Posts Tagged ‘Rock’

25th November 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

What we all need is a jolt, a shock. Right NOW. You may not even realise it, but consider this: while life and the world seems to be swirling in a vortex of addling bewilderment, a lot of music seems to have become incredibly safe, a retreat. I’m not even talking about that slick, mass-produced mainstream fodder: even so-called ‘alternative’ rock has become increasingly safe in recent years, in the post-emo, post Foos world. And while a few acts on the peripheries are smashing all genre conventions with sledgehammers, they’re pretty niche, and what the world needs is something that can really get into the mix and shake things up. Has anything turned the world even halfway on its head singe grunge?

I’m aware that even reminiscing about grunge places my voice in a time capsule and in the ‘old bugger’ demographic for many, but has anything really been even remotely as evolutionary since? Has there ever been a seismic event since? We talk – or talked – about the zeitgeist, but what is the zeitgeist at the flaccid tail-end of 2022? Disaffection, discontent, strikes? Maybe, but what’s the soundtrack? Ed Sheeran and the new Adele album sure as hell aren’t the voice of disaffected youth.

Brighton’s ‘rising alt-rock rebels’ Fighting Colours might not be the face of the revolution, but they are the band to deliver that much-needed shakeup.

The vibe around the opening of the first of the EP’s four tracks, ‘Your Choice Now’ is a bit post-rock, with a nice, clean, chiming guitar sound – but it yields to some beefy riffage that’s pure grunge, it’s clear from the outset that they’re keen to mix things up and create their own blend, and it’s one that works well. And then Jasmine Ardley’s vocals enter the mix, and with this kind of chunky alt-rock being so male-orientated, to hear a female voice is unusual – and while Ardley has a clean vocal sound, it’s not unduly poppy.

‘The Boat Starts to Shake’ shuffled closer towards the jazzier, noodling end of the post-rock sound that was ubiquitous circa 2004, but the mathy verses contrast with massive slugging grunged-out choruses and a climax that’s nearly nu-metal and beings some hefty noise.

‘The Cure’ is different again, venturing into almost urban territory, while still anchored in jazzy math rock elements, before rupturing into a bold chorus that’s in between Evanescence and Halestorm, both gutsy and melodic and with an ‘epic’ feel, and it’s delivered with style.

The final cut of the EP plays the slower, emotion-filled arena anthem card, but still has more than enough guts and a keen melody, not least of all thanks to Jasmine’s voice, to separate it from the countless Paramore-wannabe alt rock acts out there.

It all stacks up for a strong set with a lot of bold and exhilarating rock action. It’s the kick up the arse alt-rock needs.

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Fighting Colours - Wishing Well - EP artwork (Gypsy Rose Design)

26th September 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Ever spend time scratching your head wondering what a song or band remind you of, and drawing eternal blanks? Yeah, I get it a lot: I put it down to exposure. Too much music to process.

This is by no means my first introduction to Arcade Fortress: we’ve featured three of their previous singles here on these pages, and I personally described ‘Sabotage’ as ‘a fully-realised anthemic beast of a tune’. And I stand by that, too.

Younique the album finds them powering into the title track by way of an opener, there are samples seeping from the corners as they thrust away at a punk / rock / pop hybrid sound with incendiary energy.

Younique may not be unique by any stretch, but then nor is it derivative, and my ponderance for comparisons is a frustrating distraction but simply a habit of mine. I can’t help but try to place references, lifts, nods. It’s perhaps because there’s so much going on and Younique is such a melting pot of all things from 90s grunge to post-millennial punk-pop that placing any of it specifically is nigh on impossible, and as a result, what you’re faced with is the vibe, and it’s deep retro.

They encourage us, the listener, to sit back, relax and enjoy a rollercoaster of a ride over 12 anthemic rock tracks, but it’s not as easy as all that. The slow-burning Sabotage’ sits four tracks in and there’s no questioning its anthemic enormity, and I can’t help but think of a grungier take on the sound of Depeche Mode circa Ultra, perhaps, when they were grittier and more guitar-driven.

But there’s a lot happening here. It’s not all absolutely killer: ‘Alan Bell’ gets a bit emo and lightweight, and elsewhere, and ‘Killing Time’ sits between Weezer and 80s hair rock, while ‘Tangible’ throws an area-friendly curveball. In contrast, the driving ‘Uppercut’ is more reminiscent of Therapy? circa Troublegum and its tense, taut, and totally kicks arse, as does the riff-driven ‘Strontium Dog’. ‘Dark Seeds’ is more of a punky / hard rock crossover.

It’s not always easy to make a casting vote, and it’s not always fair to get off the fence when it comes to weighing up maters of opinion and taste. Ultimately, Younique finds Arcade Fortress packing some solid tunes, and that’s hard to argue, regardless of taste.

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To coincide with the release of their debut album Fiesta, Leatherette have shared their latest single ‘Thin Ice’, a turmoiled love song about taking risks. They explain: “Musically, it’s a nervous mid-tempo post-punk-ska orchestral tune, sort of Talking Heads-esque. Lyrically, it is quite representative of our approach, both as people and as a band. An approach that can be summed up by the famous Winston Churchill’s quote: ‘If you’re going through hell, keep going’. We learnt, as musicians and young adults, that things tend not to work properly way more often than they do. But it’s not a big deal, It’s actually what makes life, love and art so special”.

We loved previous single ‘Sunbathing’ so much we even made the press release for this one. Look at those quotes! They’re all on the money, too.

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Listen to ‘Thin Ice’ here:

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Partisan Records – 16th September 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s simply impossible to keep up with everything all the time. It feels like a recurrent theme, and even something of a mantra: so many bands, so little time.

Over the course of eighteen years, The Black Angels have cemented their position as, as their bio puts it, ‘standard-bearers for modern psych-rock’. And that’s not hyperbole: it’s a fair assessment.

2010’s Phosphene Dream was a major let-down, particularly in the wake of two such stunning predecessors, with Passover and Directions to See a Ghost. Consequently, feeling disillusioned, both Indigo Meadow and Death Song bypassed me, but Wilderness of Mirrors landed in my inbox with the promise of a return to early form after a five-year gap – or, as they put it, ‘marks a triumphant return with their foot on the pedal. Political tumult, the pandemic and the ongoing devastation of the environment have provided ample fodder for their signature sound and fierce lyrical commentary’.

For Wilderness of Mirrors, the band worked with Brett Orrison (co-producer) and Dinosaur Jr engineer John Agnello ‘to achieve something fresh and new while retaining their heavily influential classic sound’.

Wilderness of Mirrors is epic and feels like it needs to be a double album simply because it has such weight and important in a way that’s hard to really define. It’s not sprawling and awkwardly indulgent: yes, it does contain fifteen songs, but less than half extend beyond four minutes. But it’s an album of density.

Opener ‘Without a Trace’ starts out tentative-sounding distant before the bass crashes in like a landslide and in an instant, the listener is sucked into a dense sonic whirl. It’s the gritty bass that also dominates the pulverising ‘History of the Future’ that lands somewhere between Ther Jesus and Mary Chain and Ride, with some blistering guitar that’s a wall of fuzzing, fizzing treble against a busy beat and a bass that buzzes so hard it practically cuts the top off your head. And just like that, you’re back to remembering why this band mattered in the first place. Everything is a murky swamp of reverb, a deep 60s vibe radiating through the 80s and 90s filter.

I’ve long noted how the Jesus and Mary Chain essentially played surf pop with feedback and distortion, and ‘Empires Falling’ follows this approach magnificently, and with its relentless rhythm section and squalling guitars, it bears strong and obvious parallels with A Place to Bury Strangers.

It’s best played at high volume, of course: this is guitar music to melt the brain, and if songs like ‘El Jardn’ and the acoustic ‘Here & Now’ are more accessible, melodic and overtly indie, they offer some much-needed respite, while still boasting some howling guitars. There’s a vaguely gothic hue to the sneaking guitars and dubby grooves of ‘Make it Known’ and the slower ‘The River’, and it works well in contributing to the album’s rich and varied atmosphere and contrast with the jittery tension of the title track.

Ultimately, the best thing about Wilderness of Mirrors is that is sounds like The Black Angels – quintessentially, unmistakeably, with its motorik grooves, simple, repetitive riffs and song strictures that define the chorus not by a significant shift in key or chords, but by the explosion of sound, the simple structures executed with rare panache. They’re definitely on form here.

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James Wells

Fucking hell, we really are running out of names, aren’t we? To the point where even otherwise memorable bands are forgettable because of their ultra-generic name. And some acts sink without a trace because they’re simply impossible to even find through an Internet search. Actor is an obvious example for me, but then we’ve recently had Loungewear grace these virtual pages, and now bloody Tracksuit. How would The The or The Police have faired in the Internet age, I wonder? I mean, stepping aside from the fact their music is tedious and people would probably skip their songs faster than ever now. But it seems like bands aren’t even trying now: Sports Team? Two very different acts operating as Working Men’s Club? Are they trying to bury themselves before their careers have even begun, or do they simply have no imagination and no concept of how The Internet works? Or have we simply reached the apogee of postmodernism, the point at which truly everything has been done, there is no ‘new’, only regurgitations and rehashing, and culture has reached its inevitable dead-end?

It’s a shame Tracksuit have doubly done themselves a disservice with a moniker that’s not only super-generic but also a bit shite, especially as it really doesn’t reflect what they’re about at all. It’s a shame because ‘Ghost of Rome’ is decent. It’s not some lame rappy shite or laid-back bedroomy r ‘n’ b: it’s fundamentally a stripped-back psychedelic rock tune with a keen sense off dynamic and a palpable energy, meaning there’s a lot to like as they dig in with a lively and buoyant bass groove that’s got action and detail. It’s got a heavy 70s vibe about it and it kicks ass – but probably doesn’t need anymore cowbell, because everything is just right.

Click the image to listen:

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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.

22nd July 2022

James Wells

With their second single since whittling down to a duo, The Virginmarys continue to show that limited personnel and permutations of instruments does not equate to limited ideas or musical power.

‘You’re A Killer’ is unashamedly political, and articulates the anger of the many who aren’t millionaires and billionaires, coupled with the anxiety that pervades all aspect of life right now: ‘Working my bones and still earning a fraction / I’m hooked to my phone like a fatal distraction’ is as succinct a summary as you’ll hear all year, and that’s some nice wordplay in action too.

And it’s all blasted home in three minutes of jittery, choppy, raucous punk ‘n’ roll. The fire in their bellies rages hard and the chorus is 100% hook. There are hints of eighties rock in the mix too: imagine The Cult circa Sonic Temple played in the spirit of ’77.

The difference between the late 70s and early 80s and now is that Thatcher was at least up front and the working classes knew they were being shafted. Now, people are – literally – dying -starving as they queue at foodbanks and wait ten hours for ambulances and entire days in A&E while our leaders brazenly lie, and in recent years, the lies have become more threadbare and the bodies continue to pile high, heaped on the pyre of democracy as we sleepwalk into fascism.

The Virginmarys suck it all in and spit it out in a full-throttle guitar-driven blast of anger: global warming, the rich travelling on their jollies while the nation is sedated by the media, the new opium of the people, toward engineered social division.

The outlook is bleak, but this isn’t a bleak song: it’s a proper, raging protest song. Listen up, and wake up.

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The Virginmarys Artwork

O.R.k., comprising of celebrated Italian vocalist, producer, and award-winning film score composer Lorenzo Esposito Fornasari a.k.a LEF (lead vocals), King Crimson’s Pat Mastelotto (drums), ex-Porcupine Tree’s Colin Edwin (bass) and Marta Sui Tubi’s Carmelo Pipitone (guitars) have premiered the video for their new single “As I Leave”, their first new music since the release of the acclaimed 2019 album Ramagehead.

The new single “As I Leave” is the first foray into the band’s new album (the second on Kscope) which will be released later this year. It is accompanied by an otherworldly and dreamlike video from 3D-VR artist Chiara Orsi who has managed to match the song’s expressive intensity in a highly imaginative visual display. Watch the video here:

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“As I Leave”, was an obvious choice for a new first single/calling card for the band, containing all the sonic elements that make up O.R.k’s unique and inviting world. Lef’s powerful vocals, Carmelo Pipitone’s energetic riffing, Pat Mastelotto’s inventive rhythmic accompaniment and Colin Edwin’s distinctive bass tones all infuse the sound with a refreshed intensity and a new luminosity.

O.R.k bassist Colin Edwin states that “Lyrically, ‘As I Leave’ is an ambiguous contemplation on the inexplicable reasons for close personal bonds and human connections. It’s a song for anyone who ever desired deeper connections with another, but in some puzzling way, just couldn’t make it work. The profoundest differences are rarely geographical, as most of us have discovered over the last few years.  There’s often an unknowable reason under the surface, did your blow your chance? …or did your dreams just get old?”

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Shit happens: some good, some bad. Feather Trade, who grabbed our attention when supporting Benefits in York back in February, were scheduled to support The Mission on May 26th. As fate would have it, the night’s scheduling with an early curfew meant they got dropped from the lineup, although their regular drummer is now occupying the stool for Hussey and co. How does stuff like that even happen? But when life gives you lemons, Feather Trade book a run of shows instead.

If you’re in the vicinity of any of these places, we’d very much recommend going.

FRIDAY MAY 27 – MANCHESTER – AATMA

w / Cold Water Swimmers

Inca Babies

Jim’s Rolling Beat

SATURDAY MAY 28 – MACCLESFIELD – MASH GURU

w/ Urban Theory

SUNDAY MAY 29 – HAILFAX – THE TURKS HEAD

w/ Triptych (from Glasgow)

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Venus Principle are premiering the melancholic and powerful new track ‘Drag Nets’ as the final single taken from the dark psychedelic rocker’s debut full-length Stand in Your Light, which has been scheduled for release on May 27.

‘Drag Nets’ makes subtle use of a wide range of instrumentation from sax to mellotron vibes and Mini Moog, and the stunning vocal chemistry between Daisy Chapman and Daniel Änghede comes into play again as well.

The band comment: “After the initial recording sessions for Stand in Your Light were postponed, we had a chance to write a few more songs”, guitarist Jonas Stålhammar tells. “The last one written was ‘Drag Nets’. It turned out to be by far the heaviest track on the album. ‘Drag Nets’ represents the waste and rejects of man. You can trawl the sea for food and treasure, but humankind will always carelessly discard all unwanted matter only for it to be rediscovered as flotsam and jetsam. The idea of adding saxophone was a last minute thought in the studio when I reached the conclusion that we had too many guitar solos on the album already. Our amazing guest on the saxophone, August Eriksson, copied my guitar solo note for note and then added some improvised sprinkles.”

Listen to ‘Drag Nets’ here:

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