Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Live from KCRW
On the back of a most stirring series of gigs – you just have to read the Mudkiss reviews and see the photos to understand the impact the recent tour has had – comes what is the fourth live recording in the Nick Cave canon, and quite a departure it is too from the recent excitement. It features some recordings made earlier in 2013 at Los Angeles’ Apogee Studios for a live KCRW session. Recorded by famed engineer Bob Clearmountain, it’s a collection of classic Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds material together with some songs from the recent ‘Push The Sky Away’ album. Not only that, the session featured a more stripped down line up and sound, somewhat removed from the usual bluster associated with their bristling dynamic live performances. The usual eight piece band is slimmed down to a five piece and interesting to hear a much more laid back and brooding sound.
From the opening of ‘Higgs Boson Blues’ there’s a world weariness and resigned feel about the performances. Some may argue that’s it’s the perfect framework for these songs, or simply just an opportunity to showcase some of the darker and morose material. The story which reflects on the inmates on death row, ‘The Mercy Seat’ is delivered as a piano led confessional, building slowly and climaxing with Warren Ellis’ violin making a cameo while the piano continues as the main instrument, sparsely backing Cave on ‘And No More Shall We Part’
There’s an element of ambiguity as Cave asks “D’you know ‘People Ain’t No Good’?”; it’s not clear if he’s asking audience bout the song or just making a general comment or posing a rhetorical question. Whatever, it’s a gorgeous performance and encapsulates what this performance is really all about. The latest album’s title track ‘Push The Sky Away’ is a most eerie and haunting version and brings the set to a suitable close before giving way to a final noisy thrash, once the band have sorted the chords and keys, through ‘Jack The Ripper’, although it sounds strangely discordant and at odds with all that has gone before.
It‘s a perfect opportunity to present the songs in a different frame; casting a shadow of melancholia yet at the same time realising a dignified and stately piece of work. After rocking out as an electrifying live performer, it’s thrilling to know that Nick Cave can turn his hand to something like this – and maybe there’s even a future in it if he should ever forgo the big noise. Review by Mike Ainscoe
Beans On Toast - Giving Everything
A hectic year for Beans On Toast has seen him at Summer Festivals, supporting Frank Turner in North America (with more arena dates planned in the UK in early 2014), compeering and supporting Mumford & Sons as well as headlining his own UK shows. The annual release of a new album on his birthday (1st December) sees his fifth album, ‘Giving Everything’ collecting together his 2013 output. Recorded in the Toybox studios in Bristol and produced by Mike Freear from Pyro Circus Gypsy Rave outfit Slamboree, it’s business as usual for Beans with a collection which is hard to categorise – some say folk, while a four (out of five) star review in metal magazine Kerrang! shows the appeal is the very definition of broad and is very much in the irreverence of the material. As the man himself sings in ‘Things’: “I’m not a poster boy for recreational drugs, I’m a thirty two year old man with a pocket full of stories, a handful of songs and a three chord master plan.”
Without being musically ambitious, the Martin acoustic about which he sings so dearly in ‘Favourite Thing I Own’ is happy to play a bit part (or just a few chords part) to the lyrical stars. The subjects (or maybe ‘targets’ would be a better word in some cases) range from album opener ‘Harry In A Helicopter’ which takes the royal family as it’s butt, to the phenomenon which is the British music festival and corporate sponsorship of soulless arena gigs to the more serious subjects of ‘fracking’ (look it up) and his thoughts on the conspiracy theory about the New York 9/11 disaster which in all honesty might be flying a bit close to the wind, even for the more broad minded souls who would have Beans in their CD players.
They aren’t the sort of songs which you’ll hear on the radio or at the Royal Variety Performance at the London Palladium – not without some editing of the occasional profanities, although ‘Can’t Get A Gig At Glastonbury’ may just dip under the censorship radar with its sentiment enhanced by a some sympathetic violin and harmonica behind the guitar and vocals. ‘Giving Everything’ owes its charm largely to Beans’ every mans’ everyday thoughts and observations – call it a musical version of the type of offering Karl Pilkington has made his own. It perfectly captures Bean’s flair for the offbeat and irreverent – a modern-day-one-man-band- all-round entertainer. Review by Mike Ainscoe
Rebekka Karijord - Music For Film & Theatre
With the likes of MOJO joining our very own Mudkiss in its praises for Rebekka Karijord’s 2012 release ‘We Became Ourselves’, the current release, aptly titled ‘Music For Films And Theatre’ carries some expectation in its mainly instrumental pieces gathered together from music written for various films, plays and dance performances over the past six or so years. Taking a break from her regular touring duties and commitments has given Rebekka a chance to delve into her archive of music which has been composed for over thirty different projects. As Rebekka states herself: “I’ve always found that it’s a good complement to my solo work since I get to experiment sonically and push my musical boundaries and knowledge.”
Made up of mainly short atmospheric pieces which might fall loosely into the ambient category, reminiscent of the days when Brian Eno used to dabble with his music for airports and the like before spreading his magic dust onto U2 and Peter Gabriel. The overall feeling is of an abstract nature; airy and at times sparse and very much based on repetitions of sounds and notes. There’s a focus on piano throughout and the use of stringed instruments which are the percussive sounds from plucking. Bearing in mind her Scandinavian roots, it’s hard not to conjuror up visual images associated with the far frozen north, exposed barren landscapes devoid of colour and life.
Amongst the section , ‘Apathetic Children’ is typical of the sort of composition where a repetitive piano figure underpins the track while ‘Sno’ represents the more delicate side to her writing. ‘Madrigal’ – not quite what it seems – and ‘Salhus’ are based on a collection of vocal sounds which add an eerie ‘otherworldliness’ to the feel of the piece. Like many albums of this nature, it’s an acquired taste; maybe not an album to which you’d sit and listen but one which should be allowed to wash over , very much like the soundtrack it is.
For an overall appraisal, Rebekka’s not far wrong in describing the collection as “soothing yet stirring and complex in it layers and contrast.” Having dipped her toes in the world of soundtrack music, there is the promise of more to follow with work taking place on three more film projects on top of writing for her next album. In the meantime, this release provides a chance to enjoy another side to Rebekka Karijord’s talents. Review by Mike Ainscoe
Hold The Sun - Hold The Sun
Many trios find that the prefix ‘power’ is applied to their description as a matter of cliché and course. This will also certainly happen to St Austell’s Hold The Sun – however, although the group are more than capable of generating hulking constructivist slabs of pure force when the need arises, their depths travel deeper and wider than any trite labelling would indicate. The thirteen tracks spread across their eponymous debut is a clear statement of capability. Hold The Sun are more than capable of launching into aural excursions in any direction and coming back with the treasure.
After a series of coronal ejections, ‘It’s A Repeat’ charges across a sonic battlefield pitted with matter thrown far and wide by successive drum assaults, coalescing into a form of superdense garage that hacks away at the dead air between speaker and ear. This impetus is maintained across ‘Black Hole’ via the propulsive bass of Dave Kellaway and the collective precision that maintains its grip on the track, even throughout its gravity bending bridge section.
The debris thrown around by Hold The Sun’s opening tracks settles across the vocally accomplished ‘To Myself’, a plaintive pause for reflection that opens up time and space for the seductive bump’n’grind of ‘Rohypnol’ to attain its full priapic thrust. Tighter than the proverbial ant’s foreskin, the rhythm section lock together with precision to underpin Samuel Howard’s Scott-Gorham-through-a-particle-accelerator solo. As the track builds to its spurting climax, the production falters slightly – as if struggling to fully encompass what is being unleashed.
‘Fare Thee Well’ sees the trio unleash their first ravenous earworm as thunderous tribalism is juxtaposed with melody and garnished with a submarine drop, before the disarmingly laconic opening to ‘Lovesick’ unlocks one of the disc’s pivotal tracks. Infused with glowing subtleties that shine through the production orthodoxy, the track gathers emotional energy and physical power in chapters, expanding its scope and range before hitting a churning, rhythmic middle eight and detonating in a chest-bursting bass vertex.
Hold The Sun’s deft skill is again apparent on ‘Broken Doll’ – cleverly understated, it opens up time and space to insidiously insinuate its way into the consciousness as its subtle bass impetus drives the track on toward its ultimate expansion into something beguiling and monumental. While ‘Broken Doll’ is power restrained, ‘Unison’ finds it unfettered to glorious effect. A blistering opening thrusts the listener toward an unavoidable mastodon stomp, a madrigal at the edge of a black hole that pulls with unimaginable force. The intermittent periods of sonic weightlessness are a facet of this trip: This is power.
The intelligently realised ‘Burning Bridges’ applies postmodern nous to men-of-rock tropes, applying spring-loaded riff ordinance to a propulsive, pneumatic whirl, which in turn is resolved via a devastating guitar zenith. This is an album that finds space for both the gestalt and its constituent parts – just as Samuel’s guitar mastery poured sweet napalm across ‘Burning Bridges’, so Matt Davy’s polyrhythmic drum mortars punch jagged holes in the sonic envelope of ‘My Only Sun’. The track’s rhythmic assault is offset by Samuel’s evocative vocals and barbed guitar hooks, while three minds lock across adept, complex interplays.
Suffused with richness and depth, ‘Masquerade’ delivers some urgent elephantine skank, before the suitably exultant ‘Rapture’ marks the point at which Hold The Sun demonstrate catchy-as-chlamydia symptoms across one of the disc’s standout tracks. Finally, the concrete metaphor of ‘Build Up’ brings the album home. A genre-defying exercise in urgency and resonance, topped with lyrical adroitness, it hits full flow as a raging tiger – which again, the production struggles to maintain full grip upon – before terminating in a truly breathtaking valediction.
Here are the young men. Here is their album. This is not just power. This is much more. Review by Dick Porter
Dum Dum Girls - Too True
The Dum Dum Girls’ first release since September 2012’s End Of Daze EP has its genesis in a smaller corpus of material that dates back as far as that summer. As the band’s songwriter and creative driving force Dee Dee Penny recalls, “I locked out the world and sat down in my apartment to write a new record -- clear view of the New York City sky through iron bars like a promise. Like all compulsive minds, I was waiting with bated breath (and whispering humbleness) to let the muse loose.” A further tranche of material was initiated in Los Angeles before the end of the year, but damage to Dee Dee’s voice put paid to any possibility of an early release for the ten new songs included here.
Too True represents something of a reboot for the Dum Dum Girls, whose prior developmental curve had seen the quartet through a number of line up changes that took the quartet from the effervescent enthusiasm of their earliest material to a point where the group had established a unique ability to craft crystalline snowglobes of sound that sparkled and shimmered with longing and loss. This album represents an extension of that curve toward the future Dum Dum Girls. Progress, however, isn’t always necessarily a good thing, and the trick of maintaining momentum without losing touch with the impetus that set the whole ball rolling isn’t always so easy to pull off.
It seems as if, in an attempt to progress the group’s sound, the usually safe hands of production duo Richard Gottehrer and Ravonette Sune Rose Wagner (along with long time engineer Alonzo Vargas) have chosen to lay down layers of fecund late 1980s production, across which Dee Dee’s songs have been projected. Certainly, this has given the album a far more mainstream friendly sound, but this has also served to drown out much of the Dum Dum’s fragility, finesse and edge.
The disc opens amid synth washes and processed drums with ‘Cult Of Love’, which sounds wholly generic until Jules and Dee Dee’s guitars thrust through the saccharine miasma to impart some of the group’s identity on the production. ‘Evil Blooms’ is undermined by similar orthodoxy and an incongruously rawk bassline before it opens up into an expansive soundscape as Dee Dee’s rich vocal carries the otherwise bland track. Indeed, Dee Dee’s vocals are often Too True’s focal point and saving grace – as evidenced by the cinematic ‘Rimbaud Eyes’, which otherwise sounds like the kind of material that would not have been out of place on The Crow’s soundtrack.
Four songs in, Too True hits something like its stride – a reduction in production bombast allows the emotional resonance of ‘Are You Okay’ to come through, while the subsequent ‘Too True To Be Good’ benefits from more organic sounding drums to unfurl as a whirlpool of subtleties that insinuate into the consciousness. These two songs and the simple, bass driven ‘In The Wake Of You’ showcase Dee Dee’s increasing vocal dexterity, while offering glimpses of the Dum Dum Girls’ capacity of aural transcendence.
Juxtaposition enters the picture for ‘Lost Boys and Girls Club’, an ode to carrying on that fittingly chugs along at a stoic pace for its entire length, often threatening to devolve into Tears For Fears-style banality as the over-ripe production returns with a vengeance. This continues into ‘Little Minx’, where Sandy’s drum sound is reduced to a preset as the group’s delicate brilliance again struggles to push through unnecessary layers of counter-productive gilding. Largely reminiscent of Iggy’s Blah Blah Blah nadir, the song finally bursts into glorious life during the home stretch.
Another exercise in orthodox rock arrangement threatens to render ‘Under These Hands’ banal, but again, Dee Dee’s vocals succeed in elevating the track above the mundane. Having immersed herself in symbolist writing, she brings the assimilated influences to life here, her lyrics conveying genuine feeling, rather than the vapid, superficial literacy of Morrissey. Finally, ‘Trouble Is My Name’ sparkles across the air between speaker and ear, sounding almost as if the band were allowed to be themselves for the valedictory track as it harks back to the simple, translucent beauty of End Of Daze.
While I know of one long time Dum Dum Girls fan who basically threw Too True out of the window after one listen, it is not a bad album. These are not bad songs. It is simply an album that has been spoiled by the desire to progress resulting in a series of production missteps. Hopefully it won’t damage the group’s progress, as the Dum Dum Girls are too unique and special to be derailed by this. I’d suggest hearing these songs live, where all the superfluous layering will be absent and the band’s innate brilliance will be allowed to dazzle and delight. Review by Dick Porter
Yeah And She Has Red Lips Too - The Lost Generation Suite
Three self-released singles under their belt, London-based new wave rock band Yeah And She Has Red Lips Too release every radio station's nightmare: an epic 20 minute 'suite' with an accompanying video.
'The Lost Generation Suite' (Is it a single? Is it an EP? Answers on a postcard, please.) is really just one song consisting of six parts which segue into each other smoothly. Things start off with a mid-tempo pop tune with guitarist Jez Leather and front woman Caz Hellbent sharing vocal duties. Hellbent's breathy vocals fit the slower, acoustically-led song in Part 2 like a glove. The definite highlight on this mammoth single is Part 3; a cracking electro track which would easily work as a stand-alone single. This slick and smouldering tune should be heard bringing some passion back to the airwaves and clubs alike. Things slow down for Part 4, falling a bit flat following the glory of the previous track but Part 5 moves things up a gear again with some mean Suede-like twirling guitar work from Jez Leather. The concluding part brings Leather and Hellbent together on vocals again; it's a nice piece building up from a quiet synth-led tune to a frenetic finish.
The band are looking to do some shows in late January when the public can hear the Suite played live. Another EP with three new songs and a cover are planned also, possibly for release in March 2014. In the meantime, 'The Lost Generation Suite' is an enjoyable enough collage of new wave rock with peaks and troughs, made all the better by Hellbent's excellent vocals throughout, varying from a gentle summer breeze to a full throttle snarl. If Yeah And She Has Red Lips Too are capable of producing more tracks on a par with the electro heaven that is Part 3 on this release, it's worth keeping an ear out for this gang. Review by Anne Johanna
Beastmilk - Climax
There was a flurry of excitement in the media prior to the release of this debut by Beastmilk from Finland. Fronted by the Brit Mat 'Kvohst' McNerney who has been involved quite extensively in different black metal outfits, Beastmilk take a different turn. Borrowing heavily from goth, deathrock and post-punk and with song titles such as 'The Wind Blows Through Their Skulls' and 'Surf the Apocalypse', you get the idea that this album is no summery picnic. The songwriting, by guitarist Goatspeed, is mesmerising.
The gloomy melodies work very well indeed with the vast pulsating soundscape, and Beastmilk do not shy away from catchy choruses. There's no shortage of Scandinavian pathos either. Like a bastard child of the likes of Killing Joke, Joy Division and perhaps The Chameleons, this album is dark but with enough texture to get you hooked. Producer Kurt Ballou (guitarist with hardcore band Converge and owner of God City Studios in Boston, MA) has enveloped the album in an expansive sonic assault which leaves the listener slightly dizzy by the end. There's no Andrew Eldritch-like moody vocals here despite Kvohst making sporadic attempts at this, neither is there any black metal growling. 'Climax' is not an album that should be exclusively put in the goth section - fans of Interpol, Editors and even Savages may find something here also. A very impressive, exhilarating debut indeed. Review by Anne Johanna
Crystal Grenade - Lo! And Behold
On “Lo! And Behold” Carol Hodge takes a gargantuan step away from her roles as lead singer of Manchester punk band Wrecks and backing vocalist with Steve Ignorant’s acoustic project Slice Of Life. This is Carol’s solo project – possibly ably assisted by the mysterious survivor of the 1890’s freakshows, Crystal Grenade…..
The press release for the album describes Carol Hodge as “the most infamous seven-fingered pianist in the UK”, and the Crystal Grenade character, the sub-minute circus intro “Welcome To The Freakshow” and a lyric from the first ‘proper’ opener “You Could Have Lived” (“I Saw The Web Between My Hands Turn To Gold”) outlines her hand deformity for what it is and leaves us to get on with the rest of the album. The aforementioned intro is the only track to feature a full band – with a couple of exceptions where subtle strings are added to the pieces, “Lo! And Behold” is distilled to the pure essentials of vocals and piano.
Hodge’s vocal simultaneously conjures associations with Patti Smith, Tori Amos, and occasionally Cyndi Lauper. The songs and delivery evoke a bleak, emotive, musical cabaret – in its heightened state resembling more the acts of the Weimar Republic than the 1892 circus tours. This is an earnest collection of tracks destined for the grand stage – and as such I admit is outside of my usual comfort zone – but the craftmanship of the compositions and the enlightening turns of phrase turn this into a grower for the likes of me, and compelling for those listeners who are more in tune with singers who project their emotion demonstrably.
“Lost For Words” , “Shape Of Things” and “Nothing To Do With Me” are the jewels of the album – “Shape Of Things” in particular is deliciously and humorously darker than the darkest opaqueness. You can’t get much darker than that I suppose. As much as the album captures that stark live feel, I would guess that the full force of what “Lo! And Behold” is capable of is within an attentive theatre – and that the album should be a taster for the most expressive of live shows. Review by Lee McFadden
Anat Ben-David - MeleCh
Anat Ben-David is possibly best known for her membership of Chicks On Speed, and this background – as well as her previous enthralling solo album “Virtual Leisure” – led me to assume that “MeleCh” would continue the format of confrontational, provocative lyrics and filthy techno. Instead, “MeleCh” is a more oblique, artistic endeavour – the use of electronics lending its way to abstract soundscapes, dreamlike sequences, and intoxicating textures.
The album accompanies an audio-visual installation from Ben-David taking place in January. The press for the album and exhibition reveals: “MeleCh .. comprising a triptych of screens featuring mythical singing characters in perpetual movement, presented alongside a photo-collage demonstrating Body Image Exercise; a callisthenic technique devised by the artist to interact directly with the camera.
The works presented in MeleCh - the Hebrew word for King - have been developed using an improvisational method of speaking or singing words into a sound oscillator and observing their rhythmic effects. The sonic patterns created trigger new ideas about what words to utter and how they might be performed. The themes developed are then constructed into visual narratives through choreographed body movements performed for the camera in a process the artist has named OperaArt.”
The artwork of the album includes explanations and justifications for the visual and sonic art of “MeleCh” - and as well as demystifying the process, it seems to sell the album a little short. “Alchemi” and “Painters Of Happiness” are crystalline examples of lyrical improvisation, whereas “Clair” and “Puppet” are predominantly passages of conventional narrative. At the time of writing the full visual concept of “MeleCh” has yet to be performed, so the album presents itself as only half of a cohesive picture . In the merely logical world of facts this may be true, but the album’s immersive enticing qualities outline its independent standing as a pivotal masterwork.
The only loose reference that could possibly be attached to the album is the contemplative vocals and electronics of Laurie Anderson, but Anat Ben-David has taken this seed and cultivated it into a multi-dimensional suite of consuming evocation. It would be enlightening to witness how the twelve tracks on show here form the foundations of the project as a whole, but the “MeleCh” album in its own right fuses itself to the workings of your inner psyche. The first play leaves you drained – the second makes you reach for the repeat button. Exquisite.
The “MeleCh” installation opens at the Stanley Picker Gallery, Kingston University on January 8th. A full live performance takes place at the same venue on January 15th. Review by Lee McFadden
The Peckham Cowboys - 10 Tales From The Gin Palace
Over the years, The Peckham Cowboys have been a bunch of musical reprobates that have been held together by the talents of vocalist Marc Eden and guitarist Dale Hodgkinson. On this album, they have been joined by a group that consists of former members of these brilliant bands: Hanoi Rocks, Cheap & Nasty, Quireboys, Primal Scream and Steven Adler Band. When you also hear that Marc was personally invited to record demos with Velvet Revolver, then expectations for this album are obviously going to be very high.
It kicks off with "Not Guilty", which has a great funky opening & the warning sound of breaking glass. It really is a cracker of an opening number, which brings memories of when Aerosmith used to write great funk rock n roll a la Dude Looks Like A Lady! It does, however, also add a dash of English Quireboys. It is quickly followed up by "Bromley Girls", which is impossible to hear without having a smile on your face. It's a good fun, sleazy rock 'n' roll song with great tongue in cheek lyrics (whose cheek may be a different story!).
Things take a different turn with "The Debt Collector", which adds an almost ska type feel to the sound. This is a lot to do with the beat, but it is still under pinned with a rock 'n' roll sound. They take this sound even further on "Don't Damn The Hypnotist" which brings to mind a Specials esque sound. The Sleaze factor is soon restored with "Quarantined' and "Poor Boy Blues". The first of these adds a harder edge to the sound before it gets lifted by some added horns. Whilst, the latter, is a dirty, sleazy song. Here, the vocals are really great and have a rasp which is reminiscent of those great rock n roll singers, Tyla and Spike. It's a down and dirty song which will leave the listener feeling in need of a good bath.
A drum beat which is very reminiscent of The Small Faces' "All Or Nothing" opens up the song "Your Only In It for Me". It is therefore, not surprising that this shows the influence of the band member's associations with The Quireboys. It's a similar style that is shown in "She Was Sweet On Me", but on this one, they add more of a shiny modern feel to their bar room style. "Cut It" sees a return of that funk influence, with a great drum beat and an effortlessly cool guitar line. The album then draws to a close with "Knocked Senseless". You can't beat some opening hand claps on a song, and this one then moves on to another classic rock n roll song. It is kind of throwaway, in a cool way, but also hugely appealing.
It is somewhat strange that one of the first reviews of the year was for The Loyalties, who delivered a great modern take on classic scuzzy rock n roll, and now ends with The Peckham Cowboys. Both these great bands certainly have similar attributes. This album is full of really cool, dirty, rock songs. However, whilst rock and roll can so often be just kind of retro, this is no simple old school album. Instead, they have brought the sound back up to date and made it sound both sleazy and vibrant. If you are a fan of any of the bands mentioned in the intro, or in fact just of decadence and fun, then you need to check out The Peckham Cowboys. Review by Paul Hastings
Larry And His Flask - By The Lamplight
Anyone who saw the fabulous Frank Turner on his tour earlier this year would have been lucky enough to also get the chance to have seen Larry And His Flask. At first glance, you may have been concerned that you were about to encounter a Mumford And Sons type folk band. Whilst there may be an element of folk to their sound, you soon realise that this is a band that has a million times more life and musical personality than Mumford And Sons.
"Pandemonium" is a great intro and the title itself is a good description of the sound. It's a tuneful mix of so many sounds e.g. folk, rock, vaudeville, blue grass. On this opening song, it comes together in a beautiful mess of noise. This is also seen on "Home Of The Slave" which goes even further by adding in a 'Cashesque" country element. Then on "Out Of Print" the bluegrass sound dominates but is delivered by a theatrical band.
The Vaudeville type sound is back again for "Barley Wine Bump", which could almost be a track from some kind of Baz Luhrmann like movie soundtrack. Importantly, the band are also able to tone things down and offer more straight forward songs as well. On "The Battle Of Clear Sight" it is more of a typical folk n roll song which is like The Avett Brothers. It has that same kind of Americana twang to its sound. Whilst they are able to deliver ram shackle songs, they also include a couple of slower, more reflective numbers. "Gone From You" slows things down in a surprisingly good fashion for a band which is typically so vibrant. It is delivered with a simple but heartfelt and intense sound. "Justice and Justification" again has more of a clean and simple sound, which provides some nice respite from the cacophony of sound in many of the other songs. The album actually also ends with a soft and sparse ballad called "All That We've Seen". In fact, it comes as something of a surprise that these slower songs are actually some of the best on the album.
Bands like the previously mentioned Mumford And Sons have opened up this type of sound to a much wider audience. Whilst Larry And His Flask may have a broadly similar style in terms of banjos and a folk/Americana base, they are far more vibrant and innovative. Interestingly, without the dramatic visuals of the live show, some of the slower songs actually give this album the level of depth and interest that it needs. Certainly, for fans of an Americana/folk/bluegrass type sound, who don't want to just sit around in beards and jumpers, then this will be really great album. Review by Paul Hastings
The Delray Rockets - Strictly Not Fluffy
Good quality Rockabilly bands are still, sadly, hard to come by in the UK. Thankfully, we have The Delray Rockets, who are a three piece Rockabilly band hailing from central England. They certainly have a sound which owes a lot to their '50's influence but, have been really keen to add a more modern style.
This is immediately demonstrated by the opening song "Brand New Cadillac", which is a Rockabilly classic, so is an immediate risk. As it happens, it straight away shows what's great about The Delray Rockets. The song is delivered with skill and enthusiasm but also a sense of fun, hence the hint of James Bond and Batmen themes sneaked in. This use of classic rockabilly sounding songs continues with tracks like "Deuce Is Wild" and "Rockabilly Fool". "Jungle Rock" is essentially an absurd song when you listen to the lyrics, but the band really do milk it for all it's worth.
They also take on some other classic songs including "Misirilou" where, whilst the title may not mean much to many, you will soon recognise it as the surf song from Pulp fiction. All rockabilly albums tend to have an instrumental track, so you might as well go for one which is instantly recognisable. In terms of sounds associated with Rockabilly, covering an Elvis song is also a big risk. They throw in "Burning Love", where the vocals do indeed, add a hint of nice lip curling but, don't fall in to the trap of pastiche. Again, it is just a classic up beat version.
Of particular interest, are the couple of absolute genuine modern rock classics that they have also recorded. The first of these is The Clash's "I Fought The Law" and again, it really works, mainly as it's a bit more throw away and fun than the original one. They also cover one of the most iconic pop tracks, and indeed one of the nation's favourite songs, "Teenage Kicks". Again, they succeed in making it their own as the song is given a great swing beat as opposed to the original's' reliance on it's punk riff. Sure there will be many who will be appalled but I love it. In many ways, it would be easy to moan about the number of covers on the album etc but the fact is that this is a damn fine album. All the songs are played with skill and enthusiasm, and it's just a really fun and upbeat album. One thing's for sure, I bet The Delray Rockets are a riot live. Review by Paul Hastings
American Dirt - Heavy Thought And Riddle
American Dirt are a band who play American music rooted in the soil of traditional country mixed with good old rock and roll. "Heavy Thought And Riddle" is the bands first full album having previously released an EP. The best intro for this band is their own description : "We play honest American rock and roll that veers between garage rock and country like your grandpa on a moonshine run in a T-Bird".
This self description is immediately demonstrated by the title track itself. It brings to mind great American bands such as Lucero and Two Cow Garage. It's that Americana/country feel, but filled with a more wild moonshine feel. "Leave My Mark", keeps a similar sound but adds an extra feel of darkness and depth. It has a nice use of twin vocals on the chorus which gives the song a warmer sound. On "Back And Forth" there is also that sound of greater depth and a real reminder of early Lucero. They don't keep everything quite so straight forward and traditional sounding though. "Wasted Youth", sees them throw a bit of a curve ball where the band really cut loose. It's kind of like a punk band going country, that may sound weird, but it works. Then on "Honky Tonk Super Ego" they deliver an amusing song, where they add an almost "yodel" effect to the song. It then moves in to a good old boys, whisky on the front porch song.
Despite their name, the band also has a more sensitive and slower side. "Creston Line" is a heartfelt country esque ballad. Again, we see the great use of co vocals but the sparser, more melodic sound actually brings to mind The Avett Brothers. The same kind of clean cut sound with all the focus on harmonies, is seen on "Frozen Bones, whilst "Preach" is a slow and sparse song and a perfect example of a simple but warming ballad. American Dirt are clearly not, however, afraid to have a bit of fun and "Hank Williams" is a great stomping, country folk song with some brilliant tongue in cheek lyrics. The album then ends with "All My Friends", and we see that punk energy coming back. It adds a more alternative sound which has an almost Soul Asylum feel to it.
It is quite easy to initially regard this as just another punk/americana album. However, if you listen more carefully, you will realise that it is far more diverse than that. Yeah, the influences are there to see, but they are a band who are able to add a little bit extra to the mix. The bands' name is really appropriate, as you get the feeling they produce a sound which is very much from the American heartland rather than the shiny, artificial, Hollywood US of A image that we so often get force fed. Review by Paul Hastings
Trick Mammoth - Floristry
This is a Kiwi band who obviously have a taste for the eccentric, given their interesting name and the title of this, their debut album. Their frontman Adrian, describes their sound as “lo-fi music with a 90s guitar-pop edge.” Trick Mammoth are a young group but they have big plans for the future.
The album's title becomes more relevant with opening track "Baltimore", as it's all very spring like and lovely. It has a really nice melody with very sweet, but not twee, vocals. "Pinker Sea" keeps up the same type of easy/laid back melody feel with good use of backing vocals.
Some of the other songs on the album are given a different feel with the use of male vocals. Songs like "Vesper II" do, however, keep up the lo-fi melodic feel. It works particularly well on songs like "Terracotta" and the title track, "Floristry". On both these songs, it is the use of harmonies and twin vocals which create such a great effect. On "Floristry", the combined vocals just add something a bit different, and this song also has a darker guitar tone. "Delphine (With A Purpose)", picks the beat up a bit and has more of a sugary pop feel to it, as does "Cold Dalmatian". There is also an indie, pop, dance sound on "Days Of Being Wild" and the added bit of pace really does help to lift this song above some of the other tracks on the album.
Overall, "Floristry" just has the feeling of being an album with lots of "nice" songs on it. Importantly though, they do manage not to fall in to the easy trap of being twee or irrelevant. It's certainly an album for when you want to chill out, relax and lie in the sun rather than get your rocks off. Review by Paul Hastings
Five Finger Death Punch – The Wrong Side Of Heaven and The Righteous Side of Hell - Vol 2
What can one say about this band that adequately describes their incendiary playing and live performances.
I have been lucky enough to experience the full on intensive metal storm that is Five Finger Death Punch (FFDP), three times at the Download Festival. The second performance has become legendary and notorious. Singer Ivan Moody invited members of the festival crowd to join him on the stage, while asking them and the security people to look after each other as this took place.
Complete and utter mayhem followed! Wave after wave of bodies’ crowd surfed over the crush barriers, overwhelming the security staff, and making it to the stage. The festival organisers pulled the plug and the FFDP sound died in an instant. That should have been it. The crowd would have none of it though, and kept chanting, "let them play", and on the band promising the organisers not to repeat it, the sound was restored and FFDP finished their set. An iconic moment.
"The Wrong Side Of Heaven - And The Righteous Side Of Hell - Vol 2" is a great metal album, conveying much of the energy, presence and musical attack of their live performances. "Here to Die", the opening track, reassures that there is no turning it down for the album to make their sound more commercial. The evidence being crunching riffs, pummeled drums and bass, impassioned vocals; and a screaming guitar solo. I once described my first experience of seeing Slayer live, as the musical equivalent of getting hit with a sledgehammer. "Wrecking Ball", for me the most heavy track here, is the album equivalent. Absolutely immense!!
"Battle Born" has a more anthemic softer quality, which FFDP also do very well. Ivan's empathic vocals really shine through here, conveying a real gentleness. A lovely soaring and melodic guitar solo full of emotion fits perfectly the mood and feeling of the song. "The Agony of Regret" is an acoustically based instrumental, which conveys perfectly that scarring feeling. "Cold" carries on the downbeat mood, with piano and some really beautifully restrained and sensitive guitar fills.
If you are getting the picture that FFDP can do both really heavy and gentle and sensitive, then you have landed on the reason why even if you think you don't like metal, you might want to try this album. It feels churlish to say this, given how good this album is; but there is one track where some things don't quite come off. The classic “House of the Rising Sun" is covered. However its not as well suited to the FFDP makeover as their superb cover of Bad Company's "Bad Company" was, on the "War is the Answer" album. That track is really worth checking out, and a live favourite with audiences. “House of the Rising Sun” in comparison doesn't show a new enough side to the song. Don't however let this put you off trying this fabulous album. Review by Gareth Allen
Housewives - Housewives
Faux Discx, an independent label based in Brighton, have released the self-titled debut five track EP from Housewives, an experimental band from South London. Their guitar driven music mixes a very spiky post-punk sound with experiments in noise. It's a fascinating, edgy and a very engaging musical experience.
"Poppy", the first track sets up an intriguing dissonance between a rolling almost melodic song, punctuated by a sharp guttural guitar refrain. The vocals here are wonderfully reminiscent of Mark E Smith from the Fall.
"In Camera" has a very jagged quirky guitar sound with some interesting changes of pace and intensity, and with a bit of an experiment with noise coming in at the end. A portent of things to come!
"Medicine Bottle" begins with a great bass riff followed by a very infectious guitar based rhythm, later bringing in some atonal like saxophone. It's almost danceable, which I really like about it. "Almost Anything" is perhaps the least strong of the tracks here, lacking a little bit the inventiveness and experimentation of the other tracks. “62426” is the masterpiece track. It begins with a simple guitar track, with the vocals then coming in but broken up by a wailing guitar; and then everything descends into total noise. Finally a distorted bass emerges phoenix like from the noise leading into discordant sounds, where melody and rhythm almost completely disappear, and everything sounds like it is on a tape loop. Concluding with a garage band type riff overlaid with some fabulous cymbal work.
This fantastic work reminds me of John Coltrane’s later experiments in sheets of sound. At first it sounds impenetrable, but the more you listen and find your way in, and notice and like the different musical motifs, and moods, and subtle changes, the more it becomes immensely rewarding. This is challenging music and initially not easy to listen too, but it really is worth the effort to connect with it. A really excellent debut. Review by Gareth Allen