albums - december 2009
The albums opens with 'Manifesto' – which is a strange culmination of a young indie Elbow, The Electric Soft Parade, and something else which I can't quite put my finger on. 'Love In A Lift' pulls Radiohead, Biffy Clyro's composition and an electro Dartz! guitar edge into the mix and you soon realise that actually, this crazy emalgamation is pretty good. When each song starts, you doubt whether you're going to like it, but about half way through it clicks that this is really exciting. This is really fucking good.
It's got everything a great record should; variation, beautiful guitars, tuneful (often gorgeous) vocal melodies, and catchy rhythms.
All the above statements generally apply to every track on the album so I'm not about to repeat myself, although I think the best of the album is in the first three tracks; the two mentioned above and 'Slight To The Right.'
I will be recommending this willy nilly.
This isn't really tickling my pickle. It's oh so Harvey Danger – but there's no Flagpole Sitta to save the day. Almost like We Are Scientists really early stuff, with the occasional cheeky Cribs guitar riff. It's not bad, by all means, I'd say it sits around a six out of ten. But in comparision to the other two albums I've listened to; no sir. No dice. Do not collect two hundred pounds. I think it's mainly the vocals. One song goes really Them Crooked Vultures but the vocals remain waivering and just not ticking my boxes. It's like settings a rape alarm off at choir practice – it grates a little. Other than that, I'd love to be interested, but singing is too bigger deal for me, I'm sorry.
Any album that can be compared simultaneously to Feeder, M83 and The Magnetic Fields is only good if it actually sounds like M83 or The Magnetic Fields. Rather than Feeder. Unfortunately, James Chapman sings a bit like the guy from Feeder. Over long Magnetic Fields songs. Probably unlikely to recreate 2007's Mercury Prize nomination. It's 'dreamy', in a way that lacks the 'drive' of Mew, or the 'focus' of The Field. The beginning is 'nice' and 'atmospheric' and the last few songs are also 'quite nice'. But then aside from being 'quite nice', it is mainly 'dreary' and 'boring', in a 'dreary electronica' way, rather than 'innovative' and 'exciting'. Sorry.
A covers album by Americana / indie-folk type Micah P Hinson. Containing Dylan and Cohen standards. It's not like I even want to listen to Dylan's 'The Times They Are A Changin'' anymore. So a cover version of this song, and an album of songs by Dylan and by Pedro the Lion, etc., is going to have to bring a light, exciting newness to the table, otherwise to me its going to taste like salted popcorn ate from a shoe - i.e. pointless. The collection - split into two 'halves' - gets louder, with more guitar added to Hinson's tonal bereavement. He sounds good. But what does he doe to Dylan? And to 'Suzanne'? Um, not much. Hinson can make songs his own. But then sometimes the songs themselves smell of strangers, and all the effort Hinson took in getting nicely dressed up seems a little pointless.
Counter Records are like an indie / rock / indie rock Ninja Tune-thing. I wrote some notes as I listened through, vaguely hoping for something in the exciting, modernist realm of Ninja Tune, you know, the label that is up there with Big Dada and co. when it comes to exciting hip hop in the UK. My notes say '5/10'; 'not that good', 'Cougar are okay because of the lack of words', 'John Matthias is quite good'. Hey, John Matthias is quite good. The rest of it could be a sampler from 2004; The Heavy are very much like a more coordinated, heavy-set early Noisettes / Zutons band. They could be your 'thing'. The Death Set are still really shouty. They are excitable. But not that exciting.
A plastic-wrapped dirt package. Sell, sell, sell. At its best, it sounds 'wild' and 'sleazy' the way the Noisettes used to - now, look at them.
"Pure voodoo funk" and "Satan" are descriptives used on the press release.
Doing a good job at selling 'sleaze rock', though. I mean, Jack White has pretty much lost the 'blues'-style 'rock and roll' market most of its 'appeal' / supposed 'sexiness'.
You might really like it. I could hear this on the radio. Maybe more fun than the Fratellis.
Great, they formed at a Stooges gig!! And some of them have played
with members of St Etienne!! What’re they going to sound like? It
could go either way!! And before I played this record I noticed they
had a song called Afterburn. There are rules about this type of thing.
Songs called Afterburn have to be really really good. The world should
only really have 4 or 5 songs called Afterburn and if you waste 1
with a dud then Creed reform or something.
It sounds exactly like Indie-pop. Little bass runs between notes, slight distortion, but nothing scary, for the middle 8 and lots of reverb and crash for the solo.
There still isn’t quite enough of that in the world. Not like Trumpet Rock. There’s well enough of that. Trumpet Rock bands should have a one in one out policy.
I am disappointed, but shouldn’t really be surprised that the song
No More No More isn’t an Aerosmith cover. It’s winning me over even
though I know what’s coming I know that it’ll sound more and more
like The Lucksmiths as the album goes on, with occasional touches
of quiet times Idlewild.
There is an awful lot to like about how this album starts; it’s crammed
with exuberance and spiky riffs. It’s almost entirely heart and today,
unlike the last time I listened to it, it doesn’t sound contrived.
It sounds like a lot of fun. The first 3 songs anyway.
And on the other hand, sometimes I’m back in 6th form, out watching
a support band and drinking beer and it’s lovely. But I’m still thinking
“I wish the main band’d hurry up and start.” And they slow songs keep
coming and being worse and they use the same guitar sounds as EVERYBAND
EVER in 1996. And he rhymed “moment to pass” with “rolling on the
grass” only he puts an R sound in there.
I should love this. It’s gentle, with alluring heartbroken-girl vocals sometimes and 60’s trance out in other places but it’s desperately dull and like all that cool stuff from 60’s New York hipsters and the stuff in San Francisco, only without the good. Forgot to Get High is alright, or maybe it’s just less dull than the others and I like the lyrics.
I like this kind of thing too. I like songs that sound like they’re by college kids who skip psychology to get high and climb trees…and I’d like this too if it didn’t suck the fun out of it all. I’m really not sure how you can suck the fun out of climbing trees.
I hate reading promo. And the promo for this made me cringe. I don’t think it put me in too bad a move though.
Oh, it’s a guitarist album? Hmm. Of soundscapes? I am making concerned faces.
But, sometimes it gets tantalisingly close to being really great; there are glimpses of the kind of building of sound that makes post-rock so so enjoyable a listening experience. Unfortunately, what you get when you fall short of that is repetition. This falls short. Cloak & Dagger and Maimed Titles are, however, very good pieces of music making the final leap past repetition and guitar player showing what he can do and what peddles he has. These too are let down by how cheap it sounds.
If this album was anymore angular it’d cut your ears listening to it. Math-Popsters The Banshee’s new album is a part-synth, part-guitar driven, super-trendy, indie album that sounds like it was made in the secret basement laboratory of the NME offices by shoving every “in” band through a mixer and producing this record. Hey scenesters indeed.
There are so many influences and sound-a-likes on this record I’m actually finding it difficult to pick them all out. The Banshee say their influences are Devo, Talking Heads, New Order, XTC… but doesn’t everyone who wants to be dead-trendy like? To me, they’re almost identical to The Rakes, Franz Ferdinand, Foals, and Late of the Pier. There’s also some Young Knives in there too. And there’s more: play their track ‘3rd’ and tell me who it sounds like as it’s driving me crazy; it’s identical to someone else. And so is every other track one way or another. Listen to closing number ‘Colder’ and tell me it’s doesn’t reek of The Killers. Each song is just like hearing everything that’s already come (and gone).
Normally a band sounding so much like their influences shouldn’t be a problem. No-one berates Wolfmother for being Led Zeppelin, Nine Black Alps being Nirvana, The Darkness for being AC/DC (no, not Queen you silly people) but it doesn’t sit so easily with these guys. They don’t sound so much like their influences as they do a general “scene”. The music is such an outrageous rip off that it does them a disservice. It’s so “of the moment” and predictable that the hard work and creativity they clearly poured into Your Nice Habits is completely sullied.
For the sake of fairness, if you somehow ignore this humongous and
grating flaw, what’s the album like? Well, it’s quite good actually.
In the same way as all their influences are. It’s angular, punky,
shouty with upbeat choruses and infectious poppy hooks. There’s a
quirky charm too. But that’s about it. It doesn’t have a great deal
of depth and maybe it wouldn’t normally need to, but yes, because
it’s a carbon copy of everything before you end up wanting The Banshee
to stamp their own mark on the music, but it never comes. It’s a frustrating
issue that really hampers this record, a record that could have been
so good if it was in any way different. Perhaps if Your Nice Habits
was released 10 years ago it would have blown me away, but for 2009,
I’m convinced that most will find it as exasperating and disappointing
as I did.
This full length album by Irish DJ O’Meara offers up progressive and propulsive techno beats on the whopping 16 remixes and collaborations that make up Structured Noise. Each track flows smoothly into the next creating a seamless hour and a quarter of techno insanity full of samples, swirling synths, growling bass lines and most of all a relentless and irresistible beat that’s gonna get in your head and limbs and there ‘aint nothing you can do about it.
The album is one giant, organic, pounding monster where track titles seem almost irrelevant. Saying that, for the more curious, highlights could include brooding and ominous opener ‘Selfish Bass’, a snarling, loop filled ‘Blue’ and a perfectly executed hypnotic floor-filler of old, ‘Die Francois Die’. There are some previous releases on here too: ‘Bitchbags’ stands out as a dirty Wink-esk track that’s full of squelches and psychedelic effects and the same goes for the twisted and spacey favourite ‘Paranoia’. Still, this isn’t the kind of record to sit and chin stroke over, it won’t allow it. Take Structured Noise as a whole, or more accurately, let it take you.
Seriously, O’Meara’s made an album of mouth-watering primal beats
and rhythms that grabs you by the lapels and makes you remember that
for all the crap chart-dance out there, for all the terrible techno
compilations on sale and for all the good but oh-so-trendy-and-ubiquitous
phat house tunes about, there is still great techno to be made, heard
and danced too. It’s bloody fantastic I tell you.
Do you like records that start with what sound like whales humming? Do you like Romanian folk songs? Do you like Sea Shanties? Do you like almost tuneless, wandering guitar riffs followed by men talking backwards?
If you do, this is the album for you. But, more importantly, if you think you don’t, have a listen to this before making any definite decisions because you might just find that, actually, you do quite like it.
This is the sound of somebody playing music simply for the joy of it, for the joy of sound and noise. And that comes across by the bucketful with each listen.
At no point does it take itself too serious, become too pretentious, as artists often sacrificing the marketable poptastic for the artistic composition do. This is simply a man making music with friends from whatever he can find around him. It’s the man that drums a pan, bangs a stick on a fence, finds a tune in tightened twine, and weaves it all into a joyouss, uplifting tapestry.
There are many things this album is not. It is not unpleasant for example. It is not lacking in melodies, nor deep and meaningful lyrics. It is also not different. And in a marketplace as crowded as today’s, with record at home DIY-ers, myspace devotees and every man and his dog flooding the scene with whatever noise they can generate from banging little more than 2 pans together, not being different could well be a more damning indictment than being no good.
Which is disappointing because another thing this band are not is not good. In fact they are very good. Well crafted, well thought out, well played and solidly produced. Like a lot out there.
Good to listen to, but struggling to make a case for spending your
hard earned brass on these over several other equally not different
bands around at the moment.
The art work is very Lord of the Rings, as is the band and album name. And the first track follows in that vein, a rock heavy riff underpinning short, sharp, shouted vocals.
And then… it changes. Press release after press release refers to any given bands new and ‘eclectic’ offering. Rarely is the music offered in any was eclectic. This, on the other hand, is. What starts as a heavy rock album moves through soft, slow ballard, country barn dance jig, love song lullaby…
There’s something here for everyone. As to how that forms a fan base
for such a band, I’m not sure. But certainly as an album it’s difficult
to dislike and the constant changing of styles and sound makes it
a far more interesting and rewarding listen than any album claiming
to be eclectic.
What are the point of remixes? Their prime purpose to fill up the b-sides of CD singles seems completely redundant these days and whilst there’s always a pleasing remix or two kicking about in jaw-wobbling Clubland, they’ve always taken a back seat to the original song. So surely choosing to release an entire album of remixes is a bit of a silly idea?
For those not in the know, Ape School is the one-man project by Michael Johnson, a nu-folk, quirky, semi-electronic artist that sounds considerably like Beck. The inventively named ‘Ape School Remixes’ is Johnson’s latest offering which actually features “songful remixes of Ape School originals from the self-titled debut”. Are you still following?
Well not having heard any Ape School before, I went myspace searching to hear some original material and to be frank, there’s not a lot of difference to what’s on this CD. You see, Ape School Remixes isn’t a collection of hard house mash ups and drum and bass rhythms with Ape School samples on top, it’s more, well, the same as Ape School. I think. Except he didn’t do anything for this album. I think. If, for example opener ‘That’s Ok’ is remixed I can’t work out how. I think. Look, if I’m having trouble working it out with a press release explaining everything, what’s anyone else’s supposed to understand?
Sound wise, Ape School Remixes is a musical jumble sale – samples, fuzzy electronic synths, odd buzzes and swooshes, even 80s computer game noises all sit over Johnson (or others) singing songs from his debut. His scrappy and electronic-folk sound is charming at times but the record can feel impossibly messy and a bit cumbersome – like a disorganised filing cabinet that has to be sorted out. Still Jonhson’s soft vocals and idiosyncratic approach to making music will definitely appeal to some, especially those who appreciate the craziness of Simple Kid or Beck. However, for most of us, this niche record is too self absorbed to make enough of an impact.
It's almost as if The Killers found a blippy synthesiser and played a set sitting down. It's all a bit too slow to be interesting, and tracks 1 ('Headlines') and 2 ('In The Club') are much of a muchness with the same feel, chord structure and vocal lines. I don't know if that's deliberate, but I don't think it's necessary given that track 1 drags enough as it is. Title track 'Smoke' opens with out-of-tune slap bass, which had the potential to become a Faith No More/Prince masterpiece, but the bass continues as the song hits its half-stride and sits over the top uncomfortably. Another not-quite-right, I'm afraid.
This is, for want of a better word, cool. Opening track 'Harmonia' is mesmerising. Even the annoying repetitive whirring in the background didn't put me off too much. I'm no dancer, but it had me dancing about in my pyjamas. The catchy chorus of 'Glitches n Bugs' is fantastically poppy (think Take That) But the album is not pop through and through. There's an appealing darkness in well-executed strings, haunting harmonies and underlying drones that serve to make many of the tracks something a bit special. Track 8 'Yesterdays To Come' is outstanding. I love the nods to sixties/seventies Animals and Byrds psychedelic rock (a glance at the album cover is enough to give you a clue) throughout, too. There's nothing wrong with a bit of theramin in moderation.
It's taken me a horrendous length of time for me to review this album, for which I apologise. I think part of it was due to listening to it, being confused by it and putting it aside, in a safe place, out of sight. I want to say great things about it; I've always thought the band name is cracking and promises things of vague-twee and wonder. Unfortunately, I was left a shade disappointed. The opening track 'Always on the Telephone', for the first eight bars, filled me with hope. A bit Americana and spooky; I like it. But the rest of the song leaves me cold. Technically it's well executed – Olson has a Jens Lekmanesque way about him, all deep and smooth...but I find it a bit creepy. It's just me. It's all down to taste. There's an instrumental after the first (technically spot-on) chorus where they break out the sax. There's something that bothers me about saxophones and I can't help it. Even Pink Floyd can't make me like saxophones, so Ladybug Transistor certainly didn't. It might be your thing. There's something not-quite-right about each track, but they all remind me of things I'd forgotten I liked – track 3 'Here Comes the Rain' has a guitar lick that reminds me of when Stevie from B&S gets to do a bit of shredding, and track 8 'In-Between' utilises that corny keyboard sound that Adam Green's so fond of on Gemstones, say. The album is consistent in its quality, but it's a quality that doesn't do much for me.
Click whirr, Click Click whirr, has the photocopier begun to misbehave again. Actually no, it’s the first song from Light of Words new album, the percussive “Trip Up”. It is not bad at all. By track two though, I’m convinced that this band either would be better served either replacing Chris Deans’ on vocals or strapping an eight ball in his mouth and going instrumental. His wobbly vibrato, which presumably has been affected to give us some indication that he’s ‘really feeling it’ slowly starts to induce a sense of humour failure. “January” as well as the problem of the vocal, suffers for having a glockenspiel in it. Glockenspiels – they should all be gathered together and recycled into razor blades and firewood. They are the work of Beelzebub and let no-one tell you otherwise kids.
The music side of things is a subtle, accomplished effort. Nothing
is out of place, there is a sense of quiet triumph and deservedly
so; “Too Soon” with its shimmering harmonium has the potential to
be a powerful ballad, as does “So Calm Now”. But it keeps coming back
to the voice. It’s just not right. On quiet songs it grates, on loud
sections it is reedy and a song as good as “One More” needs something
more up to the mark if justice is to be served. It’s a frustrating
Cheerful bunch this, taking Orwellian visions of a monolithic dystopia as their muse, and delivering it in a nice autumn coloured sleeve. CUTE actually produce an immediate and accessible post-rock landscape that manages to retain listener interest in what can often be a fairly tedious instrumental genre.
The absolute high point has to be second track “Crawling” particularly the adrenaline rush of the last thirty seconds. I made the mistake of listening to this while driving and I noticed I’d gone from a respectable 65mph at the start to something quite illegal by its finish. “Tranquillity” delivers more of the same and “Far to the Past” is an attention grabbing descent from lullaby to maelstrom. Synths are an important part in proceedings and the lively air of many of the keyboard lines is perhaps what distinguishes this album from the glut of other acts that ply their oar in the same waters.
As an album, there are many good points and there is much to recommend
it; as a piece of art, it is noteworthy as being probably the ultimate
distillation of post-rock into a commercial form and it has to be
said that you cannot help but feel (and cynically so) that many of
the more driving moments on this album would end up soundtracking
season trailers for Sky. Ironic really.
With J.Mascis at the production helm and “Thanks and Love” given to Thurston & Kim amongst others, you’d be forgiven for expecting this album to be 10 tracks of discordant ear bleeding with duelling Fender Jazzmasters and croaked vocals. Well, the croaked falsetto vocals (courtesy of Hush Arbours himself, Keith Woods) are present; the music itself however owes a heavy debt of gratitude to 60’s garage psychedelia, The Byrds, and contemporaries Fleet Foxes.
It’s a misty affair this. Lisbon’s bluegrass shuffle underpins an electrifying fuzz riff and hurtles into the austere Fast Asleep. Nothing on this record is remotely original, the chord progressions are tried and tested (but admittedly effective); the lyrics are generically safe and staid. But it is immaculately produced and where acoustic guitars do give way to the electric variety, the time spent getting them to sound like a fifties TV speaker wound up full is evident and has been well spent. The whole thing sounds rather lovely, and the choice of Mascis to oversee proceedings turns out to have been an inspired one. Not that he confines himself to the mixing desk; he manages to creep in to the album in other roles too, taking the lead for on the opening “Day Before” and contributing drums to “Sun Shall”. “Sun Shall” does sound eerily more like an interpretation of an Alex Turner song marked for a side project than the press release’s proclamation of it being Wood’s “Venus in Furs”, but the disappointment in this song is easily eclipsed by the excitement upon hearing the epic shimmy of “For While You Slept”. The albums closer, “Devil Made You High” curiously decides to divorce itself sonically from the rest of the album, a cacophonous guitar barrage that stutters to a halt reminiscent of a very early Ride (and yes, Dinosaur Jr). It’s exhilarating but is perhaps inappropriate considering its surroundings.
Five Mile Island aren’t going
to re-invent the wheel with this album but, for a first effort, in
many respects it does solidly deliver the goods. “Land in Sight” plods
away in a pleasingly droll fashion with singer Owen lazily drawling
‘Nothing Matters Now’ in a curious fusion of Mark E Smith and anaesthetised
Bryan Ferry. “Borderline” is a quirky number with some guitar/bass
interplay that blows the dust off the albums mainly mid-paced moments
and “Safehouses” is a charming piece of upbeat melancholia with a
grand soundscape of an ending. “Swansong” is full of promise but is
badly let down by an appallingly unimaginative guitar solo. However,
this is the exception rather than the rule and when the guitarist
Matthew does steer clear of the widdly guitar playing clichés
so beloved of The Bluetones (most evident on Fossils as well as the
already mentioned “Swansongs”), his lines flow with a solid confidence.
Editing Suite is the only other serious blot on the landscape; an
out of place Stereophonics pastiche that does them no favours and
with hindsight should have been dropped from the album altogether.
It also becomes apparent over the course of the album that Owen’s
monotone delivery, while suiting some of the material quite well,
starts to grate slightly; a bit like eating too much All Bran, after
a while you seek some variety.
So, not life changing stuff; if they however continue to turn out
songs like “The Golden Age”, then it’s a statement that may require
some revision in the future.
With vocals that remind me on some level of the calm voice of some
of ‘Lightspeed Champions’ tracks, ‘Bundle of Nerves’ begins by throwing
you into an progressive track by the name of ‘Elephant Juice’ a rapid
lyrical guitar piece that picks you up slowly and takes you on a memorable
mix of lyrics and guitar, little resembling an elephant march. Very
endearing although one that you will little chance of being able to
play along to! The album then moves onto a slower tempo with Karl’s
melodic voice and amazing guitar playing ‘I’m not proud of myself’
lets you melt into its rhythmic finger-style beat of the guitar not
dissimilar to a 21st century Nick Drake.
This album is definitely a grower so keep it on the back burner perfect for a warm night in of relaxation.
The first thing Draygo's Guilt need to do is sack their PR company. I read “a passing nod to The Doors” and something about “future greats Pete Doherty and Alex Turner” and feared the worst.
But despite employing Trotters Trading to promote their work, Draygo's Guilt are far more exciting prospect than The Doors ever were, and display more creativity in a single track than the crack-addled Doherty has produced in his career to date.
Echoes of New Order, Interpol and the recent, heavier Arctic Monkeys loom large as angry guitars rip into epic drums and thundering bass. There's an unashamed tang of early Oasis about opener “Pulse”, and that's no bad thing.
Lead singer and songwriter Jon Clews has an astonishing voice – one of those raw, damaged but strangely radio-friendly vocals that still manages to sound interesting by the end of the album. Considering that this record has been mostly home recorded and self-produced, the quality of the sound here is outstanding.
It's tunes that carry albums and this one's full of them. “Something Dangerous” could sit happily on an Arctics' album, while the brief respite of “Maybe” talks warily of “futures made of babies” over undulating ripples of guitar.
No track outstays its welcome. “Neon” punches you repeatedly in the face with a snare drum, but in a good way, while “Footsteps” rounds off events in style.
The band are giving away the album as a free download in the hope that fans will share it and word will spread. I'd advise you to take their advice and get hold of it now – this is an awesome statement of intent from a band who should have major labels salivating like bloodhounds.
This album's like a rollercoaster. It shakes you up, throws you about,
makes you feel afraid one minute and glad to be alive the next. Then
a gypsy steals your wallet. And as soon as the ride's over, you want
to do it all over again. Brilliant.
I'm told this CD will be weird and wonderful. I'm told Roman Bezdyk is going to “conjure up a surreal and fantastical world of pure sonic imagination”. I'm told this is a record of “abundant skill”. Then again, I was told we'd all be riding hoverboards by now. And that was wrong, too.
Off-kilter electronica, when done right, can be simply superb. I love the hypnotic rhythms of Four Tet, the vicious dystopian ire of Future Sound of London and sheer bubbling creativity of Battles.
The problem with electronic music is that it's very easy to create. To produce this stuff you don't need to be able to play an instrument, you don't need a sense of rhythm or melody, you don't even need to like music. Any idiot can throw together a load of samples and claim to be the new Squarepusher. But the best electronic artists always have their roots in genuine, old-fashioned musical ability. That's what sets Autechre and their ilk apart from Sone Institute.
“'Inter Asylum Cross Country' throws around samples with anarchic energy” reads the record company spiel. True, but that doesn't make it good. I could throw some paint onto a canvas with anarchic energy, but it wouldn't make me Jackson Pollock.
“Plane Sailing Song” features an out-of-tune guitar being strummed over the sound of a dripping toilet. Awful.
The pretentiously named “Tiny stars peer over the little roof” is approaching quality, but veers off dangerously after a minute, sounding like a poor demo track from a very cheap 1980s keyboard. The tone deaf guitarist returns on “Burnt Land”, and this time he's brought the pre-school percussion class with him. Gruesome.
By the time I reach “On Tree Hill” I realise there's a car alarm blaring outside, which I'd much rather listen to in preference to any more of this rubbish.
At 14 tracks, this album is 14 tracks too long. The album will be
produced in a limited edition run. Hopefully, a limited edition of
one, which is proving very useful for scraping ice from my car windows.
Throughout the 90's the little heralded genre of 'post-rock' settled just beneath the surface of the indie-rock underground before bursting forth in the last few years thanks to the BBC's over-use of a certain Sigur Ros record. These days instrumental bands who favour texture and dynamic over rhythm and melody are ten-a-penny with some of the genre's most prominent exponents (the afore-mentioned Sigur Ros and our very own Mogwai) actually achieving some level of mainstream acceptance.
As the genre's roots are very much american (with many claiming Slint's 'Spiderland' as the first album to actively claim the moniker) it's fitting that Saxon Shore are a band who came together from disparate corners of the continent with Dave Fridmann as lynchpin (essentially the closest thing American indie has to a super-producer) to create an album (their 4th in only 8 years) of densely atmospheric, mostly instrumental rock which takes it's cues from the more measured end of the genre's spectrum (more Explosions in the Sky than Godspeed you Black Emperor!).
The overall sound of the record is very much as one would expect from 'this kind of thing' (as well as what one would expect of a Dave Fridmann record). On almost every track the songs crawl forth from subtle beginnings before eventually exploding into a cathartic wall of sound. It was a thrilling formula the first time I heard it and admittedly there were still moments here (especially in the opening track 'Nothing Changes' which climax's in one of the loudest crescendos I've ever heard on record!) that gave me goose-bumps but too much of 'It Doesn't Matter' feels bloodless and recycled. Many of the tracks just don't carry enough weight to work instrumentally, 'Thanks For Being Away' and 'Tweleven' are almost interchangeable and essentially sound like a castrated Mogwai. There is eclecticism at work here but it's barely noticeable unless your really paying attention, for example the pace picks up mid-album with a couplet of songs which could almost have been written by Deathcab For Cutie or Modest Mouse. The difference of course is that both those bands also involve interesting and lyrically gifted singers whereas with Saxon Shore the instruments are left to do the talking 90% of the time.
Tellingly the most interesting track 'It Doesn't Matter' has to offer
is undoubtedly 'This Place', notably the only song on the record which
contains vocals. Guest vocalist Caroline Lufkin breathes fresh life
into the bands sound and it almost feels like they in turn are playing
off her as they adapt their style to her soft melodies and settle
on a more dream-like sound which echoes the more vibrant, atmospheric
works of My Bloody Valentine. It's a diamond in the rough though as
from the mid-way point onwards, the album only really struck me once
more with the slow-core, funeral doom of 'What Keeps Us Up'. There
are moments and ideas which shine through such as the upbeat guitar
hooks on 'Sustained Combustion' and the dynamic interplay between
the drums and strings (beautifully arranged it has to be said) on
'Small Steps' but more often than not the overriding vibe is of an
album of backing tracks waiting for a vocalist to bring focus to the
With a classical trained pianist and a self taught punk guitarist
in this band I was eager to get the CD in and player and I have not
I've come to understand that 9 times out of 10 you can tell if your going to enjoy a record or not by reading the press release. When I read that Erica Quitzow was to "alchemize pain, chaos and unchecked bliss into a primal, thumping sonic experience" with her third full length 'Juice Water' I saw through the bullshit instantly as my minds eye pictured a room of PR execs frantically trying to pin pretentious hyperbole onto a release they had anything but faith in, like rolling a turd in glitter. We're also told to expect a fusion of styles taking in everything from Daft Punk and Kraftwerk, to MIA and The Slits, honestly though from this evidence Quitzow's sound is closer to N-Dubz than it is to MIA. A more obvious reference point would be 'Peaches' but at least she tries to have some fun with her music and didn't take herself so seriously, Quitzow is deadly serious and as such it comes across as desperate at times.
The first 3 tracks set the tone pretty adequately for what is to follow, namely badly produced, Technicolor electro-pop. The beats are flaccid, dull and quite obviously presets and the vintage synth sounds (which in recent years have become something of a hipster cliché) might sound authentic but Quitzow seems to favour layers over direct hooks. If she were to streamline her ideas a little her songs would certainly benefit, as the opening trio on Juice Water are a bit of a mess both stylistically and melodically. Quitzow is a classically trained violinist and cellist and as such feels the need to layers string arrangements over nearly every song, it's an interesting idea but it just doesn't work. The strings sound alien and uncomfortable against the harsh, parping synths and retro effects, as the Mighty Boosh famously stated, what we have here is "elements of the past and the future combining to make something not quite as good as either". On 'More Keith Richard's' the violins at least come close to making sense with something approaching a hook and it's the closest thing we get to the 'experimental mega-pop' which the press release promises, but then 'Talk To Me' and 'Magic' spoil the fun with more of the same vacant, droning banality.
Bizarrely the record actually seems to get better later on with 'Money Talks' where a live drum kit comes into play and with the odd acoustic pop of 'Race Car 1 and 2' where the nuanced orchestration actually starts to make sense. It becomes clear here that Quitzow is actually a skilled violinist and has a real way with texture when she's not trying to cram everything but the kitchen sink into the mix. Closer 'Whatever' brings us back down to earth however with more sparse hip-hop beats and tongue-in-cheek lyrics that bring to mind 'Chicks On Speed' (and that's far from a flattering comparison), at least she sounds like she's having fun here though ("have a sex change for the variety" indeed) and the sparse arrangement works well. It's also one of the few tracks on the record where Quitzow doesn't feel the need to randomly splice a string arrangement into the mix (maybe by this point she'd realised that it just didn't work!).
Overall 'Juice Water' is a bit of an anomaly, it's certainly inventive
but almost patronisingly so, like it's creator was trying to cover
up her obvious song-writing deficits with 'experimental flourishes'.
The thing is though these flourishes are far from experimental and
stick stringently in the boundaries of electro-pop music (save for
the string arrangements but I've already made my feelings on those
abundantly clear). At the end of the day there just isn't enough meat
here, just random bits of flesh strung up on beached bones. I'm sure
the girl herself is an interesting individual (having busked her way
across America and Africa and supposedly utilising artistic methods
that bring her close to death or incarceration) but her songs unfortunately,
are not. 4/10
Subtelty. Suavely understated cool. Moodily bleak poetics. None of
that going on round the LP3's gaff. Their third album, its 13 tracks
are one relentless balst of 60s inspired garage punk riffola that
takes inspiration from the Kinks, Who, Creation and on to more recent
amp crunchers such as the Buff Medways, Milkshakes and Prisoners.
Fast, tuneful and bitingly clever in its sneering lyricism, 'Pictures'
has the LP3 throwing together a reverential collection of influences
which they can't really go wrong with, given the no-frills garage
trio format, and sliding in amongst the r'n'b chords is some neatly
crafted powerpoppery, which added to the smartly incisive wordage
makes for a spikily ear- catching 28 or so minutes, reminding us all
yet again of exactly what a tour-de-force the Marmalade's 'Man In
A Shop' was (suggestion for set encore, that and the Pretty Things
'Come See Me'). The Len Price 3, you are worthy.
If anyone ever asks me what my favourite King Crimson album is, I
can answer without blinking that 1971's 'Islands' is probably the
group at the actual peak of their abilities. Robert Fripp is involved
in 'We Are The Humans' at varying points. Toyah, for those of you
born in the 80s, was a bit of a star around the beginning of that
decade. If anyone asks me what my favourite Toyah song is, I might
scratch and frown while comparing 'I Want To Be Free' and 'Ieya'.
'We Are The Humans' is very much Toyah's own album, and Bill Reeflin
from REM plays bass and all sorts of other things. Toyah and Robert
Fripp are married, and The Humans are inexplicably big in Estonia,
where they can include the Estonian President and Justice Minister
(these aren't the same person) as committed fans (says the press blurb).
Getting all of this?
It's back again. The wonderfully surreal and wacky Cherryade xmas
compilation, and I thoroughly enjoyed last years Vol 4 so much that
I almost tore Vol 5's cardbaord sleeve in my enthusiasim to experience
this years 25 track offering.
Spin Spin The Dog's gestation period was apparently fraught with incident, and their arrested development shows. Obviously indebted to Wire and The Fall (front-man Dean Hinks even steals Mark E Smith's drunken, nonchalant attitude) but without the knowing wit, eclecticism or... well the tunes, Spin Spin The Dogs struggle through 9 tracks of semi-formless art-rock on an album which is so ramshackle it makes Art Brut sound like Pink Floyd. There are moments of clarity amidst the chaos such as the wandering bass-lines in 'New World Hands' and 'Bed' and the soft focus drums on 'Saddam Insain?' (otherwise one of the worst songs I've ever heard, seriously seek it out if only for morbid curiosity, it sounds like an autistic Kermit the frog pissing around with a casio keyboard) but they are few and far between. The lyrics could almost have saved this mess but most of it comes across as free-form bullshit ("I might be talking about profiteroles"), fair enough The Pixies and even The Beatles were guilty of pulling the same tricks on occasion but they had the songs to back it up, SSTD most certainly do not.
The nagging suspicion that bites at the back of your ears throughout the entire record is that the band are almost putting on their amateurism in order to come across as 'edgy'. But if you ignore Hinks tuneless caterwauling the band backing him up are actually pretty damn tight and the lo-fi sound actually accentuates the bands loose style. The childish frivolity at work is almost laudable at times and almost works in their favour on the title track, it's an imposing piece of music which simply couldn't have happened if the band were taking themselves seriously. And of course without the bands wild sense of abandon many of the songs would literally be a big load of nothing ('Kingdom Time').
SSTD almost manage to transcend their self-applied limitations on
the closing track 'Hungry For Love', which could almost pass for a
decent Wire B-Side but it's too little too late. One thing I will
say though, it would be almost impossible to come away from this record
with an indifferent opinion, most will hate it (as I did) but I have
a feeling there is a certain fraction of society who might just love
it unequivocally. 2/10
There seems to be a new breed of pop-punk bands that are coming out of the US at the moment. Coming off the success of Set Your Goals and Four Year Strong many more bands are breaking onto the scene. Some aren’t worth a listen but add Fireworks to the list of must hear.
Everything about this band screams positive energy, from the fast up beat guitar riffs to the extremely catchy lyrics. I challenge anyone to listen to this album and not go away humming or singing one of the Detroit quintet’s songs. There will be many doubters that will say that pop-punk is dead but with this fresh outlook on possibly the most positive music genre there is, many people will be eating their words.
I will admit, upon my first listen to All I have to offer is my own confusion I didn’t really like it, I thought it was a bit slow off the floor apart from the song ‘Detroit’, which I believe is the perfect pop-punk song. Once I had given it a few more listens you can really appreciate how good an album this is. It has everything you want from a pop-punk album. It has positive rhythm, catchy lyrics and even got some gang vocals thrown in for added bite.
Fireworks are currently gracing our shores with Set Your Goals and Broadways Calls. If you haven’t already checked them out catch them on tour and you will see why I think they are going to be the next big pop-punk band. All I have to offer is my own confusion is slowly becoming one of my favorite albums.