RECORDS REVIEWS , JANUARY-JUNE 2016.
ALARIC. End of Mirrors CD (Neurot) Powerful metallic rock with an almost gothic (rather than Goth) atmosphere. A tribal drum style is set against a phazed bass sound, and a sharp, prominent guitar slices through the proceedings rather than just providing the chords. Add to this the experimental electronic sounds provided by sonic artist Thomas Dimuzio and you have a perfect soundscape on which to add tension-filled vocals. It’s like Killing Joke providing a soundtrack for a moody thriller, or early- Hawkwind reaching their apocalypse. It’s not easy-listening at all, but hear it at the right time and you’re going to get dragged right in.
KURT BAKER. Brand New B-Sides CD (Rum Bar) Kickin’ off with a huge slice of powerpop finesse, I couldn’t help thinking, what if the Ramones had been Elvis Costello’s original backing band ? And that’s the formula that infuses the entire album… big guitar hooks, catchy riffs and sharply observed lyrics. Unafraid to go off-course to add a little contrast on tracks like ‘Since You’ve Been On My Mind’ or ‘City Lights’, and similarly unashamed to rock-out, Thin Lizzy style, with ‘On The Run’, this is a record that doesn’t mind owning-up to its’ influences, but does so with considerable panache. Just consider the two fine covers on display – Sylvain Sylvain’s ‘What’s That Got To Do With Rock’n’Roll’ and Nick Lowe’s ‘So It Goes’ – another good indication of the song-writing direction this is coming from. The remarkable thing is that this record is actually made up of outtakes and leftovers from his previous album, ‘Brand New Beat’. They sound like such a cohesive album in their own right, you’ll find it hard to imagine they were ever left-off the predecessor. An excellent pop record, it even ends with a Christmas song ! You’re gonna love it !
BANQUET. Jupiter Rose CD (Heavy Psych) Retro-rock in the hard’n’heavy fashion. Imagine Grand Funk Railroad jamming out with ‘Heaven & Hell’-era Sabbath. The vocals veer between Ronnie James Dio and Glenn Danzig, while the twin guitars recall Richie Blackmore’s Rainbow and even, at times, Thin Lizzy. Based in San Francisco, there’s more than a hint of Acid Rock and you could just imagine them owning the stage at some open air free festival. I can’t say I’d want to listen to this all the time, but when the mood takes you, this will rock you all the way.
RENE BENTON. Xpressions Too!!! CD (FG) Rene Benton is an American guitar virtuoso and this, his first full length solo album, captures his undeniable talent in impressive style. Bringing together a selection of similarly-talented musicians to complete his vision, he delivers a fine, solid album that highlights his abilities and while it’s probably going to appeal more to the ‘classic rock’ fraternity, it’s also a pretty powerful selection of tracks that certainly doesn’t lack a punch.
BLACK RAINBOWS. Stellar Prophecy CD (Heavy Psych) Possibly the best band on Heavy Psych at the moment. I thoroughly enjoyed their first album, this one is possibly even better. The best elements of early Seventies Hard Rock combined with a post-punk approach, not a million miles away from what The God Machine achieved at their sonic heights. Driven by fuzz-drenched bass riffs, the drums pound with a sharp clarity to keep things from straying, while the guitar takes centre-stage only at appropriate times, adding to the songs as a whole rather than trying to claim top-billing. Psychedelic-styled keyboards add to the atmosphere, while the vocals are there to add clues to the ongoing process. Black Rainbows have now released two great albums in just over a year. If they can keep up this kind of quality and rate of delivery, I’m sure they’re going to be very successful.
BLACK SHAPE OF NEXUS. Carrier CD (Exile On Mainstream) To call BSON a metal band would be to sell them short. Although they certainly do take on some very basic riffs and wrench every last drop of anguished drive from them, their real power is in the way they develop the textures of the sounds they produce. Like Swans, they let the music develop in its’ own time and place, building naturally and switching tempo and direction only when it becomes appropriate. Similarly, the vocals are delivered in a raw, guttural fashion that blends more with the overall sound rather than merely serving lyrical purpose. The repetition of the riffs serves as an almost hypnotic basis for everything else to play out and the results are very effective indeed. This is really powerful stuff – I can only imagine how amazing their live show must be !
THE BODY & FULL OF HELL. One Day You Will Ache Like I Ache CD (Neurot) This is a collaboration between two bands, although the precision with which they deliver their sonic onslaught would suggest they’ve been playing together for a long time. No regular vocals as such, this deals with dark, textured soundscapes, delving into unsettling delirium and unnerving dementia. Imagine Swans being remixed by Fantomas, perhaps ? I have to be honest and say that this is likely to appeal to a pretty limited audience, but those who are into this brand of noise are going to dig it. Personally, I’d love to see this performed live, so fingers crossed the bands get to visit this side of the ocean soon. Owing as much to Whitehouse as to Black Sabbath, this is a wonderful, brutal assault on the senses.
CAN CAN HEADS. Is Ruining The Classics EP. The classics referred to are all those ‘Rock’ standards beloved by boring Pub covers bands all over the world. Not that all of the original versions are dull, but their continued repetition at the hands of mindless musos is indeed a travesty. So Finlands’ sneakily dventurous Can Can Heads take them to task and breathe new life (or death) into the tunes. From ‘Eye of the Tiger’ through to ‘You Really Got Me’, they mutate the easily recognisable riffs into something that makes yet-another-version more than worthwhile, for a change. They describe themselves as ‘Ramones-meet-Albert Ayler’ and they have a point, although I’d possibly go for (early) Residents versus Shockabilly. Invigorating, fun and straight to the point (no track over three minutes !) they really ought to be let loose on the X-Factor ! Check them out, for free - https://cancanheads.bandcamp.com/album/can-can-heads-is-ruining-the-classics
THE CONNECTION. Labor Of Love CD (Rum Bar) Blastin’ straight into the title track, a huge slice of Heartbreakers, Saints and Westerberg, The Connection lay down their statement of intent with enough swagger to launch a thousand riffs. Rock’n’Roll isn’t a career-choice, it is indeed a labor of love. When the practitioners are as good as this, then success would be well-deserved, but I’m sure that isn’t their main motive. This is a band that play because they believe it. They enjoy their pop as well, with hints of the Flamin’ Groovies and Byrds, and even veer into the Country on ‘Let The Jukebox Take Me’. To date, they’ve already been recognised by veterans like Andy Shernoff (The Dictators) and Dan Vapid
(Screeching Weasel, Riverdales) who both make guest appearances on this record. If you love music that rocks, bops, and pops, then this is going to be one for you.
(Screeching Weasel, Riverdales) who both make guest appearances on this record. If you love music that rocks, bops, and pops, then this is going to be one for you.
DEADSMOKE. Deadsmoke CD (Heavy Psych) An effective mix of down-tuned Sludge riffs and hardcore punk vocal delivery, creating a genuinely unsettling sonic onslaught. Opening track ‘Branches of Evil’ even includes tapes of Crowley to the brew, adding to the overall sinister atmosphere. While the bass riffs reverberate in a huge, dense wall, the drum beats are sharp and precise, keeping everything else down in place. It’s difficult to make comparisons, although at certain points The Melvins do come to mind, and in some places it could even be Lemmy-era Hawkwind, slowed down to an incessant crawl. But this is one of those records that takes its’ ideas to such depth that it almost crosses over into an experimental, (original) Industrial area. Very powerful, compelling and convincing, this ought to be the soundtrack for some very dark nights !
DON DILEGO. Magnificent Ram A. CD (Velvet Elk) Calling this album ‘Country-Folk’ (as some reviewers have) really does not pay justice to the depth of the music. It has a vision that extends much further than mere categorisation. With a production and arrangements that recall the way Jesse Malins’ recent albums are put together, this makes me imagine what Jeffrey Lee Pierce would be producing now, if he were still with us. It may have been nearly four years since his last album, but in that time Don Dilego has clearly been honing his craft. Veering from dramatic soundscapes through to deceptively simple songs, this album covers a whole range of styles and emotions and does so with real panache. ‘I’m On Fire’ cheekily hints at a cross between ’96 Tears’ and ‘Viva Las Vegas’, while ‘Don’t Bury Me Alive’ recalls the traditional music of the Appalachians. Altogether, this is an album that comfortable defies expectations and sounds all the better for it. This is an album that you should try to hear, because you might just fall for it.
THE DOLLYROTS. Family Vacation DVD + CD (MVD) Recorded in front of a hometown audience in LA, September 2015, this release effectively captures The Dollyrots at their best, blasting out a great set of catchy punk rock that owes as much to The Pixies as The Muffs, with perhaps a few hints of Nirvana and the Runaways along the road. Whether you’re already familiar with the band or not, it doesn’t really matter because these songs will drag you in from the very first powerchord. The set includes tracks from right across their 15 year career, but everything sounds fresh and full of energy, as if they’ve only just discovered they can play their own songs and can’t wait to get them out there… just like bands should sound. The CD version features just the live set while the DVD breaks things up with offstage footage to make it even more fun to watch. Plus, the DVD comes with nearly an hours’ worth of additional footage in the form of a tour diary, which avoids any pretensions and just shows the band travelling around, setting-up, having fun and playing some great gigs. There isn’t anything to dislike about the release – trust me, The Dollyrots are a great punk rock band and this release is possibly the best way to check them out (this side of seeing them live.) Consider this a must-have item !
DUEL. Fears of The Dead CD (Heavy Psych) A much-more mainstream rock band than the usual releases from Heavy Psych, but that isn’t to say this isn’t good fun. This band, from Austin, Texas, take rock and metal traditions, from Metallica through to Danzig, and instil them with a competence and ability that plays to their talents, while the odd twists they add along the way build their own character. It’s probably a bit too ‘classic rock’ for the Stoner audience, but I’m sure they’ll be just as many fans out there waiting to embrace it.
EPIC PROBLEM. ’11-’14 CD (Boss Tuneage) Compilation of all the singles and compilation tracks released to date by this excellent band. Remastered to maintain the sound quality throughout, this is a great album that really shows this bands’ potential. For those who don’t already know, guitarist Mackie was in the original, classic line-up of Blitz, and although there are still echoes of that bands’ early material, this is very much a new outfit in their own right, obviously not content to just rest on past glories. If anything, I’d say this reminds me of bands like Leatherface and Dillinger Four, producing a loud brash sound with raw vocals but always full of catchy hooks. This is the sort of sound that Rancid always wanted to have but never turned the amps up enough. Every time I hear this band I get more enthusiastic about them. Surely it’s time for a whole album of new material from them ? I think that’s what they need to really start building their audience. One of the best new (-ish) punk bands in the UK right now – I can’t wait to see them live !
FARFLUNG. 5. CD (Heavy Psych) A really effective mix of Stoner and Space Rock, referencing Hawkwind just as much as Sabbath. Huge riffs propel the music forwards while the echo-drenched vocals assert themselves and place melodies within the overall melee. Farflung succeed because they don’t just treat the effects like a gimmick and use them to create a real aura around their songs. This is a genuinely progressive band, taking established rock patterns and finding a way twist them into something new. In a lot of ways, they actually remind me of The God Machine in the way they really make it their own. Perhaps the best example of their determination to take a different route is their cover version of the Human Leagues’s ‘Being Boiled’. Not what you’d expect from a Hard Rock band at all, but it really works – both the lyrics and the riffs fit (the early Human League had some great bass lines…) At the end of the day, if you fail to get drawn into this album, then you just don’t deserve it !
GHOLD. Pyr CD (Ritual) Brixton-based trio who have already self-produced two albums prior to this, and certainly seem to know what they’re doing. My immediate reaction was to think of a mostly instrumental, stripped-down version of Neurosis, but as you listen further, there’s a lot more to it than that. Their use of sound-textures recalls the more psychedelic moments of Industrial music, while at other times, the way they break down the rhythms and allow space between the riffs hints at some really heavy dub production – Lee Scratch Perry remixing The Melvins, perhaps ? It’s also very carefully arranged, rather than a mere riff-fest, and sounds all the more intriguing for their efforts. It may be coming from a dark place, but it’s also a lot of fun.
HOLY GROVE. Holy Grove CD (Heavy Psych) Female-fronted four-piece from Portland, Oregon, playing a blend of Hard Rock that neatly crosses between the heavier bands of the early Seventies (Sabbath, Deep Purple etc) and the more contemporary Stoner Rock scene. Vocally, I’d say that Andrea Vidal possibly owes some debt to the legendary Ronnie James Dio (Look out !) both stylistically and lyrically, although coming from a female perspective certainly adds much of her own character to proceedings. This is probably an album that will appeal more to aficionados of vintage Seventies Hard Rock, but it certainly still has the grooves and drive to appeal to fresh audiences as well.
HORSE LATITUDES. Primal Gnosis CD (Ritual) Finnish band who take Doom Metal to its’ experimental limits, slowing everything down to an almost drone-like pace and rarely adopting the regular momentum of the genre. At different times, it verges on Industrial or even psychedelic territory, with the occasional vocals (it’s a mostly instrumental album) being the only real concession to usual Doom or Black Metal styles. The final two tracks, ‘New Dawn’ and ‘Beast of Waste and Desolation’ veer further towards recognisable metal formats, but even these take many twists and turns to keep them away from the norm. Very powerful music and while I doubt that it will appeal to regular metal fans (or even regular Black Metal fans) it will certainly find a very strong following amongst those who prefer their music to explore a real extreme.
INDONESIAN JUNK. Indonesian Junk CD (Rum Bar) Milwaukee-based band who unabashedly deal in dirty rock’n’roll and powerpop hooks. Start out with the Dead Boys, grab some Cheap Trick and mix-in vintage Wayne County & the Electric Chairs (whose ‘Fuck Off’ is covered in fine fashion.) If you remember the Forgotten Rebels (pun intended) or even Exploding Hearts at their glam-punk best, you’ll get a good idea of these guys. I do have to say that the production does let the side down a bit (the guitars need to be much louder !) but overall, this is a great debut album and promises a lot. Evidently, the band are set on touring so keep your fingers crossed that they hit your town soon. This could be the start of something big !
IGGY POP with DAVID BOWIE. Mantra Studios CD (Iconography) 12 tracks recorded live in the studio for a Chicago radio broadcast in 1977 (plus a couple of extras from another unexplained source.) This features the band assembled to tour after the release of ‘The Idiot’, so it’s no surprise to find Bowie on keyboards, alongside Ricky Gardiner, Tony and Hunt Sales. As this was the first time many people really got to see Iggy, the tour is remembered favourably and parts of this documentation do sound as great as you’d hope for. However, away from the natural-born Stooges, there are moments when you can really tell the difference. Songs like ‘No Fun’ or ‘Search & Destroy’ still sound powerful but lack that intuitive swing that the originals provide. Professional musicians were never going to be a match for Ron, Scott or James ! That being said, some of the material from his new album really ignites – there’s a truly raw version of ‘Funtime’ and a stark playing of ‘Sister Midnight’ that stabs in the direction of the Gang of Four. Altogether, this is a fine release and the lack of hi-fi quality suits it down to the ground. Seek and enjoy…
JUJU. Juju CD (Sunrise Ocean Bender) This is an intriguing album, made by Sicily-based musician Gioele Valenti and drawing influences from various European sources. Opening with a slow-paced, brooding introduction, the album picks up pace with ‘We Spit On Yer Grave’, which recalls early New Order in its’ repetitive yet melodic approach. As the album progresses, more influences can be heard coming from the Krautrock era, particularly Can and Neu, although certain moments of Faust are certainly referenced. The vocals often carry the melody, which gives it a nod towards the indie-psych-shoegaze bands of the early Nineties, while the lyrics relate African themes and stories. It’s an interesting take on various related styles and effectively brings them together in a credible, accessible way. Certainly a record that deserves to be acknowledged.
LE SUPERHOMARD. Maple Key. CD (MegaDoDo) A great mix of Pop styles, mixing electronica, Sixties-era French pop, soundtracks, Stereolab, Krautrock… Despite being named after a giant lobster, it has a relaxing, cheerful atmosphere that draws you in and will have you shuffling around your home with a knowing smirk on your face. It’s like Summer has arrived early and you can’t argue with that. Put simply, this is a great Pop record, full of tunes, melodies and smartly understated vocals. There just isn’t a thing to dislike about it !
LOS BREAK DOWNS. Rock’n’Roll Skates CD (Rum Bar) I think this came out a while ago, but since I’ve only just come across it, it’s well worth catching-up… Los Break Downs are a Nottingham band who’ve found an entirely-appropriate home on the US Rum Bar label, the home of mucho glam-punk-pop-rock’n’roll. These chaps rock like a wondrous mutation of the Replacements, Cheap Trick, Perfect Daze and the Star Spangles, all rolled into one sleazy powerchord. I’m surprised I haven’t come across them before now, but certainly hope to catch them live at some point soon. Be sure to check them out.
LOVE. Reel to Real CD (High Moon) I have to admit, it’s only been in recent years that I’ve finally started to appreciate Arthur Lee and Love. That being said, there’s quite a wide range of musical output to get to grips with, from the psychedelic rock and pop of the original line-up through to the Blues-rock of the early Seventies and then finally developing a blend of soul, blues, rock and funk in the ensuing years. Still maintaining his intuitive grasp of melody, ‘Reel to Real’ was the second of two albums (the first being ‘Black Beauty’, which remained unreleased until 2013) that found Lee experimenting with a new sound whilst also keeping the characteristic traits that were always instantly recognisable as Love. Although poorly received by some, in retrospect this direction can be seen as a fairly natural path, combining the funky-rock of Sly & The Family Stone together with the expansive arrangements and psychedelic hues that made the earlier records so great. There was also room for the folky-pop of ‘Everybody’s Gotta Live’ and the wonderful ‘You Said You Would’ which somehow manages to capture the mood of early Roxy Music ! Perhaps it isn’t their most popular record, and features only Arthur Lee from the original band, but this certainly isn’t something that should be dismissed. It’s adventurous, surprisingly infectious and, if approached on its’ own merits, highly enjoyable. This expanded reissue includes an additional twelve tracks, including alternate takes, different mixes and previously unreleased recordings, plus extensive sleeve notes and photos. It can only be hoped that this excellent reissue gives the album the positive reappraisal that it so clearly deserves.
MAGAZINE. Play + LP (?) Presumably unofficial vinyl version of the bonus tracks which were included on the (fairly) recent reissue of the ‘Play’ CD. Alongside the nine songs recorded live at Manchesters’ Free Trade Hall in 1978, this version also includes two previously unreleased studio tracks (although it’s unclear where they actually come from On top of this, the album is presented in a very nicely produced cover, together with an inner sleeve which, at the very least, demonstrates that someone who is obviously a fan has really put some effort into it. Supposedly limited to only 200 copies, it’s a great album and if you’re a Magazine fan yourself, you really ought to grab a copy soon.
MERRICK’S TUSK. Regroup & Reform CD (Buttonpusher DIY) Melodic rock that references so-called ‘emo’ bands like Jimmy Eat World whilst also harking back to older bands like Jawbox and Quicksand. They’ve certainly got confidence and ability, although I get the feeling that they’re caught between creating something truly original and the enticement of taking the more anthemic, big audience-friendly route. Either way this album has some great tracks and definitely displays a lot of potential. I’d like to hear them try to build their own ideas a bit further and establish their own style as I’m sure they could create something really interesting.
THE MIRROR TRAP. Simulations CD (Riverman) Scottish band playing upbeat contemporary indie-rock, the sort of thing that wouldn’t be out of place on a line-up featuring either Foo Fighters or Manic Street Preachers. It’s aiming for arenas full of students which, as far as it goes, isn’t really such a bad thing. Big anthems, catchy choruses, you can see the crowds singing along already. They’re obviously competent musicians with ambitious intentions, so good luck to them. But it’s not something that I would personally rush out to buy.
PAPIER TIGRE. The Screw CD (Function) This French band have been around for just over a decade and released three other albums during that time, so I’m surprised that I haven’t hard of them before now. Musically, this really recalls a mix of older bands like Gang of Four (not just the early albums, either) The Box or Boots For Dancing. There are also some parallels with a few of the Dischord bands, from Rites of Spring through to Q and Not U, in the way that they break the rhythms down into irregular progressions and aren’t afraid to upset the usual flow of the music. On top of this, the vocals are actually quite inviting, in an intriguing kind of way. I think that’s the most interesting thing about this album ; it takes an experimental approach to music that still remains accessible. It’s definitely worth your time and effort to investigate the release thoroughly.
THE POISONED GLASS. 10 SWORDS CD (Ritual) American duo, featuring former members of the Doom Metal band Burning Witch, but here heading out in a far more experimental fashion, veering more towards Coil-like atmosphere or power-electronics. A similar power is still there behind the whole enterprise, with the rumbling bass very much the foundation for the while thing, but instead of a regular rhythm pattern, they use layers of sounds and texture to create the momentum. The vocals are sinister, even threatening in this context, with narratives that hint at dark stories or events. This is certainly not something to listen to if you are wanting to relax, but it’s an intriguing and visceral product.
RAGING SPEEDHORN / MONSTER MAGNET split 7” (H42) Monster Magnet don’t really need an introduction, do they ? They’ve been around for over 25 years and are certainly one of the principle bands of the Stoner Rock genre, taking it into mainstream consciousness whilst maintaining their roots and credibility. Raging Speedhorn may not have achieved the same level of success, but are nonetheless just as important in the UK. They may have been on hiatus for a few years, but since reuniting in 2014, they’ve thrown themselves straight back to the forefront of the British scene and continue to impress both old and new fans. This limited edition split 7”, sponsored by the annual Desertfest event, finds both bands doing what they do best. Hard, hypnotic riffs, that pummel along but are never short of catchy hooks. RS may have a more aggressive sound (particularly in the vocal department) but the two bands are a great match and this single really captures the current vibrancy of the scene. Any fan of either band should try and grab a copy of this record as soon as possible, while it’s also a great introduction for anyone curious about the genre. All in all, a damn fine record.
THE RESIDENTS. Theory of Obscurity DVD (Film Movement) Over the years, I’ve heard or read various people claiming to know who The Residents actually are. Some have named names, others have just tried to be knowingly mysterious, but they’ve generally missed the point. The official story is that there have always been the same four Residents and no-one knows who they are. If you don’t accept that first piece of information, then you’re missing out on a big part of the fun. The whole concept, humour and Art of The Residents depends on that obscurity and while guessing and studying the various theories is part of the fun, it’s that lack of individuality that’s fuelled the incredible amount of creativity they’ve produced over the past 40 years. This film succeeds because it tells their story as accurately as possible, featuring many of the key players and collaborators, whilst always focusing on the actual work rather than the personalities. The genuine respect that those interviewed have for The Residents’ work and their continuously curious approach, is overwhelming but well-deserved. A straight-ahead documentary treating them as any other band would never have captured their essence, but ‘Theory of Obscurity’ goes a long way towards getting to the bottom of it. It’s an enjoyable film and I’m sure it will appeal both to ardent fans and those who are merely intrigued. At the end of the day, I doubt if anyone really knows the whole story, probably not even The Residents themselves, and anyone who claims that they do is only fooling themselves.
ROUNDEYE. S/T CD. ( ? ) Roundeye are a Shanghai-based avant-garde noise-punk band who, in recent years, have attracted notable collaborators including Greg Ginn, R Stevie Moore and Steve Mackay, the latter two both appearing on this album. Indeed, Stooges saxophonist Mackay made his final live tour playing with these guys. Their sound is discordant but also full of catchy hooks and references that will quickly draw you into their scheme of things. At different times, you’ll hear hints of Rudimentary Peni, (early) Butthole Surfers, The Residents and maybe even the more experimental soundtracks of Angelo Badalamenti. It’s something that could easily have become lost in its’ own world, but what keeps your interest is the insistent movement and groove that underlies each track. This music has a real swing to it that keeps it in touch with rock’n’roll and will drag you in. The vocals are mostly incomprehensible, but add to the overall sound like a slurred narrative. This is a wonderful brand of chaos, somewhere between cacophony and beauty, but totally exhilarating through-out. It may not be something you’ll find in your local record shop, but trust me, it’ll be worth tracking down.
SANCHO PANZER. Your Own Accord CD (Casket) Evidently, the bulk of this album was recorded some time ago, but was shelved due to personal commitments. Fortunately for us, the band eventually saw the error of their ways, decided to complete the final mixing, added a couple of new tracks and put the album out for the public ear. I’m not sure what the current status of the band is, but this is a fine debut album and it would be a real shame if they don’t build on it. It’s a real mix of styles, taking cues from the more melodic DC bands like Dag Nasty or Soulside, through to harder post-punk bands like Quicksand or Helmet. Add to that some hints of more recent bands like Refused and King Blues and you’ll have some idea of how imaginative this album really is. One moment, the riffs are crunching through the stereo, the next we’re hearing melodic harmonies, and at any second the rhythm might head-off into ska or dub-like beats. They make the most of the production with a large, clear sound and thoughtful arrangements. Combine this with witty, intelligent lyrics and it really comes over as something very promising. Definitely one that you should be checking out soon and keep your fingers-crossed that they continue, as the next record ought to be even better !
SANTA SEMELI & THE MONKS. S/T CD (Cosima) This isn’t the sort of thing that I would usually listen to, but I have to admit, I found myself drawn into their world. Based around the duo of Munich-born vocalist Semeli Economou and the instrumentation of Haraldur Agustsson, the songs veer from the lightest of lullabies to the contemporary glam-trash of ‘I Fancy the Pants Off You’ or ‘Schizophrenic Asshole’. Elsewhere, other tracks recall torch-songs or ballads and you might start to think that such an eclectic mix of styles would make the album lack focus, but it works because the emphasis is always on the songs themselves. Imagine a cabaret performance that sets out to keep you on your toes rather than just entertain you. The atmosphere keeps everything in place even while the ideas are bouncing in different directions. This album was actually released a while ago, but having only recently come across it (the duo are currently based in London) it certainly deserves a late-review. It’s not going to be to everyone’s taste, but if you were ever a fan of Gavin Friday or Julee Cruise (and anything in between) then this will definitely be worthy of your attention.
SMASH FASION. Junkie Love 7” (Electric Pudding) Recalling the sleazier side of Seventies glam-rock, Smash Fashion are as much indebted to the likes of Cheap Trick and New York Dolls as they are to the likes of Slade and Mott The Hoople, covering all aspects and delivering a fine, convincing update to the original era. The whole thing works because they have an authentic swagger that keeps everything rolling along with style, attitude and a sense of fun. It doesn’t sound dated because it sounds like a party that’s just reaching its’ peak. They even take Golden Earrings’ ‘Long Blonde Animal’ as the b-side and make it their own. This is two sides of great rock’n’roll that could just as easily sneak on to the airwaves. Be sure you don’t miss it.
STARDANCER. Welcome To My World CD (Star-dancer) This is an album you really have to listen to from start to finish. It’s almost schizophrenic in the way that it switches between styles, although somehow it still maintains a pretty consistent character. The opening track sounds more like LA style metal, much more than the raw edge you’d expect from a Detroit band, but it’s a deceptive start. Elsewhere, the band delve into much more tuneful, pop melodies, with lots of catchy hooks and amusing lyrics. There are moments where the music recalls Marilyn Manson’s more commercial efforts, while they even include a suitably twisted version of ‘Unbelievable’ that recalls early Ministry amongst others. Final track ‘Before I Die’ is a catchy mix of country, blues and pop that really works and could easily be a hit in its’ own right. It’s an album that starts one way and ends up somewhere else altogether, taking an odd path to get there, and you can only respect that.
STONED JESUS. Stormy Monday CDEP (Heavy Psych) Ukrainian power-trio who blend contemporary Stoner Rock with more traditional Hard Rock styles. The title track is much in the vein of Cream, Led Zeppelin, early Sabbath etc and not too remarkable, to be honest. But second track, ‘Bear Cave’, begins as a lengthy acoustic piece, before growing into a great, fully amplified Stoner riff and finally concluding with a wonderfully drawn-out cacophony of drones. The final ‘official’ song, ‘Drunk & Horny’ is a much faster excursion, not exactly thrash but not a million miles away from Motorhead at their more raucous, a fine chunk of rock’n’roll. And as a bonus, there’s an unlisted, extended version (over ten minutes !) of the title track at the end, which you’ll either love or hate, depending on what you thought of the first version. This is a promising release and certainly shows potential. It’ll be interesting to see how they develop.
THE STRANGLERS. Black & White LP (Coursegood) ‘Black & White’ was the first Stranglers album I bought, although I’d heard its’ predecessors courtesy of a neighbour who seemed to buy everything that was good at the time. Whilst many in the music press were busy denouncing them for not being a ‘real’ punk band, they were doing, musically, exactly what punk bands were supposed to be doing, moving forward, being adventurous and sticking firmly to their own intentions. As such, nearly 40 years later, this is an album that still stands up as a remarkably original and vital piece of music. To coincide with a tour to celebrate the album, a very limited (only 1000 copies) re-mastered LP has been made available and it really does sound better than ever. The production sounds incredibly sharp and the bass truly growls through your speakers. In addition, and as a nod towards the original release, there’s also an additional album that includes the tracks from the original bonus EP plus ‘Sverige’, ‘Shut Up’, ‘Old Codger’ and the previously unreleased ‘Social Secs’ (a track recorded after they walked-out on a University gig where non-students had been refused entry…) It’s a bit pricey, but I’m glad to say, it really is worth the cash. A great album that sounds even better. Allow yourself to be tempted !
THE STRANGLERS. Black & White Live CD (Coursegood) Available on the recent tour and through the official website, this is a compilation of all the tracks from the classic ‘Black & White’ album, recorded live at different venues over the past three decades. Many are live favourites, while others are heard less often, and the version of ‘Enough Time’ had to be recorded live in the studio specifically for the release as it had never previously been played on tour. There are also a handful of related tracks, including acoustic versions of ‘Tits’ and ‘Walk On By, plus a fine performance of ‘Old Codger’ with Jet Black on vocals. Not everyone is going to need this album, but fans will undoubtedly love it.
THE SYSTEM Live LP (Grow Your Own.) This really is a great live album, recorded with the current line-up of the band during 2015. With a mix of old and new songs, they totally capture the sound and spirit of those two original EP’s, mixing simplistic punk rock riffs with imaginative use of feedback, a great rhythm section and straight-to-the-point lyrics. I always thought the original band was hugely under-rated, and their recent return (albeit with new personnel) has more than justified my faith. I hear that there’s an album of brand new material on the way, as well. If this performance is anything to go by, I can’t wait to play it at full volume !
SUB K & THE SAVAGE. Coffin Jukebox CD (Rowdy Farrago) A one-off project recorded over the past few years featuring (I suspect) members of The Destructors, and concentrating on an interesting selection of cover-versions played in different, original ways. Despite quite a varied set of sources (from Bowie and the Velvets through to Slade, The Pixies, John Foxx and even Sigue Sigue Sputnick) it actually works as a surprisingly cohesive album. Their version of ‘Venus in Furs’ replaces the original understated atmosphere with brash malevolence but still maintains its’ sinister intent. ‘California Sun’ and ‘Stepping Stone’ are great, snotty pop punk, while ‘Jean Genie’ and ‘Do The Strand’ deliver heavier, stompin’ renditions. ‘Underpass’ is possibly the most unlikely choice, but works surprisingly well with loud guitars and aggressive vocals, and ‘Dark Entries’ is a real adrenalin rush. Albums of cover versions are often a dull affair, but this one adds enough twists and turns of their own to make it work in its’ own right. Definitely one to check out.
TELETHON. Citrosis CD (bandcamp) This is an enjoyable mix of styles that don’t obviously belong together, but Telethon somehow make it work. Imagine Weezer and Violent Femmes, then throw-in Lou Reed in a cheerful mood, and even add a few Thin Lizzy guitar licks. There’s a really vibrant bop to the songs and an insistency to the vocals that just sounds right, as if this is a band who are really enjoying themselves. I’m sure they will be a big hit on college campuses around the world and it also doesn’t take much imagination to hear them hitting the mainstream airwaves. This album is a lot of fun and sometimes that’s just what you need.
V/A. Trade & Distribution Almanac 6 CD (Adaadat) Another great compilation showcasing 20 bands and artists from around the World, focusing on the more experimental edge of electronic music. As with its’ predecessor, despite the wide range of sources, it actually plays pretty well as an album in its’ own right, although obviously some individual tracks are more noteworthy than others. Atom Truck conjure a sound that mixes both classic Krautrock and the feel of early Joy Division, while Howlround produce a darkly atmosphere soundtrack not a million miles away from something that Coil might have recorded. San Moritzz play with distorted dancebeats infused with electronic hooks, and Company Fuck create a genuinely unsettling sound-collage, blending tapes and differing tempos to great effect. This is a sampler that really does its’ job properly, presenting a lot of ideas and different approaches and then letting you find out which will tempt your curiosity. For anyone interested in music that’s a little more eclectic, this is a perfect taster.