Archive for the ‘Singles and EPs’ Category

James Wells

It’s either fight or flight, right? It’s clear what this foursome choose, although they may need to square up for the other if some disagree with their claims: their website home page is certain bold and confident, welcoming the surfer with the invitation to ‘Discover a new name to send you back to 1973, outrageously overlooked and under-appreciated – until now.’

Looking at the hits of 1973 makes me glad I wasn’t there. It’s bad enough that Glen Campbell’s ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’ was at number one when I was born, but the thing with any new movement that’s remembered as defining a period is that it was rarely a cultural dominant. People harp on about punk in 77 and 78, but it was Boney M, 10cc, Leo Sayer, ABBA and Rod Stewart who dominated the charts and the radio in 77, and 73 is more accurately represented by Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Paull Simon, and Wings than anything glam.

So when Flight suggest that now is the time for a glam revival, rekindling the sound of 1973, remember how much history distorts things.

Fair play to these guys, ‘Don’t Ask’ has the swagger off T-Rex propelled by the thumping insistent drumming of The Glitter Band and a well-realised retro vibe, with a hazy, shimmery production and a neat tube-crunching guitar sound. It’s catchy as, and clocking in at a super-succinct two minutes and forty-seven seconds, it’s punchy, too, and very much in keeping with that vintage vibe.

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12th October 2022

James Wells

Alright, so I can’t see ‘bad news’ without thinking of the spoof rock band that was part of the Comic Strip Presents… series, featuring the actors behind The Young Ones who released a parody rendition of Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, actually produced by Brian May, and got themselves bottled off stage at Monsters of Rock in 1986.

There’s nothing periodic or rock cliché about this, though. As the blurb outlines, ‘Bad News explores dreams and nightmares, forgiveness and damnation. Through dark electronic and industrial rock themes: wailing bagpipes and fragile synths on the likes of ‘Not Enough Bridge’ contrasted with pounding beats and heavy guitars on ‘Wild Girl (Slug Mix)’ the band further develops their self-described ‘alternadustrial’ sound.

Admittedly, bagpipes sound like really fucking bad news, but this six-tracker doesn’t sound nearly as bad as the cover art suggests it might. ‘L’appel du Vide’ comes on like Pornography-era Cure with doomy synths and clattering, crushing drum, but with the bonus addition of crunching metal guitar, with the end result being as heavy as hell.

‘Echo Chamber’ is twitchy and urgent, a vintage snare cutting through stark synths and a murky fog of bass and guitar; elsewhere, ‘Darkest Dream’ is stark and sparse, blending early Depeche Mode and Meat Beat Manifesto with a dash of Wax Trax! industrial-tinged electronica injected with a shot of adrenaline – and it’s all slammed home with that tempo that gets you pumped.

If the dense, dark waves of synth and snarling vocals and stomping beats which dominate the EP seem fairly standard fare, at least the pipes are kept in the background.

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Lupus Lounge – 25th November 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

There’s catharsis and there’s catharsis. Extreme times heighten the tension and anxiety, and increase the urge to purge. This split release from Tchornobog and Abyssal – a truly international effort, with Tchornobog hailing from Portland, Oregon, and Abyssal representing the UK with their brand of Death/Black/Doom Metal that explores, according to Encyclopaedia Metallum, themes of oppression, and decay.

Tchornobog take this approach to catharsis and purging completely literally. As the press summary notes, ‘Any track opening with a multi-layered recording of a number of vomiting sessions is bound to continue on the darker side of the musical spectrum.’ And so it does, delivering on the threat / promise that “The epic song ‘The Vomiting Choir’ delivers 24:08 minutes that form a descending spiral into a bottomless pit filled with a mostly dissonant sonic miasma of pure negativity and surprising complexity.”

The sounds of regurgitation, guttural coughs and choking and spluttering echo on for a good minute and aa half before the band piledrive their way into an extended workout that finds them burrowing deep into the thick sods of the earth towards the molten pits of hell.

It’s relentless and brutal, and proper old-school: the lyrics are impenetrable and so are the guitars, as a thundering, grey blast of impenetrable distorted guitar blasts away hard and fast and dark and heavy against pummelling percussion, and delivered at a breakneck pace, there are rasping, dead walker noises. There are tempo changes, and mood shifts. And there is deep, dark, anguish and throbbing pain. ‘The Vomiting Choir’ is dark, dark, dark, heavy, and oppressive. Thirteen minutes in it feels like an eternity has passed, an entire album’s worth of anguish squeezed into an excruciating document of torture. But no: there is more, much more, as the next wave and the next movement crash in. For a moment, around the 14/15-minute mark there’s a feel of Joy Division being covered by a black metal band, and the piece drives on and on, ever harder, ever darker, toward the piece’s crushing conclusion with a heavy, throbbing riff of swirling hypnoticism.

Abyssal offer no relief whatsoever, not that you’d really want them to. ‘Antechamber of the Wakeless Mind’ could well be summary of my lifetime as an insomniac. There’s no chance of sleeping through this twenty-four minute barrage of jolting, jarring metallic rage, where everything blurs in a blizzard of fretwork and drums faster than an industrial knitting machine.

It’s a truly exhausting experience; after just five minutes of busted-lunch growling and wheezing against a screeding backdrop of mangled guitars and beats that explode like machine-gun fire, the experience is exhausting – but also exhilarating in the most primitive, purging, cathartic fashion. It’s an extended release, one that’s punishingly intense and physical as well as cerebral.

As a pairing, this split is truly harrowing, mentally and physically draining, dragging its way through the darkest depths.

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Warren Records – 25th November 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

While Leeds has a strong reputation and record for emerging noise-orientated rock bands, Hull is proving that it’s not far behind as a spawning ground for purveyors of noise-driven angst and anger.

As was the case in the 70s and 80s, social deprivation proves to be a powerful driver for the creation of art that channels frustration and the whole gamut of expression that comes from dark places, and from adversity. Of course, it’s always the North. Leeds spawned goth, Manchester Joy Division, Magazine, Slaughter and the Dogs, The Durutti Column. Sheffield, too, has a strong heritage of bands known for innovation born out of frustration, with Cabaret Voltaire being a strong starter for 10. Hull, of course, brought us Throbbing Gristle, arguably one of the most groundbreaking acts of the 70s and beyond.

Most punk bands, especially the Pistols, simply cranked out pub rock with a sneer and the guitars turned up. Throbbing Gristle went beyond any conventions of music to create a real soundtrack to alienation.

More recently, we’ve had The Holy Orders, Cannibal Animal, Low Hummer, Parasitic Twins, and many more. And now we have Bug Facer kicking out a disaffected din, and ‘Horsefly’ is one hell of a debut single, and clocking in at over six and a half minutes it’s a behemoth of a track.

The band say of ‘Horsefly’, ‘At its core the track is about struggle. It conjures images of being trapped or stuck in a box or something but we don’t want to give away too much! We try to write music that is evocative and suggestive, not being too direct with our lyrics and ideas as we’d much prefer our listeners to tell us what it is they hear and see as they listen to our tracks. Some people have said it’s like battling through and emerging from a storm, others say it’s like someone has angered the gods.’

The sense of struggle is conveyed keenly here: you feel the pain in your bones, in your muscles, nerves, and sinews. It pulls hard at the soul, at the same time as punching away at the guts with a methodical thud.

It’s a hefty, dirgy trudge that oozes anguish, and if the organic feel is rathe in the vein of Neurosis, the bands it’s closest to are Unsane and Kowloon Walled City. It’s bleak, grinding, stark and brutal. Its power derives not from distortion, or from pace, but from sheer density and crushing volume, and from raw power. It’s the kind of claustrophobic, pulverising heaviness that leaves you aching. This is serious. And Bug Facer are instantly my new favourite band.

Punk Slime Records – 11th November 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

I sometimes feel a twinge of embarrassment when I see press releases and reviews referencing bands I haven’t heard of, in that it makes me feel like I’m failing in my diligence. So when I see that So Young Magazine has described Manchester quartet Mister Strange as ‘An uncompromising cross between the manic charisma of The Dead Kennedys, and the contemporary fury of Melbourne rockers Civic’, I fleetingly think ‘shit, I’m behind the curve here’.

But then, you work with the reference points you’ve got, and this EP packs no shortage of raw punk energy, and plenty of unexpected turns, too.

There’s very much a vintage vibe to Nothing at All, and while the fuzzy, lo-fi production is an integral part of it, the fact that they play hell-for-leather garage punk with murky guitars and reverb-heavy vocals is the main factor. Back when The Strokes and The Hives and The Vines emerged to lead a garage revival shortly after the turn oof the millennium, I got the urge to dig out the various Pebbles and Nuggets compilations. Listening to this, the urge is sated by the gritty authenticity of the band’s lo-budget sound and full-throttle riiffery.

The title track leads off, starting with a raging feedback inferno before ploughing into a relentless high-octane psychedelic punk groove, before suddenly slowing to a heavy trudge that’s 70s heavy metal melted into 90s noise in the vein of Terminal Cheesecake, before reigniting the tempo and racing to the finish.

The remaining five songs aren’t quite such a rollercoaster, pushing instead a muggy, fuggy, grungy guitar style that pursues more sustained riffery and tempos, at least until they arrive at the relentless closer, ‘Rat Bench Alley’, which slugs hard.

In between, ‘Dead Weight’ is fairly standard garage fair, but it’s loud, scuzzy and punches hard, and ‘Crazy Lemon’ pushes a repetitive riff to the max. It’s pretty damn heavy duty, and it’s a decent racket.

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Criminal Records – 28th October 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Having released the No Guts All the Glory EP in November last year, just seven months after their second LP, False Company, Weekend Recovery have already been making announcements about album number three, to be named Esoteric. We’ll have to wait and see if it lives up to its titles promise of obscure knowledge and rare wisdom, but lead single ‘Chemtrails’ has already garnered some advance radio play and some kudos from DJs in the process.

First, it’s a snappy tune with a nagging guitar and an airy vocal hook and a load of their now trademark woo-oohs, so it’s radio-friendly, but more than that, this song packs a lot onto two minutes and eighteen seconds. Stylistically, it’s a poppy punky hybrid that’s equal parts X-Ray Spex and Shampoo. Then there’s the fact that Lori shifts into a spoken delivery for the verses: it’s not rappy, but it’s rhythmic, and puts the lyrics to the fore.

Lyrically, it’s interesting, in that it’s wide-ranging in its coverage. Now, it’s hard to pinpoint precisely when the ‘chemtrails’ debate began to really get traction, or why, other than ‘The Internet’ regarding the latter, but it starts out with the protagonist articulating mental confusion with the endless barrage of fake news and waves sending her insane, ‘chemtrails’ in her head and the endless talking, before swinging round to take what for some may seem an unexpected swipe at one of the particular strains of feminism that’s become popular among female-fronted circuit peers as she says ‘See, what you wanna do is stop being so right on / Telling girls to come forward, and stand where they belong / You jump into the crowd and shout and dance around.’ It shouldn’t be in any way divisive to point out that inverting the behaviours of patriarchal society by means of ‘positive discrimination’ is not the route to equality, but it’ll be interesting to see how this pans out, but it there needs to be the kind of discussion Weekend Recovery seem to be inviting here.

Sonically, it’s got more separation, and is less ‘wall of fuzz’ than the last album and EP, which is perhaps another factor in its radio appeal, although the drums are pretty dense and thick, a far cry from the trebly crack of the snares on so many commercial pop songs.

It’s a strong offering that has more depth than is first apparent – and that’s entirely the point: ‘Chemtrails’ is a song about questioning conformity. Because pop doesn’t have to be bland or vacant.

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Weekend Recovery by Jess Johnson

Photo by Jess Johnson

Blaggers Records – 28th October 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

I thought I was pretty much abreast of happenings on the Leeds scene, but seemingly since lockdown put paid to live action for two years and since then reduced rail services and skyrocketing rail fairs have capped my forays over the county border significantly, it transpires I’ve missed out on a lot, including the emergence of post-punk influenced indie quartet Cliché Cult. They’ve banged out five singles already since forming in 2020, and this, their first with Blaggers Records, home to JW Paris, who have found favour on 6Music and on these virtual pages also.

‘Slippy’ is kinda loose-sounding, rough ‘n’ ready Northern indie with some chiming guitars that see it land somewhere in the region of Turn on the Bright Lights Interpol and Gene and Marion in that way that nods confidently in the direction of The Smiths but avoids the maudlin self-pity and whiny nasal vocals.

You wouldn’t describe them as typical Leeds, but it’s not hard to discern why they’ve built themselves a following, and fast, and if you’re looking for a song that fits the description of ‘indie anthem’, look no further.

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Clever Recordings – 21st October 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Hot on the heels of ‘No Chains’ in the summer, Sleep Kicks follow up with ‘Neptune’ as we fade into autumn. And there’s something of an autumnal feel to the reflective feel of ‘Neptune’.

‘Was it an act of spite / Or was it the unrelenting time / That pulled you away that night?’ Terje Kleven questions contemplatively at the beginning of the song against a warm, rolling bass and rhythmic blend of piano and chilly synths. The vibe here is distinctly early Interpol, and it suits the band, and the song, well.

Kleven’s moderate baritone rides some deftly chiming guitar that breaks into a strong chorus where the synths come to the fore and sweep upwards to forge something uplifting while still tinged with a taint of melancholy.

Yet again, Sleep Kicks have dropped a killer tune that balances darkness and light, depth and immediacy, in an example of outstanding songwriting craftsmanship. Or, put simply, ‘Neptune’ is another great tune from a consistently great band.

Human Worth – 4th November 2022

That I’m a huge, huge fan of Human Worth is probably quite apparent by now, or really ought to be. As a label, they’re the absolute model of the cottage industry DIY label with a social conscience that’s matched by the quality of the music they release. How many labels can you name where absolutely every single release in their catalogue is an absolute fucking banger? And now, it gets even better, as the community spirit can be seen to be an integral aspect embraced by the acts on their roster, as the assemblage of the appropriately-named Fucking Lovely indicates.

Well, it probably depends on your taste, of course: it’s not lovely in the lilting, floral, melodic sense – more in the ironic or sarcastic sense, as this EP is every inch the gnarly barrage of noise you’d expect from the Human Worth alumni who feature in the lineup, which the bio describes as ‘an evolving noise project brought into being by Joel Harries from 72%. Featuring Luc Hess (Coilguns / Closet Disco Queen) on drums and Thomas Lacey (Cower / Yards / The Ghost of a Thousand) on vocals.’

They go on to detail how this record ‘came together through shared connections with Human Worth and brief meetings playing gigs in 2019’; and that ‘the music grew steadily from the initial guitar and drum machine tracks into the frantic and unnerving songs of “Catalogue Of Errors”’ which were ‘recorded remotely between the UK & Switzerland’. It seems like this is the way collaborations will happen from now on. This is probably a (rare) post-pandemic positive: distance and scheduling are no object when it’s possible record at any time and from any distance.

This feels like there is absolutely no distance: it’s the sound of a band playing at ten thousand decibels and right in your face, so harsh and full on that your eyes pop out of their sockets.

It’s brief and intense. Four tracks of jarring, jolting, stuttering riffs and shouting pitched against one another at obtuse angles and colliding against one another in the most awkward and ungainly fashion, for maximum ugly impact and packed into less than ten minutes. Oh yes, it’s fucking lovely alright. It makes your skin crawl and your hair stand on end, it makes you clench and quiver , makes your shoulders tense and your neck stuff. ‘Billy Boy’ is gnarly and full-tilt Jesus Lizard psycho, all dirty guitars, gritty bass and twisted manic vocals. ‘Maximum Exhaustion’ is a soundtrack of relatability, relaying the staggering, stumbling, lurching delirium of fatigue beyond fatigue – also known as life.

The full-on earth-shattering hardcore of ‘Bricked’ draws the EP to a close with samples echoing around low in the mix and the words inaudible, and while angry, sludgy acts are disparate but numerous, I’m reminded of Blacklisters here.

It’s a gloriously demented racket, and it hurts. And it most definitely is absolutely fucking lovely.

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21st October 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

What a week to drop a new single. Especially if you’re a politically-charged British band. And particularly if you’re Benefits. Their meteoric ascendancy continues unabated: still without label, management, or PR, they’ve had the video for their new single premiered on none other than Rolling Stone Magazine’s website. They are most certainly not your typical Rolling Stone act. Yes, the magazine may historically have been an outlet for Hunter S. Thomson’s writing and been both political and cutting edge, more recently, it’s been very much more establishment. But it’s reach is huge, and if this suggests by any means that Benefits have gone establishment, you’re either nuts, or you’ve not heard of Benefits before.

For a band like this to be given such a platform isn’t simply a big deal – it’s practically the sounding horn of revolution. And as the British government collapses around our ears faster than 24/7 scrolling news can update their marquees, the timing could not be better.

Against a grinding, undulating, distorted mechanical throb, Kingsley Hall delivers another lacerating dissection of Real Life, carving his way through anxiety and dayjob drudgery, corporate and political doublespeak, endless bullshit filtered and amplified through the echo chambers of social media, ‘failure masked as victory’.

Two-thirds in, a hefty industrial beat kicks in and gives a solidity to the squalling blast of thick, thick noise, and the roaring rage yields to a crisp, clinical spoken word monologue that in many ways hits even harder than that savage raw-throated primal scream, and there’s glimmer of home as he intimates ‘we can win this’… and then, abruptly, nothing. It’s the most unexpected ending to a sing since Dinosaur Jr’s cover of The Cure’s ‘Just Like Heaven’.

It’s also Benefits’ most uncompromisingly brutal and heavyweight release yet, as well as their most fully realised.

The world is changing fast. We may be quite literally drowning in shit on the coasts of this brown and deeply unpleasant pleasant land, but Benefits are doing their bit to make it a better place, not by bringing sunshine, but telling it like it is.

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Benefits are on your in November:

May be an image of one or more people and text that says "enefits 18/11 GLASGOW stereo 23/11 LONDON oslo 19/11 SUNDERLAND pop recs 24/11 NOTTINGHAM bodega 20/11 SOUTHAMPTON joiners 25/11 MANCHESTER yes 21/11 EXETER cavern 26/11 LEEDS brudenell 22/11 BRISTOL strange brew tickets all shows available www.benefitstheband.com on sale friday 10am"