22 April 2017

Cattle & Cane - Mirrors

Cattle & Cane; it sounds like a quaint country pub, but what a fantastic name.  The cover is also striking, an image of a girl with multi-coloured hair, looking into the distance at something we will never know.  Its a wistful image for this album, and the second from the Teesside act.  Led by siblings Joe and Helen Hammill, Cattle & Cane are joined by their brothers Fran (guitar & backing vocals) and Vin Hammill (bass), along with close friend Tom Chapman on drums. I would be lying if I said that I’d heard of this band before, but I am always interested in finding new acts for this page, (or my radio show, Attention Please on NE1FM), and being offered the chance to review this act was too good to turn down.  But now its time to see how the music turned out.

01 - Love on Your Hands

'Love on Your Hands' is a synth indie/pop track about how the course of love is never easy, one which can explode at any moment, and disappear just as quick.  Helen Hammill's vocals and style remind me of London Grammar and Sleeplust, musically its very minimal and captivating as well.  This is a well-crafted number, one which builds towards its gentle crescendo, and does not disappoint.

02 - 7 Hours

Adding a bit of rock to the mix, '7 Hours' is all about being kept in the dark about a situation.  Joe Hammill takes over vocals on this one, and it adds a different dimension to the record, showing that they are not just a one-trick pony.  You can see their classic pop-rock influences on this song -it does have a huge debt to Fleetwood Mac on this one.  Its not a rip-off track however, the band take the style/influence and make it their own.    And they own that sound, they truly make it theirs and it is fantastic!

03 - Fool for You

This is a huge song, it has a joyful step to the music which has been missing in the mainstream for an awfully long time, and it brings a massive smile to my face.  How does a song about being a fool for a disinterested party sound so fun? That is a talent that has been absent from my life for too long.  Its big, I mean musically its such a positive experience that it makes me want to dig out albums by ELO and Moonbabies and play them in the sun.  What a tune!

04 - Dealing with the Devil

Taking it back a notch, 'Dealing with the Devil' is a moody number, a dark and reflective song that curses bad luck, and adds a dark atmosphere to their sound. 
Its a good track, but has the bad luck of following one of the most joyous pieces of music I’ve heard in 2017. Maybe its cursed??  However, its still a good song, and will go down well on their live set.

05 - Time to Get It Over With

Everything is stripped back further on 'Time to Get It Over With', with the theme of lost love and the end of a partnership.  Its acoustically driven, with that passion behind the words that makes their tracks so accessible, and is one of the highlights of this album.  I like the way this band can make so many different styles their own, and this one showcases their talents in the best way possible. Its simple, yet so hard to do at the same time.

06 - Make Your Vision

'Make Your Vision' is a song that has a tropical sound to the synths, but its not a throw away holiday anthem.  This is a catchy number that has pop sensibilities from the old school, its enticing and well-crafted.  The lyrics seem to be about how admitting your mistakes can be hard, especially when you know/think you’re being a bit of a fraud. It is not my favourite from the album, but its still a good song - what more could you ask for?

07 - Paper Man

The recurring theme of broken relationships continues with 'Paper Man', an acoustic song which is once again talking about a relationship which is no longer in existence.  It drifts over you like a gentle dream, with a soft strumming of the guitar, the occasional percussion and supportive synths.  It is a nice song, not the loudest, but another good number.

08 - Saviour

The band appear aware of the pace of the album, with ‘Saviour' picking up the pace. The track appears to have a Latino influence added to this Fleetwood Mac inspired number, which talks about the aftermath of a break up, overcoming those emotions and pitfalls, and the determination to weather the storm and face the new dawn.  It is a great song, one that I can play again and again. 
09 - I've Been Silent

The penultimate song 'I've Been Silent' is another gentle number, reflective in nature and well crafted.  It is a song that will appeal to some more than others, sadly I am not one of those people.  Its not a song style that I like, but I can certainly appreciate the effort that went into this ballad.  A nice song, but not for me.

10 - Tonight We Dance (Cleveland Hills)

However, 'Tonight We Dance (Cleveland Hills)' is a much better ballad from Cattle & Cane, one that can make the heart reflective and wistful.  This song about your first love is slower, more intense and beautifully frail.  Its a gentle way to end this album, one that is fitting for this record, and is full of grace and dignity.

Now, this blog might be known mostly for our obsession with the weird side of music, but we have also stated that we love quality pop songs, or ones that are from the mainstream.  This is one of those cases, as Cattle & Cane have released a beautiful, gentle album that mixes Electronica, Indie, Acoustic, and Pop with a huge dose of talent, diversity and atmospheric moments, which stay with you after you have finished listening.  Yes, you can see their influences in places, but is that not the case with all musicians?     All performers are influenced by others, and Cattle & Cane take their inspirations and make them their own, and thats a win in my book.  I can see a few of these tracks being prime contenders for singles, a few which are not as good as the others, but they work well as an album.  A quality indie pop release from this family (and one friend) affair, go and check them out on their upcoming UK tour and purchase the album! 

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

Top track - Fool for You

Idles - Brutalism

Idles are one of those bands which seem to court either devotion or hatred, opinions tend to differ depending on the person I’m talking to. Everyone has a distinctive reaction, and I think that as an alternative punk/noise band, you need to have those extremes of opinion.  After seeing them in Newcastle last month, I was convinced that they are one of the best bands currently touring at the moment; a few people I was with held different views on the matter, but the conversation that followed was really interesting as the band caused strong reactions.  No-one said that they were an average band, which is always a good sign.  Now, some of my friends were not too impressed, some were raving about them (me included), and we all agreed that they were an intense live act. Hailing from Bristol, this is their debut release, and it has certainly been gaining a lot of attention.  However, sometimes a great live band does not necessarily translate well onto the recorded album.  Will that be the case here?

01 – Heel/Heal

With a scream of protest, 'Heel/Heal' opens the album with a vicious shot of adrenaline that sounds as fierce recorded as it did when performed live.  Its a nasty little song, one that feels like someone is terminally pissed off and is going to let the world know about it with very precise and vivid details.  Its a huge song and makes an immediate impact; it sounds like hell has been unleashed.

02 – Well Done

This song is one that I keep changing my mind about - apparently, Tarquin, Mary Berry, Trevor Nelson, and everyone else, like things that some people could not give two shits about.  Its repetitive and can become too much -if looped for a long period of time to review- but it is still a ferocious and passionate number.

03 – Mother

This is quite possibly the strongest song on the album, a song that has some thought provoking lyrics; work conditions for females, scaring Tories (love those lyrics), knowledge and how to use it.  The bite to the vocals will knock holes in walls, the bass line is pumping, and the guitars sound as if they are coming from the depths of the void.  Its a really towering song, and might be hard to top.

04 – Date Night

'Date Night' sounds like it has been constructed with the use of many chemicals and alcoholic fluids, and after witnessing their love of Buckfast, this song makes a lot more sense.  It has that stop/start punk thing going on, the riff is chopped into pieces, and the bass/drum combo holds the whole song together.  But the more I listen to it, the more it sounds like the Fall on steroids.  That is not a bad thing in my books.

05 – Faith in the City

'Faith in the City' looks at faith and delivers a sarcastic and biting sermon on religion, humanity, and the need to avoid thinking about the void.  Its harsh, sarcastic and as fierce as it comes, all wrapped up in a swirling chaotic vortex of noise that loops around you so many times that it makes you dizzy.

06 – 1049 Gotho

Dysfunctional relationships are sometimes doomed to fall apart, and end up being a pull on your life, even if there is sex or love involved.  This song has captured that sort of empty and soulless union, with a whirlwind of noise, that centres on a high harmonic riff with some old grunge over-tones thrown in.  A bit of post punk and a fuck load of noise.

07 – Divide & Conquer

Now this is a song that has swagger and huge balls, that is the only way to describe the riff/bass combination at the beginning of this song. It starts with a bang and the band ride it all the way through the song.  It does not stray very far from that opening riff, and it doesn't need to when it sounds this good.  If anything, its one of the songs on the album that could have been extended. Short but still sounds mighty.

08 – Rachel Khoo

Bathed in feedback, droning bass, loud drums and bared vocals, 'Rachel Khoo' keeps the pace of this album frantic and fierce.  Its a decent number, but after the previous seven it feels like a slight break.  In a given sense of the word obviously, its still as spiky as a studded punk rock mosh pit.

09 – Stendhal Syndrome

According to Wikipedia, 'Stendhal Syndrome' is a psychosomatic disorder that causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, fainting, confusion and even hallucinations when an individual is exposed to an experience of great personal significance, particularly viewing art.  I can understand this sort of thing, but I understand the rant against art that is presented in this song.  Some of it is overpriced shit, some of its genius as well, but there is a lot of crap out there.  However, this song is a fantastic statement about how pretentious art can be. Some people will not see that, and I love the irony, because in one way or another, music is also held as another form of art.

10 – Exeter

With a reversed vocal opening, ‘Exeter’ opens with an indie swagger, which feels like a deluded daydream of garish noise with surreal manic undertones.  The song is about being in a place where nothing happens apart from bar fights and drinking, and sounds like lots of places all over the UK to be honest, with young men trying to prove how “manly” they are.  Its such a strong song on this album, as it doesn't rely on just the sheer power of noise that drives most of the songs on this album.  I think it could be a sleeper hit for the album (as ‘Mother’ is just too damn strong to ignore as song of the album).

11 – Benzocaine

Another song which takes a different approach to their sound, but without fucking with that formula that has driven the album thus far.  Its a snarling song that has some fantastic hooks with its post rock & stoner rock overtones, the lyrics speak of loss and memories.  This is a great song, nothing more to be said on the matter.

12 – White Privilege

A song about life in a white society, its not done without irony, and its sarcastic as fuck.   Its biting, and the message will be lost on a few people, but thats their loss as this is as hard hitting as anything else on this album.  Its a truly fantastic song, one which deserves attention.

13 – Slow Savage

Ending this song is this slow and harrowing account of a doomed relationship, which does not have many redeeming features according to the lyrical content of the song.  Its about a person who is out of control, disengaged to the relationship, and basically a little bit of a shit.  This is a completely different song from anything else on the album, a pausing jolt that stops this manic train dead in its tracks and ends the album on a dark note.

Idles have made one of the best debut albums I have heard in ages, its vicious and snarling, with a hint of post punk attitude added to the noise.  They may have been created in the Bristol Indie scene, but they are so much more than just another indie band.  They will stand out of the crowd and grab attention, as they terrify weaker mortals.  If there was anything I would have to nag about its that the tracks are a tiny bit samey in places, but that is just me looking for faults to be honest.  Just purchase this album, turn it up loud, and annoy the living fuck out of everyone in your neighbourhood.  Also, try to catch them live, as they are a bonkers act worth seeing.

8.5 out of ten – Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my time, money and heart

Top track - Mother

You can visit the Idles website here which has a link to the webstore as well.

You can purchase the digital version of Brutalism (or pre-order the CD version) on Amazon here.

You can follow the activities of Idles on Facebook here.

You can stream Brutalism on Spotify here.

You can stream Brutalism on Deezer here.

You can stream Brutalism on Tidal here.

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