Magnificatz ” Running Late”
Its great to know that the Magnificatz are a band with a real DIY ethic, who have done all they can to ensure that there music is made available for fans of classic Rockabilly. They are clearly a bunch of talented and determined individuals who are committed to the music they play.
Many of the songs on the album contain the essential elements of traditional rock n roll songs. This includes “Bopping With My Baby” where the title pretty much says it all and “Greasy Love” which throws in more of a Cash/country feel to it.
The song which first really catches your attention is “Dead Mans Ball” which begins with a B movie style spoken intro. It has a real hint of Jailhouse Rock in the opening bars and there are some great female vocals on it. It also possesses the classic line ” Take a chance on necromance at the dead man’s ball”!
“Cat Come Scratching” and “Daddio” both demonstrate the quality double bass sound which is critically important to any Rockabilly band. The first of these has a good combination of male lead vocals with female backing. Whilst on “Daddio” the female vocals add a really good sultry tone to the song.
On “Trash” there is again, a really strong bass line but it has a more dark/menacing tone which works perfectly alongside the “worthless trash” lyrics theme. The more down beat tone is also repeated on “The Girl That Time Forgot” and again it works well and provides a contrast to the more straight forward rock n roll songs such as “Voodoo” and “My Magnificat”.
It is not surprising to learn that the whole CD was recorded in a real live environment with all of the band just throwing down their parts together. It has a real traditional feel to it, with the focus on recording straight forward rockabilly songs without having to resort to the use of modern gimmicks. Importantly, it also means that there is no doubt that the band will be more than capable of delivering the songs in a live environment. In fact, I am sure that the songs will really come alive in a live format, with a suitably inebriated and up for it Rockabilly crowd.
Mars Attack “Blood and Thunder”
There would appear to be a far stronger Rockabilly scene in Europe than here in the UK, so it is probably not as surprising as you might think that Mars Attack are a Swiss/Austrian band. Although their influences are very clearly from the good old U.S. of A.
In fact, on the opening two tracks, “Slow Man” and “Count to Three” you can hear a lot of Johnny Cash in the country rock n roll theme. The next couple of songs then see a hint of the main man, Elvis. “Outer Space, Inside A Bar” is a great song where you can’t beat a rockabilly song about drinking. When you then add a space theme and remarks about “Martian girls being hot” then it gives it a real sense of fun.
One of the best songs on the album is “I Gave You My Life” which again has a real Elvis feel to the vocals and consists of a very simple but really charming melody. It also benefits from some really cool female backing vocals and its a pity these don’t feature on more of the tracks. It is followed by “Train To Hell” that offers a more slow paced sound that is really effective. These two songs combine to provide a really good mid section for the album.
Other highlights on the album include “Voodoo Lady” which, whilst essentially a straight forward Rockabilly number like may of the other songs on the album, also has a sense of fun about it and makes good use of a saxophone. Then there is “Over Reaction Blues” which has a more latin sound and sees the band relocating to the beach, to create an image of shaking maracas whilst Hawaiians play their instruments to pretty girls on the beach.
On ” Lonely Nights” there is no way anyone could listen to the opening without thinking of the Pink Panther theme tune intro! It is again a slower, more emotive track, and again works really well.
Overall, this is a really solid album that will appeal to anyone who likes the old school rockabilly sound. It has a kind of feel of Elvis covering some Johnny Cash songs. It may not be wildly inventive but provides a good, broad representation of songs from this particular genre.
Michael Monroe -“Horns and Halos”
The word “legend” is used far too easily in todays world, especially in modern music. There is no doubt, however, that Michael Monroe is definitely a true legend. He was originally the front man in the fantastic and pioneering Hanoi Rocks. The fact that this band itself is not a household name is a tragedy (coincidentally one of the titles of their best songs!), especially when it is a well known that they were one of the biggest influences on Guns N Roses.
Mr Monroe, however, has never been one to rest on his laurels and over the decades has released great albums, either as a solo artist or fronting other bands like Demolition 23 or even a recently reformed Hanoi Rocks. His previous album, “Sensory Overdrive” was actually Classic Rocks album of the year. His latest release, therefore, has been met with a sense of anticipation, especially when you consider the absolute first class nature of the musicians which now form his band. On this album it includes bassist Sami Yaffa (Hanoi Rocks, New York Dolls), guitarist Steve Conte (New York Dolls), drummer Karl “Rockfist” Rosqvist (Chelsea Smiles) and Swedish guitar star Dregen (Backyard Babies).
The album certainly kicks off in fine, kick ass style, with “TNT” a fiery and rocking opener which is pure punk n roll. The vocals are instantly recognisable with the sense of anger and passion that have always featured in his voice. It also has the trade mark cool saxophone playing from Mr Monroe, which naturally features through out the entire album. The second song “Ballad Of East Side” is understandably the first single from the album as it’s a fun rock n roll song. It’s an ode to old New York and it’s “junkies, pimps and whores”. It’s a great reminder that Hanoi Rocks were a genuine sleaze rock band from the gutter, unlike all the later wannabe LA imitators (yes that means you Axl Rose!)
This, however, is no retro, old fashioned album. In fact, it has a quite surprisingly modern and polished sound. This is clear on “Eighteen Angels” which has a real commercial rock sound. “Stained Glass Heart” has a slightly slower intro before building in to a mid paced rocker with an amazing, uplifting bridge and chorus. This along with “Child of the Revolution” have the type of melody and chorus that most modern US commercial rock bands could only dream of achieving.
On “Saturday Night Special” it actually kicks off with a guitar slide similar to the one on the classic “She’s No Angel” song on his brilliant debut solo album “Dead, Jail and Rock N Roll”. This song is two minutes of pure, good time, rock n roll. It’s not all sweetness and light, however, where “Horns and Halos” in particular is a much harder punk rock song. Then on “Soul Surrender” you have an amazing contrast of kick arse punk rock with mid sections that are pure Clash style reggae.
The band take their foot off the accelerator slightly on “Ritual”. It’s not a ballad, but it is a slower and darker sounding song. In fact, it is possibly the closest song to Hanoi, not so much in the sound but in the under current of danger and sleaze.
The good times continue to roll, however, with “Half The Way” which is a perfect blend of punk and old school rock n roll, in the way it builds around a glorious chorus. On this and many of the other songs you also get a real feel for the quality of the musicianship. A special mention must also go to the guitar work which manages to be stylish and flash but without losing the all important melody. Final track, “Hands Are Tied” has a real Kiss feel to the opening. It similarly continues in to a monster of a big, brash, in your face, rock song. Therefore providing a triumphant end to the album.
Given Michael Monroe’s pedigree, and the quality of the musicians that support him, it should not really come as a surprise that his latest release is so majestic. However, given he has literally seen and done it all, it is quite amazing that the album just feels so fresh and vibrant. It is even possibly one of the most consistent albums he has produced as a solo artist where every song is a winner. The greatest credit is that any new comer on hearing this album will surely find themselves devouring his back catalogue. In doing this, they will then discover a world of music that truly encapsulates everything that real rock and roll music is about.
The Motor Inns – Rooms By the Hour EP
This EP is a sample for the shortly to be released full CD by Detroit based Rockabilly, Roots & Blues band The Motor Inns.
Whilst there may be elements of the roots and blues in the sound of the band, this is clearly an old school Rockabilly band. It kicks off with the great opening track “I Want a lover” which combines the simple style of a twang guitar, straight forward lyrics and a very clean and classic style. This is followed by “Flame of Love” and even the title gives a hint of the style and sound which harks back to the classic Sun records sound. This has a high kicking sound which will get people up and jive dancing.
All of these songs have a love influence in the lyrics but given the sultry voice of lead singer Cindi Lou it is very doubtful that any search for love will take long. Interestingly the final song “Blue Moon Baby” is faster paced and actually sees Female and Male vocals which provide a good bit of variety.
These songs certainly suggest that when the full album is finally available for release it will attract a lot of attention from fans of the more classic rockabilly sound.
Ninja Baby – “Blue”
Ninja Baby are a UK band who, despite being relatively new, have already managed to release a debut album called “Red” which has promptly been followed up by this release. It is good to see that the band have a wide range of influences, taking in both rock like G’N’R/ACDC and indie music such as Oasis and The Fratellis. For some reason, bands always try and stay in one of these musical fields and not the other. This is a shame really, when you consider that the Ninja Baby see the result of these influence being a “unique sounding band with big catchy riffs”.
They certainly create a big sound on first song “From The Bones Out”, which is a brash rock n roll song with a futuristic style sound that is actually similar to Achtung Baby era U2. They then add more of a glam shimmer to the song “Shadows”. It has a cool, laid back, vibe with some well placed backing vocals, which mix with the intermittent punk guitar blasts. They step up the catchiness of their sound on the lead single “Girls” which has a catchy, melodic feel with the added bonus of some hand claps.
The indie influences are more transparent on “Shards” which is a slower song that actually brings to mind the under rated Shed Seven. Then on “No Ones Kings & Queens” they bring things a bit more up to date where the vocals in particular lend an almost Arctic Monkeys feel to the track. The lyrical flow also has that same kind of real life observation feel to it. “Black Eye Blind” has a great opening rift and also the Arctic’s influence is there.
Probably the best song on the album is “Don’t Offer Me Your Love”, which has a really interesting opening that has an almost kind of disco feel to it. The song then moves in to a great potential indie disco hit which could definitely be a future single.
The final song “Down But Not Done” is a good closing song where the band show their ability to strip things down to a simple guitar and singer sound. This simplicity allows the quality of the song to shine through.
This album is a good collection of well written songs. The band has already developed from their first album, which has more of a straight forward Indie approach. The main challenge will be for them to develop their own niche and sound which will further differentiate themselves from other indie acts. In the meantime, they have delivered an album which will appeal to a large number of fans. In fact, with the right backing, a number of these tracks could easily find there way to be indie disco, dance floor fillers, which is no bad thing!
The Ok Social Club -“Nothing in Common”
This is the debut album by a young Scottish band and its certainly a promising start by these Indie Kids. The band have already seen some of the songs featured on popular TV shows such as Soccer AM and Hollyoaks which is a good indicator of the wide appeal of many of the songs.
The album kicks off with “Get Away with It” which has some great Britpop type lyrics, recalling the day to day struggles of the every day man. Lots of the songs are just custom made for dancing to at the local indie/student disco. Songs such as “Little Broken Bones” and “C’mon”, actually have a similar sound to early Razorlight but rather than evoking the ego of Johnny Borrell, actually give the impression of a bunch of scamps having a good time.
Not surprisingly, the first two singles off the album, “Shape of Things to Come” and “The Late 90’s ” are by far, two of the standout tracks on the album. The former begins with a great acapella opening and then it all comes together in a bouncy tune. It has a mid song break and overall provides a good element of diversity. This is something the band will need to work on as there is a tendency for some of the songs to sound a tad similar. “The Late 90’s” however is another example of the band really hitting form. Its a really good song with a great chanting chorus. Its a pity that the songs have been released already because they both have the sound of a summer time hit.
This success is also evident in “Everybody’s at it” where there is again a hint of almost Britpop in both the sound and the lyrics. It reminds me of The Jam going really pop, which in turn is effectively Blur circa Modern Life is Rubbish.
This albums is actually quite similar to another Northern based band, The Heartbreaks who released their album last year and enjoyed some good exposure via 6 music. Whilst the Heartbreaks adopted a similar indie pop sound, their album is tempered with the more depressive tone of Morrissey. This album takes a similar sound but instead it adds to it with the more upbeat sounds of the aforementioned Razorlight and Blur. The band clearly have potential and with a bit of air play this album could attract success amongst a more mainstream audience.
The Peckham Cowboys “10 Tales From The Gin Palace”
Over the years, The Peckham Cowboys have been a bunch of musical reprobates that have been held together by the talents of vocalist Marc Eden and guitarist Dale Hodgkinson. On this album, they have been joined by a group that consists of former members of these brilliant bands: Hanoi Rocks, Cheap & Nasty, Quireboys, Primal Scream and Steven Adler Band. When you also hear that Marc was personally invited to record demos with Velvet Revolver, then expectations for this album are obviously going to be very high.
It kicks off with “Not Guilty”, which has a great funky opening & the warning sound of breaking glass. It really is a cracker of an opening number, which brings memories of when Aerosmith used to write great funk rock n roll a la Dude Looks Like A Lady! It does, however, also add a dash of English Quireboys. It is quickly followed up by “Bromley Girls”,which is impossible to hear without having a smile on your face. It’s a good fun, sleazy rock ‘n’ roll song with great tongue in cheek lyrics (whose cheek may be a different story!).
Things take a different turn with “The Debt Collector”, which adds an almost ska type feel to the sound. This is a lot to do with the beat, but it is still under pinned with a rock ‘n’ roll sound. They take this sound even further on “Don’t Damn The Hypnotist” which brings to mind a Specials esque sound.
The Sleaze factor is soon restored with “Quarantined’ and “Poor Boy Blues”. The first of these adds a harder edge to the sound before it gets lifted by some added horns. Whilst, the latter, is a dirty, sleazy song. Here, the vocals are really great and have a rasp which is reminiscent of those great rock n roll singers, Tyla and Spike. It’s a down and dirty song which will leave the listener feeling in need of a good bath.
A drum beat which is very reminiscent of The Small Faces’ “All Or Nothing” opens up the song “Your Only In It for Me”. It is therefore, not surprising that this shows the influence of the band member’s associations with The Quireboys. It’s a similar style that is shown in “She Was Sweet On Me”, but on this one, they add more of a shiny modern feel to their bar room style.
“Cut It” sees a return of that funk influence, with a great drum beat and an effortlessly cool guitar line. The album then draws to a close with “Knocked Senseless”. You can’t beat some opening hand claps on a song, and this one then moves on to another classic rock n roll song. It is kind of throwaway, in a cool way, but also hugely appealing.
It is somewhat strange that one of the first reviews of the year was for The Loyalties, who delivered a great modern take on classic scuzzy rock n roll, and now ends with The Peckham Cowboys. Both these great bands certainly have similar attributes. This album is full of really cool, dirty, rock songs. However, whilst rock and roll can so often be just kind of retro, this is no simple old school album. Instead, they have brought the sound back up to date and made it sound both sleazy and vibrant. If you are a fan of any of the bands mentioned in the intro, or in fact just of decadence and fun, then you need to check out The Peckham Cowboys
The Pop Dogs “Cool Cats For Pop Dogs”
The first thing that should be said about this CD, is that it shouldn’t have been released in what has been the coldest winter in years. Virtually all the songs have a good time summer sound to them.
This is certainly evident on opening track “Kelly’s On” where the lyrics ” Sugar Rush, Honey drive” are a pretty good indicator of how the song sounds. It is a very sweet and light sound with a great power pop feel to it. It’s a really great introduction to the band. The general light pop theme is continued on “High Time” and “Last To New York” which, whilst having a Beatles influence with the drum sound and backing vocals, are actually really closer to The Monkees.
The best song on the album, however, is without doubt “Queen of The USA”. It follows a similar pattern to the other songs but is where the band really reach a power pop peak. It is a great pure pop song with the catchiest chorus on the album. The vocals on the album actually sound like those of a band from a few years ago called Ether, who were on the verge of having some success before suddenly disappearing.
The Pop Dogs are clearly capable of writing some great catchy Pop songs which have a bit of British Fountains of Wayne type theme to them. The two best songs are certainly “Kellys On” and “Queen of the USA”. The only negativity is that many of the songs are a tad too ‘samey’ and therefore, as an album, it can all end up feeling a bit too sugary. It could have benefited from a bit more dark and shade to keep the listener interested. Instead you have a collection of songs which will probably sound better as individual songs, which pop up when you have your iPod (other music devices are available!) on shuffle.
The Phantom Shaker “S/T”
This self titled release is actually presented as an EP but at nine songs is really a full album. It is a real old school rockabilly album as plainly demonstrated by the opening song “Long Blonde Hair” which has a great stray cat strut and a simple and sparse sound which is off set by the accompanying female vocals. This sound is also evident on “All I Can Do”, where again it’s the vocals which bring a warmth to the track and which contrasts with the stark guitars and double bass, as it builds to a bolder chorus.
On “Gloss My Lips” you have a really great traditional rock n roll song which smacks of Elvis. In fact the song actually kicks off like the kings very own Blue Suede Shoes. This influence is also clear on “Right Behind You Baby” which again is classic rock n roll. It is one of the most vibrant songs on the EP and is certain to get people up and dancing.
It ends with a couple of more unusual tracks, including one with the peculiar title of “Twerp”. This one actually has a hint of the bass line to “Lust For Life” under-pinning the song. Whilst “Rockin Bones” begins with an Adam Ant esque drum stick opening before continuing in to a good time rock n roll sound.
In recent years Imelda May has demonstrated that there is room for this type of band to have commercial success. The difference with this album is that it has a more raw and basic sound. It would be great to see the Phantom Shakers get the chance to benefit from a big production sound and, perhaps, even enhanced with some horns. The EP builds with each track and it would be good to see the band in a live environment, where they would be able to inject some greater energy and urgency in to the songs.
For more great archived reviews, head over to http://www.mudkiss.com/musicreviews.htm