December 2014 Album Reviews

Purple “409”
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Purple are a Texan three piece and it’s fair to say they come across as a group of trendy young things who are destined to at least be hyped as the big new thing. This album is actually their debut which comes as a bit of a surprise given its undoubted quality. It can therefore only be assumed that this has been built up by some solid tour work, indeed they have recently supported the Subways over here in the UK.
They use the neat trick of using an intro with a hint of ‘Purple Haze’ to start the first song “Wallflower”. The track itself is a really rocky number which has a kind of alternative sound, a bit like Janes Addiction. A feeling which is kept going with a slightly looser rock n roll feel on “Double Nickels”. The band then add a bit of additional funks and beats in to the mix on “Leche Loco” to give it an almost grungy Beastie Boys feel. It’s a bit off beat but also has the sense of a song that will be an intense live favourite.

We are then thrown a bit of a curve ball with “Beach Buddy” which has a far more gentle and easy, almost laid back feel to it. It is surely the one that the record label heard and thought “that’s the hit”! In contrast, “Thirteen” is all teenage shouty angst destined to be played especially loud to irritate parents. Whilst “Target” acts almost like a blend and mix of the two different styles demonstrated by the songs preceding it.
They go back to their achingly cool sound on “Head On The Floor”, where it’s an indie dance floor favourite disguised behind the grunge and feedback. There is a more ‘atmospheric’ feel to “New Born” as it builds up a sense of anticipation until we hit the final song, “DMT”. That last song brings a raucous and ferocious end to the album. You can only assume it will be a live set closer with the band leaving the stage to a cry of feedback, a trail of smashed instruments and the gasp of a sweaty crowd.

Purple have managed to capture the feel, sound and, god damn it, almost the smell of youth. It’s passionate, vibrant, enthusiastic and, on occasions, even just a bit annoying. That’s a positive annoying though…. It has the sound of an album that will be played to death by its fans with the accompanying cry of ‘turn that music down’ coming from their parents. The fact is, in this day and age of run of the mill indie releases this is the type of sound and reaction far more bands should be trying to achieve!
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Lester Greenowski “It’s Nothing Serious Just Life”
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Lester Greenowski is a new name to us but he has actually been releasing records since the early 00’s and used to record with his band the Landslide Ladies. He has also toured with great bands like Faster Pussycat, Backyard Babies and The Vibrators. More recently, he has being touring as the bass player for The Boy’s Honest John Plain. All of which isn’t a bad hint of the sounds that await you on this album.
The album opens in serous kick ass rock n roll fashion with “Trail of Graffiti” which is a great mix of punk and glam or ‘Glunk’ as it’s affectionally known as to the fans of this genre. If that song isn’t sleazy enough for you then check out the ode to one of the best named Bond Girls “Pussy Galore”.
Lester does take us out of the gutter with “Such A Shame”, and it’s a quite brilliant power pop sounding number. It’s a brilliant tune and is followed by the equally uplifting “Angela”. We are soon back into sleaze rock n roll territory though with “It’s Gonna Be Wrong”, a song which recalls early Wildhearts at their pop best. “Electric Blue” with its use of saxophone and confident swagger recalls the legendary purveyors of sleaze punk, Hanoi Rocks.

We’re given a bit of a breather on “Little Lovechild” which is more easy going but still a highly infectious pop/rock number. That appreciation of a good pop tune continues, but in a slightly more robust way, on “Beautiful”. Although, you get the feeling that with songs like that one and the catchy “Say Bye Bye” and “This Goes Out To You”, that Lester really does appreciate the beauty of a well written pop chorus. They’re the sort of songs that if they were given a bit of a shine and delivered by The Vamps, they would go straight to No1 (and rest assured that IS a compliment!!)
However, don’t go away thinking that it’s all sweetness and light though. There is still some room for a bit of punk rock intensity as shown by tracks like “Ritalin Baby” and “I Wish I’d Never known You”. Although it all ends with another real pop/rock gem in the shape of “Bitter Sweet”.

This really is a great album which maintains a level of quality, and indeed fun, from start to finish. Mixing a sense of rock n roll sleaze with a feeling for a pop melody, without falling in to the trap of ‘throwaway’ is damn hard. Indeed, only a few bands like the aforementioned Wildhearts and their related side projects have been able to deliver it consistently (although the sadly forgotten Rich Rags also achieved it on their release!). Lester Greenowski has managed to hit the sweet spot on many of the tracks on this album. It’s an album that manages to maintain an infectious level of both passion and fun throughout and will be loved by many from the first time they hear it.

The Devil’s Daughters with Danny B Harvey
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Sometimes it doesn’t take a lot to attract us to an album. The fact that The Devils Daughters are two hot girls who play rock n roll on its own is really enough. However, when you add in the fact that they are joined by a rockabilly guitar legend in the shape of Danny B Harvey, then we have high hopes for this album. It is also released by Lanark records a label that you know is committed to keeping this style of music alive.
Opening number “Mr Hoo Doo” expertly sets the scene and is a great intro to the daughters, as it’s a classic rockabilly sound, with the twangy guitar but added pleasure of some silky vocals. That traditional sound is kept going on “Hard Rockin’ Man” but it rocks out a bit more and also highlights the presence of rockabilly guitar legend Danny B Harvey. They then slow things down a bit on “Rock Boppin’ Baby” and we really get a chance to savour the sultry tones of the girls on a finger clicking song.

The seductive tone is kept going on the slinky number “Girl Like Me” which is a song to be played in a low lit, sophisticated (but perhaps now a bit run down and slightly sleazy) club..always a good haunt for music and a drink or two!). The seduction is taken to a higher level on “Lightning’s Girl”, a song built for a dramatic burlesque routine.
The girls then pick up the pace a bit on “I’m Coming For You” with its rolling drum beat driving the song along. “Pedal To The Metal” and “Baddest Girls In Town” are similar straight up rock n roll songs, although the latter of the two does have a hint of a more modern rock feel to the mix of the song. It will certainly help to continue to inspire many a desire for the temptations of a bad girl.
In contrast, “Walking After Midnight” has a slower and far more innocent tone to it but things are soon twisted around again with “Gonna Have To Kill You” which keeps the slower pace but, as the title implies, has a darker and more edgier feel to it.
It’s great to see a band deliver a straight up rockabilly album that demonstrates the timeless nature of their subject matter and rock n roll in general. The Devils Daughters are joining the likes of Devil Doll and Imelda May by bringing their own feminine, but fiery, charms to the genre. The album effortlessly swings from rock n roll to a seductive but dangerous sound. It sure makes you feel that the Devils Daughters would make mighty fine company on a wild night out, which is no bad thing!!

The White Buffalo “Shadows, Greys & Evil Ways”
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The White Buffalo are actually singer/songwriter Jake Smith who as well as his album release has also provided some tracks for the awesome TV Show Sons Of Anarchy (a series you MUST watch if you haven’t done so yet!). This album, as well as having some great songs, is also like a journey through American music and life.
The album opens with the gentle and easy “Shall We Go On” which has a country style strum to it, as does “The Getaway” where there is a surprisingly fragile sounding vocal delivery. After that gentle intro, “When I’m Gone” with it’s in your face lyrics and more upbeat sound comes as a bit of a shock. The connection of the artist with Sons of Anarchy doesn’t come as a surprise though when you hear this number. It’s a tune built to accompany an outlaws life story. As is “Joey White” which is a slightly more raucous number that would probably accompany a bar room brawl scene!

We return to a more pensive mood with “The Whistler” which is a slow and brooding song and whilst “Set My Body Free” keeps the sound lower key, it still has a feel of the Wild West about it. “Redemption #2” is like the plea of a dying cowboy and is a raw and emotional song. “This Year” continues the self-reflection but has a greater feeling of joy and celebration to it which helps to lift the album, partly due to the lighter tone and use of an organ. It has a similar effect on “Don’t You Want It” which despite the downbeat lyrical theme is actually one of the more buoyant songs on the album. The emphasis, however, is certainly on the more wistful and melancholy songs such as “Pray To You Now”.

This is one of those albums that sets a mood and tone for its listener and is designed to be listened to at the right time and place. It’s not a throw it on and get the party going anywhere release. Ideally it would be sitting on a back porch with a bottle of bourbon as the sun fades. If you don’t have that luxury and are stuck in the UK, we would suggest you wait for a cold winters evening, sat at your kitchen table with a blazing fire and a bottle of whisky to keep you warm. You can then raise a toast with each song to the characters and hard luck stories they contain.

Basement Jaxx “Junto”
Is there anyone in the UK who hasn’t at some point shaked their ass to a Basement Jaxx song?? Surely not many. They’re a band who have truly managed to achieve the cross over from dance music to commercial worldwide success. Importantly, this has been achieved mainly by their ability to create the highest quality of good dance tunes with mass appeal. Their latest collection is “Junto”, an album released earlier this year but perhaps not getting the exposure it deserved.
The start of the album itself is somewhat restrained where, in spite of its call to arms title, “Power To The People” actually starts with a slow horn intro before it grows in to a samba influenced number which is relatively restrained. The party spirit starts to build up on “Unicorn”, which has quite a retro dance feel but with a really wonderful vocal line.

The more commercial side of the band becomes apparent on “Never Say Never” which has more soulful vocals, but with a pop beat which could see it accompanying many an advert. This feeling is kept going on “We Are Not Alone” which has a real “classic Jaxx” feel to it. Although, the album really hits an early peak on “What’s The News” which is a great mainstream dance number with an underlying disco vibe. It forms a perfect combination with “Summer Dem” which is the band at their absolute best, with its infectious and catchy dance feel.

In contrast, “Buffalo” has a garage/drum & bass feel to it, which is an unusual step and a bit out of place with the rest of the tunes. Although, maybe this song and “Sneakin Toronto” are reminders that the band is essentially a dance band and not a pop band. Despite that, “Mermaid Of Salinas” has summertime, beach party written all over it. It’s a vibrant and atmospheric song with a Latin feel which will have you dreaming of golden beaches.
Having a reputation for delivering huge popular dance anthems means each album is released to a real sense of expectation. On this album, Basement Jaxx have managed to deliver both the necessary big party tunes but also show a willingness not to just play to the masses. There is no doubt it will be loved by their fans but there are also more than enough potential singles to satisfy the more causal listener (and therefore also all the label executives!!).
“While No One Was Looking: Toasting 20 Years of Bloodshot Records” by Various.
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At http://www.thesoulofaclown.com we have never hidden our love for Bloodshot records. They are like a go to badge of quality and have been behind some of our favourite releases over the last few years. If we’re honest though, we didn’t realise they had been going for 20 years. That’s bloody good going in the hard record industry and with all the threats that labels like Bloodshot face .
It is no surprise that they have come up with something special and unique with this celebration record. Rather than just releasing a ‘greatest hits’ or label favourites collection of songs, this albums sees artists on the label covering each other’s songs.
So some of the tracks will be artists you know covering songs you already know and love. For example, the wonderful Blitzen Trapper bring their own unique style to the Ryan Adams song “To Be Young”. We actually see quite a few of Ryan’s songs being covered. This probably isn’t a surprise given that the label’s most famous release is probably his Heartbreaker album. We also get Chuck Ragan covering Cory Brannan’s “Survivor Blues”, these are two artists with similar sounds who could probably get away with doing a version of each other’s whole set. On this basis, it also comes as no surprise when later on our very own Frank Turner also covers a Cory song.
There are other occasions where you get an unknown artist (to us at least) covering some of the more well-known artists on the label. On this front, a special mention should go to Chris Shiflett and The Dead Peasants version of a Justin Townes Earle song and Limberk’s adding new life to the Old 97’s excellent “Sound of Running”.
The real win win comes, however, when you get a ‘new artist’ covering a song you’ve never heard. This results in the opportunity to discover two new artists and a whole back catalogue of songs. So we get Ted Leo doing “Dragging My Own Tombstone” (Wacco Brothers) and it’s a wicked combination of a pop cover of a dirty country song. Then there is Tim Kasher playing “Aspidistras” (Scotland Yard Gospel Choir) which is a great power pop song that leaves you wondering if it is just a great original song or, alternatively, a brilliant version. The same could also be said of “All Grown Up”, a Gone Gore Girls song done by Warm Soda.
As usual, Bloodshot Records haven’t done things by half so you get a whopping thirty eight tracks on this album, which is great value for money. Also, the label has managed to form its own identity and sound, so if you’re a fan of that style there will be loads of songs you will enjoy. There is also the added advantage that it may help you discover even more favourite artists which is always cool!

Lace Curtains “A Signed Piece of Paper”
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We’re really not sure where the name Lace Curtains comes from, or if we’re honest, whether it’s the best band name that could have been chosen! However, it is the name that Michael Coomer has chosen to go by with the release of his latest material. We do know, however, that it has resulted in some great music which is equally as interesting and different.
A Signed Piece Of Paper opens up with “The Fly”, which has the feel of something rooted in Americana/folk but with euro pop overtones and a Blitzen Trappers esque, off the wall approach. “Boardwalk To The Alps” keeps the quirkiness going, but at a slow atmospheric pace in an almost electro pop kind of way. That tracks veers more to European than Americana. The ambient sound is continued on “Wilshire and Fairfax” which has a dreamy folk/pop feel before it grows in to a rich and glorious chorus.

The wonderful pop sound hits a peak with the excellent “Glass Of Sand”, which almost brings to mind someone like Foster The People. The catchiness of the songs is maintained with “Pink & Gold”, a track that builds up the beat and sense of perkiness, although the lyrical content isn’t so positive.
We then get “Be Good”, a song that opens up like some sort of classic, swing ballad. It then quickly shifts into another understated pop song which swerves all over the place mid song. In total contrast, “Saint Vitus” is like an electro pop metal anthem, with the appropriate references to Metallica albums. The sound then again totally swings to the opposite end of the spectrum with the sedate opening to “Crocodile Tears”. A track that expands to a brilliant electro power pop song which is possibly the finest on the entire album.
This is one of those really tough albums to review because it is just so eclectic and different. Describing the sound is a struggle as it’s like the Americana sound of Blitzen Trapper, with all the variety and diversity that band brings, but added with the fact that it is being played by a band like Air! That may not read great on paper, but this album just has an understated brilliance to it which makes you think it must be the work of a real genius. One things for sure, it’s a late contender for our top album of the year!

Olivia Jean “Bathtub Love Killings”
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The fact that Olivia Jean’s debut album is released on Jack White’s Third Man Records brings not only advantages, but also a sense of anticipation and possibly expectation. Whilst it is her first solo album, she has also performed with her band Black Belles as well as her work with the aforementioned Mr White.
This album opens with the superb “Mistakes”, which kicks it all off with a surprisingly funky, punchy and rocking number. This rock sound does flit in and out of the album with “After The Storm” having an almost mainstream rock feel to it, but it is sweetened by some great girl group vocals. In contrast, “Merry Widow” is like some sort of off kilter cabaret number. It’s ‘quirky’ but in an endearing rather than annoying sense (a thin line that many other artist cross way too often!). The showmanship is also shown on “Deadly Hex” which is like some sort of theme tune to a modern circus/cabaret show.

The song “Reminisce” is an obvious single contender, with its crunchy guitar line being supported by some really neat girly vocals. For fans of Mr White’s guitar style, “Green Honey Creeper” is the one which will really appeal. It has that dark bluesy feel to it, especially with the long solo and riff mid-way through it. However, it also has a hint of almost sixties soul to it. That grungy blues feel is also present on “December”, but this time it drags you down into the swampy sound rather than adding some light.

The real peak of the album actually comes with “Haunt Me”, its real appeal is in the way it blends what seems like a sweet, country, ditty with an underlying sense of gothic despair. Likewise “Proof” is slower and almost ‘twee’ but still has that feeling of darkness and pain to it. The album then ends with the instrumental “Cat Fight”, which is a huge mish mash of styles and sounds that are both retro and sci-fi at the same time! It all sounds like a mix of various songs from a Tarantino soundtrack.
Bathtub Love Killings is a great title for this album, as it does have the sense of being warm and comforting but underneath there is a sense of darkness and danger. Given the background of both Third Man Records and Olivia Jean, it is no surprise that it is a varied, interesting and off the wall collection of tunes and influences. It isn’t, however, ‘different’ for difference sake, instead it’s a brilliant, coherent collection of really cool tunes.

One response to “December 2014 Album Reviews

  1. Pingback: October, November & December Album Reviews | The Soul Of A Clown·

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