MUDKISS FANZINE

Mudkiss is now an archived site, there will be no more updates. Mudkiss operated from 2008 till 2013.

NOVEMBER ALBUM REVIEWS: LET'S WARM UP WITH NEW SOUNDS

November has been a very busy month for the Mudkiss team and we finish off the exciting few weeks with a great summary of records that have caught the attention of our dedicated writers. Check out the following reviews from Paul Hastings, Philip Howe, Clair Hart, Lee McFadden, Mike Ainscoe, Nigel Cartner, Dick Porter, Svenja Block, Gareth Allen,  Les Glover
and Jeremy Gluck.

The Road Home - Too Cold

This is the debut EP from The Road Home who, whilst being from the Netherlands, clearly have a musical home in the blue collar states that have produced the likes of The Gaslight Anthem, Alkaline Trio and indeed Bruce Springsteen. They have been very accurately described as a band with a "hardcore attitude and a mainstream sound".  Their sound is based on a punk rock n roll base but with added melody and catchy hooks.

Their skills and influences are evident from the outset on "Teenage Dancer", which is like one of the best Gaslight Anthem songs, and that is some praise! It's all punk rock style with added melody and lyrics about the home town girl. It's a brilliant opening song.  It's quickly followed by "Young Vigilantes" which is similar in style but perhaps with a more 'pop' feel. This one has a sound similar to the, sadly now defunct, UK band Sharks. This ability to take a punk rock song and give it a more commercial shine is also evident on "Let Me Go". It is important to highlight that this never sees the band losing any passion in the music.

The track "Too Cold To Run" has that Gaslight Anthem feel to it, but again it is them at their absolute blue collar best. It has that same echo of "The Boss" which always haunts this type of sound. It is a fantastic, epic and huge sound rock song. The band revisit familiar lyrical themes with "High School Boys". It is an ode to youth and has that typical Americana song writer feel to it.

The EP concludes, far too early, with "Cold Ground" which takes the speed down with a great acoustic strum and solo vocals sound. It almost sounds like a plea for them to be included on the next Revival tour! It's that hard edge, punk inspired, americana sound. It shows a nice change in shade but is equally as impressive as the faster paced tracks.

It is impossible not to highlight how similar this band sounds to The Gaslight Anthem. Is this a problem? Not really, given it means we have an EP full of great punk rock n roll songs. They effortlessly do the very difficult job of mixing punk, melody and passion to heartfelt lyrics, to create a brilliant EP. It is very rare to hear a debut EP as strong as this that really makes you wish that there were more songs immediately available. If The Road Home can maintain this level of quality then the next release, hopefully a full album, should be incredible.

Future Monarchs - Weird Weather

Whilst Future Monarchs are actually a new band they have been eleven years in the making as they are built on the songwriting talents of  childhood friends and bandmates Bobby Lord and Jake Anderson. It is therefore, perhaps not surprising that this album has a sense of a confidence that is unachievable for most bands on a debut. This quality level is also demonstrated by the fact that the album was co-produced by Pat Sansone from the legendary band, Wilco. Add in to the equation that they have also toured with Brendan Benson (see this month's album of the month), then you know you are dealing with a band who must have a very high level of songwriting capabilities.

The Wilco/Brendan Benson influence is evident right from the off with "Evil Art". Similar to those artists, it has a laid back, free flowing sound which then builds up in to a great power pop chorus. It is followed by "Bells", which has a neat hand clap opening. It maintains the quality but also delivers it in a simple but effective style.

The momentum continues to build with "Landslide", which again has a great summery pop feel to it. The laid back vocals  brings a feeling of overall 'pleasantness'. This all builds the album up to "My Old Ways", which is an amazing power pop song. It has a totally enchanting and absorbing melody. This song actually matches the pure pop brilliance of the afore mentioned Brendan Benson, which is about the best compliment you could make for this style of sound.

The quality pop still continues with "Cigarette Smoke" but this song has a little more quirkiness which brings to mind maybe Jellyfish or even Fountains of Wayne. It then comes to a conclusion with "Lydia" which is a slow and heartfelt song. This song perhaps demonstrates how the root of most power pop bands tends to lie with The Beatles, as it has a similar feel and sound to that legendary band. Any fan of power pop a la Brendan Benson and perhaps Wilco (at their pure pop best, rather than more alternative sound) should see this as an essential purchase. This debut album is a remarkably strong set of well written, melodic songs.

Blitzen Trapper - VII

No prizes for guessing which number album this is for the band Blitzen Trapper! Although, a prize should be awarded for anyone who can provide a brief description of the band and their sound. Whilst they are often placed in the americana/folk type pigeon hole, they are actually far too experimental and varied to be tied to this category. Indeed, even if this isn't a genre you enjoy, you should still take a chance and give this album a listen. The very fact that the band state themselves that this is "another bizarre string of tales and touchstones, more beats and banjos by far than anything to date" should be enough to tempt you!

"Feel The Chill" is an "interesting" opener and, not knowing about the experimental side of the band, I did need to check that the track had actually downloaded correctly! However, after the initial shock, you can really get in to the track which has a great funky bass. The obscure sound continues with "Shine On" which has a strange stop/start production which distracts from the more country sound that's hidden underneath.

The album, therefore, doesn't really hit it's stride until "Ever Loved Once" which, ironically, is actually a straight forward Americana/Power Pop song. It really is a great track with a beautiful melody. Then comes "Thirsty Man", which this time sees the band achieving  a good mixture of an Americana sound but with a more modern influence. There is even a "Doors" feel to the organ in  the song. In particular, it has an organ solo that the late, great, Ray Manzarek would have been proud of. This is something which reoccurs on "Faces of You", with its organ sound and a Robbie Krieger esque guitar solo. This song has a cool, laid back almost jazz feel to it.

"Valley Of Death" sees a return to the Americana/Country folk feel but adds in some beats and more modern effects, which by the end sounds like "Dub Be Good To Me" by Beats International (or to be cooler, the sampled "Guns of Brixton" by The Clash). This use of modern techniques sees "Oregon Geography" delivered with an almost laid back rap effect in the vocals.

"Neck Tatts, Cadillacs" is a great mix up song somewhere between a country folk song and a modern dance song. It is probably one of the best examples of what the band are trying to achieve. It takes an established sound and totally transforms it in to something new and original. The band are still able to deliver some more 'straight up' songs, such as "Drive On Up', which has an almost U.S. 70's TV show theme to it. It's a great track which adds a nice sense of throw away to the album. Then "Heart Attack" adds a dash of pop to the mix and creates a great little power pop song with hints of the Beatles, on one of their more ramshackle songs.

Finally for those fans of actual Americana/Country folk, they deliver "Don't Be A Stranger" which ends up being a surprise, ironically, because it is purely a simple country folk songs which aptly demonstrates their traditional roots.

This really is a great and unique album. It is a bit of a shame that the first two songs are the most alternative, and arguably weakest, as it may deter the new or casual listener.  I expect to their fans, however, they would anticipate the band's desire to be 'different'. The rest of the album is certainly brilliant and is a good example of a band taking a very traditional core sound of Americana, and then chucking a load of different sounds in to the mix. The end result is something which achieves the very difficult task of being different, challenging but also brilliant. This is definitely one of the best releases of the year and a must buy.

Stone Temple Pilots - High Rise

It is probably fair to say that this is a pretty important release for the band given the departure of vocalist Scott Weiland. The departure of the lead singer will always raise questions over whether the band should continue and, if they do, how the fans will react. Stone Temple Pilots have upped the ante even further by taking the bold decision to appoint an already well known vocalist, in the form of Chester Bennington. Given the fact that his previous band, Linkin Park, had attracted a huge amount of success, along with some strong dissenting opinions, the move is even braver.

Opener, "Out of Time", is a crunching rocker and you can definitely tell it's an STP song. Chester's vocals perhaps give it more of a classic rock feel to their previous more 'alternative' sound. It is, however, a huge opening rock n roll number. "Black Heart" continues this straight forward rock n roll feel, but has a great swagger and sleaze feel to it. It actually almost has an Oasis influence, if you can imagine them covering a Guns N Roses song!?!?. The commercial rock sound continues with "Same On The Inside".

The song "Cry, Cry" brings a nice change of pace with it's more relaxed sound. It provides a good feel of lightness until it eventually moves to the more expected intense chorus. The more mellow sound continues with "Tomorrow", which acts like a gradual 'come down' for the album. It has an epic and dramatic feel to it which is almost like Pearl Jam and will be great live song.

It is always going to be controversial when a new lead singer is introduced to a band, in particular when replacing such a unique character as Scott Weiland. It will certainly be interesting to see how the hard core fans will react. Hopefully, it will be well received as this is a very strong EP and still retains the individuality of STP. Certainly, if this was being released as a debut EP by a new band, it would be seen as a huge record with great potential. There is therefore no reason why the 'new' Stone Temple Pilots should not be seen in the same light.

Vamps (JPN) - Sex, Blood, Rock 'N' Roll

Vamps are two musicians  from Japan who might be new to the UK, but released their debut single back in 2008. In fact, they have released two full albums as well as a live DVD. This album is actually a compilation of those two albums. Also, this album has seen some of those songs re recorded in to English.

The album begins with an almost space age rock feel to it on "Dark Side". It is a good mix of being melodic but still ferocious and it builds in to a huge chorus. The band then turn up the heaviness with "Redrum" which leans to a more power metal sound. This style reappears on "Vampire Depression", but the harder edge is this time given a more electronic influence. "Revolution II" also has a space age feel but this time adds a bit more of a glam metal feel to it. It is a really great song and kind of sounds like the style Motley Crue were trying to achieve around their Primal Scream era. It would certainly get a rock club dance floor going. As would "Love Addict " which, given it's title, not surprisingly also has a glam metal feel. It has a hand clap opening and a really cool, sleaze rock n roll feel to it.

The interesting thing about VAMPS is their ability to change and vary their sound and maybe this comes from the fact that this album is a compilation of previous songs. "The Past" adds a slower and gothic feel to it and is almost a metal version of the band Mansun.  As is "My First Last" which has that wide open feel to it. There is a sense of epic ness in the sound and the delivery style.

The song "Memories" could probably be described as an amped up power ballad. It's all huge melodies and big guitars. and would have been huge back in the early nineties. Then "Sweet Dreams" takes the slowed down approach even further, with a sparse vocal and piano sound. The band are even confident enough to throw in a cover of the classic "Life On Mars".  To be honest, they don't really get away with it. It is such a great song that it always sounds good, but this version really fails to add anything special.

Thankfully, the album ends with the title song which is an almighty noise. It is an industrial rock sounding song but with the added bonus of a throw away glammy chorus.It is almost guaranteed to get the mosh pit going. Overall, this is a surprisingly varied and interesting album with a good mix of sounds and influences. It strangely, brings to mind a band from back in the day called Shotgun Messiah. They got lumped in to the Glam Metal crew, but actually had more of an electronica and alternative sound to them as well (not surprisingly one of them went on to play with Marilyn Manson). This Vamps (JPN) album has an even harder and more abrasive edge but they still manage to add some much needed melody to the equation.

The Bloodshots - On Fire

The Bloodshots are a 3 piece Rockabilly band from Brooklyn, New York and are led by Little Lesley who is not only the lead singer but also has the key responsibility of slapping the upright bass. This is the band's debut album and impressively contains thirteen original songs which have their heart in rockabilly but with a little taste of bourbon in the form of a country twang.

This is apparent on opening number "Rollin Out", which is a hard rocking song with that country twang. You are immediately hit with the impressive vocal performance, which has a great feel of raunch and attitude. Given the title, "Straight From Hell", not surprisingly keeps up the rocking, high tempo approach.

The Bloodshots do show a more traditional rockabilly sound on songs such as "You Cant Break My Soul" and "Hearts On Fire". This is driven by the more laid back drumming and bass approach. These songs provide a nice change of pace and offer more of a swagger to their sound. Then on "La La La Love" they add a great swing style opening with some super cool finger clicks. This time, the lyrics are purred so as to give the song the sound of a perfect soundtrack to a  burlesque dance. "You're A Cat" has that same sassy swing element and not surprisingly has a real strut to it. The fact that Little Lesley is a farmer's daughter means that the country influences are never too far away. "I Still Love You" again adds that country twang. It starts like a blues ballad but soon builds in to a fast paced rockabilly song with good use of backing vocals. "Waste Away" sees that country/hillbilly flavour again but also keeps the rocking undertone.

The album ends as it started with "I Gotta Go" being a hard rocking number. The lyrics contain a plan to find a place to rock n roll, and it's true to say this song would be a good accompaniment to a night of wild and drunken fun. This is a strong collection of rock n roll numbers with an old school feel to them. Lots of the tracks are good time numbers that deserve to be played loud. However, it is actually some of the slower, more restrained, tracks which really stand out. These ones tend to have an added swagger and swing which gives The Bloodshots a little extra style in comparison to many of the other bands of a similar ilk. They retain a traditional rockabilly sound but keep a freshness and sense of urgency which makes this a really strong album.

Ninja Baby - Blue

Ninja Baby are a UK band who, despite being relatively new, have already managed to release a debut album called "Red" which has promptly been followed up by this release. It is good to see that the band have a wide range of influences, taking in both rock like G'N'R/ACDC and indie music such as Oasis and The Fratellis. For some reason, bands always try and stay in one of these musical fields and not the other. This is a shame really, when you consider that the Ninja Baby see the result of these influence being a "unique sounding band with big catchy riffs". They certainly create a big sound on first song "From The Bones Out", which is a brash rock n roll song with a futuristic style sound that is actually similar to Achtung Baby era U2. They then add more of a glam shimmer to the song "Shadows". It has a cool, laid back, vibe with some well placed backing vocals, which mix with the intermittent punk guitar blasts. They step up the catchiness of their sound on the lead single "Girls" which has a catchy, melodic feel with the added bonus of some hand claps.

The indie influences are more transparent on "Shards" which is a slower song that actually brings to mind the under rated Shed Seven.  Then on "No Ones Kings & Queens" they bring things a bit more up to date where the vocals in particular lend an almost Arctic Monkeys feel to the track. The lyrical flow also has that same kind of real life observation feel to it. "Black Eye Blind" has a great opening rift and also the Arctic's influence is there.

Probably the best song on the album is "Don't Offer Me Your Love", which has a really interesting opening that has an almost kind of disco feel to it. The song then moves in to a great potential indie disco hit which could definitely be a future single. The final song "Down But Not Done" is a good closing song where the band show their ability to strip things down to a simple guitar and singer sound. This simplicity allows the quality of the song to shine through.

This album is a good collection of well written songs. The band has already developed from their first album, which has more of a straight forward Indie approach. The main challenge will be for them to develop their own niche and sound which will further differentiate themselves from other indie acts. In the meantime, they have delivered an album which will appeal to a large number of fans. In fact, with the right backing, a number of these tracks could easily find their way to be indie disco, dance floor fillers, which is no bad thing!

Kitrocket - Ants & Stars

This is Kitrocket's debut album and the band is the work of singer/songwriter Joe Short, and the songs on the album were written with the former bass player of The Girls, James Oliver. "Ants & Stars" has already seen a release of a great single and video for the song "She's French" which you really should check out.

It is this great track which opens the album and its a super cool introduction to the band. It's a kind of indie, almost electro, pop song which has some great lyrics. It is one of those tunes that you will find yourself humming for weeks after you first hear it. As the French (or Delboy) would say it's tres magnifique! It is then followed by "It's Business", which keeps the same pop sound with clever lyrics but in a more laid back style than the opener's pop fizz.

The songs in this vein just keep coming throughout the album. This includes "You're Hiding Something" which, initially, has an even more relaxed sound before building in to a great power pop chorus. Then with "Straight Line" you have another song which would be the perfect accompaniment for a drink in the summer sunshine. Although, for now, it will just have to be a reminder of that warmth on a cold winter night.

"All Over The Place" is a perfect match of indie rock and a more electronic type sound. It has a sound like Soulwax when they first came out and at their most pop or maybe like the Dandy Warhols. This style is also evident on "Hanging Out" but the impact of the sweeter vocals is to give the song a much lighter effect. The album actually reaches a peak with the brilliant "Different Ways". This is the kind of dirty pop hit which is very like the Dandy Warhols, but at their "Bohemian Like You" pop best.

It isn't all just punchy pop though and Kitrocket show an important ability to throw in some diversity and a surprise or two. On "I Don't Know" they even manage to add a darker, more intense sound with added electronic effects. The biggest surprise though comes with "Any Girl". Out of nowhere they deliver a simple and beautiful song. It is a genuine adult ballad that almost calls to mind someone like Crowded House. It's very different to the rest of the album but is a really great song. This album is a great example of matching an indie style sound and approach with an understanding of a neat pop song. It is hard to think of many bands at the moment who can so effectively deliver this type of music. They have taken a sound which is based on delivering simple, well constructed, pop songs and giving them a modern, fresh and vibrant feel. Given the right exposure you could see Kitrocket delivering some killer hit singles.

Lydia Loveless - Boy Crazy

Anyone who heard Lydia Loveless' brilliant debut album, "Indestructible Machine", will not be surprised to learn that her dad used to own a country music bar. That album was a great combination of country influences mixed with just the right amount of punky, trash dirt. Given her young age, it was not surprising to see it filled with feelings of anger and rebellion. It is therefore great to see that she has now released this EP, which is again on the brilliant Bloodshot Records label.

It opens with "All I Know" which is a great country influenced song but with a surprisingly real pop sound. You are immediately hit with the quality of her voice and it shows why Loretta Lynn is often referenced. The song has a great swing and melody to it and has a real sense of warmth. This successful formula is continued on "All The Time". This song is driven by a great skipping drum beat which carries the melody along.

Lydia even manages to make a big fall out with her seem appealing on the song "Lover's Spat". This tune sees a little spike added to the sweet pop sound. The title track "Boy Crazy" is probably the 'rockiest' song on the EP with it's more prominent guitar sound. It appears to be an ode to teenage love and shares that same sense of youthful exuberance.

The closing track is a great country ballad that Dolly herself would be proud of. Although, she might not be quite so keen on the lyrics which are not be as 'wholesome' as the song sounds! Again, it  also shows the strength and power of her voice. The song is delivered with passion and emotion but without sounding over the top. The previous album was a mix of country, rock and pop and had that added element of spite and anger. On this EP we see her truly embrace her pop sound. The songs here are well written, perfectly executed pop songs with that country feel underpinning them. The sound is admittedly very 'American' and this type of music has, perhaps understandably, struggled to get as much exposure over here in the UK. This is a real shame given the undoubted quality of Lydia Loveless and hopefully this EP will reach more fans in the UK, so we can share some of that bright, country sunshine. Reviews by Paul Hastings

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/Glassglue (Klangbad)

“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.

The Cosmic Array claim, for want of a better description, to be peddling “psych country songs”, but they know as well as the listener does that the songs are country only in the broadest    sense, for example one where Jimmy Reed has been transported into the future and, left  alone in an an abandoned space station, plucks a lonely guitar refrain, past despair and now approaching some form of collaterally-damaged cowpoke catharsis. If this peculiar analysis were based only on the opening track, it would be enough, for "Story of My Life" resembles nothing so much as yd Barrett brought up in Boise, Idaho. In the style beloved of Midwestern arrested teens, the song ambles friendly-like, all alt.-state. Pretty - and pretty weird - it supplies a reliable guide to what expect thereafter.

Cowpoking joking aside, this s a fine album. "Rangefinder" recalls two of the Eighties outstanding alt.rock bands, Dumptruck and American Music Club, its languid chording and weird-weary vocal refrains a lullaby by other means. The title track, as Dylan might put it, looks like it's moving but it's standing still. "Living Is Like Some Kind of Dream", in parts - and much to my chagrin - perfects the kind of laconic Lou Reed delivery I have been trying in vain to mimic for years. And "Perfect Falcon", replete with fancy (synth?) strings and junk, is a somewhat delicate acoustic instrumental, slight but slick. The album finishes on "Twelve Motorcycles", an exercise in "Pink Floyd Lite", building in five minutes from succinct to mildly psychotic with, to quip Chuck, "no particular place to go".

The spontaneous and ragtag origins of their album are worn on the sleeve, making "The Cosmic Array" the emotional equivalent of that old Levis jacket you wear less often now but love even more. I"The Cosmic Array" is raw, alive and alone in the endzone. It won't let you down. Review by Jeremy Gluck