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                   DICK'S JULY 2010 ROUND UP

TOP OF THE WORLD, MA

Thee Attacks: That’s Mister Attack To You (album, Crunchy Frog)

Stuff yer World Cup. Here’s something to get genuinely riled up over – A dozen white hot slabs of precision engineered garage excellence that will grab your turntable by the spindle and yank it hard. From the moment that opening track ‘Love In Disguise’ drops by with its assured rhythms and edgy guitar, to ‘Are You’s final valedictory trip into the sixth dimension, there is literally not a dull moment on this album.

Once Thee Attacks have taken up residence in your parlour, you won’t be asking them to leave anytime soon. Reducing ‘maximum R’n’B’ to just ‘maximum’, this Danish quartet excel in expertly structured mayhem that nails its influences without sounding second-hand. Driving break-up number ‘Won’t Break Me’ sounds like the Kinks having a knife-fight with the Doors,  ‘Le Freak’ is a compelling chunk of bump’n’grind that spreads itself around a ‘Sloopy’ riff, while ‘Shelter’ is a soaring howl for forgiveness pierced by jagged shards of fuzz straight from the Nuggets shelf.

Having settled in and re-arranged your mind, Thee Attacks set about showing us their seamy underbelly via tracks such as ‘Rip My Heart Out’ – a darkside S&M romp wherein hips thrust, tom toms pound and fluids fly, and ‘Twirling Around’ – a fuzz bass infused plateau topped by a breathless vocal that once again underlines the unbreakable link between sex and rock’n’roll. The pace drops slightly for ‘Love In The City’, which features the standout lyric ‘You use your body as a rental’ amid a desperate recountment of looking for luv in all the wrong places.

The good shit just keeps comin’ too: ‘On The Move’ is a classic tale of being done bad by a bad man, garnished with a ripping ‘Johnny B Goode’ solo, ‘Red Light’ is a blistering demonstration of scorched-earth lead breaks and vocal power, and ‘It’s Alright’ spreads the blanket for summer fun, beach hoppin’ and pill poppin’.

Well? Don’t just sit there. Go introduce yourself to Mister Attack. www.myspace.com/theeattacks

Thee Oh Sees: Warm Slime (album, In The Red)

Here’s yer gestalt, mama. Warm Slime starts off deep in garage country with its title track, which promptly takes a trip and descends through several concentric circles of perception altering psych, before breaking down into little more than vocals and handclaps. This can’t last, and the Lux-approved misdirected noise howls back in, anchored to a fractured firmament by a pulsing bassline. This goes on for thirteen minutes. Most bands place the epic track last, but that’s not how these boys and girls roll. ‘I Was Denied’ ushers in a half-dozen more economically sized numbers, sounding like a manic version of the Fall blasting through something hidden in the Pebbles pile. About two minutes in, somebody launches a Saturn V rocket. Because it sounds good.

‘Everything Went Black’ is a pell mell slice of Vegetable Man-style stompery that sees the San Francisco quartet in the sound lab, smashing harmony into discord and feasting on the raw ooze that remains. I’ve no idea what a ‘Castiatic Tackle’ am, but it evidently involves some balls-out surfabilly that goo-goo mucks its way out of your speakers and rips up the rug. It creates such a brouhaha that the subsequent ‘Flash Bats’ is already well underway when it fades in to lay down a monolithic slab of organ-drenched drone. The penultimate ‘Mega-Feast’ serves up a cosmic gumbo of driving rhythms, Hook-esque basslines and puckish vocals, before ‘MT Work’ deposits us at our final destination – a realm of bubblegum psychosis topped with a Barrett-y sing-a-long.

For my sins, I’d never heard of Thee Oh Sees before this disc appeared in front of me (naturally, assuming a doughnut shape, with the label on the outside). I always figured sin was the way to go, and I’m right – there’s about ten albums in the band’s back catalogue. Join me, my pretties, seek them out.  www.myspace.com/ohsees

DOIN’ ALRIGHT (DOIN’ ALRIGHT)

The Dead Weather: Sea of Cowards (album, Warner)

Is this Jack White’s Funkadelic-play-Krautrock album? It’s certainly not one for your ‘shuffle’ feature, matron – the manner in which the songs progress and segue reveals a typically meticulous approach to the running order. Although it kicks off in a way that could have been anticipated, as original title track ‘Blue Blood Blues’ weighs in with generous helpings of visceral Led Zeppery and vocal Plantisms, the song features a funky edge that gives a hefty clue as to where we’re going. The destination, on this occasion, being the future. But this is not any pedestrian linear future, where everything is homogenised into a sleek, frictionless technocracy. What we have here is a retro-future, where digital Telstars zip overhead and half-timbered Morris Minors are powered by synapse activity. Imagine the movie Brazil. Then imagine it as a good movie. Finally, imagine it as an album.

Like Brazil, and many better depictions of the future, Sea of Cowards inhabits a universe that has advanced just slightly faster than those advancements have been subverted, broken, or otherwise not employed as per the manufacturers’ recommendations. ‘Hustle and Cuss’ shows us the Superfly backstreets of this world, kerb crawling through a track structured with craftsman’s skill. The funk is set aside for ‘The Difference Between Us’ as Alison Mosshart’s sultry vocal sits atop a glittering mound of Krautrock transplanted to the badlands, before the whole thing explodes into a space rock bridge section. ‘I’m Mad’ sees us in orbit. An exercise in lyrical dementia overlain upon the bassline from Killing Joke’s ‘Change’, it hits its break like a V2 and morphs into some 22nd century blues.

After the agitated space-age death trip of ‘Die By The Drop’ takes us through re-entry, ‘I Can’t Hear You’ reinforces the temporal, ripped backside. An understated echo-enhanced groove leads the listener on a midnight ramble through some future Zeedijk, where an assailant’s breath is ne’er far from the nape of the neck. The relative still of this murderous statement of intent is immediately juxtaposed by Sea of Cowards’ stand out track, ‘Gasoline’. Here, the Dead Weather torch the blues, an incendiary act that detonates a Dr Phibes organ assault and howling lead firestorm that leaves naught save scorched earth in its wake.

The second half of the album offers respite, but no let up in innovation. ‘No Horse’ is a pounding, bass-propelled thing that gathers momentum and urgency, ‘Looking At The Invisible Man’ is a psycho-rap; all effects an’ processing. A broadcast from a broken future. The set begins to devolve with the bleeping, blooping ‘Jawbreaker’. Organic and synthetic sounds are smashed together in a Hadron Collider of sonics, causing them to deliquesce into cosmic slop. Finally, we are left with the word of the Lord. This here is ‘Old Mary’, a heretical nursery-rhyme, set down among the skulls in the dust of a musical tomblands where maracas, organ, Latino guitar and stabbing fiddles rattle around in the desert breeze of an aural ossuary.  www.myspace.com/thedeadweather

The White Stripes: Under Great White Northern Lights, B-Shows (double album, Third Man)

A limited release companion to the similarly-titled live disc, this time collecting together tracks culled from smaller shows on the duo’s 2007 Canadian tour. For such a sumptuously presented package, some of the recordings are decidedly lo-fi. However, this hardly undermines the impact of the performances, set before audiences that range from what sounds like about twelve people to the whooping many of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Indeed, the set serves as a timely reminder of the part in which Jack and Meg played in pulling mainstream rock’n’roll from the pit of banality into which it had descended a decade or so back.

Aside from bravura renditions of favourites such as ‘Hotel Yorba’, wherein the song is attacked with such gusto that it is swatted into the realms of manic rockabilly, there are plenty of less well-known songs to keep the hardcore Candy Cane Kids happy – Early single ‘Lafayette Blues’ is given a rare airing, and covers such as Gene Vincent’s ‘Baby Blue’ and Dylan’s ‘Canadee-I-O’ feature, as well as a homage to the great Jeffrey Lee Pierce – an evident primal influence – via a version of ‘For The Love Of Ivy’ . Well worth shelling out for, although copies of the album are already fetching premium prices on auction sites. www.myspace.com/thewhitestripes

Veronica Falls: Beachy Head/Staying Here (single, No Pain In Pop)

Not a Throbbing Gristle cover, but a churning slice of moderately portentous lo-fi garage rendered transcendent by layers of diverse vocal harmonies. A paen to Sussex suicide, the track storms in like the Mary Chain trying to squeeze past the Mamas and the Papas, and thunders merrily along before hitting a beyond basic guitar solo worthy of the great Ivy Rorschach. The muddy production is all very well, but there are subtleties amid the impressive wall of sound that a producer not used to working in a concrete bunker 100ft under a silage plant would bring out to devastating effect. Flipside ‘Staying Here’ is an altogether more laconic affair, which drifts along like Girls At Our Best on largactyl.  www.myspace.com/veronicafallshard

The Fourtune-Tellers: Don’t Tell Me The Words (EP, Disques Copase)

There’s a lotta good wholesome garage coming out of Scandinavia right now – something of a tradition that Stockholm’s Tellers are doing their bit to maintain. The title track sets the quartet down in amid the Pigeon Toed Orange Peel of Coogan’s Bluff – where they proceed to cut a rug, and then rip it to bits with some authentic, twangy, bass-driven fuss. Everyone gets a little solo, then the shelves fall down. ‘Meant To Be’ keeps the party rocking amid a welter of well-aimed fuzz, handclaps and urgent vocals. The churning fuzz-a-rama is maintained through the punchy ‘Back To You’, – the first of two tales of doomed luv – this ‘un features some nice instrumental drop-outs. Final track, ‘Girl I’m Lost’ finds the band in wistful mode, as vocalist Andreas Jonsson mourns his lost honey atop a chugging minor riff. www.myspace.com/thefourtunetellers

Killing Joke: In Excelsis (EP, Spinefarm)

In 1980, the apocalypse was imminent. Thatcher’s Cruise-shaped penis envy was combining with Reagan’s Old Testament idiocy and unlimited strike capability to square up against the Eastern Bloc evil empire. One morning, we all got up to discover little leaflets explaining what to do whenif) we got nuked. There was a very real sense of impending armageddon, and with their eponymous debut LP and the subsequent What’s THIS For? Killing Joke reflected this. They were not good albums to listen to on acid. (not

Hitting the zeitgeist right in the kisser is a tough act to follow. At their best, Killing Joke could make the hairs on the back of your neck fuck one another. Then they went to Iceland, went potty, kicked out bass-behemoth Youth and begin discovering the ancient law of diminishing returns, before becoming their own tribute group and scoring a few hits. They rallied to produce flashes of their former primacy – 1994’s ‘Millennium’ succeeded in presaging the end of the century panic, and have now flocked together with the original line up for a second time.

This EP is culled from the same sessions as the forthcoming XIII: Feast of Fools album, though whether any of these tracks will feature on the disc is yet to be decided. It’s always great to have the Joke back, but in the absence of a threat that hasn’t been cooked up in the hope of keeping us all in line, the band seem a little disassociated. Title-track ‘In Excelsis’ exemplifies this. The song ploughs a relentlessly anthemic groove, a kind of over-polished, orthodox killing japery. It sounds like Killing Joke, but lacks the edgy frisson of their best material. As a taster, it’s a snack rather than a feast. It also has a very odd cover. Progress is all very well, but you can’t beat a malevolent jester.

‘Endgame’, however, is far more like it. It ticks all boxes for churning, twisted guitar noise, skull-crunching rhythms and phased apocalyptic pronouncements. This is the wickedest band in the world, and here they are kicking up a great wall of blasphemous noise. On a similar end-of-the-world tip (although we got over 400,000 years to play with here) ‘Kali Yuga’ is built around the band’s signature guitar/bass interplay. Frontman Jaz Coleman delivers a low-key, almost plaintive vocal and the whole thing serves to evoke the desolate Ballardism of ‘Are You Receiving’ without quite managing to brew up that track’s sense of encroaching dread.

Final track ‘Ghost Of Ladbroke Grove’ could be viewed as the Joke’s ‘Guns of Brixton’. Although it features the classic juxtaposition of Youth’s dub style and Coleman’s classical leanings, it also unintentionally evokes the feeling that just as the Grove has been gentrified to death, when it isn’t actually armagideon time, Killing Joke can struggle to recreate that sound of the last man broadcasting across a barbwire warscape. www.myspace.com/killingjokeofficial

The Revellions: Sigh’s/Ain’t No Fool

A teaser from the Dublin garage titans’ hotly-anticipated second album, ‘Sigh’s’ features no grocer’s apostrophe. ‘It's just a little play on punctuation,’ explain our boys. ‘It kind of denotes ownership of the sigh. Usually a sigh is when you're unhappy so in this case the sigh owns the the sigh. Or it's short for “Sigh is”.’ It does include the customary soaring Farfisa, this time joined by some horns and a rolling bass to create an updraft of summery sound, topped by an emotional vocal. The flip, ‘Ain’t No Fool’ is as featured on the quintet’s eponymous debut. www.myspace.com/therevellions

Armedalite Rifles: Shambolic? Indeed! (album, FDH)

A pick’n’mix selection of diverse influences recorded ‘with cheap mics and old equipment’. The curiously named Rifles are at their best when banging out punk choons such as ‘Walking Dead’ that sound like the Heartbreakers right after everyone shot up. They also have a nice line in adding extra ingredients to this much-loved recipe; the engagingly fractured punk’n’roll of ‘Not Myself Today’ is enlivened by a squawking Farfisa that sounds as if it’s being played by one of the Moxham brothers on jimson weed. Elsewhere, ‘Love and Hate’ is an extended romp topped by a broken, desolate vocal that sounds a little like Johnny Thunders fronting Suicide and ‘Always The Floor’ breaks off from serving up a Stride/Plain style recountment of the doomed rocker’s lot to add a nightmare topping of instrumental passages from the Colin Newman/Punilux side of the parlour.

There’s plenty of experimentation evident, and as is the nature of such undertakings, some of it works, and some don’t. On the plus side ‘My Favourite Clown’ sounds like the Gang of Four with a No Wave makeover, while the literally named ‘Drum. Bass. Squeaky Thing’ resembles A Certain Ratio playing Lalo Schifrin. It’s also a welcome relief when the bloke with the squeaky thing realises he’s outstaying his welcome and sensibly opts to bugger off after about two minutes. Interestingly, ‘Unsung Heroes’ provides an answer to ‘What would Elvis Costello have sounded like in 1978 if he hadn’t had his head up his arse?’ However, the ambling skank of ‘Rags To Ripoffs’ is over-indulgent, while more than five-and-a-half minutes worth of sub-Cabaret Voltaire art noise ‘From The Cradle To The Factory’ was quite enough for this badger. It may have gone on for a week, I dunno, I had beans to eat. Overall, an interesting set from a band that have plenty of options in respect of where to take their sound. www.myspace.com/armedaliterifles

The Raconteurs: Top Yourself/You Don’t Understand Me (single, Third Man)

As if any were needed, more proof of Jack White’s voodoo work ethic. This limited Third Man Vault 7” showcase both sides of the White/Benson songwriting dynamic. A rehearsal demo sees the quartet rattle the windows with a lo-frequency thud that coalesces into a compelling repetitive motif. This is the Raconteurs in full backroom Zep mode, with a coruscating solo attack topping the whole sonic stockpile. ‘You Don’t Understand Me’ is altogether more reflective fare, an acoustic ballad culled from another demo session. Relaxed and insouciant strumming vies with precision picking to create a languid summer’s evening feel. www.myspace.com/theraconteurs

The Fresh & Onlys: Impending Doom/Double Vision (single, Agitated)

Grandiose twinkle rock that circles around for four-and-a-half minutes creating a counter-intuitive air of upbeat uneasiness. It features an instrumental break that sounds like a cross between Hawkwind and the Fire Engines, then conks out. ‘Double Vision’ is a better song, which finds the San Francisco four hanging out in the garage for an engaging spot of soft-shuffle psychedelia that trammels its way into the consciousness. You even get some xylophone. Or glockenspiel. Or something. www.myspace.com/thefreshonlys

Alba Lua: Ballad of Joseph Merrick (EP, Satellite of Love)

The eponymous title track from this French trio begins like some incidental music from Bagpuss before expanding into some dreamy, acoustic mumblepop. About two minutes in someone pops a Euro in the meter and we get another tempo change and some lead. Then the drums kick in for a medium-sized finish. ‘Sungaze’ is more ethereal fare that centres on some pleasant harmonies and swelling keyboards. The song floats along, then drifts away via an extended fade out that evidently involved recording several hungry cats. ‘Valley of Abra’ is the EP’s best track, evoking Joy Zipper and incorporating some nice slide, before gathering some Who-ish momentum in the final minute. For people who have had a hard day. www.myspace.com/permanentvacation08

Warpaint: Exquisite Corpse (EP, Manimal)

Flavour of the month over at popular disco comic the NME, Warpaint are currently cranking up the promo ahead of their first album, which is due out this summer. The half hour VFM EP kicks off with ‘Stars’ a cloud of ethereal lullaby muzak that twinkles along for six minutes or so, insidiously drawing the listener into its spiral of melody, largely by dint of the collective vocal harmonies. ‘Elephants’ is a patchwork quilt of tempo changes, gargly vocoder effects and elements of discord that grate effectively against the melodic syrup, whereas ‘Billie Holiday’ sounds a bit like Mountain Man set to music. This dreamy track floats along on a raft of acoustic guitar, as wave of synth and multi-tracked vocals lap against its edges, taking an unexpected detour via Mary Wells’ ‘My Guy’. More urgency can be found in ‘Beetles’ where a melancholic bass is pelted with shards of trebly chords before the driving and discordant opening gives way to an ambient mid-section that dissolves into a simple bass/guitar motif before climbing to an insistent plateau. Then we’re back to where we started. Final track, ‘Burgundy’ is a plodding and portentous mumble-fest that slowly builds in volume and intensity. And then finishes. www.myspace.com/worldwartour

Johny Dey: This Road Has A Name (single, JD)

Johny seems like one of those dudes who hangs out at the music store blasting out fiddly arpeggios with consummate ease. This taster for his forthcoming Alone In The Wild album is, drums aside, all his own work, and features carefully assembled layers of guitar and plenty of bitchin’ riffola. The extended version of ‘This Road’ includes a reflective intro before Johny busts out with some nice, chunky Ron Asheton lead. He’s at his best when he cuts loose and although his restrained vocals are perfectly in key, casting aside technical excellence in favour of a spot of unfettered yellin’ would give his material a nice jagged edge. The lead tracked is backed by a cover of Skid Row’s ’18 & Life’, which is given blues infusion by way of a spot of slide and some extended soloing. He likes a coda, too. www.myspace.com/johnydey

Kiria: One (album, Koochie Coo)

This showed up with a press release insisting that ‘pop punk has long been looked upon as  dirty word’ and adding ‘Kiria could just be the charismatic figurehead to give it that much needed makeover.’ This hardly filled me with rapt anticipation. But then seeing as we’re told that Kiria knocks out a lyrical mixture of Morrissey and Ziggy era Bowie, I figured that whoever wrote the press release either had it in for her, or had access to some really good shit. In the end, I decided to just listen to the bloody thing. Obviously, this is one for the kids. Possibly those who are too smart for whatever asinine whiny South Californians that Kerrang! are currently promoting, but would prefer some guitar noise with their Kate Nash kitchen-sink lyrics.

One is hardly Berlin, but it does have more depth and content than today’s pop-pickers have become inured to. There’s some range here too, you get some Transvision Vampery, a dismissive lambasting of contemporary popular culture, a spot of post-feminism, a horrible, xylophone infused jazzy vamp, some pleasant Devoish keyboard bleepery, occasional outbreaks of Steve Jones power chords, and plenty of glottal vocalising and nicely layered vocal overdubs. Indeed, there’s such a quantity of variety here – from piano-practice nursery rhyme allegory (‘Love Song’) to a broken-hearted attempt at lovers rock (‘And Another Thing’), that Kelia comes across as an artist looking for a cohesive direction. I’d suggest booting your band in the cods any time they played anything that sounded remotely like Blink 182 and strike out in a Chrissie Hynde or KT Tunstall direction. Whether you want to continue hanging out with Paul Kaye is your own business, missus. www.myspace.com/kiriaspace

IT’S ALL GONE WRONG FOR US

Silent Front: Dead Lake (album, Art)

Silent Front are a South London trio that sound as if they’ve never been out of Bayard, Iowa. Or somewhere similar. Their press puff trumpets their abrasive angularity and indulges in a one-voiced debate about whether they’re ‘math’, ‘hardcore’, or ‘punk’. Apparently, the band needed to be bullied ‘into even having something so conventional as a press release’ and it seems that they have been similarly badgered into recording an album that sounded far better as an unrealised concept. Dead Lake represents a consistent body of work that maintains its predictability and redundancy from start to finish.

The disc begins with the fleeting promise of the UK Decay-like bass and drums that herald ‘Loss’. Then the template is applied – The pace slows, drifts into instrumental noodling, then stops altogether. This is followed by some generic chugging metal, before the original riff is restored for the coda. And that, by and large, sets the pattern for the subsequent seven tracks. It’s a template that has been flogged raw by combos such as American Head Charge, the Dillinger Escape Plan and a zillion others. And it was old hat when they got it.

Occasionally, such as during the Primus-y opening groove to ‘Moving Hands’ the rhythm section attempts to move away from the orthodoxy, but is swiftly undermined by a sheer, impenetrable wall of clichéd scream-a-long vocals and conventional hardcore-by-numbers riffage. Predictable tempo changes are spliced with significant fourth-form lyrics, intoned with greater clarity during the regular subdued sections. This is the new prog. At least the extended instrumental noodling ensures that the whiny bloke with the fake American accent isn’t yelling.

You could dismiss Silent Front as a poor man’s Korn, new poster children for inchoate fury, whose dad’s wouldn’t take them to the park. But Korn were in it to make money, and Dead Lake has ‘remaindered’ written all over it. ‘Knot’ is all very 1997; six minutes of dull angst that has a momentarily interesting opening verse before the screaming starts. And the cliché piles up; an arty feedback section with vague, portentous broadcast set against a wall of feedback. Then we’re down in the post-apocalyptic sewer for some gentle strumming. You can almost hear the facial hair growing. This is why metallers shouldn’t smoke cobwebs.

‘Few More Moths’ insists upon more churning and shouting. It’s all one fucking big drama. Almost every song stops, then embarks upon a slower passage that slowly builds toward nothing in particular. About two minutes into ‘Moths’ an elephant briefly escapes before being drowned out by the banging and thumping. The banality of the song titles matches their content – ‘More Than Grazes’, or ‘Misanthrope’ – No wonder things are getting misanthropic. After half-a-dozen tracks of repetitive sludge I can empathise. An old RATM riff makes a cameo.

Penultimate track ‘Suit For A Certain Occasion’ features an interminable intro that fails to reward the listener’s patience. The track ambles around in circles like a reductive System of a Down after they’d run out of ideas, and finally wears itself out. Finally we get to ‘Across The River and into The Trees’ – Imagine my joy when I realised this runs for almost nine minutes. One for the kids with the brand new black Hot Topic combat trousers. And Silent Front want so much to be the kids your parents warned you about. Now go away. www.myspace.com/silentfront

Reviewed by Dick 12/07/10

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