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The Sounds of Now JAN-FEB 2009

BRIMSTONE HOWL
We Came In Peace
Alive Records
www.alive-totalenergy.com
I’ve spent a few nights wrapping my head around the beast that is We CameIin Peace. Having always been too explosive for their mortal skin, Brimstone Howl are less of a band, and more an offensive attack. Unashamedly passionate about garage rock and gloriously dispassionate toward those who fail to recognise it as the feral noise of a caveman pounding wild boars with jagged granite.
Produced by Jim Diamond (see The Dirtbombs, The Gories et al) amidst the chaos, songs like ‘Easy To Dream’ teeters on the brink of sentiment for all of three minutes, approaching slumber until shaken awake by the creep of Iggy Pop on tracks like ‘Obliterator.’ With Nick Cave vocals and dark closet production keeping front man John Ziegler firmly in check.
Not that this should deter listeners from what is essentially another monumentally loud album from Alive. In its field, on par with The Heads Under Sided or anything by The Cramps.
Richard S Jones

GRAHAM DAY & THE GAOLERS
Triple Distilled
Damaged Goods CD
www.damagedgoods.co.uk
“Don’t confuse me with someone righting wrongs / please excuse me, I just love writing songs”. So sings Graham Day in ‘Just A Song’, one of the highlights of this, the second Gaolers album and the gazzilionth long-player in a canon that now spans 26 years and probably as many bands. It’s barely a year since we reviewed the Anglo-American trio’s debut in this very organ, during which time former Daggermen/Goodchilde/Buff Medways/ general all-round Medway good guy Johnny Barker has relieved Buzz Hagstrom of his bass duties, albeit temporarily.
There are no surprises here but then what do you expect from a Graham Day record? Power ballads? If anything, the musical palette has shrunk even further, relying almost solely on the patented brand of ’60s garage via ’70s punk that Day has made his own whilst toning down the inimitable pop suss we’ve grown to love. It’s all cracking stuff but only the emotionally raw ‘Goodbye’ and the sitar-enhanced ‘Pass That Whiskey’ would make that dream Day ‘best of’ set.
That said, his voice is as hot as ever and the band are never far behind.
Andy Morten

DUNGEN
Dungen 4
Subliminal Sounds
www.subliminalsounds.se
Dungen, holders of the torch of Swedish psychedelia, keep alive the flame but remain far from retro-revivalism. The Subliminal Sounds label owned and run by ex-Stomachmouth Stefan Kéry, is the logical home of a band this special. Their last album Tio Bitar managed to garner wide interest without turning them into the latest indie bores. Album 4 is sung in Swedish yet dominated by instrumental interplay some damn fine tunes. It never noodles endlessly in tedious ’70s abandon but is rather laid back in jazzy grooves that effortlessly introduce explosive moments such as the outstanding guitar freakout of ‘Samtidgit 1’. ‘Fredag’ is a plain weird euro progressive psych groove wheras ‘Finns det någon möjlighet’ (don’t ask me to pronounce it) is a harmony-filled experimental progressive pop epic that sees some beautiful interplay between the strings and the band before collapsing into the kind of understated heavy guitar mayhem that never loses your attention.
Richard Allen

FIRE
The Magic Shoemaker Live
Angel Air CD
www.angelair.co.uk
37 years after it’s initial release, the first ever live performance of the whole of Fire’s 1970 “post-psychedelic fairytale” The Magic Shoemaker, took place at The Windlesham Theatre in Surrey. What’s more, on stage was the original threesome, accompanied by their original manager providing the narration, with the story slightly adapted so that the band’s pre-LP freakbeat classics ‘Father’s Name Is Dad’ and ‘Treacle Toffee World’, along with a couple of at the time unreleased songs, could be included as well. I doubt that any fan will prefer this to the original album, but it’s an hour or so just as magical as the titular shoes. The band is mostly sticking to the original arrangements so it will work for newcomers just as well. In case any of you are reading this, you’ll be guided through a wide range of late ’60s subgenres, such as freakbeat (‘Flies Like A Bird’), jazzy blues (‘Like To Help If I Can’), Who-like pop-sike (‘I Can See The Sky’, ‘Reason For Everything’), lysergic ballads by way of Traffic (‘Only A Dream’, ‘Shoemaker’), and even toytown psych, reminiscent of Mark Wirtz’s Teenage Opera (‘Magic Shoes’).
Goran Obradovic
FUAD & THE FEZTONES
Beeramid
Richochet CD, Soundflat LP
www.ricochetsound.com
The mock tomb paintings on the cover show Ancient Egyptians creating a beer can pyramid. The liners are full of corny puns (“…this rockin’ record is sure to be your Bag, dad!”) The band all have pseudonyms like ‘Lou Dacts – drums/vocals’. Track listings are in hieroglyphics. Yep, these Canadians are a party fun band who don’t take themselves too seriously. The only thing they do take seriously is their frat party music, a potent punch of soul, R&B and twist tunes shaken with a garage mixer. Gruesomes Bobby Beaton (aka Fuad) and John Davis join forces with Liam O’Neil and Dave Hamelin from Montreal band The Stills to produce 20 swingin’, largely self-penned tunes that will have everyone dancing and leaving their inhibitions behind. With memorable sax and organ based instros (‘Valley Of The Kings’) or crazed vocal numbers (‘The Boogaloser’) the message has stayed the same since since 3000BC; Shake It, Baby!
Phil Suggitt

ASHLEY HUTCHINGS AND ERNESTO DE PASCALE
My Land Is Your Land
Esoteric CD
www.cherryred.co.uk
This intellectual and musical collaboration between Ashley Hutchings, formerly of Fairport Convention, and Ernesto De Pascale, an Italian musician, producer and broadcaster, is a concept album celebrating English and Italian cultures.
My Land Is Your Land encompasses a range of vocalists, musicians and archive recordings in its tapestry of modern folk-rock. It’s an interesting package, swapping between male and female voices, acoustic folk and electric rock, the quirkiness of the jew’s harp and the backbone of the bass. In its gentler moods, like during ‘The Old Masters’, there’s effective whipping-wind intensity to the album, which allows forgiveness for a few outdated rockier moments like ‘You Are What You Eat’.
But it’s the spoken word tracks, ‘The Call Of Yesterday’ and ‘Come Join Together’, delivered against the hum of a violin, which are the twin hearts of the album. They ensure My Land Is Your Land truly does welcome the listener into its realms.
Jeanette Leech

ANGEL KAPLAN
Transparent Dayze EP
Lost Recordings
This is Angel Kaplan, bass player with Spanish garage’n’beat outfit Dr Explosion. However, the songs Angel has written, and, in the main, performed for this here Transparent Dayze EP don’t bear too much relation to that particular group.
Instead, what Senor Kaplan offers up are wistful, heartfelt vocals alongside ringing acoustic and electric guitar tones, for these sad-faced, elegant little tapestries. You can easily imagine characters from a forgotten time (un)happily going about their daily business.
Tastefully augmented by all manner of instrumentation: trumpet on great Byrdsy opener ‘Broken Toys’; viola, xylophone, and Mike Mariconda’s lap-steel (the truly melancholy ‘Time Will Be Gone So Fast’) also make an appearance. The choice of songs, coupled with the warmth of the Circo Perrotti production are a breath of pure fresh air; Los Vidrios Quebrados and We All Together have certain songs that can also make you feel the same way.
This old-fashioned style six-song 12” vinyl EP is already a modern classic in my book.
Lenny Helsing

LIGHTNING BEAT-MAN
Lightning Beat-Man & His No Talent
Voodoo Rhythm CD
www.voodoorhythm.com
This kind of no-fi rock’n’roll is certainly not for the faint of heart. Here for your perverse delectation are 19 tracks of terminally frustrated rat-fink abuse mangled on the three or so chords Beatman knows on his outta-tune guitar. His wail and scream akin to a cat trapped in a lift full of weasels.
Aside from a few less brutal tracks, ‘Honey Baby Blues’, ‘Wrestling Rock ‘n’ Roll Girl’, and perhaps best of all, ‘Wrestling With Satan’ – I sense a theme here – Switzerland’s Lightning Beatman tries real hard to shock, but doesn’t really come anywhere close to the mad genius of similar-style practioners of old like say Jack Starr, or the mighty Hasil Adkins, but then huh so what you can argue. This particular brand of no-talent takes some nerve (or Swiss courage) to get up and perform it; mind you LB does cover his face with a Mexican mask onstage, but ultimately I’d say this probably works better trashed at some punk rock‘n’roll show somewhere or other, rather than a cosy listen at home.
Lenny Helsing

THE MAKEOUT PARTY!
Play Pretend
Not Lame
www.notlame.com
Back in the ’80s, a handful of British Mork (get out your Cockney dictionaries) bands, more often than not signed to Rough Trade or Sarah Records, had a wonderful habit of reworking the most affable aspects of ’60s pop groups into styles like the ones found on Play Pretend.
Although in this instance, The Makeout Party! are thankfully a little more genuine given that they hail from none other than Anaheim: home of great institutions such as Disneyland and the general surf.
This debut finds four kids who’ve clearly done their homework and sound about as great as everyone wishes they could feel. Knocking out two minute-tops pop ditties with names like ‘My Birthday Suit’ and ‘Raspberries’; the former a catchy-whistle-whether-you-want-to-or-not garage turn and the latter a reason to call them a band for all seasons.
Although whether they prefer Jan & Dean to the The Sea Urchins I have no clue… Mork. Mork and Mindy. Indie, by the Way.
Richard S Jones

THE OTHER GUYS
The Beat Block Club Sessions
Larsen LP
www.larsen.asso.fr
It’s good to know that an endangered musical species is still thriving in parts of Europe. Like their British counterparts The Rapiers, France’s The Other Guys live and breathe early ’60s beat. They have the guitars, the clothes, the LP sleeve design and the moves. Crucially, they also have the musical chops to be convincing. Everything is driven by a Ringo-style backbeat, and the three part vocals are well arranged on songs like ‘That’s My Girl’ and ‘I Won’t Give You More’. Two short instrumentals, ‘Cry For A Shadow’ and ‘Amazone Twist’ really swing.
Several competent covers (‘Peanut Butter’ anyone?) probably go down well on stage, but the band originals are more satisfying. At least, I presume the tunes I don’t know are originals, as no song credits are given. Whilst not breaking any new ground, Kaisers and Rapiers fans will enjoy this.
Phil Suggitt

THE QUARTER AFTER
Changes Near
The Committee To Keep Music Evil CD
www.thecommitteetokeepmusicevil.com
Brothers Dominic and Robert Campanella pop up, Zelig-like, all over the tangled fabric of South California guitar pop. As well as fronting The Quarter After they’re tied to, er, The Tyde, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Beachwood Sparks, The Warlocks and countless other Cuban heeled, Ricky-wielding purveyors of retrodelia, LA model.
Their second outing finds them mining the same holy grail of Byrds and Rain Parade that coloured their debut, although this time there’s a whole lot more oomph, both in the production and in the playing, particularly that of newly installed drummer Nelson Bragg – another man who can lay claim to being in 20 bands at any given time.
At times Dominic’s McGuinn/Clark vocal mannerisms are uncanny but ultimately distract too much from the songs – I’d like to hear him sound like himself a little more, even when the material does sound like it came straight off Fifth Dimension or Roadmaster. When the band is really firing on all cylinders – as they do on several slices of backwards tape-strewn psych jangle here – they could be the best Sunset Strip folk-rock act of the century.
Andy Morten

MICHAEL RAULT
Crash Boom Bang!
Chickadee Recordings, CDR EP
www.myspace.com/michaelrault
Canadian garage guitarist/ songwriter Rault, applies his teen spirit to the blues and successfully marries Jack White to RL Burnside in the process. There are three respectably delivered covers, but it’s the five originals that really count.
Chief amongst these are the catchy and riffy ‘Sidewinder’ and the most hum worthy ‘I Want You For Mine’, which is a great power pop number in formative mode here. ‘Paranoia Paint Box’ would be it’s double A-side if it were a 45.
He may only be 19 but he has a genuine talent that deserves nurturing. Help by visiting him on his Myspace page.
Paul Martin

WINDY & CARL
Songs For The Broken Hearted
Kranky CD
www.kranky.net
In the early-to-mid ‘90s an explosion of space rock sounds emerged from the indie underground. Acts like Bowery Electric, Jessamine, Labradford, and Flying Saucer Attack, et al, used the dronier work of Krautrock bands, My Bloody Valentine, and Spacemen 3 among others, as a starting point and went from there. They explored the range of emotion, sonic texture, and mind fucks that could be conveyed by playing shimmering, spacey guitar and whispering far-off vocals. Dearborn, Michigan’s Windy & Carl were at the forefront of that scene, and they’re still at it now. Songs for the Broken Hearted finds the duo (who also run a record shop in Deaborn) using their eerie soundscapes to mine an array of feelings – love, anger, bliss, melancholia…
The album feels a bit dated here in 2008, but then there’s something to be said for a band sticking to what they like to do, and do well, whether it’s in fashion or not. This is one that will help you let your head go.
Brian Greene

TODD WOLFE & UNDER THE RADAR
Borrowed Time
Hypertension CD
www.toddwolfe.com
Anyone who caught Mick Fleetwood’s recent UK tour with his Blues Band might’ve noticed the lone singer-guitarist who opened up. Over in his native America, Todd Wolfe, who was Sheryl Crow’s guitarist for five years, plays the clubs with a dynamic band and is now on his fifth album, released in the UK on the same label as Fleetwood’s recent Blue Again set.
It’s well worth checking out. Wolfe’s mellifluous playing and gritty vocals are steeped in the blues but he uses them more as a launch-pad as he homages the music he grew up with in the late ’60s and early ’70s, from The Band and The Stones to Peter Green and Clapton. One of the album’s strengths is how these various styles are all indelibly stamped with the man’s engaging personality and some stellar playing. Major influence Leslie West rates him highly enough to join the slow grind wail of ‘Baby I’m Down’, there’s storming covers of his blues hero Howling Wolf’s ‘Who Been Talking’ and Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Oh Well’ while Mary Hawkins elevates ‘If This Is Love’ into a modern soul tour-de-force on another standout track.
Without gimmicks, major backing or wave of hip whisperings, great albums like this can often slip through the set, so take this as a public service announcement!
Kris Needs

THE YELLOW MOON BAND
Travels Into Several Remote Nations Of The World
Static Caravan
www.staticcaravan.org
There’s a place in many a publication I’m sure for The Yellow Moon Band. But no one should feel a kinship with them more than readers of Shindig!
Psych, folk, Fairport Convention nods toward rhythmic prog… this is yet another ethereal “hello” from the Static Caravan label and Travels Into Several Remote Nations of the World a long overdue debut from The Yellow Moon Band. Featuring Green Man festival curators and knowledgeable folksters (It’s) Jo & Danny amongst their ranks,
Instrumental arrangements like ‘Polaris’ and ‘Maybach’ don’t roll with the punches as much as throw them melodically, unfurling rock guitar play with little or no mention of the thirty or so years that followed ’76. And ‘Focused’, the best track here by far celebrates a sound as wonderfully idiosyncratic as the festival they give us every August. It’s not even January yet and already I’m looking forward to the summer and seeing this record at the top of writer’s End of Year lists.
Richard S Jones

THE MEAN THINGS
Out Come The Freaks!
Lost in Tyme CD
www.myspace.com/lostintymerecords
France’s Mean Things have the ‘80’s garage revival vibe right down to the Darren Merinuk horror comic artwork. The first couple of songs, ‘Mean Things Theme’ and ‘Sex Drive’ reveal a driving organ dominated sound. Despite the fine efforts of the organist, the lack of variety in the songs and the unvarying, snarling vocals fail to sustain interest over a whole album. Things improve towards the end with ‘Exotica Dreams’,a neat surfy instro, and the more ambitious ‘She’s Gone’. Bands like The Mean Things are better served by the compilation CDs of the excellent Lost In Tyme fanzine, which allow numerous modern garage bands to showcase their best songs.
Phil Suggitt

THE PENETRATORS
Bad Woman
Slovenly CD
www.slovenly.com
The Penetrators cover several well known garage punk tunes; ‘Bad Woman’, ‘Talk Talk’, ‘Little Girl’, Dirty Water’ and others. Played live these songs live would be exciting and might to turn on a new generation to their charms, but on record they come over like a garage jukebox. The Penetrators’ own songs are weak compared to the covers. Strangely there are three different versions of the bands’ own ‘Teenage Lifestyle’, a fairly ordinary rock tune in the style of the New York Dolls. The puerile lyrics of ‘#1 Band In Town’ are best forgotten.
Phil Suggitt

THE OKMONIKS
Party Fever!!!
Slovenly CD
www.slovenly.com
Slovenly recordings decided they couldn’t choose between the nine songs The Okmoniks submitted for a possible single so they have released all of them as a full album. I disagree – this would have made a great ep. There are some very catchy and danceable garage pop tunes here; short, simple tunes with good hooks, driven by Helene 33’s simple but effective keyboards. The problem is that on songs like ‘Hide And Seek’ and ‘Rustle Up Some Action’ Helene’s lead vocals just sound like a riot grrrrlll shouting. Admittedly The Okmonics are going for a raw and ready sound, but they sound so much better on tunes like ‘It’s Not You’ which sound not dissimilar to early Blondie. The difference here is that Helene chooses to sing not shout in a shrill voice.
Phil Suggitt

THE ETTES
Look At Life Again Soon
Take Root CD
www.takerootrecords.co
The Ettes could be poised to become stars. On this, their second album, their brand of garage punk is authentic and primitive enough to attract fans of garage old and new, but the numerous hooks and female vocals will also appeal to young indie kids who think The Horrors are the real deal.
This Liam Watson/Toe Rag production sounds is vastly different to the only other Ettes song I have heard, a winsome Donovan cover for a fanzine. The basic three piece sound is raw and crude, with guitars as deep and sludgy as Flanders mud. You would wish for more variety and imagination in the guitar department if not for the quality of the highly commercial songs, with loud, up-front drums that really drive them along. The female vocals are excellent and highly commercial. ‘Two Shakes’ could be a hit single on the indie charts.
Beverley Jay

THE FANATIK PILLOWS
Slang!
Fanatik Action CD
www.fanatikaction.com
It’s interesting to come across a modern band without the ‘usual’ ‘60s influences. The Fanatik Pillows choice of covers gives some idea of their eclectic influences, a mixture of The Velvets and. late ‘60s West Coast rock and psych. Among their own tunes are songs by The Velvets, the early Flamin ’Groovies, Moby Grape and Lee Hazlewood. In some ways their sound reminds me of an earlier Italian band of distinction, the ‘80s The Birdmen Of Alkatraz, who shared their West Coast enthusiasms and had similarly echoey, slightly mysterious vocals. Although this review cites a lot of influences, The Pillows are much more than a cover band in thrall to the past, and their album is well worth investigating.
Phil Suggitt

THE RHINOS
In Rhi-Fi
Rainbow Quartz CD
www.rainbowquartz.com
Rickenbacker should sponsor The Rhinos. Every one of the songs on this, the Swedish band’s second Rainbow Quartz album, is awash with 12-strings and gentle melodies. Fans of Byrdsian jangle will find it hard to dislike, but might not get too excited. Although the tasteful playing commands admiration, the songs, a combination of Byrds and Creation label influences, are tasteful and pretty but too mid-paced and lacking in personality. The lead vocals are polite and tend to wash over you. You wish they would build up to a killer hook or guitar break. Rather like a big, warm bath, you can soak in the soporific, comforting warmth of layers of 12-strings and background vocals.
Beverley Jay

THE JELLYBRICKS
Goodnight to Everyone
Primitive CD
www.thejellybricks.com
The label may be called ‘Primitive’, but The Jellybricks’ sound definitely isn’t. Over several years and several albums they have evolved a really fine power pop sound that draws from all the great pop influences but doesn’t obviously borrow from any of their influences. The vocals are all very well arranged, with excellent background vocals. The band has three decent singers and songwriters in guitarists Larry Kennedy and Bryce Connor and bassist Garrick Chow. Various guests are also used to good effect; notably on keyboards, adding an extra layer to the songs.
Whilst the songs are all ‘good’, the band are still searching for that ‘great’ stop-you-in-your-tracks tune to really make their mark. Even if they never do, they will still have produced a very listenable body of work.
Phil Suggitt

VARIOUS ARTISTS
The Complete Patty Duke Fanzine Series
Top Quality Rock and Roll 2CD
www.topqualityrockandroll.com
This is a very strange release. Mike D has been putting out a Patty Duke fanzine with free 7” for over 10 years and this double CD compiles all the singles and lots of unreleased tracks. I had never previously heard of Patty, so I checked out her website and must admit that the story of her life is very moving.
Only two of the 50 or so artists were already known to me. The rest are an extremely obscure and eclectic mix, although the common denominator is lo-fi girl pop and garage. The quality varies; the best songs are wispy, dreamy folk-pop like The Come-Ons and Bidston Moss. Unfortunately disc 2 is weaker and I defy anyone to listen all the way through. Most of the songs on the ‘unreleased folk album’ are not folk at all, but a simply dreadful mess of experimental nonsense and drum machines played by non-musicians in their bedrooms. (To be fair, The Ettes and Betty Barnes manage listenable covers).
Every song is preceded by an audio clip from the Patty Duke show. This might have worked well on a 7”, but is really irritating over the course of a double CD. .
Phil Suggitt