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  singles - jan 2005 - Centerville (Pronoia)
My old English teacher would be very annoyed - punctuation gone mad and a lack of capital letters - tut tut. Title track 'Centerville' is not about French town centres but about the experience of going back to your home town and finding nothing has changed for the better - something I can sympathise with having lived in Lincolnshire for 20 years.

Machine gun snare drumming and spiralling guitar riffs drive this song through the wash of vocals and would definitely get the locals bopping down the disco back home (if we had a disco). There's definitely an early 90s influence at work here which is then blown away by the more overtly staccato metal of 'Hackney Riots' - another good tune.

Rounded off with a live track this is a pretty good record. The only down side I can see is the growly vocals which begin to grate after a few songs.

Shane Blanchard

Jim Noir – Eanie Meany (My Dad Recordings)
There are some people who are just too much in love with what has gone before. Y’know, sometimes the past is a bad place to be. Not that Jim Noir holds much truck with that argument and he skips merrily through the LSD-sodden cornfields that make up much of Eanie Meanie.

Noir’s trick is to sound like Donovan singing Half Man Half Biscuit songs, and sometimes it comes off. But mostly it doesn’t.  The title track is fine, if lightweight, but if I wanted to listen to the elevator music that is ‘Tower of Love’ I’d go and stand in a lift for five minutes. And I hate lifts. The other three tracks are just too sickly to mention. This is hardly hateful music, but I fail to see how it fits in in 2005.

Sam Metcalf

The Research - She’s Not Leaving/ Stand By Your Man/ Love Me Tender (At Large Recordings)
Well, since we put them on a few months ago, The Research have been cropping up more and more, I even saw a brief interview with Russell in the NME, would you believe it, eh? Now I am in no way suggesting that these events are linked in anyway, but it is nice to see that quality is occasionally given a shoe in in these larger publications. And here’s me thinking that the NME had a policy to only cover bands whose music was at best average……oh well….

It has too be said that I love The Research, I have been fortunate to see them play on a number of occasions and every time they manage to bring a hell of a grin to my face, there is something about the ramshackle pop that they play that is almost impossible to resist, it’s catchy as hell, it’s well written …. Ahh, it’s just great ok.

What I do find baffling about them is that I can still remember songs they played from when I first saw them, such is the quality of the song writing, that the little gems get stuck in your head for days, and when that isn’t irritating, I think that you’re on to a winner. The three songs that are offered up on this give a pretty good indication to the overall sound of the band…..if you know what’s good for you you would jut go and buy it really… trust me.

Drew Millward

The March Hares – London’s Dead (demo)
With a name like that I was always gonna like this four track demo. The March Hares sounds like a fourth division C86 name, but they’re far from making up the numbers. ‘London’s Dead’ may sound a little too contrived to be truly the real deal, but the spiky ‘Backbone’, and marvellously fey ‘The Gambler’ more than make up for small mistakes. Fourth track, ‘To the Waves’ reminds me a lot of early Suede, and is therefore ACE! Indeed, The March Hares do have the gory glamour that seemed to ooze from Brett Anderson’s former band. I, for one, don’t mind this at all. Marvellous.

Sam Metcalf

Alex Gold – Stranded in Paradise (Xtravaganza)
Aah…this takes me back to holidays in Ibiza, dodging puddles of sick and violent Celtic supporters in the back streets of San Antonio. Although you may not have heard of Alex Gold as a solo artist before he was the chap behind trancey stalwarts Chicane and ‘Stranded in Paradise’ has a very similar sound to most Chicane stuff.  High energy, bleepy bleepy, phasered breathy vocals and a reassuringly short three and a half minutes long (kids these days – no attention span). 

All in all pretty good stuff if you like waving glow sticks around and dancing in three feet of foam but a bit off kilter for an icy December day in Leeds. Funny time of year to release the record but with regular airplay on the Judge Jules show on Radio 1 it sounds like Mr Gold won’t be needing too much  tasty’s help to make it into the charts. 

Shane Blanchard

Mugstar / Hunting Lodge - Split Single (Farm Girl Records)
I will save you some time here if you like, why don’t you go and visit ..... You can order this from there, and frankly I urge you to do so.

Mugstar are a fucking frightening sonic beast, they kind of sound like Mark E. Smith looks, know what I mean? A piss and booze stinking wiry mass of rage that may, and as far as you’re concerned, will explode at any minute, certainly not someone that you would want to befriend you in a pub, or anywhere for that matter. Mugstar would probably buy you a pint, but after would drag you into a darkened alley way a kick your head in……

I’m painting a rather bleak view, but I can assure you what along with the drunken kicking comes a musical quality (again like Smith) that has assured this a place in my top 10 7” of 2004….

So, picture the scene, you have suffered a bloody good pummelling at the hands of Mugstar, your pride is bruised and frankly you could do with a brew and a long sit down, but no, Hunting Lodge have come along to continue the sound kicking, that now you realise was only started with Mugstar, and after they have administered about all you can take, this side of death anyway, they turn and beat the shit out of Mugstar, cos they can, and to be honest they are a lot bigger, scarier and more menacing than Mugstar could ever be…..but in a more Chinese Stars/Arab on Radar kind of way.

Fucking ace…..who wants a fight…. Hmm?

Drew Millward


Countermine – Letters
What’s this? Bath 5-piece, never released a record before, supported all sorts of famous bands, garnering great press, extolling the virtues of touring and ‘taking it to the fans’? Alarm bells are ringing. Not to worry – let’s slip the disc into the cd player. Eh? Won’t work. Err, OK, I’m technologically minded and the rather lovely mechanical packaging (you have to see it) has kind of won me over so I’ll pop it into the old PC. I see there is a video on offer – how exciting, I’ll click on that. What now? I have to be online and install some software for a ‘fully interactive experience delivering TV quality pictures to my desktop’? Sorry but I just wanted to listen to the single track on offer. 

So to the actual music. 6 minutes of epic sub-Coldplay indie heartfelt rock complete with piano, strings and tumultuous finale. Did I tell you how the software (which I haven’t installed) is a ‘win-win’ situation for the fans and the bands as it allows the punters to purchase MP3s, ringtones and CDs simultaneously with the webcast? Hurrah for a complete victory of capitalism and marketing over musical content. That mechanically opening CD sleeve is well cool though… 

Shane Blanchard

Gravenhurst - Black Holes in the Sand ep (Warp Records)
Another release from the West Country gloom merchant Nick Talbot, and frankly the world is a better place for it. In my humble opinion, on the basis of the album ‘Flashlight Seasons’ and this follow up EP, I would say that he is probably one of the greatest song writers this country has to offer at the moment, and it stands as a testament to the mentality of the record buying public that he has not made a bigger impact on the music world this year. But what do I know….

This could have been so easily a throw away EP, with a collection of disguarded album ‘off-cuts’, but as it stands, it is far from that. What it does act as is a very nice companion piece to the album released earlier this year, still very much in the same style, and treading the same bleak imposing, folk path, but allowing time for a Husker Du (‘Diane’ and a fuck sight better than the Therapy? version) cover before ending with the track ‘Flashlight Seasons’ which leads into the album of the same name. Perhaps a prequel, if you will.

Weather listening to this as a stand alone EP, or along with the album it is a stunning release. I really have run out of nice things to say….. Just buy it.

Drew Millward

Daniel Patrick Quinn/Beano Jameson – Suilven 007 (Suilven)
The latest release from Suilven sees Daniel Patrick Quinn team up with the improbably named Beano Jameson on three tracks and sees Quinn preview a new solo track too. ‘Dunstanburgh Castle’ sees Quinn’s honorary membership of the National Trust for raising awareness of local monuments safely renewed again. Just a touch over five minutes of waxing and waning melodies and the signature violin sound which ,made ‘Severed from the Land’ so memorable. 

In truth it’s hard to tell what additional aspect Jameson brings to this recording. That said, the three tracks are immensely tranquil pieces, almost womb-like and soothing to the ear with a heart beat percussion track laid all the way through ‘Death on the Ridge Road’. This is not music which will make you sit up and take notice but is infinitely enjoyable to listen to while enjoying a nice hot bath. Pass the Radox.  

Shane Blanchard

Death From Above 1979 - Romantic Rights (679 Recordings)
Well this is one jolly brute of a single, like being danced on by an elephant. I bought DFA1979 first EP some time ago, and to be honest this is somewhat of a leap in a much more melodic direction for the betrunked twosome, well as melodic as a drum and bass combo can ever be (and no, not D+B like what Roni Size does, literally some drums and a bass….light Lightning Bolt, only with more traditional song structures). This is a seriously good bit of sleazy dance rock, I have no doubt, that up and down the country there are hundreds of slightly tubby girls with dyed black bowl cuts and battered Chuck Taylor’s grooving themselves half to death to this, and quite rightly to, because it’s ace.

I’m not sure weather I prefer the noisier DFA I heard on previous releases, but I know that this is music that will more than likely cause riots down the local indie/rock disco.

Drew Millward

TEAM - Resonate South (Captains of Industry)
No surprises here then, another shit-hot release from the East Midlands scariest guitarnoisepop-mongers TEAM. 'Resonate South' taken from the 'Penalyn' LP still sounds like the diary of a drunken stagger through a very dark place. When you can back that up with crunching juggernaut that is 'Racing Line' then you have a tip-top single on your hands.

But no, there's more. The biggest treat for me in this heavy weight sandwich is the middle track 'Dead Sharks'. Previously only heard as a sound check at the live shows this song rumbles into a life with some chuggy muted and open string guitars before rolling into the kind of melodic chorus which means TEAM appeal to such a varied audience. All this before abruptly collapsing in on itself to finish in just under two and a half minutes of perfect guitar pop. Can you have a triple A side single?

Shane Blanchard

Lionshare / Wooden Ghost - Just Like Them / Off The Wall (Harvest Time Recordings)
As sure as night follows day we are presented with yet another quality release from Harvest Time Recordings, possibly the most consistent record label of all time….well maybe, I’m yet to hear anything that has been less than superb, you should all go and check out what they have on offer, not least of all this new split release, which again is a fantastic piece of vinyl.

First up are Lionshare, if you trek back you will find some more reviews of them, and I’m pretty sure they all say a similar thing, mainly that they are bloody brilliant. I’m not entirely sure what they are putting in the water in Cambridge, or if it is in fact being piped, rather elaborately, from the backwoods of Alabama. Although with this release there is certainly less of a doom laden feel, it is by no means a party track, again the slow hushed pace carries with it a haunting melancholy, which in my book can only be a good thing. The arrangement is soft and lulling with a lovely string part, and once again calls to mind many great purveyors of a similar style of music, there are definite echoes of Will Oldham, Jason Molina and Nick Drake, but Lionshare seem to avoid the trap of sounding too much like anyone in particular. I really cannot fault them in any way, and lucky for me they have agreed to come and play in Leeds on my birthday……which is nice. I’m very lucky……

The other band present here is New York’s Wooden Ghost. I have no prior knowledge of the band, but from what I have heard here I would love to hear more. The press statement mentions that when the bands played together they realised that they shared a similar musical ground; this is very evident within this single. Although two distinctly different bands and sounds, the music is coming for a very similar place, oh and incidentally they are both great.

Again another Harvest Time release I cannot fault….

Drew Millward

  Dewy Albino - demo
This is a little gem of rifftastic indie pop tunes. Duelling guitar lines, intricate harmonising vocals and rumbling bass lines compete across the four tracks on offer and showcase song writing with a lust for life, snappy and catchy as it gets.

At times trippy and dare I say it Beatles-esque as in 'You Do What You Do' and at others pacey US college rock, this could be the start of great things with a band now formed and shows planned for the New Year. The only downside for me was the distorted vocals - OK on the odd song but after four tracks of hearing somebody who sounds like they are singing though a megaphone inside a shoe box, the novelty began to wear a bit thin. But when you record a whole album on an 8 track in your bedroom then I guess this isn't unexpected. I'm looking forward to hearing the stuff with the new band.

Shane Blanchard

The Authentics - The Right Stuff ep (self release)
Let's rawk! The Authentics have been busy putting together another ep, playing gigs, printing stickers and growing some dubious facial hair amongst other things. Plenty of energy in the music too with some frantic riffs and schizo drumming in 'Four Walls'.

To be honest it's all a bit too frantic for my liking, but then so was early Manics stuff and look where they ended up. But the final track, a remix of 'Four Walls' by DJ Wandii is pretty interesting, not least because an ostensibly brazen rock band is quite happy to let a DJ mix one of their songs and include on their own record. If The Authentics can introduce this kind of open mindedness into the rest of their music then I think they could be onto something pretty special.

Shane Blanchard