Define The Great Line is Underoath’s fourth album and follows 2004’s highly successful They’re Only Chasing Safety. Returning to the more explosive and brutal post-hardcore/metalcore of the band’s earlier work before the slightly lighter and more accessible previous album, Define The Great Line looks to be another successs for the Vans Warped Tour favourites.
The band draw their music from various pools. Obvious is the bands technical ability coming through in the complicated and fast riffs, guitar work and rythms in a distinctly mathy thrash way — calling to mind the hammerings of Turkish death lords Necrophagist. Between the Buried and Me’s metalcore has been cited as an influence by the band but other than the straight heaviness, brutal chugging and math-ness of this band which is identifiable in Protest The Hero, is the distinctly emo element — notably present in the vocals. The vocals also recall prog-metal as well at points, the bands journeys and complex patterns and structures also fitting the same reading.
Thursday spearheaded that end of the emo/screamo/post-hardcore thing which was generally very accessible, and by now, in the way that the band have gone, is essentially just indieish-punk rock. The band have still got that emotive quality with the slightly dark twist to their progressions, but remain on the lighter side of the fence, never pouring over to the heavy heavy, helped by the mainly clean and polished production worked by the hand of Dave Friddman (Flaming Lips, Mogwai).
Although containing just seven tracks, Alive delivers fourty punishing minutes plus of huge doom, ground out by Boston legends Grief. This live album was recorded at a gig in their hometown after their reformation following a split in 2001 and is testament to ecerything the band were famous for in the latter half of the 1990s — slow, brutal doom-core with the harshest vocals and riffs that can only be described in words that end with moth, like behemoth, and mammoth, and thats probably it actually.
Good press from the Wal Mart of indie-rock SxSW and a support slot for Franz Ferdinand suggests Tapes ‘n Tapes have been wearing the right cords. It’s been a couple of years since they released their first EP, a DIY affair that was good enough to get them signed to XL Recordings which brings us to now and The Loon, their debut album. First listen to The Loon and for many it might play like a guess who of canonical indie, with certain vocal ticks, lyrical imagery, and guitar tones all bowing to the likes of Pavement, The Pixies, and The Beach Boys among others. Name-checking can be a fun game for the critics in us — but we’re all different as I’m sure Francis Black would agree and so it equates that after a couple listens Tapes ‘n Tapes are adjudged on their own merits because with a little water The Loon grows into something actually pretty good.
Natacha Atlas seems to defy all musical boundaries and genres to make a totally unique sound. Clearly recognisable is the influence of her Middle Eastern and Moroccan roots, as well as blues, hip-hop and dance. Its perhaps an acquired taste, but Atlas has created something well worth appreciating. Most Westerners wouldn’t normally be listening to it, and may not ‘get it’, but maybe Atlas is what they need, to show them how narrow their music listening is, and get them into some experimentation, like the artist is obviously doing.
So any band named after a Smiths song has a lot to live up to. Pretty Girls Make Graves first hit our airwaves/iPods/computers back in 2002 with their s/t EP and Good Health album. When you think of Seattle it’s often still dirty teens in grunge shirts under bridges listening to Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains in your head. But obviously Pretty Girls Make Graves are different. They have style.
Espers eponymous first album was released in 2004 and greatly acclaimed, but with new offering, II, they have delivered something even more interesting and impressive. The band hail from Philadelphia, although this is not apparent, in fact if asked upon listening to them where you would imagine they come from you’d probably suggest England. The vocals aren’t always free of American accents — not that they are trying to be — but often fit in sound with the traditional English feel of the music. They are certainly part of the folk revival (however conscious or not that is) alongside artists such as Faun Fables or Born Heller, but they definitely appear to steer more towards the anglo than the North American tradition — not that it’s ever too straightfoward to draw a distinction between such schools.
It’s not hard to see who the focal point of Dashboard Confessional is. Front man Chris Carrabba is on virtually every page of the glossy sleeve, either moodily gazing out to sea or intensely staring at the camera. His band is only in one picture, but then he does write all the songs. Previous album A Mission, A Mark, A Brand, A Scar was produced by Gil Norton who has worked with the Pixies (amongst others). It was a multi-million seller but retained some of the edge of Carrabba’s previous band Further Seems Forever and earlier DC albums. The follow-up features an appearance from Adam Duritz from acoustic rock anathema Counting Crows and is produced by Don Gilmore of U2 fame, and that should give you an idea of the territory travelled here. It’s all about the numbers, people.
Since her arrival on the scene, Peaches has traded on magnifying sexual taboos and inverting gender relations in an apparent attempt to collapse pre-existing power structures and of course promoting her own fervent sexuality. Prior to the ‘sexual revolution’ of the 60/70s you might say at least in a canonical way that such shock tactics might have carried some weight, it might have been easy to picture Peaches sitting at a table with Valerie Solanas eating Linda Mcartney’s corn burgers.
William Elliot Whitmore’s latest offering is another perfect collection of Southern-bred ballads and bluesy/country/bluegrassy folk tunes. The metalcore fan’s light reliefster has increased the line-up for parts of Song of the Blackbird, realising a more powerful dynamic yet the minimal ‘man and guitar’/’man and banjo’ quality remains present on the majority of the work and just as effective as ever, and probably more as it should be.
If a measure of a debut album is the quality of the guest stars on its follow up then TVOTR’s first long player, Desparate Youth And Bloodthirsty Babes, was a cracker. Their follow-up features the vocal talents of labelmates Kazu Makino (Blonde Redhead) and Katrina Ford (Celebration) and a certain David Bowie. The New York group have also expanded to a five piece, founding members David Sitek and Tunde Adebimpe being joined Kyp Malone, Jaleel Bunton and lastly Gerrard Smith.
This is the debut mini-album from Brighton three piece The Zico Chain. The six tracks fly by in a blink-and-you’ll miss it 15 minutes, each one a feral, snarling slab of Brit Rock. The singer makes Kurt Cobain sound like Bing Crosby choking on honey. The riffs hit you like a medicine ball rolled in broken glass. The drummer has one speed. Fast.
Though it’s a (grammatically incorrect) plural, Lilys is really only one man. Sure, there’s been a revolving cast of supporting musicians throughout the 7 albums attributed to this name, more than 70 of them in fact (from bands as diverse as The Icarus Line and Beachwood Sparks), but Kurt Heasley is the ever-present beating heart and soul. Listening to Everything Wrong Is Imaginary it’s hard to think of Heasley as a Mark E Smith-style despot scaring off and sacking band members with every album, more like a maverick musician that everyone wants to work with.
The third in a series of Hydra Head remix albums, Alter contains fourteen de- and re-constructions of tracks from the blinding Knut back catalogue — the Swiss metal powerhouse group have ground out four records for the label over the last ten years, including last years Terrorformer and 2001’s awesome Bastardiser. Actually compiled and completed back in 2004 the compilation brings together a range of reworkers: Genevan compatriots such as Seth Svollensen, Ad’s, and Lad and Andres; electronic noise pioneers like KK Null and Mick Harris, other innovators like Dalek and Oren Ambarchi and surprisingly enough, yes, on a remix album, Justin Broadrick.
I like ska music. I like punk. But I fucking hate ska punk. The upbeat, aren’t-we-wacky, long shorts and dreadlocks shit completely passes me by. I mention this as there’s mixed messages on this debut by noisy Liverpool 5-piece, Stig. One the plus side there’s tours and associations with gameboy-mentalist Scotch Egg and Shitmat from the Wrong Music label, and a PR description incorporating theremins and “dirty hawaiian slide” amongst myriad other instruments. Unfortunately this everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach also includes “ska flavoured brass and dirty guitars”. Hmmmm.
“Two gaysemetrical superheroes who have come to spread the message of fun to queerions, hip hoppers, and rockers all over the world”, sounded like a bit of a muff-full to me. I mean, David Bowie and Cyndi Lauper, the island of lesbos and black man’s music going by the name of hip hop. What is the world of Retard Disco coming to? Turns out Scream Club aren’t David Bowie and Cyndi Lauper despite the more than a passing resemblance and are in fact two white girl rappers going by the names of Cindy Wonderful and Sarah Adorable.
Epsilons are a four-piece band from Orange-County, they read Aldous Huxley, they play a rangey garage rock and one of them is still in school. Get used to this sort of promo blurb because these young whippersnappers have the kind of ingredients that leave A’n’R men seeing digits and dollars. Exotic names (e.g. Charlie Moonheart) and age (youngest is still only 16 years old) aside, they’ve already been gigging for two years- that’s already a lot more than The Strokes had been — and they’re checking bands (Devo, The Mummies, The Sonics etc) that are rarely in the same cosmos as kids that age.
They have is a general affinity with US indie bands like Rilo Kiley and particularly Death Cab for Cutie — more satchels and hailclips than skateboards and baggy shorts. The vocals are mostly sung by both Halstead and Goswell and they recall the dreamy sense that Joy Zipper infuse their songs with, but they perhaps lack that duo’s subtle knife edge in a lot of the delivery — veering towards the sweet rather than the sardonic (Though a few bitter lines prevail, like “everyone I ever loved was fucked up” on “Big Star Baby”). There is also a very British edge to Puzzles Like You, not least with their accents of course, and also in the sixties organ swells of “Kill The Lights” or the similarities to later Teenage Fanclub that abound.
Varsity Drag is the latest musical project from original Lemonheads founder Ben Deily and three other vets from a band called Unbalanced. Deily left The Lemonheads in ‘89 after three albums — dude, you missed that pay cheque — just prior to when their mix of power-pop-grunge ‘exploded’ in the early 90s. Deily left to carry out a career in advertising.
Cigarettes last longer than this mini EP. So this is how it goes. We all stood outside the fire exit to the music factory chuffing on tabs. Looking at the puddles that had collected from the morning’s rain, I could see little prisms of light. Everyone was pretty much the same this week. I wondered if this little scene shot through some grainy black and white camera might bring some chic to the toe. A bit of Beverly Knight and a little Barry White. This EP evokes lounge jazz and this was all just a passing thought.
Outputmessage is not one of the most captivating pseudonyms thrown at me in the last few months but is nevertheless the misnomer that 22 year old Virginian, Bernard Emmanuel Farley (I probably wouldn’t use his real name either) rolls with when delivering his mix of house, techno and general electronica. Nebulae is Farley’s debut album and seeks, in his own words, to focus upon melody whilst blending film-sound track inflected scores. Not great news for those of loose mouthed variety of techno stompers, but for myself with techno and house being neither really my cup of tea nor my kettle of fish I wondered whether this record would indeed see me drinking the proverbial herbal whilst smoking the mackerel.
Greedy Baby is the exiting new collaborative package between longtime techno duo Ed Handley and Andy Turner, formerly of The Black Dog but more recently and commonly known as Plaid, and video artist/director Bob Jaroc. The audiovisuals have already played live and to impressive reception — being asked back after their performance at Ether Festival, and also being chosen to open the proceedings at the first ever Optronica festival of music and film at London’s IMAX.
Entheogen marks the band’s uneasy pigeonholeing, as they carve out a route through atmospheric wastelands and thrashing hardcore terrain with a passion for crazed math and a disregard for generic classification. It’s not simply a template quiet/loud doomy post-metal sound a la Isis, Pelican or Neurosis, although there is a definite debt owed to these bands and their own experiments in both the thoughtful and extreme regions of heavy music.
Final Relaxation is certainly an interesting record — “Your ticket to death through hypnotic suggestion” states the back sleeve, also advertising it as “The most unusual album ever sold!” Indeed it is unusual and most intriguing, however, does it live up to it’s promise? Is it as interesting as it sounds? Does it lead to the death of the listener? Well, I listened to it, and i’m still alive, and I have to say, i’m slightly disappointed.