The Reach Around Rodeo Clowns -“Rockabilly Deluxe”
This is the latest release on the excellent Lanark Records, but the band are far from new, having been around since the 1990’s and having already released five previous albums. It was recorded at Lanark’s studio using analog equipment, so it has that retro sound but still having a more modern vibe. They are a band who have roots in rockabilly, surf and rock n roll but all with an irreverent punk attitude. This latest release has been given a description of “a little bit country, a little bit punk, a little bit crazy and a little bit drunk”, which certainly sounds like it will be an album worth checking out.
They certainly don’t mess around on the opening number, “King Of The Slot Car Track”, which is a full on rockabilly number with the guitar sound having a Peter Gunn feel to it. The song itself is upbeat with a great use of backing vocals to give it a full sound.
They are quick to ensure the album doesn’t fall in to the trap of being one dimensional as the second song, “Long Gone Daddy” sees them slow it down a bit and add a great sleazy swing sound. It has really good use of horns to give it a real ‘sassy’ feel. This is also achieved on “It’s Rock and Roll”, which also has a slower beat but again features a certain swagger. This track in particular would probably be at home as an accompanying track to a wild burlesque dancers routine.
The Rodeo Clowns really do excel at producing old school rockabilly tracks. On “Bowling Alley Baby”, not only do we get a great title, but also a real fifties swing. Importantly though, it sounds fun but not cliched. “I’m Obsessed” is a similar traditional sounding song but the production ensures it has a more contemporary feel. “Wild Crazy and Out Of Control” is not surprisingly a song about a wild girl, who would be perfect for a rockabilly boy! This song makes good use of having a deeper and more menacing vocal delivery. It is followed up by “Paranoid Boy” which might well be about that rockabilly boy who has been confused by the afore mentioned wild crazy chick!
The band’s willingness to mix things up is most clearly present on “I Used To Be The One”. The sound here just comes out of nowhere, where it is a bit country but with a few Mexican sounds thrown in – it’s certainly fun. The country feel is most evident on the closing track, “The Light Is So Bright”. Again, however, the band ensure it is not just a routine number as they also throw in some pretty weird gothic segments to keep the listener on their toes.
Lanark records are certainly establishing themselves a track record of delivering quality rockabilly bands. This release from The Reach Around Rodeo Clowns is probably the finest of their releases so far. It is based on a traditional rockabilly style and sound which will certainly appeal to the fans of this genre. However, it is not just a cliched revamping of an old style. Often bands of this type will produce songs which just sound like cover versions of old songs. Instead, The Reach Around Clowns don’t always play it safe and throw in the odd curve ball to keep the listener alert and interested. This means they continue to bring something new which is essential to keep the scene and sound developing.
Reckless Ones “S/T”
On their own website, The Reckless Ones describe themselves as ” rock ‘n’ roll, plain and simple. Just trying to make an honest statement in this phoney world, their sound is from the heart and doesn’t apologise for anything”. This is a great description of this three man band who formed in Minneapolis in early 2009. They are certainly a band which are leading the field in terms of delivering straight up, good time, Rock N Roll.
Having said that, opening song “Desert Rose” is a quite unusual opener, in that it begins as a quite slow song which sounds like its from a cowboy film. However, then the double bass kicks in and the pace picks up to take it to a slow beat swagger. It’s a really strong start to the EP.
“Merry Go-Round” sees a more traditional Reckless Ones sound, with it’s strong link to a true Rockabilly style. It kicks off with some strong vocals and also adds a hint of boogie woogie piano, which is a nice touch. Just like a merry go round, it is fun and sadly over far too quickly. This traditional side is also evident on “Mean Pickin Mamma” which really has echoes of the late 50’s influences. This is no surprise when you learn that the song has been donated to the Reckless Ones by the legendary Brian Setzer of the phenomenal Stray Cats. For the uninitiated, it is hard to emphasise how significant a stamp of quality and honour this is for a band such as the Reckless Ones.
Importantly,the bands own written material is more than a match. “Come Back” again offers a more laid back start but is a real nice clean cut sounding track, which allows the vocals and instruments to shine out. “It’s Time” is a fantastic song which has a real edge to it. It is up beat, but menacing at the same time, and possesses a great chant along chorus.
The EP ends all too soon with “The One” which sees the band back to that Wild West feel. This is a song to listen to sipping a beer or whisky on the front porch. It’s a real nice touch the way the opening and final song provide neat book ends to the whole EP.
There can be no doubt that Reckless Ones are one of the best modern Rockabilly bands around at the moment. Crucially, they retain all the traits of a classic Rockabilly band but give it a modern twist and feel. It is, perhaps, the quality of the music and production that gives it a contemporary sound. If you are a fan of modern rock music who fancies dipping their toe in to the world of Rockabilly, then you will find it hard to find a better place to start than this EP.
There are sometimes record labels where you tend to know that nearly anything they release is going to be of a real quality. That is certainly true of Side One Dummy who have released albums from some brilliant artists such as Jesse Malin, Gaslight Anthem and Audra Mae. It is therefore not surprising to see that the Restorations album “LP2” has the Side One Dummy stamp of quality on it.
Right from the opening track “D” it is quite clear that the band have been heavily influenced by another great band, The Hold Steady. It is evident in this track from the way it has a slow build up in to the crashing guitars. It is also clear in the vocals, which have the sound of Craig Finn, in that it is a sort of speaking style although, to be fair, these are more tuneful! This is also evident on further tracks on the album including “Lets Blow Up The Sun” which again has a slow pace but still with crashing drums and guitars to produce a rather melancholy sound.
On other tracks they do also show some relation to their label mates the Gaslight Anthem. However, on songs like “Civil In Attention” and “New Old” we are not talking about the Boss influenced all American sound that the Gaslight specialise in, but more the band when they are at their most introspective and story telling mood.
The most intense song on the album is “Quit” which has an almost Pearl Jam feel to it, with its wide open sound and a more screaming vocal approach. The crashing guitars are punctuated with wailing guitar solos. The whole effect for the listener is like being in the middle of a storm with waves crashing in all around you.
The album does contain some more lighter moments, including “Kind of Comfort” which has a bit more upbeat tone to it and even some “Woahhs” in the chorus. Similarly “The Plan” also has a much lighter sound. There is also a slight touch of a country twang which brings to mind another great American band, Lucero.
This album is certainly punk rock but is miles away from punk pop.Instead it possesses a broody and menacing sound. It is a very intense sound which would be great to hear live and see how the songs come across in a live environment. The songs are not light weight but instead demand that the listener pays full attention. It could also see the band earn some considerable interest and have a similar impact as “The impossible Past” that was released by the Menzingers last year to great acclaim. The Restorations are also a band which are definitely likely to develop a hard core and dedicated fan base who are bound to worship every word and note from the band.
The Road Home – “Too Cold”
This is the debut EP from The Road Home who, whilst being from the Netherlands, clearly have a musical home in the blue collar states that have produced the likes of The Gaslight Anthem, Alkaline Trio and indeed Bruce Springsteen. They have been very accurately described as a band with a “hardcore attitude and a mainstream sound”. Their sound is based on a punk rock n roll base but with added melody and catchy hooks.
Their skills and influences are evident from the outset on “Teenage Dancer”, which is like one of the best Gaslight Anthem songs, and that is some praise! It’s all punk rock style with added melody and lyrics about the home town girl. It’s a brilliant opening song. It’s quickly followed by “Young Vigilantes” which is similar in style but perhaps with a more ‘pop’ feel. This one has a sound similar to the, sadly now defunct, UK band Sharks. This ability to take a punk rock song and give it a more commercial shine is also evident on “Let Me Go”. It is important to highlight that this never sees the band losing any passion in the music.
The track “Too Cold To Run” has that Gaslight Anthem feel to it, but again it is them at their absolute blue collar best. It has that same echo of “The Boss” which always haunts this type of sound. It is a fantastic, epic and huge sound rock song. The band revisit familiar lyrical themes with “High School Boys”. It is an ode to youth and has that typical Americana song writer feel to it.
The EP concludes, far too early, with “Cold Ground” which takes the speed down with a great acoustic strum and solo vocals sound. It almost sounds like a plea for them to be included on the next Revival tour! It’s that hard edge, punk inspired, americana sound. It shows a nice change in shade but is equally as impressive as the faster paced tracks.
It is impossible not to highlight how similar this band sounds to The Gaslight Anthem. Is this a problem? Not really, given it means we have an EP full of great punk rock n roll songs. They effortlessly do the very difficult job of mixing punk, melody and passion to heartfelt lyrics, to create a brilliant EP. It is very rare to hear a debut EP as strong as this that really makes you wish that there were more songs immediately available. If The Road Home can maintain this level of quality then the next release, hopefully a full album, should be incredible.
Rockats “Rockin Together”
This is the new album from the Rockats who were one of the key influencers of the modern Rockabilly scene back in the Eighties. The band have reunited and now bring out this excellent new CD, courtesy of Lanark Records. Full credit must go to Lanark records, who have a stated goal to introduce fans to the styles of music that major labels and media ignore, so more power to them!
This album opens up with “The Doubt” which is a good opening straight up rock n roll song, with the vocals demonstrating, that dark n edgy sneer which works so well for Rockabilly. This is followed up with “Rocking Together” which is a does what it says in the title kind of song. It has a real rock n roll 50s sound and is designed for getting people up and dancing. This style is repeated on tracks such as ” Pink & Black Cadillac”, “Bad Love” and “Road To Hell” which bring to mind the classic early Sun Records sound.
The album really hots up with “Kitten With A Whip” (what a title!), which is actually an instrumental but has a darker tone built on a swaggering guitar line. It would have been good to have had some lyrics to match up to the title, but as it stands it would be a great accompaniment to a burlesque performance. This theme is maintained with “Red Headed Rockin Girl” which actually opens with a strip tease esque style with finger clicks and shivers. If ever a song was written for a girl to shake her tassels to then this is it, its a great song.
The quality and experience of the band is really clear to see throughout the album. On “Sweet Sweet Charlotte” they are able to slow things down which really brings out the warmth in the vocals. Whilst “Tear The Roof” with its refrain of “My heart thumping to the music, we’re going to dance all night” sums the band up. This is a group with Rockabilly in their veins and not one just playing up to stereotypes, they clearly love and enjoy the music they are making.
The album concludes with “Reckless Rebel”, a good time, dancing rock n roll song. It again has a tone and quality which prevents it having the throw away feel to it that many similar songs have.
The whole album is one of timeless rock n roll which highlights the bands considerable experience. Credit is also due to Lanark Records, where the quality of production means it still has a contemporary shine to it. Overall, it is an album that has everything that you would hope and expect from a straight up Rockabilly band.
Rocket To Memphis – ” Do The Crawl”
Rocket to Memphis have been around since 2006 and are led by the smokin’ Betty Bombshell. When you hear that Betty has been described as a darker, sexier, Imelda May, you know you are in for a treat. It also comes as no surprise to hear that they have also shared the stage with legends of the scene such as Slim Jim Phantom and Darrell Higham. Their latest album Rocket To Memphis is described as “infectious and fun” as the band provide a “unique, off kilter retro style”.
“Go Go” is a great little opening number, with its upbeat and fun feel. It has an almost sixties girl group sound, mixed with a soul group and a good dollop of rockabilly thrown in. The use of an organ/keyboard gives it a really warm sound. Then on “Turn It On” you get to see the strength of the vocals as they are really pronounced and demonstrate a very strong, soulful voice. With the opening lyrics of “Wiggle to the left, sliver to the right” and its title of “Do The Crawl” you already get a good feel for what this song will entail. It transpires in to a song you could imagine Quentin Tarantino had dug up from some obscure sixties band for use in one of his films. The band aren’t entirely caught up in a time warp, however, on “Stompin in Tokyo” they keep the rockabilly beat but add more of an indie/modern guitar sound which has a great effect.
They are capable of slowing things down, as shown by “Black & White”, which has a sinister tone along with the jungle sounding drums. This creates a more haunting and voodoo style which will have you thinking of a shot of rum in an edgy blues club. This Voodoo feel is maintained on “Swamp Guy” which has a really good rhythm, which is hard to resist, just as I am sure it would be hard for the “swamp guy” to resist the singer. This is part of a double whammy of male seduction completed by the next track “Make You Mine”. These songs will probably most likely lead to the Imelda May comparisons, where she is clearly the most well known similar artist, but also given the warmth in the vocal sound.
Probably the best song on the album is “Slapback” which has a great opening with a more funky bass sound contrasting nicely with the slide guitar. This song is really simple but has an irresistible strut and swagger to it which makes it just rock n roll at its purest. The album ends on a similar high with “Rockin’ All Night”. Again it brings in that simple but so effective Rock N Roll feel but it is all sweetened by the honey voice of Betty.
This is a really strong album, but not one if you are feeling introspective and deep in thought. It is a feel good album which should be thrown on when you want to get up and dance. Sure, you may throw some embarrassing sixties shapes, but you will be having fun. Sometimes all you need is rock n roll, a feeling of fun and a smile on your face.
Rocket Overdrive ” S/T”
Rocket Overdrive have a classic Rockabilly line-up, guitar, drums & a thumpin’ slap bass, but these youngsters are no copycats. They combine their influences from heroes of the heydays of Rockabilly like Johnny Burnette, Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash & Gene Vincent, to name a few, with a more contemporary pop/punk sound and have come with a fresh and unique style that has already garnered some attention.
Given the cover of the CD, the opening number has a surprisingly clean feel and a real poppy sound. It actually opens up like a Cheap Trick number and, though it has a rockabilly beat behind it, there is a more modern shine to it. This cleaner sound is also evident on “Fallin” but, on this track, they add a bit more of an edge, to give it a feeling similar to the Reckless Ones.
The more “pop” influences appear again on “When Blue Skyes Turn Into Grey” which has a pop punk sound. However, it is the pop sensibilities and charm which dominate the punk feel. On “Starlight” they surprise us with a straight up ballad start, but then the song kicks in to reveal another upbeat, almost power pop, song. Again it has hints of a Cheap Trick influence as it shares their ability to recognise a quality pop tune. As if to prove a point, on “Anyway, How ‘n’ When” they deliver another really good power pop song but instead of a pure pop voice they add a feel that there is a bit of an Elvis curled up lip behind the vocals.
They are not afraid to add a bit of variety to their sound and “Listen Up” has more of a classic rock feel to it. This is a good time rock n roll song built on a cool drum beat and a nice guitar lick. On “Blame The Game” they even add a country twang to the punk n roll sound, although they still can’t resist adding a few fifties “shooops” throughout the song.
Unusually, they probably save the best couple of songs until the end of the album. With “Tomorrow Today” they go full on pop. This is the sort of song that the multi talented Butch Walker tends to knock out in his sleep for commercial rock acts such as SR71. It really has the potential to be a big US pop rock hit. This is similarly true of final track “Who Was?” which finishes the excellent combo of songs to complete the album. Again, it is great to see the band not being afraid to demonstrate their ear for a great pop based song.
In todays world, “pop” can be seen as a dirty word, due to its link to stuff like X factor and pop idol. However, it should be fully embraced when delivered like this, as an album of well written, quality songs. This album has a good mix of retro rock n roll mixed with a power pop feel. It has hints of the classic band Cheap Trick, who were really the masters of pulling this sound off back in the day. It is great to see a modern band embrace this and they could certainly go on to have a big future.
Savages “Silence Yourself”
Prior to release, Savages have received a lot of positive press and promotion from all the main stream music magazines. This sees them having to release the album against a background of hype and expectation, generated by the likes of NME and comparisons to acts such as Siouxsie and The Banshees and PJ Harvey.
It certainly opens with a hard hitting and dark theme, with the song “Shut Up”. It has a hard bass sound which crashes against the jagged lead guitar. The vocals are also appropriately atmospheric, dark and indeed Gothic. The noise levels and intensity are then maintained on “I Am Here” which has a Sonic Youth and then almost Queens Of The Stone Age feel to it.
The darkness and tension then continues to build on “Strife” and “Waiting For A Sign’. The latter of these being an even slower song with a brooding sound. This is probably where you get the sense of the gothic banshees comparisons.
The album then changes pace somewhat with ” She Will” which has more of a Joy Division feel to it and has a bit, but only a bit, of a more upbeat sound. There are at least faster paced drums and it would be easy to see it developing in to a manic live favourite, as could “No Face”. The more aggressive style and sound continues with “Hit Me” which is a Sonic Youth esque punk rock song. It has screaming guitars and vocals against a driving drum beat and appropriately comes in at just over one and a half minutes. The former single, “Husbands” then follows to provide a solid double blow of hard punk rock punches.
The impact of all this is that it really comes across as an album of two halves. The album would have perhaps benefited from the tracks being mixed up a bit as the opening songs would be hard going for those who are not immediate fans of the band’s sound. It is also a curious spring/summer release as it is far from a sunshine album. However, there is no doubt it will appeal to a lot of teenagers and young adults who, as they have done since music became mainstream, are looking for a dark, claustrophobic soundtrack to be played as they consider their woes in their bedrooms or bed sits.
Screamin Rebel Angels -“Hitch Hike”
Screamin’ Rebel Angels are a four-piece combo from New York that sneer at the constriction of conventional labels like rockabilly, rock and roll, soul, country, rhythm and blues—instead preferring to merge the best aspects of all these styles into one brilliant band. They are fronted by the Titian-tressed, guitar-slinging rocker Laura Rebel-Angel who is not surprisingly influenced by the greats such as Etta James and Wanda Jackson. There is, however, a more punkier and garage history which has appropriately seen her called the “Queen of NYC Rockabilly” by Time Out New York. Laura Rebel Angel formed the band in 2011, joined soon thereafter by lead guitarist and co-songwriter Brian Hack. Together they forged the dynamic and diverse sound that now sees the release of their latest album, “Hitch Hike”.
Opening track “Sizzle” sees the band coming out of the gates with a bang. It’s a fast paced Rockabilly song with a great call of “Let’s Go” which is appropriate as it will wake you up and get you going from the start. The title is also appropriate as both the music and the vocals are hot. This style of full speed ahead, quality rock n roll is evident on numerous songs on this album, including “When I’m With You”, “Let It Rain” and “Wild Side”. Importantly, whilst these songs are fairly traditional in style they are certainly not old or staid. The band manages to add a vibrancy and urgency which keep the songs sounding fresh and relevant.
In contrast, on “Hitch Hike” the band shows they can slow things down and add a more sultry approach. On this song, it still builds up to a form a cool, laid back rock n roll song. One of the best songs on the album is “May Day’ which has a great drums and vocals opening. Given the style of music and the female vocals, it is perhaps not surprising to hear echoes of Imelda May in this song. It is still Rockabilly but has more of a modern, pop groove to make a great song. Similarly “I Don’t Want to Fight” is a slower ballad which is reminiscent of Devil Doll as it is more dark, seductive and sultry. The darker side to the band is also demonstrated by “Savage Stomp” which has a more aggressive feel to it with it’s rumbling bass and a more intense sound to the whole song.
“My Sweet Boy” soon adds a bit more light to the album, as it’s a simpler and more upbeat song. Then comes “Bumble Bee” which in one song is a really good mixture of the bands different styles. It has a darker and edgier sound but then moves in to a more light, upbeat bridge. It also has some great vocals and not sure you will ever hear the words “Bumble Bee” sung in a more seductive tone!
There is the addition of a Harmonica on “Wont Be Told’ and again the Imelda May comparisons are more evident. It has the same good time, pop rockabilly feel to it and is really upbeat, energetic and most importantly fun. Final track “Saved” adds a gospel feel to the backing vocals which matches the sense of redemption that is expressed in the lyrics. Having said that, the pace of the song and the passion in the voice would seriously cause you to question if they have really been ‘saved’!
This really is an excellent album, as it contains a really strong core of great songs that will appeal to both old school Rockabilly fans but also has the strength and modern feel to attract newer fans to the genre. The success of people like Imelda May and JD McPherson have certainly demonstrated there is a market for this kind of stuff and given the right push it can even break through to the wider commercial masses. There is certainly enough evidence that with the right promotion and perhaps support slots, the Screamin Rebel Angels could go very far indeed.
The Shakers – “Rescue Team”
The Shakers are a four piece band led by Jodie Schell and one thing which is very clear from the outset is that this is a proper rock n roll band. It comes as no surprise that this album was tracked entirely to tape and was self produced by the band. They come across as a band who are raw and powerful and driven by a desire to get their songs out there. The songs themselves are then delivered with a huge amount of passion and intensity.
As an opening song, you won’t get many more impressive and as in your face as “Set My Sights”. It has a huge classic rock sound with its crunching guitars and bombastic drums. Whilst it is classic and very Led Zep sounding, it is somewhat ironic that it is also very ‘now’ given the emergence of the likes of Jack White, The Black Keys and Deep Vally. They follow it up with “Watcha Want” which starts to add bit more of a funk, with a huge groove and a monster chorus. Again, it is a sound which has increased in popularity recently with this track actually bearing a resemblance to The Alabama Shakes. They then get even funkier with “Train Song” which has a really sultry vocal performance. The title is certainly apt as it picks up speed like a train and turns in to a powerful rock song with a strong and dirty riff.
The next couple of tracks take down the speed, if not the intensity of the songs. “The Hold” is a restrained and soulful song with a sultry slower pace. Whilst “I Spy” has a really bluesy opening before moving in to a huge slow and enticing song.
Mid way through, the album then takes a bit of a different tone. “I’ll Find You” adds almost a metal sound to the mix. Then on “Villain” there is even a dollop of melodic sleaze. Overall, this song has a feeling of dirt and sleaze but with the necessary sweetness of a really strong chorus. Possibly the best song on the album is “Over And Under’ which ha a stylish riff and a chugging rhythm which combines with a passionate vocal performance. This could easily have lent itself to a sunset strip rock band. Although it would definitely be one at the most talented end of that spectrum.
A west coast sunshine feel is also felt on “The Weight” which has a smoother and more laid back approach. This gives it the feel of the perfect song to listen to with a cool drink in the sunshine. In contrast, album closer “Thundercloud” is an epic raw blues song. It is slow and brooding just like the title itself would suggest. It then ends in a torrent of guitars, drums and that powerful voice.
It remains somewhat ironic that a few years ago this album might have been regarded as just a retro classic rock song but in todays music world it is actually, very now. Jack White and The Black Keys have led the way but we are now seeing more female led bands such as Alabama Shakes, Sallie Ford and The Sound Outside and Deep Vally taking over. The Shakers are definitely a band to add to that roster. This is a powerful and intense album, full of hard rocking blues numbers. They also have the ability to add a bit of zap and sleaze to some of the songs. These are actually the ones that really shine and importantly give the album, and the band, their own identity.
This is the second full length release from Sharks, the UK Punk Rock outfit from Leamington Spa. The band have certainly come a very long way from their early live shows and EP’s which,at many times, left the band sounding predominantly like just a Clash cover band. Their last album, “No Gods”, attracted a lot of interest and some very good reviews. It was a polished and confident album that actually led to some substantial tour supports, with the likes of The Gaslight Anthem in both the UK and the US. There is therefore, in some ways, a bit of pressure on the band to deliver the goods of this sophomore release.
It begins brightly enough with the title track, “Selfhood”, which is a confident opener and keeps up the strong commercial flavour of “No Gods”. The next song, “Bloody Wings”,adds a more Indie type sound rather than their punk rock roots. It has got the feel of a song that could easily be used for a goals montage on the likes of Match of the day ( if it didn’t have bloody in the title, which the Beeb would never allow!).
The best song on the album is probably “Portland”,which is also the closest to a pure pop sound. It has a great melodic opening with plenty of “ooohs” to catch the listener’s ear immediately. There is no harm in this and it is exactly the type of song that Pure Love have been striving to achieve with its “la la la” sing a long chorus. It may be taking things too far for some of the old school fans, but actually, it is a well written and delivered song.
The band would apparently find it quite easy to knock out what are really good commercial rock tracks. Songs such as “The More You Ask” and “22” are bright, cheery songs which are strong single candidates. The first of them has a definite Gaslight Anthem feel to it, with it’s classic call to arms quality. They haven’t totally abandoned their punk rock roots as demonstrated by “I Wont Taint” but,again, they can’t resist sweetening it up with a commercial sounding chorus.
They are also not afraid to chance their arm with the occasional slower and more charming sound. On “Pale” the song has a slower pace and nice melody to it. However, this song tends to meander rather than soar, as I am sure they intended it to. This is rectified by the final song “Wild One”, which is a far better ballad. They keep the song simple and, therefore, it sounds more heartfelt and eventually builds up to a crescendo. It is a really strong song and provides an excellent ending to the album.
This album will certainly see the band lose their rough sounding Clash tag. It is a commercial pop rock album, which is very similar to the recent release by Pure Love. There are a number of songs on the album that are potential singles and could be picked up by mainstream radio or TV as a token rock song. The question it might raise is where the fan base will lie. It is certainly not the huge gear shift that Gallows fans had to consider with Pure Love but it no longer fits the Punk tag. It could, however, bring commercial success and it will certainly be interesting to see where the band progress to next and what the future holds.
The Silver Shine – “In The Middle of Nowhere”
The Silver Shine are an established band who originally formed in Hungary in 2004 and this is actually their seventh album. They describe themselves as a vintage punk rock n roll trio with influences such as Social Distortion, Living End and the legendary Ramones. A band full of energy, they have a simple recipe, vintage punk rock and roll with a thunder-handed female upright bass.
The title track kicks the album off and it is very punk rock n roll but with a rumbling double bass underpinning the sound. There is a great use of shared male and female vocals and an overall ‘snarling’ sound to the song. It is followed by “If I Was To Start It All Again” which also has a greasy, menacing rock n roll sound. There are shades of some other great European bands like the Hellacopters and Backyard Babies (c”Total 13″) in this song. This is also true on “Open Your Eyes” which really sounds like Backyard Babies but with that thunder-handed double bass sound. There is more of a traditional rock n roll sound on “Never Again’, where this time the female vocalist takes the lead. This technique of interchanging the male and female singers is a simple way of adding a good mix and change in feel.
The Silver Shine are also capable of adding some more power to their sound. On “I Am Sorry I Was Wrong” it has a great opening chugging guitar line which slows the album down and adds a more mean and menacing vibe. In fact, you could see this song being turned in to a real heavy power metal song. This idea is taken forward by “Just Make Your Guns” which almost sounds like a track that could have featured on Iron Maiden’s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son album.
On a ten track album it is somewhat surprising to see that there are two cover versions included. At least, however, the band have made some class choices. The first is “Jolene”, yes, the Dolly Parton one. This is actually a great punk, rock n roll version which succeeds in emphasising the anger of the singer and the lyrics, which isn’t so obvious in the original. The other cover is of “Tainted Love” and whilst this song has been covered a hundred times before, The Silver Shine still manage to add their own style and sound to this version.
This album is very much a Punk rock album and indeed, without the use of the double bass could have easily slipped in to straight forward punk. In fact, on some of the tracks even in to a more Metal band. Thankfully, it doesn’t stray too far in to the one dimensional psychobilly sound, but it is definitely for those who like a bit of grit and nastiness in their rock n roll.
Stone Temple Pilots – “High Rise”
It is probably fair to say that this is a pretty important release for the band given the departure of vocalist Scott Weiland. The departure of the lead singer will always raise questions over whether the band should continue and, if they do, how the fans will react. Stone Temple Pilots have upped the ante even further by taking the bold decision to appoint an already well known vocalist, in the form of Chester Bennington. Given the fact that his previous band, Linkin Park, had attracted a huge amount of success, along with some strong dissenting opinions, the move is even braver.
Opener, “Out of Time”, is a crunching rocker and you can definitely tell it’s an STP song. Chester’s vocals perhaps give it more of a classic rock feel to their previous more ‘alternative’ sound. It is, however, a huge opening rock n roll number. “Black Heart” continues this straight forward rock n roll feel, but has a great swagger and sleaze feel to it. It actually almost has an Oasis influence, if you can imagine them covering a Guns N Roses song!?!?. The commercial rock sound continues with “Same On The Inside”.
The song “Cry, Cry” brings a nice change of pace with it’s more relaxed sound. It provides a good feel of lightness until it eventually moves to the more expected intense chorus. The more mellow sound continues with “Tomorrow”, which acts like a gradual ‘come down’ for the album. It has an epic and dramatic feel to it which is almost like Pearl Jam and will be great live song.
It is always going to be controversial when a new lead singer is introduced to a band, in particular when replacing such a unique character as Scott Weiland. It will certainly be interesting to see how the hard core fans will react. Hopefully, it will be well received as this is a very strong EP and still retains the individuality of STP. Certainly, if this was being released as a debut EP by a new band, it would be seen as a huge record with great potential. There is therefore no reason why the ‘new’ Stone Temple Pilots should not be seen in the same light.
The Strypes- “Snapshot”
This band probably don’t need much introduction, given the level of attention that has been given to them by the mainstream media. In fact, this attention must have come as a bit of a shock given their recognised retro sound and previously ‘uncool’ influences such as Dr Feelgood and other ‘pub’ rock bands. Clearly their young age has something to do with it, but perhaps more importantly, at live shows such as Glastonbury they have shown that, despite their youth, they can really deliver in front of a crowd.
The opening feedback on first song “Mystery Man” is a good introduction as the band soon move in to a great fast paced rock n roll number. It actually has more of a Beatles rock n roll sound. It is quite easy to imagine this song being smashed out by them in a small club in Hamburg. The high octane momentum is continued with “Blue Collar Jane” which is very traditional R’n’B and is a simple, infectious, good time song.
There is a sixties/early seventies feel on “What The People Don’t See”, where the adding of a great harmonica sees a little added swing to the song. The simple, care free attitude is also loud and clear on “I Can Tell You”, where it is good to hear a young band just singing a song about girl troubles. Similarly, on “Hometown” it is good to see the lack of pretension and just singing about adolescent love problems.
The tempo is slowed right down on ” Angel Eyes” (no, its not a Wet,Wet, Wet cover -unfortunately!!). Given their age it is a surprisingly mature song with a real blues sound like “Little Red Rooster” by The Stones or “Crawling King Snake” by The Doors. The blues influence is also clear on some of the covers chosen on the album. This includes “You Cant Judge A Book” and “Rollin And Tumblin” by Bo Diddley and Muddy Waters respectively. It is great to see them showing their influences, but is also a brave move as it leaves them open to comparisons to those greats.
It is not all retro sounding, however, and “What A Shame” has more of a modern influence, especially in the guitar sound. In fact, it actually sounds like another great new young band called The Caezars.
Overall, however, the album definitely does have a retro sound, but it is delivered with a remarkable level of skill and influence. There is no reason to try and discourage a young band who have an appreciation of early rock n roll. This must surely be better than many of their X factor loving peers. It is a strong and vibrant debut album which may be too obviously influenced for some. It is, however, a really good opening shot and one from which the band will grow and develop. Then, as they progress, they will be able to add yet more depth and diversity to their sound. For now, it is a set of songs which in a live environment make them a must see band.
Sugar Shakers -“Chin Up Pin Up”
This is the latest release from the Rockabilly band Sugar Shakers and is an EP consisting of two original songs and two covers. It is quite unusual in that the original songs were actually commissioned on the request of two performance artists.
The title track “Chin Up Pin Up’ was commissioned as an opening song for the Miss Pin Up Australia competition (is there a UK version???). There is very little doubt that the band must have firmly hit the requirements of the show as its definitely the perfect soundtrack to a host of sexy, stylish women.
It is then followed by the two covers, “Sunday Kind of Love” is a cover of the classic ballad by Etta James. Full credit to the Sugar Shakers as it’s a good version and indeed would be a perfect Sunday Morning tune with it’s relaxed sound and soothing smooth vocals. This is followed with another fine version of “Sweet Baby of Mine” by the ‘queen of R & B’ Ruth Brown.
The best song on the album, however, is the other original “Hoochie Coochie” which was written on the request of Rita Fontaine, the first Miss Burlesque Australia. The band again hit the nail on the head by creating the perfect soundtrack to a burlesque routine. It’s a vampy song which name checks some legendary dancers and is the perfect mix of being fun and sensual at the same time.
This is a cracking little EP where the band have managed to deliver original tunes which are of a quality to easily match the classic covers. It’s a fun sounding EP which is sure to delight and I am sure will be utilised by lots of Burlesque performers.
Sugar Shakers – “Red Rocket Baby”
Anyone who got a taste for Sugar Shakers through their latest EP will be sure to want to listen to “Red Rocket Baby”, their full album. This Australian band are fronted by the sassy Emma-Louise and produce a high energy brand of music. The album clearly demonstrates their love for the styles and sounds of the late forties and early fifties.
The EP consisted of songs written with Burlesque in mind, and it is therefore not surprising that the opening three songs on the album are all inspired by bad girls. It kicks off with “Outta Control”, a straight up rock n roll song that is about an out of control rockabilly girl. It’s a really good opening and has great vocals and a sharp guitar sound. The next song “Bad Kitty” is as cheeky a tune as the title suggests. It is again a song which must have been designed to accompany a burlesque dance. A theme again repeated in “Tarantella Heart” which opens with a great slapping double bass. This one has more of a swinging, sassy feel to the number but will no doubt still inspire some sensual dancing and tassel twirling.
It will not be surprising to find that the album has a whole host of straight up rock n roll songs, including the likes of “The Other Side” and “Party Goin On”. The only surprise in the latter being that it is about wanting to stay in and have an early night rather then actually partying. The band are, however, able to mix it up and throw some different sounds and changes of pace. Of particular note is “My Hearts Bleeding” which starts with a slow opening refrain. It is a track of woe and lost love which is perfectly delivered by vocals which have a sound of fragility about them. This is in real contrast to the sassy and confident sound on the rest of the tracks. This more laid back approach is also shown on “Carousel” which is a simple and effective song with a feeling of being effortlessly cool.
Then the last two songs add an almost Western style sound. On the title track “Red Rocket Baby” there is also a nice touch of a space age theme in the lyrics. It makes for a really good, eccentric and charming song, to end the record.
The whole album is one of good quality, straight up, old school, rock n roll. They do, however, manage to avoid the trap of falling in to being one dimensional. It would appear that Australia has a really burgeoning rock n roll or rockabilly scene and therefore Sugar Shakers are definitely well placed to flourish. It is certainly no surprise to hear that they have supported some major acts, including Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and, most impressively, Imelda May. We can only hope that the band can make it over to the UK one day, so that we can experience them live and also hope they can provide the inspiration for some fun and raunchy dancing by pin up styled girls over here as well.
Thee Eviltones – “Beat Macabre”
It’s great to learn that Thee Eviltones are a UK band as it’s not easy to find a band with their style here. They deliver a prime garage stomp but with the added element of a surf-punk feel evident in many of the songs. It is not retro but a post modern garage rock sound which can be both melodic and ferocious.
This is evident right from the off with “Razor”, which is a rocking start but certainly has that surf like feel to it. The lyrics are actually far darker and more sinister than the guitar sound would tend to imply. That surf feel is obviously also evident on “Surf Rider” but again, it is not a tale of sunny beaches but instead has a sci-fi /gothic feel to it. It opens with a B movie sounding intro which can also be found on “End of Days”. That song is a rock n roll number but again with a gothic and almost oriental influence.
The song “No Love” actually opens with a sound which is reminiscent of The Stranglers “No More Heroes”. It shares that bands liking for a jangly upbeat sound contrasting with the darker lyrics.
The album also includes some more straight forward rocking songs such as “Devil Song” and “Murder In The Dark”. This second one has a real “British” sound to it and you can almost hear a Brit pop feel to it. Whilst on “Just Tell Her” you can hear a sound which is like an amalgamation of some classic bands. It sounds a bit likeThe Clash but with bits of the Smiths and The Cure thrown in for good measure. It ends up with a great indie rock record which is so hard to find these days.
The band are never far from a more punk sound though, as shown on “Ruby Glistens” which is edging on psychobilly. The band then throw in a huge curve ball by calling one of the songs, “It’s Christmas”. It feels quite odd when the song really does open up with a traditional Xmas feel. Again, it is the band’s wicked side which comes to the fore with lyrics such as ” It’s christmas, I don’t want to be with you”. It actually then develops in to a really good punk rock n roll song. We again get to hear the surf guitars and the ‘ahhs’ in the backing vocals as it moves in to a catchy chorus.
Similar to The Creepshow, the band due to it’s name and image may get caught up in being pigeon holed a Psychobilly type band, but this doesn’t do them justice. This is an excellent album that develops a really unique rock n roll sound which could perhaps be described as ‘surfabilly’ (sure this is already a genre – if not you heard it here first!). The dark lyrics also neatly jar against the sound of the songs. It is a really interesting combination which not only works on this album but will ensure you are soon finding out much more about the band and hopefully having the opportunity to see them at a live show.
Those Darlins “Blur The Line”
This is the third album from a band that formed back in 2006 and also the first since founding member Kelley Anderson amicably left the group. The band have gone from the alt-country style of their debut (not surprising, given the bands Nashville roots) to a more garage rock influenced second album called “Screws Got Loose”. This second album got some much merited critical acclaim here in the UK, so it is interesting to see if the band have progressed further on this release. The cover of the album certainly suggests the new four piece are comfortable together as it features them all naked and holding each other.
Against this background, the opening track “Oh God” comes as something of a surprise. It is a mellow and restrained number. It has a real laid back feel to it and is unexpectedly ‘pleasant’. It is still an excellent track but perhaps an initial warning to the listener that the band are to expand their sound again on this album. “In The Wilderness” adds a bit more of a familiar sound, with it’s underlying tone of nastiness and sinister sound that you would associate with the band. This is especially true of the vocals, which are delivered with a sneer but the song still has a restrained feel.
On “That Man” we get to hear some of that fifties style influence with the girl group vocals that the band have always done so well. It is a really good tune which is slow but has a real swing to it.The menacing and dark feel is back with “She Blows” but they also keep a really sparse and uncluttered sound. On here this does build up in to an intense crescendo of sound. The pace continues to pick up with “Optimist” which is probably the first track more akin to their previous rockier tracks such as “Be Your Bro” on the last album, “Screws Get Loose”. The faster beat is also evident on “Drive” which actually starts up with an almost Kings of Leon esque opening. It then moves in to a really neat song with a kind of west coast band feel. It is certainly a song to listen to as you drive to the beach on a sunny day.
The highlight of the album is probably one of the most up beat tracks, “Baby Mae”. It opens up with the irresistible rock n roll lyrics of ” When she’s good she’s great, when she’s bad she is even better”, which you have just got to love. The song itself is catchy, infectious, fun and a bit dangerous, which is also a good description of the characters in the song and may be in the band as well.
The album also contains a couple of quite epic sounding songs, including “Western Sky” and the title track itself, “Blur The Line”. The former of these has a hypnotic beat and also uses those great dual vocals that in many ways epitomises the band. The latter of these songs is actually after a track called “Silence” which indeed is just silent so make sure you don’t turn the CD off too early and miss this additional treat.
The bands continued willingness to push boundaries and bring a sense of controversy are also demonstrated in the track “Ain’t Afraid”. This includes the lyrics “There’s a tumour growing on my body” and is a clear indication of the bands bravery and outspoken nature. The track itself is built around a really cool and dirty riff.
As already mentioned, many of the tracks on this release have more of a restrained feel. The band have stepped back from their more raucous sound and delivered a more ‘mature’ sounding album. They have always been good song writers but this time around they have ensured this isn’t buried under a rawer sound. It is kind of ironic that a band like Haim are getting loads of publicity at the moment as a girl group with harmonies and a “bad” side when really Those Darlins are the real deal (and yes I know they are now 50/50 female/male!). Those Darlins are able to deliver the girl group harmonies and west coast vibe but you kinda sense that they really do have a dirty/evil side, that you may or may not like to find!
Two Cow Garage – “Death of Self Preservation”
Two Cow Garage are one of those bands who have never quite hit the height they deserve in their US homeland, let alone over here in the UK. It’s true that their brand of punked up Americana may not be as popular a genre over here, which is a real shame. For new comers it may therefore be a shock to learn this is actually their sixth album. On the positive side this means there is a huge back catalogue for new fans to check out after they have listened to this album.
This CD actually opens with quite a shock as “The Little Prince and Johnny Toxic” is a fierce opening number with a lot of feedback which then morphs in to a driving guitar line. The vocals then kick in, along with a sense of relief that the band have still retained their sense of melody. As a statement of intent, however, this opener suggests that Two Cow Garage are going to kick ass on this album. This feeling is maintained with “Geri” (we can only hope this isn’t in honour of Ms Halliwell!) which is closer to punk rock rather than americana.
The sound takes more of a good time feel with “Stars and Gutters” which, with it’s refrain of “are you growing up or just growing old?” is an ode to youth. They then move on to “Pantomime” which is actually just a big rock song. It sees the band edging towards a more commercial sound with even a hint of a more Gaslight Anthem type feel. This is a song which really could be played on U.S. rock radio. This is a flavour which is also shown on “Van Gogh” which has a real authentic Rock N Roll feel to it. However, as demonstrated on “My Friend Anthem”, whilst they are easily able to knock out a full blown rock song, they still manage to never sound polished or contrived. Instead, they always retain a raw feel to their sound and this gives it an important edge.
That’s not to say they are not able to slow things down as well. “Mantle in ’56” offers some respite from the fast pace rock n roll and it is really rare to find a band so good at easing off the pace and confidently delivering a more heartfelt/tender number. Coming in at three minutes and forty two seconds, it is almost an epic song for this album. The other slower track on the album is “Spiralling Into Control” but again we are not talking about a sloppy ballad but more a heart string pulling lament.
As a total alternative, “Lost On Youth” has an incredibly “poppy” opening with ooh oohs and then hand claps. However, don’t panic though as it’s a brilliant song built for playing at high volume in your car. If you’re feet aren’t tapping when listening to this then chances are you are dead! It also has a great mid song break built for crowd participation. Aptly it is followed by “Annie Get Your Gun”, which builds up the intensity again. In fact it is in some ways the A typical Two Cow Garage Song as it is a punk version of a country song which is appropriate given it’s title. The whole album then ends with the title track which is a raucous and fitting finale.
As already stated, Two Cow Garage can be placed in the category of hugely under rated bands along with Marah and Lucero. This album does, however, represent a step forward for the band where incredibly they have managed to move in two separate directions at the same time. It manages to be both more punk but also more commercial as well. Importantly, they have in no way sold out but hopefully it may also see them increase their exposure and achieve some commercial success, to go along with the critical praise. The majority of the tracks come in at under three minutes, just like all punk rock n roll songs should. This will hopefully be the album which will see an increasing number of new fans who will then go on to devour their brilliant back catalogue.
Tyla J Pallas – Devils Supper (electric)
The name Tyla J Pallas may not be too familiar but he may be more recognisable as Tyla the lead singer of the legendary Dogs D’Amour. They were a classic band around in the glory days of what was lumped in to the hair rock era. As per the facts of the Chart show rock chart, at one time Dogs D’Amour T-shirts were actually out selling the likes of Simple Minds and U2! Since the demise of the Dogs (who have actually recently reformed) Tyla has been routinely issuing a number of solo albums, many of which are singer/songwriter gothic acoustic ballad based. This latest release, however, is particularly interesting as the songs have been released as two separate albums, one acoustic and one electric. The electric version will be welcomed by the older Dogs fans as it is always good to hear Tyla rocking out.
The album opens with “Love Is” a cracking opening track which not surprisingly sounds like a Dogs D’Amour classic. Tyla has a distinctive voice that suggests a life time of smoking, drinking and hard living. The added horns are a nice touch and they feature on a few songs on the album to good effect. The next song “Long Shadows” also has an early Dogs feel with its bar room brawl sound, reminiscent of “The Kid From Kensington”.
“It Aint Over Yet” brings the feeling down with a great bluesy swagger to the song. It’s a late night, down and dirty song. A technique which is repeated on “Religion” with its whisky soaked blues sound comprising of slide guitar and haunting vocals. “Green Eyed Girl” is the first single off the album and has a cool laid back feel to it. It moves along with a swaying beat, and has a pleasant warmth to it. It is guaranteed to generate a crowd sing a long at a live show. The track “Home” will generate the same crowd participation, as it has a simple and open sound but with a chorus which is infectious and built for drunken, arms around each other, singing.
It is obvious with some of the songs that they would be equally suited to being played acoustically. “All Alone” is more of a man and his guitar type track with a balladry effect. It evokes a feeling of heartbreak that is bound to suit a purely acoustic track. Similarly “In Another Life” really benefits from the impact of Tyla’s ‘gothic’ sounding voice.
In contrast, “Judas Christ”, has a funky bass and the perfect opening partnership of twinkling ivories and slide guitar. The song is like a large, slithering, poisonous snake slowly edging towards the listener with tales of evil and temptation. The pace continues to pick up with “The Meaning of Fortune’ which has a “Stonesy” feel to it. It is dark Rock N Roll with the apt lyrics of ‘wrong side of fifty but act twenty five”. The upbeat mood is continued with the simple but effective rockabilly/blues song “Yeah (I love You Baby)”.
The album draws to a close with a couple of more melancholic tunes. “Ode to Jackie Leven” is a fitting tribute to the folk singer songwriter of the title with the appropriate celtic leanings in the ballad. Whilst closing track, “Wisdom”, is a classic Tyla song with his drawl accompanying the pedal steel sounding guitar to produce a fine countrified number.
There is always a fear when a legendary musician releases a new album that this will be the one where he finally lets you down, thankfully, this is definitely not the case with this album. Indeed, it is possibly the best release from Tyla since those Dogs D’amour days when they use to reign as the sleaze rock champions. The fact it is electric invites greater comparison to his former band than his solo acoustic albums and there is no doubt it will be lapped up by his fans. Importantly it demonstrates the high level of songwriting talent of Tyla, so it will appeal to not only old fans but should also attract a whole new audience. One thing that can be guaranteed is that many people on hearing this album will be immediately purchasing the Acoustic version so they can discover all the songs again in a different format.
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