IMP - Just Destroyer
There are a lot of bands in Wakefield. There are a lot of good bands in Wakefield. For some reason a good amount of these bands are on Philophobia; coincidence? I think not. IMP are one of those bands and they’ve gone and recorded a new EP with Rob Slater (Spills/Tiny Planets), and it’s not half good.
One of the first things to strike me about this EP is that there aren’t a lot of vocals. In this sense it could be compared to some of the more experimental type Sonic Youth songs, which is obviously a good thing. IMP create a totally captivating atmosphere, yet somewhere along the line they also manage to turn it into happy little indie pop songs. In all honesty that’s what I’d been expecting from this EP perfect , catchy indie pop songs, which IMP arguably make better than most, just listen to ‘Party’ or ‘Least favourite Brunette’. But somehow with this EP they’ve managed to combine that awesome pop song making ability with a new, more experimental approach, and it’s a welcomed progression.
The first song ‘O’ begins with atmospheric guitars and then tension, then about a minute in the tempo is lifted and you’ve got a beautiful sounding indie pop. ’16 years’ begins in popier manner, with the classic IMP keyboard sounds and then follow the distinct vocal qualities. ‘Don’t Go Wild’ sounds like Pavement to start with, that tempo that makes you want to kick back, and nod your head at the same time. With lyrics like ‘As soon as drugs went so did the romance’, the vast vocal qualities of this band are showcased, and they do that thing where instead of singing a line they speak it. For some reason this just adds a clarity to the song, and I like it.
‘Birdfeud’ again another top class indie pop song. This song begins with some ‘ohs’ and ‘la’s’ , kind of like The Cribs signature ‘woah’, and it’s little things like that which just add to the catchiness of a song. As if IMPs songs weren’t catchy enough, or The Crib’s for that matter. The last song ‘Into Japan’ is another atmospheric one, with chantings of ‘I saw your face walking down the street and I thought, what is going on.”
What a perfect EP, IMP seem to go from strength to strength, and ‘Just Destroyer’ is certain to give them the attention they deserve.
By By – By By
Poppier, but still beyond definition, this release may surprise those who have come across By By in its one man form; 'creator' Liam’s Frank Sidebottom-esqe performances have shocked and delighted in equal measures (for an idea of this see secret track ‘Chicken or Egg’). Here we have something closer to a full band sound - drums especially adding much needed energy and direction. The organ and guitar work walk the line between 'pop' and 'bonkers' in excellent fashion; whenever it feels it may be going a little to 'well' they always manage to find the mad note that brings it tumbling back down - and that is a good thing by the way. And the vocals too, opener 'Clutter' introducing the Timmy from South park meets a Pontefract Captain Beefheart groan which convey a certain madness in a great way. That is a good thing too.
In fact quite often listening to By By you can think, I like this, but is it good? Or, I don’t really like this, but is it good? By By does a strange thing by placing far more importance on the purpose and meaning and feeling than the medium itself, making rational comprehension difficult. These songs could be presented in many ways, and surely will be in many bizarre connotations in the future, yet they have a heart, albeit battered, bruised and blackened. But still beating. Its just pleasing that on this occasion they are presented in a friendly, engaged package that will appeal to fans of odd, impassioned Indie, as opposed to followers of utter mind fuck illness, as previously. This, needless to say, is also a good thing
Love Music Hate Racism – Compilation
Love Music Hate Racism and Repeat Records have teamed up bring out this ‘split single’, courtesy of ten bands from across the UK.
Most of the bands on the album could broadly be described as punk, but with so many bands on the record it can’t strictly be defined by genre. All the bands have contributed two songs each except for Norwich’s Fever Fever who only have one song on here. However ‘Who Asked You?’ is one of the standout tracks on the album with its scuzzy riffs and the repetitive but infectious vocal challenge of “Who asked you? Anyway…”
Ten City Nation have the opening and closing track on the album, but fail to produce much excitement in what turns out to be quite predictable garage rock. Although their second song ‘The Air Is On Fire’ would be a lot more enjoyable if it didn’t last for what seems like six minutes.
Both The Shills and Popular Workshop provide some catchy Indie, The Shills also offering a welcome change of pace with an acoustic version of ‘Inertia’. Popular Workshop’s ‘Her Birthday’ is the pick of their songs; with its shouty vocals and stuttering guitars they’ve produced a real gem.
Some lo-fi punk is brought to us from Kunk and Micropenis, who actually turn out to be quite good despite the name. Both of these bands bring plenty of enthusiasm and in ‘Attack! Attack!’ Kunk have produced a great sing along chorus.
Hyman Roth brings the heaviest edge to the record and has a similar feel to the Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster. In contrast to Hyman Roth, Greg McDonald’s tracks are the most radio friendly on the album and it is this that makes them sound slightly out of place on here. Although both of his songs are perfectly palatable they end up sounding far too pedestrian next to the rest of the album.
Glory Glory’s male/female vocals works well for them and also gives them a sound that could be accessible to the masses. Both of their songs are great, following the Los Campesinos sound that seems to be in at the moment, they are undoubtedly one of the highlights of the record. Finally Feedback, who are made up of fourteen year olds, provide some gleaming pop-punk also showing they have bags of potential.
Overall this is a great compilation and with so many different bands it would be difficult to not like something on here. And with particular highlights coming from Fever Fever and Glory Glory, in addition to being for a good cause I would recommend it to anyone.
People in Jars – For The Love Of Mia
People In Jars hopefully have better things to do with their time than watch Hollyoaks. I, on the other hand clearly do not, as I recently witnessed an episode where one-time Liverpudlian doom-merchants Anathema’s classic ‘Pressure’ sound-tracked boffin Elliot’s supposed descent into a dissertation induced mini-breakdown. I suspect that this was the first, and for many last, time viewers of Channel Four’s flagship soap (Certainly since Brookside’s demise) will hear said band, their loss.
People In Jars single, ‘For The Love Of Mia’, certainly bears similarities to ‘Pressure’. The latter induced a certain anxiety that to this day I still find strangely addictive. The sensation here is similar, but dulled slightly by the simple fact that I’ve not shared much of my life growing with this band, as a result of which I can’t say there is the same emotional attachment. But as this is only their debut there’s no doubt that such a bond could easily be formed between band and fans.
Further investigation into their MySpace (www.myspace.com/thepeopleinjars) led to ‘Time’, which draws heavily on Portishead’s ‘Roads’ and there are hints of that other notable British ‘head’, Radiohead, at work on early in ‘The Mover’. It’s certainly music for the head, with the majority of songs sailing past the five minute mark. Much like Anathema then, the band would be wasted as background fodder on Hollyoaks, this is music designed to engage the brain.
Soul Circus – Artists and Artisans
Of course it’s the kind of mistake you shouldn’t make. With a name like Soul Circus, you might expect something that directs your mind towards the era of ‘The Twisted Wheel’ and ‘Wigan Casino’. But then you see the cover of the CD. You are faced with the torso of a gentleman wearing a morning suit complete with waistcoat and cravat. And he is holding a monocle. But the dude has no head. This looks interesting. The music similarly keeps your attention. No, this is not sweet soul music. There are plenty of the crashing, jangly guitars that appeal to the palate of indie kids up and down the land. I’m picking up bits of The Wedding Present in there, particularly on the opening bars of ‘I Still Believe’, but I can’t quite pin it down. Which is no bad thing, I suppose.
There are five tracks on the CD. A most pleasant twenty minutes or so. Difficult to say which is the stand-out. There isn’t one, really. They all stand shoulder to shoulder with each other. ‘Artisans’ opens up at a high standard which the band maintains through to ‘Sarcastic Smile’. This is not music that will change the course of your life, and it won’t have you angrily marching down the high street, but it’s a good listen. The five of them have been keeping themselves busy through the year with gigs, gigs and more gigs. They are headlining at The Cockpit at the end of January. Could be worth a ride through, methinks. In the meantime, you might want to have a look at www.soulcircus.co.uk.
Glyn Bailey and The Many Splendid Things – The Disturbance
Introducing Glyn Bailey into your life is a strange experience. Hearing the opening few seconds of the first track on this album, ‘The Old Illawalla’ made me think I was in for the theme to “The Good, The Bad And The Ugly”. The rest of the CD takes you here, there and everywhere. And then it drops you off feeling rather puzzled. All the songs have a certain something - the frustration waiting to explode behind ‘Traffic Light Man’ and ‘Waiting Game’, or the plain oddity of ‘BBC Bunker’ and ‘The Bolan Tree’.
Glyn Bailey has experienced the rich tapestry of life, which comes across in the variety available here. It isn’t rock, it isn’t indie, country, folk. Whatever. Make your own mind up. But when the guy gets an endorsement from footballer Andy Ritchie then you know that you are dealing with serious business here. As for an overview of ‘The Disturbance’, I spent a lot of time scratching my head. I decided I couldn’t possibly put it better than this line, taken from the band’s website... “The ten songs narrate one strange tale after another, varying the viewpoint between protagonist, victim or observer, prying into life’s complexities and contradictions.” Yes, that just about sums it up.
The listener is invited to explore the various levels of depth in this album. Maybe if I had more time to listen to it over and over again then it might all become clear to me. I find it difficult to enthuse about ‘The Disturbance’. Not the greatest album I’ll ever hear, but nor is it the worst. Just somewhere in the middle. But I’m happy to say that the varied styles contained here help to provide an interesting listen. Strange. But interesting.
Ryder – Smokers Paradise EP
When you check up on a band and see that their influences includes AC/DC, The Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Who, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise when they turn out to be such a noisy lot. They are, perhaps proudly, unsigned. No matter. That perhaps explains why they are straight up and in your face. Opening up with “Smokers Paradise” they start as they mean to go on. It does strike me as long-haired rock rather than short-haired punk. Maybe all bands from yesteryear blend into one with time, but I’m hearing Thin Lizzy on ‘Turn To Page Three’. ‘Union’ has me singing along, not a good thing for the neighbours to hear - “No, you were the one!” And the last of the five tracks is ‘Queen And Country’. Maybe this is where the Pistols’ influence shows through. This is real Up And At ‘Em stuff.
The Grand - The Grand EP
Louder Than Bombs Records
The Grand, featuring members of Shakeshudder, make their debut release on Louder Than Bombs Records. The Grand have produced a good record here which keeps the listener engaged throughout. There are similarities with British Sea Power, especially on the slower, more melodic songs. The Grand also serve up some more high-octane indie-pop on tracks such as ‘Flowers to the Cross’, which along with the more melancholic ‘Hometime’, is a particular highlight of the record. This EP is definitely for any indie fans and comes highly recommended.
Shrag - Life!Death!Prizes!
For many a Shrag fan across the land, this album has been long awaited. Shrag are one of those bands you hear once and then never forget. With a lot of bands it’s pretty easy to say “well they sound a bit like this, or like that”, that’s just impossible with Shrag; they’re a bit punky, a bit psychedelic, a bit experimental and best of all they’re totally addictive.
Life! Death! Prizes! begins with the trademark tumbling bassline, then an attack of upbeat punky sounds; another brilliant thing about Shrag is they can drag the instrumental parts out as long as they like, and it just doesn’t get boring. Just like the track ‘Intro’ off their last record, which I strongly advice to treat your ears to. The vocals come in; the distinctive sound of Helen King. Lyrically they’re honest, and the boy girl vocals are a perfect combination, chanting “I want the kiss, not the chase”. ‘Stubborn or Bust’ follows suit, with another impressive yet simple bass line to begin with, and another dose of sweet boy girl vocals.
‘Their stats’, though one of the slower tracks on the album, certainly stands out as one the best. The slower tempo and a blatant clarity in Helen kings voice create a menacingly beautiful song. ‘Tights in August’ is three and half minutes of perfection. It’s a love song, but from a slightly different perspective. Contrasting the lyrics “I wanna see the end with you, can’t you see my love is true, make me yours baby” and “I wanna get away from you .....I thought I just said maybe, not forever more”. Here Shrag proving they can master any type of song; angry punk songs, good, honest love songs, you name it.
And yet another stand out song (I think you’re catching on by now, it’s a stand up album) ‘Ghosts Before Breakfast’ - this is Shrag at their very, very best! It’s punky, it’s shouty and it’s got more than its fair share of Shrag brilliance. ‘Habbit Creep’ is a spoken word piece; it’s got a gloomy Joy Division feel about it, and Helens eloquent words give it an angry edge. They follow this up with another bunch of upbeat pop songs, oh and there catchy too. Shrag have a perfect way of creating a mystic atmosphere, adding catchy punky guitar riffs and awesome chant along lyrics. On ‘Faux-Coda’ we hear a bit more of Bob on the vocals, as if they needed another brilliantly unique sounding voice in there band, pretty greedy if you ask me. ‘More Than Mornings’ is probably the most punky song off the album, the initial riff sets up the awesome combination of flailing drums and sinister keyboards. This album is basically track after track of pure, honest pop songs.
With Life! Death! Prizes! it’s pretty unlikely that this band with maintain their ‘best kept secret’ status; I liked them first anyway...
Piskie Sits - The Way I’d Like To Go
“Sweet Little Weasel” was probably my song of the summer, after hearing it on the Philophobia compilation ‘Under The Bus Station Clock’, I found very little reason to listen to anything else.
Piskie Sits formed in 2004 at a time when the whole chart friendly ‘New-Yorkshire’ indie thing was going on, however not game to follow suit they created their unique alternative-American-rock sound, taking influence from likes of Pavement, The National and The Strokes. Though their pretty well known around Wakefield and West Yorkshire, I find it truly puzzling why they’re not as successful as they deserve to be. You only need to listen to this EP to understand that this band deserve to be massive.
Here we have four songs, lacking in nothing. Craig Hale is a massively talented lyricist, and his vocal capabilities are seriously out of this world. That’s probably what makes this band so distinctive, it just sounds effortless and natural and I haven’t heard anything like it. But it’s not just the voice, as spellbinding as it, it’s the way that each and every aspect of the bands comes together so naturally to make such a unique sound. Needless to say I’m a fan.
Cloud Nothings – Hey Cool Kids
The guitar sound is very nice on this single, it is clean and chiming, and the singer’s voice has a captivating, ethereal quality, like a young Mark Linkous. I dislike the sentiment of the lyrics though, the sneering ‘oh you’re such a cool kid’ sounds quite snobbish and condescending, and the three chord guitar tune becomes a bit repetitive after a while and fails to excite. The B side to this single however is an absolute joy. Ramshackle guitar riffs wrestle with each other before giving way to a pulsing chorus with a sugar coated vocal hook. It’s all very lo fi and sounds like Lemonheads with less weight on their shoulders, a glistening anthem recorded in a shoe box
Mi Mye – Senc To The Shaking
Mi Mye’s live shows have been famous in Wakefield and its vicinity for several years now. Watching this band of merry souls play together is truly magical. Complete with raucous violin and double bass spins, they quite literally bring the house down and everyone leaves with a smile on their face.
On record, though, what truly shines through for me is the honesty and pure emotion that ring through in the lyrics. Singer and main man Jamie pops the lid off his heart and bears his soul for all to see.
He sings lines such as ‘and I was always thinking about you in everybody that I meet and maybe that’s why I’m always unsuccessful’ (Your last love song). This leaves you with a solid lump in your throat and almost brings a tear to the eye. All of which is wrapped up in a beautifully weaved cloth of bitter sweet violin and understated rhythms.
Mi Mye constantly tread the line between melancholy and joy with great precision. For me this has always been the key to truly great music. ‘2 sunrises’, for example, is effortlessly uplifting, with a slice of sadness. ‘It where slevery’ is a poignant tale of unrequited love, that we can all relate to. Then songs like ‘In the morning’ and ‘Itchyear eachyear’ are good old knees ups.
At times we all feel sad, or a bit lonely and we all have that thought ‘is it only me that feels like that’. I think this is captured sublimely by Jamie in a way I have only seen equalled by comedian Daniel Kitson in recent years (check him out by the way if you get a chance).
I currently live on the other side of the world, miles away from Wakefield and home. Listening to ‘Senc to the shaking’ is like having a nice cup of tea in front of the fire while the smell of roast beef fills the house.
‘All we have are moments’, ‘relationships and friendships’ that’s all that really matters, right.
Napoleon IIIrd - Christiania
The album comes rattling to life with samba beats and throbbing noise, with the first song culminating with a proud, distorted riff that rolls along to a climax by intertwining with the samba rhythm (Unknown Unknown) and song two featuring a beat that increases in it’s ferociousness (Leaving Copenhagen). It is an exhilarating beginning that in turn gives way to spooky, swirling, high pitched keyboard repetition (The hardline Optimist). More of an elegiac fuzzy drone is present throughout the rest of the album, a drone that conveys at times melancholia and at times euphoria, and is punctuated by samba, blips and clicks. The album also flirts with the giddy thrill of Motown and early rock and roll, though in an utterly modern way (That Town).
This album puts Napoleon IIIrd on a par with bands like Animal Collective and Fuck Buttons in creating a sound that is epic whilst also sounding brashly immediate, rather than the more introspective feel that is commonly evoked by music of this kind.
What differentiates Napoleon IIIrd from these bands is the way in which he employs a wide variety of vocal styles. The vocals can growl and swoon with soul, or shimmer with fragility. The music is also interweaved with bird song and a variety of uh’s, oh’s and ah’s which reveal the pleasure that primitive sound can conjure. If not lyrically, then certainly with the range of emotions his voice conveys, Napoleon IIIrd is comparable to great British pop eccentrics such as David Byrne or David Bowie. In fact the plaintive nature of the lyrics adds to the overriding tension of the album, striving to create something transcendental, but ultimately realising the struggle and inevitable failure of this. The lyrics to stand out track ‘Rough Music’ encapsulate this sentiment when it is sung that ‘heaven is just for creeps and weirdo’s, find yourself a partner and settle down.’
It is a stunning album that reveals more hidden depths and pleasures with each listen, and elevates Napoleon IIIrd’s status as one of British pop’s most beguiling artists.