The Size of The Night –  Peter Kernel (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

PeterKernelmittel3I have to confess that when lead single and album opener There’s Nothin Like You first drifted past this reviewers ears, something strange happened. That odd sensation that here was a band that was at once brilliant yet bonkers, original less because they had stumbled across a wonderful new sound but more because they had thrown a hand-grenade into a number of indie, alt and art-rock scenes and just stuck the pieces back together. I think I may have described them as “mad as a bucket of frogs.” I stand by that statement.

And whilst I knew that it was going to be an impossible job to try to convey exactly what they do, I also knew that this was just the sort of band that I want more people to hear. Beyond the aforementioned single the landscape is just as strange. Disjointed indie clashes with college rock collages, art-punk urges, sinister fairy tale deliveries, freaky pop and more besides.

It is an album which explores our darker moods and our solitary moments and how that part of our personality effects the world around us. Like the analogous night of the title it can be loving, joyful or dark and terrible, full of fun or wracked with fear. And that balance of emotions is summed up in the music. Sometimes direct and melodic, sometime fractured and challenging. A mesmerising art-attack I ever their was one.

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Bauhaus – Undead –  Kevin Haskins (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

136861Any band worth their salt should be able to fill a book with anecdotes and stories of their touring and recording life, one that is a flame for moth-like fans and at least piques the interest of the more general reader. Any band, after even a few years on the road, who can’t fill such pages with tales of high-jinx and shenanigans would have to face some serious questions about their suitability for their chosen career.

Bauhaus, as you would imagine, are a band more than up to the task, as proven by Kevin Haskins new book, Bauhaus – Undead. The Northampton four piece always stood out, from their genre defining sound to their iconic look and right from receiving their first reviews in the local paper, drummer Haskins became the bands archivist. The book looks back at their 70’s/80’s heyday (as well as their Coachella reunion in 2005) and takes the form of a collection of amazing photographs as well as artwork for posters and flyers, there are backstage passes, handwritten lyrics, setlist, personal notes and even a Bauhaus comic strip all linked together by Haskins poignant and amusing text.


It charts the band’s rise from art-school dreamers through playing guerrilla gigs…they supported The Pretenders, without them even knowing…to the release of Bela Lugosi’s Dead which put them on the map and launched a scene which endures to this day, and finally bowing out devoid of fanfare. Somewhat ironic for a band long accused by the press of over the top melodrama and pretentious theatrics!

It goes without saying that this is a must for any fan of Bauhaus, the gothic sound, eighties alternative scenes or underground music in general. The book’s layout and design matches the bands stripped down aesthetic and art school origins but also signposts just how influential their mercurial blends of punk-gothique, reggae, dub, psychedelia and horror film soundtrack where to bands who followed. Everyone from Massive Attack to Sigur Ros and from Interpol to The Smashing Pumpkins have worshipped at their musical alter. More than that it will be the coolest book to be found on a coffee table anywhere in the Western Hemisphere!

Available from Cleopatra Music and Film HERE


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Canshaker Pi release video and tour dates

Canshaker Pi - by Julia Nalaskowski_preview.jpegCanshaker Pi have announced their ‘Naughty Naughty Violence’ tour for this May including a show at The Old Blue Last in addition to their previously announced set at The Great Escape in Brighton. They have also released their dark new video to ‘Put A Record Out’ in support of the upcoming album due this summer via Excelsior Recordings.

After impressing the likes of DIY, Clash, Drowned in Sound and many more at their Eurosonic performance at the start of 2018, Canshaker Pi are now set to release their new album, ‘Naughty Naughty Violence’. From supporting names such as Car Seat Headrest and Parquet Courts, to local friends Pip Blom, and indie legends The Cribs, the band have absorbed all the skill that surrounds them and poured it into the new record. The Amsterdam quartet burst into the world of indie-rock at such a young age and yet have been no strangers to the more mature sounds of Pavement – in fact, Stephen Malkmus helped to produce the band’s debut LP and in 2017 they toured 15 countries and played 27 shows with Scott Kannberg’s Spiral Stairs.

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Unbreakable EP – Ashley J. (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Satisfied EP Art_preview.pngAs the teaser tracks that preceded this EP release crossed my path, it was easy to build up a great impression of Ashley J. Here was a girl who revelled in a classic pop sound but who was pushing that sound into the future. No backward glances to past heroes, no reinventions, no nostalgia trips, pastiche or plagiarism or if there is it is all very well hidden by her own originality, just the sound of the pop-dance torch being picked up and carried forward. Whilst the singles that are already out in the big wide world make up the first three tracks of the album, hearing them back to back really underlines the prowess of the artist and the listening experience as a whole.

Trapped is big, bold and infectious, Satisfied is the ultra slick chill out built on restraint and minimalism and the title track reminds us that you need to forget all of the gimmicks and gameplay, the marketing ploys and profile pumping guest slots, unless you have a great song you might as well go back to the drawing board. And Unbreakable is a great song, one which gets straight to the point, is full of vibrancy and groove and which is pretty much a signpost to the dance floor.

The remaining two tracks are anything but fillers alongside the three existing single releases. Like You Used To sparkles with the perfect mix of old-school pop soul and chilled, cutting edge dance and the final offering When I Come Home To You is a heady blend of shimmering dance and late night smokey vibes.

As expected the Unbreakable is a pop master class, a reminder of how important it is to get the fundamentals right. Now the songs are out in the public you can remix them till your heart’s content, invent dance routines, re-imagine and reinvent them all you want but the fact that they began public life near perfect in the first place is why nothing you do to them will cause them to be anything other than future classics. If they aren’t already!

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Mission –  Gonetcha (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Gonetcha__Mission__CoverStarting an album review of a band which, up until this point, you knew nothing about, is an interesting thing to undertake. You go into it without any preconceptions, any detailed back story and knowing that anything could greet you on the other side. Often you are met with the familiar and the predictable, something that is pretty much a new take on something you have not only heard before but heard many times already that week. But then there are albums such as Gonetcha’s Mission and you remember that this plunge into the unknown and the unexpected, and the occasional gems it rewards you with, is why you are not earning better money writing about what Dave Grohl’s favourite sandwich is, or what percentage of plastic Nicky Minaj is built from.

If someone like Nick Cave best typifies the dark, sweeping and majestic end point of the western blues derived musical experiment; Gonetcha is the flip side of that coin. Mission comes from a younger, angst ridden and intense place, one that has evolved out of the possibilities afforded by more recent technologies and more likely to tip its hat to Krautrock pioneers and New Romantic non-conformists than the more traditional canon.

Opening salvo Dawn Beat kicks off with some squalling guitars and brooding, industrial backgrounds but the album quickly settles down into a more electro alt-pop vibe. Rockist guitar moves are used to great effect to create the surface detail, meandering riffs and some wonderfully dexterous motifs, but this second album from them pulses with an electro-beat heart. The same heart which drove Kraftwerk’s motornik minimalism, the post-punk reinventions of The Blitz Kids the more commercial movement that they spawned and the alternative dance movements which have woven in and out of popular culture ever since.

Even songs such as Time Zone which seems at first listen to run along more regular rock guitar lines, has something more mechanical going on below, something slightly less man made, more digital than analogue, more computer than human. Submarine Wreck is a strange blend of funk bass and sinister spoken word, demented and dangerous yet infectious and mesmerising and What You Stole wanders down some brooding garage rock pathways.

But it is this balancing act between man and machine which creates the wonderful friction that lies at the heart of the album, able to explore its alt-rock, foot on the monitor, classic stance but also dripping in gothic techno edge and dark dance grooves. If you think that Electronic Dance Music has found its level, that maybe it has nowhere left to go, Gonetcha is your next lesson. I guess that there are a number of bands pushing the electro envelope at the moment, but how many of them are able to juggle dystopian disco, electro-rock, future dance, hi-tech cinematic film score, progressive pop and doom-dance…often in the space of one track. Gonetcha is a band on a mission indeed.

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Hard On Things –  The Harpoonist and The Axe Murderer (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

1383894de2046ca0d33f5aa7f5066d86df278987-1.jpegEven if I didn’t rate the music you have to love a band with a name like The Harpoonist and The Axe Murderer, doubly so once you find out that their current album is called Apocalipstick! Thankfully I do rate their music. A lot. They make exactly the sort of vintage music for the modern age which is really ticking a lot of boxes for me at the moment.

Whilst there is something in its eclectic flights of fancy and sonic choices that suggests it is the product of the modern world, it beats with a more experienced mind, a more lived in heart and a much older soul. Raw blues, early rock and roll, gospel grooves and soul moves all come together to build music which revels in its own ragged glory, its own substance over style heart, its own celebration of the way music used to be made.

Hard on Things and the wonderfully named duo responsible for it remind me of the ethic of artists like The Band, ones who in the face of the current zeitgeist deliberately subverted expectation and delivered something far older and less fashionable, wonderfully out of step with the current trend and just waited for others to catch up. The Band did it in the face of encroaching hippiedom and hard rock, The Harpoonist and The Axe Murderer do it against a backdrop of landfill Indie, disposable pop and bedroom rappers. Why follow fashion when you can start your own, wholly new, roots movement?

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Tally Spear releases critically-acclaimed ‘Fade To White’ EP

omqwi3iq_400x400To many Tally Spear may seem like a very clued up and driven young Londoner. The talented songsmith has spent the last year building her name on the live circuit and earning critical acclaim for her compellingly addictive and insightful folk country driven pop compositions. However, for all the achievements and forthright career strides she has taken, underneath it all Tally is just another 22 year old who is confronted with as many pressures and insecurities as we all are, regardless of our age or abilities.

Growing up in an artistic household, as the daughter of a theatre actress and a musician, has clearly shaped Tally’s own creative path but she is an artist who taps in to her own experience rather than simply sharing those she has observed. Tally Spear was fed traditional folk and rock music from an early age, and started playing under the influence of her father, who encouraged her development as an artist. A trained pianist and self-taught guitarist, she started writing and playing her own music at a very young age.

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Different Kind of Free – Grayson Word (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

27657139_442189646196320_8684336271249793246_n.jpgI know age shouldn’t really come into such things, I always see art, music… creativity of all sorts as being a level playing field and it is all about the end result not the back story so beloved of TV shows and marketing companies. But I will say this. Damn! Grayson Word is seventeen years old and he has delivered a stone cold soul classic. Or more accurately the hottest one I have heard for a long time. It runs on a blue-eye groove, of course it does, but it is miles removed from the modern pop-R&B that commercial artists seem to be infusing their music with of late. This is no Sam Smith or Conor Maynard re-appropriation of classic sounds for commercial gain, Grayson Word feels like the real deal.

As someone who hasn’t travelled as much of the world as I would like, who explores a lot of the world through it’s music and everything that it evokes, Grayson Word sounds like nothing less than America’s beating heart. And to be fair it is probably an America that never existed outside its road movies, TV adverts, beat legacy, films literature and other rose tinted nostalgia, but in my mind it is what America should sound like. Away from the celebrity spotlight of what we laughingly call the music industry, disposable pop with it’s bland shopping mall beat and faceless landfill indie – all complicated hair and scenester regulations, he offers us something real, something authentic, something that you won’t look at in ten years time and just muse “what was I thinking!”

When he funks it out he does so with the same eloquence as the likes of Curtis Mayfield, Forget How To Fly exhibiting the same genre-hopping brilliance as it drives funktastic bass lines, rock guitar lines and evocative Hammond swells through soulful territory. Striking Matches chimes with vintage soul-pop and the title track pops and pulses with the same inherent cool that Stevie Wonder energised his songs with.

It is the sound of basement soul gatherings blending into back street Chicago jazz clubs which in turn become the sound of illicit blues parties and underground gigs. It is the sound of an alternative, underground path that music took when it should have become the mainstream. It is the sound of a midnight ritual designed to re-animate the zombie corpse of the muse of music that mattered, still matters and will continue to matter, long after the current boy band wannabes have returned to a day job where the main concern is asking the customer if they want fries with that!

Sadly the modern pop picker probably only has access to the glorious past that this album references via modern cash-ins such as James Blake’s distorted musical musings or the pub landlady of pop, Adele, and her false retro posturing. Even if this wasn’t the case, Grayson Word would still be important to the cause, but the current bandwagoning makes his brand of modern-retro classic essential as a torch to be kept burning. Word!

Check the album out on Spotify


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Where the Wild Things Hide and Hunt –  True Strays (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

29386251_10160083221525623_3402283018113515520_nIf the fashion of the moment seems to be pop and indie bands appropriating retro and roots goodness to add cool and credibility to their sound, True Strays have always made music for more honest reasons. Yes, there are a host of indie bands folking up and rock bands bluesing out at the moment in an effort to find a more discerning audience but Where The Wild Things Hide and Hunt just reminds us that this trio has always been the real deal. This isn’t the sound of a modern band cynically toying with the sounds of the past for commercial gain, this is a band born out of time. One who would be just as happy if they woke up to find that they were a bunch of jobbing raggle-taggle folk-blues wranglers playing for the dime and delight of juke joints and cowboy bars in the dustbowl days of 1930’s America. (I should imagine, but I don’t have definitive proof of that.) They then proceed to use roots sounds and a garage rock attitude to join the dots between between that era and Memphis in 1956, Detroit in 1969 and London and New York in 1977…and I guess the here and now.

Heal The Haunted pretty much sums up the authenticity of their voodoo blues – heavy of groove, instantly singable yet flecked with deft and clever sonic choices and Roll On takes those same resonant sounds and uses them to build a widescreen, big sky, cinematic feel, all sumptuous harmonies and deftly picked guitar details. Oh My Love is the perfect blend of pulsing, pacy melody and utter infectiousness and Since I Was a Boy sees them bow out with a trashy and wonderfully clattering jam style workout.

It is this last song that best sums up their real attraction. In a world of finely produced pop and cliched rock, slick and sanitised commerciality and style over substance, True Strays remind us of what is really important. Shuffling grooves and driving back beats, bass lines which demand that you dance along, wonderful slidework and singalong vocals. Everything else you can take or leave. Are True Strays a playful detour through rock history? Or maybe a bourbon-soaked bar band from hell? The evidence would suggest both, thanks to a band with the smarts, chops, and passion to make something fresh out of the expansive musical fodder that helped lay its rowdy foundation.

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The Boy on the Bench –  Shaun Kelly and The Returned Gifts (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

25299508_1817923398505094_6510905890943310647_nI have to confess that I had never heard the tag “B-Town scene” until Shaun Kelly’s latest rather excellent record landed on my desk. So a bit of googling later reveals it to be a cover all term for a host of sonically, largely unrelated bands working in, around and out of Birmingham. Like most of these sorts of terms it began as an insider joke but has gain traction with those looking to remain ahead of the jump, journalists (not this one obviously) and those looking to impress with their musical knowledge. But Birmingham has always produced great bands from The Spenser Davis Group to ELO from Johnny Foreigner to Swim Deep and a host of others. Shaun Kelly and his musical posse are just the latest torchbearers for that city’s musical heritage. The less said about Duran Duran the better!

The Boy on the Bench is a graceful and deft collection of songs, mixing folk and Indie-pop with Americana and even a few underpinning EDM grooves just to add some new sonic texture to what is essentially the classic singer-songwriter canon. And it is this clever blend of familiarity and modernity, not to mention the sheer quality of the song that makes this a real gem. Stigmata in particular sounding like a future classic, windswept rootsy indie built on elegant riffs and eloquent sonic arrangements seeming linking the West Coast to The West Midlands of two different continents.

As The Crow Flies wanders down some dusty, raggle-taggle country-folk pathways, Broken People grooves with the spirit of His Bobness…thats Mr Zimmerman to you…embellished with some eclecticism and electronica and Dorothy is jaunty pop par excellence. It’s a great album on all levels, great songs, great musical vision, infectious, memorable and great fun. Who knew that people still made albums like this any more?

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