9 July 2018

Arctic Monkeys - Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino


I think that regular readers of this blog might say I can be prone to what some might call “knee-jerk” reactions.  Some would also say it takes me an eternity to post anything, but that is down work life/blog life/real life balance.  But sometimes it’s best to take a step away from something you want to talk about, to let it breathe and expand in your mind.  I decided to do this with Tranquillity Base Hotel & Casino.  The latest Arctic Monkeys record has been controversial to say the least, the critics and fans have been having a field day with it, loving and hating it in equal measure.  To be honest, the last time I saw a reaction like this was when Morbid Angel released Illud Divinum Insanus.  It has been that hostile in place, but it’s also been interesting to be outside the debate.

Cards on the table time - apart from a few songs, I’ve never been the biggest follower of the Sheffield lads.  They’ve always been a band that seems to be name-dropped by everyone and have the odd good tune.  But I’ve never thought of them as the saviours of rock ‘n’ roll, they just always been filed under “decent, if unimaginative” in my mind.  But you cannot say that they’ve played it by the book on Tranquillity Base Hotel & Casino. If anything, the book is on fire and now it's anyone's guess at their next move.
 
For Tranquillity Base Hotel & Casino, they have pretty much-flipped styles and went lounge.  The noise indie kids of old are gone, in its place is a Las Vegas lounge and a few martinis on the side.  The first time I heard it, I thought it might be a joke album, a fake release to throw people off the scent of their new record.  But sure enough, upon checking it on various streaming platforms, they’ve gone and done it.

Firstly, I applaud this ballsy move.  No matter what I think of this record, good or bad, I love it when this happens.  When a major artist is ready to do something that sends them into the left field of their own sound, that's a joy to witness.  The nerves required for this sort of thing or gigantic, you can easily fuck everything up that you’ve worked for, so bravo for that.  Secondly, to release this sort of album in the age of clone pop, where sounding similar to the heard is a safe way to fame is difficult to get right.  One slip, you're done.  Tranquillity Base Hotel & Casino has a lot of things going against it from the beginning.

Musically, the jazz lounge indie sound is passable, even interesting in places.  Take “Four out of Five”, it’s so stylistic that the ghost of Bowie is wondering how to add it to his next album.  “American Sport” is an example of a song which suits this style.  It oozes sophistication, finesse and style to the nth degree.

But this is not all fun and games, sometimes it feels very heavy fisted.  “The World’s First Ever Monster Truck Front Flip” sounds hammy as hell, the title track sounds as if singer Alex Turner is going to fall over his words at any given moment, “She Looks Like Fun” sounds forced and unnatural in places.  These might be growing pains if this is the permanent direction for the band, but they are being played on a grand stage, so they come under the microscope with greater clarity.  At times, Mr Turner seems to want to add a thousand words when a few words would have sufficed.  This leads to a feeling of overkill in places, as if the idea has been over thought and it feels a little jaded because of this.

Musically as well, I am prepared to admit the style of this album is not something I would reach for in the first instance, and this album has not changed that opinion.  I’ve not been so big on songs that sound like they could only be used in a Lounge or a Femme Fatale film, one that is in grainy black & white.  I don’t hate it, to be honest, it’s the most interesting record that the Arctic Monkeys have ever released.  It’s so many people talking, trying to say they either hate it or they were always a lounge fan.  At the end of the day, the album has gained a reaction and that's the endgame really.  But I still must give props for the Arctic Monkeys having the balls to releasing this record.  That is one hell of a thing to do and I respect them more for it, let's see if they have the courage to follow their conviction on their next record.

6 out of ten – Now, I see where you were going, but it's not quite there.

Ghost - Prequelle



Regular readers of this blog will know that I’ve always had a soft spot for the Satanic branch of the Salvation Army (my cheeky name for Ghost).  Their first three albums are three of my favourite hard rock records, they are full of OTT drama, attitude and a fanatical devotion to him downstairs.  Now, whilst I’m not a Satanist myself, the music of Ghost has always been on the mark.  But we find Ghost at a crossroads so to speak (this review might be pun-heavy, I’m sorry).  After the release of Meilora (you can read our review here), the band fell apart as their identities were revealed due to a court case between Tobias Forge and his former unnamed ghouls.  The court battle has been dirty, to say the least, accusations of unfair dismissal and claims of hire hands being thrown both ways.  For an outsider, it’s been entertaining, if not a little sad to witness a band tearing itself apart.

However, Forge has found himself some new unnamed ghouls to back him under his new persona, Cardinal Copia.  So, everything changed, but it's also the same?  Well, that is the question here.  At the very heart of this album, if they admitted or not, is a band trying to find its identity again.  They are also trying to prove that this is essentially a solo project for Forge and he can make the music without original members Martin Persner, Simon Söderberg, Mauro Rubino, Martin Hjertstedt and Henrik Palm.  This is a release that will either cement them or sink them, so which is it going to be?

Musically, Ghost have moved on towards the 80’s hair metal phase of their existence and away from that 70’s progressive sound, they started with.  “See the Light” could have been for the most part on a Whitesnake album, “Miasma” is a song that I fully expect to hear on the next Top Gun movie, “Witch Image” is Bon Jovi at their 80’s best.  They’ve changed their style, but to be honest, this was hinted at on their Popestar EP which was released in 2016.  It’s not their biggest jump, it’s been long coming, but the transformation from their earlier form is now complete.

And yet, I still find myself liking some of it.  “Miasma” might be an 80’s classic in the making, but it’s also one of the finest instrumentals you’ll hear outside of an old ELP record or Rush collection.  “Faith” has one of the most OTT introductions since “From the Pinnacle to the Pit” from Meilora.  Ghost are still masters of the macabre drama, shouting the praises of their father below as loud as possible.

I think the main thing here is, and will always be, to decide if the album is any good.  The answer to this is no.  Here are the pro’s: Ghost have not lost the knack of writing a great tune, even after losing four-fifths of their line up.  So that is a positive straight away.  Also, they use familiar riffs to their other material, so you never feel like it’s been a wholesale change.  Here are the con’s: they are further away from the horror of old, now they are at the commercial end of their journey.  The more shine that has been added, the more mystic that has been stripped away.  A band which is so heavily based in the acts of Satan tends to thrive under the macabre, so the commercial sheen will lose it some of its original fan base.  I don’t think for a moment that they care, but that is for time to tell.

Overall, Prequelle is a disappointment and that is really the end of it.   Ghost are starting to sound tired, the OTT lyrics now sound clichéd now, the joke is over.  To be honest, their journey should have ended with their spectacular live album, Ceremony & Devotion which was released last year.  That was a fantastic document of the band at the height of its power, this is purgatory.  There is nothing here which really warrant more than one listen, which is something I would never have thought I would have said about Ghost.  It’s not the worst album I've heard, it’s just soulless and lacking spirit.

5 out of ten – Not for everyone, but played well.

Top song – Miasma

Asylums - Alien Human Emotions


The word "retro" can be a very subjective thing.  One person's brand new and shiny is another's yesterday.  For me, Asylums are a retro band, creating a sound that I first heard in the late 80’s and early 90’s.  Listening closely to their sound, I hear bands like Ride, The Charlatans, Sonic Youth, early Soul Asylum and others in their sound.  I’m not saying that Asylums have been influenced by these bands, but they share a sound palate with them at the very least.   There is also a slice of Power Pop to their tone, one which I have only heard with Teenage Fanclub (especially on “Homeowners Guilt”).  Based on the above, I could easily be very lazy here.  I could make cliched assumptions about the band, but I won't do that.  I like to give each act or artist an equal chance, which they fully deserve.  Each new band is trying to make their own way into the world, creating a new noise for themselves.  So, even if they sound like the bands from my youth, I’ve got to put that pre-judgemental away and look at this as a new piece of art. 

Alien Human Emotions is the follow up to Killer Brain Waves. It's an ultra-heavy indie album, one which is kicking against the pricks of the chart bothers.  With this sound, they are probably one of the only ways to rebel in popular music these days, by sounding slightly heavy in your chosen field.  Songs like “When We Wake Up” and “Napalm Bubblegum” are kick ass anthems for the jaded, they are not satisfied with how things are turning out.  There is a punk attitude with indie sensibilities, a winning combination in my book.  They can also slow things down, such as on the politically motivated “Homeowners Guilt” or the potent “Millennials” which sounds heavy and beautiful in places.  Also, ending track “The Company You Keep” is a brilliant piece, ending the album on a calming note and showing an understand of track ordering beyond their years.

The more I've listened to Alien Human Emotions, the further under the surface I've tried to go.  The main thing I keep coming back to with this record is the style of Asylums.  For me, the greatest strength of Alien Human Emotions could possibly be their biggest weakness as well.  To be frank, I am hearing a lot of heavy hitters on this record, a lot of talent as well. The songs on Alien Human Emotions are songs that other artists would kill for.  These are songs which are easy on the ear, with a little fuzz around the edges.  That's great and really speaks to me.  Yet there is also nothing here that creates conflict or another other than established parameters.  I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but it makes me think about the future of Asylums.  It makes me wonder if (and this is an if) they ever released an album of just slower number, or changed style slightly, would their audience be onboard?

However, that is just me looking for a negative and trying to be balanced with this review a little.  Overall though, Alien Human Emotions is a blast for me, it’s one of those albums which sounds like the angry youth trying to make their own new noise.  Yes, for me it sounds like I've heard it before, but that does not mean it's not new for them.  I like the fact it's fuzzy, I like the noise, I like their style.  If Asylums do make a third album, I will be reviewing it straight away with eager interest.  Alien Human Emotions is a colourful piece of Indie/Punk/Power Pop.  With this record, they should have people jump around like loons at their show, as well as make grumpy old farts like myself reminisce as well.

8 out of ten – Oh, now you have my attention, as well as my time, money and heart

Top track – When We Wake Up





29 June 2018

ATTIWLTMOWOS Podcast - 28th June 2018


Hello and welcome to a (sort of) new era for ATTIWLTMOWOS!  Because I'm a one-man blog team now, it's hard to write every review I want to write, have a family/work/social life, as well as presenting Attention Please on NE1FM.  To be honest, some albums have passed me by!  But that is no longer the case!  In the spirit of trying something out, I'm now going to be releasing a fortnightly podcast, doing mini-reviews for albums that I might have missed!

The first podcast will feature reviews of the following albums:


Ty Segall & The Freedom Band - Freedom's Goblin
GoGo Penguin - A Humdrum Star
Field Music - Open Here
The Decemberists - I'll Be Your Girl
Judas Priest - Fire Power

You can listen to the podcast here on Mixcloud.


Thanks for checking it out and expect the next in a fortnight's time!

27 June 2018

Elizabeth Colour Wheel - Queen Tired


Ask and you shall receive!  I do try to get through my list of submissions every now and then, but being a one-man team makes it hard.  However, there is always time for new (and old) acts in my life.  Today, I will be looking at Elizabeth Colour Wheel.  They released their new EP, Queen Tired on 4th May 2018 and to be honest, that is as much as I can tell you about them.  There is no further information on their Facebook page or Bandcamp page about their past, which makes them an enigma.  I like that, sometimes it's good to have a band that doesn't give you everything.  In this digital age where we know the movements of lots of people, it's refreshing to know fuck all something.

Queen Tired is a three track affair, starting with the short(ish) and loud "Mika Says", proceeding on to the fantastic and loud "Unknown Tomb", then ending with the long and loud "Pomsky".  You may have noticed the word loud, this is the keyword for Queen Tired.  Because these cats deal in reverb in a way that will vibrate the fillings out of your teeth, it puts them in very exclusive territory. Very similar to acts such as Fret and Wahella in the North East of England, these American Amplifier Worshipers deal in sonic noise, attacks which can be felt through your feet at the right volume and with cause euphoria/deafness at the right sound level.  

Now, depending on how much you like your hearing being fucked with will give you a general idea about listening to this in the first instance.  Me, I love it, I think that "Unknown Tomb" is a brutal piece of noise that hits all the right notes.  I think "Pomsky" is a fantastic track that'll test the average listener and make people check if their speakers are working.  But I'm under no illusion that Queen Tired is a release that is not necessarily for the great unwashed, which is as it should be.  Some music is not for everyone, Elizabeth Colour Wheel is a prime example of that sort of act and long may they continue to be so.  Each song is on Queen Tired is a noise explosion waiting to happen, each is a piece of art that will enthral and repulse in equal measure. It's unmarkable, unfathomable and noisy as hell, but in the best possible way!

Crazy Cat Symbol - This cannot be marked, so here is a box of kittens



Top track - Unknown Tomb

You can follow the activities of Elizabeth Colour Wheel on Facebook here.

You can purchase Queen Tired and other releases from Elizabeth Colour Wheel on their Bandcamp Page here.

You can stream Queen Tired on Spotify here. 

You can stream Queen Tired on Deezer here. 

You can stream Queen Tired on Tidal here. 

24 June 2018

Frank Turner - Be More Kind


Frank Turner has been at this game for an awfully long time now.  It's been thirteen years since he went solo, in that time he's released six solo records, six compilation albums, one live album (via iTunes), seven EP's, seven split releases, and played (as of 23.06.18) 2,198 shows!  The man just keeps on going like a pro, constantly moving forward with an air of determination and style.  I was lucky enough to interview him for my radio show earlier in the year and he was such a gent, complimenting my t-shirt and discussing his new record, Be More Kind.  Released on 4th May, Be More Kind has been well received by fans (a word Mr Turner is not too keen on, but I've no idea what to change to), quite well received by the general press as well.  However, with this is the seventh studio record of his career, you wonder what he has to say.  With the world seems to be going to shit,  he has written thirteen songs for this record.  So, it seems that he's quite a lot to get off his chest.  But the big question is this - how does Be More Kind hold up?

Following on from the beautiful Positive Music for Negative People (our review cleverly linked here), Be More Kind faces a huge task.  Positive Music.... arrived at the right time, dealing with the perception of depression and showing how people felt whilst struggled with mental illness.  Upon its release, Positive Music..... was given a mixed response with critics hating it.  Now, it's a much-loved album which is considered one of his best releases.   Be More Kind looks at the current state of the planet, focusing on the political situation of the planet, as well as a few songs about love in a fucked-up situation.

For me, it deals with both circumstances with grace and humility.  A lot of people have complained that Mr Turner has been too ham-fisted when it comes to his political musings. You know what, bollocks, he’s on point here!  Songs such as "1933", "Make America Great Again", "Black Out" and "21st Century Survival Blues" are brilliant.  They speak to people who are ashamed at having to witness the world regress to an apathetic state, specifically one which resulted in two of the biggest wars that humanity as a collective has endured.  The horror of "Lifeboat" and the feeling of terror behind the music is a powerful statement, one which stays with you long after the gentle guitar has finished.  For me, these are one of the best set of songs that Frank Turner has released.


But there is one thing I would change about Be More Kind if it was my release.  This is the track order.  For me at least, it's a little off.  I think ending it with two slower numbers takes the wind out of its sails.  Energy and flow, for my money, are just as important as a message when ordering an album.   It also gives the impression that the album is top heavy, with all the passion and bravado at the front.  This doesn't sink the record, it just makes me wonder if it could have been improved with a slight change.  

However, overall Be More Kind is my type of album.  Full of passions, a little political and with its heart in the right place.  It's attempting to make sense of how humanity cannot learn from its past, how we're still looking for love and wondering why we seem to let horrors return.  It's a gentle and powerful record, one which will be in in a lot of people's album of the year lists.  But the title alone is a lesson which everyone should live by, why can't we just Be More Kind?

8 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my time, money and heart.

Top track - Make America Great Again

You can purchase Be More Kind from Amazon here.

You can visit the Frank Turner website here.

You can follow the activities of Frank Turner on Facebook here.

You can stream Be More Kind on Spotify here.

You can stream Be More Kind on Deezer here.

You can stream Be More Kind on Tidal here.

17 June 2018

Gaz Coombes - World's Strongest Man


Quick story before I start the review.  Before I started this writing up this review, I put up a post about my thoughts on Facebook.  Within two minutes, one of my friends replied with the age-old "I want to say it's Alright".  I'm going to assume that everyone is getting the Supergrass connection, if you didn't know that Gaz Coombes was the frontman of Supergrass, I'll assume you were not here when they were originally around.  The thing about the expected joke though, it sorts of sums up how some of the public feel towards Gaz Coombes and his new music. There is a general misconception that his musical career ended with their first album. 

World's Strongest Man is the third solo album that Mr Coombes has released since Supergrass ended after six studio albums together.  His last solo album, the fantastic Matador (our review cleverly linked here) was one of my end of year list for 2015, it was such a surprise to this blogger.  You could obviously tell it was the same writer, but there was a maturity to the man, a subtle difference that stopped me dead in my tracks.  This marked a change in my attitude to Gaz Coombes in my mind.  He moved from the frontman of Supergrass to Mr Gaz Coombes, the artist.

World's Strongest Man feels as if it was written in a different era when the world was a different place as if it's been in a sealed vault and released in accordance with a last will & testament.  This is a clever album, a minimalist record which combines the art of Talking Heads, the subtle Art Pop noise that takes a lifetime to master.  This is as far away from Supergrass as you can get from the same artist. 

Highlights for me on World's Strongest Man include the fierce "Vanishing Act", the bass-heavy "Walk the Walk" and the divine "Wounded Ego".  To be honest, I could list every song on this album, each of them is a quirky piece of art.  But I'll be honest when they are separated from the pack, they lose a little bit of the charm.  This is an album where the flow of the record is more important than the individual tracks, the collective is more important than the singular song.  This means this is an album to be listened to in its entirety and not an album brimming with singles.  I love this, but as well as being it's biggest strength, it's also its biggest weakness.  Due to the nature of the record, it might be hard for the great unwashed to embrace (shame on them).

This is also an album which you must invest time into, a record where an instant reaction is not going to be forthcoming.  Hence why I'm reviewing it so late after its original release.  My first reaction - Well, that's different once again.  However, as the weeks have gone by, I've discovered little subtleties embedded into this album.  It's not an instant classic, it's a slow burner in the classic sense.  Songs like "The Oaks" take time to get under your skin, they cannot be rushed.  World's Strongest Man is a hidden gem in 2018, one that will take people by surprise.  I reckon that Gaz Coombes is onto a world beater here, but one that might not be for the masses.  If you're looking for something slightly off the beaten path of the mainstream, this could be the album for you.

9 out of ten - Almost perfect, almost......

Top track - Wounded Ego


You can purchase World's Strongest Man on Amazon here.

You can visit the Gaz Coombes website here.

You can follow the activities of Gaz Coombes on Facebook here.

You can stream World's Strongest Man on Spotify here.

You can stream World's Strongest Man on Deezer here.

You can stream World's Strongest Man on Tidal here.

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