The Undertones – True Confessions (Singles = A’s + B’s)
Along with the obvious benefits of writing one of the greatest pop tunes ever, there’s also a major down side. As you would expect, “Teenage Kicks” opens this reissued version of The Undertones double CD singles collection and although there can’t be many who haven’t heard the track, just in case, I’ll expand further. “Teenage Kicks” is a piece of pure pop genius, power chord heavy riff and rhythm underpins a tale of romantic yearning the youth of the day could identify with totally. After producing a bona fide classic as their first release, although incredibly only peaking at No.31 in the U.K charts....... what next? In fairness, The Undertones continued to produce a handful of more commercially successful top quality pop tunes, including “My Perfect Cousin,” and “Jimmy Jimmy” utilising a similar punk influenced template with youthful, although insightful lyrical themes. None have stood the test of time and matching the longevity of their debut however, assisted by the legendary John Peel’s fervent endorsement of “Teenage Kicks” being his favourite ever song. Furthermore the material become much inferior, employing an extremely basic rhythm section and lyrics which too easily reached the point of just sounding rather childish, “Mars Bars” and “Let’s Talk About Girls” particular cases in point.
CD2, refers to the latter part of their career, as we hear a much more mature band moving away from their 70’s punk influence as the New Romantic movement commences. The decision has been taken to mature, become much more serious and prove their worth as real musicians, not just those Derry kids playing around. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work in the slightest as the basic rhythms are still apparent with their biggest hit from the period “Wednesday Week” the best of a very mediocre bunch.
It would appear Fergal Sharkey has also taken to visiting a voice coach. While he has a fine distinctive voice, when the phrasing includes extended warbling, it becomes incredibly annoying. It’s not really until the massive solo hit “A Good Heart” that Sharkey really blossomed as a vocalist.
Before listening to this collection of A & B sides, I pondered The Undertones being a band from my youth I’d selfishly ignored in pursuit of heavier avenues. Afterwards, I remembered why I’d allowed them to pass almost unnoticed in the first place. www.theundertones.com
I’ll keep this review within the style of the album, brief and straight to the point, no filler. A three piece hailing from Toledo, Spain, Hollywood Sinners have produced 12 tracks of garage punk, which take just over 25 minutes of your life in one sitting. New York Dolls influenced, with the majority of the songs in their native Spanish, don’t allow this to detract however. “Disastro Garantito” is urgent, in your face and full of sheer unadulterated vitality. Stand out tracks........ all of them. If you like your rock ‘n’ roll loud, proud and raw with rebel rousing backing vocals, buy it and look out for a show nearby soon. Live is truly were these guys undoubtedly excel. www.myspace.com/hollywoodsinners
In complete contrast to Hollywood Sinners, Carlton Melton unveil their second collection “Country Ways” with an extended piece nearly as long as the whole “Disastro Garantito” album, clocking in just over 20 minutes in length. Comprising nothing more than feedback and noise, bravery or stupidity is the question? Tortuous to the majority indisputably, to the right ears however the title track contains elements of true beauty. Echoing and chiming guitars are intertwined with atmospheric reverberations as a picture of true serenity permeates the inner reaches of the mind. As with a great deal passing through Mudkiss, “Country Ways” isn’t for the faint of heart, an open mind is absolutely pre-requisite to enjoyment.
Allow yourself to experience this full body of work on more than one occasion, additional melodious aspects begin to pervade the ether. “Harrington Fair ” incorporates superb guitar work and “March of the Cicades” almost follows a traditional instrumental structure inclusive of basic incessant drum rhythm and outstanding distorted slide. In general, the description within the press release, “dronescapes,” more than adequately outlines the visions ex Zen Guerilla members, Andy Duvall and Rich Millman, accompanied by Brian McDougall and John Steuernagel illustrate within the recording.
“Country Ways” is a complete transcendental release from the world around. Don a pair of headphones, close your eyes.......... don’t fight it........ go with the flow and glide into absolute psychedelic paradise. The images conjured within the cranial cavities are purely yours, and yours alone.www.myspace.com/carltonmelton
The Beautiful South – Live at the BBC
Formed by two ex members of The Housemartins, Paul Heaton and Dave Hemingway, The Beautiful South enjoyed a fruitful chart career, including 19 hit singles and 8 top ten albums. The band has always been one of my guilty pleasures, not overly inspiring although Heaton’s melodic compositions and witty lyrics always enticing, rather than repelling. My favourite memory rather perversely refers to their break up, Heaton once again revealing his comedic tendencies, citing “musical similarities” as the reason.
I expect fans of The Beautiful South to be quivering in anticipation at the thought of Universal Music releasing a three CD package on May 2nd consisting of of live tracks recorded by the BBC. The collection conversely highlights a bizarre musical phenomenon in my case, which materialised many years ago with another respected easy listening band. After enjoying numerous Simon and Garfunkel songs, I purchased their greatest hits album and discovered listening to track after track became extremely tedious, a repeat of which I’m experiencing listening to “Live at the BBC.” 52 tracks of slightly bland music is unfortunately a step too far, especially including multiple similar live versions of the same song. Unless a Beautiful South completist, the old adage less is more, has never been so applicable.
Perhaps a single live CD, compromising the best from the BBC archives or even the Blackburn St Georges Hall gig from CD2 as a sole item may have proved more digestible. There’s no denying “Song for Whoever” “Rotterdam” “Old Red Eyes is Back” or “A Little Time” are perfectly crafted pop songs, in this format their appeal is lost. www.last.fm/music/The+Beautiful+South
It’s said a book should never be judged by it’s cover, in the case of The Webb Sisters, neither can an album. The reverse of the CD reveals production by multiple Grammy winner Pete Asher with an outstanding collection of musicians, including rhythm legends Leland Sklar and Russ Kunkel who have played with the cream of American country / folk artists. The notes additionally highlight an introduction of a live version of the Leonard Cohen song “If It Be Your Will” by the great man himself.
“Savages” is a strange album, along with the cover, unable to be judged by the first track. “Baroque Thoughts” is a gorgeous piece of melodic folk, voices harmonising beautifully, the tones complimenting each other perfectly. Elsewhere, The Webb Sisters are totally unsure of their sound with an air of familiarity pervading. “Calling This Life” opens with a chirpy, Lily Allen cockney vocal, title track “Savages” resembles The Corrs, even down to the drumbeat and “Burn” could easily pass for Leanne Rhymes. The compositions ease too readily towards mainstream country rock, tailing away disappointingly after an engaging opening. Apparently the Webb Sisters are more respected across the Atlantic than their home country, which is frankly unsurprising.www.thewebbsisters.com
The Method – Dissidents and Dancers
Unsure isn’t a criticism to be levelled at The Method. A 60’s psychedelic surf guitar sound, favoured by The Ventures or The Tornadoes is spiced with Farfisa organ and a hint of early Coral. Playing to their palpable strengths, the alleged hottest, wildest Welsh sensations provide a welcome departure from the Indie and Folk so prevalent throughout the U.K music scene. The back cover of the CD further recalls bygone days, illustrating five tracks on side one and six on side two.
Although perceptible throughout, particularly as Richie Hayes vocal is on occasions reminiscent of Eric Burdon, the influences never intrude to the point of over familiarity or detract from the individuality of The Method. “Dissidents and Dancers” is a peculiar contradiction in terms, initially sounding stark and bare, repeated listens unravel however, hidden aural layers. Bass riffs stand proud, adding depth and variation, intermingling with the rhythm guitar to provide musical diversity throughout, “Whip Around” a perfect example. Integrating echoing, menacing brass into “Feed a Line” or “The Fool” the Cardiff quintet provide further deviation from predictability.
If only more bands were bold enough to venture along such divergent roads, the world of music would be a more interesting and fulfilling place. http://www.themethod.eu/
Delta Maid – Outside Looking In
After the release of her 2010 “Broken Branches” EP, Delta Maid garnered attention from many including Take That luminary Gary Barlow, being invited to play his 40th birthday party. Operating in unfamiliar territory based on her Liverpudlian locale, Delta sings country blues in her distinctive voice, incorporating dexterous guitar picking and melodic piano. The EP appeared an ideal introduction to Delta Maid prior to the release of “Outside Looking In” which is available from May 9th, although similarly to The Beautiful South opus, I find myself struggling to cope with a full collection.
Any of these tracks as a singular item can be appreciated and enjoyed, when grouped together the experience proves unexpectedly less pleasurable. Appealing directly to the dinner party set, the thirteen tracks accompanied by a glass of merlot will sit satisfactorily between the tiramisu and cheese and biscuits. Although providing perfect background music to allow general conversation, on occasion subject matter will be provided, especially during the more up tempo “Back The Last Horse” or “Of My Own,” the prevalence of the lead guitar provided by Delta’s brother, becoming more apparent. “Outside Looking In” will undoubtedly project Delta Maid to a wider audience, although not within the social gatherings I prefer to inhabit. www.myspace.com/deltamaid