Reviewed by And Bridges
Released 28th Oct 22
What I love about this reviewing malarky is a) you never know what is going to land in your inbox and b) every so often something magical comes your way.
Protector was born in the spring of 2020, when Aoife packed up her things in Dublin and moved to rural County Clare on the west coast of Ireland. It was there, amidst the stillness, that she began to work on the songs that would become her second album: a personal, mystical journey of self- discovery through dislocation, transformation, and restoration. Recording took place in a small house in County Kerry, at the foothills of the Annascaul, with Brendan Jenkinson (producer, keys, bass, synth, clarinet), Brendan Doherty (drums), Ailbhe Nic Oireachtaigh (string arrangements) and Conor O'Brien (horn arrangements).
In Aoife's own words: “These songs were written in the magic hour before the world wakes up. It's a magic hour worth dragging yourself out of bed for. Writing and recording this album was a spiritual experience. I experienced love for my family on a level I didn’t know existed, while slowly putting myself back together and watching the "protector" in me grow much bigger. 'Protector ‘'acknowledges the part of myself that steers me towards a brighter path."
The album consists of 8 tracks and clocks in at 45 mins. It comes on CD, Black vinyl, White vinyl and a limited Blue and White marbled splatter vinyl Dinked Edition that comes with a doubled-sided photo print and a postcard. There are only 600 of these available.
On initial hearing I thought this would make a great Sunday morning chill out, however that does it a great disservice. The overall sound of the album is quite sumptuous, songs float along effortlessly, remaining anchored by Frances’ deep voice. contemplative tempos lead atmospheric synths, minimal bass, and shimmering guitar notes, conveying a serenity like early morning when the songs were written. I can imagine it easily soundtracking a David Lynch film.
Opener - Way To Say Goodbye has a great use of brass. During the second number, This Still Life, Aoife sings - Here I am, I’m waiting patiently, I take my time to listen. Emptiness Follows utilises a latinesque beat that evoked a romantic feeling in me and made me long to dance with my partner (she did wonder what had come over me). Only Child is swirling and hypnotic and Aoife's voice is very soothing before the song builds to a two-minute-long musical crescendo.
Chariot is another song built around a latiny beat and breathy vocals. This song seems to address Aoife’s move from the city to the coast. Next up, Back to Earth, starting with acoustic guitar and vocals, gives it a sense of what the song must have sounded like when it was first written during those early morning sessions. Penultimate track Soft Lines is probably the dreamiest sounding song on the album. Finally the longest song of the collection, clocking in at 7.22 ends the album.
If you want a Dinked Edition, best get a move on as there are now only 599 available because I have one on pre-order.
Reviewed by Chris Morley
Album released 28th Oct 22
Perhaps unfairly all too often swept under the carpet in light of the now- retired Reverend Richard Coles' extra- curricular activities within the Church of England, the reissue of Red couldn't have come at a better time given his & Jimmy Somerville's socialist leanings, which come to the fore just as much as the soul within- even though their two biggest hits were cover versions.
The original material still packs a punch. Particularly For A Friend, as poignant a reminder of the devastation wreaked by AIDS as any given that the friend to whom its dedicated was very much flesh & blood, Mark Ashton of the Lesbians & Gays Support The Miners protest group ( also a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain) making quite the impact on both men in such a short space of time.
In light of which the stab at Never Can Say Goodbye, originally a hit for the Jackson 5, which follows, feels like perfect placement. And yet there's still a sense that all this flew somewhat under the radar , not helped by the sense of a lack of consistency, the first side of the record ( in old money) often deemed stronger than the second, helped by the overall impression of more of a running theme across Tomorrow, There's More To Love Than Boy Meets Girl, Matter Of Opinion, Victims & the crowning glory of For A Friend.
Listen to those alone & there's probably enough there to convince you either that there should've been more from the core duo of Somerville & Coles, or they picked the perfect time to bow out, with far stronger material than anything on their self- titled début.
Whichever side of the argument you fall on, the chance to hear it with remastered bells & whistles, whether it persuades you to change your mind or stick to your guns, is surely one you can't pass up, something of a diamond in the rough even amid a retrospective glut of similar releases around the same time...
Reviewed by Levi Tubman
Album released 4th nov 22
Rayland has been described as a Nashville eccentric, and with the majority of the album being recorded while he lived alone at the Thunder Sound studios, an abandoned rubber band mill, where he says he slept in a barn with the squirrels and wrote songs about what he saw, you can see where that description comes from, and why he has tracks called If I Were A Butterfly, Billy Goat and Rubberband Man to name a few!
The album opens with its title track, and after almost some unintelligible spoken words the music and lyrics come in for real, very light airy and slight talking about misery life and death, the words are well crafted leaning heavily into one of the albums themes, “loss and existential ruminations on happiness” in the wake of his father’s death. It shows how well he can use words with some interesting instrumental parts coming through, but it feels like its about to go somewhere but sadly never does.
Billy Goat is as solid to an actual Goat as “If I Where A Butterfly” is as light and floaty like a Butterfly, he’s not just naming songs after what he’s seen, his surroundings do influence the record. Not writing anything before getting to the studio works for him, with darker driving tracks like this contrasting against lighter melancholy while still holding true to the album.
Musically it’s not over complicated, why use an orchestra when a piano does everything you need?
There are traditional instruments, guitar, bass, drums and mostly piano but he’s managed an eclectic collection of musicians to help him on the record including his late father, Bucky Baxter who played steel guitar for Bob Dylan. Motown drummer Miss Bobbye Hall and members of Cage the Elephant, managing to keep the production clean and uncluttered, while skilled musician, Rayland at heart is a wordsmith and storyteller, his voice is the key instrument.
I had to sit with the album more than once to get it, the opening is so light and floaty that it doesn’t always grab, and while not my choice for an opener I know every track is exactly where he wants it to be.
He rounds it off with the simply beautiful My Argentina, stripped back vocals and piano, with a touch of strings towards the end where the light melody gives way to crashing chords thumping low notes before returning to a peaceful retrospective outro.
It's not pop, it’s a little out there to be chill out and I’m not sure its alternative!
I really can’t put it in a genre, its personal, crafted story telling by a man who’s used his words and freedom to create and run with his ideas. While at times it’s unusual it does work and it’s worth a listen. If you get chance check out the video for If I Where A Butterfly on YouTube for an extra glimpse into the working of his mind.
2. Billy Goat
3. Rubberband Man
6. Dirty Knees
7. Graffiti Street
9. Thunder Sound
10. My Argentina
Reviewed by David Flerin
Album released 28th Oct 22
Asylums are a four-piece band of southpaw indie-kids fighting out of Southend-On-Sea. For a band that are, at times, very reminiscent of a fresh-faced Ash, they’ve actually been together since 2014, and Signs of Life is, surprisingly, their fourth album. So, probably not as young as their music sounds, but their latest long-player still radiates a joyous, and energetic, puppy dog exuberance throughout.
Scatterbrain gets the party started and it’s immediately apparent that these guys definitely know how to put together a song fit to open a festival or grace any indie disco. Understanding the Psychology further confirms they have a great way with a tune, and they’re very adept at throwing in plenty of dynamics to keep you dancing, with well-timed stop-start and quiet-loud shenanigans.
There are great guitar sounds everywhere on this record, from the aforementioned tracks and others like Say Goodbye Before You Die (which has a big spanking guitar riff to put an equally big smile on your face). There’s light and shade on here too, with the comforting, sonic hug of Instant Coffee, replete with violins; to the almost metal vibe of Crypto Klepto, where the heaviness is gratefully accepted.
The home straight comes into view with Everybody Has a Space to Fill, where it almost feels like the violin budget has been blown, so they have to make-do with some very old string samples. Despite that, it still has a spirit-rousing vibe and lots of personality to help charm its way around you. The Mirror brings proceedings to a close, and thankfully, they’ve resisted the temptation to end with a ballad, although they are in introspective mood in the verses, before the big chorus kicks in, restores order, and the whole thing trickles out to infinity on a tinkling waterfall of guitar.
This is a good album, and even the odd, slightly weaker song like Nursery Rhymes Against Humanity still has enough going for it to keep you listening; and that is down to the studio (the famous Rockfield Studio in Wales), the production (take a bow, Manics producer, Dave Eringa!), inventive playing, and plain, good old song writing.
Reviewed by James Fortune-Clubb
EP released 4th Nov 22
Londoners Jack Ratcliffe and George Hasbury - recording collectively under the sobriquet 'Arliston' are releasing a new five song collection/EP - 'Even in the shade' this month via Sob Story Records.
'Arliston' is a name that's new to me and these are the first of their songs that I've heard. Billed as 'ornate indie-folk' - the music business of course never short of a neat genre to pigeonhole an artist into, thus providing a handy lever for promotion and unit shifting. Be that as it may, the OIF moniker does provide us with a starting point and a context (if one is needed) in which to better appreciate and perhaps understand the songs of Arliston.
Back to the songs of 'Even in the shade' then - all well written, well produced (if at times a little predictably and over produced) - Arliston deliver a collection of songs that are perfectly proficient, ostensibly well-constructed, adeptly played and sung.
The songs here are for the large part subdued, restrained and undoubtedly heartfelt - but ultimately 'Even in the shade' feels sadly uninspired and treads what feels like very well-worn song writing territory.
Be that as it may, the lyrics in this collection, particularly on 'Mothering' are adeptly evocative and nostalgic, it's unfortunate though that their effect is somewhat diminished by the soporific somnambulance of the musical arrangements and delivery - pity.
Whilst there's clearly nothing overtly bad or superficially inadequate about this collection of Arliston songs - there's nothing here to excite, surprise, captivate or move the listener, let alone anything to dance to. Although to be fair it's possibly safe to assume that your average OIF listener doesn't have one eye on the proverbial dance floor whilst bending an earnest ear to the latest OIF offerings?
Spirited, technically well delivered, but sadly lacking in inspiration. If Arliston had any aspirations for the songs of 'Even in the shade' to take the listener on any kind of musical or poetic journey - at the risk of ending on a well worn cliche, I found myself going nowhere very fast indeed.
Reviewed by Chris Morley
Album released 11th May 22
Some may read the words “ covers album” & baulk. But here surely an extra dimension is added given that the interpreter is Bruce Springsteen, a man who's been writing veritable hymns to the hopes & dreams, whether dashed or realised, of the working class since the beginning of his long & rightly storied career, & the material is selections from the soulful page of the Great American Songbook- a happy marriage indeed in principle.
But is it merely for convenience given that the Boss wanted to make an album where he, in his own words, just sang? After all similar records are ten a penny should you care to browse the shelves for long enough. But unlike many, this doesn't sound phoned in, a crucial difference...
There seems a genuine connection, perhaps woven in the years since he first bid us welcome to Asbury Park, & its the sense that he may well have performed these songs as part of many an early repertoire with or without the E Street Band that lends itself to wondering why he hasn't committed such an undertaking to record before.
That he has feels like something of a dessert, following as it does the sessions for Letter To You, this in itself a love letter to the sort of songwriter you sense Springsteen would or could have been, or maybe in something of a radical reinterpretation given his years in the game, is becoming.
For every Born To Run there's a Do I Love You, every Hungry Heart a broken one, & its only one of stone that would begrudge the man a chance to slip into songs which in another universe he might easily have penned.
So easily does he slip into inhabiting the worlds crafted here, not so different from his own- so much more than simple knockabout fun, a taste of what gave him the push he needed to become the virtual embodiment of the US everyman, tired, probably... bored of the 9-5, definitely...
But crucially still retaining hope when despair is probably easier.
Only The Strong Survive
Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)
The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore
Turn Back The Hands Of Time
When She Was My Girl
Hey, Western Union Man
I Wish It Would Rain
Reviewed by Chris Morley
Album released 11th Nov 22
The debate around gender, surely stating to wind down in these more liberal & definitely accepting times, has seemingly served only one overarching purpose- to get people pondering whether it really matters.
In an art form like music, one might conclude surely not- should it not be the quality of the songs themselves which forms the basis of the judgement? Of course, inhibiting a character to get them across isn't a particularly new means of doing so, but that Christine & The Queens chooses to do so in the process of forming the person he always wanted to be feels entirely on trend, & suggests that any previous sliver of the unknown around him given that androgyny had previously been a key plank of his presentation- see also David Bowie- just might be slipping away.
Or is that too simple? Using Redcar as an alter ego allows a new layer of mystique- see also Bowie, whose ability to assimilate & adapt is arguably what kept him fresh.
After all, do people even need to know if you're a boy or a girl when the songs speak for themselves? As you listen you begin to sense a similar principle in operation here- whether or not you speak the language, which is taking nothing away from the sophistication of the craft.
With such a myriad of cross- Channel influences, there's plenty of it. Across these thirteen songs there's bound to be a little confusion as to whose story they actually tell- that of the character or their creator, but maybe that's the point, with some of the playfulness of Prince, another master of such.
And considering this is only his third album, what comes next is a tantalising question indeed, whichever guise he adapts....
Reviewed by Andy Bridges
Album released 11th Nov 22
Ever since the White Stripes made duos cool, there have been a number of them popping up all over the place. Think Black Keys, Royal Blood, Dresden Dolls and Deap Valley. Also on that list are Deux Furieuses (translation - Two Furious), consisting of Scottish vocalist and guitarist Ros Cairney and Greek/London-based drummer Vas Antoniadou.
Here they deliver their third full length album as a duo, Songs From Planet Earth, their second for Xtra MIle Recordings. It was self-produced by the band.
Like most current music, this collection of songs was written during the pandemic years and recorded over two weeks in October 2021. It touches on the socio-political issues that dominated that time. The ten tracks on offer touch on gender politics, isolation, avoidable deaths, political corruption, personal mourning and ultimately survival.
First track, Isolation Days starts with an almost country sounding picked riff, before some tasty tribal drumming kicks in. The vocals are to the fore so there is no doubting what the duo are directing their anger at, and this is common throughout the album. The track ends with a strange sound that could be a synth, could be an effects pedal. Following on swiftly is All We Need Is Sanctuary. There is much more space in this song, a simple arpeggio riff and minimalist, off-kilter drums during the verse give way to a traditional rock chorus structure.
On the third song, Bring Down The Government, Ros switches to full on riff mode. The track features a special guest appearance by Deb Googe, from My Bloody Valentine, playing bass guitar. When this track was released in June 22, Boris promptly resigned. On the subject of Bojo, Fool All The People is a no holds barred attack on him. Ros sings “you can clap all you want to, is it a sin to drink wine at the body count”, putting into words how a lot of us are feeling.
Some proper 70’s punk rock guitar kicks off Our Day Will Come and there are elements of a Larry Mullen Jr drum pattern that underpins it. Let Them Pass utilises a very inventive drum/percussion pattern, whilst Place Of Stones moves into Indie territory with its jangly guitar.
Track eight is the song that firmly nails their colours to the mast. It deals with, in the words of the band, “,,, about the shadow pandemic of violence against women. The song is a pounding strut of confidence on a big stage. It is bravado on a deserted street as we reach for our personal alarm… This is a song in solidarity with women who all know the score.”. The snare drum hits on every beat and there is a distinct 70s vibe. Lyrics such as - Another vigil on the streets of our cities tonight - holds a candle to the likes of Sarah Everard and Zara Aleena.
The powerful closing of a chanted - say her name, say her name, say her name, say her name - that continues after the music stops really makes the point that we have a long way to go.
Be Water starts with the guitar sounding like a banjo over a killer snare drum rudiment workout. Then, when the main riff kicks in, it is funky, and you will dance! Our Tribe finishes the album, an up-tempo rallying cry for anyone disenfranchised by the last 12 years of Tory rule.
It is a mark of great talent that you can take guitar, voice and drums and make the songs hook laden and it appears that Brix Smith clearly thinks along the same lines that they are a talented pair, as they both reside in her current band (What did happen to the Extricated?).
With the resurgence of vinyl and the time limitations that brings, music has gone back to shorter releases. These ten songs clock in at a little over 36 minutes.
However, that does mean as a consequence there is much less filler and this album is a prime example of a great bunch of songs with no filler.
Reviewed by Dave Flerin
Album released 18th Nov 22
80s power punkers Spear of Destiny offer up their 15th studio album for our delectation.
Have they still got anything relevant to say? Let’s see…
“Shine” is the first offering from Ghost Population. It’s not “alternative” or “punk”, but it does have a whiff of gravitas. After all, Kirk has probably been through it all and his accumulated wisdom must give him the right to preach his message to us, which is simply, to “Shine”.
Not quite sure if there’s a deep meaning to it, but it’s not offensive to the ears. Now, the next tune throws some sax and lots of reverb in, but it’s not making this sound any better.
In fact, here we are, two songs in and this one already feels a bit filler and tired.
I’ll level with you and confess I have a soft spot for SoD, having seen them at Bradford’s glorious St. George’s Hall in the mid-80s. The sight of a young Kirk sat astride a monitor right at the front of the stage, face dripping in the spit of local punks, sporting the biggest grin you could imagine, was something to behold.
What a guy. He was the living embodiment of post-punk stardom, and we loved him. Now, we can’t expect him to be the same person today, but I’m wondering when it was that he lost his sense of humour. There’s no cheek or mischief to be found here, no “Liberator”.
“Neolithic” (sic) is a sound reminiscent of a poor man’s U2, with Kirk on vocals. SoD aren’t bringing anything new to the table, which isn’t a problem. But if you can’t bring new ideas to the table you need to bring some great melodies, and that’s just not happening so far on this album.
Everyone should probably have a greatest hit of SoD in their music collection, but unfortunately none of this would make it onto there. I’m also starting to notice his vocal deficiencies, and I just don’t remember Kirk’s voice being so underwhelming and weak-sounding.
Maybe live they’re a different proposition and the songs get that kick up the backside that gets a crowd pogoing. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t terrible; but I want more off my heroes. If you just like the sound of Kirk’s voice, and you also like “punk-influenced… power rock” (Ó their Wikipedia write-up), then you’ll probably be right at home with Ghost Population.
By the time we reach the gothic balladry of “You’re the Only Thing” I’m thinking that phrase doesn’t sound as bad as it looks when written on paper. It’s evidence that this album still has something worthwhile to give, courtesy of a more interesting melody, and honest sentiment in the lyrics.
The upturn continues through the next few songs until the last two disappointingly take us back to where we were at the start of the record. At this point I went back and checked out some of the older stuff again to get a bit of perspective.
I think I’ve perhaps been a tad unfair as they’re not a lot different, but it sounds like they’ve dipped just that little bit, and it’s exactly that little bit that separates ace music from the mediocre.
I just think SoD have lost their edge on much of this releasee, but there are occasional flashes of what once made this band fun, and great.
Reviewed by John Seales
Album released 25th Nov 22
Tom Jenkins hails from South Wales, and both his experiences farming there and in New Zealand have provided much inspiration for this, his second album.
“In It Together” opens the work with a strong toe-tapping guitar, drums, bass, and vocal piece that shows off Tom’s clear voice and falsetto ability. Multi-tracked vocals give depth and power along with a pulsating backing provided by the bass, drums, and distorted electric guitar.
This is followed by a more laid-back floater of a track, mixing a country feel with jangling guitars and a more spacious atmosphere. The multi tracked vocals are well considered and the “Back Roads” track is as nice a place to be as the real thing. Cracking little track.
“It Comes In The Morning, It Hangs In The Evening Sky” initially shows Tom’s falsetto to good effect, a solo voice accompanied by an acoustic guitar, but breaks off into phases of fortissimo and pianissimo, all with a real sway about it. It’s an epic track.
“ I’m writing my goodbyes, I’m playing the good guy, Oh watch me, my baby blue
I’m breaking away, I’m breaking away from the mould, made by you” sings Tom, in four-and a half minutes of excellence. It’s far from a copy but in some ways, I was reminded of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody; it has the same compositional notes, though stays clear of any “is this over the top?” questions.
As a reviewer, I usually listen through the album I’m reviewing in one pass before delving further into specific tracks. Not on this one, it was immediately replayed and not found wanting on the second listen.
“2086” is a lovely short contrasting track, by way of relied after such epicness. A solo vocal and a solo acoustic guitar provide a short story questioning whether life was well lived.
Just a quick word about the production on this album. It’s not unknown for albums by lesser known artists to have dubious production, with strange mixes and/or a muddy feel. This is most certainly not the case here. Well done to whoever engineered the sound on this album – they clearly knew what they were doing.
“Magic Mushroom Island” has a wonderful final minute where the musicians are let off their leads and provide a 70’s moment of rock, with the lead guitar sounding very much like Brian May’s Red Special, and the accompaniment like some old Led Zeppelin track. Great fun!
And then, after a couple more great tracks, Tom hits us with “2020”, a short and intimate song about the death of a loved one. This sounds like it was recorded in one take on a phone or similar, and is all the stronger for it, as it gives it a rawness that suits the subject matter perfectly.
“If I Can’t Love You” gives us yet another demonstration of Tom’s abilities – a country feel, almost reminiscent of Simon and Garfunkel, with a delicately finger picked guitar providing the thread running through this lovely composition.
“Through high water and flames, through the hate and the pain
One consolation, I got you by my side, on this road we ride to whatever will be
Float like the wind through the trees”
“2066” is the final track. An angry protest about life ending and – a recurring theme – whether life was well lived. “We sold our souls to the smartest phones known to man”; the track has punkish energy; a fitting end to a fantastic album.
There’s no disputing it; Tom Jenkins is a real talent and deserves success. If you get the chance, I strongly recommend making the time to listen to this.
1) In It Together
2) Back Roads
3) It Comes In The Morning, It Hangs In The Evening Sky.
5) Cocaine Hearts
6) Magic Mushroom Island
7) Be There For You
8) Under The Sun
10) If I Can’t Love You
11) Products Of The Western World
12) 2066 (Write It On My grave)
Reviewed by Stuart Clarkson
Album released 25th Nov 22
OK Pop quiz time, which 80’s band featured the drummer and bassist from Madness in its line up?
Top marks to anyone who said Voice of the Beehive the Anglo-American band formed in 1986 and fronted by sisters Tracey Bryan and Melissa Brooke Belland. Their debut album has been re-issued by London Records to mark the 35th anniversary of its original release when it reached a very respectable Number 13 in the charts.
The album is ripe for re-appraisal given that it contains the sublime singles Don’t Call Me Baby and I Say Nothing which are both instantly recognisable ,hook laden slices of perfect radio friendly 80’s pop.
I Walk The Earth was worthy of the same degree of success for its singalong chorus alone and was deserving of a higher chart position than the Number 42 it achieved at the time.
What You Have Is Enough and Trust Me continue the energetic bouncy pop vibe that permeates the album , the latter song lending some nice guitar work to proceedings.
The pace let’s up briefly for the country ballad Oh Love which the group perform with aplomb.
The band distilled the best elements of The B52’s,The Bangles and Belinda Carlisle and blended them with sassy lyrics ,indie guitars and heaps of West Coast attitude to produce fresh polished indie pop with an acerbic edge.
The album will be released as a 1 x lp in a gatefold sleeve with liner notes from Tracey Belland and an expanded 2 x cd featuring a 36 page booklet, previously unreleased material, live sessions and demos which swells the double album to 40 tracks.
Notable highlights from the second disc of the record include a storming live version of I Say Nothing as well as an unexpected cover of Led Zeppelin’s D’Yer Maker.
If you fancy some sassy, lively catchy tunes with a touch of cynicism then this release is well worth a look.
Reviewed by Chris Morley
Album released 25th Nov 22
Upon picking up this review, you may be forgiven for pondering “who”?
For here we have someone perhaps barely better known as a co-writer of songs than for performing them- quite a treat just a month before Christmas. A confession- I myself was among the clueless & presumably sizeable majority asking the question.
The decision to relocate from the US to Scotland in the mid- Nineties quite possibly one of the contributing factors in her flying so far under the radar until now, but with the cat out of the bag its a belated treat. Even more so to discover the sheer range of artists with whom she's collaborated, among them late pre- John Frusciante Red Hot Chili Peppers guitar wizard Hillel Slovak, gone immediately prior to their early Nineties heyday with Blood Sugar Sex Magik.
Far from Stone Cold Bush, to use a Mothers' Milk song title, it's another who comes to mind- not hard to hear why several have compared her to Kate- spectral not sexfunk, however well schooled she may be in it by osmosis ( members of Fishbone & Funkadelic also having benefited from her penmanship).
A sensual world this is, lyrics calling to mind the other partner in the Don't Give Up duet. For amongst the morsels now coming to light is that no less than Peter Gabriel discovered her demo tape, the late Andy Gill of Gang of Four given production duties on her first album ( as he would for the début album by the Chilis back when they could've been said to be more punk than funk).....
Maybe it was from her that Anthony Kiedis learnt to be unimpressed by material excess in the first place- she, however, proves herself a more stable proposition than he & the travails which have blighted both himself & the band, straddling a line between music & poetry- only now it comes from her mouth, not given away ( given away, given away) & on this evidence all the better for finding her voice when most might have assumed she'd fallen silent.
Reviewed by John Seales
Album released 2nd Dec 22
This is the 50th anniversary reissue of Afrodisiac, recorded in Abbey Road studios in 1972. It comprises four tracks in total, each being a side of the double LP. Though don’t be too impressed by this; the total music comes in at about 36 minute’s worth, the longest track being a whisker over thirteen minutes long, the shortest a smidge under seven.
The first track, “Alu Jon Jonki Jon”, opens the work with a fast-paced number with rhythmic horns, drums and a strong bass backing. Obviously, it has a strongly African feel, but there are jazz and funk influences there too.
It’s impossible to listen to this without your body being taken over by the rhythm. At 12 minutes 38 seconds it’s never going to get significant radio play but that’s not the point; this is an artist recording what they love and making the most of it.
Track 2 “Jean Ko Ku” loosely translates as “Eat and Die”. This presents us with a slightly different mix of the same ingredients, though without vocals. (Or, as is also sometimes called, an instrumental).
Track 3, “Eko Ile” is slightly slower in tempo, but the rhythmic horns are still present, along with the other constituent parts of “Alu Jon Jonki Jon”. Again, this reviewer’s body could not help but respond to the beat, like some modern day pied piper of Hamlyn was playing through the headphones.
I haven't mentioned vocals much so far; generally, Fela’s gravelly voice has equal importance as the instrumentation; it’s not dominant as so often in pop music. There are intervals of vocal harmonies, but the instruments are always there, driving the beat along for all they’re worth.
The final track, “Je’nwi Temi”, translates as “Don’t Gag Me” is a reference to the lyrics which are (to quote the cover notes) “a critique of the Nigerian political/military establishment and a defence of free speech”.
This standpoint of critique of the government was to lead to reprisals and a turbulent future for him. Look him up on the Internet; this man lived a life full of incident, of which his music is just one part.
Fifty years ago this music must have come as a shock to the average western listener, though nowadays we’re probably used to a broader spectrum of musical types. Though the fifty years haven’t aged the music; it’s still fresh. And the quality of the recording has also served it well; they knew what they were doing in Abbey Road.
1) Alu Jon Jonki Jon
2) Jean Ko Ku
3) Eko Ile
4) Je’nwi Temi
Reviewed by James Fortune-Clubb
Album released 9th Dec 22
Marking the 25th anniversary of Echo and the Bunnymens' album 'Evergreen' - originally released in 1997, comes the now almost as standard and relatively commonplace expanded anniversary reissue. Notable in this instance for the album receiving its' first ever release on vinyl' (various runs/colours) as well as the sheer volume of a whopping 21 additional tracks on the CD version.
To give the Evergreen album and it's reissue some kind of context and back story. Following the heady creative peaks enjoyed by the Bunnymen and the glory days of their critical acclaim and commercial success of the 1980s, particularly their definitive and quintessential first four albums, the band appeared to be increasingly dysfunctional as a working unit.
This period culminated with the departure of singer Ian McCulloch (1988) to pursue a somewhat lackluster and half hearted short lived solo career, the untimely and tragic death of drummer Pete de Freitas (1989) and failed attempts at finding a new lead singer - all of which resulted in the inevitable final implosion and collapse of the band in 1993.
Following these troubled final years and short hiatus, McCulloch and Will Sargent (guitarist) appeared to be testing the waters (possibly their own ability to work together again, as well as public interest in their shared musical legacy) by forming Electrafixion and releasing one album in 1994.
The Electrafixion album and tour certainly seemed to create the required excitement around McCulloch and Sargent working together again and fairly quickly led to Les Pattinson, the remaining surviving member of the original band, to rejoin and for the reformation of the Bunnymen being as complete as it ever could be.
Which brings us nicely round to the original release of Evergreen in 1997 - seen at the time as very much a triumphant return, a rebirth and renaissance for the band, who threw themselves wholeheartedly back into the fray of live tours and festival slots to support their reanimation.
So what of the original 12 album tracks - overall a great collection of songs, which feel by turns lush, in parts orchestral, verging occasionally on being over produced after the speed and angularity of Electrafixion. Evergreen feels centred around lead single 'Nothing ever lasts forever' - itself at once nostalgic, elegaic, yearning and positive, the album feels older, wiser, less youthful and musically less impetuous than their earlier albums, but with the passing of time that's surely something of an inevitability.
As a whole, Evergreen is a very strong, solid and reliable collection of Echo and the Bunnymen songs - nothing particularly cutting edge or revelatory, but lots here to please both old and new fans. In short, it's a great album - but just not up there with brilliant Bunnymen classics Porcupine, Ocean Rain et al.
As for the anniversary reissue - it's an album certainly worthy of marking with a reissue and it will be great to see and hear the first versions committed to vinyl. As far as the greatly expanded CD version - the huge amount of extra tracks are there for curiosity seekers and completists, mainly radio and live sessions, there are however an additional six songs here (presumably outtakes/b sides from the Evergreen sessions) which are largely relatively pedestrian and easy to see why they were not in the original release running order.
Yes, categorically a return to form, just not to their very best form of the 1980s - and with Evergreen preceding 'What are you going to do with your life' in 1988 a far more reflective, introspective and melancholic album, in retrospect it does feel as though this might have been the Bunnymens' last great creative stand.
Reviewed by John McEvoy
EP released 13th Jan 23
Peter Michel aka “Hibou’ has his new 5 track EP ARC out on the 13th Jan, and what a splendid 22 minutes plus that was, listening to the a collection of songs that throughout reminded me of The Cure and in parts The Smiths.
His bio suggests that he likes his 80’s music and he’s clearly been influenced by some of the finest bands who were around at the time. Strong bass lines, lush swirling guitars all overlaid with his delicate wispy vocals deliver an EP that is genuinely worth some of your time.
Stand out track for me was ‘Devilry’ with it’s insistent bass line throughout and strong melody put me in mind of those other giants of indie/alternative 80’s ‘The Cocteau Twins, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Overall, this is a strong set of songs, but is it enough to stand out? That’s a purely subjective question, as some of the finest new releases barely see the light of day in terms of recognition. This EP deserves to do well, and we at Wall of Sound whole heartedly recommend that you give this one a try.
Reviewed by Stuart Clarkson
Album released 13th Jan 23
Billy Nomates, the alter ego of Bristol based songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Tor Maries releases her eagerly awaited second album on 13 January 2023.
Her eponymous debut received widespread critical acclaim on its release in 2020 and won over several celebrity fans such as Florence Welch and Iggy Pop.
The new record advances claims for its creator to be classed as one of our most outstanding upcoming artists. It delivers a more rounded mature offering which retains the abrasive spiky attitude of its predecessor but by blending keyboards and drum machines into the mix creates a more melodic less confrontational but equally challenging vibe.
The result is a smoother sound and perhaps traces of early New Order can be picked up in the musical backing.
Opener Balance is Gone works an 80’s electronica feel around the catchy repeated hook line of the title. Whilst the song promotes a more expansive electric sound it is still unmistakably a Billy Nomates release. The lyrics hint at claustrophobia and dark themes emerge with the line I’m entertained but I am not alive.
The third offering Blue Bones gives us an aloof vocal underlaid with a driving beat and whilst a catchy rhythm is present a listen to the lyric claiming that “Death don’t turn me on like it used to” is clear evidence that darker forces are at play. The artist has mentioned her struggles with mental health and possibly demons are being exorcised.
Spite which was the fourth single from the album has indie anthem written all over it. The sneering vocal drips with attitude and confidence and this post punk indie pop guitar driven gem builds so that no one is left in any doubt who’s in charge here and that this artist means business.
Black Curtains in the bag works an 80’s electronica vibe around a smooth vocal.
Synth and drum machine combine nicely to give a laidback introduction to Saboteur Forcefield and the smooth vocal belies the destructive personal tendencies being described.
Fawned is a slice of Americana with a country lilt that fits in well here and shows a rich vocal talent. The name Billy Nomates derives from a heckle aimed at Maries when she attended a gig alone and it's great to see that jibe being turned into a positive.
Overall an album well worth investigating and great to see an artist growing and experimenting successfully with new sounds but retaining all of the original attitude and belligerence that made her such a refreshing breakthrough artist.
Catch her live in April as the successful UK tour continues.
Reviewed by Levi Tubman
Album released 13th Jan 23
This record does not sound 50 years old; it barely sounds 5, starting fresh and crisp, with instruments such as the classic Rhodes Piano coming back into style this could have been recorded yesterday.
With its strong Afrobeat sound, sharp cymbals, and percussion you need to hear this at least once on headphones, with its gorgeous stereo field spreading guitars and drums at times to the far left and right it’s a feast for your ears. There’s so much going on, but its tamed never getting too full, quite welcomed considering its over 6 minutes before you get any vocals.
Fela’s voice is rich and distinctive, surrounded by female backing, coming in nearly halfway through all the tracks brings it all together, his slightly broken pidgin English doesn’t detract at all from his passion and energy.
Like the outspoken political activist, he was, using his voice to bring across his sometimes criticised, message, only singing on the last half not only gives the band the opportunity to move and breath, but makes hearing him sing that little sweeter.
The heavy funk inspired Afrobeat unrelenting sounds never tire, each listen brings something new, while some albums from the 70’s still sound dated, the remix is flawless. Every instrument and voice are clear and exactly where it needs to be, managing to be full to bursting with sound, while not stepping over the line to be too much.
It’s captivating and delightful, you can’t stand still hearing it, it’s not going to let you.
Fela and the Africa 70 reach out and pull you into their rhythmic world, don’t fight it, just enjoy the ride!
3. Lady (Ezra Collective Version)
4. Shakara (Ezra Collective Version)
Reviewed by James Fortune-Clubb
Album released 20th Jan 23
"Five Easy Hot Dogs" is the latest album from Canadian singer songwriter Mac DeMarco and this time it's an instrumental offering - a collection of 12 tracks, all recorded whilst on the road, to use his words: "Kind of like being on tour, except there weren’t any shows".
It's certainly an interesting concept, DeMarco recorded in motels, hotels and houses where he was staying, traveling round with a basic set of instruments and recording equipment and naming the resulting tracks solely based on where they were recorded - 14 tracks in total, across 8 locations.
It's a project of particular interest, over and above the basic on the road recording idea in that DeMarco has built his career based on his singer/song writing, of which there is none here.
It all makes for an interesting, admirable, and brave undertaking, presumably emboldened and enabled by way of his own record label (Mac's Records) - nevertheless to be acknowledged for its' adventurousness and audacity.
Whilst aware of the name Mac DeMarco, I wasn't familiar with his albums, so my initial listen to "Five Easy Hot Dogs" was without the knowledge or context of his preceding (song based) albums.
So down to brass tacks and the actual tracks themselves...
There's an all-pervading air of DeMarco's lo-fi approach throughout, with enjoyably lo-fi results, more often than not almost loop-like rolling and repetitive - somewhat mantra or meditative in nature, perhaps what he was aiming for? Perhaps DeMarco just wanted a break from the singer-songwriter treadmill?
The tracks on "Five Easy Hot Dogs" have a feeling of the almost off-key, certainly off-kilter, maybe even other worldly, which having now listened to some of DeMarco's songs (as opposed to the instrumentals contained here) is something shared with at least some of his previous song-based releases.
All in all, DeMarco has probably been very successful with "Five Easy Hot Dogs" in achieving what he set out to do - a collection of intriguing lo-fi, lo-tech, left of field, on the road, spontaneous instrumentals.
Likely to be popular with his current fans for its' symbiosis with his other work, and potentially popular with new fans looking for something unusual and interesting of this nature.
All power to DeMarco for doing the unexpected.
"Five Easy Hot Dogs" is definitely well worth a listen.
Reviewed by John Seales
Album released 20th Jan 23
Quarry is the alias of Italian-born multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter Vittorio Tolomeo. Self-taught, he began playing the drums and guitar before playing in a handful of bands in Italy, releasing two EPs with indie labels.
Living between Milan and London and playing across Europe both solo and with various bands, the musician released two solo albums, ‘Prize Day’ and ‘Super Arcade’.
The album’s Opener, “Beyond Any Sense” is an indie influenced gentle swaying four beats to the bar. Inoffensive and pleasant, it’s a good way to say “Hello”. It’s something you could have seen Oasis doing, albeit it’s likely that that would have a bit of a rougher edge.
Gently strumming acoustic guitars take us into “This Is The Story”, which builds into something with more power than “Beyond Any Sense”. It’d be a great one live, but there’s a little nag that the recorded version is maybe a tad over produced, losing its immediacy.
After that thought, I break into a smile as “New City Comes Along” gives us a strong drum and bass, backed up by distorted electric guitars. Rocky it most certainly is. This is the energy I was missing. Now we have a bit of Ying and a bit of Yang.
“Kick The Void Outside” is the first single from this album, and it’s altogether different. The vocals are reminiscent of New Romanticism, it has a nice little hook riff and is a nice listen.
“Dream Free Dreams” takes us back into a rockier feel, with a little soupçon of punk (is it legal for the words soupçon and punk to be used in the same phrase?), especially in the chord progression and accompanying bass. Again, it’s one I’d like to hear live.
“Breathe The Stars” is jazzy and experimental for large sections. It’s an intriguing listen.
I love albums where the artist shows us more than a formula repeated, for track after track. Variety is the spice of life. But I can’t help but thinking that in this case Quarry is searching for his target audience and isn’t yet sure what his signature sound is.
That he has talent is not in dispute, but I am a bit confused by the way tracks dart off in different directions without something to hold them all together. A great album is like a recipe; different ingredients that come together to make a coherent whole.
Here, in my opinion, we have some great ingredients, but they don’t seem to belong together.
By the time I’ve put that train of thought into words “Radio Inner World” has started and it’s another of the rockier tracks, though like the others I think I’d prefer to hear them live; there’s a bit of muddiness in the production and the vocals need a bit more immediacy and attack. Shame, because the track deserves better.
“Higher Higher” is followed by “Flash Of Lightning” which is predominantly a more intimate plucked acoustic guitar accompanied by Quarry’s voice, then the guitars, bass and drums wave us adieu.
As a reviewer, I approach every new album I hear hoping to be blown away. But I have to be honest and admit that I won’t be rushing out to buy this album for myself.
But there is much to be praised here. And it is of course only my opinion; you may love it to bits.
1) Beyond Any Sense
2) This Is The Story
3) New City Comes Along
4) Kick The Void Outside
5) Dream Free Dreams
6) Breathe The Stars
9) Radio Inner World
10) Higher Higher
11) Flash Of Lightning
Reviewed by Martin Murray
Album released 20th Jan 23
I wasn’t aware of Thomas Truax’s music until being asked to do this review, but he might be the very definition of a cult artist. After performing with a Cramps inspired band in the eighties, in the 90’s he was part of the anti-folk movement alongside Jeffrey Lewis.
Performing solo he is accompanied by instruments of his own invention. Junkyard creations that are a mix of steampunk with a splash of Tim Burton. For a time, he was also an animator on MTV’s Celebrity Death Match.
His new album, his 10th, teams him with Budgie. Most synonymous as the drummer with Siouxsie & The Banshees. Over the years Budgie has also worked with The Slits, John Cale, French composer Hector Zasou, Talvin Singh, Peaches, and John Grant.
Mother Superior is also credited on the album. Not a person, nor a band, Mother Superior is the name of one of his Heath Robinson-esque creations, who plays mechanical percussion apparently.
On the opening track, Dream Catching Song, his voice reminds me of the gravelly tones of Mark Lanegan. Whereas for most of the remaining tracks his vocals remind me of early Warren Zevon.
With its brushed drums and gentle, twangy guitars it would fit nicely on to the soundtrack of a David Lynch movie. Not surprising as one of his previous releases was a covers album Songs from The Films of David Lynch.
Everything’s Going To Be Alright sounds like his take on a Fontaines D.C. track. Birds & Bees betrays his love for The Cramps with a catchy, rockabilly track.
The Anomalous Now has blippy, cheap keyboard sounds and punky guitars, with an odd spoken word vocal that morphs into an updated version of Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band’s The Intro & The Outro as he introduces his fellow musicians. Both real or of his own creation.
Free Floaters sounds like a mellow Eels track from their Daises of the Galaxy period. First single A Wonderful Kind of Strange is well named. It’s the closest thing to a pop song on the record. Warm, gentle, and strangely familiar. It sounds like it could have been at home on the radio in the mid 80’s. Somewhere between Furniture’s Brilliant Mind and Black’s Wonderful Life.
A Little More Time has hints of both Tom Waits and The Cure’s Lovecats. The chorus to Big Bright Marble sounds the most like a Warren Zevon song. The music also has some hints of David Byrne’s solo work.
There’s a lot to like on here, although the instrumental Origami Spy Arrives in Paper Boat is a bit repetitive and doesn’t really go anywhere. The final track, The Fishermans Wishing Well Prayer, is also too long and begins to drag by the end.
Eccentric and idiosyncratic he may be, he is also a talented musician and has found a sympathetic collaborator in Budgie. Who’s playing is excellent throughout.
Or is it Mother Superior?
It’s hard to know for sure!
Nothing here will likely break him into the mainstream, but I get the feeling he is happy where he is. Operating on his own terms, with his creations for company.