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albums - september 2009


 

 

 

Itchy Poopzkid - Dead Serious (Universal/Where Are My Records)

Unfortunately for this band, their name is far more original (albeit awful) than this offering. Hailing from a little town in Germany called ‘Eislingen’, their energetic pop-punk is reminiscent of early Green Day records, packing a punch of attitude. The main problem is that sounds like every other punk band ever and is about five songs too long.

Opening on ‘Never Be The Same (The Sane)’, really throws you in at the deep end with a drum rolling introduction that sends out nostalgia calls for the Clash’s ‘I Fought The Law’. ‘Another Song the DJ’s Hate’ is arguably the best song on the album with witty lyrics, sounding like a car crash of The Offspring and Bouncing Souls. ‘Learn to Drown’ has a more laidback approach, with pianos galore and lyrics of a wasted youth. ‘Last Goodbye’ is pretty generic as a punk song, ticking all of the boxes for attitude, rough soaring vocals and a stomping drum beat. ‘Pretty Me’ is funny and honest, but sounding too much like The Offspring again. ‘The Living’ has a more serious tone, with minor chords and a wonderful harmonised chorus of, ‘is this living, living, living?’

From here, the album starts to get a little tedious as the first seven songs are repeated with slightly different lyrics. Cymbal crashes and distortion won’t make up for actual song substance. On first listen of ‘Say Hello’, for a couple of seconds I honestly thought I was listening to Green Day’s ‘Minority’. ‘The Lottery’ has a fantastic start/stop picking part with broken harmonies. To be honest, the rest of the album isn’t worth me writing about as I would probably just write the same thing as above as the songs sound so similar.

This band have potential, that much is true, but really, they sound an awful lot like a poor man’s Green Day. The whole point of punk is that it is original, but unfortunately over the years it has created a paradox for itself. Shame really.

Eloise Quince

 

We The Faceless - Isle Of Dogs

After the release of their self titled EP, We The Faceless return with the new single Isle Of Dogs. The Grunge rock back gained many fans through the amount of air play that the EP received, have decided to go in a heaver direction. Now that the band has decided to change the sound of their music they stand to gab the attention of a lot more people. Still keeping that gritty 90's grunge sound, We The Faceless may still not be a band on many peoples radar's. If new single Isle Of Dogs receives the same amount of radio time as previous songs, then they will surely become a band that most people will have heard of. The b-side of the single is a song called Hollow. It is a lot more melodic than most of the material I am used to hearing from We The Faceless, but having said that it is probably one of the best songs I've heard from them. The single is set to be released in late September it will not take long for the buzz about the band to pick up once again and We The Faceless will once again pick up an army of fans along the way.

Tim Birkbeck

 

Arctic Monkeys - Humbug (Domino)

So here it is, the traditional ‘difficult’ third album. Whilst their debut album was widely received as the next big thing since ‘Definitely Maybe’, their second split opinion between fans of the first, being a departure and journey down a seemingly darker path.

So what of the third? Well it both continues and progresses the journey the Monkeys made in the second album. Lead signer and lyricist Alex Turner has clearly devoted a great deal of his time since they exploded onto the music scene to growing up. Both lyrically and musically this album is an altogether more mature, darker and introspective album. Gone are the observations of dolled up girls on dance floors, jumping taxi’s and police wagons roaming estates. In their place are the Cohen-esque, black humoured observations of a more murky world. An indication perhaps of the new world in which Turner moves since rocketing to fame on the back of their first release. No longer the peoples poet, this album seems to be a collection of songs both personal and introspective rather than a rallying call to the masses.

The wit is still there, but this isn’t as easily an accessible album as the first. The subject matter isn’t immediately identifiable and it doesn’t lend itself to chart play.

So it seems the Monkey’s have grown up and, at the cross roads of chasing commercial success or artistic achievement have gone for the later.

For those that loved the debut but found themselves disappointed with the second, this release is going to do little to warm you back to the Monkeys. But for those that found the second album to be a hint towards potential Monkey’s genius, you may just find this third offering to be confirmation of the same.
www.arcticmonkeys.com

Jim Johnston

 

Victorian English Gentlemens Club – Love on an Oilrig (This is Fake DIY)

You could listen to a whole load of records, work out which ones you like, work out why you like them then use this information to formulate your own plans for an album. Not simple perhaps but a methodical and perhaps sensible approach. Alternatively, you could bin that idea and instead throw yourself in at the deep end and armed only with enthusiasm and creativity just start crashing out a right row. I like this approach and so it would seem, do the Victorian English Gentlemens Club.

While outwardly this album might seem a little more polished and musically ‘adept’ there is no escaping the most important fact that VEGC are completely untethered by musical convention. Instead they rely on their instincts and wit to pull off a series of songs, each a coup de graces. ON the other hand this may also be doing the band a bit of a disservice – it takes some inherent confidence to pull off an album like this and VEGC never waiver for a moment. Sonically there’s a heavy use of off kilter vocal harmonies that remind heavily of the Deal/Francis work of The Pixies. There’s also quite a lot of very unusual bass playing – either metronomically robotic at times or otherwise flying all over the place. Singles ‘Parrot’ and ‘Watching the Burglars’ both bring a heavy percussion element to the fore – like an updated version of Adam and the Ants. But over and again it is The Pixies sound that comes back, never more so than in ‘Worker’ or the Frank Black style ‘Driver’s Companion’.

Being ungenerous, there’s the odd duff moment (like the slightly leaden ‘God Save us From Being So Damn Primitive’) but nothing that could really taint the whole of this album. ‘Love on an Oil Rig’ is full of brilliant contradictions by a band you want to give a big hug to but would be scared you’d receive a sharp kidney punch for your affections.
http://www.thevictorianenglishgentlemensclub.co.uk

SB

 

Alberta Cross - Broken Side Of Time (Ark Recordings)

With every new submission of albums I receive for review comes the accompanying press releases. The excessively lauding adulations of press guys and girls who have seemingly spent more time flicking through the Oxford English Thesaurus than they have actually listening to the music they’re writing about.

All too often these press releases bear little resemblance to the CD’s they accompany.

And then we have the press release that arrived with this debut album from Alberta Cross, which within only its second paragraph proclaims ’more than clever verses and catchy choruses, truly timeless albums offer listeners the key to another world; Broken Side Of Time is one of those albums.’

I scoffed when I read this. More undue praise from a PR underling desperately throwing out unwarranted superlatives in a desperate effort to draw attention to the mediocre efforts of their latest paying client.

Then I listened to it. Damn. I hate it when press releases are right.

This is genuinely more than just clever verses and catchy choruses. It is all those things and much, much more. It is a superb offering. Each track is beautifully put together and the album skips joyfully back and forth from lilting lullaby to folk anthem, with the occasional haunting gospel hymn thrown in for good measure, this is both instantly accessible and repeatedly rewarding.

It is released on September 21st. I strongly suggest, if you buy only one album this September, you make it this one.
www.myspace.com/albertacross

Jim Johnston

 

OMO – The White Album (LoAF Recordings)

Calling your album after one of the most famous records of all time is a pretty ostentatious move, nonetheless arty, abstract and ostentatious this album is.

The basic format of OMO’s music is female spoken-word vocals, and / or dulcet male vocals set against stripped down bass lines and minimal percussion with hundreds of weird sounds dispersed throughout the tunes. Think radio static, slow string scrapes, unusual synth accompaniments and whistles and bangs. The lyrical content itself is purposely obscure – Often odd sentences, random lists or the specifications of inanimate objects. Think of that video for Benny Benassi’s ‘Satisfaction’ (yes, you know the one) if the on-screen text was read out by a thoroughly depressed news reader and you get the idea.

Put this all together and it creates some highly distinctive songs; credit to OMO for sounding unique. So much so, that trying to make suitable comparisons to other artists is somewhat difficult. At times they can sound post punk, almost DEVO-esk with flat vocals and odd instrumentation and great chunks of the album sound weirdly French and arty. The band themselves claim they create ‘Domestic Pop’ (whatever that means), but domestic or otherwise this is a misleading label. ‘The White Album’ is more an ambient record than anything else, one that is paradoxically spiky and grating, rather than soothing or introspective.

And perhaps this is where OMO suffer. Creating experimental music is a calculated risk; there’s a thin line between interesting or clever and plain annoying and it seems the band don’t seem to be too aware of that line. The opening track ‘Live Show’ is deeply irritating and belongs more in a bad performing arts show than it does in someone’s stereo. Track five, Konig is a warbling and unpleasant mess. Other songs have random noises thrown in with no relevance or care to what’s happening in the actual tune, some of which are so unpalatable that you baulk when listening. I’m sure this is the intention, but it’s more than a little taxing to sit through.

Nonetheless, at other times, OMO show great promise an innovation. Track three ‘ROV’ is fantastic and quirky, a delicate song with a propulsive bassline. ‘Her Body’ is a hypnotic and almost angular tune with beautiful vocals and the tennis themed ‘Advantage’ is melancholy and cosy yet coupled with a perfect mix of experimentation. It is here the band really shine.

Ultimately, this album a mixed bag. It’s admirable that OMO have tried to create something different and have succeeded in this endeavour, however as a body of work ‘The White Album’ feels try-hard. It sound is purposely abstract, the band seemingly forgetting that obscure doesn’t necessarily mean good. Saying that, in the moments when this album works it is truly wonderful, ethereal and refreshing, making it even more of a shame that such lofty levels of quality aren’t maintained throughout this distinctive album.

Moker

 

Twin Atlantic - Vivarium - (Red Bull)

Forget Biffy Clyro, Twin Atlantic are the future of the Scottish rock scene. With only one EP under their belts, this is a masterpiece of sweeping stadium riffs and demanding vocals that fill your ears with a strikingly urgent statement that you cannot help but fall for.

‘Lightspeed’ kick starts proceedings with a burning, exhilarant energy; its indulgent lyrics melt hearts whilst riffs flow triumphantly over rhythmic distortions and pulsations. ‘Old Grey Face (and the Way of The Magenta)’ is equally as fantastic with a heightened emphasis on the heavy guitars and biting drum beats. Future single ‘Your Turning in to John Wayne’ is a deliciously ferocious lash out against relentless Americanisation of everything from people’s values to what they watch on television. ‘What is Light? Where is Laughter?’ is spiralling wonder of a song with haunting riffs and oh-so-charming Scottish accent spilling gorgeously out of the speakers.

‘Human After All’ is a sexy jaunt of raunchy guitars, dirty drumming and even dirtier lyrics that ooze from the dazzling dynamics of quiet lyrics against an ever-building instrumental tension that gives a thrilling finale of feedback. ‘Audience and Audio’ show Twin Atlantic to be masters of delivery, having perfected the pause, making a brief silence into a moment of beautifully unforeseen stillness. ‘Better Weather’ is a stunningly heartfelt and tender ending, but keeps that handsome turbulence and bite that has made this album so astounding.
This is honestly as close to perfect as a band can get. Twin Atlantic are quite simply mind-blowing.
www.myspace.com/twinatlantic

Eloise Quince

 

Pastels/Tenniscoats – Two Sunsets (Geographic)

The Pastels and Tenniscoats both make pop music in Japan, and this album sees them come together to make beautiful, oriental sounding, ambient music.

Opening with an instrumental track, Tokyo Glasgow, (which luckily has far more to do with Tokyo than Glasgow), the tone for the album is set perfectly in a wash of sustained brass and tinkly clavinova pianos.

Any fans of the Japanese anime films from Studio Ghibli would find this music would be a perfect soundtrack, with it’s mellow pop shuffle and longing, wistful vocals.

The slow tempo and sometimes stilted vocals on these tracks gives it an endearing simplistic naivety and an unhurried feel. And it’s well worth taking time out to listen to.

Broadway Calls – Good Views, Bad News (Side One Dummy Records)

I don’t think I really need to take the time to actually describe what this album sounds like, just listing the circumstances the record came about in should be enough to give a pretty damn accurate idea.

1. Broadway Calls were originally signed by Billle Joe Armstrong from Green Day.
2. They’re on the same record label as The Gaslight Anthem.
3. They’ve worked with the drummer from Black Flag.
4. They claim they’re influenced by the Ramones and the Buzzcocks, but in actuality it’s more like the Ataris and any other American pop punk band you’d care to name.
5. They’re childhood friends from Oregon.
6. If you’re 14 and consider yourself ‘alternative’ you’ll love it.

And I think we all know where we stand on this kind of thing.

Catrirona Boyle

 

Davy Knowles & Back Door Slam – Coming Up For Air (Blix Street Records)

I’m sure it’s not his fault, and I;m sure he’s trying his best, but Davy Knowles has got one of those voices that are so over-sincere it’s cringe-worthy. Actually, I’m not sure hs is trying his best, infact I think he’s playing up to it. He even chucks and ‘mmhmmm’ in on the first track. You know the kind. This is the kind of American, wholesome, blues-y rock that’s massively popular with a certain type of person, but to the rest of us just sounds a bit dated. And unfortunately, coming from a British teenager, it’s hard to buy into the jaded, been-there-done-that image he presents in his lyrics.

Granted, his voice does sound fuller and deeper than his relatively young years, and on the acoustic Amber’s Song, there is genuine emotion coming through, and the gospel vocals augmented with fragile acoustic guitar make for a simply lullaby.

Sadly this is really a rose between a rather large group of thorns, as the rest of the album is fairly unengaging, unless Dire Straits is your thing.

Catriona Boyle

 

Mama’s Gun – Routes to Riches (Imagem Music)

Routes to Riches is almost good. Almost. But the bass isn’t quite funky enough, the vocals are a bit too much like Jamiroqui, and the drums just aren’t quite convincing for this album to be where it really wants to. It could be a rather enjoyable, dance-a-riffic, souls/blues album, but unfortunately the retro sound drags it down, putting it more in the easy listening category.

Track four, Finger On It, hints at what fun the rest of the album could’ve been. It’s a brilliantly up-tempo, free-for-all, party track with lashings of funky riffs, quick vocals and a general good time feel. It’s the best of a bad bunch though.

Catriona Boyle

 

Dextro – Winded (16k)

Dextro’s first album ‘Consequence Music’ was one of those very infrequent but pleasant surprises, an album of maturity, polished and warm but by an artist that you could bet almost no-one had heard of before. It was like being entrusted with guarding someone’s special secret. With ‘Winded’, Dextro continues his original work and builds on a burgeoning reputation.

If anything, ‘Winded’ is business as usual although it sees a slight shift towards an emphasis on more ‘live’ recordings – be it the beautiful flowing keys of ‘The Pacifist’ or the live percussion on ‘Momentary’. But more than anything every track on this album is just so perfectly conceived and executed – it is just so ‘right’ than nothing really stands out as alarming or attention grabbing. It’s a sweeping composition as whole – listen to it cranked up and let the immaculately produced tracks wash over you or just leave it on in the background and allow its therapeutic properties to gently diffuse into your sub conscious.
www.dextro.co.uk

SB

 

Amongst The Pigeons - Music To Brush Your Teeth To

Electrifying! And quite comical too. Each song has its own “jazzy” quality to it which makes it the perfectly churned butter for your toasted wheat bread! As you may have noticed, the album revolves around the main concept of “Pigeons” and is very clever in choosing the album art, which I believe is a pigeon trying to brush its teeth. Even the name of the songs revolve around the pigeon theme like “Pavlov’s pigeon” and “Bird Flew”.

I personally think the best track on the album has to be “Deep Housey” because it’s a collaboration of jazzy funk and futuristic electronica which makes it sound so modern and lively. Each song has bits of everything in it like laser sound effects and hallucinating percussion beats. And sound effects like excerpts of news and radio articles using very British accents. That’s probably the only vocal contribution to the album, but on the whole it works.

The vocals come courtesy of Frank Turner on the track “Larkin About” which is probably the only vocal based song, which tries to use harmony but in my opinion fails, especially when a high note is reached with great effort, it results in it being out of tune. On the whole, not a bad album, and I’m sure you’ll see pigeons in a different light. What really gave me some respect for the album was the thoughtful message on the cd cover... “peace & feathers xxx”.

Naeem Mahmood

 

Chicken Feed – Out of My Boxes

It's more than a little evident that Chicken Feed previously earned his keep by remixing folk and shoegaze artists before releasing this ambitious début; the record is full of guitar and vocal lines where the songs could well be mistaken for remixes themselves if I didn't know better.

'Out of My Boxes' is a disjointed affair that touches on a two main themes through its 11 electronic tracks. The first theme is jerky, minor key, bass line driven dance, the second is harmonious, atmospheric ambience, each displayed on this record in equal measure. Trouble is, this means that 50% of this album is fairly sub-standard. You see, whilst Chicken Feed seems to excel at creating delicate swirling songs around acoustic guitars and ethereal vocals, the more jagged songs are lifeless and irritating. Opening track 'We're in Fashion' is an attitude-ridden ear-sore that only serves to grate, never climaxing into anything despite the opening bass line's promises. 'Lights Out' and 'Bird's Nest' suffers the same going-nowhere feel; it's not that either of these songs are particularly bad, it's just that they're not particularly good.

Yet when Chicken Feed's attention is turned to creating more harmonious tracks, some beautiful songs are created. Track five, 'Napier' marks a mid-album turning point where the record begin to gain shape. At times sounding like Orbital in their more ambient moments, at others as uplifting as a Chemical Borthers' closing album track, Chicken Feed suddenly becomes a contender. Tunes like 'Duck Egg Diner', 'Rose Garden' and especially the closing 'Don't Give Up Hope' are marvellous and moreover, sound like original creations, not bastardisations of someone else's original work. This is where sitting through the opening tracks pays off.

Judged in it's entirety, 'Out Of My Boxes' is an album that never seems to reach its potential. It leaves you feeling ultimately let down, promising so much but delivering so little. I assume that Chicken Feed himself acknowledges his strengths and weaknesses but perhaps a début album wasn't an appropriate forum to test those limits. Nonetheless, don't write off this quirky artist just yet; I'm more than certain that his potential won't be so elusive on his next offering.

Moker

 

Oliver Mann - 'The Possum Sleeps At Night' (Preservation)

What if, right, what if Nick Cave had never left Australia? What if he'd stayed in Melbourne after The Birthday Party imploded in a mash up of broken glass and bruised egos, if in fact all of TBP's members had remained down under instead of recreating themselves as european bohos in Montparnasse, Kreuzberg, Dollis Hill? Concievably, we would have heard an album very like 'The Possum Sleeps At Night' about 15 years ago.

Oliver Mann is an opera singer, a baritone, a mainstay of the Victorian Opera (that's the south Australian state opera company, not some dodgy bunch of, er, Birthday Party soundalikes), curator of an annual Schubert festival (that's Franz Schubert, the German composer) and also a children's entertainer, Elvis fan, fond of Possums .... is there no end to Mann's capacity for re-invention? Well, there are quite a number of interesting moments strung across the 12 tracks on this album, which is only what you'd expect given the range of classical training and writing abilities on display here, orchestral hipsters taking time out from their rehearsals and kicking up a bit of a shindy in a slyly subversive way. There are some good ideas on display here, but given the experimental-verging-on-atonal format that forms the basis for Mann's music, one good idea is quickly joined by three or four other equally good ideas, and as a result none of them really develop fully. An elegaic cello and banjo duet is only too often interrupted by a cacophonic percussion break, and the result is a little disjointed, and also glumly sentimental in a way only Australians ever really seem to get off on.

In the actually alternative universe I described at the start of this review, Nick Cave's 'The Dingo Howls At Dawn' album was a minor success, both in Australia and abroad. Isn't a possum something you make a hat with?
http://www.olivermann.com/

Jon Gordon

 

Josh Fix - 'This Town Is Starting To Make Me Angry' (Lojinx)

Josh Fix does it all himself, completely the auteur. Wrote it, sang it, played everything on it, only calling for assistance when it came time to mix it. Very clearly prepared for major stardom, should fate decree it, Fix has a slew of testimonials from any number of US 80s guitar legends, and is to all intents and purposes the Randy Newman of the 2010s.

Which you can't do merely on backslaps and handshakes. Fix has that mildly acerbic air that all really good, really listenable singer songwriters posess, plus an engaging keyboard style, and the harmonies take their cues from trusty sources such as The Beatles and the Beach Boys. Meanwhile Fix's lyrics contain exactly the level of neurotic invention required to push the tunes over the edge into the field of attention grabbing paens against fear, death, poverty and just plain paranoia that already contains now standard songs such as 'Short People', Werewolves Of London' and 'Aerial'. So far, so gnarled. But San Franciscan Fix is setting himself some very high targets, and while the kudos from such as Steve Vai and Lenny Kravitz, plus some high profile supports which have included The Who and Super Furry Animals, have already done much to raise Fix's profile across the pond, it migh take a little longer to discover if Fix really is a major new star or just an entertaining opening act for such as Van Halen's comback shows (Eddie Van H is a committed fan, apparently). Bring him onstage for the 'Jump' encore, Eddie.
http://www.joshfix.com

Jon Gordon

 

Spearmint - 'A Week Away' (hitBACK)

I had to rack the memory banks over this one. Spearmint's 1998 minor Britpop classic, rereleased and expanded to coincide with a 10th anniversary live show at the ICA, and also perhaps to celebrate one of their songs finding its way onto the '500 Days Of Summer' soundtrack. A bit obscure. I've no recollection of Spearmint whatsoever, though I can now file them alongside other barely recalled late 90s outfits such as Silver Sun, Dark Star and The Supernaturals.

It is however quite a good one, as late 90s obscurities go. Spearmint might feel justifiably aggrieved at the likes of Shed 7 having nicked all their thunder, and the 13 tracks that make up 'A Week Away' have dated less obviously than you might expect. Cheerful, quirky, tuneful, even perhaps a touch too wholesome for todays leery Britlout tastes, Spearmint were probably just a bit unlucky to find themselves stuck in support slots for The Bluetones and Menswear. The best late 90s music contains an infectious optimism though, and numbers such as 'Isn't It Great To Be Alive' and 'Making You Laugh' have maintained their ability to raise a wry grin or three. So why so obscure? Perhaps it's what Spearmint really wanted, to get filed away and rediscovered a decade later, and the intro to 'Sweeping The Nation' more than hints at this, a looped sample of Dobie Gray's 'Out On The Floor' backing a spoken testament to the virtues of anonymity that has, with hindsight, something of the air of a mission statement.

Part of the same amorphous clique that has also given the world Telley and the Gresham Flyers, Spearmint are something more than also-rans in the Britpop stakes, although that crucial mainstream breakthrough seemingly continues to elude them. 'A Week Away', if you didn't hear it first time around, is a lot more than just a historical footnote of the late 90s.
http://www.spearmint.net

Jon Gordon

 

Cinnamon Chasers - A Million Miles From Home

Better than I thought, actually, nice album cover, good beat, job done. But the clever thing is that Mr clever clogs, Russ Davies, has also encrypted a theme, which I reckon the current yobs lack, to be honest. This album was a solo project for Davies with his uncle and dad being the founding members of “The Kinks”, Russ had his music connections.

The theme I would say, I guess a “space adventure” with its classic funky pop style which is pretty cool for those who like that stuff. But the sort of music on the album is pretty likeable, hence why me thinks it’s good. But one thing is it has the same beat pretty much in every song. It’s the kinda album you’d leave on in the background for a 4 hour journey, from London to Yorkshire and after that it might get slightly annoying.

I guess the beat gives it a modern take on it and personalises it too because the album was apparently inspired by the films “Flight Of The Navigator” and the all famous “Never Ending Story”. I guess you could tell, it has that retro funk to it...slightly. But even the album cover looks like its taking you a million miles from home on a musical magical adventure. I would say it’s best song has to be “Jetstreams” because it was the most up-beat song, but since they all were up-beat, I guess this just had a little bit more. You have some songs that may depress you, not in bad way, just like maybe make your mind drift into another dimension and think of ...stuff?! But the use of the unique hybrid sound allows you to listen to the whole song rather than just half way. But generally nice work!

Naeem Mahmood

 

Thrice - Beggars (Vagrant)

Ticking every damned box for rock ‘n’ roll attitude, sweeping riffs, dirty bass lines and general awesomeness; this is an album that I can imagine clunking my way through on Guitar Hero. Not to mention the fact that they have managed to create more cymbal crashes than if you fell head first into a display of cymbals a cymbal shop.

‘All The World Is Mad’ is a chaotic, yet immaculate opener, with swirling, twirling melodies accompanying gruff vocals; very much setting the scene for what is to be expected from the Californian quartet. ‘The Weight’ is very much the same, but ‘Circle’ seems disappointing, wedged between the abovementioned and ‘Doublespeak’, a dirty little performance that generates enough feedback to make even Angus Young cry.

‘At the Last’ is one of the album’s best bite size offerings, appearing absolutely seamless and fiercely energetic. ‘Wood and Wire’ is break from the heart-pounding adrenaline fuelled aggression for a brief relax of minor key harmonies and peaceful pianos. Nevertheless, to make up for this ‘chillax’, another belter must be produced swiftly and here is the cue for ‘Talking Through Glass’, in which the singer actually is shouting as if he was telling off someone through very thick double glazing. ‘The Great Exchange’ is a chilled reversion to previous track, ‘Wood and Wire’, managing to tie up all the loose ends creating a textbook finish. Finale ‘Beggars’ is suave and has a seductive swagger to it, even having time for the most incredible guitar solo, leaving a rounded ending to complete a mature and well executed album.

No emotional connections or sentimental associations, just a bloody good rock out. I’ll be seeing these guys on the next edition of Guitar Hero, yes?

Eloise Quince

 

Bats – Red In Tooth & Claw

Dublin based five piece Bats provide us with heavy, jagged and angular tunes on this fantastic debut. There are more than enough tempo changes, stops and starts and intricate guitar workings on this offering to justifiably squeeze it into the math rock genre. Yet thankfully, Bats manage to avoid the usual pitfalls that come with such a tag; there are no two dimensional songs to be found here as this album proves to be a full bodied, spiky explosion of shouty choruses and controlled bursts of distorted guitars and drums. Rhythmic and propulsive it’s near impossible not to move your head to the blistering riffs throughout the record. If Gallows, Foals and Kill Switch Engage formed a super group it’d probably sound like this.

The album never loses its punch throughout the 11 songs. ‘Credulous Credulous!’ is monstrously heavy in parts, but is neatly wrapped up in a math rock package and concludes in a staccato swirl of concise notes backed by booming drums and bass. ‘Andrew Wiles’ is an epic mathcore ride that flips about for nearly six minutes without once sounding tiresome. ‘Lord Blakely’s Arm’ is an insane, nightmarish tune of hectic riffage and anxious ridden vocals that descends into a heavy break so filthy it would make most grindcore bands blush. Yet, throughout this album the songs never lose that feeling of control or precision, they’re like machine guns rhythmically spraying out chunky riffs, it’s a pant wetting, joy to listen to.

This album is a musical geek’s dream. There’s so much to hear, so many layers, so much going on, yet it all manages to sound tight and exact. Red in Tooth and Claw is a comprehensive record that feels much more mature than a mere debut; it’s a veritable epic of a record but at no point does it sound bloated. Bats might be heavy as hell but it’s done with intelligence and with a light touch. Couple this with neat melodic breaks and some mouth watering fret work and this album should leave even the most cynical of listeners nodding their heads to the relentless pounding rhythms Bats produce. Go and purchase now, do believe the hype.
http://www.myspace.com/leatherbeatsfeather

Moker

 

Lethal Bizzle – Go Hard

On his third album Go Hard Lethal Bizzle continues to blend grime, rave synths and punk to create a style that is initially exhilarating although it begins to wear thin after about ten or eleven of its fifteen tracks. At the very least, he should be admired for not crassly selling out to the mainstream in the manner of contemporaries like Dizzee Rascal and Tinchy Stryder. The sound remains raw and abrasive and the rhymes and wordplay of tracks like ‘Skullz on My Hoodie’ and ‘Push It’ are enjoyably unhinged. Unfortunately, too many of Bizzle’s lyrics are generic, falling back on vague lines about fame, respect, money, haters or the state of the UK hip-hop scene which will be of little interest to most discerning music fans or people over the age of 16 in general. Go Hard is not a bad album by any means but is too limited in style and scope to compete with the best that modern hip-hop has to offer.

Matt Brown

 

Thavius Beck – Dialogue

This is pretty awesome. With Dialogue Los Angeles MC Thavius Beck serves his most ambitious and varied LP to data. Its fifteen short tracks touch on soul, rock, jazz and drum and bass in as fluid and skilful a way as we’ve heard since the last time OutKast put a record out. Beck shares a similar lyrical dexterity with the aforementioned duo, peppering his breathless rhymes with comments on current social issues such as America’s war on drugs, the state of the inner cities and the behaviour of some members of the black community. He is smart and witty enough to present the many aspects of such matters without resorting to preaching and his virtuosic lyrical flow means that the album never becomes heavy going. There’s not really any weak moments on Dialogue but the insanely fast breakbeats of ‘Burn’ and the bhangra-inflected ‘Pressure’ are two of the many standouts. An excellent album.

Matt Brown

 

Project Skyward – Moved By Opposing Forces

Written, produced and performed by former Mahogany guitarist Ryan Field, Project Skyward’s second album is a mixture of shoegazing guitars, vocal harmonies, 80s synths and gentle electronica. Sonically, the album is reminiscent of acts like M83 or Mercury Rev’s Snowflake Midnight album and the best track ‘Superblaster’ feels a bit like Soft Bulletin era Flaming Lips . For a while, the atmospheric production and undulating bass patterns hold your interest but, unfortunately, few of the songs really stand out; the press release makes the ambitious (and extremely pretentious) claim that these tracks “proclaim the innate symmetry and indivisibility of ourselves and the universe around us.” If Project Skyward really intend to discuss such weighty concepts, they need to do more than just create pleasant, ambient background music and sing a bit like the Pet Shop Boys. As it stands, Moved By Opposing Forces is pleasant, impeccably produced and more than a little boring.

Matt Brown

 

Eyedea and Abilities – By The Throat

Originally know as Sixth Sense, Minnesota-based rap duo Eyedea and Abilities gained a sizeable cult following in 2004 with the album E&A. To be honest, aside from DJ Abilities’ production work on El-P’s Fantastic Damage LP, the group hadn’t really come to my attention, being far better known in the US where MC Eyedea won the prestigious freestyle contest Blaze Battle which aired on HBO.

Putting the CD into the computer, the first thing which was promising was the album’s length: unlike most hip-hop albums which dilute six or seven great tracks with at least as much overlong, indulgent filler, By The Throat clocks in at about half an hour in total with all but three of its eleven tracks under the three minute mark. Fantastic opener ‘Hay Fever’ kicks off with a chugging guitar line and the lyric “I’m not shit, I’m champagne” which is as good an introduction as any. Like several other cuts, the song has more in common with early ‘90s US alternative slacker pop like Modest Mouse and Pavement as it does with hip-hop. ‘Burn Fetish’ is another highlight, featuring more conventional, stripped down, melancholy beats and synths. The rapping remains tight and witty throughout, with Eyedea’s paranoid, stream of consciousness rants full of quotable lines and vivid images. It won’t be to everyone’s taste, particularly if they are accustomed to the overly polished nature of much modern hip-hop, but this LP proved to be a pleasant surprise; accessible without sounding compromised and totally engaging throughout.

Matt Brown

 

Anti-pop Consortium – Fluorescent Black

After a seven year hiatus, Anti-Pop Consortium have returned with a follow-up to their 2002 near-classic Arrhythmia. That record was released on Warp records and combined electro and drum and bass samples with clinical beats and virtuosic, cerebral rhymes and structures which made it stand out from the offensive, self-agrandising, musically tedious nature of most of the mainstream hip-hop around at the time.
Just in case people might be expecting them to have gone soft, Fluorescent Black opens with the atonal guitar squall of 'Lay Me Down' which soon settles down into skittering beats, distorted synths and overlapping verses from MCs Beans, M.Sayyid and Priest. Although many of the tracks that follow are in a similar vein sonically, the quality remains high throughout with the Roots Manuva-guesting ‘NY to Tokyo’ proving a further highlight. Artists like APC and Roots Manuva are showing us just how sophisticated and progressive hip-hop can (and should) be in 2009. In a lot of ways, Fluorescent Black is reminiscent of El-P’s 2007 album I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead with its dark, hypnotic atmosphere and heavy, unsettling rhythms and samples.
At a time when the abysmal Black Eyed Peas are the most popular exponents of electro-tinged hip-hop on the planet, this album proves to be not only a consolidation of past glories but a refreshing and bracing reminder of how great progressive rap music can be when its made by people who care about things other than selling records to idiots and partying everyday.

Matt Brown