Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Not Squares email interview:

Having said yourselves that you draw influence from the likes of Soulwax, LCD & Crystal Castles and with such a fast paced, dance heavy debut in ‘Yeah OK’, who/ what was it that inspired you to write music like this in the first place?
We wanted to make upbeat music that continues to move in directions. For example, recently we have felt compelled to explore the world of disco (and Arthur Russell). 

How does the writing process work? Does it come from jamming as a band or do you bring in ideas individually and work on them etc?
We jam as a band and quite often leave a voice recorder on, then maybe end up jamming on a certain part and start the process again, we each bring ideas to the mix at that point and work it out from there. We often play new songs live before they’re finished just to see if the live setting can mould them somehow more organically with the atmosphere of an audience. 

Looking at your tour schedule for December alone it looks like things are pretty hectic for you guys. Do you get tired of playing the same songs every night, or do the crowds keep everything fresh for you?
The gigs are always different, for example we’re going from Two Door Cinema Club shows where the venues are huge and we’re playing huge sound-systems to small inimate club venues and hopefully the odd house-party (basement show in Leeds next week Rich?!) 

What could someone expect from a Not Squares live show?
Wide-eyed dance riots, catchy bass riffs, and screaming grown men. 

What has been the highlight of your career to date?
Probably our album launch at the end of November, we were surrounded by friends who enjoy going nuts with our music and dancing their asses off. 

You’ve been extremely well received from the media so far in your career, is that in the back of your mind when you’re working on new ideas?
We don’t really think about media as its hard to predict, but feedback is always welcome. I guess we probably think more of what friends, bands or musicians would think rather than critics. 

What can we expect from Not Squares in 2011?
New material, remixes, a second album hopefully, we’ve already got a few new songs on the stove and we’re currently testing a couple out live. We’d like to take a couple of months in February and March to focus on writing and recording new stuff. A mega European and Japanese tour would be nice too. 

What is on your CD player right now? Or if you don’t have a CD player (I can’t quite believe I’m saying that) what was the last song played on your generic MP3 player?
On the way to Galway today we listened to Selda Bagcan and Ratatat. 

Where can you see yourselves as a band in ten years time?
Ten Years is too far away to think about seeing anything – a greek architect Christos Papoulias once told me nobody should plan anything more than 6 months in advance and I believed him. 

Finally, if you could open for any band past or present then who would it be and why?
Fleetwood Mac cos its Fleetwood Mac!

Monday, 13 December 2010

2000 Fast Women – Letters From Vienna (Ashley Beedle Remix) [Single] (Wrapt Up)

2010 has without a doubt been the year of dubstep; I would predict that the vast majority of new acts, new releases and high charting singles have fallen into this genre over the last year. Its dirty dance sound reminiscent of drum and bass, dub, garage and grime is very heavy and infectious, add to that (usually) some sweet vocal melodies over the top and you all of a sudden have something completely unobtrusive and very catchy. So when I heard that Max Taylor (bassist for Roots Manuva/ Groove Armada/ Clor) and drummer John Maiden (Tricky) were starting a new project I have to admit I was expecting them to be doing something from this growingly popular genre. How wrong I was; in fact the original version of ‘Letters From Vienna’ is nothing short of a pop rock song. However there are a couple of remixes that are picking up a lot of attention, including this Ashley Beedle mix. 

From the start of the track there is a bongo line that sounds like it was stolen directly from Michael Viner’s Incredible Bongo Band’s version of ‘Apache’, but it only takes forty seconds to change into something much darker. In come the bass lines so familiar with dubstep now, heavy on the reverb and very distorted. It could be mistaken for some kind of 90’s speed garage track if it weren’t for the vocals holding it together and giving it a more modern feel. The general idea of the original song is there, the offbeat guitars and the eerie synths are all included here but the overall sound is much more accomplished. It sounds like a finished article rather than the original track that only sounds like the beginnings of something that could be much better. It shows off Ashley Beedle as a great remix artist and someone who can take something quite plain and bring it to life. Don’t get me wrong the original song is alright (it’s got to be near impossible to make a good remix of a terrible track) but I think that this mix of ‘Letters From Vienna’ has much more substance behind it and a much more mainstream feel… for now at least. 7/10 


Thursday, 2 December 2010

Butterfly Fan The Inferno – Brassneck [Single] (Self Release)

Jam bands were one of the best things to come out of the 90’s for me: A group of talented musicians get together, have a jam and make some crazy-ass music. What amounts from this situation is usually veering towards the funk rock style; lazy, dirty, psychedelic and heavy on the solos. Butterfly Fan The Inferno’s latest single ‘Brassneck’ is exactly that: Starting with a laid back groove between the bass and drums that is layered with vocals and an almost constant guitar solo that fills out any of the gaps left in the audio spectrum, it immediately reminds me of US jam bands such as Umphrey’s McGee and String Cheese Incident. With a sound like that I wasn’t surprised to see that this Birmingham based quartet actually started up across the pond.

Their sound is big and boisterous with a ska twang in there for good measure, but I can’t help but think that the song lacks a little depth. It feels like it wants to move away from the initial riff at some point, taking the track somewhere unexpected instead of sticking to the comfort of a verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure. There isn’t a strong enough hook for this song to warrant staying safe and a little bit of thinking out of the box wouldn’t go amiss. Because of this it ends up sounding like a jam band attempting a pop song, which just isn’t quite right in my opinion. That doesn’t mean to say that what they have created in ‘Brassneck’ isn’t good, I just think that with a little bit more thought it could turn into something quite amazing. 6/10


Thursday, 18 November 2010

Nickel Pressing – Uncanny (Loaf Recordings)

Every once in a while I hear of a new band that when described to me gets me genuinely intrigued. Whether it’s because I’ve heard they sound like another band I love, they have amazing live shows, or maybe because they just they’re a little bit ‘out there’, it could be the tiniest thing and it makes me sit up and take notice. Well I had one of these moments when I heard about Nickel Pressing: Having read that this French three piece took guitars out of the equation and replaced them with a violin, yet still sound like Dick Dale meets Sonic Youth meets Nirvana I got very excited. Well who wouldn’t be interested in hearing that?

As I press play and start listening to the first track I wonder if I’ve been given the wrong CD… No, I double checked and it definitely says Nickel Pressing ‘Uncanny’ on it. Maybe I shouldn’t be so hasty to judge but unfortunately after a bit more of a listen my first thoughts are indeed correct; they sound absolutely nothing like Dick Dale, or Sonic Youth and certainly nothing like Nirvana. What is coming out of my speakers is ineffably bad – I suppose it would be considered electro punk if I was forced to pigeonhole it. All I know for certain is it is completely out of time, very repetitive and grates to the point that you want to switch it off even if just for a moment to give your ears a rest. This is by no means helped by the appalling violin playing that sounds like a child scraping away at the strings, not an accomplished violinist in a professional band. The only moment that they step it up a notch to the slightly bearable is during their cover of Kraftwerk’s ‘Neon Lights’ which sounds similar to Arcade Fire with lots of warbling backing vocals behind what sounds very much like a full live band. With more tracks like this on the EP they might actually be going somewhere more positive.

I sometimes wonder what people see in bands like Nickel Pressing; there has to be a market for them somewhere or labels such as Loaf Recordings wouldn’t pick up on them. Maybe it’s just not my thing, or maybe it’s a French trend that I don’t get because I’m English, like an inside joke that you’re not involved in. Perhaps I’m just getting old and past it. Whatever the reason (and I desperately hope it’s nothing to do with me losing touch with ‘the kids’) Nickel Pressing just don’t do it for me. 2/10


Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The Megaphonic Thrift – A Thousand Years Of Deconstruction (Deadly People Records)

The Megaphonic Thrift hail all the way from Norway and are considered somewhat a supergroup over there consisting of band members from Casiokids, The Low Frequency In Stereo and Stereo21. If like me you have never heard of any of those bands then you might feel that the supergroup side of TMT is not necessarily important, but I would beg to differ. I have noticed in the past that a supergroup tends to write more accomplished material, bringing with them different influences and experiences from previous bands that is absolutely priceless when trying to make decent music. So although I might not know the roots of where this band came from and ‘A Thousand Years Of Deconstruction’ is their first EP, I’m not going to let them off easily, no more Mr Nice-Guy and all that. This band is experienced and I should treat them so.

This is where I’m meant to write a barrage of criticisms down, kind of setting you up for the fall, but I can’t do it. Right from the first chord to the last fade out this EP is full of songs that I can’t help but fall madly in love with. From the high energy opener ‘Acid Blues’ to the beautifully soothing title track, each song has its own place while sitting perfectly next to one another. The tracks range from fuzz heavy, pounding indie shoegaze that sounds like it was bottled up in the ‘90s specially to be opened in 2010 to reverb filled noisescapes to get lost in that build up and up to the point where you’re willing them to explode into life. It is in fact these quieter couple of songs that make the EP for me: They show off a band that can write diverse styles of music to a very high level; it’s relatively easy to write a fast paced song that people can dance to, but to also be able to pen an intoxicatingly serene track and put them next to one another only adds to their effectiveness. This is exactly what a supergroup is capable of doing even when it is only their first EP. A newly born band would have to be something special to make an EP like this on their first outing. This is the sound of experience, and something I can’t recommend more highly to listen to. 9/10


Not Squares – Yeah OK (Richter Collective Records)

I can’t decide if it’s a good thing when a band describes themselves as a ‘mutant Cyclops lovechild’ of various other very well-known artists. On the one hand it shows that they recognise their roots and realise that they fit into a certain genre that can be defined by those artists, on the other it suggests straight away that they’re going to be unoriginal and a carbon copy of something that has already been. Not Squares claim to be the lovechild of LCD Soundsystem, Soulwax and Crystal Castles – but I needn’t have told you that if you had listened to the album already.

The album sets off at a fast pace with ‘Release The Bees’; a drum and synth heavy track not dissimilar to The Chemical Brothers. The next two songs come around before you know what’s really happening amongst the incessant rave that has suddenly started pouring out of your speakers. The songs reek of every stereotype you could think of from an electropop band: Lots of half-spoken, quite unclear vocal lines, fuzz bass all over each song, synths screaming out sporadic sounds all over the place. This is all fair enough, these are the sorts of thing that define a genre and without them they wouldn’t be that electropop band that they’re obviously aiming to be. But then something completely unexpected comes along; a multitude of cowbells. By the fourth song on the album ‘Smith & Carlos’ all of a sudden there is a rhythmic overload of cowbells, it all sounds very familiar. And so it should, as this is one of the first things I think of when I think of LCD Soundsystem. They use cowbells to create an almost carnival like atmosphere within their songs and it turns out that Not Squares have gone for the same approach. It is at this point that they also decide to ditch some of the synth parts and replace them with simple picked guitar and bass lines making them all of a sudden sound like a band rather than a dance act. They sound exactly like LCD Sounsystem to be more precise.

I could be mistaken that for being in the process of giving Not Squares a bad review with all this talk of them sounding like everyone else and in particular LCD however this is not the case; although it has all been heard before it hasn’t necessarily been done a huge amount better than this. If they were to clean up some of the rough edges on a couple of the tracks, Not Squares would be up there with the bands they aspire to be. If they could then add to that a unique edge that none of the previously mentioned bands have used then they really could become something quite special. 7/10


Sunday, 7 November 2010

Catfish & The Bottlemen - Bodies [Single] (Self Release)

For such a young band Catfish & The Bottlemen have definitely had an impressive career to date. Having formed at the beginning of 2009, they have already been lucky enough to support Twisted Wheel and Ash, have lots of radio airplay and be named BBC 6 Music’s Unsigned Band of the Year 2009. So what’s all the fuss about? Well if forthcoming single ‘Bodies’ is anything to go by, they thoroughly deserve all of the critical acclaim and success they have had so far. It is a catchy and buoyant pop song full of shiny guitars and crisp rhythms. Not dissimilar to The Kooks and the Wombats, the track is hook heavy and flows through picked guitar sections, harmony heavy vocals and punchy riffs. Although not completely original in style they aren’t mere copycats; they have a bit more of a gritty edge to themselves than the aforementioned bands with Ryan McCann almost growling his vocals at times and a slightly more punk feel about their music rather than just catering for the pop rock market. The B-Side to the single ‘Collide’ emphasises this as well, with effect heavy guitars and once again a hook line that is neigh on impossible to get out of your head.

Catfish & The Bottlemen deserve every bit of praise they have received to date and if they keep on writing songs like ‘Bodies’ then I think it is fair to assume that they are due a lot more. Although what they are doing is nothing particularly new they are going about it in such a way that will make them stand out from the rest and hopefully will get them the recognition they deserve. 8/10


Friday, 5 November 2010

Middle Class Rut - No Name No Color (Bright Antenna)

I first encountered Middle Class Rut in 2008; having heard ‘Busy Bein’ Born’ on the radio, I was immediately captivated by their sound. Somewhere between Jane’s Addiction and Rage Against The Machine, it is full of a raw power and aggression that very few can replicate. I invested in their Red EP and proceeded to play it to death for a few weeks until I realised just how samey their songs could sound. Well now, two years down the line and with a spate of subsequent EPs released they are finally presenting a full length album to their avid listeners. There’s just one catch; it’s a bit of a best-of-the-EPs kind of thing with a couple of new songs on there for good measure, so if you have all of their EPs and singles to date you might feel a little hard done by before you even press play.

The album starts with ‘Busy Bein’ Born’ which although having been on many of the bands previous releases still sounds surprisingly fresh. “I aint dead yet!” screams Zack Lopez as it kicks in, the same can be said about this song which sends shivers down my spine and shakes my bones to the core just as it did on first listen two years ago. The album plays through for the next few songs quite predictably; sounding more and more like Jane’s Addiction and Rage from track to track. Until ‘Are You On Your Way’ begins; starting off much more calmly that its predecessors, it is a six minute song that can only be described as epic. It builds up to huge highs and breaks down to nothing but a whisper without any warning leaving you wondering what you have done to deserve having your emotions toyed with by this Californian duo. (Oh I believe I failed to mention this earlier; MC Rut are a two piece and nothing more believe it or not, something that is hard to comprehend given the amount of noise they are able make.) ‘Are You On Your Way’ marks a change on this album for me; everything from this point onwards sounds much more mature. They become a band that knows how to write a song, how to keep the listener interested and how to sound original. Yes, it is still possible to draw the same comparisons as before, but they suddenly have their own edge. It’s no longer all one pace with each song fitting into the same mould of building up and then hitting their instruments as hard as they can to fade. A bit more thought has gone into it, a few more harmonies, thinner guitar sounds complimenting the huge distorted fuzz that was becoming all too familiar and a lot more variety with drumming styles.

MC Rut have come a long way since their first EP release back in 2008. Admittedly it seems a little lazy of them to keep re-releasing songs over and over again, but I suppose if they are good tracks that you don’t feel have got the exposure they deserve yet then why not? From the new material shown on this album they have obviously improved since the days of that initial release, so I’m looking forward to a record full of new songs as powerful as ‘Are You On Your Way’. However in the meantime ‘No Name No Color’ is a compelling album to keep you going. 7/10


Monday, 1 November 2010

Crispian Mills – Healing Hands/ Be Merciful [Single] (Ho Hum Records)

I’m guessing it’s probably been a long time since you heard the name Crispian Mills? The genius behind one of the most successful bands of the Brit Pop era, Kula Shaker, and some of the best pop songs of a generation in ‘Govinda’, ‘Tattva’ and ‘Mystical Machine Gun’. Well he is still around and writing music, in fact he has hardly stopped since Kula Shaker’s initial split back in 1999; originally forming the band Pi, then having reasonable success with The Jeevas, and more recently reforming Kula Shaker with two new albums having been released. But now comes the release of the first single under his own name; ‘Healing Hands/ Be Merciful’ were both songs written after Kula Shaker disbanded: Mills took to the studio in 2000 to try and produce a full album but the songs never saw the light of day at the time.

It must have been a huge decision to release these songs ten years later as there would always be the worry that they could sound past their sell by date. You would be right to worry as ‘Healing Hands’ does indeed sound dated, but not just by ten years. Crispian Mills’ love of various 60’s and 70’s bands is extremely obvious within this song, from the rough acoustic guitar sound and various percussion parts that open the track, to the layered vocal harmonies in the chorus and the bass groove that drives it up to full speed. Sounding almost psychedelic it has no hint of modern day music about it other than Mills’ extremely recognisable vocal tone and wah-wah guitar sound. ‘Be Merciful’ also sounds dated, this time reflecting the more acoustic side of Kula Shaker. The song is opened by an acoustic guitar playing what sounds very similar to the raga musical mode so notable within Indian music. Mills sings about losing the one he loves using metaphors of snakes and hypnosis as only he can while what sounds like a flute (possibly a pungi which is an Indian version of a flute) provides a drone to get lost within. Although the song is very short at little over two minutes it is extremely soothing and delightfully charming.

‘Healing Hands/ Be Merciful’ is a great return to form for Crispian Mills. Although the last couple of Kula Shaker albums have gone down well with the fans and press I never really felt that they were as good as they could have been, and this double single more than makes up for it. However I don’t think that they would ever sell well now: With both songs sounding very much out of place in today’s market they are definitely being aimed at fans of Mills’ career rather than new listeners, but these fans will definitely not be disappointed. 8/10


Saturday, 30 October 2010

The Radio Dept. – Never Follow Suit EP (Labrador Records)

‘Never Follow Suit’ is the third single to be taken off Swedish pop act The Radio Dept’s third studio album ‘Clinging to a Scheme’. The single is being released as a five track EP that contains a couple of new songs and a remix of the title track rather than just a standalone song, which is a pleasure to see.

The EP opens with ‘The One’, a mass of trip hop beats crossed with dub pianos and mouth organs; initially sounding like Massive Attack until the song develops and takes on a more Lee Scratch Perry kind of edge. It isn’t until track two that we hear ‘Never Follow Suit’; running smoothly on from the previous song the slow groove of the bass and drums is immediately apparent and very dominant. All the decoration on the song which includes more off beat dub pianos and various other cheap Casio keyboard sounding instruments are very forgettable. In fact, take away the bass line and it becomes extremely similar to ‘The One’, and if anything a little more dull. As you get further through the EP there are improvements though; ‘Stay Off Route’ has yet another very catchy bass line throughout, with a touch more power helped along by the uplifting guitar sound and addition of synth strings, while ‘On Your Side’ features a simple yet striking acoustic guitar part that once again takes the EP up a notch. Unfortunately both of these tracks are undeveloped though; they get going and then stop in an instant becoming more like little ditties than fully accomplished songs. The EP is closed with the ‘Never Swallow Fruit Dub’ of the title track remixed by Pistol Disco, which milks that bassline for seven minutes to the point that you will be unable to get it out of your head for some time. It does nothing more for me than the original version of the song, once again it becomes very generic and monotonous with nothing there to keep any form of interest.

It is such a shame that the two tracks in the middle of this EP are both so underdeveloped. If they had been written as full songs I believe they would have been stand-out tracks and may have saved the record from becoming so tedious. But as it stands they do nothing more than spark a tiny bit of excitement in what is an otherwise mind-numbing release. 3/10


Friday, 29 October 2010

Tapso II – Tapso II (Self Release)

I’m starting to enjoy listening to Italian rock music; from my growing experience it is always unconventional both in sound and structure, but never to the point where it becomes inaccessible to the listener. So it was with great pleasure that when first taking in Tapso II, they fell into this exact stereotype. A three piece from Sicily, they are an experimental rock band with one of those never-gonna-work kind of line ups; drums, guitar, vocals as standard, then the addition of a violin and electric organ make for what is no doubt going to be an intriguingly bizarre mini album.

As the opening song ‘Bulldog’ crashes in it is immediately evident that the violin and organ is by no means going to be an obvious addition to the sound of the band. Everything besides the drums is laced with distortions, phasers and seemingly any other effect they could lay their hands on making all the lead instruments blend into one mass of noise. The vocals in the songs are very sparse and often not much more than softly spoken lines, but they can change the dynamic of each track very effectively, at times adding some much needed bottom end to a bass-less line up. The songs themselves vary from jagged jazz rock sections to long winded psychedelic moments where that violin sound all of a sudden becomes very apparent and out of place. It is unfortunate that as you get further into the record these long winded sections seem to take over. It takes nearly four minutes of not much happening in ‘Almond Galaxy’ before the song fully kicks in and actually starts making an impact, whereas ‘Il Mostro’ never really gets to that point even after seven minutes of constant drones and gratingly amateur sounding violin arpeggios.

It is a pity that Tapso II lean so heavily towards the obscure and slow side of their music; when they do kick in and start playing their instruments to their full potential they make one hell of a racket, in a very good way. With occasional moments that sound like they could have been taken from Jon Spencer’s ‘Now I Got Worry’ or Beck’s ‘Mutations’ there is an obvious potential there, but I do think realising this will involve sacrificing some of those lengthy moments of calm for something more appealing. 5/10


Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Shipping News – One Less Heartless to Fear (Africantape/ Ruminance)

Having previously released four albums (the last being in 2005), US band Shipping News have decided to go all out with their fifth LP: Who needs to record in a studio, doing take after take on each instrument until you get the sound exactly as you were hearing it in your head, when you can just go and record everything live? That is exactly what Shipping News set out to do, and they have done it in style with ‘One Less Heartless to Fear’.

The songs possess a raw energy that would never be there if too much thought was put into the recording process. You can hear the sound reflecting off the walls of the venue, the spill from one microphone to the next. None of the songs are played perfectly; they speed up and slow down throughout with a few bum notes here and there, but that is what makes live music so great. You wouldn’t want to go to a gig and hear the band play everything note perfect, would you? The tracks themselves are entirely suited for this live sound; the guitars are a mess of crunchy chords and flickering high notes, the bass is reminiscent of Lemmy’s aggressive and fast paced style, and the vocals spoken manner can sound soothing and seething at the same time. They remind me of Refused if Refused had been able to tone it down every now and then to create a five minute breakdown which built up to a mass of noise that was barely audible through its own distortion.

‘One Less Heartless to Fear’ is a great example of a live album; it shows off not only the bands song writing, but their ability to perform their material with enough energy and passion that it comes across perfectly on a recording. It leaves you wanting more, wanting to experience the Shipping News live show first hand and desperately wanting to hear what they played as an encore. 8/10


Sunday, 24 October 2010

King Cannibal - The Way Of The Ninja (Ninja Tune)

Ninja Tune are celebrating this year; twenty years ago Jon Moore and Matt Black (Coldcut) decided to create a label that wasn’t influenced by trends, fashion or selling millions of records. Instead they wanted people to hear cutting edge, eclectic and fresh new music. Artists that were actually good at what they do being given the opportunity to get their music heard with none of the hidden extras that come from major labels. Ninja Tune was born, and now they want to celebrate turning twenty in style. Along with many other events and a hefty Ninja Tune XX box set being released one of their most prized artists, King Cannibal, decided to celebrate by making a ‘mix tape’, a bit of a retrospective but with over 250 tracks used in just over an hour…

The album is split into twenty tracks, all representing a different side to the label such as ‘Big Tunes. Big Hits’, ‘How About Some Rock & Roll’ and ‘King Of The Junglism’. Prefaced by an introduction that states “The purpose of this little demonstration is to give an idea of everything you always wanted to know about Ninja Tune” this is exactly what you’re going to hear over the next hour or so. Everything from the big releases such as Roots Manuva ‘Witness’ and The Cinematic Orchetra ‘All That You Give’ to lesser known artists such as Amon Tobin, The Qemists and of course the founders of the label, Coldcut. It is a journey that twists and turns, keeping you on your toes and never stopping for a breather. It is seamlessly mixed together, both as an album and within each individual track, occasionally surprising you with the use of samples that you will recognise but maybe not know where from. I have got a few bits and pieces from the label over the years, but nowhere near enough to be able to say that I’m an expert in all things Ninja Tune, however I was impressed with how many of the samples I recognised just from my everyday music listening.

I think it would be fair to say that King Cannibal has done an excellent job with ‘The Way Of The Ninja’; both its concept and execution are a great way to celebrate twenty years of Ninja Tune in 70 minutes. It will leave you heading straight to the website to try and find out where some of the samples came from, and consequently will no doubt increase any Ninja Tune fans record collection and get any newcomers off to a good start. 10/10


Friday, 22 October 2010

Tender Trap – Dansette Dansette [Single] (Fortuna Pop!)

Tender Trap release the title song off their third album ‘Dansette Dansette’ on 1st November. After four years of silence, the band reformed in 2009 as a five piece sporting a new, seemingly more lethargic sound and now including a live drummer after years of playing along to a backing track. 

The single itself isn’t exactly mind blowing; there are twangy guitars and copious vocal harmonies right from the start, while the drums and bass plod along at a snails pace sounding like something straight out of a 70’s pop record. There is nothing here that hasn’t been done before, in fact it all sounds very tired, but it does have a certain charm. The songs vintage sound is very warm and welcoming in an industry currently full of polished and perfect pop records, and will no doubt make you want to flick through your old vinyl and reminisce on the days when a pop song didn’t consist of autotuned vocals over computer generated instruments. Becoming a five piece was a good move by Tender Trap, the addition of the extra vocals and live drumming make them sound like a proper band rather than a group that is uncertain of where exactly they fit in. Maybe it is just down to personal preference then that ‘Dansette Dansette’ does very little for me other than remind me of some of the great music from yesteryear. 4/10 


Tuesday, 19 October 2010

The Xcerts – Scatterbrain (Xtra Mile Recordings)

‘Scatterbrain’ sees the return of The Xcerts after their extremely successful debut album, ‘In The Cold Wind We Smile’. Having described their debut as a ‘greatest hits’ of songs from the bands early years, frontman Murray Macleod seems very positive about his bands second outing. He says it is “a proper album that paints a much more vibrant picture”, and he also praises the help of their new producer Mike Sapone (Taking Back Sunday, Brand New) who they saw as the fourth member of the band during the recording process.

The album itself starts off feeling very unsettled: Opening track and introduction to the album ‘Tar’ is a mess of guitar feedback, clattering drums and bass drones which after building to a chaotic peak breaks into the title track from the album that is reminiscent of the early 90’s grunge era (think Nirvana – ‘In Utero’ and you’re getting close to the mark). But it’s not a sound that particularly suits the band; the guitars are too nicely played, and the screaming vocals sound extremely out of place. It is a relief to me then that from the third song onwards the band seems to settle into their own groove. They sound at their best in songs such as ‘Distant Memory’, ‘He Sinks. He Sleeps’ and lead single off the album ‘Young (Belane)’ where they get in touch with their more commercial side. Sounding like all generations of Weezer mashed into one eleven song album they are fun, aggressive and extremely passionate. Macleod puts on a great vocal performance switching from shouting to singing instantly and seamlessly at times, while the songs themselves range from angry and angsty rock tracks to slow, reverberant power ballads. The result is a very well crafted album that is full of potential hit songs. It really is a pity then that those first two tracks seem so out of place, without them ‘Scatterbrain’ would be virtually faultless. 7/10


Thursday, 14 October 2010

Belle and Sebastian – Write About Love [Single] (Rough Trade)

It feels like an age since Belle and Sebastian released anything new. In fact it has only been four years since their most successful album to date ‘The Life Pursuit’ was unleashed on their adoring fans. Never really having been recognised in the mass media for their music, Belle and Sebastian have relied heavily on the support of their obsessive followers over the years to keep them going. So when the announcement was made in May that the band were back in the studio I can imagine that I wasn’t the only person to have got slightly excited at the prospect.

‘Write About Love’ is the first single to be taken off this long awaited album, ‘Belle and Sebastian Write About Love’, and it is a surprising choice I must admit. It sounds a bit like The Beach Boys attempting to write a 60’s soul/ surf rock crossover track which indeed makes for a good pop song, but that is all it is. It lacks the feeling and honesty that I always associate with Belle and Sebastian. The quirky off beat guitars and melodic organs sound typical of the surf rock era, but don’t have the down to earth warm intimacy that I have come to expect. The vocal parts play off each other with the same lack of intent, instead seeming forced with the hope that it would make the song more interesting. I know these are just niggly little things and are quite possibly problems that I would overlook with other bands, but I have such high expectations of Belle and Sebastian that I can’t let them go this time. Having heard the album in its entirety I could name maybe eight songs that would have been more suitable as the first single. ‘Write About Love’ is much more of an album track in my opinion. But if you are new to the band or hesitant after such a long period of silence don’t let this single deter you; although this isn’t the greatest song they have ever released it is still much better than most other bands in the same genre, and from the sound of the rest of the album it is taken from they still have plenty to offer. 6/10


Thursday, 7 October 2010

Tobacco featuring Beck – Fresh Hex [Single] (Anticon Records)

There’s not a lot to be said about Tobacco, a one man electronic act from America who doesn’t like people to know who he is or what he is really all about. He keeps himself to himself and seemingly just focuses on the music. If you can get away with it and still get recognised then why not? And he certainly has been recognised if he is now working with someone who is probably one of his biggest idols in the music world. Supposedly his favourite album of all time is Beck’s ‘Mellow Gold’, and previously he has remixed the 2007 Beck single ‘Timebomb’, so to work with Mr Hansen again on his own track ‘Fresh Hex’ must have been an extremely positive move in the mind of the mysterious Tobacco.

The song is short coming in a little over a minute and a half, but it is straight to the point. There is an unpolished analogue sound about ‘Fresh Hex’, filled with distorted drum tracks and grainy synths. The vocal line that Beck sent to be used is cut and spliced beyond recognition, sounding more like another instrumental part than a vocal at times. The whole package is filthy, aggressive and extremely quirky. It’s a shame that it is over so quickly though and I would never normally recommend spending money buying a song that is so short no matter how good it is. But from what I’ve heard of Tobacco’s album ‘Maniac Meat’ it isn’t all on a par with this single, so I am going to make an exception to this rule here. If you’re a fan of Beck and/ or dirty synths then give ‘Fresh Hex’ a go, it’s nearly worth every penny. 8/10


Thursday, 30 September 2010

The Orb featuring David Gilmour – Metallic Spheres (Columbia)

Having been labelled by some as the Pink Floyd of house music, it is quite fitting that for their tenth album in a career spanning over two decades The Orb would work with David Gilmour. This is a dream collaboration for anyone who is a fan of both Pink Floyd and The Orb, or an intriguing listen for those who like one or the other. The album itself was apparently born from a jam session between David Gilmour and producer Martin “Youth” Glover (probably best known as bassist for Killing Joke), which led to The Orb’s Alex Patterson taking these sessions and manipulating them into an full length LP.

‘Metallic Spheres’ consists of only two tracks (or as they are labelled, sides); ‘Metallic Side’ and ‘Spheres Side’; both in excess of twenty minutes and both with an extremely different feel. ‘Metallic Side’ contains the classic ambient house groove that The Orb are so famous for: The beats are slow, and the track evolves seamlessly between sections. David Gilmour’s guitar sound and style is exactly as you would expect; it is clean, smooth and full of sustain. Using both his lap steel guitar and a standard electric in the recording, the combination of the two creates a powerful and almost psychedelic sound over the top of Patterson’s production. They compliment each other to perfection, making me wonder why it has taken so long for this collaboration to come about. Continuing through the first side, there comes along an unexpected folk breakdown which kicks into a few minutes of what could quite easily be a song in itself. This cleverly breaks up this twenty-eight minute piece, adding a little bit more for someone who might only be listening to The Orb for the first time as a Floyd fan. It is a great touch; just enough to add a bit more interest but not too much to take away from the ambient house that is the main focus of the album.

‘Spheres Side’ immediately starts more aggressively than its predecessor; the guitars are being strummed harder, the synths sound much harsher and there are delays a plenty. Only three minutes in and the beat is getting heavier by the bar, and now Gilmour’s guitars are getting more distorted with howling high notes cutting through the mass of noise. However this is only a taster for what is to come as everything quietens down again, with only the drums that have now become more reminiscent of a break beat sound keeping things moving. This is quite consistent for the next ten minutes, broken up only by occasional moments of vocals from Gilmour and the odd breakdown here and there. However as the side is coming toward its close things start to get very interesting: A breakdown that sounds like something from the Australian Outback leads to some heavy rock drumming and then Youth’s bass kicks in. The sound is huge, dirty and very welcome. Gilmour is in his element and you can hear it as he jams along, his guitar singing every note perfectly. This is the moment that it all comes together for me, the moment that some of the most influential musicians in their respective genres collaborate and show all the kids how it’s really done.

I can’t quite express how much I recommend going and ‘Metallic Spheres’ when it comes out on 4th October. For those who like The Orb, Pink Floyd or just hearing how great music is made, this is well worth a listen. The excessively long tracks might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you give it a go you will notice how it flies by and before long you are starting the album over again. 10/10


Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Clinic – Bubblegum (Domino Records)

Over the past decade, Clinic have released five albums full of wailing organs, gritty guitars and an overall love it or hate it kind of sound. Album six was always going to be big for the Liverpool based four piece; they could stick with what they know and release another generic Clinic album or they could push the boat out, take some risks and write something altogether new. Happily they have gone for the latter option with ‘Bubblegum’, an album that is much more relaxed and accessible than their previous releases, without losing their sound completely.

Album opener ‘I’m Aware’ starts with dreamy vocal oohs that lead into a lazy acoustic rock sound. As the album progresses there are a lot of moments like this, laced with charmingly simple string sections and lots of psychedelic wah-wah guitars. The obscure organs and gritty guitar tones of old are much more subtle within the tracks, creating a more edgy sound in what would otherwise seem like your average pop record. ‘Radiostory’ contains a bizarre monologue that after a couple of listens I can’t quite decide if I like or not,: It is a very inventive interlude in the middle of the album, but at the same time it comes along a little unexpectedly and then is forgotten about by the time next song ‘Forever (Demis’ Blues)’ comes shuffling along.

As the rest of the LP plays through, you do feel like everything has become all too familiar in this new Clinic sound. The songs although diverse in style do become quite predictable (if you ignore the monologue at least) and by the time the last note is played in album closer ‘Orangutan’ I was reluctant to listen to it again. There are some great moments in ‘Bubblegum’ and I think this new style is a positive change in Clinic’s career, however I do feel like it needs a little tweaking in future releases to stop it becoming too repetitive. 6/10


Thursday, 23 September 2010

Pegasus Bridge – While We’re Young (Lab Records)

Hailing from Manchester, Pegasus Bridge are a four piece that have got a bright future ahead of them. After Huw Stephens and Zane Lowe picked up their song ‘Yoko’ they went on to get some major radio airplay as well as having the opportunity to open Radio One’s Big Weekend. They are now releasing their first full release in mini-album ‘While We’re Young’, and it’s obvious why they are getting such a good response from the media. Their sound is fresh and energetic adrenaline fuelled electro-pop. One minute reminiscent of The Wombats, the next sounding like Jimmy Eat World.

The songs themselves are infectious and hook heavy; after just one listen there are moments from each track that will stick in your head. Whether it’s the catchy introduction from album opener ‘Ribena’, the chorus line from ‘Yoko’ or even the power of the closing song ‘Paris’ which has to be one of the most well crafted rock ballads I have heard in a long time. The vocals throughout the album are strong, although they do sound slightly Kooks-esque at times which might not be to everyone’s taste. Add to this some extremely tight harmonies and the overall vocal sound is very clean and adds to the pop styling of the band. ‘While We’re Young’ takes the listener on a journey of styles and rhythms, but none of the songs sound out of place. I think it’s fair to say that each one of the seven tracks on this mini-album is a possible single, leaving Pegasus Bridge with the potential to storm the charts if they keep the media on side. This is definitely a band to keep an eye on. 8/10


Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Heathers – Here, Not There (Aunthill Records)

Heathers are an Irish female acoustic duo consisting purely of vocals and acoustic guitar. Apart from a cello subtly providing a drone to two songs on the album there is absolutely no other instrumentation which is quite a bold move. In my opinion you have to be either an amazing guitarist or an extremely talented songwriter to get away with such a minimal setup…

As the first chord of ‘Remember When’ is struck, the sound is loud and boomy: If you only have one instrument in a band you might as well make it sound huge, right? The vocals are as aggressive as the guitar playing, with both band members always singing at the same time, sometimes with harmonies and others with counter melodies. However there is no sign of that intricate guitar playing or complex song writing I was hoping for to make this an interesting album.

I never expected Heathers to sound like a punk act, but they do. This makes me wonder where the rest of the band is. Surely there must have been a point when they thought about getting more instruments involved. As it is, the songs start to sound very similar to one another as you get three or four tracks in which is a shame as they really shouldn’t do. If Heathers had a full band production, I can imagine the songs having enough variety to keep interest but this just doesn’t happen with an acoustic guitar and two vocal lines. As it is it becomes an album that you can switch off from and still enjoy, but not something you would want to listen intently to. 5/10


Jon Thorne Danny Thompson – Watching The Well (Naim Edge)

It’s not very often that you hear of musicians or composers writing albums as a dedication to their musical mentors, but this is one case. Jon Thorne (previously known as bassist of trip-hop act Lamb) has indeed composed this album for - and as a celebration of - his mentor Danny Thompson. Composed initially to be a live performance piece, Thorne decided to produce a recorded version of ‘Watching The Well’ featuring Thompson on bass. Alongside Thompson, the album features the likes of award winning jazz saxophonist Gilad Atzmon and Cinematic Orchestra guitarist Stuart McCallum.

The album itself is extremely calm right from the start; gently played strings, haunting choral melodies and saxophones set the tone for what is to follow. It is quite slow moving, with each track being long and drawn out with very little variety from minute to minute. The overall sound is almost a nu-jazz style, but with a slight classical edge; as if Cinematic Orchestra and Craig Armstrong worked together to make a chill out album. It is a beautiful listen, and very relaxing as a background album. But that’s all it really is; there are no moments in the album that lift it away to a more energetic vibrant sound. There are a couple of points where some percussion starts coming through, but it never kicks in enough to make an obvious change in mood.

The musicianship on ‘Watching The Well’ really is truly amazing, especially the bass work of Danny Thompson and Gilad Atzmon’s exquisite saxophone solos. It is a great way to recognise the importance of Danny Thompson’s career and an extremely generous thing for Jon Thorne to have done. I personally would have liked to have more variety between songs, but I do think that is mainly down to taste. However this doesn’t take away from the fact that it is a very well written and interesting album. 7/10


Tuesday, 21 September 2010

One Dog Clapping – Dude Awakeneing (Self Release)

‘Dude Awakening’ is the sixth album (but first official release) from solo pop act Flipdog AKA One Dog Clapping. Describing himself as ‘hypnotic, playful, epic and relaxing’ amongst others, it seems on paper that this might be quite an intriguing listen. This was short lived though as I pressed play and first track ‘From Here to Urantia’ started. A song consisting of acoustic guitars repeating the same two chords over and over as bongos play along out of time, it’s not a good way to start the album. Unfortunately it just gets worse as second song ‘Going to a Stoning’ kicks in; the guitar sound is horribly cheap, the drums have obviously been played in using a keyboard (once again, very out of time) and the vocals sound a bit like Johnny Rotten if he were even worse at singing that he already was. It’s painful to listen to.

I’d like to say that as the album continues it improves, but I would be lying through my teeth. The songs are long and repetitive, the instrumentation is out of tune and out of time. The whole package sounds like it was written and recorded in a day, by someone that is still learning how to play music and use recording equipment. With a little further investigation into Flipdog’s career I found out that he has been writing and recording since 1994, and that he is embarrassed by his first album to the point that he wont let anyone hear it. I don’t believe it can be any worse than this though. More to the point, why hasn’t anyone been honest with him at some time over the last sixteen years?

I have absolutely nothing positive to say about this album, it is one of the worst CDs I’ve heard in a long time. If you want to have a listen to see if what I am saying is true then make sure you keep the receipt, otherwise I recommend avoiding it at all costs. I want to give a score of zero but at the same time I don’t think that is fair on anyone no matter how bad they are. So purely for having the audacity to release such a terrible album I will give ‘Dude Awakening’ 1/10


Thursday, 16 September 2010

The Diamond Sea – Second Move (This Is Music)

‘Second Move’ is the debut album from Leeds born three piece The Diamond Sea. Bringing together their broad range of influences that include the likes of Max Richter and Wilco, the sound they create is quite nostalgic. It echoes the indie bands of the late eighties and early nineties; in fact the word shoegaze comes to mind. The songs are slow and sombre, with gently picked guitars, delicately hit drums and careless sounding vocals. Even when the pace is picked up everything still seems to be being played with half the amount of effort that you would expect. It all seems very lazy.

It is not just the playing style that sounds lazy in fact, the songs themselves also sound a little half hearted. Everything is on the same level with no highs and lows to the album, which over nine songs can start to get a bit dreary. Individually the tracks don’t really seem to go anywhere and there are no really memorable moments, stand out choruses or catchy guitar licks. It just seems to lack any sort of feeling. I don’t believe what lead singer Ben Eyes is saying, it sounds like he has come up with a few words that rhyme then has put them together without any thought of what they could mean to him. None of this helped by the fact that he can’t really sing either; there are moments where it is so piercingly out of tune (sometimes even out of tune with himself when there are layered lead vocal parts) it is completely cringe worthy. There, I’ve said it now.

It’s not all bad for The Diamond Sea though; putting all my previous negativity aside, their music could be a lot worse. Apparently in a live setting they deliver a tougher sound, something that if replicated on a recording it could make their music a bit more edgy on CD. I just feel like they need something else, a bit more passion to their music to make it believable, some more energy at times, a bit of variety to their songs. Oh and maybe a new lead vocalist. 3/10 www.thediamondsea.co.uk

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

The Good The Bad – From 001 To 017 (Self Release)

Having heard that Wayne Kramer of the legendry MC5 noted The Good The Bad as the best band at SXSW 2010, I had high expectations of this album. Describing themselves as a new school surf and flamenco band, they are a completely instrumental three piece from Denmark. As I started listening I got taken back to the 1960’s, and could immediately imagine this music in a Quentin Tarrantino film now. If he were to remake Pulp Fiction then these seventeen songs would be laced through the whole film, peaking at the moment he uses ‘001’ in the dancing competition at Jack Rabbit Slim’s.

The Good The Bad are making music that has no hint of any modern influence; the songs are short and to the point with a pure surf rock sound that seems unaffected by any modern genres or technology. As well as each track being written to echo that classic era, the recordings do it justice as well. They sound grainy and are heavy on the reverb & delay; every time the band gets louder the definition between the instruments gets taken away as if they are really pushing the tape to its limits. There is none of this always-sounds-perfect digital recording malarkey.

As I got about half way through the album, the fully instrumental side of the band did start to become extremely apparent though. With a lack of vocals, everything started to get a little dull. It’s not that it sounds monotonous; each track is obviously different, which is helped by the lead guitar parts that give each song its melody and character. I just felt like some vocals might have helped to keep everything moving a little faster. But then the keyboards and brass sections kicked in. They add that missing edge to a few of the songs in the second half of the album, which steps the tracks up a notch and keeps everything interesting. It is a great touch to the album, and an even better addition to the music.

The Good The Bad aren’t going to become a household name with their sound, just as I don’t believe they are going to sell millions of records. But if you are a fan of surf rock, a fan of Quentin Tarrantino soundtracks or just fancy something completely different from the norm to listen to, then I highly recommend getting a copy of ‘From 001 To 017’. 8/10


Thursday, 9 September 2010

Frisvold & Lindbæk – Diskoism (Beatservice Records)

Remix albums are a funny thing; some artists like to use them to promote their own material (for example Linkin Park’s ‘Reanimation’ or Bloc Party’s ‘Silent Alarm Remixed’), whereas others like to use them to promote their own remixing skills (this isn’t so common if I’m honest, and no obvious names come to mind right away). Frisvold & Lindbæk fall into this second category with their album ‘Diskoism’. 

In my personal opinion, I don’t think it’s worth doing a remix album if either the artist remixing or the artist being remixed is unknown, which is unfortunately the case with this CD. It is ten songs by relatively unknown artists, remixed by a couple of guys from Norway that I have never heard of, so I feel like the point of the record is a little lost on me. This isn’t to say that what is on the CD is all bad, because it’s not. There are some well produced dance tracks on there; admittedly none that are mind blowing enough to get the dance floor buzzing, but at the same time I’m sure people would keep dancing while waiting for the next tune to start. 

However as you listen more carefully to ‘Diskoism’, you realize that there are a couple of very interesting songs. Most notably there are two or three tracks with vocals attached, such at their remix of The Phenomenal Handclap Band’s ‘All Of The Above’, that demonstrates a classic New York disco feel (like Radio 4 if they were to lose their guitars), and their mix of Holly Heckler’s ‘I Wish For You’ which has a great deep house sound with some strong female vocals over the top. But it is the original songs that make these tracks good; the remixing skills shown on the album as a whole come across as very average. Maybe if they could have got some bigger name artists to work with then Frisvold & Lindbæk’s abilities would be there to see more clearly, but as it is ‘Diskoism’ is just another dance remix album that will blend in with all the other hopefuls. 2/10 


Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Black Daniel – Consciousness [Secret Garden Party Mix]/ Lonely Screen Boy [Radio Edit] (Dustbowl Recordings)

Black Daniel are a three piece post-punk-pop-electronic-shoegaze-prog band, kind of, I think. From what I have heard they seem to change their style from song to song, indeed on this double A-Side single that is exactly what they do. ‘Consciousness’ is a shiny pop rock track full of big synth sounds, complemented with chugging guitars and heavy bass. While ‘Lonely Screen Boy’ is a roughly recorded song with elements of folk and blues running throughout, vocals all over the place and (I’m guessing intentional) mistakes aplenty in the accompanying instrumentation. 

I have to say my first impression of these songs wasn’t good. I thought they were poorly written, dull and badly recorded just to add insult to injury. However they grew on me every time I pressed play. ‘Consciousness’, although very repetitive with really only two sections repeated a few times through, is an infectious party track high in energy reminiscent of Joy Division. ‘Lonely Screen Boy’ compliments the upbeat first song with its down tempo gritty sound. It shows the polar opposite of Black Daniel’s style, a moody, dark and dirty song that brings you back down from the party you might been attempting to start on Side-A. The song finishes abruptly after two and a half minutes, leaving you wondering what exactly it was that you were just listening to. It was all over so quickly, but I think I liked it. 7/10 


The Strange Death Of Liberal England – ‘Drown Your Heart Again’ (Republic of Music)

Having only released a mini-album previously (nearly three years ago), The Strange Death Of Liberal England were received with critical acclaim which no doubt put a lot of pressure on the band not to rush their full debut. So to find out that ‘Drown Your Heart Again’ has been eighteen months in the making makes a lot of sense. Some might say that eighteen months is a long time to make an album, especially a debut album, however when you have taken the time to involve full orchestras, military drums and brass sections (apparently all for free) then I think that TSDOLE can be excused for their delay. 

The passion that has gone into creating this album is clear to hear; throughout there are many little intricate moments that prove how much time and effort has gone into making the music. This is not a band that has gone into the studio just to record a few songs; they have gone in to craft an exact replica of what I can imagine they were hearing in their heads when writing the material. The string sections swell in and out of the music seamlessly, the brass sections emphasise the power of the instrumentation it is accompanying, and the layers upon layers of vocals weave in and out of each other to create a mass of noise that you don’t hear very often these days. The end product sounds in the same vein as Arcade Fire. It is very grandiose to the point where some might consider it extravagant and pompous, but in fact I think it makes for a very personal and almost intimate album. 

I do have one huge gripe though: It is possible to use too many sea metaphors on one CD. The album is called ‘Drown Your Heart Again’ and the phrase ‘drown your heart’ is heard so many times throughout the ten songs that it starts getting silly. There is too much talk of sinking, sailing, swimming, drowning, tides rising etc. I think you get the picture. I feel it is the one massive downfall on what would otherwise be a very positive debut for TSDOLE. So much time has been taken on making the instrumentation perfect that it seems like the lyrics have been forgotten about. Maybe they were only worked out at the last minute in some kind of rushed panic. Whatever happened with them, it ruins the listening experience for me and it makes the album feel tedious and almost laughable towards the end. 6/10 


Monday, 6 September 2010

For A Minor Reflection – Höldum Í Átt Að Óreiðu (Self Release)

I first came across For A Minor Reflection whilst they were supporting Sigur Rós on their 2008 tour; I was completely blown away by the Icelandic four piece’s live performance and immediately went and got a copy of their debut album ‘Reistu Þig Við, Sólin Er Komin Á Loft…’ This debut was impressive, but not a touch on what I had experienced when seeing them live. It was an hour long CD full of highs and lows, but also six tracks that became more and more predictable as you went through. Each song starting quietly, building up to a mass of noise by the eight or nine minute mark, and then getting quieter again to the end. So when looking at the tracklisting for their latest release, I was very happy to see that there are only three songs over six minutes out of the ten on the album. Could this mean a new, more concise For A Minor Reflection? 

In a word, yes. Right from the start it is clear that the band have grown up and are now writing much more mature and technically impressive material. There are moments of intense noise, moments of even more intense calm and many points that can be found somewhere in the middle. They are no longer predictable or monotonous, helped along by the fact that they haven’t stuck to their standard instrumentation of keyboards guitars and drums, instead deciding to add string sections throughout the album. It makes for some extremely engaging listening. Even in ‘Sjáumst Í Virginíu’ (a song that is over fourteen minutes in duration) there was a part of me that thought it would be back to the same old formula, but not at all. The track is full of changes of speed and volume, with no two minutes sounding the same. The album as a whole reminds me exactly why I was so impressed with them when first seeing them live. It manages to get across all of the intensity of their live show, without ever losing its pace. It is a huge step up from their debut, and an album that I hope at least all Sigur Rós fans will be able to appreciate. 9/10 


Bombay Bicycle Club – Rinse Me Down [Single] (Island Records)

Being a very big fan of Bombay Bicycle Club’s first album ‘I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose’ I have to admit that I was a little disappointed when hearing their latest album release ‘Flaws’. An entirely acoustic album, it seems to lack the energy and quirkiness that I enjoyed so much in their debut, and ‘Rinse Me Down’ is a good example of this problem. 

Don’t get me wrong, I think that ‘Rinse Me Down’ is an alright song. It is well constructed, with the instruments taking the forefront over any vocals that become extremely forgettable when you hear the beautiful plucked string accompaniment. But this is the problem; there is no chorus or even a simple hook to the song, nothing to remember it by and definitely nothing to sing along to. It feels very much like an album track that they are forcing out as a single. I know that this might be largely down to the concept of an entirely acoustic album, but there are plenty of fully acoustic bands out there that can produce better, more energetic and quirky music than this. 5/10 


Friday, 3 September 2010

Kick Up The Fire – Kick Up The Fire EP (You And Whose Army? Records)

This debut mini-album from London based four piece Kick Up The Fire is the first release from You And Whose Army? records in several years. Having formed from the remains of various other bands such as Johnny Truant and Down I Go, this is definitely a band with experience and this shows in their song writing: Each track on this short but sweet album has its own place, whether it’s the Franz Ferdinand style disco rock of ‘Cocktails and Gold,’ the almost Chili Peppers-esque bass driven rock of ‘Because of You’ or the At The Drive-In sounding opening track ‘These Canvas Shoes.’ Every song is full of hooks and sure to get stuck in your head. Thom Wicks’ vocals are strong and precise, and every now and then he throws vocal lines back and forth with Alan Booth which adds another dimension to the band. Add to that the very polished and bold sound of the rest of the instruments and what comes out is high energy and very strong. 

Kick Up The Fire have given the world an idea of what they are capable of with this mini-album, and I personally am looking forward to hearing what they do next. 7/10 


Le Coup Du Parapluie - Philosophie, Bien-Etre & Crimes Passionnels (Self Release)

Le Coup Du Parapluie are quite a mysterious band: While trawling through various websites trying to find out some information (getting more and more frustrated with Google Translate’s grammar) all I could really find out is that they are a power rock trio from Belgium that describe their music as ‘cinematic’. Either that or I’m about to review a French comedy film from 1980. So, knowing very little else about the band I suppose I should get straight to the music: 

As album opener ‘Bend and Break Fast’ played through, I thought I could predict what was to follow. It sounded like it was going to be a conventional ride with changing rhythms here, riff sections there and lots of over the top instrumental sections that last about five minutes longer than required. But listening through the album in its entirety, I couldn’t have been more wrong. It is gritty and fast paced (imagine Incubus crossed with The Mars Volta); the songs are long and expansive, but never dull. Some of the instrumental sections are so well thought out that I would almost put them on a par with those of the aforementioned The Mars Volta. Indeed with better production I think they would almost certainly be at the same level. ‘Le Loup Dans La Bergerie’ is an eight minute track that is fully instrumental, but not once during those eight minutes do you wonder when it’s going to end, which is quite an impressive feat. The soundscape they create using little more than the guitar-bass-drums combination with a few synths here and there is huge and makes sense of them describing their sound as ‘cinematic’. 

Although very good, ‘Philosophie, Bien-Etre & Crimes Passionnels‘ is nowhere near a masterpiece. There is something about it though; it’s not the greatest album I’ve ever heard by any means, however I have had it on repeat all day and would recommend that you get your hands on a copy of it and do the same thing. 8/10 


Sunday, 29 August 2010

Spirits of the Dead - Spirits of the Dead (Big Dipper Records)

Hailing from the west coast of Norway, Spirits of the Dead are a psychedelic prog-rock four piece that have very obvious influences from the moment you press play. Their self titled debut album is full of songs that bare resemblance to some of the big names of the seventies; Zeppelin, Sabbath, King Crimson, Cream and there’s even a bit of Pink Floyd in there for good measure. These influences are helped along by the fact that they have got George Marino in to master the album, who is famous for mastering albums from Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix (amongst many others) back in the day. So this album has a very vintage sound. 

Spirits of the Dead starts strongly with the eight minute long opening track ‘White Lady/ Black Rave’ in which we hear the band moving between a classic Rock n Roll sound and a more psychedelic ambiance filled with big guitars and Rhodes pianos aplenty. The transitions are smooth and the sections compliment each other well; the same of which can be said for the next few songs, they sound authentic, raw and very well written. By the fourth song on the album, everything is starting to get a little darker and more moody. The songs have lost their Rock n Roll edge, and have become much heavier and more distorted. I hate to say it but this ruins the whole album for me. The vocals become hard to listen to, they sound out of tune and out of place. The album starts to lose its authenticity, to the point that I was starting to imagine midgets running around a mini Stonehenge… I have to say that I was genuinely disappointed with the second half of this album. After what was an extremely positive start, I was expecting the whole album to be full of homages to the seventies, and it would have been a great listen. But as it is, it becomes a messy album full of songs with potential, but none of the finishing touches it needs to pull of the ideas that are there. 5/10