Northcote - Northcote
Matt Gould's third album as Northcote is a well crafted, generally upbeat affair. With a vocal style at times akin to Springsteen and Elvis Costello and music and lyrics to match, there is something instantly familiar about his sound. Starting with "How Can You Turn Around" which starts a foot stomping tune, full of soulful vocals awash with guitars and soon turning into a chorus you can instantly sing along to.
Many of the other eleven tracks follow the same style, with more heartfelt songs such as "Knock On My Door" being more conventional tales of lost love. Matt's voice sitting in front of a lead guitar line that compliments it well, with "Counting Down The Days" offering the listener a good chorus of 'Oh oh oh ooooh' harmonies to join in to, there's a little bit of everything, even a bit of air guitar while pogoing to second half of "Drive Me Home".
With a background in post-hardcore punk, you can see why a lot of the tracks are very up-tempo, however, the soulful voice says something different. With a few horns and atmospheric guitars thrown in, this is an album that's not going to get you to sleep at night, but if soulful rock with something to sing along to is your thing, this album should be on your playlist.
Kosheen – Solitude
Electronic trio Kosheen are back with their fifth album ‘Solitude’. A journey through trip hop, dance, minimalism, synthpop and the general darkness. While the last album ‘Independence’ was a very upbeat affair, this is darker and more club/underground focussed. There are a couple of chart worthy tracks including the club oriented opener ‘Save Your Tears’ and ‘Harder They Fall’ and drum and bass styled ‘Observation’. Industrial bits and bleaps can be found in ‘Up In Flames’ and title track ‘Solitude’.
The production is tight and the first song to be released from it, ‘Harder They Fall’ is a club friendly track, but not quite the anthem of ‘Hide U’. A good album, well worth a listen which will keep Kosheen fans content, as well as maybe converting a few others.
Jake Evans - Easy On My Soul EP
Former Bad Lieutenant songwriter and guitarist Jake Evans releases his first solo ep 'Easy On My Soul'. He's been on tour since with the likes of Paul Weller and New Order (http://www.mudkiss.com/neworderjodrellbank.htm) and wowed audiences at the award winning Festival No. 6 only a couple of months ago.
'Easy On My Soul' starts with a subtle organ and a strong voice and builds its way up from there. There's a guitar solo and a sing along chorus. A deep confident voice and an ample amount of axe grinding ensure that you'll be singing along in no time and take Jake into the realms of Mancunian guitar based indie. Also included on the ep is a stripped down live version with acoustic guitar and strings and a 'baggy' sounding remix. 'The Horses' could have fitted into a Bad Lieutenant album and shows what Jake is all about. 'River Wild' is another stripped acoustic track showing that songs don't have to be complicated, even if life is. Reviews by Philip Howe
Motorhead - Aftershock
My first memory of Motorhead was hearing my parents play Ace of Spades (yes, I have very cool parents), in fact mention Motorhead to anyone and Ace of Spades would probably be the first thing they'd say.
We are now over 30 years on from the seminal record and Motorhead are still going strong. So much so that this month we witness the release of their 21st studio album, 'Aftershock'. And they aren't messing around, there are fourteen tracks on this album and its definitely more thrill than fill.
The first two tracks, 'Heartbreaker' and 'Coup de Grace' go straight in with the kind of good old fashioned rock music that can't fail to get you wanting to start a mosh pit in your living room. Most of the album follows suit with fast paced riffs and guitar solos aplenty, it's so Motorhead it hurts. Things do change slightly with tracks such as 'Lost Woman Blues' which is, as the title suggests more bluesey, and surprisingly mellow, but overall it's a good solid rock album. It manages to sound fresh without losing any of the classic hallmarks that we all know and love, in fact their sound has barely dated at all. There are even a few surprise sounds chucked in for good measure.
Recorded at NRG Studios in North Hollywood, you can hear a definite American influence on such tracks as 'Dust And Glass' which swaps gritty rock riffs for casual bluesy ones, which for me is a welcome addition. Its definitely more of an unusual sound than what we have come to expect from Lemmy and co but they do it well and it does give the album a little more variety. The album ends on a high with 'Paralyzed', which is also my personal favourite.
This album promised to be some of Motorhead's best work for a long time and it certainly delivers. It will need a few listens but it has been carefully constructed and for a band who are now on their 21st album it has to be said, its an enjoyable listen. “Steal it if you must, buy it if you can!” Lemmy Kilmister. You can't argue with the man himself! Review by Clair Hart
“Fantods” is Glassglue’s long-awaited debut album – an album that is a refreshing diversion from the usual highly signposted chord sequences and 4/4 rhythms churned out to our jaded lugholes.
Faust’s Hans-Joachim Irmler discovered Glassglue at London’s 12 Bar Club, and invited them in 2010 to his studio in Southern Germany. As well as impressing the group with his exemplary culinary skills, he has consolidated the album’s production into a precise, clinical affirmation of the group’s enticingly jagged live sound, and “Fantods” will be released on his own label, Klangbad, as a download on December 6th. Marcel Stoetzler, frontman and lyricist on all but one of the thirteen tracks on “Fantods”, is a somewhat foreboding presence. Before a note is uttered onstage you somehow expect him to replicate the antics of Max Wall’s Professor Wallofski, but the searing, almost Lugosi-like vocal suggest an air more arresting, bleak and somewhat intimidating. The musical accompaniment of Matthew Karas (also of The Fallen Leaves), Gianluca Galetti and Ravi Low- Beer (Jowe Head & The Demi-Monde’s current drummer) is a challenging and provocative sound, occasionally referring to jazz overtones, at times simultaneously magnetic and unsettling.
“If I Were The Sky Right Now” opens “Fantods” in as jaunty and upbeat a manner as Glassglue could possibly allow. A new dance may have to be invented to match the unorthodox rhythms on show here and the melodies are decidedly angular. The lyrics kick start a recognisable thread through the album - romantically downbeat, riddled with self-doubt, the viewpoint of the defeatist wordsmith. In later tracks there are elements of humorous pithiness. “If I Were The Sky Right Now” abruptly halts at 1:39, sharing a characteristic with much of “Fantods”, and a fair proportion of the early work of Wire – once the lyrics run out, that’s it. No room for histrionics, economy is all.
On “Too Tired” , the backing resembles a soundtrack to a film noir detective story. Lyrically the subject is about as depressive and catatonic as is humanly possible. “I don’t even want to write this song – the only thing I want is to look at your face”. The sole lyric from Matthew Karas, “Embarrassing”, so seamlessly continues this train of thought that it was a surprise to discover Stoetzler was not the exclusive lyricist for the album. The ominous soundtrack and the opaque vocal convey the theory that Nosferatu may be suffering a crisis of confidence.
By the time “You Know The Names” is over, you begin to realise the doomed, charred remains of what was left of the protagonist’s optimism makes Morrissey appear like a delirious cheerleader.
“Toleration” resembles the diaries of the analyst of Marvin, The Paranoid Android. Gloriously dismissive bites are exhibited here – “I may not exactly worship life but it certainly has its moments”, and possibly one of the most cutting sign-offs ever to grace a song – “You’d surely be much better off not working so hard to discover yourself – you might find what you might find rather boring”. The jewel of “Fantods” has to be “My Last Parachute” – a fairground waltz where Stoetzler expresses his regret of how “I wished I hadn’t missed the class in which they taught the making of flattering remarks”. This is followed with the immediate and comical chorus of “I want to give you my last pair of shoes – I want to give you my last parachute” – you sense this is the nearest to a conventional Valentine’s greeting Glassglue will ever aspire to. A live version, filmed by TSH, is featured here.
“Fantods” is not the easiest of listens and neither does it pretend to be. It rewards with repeated plays and seeps into your psyche. The music is there to be evaluated, dissected, investigated. The lyrics are structured for reflection, stabs into humour, and to justify those times when one just needs a good grouch. Lou Reed once asked – “Can you see beauty in ugliness?” – “Fantods” grants us an emphatic “Yes”. I adore this album, and those of a discerning nature should too. Review by Lee McFadden
Buckcherry - Best Off
Formed in 1995, split in 2001, reformed in 2005 by vocalist Josh Todd and guitarist Keith Nelson and celebrating their return with what is probably their best known song ‘Crazy Bitch’. Following on from their sixth album, this year’s ‘Confessions’, comes a ‘Best Of’ compilation. From American hard rockers Buckcherry.
Characterised by Josh Todd’s distinctive voice and with the obligatory parental warnings about the inclusion of a liberal smattering of rude words, the selection is a straightforward no nonsense pick of the albums, although maybe missing a marketing opportunity in not including the seasonally themed single – ‘Christmas Is Here’ which was originally released as a download in 2010.
‘Lit Up’ – good choice album opener which sets the tone musically with and lyrically (“I love the cocaine”) - and ‘From The Movies’ (another of those low key ballad with big chorus) appear from the self titled debut album. The singles are well covered too – ‘Gluttony’ appears from the ‘Confessions’ album alongside ‘All Night Long’ from the album of the same name. The comeback album ‘15’ gets a fair share of time with the cock rocking and waywardly PC (if you’re going to do it, may as well do it with relish) ‘Crazy Bitch’ plus ‘Sorry’ (with a nod to a more sensitive side as the acoustic start builds to full on power ballad more), ‘Everything’ and ‘Next To You’.
Like most ‘Best Of’s the album might be found guilty of falling into the category of being one of those releases which serves as no more than an introduction to Buckcherry without being an essential purchase at all for fans – no more no less. There’s nothing particularly groundbreaking or challenging unless you count some of the rather more dubious chauvinistic lyrics. Still, as such, when the aims are quite limited there’s not too much to complain about.
Chris T-T & The Hoodrats - The Bear
Having recently caught up with Chris T-T playing an enjoyable support slot on the Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo tour and having heard both the single version of the title track and it’s less offensive radio edit, dipping further into the new album was deemed to be not an entirely objectionable task.
Chris comes with quite a reputation for being a figure with some lyrical bite and has a series of albums behind him going back to 1999. Add that to the fact that he’s also been cast in the role of official blogger in residence for Brighton Pavillion and also artist in residence (popular music) at Leeds Met University as well as being a regular contributor at one time to The Morning Star gives an added string to his bow.
While his last album ‘Love Is Not Rescue’ was more of a stripped down effort and Chris has been used to playing solo, any inhibitions are cast aside on the new album, with a more full on garage band rock sound. Fuzzed guitars, a basic raw sound and the fact that the album was recorded pretty much live reflects the immediacy and freshness of the approach. It’s the title track which is pretty much representative of this attitude although be warned that Radio One made the fatal error of not playing the radio edit and exposed the nation to a bit of Chris T-T Anglo-Saxon vernacular before deadening the air. If you want something which is much safer lyrically, have a listen to ‘The Gulls’ or ‘A Beaten Drum’ which also show a more sensitive side; there’s even some flute appearing and an enjoyable lyric video for the latter on the usual online channels, while ‘The Gulls’ is maybe the standout performance of the album. With Emily Barker taking on the backing vocal on the live version on the recent tour to add an extra dimesion, it’s a chance for Chris to showcase how he can veer from the blurry electronic led ‘Idris Lung’ and the rampant indie style rock of something like ‘The Music Is Alive With The Sound Of Ills’ to addressing issues on ‘The Gulls’ which tap deeply into the emotions and produce a perceptive and sensitive tale.
His writing style is based pretty much on providing a varied soundtrack to some ingenious lyrics and trying to spot all the references is fun; there’s reference to Mr Lydon in title track and another clue in some ever so slightly ‘Rotten’-like vocalisms, while in the opening track he announces “Tonight we’re going to party like it’s 1994” where the words read like a trawl through memories of student parties. The album ends on a more sombre note with ‘Tunguska’, his song version of the 1908 events in Russia when a meteoric explosion destroyed eighty thousand trees, its final lyric drifting out “it can’t stay cold forever but it can, it can” offering a rather solemn and thoughtful ending.
Having just finished a tour in support of Emily Barker and the Red Clay Halo Chris is out on a solo tour which hits Manchester in early December and is looking to start 2014 with a full band tour.
Emily Jane White - Blood/Lines
‘Blood/Lines’ is Californian Emily Jane White’s fourth album since her 2008 debut in ‘Dark Undercoat’, and being described as “a collection of gorgeously dark song vignettes built on a foundation of reverbed emotion, rhythmic drive and minor key pop sensibility” has a lot to live up to. With the songs compiled from a collection of ‘sketches’ written between January 2011 and October 2012, there is certainly a dramatic Gothic/Americana feel about the album which is centred around Emily’s distinctive voice which at times brings recollections of a Siouxsie Sioux style if anyone can recall those times of going beyond early punk in the late seventies. Even ‘doom folk’ has been mentioned yet it’s altogether a piece of work which refuses to be pigeonholed.
Musically the whole album is both dense and sombre, dramatic and at times expansive, verging on portraying a beyond worldly and spectral ambience. It reflects the atmosphere garnered from recording in a secluded and tranquil environment resulting in an album where “love, anger and violence move through each vignette.” The echoing ‘Faster Than The Devil’ is carried on a rumble of piano and chunky ringing metallic guitar notes and not for the first time some airy backing vocals drifting in from an eerie choir.
While the album has an overriding ominous feeling of foreboding, the contrastingly elegant and stately ‘Keeley’ has a breathy vocal which Sinead O’Connor would be proud of and the comparatively lighter ‘Wake’ virtually bounces along at points with some tremendous swelling choral backing vocals and strings making the track sound like an altogether wayward outtake from a murkier Enya composition.It’s a challenging but intriguing album which is completely evocative and one which has the quality of enticing the listener in, yet ultimately carrying the portentous warning through its lyrical themes that “love can entrap the unwary and betray the devoted.”
Eurielle - The Incarnation EP
‘The Incarnation’ is the debut EP from Yorkshire born , raised and educated Eurielle, but don’t dare to be thinking anything along the lines of Nora Batty as the archetypal Yorkshire woman. Eurielle is a significantly more sophisticated and cultured phenomenon altogether, with a background in expressive arts, classical training and a vocal scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music, not to mention riding in the Horse of the Year Show.
The EP leads off with the single, ‘Gold’ for which you can also seek out an accompanying video – a quality piece of work with high production values, shot partly in moody monochrome and verging on the sensual and almost erotic with an element of soft and blurred focus. There is quite a high flesh count and it has to be said, a certain element of eye candy appeal which may sound ever so slightly politically incorrect, yet makes the most of a marketing tool which is geared to create a reaction. The song itself is typical of the thirteen minutes of music which has been painstakingly composed and compiled by Eurielle and producer Ryan Laubscher (who has rubbed shoulders with the likes of Katherine Jenkins, Pixie Lott and Russell Watson). Lyrically, the song is very much in tune with its visuals, backed with a dreamy wash of keyboards carried upon a syncopated electronic percussion; a theme which continues into some suggestively whispered vocals on ‘I’ll Be Waiting’. The music has been described elsewhere as ‘Enya meets Evanescence’ which may be particularly on the final track ‘Waterfalls’ reflecting the type of expansive soundscape for which Enya is famed although if we’re looking at influences and inspirations, there may be those who are reminded of elements of some of Mike Oldfield’s mid 80’s experiments with female vocalists in his sister Sally and Maggie Reilly.
A pervading sense of classical overtone runs throughout the EP; stylish music for the tastefully decorated homes of the rich and famous – although with some broader commercial potential and appeal, November being the planned release date for ‘The Incarnation’ and further plans for 2014 including another single and album. For those who like a bit of culture and sophistication Eurielle is well worth checking out.
Jump - The Black Pilgrim
Unlike Irn Bru which was apparently “made in Scotland from girders”, Jump, according to their website, were created in a much more organic fashion, in a bar in 1990. Twenty three years gone, and over a dozen albums down the line they return, their ‘Black Pilgrim’ release being their first album since 2010’s ‘Beachcomber’. Despite being a band who would never even contemplate the horror of being pigeonholed, some have tried to lump them into various categories which has seen them reviewed in rock and metal publications whilst at the same time being crow barred into the ‘verging on prog’ cluster (perhaps due to their support slots with Marillion and former Marillo frontman Fish). What ‘The Black Pilgrim’ does is add another string to their bow of many facets and present much more of a mellow and serene sound, yet still with the same sharply observed lyrical bite (some may say cynical or sardonic, take your pick) from intensely passionate North Welshman (or should that be North Waleian?) John Dexter Jones. Those of us of a certain age can for example, recall the excitement articulated in ‘The Eagle Has Landed’ with the more recent controversy linked to the first moon landings – perfect source material for a Jump song.
Alongside the acoustic guitars which are well to the fore from Messers Hayes and Rundle, occasionally known as ‘the Steven Twins’, not to mention the addition of mandolin and some restrained drumming to accompany Mo’s keyboards which are passed over more often than not in favour of the accordion, the instrumentation is decidedly paired down. The accordion in particular gives the album that fairground feel, principally yet not surprisingly, in ‘My Lady Of The Fairground’ while there’s an almost modern Tull-like sound to some of the keyboard runs in ‘Your Madness’. Dare I say it’s almost folky at times – one category you don’t associate much with Jump – with the inclusion of Alice Atkinson’s violin (probably even more ‘folky’ if it were listed as a fiddle) on the aforementioned ‘Your Madness’ and the more folky-titled narrative (and hence even more folk-like) ‘The Ballad Of The Queen Of The Morning’.
Jump have never been averse to going out to play in a stripped down format, and with this album they have taken the opportunity to put to record a set of songs which show how they operate in this format - the incredible Jump acoustic string band. With its dedication to the quarrymen of Bethesda (already name checked in the song ‘Bethesda’ on ‘On Impulse’) it’s another connection to the patriotic pride of the wordsmith and spokesperson for the band. Remember the name. They may well be one of the best bands you never heard.
New Country Rehab - Ghost of Your Charms
Mulling over the subject of music which comes out of Canada and crosses international boundaries might cause a bit of head scratching. Rock based acts such as Bryan Adams and Rush may spring to some minds alongside the marvellously celebrated Joni Mitchell, although not necessarily anything which has its roots in old school American country and bluegrass - maybe one of the last things you’d expect. ‘Ghost Of Your Charms’ is the second album by Toronto based quartet following on from their 2011 debut which aimed to keep alive the country classic style of the likes of Hank Williams with a modern twist. Armed with an alt-country folk rock label, they take the idea behind simple country music and turn them into something with bite and vigour. Led by vocalist and fiddler, the ever so suitably named John Showman and his band of well-established Toronto session musicians (Roman Tome, Ben Whiteley and joined by guitarist James Robertson) have turned out a meticulously produced record which builds on the promise of the first album and establishes them as a band who are well on the way to fulfilling their potential.
It’s particularly the case with the storming opening track ‘Empty Room Blues’ with Showman immediately hooking into the traditional country themes of loss, despair and sorrow which pervade the album, as the band build and kick in to accompany his frantic fiddling. In a similar vein is ‘Lizzy Dying Of A Broken Heart’, with lyrics are based around the experiences of Vietnam returning home, while for something which a bit more off at a tangent, take a listen to ‘Midnight Cargo’ and ‘Image Of Me’ which slow the pace, particularly the latter being reminiscent of one of those mournful and forlorn late night bar soundtracks. Talking of which, it’s ‘Rollin’ which has been picked out as a Morricone style soundscape which immediately conjures up images of dust bowls and gunslingers on the verandas of saloon bars in sepia tinted western towns. The deliberately picked electric guitar notes and quivering tremolo is such trademark sound of that type of western movie that one can’t fail to picture a bestubbled and poncho wearing Clint Eastwood.
New Country Rehab is more than just a band but a name and an attitude which is both spirited and energetic and focused on a modern take on traditional and established genre, which can only be a positive thing.
The Shape Of Piracy To Come EP
An interesting little curio this one – put together in Cornwall (where else?), 5 tracks in a nautical theme, one step from being a collection of ribald sea shanties and another from rivalling the famous Captain Pugwash ‘Master Bates’ and ‘Seaman Staines’ humour, with a nod to The Macc Lads and Jimmy Pursey on the way. The five tracks including a couple of live recordings, ‘Yarrr’ and ‘Walk The Plank’ (which sounds rather incongruous with it’s simple acoustic guitar backing), are delivered in a stereotypically gravelly ‘pirate’ accent and with more than a touch of a modern day ‘punk pirate’ attitude (“you can’t f*** with us, we’re the pirate crew”) not only lyrically but also in the three chord thrash made fashionable back in 1977.
There’s obviously been an depth trawl of the nautical thesaurus with every possible reference to piracy included, all sorts of salty dogs and getting wasted on grog and even the song titles - ‘The Crew’, ‘Sail For Adventure’ (complete with “Yo Ho – Let’s go!” chants) and ‘Bring The Rum’ – are true to the subject. Not for the faint hearted or easily offended and an amusing diversion which might get slapped on at some raucous party; whether the genre (pirate rock?) has any longevity may be questionable. Free download here - piratecopy.bandcamp.com Reviews by Mike Ainscoe
The Cornelius Crane - The Cornelius Crane EP
Despite this EP coming out in May, it has only recently fallen into my hands, and even though a full album is due out very soon (November 30th to be exact), I still feel compelled to write about this fantastic 4 track EP that’s a cross pollination of English indie and American country/folk from the highly rated, ‘The Cornelius Crane’. They formed in 2010 and this EP is the follow-up to, ‘Too’, which again was subject to plaudits amongst the underground press. The latest EP opens with ‘The Needle and the Gun’, a cool, dreamy track that could soundtrack any summer road trip amongst friends that in future years would summon up youthful memories of blissful innocence and the great times shared in complete, unblemished freedom. From the first guitar chords you can’t help but be hooked. There’s an almost ‘Beatles-esque’ charm surrounding it with a trace of the American Southern folk influence tarnished on top. The quality of the American folky/country scene of ‘Neil Young’ and ‘The Band’ is evident in the next track, ‘They Talk in Circles’, which is layered with harmonica to add a further coat of sentiment to a bouncy, yet emotive track. ‘Silver Tongue of an Actor’ strips back even further to give a fabulously moving rendition of an American country type ballad with wonderfully flowing lyrics and elegant use of the piano and harmonica to aid the poignancy. ‘The Difference Between You and Me’ is an instrumental that starts off as a slow, rippling acoustic effect before being taken up a notch for the second half with drums that have a similar pace and trippy effect to a psychedelic ‘Pink Floyd’ number.
What’s so appealing about ‘The Cornelius Crane’ is their unique ability of capturing simplicity. I’ve said it many times before with the better bands around that simplicity is the key to an effective sound, and with solid harmonies and melodies, wistful riffs, and vocals/lyrics that easily connect with people then ‘The Cornelius Crane’ are on a winner and are a must see band for lovers of that cross over in American/British indie/country/folk.
The full album is to be released on 30th November in conjunction with a show at the famous Witchwood in Ashton under Lyne, a hometown gig for the band.
The Rubys - 'Silhouttes' and 'Sell The Sun At Once' Single
On the back of last year’s successful album launch, ‘Limelight Parasite’, and subsequent single launch, ‘Shake You Free’, ‘The Rubys’ return with a couple of superlative new singles that carry on the theme of the twisted and contrived love theme that sees them musically and lyrically one of the best bands to come out of Manchester in recent years, leading to a deserved continued interest that pours from The States.
While ‘Sell the Sun at Once’ was quietly released back in the summer through the usual channels, ‘Silhouettes’ was subject to a proper release at Night n Day in Manchester, where a full show was played to highlight just why ‘The Rubys’ are such and infectious and loveable band, where every song they play seems to get better and better each time its heard, a very rare occurrence in this day and age.
We had the pleasure of inviting ‘The Rubys’ to perform ‘Sell the Sun at Once’ acoustically live on the guest list at Pure 107.8FM. The song itself has an overtone of sadness, but possesses such an entrancing melody that effortlessly washes over the conscious mind. Lee Hunter’s vocals are as passionate as ever, reaching and prolonging notes that make you feel his pain and delve into his heart. Lead guitarist Tat Sing Kong adds a fantastic riff to give the song a rockier feel whilst maintaining the song’s emotion. Again, it’s the simplicity and not overplaying that creates so much more connection with the listener, which ‘The Rubys’ master so well.
‘Silhouettes’ does precisely the same, being almost like the sister song to ‘Sell the Sun at Once’. It’s starts off in much the same manner; slow, delicate and held back with emotive lyrics that bring a lump to the throat until the song explodes onto a different path where the band hit a higher gear of tempo, yet still restraining to go full pelt on the guitars, quite happy to continue with a shower of fantastic melodies and beats that keep in line with the typically flowing and moving ‘Rubys’ song writing.
Nick Raven - Love & Lomography
Nick Raven, an artist coming highly recommended by our American counterpart’s, returns with LP, ‘Love & Lomography’, the follow up to debut EP, ‘Happy You Hippie Me’, released in 2011. The album, released by Powertool Records, and Custom Made Music, is in much the same style as the EP, but there seems to be a darker mood that emerges from this extremely impressive piece of work.
Raven’s music is completely stripped back, full of meticulous and intricate playing ability that, certainly for the first few tracks on the album, portrays an almost eerie and psychedelic image of dusk setting in by a quiet lakeside just before the fall of darkness. The majority of the album is played quietly, but the constant prominence and striking sound that most notes are played can instantly awake the track from any hint of a sombre mood. Typically, an acoustic guitar drives the underbelly, but sometimes the use of a Banjo or Spanish sounding acoustic guitar layers the surface to give the sound a distinct, atmospheric impression. Without being spectacular or ground breaking, the drums do the job of keeping the tracks moving in an evocative, almost tribal like and hypnotic way such is its quiet repetition felt throughout.
‘Butterfly High’ is the opening track and packs a psychedelic punch with some striking Spanish like guitar being at the very core of the songs gist. The listener is almost tricked into thinking the whole album will be full of tracks of a similar psychedelic style, but in reality this song is fairly unique to the albums essence. His guitar talents are evident throughout, and his ability is reflected in some cool licks that are convolutedly played, especially in songs such as, ‘Sitting & Laughing’ and ‘Searching for the Sea’. Raven’s capabilities to write the emotive ballads are a key theme to the album, but they are projected with a twist away from the norm. ‘Love’, ‘Drown’, Head Spin Round’ and ‘Singing Myself to Sleep’ are the significant songs that portrays this notion of beautiful and emotive guitar playing that locks around your heart, throws away the key, and gives you little choice but to let it drench over your waking soul.
With lyrics and soulful vocals that wrap themselves around the mind, the final track is possibly the most lyrically outstanding, and perhaps the most eye catching on the album. ‘Blind Man’ is a track redone and remastered from the first EP. There’s shades of Terry Reid’s, ‘Seed of Memory’ in its approach, but make no mistake about it, this is a fantastically put together track that really has a cool drive and sadness that suits a solitary and moody walk through the sunlit, green, American countryside with nothing but the spectacular scenery and cool wind for company whilst contemplating life and love.
Raven’s style can be best described as folk with an alternative darker twist to an otherwise straightforward story with a predictable ending. On this evidence, he is on his way to achieve great things. Only being a young lad, he reminds me a little of Jake Bugg but with more of an evocative twist, and in my humble opinion, has a greater and broader talent that should carry him far in the future. Reviews by Nigel Cartner
Grip-Like Vice – Grip Like Vice (EP, self-released)
Bodmin quartet Grip Like Vice’s eponymous debut EP has already drawn praise for its high-octane, angular power pop, drawing comparisons with XTC. While this relates to the group’s palate of influences, the tributaries of their taut, hook-infused can be traced back further, to earlier, quintessentially English sounding beat combos such as The Move. Conversely, streams of comparison can also be projected forward to encompass a postmodern sweep of reference points that flows through their sixties roots, across the new wave Britpop of Squeeze, to contemporary kitchen sink stylists such as the(e) soon-to-be-no more Spivs.
However, this EP represents no mere exercise in throwing a corpus of tried and tested tropes at the soundboard and seeing what sticks, as collective influences are filtered through a prism of the band’s own making to create new organic forms of pop that, while accessible, also evokes the knowing subversion of the form as previously exemplified by Postcard groundbreakers, Josef K. Opener ‘With The Band’ propels slice-of-life lyrics upon a springy bed of bass and drums, while three-headed vocal melodies add sweetness to the constantly colliding mix.
While the gently reflective ‘Kinetic’ arcs overhead, synthetic sputniks bleeping gently through its gradually expanding sonics, the disc hits its stride with ‘Laughing At Herself’ and resolutely remains there. Again adorned by lyrics that twitch from behind lace curtains and pneumatic harmonies, the track develops compelling impetus, while the keyboards and processed middle-eight call to mind Squeeze’s ‘Take Me I’m Yours’.
‘Politician Smile’ provides evidence of the Vice’s bite. Catchy and sardonic, the number transcends the credibility gulf that so often opens up whenever the phrase ‘powerpop’ in invoked, while the valedictory ‘Stan Still, Stand Still’ extends the ‘Smithers-Jones’ mythos through suburban breakdown via ‘Dear Prudence’.
With a second EP already in the works, this represents a starting point rather than a terminus. This disc depicts a band tinkering with DNA strands spun from their influences and their own creativity to produce something new and engaging. On tyhis evidence what happens next will be similarly worth paying attention to.
Night Motor – Visceral Love (EP, self-released)
Welcome. Welcome to the second after the last second of forever. Welcome to the post-cybernetic age. Welcome to the Moorcock Ballard made. Welcome. You are welcome.
This is Night Motor 3.0. This is the exegesis of the deus ex machina, the retooling of the purely inorganic by the process of reintroducing flesh and blood. Viscera – Four explorations of. The first warps meaty beats, serrated synths and firestorms of fuzz to create churning sonic whirlpools that gain mass, pulling the sound towards its heavywater core. Everything is processed here, all the time. As Night Motor’s newly installed vocal wetware Lee Horus Dobson delivers with greater assurance than mainman Mawgan Lewis, although Mawgan’s apparent desire to cede vocal duties belies the fact that he was well capable of delivering a natty line in Stephen Mallinder style understatement.
The ‘Analogue War’ variant emerges as music fit to have a fit to; dislocating synapses through electronics. This, again, is the future – your future. But this time, England is not dreaming, it is uploading, processing, binary streams of consciousness that can create a city, an idea, an orgasm, in noughts and ones. Here submarine subsonics puncture successive membranes of synthesized sound. Toytown meets the monolithic before a middle eight that sees Tokyo reimagined by Aldiss. Sound deliquesces, burning off its juices in a heat haze before dry-humping itself to a climax.
The aqua vitae of Night Motor’s human interfaces are reinforced for ‘8-Bit Honey’ as Honey’s Sarah Marie Tyrrell is cast as Lorelei, a siren hotwired into the hardware. As particles accelerate there are organic fluids on the circuits, emotion and desire is introduced into the BIOS with double sick consequences. Finally, the ‘Mirror Guitars’ version brings anarchy to the operating system. Expansively deconstructing its source, the track is haunting and dystopian, reminiscent of Dr Mix & The Remix vandalising Athletico Spizz 80’s ‘Airships’. Drifts of irradiated sound are ripped and torn by guitars reminiscent of Hermann Schwartz.
Four facets. Four paths to follow. You are welcome. Reviews by Dick Porter
Symbol Six - Symbol Six
I have been hearing this question over and over again most recently: Is SYMBOL SIX one of those bands that time forgot ?
Let’s try and explain a thing or two to all who do not possess a time machine but are in dire need of a little introduction: Symbol Six are one of the pioneers of the Southern Californian punk rock scene. They hail from Santa Monica and formed in 1980. The average age of all band members was about 15 or 16 but that never stopped them playing around 50 shows between 1981-82. They gained notoriety by being part of the then somewhat infamous and sometimes dangerous Los Angeles hardcore punk rock scene. Legendary Roddy Bingenheimer from world famous radio station QROC quickly picked up on the hype and started playing their songs – in fact, they were played quite regularly and possibly on heavy rotation if memory serves me right.
Symbol Six could often be seen sharing a bill with Social Distortion, TSOL, Agent Orange and everyone else that was out there at the time taking names and generally kicking ass. Sadly, the band disbanded shortly afterwards but reformed a few years ago with all original band members and released a new 11 track album -“ Monsters 11” in 2010.
In the wake of the highly anticipated brand new studio album “ Dirtyland”, which is scheduled to be released in spring 2014 and an extensive tour planned in the US and maybe this side of the pond, comes the re-release of all the original Posh Boy Records material from the early 1980’s. The limited 200 on mail order 12” coloured vinyl has already sold out, so if anyone fancies a regular black vinyl copy of this reissue better get in touch soon with Dr. Strange Records to secure one of the 800 regular copies.
So what have we got? 14 tracks, including classics such as the self-titled “Symbol Six”, crowd favourite “Beverlywood”, “Taxation” and “Ego”; two new and recently recorded songs, one of them a cover of The Weridos ’ “ The Hideout” (John Denney of The Weirdos apparently really like this version!) plus unreleased demos, live recordings and even a rehearsal song. This EP is already a collector’s item among vinyl lovers.
Anyone who is a fan of early Social Distortion material will probably love the A- side. There is also a well written bio to be found as part of the re-release package which perfectly illustrates the beginning and resurrection of Symbol Six and an interesting collection of some never before seen pictures by L.A. photographer/artist Edward Colver ( Dead Kennedys, Bad Religion , The Cramps , Ice Cube…), who documented the hardcore punk scene between 1978 -1984.
Please be aware that frontman Eric Leach’s voice on all original early 1980’s recorded tracks has obviously changed a bit since 1981 due to a thing called voice break. Perhaps another reason to get hold of this highly collectable EP. Review by Svenja Block
Polly Scattergood – Arrows
Polly Scattergood in July of this year supported Goldfrapp at the Summer Series concerts at Somerset House in London. There is an astonishing video on YouTube of her covering the classic show song “New York, New York”. It is utterly breathtaking, and the fragility with which she imbues the song leaves you hanging on every word and note. It literally becomes a new song in her hands.
The new album “Arrows”, her second record, has that fragility and emotional intensity, but also projects the confidence of a very individual vision, both musically and in terms of her storytelling.
I just adore the musical settings for each of the songs on this album. Its almost as if Polly had got Phil Spector, the Pet Shop Boys and Eno era Roxy Music in the same studio and presented her songs to them. “Cocoon” the first song on the album exemplifies this more than any other track. Add to that some fabulous lyrical flourishes, just try for example: “They sing of pain - They sing about cold metallic blame”. In “Falling” it’s as if New Order then got an invite to the party! This is a great dance track that speaks to the breadth of Polly’s vision. She has a way of blending a range of musical influences into something very unique and special.
“Miss You” is achingly sad and feels to me to tell the story of someone who has taken their life, both from the point of view of the person now gone and the person left behind. It is so sad, and yet strangely not without hope, as it speaks to letting people into your world. The plaintive piano and gentle electronic sounds compliment the story perfectly, as the sad tale unfolds.“Silver Lining” has the most spine tingling last few minutes, with eerie electronics, and spoken words about not trying to contain those free spirits that touch our lives. Ending with some very isolated and lonely last piano notes.
The last two tracks bring the album to a stunning close. “Wanderlust” with its short-spoken passages and buzzing synthesizer backing is a wall of sound type of production, with a sense of a never-ending road, and apparent desperation at the rush to superficiality in relationships. The opening lyric has a quite exquisite economy of words that conveys this beautifully: “Fire dies, love and laughter, cheap thrills ever after. In the end we lost our heads, forget every word I just said"
“I’ve Got a Heart” has a lovely electric piano and double bass beginning, and a sweeping electronic and strings backing. The story told by the song feels so heartfelt, and which if you have been to dark places in your life, will be very resonant. One of the lines poignantly describes: “The doctor gave me pills to take, to stop me feeling quite so awake, to take the edge of all this black cloud”.
Polly Scattergood deserves to find a wider audience. Her musical gutsiness and poetic and affecting storytelling, speak out loud the human condition in modern day society, but with hope and tenderness. I also so hope she doesn’t lose her musical playfulness which adds a real edge to her songs, and sets her apart.
I will end this review by drawing a connection that may at first feel unlikely, but bear with me. I recently watched the BBC documentary on Pussy Riot, the feminist and punk influenced movement in Russia (thank you to my friend Lorna for bringing it to my attention). I watched it amazed at the single-minded courage of these women to challenge society to think and question, and in a very post-modernist way. Not a punk band as such, as it has sometimes been depicted, more a collective of feminist women using punk and performance art to challenge and question. Polly Scattergood has that same brave challenge to offer us, to think and question. She is wonderfully utilising storytelling, challenging musical statements, and a feminist sensibility, to help us make that journey. I unashamedly recommend this album to you.
Tides From Nebula - Eternal Movement
Tides From Nebula hail from Poland, and formed as a band at the beginning of 2008. Their musical maturity is very evident on this, their third album. That musical maturity is complemented by a very engaged and energetic stage presence, when experiencing the band playing live. I was lucky enough to see them play a very atmospheric set at the Damnation Festival, where they had a very discerning audience completely under their spell.
Earthshine their second album was notable for being produced by the legendary composer Zbigniew Preisner. He is perhaps best known for composing the music for Krzysztof Kieslowski's Three Colours film trilogy, a landmark of modern cinema. According to the bands biography, he literally sought them out after hearing them on the radio, which is pretty cool, and reflects I think the often-cinematic quality to the band's music.
Tides From Nebula can be seen as part of the new post-metal or post-rock (as others have termed it) movement. It is a diverse and creative musical movement including bands such as Year Of No Light and Alcest from France, and the simply astonishing Caspian from the United States, who HIM recently took the brave step of including on their recent UK tour.
Musically for this new movement, think the Cocteau Twins, Eno and the complex emotional moods created by John Coltrane, mixed in with the metal gloom of Opeth and Katatonia, and it will give you some idea of what to be prepared for, if you are open to the challenges of this new music.
The album opens with "Laughter of Gods". It has an ethereal layering of sound that builds in intensity and demands an emotional response from the listener. It’s a sort of template for what follows on the rest of this album, and also has a lovely little instrumental call and response middle section. " Emptiness of Yours and Mine" shifts the mood between ambient and heavy, with a fabulous final two minutes where the band really takes off and creates a whirlwind of ascending sound.
"Hollow Lights" is quite cinematic in the images it conjures up. For me, the images conjured up were from a black and white art house road movie!
"Let it Out, Let it Flow, Let it Fly" is perhaps the musical equivalent of falling in love. It has the most joyous, immersive and emotional musicality on the album.
"Up from Eden" the album closer has a lovely melody, with very expressive musical passages. It feels like the instruments are talking to you like an old friend. It creates such a remarkable warm and soothing effect. That warm and soothing feeling is further reinforced by the mesmerizing album cover. All in all, a very therapeutic experience for the listener.
As you might have picked up already, I rate this album very highly. One of the best of 2013! Reviews by Gareth Allen
Henry Priestman - The Last Mad Surge Of Youth
Henry Priestman’s voyage has seen him sail from power pop combo Yachts, to The Christians, dropping anchor briefly, at It’s Immaterial and several other post punk ports along the way.
So what of his solo efforts? His first, 2009’s surprise radio 2 hit, ‘The Chronicles of Modern Life’ set a very sturdy course through the rough seas of middle age. “Music for grumpy old men”, as Johnnie Walker described it, and right he was, with Mr Priestman losing none of his wry wit. His identifiably cynical view of the world remains, served up with lashings of warmth and self-deprecating humour.
This latest offering is a much deeper affair than ‘Chronicles’ and often more rewarding because of it. The album flits from Jim Reeves waltzes, with a pinch of Springsteen, as on ‘At The End of the Day’ and ‘Valentine song’, to the uplifting rants of ‘Goodbye To Common Sense’ and ‘A Pint of Bitter and Twisted’.
A more varied pallet paints a lush soundscape with lap steels, flutes, banjos and fiddles. Brass, provided by none other than Probyn Gregory who graced many a Beach Boys album and also featuring10cc’s multi talented Graham Gouldman and Wild Swan Paul Simpson, amongst many others. The songs are equally varied, embracing country, folk, rock and pop in equal measures.
The subject matter is often touching and poignant and when he sings “I’m the saddest man alive” during the title track he leaves you with little doubt as to his sincerity. The stunning, ‘We Used to Be You’ continues to tug on the heart strings and sees a couple trying to come to terms with the onset of old age by accepting the frivolous ways of their children as they spread their wings. With the support
and wisdom that only the hindsight of a loving parent can bring - and with more than a little envy to re-live their own youth.
‘The Last Mad Surge of Youth’ has it all and may sound like a title fit for the end of a career, but with songs as beautiful and finely crafted as this, it would seem that our captain is merely cruising in calmer waters. And let’s hope there’s many more voyages still to come. Review by Les Glover
The Cosmic Array S/T (Folkwit Records)
In a house that lies halfway up a steep hill in the middle of Swansea lives a very nice man named Huw Rees, and in the basement of that house he has built a studio, and in that studio over the years has recorded countless local artists and bands, including many of his own (notably folk-rock titans The Rag Foundation). And of these many bands the latest to release an album is The Cosmic Array, comprised of a number of notable local musicians, not least Paul Battenbough, who wrote all of the songs on it.