American Dirt “Heavy Thought And Riddle”
American Dirt are a band who play American music rooted in the soil of traditional country mixed with good old rock and roll. “Heavy Thought And Riddle” is the bands first full album having previously released an EP. The best intro for this band is their own description : “We play honest American rock and roll that veers between garage rock and country like your grandpa on a moonshine run in a T-Bird”.
This self description is immediately demonstrated by the title track itself. It brings to mind great American bands such as Lucero and Two Cow Garage. It’s that Americana/country feel, but filled with a more wild moonshine feel. “Leave My Mark”, keeps a similar sound but adds an extra feel of darkness and depth. It has a nice use of twin vocals on the chorus which gives the song a warmer sound. On “Back And Forth” there is also that sound of greater depth and a real reminder of early Lucero.
They don’t keep everything quite so straight forward and traditional sounding though. “Wasted Youth”, sees them throw a bit of a curve ball where the band really cut loose. It’s kind of like a punk band going country, that may sound weird, but it works. Then on “Honky Tonk Super Ego” they deliver an amusing song, where they add an almost “yodel” effect to the song. It then moves in to a good old boys, whisky on the front porch song.
Despite their name, the band also has a more sensitive and slower side. “Creston Line” is a heartfelt country esque ballad. Again, we see the great use of co vocals but the sparser, more melodic sound actually brings to mind The Avett Brothers. The same kind of clean cut sound with all the focus on harmonies, is seen on “Frozen Bones, whilst “Preach” is a slow and sparse song and a perfect example of a simple but warming ballad.
American Dirt are clearly not, however, afraid to have a bit of fun and “Hank Williams” is a great stomping, country folk song with some brilliant tongue in cheek lyrics. The album then ends with “All My Friends”, and we see that punk energy coming back. It adds a more alternative sound which has an almost Soul Asylum feel to it.
It is quite easy to initially regard this as just another punk/americana album. However, if you listen more carefully, you will realise that it is far more diverse than that. Yeah, the influences are there to see, but they are a band who are able to add a little bit extra to the mix. The bands’ name is really appropriate, as you get the feeling they produce a sound which is very much from the American heartland rather than the shiny, artificial, Hollywood US of A image that we so often get force fed.
Attic Lights “Super Deluxe”
Glasgow may not appear the most natural of homes for a power pop band that deliver songs full of sunlight and fun but that is what Attic Lights provide on this new album.
They waste no time in delivering an uplifting tune as the opening two tracks “Say You Love Me” and “Future Bounds” are both up beat, “sunny” songs. “Future Bounds” has a funky opening, before moving in to a very “pop” sound which actually has a hint of a more mainstream, clean cut Scissor Sister sound.
The quality of the Pop rock sound is really evident on “Break For Me” which brings to mind the “Dum Dums”, who were in fact really just an indie precursor to Busted! This song really does have Radio One summer song written all over it. Similarly, ” Mona Lisa” has an opening keyboard sound which is very Scouting For Girls. It then moves into a slightly slower song where the sun beam dial is turned down a touch, but still retains that simple pop sound. The lyrics have references to Sunday morning and this is certainly a sleepy, sunday morning, sunshine peaking through the curtains, wake up song.
“Hit and Miss” is another really great song which benefits from some catchy backing vocals. The band also manages a sense of “quirkiness” to the sound which is probably needed to offer some respite from the constant simple pop sound of the others. Unfortunately, this is followed by “Lock Me Out”, which is a much slower track and whilst they were probably aiming for dreamy is actually more a bit dreary.
Thankfully, the album ends with “Gabrielle” which is an arms a loft, end of gig song. It has a good use of Beatles esque sounds and is quality power pop.
The album has a quality, modern, almost mature, pop sound. It actually has some songs of the style that Robbie Williams started off doing very well. The whole genre of power pop has always been much more popular in the US than here in the UK. This is a shame as many of the songs on this album are good summer pop songs which are light, well crafted and easy to listen to. There are a number of songs on the album which could easily be singles and if picked up by one of the commercial radio stations, could provide Attic Lights with a surprise hit.
Banquets “Self Titled”
This is the sophomore album from Banquets after their release “Top Button, Bottom Shelf” in 2011. The band were actually named after a beer, which is perfect given their already demonstrated ability to produce tight, melodic pop/punk songs. It’s a sound which has been a big hit both in the States and in the UK and can surely only continue to grow.
The style of the band, and their influences, are evident from the off with “Little Shallow” which has that awesome Gaslight Anthem feel to it. It is the classic combination of punk rock vocals and sounds but delivering a Springsteen esque melody. This is continued on “Big Big Waves” and the band clearly follow the Gaslight Anthems lead in also delivering the classic technique of two huge opening tracks. This song is literally pumped full of energy and spirit.
The real potential of the band then arguably reaches it’s peak with “Call It A Comeback”, which, has a great opening rumbling bass before moving straight in to a shouty refrain. However, this song also adds an extra feeling of commerciality and has potential hit single written all over it. The same could also be said for “Bums In The Breeze”,we can only hope this is referring to the American use of the word bums rather than the British version! This track builds up to a fantastic chorus where the only downside is that it is all over in just over two minutes, although arguably all pop/punk songs should follow this quick hit style.
However, the album isn’t all just about fast paced, volatile rock n roll. A more aggressive and darker side is shown on both “Paths” and “Starts and Stops”. These songs actually have a resemblance to their punk compatriots The Menzingers and Restorations. These two bands have released similarly great albums and this one comfortably matches those.
A particular mention has to be given to the vocals of Lead Singer, Travis Omilian which are perfect for the sound and the delivery of the lyrics. This is most strikingly evident on “March 19th” where the quality is brilliant. Omilian manages to keep a clarity to the sound of his vocals so you can really appreciate the lyrics. This is an important skill that is so often lost by punk singers in their over whelming desire to deliver angst and anger.
This excellent album then concludes with “Daggers” which again brings to mind The Menzingers. It shows the band have a depth which goes beyond just good time punk n roll. It has a sound which suggests that it would be delivered as an epic and intense song in a live environment.
This really is an awesome album and delivers classic punk rock song writing but with an added dash of melody. It is chocked full with good song after good song and the quality just doesn’t drop off at all. It has a whole host of potential singles that, if played on US Rock/Punk radio, would surely see the band being capable of having the success of the Gaslight Anthem. If you are a fan of that band or others such as The Menzingers, The Hold Steady or The Restorations then this is quite simply a must buy. When you have got it, the only hope then will be that the band make it over to the UK, as there is no doubt that these songs would sound huge live.
Brendan Benson – “You Were Right”
Many people when seeing the name Brendan Benson will have that feeling of ‘I know that name, but where from?”. Then eventually some of them will think “Oh, I know, he was in The Raconteurs with Jack White”. Now whilst this is certainly true, the fact is that he actually co-founded The Raconteurs and is arguably responsible for some of the best songs that band produced. More importantly, he is also a solo artist and “You Were Right” is actually his sixth solo album.
As a solo artist, he has amassed a brilliant back catalogue of songs that are a broad mixture of singer/songwriter, Americana and Power Pop. He has never developed the high profile of artists such as Ryan Adams but instead has focused on the quality of his musicianship. This has meant that every one of his albums has met with enthusiastic praise from both critics and, most importantly, his fans. The release of his latest album “You Were Right”, therefore, has a lot to live up to but, not surprisingly, Brendan is up to the challenge.
The album kicks off with “It’s Your Choice”, which is an instant hit of pure pop joy that’s like the sun coming up in the morning. It’s a laid back, effortlessly cool song that is really just classic Brendan Benson. It is suitably followed up by “Rejuvenate Me which picks up the beat a bit but still has that classic power pop feel.
The next couple of tracks actually bring to mind one of those other bands which are sadly not as well known a they should be, Jellyfish. It has a similar hint of a sixties, breezy feel but perhaps without their quirkiness. In fact, on “Diamond” the sound is more like the post Jellyfish band, Umajets as it has a more of a chill out in the sun feel to it. The ability to deliver a song with this kind of laid back/effortless feel is something which so many bands/artists struggle with.
The key to Brendan’s music is that it always sounds heartfelt and true. This is certainly evident on “I Don’t Wanna See You Anymore”, which is a big ballad complete with horns and organ. There will be many a post break up tear shed, whilst downing a bottle of wine and listening to this song. It achieves the very difficult task of creating an emotional song with a real soul and not falling in to the ‘cheesy’ sound trap.
We are, however, soon back in to the world of pure pop. “Swallow You Whole” begins with a kind of ragtime feel and then moves in to a Beatles esque song. In fact, many of the songs have that “Macca” written pop sensibility all over them. This includes “She’s Trying To Poison Me” which not only has a great title but also great lyrics which really contrast with the light hearted feel of the song. This really is a pop gem and is certainly one of the best songs on the album.
“Purely Automatic” has an initial intro which is really reminiscent of Bowie’s “Jean Genie” before again moving on to a melodic groove that will gradually sink in to your sub conscience. This is equally true of so many songs on the album, where it is easy just to describe them as ‘quintessential’ Brendan Benson. Anyone who has seen Brendan live will realise that he has a style and sound which means that each time you hear one of his songs being played, it instantly makes you think that’s your favourite Brendan Benson song.
The album comes to a conclusion with “Oh My Love” which is another song of lost love. It is a reminder that instead of just getting caught up in the sound of the song, that it is also important to listen to the lyrics where Benson is a great song writer and lyricist. Often , like on this final track, these lyrics are wrapped up in a delightful melody.
It really is sad to think that Brendan Benson will to many people be known as that guy in The Raconteurs with Jack White. Anyone who knows his solo stuff will understand that there is so much more to him that that. In fact, very few artists in recent years have been able to match his skills for carefully crafted, quality, adult pop songs. This album just adds another whole set of songs to that list.
Hopefully, it will also present us with the chance to hear the songs in a live environment. Brendan undertook a few dates in the UK earlier this year but hopefully we will see him back soon. He is fantastic in a live environment and as he plays each song from his vast catalogue you will be discovering a new lost favourite. So make sure you get out there and buy this album so that he has reason to visit these shores again soon.
Blitzen Trapper – “VII”
No prizes for guessing which number album this is for the band Blitzen Trapper! Although, a prize should be awarded for anyone who can provide a brief description of the band and their sound. Whilst they are often placed in the americana/folk type pigeon hole, they are actually far too experimental and varied to be tied to this category. Indeed, even if this isn’t a genre you enjoy, you should still take a chance and give this album a listen. The very fact that the band state themselves that this is “another bizarre string of tales and touchstones, more beats and banjos by far than anything to date” should be enough to tempt you!
“Feel The Chill” is an “interesting” opener and, not knowing about the experimental side of the band, I did need to check that the track had actually downloaded correctly! However, after the initial shock, you can really get in to the track which has a great funky bass. The obscure sound continues with “Shine On” which has a strange stop/start production which distracts from the more country sound that’s hidden underneath.
The album, therefore, doesn’t really hit it’s stride until “Ever Loved Once” which, ironically, is actually a straight forward Americana/Power Pop song. It really is a great track with a beautiful melody. Then comes “Thirsty Man”, which this time sees the band achieving a good mixture of an Americana sound but with a more modern influence. There is even a “Doors” feel to the organ in the song. In particular, it has an organ solo that the late, great, Ray Manzarek would have been proud of. This is something which reoccurs on “Faces of You”, with its organ sound and a Robbie Krieger esque guitar solo. This song has a cool, laid back almost jazz feel to it.
“Valley Of Death” sees a return to the Americana/Country folk feel but adds in some beats and more modern effects, which by the end sounds like “Dub Be Good To Me” by Beats International (or to be cooler, the sampled “Guns of Brixton” by The Clash). This use of modern techniques sees “Oregon Geography” delivered with an almost laid back rap effect in the vocals.
“Neck Tatts, Cadillacs” is a great mix up song somewhere between a country folk song and a modern dance song. It is probably one of the best examples of what the band are trying to achieve. It takes an established sound and totally transforms it in to something new and original. The band are still able to deliver some more ‘straight up’ songs, such as “Drive On Up’, which has an almost U.S. 70’s TV show theme to it. It’s a great track which adds a nice sense of throw away to the album. Then “Heart Attack” adds a dash of pop to the mix and creates a great little power pop song with hints of the Beatles, on one of their more ramshackle songs.
Finally for those fans of actual Americana/Country folk, they deliver “Don’t Be A Stranger” which ends up being a surprise, ironically, because it is purely a simple country folk songs which aptly demonstrates their traditional roots.
This really is a great and unique album. It is a bit of a shame that the first two songs are the most alternative, and arguably weakest, as it may deter the new or casual listener. I expect to their fans, however, they would anticipate the band’s desire to be ‘different’. The rest of the album is certainly brilliant and is a good example of a band taking a very traditional core sound of Americana, and then chucking a load of different sounds in to the mix. The end result is something which achieves the very difficult task of being different, challenging but also brilliant. This is definitely one of the best releases of the year and a must buy.
The Bloodshots -“On Fire”
The Bloodshots are a 3 piece Rockabilly band from Brooklyn, New York and are led by Little Lesley who is not only the lead singer but also has the key responsibility of slapping the upright bass. This is the band’s debut album and impressively contains thirteen original songs which have their heart in rockabilly but with a little taste of bourbon in the form of a country twang.
This is apparent on opening number “Rollin Out”, which is a hard rocking song with that country twang. You are immediately hit with the impressive vocal performance, which has a great feel of raunch and attitude. Given the title, “Straight From Hell”, not surprisingly keeps up the rocking, high tempo approach.
The Bloodshots do show a more traditional rockabilly sound on songs such as “You Cant Break My Soul” and “Hearts On Fire”. This is driven by the more laid back drumming and bass approach. These songs provide a nice change of pace and offer more of a swagger to their sound. Then on “La La La Love” they add a great swing style opening with some super cool finger clicks. This time, the lyrics are purred so as to give the song the sound of a perfect soundtrack to a burlesque dance. “You’re A Cat” has that same sassy swing element and not surprisingly has a real strut to it.
The fact that Little Lesley is a farmer’s daughter means that the country influences are never too far away. “I Still Love You” again adds that country twang. It starts like a blues ballad but soon builds in to a fast paced rockabilly song with good use of backing vocals. “Waste Away” sees that country/hillbilly flavour again but also keeps the rocking undertone.
The album ends as it started with “I Gotta Go” being a hard rocking number. The lyrics contain a plan to find a place to rock n roll, and it’s true to say this song would be a good accompaniment to a night of wild and drunken fun.
This is a strong collection of rock n roll numbers with an old school feel to them. Lots of the tracks are good time numbers that deserve to be played loud. However, it is actually some of the slower, more restrained, tracks which really stand out. These ones tend to have an added swagger and swing which gives The Bloodshots a little extra style in comparison to many of the other bands of a similar ilk. They retain a traditional rockabilly sound but keep a freshness and sense of urgency which makes this a really strong album.
The Boom Boom Booms – “S/t”
The Boom Boom Booms are a talented bunch of musicians hailing from literally around the globe but it would appear their musical roots lie in the South of the old US of A given the sound of rockabilly, early rock n roll, swing, blues and country evident on this album.
One of the key differences evident on this album is the permanent use of a saxophonist in their sound. This is evident from the opening track “Trouble and Strife” which also has some great sounding rock n roll vocals, another constant on the album. The important point about the use of the sax is that it really punctuates the songs but doesn’t over power them which is often a problem. Instead, on the likes of “Ghost Train”, it compliments the tunes and nicely contrasts with the clean guitar sound.
Certainly, if you are looking for an album which contains some simple good time rock n roll songs then you will find them in abundance on this CD. Songs like ” Motorbike Tonight” and “Lust Disease” are up beat traditional rockabilly songs. On “Working’ there is a harmonica/guitar riff battle which develops in to a tune, which would be perfect to kick off a Friday night with a strong drink to help you forget a tough week at work.
One of the best songs on the album is ” Eat You Up And Spit You Out”, which again has a true rock n roll sound. It is no surprise to hear a reference to Elvis via the familiar lyric of “Devil In Disguise” as it has a real old school 50’s sound. The influence of the King is also seen on ” You Can’t Stop Me”, which has more of a latino feel to it. In fact, it actually sounds like it should be in an Elvis film full of sun, Hawaiian shirts, cocktails and pretty girls.
Speaking of pretty girls in “Bang Bang Baby(Give You Bang)” the Boom Boom Booms have produced a song which would be a great soundtrack for a Burlesque performance. This is made even more obvious in the lyrics that describe her as “She’s got the lips, the hips, the wiggle and the jiggle” and also “Legs so long they go all the way to heaven”!
It is probably fair to say that the music on this album would never be regarded as cutting edge or pushing the boundaries. So if you are searching for the next “OK Computer” etc then this is not for you. If, however, you are looking for some good time rock n roll songs to have a few drinks to then you could do a lot worse.
Hearing that this latest album, by rock band Buckcherry, was a collection of songs built around the theme of the seven deadly sins did raise initial concerns, as it has a whiff of Spinal Tap “The Gospel according to ” about it!!
The album actually opens with an absolute cracker of a first song called “Gluttony”. It’s a track which sums up all that is good about Buckcherry. It’s ‘in your face’ but still has a strong melody. It’s a rock song dripping with sleaze and in line with the sins theme makes you want all the things that are so good but you know are so bad for you.
The next song “Wrath” adds a bit more of a swagger and funk element to the song. This is a good Buckcherry song but not a great one. This is a problem which surfaces throughout the album. Many of the songs such as “Nothing left but tears”, ” Seven Ways to die” and “Air” are just too pedestrian and really just seem to be the band going through the motions. They are not bad songs necessarily, but just don’t have anything dynamic or different about them. This is a band who are capable of producing truly great songs and when touring the UK last year were brilliant.
Interestingly the better songs on this album are actually the slower ones. “The Truth” is an old school ballad and has a lighters aloft melody. Similarly “Sloth” again demonstrates their ability to write quality songs. They have always shown their Aerosmith influences on their sleeve and this is thankfully a classic ballad ala “Angel’ or “What It takes” rather than the rubbish syrupy ballads that this once great band now specialise in.
There are some other really good songs on this album including “Pride”. This brings a much needed change of pace. It contains more of a spoken vocal technique and then leads in to a great sing along chorus.
Special mention to “Lust” as well, now if there is one thing that Buckcherry should know about it’s lust, as they have built a whole image and career out of it. This song has a great mix of sleaze and melody and you can guarantee it will be a live favourite. Buckcherry have had a great habit of throwing out a surprise hit (“Lit up” and “Bitch” the best examples) and this could be the one on this album. This would be particularly true if it could be accompanied with the usual raunchy video.
Overall, it’s not a case of on what day did Buckcherry invent the confessions album and why didn’t they rest then as well, but its not a classic. Anyone new to the band will find some good tracks on here and probably enjoy it. However, for those fans who know the bands full back catalogue there will be the knowledge they can do much better.
Anna Calvi – “One Breath”
It is fair to say that Anna Calvi has probably not had one of the most orthodox routes to International stardom. It is also somewhat unusual that many of her biographies refer to her experiences before she was four years old. However, the fact that she was seriously ill and subject to extensive surgery must surely have had an impact on her view of the world and have influenced the dark and powerful sound which is present throughout her music. The diverse range of her music must also be partly credited to her music loving father who apparently exposed her to a wide and eclectic range of bands. Perhaps even more surprisingly, she was not a natural vocalist. In fact, she only really began singing in her mid twenties. She certainly made up for time by releasing a self titled debut album which gained both commercial and critical success. This included nominations in The Best British Breakthrough category at the BRIT Awards in 2012. Like any artist who attracts this level of success, especially when they appear to suddenly burst on to the scene, this next release is bound to be met with a sense of serious expectation. Having established a reputation as a unique and challenging artist, “One Breath” will be expected to reach the artistic heights of her debut.
The opening track, “Suddenly” is on it’s own a very good introduction to this album as it incorporates many of the themes and styles present in many of the tracks. It starts off broody and mysterious. It is very cinematic with Anna Calvi’s powerful voice taking centre stage until eventually the sound builds in to a triumphant noise mid way through the song. It is followed by “Eliza” which will already be known to a lot of people as it is the lead single and has received a fair amount of radio air time. It was a good single choice as it maintains the orchestral theme to the album but has a more warm tone to the overall sound. In contrast, “Cry” starts with a very similar style but with a much starker sound.
“Piece By Piece” sees a distinctive change in sound where this song has more electronic beats and a more ‘twisted’ appeal. Again it is her pure and piercing voice which shines against the sparse background. On “Sing To Me” you find a highly emotive song which builds slowly and patiently to a more lush, orchestral peak. It brings images of a slowly building sun rise to mind. A technique which is used to similar effect on “Bleed Into Me” but again there is a more fragile sound that is juxtaposed against that powerful voice which really punctuates the lyrics.
A potential future contender for a single must be “Tristan”, as it has a more upbeat sound compared to the other tracks. It actually sounds very much like an Amanda Palmer song. It is a more ‘catchy’ song then the others but it is delivered with an off kilter passion.The important thing about Anna Calvi, however, is that there is never a sense of being alternative or different just for effect. Her willingness to offer something beyond the run of the mill is clearly a genuine calling. The comparison to Amanda Palmer is also evident on “Love Of My Life” which has a ‘grungy’ sound but against a more aggressive vocal approach. Given her dramatic approach to her music you could certainly see Anna Calvi being a positive artistic focal point who will generate similar levels of adulation and worship from her fans.
The title track, “One Breath”, with it’s refrain of “one second to live” is not surprisingly another intense and passionate song. On this song, the emotion culminates at the end of the song in a dramatic string section. Whilst “Carry Me Over” opens up with a sound that is reminiscent of the opening to The Stones’ “Gimme Shelter”. Like that song, it has gothic undertones but this builds in to what sounds like a romantic track. That is at least until half way through where there is a shift again to electronic beats and an almost trance like feel until it blooms in to a softer, wider sound.
The final track is “The Bridge” which opens up with a choir effect and the entire song has the feel of a hymn to it. As already highlighted, Anna Calvi certainly has the qualities to develop a passionate and loyal fan base who will worship all she does and this album will only further enhance this. This last song is one of an understated strength and quiet confidence as it draws the album to a conclusion.
When listening to Anna Calvi’s music it is hard not to use terms such as cinematic, orchestral and dramatic as they apply so appropriately to many tracks on this album. It is, however, an album which is certainly expansive and manages to seemingly effortlessly move from a sparse and emotive sound to a feeling of pain and passion. Many of the songs build and build like an epic thunderstorm. It’s release date is perfectly timed for the autumn and winter, as it is an album to be played under dark clouds as rain falls on the window whilst you seek solace inside.
The Caezars – “Welcome To The Mainstream”
The Caezars are a young band who are bringing a welcome fresh and modern approach to the sound of Rockabilly. Given they have already received the backing of Darrel Higham and supported his great band Kat Men on tour, it is fair to say that they come with some expectation. Thankfully, “Welcome To The Mainstream” is so good it actually exceeds those high expectations.
The album opens with the title track, a song which immediately demonstrates that the band has a real attitude and style about them. It has a sense of a controlled mania, with a jerky yet melodic feel, and all with a fifties twist. Many of the songs on the album, such as “Big Big Thumb” and “When I’m Not A Foolish Kid” have a simple and effective, traditional sound but with an extra bit of swagger thrown in.
The band are even brave enough to include a cover of “She Said” by Plan B. It’s a bold move but it certainly works as it’s a great raw, stripped down soul song with some great smooth backing vocals. However, this shouldn’t distract from the quality of their own material. “I’m Just So Bad” sees them really allowing their fifties and rockabilly influences to come to the fore. Credit has also got to be given to the production, where it is clean and simple, with a retro sound but still a modern finish. The lyrics are also a good reminder that the original rock n roll was all about being bad and rebellious.This bad boy theme continues on”Broken Hearted And Mean” which, as implied by the title, has a darker feel. It has a mean and menacing guitar line with the vocals delivered with a restrained anger.
They return to the more traditional rockabilly sound with “Heartache Overload”, this track has a real Darrel Higham influence shining through it. It’s all cool guitars, thumping bass and hand claps. Then on “Old Lost Throne” the boys add a country twang and create a sound that could be a cowboy film accompaniment. The intro in particular is like the soundtrack to a show down at high noon.
The bands own strut is soon back with “She’s My Miss” which has the feel of a burlesque dancer’s backing track with its sultry and enchanting rhythm. Then they deliver an upbeat and catchy song with “You Can Love Me” which is delivered, like all the songs, with an undoubted passion for their craft.
The album concludes with “Nightmares” and, as implied by the title, this adds a sinister sound and a darkness. This is despite the use of some sweet female backing vocals. These contrast effectively with the main vocals and the overall feeling created is one of restriction and uneasiness which matches the title perfectly.
The current popularity of bands like The Strypes suggest that their is an increasing appetite for a modern take on traditional rock n roll. The Caezars are actually able to deliver this but also offer a lot more. Yes its based on traditional rockabilly but it still sounds fresh and has a modern twist. All the songs on this album sound like they are a classic but don’t just sound like covers of old songs. The have managed to let their own personalities and passions show on each of the tracks. It is for this reason that The Caezars should actually be leading this current trend. However, for the time being, lets hope they can at least get a lift on it’s coat tails so that they can push for the recognition and success they clearly deserve. They have the song writing skills and live ability to re energise rockabilly music for a whole new generation.
The Computers ” Love Triangles, Hate Squares”
First things first, what a great title for the album -although it may be questionable in this world of text speak if the youngsters know what a square is! One thing which is certainly true is that this is not an album for squares, but for those who are willing to hear a great modern band.
“Bring Me The Head Of A Hipster” is a brilliant opening track which is pure rock n roll a la The Jim Jones Revue. It has that same raw sound but thankfully with some of the ‘scuzz’ kept under control so that the tune of the song is left to stand out. A similar success is achieved on “Selina Chinese” which also has a quite aggressive sound.
On the title track itself and “Mr Saturday Night” they introduce a brilliant Motown/Soul influence to their sound. The former has a great bass opening and brings forth the influences that used to inspire the Rolling Stones and is reminiscent of Primal Scream in their “Rocks” days. “Mr Saturday Night” is actually more Northern soul and is bound to get people up and dancing. It has similarities to a short lived and under rated band called Mo Solid Gold with its soul influence. There is also a hint of “Tears Of A Clown” in the melody on the build up to the chorus.
Mid album, they also succeed in producing a couple of slower tracks but still maintain the strong chorus on “Nothing to Say”. On “Cruel” you also get a better appreciation of the vocals, which are both passionate and smooth. It actually sounds a bit like Elvis Costello doing an impression of a true 60’s soul man.
The band isn’t all Indie Guitar, however, and on “Sex Texts” it is a more piano driven song with some great accompanying hand claps. It has an undertone of a Peter Gunn style rhythm and is a real dance floor number. The piano influence continues on “Call On You” which has more of a boogie woogie sound but still retains a clean pop sound. It actually sounds a bit like Jack McManus (but in a good way!)
This album apparently represents quite a change in direction from their first album and it is certainly a good one. It is a really different sound to most other bands around at the moment. There are not many albums which can so effectively contain great organs, rock n roll guitar licks and a voice which is far stronger than any you are likely to hear in a typical indie band.
The whole album has a swagger which is confident but not cocky. With the right promotion they could even catch on to the coat tails of the likes of Alabama Shakes or Jim Jones but with that extra sprinkling of commercial pop.
The Creepshow -“Life After Death”
This new release for The Creepshow is very significant as the band have been through quite a traumatic period since the release of their last album, which had actually broken the band in to a wider fan base. Significantly, this is the first album to feature their new vocalist, Kenda Legaspi, as well as a new drummer and the addition of another guitarist. Predominantly from Canada, the band have been going for over eight years. During this period they have developed their punk psychobilly influenced sound to a more genre defying blend of country-tinged, psycho punk rock n roll. It is probably fair to say, therefore, that there was quite a bit of pressure on the band with this release. So it is great to see that despite the change in personnel they have created possibly their best album to date.
Opening track “See You In Hell’ begins with the sound of death with the beep of a life support machine, but the song itself is very much alive. It’s an in your face, full on punk rockabilly track. It is fast and furious but with a sense of melody running through it. They then add a bit more swagger on “The Devil Son” which starts in a slower and more sultry style. The vocals of Kenda add a real unique flavour and style to their sound, which suits them and really sets them apart from other bands of this ilk. It is a great melodic song with good use of supporting vocals to give it a more uplifting tone.
“Saints and Sinners” picks up the energy levels again with an added punk sharpness. It is more in line with a psychobilly sound but really there is a lot more to this band. They have more depth, added melody and better quality songs to be just dumped in to that genre. That’s not to say they can’t deliver that style very well, as shown by “Failing Grade”.
This album, however, tends to show a more classic rock n roll sound. This is even demonstrated by the use of a classic title like “Born To Lose”. This is one of the best songs on the album and has some great lyrics about life on the road and their fans around the world. It is a great, straight forward, fun, upbeat, rock n roll song. As is “Second Chance” which almost has a more commercial feel to it and could easily cross over to a mainstream rock scene. They are clearly capable of delivering a great modern rock song as also demonstrated by “Take It Away”. This has that rock n roll beat behind it and also gives a bit of time for the guitarist to really show off his style.
Importantly the band are not ones to rest on their laurels and are always pushing their sound. They add some horns on “Last Call” which has a great effect and really takes the track up to another level. This time we see some male vocals which provides a nice change. It’s a quirky song and what is not to like about a song that’s lyrics are all about drinking and having fun. In contrast, “Can’t WaitTo See You Fall” begins in an aggressive style but the shouty male vocals are perfectly off set by the keyboard sound and the sweeter vocals of Kenda. It also has a really nice bass solo so we again get the chance to appreciate the musical talent of the band.
The whole album ends with “Life After Death” which, as implied by the title, is the closest to a more stereo typical psychobilly song. It will be a great mosh pit fighting song for the live show. It is a timely reminder that the band have certainly lost none of their passion and aggression over the years. Instead they have learnt to harness it and bring it out when really required.
The Creepshow are a band who perhaps have failed to gain the wider attention that they deserve. This is partly due to the name and image which has seen them pigeon holed in to a certain category of style. There is, however, far more to the band then simply calling them a psychobilly band. “Life After Death” is a big and bold album that offers far too much to be stereo typed in to one sound. It is a really great album with rock n roll songs played with a punk flair. Their fans who have grown and developed with the band will certainly love it as it represents yet further progression. It will also, however, hopefully introduce some new recruits where it should appeal to any fan of quality punk n roll.
The Crunch – “Busy Making Noise”
The Crunch are actually something of a super group given they consist of Sulo Karlsson (Diamond Dogs),Terry Chimes (Clash), Dave Tregunna (Sham 69) and Mick Geggus (Cockney Rejects).That’s certainly a line up which has a terrific pedigree of former bands. It is quite clear, however, that this is not a group of guys getting together to milk their back catalogue and go through the motions. This album certainly doesn’t serve up a load of rehashed second rate punk numbers. In fact, it is the opposite as it contains a set of songs which are fresh and exciting.
The title track opens the CD and it comes as a bit of surprise given the backgrounds of the artists involved. It has a really melodic and quite a ‘pop’ sound. It really is a very modern sounding punk pop sound with great care free lyrics. The second track does add a touch more grit but again it is still very upbeat and melodic. It actually sounds similar to Michael Monroe’s new stuff in that it has that Hanoi sound but with a melodic/modern influence. This style is also seen on “Right About Now” which again has a punkier influence coming through.
On “Down By The Border” you can hear echoes of The Clash in the guitar line and the beat and it is a reminder that they also did some great pop flavoured songs and this could certainly be them at their most commercial. It is certainly no surprise it is one of the singles from the album, as it has a real power pop feel to it. “Looking For A Blaze” is another upbeat modern rock song and is surely another single candidate given it is melodic, catchy and addictive.
They importantly also change the tempo with ” Yesterday’s Boys And Girls” which has a ballad type sound with the opening vocals and piano. The song quality is maintained and this song has an added sense of depth and warmth. In fact, if it wasn’t for the fact it sounds like it comes from the heart, it could have easily been an epic modern rock hit! Similarly, “Remember Me Like That” is another slower one, but it avoids being schmaltzy and soon builds in to a full blown chorus.
“Gangster Radio” really does have single written all over it, which is ironic given the lyrical swipe it takes at the BBC and the commercial music world. “Matter Of Time” sees a reggae type beat influence in the song before again turning in to a driven chorus which would serve as a great beer in the sun song. The overall power pop feel again shines on “Little Bit Of Grace” which has a brilliant opening and also benefits from an excellent co -vocal performance. The band then slow things down again with “Floodlight” which is their lighters in the air, sing a long song. This more restrained approach continues on the opening of “Ruin Of A Heart” but this soon rejoins many of the other songs in being a power pop strum along.
The whole album then, quite rightly, ends with the upbeat rocker ” Runaway Son”. It brings everything to a close with an excellent high of good time, pop, rock n roll.
Given the names involved, it is no surprise that the song writing and musicianship on this album are excellent. You would always expect a quality record, but it is perhaps surprising just how modern, fresh and bright it feels. The consistency achieved is also unbelievable as it is classic song after classic song and potential single after potential single. It will importantly not only please the fans of the members previous bands but also engage a whole new and different audience.
The Delray Rockets “Definitely Not Fluffy”
Good quality Rockabilly bands are still, sadly, hard to come by in the UK. Thankfully, we have The Delray Rockets, who are a three piece Rockabilly band hailing from central England. They certainly have a sound which owes a lot to their ’50’s influence but, have been really keen to add a more modern style.
This is immediately demonstrated by the opening song “Brand New Cadillac”, which is a Rockabilly classic, so is an immediate risk. As it happens, it straight away shows what’s great about The Delray Rockets. The song is delivered with skill and enthusiasm but also a sense of fun, hence the hint of James Bond and Batmen themes sneaked in. This use of classic rockabilly sounding songs continues with tracks like “Deuce Is Wild” and “Rockabilly Fool”. “Jungle Rock” is essentially an absurd song when you listen to the lyrics, but the band really do milk it for all it’s worth.
They also take on some other classic songs including “Misirilou” where, whilst the title may not mean much to many, you will soon recognise it as the surf song from Pulp fiction. All rockabilly albums tend to have an instrumental track, so you might as well go for one which is instantly recognisable. In terms of sounds associated with Rockabilly, covering an Elvis song is also a big risk. They throw in “Burning Love”, where the vocals do indeed, add a hint of nice lip curling but, don’t fall in to the trap of pastiche. Again, it is just a classic up beat version.
Of particular interest, are the couple of absolute genuine modern rock classics that they have also recorded. The first of these is The Clash’s “I Fought The Law”and again, it really works, mainly as it’s a bit more throw away and fun than the original one. They also cover one of the most iconic pop tracks, and indeed one of the nation’s favourite songs, “Teenage Kicks”. Again, they succeed in making it their own as the song is given a great swing beat as opposed to the original’s’ reliance on it’s punk riff. Sure there will be many who will be appalled but I love it.
In many ways, it would be easy to moan about the number of covers on the album etc but the fact is that this is a damn fine album. All the songs are played with skill and enthusiasm, and it’s just a really fun and upbeat album. One thing’s for sure, I bet The Delray Rockets are a riot live!
The Delta Bombers ‘Wolf”
Over the last few years, a lot of garage or traditional blues influence bands i.e. Hives, Jack White and The Black Keys have risen to the fore in music. It is quite possible that the Delta Bombers could also be added to that list.
The album opens with the title track which actually commences with a humming intro and then the vocals of what sound like an old school blues man who, in line with the title, barks out the lyrics. The next two songs, “So Lost” and “Baby Your Music” see more of a Garage feel, like the Hives. In fact, they go back even further to a more 60’s sound and are more like Rolling Stones songs. They have a really loose blues rock n roll feel to them.
The album then takes a sidewards move with “Get Some’, which is actually an instrumental track straight out of a Tarantino soundtrack. This would have been perfect on the score for Pulp Fiction. This is followed by ” Love Like You” which has a more basic blues sound, like that popularised by the Black Keys, and at times, even recalls La Woman era The Doors.
It is no surprise to see that the band actually include a cover of the Rolling Stones “The Last time” given their obvious influence on The Delta Bomber’s sound. Credit really has to be given to the band as this doesn’t sound like just a cover, but more like a long lost raw demo of the song done by the original band.
The final track on the album “Smokestack Lightning” returns to the howling blues man from the beginning of the album. It has to be said, if the lead singer doesn’t look like the bearded blues man/end of his career Jim Morrison, it will be very disappointing.
The Delta Bombers sound is certainly retro but it has a quality about it. It would only take the endorsement of Mr Jack White or a tour with The Black Keys and we could see them enjoying mainstream success. The whole album has a raw early sixties feel to it and really could be a long lost Rolling Stones album, which has been discovered covered in dust by Keith Richards in one of his drunken stupors.
Louise Distras – “Dreams From The Factory Floor”
Louise Distras has been described as “the 21st century Joe Strummer who personifies punk rock spirit and renegade soul” which is one hell of a billing. She is raising a clenched fist,full of fury, that targets injustice, apathy and X Factor culture. She clearly has not just a punk sound but also, more importantly, a true punk ethic. Given the recent success of Frank Turner, who would appear to have a similar style and approach (although not sure about the relative backgrounds), the timing of her debut release,”Dreams From The Factory Floor” could be perfect.
Against this background, the first song on the album, “Stand Strong Together”, is perhaps more upbeat and full sounding than would be expected. It is a strong, well produced, quality song, which almost has a sound reminiscent of Hole. The second track “Bullets”, then opens with an Elvis Costello type organ and keeps that theme during the entire song. Louise spits out the lyrics but this isn’t at the expense of the tune or the melody. Costello is certainly a good role model, as he is the master of delivering a strong message but wrapped up in a pop song.
“Love MeThe Way I Am” has a surprisingly melancholy piano accompanied opening. It has a hint of Amanda Palma about it, especially with the passionate vocals which accompany it. This is a flavour which is repeated later on “Story Is Over”.
The album hits what might be considered the more expected style on “The Hand You Hold”. It has angry sounding vocals, matched with ferocious acoustic guitar strumming. This has a much more Punk Folk feel to it which matches the lyrics call for freedom and anti establishment. The acoustic sound, accompanied by a spitting vocal performance, is continued on “Not In Our Name”. Both these songs really do bring back memories of the early unpolished work of Frank Turner.
It’s a bit of a cliche but the adding of a harmonica on the opening of “Black & Blue” gives it more of a Dylan feel. It has a real “busker” feel to it, but that’s a positive as its a genuine song with lyrics that appear to be about real life in a small town. This theme continues on “Shades of Hate” which again builds on the image of fighting against a small town attitude. It also successfully off sets the spikiness of the song against a more of a melodic feel.
The ability to add a sense of commercial understanding reappears on “No Mercy”. There is the shouty and earnest refrain of earlier songs, but with an added element of a wider market appeal. On “One Thousand Trees” we actually see the use of more backing vocals. The actual effect of this, is to really just highlight how through out the whole album, Louise Distras does a remarkable job of carrying all the songs entirely on her own.
A final, special mention should also go to “Dreams From The Factory Floor”, which is a spoken protest song, delivered as fist raising violent poetry. It is a stark and powerful track, that the previously mentioned Mr Strummer would surely have been a fan of.
Louise Distras could clearly become a leading light in the current music scene. It is, sadly, very rare to find a young female act who is passionate and has real messages to share. The majority of the songs are delivered in a raw, acoustic singer/songwriter way with the added venom of an abrasive vocal style. Importantly, it manages to maintain a real sense of individuality and character. It also shows a strong inclination for spotting the need to include a sense of commerciality and melody. Too often the focus can be on delivering the message and the actual song gets lost. This is definitely not true of “Dreams From The Factory Floor” which is a striking debut album which could see Louise Distras attract considerable success.
Dregen – “Dregen”
Dregen is one of those artists who to fans of a certain genre and age is an underground legendary guitarist. He formed two of the best sleaze rock bands of the late eighties/nineties in the shape of Backyard Babies and The Hellacopters (once you have finished this review, bought this album, make sure you go and check out their awesome back catalogue). He has also worked on various side projects which included working with the likes of Ginger from the Wildhearts. More recently, he has also played on the awesome new release from ex Hanoi Rocks front man, Michael Monroe. Dregen is clearly a man who loves his rock n roll so he has now gone on to produce his first solo album. The esteem he is held in is demonstrated by some of the guests on this album which includes Nicke Anderrson (Hellacopters), Sami Yaffa (Hanoi Rocks) and is actually produced by Par Wiksten (Wannadies).
Kicking off with “Division of Me” it is an immediate reminder of Dregen’s great distinctive voice and sound. It is a classic punk, rock n roll sound with a great melody and not surprisingly a real classic Backyard Babies sound. “Just Like That” has that classic glam punk sound with the requisite dose of sugar in the backing vocals and chorus. This also gives it a real pop shine, especially with the cool guitar riff. It is therefore no wonder that it is the first single off the album.
The style changes a bit with “Flat Tyres On A Muddy Road” which is a far more bluesy sounding song and demonstrates there is far more to Dregen than glam punk. In our recent interview with Michael Monroe he commented on the fact that Dregen had surprisingly brought a blues influence to the recording process. Despite that, there will always be a sleazy feel to his output. “Gig Pig” has a fantastic, dirty, opening riff and then an almost gothic feel to the vocals. We even get to hear that classic sleaze rock instrument the cow bell on “Bad Situation”. This keeps the sleazy style but in a classic rock n roll song.
There is also plenty of the punk influence throughout the album, including on “Pink Hearse”. It has hard hitting riffs and a spitted vocal style which all combines to create a huge raucous noise. The album probably hits a commercial high with “One Man Army”, which is a really melodic and indeed simple song. It’s a great rock n roll song with the quality that was evident from his contribution on the Michael Monroe album. “6-10” keeps this feeling going but, to me, it almost has a disco hint to the beat!?!?. There is a dark vocal effect but these are juxtaposed with the cool ‘disco’ beat. It is great to see that, even after all this time, and despite an established style, he is still willing to try something different.
“Refuse” sees us back on more traditional territory with that ‘typical’ Dregen riff. He also indulges himself with a great solo in this song, so we get the chance to really appreciate his skills and abilities. Importantly, however, it is always the quality of the songs themselves which take paramount importance.
Dregen has certainly been busy, with this solo album being released at the same time as the Michael Monroe album. In fact this release has meant that he has had to pull out of the touring band for Michael Monroe. This was initially very disappointing news. However, the quality of this album has completely changed that and you realise why he has made that decision. This whole album is full of great tracks and it is no wonder he wants to promote it and play it live. We can now see his decision as a bonus as we will get the chance to see two great acts bringing a whole load of awesome glam punk tracks to life, at what are bound to be fantastic gigs.
The Drey Rollan Band – “S/t”
The Drey Rollan Band are from Australia but when you listen to this debut CD you would expect they were actually from Mid 50’s, Mid West USA. The album kicks off with the song “Sinner” which pretty much ticks all the right Rock N Roll boxes – good title, strong vocals, girl group backing vocals and a swinging beat. These strengths are played to, on many other tracks on the album, including “Field of Dreams”.
However, what is really appealing about this album is the variety demonstrated. This is partly due to the sharing of vocals between male and female voices. They move from the traditional rockabilly sound of “Never Felt Before” and “Loving You is Easy”, which has a bossa nova beat, through to a more menacing and darker sound seen on “Lonesome Riding” and “April Fools”.
Special mention to “Wild Cats” which has a great guitar line that sounds like Mona by the Stones (or Craig Mclachlan -well they are Australian!). The song “Be Mine” is a great traditional sounding ballad which has a real 1950s feel to it. It is a high school sweet hearts at a school dance sound which could easily have been the first dance for Marty McFlys mum and dad in Back To The Future.
The album ends with songs revealing a bit of a country influence, with “Trouble on My Way” being more of a Johnny Cash rockabilly sound and “Lonegone Blues” being a more traditional country ballad.
This is a really brilliant album which, despite being routed in traditional rock n roll, has a greater width of influences and styles. This helps it to stand out against some of the more traditional rockabilly albums. As a result of this, rather than sounding traditional or old fashioned, it is actually better described as vintage. This means that it is still relevant today and should see the band being filed alongside other current acts such as JD McPherson and Imelda May.
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