Posts Tagged ‘Pop’

San Diego’s Wild Wild Wets continue to roll out singles off their upcoming new album ‘Love Always.’

The latest, ‘The Seer,’ is accompanied by a fully-animated music video (premiering today) created by Michael Turi, frontman and co-founder of Wild Wild Wets.

The track itself features backup vocals by Shelbi Bennett (The Midnight Pine and The Havnauts), and while the single version was cut to a stoney 4:20 minutes, the album version is 8 minutes long and includes nearly 4 minutes of added takeoff time that echoes Stereolab’s ‘kraut-rock’ sensibility with Turi & his bandmate and co-frontman Taejon Romanik sharing in the masterful quilting of noise and melody.

Turi explains, "I championed this track to be recorded and it eventually grew to become one of our favorite tracks on the new album, "Love Always". The song was written about a mixture between the writing process, a love for that along with the mantra that comes with completing your art, but also acts as a mantra for living, in general. I am and have always been obsessed with cartoons and it’s been a long-time dream to animate something of my own. Cosmically, I was able to use the last year of off-and-on pandemic scares to finally sink my teeth into the process. So many late nights of delirium spike this colorful dose of weirdness. I learned a lot during this creation process and once I’m over enjoying the time away from animating this I look forward to finishing my next project."

Romanik adds, “The Seer is an ethereal and cathartic pop song about writing pop songs. A story of the creative process and seeing things through to the end. Harmony vocals were performed by Shelbi Bennett of the Midnight Pine and The Havnauts. The Seer is the 3rd single from our 3rd LP ‘Love Always.’ It may be the catchiest song we have ever written."

Watch the video here:

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Prophecy Productions / Auerbach Tonträger – 13th May 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Anyone who tells you Germans lack a sense of humour probably doesn’t have one themselves. Many of the Germans I’ve had contact with have been wry wordplayers and incredibly droll. Who could deny the humour of a nation that gave us Die Toten Hosen? And so it is that St Michael Front showcase a certain tongue-in-cheek amusement, and while their debut album revelled in the preposterous, their latest, which also happens to be the first in their native tongue, exploits the disparity between drama and drollery. For a band who play small venues domestically, and with a minimal setup beyond the projection of movie clips, their sound and presentation is very much a cinematic widescreen and 5.1 sound that’s bold and ambitious – and not just a little self-aware of the pomp and extravagance of their songs.

I have to confess that the arrival of ‘Knochen und Blut’, the second single from Schuld & Sühne completely skittled me, and I immediately found myself somewhat obsessed by the song, and its accompanying video. The song is so magnificently poised, balanced, dramatic, theatrical, while the video… the video is weird. Lifting clips from vintage movies is nothing new, but there seemed to be a certain revelling in the brutal here, and it cut a path from the previous video, suggesting that these guys have something of a fascination with clips of people pummelling or shooting the crap out of one another and scenes of destruction by fire and extreme weather. I’m actually reminded a little of Home Alone, and can picture them glued to all the old black and white gangster movies.

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Schuld & Sühne seems to revel in being overtly German, in the way that Rammstein are – yes, I know – more German than German (although it was Hanzel Und Gretyl who took this comment on the Jewish community prior to WWII and the label ascribes to architectural historian Niklaus Pevsner for his dubious support of the Nazis as a song title for a technoindustrial banger). St Michael Front are a hell of a lot more subtle than Rammstein, and a lot more fun, too: it’s far smarter than ‘Amerika’, but no less German, and no less bold or steeped in pomp.

There’s more than a hint of Sparks or even Pet Shop Boys here, and St Michael Front clearly ‘get’ the essential dynamic of the quintessential pop duo: impassive, static, stone-faced guitarist Bruder Matthias is the perfect deadpan foil to the subtly flamboyant and vaguely campy trenchcoat-wearing Bruder Sascha, and the interplay between the two across the songs is entertaining. They build drama, and there’s a keen theatrical element to the songs.

It helps that St Michael Front don’t resort to force, lyrically or sonically. Instead of bludgeoning the listener, Bruder Sascha has a knack for an expansive gesture, a raised eyebrow that’s arch and disarming, vaguely absurd, and knowingly so – and it translates beyond the videos – you can actually hear this coming through in the songs themselves. At times incongruously jaunty, at others giving a knowing nod, there’s a dry comedic element to the performance.

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Schuld & Sühne is at times brooding, at times breezy, even borderline cheesy (none more so than third single ‘1000 Namen’) – but for all this, there is something aching and beautiful about so much of it that makes it a magnificent and really quite special album.

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14th March 2022

James Wells

The first song off Continental Lovers’ forthcoming 10” vinyl E.P, ‘Pink Teeth’, which will be out in the Summer, is an old-school punk-rock blast of excitement. It’s not a blast of innovation, but then, I’m finding innovation increasingly weary. We need good tunes and energy, and that’s what Continental Lovers deliver here.

The London trio are bursting with energy and strong three-chord riffs played straight. There’s no pretence here, no production wizardry. Blink or nod and you’ll miss it, because it’s all over and done with inside two minutes and eight seconds, and that’s part of the appeal. They pack everything in – verses, chorus, guitar break, nifty hook – into that, and it’s a great tune played with real energy. It draws clear influence from vintage guitar pop in the vein of The Buzzcocks.

There’s a temptation to gush about how fresh it feels, the rush of something to immediate and direct, how it evokes memories and stirs a sense of nostalgia, but it wouldn’t exactly be in keeping with the spirit of the song. It’s in – out – clean, no messing. Perfection.

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Band image - Continental Lovers

Over twenty years and a dozen albums, The Birthday Massacre have become prime exponents of goth synth pop. They describe Fascination as ‘at once the most fully realized album with the bands signature blend of haunting vocals, captivating electronica and aggressive guitars and their most accessible’.

It’s this accessibility that immediately announces itself from the outset. The title, ‘Fascination’, immediately makes my mind leap to the song by The Human League, and this is unquestionably poppy, but this is in a different league instead. It’s the title track that opens the album and it’s a colossal anthem. It’s in the slower mid-pace tempo range, and the production is so immense as to be arena-worthy, the slick synths drifting over big, bombastic guitars. Some may baulk at the notion, but it’s pretty much a power ballad. It paves the way for an album that’s back-to-back bangers.

I mean, make no mistake, this is a pop album in a pure 80s vein, and pushes tendencies that were always in evidence in BM’s work. People often seem to forget just how dark a lot of mainstream pop was in the 80s, but listen to A-Ha, even Howard Jones or Nik Kershaw objectively and the currents of darkness are clearly apparent amidst the clean lines of the clinical synth pop production of the day. It’s perhaps time to re-evaluate what actually constitutes ‘cheesy’ – an adjective so often pinned to the 80s with no real consideration – and cast aside the idea of ‘guilty pleasures’ when it comes to a lot of music of the era.

‘Stars and Satellites’ is bold and brooding, and probably the most overtly ‘goth’ track of the album’s nine, although ‘Like Fear, Like Love’ grabs bits of The Cure and tosses them into a stomping disco tune. But those drums… they’re great, they’re huge, but they really are the epitome of the 80s sound. Elsewhere, the guitar line on ‘One More Time’ actually goes 80s U2 with heavy hints of Strawberry Switchblade (and they weren’t goth either). Step too far? Maybe for some craving the chunky chug of industrial guitars, because this is fundamentally a riff-free zone, but Fascination works if you embrace the spirit of its being easy on the ear and accessible.

It feels fresh for the band, but also feels like a relatively safe step in the direction of commercialism. It’s ok, and the songwriting and performances are solid throughout, that much is undeniable. It’s one of those albums that may take some time to sink in, in the way that Editors’ On This Light and on This Evening and The Twilight Sad’s Nobody Wants to be Here, Nobody Wants to Leave, felt just that bit mainstream initially. Digesting an overtly ‘pop’ album or a change of direction – and while the direction of Fascination is something that’s always been a part of The Birthday Massacre’s sound – hearing it placed front and central inevitably feels like a shift. And it is a shift, of course, just not one of seismic proportions.

‘Is anyone real anymore?’ they ask on ‘Precious Hearts’ before the final cut, ‘The End of All Stories’ goes Cure again, only this time with monster power chords that border on metal to fill out the mix.

Dig it, soak it in, play it a few times. You’ll probably like it, even if not on first listen.

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Die Das Der records – 18th February 2022

Cold Comfort is, it would seem a ‘one man punk machine’. This double-A-side effort is certainly pretty punk, both in terms of musical style and approach, in that we’re talking about sub-three-minute three-chord thrashabouts with DIY production values, accompanied by a video for one of the songs that has recreated the experience of early Internet animations. And that’s a large part of the appeal.

It’s immediately apparent that Cold Comfort places some investment in quirky humour / irony: the song titles on this release are not-so-subtle inversions, although they’re a step up from sticking ‘not!’ after each of them. And it’s very soon apparent that subtle isn’t Cold Comfort’s forte, but there’s nothing wrong with that. After all, punk and subtle don’t really go together.

‘Suck My Blood (Please Don’t)’ is a two-minute blast of primitive overloading guitars and its grungy punk is rough and ready and exploding with energy. And yet there’s still time and space for a nagging lead guitar line and a hook reminiscent of DZ Deathray. On top of that, it inverts vampiric kink tropes with its parenthetical ‘Please Don’t’, as well as booting the machismo of horror conventions into touch in the video as a digitized CC runs away from bats.

‘I Shot The Messenger’ is more spirit of ’78, with heavy hints of The Fall pitched against a booming bass that’s pinned to a vintage drum machine track that’s got the ferocity of Metal Urbain and the bedroom basicness of Young Marble Giants.

It’s not pop-punk in the contemporary sense: it’s pop-punk in the way The Buzzcocks and The Adverts were punk while writing pop songs. It’s fun, but still kicks arse, and it’s a rush.

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28th January 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

On seeing / hearing this, I’m reminded of the character of Mike TV in Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, a book I loved as a child, and have enjoyed all over again as a parent – although I always detested the film adaptations, especially the original, not least of all because I doubly detest Gene Wilder: the guy just grates. However, Dahl had a way of making points through his characters, often about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ traits and characteristics and behaviours, and Mike TV was no exception, and it may not have been especially subtle, but then it was a children’s book written in the 60s, at a time when sociologists and psychologists too were becoming interested on the effect of the media, in particular television – the twentieth century opium of the people.

The Assist’s new offering unpacks this line of thinking through a contemporary filter and a more immediate perspective, portraying a character – who’s something of an emblem, a stereotype – whose expectations of life are unrealistic, distorted by media representations. Since the turn of the millennium and the advent of ‘reality’; TV, we’ve been fed an endless conveyor belt of shows that have espoused the idea that anyone can achieve anything, and that anyone can become a celebrity – and, worse still, that being a celebrity for its own sake is something not only achievable, but desirable. It wasn’t so long ago kids would grow up wanting to be film stars, pop stars, models, designers, sportspeople; now primary-age kids are coming through wanting to be reality TV celebs, Instagram influencers and YouTubers.

‘TV Kid’ paints the stark disparity between the dream and the reality, where head-in-the-clouds aspirations – ‘a top flight striker, Well known as a good time provider…A boxing expert, an amateur fighter, walks around to the eye of the tiger’ – are a world away from the stress of bills and so on, the kitchen sink drudgery or life on minimum wage – or, as they put it, ‘Big soup for breakfast, big soup for tea, petrol for Christmas’.

It’s a nifty tune, compressed into a sharp, snappy two-and-a-half minutes. It’s buoyant and upbeat in delivery, with some jangly but crunchy guitars driving it along nicely while brimming with melody and energy. The Midlands act are unashamed in their working class stylings, without being as in yer face as Sleaford Mods (which is no doubt one reason The Assist haven’t weighed in with Fat White Family on the ‘faux working classness of Idles), or as brash and tediously crap as Oasis, and consequently, in rank order it’s the music first and the attitude second. It’s a decent balance, and singer Mikey has just the right amount of swagger in his delivery – cocky, but not cockish, and nicely whetting the whistle for the debut album, Council Pop, out in April.

Artwork - The Assist

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Band shot - The Assist

26th November 2021

James Wells

Following on from the single releases of ‘Climb’, ‘I A Fire’, ‘Hold the Line’, and ‘What is a Life?’, Reading four-piece Third Lung have delivered their much-anticipated new EP, Dialogues Of The Fatal Few.

Three of those aforementioned tracks are featured here, and while it would have been obvious and easy to have released a five-track EP featuring all four with the new song on offer here, that they’ve gone for a more succinct release means that Dialogues Of The Fatal Few is a much more focused and cohesive release, and not a complete rehash and compilation.

Opening with ‘I A Fire’ sets the stall out nicely, and while it’s mid-tempo, it’s bold and anthemic, and recalls the spirit of circa 2004 when Keane broke through with ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ and the single releases from Coldplay’s A Rush of Blood to the Head were all over the radio. Bear with me. In context, these weren’t bad tunes which hinted at considerably more than the tedium that would follow from both bands. ‘Hold the Line’ is perhaps the strongest song in the set, balancing brooding and dark with a blossoming sunburst chorus

Piano ballad ‘The Art of Stealing’ reveals a different facet of the band, and while it’s clearly not a single track, illustrates the benefits of EPs and longer form releases. It also provides a well-placed change in form in context of the EP, bringing things down a notch or two between the monster tunes.

There’s more to Third Lung than straight-up anthems: lyrically, they’ve got some depth and are worth listening to, although I suspect that’ll likely be secondary to their career trajectory, and with such a knack for big tunes, it’s surely only time before they’re big, too.

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Christopher Nosnibor

Over recent months – and more – we’ve unravelled the series of releases by experimental oddballs Kröter, via their affiliation with the king of quirk, Mr Vast, formerly of cack pop maestros Wevie Stonder, aka Wevie De Crepon. You can never have too many side-projects, offshoots, and affiliated acts, and so it is that Kröter-associated Hunger give us Wollufos. (Hunger is Christoph Rothmeier & Jörg Hochapfel; Rothmeier is the other half of Kröter along with Henry Sargeant, aka Mr Vast). This is their eighth self-distributed album, and their first on vinyl.

Have you managed to keep up so far? Good, because it’s only going to get more complex and convoluted, because these guys are a prolific, self-contained community cranking out endless oddities, and Wollufos is no exception. They pitch it as ‘mixing fake folk acoustic instrumentation like banjos and open tuning guitars with Harry Partch-style homemade devices’. Fake folk?

From the springy sproingy lo-fi shuffling synth whackout of the brief intro piece that is ‘Zwergenfieber’, it’s immediately apparent that this is going to be a substantial serving of quirky, off-the-wall music that doesn’t conform to any conventions, even their own. The Berlin-based duo work across time signatures and genres at the same time, with some woozy, warpy synths and picked guitars existing in the same space but seemingly playing different songs. Then there’s the leaning towards titling their quirky, heavily rhythm-orientated instrumental ditties in French.

‘Mambo Momie’ is an exercise in bleepy motoric minimalism, and the album is brimming with minimal beats and squelchy synths, as is nowhere more apparent than on the strolling ‘Sunset Sling’. When it comes to making music with all the bells and whistles, Hunger take this quite literally: download bonus cut ‘Schuhe aus Brot’ sees them pull out all the stops to create something that borders on the overwhelming, with additional droning horn sounds and blasts of noise on top of the stuttering, clamorous percussion, before winding down to trickling chimes.

There’s some kind of half-baked wonky country / space crossover on ‘Chariot de Pipi’, and the atonal, off-key pickings of ‘Macramée Cramée’ are truly brain-bending. And then there’s the twelve-minute ‘Hundenebel’, a quivering proggy space-rock workout that makes optimal use of space and distance and of Daniel Glatzel’s clarinet to forge a vast sonic vista. Great, yawning siren wails rub against bubbling synth swells, and there are so many contrasts, to may layers, so many juxtapositions.

Why do we find discord so difficult to process? Even while I enjoy it, I find that numerous things that are seemingly disconnected or otherwise independent create something of a sensory overload that isn’t always entirely pleasurable, and can at times prove quite disorientating and uncomfortable. It messes with our orientation and equilibrium, trips our sense of balance and spins us off centre. Wollufos will leave you dizzy. At times it’s quite bewildering, but it’s never dull or lacking in inspiration.

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Christopher Nosnibor

That there is a shortage of grass-roots venues is a widely-reported fact, and the last year and a half has only exacerbated what is, put bluntly, a crisis in the music industry. At the heart of it all, the problem is is that we exist under capitalism. Art and capitalism simply aren’t compatible. We therefore have a model whereby venues need to book acts who will bring punters who will pay for tickets and spend money over the bar. But how do acts who simply don’t have an established audience, or are unlikely to ever attain that kind of audience reach whatever audience they may have? How do acts who need the exposure get the exposure in the first place? The system is flawed. However, recent years have seen the emergence of a different kind of venue, with rehearsal rooms doubling as gig spaces. They maybe small, but that’s for the better – gigs with an audience of maybe 20 people don’t need a lot of space. Unlicensed, BYOB means no overheads or costs there, and because these spaces make their money by other means, any takings from gigs are simply a bonus. They also tend to benefit from being on industrial estates, meaning there’s less risk of neighbours complaining about noise, meaning the only downside is that they’re not so often in prime city centre locations. But how many small venues are these days?

Places like CHUNK and Mabgate Bleach in Leeds and Hatch in Sheffield have led the way, and now Tower Studios in Stone, a little way out of Stoke-on-Trent, presents a ‘proper’ gig following one shot for online streaming as part of the last FEAST event (with FEAST being very much something born out of lockdown with a series of streaming events).

For a place a bit off the beaten track, it’s stunning. Scratch that: by any standards, it’s stunning. A rehearsal space with a stage and meticulously maintained, it’s something else. The PA speakers are halfway down the room in the main room and face the stage, doubling as monitors, meaning the band get to hear the ‘out front’ mix instead of the monitor mix. There is a second, smaller room, but we’re in the main room tonight for a lineup of noise and experimentalism, and if the audience isn’t huge, at least they’re receptive.

Omnibael open with an ear-bleeding blast of space rock feedback with industrial percussion worthy of Godflesh. Jase plays pedalboard predominantly. Brief moments swerve into black metal, but it’s mostly just a relentless barrage of noise. The third track goes a bit Sunn O))), with big hefty power chords paving the way for more raging metal noise. The duo’s experimental explorations may yet to have found a firm stylistic footing but this outing is perhaps their most focussed and most intense live workout yet as they continue to evolve.

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OMNIBAEL

The second act, Vile Plumage, make like performance art, but struggle to keep straight faces, like they know this is audacious and preposterous. The gloved hands over faces cover grins disguised as menacing smirks. Stop start blasts of noise judder and thud. A rattling bean tin. We got given pebbles to toss into a bowl, and it was all quite bizarre and confusing, but entertaining in a strange and ritualistic way.

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Vile Plumage

I must have zoned out or blanked out for the next twenty minutes. Something about some guy cranking out electronic noise reminiscent of early Whitehouse while shouting torrents of vitriol and profanity through squalls of feedback, I don’t know much and I can’t comment on whether or not it was any good. But I think it happened.

Garbage Pail Kids is an experimental duo which features Theo Gowans, aka Territorial Gobbing – meaning that anyone familiar with the scene will have an idea what to expect –namely anything as long as its experimental, noisy, and improvised – and Basic Switches, the experimental side project of Leeds indie act Cowtown. Weirdy drones and feedback strongly reminiscent of Throbbing Gristle dominate the set. There’s echoed vocal oddness and endless pulsations with phasers set to warp and stun. Crazy headgear is of course a signature, and the headgear is particularly crazy here. The ‘anything goes’ oddity is nonstop, and at one point we find Theo playing keyboard barefoot while ululating wildly. It’s a complete headfuck, but a brilliant one.

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Garbage Pail Kids

Final act Ashtray Navigations are far easier on the ear. Predominantly dominated by dark, ambient sounds and gentle ripplings, although these are ruptured by dense synth bass and crushing beats. They venture deep into prog and space rock with vintage drum machine sounds: the snare is pure Roland 606. The set builds with some bumping bass that’s more akin to Chris & Cosey’s Trance era works. After a guitar string change that does slow the momentum just a little, the last piece combines the throb of Suicide with extravagant prog guitaring. It works primarily because of the blistering volume that’s utterly gut-trembling.

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Ashtray Navigations

It makes for a great end to a great night, offering a selection of sounds that have enough in common to be complimentary, but different enough so as to snag the attention. With any luck, this will become the blueprint for nights to come.

12th October 2021

James Wells

The follow-up to her debut, ‘Another Girl’s Man’, ‘Hidden Paradise’ finds Alice SK plundering a host of genres to forge something that’s breezy, undoubtedly poppy, with elements of indie, jazz, and even a hint of ska – in short, the kind of thing I’d normally not go for. But for every rule, there are necessarily exceptions: The Ruts drew heavily on dub reggae without losing sight of their punk roots; Blondie were a new wave and guitar pop in equal measure, and the fact is, pop is not a source of shame, or a cause for criticism or dismissal in itself.

‘Hidden Paradise; is nicely done: it’s got a downbeat undercurrent, but has a nice, catchy swing and some backed-off brass bolstering the breezy chorus. It has an immediacy, but, where it stands up against so much mainstream pop, it also has depth, both in terms of arrangement and lyrically, balancing the deeply personal with an uplifting delivery.

Alice is using her network to positive effect here, too: the track, which appears on her forthcoming EP Electric – scheduled for release early in 2022 – which was produced and co-written by Muca (Los Bitchos, L.A. Salami), and she’s definitely one to include in your ‘ones to watch’ list. She’s on ours.

Alice SK artwork