Posts Tagged ‘alt rock’

16th September 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Bristol alt-rock / grunge duo Miss Kill have been making waves around their Bristol locale both live and with radio play, and, more recently, beyond, gripping us here at Aural Aggravation back in July with ‘Drive’, which had plenty.

It’s the lead track on this five-tracker, the title of which succinctly sends a message of taking no shit, and it sets the tempo and the tone, easing in with a gently rolling reverb-soaked guitar and soft, rolling drum and mellow bassline painting a scene steeped in nostalgia while building the volume and packing a solid yet melodic punch.

‘Twilight’ is darker and denser, more emotionally wrought and fraught, a tension tearing through the thick overdriven power-chords that erupt from the quiet, brooding verses. It is, of course, the quintessential grunge format, and they’ve absolutely got it nailed, and with a song that kicks you in the gut while at the same time pulling the heartstrings with a shoegazey twist. It’s a trick they repeat on the boldly guitar-driven ‘All You Gotta Do’, and again, the verses are hushed, reflective, contemplative, and so when the chorus explodes, the impact is immense.

The vocals are integral: powerful, but not simply belting out the lyrics, but delivering them with palpable passion and emotional integrity, to the extent that they convey more than merely the words themselves. It’s singing with feeling, and you feel it.

There isn’t a weak song on here, and if ‘I Wanna Let You Know’ again calls to mind any classic 90s grunge act you could care to name, there’s that bleakly melancholic undertone with a troubled yearning that’s reminiscent of Come, who always took that sound to another place. The same is true of the final song, ‘Someone New’, which showcases a more downtempo sound, and highlights their musicianship and tightness of harmonies.

Debut releases don’t come much stronger than this, and Don’t Tell Me Twice looks set to place Miss Kill firmly – and deservedly – in the national spotlight. The songs are strong, and their delivery radiates quality, and also passion. This is a band that has the power to touch people, to affect them, and it’s a record (albeit virtual) you want to play over and over again.

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Agh. We shouldn’t dig this… but we do. It’s kinda grunge light, a bit Weezer (ugh),and early Foos (meh) but then it’s also a bit Bivouac, and so on, and it’s hard to hate it in a nostalgic kind of way…

Over the past decade, it’s become increasingly in vogue for bands to pay lip service to 90s alt rock, but many of them capture only the most surface level cosmetic elements, missing the critical components that defined that decade’s underground scene. A chorus pedal, a Big Muff, and a flannel don’t go far on their own merits. To put it bluntly, many groups fundamentally do not “get it”. But Baltimore, MD’s Dosser absolutely does.

Where many of their contemporaries are little more than thinly-veiled pop punk acts doing retro cosplay, Dosser gets at the core of what made 90s guitar rock such a compelling force. From leads that hearken back to early Weezer, massive riffs that evoke Jawbox, and razor-sharp pop-rock sensibilities that bring to mind the Foo Fighters’ debut LP, this is a band synthesizing the best parts of various forms into their own potent formula.

Formed in the summer of 2018 by Will Teague, Bret Lanahan, Eric Dudley, and Max Detrich, Dosser’s debut LP finds a band playing at a level well beyond what their short lifespan might suggest. Coming out on Really Rad Records in January 2023, Violent Picture / Violent Sound is about as strong an opening volley as it gets.

Of the track, Dosser’s Bret Lanahan (guitar, vocals) says: "Since I was a kid I’ve struggled greatly with crippling anxiety and depression. I didn’t understand when I was younger what either of those things were and always thought something was wrong with me or I had something bad inside me making me feel this way. I used to have this kind of weird day dream a lot that if I could just open up my chest and let whatever was inside of me that was making me feel so terrible just spill out, maybe I would feel better.

It wasn’t a bloody scene or anything like that, I guess it was just the only way my younger brain could picture getting rid of bad thoughts. As I got older and had a better understanding of what mental illness looked like I was able to get help in the form of medication. The song goes back and forth with the feeling of being trapped in one of two corners that I think are pretty common in people trying to deal with or treat mental illness. Either you treat it with medication and get to a point where you feel almost nothing at all and totally empty, or just deal with it and have such intense feelings that you can hardly bare it. Finding a release is the hardest thing to do. The lyrics are fairly simple but they hold a great weight for me."

Listen to ’Joy Thief’ here:

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Photo: Zack Pohuski

16th June 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

This one may have been kicking around for a while, but I’m playing catchup here, as Henry Kelly often used to say on Going for Gold – although I always remember it sounding more like he was telling the contestants ‘yir playing ketchup’. If this seems like an unspeakably strange digression, that’s simply how my brain works, by a lengthy chain of obscure connections, but it does serve to lead – perhaps more by accident than design – to the nostalgia point, in that I remember watching Going for Gold in the early 90s (it ran from 87-96 with Kelly presenting), and while there’s no actual correspondence, I associate the period with my discovery of music in the sense of an awakening: there was a real buzz about the early 90s that is hard to convey to anyone who wasn’t immersed in it, and it went beyond grunge.

With ‘The Truth’, taken from their album Ascension, released on 19th August, Atlanta-based Pistols At Dawn invite comparisons to the driving guitar-driven anguish of Filter and encapsulate that mid-to-late 90s US alternative sound. The guitars are thick and chunky, and there are hooks galore and a huge chorus. The production is dense and its both crisp and dirty, and throw in a backdrop of explosions and backwards baseball caps and everything comes together perfectly. It’s not all about the nostalgia factor, and credit has to go to Pistols at Dawn for a kicking riff-driven tune that’s well-executed – but it’s undeniable that the fact it calls to mind what was, for many people of a certain demographic, an epochal spell in guitar-based music, is a significant part of its appeal.

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Venus Principle are now premiering the video clip ‘Rebel Drones’ as the first single taken from the dark psychedelic rockers’ debut full-length Stand in Your Light, which has been slated for release on May 27th.

The melancholic black & white video ‘Rebel Drones’ with a captivating interplay between female and male vocals is now available to view here:

Venus Principle comment: “Releasing a debut album is the pinnacle moment for any new band and even more so with the added obstacle of recording that album during a pandemic across two countries”, writes singer and pianist Daisy Chapman. “After months of work behind closed doors, its first public airing is both exciting and tense – everything has to be right. We are stoked to finally release our first single. ‘Rebel Drones’ was among the first songs written and we think it represents the whole album particularly well. This project was conceived remotely, but the music on Stand in Your Light transcends borders and represents Venus Principle as one entity of experienced musicians and friends. We can hardly wait for all the world to finally hear our creation.”

14th February 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Nothing says ‘I love you’ like a slice of blues-hued alt-rock that deals with paranoia and a sense of disconnection from other people, right? Blackpool’s Rendered land their second single on Valentine’s day, and it’s a proper punch in the kisser

It begins with a slow-build, a big, spacious guitars chime that’s bordering on shoegaze before exploiting a classic quiet / loud verse / chorus, and when the guitars kick in for the chorus, boy do they kick in strong. It’s the perfect vehicle for the lyrics which wrestle with internal contradictions and the troubles of mental health; the fear and loathing, flipping between the urge to lash out and to simply hide.

‘Paranoia’s what they tell me I got /Well it’s real to me and it won’t stop now / (Must be the enemy!)’ guitarist/vocalist Dale Ball hollers in a blend of pain and panic, articulating the anguish of decoding situations; after all, just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not after you, and just because you feel you can’t trust anyone, doesn’t mean you’re delusional or overly fearful, and it’s a fact, not hype, that you can’t be too careful… but then, to what extent can fear rule your life before it’s no life at all? It’s a fine line, and right now, so many people are so on edge about everything. The language of fear used to ensure compliance during lockdown gave many the jitters, and shaking that fear isn’t proving so easy. Then you turn on the news, there are stabbings and murders of random strangers all over, the government has been proven to have bene constantly lying the whole time, and now continue to lie about the fact they’ve been lying in the face of concrete evidence, and who can you believe or trust when you can’t even trust yourself or your own instincts?

Well, you can trust Rendered to deliver solid tunes with real resonance, if nothing else, and ‘Must Be The Enemy!’ is the proof.

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Wharf Chambers, Leeds, 3rd December 2021

This is a show I’d been revved for for quite some time: on their last visit to this venue, back in 2017, noise veterans Part Chimp blew me away with the sheer quality of their performance, as well as their sheer volume, prompting me to ruminate on how ‘they radiate noise from every orifice and every pore’ and how ‘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.’ Experiences like that are rare, but also addictive: as a gig—goer, you want every show to replicate that level of thrill, that mind-blowing intensity, and it’s a dragon you’ll chase and chase but rarely capture. There’s also a thing about seeing a band for the first time, when you don’t know really what to expect, and then whatever your expectations may have been, they’re confounded tenfold. Second, third, fourth time around, it’s unlikely you’ll feel that same sock in the face.

Anticipation for the evening stepped up a few notches on disclosure of the support act, Objections, being ‘a pair of Bilge Pump’s and a Beards’. ‘Formed in 2007, dispatched in 2018’, the latter splattered their way onto the scene with their sound defined by the explosively angular racket of their debut album ‘Brick by Boulder’, and during their existence, proved to be a stunning live proposition. Meanwhile, the former, revitalised in 2019 after almost a decade’s silence had been reaffirming their status as Leeds legends prior to the pandemic halting their live activity.

Objections is Bilge Pump’s Joe O’Sullivan and Neil Turpin with ex-Beards’ Claire Adams. Claire covers bass and vocals, while Joe’s weapon of choice is a 12-string, which brings some real depth and density to their brand of sinewy post punk. It’s goth meets math rock, and at the same time combines the best of both Bilge Pump and Beards. The guitar provides texture and tone rather than tune, sculpting shapes, and watching O’Sullivan is always a joy, not to mention exhausting: the man is a relentless blur of energy (and impossible to [photograph without better kit than mine), and plays every chord with his entire body, leaping, lurching, and perspiring heavily every whichway. Adams’ bass is stop/start, lumbering, and the choppy, angular songs with their variable time signatures are held together with precision percussion from Turpin. Oftentimes, a relentless repetitive rhythm grinds a backdrop to peeling shards of guitar splinters, and chunk funk bass drives a collision between Shellac and Gang of Four, leading towards an ultimate space rock finale. They are stunning, and the place is busy, and the reception they receive is well deserved: this is one of those occasions where you could leave immediately after the support and feel that you’ve easily had your money’s worth.

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Objections

But then, it’s Part Chimp headlining, promoting their latest album, Drool, their sixth proper in their twenty-year career and the follow-up to 2018’s Cheap Thriller, and it’s the final track from this album that they power into a blistering set that’s a massive barrelling noise of relentless riffery from the off. They’re out as a three-piece sans bass tonight, but make enough racket for infinite members, with enough downtuning to cover the low end. And when I say that they’re loud, I mean they’re seriously fucking loud. Standing front row stage right I’m overwhelmed by the speaker shredding backline of Iain Hinchliffe’s guitar but it’s magical – obliterative, immersive, cathartic.

At this point in their career, they’re no longer young, and they’re not overtly cool, with their beanstalk singer and somewhat squat and unsvelte guitarist, but it’s the music that matters and makes them the coolest guys around: they make the best fucking noise, and may have just released their best album, which occupies half the set and reveals its range magnificently. Battering away at a couple of chords blended with all the distortion and feedback, the vocals buried in echo, and there’s a sample that runs between the songs throughout set in a fashion that’s reminiscent of the loop that runs through Rudimentary Peni’s Pope Adrian 37th Psychristiatric. With guitars like bulldozers blasting out rifferama ear-bleeding volume – did I mention that the volume’s up to twelve or thirteen?

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Part Chimp

There are occasional hints of Hawkwind happening, but overloaded with distortion and howling feedback at a thousand decibels and there’s some bad trip psychedelia slow and hypnotic in the mix. But Once again, it very quickly becomes a haze, and it’s impossible to do anything but yield to the wall of sound and enjoy. Live music fans live for moments like this, and it’s clear that everyone in the room was in the same space. If there is a heaven, it has to be this.

26th May 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Yes! Yes! Yes! This single cut from London four-piece Ravenfangs is appropriately titled. Clocking in at two and a half minutes, it’s an explosion of fizzy, grungy, overdriven guitars powered by angst and frustration, Recapturing the spirit of Nirvana and blending it with a certain punk sensibility, it’s lack of polish is a significant part of the appeal.

This is the best of DIY, and this is what happens when people have had enough. They don’t hang about, they don’t wait for opportunities or offers – they get on and make their own and do it all themselves. It was the emergence of punk that saw bands first shun the conventional industry-centred models, and the age of home recording and the Internet has finally rendered the production and release of music an egalitarian, open proposition.

The beauty is that truly anyone can pick up a guitar – hell, you don’t even need that, just a laptop or a phone these days – and offload all that emotion, everything that you need to vent, and put it out there.

Starting off with a thick, buzzing bassline played with a gut-punching urgency, ‘Rage’ crashes in full throttle with everything else all going hell-for-leather all at once. It’s unpretentious, unpolished, and exciting because it’s real, a sneering blast of righteous alt-rock, and packs a proper punch with no pretence, no pissing about. Raw, rough, ready, this is where it’s at.

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26th February 2021

It seems only fitting that lo-fi indie duo Videostore should return to the roots that inspired their vaguely nostalgic moniker and the theme for their debut album Vincent’s Picks for their latest lockdown single release with a song which Nathan says was inspired by ‘sitting around watching superhero movies.’

Certainly, inspiration for a lot of art has been coming from closer to home this last year, and most life has been lived vicariously for many of us. Movies provide a much-needed escape when the limits of your life are just four walls, and this punchy, guitar-driven single is exemplary of Videostore’s resourcefulness. Written and recorded just a week ago, accompanied by self-filed footage (mostly shot at home or in local parks in a single day) and assembled by Dave Meyer, it’s once again a strong sell for the DIY methodology that facilitates not only full artistic control but a greatly reduced time-lag between conception and release, ‘Superhero Movies’ celebrates its uncomplicated evolution – Nathan sitting on the sofa with one of his many guitars, parked in front of a laptop, the pair supping wine.

‘This is not my movie’ Lorna sings, increasingly frenzied, as she spirals and spins around, beshaded, in a park somewhere as the guitars fizz and the bass thumps against an insistent drum machine.

And while this is ostensibly an indie tune, the tumultuous distortion of the buzzsaw guitar and the overall production is actually reminiscent of Big Black – in particular their cover of Wire’s ‘Heartbeat’. It’s not entirely pretty, and it’s better for it: ‘Superhero Movies’ packs all the energy, and delivers it with a raw immediacy that really hits the spot.

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1st February 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Mercy is a four-piece alternative rock act propelled by vocalist and guitarist Mercedes Diett-Krendel, and the debut album by Mercy is a short but punchy guitar-driven exorcism of sorts. Most of the best music comes from a dark place, and has a personal element, and Mercedes has dredged deep into her experience to purge it all here. The self-invited comparisons to Veruca Salt, Hole, and No Doubt are all entirely fitting, in that Forever is very much centred around a strong female front person.

It begins with a rendition of the wedding march played on a heavily echoed, overdriven electric guitar… nice day for a white wedding? Nice day to start again, more like. Forever is an album brimming with ire, anguish, and angst, the soundtrack to a wedding massacre that finds the artist picking the scabs of all the shit, all the trauma… in short, it’s a summary of Mercy’s worst relationships bottled up into an epic explosion of revenge, ending in a bloody mess.

The promo shots suggest that this is more than just a theme or concept, but something far, far more intense and deeply personal, and this gives the album its ragged, sore edge.

The songs are melodic, but have edge – a grungy, 90s alt-rock edge, and it’s pretty full-throttle. The mid-album acoustic slowie,‘Gabriel’ really slows the pace, and marks an essential shift in an album that really works that classic quiet/loud dynamic, and it kicks in for a properly anthemic climax. ‘Damage’ kicks ass with an almost gypsy, folksy edge to its grunge attack, while the stomping title track is brimming with emotion. And you feel that emotion, while being buoyed along by some strong melodies.

It’s concise, and it’s fiery, and the success of Forever is in balancing the fury and the tune.

Mercy Band / Photo © Daniel D. Moses www.danielmoses.com

Better Noise Music – 28th August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

This may be a little belated, but then arguably, so are the band: From Ashes To New trade in melodic alt-rock that crashes in with the blustery force of post-metal before petering out into some middle ground that’s rooted in the turn-of-the-millennium tats ‘n’ haircuts trend. It’s hard to feel the fire and fury of such angst-by-numbers.

Don’t get me wrong: I feel a genuine sympathy for these guys: the scrolling text at the start of the video reminds me of all of the cancellations I’ve had to witness this year, from gigs and holidays, to conferences to recording sessions to…well, absolutely fucking everything. The office setting for the video hauls me back to the day I was required to return to the office – closed for the foreseeable future, possibly permanently – to collect my personal belongings. It felt like an ending, and a weak one that sputter out to nothing at that. The hangar-like empty space could, under different circumstances, have been quite exciting, even exhilarating, but under the eye of a gloved and masked security guard who watched as I separated out personal and company belongings from my desk, bagging up the items that were my own and separating out stationery, IT kit (although I regret not squirreling away a spare mouse now) and paperwork for recycling before leaving the gloomy open-plan building, the blinds half drawn and the lights off for what was probably the last time. It didn’t occur to me that maybe this would be the setting for recording a rock video: much as I wanted to capture the bleakness of the empty space, I was more preoccupied with making sure I’d loaded up and was off the premises in my allotted twenty minutes, and while the security guard was nothing but friendly, I felt tense and pressured, and yes, maybe the pressure was of my own making but I felt like an intruder and like I needed to get out before I cold relax and breathe properly again.

On departing, it struck me that with more of us being designated permanent home workers as the company looks to finding ways to recoup the immense costs of providing everyone with a laptop, the cost savings of not paying for electricity, cleaners, maintenance, and all of the other things associated with an office housing around 80 staff, I may not see many, if any, of the people I’d spent the last few years working with, in close proximity, ever again. Granted, half of them I could take or leave, some of them were cunts, but they all contributed to the fabric of life. I miss life, and I may even miss some of the people.

But it doesn’t change fact that this is some fairly generic and somewhat dated-sounding Limp Bizkit / Linkin Park lift, and while I feel their pain and panic, it’s all downhill from the intro: the video, likewise, as we move away from the TV screen, the source of the panic, to the empty office, something they seem to revel in but which carries quite different connotations for me and no doubt many.

This isn’t clear-cut, and this is personal, and sometimes, the personal does not lie within the universal. ‘Panic’ will no doubt speak to some, even many, and maybe it’s a matter of demographic, but it certainly doesn’t speak to me.

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