U-Z

Vamps (JPN) – “Sex, Blood, Rock ‘N’ Roll” image Vamps are two musicians from Japan who might be new to the UK, but released their debut single back in 2008. In fact, they have released two full albums as well as a live DVD. This album is actually a compilation of those two albums. Also, this album has seen some of those songs re recorded in to English. The album begins with an almost space age rock feel to it on “Dark Side”. It is a good mix of being melodic but still ferocious and it builds in to a huge chorus. The band then turn up the heaviness with “Redrum” which leans to a more power metal sound. This style reappears on “Vampire Depression”, but the harder edge is this time given a more electronic influence. “Revolution II” also has a space age feel but this time adds a bit more of a glam metal feel to it. It is a really great song and kind of sounds like the style Motley Crue were trying to achieve around their Primal Scream era. It would certainly get a rock club dance floor going. As would “Love Addict ” which, given it’s title, not surprisingly also has a glam metal feel. It has a hand clap opening and a really cool, sleaze rock n roll feel to it. The interesting thing about VAMPS is their ability to change and vary their sound and maybe this comes from the fact that this album is a compilation of previous songs. “The Past” adds a slower and gothic feel to it and is almost a metal version of the band Mansun. As is “My First Last” which has that wide open feel to it. There is a sense of epic ness in the sound and the delivery style. The song “Memories” could probably be described as an amped up power ballad. It’s all huge melodies and big guitars. and would have been huge back in the early nineties. Then “Sweet Dreams” takes the slowed down approach even further, with a sparse vocal and piano sound. The band are even confident enough to throw in a cover of the classic “Life On Mars”. To be honest, they don’t really get away with it. It is such a great song that it always sounds good, but this version really fails to add anything special. Thankfully, the album ends with the title song which is an almighty noise. It is an industrial rock sounding song but with the added bonus of a throw away glammy chorus.It is almost guaranteed to get the mosh pit going. Overall, this is a surprisingly varied and interesting album with a good mix of sounds and influences. It strangely, brings to mind a band from back in the day called Shotgun Messiah. They got lumped in to the Glam Metal crew, but actually had more of an electronica and alternative sound to them as well (not surprisingly one of them went on to play with Marilyn Manson). This Vamps (JPN) album has an even harder and more abrasive edge but they still manage to add some much needed melody to the equation. The Villenettes – V is for Villendetta image You know you are on to a good thing, when a band describes themselves as a girl gang who like to play rock n roll. When they say they love Elvis, Sailor Jerry, vintage guitars, tattoos, bad horror movies, leather jackets, leopard print dresses and running amok on a Saturday night, then the anticipation to hear this EP is overwhelming! Thankfully the only way this EP disappoints is the fact that there are only five songs. It starts with “Cowboy Man” which has the line “Going down to texas to find a cowboy man”. It’s a great opening track which is rockabilly but with a punkier sound and a sense of fun in the lyrics. It also has some great backing vocals full of ‘oohhs’ and ‘ahhs’. The second track is “Set You On Fire’ which has a darker sound and acts as a follow up warning to the cowboy man in the first song not to treat his lady bad! It has a great chugging guitar line which drives the song along. It is followed by “I Met A Boy” which has a brilliant opening drum beat, reminiscent of that used by The Shangri Las and similar girl bands. The ‘cute’ girl lead and backing vocals are backed by a punkier guitar sound which gives the whole thing a female Johnny Thunders sound, which is no bad thing! “Grave Digger” sees a return to a darker sound as you would expect from a declaration of love for a grave digger. Again, it’s a good use of humour by the band which works well with the dirty riff and you can’t beat a line like “I ain’t no gold digger, my man’s a grave digger”. The final song is “Ghost Train” which has a hint of psychobilly about it. It is essentially a instrumental track but punctuated by the occasional scream or word thrown in. This is a track which really should be on a Tarantino soundtrack coming to a cinema near you soon. Overall this is a really strong collection of songs, by this Australian band, which really leaves you looking forward to a whole album of songs. The best description of them actually comes from the bands own facebook page where they declare the Villenettes want to make you dance like the devil and party like it’s 1959.

Voodoo Swing ” Fast Cars, Guitars, Tattoos and Scars”

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This is Voodoo Swings seventh album and they have built a reputation as an excellent Rockabilly influenced band. In many ways, the title of the album is almost all that is needed as a review. It kicks off with “Down at the Oak” which is a bar room blues song with that familiar rockabillly swing. This is quickly followed by one of the best songs on the album, “My Rockabilly Martian Girl”, and it also has a really cool video which is worth checking out. It’s a great fun song with cheeky lyrics about what certainly sounds like an appealing alien! The album contains many songs where the band maintain a modern rockabilly sound. This is amply shown by “Cruisin With My Baby” and “If you ever want”. The second of these features Pat Roberts who adds a real “croon” to the song. It has a real Elvis ballad sound to it and brings a nice change of pace. However, what is particularly pleasing about this album, is how the band have been really effective in widening that sound and bringing in a range of influences. This is first shown on “Lost Yesterdays” which is very different. It begins with a tribal drums opening and then develops in to a song with an almost “Doors” feels to it with it’s whispered vocals over a sparse sound. In a similar way “Hot Rod Rhythm” is driven by an organ sound and has chanted vocals which is like the aforementioned Door’s “My wild love” but the love here is for a hot rod! There are, however, plenty of songs that will appeal to their hardcore fans and any who love just plain rock n roll songs. This includes the title track which, as to be expected, is a dirty rock n roll song detailing the seedier (and fun!) side of life. Like wise “Devils Hot Rod” and “The State I’m In” add a good dose of punk attitude to their rock n roll sound. “When Death Comes” sees the band embracing a banjo and more of a country feel. This moves in to a good old boy, rocking country song which is just begging to appear on a Sons of Anarchy soundtrack. Overall this really is a brilliant album and one which deserves to get some wider coverage. When a band has a proud rockabilly background there can be a danger they get pigeon holed and eventually themselves end up producing formulaic songs. This accusation certainly can not be aimed at Voodoo Swing who have made a brave and bold album. Anyone who is a lover of good quality rock n roll music, which is about having fun and a good time, will find plenty to enjoy here.

Waking Heroes “One Fight to Fight” image This is a band which has risen from the ashes of a great band called the Crash Moderns. That band released a brilliant album full of great pop rock, melodic tunes. It is therefore perhaps no surprise to see that this EP also consists of a similar sound and level of quality. It is certainly not like your ordinary first EP, as it is far more brash and confident.. Opening song “Anywhere You Go” immediately demonstrates a great vocal sound which has an emotive and expressive quality that is missing from so many modern rock bands. That song and “Crazy Life” both demonstrate the ability for the Waking Heroes to deliver potential stadium anthems. They are designed to be played very loud, on a car stereo, on a warm sunny day whilst you imagine being in a convertible on a free way in California. “Lights In America” has the line “Its a movie life and I want it back” which sums up the good time sound of the music. This song, like the rest of the EP, is not for you if you want to feel morose and introspective, this is a lift me up and forget about your problems track. As is “New York City” which begins with a nice technique of allowing the vocals to stand alone, before the guitars and drums come crashing in. The track then builds to yet another huge melody. The final track “Something Like Tonight” slows things down for a touch before building in to yet another big chorus. They could quite easily sell this song to a boy band a la One Direction and it would be a huge number one hit. This IS a compliment because it emphasises that they write quality pop songs. This EP is full of excellent modern pop rock and reminds me of the great band, Marvellous 3. They perfect the use of melody mixed with crunching guitars and big drums. In fact I would love to see Waking Heroes hit the studio with legendary producer/song writer Butch Walker. The songs on this EP could be huge hits across the US rock radio stations. Sadly, there is no real equivalent in the UK and here it would be reliant, on say Ferne Cotton to pick one as her token rock song. It does,however, have a sound which would appeal to anyone who likes quality rock music built around a huge pop hook. These types of bands seem to struggle for the level of success in the UK that they deserve. This is certainly not due to the quality of the songs or the musicianship. In fact, it is probably just due to the crap weather which isn’t conducive to this type of sound. However, if you want a bit of good time, artificial, californian sunshine in your life, then get this EP to keep you going until Summer (or at least until the Waking Heroes release their first album).

Reddy Teddy Young “Fever Dreamin”

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Before even considering the songs themselves, you have to tip your hat to the way that Reddy Teddy Young has gone about producing this album. Not only does he play all the songs on the album, it is also self produced and recorded in a real traditional manner. It therefore provides a welcome change to the over produced sound of many modern songs. It is also impressive to see a young guy going out and delivering an album that is now available across the world (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00BReddy).  Teddy Young is proud of his Buddy Holly influence and this is loud and clear on “Cried Away” in both the sound and in particular the Hollyesque vocal “ticks”. It is a simple drum less guitar sound as also seen on “Bucket Blues”. This is a real low fi sound of a man and a guitar, and this would be a great camp fire song. Other songs such as the title track “Fever Dreamin” also demonstrate a more country/folk/Americana sound. This along with “Drink It Over” have a more laid back feel which perhaps bring to mind the likes of Tim Barry. The track “Black Cadillac” is a very interesting song, as it was actually recorded with his former band. It is really good to hear a song with a full band backing it. There is no surprise that it is a more rocking sound but ironically not as well produced. It would certainly be good to hear more tracks recorded as a full blown rocking band. Over the last few years there have been quite a few singer songwriters who were formally punk rockers that have a similar sound to this, including Chuck Regan and Tim Barry etc. It is a move to a more traditional americana feel which can be performed by one man and a guitar. As already stated, the fact that this has been self recorded and produced is a great achievement and is an important stand against the over produced and untalented “artists” which sadly dominate the industry these days.

Young Things – “Hello Love/Goodby Sexual”

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This is the debut album from this band who, not surprisingly, hail from that coolest of places New York. One listen to this album would instantly make you feel that the band were created in an artistic and creative hot spot. That is not to say they come across as one of those, so hip that they must have been drawn up by an A & R man type band. In fact, it is important to highlight that this album is one of those which owes its existence to the excellent Kick starter idea. It is encouraging to note that the band have adopted a just go out there and make a record approach. Most importantly, it’s an excellent album that will surely deliver even wider coverage for the band. The album opens with an atmospheric and dramatic intro which has the feel of the Killers about it. This feel is also evident on “All Human Life” which shares that bands glossy pop sound, although it does have more of a sinister feel to it so perhaps echoes of Kasabian instead. The band’s scope really opens up on “Lucy” which adds a more psychedelic feel to it. If you can imagine the Beatles as a modern indie band, then this is the sort of stuff they would be doing. It’s rhythm and tune all mix into a crescendo of sound. Without wishing to cast aspersions on a really good song but it is probably the sound that Kula Shaker always dreamed that one day they would make. Mid way through the album comes “Sore Eyes” which is a dramatic and slow paced song and gives the feel of a a mid set pace breaker. It is a song that would allow both the band and the crowd to collect their breath. The breather doesn’t last for long, however, as “Talking Too Loud” has a great opening funky rift and sound that borders on an almost Reggae/Ska sound. In fact it is like an indie/pop version of a Clash song. The album then continues to peak with “Hello Love” which is a really good song that now invokes memories of Oasis. Importantly, we are not talking falling apart Oasis but the band when they were at their peak. It shows an ability to write good commercial indie hits with a tune that is both full of melody and passion. “Easy To Lie” throws another curve ball with an almost lounge room crooner approach to a ballad. This is not, however, some soft romantic ballad, it has a sleazier tone and with a bass line reminiscent of “Night Clubbing” by that lounge room lizard Iggy Pop. This association with deviants such as Mr Pop continues on “Goodbye Sexual”. It has a great opening drum sound before moving in to a song that slinks and slides with a feeling of dubious sexual antics. It is the dark and sinister side of Indie Rock that was frequented by Brett Anderson and Suede during their peak. This really is a great album and it has a breadth and diversity which is pretty rare today. Whilst there are plenty of reference points to influences, it remains unique and interesting. Comparisons to Kasabian may be most appropriate given the creation of sixties influenced Pop songs but with an added feeling of psychedelia and sleaze. It is surprising that Young Things have not been picked up by the likes of NME as the “next big thing/saviours of guitar rock” etc etc. The band certainly have that feel to it and are certainly as worthy of the accolade as bands such as Palma Violets and Tribes before them. It is, however, perhaps for the best that they don’t suffer the same level of hype which inevitably leads to a backlash. Instead with this excellent album they will hopefully get the time to develop and build a true fan base, who base their love of a band on quality songs rather than just following a trend.

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