26 August 2018

Bearded Gentlemen Music - Eddie's 2018 Reviews

As some of you will know, as well as being the overlord/running this wonderful blog, I also contribute to another publication.  The blog in question is the amazing Bearded Gentlemen Music.  Bearded Gentlemen Music is a blog that was started in January 2012, it's the brainchild of Jon Robertson and Issac Atenco III.  It was created out of a mutual love of music, with an outsider approach to trends and styles.  BGM has provided many aspiring writers with the opportunity to discuss artists/bands/music that they're interested in.  They have also given this opportunity to me, which in turn has led to some changes in my writing style for this blog. Before I joined,  I was a fan of BGM, I'm still a fan now and will continue to be when they eventually kick me out for one too many Zappa comments.

I'm setting up this page where I'll add links for any article that I have contributed to BGM.  I'll create a new post for each year going forward as well.  However, don't just check out my stuff, there are so many cool and interesting articles on the BGM site!  I would also recommend their podcast, I appeared on it before and it was such a blast! - Eddie

Clutch: Book of Bad Decisions - Hot Damn! 

You can visit the Bearded Gentlemen Music website front page here

Here is a link to the BGM podcast episode I appeared on

Corrosion of Conformity - No Cross, No Crown | Heavy Metal for All Fans of Metal

R.I.P. Mark E. Smith (The Fall)

They Might Be Giants - I Like Fun | Less is more

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Wrong Creatures | Changed Creatures?

David Byrne - American Utopia | A Fearless American Dream

Editors - Violence | Is Violence the answer?

Manic Street Preachers - Futile Resistance | Is Resistance Futile?

We Are Scientists | Six In, All Out!

YOB - Our Raw(est) Heart 

Nine Inch Nails - Violent Witch Event: A review of the EP trilogy 2016-2018

Deafheaven - Ordinary Corrupt Human Love | What is love without corruption?

You can see all of these and other reviews I have contributed to this link here.

Death Cab For Cutie - Thank You For Today

I'm going to start this review with a question - Have you ever had a band/artist you have a love/hate relationship with?  I don't mean in the physical one in the real world, that would be creepy and stalkerish.  What I mean is whenever an artist or band release something, your reaction is either absolute joy or crushing disappointment.  For me, Death Cab For Cutie is an example of a band I've experienced this type of relationship.  I always want to check out their work, but I also am a little cautious about their releases as I've been disappointed so many times.

I cannot blame Death Cab For Cutie for this. When they release an album, it should be what they want to release, and the rest of us are joining them for the ride.  They have to please themselves first before they please others.  As it has always been and as it rightly should always remain so.  But as a fan, you always hope that you'll hear something that will have an impact, something that will shake your foundation, something that makes your world a better place just for existing.

Thank You For Today is the ninth studio album, following their 2015 release Kintsugi.  They have been joined once again by producer Rich Costey, whilst it is the first release not to feature founding member Chris Walla.  A change in personnel can be a positive thing at times, for both the band left behind and the artist who departed.  By the sounds of it, the band and Walla parted on amicable terms so it seems to have worked out for the best.

Thank You For Today with reflection and reluctance at its very core.  There is a lamenting of change, such as on "Gold Rush" which discusses the urban changes of their native Seattle.  There is also the feverish hope of friendship despite distance on "When We Drive", a song that could be about a lover or the recently departed Mr Walla.  This theme is also repeated on "Near Far", a song which once again talks about how a distance between people can affect relationships.   You also feel a sense of reflection on songs such as "Northern Lights" and "Summer Years".  This could have easily turned into a midlife crisis album, but they manage to steer away from that pit of peril.

Musically, Thank You For Today feels like a new version of their old style, which is a weird thing in my head.  Let me explain, the sound is their signature sound, there are no other bands out there which share that same tone.  However, they've added some atmosphere to their sound which was missing from a few of their releases.  With this, it feels as if the innocence of their earlier has returned.  It feels as if they are enjoying creating their music, which is always something that I look for on an album.  Sure, it's still as miserable as you'd expect, but if DCFC started to make summer trance anthems, I'd be very worried.

Overall, Thank You For Today is a fantastic album, a return to their roots without sounding like a retreat.  They've rediscovered a bit about what makes them special, whilst their beloved home is changing beyond their recognition.  Sometimes the past can strongly influence the future, sometimes that has to be removed for something to grown.  I think on the basis of this record, Death Cab For Cutie has a solid foundation for the next chapter in their career.  Also, Thank You For Today is firmly in the love side of my relationship with this band.

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

Top track - When We Drive

You can visit the Death Cab For Cutie website here.

You can follow the activities of Death Cab For Cutie on Facebook here.

You can purchase Thank You For Today on Amazon here.

You can stream Thank You For Today on Spotify here.

You can stream Thank You For Today on Deezer here.

You can stream Thank You For Today on Tidal here. 

17 August 2018

Youth Killed It - What's So Great, Britain?

Youth Killed It are a British band from Norwich, currently signed to Rude Records.  Formed in 2016 after a change of direction from previous metal incarnation Under the Influence.  They consist of Jack Murphy (lead vocals/guitar), Carlos Montero - (guitar), Josh Thexton - (bass), Ben Ford - (drums) & Josh Arter-Taylor (guitar). They've put in a lot of work in a relatively short period of time.  They've released two EP (Welcome to The Sad Boys Club and Welcome to The Happy Girls Club), as well as their debut record Modern Bollotics.  For a lot of bands, that is their entire career over six years!  So, you cannot accuse Youth Killed It being lazy, they are a modern industry wonder - A band who are prepared to put in the effort and getting out there.

Last year, whilst the band were out on tour just after the release of their single "Islands", I had the pleasure of conducting a telephone interview with Jack from the band for my radio show, Attention Please.  It was a good interview, I still use the jingle he made on the show a lot.  I made a note in my mind to follow up on this with a review of their next record, which they were getting ready to record after that tour.  So, I was rather chuffed when a press release for their new singles arrived in my inbox.  But the news that got my attention was the forthcoming semaphore album, What's So Great, Britain? This is going to be released on 5th October 2018 and will be supported initially by a short UK tour.  

Originally, started work on What’s So Great, Britain? with a production crew, the album was ultimately self-produced as they felt something was missing from those sessions.  As Jack Murphy says on the blurb with the release - “Our sound just wasn’t where we wanted it to be, so Carlos and I produced it. It gave us more time and fewer restrictions. It really is from start to finish a band job: no extra writers, no producers, just us.”  It takes a certain amount of self-belief and bravery to do that, to step out and say, "fuck it, we're doing it our way".  Sometimes it can work against a band, being so insular and enclosed can lead to a lack of creative spark.  However, it can also lead to a self-dependence and the ability to follow the beat of their own drum.  So, what will it be for Youth Killed It on What's So Great, Britain?

The first thing is that Youth Killed It really know their own sound like the back of their collective hands.  Every song on What's So Great, Britain? folds in with the rest of their back catalogue as seamlessly as a feather on a falcon.  Over the course of twelve songs, Youth Killed It create a vision of what the UK looks like at this present moment.  It's something that I recognise a lot more than the vision that is played out on the TV, this is based in the real world of nervous anticipation, enclosed emotions, national pride, fear, humour, laziness and the weird hangover that seems to be hanging over this septic isle.

At the time of writing, the band have released four tracks as heralds for this album - "Where Did I Go Wrong", "What's So Great, Britain?", "Great British Summer" and "Headbutt".  Each track is a social commentary that could have been written about events in my street.  They have noticed that we (as a nation) are acting like dicks in some ways, but we could be better as a society.  We could also stop trying to keep it all in ("On My Own"), stop repeating patterns of laziness ("The Getaway") or just needing to get away from a fight that will never stop ("Peaceful House").  Each of the twelve songs is a little gem, each one could easily be the best record of the album. Overall, I think "What's So Great, Britain?" is the best song here, it just has that edge to it which lifts it slightly above the rest of the records.  But as I said, each track is a belter.

Does this album have any issues?  Well, apart from being two months away from release, no.  It seems that working on their own was the right decision for Youth Killed It here as they have hit this one out of the park.  If you read this blog a lot, you'll know that I love metal and angry music.  But I also love it when a band creates an album in their own genre and it's spot on.  So why the nine out of ten if I like it so much?  Well, there is only one issue for me with WSG,B?, it ends too soon.  It;s a great album and I sort of wanted more, but that is just me being a little greedy.  From beginning to end, Youth Killed It are on fire with this record. What's So Great, Britain? is a brilliant modern Indie Rock album which has influences in the past, but it's also stamped with their own identity.  They might be shaking their head at the state of this country, but they've made an album that should put them on the musical map of this country.  This is a great record and you should get it as soon as it's released.

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

Top track - What's So Great, Britain?

What's So Great, Britain? is not available until 5th October, you can pre-order via this link to various service (link provided by the press release from Rude Records).

You can visit the Youth Killed It website here.

You can follow the activities of Youth Killed It on Facebook here.

At the time of writing, it's a good couple of months before What's So Great, Britain? is released.  So, it's obviously not going to be available on streaming sites for a while.  However if it becomes available on Spotify (here), Deezer (here) or Tidal (here), if you click on the link next to the service name, it'll take you to the relevant page on the streaming site of your preference.

Here is the video to What's So Great, Britain?

11 August 2018

Dot Dash - Proto Retro

Welcome back Dot Dash, it's nice to have you back.  Dot Dash (for those who have not been following this blog since 2015) are a Power Pop/Rock band from Washington DC.  They reach out to me to review Earthquakes & Tidal Waves, following up with a review of Searchlights (you can read both via this link here).  To be honest, I was starting to wonder if there was going to be a new record from these guys.  They just started popping up in my shuffle mixes, so it seems like serendipity that they're back in my life.  In the two years since I last encountered them, they've reduced to a three-piece.  A change in personnel can sometimes lead to a change in sound and without further ado, let's look at this album.

The change in personnel has led to a change in tone, but not in a change of style.  Dot Dash still specialises in Power Pop/Alternative Rock noise, but the distortion has been turned down a little.  This has brought in a new melodic flavour to their sound and it seems to bring everything together.  From the opening beat of "Unfair Weather", via the soaring "Triple Rainbow" and to the end of "Sun + Moon = Disguise", they bring punchy song after punchy song.  In their slower moments such as the aforementioned "Tripple Rainbow", they have a delicate touch that makes this album a bit of a charmer.  The jaunty opening to "Dead Letter Rays" is another example of how subtle Dot Dash can be, as it opens up into a beautiful track that will melt people's hearts.  At thirty-two minutes long, this is an album that you can keep listening to, over and over again.

Proto Retro also focuses heavily on the retro sound of the band, so much so that it feels as if it could seamlessly fit into another era.  This is not a criticism, just pointing out that their sound is unashamedly proud of their influences and more power to them for it.  To be honest, if I had one thing I would liked to have heard on Proto Retro, I would have liked to have heard more than one song over three minutes in length.  However, if I'm honest, it mightn't have worked with the overall tone of the record. I think their lighter sound works in their favour, moving the band in the right direction.  And as much as I've enjoyed their earlier records, they seemed to have a darkness to them.  This album is a brighter sound, one which I'm enjoying more with each subsequent listen.  Proto Retro is a breath of sunshine with its tone, quick bursts of Power Pop and top quality songs.

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

Top track - Unfair Weather

You can purchase Proto Retro on the Dot Dash Bandcamp page here.

You can purchase Proto Retro on Amazon here.

You can follow the activities of Dot Dash on Facebook here.

You can stream Proto Retro on Spotify here.

You can stream Proto Retro on Deezer here.

You can stream Proto Retro on Tidal here.

10 August 2018

Idles - Joy as an Act of Resistance

Finding the right words to open this review is proving elusive, so I'm going to start with that confession.  Not because I'm not familiar with Idles, far from it as regular readers of this blog will attest to.  Last year, Brutalism (you can read our review here) was number two in our album of the year list behind Oxbow.  "Mother" was in the top ten songs of 2017 and still regularly gets an airing around my house.  I also was lucky enough to see them live.  It was at the Think Tank in Newcastle with support from Dunes and Mouse and it was a fantastic show.  I think the reason I'm struggling is that I know how excited I've been in anticipating this album.  I've been bugging the PR company for weeks to get my mitts on a stream or download and now I have it.   So, it's been an exciting couple of days listening to this record.  However, anticipation and actuality can be two distinctly different things.  There have been thousands of albums that I've feverishly waited for, but the end results have been lacking.  I'm hoping that Joy as an Act of Resistance will not head down the same route.  Well, there is only one way to find out.

Joy as an Act of Resistance is Idles second album, which will be released on Partisan Records on 31st August.  At the time of writing, three songs have been released as singles before it's release - "Colossus", "Danny Nedelko" and "Samaritans".  Each track brings something different to the table.  "Colossus" is a slow building monster that can smash holes in speakers, "Danny Nedelko" is going to become one of Idles most treasured tracks in years to come and "Samaritans" is as hard-hitting as anything of Brutalism. However, they leave the hardest and most devastating track has been left on the album.  "June" has me in tears already as I can sadly identify with every word of it, the raw and emotional display is terrifying and it's hard to not shed a tear or two.  I won't go too deep into it, but it'll be one of the most talked about aspects of this album in years to come.

Elsewhere, you have the fantastic train of thought that is "Never Fight a Man With a Perm", a song that jumps from topic to topic and never seems to stay still.  "Great" see Idles ranting about Brexit and the articulated anger on display is fantastic.  "Cry to Me" contains a swagger to the riff and the lyrical fragility is a sharp contrast to their usual barrage of noise. "Love Song" sounds anything but loving, in fact, it's rather harrowing in places. It's a tale of modern romance and it sounds vicious as hell in places.  But the lyrics keep coming back to me, the riff and noise are lodged in my brain and they won't move for anything. From "Colossus" to the snapping "Rottweiler", each song feels like it's ready to explode and change the world around you.  But the songs aren't aiming for epic, that is left for the beige sea of indie artists who are trying to make festival moments.  Idles seem to be aiming for something different, they seem to be aiming to bring social change.  Yes, there are emotional issues attached to a lot of the songs, but not in the way to bring people together in euphoria.

This is the joy of Idles.  Just when you think you've figured them out, they change something unexpectedly.   There is no massive move to a new sound, they're still making a glorious noise.  This is in keeping with the incendiary tone of Brutalism, but there is also a layer of confidence added to the sound.  You cannot fake that sort of thing, its impossible ignore as well.  They know their own worth, it oozes through each note, each beat and each snapping vocal.  To the outsider, it might sound like noise and incoherent ranting.  To the experienced, it's another slice of Manna from a noise influenced Eden.  Yet, when I reach the end of this album, I have to ask the following.  Are there any issues here?  Are there things that could be changed? Have they repeated themselves?  These are questions I must ask if only to make sure this is not a love letter to the band.  Well, that is the billion Euro question, isn't it.....

In one sense, the steps forward here are not huge, some tracks could have fitted effortlessly on Brutalism.  Is that really a crime though?  It's only just been over a year since Brutalism was released, so their sound is not going to be that much different.  Therefore, it shouldn't really be an issue here.  At the end of the day, I'm focusing on how the album leaves me once the final note has rung out.  I think they've reached whatever target they set themselves. Joy as an Act of Resistance takes them further down the road towards infamy, it meets the hype head on and hits it out of the park.  It's a harrowing, vicious and brutal record in places, but who said Idles were ever easy?  I love it, it's a small improvement on everything from Brutalism, so it's not the shocker that I was expecting.  Don't get me wrong, that doesn't change the outcome for Joy as an Act of Resistance.  This is a great album and it'll be near the top of my end of year list.  It doesn't repeat the shock and awe of their debut, but that was never on the card in some ways.  What I love this album though, is the fact they've made an album where there is no dead weight, no wasted effort and it takes everything forwards.  That's an amazing thing when you consider how volatile their music sounds.  At the end of the day, it would be stupid to ignore this record, so why bother?  Order it now, purchase it now if you're reading this after the 31st August 2018, it'll be an essential record for 2018.  And I'm so glad that I haven't ended this review with the obvious line......

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

Top tracks - Colossus/June

You can pre-order Joy as an Act of Resistance on the Idles Bandcamp page here.

You can pre-order Joy as an Act of Resistance on Amazon here.

You can visit the Idles website here, another place you can pre-order Joy as an Act of Resistance.

You can follow the activities of Idles on Facebook here.

At the time of writing, Joy as an Act of Resistance is not available on streaming sites.  However, once (and if) Joy as an Act of Resistance is added to either Deezer (Link), Spotify (Link) or Tidal (Link), you'll be able to find it by hitting 'Link' against your service of choice.  But you really should buy it, that would be a much better idea.

2 August 2018

Treetop Flyers - Treetop Flyers

Treetop Flyers are a London based Country/Americana/Soul influenced band. Formed by Reid Morrison, Laurie Sherman and Sam Beer, Treetop Flyers came about as another project for them within the West London folk scene.  They were soon joined by Rupert Shreeve, who completes the line-up of the band.  According to the press release that came with this album, their style to 60's West Coast pop, with tones of Midlake and Fleetwood Mac.  Treetop Flyers are signed to Loose Music and they are making some waves around the UK, with various press article singing their praises.  Treetop Flyers is their third album, with the band aiming for an organic and open feeling album.  This is an admirable aim, everyone should try for something high.  I must say, the idea of a Country/Soul act is one that I would not have envisioned.  But you never know until you try something, so I'm willing to give anything a try at least once. 

Treetop Flyers is a strange album, but one created by a talented set of musicians.  It's a soul album with some folk/country undertones.  Songs such as "Kooky Clothes", "Warning Bell" and "It's Hard to Understand" are examples of their soul heavy tracks.  I especially like "It's Hard to Understand", the bass and percussion are exceptional and tower over the rest of the record.  For the Country/Soul side of the album, the prime examples are "I Knew I'd Find You", "Sweet Green & Blues" and "Needle".  Each is played well, each has their own unique feeling and some of the tracks grow on you after a while.

However, Treetop Flyers is an album which never settles, never really matches the talent of the band.  The lyrical content is a flaw for me, with the words failing to match the music for me.  Whilst these words might appeal to others, it's not a style of writing that I'm overly fond of, so it prevents me from digging deeper into the album.  Also, it seems that Treetop Flyers are a band in flux at this moment. They appear (from the outsider's point of view) to be at a junction as if they don't know exactly what they want to be.  It seems that they can do any style they choose to turn their hands to, which is an amazing talent to have.  But over the course of this record, the combination doesn't mix well, making Treetop Flyers a difficult album for me to listen to. 

This may be an unpopular review, but I have to be honest with my point of view here.  Whilst Treetop Flyers are accomplished musicians, the clashing of styles and lyrical choices on Treetop Flyers never correlate in the end for me. If they were a soul band, they could nail it. If they were a country band, again, they would be brilliant. But this hybrid is neither one or the other, so it never really hits the highs that their talents deserve.  Whilst it might not work for me, there is a chance it might make someone else's day.  File under "this is someone else's sunshine".

4 out of ten - Well, it's alright, but still.....

Top track - It's Hard to Understand

You can pre-order Treetop Flyers on Amazon here.

You can visit the Treetop Flyers website here.

You can follow the activities of Treetop Flyers on Facebook here.

At the time of writing, Treetop Flyers (the album), is not available on any streaming service.  However, once it is released, you'll be able to check out their Spotify page (here), Deezer page (here) and Tidal page (here).

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