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singles/eps - august 2008

Neon Neon - I told her on Alderaan/Trick for Treat 

If anyone could make good, melodic argument for the 80s comeback then this Gruff Rhys/Boom Bip team up would be it.

First off: chart busting gooey pop in the form of ‘I told her on Alderaan’ lets Rhys imagine a girl ‘with a face from an animation’ while Bip goes all-out drum machine parade and ice cold synths on the production side. ‘Trick for Treat’ is less likely to excite the children who have just got over their Spice Girl faze, Spank Rock bring their smutty rap to the Neon Neon table with great success.

Both these tracks do what they set out to do, and they could be played in almost every club up and down the country without loosing any credibility. Result! Join Neon Neon for that 80s renaissance.

Nick Burman


We The Faceless - s/t

We The Faceless have been called the pioneers of ‘new grunge’ and it is clear why. The band are heavily influenced by the famous grunge bands of the 90’s like Nirvana and Soundgarden. Vocalist Jacques Smit even sounds very similar to Chris Cornell so it is no wonder people who loved the 90’sgrunge scene are jumping onboard with We The Faceless. By creating a very minimalist sound they have managed to step away from the norm of modern day alternative rock bands, rather than using fast, thrashing guitar riffs and blast beat drumming, We The Faceless have gone for a very simple yet very successful sound. With gritty vocals the most notable talent of this band it once again goes back to the days of grunge when the front man’s voice defined the band this is also true of We The Faceless, where the vocals of every song are sung with passion and power. We The Faceless have managed to create something fresh from something new and they seem to have found the perfect mix of old and new to generate a somewhat unique sound for the current state of our music scene. With a short tour of Spain due in the summer it will be interesting to see what Europe thinks of this ’new grunge’ outfit but I think it is safe to say that no matter where We The Faceless travel they are bound to gather fans all around the globe, they just produce a sound that you can’t seem to hate.

Tim Birkbeck


Between The Screams - Embryo

This progressive metal band from south east Essex are the latest band of this genre to break onto the UK metal scene. Following in the shadows of such bands at Devil Sold His Soul, Botch and Isis. Between the Screams combine ambience and metal to create an original sound. The use of both aggressive and melodic vocals has become almost a trademark of this genre of progressive metal and Between the Screams is no different. For those who are into this scene Between the Screams are a band who will definitely find themselves new fans. As they have already supported bands like Devil Sold His Soul and The Miramar Disaster, it shows that they are a band moving in the right direction. With heavy guitar riffs and hard hitting drumming being accompanied by the powerful voice of vocalist Adam Ralph it’s not hard to see why Between the Screams are getting so much critical acclaim. With the release of ’Embryo’ set for the end of July it is sure to be an E.P that will generate a lot of hype and pick up a following, and with Between the Screams set to go into the studio to write their debut album in September it will surely bring in more fans for this band and hopefully some headline shows of their own. Usually with the progressive metal scene it becomes the “ you are either a fan or you’re not” but I think Between the Screams may have the ability to bring many more fans into the scene. They may even go onto to be one of the bands at the forefront of the UK progressive metal scene.

Tim Birkbeck


Vanadium – EP-ic  

This four song EP contains some fairly standard metal riffage. Much is made of the twin lead guitars and there is evidence of impressive solos and tight playing. However, it is the vocals that let the band down. I have to say I am in awe of anyone that can growl like a tiger and then have any semblance of a normal singing voice, but the singer doesn’t do either well enough here. All credit to the boys for changing pace with the third track ‘Save The Day’ but I’m afraid to say all this does is point up the singer’s inability to carry the song. On the final track we are back on standard metal ground again with good soloing from those twin leads. Final verdict: good, tight playing which retreads familiar metal pathways without setting anything on fire.  

Richard Ash


The Thirst – My Everything (Wooden Records) 

The thirst are turning heads. Championed by Zane Lowe, loved by Ronnie Wood, collaborating with Pete Doherty, supporting the Sex Pistols and the Rolling Stones, and now reviewed by me. Sometimes life just gets better and better! I have to say I like them (like I’m going to argue with the Stones). The song whips along with bouncy guitars, good lyrics and catchy hooks. Think somewhere between Arctic Monkeys and the Jam and you’re halfway there. Nice work, I will definitely be checking out their album ‘On The Brink’ when it comes out. 

Richard Ash


Applicants - 'Life In The Bus Lane' (Tigertrap) 

Applicants defy description. 'Life In The Bus Lane' is, frankly, crackers. A series of sampled collages and in-yer-face lyrics bemoaning the parlous state of England today. Entirely lacking any sense of decorum, unable to stop themselves from throwing food around the canteen and blessed with more wit and brio than an entire boxed set of 'Have I Got News For You' dvds, Applicants just left a cardboard model of Rolf (in their eyes, a man-god) Harris on the lawn of Greenwich Observatory. And it isn't even rag week yet! What happens after they qualify from RADA is anyone's guess.

Jon Gordon


Japancakes - Soon / Touched (Sonic Cathedral)

Pay attention at the back please. Athens, Georgia based Japancakes apparently recorded a cover version of not just a single but the whole of My Bloody Valentine's album 'Loveless'. Ahh, you think, so this is a single from that album then? No my hasty friends, for further jiggery pokery has taken place and these two tracks are in fact a James Rutledge remix and a Ricardo Tobar remix of the previously recorded cover versions. Are you lost yet? Me too.

Sonically though, 'Soon' sounds like pretty standard 8-bit Casiocore, albeit with a disjointed smattering of live drums. 'Touched' is a more rounded version, all welling and phasing, it builds up and breaks down, but only very slightly. Maybe Japancakes should have stopped after just recording their cover versions.



Roots Manuva - Buff Nuff (Big Dada)

Sheffield dancehall anyone? Despite it's quasi-misogynistic overtones, 'Buff Nuff' is actually pretty funny - there, any credibility I might have still had remaining has now gone. Clocking in at just over 2 minutes Mr Manuva throws out the rhymes and Ross Orton mixes it up. Hard not to like it really.



Templeton Pek - No Assassination (Small Town Records)

Ripping off the name of Faceman in the A-Team may be a prudent move (well, better than calling yourselves BA Baracus at least). No Association have a massive arena style sound, akin to Funeral for a Friend and their type but the forced vocals really turn me off - sounds like the singer has got a French Fry stuck down his throat.



The Cedar Falls - s/t EP

Their second proper recording and this promises much for The Cedar Falls. Ball crunching guitar riffs along with a proper man-voice vocal (take note Templeton Pek) make 'Abondon' a winner. Although I may sound like I have maxed on on macho TV like Top Gear and err, Final Score, it is just refreshing to see a group hammer out their tunes without any trendy affectations or obvious hero worshipping of influential bands. Sure there is a definite taste of Sound Garden and Limp Bizkit in 'Twilight' but never to excess. And this is why The Cedar Falls may fail - they just keep on doing their own damn thing. But that's why I will keep listening to them.



The Bug feat. Tippa Irie - Angry feat. Tippa Irie (Ninja Tunes)

Fast chat, dub step, reggae legends, dancehall, grime, hip-hop...they are all thrown in here. 'Angry' is about as accessible as The Bug ever gets while Tippa Irie sounds a million miles away from the sound which got him to No. 1 with Hello Darling'. But most of all this all comes together brilliantly - it sounds clubby but hang on to its reggae roots - an unexpected hit, for me at least.



Last Man Down - Killing Time (Karate Kid)

Lightweight 'oh look at the terrible state of the word we live in' style musings from a band who probably all spend £60 a month getting their hair cut at Toni & Guy. 'What's it like to run in circles? What's it Like to feel worthless?' yeah yeah - heard it all before. Carter USM were singing about it 20 years ago and doubtless plenty before them. Sorry - I just really don't buy it.



Karim Fanous - Architects Son / Top of the World (KNN)

Ahh, the return of Karim Fanous for yet another single. And this one is a dandy. 'Architect's Son' is (I think) a tribute to Fanous' famous architect father (though at times it sounds like he is bemoaning the fact he is a forgotten son). Neat acoustic guitar work and a wild vocal add a massive amount of distinctiveness to this track. 'Top of the World' builds on the typical Fanous-like warbling vocal style, which is definitely not unlike able.



Alfonzo - Shuma (D Set)

Jesus - after what seems like a nice mellow, funky intro with a few samples thrown in to keep things techy, the vocal suddenly kicks in like an Iron Maiden song. A metal version of Kula Shaker - a pretty scary proposition no?



Rose Kemp - Nanny's World (One Little Indian)

Talking of distinctive can't accuse Rose Kemp of following the crowd. 'Nanny's World' follows her tried and trusted goth rock meets female diva formula with startling effect. A sparse collapsing guitar line which tumbles into the chaotic chorus - I'm sure this would sound fantastic live. And not too bad on CD either.



Matthew Ryan - Hold on Firefly / Jane, I still Feel the Same (One Little Indian)

If, in your most bleak and morbid moments, you ever wondered what it would be like listening to a pub singer perform his songs while suffering with severe constipation then you may just be saved the realism by listening to the equivalent in Matthew Ryan. 'Hold on Firefly' is a three chord plodder in a sub-sub-sub Springsteen mould while 'Jane, I Still Feel the Same' sees Ryan doing a slowy and a poor imitation of Damien Rice. Avoid.



The Dodos - Red and Purple (Wichita)

Fantastically clattery without ever really going anywhere, 'Red and Purple' sees San Franciso duo The Dodos sail their psych folk pop like a rudderless ship. It's mildy enjoyable even though you don't really know what you are doing and leaves you with a mildly concerned feeling inside. the bassy solo midway through is particularly ace.



Popular Workshop - Popsong

No press release, no info, just a white disc and sleeve. Well without the aid the aforementioned chattals this sounds to me a lot like ίForward Russia! except with vocalist Tom Woodhead on serious tranquilisers. Plusses and minuses then. I'd suggest you check them out for yourself but then we would need a web address for that.



Port O'Brien - I Woke Up Today (Co-Operative Music)

IF you think that the likes of Tilly and the Wall and Arcade Fire are the height of musical sophistication and bring a whole new dynamic to the notion of co-operative musicality then you will love Port O'Brien. 'I Woke Up Today' is a thoroughly cheery track with a big shouty sing along chorus. If, on the other hand, you are a borderline sociopath then you may find this single a little annoying.



Oh Laura - Release Me (Cosmos)

How in god's name did this one slip through the net and into the tasty mailbox. 'I am the wilderness locked in a cage' croons our chanteuse at the outset of this 3 minute plodder. In fairness when she gets going vocalist Frida Öhrn has a pretty good voice but I'm not sure this wishy washy ballad style is the best vehicle for it. Release Me indeed.



Thomas White - The Runaround (Drift)

I heard a bit of this album the other day and thought it sounded pretty intriguing. This single is no exception - masses of production to give it a huge spacey sound, a bit like some of the more recent Bowie albums (especially Heathen). There's a bridge that sounds a bit like the Timewarp from Rocky Horror but I'll forgive this indiscretion as there is so much else to praise about the track. Definitely composed as an epic and not far off achieving it - touches of Placebo and The Verve in their pomp too.



Buen Chico - Tell 'Em

Beneath their delicious bubblegum pop there is a steely resolve to Buen Chico and 'Tell 'Em' is a cunningly disguised call to arms against political apathy. The messages work brilliantly against the backdrop of raggy guitars - download it from their website.



The Splendour - Money (Tinyclan)

What a weird little tune this is - all indie guitar a la Pigeon Detectives, Supergrass et al for the most part then it morphs via a bit of faux Darkness stadium pomp into a Mariachi style outro. Truly bizarre then but I think I really quite like it.
watch the video to 'Money'



The Raid - On a Scale (Shifty Disco)

Uncomplicated rock and roll and delivered magnificently by The Raid. 'On a Scale' is a bit reminiscent of now-defunct Leeds band Vatican Jet in the way it just bounds with energy and no small amount of musical talent. 4 minutes of your life would be well spent listening to this.



Papa La Bas - I'll Come Around/Middle Lane (Basilica)

Despite the incredibly floral language and general nonsense in the press release, time was when this would fairly and squarely be labelled trip hop. 'I'll Come Around' sounds like it firmly came out of a Portishead recording session ten years ago. But 'Middle Lane' delves much deeper into the workings of papa La Bas and is made up a lot more disconcerting samples, loops and beats in a generally tense, claustrophic composition. Dark and uncomfortable, it's certainly not one to warm to but it will make you sit up and take notice.



History of Guns - Empty Eyes/But I'll Be Waiting (Line Out)

The second Rocky Horror tribute band this month? Almost, though 'Empty Eyes' is perhaps more like Nine Inch Nails' 'Terrible Lie' being sung by John Lydon. The instrumentation sounds disappointingly dated and the vocals hardly lend it any further gravitas.

'But I'll be Waiting' does not sound that much different to be honest, like a speeded up version of 'Empty Eyes'. It's all just a bit gothic(k) and seems to take itself far too seriously for my liking.



Sneaky Sound System - Pictures (14th Floor)

A typically solid release from 14th Floor sees Australia's Sneaky Sound System play up their funked up version of CSS. Musically very much out of the whole LCD Soundsystem/Hot Chip stable of indie guitar dance cross over, 'Pictures' is an unmistakably summery anthem and as such is pretty good apart from the abysmal ending which sounds like someone just cut the power midway through the recording. That said, I found all of the remixes infinitely more interesting than the original - the South Central mash up being particularly vicious on the original arrangement.



Those Dancing Days - Run Run (Wichita)

Despite (or perhaps because of) their parpy keyboards, their twinkly guitars and their agile youthful vocals I find it hard to get excited by 'Run Run' - it sounds like a Christmas compilation filler on Now 364.



We Are Scientists - Impatience (Virgin)

As an unashamed fan of We Are Scientists it pains me to report that I would definitely not have released this track as a single from the album. It's a one paced plodder - disappointing.
Watch the video to 'Impatience'



Captive State - Elmore Grove (Genuine)

Although there are 8 members of the band, there's a nice intimate feel to Captive State on 'Mona' - a windswept travelling song if ever there was one. 'China White Doll' is a similarly beguiling with a brass section providing a warm accompaniment to the xylophone part and the vocalist sounding a little like David Thomas Broughton. Sadly the second half of the EP fails to live up to the first half even though 'Weatherman' does start of promisingly. 'Lost' just sounds plain dated, like one of those autoset rhythms you used to get on cheapo Casio keyboards in the 80s. But all things considered the two successful tracks from 'Elmore Grove' would make this worth the purchase alone.



MGMT - Electric Feel (Justice Remix) (Columbia)

In a rare show of admiration I actually quite liked the original version of 'Electric Feel'. Now with a ballsy Justice remix adding a harder edge tot he track, this one is even better. I probably need a lie down now.



Pendulum - The Other Side (Warners)

Previously I'd always been a bit bemused by Pendulum, they always sounded like a cross between the Prodigy and The Levellers. 'The Other Side' is a little bit different to these previous expectations - it's more like a cross between Lo Fidelity Allstars and The Prodigy. Oh yes, with a bit of Ladytron thrown in as well. But the overall smoother feel of this sound appeals to my ears a lot more than its overtly frenetic forerunners. Good stuff therefore. Oh yeah, and their embossed CD sleeve designs are superb.
Watch video to 'The Other Side'



Dead Young Records Sampler (The Cubical / A Love Supreme / The Lucid Dream / Yucatan) (Dead Young Records)

The Cubical seem to find themselves stranded somewhere between Ennio Morricone and Slayer. the resultant 'Edward the Confessor' is therefore a schizophrenic affair and not entirely listenable.

A Love Supreme have been immersed with producers who work with the likes of The Kaisers, Pigeon Detectives, The Music etc and it sounds like it. 'I Know You got Soul' is a bit over produced to paper over the cracks of what is a weak song. But it never stopped the Pigeon Detectives from selling records.

The Lucid Dream by comparison merge Sigue Sigue Sputnik with The Jesus and Mary Chain. Turn it up full whack on your stereo and zone out to 'I Got the Devil' for 5 minutes of supreme shoegazing.

And the best is saved for last. Wales' Yucatan give us a sample of what they are about with 'Un Clyfe' - 8 minutes of welling instrumentation, drones, spartan xylophones and doleful horns. Eerie and epic, easily comparable to Sigur Ros and Mogwai.