Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Interim Reviews - Morning

Roland X reviews the pile of stuff that has been growing by the door in no particular order.

Cup of tea… ready. Daytime television in the background… muted. Curtains closed. Ok *Deep Breath* and we begin…

Three Blind Wolves hail from Glasgow. I saw them perform a cracking show at The Hop in Wakefield a little while back. I have before me their ‘Echo on the Night Train’ single. It’s pretty classy songwriting via the route of acceptable Americana influenced folk pop, benefiting from a nicely polished production favouring a deep guttering guitar sound. The harmonised ‘whoa’s’ are where the song steps into slightly predictable territory perhaps, but the band tread a line between good time rockin’ and more cerebral elements well. B-Side Honey Fire is a little more reserved but looser too, a confidence of a band of much greater years. The reverb heavy guitars give way to an unusual and engaging structure of euphoria and melancholy that reveals a sharp set of brains behind it all. Basically these are some damn fine talented fella’s. With the right song they could go a long way; there’s enough here to make me want to hear more and keep my fingers crossed they find it.

Bearsuit – I keep seeing that name everywhere. But what the hell are they like? I have a bit of a problem with bands with an animal in their name. Seems an easy, unimaganitive cheap Indie trick. But a bear SUIT? …an intentional inversion of this? A Radiohead reference?

Wrong wrong wrong. It’s Techno Ladytron. ‘When will I be Queen?’ reminds me instantly of ‘Bad to have a Bad Uncle’ from Nathan Barley. Perhaps that’s just this song ‘I have bad thoughts, I have bad thoughts – no inner monologue’. Seems to be attempting the detatched ice cool of aforementioned Ladytron but… doesn’t. It’s caught between the two era’s of Ladytron too, albeit unintentionally. A mix of the early, retro future style and the wall of sound MBV synths they employ now. But it’s curiously empty, just rammed with annoying half hooks. Sorry, cant vibe off this. And the remix as a B-Side isn’t going to help, despite being far more interesting.

Counting Coins’ Take The Ride EP is an instant change of pace / style etc. The kind of Ska / Punk I haven’t listened to for a lot of years. Opener ‘Not Enough Heroes (Too Much Heroin)’ is designed to be catchy and anthemic, and does its job in a style typical of its influence. Second track ‘Loose Change’ is something a little different and characterful; laid back chanting (yes…) and an upbeat pop vibe, with some sweet Sublime style sing-rap. It’s the best Ska Punk I’ve heard in a very long time, and Counting Coins can have that for the poster, but the truth is, it’s a long time since I’ve actually listened to some. From this EP I would gather the scene is thriving and vibrant, yet very similar to the last time I was there. It’s good time stuff. And Counting Coins seem to do well with an upbeat, passionate take on it. And obviously they’ll be great live. I guess you don’t expect a band like Counting Coins to reinvent the wheel, and here they don’t, but they do what they do very well and the variation and invention on this EP is impressive.

Never Kill A Secret EP by The Primitives instantly lights up my marathon reviewing session. They have a quaint, super pop sound, somewhere around The Delgados performing obscure C86 covers. There’s a cool swagger that matches the artwork here too, the simple Blue / Red / White design and title suggesting some lost 60’s spy caper starring the band. They should do it. It’d be ace, if the music is owt to go by. Effortless and classic, it has the 1960’s and 1980’s references (Motown drums, sweet dreamy female vocals) but also a charm all of its own. A real pleasant surprise.

Moody Gowns give themselves a real fighting chance before the CD hits the deck by packaging it in a homemade sleeve with lots of nice pictures, doodles and words. I like that. All you in bands should do that. If you send a marker penned CD you are already fighting an uphill battle. Do SOMETHING. And if you can’t, get a friend to, Jesus.

Reviewing ‘Sincerely Yours’ is a little harder though. It’s hard to categorise certainly. Ambitious. Odd. Infectious. The opening seconds remind me of ‘Frontier Psychiatry’ with its ghost like groans. And then… breaks down into some smart deconstructed idiosyncratic pop… thing. It’s bouncy, energetic; melodies reverberating around your brain with little regard for the effect it’s having on your mental health. It gets less direct as it goes on, mutating into a more jazz influenced beast as it progresses over its 4 tracks. I like it. I don’t know how else to describe them. It’s pushing things. The band do a great job and creating a swirling backdrop to singer Nathan Moseley’s groaning plea’s in many a diverse manner. Just go have a listen will you.

Mr Gary C presents his single ‘A Little Bit Easier’ and brings with it another bugbear of mine – the ‘collage’ front cover which features the singer / band in a room AND LOOK! There’s stuff all over that ‘subtley’ hints at the influences. It’s so fucking lazy and unimaginative. Can’t think of an art concept? Just stick loads of your crap around and it’ll make the music seem thought out and deeper. Gary C does takes this limited context somewhere by sitting outside in a park. But look over there, an old record player, a Sinatra magazine, a Victoria sponge. Worst of all is the back cover, Mr Gary C looking serious, sat on a Scooter. Credits: ‘Lambretta Supplied by Evolution Scooters’ – it’s not even his!

Oh wait, there’s a CD in here too. 3 tracks of lightweight inoffensive pop. It a professional production certainly, well mixed with varied instrumentation. The backing band is solid. It’s just the songwriting that isn’t. I wish I hadn’t lost the press release because it had a whole list of things Mr Gary C has done in the past, including, if I recall correctly, having one of his songs ‘heard by the man who decides the music for James Bond films’. Which means what exactly…? Not exactly Moonraker is it? More like Barrelscraper. Sorry to divulge again, but there’s really not much to say here. It’s easy listening, and listening to it in the background is certainly the easiest, and possibly the best way to go about things.

Howard James Kenny – Insects. 1 track promo here for the single and from an album to be released in April. I like that. No messing. All or nothing on the one track. An understated, gently sweeping choir swirls over a meandering, picked guitar, with Mr Kenny coming over like Guy Garvey’s slightly more awake younger brother. It really should get going about the 2 and a half minute mark… but doesn’t. Maybe that would be too obvious. There’s not quite enough here for me to know what Howard James Kenny is about really. But I did play it round a few times in a row. Damn it, all the bands who overfill their demos and promos and all I get here is one track. I want more! Keep an eye out for this one.

The Stripper Project – terrible name – give us ‘Beautiful Life’ – a standard title. On a marker penned CD. Oh well, here we go then…

This is probably the kind of thing I would usually object to, but you know what, I must be in a good mood after Howard James Kenny, because it’s not half bad. First track ‘The Back of the Cemetry’ has a Killers feel, with that U2 ripped riff and OTT synths. The lyrics also have that ‘influenced by Morrisey’ feel – they aren’t LIKE Morriseys lyrics, just influenced (i.e. similar, worn to death themes tackled in an aloof, occasionally touching way, yet all too calculated). But it’s all done pretty well. The 80’s electro influences come to the fore on ‘Wondergirl’. It’s pretty cool in a lo-fi Kraftwerk kinda way and shows they aren’t afraid to try different things. There’s a battle between taking things very commercial and adding in awkward, challenging sections. Which is fine and admirable, in a way.

I’ve got a whole album of this here, and my interest is pretty much kept throughout due to their skill with the hooks, the POP. There’s variation and imagination in the songwriting to suggest great things ARE possible. Its not often I will say it, but this band really need to be MORE produced. You can hear all the ideas they, or the producer, have had, but it doesn’t have the epic, widescreen feel that it needs to work. But the foundations are there and you can’t ask more than that for a bands first release. It’s inconsistent, but with a charm to it, and I think this album will be more important to the band than anyone who buys it. They’ve created a set of songs, but what now? Go for Commercial Success or be interesting? Age old question, with only one answer, really.

Right-on. Buffalo Bones release the Hell To Skeleton EP, citing influences of QOTSA, Beck and The Dead Weather. I also hear a hint of Supergrass in the whine of lead track ‘Exploder’s chorus. Cool. It is a heavy rocking thing; they smartly keep things moving at a pace, not afraid to throw in some scream-a-long choruses. Pleasingly upfront, like a MUCH better Vines. Track 2 ‘Silence is Golden’ brings things down all too quick, slower, plodding. It’s a sharp song though, accomplished with more of the classic rock influences shifting into view. Should have popped up later in the EP though. The Dead Weather comes through on the third track in fairly inventive style. By the closer ‘Left Before I Arrived’ my interest has wained a little, the kind of thing I can imagine a classic rock covers band playing. Not enough of Buffalo Bones in it, but overall, as my first impression of this band, this EP is does its job damn well. Can imagine I’ll be seeing their names on a lot of posters this next year.

The late morning Renaissance continues with a free download single from Buen Chico called ‘Happiness is Important’. It’s a definite progression from their earlier stuff, more dynamics, more going on, getting to that point all great 3 pieces need to, when it sounds way beyond the work of just three people. There’s more ambition, but still tied in a lovely, joyous pop package. It starts with an uncharacteristically heavy plod before developing into a lovely mid paced yearning for happiness… and better times. Buen Chico seem to be a band that have been around for a long time but have remained criminally underrated. It’s great to see a) they are still developing and getting better and b) they haven’t become bitter with it. As ever with a free download, just give it a go. So much is free these days, so it’s odd to say that this is ‘worth it’, but it really is. I’m pleased to see Buen Chico’s upcoming EP proper in my afternoon pile, but right now I need a break or a sandwich, so that’s it for now.

Roland X

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