Outsiders – The Senton Bombs (reviewed by T. Bebedor)

Blackpool is famous for it’s Tower Ballroom, it’s illuminations and seaside rock, and boy do these lads from Blackpool know how to rock!

If you like your music to have prominent drums, distortion-heavy guitar, chugging bass and a singer giving it some welly, then read on, The Senton Bombs tick all those boxes. Add to that some very good songs and you’ve got a very brief idea of what expect from this band.

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Leave A Pretty Corpse –  James Dean Death Machine (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

I’m always going to be attracted to artists with such cool and controversial names, after all it shows that they think outside the box, avoid niceties and are not afraid to ruffle a few feathers along the way. And if they are prepared to do that even before they have played a note, it means that the music is probably going to follow similar lines. JDDM is an east coast singer-songwriter with a fleshed-out, full band sound and Leave A Pretty Corpse is a great album of raw rock songs often taking an outsider or antagonistic stance. Why not, that’s rock and roll’s job after all.

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Taking Over –  Sunday Brave (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Take a simple and groovesome riff, underpin it with a confident, direct beat and a bass line that is content to drive rather than deviate into showboatery. Throw in a guitar solo that serves the song rather than the ego and top it all off with a vocal that is warm and evocative. Seems simple? Well, here comes the clever bit. You then take the sonic scissors and edit things down so that there are gaps between the beats, long pauses between the vocal lines and spaces between the instrumentation. It is these spaces that allow atmospherics to hang, anticipation to linger, for groove to build, for the song to stand out from the background.

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Antichrist – B FREED (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

It’s nice to be nice. It’s good to turn the other cheek. There is a lot to be said for dwelling on the positive rather than the negative. Sometimes though, you just have to get things off of your chest and say how you really feel. This is one of those times. Without naming names, it is fairly obvious what type of person this is aimed at and after all there is no need to be specific as there seems to be an endless revolving door of macho, alpha-male, would-be despots espousing greed and division, fear and hate to further their own ends, both political and personal.

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‘Springsteen On Broadway’ soundtrack album out 14th December

Columbia Records will release the ‘Springsteen On Broadway’ soundtrack album on 14th December, featuring the songs and stories from Tony Award winner Bruce Springsteen’s historic 236-show run at Jujamcyn’s Walter Kerr Theatre. Consisting of the complete audio from the upcoming ‘Springsteen On Broadway’ Netflix release, the soundtrack album will be available on 4 LPs or 2 CDs as well as a digital download and on streaming services.

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Fucked Up Inside –  Spiritualized (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Even before they had made a single noise, Spiritualized‘s moves were being closely watched by discerning music fans and press alike by virtue of front man Jason Pierce and his previous musical vehicle Spacemen 3. And whilst their droning, pedal heavy, shoegazing and tremolo driven sound would warp and shift to absorb many genres, particularly, gospel and blues, and reference the Phil Spectre “wall of sound” approach, Fucked Up Inside is where it all began.

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El Camino  –  Stone Padre (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

When you first hear the riff and the vocal theatrics that lead into Wake Up and Dance, you can be sure of a few things. This is an American band, this is a band who aren’t afraid to write big, anthemic songs and this is an album that could go one of two ways. Either it ends up in an ego-massaging display of show-boating, more style than substance or it could end up going down a more accessible route. It all really depends on if they have the songs to back up their obvious technical skills. Even by the end of that first song you find yourself relaxing in the knowledge that they definitely have the songs.

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Dio-Genetic  – Devarien (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Wandering between modern post-hardcore intensity and occasionally more considered nu-metal inspired grooves, Dio-Genetic is a four song collection from Devarien an Alaskan based artist who creates his sound by bringing much more than just the usual rock and metal threads into his work. He also shoots those intriguing sounds through with lyrics that have something to say, reflecting the bigger issues that our world faces, kicking right off with the religious measuring contest that the politics of religion has become in the modern age. My God also shows his penchant for neat samples as well as bass lines that tip their hats to bands such as Faith No More and their funky metal grooves.

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It Isn’t Love Until It Hurts –  Anne Deming (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Blues has always been a good vehicle for delivering a message of pain and heartache. It’s also been a good vehicle for spawning new ways of doing things, it being the birth place of so many subsequent genres  – rock ’n’ roll, rock, punk and everything that followed are all based on its methods. Armed with these two factors Anne Deming builds a warped blues song that stomps confidently and regretfully to its bitter conclusion like a woman scorned.

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Baby Let Me Go – Smoking Martha (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Well, that’s a side of Smoking Martha that we don’t get to hear too often. Their normal go to sonic weapons are low slung guitars firing off salvos of jagged riffs, big beats and pulsing bass lines, fist in the air stadium anthems topped off with in-your-face vocal attacks. But everyone needs a break now and again, a chance to show a different side to their character, some time to express themselves in a more thoughtful and considered way. Baby Let Me Go is all of those things and more.

They take a simple acoustic guitar driven platform and instead of layering things up with bold and bombastic musical textures, they do little more than swathe it in delicate strings – cascades of violins and brooding cellos – and this is the perfect way to deliver such a heartfelt song. Vocalist Tasha D explains that the subject matter is very personal, a “way  of  dealing  with  death  and  finally  letting  go,” and allowing the emotion and reflection in her voice to sit centre stage with little to get in the way seems to make the song as powerful as any of their more “foot on the monitor” outings.

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Last Chance Riders – Downright Disgusted (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Man, that riff! You can’t beat a low-slung, scattergun blast of straight and honest garage rock of the sort that might have lured you into a club on the Lower East Side sometime around ’78. It growls, it grooves and it echos with the ghosts of the greats of blues, rock’n’roll and punk. The advantage that Last Chance Riders has is that they have the benefit of modern production allowing them to stand with one foot in both worlds, that of the “let’s just do” and the “let’s make this sound great” simultaneously.

And great it is, both polished and impactful but also honest and attitude driven. Throw in Jessie Albright’s vocals that run from world weary to anthemic as the song requires and a band who know that its all about getting the basics right rather than covering things in studio glitter and you have a song that both makes us shed a tear for the likes of Johnny Thunders and begs the question that perhaps the time is right play that scene all over again.

Scene and Heard – CCCLX: Fall Apart  – Ignacio Pena (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

fallapartfront2.jpgWhen ever I come across an artist whose music appears to drive a lyrical content about revealing truths and endeavouring to explain to people just why the world is the way it is, I always brace myself. More often than not it is little more than a string of hippy nonsense and conspiracy theory about alien bases on the dark side of the moon and secretive powers behind the throne. But what is so refreshing about Fall Apart in particular and Ignacio Pena’s work in general is that he isn’t trying to tell us about hidden figures who have been pulling the strings of puppet players throughout history, he is telling us about the ones that have always and continue to do so in plain view. Why look for conspiracy theories and furtive cult groups when the history books will show you that far from being alien interlopers and secret sects, they have just been businessmen and investors, and more than anything it is they who have shaped the modern world.

The East India Company might be an odd thing to want to write a song about but I say why not? Better a history lesson and content that might spark an interest in something tangible than another pop song about how your girlfriend dumped you over instagram..or whatever. As part of the album Songs for the Fall of an Empire, Fall Apart and particularly the informative video charts the rise and fall of The Company and shows that it is the blueprint for modern corporate politics.

Musically it is the usual deft blend of accessible rock, the perfect mix of muscle and melody, and a more progressive vibe, partly due to the subject matter, partly due to the clever dynamic that the song uses. If you think that rock music is all about girls and cars, then you need Ignacio’s music in your life, rock music it may be but it is rock music concerned with things that actually matter.

 

Illuminate –  Viva Death (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

093575If 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. 

Transportation –  Bob Gaulke (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

51IbtfW1QML._SS500Is there such a thing as holistic music? Is all music holistic? Is it something that the creator decides or is it up to the listener to designate it as such? Is it just another meaningless journalistic handle used by broken down scribblers looking for a neat way to get into a review? Okay, I’m going to take a stand and say that Bob Gaulke makes holistic music and Transportation is the perfect calling card for this probably made up genre.

Musically it wanders from understated rock to jazz infusions, soulful grooves to slick R&B, it mixes heart with humour, the profound with the profane, the dark with the light and there is hardly a subject that it doesn’t explore from Turkmenistan porn to the finer points of grammar, from creative angst to marxist revenge scenarios. Holistic enough for you?

The ever changing nature of the record is pushed even further with a couple of female guest vocal turns from Peri Mason and Vivian Benford on Another Rat and Rich respectively which add a element of uptown jazz bar sophistication to the proceedings. Irony is bluesy and breezy, On Foot seems to echo the dark urban vibes of Lou Reed and album opener Bad Writer is a textured and layered personal take on the very art of creativity.

It’s a great album, one with the ability to switch and change, to be musically fluid but which never leaves the listener behind. Some artists like to show how clever they are by confusing the audience and demanding that they play catch up as the music subverts expectation and heads down unexpected pathways just for the hell of it. Some artists just write great songs and leave it at that. Bob Gaulke is definitely the latter.

Slept on the Sofa – Camens (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

58d69a0c60f26b637e07a38e1e2d80c2It’s nice to come across a band who actually live in the real world for a change. Too many artists are all about self-mythologising, creating their own celebrity, talking about their own aggrandised and shallow jet set life styles. Thankfully Camens live in the same world as you and I. They party on the beach with their friends, they blow off steam playing video games and they are not afraid to look at failing relationships and dreams of running off to the sun.

Slept on The Sofa, like most of their music, is honest but even when dealing with the grim realities of life, it is also euphoric. They know how to write big songs with even bigger choruses that somehow meld fist in the air festival antics with “we’ve all been there mate” moments. It’s also very British, that kitchen-sink drama approach that we do so well, after all more people can relate to an uncomfortable night sleeping in the front room than the glitz and glamour of the celebrity world.

When 90’s pioneers melded 60’s rock with 80’s indie and created Brit-pop, no one realised that we would have to wait until 2018 before someone actually got the blend right. Now all we need is a new name for it….

Sound The Alarm –  Ignacio Peña (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

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!

Unknown Sin (Stormy Daniels) The Owl-Eyes (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

owl eyes 4-04.jpgI Could Careless was a great low-slung rocker of a song but for me this is the more interesting of The Owl-Eyes output to have crossed my path. This time out the riffs are slinkier, the groove more sultry, swaggering and confident, the whole thing slightly more spacious which somehow makes the component parts that much more effective, more powerful, in the same way that you need plenty of room to effectively swing a hammer I guess.

And again our man Ethan Teel has a point to make. Whilst most people working in the same rock oeuvre are happy to self-aggrandise, to brag about their life, to focus on the irrelevant trappings of the world around us, vacuous and serving only their own ego, Teel would rather comment on society, talk politics with a small p and Unknown Sin and its obvious references point is a perfectly times, perfectly delivered rock song for the moment.

Little Boat – Ajay Mathur (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

416731There are a few odd and almost indefinable generic terms in music, handles used mainly by lazy journalists, like myself, to easily box music, the draw lines of demarcation in an effort to say it is one thing or another. Of all of them the worst is the term “world music”…music that is representative of a culture or a place and therefore meaning something different to every one who hears the word. But maybe world music is actually something else all together…maybe it isn’t music from one part of the planet or another but music which is built from various sounds garnered from all corners of the globe…corners of a globe? Well, you know what I mean.

The fact that Ajay was born in India, lives in Switzerland, that he weaves pieces of pop with rock, blends of eastern instrumentation and western folk traditions, loose psychedelia with rigid structured grooves, plunders the past just as much as he looks to the future, means that he is the perfect world citizen to be able to truly create this new world genre. A genre where east meets west, where worlds collide, where occident dances with orient.

Forget About Yesterday sums up his ability to cross genres and borders perfectly, tabla beats and wailing blues harmonicas, pastel hippy-pop warmth and a looping funky groove beating at its heart and Ordinary Memory sounds as if  R.E.M. relocated to the outskirts of Bangalore at the end of the nineties. There are straighter Americana infused songs such as All Your Thoughts, a real end of the night bar room sing-along and the wonderfully named My Wallet is a House of Cards is a stomping blues-rocker.

The real charm of the album is that even though it covers a lot of ground stylistically, just compare the late-night jazz vibes of Grooving In Paris with the retro-folk-pop of While I’m Standing Here, it has a cohesive quality, each song, no matter where it leans generically feels like a necessary part of the whole album. I’ve tried to avoid using the B word, but it has the same sort of breath-taking diversity and exploratory nature as the later Beatles album and for once I feel that such a comparison is no mere rhetoric or hyperbole, Little Boat really is a gem of an album.

So, maybe this is a new genre, more likely it is an acknowledgement that genres don’t really exist or if they do they are a hinderance to musicians creativity rather than a guide. Whatever the answer, Little Boat is an album everyone should hear…today…right now…go and buy it this instant, you’ll thank me later. You will….

Tight!  –  Harmless Habit (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

koagehlohjdfkjefRemember when Jet rocked up (literally) in the early part of this century and sounded like the hottest 60’s garage rock band that no one had ever heard of. Well, Harmless Habit has those same qualities. They may take their fashion tips from 80’s glam-metal and 90’s emo but when they crank out the tunes they have something their rock and roll brethren don’t. Serious groove! Whilst their fellow alt-rockers are checking their hair in the mirror and the classic rock fraternity are recycling Iron Maiden riffs and hoping that no one notices, Harmless Habit are laying down some serious chops.

Funky bass lines, four-four beats with the right amount of swing, tight riffs and fist in the air vocals…it’s all there. It is odd that by looking back to straight forward, old-school rock and roll they may have found the life-line that allows the genre to get over itself and move forward, but hey, why not? If it aint broke….

Nothing Ever Goes as Planned – The Gary Douglas Band (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Rtjy1g8AEven when delivering such a poignant song as this, one that points to the cracks in the American Dream, the dark underbelly, the false promises and societal failings, there is something wonderfully smooth, soothing almost, about the overall nature of the song. That takes some doing, making such a heavy concept sound like a lullaby. But that is why his music stands out from the pack I guess.

Slow burning its way from a gentle country ballad to a restrained, acoustic driven rock song and finally to an anthemic crescendo, musically the song covers a lot of ground which seems to match the wide-ranging and powerful lyrical imagery. Gary Douglas knows how to hold your attention, that’s for sure, not only through the sonic journey you follow him on but through the compelling subject matter. Music is often escapist, designed to take you away from the harsh realities of life, but its great to come across an artist who isn’t afraid to talk about those subjects. He may not have the answers but he reassures you that you are not alone and sometimes that is all you need.

Superseed –  Superseed  (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

23130915_127217304631030_5640071832223712251_nIt 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.

Grandview Station – Grandview Station (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Front Cover (with text)There is a quote that comes with the press release of Grandview Station’s eponymous album noting that it has been described as “like finding an album in the basement from 1979 that was lost and never released.” To be honest, as a sound bite, that takes a lot of beating in its accuracy and succinctness. Rock music may be having a tough time trying to work out where its future lies, but sometimes it forgets that it is also okay to look to the past, to tip its hat, in this case most probably a dusty and battered stetson, to past glories too.

There is a big difference between plagiarism and torch bearing, between wholesale plunder and weaving gentle sonic tributes through your music and here we are definitely in the realms of wholly original music being made that just happens to walk with a certain familiarity. The songs are fresh and groove laden, they just happen to also leave you with a slightly nostalgic after taste. I think they call that the best of both worlds.

Country vibes, blues structures and rock muscle all blend effortlessly into music that fits on a time line anywhere between late sixties cosmic country outlaws to modern southern rockers, along the way taking in 70’s rock access, 80’s anthemics, 90’s directness and 21st century reinvention. A fine line between rock traditions and moving the ball forward. And even when they aren’t moving the ball forward, they sound like they are having a great time, and you will too. Isn’t that the whole point of rock music?

Crashing By Design feels like a long lost, mid-paced power ballad, a term which even as I write it seems to under sell how deft and dexterous this song actually is. Fall From Grace’s sultry sax intro heralds a subtle and supple mix of late night musical textures and rock vigour and Hate To Love You is that end of festival, fists in the air, sunset swan song. But Grandview Station really come into their own when they go for broke. Acid Rain is a frenzy of psychedelia and Dixie grooves, Where I’m Not Wanted goes on a crazy ride between Austin and Los Angeles, harvesting the raw blues of the former and the skyscrapping musical attitudes of the latter and It Won’t Be Me puts the album to bed with a wonderful dynamic mix of guitar excess and perfectly poised interludes and sounding oddly like James Taylor discovering hard rock….at last.

Music should always be forward thinking, but not at the expense of forgetting where it comes from and Grandview Station know exactly the path that got them to where they are today. Thankfully they are more than happy to use that as the perfect vehicle to drive into a bright future.

Aidattu Tulevaisuus  – Teksti -TV 666 (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

28167099_1515452995234205_554166328653636585_nSometimes less is more, there’s a whole cliche built around that notion. But sometimes more is more…I guess the clue was right there in front of us all the time. More means more and more has to be better than less. No? If you don’t believe me then just listen to Finnish shoegazing kraut-punk leviathan Teksti -TV 666

Wielding at least four guitars at any given time, the layering and the texturing on this five track offering makes for a masterwork in how you blend, bend, twist and tweak all of those strings together without losing the plot and muddying the musical waters. And even with so much to fit in the songs brim with dynamic and groove and have enough daylight seen between each instrument that every track, every bar, every riff, every note feels justified.

Imagine My Bloody Valentine putting their own spin on Ramones tracks or Lush getting to grips with heavy metal or Neu! on speed. Actually better still just by this album and make your own fun by thinking up your own theoretical music juxtapositions. Ride jamming with Metallica? The fun playing that game never ends, which has to be a sign that this is something truly original.

Scene and Heard – CCCLXXXIV :  Stereo Multiplex –  My Cousin Dallas (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Keep Hope AliveA hero of mine, the illustrious, DJ, legend and all round saviour of music, Mr John Peel was once asked, around the time of the onset of CD’s, why he liked vinyl records so much when most seem to have so many pops and scratches that mar the enjoyment. His reply was that life comes with pops and scratches and I think as an answer it is pretty near perfect. It’s a sentiment that My Cousin Dallas echo brilliantly on Stereo Multiplex. This anthem to old vinyl records and crackling AM radio stations, to the age of musical innocence and festivals and to the simple act of playing live music feels like the most natural statement in the world but you have to consider the world that we are moving into.

To people of a certain age this track might seem like a nostalgia trip but to a younger crowd it might also be a timely warning not to give up those basic pleasures. I have nothing agains the march of technology, it shapes and makes good music but the balance has to lie somewhere nearer man than machine. All Stereo Multiplex is gently saying is when all your music is so technologically reliant that live shows are basically karaoke, when music has no physical presence, that it is just transient digital information, when music venues have become hipster coffee bars serving MoccaCoccaFrappaChappaLinos out of a shoe, when there are only stadium shows and tickets cost a month’s wages, maybe then you will look back to the simple pleasures being promoted here.

Everyone has to make their own mistakes and when they do, when they remember the warnings that they failed to heed, when they finally find their way back home, songs like this will be there to say welcome back, grab a beer, do you want to hear a cool album?

Something To Move –  Scott Kirby (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

hlghkeahoefcemflIf Love is Just showed that Scott Kirby was all about the idea that if you get the basics right then a song tends to not need much dressing up, that getting the fundamentals right is better than throwing too much into the musical mix, then Something To Move shows that even when he builds more textured music the same rules apply. This time out he opts for a funkier, bluesy workout and whilst there is a lot going on, layers of textured guitars from acoustic rhythms to choppy riffs to delicate lead parts, driving beats, pulsing bass and plenty of gang vocals to back up Scott’s main delivery, everything has room to breath.

It is this basic principle that means that every instrument has its place, each is deferential to the other never stepping on each others toes, and the result is that whilst none of the individual parts are dominant, voluminous or bombastic, nothing so crude as that, the end result is a powerful song. Rock bands could learn a lot from such an approach and pop bands would do well to take head of how infectious and groovesome this song is. They won’t and that is what will keep Scott Kirby well ahead of the pack both within his chosen generic playground or in any other for that matter.

Let Down – Tough on Fridays (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

TOF_LetDown_Promo_3Books and covers eh? A band with the name of Tough on Fridays…well, that could cover a multitude of genres, a cover picture of a girl in the rain as seen through a blurred lens, I’m thinking pop ballad or, if I’m lucky, wistful dream pop. Then blam!…you get hit straight between the eyes with fast and infectious pop-rock, the perfect blend of commercial accessibility and rock muscle of the sort the western world has been producing so well since the mid 80s.

Is there even a power-pop/pop-rock scene any more? Or maybe this is just the new sound of pop-punk now that the frat boys have realised that crassness and dumbing down just isn’t that attractive. Pop looking for alternative ways out of the mainstream seems to be more focussed on indie-folk identities or urban beat options but at least Tough on Fridays seem to take some sort of lead from the likes of The Primitives or Sleeper and mix low slung rock energy with fantastic melody. Pop may be a dirty word to many and rock has largely become a cliche but at the sweet spot where they meet you find music which utilises the best of both. It is also where you find Tough on Fridays.

Out For Blood –  Take The Black (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

21686800_1483231918412714_492005248199298227_oMusic, 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!

Scene and Heard – CCCLXXX :  Parasitical Identity –  Love Ghost (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

24312935_1571653106260434_5019385542277334242_nLove 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?

Nowhere –  Love Ghost (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

33363981_975886805906833_3255780262012780544_nI’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.

 

 

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