Sunday, 30 September 2012

BRUCE FOXTON – ALBUM REVIEW

Bruce Foxton - Back In The Room

Bruce Foxton – Back in the Room (Basstone Records)

Release Date: 1st October 2012

Bruce Foxton was the Bassist in the Jam. There, I said it. Let’s just get that out there. Everybody comfortable with that? Made your peace? Sure? Right, let’s get on with this album then. Intriguingly, this album is being released through the thoroughly laudable Pledge Music system whereby fans can pre-order the album and special experiences (i.e. a round of Golf with Bruce and his bandmates) which then funds the recording of the album. This is all wonderful but you can’t help but feel that such schemes are better utilised by bands just starting out on their musical careers rather than who have already achieved legendary status.
                No matter, we still need to consider this album on its musical merits regardless of the peripherals don’t we? The lyricless ‘Ride’ kick starts things with what might well be the new theme tune for Top Gear if it undergoes a minor image change and Steve Coogan takes over from Jeremy Clarkson. It’s all circular riffs, chugging bass and soaring harmonies that conjur images of speeding through the English countryside in an open-top Jaguar on the way to a private studio in a barn conversion. Second track, ‘Number Six’, is Wild Wood-era Paul Weller which is no surprise considering he is on Guitar duties but it is slightly disappointing that Bruce hasn’t taken a more different route to his former bandmate. Weller also features heavily on the more upbeat ‘Window Shopping’ and the Kinks-esque ‘Coming on Strong’. I’ve got no problem with the songs, they are all perfectly catchy and toe-tappingly entertaining but if Weller and Foxton are going to produce such similar sounding music then surely we are only a third away from a Jam reunion and that would be much more exciting!
                There are a couple of standout tracks on this album, namely the reflective ‘Glad I Found My Tears’ and the intriguing instrumentality of ‘The Wide Open Road’ that seemingly features a Clarinet solo if my ears don’t deceive me. Then there’s ‘The Gaffa’ that sounds like the theme tune to an ill-conceived Dennis Waterman comeback vehicle based on the life of David Essex’s drunken tour manager. ‘Drifting Dreams’ is a wistful love song that was probably written on an acoustic guitar whilst Bruce sat around the bonfire sharing stories with some of his chums from back in the day. The album finishes off with the sha-la-las of ‘Reflection’ and the medieval sounding ‘Senses of Summer’ drifting gently out of the speakers. I’ve struggled with this review as I really can’t tell whether I like this album but there’s nothing wrong with it so I can’t bring myself to really slag it off. The only problem is it feels like such a missed opportunity to do something more exciting. I mean, Weller and Foxton in the studio at the same time and no more serious a collaboration than a couple of tracks hidden in the middle of the album? Wasted chance if you ask me.

More information: http://www.brucefoxton.com/

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

SEPTEMBER GIRLS – SINGLE REVIEW

September Girls - Green Eyed

September Girls – Green Eyed (Soft Power Records)

I get sent a lot of music. That’s what I do this blogging lark for, the free music. Much like buying a bulk lot at an auction though, you get plenty of dross to sift through. Every now and again, however, you find something so rare and so beautiful that it makes it all worthwhile. Dublin all girl quintet, September Girls, are one such find and I want to share my joy with you. Right now.

This is the second release from Sarah, Lauren, Jessie, Caoimhe and Paula and is a limited edition 7” slice of delight that you really ought to seek out. ‘Green Eyed’ is full of unsettling guitar melodies drenched in reverb, cavernous vocals that will follow you down dark alleys and relentless keyboards that do nothing but build the tension for the entire length of the song (under 3 minutes, as it should be). It’s Best Coast after a particularly bad break up, it’s the Yeah Yeah Yeahs on a really 80s trip and it’s Blondie’s little sisters getting all dark and brooding. It is also an incredibly poppy record that will have be-beehived girls dancing minimalistically at Indie Discos all over the known universe if there is any justice in this world.

B-Side ‘Danny Wood’ is a more upbeat and lo-fi number reminiscent of early Long Blondes and how I imagine the Shangr-Las would sound if they formed on the outskirts of Dublin with a sense of ambition and fun in their hearts. It’s ‘Hey Mickey’ for the post-Britpop generation and it’s only a mother flippin’ B-Side!?!? Just imagine how good this band could be!? I genuinely haven’t been this excited about a new band for a long time and, what I love the most, is that there isn’t a single weakness. Great songs? Check. Great name? Check. Great look? Check. And I bet they have sultry Irish accents too. I’m genuinely sold. I want to have some cynical, pithy sign off but I can’t do it. I just can’t. September Girls are my favourite new band of 2012 and I recommend everybody reading this to tell someone else to read it and then both of you should go out and buy this single and/or go to a show. In fact, scrap the ‘/or’, just go to a show. I’ll meet you there.


Live Dates:
October 6th - HWCH 2012, The Workmans Club, Dublin.
October 10th - The Fleece,Bristol, UK W/Shonen Knife
October 11th - Undertone, Cardiff UK
October 13th - Soup Kitchen, Manchester UK W/PINS
November 24th - The Pavilion, Cork.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

JAIN WELLS – ALBUM REVIEW


Jain Wells - To Be Real
Jain Wells – To Be Real (Choiceless Awareness Records)

Release Date: 26th November 2012

If I told you that Jain Wells was a Canadian Psychologist who cited Coldplay and Dido as two of her big influences I would be telling the truth but I would also be describing potentially the blandest person on the face of the planet. The trouble is, however ‘beige’ Ms Wells might be as a person, the songs she creates are far from mediocre. ‘To Be Real’ is the debut album by the London based singer-songwriter and it beautifully showcases her hauntingly wistful yet powerful voice through 12 finely crafted songs. Album opener and first single ‘The Colours Of My Heart’ is an uplifting and strangely reassuring song with a thundering horse gallop of a rhythm pushing forward the whimsical melody. There is the same ethereal quality that you would expect from Florence or Kate Bush running through this music but something feels unresolved and uneasy. ‘Out of Time’ is a child-like tune that would beautifully soundtrack a small girl discovering a secret fairy colony at the bottom of the garden and getting caught up in a fantastical world of magical delights. In fact, every song on this album has an innocence running through the music regardless of the lyrical content. ‘Being and Time’ is a fine example of this as the positively inspirational tune belies the slightly cryptic lyrical content that hints at struggle and heartbreak.
                Wells has the ability to invoke a number of talented female songwriters and on ‘Holiday’ she takes on the forlorn resignation of Tori Amos superbly. ‘Out Of The Fog’ sees the Canadian sail fairly close to Shania Twain’s poppier territories but admittedly with more bite and snarl in the chorus. However, on ‘Look in the Mirror’ the mood turns to more sassy, savvy pop that you could expect Girls Aloud or the next X-Factor winners singing with all the sophistication of a 13 year old girl spending her Saturday afternoon browsing in Primark and giggling at boys. And herein lies my one problem with this album – Jain Wells has created some excellent songs but I don’t get the feeling that she’s performing them with any great passion or urgency. It would seem ideal in many ways that some publishing company pick this album and split the album out amongst the next wave of semi-capable singers who couldn’t write a melody if the future of mankind depended on it. There is room on almost every song for the performance to be turned up an extra notch, for the passion to be increased and for the restraints to be cut away from Jain Wells. Of course, to most musicians, suggesting that you give away your songs for the mere reward of cash is nothing short of sacrilege so I won’t go down that road. What I would do though, is suggest that any budding singers out there who want to add the ‘-songwriter’ bit to their title should get hold of a copy of this album and study it hard. And if you’re a great singer then why not team up with Jain because, let’s face it, we haven’t really had a great Pop duo since Alisha’s Attic – that Daphne and Celeste were a real let down. Jain Wells is a talent, there’s no denying that, but like a footballer being played in the wrong position, I’m not entirely convinced that she’s getting the most out of her talent just yet. Maybe try the left wing for a while, Jain.

More Information: http://jainwells.com/

Sunday, 16 September 2012

CREATURES OF LOVE – SINGLE REVIEW

Creatures Of Love

Creatures Of Love – Vakkula

Release date: 24th September 2012 (free download)

Taken from the forthcoming Boy Crimes EP, ‘Vakkula’ is the latest single from London trio Creatures Of Love and it is quite an experience. Dark, menacing, tender, fragile and just a little bit unnerving, ‘Vakkula’ does nothing to suggest that Creatures Of Love are craving chart success or a guest spot on the Simon Cowell roadshow. Reznor-esque beats and chilling stabs of synth introduce the song before frontwoman Bonita’s soulful yet chilling vocals fill the sparse musical landscape with something approaching defiance. Lyrically, this song feels like the poetry of an over politicised goth with lines like “Feelings of nihlism leading them to something wrong. Death stew in a chain of bones. invert their cross on followers homes” creating a sense of foreboding without ever really suggesting why you should feel that way. Creatures Of Love create bold music that will probably be more appreciated in later years but for the time being if you’re looking for a darker shade of Massive Attack or some post-apocalyptic industrial electronica then I’d recommend getting your hands on a free download of this single and then shell out for the EP in October. It’ll make the morning commute all the more interesting if you immerse yourself in the music and get to your desk feeling like a cyborg sent from the future to subvert the political norms of the early 21st century. Try it, you might like it...


Live dates: October 25th – The Victoria,Dalston (EP Launch)

Monday, 10 September 2012

REDWIRE - SINGLE REVIEW

Redwire - Playing With Fire

Redwire – Playing With Fire (One Above Records)

Release date: 29th October 2012

Reading “Redwire have performed alongside Razorlight” in a press release is never going to endear me to a band but for the sake of Redwire I have imagined that this was done under duress and possibly at gunpoint. This is the second single from the Bradford band and the first word that springs to mind when it starts up is ‘charming’. There is roomy 80s quality to the sound that is filled with distinctly Indie guitars and a tight rhythm section. Frontman Tom Nowakowski has a bellowing but distinctive voice that sounds like a young Kelly Jones following a few singing lessons with Brandon Flowers – shyness and showmanship in equal measure. Playing With Fire is a great little Indie tune but it has the capability to be so much more and I expect it to sound bigger when played live. It might be the speakers on my laptop but I would love to hear more bass on this track and a little less production to allow it to really roar at you. In a sweaty rock bar with a captivated audience though, I think this tune has the ability to come across like a British version of the Kings of Leon’s more recent output. I have a sneaking suspicion that this band are much more at home on stage though so I recommend you get a copy of the single and then head out to catch them on tour this autumn so you can sing along with everyone else.

More information: www.redwireofficial.co.uk

Tour dates:
 October
03 Old Brown Jug, Newcastle U Lyme
05 Blue Rooms, Blackpool
06 Maggie Mays, Glasgow
07 Rock Your Mind Fest, Middlesbrough
12 Barfly, London
13 Puzzle Hall, Sowerby Bridge
18 Leeds University
19 Compass, Chester
25 Flapper, Birmingham
26 Lock 42, Leicester
27 Corner House, Cambridge
29 Kasbah, Coventry
30 Craufurd Arms, Milton Keynes

November
01 Format, Liverpool
02 KU Bar, Stockton
03 Windsor, Kirkcaldy
04 Doghouse, Dundee
09 Sigma, Scarborough
15 The Venue, Derby

Sunday, 9 September 2012

THE DANCERS - SINGLE REVIEW

The Dancers - The Box

The Dancers – The Box (Veniceisdead Records)

I might be getting older than I’d like to be but I still do a little jig when I get sent music for free and that jig turns in to full blown riverdance when I receive entirely unexpected white 7” singles from Italy through my humble letterbox. Indeed, when the Dancers new single appeared I momentarily became the lord of the dance as I beheld its beauty and then the fear struck. The fear of “what if it doesn’t sound as good as it looks?”. You know the feeling, like walking through a crowded party with your eyes locked on the most beautiful girl in the room only to realise when you get to her that she has a voice like Barry White with a phlegm problem. So, I procrastinated and found other things to do until all that was left was to drop the needle and cross my fingers...
                Instantly, I am engulfed with relief as the vibrant and frenetic opener, ‘The Box’, kicks in and immediately you know this song won’t be around for long. ‘TheBox’ has the urgency of someone trying to get across a life-or-death message on a payphone when you only have 10p left (anyone under 30, ask your parents) but the melody to go with it. Instantly I am transported to the golden days of raw, British punk where that freshness and innocence mixed with energy, frustration and desperation. This is followed up by the slightly more relaxed ‘Heaven Is OK’ which, apart from the slightly indifferent sentiment, is chunky slice of scuzzy, pop-punk that sounds like it’s been recorded in a basement at three in the morning on the cheapest of equipment. In reality, it’s been recorded on reel-to-reel and, as the sleeve proudly announces, no computers were used in the writing, recording, mixing or mastering of this record.
                Flipping the record to the B-side and you get the Lemonheads inspired lilting indie-pop of ‘It’s Because Of You’ that wouldn’t sound out of place in any Friday night Indie club amidst a sea of swaying arms and tousled hair. The final track of these 4 sub-three minuters is the frankly bonkers ‘Dance When You’re Dead’ complete with key changes, tempo changes and a range of influences that stretch from early Beatles through the Wannadies until winding up at a the door of the Black Keys. All in all, this record wasn’t what I was expecting when I looked at it but that is no bad thing. To return to the beautiful girl at the party, it turns out she has broad Welsh accent and a slight lisp – both things that I find inexplicably endearing. Go figure.

More information at: http://thedancersmusic.com/

LOS INFIERNO - ALBUM REVIEW

Los Infierno in the Devil's rumpus room

Los Infierno – Salvaje (Boss Hoss Records)

With a name roughly translated as The Hell, Los Infierno are a 5 piece from Mexico with a sleek line in the Devil’s music and a penchant for incredible hair. I could finish the review there and I would hope that at least half of you would check them out but for the sake of the other half of you, I will continue (you can thank me later).
                Los Infierno have taken heavy garage riffs, thick organ sounds and driving drums to create some fiercely intense rock’n’roll the likes of which we have all heard before from the Hives or the Animals. However, what I’ve never heard before is the beauty of rolled South American ‘R’ or the thrill of some loco shrieking ‘Ay-ay-ayyyyyeeeee’ over the top of a relentless snare rhythm and that’s what makes this album so much fun. Sure, you can draw comparisons with Mariachi El Bronx but this feels more authentic (the English words spoken are ‘Rock’n’Roll’ and that a universal language that we all speak) and more desperate. It’s as though Los Infierno are ploughing a lone, purist furrow and they know it might never bring them stardom but it’s what they’ve got to do so they are making the most of it.
                Stand out moments include the shouty, gang brilliance of ‘Soy El Rock N Roll’, the hypnotic riffage of album opener ‘Infierno’ and the irresistibly perky ‘Nada Que Perder’ (Nothing to Lose, to the non-Spanish speakers out there). ‘El Entierro de los Gatos’ (The Burial of Cats) is a melodic punk track that my imagination tells me is written as a funeral march for a much missed mog but then my imagination is often wrong on these things. The album closes with an extra version of earlier track ‘Todos Estos Anos’ (All These Years) this time featuring Erwin Flores, founder member of Peruvian 60s rockers Los Saicos. I would love to pretend that I knew of the Saicos before and that I could wax lyrical but I have never heard of them and it’s only after a visit to Wikipedia that I find them to be one of the most influential bands on the development of rock’n’roll in Latin America! Who knew? Well, we all know now and on the evidence of Los Infierno’s garage-punk-surf-rockabilly-psyche rock we should all have a closer listen to some of the music coming out of Latin America’s underground scene if we want to find a few hidden gems. Right, you can thank me now......De nada....