Record Reviews from Issue 1.2
VICTORIA & JACOB - WITH NO CERTAINTY / THERE’S A WAR - VOGA PARACHOIA RECORDS
Synthy and sweet, With No Certainty is a dreamy, lo-fi, electro-pop song about life and speculation over the existence of fairytales. Victoria’s voice is like a prettier sounding Lilly Allen, adding the necessary amount of clarity to a strange blend of synthesisers and samples. Although this song may sound a little odd at first, it’s definitely a grower.
There’s A War provides the same amount of lovely, heart-warming vocals, just less bizarre noises, for the first three minutes at least, but still an interesting song, and an interesting sound. What’s Your Face is again lovely and futuristic all at the same time. In fact, its possibly that simple juxtaposition between the innocence and sweetness of Victoria’s voice, and the playful obscure-ness of the synthesisers that makes Victoria and Jacob so great. Melissa Greaves
THE LOVES – SWEET SISTER DELIA EP – FORTUNA POP
You’ve gotta love the creativity behind a press release, sometimes there’s more goes into it than the actual music. Whether The Loves’ leader is truly “the Welsh equivalent of Mark E Smith” or simply an extremely careless chap who has had 31 different bandmates come and go since 2000 is unclear at this stage. Musically the result is a 3-track EP, where each song could feasibly be the work of a different band. Such eclecticism works in this format, after all B-sides on singles and EPs are generally where a band indulges there more experimental tendencies.
I’d wager that opener Sweet Sister Delia most accurately sign-posts the band’s core sound, with its sugar coated repetition of the title quickly lodging in the brain. The layers of handclaps, female backing vocals and organ further ensuring it remains there. Low is a very different beast, with its minimal strumming rapidly bringing the listener back down after the previous e-number binge.
God Saves Our Souls, as you may detect from the Tony Ferrino school of wordplay influenced title, is very much the joker in the pack. A tongue in cheek country & western homage that has more in common with an Anthrax B-side or Tenacious D’s Greatest Song In The World, than what has preceded it.
The EP is the aural equivalent of a three course meal then, with each dish coming from a very different part of the musical world. Andy Whittaker
THE LODGER - FLASHBACKS - THIS IS FAKE DIY
On Flashbacks The Lodger have created their own self contained world. The guitars are clean and delicate, the drumming often features the singular tap of a snare or floor tom and the whole thing is given elegance by the occasional flourish of brass and strings. Musically they have created an album that is at times jolly, at times grandiose and at times can be tense and claustrophobic, their seems to be an influence of late Belle and Sebastian, and 'Flashbacks' recalls the majesty of The Universal by Blur, another band who created their own world.
The lyrics are very earnest, dealing with the complexities of relationships. Added to the nature of the music, I think the Lodger have made something that suggests the vitality of what is ordinary. In the Lodger's world even the most mundane event is grand and dramatic. I like their world. David Cooper
ELKS - BOY WANDER - Unlabel
With one album already under their belts, Elks’ awe inspiring second album Boy Wander provides a raw, raucous, angst fuelled experience. Getting off to a flying start, Cocksure is a raw and ragged rock song, and is sure to have you nodding your head from the off; sounding like a (pleasingly) less polished Biffy Clyro - effortlessly brilliant. It’s real back to basics punk rock, and it’s pretty damn good. Daily Commute is an explosive track with a brutally awesome riff, sneering drums and an angsty recall of singer Rob’s journey home, as he screams “I’m not a crazy man, I just wanna go home”. Genius. Roma Roma is just as angsty, full of raw energy and awesome vocal delivery.
Showing their calmer side with Captain, which is slow to start, with enticing vocals and nostalgic guitars, then speeding up towards the end providing the energy you’ll have come to expect by this point. Final track Rounder certainly doesn’t fall short of the mark, with a glimmer of Sonic Youth style experimentation and raw Nirvana sounding bass lines. It’s sheer brilliance, just like the rest of the record. Melissa Greaves
JILAMBIS - DEMO / EP
The first thing that strikes me about this demo is the confidence. Its high energy, in yr face. There’s a mass of influences going on here, I’m hearing Prodigy, Arctic Monkeys, Offspring, generic Ska, and occasional nu metal horridness, covered in studio polish. Though I’d say it strays towards a slightly cheesy production, a Prodigys ‘Their law’ guitar sound all over it. Some initially interesting synth, which would seemingly show the ‘90’s Rave’ influence on their sound, quickly becomes very annoying and repetitive, mainly due to the unsophisticated melodies it produces. Melody is a problem across the songs - hey it doesn‘t have to be all jingly jangly! - but it needs some invention. Its all a little juvenile and simplistic and that goes for the lyrical contribution too. The demo is at its best when it pushes the extreme ends of their sound: The heaviness of the rhythms on closer ‘Believers in Descendents’ benefits from the light and shade they create, whilst the end of ‘Well this isn’t Texas?’ suddenly turns interesting with the introduction of a trumpet and a Muse-like gallop.
Im not sure if this is a demo or an EP. As a demo I think it is a great document showing the bands influences and where they will be likely to go in the future. It shows musical ability and passion, but as a whole it ends up being less than the sum of its parts. The song writing is too weak for it stand up as an EP in its own right. Its one thing been an exciting live band - which I sense these guys really are - but that doesn’t always transfer well to record. On this occasion the bands clear sense of fun and enthusiasm aren’t really infectious, but with the passion they clearly have, it certainly could prove to be in the future. Dean Freeman
THE RAN TAN WALTZ - THEM THAT HELP THEMSELVES DO THEMSELVES MORE GOOD
The Ran-Tan-Waltz; a Kate Bush song as you may recall. Aside from that, and being one of the most exciting bands north of Watford Gap, their recent self released EP Them That Help Themselves Do Themselves More Good is an absolute corker.
With atmospheric drumming, and catchy as hell riffs Beat Generation is, well, just that really, catchy as hell. Declaring “Them that help themselves do themselves more good, and I would help myself if only I could”, above a perfect mix of Television-esqe guitar playing and Joy Division style drumming. However the highlight of this awesome EP is Tripartite Crossfire, lyrically it’s in a class of it’s own; “growing up is painful, being aware of your displacement”. And that voice! Fuelled with passion, it’s magically distinctive; enough to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Throughout guitarist Matt Fletcher stamps his mark as a potential great, think Johnny Marr, Johnny Thunders; that kind of great.
With their array of talent The Ran-Tan-Waltz also offer a winning charm, and if there’s any justice in the world they’ll be the biggest band in Britain before the years out.Melissa Greaves
THREE TRAPPED TIGERS - EP3 - BLOOD AND BISCUITS
Clinically titled ‘EP3’ is a genre blending science experiment with good results. One part machine, two parts man, the trio mix together all manner of musical styles and sounds to create something not necessarily ground-breaking, but definitely something forward thinking.
Even down to the ambiguous track titles, this music is born from the IDM pioneers of 90s Warp and the fusion artists who followed. Three Trapped Tigers sits comfortably between 65daysofstatic and Battles, but still retains a unique, (if not slightly confused) voice. Clipped beats, delicate keys and synth pads quickly morph into crashing acoustic drums and epic rock noise, (the good kind) and back again… or into something entirely different.
Take a one minute slice of TTT and you’ll have heard it somewhere before, but give it half a chance and you’ll be questioning whether you’re still listening to the same track. On occasions it feels a little forced and with multiple ideas competing to be heard, it can sound lost, but with a repeat listen or two, ‘EP3’ begins to make sense. And in doing so becomes an intelligent, complex, solid piece of work.
TTT is difficult to pin down, (especially with little-to-no vocal content to grab on to), but for future music lovers this works in their favour. ‘EP3’, for many will be a refreshing change to the usual band-wagon “alternative” music we’ve heard before. Adam Hayward
MONDO CANE – GUARANTEED PERSONALITY – SELF RELEASED
You have to wonder if Mondo Cane were/are aware that their chosen moniker has also been selected by one Mike Patton for his latest venture. In fairness they probably weren’t, but it immediately handicaps them. With any of Patton’s previous bands, be it Faith No More, Fantomas or Tomahawk, the first thing you’re guaranteed is that it will be embellished with his mischievous personality. So for a band issuing their first EP to use such a selling point as its title is stretching things.
Musically Mondo Cane’s grunge school of dynamics is competently played, but ultimately lacking any real spark. The pick of the bunch is Stranger, where the song builds up steadily before baring its teeth and cutting loose. Sadly subsequent track Dr Fernandez is just too predictable in its quiet/loud contrasts. It’s like they’ve heard Heart Shaped Box for the first time and directly applied its formula in an almost robotic manner. At three tracks this would have been a fine release, at four it’s 4 minutes 46 seconds too long. Andy Whittaker
DEAD MELLOTRON - DEAD MELLOTRON - SELF RELEASED
Dead Mellotron's sound is one of repetitive, fuzzy guitars which take on extra force with each strum and pounding, forceful drums. They recall such epic greats as Amusement Parks On Fire and My Bloody Valentine. They have made a decent record. It would be nice to hear them take everything to extremes though, they could do with more aggressive guitar workouts, lyrics sung with more passion or vulnerability, more sections of blissful, sun kissed guitar noise. When everything comes together, as on the uplifting, shimmering Eulogy the music is pounding and satisfying. It just doesn't hit the emotional highs that it could have done. David Cooper
MAY 68 - MY WAYS Hit Club Records
May68, named after an explosive month in French history, took inspiration from the French situationists when plotting their own revolution, aiming to provide an antidote to Manchester’s musical malaise. My Ways is an energetic effort, think Blondie meet’s Kraftworks with a slight hint of Daft Punk. It’s definitely an interesting mix, making for an upbeat, fun sounding pop song.
B-side The New You starts with a catchy bass line, followed by electro pop synthesisers, and bongo style drumbeats. You can certainly picture yuppies dancing to this track on a Technicolor lit dance floor. The lyrics are a little repetitive on this track and it all begins to seem like a bit of a gimmick. The Duke Is Dead (Egyptian Hip-Hop Remix) is far less interesting than the first two songs, falling short lyrically once again. All in all, if you want to dance, it does the job. As far as taking over the world is concerned, I’m afraid it’s not quite up to it. Melissa Greaves
PETER GABRIEL - SCRATCH MY BACK - REAL WORLD
'Scratch My Back' is the first half of a collaboration with alternative artists old and new. The idea: Gabriel covers his favorite songs, and each artist featured covers one of his, those featured here are still preparing their versions for the predictably titled second half 'I'll Scratch Yours'.
The album opens with the untouchable Heroes, an ominous string section pulls the listener in before eventually collapsing into a lavish, blushing accompaniment to Gabriel's stark and restrained take on Bowie's lyrics. However, it's Gabriel's revision of Elbow's Mirrorball that brings things up to date and gets things going. Strings swell and drop, as his lead vocal builds until finally letting rip for the first time, a sense of relief for this listener who, until now was expecting a slow and similarly pitched record. Keeping things modern, Gabriel takes on Bon Iver's Flume, another bold choice considering the original's tender delivery, but it remains safe in Gabriel's hands, peaking dynamically in all the right places. The first real highlight comes from The Power of the Heart (Lou Reed), Gabriel's tender rendition of this underplayed classic is complimented perfectly with restrained strings, muted horns and brilliant dynamic variation before dropping and allowing the simple piano lines to play out to the end. Another stand out rendition is Arcade Fire's My Body is a Cage, spun out over a purely gothic-backdrop glittering with Gabriel's deathbed-croaks before exploding into an imperial funeral march before dropping again to a string-sweet closer.
The Book of Love (Magnetic Fields) is the album's first flop, good melodies, great string arrangement, but it feels twee and soppy next to the previous tracks. Later, Regina Spektor's Apres Moi is given a baroque tinged makeover, as Gabriel lyric-jumps between French, Russian and English, all delivered in his signature semi-whispered tone. The album closes on Street Spirit (Fade Out) (Radiohead) and by golly, he's outdone Thom Yorke and co. on the miserable stakes... Avant-garde jazzy pianos, and ominous strings are draped around the half-spoken/half-sung vocal taking this song into an unhinged and unfamiliar realm. I'm unsure about this track, and even after several listens still can't get used to this bizarre take off...
Without it's second half the album feels unfinished and I would certainly like to hear the featured bands taking on Gabriel's material, but he has managed to create new and unique revisions here. Stylistically it's a vocally led, orchestral album (Scott Walker Lite if you prefer). It'd be easy to label this a vanity project, but all I see here is one esteemed songwriter paying tribute to brilliant musicians, and I for one quite like that.
Harry Rhodes also writes a blog. Go here for more: www.chandeliersearchlight.blogspot.com
SLARAFFENLAND - WE’RE ON YOUR SIDE - HOMETAPES
The highly anticipated second album “We're On Your Side” following from the bands ground breaking 2007 album “Private Cinema” seems to encompass the same organic and raw features from their previous record. Instruments are unhinged yet cleverly intertwined to create a brilliant journey like sound. As the listener, I have this strange image of a mad scientist with little pulleys and timers, tiny screws and hammers. The hand clapping and fuzziness and percussion of each song progresses to give this fantastic blur and you just don't know what is going to happen next and when the song will end; drum beats into flute, into horns into what seems like a completely acoustic, one on one performance for their listener. It is mad but very intelligently put together and is certainly worth a listen. Jack Falcon
Avi Buffalo – Avi Buffalo - Subpop
Shimmering sunshine music straight from Cali-forn-i-a, Avi Buffalo is the debut album from a bunch of hip kids from Long Beach. According to the website there’s a real buzz about the release... The write up is really ‘sceney’ and is packed with name drops and references I don’t understand and it all makes me wonder if the music, like certain aspects of the scene, are all style and no substance. Debut shows at a vegan restaurant?! Its a world away from Wakey.
On the first track, the vocals slide in like a wave rolling up the beach unexpectedly and it feels nice. On the second, it’s like walking hand in hand on a tea time stroll. This feels good. All the songs are tied together with simple, but accomplished electric guitar lines, but which betray the youth of the band. It feels like an acoustic breeze. What makes the record though is the warm backing of male / female choral singing and subtle poppy organ. After the optimistic start, unfortunately some of the songs pass by quite uneventfully. Blending and drifting into one another as if you’re laid snoozing on the beach. However, the shorter songs with a change of tempo are good and make you stir and sit up to listen closer. And particularly the change of tone and pace on ‘5 little sluts’ makes you take notice again. Good lyrics.
If a little meandering at times and containing some underwhelming ‘long songs’, this is a solid debut. Avi Buffalo need know to find the guitar excellence on tracks such as ‘Truth sets in’ and the lyrical step up of ‘summer cum’ across the board to ensure the listener doesn’t drift off to a very lovely, but very sleepy place. ‘One last’ is the stand out track for me: If Lily Allen was a better lyricist and had wrote CFNIA instead of LDN. The organ threads the choral singing needle to hold it all together and then electric guitar fades along like a sunset.
The album is over, like the summer day is ended, Like Emmy the Great if she had grown up in California instead of the Downs. Like the Thrills if they’d have stayed in Santa Cruz another year. Slower and more hazy than both, yet certainly great though, and thrilling in parts; the sound of the summer 2010?? Not quite, but I’ll take it with me on my ipod on the beach. If you like your music sun drenched and steady this is yours.Paul Bateson