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singles/eps - march 2009



Post War Years – Whole World On Its Head

For all it’s lively bristling intent ‘Whole World On Its Head’ never really seems to go anywhere, instead ending up like a limp lettuce leaf being chewed by early Simple Minds at one end and Metronomy at the other. It occasionally gives little glimpses of livening up but ultimately it’s a bit dry, a bit intellectual and not that comfortable a listen. To confirm the fact, the B-side ‘Flames Like Tinder’ suffers almost exactly the same curse. Curiously frustrating.
www.myspace.com/thepostwaryears
Watch video for 'Whole World on Its Head'

SB

 

 

Groove Armada – Drop the Tough (B-Live)

I’ve always found it hard to get Groove Armada who to me signify the sound of a thousand anonymous holiday dance bars from San Antonio to Playa de Las Americas. I’ve been on enough dodgy holidays to know that I don’t want to listen to this stuff whether it’s at home with a glass of port or on an outdoor dancefloor with a glo-stick. But they go one step further with this release which sees them jump into bed with Bacardi like the corporate whores they are. But actually it’s not all bad – second track ‘El Padrino’ is much more minimal with a vaguely acid house vibe from the incessant synth key strokes and this is a bit more up my street.
www.groovearmada.com
watch video to'Drop the Tough'

SB

 
 

Kieronononon – Three Man Party EP (Roxxor Records)

Certainly a record that lives up to its title, Kieronononon’s fourth EP again falls under their “brutaltechnopunk” label of previous releases. Fun is the name of the game and it sounds like the band are on an all-week bender with Oliver Reed, George Best and David Hasselhoff. Sounding like ‘Egg Raid On Mojo’-era Beastie Boys flirting with pounding techno beats and machine gun guitars, they never let the listener settle; endings are abrupt and songs eclectic.

Mark Whiffin


 

The Wombats – My Circuitboard City (14th Floor Records)

Never mind pigs or dragons, last year was definitely the year of the wombat. They exploded onto the scene with their youthful high jinks and exuberance, coupled with ridiculously catchy songs in a naïve and honest endearing kind of way.

My Circuitboard City is the first peep we’ve heard from them this year, the and the first new material since last years A Guide To Love, Loss and Desperation.

Despite claims of a more post-punk, scuzzy direction this is business as usual for The Wombats, but with perhaps a few more sound effects in the background. There’s the happy but slightly bittersweet lyrics and themes, and a jangly chorus. It’ll certainly keep the fans happy, and as they say, if it ain’t broke…
www.myspace.com/thewombatsuk

Catriona Boyle

 

Amy Studt – Nice Boys

You’ve got to ask yourself sometimes what the point of a remix is. Take this release by Amy Studt – it comes with no less than 7 mixes – does that not undermine the value of the original version somewhat? I mean, there must be a near infinite number of ways to remix most tracks so simply by slinging 7 mixes on a single release makes me feel like the label is just slinging mud at a wall and waiting to see which bits stick. The ‘original’ track itself? Well it’s a bit Imogen Heap, a bit like a tame Alanis Morrisette and features an annoying chorus the likes of which has possibly not been seen since the school choir on Clive Dunn’s granddad. Dubious at best.
www.amystudt.com

SB


 

Sad Day for Puppets – Marble Gods/Big Waves (Sonic Cathedral)

It should be no surprise that this latest offering from Sonic Cathedral features all that is great and good in the world of shoegaze guitar fuzz pop. And Swedish group Sad Day for Puppets manage to do what Scandanavians do so often – like Saab taking our mighty Vauxhall Victor and refining it into their Saab 9-3, ‘Marble Gods’ turns the fuzz pedal to maximum and unleashes a feedback led melodic pop track the likes of which would possibly even eclipse the great Dinosaur Jr. AA-side ‘Big Waves’ is a bit of a disappointment by comparison, despite it’s reverby production it just lacks a bit of va va voom. Sure is pretty though.
www.soniccathedral.co.uk

SB


The Auteur – Hey! Watch This! (LAB)

The main point of note about this release is that who we assume is lead singer from the press release has enormous hair in proportion to his head. Otherwise it is that earnest teenage powerpop that most people over the age of 18 would quickly turn off. I’ve got to say it is as well done, if not better than most of its contemporaries with lots of vocal harmonies and overlaying melodies but it’s just a style that doesn’t rock my boat. Soz.
www.myspace.com/theauteuruk

SB


JJ Cale feat. Eric Clapton – Roll On (Because)

It may be a bit of a shame that JJ Cale chose to release this track as a single, perhaps largely due to the celebrity allure of being associated with Clapton. By all accounts Cale’s new album is a fine piece of work and would stand up on its own two feet whereas this track seems to have more of Clapton’s stamp on it than Cale’s own.
www.because.tv

SB


 

The Gentlemen – Sending Cards (The Stereo Tree)

The verses in ‘Sending Cards’ is probably choppier than Cape Horn on a windy day – fair play to the Gentlemen then who manage to round off each verse with a smoother rousing chorus which neatly bookends their earlier syncopathy. B-side ‘All’s Well’ is a bit more jazzy in sound which I find hard to roll with but demonstrates that The Gentlemen are well skilled bunch of musicians.
www.the-gentlemen.co.uk

SB


Sam Isaac – Come Back Home Tonight

Am I missing something here? Has Sam Isaac has another life as a successful musician which means that now everyone is supposed to swoon after him? All I can hear is a piano driven pop ballad ‘sung’ by a man who can’t sing but who is keen to entrust vocal duties to a team of harpies who provide ‘ahh-ahhs’ and ‘ooh oohs’ to all the choruses. Nope – I’ve listened to this about 10 times now and still can’t pick anything else remarkable out of it.
www.samisaac.co.uk

SB

 
 

Memory Cassette - Rewind While Sleepy EP

Memory Cassette are a highly secretive band, supposedly an off-shoot of Philadelphia’s Weird Tapes, who offer no band biog or photos or even the promise of live shows (this is a marketing strategy I should point out, it's not that they don't like us). I can't even tell you if the lead singer is male or female (although I'm pretty sure it's a guy), the warbled vocals being so electronically treated, and the register of some of the pitching being beyond most folks with a Y chromosome, unless your names Prince or Barry Gibb. Anyway, this is electro-space-pop of the variety that everyone listens to in utopian science fiction, whilst floating around in zero gravity drinking a milk shake. On 50mph, which I clocked at around 35mph, we get heavily phased guitars, keyboard bleeps, drum machine beats and sweeping synths while we're wooed with lyrics such as "galaxies between us when we come". Listen To The Vacuum melts a Beetlebum-lite melody over Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots-esque soft rock, while Ghost In The Boombox and Surfin (of the world wide web and not the ocean waves variety I assume) continue in a similar fashion. So if you miss Air, you like your trips on the mellow side, and you loved Barbarella but you thought 2001 was a bit too scary this should be right up your street, sorry, galaxy.

Stephen Jessep

 
 

Tom Williams & the Boat – Doing My Best EP (Wire Boat Recordings)

Now this, I like. Tom Williams & The Boat offer the mature sound of much older artists, blended with songs about homework and MSN Messenger. A deep male lead vocal calls out over a slightly folk/country backing featuring violins and piano, as well as the usual set up.

The sound is, very charming. I suppose if Noah & The Whale (wait a minute, these names seem to have a pattern) grew up a little bit, there'd be at a similar stage. And also similar to N&TW, there's considerably more band members than you'd ever suspect; six as it turns out. Surprisingly then, that the sound is so thin. Surprising, yet perfect. I think it would have been far too easy and get carried away and create a very dense and intense texture. However, the soft deep vocal relies on the thin background to shine through, and the Knopfler-esque guitars add subtle layers beneath one another.

The only downfall is that, after six songs you're left begging for more.
This is however, the third EP, and so there's a small back-catalogue to work through if you really want any more. Personal favourite; “Concentrate.”

I urge you to get involved with Mr Williams and his sea vessel.

Thom Curtis

 
 

The Xcerts – Crisis In The Slow Lane – (tra Mile/King Tuts)

The name Xcerts has been bounded about a little bit, and I was excited to hear what all the fuss was about. And as it turns out, judging by the latest single, we're all getting excited about Scotland's answer to Dashboard Confessional. There are glimpses of something dark, lurking beneath, and then just as you think it's breaking through, the grungy guitars end a sequence on a sickeningly happy major chord.

It's fairly different to anything major in the current music scene, but that's possibly because its scene has been and gone. I think if I was fourteen, this would excite me incredibly, but as it stands, it doesn't work for me.

From a technical perspective, they've got it going on. Despite personal tastes, Crisis In The Slow Lane, and it's b-side Weather Warning, are well written, and well performed. They follow all the guidelines of song-writing, and a powerfully emotive broad Scottish lead vocal.

If you like a bit of Dashboard, quite partial to some Taking Back Sunday, or even more recently, give Sam Isaac the thumbs up, then I think you'll quite like this.

Thom Curtis

 
 

You Me At Six – Save It For the Bedroom (Slam Dunk)

Coming in the same month as the ferocious Fashoda Crisis and the pristine beauty of Fran Rodgers does You Me At Six no favours and shows them up for the musical lightweights they are. This is formulaic teen rock, listen today, throw away tomorrow. So what if it has had 2 million plays on Myspace? Dull dull dull.
www.youmeatsix.co.uk
watch video to 'Save it For the Bedroom'

SB

 

Fran Rodgers – The Green Room EP (Daisy Lane)

This is a starkly beautiful set of songs from Leeds-based Fran Rodgers. From the slightly Baroque tones of the looped harmonies of Ep ‘The Lighthouse’, Rodgers has managed to find a perfect balance between her pure, almost virginal vocals and a darker, deeper melody than I have heard on her previous releases. Or maybe I’m just miserable and prefer this ostensibly less happy offering. Either way, there is little doubt that this is a big step up. Tom Fleming of Wild Beasts fame gets name-checked in ‘I See Horses Flee’ but it is the intricate finger picked guitars and shuffle snare drum that steal the show. It’s classical folk with a modern, personal twist. There’s room for a change of pace with ‘To This Land of Mine’ which sounds like Ralph McTell playing a Baptist hymn straight from the deep south. There’s an overall tautness to this whole 5-track EP which adds an extra tension to what I had heard on Rodgers’ previous releases. I’m completely won over.
www.franrodgers.co.uk

SB

 

Before All Time – A Study in Jealousy

There’s something curiously beguiling about this track. Even though I thought it was shaping up like the bastard love-child of Idlewild and You Me At Six, there’s a languid non-urgent stoner quality about it which more than makes up for the fact that several time signatures all seem to be colliding at once. Very promising.
www.myspace.copm/beforealltime

SB

 
 

The Travelling Band – Desolate Icicle (Sideways Saloon)

What is a desolate icicle? Are icicles more prone to loneliness due to their ephemeral existence? Who knows. But The Travelling Band use the theme to set three minutes of sparkling whimsy to. There’s folky harmonies, sitars underpinning the melody, honky tonk piano – all the things you need to herald the arrival of the summer. Which does not feature any icicles. Silly name.
www.thetravellingband.com

SB


Amadou & Mariam – Ce N’est Pas Bon (Because)

It’s not good. Not the track, the title. Unfortunately my limited grasp of French does not allow me to translate any of the other vocals. It’s a nice little track and there’s further Blur interference from Damon Albarn on keys but you have to wonder if they would have mae half the splash were it not for Albarn’s patronage. But wheras Coxon is using his influence for evil with Peter Doherty, at least Albarn is using his for good in raising awareness of music outside of what can be an Anglo-American axis of mediocrity.

SB

 
 

The Amateurs – Homesick EP (The Animal Farm)

I’m in no mood for this sort of nonsense this month. This sounds like Dire Straits circa 1985. It’s not quite that old but I do note from the press release that The Amateurs won Kerrang! Radio’s best unsigned song for 2007. It would be too easy a pun to play on the band’s name about this bland MOR tosh, I will resist the temptation. Time for a few rethinks and a new direction, possibly disbanding to a residency at the A66/M6 junction Brewer’s Fayre pub.
www.myspace.com/theamateursuk

SB

 
 

Peter Doherty – Last of the English Roses (Parlophone)

I didn’t know that everybody’s favourite tabloid sick puppy dog popstar Pete Doherty went by the name of Peter Doherty – I was expecting some bearded folky chap. Instead it was a very lacklustre effort sounding like a slowed down version of a Blur’s ‘Country House’. Then I found out that guitars were by Graham Coxon – top marks for me then. Sadly a fail for Mr Doherty who must be grateful for the public’s interest in his lifestyle seeing as his musical output is so dismal. I reckon he ought to try taking a few drugs to see if it improves his songwriting.
www.frenchdogblues.com

SB

 
 

New Rhodes – The Joys of Finding and Losing That Girl (Salty Cat)

I’m getting a strong sense of déjà vu (or déjà entendu I suppose) about this track by New Rhodes. They seem to possess the cunning trick of being able to hit you with so much verve and energy that you are carried along on a wave of euphoria and hype before suddenly being dumped in a heap at the end of the song, not really knowing what just happened to you. A bit like dating then getting dumped by a member of Girls Aloud if you will. New Rhodes must survive on a diet of Sunny D and Red Bull I reckon.
www.newrhodes.com

SB

 
 

Shuttle – Tunnel (Ninjatune)

Thought of the day - why is that DJs/producers always seem to disguise themselves behind some suitably abstract pseudonym? All we know in this case is that Mr Shuttle (as I shall refer to him) is Boston based (and I’m assuming that is Boston, Massachusetts, not Boston, Lincolnshire). But what he does with the track ‘Tunnel’ is quietly genius. He’s managed to subvert that Aphex Twin style soundscape (which in turn has already been subverted wildly away from what most high street shoppers would describe as normal music) back into something which is incredibly listenable. At points where Mr Twin (as I shall refer to him) veers off to sound like he has destroyed a whoopy cushion in a Kenwood chef mixer, ‘Tunnel’ exhibits a lighter touch; rumbling bass squelches and homely fizzes and whooshes abound but it all hangs together.
www.ninjatune.net

SB

 
 

Black Lips – Short Fuse (Vice)

There’s folk who revel in the minimal production and garage rock sounds of Black Lips but really, what the hell are they thinking of? Suitably cheap sounding piano keys, occasional b-movie sound effects and uninspiring vocals and guitar riffs. Black Lips may have pulled off one hell of a con to get a second album deal if this single is anything to judge by.
www.black-lips.com

SB

 
 

Navvy – Disco (Angular)

As the title would suggest, there is an element of choppy disco about this single. Navvy possess that quirky sound of Molloy but seem to lack some of their sophistication. There are large areas of this track which sound mechanical and hard-going – maybe this is the industrial north’s answer to their swanky London counterparts. Not bad at all but hard to love.
www.myspace.com/navvypop

SB

 
 

Trouble Books – Endless Books EP (MIE Records)

An incredibly warm and loving EP for those cold winter nights, sat by the log fire, watching the snow settle outside. Lush, dreamy vocals sit gently afloat a simmering concoction of strange and unique sounds, seasoned thoughtfully and subtlety. A companion piece to their full length ‘The United Colours of Trouble Book’ album, this is an outstanding EP.

Mark Whiffin

 

The Firm – Dismal Results (Whimsical)

It’s always a slight shock when you see yourself quoted on the press release of a band you are just about to start reviewing. Inevitable feelings of ‘was it really any good’ start to surface and you begin to wonder if your colleagues and peers who also receive this press release are laughing at your apparent lack of taste. Fortunately in this case, my taste is proven to be impeccable as The Firm following up their EP from 2007 with single ‘Dismal Results’- all swirling effects and nihilism befitting such an emotive title. There’s some Smiths influence in evidence and Ross Liddle’s terse vocals preach the word according to The Firm to the listener. ‘Release what you like, not what you should like’ say Whimsical. I couldn’t agree more.
www.myspace.com/thefirmband
watch the video to ‘Dismal Results

SB

 
 

Ice, Sea, Dead People – My Twin Brother’s A Brother / Brrr (Buyyourself)

Great name, disappointing music. It’s very well constructing near-unlistenable angular punk but if you want anyone outside a small clique of misanthropes to actually like it then you’ve got to give them something to hang onto. But isn’t there something gloriously and perversely brilliant about making a near 100% non-commercial record? ‘Brrr’ sounds a bit like one of those Nirvana secret tracks which were hidden at the end of ‘Nevermind’ and scared the shit out of me when I thought the CD had finished playing. It’s very barely music (whatever ‘music’ really is) and sounds more like they are destroying their instruments than playing them. Ace.
www.iceseadeadpeople.com

SB

 
 

Suzi Won – Bleak Ends (Feet Circus)

It’s in that electro-indie guitar mould and it isn’t half bad. There’s smidgeons of Placebo (mainly due to the singer’s Molko-esque voice) and perhaps Killers in the lighter moments. It’s promising but one swallow does not make a summer – would be good to see what else Suzi Won have in the locker.
www.myspace.com/suziwon

SB

 

Official Secrets Act – The Girl from the BBC (One Little Indian)

OSA are one of those bands that I seem to be getting constantly bombarded with emails about but know very little about. But from what I hear in this single there is good reason to be spreading their name around. It’s a sophisticated pop/art-rock crossover which seems perfectly measured at every turn. It’s the musical equivalent of a Porsche, engineered to perfection, ostensibly pretty but with an underlying seriousness that can make your eyes water.

SB

 
 

Spy Movie - 'Philip Larkin Said' (Viva Genius)

'Sexual intercourse began / in 1963 / which was rather late for / Spy Movie'. This is what the 80s really sounded like. Big guitar strumming much in the manner of Lloyd Cole, ingenious jazzy vocals and unselfconciously pretentious lyricism. Plus a badge, which has a picture of a real spy on it. Watch out for their 'secret' free gig on the roof of Hull university.
http://www.viva-genius.co.uk

Jon Gordon

 

BM Linx – Kids on Fire (Crazy Factory)

Not some hard hitting ITV exposure about the hazards of chip pans but an electro-rock fest from New York three piece BM Linx. It’s quirky and fizzy, there’s a bubbling bassline which sounds lifted off ‘White Lines’ and it basically rocks apart from the section after the chorus where the synths go into 80’s salute mode and you could forgive yourself for thinking that you were listening to the Fame soundtrack. Do yourself a favour, skip the radio track and proceed straight to the extended 9 minute long edit which dispenses with the 80’s segments and comes in much harder and badder (if badder were a real word).
www.bmlinx.com
watch video to 'Kids on Fire'

SB

 
 

Animal Collective – My Girls (Domino)

Animal Collective must be having a right laugh. Consider the evidence: the band members call themselves ‘Panda Bear’, ‘Avey Tare’ and ‘Geologist’. Eyebrows raised yet? Then they seem to be able to just mess about in a studio concocting their sonic experiments on a musical chemistry set. And the result? Well it’s freeform, uplifting and multifaceted but never really goes anywhere. Kind of like the time I walked into a store cupboard in my attic during a house party and found a bunch of crusties banging away on drums and chanting – very creative and not unpleasant to listen to but ultimately leaves you wondering what the point was.
Watch video to 'My Girls'

SB

 
 

Chasing Ora – Here & Winning

Eerruegh (or words to that effect). I originally mistyped the title as ‘Here and Wining’ which, while spelt incorrectly would have been phonetically correct. A six piece soft rock band with unremarkable dual female vocals and guitar riffs that seem to have been recycled at least 5 times before. The production is a bit muddy too. In short, I can’t find much at all to recommend this.
www.myspace.com/chasingora

SB

 
 

Psapp – I Want That (Domino)

Oh lovely lovely Psapp I just want to grab you and give you a big hug. Galia and Carim have the ability to cram a whole load of found sound, squawking sax and kitchen sink percussion into a 3 minute pop song without it sounding like a complete mess. Moreover it is a genuine triumph with Galia’s sexy yet homely tones silky providing the lubrication for the clockwork backing track. A treat for your ears.
www.myspace.com/psapp
Watch the video to 'I Want That'

SB

 

Dieter Schöön – Mary Jane (Headspin)

Criminally, Dieter sounds like he might drift off into a deep but disturbed sleep at any moment, even when he is singing. Remarkably the combination of an electronic breakbeat and a voodoo tom tom straight from the sacrifice scene in the Bond film ‘Live and Let die’ cannot liven him up, even the intermittent parping of Mariachi horns leaves Schöön on the edge of slumber. The only ones who won’t be snoozing are we listeners, beguiled by this heady concoction.
www.myspace.com/dieterschoon
watch video to 'Mary Jane'

SB

 
 

The Grammatics – Shadow Committee (Dance to the Radio)

I’ve not really got into the Grammatics’ previous releases. I’ve always found them a bit to clever. Well, too clever for simpletons like me, easily pleased by single time signature. But it is impossible not to be impressed the complexity and sheer skill displayed in ‘Shadow Committee’. It’s like a series of small operettas each with its own atmosphere and message. Heady stuff.
www.grammatics.co.uk

SB

 
 

Hundred Reasons – I’ll Never Know (PIAS)

Didn’t I already listen to this earlier in the month? Oh no, that was apparently You Me At Six. But they all sounds the same these youthful guitar bands – all energy but no ingenuity. Try saying that after a couple of pints of mild. Cue: pick slide – woo!
www.hundredreasons.com

SB

 
 

Metric – Help I’m Alive (Metric Music)

It’s an oft trotted out as a lazy phrase but this may well be the ‘perfect pop song’. Heavily synth based but with live drums, a sexy yet vulnerable sounding chanteuse, uplifting chorus and chopping guitars breaking into the mix. It’s not fluid but satisfyingly clunky. Pure Canadian goodness.
www.myspace.com/metricband

SB

 
 

N.E.T. – I Will Wait

There’s something pleasingly disjointed about N.E.T.’s single ‘I Will Wait’. It might be the world weary vocals playing off against the taught guitar playing, it may the overall fuzziness of the guitar sounds against the sudden chugging slabs of noise. It all sounds a bit wrong, a bit wonky (including the b-side ‘Shadow’) but I like it. It sounds like someone is having to drag the melodies out of the guitars but when they eventually emerge they arrive perfectly formed, if a little grumpy. Bafflingly good.
www.myspace.com/netmu

SB

 
 

Sunday Driver – Rats / The Gayatri Mantra (Bakul Bagan)

If Victorian melodrama is your cup of tea then you will be quids in here. The Sunday Driver are what could be described as a bit odd and ‘Rats’ sees Chandy Nath warbling away like drunk in a gin palace while a pretty little acoustic guitar part plays in the background. Unsurprisingly ‘The Gayatri Mantra’ is an eastern infused piece complete with sitar (which I always like the sound off – it’s a fantastic instrument). But the Beatles have done it, Led Zep have done and hell, even Kula Shaker have done it and arguably all better than this – Nath’s classical voice somehow seeming at odds with the eastern influences. But it makes for an interesting contrast and I reckon after a few listens you might even find yourself trying to echo the Sanskrit prayer lyrics.
www.sundaydriver.co.uk

SB

 

Bearsuit – Muscle Belt (Fantastic Plastic)

Good grief – Bearsuit have got a bit consistently good of late and ‘Muscle Belt’ may be the best yet. Featuring a slightly more languid laid back chorus than the normal Bearsuit fare, this contrasts brilliantly with the slashy guitars and dirty bass. Then there’s more little synthy nurdles and bleeps than you’d get in a car alarm testing factory. Brill.
www.bearsuit.co.uk

SB

 
 

Heritage Centre - The City, The Tree & The Fox E.P.

Striking the balance of having both style and substance is something that many new bands fail to achieve, but on the evidence of this debut six-track set Heritage Centre could be set for a bright future. Combining catchy guitar and piano melodies, the songs found here are immediately approachable and easy on the ear. ‘You Are Something’ is reminiscent of fellow countrymen The Thrills, whilst ‘Death By Science’ combines the best aspects of the Electric Soft Parade and Oasis with its catchy riff and light, poppy sound. But, the stand out track is ‘Stars’, which has a much heavier sound with its pounding guitar riff being immediately catchy. Given that this E.P shows so much promise, it will be fascinating to see what they come up with next.

Joe de Saulles

 
 

The Maybes – Trick of the Light (Xtra Mile)

I can see the comparisons with Oasis and Arctic Monkeys that some people have been making. But I’d suggest The Maybes may hark back to the slightly earlier influence of The Charlatans. Either way, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by this one – after the first listen last night I was not impressed, the phrase ‘aural wallpaper’ was already coming to mind. But after a re-listen today I’d say that those initial impressions were too harsh – this is a gentle type of guitar indie which unfolds and wells rather than hits you between the eyes. An all round pleasant listen.
www.myspace.com/themaybesliverpool

SB

 
 

Rob McCulloch – Wandering (Gladrag)

My face feels a bit numb. I’ve not had a stroke I don’t think. So it must be the prospect of having to come up with some reaction to what is a pretty insipid pub band tune. Bless him, McCulloch does at least sing with a twang of his local dialect but this piano driven ode to boredom (the song subject you naughty bugger, not my opinion of it) is a tried, tested and quickly discarded route. But the nearly forgotten B-side ‘Members Only’ offers a chink of light and surely the way forward – a much more raw and personal sounding account.
www.robmcculloch.com

SB

 

Gloria Cycles – Chancer (Agre)

Gloria Cycles apply a little ska-tip to ‘Chancer’ – you can just see the mods nodding away to this one. It’s fantastically energetic and well constructed – a clinical attach on the music scene. The accompanying luxurious artwork is also a nice touch – the first full colour A4+ press release I’ve ever received. And with B-side ‘Tatters’ deploying some horns, there’s a clear pattern emerging from Gloria Cycles of their youthful moulding of Northern Soul and modern indie. Knocks spots off the Kooks.
www.gloriacycles.co.uk

SB

 
 

Ella Montclare – Between Islands (Seawater)

A lovely trip-hoppy vibe here from Ella Montclare, perfect for those dark winter evenings...hmm, well I suppose you could stretch to a sultry midsummer evening but probably not the kind of vitality and energy you normally associate with spring. No matter, I digress. Despite being a session musician and backing singer for the likes of Julio Iglesias, Montclare’s voice lends itself perfectly to this style of trip hop and apparently uses her sense of alienation from growing up on the coats of Durham to inform some of her melancholic music. Seems a bit harsh to me – I was on that coast this very weekend and I saw a stoat – it was ace. My one minor criticism of this track would be that vocals sit a little too clean above the swirly dreamlike quality of the instrumentation – you can imagine them being sung to the backing track in a sound proof box far detached from the other musicians who have long since left the studio – there’s that sense of alienation again. But bridging that gap is what made Portishead so special – they did it with various glitch effects and a lo fi approach. If Montclare finds her own way then she could be on to a winner.
www.myspace.com/ellatrip

SB

 
 

Video Nasties – Jellybean (Dead Again)

Hmm, it’s just a bit of a row isn’t it? I mean, I’m all for that garage sound, the idea that anyone can go out, buy a guitar and make a record but this makes me seriously consider the wisdom of it. Sure there are slight touches of Sebadoh, Sonic Youth et al but it takes more than singing everything through a fuzz pedal and giving your listeners tinnitus to make a decent tune.
www.videonasties.net

SB

 
 

The Fancy Toys – Gypsy Eyes

Just because you are accomplished musicians does not always mean that you will be a successful artist. And with ‘Gypsy Eyes’ THe Fancy Toys just leave me grappling for a reason to stick with the glockenspiel runs, the skiffle board, the falsetto and the loungey vibe. Sure it’s quirky but it’s also unspectacular and just ends up grating on my nerves – sorry for being such a heathen.
www.thefancytoys.com

SB

 
 

Mr Scruff & Roots Manuva – Nice Up the Function (Ninja Tuna)

THe grey card slip case and squiggled cartoon fish logo has rapidly become a guaranteed sign of quality from the Ninja Tuna camp and this release is no different. Even though I haven’t got a clue about what the press release means (what is a ‘wazaudiophile’? And ‘Digi-dubhall’ anyone?) But suffice to say some of the descriptions are spot on – this really is full of wobble and slurp featuring squirt, squelch and parp – I couldn’t put it better myself.
www.ninjatune.net

SB

 

The Grave Architects – A Highway to Be True/Love TBC (Fortuna Pop!)

Nottingham’s very own very own Cashalikes demonstrate a combination of boom chacka guitars and barber shop quartet vocals – not a common occurrence. Fortunately there are some clever lyrics thrown in to carry it off and they don’t end up looking as uncomfortable as a country singer in straw boater would. AA-side ‘Love TBC’ reminds me a bit of MJ Hibbett with outro provided courtesy of Dinosaur Jnr. What’s not to like?
www.myspace.com/thegravearchitects

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The Kills – Black Balloon (Domino)

It’s taken a while but finally a release this week which rocks my boat (what’s with all these sailing references so far?). Quite a Spartan track with a few handclaps, the smokey songstress Alison Mosshart, a minimal bassline and a bit of school music room percussion thrown in. It’s suitably bleak for the subject matter and just goes to show how sometimes less is more. The acoustic tracks included as EP fillers are also excellent, particularly the gospel blues of ‘Kissy Kissy’ with its bent strings and laid back delivery.
www.thekills.tv

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Yo Majesty – Don’t Let Go (Domino)

Whooa ho ho, yeah yeah yaaa! What’s all this jibber jabber you may ask? Not jabber my friends but the soulful crooning of Yo Majesty’s vocals. At odds with the minimalist melody and drum beat...I’m sorry, it’s just not my cup of tea and there’s no way I’m wading through 4 remixes.
www.myspace.com/yomajesty

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Funeral for a Friend – Rules and Games (Join Us)

They’re Welsh and guitary aren’t they? Actually the opening chords are satisfyingly chunky, ploughing along at their own pace amid a forest of cymbal and some earnest vocals but then the chorus goes all emo and wishy washy. I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt thanks to its jackhammer riff but if we could just silence the jabbering we’d be onto a real winner...
www.funeralforafriend.com

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Billy Vincent – Sugar & Soap (Sidew7lk)

Don’t really know much about Mr Vincent other than he sounds a little like Feargal Sharkey. There’s quite a lot of pomp about ‘Sugar & Soap’ which eventually creaks into life after about 90 seconds following some earnest bass drum. Seems to me there is too much melodrama surrounding Vincent’s warbling vocals and the rest of the band fail to provide anything of any substance to accompany them.
www.billyvincent.co.uk

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Namaste – Expired (Crater8)

Don’t be misguided by the gently lilting eastern guitar lines that form the intro to this song; Namaste soon come crashing in with twattingly loud riffs to knacker your eardrums. It’s good honest riffery all the way, lurching from tuned down power chords to gently oscillating strings. And in the press release shot of the band, one of the members is pictured in the background riding a white horse – mad as a bag of stoats - bloody brilliant.
www.myspace.com/namaste

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Bone Patrol – Animal / Breakdown (Snake)

It’s rap metal cum hip hop Jim, but not as we know. Well, Bone Patrol seem keen on their alien references so I thought I would pitch in. A little bit Senser for obvious reason, the real difference is the way that throughout ‘Animal’ you feel like someone forgot to turn up the volume on the backing track while the rap section was being worked on. It’s so understated. But in a weirdly unexpected sort of way, it kind of works and leaves loads of room for when the guitars eventually come in towards the end.
If you were thinking this was a temporary aberration then ‘Breakdown’ confirms that Bone Patrol are little bit odd. It’s a bluesey soulful track with an oddly disconnected (and again, quiet) squelchy beat that reminds me a bit of Leeds’ Bedlam Ago Go. It’s good to be different.
www.myspace.com/bonepatrol

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Tenek – Submission (Toffeetones)

Although alluding to having a bit of an industrial sound, a quick listen to the remixes hints at the fact that Tenek’s true passion lies in the realm of dance music. There’s an awful lot of complexity to the way ‘Submission’ is put together, loads going on and really well orchestrated, but the nearest it gets to industrial would be sounding a bit like some of the lighter moment of Nine Inch Nails remix album ‘Further Down the Spiral’. But ultimately it’s the emperor’s new clothes – there’s no teeth to Tenek and the longer the CD goes on the more lightweight they sound. Would be better pitched more towards a traditional dance market with a harder edge than a less forgiving industrial fraternity I think.
www.myspace.com/tenek

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Driving By Night – Promise in Youth (Dental)

Melancholic indie rock a bit reminiscent in places to a more rounded early U2, ‘Promise in Youth’ will surely do well this spring. Not necessarily because it is very good (though it is), but because it pushes all the right earnest notes to get our record-buying/MP3 downloading youth mobilised and emotional. It’s a fantastically well conceived track, making up for what it lacks in originality with a panache and confidence which belies its 3rd single status.

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Freeland – Under Control (Marine Parade)

Ahoy there me hearties, avast ye and set sail for some top indistrio-electro clatter from this nautically themed label. Or something like that. However, ‘Under Control’ ticks a whole hold load of boxes with its robo-voice vocals, squiggly synths and metallic rhythm section. Like Nine Inch Nails would sound if Trent Reznor took a year off from self flagellation. As an aside, I think it’s quite amusing how Adam Freeland returns to the ‘fold’ with his ‘band’ – though in a true egocentric gesture names said band after himself.
www.myspace.com/adamfreelandmusic

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