29 May 2018

Not Scientists - Golden Staples

Not Scientist are a French indie/punk band from Lyon, France.  They first came to my attention a couple of months ago, which is precisely at least four years too late.  That may be a strange statement but let me explain.  My old buddy Luke Dunmore sent me a link to one of their earlier tunes called “I Don’t Feel So Crazy”, which blew my mind.  Finally, I’d found a band which crossed my love of melodic punk and rampant indie!  I was blown off my feet with this little intense stomping song, so I was wondering if they had released anything else.  Turns out that they had and I was just about in time for a new album!

Golden Staples is their second studio album, it was mostly recorded at Ultramarinos Costa Brava Studio, Sant Feliu de Guíxols, Spain, by Santi Garcia assisted by Borja (apart from some drum parts) and released on Rookie Records. Right, first things first - being totally honest, the changes that the band have experienced since the release of Leave Stickers on Our Graves and Destroy to Rebuild are minimal.  That clear guitar tone that was a stark contrast to their energetic sound is still present, the energy is still there too.  The song quality is still at a very high standard as well.  Whilst there is nothing as jaw-dropping as “I Don’t Feel So Crazy” (sorry guys, but that is going to be the song you’re best known for), there are some storming tracks.  The stunning “Orientation” feels like a collaboration with Bristol-based legends Idles, as if they’ve taken their sound, added a love of the 80’s and created their own subtle beast.

The main thing I love about Golden Staples is the fact that this is not a carbon copy of previous works.  I would have been disappointed if they’d done that, but they’ve thankfully come back with a storming record gives a slightly new dimension to their sound.  The pounding heartbeat of “Mechanical Reaction” is dark, angry song about trying to figure out what the hell is going on in the world.  The facepalming horror of “Paper Crown” is something that people will relate to.  The feeling of realisation to what they’ve done and trying to find solace just so it doesn't happen to them again.   The message behind the song is there for all to see. There is a heavy 80’s vibe to this album, the tone of songs like “Submarine” and “Golden Staples” is intoxicating, to say the least.  I could wax lyrical about all of them, each song is a little gem.

But are there any issues with Golden Staples?  Well, the only one is that it’s not as instantly accessible as Leave Stickers on Our Graves.  Yet I love it more for not being a direct copy of that release.  This is a rewarding record, it has some rough edges and I love the fact that it reveals more about itself each time.  As I previously said, if they had done a repeat of their earlier work, it would have sucked and shown them to be a one trick pony.  Golden Staples is a great record, one which has some depths that I’ve not fully explored, but that will change over time.  If you’re looking for new indie/punk heroes, Golden Staples is the album for you.

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

Top track - Orientation

You can purchase Golden Staples on Amazon here.

You can purchase Not Staples (and loads of other stuff) from the Not Scientists Bandcamp page here.

You can follow the activities of Not Scientists on Facebook here.

You can stream Golden Staples on Spotify here. 

You can stream Golden Staples on Deezer here. 

You can stream Golden Staples on Tidal here. 

A Perfect Circle - Eat the Elephant

Whenever I talk to people about A Perfect Circle, I’m virtually guaranteed to get one of two reactions.  It’s either “You mean Tool-lite” or “Why has Maynard/Tool not released a new album”.  Both tend to come with a dozen swear words, but both responses do A Perfect Circle a disservice.  Just because they share a vocalist, doesn't mean they're the same band.  I've always found them to be a perfectly fine entity in their own right.  So, fuck people with those responses. However, recently there has been a new response added to the list….and this one is not a kind response.  Because the fans seem to be a little pissed that they have released an album at all. They were expecting the same old material from years ago, which is a ludicrous response to be honest.  The main issue seems to be regarding the use of synths and lack of biting guitar work on their latest album, Eat the Elephant.  Before it was released, each of the four singles was received with wails of anger.  From someone sitting on the sidelines, it’s been a bemusing spectacle and sort of disrespectful.

As Eat the Elephant is the first APC album since 2004’s war protest covers record, Emotive.  To be honest, 14 years between albums is a hell of a long time, but this is a side project!  It’s not as if it’s the main project of the band members has been busy, but let’s not dwell on that either.  The stories about prolonged recording sessions, songs being mixed in isolation and their hiatus all contributed to the long wait.  So, with all that time passing, you can expect a change in tone.  Also, this is not the same group who recorded Emotive, only Messrs Kennan and Howell remain in the studio.  Everyone else has been replaced over the years. So, technically it’s not even the same act.  But here is the big question, is the complaining warranted?

Well, yes and no.  If you’re one of those people who are unable to accept a band must change to survive, you’re going to hate this.  If you’re not a fan of anything that Mr Kennan has released, you’ll be better off looking elsewhere.  If you’re not a fan of synths in rock music, I hear that Avenge Sevenfold are there for your needs (other, more talented bands are available).  Also, the guitars are still there, you just need to listen out for them.  If you’re unable to evolve with a band, then move on – no point crying that they have released something that suits them.  Because this is a changed act, this is a band who know their destiny is not in the past.

The themes of this album are overtly political as well, so that might be a subject that some listeners cannot cope with.  However, this has always been the case with APC, especially with Emotive, so that is not an excuse for disliking this album.  It also targets religion, humanity and the way we’re fucking up the planet as subject matters as well.  There is nothing comfortable about this album, it’s hard biting, full of rage and spectacularly aggressive from the outset.  Basically, everything that you would want from APC.

There are some brilliant moments, the OTT “So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish” is one of my favourite numbers that APC have ever released!  I can imagine it with an America flavoured, OTT video that would be twisted and warped.  The subject matter of humanities nuclear demise, which is bound to happen according to APC.  The talk of saviours and heroes, misplaced faith and humanities slow sleepwalk to destruction is a hot topic, and APC nail it perfectly.   "The Doomed" is another song which I could lose myself in, a dark melodic pool of evil and dark thoughts.  “TalkTalk” is another song which I’ve grown to admire, as it looks at the social media culture of thoughts and prayers, the way they have no meaning and yet it’s a social norm to do now at each disaster, instead of meaningful actions.

The lasting impression I have once the album finishes is the volatility of the world and humanity.  We seem determined to fuck things up for ourselves, to press the reset button.  The warning signs are there for everyone to see, but will people want to go anything about it?  Well, that is not for APC to ponder, they can just point us in that direction and we’re left to arrive at our own conclusions.  But what is the final verdict on Eat the Elephant?  Well, I love it and I have issues with it as well.  Firstly, I think they’ve created a new genre in Alternative AOR music, but that’s just my way of pigeon-holing this uniquely strange record.  All the things I tend to dislike about APC are still here, they seem to stray into self-indulgence too often for my tastes.  This has been something that I’ve felt since their first record, so it’s not a new thing for me.  However, when they hit the sweet spot, they're fantastic.   When all those strange elements come together, then they’re world beater.  But you cannot have one without the other, which is their joy and their curse.  Eat the Elephant is an album that is almost a world beater, but it’s not quite there.  An eight out of ten might seem a strange mark for an album I have issues with, but it's a fair mark. 
However, the fact that this will be one of the most talked about albums of 2018 will tell you all you need to know.

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

Top track – So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

You can purchase Eat the Elephant on Amazon here.

You can visit the website of A Perfect Circle here.

You can follow the activities of A Perfect Circle on Facebook here.

You can stream Eat the Elephant on Spotify here.

You can stream Eat the Elephant on Deezer here.

You can stream Eat the Elephant on Tidal here.

10 May 2018

Middle Kids - Lost Friends

The alternative folk scene seems to be picking upstream at the moment, with the latest name on everyone's lips being Middle Kids.  From Sydney, Australia, Middle Kids are composed of singer/guitarist Hannah Joy, her husband Tim Fitz and drummer Harry Day.  At the moment, every pop-up add and radio jingle is something to do with Middle Kids.  They seem to be everywhere in my life, even before I started to review their debut album, Lost Friends.

Over twelve tracks, Lost Friends is a dozen stories of loves long gone, broken dreams and failed unions.  The first track I heard was "Mistake", which is the stand out track of the album.  With its combination of distortion, the sound of The Cranberries and Ryan Adams, it's a summer anthem in waiting.  In fact, the beginning of Lost Friends is one of the strongest I've heard in a long time.  The same feeling was there with "On My Knees", with its energy and noise, it makes the world a brighter place just for being there. When "Edge of Town" hits its chorus, I was convinced Lost Friends could be a possible world beater.

You may have noticed the past tense I used there,  Well dear reader, I have to confess Lost Friends loses steam as it goes along.  Something about the middle section from "Don't Be Hiding" onwards, the songs just fail to connect with me as instantly.  It's not as if Middle Kids change drastically at this point, but something subtle changes from that point onwards.  This is sadly a feeling I've not been able to shift, no matter how many times I listen to this album. It's a song like "Please" which seem to because help illustrates this for me.  Now, as a song, "Please" sounds decent enough, I'm sure some people will love it.  But for me, it doesn't hit the heights of those first few tracks.

Which brings me to the rub of the album, the album feels front-loaded, with the ending only occurring as the tracks have run out.  The flow of the record is a very important thing for people like me (ie - music nerds).  You could have the best songs in the world, but if the order is wrong, it can ruin an album.  Lost Friends is a record that has some brilliant songs on it, but suffers from putting all it's best tracks to the front.  But I think there is more to come from this band, they have potential and I hope they release a world beater.  If only to prove me wrong!

5 out of ten - Not for everyone, but well played

Top track - Mistake

You can purchase Lost Friends on Bandcamp here.

You can purchase Lost Friends on Amazon here. 

You can visit the Middle Kids website here. 

You can follow the activities of Middle Kids on Facebook here. 

You can stream Lost Friends on Spotify here.

You can stream Lost Friends on Deezer here. 

You can stream Lost Friends on Tidal here. 

Crossing the Limits - Perseverance

Crossing the Limits is a Norwich based pop-punk act, formed in 2016 and they have recently released their debut ep, Perseverance.  They have recently been making a lot of noise, starting to play places outside their native homelands.  They have named Neck Deep, State Champs, Tonight Alive and Against the Current as influences, so you know exactly what style of music you’re going to be listening to before it starts.  This is a self-released EP, so they’ve invested in themselves here.  They’ve also arranged for PR to push the EP, and I must at least apologise for my delay in this review.

But is the music any good?  Well, over the five tracks that make up Perseverance, I’ll be honest and say from the outset that there are no surprises here.   This is a five track EP with tracks about teenage loves, broken hearts, self-exploration and tomorrow’s dreams coming alive.  These are always standard themes for pop-punk, they will be explored time and time again.  This is not to say that Crossing the Limits aren’t good at what they do, but if these themes were not your thing before, this EP is not going to be your cup of tea.

However, if you like your punk to be poppy, to sound like a female fronted Homegrown and for a talent bunch of young people making well-crafted pop-punk, you could do a hell of a lot worse than CtL.  “Reverse” is the highlight of the record for me, an anthem for people who don’t want to be treated like crap, who know their self-worth. Pop-punk is also a genre that can sound stale extremely quickly, and I'm happy to report that CtL keeps things fresh throughout this EP.

Now, I’m not going to lie and say this is ground-breaking, that this re-writes the rulebook.  It’s pretty standard stuff in a genre that has incredibly fixed perimeters.  I’m also not the right audience for this band, my tastes are completely different to the sound these guys are playing.  Yet, why should I not be able to appreciate the effort that has gone into this, to be able to see the dedication to their chosen sound?  It might not be for me, but Crossing the Limits are good at what they do.  That is all you can hope for at times, and I hope that they hit the goals they aim for.  The Perseverance EP is well played, warm and will be a hit with its target audience. 

3.5 out of five – Decent, getting there.

Top track - Reverse

6 May 2018

Sticker Gitters - An overview

Ask and you shall receive. 

Sticker Gitters are a collective label, dealing in lo-fi, freak scene and general noise.  These are very lazy words if I'm being honest, but this is just a general introduction to the map cap/bat crap crazy world that is these guys and girls.  Started in the last couple of years, their turnover of releases and tracks is humongous.  I mean, they keep asking me to review stuff, but then they release another, then another and so on.  It's quite exhausting to follow, also sometimes they delete old mixes and add new ones.

Which is a wonderful thing in some ways, it shows that music is an organic and constantly evolving.  It also means that you have to keep an eye on them as well.  Their mission statement is shown on their Facebook page read as follows:

Masters of the mini-comps (compilation, maximum diversity). Philadelphia underground to NASHVILLE. Download us to your mobile, you can figure it out.

We Promise no changes to any albums more than a week old. Disclaimer: Please Allow for one day of processing each release due to our manic state.

2018 onward one-person-and-a-computer hub (literally) of Nashburo/ville.

NO DUPLICATE ORIGINALS, diversityismyreligion

Weak and thin sounding tracks do not need mastering, they need better frequency distribution. All frequencies matter. Send us your tracks for the free new wave of mastering stickergitters@gmail.com.

So, let's look at a couple of their releases, which will probably change in a few weeks times.....

F. Hero - The Lord of Crack

The Lord of Crack is an electo-noise six-track release, which was one half of SCG split 001.  Each track is a short blast of noise, with random breaks and sounds appearing and disappearing out of earshot.  The further in you descend into this noise, the higher the intensity becomes.  In keeping with the tone of the label, it's not easy listening.  But, you don't come to SG for easy.  Also, that cover is truly terrifying.

ace quaalude - heat death electric

I reviewed this release last year, here is what I had to say then!

Lo-fi music is such a wonderful art form, one that is often frowned upon which is such a shame as it has a lot to offer.  heat death electric is a shining example of everything that is right with the genre, it has a personality that transcends to a higher level.  Some people would use words like Bohemian and avant-garde; for me, it is just a quality Lo-fi, Noise Rock release that has a charm which cannot be denied.  When they are on point, they make some fantastic noise!  Do yourself (and ace quaalude) a favour, check this out as it will not disappoint you!

Charlotte Velvet - Whiplassie

Whiplassie is one of the shorter releases from SG, three songs of various style.  The first is Avante Garde noise with a spoken word introduction, the second starts is a song that sounds like it could be a mournful ballad (but it could also be a sarcastic jazz track) and the last one is a heavy bass electro number that sounds amazing.  Each of the tracks is a short insight into their minds, but they are also far too short as well.  But this is part of the territory when you listen to SG, sometimes these tracks are revisited, I hope that is the case here.

Jonah Sky - Josh Toholsky is JONAH SKY Download Sampler and Foreshadow

This is one of the easier listens on this label, an acoustic guitar driven project that is a stark contrast to the other releases on SG.  But I love that they have given this album a release. But this album also has noise bombs, the sixth track is unexpected and I love that sort of surprise.  I'll let you discover those little sound nuggets yourselves, but trust me - you won't be disappointed.  A lot of people might pass this one by, but they would be fools for doing so. Josh Toholsky is JONAH SKY Download Sampler and Foreshadow is a brilliant record, one which haunts you for long after it has finished.

This is just a small sampler of the releases that are released by SG, there are a lot more on their Bandcamp page and they're always changing shit.  I love that labels with this sort of mission exist, you need little pools of insanity to make the world a better place.  Check them out now!

You can download and stream anything from stickergitters.com on their Bandcamp page here.

You can follow the follow their lunacy on Facebook here.

2 May 2018

The Armed - Only Love

If you've ever read this blog before, you should already be acquainted with Detroit mavericks The Armed/⋈.  If not, you can check out our previous reviews here.  It's been three years since Untitled and two since their live record Unanticipated.  I've been waiting with impatient anticipation for Only Love to be released, I need a dose of chaos every now and then.  The first rumbling of this record started in February, ⋈ started to post accord Facebook and Instagram that music was coming,   Dropping "Witness" with Ben Koller from Converge February 15th, ⋈ unleashed a wave of noise that has been on repeat for a lot of the year.  Then, there was the video for "Role Models" featuring Tommy Wiseau, which was released via Adult Swim.  That was a ballsy move and a show of intent.  ⋈ has set themselves up for one of my most anticipated releases of 2018, so how has it turned out?

Only Love can best be described as anger incarnate.  ⋈ have not softened their style one iota for this release, if anything, they have sharpened their claws and are primed to attack. From "Witness" to "On Jupiter", there is no relenting, it's attack, attack, attack!  Due to this all out onslaught, this album will have weaker mortals running for cover.  Only Love is also not just a noisy album for noise's sake.  There is a focus to this madness, a strange understanding to the guitars and a fuck load of attitude in the mix. The way "Parody Warning" starts with a cough and then erupts into that wonderous noise is fantastic, the same can be said for "Heavily Lined" as it comes from left field and smashes your brain to a bloody pulp.  "On Jupiter" is my favourite song of Only Love,  ⋈ have outdone themselves here with a mixture of noise, sinister slow passages and an all-out feedback attack on the audio senses.

Whilst I am in awe of the performances from ⋈ on Only Love, it is not an easy album by any means.  If you're new to their world, expect a violent hurricane of sound to erupt from your speakers.  If you're familiar with them, it's a little more unhinged than before.  Whilst I might never get the instant shock of "Forever Scum" ever again,  I can appreciate what ⋈ have done here. Each of these tracks is still a fantastic piece of art/violence.  Only Love is a brilliant record, one that will help the legend of ⋈ grow further.  It has been said that there is nothing new to come from Hardcore, that punk has plateaued. There are some who say that nothing else of interest will appear from the genre ever again.  ⋈ would like to challenge that train of thought, to give that concept a good old kick in the bollocks and to destroy your preconception of noise.  Hardcore is dead, long live ⋈!

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

Top track - On Jupiter

You can purchase Only Love from The Armed Bandcamp page here.
You can follow the activities of The Armed on Facebook here.

You can stream Only Love on Spotify here.

You can stream Only Love on Deezer here.

You can stream Only Love on Tidal here.

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