28 September 2016

We interrupt this programme for a short service announcement

Just a quick note to say that due to unforseen technical issues (i.e. an out of service laptop), there may be a delay in dealing with submissions. Apologies and similar sentiments but we shall try to be back on top of things as soon as humanly possible.

Andy

22 September 2016

Thee Oh Sees - A Weird Exits


Ok, ok, I am reviewing it already!  Over the last few months I have been asked when am I going to review the seventeenth studio album by Thee Oh Sees.  It has been an aim to be honest, but there have been other things happening since and stuff for the blog; but I have done it so the emails can stop!  But enough about my life and let us have a quick look at who the smeg are Thee Oh Sees.  Originally named Orinoka Crash Suite, the band were originally formed as an off-shot of Coachwhips and Zeigenbock Kopf for John Dwyer and over time it has become his main band as the other projects split up.   Thee Oh Sees themselves have went on hiatus, lost member and at present are currently playing with two drummers – the full line up of the band is Mr Dwyer on vocals, guitars and keyboard, Tim Hellman on bass with Ryan Moutinho & Dan Rincon on drums.  The cover for this album is trippy and surreal, sometimes that is enough for me in an album.  But what of the music, what does this album sound like?

01 – Dead Man’s Gun

This song starts off with a tight bass & drum combo and the occasional drop of a single note from the guitar, lyrics are spat out with either angelic grace or terminal velocity and venom.  It erupts every now and then into a Garage/Punk explosion and it sounds like it has a lot of pomp and flair being handled with expert hand and in a demonic and playful way.  It is a subtle introduction to the band and album, it does the right amount of everything to get your attention and it is not just all out rock.

02 – Ticklish Warrior

Now this song sounds as if it is aching for a fight with a riff that could go on forever and ever, a drum performance that sounds like thunder and cannons, a bass that holds it all together and the total value of all these piece & the vocals that once again are shouted out with ferocity and command attention is a sure winner in my books – song of the album without a shadow of a doubt.

03 – Jammed Entrance

Starting with strange noises, the occasional drum roll and gaps of silence before it hits into another measured and direct garage punk combo that will have people in rapture when they hear it.  The guitar noises sound like they are being made by a host of machines and robots, giving this song a drone and mechanical feeling.  It is a song that you could easily be lost in as it waxes, peaks and troughs around the speaker and the listener.

04 – Plastic Plant

This song sounds as if it is aiming to become the long lost track from The Who, mixed in with some Kraftwerk as well; it is a perfect example of Kraut-rock in the modern era, with a driven and dynamic core and some rough garage edges the invite the listener to basically lose any cool they had in the first instance and smashing the shit out of the dancefloor.  A sonic twin to ‘Dead Man’s Gun’ with a large dose of attitude and a fantastic amount of noise, passion and soul.

05 – Gelatinous Cube

This is (to paraphrase Kurt Cobain when he was asked about ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’) sounds like they are trying to rip off the Cramps.  It is a noisy number, pure garage, rock ‘n’ roll adrenaline that the Cramps, Rocket From The Crypt, MC5 and others have done for years.  At the beginning, it sounded like we were going to get ‘Iron Man’ once more, as the tone was very Black Sabbath.  For all intents and purposes, this song is just a little number that is easily wrote off and it should be ignored at your peril and it is fucking fantastic at being an out & out, high adrenaline rock ‘n’ roll swaggering number that hits all the right spots.

06 – Under Wrap The Fiend Part 2.

Another instrumental track, this time it is a little gentler on the soul with just as much effect as other tracks on this album.  You lose yourself to the music and follow them wherever you may go and however the music will take you.  With long passages of noise, reverb, bass rumbles, sudden explosions and quiet contemplation, it really does tick all the boxes for me.  It combines both sides of this band in terms of volume and it has never gotten old or repetitive since I first heard it.

07 – Crawling Out From The Fall Out

The penultimate song on this album is also the longest song of the record as well, coming in at seven minutes and fifty-one seconds.  Starting with a light cymbal take and then gentle drums, strings and low reverb, ‘Crawling Out From The Fall Out’ is a track that is not going to be rushed.  It is taking its time to reveal itself to you and patience is as ever the virtue whilst listening to this song.  With long passages of drone, sporadic vocals every now and then, a slow drum beat the you can truly relax into, this song is one that is not going to be for everyone.  For some people, it might be a bit too slow and not have the excitement of other tracks; for me, I like it as it gives you a pause before the end and shows yet another side to this band.  It is not my favourite song on the album, but I do not dislike it either.

08 – The Axis

Ending the album with another droning number that is slower than the beginning of the record, this is something that I fully understand and it is in these moments that I find myself appreciating the band a hell of a lot more.  It is a song about leaving a person and moving on, the music is a slow and sombre affair, an organ is heavy in the performance and the noise at the end is as loud as any frantic riff you will hear on this album that helps the song come to a noises end for the guitars as everything else stays on the same beautiful path.  It shows that they know when to make it larger than life and when to keep it simple and graceful.  A brilliant ending to this album, just beautiful.

Thee Oh Sees have created one of the best Garage Rock albums of 2016 and it could be one of the best albums of this year.  It is one that does not hide behind any fashions, any false statements and it sounds like it would have been a blast to be around the band as they were recording this.  With two instrumentals, maybe one song I was not too into and a variety of styles, it keeps your attention and it gets better with further performances.  A dark horse for album of the year?  Maybe, but it has a lot of competition; however, it will be in the conversation for one of the best albums of 2016 and that is nothing to be ashamed about.

9 out of ten – Almost perfect, almost…..

You can purchase A Weird Exits on Amazon here.

You can visit the Thee Oh Sees website here.

You can follow the activities of Thee Oh Sees on Facebook here.

At the time of writing, A Weird Exits is not available on streaming services.

21 September 2016

Baby Scream - Life's A Trap


This is the second time I have reviewed Baby Scream after I had reviewed 'Fan Fan Fan' (review cleverly linked here) in January 2016, I found their sound to be really refreshing and I have actually returned to 'Fan Fan Fan' quite a lot when I have been wanting to listen to something that hits pop, sarcasm and innocence (bear with me on that one), which I am sure you will agree is a hard trio to get.  Power Pop act Baby Scream are from Buenos Aires, Argentina and have been going since 2002, their songs are sung in English and to be honest, I have been hoping they would release something else.  This EP is currently as of writing only available on the Baby Scream Bandcamp page, with the band aiming for a Harry Nilsson, Big Star type feel; have they achieved that aim?

01 - Life's Better When U R High

'Life's Better When U R High' starts the album with an ode to being medicated (prescription or self-purchased) and how it can sometime alleviate the pain of life and the boredom that can seep into the world.  It is a melancholy type of song, a sad lament with a beautiful solo and the sort of tune that Baby Scream seem to be able to go in their sleep.  The mournful lyrics are really clever, the music is beautiful and it starts off this song on a glorious (if not sad) moment.

02 - The Ballad of the Music Biz

This song is incredibly jaded, lyrically and it sounds all the better for it!  A tune about the challenging environment that bands can find themselves in and the hardships that can be felt when people put themselves out there and no-one is paying attention.  A symphony on acoustic guitars and lavished with strings and sadness.  It is a familiar tale that a lot of people experience, told with pain and good grace in equal measure.

03 - Climbing Down

This song made me laugh out loud with some of the lyrics, I am not sure that was the intent to be honest and I do not mean it in a disrespectful way; but the opening set of lyrics about being puked on, bodily fluids and hair pulling is a bizarre and fascinating.  But the music behind the lyrics is a luscious pop that should be played as loud as possible, a masterpiece of satire and pop perfection.

04 - We Can't Go Back to 17

A tale about not wanting to grow up, the pitfalls of adulting and all that sort of thing, losing your hair, family, loved ones and it generally sucks to have the years add up.  Again, it is a morbid set of lyrics that is added to some fantastic pop that feels familiar and new in the same moment.  It is the song that took a little longer to get into, this might be for the minor keys in the music; but overall it is still a great tune once you get into it.

05 - Wish You Were Beer

This is my favourite song of the album, a mixture of They Might Be Giants, Shadowy Men On a Shadowy Planet, Ren & Stimpy (Cartoon show) and old 70's sci-fi music.  It is a clever pop song, one that loops around your head for days and days as it tries to drain the old worn feelings out of their collective heads.  It is the nearest this song comes to a happy place and I love that, it is just a perfect pop gem that has me smiling every time I hear it!

06 - Jokes

'Jokes' is the shortest song on this album (and none of the songs can be described as lengthy) and it is one of the most heartfelt number that tells you not to give up, to speak to friends and to take those extra steps.  I love the solo on this, the guitars are splendid and the feelings are gorgeous; if I had to nit-pick, I just wish it was longer but that is just looking for problems.

07 - The Road Bends

This is the penultimate song of the album; this is a rock/pop song that grows as the song progressives into a fantastic song.  It is about not bending to life, having a destructive side and just trying to figure out what the deal with this mortal coil.  It has a great riff, a backing choir and it builds to a massive ending that feels like it is able to keep going and going. 

08 - Midnight Snack

Sadly all good things come to end and this album is no exception - but it goes out on a chilled out guitar tune about a midnight snack of beer and weed.  It is a gentle way to end this relaxing about, it ends it perfectly with a laid back attitude to the world and a smile hidden in the eye as well.
What a great little album, eight fantastic tracks that are gentle on the heart and ears, easy going and they just keep giving and it is one of the surprise releases in 2016 as it has been on my play list ever since Baby Scream were kind enough to send a copy.  It is gentle as breeze and strong as a hurricane, it does not give more than is required and each song is perfectly formed.  If there was one point of contention, it would be that some of the songs could have been given an extra moment or two, but I am just looking for bad points that are not really there.  I was asked by Baby Scream to also mention that he has released a song called 'Dave' and it was released under Baby Scream's real name Juan Pablo Mazzola.  It is a charity single that he wrote after a friend had lost her husband and to help families in similar situations and the charity is called music4charity.  I have placed a link for the website at the bottom of the page and I hope you check out the website, as well as checking out this album as it is a little stunner!

8 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart.


Top track - Wish You Were Beer

You can purchase Life's A Trap on the Baby Scream Bandcamp page here.

The digital version of Life's A Trap will be available on Amazon on 1st December 2016 - you can pre-order here (but why when you can get it on Bandcamp now!)

At present, Life's A Trap is not available on streaming sites; again go to the Baby Scream Bandcamp page and purchase it!

Here is a link to the music4charity website

18 September 2016

Twin Atlantic - GLA


A name I have heard, but not one I have knowingly listened to before now.  Twin Atlantic formed in Glasgow, Scotland in 2007 and before this record have released three previous studio albums and have shared the stage with the likes of Blink-182, The Smashing Pumpkins, The Fall of Troy and many others.  On each release, they have gone to play bigger venues and seem to be reaching new heights each time.  As I said at the very beginning of this, I cannot remember listening to this band before this review and this is not because of any great hatred; how can you make an opinion on something before you have heard it?  Well, that is part of the reason I decided to review this one, I want to make an opinion on this band.  This album was produced with Jackknife Lee who used to play in a band called Compulsion and has produced the likes of R.E.M., Weezer. A.F.I., Bloc Party as well as pop acts such as One Direction and Taylor Swift.  So how is the album going to sound and more importantly, will I like it?

01 – Gold Elephant: Cherry Alligator

A strong opening which has a good riff that loops around you, lyrically a little weak to be honest and cryptic; however, when have all rock song meant to make sense?  It reminds me a little of Queens of the Stone Age, especially ’Feel Good Hit for The Summer’.  It is good opening, gets the blood pumping and interest is (as they would say) perked.

02 – No Sleep

it a little more of a hymn to being young, dumb, full of chemicals/booze/pills and wrecked with self-confidence issues and paranoia.  You can tell this is a Jackknife production job, the loud sound could be spotted from out of space.  It is a larger than life riff, the bass line on this one is fantastic and it is a really good tune.  This song seems to be one that is rebelling against that monotonous lifestyle where days merge into one, it can be a lonely existence and this song sort of attempts to capture that feeling; but the riff is just too loud and the message gets a little lost in the noise.

03 – You Are the Devil

A doomed relationship, losing oneself and trying to escape from the car crash that is the monument of that particular union seems to be the full behind this song.  It is another song that aims to be loud and another anthem for the masses, but does everyone need to be that?  It is a bit indie disco for my tastes and the cynic in me is not won over, but it is well performed and much better than bands such as Kasabian and all those clones.

04 – Overthinking

For once an anthemic song that works!  It has a glam-rock undertone to the guitar riff that reminds me of the indie-rock version of ‘Genie in A Bottle’ mash up with The Strokes ‘Hard to Explain’, but it has its own identity that makes it one of the stand out tracks of the album.  It is a song about self-doubt, self-criticism, self-destruction and needing to step out of oneself every now and then to make sense; much easier said than done, but a fantastic number that hits all the right spots.

05 – Ex El

A tale of despair, failed relationships, being cut off from the world and being unable to change in the face of everything.  The build is better than the chorus here, it builds and then it just sorts of loses momentum a bit.  Also, another song about trying to numb the pain and pills are mentioned once again, which makes you worry about the person in the song.  It is a dark one, but it is not a good one to be honest.

06 – Valhalla

This is one of those numbers that will sound great in a crowd, it has a large riff and it sounds as if it should be spectacular.  But looking underneath it, I am not finding much beneath the surface and it is a little hollow; a bit like the religious sentiment it is trying to mock.  As one of the lines in the songs say, this isn’t working for me and it is as deep as an Oasis song.

07 – I Am Alive

Another indie disco/anthemic attempt on this one which is falling short of the mark for me.  It has all these sections that sound as if they should be sung by a huge crowd and these other parts where the music is much louder than everything else around you.  But it is another number which is not hitting those spots that it is aiming for, there is not enough passion for me here to invest in it and whilst I can appreciate the effort of the band and the way the song has been constructed, it is making me feel a little cold.

08 – Whispers

This song is all about death and what the struggle of the human to leave behind the world and it gets slightly philosophical, it is a slow and steady number much in the same vein as “Many of Horror” by Biffy Clyro.  It is a strange beast, in one hand it is very deep and it has message (or query) about the grey veil and then the music is slightly throwaway to be honest and not something that I would rush to hear; then again, it is something I would mind being on in the background.

09 – A Scar to Hide

A slow guitar strum introduces this song and we are back into the anthemic, slow burning number that is a signature of any Jackknife production job. This song about asking a lover to leave as the person feels they are dragging them down by their very existence, with a layer of strings and minimal input from the drums and bass to be honest.  Again, much like ‘Whispers’, it reminds me of the recent output of Biffy Clyro and to be honest, it is about as inspiring as the recent Biffy Clyro as well and that was not a high water mark to be honest.

10 – Missing Link

I think this is the song that formed my opinion of the album.  A standard indie rock number that talks about not being able to quit stuff (pills, women, who knows) and it follows that basic formula as used by bands like Kasabian and others.  It is average, very average and not something that really inspires me to be honest.

11 – The Chaser

Back with another glam-rock stealing/QOTSA/Kasabian hybrid and it is a song about not being able to get your shit together, another number that makes all the right moves and sounds like it is aiming to be anthemic once again.  However, I can get behind this one as it has a good hook and makes a lot of good noise, but it is not something that leave a lasting impression on you after it is finished.

12 – Mothertounge

It is a hard rock ending, a song about taking a lover for granted and then finding out that you have made a mistake.  At least it sounds like it is going to be a hard rock song, but it is just loud guitars and no drums and if there is a bass in there, it is buried deeper that Jason Newstead on the Metallica album ‘… & Justice for All’.  Back come the strings, the loud noise and it is sort of falls short of its goal which is sort of a fitting ending.

This should be a little better and it should be my type of thing, but there are two things working against it for me.  One – Not everything on an album needs to be an anthem, it needs lulls and peaks which draw the listeners in and this album does not know how to make the distinction between when a track should be gentle and when it should be reaching a euphoric moment.  Two – Other bands are doing this type of music and they are also doing it with more confidence.  Bear with me here, the band sound competent and for the most part the songs are decent rock number that will keep their fans happy.  But when each song has a self-depreciative tone or is about getting high, you have an act (of lyric writer) who needs a little help on some level.  A problem shared is a problem halves, I understand that; but it does not instil confidence and it make you worry about them to a certain degree and hope that they will seek professional help.  It is not a bad album by any stretch of the imagination, there are some good moments on here and with a few tweaks it could have been good album.  However, when you have a top level producer, you would expect a little more to be honest.  I think I will need to check out more of their work at some point.  It might be for the fans, but not for me to be honest.

6 out of ten – Now I see where you were going, but it is not quite there

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