Posts Tagged ‘Single Review’

Blaggers Records – 27th August 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

The Kecks go goth with their new single! Well, perhaps not quite, but ‘Tonight Might Be Different’ is certainly a slide down into darker territory compared to its predecessor, ‘All for Me’. It’s got a slinky bassline and a smooth but stutter lead guitar line that hints of late-night smokiness and even a dash of desperate sleaze. It’s not a radical shift in real terms: ‘All for Me’ made nods toward early Pulp, and this, too, expands on their Fire years death disco indie stylings, the combining the gloom and catchiness of tracks like ‘My Legendary Girlfriend’.

Lyrically, it’s an interesting one, veering between paranoia and frustration that are both relevant and relatable to many as Lennart Uschmann reflects ‘I’m so busy giving everybody else attention / My friendship starts to feel more like a disease’. But then again, these thoughts emerge from a jumble of confusion, a state which finds him ‘coming home too late and messing up the place by being way too stoned.’

Meanwhile, outside, ‘They’re kicking down the doors and making lots of noise’, and it’s all very visual, even if it is cut-up and fragmentary. It could, and probably should, all be a horrible and incoherent mess, but the end result is far from it, and it’s all in the execution.

Switching from a sinewy lead guitar to a chorus-coated echo-heavy picked rhythm that’s got that circa 1984 post-punk sound, the punchy drumming and solid bass bring a real rock swagger, and it all comes together to make for their strongest single cut yet.

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6th August 2021

James Wells

Some bands claim to be eclectic, but fail to substantiate those claims in the music itself serving up middling mediocrity, usually of a fairly anaemic indie / rock persuasion. Of course, no act with a diverse range of influences is likely to incorporate all of those influences into a single song (while rendering anything listenable), but, y’know, claiming Bowie and Led Zep and coming on like Oasis just doesn’t cut it.

Helve (not the Leeds post-metal act, but the London indie group) intimate that they draw on an eclectic combination of jazz, folk, electronic and experimental music, influenced by an array of genres and artists spanning Aphex Twin, Radiohead, Slint, Pat Metheny, Nick Drake, Portishead & Bill Evans.

All rolled together at the same time, that lot would sound absolutely fucking awful, but ‘Cabin Fever’ is nuanced in its hybridity, a kind of jazzy, blues influenced stroller at first that gets a bit proggy further down the line.

Singer/songwriter Leon has one of those voices that’s got range – not just technically good vocals, but vocals capable of conveying emotional range and depth too. A bit Thom Yorke, you might say, but also entirely his own, haunting and evocative, and here he spins all the different aspects of isolation – the introspection, the reflection, the self-loathing, the confusion, it all there, and we’ve all been there. Originally penned and demod in 2019 (as a much longer, more post-rock orientated tune with samples and other stuff in the mix) and rerecorded for this, their debut release, it feels particularly salient.

‘Cabin Fever’ isn’t an instant grab; instead of big hooks and an attention-grabbing chorus, it’s more of an atmosphere-orientated mood tune. Jazzy without being Jamiroquai, it’s the sound of late-night basement bars, and while it’s very much a product of our immediate times, clearly betrays roots that reach back further.

Slick on the image to select streaming service:

Helve artwork

10th September 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Anyone who doesn’t fall into the trap of swallowing the bullshit and climbing the corporate ladder to become the person they hated when they started out knows that all the motivational stuff is absolute bollocks, that wellbeing in the workplace is bollocks, and all the new age shit that people plaster all over social media is bollocks.

They’ll tell you that if you ‘Change your thoughts, you can change your world’. What they won’t mention is that the world is behind you, ready to stab you in the back and fuck you up the arse. They’ll tell you to believe in yourself. But that’s because no-one else will, because you’re a talentless sack of shit.

Vex Message have seen through the spin of self-affirmation. Derek Meins (lyricist/lead singer/button twiddler/strange dancer) who was once part of Rough Trade signed indie band Eastern Lane points the finger squarely and unapologetically at “Those cringe-worthy motivational mantras you see some chumps regurgitating,”, adding “‘It’s a beautiful day to go after your dreams?’ Fuck off. How about? ‘Aren’t you wanting to despair about your terrible hair and your coming demise?’ That’s more like it.”

This, I can get into straight away before I’ve heard a note. Given just how many people – especially creatives – who slug it out in dead end jobs just to pay the bills and cram entire careers as musicians, artists, writers, into their spare time, I’m amazed there aren’t more who don’t use their medium to rage against the machine. And anyone who says bands should steer clear of politics is simply wrong. We live in a capitalist society, and capitalism is politics, and more to the point, it’s a system that means your life is not your own, and even your time outside the workplace is dominated by agents trying to flog you stuff you don’t need to be paid for with money you don’t have.

As Meins explains, “The verses are structured in such a way as to emulate the trend for advertising slogans which ask you questions, suggesting their product has the answer. In summary, it is a tongue-in-cheek proclamation that you don’t need all the shit they’re selling, it’s all a load of bollocks and you’ll just have to get on as best you can in this modern hell-hole.”

Yes – it is a load of bollocks – fact. And the majority have been sucked into the consumerist cult, having to have the latest iPhone, a TV the size of a cinema screen filling the wall of a poky flat, and it’s neverending.

One thing that thankfully isn’t bollocks is this single. Over a gloopy Krauty synth paired with an overloading guitar chug and motoric beat, Meins writhers and yowls and whoops and croons with all the rock ‘n’ roll strut and swagger. It’s as gloriously OTT as the guitars are noisy and the drums are punchy. It’s theatrical but cathartic at the same time, parodic yet packed with a certain conviction.

B-side ‘And the Land Stayed Still’ is more overtly electro, propelled by a thumping disco beat, landing like a hybrid of Daft Punk and Sleaford Mods – or something. You hopefully get the idea.

It all stacks up to something quite different, presenting a twist on familiar tropes, and ultimately, it all stacks up to something brilliant.

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12th August 2021

James Wells

Having given a flavour of their debut EP, ‘Run’ with the release of the title track back in June, New York (via Brazil and Miami) trio The Velvicks slam in with follow-up ‘LA’ – not actually a song about LA itself, but more what it represents – the pursuit of dreams and aspirations, regardless of the obstacles and the existential anguish this so often entails.

‘Don’t even get me started…’ Vick Nader croons by way of an introduction – before very much getting started. ‘You gotta get me out before it’s too late’, he pleads. Who hasn’t felt that sense of entrapment in a rut of a job, a tired social scene, a life going nowhere?

The song structure and delivery is simple but effective – set against an insistent bum-bum-tit drum beat that’s pitched up in the mix, the guitars swirl around and provide more texture than form, with the rhythm section dominating. The bass switches from a solid thud to some nice wandering runs that lift the tune to another level. In short, it’s another cracker.

Fierce Panda Records – 20th August 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Just two months on from the release of ‘Tear Ourselves In Two’, Jekyll follow up with ‘Catherine Wheel’ to cement their reputation as a band with a knack for a bona fide indie pop classic.

This one is particularly relatable on a personal level. I felt as if I was living in a different world from most people during lockdown. While friends, family, and many people on social media were managing by revelling in the masses of free time they sound themselves with on their hands and blasting through books and Nexflix boxset binges and bakery galore, and articles in the media about how people were re-evaluating their lives and work/life balance during ‘the great pause’, I found my anxiety was finding new peaks not because I was scared of the virus or running out of pasta or loo roll, but because with working and home-schooling, and surrounded by the tornado of panic what was engulfing friends and colleagues, I had less than no time, less than no energy, and weeks would evaporate.

In the event, the best part of sixteen months evaporated. Nothing happened, nothing really got achieved, and everyone got older, at least those who made it. I’d been spinning, windmilling at a frantic pace just to stay still, and still am. What is there to show for it?

Lockdown – when it eventually did happen in the UK – hit hard and fast and everyone clenched. Emerging from lockdown has been long and slow, and still feel like a massive adjustment, as if rising to the surface could induce the psychological equivalent of the bends. But here we are.

Singer Joel describes ‘Catherine Wheel’ as being about ‘the disorientation and panic of feeling that your life is passing by faster than you can keep up with, before you’ve even figured out what you want from it or how to use the precious time you’ve got to its full potential.’ Because life is too short, and every day wasted is a day closer to death. Butthole Surfers nailed it with the line ‘it’s better to regret something you have done than to regret something you haven’t done’. To do nothing… well, you may as well already be dead. But being forced to do nothing – that’s hard to stomach.

‘Catherine Wheel’ is succinct but explosive, three-and-a-half minutes of pent-up energy finding its release. It starts off with a gentle acoustic guitar that conveys a wistful sort of feeling, and is vaguely reminiscent of early Mansun, then very swiftly piledrives into a soaring guitar melded to a thumping, busy drum beat – loping, rolling, urgent, a beat on every beat and bursting with energy, and there’s a lot going here, and not just deep layers of reverb. It’s got that vaguely psychedelic / goth hue of The Horrors, but Jekyll are very much their own band rather than being in thrall to anyone.

If Muse frustrate with their immense pomp, then on ‘Catherin Wheel’ Jekyll capture the positive elements without being so overblown, distilling the elements down to create something that possesses a palpable intensity and that head-squeezing claustrophobia while at the same time looking outwards to the possibilities. It’s got a dark new wave edge, but it’s a truly killer single and a song for the times.

Catherine Wheel

End Of The Trail Records – 13th August 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

In a world of intertext, whereby everything references something else, there’s something that goes beyond homage in referencing one’s influences in naming your band. Sure, it’s a nifty short-cut signpost indicating influences and origins, but Australian act Burning Jacobs Ladder – essentially the vehicle for Jake T Johnson – takes its name from a song by Mark Lanegan. This makes it cool practically by default, but it helps that BJL has got the songs to back it up.

With ‘Danger in Me’ he’s brought together a classic post-punk vibe with an early 90s alternative swagger. There are hints of late Psychedelic Furs later Jesus and Mary Chain, delivered with the knowing coolness of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Also in the mix is a gothy element, that makes something of a nod to the bombast of The Mission, but equally worthy of comparisons to the more contemporary Mayflower Madame. If this seems like a lot of touchstones and reference points, it serves to highlight just how strong a handle Johnson has on the style and the sound, and it all comes together perfectly here.

‘Danger In Me’ has a darkness and density, and it’s propelled by a tight, crisp drum track, chugging rhythm guitar, and an insistent four-square bassline of the kind that thrums along at just the right pace to elevate the pulse just that little bit (and reminds me more than just a little bit of ‘More’ by The Sisters of Mercy, who were always the kings of that tight three- or four-chord sequence thudded out with a strike on each beat). And then there’s the reverb, pitched just so, and the lead guitar sizzles around Johnson’s vocals as he wrestles with internal conflict.

Disclosure: I’m an absolute sucker for this strain of groove-orientated post-punk – but this is one of the best examples I’ve heard in a while: truly top drawer.

30th July 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Third Lung are on fire in 2021, and it’s nothing to do with an inflammation caused by a respiratory disease. Too soon? Bad taste? Perhaps both, but usually, in dark times, humour has served as a vital means of staying sane and maintaining morale. So what’s happened? It isn’t that there’s no humour to be found in anything right now. The UK government should be a source of infinite amusement, but then again, satire seemingly died with irony, and moreover, people are scared – not just of the virus, but of other people. The governments has stoked a culture of division, of us and them, a culture whereby the government has given the green light to booing footballers in their own national team for taking the knee. Five minutes on Facebook reveals that we’re living through a war, not against an invisible enemy, as we’ve been repeatedly told, but a war against one another.

This isn’t all digression: Third Lung’s third single of the year already, which follows ‘I A Fire’ and ‘Hold the Line’ is a song that questions the impact of isolation, and while it reaches beyond the immediate pandemic situation, in asking ‘What is a life on your own?’, and, indeed, who are we when not guided and supported by the people around us we cherish and love, its relevance requires no qualification or explanation here.

Imploring the listener to ‘raise a fist to the sky’, ‘What is a Life?’ is a life-affirming anthem – and when I say anthem, I mean the sound and production is absolutely epiiiiiic. Sometimes, music goes beyond personal taste and simply the enormity of its appeal is just fact. There’s undoubtedly a strong 80s U2 parallel here (and even as someone who’s grown to loathe U2, it’s undeniable that The Joshua Tree was a defining moment in arena rock, which saw a band explode from ‘biggish’ to absolute global dominance.

There are dashes of Kings of Leon in the mix, too – again, another band who hit the stratosphere off the back of an album after plugging away for some time – and these guys are easily of the standard (and with way better lyrics than the crass scribblings of bloody ‘Sex on Fire’, which mostly wanted to be ‘Dancing in the Dark’ but with ‘sex’ in the title to give it a bit more sizzle appeal.

So what’s the verdict? Third Lung are better than Kings of Leon, and every bit as good as the best U2, and ‘What Is A Life?’ is an outstanding single.

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Third Lung Artwork

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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20th July 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

More than I dislike talking politics or sport with colleagues and strangers, I feel most uncomfortable talking about music, because unless their leanings are, it’s almost guaranteed that we won’t hare similar tastes or knowledge. Usually, it’s a case of my hating everything they love, and their not having heard of anything I listen to. There’s no middle ground there: even if I feign an interest, nod and smile, where is there left to go?

And so I do often wonder about press releases, specifically the influences artists cite. In the more fringe fields of obscure metal, ambient, and electronica, esoteric reference points abound, perhaps because to an extent obscurantism carries a certain coolness and cachet. In more commercially-leaning circles, the opposite tends to be true. Artists aiming for a broad acceptance tend to cite artists who are well-known to the point that they’re essentially household names.

This isn’t to single out Jack Caine by any means, but his listed influences – Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Patti Smith, Arctic Monkeys, Joni Mitchell, The Smiths – feels incredibly ‘standard’. Are these really his influences? Maybe – it could really be that most people who make music listen to the same well-known artists. I also have a personal discomfort with citations of The Smiths, a band I loved with a deep passion in my teens, but have since struggled to relate to in my thirties and forties, and with their memory sullied by the colossal twat Morrissey has confirmed himself to be.

Of course, even music that is very much an evidential sum of its parts should be judged on its own merits, and while ‘derivative’ clearly bears heavily negative connotations, the assimilation of tropes and absorption of influences is, in itself, no bad thing per se. It’s all in the delivery, and for all this, ‘All in a Day’s Work’ is an accessible, melodic middling tune with hints of classic vintage indie and pop when pop wasn’t slick, manufactured, mechanised, digitised – and it’s well-executed. It has spirit, it has soul.

Building from a muted electric guitar played clean, over which Caine paints a kitchen sink scene, the bass begins to get twitchy and the muffled drumming begins to push things along and you just sense it’s going to break sooner or later… and then it spills. It’s a great single, with dynamics, energy, and emotion, and hooks.

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2nd July 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Did I ever mention that I am absolutely fucking swamped, every single day, to the extent that while I’m working the dayjob, I’ll; see emails flowing via notifications on my phone, and by the time I actually get to check my emails on an evening, I just stare bewildered, wondering where to begin? And so often, I don’t even. It’s not a complaint, and the fact of the matter is, that while I barely even open 10% of my emails, the standard of music is such that daily, I’m probably missing out on at least half a dozen acts who could utterly blow me away.

It’s a good job I didn’t pass on Yammerer: I felt a certain urge to pass after a day of corporate backslapping being posted on the company’s Yammer community, but something drew me in. The words dystopian and existential in their write-up more than likely. That, and references to WIRE and The Dead Kennedys. It certainly makes for an intriguing cocktail, and despite it’s cumbersome title that hints at noodlesome post-rock, ‘Tell Me What the Ancient Astronaut Theorists Believe’ is a manic blast of energy, raucous and raw. It’s a giddy riot of off-key half sung, half spoken vocals amidst a blurred whirl of space rock guitars, a thunderous, strolling bass and relentless, motoric drums. It’s kinda chaotic, and reminds me of the swirling twelve-minute encore segues of ‘Ghostrider / Sister Ray’ the Sisters of Mercy used to kick out live circa 1984 – dark, murky, hypnotic, vaguely psychedelic, and utterly absorbing.

There is, however, one major shortcoming of this single: at three minutes and eleven seconds, it’s about twenty minutes too short.

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CONFIRMED TOUR DATES 2021

29/08 – Alexanders Live / Chester

11/09 – Futurama Festival / Liverpool

24/09 – Smithdown Road Festival / Liverpool

07/10 – Focus Wales / Wrexham

06/11 – Hot Box Live / Chelmsford

19/12 – The Castle Hotel / Manchester