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singles - january 2007


Damien Rice - 9 Crimes

How long has it been since Rice’s debut album ‘O’ now? It seems like a hell of a long time. One was happy to notice that due to its volcanic rise (selling around 2 million copies Worldwide) that Rice didn’t go down the Moby path, with every track on the album appearing on some crappy TV advert.

Interestingly, in the first release from Rice’s eagerly anticipated follow-up, ‘9’, it is not him that we hear first. Long-time musical partner Lisa Hannigan takes the spot light for the opening third of the piano driven song showing that there is much more than ‘Damien Rice’ the musician. His name has become the title for the act for a whole host of other musicians that he is surrounded by. He doesn’t seem to be just a solo act anymore; the people around him are putting just as much into the music as he is. It’s rare to read anything in the music papers about Rice’s life outside of music, but if this track is anything to go by; he doesn’t seem to be a selfish guy at all. And that may hold the key to his longevity: appreciating the talent he is surrounded by. An odd single ‘9 Crimes’ may be, but it is certainly an endearing segue from his previous work into the anticipated new album.



Yes, Boss – Tongues In Knots (DTTR) 

Collaboration mungmouse, with Tom Russia on backing vocals, but it’s all very clean for me. The beats are crisp and Noah’s words are mostly hitting the right targets and buttons, but the B side “Don’t Think” is a lot more Boss-like. Fortunately saving the day is the Fictional Characters’ remix of the title track, which sounds like it’s been recorded vocal-wise in a tin bath in an outside toilet, with a 29p Argos mic set to 5kHz, 8 bit sampling. Very good. (7/10)

Dave Procter


Biffy Clyro - semi-mental (14th Floor)

Seems like Biffy have made it big time as they prepare to embark on a multi date headlining Kerrang! tour around the UK. Thing is though, much as my instincts are preparing me to dismiss this as more clenched fist waving teenage tripe, my ears are telling me to love it. Crisp crunching guitar riffs with a killer chorus that is impossible not to sing along to - there's little not to like here.



Schizo Fun Addict / The Boy From Outer Space - Split EP (Bracken)

A curious combination pitting New York's Schizo Fun Addict's psychedelic shoe gazer rock with The Boy from Space's more light hearted noodlings. Firstly Schizo Fun Addict kick off with Jericho Sun Down, a mass of swirling echoey guitars and reverb before the acoustic 'Mercy Calling' which has a definite nod towards The Velvet Underground.

Then the fun really begins. 'The Farm' by The Boy From Outer Space has a big plonkety bass line with brassy interludes, cheesey handclaps and bicycle bells. Like a lounge lizard version of Psapp. They finish with a genius track sampling a self improvement tape about customer service. 'Wouldn't You Rather Be a Winner' pounds the message 'Why Be a Loser' as hard as the synth and xylophone thrums along with bleepy key effects reminiscent of Bentley Rhythm Ace. Cringingly good.



Voltage Union - On Your Marks (Dance to the Radio)

Another signing to the burgeoning DTTR label, Voltage Union release 'On Your Marks' on 15th January. Pretty standard yelpy agit rock thankfully gives way to some quirkier, poppier sounds with the introduction of vintage synths and B-movie sound effects. An agreeable if not ground breakingly new clattery row.



Sky Larkin - One of Two (Dance to the Radio)

'One of Two' is a glorious mix of scratchy earthy guitars moulded and soothed by Katie's pure vocal skills. 'Young of Lungs' is more of the same plus pounding drums too - things couldn't get much better.



Little Barrie - Love You (Genuine)

Crackling valvey sounding guitars and a driving blues inspired bass line form the backdrop to this otherwise simple track. It's pacey and fun but in these times of disposable music with downloads, MySpace and YouTube it is hardly likely to get more than a couple of repeat listens before being wiped off the iPod.
Watch video to 'Love You'



My Minds Weapon - A Negation OF All Our Hopes EP

Metal band, queue gothic script logo. Why why why? Typographical crimes aside, My Minds Weapon tune down the guitars, crank up the kick pedals on the bass drum and knock out some demonic riffing. 'A Sense of Wonder' is epic, if a little formulaic. 'At Least Your Not Dead' is more jagged and staccato in between screamo choruses. This won't be to everyone's tastes but it is sound ear-bothering, brain pounding stuff.



Iron Maiden - Different World (EMI)

It is a poorly kept secret that Iron Maiden could probably record themselves singing in the shower and they would still sell thousands of records to their legions of followers. Their press releases read like business plans and live date tour of arenas screams paydirt. So good news then that 'Different World' is a rattling good track with a superb riff. It also comes with a lavish Geiger/The Matrix/Minority Report inspired video - don't watch it just before bedtime.
Watch video to 'Different World'



Secret Shine - Beyond Sea and Sky

An on-off existence over the last 16 years or so has eventually been galvanised into a new flurry of energy and activity from arch shoe gazers Secret Shine and 'Beyond Sea and Sky' marks a resounding return to form.

Immense swirling soundscapes that reek of the nostalgia of Slowdive but bristle with the undoubted influence of contemporaries Sigur Ros and Mogwai provide the orchestral backdrop to the mesmerising ethereal boy-girl vocal harmonies. Irrepressibly gorgeous.



Captain Flashback - Crazy Horses

The bastard offspring of Ben Braund and James Reynolds (nee Braund Reynolds with their track 'Rocket'), Captain Flashback give the Osmonds' track a brassed-up high energy makeover no doubt designed to pack the dance floors in an ever so slightly ironic yet understatedly cool way. It's fun and it's harmless enough, much like popping bubble wrap.



Karim Fanous - Perfume

I feel sorry for Karim, not least because anyone who has been round to tasty towers recently and seen his lavishly produced CD/DVD promo has laughed at the cheesey pack shots accompanying it. More than that, Karim is clearly a musician with some talent but this EP stirs up less emotion in me than mowing the lawn. I'm off to hold my hand over the gas hob to make sure I am still alive...



King with No Throne - demo

An interesting Swiss-Australian collaboration here which could be likened a bit to Pink Floyd. Drums rhythms are kept simple and raw while an endearingly amateurish synth sound plonks away in accompaniment and has the unexpected effect of creating a trance like musical state. The bleak production definitely increases the dream like quality and the vocal delivery could be by Jim Morrison himself (well, if he wasn't dead obviously). Occasionally the stupour is interrupted by a frantic moment or noisy interlude but overall I'm left with the feeling of being robbed by a mugger attacking me with a feather pillow. Good stuff.



Dirtyfuzz - Tell Your Mama

Vocalist Elida carries this rawk revival track with her Tina Turneresque voice but at the end of the day it is so derivative that maybe she should devote her talents elsewhere. Predictable 3-chord rock, ripped-off-from-the-Stones 'woo woos' and a clunking mechanical guitar riff do little to disguise this fact.



The Hit and Runs - Demo 

On an initial listening, The Hit and Runs 3-track demo seems pretty damn listenable, with comparisons to The Fratellis, Arctic Monkeys and others being made quite easily. However after repeated hearings of these songs, the mood slips into unfortunate mediocrity.

The opener “Night Cap” is easily the strongest song on the demo, with a few catchy melodies and Joe's distinctly Yorkshire vocals standing proud. The production is consistently brilliant, but I have to say some of the music itself is slightly predictable, and does leave a little to be desired.

The next track "Page Ripped Out" starts off with a bouncy, energetic guitar riff, but the highlight of the song has to be the bridge section, building up from the bottom with the bass guitar and leading into the final chorus. 

So the best is yet to come? You can bet your bottom dollar. "Low Tops and Make-up" gives an interesting perspective on a failed relationship, and does it bloody well. The chorus here is easily the best out of all 3 songs, and I'm sure is a shout-a-thon at live shows.   

All in all, a well-produced cd from a band that has more potential than they are perhaps giving off. Although disappointingly average in places, I'm sure we'll be hearing more from these guys in the future.

Joe D


Satellite Dub - London Has More Lights (download only)

Craig Brown builds on his already impressive portfolio of earlier releases as Satellite Dub with this trippy two track download single. Less of the throbbing bass and pulsating beats than on previous records, 'London Has More Lights' is a twinkling, swirling electro with just a touch of melancholic undertone. B-side 'Strangelets' follows up this vibe with a wobbly synth sound and more down-tempo rhythms. If 'Trying to Stop a Tank With Your Hands' got you in a lather, then this release is the perfect antidote to calm you back down again.



The Antec Sonata - Challenge Anneka EP

A rattly rusty string guitar sound and disaffected distressed vocals instantly bring to mind the likes of Call Me Loretta as a comparison. 'A Night Out in Bedford' sounds almost as scary as the actual experience of a night out in Bedford probably would be. The same method of off-tone vocals and scratchy guitars is used again in 'Sink the Bottle Down' though there are some slightly unexpected chord changes which keep things fresh. There's a quiet-loud-quiet vibe to 'Destruction' but the wailing and rusty strings are beginning to wear a little thin by this point. 'Mr Nobby' and 'White Noise' offer more of the same at a point when the Ep should be crying out for something a little different. A good start but room for improvement.



Nerina Pallot - Learning to Breathe (14th Floor)

The fact that I heard this song being sung on The Heaven & Earth Show this morning (while channel hopping I might add, I have not suddenly become enthused with god's majesty in 2007) speaks volumes. Pallot can write a good tune, she has a good voice and is after that slice of the music market occupied by twenty or so other equally talented and able female singer-songwriters. 'Learning to Breathe' is one of those frustrating songs where everything is just-so but nothing is outstanding. Excellent music to play in the background at Tescos.
Watch the video to 'Learning to Breathe'



Tenderhooks - Slap Happy

There's something about this quirky electro knees up that screams gimmick. It's not the fact that Tenderhooks employ a cartoon character to add identity to the band. It's not the fact that one of the Saatchi brothers is involved in the production. It's more to do with the cheesey synth slap bass, the throw away Rocky Horror interludes and the meaningless lyrics. Apparently it took 6 years years for the band's creator Markus Leinweber to get going. That's about right - if this had been released 6 years ago it may have sounded a bit fresher and more interesting but I'm afraid the Gorillaz got there first.



popup - Chinese Burn (art/goes/pop)

popup are rapidly gaining a reputation as a band who cannot record a bad song. Whereas 'Lucy, What You Trying to Say?' was a quirky pop gem, 'Chinese Burn' is it's bigger, badder older brother and will not let you listen without first stealing your dinner money. Unremittingly pacey with a relentless rising guitar skit that screams fun, this track will pummel you into popup worship. There's even room for a slowy, a kind of post Gregorian chant tune on the B-side to let you get your breath back. Nice touch.



The Poppers - Boys Keep Swinging (PHD)

Pseudo Rolling Stones copycat nonsense. There's no room for this in my CD collection, nah nah  na na na nah...



Original Cast - Confidence

An intriguing East 17 meets Chumbawamba meets Carter the Unstoppable Sex machine featuring samples from Ray 'You think aahhm a mug' Winstone. It's an unlikely combo but it's got a certain something about it. There's more weirdness when the piano led ballad of 'I Got in a Fight' turns into a song which sounds like it may have been spawned in Frankfurt Euro happy hardcore party. Generally there's a theme of examining modern life, drinking and girls - not ground breaking but Original cast deserve some credit for doing it in their own distinct way.



Koopa - Three in a Bed With Bobby George (Juxtaposition)

Topical stuff from Essex 3-piece who not only named this EP after the legendary chav king darts player Bobby George, but also got him to appear on the album artwork too. And all the same week as the World Darts Championships on telly! But for all the appealing in the press release about Koopa not sounding like a standard teenage angsty formulaic emo-punk outfit, I'm afraid to me that' exactly what they do sound like. Blink 183 etc etc, though to their credit - Koopa actually do it a lot better than most of their contemporaries. Just not my bag.



BlowUpBlow - Supertonight

I'm always wary of bands that make grandiose claims about treading new ground as more often than not they turn out to be a something-by-numbers group with over-inflated egos or just plain rubbish. So it was with a certain degree of trepidation I settled down to listen to BlowUpBlow.

Less than 30 seconds into "Supertonight" and feet already tapping along with a bassline that tugs at the memory and occasionally off-beat and dischordant guitars that seem to fight against each other for your attention while blending perfectly. The breathy hush of the vocal helps draw you into the song as the guitars ebb and flow. All in all, a pleasant surprise, and a catchy one at that!

While the title track reminds me of the Rapture more than anyone else I've heard of late, the extra two bonus tracks (get anywhere and lost all control - check out if you're curious) are intruiging and show a leaning more towards old-school krautrock and prog than anything else, like that stuff your dad used to torture you with as a kid but now seems pretty cool as you yourself edge closer towards pipe and slippers age. There's a remix of "supertonight" as well which I'm not really a fan of as I think it loses some of the hooks that make the original version so appealing

I have no doubt that this single will inspire people to shake their thang, but at 8 1/2 minutes long it'll probably need an edited version to get some decent airplay.



Page 44 - s/t

I remember being somewhat disparaging about Page 44 last time I reviewed them. I have to admit that this effort is an improvement in quality if not in originality. Crank up the scream-teen angst emo and guitars and let them rip. A couple of nice vocal harmonies but otherwise nothing to write home about. It's not trying to be trendy to suggest it is time to move on - this style has just been done to death already. Sounds like a demo of a Danish band called Saybia I received about 10 years ago. Saybia went on to win an MTV award, and even that was 5 years ago.



The Hedrons - Heatseeker (Measured)

A massive improvement on their last single, 'Heat seeker' is a reet catchy tune, sounding a bit like a bunch of chain smoking teenagers doing Hole covers. This sounds far more rounded and mature than 'I Need You' and they achieve a squalid grunginess without resorting to the gravelly vocals which blemished the last single. They look bloody cold on that roof in the video though.
Watch the video to 'Heatseeker' here



The Cravats with Paul Hartnoll - Seance (Caroline True)

It's common knowledge that I am a bit of an Orbital fan so little surprise that this single touched by the genius of Paul Hartnoll is a winner with me. It takes quite a deft touch to collaborate with seminal 80's art-punk band act The Cravats and Hartnoll pulls it off with panache.



Vincent Vincent and the Villains – Johnny Two Bands (EMI) 

I eagerly took this CD as I thought I’d heard good things about this band and thought I’d heard stuff by this band. The title track is pleasant enough in a sort of faux surf guitar sort of way, and wastes a couple of minutes of a tedious post Xmas afternoon. Seven Inch Record is equally nice, but I find myself actually wondering why they bothered? Contractual obligations I suppose (4/10)
Watch video to 'Johnny Two bands'

Dave Procter


EB11 - She

Miami-based songsmith EB11 has put together a crunching rock EP here which transcends the common place OC sound track genre by actually sounding like he means what he sings about and then layering tons of dirty guitars over the top. Vaguely reminiscent of London's Flight 14. I;m not sure it would keep my attention for a full length release but as a quick rock out it sounds great.



Soular - Faking a Gun

Don't get me wrong - I hate all this hype about terrorist threats, ever more vigilant security checks, exploding milk bottles on planes etc. Hell, you can even get an email sent to by the government to tell you exactly how scared you should be of a terrorist threat at the moment. Really. But Soular have gone one step further and recorded a track to accompany a petition since their guitarist was refused entry to the UK on suspicion of trying to find work here. (Well hey, he had forgotten his ticket after all). Sounds like sour grapes to me but 'Faking a Gun' is a powerful yet Sergeant Pepper-poppy track that will surely get Foreign Secretary Margaret BEckett look into the system used by immigration officials to vet incoming musicians...yeah, right. to sign their petition



Mad Staring Eyes - Walking in the Streets

Jerky agit rock with clever stop-start chorus. Vocals sound like they have been nicked from The Killers last album. If you have only ever bought five CDs in your life you will love this, otherwise you have probably heard it all before. Actually that chorus gets really annoying by the end too...'running through the streets, running through the streets'...grr!



Kovak - Nightclub

For once I agree with the NME - this does sound like a latter day version of Goldfrapp - before they started writing really boring songs that thousands of fans at festivals could just stomp along too. 'I love the Dancefloor' still has that disco vibe that makes it a million times more danceable than Goldfrapp's 'Ooh La La' and 'Never Find Love in a Nightclub' is even better again.



Babypinkstar vs. Bonnie Tyler - Total Eclipse of the Heart (Stick)

Sweet Jesus - this is just so wrong. Tyler's laryngitic vocals (increasing hoarse over the passing years) set to some kind of happy house disco tune. With fuzzy guitars and solo. It should be babypinkstar vs. Bonnie Tyler, in a celebrity death match, or at least with the loser destined to launder Pete Waterman's jock strap for the rest of eternity while pondering the error of their ways...



Husky Rescue - Nightless Night (Catskills)

I like the idea of rescuing huskies - they have a hard enough life as it is. I also like the idea of Husky Rescue, an up tempo mix of folk and electronica. 'Nightless Night' is driven on a bouncing 'bom-ba' bassline with little inklings of slide guitar and cutesy vocals. Very pleasant.
Watch the video to 'Nightless Night'



Sixpeopleaway – EP 

Not being able to break into the tightly wrapped plastic sheath on this CD was not a very good start and blooming annoying. Once in however I discovered Alistair Merrick, a singer Songwriter, not in the stereotypical James Blunt kind of way but in the good old fashion talented singer songwriter way. His brand of song craft incorporates laptop ready beats and grooves with his boyish vocal charms and acoustic guitar, perhaps in a style similar to Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly. Alistair tries, and fails, to some extent, to make the music his own with the very generic laptop loops which sound boring plain and a bit cheap. ‘Time is Everything’ however is a stand out track on this EP after the first two tracks didn’t really grab my attention. The track shows Alistair as more of a musician, without the false computer beats acting as a very un-necessary add on after thought. This and the next track shows much more promise but his music seems limited to the cold pages of myspace. My advice is to get out there on the road, not just in Scotland but throughout Britain playing his songs live, maybe even scraping the laptop and keeping it simple, joining all the other millions of singer songwriters this Country seems to have hidden up its sleeves. On second thoughts maybe the laptop would prove useful.

Gareth Ludkin


The Haiku -Not Enough People Are Wearing Hats

Pretty uninspiring acoustic guitar based stuff here with vocals that sound slightly too strained. The exception is the second track 'Blind Man Takes The Gun' which has a cool choppy rhythm but the earnest lyrics even take the edge of this a bit.



Karno’s Army – EP 

Karno’s army sounds like really polite indie pop and doesn’t do it very well. All round the EP is a bit lame, a bit tired a bit like anything else you’ve heard before. There’s nothing to inspire, nothing different or imaginative. Karno’s army just doesn’t cut the mustard in my book and despite the positive spin of the press release I was left wondering where the hell they came up with such a crap name, so I whacked on the Beatles on instead to cheer me up.

Gareth Ludkin


30 Seconds to Mars - Attack (Virgin)

Apparently 30 Seconds to Mars are fronted by the actor Jared Leto who appeared in Fight Club. He does a good job of screaming the vocals over the top of the guitars and synth sounds which I guess firmly entrenches 'Attack' in the screamo category. It's OK but I think it will rely heavily on its celebrity endorsement.
Watch video to 'Attack'



Annuals - Big Zeus EP (Virgin)

Blimey - opening track 'Carry Around' sounds like an explosion in Radioshack. Similar to Wakefield's musical genius Napoleon IIIrd, there seems to be a lot of analogue clatters and bangs knocking around but all held together with some nice guitars and vocals. 'Ida, My' is a perfect example of this, starting as a simple yet beautiful acoustic guitar number before mutating with a collection of increasingly warped synths and bleeps. An impressive debut.



Whirlwind Heat & Lightspeed Champion - How Do You Do/In My Dreams (Brille)

In the past I've managed to give Whirlwind Heat a bit of a slagging off. I've also managed to slag off Test Icicles on a regular basis. Quite a surprise then to find that I really quite like this collaboration between Whirlwind Heat and ex-Test Icicle Devonte Hynes. It seems that each has managed to cancel out the excesses of the other - the crunchy 'In Utero' era Nirvana style guitars are carefully offset by the languid vocals on 'How do you Do?'. In comparison the guitars and samples in 'My Dreams' float by wispishly well.



Thoughts Collide - I'll Buy You a Megaphone

Impressive tech-rock from Brighton based Thoughts Collide. 'I'll Buy You A Megaphone' moves through a number of different atmospheres almost like orchestral movements including a fine fret tapping guitar section before winding up at the 5 minute mark.

'Sea of a Thousand Lights' is a heavier number but it still has it's really well constructed quieter moments with clear, ringing guitars which are just setting themselves up to be destroyed by the return of the drums. Spilling over with ideas so keep an eye out for this lot.



Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - Lay & Love (Domino)

Seems from reading previous reviews of Bonnie 'Prince' Billy's past offerings that he can do little wrong. Despite not having heard much of the past stuff, I can confirm that this is not about to buck the trend. Beautiful boy-girl harmonies, gentle finger picked guitar and all over the top of some popping, wheezing drum pattern - quite magnificent.



Rob McCulloch- Six of One (Glad Rag Records)

Rather surprisingly, Rob McCulloch isn’t Scottish. And one listen to Six of One will confirm that without a shadow of a doubt. Rob hails from Bolton, and he’s got the accent to prove it. Six of One is a brilliant single, and with any luck should soon be gracing Radio One playlists. It’s a song about getting in fights on street corners because you look a little different to someone else- in Rob’s case a pink jumper. With a brilliantly catchy chorus Six of One is way ahead of its contemporaries. Once Rob dodges the inevitable Artic Monkeys and Jamie T comparisons it’ll be his for the taking.

Catriona Boyle


Mr Hudson & The Library-Too Late, Too Late (Mercury) 

Too Late, Too Late swings like a hammock on a breezy summer’s day. The rough around the edges vocal add to the mellow feel of the track- no-one’s trying too hard, which matches the lyrics perfectly- “let’s have a beer, another beer, that is a fine idea my man”.  Unsurprisingly the remix won’t turn Too Late, Too Late into a dance floor filler, but who would want it to be.

Catriona Boyle


Findlay Brown- Come Home (Peacefrog)

Come Home, is, quite frankly, lovely. Whether or not an ex- Northern bare-knuckle boxer wishes to be described as lovely is another matter. Its lilting acoustic guitar and simple but poignant lyrics could warm the coldest of hearts. And if not, he’ll punch you. 

Catriona Boyle


Joy Surrender - Demo CD

Falling neatly into the melodic post-emo-something-core genre, Joy Surrender sound a damn sight better on first listen than most bands of a similar style that I've heard of late. Despite being the band's first proper demo, the songs are surprisingly well structured, expertly performed and jam packed full of riffage. What's more, they really grow on you after a few listens and leave you wanting more. The sound seems to settle on a ready mix of Silent Drive, Thrice and Armor For Sleep and I can imagine it translating really well live.

The only real criticism I'd have is that it feels like it needs to be meatier, the guitars feel like they should have a wee bit more punch to them, but this is understandable as its only a demo quality recording and I certainly recommend keeping tabs on these guys in the future! These are tunes brimming with early promise; Joy Surrender sound like underground heroes in the making, lets hope they can realise this potential!



The Hermit Crabs – Feel Good Factor (Matinee)

Yeah, yeah, yeah, so The Hermit Crabs might sound pretty much similar to Camera Obscura. But, so what? There aren’t many better bands to sound like, after all.

‘Feel Good Factor’ is a lovely little ditty, seemingly dedicated to the good people of Sauchiehall Street in that there Glasgow. It’s almost a polka, or a waltz, or something. It’s a bit continental in parts, anyway.

And it’s a thousand times better than anything Belle and Sebastian have done in the last four or five years.

Sam Metcalf


Giant Paw – Early Riser/Something Around A...

Well, this is something a little different. Pleasant and imaginative limited edition screen-printed artwork. Looks rather fetching ... if only the music lived up to the promise the beautiful packaging brings.

The first track "Early Riser" sounds much like the band are still asleep, it plods along slowly with monotoned vocals, never gathering any pace or even shifting key once throughout the whole six and a half minutes. The whistling parts are nice, with a kind of wistful feel about them, but really that's it.

"Something Around A..." is a little bit more purposeful; more umph to the guitar and a quick electronica beat help set the pace. Sadly what semblance of decent song there might be in here is destroyed by a massive overuse of delay effects on the vocal. Some people might love this I guess, but to me its just distracting.

Don't get me wrong here, i don't mind experimental stuff but to me there's just nothing to draw you in, neither song lifts at any point but rather the band seem content to just meander along for a bit longer than absolutely necessary. If you're excited by the the prospect of listening to the output of a performing arts group then this is probably your kind of thing, but if you like things such as hooks and choruses then I wouldn't recommend it.



Harper Lee – He Holds a Flame (Matinee)

Another understated classic from Keris Howard and co. I’m so annoyed that the recent Harper Lee compilation was stolen from me, and I apologise for the belated review of this.

Anyway, ‘He Holds a Flame’ sees Harper Lee at their most upbeat and lucid, and

‘I Could be Wrong’ is almost happy. God forbid! We’re back to form with ‘William Blake’, which exudes the quintessential Englishness that I’ve come to know and love from Harper Lee.

Quite how a band can maintain such a high level of output is beyond me, but the ‘Lee do it effortlessly.

Sam Metcalf


The Answer – Come Follow Me (Albert Productions)

Part of the set of bands that seem to think that sounding like AC/DC is the way forward, The Answer hurt my pop sensibilities with their long hair and tight trousers. Indeed, it’s two minutes in and I’m not following them. Time for ejaculation.

Sam Metcalf


Dan Sartain – Flight of the Finch (One Little Indian)

Sartain continues on his mission to fuse Latino with rock ‘n’roll, and he just about manages it with ‘Flight of the Finch’. Where this could’ve sounded like a piano falling down the stairs, it actually ends up something of a triumph.

Coming to an annoying advert near you, very soon.

Sam Metcalf


The Early Years – The Great Awakening (Beggars Banquet)

Well, this makes for a refreshing change. Rattling guitars in a barrel rolling down a hill, or something, open up this perky single. Like a much more intelligent and well-rounded Killers, ‘The Great Awakening’ reminds me more of early New Order and is sparkly and bright and makes me want it to be Spring next week. Good times ahead.

Sam Metcalf


Balor Knights – Tornado (Phantom Power)

Veterans of the Sheffield circuit, Balor Knights finally have something out we can listen to. And it’s not half bad. It’s a big sound, for sure, and reminds me a little of the Edsel Auctioneer’s earlier poppy stuff. There’s a nice, garage-y feel to this which makes me think they’d be ace live (and why have I never seen them?).

B-side ‘’ is altogether more punky and suffers a little from crap production, but is thrilling enough to pass for me. Hugely enjoyable.

Sam Metcalf


Honeytrap - The Naked Dancing EP (Tough Love)

Call me a square, but 'Let's Do Naked Dancing' is just so damn quirky that it gets on my nerves. Jerky, yelpy, strings, trebly guitars - this is the sonic equivalent of attention deficit disorder. So welcome then, second track 'I Don't know How it Begins' soothes my ears with a simple beat on just a couple of drums and a lovely descending guitar line which is accompanied by the soothing vocals and a string arrangement which eventually builds into a tumultuous finale with horns. The remaining tracks, 'Spotlight' and 'Mussolini's Son' sit somewhere in between their preceding contemporaries, neither too jerky nor lo-fi. A bit of everything worth having a listen to.



The Whip - Muzzle No. 1 (Southern Fried)

A bit of a disappointment after some of their previous stuff, 'Muzzle No. 1' sounds like someone desperately trying to inject some electro interest into an otherwise pretty cumbersome three chord indie song. On the other hand you do at least get four re-workings of the same song so if you do like it you'll get a real treat. Of course if you didn't like it...



The Maple State - Joanna/Wood and Rain (High Voltage)

Manchester's The Maple State are difficult to describe but manage to straddle the middle ground between light hearted indie pop and a more brazen stadium indie of folk such as Bloc Party and The Kasiers. 'Joanna' is a perfect example with a lovely keyboard part pleasantly bubbling along as an undercurrent to the vocal chorus of 'pah pah pah pahs'.

'Wood and Rain' has more than a nod towards the past with an Alarm inspired drum thump going on. Gentle yet catchy.



HUBB - I Love Ya, I Don't Even Know Ya (Shake UK)

Call me cynical but could the reason that the high quality DVD of the hot pant wearing, tight t-shirt clad, rather lithe HUBB front woman Lynsey Barrow is included in this package be that her visual pleasures are the only real selling point for this band? This sounds like a Liberty X song recorded by a rawk band because, you know, that's what the kids are listening to at the moment. Then the whole of the rock element is completely mixed out in the production. Baffling. Not bad, but baffling.



Damien Rice - Rootless Tree (Heffa/14th Floor)

'Rootless Tree' is one of those tracks which you may think you have heard a thousand times before but still sounds great. Rice really gives his all in the harrowing choruses despite the fact that the rude words have all being dubbed out - well how else is he going to get his talented mits on all those awards he keeps getting nominated for?



Adam Tedder - It'll Be Soon/Eastern Girls (Whimsical)

In comparison with Damien Rice, 'It'll Be Soon' just seems completely toothless. Halfway through and it still sounds like an intro. And 'Eastern Girls' sounds like a Kat Bush song covered by a mature Aled Jones until some studio guitars and drums kick in, though sadly still in an uninspiring way. At least Tedder still has his acting to go back to.



Listen With Sarah - My Little Hula Girl (Cherryade)

Cherryade's trail of corruption and bribery in the form of slipping in a few sweeties with each release continues. As does their habit of releasing stuff that many labels would class as commercial suicide but which in fact is doing DIY music massive favours. 'My Little Hula ( WWW remix)' is a tropical sounding ditty overlaid with heavy northern accents musing over 'www', 'dotcom', 'dotorg' and 'the internet'. It shouldn't work. It has no right to work. But it is a joyously whimiscal track that cannot fail to please.

'Animal Boum!' is a variation on the theme with farmyard animal samples looped over a slow drum pattern with some antique horn sounds thrown in for a bit of accompaniment. Final track 'Drum n Berceuse' is the nearest thing to 'normal' a breakbeat drum n bass set over samples of old school BBC announcements and parlour piano playing and is heading towards the direction of Bentley Rhythm Ace. All good thanks.



Mark Ronson - Toxic (Columbia)

As if ex-pat Dj and producer Ronson had not done enough to us by working with Robbie Williams, Lily Allen, Amy Winehouse and Christina Aguilaera he decides to do a cover version of Britney Spears 'Toxic'. Fortunately it's a bit tongue in cheek with lots of gangster rap and parpy horns but should still be approached with caution.
Watch the Mark Ronson video diary



Koopa - Blag, Steal & Borrow (Juxtaposition)

So this is the single which all the fuss was about, the first to get into the charts purely on the volume of online sales alone? Fancy that. It's a pretty radio friendly teen-rock number that is played and produced tightly, ticking all those boxes which would make it a hit in say, the charts.



And His Voice Became - Lost / Spare Snare - Riding (Bracken Mix) (Bracken Records Fern 07)

And His Voice Became produce a kind of lo-fi intense acoustic track in 'Lost' that sounds like it was recorded in a cardboard box with rusty stringed toy guitars and a tin drum. And all the better for it - dark, powerful and claustrophic.

Spare Snare by comparison instantly utilise a reverb on the vocals and a ringing guitar sound which aims to be much more expansive but actually ends up getting a little lost. However, still top marks for intensity and feeling and both bands warrant a bit more future attention.



Silicon Vultures - Sour Tits (Captains of Industry)

Silicon Vultures sound thoroughly unpleasant. And I mean that in the nicest possible way. Synth punk pop is ten a penny at the moment but Silicon Vultures manage to yelp just a little bit more, mangle the keyboards just a little harder and crash up the drum beats just a little louder than most of their contemporaries and this may well be their making.
Download the MP3 as a .zip file



Martin 101 - Dangerous Cat (Thirteen)

A broody euro quality to this electro-noir number by Austrian Martin 101 is neatly counterpoised by a playful plucking riff. The vocals are a bit reminiscent of Depeche Mode and the track oozes cool despite our martin looking like a bit of a pimp on his sleeve art. Not to be confused with Pheobe's Smelly Cat. For added comedic value there is a truly bizarre cover of Chip Taylor's classic 'Wild Thing' featuring a pulsating electro beat and big phased vocals - definitely original.



Yes Boss - See It Through (Dance to the Radio)

Ex indie boys Yes Boss manage to carry this otherwise pretty bland track with their electric hip hop delivery which is fast, precise and just a little bit silly. Imagine The Streets having undergone therapy and up to their eyeballs on uppers. Well no-one likes a misery guts do they?



The Low Miffs - Also Sprach Shareholder (White Heat)

The Low Miffs are not ones for creating a sound then sticking with it. Not even within the same song. 'Also Sprach Shareholder' (what on earth does that mean?) twists and snakes about between it's Berlin-era Bowie saxophone, it's huge crashing cymbals and punkish vocals without giving you the chance to relax and enjoy. Well I am too hasty, there is enjoyment - the same kind you get when plummeting toward the ground at 100mph on a roller coaster.



Tillmanns - Superfiction (Bracken)

Uber cool Swedes Anders and Bjorn have managed to harness the current trend for 80s sounding influences and regurgitated them onto this CD which is more 80's than a lot of stuff actually was back then. That's a poor sentence to describe a very good track in 'Superfiction'. 'Frame of Mind' has got an early New order vibe about it and is all the better for the guys sounding like they are not trying too hard (Bernie Sumner anyone?).



Mark-Anthony Abel - In Vain

I should have known that my current good mood would be brought to a juddering halt by yet another journeyman singer-songwriter. Abel has a tender warm voice but when he starts warble and the minor key that most of 'In Vain' is written in turns to a major key it makes my toes curl. All the atmosphere that has been gathered seems to escape in another piano driven chorus you will no doubt here in the aisles of Tescos. If I'd hired him to play at a wedding I would be pleased. If I'd paid to hear him I would be disappointed.



South Central - ‘Castle of Heroes’

The intro is something that Aphex Twin would be proud of, and really grabs your attention. But once the chords come in the song just ticks over. The idea doesn’t seem to develop as much as the intro would have us believe. It also lacks the quirky hook that most electro efforts fall back on to overcome this problem.

That’s not the case with ‘Dolls’. A bit more easy going, a sweet ambient lead sound pings in after another hectic Aphex style intro. The complex parts complement each other really well, and don’t detract from the chilled out impression that the song pervades. The breaks really add another dimension, the kind of development that ‘Castle Of Heroes’ sadly lacked.

The distorted echoing lyrics taken from a W.B. Yeats poem sound nice and loud-mouthed. The only problem is they also sound like they’re being sung by Borat. The drums seem to regularly skip a beat, a nice touch that some might find fault with on first hearing.

Also included on this release is the full-length version of ‘Castle Of Heroes’, which just seems to drag on, and a, ‘sans Borat’, instrumental recording of ‘Dolls’, which is definitely worth a listen.

‘Castle Of Heroes’ is released 19th February on 12” and download only.

Nick Wood