Well, I couldn’t let this pass by without having my say could I? Being a massive fan of The Lords of The New Church, the writers of the original version of this, it is always great to see such songs getting a second outing. Covering songs is a tricky business. You either try to stay faithful which begs the question why not just play the original or you bring something new and different to the song, which sort of implies that you think that you know better than the people who wrote it. The art, of course, is to find that sweet spot, that middle ground, the place where faith in the original and the chance to re-imagine the song can co-exist.
I first experienced Elea Calvet’s mercurial music in a small and intimate coffee shop setting more than a few years ago now. Since then I have caught full on, full band, musically sky scraping shows, similarly striped back affairs and everything in between. She has released music which has taken standard musical forms, rock, blues, alt-country but which is bent to her more experimental, more genre-hopping will. That’s the real charm of her music, you never quite know what you are going to get. But whatever physical form it takes, whatever generic references she works with it is always uniquely…. Calvet-esque and not many people get their own bolt on suffix so early on in their career.
I Am The Dark sits on the edge of a wonderful vanishing point, one where recognisable music forms are being sucked into a musical black hole. Pop, indie and rock strands are all enticed over the edge into this abyss but just before the colour and vibrancy are replaced by a stark grey musical nihilism, Petty weaves them into his dark design. The result is a track that links the post-punk experimentations prior to the gothic movement becoming a parody of itself with the blunt trauma that boomed at the heart of nu-metal, it summons the spirits of old blues shamans and looks to write the sound track of a dystopian future.
This time out Ignacio Peña pauses for breath somewhat with a song that mixes occasional soaring crescendos with more measured and lulling musical passages. She’s Bleeding, another song taken from the forthcoming Songs For the Fall of an Empire, is all about dynamics, about light and shade, power and pause, about understanding that if you start from a musical low point, with respect to impact and volume, when you do go for the big chord, the big hit, it is all the more effective for the distance covered.
As always Peña is dealing with bigger issues here. Where others are happy to write songs about relationship trouble, about temporary emotional issues and the pointless minutiae of everyday modern life, he prefers to tackle more complex themes such as the covert machinations happening out of sight of the person in the street but which are the real driving forces of the world around us. Heavy stuff? Certainly but his skill with a turn of phrase enables him to engage the subject poetically and with such deft and often graceful music as the delivery system for such a discussion, the song works on two levels. Engage with the song fully and you will find, as with all of the songs released from the album so far, something important, poignant and perfectly timed being discussed. Chose to listen from a distance and you still encounter a great alt-rock song, one built from clever dynamic and gloriously sweeping music.
It’s just one of those songs that seems to have really stood the test of time, at least in my house. New Miserable Experience, the album that this came from and the one that thrust them into the global spotlight was well named as during its recording founder member, songwriter and lead guitarist, Doug Hopkins, was forced from the band mainly due to record company pressure over his drinking issues.
Imagine seeing the band you formed and the songs you wrote going on to world-wide fame whilst you are given $15,000 to disappear. Hey, Jealousy was to be his finest three minutes before a sad decline that saw him take his life just a year later. Raising a glass to Doug!
Indie? Possibly not but their music is so weird, genre-hopping and changeable that I’m not really sure where it fits in so this is as good a place as any. Most of my postings in this category have been real blasts from the past so far but as these splendid people are currently on tour and they remind me at their most intense of things like The March Violets and James Ray’s Gangwar, that’s excuse enough to post them here.
Industrial strength synth exploring rock territory? A pop band armed with keyboards and a bag of amphetamine? A trio who don’t care about fad, fashion or where genres start or end? I suspect that they are all of the above.
Check out music and tour dates at – Siblings of Us
I have to admit that I was a real late-comer to Buffalo Tom. A whole bunch of friends of mine were big fans but there is only so much time and there are so many records that sometimes you miss out on bands that should be a real shoo-in for your record collection.
Anyway I made up for it later and this one song more than any of their brilliant canon of work is the one that always stands out in its majestic and melancholy glory.
Now I come to think about it I do remember having a cassette (remember those kids?) with the album that spawned it, Let Me Come Over, on one side and Dinosaur Jr.’s Where You Been on the other. Ha…funny how the mind can suddenly throw up long forgotten useless information like that.
Scientists have always predicted lots of cool technological advances, from jet packs to flying cars, from sentient artificial intelligence to time travel. And whilst we are still waiting for the first three of those to become the every day luxuries they promised, the last of that list has been available for a long time. You don’t believe me. Just go and look at your record collection! Every time you put a record on…yes, I still call them records, get over it…not only do those sounds remind you of the time and place where they were created, they can also act as backward glancing sign-posts or future musical predictions and they also probably remind you of that point in your life when you first encountered the music.
Strangely Alright are sonic time-travellers. They paint paisley patterned pictures that shimmer with the 60’s mercurial blend of darkness and innocence, they mesh psychedelia and pop melodies together, they run rock muscle through the most danceable of tunes, they are the perfect blend of past and present. Their reference points, early Floyd’s whimsey, The Kinks deftness, later Beatles experimentalism, Bolan-esque strut, perhaps King Crimson’s more groovesome output as well as later retro-revivalists such as Redd Kross and Jellyfish, might suggest that they spend their time glancing back to past glories. But as I have said before, they also sound like a band making music for today. Pastiche and comfort zones is not what is going on here and whilst you can probably make a fair guess at the contents of their record collections Stuff is every bit as adventurous as the music made by those they tip their hats to.
Whilst the band seem to either only put out the good stuff or just have an uncanny ability to write songs which feel like single material, The Information Game, for me at least, sits at the heart of the e.p., a brilliant blend of Aladdin Sane cool and modern alt-alt-alt rock (rock that is at least three steps removed from the posing indie kids with the their complicated hair and their skinny jeans). All the songs found here are robust enough to make their own way in the world on their own. Whatcha Gonna Do is a teasing taste of what we might have got if Marc hadn’t let Gloria drive the mini that fateful day, Building Bridges is totally infectious from the word go and the title track is the sound of the past and the future having a party in the present.
Strangely Alright doesn’t do things by halves and Stuff is as solid a collection of songs as you are going to hear any time soon, the fact that they are building, blending, inventing and destroying any number of genres along the way is just the icing on the cake. Okay, not time travel in the truest sense but it will do until actual time travel comes along.
Aah Belgium, the land of good beer, good chocolate, good football and, if Grand Blue Heron are anything to go by, pretty good rock music.
It’s no great secret that rock music is alive and well on the continent, it’s a thriving community and often feels like every suburban street or block of flats has a future rock star tucked away in a corner somewhere, busily learning guitar chords, listening to albums and planning world domination. Not sure if this is the reality but there are some good bands that don’t get the attention they deserve because the music isn’t ‘on trend’ or simply because the market is crowded by British and American examples.
Sounding like a 90’s indie band and giving a nod to 70’s punk comes Grand Blue Heron, a four piece from Belgium, who don’t care if you like what they do because they’re having such a good time doing it, you can either join the party or stay outside and wait for the next bus home. There is a level of control throughout the album that only really comes with experience and knowing your instrument inside out.
The overall sound is effect-heavy (only the drums sound organic) with guitar tones going from thick distortion to heavy sustain in seconds, but it works. Rock music has always been judged on its energy, it’s not like classical music where a musician will pour over notation, playing a piece of music repetitively until it becomes second nature, rock music is trial and error, attitude and ego, the four musicians on show here know their individual place and part of the puzzle.
The album starts with a strong rock song to set the tone and we’re taken through rock-blues, to straight up, smack-in-the-face rock to a mid-section of two songs that hint at a fondness for 80’s bands like Joy Division and then the whole package is finished off with a song entitled ‘Chlamydia’ (obviously not a first date song) which is simply punk.
If your tastes are a little heavier than most, but not as heavy as metal, you could do far worse than giving these fellas a few minutes of your time, who knows, you might even fancy cracking open a bottle of beer too.
Not that we condone that kind of thing here…
Anyone who is a fan of the garage, psychedelic, retro and freaky end of the rock oeuvre will be familiar with Lana Loveland. Being Organist with The Fuzztones as well as being a member of the Music Machine and fronting her own band Loveland has made her a household name, at least in the more discerning musical dwellings. After a brief hiatus…it’s a girl!…she is back with a vinyl single which goes by the name of Strange Charms.
And given her illustrious CV it is everything you would want it to be. It blends acid rock’s fuzzed out guitars with hazy psychedelic pop, 60’s underground vibes with a modern alt-rock zeitgeist, it not so much plunders the past for interesting sounds as re-packages them for a new audience. Web of Sound is even more mercurial sitting somewhere between a long lost Jefferson Airplane single and a Hammer House of Horror sound track and you never even see the join.
The art, of course, is to refuse to trade in past glories but to build those ideas into something new and for all its retro hat tipping, this release is perfectly timed. With pop music dead in the water and rock music too busy checking itself in the mirror people are increasingly looking back for less cynical, less industry driven music. What Lana Loveland offers is something that is both old and new, then and now. It’s time travel I tell you, sonic time travel…and Strange Charms is your ticket.
If classic rock was one of things that the punk manifesto stated should be destroyed, a generation later alternative rock in general and bands such as Viva Death in particular are where rock and punk co-exist in perfect harmony. Why wage war over your differences when you can celebrate the common ground? Illuminate is indeed that common ground. Initiated by Scott Shiflett and Trever Keith of Face to Face the band has evolved, expanded and taken breaks as other musical commitments have taken precedent and this latest album sees only Shiflett and producer Chad Blinman contributing the lions share to the project.
But the result is a solid and snarling beast of an album, the much needed shot in the arm that rock music has been waiting for for a long time now. It mixes hard rock with darker post-punk, takes the infectiousness of classic rock but tempers that with the more exploratory attitudes of the alternative scene, bares punk rock teeth and even wanders out into some more experimental and refreshing sonic pastures.
Sound The Alarm is a charging, incendiary track, one that gives the Foo’s a run for their money but at the other end of their musical machinations, Windows is a dark and pulsing, chilled and reflective creation. Illuminate is definitely a rock album but one that is pushing at the boundaries all of the time. Petitioning The Black Wall is an industrial masterclass, Storm a skittering and tension filled dance-rock ritual whilst Man in the Street is futuristic pop-rock, all strutting grooves and jagged edges.
Whilst their peers are happy enough to wrap themselves in the same The Colour and The Shape inspired creative comfort blanket that has been keeping them safe for two decades now, Viva Death are more than happy to mix and match their musical fashions choices and the result is an album which is at once familiar and comforting but also inspiring and adventurous.
It is fair to say that 34 years is rather a long time to wait for a new album and although the band underwent a period of rejuvenation in 2015 when they worked with vocalist Herra Ylppö to release a two-track e.p., this recent collaboration with Jyrki Linnankivi from The 69 Eyes was only ever intended to produce a couple of songs in English for fans beyond their Finnish borders. Still, as is often the way, one thing leads to another and the next thing you know you are clutching a full blown album of new material.
Musta Paraati are sonic brethren to the likes of Killing Joke or Theatre of Hate, skirting the cliche of goth with enough distance to put them in a more credible market. They build songs around the same sonic Strum and Drang as those dark post-punk bands, they wander between cavernous doom and chiming electronica and there is something of Carl McCoy in Linnankivi’s vocals, only with much better clarity and diction. But unlike McCoy’s Nephilim they stop short of the pretension that oozed from their pores. Like most bands who start in fairly niche genres you only survive by quickly broadening your horizons, The Clash had out grown punk by London’s Calling and more relevantly The Mission had shed the goth moniker by the time they had put Children to bed.
Black Parade is the sound of a band who know their audience but who don’t pander to its every whim, casting their net to a wider alternative rock potential crowd. The one older song here, Leader, proves that they already knew how to walk the fine line between the dark edge of underground New Romanticism and what would soon be termed alternative rock even as the NWOBHM championed the classic sound of the seventies.
The remaining ten tracks are all new. Chopsticks chimes with a wonderful space and accessibility, Radio is dense with heavy textures even as it references Bowies most soul -pop moments, Reaper is raw and jagged and Today is the perfect blend of dance groove and industrial edge. It’s easy to see where the bands blackened heart lies but the charm of the album is that this is the sound of the band writing the music that they might if they were starting out today. Whether you are a fan of the early albums or just someone looking for music that flies in the face of modern by-the-numbers alt-rock and identikit indie, this is an album that you are going to fall for immediately.
Throughout history, creative minds have always responded to injustice or outrage in their own way – Picasso’s 1937 painting Guernica immediately springs to mind – and music is a powerful platform to air one’s own feelings on certain subjects.
Music can be political but at the same time still needs to be heard, so getting the balance between getting the message heard and remaining entertaining is tricky but this tightrope is expertly handled with Vanessa Peters’ 11thstudio album. She tackles broad subjects like politics and growing violence but also brings the listener into her more private world, sharing her self-doubts and fears.
But don’t worry, this isn’t a tubthumping political ride, it’s a creative mind writing about the world around her.
Like most solid albums the songs grow and evolve the more you hear them, and the result is something very homely and comforting but something that also has the intelligence to keep you on your toes knowing that dark times are just around the corner.
Peters’ voice is surprising resilient, not the strongest, but it sits just as happily in the softer moments as well as the rockier songs and her delivery is honest and invites the listener to come along for the journey, it’s a voice that you want to listen to.
The album’s opener, ‘Get Started’ is a gentle kick in the pants and a call to arms, yes things aren’t always buttercups and crumpets but we have a hand in our own path so make a choice and stick to it, no matter what stands in the way. This positivity runs throughout the album, even when she is laying her fears bare on ‘Fight’, it is quickly followed by ‘Lucky’, another slice of positivity. ‘The Riddle’ sounds like the best Radiohead song that Radiohead didn’t write, it has the acoustic guitar, the dreamy melody and distorted effects that the Oxford band produced during the 90’s.
The title track acts as an intersection midway through the album, announcing a slight change to atmosphere and, interestingly, the album seems to get better as it goes along, three of the final four songs are wonderfully up-tempo and reinforce what a strong and varied songwriter Peters is. ‘Carnival Barker’ is an almost humorous metaphor for the current American president and the sideshow that surrounds him (reminding me a little of the Talking Head track ‘Democratic Circus) and ‘Trolls’ rattles along before a return to more familiar ground in the albums closer, ‘What You Can’t Outrun’.
In this world of commentators, bloggers, vloggers and whoever else people listen to now it’s clear that songwriters are still powerful voices and I’m yet to think of a reason not to listen to this one.
Why alt-rock you ask? Well, we don’t cover much of the classic stuff, feet on monitors and patched denim jackets don’t feature highly on this site but some of the more alternative strands and more underground bands are worth looking back at and remembering why we fell in love with them in the first place.
There is also the issue of where does alt-rock end and indie begin but we won’t bother ourselves with such arguments, instead Tuesdays will just be a celebration of the punchier bands who seem to reflect the vibe that this site is built on. And with celebration in mind….
How does an artist produce music that is simultaneously hooky and accessible yet threaded through with experimental attitudes and underground sonic choices that it simultaneously sounds like the easiest shoo-in for chart success and the darling of the more discerning underground set? You’ll have to ask K Michelle DuBois because Harness is exactly that, a record that blends easy pop charm with outsider cool and does so effortlessly.
Sift back through her previous two albums and you realise that this is an artist who has the pop-rock groove nailed and it is this third outing that sees her spreading her wings and exploring where that might go next. The other way around, a cult musician trying to find a commercial way in might seem like a cynical move but an artist exploring what lies beyond her existing sound is the most natural move in the world and that is what Harness represents. Indie power-pop goes art-rock? Why not?
Recent single Wild Weed is a brilliant place to start exploring her current sound, inspiring references such as Belly, Liz Phair and the ubiquitous PJ Harvey handle which is perfect as all three of those have built careers making music that swerved fashion and defied expectation. But it is one of those rare albums where almost all of the songs could be sent out into the world as beguiling singles in their own right. Heart Like a Yardstick is a robust and occasionally squalling slice of melodic rock, Becoming Real shows what pop-punk could be if it stopped making knob-gags and decided to grow up and City Lights is what Mark Bolan may have sounded like if he was launching his career today.
And just when you think you have everything neatly worked out Margot on the Ocean shows you just how far DuBois is willing to push her own, already well flexed, musical boundaries with an intense piece of chiming electro-dreamscaping. I may be late to the party but Harness is an album that is going to be on constant rotation for a while to come and K Michelle DuBois is an artist that I will be watching with great interest.
After a few months of anticipation, London post-rockers The Lazlo Device have finally released their second album, You Stumble, I Fall. 12 tracks of sonic soundscaping and solid song-building that that digs deep into the realm of experimental rock, dipping into other styles like desert rock, indie-rock inflected dance and even reggae, whilst remaining at all times distinctly their own beast entirely.
“We think it’s the best thing we’ve done,” said lead singer and bass guitarist Dan Murdoch. “Where Duelism was a smorgasbord of years of ideas; this album feels coherent, something closer to where we ended up.It’s a fair approximation of late-Lazlo,” he added.
Three singles from the album have already made their mark; there’s the soaring yet earthy desert noir cocktail of the title track – “written after a sitar lesson in Udaipur,” explained guitarist Ross Saunders; the math-rock-flavoured, dancefloor-ready cohesion of ‘Known to You’; and the bouncy ‘Beetle’ with its infectious swing and aftershow glow. It showcases the playful versatility of Lazlo Device – their ability to create songs that flip between genres but that still encapsulate their signature sound: warm, heavy, and live.
However, the band’s second album will also be their last. You Stumble, I Fall is at once the height of Lazlo, but simultaneously their swansong.
“This has been a lovely ride,” wrote Dan Murdoch in a Facebook status, “but it feels like we’ve run out of road. No one really wanted to say it. No one wanted to put a seal on it. At least not until the album was out. And now it is.”
Beauty in Chaos is a strange and intriguing prospect and like anything deserving of such a description is hard to easily pin down. Too fleeting to be a supergroup, more organic than merely a curated project, too original and forward thinking to be merely a rose-spectacled look at the past…it skips fleetingly past all those ideas, echoing all but committing to none. Personally it feels as if someone has snuck in to my house, rummaged through my vinyl collection to see what I like and brought a large selection of those bands and artists together to make an album just for me. They even put everything back in the right place afterwards.
At the heart of this exquisite album is guitarist and keyboardist Michael Ciravolo who managed to gather together an impressive roster of guest artists to appear as co-writers, performers and often both. The result is an album rooted in Ciravolo’s textured creations and then flavoured by the artists he brings to teach song, thus creating new music that sounds like long forgotten favourites, songs echoing signature sounds whilst wandering new paths and new potential. And whilst the list of the great and good who feature here dictate that there is an obvious, ready made market, it has to be stressed that Finding Beauty in Chaos rings with as much originality as those artists did in the first place.
But you can’t ignore the appeal of the album to existing post-punks, goths and alt-rockers, just look at the bands that this connects with, The Mission, The Cure, King’s X, Gene Loves Jezebel, even Ministry and Cheap Trick plus many more. The overall sound tends to revel in cinematic soundscaping, lush textures and brooding sonics but often these are shot through with jagged sonics and raw, razor wire guitars. There are occasional meanders into more extreme territory such as Al Jourgensen giving 20th Century Boy an industrial make-over on the album’s only cover but more representative is the Wayne Hussey and Simon Gallup performance on Man of Faith or Evi Vine’s hushed vocals on the ethereal I Will Follow.
With so many combinations and shifting personnel, it is an album that delivers much, the perfect combination of the right amount of musical cohesiveness and enough room to let the individual musical personalities take centre stage. It would be easy to make such an album feel like a flash back to the past, instead Beauty in Chaos is a glimpse of a future that never was and for those tantalising dreams, I give my thanks.
The Same Replies was my first venture into the musical world of Ignacio Peña, a song which opened his latest album, Songs For The Fall of an Empire, via swathes of neo-classical vocals and ancient grandeur before getting down to alt-rock business. It introduced me to his wonderful brand of music, music which blends the keen lyrical poignancy and musical deftness that you normally associate with the more progressive wing of the rock fraternity with a musical directness which swerves the usual bombast and flamboyancy which comes as part of that package. Sound The Alarm takes an even more direct line, this time looking at the sources of world power and delivering its findings in a punchy, dynamic and deft rock statement.
Rock often gets a bad name for being dumb, cliched or overly theatrical. Peña makes music which comes through like a breath of fresh air, not holding back on the necessary grunt and grind of the genres core but also coming armed with that rarest of bonuses of actually having something to say. Whilst his peers are painting pre-pubescent images of cars and girls, of being tougher or richer or musically heavier than the next black clad dinosaur, this is rock music going down a smarter path. Songs For The Fall of an Empire is an exploration of the intricacies of the modern age; who holds the power, where does the money trail go, who is the real power behind the throne, who’s pulling who’s strings?
Sound The Alarm comes with a video which matches the music, slick images of London’s power players, names and places and more esoteric suggestions blended into the live performance, neatly capturing the energy and power of the music and the depth and fascination of the message at its heart. Okay rock music, you have had your kicks, time to grow up and get real and earn your keep. With Sound The Alarm and the album which spawned it, you are having the door kicked open for you, a door that leads to a new chapter of intelligent rock and roll, all you have to do is go in!
It would be very easy to label Superseed as a 90’s grunge inspired outfit, but that would be lazy on my part, in the same way that not every modish indie band should be written up and written off as trying to be Oasis or every acoustic solo player wants to be Bob Dylan. Yes, you can make a few fairly educated guesses as to what will be in their collective record collections but there is so much more going on here and it is the peripheral details and odd meanderings away from that core sound that set these guys apart from their Pearl Jam worshipping, Nirvana deifying rivals.
Take a song like Messenger, Sabbath-esque lead vocals, gang harmonies, intense garage rock salvos and razor wire riffs…not a pair of long shorts or a plaid shirt in sight. But I will admit that the album does share a love of the core sonic vibe, one that conjures violence and speed, muscularity and melody, that coloured the Pacific North West’s most infamous scene, but thankfully it is an album that is happy to take a sonic road trip through any number of other points of rock history.
The Face That Followed You Back Home is a classic rock stomp updated for a new audience but not at the expense of the old school patched denim brigade’s love and No One’s Getting Out of Here Alive mixes modern rock muscle with sixties psychedelic pop vibrancy. Grungeadelia anyone? I didn’t see that coming but I’m so glad it did. Heavy Times is a wonderful funky blues beast, all strange staccato dynamics and sky-scrapping vocals and Static is just a timeless slice of intricate yet infectious rock.
It’s a cracker of an album, one that tips its hat to so many great eras and scenes, yet which lingers only long enough to take what it needs rather than getting wrapped up in nostalgia and pastiche. The result is an album which is very much of the here and now but which is happy to show the road it travelled to get here.
Emily Breeze always seemed to walk in a different world. Listen to Limousines and you can hear the lush decadence, the mix of sleaze and sophistication, the nocturnal cloak she wears, the vintage and the totally modern embracing, all of this liquifying and dripping through your speakers. It’s what she does…it’s who she is. As the focal point of Bristol’s dark post-punkers Candy Darling she suggested a world of faded screen icons, of the profound and the profane, of the dark underbelly of the glitz and glamour, now she seems to inhabit that world herself.
Limousines is a slow, brooding ballad, one where the beats do no more than give the song body and the music is happy to frame her beguiling tones as she spits sarcasm and world weary belligerence, jaded nostalgia and acerbic flippancy. The result is an instantly memorable slice of alt-rock melodrama, one that already feels like a late night, drunken go to, from the depths of your own record collection.
Add to that a haunting, warped and resonant reworking of Buddy Holly’s Raining in My Heart, a rendition which if you ignore the rigidity of time and space makes you question if this isn’t in fact the original which the bespectacled Texan decided to jolly up and miss the point, and you have the perfect calling card for the forth coming full album Rituals. On the basis of these two tracks all I can say is just take my money now, I’m already sold on it.
London based alternative/indie rock trio Desert Mountain Tribe released their second album, ‘Om Parvat Mystery’, in June.
Co-produced by the band with James Aparicio, it was recorded in London and the Faroe Islands.
The band play a handful of UK shows in September as they continue to promote the new album, prior to heading off to mainland Europe where they will spend much of October on tour.
07.09.18 LONDON Thousand Island (Garage) bit.ly/2wJ0H81
08.09.18 LEEDS Belgrave Music Hall bit.ly/2oDjr4v
14.09.18 LEICESTER The Cookie bit.ly/2MN2OSf
21.09.18 NOTTINGHAM The Chapel bit.ly/2Q0kIzb
22.09.18 MANCHESTER Eagle Inn bit.ly/2wI1mpl
Angels Die Hard are like nothing you have experienced before. They are a band who challenge the norms, who find joy in exploring new territory, both musically and geographically, whose every move seems based more around whether it will result in an interesting anecdote than any other outcome. Even their press release reads like a rough draught for a new episode of Michael Palin’s Ripping Yarns. I mean who even goes looking for musical inspiration amongst the ancient culture of the Andaman Islands?
But the proof, as they say, is in the pudding and if the video of Tears of The Cobra is anything to go by, maybe it is an approach that more bands should take. The resulting track is a beguiling instrumental which wanters through psychedelic landscapes, strange proggy dynamics, asian tribal beats and shimmering shoegazery and guitars that saunter between chiming riffs and industrial buzz-cut intensity.
Many bands try to be different, to push boundaries, to force people to comment, to create a reaction. Many who do so call themselves eccentric. But eccentricity has to be uncalculated, spontaneous and honest and Angels Die Hard sound as if this is music that pours naturally from them making them truly eccentric and in the best possible of ways.
And Sundowner, the album from which this fine track is taken, is a wonderfully strange and strangely wonderful collection of musical ideas, capturing the contrast of their journey from the ancient civilisations and fragile environment that is slipping away before our eyes to the more crass and commercial sights and experiences of the tourist trail. Occident meets Orient in the most fascinating of ways. It’s a strange album, a beguiling album, a challenging album, one with something to say, even if it does it through mood and music rather than any more direct communication or lyrical form. It is melancholic, groovy, cool and creative. One day all albums will be required to conform to such creative standards. Until then you have these splendid fellows.
I have to confess that as this song kicked in I thought, here we go again, the same angsty, emo anthem, the same blend of existential imagery and the idea that nobody really understands the pain of having your mom constantly telling you to tidy your room or asking you to put the trash out. Evanescence have a lot to answer for! And then, at just over a minute in, something changed. The chorus kicks in, the song breaks wide open, crescendos soar into the sky and the whole thing makes you think…hmmm…actually this is pretty good.
The second play already has you anticipating this dynamic change, the third you are singing along, by the fourth the song feels like an old friend and after that it feels like a long lost 90’s alt-rock classic. Maybe some songs take longer to get your head around, but then they are the ones that are most rewarding.
Okay, I might not be the target audience any more but anything that reminds me of moshing about in an alternative night club at two in the morning somewhere in the early nineties ticks enough boxes for me and I’m sure that it will find a whole young audience out there who are still setting about making their own nostalgic musical memories. I had Monster Magnet for company, you’ve got Warm Cloud Music. Have fun kids and enjoy your music irresponsibly!
It is perhaps easier to understand Starship with a bit of context thrown in for good measure, not that information about the band seems easy to come by on the supermation info-highway that has become the way we view the world these days. Search any of the titular components and you end up with results varying from Grace Slick’s dodgy later chapter of musical excess to how loud should you play your music if you don’t want to annoy the neighbours…which may be more useful. People In The Walls seem to have the sort of on-line anonymity reserved only for winners of The Voice, you have to love them for that.
The context here is the album that this mercurial track is found on. What Noise Do They Make is a collection of warped mash ups, instrumental work outs where genres are a dirty word and musical traditions irrelevant. Rock and experimental dance, post-punk weirdness and forward thinking futurism, dark and heavy psychedelic grooves and warped pop melodics all swirl around either working in harmony or fighting for control.
In this sonic maelstrom you find the track Starship which kicks off like an early Yes album but soon finds its way into something more akin to a Hawkwind inspired nervous breakdown. You can throw in the likes of Camel in their most intense and even Gong when they weren’t being quite so silly but the fact that the references are so aged and so far out musically speaking shows that People In The Walls have little comparison in history and certainly have no obvious competitors in this day and age.
Starship is dark and intense, pounding about on vicious bass lines and tribal-industrial back beats which are then covered in growling synth washes and angelic sonic finger prints. What does it all mean? I really don’t know and I’m the one trying to capture it all in word form. Maybe some music is just too slippery, to original, too clever to be written about. Indeed you could expend reams of paper and hours of inspired scribbling and still only capture half of what is happening here.
Maybe it is best that you accept it when I tell you that this is like nothing that you have heard before and that you need to not only hear this track but do so in the context of the full album. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, it’ll change you life…or something.
Music, rock music in particular, often gets a bit bogged down with genres, sub-genres, divisions and demarcations. So fixated with post-this and alt-that, this-core and meaningless pigeon-holes with one or less bands residing within them that it has taken its eye off of the ball. Its even simpler than classic verses alt -rock…sometimes its just comes down to making good rock and roll music. Period. Take The Black make good rock and roll music, hey, make that great rock and roll music. Period!
In the same way that bands such as Gaslight Anthem channel previous east coast musical highlights, Out For Blood is the sound of any number of pop-punk and low slung guitar bands, garage rockers and stadium ready outfits being referenced to create something that is fresh and fun for a new generation but which tips its hat to the past too. It isn’t plagiarism or pastiche, it is just the way of the world. Rock and roll is mainly about evolution rather than revolution…sorry, but it is true, and Out For Blood is the sound of the genre evolving.
Guitars are big, riffs just intricate enough to add enough interesting colour to the proceedings, it swaggers, grooves and pulses, bass and backbeats add muscle but the use of musical texture and dynamic keep things from being predictable. Add some good old anthemic shout alongs and you have the best of both worlds. Old school rockers will love the familiarity, today’s discerning fans will find something cool and forward thinking and the party pack down the front will just be moshing around throwing beer all over themselves. Everyones a winner!
Love Ghost have always been good at raising concerns from the younger perspective without sounding like whining teenagers. After years of pre-pubescent pop-punkers moaning because they had to tidy their room and the chart filled with generation X-box artists making musical mountains out of the molehills of their everyday lives, from getting dumped to the hardships of loosing your phone, at least bands like Love Ghost actually have something to say. Here they present a scenario that discusses the issue of bullying and perception, of acceptance and understanding rather than judging people on first impressions.
As videos go it is compelling and strange, coming off almost like the sort of thing Peter Gabriel was toying with in the early days of music video but taking an altogether darker tack. It takes you a few runs through to truly get the plot line but like most art the fun is in the journey to understanding it rather than just having all of the answers presented to you on a plate. Musically it is the band doing what they do so well, blending swathes of cavernous guitars with space and atmosphere, switching between intricacy and power, using delicate riffs to hold back tense and terse sonic tsunamis before unleashing them to maximum effect.
Here’s something for you to ponder. Imagine if Mudhoney had paid their dues in the industrial wastelands of Birmingham, England in the late sixties. Or conversely Black Sabbath had invented grunge whilst touring around the American North-West. You can’t imagine either of those scenarios? Well, take a listen to Parasitical Identity and you get a sonic glimpse of what either of those alternative scenarios might have resulted in. It’s a song that blends the slow, doom laden riffs of the originators of heavy metal with the uncompromising, raw edged onslaught that those stalwarts of grunge were known for.
And because of these conflicting and disparate sounds that seem to entwine at the heart of their music they are a difficult band to place both in time and also geographically speaking. The best you can say is that they probably exist somewhere in the western world sometime from the seventies onwards. That’s actually a great quality to have. Why would you want to be identifiable as this genre or that style when you can be a mercurial, hard-hitting and highly unique blend of references?
And at the risk of making Mya Greene the centre of attention againafter taking about her sonic contribution so much last time I wrote about the band…why no viola?
Hexit is an album, and indeed a band, that you arrive at from different directions depending on which musical thread you pull at. The thread that drew me in was a Jim Johnston shaped one but the musical gathering that makes up Hexit is of such a calibre that this album is likely to draw the musically inquisitive in from many different corners. The musical roots of the players found here run deep. In a past and more hyperbolic era, Hexit would probably be referred to as a super-group for dramatic and journalistic purposes at least, but with its ranks made up of people from Hi Fiction Science, The Dead Astronaut, Pigbag and Red Snapper as well as the aforementioned Monk & Canatella man, there are, I guess, less appropriate monikers to use.
And given the interesting history of this musical gang, it is obvious that you are not in for a bunch of three-minute pop songs or narrow genre workouts. No, this is much more interesting…challenging even, taking in warped jazz meanderings, post-rock and proggy structures at its most cerebral and no-wave workouts, experimental kosmiche and post-punk muscle at its most cultish. It walks a fine line between forward planning and improvisation and gives you the feeling that whilst this is the album that they recorded on the day, the following day would have delivered something different and the exact nature and content of any live show that may follow is anyone’s guess.
Hexit is too clever to be merely rock music but stays the right side of art-rock to avoid accusations of pretentiousness and is too together to be free jazz, more of a near-jazz experience. Too original to be just another post-punk referencing bunch of nostalgists, this really is forward-thinking, more interested in where it goes next rather than where it comes from. Dark Sun is a bruised and brooding piece of dystopian jazz-rock, McSly is a tense and terse slice of industrial pop (I’m just making genres up now, you might as well as none of the off the shelf ones work for this album) and Damballa is a uptown cocktail club groover from a band who recently headlined two nights at the Mos Eisley Spaceport Cantina. If Clap in Hand was an actual song before it was a punning title, I’ll eat my hat.
Many won’t get this album, some just won’t like it…people don’t like to be challenged these days, being truly original is seen as a suspicious act and not sounding like Oasis has just been declared a hate crime by the politically correct little darlings. But if you are the sort of person who’s idea of looking for the next new music to fall in love with is exploring the basement bars of late night Antwerp’s underground scene, then you are going to find a lot to like here.
I’m going to come straight out and say it, I’m a sucker for violins in rock music. There is something about the way it sweeps and washes when most other musical weapons of choice in the rock band arsenal, crunch and chop, beat and pulse. It is sultry and classy at the same time. If the saxophone is the instrument that adds the sex appeal to jazz and blues, it is the violin that adds that same sensual quality to rock music. In a toss up between gratuitous sax or sensual violins, I’ll take the latter every time.
It has been used to great effect in the past but not as often as I would have liked. Obvious examples are the windswept beauty of classic era New Model Army and on a personal level few did it better than SkyBurnsRed, a band who sadly made it on to too few people’s radars. But Love Ghost also seem more than aware of this potential and so I already have one foot in the door when it comes to their music.
Nowhere is a song of contrasts, the aforementioned strings coil around jagged guitar riffs, grunged out white noise and tumultuous back beats, sadly it is used only to add sweeping minor detail and often gets lost in the musical maelstrom but I am happy to put that down to production as the bass is also often missing in action. I guess they need to think of the violin less as a creator of musical motifs and instead a lead instrument. But that’s cool, they are young, they have nothing but time. The song is also a contrast on an existential level, an anthem to being lost in a big world, of wanting everything and of not knowing where to start, of waiting for life to begin in earnest and of not knowing how to usher it in.
The word I keep coming back to here is potential. Not being patronising, nope, not for one moment, on the strength of this one track I would say that they are already far ahead of the pack in most ways, not just for their age but in the grand scheme of things. They understand that you can’t keep churning out the same sounds and present the same limited ideas and imagery like a bunch of classic rock goons, but that things have to move on. And whilst their sound is a love letter to 90’s alternative rock and grunge it also addresses the notion of where rock goes next. And where it goes sounds like a place I want to follow.
They already understand dynamics and the emotive quality of certain sounds, that power and impact doesn’t just come from volume and intensity but from contrast and atmosphere. Of course like any rock band it is about putting the hours in, relentless touring and with hard work, skill and a fair wind they will write that one song that they need to get noticed. And believe me when that happens it could blow up big. Very big. And I, for one, can’t wait to see it happen.
Some music is purposefully very general, aiming for mass markets and trying its damnedest to appeal to the widest demographic possible. Other music speaks more specifically, of where it comes from, reflects the people and places which birthed it and has a more heightened appeal to a small but more fanatical audience. Even if you weren’t aware of the Cornish heart that beats within the band, musically you would probably come to the conclusion that The Saving of Cadan is born out of an ancient and dramatic landscape, certainly somewhere loosely within the Celtic fringes.
Which brings us to the next obstacle. See the word Celtic and many people will immediately conjure sonic images of sweeping folk music and Clannad-esque cliches and whilst there are some deft and delicate passages within the music, these are topped and tailed by everything from psychedelia, freak-rock, world music, even hip-hop and trippy electronica. But like folk music, this is story telling writ large, with a central narrative straight out of folklore connecting the various songs.
And it is a mammoth project, even on CD the 21 tracks required two discs, pick it up on vinyl and you get five sides of music! But because of that it has plenty of room to explore, not just the story, which is told in both English and Cornish, though just as often reduced to emotive voice as instrument soundscapes, and most certainly musically.
Arloedhes An Lydn is a slow burning piece that evolves from strange alt-folk to feedback drenched rock to saxophone driven crescendos and finally grunge intensity and if they can do that on one track, imagine the dynamics they are able to employ over the albums entirety. Song of The Lady is early rock and roll colliding with a musical theatre rant, Tonight is a wonderful lucid dream and Worlds Apart a crazed garage rock groover. I could go on…I won’t, there is nothing to be gained by me trying to describe the scope and imagination of this album any further. Best you just go and buy the record and if I haven’t wetted your appetite by now to the idea that something awesomely unique or perhaps uniquely awesome takes place between this album’s covers then I fear that we can no longer be friends.
After a run of festival dates in the UK and Europe this summer including a mainstage appearance at Kendal Calling, Saint Agnes release live favourite ‘Diablo, Take Me Home’. Onstage they declare “We are Saint Agnes. We are a rock band.” and in doing so are re-claiming the word ‘rock’ and redefining it for the 21st century. They are the leather jacket wearing, chain smoking, hard rocking siblings to bands like Starcrawler and Black Honey, seemingly raised on a diet of fuzz guitar riffs and hopeless tales of murder. A chemistry reminiscent of The Kills sets them apart with sparks flying between frontwoman Kitty Arabella Austen and co-lead Jon James Tufnell as they trade riffs and vocals with an intense fury highlighted by the raw, analogue production.
Among their consistent releases the band have been relentlessly touring in the UK and across Europe, spending weeks at a time fearlessly preaching their rock n’ roll gospel and converting all who see them to their own Coven. Kitty’s fearless live performances set a new standard for what it is to be a woman in a rock band in 2018.
New single ‘Diablo, Take Me Home’, the band tell us, “is about the conscious decision to escape. Our generation have a (legitimate) sense of hopelessness about the future. The main lyric is a metaphor for giving yourself over to your immediate desires, letting the devil on your shoulder guide you and throwing yourself into the hands of fate. Fuck tomorrow, give me more of today. This song is a battlecry for a screwed generation. We recorded live in a room to 2” tape, no computers, no messing around”