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singles - december 2006



 

O Lovely Lie - ‘Infect The City EP’ 

O Lovely Lie are a Nottingham based 5 piece fronted by (I’m guessing) brother/sister combo Gemma and Chris Upton (though they could be husband and wife, cousins, cousins who are husband and wife… I have no idea. Read on to find out why). 

When ‘All At Sea’ strikes up, I was surprised to find myself thinking of two bands that are probably totally outside O Lovely Lie’s influences; a mesh of Echobelly and The Junket. Surprised, I say, because I haven’t thought about those bands in years either. It’s  is a guitar driven, catchy, bleeding hearts anthem, and the production really makes the most of Gemma Upton’s vocal (a cross between Saffron and Sonya Aurora-Madan); distinctively British and forceful. 

With an optimistic start, I was slightly disappointed when it gave way to ‘Maggie Oei Orchid’, which is slightly dirge-y, and reminds me of when musicians write dark, slow songs because they’re easy to do and great to sing. Nonetheless, it’s Low meets JJ72 for a lament about some fling. The title track, ‘Infect The City’ sees Gemma taking lead vocals again, and picks up the driving guitar, but the melancholic note continues without the kind of ‘yeah, fuck you’ element of ‘All At Sea’. ‘Bitten By Eyes II’ is a beautiful ballad that, to be honest, I was expecting and it was very sensible of them to put it on the EP to show their range of tempo and style. Chris Upton has a beautiful, shoe-gazing vocal style that some would envy. 

Overall, though, I thought it was a definite grower. The songs were well formed, the production was excellent and really made the most of the band’s style; dark rock for people who liked Britpop. After the fourth or fifth listen, I found myself quite enjoying it. Their style incorporates a forceful punk attitude without forgetting the tunes, and reminds me of the kind of bands prominent in the late 90s/ turn of the millennium like My Vitriol, Lodger et cetera.  I couldn’t help but feel there was a slight pandering to heavier rock audiences that I really think they should do away with because the songs really speak for themselves, and after all, who cares if the girl with the blue hair and the lip piercing doesn’t think you ‘rawk’ enough? It’s all about the music, man… 

I say that ironically, but then it seems to be O Lovely Lie’s attitude. As a keen reviewer, I was surprised that there was no biog sent. Not a loss, I thought, as I checked the website. And… No biog. And their MySpace. And… No biog. Therefore, ‘O Lovely Lie’ then come off as a band with some good songs, but no style, substance or history. It’s the kind of band you would go to see at a gig and think they weren’t the next big thing, they weren’t bad, but if you were asked to remember them the next day, you’d probably struggle. 

I am going to give you one sentence you can use in your press releases, O Lovely Lie (if you remember to include them, that is); great, brooding songs with lots of atmosphere, and a post-90s feel. However, the songs are severely lacking in personality and could be considered generic; you could be any band of 400 currently gigging in the UK. You need to focus more on what kind of image you’re trying to project, what kind of audience you’re trying to reach and put together a good promotional package so there’s some kind of ethos a consumer can buy into. I mean, look what happened to My Vitriol in the end…

Allan Taylor

 
 

To My Boy - TheGrid (Abeano Music) 

One popular music rag have it that the Grid sound like Kraftwerk, but they play live 'organic' instruments and they have none of the industrious qualities that the German 'power-station' possessed. In fact they sound more like Red Noise, just without cold and radical leftism that Bill Nelson employed.  

The sound is often jubilant and uplifting whilst charming and retro without being tacky. To My Boy sound achingly contemporary, but they still manage to clutch onto the essence of the golden days of electro pop and hang onto it for dear life as though it were a comfort blanket. If the Commodore C64 was introduced back into society this year, then surely To My Boy would be commissioned to compose music for those games luxuriously entombed in the cassette tapes. 

It's anyone's guess as to how much lasting success To My Boy will enjoy in the future, but this is the now after all and The Grid has been a fitting soundtrack to my afternoon. Will it illuminate an hour or two of your life tomorrow?

Alex Clark

 
 

Dogmixer - Bong 93 (Replicant Society)

Bong 93 is a dance-friendly intelligent techno type affair which joins the likes of Glasgow's Satellite Dub and Paul Hartnoll's solo stuff in forging a way for new, more organic sounding electro. Reverbing keyboard melodies are the mainstay of the sound over the top of the break beats which underpin a driving rhythm, especially in 'Who Are You?'. Spartan use of some film track sci-fi samples and a an off kilter breakdown after about 4 minutes make for exciting listening. The housier 'Mind in Motion' deals in more lightly off-kilter key changes, unpredictable stop starts and more clever use of samples to animate the pauses and string the whole thing together. Accomplished work.
www.dogmixer.co.uk

SB

 
 

The Butterfly - Impatient Orchid Ep (Good Name for a Racehorse)

Leeds based The Butterfly have found a home on the creditable Nottingham collective Good Name for a Racehorse label. Christ, that sentence was terrible grammar. But it's not surprising because my mind has been frazzled by a lurching journey through more styles than you could pigeon hole. Clearly there is a certain homage to Mike Patton/Faith No More when they were going through their 'King for a Day...' phase in the way the vocals are belted out in between searing guitar riffs. There is also an element of hammed up rock opera about 'Impatient Orchid' and how many bands could get away with Mariachi style brass without sounding a little bit pompous? I get the impression that The Butterfly do not take themselves too seriously, but equally they are not doing this for laughs either.
Single Reviews 2006

SB

 
 

Sandira - Hanging on the Wire (Corrupt Drive)

Congratulations to Sandira. I checked back and see that I gave them a bit of a slagging off last time around. Since then the band has been overhauled and they have out together this EP. Top marks for effort. There are glimpses of promise where they sound a little like rising stars Santa Dog. But sadly, in the main it still sounds a little too pub band for me to get really excited about. Nice bugs on the cover art though.
www.sandira.co.uk

SB

 
 

Good Shoes - The Photos On My Wall (Brille)

I'm still not really getting Good Shoes. It's all lively enough and chock full of handclaps and twinkly guitars. In fact, there is even an element of The Cure about this release but I just can't get excited about it - it all sounds too formulaic and planned to be really engaging. Music by numbers.
www.goodshoes.co.uk

SB

Good Shoes – The Photos on My Wall (Brille)

I have to say, this is a little bit of a let down. After being quite impressed with some of Good Shoes’ earlier stuff, this is a very lazy affair that really doesn’t have any qualities as a single at all.

After starting out on a Roxy Music tip, it degenerates into a kind of Sonic Youth, free-wankjazzguitar fest. And that’s when I give up. A temporary blip, I hope.
Watch the video to 'The Photos on My Wall'

Sam Metcalf

 
 

Chris Singleton - Get Up (Brownpaper/Universal)

A bit of a disappointing follow up to 'Worry Number One' sees Singleton deliver a creditable Roy Orbison impression. A summer season on Blackpool pier may beckon.
www.chrissingleton.co.uk

SB

 
 

Recoup - Remind You (Initiate)

This is a first- the CD is packaged in a re-used crisp packet. I kid you not - Walkers' ready salted to be precise and like the song, is aimed to raise awareness of environmental issues and the impact of humans on the earth. A fine idea. Recoup even managed to rope in a bunch of school kids to clean up a thousand crisp packets, turn them inside out and seal them up with a sticker. And I thought we used to have it bad collecting stamps for the Blue Peter Christmas appeal. I'm not sure how much detergent was flushed into the water system after washing the bags or how much vinyl was used to make the CDs but any small efforts to reduce our ecological footprint on the planet has to be a good thing. Unless it's just a gimmick to raise interest in a track sounding like an electro version of U2's 'Unforgettable Fire'.

B-side 'ThunderGROUND' is a much more interesting proposition, throbbing and squeaking into life like a well scrubbed crisp packet under a pair of nice new shoes. The steadfast simple beat becomes a bit monotonous for a full 7 minutes effort but it's decent enough background music to listen to while separating out your recycling.
www.recoupmusic.com

SB

 
 

Shatner - AntiClockwise

It truly is a mission statement. I think it is pretty obvious that Shatner aren't wasting their spare poring over the small print in the NME to work out what musical direction to take. This has led to them being described as 'Leeds legends' but also 'pub wank' and you can kind of see both points of view. That's the beauty of music isn't it -opinions.

But  Anticlockwise' is unadulterated pop fun with a an old school rock n roll guitar hook and bass line. No doubt this will only polarise opinion even further but I think there is always room for a bit of Shatner in your life and defy you not to be bopping around after two or three listens of this track.
www.shatner.info

SB

 
 

The Freed Unit - Winter Solstice

Festive stuff from lo-fi synth folksters The Freed Unit. A jangling sleigh bell full of Christmassy cheer describing the adventures of a Snowman. but before you start imagining new and extreme forms of torture for Aled Jones, this is a tale with a twist. For the Snowman is a bit of a plonky and can't resist supping the sloe gin left on the mantelpiece resulting in his untimely painful and watery demise. The Snowman's liquid entrails then fuse the Christmas lights - haha! Would have been better if this had caused a small electrical fire burning all the Christmas presents but hey, you can't have it all.
www.freedunit.co.uk

SB

 
 

GoodBooks - Leni (Columbia)

No spaces but capitalisation...bloody artistes. But GoodBooks are good - twinkling keyboards and spiralling vocals that sometimes get so high they sound like they might completely disappear. There's a driving rat-a-tat-tat high hat action and three and half minutes of finely crafted indie pop.
Watch video to 'Leni'
www.ilovegoodbooks.com

SB

 
 

Molloy - Tracy/Dirty Church/Piece of Mind

It was almost inevitable that this self assured a oozingly classy slab of new wave electro pop would come from London. It just seems like the rest of the country is a bit hard up for good electro. But now we too can feast our ears on Molloy's finely crafted, danceable demo. Tracey is a squelchy upbeat sexy beast of a track complete with Caz's squeeky breathless vocals and some weebliness from the Moog. 'Dirty Church' is even sleazier and more laid back with a great scratchy guitar riff and clean bass line. 'Piece of Mind' makes up the final part of the EP and prove that Molloy are the real thing. But then you suspect they knew they were pretty good when they chose their website name.
www.thisisfuckingbrilliant.com

SB

 
 

Pagan Wanderer Lu - Repetition 1 (Brainlove)

The second release I've heard from Pagan Wanderer Lu is even more fantastic than the first. A magical synthesis of acoustic guitar and electronics all looped with hyper catchy 'wop wah ooh' chorus lines make this one a winner. Tell you what though - let's throw in some brass as well. Go on then.
www.myspace.com/paganwandererlu

SB

 
 

Peaches – ‘Boys Wanna Be Her’ (XL Recordings) 

Taken from Peaches’ most recent album, ‘ImPeach My Bush’ (which I scribbled about way back in August), ‘Boys Wanna Be Her’ is more of the same unimaginative electro punk. But for this track there’s an extra ingredient: 80’s style stadium rock. Now I was under the impression that music of that ilk was irredeemably shit, but Peaches seems to think not. So if you find the idea of tedious electro combined with clichéd, supposedly ironic, guitar riffs appealing then this is the record for you. For added value three remixes are included, the first is by the Flaming Lips and it sounds like a Peaches song and a Flaming Lips song spliced together at random and is frankly confusing. The other two remixes are barely worth mentioning, so I won’t bother. 

Michael Pearson

 

The Ripps - Vandals (Catskills)

The Ripps manage to combine throw away pop guitar riffs that could belong to any of twenty bands this month with a slightly political leaning which at least indicates some originality. 'Vandals' is about getting arrested for breaking stuff because there is nothing else to do (what is wrong with drinking White Lightning in the park these days I ask? Tsk.) Flipside 'Hypocrite' is a punkier track with some more interesting manic chanting a la 'I Am the Walrus' by the Beatles. It's quickfire, quick witted but probably quickly forgotten.
www.myspace.com/theripps

SB

 
 

Múm – ‘The Peel Session’ (Fat Cat) 

Recorded back in 2002, Múm’s only ever Peel session is finally seeing the light of day on Brighton’s consistently superb Fat Cat records. To be perfectly honest I am a massive fan of this band and their melancholy blend of electronica and experimental pop, so an objective review is rather unlikely. Anyway this release is a good as the rest of their recorded output would suggest. Glitchy electronica combines with ethereal vocals, orchestral arrangements and pop song writing to great effect. The track ‘Now There Is That Fear Again’, from the album ‘Finally We Are No-One’ particularly stands out, a stunning piece of dark orchestral pop and an incredibly moving piece of music. The only criticism of this I have is the length of this release, only four tracks, which is no where near enough. 

Michael Pearson

 
 

Fuzzy Lights - untitled

Another spellbinding release from Fuzzy Lights treats us to three tracks of their quintessentially organic yet contemporary take on folk music which dispels normal song structures and writing for flowing mood music. The short opener 'Blackout' features an undulating drone from a melodica which is very subtly blessed with some minimalist string arrangements. It's a similar sound to some of the sounds created by alt-folk pioneer Daniel Patrick Quinn on 'Riding the Stang'. 'Blackout' flows almost seamlessly into 'Mountain Top', and again , despite the minimalist composition, has a generous warmth provided by the fan organ and an increasingly frenetic guitar piece.

The guitar/strings/samples approach draws easy comparisons with London's SonVer but whereas SonVer display a distinctly urban feel with their sampled traffic noise and city savvy, Fuzzy Lights are their rural antithesis, homely, soothing and timeless.
www.fuzzylights.com

SB

 
 

North Sea Radio Orchestra - s/t EP (Oof! Records) 

Pleasant, but perhaps too twee to take lasting satisfaction from. North Sea Radio Orchestra sounds somewhere between a movie score for a quintessentially English period drama and a school production fronted by the mandatory irk that is the apple of every primary school teacher's eye. On one hand, the record is playful, refreshing, exciting and reminiscent of a stroll 'round a meadow early on a spring morning, complete with blue skies, trickling streams and yew and willow trees at every turn to delight and thrill mildly. On the other, it's squeaky clean, clinical and precise. Oh damn, people, won't you just make your own minds up?

Alex Clark

 
 

Bedouin Soundclash - 12.59 Lullaby (sideonedummy)

With a distinctive reggae flavoured lilting rhythm and Jay Malinowski's vulnerable sounding plaintive vocals, this track sounds eminently sound trackable, just waiting for some ad campaign for yoghurt to pick up on.

'One Way' preaches on about righteousness while sounding like Peter Andre's Mysterious Girl - surely not a good role model. But final track 'Jeb Rand is Sailin' On' is another reggae number but far darker and using some great dubby bass patterns against the reggae rhythm.
www.bedouinsoundclash.com

SB

 

Ben Onono - Caramel (Jos)

A soothing mix of Latin guitars, a distinctly African vibe and Ibiza chill-out cool here from Cafe del Mar alumnus Ben Onono. Nice wood cut on the cover art too.
www.benonono.com

SB

 
 

My Toys Like Me - Sick Couple

A sparing use of percussion kept to a bare minimum of handclaps and a patient ticking form the back drop to the lush vocals of Frances Noon while Lazlo Leglezer applies some guitar samples and electronic swooshes. Most eerie and all the better for it.
www.myspace.com/mytoyslikeme

SB

 
 

Ooze feat. Tishk - Random Wonderous Things (Chillosophy)

This cunning collaboration manages the unlikely task of combining plucked violin strings with extremely manipulated electronic tones in a completely natural way. There is a heavy double bass track in the background too, so plenty to keep your ears amused. The soulful jazzy vocals from Tishk are an unnecessary embellishment but by no means spoil the track.

SB

 
 

Johnny Foreigner - Sometimes in the Bullring (The Launderette Recording Co.)

Lots of complexity to their music and a compelling manifesto to boot make Johnny Foreigner an interesting proposition. Oodles of interlocking and overlapping lo-fi guitar and bass parts, stop-start rhythms and a synchronous double vocal mix which sounds like someone has left on a dictaphone in the background. Sonic Youth meets Forward Russia. Marvellous stuff.
www.thelaunderette.co.uk

SB

 
 

The Pigeon Detectives - I Found Out (Dance to the Radio)

Piggy backing with Milburn and then the Kaiser Chiefs can only help The Pigeon Detectives seep into the consciousness of the national music community. They have a youthful appeal based on a combination of squealy and slashy guitar riffs and rambunctious choruses. It's not enough to keep me that interested to be honest but then I'm an old git.
www.thepigeondetectives.com

SB

 
 

Blaknoisewhitesoul - Rulebreaker (U Discs)

Loving the artwork which sees two guys donning terrorist style balaclavas on the golf course. Reminds me of a misguided youthful prank on the Humber Bridge that nearly got me arrested but that's another story...

'Rulebreaker' has a very poppy electro backing track to Kirsty M's disconnected vocals which provides a nice little contrast - accessible without being uber-cool. B-side 'Dirty Darkness' is a more brooding effort but manages to maintain a poppy demeanour via judicious use of squelchy key effects and a dependable beat. Mature yet vibrant.

SB

 

Charlotte Hatherley- Behave E.P. (Little Sister Records) 

So Charlotte’s back. After leaving Ash she had a brief flirtation with a solo career and then dropped off the face of the earth. But here she is with her own record label and a full length album, The Deep Blue, coming in March. For now this E.P. serves as a taster for what to expect. Opening track Behave demonstrates that what we heard in Ash was nowhere near what Charlotte is capable of vocally. Her sugary sweet voice is accompanied by a whimsical song about nothing in particular. Mr. Ed is more edgy and permeated with spiky guitars and cheeky little riffs. Charlotte, it seems, is back on track, and judging from this E.P. an intriguing album awaits in March.
http://www.charlottehatherley.com

Catriona Boyle

 
 

Pull Tiger Tail- Mr 100 Percent (b-unique) 

Pull Tiger Tail are a bit cool, apparently. They’re one of the buzz bands that “those in the know” are name dropping right now. But are they really worth anything to us common folk? Well, yes. Mr 100 Percent has got so much you happening need to listen to it at least three times to appreciate its full value. It’s got everything, a bit of Bloc Party, Franz Ferdinand, We Are Scientists, not to mention the bands own rather extraordinary skills. 

Get it while it’s er, cool.
Watch video to 'Mr 100 Percent'

Catriona Boyle

 

Rex Radio- Flashboy (b-unique) 

It’s hard to say what exactly Rex Radio are trying to tell us here. “Do it with a flashboy” is the main line of the chorus, so the question is do what with a who? Sadly the track doesn’t shed any light on this. But no matter, because Flashboy also brings us with falsetto vocals, a chorus that will be in your head for the rest of the day (guaranteed), and ferocious guitars. Who cares what a Flashboy is anyway? 
http://www.thatflashboysong.com

Catriona Boyle

 
 

Mukul- You Don’t Know Me (Wasted Words)

Mukul has brought a new level of sophistication to all the genres that feature in his music. You Don’t Know Me is a slow, seductive, and downright sexy piece of music. The breathy vocals and off beat strings give the track a minimalistic drive. It’s hard to imagine a club cool enough to play Mukul. Happy Birthday is probably not the track you’d want played at your party. Unless it was an ultra cool electronica, spoken word, sinister sounding party. Mukul certainly doesn’t make easy listening. But it’s worth it.

Catriona Boyle

 
 

Underoath – In Regards To Myself (Virgin)

Post Hardcore. Metalcore. Screamo. Such terms are being thrown around like frisbees at the moment, and the more thrown around they get, the less accurate they seem to become. In recent years we’ve seen bands emerge that defy all current genre tags, and new labels are being created every day (or so it seems) to try and pigeonhole the newest sounds. So let's ditch all this trendy labelling for now. Besides, after one brief listen to Underoath circa 2006, I couldn't bring myself to mention them in the same sentence (apart from this one) as the likes of All Out War or Quicksand.

So here I am presented with a band who did actually start off playing some pretty ferocious hardcore (with black metal leanings none the less), and a band who have changed their sound so dramatically since 1999's "Act of Depression" that nowadays you probably wouldn't recognise them as the same outfit. With several lineup changes being a possible contributor to their genre-bending career, Underoath broke into the mainstream with their 2004 effort "They're Only Chasing Safety", an apt title perhaps for an album that reeked of the kind of sub par pop-laden post-hardcore that has become so popular in recent years.

Just like their suddenly pink-loving compatriots Eighteen Visions, Underoath have fallen from grace quite spectacularly and considering they're an openly Christian band... well you see where I’m going here. They're just so... uninspiring. There are literally hundreds of bands doing exactly the same thing right now, and very few of them seem to have anything interesting to say for themselves musically. They can certainly play their instruments (I can't dispute that) and to be honest, Underoath are good at what they do, but then again, so was Hitler.

I don't care what their agenda is, and I don't care what they wear. That's not what I'm here to review. “In Regards To Myself” on the other hand, just like the rest of the full length album it’s taken from, comes across as watered-down, un-emotional, and bland. This kind of music can be done well; check out Hopesfall's "The Satellite Years" or Poison The Well's "Tear From The Red" and you'll see what I mean. If you like Underoath, fair play to you. This is just one person’s opinion after all, and I'm not here to try and change your mind. But for all the genuine music lovers out there, I highly recommend (if you haven't done so already) making some effort and doing some digging, because for every Underoath you trip over on the surface, there'll be a dozen better bands waiting for you beneath the topsoil.
www.underoath777.com
Watch video to 'In Regards to Myself'

Jim Parry

 
 

The Noisettes – Don’t Give Up (Vertigo)

Christ, this is terrifying. You know the soundtrack to those dreams about seeing your Nan without any clothes on? Well, this is on it. I mean nightmares, not dreams, NATCH.

This is a sort of dirty, yet very polished, rockabilly stuff that The Cramps used to excel at, but without the classy trash. It’s reeks of pretence, and this type of music shouldn’t do that. And I’m fed up with people in modern bands who have beards. Towards the glorious shaving revolution!

Sam Metcalf

 

Brakes – Hold Me in the River (Rough Trade)

Much big production from Brake, who have eschewed their earlier frantic sound in favour of something rather smooth indeed.

There’s a cracking guitar hook here that makes the song just about good enough, but it’ll take more than that on repeat to lift the band to where they possibly could be. Better than most singles around at the moment; but is that good enough?
Watch the video to 'Hold Me in the River'
www.brakesbrakesbrakes.com

Sam Metcalf

 
 

Mr Hudson & the Library – Bread + Roses (Deal Real)

You have to wonder why people bother releasing something so DULL as a single. This limps along at a very pedestrian pace, and the vocalist sounds like Sting. He also sings about ‘spliffs’. And other drugs. Does his mother know?

Chairman of the bored after listening to this, I am.

Sam Metcalf

 
 

The Mighty Roars – Sellotape (One Little Indian)

A sort of sub-riot grrrl/grunge thing comes to mind when listening to The Mighty Roars. Indeed, one can easily think it’s 1994 all over again when giving the title track a spin.

Meanwhile, over on the b-side, ‘Jude and Sienna’ is a moody, some might say SULTRY moocher. It’s nowt special, but it has more about it than the rather generic a-side.

An altogether old-fashioned single. And that’s quite nice sometimes…

Sam Metcalf

 
 

Friends – You’ll Never See That Summertime Again (Summerhouse)

I’ve heard this song before of course, but that doesn’t diminish its power and resonance. Especially as my Uncle has just died, and this has provided the perfect soundtrack.

Few bands can sound so bittersweet as Friends. They can sound at the same time so desperately sad and wonderfully optimistic. ‘You’ll Never See That Summetime Again’ veers that line so perfectly, that’s it’s quite easily one of my favourite pop songs of 2006.

Friends are one of the UK’s best kept secrets. Please do seek them out.

Sam Metcalf