30 November 2018

Bloods - Feelings

Damn!  Just found out about this band and it turns out that one of the members is leaving already!  Thanks to my good friend and former blog colleague (Mr Luke Dunmore), he introduced me to Bloods via his choice of Record of the Week for Attention Please (a radio show I present once a week on NE1FM).  The song he sent me was the title track to this alum, Feelings, and it floored me.  It was a nice and simple song, a good indie track with a decent beat.  But I've been listening to it more and more, s much so that I've decided to squeeze it into my rush for the end of year blog.  Then, I read that Sweetie from the band is leave and moving across their home country of Australia.  I wish her every happiness and I hope Bloods continue as well.  But who are Bloods (not to be confused with the LA Street Gang)?  Well, they are the aforementioned Sweetie, MC, Dirk and Mike, they are from Sydney, Australia.  They deal in Garage Pop/Rock and that is all I know.  Sometimes, you don't need more than a short introduction to a band.  It gives them a sense of mystery and that is sometimes hard in the internet age.  With all of that being said, maybe I should get on with the review and find out how Feelings sounds?

Feelings is a throwback album to the sound of my youth, it's a fuzz guitar Garage Rock/Pop album that feels retro and modern at the same time.  Mixing shoegazing ("N C C", Broken Heart!), grunge ("Talk"), Pop Punk ("Part of Me") and other styles, Blood power through this ten-track album in a quick thirty-two minutes.  Each song is a short, sharp, wam-bam tune that never outstays their welcome.  For the types of music that influence Feelings, this is a very good thing.  Unlike other musical styles (Prog for instance which should last longer than five minutes minimum), the Garage Pop/Punk of Bloods is perfectly suited to the shorter time.

Due to the short nature of Feelings, you can easily listen to it twice in an hour and not get bored.  If I have one complaint about Feelings, it's front-loaded.  The first five songs, from the glorious "Bring My Walls Down" to "N C C" are really good.  The second half, whilst not poor by any stretch of the imagination, it doesn't have the same impact as those initial five tracks.  This gives the album an uneven feeling, but not enough to sink the album.  It's just my own take on this record.  Overall, Feelings is a little ray of fuzzy sunshine, one that is making this winter in the UK a nicer place.  As I said before, I wish Sweetie good luck and I hope that Bloods release more albums.

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

Top track - Bring My Walls Down

You can purchase Feelings from Amazon here. 

You can purchase Feelings from the Bloods Bandcamp page here. 

You can follow the activities of Bloods on Instagram here. 

You can follow the activities of Bloods on Facebook here. 

You can stream Feelings on Spotify here. 

You can stream Feelings on Deezer here. 

You can stream Feelings on Tidal here. 

Sick of It All - Wake the Sleeping Dragon

As legendary NYHC go, Sick of it All are quite high up the list of names.  From 1986 to date, Sick of It All (sometimes styled SOIA) have just kept out churning out albums, touring the world and caused positively charged mayhem everywhere they go.  Their gigs are cathartic releases of energy, they might look scary, but I've never felt safer out at a gig than at one of their shows.  They just seem to have a unity which is second to none, even with all that anger on display.  Wake The Sleeping Dragon is their twelveth studio album, which sees them return to Fat Wreck Chords (in the USA) after an absence of fifteen years.  Over in the UK, Wake the Sleeping Dragon has been released on Century Media.  The buzz around this album has been noticeable, the iconic image of the dragon on top of the Empire State Building, all King Kong style, is a fantastic Pulp Fiction style inspired image.  But what about the music?

Over the course of the seventeen songs and thirty-three minutes of Wake the Sleeping Dragon, Sick of It All sing, shout and kick their way through issues.  These range from the rise of the stupid right-wing white boys ("That Crazy White Boy Shit"), the lack of Brooklyn Dodgers ("Robert Moses Was A Racist" (they do say it at the end of the song)), stepping back up after being shoved down ("To The Wolves"), the fall of Trump and his wall ("Bad Hombres") and generally trying to keep your collective shit together in this clusterfuck of a planet ("Inner Vision").  The longest song ("The New Slavery") on this album is two minutes, thirty seconds long.  Each number is a powerful statement and sounds like it's designed to start a mosh pit at a moments notice.

Because of the nature of Hardcore music, Wake the Sleeping Dragon is a fast and furious release.  Now, whilst I truly enjoy this album, I also recognise it's an album that sticks to their guns.  Which is exactly how it should be.  If Sick of It All had of a suddenly changed even an iota, it would have sucked.  So, more props to them for sticking to that course they started years ago.  I love each of these songs, they never put a foot wrong throughout the album and it just goes to show, you truly cannot keep a good band down.  Sick of It All are as vital and alive in 2018 as they were when they first emerged on to the New York Hardcore Scene. Wake the Sleeping Dragon is a reminder that they've never been away! 

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

Top track - Bad Hombres

You can purchase Wake the Sleeping Dragon on Amazon here.

You can visit the Sick of It All website here.

You can follow the activities of Sick of It All on Facebook here.

You can stream Wake the Sleeping Dragon on Spotify here.

You can stream Wake the Sleeping Dragon on Deezer here.

You can stream Wake the Sleeping Dragon on Tidal here.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra - IC-01 Hanoi

Until a month ago, I had no idea that Unknown Mortal Orchestra existed, let alone was about to release a second album in 2018.  You live and learn though, so I've been doing a quick bit of catch up on their work.  Original from Auckland, New Zealand, but now based in Portland, Oregon, USA, Unknown Mortal Orchestra have been making music since 2010.  With a sense of mystery and style, Unknown Mortal Orchestra has been released four studio records, the most recent before IC-01 Hanoi being Sex & Food which was released in April 2018.  This album is supposed to be an additional bonus record, made up of instrumentals that were recorded around the same time as Sex & Food.  However, being the musical finding maverick that I am, I've come across IC-01 Hanoi first and it's the album I want to review.  So, that's what I'm going to do.....

IC-01 Hanoi is made of seven tracks, from "Hanoi 01" to "Hanoi 07", with a NeoPsychedlic/Avante Garde approach to the sound of this record.  With each track, you're treated to a little journey of sound, all with a Zappa/Beefheart sense of wonderment and a total disregard for the concept of timing.  There is also an atmosphere of the quieter moments of Death Grips to this record as well.  IC-01 Hanoi feels like a loose collection of out-takes, there is no overriding arc to them and you can easily become lost in the atmosphere of this album.   My favourite tracks are "Hanoi 04" and "Hanoi 01", both of these have a pounding energy which I adore.

If there were to be a criticism of IC-01 Hanoi though, it would be the quick nature of song of the songs.  Most of the tunes here are shorter than four minutes, which feels like a missed opportunity.  These could have been drawn out or extended to make some glorious noise.  But that's just me just being a greedy git to be honest.  IC-01 Hanoi is a great instrumental record, one which is making me want to explore the rest of Unknown Mortal Orchestra's back catalogue.  Check them out as soon as you can!

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

Top track - Hanoi 04

You can purchase IC-01 Hanoi on Amazon here. 

You can visit the Unknown Mortal Orchestra website here. 

You can follow the activities of Unknown Mortal Orchestra on Facebook here, 

You can stream IC-01 Hanoi on Spotify here. 

You can stream IC-01 Hanoi on Deezer here. 

You can stream IC-01 Hanoi on Tidal here. 

Bad Rabbits - Mimi

Bad Rabbits were responsible for one of my favourite records of 2016 with the phenomenal American Nightmare.  That record was like a shot in the dark, I was floored by the passion and the performances on that album are outstanding.  Since then, I've been following their activities and I slipped and missed the release of Mimi in August!  That one is on me, so now I'll make up for lost time and get straight on the review.

If American Nightmare was the undercurrent of a wounded nation, Mimi is a reaction to that and it's time to party.  Mimi has more in common with Prince, which shows the diverse range of music within Bad Rabbits.  Most of the songs come across a little sex-crazed, especially the slightly stalkerish "F on the J-O-B".  That song sounds loud, but it doesn't quite work for me.  Elsewhere, we have "Mysterious" which is about a man who is trying to court a lady and is painting the picture of what could happen.  It's a song that feels like it's built for the clubs, with a massive bass and heavy synths.  Same with "Eyes on You", it feels like a throwback to the 80's synth of years ago, one that would fit right in with the sound of Prince and Bootsy Collins.  My favourite song is "Dollar and Change", a song which seems to talk about the cruelty of the world and how it can be tough.  I love the music here and it sounds fantastic.

I do have one issue with Mimi though, and no, it's not the fact it's not a continuation of the sound of American Nightmare.  If it had have followed that sound note for note, it would have been a poor record.  No, it's the lyrical content here, especially "F on the J-O-B".  In a changing world, it feels out of date and it just doesn't do them justice.  You can say your horny in a lot of ways, and some of the lyrics on here are just a little too obvious.  For me at least, it takes a little of the shine from the record.  However, that is just my opinion on the lyrics.  This doesn't change from the fact that musically, Mimi is a good record, just in a different way to American Nightmare.  At least they tried something else and I'll be interested to see where they go from here.

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

Top track - Dollar and Change

You can purchase Mimi from Amazon here.

You can visit the Bad Rabbits website here.

You can follow the activities of Bad Rabbits on Facebook here. 

You can stream Mimi on Spotify here. 

You can stream Mimi on Deezer here. 

You can stream Mimi on Tidal here. 

Dan Webster - Devil Sky

Dan Webster is no stranger to ATTIWLTMOWOS, but this is my first chance to review his work.  My former colleague Luke Dunmore reviewed his album The Tin Man (link to the review here), which was released in 2015.  Devil Sky is Dan Webster's second album with a full band, his fourth album overall and it's been released via Paper Plane Records.  The cover is a wonderful image, I've been told it looks like a sky on fire.  I'll have to take people's word for that, being colourblind, I can only see the blues and possibly the greens. However, enough about me being colourblind, how does Devil Sky sound?

We find Dan Webster in fine voice on Devil Sky, starting with the fast-paced "Playing Cards & Late Night Bars", a song about saying goodbye to the past.  You also have the danceable "Sand", a song that mixes an African style with Dan Webster's Country/Folk leanings, as well as the toe-tapping "Bo".  There is also a lot of melancholy on this album.  Songs like the heartbreaking "Nothing At All", the sad feeling "Home Again", the equally sad "Haul Away" and the sinister "Freedom in Suburbia".  Each song is played extremely well, you can appreciate the effort that has gone into creating each song.

For me, Devil Sky is a well crafted, well-performed record.  It had sunshine and shade mixed throughout the course of the record,  depression and joy holding hands and making strange bedfellows.  I can't say that it's my favourite folk record of the year, but I can say that it's certainly another strong entry in a year that has seen the release of some fantastic records for the folk genre.  Devil Sky is an album that sees Dan Webster progress a little further, making all the right moves and all progress can only be viewed in a positive light here.

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

Top track - Sand 

You can purchase Devil Sky from Amazon here.

You can visit the Dan Webster website here.

You can follow the activities of Dan Webster on Facebook here.

You can stream Devil Sky on Spotify here.

You can stream Devil Sky on Deezer here.

You can stream Devil Sky on Tidal here.

Man Make Fire - Man Make Fire

A few years ago, I review a compilation called You Heard It Here First, Rock Volume 1 (our review linked here).  On this compilation, there were some very good bands, some average and there was also Man Make Fire.  Hailing from Chipping Norton, I loved their submission on that compilation as it was a mixture of Alice Donut, Butthole Surfers and Dog Fashion Disco.  In the years since I last heard them, Man Make Fire have been slowly working on their debut album after three EP's.  However, a few months ago (sorry for the delay here), Man Make Fire got back in touch and asked if I could review their forthcoming self-titled release.  As they asked so politely, how could I refuse.....

Man Make Fire is an album that is stepped in Alternative sound, it harks back to the sound of my youth.  So, from the get-go, my interest is heightened as we're all looking for the sounds that remind us of being young.  Let's take "One Hand Friend", a song that reminds me of the sadly forgotten Crazy Gods of the Endless Noise.  This is a fantastic number, one that seriously makes me want to jump around (but I won't, as I'm British). "Jump" is another song which I really enjoyed, the introduction sounds great and it's a song that will definitely get stuck in your head.

You also have slower moments, such as "Low" and ending track "Better Way", which show that Man Make Fire have more than one gear.  Over the course of the ten tracks, there is enough substance on here to show that Man Make Fire have something special going on.  As I said, "One Hand Friend" is a favourite for me here, but you also have "Revelation" which just reminds me of Carrie so much.  They just seem to be able to hit the sweet spot for me on this album, making all the right moves.

But are there any issues here?  Not really, it's a great little album, a place to build from and to explorer further.  The only thing that might make people say no, is if this type of music isn't their sort of thing in the first place.  Whilst this is fine and an understandable position, they'll be missing out on a little gem of an album.   Man Make Fire is a ten-track wall of retro noise that sounds fantastic, I'm so glad Man Make Fire got back in touch and I apologise for the delay in posting this review.

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

Top track - One Hand Friend

You can visit the Man Make Fire website here.

You can follow the activities of Man Make Fire on Facebook here.

At the time of publishing, Man Make Fire is not available for streaming or purchasing, but I'll update these links once it becomes available.

29 November 2018

Belly - DOVE

Twenty-three years between releases is an awfully long time between releases, so I think I might get away the fact with this review being about six months late.  Belly are one of the many acts to come out of the Alternative Rock boom of the '90s in America.  After two well-received albums (Star and in retrospect by a lot of people, King), Belly fell apart.  It seemed that because Star was such a massive album, people (and to a certain extent, Belly themselves) were not ready for King when it came out.  Looking back, it almost seemed to be inevitable that Belly would one day come back, but after a few years, you sort of end up putting those type of hopes to the side.

Fast forward to 2016 and all of a sudden, Belly have returned for a few tours and it was good to hear those old songs.  So, after that initial thrill of the return of a band, what do you do next?  Well, that is the double edge sword, isn't it?  A lot of bands reform and releasing new material, but sometimes it's judged far too harshly.  A lot of people scream for it, but then they cry when it doesn't match the sounds of their dreams.  Which really seems unfair on bands when you think about it.  I'm guilty of it as much as anyone else is, I think to say otherwise would be a lie.  However, I would like to think (hope/aspire to) that I give each new release a chance.

DOVE was released on 4th May 2018, after a crowdfunding campaign by the band prior to a general release.  What Belly have treated you to on DOVE, is eleven songs which sound contemporary, charming and effortless.  Belly were never the fastest band back in the day, everything was always about building, the songs would always be constructed towards a crescendo.  DOVE continues that tradition, especially on "Shiny One" and "Human Child".  There are some beautiful moments, such as "Artifact" which sound beautiful at any time of the day. 

Now, here is the crunch with DOVE, if you're expecting the band which created Star and King, the one with the distortion peddle?  Well, you've got those first two albums for that.  DOVE is a gentle beast in comparison, one which has more to do with an acoustic and almost Americana view of the world.  It's beautifully created, the band sound as if they're enjoying this album.  Which is truly the way it should be, because they're the ones who have to play it on tour and live with it first.  Do I wish they went back to their older style?  Well, to be honest, I would say no.  I'd rather listen to an album where Belly sound happy in themselves, than have a band them try to recreate their youth.  DOVE is the start of a new era for Belly, who knows where it may go.  But I'm glad that they sound as if they're enjoying themselves on this one.

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

Top track - Artifact

You can purchase DOVE on Amazon here. 

You can visit the Belly website here. 

You can follow the activities of Belly on Facebook here.

You can stream DOVE on Spotify here.

You can stream DOVE on Deezer here.

You can stream DOVE on Tidal here. 

The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band - Poor Until Payday

On ATTIWLTMOWOS, I try to make the blog as varied as possible.  With this in mind, I'm about to review the latest offering by the wonderfully named Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band.  For people that are not familiar with this band, the good Reverend his BDB are an Americana act from Brown Country, Indiana, USA.  

I first heard them when one of my good friends recommended me So Delicious, an album that was released in 2015.  It was a beautiful rollercoaster of sounds which I was not overly familiar with, but I adored because it had a rock & roll edge to the sound, mixed with some blues.  Last year, they released The Front Porch Sessions, a collection of acoustic numbers which were designed to be played outdoors.  It was a contrast to So Delicious, but it still sounded brilliant.  When Poor Until Payday was announced, I was sort of surprised, as I was expecting a little bit of a break between albums.  However, they must have sensed that the iron was hot and it was time to get more material out.  So, how has Poor Until Payday turned out?

The rock & roll/blues has returned on Poor Until Payday after the laid-back acoustic blues charm of The Front Porch Sessions.  You have the title track, which sounds as if it's built for the railroad tracks, you have "Dirty Swerve" which has an edge to the music that you just cannot achieve with a distortion peddle.  All over this album, you have moments which are unique and beautiful.  Such as "Me & The Devil", a song about revenge and it sounds sinister and I love that.  The blues need to have danger at times and that track shows how to terrify people when required. Ending track "It Is or It Ain't" is a stomping track about being honest with a lover, which is delivered with a passion that few others can achieve.

In just over thirty minutes and ten songs long, you might feel short-changed as you'll be wanting to hear more.  However, that is another part of the charm of the good Reverend, he knows how long to keep his sermons.  If it went on too long, it might lose some of that wonderful innocence, these cats are too good for that sort of thing.  Poor Until Payday is a well crafted, toe-tapping record which continues the good work of the Big Damn Band.  If you're even slightly interested, go and see their live shows and pick up this album.

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

Top track - Poor Until Payday

You can purchase Poor Until Payday on Amazon here.

You can visit The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band website here.

You can follow the activities of The Reverend Peyton and his Big Damn Band on Facebook here.

You can stream Poor Until Payday on Spotify here.

You can stream Poor Until Payday on Deezer here.

You can stream Poor Until Payday on Tidal here.

Elvis Costello & The Imposters - Look Now

There is something uniquely British about Elvis Costello, it's that voice, his timeless sound and his world-weary view.  I'm sure when he finally retires, there will be a national day of mourning for the hipsters of the '70s and their collective offspring.  Look Now is the 30th studio album, with his backing band The Imposters.  It also features three songs wrote with frequent contributor Burt Bacharach, as well as a song composed with Carole King.  For this album, Mr Costello has been quoted as saying that Look Now is "uptown pop record with a little swagger" that he's wanted to make for 20 Years.  Well, it's better late than never to realise one of your dreams.  I'm not going to go into a history lesson here about Elvis Costello, I've got a feeling if you're reading this, you'll already know the history.  So, let's get on with the review.

I'd be lying if I was to say that I've been listening to the last few Elvis Costello albums, but I was pointed towards this one by a few fans and friends.  The cover is not best I've seen, to be honest, it's a little shabby and as if it's going to fall apart.  Reading the reviews of Look Now before I started writing, the album received a lot of backhanded praise.  Especially from tombs like Pitchfork and Consequences of Sound.  They say it sounds good, but use words such as stateliness, lacks vitality and other such things, but then praise him at the same time.  Which seems a little bit strange, but I'm sure I've done the same before.  So. that's the negatives out of the way first for a change.  Now, for the positives - fuck the rest of the music media here - and here is why.

Look Now is probably the best Pop/Rock I've listened to years.  This is an album will make bands cry.  It's an album that few would dream feverishly of writing, whilst knowing in their hearts that they couldn't hope to create something as towering.  From "Under Lime", via the Carole King "Burnt Sugar is So Bitter", onwards towards "He's Given Me Things", passing "Mr and Mrs Hush", this album is so easy on the ears and addictive to boot.  This is an album that has no shame about its roots, which is completely right.  It's a top quality Pop Rock album in the old sense of the word, not the candy which is in the top 40 singles these days.  There is a timeless, vintage sound here because these songs are steeped in their creator's history.  When you have an album featuring Burt Bacharach written numbers, it's going to sound slightly of a by-gone era.  But that's part of the charm and hipsters be damned, it's part of the appeal too.  I mightn't be the biggest Burt Bacharach fan, but Mr Costello has a way of making his songs sound beautiful.

Look Now is the album that I was not expecting, which means it's sort of the album I needed as well.  It's a thing of beauty and it soothes the wounded soul, I cannot stop listening to it in my spare time. From the first note to the last, each song is a little oasis of pleasure and joy.  I could easily lose myself in this record for a few hours at a time, with the music full of hooks, charm and beauty.  Every now and then, I might (for my shame) forget how great a songwriter Elvis Costello can be.  Look Now is a reminder that he's not done with this world yet, it's a passionate and beautiful record.  The album of the year list has just gotten interesting at the 11th hour, I think that if you give Look Now a chance, so will yours.

10 out of ten - This is proof that there is a deity

Top track - Burnt Sugar is So Bitter

You can purchase Look Now on Amazon here.

You can visit the Elvis Costello website here.

You can follow the activities of Elvis Costello on Facebook here.

You can stream Look Now on Spotify here.

You can stream Look Now on Deezer here.

You can stream Look Now on Tidal here.

VOLA - Applause of a Distant Crowd

VOLA is a Scandinavian band, with members from Denmark & Sweden who are based in Copheagan.  They were formed 2006, the band have slowly been creating their own sound, with a mixture of 70's style progressive rock, electronica, industrial and metal.  Applause of a Distant Crowd is their second album, which was released in October 2018.  It's the follow up to their 2015 self-release, Inmazes.  I would be lying if I said I'd heard of them before, I was not aware of VOLA until one of my friends pointed out I had a glaring omission from the albums I've reviewed this year. So, as I've not heard much of VOLA before, I might as well start the review.

Musically, Applause of a Distant Crowd has a sound not too dissimilar to Porcupine Tree and Steven Wilson.  It's the sound of a modern approach to the Progressive Rock/Metal sound of the '70s, one which focuses heavily on the melody of each the song, with the journey being the most important aspect of every song.  A great example of this is "Alien Shivers", one that mixes heavy riffs with gentle verse and atmospheric noise that swirl around you.  Another of the heavier number, "Smartfriend", is a little storming track, one which sounds like the leashes have been let go and VOLA's heavy side has been allowed free.  Elsewhere, you have gentler tracks such as ending number "Green Screen Mother", a synth-led track which guides you home as the album closes.  There is also "Vertigo", which sounds like the aftermath of an explosion, everything is settling down and yet the impact is still being felt.

For an album that is so obviously influenced by Progressive Music (capitals needed here), the songs are short in comparison to their influences.  The longest track on Applause of a Distant Crowd is just under five and a half minutes, so this is bite-size Progressive Music for a modern generation.  It feels similar to the difference between A Perfect Circle and Tool, both share a lot of qualities, but sometimes you wish that APC would explorer their songs a bit further.  I'm getting a similar feeling here, a lot of these songs could have been dug into more, but maybe that's not VOLA's style.  Also, this is not a complaint, just an observation of sorts.

Overall though, I love Applause of a Distant Crowd, it's a great introduction to a band that project incredible confident in their abilities and sound technically brilliant.  Whilst I might wish for longer songs, I cannot deny the quality of the songs as well.  Each song is a little gem and I can see why I was recommended to listen to them.   My favourite song is "We Are Thin Air", a track that introduces the album perfectly.  If you've even a passing interest in Progressive Music, I would recommend you checking out Applause of a Distant Crowd.

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

Top track - We Are Thin Air

You can purchase Applause of a Distant Crowd on the VOLA Bandcamp page here.

You can purchase Applause of a Distant Crowd on Amazon here.

You can visit the VOLA website here.

You can follow the activities of VOLA on Facebook here.

You can stream Applause of a Distant Crowd on Spotify here. 

You can stream Applause of a Distant Crowd on Deezer here. 

You can stream Applause of a Distant Crowd on Tidal here. 

27 November 2018

Save the Vulture - Upside/Downside

In 2012, one of my friends recommended I check out Album One by Save the Vulture.  Which I tracked down and fell head over heels for.  The DIY sound of their music was brilliant, with some great hooks and riffs.  I love the album, a record which I still have on a physical copy that was sent to me by Save the Vulture.  After that, they went very quiet, as in the pretty much disappeared off the planet for a bit.  But, without telling anyone, they returned last year with Distorter.  As if they were making up for lost time, they followed that up with Upside/Downside, all records released on Green Band Records as free downloads. Now, I'll be honest that I don't know a whole lot about this band.  Mainly because they keep their cards close to their chest.  At one point, they were a three-piece (the band line-up on Distorter is Chris - Guitar/Vocals, Simon - Bass & Betty - Drums.  I've no idea if this line-up still survives, but I'm just chuffed that they're still making noise.

Upside/Downside is a throwback record, one that comes from a different era, but with a modern twist to the production.  Tracks such as "Pay No Mind" and "Upside/Downside" both have a tone very similar to Therapy?, all hard rock/metal/post-grunge with a hint of punk as well.  "Concrete" has an indie vibe to some of the guitars, but the mood is heavy and the drums are loud as fuck on this one.  Over the course of eight songs and twenty-seven minutes, you're not really given much chance to catch your breath.  Each song seems to jump in as the last one finishes, giving a disorientating feeling in places.  This is not a bad thing as it suits songs such as "S.O.S." and "I'll Wait", but it's not an album for restful reflection.  My favourite track is opener "All Over Again", it just hits the right spot each time.

Upside/Downside is a great D.I.Y. record, a short, sharp, kick in the arse.  It's melodic and heavy at the same time, bring to mind an era that is not too far from memory and has fuck all to do with auto-tuning, pop-shine or featuring a zillion special guests.  Everything is fast-paced, no-holds-barred and a tad depressing as well.  Just what you want from a metal/post-grunge act such as Save the Vulture.  I would recommend you head over to the Green Band Records Bandcamp page now, it's a free download and there are some other great releases on there as well.  However, make sure you get Upside/Downside first!

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

Top track - All Over Again

You can purchase Upside/Downside as a free download on the Green Band Records Bandcamp page here.

You can follow the activities of Save the Vulture on Facebook here.

At the time of writing, Upside/Downside is not available on streaming sites.  However, as you can get it on a free download, why not just download it?  Makes sense really.

25 November 2018

Ginger Wildheart - The Pessimist's Companion

Ah Ginger, you never seem to stop my good man.  Regular readers of this blog will know that Ginger Wildheart has a special place in my heart (as well as some of my previous blogging buddies).  We would all argue over who would review his stuff first, it was quite heated at times to be honest.  But now it's just me, and I can usually take my time.  However, this one is a little different.  The Pessimist's Companion is the acoustic follow up to the wonderful Ghost in the Tanglewood (our review linked here).  At this juncture, we find Ginger is in a bad way.  By his own admission before he released The Pessimist's Companion, Ginger confirmed that this is a breakup album.  It was recorded with the same musicians who he recorded...Tanglewood, as well as producer David Draper.  He felt that they had done such a good job on ...Tanglewood, that it was the perfect place to start for the next one. 

Much like ...Tanglewood, this is a gentle affair musically, but it's a heavyweight lyrically.  I've heard Ginger wounded before, but here is heart is not some much on display but broken and in need of some TLC.  Anyone with half a sense of soul will be feeling the same pain of "A Better Love" and sobbing gently into their beverage of choice.   Opener "May the Restless Find Peace" is the sound of a man who is trying to make sense of the world, all the while he's trying to keep hold of his own soul.  "I Love You So Much, I'm Leaving" has a title that would be perfect for any Country album, but it has a devilish charm.  With its beautiful guitar, honest lyrics and toe-tapping sound, a confession of self-doubt have never sounded so good.

Elsewhere on The Pessimist's Companion, the title track is a little gem.  It's one of those songs that gets stuck in your head, you think you've heard it enough and then you reach for the repeat button.   With "You Will Let Me Down Again", you have a weary tale of being let down and expecting it once more.  This is my favourite track here, it just hits all the right spots on this album.  There is also "In Reverse" deals with the strange way that medical professionals seem to deal with his issues, which is hard to listen to in places.  But it's another song that is just beautifully crafted.  This is something that could also be said about "There is a House", the album's finale.  It's a song that seems to encapsulate the feeling of bewilderment, lose and hurt that has been running through this record.

Well, this is a hard album on the soul.  The Pessimist's Companion is a beautiful record, one that will break everyone's heart and then some.  If you thought Ghost in the Tanglewood was devastating, then you might need to only listen to this in the company of others.  It's a weeper, a bruiser and a heartbreaker, I can see why this is getting so much good press at the moment.  If you're looking for fist-pumping anthems, then you'll need to look elsewhere.  If you're looking for candy coloured pop-rock, you will be able to find that on other records.  If you're looking for someone to voice your broken words and to help you heal, The Pessimist's Companion might be able to support. 

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

Top track - You Will Let Me Down Again

You can visit the Round Records website here. At the time of writing, this is the only place to pre-order the CD and Vinyl versions of The Pessimist's Companion. You can also purchase the digital version of TPC there as well.

You can visit the Ginger Wildheart website here. 

You can visit the Ginger Wildheart Facebook page here. 

At the time of writing, The Pessimist's Companion is not available on streaming sites.  I'm sure that will change eventually.

The Virginmarys - Northern Sun Sessions

Macclesfield two-piece Power Punk explosion The Virginmarys are no stranger to these pages, and Northern Sun Sessions has long been expected.  Since their last album, the brilliant Divides (our review linked here), it hasn't been quiet on the VM front.  There have been tours, they released the Sitting Ducks EP, there have been charity shows and a steady release of demos for this album as well.  Which brings us to the release of Northern Sun Sessions.  Now, as some of you can see, the album is a 3D cover.  Now, sadly this is lost on me as I'm colourblind.  But I've been assured that it's a special cover, also - I like the lightbulb image.  If you pre-ordered this album, you were sent a pair of 3D glasses, as well as a note thanking you for helping them with this release.  Now, I love that sort of thing, it shows a personal touch, a caring for the fans and it's heartwarming to see.  But, at the end of the day, an album is judged by the songs, the meat and bones of the record.  With that, it's time to see if Northern Sun Sessions is any good.

Northern Sun Sessions find The Virginmarys in fighting spirits.  Five of the tracks here: "Get Me Back Home", "Wanna Be Free", "Set Up", "Northern Sun" and "Blind Lead the Blind" were released as part of the Northern Sun demo giveaway during the year.  It's nice to see the change in the tracks from those early demos to fleshed out numbers.  Elsewhere on the album, we find the VM's on fire with "S.O.S.4.U.N.I.", breaking hearts with "For The Two of Us" and in open rebellion with "Flags".  They've betted hight, raised the stakes and went for broke here, sounding like they've nothing to lose and came out with all guns blazing.

With this approach, there is always a danger that it could all turn to shit.  Sometimes it can be a little bit too heavy, sometimes it can sink an album.  Thankfully, Northern Sun Sessions is not one of those albums.  The Virginmarys are a tight duo, so they know their strengths and they can make the same amount of noise as many five-piece bands.  It's an album that makes you want to jump around and fills the world with sunshine. The Virginmarys have upped the ante on Northern Sun Sessions, making all the right moves and sounding like fighting champions.  This is a passion project and it sounds great, definitely one that I would recommend to people who love their punk from the North!

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

Top track - S.O.S.4.U.N.I.

You can purchase Northern Sun Sessions from Amazon here.

You can visit The Virginmarys website here, which also has a webstore and is a better place to purchase Northern Sun Sessions (just saying).

You can follow the activities of The Virginmarys on Facebook here.

You can stream Northern Sun Sessions on Spotify here.

You can stream Northern Sun Sessions on Deezer here.

You can stream Northern Sun Sessions on Tidal here.

The Smashing Pumpkins - Shiny And Oh So Bright, Vol. 1, No Past. No Future. No Sun.

The Smashing Pumpkins are a legendary band, at least they are in my books.  Their early work is a flawed, but amazing set of records which I can put on at any time and I'm transported back to my youth.  I could really wax lyrically about how much I love their often derailed fuck you to Rock music in Adore, how much I wished that Machina had been released in it's originally intended two half format and how Mellon Collie & The Infinite Sadness is a work of art.  But that is not why I'm writing this post.  No, this is a review of Shiny And Oh So Bright, Vol. 1,  No Past, No Future, No Sun, the tenth studio album from The Smashing Pumpkins, which was produced with Rick Rubin.  It's also the first since the Machina project to feature James Iha, their first for new label Napalm Records and their first since 2014's Monument to an Elegy (our review here).

Now, I'm not going to go on about Billy Corgan's politics, the lack of D'Arcy on this album, anything basically apart from the record itself.  The reason for this is simple; when it comes to this band, I try to focus solely on their music.  All the dramas, all the distractions can taint something at times (see Morrissey for further details).  This is not what is shaping this album, although these things might have contributed to some of its genesis.  No, what I want to look at is the sound and feeling of Shiny And Oh So Bright, Vol. 1,  No Past, No Future, No Sun - nothing more and nothing less.

Shiny And Oh So Bright, Vol. 1,  No Past, No Future, No Sun is one of the shortest albums that The Smashing Pumpkins have released, coming in at just under 32 minutes long.  Comprised of only eight tracks, there is very little fat in terms of songs that they could have taken off this record.  This either shows a degree of confidence in the material or just seeing how this version of the line-up is embraced by their audience.  To be honest, I think it's more likely to be due to the fact that this album was originally envisioned as two separate EP's.  By joining the tracks that they had recorded, it's obviously going to be a brief experience in some ways.  At least they didn't release the EP's first and then cobble them together for the album.

Musically, the band is still searching for their own tone, exploring what The Smashing Pumpkins can offer in 2018.  If you're expecting the band who created Siamese Dreams, then go back to that record and live in the past.  This is not the same band, their collective experiences and age have changed them, so this is not a retro trip.  What we have here, is a combination of Billy's last two incarnations (Oceania & Monuments....), but with a world-class guitarist in the form of James Iha back in the saddle.  That tone has been missed, which gives this album a shine that will make any Pumpkins fan happy.

However, I cannot say that Shiny And Oh So Bright, Vol. 1,  No Past, No Future, No Sun is a world-class SP album.  It's a good start, but you can tell that there is still work to do for SP.  Songs like "Travels", the excellent "Seek and You Shall Destroy" and "Solara" are really good, but they are unlikely to stop people shouting for "Cherub Rock", "Ave Adore" or "Perfect" to name three songs.  Also, the shortness of the album makes it hard to measure up to their back catalogue.  They're a victim of their own success on this one, we've sort of been conditioned for longer records from Billy & Co.

Yet for those issues above, I still find myself enjoying this album.  It's not just me trying to fool myself, if it was a turd, I would say so.  But there is something about Shiny And Oh So Bright, Vol. 1,  No Past, No Future, No Sun that makes me reach for the repeat button.  I'll give you that it's not their strongest, but it's also far from their worst as well.  I guess I just love the fact that they sound free in the studio, not restrained or held back.  I know that people are saying it's awful, but if they had have tried to do Siamese Dream Part 2, it would have sucked more and people know it. 

And that is the issue I'm picking up from people regarding this record. Their perception of the album seems to be The hipsters are hating it because it's not retro enough, the older fans are hating it for not sounding classic, whilst I find myself just enjoying the music.  There is something, not amazing or heart-stopping, but something innocently different about this record.  For me, Shiny And Oh So Bright, Vol. 1,  No Past, No Future, No Sun feeling like the beginning of a new journey.  So it's not a classic, is that an issue?  Not for me, to be honest I think this is a point from which they could build new material.  At the beginning of this review, I would have taken that sort of result.  If only their fanbase were capable of letting go of your own preconceptions of what they should sound like.

7.5 out of ten - This is good and worth checking out

Top track - Seek and You Shall Destroy

You can purchase Shiny And Oh So Bright Vol 1.... on Amazon here. 

You can visit The Smashing Pumpkins website here. 

You can follow the activities of The Smashing Pumpkins on Facebook here. 

You can stream Shiny And Oh So Bright Vol 1.... on Spotify here. 

You can stream Shiny And Oh So Bright Vol 1.... on Deezer here. 

You can stream Shiny And Oh So Bright Vol 1.... on Tidal here. 

Sylvaine - Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone

If you have ever read these blogs before, you might remember Sylvaine.  Brief history lesson here: Back in 2014, I received an email from Sylvaine asking me to review her first album Silent Chamber, Noisy Heart (review linked here).  Whilst it was not something I would have went out of my way to listen to, it was still well produced/performed.  After Silent Chamber, Noisy Heart, she signed up to Season of Mist records who released her second album Wistful in 2015 (review linked here).  Wistful was an improvement on her original formula, one which I return to every now and again.  So, I've been following her career so far, which has been going from strength to strength.  She has played shows around the world, her albums have been well received and everything seems to be heading in the right direction.  However, Sylvaine has arrived at album number three.  The third record of any band/artists career is usually supposed to be the difficult record.  Mainly because it's the one that has been developed with  The title is Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone, so we have returned to the original title formula.  The image is a beautiful drawing of crystals coming out of a rock, which has a vintage appeal.

Musically, Sylvaine is still heading on that epic Blackgaze approach that has been the bedrock of her career so far.  Over six tracks, she delves into the depths of this genre and brings back some absolute gems!  I don't know exactly what it is, but there seems to be a focus here which was not present before.  I'm not saying that Silent Chamber.... and Wistful were sloppy jams with freeform psychedelic experiences, but there is definitely more urgency behind the music, a stronger commitment.  Maybe it's a belief or new confidence that has developed over time.  Whatever it is, it has certainly focused the strengths of Sylvaine.

All of these tracks, much like Soul Dissolution and Yob, are lengthy affairs.  So, from the get-go, I think it's fair to warn people that this is not for anyone with a short attention span.  Only "Severance" comes in under five minutes, so when you start listening to this, you've got to be committed.   Overall, the earthly feeling of Wistful has continued with tracks such as "Mørklagt", "Worlds Collide" and "Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone".  They just have a natural, slow and unfolding feeling about them.  They sometimes sound as if they've arrived from dreams, or they've been whispered in the wind.  These are silly metaphors, but the songs seem to speak to me that way.  My favourite is "Abeyance", the heavier parts of this song sound brilliant, the guitar in the intro is amazing and it feels like the lynchpin to the album.

Any negatives?  No, to be honest with you.  Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone has bucked the trend for third albums.  It's an absolute corker, a real treat as we approach the winter months of 2018 and one that I'm enthralled with.  But the biggest pleasure I get from this album is not the music.  It's the joy in seeing an artist developing into something more.  Sylvaine has improved with each record, taking someone who was not really acquainted with Blackgaze and made him into a fan.  For that, I'm truly thankful to Sylvaine for that initial email. Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone will be high on a lot of people's end of year lists, I recommend you checking it out now.

10 out of ten - This is proof that there is a deity

Top track - Abeyance

You can purchase Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone on Amazon here.

You can purchase Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone on Bandcamp here.

You can visit the Sylvaine website here.

You can follow the activities of Sylvaine on Facebook here.

You can stream Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone on Spotify here.

You can stream Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone on Deezer here.

At the time of writing, Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone is not on Tidal. However, if this ever changes, it'll be on her Tidal page via this link.

15 November 2018

Stand Atlantic - Skinny Dipping

Stand Atlantic are an Australian Pop-Punk act, comprised of singer/guitarist Bonnie Fraser, guitarist (former bass player) David Potter and drummer Jonno Panichi.  Formed in 2014, they've gone through a few line-up changes, toured with bands such as As It Is, State Champions, New Found Glory and Young Lions and they've recently been called one of the hottest bands to watch by Kerrang magazine (I didn't know that was still going).  Skinny Dipping is their debut album which was produced by Stevie Knight and follows the Sidewinder EP.  The hype surrounding this band at the moment is building strongly over the last few months, so strong that it's reached me in my own little world of noise and indie sounds.  So, what is the hype all about?

As with a lot of Pop-Punk, the main focus of the album is anxieties and the trouble that these cause.  Songs such as "Toothpick", "Lavender Bones" and "Skinny Dipping" deal with various levels of depression, anger and determination.  Elsewhere on songs such as "Lost My Cool", "Bullfrog" and "Clay" (which features Hannah Hermione Greenwood from Creeper) have an anger behind them which burns like a bright sun. Some of the hooks on this album are really good, the songs are catchy and the production is huge.  It reminds me a lot of Kings of Pop by Homegrown, the anxieties and passion behind the songs share an echo and it's an album that is very easy to like.

However, Skinny Dipping is also an album I've heard a thousand times beforehand.  The themes are as old as the time a punk picked up a guitar, so it feels very familiar whilst being new and shiny at the same time.  Also, if your not a fan of the poppier end of pop punk, Skinny Dipping won't be for you.  There is also a sugar level so high on this record, it could be sold with a sugar tax that was recently introduced in the UK.  But there is nothing wrong with the quality of the songs, Stand Atlantic have made a brilliant Pop-Punk album here.  As I've said before, I'd take a quality Pop album over a boring Indie album any day.  Skinny Dipping is one of those albums which can pick your mood up at times.  Sure, there are some moments which don't work for me, but there is more right with this album then wrong.  Also, go and see a dentist afterwards, you might get a sugar addiction.

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

Top track - Lost my Cool

You can purchase Skinny Dipping on Amazon here.

You can purchase Skinny Dipping from the Stand Atlantic Bandcamp page here.

You can follow the activities of Stand Atlantic on Facebook here.

You can stream Skinny Dipping on Spotify here.

You can stream Skinny Dipping on Deezer here.

At the time of writing, Skinny Dipping is not currently available to stream on Tidal. No judgement on our part.

14 November 2018

Antarctigo Vespucci - Love in the Time of E-Mail

Antarctigo Vespucci is an indie rock band composed of Chris Farren of Fake Problems and Jeff Rosenstock of Bomb the Music Industry. Farren and Rosenstock began recording as a band in early 2014 with their debut EP Soulmate Stuff, they released their first full-length, Leavin' La Vida Loca, in 2015. They have stated that their name is actually a joke.  They took it from Amerigo Vespucci, the man who is supposed to have discovered America.  From that, they reason that Antarctigo Vespucci would be the guy who discovered Antarctica.  Sometimes projects such as this, when two musicians from different bands come together end up being a true passion project.  Over the course of their releases, Antartcitgo Vespucci always sound as if they're having fun, even if the subjects are emotionally charged.   

Love in the Time of E-Mail was released on 26th October 2018, released on the home label is Polvinyl Records.  However, according to Amazon in the UK, it's down as Big Scary Monster.  No idea why there is a difference, I can just go on what I see.  I was not too sure if I was going to review this album, just down to time constraints on my half.  Then I thought, fuck it - sometimes you need to go on a whim and get this one set up.  I wish I could include this as part of the Cover Rouellte series, but I mainly picked it up I'd seen the name before and had heard a few songs.  So, what is Love in the Time of E-Mail about?

The main feeling I get from Love in the Time of E-Mail is one of love.  Whether it is new love, broken hearts, anxieties about relationship or letting go of things, love seems to be at the heart of this record.  This project is built upon this foundation, which is delivered with a passion that would rival the love shown by Romeo & Juliet.  You can hear the sheer joy behind the song, the unbridled respect between two friends as they hammer out "Freakin' You Out", "Kimmy" and other songs on this record.  As I mentioned, anxieties form part of the bases of Love in the Time of E-mail.  On tracks such as "Breathless on DVD", a song about having flashbacks to a former lover who causes all sorts of issues.  You also have "Another Good Thing" which talks about how things can fall apart very quickly.  But no matter the subject, they seem to be able to deliver it in a positive manner.

I like Love in the Time of E-Mail a lot, it's a contradiction in terms of messages, the positivity of the music is contrasted by the meaning of the songs.  Yet it all comes together, meshing into a beautiful painting of joy and sorrow.  Somehow they combine everything into this fantastic record that may have a cover of a photo in the snow, but it'll leave anyone who hears it elated and full of energy.  I don't think I've enjoyed a side project as much since Grinderman by Nick Cave, I think I cannot think of any praise which is higher than that. Viva La Antartctigo Vespucci!

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

Top track - Freakin' You Out

You can purchase Love in the Time of E-mail on Amazon.

You can purchase Love in the Time of E-mail on the Antarctigo Vespucci Bandcamp page here.

You can follow the activities of Antarctigo Vespucci on Facebook here.

You can stream Love in the Time of E-mail on Spotify here.

You can stream Love in the Time of E-mail on Deezer here.

You can stream Love in the Time of E-mail on Tidal here.

8 November 2018

Hank von Hell - Egomania

Hank von Hell, now there is a name I've not heard in a very, very, long time.  The last time I heard anything by this good gentleman (aka Hans Erik Dyvik Husby), was when he was still the singer of Turbonegro.  I got to see them at a Download Festival in the UK, where they were pissing off the audience and I love it.  Their attitude towards an aggressive crowd was brilliant, they just decided to fuck everyone off.  It was an enduring memory of their performance.  Now, let's fast forward a couple of week's ago.  I was looking through YouTube for something to watch, then I see a link to a video for a song called "Bum to Bum".  The image was Steve-O from the TV show Jackass, placing a white hat on the head of Sir von Hell.  So naturally, I clicked the link.  So, after watching that a few times, I booked marked Egomania on my list and awaiting its arrival for reviewing.  

In the years since I last saw Sir von Hell live, a lot has changed.  It seems that his leaving Turbonegro was not a smooth process and has left a bad feeling in the air.  Also, since he was away, he's been releasing music with Doctor Midnight & The Mercy Cult, he was a judge on Norwegian Idol, played Jesus, been a museum guide and generally created mischief.  So, why in the blue hell has it took him so long to make this album?  It seems to be a bit of a mystery to me, but hopefully, it'll be worth the wait.  Now, let's see how Egomania sounds.

If you've heard anything that Hank von Hell has done before, I think that you'll have a pretty good guess as to the sound of this album.  OTT punk rock, with a hint of sarcasm, a ton of ego and a lot of rock & roll!  There is a shiny veneer of pop vibes to Egomania.  But not in a bad way, as it seems to lend itself to this record quite well. Songs such as "Bombwalk Chic", "Dirty Money" and "Wild Boy Blues" will have fans of The Wildhearts, Backyard Babies and any of Sir von Hell's other project dancing like their lives depend on it.

Albums such as Egomania can be viewed as throwaway, easy consumed and easily forgotten.  Time will tell on some of that to be honest, but even if it is any of that, does it matter when it sounds so fun?  Egomania is an album that doesn't take itself too seriously, to be honest, the ego is the smallest thing on offer here.  Well, that is a lie really, but you couldn't have an album of this nature without some major ego behind it.  Egomania is all bright lights, shiny hooks, a load of swearing and good old fashion fun!  Throwaway?  Nah, this is too much fun for that!

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

Top track - Bombwalk Chic

You can purchase Egomania on Amazon here.

You can visit the Hank von Hell website here.

You can follow the activities of Hank von Hell on Facebook here.

You can stream Egomania on Spotify here.

You can stream Egomania on Deezer here.

You can stream Egomania on Tidal here.

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