15 February 2019

Bob Mould - Sunshine Rock

Bob Mould is one of the pillars of US Alternative Rock!  I mean, what else can you say about this man! How can you articulate something new about the man who was one of the driving forces in the phenomenal Hüsker Dü, the boss in Sugar (a band which seems to have sadly been forgotten these days) and a decorated solo artist in his own right as well.  Following on from Patch the Sky which was released in 2016, Sunshine Rock was first announced in October 2018, with recording sessions taking place in Oakland, San Francisco and Berlin.  I've been looking forward to this album a lot, but with no idea why.  I've deliberately kept away from anything released from the album, just for the joy of listening to an album without any preconceptions of the sound, songs or overall feeling of the album.  It's a rare thing in the digital age, to have a surprise.  However, will the album be surprising? Will it be the same old stuff?  Well, only one way to find out.....

01 - Sunshine Rock

Starting off the album with the title track is sometimes a double-edged sword as well.  It shows confidence in the title source, it shows a passion for everything to do with the album, it shows a single-minded attitude behind this record.  It's an old school alternative number, a love song with a fuzzy guitar, a few strings in the middle and a brilliant hook.  I love this song, it's a great opening track with a positive beat and uplifting music.

02 - What Do You Want Me To Do

"What Do You Want Me To Do" is Bob mould 101, it's a song that he's written many times before and will do again on future albums.  You have the loud guitars, the smashing drums and a song that you can loop in on itself to become a personal mantra.  It oozes sunshine, it has swagger and it sounds great.  So it might sound familiar, what's exactly wrong with that?  Nothing, nothing at all.....

03 - Sunny Love Song

Ah, the song which sounds like summer, but lyrically it's all gone to shit!  I love this sort of song, the dual nature of the music and the words are so enticing.   Whilst this is clearly an alternative rock song, it's also a Power-pop number.  It comes from both worlds, it has a great hook and a melody that can be stuck in your head for days to come.

04 - Thirty Dozen Roses

Well, we're still on the loud side of Bob Mould's musical palette.  "Thirty Dozen Roses" is a loud song, the distortion is in full effect and the misery is raining once again.  Now, if you're familiar with the previous works of Bob Mould, then if I said this one bridged the sound of the album Bob Mould at it's heaviest with Sugar, then you should get a good idea of how "Thirty Dozen Roses" sounds.

05 - The Final Years

"The Final Years" is the first slow number for Sunshine Rock, one that feels like the final track of a teen comedy from the late '90s/early '00s.  It's full of anxiety, wondering how things could have been different and wondering what went wrong.  There's a drifting sensation to "The Final Years", it goes by in a pleasant way, but it keeps on drifting away as well. It's a decent number, not doing anything wrong, but it's not an essential song on Sunshine Rock.

06 - Irrational Poison

"Irrational Poison", is another slow number, but one that wouldn't have been out of place on a Sugar album.  This tale of self-inflicted wounds, laced together with a small amount of distortion, loud drums and synth-strings over the end is an attention-grabbing number.  It's over a little too quickly for my tastes, but it's a good number none the less.

07 - I Fought

When I listen to "I Fought", I'm hearing the sound of a man paying tribute.  I'm not 100% sure, but in mind, this is his tribute to Grant Hart.  It's a raw number, the emotional carnage and broken ties laid bare.  But even if it's about someone else, this is still a beautiful, angry and emotive number.

08 - Sin King

"Sin King" is full of political overtones, with a mixture of sweet memories and regret about how things have turned out.  Again, it could be about something else, but I'm reading a political statement in this song.  Musically, this is another song that could have been on a Sugar album, with a hint of "Explode & Make-Up" to the music.  I love it's back to basics nature and loud guitars, it makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up, it's a beautiful number. Mr Mould sounds at his best with this type of number, it's probably his strongest suit and one of the best songs on Sunshine Rock as well.

09 - Lost Faith

Now, this is an interesting song, one that has an '80s feeling to it, but not in a Hüsker Dü way.  It's very light, gentle as a lover's caress and it feels like a stripped back New Order number.  Again, its a song with a sad lament to it, a feeling of loss and anger, betrayal and frustration.  Each time I've put it on, I've found something else about it that I didn't notice the last time.  It's a bit of an enigma to me, but one that I enjoy all the same.

10 - Camp Sunshine

Sometimes, a song can feel a little too burdened, as if more instruments were added when less would have been more.  For me, "Camp Sunshine" is that type of song.  A gentle song about wanting to protect the past, maybe even go back to a favourite holiday destination, but awaiting to pass on some guidelines for the future.  Now, if this was just an acoustic guitar, it would have worked for me.  However, it has percussion, bass, keys and too many layers.  It's a good song, but it's had too much added to it.

11 - Send Me A Postcard

"Send Me A Postcard" is a cover the song originally by Shocking Blue, which was written by Robbie van Leeuwen.  To be honest, I'm yet to hear the original, so I can only give this review based on this version.  It's a quick punchy number, one that has a glam rock influence and it gives the album back some energy.  I like it a lot, it's another piece of sunshine on this record.

12 - Western Sunset

"Western Sunset" ends Sunshine Rock with a bang!  I mean, it's a Power-pop ending with strings, loud riffs and smashing drums.  You could easily overthink a number such as this, is there any hidden meanings to the words?  Well, this listener is going to enjoy the riff, strings and take it at face value.  "Western Sunset" is the perfect ending for this type of album, carefree and soaring above the waves, what is there not to love?

With Sunshine Rock, it feels as if Bob Mould has looked over his shoulder slightly.  There is a reflective feeling to this record, one that could be read in a couple of ways.  Is it yearning for a different past?  Or is it a man who is proud of his past and all the victories and mistakes in equal measure?  I think that once I've read some interviews with the man himself, I might have a better idea.  For now, I can only guess at the nature and mindset of Mr Mould.  But I can say that the music he has created on Sunshine Rock is fantastic.  It feels like a greatest hits compilation from many places in his career, but each of these songs is a brand new number.  Familiarity and that new exciting sensation all mixed into one, what is there not to love on Sunshine Rock?  Nothing, just go with the flow!

9 out of ten - Almost perfect, almost

Top track - Thirty Dozen Roses

You can purchase Sunshine Rock from Amazon here.

You can visit the Bob Mould website here.

You can follow the activities of Bob Mould on Facebook here.

You can stream Sunshine Rock on Spotify here.

You can stream Sunshine Rock on Deezer here.

You can stream Sunshine Rock on Tidal here.

Ten Eighty Trees - Lip Service (Review and Intervew)

Ten Eighty Trees have come a long way in a few years, which is a great thing to see in this day and age of DJ's and Rappers.  The Alternative Rock Power-trio from Newcastle upon Tyne have been causing a storm with their live sets supporting the likes of We Are Scientists, Dunes and The Virginmarys, wooing audiences into submission and terrifying the headline acts by having to follow their energetic performances.  "Lip Service" is their fourth single, following on from "Something Feral", "Stop Asking" and "Before the Fall".

"Lip Service" has already been getting radio play before its release, being played on BBC Newcastle, Spark FM and my own humble show on NE1FM.  Nathan from Ten Eighty Trees has been gracious enough to agree to answer some questions to go along with this review of their new single:

ATT: So, Ten Eighty Trees, what is the meaning behind the name and how did you get together?
Nathan: The band name actually comes from something a friend of mine said whilst he was under the influence of magic mushrooms at Glastonbury festival. Whilst hanging out with a group of Bristolians dressed as legendary wrestlers, it quickly became apparent one of my mates had consumed a substantial amount of shrooms early that day. When I asked him whether he was alright, he replied he was seeing ‘isosceles grass’ and ‘Ten Eighty Trees’. After I’d finished buckling at the descriptions of my friend’s hallucinations, the realisation dawned that Ten Eighty Trees would actually be a great name for a band. The rest is history.

The band was actually formed out of necessity more than anything. A band I was in had recently fizzled out and, unwilling to drop out of a gig we had planned, I decided to reach out to some musicians I knew, throwing together a band that could play a selection of songs I’d been working on. I knew Michael from university and he introduced me to Lewis. Two rehearsals and one gig later, Ten Eighty Trees was born.

ATT: What I like about Ten Eighty Trees is the noise behind your music, everything seems to be turned up to ten.  Also, the three-piece rock band seems to be making a big return too.  What was this a concise choice to go in the three-piece direction? 

Nathan: I think that abrasive sound comes from the music I grew up on. I grew up on a diet of heavy rock and punk and, whilst my tastes have broadened and matured slightly, I think that’s never really left my song writing to some degree. Also, the idea of a three-piece band has always appealed to me aesthetically as well as sonically. Since forming my first band in my early teens, I’ve never actually been in a band that wasn’t a three-piece. There is just something so pleasing about three people really going for it on stage and creating a proper racket. The feeling of making music in this manner still gives me a real buzz

Picture by Issac Johnson, supplied by Ten Eighty Trees
ATT: The standard question here – who have been the biggest influences on Ten Eighty Trees?

Nathan: I think Biffy Clyro have been big for all of us. Especially, for me,  the albums Infinity Land and Puzzle. The maximalism and melodic, yet twisted, nature of Simon Neil’s guitar work really influenced me growing up and I think those influences still show in songs like Lip Service and Stop Asking.

ATT: I’ve only had the pleasure of seeing you guys once supporting Dunes at the Think Tank in Newcastle.  I was standing next to Ade’s from Dunes and we were both gobsmacked, he response (and I quote) was “Jesus, these guys are good”.  So, it’s fair to say your live shows are punchy.  How do you approach each gig?

Nathan: Haha, that is extremely flattering to hear Ade said that. We are all huge fans of Dunes and their sledgehammer brand of rock is truly captivating. Our preparation for a live show is actually quite minimal. A few vocal warm ups, a stretch here or there. A pint of Cola is part of my regular routine as I, strangely, find this helps lubricate my vocal chords. One thing that is worth mentioning is that we rarely if ever have a “proper” drink before we go on stage as the biggest buzz for us is playing our music. We don’t need anything to enhance the experience for us and I think this is definitely for the benefit of the audience too. If this forfeits our rock credibility then so be it. I’m not sure how much we had to begin with. 

Picture by Issac Johnson, supplied by Ten Eighty Trees
ATT: Looking at the people you’ve supported, I must congratulate you on a very impressive list (with the likes of We Are Scientists and The Virginmarys standing out).  When you support touring bands, is there any difference to how you approach the gig?  Also, what has been your best show to date?

Nathan: We try to approach every gig the same as we’ve all been gigging long enough to know what works for us and what doesn’t. The only thing that might change is the setlist and even then changes will be minimal. We try and give as honest a representation of our band possible regardless of the audience we are playing to. I think the fact we can gig with everyone from We Are Scientists to Virginmarys shows the broad spectrum of rock fans we find ourselves able to appeal to and the fact we tend to do this successfully without drastic setlist changes is a very rewarding experience.

Though the We Are Scientists show was definitely a watershed moment for a band of relative minnows such as ourselves, a show which sticks out as one of our best is a one we played at Nemix in Newcastle around late 2017. This was before we’d even set up any social media accounts or released music and I was just coming back from a rather horrific accident. We managed to fill the room and the atmosphere inside was electric. People were singing along to songs that hadn’t even been recorded yet. I think that was the moment we knew we might be on to something.

ATT: “Lip Service” is your fourth single, which is being released on 15th February as a self-released single.  What’s the story behind the song?

Nathan: Lip Service generally concerns a widely accepted obstruction of truth, especially when used by those in positions of power.
Being heavily involved in many areas of the music industry, we have all, collectively as well as individually, come in to contact with people that ultimately reveal themselves to be brimming with hypocrisy and false promises, exploiting their supposed positions of power for further gain and treating those that actually sustain their industry escapades as expendable. Whilst numerous experiences often go into the creation of our songs, these ideas definitely came to influence Lip Service, with myself and Lewis especially having hostile run-ins with less-than-respectable characters in our respective music roles outside Ten Eighty Trees. I think many musicians active in the industry can relate to the sentiments expressed in Lip Service.

ATT: Whilst you’re only just releasing “Lip Service”, are there plans afoot to release an EP or possible an album in the future?  Also, what shows do you have coming up?

Nathan: We have a number of releases scheduled for the rest of the year with an EP on the cards toward the backend. Whilst we already have an abundance of material written and recorded for that, preparations to return to the studio are already in motion. We don’t particularly like to rest on our songwriting laurels.

With regard to what shows we have planned, we have a smattering of shows booked around April including a hometown headline show at Newcastle Think Tank on 20th April. The line up for the show is looking well-tasty and we can’t wait to share what other acts we have lined up over the coming weeks. We also have a few shows lined up over Festival season, but, again, we are unable to say where we are playing just yet. All will be revealed in time.

Picture by Lewis Dodds, supplied by Ten Eighty Trees

"Lip Service" is what I would call a new take on an old school sound.  This ode to the failings of the modern world when people talk a good game, but deliver a shit service (think Brexit if you will) is a song that reminds me of a combination of The Wildhearts, Biffy Clyro and a dash of Freddie Mercuyflamboyance.  The main riff is a thing of beauty; it'll be worth purchasing just for that alone.  However, the whole song is a total earworm, it'll be stuck in your head for weeks.  The best bit is near the end, I won't spoil the surprise, but trust me on this one!

Ten Eighty Trees are onto a good thing here, "Lip Service" is one of the most refreshing songs I've heard in an awfully long time.  If they play their cards right, I can see a bright future for them.  Thanks to Nathan and the guys for sending me "Lip Services" and agreeing to the interview as well, appreciated it!

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

Top track - (As it's a one-track single) Lip Service

You can follow the activities of Ten Eighty Trees on Facebook here.

You can purchase Lip Service from the Ten Eighty Trees Bandcamp page here.

You can purchase Lip Service here on Amazon, but you'd be better off using the Bandcamp link.

You can stream Lip Service on Spotify here. 

You can stream Lip Service on Deezer here.

You can stream Lip Service on Tidal here.

All photos supplied by Ten Eighty Trees for promotional purposes, copyright is retained by the relevant copyright holders.

13 February 2019

Oceanray - Oceanray/War Plugs

Oceanray are an American Post-Rock/Shoegazing back from Nashville, TN; Swansboro, NC and Muscle Shoals, AL.  Formed with a few members of Lucy Stoner, Oceanray are described as Post-Post, Remedial Math-Rock, Puce Metal, Bragaze, Symphonic Doomchill, Anxiety Funk, Low Punk band.  I'm sure about three of them are made up, but they sound like interesting genres all the same.  Now, whenever I get anything from Sweet Sound Records, I get a little excited.  I don't know why if I'm honest, maybe it's because I know I'm going to find something that is not going to be normal.  They seem to only dealy in abstract bands, the misfits, the outliers and the outcasts.  All the more reason why I love that label, they have become a home or everyone that doesn't belong in the great unwashed.

Oceanray/War Plugs is the second release for Oceanray, following on from their 2015 release Worship/Eavesdropping.  Having over three years between singles is a bit of a wait, but sometimes that you have to do.  You can't rush things, as they tend to turn out shite if you do.  So, how has this single turned out?

01 - Oceanray

Naming a song after yourself can either be a ballsy move, or the sign of a mind going wrong.  Thankfully, "Oceanray" is a case of the former, rather than the later.  This swirling seven-minute droning Post-Rock/Shoegazing instrumental piece is a fantastic piece.  It reminds me of a few bands, but not in the way that you might think.  I hear parts that remind me of Placebo, parts that remind me of the Pixies, there is even a straight forward riff that reminds me of Frank Zappa (but everything reminds me of Sir Z these days).  This track is not too intense on the listener, it's rather a pleasant and comfortable piece to be honest.  It's also an earworm as I've had it stuck in my head for days.

02 - War Plugs

The longer of the two tracks on offer, "War Plugs" is a tougher listen than "Oceanray".  It contains a surfer/psychedelic vibe, with an intense period of repeating drums/bass as the guitar wonders off in about several directions.  But then they all seem to drift away every now and then.  However, they all come back to a central point, looping it further into itself.  Out of the two, I would say this is the one where I was expecting something else at the end.  This is not a criticism, just an observation of my own mind more than anything.

Overall, this is a great double release, with "Oceanray" besting the psychedelic "War Plugs".  I found both of these tracks to be engaging and strong tracks, each with their own strengths, as well as the ability to be stuck in your head for days.  If you're looking for a new band to lose yourself in, you could do a lot worse than Oceanray.

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

Top track - Oceanray

You can purchase Oceanray/War Plugs on the Oceanray Bandcamp page here.

You can purchase Oceanray/War Plugs on Amazon here, but you should do it from their Bandcamp page.

You can follow the activities of Oceanray on Facebook here.

You can stream Oceanray/War Plugs on Spotify here.

You can stream Oceanray/War Plugs on Deezer here.

You can stream Oceanray/War Plugs on Tidal here.

4 February 2019

Hello Casanova - Thinking Lately

Long time no see to Hello Casanova! It's nice to hear from the likely lads from Armagh, it's been far too long. Anyway, Hello Casanova have released their new single called "Thinking Lately" n 1st February, which follows up their album Daughters (which I didn't even know was released!!!!).  As this is a one-track single, it's going to be a bit of a short review in some ways, but not in a bad way.

"Thinking Lately" is a song that seems to step back from the Pop-punk of "I Don't Wanna Talk About It", bring in a lighter, brighter musical sound.  To be honest, they could never be mistaken for Slayer, but I sort of loved that Pop-punk sound of their early stuff.  I'm also loving the sound of "Thinking Lately", as it's a superb piece of Power-pop that seems to come so naturally to lots of bands from Northern Ireland.  This song about needing space and distance is a brilliant contrast of light, bouncy music and some rather dark lyrics.  I always tend to fall head over heels for songs such as this, it makes my world spin along quite happily.

I can hear a lot of early '90s such as Laxton Superb in this, with a mixture of Carrie as well.  I'm not sure that they've ever listened to these bands, but it's amazing how sounds sometimes come back around.  "Thinking Lately" is a brilliant single, a reminder that not all music needs keyboards, synths or a DJ remix.  Sometimes, all you need is a band who can make sunshine out of thin air.

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

Here is the video for Thinking Lately

You can purchase Thinking Lately on Amazon here.

You can follow the activities of Hello Casanova on Facebook here.

You can stream Thinking Lately on Spotify here.

You can stream Thinking Lately on Deezer here.

You can stream Thinking Lately on Tidal here.

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