Posts Tagged ‘Single Review’

James Wells

It’s either fight or flight, right? It’s clear what this foursome choose, although they may need to square up for the other if some disagree with their claims: their website home page is certain bold and confident, welcoming the surfer with the invitation to ‘Discover a new name to send you back to 1973, outrageously overlooked and under-appreciated – until now.’

Looking at the hits of 1973 makes me glad I wasn’t there. It’s bad enough that Glen Campbell’s ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’ was at number one when I was born, but the thing with any new movement that’s remembered as defining a period is that it was rarely a cultural dominant. People harp on about punk in 77 and 78, but it was Boney M, 10cc, Leo Sayer, ABBA and Rod Stewart who dominated the charts and the radio in 77, and 73 is more accurately represented by Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Paull Simon, and Wings than anything glam.

So when Flight suggest that now is the time for a glam revival, rekindling the sound of 1973, remember how much history distorts things.

Fair play to these guys, ‘Don’t Ask’ has the swagger off T-Rex propelled by the thumping insistent drumming of The Glitter Band and a well-realised retro vibe, with a hazy, shimmery production and a neat tube-crunching guitar sound. It’s catchy as, and clocking in at a super-succinct two minutes and forty-seven seconds, it’s punchy, too, and very much in keeping with that vintage vibe.

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Warren Records – 25th November 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

While Leeds has a strong reputation and record for emerging noise-orientated rock bands, Hull is proving that it’s not far behind as a spawning ground for purveyors of noise-driven angst and anger.

As was the case in the 70s and 80s, social deprivation proves to be a powerful driver for the creation of art that channels frustration and the whole gamut of expression that comes from dark places, and from adversity. Of course, it’s always the North. Leeds spawned goth, Manchester Joy Division, Magazine, Slaughter and the Dogs, The Durutti Column. Sheffield, too, has a strong heritage of bands known for innovation born out of frustration, with Cabaret Voltaire being a strong starter for 10. Hull, of course, brought us Throbbing Gristle, arguably one of the most groundbreaking acts of the 70s and beyond.

Most punk bands, especially the Pistols, simply cranked out pub rock with a sneer and the guitars turned up. Throbbing Gristle went beyond any conventions of music to create a real soundtrack to alienation.

More recently, we’ve had The Holy Orders, Cannibal Animal, Low Hummer, Parasitic Twins, and many more. And now we have Bug Facer kicking out a disaffected din, and ‘Horsefly’ is one hell of a debut single, and clocking in at over six and a half minutes it’s a behemoth of a track.

The band say of ‘Horsefly’, ‘At its core the track is about struggle. It conjures images of being trapped or stuck in a box or something but we don’t want to give away too much! We try to write music that is evocative and suggestive, not being too direct with our lyrics and ideas as we’d much prefer our listeners to tell us what it is they hear and see as they listen to our tracks. Some people have said it’s like battling through and emerging from a storm, others say it’s like someone has angered the gods.’

The sense of struggle is conveyed keenly here: you feel the pain in your bones, in your muscles, nerves, and sinews. It pulls hard at the soul, at the same time as punching away at the guts with a methodical thud.

It’s a hefty, dirgy trudge that oozes anguish, and if the organic feel is rathe in the vein of Neurosis, the bands it’s closest to are Unsane and Kowloon Walled City. It’s bleak, grinding, stark and brutal. Its power derives not from distortion, or from pace, but from sheer density and crushing volume, and from raw power. It’s the kind of claustrophobic, pulverising heaviness that leaves you aching. This is serious. And Bug Facer are instantly my new favourite band.

Blaggers Records – 28th October 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

I thought I was pretty much abreast of happenings on the Leeds scene, but seemingly since lockdown put paid to live action for two years and since then reduced rail services and skyrocketing rail fairs have capped my forays over the county border significantly, it transpires I’ve missed out on a lot, including the emergence of post-punk influenced indie quartet Cliché Cult. They’ve banged out five singles already since forming in 2020, and this, their first with Blaggers Records, home to JW Paris, who have found favour on 6Music and on these virtual pages also.

‘Slippy’ is kinda loose-sounding, rough ‘n’ ready Northern indie with some chiming guitars that see it land somewhere in the region of Turn on the Bright Lights Interpol and Gene and Marion in that way that nods confidently in the direction of The Smiths but avoids the maudlin self-pity and whiny nasal vocals.

You wouldn’t describe them as typical Leeds, but it’s not hard to discern why they’ve built themselves a following, and fast, and if you’re looking for a song that fits the description of ‘indie anthem’, look no further.

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Clever Recordings – 21st October 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Hot on the heels of ‘No Chains’ in the summer, Sleep Kicks follow up with ‘Neptune’ as we fade into autumn. And there’s something of an autumnal feel to the reflective feel of ‘Neptune’.

‘Was it an act of spite / Or was it the unrelenting time / That pulled you away that night?’ Terje Kleven questions contemplatively at the beginning of the song against a warm, rolling bass and rhythmic blend of piano and chilly synths. The vibe here is distinctly early Interpol, and it suits the band, and the song, well.

Kleven’s moderate baritone rides some deftly chiming guitar that breaks into a strong chorus where the synths come to the fore and sweep upwards to forge something uplifting while still tinged with a taint of melancholy.

Yet again, Sleep Kicks have dropped a killer tune that balances darkness and light, depth and immediacy, in an example of outstanding songwriting craftsmanship. Or, put simply, ‘Neptune’ is another great tune from a consistently great band.

6th October 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Most Dinosaur Jr fans are aware of the prehistory – the band’s primordial swamps, or whatever, which saw the band emerge from she ashes of hardcore punk act Deep Wound, although significantly less seems to have been made of the band’s reunions in 2004 and 2013. But no matter – perhaps more should be being made of the work of Deep Wound’s less celebrated co-founder Scott Helland, who is one half of Frenchy and the Punk, along with Samantha Stephenson.

There’s no getting around it: it’s an awful name. Kinda corny, with connotations off Grease, it’s one of those monikers that’s so cliché It’s probably fictitious. But no, they’re real, very real, and according to their bio, ‘the duo thrive in their trademark blend of post-punk and dark folk music’. And they’ve been going for a while: their upcoming album, Zen Ghost will be their seventh long-player.

And that they do. ‘Come In and Play’ is pitched as an upbeat Siouxsie-esque delight, is the second enchanting single from their forthcoming Zen Ghost album, following the lead track ‘Mon Souvenir’. Their seventh long-player record, this will be released via the EA Recordings label on October 28th.

‘Come in and Play’ is layered, elegant, haunting fashion that combines elements of trad goth with folk, landing somewhere between Siouxsie, Skeletal family, and All About Eve. With picked acoustic guitar providing texture and detail, it’s driven by a solid bass groove. The overall feel is quite the contradiction – it’s an alternative rock song with a paired-back arrangement and quite spartan, brittle production that solidly recreates the essence of 1984.

On the surface, it’s a simple, song, but scratch to the next layer, and there’s plenty going on and then some, sonically, musically, and emotively. Stephenson’s vocal is outstanding, and the real attention-stealer here as she swoops and soars and switches from angelic drifting to a full-lunged expellation, while swiping various shades and stylistic elements in between.

‘Come in and Play’ is both haunting and confident. It’s one of those songs where you absorb the atmosphere more than you absorb any instant hook, and that’s ok – more than ok.

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7th October 2022

Ahead of the release of their debut LP, Gameplay, out next month, Third Lung have crashed in with the third single released in advance of it, and its message of self-affirmation, it’s not only an anthem, but something of a message to both themselves and their peers, with its refrain of ‘Go big or go home’. Third Lung have gone big since day one, and it’s clear that their musical ambition and ambition in terms of audience are both immense. It’s clear they won’t be content with touting their wares sound the pub circuit for long, and that they have their eyes firmly fixed on those academy venues as a minimum. So many bands do, of course, and they’re completely deluded. Where Third Lung differ is that they have the material to get them there, and ‘No Names’ is yet another huge, huge song.

With a hazy guitar washing over a thumping beat, they’re very much taking their own advice: ‘No Names’ sounds immense and builds from a nagging intro to a smouldering verse, and it’s one of those songs that builds and builds. It’s not that Third Lung really sound like 80s U2, but they have that passion and edge (no pun intended) that evokes the spirit of U2 in the run-up to The Joshua Tree – so it’s more their Unforgettable Fire, in a sense, or the space between that and War. But hopefully you get the idea: this is bold and ambitious, without the aura of pomp or overbearing ego or the mullet.

Third Lung have a clear knack for killer tunes and know how to bring them with a rush of energy that’s totally infectious. If they don’t go massive in the next twelve months, then there is absolutely no justice in this world.

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Christopher Nosnibor

Well, if you’re going to do goth, it’s best if you go all-out on it. Cleveland-based electro-goth rock collective Dispel certainly don’t toy with half-measures.

‘Flames of Greed’ is the lead single from their second album, Inferno (out on October 12th).

As the title may suggest, the album is based on Dante’s seminal text, and the premise is that ‘Dispel follows Dante and his guide Virgil down each layer of the Nine Hells, dedicating a song to each level of mortal sin. Sprinkled with diabolical personalities from ancient mythology and fantasy literature, this undertaking took two years to complete.’

‘The Flames of Greed’ is an interesting hybrid of pulsating electro pop and dark disco, spiky post-punk and high theatre, with Ravensea’s semi-operatic vocal dominating the insistent drum-machine driven electro grind that pulsates away relentlessly and it’s compelling, multisensory, especially when accompanied by the video…

Ah, the video, directed and edited by filmmaker Rafeeq Roberts, which ‘sees vocalist Ravensea play the part of the diabolic and tormenting empress of greed Fierna, her powerful voice serenading the fallen souls who succumbed to greed in the material world, delivering their eternal fate in Hell’.

It’s epic, and no mistake. And given the inspiration and subject matter, it’s entirely fitting.

This isn’t simply goth or a cliché rendering of any goth template: Dispel fully embrace presenting high art and literature, and when so much is dumbed down to nothing, it’s welcome, and the presentation is impressive.

And while content is king and image only counts for so much, presentation definitely matters. Dispel have got it all going for them here.

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30th September 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

This is a proper slap round the chops. It follows many conventional industrial tropes, and you could readily lump it min with the endless catalogue of Nine Inch Nails rip-offs, primarily because NIN set the benchmark and the tone from way back in 1988. Prior to that, it was either mainstream sleaze with soul drawing influence from Depeche Mode, or pulsating electro industrial that was either on or wanted to be on, Wax Trax!

Pretty Hate Machine was actually more Depeche Mode than Ministry, but its use of extraneous noise and the general production was, to use a cliché, a gamechanger. It created a new conduit for simultaneous anger and emotional fragility in ways that had previously been untapped.

Anything post PHM is therefore destined to stand against comparisons to NIN if it’s angry electro and industrial, and ‘SAV@Ge’ is all of that – plus tax.

Luna Blake spits lyrics about blood and bones and shame, pain, and death, against a thumping beat-heavy surge of sleaze-grind that’s strong on the stomach-churning low-end and that classic NIN-style production that’s dense and distortion-thick yet crisply digital. The dynamic range and optimal use of dropouts just before everything powers in at twice the volume achieves maximum impact. ‘SAV@Ge’ is aflame with fury and condenses all the rage into just a fraction over two and a half minutes that absolutely blow your face off.

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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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15th September 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

The evolution of I Like Trains continues with their first new output since 2020’s Kompromat, which marked a seismic shift both sonically and lyrically. Not their first, either, since they made a giant leap after Elegies for Lessons Learnt, after which they made the change from being iLiKETRAiNS to I Like Trains and towards a more conventional dark alternative rock style. But Kompromat saw them ditch the last vestiges of jangling echoed guitar and baritone crooning in favour of politically-charged angularity, that saw them become more aligned with Leeds forebears Gang of Four than anything remotely tied to their post-rock roots. It was unexpected, but it really suited them.

One thing I have immense respect for I Like Trains for is their self-awareness, and knowing when something has run its course. Elegies took the historical events recounted against brain-melting crescendos format established on Progress Reform to its absolute limit with the nine-minute ‘Spencer Percival’. They recognised that, and moved on. Kompromat was a one-off, and ‘The Spectacle’ bookends that particular spell.

As they write, “‘The Spectacle’ is a standalone single. Part of the KOMPROMAT world, but not quite closure. There’s more where Boris came from.”

We know this to be true: Johnson’s replacement continues his trajectory down towards the lowest common denominator soundbites without substance. Only whereas Johnson’s ideology was largely built around what favoured Johnson, Truss seems blindly fixated on hardline Conservatism, even if it bankrupts the country. And ironically, having dismissed Scotland’s first minister as an ‘attention seeker’, the new Prime Minister’s penchant for a cheesy photo op seems to only accentuate her obliviousness to pretty much everything. As such, The Spectacle continues, and the refrain of ‘Keep it light and repeat it often’ continues to resonate beyond Boris.

But ‘The Spectacle’ is a transition that unfurls before your eyes / ears and is one of those songs that ends in a completely different place from where it started without it being clear where the transition took place. It’s a disorientating, time-bending experience, smoke and mirrors and spin in action, and a brilliant piece of songwriting.

It starts out with the choppy guitars and largely spoken vocal style of Kompromat, which finds David Martin stomping in the steps of not only Mark E Smith, but closer to home, James Smith of Post War Glamour Girls / Yard Act – a style which suits him remarkably well – before the song takes off in a different and unexpected direction around halfway through, when he tosses the mantra and launches into a slab of lyrical critique over guitars that slow at first, before building in crashing sheets of noise and a mangled solo breaks out, and drags the song to a taut finish. They pack a lot of action into just shy of four and a half minutes, and they’re unashamed in pointing out that the single – like so many singles – is a promotional device, here with the purpose of enticing punters to the upcoming merch-flogging opportunity which is their forthcoming tour.

We’re all trapped in the wheels of capitalism, but ILT show that they can simultaneously play and subvert it – while at the same time making great music. ‘The Spectacle’ is as sharp as a pin, and ILT continue to thrive as strong as any virus in a post-pandemic world.

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