Monday, 30 July 2012

The Movements / The Angry Dead Pirates – Joint Single Review


The Movements / The Angry Dead Pirates – Split 10” Vinyl (PARIAH! Records)

The Movements / The Angry Dead Pirates - Split 10"
French label Pariah Records specialise in Garage/Psyche music and, apparently, in putting out split vinyl releases between French and Swedish bands. This latest release is a prime example as it’s a 10” vinyl single with three tracks from Swedish Psyche rockers The Movements and and three from French Garage grungers The Angry Dead Pirates. Starting with those crazy Swedes, The Movements blast in with the organ laden stomp of ‘Deserted Town’ which sounds like Ray Manzarek guesting on a Flaming Lips record and draws you in straight away. Ideally suited to sound tracking a motorbike scene in some Scandinavian version of Mad Max, this is a swirling, Tazmanian Devil of a tune and resistance is futile. ‘She Said’ kicks in like a Spaghetti Western tune complete with ominous whistling and you can almost smell the sarsaparilla and chewing tobacco. The thundering drums sound like the hooves of the underrated horses that belong to the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse and the blend of almost unidentifiable instruments just serves to build the tension and drama of the tune. The last track from the Movements is a cover of their label mates, the Angry Dead Pirates, as the Swedes blast through their version of ‘Put Me Down’. This is Futureheads-esque stuff with jangly, urgent guitars smothered in jittery, impatient vocals and hypnotic organs.

The Angry Dead Pirates are up next and offer a slightly more chilled and spaced out version of the Garage genre. There are still plenty of heave Hammond chords on ‘I Don’t Mind’ but the drums are a lighter touch and the guitar is more controlled than what is offered up by the Movements. ‘Moon’ starts off with Dr Who style retro noises from ‘the future’ before settling in to slightly repetitive but still enjoyable psyche-out rock. Finally, the Angry Dead Pirates return the favour and perform their version of the Movements’ ‘Being’ starting off with a public information instructional sound bite about LSD. This is followed by some sinister, chugging guitar and some lazy, dope up vocals before descending in to an organ driven frenzy that would be perfect in a Russ Meyer film or in a darker sequel to the Austin Powers films – y’know, the one directed by Christopher Nolan where Austin completely loses his mojo and disappears in to a well of despair.
The Movements

This release was presented as Sweden vs France and, following that theme, I would suggest that Sweden’s the Movements has narrowly won this contest but only on points. I think the real winner is music, though, and I would suggest that in Pariah! Records we have a record label worth paying attention to in the future.



Sunday, 29 July 2012

MFC CHICKEN – LIVE REVIEW


MFC Chicken @ Annabel’s Cabaret & Discotheque, Plymouth – 28/07/12

Horn of plenty - Spencer Evoy
London based retro-rock’n’rollers, MFC Chicken, were in Plymouth for their first ever South West show and what a debut it was. As the crowd swelled and the anticipation built within the classy surroundings of the Barbican’s finest venue, the four members of MFC Chicken approached the stage like a bunch of geeky misfits who were only playing a gig as a dare. But after a brief introductory blast from the band, we were welcomed to the evening by Canadian singer/saxophonist with the inspirational gambit “Tired of Twist? Weary of the Watusi? Hungover from the Hully Gully? Sounds like it’s time you tasted the CHICKEN”! And with that, the MFC Chicken are off and running in a whirl of rasping saxophone, hollered vocals, screeching guitar and rhythm section tighter than Chubby Checker wearing hotpants.

MFC Chicken trade in 1950s Garage Rock’n’Roll but this ain’t two-bit covers band, no siree Bob. Tonight these guys are proudly pushing their debut album, ‘Music For Chicken’, from which they play such crowd teasers as ‘Royal We’, ‘Man Size Tissue’ and ‘Striptease Girl’ which all get Annabel’s jumping, jiving, twisting and shouting within minutes. ‘God Surf The Queen’ sees the MFC boys descend in to razor sharp Dick Dale guitar work and lung-busting horn blowing and ‘Family Value Meal (Music For Chicken)’ gets the crowd singing along even if they’ve never heard the band before. There’s a familiarity to the music tonight that perfectly complements the energy and sincerity with which these guys perform so it’s no surprise that before too long everyone in the band is dripping with sweat.

MFC Chicken in full swing
The band throw in a few covers to bolster their set (they play three 45 minute shows in one night, after all) and the classic ‘Have Love, Will Travel’ made famous by the Sonics went down a storm and got the last few static squares up on the dance floor. This was a show that blew the roof off and brought the house down in equal measure and when the band played their trump card by introducing the audience to join in with the ‘Laundramatic’, well, everyone in the venue knew that they had witnessed a special night of live music. In a world where trend setters are increasingly looking backwards for inspiration, the music, style, passion and authenticity of a band like MFC Chicken will surely guarantee them some level of success. I mean, it can only be a matter of time before Lauren Laverne is pumping this out on 6Music on a Tuesday morning, can’t it?


Friday, 27 July 2012

FEEDER + BROTHER & BONES + KEZIA


FEEDER + BROTHER & BONES + KEZIA

SUNDOWNER SESSIONS @ LUSTY GLAZE BEACH, NEWQUAY – 26/07/2012

For the large proportion of my life, going to a gig has meant venturing in to dark basements or the back rooms of pubs past dubious men in overcoats to watch bands struggle with ropey sound systems and minimal audience interaction. Every now and again, however, a gig comes along that offers you something different and tonight, on the gloriously named Lusty Glaze beach, was one such gig. Lusty Glaze is a horseshoe shaped cove just up the road from Newquay on the North Coast of Cornwall and is perfectly shaped to capture sound and so is perfect for an evening of live music.

Kezia
Shortly after reaching the beach via the long and winding staircase (I didn’t fancy the option of taking the “queue jumping” zip wire down the cliff), it soon became clear that the mood was relaxed, friendly and calm – pretty odd for what had been advertised as a rock show. Within 10 minutes of arriving a nervous blonde girl shuffled on to the stage with a guitar, approached the mic and introduced herself as Cornish singer-songwriter Kezia. The Camborne lass’s gentle plucking and sustain laden vocals drifted out across the beach and made the perfect background music to sit with friends, sip a beer and watch the sun go down. A cover of Bowie’s ‘Ziggy Stardust’ worked well within a set of original material that also features some excellent Piano work but my one fear for Kezia is that she seems to write music that is perfect background music for idyllic evenings on the beach and that’s a fairly niche market to go for.

Brother & Bones
 Talking of niche markets, Brother & Bones are up next with their consistently unique and refreshing blend of rock, folk and soul. Now I’ve seen Brother & Bones a few times before in a variety of venues on cold winter nights and sunny spring afternoons and they have always put on a fantastic show. But seeing them perform tonight in front of a Cornish cliff face with seagulls circling overhead and the orangey glow of a sunset lighting up the stage takes their music to another level. ‘Here Comes The Storm’ and ‘Back To Shore’ mean more when performed on the coast and the sparse strains of ‘Gold and Silver’ ring out like a 21st Century sea shanty across the Celtic Sea. Like watching Hamlet in the Globe Theatre or hearing a Gospel choir sing in Queens, some things are just improved by the surroundings they are experienced within and the music of Brother & Bones definitely falls in to that category of art form. The band have a new EP on the horizon and from the new material they played tonight it sounds like they are going from strength to strength but the live arena is where these guys excel so keep an eye out for their autumn tour if you can’t make it to one of their remaining festival shows.

Sunset over Lusty Glaze
Judging by the t-shirts adorning many a punter at Lusty Glaze, there is no doubt that Feeder are the big pull tonight but there is a strange feeling that is hard to point your finger on. There is anticipation but not quite excitement, happiness but not quite exhilaration and there are fans but not quite fanatics. So when Feeder hit the stage and start to work through their songs it’s no surprise that the gig has the feeling of a local band playing in front of their supportive mates rather than internationally recognised rock superstars playing an uncharacteristically small show. But then Feeder have always been the unassuming, nice men of rock and from Grant Nicholas’ thanks to both support acts to numerous bits of banter with the Cornish crowd, they do nothing to dispel this impression. ‘Buck Rogers’ and ‘Just The Way I’m Feeling’ get the crowd singing along as the sun gives up and sinks behind the horizon but it’s new tracks ‘Idaho’ and ‘ Generation Freakshow’ that indicate that Feeder might just be back to their pop-rock best and that is no bad thing. For all they lack in the bad-boy attitude that you might expect from a British rock act, Feeder do provide a cracking live show with pitch-perfect songs and timing that Rolex would be glad to have. Some might say Feeder have become a little predictable but if you asked any of the hundreds of fans making their way up the winding stairs from Lusty Glaze this evening I think they would be more inclined to call them reliable and that is nothing to be ashamed of.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

THE FALLOWS – ALBUM REVIEW


The Fallows – Face The Wolves

THE FALLOWS - FACE THE WOLVES
Coventry quartet the Fallows are ploughing the folk furrow that seems pretty popular these days but I love a bit of quality folk so I was excited by the look and feel of this album when it landed on my doormat. The imagery that the band use is pleasingly sparse and song titles like ‘Break My Bones’ and ‘When The Sun Goes Down’ give you the sensation that this is going to be an authentically satisfying folky goodness. With the opening bars of opening track ‘We Are The Hunted’ things sound promising as it stomps in to life all country and western fiddles and stamped tambourines but then things start to unravel very quickly. There’s a famous saying that normally applies to authors along the lines of “write what you know about” and I’m a firm believer that this rule should also apply to songwriters. So when four lads from Coventry start singing about the Devil and painting images of wild west saloons it becomes instantly hard to engage with. Add to that some overly slick production values and the slightly affected vocals of front man Ross Darby and the Face The Wolves is starting to look like a bit of a letdown.

I’m always keen to give artists a chance though, just in case they ignore the rule of putting their strongest track up front. ‘When The Sun Goes Down’ is fairly standard Indie-pop stuff with the positivity of the Wonder Stuff or James and ‘Better To Burn’ is what would’ve happened if Joshua Tree era U2 had been commissioned to write the theme for an American teen drama. ‘Raining Back Home’ seems to be a heartfelt message that having the same weather as someone else makes you feel less homesick but I can’t help shaking the feeling that the distant land that the band is singing from is Northampton, in which case the weather in Coventry is fairly likely to be pretty similar. I’m sure it’s a metaphor but there just isn’t enough sophistication about these songs to believe that the words are anything but one dimensional. ‘Front Row’ is a highpoint with its jaunty melody and a feel of early Stereophonics tales of mundane, small town life.

Penultimate track ‘Lo and Behold’ again has the feel of a TV show theme (maybe one on gardening this time) and album closer ‘It’s Not Over’ wants to be a whiskey soaked Pogues-esque ballad but there isn’t enough experience, emotion, spirit or bile in the song and that’s where The Fallows fall down for me. I really wanted to like this album but somewhere along the road it seems as though the band have fallen down too many traps. Musically speaking they are spot on but ‘Face The Wolves’ is so overproduced and polished that it ends up sounding more like the Killlers than Mumford & Sons. If this band were a sick child and I were a doctor I would prescribe some serious gigging, some hard living and hard loving before writing a follow up album and when they come to record it, it should be done in one room with as few microphones as possible. But I’m not a doctor so that prescription is technically illegal.

Get more information at: http://www.thefallowsmusic.co.uk

Sunday, 15 July 2012

EILIS PHILLIPS – EP REVIEW


Eilis Phillips – Master Fiend
Eilis Phillips - Master Fiend

Quite by accident, I found the perfect place to listen to this EP and that happens to be the back garden of my girlfriend’s flat with seagull’s squawking overhead, a small but determined stream babbling away in the background and the faint smell of the sea on the warm breeze. You see, Belfast’s finest songstress Eilis Philipps creates what I would call elemental music that opts for sounds rather than definable instruments and can change your mood without you even realising it.

The four tracks presented on Master Fiend kick off with the suitably ethereal ‘Avalon’ which swirls and floats around your ears like a feather on the breeze. Then Ms Phillips’ voice glides in which is part Dolly Parton and part Karen Carpenter but with the production qualities of a modern day diva. It’s a spirited and spiritual start to this collection and nods at the various and wondrous delights that this chanteuse has seen within her life but that’s another story for another time. Second track ‘Haole’ is a more mainstream acoustic strum-along and is perfectly pleasant but, for me, not the stand out track here. Interestingly though, it did lead me to discover that ‘haole‘ is a Hawaaiin word for Caucasians or foreigners that dates back to the times of Captain James Cook – it’s educational this blogging lark. Title track ‘Master Fiend’ comes next and has a homely, mid-west American feel to it that makes me imagine somebody getting on a Greyhound bus and leaning against the window watching the rain drops roll down the glass mirroring the tears on their face. You know, the kind of video some director would come up with when faced with the challenge of producing a video for a song full of genuine emotion when he’s never felt a thing in his life.

It is final track, ‘I’m Right Here’, however that not only displays Eilis Phillips’ songwriting ability but also here astounding voice. Imagine, if you will, that Laura Marling has a turn for the religious and writes herself a beautifully crafted but sparse hymn. Then imagine that she befriends some waif on the streets who just so happens to be the hybrid daughter of Annie Lennox and Florence Welch. Finally, Laura and the waif (band name?) get together to record said hymn in an abandoned church surrounded by candles and snow. Essentially, that is ‘I’m Right Here’ and essentially it is beautiful. All in all, this EP shows the talent and range of an artist that seems to be putting out music because she can but I get the impression that there is more to come from Eilis Phillips if she decides to stretch herself. Here’s hoping she does but in the meantime I'm going to stay sitting my this stream, you're welcome to join me but can you bring me a cuppa when you do? Ta.

For more information, visit her official website

Thursday, 12 July 2012

WOBBLY LAMPS - SINGLE REVIEW


Wobbly Lamps – Neon Tee Pee/She Wants Me Dead (Polyvinyl Craftsmen Records)
Wobbly Lamps

It’s amazing what a trip to the kitchen can do for a record isn’t it. The first time I listened to this debut offering from Southend-on-Sea’s Wobbly Lamps I was indifferent so I went to pour myself a whisky and settled back in to my listening chair. After a couple of sips I pressed play again and suddenly the lo-fi, swampy, bluesy, garagey blusterings made much more sense. This is the music I grew up on but I’d forgotten all about. This is small town angst played out by men with bigger music collections than bank balances and more passion than ability. Now don’t get me wrong, these songs are well crafted and fall in to that ilk that houses the likes of the Jam, Doves and early Kaiser Chiefs. But there is something else here that makes it all the more appealing and that is a tendency to flirt with American blues rock which leaves you reaching for your Black Keys or White Stripes collections.

Lead track ‘Neon Tee Pee’ swaggers and staggers like a man that’s been up for three days on the mother of all benders but still knows which way ‘cool’ is even if he doesn’t know where home is. It’s a desperate, itchy, claustrophobic song that almost begs for mercy by the time it stumbles to a close but the circular riff will stay in your head long in to the night. Oddly, second track ‘She Wants Me Dead’ has a more Mancunian attitude to it with its swirling organs and distorted vocals but that’s no bad thing. There’s a defiant stomp to Wobbly Lamps that is hard to resist once it gets under your skin. Final track (and the lone B-side) ‘Alice The Goon 2’ is great for two reasons; 1) It is pure Mark E Smith and 2) It is named after one of my favourite cartoon characters, the indescribably ugly yet universally adored member of Popeye’s entourage that seemed to exist purely to make Olive Oil seem in some way attractive.
Like I said, its strange how a trip to the kitchen can change your mind about a band. To further the experiment, I tried going to the toilet after listening to Olly Murs but when I came back he was still shit. Go figure.

The single is limited to 250 7” pressings but is available at Rough Trade, Norman Records and by mail order from: http://polyvinylcraftsmen.blogspot.co.uk/

MFC CHICKEN - ALBUM REVIEW

MFC Chicken - Music For Chicken
MFC Chicken - Music for Chicken (Dirty Water Records)
Release Date: 6th August 2012

There is a modern trend for artists to get an entire album syndicated for use on a range of advertisements (it started with Moby and now the Black Keys are taking over the world) but it’s rare that a band write an entire album with this purpose in mind. However, this is exactly what MFC Chicken seem to have done with their debut offering, Music For Chicken. Anyone from Chicken Tonight to Nando’s could use this music on superb advertising campaign but if I was a betting man, and I am, I would suggest that the MFC boys are aiming for the dizzy heights of Kentucky Fried Chicken stardom. You see, Music For Chicken is an album by MFC Chicken about chicken and boy is it finger lickin’ good!?

Lead by Canadian, Sax-toting, geek-throb  Spencer Evoy, MFC Chicken are a London based 5 piece who deal in pure, unadulterated, organic rock’n’roll in the style of Bill Hailey, Chuck Berry or Buddy Holly. Every detail is taken care of from Bret’s punchy bass lines and Alberto’s choppy guitars to Ravi’s rock solid beats and Parsley’s euphoric keys but its Spencer’s hollering, yowling and uh-huh-ing that gives this music such an authentic and infectious soul. From the opening yelps of ‘Chicken, Baby, Chicken’ your head will be nodding within seconds and by the time Spencer descends in to making animalistic growls you will be moving your whole body, no arguments. However, its on second track ‘Every Girl On The Tube’ that you start to notice the key difference between MFC Chicken and their forefathers. These gentlemen have managed to overlay modern day lyrical content on to some of the most authentic 60s garage rock’n’roll created since the days of Bryl Creem and drive-in movies. ‘Striptease Girl’ is a swampy Blues romp with Alberto taking over on vocal duties and the addition of some screeching harmonica. This is followed by one and a half minutes of ‘Wild Safari’ which can only be described as Adam West era Batman fight scene music – you know, when the ‘Pow’, ’Sock’, ‘Thump’ and ‘Phwoar’ bubbles pop up. ‘Laundramatic’, however, is a bona fide dance-along classic with the classic refrain “I’m telling you know you’re gonna be a fanatic, for a brand new dance they call the Laundramatic” and if you’re not moving to this record by now then I would either question the quality of your hearing or suggest that you are in some sort of ‘locked inside’ syndrome hell (sorry if you are by the way but, hey, what are you going to do about it?).

Essentially, what I’m saying is that MFC Chicken are the best party band on God’s green earth because they produce music so passionate, so authentic and so goddamn fun that they will get any group of folk dancing. If proof were needed, I can, hand on heart, tell you that I’ve seen them make a room full of Scandinavian Architects go coco for cocopuffs on a wet December evening in London town. True story. But what I’ve never fully appreciated about MFC Chicken is just how good they are at constructing a song around that positive energy. There’s always just the right amount bass, the guitar is always played in the right tone, the drummer knows just when a bit of tub thumping is needed to drive a song along and the keys are understated but oh so vital. Throw in some sexy Sax and you have the perfect recipe for a good time and all the time you are told just exactly how much fun to have by Colonel Evoy. ‘Wine, Women and Rock & Roll’ is the perfect example with a choppy guitar riff being matched every step of the way by blasts on that dastardly horn as we are spun a story about hard living, hard drinking and hard loving. Coming in to the home straight of this 14 track beast (generous for an album these days eh?) and you have the chugging delights of ‘Man Size Tissue’ which is either a love song or something altogether more unsavoury but I’ll leave that up to you. This is followed by ‘Family Value Meal (Music For Chicken)’ which is pretty much the band’s theme tune and would under the credits of their TV show if they had one (which they should by the way, kinda like the Monkees but in 21st Century North London). And so, to top the meal off like one of those unfeasibly large sundaes you only get in Happy Days, we are served up with the longest track on the album at a whopping 3 minutes and 23 seconds, namely ’57 Acres Of Pain’. This is a ball busting tune that builds to an immense crescendo featuring double hand claps, layers of organ and the kind of desperate sax playing that can surely only be produced by a frantic Canadian lying on his back in a puddle of his juices.

In short, I urge you to get your hands on this album (preferably on the beautiful vinyl version) and, more importantly, I urge you to get out and see this band live. It will improve your day, your week and probably your life and if nothing else you well sweat the sweat of someone who has danced because they HAVE to not just because they want to. Don’t worry though, every portion of MFC Chicken comes with a handy lemon-fresh towelette to clean yourself off with and boy will you need it!

Get the album on CD, LP or Download at:

'Like' the band at:

See the band live at:
Album Launch @ Dirty Water Club, London: 14th July
Annabel’s Cabaret, Plymouth: 28th July 

Monday, 9 July 2012

THE FELINES - SINGLE REVIEW


The Felines - Daddy Walk

The Felines – Daddy Walk (Dirty Water Records/Hey Girl! Records)


Release Date: 6th August 2012

Jeg elsker katte. That’s ‘I love the Felines’ in Danish and after listening to this new release I think it’s a phrase you should learn quick smart. You see, the Felines are an all-girl rock’n’roll trio hailing from Copenhagen who are bringing melodic garage-punk back to the masses. Lead track Daddy Walk is a simple blues riff with three part harmonies and stomping drums. It’s like the musical ability of early White Stripes mixed with the energy of the Hives and the vocals of a Scandinavian Veruca Salt. Simple but sumptuous. The second track on the A-side (I love that this seven inch has 2 A-sides and 2 B-sides) is an instrumental slice of atmospheric noise called The Sneak. I say instrumental but that’s only true if you don’t count the guttural scream that punctuates the driving, swirling, Dick Dale guitar riff.

The B-side (still loving it) features the delightful track Boots which is about as cute as a garage-punk track can be without ever resorting to the Ting Tings-esque plastic ‘atitooood’. Lead vocalist Asta Bjerre sings one of those great lines that you remember from the first time you hear it when she mews “If you had to choose, would it be me or your boots”. It doesn’t take much imagination to picture these three sirens enthralling the indie boys of East London with their tunes but there is nothing overtly sexual about the music the Felines produce. It’s sassy, smart and sashays out of the speakers like a drunk biker trying to find his hog but settling for a moped, that’s a given, but this is music made by a gang of friends who just want to play their instruments and see the world. In that sense there are a lot of parallels to be drawn with early Long Blondes material and that can only ever be a good thing.

So it seems that the love affair between the UK music scene and Scandinavian music is set to continue with the Felines so you had better get practicing – altogether now “Jeg elsker katte” (safety warning: this also means ‘I love cats’ so you may attract some weirdos if you start shouting this at a punk gig in Copenhagen).

Find out more at: https://www.facebook.com/thefelines