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  singles - dec 2004

Mates of State – ‘All Day’ (polyvinyl records) EP
Mates of State have long been the embodiment of feel good pop that its expectable to love and after nearly a year we are now graced with their latest studio offering if only a short four songs.

Their previous album, ‘Team Boo’, and relentless touring helped to cement Mates of States reputation as being hardworking and top of their game and ‘All Day’ serves as a document to further this. It helps to demonstrate why they have built such love and respect in fans the world over. Harmonies continually hit at perfect pitch as the husband and wife duo kori and Jason piece together songs that manage to be filled with both fun and love. You’ll be hard pressed to have more fun than singing and shouting along to ‘Goods (All in You Head)’ the EP's opener that demonstrates the sound that mates of State are known for perfectly. However it is track three ‘Drop and Anchor’ that allows a glimpse at the continuing progression and growth of Mates of States song writing. With it they have written a touching and perfectly balanced love song, part Pinback, part Ben Folds Five, which never once sounds twee or sentimental. To top it all off it ends with a cover of bowies ‘Starman’ which while I cant help but feel it’s the weakest song present they manage to make sound like a song of their very own, a feat not pulled off since M Ward’s excellent cover of ‘Lets Dance’.

Mates of State continue to grow and further themselves with each new release and ‘All Day’ is no exception it’s just a shame there wasn’t more of it.

Luke Drozd


 

Vatican DC – Say Nothing at All (Red Flag)
In the nice nihilistic world that we are surely heading for, then ‘Say Nothing at All’ will be your daily soundtrack. This song is so cold it’d calm Fern Brittain down for a moment or two. Vatican DC sound a little bit like The Cardiacs playing Clash songs, and if that makes your pants wet – and it should do – then I heartily recommend ‘Say Nothing at All.’

Sam Metcalf


  Pilate - The Window (Maple) EP
Once you get over the fact that this Canadian band have ignored their heritage in not being influenced by the great Canuck that is Bryan Adams, there’s much to like here, be it the shout-a-long chorus of Overrated or the plaintive sadness of Alright. Unfortunately Don’t Waste Your Breath turns out to be an instruction to the singer that he has foolishly ignored, but just in case you start to feel negatively about such ignorance, it is shown in all its glory when applied to Into Your Hideout. Most people would have said that the sound of Bono singing whilst hammering on a wall to drown out the noise of indie guitar minstrels would have not made a song, but not these guys. In a confused way I’m glad they did. Careful though on listening you may feel the urge to march so best wear some stout walking shoes.

Matt Latham


Martha Wainwright – ‘Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole’ (Drowned In Sound) EP
There was obviously something in the water where the Wainwright's lived. First there was Lauden, then Rufus and now the youngest daughter/sister Martha.

Bloody Mother Fucking asshole is her debut release and it is one of a sort of acid fuelled anti-folk that has a passion to it akin to Ani Difranco but avoids having the preacher annoyance that that van mean.

The title track is powerful and honest and ends up sounding not dissimilar to a foulmouthed female Dylan. ‘I Will Internalise’ proves she can do delicate whilst still maintaining an edge. Its over evokes Joplin and the closer ‘How soon’ is a lounge-tinged lullaby. What this shows is Wainwright's immense scope of songwriting style, each of which she nails perfectly.

The real question this CD poses though is why on earth people waist time listening to pap like Norah Jones or any of those other wine bar female songstresses when there is a genuine heartfelt writer with as much talent as Martha Wainwright out there.

Luke Drozd


Animal Planet – Special Care (Lap Records)
This single might well have the best sleeve of the year and features a cartoon monkey and a cartoon dog daydreaming. However, that’s where the fun stops. If I wanted to listen to some horrible 70s glam metal/pub rock crossover thing, I’d go down my local and rifle through the jukebox. Boring? You bet.

Sam Metcalf


  The Miniatures – At The Scene Of The Crime (Maple) EP
The Miniatures are to be applauded for their diversity. A trad rock track here (“Dragonfly”), a catchy indie pop track with Marc Bolanesque vocals there (“Coma Kid”) with even an alt-country/Motorhead fusion popping by to say hello (Haunted Heart). Palatable as these all are, however, the real praise should be reserved for the unsettlingly threatening “Detached Screenwriter”. This scary troubadour conjures up a sense of doomed fate. A bit like Papa Lazarou on The League of Gentlemen then, but with a better singing voice.

Matthew Latham


Magnetophone – ‘Kel’s Vintage Thought’ (4AD) EP
Magnetophone are a band whom I’ve heard about for along time and yet somehow never got round to hearing. On the strength of this four track EP more fool me!

From the beginning of the title track they evoke a sort of dirty Royksop with looping programmatic beats being the order of the day. It swells and trips along like a sort of turbulent bad dream. However it is by the forth and final track that we see magnetophone really stretching their wings as they embark on a groove laden track featuring beautiful sampled female vocals showing a side of them which is probably most comparable to Broadcast or Brokeback’s more electronic moments. It is also the longest of the tracks and allows their sound to swell and build to greater effect than the rest of the release eventually departing into a clicky hip hop coated ending.

That said though this track is still a mere 5 minutes 15 seconds long and the EP as a whole only lasts just over the ten minute mark meaning the only real disappointment here is the actual amount of time awarded in which to enjoy Magnetophone.

Luke Drozd


 

Tokyo Explode! – Rocker Boyfriend (Fire Records)
What a great name for a band! And what an odd single! That’s quite enough exclaiming, isn’t it? ‘Rocker Boyfriend’ is a primal chant above the odd bleep and some seriously warped guitar playing. They sound a bit like Mika Bomb playing Bob Dylan songs. And I can think of no higher praise. Sorry.

Sam Metcalf


The Marble Index – I Believe EP
One day Mr Bounce found that he had sustained a particularly nasty bouncing-related injury and was informed by his GP that his bouncing days were over. Mr Bounce sloped into the waiting room outside, lost in a dark pit of despair that his raison d’être had been cruelly removed. His friend Mr Bump was waiting to see the GP (his bandages needed changing again), and, seeing his old friend looking so glum he enquired as to what was wrong. On hearing his chums predicament, Mr Bump smiled – not due to malicious intent, but because he had the answer to Mr Bounces’ problems. He handed him the new EP by the Marble Index.

“Don’t worry mate”, he muttered through the bandages. “These guys will soon have you bouncing again”.

Mr Bump looked at the cover. “Are you sure?” he enquired. “They look very bored and lethargic.”

Again Mr Bump smiled. “Don’t you worry. They’re a bit shouty, I don’t know what they’re on about, but they’ll definitely make you bounce.”

And do you know something – Mr Bump was right. Soon Mr Bounce was back to his springy self and all was well with the world. Except for the GP, who was prevented from ever practicing medicine again due to being made to look foolish by a Canadian rock combo.

Matthew Latham


Denendra Banhart – ‘At the Hop’ (XL)
I will admit that I was yet to hear any of Banhart’s work until this single. I’m not entirely sure why though. Constantly described as a beardy weirdy sort and terms like off-kilter folk frequently bandied about, usually that would be all I’d need to nip out and have a listen. But I didn’t.

‘At the Hop’ suggests perhaps I should have. It turns out to be far less avant-garde than I was expecting and is a actually a rather good folk song evoking comparisons to Nicolai Dunger mainly due to a rather soulful voice that veers towards a warble on occasion giving it character and distinction.

The other two tracks present here are both live. Now I often do have a problem with live songs and why that is demonstrated perfectly here. Both tracks, Pardon My heart by Neil Young and Roots, are well performed and possibly even better songs than the title track but the sound quality on both is below average. You can also hear one of things I hate most in the world at gigs, chatters. Don’t pay to see a band and then because you’re a rude fuckwit ruin it for those around by babbling inanely. With these tracks I am able whenever I wish to sit down and listen to this as if I was actually at that show having it ruined for me by some ignorant little fuckpigs.

I digress though and don’t let that semi rant taint your opinion of someone who obviously possesses talent. I intend to delve deeper.

Luke Drozd


 

Goldie Lookin’ Chain – You Knows I Loves You (Atlantic)
In which our favourite Welsh rappers manage to flit from Space Raiders crisps to Argos jewellery in one easy step. If only I’d followed these instructions during my teens, I’m sure Billie-Jo Cuthbert wouldn’t have dumped me for Ben Hendry.  The BASTARD! I’m over it, like….

Sam Metcalf


Mando Diao – ‘Paralyzed’ (Majesty)
Those of you who have read the review of the sampler from Mando Diao on this site or anywhere else will already know what this single sounds like as a couple of the tracks present here were also featured on that. This however is out there and available for the wonderful general public to enjoy as well.

Mando Diao are Sweden’s latest export knocking out a series of tunes of garage type rock with some leaning towards the likes of the hives and the Strokes but with perhaps more of a sleazy blues soul and a kind of Stones R & B grit (especially on the third track here Bring ‘Em In).

Paralysed rocks, rolls and grooves and will no doubt help to catapult these guys into stardom (something that will be aided by the fact that I do believe the second track ‘Motown Blood’ is already being used on an advert).

This is good soulful rock fun for all so if you want to be the cool kid round the climbing frame you better go and buy this single so you can brag about how early you got into Mando Diao when they’re massive and we’re all bored of them.

Luke Drozd


Sunshine - electric! kill! kill! (Custard)
What an unholy row these chaps make. Maybe they were bullied at school? Whatever the reason, the maelstrom of loops, samples, bass, electronica, guitars and icy vocals swirls around like a very angry thing indeed.

Like a more accessible version of Belgian kings of industrial thrash Front 242, Sunshine hurtle through 5 tracks like the Ozric Tentacles being spun through a washing machine with a bag of spanners. Not for the faint hearted but I love it. Now, time to calm down - where's that Norah Jones cd when you need it...

Shane Blanchard


 

The Somatics – Did You Ever Love Me? (Misc Records)
Cor! They’re back! After a somewhat aborted assault on the indie world a couple of years ago, The Somatics return with a very classy single. ‘Did You Ever Love Me?’ reminds me very much of the best of early Suede. The guitars chime and sway in a very Butleresque way, and the song builds to an super climax by way of The House of Love too.  Meanwhile, over on the b-side, ‘We Never Loved You’ is an altogether more punky affair, full of spite and bile and the words ‘fuck’ and ‘shit’. If this single acts as some kind of catharsis, then I think it might just have worked.

Sam Metcalf


Mike Ferraro – single/demo
Hailing from New York Ferraro describes himself as an indie-rock/popsinger/guitarist and in that concise little explanation he has pretty much summed himself up. The CD features three prominently acoustic songs that are all well constructed and perfectly enjoyable and demonstrate Ferraro as a proficient songwriter. However what they lack is just that extra something else, that extra step or push. They simply don’t possess that element that speaks to something in you or that unsettles or intrigues.

While better than many out there Ferraro really needs to give us more of reason to listen to his tales of woe and heartbreak in an already crowded genre.

Luke Drozd


 

The Good – Send in the Cavalry (Resolution Records)
You’re asking for it with a name like that, aren’t you? The Good are pretty bad, and ‘Send in the Cavalry’ is a pretty lame choice for a single. This is local FM radio rock at it’s very worst. Lumpen, soulless and dull. Much like my Mum’s custard.

Sam Metcalf


Restless Diesel - This is the Sound ep (Stressed Leslie)
I don't know why but name Restless Diesel made me shudder instantly and made me think of piss poor Australian MOR bands. And the first line of 'We gave you dignity and taught you how to stand' made me think of pompous stadium rock acts.

But no matter how much I was trying not to like this record, dammit if I can't stop tapping my feet away while I'm typing, even to 'butterfly' - an unlikely fusion between an Eastern European drinking song and Santana guitars. I kid you not. I guess this four piece fro Northampton are just, well, pretty good.

Shane Blanchard


65 Days of Static – ‘Retreat! Retreat!’ (Monotreme Records)
Retreat! Retreat! is the first single to be taken off their debut full length ‘The Fall of Math’ on the continually wonderful Monotreme Records. 65 DOS (as I will call them as I am a very lazy man) combine glitchy electronica, melodic and intricate melody and trips into massive wall of noise soundscapes resulting in a kind of more technological and violent Mono. Retreat! Retreat! shows them at there best as it clicks and grinds along as if trying to decide whether to be noisy or melodic. The other two tracks present are both non-album tracks and illustrate the variety this band has to offer. AOD builds slowly and thoughtful and has a more subtle and controlled feel than the title track. The final track, the awesomely named ‘The Major Cities of the World Are Being Destroyed One by One by the Monsters is one of the most electronic based of 65 DOS’s songs I have heard so far and manages to be both ambient and chaotic at the same time.

65 DOS are destined to do great things as this single of controlled chaos shows. Buy it now or you too will be destroyed one by one by the monsters.

Luke drozd


The Long Blondes - Giddy Stratospheres (Angular Recording Co.)
A little gem here from the five misfits who make up the Long Blondes. Well more of a bag of midget gems really, including those really annoyingones where the icing has fallen off the biscuit. Amazingly high and fast guitars carry the new wavish 'Giddy Stratospheres through nearly five minutes of beauteous sugary indie pop.

I used to hate the TV program 'Happy Days' with its throwback theme tune. 'Polly' sounds like it should appear on Happy Days - nuff said. But to make sure we finish on a high, 'Darts' even name checks grand duke uber-chav Bobby George - fantastic! As the bloke of the telly would have said - 'tidy arrers'.

 

Shane Blanchard


Cass McCombs – ‘Sacred Heart’ (4AD)
‘A’, Cass McCombs last album, is one that I’ve never really been overly convinced by. Its good, there’s no doubt about that it, just never feels great and that’s exactly the same as this single ‘Sacred heart’. As with ‘A’ it is ever so reminiscent of both the Smiths and Joy Division and offers a similar sort of bombast and drama that both bands often offered, lyrically accompanied with by large portion of melancholy (the title track even has cries of ‘Alas’ in it, a word that is no longer, if it ever actually was, used in daily life).

‘Twins’ has something slightly more compelling to it, a greater sense of depth and drama somehow but both tracks ultimately feel soulful yet slightly lacking in soul.

I have no idea what I feel is missing from Cass McCombs and am surprised I don’t love them, but sadly I don’t. There just isn’t enough heart, sacred or otherwise, in there for me.

Luke Drozd


  Pollen - Lonely in the Crowd (Pollen) ep
Citylife magazine reckons that comparisons with Muse would be slightly lazy. Well it would be lazy in so far as only listening to the first track of this ep would be a bit idle. But if that was the case, there is little doubt that 'One Man and His Dog' is a massive riffmungous beast of a rock song augmented by vocals that could be coming straight from the mouths of the be-stadium rawked ones. That said it is a fantastic tune and stands up in its own right.

But the rest of the ep highlights a more gentle approach interlacing beautifully arranged song writing and singer Nick Toone displaying his own individual vocal style. Sounds are reminiscent of Danish balladeers Saybia (who may sound obscure but they've won an MTV Europe award and met Kylie you know) so watch this space.

Shane Blanchard