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.
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.
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?
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.
Chris Herbert plays an avid part in Birmingham’s digital arts scene, creating sound installations and performing at Modulate A/V Collective nights. Mezzotint is his first recorded release though, and offers an interesting tapestry, dense with a digital collage of threads of sounds, noises and melodies thickly woven in amongst each other.
Nomeansno have been churning out their anarchic take on punk since 1982. This is their 10th full length album and their first for 6 years but thankfully fashions have passed them by. They fall on the right side of tongue-in-cheek, using it as a vehicle for delivery of puerile, twisted, punk rock songs. It works in a similar way to Frank Zappa or Butthole Surfers do — there is a sense of unhinged lunacy about proceedings (coupled with an uncompromising musical vision), rather than forced weirdness. Is this a comedy record? Well, not really. The wacky quotient on “Mansion In The Sky” and the untitled closing track are slightly too close for comfort, but “Mondo Nihilissimo 2000”’s none-more-black world view is pretty funny and generally though it shouldn’t be dismissed as lightweight or a novelty.
Whereas the Polmo Polpo that Constellation has released before (Like Hearts Swelling) offered electronic and synthetic manipulation in its rising and rousing washes, Sandro Perri has been reinterpreting these songs in a more pure and organic instrumental form, both on his own, with friend Eric Cheneaux (who’s Dull Lights album is released on the same day as a kind of partner record) as a duo, or with more folks as a band of up to six people. This recording documents these live experiments which showcase the essential elements of the Polmo Polpo sound i.e. Sandro Perri, his guitar, and song development but with that song development being quite different due to the addition of several new elements into the arrangement.
Crisis is a confident record, well produced and played (with particularly fine drumming). For the most part it is a cut above many of their ‘post-hardcore’ brethren, mainly for the reason that they are happy to include a tune amongst the polished buzzsaw guitars and power-screams. The contrast between Dallas Green’s sky scraping vocals and George Pettit’s gutteral roar works well on the Deftones-apeing “This Could Be Anywhere In The World”, the excellent “Mailbox Arson” (which has a slightly 80’s hair band element to it at one point — a good thing) and the rabble rousing “We Are The Sound” and “We Are The End”. These latter two extort their choruses in multi-voiced, macho yell which gives them a fist-punching, aggressive but euphoric air.