Posts Tagged ‘Rock’

23rd July 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Let’s get this covered off before I start: I’m a grumpy, curmudgeonly git, awkward and obtuse. I’m one of those people who hates Christmas – because festive cheer is false and everything’s just about oiling the cogs of capitalism – and I loathe summer because anything over eighteen degrees is too fucking hot, I can’t think straight while an uncomfortable mess of sweat, and people turn into absolute dicks. And by people, I mean practically everyone: it becomes the new norm once the mercury rises above twenty-one, and the level of dickness seems to increase incrementally with each degree. And to some, it may sound like a strange and perhaps petty niggle, but summer hits – songs specifically written to be played on the beach and at barbecues, in the park and in cars with the windows open evoke a unique level of ire and inspire a quite specific kind of fury.

Maybe it’s because as a teenage goth, I’d spend my summer holidays holed up in my room with the curtains drawn and trying not to die of hayfever while listening to The Sisters of Mercy and The Cure in semi-darkness while reading Stephen King novels that

I have no truck with this shit. Or maybe it’s just that people are generally insufferable.

But my job is to be objective, at least to a reasonable extent – ant prejudice shouldn’t colour a review, and certainly shouldn’t demolish a band – unless they’re Kasabian or Glass Caves, in which it’s entirely justified and why do these bands even have any fans in the first place?

There’s something TV / movie aspirational about California, the so-called Golden State which is renowned for its beaches and of course, Hollywood. With so much media propagating this image of sunkissed perfection and carefree living and celebrity lifestyles – often soundtracked by breezy ‘summer’ tunes, it’s no wonder it’s acquired a status that’s almost mythological over and above the reality and that it’s a popular travel destination.

But it’s 29֠C in the shade in my back yard and anyone with aspirations of travel should simply step outside and feel the melt. And if you want to enhance that sunny, summery vibe that’s a cut above the bland-as-fuck Radio 1 wallpaper, then Family Jools’ ‘California Sunshine’ is a solid choice. It’s got some strong classic rock vibes with some strong lead guitar work, whipped together with a really nice strolling bass that hits a nagging groove without being too much funk. In fact, there’s not too much of anything, and Family Jools deliver easy without being corny, and without the technicality of their playing being an obstacle to delivering a good tune. Nice.

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28th May 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

In recent weeks, there have been features in certain quarters of the media on the death of the band, led by Maroon 5’s Adam Levine proclaiming there ‘aren’t any bands any more’, and outlets like The Guardian supporting the claim by noting ‘if you look at the numbers, he’s right’, substantiating this with the statistics: ‘Whichever metric you use, the picture is clear. Right now, there are only nine groups in the UK Top 100 singles, and only one in the Top 40. Two are the Killers and Fleetwood Mac, with songs 17 and 44 years old respectively, while the others are the last UK pop group standing (Little Mix), two four-man bands (Glass Animals, Kings of Leon), two dance groups (Rudimental, Clean Bandit) and two rap units (D-Block Europe, Bad Boy Chiller Crew). There are duos and trios, but made up of solo artists guesting with each other. In Spotify’s Top 50 most-played songs globally right now, there are only three groups (BTS, the Neighbourhood, and the Internet Money rap collective), and only six of the 42 artists on the latest Radio 1 playlist are bands: Wolf Alice, Haim, Royal Blood, Architects, London Grammar and the Snuts.’

But this takes a very narrow perspective. Are the charts representative? No. And it should be born in mind that the same debate was happening five or six years ago on online forums as to why there are no bands in the mainstream anymore. People were bemoaning the fact the only bands left are Coldplay and Mumford & Sons, and how rock’s no longer a mainstream force.

What goes around comes around, and for those of us who have been around a bit longer and who have longer memories, the whole reason grunge was such a thrill was because it broke through at a time when the charts had been utterly swamped with lamecore rap and dreadful dance. But with such a fragmented scene now, does the mainstream represent anything other than itself? Arena-filling acts like The Manic Street Preachers and Placebo won’t trouble the charts not because they don’t have an immense fanbase, but because of how charts are calculated and how music is accessed by different generations.

Third Lung may belong to the new generation of streamers, but stylistically belong to the generation before. Just two months on from ‘I A Fire’, Third Lung give us ‘Hold the Line’ as a further showcase of their immense mass-market appeal. And once again, they’ve got epic chorus bolstered by epic production as their signature, and this one really soars.

The piano that’s as integral a part of the rhythm section as the bass and drums is almost buried under a surge of skyward guitars, and while certain aspects of their sound does hint at (early) Coldplay and turn of the millennium ‘bands’, there’s also a 90s alternative slant that points towards the like of Mansun.

Third Lung remind us that it’s possible to be ‘alternative’ or ‘indie’ and still break the charts without being mainstream – and while that seems unlikely at this moment in time, ‘Hold The Line’ is one of those songs that by rights should be an indie classic while also smashing the charts. In the current climate, they6’re unlikely to touch the charts, but ‘Hold The Line’ is a corker, and Third Lung prove that there really are plenty of bands, and good ones, too.

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21st May 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

With their latest single in the run-up to their debut album due to drop in July, SENSES threaten ‘an absolute stomper soaked in bass and synth… one for any BRMC fans out there’. And in a bit of a shift from the previous two singles, which showcased more psychedelic and indie leanings, that’s what they deliver. ‘Harder Now’ is one of those classic, scuzzy rock ‘n’ roll tunes that’s simple but effective, and centres around a solid rhythm section and nagging, repetitive riff.

So maybe it does nab the bass stylings of the intro to ‘Spread Your Love’ and the drawling vocal hook of ‘Stop’, but so what? BRMC always amalgamated an almost stereotypical rock ‘n’ roll swagger with a dash of The Jesus and Mary Chain – breezy melodies in a collision a with a whole load of overdrive – and no-one owns these things. That’s the beauty of rock ‘n’ roll: it doesn’t have to be radically new, or break new ground to be of merit: it just has to be good. ‘Good’ can be many things, of course, is subjective, but objective good is having that all-important riff that hook, that self-confidence, and a certain knowingness.

In context of their releases to date, it’s clear that SENSES have a sense (sorry) of history, and a keen appreciation of a span of music of a certain vintage – a vintage that has come to possess a timeless quality.

They’ve got some savvy songwriting going on, and the musical skills to deliver it with just the right vibe, and ‘Harder Now (For Love)’ is a cracker.

Harder Now (For Love) single cover

30th April 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

I had something of what you might call an epiphany of sorts last night. I was cooking dinner, and as is standard, had put the TV on. I usually have it on mute and watch the news with subtitles while listening to a CD, but instead, while chopping veg for a healthy stir-fry, I had a music channel playing 80s hits, and it was good – mostly the early 80s, with some ABC and Aha (‘The Sun Always Shines in TV’ for change) before plummeting into the shit of Bros and Brother Beyond just before I served, at which point it went off. But it was during this unashamed nostalgiafest that I realised that for my daughter, who’s 9, the 80s are further in the past than the 60s were when I was her age. And that at her age, I had no interest in the 60s because it was so far back in history it was tinny, trebly, scratchy, dated, sepiatone or black and white. It was historical relics and I never got why my parents rated anything 60s. I still don’t really have much interest in the main.

But chowing my chow mein, I came to realise that things have changed, largely, one assumes, on account of the Internet. Now, we have truly hit peak postmodern in the sense that the historical is now part of the present, and everything and anything goes. The 60s likely feel a lot less distant and alien to a nine-year-old than to someone like me in their mid-40s, because they’re simply so much more accommodating.

And so it is that 23-year-old singer/songwriter Bethany Ferrie takes in a wide range of influences, from the likes of Fleetwood Mac to Lewis Capaldi, Kings of Leon to Taylor Swift. And also, I’m reminded that no longer is anyone purist in their allegiance to rock, pop, or folk. For those under thirty who can extricate themselves from the mundane bilge of R1 mediocrity, whereby music is so much wallpaper, music is music, and there are only two kinds – good and bad. There’s perhaps a certain naivete in the idea that all of these things sit together, but Bethany demonstrates an admirable songwriting prowess with her new single, ‘Bones’. The piano-led song is low-key, but layered, melodic yet heartfelt. It’s also one of those songs that has a slow, contemplative start, before bursting into a cinematic chorus, aided by some reverby production that really does the scope of the song justice.

Is it alternative? Is it niche? No. Is it commercial? In terms of R1 circa 2004 when Keane’s ‘Something Only We Know’ and playlists were wall-to-wall Coldplay, yes and no. ‘Bones’ isn’t dreary, drab, or manufactured, but does have clear commercial potential.

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Final Cover

2nd April 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Hot on the heels of February’s ‘Sabotage’, rock duo Arcade Fortress return with ‘Uppercut (Pembroke Boxing Club Tribute)’. Celebrating the club, which is run by Christopher McEwan, who’s the chairman of Great Britain Disability Boxing, and as such, it’s a celebration of triumph in the face of adversity, of the power of perseverance and the strength of the human spirit. Uplifting and lively in its lyrics, ‘Uppercut’ showcases a much more hard-edged sound than its predecessor, it’s also a full-on TUNE that comes blasting out with real attack from the very first bar. It’s less Survivor and more Therapy? The guitar buzzes hard and is driven by a relentless percussion that pummels away, and hard, with an adrenalizing effect that really grabs you. For all its edge, though, ‘Uppercut’ still boasts a solid hook (sorry, unintentional).

Clocking in at under three-and-a-half minutes, ‘Uppercut’ packs a punch (and I’m happy to own that pun) and raises the expectations for the forthcoming album.

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29th January 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

I have a hunch that the ethereal, bohemian songstress may not have been born Gabrielle Ornate, but it’s certainly fitting for the kind of light, decorative, yet expansive and kaleidoscopic electropop showcased on her debut single, ‘The March of the Caterpillars’.

Yes, it has that quintessentially 80s vibe, but then that in itself has become something that’s grown beyond its origins to become a genre unto itself, meaning that this single is both of a time and timeless. Propelled by a solid beat and buoyant bassline, it balances elements of both rock and pop, it’s a perfect vehicle for Gabrielle’s vocal, which switches from quiet and contemplative to full and bold in the choruses.

Lyrically, it’s about evolution and ‘respecting one’s roots’, but said lyrics are largely oblique and poetical, spinning together a succession of thoughts and images to form a semi-abstract flow, which works nicely.

It’s a strong debut, and Gabrielle seems to have emerged in full-fluttering glory.

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26th March 2021

James Wells

‘Quiet down – you’re just a voice inside my head,’ sings Tom Farrelly, presenting the crossover between the internal / external monologue that we play out to ourselves. Even when sanity threatens to slip and we find ourselves talking to ourselves, we pull ourselves back with a good talking to. Strangely, there is no contradiction here.

Is ‘I A Fire’ as deep and meaningful as it is anthemic, or is it simply a fortunate lyrical stab that hits a certain level of resonance in verses that exist as much as anything to fill the space and provide a bridge from one chorus to the next? Benefit of the doubt says that this is a genuinely soul-searching moment of introspection that’s found its way into one of the biggest, most stadium-friendly tunes I’ve heard from any act, let alone a new one on the scene, in a long time.

Comparisons to the likes of The Killers and U2 are entirely warranted, but ‘I A Fire’ equally calls to mind the early noughties, and the emergence of Coldplay and Keane, before they came to represent the face of drab musical conservatism and instead marled the arrival of a new breed of acts who placed great emphasis on songwriting and the conveyance of emotion. More than anything though, something about this – and not the title – suggests that ‘I A Fire’ could – and should – be Third Lung’s ‘Sex on Fire’, their breakthrough moment. It ought to be.

Third Lung Artwork

New Heavy Sounds – 26th Mar 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

It was supporting the mighty Black Moth at their final gig at Leeds’ Brudenell a couple of years ago where I first encountered latest New Heavy Sounds signings Sky Valley Mistress. If the world hadn’t gone off the rails, if live music hadn’t been halted, there’s a very good chance that Sky Valley Mistress would have been well on the way to stepping into the gap left by Black Moth, with their no-messing riff-centric brand of rock, having honed their sound and style in front of more live audiences. Because this is how bands so often evolve, and build fanbases. Everything was perfectly positioned…

Still, credit to the band for not resting on their laurels or simply waiting for life to resume, and for maintaining their profile with this new EP, picking up the slack after their lockdown tribute cover of Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Every day s Exactly the same’ back in June of 2020, which feels like a lifetime ago. Back then, lockdown still had an element of novelty, it felt like there was an opportunity to use the time gifted creatively, and that maybe the ‘new normal’ could afford something beneficial despite the closure of public spaces.

That optimism has given way to fatigue and a widespread sense of emptiness, , and the acoustic sessions EP very much feels like the stop-gap that it is. Unable to write, rehearse, record, and perform together as a full band as they usually would, laying down an EP containing acoustic versions of songs from their debut album, Faithless Rituals, and coincidentally – or otherwise – marking the anniversary of its release.

To their credit, they’ve done something a bit different: there’s a synth bass that growls in the low-end regions on ‘You Got Nothing’. It returns to bookend the EP on the reworking of ‘She Is So’. In between, acoustic guitars and piano provide the main musical accompaniment to these stripped back reworkings. And they are well-executed, and as such, hard to fault – and makes you long even harder for live shows and for new material proper.

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Cruel Nature Records – 5th March 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Aiden Baker’s releases have become a regular feature here at Aural Aggravation. His prodigious output, not only as a solo artist, but through innumerable collaborations, often released through Gizeh Records, have given us no shortage of material to contemplate and ruminate over. It’s often hard to keep up with his output,

Stimmt was first released digitally back in 2015 on Broken Spine Productions, and has been was remixed and remastered for its first physical format outing via Cruel Nature in a limited edition of 60 cassettes (as well as digitally again).

Baker is to guitar what John Cage and Reinhold Friedl were / are to piano, with the ‘prepared’ guitar being a prominent feature of his musical arsenal, along with an array of other ‘alternative’ methods of playing, across a genre span that incorporates elements of rock, electronic, classical, and jazz, within his broadly ambient / experimental works

Stimmt sits at the more overtly ‘rock’ end of Baker’s stylistic spectrum, launching with the heavy riffology of ‘Dance of the Entartet’ that’s got a prog vibe but comes on with a heavily repetitious throb that owes more to Swans than Pink Floyd or Yes. The percussion crashes away hard but it’s almost buried in the overloading guitar assault that’s cranked up to the max and is straining to feed back constantly throughout, before it wanders off into ‘Atemlos’, where it’s the strolling bass that dominates as the guitars retreat to the background and sampled dialogue echoes through the slightly jazz-flavoured ripples. It’s here that things begin to feel less linear, more meandering, and the chiming post-rock sections feel less like an integral part of a journey and more like detours – pleasant, appropriate detours, but detours nevertheless – and it culminates in a climactic violin-soaked crescendo.

Veering between hazy shoegazey ambience that borders on abstraction, and mellifluous post-rock drifts, Stimmt is varied, and, oftentimes, rich in atmosphere. ‘Mir’ is very much a soporific slow-turner that casts a nod to Slowdive, but with everything slowed and sedated, wafting to an inconclusive finish.

The lumbering ‘Staerken’ stands out as another heavy-duty riffcentric behemoth: it’s low, it’s heavy, and finds Baker exploring the range of distortion effects on his pedal board, stepping from doom sludge to bolstering shred and back, and there’s a deep, crunchy bass that grinds away hard, boring at the bowels and hangs, resonating at the end.

After the full-on overloading ballast of ‘Quer’ that really does go all out on the abrasion, with squalling guitar paired with a nagging bass loop that’s reminiscent of The God Machine (the track as a while, calls to mind ‘Ego’ from their debut Songs From the Second Story), closer ‘Resolut’ is eight minutes of semi-ambient prog.

It’s a lot to digest, and it’s certainly not an easy pigeonhole, but it’s an intriguing album that stands out as being quite different both musically, and in the context of Baker’s output. Unusual but good, and offering much to explore.

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11th September 2020

Music – and people and individuals – can be positive or negative forces. Often, in the arts, destruction isn’t only a necessary but truly essential part of the creative process, and this can also mean on a long-term cyclical basis also. But ultimately, the title of Arcade Fortress’ debut album makes for a solid recommendation: there has to be some equilibrium, and in destroying more than you create, the result is a negative, an artistic minus, a kind of void or black hole.

There are times I’ve been sceptical about this, though. I mean, creating is ultimately about legacy in some shape or form: what if your output is vast but dismal? What if your legacy is like Status Quo without ‘Matchstick Men’? What if your legacy is Oasis? What if your legacy is the Vengaboys?

Clearly, some people just don’t care, and just want to leave a mark, even if it’s just a skidmark. If the tile of their album is to taken as any kind of statement or manifesto, Arcade Fortress is a band with an eye on their legacy, and they set their stall out without shame, namely to draw together aspects of Biffy Clyro, Foo Fighters and Frightened Rabbit, to produce ‘a collection of eleven festival-ready rock songs’.

And so it’s all about objectives, about ambition. I don’t think these guys have any aspirations or illusions about becoming the next voice of a generation or anything so lofty or pretentious, and once you come around to understanding that, Create More Than You Destroy makes the most sense.

Up first, ‘Oxygen Thief’ is urgent, punchy, and has a poky, up-front production. The chorus is a punk-popper primed to curry favour with Kerrang Radio with a chanty ‘oi-oi-oi-oi!’ hook bridging from a catchy chorus. It’s a surefire moshpit fave in the making, if and when moshpits return – which surely they must, at least one day. We have to cling to some hopes. And hope and aspiration is strongly infused within the songs on here.

‘Crowded’ is a bit Foos-play-pub rock, and for some reason, my ears just hear Meatloaf fronting Biffy Clyro on ‘Erosion’. Elsewhere, ‘In It’ is more Reef / Red Hot Chilli Peppers than appeals to my ear. But then, the driving ‘Nothing to Say’ blends the quiet / loud dynamic of grunge and the raw four-chord stomp of punk to produce a song that’s simple but effective and hits the spot, and with a more melodic slant on gunge than either of the two most obvious touchstones, Nirvana and Dinosaur Jr, ‘Albi’ is a slow-burner that is well-executed.

It’s not hard to hear the appeal of Arcade Fortress here. It’s been a long time in the coming, and Create More Than You Destroy is not an album to be judged on whether it’s revolutionary, but on whether it’s an artistic success based on ambition and purpose: and since their ambition is to produce songs that, quite simply, rock, and in taking on an array of styles, Arcade Fortress show they’re adaptable and have an ear for the accessible: success surely awaits.

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Arcade Fortress Artwork