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  LOTS OF NEW SOUNDS FOR SEPTEMBER

Here we are again, another month, and more albums filtering through our letter box than we can cope with, so here is just a small selection of what our reviews have been listening to and writing about. Andy's album of the month is the first offering with The Datsuns, coming almost a second first is Ian Hunter, a remarkable age and still going strong. Now he is in another dilemma cos he's just heard the Band Of Horses new album, so that is yet another album which tops his charts. If your reading this and you think you'd like a bash at knocking out a few reviews, drop us a line. We only want committed individuals, who are prepared to write review at least three albums a month.So what are you waiting for, think you have what it takes? Write to editor@mudkiss.com

The Datsuns – Death Rattle Boogie  [Released October 8th on Hellsquad]

Back in 2002, my first musical love, Heavy Rock, re-stimulated by a New Zealand quartet who fused elements of Deep Purple, AC/DC, Rainbow, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, creating a completely euphoric debut album, based around riffs, electrifying solos and impassioned screaming vocals. A further three albums transpired, whilst maintaining a similar outline also underlining more experimental leanings to good effect, particularly 2008’s “Headstunts” whilst never fully re-creating the sheer excitement and vitality of the first record. With new album “Death Rattle Boogie,” a return to basics, creating a completely outstanding collection of rock n roll, blues based compositions, released exactly ten years to the day since the eponymous debut. 

The original influences again apparent, although never overbearing,  starting as fully intending to continue, lead track “Gods are Bored” opens to a crescendo of noise, feedback and sustain to the fore, Phil Sommervell’s rhythm guitar and Dolf DeBorst’s bass laying a compact base within a heads down glorious rocker. “Gold Halo” one of many highlights introduces Hammond organ and nimble fingered riffery, a drum and bass driven breakdown with psychedelic prog undertones before a monstrous drop hauls everything back from the brink. “Axethrower” a doom encrusted brute, Dolf DeBorst adopting baleful vocal tones “to understand this behemoth monolith.”  “Skull Full of Bone’s” rhythmical preface and lighter delivery quickly infiltrated, an electrical storm quickly building, before striking without mercy, a continuation of which evolves from within the glam stomp of “Shadows Loom Large.”   Throughout all fourteen tracks, Christian Livingstone proves masterful over screaming, effects pedal emblazoned, rapturous Wah Wah fuelled soloing heaven, jettisoned back to the 70’s glory days of hard rock guitar.  

“Wander the Night” signifies a shift change, seedy lounge bar images materialise, couples meeting surreptitiously in darkened booths, whispered conversations over glasses of red wine, wisps of smoke spiral towards the ceiling as the band announce themselves, subtle keyboard and shuffling drum intro, preceding Dolf’s, sexually charged, reverb sodden vocals until the ambience shattered, Livingstone once again dropping a solo of outrageous proportions.   Ambience shattered, The Datsuns show no remorse, “Helping Hands” upping the tempo once again before a sizzling blues centred blast through the second half of the album, culminating in masterful style with “Death of Me,” Ben Cole’s energetic, although elaborate drum rhythms supplementing yet more extraordinary guitar work.

It’s difficult to suggest “Death Rattle Boogie” a return for The Datsuns, ultimately never being away, although certainly a return to previous glories.  Tribute to the quality of this latest anthology, as a veteran of numerous Datsuns gigs I’d happily head along once again under the supposition of every song played coming from this album, anticipating an incredible live experience still to be enjoyed.

Happy Anniversary, The Datsuns, here’s looking forward to another decade in your company. www.thedatsuns.com   Review by Andy Barnes

Ian Hunter and The Rant Band  - When I’m President [Released September 3rd]

Ironic one of the U.K’s greatest living songwriters, best known by many for a Bowie cover during his Mott The Hoople days.  Dig just a touch deeper, you’ll find brilliantly wry observations with both Mott, “All the way from Memphis,” “Saturday Gigs” similar throughout an impressive solo career, “Once Bitten Twice Shy” or “Cleveland Rocks,” especially within one of my favourite tracks of all time “Irene Wild,” a stunningly gorgeous and poignant song.  Anyway, I’m not here to discuss Hunter’s illustrious past and why he isn’t widely regarded as one of the great musical Brits in his homeland, instead his 20th studio album, “When I’m President,” highlighting Ian still able to navigate a way around a great tune and lyric.

Ostensibly, a blues / country rock collection, Hunter moves away from recent, more political leanings, deciding instead on generally lighter approaches, emphasised by “Comfortable (Flying Scotsman) a rousing, honky tonk piano fuelled opener, The Rant Band providing sterling support, inclusive brilliantly intricate lead work.  Hunter, now 73 in great voice, raspier than earlier years, in the contemplative “Fatally Flawed” adopting Dylanesque tones and “Saint” entrenched in  New Jersey .  

Although a resident of the U.S since the mid 70’s, a particular Englishness arises within “What For,” the phrase “I’ll Give You What For” completely Northern, rooted in no nonsense working class ethics, musically similar, no frills, a good honest blues rocker.  Contrast with stand out track “Ta Shunka Witco” sitting strangely at odds with the albums general atmosphere, native Indian rhythms immediately apparent, more minimalist sound, Hunter outlining and observing beautifully and passionately the life of the legendary Crazy Horse. By this point in a career, few artists able to produce an album of this quality, auguring well for a UK tour later in the year. Definitely a few shouts for new tunes, along with the old classics. http://ianhunter.com  Review by Andy Barnes

Band of Horses – Mirage Rock [Released Monday 17th September]

Band of Horses are a band I really shouldn’t enjoy, on occasions circumnavigating blandness although something about the American quintet’s melodic Country Rock I constantly find irresistible.  With fourth album “Mirage Rock” the lush orchestral tones of “Infinite Arms” dropped, instead reverting to more traditional five piece sound, keyboards used sparingly, the record purely guitar driven.  Ben Bridwell and companions also one of those rare commodities, able to produce something from virtually nothing, both “Knock Knock” and “A Little Biblical” so simplistic, minimal use of rhythmic chords and beats, with melodic lead over the top, just enough to keep the interest and inducing frenetic foot tapping.

Over a number of listens, “Mirage Rock” emerges as a journey through over fifty years of Americana in a variety of forms, Bridwell’s vocals never sounding better.  Harmonies are tight, particularly within the acoustic based “Slow Cruel Hands” or the opening section of “Dumpster World” echoing America at their best.  “Everything’s Gonna Be Undone” moves more towards traditional country, even blue grass territory, a track able to sit comfortably within an Avett Brothers collection.  Rockier aspects further covered with the expansive structures of “How to Live” and “Feud” before the album brought to a gorgeous lamenting close, “Long Vows” could be Hank Williams covered by The Eagles, with “Heartbreak 101”, Bridwell’s delivery delving deeper Lou Reed tone initially, before an introduction of strings and the outer reaches of his range bring the album to a soaring close.

Having experienced the rawer edges of Band of Horses live, the opportunity to hear these new songs played in a more natural state shouldn’t be missed. November can’t come fast enough.  Review by Andy Barnes

UK Headline Dates:
15th November – Birmingham – HMV Institute
16th November – Glasgow – O2 Academy
19th November – Manchester – Academy
20th November – London - Hammersmith Apollo

www.bandofhorses.com/uk       

Gwyn Ashton - Radiogram – [Released October 22nd Fab Tones Records]

Another veteran of the music scene, although dissimilar to Ian Hunter as far more to dislike than like about Gwyn Ashton’s latest album Radiogram.  No doubting the extensive blues guitar skills recognised by numerous well respected musicians including Don Airy (ex of Rainbow, Deep Purple, Whitesnake and Black Sabbath) who guests here, along with Kim Wilson and Robbie Blunt.  Opening track “Little Girl” a great example, swamp blues acoustic introduction, before one of the dirtiest riffs you’ll ever hear, the cover of “I Just Wanna Make Love,” also acclaims the virtues of Ashton’s impressive fretwork, encroaching Hendrix territory. The main issues revolve around very average vocals, hackneyed lyrics and a majority of the tracks being based around blues standards, “Angel” furthermore, not only borrowing a Hendrix title, also following a very similar lyrical and melodic pattern. Gwyn Ashton is an inspirational musician, just requiring a decent song writer and vocalist alongside him. www.gwynashton.com  Review by Andy Barnes

Neil Diamond – Hot August Night

Neil Diamond is unarguably a great song writer, covered by a wide variety of artists in across a wide range of genres, The Monkees, UB40, Urge Overkill and HIM to name just a few. This re-issued version of live album, “Hot August Night” recorded at The Greek Theatre in Los Angeles on the 24th of August 1972, captures a definitive career moment, running through a set containing some of his most memorable compositions, “Girl You’ll Be a Woman Soon,” “Song Sung Blue” “I Am I Said,” “Cracklin’ Rosie” plus the simplistic, formulaic although most popular and instantly recognisable tune “Sweet Caroline.” He’s backed by a band in absolute top form, watched by an adoring audience on what’s regarded by many as one of the all-time great live albums, surely nothing to dislike, well……not quite.  The additional tracks and ten minute band introduction in particular make “Hot August Night” far too long unless a complete Diamond enthusiast.  His vocal and melodies work best in big band up-tempo mood, especially supplemented by Latin rhythms “Crunchy Granola Suite” or “Cherry Cherry.” When moving into more stripped back, balladeer territory, especially two or three in a row, “Gitchy Gloomy,” “And the Grass Won’t Pay No Mind” “I Think it’s Going to Rain Today” all becomes slightly tedious, which the quavering tones and lyrical content can’t disguise. There is a great album in here, just needed a few songs removing, not adding and a new cover. That Status Quo meets Michael Jackson not a flattering look Neil. www.neildiamond.com/home  Review by Andy Barnes

I’ll Eat Your Face – Hot Brains Terror

You have to love the imagery conjured by Cork City guitar /drums duo “I’ll Eat Your Face” within their second album of alleged, self-invented, “Supergrind.”  Titles “Enslaved by the Prawnmaster,” “Castle of Vomiting Owls” or “Reverse Eagle Embeastment can’t fail to bring a smile to the face, although musically the nine instrumental track make up of this record far from a joke.  Instead, prodigiously layered guitars interchange enthusiastically around tempo changes, dexterous finger work, extreme metallic chops and crashing chords, buttressed by unremittingly pulverising drum exertions, Meg White would shit herself at the sheer thought of even attempting to hold down those beats. 

And unlike Neil Diamond, (bet you never thought that name would crop up in an “I’ll Eat Your Face” review) The BOY and Barrytron don’t over stay their welcome. After 26 minutes of “Drowning Dogs in a Swamp” or “Forever Sealed in the Electric Brain’s Melting Slug-Rag,” they’re gone, leaving us breathlessly perplexed, although frantically searching the web for more. Originally available from October 2011, hopefully a re-release through relatively new Northern Irish Death Metal label “Grindscene Records” will give “Hot Brains Terror” the broader recognition it genuinely deserves. http://illeatyourface.bandcamp.com
Review by Andy Barnes

Kindest of Thieves - Serial Mothers and Terminal Hunchbacks

This latest offering from Kindest of Thieves is a stripped down, back to basics, seven track taster, performed entirely by singer, guitarist and writer Chris Fox. Chris is an extraordinarily good writer, he may write on familiar themes of love and loss, but he does so with a lyrical insight way beyond his years. His melancholic songs are more subtle than his hero, Morrissey, but still have that humour, albeit less acerbic; more Norman Wisdom than Tony Hancock. His feel for arrangement is natural and organic, but often complex, yet simple in execution. His Morrissey fixation is evident, but not overpowering, and his sense of melody is second to none. His playing is honed and confident, and his vocals are sweet, rich and have a natural empathy for the subject matter. 

Having seen the Thieves live, I know how vibrant some of these tunes are performed, ‘Still around somehow’, the waltz time ‘Serial Mothers and Terminal Hunchbacks’, and the delightful ‘People never stay too long’, all cry out for that band touch, but others, ‘Some place like Paris (Alice) and ‘She and other short stories’, with their little intricacies, I think, make for excellent solo vignettes. So maybe that’s where the future lies for the Fantastic Mr Fox, by embracing the two. Solo songs and band songs. However, making it work as a cohesive collaboration could be much more difficult, and a whole different ball game. One thing is for certain, Chris Fox and the Kindest of Thieves should be wearing sunglasses, because the future’s so bright. Review - Les Glover

Robert John - The Liar

Progressive Country Folk Rock is not a term that readily springs to mind, but it certainly ticks the boxes where Robert John is concerned, with only one of the nine tracks running in at under four minutes. This album came with no information, so I have no Idea whether he is from the Mississippi Delta or the banks of the River Irwell but none of this matters. From the opening track ‘Breathe’ I knew I was going to be in for a treat. Beautifully recorded, with playing to match, and a rich, pain soaked voice that begs you to listen to his trials and tribulations. The music and back up vocal, are cleverly subtle, and blended to perfection like a fine malt whiskey, confident and strong, and joy to listen to.

‘Run rabbit run’, ‘My friend’, ‘It goes’, ‘Luck’ and ‘choose’ all strong tracks with heart and soul and diverse enough to keep your interest, but It’s ‘The liar’, along with ‘Breathe’ that could catapult Robert John into the same orbit as some of his contemporaries. The final track, ‘City limit’ is a live recording but doesn’t sound out of place. I suspect that most of the album is sort of live judging by the organic vibe that they’ve managed to capture. ‘Sisters’ is a showcase of songwriting at its best and one of the best albums I’ve heard this year. File under exceptional. Review by Les Glover

Mark Mulholland and Craig Ward - Waiting for the storm

There seems to be a bit of a folk revival on at the minute. That British kind of folk that was massively popular in the late 60’s and early 70’s, Steeleye Span and Fairport Convention et all. Fleet Foxes and Midlake seem to have taken up the mantle and Mulholland and Ward seem to have followed suit. 

Album opener, ‘Something on the breeze’, well written and nicely played, sets the tone for the rest of the album. Sparse, dreamlike, intricate musical arrangements, played with skill and lots of feel, so much so that the vocals sound layered to support the music, rather than the other way round. This isn’t particularly a criticism, just different.  ‘All the doors are open’ follows suit and then the haunting instrumental ‘Black sail’. Most of the album has duel vocals, quite a difficult thing to achieve when the two voices are both male, and of a similar texture. But the two manage to pull it off quite well. The excellent ‘Secret place’, ‘Icy shivers’ and the unusual ‘Les belles promesses’, complete with French dialogue, and then, title track, ‘Waiting for the storm’. It’s not until track 9, ‘A strange place’, that we hear a solo voice, and although not the strongest, it is distinctive and so draws the listener in. Final track, ‘The six o’clock whistle’ a gorgeous, uplifting instrumental piece that dances, joyously out of the speakers, as if freed from the toils of a hard days graft. It may have been a conscious decision to put the two, more unusual tracks, at the end of the album but I can’t help feeling they could have been used to better effect elsewhere, to show more of the diversity that this duo possess. All in all, a good album that grows with each listen, and for those who like their folk dark and tense, this one is for you. Review by Les Glover

Spector – Enjoy it While It Lasts

It’s quite easy to poke fun at Spector. It has become quite a hobby of mine of late. The hype, the counter-hype, the album title of ‘Enjoy It While It Lasts’ using reverse psychology to weave it’s way around the hype. But then they went and released the album, and we have to cast accusations of arseholey aside, be professional about it and ask, is it actually, really any good/that bad?

And the answer, to both those questions, is ‘Yes’. It’s equal parts pop nothingness to quite catchy and sort of alright and sometimes quite good retro tinged guitar joviality. Never has a listenership been so conflicted. And therein the problem seems to lie. It appears that most people’s quandary with Spector is their incessant image and cocksure attitude, which means that as a result, the album’s a good place to start, as there aren’t any stage banter shaped distractions on it.

And when stripped away from ‘Spector-the-band’, ‘Spector-the-music’ seems to have a clear theme at heart. ‘Chevy Thunder’ and ‘Friday Night, Don’t Ever Let It End’ are just two of many examples of fast paced, hormone driven odes to the fleetingness of youth and hedonistic partying. At least they’re consistent. The booze, the dancing, the lust; ‘Enjoy It While It Lasts’ could be an alternative soundtrack to Skins. Maybe the album title doesn’t point to a lack of faith in their longevity or a pre-emptive lowering of expectations in the face of hype, but a sad statement of fact that their party days may be over soon. Who are we to rain on their last dance? That said, things on the music front look up a bit when the tone is looking down. ‘Lay Low’ and ‘True Love (For Now)’ have a little less youthful optimism and energy, but feature some surprisingly tender lyricism from a band who like to lead their album with a track dedicated to the romanticism of a car.

And as it’s exam results season - clearly defined by the distinct stench of disappointment and  relief in the air – what’s the verdict? An album that doesn’t live up to its champions or its worst critics (myself included in that group a few weeks ago). It’s filled with faux-Kerouacian descriptions of carefree road trips and half-heartfelt lust stories. It might be empty, but it’s quite good as far as emptiness goes.  Review by Lucy Holt

The Helio Sequence - Negotiations

Oregon’s The Helio Sequence have had a fair amount of time to get good. ‘Negotiations’, their fifth album, released on Sub Pop Records, is testament to very good, all-grown-up music. It’s occasionally acoustic, and occasionally synthy, but tactically sidesteps the fads of folky and ‘ethereal’.

The first track to be plucked from the album will be ‘Hall of Mirrors’, which is not as weird as the reflective, distortion-suggesting title would like to have you imagine. In fact, the album as a whole is distinctly lacking in “weird”, something which history proves The Helio Sequence can do quite well. They must have traded it in, in exchange for experience.‘The Measure’ arguably claims a photo-finish Gold in a consistently well-crafted album. If you can shake the notion that singer Brandon Summers sounds exactly like David Gray, the vocals are warm but tinged with sadness.  It ebbs and flows with slightly unreal qualities, yet maintains quality application of real, tangible, instruments. 

‘Harvester of Souls’ turns all dials down a bit. Not that there’s much to turn down in the first place; ‘Negotiations’ manages to have lots of sound without being loud. This acoustic track in particular is laced with ecclesiastical echoes, like a church choir. ‘Open Letter’ is equally eerie, yet achieves this as much through its lyrics as the former does through its music. The desperate refrain of “Where is your sense of wrong?” illustrates that although ‘Negotiations’ is not a pick-me-up listen, it is a very different, quite beautiful beast.The Helio Sequence may have ditched some of the unruliness of their formative days, but you’d be hard pushed to call ‘Negotiations’ boring. It reveals more of its clever intricacies with every listen. Review by Lucy Holt

SlyDigs – Never Be Tamed

SlyDigs describe themselves as “a proper rock ‘n’ roll band”. They come from Warrington. The comparisons are depressingly inevitable. To be honest, they don’t make the situation any better for themselves by singing - not dissimilarly from two brothers from Burnage - about ‘Electric Love’ and declare that ‘She’s My Rattlesnake’. Luckily, there’s not much else on their new album ‘Never Be Tamed’ (other than the defiantly laddish title) that puts them too close to pub rock’s greatest poster boys.

‘Bang, Bang and My Bullet Was Gone’ utilises the ‘big band’ and horn section to great effect, noticeably gutsier than anything you could expect from the Michael Buble repertoire. The gritty, growly vocals and lyrics about weaponry paint pictures of Western cowboy films and tumbleweed towns. ‘Worth Your Weight in Gold’ has a similar whiskey drenched, Saloon bar setting to it, with hooks that could soundtrack a Clint Eastwood movie. (In the days when Clint Eastwood was a man of few words, instead of a man with questionable political affiliations, who shouts at empty chairs). ‘I Can’t Wait Forever’ maintains a streak of style and substance that most bands that brag about their love for “women and fast cars” lack. In the same way that Miles Kane has a nostalgic sharpness, this track has something of a slicked back, 60s cool. Yet the title of this particular track hints that, whilst up to this point, things are going pretty well, the pleasant surprise can’t really sustain through a whole album. The aforementioned ‘Electric Love’ is the equivalent of a prawn cocktail at a Gastro pub; ever present on the listings, not particularly inspiring, but trusty and filling nonetheless. And whilst ‘Electric Love’ doesn’t come served in a faux-sophisticated cocktail glass, it’s musically a cocktail blend of the regulars. It’s a similar diagnosis for ‘Stone Cold Killer’ which suffers from the tragic lyrical pandemic within the genre which usually takes the form of ‘she’s so different from other girls, a bit dangerous, I really fancy her’.

It seems that SlyDigs are trying a little too hard to be the next swaggering lad icons, but it’s when they stray away from that well used template, that their music gets interesting. Review by Lucy Holt

Rebekka Karijord  - We Become Ourselves
[released 29th October 2012 ]

Norway is often somewhat overlooked in the Scandinavian culture stakes. Unlike its neighbour Sweden, it doesn’t have Abba or Ikea on its CV. However, the new album from Rebekka Karijord ‘We Become Ourselves’ does more than enough to prove that Norway is in no way the underdog. She’s a vaguely soulful, slightly mysterious creature, which - as tradition dictates - means she comes with some expected conventions. However, it seems she’s trying her best to ignore most of what we’ve come to expect from the genre, but she retains a certain knack for keeping hold to the good bits.

‘Prayer’ has the eerie, gospelic tones of recent Florence + The Machine, but instead of big lungs and big ballads, Rebekka showcases sensitive vocals and an almost Celtic streak to the music, with its windswept wails. ‘Save Yourself’ is distinctly choral as well, though less cherubim Charlotte Church, and more Druids and cults. It’s no stretch of the imagination to picture her windswept in a gothic novel. In fact, another inevitable comparison would be a self-confessed ‘big fan’ of the gothic, namely Wuthering Heights; Kate Bush. But where Bush belted pop anthems weighted with sadness and beauty, Karijord prefers not to even bother with the pop façade and is, dark to the core. That said, ‘Your Love’ has more than a little bit of ‘Cloudbusting’ about it, but you can forgive someone for that. This sinister side is illustrated perfectly in the video to new single ‘Use My Body While It’s Still Young’. Once again, the chilling tribal drumming is present, accompanied by some creepy synth, but the lyrics take centre stage. The song title is a subverted take on the hedonistic, care-free mantras plastered around in pop; the Tulisa style of doing things. The video features featuring Siv Ander a 75 year old ballet dancer, dressed like Florence on Halloween, throwing herself around a dark landscape.

‘Multicoloured Hummingbird’ displays Rebekka’s painfully delicate vocals that can switch to operatic at the flick of a switch. It could easily be the voice of her fellow Scandinavian Bjork, but that would be doing Rebekka disservice by instinctively filing her next to other vaguely ‘quirky’ female singer. It says something about the generic non-weirdness we’ve come to expect from pop music. When you really look at it though, ‘We Become Ourselves’ may not be as chart-friendly as when the others did it, but the title still rings true, she hasn’t become anyone else with this album. What Rebekka Karijord really has in common with Florence and Kate and Bjork is a whole load of talent. Review by Lucy Holt

Tracklisting: 

01. Prayer
02. Use My Body While It’s Still Young
03. We Become Ourselves
04. Oh Brother
05. Your Love
06. Multicolored Hummingbird
07. Save Yourself
08. You Make Me Real
09. Ode To What Was Lost
10. Bandages

 

The Milk – Tales From The Thames Delta

Everyone has been waiting for The Milk’s debut album. Having been praised by many radio presenters including Zane Lowe, Annie Mac, and Fearne Cotton, it’s no surprise that this record grips you instantly with the very first listen.

There’s something about The Milk’s music that simply makes you happy. Not only is it filled with brilliant pop tracks one after another, but the mixture of soul, reggae and punk, whilst still remaining radio-friendly leaves you with an album of absolute substance. There’s not one filler on The Milk’s debut album, every track is on there for a reason and is conducted brilliantly with singer Rick delivering the powerful blow of talented and soulful vocals.The production screams of modern methods, although unable to place what this may be, the tunes sound as if they could have been written 50 years ago. It’s just the production which reveals that ‘Tales from the Thames Delta’ is a modern record, written by a 21st Century band.

The band play safe with the mixture of music and genres that they include in this album. Occasionally you may hear the hip-hop/jazz/soul style of early Amy Winehouse (Frank era) and the reggae and ska beats that line or gently sit there subtley in amongst more soulful tracks. You’d think that The Milk have got their inspirations set in roots music, but as soon as you hear some of the dance and electro bleeps and boings on track seven, ‘Kimmi’, you realise that this band could turn anywhere and there is no way of knowing what they’ll do next. It doesn’t surprise me that Annie Mac has praised and supported them over the past year or so. The Milk’s debut album is more of a statement than anything else. It’s an album that states they have no limits. That the foundations have been placed so broadly that they can move up in almost any direction from here. Alongside collaborations with other artists, The Milk could possibly become commercially successful, however, they’re also shouting independence with vocalist Rick’sm bizarre versatility; a skill which he must continue to utilise in the future.‘Tales from the Thames Delta’ is a poisonous cocktail of genres, but with a taste so sweet. Can The Milk maintain this? Well, they’ve set the bar rather high. Review by Josh Nicol

Golden Fable – Star Map

Golden Fable are a duo from North Wales who sit somewhere between indie-pop, folk and electronica. Star Map is their debut album and for a group with just two members, it certainly hits home with a large bang. Occasionally sitting around the psychedelic styles, Rebecca Palin’s sometimes Enya-esque vocals are hauntingly chilling. Star Map is a peculiar combination at times. Occasionally a track begins as if to set out on a Nick Drake style folk ballad, but then turns out to lean towards a more electronic style, as if to replicate some form of magic or mystery. This mystical and almost fairytale style of writing music seems to sit well with the style of music they’re creating. This works both ways, perhaps indicating that the juxtapositions within songs are used deliberately.

Listening to the album itself is actually a rather thrilling experience. Occasionally you’re unaware of the intention of the music. No political bias, and no real sense of it being driven by love songs. It seems that the sole intention and purpose of the music is to create imagery in amongst the idea of storytelling.There’s the occasional moment of beauty in Star Map, although not all the way through. Some elements of the album are clearly designed to step away from the conventional methods of songwriting, and though this does not decrease the album’s value, it may stand as being unusual to some listeners.

As a debut album it can be seen as a record full of diversity and sensitivity. Mixing the electronic minimalism with the folk roots works positively as they seem to benefit and compliment one another, creating one pleasurable listening experience indeed. Review by Josh Nicol

The Fresh & Onlys – Long Slow Dance

Every now and again on a Fresh & Onlys album the golden place is reached that so many 60’s revivalists spend their whole careers trying to find. It’s timeless, and yet unabashedly nostalgic. The secret is that this isn’t another self-pitying ‘band in the wrong era’, pretending to be The Beatles or the Beach Boys, as so many of their contemporaries are (just listen to the Brian Wilson-ing of fellow San Franscican Kelly Stoltz). Instead, the target seems to be capturing the giddy romanticism of a dreamer re-imagining an idealistic past from what has become the far future. It’s a fictitious representation, sure, but the sentimental, soft-focused way its done is exquisitely tasteful – you’d be very hard-pressed to brand these guys rip-off merchants. This is classic stuff.

Unfortunately, on Long Slow Dance, the bubble is often burst. The gooey daydream of perfect pop nostalgia only works when the songcraft is smooth and polished, as in obvious stand-out tracks such as 20 Days & 20 Nights, Executioner’s Song and Presence Of Mind. Filler tracks, however, have an occasional tendency towards jagged changes and dodgy phrasing (listen to No Regard for an example), which contribute towards a slight lack of direction at some points in the album.

The good news is that the band’s overall personality remains consistent and strong, despite the summer of love nostalgia. This is proof that a traditional sound, even one as overdone as this, doesn’t have to sound tacky. Review by Lars Donohoe

 

Mammal Hum – What’s Behind Us Is Not Important

It’s easy to forget sometimes, with so many ‘sophisticated’ movements behind us since its inception, that rock and roll was once just about having fun. It’s soul and guts stuff, a primal, hedonistic flip out. You don’t have to think, just do.

It’s this kind of energy that drives Mammal Hum’s new album, What’s Behind Us Is Not Important. Theirs is a primitive sound, caught up in the sort of rollicking ecstasy that, if nothing else, serves to expose the absurdity of any of their peers who take themselves too seriously. There’s certainly nothing about the juvenile drum bashing or ridiculous lyrics of this album (e.g. “I am a car, a jaguar”) that could ever be accused of that.

There’s a psychedelic side to Mammal Hum, but such a label could easily be misleading – there’s very little you could call trippy here, at least to a resident of this decade.  At times there’s the looseness and ‘groovy’ factor of classic 60’s material, but when compared to Animal Collective or the Flaming Lips, this is pretty square stuff, man.

With possibly the worst name ever for what is basically a nostalgia album, some awful 60’s clichés (the lyrics ‘across the universe’ being a good example) and the blatant chorus lifting of Supergrass’ ‘Pumping On Your Stereo’ for ‘Man On Fire’, this album leaves much to be desired, but its nice to be reminded that rock bands are allowed to dick around a bit. Keep it going, sirs! Review by Lars Donohoe