MUDKISS FANZINE

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MARCH SINGLES AND E.P.S: SWEET BREATH OF SPRING ON BUTTERFLY WINGS REVIEWED BY CHUMKI BANERJEE

Where life lay cold beneath frosty loam, sweet breath of spring, on butterfly wings, blooms shoots anew, once more to grow, eternal hope, blossom bright, dreams and loves to reignite.  So, this month of March, heralding in spring, also brings riotous abundance of new musical blossoms, some old favourites, re emerging, welcoming warmth, others unfurling to their first sun, many in first bud, preparing for spectacular Summer display as they release albums. So many glorious scents wafting on the breeze, it has been difficult to select favourites, hence my rather random categorisations. Now is the season to dance with cherry blossom in your hair, chasing dreams, on butterfly wings , music to inspire, floating through the air, my soundtrack to renaissance and renewal, sighs and smiles, most of all to love of life.

Beauteous Blooms, Heady Scents

The Miserable Rich - 'Miss You More', EP

It was last November when first entranced by The Miserable Rich, I reviewed 'On A Certain Night', released as a single from their album, 'Miss You In The Days'. Since then, bewitched, I looked forward to hearing more, which this E.P. delivers. Precursor to re release of the album, with bonus tracks, desire is sated, at least for a while. Accomplished as ever, medley of stunning melodies, mingling, merging classical musical idioms and expression, with folk, Malplaquet's mellifluous, honeyed vocal, enticingly engrossing tales and skill as raconteur, breathing atmosphere,  blending all into  breathtakingly beautiful, harmonious whole. Musically and lyrically unaffected, these poetic gems offer acute observational insights into life and  beyond, empathy oozes from every pore, simply yet perfectly articulated in ebb and flow of intermingled, communicative instrumentation, violin, 'cello, acoustic guitar and dulcet vocal, tantrically tangled in lyrical counterpoint while percussion beats sympathetic heart.

'Under Glass'  sparkles, glitters in on picked strings, sedated by gentle choral breath, soothingly stroked by expressively legato violin and steady heartbeat of drums, luscious harmonies gloriously entangled, stitched with vibrant vocal, silken thread weaving tale of fateful lessons learnt from life "...she's a good girl... she don't ask... learnt her lessons from her past..." , undertow of niggling, staccato bowed 'cello, frustrated frenzy fuelling helter-skelter ride, losing courage and impetus, weighed down to slink, in resigned sorrow, to safety, under glass.

'Lighthouse', creak of wind, seagull squaw, screech of rusty metal gate, forlornly swaying to and fro, captures desolate atmosphere from first eerily drawn bow, guitar bubbling below, flickering fire for evocative seafaring story teller vocal, breaking into tender woeful jig, hopefully hopeless, hailing sailor brothers home from sea that claimed them, raising a glass, eloquently moving, memorable memorial.

'Fear Of The Dark'  shifts scene, to tentatively tiptoe tortuous terrors of tenebrous mindscapes, crawling its crenulations, corridors and corners where shadows loom, lurk, linger, poised ready to pounce. Sinister violin, shivering guitar, cautiously creeping 'cello sets tone for chilling vocal "...every night when I go to my bed, sinister thoughts creep into my head...what are those shadows behind the door... what are those noises under the floor..." before whirling off into dervish, desperate to dispel darkness, drown it in Pollyanna thoughts, wrapped in her warm blanket. As insightful as ever, this strikes startlingly accurate chord for me, Pollyanna being an early childhood ray of hope which has guided me ever since. Cinematic, in literal musical interpretation, illustration of dark allegory, its atmosphere grips, icy hand on shoulder.

'The Telephone' , tale told to music, nervous, picked  strings, heavily thumping heartbeat, introduce  deeply despondent narrative entwined with  melancholic, articulate bowed strings, weaving conciliatory conversations laden with contrite compunction for unintentional hurt, heartbreak inflicted in  name of love, yearning forgiveness that cannot be given. Dream catcher of an EP, shimmers, glows, flows from the soul, folklore for a modern age. www.facebook.com/themiserablerich

Van Susans - 'Bricks Not Sticks Or Straw'/ 'Disappear', single

Van Susans were my first ever top favourite for Mudkiss, when I started reviewing singles and EPs for them, way back in August. Totally captivated by their conviction, musicality and lyricism, this new offering revisits thrills and frisson which their first EP conjured, so distinctive, it’s like coming home. Always sounding as if bound by invisible umbilical, music merged into seamless, respectful whole, now brim full of confidence, some of their original reflective, wide eyed subtlety is lost, replaced by exuberance, but they retain an innocent, open, optimistic disposition which is totally enticing and though energetic, nothing overbearing nor extraneous. Described as appealing to the American country market, by one rather disparaging review, though American rock influences are apparent in instrumentation, Van Susans transcend such categorisation, for me they have created an unique London, melodic indie sound, with a sunny yet contemplative disposition, which shines through their songs. At times melodic construction is repetitive, reliant on stock musical phrases but flows so beautifully, it is difficult to be churlish, not to be charmed.

'Bricks Not Sticks Or Straw' launches into their characteristic clean, concise wall of sound, through which weeps dulcet piano, weaving with communicative guitar and sympathetic percussion, echoed drums adding depth and atmosphere, extraordinarily expressive, lithe vocals swoop, ride rise and fall of musical waves. Though melodically reminiscent, in feel, to their debut single 'Bones', like all their songs remarkably catchy, with heart tugging lyricism. "... as it all comes crashing down... will be there to build it up somehow....roof to floor...stronger than it was before...." sung with such sincerity, you have to believe.

'Disappear' starts more pensively, before again blending into mellifluous maelstrom, waves of sound knitted together with emotive piano, sprinkled with guitar glitter, impassioned vocal, intermingling their souls into harmonious, emotionally honest whole. "...one thing you should know about me... I get cold feet... in the morning I will be gone... blown away by the wind..."

Since first hearing them, though a multitude of songs have pleasured my ears, Van Susans still sound fresh, still exude passion for their art, still enthral, so I for one, am very glad they have not been blown away by puff of fickle fashion, that they are much more than flimsy sticks and straw. www.vansusans.com

Rebellious Jukebox -‘Killer On The Dance Floor’, Single

Hooked by delicious depravity of ‘Slave to Lust’, reviewed last November, I have eagerly looked forward to more electro from Rebellious Jukebox. ‘Killer On The Dance Floor’ though not as quirkily contorted, picks up same rhythm, rocking it with sinister Numan heartbeat, warping ‘80’s electro with Bowie inflected Ziggy vocal, Ultravox perverted, subverted by early Roxy glam, to synthesise deranged, deleteriously debauched, deliriously dancing automaton,  ready to “...slip into your gates of heaven...” Once again sucked down tunnel of sound into darkly alluring nether world by irresistibly ominous, grungy mix of retro and modern electronica, mischievously malign drums, ice cold inveigling vocal and hypnotising, twisted rhythms, I am bewitched by this hedonistic brew to follow “...rhythm of the dance floor....rhythm of life.... dance, dance, dance tonight....”.  No dancing with tears in my eyes, a classic is born. www.facebook.com/RebelliousJukeboxOfficial

Cherry blossom, fragile and ethereal

Tom Williams and the Boat - ‘My Bones’, single

Deeply moving, darkly despairing introverted stream of consciousness narrative, poignantly half sung, woefully wept from sorrowful soul, desperately seeking solace “...pick me up... take me home... I love you from the marrow of my bones...” Subdued instrumentation, subsumed in shadows of hurt, soft shoed bass shuffles, introspective, prickling guitar, heavy hearted drums, doleful, woebegone violin and despondent, demoralised vocal, tells touching tale of lost love, with flowing, poetic lyricism and musicality, tear stained lament which sticks in the head.  www.tomwilliamsandtheboat.co.uk

Tomos Lewis- ‘Four Songs’, EP

Having recently heard and adored Adam (son of Leonard) Cohen’s latest CD, these four simply beautiful, heart touching, ‘singer/songwriter’ songs put me in mind of both father and son, with their gentle, perceptive style, musicality and lyrical astuteness. Examining inner nature, candidly observant, they touch the core of human emotion. 

‘I Died Deep Inside’ , memorable classic, painfully honest reflection on love, betrayal, hurt and hope “...I die deep inside...’cause you hurt my pride....”, introspective, trembling, tremulous, vocal and sparkling strummed guitar, welling, brimming to inadvertent , sprinkling silver,  steel  guitar tears, throbbing, heavy  hearted  drums, starting to race in remembrance , tearing anguished cry, bitter sweet, sun meets rain, in eternal “... but I do hope...”, poignancy personified in radiant melody.

‘What’s A Man To Do’, gently strummed guitar, softly spoken drums, honeyed dew drop bass, weeping violins, feather light chorus , sparkling glimmers and touch of keyboard, caress “...gentle anecdote...” with soaring, heart break, velvet vocals, “.... what’s a man to do... when I love you...” tinged with tart tang of veracity , “... when you fall... I will be there to watch it all....” another captivating classic.

Ode to ‘Elinor’, more ruminative, meandering maudlin, temperate acoustic guitar and vocal ponder “...I’m a believer... want to believe her...but I can’t believe her...” doubt dissuaded, drowned in blossoming, echoed chorus of adoration and longing, roused, drummed to reverential chant, praising Elinor, touchingly revealing.

 ‘These Boots’ most dramatic song on the EP, darkly orchestrated dose of cynicism and paranoia, gritty guitar, jaded vocal on leaden bass and dragging drum feet, “...got a big idea, going to walk these boots ... right out of this town...know you’re teasing me girl...got me hanging round thinking that I’m needing your light...”, “ ...girl I wanted to be warm by your side... but I’m going to make tracks...finding my own life....”, dissolving into disturbing babble of voices, “...somebody’s watching me...”, doused in deeply hypnotising bass motif.

Melodies which linger in the mind, songs to provoke reflection, burnished bright by true song smith. www.tomoslewis.com

Golden Fable - 'Always Golden', Single

Simply entrancing, voice as clear as choirboy, Rebecca Palin's bell like soprano soars stratospheric spires, showering silver, mingling with echo of itself, in sampled layered duet, cascading choir of angels, accompanied by taciturn, pertinent percussion, sparkling acoustic and bobbing electric, guitar, cut by shining synth slivers, brittle clarity softened, buffered by gentle undercurrent, wisp of male harmony. Such sweetness could conjure nausea but is grounded and tempered by staccato, fluttering, blipping electronica and click, clack drum rim effects, while hymn like harmonies are lent more mortal emotional depth with heart tugging, mesmeric melodic constructs reminiscent of The Cranberries. Maybe slightly too beatific but beautiful all the same. http://goldenfable.bandcamp.com/

Cross pollinated, ravishing revivals, reveal their glory

Jonny Cola & The A Grades - ‘Halo’, EP

Drowned in sound of enigmatic era when Ziggy ruled the world, uncanny Stardust sprinkled vocal emerges, spine tingling spectre, echo from ashes of the past. Jonny's voice bears more than passing resemblance to a first musical love, Bowie,  spookily evocative, this band tugs the knot his voice forever tied in my heart. Though not as tumultuous, The A Grades are touched by ripples which still permeate from streams of change that Bowie and Bolan set in motion, riding its waves, plunged in plundered melodic structures, expressively invoking its distinctive accent.

'Halo' grabs from first darkly brooding note of chugging grungy bass and clear cut drum's confidently louche, off beat skip, "....something is growing on the top of your head... is it a halo....", Bowiesque vocal insinuates, permeates dense, driving instrumentation, duets its hiccup with stuttering guitar, tongue wraps with sliding, screeching, communicative solos, bowing out in mimicry of  mannerism mastered by Bowie, quietly reflective, slightly sinister, last word, Doesn’t dent nor besmirch the master’s halo but polishes its reflection into an inordinately memorable classic which ensnared my head.

'Rain Stopped Play' interrupts flow with melodic punk/new wave, touch of Mansun attitude, rawer, highly energetic instrumentation, pounding drums, half barked vocal, skilful and catchy  but individuality doused in euphemistic references, not as gripping. 

'Ripples', rollercoaster rides Kate Bush via Bowie "... watch the ripples spread...whoa...whoa...whoa..." into Radiohead's refrigerator buzz "...outside the Iceland exit door ..." and instrumental degradation, emphatically minor in tone, despairing, inexorable downward spiral, unrelenting sevenths bitterly battle, batter, desperately seek resolution, rain drenched, finally find weary solace in lachrymose ' Life on Mars' tinged piano theme, like 'Halo', this song has taken up residence in my head, another classic.

Finally, 'Ship Of Fools' messes with it again, unsettled, seasick from another change in style, this cover of Erasure's electro pop 1988 classic has potential for ship wreck but, taken for psychedelic ride in time, rendezvous with Kinks/Zombies and modern electronic polish shines up  allure into sleek synth vessel. Plunged into deeper waters than the original, this revival flounders to retain its quirky, tongue in cheek tone but coasts convincingly on calm, sparkling water.

Like Bowie, musically promiscuous, Jonny's band are not chameleon enough to achieve his A*, clarity slightly muddied by confusing cross pollination, none the less, they get a high grade from me, mesmeric, exerting undeniable fascination for what is at the core of their music, a band I eagerly look forward to following on its journey through competitively stormy seas, they float my boat and for once, I think, a little more Cola might be a good thing.  www.jonnycolaandtheagrades.net

Exotic Hybrids, fresh breath

NO*TOKYO - 'Ego Healer (feat. N-Trance)', Single

Entrancement of a song from its impossibly alluring, funky, bouncing bass motif, beautifully concise, sexily sullied, subtle rock guitar which knows just when to tease, tickle, when to shriek, disco beat drums, poignant, fluid vocal touched by Tears for Fears, caressed by echo, washed by ethereal electronica. Irresistibly delicious concoction, Indie, rock, disco and dance, addictively catchy, ineluctably dancy. Love this song and definitely will be listening to more from NO*TOKYO. http://www.notokyo.net

Vinyl Jacket - ‘Red Light’, Single

Quite extraordinary, exceptionally unique and addictive, both original version and ‘Everything Everything’ remix pack a solar plexus punch. The original with rock hard, ruthlessly vigorous, pumping, farting, funky bass, jumping, leaping, skittering percussion, staccato, racing, flitting, fleeting, soaring vocal and quirky, cheeky electronica, manages to fuse Peter Gabriel, 'Shock The Monkey' attitude with kooky ABC, Tears For Fears electro pop and barber shop, careering along without drawing breath, it left me gasping in its wake, astonishing and remarkably catchy.

The remix; samples, loops, cuts up, chops, shreds song into tiny rhythmic pieces, pasted back together like Musique Concrete aural montage, mosaic of sharp shards on back cloth of gloomy, growling, gritty, scratchy, rapid fire, crackling electronica, stitching new material, from fragmented original, reminiscent of Hillage experimentation. Despite spiky vocal, unrelentingly lugubrious and desolate until final third, sliding into incessantly looped, glissando organ and disjointed, snatched soprano, musical motif, somehow extrapolated, extruded from original theme. What more can I say, totally arresting! http://vinyljacket.co.uk

Strikingly, Serenely, Surreal

TR (Terry) Clemmett - ‘Bombay Baba’, EP

Extraordinary collection of captivating, cautionary, vivid vignettes, chillingly capturing modern day desperation, its mores, vices and enticements, morality tales recounted from real life, subverting familiar voice of nursery rhyme, story teller, myth maker, to current times, revisiting their power as missives, innocuous, playful metaphoric representations of sinister, ominous, darkly destructive reality, depravity and pain of humanity, palatably yet palpably powerfully passed down, sing song through ages. Each song, lyrically and musically devastatingly descriptive, grips with power of true storyteller’s inescapable grasp, part spoken, part chanted, illuminated by sparse but highly illustrative instrumentation, individual to, inspired by each piece, telling the tale as much as the riveting voice which mutates, contorts into character.

 ‘Bombay Baba’ has a ‘60’s mystical, Beatlesque vibe, accented rap combined with impassioned chant, in conversation with smoothly syrupy, walking, Talking Heads bass invokes Indian religious pleadings, Middle Eastern maqams, babble of Baba’s, Sai from Mumbai and Arabic Ali, speaking in reggae tongue while Angel Michael blows his horn to herald birth of “...Apocalypse Baby...” floating like Buddha on smoke of pyre.

‘Lady In Blue’, taps ‘blind man’s’ stick, Fagin eyes hidden flash “...hungry for the cash...you never see her eyes...” , guitar and piano cautiously creep, twanging  ‘Cool for Cats’ bass in confident strut, to pick a pocket or two, “...fingers silky smooth...as she dips them in the groove...”,  “ to get “.... out of her mind...”, “....upon Central line...drinking... wine...” A tune that swaggers, “...hubble bubbles...” through modern Dickensian tale.

‘Luceil’, red ring ( “...bling of roses...powder on your noses..”) of ‘coke’, modern day pox, sinister guitar and vocal, Devil in duet with confidently lyrical, laconic double bass, “...lords, my ladies...loonies, crazies...” all hail, in cheeky ‘Charlie’ , “....mountain of Yayo....Yayo....Yayo...” worship  to “.... kings of cocaine...glittering...high like stars...on magic merry go round...”,  a tune as chilling and numbing as the “...,snow...diamonds in the spoon...” they transport.

 ‘Shooting Range’, ‘Psycho Killer’ bass, guitar melody reminiscent of ‘In the Year 2525’ fused with ‘Let’s Spend The Night Together’, stabbing pointing finger of drums and evangelical vocal, decries egomaniacal dark times when “...politicians... sip on the wine... on streets....sirens...whine...” Tainted life powerfully described.

Moongoose  - 'And From My Window I Look Down On Skyscrapers / Throb (Part 1)', Single

Spaghetti Western steel guitar deliciously mixed with film noire trumpet, mystery and intrigue conjured from muted drawl, louche bass throbbing heart of dark city streets where jazzy drums track quiet creep, of private dick, following in wake of his nicotine drift, into atmosphere painted thick, electronica wafting, weaving menace round the scene, denouement screeched in triumphant trumpet duet, mute released, free to speak. Morricone meets Herrmann in musical soundscape so evocative of a genre, black and white, forties film noire/ thriller, no words are necessary, melodic progressions and expressively illustrative instrumentation so familiar, they write their own script and like a good film score, enrapture, ensnare. Just close your eyes and follow your own plot but then you would miss enticing little video, sweep of faces and skyscraper city streets, integral part of this vignette.

The flip side 'Throb (Part 1)', literally does throb, vibrate with darkly menacing electronica, percussion marking steady yet watchful steps towards shimmering, pulsating glow, illuminating its path, intensifying to awe in blossoming of orchestral strings, kettle drum thudding heart quietening in anticipation of revelations.... perhaps in part two.

Film score to another script, this time science fiction, again so descriptive the mind's eye, perhaps inspired by its video, illuminated X-Ray plates, skeletal man cast as alien, is sufficient to play the reel, unwind the spool. Music to arouse imagination.

Lifting Their Heads To The Sun

Jake Morley -‘Feet Don’t Fail Me Now’, Single

Ebulliently energetic, animated sing a long, urban nod to hip hop pop, backed by sunny gospel choir, brimming with buoyant optimism, clear and present voice in rhythmic, melodic rap with punchy, perky percussion and vivacious bass, falsetto “...oh...oh’oh... oh..oh...” chorus, mind worm that burrows and sticks, a neat little number.

The OK Social Club - ‘The Shape Of Things To Come’/double B-side, ‘Twist, Learn, Kick and Scream’ and ‘Twisted Young Gentlemen, Single

Sunny, fresh faced, highly melodic, catchy Indie which bowls along, in well matched harmony, beautifully delicate, nimble, mellow bass, the star, supported by scrunchy, cheerfully careering guitar , energetically optimistic, sensitive drums and soulful vocal, Scottish accent appealingly apparent. Though employing familiarly engaging stock musical phrases, all three songs melodically, memorably endearing, poignant , individual touches providing unexpected pleasure, particularly the break, three quarters though  'The Shape Of Things To Come’, built around wonderfully laconic bass. Twist, Learn, Kick and Scream’ adds touch of ‘60’s Kinks style, in vocal effects and melodic construction, with hints of Bragg and Two Tone, while more contemplative Twisted Young Gentlemen , most obviously Indie pop, infectiously anthemic.

Whisper Of Wind Beneath Butterfly Wings

Butterflies On Strings - 'What did John Stuart Mill say again?' EP

Refreshingly clean, clear and well produced, highly melodic Indie. Quoting American Indie rock bands such as 'Death Cab For Cutie', 'The Shins', 'Modest Mouse' and 'Okkervil River' as inspirations, Butterflies are not as rocky as first two, nor quirky as Mouse or angst ridden as River but manage to incorporate influences and references while reflecting and retaining their own character, modern folk tinged London Indie, reflecting on life, with sunny, at times bitter sweet, disposition. All three songs on this EP ,fluently musical, melodic and catchy, 'What did John Stuart Mill say again?' encapsulating their style, "... why do I make things so complex ?... just a lack of confidence ..." breezily ponders how we live life, in endearing voice which contrasts and communicates effortlessly against throbbing back drop, repeated , slightly vocoded vocal loop adding interest without affectation.

'The Suitcase Kid', speeded up version along same melodic lines adds hint of Fergal Sharkey , showcasing flexibility of voice while, 'The Funniest Joke' ironically is most minor in tone, reflective, touched by cynicism, folksy, stripped back ,vocal, glittering guitars and keyboards wandering into controlled chaos, Indie meshed wall of sound, half way through, circling round familiar melodic progressions, wallowing in drawn out instrumental ending, fading to beat of military drums which, though nothing much new, is quite appealing. In this world of increasing complication and complexity, sometimes it is nice to stand still and feel the breath of air beneath butterfly wings.

Sheepy - 'Glum', single

In the months since I reviewed Luke Jones's 'Predator' E.P. his musical alter ego Sheepy has acquired a degree of cynicism and developed his instrumental sophistication without losing lyrical or melodic clarity and candour. So, though 'Glum' is more down in the dumps, melodic punk attitude of 'Predator' still pervades, observant of life's contradictions and artefacts. Illustratively instrumented, pedestrian keyboard, bass and drums solidly mark drudging footsteps while guitar grimaces at miserable countenances in these "...days of glum...", melodically reminiscent of the sixties with slightly spacey vocals and layered vocal harmonies, more stylised than previous offerings but still captivating, catchy tune which clearly states its stance.

Emporium - ‘The Umbrella Shop’/ ‘She Won’t Come Out To Play’, Single

Beautifully sumptuous sounds, evocative, tender piano paints prettily sparkling motif, mellow bass, steely guitar, orchestral strings and brass, storyteller, choir boy, honeyed vocal whispers warmly illuminated night time tale, washed by gentle chorus, woven seamlessly together into atmospheric epic of gas lit London.

‘She Won’t Come Out To Play’, similarly fully orchestrated and chorused, swings between sunny optimism and melancholic, despondent undertow, maudlin vocal describing sad tale of girl who just can’t face the day. 

Both pieces, not structured songs, more sung narrative than poetically lyrical, melodically meandering, descriptive instrumentation, drawing on Classical idioms, showcase and support the star voice and its tale, could be from a, as yet unwritten, Musical score.

Budding Beauties

Eskimo Fandango - ‘Record Shop’, EP

Though hailing from Yorkshire and billed as Indie, for me spirit of American rock pervades this offering. Receiving a CD with no track list, listening for first time, Grease with hint of Springsteen sprang to mind and indeed track one, sweetly innocent love song, ‘Springsteen’, with chugging bass, tight skipping heartbeat drums, clear, energetically strummed guitar and optimistic, melodic vocal pays homage to heartland rock of the great one, “.... have my favourite Springsteen record playing just for you....” Remaining tracks tell Grease tale of working class youth subculture, high school japes, escapes and Hicksville hopelessness, like Grease, grit of reality ground into outwardly shiny cheerleader face. ‘Midnight Rock N Roll Drives’ with its “...ooh la la la...” sweet sixteen, high school dance theme, conjures pompoms, sultry nights, and fumbled teenage kicks in Cadillac. Sunny ‘Record Shops’, moves on, with immortal line, “...work in a 9 to 5 job... come back home put a 45 on...needle soothes... the dull life blues...” personifies squeaky clean boredom of American provincial life, jumping to pure rock and roll life as record turns, “...wonderful to be alive...when the rock and roll plays and I catch your eye...”, skipping a celebratory guitar screech, can almost see the jive and light in his eyes.

‘Three Chord Sound’ and ‘Burnt Out’ more reflective, retrospective, basically ride further down same road, both melodically, instrumentally and lyrically, shine of life tarnished with time and loss,  ‘Burnt Out’, despite sunny aspect, most poignant, “....you did not walk away... crushed on the motorway....” Though these five songs merge into one appealing melodic soundscape, theme to an American musical, they tell such an engaging tale, passage through an ordinary life, it is impossible not to listen and smile.

Princip - ‘Dirty Hands’, EP

At times, disjointed but strangely alluring mix, combining stock rock musical phrases and instrumentation, snatched, vigorously strummed guitar, throbbing bass, definite, light footed drums and anthemic vocal, with spaced out, warbling electro and shrill synth. All six songs, highly melodic, each have intriguing individual touches which highlight the musicality of the band, from vibrant 1980’s synth arpeggio on ‘Fall To Pieces’, to reggae/ Ska beat and warped fairground synth of  highly catchy ‘Merry-Go-Round’, deep funky bass and scratched, skittering guitar of ‘Wonderland’, crazily chattering progressive rock synth of ‘Damascus’, reflective, lush piano and diving, drawling, chocolate bass of ‘ Shiny Sky’, an anthem which highlights beauty, range and depth of a highly musical vocal, an enticing epic, while ‘Restarter’,  chugging heavy rock, is lifted by scintillating, scribbled guitar. A bit variable when whirling round rock’s plug hole but never quite swirls down it, so generally, an enthralling ride.

Bounteous Burgeoning

Hang Fire - 'For Crying Out Loud', Single

Remarkably tightly integrated heavy rock, mega horse power thundering along on tightly held reins, impeccably capturing spirit of ‘70’s in well cherished riffs, hooks, chord progressions, delivered by chugging bass, driving guitar, pounding drums and passionately impassioned voice. Apart from musical integrity, the difference here is extraordinarily dextrous guitar, shining in solos and darkly seductive vocal depth, Motorhead touched by Rush, tantalising temptation.

Genetically Modified, Hothouse, Hallucinations

Rendezvous - 'Distorted', New Track

Though I chose 'The Murph' as single of the month in my December reviews for Mudkiss, my feelings for Rendezvous veer between adoration and frustration. I love their quirky Sci-Fi electronica but at times one too many rendezvous with melodrama finds me cringing, the line between idiosyncrasy and pretention, a fine one, especially when crossing over into Wakemen prog rock synth. As with Rick, despite his Bowie whimsy, bordering on genius, meandering into waffling, bombastic conceit with Yes, at which point I said no, he still holds me in awed thrall, as do Rendezvous, when sticking to the pure electronic point, such as on 'C-Sharp' and my favourite track on their 'Another Round Please' album, 'Adagio to Tiesto', testament to talented dance tune monger, endearingly revealing Rendezvous' admirable intentions. By luck or design some Rendezvous misdemeanours, to my ears at least, have been remixed by favourite dance DJs, such as Digweed and Cox, who in eliminating extravagance, injecting attitude, have re-ignited my interest and in the case of this track, 'Distorted', such a treatment would be most welcome.

As with 'The Murph', darkly menacing, deep drawl of dredging bass, this time assisted by jazzy Certain Ratio percussion, rescues track from mawkish theatrics of electronic fireworks, squiggles, shrieks, star ship sirens, squeals, stylophone and hammy, cheesy synth which, though crackle and pop, don't quite deliver devastating distortion described on the box, not as interstellar as Rendezvous can be, in need of deliverance, deconstructed ruination, cataclysmic subversion which I am sure a Tiesto distortion could easily achieve. Saying that, still following in the wake, if not Wakeman tendencies, of Rendezvous

Darkly Dramatic

Stereo Virgins - 'Black Heart', EP

Darkly menacing, sisters of hammer horror Goth rock, throbs, grinds, stalks, creeps, leers, wades, sedated, vibrated through viscous, tortuous, treacle of despondency, bathed in brimstone belch of abyss, perfect evocation of purgatory, perdition personified. Though 'Maryann', 'Blister', 'Please You' and 'The End (Goat)' merge into one long dirge  there is something curiously, compulsively compelling about this disturbing darkscape painted by Stereo Virgins, Ladytron and Blondie glinting, squinting through pitch black doleful doom metal, most evident on 'Picture Of Me'. Dramatic or drone, a case of black heart in Marmite jar, for me, gloriously gunky grunge, lick the lid but a little goes a long way.

The Black Tears - ‘Pins N Needles’, Track from forthcoming album

Swings wildly between beguiling bewitchment and unfocused, bludgeoning, derivative Goth metal bash, enigmatic Banshee start, twanging guitar marking mysterious motif, shimmered cymbal ushering quietly creeping Siouxsie vocal, causing my heart to hope before dashed on rocks of doom filled despair, alchemy dramatically dissipated , drowned by artless decibels, brief reprieve wandering off aimlessly, not sufficient to recapture reverie, racing downhill to decimation, a band of two distinct halves, broken but hopefully not indubitably, because they could conceive a beauteous vessel. 

Wistfully, Windblown, Tousled And Tangled

Letters - 'The Halfway House', Single

Inventive though slightly incongruous half way house of hardish rock and classical instrumentation, violoncello in particular, not quite meeting promise of press release but intriguing none the less. Intro, guitar and ‘cello repartee, joined by beguilingly bullish, blunderbuss drums and melodic vocal, entices for almost a minute before vocals start to drag, heralding confusion, crashing collision of styles, ‘cello chugging, fretting, worrying away in hopeless competition with intimately interlocked heavy rock guitars, drums and bass, seeking solace and strength by doubling catchy vocal, clinging courageously but rather conspicuously contrived until, two thirds of the way through the song, muddy skies clear, lines untangle in guitar shimmer, light shines through to release individual instrumental voices, reveal hidden beauty, ‘cello, no longer in competition weaving harmonious melody with other instruments, in counterpoint with anthemic, chanted  vocal, illuminating what could be. Impassioned, engaging, impressively executed, but slightly entangled. 

Showbizheroes - ‘Climb To A Fall’, single

Talking Head ‘Psycho Killer’ bass throb, spiked guitar, wash of scintillating synth, ghost of echo and sinisterly creeping vocal promises intrigue, dissipated, slightly disappointed when whisper turns to screech of ‘pretty boy’ Americanised hard rock, driving drums, grungy ‘air’ guitar, well worn motifs, but; tightly played, beautifully beguiling bass, touches of enthralling vocal gymnastics, and sprinkling of synth sparkle, beckons me out from behind sofa, a game of two halves.

The Method - ‘Art Gallery’/ ‘The Gatekeeper and I’, Single

Rock and Roll with a spacey, Monkees/ Kinks edge, whispering at door of The Doors, time travel, slightly battered and bruised, through echoing, ghostly corridors of the past, at times more ponderously pounding than gently knocking at heaven’s door.

Wilting Slightly

Centre Excuse - ‘Stop, Drop & Roll’, single

Conjures era wrapped in silver foil bodysuits, jet black or preternaturally bleached  hair shocked to peacock attention by frenzied fingernail squeak of synth, aged bones bouncing to deep, desirous, bass, rattled by insistent drum beat, shivered by electronic scintillation, captures essence of ‘80’s electro pop, seductive enough but are these old legs still fit to bop, though appealing, nothing new.

Spikey And Thrusting

Baby Blue - ‘Earthquake’, Single

Male and female vocal, unified in doubled up rhythmic screech, metronome guitar marking time before joint skydive without parachute, into earthquake of tempestuous, thunderous drums and driving guitar, in repetitive rotating riff, mutating into morphed Zeppelinesque solo before skidding to abrupt halt. Full in the face, screaming frenzy, rather like being repeatedly poked in the eye by crazed, deranged loon or cantankerous baby with the blues, strangely hypnotic all the same.

Reviews by Miss Chumki Banerjee