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  singles - march 2005

Visionstate - Demo
Imagine the whole Manchester scene never happened. Shaun Ryder would probably be in jail by now and Bez definitely would not have won celebrity Big Brother. But we all take it for granted that it did happen and three cheers for that.

Imagine then that you are 19 years old, you never went through the whole Madchester thing first time around and you decide to write music. Whether it is the production, the song writing or the masses of wah-ing guitars, keyboards and big cymbals - Visionstate sound like they could be veterans of the early 90's. And good for them - this mini demo could be the record that Ian Brown never made when he left the Stone Roses. All in all a swirling cloud of youthful exuberance - well worth keeping an eye to see how they develop next.

Shane Blanchard


 

Pincushion - 3-track EP (Candy Productions)

Pincushion are a rather hard-looking four-piece dealing in hardly world-shaking yet rambunctious enough punk-pop in the Distillers/Joan Jett mode. Nothin’ to Lose sounds exactly like a you would expect a song called ‘Nothin’ to Lose’ to sound, while Big Star adds a smidge of Hole to the formula, to surprisingly agreeable effect. Best of the lot is Baby Is A Psycho, where the band’s hardest-looking member, Katie Evans, extols the dubious delights of going out with a grade-A nutjob, to the accompaniment of a nostril-slittingly memorable tune I was humming for days, despite my better judgement. Damn you, Pincushion!

 

www.pincushion.co.uk

Ieuan Jones


David Kitt – Dancing In The Moonlight (Rough Trade)
Yes…a cover of the Thin Lizzy song. Can you feel the force? No, me neither. Kitt takes the raw, gritty energy of the original and strips it down to a watery folky mush, that sounds half Coldplay, half Bob Dylan impersonation. Not a good combination, I’m sure you’ll agree….

Sam Metcalf


Son of Nothing - Tired of Waiting
Yikes! Thrash metal/punk? In this fair publication? Well, why not - it's not all airy-fairy tweepop out there is it?

This has got a real DIY sound to it (read into that what you will). I could go as far as to say the drummer sounds like he is playing on a completely different track from the rest of the band on 'Exposed/Reload' but I've seen photos of him and he's bloody massive, so that would be stupid.

The first couple of songs suffer from being a bit loose at times, even though there is the inklings of some Black Flag beginning to come through during 'I.F.H.Y.'. But by final track, 'Breakdown' everything has come together nicely - the killer riffs chugging along with some serious percussion. Some bloody gruesome album artwork though - very Geiger...

Shane Blanchard


The Bravery – An Honest Mistake (Loog)
The current soup de jour of the chattering classes, The Bravery sound so 1982 that they may as well get themselves silly haircuts and wear make-up…oh hang on a moment…

‘An Honest Mistake’ is so ridiculously over produced that it sounds like the music from a car commercial. And The Cure’s ‘The Walk’ at the same time. Quite frankly, if it was any more vogueish it’d dress itself up as Nathan Barley and claim it was comedy. Poor beyond reason.

Sam Metcalf


Sweet Billy Pilgrim - Stars Spill Out of Cups / God in the Details / Atlantis
I really don’t even know where to start with this one, but what I will say is that it is by quite a margin the best single I have heard this year, and unless someone pulls something pretty damn special out of the bag in the coming ten months, I have a feeling it may well be firmly lodged in mine (and I can only hope many more) end of year lists.

It is difficult to describe in words just how beautiful ‘Stars Spill out of Cups’ really is, from starting with softly picked banjo, the song builds to somewhat of a landslide of emotions, both elation and sadness in equal measures. ‘God in the Details’ lurches from sounding something close to eastern European folk to again something that is truly devastatingly beautiful. ‘Atlantis’ is again an exceptional song, and the track that amongst the three the electronic influence can be heard most prominently, with loops and samples again building to a crushing ending to a superb release.

Drew Millward


Public Display of Affection - Dirty Little Hands (Penny Dreadful)
For a new band this is a pretty impressive debut and bloody hard to categorise too. A trippy guitar vibe with intense and slightly disturbed vocals. The monotonous four note bass riff pounds all the way through and holds things together enough for the guitars to go off on a few riffs and lets the band play with the vocals.

The second track has a bit more urgency and a stricter guitar part but there is still time for plenty of string bending and falsetto singing. Atmospheric, professional, disturbing - much like a conference on climate change, but in a good way.

Shane Blanchard


Dive – Unfortunately Dead
The is rather splendid, yes. Dive make The Bravery look like lumbering old lorry drivers in the epic pop stakes.  ‘Alive’ sounds a little like Suede and The Cardiacs, whilst ‘Precious Things’ is a fragile little gem which rocks in fits and starts…well, I say rock…chimes would be a more apt word. Ok, the singer can’t sing for toffee, but I don’t really mind, you know. Atmospheric pop at its best.

Sam Metcalf


  redcarsgofaster - demo
The Bravery-esque 80's synths that kick of this demo provide a bit of a red herring as redcarsgofaster a clearly made of much bleaker stuff than our be-quiffed trans-Atlantic chums. 'Sanctuary' takes a while to get going past its precision guitar driven disco beginnings but once we're trucking it's a little bit like Punish the Atom on tranquilisers- all the attitude but in a much politer way. The habit for building up 5 minute songs carries on during 'Figure' where the Joy Division comparisons start to make a bit more sense. At a snip over 4 minutes the demo closer 'I Am the Storm' gets things moving again and guitar sounds of Leeds's own ¡Forward Russia! started flooding through my speakers.

Not sure I could manage a whole album at this intensity but definitely a promising start. And with a guitarist named David Pott-Negrine, how can RCGF fail?

Shane Blanchard


 

My Favourite – The Happiest Days Of My Life (Hungry Audio Records)
It’s so very hard to believe that My Favourite are from new York, when their sound is more Essex, 1986. They have a song called ‘The Suburbs Are Killing Us’, for heaven’s sake. They are also very ace indeed. Taking their cue from late C86 bands – and there were a few good ones that came late to the party, lest we forget – ‘The Happiest Days Of My Life’ is a romping indie pop stomper that brings to mind The Darling Buds, of The Primitives, or…gulp…maybe even Echobelly. Anyway, it’s ace and you should buy it immediately.

Sam Metcalf


Nine Black Alps – Shot Down (Island)
This ROCKS! But not in a bad down…for underneath the layers of crooked guitars lies the beating heart of a pop song, methinks. I meant to go and see this band in Leicester not long ago, but I couldn’t because I was working late. I wish I had now, because ‘Shot Down’ is most enjoyable. I feel like putting a plaid shirt on and growing my hair.

Sam Metcalf


Yankee Nine Niner - 2 track sampler
Roll up roll up! See the amazing 20 year old midget who sounds like he has been raised on bourbon and crates of Marlborough Reds!

Rock and Roll fans fear not as your saviours are here by the name of Yankee Nine Niner. And it's not only their name which sounds American, vocalist Henry Rundell could appear on Stars in their Eyes as a dead ringer for Steven Tyler and lead guitar could be by that great wizened rock behemoth himself, Slash.

Blimey, the second release of the month harking back to yesteryear without the band even knowing it. Where's my pipe and slippers....

Shane Blanchard


Chuck - Umm Na Nagay / We Got Squeezed (inside their machines) (Thee Sheffield Phonographic Corporation)
And so, once again, we are treated to yet another dose of lunacy from the nation’s leading indie-surf-punk-rock n’ roll combo; I know some may say it’s a niche market, but I for one believe that it is one that is well worth filling. As with previous offerings from Chuck it is best to just open your ears and let the whole raucous experience have its wicked way with you…..don’t try and fathom it out, it’s simply not worth it.

The first track is what I would imagine would be the meeting of minds between The Shadows, The Moody Blues and a Ukrainian Folk act…..in 1977. Trust me; it is some seriously good shit!

Although the second track on offer is very different from the first, ‘We Got Squeezed’ is again of a bloody high standard, but this time laced with electronics and enough bile and hatred to power a small town.

Yet another brilliant release from SPC.

Drew Millward


My Rocket88 - Demo
Tight four-piece guitar pop with some quirky tempo changes to keep things lively. Interesting to read that former Cornershop member Nick Simms was in the band until he had to leave to pursue his music career - errr, so what were the rest of the band doing?

Also second deja vue of the month as My Rocket 88 sounds uncannily like Leeds' mighty Galitza, especially with the immaculately knitted male/female vocals on 'This Golden World'.

Dammit - I was all geared up to moan about this CD not being very special and easy to skip over but it just grows and grows on you. Must try harder to be critical...

Shane Blanchard


 

Agent Blue – Children’s Children (Universal)
Agent Blue are an odd lot. They can’t seem to make up their minds whether they’re a metal band, or a mid-80s US College Rock band that would, no doubt, make their name by contributing a track to a Brat Pack film. ‘Children’s Children’ is very 80s alternative rock, and in some ways that makes it quite appealing to the 11 year old in me (steady!). But now I’m as confused as Agent Blue. Oh dear.

Sam Metcalf


The Explosion - Here I Am (Tarantula/Virgin)
‘Here I Am’ is a catchy little pop punk tune with more balls then a lot of its contemporaries but that suffers from over production and a lack of originality. While it may be rather catchy and get you humming it all morning that can prove to be more of an annoyance than a blessing. A decidedly average little rocker that the kids will buy in droves.

Luke Drozd


 

The Black Velvets – 3345 (Vertigo)
Another rifftastic single. But this time we have MELODY! Woo! This is great in a Teenage Fanclub kinda way, however, I don’t imagine Black Velvet will be very chuffed with that comparison, because they clearly see themselves as the last leather-clad saviours of rawk. Bless them. I just lumped them in with a Creation band. They’ll probably kill me. They don’t sound like Teenage Fanclub, honest.

Sam Metcalf


Bilkis - Bilkis demo
Bilkis is made up of Sophie Pathan and Stacey De-Looze and together they make up quite beautiful, stark, pared-down harmonic tracks quite unlike anything else I've listened to this month. There's a kind of devil may care attitude at work here where tracks stop when you think they will carry on, where vocals harmonies spiral in all sorts of directions and where guitar parts are and percussion are only used as an aside to the vocals. Reminiscent of early PJ Harvey without the obvious angst, this makes for sublime listening.

Shane Blanchard


Idlewild – Love Steals Us From Loneliness (Parlophone)
On on they go. Way beyond their sell by date, Idlewild are still selling enough records to warrant dull as fuck singles like this. Is this really single material? It plods on, still sounding a little bit like REM, without ever going anywhere. And do you know what? I reckon those guitars are starting to sound a little bit like Keane. They really should be ashamed of themselves.

Sam Metcalf


Badwater - demo
This is an immaculately produced release from the graphic drenched gatefold CD cover to the sound quality of the recording. But what I can't get my head round is what direction Badwater are trying to go in - some of this sounds retro, some of it faux-metal and some plain old MOR rock. Maybe the record is actually over-produced so the true essence of what Badwater are about is lost and we are left wondering what is going on amid the layers of oversampled vocals and guitar effects. Sorry, but it never really got me going until halfway through 'Icicles' when it started to rock. But then it stopped again - how frustrating!

Shane Blanchard


 

Lovejoy – Someone To Share My Life With
In a pretty average month for singles, this luscious little beauty stands out a mile. As delicate as ever, Dick manages to sound like the most fragile man in the world, and makes me want to give him a great big hug. With doleful piano and strumming guitar, Lovejoy manage to some up the whole world in four and half minutes, and that, my friends is the BEAUTY of pop music. A masterpiece.

Sam Metcalf


Mama Scuba - El Shake (Redemption)
Obviously this single will not need any reviewing because on the back of my album review for 'You're a Long Time dead, So What's the Hurry?' you will have all rushed out and bought the record. you haven't got it yet? Shame on you. Then I shall continue...

El Shake rumbles into existence with Luke's pyrotechnic drumming scarcely disguised under Wes' boyish vocals and flies through about 3 minutes of sheer pop genius. This is the future comrades!

CD fillers 'Lazey Belay' and 'Sweet Girl' demonstrate further strings to mama Scuba's seriously overburdened bow with elements of cutesey electro and walls of swirling psychedelic noise in equal parts. They're great - if you don't take my word for it you're a damn fool!

Shane Blanchard


Black Ramps - Shark Attack (Str82tape Records)
There's so much to praise about this CD - I am truly grateful to receive one of only 200 hand assembled gatefolds (they truly are - there was a suspicious looking hair glued into mine!), the band have resisted the massive temptation to add the word 'The' in front of their name and 'Battlecat' features possibly the first feline/vocal line in music history - I didn't count the number of 'meeows' that actually took place but there were very many.

'Megatron Hair' aside from being a damn cool name for a song, has a groovy fuzzed up bass line that keeps the song fair bobbing along. Which is a good thing, because at times on this CD everything is in danger of drowning under the distortion. But then this gives it that underground feel so you can't really complain. I'm off to record my local moggy...

Shane Blanchard


Love Ends Disaster - Stories for the Dislocated ep (Denial)
You just can't stop the rock. A car crash, a rather unfortunate incident with a mailing list which seemed to upset most of the music press and even our own fair Postal service could not stop this gem eventually reaching tasty towers.

Weirdo disembodied vocals and a sound like British Sea Power gone through a liquidiser. Then at a moment's notice the tender change of pace that is 'Little Lost Causes'. Hold on - then there is the rockabilly synth madness of 'Warning: Robots' which definitely doffs a cap to Nottingham's Hellset Orchestra. There must be something in the water in the East Midlands at the moment but it sure is making things sound good.

Shane Blanchard


The Morenas - It Shouldn't Mata (Bleach)
This title track is a full on attack on the charts that may well succeed if the current amount of media exposure The Morenas are getting is anything to go by. But stop me and force me to wear dungarees for a week if it doesn't sound like Dexy's Midnight Runners!

Having got over this initial aberration, I actually like the B-side 'Say Something Else' which bobs along at a cracking pace on the back of a bubbling bass riff. Now try saying that while unbuckling those dungarees...

Shane Blanchard


Hush the many - Mind the Sprawl ep (Handspun)
Like all the great records I've had this month, it is always a good sign when you only need one listen to notice that there is something about them which makes you want to delve deeper.

First thing that struck me about 'Mind the Sprawl' was how much 'Song of a Page' sounded like vintage Hunky Dory-era Bowie, right down to vocal style. This, in my book can not be a bad thing. Then just to prove that they are not some tribute band copyists, the eerily delicate 'Paper Doll' follows up with such fragile vocals it sounds like the lyrics are being whispered in a padded cell. That is until they break up into what must be nearly a ten bar sustained note out of the blue. This is powerful stuff indeed but gentle at the same time. This is a great ep that mixes up just enough hope, despair, joy and pain within 5 songs to promise truly great things from the future releases of Hush the Many.

Shane Blanchard


The Tailors - A New Hairdo / Backslap Club (Trash Aesthetics)
This is a record that doesn’t sound like it has been released this week, nor does it have the sound of a band formed in the sprawling metropolis of London…….more a truck stop just outside Arkansas…..in 1978.

In most cases when describing a very ‘American’ type of music played by acts from the UK, you can usually find phrases like ‘….while remaining resolutely English’ or ‘Anglicana’, but with Killip and his merry band of men, this simply isn’t the case. The sound is so well rounded and the songs of such a high standard, there is no indication that they are not from Arkansas (or indeed from 1979). It is genuinely great to hear music of this sort played and written this well, without a lingering feeling of irony hanging around.

Do yourself a favor and go and get a copy, and if you get the chance to see them live, don’t pass it up.

Drew Millward


Satellite Dub - Power of Einstein
Sleazetronica. I'd say it was a bit of a poor description of the upbeat, uptempo electronically layered music of Satellite Dub. The music is definitely not poor though - high octane dance beats which hopefully can never be used as a ringtone on a mobile phone due to the fact there is just too much going on.

Easy comparisons would be Chemical Brothers meets Death in Vegas in some kind of bar brawl resulting in a stand-off and duel by Korg. Actually, that is not such an easy comparison is it but this is the kind of unholy electonica-laden row that would ensue and I for one like it very much.

Shane Blanchard