-referential and deliberately obscure in-jokes and influences - the more reliant bands such as El Dog are on the most basic 4/4 heads down no nonsense plain old fashioned boogie. Fact.

Hours spent staring at Roger Dean album covers and reconfiguring mid 70s garage blues has had a lasting effect on this 20 something four piece. On top of these influences, arranging the the stop/start fast/slow rhythmic structures of contemporary MathRock into a properly accessible listening experience - which it isn't always -gives 'The Lamps Of Terrahead' an added gloss where similar bands go for something a bit more grit-laced. They are at their most effective when upping the tempo though, and while El Dog choose not to surprise listeners with chopping and changing time signatures, things do lag a bit in the slow passages, no question.

A bit more nerve, a bit more of a refusal to make the kind of music that bands like El Dog are expected to ake and 'The Lamps Of Terrahead' would have been one of the landmark albums of 2009. A worthy 40 or so minutes of anyone's time as it stands, though.
http://www.bebo.com/Profile.jsp?MemberId=4256247382

Jon Gordon

 
 

A Hawk And A Hacksaw - 'Délivrance' (Leaf)

Duo from Albaquerque make mitteleuropean folk album with - if an Octet is an eight piece band, exactly what do you call a nine piece? - with well established Hungarian ensemble Hun Hangár. This isn't quite the lo-fi Balkan country crossover you might expect from that description though. 'Délivrance' is very much Hun Hangár's album, with Jeremy Barnes and Heather Trost providing the introductions.

Anyone who watched this year's Eurovision couldn't have failed to notice the Balkan influences on displayed in the work of so many of this years entrants - Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, Romania - and 'Délivrance' can provide a fairly comprehensive introduction to the musical styles of the region should you require one. All very serious though. The only band whose work I can really make a comparison with, as popularisers of a musical form that most of us will only ever hear when holidaying on the eastern Med, are 3 Mustaphas 3, and the approach taken to the music is a very different one - there are no words or lyrics involved unlike with the Mustaphas, whose traditional storytellings, suave witticisms and jokey humours of the Alexie Sayle 'funny KGB man' school made their albums a fully entertaining, almost theatrical experience. The tracks on 'Délivrance' are all, with the exception of the spine tingling zither of second track 'Kertész', circle dance type numbers although no less enjoyable for that. Hun Hangár are never less than inspired, verging on euphoric, and we can thank A Hawk And A Hacksaw for bringing them to our attentions.
Video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dBD1LttEVk

Jon Gordon

 

Papier Tigre - The beginning and end of now

Ok, Ok I’ll go with pronouncing the last syllable of Tigre as Grr (even if that’s how it should be said) but only because the racket that comes from this album is super, instant and energetic and vibrant and clever rock. I can’t think of many things better than an album making me want to see the band that made it live. I want to see them live because I get the impression it’d sound great and be hyper-kinetic.

An album of great, clever riffs, energy and no room for contrivance, pretence or affectation…but they don’t sound French, which is a shame.

It isn’t an album that’s made me re-evaluate music and if it has a failing it’s that there are some pretty identifiable influences, they’re all good bands though, from ATD-i (who did make me re-evaluate music) to Fugazi (ditto) to …Trail of Dead to Biffy and Hot Hot Heat. On the other hand Papier Tigre has probably managed to get over the anxiety of influence, write what they wanted and this album is the incredibly pleasing result. An album that conveys urgency without anxiety and manages to have a third dimension.

Listen. Buy. See.

Christopher Carney

 

The Lovely Eggs - 'If You Were Fruit' (Cherryade)

Not enough musicians send out press releases with colour pictures. Not enough boy/girl duos really ask the big questions, such as ' why were there only 12 episodes of Bagpuss?' or 'how tall was Syd Barrett?'.

One question the Lovely Eggs do ask is 'Have You Ever Heard A Digital Accordion?'. I must've done. What I really want to hear is an electric banjo, and there's possibly one hidden away somewhere amongst the 14 tracks on this, the Cherryade labels 24th release. Can you find it? You'll need to listen to the whole album though. And you might puke. With laughter, of course. All this self conciously loopy giggly tweeness is a bit fizzy all the time. Squiggly mice. In my plasterwork. Twanging on an artcore banjo. I'm a genius hahahaha splat.

The Lovely Eggs: you will either want to buy them crisps and lemonade, or you will possibly want to throw real eggs at them.
http://www.myspace.com/thelovelyeggs

Jon Gordon