all reviews sent in to us in relation to new releases of new bands, Punk, Indie, Electro and Mod re-issues etc will be used.
The Heartbreakers: L.A.M.F, Definitive edition
Jungle records 4 CD set
Review by Tony Beesley
The soundtrack to my Christmas just past – even resisting the temptation to open up the 4-badge set and wear them proudly – L.A.M.F has never sounded better, nor more faithfully represented. Replacing and outdoing the previous decades of lost mixes, re-releases and versions, here is the (as the title suggest) definitive version of the classic (yes classic!) much-derided and mocked album; for too long omitted from lists of important long-players of the original punk era. Definitive in as far as you require the word to entail, as – apart from the odd obsessive who may yet still yearn a further outpouring of odds and ends from the long list of mixes that were recorded during the Heartbreakers’ short career – this truly is as much as you would realistically need!
Materialistically (something that will surely serve to quench collector’s thirsts’ more than amply) along with the afore-mentioned collectable L.A.M.F badges, there is also a lavish and informative booklet crammed with anecdotes, rare pics and memorabilia to muse over whilst absorbing the near-epic representation of one of the most musically-controversial and iconic albums of the punk years.
Across the 4 discs you get a CD of the original Speedy keen-produced legendary and infamous ‘muddy mix’ album (the cause of which is still open to debate amid conflicting explanations), a disc of The Lost ‘77’ mixes, a Demo sessions disc and Disc 4’s The Alternative mixes, all of which serve to present a varied selection of versions consisting of good, great, interesting, flawed and definitive renditions, none warranting of bypassing in the least. Whilst disc 4’s Alternative mixes (mostly) presents the album as back to back dual versions of songs (well worth taking the time out to absorb) and the demo sessions typically present works-in-progress tracks, albeit sounding mostly almost fully-formed and offering more clarity than the official release, this fan finds ‘The Lost mixes’ to be the most enduring disc of the four, serving as a potent alternative to the mix we are all so repetitively acclimatised to. Consisting of mixes recorded between March and June 77, one can’t help wondering why this set wasn’t released earlier on in that year to a keen and hungry fan base? From ‘Born To Lose’s opening rock ‘n’ roll swagger to (non-album Contours cover) closer ‘Do You Love Me’ the album sounds much closer to what can be imagined would have been the original vision, only ‘Pirate Love’s dirty sleaze rock being slightly less formed than other versions; itself a firm favourite of mine too.
Though only with us for a short period, Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers’ legacy is one of legendary status even setting apart their pre-punk history. From their arrival onto the early UK punk scene for the infamous ‘Anarchy’ tour through their drugs busts, mix of period-defining gigs and shambolic disasters to band dissent, album release and implosion, they were rarely out of the music press features and columns – firmly stamping their mark upon rock’s illustrious casualty-strewn career! Along with said album, the band managed to release three markedly different 7 inch representations spanning their original career. From the mid-year release of the widely disputed song writing credit-belonging ‘Chinese Rocks’ (itself a drug-themed ode) backed with ‘Born to Lose’ – inarguably one of their finest moments, Track records followed up with ‘One Track Mind’ a song musically representative of the general vibe of its accompanying album. Finally one more single – ballad ‘It’s Not enough’- managed to see a short period release in March 1978; the last ever Track records release. But by then, apart from the following years’ substance-supporting clutch of USA gigs and intermittent super-group punk line-ups, The Heartbreakers career was all over. 1979 saw a live LP ‘Live at Max’s Kansas City’ and accompanying ‘Get off the Phone’ single… but the legend of the band was firmly focused upon their UK punk period escapades and releases.
Celebrating rock ‘n’ roll’s original period, along with a nodding respect to Phil Spector’s girl group empire, 60's Garge punk and 64 Brit-invasion beat just as much as their own New York Dolls Glam prototype punk and the prevailing punk musical template itself, The Heartbreakers created a fresh brew of late 70’s rock for speeding punks, rock ‘n’ roll tarts and teenage tearaways – not forgetting the Nick Kent-led tribe of post-Stones ‘Exile on Main ST’ exponents – pilled-up, leather-attired and propping up the Speakeasy bar. If the band had not imploded soon after L.A.M.F’s release and the lure of Heroin had not already begun its all-engulfing journey throughout the midst of Thunders, Lure, Rath and Nolan, then just maybe rock ‘n’ history (and punk along with it) may well have sprung a totally different ensuing path before it! If you love and embrace the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll, with a keen eye on punks’ rebel attitude and style… well if you don’t add this to your collection (if not have already done so) and don't plan to, then… you must be off your Chinese rocks!!!
(To coincide with this CD, Jungle records have also released LTD coloured vinyl editions of 'Chinese Rocks', 'One Track Mind' and the illusive 'It's Not Enough')
Duncan Reid ‘Little Big Head’
‘The artist formerly known as Kid’
(Review by Tony Beesley)
35 years in the making and worth every year and decade of the wait, this is Duncan Reid’(formerly - co-vocalist/bassist of seminal punks The Boys) very first solo album and it’s a little cracker ‘n all!! Top notch all the way and guaranteed to win both the hearts of fans and any music lover with good taste, alike. Pinching all that was/is worthy of his ex-Boys pals appeal (think pilled-up punks force-fed the sounds of Phil Spector and Hamburg-period Beatles) and set to an autobiographical garage-pop soundtrack, organically created in the shed of producer and engineer, Tony Barber of Buzzcocks fame with close friends, Vom Ritchie and Chelsea’s James Stevenson at hand… the result is infectious and surprising.
Opening track ‘One’s’ speedy guitar pop leads into ‘Thinkin’ an irresistible tuneful continuation of what ‘Alternative Chartbusters’ was offering way back in 1978. More Boys-like sounds but even more Duncan Reid flavours enrich one of the album’s highlights ‘Montevideo’… which, like all of this set, awakens each and every tune receptive transmitters any genuine music lover's brain could possibly possess. The tempo momentarily subsides with a surprising piano-led foray into solo Lennon territory ‘Too Late’ – a song Duncan created almost fully-formed while under the influence of… wait for it, a good old dose of man flu! Well throw the cold remedies away next time too, Duncan, because it works well.
Elsewhere proceedings speed by at a healthy pace with one addictive tune after another going from strength to extra strength... ‘Kelly’s Gone Insane’, ‘His Name’ and ‘Gotta Call Simone’ all swiftly delivering the goods; perfect pop for yesterday, today and tomorrow. As previously mentioned, of course, you can hear The Boys throughout… it would be impossible not to, they were an important part of Duncan's musical pedigree and still remain a great talent of our times - but their influence is never over-emphasised, merely showing us what an integral key player Duncan was within said band, whilst stamping a constant display of his own self-identity along the way. And with that in mind his love of country music (Duncan swears by the hidden appeal of country’s white blues status) informs the style of ‘If it’s What You Want’, which couldn’t be any further away (musically) from the next track!
Out of all the class of 1976, only Duncan Reid could treat us to a song called ‘77’, inject it with a simplistic school kid naïveté set of lyrics to a familiar Boys-styled tune and come up trumps all the way. Whereas others would make us cringe with such (potentially) sugar-coated nostalgic reflection, (“Lemmys on the fruit machine, speeding on more than caffeine.”), Duncan simply makes us smile and believe… casting all notions of cynicism aside, as we are swept away with the song’s joyful celebration of punk (and Duncan’s) teenage coming of age. Like the rest of the album, the experience is one of pure joy, nostalgic enlightenment and naked positivism, all interspersed with our favourite Boy’s boyish charm and the occasional lapse into melancholia. ‘All Fall down’ another piano-enriched ballad precedes the final trilogy of songs, the fairer sex homage couplet of ‘Shot in the Back’ and ‘Aren’t Women Wonderful’ and ‘Rolling On’ – Duncan’s very own ‘In My Life’ song writing moment: a perfect and moving concluding song to the album’s diaryesque theme. A 35 minute journey from youth to (youthful) middle age and one that only Duncan, alone, can take us on… he is the Kid after all!!!
Paul Weller: ‘Sonik Kicks’ Deluxe edition
Review by Tony Beesley
Managing to avoid the many tempting available online song previews and preferring to hear and experience ‘Sonik Kicks’ in the traditional way; as a physical complete new release, anticipation was high and, following an aura of positivity being spread about the work and Weller’s public persona being flexed to the limit... it’s also fair to say, that expectations, for me, were equally as high.
Arriving by post a few days prior to release, my deluxe edition (with accompanying DVD, 2 bonus tracks ‘Starlite’ and ‘Devotion’ and LTD art print) an ideal companion to 2010’s ‘Wake up the Nation’ and once again a production collaboration with Simon Dine- completing their trilogy that began with ’22 Dream’s pastoral collection, it was now time to run through a few trial runs and find out what all the fuss had been about. Would it satisfy the ears and demands of this long-time fan, one (it has to be noted), will not hesitate to state any disappointment felt even of his beloved modfather musical step-dad! (metaphorically speaking, of course). Casting my mind back to 2000’s ‘Heliocentric’ and said album’s (to these ears anyway) pedestrian melancholy and half-formed set-list, would it be possible for Weller to dupe us into believing that, due to his long career and exemplary CV of songs and massive fan base... that he truly could do no wrong? Or would he, once again, come up with the goods, as he so often does, and stun us with a new body of work, that upon release, seems to outshine all previous outings and just about everything everyone else is throwing our way at the time too? Ok... let’s get down to business and find out?
Kicking off with the electro/rock aural assault collage of ‘Green’, complete with spoken word and psychedelic guitar thematics, exposing Weller’s recent delving into all things krautrock, it is clear from the start that the experimentation side of Weller’s song-writing will be prevalent. Whilst not totally representative of ‘Sonik Kicks’, ‘Green’ is as uptempo and ear-pricking an opening album track needs to be and leads us perfectly into one of the album’s key tracks ‘The Attic’... a melodic tour-de-force paving the way for ‘Kling I Klang’s’ shining space rock Mod for the 21 century. Echoes of Weller’s past, a Tamla beat and a driving Jam-like bass, mix perfectly with a futuristic plethora of bleeps, reverb and strings.... completing the opening trio of songs that push all trepidation and possibilities of unfilled expectations out of the window. Looking good then!
Following that 3-song energetic blast is ‘Sleep of the Serene’ an instrumental mish-mash of sounds and self-indulgent musical studio time that could well have been left off the album altogether or resigned to obscure b-side territory. I know Paul is particularly fond of that track describing it as something akin to a natural unrestrained journey, and while it may further illustrate how unfettered he is by conventional musical straitjackets, I feel it only serves to feed his dissenters’ negative defence cases: not that Paul cares one iota about their ill-informed views anyway, I should imagine! Personally speaking, it simply disturbs the real journey that ‘Sonik Kicks’ takes us upon and ‘That Dangerous Age’ (one of the best and most populist singles of recent years, a slightly tongue-in-cheek observation of middle age) would have sounded even more immediate and refreshing than it already does, if it had been given fourth (instead of track six) song in status.
Before ‘That Dangerous Age; is the acoustic, vocal heavy ‘By the Water’ reminiscent of some of Paul’s quality 1980’s Style Council meetings that often hid away on b-sides belying their deserved recognition. ‘Study in Blue’ is next... a song that could also have sat well with said Council adventures boasting a nice Hammond feel echoing a certain Mr Mick Talbot but refreshing enough to sound just as belonging of this work as any other, moving into dub style instrumental for its closing half: a reggae, harmonica fed pop fusion of sounds. ‘Dragonfly’ travels further into the psychedelic template suggested with earlier offerings... a spliff-friendly Weller foray if ever there was one.
By the splendour of ‘When Your Garden’s Overgrown’, ‘Around the Lake’ and the Eastern-flavoured ‘Twilight’ any notions of resting on past glories (something that Weller just does not accommodate anyway) are long irrelevant as are any accusations of a middle age song writing stumbling block. It’s perfectly clear that Weller is creating music of the highest calibre and firing on all cylinders... and rather than recreating his crowning glories and perfecting a style that his fans and critics are safely familiar with, he is leading us into a new but not far-fetched phase in his career. One of confidence, musical expertise and pastures anew.
‘Sonik Kicks’ could have ended right there, 11 tracks (10 of which hold very little in the way of flaws or lack of individuality)... and few would have complained, but there are three more to follow (five if you buy the deluxe edition). ‘Drifters’ is average Weller, whilst ‘Paperchase’ which does warrant some comparisons with ‘Beetlebum’ era Blur (Graham Coxon is on board after all!) - fits well but does little to add any further outstanding merits to an already exceptional set.
‘Next up, arrives another of ‘Sonik Kicks’ highlights. What could have been far too sugar-sweet and over-sentimentalist, ‘Be Happy Children’ is sublime, life reaffirming warm and glowing with positivity. Hardcore Jam period Weller fans may have lost interest by now, but I defy any true Weller aficionado to not be moved by the serenity and (dare I say) feel-good vibes of ‘Be Happy Children’. NICE!!!
Far too often, bonus tracks, which we good paying fans are required to shell out extra pennies to attain, can be half-hearted lazily written off-cuts that only the dedicated trainspotter type would truly relish. ‘Sonik Kick’s last two offerings (said bonus tracks ‘Starlite’ and ‘Devotion’) do not fit into that category; rather a quality coupling of song writing excellence, in particular ‘Devotion’ being one of my favourite tracks of the whole album and I would swap, if need be, for some of the official album’s earlier offerings.
So... there we have it. Much has been over-suggested within press coverage and interviews that ‘Sonik Kicks boasts an overtly heavy Krautrock influence. While the presence is there, sprinkled evenly across the album and more notably on one or two tracks, the overall feel of ‘Sonik Kicks’ is one of Weller’s own eclectic and varied melting pot of influences and musical tastes put to good use by the man himself. While not intending to appease his fiercest critics with a mix of conservative ‘Wild Wood’ and ‘Stanley Road’ guitar/songwriter muse nor blind his fans with something so far out there, many could not relate to or enjoy, Weller has come to a admirable cross-roads, in which he explores new musical templates, rarely under-achieving his intentions, whilst stamping his unique brand of quality that we all know and have come to admire and love throughout the years.
Like us, his fan base, Weller is no longer the angry young man of 1977 punk’s ‘In the City’... (though a distant relative remains) and he, like some of us, has also reached that apparent Dangerous Age. Few other musicians/song writers, however, have managed to grow almost in parrell to their audience like Paul Weller has. Possibly even less, have remained as commited to their convictions as he. Perhaps, that, along with the enormous array of talent, may well be part of the secret of holding on to such a long and adventerous career whilst defying fame, fashion, age and adversity and creating such an important work as 'Sonik Kicks'!
The long-awaited and highly anticipated new album, their first for 27 years... Sheffield's finest and most undiluted and uncompromising band - of any era!
'Civilisation’ by Artery (Released on CD on 'Twin Speed' and digitally through 'Cherry Red')
review by Andy Coles
Welcome to Civilisation. Hold on tight, for it will be no easy ride. Welcome to a world where unseen feral dogs howl hauntingly in the darkness of a piss-stinking subway. Dare to venture past the drug-addled hoodies on the claustrophobic darkened staircase of some multi-storey concrete nightmare. Tread lightly, for there may be broken glass and discarded hypodermics underfoot in the bleak world in which this album exists. Welcome to a dystopian dysfunctional sink estate, fuelled by crack cocaine and cheap cider. All sounds very dramatic doesn’t it? And to some extent it is. Welcome then, to ‘Civilisation’, the long-awaited new album from Sheffield legends Artery.
Austere it may be, but this is no Throbbing Gristle-esque dirge fest (that’s easy for you to say). The album is awash with melody that breaks free of the bleakness, like colourful buddleia springing from the cracks in the walls of crumbling bombsite tenements. The songs are floor tom heavy and laced with thunderous bass, each one ‘accessorised’ by guitarist Murray Fenton in shimmering fashion conjuring up the best work of Johns McGeoch and McKay, the best guitarists that the Banshees ever had. The vocals snarl and growl, Mark spitting out words that tell of the darkest and foreboding places you could imagine.
Opener (and one of my favourites) ‘Standing Still’ sets the pace well; a powerful piece embellished with catchy upbeat keyboard flourishes and some superb post-punk guitar sounds. Mark’s vocals snarl over the top dragging you into his sinister world. You’re having it, whether you want it or not.
‘The Prediction’ is a potent atmospheric number that crawls along menacingly. ‘A Song For All The Lonely People’ is an instantly catchy and familiar song on which the band gel superbly and the lyric offers respite from the darkness of their world - “There’s a hole in the wall where the light comes through”.
‘Is It All For Real?’, ‘Waiting in Subway’ and ‘The Night An Angel Was Raped’ all make excellent use of thunderous bass, pounding drums and gorgeous synth sweeps. These are songs that you wouldn’t want to be listening to on an iPod whilst climbing the stairs of a darkened town centre car park; they’d scare the hell out of you. ‘Unfaithful Girlfriend’ is a gentle song, full of defeat and lush keyboards and beautiful for it.
Two standout tracks for me are ‘Who’s Afraid of David Lynch?’ (Classic Artery. The band gel perfectly and do what they do best) and the title track itself, a powerful attack on the listener’s senses. The song ‘Civilisation’ is deliciously cruel with an ironic lyric and fantastic dark music and is the song that blew me away at the bands gig at Sheffield’s O2 Academy. Its incessant riff claws away at your senses and for me, it is up there with the best of the best Post Punk anthems. Oh you’ll like this. It’s great.
Check out the remixes of several of these tracks on You Tube, they really do the songs justice and bring Artery’s classic sound bang up to date offering a way for the band to continue for a long time to come yet. I would say that this is the best all-round Artery album so far; one that is consistently good throughout and they appear to have settled into a musical style that they are comfortable with. Make an effort to explore this album; I can assure you that you won’t be disappointed once you get past the initial impression of foreboding darkness and that each song is fantastically crafted; all killer and no filler. An essential buy this year. Go now before the hoodies return. They may have even looted you a copy.
The Violet May TV E.P Review by Tony Beesley, 2nd July 2011
From one of the hardest working bands on the go in recent times, and, in my opinion, one of the best, comes this 5-track LTD edition E.P: The Violet May, so named after the long-running record shop of the band’s native Sheffield they have a gig CV of countless local venues and beyond, some of whom just could not stomach their intensity and more than occasional confrontational leader, Chris McClure’s approach. Banned and pulled the plug on more than once, they continue their unabated journey to drive their brand of PC-upsetting Rock ‘n Roll for the modern age into the hearts and minds of all that will listen and have the sense to tune in!
Kicking off this E.P is one of my favourites, ‘Jennifer Lies’ which speeds along with all the energy of Punk, hitting all the right spots along the way…. injecting a spontaneous rush of Rock ‘n Roll’s primal euphoria. ‘Mother’s Milk’I think is a fairly recent composition which I can’t recall hearing being played at their gigs. Spiky and uptempo with a nifty little guitar riff and some falsetto backing vocals, the song keeps up the pace well, leaving you hungry for more!
The title track ‘TV’ slows things down a bit: one of their stage faves which captivates and impresses, clearly showing a separate angle to their songwriting craft. ‘Queen Teen’ – an earlier version of which was included on the FREE LTD and now very rare Compilation CD with my ‘This is Our Generation Calling’ book – is another favourite that truly rocks, while the E.P closes with, quite possibly The Violet May’s greatest song so far ‘What You Say’ a twidly synth intro and buzzing bass laden song that builds the momentum to almost fever pitch. By the time this song ends, and the neck hairs are settling back down and the rampant urge to smash something up in celebration of the out of control energy the music evokes disipates, you get to realise just how intoxicating and effective the music of The Violet May is. Consistently exciting, musically accomplished in all the right corners and damned tuneful too, the ‘TV’ E.P demands your immediate attention and if you don’t get their vibe, book yer sen into the Doctors first thing Monday morning!
Poly Styrene ‘Generation Indigo’ (Future Noise music) review by Tony Beesley April 18th
From the enigmatic and unique talents of ex X-Ray Spex leader and Punk icon Poly Styrene and the production of Youth, here we have a refreshing mix of sounds and styles ranging from Disco, Reggae, Dub, radio-friendly Rock, Hi-NRG, Pop and the occasional lyrical nod to Poly’s Punk past. The template is eclectic; the mood is optimistic and care-free!
‘I Luv ur Sneakers’ and ‘Virtual Boyfriend’ kick off with a positive vibrant energy, the former comprising of lyrics continuing the late 70’s consumer-obsessed observations of the Spex, firmly updated to the present day. “The Jewels, the bling, the zing, zing, zing, you look so cool with your punky rubber soles n’ your purple fanzine, your beautiful sneakers, I Luv ur sneakers.” The Noughties obsession with social networking and the coldness of cyberspace inhuman interaction is questioned in the latter “Virtual Boyfriend, press delete to send.”
Title track ‘Generation Indigo’ a reggae swaying tune with some short toasting injections thrown in slows down the beat. More uptempo…‘Kitsch’ uses the riff of Julian Covey and the Machine’s ‘A Little Bit Hurt’ with a Spexy sax sound intro, while one of the album’s highlights, in my humble opinion anyhow, is ‘L.U.V’ an uplifting high-energy guitar riff-lavished Disco/Rock groover. A song well worth the cost of the album alone. ‘Ghoulish’, ‘Code Pink Dub’(with its direct no-nonsense plea of anti-war sentiments played out to a Reggae Dub vibe), ‘Colour Blind’, ‘Thrash City’(a ‘You Really Got Me’ riff regurgitated FM-styled led Rocker) and ‘No Rockefeller’ all glide along with the mood of celebration and questioning of society that Poly does so well and individually. Closing track ‘Electric Blue Monsoon’ bows out in beat-less form: a bare-bones spiritual for the modern age!
It is Poly’s almost child-like innocence that always transcends and reaches out to touch the listener, her words untainted by self-conscious artistic pretensions, her radiant positivism lifting a myriad of musical styles onto a further plane of listening. Never dull or over-bearing ‘Generation Indigo’ is essential listening for any generation!
Sending Poly a beam of positive love to wherever she now is... R.I.P Poly!!!!
In the Arms of Angels: A Celebration of Motherhood – Compilation CD - All proceeds of sales to St Luke’s Hospice Sheffield and ‘Learning Together ABC Ltd (Sheffield’s Deaf Awareness)
Cover designed Jacqui Dowling: Front cover art by Colleen Allen
Available at all St Luke’s Hospice shops, via Rob Dowling on facebook and (from May) ebay, amazon and ITunes.
Review by Tony Beesley 3 April 2011
This Mother’s Day, CD compiler, musician and earnest man about town, Rob ‘Dingo’ Dowling will, like many others across the land (myself included) be thinking about the Mother he no longer has at his side. Rather than give in to, understandable, emotional surrender, Rob (and his sisters Jacqui and Pat) have admirably channelled their energy into a positive tribute to Mums alive and lost, whilst raising charitable funds for two charities close to their heart. With the in-expendable technical, artistic and moral help and encouragement of cohorts Colleen Allen (an artist of unique talent and originality) and ex-Modster (via Sheffield’s only true Mod band The Negatives) and present Wildheart – Pete Eason, the results are this eclectic box of musical delights… ‘In the Arms of Angels.’
The 18 tracks you get for your listening pleasure are a mix of many styles; something to please just about everyone. Though, not all (exactly) to my immediate taste, I found something fitting and rightly placed within all of the tracks: giving a commendable all round tribute to both the musical talents present and a positive cloud of silver lining to the subject theme. Somehow, through trial, error and damned hard work and commitment Rob has found a perfect soundtrack to honour Mother’s Day for Mum’s everywhere: and thank God minus none of that bland commercial drivel that often comes hand in hand with the corporate record companies annual forays into this exact territory! The inspiration here behind this project, alone, sweeps away all of that sugar-coated TV-advertised confidence trickery!
So, onto the music: This is what you can expect. Kicking off proceedings, with a serene styled intro of sweet acoustic guitars is Ian Britt’s ‘Journey’; more than an apt opening to the musical theme. Driftrun follow with their U2-like ‘These Streets’ which moves along with a techno beat and accompanying guitars, lifting the tempo to a quicker beat. Track 3 is one of my favourites; ‘Do You Believe in Miracles’ by Steve Edwards. With its title, you could be fooled into believing this is Simon Bates Radio show stuff, but here lies a Soulful, Gospel-flavoured song with a strong hint of Al Green’s vocal style: no mean feat and lame compliment that either. To say that many have attempted over the years to emulate the sweet Gospel 'God-fearing Soul' of the Reverend Green and Steve faultlessly achieves a faithful homage, without over-doing the vocal phrasing one bit, is one of this album’s major musical highlights. I bet you can guess who I am going to be moved to listen to later on!
Another great little gem is next with ‘I am in Love with the World’ by the strangely named Chickenshed. The untainted optimism and sentiment of the perfectly shaped vocals sit with an amazing choir of backing vocals and - always a massive pleaser for me – the presence of the eternal delights of a Hammond organ filling in. I love this vocal delivery, this song is perfect and is worth anyone’s entrance fee alone.
From that high-point of musical utopia, we are then transported into the mid 70’s Mott the Hoople styled guitar intro and song template of ‘Facedown Revelation’ by The Wildcats: a mighty fine mid-tempo rocker, sitting on the unmistakable ‘Right’ side of Classic Rock! Sheffield Punk legend Sue Butchers (and The Goddess Girls) present two superb contributions to the CD and next track ‘New Day’ with its anti-war relevance lyrics, strong assured vocals and catchy tune, is the best one. The 2nd contribution ‘Ode to an Angel’ sitting well in ballad territory.
Continuing throughout the compilation a varied set of styles follow: the ambience of Animat FT Joanne Terry (Mirador), Roxy 5000’s soft r&b groove (Dangerous Love), populist reggae from The Faros (Strong Love), contemporary dance from Arkitecht ft Lewis Newman, the Blueheart’s rocker ‘The Way I’m Feeling’, Folk from A Giants Cause (‘The Girl at the Hiring Fair) and two tracks that would be perfect film soundtrack material – Nick Robinson’s ‘Galgalial’ and Pressure Zone’s Afrikan Dub evoking ‘Calling of the Spirits’. Other stand outs include ‘The Journey’ from Rachel O’Brien (another lovely vocal) and Punk legends the Stunt Kites Post-Punk curio ‘Leanora.’ Rounding off the journey is the acoustic balladry of Russ Foster and Wendi Hebb with ‘You took the Sun from Me.’
So, there you have it: a whole chocolate box of Mother’s Day musical flavours and styles that can be thoroughly enjoyed by all at any time and place. Reaching a couple of euphoric peaks and continuously bringing you the sunshine of music’s emotional power and virtuosity, ‘In the Arms of Angels’ is the result of a special group of talents and friends all sharing one thing in common: a celebration of Motherhood!
The Human League – Credo Review by Andy Coles - 25th March 2011
Never let it be said that The Human League rush into things. 10 years after their previous outing, new album Credo arrives into similar musical times as Secrets did, when a dearth of guitar bands allowed them a chart comeback (how many is that now?) with the All I Ever Wanted single, sticking as it did to their ‘Synthesisers Only’ manifesto that had been laid down many years before (The Lebanon aside they have pretty much kept to this). Recent years have seen the ever-dwindling music-buying public embracing ‘The 1980’s’ and once again ‘axe-merchants’ are virtually nowhere to be seen (if you have the strength, feel free to trawl through the Urban/Hip Hop-biased Radio 1 playlists. May your God go with you!) The optimum time then for “new product” from one of my all-time favourite acts although, to be honest, my favourite period of the band does lay back when the ‘Synthesisers Only’ manifesto was written, some 30 years ago.10 years then since the last album. 10 YEARS! Where did that time go? Perhaps core members Philip, Susan and Joanne were lost somewhere around The Wicker on Sheffield’s latest bewildering traffic-bothering abomination, we may never know.
Never mind. Where was I?The recent taster for Credo (mmm, the jury is out on the name …) was the single Night People which is an electro-stomp belter, both familiar and contemporary sounding. With daft lyrics that recall the Mk1 version of the band, it was a worthy attempt at attacking the charts, even though it barely managed a dent. But hey, so what? That’s no longer a sign of true quality in my book. Perhaps if they’d have “Featured” Tinie Tempah, it may have been “Number One” (how antiquated does that sound now?) until Christmas.
Album opener Never Let Me Go is also the follow-up single and is a real grower, with Philip taking a backseat from lead vocal duties. It’s a good start and shows us that the band have been listening to the radio while they have been away and kept themselves up to date technologically (especially with the auto-tuning). This is followed by the aforementioned Night People and suddenly we’re up and running. Next tracks Sky and Into The Night are both catchy tunes, hummable on first listen. Egomaniac and Privilege carry on where the Secrets albumleft off and would fit in well amongst its tracks. The standout track for me though is Electric Shock, which was already familiar to League fans as the opening number on the recent tour. The tinny shaky mobile phone-filmed versions that we had seen of it on You Tube did the song no favours and so it is refreshing to hear how good it actually is; a thumping head-nodder with real electro-spirit, a real mid-album highpoint and definitely a nominee for Best Track on the Album. Fantastic.Unfortunately, once the album peaks there, quality does tend to dip somewhat after that, as a few of the weaker tracks are placed at the end of the album, something that many artists frustratingly tend to do.
Of course, choice of a ‘weaker track’ is always going to be subjective and a heated point of discussion around the pub table but I would have loved to have seen a stronger song than When The Stars Start To Shine drawing the album to a close as some of the momentum gained is lost for me. I always feel that an album should finish with a “Wow!”. You know what I’m talking about, the Champagne Supernova “Thank you, goodnight” track that sends you off home at the end with a smile on your face. That aside, I would say that Credo is a fine addition to the band’s extensive back catalogue that continues the good work set down by Secrets and it is refreshing to hear that The Human League have continued to push their sound forward and make a successful attempt at tackling the career-killing dilemma of “Do we just go out there and do the Here and Now nostalgia circuit and not produce any new material?”Phew! I managed to get away without mentioning Dare. See you in 10 years time then for the next one…
'What Did You Expect From The Vaccines'
Review by Scott Eades
"For a band who have only been together for just over a year, 'The Vaccines' have become one of the most must see bands on the Indie Circuit in years, comparisons to The Strokes (With whom the band sight as their most prominent influence) and White Lies is quite evident in their much hyped and anticipated debut album 'What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?'
After the release of debut single 'Wreckin' Bar (Ra Ra Ra) in 2010 (Which reached a respectable 157 in the now 'un-important pop charts') and the absolute gorgeous follow up 'Post Break-Up Sex', a staple track at any Indie Disco (charted 32) fans, critics and doubters alike waited with excitement and nerves for the 11 track debut album, just released on Columbia Records.
The album opens with debut single 'Wreckin' Bar (Ra Ra Ra)' with its catchy lyrics,
raging guitar riffs, (that will instantly have a generation of kids picking up guitars)
underpinned with an infectious rhythm section. Before you can catch your breath the second track 'If You Wanna' (Their 3rd single and an instant Indie classic) crashes in, the lyrics are downbeat but the music is poppy with an upbeat melody, much in the same vain of any classic'Smiths' song and already you get a sense that here we have a band that are very special indeed. By the third track I have pretty much made my mind up that I am in love with this album -
'A Lack of Understanding', takes the album down a notch, its evident with the lyrics that front man Justin Young as suffered his fair share of heartbreak, a song about paranoia after breaking up with someone.'Blow it Up', which in the first 15 seconds sounds dangerously close to the opening of 'Senseless Things' 'Homophobic Assholes', is according to Justin, ''This is about as angry as I'm willing to show people I'm capable of being" - Its the same old standard indie tunage that you'd expect from such a band, but there is something about these boys that I cannot put my finger on!
'Wetsuit' keeps the album at a more relaxed pace which the previous two other tracks have created, a song about the fear of getting old, which lets face it, is every ones greatest fear - its an absolute beauty of a song - 'Norgaard', the surname of a Model the band once met, brings the album back up to the catchy Indie pop that kicked of the the album, again the infectious jangly guitar riffs that I image would stir up a crowd of admirers watching in oar of their new heroes. 'Post Break-Up Sex', the track that will be most familiar to many who haven't yet fallen in love with this bunch, stirsup images of the kind of thing we all feel and want to do after breaking up with someone, the title of the track pretty much sums up what its all about - its the first song that really caught my attention pre - album release.
'Under the Thumb', apparently the first song penned by the boys, confirms that there is a running theme throughout album, lust, love and sex (Post Break-up), a theme in which their core target audience will relate to as well as those who have got the t-shirt and wore it out. 'All In White' a song about jealousy with a melody that sticks in your head whether you want it to or not (Although the album on a whole you will be pretty much humming without realising, as is the catchiness of it) - 'Wolf Pack' - I think maybe somebody has been listening to 'The Smiths' 'Rusholme Ruffians' - there is similarities between both songs, they both skip along nicely - as with all the other tracks, the chorus is instantly instilled into your sub-conscious. The final track on the album 'Family Friends' its about being betrayed by someone close to you and you really feel pain and hurt in the lyrics and the frustration in the music - it ties up what is an outstanding debut album by a band, lets be honest have been hyped to high hell, but they have lived up to the hyped an if these 11 stunning tracks don't convince you other wise then you'll never be sold... As a treat there is a secret 'Untitled' piano track tagged onto the end which seems to be a sequel to 'Family Friend' - it’s a lovely little song well worth the minute or so wait.....
So What Shall We Expect From The Vaccines in the future, lets hope that these boys are with us for a while and not just another NME fad - it'd be a great shame to see another fantastic band fall ungracefully from this mortal coil - The Vaccines re-affirm my faith in what was becoming a very mundane and fucked up indie scene... I cannot recommend this Album and Band enough!"
Wire Red Barked Tree (Pink Flag/Mute Songs 2011) Review by Tony Beesley
Wire barking at your door!
A real return to form for Post-Punk pioneers Wire, ‘Red Barked Tree’ sees the musical template take shades of their early period sound and twisting the results into something very contemporary and modernist. Never a band to rest on previous laurels, Wire’s journey in parallel to the 70’s Punk explosion saw them embrace the aesthetic of Punk’s creative angle and artistic aspirations and blend the whole formula into their own sound and forward-thinking style making no concessions to anyone else’s perceptions of what they should be. Typically opening track ‘Please Take’ on this latest offering announces ‘Please take your knife out of my back” “Fuck off out of my face, you take up too much space” and this perfectly exemplifies Wire’s no-compromise approach to their craft. On ‘Red Barked Tree’ Wire positively express a sound that takes steps in each direction of their musical capabilities. By third track ‘Adapt’ we are within Wire-thrash repetition territory so successfully done back in the days of ‘Pink Flag’… with a voice-over of quasi-Cockney narrative. Other excursions to ‘Chairs Missing’ period Wire and nods at ‘Pink Flag’ minimalist Punk Pop (‘Moreover’) mix with the new confidence of tracks such as ‘Bad Worn Thing’ and ‘A Flat Tent’ which take the band in places, into dare I say (respectfully), an almost conventional Wire sound, which is not a bad thing at all, though the opening songs's lyrics will cancel out any chance of mainstream radio plays... which was never on the cards anyway!
Red Barked Tree is, by far, Wire’s most easily assessable album to date. It’s collection of songs managing to demand many further listens. Never coming across as too self-reverential Wire give us their great Populist album, craving for mass consumption, but never ever being sucked into the modern days’ world of artistic compromise! Endlessly name-checked its high time people began to actually tune into the world of Wire and find out what they have to offer. A major musical accomplishment that could very well be set to become a future iconic album!
Whitemoor (Soundhub Records) 2010
Review by Tony Beesley. Thanks to the band for use of photo.
"As charming as Snow Patrol as entertaining as the Killers"
Derby band WhiteMoor formed in April 2009 from the remains of 3 bands (Ejectorseat, Peepshow and You-V-Me.) Influenced by the likes of The Killers and other contemporary like-minded bands of recent years, but also throwing a slight dash of electronica in the mix, Whitemoor have quickly accumulated the confidence to give us this, their debut album: a collection of melodic tunes with a nod towards Indie land and a gaze over at the larger stage of Rock!
Opening rocker ‘Thrill Words’ lays the Whitemoor template down, a blueprint of, almost early U2-sounding uptempo Indie Rock. Singer Ben Ryan - a great singer who knows his phrasing and vocal range very well - coaxes the tune along with a good steady backbeat of bass from Luke Inglis and Drums from Tom Scribbins, while the guitar is brought into line from Gary ‘Barrington’ Cole. The pace is kept intact with second track ‘Artifacts’… a nice nifty little tune with some neat little guitar fills going down. Next up is ‘The Element of Surprise.’ which is a little slower paced, but just as catchy to the ears. ‘Burning Flowers’ is amongst my favourites on the album… a sparkling slab of jangly guitar mixed with bubbly synths and a tune that sweeps you along. Infact this disc of tuneful treats doesn’t have a weak track on it. ‘Lay Me Down’, ‘Remember Remember’, Indie-power ballad ‘Fingerprints’, ‘At the Crescendo’ and the Manics on Prozac sounding closer ‘Chapters’ sit amongst a fine set of a debut outing : wrapped up in a well-put-together digi-pack with a neat little arty booklet.
While it may be true that Whitemoor do not exactly present us with any groundbreaking new sounds or revolutionary ideas (as yet), that is not their forte. Along with a confident identity of their own and great enthusiasm, it’s their sneaky little knack of pulling you in to their musical vision and impressing us with a set of great tunes and accomplished musicianship that they are positively good at. Their songs are down-right catchy as hell and offer an invite for repeated listening. Melodic Indie-Rock is a close indication of where they take us and along the way Whitemoor can rock with some of the best of them! Give these guys a listen, you won’t be disappointed!