RECORD REVIEWS, JANUARY-JUNE 2020
AND YOU WILL KNOW US BY THE TRAIL OF DEAD. X-The Godless Void and Other Stories CD (Inside Out). This bunch seem to be obsessed with long winded titles, for themselves and for their records, but at least it makes things interesting. In this case, their name makes me think of Spaghetti Westerns while the album title conjures-up books by the likes of Edgar Allen Poe or HP Lovecraft. It’s a good start! Anyway, as you probably know, the band are from Austin, Texas and have been around since the mid-Nineties. The core members have remained Conrad Keely and Jason Reece and they’ve meandered between indie and major labels for much of their career without compromising their musical vision. Their reputation was originally established by their incendiary live shows, but they also backed this up with a succession of powerful and intriguing records. Now, some 25 years down the line, they’re still creating innovative music. Combining ‘Post’punk and Art-rock sensibilities with Hard-rock and Prog-rock (both at their more interesting points) And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead have found something that’s new in both subtle and more obvious manners. One moment, they seem to be going for a full-on riff-fest, but then they’ll twist it in no uncertain terms, whilst elsewhere you’ll be comfortably listening to an ongoing track and then become aware of some sneaky undertone that turns the whole thing on its’ head. But whilst they may deal in (melo)drama, this is a band that also indulge in understated ego and never allow their music to get above itself. Even the vocals (for many bands the main ingredient) seem surprisingly restrained and more like a democratic piece within the overall work than the showboating antics that many vocalists try to put-down. This is an album that embraces both rock’n’roll and the avant garde, producing something that you’ll enjoy in a raw, primal fashion just as much as it’ll leave you thinking and considering what will come next. If a band are going to Rock, this is the way I want to hear it.
BADASS MOTHER FUZZERS. On The Run CD (Tone) Hi-energy rock’n’roll from a band based in Toulouse, France. Eleven songs in just over 30 minutes, so you know they’re not going to be messing about. There’s only three of them, but you’d never guess it from the huge sound they generate. Think of New Bomb Turks, The Sonics, early Damned, maybe even The Derellas ! They’ve got loads of great, snappy songs and deliver them with lots of energy, attitude and velocity. By all accounts, the band play live a lot (Europe and America so far, although I’m not sure if they’ve graced the UK with their presence…yet) and they’ve really developed into a tight, powerful unit as a result, which is clearly apparent on this album. Combining all the best aspects of Sixties, Seventies and current garage-rock’n’roll. This is a band who could really make a name for themselves. ‘On The Run’ is an album that you really need to hear !
CRADLE OF FILTH. Cruelty And The Beast (Re-mistressed) CD (Music For Nations) Not being a long-time fan of Cradle Of Filth, it’s difficult to review this re-mastered reissue of their third album as I’m not familiar with the original, which was first released in 1998. Conceptually based on the legend of Countess Bathory (the album also features spoken passages by actress Ingrid Pitt, who played the Countess in the classic Hammer film) it was undeniably an important step in the bands’ career, even though the original sound-quality was a controversial point with both the band and their fans. Cradle of Filth developed a style that combined the extreme characteristics of Black Metal with Gothic atmospherics and arrangements that veered towards the symphonic. Not as ‘extreme’ as some people would claim, but it’s certainly a powerful and emotive album and this new version (no new recordings or over-dubs were involved, with just the sonic quality being considerably improved) will certainly put most of the old complaints to rest. Dani Filth’s vocal style can get a bit repetitive at times but is tempered by other vocals, both male and female, to ensure that it doesn’t become too overbearing. Rather than adopting the often more-chaotic productions favoured by Black Metal bands, this record is actually surprisingly focused and dramatic in a very effective way. I can’t say that it will convert me to being a devoted fan, but I found it a lot more entertaining than I expected and as long as you don’t take it too seriously, there’s no reason why you won’t enjoy it as well.
THE CRAVATS. Hoorahland LP (Overground) When The Cravats released ‘Dustbin of Sound’ back in 2017, it took a lot of their fans by surprise. Up until that point, there had been no indication that they were planning to release new material and their live sets only featured old songs. But the new album suddenly appeared and it was rather bloody good, invigorating their gigs at the same time. Well, a mere three years later, they’re releasing another new album that takes their musical vision even further. The sound is really powerful, once again, and the arrangements bring out all the elements that make The Cravats so special. The bass guitar (courtesy of Joe 91) lays down the foundations for everything else with the most menacing sound this side of JJ Burnel. The legendary Sax of Mr Svor Naan provides an almost filmic atmosphere in some places, whilst becoming the dominant lead instrument in others. The Shends’ vocals are as idiosyncratic as ever, veering from dark, sinister tones through to pop-like jubilance, whilst his lyrics are amongst some of the most witty and intriguing that he’s ever written, with wonderful wordplay and thought-provoking lines. The bonus on this album is the guest-appearance of Jello Biafra, providing additional vocals on the track ‘Now The Magic Has Gone’. His vocals work really well alongside The Shend and add a further dimension to the songs’ demented-fairground atmosphere. I’m very glad to say that The Cravats have created something that not only lives-up to their previous records, it quite possibly exceeds them. The band are clearly at their most creative right now and this record certainly ranks amongst their very best. This is going to be welcomed by existing fans and, if there’s any justice, will also bring them to the attention of a lot more listeners. We should all be grateful for The Cravats.
DATURA 4. West Coast Highway Cosmic CD (Alive) Coming from a background that includes membership of various revered Australian garage rock bands (The Stems, The Drones, DM3) it may come as a surprise that Datura 4 actually take their template from early-Seventies Hard Rock (although the West Coast referred to in this title is very much Western Australia…) Think of American bands like Grand Funk Railroad or British bands like Deep Purple and you’ll have a good place to start from. The music is stripped down and Bluesy, with solid rhythms providing the groundwork for great harmonica breaks and fine guitar licks. As I listened through the album, I kept expecting the band to launch into ‘Roadhouse Blues’, it’s that kind of vibe. But rather than coming across as some sort of studied, retro affectation, the songs have a real sense of authenticity and plenty of energy to propel them along. I have to say, this won’t be to everyone’s taste, but if you enjoy the Boogie, you’re gonna love this band !
DESTINATION LONELY. Nervous Breakdown CD (Voodoo Rhythm) Destination Lonely are a raw garage/psych band from the South of France and this is their third album. Packed with 17 tracks (the vinyl version fills an entire double album) they cover a whole range of styles in a convincing and confident fashion. The opening track, ‘Lovin’, is a raw blast, presenting an idea of how the MC5 may have sounded if James Williamson had jammed with them. The next two tracks are, surprisingly, both covers, the first being The Troggs’ ‘I Want You’, where the primitive ‘Wild Thing’ styled riff is taken to fuzzed-out extremes. Third track is The Stooges ‘Ann’ which sounds great, even giving the original version a run for its’ money. That being said, I’m not so sure that two covers so early in their set is such a good idea, but moving on, the band start to deliver their own songs and you’ll quickly realise that they’ve got plenty of their own style to offer. Slower tracks delve into the darker corners of psychedelia, whilst the noisier, more frantic moments recall the best moments of Mudhoney. ‘Blind Man’ sounds like a country tune being played at the end of a particularly fine drinking session, while the ensuing ‘Je m’en Vais’ and ‘Sentier Mental’ are both moody and atmospheric in a playful kind of way. ‘Schizo MF’ is a minimalist garage anthem that sounds somewhere between The Fall and The Cramps (both circa ’79.) The album comes to an end with ‘Electric Eel’ which, again, has a slower tempo but at the same time has so much angst and tension within its’ coils that it’ll have you on edge just waiting for it to go off… when they reach the fuzzed out, feedback-laden guitar climax, it really is a glorious end to the proceedings. But… there’s still a bit more to keep you dazed, in the form of two bonus remixes. The new version of ‘Nervous Breakdown’ extends to a pulverising 13 minute extravaganza, recalling Mudhoney once again, but this time sending them head-long into a collision with early-Seventies Hawkwind. The ‘electro-shit’ remix of ‘Schizo MF’ probably isn’t meant to be taken too seriously, but at less than 3 minutes, it’s not bad either. This is a really good album, garage punk at its’ very best and it certainly deserves your attention.
GODSTICKS. Inescapable CD (KScope) Welsh Rock band entering their second decade with their fifth studio album. Their sound is a broad mix of trad-metal, prog-rock and contemporary ‘alternative’ metal, which means it has some moments that sound very enticing and others that don’t sound so good. Their technical abilities are pretty impressive and they’ve certainly tried to create something different with this album, so it is to be applauded for that. After all, it’s a lot more difficult to be genuinely inventive within an established genre and in the moments where they succeed, they present plenty of potential. But for me, though, there are too many moments that veer more towards Pearl Jam territory and that’s not going to maintain my attention. But they clearly have interesting ideas of their own and if they pursue them further, the next record could be something great. This album is worth investigation; at the very least as an indication of what they may achieve in the future.
HUMAN IMPACT. CD (Ipecac) New York band featuring former members of Cop Shoot Cop, Swans and Unsane, so it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion this is going to be pretty heavy stuff. Having said that, the tempos are actually a little more restrained than you might be expecting, with an almost Hard Rock delivery tempering the aggressive vocals and intense instrumentation. But that’s where the similarities with traditional Rock end abruptly. This band is much more about finding what sounds they can employ to enhance the emotive themes and lyrics and, at times, the tracks veer towards filmic soundtracks in the way that they relay the inherent drama. The rhythm section hold everything firmly in place, whilst the guitar sounds are imaginative and innovative. Recorded at the legendary BC Studios, with Martin Bisi in the control room, this is New York’s alternative rock scene at its’ very best and I have little doubt that in years to come, this album will be rightly hailed as a classic.
JUSTINE AND THBE UNCLEAN. Picking a Fight 7”(Rum Bar) Great female-fronted punk rock from Boston. I enjoyed their previous record, but this one is blasting! Imagine Jane Weidlin fronting the Ramones and you’ll get some kind of idea about how great this sounds. The b-side, ‘Sweet Denial’, takes a slower but no less powerful pace, coming across like Joan Jett teaching Lynyrd Skynyrd how to really kick ass! There isn’t much else I need to say about this. Two songs, they’re both great and they’ll make your day a whole lot better. There’s a new album on its’ way as well… if it’s all as good as this single, it’s gonna be a killer.
KICKED IN THE TEETH. s/t CD (Rare Vitamin) New band based in the North West of England, playing a raw version of punk rock infused with hardcore attitude and a Motorhead-style delivery. Members of the band had previously played in groups such as The Business, Helsinki Seven, Incisions and Face of Christ, but this album really has a character and identity of its’ own. Ten tracks in less than 25 minutes, so they’re not wasting any time, even though none of the tracks sound short-changed. Think of a cross between Poison Idea and early Leatherface, perhaps, or at certain moments, maybe even Helmet in collision with Agnostic Front. The sound is huge and the production perfectly captures a brutal but insistent sonic assault. As with the aforementioned Poison Idea, the thing that sets this band apart from so many others is that, however abrasive the songs may get, they never fail to have a melodic hook at the core that draws you completely in to their sound. Their not afraid to play it slow when the song calls for it, but even those moments will maintain your full attention. The incredible thing is that the band have only been playing live for a little over six months, and yet they’re already this tight and focused…. (although by all accounts they’ve all known each other for many years and this band has obviously been a long-time coming.) If you can listen to this album without being blasted away, your senses just ain’t working… Can’t wait to see them live !
LORELLE MEETS THE OBSOLETE. Re-Facto EP (Sonic Catherdral) I have to admit, I don’t know much about this duo, apart from the facts that they’re based in Mexico and have been releasing their music on a pretty regular basis over the last decade. It seems that much of their previous music has had a more guitar-based, psychedelic groove, but this EP takes things in a more electronic direction and works with considerable success. First track ‘Fosas Limitadas’, borrows a riff from Joy Division (‘Wilderness’ to be precise) but it’s done in a suitably subtle way so as not to overshadow their own songwriting. The EP is made-up of two original tracks and two remixes, but they all work so well together that it makes for a very solid, cohesive record. It’s dreamy in a dark, not quite comfortable way and the vocals, all sung in Spanish, add to the unsettling atmosphere (unless you understand Spanish, in which case they may have a completely different effect.) Sort of reminiscent of Julie Cruise’s work with Angelo Badalamanti, this is like a soundtrack for those moments where you’re only have-awake. Wonderful stuff, be sure to hear it.
MELODY MAKERS: The Bible of Rock’n’Roll. DVD (Wienerworld) Melody Maker was the first weekly music magazine in the UK, making its’ original appearance back in 1926, although at that time it was intended more for musicians rather than music fans. It gradually embraced Jazz and then, during the Sixties, made the change towards rock and pop, which was finally established with a front-cover featuring The Beatles (prompting a section of their older staff to resign!) This documentary focuses almost entirely on the decade between the mid-Sixties and the mid-Seventies, when the magazine was at the peak of its’ success, using the archive of work from head photographer of that time, Barrie Wentzell, to illustrate the story. It’s basically a celebration of those times, when Melody Maker was the prime source for anyone who wanted to know what was happening in the contemporary music world. Former journalists tell enthusiastic tales of Keith Moon, the Rolling Stones and Syd Barrett, whilst musicians from the likes of Jethro Tull, The Animals and Yes explain how their paths crossed. At the height of its’ powers, Melody Maker was selling over 200,000 copies per week and even went as far as opening offices in New York (although plans to publish on an international basis failed to come together.) But in the mid-Seventies two factors came together to weaken their position. Firstly, tabloid newspapers started to become interested in the more sensational aspects of rock music and secondly, Punk music started to emerge and Melody Maker were surprisingly slow to feature the new bands, ceding ground to the likes of the NME. So far, so good, but it’s at this point that the documentary fizzles-out and barely mentions that the magazine actually continued to be published for another 25 years. Although some of the older writers see the mid-Seventies as the end of the classic period, if anything, Melody Maker remained an essential part of the UK music scene, competing with the likes of NME and Sounds to be the first to cover new and interesting bands. This helped to maintain a vibrant and thriving scene, with writers like Jon Savage, Chris Bohn covering up and coming bands whilst later on, the likes of Mick Mercer and Everett True became champions of the independent scene. Unfortunately, none of the later years are covered and that’s a real shame as it misses out a very big part of the story. But for those most interested in the earlier years, this is going to be a very informative and enjoyable documentary. I just hope that the rest of the story also gets covered with as much attention at some point in the not-too-distant future.
MOANING. Uneasy Laughter CD (Sub Pop) Los Angeles based band who evidently started out with a fairly abrasive rock style, but gradually adopted a more ‘post-punk’ approach. Which, come to think of it, was pretty much what Joy Division did in the first place, so there’s no surprises that it works for Moaning as well. Funnily enough, ‘post-punk’ is a term that only really exists in retrospect (at the time, late-70’s/ early 80’s, no-one used the term.) But now, it refers to bands who are influenced by a diverse range of bands who, for the most part, grew out of the punk scene. Anyway, diversion over… Moaning adopt atmospheric synth sounds, moody vocals and arrangements with plenty of space, in much the same way as the aforementioned Joy Division, The Cure and perhaps even Echo & The Bunnymen. Forty years later, the style still sounds pretty striking, even if you are already familiar with the originals. Moaning have done what Ceremony did so well with their ‘Zoo’ album, creating something that might echo the past but also provides room for them to develop their future. It’s an effective, enjoyable album that suggests a lot of potential.
MOLLY. All that Was EP (Sonic Cathedral) Molly are an Austrian duo who play mellow, atmospheric music that seems to be part of the current ‘shoegaze’ scene. That being said, I’m not so sure that they should be confined to one particular genre, as this EP (featuring three remixes of tracks from their debut album, ‘All That Ever Could Have Been’, plus a new version of the song ‘Glimpse’) certainly displays plenty of ideas and different directions that set them apart from anyone else. There are comparisons that you could make, but they tend to be suggestions rather than statements. Certainly, some moments are sort of reminiscent of Cocteau Twins, although not in any obvious ways. It’s intriguing rather than compelling, but there’s definitely something about this EP that makes me want to hear more.
NEGATIVLAND. TrueFalse CD (Seeland) Negativland albums are almost like a commentary about the world around us. There’s no simplistic sloganeering or preaching, they just present facts and ideas in a musical setting that will hopefully entertain you and provoke your thoughts. ‘TrueFalse’ is their first album recorded in the so called ‘post truth’ era, a time where ‘false news’ is actively condemned and presented simultaneously by the very same people. It seems that if a lie is stated in the media with enough panache and populism that, even if it can be easily proven to be false, many people are willing to accept it rather than consider facts that might not be so convenient. Negativland explore this phenomenon within this album, providing music that veers from catchy pop melodies through to harsh cut-ups. It’s the sort of music that’s difficult to ignore, as with every listen you’ll discover something new to consider. It works best as an entire album, delivering different sides to the ideas, although individual tracks stand up just as well in their own rights. With vocals delivered both by the band members and from various tape sources, some, like ‘One Bee at a Time’, have an almost Pythonesque sense of humour, while others such as ‘Fourth of July’ are downright unsettling. Negativland have never been predictable but their balance of the serious and the humorous remains one of their true strengths. Admittedly, this isn’t an album that will appeal to everyone, but if you’re feeling adventurous, be sure to hear it.
THE PHOBICS. Burnt Rubber CD (Down & Out) It’s always awkward reviewing something by people that you’re friends with and especially-so in the case of The Phobics. I see them playing live on a pretty regular basis so I’m already familiar with most of the songs featured on this new album, but all that being said, I still have to say that this album came as a bit of a surprise as it sounds really, really good. Not that their previous releases have been disappointing, but their decision to record at Pat Collier’s Perry Vale studio was obviously a good choice. Pat, as an original member of The Vibrators, clearly has rock’n’roll in his blood and has helped the band to get the sound they deserve. From the very first track, the whole band come blastin’ out of the speakers with a powerful sound that captures both their energy and their melodies. As I’ve said before, their style is based on New York bands like The Ramones and the Heartbreakers, but they put it all into an authentic South London perspective. They don’t try to adopt phoney accents or American slang as they know who they are and they’re happy with it. The lyrics talk about the problems we all face (‘Gentrification’ and ‘Politics’ are the obvious ones) while others like ‘Don’t Lay Your Flowers On My Grave’ and ‘Path of Love’ address more personal subjects. Possibly the oldest track here is ‘P-H-O-B-I-C-S’, their adaptation of Lemmy’s homage to the Ramones which they’ve been playing live for quite some time. At first, I wasn’t sure if it would work on a record, but it’s come out as a brief burst of tongue-in-cheek fun that works perfectly in the middle of their other songs. The real highlight for me is the excellent ‘Burnt Rubber’, one of their more recent songs which takes a harder almost Detroit High Energy approach with a very effective, repetitive riff and insistent vocals. The album ends with ‘Hymn for the 12 Bar Dudes’, an atmosphere piano track that serves as a paean to the much-missed venue. Yes, this is an album that exceeds expectations and, if justice is served, really ought to bring The Phobics to much wider attention. It’s a bloody-good album, plain and simple.
TRAVIS EDWARD PIKE, Changeling’s Return CD (Otherworld Cottage Industries) Travis Pike has recently received retrospective acclaim for the music he made in the Sixties, with great reissues appearing on both State Records and Mousetrap Music. But he continued to develop and write music for a long time after that original period (you can check details in my interview with him, elsewhere on this website.) One such project was ‘Changeling’, originally envisioned as a ‘rock opera’ but later transformed in to a screenplay. A book of this was published in 2017, alongside a CD of songs intended for the project, but a screenplay isn’t the best way to tell a story, so Travis has now published a novel based on the story (check my Book Reviews for further details) and, in addition, a new album featuring updated versions of the original songs and a few brand new tracks. I will say that these recordings are probably more of an indication of how the soundtrack could sound, rather than a finished product, simply because these are songs that deserve a huge production, but regardless, this album has some really great music and plenty to keep you thinking. The mood and atmosphere recalls albums like Alice Coopers ‘Welcome to My Nightmare’, with esoteric themes and, at times, an almost Baroque tone. The album works best in conjunction with the novel, but many of the songs stand alone in their own right. Similarly, the lyrics reveal plenty of ideas that are valid even aside from the novel / screenplay. It’s intriguing and adventurous, mixing rock, psychedelia, folk and Prog at different points. It may not be immediately accessible, but give this album a chance and it will win you over. There are plenty of good songs, intriguing lyrics and an intent that can’t be faulted. It might not be the kind of thing that you’d usually listen to, but check it out because there’s a lot of it that you may well appreciate.
RAMLEH. The Great Unlearning CD (Fourth Dimension) I can’t claim to know a lot about Ramleh as it’s only quite recently that I’ve started to take a proper interest in them. Having originally been a part of the industrial / power electronics scene of the early Eighties, in recent years they’ve moved more towards a guitar-based format, although the results are just as different and unrepentant as their older output. This double album was first released (vinyl only) in 2019 by the Nashazphone label, and is now made available on CD for the first time. Alongside core members Gary Mundy and Anthony Di Franco, with drummers Stuart Dennison and Martyn Watts, this album also see’s the return of their erstwhile collaborator Philip Best alongside his partner in Consumer Electronics, Sarah Froelich. The results are nothing short of remarkable and, indeed, several reviews have already called this one of the best Ramleh releases to date. Opening track ‘Futureworld’ is perhaps the darkest piece of psychedelia I’ve heard… if you could imagine the Syd Barrett of ‘Astronomy Domine’ and ‘Interstellar Overdrive’ jamming with Faust, you’ll get some kind of idea of the results. ‘The Twitch’ starts with a bass-riff that wouldn’t have been out of place on the first two PiL albums, before building into a powerful, compelling and repetitive track with suitably intriguing lyrics. Final track on the first disc, ‘Blood Aurora’, is possibly closest to their early albums, creating a genuinely unsettling tone over which guitar sounds are scattered in an effective, discordant manner. The second disk takes a direction more focused on their recent guitar-based work but, again, it’s not what many ‘rock’ fans would enjoy. ‘No Music For These Times’ is probably the most straight-forward track on the whole album, but serves as great contrast to the ensuing ‘Religious Attack’ and ‘Racial Violence’. The first is a brutal, insistent track that recalls the likes of Big Black (both musically and lyrically) while the second is a disturbing instrumental that recalls Chrome at their more deranged. ‘Your Village Has Been Raised’ is a disturbing narrative set to a slow, repetitive rhythm that recalls early Swans. ‘Procreation as an Imperialist Act’ is another more rock-influenced instrumental, with some great screeching guitar offset against the minimal drum machine rhythm. Finally, ‘Natural Causes’ ends the album with a slow, menacing rhythm and a distorted vocal that recalls early-seventies Hawkwind, albeit with a much noisier delivery. This isn’t an album that you’ll listen to every day, but if you catch it at the right time you’re going to love it. I can feel that I’m going to have to investigate a lot more Ramleh music after hearing this!
SHINER. s/t CD ( ??? ) I have no label or contact details for this mini-album, which is a shame as it’s a really good debut recording and deserves to be heard. Eight songs that sound like a mix of 77/78 punk rock, along with American bands like The Queers or maybe Crimpshrine. At times you can also hear hints of Oi-style melodies and even some Glam-style boot-stomping drumbeats. The tempo is fast without becoming thrashy and the songs have good arrangements that really bring out their individuality. The lyrics veer towards the kind of songs you’d get from the better end of street-punk, with plenty of chant-along choruses and down-to-earth subjects. ‘We Are The Legion’ betrays some Mod influences, while ‘Danger Zone’ makes me think of early Weirdos material and ‘Hamper Jets’ makes me think of a cross between Rudi and Slade !. This is a really good mix of styles put together with plenty of their own ideas to create a very enjoyable set of songs. I’ll do my best to find some more details about the band and add them here as soon as I have them, but in the meantime, keep a lookout for this lot. STOP PRESS !!! - here's an email if you want to chase this up - email@example.com
SPHAEROS POSSESSION. CD (Pan European) Sphaeros is a French Psychedelic artist best known as frontman for the band Aqua Nebula Oscillator. His latest album is a multi-media project, featuring seven musical tracks and seven corresponding films, each created with an organic, spontaneous approach. The album has dark, even sinister undertones that really add an unnerving edge to the proceedings, whilst musical influences most likely include the likes of Syd Barrett (the early instrumental jams) The Seeds, early Hawkwind and possibly even Faust. Most of the tracks are based around simple, repetitive riffs while all manner of instruments, vocals and tape-loops build highly effective sound-collages. This is psychedelic music in its’ truest sense, presenting soundtracks for your own imagination, whilst the accompanying films (rather than ‘videos’) steer you in different directions. It can be scary in places and invigorating in others, but all along you won’t want to stop listening. This is an album I heard without having a clue about what to expect and I really enjoyed it. I hope you will as well.
SQUIRE. Get Ready To Go! CD (Hi-Lo Records) Most of the tracks included in this collection were recorded by frontman Anthony Meynell and his brother Kevin as ‘The Numbers’ between 1977-78. The Numbers never got further than these demos but eventually Anthony joined an already-existing local band called Squire who were mostly playing covers. His early recordings were presented to give the other members an idea of his songwriting abilities and also to provide the basis for their new set of original material. Despite this sounding like a possibly-haphazard start to proceedings, the demos actually sound exciting and accomplished with plenty of great tunes, good lyrics and, considering that they were basically home-recordings, a surprisingly solid sound quality. Having been recorded at a point when ‘Punk’ was still clawing at the mainstream, there were certainly more punky influences in their overall sound at this point, although various Sixties influences are also very-much in the mix. At certain times you can hear hints of the Buzzcocks, The Boys and The Clash, but Anthony was also embracing classic Mod and Pop-Art culture with the influence of bands like The Who and The Creation playing their part. Alongside this, you can also hear the melodic, powerpop sounds of the Flamin’ Groovies and Big Star, both bands who would play an increasingly important part as Squire continued to develop. In many ways, the ensuing ‘Mod-revival’ possibly did Squire as much injustice as favours over the next few years as, much-like The Chords, they became pigeon-holed as part of that ‘movement’ even though their sound and influences were a lot more diverse and interesting than most of the other bands. Listening to these recordings now, I’m just thinking, what a great set of songs! Squire released several records between 1979-84, but never achieved the wider audience that they deserved. Listen to this album now and I’m sure you’ll be just as bewildered as me, that they didn’t become a much better known band.
SQUIRE. September Gurls CD (Hi-Lo Records) Having just released the ‘Get Ready To Go!’ album, featuring the earliest (and even pre-) Squire recordings, this is a reissue of the original bands’ final release, from 1984. The beginning and the end, as it were, except in this case you can hear a natural progression from one to the other even if there is a six-year gap between the two. Named after the Alex Chilton / Big Star song with which Squire opened this set, they were bringing this to an audience who, for the most part, had no idea of the original (remember, this was still before Big Star started to gain the acclaim that they eventually received.) Obviously, there were less-punky influences of this album and, to a great extent, less (obvious) Mod influences as well, but Squire were taking things forward in a very organic style, bringing their Sixties and powerpop influences to the fore with plenty of panache. Jangly-guitars that would have made REM proud, harmonies that could easily have graced classics by the Beach Boys and snappy, insistent melodies that The Beatles wouldn’t have turned down. Squire developed from record to record, never turning their backs on earlier sounds and influences but at the same time confidently taking them forward. By this point, they were not really Mod and they didn’t sound like Punk, but the essence and attitude of both remained in there. Everyone likes to categorise because it makes things more simple (in the short-term at least) but Squire most definitely transcended that nonsense. As I said about the previous album, this is just a great set of songs. Listen to it without bias and there’s no reason why you won’t love it!
SUPERSUCKERS….Play That Rock’N’Roll CD (SPV) Writing a review of this album is pretty pointless because, basically, the album does what it says on the cover and that’s all you really need to know. But in the interests of spreading the message, I will persevere. The Supersuckers are a very different beast these days, now claiming the stage as a solid three-piece rather than the five-man assault that built their reputation back in their early days. But musically it’s still instantly recognisable even if, nowadays, it’s more about the riff rather than the tuneage, although catchy melodies still grab you in the most unexpected places. The band have evolved towards a harder rock’n’roll sound, which probably owes as much to the likes of early AC/DC, Motorhead and maybe even ZZ Top as it does to their more melodic roots, but they still combine clichés with class, delivering a sharp’n’sly version of The Rock. ‘You Ain’t the Boss of Me’ borrows riffs from Suzi Quattro and The Sweet to create something wonderfully familiar whilst punching it through a wall and elsewhere, ‘That’s a Thing’ brings Muds’ ‘Tiger Feet’ to mind, which certainly isn’t a bad call in my book… Eddies’ vocals maintain the character that propels the songs along and the lyrics leave you with plenty of great lines to quote. There’s less of their Country influences in evidence (even if it was recorded at Willie Nelsons’ studio) but you know the spirit is still in there. Metal Marty handles his first (I think?) set of lead vocals on ‘Dead, Jail or Rock’n’Roll’, whilst other guests help out on other songs, but the core of this album is very-much the current band, firing on all cylinders even as they take things away in their own direction. I can’t see this band calling it quits for a very long time, if at all… and isn’t that a great prospect?
TERMINAL HEADS, The Duncan Norbert Memorial Album CD (Golden Moose) Alright, if you can make any sense of who Duncan Norbert might be, in relation to this album, you’re a better man than I. Just check goggle… Plenty of Duncan Norberts and even a few Norbert Duncans, but none of them shed any light on this album. Please send your suggestions on a postcard to someone else… Anyway, following on from their previous album, ‘Back!’, this latest offering really puts Terminal Heads back on the map (of Kent.) 14 new songs recorded with a great, in yer face production that captures them at their best. Fast and tight, but never lacking great tunes, this is a fine album that achieves all the promise of its’ predecessor. It’s punk rock that takes-in so many different influences, from street-punk like The Business or (early) Peter and the Test Tube Babies through to the more melodic moments of anarcho-punk (Subhumans, Lost Cherress) and maybe even Hardcore bands like Minor Threat or Government Issue. The vocals are mostly sung at a furious pace and sound a bit like John Otway on speed (which is no bad thing) whilst the rhythm section effortlessly hold everything in place and the guitar provides an invigorating chainsaw-tone that recalls early Buzzcocks. This is a great record, one that really shows how good this band can be, capturing both the excitement of their live sets and the arrangements that they can create in the studio (their reference to ‘The Italian Job’ during ‘Self-Medication’ is genius!) If you’re a fan of raw punk rock that packs plenty of energy and tunes, you need to hear this!
WORLD PEACE s/t LP (Green Doe) This is another album that arrived with very minimal information. Sometimes that’s a good thing as you won’t get influenced in advance by some dodgy press release, but in this case, the music is a pretty peculiar mix of styles and ideas so I really wanted a bit more background info. Fortunately, an email address was included and the band provided further details…They’re based in London and include veterans of various independent bands (Bloodless Coup, Tongue Kung Fu etc) that frequented the Bull & Gate, Amersham Arms etc over the last few decades, whilst their drummer has played with the likes of Massive Attack, Neneh Cherry and Duncan Redmonds (Snuff.) I’m not entirely sure how this album relates to their previous efforts, but to me it’s a pretty dense mix of punk, funky-rhythms and krautrock-sensibilities, reminding me of when I used to listen to the John Peel show in the early Eighties and hear bands like The Box, The Pop Group, The Slits etc. Mainstream music may have been predominantly poor during the Eighties, but scratch the surface and there really was so much great stuff to discover. The vocals make me think of a very pissed-off David Byrne with some of the mannerisms of Mark E Smith, which sort of makes it belligerent but entertaining. The final track, ‘Country Dumb’ maintains the repetitive riffs but gives it a harder overall sound that’ll make you think of Neu! jamming with the (early) Mekons. This is a good debut and certainly suggests some great things could be on their way. For more info – firstname.lastname@example.org