Wednesday, 27 February 2013

ACROBATIC SOCIETY – EP REVIEW

Acrobatic Society - Kick Me, I'm Down

Acrobatic Society – Kick Me, I’m Down (Tiny Light Recordings)

If there are two things in this world that freak me out more than anything its clowns and people with melty ice-cream faces. So, when this ‘delightful’ piece of artwork reared its ugly head I was not predisposed to giving Acrobatic Society a favourable review. But never let it be said that Listen With Monger judges books by their covers so I pressed play and closed my eyes to be immediately transported back to any given Saturday or Sunday morning since about 1997. That is to say, opening track ‘Deek It’ has the effect of recreating a slow-waking, relentless and utterly confusing hangover. Pounding drums and circular melody just don’t let up and you are left (mentally) staggering through the debris of your life trying to remember just what excellent adventures you went on the previous tonight to make you feel just so bone-shakingly terrible. And once you’re through that ordeal, they go and hit you with ‘Pink’, a track so utterly disorientating that all you do is hold on to the floor and hope that the room stops spinning and the walls stop melting.

It’s not often I get to the third track of any record (‘Attention Deficit’ in this case) before I can even remotely link a band to someone else but Acrobatic Society are so uncompromising in their style that just when you think you’ve identified something familiar it turns out to be utterly unrecognisable. Even as I type this I can’t put my finger on it musically but in terms of attitude there are elements of the Fall and the darkest moments of the Young Knives. Aside from being a great song title, ‘Only Cholesterol Can Break Our Hearts’ is probably the lost track from the Monkey Dust soundtrack while ‘Surgical’ offers brief respite from the sensory onslaught that this EP provides with the melodic Violin work of Sinead Krzyzyk taking centre stage. Nevertheless, the band return to form on final track ‘Death Industry’ which is as cacophonous as it is energising.

Reading this review back you would be forgiven for thinking that I didn’t like this EP but you couldn’t be more wrong. The only thing I can relate it to is the first time you try an alcohol that wasn’t an alcopop or mixed with loads of coke. You know it tastes disgusting, your taste buds tell you that, but you feel enough good coming from the experience to make it worthwhile and you want to try it again to see if you can get it right. Acrobatic Society aren’t an instant band but persevere and you will find them utterly intoxicating. I take no responsibility for you waking up next to a clown or with a melty ice-cream face though. Shudder.


Live Dates:
8th March – EP LAUNCH @ The New Bridge Project Studios, Newcastle-upon-Tyne
24th April – Supporting Dingus Khan @ Heart Attack & Vine, Newcastle-upon-Tyne

DIN MARTIN – SINGLE REVIEW

DIN Martin - The Second Before You Faint

DIN Martin – The Second Before You Faint

I seem to be getting a lot of what is called ‘Shoe Gaze’ at the moment and, as far as I can tell, this is just lazy promotion on the part of the bands. Then again, bands peddling introspective, thoughtful and quietly powerful music are probably the last ones that would shout about the quality of their output. That’s my job. ‘The Second Before You Faint’ is the debut single from Leipzig quartet and it is a multi-layered thing of beauty that reveals more of itself with each listen. The first layer that drew me in was the loose yet precise drumming of Martin Zickenrott that is like a band of wild horses pounding industriously through a bleak landscape of strung-out guitars and rumbling basslines. The next layer is the clipped and almost emotionless vocal of Martin Hommel singing like a serial killer enjoying the final struggle of his prey a little too much. Delve a little deeper and it’s the outstanding atmosphere that the band create that strikes you next as they explore the areas too dark for Interpol, too melodic for At The Drive-In and too direct for Arcade Fire. And then, just when you think that’s it, they go and add on the layer of guest vocalist Alison Garner’s breathy vocal like an Indie damsel in distress. Garner, who is normally seen appearing with Bristolians The Fauns, adds a wonderfully otherworldly quality to this tune with her virtually whispered vocals which is bitter and sweet in equal measure. Call it shoegaze if you wish. Call it post-rock if you must. I just call it beautiful, poetic and emotive music. No genre required. Catch them on their forthcoming UK tour if you can but certainly check out their music online and watch the ever so slightly disturbing video for ‘The Second Before You Faint’ on Youtube.


Live Dates:
20th March – Dazzle Dance Club, Berlin
22nd March – Watershed, Milton Keynes
23rd March – The Good Ship, Kilburn, London
24th March – Soundhouse, Leicester
25th March – The Croft, Bristol
26th March – The Adam & Eve, Birmingham
27th March – Weston-Super-Mare College

TERMITE – EP REVIEW

Termite - Growth

Termite – Growth

There are a lot of awful band names out there at the moment (I’m looking at you Fun and Everything Everything) but then I guess, much like fossil fuels, the world is running out of high quality band names. So colour me surprised to see Termite pop up in my inbox with what I think is a great band name. Simple, to the point and ever so slightly disturbing... also, completely at odds with their music.

Termite are a Huddersfield quartet that have grown from an original duo (by adding members, not some weird form of genetic splicing) to create so impressively expansive and explorative music. The bands latest three track offering, ‘Growth’, is a mixture of styles, influences and genres that gel wonderfully to create a cacophony of the familiar and the surprising. Take opening track ‘These Clowns’ as a prime example, opening up like a jangly, 90s Britpop anthem from Blur, Super Furry Animals or Octopus with lackadaisical vocals and sketchy guitars before descending in to the kind of riffs that dEUS, Metal Molly or Pavement would be proud of. Then, out of the distortion, comes the kind of optimistic folk that Fleet Foxes peddle to great effect. No one track on this EP comes in at under four minutes and the fact that they’ve allowed themselves this space to create which makes the music of Termites so wonderfully imaginative.

‘Memory Loss’ is a much more mellow track at first glance with a lazily picked guitar melody echoing out from the back of a smoky bar at the break of dawn – somewhere in Paris one Autumnal morning. The guitar work is pure Graham Coxon and the layers build up to create a crescendo of distortion, sustain and, well, just raw power! There are Jazz elements to this but more in the ability of the musicians to change tempo and mood at the drop of a hat rather than the tunes themselves. Final track, ‘Kettle Of Fish’, however, opens like the soundtrack to a cheap French detective movie before blasting you with a chorus full of bitterness and despair that features the stylish couplet “A broken droid searching for a way to mend / Looking out for a dead-end waiting round the bend”. I hesitate to pigeon hole this as geek rock or anything so generic but there is a definite and specific market for this out there and most of that market have a nerdy tattoo and have at least one Grandaddy CD in their collection. Or Eels.

More information: http://termite.bandcamp.com/

Friday, 22 February 2013

FLOWERSS – ALBUM REVIEW

Flowerss - Charm

Flowerss – Charm (Test Pattern Records)

There are times when you have a bad taste in your mouth and you have to eat/drink/chew something else to overpower that taste. That absent minded sip of a cuppa before immediately realising the milk has turned, forcing you to gurn like a bloodhound chewing on barbed wire. More often than not, when I turn to the fridge for something to overpower that sour taste the only option available to me is from a completely different genre of food. Like pickled gherkins, for instance. Today, Flowerss took on the mantle of pickled gherkin in response to the Greatest Hits of New Kids on the Block wafting from my kitchen. Sour milk indeed.

This eight track album (technically it’s 10 tracks but the last two are remixes so that’s cheating) opens with what can only be described as a woozy, disorientating ‘sound’ that is the sonic equivalent of emerging from a Native Indian sweat-in to be faced with the reality that surrounds you. An abrupt end to the wooziness brings us to ‘Halo’ which is pure shoegaze in that it never really gets going but keeps you balanced precariously and tantalisingly on the edge until the electro-beats burst through the mass of guitars and electronic swirling. In 1990s Great Britain that would have been a single of the week on the Evening Session or similar but this is 2013 and this music comes from Sacramento, CA. Oh how times have changed. Next up, ‘Every Mile’ has a shuffling groove and a sinister overtone that would make Kasabian and Atoms For Peace wet with envy. The lilting cool of ‘Every Mile’ is every inch the soundtrack to a Californian night out, swaggering down dark alleyways dripping in leather and justified arrogance.  ‘Big Hands’ is  a confusing track that starts off like a lively Jack Johnson number but then becomes almost Stone Roses-esque in its swagger as vocalist/guitarist Christapher Larsen gives a performance that Richard Ashcroft would be visably unimpressed by (but secretly envious on the inside). ‘Sun Dial’ is a song full of promise and threat in equal measure while ‘Drag’ is the song they should play at the collective funeral of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (assuming they all die at the same time).

The album proper draws to a close with title track ‘Charm’ which is distinctly reminiscent of a Feist tune and then ‘Street Lights’ which should be the soundtrack to every single Indie kid’s shuffle home from the pub, alone again. The remixes at the end are of ‘Every Mile (Boss Fight Mix)’ and ‘Drag (Original Mix)’ which are all well and good but don’t add a lot to an album by a duo that are obviously capable of writing superb original material. Considering this album was written over email by two musicians living in different cities, there is an extraordinary sense of intimacy and soul on this album which is so often lacking these days. Now, where are my gherkins?

Thursday, 7 February 2013

DEATH IN TEXAS – SINGLE REVIEW

Death In Texas - Fear Of The Hundred

Death In Texas – Fear Of The Hundred (The Animal Farm) 

Do you want to know how to blow all your preconceptions of a band away? Try watching the video for their new single with no sound on and imagining the music. I tried this with Death in Texas’ ‘Fear of the Hundred’ video and couldn’t have been more wrong. I was imagining overproduced Evanescence-esque nu-goth-pop but what I got was a multi-layered, multi-genred slice of alt-pop that I think I may have fallen in love (or lust) with. Opening with a subtle, middle-eastern sound bass line that Boy Hits Car would die for, ‘Fear of the Hundred’ soon grows to be something akin to Regina Spektor providing guest vocals on a Muse track. In fact, bassist Terry Blake channels Chris Wolstenholme beautifully as the track builds to peaks of wild abandon. Completing the line up is Kiwi husband and wife team of singing pianist Ruth Searle and singing drummer Kane Power (what a name!?!) and between the trio they have genuinely stumbled across something special. Searle’s vocal range and versatility would blow Simon Cowell’s mind (please do) and her piano work is simultaneously delicate and impassioned. Meanwhile, Power plays rock drums underneath the Muse-esque basslines and piano riffs flirting with Jazz to create a crescendo of noise and genres. The only thing that troubles me is that I’ve been trying to say Death In Texas in a New Zealand accent for about half an hour to see if I can make it sound like ‘death and taxes’ and now none of those words make sense. No matter, these guys are genuinely exciting and innovative so check out their music and catch them live if you can.


Live Dates:
8th March – Bar So, Northampton
10th March – Rattlesnake Bar, Angel, London
30th March – The Vic, Leicester
5th April – The Watershed, Milton Keynes
6th April – Chill Bar, Ilfracombe
22nd June – Calvert Stock, Ilfracombe 

WOBBLY LAMPS – EP REVIEW

Wobbly Lamps - Drella

Wobbly Lamps – Drella EP (Polyvinyl Craftsmen Records)

Uncompromising. It’s a word that gets bandied about all too easily these days along with legend, awesome and amazing. These are words that have lost their power through over use in the same way that if you read the word spade enough times it loses all meaning. Spade. Spade. Spade. Spade. Spade. Spade. Spade. Spade. See? Anyway, this second EP release from Southend-on-Sea’s Wobbly Lamps confirms that they are a truly uncompromising band of brothers and one well worth your ear time. From the neo-psychadelic artwork through the song titles and then to the music, Wobbly Lamps are doing things their way and anyone who gets in the way, well, they’ll just be obliterated I would've thought. This EP is limited to a run of 250 7” records and the opening track of Drella, ‘Never Ever Bloody Anything Ever’, is a swirling maelstrom of distortion, delay and buzzsaw riffs that the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club might have come up with if they’d been hanging out with Mark E Smith 35 years ago. Sure, there are some nice melodies reminiscent of Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet or early Nirvana but it’s the atmosphere that draws you in. Let’s face it, this is a five minute long A-side with minimal vocals and no discernible structure but it makes you want to dance like Ian Curtis on a good day.

On the B-Side comes the more straight-forward ‘Haxan’ (Google tells me this might be a tribute to a Danish/Swedish silent Horror movie from 1922 and literally translates as ‘the Witches’) which has an immense organ sound running through it to give the impression of Dracula going a bit grunge in his old age. There are elements of Rocket From The Crypt and sadly overlooked Belgian quartet Les Anges to this and it’s flippin’ ace. The other half of the B-side is dedicated to ‘Gretchin Fetchin’ and sees vocalist Gareth Thomas on fine form for a man who appears to have swallowed his microphone, meaning he can only sing in a voice that Bill Hicks’ Goat Boy would have been proud of. Towards the end of the track there’s a hypnotic breakdown that builds back up until you can almost hear the band rolling around on the floor and jumping in to the audience before the venue cut the power. This is music driven by the utter self belief of five men that what they are doing is good, important and utterly worth your time. There’s no false modesty or self doubt here, just colours nailed to the mast and attitude that screams “If you don’t like it ....you’re wrong”. Like I said, uncompromising.