Archive for April, 2017

Young Thugs Records – 12th May 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Straight out of the trap, DOG sounds like …And the Hangnails. They have a knack for blasting out of the speakers, full-throttle, from the first bar at the start of every album. There’s no preamble, no atmospheric or suspenseful intros, no slow-build and no pissing about: they’re in there, immediately, all riffing and explosive drumming.

That’s actually all there is: this grungey garage-pop duo have spent their carer to date maximising the impact of a comparatively limited format, namely the fact they’re a guitar and drums combo. But the trick is that they don’t sound like a duo, especially on this, their third album: the production is phat and full and with the treble backed off just a shade in comparison to their previous efforts, Martyn Fillingham’s split-signal guitar sounds thicker, denser meatier and more like both a guitar and bass simultaneously.

Steven Ried’s exceptional powerhouse drumming (this is a man who drums hard, and at a hundred miles an hour, and who makes Dave Grohl sound like some jazz tapper), sounds even more exceptional than ever on DOG. I mean, really. The guy’s a one-man percussion explosion. And again, while it’s commonplace for music critics – myself included, on occasion – to criticise little, grungy, lo-fi bands for ‘selling out’ by cleaning up their sound, aligning higher fidelity with a betrayal of their roots, in this instance at least, it would be a mistake. DOG is the work of a band which has evolved. This means that while there isn’t anything as explosively raw as ‘Fear Only Fear’ or ‘Everybody’s Luck’ from the previous albums, their edge has by no means been dulled. Yes, the songs do feel more crafted, more developed and less primal, bit it’s an incremental thing. It’s still loud, brashy, thrashy and rough around the edged. There’s still fuzz and feedback by the shedload.

But more than anything, on DOG, it’s possible to actually hear the detail and the sonic range. The result is that the full force of their live sound can at last be heard in a recorded format. Besides, it’s not as though they’ve gone super slick and delivered an album of radio-friendly r’n’b. DOG may be an album busting with hooks, but it’s also a serious alt-rock racket, and alongside the breezy surf-pop backing vocals are driving riffs galore.

DOG is without question their most accessible album to date, but that doesn’t mean that it’s overtly commercial or in any way a sell-out. There isn’t a weak track on the album, and there sure as hell isn’t a big ballad at the end of side one. DOG is ferocious, relentless, sharp, to the point and represents the realisation of everything …And the Hangnails have been building up to.

It contains just ten songs, the majority of which sit around the three minute mark. And so, as is their trademark, DOG is a short, sharp blast of post-grunge garagey punk bursting with killer hooks and belting tunes from start to finish. If this doesn’t see them make some kind of breakthrough, the world is even more fucked up and wrong than I’d imagined.

 

DOG artwork

Schoolkids Records – 22nd April 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

As I kid – and especially as a teenager – I thought I knew everything, and that anyone over 30 was ancient, a has-been and that it was impossible to be cool past a certain age. But even then, I envied some of the older people I knew – largely through music and record shops – who had seen punk and new wave bands I’d got into in their heyday (or at all).

Hindsight is indeed wonderful, especially when viewed from a vantage of being older and wiser – and while the early 90s felt exciting for someone who was properly old enough to go to gigs on their own on turning 18 in 1993, it’s only really now that it’s possible to really reflect on the fact that there are people in their teens and 20s who will forever curse having been born too late to experience the grunge explosion first hand.

Bettie Seveert aren’t a grunge band, but it was on going to see Dinosaur Jr – who, despite having been around a lot longer, really got to ride the crest of the grunge wave – at Nottingham’s Rock City touring ‘Where You Been’ in February 1993, that I first encountered Come, and (then) Melody Maker darlings Bettie Serveert.

24 years on from that gig and a full quarter century from their debut album Palomine, and the Amsterdam-based act deliver their tenth album: it’s a respectable and steady work-rate by any standards, and what matters is that ‘Damaged Good’ is a great alternative rock album, which displays a neat pop sensibility without in any way being cheesy, corny or lightweight. Released in Benelux last September, it’s now getting a full global release, and this is definitely a good thing. While they may not have received the press backing, or replicated the success of Palomine commercially, creatively, Bettie Serveert have still got it.

Opener ‘B-Cuz’ brings the bounce, not to mention a blend of 60s pop and punk energy and makes for a neat entry to the album. ‘Brother (in Loins)’ brings a darker, post-punk atmosphere and twists in element of 90s alt-rock to a song that has the disco pop groove stylings of Blondie. Elsewhere, there’s a purity and innocence about the vintage indie stylings of ‘Whatever Happens’, and the shuffling beat and darker undercurrents which bubble beneath the buoyant bass of ‘Unsane’ calls to mind ‘Gran Turismo’ era Cardigans. Again, this is a good thing.

In fact, there are no bad things about Damaged Good. The eight-minute ‘Digital Sin Nr 7’ finds the band indulging their more experimental and considerably noisier side, but holding it all together with a tense bass groove. ‘Love Sick’ with Peter de Bos is a driving grunge pop belter: not a song that sounds like it belongs in the 90s so much as a timeless hook-filled cracker of a tune. And herein lies the key to what makes Damaged Good not just good, but great: it’s an album of songs, and while varied in style, the quality is both high and consistent. Songs matter, and there isn’t a dud to be found here.

Bettie_Serveert_-_Damaged_Good_(cover).jpg

21st April 2017

James Wells

Being a cynical motherfucker, and living in an era when everything’s not only been done, but done to death, diluted, fucked about with, hybridized and rendered beyond obsolete, I was a bit dubious when I read Salvation Jayne’s Facebook page, on which they describe themselves as being ‘four musicians who play their own unique style of dirty rock n’ roll’. Unique? Show me something unique and I’ll eat my own head.

But then I also note that the line-up features pop chanteuse Chess Smith, who’s previously featured on Aural Aggro in a solo capacity. And while image only goes so far, Salvation Jayne not only look like a proper band, but they look bloody cool, too.

‘Burn Down’ is a kickass blues-based rock tune with a dark edge countered by a carefully-crafted accessibility. If it harks back to the 80s, and therefore isn’t exactly unique, it’s forgivable: they don’t make tunes like this any more, and the lamewads at Kerrang should get their lugs round this and remember what a proper rock band sounds like instead of plugging all that pop-punk cack and dance music not even disguised as rock b acts like PVRIS. Smith’s vocals are gutsy, the guitars throb and the production is meaty. This means that while I’m not feeling any obligation to eat my own head, I do have to take my hat off to Salvation Jayne for delivering a quality single with a strong sense of identity.

Salvation Jayne

Salvation Jayne are on Facebook.

Christopher Nosnibor

Anyone who follows me on Twitter or is a friend on Facebook is likely to have seen that I tend to draw attention to the fact that I won’t be chained to my desk at home writing music reviews because I’m taking a ‘night off’ involving beer and live music – in other words, I’m out and about watching live music, which I’m invariably reviewing. As such, these nights off aren’t really nights off in the strictest sense. Those who know me in person know that I never really take a night off, regardless, and that includes the nights when I go and watch live music as a paying punter, or a mate has very kindly bought me a ticket to join them watching one of their favourite bands. These are indeed rare occasions, but should constitute a true night off. But that simply isn’t how I work. Truth is, I no longer know how to have a night off. Stopping would likely kill me. Besides, I feel owe practically everything to underground music in some way or another.

So, while I’ve dug what I’ve heard of Part Chimp, my attendance is not in capacity of reviewer or rabid fan – although by the end of the night, I’m both. I’m already a fan of Joe Coates and his Please Please You gig promotions, though – the shows he puts on are carefully curated and the PPY name can be relied upon as a guarantee of quality. Likewise, I’m a huge fan of Wharf Chambers as a venue, and not just on account of the fact they sell decent beer on draught from as little as £2.80 a pint.

And so it is that Thick Syrup make for extremely worthy openers. Their Facebook page describes the band as ‘Garage rock/funk/post punk/hard rock… but none of those things specifically’, and it’s a fair summary. Boil it down, and they’re a solid alternative rock band, whose singer, Gemma, performs from somewhere in the audience, often right at the back of the little venue and facing the stage, on account of the fact she can’t hear what it sounds like from on stage. Out front, it does sound good, and while they’re not big on between-song banter they are big on sturdy, rocking tunes dominated by meaty, overdriven guitars. They’re good fun.

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Thick Syrup

Grey Hairs, hailing from Nottingham, offer a different kind of fun – one marked by a front man possessed of an almost psychotic intensity. The rhythm section is immense, and the foursome kick out a supremely hefty racket. The riffs are big, ballsy, grunged-out slabs of noise: they’re a good fit by way of a main support for Part Chimp, and the fact that they’re also touring with Hey Colossus in May should perhaps give a fair indication both of their sound and their quality. With a new LP, Serious Business released at the start of the year, the set draws substantially on this shouty, sinewy collection, evoking the spirit and sound of vintage Touch and Go and Amphetamine Reptile releases, as well as contemporaries like Backlisters at al who draw inspiration from gnarly 90s US rock. The heavy chug of ‘Sausage’ is full-on, but then, ‘Backwards’ shows they’ve also got a knack for a cracking chorus too. They’re a motley bunch, and it’s no critiism when I observe that front man James is no pin-up. But the image they present corresponds with the angst they channel over the 9-5 grind and the twitching anxiety of immersion in mere existence amidst a morass of bland culture and the conflict of possessing a creative bent. Oh, and they’re bloody loud.

Grey Hairs

Grey Hairs

Part Chimp, however, are much, much louder. I mean, they radiate noise from every orifice and every pore. And when the guitars serrate your skull and the bass vibrates your solar plexus and every riff is as heavy as a small planet and the drums as hard as basalt, reviewing becomes a far bigger challenge than you might think. Instead of analysing precisely why Part Chimp are so bloody awesome, what about the performance completely blew me away, why I felt euphorically drunk on a lot less beer than I know I can handle, I spend an age pissing about on the Internet trying to establish precisely how hard basalt is, and how it compares to the more common ‘hardness’ reference point of granite. I discover that basalt is more porous and is considered a medium hardness rock, whereas granite is classified as a hard rock; and so my word selection seems appropriate: Part Chimp are heavy, the riffs as weighty as hell, but they’re not hard rock band. There’s a malleable, sludgy aspect to the sound. I’m still no closer to qualifying or objectively quantifying the experience of watching four guys, a few years older than myself and by no means cool in the rock star sense, or in any way ‘the kids’ might consider cool, working up a sweat as they hammer out this immense, furious racket.

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Part Chimp

They play a fair few songs from the new album, (and the first to be released following their reunion last year, following a five-year break), Iv released today. And that’s Iv, not the numeral for four. The riffs on the new songs are slow, heavy, fully doomy and laced with a psychedelic stoner infusion. There’s no pretence or posturing: there’s a keen sense that these are regular guys, who have regular lives, and when they’re not doing regular stuff, they’re making music. Music that’s noisy, dense and jarring, yet in a perverse way has the capacity to be immensely uplifting. They’re relentless, and play hard, and, as is only fitting, there’ a lot of hair being thrown about down the front. It’s music to go apeshit to. Part Chimp: All Brilliant.

Metropolis Records – 5th May 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Having recently completed their ‘Swine and Punishment’ double-header tour with Mortiis, PIG, previously having lain dormant for the best part of a decade, are returning with a vengeance. Billed as ‘a supplemental sermon’ to The Gospel, Swine and Punishment, with its audacious combination of literary allusions with shameful puns, is a remix album which slots into neatly into the already extensive PIG oeuvre.

Comments on social media and YouTube suggest that The Gospel has elicited something of a mixed reception, on account of it not being as good as some of the albums released during what they perceive as the peak of PIG’s carer. Many seem disgruntled by the more overtly glam / pop direction of the album. But these people have clearly missed the fact that Watts’ output under the PIG guise had a strong pop sensibility from the very outset: A Poke in the Eye and Praise the Lard are both pop albums first and foremost, with Watts revelling in the incongruity of combining dark lyrics with often quite buoyant tunage. They’ve also clearly missed the fact that Watts’ tongue is usually positioned somewhere in his cheek, and never more so on the knowingly song-orientated and accessible Gospel. In short, to criticise it for being the album it was intended to be is erroneous.

While remix albums are – as I’ve said and written more times than is remotely interesting, but hey, I’ll say it again – often difficult, thorny and sometimes thoroughly pointless, debasing exercises, Swine & Punishment does a good job of capturing the spirit of The Gospel while at the same time extending its scope.

One of my frequent gripes about remix albums is the track repetition, and on this score, Swine and Punishment is guilty, in that it’s largely built around three tracks from The Gospel, namely ‘Viva Evil’, ‘The Diamond Sinners’, and ‘Fly Upon the Pin’; however, it benefits from the inclusion of reworked renditions of ‘Drugzilla’ and ‘Found in Filth’, as well as the previously vinyl-only ‘Violence’. Moreover, the individual mixes ae diverse and divergent enough to make for an album that’s varied and doesn’t sound like the same three tracks dished up, reheated, with a range of subtly different sauces. The sample-filled, lopping grind of the MC Lord of the Flies remix of ‘Found in Filth’ (courtesy of Cubanate’s Marc Heal) is exemplary, particularly when places alongside the stuttering, abstract electro reinterpretation of the KANGA remix of ‘The Diamond Sinners.’

The St Gregory mix of ‘Fly on the Pin’ is perhaps one of the strongest examples of how a song can be given new life by means of serious mangling, and while there’s nothing as extreme as JG Thirlwell’s treatments of ‘Wish’ to be found here, Swine and Punishment invites favourable comparisons to NIN’s Fixed by virtue of the quality and range of the reinterpretations it contains.

Pig - Swine and Punishment Cover

 

Pig - Swine and Punishment Cover

Christopher Nosnibor

Heaven may not be a venue one would immediately associate with heavy, heavy noise, but tonight it’s packed with a broad demographic that only a show as genre-smashing as the line-up would be likely to draw.

Bong are only just setting up their kit five minutes before they’re due on stage, but despite the absence of a proper soundcheck, they sound every bit as mighty as they ought. The Newcastle trio take their time, grinding out power chords with endless sustain without mercy during a half-hour set that contains just a single track. Epic is indeed the word. For all the leaning toward the doomy, droney low end, the guitar packs a crackling treble hit, which balances the sound against the shuddering, throbbing bass and the megalithic drumming, each thunderous beat registering individually on the Richter scale, crashing heavy through the 20bpm dirge with stutters and pauses to maximise the impact of each stroke. Their thirty-minute set consists of just one song. And this is precisely the way it should be: the band use the allotted time to fully demonstrate the expansive nature of their sound and compositions. This is heavy, grinding two-chord dredging pushed to the max and is designed to simultaneously batter and hypnotise the audience, and they deliver it beautifully.

Bong

Bong

If the reality of the studio realisation of Concrete Desert, the collaborative project which saw The Bug’s dubby dancehall stylings drawn out into infinite regressions of reverb as they collided with the dark drone of Earth’s earlier works felt somewhat restrained, and at times bordered on the ambient, in a live setting, the dynamics prove to be altogether different. Perhaps The Bug’s input felt somewhat muted on the release, as Carson’s murky, chiming ambient drones dominated he sound. Sure, the stealthy, bulbous bass and clacking beats, paired with quavering guitar notes which occupy the album’s grooves are atmospheric, but it often feels somewhat cautious, even subdued. Live, however, it’s an entirely different proposition and it feels far more like an equal partnership.

On the surface, the pair exist – and perform – in entirely separate, personal spaces, despite sharing a stage. The Bug – aka Kevin Martin – and Dylan Carlson, representing Earth, stand apart, separated by a wall of equipment: Martin is surrounded by banks of electronic gadgetry and stands focused on his Apple laptop for the majority of the set, while Carlson stands, side-on to the audience, one eye on Martin as he cranks out deep, seething drones and sculpted feedback squalls of noise.

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The Bug vs Dylan Carlson

Volume matters, and can so often prove to be integral to the live music experience: and this is loud. Proper, seriously, loud. Martin begins by sending bibbling waves of electronica out in juxtaposition to Carlson’s screeds of guitar: before long, it’s a veritable sonic tsunami as thunderous bass and violent blasts of percussion crash against a wall of relentlessly dense multitonal noise bleeding in every direction from Carlson’s fretboard. The bass frequencies – and gut-churning volume – are something else. Confetti glued by static electricity or other means to the venue’s high ceiling after being blasted out during the venue’s famous club nights shower down on band and audience alike as the thunderous vibrations rattle every molecule of the building’s interior fabric as well as my nostrils, my trousers and every inch of my flesh.

Many of the compositions are unrecognisable in relation to their studio counterparts, so radically reworked and so much more up front are the dynamics. This is no stealthy, sedate recreation of the album but something way more attacking and pure in its physicality. This is one of those sets which builds in intensity – and seemingly in volume – as it progresses, and toward the end, the pair drop a colossal slow-burner with slow, deliberate drops of bowel-shuddering bass frequencies: a single note resonates through the floor and the solar plexus for what feels like minutes, and the effect is utterly immersive and all-encompassing. The security guy in front of me, blocking the stairs (Heaven has a very strange arrangement of stairs up to the stag and only limited security at front of house, which is welcome), is clutching his ears despite waring plugs, and while it’s an uplifting euphoric experience which plasters a huge grin on my on face, it’s not hard to fathom why this much bass, and this much guitar, at this kind of volume, would cause discomfort. Because actually, it hurts. And that’s the best thing about it, because this is how it’s meant to be.