THE CREEPY CREEPS
Fink About It
THE SONS OF HERCULES
A Different Kind of Ugly
Saustex Media CD
From the Eastern seaboard to West Coast California via Texas, these three bands from the States – purveyors of good time rock ’n’ roll all – represent three different strands of the garage rock strata. Brooklyn-based A-Bones will keep you stomping all night with a big band sound, heavy on sax and keyboards and a really neat line in rockabilly. They really rip it up on covers of Bracey Everett’s ‘The Lover’s Curse’ and Max Lipscomb’s ‘Bad Times’.
San Diego garage combo The Creepy Creeps will really wig you out with their brand of largely instrumental Hammond organ and fuzz guitar driven psychedelic surf trash. A kind of Question Mark & The Mysterians on crystal meth crossed with Davie Allan & The Arrows if you like.
Look no further than San Antonio’s Sons Of Hercules if you want a mean and shouty punk fix à la Stooges, Dead Boys or New York Dolls – vocalist Frank Pugliese has David Johansen down pat!
BRIAN JONESTOWN MASSACRE
Who Killed Sgt Pepper?
A Records CD
This is fucking punk rock, but not as you might imagine it. Owing as much to certain shoegazing bands of the late ’80s and ’90s, and, dare I suggest it, Kasabian even, you can call this BJM’s “world music” album too if you like. An unlikely melange of bhangra beats, fuzz guitar, English football chants, balalaika infused Eastern European gypsy folk music, and songs sung in Icelandic and Russian, it’s psychedelic alright, but someone’s swapped the acid for fly agaric mushrooms!
The album has a distinct dance vibe to it thanks largely to the pounding drums and throbbing funky bass rhythms throughout. The momentum never really lets up until the onset of a somnolent 10-minute finale called ‘Felt Tipped Pictures Of UFOs’ during which an irritating Scouse “liver bird” pontificates about John Lennon. It might be an anti-climax but it still can’t detract from the previous 60 minutes of what is ostensibly edgy frantic beat driven mayhem.
Ragazza Music CD
Backed by members of Brian Wilson’s band, The Wondermints, Cloud Eleven, The Mockers and featuring occasional backing vocals by Evie Sands, LA songwriter Anny Celsi releases her second album, chock full of slightlydelic pop jangle and West Coast harmonies.
Just a few seconds into the opening title track, and you’ll know that you’re being pulled into the same paisley patterned swirl as the one The Bangles caused a while ago. Detours towards country (‘The Night She Learned To Drive’, ‘Paper Umbrella’) and soul (‘Now You Can Hurt Me’) are mellowed down à la Norah Jones, while Probyn Gregory’s trumpet adds an occasional Bacharach-like touch. The cover of ‘Some Velvet Morning’ puts Nelson Bragg into the spotlight, which is kind of appropriate with him being the album’s all-round useful guy, producing, arranging and playing pretty much everything that comes handy.
At The Mountains Of Madness
From the opening riff of ‘The Necronomicon’ the listener will be in no doubt about the sonic treats to follow. Oliver St John knows his way around his guitar – heavy riffs abound but never at the expense of melody and the solos are perfect and concise. Vocally he reminds us of Bowie and Bolan with a touch of Ozzy for good measure, but re-imagining them all within the context of the underground scene as once exemplified by The Pink Fairies.
‘Lucifer Childe’ has an “Ooh La La” vocal that wants to be on a Top 10 single and ‘What Do They Say’ has the most memorable tune I’ve heard for ages. The song writing is fabulous throughout – it defies belief that Childe Rolande are not yet on a major label.
The unnatural childe of the best bands of the early ’70s this CD has its inspiration in the past but make no mistake, this is psychedelic rock for the second decade of the third millennium, and comes thoroughly recommended.
CURTAINS FOR YOU
What A Lovely Surprise To Wake Up Here
Spark & Shine CD
Curtains For You are five gents from Seattle who have burst onto the scene with What A Lovely Surprise To Wake Up Here, a disc replete with gorgeous melodies, tantalising chord changes and a full palate of harmonies that may remind the listener at times of Teenage Fanclub and Ice Cream Hands.
Tracks like ‘The Nuclear Age’, the bouncy ‘Dead World’ and the obviously Brian Wilson-inspired ‘Dumb Angel’ are exemplars of this sound, but the band aren’t afraid to throw in some unusual touches, like the Vaudevillian feel of ‘Small Change’ or some barbershop quartet-styled harmonies on ‘Red Red Rose’.
What A Lovely Surprise To Wake Up Here is a truly delightful pop confection from start to finish, and promises to be a new favourite.
Damaged Goods CD/LP
Fixated on that magical point in British rock history somewhere between the spirited melodic punk of ’77 and the burgeoning ’60s-inspired power-pop of the mod revival a few years later, Seattle’s Cute Lepers pick up where they left off on 2008’s exhilarating debut Can’t Stand Modern Music and deliver another hook-laden assault on the senses.
Founded by Steve E Nix and bassist Steve Kicks, former band members with similar outfit The Briefs, the sextet combine thrashing guitars and throbbing rhythm section with manic tambourine shaking and harmonious female backing to great effect. Prime examples are ‘Dirty Baby’, the glamourised punk of ‘What Happens Next’ and anthemic ‘Young Hearts’, while ‘You Don’t Have To Belong To The Religious Right’ is one message song worth singing along to. The standout, however, has got to be the title track with guest horns adding punchy brass to the party.
Strange Fruit And
Can I admit that I nicked this from the review pile because I dyslexically thought it was a compilation of De Wolfe library music? My embarrassment is ameliorated by the fact that DeWolff – an inconceivably young Dutch trio – are the noisiest motherfuckers I’ve encountered since my fetid hometown hosted its most recent Asbo Pride parade.
Honestly, I’m more than a little stunned by how consistently brilliant Strange Fruit is. DeWolff take their cue from the Cream/Deep Purple/Led Zep school of bluesy swagger and psych smoke, but crucially – unlike older and more respectful acolytes – they take this particular ball and boot it into an adjoining galaxy. The energy, imagination and gimlet-eyed commitment displayed on ‘Mountain’, ‘Don’t You Go Up The Sky’ and ‘Wicked Moon’ will have you grinning and applauding like simpletons. Luka van de Poel simply owns the lost art of tumbling, tumultuous ’60s drumming, while Robin Piso’s Hammond sounds as though it’s miked through an orgasmatron. Suddenly, the future is in safe hands.
THE DOLLY ROCKER MOVEMENT
Our Days Mind The Tyme
Bad Afro CD
This Aussie combo has been enjoying favourable plaudits of late, and on the evidence of their third album deservedly so too. There’s a distinctly modern vibe about The Dolly Rocker Movement’s brand of psychedelia, but that’s not to say it would have sounded out of place blasting out in a record store on Haight Street during The Summer Of Love. With great psychedelic cover art, it also looks the part.
Making good use of an over-arching organ and fuzz guitar sounds throughout most of the album, DRM are never too far away from their garage influences – just check out ‘Sold For Sinners’ or ‘My Heavenly Way’. But songs like ‘Coffin Love’, ‘Enjoy A Paranoia’ and ‘The Ecstasy Once Told’ will send shivers down your spine – the addition of a female backing singer certainly adds something here. With achingly beautiful vocals and haunting guitars on all of them, the latter, in particular, resembles something from a psychedelic spaghetti western soundtrack.
Act Your Rage
In spite of their only single dating from way back in 1967, I’m sure you’ll file The Doughboys alongside modern garage favourites. Most of the time they sound like The Chesterfield Kings doing Rolling Stones tunes, some of which I prefer to both (‘Break Out’, ‘Turn Your Love On Me’, ‘Nobody’s Girl’, ‘Wishful Thinking’), and even though frontman Myke Scavone’s blues harp wails throughout most of the album, he makes the most of it on Paul Butterfield-like ‘Twelve Bar Blues & I Still Have The Blues’.
Besides The Kinks’ ‘It’s Alright’, continuing the expected range of covers from the debut, their version of The Moody Blues’ ‘Tuesday Afternoon’ is nothing less than amazing, fitting the concept much more than you’d imagine. Trivia facts of interest to Shindig! readers: drummer Richie Heyman is the power-popper these days known as Richard X Heyman, while Myke Scavone used to front none other than Ram Jam. As put in the liners, “play it as loudly as the primitive cultures would have played it!”
ERLAND & THE CARNIVAL
Erland & The Carnival
Full Time Hobby/Static Caravan CD
A new year and another bunch of much-touted and idealistic young things?
You’d be forgiven for thinking so, but if you fail to read the collective CV of its members and listen very closely you shouldn’t be too surprised to learn that the success of this debut owes more to experience than accidental folly. Built around lead singer and Orcadian guitarist Gawain Erland Cooper – whose carnival in question consists of ex-Verve man Simon Tong and studio engineer David Nock – recorded at Damon Albarn’s Studio 13, it’s in essence one big romantic notion. ‘The Sweeter The Girl The Harder I Fall’ hints at influences as diverse as Talking Heads and The Kinks and, like Trembling Bells who we covered a couple of issues back, this resurgence and unfaltering urge to transform traditional folk is still alive and well. Here we find fashionably hip versions of the ‘One Morning Fair’ (see Bert Jansch’s ‘Blackwater Side’) and ‘My Name Is Carnival’ (Jackson C Frank).
Richard S Jones
The Brit-based American Piney Gir emerged in 2004 with Peakahokahoo, a fresh, romantic take on electro-pop. When she made a surprising switch to country-influenced music with her next album Hold Yer Horses, proof of her brilliant songwriting was self-evident: her songs translated perfectly to the genre.
Now with The Yearling Piney combines her pop sensibility with knowing nods to girl groups, C86 indie and country-pop starlets like Sandy Posey. She mixes up accordion and buttercup smiles to delightful effect. ‘Say I’m Sorry’ sounds like a great lost number one from 1975.
This is undoubtedly going to be too twee for some, but, for my money, Piney is charming rather than cloying and has a great knack for memorable hooks. The Yearling is a gorgeous album, as endearing as the picture of the young sheriff Piney on the cover.
Wolves & Thieves
Fierce Panda CD
London’s Goldheart Assembly may well be the UK’s answer to Fleet Foxes. There’s certainly something about the hymnal vocals, staggered acoustics and simplistic drumming that echoes Portland’s finest. Offset by casual scruffiness and beards, a pattern emerges… but Goldheart Assembly, if having their eyes and ears on the zeitgeist, possess an English trait that works both for and against them. They’re terribly polite… awfully so! Wolves & Thieves lacks the rustic spit ’n’ dirt of Fleet Foxes, and occasionally the Assembly’s melancholic folky pageants can become just a little mundane – more upset school boy than wise woolly mountain man.
Where they do excel is at music with a slightly genteel feel, not unlike The Zombies’ most melancholic tunes.
If uneven, Wolves & Thieves shows promise, with the distinctly psychedelic pop of ‘Reminder’ airing the group’s own personality whilst ‘So Long St Christopher’ – a single from last year – is still their crowning achievement.
Jon ‘Mojo’ Mills
Green Fuse/Vollwert CD
The 12 songs on this CD deal with 12 months in the life of Luke, a teenager growing up fast in the early ’70s, a theme this reviewer can certainly identify with. I only picked up on the concept from the synopsis on the back cover – including the lyrics would have helped listeners follow the story.
Fortunately, the individual songs stand up for themselves. Some of the best tunes, such as ‘Catholic Girl’ and the 12-string folk-rock of ‘I’m Waiting’, are more inspired by the ’60s than the early ’70s. In some cases Gregory has managed the difficult task of blending some classic influences from both decades, as in ‘I’m Waiting’. His forte is subtle, highly melodic tunes that are well worth hearing even if you aren’t especially fascinated by the 1973 concept.
Moreover, Leigh must be the first songwriter since the ’20s to immortalise a girl called Audrey!
I SEE HAWKS IN LA
Shoulda Been Gold: 2001-2009
American Beat CD
Circa 2000, these code-named, Los Angeles-based country-rockers (“if you see hawks then maybe we should talk”) were composed of co-founders Rob Waller and brothers Anthony and Paul Lacques, along with bluegrass fiddler and mandolin player extraordinaire Brantley Kearns and bassist David Jackson. Jackson appears on this partly new/mostly vintage song compilation only once (on the panoramic road song ‘Grapevine’) but Waller, the Lacques brothers and Kearns are all over the place.
Along with a pair of tunes with Carla Olson guesting and a hair-raising hard country gospel number recorded live at a local church, favourites among the crew’s potent originals include the timeless dope song ‘Humboldt’, a clever elegy for racist Senator ‘Byrd From West Virginia’, the corrosive confessional ‘Midnight In Orlando’, a reflective ‘Raised By Hippies’ and the original 2000 demo of their band name song.
Gram Parsons, in all his high desert madness, is smiling somewhere.
Gary von Tersch
Behind The Scenes
Pink Hedgehog CD
Singer/songwriter Peter Lacey is currently on the most sizeable roll this side of Greggs bakery. The recent South Downs Way collaboration with Stephen John Kalinich provided Lacey with a memorable parenthetical aside with which to exorcise a profound Beach Boys fixation: and now, hot on its distinguished heels, comes the loosely conceptual lushness of Behind The Scenes.
Lacey’s seventh album is helpfully divided into two six-song acts: broadly speaking, Act One favours a mood of beatific existential bliss while Act Two tends towards ruminative melancholia. Of the former, ‘Transport Of Delight’ and ‘Sunday Painter’ are ochre-toned highlights – akin to Apple Venus-era XTC – while ‘Funfair For The Common Man’ plunges down an appropriately impressionistic ‘Mr Kite’ helter-skelter of whirling calliope and glockenspiel. Act Two, meanwhile, should be catnip for Clifford T Ward obsessives everywhere (‘Cast My Own Shadow’, ‘Claire Obscure’), and features Lacey’s most immaculately crafted lyric to date in the sepulchral shape of ‘Laughing Boy Here’.
THE MOUNTAIN MOVERS
The Day Calls Out For You
Car Crash Avoiders LP
New Haven, Connecticut’s Mountain Movers were started by singer/songwriter/ guitarist Dan Greene along with bassist Rick Omonte to record some of the hundreds of Greene’s catchy, captivating compositions. This is their third album project, the first on their own label, and finds the talented duo augmented solely by heady-toned lead guitarist Joey Maddalena and drummer John Miller on 10 tracks of contemplative alt-country rock. Unlike their earlier two albums that featured piano and horn textures, this effort is guitar driven and sounds more elemental musically. Favourites among the 10 tracks are the Gram Parsons-influenced but too brief ‘We Were Free’, which focuses on a high desert motel room out-of-body experience; an anthem-like, reflective ‘Love Is The Way’ (sounds like a lost Beatles song); the bluesy, hangover-heavy ‘The Day Calls Out For You’ and the effervescent, foggy-weathered ‘We’re Going To The Lake’.
Gary von Tersch
Heavy Metal Fruit
Rune Grammofon CD
Connotations of the title for Motorpsycho’s 14th studio album may have you believe that they’ve returned to the heavy grunge birthing of Lobotomizer. Not the case thankfully (surely?) as this latest long player from the Norwegian rock stalwarts could be considered more “heavy metal guru” than straight up metal thanks to the astute production savvy of Kåre Vestrheim.
Opener ‘Starhammer’ nods toward Technical Ecstasy/Never Say Die era Sabbath – plenty of pomp to escort the epic rock circumstance – whereas tracks like ‘W.B.A.T.’ treads intricate jazz lines before intentionally collapsing in on itself to fiddle with progressive Waters/Gilmour-driven Pink Floydisms.
Think of it as an exercise in career honing if you will, where the band’s strengths have been cherry picked into an oblivion and each note carefully considered. None more so than on the closing twenty minute cruise of ‘Gullible’s Travels’, which takes in Gracious, May Blitz and Sabbath… a veritable smorgasbord onto itself.
Richard S Jones
Alcohol can convince us we are filled with good ideas. For Plinth, the nom de plume of Michael Tanner (sometime member of United Bible Studies, The A Lords and The Rural Tradition), it caused him to think reinterpreting Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Albatross’ five times was a good idea.
Objectively, these tracks bear little resemblance to Peter Green’s surprise 1969 #1. What Plinth has achieved instead is to capture its tiny details; the shimmer of the cymbal after Mick taps it; the brooding youthful concentration of Danny Kirwan; the sweat of a thousand bedroom musicians practicing the slide guitar motif. In reconstructing these afterglows, Plinth has created something really rather lovely.
This is cerebral, precise music but it never has the feel of a dry experiment. There’s an instinctive and warm heart to Albatross that makes for ideal late-night listening, whether you’re a Fleetwood Mac fan or not (and I certainly am not).
Fantastic Plastic CD
If I had scant respect for our readers’ aesthetic sense – and was writing this review for The Daily Sketch in 1959 – I’d probably declare “you can bet your shirt on Race Horses to be first past the post in this year’s success sweepstake”. However, although this paragraph is an inevitable faller at the first fence, the fact remains that Goodbye Falkenburg is an early contender for the “debut album of 2010” garlands, already generating no end of froth from MySpace to your place.
The hyperventilating loose cannons of Cardiff thrash through their cheerfully edgy fare (‘Scooter’, ‘Man In My Mind’) with a winningly psychedelic mindset. The backward guitar of ‘Cake’ gives way to a cilia-singeing sound collage in ‘Cacen Mamgu’, while ‘Voyage To St Louiscious’ boasts a school-of-Wally-Stott string arrangement – even if the song’s two-minute closed loop refrain is an OCD tic too far. ‘Glo Ac Oren’, ‘Pony’ and ‘Isle Of Ewe’, meanwhile, effortlessly assume the melodious mantle of latter-day Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci: a less lazy comparison than you may suspect.
Big Red Sky CD
“Tweedy English psychedelia” aptly describes The Relationships. Richard Ramage writes inventive, gently melodic pastoral pop-psych songs about unusual and interesting topics. At times he inhabits the same universe as Paul Roland, that ’80s purveyor of “Victorian Gothic”. Ramage’s alternate realities include the British Empire expanding into the galaxies, strange Victorian séances and living with Brian Jones. ‘Soft Rock Canyon’ is a favourite, the tale of an early ’70s girl who digs the mellow West Coast CSN&Y sounds while all the other girls like 10CC and the boys buy Status Quo.
The tunes are generally mellow and subtle, with some classy 12-string breaks and chiming melodies from guitarist Angus Stevenson.
Not If But When
Alsatia Music LP
Richard Riley hails from the West Country and writes and performs literate, adult and slightly quirky songs about life and how it’s lived. His only album to date, Not If But When, was originally released in 2006 and has now been remastered to make it “louder and punchier”, and released on gatefold vinyl.
The songs are highly personal observations; tragi-comic vignettes of love and loss. Brass and strings are in evidence on many of the songs lending weight and adding gravitas to the arrangements. There are some nice guitar licks here and there and interesting use of word play.
However, whilst this is all perfectly pleasant, well polished and tastefully executed, it does make for an ultimately passionless experience. Other than on ‘Kissing Doesn’t Count’ where the abrasive violins and cello compliment the anguish and bite of the lyrics, most of the songs pass by leaving little real impression. Sometimes, sadly, MOR is less.
THE RUBY SUNS
Memphis Industries CD
New Zealand’s acclaimed sunshine-pop group The Ruby Suns, led by talented California songwriter and producer Ryan McPhun, have already released two strikingly original album projects that contained an abundance of ’60s psychedelia along with disparate doses of Tropicalia, exotica, Polynesian and African folk and cutting-edge experimental pop.
Their third release continues the formula of global music and hallucinatory reverberations with some additional lush synthesizer riffs and R&B beats engagingly complementing McPhun’s often enigmatic lyrics. Solid senders to these ears comprise the ethereal, dream-like ‘Sun Lake Rinsed’, an ultra-melodic commentary titled ‘Closet Astrologer’ about a friend’s heady zodiacal fanaticism, the space-shifting ‘Mingus And Pike’ that astutely comments on a local friendly dog and both ‘Dusty Fruit’ and ‘Olympics On Pot’ that mystically seem to float up and out a larger-than-large bay window into some beguiling Auckland breeze.
Imagine a melange of The Beach Boys and Kinks on acid and you’d be getting close.
Gary von Tersch
Fist ‘n’ Shout
Motor Sounds CD
They may be poles apart from their similarly monikered namesake Dusty, but there’s certainly nothing rusty about these West Country lads.
The first of 10 tracks, and the only one to break the three-minute barrier at that, ‘Anti-Psychotic Medication’ is a full-tilt garage-rock-a-boogie number that hurtles the listener into 20 minutes of blistering garage-punk/rock. Typified by heavy guitar riffs, the ubiquitous Stooges influences are apparent, but Fist ’n’ Shout is more in the vein of The Hives and Mudhoney than yer Offspring or Green Day punk.
Six of the 10 tracks are less than two minutes long, whilst three barely make it over two. Not that this lessens their impact as they deliver a series of short, sharp shocks that leave you trying to catch your breath between songs. For such a short album this sure packs a mighty punch.
It certainly knocked me out!
Brunettes On The Rocks
Off The Hip CD
Australian garage girls The Shimmies have been working hard on their vocals for this, their second album. They successfully blend some sweet girl group style harmonies with big, crunchy garage guitars, an Australian blend of Thee Headcoatees and The 5,6,7,8’s.
The well-produced songs, whether covers or originals by the wonderfully named Suzy Watusi and Babs Dior, are fun, fast, punchy and unpretentious. Whilst there are no standout classics the overall sound will appeal strongly to all who enjoy Girls In The Garage.
SPIRITS BURNING & BRIDGET WISHART
Given the roster of contributors on this album the overall timbre of Bloodlines isn’t too surprising, featuring as it does the likes of Gong’s Daevid Allen, several ex-members of Hawkwind, a Citizen Fish, a Banco De Gaia and Nic Potter from VDGG. Coming across as mesmerising, ambient dub-cum-spacerock on the whole, it deviates into the realms of Krautrock, jazz, punky pop and acid-folk at times too.
With Simon House’s violins firmly to the fore, the delightful ‘Czaritsa’ is reminiscent of something off Moorcock’s New World’s Fair, whilst ‘Rocket To The End Of The Line’ is a Neu! meets Primal Scream hybrid (musically at least) and has to be one of the album’s highlights. The lyrics on some of the historically themed songs such as ‘Cleopatra’ and ‘Lady Jane’ are a little contrived at times.
But this is a minor criticism, and otherwise, the well-crafted instrumentation and Wishart’s serenely susurrant vocals more than make up for this.
SWEENEY STRADDLES THE SUN
Boffo Bear CD
Glaswegian multi-instrumentalist (Jason) Sweeney Straddles The Sun recorded and produced this debut project that feistily and freely borrows trappings from the likes of The Magnetic Fields, The Beta Band and Super Furry Animals with robustly flourishing doses of ’60s psychedelia. The expansive range of styles on display is notable although the sound, at times, is muddy yet all 11 songs hang together remarkably well – from the politically conscious ‘Castlemilk Town Hall Disco’ (with its opening interview/commentary segment) and the space age-filigreed ‘HBS’ (Steve Reich, anyone?) to the swirling punkishness of ‘Okay’ and the sound effects-enhanced ‘I’m My Own Worst Enemy’. A prog-oriented, jazz tinged ‘Carried Away By Melody’, the artfully plodding, calliope-rimmed ‘Dawn Of The Desperate’ and the coolly counter-intuitive ‘Superheroes Fight The Cause For You And Me’ likewise impress.
Two thumbs up!
Gary von Tersch
THE TELEPATHIC BUTTERFLIES
Wow And Flutter
Rainbow Quartz CD
Talk about prolific. Wow And Flutter is the Butterflies’ fourth album in five years and it’s an absolute gem from start to finish. Laden with all the right ingredients to, as they sing in ‘Aloha’ ”get the party started” this album does not let up for one second.
This Winnipeg two-piece have hit the form of their lives. Melding sunshine-pop harmonies with guitar driven melodic rock, this is the soundtrack to the summer of our dreams. Endless days spent with “honeys” and “sugars”, grooving to the sound of chiming Rickenbackers and shaken tambourines.
This is real mop-topped, skinny tied, Cuban heeled territory with a superb pedigree and a clear lineage from The Beatles through to The Sneetches. The use of vintage 16-track analogue recording stamps an air of authenticity over proceedings, ensuring tracks like ‘Circle Man’ and ‘Like Esme’ are sprinkled with power-pop stardust. Wow indeed!
Forty One Sixty: The Songs Of The Shambles
Blind Spot CD
The subjects of tribute albums are usually famous artists whose songs are so well-known and loved by fans that it is hard for other musicians to radically re-interpret them. The strength of an album covering the work of the long lived San Diego mod-pop band The Shambles is that the songs of Bart Mendoza and Kevin Ring aren’t so well established and ubiquitous that people are going to be upset by different versions.
Some of the 24 contributors, like Jeremy, The Lola’s and Mod Fun are loved and respected members of the international pop fraternity, whilst many others are fresh faces, like Rachael Gordon, Marie Haddad and Denmark’s Liebling. It’s a safe bet that anyone who enjoys The Shambles or their previous incarnation, Manual Scan, will find much to enjoy here. The songs are good interpretations that avoid becoming pointless copies but stay close enough to the ’60s-style pop template to attract the right audience.
It’s traditional for the reviewer to mention their favourites on a compilation, but I’ll pass because I keep finding different things to enjoy on each play.
Never Give Up On
Alive Records LP
A vinyl-only sampler roughly comprising of ’60s and ’70s style psych-pop and rock on the one hand and blues (heavy, acid, country or otherwise) on the other. Of the former, Brian Olive impresses with the soul tinged psych-mod foot stomper ‘Jubilee Line’, and the spectres of Big Star and The Beach Boys clearly make their presence felt through the likes of Hacienda and Outrageous Cherry.
As for the heavy guns, ‘Atomic Love’ is prime heads down, no nonsense rock ’n’ roll from Brimstone Howl, whilst Radio Moscow’s version of ‘I Just Want To Make Love To You’ owes as much to Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix as it does Muddy Waters. There’s also a fine interpretation of a Cramps song by Black Keys, but it’s Black Diamond Heavies’ fuzz distorted acid fried blues-rock that really steals the show.
I only wish I had the space to mention everything on this sampler such is the quality of all the contributors. Find out for yourself.
With the word “psychedelic” being applied to all manner of lily-livered beardy navel-gazers these days it gives me great pleasure to report on a band who are truly psychedelic – experimental, embracing of technology and unafraid to crank their not inconsiderable amps up to cranium-creasingly high levels.
Berlin’s Vibravoid have unleashed a ton of music over the past decade so it’s fitting that they commemorate with Triptamine, a set of odds and ends – old and new – that fizzes with pure cosmick motorick and unadulterated psych-rock. Largely instrumental, often tuneless and always exploratory, the trio employs everything from organic sitars and flutes to squalling electronic oscillations, to dizzying effect.
Comes with a bonus DVD of a recent live show recorded for TV. Get those shirts!
VOICE OF THE SEVEN THUNDERS
Voice Of The Seven Thunders
Rick Tomlinson, formerly Voice Of The Seven Woods, has emerged from his winter cocoon with an elemental album and a fresh persona. This name change feels like more than just hipster affectation; there is a new cataclysmic crank to this record that builds on his former, more pastoral, music.
It works. ‘Kommune’ is particularly impressive as it cracks through its primal locked groove, overlaid with a heavy Eastern European roar. ‘Dalälven’ is another tense and intense drum-heavy workout and, by the time of ‘Set Fire To The Forest’, Tomlinson’s music has almost turned into a bar room brawl between Led Zeppelin and Wooden Shjips.
This makes the weak final track, ‘Disappearances’, a complete bemusement. Maybe it could have slotted in earlier as an indifferent filler track, but having its frail vocal and insipid melody as the conclusion is a big, big mistake. Otherwise, this is a grand effort from Tomlinson and deserves to be played as loud as a hailstorm.
Thrill Jockey CD
This eponymously titled album finds New York duo White Hills questing even deeper into a labyrinth of variations on progressive doom laden space-rock. Various Krautrock signifiers are clearly tangible, as are the Hawkwind influences – ‘Counting Sevens’ is almost a dead ringer for ‘You Shouldn’t Do That’.
The cataclysmic ‘Dead’ sets paranoia levels rising from the outset. Elsewhere, more howling synth sounds and various other random noises bubbling in the background reinforce this brooding disquietude, whilst the incantation-like vocals merely add to the general air of dark foreboding. However, spacier drone numbers like ‘We Will Rise’ do lessen the baleful atmosphere slightly.
For all White Hills’ sonic intensity though, there’s a kind of loose, free-form jamming vibe to it at times: you only have to listen to Dave W’s dazzling guitar solos, especially on the 12-minute epic ‘Polverre di Stelle’ for confirmation of this. One of the first truly great space-rock albums of the new decade.
THE WHITEFIELD BROTHERS
Who are The Whitefield Brothers? They sound to me like they should be an obscure ’70s ensemble, produced by Gamble & Huff, looking resplendent in matching flares, chest wigs and shiny medallions. The group is actually a new sideline project put together by Munich funkateers The Poets Of Rhythm. Earthology is something of an excursion from the more immediate hard-hitting funk the group is renowned for.
It sounds like the group have been back-packing with a tape recorder around exotic continents, like an intrepid Brian Jones and the pipes of pan at Joujouka, only with tunes. With understated contributions from Edan, El Michels Affair, Quantic and The Dap-Kings it’s the global influences, a mix of Eastern mysticism and African voodoo, which are core to the overall experimental ambience on show.
A bit meandering in parts for someone who prefers short, sharp shots of melodic hooks but a heady trip nonetheless for far-out minds with a penchant for primitive tribal rhythms and beats.
JAMES WILLIAMSON WITH THE CARELESS HEARTS
James Williamson With The Careless Hearts
Straight/Easy Action CD
James Williamson’s guitar bombardments on The Stooges’ Raw Power are up there with White Light-period Lou Reed for sheer, nerve-jangling attack, the loudest element in his role as Iggy’s songwriting partner in that last incarnation of the band. With The Stooges set to play Hammersmith Apollo for All Tomorrow’s Parties in May, Williamson needed to get his guitar out of the cupboard and grease chops which had lain dormant for over 30 years.
Fortuitously, he got the chance last September at San Jose’s Blank Club, local band The Careless Hearts joining him in a set, which unsurprisingly leaned towards Raw Power and beyond but also reached back further to the Ron Asheton era. Being an audience recording works in the set’s favour, capturing the night’s euphoric atmosphere, while a major bonus is Stooges sax titan Steve Mackay appearing to skronk through Fun House workouts.
Also comes with DVD, plus there’ll be a limited double vinyl pressing.
Prisms Of The Past
Now Sounds CD
Wondermints have been become so synonymous with being Brian Wilson’s backing band that many of us will have forgotten that they used to make rather excellent albums of their own, albeit a dozen plus years ago (let’s overlook the lackluster Mind If We Make Love To You shall we?) Their ’90s heyday also manifested itself in oodles of tapes, singles, tribute albums, compilation appearances and film soundtracks (Austin Powers anyone?), and it’s these recordings that form the backbone of this set, meticulously constructed and presented by the ubiquitous Steve Stanley and the band itself.
Their patented collision of early ’80s skinny-tie powerpop, mid-70s coke-rock exhibitionism and ’60s West Coast sunshine (think Jellyfish without the corporate bombast and stupid outfits) – not to mention a penchant for science fiction and girls’ names – has been much imitated since but, on the evidence of titles like ‘And Penny Knows’, ‘Invisible Paint’ and the unusually muscular ‘Galactic Patrol’, rarely bettered.
Sick Thirst / Forte CD
Hail the return of San Francisco’s finest sonic destroyers who, after two acclaimed albums proper and too many limited edition, 12-inch cover versions, split 7”s, one-offs and “probably don’t even exist yet” releases, have found time to pull together even more rarities for this much anticipated second instalment.
Kicking off with the Sub Pop single ‘Loose Lips’ – still one of their more easily obtainable 45s –you’re in familiar territory if you’ve followed the band from their cosmic beginnings and have a sizable penchant for wigged out West Coast vibes played in Spacemen 3’s sweaty canvas shoes. The inclusion of the flipside, ‘Start To Dreaming’, and a cover of Neil Young’s ‘Vampire Blues’, gifts listeners with a greater insight into their less pronounced influences. Most notably on the sublime and frill-less trance of the Mexican Summer released ‘Contact’, with its Silver Apples dirge dipped in a deep psych fryer take on the Serge Gainsbourg-penned/Bardot-chirped classic.
Richard S Jones
The yearning harmonies of the opener, 'Waking Birds' are strongly reminiscent of Crowded House. Don't assume this is a derivative album, however. As a whole Deserters debut is in the style of classic Antipodean pop of the Finn brothers/Go-Betweens variety, but this is a compliment not a criticism. The songs, all by lead singer Luke Thomas, are excellent wistful guitar pop with a peculiar Australian quality that is hard to define. There is some great singing, tight playing and crisp production on optimistic singalong tunes like 'I Think It's Alright' and more robust power pop such as 'Take It As It Comes.' In fact, the only unmemorable thing about this classy album is the bland artwork, which is unlikely to attract the casual buyer.
New Atlas CD
Unusually for a 'best of' collection, there is very little info accompanying this album - no credits, dates, recording details, photos or names of musicians - nothing! Perhaps this is because Stratocruiser have only recently gained the rights to their old releases on various labels. Apparently some of the 21 songs are five are newly released and unavailable elsewhere, but you can't tell which they are. Hopefully the offical digipack release will contain more info to allow new fans to easily check out the original releases. This is a shame, as Mike Nicholson and Clay Howard of Stratocruiser have been producing classy power pop for several years now, and are worthy of investigation. Pete Holsapple plays keyboards on several tunes ffrom their recent 'Eggshells' album. It's a shame that on occasions the singer tries a bit too hard and the guitars are a bit too crunchy.
Sparks On Tarmac
I haven't heard D.Rogers two previous releases, but on this album the Melbourne singer/songwriter has crafted some good (piano-based) tunes. He prefers sad or bitter sweet stories like 'Poison Pen' which incorporate elements of pop, folk and country without belonging to any particular genre. Subtle and interesting instrumentation is used, such as brass and extra backing vocals on the fine 'Knocked Down The House' or the accordion in 'Boy in The Rain'. Some of the songs aren't immediate and benefit from repeat plays.
Why 'D' chooses not to reveal his first name is a mystery. Is he fed up of having a popular name like 'Dave?' Or was he bullied for being the only boy in school called Doris?
Self released CD
On the cover Research Turtles' white shirts and black ties make them look like a New Wave band from 1980. In fact they play a sturdy brand of power pop, Brothers Jud and Joe Norman harmonise well on good pop tunes like 'Let's Get Carried Away'. Unfortunately the big, crunchy guitars don't really complement some of the tunes, especially on the second half of the album. It would be good to hear some of these songs with more melodic and less predictable guitar parts. '
The Riff Song' is untypical, a homage to naff 70s stadium rock.Still, what do I know? Power pop bands that focus on melody don't hit the big time any more than those who go for a tougher approach.
THE STRANGE BOYS
Rough Trade CD
Individual songs on the Austin, Texas combo's second album suggest an interesting alt.country/rootsy rock approach. Unfortunately lead vocalist Ryan Sambol prefers to sing in a pained whine, whatever the song. At best he sounds a little like Dan Stuart of Green On Red, but a hundred times more miserable. This approach might be appropriate for a single song, but over the course of an entire album it is really wearying and extremely offputting. By the last song, 'You Can't Only Love When You Want', Sambol sounds like a man struggling through the pain barrier with a bad case of piles.
PAUL WINDERS AND THE GOODNESS
You Can Have It All!
Dunedin Music CD
From the very first tune, 'Any Man' this is great jangly guitar pop in the Dunedin/Flying Nun tradition. Paul Winders has been a member of The Verlaines for many years, and his first solo album is full of simple but memorable tunes like 'Insomnia'. The overall mood is uplifting, and there are echoes of other excellent purveyors of romantic Antipodean pop like The Go-Betweens and The Clean. Winders' tunes and upbeat lyrics are a real pleasure. The music was inspired by the positive lessons he has learned from his wife's battle with cancer, and the result is a fitting tribute to her life. This is easily the most appealing release from the Dunedin
Music label so far.