Paul Weller - Sonik Kicks
Having been a long-time fan of ‘The Modfather’ I eagerly wait for each coming album release with trepidation. Why is that I hear you ask! Well what if instead of pushing the boundaries musically (like we expect these days from him) Paul Weller simply went through the motions and offered us nothing new at all, and simply recreated his previous triumphs verbatim to cash in? Fortunately for us all even after 30 years in the business Weller still has faith in what he does for a living. ‘Sonik Kicks’ is perhaps his most challenging (in a good way) of releases. This continues the trend of late to embrace different musical genres and again highlights this musical living legend’s enthusiasm for not only his work and that going on around him. There are of course artists who attempt to move genres or attempt to adopt a trend and fail spectacularly too, losing fans, pace and popularity all in one simple move. Weller is fortunate enough to have enough experience from his varied career to pull feats like ’Sonik Kicks’ off, unlike so many of his peers.
From album opener ‘Green’ to its closing track ‘Be Happy Children’ we hear snippets of those previous lives, the young punk fan, guitar anthem writer and indie rock icon, who countless young up and coming stars regard as a true hero and inspiration for their own work. This latest release will not only please fans, but it will perhaps open up Weller’s music to a whole new audience also. The pace can waver slightly, but in essence that makes each track stand out individually and helps this album hit home more. Here we have 14 tracks that experiment with sound, add in a bit of punk, mix electro and traditional guitar based music with some Mod style riffs and feature some glimpses of all out rock. Now what can we expect from his next effort, it’s got a lot to live up to?
La Sera – Sees The Light
Katy Goodman AKA La Sera offers her follow-up to the well-received self-titled debut. Her second album, ‘See The Light’ might not be exactly what people expect. Upon hearing the name of the artist I was expecting female acoustic singer/songwriter. I was in for a surprise when I heard the drastic variety throughout this album of subtle diversity, going from shoegazey, vast instrumentals on opening track, ‘Love’s That Gone’ but powering through certain tracks with an almost punk fashion leaving the album cut a little short at just 30 minutes long.
Goodman’s vocals are charming yet understated, with hints of Debbie Harry and other female punk icons. Although she has punk ethos, it is clear that La Sera is trying something different on this album. The album is intense yet simplistic enough to be accessible, like a soundtrack to an American summer’s evening driving down the highway at top speed – the smooth balance between energy and passionate relaxation. It’s clear that Goodman teases the listener, cutting off the energy half way through the album and placing the ballad, ‘It’s Over Now’. The track is a hazy love song that floats and rumbles on quite gently, a stark contrast to the energy of 90% of the album.
The album shows signs of quality but leaves the listener with a feeling that there’s still a little bit to be desired. It seems possible that it lacks the emotion to relate to. However, for styles and variety, Katy Goodman’s second album is a success and it’s refreshing to see such energy and influence from the past alongside what can be considered a quite beautiful and dreamy album.
The Magnificent – Bad Lucky
The Magnificent are a punk rock trio based in West Yorkshire. According to them they “sing about stuff that affect our lives” which is essentially what punk is all about. With their second full LP, Bad Lucky, just how much will they live up to their claims and can pull off the quality in their material? It’s evident from the off that the album will be politically driven in one way or another. The album addresses the idea of poverty and how the UK is struggling to make the cost of living. Lead singer Jimmy Islip sings of “Murdoch bought the papers” in track, opening track ‘1981’ showing that they do take current affairs seriously. It’s plain simple that The Magnificent are not a band to lie down and be content with the current UK climate, and are not about to sit down and keep quiet about it.
Instrumentally, the music is plodding and pounding but full of great riffs in the style of The Ramones or The Pistols. Although they clearly don’t have the same iconic frontmen and icons or demeanour as a band, quite frankly it’s the wrong era for this band. I’m not saying punk is dead, but it’s certainly developed a bit
The album on the whole is DIY punk at its best. With the same passion as The Clash, but perhaps leaning a little bit more towards a Green Day-style parody, The Magnificent have the right idea as far as a direct sound is concerned. The album is coherent and consistent, making it easy for a fan base to develop. Although ‘Bad Lucky’ is nothing we haven’t heard before, it’s an enjoyable listen with striking energy in true original punk fashion. Considering the band are totally DIY, it’s admirable to see a band go out there and do what they want in the true sense of working for the music they want to play. For old school punk fans, this may be for you, but perhaps it’s just a little too late.
Twilight Hotel – When The Wolves go Blind
Twilight Hotel release their third album, ‘When The Wolves Go Blind’ after a collaboration between Brandy Zdan and Dave Quanbury that has lasted 8 years. They’re described as possessing “an elusive chemistry and musical style that is dark, moody and rooted in some kind of nostalgic passion for scratchy records and vintage guitar tones”. It’s this dark and moody style that really presents itself as evident in this album. With track ‘The Master’ showing an atmospheric and cinematic experience worthy for use in a Tarantino movie, with the rippling guitar and reverb creating such a phenomenal vibe. From the off it can be seen that the album hypnotises the listener, invoking thought and emotion as to what exactly made the artist write that, what it’s based around and what influenced them in the first place. The melody on opening and title track even sounds slightly similar to something that John Lennon may have written in the early 70s, but having said that, that’s only down to the strength and quality of the melody.
The two vocalists compliment one another and gel as one hitting similar notes rather than the stark contrast of harmonies that are usually used in the modern day. The instrumentals accompanied with these vocals really benefit the whole atmosphere and each track can be seen to take influence from a number of cultures, giving it a delicate but well-formed structure based around the idea of travelling or being on the road. In fact, the album sounds unusually European for a band that hails from Winnipeg, Canada. This is an album I thoroughly enjoyed and believed to be one of the best alternative folk albums I have heard in a long time. Lyrically they explore fictional imagery with complex yet accessible melody accompanying the poetry. The talented duo have made an album to be proud of and is well worth the recommendation.
3 albums reviewed by Josh Nicol
T-Rex - Electric Warrior
1971. A year full of music that was made to rock (and to roll). To put things into perspective, Led Zeppelin 4 was released that very year, completing the bands rise to the top of album charts everywhere. The Beatles had said their goodbyes the previous year after a rooftop gig in support of their final record "Let It Be". People wanted to know who to look to for a possible musical icon- then the tabloids started to speak of a band that were as "big as The Beatles" and who had just as much character and appeal as the fab four did back in their day. They were T.Rex and the reason no-one had heard of them up to this point was because they had recently begun a new craze. A new genre. This was Glam Rock. Before hitting the spotlight T. Rex (or Tyrannosaurus Rex as they were originally known) were a two piece folk/rock act, compromising of musician/poet Marc Bolan and percussionist Steve Took (later replaced by Mickey Finn). The band released a few albums that were totally under the radar of modern music lovers, these days would be referred to as "underground". By the time of their name change and self-titled record "T.Rex" the duo had decided to incorporate more electronic elements into the band, most notably the electric guitar. "Ride A White Swan" a standout track from this record was a surprise success and this is probably what spurred Bolan to get his groove on. Literally.
Marc decided to reroute Bill Legend and Steve Currie on drums and bass and the T. Rex lineup of their heyday was complete. They then went into the studio and created an album that was unlike any other in rock music at the time. Electric Warrior- the title comes from a poem that Bolan had written prior to the albums recording. The band incorporates the new groove-based music of T.Rex with a mix of the acousticy/folk music of Bolan's previous career. "Mambo Sun" acts as the perfect opener, as if intended to ease the audience into Bolan's outstretched and glittering arms before fully embracing them with his unique vocal and poetic verse in "Cosmic Dancer". The straight-up rock of "Jeepster" shows Bolan's sexually aggressive head on "Girl, i'm just a jeepster for your love- and I'm gonna SUCK YA!" with his Gibson Les Paul blasting bluesy passages through the harmonic verses of "Monolith" its almost as if Bolan knew what he was onto- specifically talking to a female audience the majority of the time, he knew how to get a nations heart in the palm of his hand. "Lean Woman Blues" is a romp through the well-known blues scales, Bolan providing his trademark croon and wail over a mega distorted guitar tone. "Planet Queen" and "Girl" make up the tender romantic side of Bolan, while "Get It On" has proved a timeless rocker through the years. The album ends with the familiar rock n roller "Rip Off" in which Bolan squeals his way through a classic bit of distorted blues.
The special edition version also holds some treats including all the B sides that were not included on the albums initial release (the brilliant near-swan song "Hot Love" for example). In addition to this are plenty of acoustic and electric home demos of songs that did make the final cut, some including just Marc's vocal takes. There's is also a previously unleashed instrumental as well as some versions of tracks during practices ect. Altogether its a brilliant package which truly celebrates one of rock's finest bands at their beginning (and peak) of musical prowess.
Baddies - Build
Having heard of Baddies but never really listened to them, I didn't know what to expect on this one. Back in 2007 the Southend boys were labelled as "one to look out for" due to their high energy live shows and post-punk tunes. This, their second album is fairly bizarre. Opener "Rewire" is electro-fuelled pop fun, with a heavily addictive chorus and synth line, coupled with distorted guitars and (now this isn't something I say everyday) its very "tuneful". "Man Made Man" follows in the same vein chorus wise- just repeating the song title in order to get it stuck in every audience members head and then objective complete! "Even stevens breeding", and such lyrics, really personify the band as a total group of mad scientists of the techno world. First single "Bronto" is very Kaiser Chiefs, with its memorable chorus line and catchy beats. A decent effort for a band that could've easily fallen into the "deadly second album" trap, but maybe a bit too samey?
Lostprophets - Weapons
The welsh six piece have come a long way since "Last Train Home" spurred them on into the mainstream rock-fans ears. With five albums now under their belt, the popularity of the band has surely started to wane, with the transition from third to fourth album taking so long that an entire record-plan had to be scrapped in place of a new one. I think the problem with Lostprophets is they think they're a heavier band than they actually are. Sure, in the beginning they had some classic tracks which were perfect to mosh to, but those tracks havent been replaced in their live shows and are still the "fan-favourites" because they just don't create the same kind of atmosphere with their recordings anymore. "Rooftops" was an early example of this- fair enough, they've been working for years and wanted to get bigger and bigger and there's no doubt that this track and its accompanying album would have spured them on to bigger things. But better? Not sure. Immediately from the off, the band were labelled as "sellouts" in the Cardiff music scene, due to their remastering of their first album (admittedly, bit extreme). But now, its clear that the band believe they're one of the heaviest bands out there, with latest video for "Bring Em Down" featuring an ageing Ian Watkins getting smashed in the face for four minutes straight. Problem being, every song seems to be just "teenage girls come and like us" or "here's another uplifting chorus Emo kids cos noone cares about you anymore". It seems the required fanbase for Lostprophets has moved on, and maybe they should too.
3 albums reviewed by Callum Barnes