Black Sheep Apprentice – Born To Walk Alone  (reviewed by T. Bebedor)

151612241.jpg.galleryI’ve been listening to this album on and off for the last week trying to formulate a way of starting off this review but never really feeling like I have enough information to give a review befitting what occurs within the 10+ tracks of this collection of songs from Swindon’s ‘grown-up Country’ specialists, so I find myself returning to the album to try and kick my ears into instructing my hands what to write.

And it’s proving difficult.

I think maybe the best place to start is with the warning; don’t get comfortable. This is not a generic album by any means and is happy to make you tap your feet and slap your thighs as it is in giving you a dizzying moment of “well where the hell are we going now!?”.

I’ve made no secret in previous reviews that I like opening tracks and this album’s opener starts in moody, Sergio Leone territory, a land of squawking buzzards overhead, dusty plains, creaking salon doors and a lone church bell ringing, it’s quite cinematic, it’s dramatic and you settle down for a dip into country music but no, this isn’t that kind of a show cowboy, after 35-40 secs we’re replacing that atmosphere with a bouncy opening track called ‘Let It Go’ which almost acts as a piece of advice because if you had any preconceptions about what to expect from this band, forget it, let it go because what you can expect – other than well written songs and more than a nod to the macabre – is the unexpected.

Tread carefully because this path isn’t familiar to most.

The music runs a deftly course between the dark ‘deal-with-the-Devil’ country music through the blues of the whiskey joints of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana where ghosts sit on the shoulders of wandering strangers, into rock and maybe even a little indie-rock. It wears it’s heart on it’s sleeve and the songs are songs of regret, often loneliness but definitely of experience the running order of the songs at times feels like they are going through certain emotions from loss (in Let it Go, Thrown Away, Water) to acceptance (Born to Walk Alone) to resolve (in Pheonix, I Curse Your Name and the demented but crowd roaring Black Sheep Apprentice) and they are all delivered with a voice sounding closer to Geddy Lee of Rush than the storytelling voice of Johnny Cash. Another leftfield twist.

I would have liked to have heard more growl on the bass at times and a few of the songs could have been shaved here and there but one man’s snack is another man’s feast and this is a big album, an album that gives you a lot of bang for your buck and doesn’t skimp on what’s included, which seems to be the band’s heart, blood, sweat, tears and balls!

After hearing what the band can do I’ll be catching them live very soon, there seems to be energy in spades on offer here that can only be best experienced live, so give the album a listen and catch a gig or two.

 

 

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She’s a Rose –  Sailing Stones (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

27788593_1913001625411844_8529458129204096852_oNames can be an important choice for any artist and, if you are one of those people who likes to read meaning into an artist’s chosen moniker, well, you can read a lot of meaning into an artist’s chosen moniker. Sailing Stones is a particularly well chosen title, named after the rocks which seem to move at a snail’s pace across California’s Death Valley of their own volition. Well chosen because like those rocks, singer and multi-instrumentalist Jenny Lindfors makes music which also gently wanders, shimmers like the desert heat, is gauze-like and mysterious, ethereal and majestic, in an understated, unhurried sort of way.

Opening track She’s a Rose is wonderfully mercurial song, examining the transformation that happens as we grow and change to overcome life’s obstacles and indeed undergoing its own musical evolution as it plays out. From a core indie heart it adds piano lines, jazz vibes, hazy angelic choirs and sultry saxophones before exploding in a tangle of high drama and controlled cacophony.

Into Space is a gorgeous weave of textured music, dream-like and even when fuzzed out guitars build to drive the song to its final crescendos, they are simple and sleek, brooding and distant rather than dominating and obvious, wandering some Floydian landscapes and doing so with a wonderful sure footedness. Debut single, The Blazing Sun is an exercise in sheer gorgeousness, a slice of heavenly alt-folk and the perfect vehicle to show case Lindfors voice with the beautiful swan song of Sit Silent adding some gentle Americana vibes to close the e.p.

It’s a rich tapestry of sound and sentiment, it travels from the depths of the heart to the outer reaches of space and whilst it explores some big concepts along the way,  it remains intimate and personal, accessible, approachable. A triumph of complex music and big ideas sounding anything but.

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Brian James –  Brian James (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

CS677322-01A-BIGBy the time this album originally came blinking into the daylight from the depths of a small Brussels studio in 1990, James already had a pretty impressive CV to his name. Having almost exclusively penned the material that made up the first two Damned albums, including New Rose, the first ever punk single, and spending much of the 80’s steering Lords of the New Church to international success, the latter’s demise gave him the time  to put his first solo album out. Long out of circulation, this re-issue offers the perfect opportunity to get reacquainted with the man away from the bands he was known for.

Considering this album comes out straight off of the back of his time with The Lords, this collection eschews their lush dance-goth textures…they never really were the “punk supergroup” that they were tagged… for the incendiary rock and roll riff-a-rama that The Damned were based on. But neither is this out and out punk, but again, The Damned were smarter and more interesting than that anyway, and opening salvo The Twist seems more in keeping with the savage R&B chops of the pub rock circuit that helped pave the way in the first place. Another Time, Another Crime is a boisterous bluesy work out, Ain’t That A Shame is a gentler re-working of his own debut single and You Try is a brilliant, retro-infused, groover that in an alternate musical time-line was Roy Orbison’s biggest hit.

It’s an album which reminds you that despite punk claiming a year zero status, its movers and shakers were heavily influenced by the rock and roll of the sixties and early seventies and in this wonderful collection you can hear the echoes of times past and just about catch the fleeting ghosts of its main musical perpetrators. It walks in the shoes of the likes of The Stooges, The MC5 and The Seeds, blues heroes, garage rock idols and rock and roll rebels and it links arms with fellow travellers such as Nikki Sudden and Johnny Thunders. But more than anything it is a look into the musical psyche of one of the main players responsible for defining the sound of punk.

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Scene and Heard – CCCXXIII Acid Fetus –  Silent Disco Sex (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

29541302_614030615603943_8868267808984062287_nThe role of creativity is many and varied, to inform, to entertain, to reassure, to challenge, to confound, to frighten. If you find some of your preferences in the second half of that list then the wonderfully named Silent Disco Sex are probably for you. They come from a dark musical place, one that draws from eerie and edgy electronica, slow, shuffling and doom-laden dance beats, strange swirling synth riffs, heady atmospheres and heavy spoken word top lines. Throw in a video which looks like it was spawned by the Saw franchise and you have something well outside the usual range of pop gloss and dance dross.

Their’s is a playground of dystopian hi-jinks, of night times on the decaying streets, of subversion and protest, of industrial wastelands and underground nightclubs, of shadows and neon, light and shade taken to it’s extremes. It is the collision point of the sound of distant, industrial machinations and transient, clinical digital languages, the distant humming of the modern world and the poetry of decay. It is a distant, disembodied opera, which echoes from our technology reflecting the detachment and unease of the world around us.

They are fellow sonic travellers of the likes of Nine Inch Nails, reminiscent of a mutant coupling of Depeche Mode and Tool, a blend of gothic claustrophobia, industrial bleakness and dark, dance drama. It is easy to see where they come from, where some of their references lie, but the ability to shape those influences into new statements, musically speaking, about the world they find themselves in and comment on where it may be heading is all you can ask of them.

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Suburban Wildlife  –  Big Merino (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

bifmeirnp2_phixrThe art of pinning down a band in just a few generic descriptions or a handy soundbite is the stock-in-trade of the music reviewer but I have to admit that it will take a better man than me to concisely pin down Big Merino. It isn’t that the album Suburban Wildlife is rudderless or eclectic, it is anything but, the songs hang wonderfully together, always feel the product of the same band and part of the same album. It’s just that so many styles and genres, past echos and future portents fall under their gaze under across this 10 track selection that they cover a lot of ground. There are not to many modern bands given to such stylistic rampaging across the genres and you have to look back at bands such as 10CC for a comparable approach regarding their musical scope.

How Can You Be So Sure is a bluesy gospel work-out, Turn This Boat Around heads into sun-kissed reggae climes and Black Water rocks like a good ’un. When they kick back they fall effortlessly into accessible Americana and smooth, well rounded folk and when they want to make an impression anthem ready blues and rock salvos are their go to modus operandi. 

It’s probably a cliche bordering on college journalism to say things like, there is something for everyone or that they cover all the musical bases but until I find a way of tying down their mercurial and exploratory approach then I’m afraid you will have to put up with such phrases.

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Scene and Heard- CCCXXII: Longnight – John (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

hqdefaultNot every piece of music has to start revolutions, similarly not every track has to merely re-invent the wheel, and between the cutting edge and the tried and tested you find John and his latest track Longnight, a blend of old-school, grooving hip-hop, confident street level rap and  skittering backbeats vibe. Okay, we have all heard something similar before, sort of, it’s built on a certain familiarity, for sure, and sticks faithfully to the rap canon of cool flow and edgy content but it is also cohesive, glossy, stylish, and sophisticated, as the unique melodies get compressed through a hypnotic singsong delivery.

It’s wonderfully laid back to the point of being ambient and chilled, lazy in a good way and wandering slowly along on a hypnotic and restrained beat that is built as much on atmosphere and anticipation as much as it is on beats and bars. But like any music worth its salt in the field of urban music, it is all about the lyrical delivery and John makes his point via a strangely beguiling and brilliantly poetic flow. There may be more space than content going on in his music but surely that is the art of it. Anyone who can create this much of an impact without breaking into a sweat knows exactly how music works. Less is more? Absolutley.

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Scene and Heard- CCCXXI: Blue Angel – RGF (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

RGFjpeg_phixrAs one of those jaded journo’s that you always hear about, I guess I’m always looking to fit music into easy pigeon-holes, to stick a label on it and keep things in nice tidy demarcated genres. That said, some of the most interesting music to write about is the sort of thing that isn’t easy to work out, music that defies simple categorisation, music which just won’t play by the damn rules.  Not only do RGF not sit easily with modern trend or classification, I feel that no matter what era they had appeared in they would always be considered out side the norm. The freaks!

It’s rock for sure, but more a visceral, wailing garage rock vibe than the usual conventions, seeped in belligerent, sneering punk vocals and psyched out, post-punk clattering chaos all put to rigid back beats and a driving, anchoring bass. Throw in some rock, alt-rock, mutant blues…call it what you will and you are starting to get where their outsider vibe is coming from. You can see what’s going on, yet the way that it wilfully doesn’t quite fit together is not only its charm and selling point but what makes it stand out from the pack, the greatest skill here being their ability to reign everything in just enough to stop it all careering off into the abyss.

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Last of the Tall Ships – Jimmy Lee Morris (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

a2510510319_16As I said last time around when the excellent Gallery dropped through the virtual letterbox about this time last year, artists like Jimmy Lee Morris are a breath of fresh air. He seems part of an ever diminishing body of songwriters who still revel in the song rather than the delivery, the substance rather than the style, which ironically makes for an effortless delivery and an eloquent musical style of the sort that only comes about as a by-product of the job at hand. The job at hand, of course, being writing great songs.

The title track is an interesting place to start as it takes a different tack than most of the songs found around it, having its genesis way back in 1985 as a synth driven demo track that changed hands between Nelson King and himself and never quite came to fruition. But then …voila! A mere 33 years later Jimmy has found the time to write the rest of the words and include it in this collection, a jaunty synth pop tune that feels as much a modern track referencing the past as it does a past track sonically revelling in its formative sound.

But it doesn’t sit at odds particularly with the rest of the album as, by the artists own admission, the album is slightly 80’s infused being a blend of the modern studio capability and the sound of the earthy analogue that flavoured his own recordings with bands, such as A La Tienne, that he was playing in all those years ago. “I  like to think this  is what we may have sounded like today if we had stuck around long enough to make an  album in 2018.”

Bigger Sky is a wonderful slice of Crowded House style infectious pop-rock, Something About You is a soulful and reflective confessional and Freestyle is a funky and groovesome dance number. Yes, its dance, anything that gets the feet moving and the hips swaying is dance music…genres are so last century.

It’s a cracker of an album, a collection of songs that tip their hat to the past, are perfect for the here and now and offer hope for a brighter future. What more could you ask for?

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Scene and Heard- CCCXX: Diamond Bullet – Pekkanini (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

21558777_10156694968844546_219451804973479229_nPekkanini is a man who seems to cover a lot of bases, musically speaking, from scores for theatre productions to electronic music and from full band live shows to solo albums. And sat at the heart of it is his beloved Theremin. I have written thousands of music reviews in my life but I don’t ever remember writing about someone devoted to this odd and slightly controversial instrument.

Diamond Bullet is a blending of many of the key sounds and influences that lie at the heart of Pekkanini’s music. It at once feels like a score to a Bond movie, a chilled out instrumental piece, futuristic-retro dance music and a strange collaborative musical-film narrative in its own right. It is piano infused and keyboard driven and the Theremin adds that strange alien allure which made it the go to instrument for 60’s sci-fi music in the first place. Diamond Bullet is strange, beguiling, past, present, future, film-noir and science fiction sound all in one take. I’m not even sure how you do that.

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Scene and Heard – CCCXIX : Trial & Error (ft. Nathaniel) – Gibrilville (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

32214762_1834791889912310_3842437696173637632_nTrial & Error sits at a fascinating crossroads being a track that tips its hat to the past whilst shaping the future and it does really feel like a first, a bold step forward. It goes beyond its run of the mill, mass produced rivals instead revelling in a post-urban style that pushes beyond the rules and regulations. It effortlessly ignores the fickle finger of fashion and has no time for musical guardians and narrow-minded pedants telling it what hip-hop, pop, rap, trap, electronic music or any other genre should be about.

It’s a confessional, of sorts, making no apologies but understanding that we are all people just trying to make ends meet, just getting by, just trying to survive and doing whatever that requires. It plays with R&B grooves, rap flow, trippy electronica, modern hip-hop make-overs and trappy percussion. In this post-genre, post-tribal musical world, this feels like the perfect way forward for urban music.

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