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Nina Persson – “Animal Heart”
Nina Persson, will perhaps sadly, always be known as being the lead singer of The Cardigans and ‘that song’ from Romeo & Juliet. This is despite the fact that her former band had a much wider career and she has also been a member of A Camp. She has now gone on to release her first solo album, “Animal Heart”.
The album opens with the title track and the first thing that hits you, is Nina’s fantastic voice. It is clear, crisp and beautiful. The song itself is a laid back, effortlessly cool, adult pop track. It is the first of many songs which share these characteristics. “Clip Your Wings” is another neat little pop gem but has more of a purposeful vocal performance than many of the other tracks.
There are also some soulful, ballads, such as “Burning Bridges” and “Dreaming of Houses”, both of which have a ‘sparse’ feel. The second of these songs adds an almost sixties, carefree, pop feel to the sound. The album reaches a pop peak with “Food For The Beast”, and this is probably the song which will most appeal to the fans of The Cardigans. It still retains the ‘stand offish’ coolness that is apparent throughout this album, but displays more of an attitude and passion. A sense of anger is also present in the delivering of the lyrics on “Catch Me Cryin”, which works really well against the electronic backing.
There are also a couple of tracks which incorporate some different styles. On “Forgot To Tell You”, there is even a kind of R & B feel to it. It actually sounds like it may have taken a sample of a song to create the underlying melody. “The Grand Destruction Game” changes things again, with it’s hints of an Americana/folk feel. It again retains the more electronic sound and in many ways it shouldn’t work, but Nina manages to pull it off.
The album ends with “This Is Metal”, which is a pretty apt description of the actual style of music this is definitely not! Instead, this is a modern, adult pop album which has a totally relaxed and laid back feel. Describing it as ‘Sunday morning music’ sounds like an insult, but it’s not. It would be a perfect accompaniment to a lazy, sunny, morning in Spring.
Baby Scream – “Greatest Failures”
Well if you were asked to name a great power pop band from Argentina, then you would probably struggle. However, once you have listened to Greatest Failures by Baby Scream, a project led by Juan Pablo Mazzola, then at least there will be one. When you hear mention of influences like The Beatles and Cheap Trick, you are bound to have high hopes.
The album opens up with “Slut”, a title which is somewhat at odds to the sound, which, far from being offensive, is actually very upbeat and poppy. It bounces along with a neat melody and with a sing a long chorus. It is followed by “Mars” which this time, is well represented by it’s title. It has a Bowie esque space feel and floats along with a very open and sparse sound.
After the tranquil opening tracks, “Every Day (I Die A Little Bit)” comes as a bit of a shock. This opens with an intro which is very reminiscent of a Strokes song. It then moves into a rockier number which sounds more like a Soul Asylum song. It is a great, fast paced number and it would actually have been nice to see the band explore this style on a few more tracks.
We are soon back in to the dreamy pop sound on songs such as “The Riots” and “Morning Lights”. The first of these just allows your mind to wander and start day dreaming. Whilst the second is swept along by a great combination of guitar and organ. Despite having no idea what the title means, “Ojos Orientals” sees Baby Scream hitting a power pop peak. It will come as no surprise to hear it has a Beatles feel to it. It is the one that you could imagine George Harrison lighting a joss stick (??) to! This feel continues with “Exile”, although we are probably more in Lennon territory with this one.
“Jekyll and Hide” adds a bit more of an indie feel to the power pop sound and therefore we come more up to date with our band references to Jellyfish. It therefore comes as no surprise when the great Eric Dover turns up on “The Ghost Of Valerie”. This in itself is a great demonstration of the quality of Baby Scream’s ability to craft fine pop songs.
The album ends with “Secret Places” and it’s lyrics about escaping match well with the sound of this album. It has a style and pace which allows you to sink into the sound and drift away from the outside world.
It is curious where Baby Scream’s name comes from, as it is certainly not in keeping with the band’s sound, which is far more likely to soothe a baby rather than disturb them. Whilst the songs may not grab you immediately, they will gently relax and engross you. They have a lovely, dreamy pop feel to them, which will create a feeling of tranquility. It is likely you will put the CD on and be at the end before you know it. Importantly, however, what you will also probably do is just press play again straight away.
Party Dolls – “Love Wars Baby”
Party Dolls are actually a combination of members from a number of other bands which is quite unusual. This includes label mates The District Attorneys and Tedo Stone and also features members of Moths, Ruby the Rabbitfoot and Archers of Loaf side project Crooked Fingers. It is therefore, quite a mix of bands and influences. They have only been together as Party Dolls for twelve months so this album has been created and released in a pretty quick time.
It’s the title track “Love Wars Baby” which begins the album, with a gentle and serene opening. It then builds in to an anthemic, summer sounding song, a theme which features through the entire album. It has a bright and breezy feel with some great vocals. This continues on “Kindly Leave” which provides a nice adult pop opening pair. We see this repeated on the album, where “After June”, as the title suggests, is one of the sunniest songs on this release. It has a great warm sound and is delivered in a relaxed manner. Whilst on “You Let Me Know” there are more crashing guitars to wake you from your day dream. “Indigo” also adds a bit more of an indie rock feel to it. The female co-vocals in particular, are really effective and give it an almost American Wannadies feel to it. The more up beat sound is repeated on “Sides” which is a Crowded House style adult pop song.
In contrast, “I’m Not The One You Love” is a slower, ballad esque, power pop number which is in the style of a Brendan Benson singer/songwriter song. Then “Fire Cracker” is a simple singer and his guitar song with a really sparse sound. The album itself ends with “Sweetheart Moon” which is a sing a long, anthemic song. It has the feel of an old country folk song which would be sung by a crowd of people on a back porch, at the end of a scorching hot day.
This is really an album which should be released in the Summer. It has some beautiful songs which slowly infect your sub conscious. The song’s melodies are subtle but still enticing. It would be best enjoyed when you want to be relaxed and chilled, preferably with a nice long drink.
Little Hurricane – “Gold Fever”
This is actually the sophomore album of Little Hurricane, who hail from San Diego. It will come as a bit of surprise on listening to the album’s sound to know they are only a twosome. The band consists of singer/guitarist Tone Catalano and drummer/vocalist C.C. Spina. When recording the album, they used vintage equipment borrowed from a friend, who once recorded with legendary bands like the Grateful Dead and Deep Purple. It was also recorded whilst they sweated through a mid-summer heat wave, in air-conditioner-free surroundings—and often visited by tarantulas, turkeys, deer, and other local creatures.
“Summer Air” is a great opening song which naturally has a summery feel to it. It begins with a neat guitar line before the excellent vocals kick in. The vocals impress throughout the album as they are smooth but also with a rasp to catch your attention. The melodic opening is maintained with “Upside Of Down”, before “Sheep In Wolves Clothing” sees them gradually moving in to a more anthemic, indie type sound. The ability to deliver an anthem is reinforced with “Con Man”, but they now build the song up even further with a higher sense of passion and anger. We reach an entirely new level with “Sorry Son” which, by the end, creates such a triumphant sound it could almost be a huge James Bond theme.
They still have a number of songs which perhaps show the influence of their swampy recording space. “Boiling Water” steps things up a gear by adding some horns which really transform the song. This is a brilliant song, with a great, almost Philly soul, undertone to it. It’s the one which will really get you up and dancing. “No Man’s Land” keeps the more funky feel going and builds up to a more crunching sound. Then on “Bones” they really allow that Southern America sound to shine on a track which has hints of The Alabama Shakes about it.
Little Hurricane nicely mix things up with “Breathe” which is a duet that results in a beautiful sound, thanks mostly to the sweet female vocals. The song actually makes you realise how these vocals feature throughout the album, but they really shine on this one. This is a soft and simple song but it is totally chilled and enchanting. The title track “Gold Fever” sees them kicking in the mix of Americana and a kind of funk feel. It produces a sound which is very much like The Black Keys. Again, however, the female vocals are given an additional focus which adds some sweetness against the gritty blues riff. The album then ends with “Grand Canyon” which is an appropriately raucous, blues rock, funk jam which drips with soul.
This is a really great album and the only difficulty is how to pigeon hole it. The fact that it has a wide range of feels, influences and styles is one of the things that make it so enjoyable. However, given the popularity recently of bands like The Black Keys and Alabama Shakes, it wouldn’t do them any harm to try and catch their coat tails. It certainly shows the same sense of a band playing ‘real music’ with a blues feel but also added funk. One things for sure, Gold Fever is definitely an album you should be checking out!
Mike Mains & The Branches – “Calm Down, Everything is Fine”
Mike Mains & The Branches were formed in Texas but flourished as an indie rock collective in Michigan. Having released a debut album called “Home”, they are now back with a release which it would appear hasn’t been without it’s challenges. This ranged from getting their van and gear stolen, re recording and the coming and going of a few band members. It is therefore interesting to see how the band have faced these issues and whether they have over come them with this release.
Things begin quietly and slowly with ” Played It Safe” but soon the drums start picking up the pace and ends in a crescendo of noise. The album then seems to properly kick of with “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright”. It’s a classic pop/rock type song that actually has a sound reminiscent to the band Fake Problems at their ‘pop’ best. It’s melodic and wants to make you sing and clap along, which has to be a good sign. Thankfully, it is not the only one, “Take It All” is another huge song with a great melodic chorus that you wont be able to resist trying to sing a long to and is surely a live favourite.
“By My Side” adds a more anthemic sound which actually has that big and bright sound that the Killers seem to have nailed so well. “In The Night” is very similar where the key boards and ‘ooh ooh’ backing vocals give it a real commercial pop/rock feel and are joined by a great guitar line. This song has got radio hit all over it and it even throws in a Springsteen reference for good measure. They keep it all going with “Burn”,but that also shows a return of the more punky/feedback influence sound.
The first single off the album is “Noises” which actually has a more ‘angular’ feel to it. The underlying melody appears to be fighting it’s way to the fore ahead of the crunching guitar. The song “Slow Down” is a ‘does what it says on the tin’ track. It’s a gentle, acoustic number which provides a nice break in the album. As the song suggests, it’s the one to slow down and have a coffee to. Later on, the band do let up the pace again on “Where Love Dies In”. It’s a more epic and heartfelt song, where the stark and cold sound and passionate vocals give a real feeling of heartbreak.
Title track “Calm Down, Everything is Fine” also lives up to it’s title at first. It seems to provide a slow and gentle end to the album. That is except for the mid song blasts of feedback. It then ends in a sing a long refrain which will again get you joining in.
The ability to write smart, pop/rock songs, which are both commercial but also authentic is a tricky one. Mike Mains & The Branches have made it seem easy on this album though. Many of the songs on here could easily be picked up on commercial radio but they retain a punk ethic and an indie feel. It can only be hoped this will allow them to appeal to fans of both genres. Bands like The Killers have shown that this can lead to huge success and it would certainly be great if this brilliant album could get even a little of that level of exposure.
One If By Land “In The Fire Of My Youth”
One If By Land may be a somewhat unusual name for a punk band but it is one that you should get used to hearing, as they could become very big going by this album. The band are actually a four piece from Meadville, Pennsylvania. Whilst new, the band actually includes ex members of The Twirpentines, Signal Home, The Walnut Street Project, The Caddies, and Waiting for Never.
They begin with the statement of intent which is “Yesterburner” which is a great melodic, punk racket. It has to be said that the sound is very reminiscent of The Menzingers (no bad thing given how brilliant their last album was!). “You’ll Be Missed” keeps up the same feel and shows how the use of hard vocals against the strong melody of the song really works. There is a continued sense of aggression and passion with “Nothin On Us”, but still with an ear for a tune which holds the whole thing together.
The band slows things down a tad with the start of “Handouts”, but it then revs up in to a song which could almost be an early Gaslight Anthem song. “Winded” also shows a very early “Sink Or Swim” feel and is the sound of an angry and hungry punk band delivering a tuneful song. They really allow their ‘pop’ sensibilities to breathe on “The Things I Love” This is more like a punk band realising that their Dad was right that Springsteen has done some great songs. The more spoken vocal approach also brings to mind The Hold Steady.
In case you are in any doubt, there are still songs on this album which show the band is a punk rock group. This is particularly true in the mid album combo of “In The Shade” and “Do I”. These two are definitely more straightforward punk songs. They lack the melody of some of the other tracks but are probably the ones which will get the mosh pit going.
Given so many punk bands these days seem to be disbanding and seeing members convert into singer songwriters, it is great to see a band like One If By Land taking up the gauntlet. Along with bands like The Menzingers and The Restorations, they have managed to produce a collection of songs which are based on a melodic tune but lose none of their punk passion and integrity. Whilst the name may not be the catchiest, you can clearly see this band generating a hard core of devoted and passionate fans. It has the level of intensity and desire that just seems to attract the everlasting devotion of a fan.
Lloyd Yates – “Bring Back The Life”
Lloyd Yates is an acoustic artist who is promising great things, as well as the release of this EP, he also played at the BBC Introducing gig at Hyde Park last year. He has already had support from both Rob Da Bank and Radio 2.
The title track begins the EP and straight away shows an intricate acoustic guitar player which ensures the listener knows they are dealing with a very talented artist. The vocals have a nice rasping sound which actually works in a good contrast to the smooth guitar. This song then builds up with an almost funky feel to it.
“Down By The River” has more of an acoustic, folk feel to the sound and the voice and feel is almost like Paulo Nutini. “These Here Love Songs” is more of a ballad and whilst maybe folk in influence, we are not talking in a ‘beard and jumper’ kind of way but more in a Dylan, singer/songwriter vein. It should still appeal to the likes of Mumford and Sons fans which could be the commercial link he needs.
“Burn My Baby” shows a willingness to step out of the normal boundaries, as it adds a more modern, almost electronic feel to the sound.It’s a good demonstration that Lloyd Yates is prepared to take a risk and not just play it safe.
This EP is a good intro to what is clearly a talented musician. The tracks are predominantly acoustic but also manage to have an intensity about them, despite their sparse sound. It will be a test to see if this can be continued over a whole album and also if he can continue to add the diversity shown by “Burn My Baby to ensure it doesn’t become too one dimensional. However, given the success and popularity of Jake Bugg, there is now a growing appreciation for this kind of heartfelt singer and his guitar type sound. This EP could therefore be the start of something big for Lloyd Yates.
Sons Of The Sea- “S/T”
Sons Of The Sea is actually the new project by Brandon Boyd, probably best known as the vocalist for the band Incubus. There is, however, much more to him than being a vocalist of that band as he is also an artist, author, activist and surfer. As a man who is incredibly creative and having so many interests it would certainly be wrong to expect he would settle for doing a solo album which sounded like a new release from his band. This album therefore has a variety and quality which should see Brandon attracting a whole host of new fans, many of whom will not even have heard of Incubus.
The surprises start off straight away with the vocal harmonies on “Jet Black Crow” which are almost Queen esque but it soon shifts in to a really pleasant pop, singer songwriter song.It may not be what you are expecting but it is really good. We will see the same type of impressive vocal harmonies cropping up later in the album on “Lady Black”.This ends up progressing to an almost eighties sounding pop/rock chart song.
“Space And Time” is even better but again has an adult indie pop feel to it. In fact, it sounds like it could be a Manic Street Preachers song, when they are at their most commercial. “Plus/Minus” adds a bit more indie rawness to the sound, in the guitar line but it still builds to a fuller sounding, melodic sound. It’s not until we get mid way through the album and on to “Great Escape” that we get a slightly harder/edgier sound but this is really only from the grungy bass line during parts of the song.
Sadly, “Come Together” is not a Beatles cover but instead another mature pop song which has a real commercial appeal, even ending with a ‘nana nana’ refrain. On “Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye” it even goes as far as to have a whistled chorus. In fact, it could almost be a later Take That song (a la ‘Shine’) – I kid you not and YES that is a compliment.
Things only turn a bit more down beat sounding with “Where All The Songs Come From” as it is more focused on a melancholic tone. “Avalanche” keeps the slower and toned down mood in a song which is an almost epic musical show tune ballad (again very surprising.)
The album actually ends with three acoustic versions of the songs. If ever there is a test of the quality of the song writing it is to strip it down. It will come as no surprise that here it just confirms they are all just finely crafted mature pop songs.
This album has come as a huge but unexpected pleasant surprise. It really is a fine collection of well written and performed adult pop songs. Brendan was wise not to just use his own name which would have caused confusion and detracted some listeners. Sadly, the association with Incubus could put some off, which would be a real pity. Who knows what the Incubus fans will make of it, although even that band moved to a more melodic sound as they went on. Hopefully those fans will have matured like Brendan has and really appreciate these tunes too. Anyone who enjoys good adult based pop with a much needed dash of authenticity, will love this.
Jonny Cola & The A Grades – “Spitfire”
How many times do you hear bands talking about having to go through a really difficult time with the recording of an album. Usually, this is just because they couldn’t write anything decent, they’ve been dropped or the drummers slept with the guitarist’s girlfriend. However for “Spit Fire” it really was a serious matter with much of the material was written last year, as Jonny first battled end-stage kidney disease, and later recovered from a life-saving transplant operation. The fact that, as he describes it, “I’m never out of danger because the donor kidney doesn’t last forever. The average life expectancy of a kidney is about 15 years”, perhaps explains why this is an album so full of life and fun.
“In The Woods” kicks it all off with a great glam rock stomper. It’s like a modern glam T Rexy song and it just great fun. It is the first of many similar songs, e.g. “Going Over” which appear throughout this fine album. “Tropical Beach” see them add a bit more ‘pop’ shine to their glammy sound. With great lyrics like “I’ve got a bottle of gin and a head full of sin” you know you are on to a good thing. This is a song for care free, wild teenage days, or for those older fans, one to relive those day to.
There is quite a change on “Straight To Video” as it is a much slower track which would appear to have been influenced by David Bowie. It has that Ziggy Stardust, space/epic feel about it. It is probably a good reminder that we are dealing with a talented band here and not some trash act. Although that’s not to say they are not susceptible to a bit of throwaway punk pop, as brilliantly shown on “Rain Stopped Play”.
We are soon back to that seventies glam pop sound on “Blow Up’ which is retro and fun. You will love it and, almost despite yourself, will soon be putting a bit of glitter on you face. “Sunset/Sunrise” sees them move into ballad mode and it will be time to get those lighters in the air and shed a tear for the girls who have come and gone.. well that’s until you get to the short mid song poem!
“Wrong Head” sees the pop side coming back on a song where the power pop influences really shine and maybe a hint of a band like Suede. Final track, “Out Of The Woods” is back in Bowie land with the vocals over a piano sound at the beginning. The whole song then builds to an anthemic and epic conclusion to the album.
Jonny Cola & The A Grades have managed to perfectly blend a glam/power pop sound. It pulls off the tough task of being throwaway and fun but still essential. One of the few bands to have achieved this and could be a comparison to the sadly ignored “Last Great Dreamers”. Their album, like this one, was a perfect mix of retro seventies glam pop with a modern rock band sound. Once you’ve listened to this album you will be reapplying that glitter in the hope you can catch Jonny Cola & The A Grades somewhere live.
Pussycat & The Dirty Johnsons – “Dirty Rock N Roll”
It is unlikely that Basingstoke is a hot bed of punk rock but that is where the power trio, Pussycat & The Dirty Johnsons hail from. They have already established a reputation as a ferocious live band, that are able to deliver an energetic and vibrant performance. The test for a band like this, however, is whether they are able to capture that in a studio. This album certainly shows that there is nothing subdued about this band’s studio performances.
“Bringing The Bodies” opens up like something out of a punk horror story. It’s all very menacing, but also strangely seductive. Opening up with the lyrics “Your hell bent for leather, gonna make me some boots out of you” there are no signs the hostile attitude is going to ease up on “Hell Bent”. This song actually adds more of a metal sound to the punk vocals. “Why Do You Hate Me” similarly has metal guitar licks that go along with the punkish attitude. The band are at their heaviest on “Souvenir” a song with a dark, horror feel to it.
They add a rare bit of frivolity on “Livin’ With Mum and Dad”, this is a bit more ‘pop punk’ and comes across like a modern Sex Pistols track. “Get Outta My Face” sees a psychobilly influence thanks to the great double bass which drives it along. This brings a great rock n roll feel to their sound. Then on “Dirty L’il Dog” there is almost a feeling of Southern boogie to the overall punk sound. Both of these songs provide some respite to the harder punk songs and help to give the album some diversity.
Their core is clearly punk rock though and “She Don’t” is a great punk song which is just full of attitude and anger. A song with a title that is the name of an anti depressant like “Mirtazapine” is never going to be a song full of fun and light heartedness. So it’s no surprise it’s a brooding and full on punk racket. The album ends with “Hideous” which is still hardcore but, perhaps, suggest the band still know the importance of a bit of melody.
To be honest, the band have reviewed this album as succinctly and accurately as you could do with the title, “Dirty Rock N Roll”. It would perhaps have been a bit more accurate if they had changed the word “ Rock” for “Punk”. The whole album has a sense of danger, anger and passion, that’s delivered with a spit and a snarl. The difference between Pussycat & The Dirty Johnsons and other bands is probably the fact that a)they are clearly quality musicians and b) they seem to really, really mean it!
Dave Hughes & The Renegade Folk Punk Band –“Doctors And Dates”
Dave Hughes & the Renegade Folk Punk band are actually a Scottish punk trio and it’s fair to say that their name actually gives you a pretty good idea of what to expect. It won’t come as a surprise to hear that comparisons have been made to bands such as Dropkick Murphies and the Levellers, as well as bigger rock outfits such as The Gaslight Anthem.
The album opens up with “City Of Us” which is a great little rock n roll song and has an added hint of punk attitude. These elements combine to create a great mix of rawness and melody. We see this put to great effect again on ”Doctors” which has that same punk rock feel, but with a story telling vocal style that adds a more contemporary rock n roll feel. It’s a similar story with “Drama Queen” but this adds a sing a long feel with the chorus. In fact, on these songs, you can hear a sound which is similar to early Frank Turner.
On “Luath” there is a pirate vibe to the song, as it builds in to a kind of rock n roll sea shanty. It will be a great song to enjoy with a rum or two as you sing along at a live gig. “Boneman” keeps up the ‘shanty’ feel before it builds in to a Celtic tale. The album ends with “History Sis” which is a slower and more thoughtful song. The use of a harmonica always brings to mind Dylan, but this is a more mature almost singer/songwriter song compared to the other tracks.
Overall, it’s quite a mixed album, as some of the songs are really great and suggest you could easily see the band basking in some of the success that has been enjoyed by Frank Turner. The middle songs do indeed bear a resemblance to The Levellers, which their fans will love. It provides quite a mix of styles that could actually prove to be divisive. It will certainly be very interesting to see what style and sound the future releases from the band will choose to follow.
Girls, Guns & Glory – “Good Luck”
Girls, Guns and Glory are a band who have been around for eight years, many of which they have spent relentlessly touring. Their roots are in rock ‘n’ roll with a twist of country thrown in and this is quite evident on “Good Luck”, which is in fact their fifth album. It certainly doesn’t come as a surprise when reading the four pieces’ bio to see references to Chuck Berry, Eddie Cochran, and Buddy Holly, as well as country greats like Hank Williams and Johnny Cash. The band has also done well to secure producer Eric “Roscoe” Ambel who has not only produced Nils Lofgren, Steve Earle and The Bottle Rockets but was also Joan Jett’s original guitarist.
“All The Way To Heaven” certainly lets you know immediately what the band is all about. It has it’s roots in good old boy country, but it has the added injection of a rock sound which gives it a bit more of a kick. The country feel continues on “Shake Like Jello” but this time there is more of a fifties, rockabilly beat to give you a song that will make you want to get up and dance. Whilst “Come On Honey” shows the Eddie Cochrane influence and moves in to a simple but very effective rock n roll song.
“Be Your Man” sees the band adding some horns which works really well. Another great US band, Lucero, have used this to brilliant effect on their last couple of album. In fact, it would have been great if Girls, Guns and Glory had utilised them more on this album, as they could share a similar country rock territory. In contrast, “One Of These Days” is a far more reflective and slow song. It’s a slow paced number which allows you to really focus on the great vocals. “Rocking Chair Money” is another country ballad that will leave you imagining a man and his guitar in some dim and dark country club, while you sip a glass (bottle?) of Bourbon. Final song “It’s Your Choice” is another slower number which will have you cracking open another bottle.
Given the band’s name, it should not really come as a surprise that this is a very ‘American’ album. That’s not to say there won’t be a market for it here in the UK. It could certainly appeal to modern country fans, but has a bit more of an edge then most bands in that genre. For this reason it will also appeal to fans of more diverse bands such as Lucero or The Drive By Truckers.
Fake Shark–Real Zombie “Liar”
It really seems impossible to start this review without making reference to the somewhat unusual name of the band; apparently it is influenced by Lucio Fulci’s film, Zombie 2. You might be none the wiser hearing that, but it is a good indication of the diversity of the band’s sound. Likewise, the fact that they have toured with bands such as Klaxons, Hot Hot Heat, Birthday Massacre and Enter Shikari shows not only their potential, but again the fact that they are hard to place in any one genre.
The EP opens up with “Paint It Gold” which is a great cacophony of sounds and noises. It’s very hard to pigeon hole the sound, other than to say it seems very ‘now’, with its blend of dance, rap and rock. A few years ago this would have been immediately placed on the soundtrack for a Skins episode. “Yes Yes No No” sees them picking up the beat and it comes across like a great young, more dance influenced band. Under all the youthful vibrancy, there is still an understanding of the need to keep a melody in the song.
The changes continue with “Soon To Be Strangers” which adds an almost a funk rock feel to it, which may see older readers recall bands like Faith No More. It’s a great amalgamation of funk and rock.
The rebellion steps up with “After Skool Special” which is not a song for those offended by some bad language. You can guarantee the teenagers it is probably aimed at, will love annoying their parents with it..and why not, we did that with the Beastie Boys!! “F**k Kevvy” takes this even further with its real gangsta rap style. No idea if it’s East Coast or West Coast, but the kids are gonna love it!!
Fake Shark –Real Zombie’s EP is as mixed up and messed up as their name. Despite that, it has a sense of youthful determination and anger which is sure to attract a lot of young fans. It has a cutting edge feel that is bound to be picked up by the hippest of teenagers. It will also have many a parent shouting for it to be turned off…..which is always a good sign!
Matty James – “Official Bootleg, Live Acoustic Rock N Roll Vol 1”
This is a live album which is being released ahead of Matty James’ full album and he is keen to highlight that it is a proper, from the sound board, live recording. This is certainly true, as it’s a raw live album where you can even hear when the sound man turns the volume levels up. In fact, it is so ‘real’ that you even get the annoying sound of some people chatting and distracting you from the music.
The album and set opens up with “A World Away” which is a really good, upbeat, rock n roll track. All the songs on this album are just Matty and his guitar, but he still delivers a rocking sound on this one. Later on, “Find Myself Again” is another song with a more vibrant sound. It would be good to see this being developed in to a great sing a long song, with full band backing and production. “Couldn’t Love Me” has opening chords reminiscent of ‘Knocking On Heavens Door’ but again, with its angrier lyrics, you can see it being more of a rocking song.
“Uncertain Times” is a slower, more of a ballad song and the first of many on the album that recalls another great music troubadour, Tyla from The Dog’s D’amour. “State of Mind” shares this comparison with it’s gentle strum being accompanied by the rougher voice. Lyrics like “Have a drink and try to drown” help to give it all a world weary feel. “You’re Not The Only One” is similar and in particular is one of the tracks on which you really want to hush some of the chattering crowd down! On “You Sleep Too Much” you really get to hear the passion in Matty’s voice, in what sounds like another tale of despair.
“Can’t Go Home” brings the set to a conclusion with a song which would be a perfect sing a long ending. It ends what must have been a gig that would have sent the crowd home happy after a great night out.
Fair play to Matty for getting this live album out there. When you release a raw live album which consists of just a man and his guitar, it is always a brave move. The album really captures a small venue gig with a clearly passionate musician. It has such a genuine feel you can almost taste the beer or two (or three or four) you would have enjoyed whilst listening to the songs and great performance from Matty James.
Nick Waterhouse – “Holly”
This is the second album from Californian Nick Waterhouse, and contains his unique perspective on the spirit of American rhythm & blues and rock & roll. It was produced by Waterhouse and Kevin Augunas (Cold War Kids, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros) and includes song writing collaborations with friend Ty Segall, as well as covers of tracks by Young Holt Trio and Mose Allison among others. It’s an ambitious release which Waterhouse describes as feeling more like “a novella, or poem with sections, or even a film, than a collection of songs”.
It starts with a sultry and seductive opening in the shape of “High Tiding, which has a retro/classic sound that is a mix of soul and a dash of rock n roll, to give it a real fifties feel. The seductive tone reappears later in the album on “Sleeping Pills”, but that song adds a more latin style beat and what sounds like bongos (trust me, despite that, it sounds great!). “Well It’s fine” is another soul song, but again, it certainly has a fifties, almost rock n roll feel to it. This may just be down to the production of the album, which is very retro sounding. It has a clean and crisp tone, totally different to the over produced albums that we tend to hear these days.
The lead single off the album is “This Is A Game”, and rightly so, as it is an upbeat song which will be the one to get people up and dancing. You can see why some people may make references to Amy Winehouse when describing Nick’s sound. It would not come as a surprise to see this being picked up for an advertising campaign and becoming huge. On “It’s No. 3” the warmth of both Nick’s vocals and the overall feel of the song are the factors which make it stand apart from so many modern soul songs. There is just an added sense of authenticity rather than being polished.
The title track itself is another which will get people up and dancing, it has a more northern soul style beat to it. The dance floor fillers then keep coming with “Dead Room”, a song that you just won’t be able to help but turn up loud and start dancing along to. That is at least until you reach the mid song jazz sounding break, which will totally throw any rhythm you may have! You will soon be up and dancing again, however, with “Ain’t There Something That Money Can’t Buy” which is sure to have you shaking your money maker to it.
The album comes to a conclusion, way too soon, with the fine soulful ballad, “Hands On The Clock”. This song has a real end of the night, one last drink in a cool jazz/blues bar feel to it.
Having already seen the release of the excellent Sharon Jones album (review here https://thesoulofaclown.com/2014/02/02/sharon-jones-the-dap-kings-give-the-people-what-they-want-album-review/) this year, maybe we are going to see a revival in this type of retro soul sound, let’s hope so. The songs here are an advertiser’s dream and many could accompany a party scene for the latest cool drink.That’s not a criticism though, like Amy Winehouse’s great stuff, these are songs for a modern age, but with an authenticity which is just so rare today. Listening to this album the artist that actually springs to mind is J.D. McPherson. Whilst he is far more rockabilly than soul, they both seem to share many similar qualities. In particular, the production gives it a fifties feel and there is just a warmth and passion for the music that seems to shine out on every note. This is definitely one of those albums that you could see exploding and becoming huge, and let’s hope it does. If not, you can see people really loving it and probably buying on CD for the car and on vinyl as well, for the extra warmth and satisfaction that can bring.
69 Cats – “Bad Things” EP
When you hear that the 69 Cats are described as a perfect Halloween date with Dracula & Elvis, you kind of know you are in for a treat! This is actually something of a supergroup as it consists of Jyrki69 (The 69 Eyes) vocals, Danny B. Harvey (Rockats, Headcat) guitar and Chopper Franklin (The Cramps) bass. The reasoning behind the formation of this great band is best described by Jyrki69 himself: ”No matter where I was Dj-ing around the world, whether it was a Goth or metal night, I always spun some 50’s rock’n’roll, The Cramps or The Stray Cats in the last part of the night – and drove everybody crazy and filled the dance floor. But it’s always the same records, there’s no new happening band.” Well now that new, exciting band definitely exists!
The EP opens up with “Bad Things”, a song which will be very well known to fans of the cult TV series ‘True Blood’. It’s the absolutely awesome theme tune to that programme. Quite rightly, the 69 Cats keep it close to the brilliant original, but just add a bit of rockabilly swagger to the swamp, blues sound. It is followed by “Black No1 ” which is a Type O Negative song. I don’t know the original, but this version is excellent. It’s a slow and sleazy song with a great gothic feel. The vocals are mean and moody and it will have you digging out those old Sister Of Mercy albums and dressing like a vampire.
The EP draws to a close with “Flaming Star”, as the band demonstrate their influences with this classic Elvis song. Again, it’s great and they just add that ’69 Cats’ feel to the song. Compared to the other tracks on the EP it is a far more wholesome, old school, rockabilly song.
As an intro to the 69 Cats, this is brilliant as it shows their obvious talent and influences. The important thing with covers is the need to bring something different to the track and the band do that on every one of these. The only negative is that there are only three songs, so it’s just over too damn quick. It will certainly leave you desperate to hear more and see what else they can deliver. Let’s hope that they get their debut album out very soon!
The Black Marquee Los Angeles – “Sessions From The Hive Vol 1”
The Black Marquee were formed by Chelsea Smiles singer/guitarist, Skye Vaughan Jayne and bassist/vocalist, Mike Christie, two years ago. The two had met on the road in previous bands and quickly realised that they shared a love of fuzz guitars and great songs. Rounded out by drummer Rich Berardi and guitarist K Bombay, The Black Marquee are making a name for themselves on the Los Angeles club scene. The band’s sound has been described as “an amalgamation of Garage, Punk and Stoner Rock with pop sensibilities”.
The first thing that comes to mind with opening song ” Seven Shades Of Shame” is that they have a sound like The Cult. It has that same feeling of a big rock sound with a touch of sleaze, but also a darker, more gothic undertone. “Wolves To Wallflowers” has a similar sound and wouldn’t be out of place on Sonic Temple. This song also adds a Hammond organ, which is a nice touch. This style is also present on “Cold War” and probably has a lot to do with the technique of allowing the vocals to stand separate from the guitar before coming together in the chorus.
“All For Love (LUV)” sees them taking a big risk by starting the song off the same as a New York Dolls track, but thankfully the song justifies the making of this comparison. As you would expect, it’s a rock n roll song that has a stench of debauchery and sleaze about it, Johnny Thunders would have approved! We get another great punky rock n roll song later on, in the shape of “My Darling”, a song which is just built to be played loud.
The band tone things down a bit, with “Dirt Road Home” which has a wider sound compared to some of the punkier tracks. It’s good to see the band are willing to demonstrate a more expansive sound rather than just the simpler rock tracks. “Madness For Some” follows this, and has a stronger focus on the melody of the song, before building into a huge chorus. It’s a big rock song which, back in the day, would’ve been an arena filler. We then move on to an LA Sunset strip swagger with “Rotten Truth”, but the emphasis is still on grit rather than glammer. They throw in another surprise with “Just Sayin'”, which starts off like it is going to be the ‘token ballad’ on the album. However, it develops into a great melodic track with an almost sixties influenced sound. The whole album appropriately concludes with the high octane “Sunday Servant” which is all punk ‘n’ roll.
The Black Marquees have delivered something that is rare these days.. a quality, sleazy, rock album. It has the sort of huge rock songs which at one point would have seen them playing arenas with the likes of Guns N Roses (when they were actually a decent band!). It seems to have a sleaze rock feel to it, but rather than taking the throwaway glam side, it is a darker more menacing side. Those fans of more obscure band of this ilk, may recall a great album by The Throbs which had a comparable sound. It’s a rock n roll album, but with the sinister tone of The Cult. It would be fantastic if this album could see a regeneration of this style, where the current music industry is desperately short of bands willing to write great rock songs, with a bit of devilment and mischief.
The Cry! – “Dangerous Game”
The Cry! are one of those bands that seem able to blend a whole host of great influences from many generations to create a perfect sound. “Dangerous Game” is their sophomore album and is a real classic. Whilst showing true power pop roots, they add some crunch and a punk attitude to create a sound which will immediately grab your attention.
Some albums just start off so brilliantly that you know you are going to love them. This is certainly true with this one, where opening song “Discotheque” is a great track with glam rock chords and a cowbell (so wrong to many, but so right to me!). With lyrics including ‘T-Rex on the stereo’ it tells you a lot about where The Cry’s influences are. If only discotheques did play stuff like this! Second track “Toys in The attic” is not an Aerosmith cover, but another great slice of glam, punk pop.
“Hanging Me Up” steps up the punk intent a bit, but it’s still on the bubblegum side. Whilst it may be plated with a sneer, it is held together with a catchy melody and chorus. The punk feel is kept up with “Smirk” but it is also full of “Oh yeahs”, which keep it light hearted and fun. It has a power pop with a crunch feel that goes right back to bands like Cheap Trick. There is another upbeat song later, in the shape of “Dangerous Game”, which also adds a bit more sleaze rock in to the mix and sees you thinking of a more pop Hanoi Rocks.
Thoughts of the album token big ballad start with “Same Old Story” due to it’s slower start, but it soon shifts back in to a great power pop song. We are then transported back to the seventies glam rock feel with “Shakin” which recalls the greats such as T-Rex and Sweet. The lyrics are equally tongue in cheek with lines such as ‘shakin, shakin’ like a vibrator’. The final track, “Nowhere To Go” even starts off with a huge ‘Jean Genie’ riff, before again going in to a Sweet/T-Rex blockbuster, which will have you smiling, singing along and clapping your hands.
In some ways it doesn’t seem right reviewing this album. It is not an album which should be subjected to a lot of scrutiny and appraisal. It is an album chock full of great glam, power pop tracks.
Is it one dimensional? probably
Does that matter, hell no!
There are hundreds of bands producing dour and boring rock. The Cry!, however, have delivered an album which is bright, colourful and brilliantly enjoyable. It has a great bubblegum punk pop feel which will appeal to seventies glam fans, glam metal fans, power pop fans, in fact, anyone who can appreciate that some music is just about bringing some instant three minute segments of joy into someone’s life.
D-A-D “Best of D-A-D 30 Years 30 Hits 1984-2014
The name D-A-D will have many a rock fan reminiscing, most will probably remember they created a huge press scramble when they first hit the UK. This was mainly due to the rumours over their signing on fee and all the fuss made over their original name, Disneyland After Dark, which Walt and Co weren’t too happy about. Unfortunately, despite releasing some great albums, which were given prominent pushing in the UK, they struggled to fit in to the scene at that time. This is probably because everyone was jumping on to the glam metal scene and their classic sound, which owed more to The Cult and AC/DC, wasn’t the ‘in thing’ then. Thankfully, this album gives any of those early fans a great chance to rediscover this brilliant band. Despite making you feel damn old, this compilation consists of 30 great tracks to represent their 30 years in the business. They have also made the interesting decision to put all the songs in chronological order. This is a great way to see if the early songs have stood the test of time and also if they have maintained the quality throughout the years.
Early on with the likes of “Call Of The Wild” they show what the band was to always excel at, a classic rock sound but with a real ear for a melody. “Riding With Sue” and “Isn’t That Wild” also showed that they had a cow punk feel to them at the outset. It’s no wonder they were so different to the “fluffy” glam bands around at the time.
The next few tracks probably come from what was their highest profile time here in the UK. “I Won’t cut My Hair” is an absolutely classic anthem which must have been played, and shouted, at a really high volume by many a young male rocker. “Sleeping my Day Away” was one of their big songs and it is no surprise why. Again, it’s the way they are able to deliver a fine tune, with a catchy melody and chorus. This is a similar story with “Point Of View”, whilst “Grow Or Pay” has a more restrained feel but still sounds as good now as it did then. Even during this period, they didn’t leave their punk ethos behind, as shown by “Girl Nation” and “Jihad” which still have that anger and vibrancy.
The other great thing about D-A-D is that they were always a band which seemed to have a sense of humour and this is seen by “Bad Craziness”, which starts off with a ‘Day Tripper’ rip off guitar line. It is, therefore, no wonder that they also have a great acoustic number with the title “Laugh and a ½”. Going by the tracks “Reconstructdead” and “Naked (But Still Strippin)”, it appears the band may have gone through a harder and darker phase. Both these songs have an almost industrial sound and maybe they were influenced by the Grunge scene.
Thankfully, they never abandoned their sense of melody, “Home Alone 4” has a semi acoustic feel and is a mature pop rock song. Then tracks such as “Hate To Say I Told You So”, “nineteenhundredandyesterday” and “Soft Dogs” are just huge arena rock songs. They have a sound which could have been delivered by Aerosmith, when that band was at their commercial, but still credible, peak.
We are, however, frequently reminded that behind all the pleasant melodies, D-A-D have always remained a proper rock band. This is shown on “Evil Twin” which is a cool punk rock track with a great swaggering feel. Songs such as “Scary Yourself” and “Monster Philosophy” are rock songs, but not just old fashioned classic rock tunes but ones that still retain a very contemporary feel.
We are brought more up to date with songs like “I Want What She’s Got” and “We All Fall Down” and again, they are equally brilliant songs as those that they produced at the very start of their career.
The incredible thing about this album is the sheer quality of the songs that appear throughout. Interestingly, you could easily mix the whole album up and it wouldn’t suffer. That’s not to say the band haven’t progressed throughout the years, instead they benefit from always having their own sense of identity and a variation in their sound right from the outset. If you haven’t stuck with D-A-D during their career, then you definitely need this album. It is quite clear that the band has been tragically underrated here in the UK and you would be hard pressed to find a better best of album.
The band are touring in April so make sure you get to a gig,because with their live experience and the quality of their songs, you can guarantee an awesome show.
Lucius – “Wildewoman”
This is the debut album by the band Lucius who are fronted by Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig with the addition of bandmates Dan Molad, Peter Lavish and Andrew Burri. Impressively, the band produced the album themselves and have created a stunningly melodic album. Even though the band clearly have a host of influences, they have preserved a unique spirit that can only ever be described as 100% Lucius.
The album opens with the title track, “Wildewoman” and the first thing that hits you is the luscious harmonies of the female co-vocals. Along with the overall smooth sound they just create a beautiful song. The whole album is literally full of delightful pop songs such as “Turn It Around” which also has an element of electronic cool about it.
The band also have a more acoustic, folk feel to their sound as shown on “Go Home”. This is repeated on “Two Of Us On The Run” which is a slower number, that provides a nice break from the more uplifting tracks. Whilst “Monsters ” is a chilled out song which has a melody that just floats along like a gentle stream.
It is on the more upbeat, pop sounding songs where the band really shine though.”Hey Doreen” is a potential hit song with it’s wonderful summer time feel. It is the song which could be picked up by radio and be a huge commercial hit a la Foster The People and their ‘Pumped up Kicks’. Like that band they perfectly mould an electro influence with a pure pop sensibility. “Tempest” is another great example of this. It’s a song with a gentle strum to it but then just explodes in to a beautiful perfect pop chorus. It’s not all just sweetness and light though, “Nothing Ordinary” adds an almost tribal feel to the sound and starts bordering on Kate Bush or maybe PJ Harvey territory.
With songs like “How Loud Your Heart Is” and “Until We Get There” you could easily see Lucius gaining comparisons to one of the bands of the moment, Haim. The sound is different in many ways but, as demonstrated by this song, they also have some common features i.e. great vocal harmonies and an underlying adult pop sound. One of the best tracks on the album, and that’s against very strong competition, is “Don’t Just Sit There”. You certainly won’t be able to sit there without at least tapping your foot to the intro. The rest of the song will leave you wanting to be running along a beach on a glorious sunny day.
This album is released at the end of March and it can only be hoped that this gives it time to build up momentum for some big summer single releases. The majority of songs on the album are beautiful, mature, pop songs but retain a feel of vibrancy and youthfulness. The vocals and harmonies give it a warm and dreamy feel. It could so easily be a soundtrack to the perfect afternoon of laying and then dancing in the warm sunshine.