CJ Wildheart “Mable”
It may have been seven years since his first solo album but he has certainly been busy. Somewhat unusually not only is he releasing an album but has just launched his own range of Chilli Devil Sauces! Sadly we haven’t been sent a bottle of Devilspit to review so will have to stick with this album for now. “Mable” was firstly available via a pledge music pre order campaign but thankfully it is now available to all. You will certainly want to get it, as it is full of cracking power pop and rock tracks.
Opening track “Better Late Than Never” is actually a good intro to the whole album as it’s a futuristic sounding pop rock number. Lighter and brighter than The Wildhearts, in fact a bit more like Ginger’s recent Hey! Hello! Project. “Always Believe Her” has the same futuristic and almost electronica intro, which could almost be a Lady Gaga song! It then moves on to an awesome pop punk song that is as infectious as anything CJ has done with any of his previous bands, “Kentucky Fried” keeps the more day glow feel going, despite the rebellious words.
There is more of a grungy guitar line on “Down The Drain” that we came to expect with The Wildhearts but this has a dirtier more punk edge. Songs like “Next To You” and “Vitriol” have that same ‘edge’ but also have CJ’s trademark more joyful chorus.
Later on, “Come With Me” is a swaggering modern rock song that could easily feature on U.S. rock radio. It almost has a psychedelic feel which makes it reminiscent of Enuff Z Nuff around their darker ‘Tweaked’ days. Whilst “State of Emergency” is yet another huge fun filled song with an upbeat melody which in a fair world would bring great commercial success.
CJ shows he is still prepared to mix things up where “Devil” sees an almost industrial twist added to the sound which gives the whole song a slightly darker tone. Then “Midlife Crisis” ends it all with an awesome pure pop rock tune with a huge melody, complete with accompanying hand claps.
In some ways, it seems a shame that CJ will forever be associated with his previous bands. However, given he has retained that bands name in his own title it perhaps suggests he is willing to accept this. The fact is, very much like The Jellys and Honeycrack,this album is good enough to stand on it’s own two feet. It may lack the madness of some of The Wildhearts’ material, but this is more than compensated for by being chock full of great pop rock tracks. It would be really great to see this release generating some traction so CJ can be rewarded for his long standing service to producing great rock songs with more than a splattering of pop inspiration.
Rival Sons “Great Western Valkyrie”
The latest release from Rival Sons was actually released in June and it just kind of feels like the time may well be right for them to hit the big time. “Great Western Valkyrie” has been described as their most cohesive album to date and it certainly has a feel of being hailed as a classic. Given The Black Keys could have been said not to have really followed up El Camino then Rival Sons could be set to take their crown with this release.
This album kicks off with “Electric Man”, a huge rock song with an absolutely massive riff. It’s the kind of Blues rocker that has made The Black Keys huge over the last few years. It has that same groove which has an almost primeval feel about it. Whilst “Good Luck” adds a more sixties vibe and has a sort of soul feel beneath the riff. “Play The Fool” is similarly dominated by a huge guitar sound but it has a shimmer to it which makes it more ‘danceable’ than your average rock song.
The band move on a decade or so with “Secret”, a song which is really like classic Led Zeppelin, especially with the ‘Plant esque’ vocal wails. “Open My Eyes” has a similar feel, but this time it’s the massive opening drums that dominate and have you instantly thinking of Bonham.
Their sound slows down on “Good Things” which is an absolutely gorgeous song. Again there is almost a Motown feel to the track which just slithers and slides along. It’s an intoxicating and intriguing song. The album enters a triple whammy of really epic sounding songs with “Rich And Poor”, “Belle Star” and “Where I’ve Been”. The last of these being a big American blues ballad. The album then ends with “Destination On Course” which is another slow, epic song with the addition of some almost operatic backing vocals. There is an exquisite guitar solo and the whole song is like an expressive demonstration of musicianship.
This release should only really be available on vinyl as it has two very distinctive sides. Side One is full of rocking songs that you will want to play loud. They’re big and brash blues rockers designed to make you feel good. In contrast, the ‘B side’ is very much the coming down side. This is made up of epic, grand, slower tracks. Bands like The Black Keys and to some extent Jack White have become huge delivering blues based rock songs and Rival Sons fit nicely into that category. Their music is a huge rock sound but not in a commercial, shiny corporate way but instead with a feel for an authentic blues sound. Certainly, if you are a fan of those bands or indeed Led Zeppelin, this will be a definite one to add to your vinyl collection.
AJ Ellis “Bury The Devil”
This is the debut album from AJ Ellis but he is no newcomer to the music scene. Antony Ellis is the front man on Five O’clock Heroes who have toured with the likes of The Strokes and the great Brendan Benson. However, this solo album could see him having even more success. It has already drawn comparisons to the likes of Joe Jackson, Elvis Costello and Richard Hawley.
Opening track, “Cheating The Czar” is a mid tempo almost ‘adult pop’ song with a laid back and low key vocal approach which eases you gently in to the album. “Isambard” is similar with that laid back feel and a lazy beat accompanying the guitar pop rhythm.
The pace is picked up with “Stand Up”, especially with the splash of organ that features on this track. It then reaches a ‘jaunty’ chorus which has a real sunshine feel to it. Not surprising, given its title, “Dance All Night” is another of the more upbeat songs on the album. This one adds an almost country hoe down or rockabilly feel to it. Whilst the chorus of “Belong To You” brings to mind a sixties/seventies sounding pop song.
“Times In Your Life” slows things down and is more of a ballad type song. Thankfully, not a slushy ballad but more a well-constructed ballad a la Elvis Costello. That influence is also apparent on “The Complex” which is like a more chilled out Costello track. Whilst the laid back approach continues, the accompanying neat handclaps on “Hit The Bottom” give this song a bit of a soul feel. This feeling is kept going with “When The Morning” which again is a more danceable song and is probably the highlight of the entire album. It will indeed have you dreaming of a bright and beautiful early morning.
There is an almost jazz hint to “Long Way Down” and it leads in to final song, “Bury The Devil” that brings things full circle with a neat adult pop song that has an almost Clash influence trying to edge it’s way in to the track.
AJ Ellis is one of those artists who if he was any more laid back would be horizontal! The whole album has a feel of being effortlessly cool. It brings to mind artists such as Costello, Jack Johnson, and Paolo Nutini, more for their feel than any kind of musical influence. Given we have amazingly been experiencing some great weather, this is the perfect accompaniment for a chilled out afternoon, lazing in the warm sun.
Eureka California “Crunch”
This is actually Eureka California’s second album in 18 months so they clearly don’t like hanging around. This is actually true of the songs as well which are often short blasts of punk pop. In fact whilst “Crunch” is a pretty accurate title it could easily be subtitled ‘snap, crackle pop’!!
Even though it almost takes longer to read the title than listen to the song, “Edith” is a quick pop punky song. It’s swiftly followed by “No Mas” which sticks to the idea of delivering short, sharp stabs of catchy punk influenced almost power pop songs. They really get the pop hook going on “Sneaky Robby”, whilst “There’s No Looking Back” sees that catchy hook morph into a mid-section that will really get the ‘mosh pit’ going.
Things slow down on “#1 In The State!” a song that smacks of a Johnny Thunders song, with its slow guitar strum and an almost aching vocal over the top of it, it’s a great song. Whilst “Twin Cities” also has that New York, gutter punk and trashy feel to it. Matters then speed up with “Happy Again” which is shorter and punchier so we are now in Ramones territory. Like that band they are not afraid to throw a little surf punk feel in to the mix as shown by “Art is Hard”.
The final track on the album is “How Long Til The Medicine Takes” which includes the quite classic line “Seems your elevator won’t reach my ground floor”! It is a slower and more poignant song that again has a Thunders esque quality of hidden troubles.
Eureka California keep it short and simple on this album with all the songs coming in at under three minutes. It makes for a sharp and punchy album with an authentic US punk feel. In line with that genre, the important thing that Eureka California never forget is that you always need to give the song a melody. They certainly don’t sound like California band full of glitter and emptiness but instead have far more of a NYC grit to them.
Sam Green & The Midnight Heist “Wide Awake EP”
Sam Green & The Midnight Heist actually come from South Devon, not that you would guess that from the name or indeed the sound which is far closer to the Mississippi blues. That’s not to say there isn’t a British folk hint to the music as well, it’s just a bit rawer. We were lucky enough to first encountered Sam Green & The Midnight Heist at the 2000trees festival (see our review here (https://thesoulofaclown.com/2014/07/19/2000-trees-festival-2014/) where they delivered a barn storming set that was truly one of the highlights of the festival. Indeed, they actually sold out of this EP as they were swamped by eager punters trying to buy it at the end of their set.
The EP commences with “Passenger” and it’s a great, mid tempo, Americana sounding song to start things off. It has a relaxed, laying by a river vibe to it as it gently builds up to more of a sing a long number by the end. “Highway One” will have you thinking of those hay bales at the festival, as it is a bouncy and catchy number with a great double bass sound driving it along.
The EP then has a slower, more heart felt sound in the shape of “This Old Road” which is a beautiful track. This has a lot to do with the smooth vocals and then the harmonies which pitch in during the course of the song. We are soon back in to more of a country mood with “(The Ditty)”, a song that in a live environment will undoubtedly turn in to a big hoe down song to get the crowd going. Final track “By The River” is, as the title implies a song which will give you the image of lazy, carefree days. It’s the perfect accompaniment to a quiet doze by the water on a glorious sunny afternoon.
This EP is actually quite a relaxed and laid back intro to Sam Green & The Midnight Heist. These songs will appeal to anyone who is a fan of genres such as folk, country, Americana and blue grass. It has an easy going, effortless vibe to it which is actually very hard to achieve unless you really are a confident and talented group. It is a quiet intro to the band so if you see them live you had better be prepared to see the songs really come to life. You will also need to make sure you are ready to clap, dance, sing and generally have a wail of a time.
The Moons “Mindwaves”
We are introduced very easily into the album with “Luna Intro” which builds in to “Society” which has a kind of groovy, psychedelic sound that hints of The Stone Roses until it gets to a surprisingly upbeat chorus. “Vertigo is similar with its breathy vocals against the spiralling rhythm of the song.
There is a rumbling, spooky start to “Body Snatchers” which immediately has you thinking about Kasabian. It’s a mix of big seventies rock, even Glam, with an electronic shine. Whilst on “Fever” there is a real seventies rock feel, thanks to the drum beat, until it moves in to a relatively straight forward almost sixties sounding chorus. The band deliver a really stomping number with “Heart And Soul” that has got a great groove which will have you dancing and swaying along to it.
The Moons are capable of slowing things down, as demonstrated by “All In My Mind” and “Sometimes”. The second of these is the real ‘ballad’ of the album. It has a soft and gentle feel which will have you thinking of simpler times in days gone by. There is a hint of The Stranglers ‘No More Heroes’ to “You Can’t slow Me Down”, which is probably appropriate as the album has a very British feel to it.
The band pick up the pace again on “Times Not Forever” which is an upbeat song that has an indie pop feel to it, at least until it goes in to the mid song psychedelic melt down! The final track “Rage And Romance” sees a return to a sound that is similar to Kasabian but more if they focused on their glam influences rather than the Krautrock ones.
This is a really good album which manages to show it’s influences but still has a new and unique feel to it. It has a very British feel but not specific to a period of time as it has hints of the sixties, seventies and everything right up to the present date. There are some potential indie dance floor hits but they are still original enough to keep even the most cynical of music fans entertained. It’s an impressive release that many bands will find hard to beat.
Wonder Villains- Rocky
It’s great to hear Wonder Villains describe themselves as a party pop band because sometimes that’s just what you need to listen to. This is the debut album from the band and is released on Snow Patrol’s label (don’t let that put you off!!). They have gained a fair amount of radio exposure already having featured on radio 1, radio 2 and XFM with their great first single Zola.
The band come straight out of the traps with “TV” a great upbeat pop song. It’s like candy, very sweet and sugary but also with a punk intent in the chorus. “Blondie” is very similar but with a slightly cooler vibe to it. The vocal delivery and synthesisers actually gives it a sound reminiscent of Foster the People.
The Wonder Villains hit a bit of an early catchy peak with “Zola”, a song that is almost childlike given it’s simplicity. That’s not a criticism though, as it’s addictive and could easily be a dance floor hit. Whilst “33′ has a slightly more mature feel and is sparser sounding but with that punkier chorus again. “Fiction” takes this further on an almost minimalistic sound of keyboards and whispered vocals. It actually gives a bit of a breather from all the shiny pop.
They soon start to build the pop sound up again with “Link Later” and then on “Debbie” they produce a track that is a bit like The Go Team but with the benefit of added vocals. “Baby Don’t Look Sad” and “Marshall” sees them fully returning to their anthemic catchy pop. It’s a sound which is designed to stop anyone feeling sad and instead bring a grin to your face.
“Oh Peter” together with “TV” act as brilliant book ends for the album. This is instantly enjoyable and a smashing little song. Coincidentally it also has TV references but we’re guessing there a bit too ‘cool’ for this reviewer to get!
If you’re looking for a short, sharp dash of sunshine pop to cheer you up then this is the album for you. It is unrelentlessly cheery and upbeat but manages to keep the right side of twee (which is very important!) Whether it’s too ‘pop’ for the cool indie kids is always difficult to judge. Let’s certainly hope not, as the world needs more credible dance pop tunes.
Skid Row “United World Rebellion” and “Rise Of The Damnation Army”
Skid Row are one who amongst all the odds have managed to survive all that the rock n roll world has had to throw at them. Given they were first presented to the world as yet another ‘hair band’ (which was always highly inaccurate) when they hit the scene, many will be surprised to hear that they are still recording music. There most recent releases perhaps provides a good indication as to why they have survived. Not only have they maintained a high level of quality but they are also still looking to try something different. In this case, rather than releasing a new album they are actually delivering three Eps over the year. It’s a neat idea which gives the fans plenty of new music but also builds up some anticipation. So far, two of the Eps have been released:
United World Rebellion
Opening track, “Kings Of Demolition” will be immediately loved by Skid Row fans, both old and new. It’s actually a perfect combination of the commercial rock of their debut and the added grit they showed on Slave To The Grind. That mixture, arguably just means it is the band at their best and it is a formula also achieved on the track “Stitches”.
Then on “Let’s Go” and “Get Up” we see the band’s punk influence really coming to the fore. This is an influence which was kind of missed ‘back in the day’ but anyone who has seen bassist Rachel Bolan would have been able to see that they were always a band with more in common with the punk rather than pop market.
A Skid Row album wouldn’t be a Skid Row album without some form of a ballad. On this, it comes in the shape of “This Is Killing Me”. Importantly, it is another example of the bands ability to deliver a slower song that is built on emotion without getting slushy.
There are also a couple of covers on the album including the unusual choice of EZO’s “Fire Fire” and the Judas Priest song, “Unlimited”. The second of which, in the hands of this band is simply a huge, anthemic rock song
Chapter Two “Rise Of The Damnation Army”
Takes no prisoners with the opener “We Are the Damned” seeing the band at their aggressive best and is very Slave To The Grind esque. Whilst “Give It The Gun” is a straight up hard rocking song seemingly built to create a mosh pit of hair on the rock club’s dance floor.
We go back to ballad territory on “Catch Your Fall” and again it’s about the quality of the writing. In contrast, “Damnation Army” sees that Bolan punk influence coming back loud and strong. Not surprisingly, it has an absolutely huge bass rumble. That punk rock sound is also there on Queen cover “Sheer Heart Attack” which becomes a nice mix of humour and almost Ramonesy feel.
This latest release then ends with a cover of the classic Aerosmith song “Rats In The Cellar”. This is a great, sleazed up and harder version which, like many of the songs on both these albums, benefits from the great guitar work of Dave ‘the snake’ Sabo.
The fans that stood by this band will absolutely love both these releases. Those who may have forgotten Skid Row or ‘moved on’ also really need to give this a listen. Yeah it will possibly be to partly relive those great days of youth (gone wild!!) but it will also serve as a very timely reminder how good it can be to listen to great hard rock music. It will certainly leave you thinking, bring on the next instalment.
The Dead Formats “At Sixes & Sevens”
The Dead Formats first came to our attention having seen them at 2000 Trees festival (see our review here https://thesoulofaclown.com/2014/07/19/2000-trees-festival-2014/). It was one of those great festival moments where you accidentally stumble across a band who then proceed to blow you away with their set. They not only have a cool look and an unusual set up with two vocalists but also put on a real crowd pleasing show. This was not only due to their enthusiasm and energy but also the quality of their songs. We therefore had to check out their album especially when we learnt the band describe themselves as a band with “a punk attitude and a desire to never be pinned to a single genre, The Dead Formats are an Essex sextet who believe in pushing boundaries both musically and socially”.
It has to be said that opening track “Just What The Dr Ordered” has a very similar sound to “Can’t Stand Me Now” by The Libertines. To be fair, it’s an equally as good ramshackle rock n roll number with a brilliant chorus. Speaking of similarities, “Losing Track of Numbers (Counting My Regrets)” is like the song The Hives have been trying to recreate since their great debut. It has the same stop/start sound and is utterly brilliant. “Freaks” has a similar style and is a good demonstration of how effective the twin vocals approach works. It allows the song to contain different tones to the verses and then a real gang feel to the chorus.
One of the elements that make The Dead Formats so different to other rock n roll bands is that sense of an appreciation of soul. This is evident on both “The Bag I’m In” and “Heart Before My Head”. These songs have a soulful tone and vibe that other rock n roll bands just struggle to achieve.
They are still able to rock out with the best of them though as shown by “Gimme A Clue”. They also really show their Clash influences on “Condemnation” and “Dancing All Through” which whilst still being rock n roll songs both have a reggae/ska beat to them. Although the second of these, which is also the album closer, also has an indie feel which suggests the band have the capacity to cross the huge rock/indie void.
This really is a fantastic album by a band we already know are excellent live so that’s a real bonus. The only question is therefore why they haven’t got more exposure already. Every now and then the UK is able to produce a brilliant rock n roll band like say The Yo-Yo’s or The Loyalties who just don’t get the recognition they deserve. This record shares the same traits of taking all that is good from punk, rock n roll, indie and rockabilly to create a brilliant sound. We really need to make sure that The Dead Formats don’t suffer from being a secret, cult classic like those bands. So you need to make sure you buy this, go and see them live and then hope and pray that they deliver another great album like this very soon.
Cory Branan – “The No Hit Wonder”
It’s arguable if we really need to review this album, instead you perhaps just need to read this quote from Frank Turner:
“Simply one of the best unsung songwriters out there; his stuff is about as close to perfect as you can get, and it mystifies me why he’s not a household name.”
That alone should be enough to make sure you rush out and buy this album. In case you need a bit more convincing, then you will be interested to know that it is a “celebratory anthem of the world-weary, undefeated underdogs of the world, and a coming to terms with the cards life has dealt you”.
The album opens with the brilliant “You Make Me”. It’s a song which is made to accompany drinking, fighting, dancing and loving – with the order of those activities to be decided upon by the listener! It is followed by the title track which, not surprisingly, is exactly the kind of song that you wish was a hit. Having said that, given the huge success of Frank Turner here in the UK, then we can have some hope that Cory could indeed have some ‘hits’. There are certainly a number of tracks on this album that deserve to bring him some wider success rather than just praise from ‘those in the know’. “The Only You” has an acoustic almost country punk to it, whilst “The Highway Home” is a perfect blend of country/Americana with a more modern rock sound. Given the title, it is no surprise to learn that it would make a great driving song.
There is a change of pace on “Sour Mash” where we enter Johnny Cash territory on a song which is in a country/rockabilly style. Any assumptions about the album are then turned on their heads by “C’mon Shadow” which has an almost vaudeville/country feel to it, that may well sound weird but it works!
We’re back to the more ‘expected’ sound on tracks such as “All The Rivers In Colorado” and “Daddy Was A Skywriter”, although the second of these has a bit of a rockabilly feel to it. There is a more up-tempo beat to “Missing You Fierce” which will have you thinking more along the lines of The Replacements. In contrast, “All I Got Is Gone” is a surprisingly straight forward gentle acoustic strumming ballad with an almost waltz like quality to it.
This album is quite deceptive, on first listen it comes across as perhaps yet another acoustic singer/songwriter influenced by a dash of country and punk. However, it actually has more diversity and is a great blend of styles and influences. It has a subtlety about it which means that you need to give it a couple of plays to fully appreciate it. Whatever your mood, there will be a song on here to match it. It therefore ends up being an album, like Chuck Ragan’s most recent one, that you will frequently revisit and rediscover.
Electric River – The Faith & Patience
There has been a real shortage of quality UK rock acts over the last few years, but thankfully Electric River are looking to bring that to an end. They have already managed to generate some great press interest and have also benefited from some good support slots for the likes of Lit. The release of this debut album therefore sees the band in a great position to make further strides.
The album opens with “Calling Out” which is a great modern rock song, a real mixture of a classic rock sound and a more contemporary feel. Songs like “Chorus Of Fire” and “Keep The Engine Burning” are more straight forward rocking songs that have hints of The Gaslight Anthem or in particular an Australian band called King Cannons.
“Leap Of Faith” starts off as a more acoustic songwriter song and then cuts into another rocker to give a sound which is very reminiscent of Chuck Ragan’s recent output. It’s a quality Americana influenced song. We then get a real change in feel and tempo with “Hold Your Nerve” as it has a more genuinely upbeat feel to it and a more ‘poppy’ sound. You can imagine that the band needed to hold its own nerve when recording this, and good job they did as it is a brilliant song. It has a more commercial feel to it, which is more akin to someone like The Killers. That commercial feel continues with “In Your Name” and “Fixer’ which are anthemic songs that could easily cross over with a bit of radio support (we can live in hope!)
However, possibly the best song on the album is “Queen Of Hearts” this has a real Gaslight Anthem feel to it. Although unlike that band, there is a confidence to have even greater focus on the melody and chorus with less of the punk grit. “This Garden Will Grow” keeps this feeling growing with more of an expansive feel to the sound. They slow it down for the final song, “Watersong” which clearly has a Springsteen influenced sound to it. It has that gentle feel which you sense is trying to smooth over the despair within the lyrics.
This really is an excellent modern rock album. The beauty of it, is that it doesn’t appear to have any pretensions and there is no sense they have to hide behind gimmicks or a desire to be ‘different’. The focus is literally on producing an album which is just full of quality, well written songs. They are delivered with a confidence and assurance which is fully justified by the musicianship. Definitely a band to check out.
Colt 45 “The Tide Is Turning”
Maybe it’s something in the water but there has been a bit of an upsurge in quality punk rock n roll bands in the UK (see our reviews on Electric River and Magpies & Vagabonds for a couple of examples). You can add the Cumbrian band Colt 45 to that list. They’re a raw punk band who are able to deliver ‘big tunes, big hearts and even bigger riff’ which is a great mix.
They open up the album with “595” which is a great modern commercial rock song, think the Gaslight Anthem but without any of the hang ups! This style keeps going with “O.K.” which has an even more commercial hit feel to it. This is the kind of song that has you hoping that there is some justice in the music industry. If there was, this would get a couple of plays on radio stations and then the Colt 45 would become huge. “When We Sleep Alone” is along the same lines with a really big sound and some great boy/girl lyrics, it’s as catchy as hell!
They manage to keep up this amazing run of quality tracks with “I Thought I Knew Best” where in all honesty they may be risking legal action from the Gaslight Anthem as the opening in particular is so reminiscent of them! Then with “I Remember When The Rain” and “Salt Water” they are clearly trying to develop a more expansive sound. These are the songs that for many, probably more sensitive souls than this reviewer, will be their favourite songs as they are deliberately more complex. For me though it’s the ones that rock out and throw some ‘pop’ in to the mix that really work. They do, however, manage to pull off a more ‘ballad’ type sound on “The Simple Things Are Working” which manages to offer both an emotional pull but also a great big ‘pop’ chorus.
The album manages to hit yet another huge high with “Crutches”. If anyone wishes the Manic Street Preachers had added another bonafide glorious pop rock song to the end of Everything Must Go then this is that track! Once you make the ‘leap’ to that comparison then “Lessons Must Be Learned” will have you thinking it could be a rough bonus track added on to the end of “Gold Against The Soul”
This excellent album ends with “Found My Home” which certainly begins as a straight forward pop rock song. They do, however, throw in a funky guitar riff and a mid-section which suggests a Clash influence, which can never be a bad thing!
This can be added to the list of brilliant debuts that will have you instantly loving a band. Interestingly, there are now a few bands like The Road Home, Magpies & Vagabonds, who are demonstrating an influence from the likes of The Gaslight Anthem. They have picked up that blueprint of a blue collar music style which has a mix of rock, punk and importantly commerciality. That’s not using ‘commercial’ as a dirty word. It doesn’t mean ‘selling out’ or having no substance, but is just a recognition that a good melody can take a song from being good to being brilliant. The result for Colt 45 is that this is definitely on the list for potential album of the year.
The 69 Cats “Transylvanian Tapes”
As we reported in our review of their debut EP (see here https://thesoulofaclown.com/2014/03/22/69-cats-bad-things-ep/), The 69 Cats is actually something of a super group as it consists of Jyrki69 (The 69 Eyes) vocals, Danny B. Harvey (Rockats, Headcat) guitar and Chopper Franklin (The Cramps) bass. Since that release we have been eagerly awaiting this full release, keen to see if they can repeat that brilliance over a full LP. Thankfully the wait is over and we haven’t been left disappointed. This album, apart from a couple of instrumentals, consists of cover songs. Some of those are songs you might expect given the band members backgrounds but there are plenty of curve balls thrown in as well.
It opens with The Doors “People are Strange” which is an absolutely perfect introduction to the band and a perfect fit for their style and sound. It’s dangerous ground covering such a loved band but this version is excellent.
The more expected covers include “Sunglasses After Dark”, “Black Cadillac” and “She’s Not You”. Importantly, however, they are all given an extra twist and 69 Cats feel. In particular, the vocals of Jyrki69 given them all a darker, more sinister gothic tone which really transforms the songs. Also, if you wanted any confirmation of the respect held for Danny B Harvey in the rockabilly world then you just need to know that “She’s Not You” includes a guest appearance by the queen of rockabilly, Wanda Jackson.
In terms of the unusual covers, then the sunny “Runaway” by Del Shannon is a great example of this. It’s an absolute classic song which is given a sinister feel compared to the sweetness of the original and it works perfectly. Duran Duran’s “Girls On Film” is certainly a surprise, and takes some getting use to! It sounds almost like the Sisters of Mercy’s Andrew Eldritch doing karaoke (now that would be a sight!!!). It will certainly raises a sly grin and perhaps shouldn’t be taken too seriously.
In fact, one of the great things about this band is a sense that they are doing this out of love for the music and to have a bit of fun. That is certainly apparent on the classic “Sweet Transvestite” from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which is a riot. They still find some time to deliver some straight up rockabilly with “Your My Baby”
The gothic tone returns with the final track of the album, Bauhaus’ “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” which is a twisted and scary song. Again it has you thinking of The Sisters of Mercy but actually willing to let a smile sneak across their face!
As with the previous EP, the 69 Cats are a bunch of gothic vampires who bring their own haunting style to possess all of these tracks. Even though it is delivered in a dark tone you still get the sense that the band have really enjoyed recording some of their own personal favourites. What would be perfect is for them to tour the UK so we can get to see them playing in a dark and dingy basement club, very late at night!
Last Great Dreamers “Crash Landing in Teenage Heaven”
The Last Great Dreamers are one of those bands who produced a classic album, loved by many and sadly ignored by the majority. Now, god knows how many years later, they are making a triumphant return with this new album. The album actually consists of many tracks that their fans may recognise were knocking about last time around and may have heard on demos or live.
It opens with “No1 Wonderboy” and any fears the band’s appeal may have faded are immediately put to bed. It’s rock n roll but with a big dollop of glam and with the requisite massive chorus. It is immediately followed by the lead single “Ash Tray Eyes”. Again it has an infectious melody and a set of lyrics designed to be sung out loud. There is a great bubble-gum pop feel to it.. a bit tacky, maybe, but the melody will be stuck in your brain for days to come.
The album then moves in to slower ballad territory with “Hello”. In some ways it feels that it comes a bit too early in the album because you’re still ready to rock after the first few tracks. Although you can still see it being a big crowd favourite when played live. “Sci-fi Louise” again is more restrained until it builds up to a chorus that Bowie (or Ziggy!) would be proud of.
Having been given a little breather, “Super Natural” sees us back in full on glam pop mode. In many ways, the album then really hits its stride with the double whammy of “Lunacy Lady” and “Mary Wants”. The first of these has an almost sixties pop sensibility about it whilst “Mary Wants” is more rocking. The album continues to peak with “Gold Painted Butterfly” which is slower but also a delightful pop song.
The band then make a very brave move by including the single version of their classic song “Last Great Dreamer”. Hearing this is a bit like seeing your best friend that you haven’t seen for years suddenly walk into your favourite pub. You shouldn’t need telling that this is a brilliant song. The risk of putting it on the record is that the next few songs won’t be able to compete.
Thankfully the last two tracks show the band have lost none of their ability to serve up great pop rock classics. “Superboy Disaster” is yet another perfect pop rock song. The closing song is also the album’s title track, “Crash landing in Teenage Heaven” and it ends the album in glorious fashion. They add a little more trash to the glam sound and finishes everything off with a rocking and supremely confident song.
The first impression on listening to this album was one of thank god they delivered the goods again! Many bands have attempted to achieve this mix of glam, pop and rock but have failed to get anywhere near to the quality of the Last Great Dreamers. It is, therefore, great that they have returned to show how it should be done. Hopefully, this will encourage not just the old fans but also a whole set of new fans to dab a little glitter on their cheek, put on their glad rags and have some fun!
So don’t hang around and get it here http://www.amazon.co.uk/Crash-Landing-Teenage-Heaven-Dreamers/dp/B00LA1EGXK/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1409568421&sr=8-3&keywords=last+great+dreamers
Roxie77 “The AmeriSwede EP”
Ryan Roxie is one of those musicians who may not be a household name hear in the UK but has been involved in a staggering number of great bands over the years. He is also one of the current guitarists in Alice Cooper’s band which says a hell of a lot about both his ability and reputation in the rock n roll world. Not satisfied with all that, he has now released this latest effort under the Roxie 77 moniker. It is also a somewhat unusual release where each of the songs is repeated, one with an American production and one with a Swedish production.
The first track, “Idiots & Idols” is a quite glorious pop rock record that is as catchy as hell. The American version, as you would expect, is very shiny, brash and confident. It really should be a hit song having featured on a huge teen flick. This pop/rock feel is kept going with “The Solution” but this song does have a darker edge. Indeed the sleazy guitar line makes you fully realise why Ryan is part of Alice Cooper’s band. The chorus, however, is far too cheery for Mr Cooper!
The beautiful and dreamy opening on “Downtown” comes as a bit of a surprise but we are soon back into a fizz glam pop/rock number. It actually has an Enuff Z’ Nuff feel to it, thanks to the chugging guitar line and Donnie esque vocals. “Silent Confrontation” is perhaps more what we would have expected as it is a more pop metal type track. In contrast, “Anna” is a surprisingly mature pop song. It has a real country feel to it, well country mixed with perfect Beatles pop.
The final song is “Simpleton Girl” which has an opening very similar to “That’s Entertainment” by The Jam. The rest of the song is yet another glorious pop/rock song with a hint of rockabilly to it. It is the kind of track that we have come to expect from Butch Walker, which is a big compliment.
On the Eps we get to hear all the ‘American’ productions first and then the tracks are repeated with the Swedish versions”. To be honest, the subtlety of the production and different mixes are a bit wasted on our unsophisticated ears. It is true that there is generally a feeling that the Swedish versions have the ‘pop’ side of the songs ramped up and with a bit of the shine and glitz removed. Certainly on “The Solution” there is an even darker tone with a more muted, sleazier sound. Also, and this may just be our stereotyping, but there is almost a hint of Euro pop to the Swedish “Downtown”.
The brilliance of this album has actually come as a genuine surprise. There was never going to be a doubt over the quality of the musicianship given Ryan’s track record. However, to be able to produce six brilliant pop/rock songs like this is pretty special. As we have already said the subtlety of the two mixes are wasted on cloth ears like us. However, the huge advantage of this concept is that you get to hear each of the amazing tracks twice without even having to press play again! Although you might still find yourself hitting repeat as even hearing them four times in a row might not be enough!!!
Pingback: August and September Album reviews | The Soul Of A Clown·