13 January 2018

They Might Be Giants - I Like Fun

Rightly or wrongly, They Might Be Giants will always be viewed as a ‘One Hit Wonder’ in the UK, which is a shame.  If you mention their name to people of a certain age, you will get a tuneless rendition of ‘Birdhouse in Your Soul’, if you’re lucky you’ll get a tuneless rendition of ‘Boss of Me’ (the theme song to the TV show Malcolm in the Middle).  The thing that makes this a shame is that They Might Be Giants have released hundreds of songs, via some messed up mediums, they are pioneers of strange and they just seem to be reduced to one or two songs.  The last time I looked at their work was Glean (our review linked here), but I didn’t realise that they released another two albums in 2015 & 2016 – one called Why? and one called Phone Power.  The fact I missed both records being released speaks volumes, it shows that I need to keep a closer eye on them, it’s also a testament to their productivity level, the sheer volume of material that they go through.  I Like Fun will be released on 19th January 2018, it’s their twentieth studio album and when I got offered an advance copy to review, I got a little excited.  Mainly because I knew before I started this that it wouldn’t be what I expected, which is the same for all their records.  I like surprises, so let’s see how much fun I Like Fun contains…...

01 - Let's Get This Over With

In typical TMBG's style, they start this album with a quirky number about the strangeness of life, in this instance, it's all about how life comes to an end one day.  There is a morbid feeling to this song, but with a joyful and jaunty feeling to the music.  That is TMBG in a nutshell, seeing things from a different point of view and making it sound delightful as well.  They're as charming as ever on "Let's Get This Over With", I think the world would end if their opening song for an album was not dripping with irony.

02 - I Left My Body

"I Left My Body" is possibly the heaviest song from TMBG in years, it's a hard-rocking number about astral projection, where the mind is out of the body and is all alone.  After a while, he goes back to his body and has totally forgotten its location.  It gets better with each spin, with its strange story and a heavy chorus that gets stuck in your mind.

03 - All Time What

"All Time What" is a Rock 'n' Roll song given an Alternative dress and sent out into the world, with a saxophone section that gives this song legs that could walk anywhere without breaking a sweat.  It's already making its way up to the higher levels of my favourite TMBG songs, there is that magic factor which makes a lot of their songs so intoxicating.  It's another heavy one by their own standards, but still in keeping with their own style.

04 - By the Time You Get This

"By the Time You Get This" is a strange number, it’s a song about a letter to a future culture which fought a great war, safe in the knowledge that they laid their lives down for.  The letter is noted to be written in the 1930's, so there is an ironic twist as the world is still messed up.  I love that sort of detail, the care for the environment and the knowledge that the past generations might have faced similar anxieties/dreams as we do now.

05 - An Insult to the Fact Checkers

What's going on here!  Another heavy TMBG number!  Not that I'm complaining, it's just a surprise to me today.  The sound of the song is fantastic, the words about getting your facts right are brilliant, I've got a feeling it might be about the man with the tiny hands in the White House, but even if it's not you can't deny how the level of joy that this song delivers.

06 - Mrs Bluebeard

Finally!  One of those strange numbers that I've come to expect from TMBG!  It's a piano-led number, with a weird time signature and beat that makes it sound uncomfortable as the beat sounds as if it's in conflict with the rest of the song.  It's not an easy one to like, but that is also part of the charm as well.  I'm just glad it's on the album, I don't know if I could have coped if there wasn't a strange song on here.

07 - I Like Fun

The title track of the album is another little strange number, this time about a person who must be controlled, as he likes fun too much.  It's a bizarre song, with its horn section, crooning vocals and strange harmonies.  But I love this side of the band, the fact that they're not satisfied and there is still a maverick spirit in their souls.  It mightn't be my favourite on here, but it's still a good number.

08 - Push Back the Hands

"Push Back the Hands" is full of regret, about wanting to change the past and live a totally different life.  To be honest, it's the first song on the album which I don't connect with, which can happen on a fifteen-track album.  Anyway, onto the next song.

09 - This Microphone

"The Microphone" is a song that talks about hiding information, getting rid of bad feelings, and those moments where there is nothing is going right.  It's a slow number, a natural pause in the album, one that has a natural feeling.  I don't dislike this one, but I'm not in a desperate hurry to hear it again.

10 - The Bright Side

"The Bright Side" is a beautiful little number, an Alternative Rock song that makes the sunshine appear in my mind.  But the lyrics are not bathed in sunshine, which is what I've come to expect with TMBG.  There is a depressive feeling to this song, one that gives that bright and beautiful sunny feeling of the chorus a sinister edge.  I think that's why I still get sunshine when I hear it, I like the irony and it works for me, it probably means I need therapy.

11 - When the Light Comes On

"When the Light Comes On" is a strange number, a song about having too much of a good time, but hoping everything is great when the lights come on in the morning.  Musically it's another jolly number, lyrically it's another song with a dark underbelly.  I love this one, it's a warning to people not to get too messed up, or at least that is the message I’m getting from it.

12 - Lake Monsters

“Lake Monsters” is a song about monsters, trying to see their existence and it has a few detours around their strange life.  It’s as strange as anything else that TMBG has released over the year, with its strange time signature and even stranger theme, it also has two distinct sections as well, which gives it a grafted and DIY feeling.  Another number that comes across as decent, but not amazing.

13 - McCafferty’s Bib

“McCafferty’s Bib” is a strange, minimalist piece about one fact, the mystical bib of McCafferty.  You are either going to like this repetitive drone or not, it has a beautiful quality, but it’s not for everyone.

14 - The Greatest

“The Greatest” is another minimalist piece towards the ends of this album, which is over very quickly. With a tale about wanting to achieve greatness, but not being able to reach that level due to a lack of a sarcastic streak is strangely hypnotic.  But I’m under no illusion that it’s not for everyone, with that said, the average TMBG fan is not someone who is not that bothered with the mainstream, to be honest, a bit like the band themselves.

15 - Last Wave

Ending the album on a rocking note, “Last Wave” sees TMBG look at the end game of existence, stating that we all die alone, much the way that we come into this world and it’s our every second thought.  I love this for all the wrong reasons, maybe it’s the macabre nature of the song, the fact it looks Death in the eye and says, “fuck it, let’s do this”!  But it gives this album a brilliant finale!

I Like Fun does exactly what it says on the tin - it's a fun album of 15 short songs of variant quality, with the usual mix bag of results from TMBG.  I don't think it would be a TMBG albums if there wasn't a moment that came from their own left field and you had to consider for a long time.  Even though the songs are short, you really could knock four of these off and it wouldn't affect the outcome for me (unless it's the first three, they're golden!).  It's also an album that works best when played in one run, it's not one that sounds so good when you focus too much on.  As I mentioned before, it’s a strange beast and the band are focusing on their core strengths, which includes their ability to look at things from the outside and see the strange, the bizarre and the beauty in nature.  I love that these guys are still going, that they have lots of strange and bizarre things to say to everyone.  The world would be a darker place without them, and there would be a little less fun in the world as well.

7 out of ten - This is good and worth checking out.

Top track - An Insult to the Fact Checkers

You can pre-order I Like Fun on Amazon here.

You can visit the They Might Be Giants website here (and you can also pre-order the album and various bundles) here.

You can follow the activities of They Might Be Giants on Facebook here.

At the time of writing, I Like Fun is not on streaming sites.  If this changes once the album is released, I'll up the links here.  If not, you'll have to purchase it.

1 January 2018

Round Up - Singles & EP's

I have had an awful lot of single and EP submissions, which is something that I've not always been able to focus on if I'm brutally honest.  But I've been wanting to review some of these submissions as they sound interesting.  Also, there have been a couple of releases that have not been submitted that I wanted to pick up for my own reasons.  But time has not always been my friend, as is the way of things around here.  So, as I've been busy with album reviews and such things, I thought I would do a round-up post of these releases that I was sent in 2017.  I wish I had time to dedicate a single post to each release, but there is only one person working here these days, so a round-up it is.

Alex Stanilla - WEN EP (Released via Kangaroo Boy Records, available on streaming sites)

Alex Stanilla is an electronica artist, who deals with a twisted version of indie that is also so strange, so warped and also very hypnotic.  Imagine if Trent Reznor has created Nine Inch Nails with a love of Fever Ray and Visuals, then let Billy Corgan write the words.  I like this a lot, there is something strangely familiar about it from the beginning, as if I've heard it before.  If you're looking for something slightly off the beaten path, this is a great place to start.

4 out of five - This is really good, well worth checking out

Top track - Albuquerque

Donnie Alexzander - Donnie Alexzander (Self release on Bandcamp)

Donnie Alexzander is an indie-three piece who hails from Hartford, Connecticut, USA, who sound like a lo-fi grunge deluxe band.  Over the four tracks on this EP, Donnie Alexzander creates a good amount of noise, there are some slower numbers mixed in, but all brought together under a very definite alternative banner.  Lyrically, it's not quite as hot, but lyrics come with time.  It's a decent release, which shows promise for the future.

4 out of five - This is really good, well worth checking out

Top track - The Black And The Red

Twin Tides - All These Songs, All About Her (Self-released, available on streaming sites)

I can't find out much information on Twin Tides, they class themselves as (and I quote directly from their Facebook page) "as an Alt/Pop duo from the foothills of the Smokies." That's not much information to go on, also the picture of them on their page has three people, so that makes them a trio???  Anyway, enough of that, what about the music?  All These Songs, All About Her would not have been out of place in the 80's, and I don't mean the party 80's which you hear at discos. This will appeal to fans of Autoheart, Go West and the love song at the end of 80's movies.  It's a decent EP, one for the brokenhearted synth lover.

4 out of five - This is really good, well worth checking out

Top track - Me/You

Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes - Spray Paint Love (Released via Internation Death Cult, available on streaming sites)

"Spray Paint Love" is a solo single that was released towards the end of last year by Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, which coincided with their tour of the UK (where they also recorded a live album at London's Brixton Academy).  It's a heavier beast than most of their Modern Ruin, but it's also a bridge between that record and their first album Blossom.  I love that main riff, it already sounds like a classic track and the band sound tight as a nut.  If Modern Ruin had have sounded more like this, it would have been higher on my end of year album list.

4.5 out of five - This is really good, well worth checking out

Top track - only one song, so by default - Spray Paint Love

Cold Sweats - Most High (Self-release - available from the Cold Sweats Bandcamp page)

Cold Sweats have returned with an adrenaline-fuelled, garage rock noise fest.  It's got swagger, it's got style and above all, it sounds like a band who is determined to strike out on their own groove.  It's a mixture of old time rock 'n' roll, garage noise and some huge riffs, what is there not to love on this one?  They have also released another EP which I need to check out, watch this space.

4 out of five - This is really good, well worth checking out

Top track - Swollen Head

The Thick Un's - Deadly Bargain (Self-release - available on streaming sites)

Originally released in 2016, Deadly Bargain is the home-recorded project of The Thick Un's (a solo project by Marc Kennedy).  It's a lo-fi recording that has shades of The B-52's, Captain Beefheart and mutated surf rock noise mixed together, unleashing a bizarre and strange creature onto the world.  It shows potential, there are some rough edges for sure and it's not easily accessible.  But there is something about it that keeps me coming back to it as I'm still trying to figure out some parts of it.  Tread carefully here, it's well off the beaten path, but it could be worth it.

3 out of five - Decent, getting there

Top track - Killer Hunt

The Virginmarys - Sitting Ducks EP (Released on ThreeHearts Records, available on streaming sites)

The Virginmarys are one of my favourite acts in the UK at the moment, they're one of the hardest working acts that I've seen and they keep getting better with each release.  Sitting Ducks EP keeps up that good work, with its rock swagger and Midas touch when it comes to riffs.  This is a good release, reminding everyone that they are still there and they've not gone away!

4 out of five - This is really good, well worth checking out

Top track -Through The Sky

Stone Temple Pilots - Meadow (Released via Play Pen Music, available on streaming sites)

Releasing their first song with Jeff Gutt, Stone Temple Pilots had a lot riding on "Meadow".  It's only natural to compare this to their previous work, they're one of the original Grunge acts and released some great albums.  I wanted to like "Meadow", I didn't want to hate it and I can honestly say that I don't hate it.  But I'm not loving it either, it's very forgettable and that isn't what you want from a song that is supposed to be starting your new era.  Time will tell if this line-up works, but this is a below average start.

2 out of five - Not bad, not good, so average it's zen

Top track - Meadow, but only by default as it's the only track on this release.

Bobby Mahoney & the Seventh Son - Empty Passenger Seat//Another Deadbeat Summer (2017) (Released via Bobby Mahoney Music, available on streaming sites)

Bobby Mahoney & The Seventh Son are an alternative rock/punk band from New Jersey in the USA, they have been incredibly patient for this review.  This two-track single is a reminder that American Punk is not always about slogans, sometimes it's about love as well.  With a sound akin to Social Distortion on a Bruce Springsteen trip, Bobby Mahoney & The Seventh Son have taken those influences and moulded it into something new, this is a great single and hopefully, there will be more to come.

5 out of five - I wish I had extra ears to love this more

Top track - Empty Passenger Seat

New Language - Everybody Scream EP (Self-release, available on streaming sites)

New Language was one of my best finds in 2017, releasing this EP as well as the fantastic album Come Alive, New Language is turning out to be one of the best-kept secrets in underground Alternative Metal.  They have lofty ambitions as this sound isn't one that will stay underground for long, as shown on the "Everybody Scream EP".  If this was on a major label, it would be on every American radio station and they would also be making waves over here in the UK.  I've not been as interested in a modern Alternative Metal act for so long, it's very invigorating and it sounds brilliant.  Get this EP and also get their album!

5 out of five - I wish I had more ears to love this more

Top track - Out of My Head

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever - The French Press EP (Self-released via Sub Pop Records, available on streaming sites)

Rolling Blackouts Costal Fever are from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, and they have been making big waves in their native land.  It's easy to see why, they have a sound that is very similar to the likes of The War on Drugs, Kurt Ville, Brian Jonestown Massacre and other acts of that ilk.  I love the song "French Press", it was one of my favourites from 2017, but the rest of the EP does not quite hit that highwater mark.  It's a good EP, but I think there is better to come from them.

3.5 out of five - Decent, getting there

Top track - French Press

October Ends - A New Path EP & From The Inside (Single) (Self-released, available on streaming sites)

October Ends are a Newcastle based Metalcore/Groove Metal act who released an EP and a single in 2017.  Their sound is aggressive, with huge riffs and uplifting tones that are mixed with crushing riffs.  Both releases are good examples of how good Metalcore/Groove Metal can be when it's done correctly, they sound tight and they are definitely deserving the attention that is being laid upon them.  I also applaud their cover of the Linkin Park track "From The Inside", it's a good cover of that song.

A New Path EP - 4 out of five - This is really good, well worth checking out

From The Inside - 4 out of five - This is really good, well worth checking out

Top track - A New Path

Mantar - The Spell EP (Released via Nuclear Blast Records, available on streaming sites)

Mantar is one of those bands who keep getting better with each listen, The Spell is no exception to that formula that Mantar has made their own blueprint.  They are slow, methodical and brutal as ever, if anything, they sound even tighter than they did before on this release.  With each record, they keep getting better, and the Spell EP is no exception! All hail Mantar!

5 out of five - I wish I had more ears to love this

Top track - Age of the Virl

In this new year, I've got plans to do regular single round-ups.  Hopefully, 2018 this year can be as good musically as 2017 was! - Eddie.

Thomas Truax - All That Heaven Allows

With 2017 now in the history books, it’s time to start to look at new albums for 2018.  When I was offered the chance to review the latest album from Sir Thomas of Truax, I jumped at the chance.  If you're familiar with this blog, then you should be aware of the previous reviews of the last few albums by Sir TT (if not, here is a link to those reviews).  I've waxed lyrical about his live shows, I've wittered on about his bizarre and wondrous approach to instruments and how he can make any room seem like a theatre of enchantment.  And whilst those live performances continue to be breath-taking, the studio input has not always recreated the same level of magic.  I'm not saying his studio work is poor, but those live shows take some beating.  But recently, Sir TT has been focusing a lot on his studio work, especially with the Full Moon Music Club.  If you join this service via his Bandcamp page, you will get instant access to all new music upon its release.  It's a fantastic little service, something that is a must for all fans of those Wowtown newsletters.  I also love the title of this record, it speaks of mystery, love and a little bit of the macabre.  But how has All That Heaven Allows turn out, we need to find out, speaking of which......

01 - Swimming Back to Wowtown

We return once more to that mythical place, that port with Sir TT calls home and the macabre citizens are calling from over the waves.  It’s a beautiful number with its pounding drums, strange horns, slow rhythm and abstract lyrics, “Swimming Back to Wowtown” is the best start to a Sir TT album since “Why Do Dogs Howl at The Moon Part 1”.  It has those bizarre moments that make Sir Thomas stand out from the crowd, it’s a bizarre and beautiful creature, one that sinks its hooks into you straight away.

02 - Save Me (featuring Gemma Ray)

Featuring singer/songwriter Gemma Ray, “Save Me” is a song about two people that are trying to save themselves by investing in each other.  This could be a dangerous situation to be honest, at least for the two would be lovers.  Musically though, this is a dangerous mix that is made in heaven, with a potent mixture of classic 60’s noise, those wonderful barbed lyrics of Sir TT and that hypnotic combination of vocals of Gemma Ray.  I would love to hear a full Ray/Truax album, it could be a world beater.  But "Save Me" is a fantastic number in its own right as well.

03 - Humane Train

“Humane Train” is a song which has already been performed live, and it has a live appeal in its studio form as well.  At the core of the song is a desire to get people to just be nice to each other, treat others as you would like to be treated and to not be a git.  The backing vocals for the song are beautiful, it gives this song a slice of glamour and style, but all with that trademarked Truax charm.  What a wonderful little number.

04 - Precarious Waltz

Now, this is what I’ve come to expect from Sir Thomas, a bizarre and wondrous number which sounds unlike anything else you would have heard before.  The story of the song is about a cat that has been chased by a fox up a tree, who is saved by Sir Thomas and his friend.  It’s not a strange as other TT numbers, but with its waltz time signature and style, it sounds like it’s about to fall over at any given moment, but it always comes back together.  I like this one a lot, I like that it sounds fractured, that it has a bizarre heartbeat and a strange tale, that probably says more about me than anything else.

05 - Little Bites (Granny Says Part 2)

With mournful guitars, large sections where the guitar is the only sound and a Spaghetti-Western meets David Bowie Labyrinth-era sound, “Little Bites (Granny Says Part 2)” is a song that comes with a warning, take your time and rewards will come.  It’s a slow song, it takes a while to get into the swing of things, but it’s worth the effort as it has a certain something about it.  I love the style, I love the tone and it gets better with each spin of the album.

06 - International Homeland Security

“International Homeland Security” is a full band song, with a decent riff and some good lyrics.  Out of all the songs on this album, it’s the only one that I’ve not really warmed to if I’m honest.  That is not to say it’s a bad number, but it doesn’t have that instant appeal that other tracks on this record possess.  So, onto the next one…...

07 - Tonight We're Gonna Fly

“Tonight We’re Gonna Fly” is another song that contains the traditional Truax sound, the hornicator is heavily used on this track, which means it will be easily translated to his fantastic live shows.  It feels like a Lynch-directed version of his song “Post Post Post Modern” from Sonic Dreamer, with so many strange and wondrous hooks that it sinks into your subconscious, with the ease of a thief in the night.

08 - Save Me (Reprise) (Featuring Gemma Ray)

“Save Me (Reprise)” returns to the sound of the original song, but in this one, it’s asking for everyone to be saved.  I love this return to "Save Me", it’s short and sweet as a reprise should be.  Not much more to say on this one, so onwards to the next track.

09 - Your Ever Changing Face/All That Heaven Allows

If I wanted a perfect example to showcase all facets of Sir Thomas, I cannot think of a better song than “Your Ever Changing Face/All That Heaven Allows”.  It covers everything – that bizarre time signature, the fan on the guitar, the changing tempo that shifts like sand under your feet, moving from a Twin Peaks/Zappa hippy trip to a slow and macabre sound, the whole package is here for all to see!  It’s a great song, not my overall favourite of the album, but still one of the standout moments on this record.

10 - The Mobile Starts to Spin

“The Mobile Starts to Spin” bring proceedings to an end on All That Heaven Allows, with a mournful sound that would not be out of place at the end of some art-house movie.  With sparse piano, gentle strings and a repetitive guitar pattern, this is a path back to reality after a trip to Wowtown, a way to let the real world back in as you come back from that alternative version of Oz.  It’s a beautiful, fragile ending to this album.

I think Sir Thomas might have nailed it here, and I don’t say that lightly.  Each track on All That Heaven Allows could easily be transferred into his live set, some of them already have and they sound brilliant in studio form.  Each time I have spun this record, my love for this album has grown and it’s never lost my attention.  Are there any issues?  Well, apart from one song which does not quite cut the mustard for me, it’s the best work that Sir Thomas has released (I’m still upset he’s not got his real knighthood!!!).  I would recommend going to his live shows, purchasing this album and immersing yourself in the strange and wonderful world of Wowtown, you may never want to leave…..  Also, once it has been released (and Sir TT has revealed his artwork), I will update all the links and the cover photo of this album.

9 out of ten – Almost perfect, almost…...

Top track – Tonight, We’re Gonna Fly

You can pre-order All That Heaven Allows from the Thomas Truax Bandcamp page here, as well as join the Full Moon Music Club

You can visit the Thomas Truax website here.

You can follow the activities of Thomas Truax on Facebook here.

At the time of writing, All That Heaven Allows is not available on streaming sites. 

All That Heaven Allows is due to be released on 19th January 2018.

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