Stones Throw Records are probably best known for holding two of the biggest jewels of the hip-hop crown in Madlib, aka Otis Jackson, and MF Doom, aka Daniel Dumile. These guys are responsible for dismantling years of suppression by swaying many an indie kid from his tight trousers into some baggies and the rest. High on jazz and the personal touch, and less of an eye on the money shot Stones Throw Records has built up a large cross-over fan base since Peanut Butter Wolf first decided to set up the label following the death of fellow producer Charizma in 1996.
Signed to Fierce Panda The Blackout have recently garnered attention through a “Best Newcomer Nomination” at the Kerrang Awards and a support slot for The Lost Prophets. A six piece from Wales, The Blackout are along the same lines as Funeral For A Friend and indeed The Lost Prophets. Debut mini-album The Black Out The Black Out The Black Out, is a tidy and concise screamo affair that nestles safely within the mainstream realms of screamo/emo punk, with enough frills to satisfy the ‘edgy’ kids and enough cheesey harmonies to satisfy their girlfriends.
Mother Nature’s Slaves is Rhode Island trio Monstrous’ first label release and inhabits the lighter side of Nirvana, The Lemonheads and The Vines with a mixture of acoustic ditties with cooing harmonies, the occasional all out grunge but generally all things alt pop-rock. As a band of three brothers who have honed their sound over the course of long self-promoted tours, the band sound comfortable and balanced.
Cast Out Devils is almost straight disco; not in a Kasey and the Sunshine Band sort of way, but in a synth filled, dance-friendly way. Still markedly set apart from the post-punk dance revival (a la Franz Ferdinand and less worthy carriers of the torch (I’m talking to you, Brendan Flowers), what distinguishes Detholz! from there counterparts is their lyrics.
Sitting down in a pub to enjoy a varied range of music from lives acts would usually be interrupted by glib comments to friends, trips to the bar and a general distraction from other noises around you. The third installment of Southampton’s Charged night invited guests to become immersed in its performer’s sounds by only allowing you to listen to the music through headphones: a gimmick which nevertheless proved to be the perfect way to indulge in the many talents of the five acts at the Platform Tavern. Sitting cosily around tables with our headphones plugged into adaptors on tables with our own individual volume controls, it was an intimate yet extremely personal way of listening as a group.
Detrola is an ethereal collection of smart and textured dreams from Michigan-based band His Name Is Alive, who have returned after a period of semi-retirement. In case you wondered, their name stems from the history class notes of the bands driving force Warren (Warn) Defever, referring to Abraham Lincoln. In keeping with their midwestern forefather, Detrola is a mid-western sounding melting pot of charming and tragic melodic moments.
Bravely treading that generally ill-fated path of movie-stars-who-want-to-be something else, Juliette Lewis with her band “the Licks” enters a foray, yes that’s right, into the world of Rock. And quite right, it’s okay to have reservations about it. Four on the Floor is the second Juliette and the Licks album, and after intensive touring including the Vans Warped Tour 2004, they have “captured their onstage energy” for this record.
Noise Floor: A B-Sides And Rarities Compilation serves as a reminder to us all that whilst Bright Eyes have not released an album this year they are still around. Odd that we would forget considering the double album release of I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning and Digital Ash In A Digital Urn, not to mention the bands simultaneous occupation of the #1 and #2 spots in Billboards Hot 100 Singles chart in 2004 — a feat not achieved by anyone for seven years previously. Alzeihmer’s aside, Noise Floor’s selection pre-dates the success of Bright Eye’s last two albums culling from a period between 1999-2004.
Altar is exactly what you’d expect and more. It’s both a meeting of both bands and their sounds, the collaboration serving to forge together the drone, doom, psych and ambient sides that the two groups inhabit on their separate releases, but there is clearly some new ground explored both within this space and also outside of it as the collective stretches itself to reach into new areas and make new moods. Overall it’s a dark masterpiece, brooding and oozing out a menacing ominous mood but there is suitable time devoted to the more expansive, progressive realms of both ambient experimentalism and bittersweet balladry.
Les Georges Leningrad are a surviving member of the post-punk engine; thriving on the trashy sub-culture of Montreal. This French-Canadian city being the quintessential cosmopolitan strata with which a post-punk band needs to survive. Ever heard of post-punk bands in Louisiana? I think not, unless you could argue that Lords have a peculiar taste for Dada and masked gigs. However, with Sangue Puro, Les Georges Leningrad have succumbed more to the no ways of no wave.
King Buzzo and Dale Crover have returned with the first Melvins studio recording in four years, after having spent the duration collaborating with artists such as Jello Biafra and Lustmord. The Melvins, for the most part, have existed as a three piece band, with a tenuous bassist position that has been occupied by greats like Joe Preston (Earth, Thrones) and Lori Black (Clown Alley). Now the Melvins have transmogrified into a four piece super-band, with Coady Willis and Jared Warren joining from Big Business — providing work with bass, drums and vocals. Yes, that means The Melvins now have two drummers, and fourvocalists.
Basement Jaxx have seen their popularity skyrocket in the last year or so. Having been elevated to headliner status at Glastonbury last year, they seem to be riding a wave of publicity and built up a reputation of being one of the UK’s premier popular dance acts, rivaling The Chemical Brothers and Faithless. The Jaxx’s brand of garage-tinged house has steadily been refined since debut Remedy (XL, 1995) but Crazy Itchy Radio features fewer all-out dance numbers than their other three albums. Taking a radio-themed approach that includes some jingle-style interludes and comments at the ends of the tracks, their innovation could be seen to be threatening the energy that made them so original in the first place.
Like Wrong Music’s Nomeansno, who released a new LP recently, Alice Donut have been peddling an uncompromising, anarchic take on punk rock for 20-odd years, regardless of fashion, acclaim or technology (or lack of any of these). Fuzz is their 11th album, with 12 tracks clocking in at just under an hour, and follows a 8 year break up from 96-04 – making them pretty prolific, really.
On his second full-length album, Micah P. Hinson And The Opera Circuit, Hinson is — in a style similar to that of Iowa folk boy William Elliot Whitmore — introducing roots rock in a way that can be digested by a punk crowd. Hinson has one of those wonderfully gruff voices that sounds as thought it’s been cultivated by smoking a pack a day, but looks somehow out of place in his very young body. However, one has to appreciate the maturity of such a writer. The old soul that Hinson is has allowed for him to write lyrics that aren’t what would be found scratched in the back of a bored calculus student’s notebook.
The first two tracks are slow-paced country ballads whose strings, organs and vocals ooze a classic soul sound, the steadfast beat plodding them forward comfortably. “Feast of a Thousand Beasts” opens the record with Whitmore’s banjo plucked slow and steady as a beat comes in over a synth hum. Both that first track and the following “You’ve Already Gone” display the complimentary fashion in which the throaty, deep male voice and softer, higher female vocals work, offering another classic duo to the long country music line.
Touted as the best kept secret of the underground hardcore and punk scene on this small island of Great Britain, four guys based in Watford, UK known as Gallows have assembled their wolfish wills and orchestrated howling dischordance in their debut album Orchestra Of Wolves. It forms 36 minutes of freshly squeezed terror with a distinct and highly commendable Britishness about it. And I must say, it’s not disappointing.
The Pleasure are a middle-aged German 3 piece who are enthralled to ‘timeless brit-pop’ and more specifically The Beatles. All well and good, but this veers close to pastiche. For starters the packaging and format mimics the Fab Four’s ‘White’ album: it’s eponymous, it’s a double CD (even though the combined length is only 60 minutes), it’s mostly white and it’s full of black and white shots of the band and various sixties ephemera. Then there’s the lyrical references to apples, onions and, er, Birmingham. The songs themselves are mostly tepid Beatles tributes, all vague psychedelic touches treated vocals and ‘honest’ musicianship. There is nothing essentially wrong with a retro starting point — Oasis, The Coral and The Zutons have all been relatively successful at updating the merseybeat sound in recent years — but The Pleasure starts with a blinkered view and adds little to it.
Mastermind producers James Murphy and Tim Goldsworthy, aka Death From Above, are back with a second set of remixes which brings us up to date with their work so far. Renowned for fusing punk and disco together to form a unique blend of driving drums and bleeps targeting the ever-growing popularity of the electro-fused band sound, these remixes are a decent selection but lack the energy and originality of their acts such as the mighty LCD Soundsystem and quirky Juan MacLean.
Signed to thinking mans metal label Neurot, Made Out Of Babies are offered a healthy critical guise. Roping in old man Albini to produce their sophomore release Coward intensifies this guise and also ends up defining their sound. Made out of Babies’s calling card is lead vocalist Julie Christmas and a lot of people’s opinion of Coward will be based upon how they rate Christmas’ impassioned vocals.