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Snakes in the Grass - Snakes in the Grass (Self-released E.P)
Tattooed punk scallywags from Wigan, Snakes in the Grass, who formed last year from the ashes of The Adjusters, released their five-track debut EP in January and are gearing up for their first show and video shoot on Saturday. So what does this debut set offer? Well, for me, I’m instantly reminded of the days when The Wildhearts and the Backyard Babies dominated the scene. With loads of “oomph” and swagger, ‘Wolves and Snakes’, ‘Grim Up North’ and ‘Struck by Lightning’ are all solid power punk tracks that pack a punch (say that after a bottle of Jack Daniels!).

It’s a little too early to tell if these guys will be true contenders in the game but judging by this record, it’s a very good start. If it translates half as good in a live capacity then you mohawks are all in for a treat. Keep an out for live dates throughout 2013! Review by Brett Dunford

Bastard Jet - Self Titled EP Out Now - Endless Bummer Records

Bastard Jet is the solo project of Boston musician Nick Diminico (Panic Candy, Hope Lane Is A Dead End). Enjoying the freedom that comes with going it alone, Diminico has created a bombastic metalcore album that packs a genuine punch.

Standing at 7 tracks, this is arguably more of a mini-album than an EP, and with each having its own reason for recommendation it's a remarkably consistent effort. As a full release the tracks tie together well so it's tough to pick out particular highlights amongst the rasping vocals, the distortion laden guitars and relentless drum pounding. The unnatural rhythms of 'The Old Nova Suit' opening are well worth a mention, linking complex lines across the instrumental side of the band before driving into the vocal. Overall, this is well worth your time. Standing at just over 20 minutes of face melting sound, Bastard Jet is a decent debut for Diminico. Let's hope he continues to explore his own writing in future. Review by Jared Jones

Alan Bonner – Balladeer (Self-released album)

Looking at Alan Bonner’s website, you’d be forgiven for thinking that you have just set the dials back forty years. It’s the same in regards to his music and he has seemingly cut himself out as a sort-of modern age psychedelic folk artist. For example, on the song ‘Talia’, he croons: “Cocaine nights on the pavement of Camden Town, every Sunday you nurse me through my come-down.” Lyrically, it’s something most of us who have more than a passing interest in the druggier side of the arts can relate to, and there’s no flaw in the man’s musical ability whatsoever.

But with exception to ‘The Lighthouse Song’, Balladeer is such a depressive record. I guess the title should’ve given it away. Nine songs over a mere thirty-two minutes feel at least twice as long and there’s very little in the way of diversity. Most of these numbers sound the same as the one before and while Bonner’s vocals are heartfelt, they border on whiny and will gnaw at you by the end like a tie-dye wasp. If you like your music home-brewed and mellow, this chap is certainly worth a look. If not, then stick to Coldplay for your regular fix of balladry. Review by Brett Dunford

THENEWNO2 - Beautiful Creatures OST (WaterTower Music)

Dhani Harrison sounds a hell of a lot like his dad George. I just had to state the obvious and preface this review with that before going any further. On this outing though, the third full album from Thenewno2, you don’t get to hear too much from the son of the late Beatle vocally.

Mostly instrumental, the twenty-nine tracks from the forthcoming film Beautiful Creatures are interludes that range from morning-friendly coffee pop to mild country, mid-tempo alt-rock to full-on brooding classical pieces, all interwoven together and lovingly crafted at Abbey Road Studios. I generally don’t do soundtracks but this one is surprisingly atmospheric and listenable, with the likes of Ben Harper, Liela M., and Tony Hicks on board to add more meat to the ‘Swamptronica’ sound. Naturally, you can’t go into it expecting another You Are Here or thefearofmissingout but it will keep your foot tapping for an hour. Review by Brett Dunford

Man the Machetes - Idiokrati [album]

Idiokrati is the debut album from the Swedish Metal band, Man the Machetes.  A fixture on the live music circuit for a while now, MtM have seemed to capture the essence of their live shows into this record.  Usually, the combination of Pop Punk mixed with Metalcore does not sound like the most appealing kind of music, but it seems to work here.

 The first song on the album, Sluk Det Rått gets straight down to business.  The guitar kicks in & Christopher Iversen’s “wall-of-howl” starts with ferocity.  The rhythm section manages to drown him out by the chorus, with the thundering drums & the “come from nowhere” bass playing the bigger part.  This seems to be a consistency in this album, as this formula is continued through the next two songs.  By the forth song, Slagen, the sound is sludgier.  Iversen’s guttural sounds & painful screams are still a force, but the guitar sound is different.  Less Metalcore, more Groove.  While one could be forgiven in noting that the songs tend to be very similar sounding, the album powers thorough. The melodies are unyielding, unforgiving & are accentuated by the relentless screaming vocals.  The album ends as abruptly as its starts.

Clocking in at just over half an hour, the album may leave some wanting more, but others thinking that it’s just the right amount of time.  The point is, if you want to hear music that will get you pumped & you love the idea of a spitting, scowling, carnage of an album, then Idiokrati is for you.  Review by Kate Sheard

Rebecca Pronsky – Only daughter

From the streets of Brooklyn, New York, Rebecca Pronsky is back with her third album, ‘Only Daughter’, a beautifully woven ten track record released through ‘Nine Mile Records’. Hailed as one of the finest singer/songwriters of her genre, Pronsky’s new album takes a further twist from the traditional folk and country influence that initially grabbed attention. ‘Only Daughter’ is a more adventurous effort with its magnetic atmospheric sound, highlighted by the sublime echo-like twang of guitarist Rich Bennett. Along with Scott Solter, Bennett also produces the album to create this interesting cocktail that fuses the calm, picturesque folky side of San Francisco with the slightly dangerous side of the Brooklyn streets.

It can be described as folk with a mystery that has a tendency to edge on the dark side, defying the 60s image of “flowers in your hair”, and symbols of peace and love, so appropriate for that era. This version of folk is modernised and portrayed in the reality of obscurer times we live in today, evident through songs such as ‘Big Demands’, ‘Another’ and ‘Rise Up’ . For typical folk lovers, the sound hasn’t totally been ditched. Certain songs do possess that calmness, but there tends to be deeper messages of self realisation embedded in the sometimes breezy melodies. It’s in Pronsky’s poetic lyrics and growing maturity, wisdom, and ability to speak of things that are relevant where this is truly embraced, which has not gone unnoticed having received much praise in previous work. This earthly approach continues on this record as she sings of issues that surround these uneasy times, expressed through her soulful and dreamy voice that’s the beacon of light that steps from the shadows whenever the songs tone takes a rare twisted turn to darker corners.

The instrumentals play a huge part in this unique sound, not trying to be too loud with a series of leads or rip roaring riffs that threatens to drown out Pronsky’s voice. They’re kept simple, allowing each song to breathe, being precisely timed to add a haunting atmospheric effect and emotion to maximise the listener’s sentiment. Sometimes the guitar is so compelling that there is the subtlest of resemblance to Lindsay Buckingham’s style, certainly on the second track, ‘Honesty’, which has all the hallmarks of a soft rock classic from ‘Fleetwood Mac.’

'Only Daughter’ is quite an addictive album and the more it’s listened to, the more inspiring it becomes. With this being Rebecca Pronsky’s third release, and most experimental to date, it seems she has the ability to be highly original which in turn can make her successful. Rebecca Pronsky will be touring the UK from 19th March and her album is to be released in spring. Review by Nigel Cartner

Nightmare Air – High In The Lasers

With high tempo, psychedelic edgy Sonics, heavy bass lines, thunderous fast paced drums, and riffs that spray and scream that capture the chaos of the surrealist of nights, it’s hard not to be completely captivated by this debut album from ‘Nightmare Air’. From the spirited musical city of Los Angeles comes ‘High in the Lasers’, a blistering inventive trip into pacey atmospheric indie rock, fronted by the dynastic duo of Dave Dupuis (guitar, vocals) and Swaan Miller (bass, vocals), with Jimmy Lucido on drums. Think ‘Reverand and The Makers’ tainted in darkness and that gives you some idea where they’re coming from. The album is callously cool, a real adrenaline fuelled trip into dark, spacey driven rock, enough to make the experience necessarily heightened by driving at speeds on quiet midnight country roads that’ll push the extremities, test the boundaries and generally rebel like in nature.

Escape’ is the opening track and immediately draws the listener in with its haste and eerily crafted riffs. Swaan Miller’s voice is smooth yet has a ghostly chilled fizz, epitomised more in‘18 Days’, a mind bending journey into speedy psychedelia where the vocal overlays a distinct echo like darkness that shrouds the whole album. ‘Eyes’ is one of the more eye catching numbers with a bass line that resembles the intro to ‘Hells Bells’ by ‘ACDC’ but in the style of ‘New Order’. The ‘New Order’ theme continues in ‘Silver Light’ where the subtlest hint of a fresher outlook on the Factory sound can be heard in the inspirational bass and phonics. Make no mistake about it; this is an intensely hypnotic and howling sound from one of the freshest bands we’ve seen in a long time, and to hear it live has been described as an experience in itself. Maybe this is a new movement in the US as we’ve already seen similar vibes come from the east coast, in particular, ‘Last Remaining Pinnacle’ who also capture a similar dark expression.

This isn’t a fresh faced, naive young band we’re talking about despite the ‘debut’ album. The combined musical journeys of each band member have taking them on tour with bands such as ‘Smashing Pumpkins’, ‘The Jesus and Mary Chain’, and ‘Swervedriver’. But, as ‘Nightmare Air’, 2012 saw them embark on a 3 ½ month world tour across the US, UK, and Europe supporting the likes of Lee Ranaldo from ‘Sonic Youth’ and ‘The Cult’, playing festivals alongside ‘The Buzzcocks’, as well as over forty club dates of their own. With that type of attention being brought to the table before an album release, it can surely only be a matter of time before a severe impact is made on both sides of the Atlantic and venues up and down the country will be left in wonderment with bleeding ears by this unique sounding, high octane band.  Review by Nigel Cartner

Glowpeople - Things…

Can I say Genius!?- In the current climate of the music industry, the general consensus is that the era of the concept album is dead, no more can we delight in the fluid style in which the individual tracks on albums such Things… by the 5-strong psychedelic powerhouse that is Glowpeople. Now I’m not one to throw the word genius around lightly, as it’s used far too sparingly for my liking. But every now and then an album well and truly earns the accolade of being a work of pure genius; Things… is one such album. Crafted by a group of musicians who have only been collaborating since the summer of 2010, this partly-improvised output is simply astounding to listen to; a musical journey that few who take it will not be profoundly touched by.

The album mainly comprises of ominous yet soulful organ sounds, sliding sounds and captivating drumbeats which allow the tunes to move in a way that is usually only possible with the application of a killer vocal melody. Yet this is Glowpeople we’re discussing here, lay your pre-conceived musical expectations as far away from your ears as you can. The bass here thumps out tribal grooves, allowing the drums and guitar sound to really flex their purpose. The sound is so hard to describe as it’s so unique, the best analogy I can give is imagine Fun Lovin Criminals, Bonobo, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers have hijacked a magic carpet and are flying over a kaleidoscopic desert with their pupils the size of dinner plates.

Overall, this piece is truly a work of art. The slowly descending mood of the final track of this 45 minute gift, The Saddest Flower in the Vase not only provides a fitting end to the album, but also works best to sum up the album as a whole. The last snatches of synth have dissipated into the cloud layer, you find yourself travelling comfortably at terminal velocity back to earth. Thanks for your stay, it’s time to leave. Review by Jake Breeze

The Bronx – The Bronx IV

Is it pure folly to regard The Bronx as the best, most inventive punk band of all time? I think not, let's examine the facts. Three blistering albums of pure unadulterated visceral anger, yet infused with melodies galore, one of the great vocalists of the genre in Matt Caughthran plus a lyrical dexterity and depth un-rivalled in the hardcore world. Add two Mariachi collections highlighting musical ability and range dreamed of by many, executed by few and a picture builds of a very special band indeed.

If more proof needed, it arrives in the shape of The Bronx IV released this week, moving slightly further into melodic territory without losing edge or indeed credibility in any way. Riffs are blisteringly pugnacious, opening track "The Unholy Hand" an absolute sonic ripper beside uncompromising lyrical themes "Are you the antichrist or the holy ghost, do you wanna die or just go real close."  The beauty of any new album, when easy to imagine any of the tracks sitting comfortably in a live set, "Style Over everything" and "Too Many Devils" guarantee venues razed to the ground, even the distorted atmospherics of "A Life Less Ordinary" could perversely reside prior a larynx lacerating "Under the Rabbit.".

Speaking of "A Life Less Ordinary" once again masterful wordplay surfaces within Caughthrans’s take on the cult of celebrity, "But I am not a ghost, no I am not a God, I hold no power over you, I am just a lightning rod, I’ve bottled every crush, every foolish fantasy, I’m too beautiful for love, there’s no sharing vanity….. I'm not ashamed to say I've lost my mind, been walking backwards my whole life, some may say that there’s a price I pay for a life less ordinary….welcome to my masquerade," switching from full throated onslaught to plaintive, introspective vocals, supported purely by restrained reverberating guitars, demonstrating an unlikely highlight. Will the punk purists suggest The Bronx have sold out, comparing “Heart Attack American” or “Three Dead Sisters” to “Valley Heat,” wringing their hands in anguish…. perhaps. But consider this, while the best punk bands over the years have projected aural bile in the guise of anarchistic social commentators, what do we remember most fondly, is it the attitude, is it the clothes, is the globules of phlegm, no, it's the music.

Under the surface, great punk songs double as great pop songs like it or not. If your aim, the voice of a generation to be allowing just three or four minute bursts, incorporate some structure, hooks and tunes or your audience revolves around ten youths in the local park sharing a litre bottle of cider and a packet of fags who’s idea of railing against society means arriving home half an hour after parental curfew. Iggy knows it, Johansen knows it, Lydon knows it, Shelley knows it, Biafra knows it, Graffin knows it and Strummer certainly knew it. Vitriol alone, all well and good, but if no one’s listening, what’s the point.  Not only is there a fine line between love and hate, the line between punk and pop equally faint in the right hands.  Review by Andy Barnes

The Motor Inns - Rooms By the Hour EP

This EP is a sample for the shortly to be released full CD by Detroit based Rockabilly, Roots & Blues band The Motor Inns. Whilst there may be elements of the roots and blues in the sound of the band, this is clearly an old school Rockabilly band. It kicks off with the great opening track "I Want a lover" which combines the simple style of a twang guitar, straight forward lyrics and a very clean and classic style. This is followed by "Flame of Love" and even the title gives a hint of the style and sound which harks back to the classic Sun records sound. This has a high kicking sound which will get people up and jive dancing.

All of these songs have a love influence in the lyrics but given the sultry voice of lead singer Cindi Lou it is very doubtful that any search for love will take long. Interestingly the final song "Blue Moon Baby" is faster paced and actually sees Female and Male vocals which provide a good bit of variety.  These songs certainly suggest that when the full album is finally available for release it will attract a lot of attention from fans of the more classic rockabilly sound. Review by Paul Hastings

Heavens Basement - Filthy Empire

Heavens Basement have managed to drum up a good bit of press and exposure ahead of the release of this, their debut album. Whilst I expect the band may end up getting a bit tired of the references to a retro rock sound, they shouldn't dismiss the positives of having a classic rock sound. At the moment it puts them in to a relatively small pool of bands producing quality hard rock songs to a huge potential audience. It can not be denied that many of the songs on this album have a hint of the 80s/90s but it still has a modern polished sound.

The initial surprise is just how heavy some of these songs are. This is certainly true of opener "Welcome Home" which has  a huge bombastic sound from the very start. Its certainly a wake up call to the listener, that this is a band to pay attention to. There are a number of songs which follow this straight forward hard rock sound including "I am Electric" and also the closer "Execution day". However, importantly, they also show an ability to vary their sound and an ability to mix up the sound so the album isn't one dimensional. Significantly they also have an ear for a melody and a sense of commerciality. This is certainly true of "Nothing left to Lose" which kicks off with a huge riff. It then transforms in to a great song with a really strong chorus. It passes the acid test of any good melodic rock song, in that it would have been a huge hit on the dance floor of Rock City. This success is repeated on "The Long Goodbye" which even has the potential to be picked up by Ferne Cotton as her token decent rock song of the day on radio one. The biggest candidate for a single should be "Jump Back" which has the potential to be a huge hit. It has a cool cocky swagger that would normally be associated with a big US band playing in an arena.

On a similar line is "Be Somebody" which somehow manages to blend the sound of Pearl Jam with a proper 80's rock bridge and chorus. This song could even alienate some of those fans that prefer the heads down furious rock sound. However, it shows a band which has the strength to try something different and take a risk.

Alongside  the more traditional rock influences the band have maintained a modern rock edge. Songs such as "Can't Let Go" bring to mind the likes of The Foo Fighters. It may not  be such a welcome reference given recent media press but there is also a resemblance to The Lost Prophets. This is particularly true in their ability to effectively use co -vocals and backing vocals to really bring the choruses and melody to the fore. It has been a long time since a UK band in particular has produced such a confident and bold sounding debut. It is quite clear that Heavens Basement are a group of quality musicians who are dedicated to the sound. Credit must also be given to the production, where the use of John Feldman, who has previously produced large acts such as The Used and Good Charlotte,has really paid dividends. This albums has a broad appeal and in fact fans of a whole host of rock's sub genres will find at least one song that will appeal to them. Review by Paul Hastings

The Ok Social Club - Nothing in Common

This is the debut album by a young Scottish band and its certainly a promising start by these Indie Kids. The band have already seen some of the songs featured on popular TV shows such as Soccer AM and Hollyoaks which is a good indicator of the wide appeal of many of the songs.

 The album kicks off with "Get Away with It" which has some great Britpop type lyrics, recalling the day to day struggles of the every day man. Lots of the songs are just custom made for dancing to at the local indie/student disco. Songs such as "Little Broken Bones" and "C'mon", actually have a similar sound to early Razorlight but rather than evoking the ego of Johnny Borrell, actually give the impression of a bunch of scamps having a good time.

Not surprisingly, the first two singles off the album, "Shape of Things to Come" and "The Late 90's " are by far, two of the standout tracks on the album. The former begins with a great acapella opening and then it all comes together in a bouncy tune. It has a mid song break and overall provides a good element of diversity. This is something the band will need to work on as there is a tendency for some of the songs to sound a tad similar. "The Late 90's" however is another example of the band really hitting form. Its a really good song with a great chanting chorus. Its a pity that the songs have been released already because they both have the sound of a summer time hit. This success is also evident in "Everybody's at it" where there is again a hint of almost Britpop in both the sound and the lyrics. It reminds me of The Jam going really pop, which in turn is effectively Blur circa Modern Life is Rubbish.

This albums is actually quite similar to another Northern based band, The Heartbreaks who released their album last year and enjoyed some good exposure via 6 music. Whilst the Heartbreaks adopted a similar indie pop sound, their album is tempered with the more depressive tone of Morrissey. This album takes a similar sound but instead it adds to it with the more upbeat sounds of the aforementioned Razorlight and Blur. The band clearly have potential and with a bit of air play this album could attract success amongst a more mainstream audience. Review by Paul Hastings

Richard Thompson - Electric

Richard Thompson as been at the fringes of popular music for nearly half a century. When most of his contemporaries were being cut from the same blue cloth; Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page etc. (and although predominantly known amongst the folk movement of the 60‘s) He was taking his inspiration from much further afield. From Baroque and early classical to European folk and across to the Appalachian mountains. His style is instantly recognisable, yet hard to pin down, and his current release marks his 46th year in the business. Still at the helm, and still unique. From his early output with Fairport Convention, with their seminal release, ‘Liege and leaf’, through his albums with his ex wife Linda and his much underrated solo output from his Capitol records era. Electric, marks his 22nd release under his own name and kicks off with the powerful, acerbic, 'Stoney ground’. Complete with his trademark vocal, throaty, dead pan delivery, ‘Salford Sunday’ lightens the mood, with its cajun feel, set in England’s deep north, rather than America’s deep south. ‘Sally B’ and the ode to the riggers of the sheet metal work industry, 'Stuck on the treadmill’, through to the beautiful, but unnerving, ‘My Enemy’. ‘Good things happen to bad people’, ‘Where’s home?’ and ‘Another small thing in her favour’, continue the songwriting set to his normal high standard.

I would love to say that this album is a return to form, but the truth is, he has never
strayed that far away from releasing the quality albums we have now come to expect. The excellent, ‘Straight and narrow’, with its ‘She’s not there’ vibe and the acoustically heart breaking duet with Allison Krauss, ‘The Snowgoose’. With its cutting lyrics, ‘Northern winds will cut you, northern girls will gut you, leave you cold and empty, like a fish on a slab’ and the optimistic, but guilt ridden ‘Saving the good stuff for you’.

The deluxe edition features a second disc, full of songs that most people couldn’t
match on their main album. ‘Will you dance, Charlie boy’, ‘I found a stray’ and my two personal favourites ‘The rival’ and ‘The Tic-Tac man’. The Celtic feel ‘Auldie Riggs’ with its instrumental dance, and finishing on the 16th century, Italian composition, ‘So Ben Mi Ch’a Bon Tempo’. Richard Thompson is an outstanding guitarist, and this, coupled with his songwriting talents and vast back catalogue of albums and performances, should allow him to rest on his laurels, but something, I don’t think this ‘bone fide national treasure’, will thankfully ever
do. Review by Les Glover

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