Ebenholt Slappers are a Rockabilly and Rock ‘n’ Roll band based in Sweden. The band were started in 2006 by Jimmy Asplund, who appropriately plays the upright bass. The Slappers’ sound has been described as a mix of psychobilly, neoswing, rockabilly and pop, which all adds up to smokin’ red hot rockabilly or rock n roll at it’s best
The opening of first number “Graveyard King” actually sounds like the guitar line from The Pistols’ “Pretty Vacant”. It then moves in to a mean and moody rock n roll song. Eventually, through the lyrics and the sound, you sense the fun pushing through, perhaps like the king himself rising from his grave. The darker tone of the band is also evident on “Fear Express”, it sounds like the way bands took the tone of the rockabilly and then added a punkier sound to create the psychobilly style, but this has the influence of that, rather than being in that sub genre of music.
In contrast, on “Average Guy” and “Rockabilly Road” you get a much more traditional and upbeat rockabilly sound. On the first of these tracks, in particular, there is the great use of a boogie woogie piano. They are similar to the stuff that Darrel Higham produces, in terms of being traditional but still relevant. On “Johnny Dodge” it begins with an almost fifties balled opening but then the thumping double bass kicks in and it develops in to a classic, up beat, rock n roll number. The next track “Harley of Heaven” sees them maintain the slower sound throughout the entire song. It has a real laid back and relaxed beat with a lovely guitar line played over the top. It is a slowie with a real nostalgic feel to it.
At the other end of the spectrum is “Rockabilly Girl” which is fast paced and has a rumbling bass opening. With the lyrics ” Red Lips and matching dress, her eyes are screaming yes” and “I know a place for you, the place where you find out what life is all about” it is a real ad for a Rockabilly club, and hopefully the type of girls who would frequent such a place. It’s a fun and wild song.
The album concludes with “Snort The Line”, a song which then tells the story of trying to get over that rockabilly girl. It adds a nice dash of fun to conclude the album where, not surprisingly, it is a Johnny Cash inspired country/blues rockabilly number.
Full credit to the Ebenholt Slappers, that in just eight songs they have managed to produce an album which covers a wide range of sounds, which tend to get lumped in to the rockabilly genre. In many ways, this would provide a great intro to anybody new to that scene or who were interested in discovering more about this type of music. If you were to pick your favourite songs on the album, you could follow that style to help you discover a whole world of new music within a similar bracket.
Caro Emerald “The Shocking Miss Emerald”
When Caro Emerald’s debut “Scenes From A Cutting Room” Floor was a huge commercial success, it must have come as a bit of a shock given she is a Dutch Jazz singer. In fact, in her home country, it actually became the longest running number one album since Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”. It is therefore, perhaps not so surprising that on release this follow up went straight to number one in the UK album chart. Certainly, once you listen and here the quality of the songs,the only shock is that there is a UK audience smart enough to recognise its quality.
The album opens up with an intro which is straight from an epic film score and sets the listener up for the tone of the whole album. “One Day” is then a great uptempo song with a Bossa Nova beat . Importantly it has a modern sound due to the use of DJ beats and scratching and is a song guaranteed to get you dancing. A very similar sound and technique is also used on “Pack Up The Louie” and “Liquid Lunch”. On the second of these, the vocals are delivered in an almost rap style but the emphasis is on the words being spoken with melody.
Whilst it is a modern sounding album, Caro does not forget her jazz roots. “Coming Back As A Man” again has a film score type opening before shifting in to a laid back more jazzy feel. This, jazz with a twist, is clear on the lead single ” Tangled Up” which also has a great girl group chorus. It is the sort of song that the likes of Girls Aloud could only dream of having.
Not surprisingly, many of the songs have a real sense of grandeur about them. “Black Velveteen” has fantastic seductive vocals and really should be a Bond theme. It immediately conjures up images of silhouetted female bodies dancing along to the music, as does the later track “I Belong To You”.
For the more traditional fan, songs such as “Completely” and ” The Maestro” have more of an old time swing feel to them. There is also the French related couplet of ” Excuse My French” and “Paris”. The association with this City is understandable as these songs would sound perfect performed in a French Cellar Bar, with small candle lit tables and copious amounts of good red wine.
The quality of this album can not be over stated. It’s success is fully deserved and it will be interesting to see if any similar artists manage to jump on its band wagon. Although,given the unique and intelligent sound created, this seems unlikely. The timing of the release would also seem perfect given the recent release of “The Great Gatsby” film. Whilst Baz Luhrmann is known for his innovative sound tracks, I am surprised he didn’t just use this album, as its the perfect mix of modern sophistication and glamour.
Fanny Mae & The Dynamite Believers – “Live Love, Give Love”
Fanny Mae & The Dynamite Believers are a Swedish band who have a sound that brings in rockabilly, rhythm and blues, soul and a bit of pop. They are influenced by some of the greats such as Wanda Jackson, Edith Piaf, Elvis (of course) and some more modern acts like Amy Winehouse and JD McPherson.
It’s an old school, mid paced rockabilly song by the name of “Sunny Day” which opens up the album. It’s an effective introduction to the band as it starts with male vocals before being joined by Fanny Mae herself. Her vocal expertise is highlighted in “Time Don’t Heal Every Wound” where it has a clutter free background, full of restraint, which allows the smooth vocal style to shine.
On “A place In My Heart” her voice resembles Devil Doll and has a slightly darker sound compared to the more well known Imelda May. That Devil Doll type sound is repeated on “This N That”, where again it is a darker and more sinister sound.
The album really hits it’s stride with the track “Hipshakin”, it is again old school rockabilly with an upbeat and instantly danceable sound. There are a fair number of these good time songs, including “Right Here Again” which has a faster pace and “The Sign” which is a fun song with a great co-vocal performance, along with some excellent backing vocals.
They avoid the trap of being too one dimensional by throwing in a few different styles along the way. On “Condition Unknown” they slow things down, adding a swing type sound before it moves in to a really strong chorus. “Rocket Scientist” is also a slower number, but surprisingly this is actually a more traditional country esque ballad. They are also not afraid to show their influences where “Can’t Stand Your Love” sees echoes of a Buddy Holly sound in both the melody and in particular the vocal style which is adopted. There is also a cover of the classic song “Dream Lover” where they perform it with a bit of a faster pace to give it a different feel and it’s a really good version.
The final song on the album is “Stand Up” which is more of a seductive song. It is perhaps surprising that, given the warmth and tone of her voice, there are not more songs like this. She certainly has a voice that is more than able to entice and seduce the listener.
“Live Love, Give Love” is very much an old school rockabilly style record where you could picture many of the songs jumping out of a juke box in a fifties milk shake bar. Whilst it may not attract a wider audience from the mainstream crowd, it will be lapped up by those involved in the popular fifties vintage and rockabilly scenes.
Fast Boyfriends “Derelict Aquarium”
Fast Boyfriend are a UK band hailing from South East London, who are regulars on the local music scene. This album is an illustration of the bands desire and passion for their music, where it has been self produced and recorded at various sheds, a barn in Kent and converted garages in Reading and Croydon. So fair play to the band for doing all they can to get their music out there.
The Brit pop influenced “Fantasy World” opens the album and it is a good, upbeat jangly opener. It is followed by “Success” which is a nice sounding song that has the hint of a potential summer hit. However, at just over a minute, it is very short and sounds like it could do with being expanded as it could easily be one of their best songs.
The Brit pop influence is also obvious on “Miss Britain”, which has a really good opening guitar line and is reminiscent of early Pulp. In many ways, one of the hardest things for a new band is allowing the singer to find his “voice”. It is fair to say that the vocals need some polishing, but it is more a case of him finding a style that suits (as Jarvis did), rather than having a top of the range voice. This is illustrated by “Hesitate”, where the vocals work better as they embrace the natural inflictions. The song itself has got indie disco dance floor written all over it and is certainly one of the strongest on the album. Again, however, it is all over too quick and could do with being extended to keep the kids dancing for a bit longer. On “Pearls” there is more of a story telling sound and it has a Shed Seven esque feel to it ( a band which never got the credit they deserve, but were more than capable of delivering a good song).
Importantly, they are also able to tone down the overall “chirpy ness ” that is apparent on most of the songs. Tracks such as “Shoots” and “Heat” provided a nice, and much needed contrast. In addition, on “Enough” they also add a bit more eccentricity. At over four minutes, this is effectively an epic for this band and has shades of Super Furry Animals to the sound. It will be interesting to see how the band develops, where they could look at adding this more extrovert and stranger sound or stick to the more simple indie pop.
Perhaps this is answered by the fact that probably the best song on the album “Simplistik (European Pop)” is the breeziest and simplest pop song of the lot. Whilst the title may be being sarcastic, the song itself is a really good pop song. Who knows, perhaps it really could be the UK’s next entry in the Eurovision Song Contest. The beauty would be that the European judges would probably love it and not get the irony of the song at all!
Credit has to go to the Fast Boyfriends for their efforts in getting this album out, as it takes a lot of hard work and commitment. There is still room for the band to develop, but with a bit of polish there could be some real nuggets of pop gold here. They still need to work on creating their own identity and sound to some degree, but there is no doubt that this will come. In many ways, it would be nice to see them embrace the ‘pop’ in their sound, maybe then we could see a potential Eurovision winner!!!!
Davis Fetter “Singles”
Whilst reviewing this as an album, the artist Davis Fetter has actually independently released these songs individually as singles. This is a rather unusual step, but perhaps demonstrates a good way for independent artists to get their music out to the masses, in an instant way. It is certainly in line with the modern hunger for online music but it should also be said that combined, they could have resulted in one hell of an album.
The willingness to do something different is actually evident across all the singles, as it is really hard to pigeon hole Davis’ sound. It is perhaps not surprising that he has a wide range of influences ranging from John Lennon and early rock n rollers like Chuck Berry through to bands like The Smiths, The Strokes and The Libertines. There may be hints of these artists but in fact this music is really unique.
Despite this, a number of the songs have a Killers/Brandon Flowers type sound. ‘Baby What You Waiting For” is a great epic song which sound like the type of song Brandon keeps trying to achieve on his more ambitious efforts. It could easily feature heavily on TV as the backing to a montage of greatest moments/highlights. This type of sound is also seen on the tracks “Euphoria” and “Is It Easy To Be Young”. These two, however, also show greater pop sensibilities, with the first having a great chant along chorus. Whilst “Is it Easy to be Young” has more of a 50’s sounding influence with its clean, crisp sound delivering a bold pop song. The 50’s influence also shines on “Know Better Son” This is predominantly due to the vocals which nicely juxtaposes with the modern guitar sound.
In contrast ” Death of a Lullaby” is a soft emotive and sparse ballad. A slower refrain is also shown on “Is it Over now” which strangely also sounds a bit like a serious version of the song “Inside of You”, sung by Russell Brands character in the film Forgetting Sarah Marshall! But seriously its still great!
The song “Love Master” is a really expansive song, with an incredible production which makes you wonder how Davis Fetter has managed to produce this without a big label behind him. It would be perfect for a film score, at the moment when the leading couple split up. It really highlights the strength of Fetter’s voice on what is a strong and emotive performance. The quality of his voice and songwriting is also clear on “A Thought Once”, where the Lennon influence is also most prevalent. There is a lot of ‘space’ in the track and the uncluttered sound leaves the voice to shine.
Whilst these are individual tracks rather than an album, it is certainly clear by the consistency in the quality of the songs that this is a really talented artist. Whilst the influence of Buddy Holly is clear in his image, its the influence of Lennon’s song writing craft that is more clear. The quality demonstrates the contemporary influence of the Strokes and Libertines but the poignancy and craft are far better than the ramshackle songs of Doherty.
Davis Fetter is a unique artist and these songs show a considerable skill and maturity and perhaps, with the rise of an artist such as Jake Bugg , wider appreciation and success can be achieved. For now, check out his website, http://www.davisfetter.com ,where you will find details on getting the songs and videos.
Jason Freeman “Hex and Hell”
The first thing that has to be said about the album, is it deserves full marks for the accompanying marketing material, which includes a really neat and cool full colour magazine. Anyone who listens to the album will not be surprised at all to discover that Jason Freeman was born in Memphis, as the whole album reeks of country blues. His reputation as a “walking Blues encyclopaedia” is clearly well founded.
The influences are evident from the opening slide guitar on “Dirty Heart” which starts the album with the immediate taste of dirty, whisky fuelled music. The second song then takes this base and adds a bit more of a boogie feel to the guitar which is nicely punctuated with the sound of an organ. A similar style to which, is also pulled off on “Love Baby”.
Songs such as “Help Me” and “Memphis Bridge” are strong classic blues songs which perfectly encapsulate a swampy blues sound. The latter track in particular has an authentic,old school, feel which brings to mind legends such as John Lee Hooker.
Title track “Hex and Hell” sees the addition of an almost late period Doors feel. It is a song which in style, pace and delivery would have fitted perfectly alongside any of the tracks on their classic, final album, LA Woman. As would “Magic In My Hand” which has a down right dirty blues feel to it. This track is the sort of song that Jack White would have sold his wife/sister (whichever Meg was in the end) for!
Freeman is prepared to lighten things up though and “(Do the) Rump” together with “Teasin Me” provide a more upbeat and fun filled sound. They offer a nice respite and have more of a Rock N Roll sound.
The likes of The Black Keys and Jack White may have provided an opening for people like Jason Freeman and this can only be a good thing. It can only be hoped that fans of those artists pick up on someone like Freeman, who is clearly a genuine blues man and a lover of the sound, rather than some of the other band wagon jumpers. On the very rare days here in the UK, where we have a sultry evening, after a scorching day, this is the album to listen to. It would be the perfect album to kick back on the swing,on the front porch (or more likely in the garden), with a cold beer or a shot of bourbon.
Whilst Future Monarchs are actually a new band they have been eleven years in the making as they are built on the songwriting talents of childhood friends and bandmates Bobby Lord and Jake Anderson. It is therefore, perhaps not surprising that this album has a sense of a confidence that is unachievable for most bands on a debut. This quality level is also demonstrated by the fact that the album was co-produced by Pat Sansone from the legendary band, Wilco. Add in to the equation that they have also toured with Brendan Benson (see this month’s album of the month), then you know you are dealing with a band who must have a very high level of songwriting capabilities.
The Wilco/Brendan Benson influence is evident right from the off with “Evil Art”. Similar to those artists, it has a laid back, free flowing sound which then builds up in to a great power pop chorus. It is followed by “Bells”, which has a neat hand clap opening. It maintains the quality but also delivers it in a simple but effective style.
The momentum continues to build with “Landslide”, which again has a great summery pop feel to it. The laid back vocals brings a feeling of overall ‘pleasantness’. This all builds the album up to “My Old Ways”, which is an amazing power pop song. It has a totally enchanting and absorbing melody. This song actually matches the pure pop brilliance of the afore mentioned Brendan Benson, which is about the best compliment you could make for this style of sound.
The quality pop still continues with “Cigarette Smoke” but this song has a little more quirkiness which brings to mind maybe Jellyfish or even Fountains of Wayne. It then comes to a conclusion with “Lydia” which is a slow and heartfelt song. This song perhaps demonstrates how the root of most power pop bands tends to lie with The Beatles, as it has a similar feel and sound to that legendary band.
Any fan of power pop a la Brendan Benson and perhaps Wilco (at their pure pop best, rather than more alternative sound) should see this as an essential purchase. This debut album is a remarkably strong set of well written, melodic songs.
The Gas House Gorillas – Punk Americana
The album title for this new release is also how the band describe their own sound, where it encompasses a broad range of styles that include Jump Blues, Rock & Roll, Swing, Cajun Music and early Punk Rock. They are a band of experienced and skilled musicians who have played for a wide range of acts. They also pride themselves on their live shows where they guarantee the audience a rippin’ good time.
The album opens with “One Shot” which is a brash opening number. It has a really good swing feel, with a cool saxophone and horns sound which is actually prominent throughout the whole album. It then moves on to a more old school rockabilly sound with “Cookin At Home” which, like many songs of its genre, is held together by that familiar double bass strum.
The pace is then slowed down a touch with “Remember” which has a latin/bossa nova feel to it. The vocals also show a surprising level of smoothness and sensitivity.
The style and pace then skips again with “Find A Little Boogie” which has a fun accappela opening before, as the title implies, it moves in to an old school boogie woogie sound. This ability to show a lighter, more fun side is also clear on the track “Kitty Has Claws”. This track is actually probably the best song on the album. It has a bit more energy and vibrancy, which is really cool. Both of these tracks are guaranteed to get a crowd up on their feet and dancing. The bands confidence to show a more frivolous side is also demonstrated by the inclusion of a cover of the Cheap Trick classic ” I Want You To Want Me”. They importantly add their own style to the song, which has a more urgent and less polished sound than the original. This stripped down approach actually perfectly demonstrated how great a pop gem the song is.
It’s not all fun and sunshine on the album, as shown by “Black Ju Ju” which is a much slower and darker song. With lyrics like “She’s got the rhythm of the devil inside” it has a matching dark, slinky sound as it warns the listener of the dangers of the woman of the song. It conjures up images of bluesy, voodoo haunted New Orleans.
There is further contrast with “Corpses”, where the album contains both a clean and explicit version (perhaps this is the punk influence shining through!). It has some really great lyrics, pointing an accusatory finger at those gig goers who are not prepared to participate at the gig. I am sure everyone has been at one of those gigs with a “too cool for school” crowd, who just remain unresponsive no matter what the band does. Lets hope that isn’t too common an experience for the Gas House Gorillas!
Overall this is a really good, old school sounding rockabilly album. In many ways it demonstrates many of the trademarks being established by the Lanark Records label. It is excellently produced and has a really solid band kicking out a bunch of classic sounding songs. This doesn’t, however, just mean its the same old same old. It still has a variety of sounds, influences and diversity. It might have been nice to have heard a bit more of that true punk sound but it would be no surprise if this came to the fore in a live environment.
Hard Fall Hearts – “Last 24 Hours”
Hard Fall Hearts hail from San Diego and are correctly described as a Punk/Rockabilly outfit. They describe their own sound as both dark and distinct yet reverent to the roots of rock-n-roll. This album is actually the bands debut album that was actually first released in October of 2008. It does, however, bring a timely introduction to the band as they are shortly due to release a brand new EP over the next couple of months.
The album kicks off with the sound of a guitar twang, rumbling bass and then the jungle drums rolls in on “Dull Day, Wild Nights”. The whole sound builds to a hard hitting opener which is a really strong introduction to the band’s sound. The first impression is of a modern, punk rockabilly band who bring to mind the Reckless Ones. The punk influences are apparent during other songs on the album, although most obviously on “Slave To Love”.
However, any fears of a one dimensional punk album are quickly removed on the title track, ” Last 24 Hours” which has a much more relaxed opening and almost a vaudeville swing sound. It is a song of lament and regret which seamlessly moves from an almost ballad esque quality to a punkier sound. It is followed by “You Will Always Be” which adds an almost Wester/Country tinge to the sound. Yet the band still manage to maintain their punk/rockabilly edge.
With a title like “Devil Doll” it is not surprising to hear a good dose of swing thrown in to the mix but it’s not long until it moves in to a hard rocking song. The band are clearly not scared of adding more of a swinging beat to their tunes as they repeat this on “Broke down” and it is again encouraging to see them step away from the more straightforward punk sound.
Having said that, the Hard Fall Hearts also clearly recognise the value in a bit of simple, good time Rock N Roll. This is particularly evident on “At The Bar” where, as the title would suggest, the emphasis is on a great uplifting Rock N Roll song. It is possibly the most retro sounding song on the album, and one of the best, as it adds a bit more of ’50s soul to their sound. The quality is kept up by “Creature Of The Night” which is again an upbeat rocking song. However, this song is actually a very modern Rockabilly sounding song, very reminiscent of Reckless Ones, who are another band bringing this genre to whole new audience. These two songs are probably the strongest on the album and provide an excellent mid section where many an album would falter. It demonstrates the high level of quality the band are able to achieve. Clearly maintaining this through out an entire album is difficult and it is no wonder that on some of the tracks, there is more a feeling of the need for some added variety and perhaps different dynamics.
The album certainly concludes with another cracking song, in the form of “Back To You” where the band also perhaps indulge their influences a bit more. It is more of an old school sound with a simpler rhythm and sound. It is a very good song and provides a fitting uplifting and fun end to the album.
Overall, Hard Fall Hearts offer a strong, modern Rockabilly sound. They manage to keep to the roots and influences of early bands but add more of a harder, punkier sound. This is very important if this type of music is going to find a new younger audience as it has an edge not found in more traditional/old fashioned sounding bands. Whilst there is an audience for the more retro sound, if the genre is to continue to be listened to, it needs bands like this willing to develop the sound. The album could do with a wider variety of sound and pace but there is nothing wrong with making a solid Rock N Roll album. It certainly suggests that this is a band to watch and you get the sense that they would be an awesome live band to see.
Hard Fall Hearts – “Die Before We Die”
The Hard Fall Hearts hail from San Diego and consist of Bryan Kelly (Guitar, Vox), Eli Rinek (Drums Vox), and Andrew Verdugo (Upright Bass). They describe themselves as a Punk/Rockabilly outfit and certainly have a sound that is both dark and distinct but yet reverent to the roots of rock and roll. This latest EP certainly demonstrates a band that is well versed in hitting out hard rockers to a welcoming audience.
The EP begins up with “Drive All Night” which has an absolutely awesome opening drum beat that is actually very Adam And The Ants esque, which is never a bad thing! It then moves in to a great punk n roll song. It is all punk rock attitude but with a swagger that is built around the band’s rockabilly sensibility. That influence is also evident on the bass strum that kicks off “Carry Me Along”. This time, however, the band offer a more melancholy feel to the sound, it still has that beat but it is definitely a more restrained approach.
Title track “Die Before We Die” sees the pace pick up further with a driving guitar sound before moving in to a really strong sing a long chorus which you could easily see being a live favourite. It has a real modern rock n roll feel to it, a la The Reckless ones. “Lay Beside Me” sees the double bass kicking things off again as they deliver another good rock n roll song. This time the band takes some of the intensity out of their sound and instead it benefits from a more cool, laid back beat.
They expand their sound further on “Just Like Heaven” which opens with a great riff but then moves into a more commercial, modern rock, sound. This is the song on the album which could really allow the band to have a cross over hit. There is almost a hint of a British influence where there are echoes of The Smiths hidden under the American rock sound. This combination sees this being probably the best song on the EP.
The EP sadly comes to an end all to early with “Sweet Savanna”. This, again, is a modern punk rockabilly song. It is a good demonstration of how the band have been successful in taking old school influences bang up to date to create a relevant and modern sound.
This is the beauty of all the songs on this EP, as it is a modern rockabilly sound delivered with the necessary punk attitude. It keeps the flavour of an old school sound but ensures it sounds modern and fresh. Importantly, bands like Hard Fall Hearts, Reckless Ones and Astrolites will encourage a new generation and group of fans to get in to this genre. They are the perfect gateway band for fans of both punk and rock n roll to discover a whole host of great acts and albums.
The Heartbreakers – ‘L.A.M.F ‘Definitive Edition Box Set”
A huge amount of credit has to go to Jungle Records for this fantastic all encompassing box set (http://www.jungle-records.net/index.php/home/1-newreleases/89-heartbreakers-lamf-definitive-box) which consists of 4 CDs, a 44 page booklet and 4 badges. The fact that it is available from their ebay shop for just £15.99 beggars belief, as it should be at least double that price. The volume of mixes and the quality of the information in the booklet are worth the price on their own.
It is also amazing how as an album “LAMF” has generated such an amount of interest and controversy primarily due to its mixing. The Heartbreakers were really a punk super group consisting of Johnny Thunders, Walter Lure, Billy Rath and Jerry Nolan who, not surprisingly, followed on from the legendary New York Dolls. The original release, however, was dogged by problems and the poor quality of the final mix is rumoured to have led to the split of the band. There can be no complaints now, however, as on these CDs you have both refined mixes, original mixes, alternative mixes, alongside demos and unreleased tracks. It is safe to say that there are enough versions to satisfy even the most enthusiastic New York Dolls/Johnny Thunders/Heartbreakers fan!
With all the controversy, what is often over looked is the quality of the actual songs on the album. Given all the junkie mythology associated with the band, it is remarkable that so many quality songs were produced on the album. It actually kicks off with “Born to Lose” which is a punk n roll classic and perhaps sums up Mr Thunder’s tragic life.
It also includes “I Wanna Be Loved” which again is an absolute classic and up there with anything done by the much lauded Pistols. Whilst the lyrics are perhaps tongue in cheek, there was actually always a vulnerability to Johnny Thunders and a sense he was searching for love. This is why there is also a smackering of punk ballads like “Its Not Enough” on the album.
Without doubt, one of the best tracks on the album is “Chinese Rocks”. Whilst it was criticised at its release for glamorising Heroin (is that really possible?!?) it is a brilliant song . It’s driven by as simple a dirty and scuzzy guitar lick as you could ever want, yet still has a chorus you can’t help but sing along to (no matter how inappropriate the lyrics). It also has a partner in crime in “Pirate Love”, with its brilliant opening drums and guitar riff. If ever there was a song to accompany an un ‘disneyfied’ Captain Jack Sparrow then this is it. The song literally stinks of rum and debauchery!
The junkie theme comes back with “One Track Mind” which is straight up sleazy rock n roll and demonstrates just how much that other great band, Hanoi Rocks, stole from the Heartbreakers in terms of style, sound and image. This is also true on many of the other featured tracks such as “Going Steady” and “I Love You”. The Heartbreakers importance must be considered in terms of their influence on Hanoi, who were then a huge influence themselves on Guns N Roses (back when they were decent and not a joke band!). When you listen to “Let Go” you can hear a line of musical influences which came through Elvis, Chuck Berry, Rolling Stones, T Rex and was then passed on by the Heartbreakers and The New York Dolls to Hanoi Rocks, Guns N Roses right through to The Libertines and The Strokes.
The Heartbreakers never benefited from the over exposure of the Sex Pistols and admittedly didn’t have the variety, or indeed musical inventiveness, of The Clash. They were, however, a band of real underground punk kings. If you are a fan of Rock N Roll, Punk or Glam Metal you should really visit the Jungle website (jungle-records.com) and get a copy of this essential release whilst it is still in stock, as it could easily end up a collectors item in years to come. If, as a younger music fan, you have been entranced by the wasted balladeer/singer song writer as ‘portrayed’ by Pete Doherty then its time to discover a true wasted talent and a real rock n roll band.
Heavens Basement “Filthy Empire”
Heavens Basement have managed to drum up a good bit of press and exposure ahead of the release of this, their debut album. Whilst I expect the band may end up getting a bit tired of the references to a retro rock sound, they shouldn’t dismiss the positives of having a classic rock sound. At the moment it puts them in to a relatively small pool of bands producing quality hard rock songs to a huge potential audience. It can not be denied that many of the songs on this album have a hint of the 80s/90s but it still has a modern polished sound.
The initial surprise is just how heavy some of these songs are. This is certainly true of opener “Welcome Home” which has a huge bombastic sound from the very start. Its certainly a wake up call to the listener, that this is a band to pay attention to. There are a number of songs which follow this straight forward hard rock sound including “I am Electric” and also the closer “Execution day”,
However, importantly, they also show an ability to vary their sound and an ability to mix up the sound so the album isn’t one dimensional. Significantly they also have an ear for a melody and a sense of commerciality. This is certainly true of “Nothing left to Lose” which kicks off with a huge riff. It then transforms in to a great song with a really strong chorus. It passes the acid test of any good melodic rock song, in that it would have been a huge hit on the dance floor of Rock City. This success is repeated on “The Long Goodbye” which even has the potential to be picked up by Ferne Cotton as her token decent rock song of the day on radio one. The biggest candidate for a single should be “Jump Back” which has the potential to be a huge hit. It has a cool cocky swagger that would normally be associated with a big US band playing in an arena.
On a similar line is “Be Somebody” which somehow manages to blend the sound of Pearl Jam with a proper 80’s rock bridge and chorus. This song could even alienate some of those fans that prefer the heads down furious rock sound. However, it shows a band which has the strength to try something different and take a risk.
Alongside the more traditional rock influences the band have maintained a modern rock edge. Songs such as “Can’t Let Go” bring to mind the likes of The Foo Fighters. It may not be such a welcome reference given recent media press but there is also a resemblance to The Lost Prophets. This is particularly true in their ability to effectively use co -vocals and backing vocals to really bring the choruses and melody to the fore.
It has been a long time since a UK band in particular has produced such a confident and bold sounding debut. It is quite clear that Heavens Basement are a group of quality musicians who are dedicated to the sound. Credit must also be given to the production, where the use of John Feldman, who has previously produced large acts such as The Used and Good Charlotte,has really paid dividends. This albums has a broad appeal and in fact fans of a whole host of rock’s sub genres will find at least one song that will appeal to them.
Hey! Hello! – “Hey! Hello!”
This album is actually already a great success story given the huge sales it has achieved, despite just being a fan funded release achieved through Pledge Music. The band itself is new but one of the members will be well known to UK rock music fans, as it is Ginger from the Wildhearts. Hey! Hello! are actually a duo, where he is joined by a New York singer called Victoria Liedtke.
As soon as you hear the opening track “Black Valentine” you realise that yes, the exclamation marks are relevant as this is in your face, bright, shiny, pop rock. The Wildhearts’ influences are obviously there but this is actually closer to the Silver Ginger Five. Also, importantly, it is clear that Ginger has lost none of the wit that has always been evident in his lyrics. The Silver Ginger Five type sound features throughout the album, on songs such as ” The Thrill Of It”. This song also clearly demonstrates the benefits of working with Victoria Liedtke, where you can really appreciate her vocals on this track. It makes you realise that the key to the excellent sound of many songs on the album is the touch of lightness and sweetness her vocals provide. Together, they are clearly a winning combination.
On “Feral Day” we get to hear a little more feedback in the intro and actually the band Redd Kross springs to mind. This and “Why Can’t I Be Me Without You” have a “Phase Shifter” Redd Kross feel, especially with the way they move in to proper ‘pop’ choruses. Speaking of Pop, the single “Swim Wear” is an unashamed classic pop rock song. It’s fantastic and really sounds like Cheap Trick when they were at their peak. This pure pop sound is taken to an even higher level with “I’m Gonna Kiss You Every Day” which is even poppier. It actually sounds a bit like an Abba song gone full on rock ,and yes, that is a compliment, it is a brilliant song.
There will, however, always be a bit of an edge in any record involving Ginger. On “Burn The Rule Book (Fuck It)” there is still the sugar coated rock sound in the chorus but it is probably closer to the Wildhearts,as it has a more aggressive sound. “How I Survived The Punk Wars” continues this feel, but it isn’t really a song but instead a lesson to all bands on how to produce great music and keep your integrity. They should really forget about all those Brit Music Schools and instead all bands should just be forced to learn the lyrics of this song and have it as a mantra before they even consider putting on their obligatory leather jackets!
The album is all over way, way too soon with final track “Were Outta Here”. This does provide a perfect end to the album as it mixes all the great aspects of the previous tracks. It has crunching guitars, before moving in to an epic sing a long chorus and then ending with what sounds like a national anthem.
This really is an absolutely brilliant album. Ginger has always delivered great songs with pop melodies, but has previously hidden them under a wall of guitars and noise. This is the album where he has finally let that pop genius shine. It still delivers some cutting lines and important messages but, as they say, ” a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down”! A lot of credit also has to be given to Victoria, where it is clear that working as a partnership has made this album so special. It has resulted in an album which sounds remarkably fresh and new.
Honey – “Suckle” EP
When you see the name Honey and hear they are a three piece consisting of two girls and a boy from Cornwall you may start to visualise a sweet, surf type band. Maybe even a UK equivalent to Haim??. This wholly inaccurate picture will however, start to fade when you see the cover is a cartoon of a wolf suckling off a naked woman’s breast. By the time you have finished listening to their debut EP you will have an altogether different and far less sweet picture.
The EP starts with a relatively quiet intro to the band. “Love Sick, Sick Love” begins with a rolling drum beat and a gentle intro, with clean and pleasant vocals. However, the intensity soon builds in to a dirty and sleazy sound. It is probably the most accessible song on the EP, reminiscent of Sonic Youth, but with lyrics like “I was baptised in bleach” it’s not exactly easy listening.
The following two tracks, “Dick Tease” and “Dumb Girl Plague” are faster paced and ferocious. Comparisons to early Hole will probably be inevitable but actually they have far more of the intensity and scuzziness of L7, but with a much more dirty garage feel. It is no wonder that “Dumb Girl Plague” is a live favourite as it is sludgy and powerful and would be super intense in a live setting.
“DFK” is a far more dark and broody song. It has a slow burning, grungy sound reminiscent of Nirvana, but we’re talking early Bleach intensity not Nevermind shine.
Final song, “Go Down Swinging” is possibly the best song on the EP. It perfectly mixes a sense of ferocity and violence before working in to a crescendo which is an aural assault of noise. It is one hell of way to end the EP.
For a debut release this is an impressive set of songs which is sure to introduce Honey to a wide audience. It is obvious from these tracks that this is a must see live band, where they will be able to take the intensity and power of the songs to an even higher level. The EP bodes well for the future and they are definitely a band to put to the top of your ones to watch list.
The Hillbilly Moon Explosion – “Damn Right Honey”
It is always good to see a band that is capable of developing its sound but also taking its’ fans on that journey at the same time. This is certainly true of The Hillbilly Moon Explosion, where on this, their seventh release, the hillbilly part of the name is now hardly as relevant as at the outset of their career. The music on this latest release is now one of considerable sophistication, which sets them apart from many of their peers. This may partly be due to the mixture of influences for a band which, whilst containing two Brits, is actually based in mainland Europe.
The album opens with “Drive This Truck No More” which immediately highlights the sophistication with it trumpets and organ backing, giving it a feel of a late night, almost Jazz like sound. This style continues on “Perfidia” which sees the welcome addition of horns and a laid back soul/ska feel. On both these tracks it is the quality of the vocals of Emanuela Hunter which really stands out, and it is not surprising that in the press release she is described as a chanteuse rather than just a singer.
One of the key features of the band, however, is not to rely on Emanuela but also use the vocal skills of other members of the band as well as guest appearances. On “Flying high, Moaning Low” she is accompanied by Rockabilly stalwart Paul Ansell. This song is actually a great follow up to “My Love for Evermore” which was a duet with Sparky Phillips from Demented Are Go and a You Tube hit last year. Sparky also features on this CD on the track “Northern Crown” where again the clash between his rough croaky voice and the smooth tones of Emanuela is surprisingly effective.
The pace on the CD does not really pick up until “Goldmine” where the band eventually return to their rockabilly roots. This more energetic sound is continued on “Die In Style” and ” I Hear You Knocking” which both bring a much darker sound to the album. The second of these actually has a resemblance to “Night Clubbing” by Iggy Pop being a dirty and creepy song. Not surprisingly “Motorhead Girl” is also a great rock n roll song demonstrating not only the bands rockier side, but their typical use of girl v boy singing.
Given the bands pedigree and history it is not surprising that once again they have released an album of the highest quality. They provide a sense of variety and depth which means they seamlessly move from songs that would feature at a rockabilly rave, a late night Jazz dive bar or a speakeasy. Having had a relatively high degree of success in Europe, it can only be hoped that this is the album that finally gives the band the profile and success they certainly deserve here in the UK.
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