Hell City Glamours “Hell City Glamours Deux”
Firstly, isn’t it great to have a band with a proper rock n roll name! What isn’t so great is to learn that this is not just the second album from this Australian band but also their last! Sadly, the band are releasing this and then calling it a day, although hopefully also going on to pastures new!
Alongside the rock n roll name and look, when you hear that the opening track on this album is called “Singapore Sling” then you should have a good idea what to expect. It’s a dirty, sleazy rock n roll number with a guitar riff straight off Motley Crue’s classic Dr Feelgood album. The band are also on full out rock mode with “Train Wreck” which is a song that could’ve been huge when the sunset strip was at its rocking best. Whilst “Alright by Me” sees them taking this a step further on a huge pop/rock song which is as catchy as hell.
On “Care No More” they add a bit of funk rock swagger to the mix so it ends up being like a more rocking Extreme. There is an almost rockabilly feel to “Find A Way” and this added swing provides a neat shift in sound. Whilst “2My Friends” keeps that style but it has a darker and more melancholic feel which is also shown on “Cruel Mary”.
Things are really shaken up by “Shake” which has an opening that is all seventies glam rock stomp before the track develops into a huge rock song. In contrast, “Better Upstairs” is a harder, punkier song and along with “This Old Love” shows the band have a foot firmly in the hard rock arena. The album ends on a really joyous note with “I Hope You’re Happy”. It’s another big rock number with an infectious beat. Along with the pop/blues feel there is also the welcome inclusion of that glam rock essential, the cow bell!!
There can be no hiding from the fact that there is a ‘retro’ feel to the band’s sound. There is a feeling that they should be performing these songs in a big arena accompanied by pyro technics. The vocal style actually had us recalling the relatively unknown Kik Tracee. Another band who sadly folded before they got the success they deserved. Like them, Hell City Glamours take an established sound but also add a bit of quirkiness which give the songs their own flavour. This is an album that will have a few people digging out their bandannas and ripped jeans with a sense of reminiscing about times when music was just great fun.
Enuff Z’nuff – “Covered In Gold”
It really is amazing to think that Enuff Z’nuff have been around for thirty years, but that is what this compilation of covers is celebrating. We can still remember when they literally burst on to the scene with the shiny and colourful ‘New Thing’ video. They have had their ups and downs over the years, mainly linked to the ‘health’ or state of their lead singer Donnie Vie. One thing they have always managed to do is release great music.
This CD of covers also gives us an insight in to some of the bands influences. When they first hit the scene there were actually claims they borrowed a little too heavily from Cheap Trick. Their version of “Everything Works If You Let It” certainly shows that they did share that band’s skills of blending pop melodies to rock songs. Queen may not be as obvious an influence but with “Stone Cold Crazy” you realise how both bands put great importance on vocal harmonies. Whilst “Jean Genie” gives a hint of where their glam influence first came from.
It is certainly no surprise to see Beatles covers on this album as they were always quoted as being the band’s biggest influence. “Run For Your Life” isn’t the most obvious of choices but they deliver a brilliant version. They also include Lennon’s “Jealous Guy” which really shows Donnie’s emotive voice. As a bonus, you also get an acoustic live version of “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away”.
This album also throws in a few surprising covers, like The Cult’s “She Sells Sanctuary” but it’s actually one of the best songs on the CD. The chugging riff suits their style and the lyrics match Donnie’s voice. They provide a heartfelt version of Nirvana’s “All Apologies”. One of the key requirements of a really good cover version is for the band to put their own style and sound in to the song. The band certainly achieve this on “When Doves Cry” which adds a real pop rock flavour to this classic. Likewise, “Tears Of A Clown” takes a brilliant song and turns it in to a totally different sounding number, which is just fantastic. Their cover of “Yankee Rose” then gives Chip the chance to take centre stage for a change.
The album actually ends with the song that started most of our love of the band, “New Thing”. This version, however, is a live acoustic version which reminds us of how they always had a cool, hippy vibe.
In the past, we’ve criticised the band for the number of covers in their live set, where given their huge and wonderful back catalogue we’d prefer to hear more of their own tunes. This, however, feels like a fitting way to honour their time in the business. Unlike a greatest hits album it offers their fans something a little different. Sure, some of the songs have already appeared as album bonus tracks or on bootlegs and are probably owned by their hard core fans. This, however, presents them all on one album. It’s a great and fun bunch of songs which is really what the band have always aimed to deliver.
Nico Vega “Lead To Light”
Despite what the name might suggest, Nico Vega isn’t a solo artist, but instead is a three piece from California. They are actually led by lead singer Aja Volkman who is married to Imagine Dragons front man Dan Reynolds, so getting exposure for this release shouldn’t prove too difficult. They will of course need to demonstrate that they have the songs and ability to ensure that interest is prolonged and justified.
The album opens with “No Home” which has an appropriate title as it is hard to fit the song into any specific genre or home. It has an indie/rock, or what the Americans would call ‘alternative’ sound but there is also a synth, almost Euro pop vibe to it. Second track “Dance” also sees the synth feel come to the fore and it has an added pop and almost eighties feel to it. It ends up like a more rocking La Roux, one things for sure, it will certainly get a crowd up and dancing. A similar style is shown later on “Simple”, but in line with the title, that song has a slightly more stripped down sound. Whilst on “I’m On Fire” sees them add an almost R’N’B feel to the song. It’s another example of a song which could be a huge single.
The ‘pop’ side of the band is also shown on “I Believe (Get Over Yourself)”, a song that has a great joyful chorus. It’s got soundtrack to a huge ad campaign and then commercial worldwide hit written all over it. The band shows a different side on “Back Of My Hand” which both takes the pace down and also has a more angular sound that is sweetened only by the backing vocals. Then after a Jim Morrison esque quote which opens “Fury Oh Fury” we get a huge rock song. The level of passion and anger displayed by this track is quite different to the feel of the previous songs.
They also throw in a cover of the classic “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)”. It starts off as a faithful, if somewhat gothic, cover but then half way through it explodes in to a techno infused, colossal sound which is just brilliant. They’re also not afraid to throw in the occasional straightforward pop/rock number like “Lightening” and “Lead To Light”. The second of these has an added electronica feel that is actually very reminiscent of The Sounds. The album is brought to an end in a euphoric mood with “Lucky One”.
The reference to The Sounds is pretty relevant as they are another band who moved, although a lot more gradually, from a punk rock to a more electro sound. These bands that straddle that rock –electro pop gap often struggle to find a home as they can be too electronic for the rock fans and too rock for the electro fans. Ironically, bands like Imagine Dragons have shown that this is not necessarily the case. This album should also not suffer any similar fate because it is really great. The biggest challenge Nico Vega should face is trying to decide which song to release as their next big hit single.
The Urban Voodoo Machine “Love, Drink & Death”
Anyone who has seen The Urban Voodoo Machine live, will know that they are far more than a band. It is more like witnessing a cabaret show and is far more of an ‘event’. This always poses the question whether they will be able to replicate this within the studio. Thankfully their album releases to date haven’t disappointed, but of course that means each release is met with a sense of expectation. Transferring their ability to create a feeling of fun and danger at the same time, is one hell of a challenge.
This album opens up with the relatively straight up rockabilly influenced song “Your Hour Of Darkness”. It’s a sound they also revert to on “Train Wreck Blues” but they also add a touch of country to that song. We get a real sense of the band’s wicked sense of humour with the great “Pipe And Slippers Man”.
After the gentle opening we are thrown a classic Urban Voodoo Machine song with “Crazy Maria”. It contains a whole host of influences to create a song which will have you thinking of a wild gypsy/flamenco number. We get a similar style and feeling with “Not With You”, we certainly can’t wait to see these songs performed live! “Loretta’s Revenge” is another dark, mysterious and broody number which is delivered with a sense of panache and style that only The Urban Voodoo Machine are capable of creating.
If all that’s a bit raucous or dark, we get the more laid back beat of “Don’t Mess With The Hat” which has a jazz feel to it. In contrast, “Drinking My Life Away” and “Shark Waters” show that there are more than enough numbers to drink along to. Although, “Not With You” encapsulates the love, drink and deaths of the album title, all in one song.
We get to see the fun side of the band coming back on a song which has an awesome bossa nova/Latin beat to it and will have you shaking your maracas!! The traditional rock n roll sound also returns with “Hit The Bottle” and is another song to have you drinking and dancing. Whilst “Help Me Jesus” will again see you reaching for that bottle but probably with less than holy thoughts on your mind!
As usual, The Urban Voodoo Machine have done a mighty fine job of bottling their totally unique and intoxicating sound and putting it on record. It’s not an album to intensely listen to on your iPod but instead, it should be played loud and accompanying a party with plenty of tequila or rum. Only then will you fully appreciate the spectacle and dark groove that the band are really all about.
Billy The Kid “Horseshoes and Hand Grenades”
This is actually Canadian songwriter Billy The Kid’s fourth album but perhaps the one coming with an added sense of anticipation. This is partly due to the fact it is produced by the wonderful Frank Turner who also appears on the album alongside The Sleeping Souls drummer Nigel Powell. It is also being released on Xtra Mile Recordings a label with some brilliant releases and artists on it. Against this background, it is perhaps not surprising that the first single “Back To You” has picked up radio play.
Those expecting some kind of punk/folk troubadour style may well be surprised with opener “Phone Bills”. It is a far more polished rock song with a great pop hook. It has an almost AOR sound, that could even appeal to fans of Haim. It’s followed by “River Bank” which has a softer, Fleetwood Mac sound and both these songs could quite easily achieve chart success. Things do get a bit ‘rockier’ and more angular on “ The Satellites and I” which also has a more introspective feel.
We then get a bit of a country twang added on “The Science” which is actually very reminiscent of another great young female artist, Lydia Loveless. That feeling continues with “This Sure As Hell Aint My Life” that is until it is interrupted by the unmistakable voice of Mr Turner himself. The duet works really well with the vocals delivered against the back drop of a delicate melody. “Chelsea Rose” is more of a ballad and is full of emotion and tenderness. It is a style which is repeated later on with the track “Thorough Fare”.
The pace is picked up again with the single “Back To You” which is another great pop/rock anthem. As is “Lord Let Me “, although this time there is more of a punk rock grit to the sound. Whilst “Virginia” is a subtle but powerful song, which again has a great ‘countrified’ melody. The whole album then sadly come to an end with “Young And On Fire” which is a poignant and slowly strummed song.
This isn’t the raw folk punk that is associated with Frank Turner’s early work, but instead comes across as a more mainstream and certainly more confident rock artist. That’s not in a ‘sold out’ or unauthentic way but just in terms of delivering an album with a big pop/rock feel about it. There is certainly a sense that with the right exposure it could be a huge hit. Importantly, any success would be deserved as it’s a great record which perfectly balances being earnest with still being brilliantly enjoyable.
Rob Lynch “All These Nights In Bars Will Somehow Save My Soul”
The fact that this album by Rob Lynch is released on the brilliant Xtra Mile recordings should be an initial sign that this is going to be a promising release. The fact that he is described as a punk/rock troubadour also gives us a good idea of what we can expect.
After the short opening intro of “31/32” we head in to “Broken Bones” which has classic Frank Turner written all over it! It has a great feel of camaraderie and is designed to be sung loudly and drunkenly in a festival tent somewhere. “My Friends And I” keeps that feeling going and, as the title suggests, is one to sing with your arm around your mate.
The song “Whisky” is as equally heart-warming as the drink it is named after. This is particularly true when you learn that it is reminiscing about a night of discussing music with Rob’s departed father. Whilst “True Romance” also eases off the good times feel as it is a more delicate and intricate tune which is really quite charming. The introspection is continued on “Some Nights” with it’s more straightforward, one man and his acoustic guitar style.
Things pick up again with “Hand Grenade” and “Medicine”. The first of these has a Celtic/punk vibe to it and whilst this isn’t really our ‘cup of tea’, you can imagine that it will be a favourite live song. “Blame” follows this pattern but has a darker and more punk undertone. In some ways, the song “Widow” sums up the album perfectly. It’s a great mixture of slow intensity and yet still ending in an infectious, sing a long refrain.
Some may feel that the music world is getting a bit crowded with all these punk/folk singer songwriters a la Frank Turner, Cory Brannan, Chuck Ragan etc. However, this release by Rob Lynch just goes to prove that you can’t have too much of a good thing! Whilst not doing anything stunningly ‘different’, what he has done is release an album which will earn him many loyal and devoted fans. Importantly, it will also leave you desperate to hear them being performed live. It’s an album which will be added to many people’s favourites list.