Posts Tagged ‘Grunge’

17th September 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Manchester’s Dirty Laces have been away for a while, and not through choice. The pandemic skittled most bands and brought an abrupt halt not only to gigs, but working in general, since most bands don’t live together and when it comes to music-making, it’s simply not always feasible to work remotely, tossing audio files back and forth virtually. I shan’t labour this too hard, but what was The Great Pause for some was The Great Anxietor for many – whether it be because of having no work or being furloughed on reduced pay, or working and home schooling at the same time, or simply dealing with isolation, fear of the virus, or being cooped up with people who weren’t people to be cooped up with, so many of us had something to keep us awake at night and which probably hasn’t fully left us yet.

For many, emerging out of the other side of it all, we’ve found that we’re not the same as before, and there’s some re-evaluation has taken place, albeit not necessarily on a conscious level. Good, I say. Life’s too short to expend what little life you have on pintless crap and people who give nothing in exchange for taking everything.

Recorded in the fallout of the pandemic in solitary rural Wales, ‘Midnight Mile’, essentially speaks of that re-evaluation and the realisation that it’s time to dump the fucking rubbish: the band say the song is about ‘Escaping toxic people, toxic habits, embracing happiness and learning how to ‘free your mind and bathe in love’. It might sound a bit hippie for a band born out of punky garage rock – but ultimately, when you boil it down, punks and hippes alike share the aesthetic of sticking it to the man and people who suck.

This outing is a hybrid of garage and grunge and brings a stadium rock swagger and a dash of industrial and calls to mind Headswim and Filter – it kicks in instantly with a nagging riff and chunky bass. It’s not just the drawling vocal that sounds more American than Mancunian: the production is pretty slick, rendering the gritty, emotionally dense, sincere performance radio-friendly and digestible for a more commercial market – and the big chorus absolutely seals its broad appeal. It’s better than Headswim, but not quite as good as Filter.

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Dirty Laces Artwork

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.

Miss Kill Artwork

9th September 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

London-based Parisienne alt-noise-grunge threesome A Void have been kicking around for a bit now, although most of their kicking around seems to have been in London with few ventures beyond. During lockdown – a spell where they did a few online streams and the like – I found myself contemplating the strange geography of bands – specifically how in many places, ‘local’ is used disparagingly to denote an act who’ve failed – or declined – to venture beyond the vicinity of their region, and for any ‘regional’ act to ‘make it’ nationally, they need to venture to the capital, whereas in London a band can chug around the city’s venues forever and seem like they’re actually on tour without the word ‘local’ ever cropping up.

In politics, we complain about how just London-centric everything is, and back in the 80s and 90s, the same accusations were levelled by nine tenths of the country at the music press, as represented by Melody Maker, NME, and Sounds. It seems pretty trivial now we no longer have a music press, but back then it was frustrating to read endless reviews of London gigs by bands who never played outside London.

A Void don’t just hark back to that in their remaining firmly lodged in London, but in their ramshackle grunge-influenced stylings: for all of their time on stage, they’ve stubbornly shunned the common tendency to tighten up and get slick, with their shows being wild, chaotic, and clearly joyfully cathartic, which is completely in keeping with the music itself, which is pitched as being ‘FFO Hole / Silver Chair / Babes In Toyland’, and which got me wondering if there are any FO Silverchair, or if anyone even remembers them now.

This rough, raw immediacy carried through into their debut album, Awkward and Devastated, which featured some pretty wonky playing in places. It in now way detracted from the listening experience – quite the opposite, in fact, rendering it all the more real, all the more honest – but even now, I still find myself thinking ‘wow, they left that in?’

Penned by frontwoman Camille Alexander during lockdown, this second album was recorded between 2019 and 2021 in London, with producer Jason Wilson (Reuben, Dinosaur Pile-Up), the blurbage describes it as ‘a record delivered with a visceral, personal energy that touches on themes of heartbreak to womanhood to battles with mental health.’

The first taster we got of it was ‘Sad Events Reoccur’; presented here in two conjoined parts, a six-minute slow-burner of a single felt like a pretty daring way to mark a return after couple of years, but A Void really aren’t a band to be bothered by commercial considerations and it showcased an altogether meatier, chunkier sound that suited them well, and as such, makes for a strong start to the album.

‘Stepping on Snails’, also released as a single, has a certain swing to it, and is a winner with its explosive chorus and vocal harmonies, but it’s the thick, gritty bass that really holds everything together as the guitar wanders around hither and thither, ad I’m reminded of the squalling mess of Nirvana’s In Utero, where at times the guitar seems to serve to provide only texture and tone, while the rhythm section is what keeps the shape and prevents it from collapsing into incoherent noise.

There’s a reflective tone to ‘One of a Kind’, at least in the verses, before the distortion kicks in on the guitar and it’s a well-realised slice of tortured angst that runs the full gamut of churning emotions.

Dissociation is a giant leap forward from Awkward and Devastated, which was appropriately titled and we can see just how much everything about the band has evolved. The songwriting is more structured, but without losing any of its sense of dynamics, and the production really has optimized a much, much more solid performance in playing terms. It’s still raw and fiery, Camille still roars like she’s possessed and the force is strong, but this feels altogether more professional. That should by no means be equated to overpolished or selling out in any way: this newfound focus facilitates a more accurate articulation of the songs and the band’s intentions.

There’s not a dud track here, and the ones that aren’t instant grabs are strong growers, from the barren, bereft ‘2B Seen’ and ‘5102’ that revive the spirit of the criminally underrated Solar Race to the more accessible ‘In Vain’ that actually slips into a groove and bursts into an anthemic finale with a hook worthy of Alanis Morissette while at the same time bringing a touching emotional sincerity.

To describe an album as ‘mature’ feels like a vaguely damning praise that connotes a transition towards dullness and mediocrity: this is most certainly not the case with Dissociation. It’s just an altogether better realised set of songs: A Void have lost absolutely none of the fire, but have found the best method to get everything across, and it punches hard.

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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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Christopher Nosnibor

There’s a queue up the two flights of stairs half an hour before doors, and the front two rows are packed out long, long before Weekend Recovery are due on, a mere fifteen minutes after opening. Tonight’s event is something of an oddity. LA rock act Starcrawler, who are something of a hot ticket and have been since their emergence in 2015, being hailed as the saviours of rock ‘n’ roll – like so many before, and likely many to come – are playing a handful of UK headline dates in between festivals, with All Points east in London on August 28th and End of the Road on September 3rd. Having sold out Norwich and Liverpool at £15 a ticket, Leeds is a late addition to the tour, and free entry. It’s Friday night and of course it’s packed, and likely would have been if they’d charged, which is why this seems odd, even if they’re treating it as a warmup for End of the Road.

There’s nothing remotely warm-uppy or stop-gap showy about tonight, and there’s a buzz from the outset.

Weekend Recovery open with ‘There’s a Sense’, one of their poppier, woohoo-ey tunes, followed by a beefy ‘No Guts’ and they do a decent job of grabbing the crowd. Lori busts some Quattro moves as has become her style, and they look confident on the bigger stage with the larger audience. It’s the thick, fuzzy bass that fills the sound throughout the set, and they really seem to have hit their stride as a three-piece of late. Bringing on guest a vocalist for new song ‘In the Crowd’ it goes unexpectedly ragga/ska before piling into a lively rendition of ‘Going Nowhere’ that makes for an energetic finale to a set that no doubt won them some new fans, and deservedly so.

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Weekend Recovery

I know nothing about main support Genie Genie, but they seem to have plenty of fans already, and the Bauhaus ripping off Bowie glam gloom schtick is no real surprise, although one guy with a laptop strutting around being menacing at the start of the set rather is. Then the band’s other dozen members flood onto the stage wielding saxophones galore. It’s high theatre, but highly derivative, as the black-mulleted singer tears his tattered t-shirt from his scrawny white torso as the brass honks and parps over quivering organ pipes. All the ham and oversized crucifixes can’t compensate the mediocre material with cornball schlock horror cabaret about Jack the Ripper, guv, and of course, they go down a storm as half the room chant along with endless nananana hooks and the like. There’s no accounting for taste.

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Genie Genie

The crowd are baying for Starcrawler for a good five minutes before they arrive, and hell, they arrive. Side on, I’m badly placed for photos as lithe-as-anything beanpole Arrow de Wilde is practically a sliver from this angle and keeps vanishing behind the mic stand. What the band deliver is proper old-school rock ‘n’ roll, an assimilation of glam, punk, and hair rock played with a flamboyance and an energy that’s infectious. The crowd are rabid.

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Starcrawler

As the set progresses, I find myself growing less enthused: the band are lively but the moves swiftly become predictable and the material is average, and I find myself quite unmoved by the spectacle. Perhaps people are distracted by the appearance and delivery, and as such are oblivious to the fact that this is pretty middling rock fronted by the lovechild of Courtney Love and Mick Jagger. There’s no question that they’re completely committed to putting on a show, and they play hard, but there’s minimal interaction with the adoring audience. Maybe they’re too cool for that, but in a 350-capacity venue it feels a little bit superior – but, viewed from another angle, it’s a band worthy of the 2,000+ capacity O2 kicking out their festival. Either way, it’s hard to really fault Starcrawler: they deliver a solid set of proper old-school rock, and the fans love it.

27th July 2022

James Wellls

Gasoline Thrill, have been building things nicely, and snagging James Lerock Loughrey, who, in addition to his renowned work with Skindred, Sumo Cyco also recently worked on the number one rock album by The Kut to record their latest single was a nice move, as was scoring Amir Khan to film direct, and edit the accompanying video.

They’ve been around since 2011 and have a path littered with rave reviews, particularly for their live shows, but after time out for pregnancies and with another inevitable stall due to the pandemic, they’re back all guns blazing with ‘Once’.

It’s a gritty, gutsy grunger that pulls no punches, and instead hits headlong and hard. It’s got the rawness and angst of Hole and L7 at their best, and yeah, it’s a thrill alright, and it’s fiery, too.

Sometimes, it feels a bit pointless to write about music, especially when it simply grabs you by the throat and punches you in the gut. As a music reviewer, that makes life hard. But FUCK… you know the sound of asses being kicked. You know the sound of fury. You know the sound of taking no shit. And this is it, and I’ll tell you only once – hear this, suckers!

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Yuss! It’s been a while since Australian duo Mannequin Death Squad gave us new music, but on the brink of an extensive UK tour, they’ve slammed down another slice of grungy, adrenaline-fuelled pink rock in the shape of ‘Super Mental Psycho.

It’s a corker – but don’t just take our word for it: check it here:

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3rd June 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

The best music is timeless. This four tracker from ‘lady fronted, post-hardcore influenced’ quartet, Fantømex, hailing from Asheville, North Carolina could have been released any time during the last thirty years or more, and that’s definitely a positive.

It slams in with the raging, angular grunge of ‘Fantomcatz’ that’s got strong echoes of early Hole or Solar Race, but amidst the screaming fury, there are some neat dynamics and a solid structure. ‘White Hole’ is lighter, popper – I mean, it’s all relative, it’s hardly fucking Beyonce – but it’s got something of a 90s Sonic Youth vibe to it, but then it goes full-tilt histrionic punk, before leaping back to being more Sonic Youth / Pavementy, and the guitars even jangle a bit, albeit briefly.

‘Gaslight’ is appropriately disconcerting, disorientating, and perhaps the most disjointed of the four tracks, but in context it works. It’s no sleight to draw a line to The Pretty Reckless with its more overtly ‘rock’ sound, before they round it off with a jarring slew off guitars that’s like a mathy mess squished into a melodic tune delivered with punk attitude, but at the same time, when she’s not spilling her guts, Abigail Taylor proves she’s capable of delivering a melody that can really tug at the heartstrings.

And so it is that in the space of around eighteen minutes, Fantømex whip together a whirlwind of musical styles and emotions, and do so with both style and force.

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Fast & Bulbous Records – 22nd July 2022.

They’ve been described as sounding like the nagging repetitions of The Fall mixed with the fury of Black Flag, played at 100mph. band names don’t get much more punk than this. And they’re from Leeds, which has in recent years proved to be a hotbed of guitar-driven musical fury. This is what happens when a large city with lots of little venues finds itself in a different place from the rest of the country. Richly multicultural, innovative and entrepreneurial, with a large student population, it’s both a centre for tertiary industry and mass-scale redevelopment and gentrification as well as a place of terrible deprivation. So much for levelling up; so much for the northern powerhouse. But Leeds has always been apart, as its 80s musical heritage is testament to, and since the millennium, it’s been a hotbed of emerging styles, through post-rock and jerky, quirky indie, through math rock and all-out noisy shit, with countless bands emerging – and quickly fading again – in the process.

Scum have survived the pandemic, having formed in 2018, to drop a second EP, and the trio haven’t spent the time away figuring out how to make their millions writing pop songs.

On For Health and Well-Being, the trio are everything they’ve been described as, with a dash of Trail of the Dead tossed into the mix, and it’s a punky, energetic blend of styles that all point to energetic fury. The title tracks is a 25-second spoken word piece where a swell of noise and feedback rises in the background before halting abruptly and the full-throttle guitar attack of ‘Abuserism’ (the longest song at 3:30) piles in.

Blink and you’ll miss the 32-second ‘Vanity Support’: it’s the furious ‘Hard’ that really grabs the attention with its thick riffage and hardcore attitude, and the closer, ‘Intravenous Inconvenience’ powers it to a close.

Take same time out and give it a blast, and do it on work time. Because employers are all about supporting Health and Well-Being, right?

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Scum Artwork