Magpies & Vagabonds – “Giver”
It’s always great when a new punk rock band emerges upon the scene. It comes as a bit of surprise when you find they live close to your home town. Listening to the sound of Magpies & Vagabonds you will be imagining somewhere cool like New York, rather than Warwickshire. Despite the unrock n roll location they have still delivered a great EP.
Opening track “Under A Crescent Moon” immediately shows that this is a band destined for big things. It has the feel of a Gaslight Anthem song, in the way it perfectly mixes punk rock attitude with a hint of pop sensibility. “Carousel” keeps things going with a similar sound and you can certainly see that the band features a former member of another recent great UK punk rock band, Sharks. The carousel reference again shows an appreciation for the type of imagery used by The Gaslight Anthem. Importantly, we are not talking blind imitation, the band still have their own unique feel with a more British, gritty feel to their sound.
They also nicely expand their sound further on “Fifth Business” which has a much wider feel to the song. It chugs along with a great feeling of melody and rhythm. “The Long Con” is another step change with a real modern twist added to this essentially classic punk song. The beat has an almost disco/funk sound. It’s the sort of track you would like to think The Clash would be releasing now if they were still around. Final track “The Bigger They Come” has a very relevant title as it’s a great big rock song. It also hints that maybe Magpies and Vagabonds are aiming for the arenas rather than just the rock clubs.
Magpies and Vagabonds is not only a great band name but also a good indicator of their sound. Whilst they have stolen a few shiny melodies, there is still that sense of danger about them. The last time we heard an EP by a new band this good it was by the brilliant Road Home. Both these bands actually share a very similar sound and you can tell they have the same influences. All we need is for both these bands to follow up the promise of their brilliant EPs and deliver those life changing debut albums. After that, maybe we could get a co-headline tour before the arena come calling!!
The Dirty Guv’nahs – “Hearts On Fire”
The Dirty Guv’nahs’ “Hearts On Fire” was released earlier this year and actually debuted at #1 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart in the US. The album was actually recorded in the band’s own home studio in Knoxville, TN which might explain why it has such a great authentic feel to it.
Their name certainly seems appropriate when you hear opening song “Where We Stand” which is a melodic, folk sounding song that has an almost Mumford & Sons feel to it. That is until about half way through when it bursts in to life and becomes a great more rocking number. It is followed by “Morning Light” which is an absolutely awesome song. It has a great pop/arena rock feel to it but still with that hint of Americana. If you aren’t swaying and singing along to this song then you must be as hard as stone. Things slow down at the start of “Lovin” which initially has a country feel to it. However, they soon add a funkier feel to give another song that you will be singing along to. “Ever Start To Wonder” is another high spirited song that is just so much god damn fun.
They finally take the pace down on “Dear Jamie” which is a moving ballad in the vein of an epic, Springsteen influenced song. “Slow Down Easy” again begins slow but then also builds in to another epic arena rock song. A special mention must go to the fantastic female backing vocals, which really lift this song. “Under Control” sees them entering the big rock sound of The Kings of Leon but has it’s roots more firmly in the sound of the far more authentic, good old boys, Lucero.
Showing an admirable sense of variety, the next two tracks, “Three Little Angels” and “Someone To Love” add a more soulful feel. The first is a ballad when again the adding of some brilliant co vocals (from Amy Helm), really give the song a sense of lightness. Whilst “Someone To Love” is a great country esque ballad with some great tinkling ivories and Hammond organ. The album ends with the brilliant “Canyons” which is a beautiful and epic sounding song. It’s like the track that Coldplay have spent their entire career trying to write but have never quite made it, it’s really breath taking.
Having not come across The Dirty Guv’nahs before, the quality of this album actually came as a bit of a surprise. They have managed to perfectly capture a mix of rock, country, Americana and pop to produce a fabulous collection of songs. Even more impressively, they have managed to do all of this without sounding at all contrived or ‘forced’. “Hearts On Fire” is an album that slips effortlessly from being upbeat and pop to melodic and epic. Definitely one to check out.
Cocktail Slippers – “People Talk”
Cocktail Slippers are an all-girl rock band from Oslo, Norway. The band was formed in 2001 and the debut album “Rock It” was released the same year by the Norwegian record label MTG Records. Their recently released album “People Talk” is actually their fourth. Unlike some bands, however they don’t appear to have lost any of their vitality or desire to really rock n roll.
There is certainly no holding back on opening track “Show Em Good” which is a brilliant pop rock song that sounds like a sweetened Joan Jett. It has a bubble gum feel to it with infectious backing vocals and hand claps. “Shame On Me” has more of a down and dirty groove to it. The melody is still there but is delivered with far more of a swagger and sneer. “48 Hours” is another sleazy rocker which shows that these girls aren’t all sweetness and light, despite the angelic harmonies.
The band really hit a glorious pop high on “Sleepless”, it’s like the best seventies AOR/arena rock track you have never heard. The chorus is awesome and so poppy it’s almost like The Bangles. In contrast, “Castles In The Sand” sees a departure from the pop/rock sound and is a surprisingly subdued and harmonious song. It is a huge song and shows the band are capable of delivering a more expansive sound.
They are back to having a fun time on “You Give Me Woohoo” which is another pop rocking tune with a hint of glam rock. It will have you clapping and dancing along to it, as will “Cha Chas Place”. They follow it up with yet another huge pop tune called “Soul Salvation” which also has that glam feeling coming back. It’s a song which really should accompany a huge teen flick about summer and fun.
Things change a bit again with “Come Running” which starts like the Blues Brothers before moving in to another catchy tune. Final song, “Keep On Dancing” ends the album on a wonderful high with a brilliant, rocking, power pop song. The hand claps and awesome backing vocals are all back to leave you singing and dancing along.
Sometimes, it’s great to find an album which is just full of brilliant, fun filled songs. If the objective of the Cocktail Slippers was to create an album for a party mood, then they have certainly succeeded with “People Talk”. If you want to be morose and depressed then you had better look elsewhere. This is the album to put on as you have a few drinks and get ready for that big, rocking, night out.