Posts Tagged ‘70s rock’

Christopher Nosnibor

Having – what feels like an eternity ago – raved about The Holy Orders, I find myself with front man Matt Edible’s sort-of solo album. It’s a fair bit less fiery and more introspective than his work with the band (who recently made their live return and look like getting their shit together again before too long) – to re point that it’s largely mellow and melodic, and draws on laid-back 70s rock for its stylistic touchstones. It’s also quite poppy in places. This isn’t a criticism, but an observation…and unexpected. But then, I’m unfamiliar with Matt’s original musical vehicle, Edible 5ft Smiths, who apparently made ‘one and a half of the greatest undiscovered albums of the noughties before burning up in a small blaze of glory’, and of which the music on this album represents something of a continuation of a trajectory.

‘Advent Beard’ surfaced on-line a couple of years, and as Christmas-themed breakup tunes delivered with roustabout energy and a certain ragged charm. Hearing it in the context of an album, in mid-May when I’m sweltering in some quite unseasonal heat and feeling hayfevery feels a bit incongruous. But on reflection, it’s a song about the sentiment rather than the season, and while Stairgazing isn’t a wet, sentimental album, it is fairly reflective and introspective and – dare I say it – emotional in its tone and content.

The title track is a frenzied fury of angular guitars and vocals that are the sound of a man at every last one of his limits. And then it comes on a bit Dinosaur Jr, which is even better. Elsewhere, ‘Nightclubbing’ (not a cover of either David Essex or Iggy Pop) is a light, folksy-indie effort, and the sparse, piano-led ‘The Healing’, which ventures into post-rock grandeur, with its multi-layered vocals and epic, proggy instrumental play-out, offers another facet of Edible’s songwriting skills.

It’s Matt’s voice that really makes it, perhaps more than the material itself. The man has range, effortlessly moving between gritty and grungy, and soaring sort-of falsetto. In part comparable to James Dean Bradfield in tone and timbre, Edible simply has a great voice: affecting, versatile, listenable and affecting in all the right places,

Stairgazing doesn’t have the rock ‘n’ roll punch of anything by The Holy Orders, but that isn’t grounds for criticism: Matt Edible as delivered a solid and entertaining album that’s quite different, and all the better for it.

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Svart Records – 1st December 2017

James Wells

This is a tough one. There’s a lot to like on the third album from Jess and the Ancient Ones, which is pitched as ‘a magical mystery trip to the dark side of the sixties as seen through the eyes of modern-day occult rock musicians’. It has energy, for a start, and tunes, to boot. Hooks? Yep, no shortage of hooks, and groove in abundance. But there’s also something that’s rather nigglesome, and it’s not just the excessively try-hard ‘weird’ collage colver art.

Their aim, according to the accompanying blurb, was to go for ‘an organic and human approach and produced a very old fashioned album, 9 songs and 31 minutes, recorded and mixed together with their live sound engineer’.

The Horse and Other Weird Tales is very much an ‘old fashioned album’, and from the opening bars, it’s the skippy, trippy, noodly, doodly, bouncy Hammond organ that stands out in both the mix and the arrangements. The first track is called ‘Death is the Doors,’ and if you cut the first two words, you’ve pretty much got everything you need to know. And therein lies the niggle: it’s pitched being a hybrid of ‘groovy, heavy, psychedelic beat music’ ‘hard death rock’ and ‘occult head-exploding meltdown’. How this actually translates is that ‘The Horse and Other Weird Tales’ is a less than subtle confluence of The Doors and Janis Joplin with a bunch of obvious interview and documentary samples about LSD and opening the doors of perception slung in for good measure. Subtle, it isn’t, and nor is it particularly imaginative.

Song title like ‘Radio Aquarius’, ‘Return to Hallucinate’ and ‘(Here Comes) The Rainbow Mouth’ reflect the dippy, trippy, hippy leanings of the album as a whole. None of the songs in themselves are awful, and there’s an energy, sincerity, and passion which radiates from every bar. But none of this is in question: the question is, why not? It’s all about the bigger picture. Retro is fine within reason. But hen the past becomes the primary focus (really? A sing about, prefaced with a sample discussing The Catcher in the Rye?) is starts to feel all too much like reconstructionalist pastiche. That is to say, parody without the irony: The Horse and Other Weird Tales marks the point at which admiration swings toward tribute.

Yet for all the fullness of the passion with which I dislike it, objectively, The Horse and Other Weird Tales contains some catchy, memorable tunes and demonstrates that Jess and the Ancient Ones know how to navigate a melodic hook underpinned by a stompalong riff. It’s as ersatz as hell, but The Horse and Other Weird Tales succeeds in capturing the spirit of the era which inspired it.

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Jess and the Ancient Ones – The Horse and Other Weird Tales