Posts Tagged ‘Music Reviews’

Single Review: Sometime Around Midnight – The Airborne Toxic Event

Mercury Records
On Release

By Guy Sangster Adams

tate-cover

Shooting straight out of the sleeve and grabbing one simultaneously by the neck and the heart with such a passionate intensity there is no time for fear nor love, but only to release one’s soul to the last gasp climatic thrill, by rights the single Sometime Around Midnight should already have been as big a hit in this country as it was in the US. Originally released in the UK in February, this re-release remixed by Cenzo Townsend (whose extensive discography of collaborations includes Bat For Lashes, Babyshambles, Kaiser Chiefs, Primal Scream, and U2) magisterially reinforces a great song that showcases these Californian indie rockers’ diverse influences and talents.

Named after the second section of Don DeLillo’s novel White Noise, TATE founder Mikel Jollett (vocals, guitar, keyboard) also writes fiction, recently contributing a short story to McSweeneys, and in the autobiographical Sometime Around Midnight he brings his literary articulacy to lyrics that recount a chance meeting with an ex-girlfriend who although she has moved on he realises just how much he is still in love with her. Jollett creates an everyman tale, capturing how men feel gripped with a welter of passion and aggression, abject hurt but still with the need for reassurance from the lover who has spurned them, and how often they are happiest to express those feelings against the background of a fist in the air Springteen-esque “last chance power drive.”

Jollett’s voice which is capable of being at once brooding and seductive, vulnerable and menacing, in the manner of Brandon Flowers, and TATE’s musical cohesion of the classically trained Anna Bulbrook (viola, keyboards, tambourine, backing vocals) and the jazz schooled bassist Noah Harmon with the more traditional rocking combination of Steven Chen’s lead guitar and Daren Taylor’s drums, propel a lyrical journey that might be headed for melancholy or introspection, into a sound that makes one want to love again, and again, like one’s never been hurt. Sometime Around Midnight is almost a call and response to The Killers’ When You Were Young and should indeed be similarly lauded.

tate

Links:
The Airborne Toxic Event: www.theairbornetoxicevent.com

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Single Review: Jackie, Is It My Birthday? – The Wolfmen feat. Sinéad O’Connor

(Howl Records)
On Release

By Guy Sangster Adams

jackie-is-it-my-birthday-cover

Beginning with a crescendo that immediately disorientates, is this a finale without an overture? Or as Chris Constantinou sings in a voice cut with the ages of rock, “Jackie, is it my birthday, or am I dying?” Marco Pirroni’s backwards guitar sideswipes like a pendulum across a drum beat so solid it might be an ionic column, but still you wonder am I looking down or looking up? Is this my future, or is this my past? Until Sinéad O’Connor enters the duet with a clarity so sharp, sculpted from the whitest marble, you  suddenly imagine you can see the geometric beauty of individual snowflakes, as she pitches question against question, “Do you ever feel like you’re posing, posing like an angel?” Whilst Pirroni’s now spiralling guitar throws you willingly from your pedestal into an helical orbit that scintillates and inspires. Fuelling an iconic sound that puts the sea back into ionic as the fixed point becomes a lighthouse and Constantinou and O’Connor’s revolving vocals merge as though you are simultaneously  illuminated and cast into darkness, doubts are dispelled, as in a moment you know all, but in the same moment you forget everything.

Surreal, transcendent, glamorous pop; as the track fades the need for another fix is immediate, repeat upon repeat.

The Wolfmen © Tina Korhonen

The Wolfmen © Tina Korhonen

Links:
The Wolfmen: www.thewolfmen.net

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Album Review: Poetry of the Deed – Frank Turner

(Xtra Mile Recordings/Epitaph Records)
On release

By Guy Sangster Adams

poetry-of-the-deed

The promo video for The Road, the rousing first single from Frank Turner’s third studio album, records his successful attempt to play 24 gigs across London in 24 hours and wryly underscores his relentless and extensive worldwide touring schedule over the last two years, supporting The Gaslight Anthem and The Offspring, his numerous festival appearances, and his headline tours which have seen him playing ever larger venues. Predominantly filmed performing in the homes of fans and friends, the video also highlights not only Turner’s amiability and accessibility but also the camaraderie and affection that his nigh on perpetual touring has brought him.

Though, judging from the lyrics of the first half of the album, the success and acclaim that both Turner’s talent and sheer hard work are quite rightly bringing him, are also bringing him criticism from those who feel that he has betrayed his ‘punk’ roots (he was originally the vocalist for hardcore band Million Dead) or negate his right to champion the common good. For me, Poetry of the Deed, as it would released on vinyl, divides into two sides; such is the accomplishment, strength, innovation, of tracks 7 through 13, and such is the rush that one gets listening to what is effectively side two, that it made me need to backtrack as to why the first half did not quite match. In part it is because the lyrical thrust is to angrily rebuff his critics by directly addressing their criticisms, which though that may be valid, doubters are so firmly blown out of the water by the songs of the second side which have a far broader and inventive lyrical sweep, that I cannot help thinking that there is far more mileage in silencing criticisms by, in the words of the title track, “putt[ing] our art where our mouth is.”

frank-turner

Sons of Liberty and The Road are glorious rebel marching songs, exhortations to deconstruct the unreconstructed, and unlock personal freedom by being open to the widest vistas of not only your own but the experiences of others, and not to give up; as the mandolin backed reprise of The Road has it, “I face the horizon everywhere I go, I face the horizon the horizon is my home.” Of course, depending on which way one looks the horizon can be as much where one’s come from as where one’s going, and the James Taylor-esque, Faithful Son is a  beautiful and poignant reflection on living up to, or turning away from, the dreams and designs one’s parents put on one’s life, and in turn those that one puts on one’s own life; a song that is surely set to become a standard. Richard Divine is a real stylistic surprise – but one that definitely works – darkly gripping flash fiction, that joins the canon of third person songs; Eleanor Rigby, Arnold Layne, David Watts… Whilst the allusion filled Our Lady of the Campfires, and Journey of the Magi, which close the album equally underscore that when Turner’s passion, erudition, and musicality coalesce, it is poetry indeed, broadening all our horizons.

Links
Frank Turner
www.frank-turner.com
www.myspace.com/frankturner

Xtra Mile Recordings/Epitaph Records
www.xtramilerecordings.com
www.epitaph.com

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Single Review: Shine On – The Tunics

(Manta Ray Music)
On Release
By Guy Sangster Adams

the-tunics-shine-on0001

It is no surprise that this urgent surge to the stage slab of euphoric indie rock both hot wires The Tunics live sets and was a primary motivation to their signing by Manta Ray. The troubled urban poet Joe Costello of last single Cost of Living is cast aside in a welter of unreconstructed rock swagger and braggadocio as he declares himself both Messiah and freedom fighter, and with an uprush and magnetic pull Shine On declares the stage and the moment to belong well and truly to The Tunics.

Costello’s voice, lyricism, wit and fervour are increasingly reminiscent of Tim Wheeler and Feargal Sharkey, just as Shine On bears witness to Girl From Mars and Teenage Kicks – both equally killer live tracks – and The Tunics’ revitalisation of golden eras of heart filling, breath grabbing singles as they join a lineage of bands including Ash, The Undertones, and The Jam. Heed the call, rip out the seats, pull down the fences, but get yourself a slice of this band and give yourself up once more to the 3 minute dream that a song might change the world.

Links
The Tunics: www.myspace.com/thetunics

Manta Ray Music: www.mantaraymusic.co.uk

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Album Review: Everybody Loves A Scene – New Rhodes

(Salty Cat Records)
On Release
By Guy Sangster Adams

new-rhodes-everybody-loves-a-scene-album

Galloping rhythms riven with fast funk, melodic sunshine treble over guttural, self-confident 1977 riffs, tether slicing soaring vocals and ascendant backing vocal harmonies, contradict these narratives of lost love, unrequited lust, lonely disillusionment, and life wrecking decisions. This boys have feelings too introspection so upbeat one can dance all over it, evokes pre-Goth The Cure and in particular Boys Don’t Cry. Though the holistic post-Punk redolence of Everyone Loves a Scene is more akin to Postcard Records’ early eighties ‘Sound of Young Scotland’ bands, especially Orange Juice and Aztec Camera. Incongruously, New Rhodes are from Bristol by way of Hackney, East London… though to continue the projection of a Scottish theme, with echoes of the late, great Billy Mackensie, James Williams is possessed of a supremely powerful pop voice with a great range from punk choirboy, through rough edged rock, to Rat Pack swing, contemporarily analogous to Brandon Flowers. Indeed The Killers are one of the key acts that New Rhodes have supported since the release of their debut album Songs from the Lodge in 2006.

New Rhodes appear to be a band at a crossroads on Everyone Loves A Scene. The album, as is Williams’ intention divides into two sides, to this end it is also available on vinyl in a gatefold sleeve in a very limited edition of 500. Side one, save for the recent single The Joys of Finding & Losing That Girl which fuses a great mix of stripped back urban troubadour with an electric guitar and a pre-amp verses, with terrace rousing choruses, and the gloriously eccentric slow sea-shanty doo wop of The Bells of St John, sets a course bound for a potentially overblown power pop in which the manifold talents of New Rhodes are in danger of being lost in the multi-layered production mêléé. Whereas side 2 contains the wonderful sequence of four key tracks in which less is definitely more as the bands strengths and scope are given their freedom and the pursuit of experimentation and originality pays off: the relentlessly edgy and driven A&E—a rebuff of London’s aura of perpetual emotional detachment— and Is This The Life You Want, the fabulously bonkers torch song to a girl on the 254 (the London bus from Aldgate to Holloway’s Nag’s Head) , and the melodramatic finale and resplendent showcase for William’s voice, You Can Have it All. A title which, if these tracks signal the direction to come, predicts New Rhodes’ future.

Links
New Rhodes: www.newrhodes.com
Salty Cat Records: www.myspace.com/saltycatrecords

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Album Review: Alight of Night – Crystal Stilts

(Angular Recording Corporation)
On release
by Guy Sangster Adams

crystal-stitls

Like a girandole lighting a witching hour jaunt through a hall of mirrors, Alight of Night’s spinning cluster of fireworks illuminates, distorts, and delightfully re-imagines a host of influences on its journey.

Opening song The Dazzled instantly seduces as Andy Adler’s infectious bass, with equal shades of Steven Severin and Iggy Pop’s The Passenger, propels one into this eleven track tarantella. Through which Brad Hargett’s gloaming vocals lead one into the dark corners, whirling past reflections of Joy Division and Bauhaus, though any desire to stand in the shadows is perpetually pinball paddle-swiped back into an hybrid danceability mixing psychobilly wrecking crew and 1960s Mecca ballroom, as the shivery jangles and zingy treble of JB Townsend’s guitar counterpoint Frankie Rose’s portentous Shangri-Las drums. With tambourine shimmer and rasping harmonica also in the mix, the wall of sound interconnections are bonded by Kyle Forrester’s keyboards uprushing 60s surf and psychedelic pop via the Beach Boys and The Zombies.

The whole eclectic and contradictory mixture is most gloriously realised on Departure and Prismatic Room which formed the forerunning single released in early February, and the fusion of coruscating shards of sonic majesty that is Shattered Shine.

Given their shared musical references, Crystal Stilts are most often paralleled to the Jesus & Mary Chain, a band they equally cite as a key inspiration, and in fact the song Crystal Stilts is in many ways an homage to Just Like Honey. Underlying both bands, of course, is The Velvet Underground, and Alight of Night’s last track The City in the Sea transports one with the spine tingling beauty of Sunday Morning.

But Crystal Stilts are no hand-me-down hobbledehoys, they twist and swirl with a lustre all of their own through this album of sparkling titles  to create a fabulous refulgent  fractal.

Links
Crystal Stilts: www.crystalstilts.com

Angular Recording Company: www.arc018.com

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Single Review: The Cost of Living – The Tunics

Manta Ray Music
On Release

By Guy Sangster Adams

“A video I made to try and make people put their weapons down..” is the caption to Twinona187’s YouTube video Stop Knife Crime which has The Tunics’ new single Cost of Living as a soundtrack, as do a number of other YouTube posts sharing the same message. Testament not only to The Tunics’ ability to lyrically and musically capture the inner city zeitgeist, but also the degree to which the availability of the track as a free download from the band’s website last spring, and their tour of universities has generated a significant and deserved online buzz.

This tale of gun-point mugging on a night bus, builds dramatically with Joe Costello’s urban poet spoken verses syncopating with Max Karpinski’s resolute drums, is then driven up a notch with Scott Shepherd’s melodic bass line, before battle is joined by Costello’s guitar as the rock in anger sung chorus is unleashed demanding “is this what free travel costs; a phone, and a wallet, and a new Ipod?” and begging the question of indiscriminate violence: “why did you do this to me?”.

This three-piece from Croydon, have distinct parallels to The Libertines¾who are a key influence even down to their name which is inspired by the NME cover photo of The Libertines wearing red, guardsman’s tunics¾and The Artic Monkeys, but then the single is produced by James Lewis who has also recently worked with the latter. But Cost of Living carries a greater resonance to another three-piece who came out of Surrey a generation ago – The Jam. Weller, as Costello is now, was 18 when The Jam’s debut single In the City was released. Cost of Living fuses the thematic ambition and augury of Down in the Tube Station at Midnight with the raw passion and drive of In the City (there is also titular similarity to The Jam in that The Tunics earlier single about knife crime was also called In the City).

Cost of Living may be rough edged but rough edged times call for a voice that is ready to ask questions with passionate insistence, immediacy and verve. The Tunics are imbued with that voice and a knowing that to stand on ceremony sandpapering a track into anodyne blinkeredness would be to miss both the point and the bus of the needs of the moment and their generation. Besides, The Tunics are a band just at the beginning of an exciting trajectory of which Cost of Living, the first release from their forthcoming debut album, provides a magnificent portent.

Links
The Tunics: www.myspace.com/thetunics
Manta Ray Music: www.mantaraymusic.co.uk

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Single Review: Reasons Not To Be An Idiot – Frank Turner

Xtra Mile Recordings

Released 12th January 2009

By Guy Sangster Adams

From the release of the album Love, Ire, & Song in March, Frank Turner appears to have been perpetually playing live through 2008, including an astonishing tally of 23 festivals last summer. Testament to the cross genre nature of his music, the mixture of dates included Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds, and the Cambridge Folk Festival. At which Reasons not to be an Idiot, the track from Love, Ire & Song  which is to be released as a single in January to herald an already phenomenally packed live schedule for Turner in February and March playing support to The Gaslight Anthem, became a firm crowd favourite.

Unsurprisingly because this anti-naval gazing, anti-solitary bedroom angst, anthem to positive thinking exhorts the listener to “get up, get down, get outside” in the sunshine. But do not think the effervescent irritation of the Boo Radleys’ Wake Up Boo, Turner’s engaging lyrical wit and elan – “I’m not as awesome as this song makes out, I’m angry underweight and sketching out” – and stripped down style of shouty vocals backed by strident electric guitar and intermittent drum beats on the verses with organ and harmonica added for the more melodious chorus, resolutely kicks over the statues in a way that is part Billy Bragg and Waiting for the Great Leap Forward, part Kevin Rowland/Dexy’s Midnight Runners and Come on Eileen, but holistically and unmistakeably Turner in contagious overdrive. Reasons not to be an Idiot is an anthem for the common man and the collective good which levels any objection, in the face of which there really is no reason not to get up, get down, and get outside.

Links
Frank Turner: www.frank-turner.com
Xtra Mile Recordings: www.xtramilerecordings.com

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Album Review: Singles – The Long Blondes

Angular Records

By Guy Sangster Adams


Take a seat on this whirling waltzer, and hold on tight for an exhilarating, break neck swoosh through songs of passionate invitation and lustful longing, that urge for a bait to be bitten, to songs of dark seduction and insouciant dismissal, the sullen warnings of the hard bitten.

This chronological compilation brings cohesion to vinyl disparateness, by pulling together all the tracks from the five 7 inch singles The Long Blondes released on four, small independent labels, between forming in 2004 and signing to Rough Trade in April 2006. Whilst equally charting their nascency and highlighting their already latent talent to subsume, collage, and allude to, a wonderfully eclectic and extensive range of music, literary, film and art references. Their influences do not denude the immediacy or freshness of their songs, but act as a perfect accessory setting off the exquisite cut and style of the ensemble.

An echo of The Shangri-Las runs throughout, from the opening drum beats of the anthemic statement of intent, New Idols, to Kate Jackson’s Betty Weiss filtered through Deborah Harry vocals of the first three singles, and the infectious, cheer leader hysteria of Reenie Hollis and Emma Chaplin’s call and response backing vocals. Most to the fore in Polly, which, although unstated, serves as a wonderful homage to Blondie’s In The Flesh. The video for which, as an aside for beret chic completeists, featured Harry’s own espousal of Bonnie Parker style.

The melody of early 1960s pop is cleverly fused with the wonderful swirling, zing and full peal ring of Dorian Cox and Emma Chaplin’s guitars, evoking Poison Ivy and the Psychobilly of The Cramps, particularly in the rhythmic fuzz and feedback of New Idols, Long Blonde, and Autonomy Boy, and the jangly Rockabilly leanings of Johnny Marr amidst Rusholme Ruffians-era The Smiths, on the previously unreleased, demo version of Separated By Motorways, Big Infatuation, and new track Peterborough. All three jive-propelled by Hollis and Screech Louder’s dynamically tight rhythm section.

All the songs are shot through with a wry observation and a literary erudition, from the funny, flash fiction moon stomp Darts, to the glorious lyrical epics, akin to the opulence of Hunky Dory period Bowie, Giddy Stratospheres and Appropriation (By Any Other Means). An homage to Hitchcock’s Vertigo, Appropriation showcases Jackson’s engaging ability to change vocal style to portray the shifting narrative perspective of each single, and in turn the breadth of her vocal range. With this track and the equally noir-ish My Heart Is Out Of Bounds, her blue-black bruised voice, with shades of Nico, emotes a tantalising/spine tingling, sexy/scary femme fatale.

By its nature, Singles is retrospective, but do not think that this was tomorrow, this is tomorrow. “We could be idols”; could be, would be, should be.

Postscript

After I had written this review, Dorian Cox posted the following message on The Long Blondes’ website on 19th October 2008:

We have decided to call it a day.
The main reason for this is that I suffered from a stroke in June and unfortunately I do not know when / if I will be well enough to play guitar again.
On behalf of the band I’d like to say a big thank you to anyone who ever came to one of our shows, bought one of our records or danced to one of our songs in a club. Thank you, if it wasn’t for you the whole thing would have been pointless.
Finally on a personal note, thanks for all your well wishing messages.
Dorian xxx

So very sadly it seems it ‘was tomorrow’ after all; but in that, Singles provides a wonderful and very fitting tribute to The Long Blondes.

Links
The Long Blondes
www.thelongblondes.co.uk
www.myspace.com/thelongblondes
Angular Recording Corporation
www.arc018.com
www.myspace.com/angularrecords

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