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The Sir Admiral Cloudesley Shovell – “Don’t Hear It…….Fear it”

I seriously doubt anyone is constructing modern day Blues Rock more rousing and exhilarating than The Sir Admiral Clousesley Shovell, but if they are I need to hear it.  While harking to the halcyon days of the late 60’s / early 70’s, “Don’t Hear It……..Fear It” reveals not paeans to Zeppelin and Purple, instead influences, darker, dirtier, from the underbelly of the era.  The authentically raw, unencumbered production equally important as the magnificent musicianship on show, surely analogue recorded rather than digitally, the sound so organic you can physically taste it, such is the depth and richness.  To overproduce this band the ultimate betrayal of a dying art.

This a journey through nine tracks trapped within a time vortex where Don Van Vliet drags a shredding Rory Gallagher kicking and screaming into The Magic Band, before worshipping at the altar of the Reverend Tony McPhee preaching a eulogy to Cream.  Riffage is precipitous, melodies shared and interplayed around the resounding bass work in classic three piece style, rhythm section holding court, allowing lead guitar freedom to launch into inter-planetary distorted astral worlds. In an age where Metal holds sway, “Don’t Hear It….Fear It” evokes a classic bygone era, one many have strived to replicate unsuccessfully.  The Sir Admiral Cloudesely Shovell however bring the memories flooding back, creating an album destined to become a classic of the genre.  Just one minor gripe, hidden tracks, don’t do it. Frustrating and unnecessary, especially one the quality of “Bean Stew,” just lay it out where it’s instantly reachable, seven minutes of silence in the car leaves me far too tense.

 One Mile An HourSelf Titled

The eponymously titled debut album from One Mile an Hour could easily sit within classic nu-folk collections of recent years.  Gorgeous melodies proliferate within intricately constructed songs, Jeff Kightley’s lamenting vocals lay emotions bare, acoustic guitars and restrained bass intertwine shuffling drums and subtle keys creating a feel of panoramic open space.  Lyrically, this theme explored further, Scandinavian literature referenced “In Return,” influenced by Finnish Folk tales and the country blues feel of “Troubles Roots” alludes towards Tove Jansson’s ‘The Summer Book". This however no feel good stroll in the sun, dark tones transpire throughout, “Heading the Same Way” what may have “started out with the windows open wide “quickly becoming “the weight upon me heavy like a stone.” In “Magpie Song” “Magpie calling at my door, first thing in the morning it won’t let me be no more, Magpie steals me away just before, the black eyed dog calls.”  

On those basis an immediate connection with an exquisite collection exists, although a further special dimension surfaces.  “Sunken Ships” and “You Are on Beach” incorporate electric guitar echoing progressive rock orientation, not however overbearing, instead undemonstrative yet sophisticated  infiltration before culminating with “Nine Eight” a full on, ten minute distorted  jam session.

I’ve seen little mention of One Mile an Hour since the album release on October, 1st which can only be described as a crime against music. This album deserves maximum exposure as an absolute highlight of 2012.

Bellowhead – Broadside

Released in 2010, third album “Hedonism” by Bellowhead became the highest selling independently released traditional folk album of all time.  With latest release “Broadside” no attempt to rock the boat is made, renowned producer, John Leckie (Radiohead, Oasis) once more adopting desk duties. Their adaptations of traditional folk songs through expansive big band arrangements prove once again, a thoroughly stirring and invigorating listen. 

Images readily conjured of debauched taverns, drunken sea farers served flagons of foaming ale by buxom wenches throughout the rollicking rumbustious tracks, which the burning of “The Old Dun Cow” does little to dispel.  Occasional surprises arise “Black Beetle Pies” includes elements of early Bowie, both musically and vocally, a “Laughing Gnome” / “Time” distended mixture and “Byker Hill” incorporates chugging electric guitar to good effect.  Generally however, “Broadside” follows similar patterns to previous releases but when those patterns continually stimulate to such levels that becomes in no way a criticism, rather a more re-assuring affirmation all is well at Bellowhead central.    

Where Bellowhead excel even further, within the live arena, these latest tunes sit gloriously alongside a flourishing back catalogue providing copious hours of entertainment as they tour the U.K throughout November.  Genuinely a band everyone should witness in their full majestic glory on at least one occasion, or you’ve never truly lived.

Judas Priest – Screaming for Vengeance

I must admit losing interest in Judas Priest circa “British Steel” in 1980, an album regarded as their most accessible, which translates as most commercial and able to break into the American market.  “Take on the World” and “Breaking the Law” I could just about live with, but “Living After Midnight” the final straw with it’s almost Kiss like limpness.  Priest appeared to have followed a route mapped the year before by Richie Blackmore and Rainbow, one I had no intention of pursuing. In Rainbow’s case, I have no qualms although the 30th anniversary edition of “Screaming for Vengeance” suggests acting in far too much haste in relation to the Metal Godz.  Released two years after “British Steel,” the album epitomises Judas Priest at their very best, highlighting why they’ve become such an influential outfit within rock and metal circles. Along with Thin Lizzy, KK Downing and Glen Tipton brought the twin guitar attack absolutely to the fore, replicated most successfully by Iron Maiden or Metallica and in Rob Halford, one of the all-time great vocalists revealed in his true majesty.  Few can match the incredible range possessed, which the live versions recorded at San Antonio Civic centre on September 10th 1982 only further enhance.

Screaming for Vengeance” a perfect starting point for anyone dipping their initial toe into the leather and studs world of Judas Priest, before trawling even further back, to the brilliance of their 70’s back catalogue.

Woods – Bend Beyond

Listening to “Cali in a Cup” or “It Ain’t Easy” Woods could quickly be pigeonholed under the umbrella  “Nu-Folk” with numerous other, unfathomably more popular, exponents. For those already familiar with their work, aware far more experimentation residing within their recorded output, yes, grass roots acoustic arrangements readily supplement Jeremy Earls instantly recognisable reverb drenched falsetto, although references to British and European Prog Rock also feature heavily.  G. Lucas Crane’s tape effects adding an ethereally eerie dimension to Woods, as they create soundscapes, explorable  from within, allow the instrumentation of title track “Bend Beyond” to envelope and swathe, a Floydesque hallucinogenic sonic trip without the necessity for medication. 

Such the exquisite, other worldly nature of this album, the lyric “It’s so fuckin hard” from “Is It Honest” appears almost disrespectful of the mood, until realised lyrically, Woods not quite so distanced from reality as perhaps first imagined.  Definitively, one of America’s finest, most inventive and underrated bands of the moment.

Kamikaze Test Pilots – Kamizake Test Pilots – Released November 12th

Although no suggestion from their name, no great surprise discovering an African connection exists within Kamikaze Test Pilots, brothers Ryan and Wes Niemandt hailing originally from Zimbabwe.  From the opening dialogue, through the infusions of tribal rhythms, timbres and chants to the closing soothing nocturnal sounds of nature across the plains, the influence of the world’s second largest continent evident. Perhaps more surprisingly those influences mixed with metal, country rock and punk work so incredibly well across an eleven track debut album.  The initial chopping, staccato attacks of “Dinosaur,” “Patrick,” “HappySlapper” and “Fairy Tales” reveal musical unconventionalities similar to System of a Down, without the annoying Serge Tankien, operatic vocals, Ryan Niedmandt maintaining gravellier, more robust tones. 

Lyrically, apparent references of homeland strife through insightful wordplay litter in thought provoking manner, this, combined with full on grooves throughout give Kamikaze Test Pilots the edge over so many “traditionally” heavy bands, although I’m slightly perturbed by the raw prosaic content of punkier thrash “Turnpike,” uncertain of the thought process. One track however unable to putrefy an overall exceptional piece of work, worthy deep investigation, not often such an individualistic, distinctive sound materializes.  Let it meander by at your peril.

Kiss – Monster

There are few bands I’ve detested over the years as much as Kiss, overblown pompous rock played by ridiculously dressed Widow Twankeyesque pantomime characters as far removed from my idea of heavy music as imaginable. And here we go again, Monster, the 20th studio album which proves………surprisingly listenable, yep, I said it, a Kiss album I can actually enjoy, for a short time anyway.   Straight from the word go, “Hell or Hallelujah” exhibits a rawer edge with real swagger, a band revisiting their roots, relinquishing the portentousness all too apparent on numerous previous occasions. “Monster” includes additional input from guitarist Tommy Thayer and drummer Eric Singer, not simply the Paul Stanley / Gene Simmons show.  Stanley himself commenting “This is a real band effort.” Unfortunately, he further suggests Kiss going where no bands have gone before, a ridiculous statement, although a truly humble Kiss a step way too far I suppose. 

Now please don’t misunderstand me here, lyrically “Monster” as banal as ever and still more than a whiff of cheese throughout the twelve track offering, particularly “All for the Love of Rock n Roll”.  Kiss hardly reverting to Admiral Sir Cloudesely Shovell levels of grittiness, although managing to avoid “I Was made for loving you” or “Crazy Crazy Nights” type atrocities.

Am I likely to re-visit “Monster” in weeks or months to come...........unlikely, still very throwaway just the sell by date slightly more extended than usual.

All above reviews by Andy Barnes

Howl Griff – Fragile Diamond

‘Fragile Diamond’ is the somewhat oxymoronic title of the globe-spanning outfit Howl Griff. I type this tentatively, because I think diamond is the hardest substance in the known Universe, and Howl Griff could instead be the name of the frontman. I’m fairly positive it’s released on 15th October. Factual discrepancies aside, the English, Welsh and American components have hatched a warm and surprisingly drizzle-free collection of music.

I’d have to dispute the ‘psychedelic’ label though. The start of the album portrays Howl Griff are about as psychedelic as a Werther’s original and mug of Horlicks. That’s not to say the album opener ‘You Don’t Have to Leave On Your Own’ has distinct Americana attitude and Southern guts. It’s a lot more country and western than LSD trip. It’s a similar case with ‘Rose of Emily’, the epitome of country folk; unrequited love and a compelling female protagonist.

Title track ‘Fragile Diamond’ is a faultless, jangly, radio-friendly folk composition. Optimistic lyrics, if not laded with a few too many clichéd idioms. It’s the kind of rural pop that BBC Radio 6 Music would love, which a sort of glowing endorsement from Lauren Laverne goes to prove.

From the title, ‘Radio Revolution’ sounds like it should be a Kinks song. It does have all the melodic charm of a 60s pop hit. Very few elements of psychedelia though. The mystery of the missing weirdness promised is solved a little later on the album. The void is filled with a song called something like ‘FUUBUKKER’ (the nearest you can get to it with a standard keyboard). That sounds a bit more like it. With sci-fi voiceover and distortion all over the place, yet it doesn’t shed any of its rustic, rough edgedness, be that for better or for worse.

On the whole, ‘Fragile Diamond’ is a very nice album. Like the title suggests, it’s not completely heartbroken and tender, or cold and sleek, but sitting in a comfortable middle ground. However, it’s miles away, geographically and generically, from the psychedelica label stuck on it. Review by Lucy Holt


1.     You Don’t Have To Leave On Your Own
2.     Fragile Diamond
3.     Sharkfins In The sky
4.     Radio revolution
5.     Runaround
6.     Meet My Maker
7.     Puppet Operation Time
8.     She Walks By The Fame
9.     Rose Of Emily
11.   International Dateline
12.   Everything

The Peacocks - Don't Ask

As someone who has always enjoyed punk rock and also loves the style and sound associated with the Rockabilly scene I was keen to hear this album by Swiss band The Peacocks who indeed describe their own style as "Rockabilly inspired Punk". First thing that I should say is make sure you listen past the first song as it is one of the weakest on the album. I am sure it could be a good raucous opening number for a live show but as a first track it is very repetitive and implies just a straight forward pub punk band with a double bass.

Thankfully the rest of the album is much better, particularly where they allow the rockabilly influence to shine more clearly. Songs such as "Need a Break" and "Up and down" have more of a '50s style sound with that 'twang' in the guitar sound and a real rock n roll shuffle. On occasions they also remind me of one of my favourite bands from back in the day -Hanoi Rocks. This has a lot to do with the vocal style where I was initially concerned as my experience of European bands tends to be either faux American sounding or worse brings thoughts of the Scorpions to mind(shudder!!!). Hanoi always retained a sound that was built on traditional rock and roll and on songs like "How did they do that" The Peacocks achieve that too.

Overall the album really gets into its stride about half way through when there is a fine run of good time rock and roll songs. At fourteen songs it can become a bit repetitive and I would prefer to see the album cut down (although that is true of nearly all albums in my view). This is actually an issue with a lot of Rockabilly which is essentially built on relatively few different bass lines. The band do try and mix up the pace a bit with a couple of more "cow billy" songs but these are certainly not the strongest songs on the album.

Is the music highly original or new? - well no, but thats really not the point of this type of sound. It's more about creating music that is fun and, as the accompanying bio says, should be played loud. In fact, I enjoyed it least when thinking about how I would review it, having gone back turned it up and just pressed play I've realised its full of good rock n roll tunes and every time I like it more and more. The last band to me that really perfected the mix of punk and old school rock n roll was the Yo-Yos (who have recently reformed). The Peacocks don't match that level of perfection but I can imagine that a show involving both those bands would be a hell of a lot of fun! Review by Paul Hastings

The Features – Wilderness

If you were to ask any musician or band what it is like in the music industry today, you would probably get one response: That it is becoming increasingly more difficult to be noticed and more importantly, heard. This is particularly pertinent for bands who choose to plough their furrow along the indie or alternative field. As a consequence (and in some cases – quite criminally) bands can stay unnoticed for a number of years garnering a small but loyal and appreciative following, continuing in the hope that at one of their gigs someone from the industry sees and likes their material enough to throw the proverbial springboard at them thus catapulting them to bigger and better things and a shot at the bigtime.

Therefore, if I were to ask you if you’d ever heard ‘The Features’ then 99% of you would probably look at me blankly and say, ‘WHO???’ and quite rightly so for those outside their hometown. The Features first release came back in 1997, with them releasing a total of 3 EPs and 2 Albums in the ensuing period. It would appear that they, along with many bands of their ilk, are still awaiting their ‘big break.’ However, with the release of their third album, ‘Wilderness,’ this should finally change. The Features are a Southern American Indie Rock band from Tenessee – yes, you’ve guessed it, a certain Kings of Leon also hail from that neck of the woods.  Their sound is very difficult to pigeonhole but it wouldn’t be too inaccurate to say that they embody KOL, The Kinks and even in some places, The Doors. Add to this a vocal not dissimilar to Mumford and Sons and it is clear from the first listen that they draw their influences from an amalgam of influences – Indie, Psychedelia and even classic AOR.

Despite having 13 tracks, the album contains only one track above four minutes in length. It is a punchy affair which grabs the listener immediately. Opener ‘The Content’ could have fallen straight out of the late sixties and early seventies, a repetitive skiffle of a drumbeat underpins a swirl of synth and an intricate guitar line but it’s the second track ‘Kids’ which really takes hold of you and you get a proper flavour for the sound of the Features. A grubby, downtuned riff gives way to a throbbing bassline and thumping drumbeat punctuated with shouts of ‘Whoo” – You could almost be listening to KOL’s ‘Molly’s Chambers’ for the first time all over again, it’s fists in the air, rousing stuff!. Come Track 3, the game changes again. A synth led intro becomes apparent which wouldn’t be amiss on an indie dancefloor yet, by the time the chorus arrives it changes gear to an all out anthem. It is clear by listening to the first three tracks that the Features are not happy to rest on their laurels – keen to utilise many different styles and sounds whilst remaining very faithful to their indie rock DNA.  The thrills and spills of a quite brilliant album keep coming and before you realise it, the album has finished and you’re left wanting more.  Wilderness will have you strutting around the house with an air guitar, it’s impossible to keep any part of your body still whilst listening to it but to be fair, if you can you’re probably dead. This was exactly how I felt after listening to Youth and Young Manhood for the first time. The stage is set for the Features and I can only hope and pray that they don’t end up going the same way as their Nashville Counterparts. Review by Matt Crane

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