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singles - october 2005



King Biscuit Time - CIAM15 (Poptones)
A rather eagerly-awaited release for this reviewer, this is the first release from ex Beta Band vocalist Steve Mason since said group went belly-up (a couple of EPs saw the light of day during their heyday, and pretty good they were too). Initial impressions are that it ain’t half as chock full of ideas as your average Beta song (fewer cooks means fewer ingredients), nor as catchy. However, repeated listens reveals more layers…and now I can’t get the chorus out of my head. How sly! 

Veering more towards the reggae and dancehall end of the musical spectrum, “C I Am 15” features the customary phat beats and hushed vocals we’ve come to expect from Mason, and a neat Bush/Blair – baiting rap from guest star Topcat. On that point alone it gets my vote. Good to have you back, Steve.

Will Columbine


  Millionaire - I'm On A High (PIAS)
Already feted by several music publications as the "Belgian Queens of the Stone Age", the two tracks on this single, produced (as is their album) by Josh Homme, reveal that to be a pretty fair approximation of the Millionaire sound.

With various band members having paid their dues touring with QOTSA affiliates Mark Lanegan and Eagles of Death Metal, its no surprise that their influence looms large, but what sets the band slightly apart from their mentors is the dance element they inject into their songs. The title track in particular can't decide whether it wants to make you mosh or cut a rug, though I found the cut-and-paste scratchin' noises a little forced. The techno remix is pretty mash-up though!

The queasy sway of "Messed Up & Beautiful", a more straightforward rocker, works a lot better and sounds a lot like Homme's mob in their prime. Should go down a treat at Camden Underworld.

Will Columbine


Techno Squirrels - Mute (Rave Police)
Mute is  4 tracks of feel good ambient(ish) electronic music which could lazily be classed as house. But the 'house' tag is one that send shudders down my spine and has me fearing the first interlude of pseudo soulful crooning and big choruses.

Techno Squirrels do not do this. They are more at the intelligent techno end of the spectrum. '405' reminds me heavily of 'Leftism'-era Leftfield, full of bouncy, bleepy plinkety plonks and plonkety bleepage. Lisa's vocals are nearly always sent through what sounds like a chorus effect which keeps them at arms length and integrates them with the music, rather than howling over the top in a house stylee. Highly listenable stuff.
(www.technosquirrels.com)

SB


Mew – Special (Sony)
Mew come on all soft and sensitive and make the perfect summer record just as we head for duffle coat weather. Bless them. ‘Special’ is quite a lovely thing, and sounds like it could’ve been recorded in the mid 70s by a band with lots of hair and terrible taste in trousers. But, hey. I’m only jealous. Perfect for daydreaming along to. Yes, that good.

SM


The Priory - Freeworld (Brazen)
The Priory sound like a band way beyond their formative days, by about 20 years. Heavy 80's influence seep through this ep in the form of the dark side of 80's electro. I think the 80's were often misunderstood musically as people get too tied up in looking at the images of Kylie and Jason and there was huge potential for naff electronic gizmos. But the best artists were always out there making taut, well crafted music that still seems ageless today. While not standing the test of time just yet, The Priory seem to display this same cocksure timelessness as the likes of Bauhaus. I, for one will be keeping an eye out to see if they do.

SB


Magnet – Hold On (Atlantic)
Much MOR from Magnet. I bet I can’t say that after a pint of gin. ‘Hold On’ takes the zeitgeist by the horns and turns into a Starsailor sing James Blunt dullathon. And I’m being kind. The sort of thing that will be playing at dinner parties up and down the country very soon. Be afraid.

SM


Black Twang - Travellin' (Bad Magic/Wall of Sound)
It's a fair bet that any track that kicks off with a vocalist going 'yeah, yeah, or 'uh-huh uh-huh' over a beat box will not be rocking tasty's socks. This is no exception.

(watch wmv file video)

SB


Performance - Surrender (Polydor)
Ahh, more 80's inspired electro-fest. This time, Manchester-based Performance produce their own brand of New Order/Pet Shop Boys fusion. Urgent and high energy but just a little bit camp too. I swear there are some keyboard parts played with the very cheapest of kit, sounds like the £40 Casio I got for Christmas in 1985 and never graduated past Greensleeves on (well, it couldn't even play chords so I would have been struggling). I'm loving this 80's resurgence this month.

SB


The National – ‘Secret Meeting’ (Beggars Banquet)
The National release a track from the album ‘Alligator’ for download via
www.beggars.com. It is brooding, alt-country tinged song, part Nick Cave part Wilco that swells and builds and though it perhaps isn’t braking down boundaries it is pretty addictive and will prove to get lodged in that recess of your mind that plays you songs just when you want to get to sleep. At least then you can’t hear the voices…

LD


The Modern – Jane Falls Down (Mercury)
If The Modern were any less modern then it would be 1981. If that makes sense. ‘Janes Fall Down’ is Blondie playing Depeche Mode with 21st Century production. It’s as if Mercury have said, ‘Hey, all these kids are listening to The Bravery – let’s make our own band up, and dress them like art school wankers!’ They’ve succeeded in the worst possible way.

SM


iLiKETRAiNS - A Rook House For Bobby (Kids)
I can almost guarantee that this single will have the most obscure subject matter of the month (the decline into madness and subsequent arrest and exile of US chess grandmaster Bobby Fischer). That would be if the B-side wasn't about the rationalisation of the rail network in 1963 following the Beeching Report. Safe to say, that iLiKETRAiNS do not walk the path most tread in conventional song writing.

But there is a regal elegance in the crafting of these pieces, which show that sometimes less can be much, much more. Very simple instrumentation builds up to crescendos of an operatic proportion while Dave's terminally ill-sounding vocals gently cradle the melodies up to their final destination. eerily compelling and stark at the same time.

SB


  Guile - My Salvation/You Had It All (Salvation)
I'm not sure if I've gone deaf after listening to iLiKETRAiNS too loud but this sounds bloody awful to me. Not necessarily the songs but the mix which is so muddy that other than a few growly vocals surfacing from the deep, sounds like a bootleg recording on a dictaphone from row Z of a Jesus and Mary Chain gig. Which is a pity, because there are the murmurings of something interesting happening here. Just hope I can hear them next time.

SB


Kallinger Co. - Punkslutz.com (Criminal)
If Pop Will Eat Itself had never existed, then Kallinger Co. would have sounded like something completely new. As it stands, Pop Will Eat Itself did get themselves out of the Black Country and onto the shelves of HMV, but they always veered towards the dancier side of punk pop. Kallinger Co., on the other hand, do not compromise from their path of sonic destruction routed in punk rock beginnings.

As well as sharing the hyper crunchy guitar riffs and the melding of live/machine noise with the Poppies, they seem to share a healthy appetite for anti-imperialist ranting. Which has got to be a good thing. I suggest you have a listen yourself, or better still see them live (but make sure you wear earplugs).

SB


  Ironweed - Down to My Grave (Fat Northerner)
Seems to be a month of what ifs....this time, Ironweed. If Moby had never produced the album 'Play' which was managed to blend Moby's signatures dance beats with dust bowls blues music then Ironweed would strike it rich and be on every car ad. As it is, this stands as pretty interesting and unusual stuff for the north west of England

SB


North Sea Radio Orchestra – The Flower’ (Oof!)
The North Sea Radio Orchestra, quite a name aye? Well I guess you need a big bold name when you play in a big bold band, which is exactly what they are. NSRO, as I will call them because I'm lazy, are a group of writers, singers and musicians who have come together to form a band which should probably be called modern classical, for want of a better term (please see previous comment about laziness) as they mix classical opera, folk and a pinch of the avant-garde to make some really innovative and beautiful music. This certainly won’t be to everyone’s tastes but for those of you looking for a little something else I suggest you pick up this limited 7” whilst you still can.

LD


The Rising - If I See You Again
A word to the wise for bands like The Rising and others who think that they can capture that Verve-style British indie rock 'n' roll vibe thang. Your singer can hold a tune, you can clearly play your instruments and you even seem to have got some pretty decent production. But it's been done to death. please move on to something else if you don't want to end up another very good pub band who never quite made it big.

SB


Threadbear - The Same Air ep (Yellownoise)
Remember watching Beavis and Butthead on MTV when you were a kid? They were always going on about 'damn whinging British music', aimed mainly at Radiohead but with a pretty broad gun site. Well, you can kind of get the thinking when you hear bands like Threadbear with their intricate guitars and delicate vocals, replete with vibrato. It probably is a bit to gentle for the majority of MTV viewing Iowan teenagers. But it is a strange spell which 'The Same Air' ep casts, gradually building up to a point where you are forced to listen. I started out pretty much ambivalent and thinking of whinging British singers past and present but after three tracks there are signs of a music that is almost hymnal in conception. Stick with it...

SB


 

Keyboard Rebel - ‘Northern Sherpa’
A pleasant little ramble using a variety of instruments, this song stands up to repeat listening and has a charming earnestness at its core. I’d be interested to know did if they wrote the song first or some of the slightly daft instrument parts. A tad bland but I’d like to hear more…however the B-side ‘I feel trapped’ slips in to a sort of Jack Johnson-esque ditty that sets my teeth on edge, (apart from the trumpet at the end which sounds nice.) 

MJL


Emporium - Lisa on the Screen / Smile (Whimsical)
Holy cow! All crashing electro drum beats, keyboard synths and poppy arrangements all rolled together with lashings of sixties atmosphere, Brian Wilson-isms and the dancing falsetto vocals. This is so far off my radar I'm not sure I could do it justice in a review trying to describe it. But I think I kind of like it and it feels a bit naughty.

SB


Magnetophone -  ‘…And May Your Last Words Be a Chance To Make Things Better’ (4AD)
The second single to come from the eagerly awaited new Magnetophone album has the listener basking in a swelling wash of layered vocals (from Fence Collective’s HMS Pinafore), rolling guitars and a backing of lush electronic programming. One to get lost in.

B-side ‘Something I Can understand’ is far more beat orientated and is reminiscent of label mate Minotaur Shock’s electronic sea shanties with a dash of Kingsbury Manx thrown in for good measure. On the strength of these two tracks the album should be a corker.

LD


Pharrell Williams (feat.Gwen Stefani) - Can I Have It Like That (Virgin)
As stated previously, any song starting with a 'uh-huh' or a 'yo' is normally instantly skipped. But in this instance, can Gwen Stefani save the day? Nope.
www.pharrellwilliams.co.uk

(watch video - wmv file)

SB


Thai Bride - Non Contact Sports (Soviet Union)
With a name like Thai Bride, it may not be a surprise to learn that this 3 track single is not a lesson in political correctness or gender equality. But sorry sisters, it sure is catchy. Simple quiet chorus, noisy verse structure, lyrics straight from a hormonally challenged 6th former the hook is well and truly beaten into you with 'Non Contact Sports'.

'Five Urinals' is a lesson in toilet etiquette for gentlemen with cheeky words about 'not crossing swords' which are thankfully distorted almost to non recognisable levels. Excellent nonsense of the highest level.

'My Poor Brain Chemistry' sees a bit more of a swing to the dark side but song dynamics remain largely the same. All in all a pretty interesting introduction to Thai Bride.


See video for 'Non Contact Sports' (which features yet another use of antique cricket bats following on from the Golden Age last month) at www.thaibridevideos.co.uk

SB


The Sequins – Nobody Dreams About Me/Dear Old Bill
Listening  to The Sequins is similar to listening to a weeping, drippy sixth former gushing over an ex girlfriend but is nevertheless a pleasant enough experience. Kind of like being hit over the head repeatedly with a luke-warm, damp sponge for 5 minutes or so.  These heartbroken midland mugs sound like they want to sound like The Smiths, and to be honest they do a fairly good job of it; a bit of self deprecation never hurt anyone, but I think these boys need to assert there masculinity and stop wallowing.  To it’s merit, there is some really nice ‘janglier-than-thou’ guitar playing and interesting new wave time signatures to keep you occupied. However, wearing your heart so blatantly on your record sleeve could leave a big, bloody mess that won’t come off easily in the wash. Audacious biography’s and annoyingly miniscule promo CDs aside, here is a clean, tightly produced single from a band who can obviously play their instruments and craft decent songs. If more broken hearts lead to more broken noses there would be less need for records like this.

Harold Thornville


Hardkandy - Three Days (Catskills)
Not a million miles from what Ironweed also has to offer this month, Three days sounds like delta blues given a  slightly modern twist. I have to admit I lost the press release which came with the CD so I don't know why Catskills felt it would be a good idea to include 4 mixes of the same song. At least I think they were the same song. Nuff said.
www.hardkandy.co.uk

SB


Four Tet - A Joy (Domino)
Holy crap! And I thought 4 remixes of 'Three Days' was excessive. Four Tet brings us not 4, not 5, not 6 but 7 remixes of 'A Joy'. The first of which, even I have to admit is pretty good. A really weird throbbing mechanical back beat overlaid with Ice Cube style rapping from Percee P apparently. There's no obvious chorus -verse-chorus structure, which works well because it emphasises the mechanical, incessant beats.

Three of the last four remixes are sans our Percee and a couple of them are downright scary in a kind of Aphex Twin meets Nine Inch Nails way. Weird. But ace.

SB


Circus Normal - s/t ep (Freeport)
Another rock 'n' roll act playing three and a half minute radio friendly ditties that your Mum would probably listen to. But as Alan Sugar would say, what else do they bring to the table? Or, as England cricket coach Duncan Fletcher would postulate, what do they bring to the party. Both questions demonstrate an ability to be ponderous and fill time with ambling prose for the sake of it. As do Circus Normal. All very well produced/played and all that but nothing new to see here. get back to your pubs and clubs.
www.circusnormal.com

SB


Brian Eno - How many Worlds (Hannibal)
Undoubtedly a hugely influential figure, having worked with the likes of Bowie, David Byrne, Paul Simon and Coldplay, Eno is perhaps better known for his collaborations than his solo work. Widely regarded as the precursor of ambient music, Eno continues to plough his lone (but mellow) furrow in a world awash with the latest fashionable pop and indie. I'm not sure this noodling single is testament to the success of this avant garde attitude but good on yer Brian for doing your own thing.

SB


Stoner - Life and Times (Rhythmbank)
There was a moment at the start when I thought this was going to morph into Marillion's 'Kayleigh' - it's not often you hear that big reverb effect on the guitar since Fish was strutting his stuff. But then the vocal began to sound like Dexy's Midnight Runners. Confused I carried on through another MOR track before coming across a full-on soul track, replete with female choir. Just because Roddy Doyle made a packet does not mean this is right. If too many cooks spoil the broth, too many influences definitely isolate the casual listener.
www.stonertheband.com

SB


Omerta - One Chance (Northern Ambition)
Manchester's Omerta having been causing a bit of a stir apparently and this release hints at why. Built from a great anthemic string section and a constant picked guitar hook throughout, 'One Chance' sounds suitably glum to fit right into the current angst indie so coveted by record labels.

On the flip-side, 'Synchronise Your Smiles' while being glum recounting of consumer society displays a naive uplifting spirit, reminiscent of early Stone Roses, especially in the semi-mumbled vocals. Lovely stuff.
www.omerta.co.uk

SB


The Late Greats - Bang-bang/Life Without Balloons (Izumi)
Eastbourne. Ladies tennis. Party political conferences. Not widely known for its music scene. But The Late Greats bring this sleepy bastion of Victorian seaside England up to date with this double-a side single.

'Bang bang' is just that, all crash bang wallop drums and jangly guitars heading of in their own hectic directions. In contrast 'Life Without Balloons' seems to be more like Morrissey's 'Every Day is Like Sunday' while capturing a bit of that grandiose coastal town ballroom atmosphere with the massive echoing production.

Two very different tracks but both worth a second listen or a look on their current tour.
www.thelategreats.co.uk

SB


The Morenas - Dance For Your Dictator ep (Bleach)
With more energy than a classroom full of seven year olds gorging on Sunny D and turkey twizzlers, The Morenas kick off with 'I Just Wanna Be Someone', a perfect surf rock single. Expect to see this as the title music to the next series of The OC/Beverly Hills 90210/Baywatch - delete where applicable.

But in 'My Violent Femme' we might see who the Morenas 'Wanna' be - Ricky Martin - shudder.

'Leave Me Alone' follows the same frantic drum/guitar formula and is only spoiled by the sporadic woo-hoo-ing in the backing vocals. The final track 'Filthy', is all crunchy guitars and Paolo Moreno warbling along like a cross between Robert Plant, Richie Blackmore and Freddie Mercury - some feat I think you will agree.
(
www.themorenas.co.uk)

SB


Nadie - Indifference (Halo)
With opening tuned down guitar chords which sound like Jane's Addiction's 'True Nature', indifference kicks off for a proper rocking. But I'm not sure this is the right sort of vehicle for Nadie's undeniably strong voice and makes her end up sounding like Anastasia flirting with soft rock.

B-side 'Be A Man' yet again proves that Nadie has a fine pair of lungs but still fails to get the juices flowing. Soz.
(
www.nadie.co.uk)

SB


Little Mountain - Wolves for Winter
Featuring a weirdo double-headed deer beast on the cover, Wolves for Winter is Joshua Deeter's acoustic outlet. 'draw a Little Heart in the Sand' is promising but at 5.21 minutes long, the attention begins to wane a bit. By the second or third track, it becomes apparent that despite some effort to interject a bit of interest, Deeter's vocals and all the minor chords drag the whole thing into a pit of bleakness. Not for the easily depressed.
(
www.onelittlemountain.com)

SB


Centrifuge - Lizard in the Wires ep
Lizard in the Wires? That does not sound like a a good situation. Are the wires concerned in the recording studio? That might explain why Centrifuge make this scary din. Though I mean that in the best possible way. Guitars that are only just in tune (if you know what I mean), big clattering drums and symbols and a weary sounding vocal all smash together with some unexpected consequences. 'Song A' has a seriously catchy verse while there is some respite from the layers of overdrive with 'Lizard in the Wires' (though at five and half minutes long I was ready for a return to distortion.)

The sinisterly named 'Final Solution' rounds things off with perhaps the best of the bunch - screaming, squeaking guitars and the most accomplish vocal performance on the ep. The vocals would seem to me to be what will make or break it for Centrifuge - too often they wander slightly out of tune which is really highlighted when the rest of the instrumentation is so chaotic. But when they get it right it sounds amp-smashingly good.
(www.centrifuge1.co.uk)

SB