Working For A Nuclear Free City have made a refreshing attempt to move away from the becoming-tiresome ‘definite article’ prefixed, Gang Of Four-aping trends on their eponymous debut. Though, having said that, while their name suggests they may wish to be considered dystopian futurists they are also mostly looking backwards (albeit to a different musical heritage than most of their peers) to Bowie’s Eno period and early-mid nineties dance rock.
It is very possible that the current resurgence for psych-rock would not have been were it not for DC’s Dead Meadow, whose reign started with the eponymous debut here reissued. This newly remixed version (from the original tapes — dont get any stupid ideas) is the first of a series of the band’s catalogue soon to be re-released, being followed by 2001’s Howls From The Hills later this year and a Rarities album in early 2007.
Although this is Austin, Texas, 2006, there is a distinct mood of drug-fuelled nights at the Fillmore, or more likely the desert, sometime 1967-69. Passover, the debut outing from The Black Angels, takes a murky drawl through a psych songbook, adding a huge hunk of dark, sludge to the already steady-droning trances of late-sixties acid-rock. This is skag-rock.
Originally released at the backend of July, Africa Plays On capitalises on the goodwill and multi-cultural flavour of the summer World Cup to give us all a taste of African music and its diaspora-like influences on jazz, hip hop and funk. The central theme of the album putting Africa up in neon lights is the celebration of Africa’s many languages and its football culture both of which are also reflected by the choice of tracks and artists. Addressed in the inner sleeve of the composition are the dangers of ‘orientalising’ African culture and providing “chin-rubbing ethno-musicological appreciation” and yet the premises of Africa Plays On still remain fairly airy.
For Hero: For Fool is the second part of a trilogy of records started with the impressive New White (2004) from the ambitious collective Subtle. The group were formed back in 2001, mainly brought together by Dax Pierson but the figurehead of the project is probably Adam Drucker, known to most as Doseone, of Anticon/cLOUDEAD/Themselves fame. Drucker works vocals, along with Pierson (and harmonica) and there’s a whole heap of sounds coming from the other four members, each a producer and each integral to the Subtle sound. First there’s Jordan Dalrymple, who also drums, plays guitar and keyboards, as well as taking on vocals too; then Alexander Kort, who offers bass and cello; and Marty Kalani Dowers provides some added woodwind. Last, but not least, is Doseone’s Themselves partner and Anticon big-boy Jel, Jeffery Logan.
French Toast is not only a eggy bread breakfast creation popular in North America but is also actually Jerry Busher and James (Jimmy) Canty, descendents of a series of hardcore and punk bands from D.C. based Dischord. And if sausages, eggs and bacon of a greasy British fry-up were raw and raging youthful rantings in the hardcore and punk scene in early nineties D.C., a listen to French Toast’s second album ‘Ingleside Terrace’ might seem like a pale eggy side dish in comparison.
Now there’s nothing wrong with being ambitious, but someone has definitely been throwing some elaborate claims around about this sextet from Austin, Texas. Spotted as bright young things after a series of self-produced EPs, then signed to Capitol with Mike McCarthy (Spoon, Trail of Dead) on board for the production of their debut album Movie Monster, Sound Team’s sound can only be described as fresh faced indie rock. It straddles a few different styles, but maybe thats just the sweet sound of directionless youth.
The fact it is a drums/bass combo might give the impression of a power-duo and at times yeah they are in the sense of distortion, loudness, noise, er, power, but there’s so much here. The call to arms of “Unite!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” fools in with a quiet organ rotating, as Godspeed brass drones before a typically post-rock shock explosion but it’s not template stuff, it soon buts out to a group shouting chant with the power bassline then kicking in and the song pumping out shouty, orchestrated noise for a further few minutes, the brass giving it a decidedly Spaghetti Western rouse.
As part of alt-country standard bearers Wilco, Jay Bennett was involved in 7 or so years of well-regarded output. Whilst with that band and since leaving he has been involved in production and session muso work with big, bland names like Sheryl Crow, and his second solo effort takes a sense of the experimentation from one part of this brief history but also troubled slightly by the MOR spectre of the other. Mostly he’s got it the right way round, and in the right ratios.
Joe Lally is of course the bass player from Fugazi, and has been since their birth back in 1987. Or rather he was, in that the band have been on a hiatus since 2003 which doesn’t look to be ending anytime soon. So what has Lally been up to? Well a variety of things with other people as well as working on the material that forms this, There to Here, his first solo album. It’s not purely solo bass and vocals but it very nearly is (in fact it is sometimes just vocals), and it generally feels like it is, but in fact the record includes a variety of accompanying performances from many that you might expect, as well as some guitar solos from leftfield.
Kieron Phelan and David Sheppard have been making music together for over a decade performing in a variety of projects since they were teenagers. Under the moniker Phelan Sheppard this is just their second LP though, following 2002’s O, Little Stars.Harp’s Old Master offers light but emotional cinematic orchescapes offering a range of styles, all, however, meandering through pastoral areas decidedly pleasant to the ear.
The Immediate have signed to Fantastic Plastic records to release their debut album, joining other new and interesting propositions like Guillemots and The Victorian English Gentlemans Club, and despite coming from Dublin have managed to avoid the Irish genetic predisposition for drab and ernest folk-rock by recording 11 sixties-versed indie-nuggets.
Alton Ellis is known as the Godfather of rocksteady and reggae and it quickly became clear at his performance at Camden’s Jazz Cafe that the reason for this may well be no simpler than that he actually fathered god — he is that good. In his early seventies now, almost old enough to have made the previous statement believable, Alton Ellis has been recording and singing live for six decades.
New York’s Grizzly Bear struck a few chords which continued the mood from Brosseau’s set, both often giving off a beautiful sense of peacefulness and calm, but the headline act were in many ways a different concept all together. For a start they are a four-piece band, and accordingly the scale of the pieces and the instrumentation involved in their performance is increased, but even more than usual, Grizzly Bear take a decidedly experimental approach. Only one of the group’s members stuck to one instrument, but he also sang, the group all taking on various vocal duties at different points. The floor and other surfaces were littered with a variety of effects pedals, electronic equipment and acoustic instruments — the usual range of guitars plus a clarinet, flute and even an auto-harp.
Charlotte Gainsbourg is of course the daughter of everyone’s favourite French pimp-daddy Serge Gainsbourg and his one time partner the English actress Jane Birkin who sang on a number of Serge’s tracks noticeably “Je T’aime” and “Ballade De Melody Nelson”. An actress in her own right, 5:55 is Charlotte Gainsbourg’s first solo full length and to steady the ship she inscribes the help of Nigel Godrich and Air to provide music and production as well as Jarvis Cocker and Neil Hannon who take on song writing duties.
“It is 2025. The global environmetal crisis continues to worsen… International politics is in a dire strait… In the midst of the maelstrom the first signs of the true crisis go unnoticed. Reports are confused as to the origin of the viral pandemic whic sweeps the world…” Yes… it’s a zombie-themed metal concept album — well what else can you expect from a band who give their names as B’Hellmouth, Medico, X Undead and El Diablo?
Architects’ two guitarists were never to be caught just knocking out the same riff as each other to fill in gaps — every segment and moment of each of their songs had been painstakingly arranged. Nor was there any suggestion of a ‘lead/rhythm’ division — as they yo-yoed up and down the fret-board counterbalancing each other, the freely moving parts worked together like a Brazilian goal.
The sonic image conjured by a name like The Bonesaw Romance can really only be one of capital R Rock and the group’s eponymous debut is clearly trying to live up to this, the press sheet describing the group as “a four-piece monstrous rock n’ roll extravaganza”.
The big news for most Mouse On Mars fans is that their latest album Varcharz sees them ditch former label Thrill Jockey, for whom they recorded five albums, to work with Monsieur Patton’s Ipecac Recordings. The smoke on the water for Varcharz is that Mouse On Mars have reinvented themselves with this full length serving only as a experimental proto-type for what is more to come — so nothing new there then.