You have to love a song that sends you right back down the sonic rabbit hole, back into the body of that wide-eyed teenager that you used to be staring up at some long forgotten punk band in a now bulldozed venue in a town that you can’t remember going to. The first wave of any new genre is always the most exciting and subsequent musical devotees may capture the music, the style, the sound, the vibe but rarely do they capture the raw emotion that you felt when you first encountered the music that was going to change your life. A G E N T ’s Stop Talking, however, does exactly that.
There are many reasons to cover other peoples songs and in my opinion most of them are not really very honest. I know that you can make an argument for tradition and wanting to honour your favourite songs but for my money, unless you can bring something new to it then all you are doing is riding on someone else coat tails and basking in their reflected fame and glory. After all in which other creative field could you do something similar without it being regarded as at best plagiarism, at worst forgery? I couldn’t paint the Mona Lisa or write Pride and Prejudice without a few questions being asked.
Given Nelson King’s usual rate of output, I was thinking of sending out a search party, having not had anything by him land in the in-box for quite a while, but thankfully Life Ain’t No Movie Show turned up as if to assure me that he is still very much in the game. Though its all relative I guess as even with this recent breathing space he would still finish in medal position compared with today’s average artist.
Not content with inventing his own musical genres by taking the common building blocks of familiar sounds and fashioning them into new sonic architecture, Garden City is Slang building a whole new world for those sounds to inhabit. It’s a place where “a red river flows through the veins of an enchanted forest” and “through the mist, in the heartland, lays Garden City.” That may seem a bit proggy, but rest assured this isn’t the music of wizards and epic quests, unless the wizards are the musicians making this glorious sound and their quest is a search for the groove.
The extreme end of rock and its younger, more muscle-bound, brother have undergone many changes since its 70’s golden age. But everything evolves, it’s only natural, it’s only healthy. I must admit I fell out of love with a lot of what was going on in this corner of music when melody and lyricism seemed to get subsumed by testosterone fuelled musical excess, a blatant more is more attitude and the rise of screamo vocals that sounded as if someone was holding a political rally in the seventh circle of hell.
If only parents the world over knew the impact their record collection will have on their children then perhaps they would think twice about what music to listen to. You hear stories of expectant mothers playing Mozart and Beethoven in close proximity of their swollen tummies in the hope that the complex arrangements will somehow boost brain activity so when the baby finally pops out he – or she – are geniuses.
As was immediately apparent to anyone who heard Boy.Inside, D.Ni.L doesn’t work like most musicians. He is a collector of sounds, a collage-maker, an arranger and whereas most musicians chose to work with the tools of one or two genres to create their signature sound, here it is the very genres which are being bent to his will. But it is one thing to draw all of those disparate sounds together, it is quite another to find a way to splice them constructively into a working end product. It is D.Ni.L’s ability to weave these often conflicting and colliding sonic servings together that makes him stand out from the crowd.
What a difference a video makes! Okay, we have been here before, I Need You found its way to us not so long ago and it is safe to say that we admired its deft weaving of rockish warp and soulful weft into a gorgeous sonic design, one that tipped its hat wonderfully to the past whilst striding confidently into the future. It is back, this time with a video attached and proving that a song can be great when experienced through the usual audio sensory intake but add a visual package and that experienced is heightened no end.
To those of us who don’t live in big cities, whose surroundings are more suburban, small town or rural, there is something intriguing, possibly slightly otherworldly, about life in the metropolis. Those extremes of the wealth and destitution, the clashes of culture and creed, the hustle and the loneliness, the bright lights and the dark secrets. As someone who has lived all over London in particular and in similar places across the world, Marty-Wilson Piper’s ode to city life is both well observed and poetic.
With just enough touches of mainstream Americana and heartland rock to make the song already sound like a classic cut from your old record collection, Animal Soul is a soulful yet wonderfully driven slice of rock. The sort of rock that eschews foot on the monitor antics and other such cliches and instead takes a lesson from acts such as Tom Petty and John Mellencamp about how you weave pop accessibility through heavier musical urges. It’s a lesson that many acts today could do with learning as the result of such attention to detail is that Animal Soul is a cool customer indeed.
There is something wonderfully bohemian about this latest sonic blast from Brooklyn based Nadia Kazmi. It’s in the sultry delivery, the referencing of the trappings of a beautifully sleazy lifestyle, its in the psychedelic tones of the video…everything about it references a 60’s underworld, simultaneously revelling in and rejecting its languid ways. This is the soundtrack to a time that may or may have not existed, from West Coast coffee shops to Ladbroke Grove squats, maybe it is all mythology but if it did happen this song certainly channels its stoned, drunken spirit.
If you like your music to come with a heavy dose of drama and no small amount of pathos then Through Infinity are definitely going to tick a lot of boxes for you. Wandering between a sort of theatrical rock and the more intricate and exploratory end of the genre, they also blend in graceful, classical piano lines, underpin with emotive flute cascades and hints of a world music vibe and the overall affect is both big and clever.
A few weeks ago, I was in a pub chatting about music with a friend of mine and we were discussing how there don’t seem to be any bands coming through that have good songs, a good following and have the chance at long careers. Who are the next Oasis? The next Coldplay? Radiohead? Arctic Monkeys? Muse?
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.
With all the modern tricks and effects producers can add to songs to make the mundane sound fantastic it comes somewhat as a refreshing change to hear a song stripped back to a simple guitar riff, a steady metronome drum beat and a rock melody, this is what London garage band Ratts seem all about.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
When 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.
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.
Is 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.
It’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….
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!