Freddie Dickson- Shut Us Down- Track Review

 

Freddie Dickson

 

 

‘Shut Us Down’

 

 

Track Review:

 

9.6/10.0

 

 

Being described as a “male Lana Del Rey” is not an especially flattering comparison, to my mind. Luckily, Freddie has the vocal prowess to overcome sloppy journalism.

 

 

 

Availability: ‘Shut Us Down’ is available via http://soundcloud.com/freddie-dickson/freddie-dickson-shut-us-down

 

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I’ll take a different slant, when describing the solo market…

 

because a few hours ago, whilst extolling the virtues of Johnny Sands, I covered a fairly conclusive patch of land. I have noticed an indelible corkscrew currently wedged in the blood-brain barrier of the music industry. For every solo artist worth their potential weight in gold, there appears to be an insurmountable obstacle that is in place, stopping them from truly being appreciated widely; and by an audience who are unslaked, and hungry. Historically, at least, the most memorable voices have resonated from those who have a disregard for what corporate minds required, and what is seen as ‘fashionable’. In that regard, they have a hereditary attitude of contumacious rebel. The likes of Freddie Mercury, Aretha Franklin, John Lennon, Robert Plant and Stevie Wonder have always made music to inspire and enthral fans, as well as stay true to who they are, where they have come from, and where they want to go. It is this unbridled authenticity and desire not to compartmentalise fans and sectors; instead draw people together, that has meant they have had their names carved into the eternal public consciousness. With few exceptions, the greatest singers tend to be part of a band. There are enough solo artists who have managed to ignite the senses, but, whether it is down to the combined talents of their cohorts, or something else; it has always worked better when there are 3 or 4 other people with you, bringing the best out of your voice. In the last 15 years or so, coinciding with the death and marginalisation of the Britpop movement, there has been a renewed focus on the solo artist, and going it out alone. It can be a lonely and tough environment. Great singers write their own music, and if you are on your own, there is that extra pressure to be good, as well as the burden that comes with having to shoulder any expectation or critical benchmark. To be fair, there are a lot more solo artists than there needs to be. It is admirable that so many want to be involved with music, and each want to have their voices heard. Although the fact of the matter is that so few actually have any discernible voice at all. I have heard a lot of songs used in commercials over the last few months. Ranging from promotions by John Lewis, B&Q and various mobile network providers, each has featured some reedy, pointless voice, in need of palliative care. Most are- unfortunately- from female artists, and is staggeringly depressive that it is felt simple being able to sing in tune and be vaguely human are criteria enough to be able to create music. They are not. Far from it. To add an injurious cherry to the top of the kick in the nuts cake, a lot of the tracks have been covers. ‘Don’t Stop’, ‘Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want’ are two fairly recent examples, and made my skin crawl each time I heard them. It is- as you can tell- a bug I have about singers. Being someone who has been honing his voice for 14 years, and writing original material for several years longer, I get sick and tired when I hear of some ‘next big thing’ being thrust forward; only to discover they are a dismal dirge of an artist.

 

The male market seems to have suffered from the same fate. I have never got the appeal of, or been interested in Ed Sheeran. He has an average voice, and is a dreadful songwriter, who has garnered a sea of praise, for reasons inexplicable. This seems to be all too common, in an industry where the public can be reduced to performing seal by the mere mention of a guitar and a healthy head of hair. It was George Orwell whom wrote: “Man is only creature that consumes without producing”. It seems pertinent as far as music goes. I have a lot of time for the likes of Justin Timberlake, and artists who can write and perform a decent set of songs, but they are in a vast minority. The worrying hypochondroplasia seems to endemic of a wider malaise: fickle and immature market force. The pre-pubescent and teen market is a burgeoning one, and those largely responsible for the popular rise of sub-par artists. There is, however, a loyal core of solo artists that are truly mandible-dropping. Some of female (Jessie Ware, Laura Marling); some male (Matt Corby, Bon Iver); but it is the upcoming talent, where most eyes are focused. I was informed of the existence of Freddie Dickson, by a very wise and cultured fellow music lover, whom has steered me to some notable artists recently. Freddie is brand new; he is 24-years-old; he is English; and has been collating a small band of followers for a little while. ‘405’ compared Freddie to Lana Del Rey. That is the first thing that annoyed me. I like Del Rey as a human; take away the controversy, the endless commercialisation, and such, and underneath is a genuine and sweet woman. She comes across as someone who is a normal woman, and is aware that her career may not be as long as most. Musically, however, there is little to recommend. Her debut album contained, at best, 3 great songs, with a lot of filler. The hoopla and press around her, perhaps gave false promise. As much as anything she is a marketing tool; a creation; a commodity that can stand next to a sports car, where a cardigan, and flog whatever the hell a company needs her to sell. She has a few aces up her sleeve: a great voice, the odd sharp lyric, and an ability to conjure mood and melody with unequivocal aplomb. If you are to compare the two, it would simply be down to the fact that they have an equal love of conjuring stirring soundtracks, and not solely relying on their voice to do the talking. I can see the two of them becoming close; like characters from ‘Naked Lunch’; they could collaborate. But I feel that there are few linear adjectives that can be shared. There is a vague procedendo between their musical relationship, but nary else. I’ll take a better stab at this…

 

The opening seconds of ‘Shut Us Down’ are awash with re-verb and strange sounds, that could be a sample of sound reversed, or a mutated snatch that has been elongated and altered, to create a dizzying hum. There is a lot in the way of Radiohead’s ‘Kid A’ experimentation in the opening. I was reminded of ‘Treefingers’ quite a lot, as well as Yorke’s solo work (and recent work with Atoms for Peace). There is that same sort of electronic mood and pout, that at once can enthrall and sedate. The first moments, bring to mind, dark city scenes and buzzing neon signs. It is an audio sample that would fit as much at home sound-tracking a Michel Gondry film, as it would being as an emotional ballast piece on Breaking Bad. Just after the strange organ/machine-cum-early ’00s Oxford has time to sink beneath the waves like Resurgam, a beautiful voice enters. This would be roughly what I was referring to by ‘mandible dropping’. In the same way that Jeff Buckley did when he first opened his mouth to sing over 20 years ago, or Antony Hegarty did (back before ‘I Am a Bird Now), there is an instant and visceral reaction upon hearing Dickson’s honeyed tones. To my (slightly) trained ears, I was hearing a little of Patrick Watson (whom himself is a small doll inside of Chris Martin, whom is underneath Jeff Buckley matryoska foundation). There are some familiar comparable that can be traced in the vocal, but nothing so obvious as to dilute the potency at all. Like the Canadian Watson, Dickson manages to elicit a majesty of beauty, not from soulless penile displays like so many male singers, but by allowing a sensitive and delicate whisper guide the notes. The verse is awash with barely contained emotion, as one can only imagine the atmosphere of candles and hushed silence when the song was recorded. When the mantra: “Just don’t/Just don’t hide away” it is a once a truncated chorus, as well as the first stunning punch, that will elicit a mesmeric calm amidst the soul. From there, the music gives a little tribulation; in the same was as Massive Attack did for ‘Teardrop’; Dickson lets us know his pulse is still there, underneath the heartache. There is a pleasing and emphatic backing vocal, that sounds like a choir of the Lonely Hearts Club Band. Perhaps past the one-third mark there is a similar melodic sound to that of Del Rey’s ‘Born To Die’, but with a much greater emotional impact. It is said that, Dickson’s sweetheart, has become scared “of what I’ve become”. There is a definite need for depannage; hearts have been broken, which have caused bleak causality; the body and soul is starting to fade, too. Dickson is “numb” and keen, it seems, to have his projection subjected to a beta test, and for his rattled spirits to be safely ensconced. The refrain returns, to add credence and weight to what is being said; it has a simple and forceful pull that can simultaneously be chanted at festivals, or whispered in dark bedrooms. “If only/We could start again”, seems to be the bedrock and business plan; the lyrical territory may be safe and familiar ground, but the way that the raw and worn out mood, combines with the ethereal and tender vocal, is a spellbinding treat. Shakespeare wrote in ‘King Lear’: “Nothing will come of nothing: speak again”. The song seems as much as an exaltation as it does a plea. The unwavering plaintively then is replaced by something much more cannibalistic. A vocal crescendo is unleashed, almost indicative of a breakdown; the words “I should have stopped”, are almost wailed; as if the young man were drowning, performed a sin of omission, or was simply at the end of his rope that hangs from a ceiling rafter. It is tornado that comes after the calm before the storm, and drags your head and heart in opposing directions. As one would expect, the effect and aftertaste is something quite profound.

 

I am filled with praise for Dickson. At times there were large chunks of Patrick Watson, and similar troubadours in the vocal sound and enunciation; that same smoky falsetto. I can imagine that Dickson’s voice is much more utilitarian, capable I’m sure of being able to scale the demanding peaks of hard rock and metal, as it would be of matching many modern-day chanteuses. The lyrics are obviously whole-heartily relatable to anyone who has even suffered the fall out from a break-up, and there is no mordant self-flagellation; merely bare-boned proclamation and earnest soul-bearing. The sonic landscape is awash with tension, calm and metamorphosis. The resultant Big Bang, is sure to win many a fan, the world over. There are so few genuinely intriguing and exciting solo artists, that are capable of penning impressive songs and hanging gorgeous vocals on top of them. For any anyone who feels compelled to slovenly label Dickson as a male counterpart to Del Rey, they need to listen to both in isolation and see that there are very few comparables. Aside from a similar talent for atmosphere and stunning emotional resonance, the voices and biographies are worlds apart, and Del Rey appeals to very few male music lovers. For someone who is always on the hunt for scintillating and enrapturing talent, I will be watching Dickson, with a sweaty and fervent brow. There obviously be a lot of new music coming soon, from the young Londoner. For now, play ‘Shut Us Down’; play it again, and let it wash over you, and better yet; let it inspire you to pick up pen and paper and unshackle any demons that are lurking in your heart, eager to escape. In a year where the most stunning albums will arrive in May and June, and the majority will be from established and populist acts, it will be exciting to see how Dickson’s forthcoming release will be received. I hope open arms will greet it, as well as open minds. Seldom few arrive from seemingly nowhere, and achieve a spectral mandate which goes against the current tide. I’m not 100% sure, but I think that Dickson…

 

… may have just pulled it off.

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Official:

http://freddiedickson.tumblr.com/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/FreddieDickson

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/#!/freddiedicksonmusic

Johnny Sands- Getitforfree- Track Review

 

Johnny Sands

 

 

‘Getitforfree’

 

Track Review:

 

 

9.1/10.0

 

 

As well as being a model and music promoter, he is quite adept at producing slices of intriguing lo-fi beauty.

 

 

Availability: ‘Getitforfree’ is available via http://johnnysands.com/music.html

 

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It is a return, of sorts, to the parable of the solo market …

 

but there is something quite nontraditional and classic about Mr. Sands. I shall explain more in detail soon, because the male solo market is a bit of an undervalued currency, still. It is a genre or sector, which has been present since the birth of the music universe. The second that the first notes were sung by the legendary blues artists, back in the ’20s and ’30s, a strange and wonderful evolution began. Blues was little more than solo artistry. The likes of Robert Johnson, Sonny Boy Williamson II and Elmore James were some of the earliest pioneers, and paved the way for a host of subsequent blues artists, all keen to pay homage to, and best the previous generation. When the ’60s arrived the band market was more prevalent, and seemed to overhaul the solo market, and maintained a foothold right through to… well… now, really. It appears that being part of a band and having a sort of musical comfort of ‘safety through numbers’; is the pervading methodology when trying to obtain success and longevity. It is not entirely factious, as with the exception of a few legends (Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Elvis Presley etc.), the greatest number of hallowed singers, and celebrated songs have emanating from groups. This is still the case in 2013, but perhaps there has been a marginal shift in musical directionality. It is true that some of the most reviled and hated members of the music world, are solo artists. Naming no names, but you, as well as I, know full well whom they are. There is a lot of critical attention levied at bands too, but it is in the underground, as well as on the fringes of public consciousness, that the most exciting and furtive music is taking place. I have been excited by the news of a forthcoming album by Laura Marling– to my mind, the most exciting solo female artist currently making music. There is a lot of speculation as to whether the likes of Lily Allen, Adele and Jessie Ware will be releasing material in 2013/14. Beyond the aforementioned names, there is a small number of notable female talent in this area, but most of the incredible music made my women, is reserved for certain areas of the country; most of which is either largely unheard of, or fledgling in its infancy. It is an equal share market, but the scarcity of bright female talent is not indicative of a lack of participants; more a sign that the proliferation of bands emerging at the moment, are elbowing solo artists out of the way, relegating them to an intellectual sub-section in most people’s minds. The male market has fared slightly better since the ’50s and ’60s when the earliest examples of the breed were greasing their hair, strumming their strings, and winning hearts. Sadly there has been a bit of a dirge of male solo artists; each seemingly convinced that strumming an acoustic guitar and sounding vaguely bored in the key to unequivocal success. Again, no names shall be proffered, but there are far too few. If you dig a little deeper beneath the skin, and under piles of rubble, there is shining light. Matt Corby and Ben Howard seem capable of keeping a torch of glory lit for a few years more; but again, there seems to be a startling case of quantity over quality when it comes to the male market. If you want to be captured and fascinated, you need to steer away from the main road, take a detour, and stop off at charming little rural environs, and take in the sights and smells. It is there where- one hopes- the future good live, and I am confident that once a greater attention and distribution is given to the genuinely talented solo artists, there will be a much more balanced and diverse scene. This takes me some way to explaining Johnny Sands

 

He may have a name that lends well to vivid imagery of spies and suave C.I.A operatives, but there is a similar intrigue and romantic within the biography of the Liverpool musician. Johnny seems like he was born in black and white, and he has a rather vintage and bygone mystique. Sands is as enamored with the 1950s and typewriters, as he is with motorcycles, Bob Dylan, old watches and E-type Jaguars. It seems that he would have been more at home 50 or 60 years ago, and it is very rare that in a highly modern and electronic age, that there is someone in music, who has such a passion and respect for a classic time. In photographs, Sands is predominantly shot in black and white, and has a style that is Gaelic handsomeness, Brendan Benson-cum-Nordic warrior. It is unsurprising, perhaps, that Sands is also a model and a fashion icon. With a sharp wardrobe and sharp features, he has featured in the likes of GQ (whom crowned him their ‘Best Dressed Man’ in 2010). Sands is fascinated by linguistics and European beauty; he has an Icelandic-worded tattoo on his arm, and a similar one on his chest, which is French. It is no shock that Sands told GQ that he considers his style and look to be largely indebted to the cinema of France and the U.S. of the ’60s. It is an interesting back-story, but somewhat of a secondary appeal, considering we are here to talk music. There is a relevance and transferability between his style and noir lifestyle to that of his music. In various songs Sands sings in French, and manages to juxtapose foreign influences with the homespun majesty and history of his native Liverpool. It is a rare combination, and one that has served Sands well. As well as lighting up his local hangs, he has captured a mostly wider attention, in no small part due to his brilliant 2012 debut ‘mini album’, ‘Postcards’. Subsequent plaudits followed, which earned him support slots with the lofty kings Wild Beasts, Django Djano, and Alt-J. I have longed been protesting how a lot of the great new music and future stocks are reserved and held in the north-west, and north-east. It is perhaps unsurprising given the rich musical heritage of the areas. When critical eyes and drooling record bosses look to London for potential stars-in-the-making, they should stop being so narrow-minded and turn their diffuse attention-spans towards a geographical area that is deserving of more than localised praise, and feint ardor.

 

I was introduced to the talents of Johnny Sands by a fellow musician, who resides in the north. I was surprised that his name had not been mentioned in the social media circles and to a wider degree, the music press. It is the codification of talents such as Sands, that has angered me quite a bit; but my boiled blood is mollified when I hear the opening moments of ‘Getitforfree’. There is an electronic drum pulse that pecks and taps with stylised punch. In the same way as the cinematic chef-d’ouevres capture and seduce with smoky monochrome kisses, the track builds atmosphere and mood with a simple and concentrated lust. There are modern tones to the intro; in places I was reminded of Wild Beasts, Thom Yorke’s solo work, as well as tones of The xx. When words are spoken, there in a lo-fi echo to them, and I was reminded of The Strokes and Casablanca’s trademark vocal sound. It is quite an unexpected pleasure, and there are shimmering colours of French eletronica. The lyrics are purging and inquisitive, as Sands poses the following to a departing sweetheart: “… Why do you want to get when you get it for free?” The programmed beat is consistent and not modulated, which keeps the emotion in check, and provides a level-headed drive, that propels the song. The focus is on vocals and words, and the vocals are clear and high in the mix, free from any distortion or overproduced epidemiology. Sands’ vocal lifts slightly past the 0:40 mark and shows a bit of tender restraint, before the abated noir soundscape, returns to the fold. The unnamed and unmanned former-paragon seems to have run from Sands’ home, and into a Tarrantino film, as it is asked: “Why you wanna stall/When the men got a gun?”. Whether this nervy imagery as deployed metaphorically or literally, it is an evocative and striking scene that is being set. Sands has a talent for painting tension and palpable emotion throughout. There are a lot of questions being asked by our hero, fully aware that few will be answered by the outlawed beau. It is perhaps unsurprising that there is little sympathy in the words, or any sign or redemption or Stockholm Syndrome in the future. It is a sharp tale of love-gone-wrong and the consequential effects on the various parties. Sands seems concerned mostly with the fate of his woman, rather than portraying any sense of self-doubt or insularity. It is a composed spit-ball, carefully subjugated so that no venom or bile taints the song. It is fitting, at this point, to mention Bob Dylan. Like the sainted Mr. Zimmerman, Sands has a solid blues conviction to his voice, that has as much in common with the black blues of the ’50s, as is does with the biddable suburban heartache, that is the tapestry of a lot of The Strokes’ work. The style of the song has a lot in common with Dylan, circa 1963/’64. Where as Dylan’s focused had a politicised and philosophical bent, Sands’ heart and storytelling has more relevance in the modern streets, and modern times. Where as a lot of male solo artists opt for a bleeding heart sensitivity, which matches falsetto musings with a Beta Male mandate; Sands does a reverse. The vocal is strongly masculine, with flecks of east coat America. The lyrics are honest and a maelstrom of pointed words and pertinent questions. He wants to know why his former girlfriend has fled, when he can give her all she wants for free. There is a little longing in the lyrics when it is said that (she) is “what I need”. When there is an introduction of hand-clapping (and the tonal mood shifts), there is an invigorated passion employed. Sands vocal has a lighter edge of Ray LaMontagne, when he implores: “Out there, out there, out there/It’s me”. He is making a scene, and seems to be some regret or lamentation in his words, although damned if he shows it in the vocals, keen to play the role of stoic James Dean/Marlon Brando.

 

As the song comes to an end it is surprising to learn that it has received under 300 listens on SoundCloud. Sands has a very modern and relevant sound, and one which fits perfectly in the credible Mercury Prize-worthy sector. The song is tight and focused, and the music itself switches from metronomic electronic pulsing, to romantic blues. Sands’ vocal has a pleasing consistency to them, and have little directly in common with the likes of The Strokes’ front-man, to be honest. There are little whispers, but by and large it is highly individual. This is perhaps not a shock, given what we know about him; his background, and his enviroment. It is a great song that stands up to repeated listens, and is at once instant, and slow-burning. With so little credence paid to artists whom are willing to break from the overstuffed modern mould and create something personal and relevant to them, it is refreshing that the track is not a commercial or bloated number. Sands has a fascinating mystique and variegated style about him, yet has a tangibility to him, that adds weight and conviction to his music.

 

Just this morning, Sands Tweeted that he was deciding on the most expeditious way of charging around Liverpool, in the hope of curating as much talent as possible for this year’s Liverpool Sound City festival. As much as he is in love with music, art, and sound; he is also keen to further and aid other artists, and above all, cultivate a group of like-minded artists whom can put their stamp on the music world. In a climate where the blueprint seems to contain too many straight lines, grey edges and neo-venacular/hair shirt modernism, Sands has a older influences and modern twists, to create something a lot more eye-catching. It may not be a high-rise modern sky scarper; instead it is a charming stylish French cafe, or nightclub. In the short term it may not be as profitable, but in the long run it will still be there; still be drawing in huge crowds of loyal patrons, and will not be consigned to the pages of forgotten curiosity. Take a listen, and let the songs absorb into your consciousness, and be inspired to hear more of Sands, as well as keep an eye out for associated Liverpudlian talent. I have been invigorated this morning by the brilliant music, as well as the inspiring personality. Probably best…

 

… you get on board, before ‘Getitforfree’ becomes a pricey commodity.

 

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Official:

http://johnnysands.com/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/johnny_sands

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/#!/JohnnySandsMusic

YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/user/JohnnySandsMusic?feature=watch

SoundCloud:

http://soundcloud.com/johnnysands

MySpace:

http://www.myspace.com/jonnyboysands

 

 

Highfields- ‘The Chase (Oh Lord!)’- Track Review

 

Highfields

 

 

‘The Chase (Or Lord!)’

 

 

Track Review:

 

 

9.8/10.0

 

  

 

Fresh-faced, multi-nationality sextet, make music to conjure a myriad of emotion, that ellict a peaceful bipartisanship. Prepare to be inspired.

 

 

Availability: ‘The Chase (Or Lord!)’ is available via http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AH3b104QN6A

 

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It has been a while since I’ve been able to analyse a band…

 

that hail from, and originate, from lands and towns beyond those of Great Britain. I have even gone biblical with regards to formatting. I wanted a font and colour scheme that reflected the group. I have plumped for a multi-coloured affair; as representing them through colours and tones, is as difficult and mind-melting, as trying to summarise and describe them through words. It is something I shall- attempt to- do, duly. For now, though, I am reminded that there is not a lot of national endeavour or cross-continent unification, when it comes to groups and acts. If you are part of a 4 or 5-piece group (or even larger), chances are, that depending on your gender, the rest of the group will be of the same sex. It is more common for a duo to be unisex, than larger bands. Occasionally there is a bit of a mixture, but more often than not, unless you are The xx or Fleetwood Mac, or whatever; there is not a lot of gender mix. The mention of the latter example may go some way to explaining the reason behind this phenomenon. It is well documented- what went on during the band’s history. Leading up to- and especially during the recording of- ‘Rumours’; there was a palpable and excruciating tension. Cocaine marathons, aside, there was so much tension between the two couples of the band, that it is surprise that the album got made, and turned out to be so successful. I guess it pertains to the adage that you should never work with anyone you are in love with. The fact that you spend a vast amount of time together, and are under each other’s feet, will always result in a fight or disagreement. The fact that ‘Rumours’ was the band’s masterpiece, is the exception that proves the rule. It was not a break-up album, instead one that was fuelled by and invigorated by tension. Songs like ‘Go Your Own Way’ and ‘You Make Loving Fun’ were enforced by tension and affairs. Most other bands and acts, who have men and women co-mingling, have either dissipated, or ended messily. The xx are a modern band, who remain focused and collegial, due to the fact that there is no underlying personal clash; just sagacious music. As for the reason why there are few bands who mix nationalities, I am not sure. I guess you form a band with people you know and are similar, and chances are they will be of the same kin and locality. Past bands have managed to posses a diverse palette of cultural elements; but it is the modern scene that seems to be displaying a worrying trend. There is little mixture of races and nationalities. Bands tend to be very singular; not deliberately segregational or exclusive; yet its patrons, I suspect, have little concern with diversification. The inclusion of foreign and diverse sounds and ideas can revitalise and strengthen a band. Bringing together a varied air of melting pot ingredient, can galvanise a common thread, as well as inject a credit of egalitarianism. The mention of gender and race within music is pertinent. The fact that it is a comparative rarity should be questioned. It may display a wider issue of insularity and homogenisation within music, but as Highfields show, having a cultural mix of players, leads to a phenomenal brew.

 

The 6-piece, are a new band to my ears, and I found them via a website called Unsigned You. They post new bands and music each day, which- if you are like me- gives you a chance to experience new sounds and inspirations. Delving into their social media properties, they come across as charming, pioneering, and focused. They consist of: Robert Mulder, A.K.A., “Wise Man Mulder”, their principle songwriter, who provides vocals and guitars; Leon Pearce (with an accent over the ‘e’), or “Le-Le”, the TASK MASTA, their cellist, banjo player, and fellow guitarist; Marius Rekstad, the “Moustachioed maestro”, who provides piano and accordion duties; Runar Nybo (forgive the missing diagonal line through the ‘o’), a Knows What’s Best- bassist extraordinaire, A.K.A “Rune Poon”; Alec Brits, or “The Menne” Groove Factory, whom provides percussion; and finally, Melodie Ng, in charge of aux. percussion, glock. and melodica, going by the sobriquet, “Mel Mel”. I was impressed that the band have assigned monikers and nicknames (like The Travelling Wilburys did). This gives them an extra layer of likability, and shows they are light-hearted and want to cultivate personality and a touch of fictionalised fascination to their aesthete. It is obvious from the names, who origins from what country, but they hail from (not in incongruous order): Canada, Norway, Jersey, Singapore and South Africa. It is the mutual friendships, as well as the multicultural diversity that makes the group so strong. There is no municipality within the band; instead a sense of musical laissez-faire, concerned not with personality hierarchy, but focused on creating a principality of strength and common ground. In 2012, songwriter/producer Guy Chambers provided laudation and props to Highfields, praising them most highly. This year they have been working with producer Jon Withnall, whom has produced for the likes of Feeder and Elbow. Their trajectory certainly is going to see a vast ascendancy, and a continuation of positive critical reception, that will see them with a very full scrapbook of wonderful memories, by the time winter rolls back around. They have been heralded as a wonderful new act to watch, and have obtained this, not through providence or luck; instead a balanced cohabitation of fresh folk sounds, and an undeniably tight and established mutuality of obligation. In print they exude a fun-loving and playful air, and the laundrette-themed imagery on their Facebook page, portrays a band that are comfortable with portraying an outer skin of regalement and fun. Most bands, in photos, are serious and moody, concerned that any hint of playfulness will result in them being ostracised from hearts and minds. The irony seems lost on a music scene concerned too much with mannered portfolios, and business-like songs; even bands who are loose and adventurous through music, often come across as defined by ego or po-faced ‘cool’. It was a breath of fresh air that proceeded the intro to ‘The Chase (Oh Lord!)’.

 

You won’t need a spectrum analyser to sense the excitement and elevation in the intro. The accompanying video on YouTube may allude to British ‘Breaking Bad’-esque scenes; potential violence and tensions beckon there; but the track elicits a merriment as an edge of cello and string strung, begins a building scintillation. The initial seconds sound like an Anne Dudley composition: parts P.G. Wodehouse; bits ‘Les Mis’; seconds of The Grotesque linger in the mix. The ensuing explosion of good time roll, and jazz/swing rumble, implores you to kick off your shoes and dance along. There are classical edges to it; it is like listening to a 6-piece orchestra that you would hear in the piazzas of Covent Garden; where sway and invigoration are the order of the day. It is difficult to point to any nationality or thread influencing the sound, but there is western Europe and Scandinavia to the flavour. Before any words have been proffered, an energy and folk charm has been infused; like Mumford and Sons, sans faux-Irish tones and overall nausea. Our “Wise Man Mulder” options that: “I don’t have a penny to my name”, although there is no sense of moody blues. The vocal is at once ubiquitous, and exponentially unidentifiable. It is an original and refreshing voice, and one that will not be instantly comparable. It is the interjected rabble chorus of “Oh Lord!”, that provides a celebratory and humoured countenance. If you were to imagine the more enlivened and extrospective numbers on ‘The Beatles’ (‘The White Album’); then this will sound familiar. I could imagine McCartney writing this kind of number in 1967/8; quietly plotting his musical machinations. The lyrics have a modern and timeless relatability, as well as a personal relevance to them (for its author): “Please pull me up/Before I drown” is a transitory sentiment, but is a influential pebble in an ocean of emotional ripple. The audible sense of gay abandon is infectious; at times sounding like an expurgated and transversed Run-DMC; at others there are spritzer splashes of Gaelic cocktails; with Andy Stewart-cum-Latin insouciance-cum They Might Be Giants. The words tumble with syncopation, modulation and breathless enunciation; as the band are up to the task, and up for the craic. It is a same sort of break-neck pace that you would hear on ‘One Week’, but the themes here are more heart-aching; there is always a sense of running away from things, and having to keep doing so. The music video to the song lends credence to this, and although it depicts a petty theft/chase/incarceration scenario, it is a congruous tableaux. At 1:05 there is an orchestral piano air of Rachmaninoff; a little bit of Joe Jackson-esque vocals (‘Something Going On Around Here’ came to mind). The piano and sonic kick becomes more subdued, as the vocal and lyrics take charge in the foreground. If you’re watching the YouTube video, this is the part where the band cameo; if you’re not, you’ll have to take my word for it. There is a lovely musical break as the harmonica blows with a strong pull; the piano bobs along the waves, and bass see-saws, and the band whip up an intoxicating folk smoke. It pulls your attention away from the troubles of our protagonist, and what ails his mind; instead abating any woe, and recruiting you to a merrier beat. There is struggle and a return to the parable, as it is said that “I don’t always get it right”. There is always determination and resilience through the lyrics, as our hero wants to get things right, and make everything good. And although he doesn’t have the trust of an unnamed muse, or indeed any pennies in his pocket, there is an optimistic theology that runs through. And before I could dust off my bitchin’ dancing clogs, the song was at an end; able to wrap up its message and lodge in your mind, in under 3 minutes. If you have not seen the video for the song as well, I would advise a viewing, as it gives a visual dynamic, and probably is a projection of what comes to everyone’s mind when trying to pen a filmic narrative.

 

The residual aftertaste I get from reviewing a lot of new bands, is that of trying to tick preconceived boxes, in order to conform to an idealised model of what ‘a band should be’. Solo artists have more freedom to explore and rebel, but all seem too encumbered and shackled by a desire to please/secure a record label before winning over legions. It was Oscar Wilde who said: “Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable, that we have to alter it every six months”. I can see in my mind a placard or poster of this in the offices of E.M.I or Sony, where perhaps timelessness and originality are not bedfellows. So many virgin acts are worried about slipping into a musical quicksand, that they err too closely to the shores of existing bands; often losing their own voice and sense of purpose. For those who are established and perhaps less indebted to market forces, they can fall victim to overindulgence and a qualitative lack, when it comes to experimentation. For those fledgling bands that are willing to shows the guts to win the glory; the results can be nerve-wracking (from the perspective of a label head or music lover), but are spellbinding. It shows true character and strength to supersede expectation and labels, and instead write and perform what you love, and what you hold true; a sound bereft of quick comparable. New music and an irrealist mood, or not mutually exclusive, nor predicated by logic. For those musicians who have broken free from the bedrooms, garages, local dive bars and pre-pubescent music venues, the first steps to adulthood can be frightening. I understand- as a songwriter myself- just how intimidating being head can be, and how difficult it is to be recognised, and hold to a collective bosom. With the likes of so much gut-rotting flatulence within the current scene, the secret to alchemy seems to be a mixture of compounds, thus: originality, energy, tight sound and a desire to commandeer consciousness and predict future needs. I will conclude my summation of the current scene with a quote from Winston Churchill: “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter”. One suspects that this should be on a poster on the walls of the the musical big wigs. Loyal and ardent music obsessives like me would live longer, and die a lot happier, too.

 

There are a lot of fantastic things about Highfields. As I have mentioned, they have garnered a lot of press from some distinguished patrons. Aside from any intellectualisations, the band succeed because they are bloody good. They have a fair few followers on the social media pages, and quite a few more views on YouTube. I feel that this alone, is a simultaneous decremental commentary on modern music fans, and a worrying sign of the times. So many less-deserving and comparatively diminutive acts have received greater fanfare and attention. In a time where the likes of a monumental cretin like Justin Bieber gets millions of fans, followers, dollars and corporate reach-arounds, it is quite frankly disturbing that so many superior and more credible humans in music, have to electioneer much harder to obtain a modicum of the plaudits. That said, being a likeable human, who is not a naive and thoughtless jerk is more important than anything. The band are filled with exciting and noble members, who are aware of what it takes to make excellent music. The effort they have put in to their fan pages, and how they portray themselves is admirable. They care as much about fans and listeners, as they do the music itself. It is not a coincidence that the music itself is (consequentially) amazing. As well as being incredibly original and fresh, it is also born of and belonging to an era past, where empirical superiority reigned. Although I have spun just one of the band’s tunes, none of my words are hollow or unjustified. The group have plenty of ‘The Chase (Oh Lord!)’s’ in their back pockets, and when E.P.s and albums are on the horizon, then their status as one of the must-watch bands of 2013 will well and truly be consecrated. Highfields have the pedigree and talent to set fire to the scene. The creators are multi-instrumental wizards, imbued with a sense of fun as well as straight-laced honest. The local cuisines of the band members may not seem to blend well on paper, or work if you ever put them into a cooking pot; but it is because of the diversity and captivating personalities that they do, so well. Fickle minds and an overcrowded market have buried and drowned many a good act. The 6-piece should have no fear, as they already must sense that the public and professional will be theirs; as they are the kings and queens of an intersection where quality and quantity meet. In relation to the following quote by Confusius, Highfields achieve success and gold-plated musical attribution because of an autobiographical and honest understanding of the first, a disownment and ignorance of the second; and by a personal assessment of, and commercial expectation of, the thirds. That is: “By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience which is the bitterest”. But have no fear…

 

 

… Highfields need no chicanery or slights, to become wise.

 

 

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Official:

http://highfieldsband.com/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/highfieldsband

Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/highfieldsband

YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/highfieldsband

 

 

Marc Otway- ‘Find Your Way’- Track Review

 

Marc Otway-

 

‘Find Your Way’

 

 

Track Review:

 

 

 

9.6/10.0

 

 

Dynamic Yorkshire songwriter, lets his voice as well as lyrics (and musicianship), shine.

 

 

Availability: ‘Find Your Way’ is available via http://soundcloud.com/marcotway/fi

 

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The geographical merits may have been expounded on here, a lot…

 

as of late. I won’t go too much into the percussive swell of eager and diverse talent, that is hustling and bustling in the north, at the moment. Greater Manchester may be busiest in terms of numbers, but is less individualised and wide-ranging when it comes to sound and vision. A great proportion of bands and acts have more than a hint of current or past Manchester bands. On a couple of recent occasions, I have noticed a certain Sheffield band being heard more than slightly, in the tones of two particular groups. Steve Lamacq recently theorised, that the future of music will not necessarily emanate from London; suggesting that it is further north, that the most fascinating and long-lasting sounds will be heard. This is true; I think there is just a more determined attitude in these parts. Less concern with following what is trendy or sought after; more concerned with a strong and willing work ethic, that includes, daring sound collaborations, captivating song-craft and an appealing personality. There is better humour, greater endeavour, and more of an eagerness to be shared and saluted by a wider audience. In the struggle and scuffle of competition and friendly rivalry, the configurations of bands seems to be rather predictable; in terms of numeration and gender distribution. I will talk more about Marc Otway, on his own merits, shortly; but he first came to my attention as one half of Marc and Abi; a mesmeric duo from the idyllically situated and cosmopolitan, Bradford. I shall speak more of Abi Uttley, later, as well; but she caught my attention om the track ‘Like You Do’. Marc was the song smith behind the soul, but the passion and beauty belonged to Abi. She is possessed of an ethereal and stunning voice that can portray immense beauty, as well as terrific power as well. With a fascinating history and a determined drive and ambition; coupled with amazing beauty; there was star quality and chanteuse allure in equal measures. In the midst of the silky vocal notes, the wonderful and gorgeous composition, alongside intelligent, sharp and memorable lyrics, stunned me. It was a wonderful and incredibly natural combination- it was as though they had been performing together their entire lives. I will allude more to Abi and Marc individually, anon; but another thing that surprised me was the lack of solo talent from Yorkshire. Aside from the odd few that are currently signed to fledgling and promising labels, there isn’t exactly a proliferation of one-man and one-woman warriors. It seems strange; or perhaps I am not looking in the right place. Either way, there needs to be a social media ballast, in order to help build a consciousness of these hidden treasures. It is a demographic that is seen a lot in London, and further south, but in a largely band-based culture of the north, it is refreshing and exciting to hear about pulsating solo talent.

 

Marc Otway has a varied and impressive list of influences, ranging from Frank Sinatra, to Stevie Wonder. He can switch from the dapper fashion of Sinatra and Gershwin, to a modern relaxed cool of Jason Mraz. It is safe to say that the majority of influential voices and hero’s on Marc’s top 10, enjoyed success and adulation in the ’60s and ’70s, predominantly. It is a rare set of influence in a modern music scene, and is made all the more impressive, considering what has been achieved by the young artist. Marc developed an almost Motzart-like ability to master instruments and music, and develop a talent free from precociousness. As well as having an affinity with guitars and drums; he also is a skilled keyboard player, and is able to inject his influences and various talents into each of his songs. As I mentioned I was impressed hugely by his and Abi’s collaboration of ‘Like You Do’. It was Abi’s voice that stole the spotlight, but it was the instrumental flourishes and moods; combined with an impressive set of lyrics, that added unexpected colours and shades. Marc has been writing for 5 years now, and honing his craft and skill set. There are an array of YouTube videos and cover versions; as well as glowing reviews and testimonies, that pay homage to the bubbling potential that lies within Marc’s bones.

 

‘Find Your Way’ begins as a starling twinkle of acoustics. There are whispers of Nick Drake, Kings of Convenience, as well as the masters such as Neil Young and Bob Dylan. It is a hymn for spring, and is evocative of a walk by a river, as the sun beats down. Nothing lingers threateningly in the air; there is just peace, and a gentle breeze. It puts you at ease at once, and settles and eradicates any tension or ambivalence, you may have had, before listening to the song. The guitar strums and skips; before hopping and swimming in the cool; meandering, seducing and stamping an early mark of quality. There is adventure and turns in the intro, and shows the talent that Marc has to evoke a lot of pleasure and curiosity, from a few strings. By 0:17 the guitar trip was a glorious mix of ‘Songbird’ Eva Cassidy, and ‘Quiet Is The New Loud’, Kings of Convenience; with a smidge of ‘Harvest Moon’ Neil Young. It would be cheap to make comparisons, or predict what the vocal would sound like, given the evocations and memories contained within the intro. Marc sings in a calm and mannered way, that means that his words can be heard, understood and appreciated, without any stutter, drawl or any cloying ephemera I have heard from a lot of nearby bands and acts. There is clarity and directness: perhaps the two most important elements that should be employed when attempting to win hearts and minds. There is remembrance and stories of a carefree life; an alternative way of life, and a conversation being held between him and an unnamed paramour. “Don’t be afraid/’Cause you don’t know the way”, are the words of comfort that are proffered, when it seems that there is uncertainty and hesitation in mind. The vocal remains strong and overcomes the emotion that is being portrayed. Lesser artists may be concerned with histrionics and needless plaintive mewing, desperate to wring out every drop of feeling from their lyrics. Marc deploys the guitar, as a device to convey a gorgeous and still mood, but also add shades and layers that others just can’t. The vocal itself is genuinely original. I have reviewed a lot of acts, and have been able to pick the vocal apart, assigning tones and accents to various other decades, albums and bands. But here, there is none of that. With inspirational themes, and a mandate that implores his beau, as well as the listener in general; to not let life pass by, and find your own path, at your own speed. Marc asks: “maybe I can find you”, as the acoustic strum sparks and ignites the mood, and his voice shows some vulnerability, but never cracks. There is a guitar and piano calling song, where light and gorgeous notes mix with duskier shades; creating a bucolic emotional calm, as once again, a musical passage allow you to catch your breath, reflect, and absorb what has been said. The instrumental touches have a lovely hint of Cassidy to them. In the way she could reinterpret and own a song like Fields of Gold, Over the Rainbow and Autumn Leaves, Marc displays a superior guitar talent, knowing that the words are all his. Whether taken from autobiography, or rooted within a dream-like fiction, it is a mystery; the way he lets his voice hold and float and dive, shows a keen understanding of how to convey atmosphere and emotional resonance, with as few breaths as possible. As I said- there is no need for over-zealous showboating; he wins and convinces with a simple directness and unequivocal determination. As the second half becomes settled in, and comfortable, the words of encouragement, motivation and strength are displayed once more. “You need to rise up/Get yourself dressed” are delivered; with certain words elongated; others punctuated, designed, above all, to catch the ear and mind, and make you smile as well as think. The vocal backing provided by Abi, around the 3:00 is wordless and invigorating, as the two create a lullaby of a harmony, and bring the song to a stunning conclusion.

 

The elegance and beauty of ‘Find Your Way’, is hard to ignore. With regards to the purity of the performance, it can rank alongside the fi9nest solo artists going today. Where as a lot of the market are concerned with too much self-indulgence, and do not have a great lyrical talent, Marc is able to strike the right words at the right time, and does not clutter the landscape. Everything is employed for maximum affect; the message may be simple and universal, but the way it is premiered, is certainly not. It is predominantly the female solo market where the combination of still beauty and stirring passion are mixed so effectively lyrically, vocally and musically. Usually an artist falls at one or more fences, and yet still maintains a lot of fans and adulation. There is a great originality to the vocal tone as well as delivery, and Marc establishes himself as an incredible guitarist; not contended to strum aimlessly, instead pioneer and seek out the most sterling and lilting notes, in order to conjure up the purest and simplest beauty. I am sure there will be several avenues Marc can take. Abi Uttley is  the strongest vocalist, perhaps, and has the sex appeal and siren tones to make hearts melt; yet Marc is his own man, and has a fantastic voice, that pleases and invigorates. He is a multi-talented guitarist and would be just as adept at laying down some scuzzy, dirty electric riffs as he is with painting riparian delights. Similarly he is a skilled pianist and composer, and could do conjure orchestral majesty into songs as well. Marc and Abi need to remain, as the two of them combined, can create an enormous fan-base, and win a lot of support. Whether they have an E.P. in their minds or not, there will be a huge demand. If Marc also decides to pursue a solo career, it will also be met with high expectations and back orders. It is an exciting and promising next few years ahead, that makes me wonder what moves he will make next. Whether there is going to be any hard or heavy rock gems; snaking blues monsters, or caressing acoustic kisses. It is all up to him, but I for one, am keen to spread the word. With comparatively few followers on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, when matched against many local- and inferior- music acts, he deserves a lot more attention, and for people to hear all he has done with, and without Abi. There will be record labels beating a path to his door, as well as a vast amount of options. It is the early days and the formative years that provide greatest insight and unexpectedness. I am keen to see…

 

… what moves Marc makes next.

 

 

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Official:

http://www.marcotway.co.uk/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/marcmischief

Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Marc-Otway-Musician/180949738624931?fref=ts

MySpace:

http://www.myspace.com/marcotway

YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/user/marcmischief?annotation_id=annotation_696967&feature=iv&src_vid=ovYn5zs6Uxk

 

 

The Gullwings- Truth Or Tone- Track Review

 

The Gullwings-

 

‘Truth Or Tone’

 

 

Track Review:

 

 

9.1/10.0

 

  

 

Magic and mystical sounds; mix with hard and heavy; result in a cosmic blast of song.

 

 

Availability: ‘Truth Or Tone’ is available via http://soundcloud.com/thegullwings/truth-or-tone

 

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Once again, we are in some familiar territory…

 

Well, in more than one way. The music is alive, electric and fascinating. More pertinently, the music that is being bequeathed, is from the north once more. Later this week, I hope to be looking at sounds from all over the U.K., as well as further abroad. But for the next two days, I am focusing again on music from the great north. I have always been surprised what is hiding away, and nestling in the delightful scented back streets of the social network sites. The mainstream is like a city- not a great one, like London, Barcelona or York. I’m thinking of something crapper. I’d say the closest geographical comparable is a tectonic realignment of modern-day Los Angeles, with a rejoined attachment of African and Asian wonders. In the main streets and boulevards there are the predictable yawns of name brand stores. The corporate, faceless mega-stores that can simultaneously gauge you and entice you without conscientiousness. This constitutes the central core of modern music; the bland and toothless alike. Current ministers of mediocre include Bruno Mars and Coldplay. When you take a trip further downtown, there is the seedy and dangerous back doors of tattoo parlours, dive bars and shops with bullet proof windows. The likes of Katy Perry, One Direction, Justin Bieber, etc. are the proprietors and wasted patrons. They are all too common and replicated; but hopefully one imagines they will die a death when a nationalised common sense prevails. Of course there are more charming and historic sites and attractions. The Rolling Stones,The Stone Roses and Paul McCartney are the big tourist spots. They are solid, but subject to imminent entropy. They have played their collective parts wonderfully, but are looking tired, and offer no new delights. Then there is a final sub-sector; way beyond the neon strips and bustling unpredictability, there is a safer and more intriguing back alley allure. Perhaps not seen in the U.S. or most of Europe, these side streets and towns proffer a nascent and head-swimming array of spices, flavours, trinkets and tasty liquids. You have to look harder, and unfortunately, you have to rely on serendipity and an interchangeable sense of direction to happen upon such splendours. It is, however a more rewarding and spellbinding discovery, when you do happen upon these treats. These are, the new musicians; the new bands and talent. They are curious to win your hearts and earn your currency, yet are detached from and unconcerned with mass commercialism and a preconceived notion of what is trendy or popular. They market their own stalls and provide a cathartic and healing glow, that you just don’t get in the mean and twisted streets…

 

Which, perhaps with semi-poetic license, leads me to the charming and variegated scents of The Gullwings. They may be seen in The Lanes of Brighton. You get some rather colourful and sweet-smelling doorways down there, but social media has done a lot of the work for me; so I shall do a good job at summation and paraphrasing what the band are, and who they aim to be.  On Facebook, they are Oliver Podmore (vox and guitar); James Lennon (lead guitar); Thomas Castle (bass), and Jake Perry (drum). They hail from the Stockport area, and Podmore, it is claimed, possesses pipes which defy any stereotyped or cliched views on a northern voice. There is no Ashcroft/Gallagher/Brown homosapien swagger and controversy. It was The Manc Review whom were blown away by their “poetic lyrics” and “razorsharp riffs”. There is much acclaim being spread due to the band’s raw, enthralling, and blues gravity. They are fairly new boys on the scene, but have spent their days campaigning and accruing supporters and fans to their growing legions. They have a small clutch of tracks at the moment, and are cementing their intent; providing a codified chest of black magic and white lightening. Already they have been played on BBC radio, and enjoyed praise from various media outlets; each of them aghast at the band’s ability to switch and interplay emotions paradigmatically; conjuring a cool and seductive mix of edge and esteem; undiluted or spoiled by market plans, prefabricated designs, or future stocks in The X-Factor/talent show market. Their music has crawled, and walked, and has decided to skip the whole ‘talking’ bit, and get right down to screaming…

 

Okay, then, eager tourists: let me introduce you to the designated thaumaturgy of ‘Truth Or Tone’. The lads have pitched stall in a rather underused and valuable property patch. The combination of stunning and memorable vocals and a terrific and epic sound, sets them apart from the local competition and legends alike. The sound is not one you’d expect from such a young band. The order of the day is usually pastiche and mimicry, or trying to become a second-rate version of who they think they should be. It take only a few seconds of the track to know that the results are going to be unexpected. There is some scene-setting and dark bass twangs; reminding me of something Nirvana or Pixies might produce. The latter may be more fitting, as it sounds like it is something from their ‘Surfer Rosa’/’Doolittle’ presidency. The little electrical sparks of electric guitar, that proffer and smile in the back of frame have curious blends too. Part ‘Lullabies to Paralyze’ Queens of the Stone Age; bits of ‘Think Tank’ Blur-cum ‘L.A. Woman’ The Doors. It is that rare and refreshing mix of modern north, ’60s, ’80s, ’00s America, and early ’00s Britain that brings beautiful life to the intro. From the lines that weave a bit like ‘Jets’ and ‘Debaser’/’La La Love You’; the stenographic mind creep takes you far far away. I have a tendency to introduce parable and dream sequences when reviewing, but one cannot help but be taken to somewhere more filmic, and fat-fetched. For me, at least, there is the sound of a stunning film like ‘Fight Club’. There is all of that dark street mood, and brooding violence and dissatisfaction with modern-day life. It is rainy and dark to be sure; whether the band consciously want to instill some sort of unnerve into the atmosphere to lull you into a sense of false security, or not, is a mystery. There is a little bit of a ‘Humbug’-era Arctic Monkeys, when the electric guitar suits and boots up and goes into the day. The light is up and ‘Narrator/Jack’ is off to a soulless job; but instilled with confidence and menace of forethought. The music is Fonzie in a freezer of Dave Grohl merchandise cool; and implores your senses to prick and sizzle. We are at the door; along the corridor, into the office, where rows of desks and rows of trapped sardines, look on blankly. It is still wet outside, and there is a neon buzz above. Sitting down at his desk, our protagonist ignores the myriad of paperwork and ‘to-dos’; instead smiling, as he opens his briefcase. When the pace changes, drops and curves before the 1:00, the sound turns to a sort of debut album The White Stripes, with shades of Iggy and The Stooges. It is a little blues-via Detroit rock- infused; with some punk trills and spike in its heels. Anyway-briefly- back to the Fincher fantasy scenes. The briefcase is opened, and besides an obligatory and inconsequential gun, there are bloodied papers. Work papers, or something. More intriguingly, is a key that sits in the corner. Our hero picks it up, and walks away from his desk, in time to the music, as his boss holds his hands up exasperated. No one else looks around; no one else cares. As the vocal starts to slip in; I am reminded of several sounds. There is a bit of the calmer, less garbled edges of Alex Turner; but there are also a lot of individuality and personality as it is said: “I need to stand out”. A commentator on SoundCloud commented that this track could be destined for a Tarrantino film; but to my mind my modern-day ‘Fight Club’ scenarios seem more trite. I’ll get back to the Hollywood tableaux shortly, but the vocals have compelled an investigative spark in me. Like I stated during me review of The Ruckus, there is perhaps, a little too much of Alex Turner in the vocals, and The Arctic Monkeys in the music. This is no bad thing; it just means that sharp-eared pedants such as me, will jump on it. It is only really a fleeting vocal nod to Turner, as Podmore has less of the ravaged drawl, instead possessing a pleasing abstemiousness, that means as well as being less jarring at times, it also makes him a lot more decipherable. You can actually understand what is being sung. When contradictory lyrics such as “..I’m always surrounded/Yeah, I’m always alone”, there is an unequivocal sense of confusion and emotional turmoil. The track has a tension and need to be emancipated. Through the employment of brooding and hard guitars, as well as an assured and frank vocal turn, there is a sense of electricity and passion being displayed. The whole band put in a tight and professional shift, and show as much endeavouring surge and sound-craft as the front-man does. It is a song which never outstays its welcome; only leaving you wanting more- no meekness, only intention. Oh, and back to the film set; and our hero has reached a red door in a corridor under the offices. He turns it, licks his lips and opens it. We do not see anything but a shallow, feint light emanate, as the music ends. The conclusion will have to wait for a sequel…

 

Let me get any sort of constructive words out of the way. There was a lot of reference and evocation of Arctic Monkeys throughout. Perhaps at times straying into the ‘Humbug/Suck It And See’ spectrum, too closely. There are tints of Turner in the vocals, and the band also have that sound. Not that it is ever a bad thing; it’s just with the likes of The Ruckus doing it as well; one wonders whether we need a 2nd or 3rd mutation of the band. That said there are only the odd tones here and there, and the band manage to break from the lyrics book of Turner, with tales of matters closer to home, and themes of alienation and personal questioning. The intro is the most fascinating part of the song, and the band show that they know how to begin a song, better than anyone out there at the moment. I suspect that the future is going to incredibly prosperous and bright, as the combination of stunning vocals, and an incredibly moving and shifting musical backdrop. Listen to this stunning song, and check out their other tunes, as well. Because very soon, it is going to be likely that this 4-piece, will be

 

 

… making huge waves for years to come.

 

________________________________________________________________________________

 

Official:

http://www.thegullwings.co.uk/

Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/TheGullwings?group_id=0&filter=3

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/The_Gullwings

YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/user/thegullwingsmusic

Reverb Nation:

http://www.reverbnation.com/thegullwingsmusic

MySpace:

http://www.myspace.com/the_gullwings

 

Gigs:

 

April 20th

Roadhouse MANCHESTER

May 28th Gullivers MANCHESTER

June 22nd Headlander Festival STOCKPORT

 

 

 

 

The Ruckus- You Only Like Me Coz I’m In a Band- Track Review

 

The Ruckus-

 

 

‘You Only Like Me Coz I’m In a Band’

 

 

Track Review:

 

 

8.8/10.0

 

  

 

Halifax boys have a familiar sound, but are a very different kettle of fish.

 

 

Availability: ‘You Only Like Me Coz I’m In a Band’ is available via http://soundcloud.com/the-ruckus-band/you-only-like-me-coz-im-in-a

 

__________________________________________________________________________________

 

Don’t let the band name, or familiar tones ward you off…

 

because a quick Google search may provide fruitless, at the best, partially successful. There is a band in the U.S. with the same name, as well as companies and other such avenues. It is a good name for a band, but wish there was a sophistication amongst search engines, where you could narrow searches down to bands, locations and such. Anyway, I shall get more into the band, shortly. For now I am going to be a musical Michael Palin, as I go on a rather curious- albeit unambitious- traversing of a special part of England. More specifically Yorkshire. There has been a commodious outpouring of super talent from the west of Yorkshire. In such a large county that comprises vastly evocative countryside, and breathtaking beauty; a lot of the inner cities have had a hard time recruiting followers and converting people to a musical cause. There is terrific music talent in the likes of Leeds and the stables of Cuckoo Records. I have harked on about and flapped my gums many a time about the merits and profitability of the charming record label. But people bang on about Rough Trade Records, and there is as much diversity and potential to be found at Cuckoo, as there is within the London label. Cuckoo has the alluring sexiness and infectious jazz of Little Violet; the Detroit blues-cum-Yorkshire grit man Jonnythefirth; right through to the pastoral folk of Amber States; it is a brooding cauldron of magic, mystery and intoxication. Over in Bradford, there is the talents of Abi Uttley and Marc Otway. Marc is a stunning songwriter and guitarist, and has the potential to be a huge talent, imbued with a Jake Bugg/Alex Turner grip on the modern pulse, and the surging guitar chops of Johnny Marr. Abi is an alluring and stunning songstress with a staggering voice and heart-melting looks; together they are going to be a massive future proposition. 21 miles to the south-east, is a charming, and metropolitan district of Wakefield.

 

Humorously- or perhaps with quiet reserve- the band of men The Ruckus, shyly state that they hail from that “small town” of 76,000. One suspects that there is an international naivety. A lot of American and foreign T.V. networks and record labels are stunning naive and stereotypical when it comes to England. They assume we are all either Danny Dyer/Dick Van Dyke rabbits in the hat; either sweeping chimneys and dancing on Victorian rooftops, or surveying the streets of east London, looking for some slags to teach a lesson. It is all billiard halls, Union flags, and Guy Ritchie films. The other side is the majority viewpoint that we all have butlers, have concrete upper lips and talk like Keira Knightley and Helen Baxendale. We all say ‘gosh’ and ‘golly’ too much, stand in red telephone boxes and go down the local ale house for a game of arrows, before sitting round a piano singing WWII knees-up tunes. It is a nice image but one reserved for bad (read most) Hollywood interpretations of England and the English. People get shot, stabbed and join gangs here. A lot of the U.S. have no ideas places like Leicester, Brighton and Wales exist. They have no idea where Canada is, either, but that is a damning indictment on the U.S. education system. My point is, that people who live farther afield than the north of England, and certainly live overseas, are unaware of what Wakefield is, exactly. There will be a time, I hope before I die, where there will be a global awareness of the hot-spots, bustling towns and countryside wonders of our island nation. We have produced the greatest musicians in history, so the world needs to catch up. Whilst I wipe the angry spit from the screen, let me introduce The Ruckus. Aside from residing in a historical town, the boys are, Greg, Patrick, Darren, James and Jack. They have a classic 5-piece formation, with each chap taking on an instrument and owning it with authority. They are fresh-faced and curate a mixture of “high energy dance” and “sing along songs”. They have an E.P. due very shortly, and have spent this year writing a load of new material, from funk-driven gems, to monster-riff beasts. They have toured the local circuit, and won approval from local radio stations. Following on from the fervent approval of Yorkshire, their sound has been noticed and premiered by BBC 6 Music, and the band have been touted as future festival headlines, with fans left in wonder by their memorable songs and energetic and captivating performances.

 

I have been tasked with giving a review to their new song, ‘You Only Like Me Coz I’m In a Band’. It has a sense of Juvenilia and northern late-night street spirit in the title, and the song and band name, and your reaction to the song, will be subject to Munchhausen Trilemma, and the circular argument. I shall explain more, in the conclusion, but for now; on with the song! Before I point out some obvious influences, the band themselves are keen fans of Oasis, Bloc Party and The Who. The intro, however suggests, a debut-era Arctic Monkeys, with slight edges of Queens of the Stone Age’s eponymous album. It is the Monkeys that the boys sound most similar too. With fastidious myoclonic jerks of guitar, there are early shades of the near-neighbours. The intro ducks and weaves, punching out at intervals. The guitar is heavy and brooding. It has a jumpy and loose feel, injecting a youthful vibe to it, as well as a mature authority too. With hints of ‘When the Sun Goes Down’, ‘From the Ritz to the Rubble’, and ‘Riot Van’, it will cause a simultaneous curious intrigue as well as an outpouring of ambitransitive verbs amongst the educated and uninitiated, alike. It is a powerful and potent intro, that also a Michael Jackson ‘Beat It’ kick to it. As there is a mutated fleck of Queens of the Stone Age’s ‘Misfit Love’, the drum clatters and gleefully bounces, as the band pull out the effects pedals, and a beautiful wailing ‘wah’ is brought into the mix. It is the mix of funk, northern indie rock and U.S. stoner rock, that blends wonderfully to lodge the song into your mind, without a word being sung. Luckily there is no Alex Turner drawl, when the vocal comes. It is a lot fresher and more energetic, with a keen edge. The lyrics are spat and tumble, almost with a rap/hip hop pattern. If you imagine Sugarhill Gang’s ‘Rapper’s Delight’ with a flavour of mid-career ‘Stone Roses’ psychedelia, then you are half way there. The lyrical tread a modern minefield of cultural and social divides. The band speak of someone who is not exactly an oenophile, seeing as they “only know what (you) see around town”. There is a lot of Liam Gallagher-esque swagger to the vocal. The Yorkshire accent does come out quite convincingly. Most bands would try to inject U.S. accents or try to distill their own voice, but it is admirable that Greg doesn’t; he sings as he finds, and sounds as he means. He can live up to Nero‘s dying words, without a hint of irony or over-exaggeration. There is a sense throughout, that, whoever this hanger-on and fake ligger is, they are not appreciated. They are keen to be disingenuous and hang out with the boys, but only do so because they are in a band. Whether the central figure of this tale is a male friend, or as I’d suspect, a potential girlfriend, they have been caught out. The band combine an infectious and scuzzy kick in the nuts of a riff; with some ragged swaying psychedelic bliss. The drums are fierce and powerful; it may have been nice to hear them more in the foreground, as they are potent and have a grunge rage to them, when required. As the song progresses, it does so without dropping pace, or easing up on any ministerial finger-wagging. When our villain is seen in rather suspect circles it is asked “Do you want to have fun?/So leave them behind”, but seems that that will never happen. Just after 1:30, the anger seems to be too much, as the percussion thrashes and drives; the guitars and bass ramps up and begins to kick, like Zorba the Greek in its crescendoing latter stages. With a group/gang chorus of “get ’em off for the boys””, that is chanted fiercely, again with Arctic blasts, the vocals capitulate and there is a guitar/drums/bass battles as they tussle, collide and wrestle, as we come to an end.

 

There are no real negatives to suggest. I have yet to hear too many of the band’s past and present, but on the basis of this song, there are a lot of similarities with Arctic Monkeys. This is okay in small doses, but there is a heavy leaning at times, especially in the intro, and chanted passage near the end. The Sheffield boys’ debut was released in 2006, and there has been a cloying raft of late teen/early 20-something bands, looking to cash in and counterfeit the cachet and sound of Turner and his boys. In the same way that The Libertines suffered a same fate; they are now dead and buried. Arctic Monkeys have a new album coming out, and I hope that there will be experimentation and a widening of the sound, for future releases for The Ruckus. As it is likely the two bands will go head to head (although in different venues, circles and radio stations), the comparisons will come thick and fast, and being mentioned too frequently with existing bands, could be a first nail in a creative coffin. In the same way there are shades of The Stone Roses too, but it is less obvious. Th vocal is well produced and has a great clarity, but I would like to see as much focus given to drums as there is to guitars and bass. Jack Spencer is a powerful and future sticks master, and would be good to hear more of his voice in the mix, as well as that of the other 4 boys. That said that is about it. Less reliance on certain influences and perhaps a little more emphasis on the percussion section.

 

Those are the only real gripes. I have an attuned ear for such things and have a savant ability to be able to detect the geneaological roots of vocals and guitar. In the same way too the guitar sounds have a lot in common with Arctic Monkeys and Oasis. The band as a whole have a huge confidence. I would not have given the song such a high rating, were I genuinely concerned that important long-term career considerations had not been taken into account. The lyrics throw a cheeky wink to The Libertines’ ‘Boys in the Band’, and run similar lyrical themes. The words are modern, sharp and have a northern wit to them, and suffer no ill comparison. The lyrics are sharp and genuine, and are kept simple enough to be appreciated by a large number of people. The riffs and composition is catchy and will drive into your skull, as there is a lot of power and guts, combined with a rare beauty lurking under the skin. The vocals are refreshingly heterogeneous and unique. There is clarity and consideration given so that the lyrics can be heard, but also breathless enough, so that you are swept away with them. In essence the band need not worry, as I know full well they have a growing and beloved fan base, that will bolster their confidence and ambition. They have a lot of tricks and aces up their sleeve, and can mix styles effortlessly. It is also rare to see such an authority from such a young band, as most bands currently getting similar airplay and credit are a lot older.

 

If you are unfamiliar with the music of Yorkshire, then liven up. Manchester, Liverpool and London get a lot of attention, but new bands that emanate from any other town or city, sometimes have a hard struggle trying to capture a similarly excitable collective imagination. The future of exhilarating and festival-headlining bands and acts will be coming from Yorkshire, so it makes good sense and is a solid investment to place your chips on this part of the map. Listen to The Ruckus, and delve a bit deeper into their annals, and see what all the fuss is about, as they are going to commanding a lot of air time when their E.P. is unleashed. Years, time and confidence will steer them to the right of Turner’s crew, as they collate memories, stories, and fresh inspiration. If you are wise enough to give the guys a good hearing and a lot of time, then this is the perfect place to start. It was Friedrich Nietzsche who said: “The surest way to corrupt a youth, is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike, than those who think differently”. Have no fear, though…

 

this year will see them defy all expectations.

 

__________________________________________________________________________________

 

Official:

http://www.theruckus.co.uk/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/Theruckusband

Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/ruckusbandmusic

YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/ruckusbandmusic

MySpace:

http://www.myspace.com/ruckusbandmusic

 

 

 

 

 

The Cornerstones- Smack Me In the Face- Track Review

 

 

The Cornerstones-

 

 

 

‘Smack Me In the Face’

 

 

Track Review:

 

 

9.6/10.0

 

West London quartet have a sterling ethos and Wildean wit; they’re capable of kicking from the gutters… and hitting the stars.

 

 

Availability: ‘Smack Me In the Face’ is available via http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=En5V6knnje8

 

__________________________________________________________________________________

 

Following a somewhat fruitless and unappreciated/unseen review…

 

of Queens of the Stone Age’s new single, I return to the reliably nice, and appreciative market of the new act/band. They are predominantly filled with thanks and kudos, and most are touched that someone takes the time to listen to their music, and write down their thoughts. It is invigorating, and makes up for that small number who never both to get in touch- compelled to do beneath the absolute bare minimum. No matter; you can’t please everyone, and there is rife egotism and cold shoulder personalities within the music industry. I prefer to remain a casual listener, and judge on the strength of music, alone. Personality often spoils good acts. Although the nicest and sweetest people, make you feel proud, and I was compelled by the friendly banter, all-inclusive spirit, and bros-before-foes attitude. I shall speak more about the band, shortly. It is a turbulent tide that sweeps bands in, and a cruel and unforgiving sea, that can pull them under. There is- at the moment- a dissipated range and girth of bands. They are like colour samples. There are your base colours; the obvious blues, oranges, greens, reds, purples etc. But, being the 21st century, people in the paint industry got bored and decided we need 250 variations of each colour- each with pretentious or stupid names. It might be a man’s perspective coming through, but although choice is good; there doesn’t need to be so much choice. Sometimes, when you offer too much of a similar colour or product, instead of making things easier, it can just be confusing and needless. If we extend the colour parable, to the music industry, there is an even more fervent extension and continuation of the principle. For every original or established act, there are clans of new, eager bands, essentially who say the same thing, but in a muted or subsidiary way. If you are influenced by, or similar to a classic or established act, you need to subtract or equate a proportion of their aesthetic, in order to become new and unique; simply restating or painting on a similar canvas, with lighter transmutations is not enough.

 

Refreshingly, there is no karaoke sub-par referencing, or too-close-to-the-bone fakery amongst the ranks of The Cornerstones. Oh no; far from it. Richard, Daniel, Karl and Ryan, are the collective, and have been gigging and gelling and cementing their sound for a while, now. They are based out of west London, and are one of a few bands currently emanating from these parts. For all the diverse geography and areas of prosperity in the west of the capital, most of London’s music originates from the south or east. With thousands of followers and fans between Facebook and Twitter, they have had some prestigious radio play, exposure, and a lot of people talking about their music. With a comparative scarcity of personal information about the band members or their influences, they keep some cards close to their chests; choosing to let the songs themselves do the talking. They are a group who understand the importance of substance and style over any social media celebrity or over-exposure- they are at once mysterious and populist. The boys already have a full-length album to their name: ‘Begin To End- Vol. 1’ It displays a mixture of their trademarks sound, with a relentless energy and experimentation, and gained them many new supporters, eager to sea the tracks performed at a venue near them.

 

The first thing that thrills you about ‘Smack Me In the Face’, is the thrill. The intro builds from a slight echo, that leads to a riff that is hard and has some scratchier, tougher metal tones to it. It is the sort of thing Nirvana, Soundgarden or Judas Priest might produce. There is a lot of blood and sweat, and a whole lot of intrigue and danger. The rumbling guitar capitulates as a softer electronic and drum duet begins. The guitar is pointed but rhythmic; it is kept simple to set the mood, and provide a stark counterbalance, from the hectic and bustling atmosphere. The drum thuds at intervals; every 3 seconds or so; employed, one suspects, as a metaphysical punch, or sense of violence. As the guitar mutates, to a more confident and strutting beast (it remains soft, but audibly skips and walks; skips and walks); the vocal comes in. There are imploring tones in some of the initial words: “Take me from this place”. There are tones of Mancunian legends Brown, Gallagher, Ashcroft, and as well as a hint of The Bluetones. I also picked out hints of Lennon in places too. Above it all the vocal is a hard one to pin to any other singer; it has its own strong independence, whilst infusing some edges from some of the greats. The combination of emotional and strong vocals, combined with effective lyrics and a classic rock/hard rock musical template and curiosity, it is an invigorating and exciting start. Curiously there may be a hint of Bowie, as at 0:35, as the studied and consistent arpeggio of guitars, turns to a romantic flourish. Any tension that was there, has been breathed out, and the musical mood is more of a meditative mantra. I detected a sound of, perhaps, Crowded House, when the words: “Is this really love?/Is this really life?”. After the melodic and choired pre-chorus hum, the signature and structure changes; as we are back with “smack my in the face” protestations. Our protagonist has intentions and ambitions to be taken far away, and get away from the mess and sheer chaos that seems to be unfolding. There is never any brooding or violent mood; everything is kept level and composed. The music switches from a ’90s pop/’60s-’70s classic template the one moment, before seamlessly swapping it for the more haunted simplicity. The tone of being isolated and being suspended, helplessly in space; a metaphor for emotional uncertainty and loneliness. When the words “I hope I find my way back down to Earth” are sung, they are down so with elongation and syncopation; it increases the sense of longing and hope. Things are in a little disarray, and whatever preceded the heartache and sadness, there is a sense of wanting to return to status quo; or what is considered ‘safe’ or ‘secure’. It is a refreshing tactility that the band employ. There is no needless cluttering when it comes to instrumentation and articulation. The vocal is strong and endeavouring, and the band support that, conjuring a combination of classical, pop and rock. I mentioned elements of Crowded House; there is a little bit of their populist and heart-warming spirit, circa-‘Woodface’. There are little bits of ‘It’s Only Natural’ and ‘Chocolate Cake’. There is a pleasing edge of the brothers Finn in the harmony vocals, and The Cornerstones manage to employ an Antipodean warmth and live up to their band name, by being able to bring together and intersect a tri-continental influence; with shades of the U.S. being heard previously during the verses. When the line “send me into space”, is unfurled and impassioned, there are smacks of Suede in the vocal belt and sway. It is exciting the way that so many slight hints of classic singers can be incorporated so deftly; there is never any sense of misappropriation or pilfering; that voice is pleasingly original and fresh, in a time where there is too much mimicry and senseless second-rate tribute. This is an exhausted bliss; a drop, after 2:15, when the sound of- I am wondering if it is electric guitar or piano- plays romantically, with intention. There is some echo and effect, and the drum tees up and heralds the arrival of an emotional and sonic obsolescence. The ghostly, broken machine howls, as the vocal returns and takes us into land- or leaves us floating in space?

 

I have known of the existence of The Cornerstones for a while. A friend of mine has been promoting and extolling the virtues of the band; compelling me to have a close listen to ‘Smack Me In the Face’. It is a track that will stick in your head for a while. Whether it was the band’s intention, but it is the music itself that hits hardest. The combination of percussion, guitar, bass and piano (if there is no piano, forgive me!). It the simple but effective composition that grips me. It changes pace and style, but always moves the song along, and holds you in its grasp. The vocals are strong, memorable and extremely modern and authoritative, yet has shades of past masters and legends as well. The band have a kinship and tightness. They know each other so well, that there is no sense of nerves or mistrust. They emphasis one another, and blend their sounds and parts together superbly. The structure of the song is unexpected. Most bands may plump for a verse-chorus-verse style, but here there are shifts and changes. A lot of words and phrases are repeated, and is the decision to focus on the quality of a few lyrics, rather than fill the track with several verses, that hits the high notes. They have a combustible energy, as well as a tender soul, and know how to pattern a song so they can be as potent as possible, in the shortest times. I have said that many bands rely too much on a lot of guitar noise, attitude, and a hailstorm of lyrics. Effectively making sure that they throw everything against the wall, sacrificing quality and discipline. I have listened to the band’s catalogue and a lot of different song. It is stunning to see the range of sounds and moves they make with each track. If you are a new fan, or simply are unaware of this song, check them out today. Because it’s safe to say…

 

original and memorable bands are a rare commodity.

 

 

__________________________________________________________________________________

 

Official:

http://www.thecornerstones.co.uk/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/TheCornerstones

Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/Thecornerstonesuk

SoundCloud:

http://soundcloud.com/the-cornerstones

Reverb Nation:

http://www.reverbnation.com/thecornerstonesuk

iTunes:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/artist/the-cornerstones/id362754516

MySpace:

http://www.myspace.com/thecornerstones

 

 

 

 

 

Queens of the Stone Age- ‘My God Is The Sun’- Track Review

 

 

Queens of the Stone Age-

 

 

‘My God Is The Sun’

 

 

Track Review:

 

 

 

 

10.0/10.0

 

 

Legendary desert, stoner rock gods, end a 6-year creative hiatus. Safe to say it is very much ‘business as usual’.

 

 

 

Availability: ‘My God Is The Sun’ is available via https://itunes.apple.com/gb/artist/queens-of-the-stone-age/id857919

 

__________________________________________________________________________________

 

I will aim for a well-measured objectiveness…

 

here; being as they are, my favourite band. That honour used to belong to Radiohead, but too many electronic diversions; too few guitar numbers, and not enough of Thom Yorke’s undiluted, unprocessed golden voice, left my frustrated. My attention span was at its peak around track 9 of ‘Hail to the Thief’- the glorious career high of ‘There There’. The remainder of that album was a mixture of sub-par wandering, and facile effects and bluster. The guys performed an about-face on the successor, ‘In Rainbows’. That was an album, filled with fascinating and intoxicating guitar songs- classic Radiohead. The baffling need to change the formula, and replicate the 3 worst songs from ‘Kid A’ 3 times for their next release, lost my vote, and love of the band. Whether they will have the sense to bring the quality back, or simply be ghosts in their own broken machine, remains to be seen. Either way, they have been pushed into the Champions League spots. Formed in California, back in a time when Blur and Oasis were still at each other’s throats, and the charts were a mixture of the sublime- The Bluetones, Bjork, Rage Against The Machine, to the god-awful- Gina G, Gary Barlow, Peter Andre etc.; something magical was happening. 1996 was a superb year for music, all in all, with a staggering turnover of stunning hits from classic bands. Formed from the embers of defunct stoner rock pioneers Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age, helmed by Corporal Josh Homme; the album was a mixture of phenomenal, fascinating rock slices (Regular John; Mexicola), to the brilliantly-titled and brilliantly compulsive (Give the Mule What He Wants; I Was a Teenage Hand Model), the album fared well, and, in an era of Britpop and Grunge stayer-ons. It was “robot rock”, that Homme created with former Kyuss drummer, Alfredo Hernandez. With a bolstered and changed line-up the only constant was Homme, who preceded over the glorious Rated R. With his long-term friend Nick Oliveri, the album was a incredibly tight, sometimes songs ran into one another. It was a more thrilling and faster ride than previous and with a stunning 1-2 of ‘Feel Good Hit of the Summer’, and ‘The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret’, Rolling Stone crowned it as the ’82nd best album of the decade’ (1990s), and it is the most critically-acclaimed album of their career. Perhaps not the fan favourite; it is still underrated, and is certainly my favourite album of theirs. With the mix of drug-induced whimsy, good humour and bitch-slapping Alpha Male strut, it is a masterpiece. There are short and catchy gems (Leg of Lamb; Auto Pilot); unhinged, headcase scream fests (Quick and to the Pointless, Tension Head), and the mesmeric and unpredictable monster of ‘Better Living Through Chemistry’. My favourite song was the disco metal crawler of ‘Monster in the Parasol’. If it weren’t for the misjudged, sonorous dirge of ‘In The Fade’, with its baffling initial recall of ‘Feel Good’ it would have been flawless. Any album that can end with a cacophony of brass and horns insanity (‘I Think I Lost My Headache’), and have you drooling like a moron, is quite a feat. The fan favourite and- in my mind 3rd best Queens’ release- Songs for the Deaf, arrived. The lads have lost none of their genius for unique and memorable album and song titles; throw in a line up that now included the modern-day John Bonham, Dave Grohl, it was a stunner. Obvious wonders like ‘No One Knows’ and ‘Go With The Flow’, dripped with sex and tension; the album itself, was a jokey concept, with sounds of radios being tuned, rapid-fire Spanish radio hosts babbling and jocular, smarmy U.S. radio hosts, announcing the prophetic songs. It was labelled as a epoch-defining collection by NME and Uncut, and with lumbering beats (‘The Sky Is Fallin’) and stoned stunners (‘God Is in the Radio’) it kept the pace high. To my mind, there was too much Lanegan, and too many fillers (about 4 in all); there were the statuesque stand-outs, but also wonderful avenues. After Oliveri was fired from the band, on the back of stories of domestic abuse, there was a fractious and uneasy air that preceded ‘Lullabies to Paralyze’. With a crepuscular sound and druid-cum-night crow might and fright to it, to my mind it was superior to ‘Songs’. Losing Oliveri was a shock, but sharp, short shocks (‘Medication’), nestling with catchy crowd-pleasers (‘In My Head’; ‘Everybody Knows That You’re Insane’), it was dizzying array. It clocked in at just under an hour, and was a record stuffed with short blasts and crawling animals. Aside from the horrid ‘Little Sister’, impotent ‘You Got a Killer Scene There, Man…’ and hard-to-adore ‘Skin on Skin’, the remaining 11 tracks were glorious. Some were intro riff-heavy (‘The Blood Is Love’), whilst some were consistently engaging (‘Tangled Up in Plaid’; ‘Burn The Witch’). Homme has always been the genius of the group and proved his muscle and songwriting prowess. The album fared less well than the previous two albums, but Allmusic hit the nail on the head when they highlighted the album’s “serious sexiness” and a “late-night cinematic masterpiece”. It married the artiness of ‘Rated R’, with the tough as shit smack of ‘Songs for the Deaf’. Hopes were high; and then ‘Era Vulgaris’ came along. This is going to be a court case of a summation, so will start with the offensive. There was a certain spark missing, somewhere. Perhaps fatigue had set in, or there was a lack of ideas, but the whiny ‘Into the Hollow’, predictably drab and horrid Lanegan-featured song ‘River in the Road’, and sub-par migraine ‘Run, Pig, Run’ lived up the negative hype. Out of the 11 tracks there are about 5 that really grab you. A lack of memorable hooks, coupled with unusually listless lyrics from Homme, resulted in a bit of a mess. It is somewhat top-heavy, with perhaps the finest numbers in the first half. That is all I could fault about the album. Although it should have been track 1, ‘Sick, Sick, Sick’ is a scuzzy, muscular, filthy fighter. The bouncy riff is infectious; the drumming is ferocious and pulsating, whilst Homme and Van Leeuwen were at the front, leading the riot. The vocals were raw and passionate, which was shown in ‘Misfit Love’. It has a ducking, weaving and robot-rock pulse, and sharp and hard-tongued lyrics. Unimaginative and pointless video aside, ‘Make It wit Chu’ is a sexy, sensual and sun-drenched dessert road driver. ‘Suture Up Your Future’ is an underrated gem; stunning chorus, evocative lyrics and tight performances. For any other band, this album would be seen as a sterling- although albeit inconsistent- fare. With a curious and endeavouring ‘Them Crooked Vultures’ album keeping appetites whetted, and showing that Homme had a talent beyond Queens’, there was an agonising, upsetting and tantilising silence… until now.

 

It is important to get a lot of back-story to this track, in order to initiate new followers or old fans, alike. For those that are milk toast music lovers, in adoration of a calmer song, QOTSA have been pioneering and mastering those types of track, throughout every album. Perhaps ‘Era Vulgaris’ insistence to lean heavily on these scared some hardcore fans away, but for those seeking a return to the ‘Songs for the Deaf’ hard and experimental manliness; ‘Lullabie to Paralyze’s dark, pagan undertones, and ‘Rated R’s knack of burrowing into your skull, sighs of relief and smiles of disbelief will be unleashed. With Grohl back on sticks duty, his presence shines through. It is the opening introductory riff that strikes first. There is a bit of Blue Oyster Cult, but at its heart it is classic ‘Rated/Songs’ Queens’. The guitar loads the barrels and delineates staunchly, in the same manner that solo artist-cum-‘Icky Thump’ Jack White, White Stripes does. There are no scary detours and slow-burning; it is straight to the bone axe-wielding. The guitar employs a musical Doppler Effect, being heard loud and clear; going off into the distance, before circulating its arpeggio. It is a exhilarating and for newer but no less hardcore fans, it is a mixture ‘Lullabies’ riffage (‘The Blood Is Love’; Burn The Witch’), complete with the same stunning, yet slightly slower conglomeration of ‘Go With The Flow’ and ‘No One Knows’. With Grohl completing a quadruple syncopated punch after each guitar passage, it is a beautiful courtship with an immense pedigree. The pace picks up, as cymbals enter the fray, as that guitar line keeps pulsating forward. There is a brief alternation and injection of harder, darker guitar, before it blends into the mix, before the tempo and riot calms slightly (sounding curiously like a ‘Nevermind’ cut). Homme’s vocal is a waltz of recollection and ambivalence as it is said that “far beyond the desert road” it is good to be in an open space and to “erase the given”. The chorus has a similar signature and pace, but the words are more punctuated and forceful so the words: “Healing, like fire from above/Kneeling, my god is the sun”, really hit home. There is a mixture of Californian open road bliss and occult worshiping. Homme intones like a minister, presiding over his congregation, wielding a baptism of fire; bass in the middle of the axis, keeping things together, as Grohl drives the blood through the veins. Before the next verse there is a break/coda, as guitar threads weave and pioneer; then a quiet gap with a feint hint of percussive smoke, before a fiery blast of guitar storms in. The next verse is the most fascinating and noteworthy; Homme plainly stating that he didn’t know time it was, as “I don’t wear a watch”. Whether Josh is the human being, one of 7 billion, comfortable to go with the flow and chill; or seeing himself as a comestible insect being tossed through the sky, the lines: “So good to be an ant who crawls/Atop a spinning rock” make you picture, theorise and wonder. One suspects that it is the former: he is moving with the beat, and has no time for stress, driving as he is down a highway, in awe of the heat, making Helios and Shepesh, look down jealously. There is a hint of their debut and ‘Hangin’ Tree’ when the scratchy and cosmic guitar struts and reflections and followed by ghostly and vampish vocal coos and a flailing, rictus of drums and cymbal. The chorus follows; repeats and hits hard, as the electric atmosphere continues unabated; Homme slips into a falsetto howl and cry towards the end, singing with an air of deranged beauty and creepy whisper. There is a little gap- an effective trick employed in the ‘Rated/Songs’ era during a number of songs- where you may think that gravity has beaten you, and the tension and storm is over. Then the intro riff comes back, as Homme enunciates a ‘No One Loves Me & Neither Do I’-esque grunt; the riot kicks back up, and then… it ends. We are- it is safe to assume- overwhelmed by the end?

 

Before I sign off with a paragraph or so on the new album, it is worth noting that this track is a complete return to form. I have always felt that Queens of the Stone Age have had the quality. And even in the middle ground and bogs during ‘Era Vulgaris’, they never forgot how to inflame the sense. There is a chorus-verse-chorus structure that is deployed effectively. The messages are fascinating and entrancing, whilst the chorus is memorable and reminiscent. The song is a glorious blend of ‘The Blood Is Love’ and ‘Everybody Knows That You’re Insane’. It has a similar sound to both songs: the former during the verses; the latter during the chorus. It is a track that could fit into the sister album, ‘Lullabies to Paralsyze’. It has that smell, sense and savagery. There is the concise, tightened instrumentation of ‘Rated R’, mingling with the sprawling lasciviousness of their ‘Era’s’ finest moments. There is the fan-pleasing strike rate of Songs for the Deaf, and, with Grohl back where he should be; Queens’ are a galvanized, insurmountable tower. Chuck in some flavour notes of their debut, as well as ‘Them Crooked Vultures’ flecks and sparks, a neat magic trick has been performed: they have taken bits from each album, managed to keep the quality so high it will appeal to fair-weather fans and the hardcore alike; as well as having a bold and exciting originality and strength. It will drag back any misguided fans who wandered from the good path; spitting on about how the boys had committed a musical sin of omission. It will keep the loyal fans happy and drooling with anticipation, and can also pull a lot of new fans and bands in; who perhaps had not heard much of their stuff (which in itself, is deplorable). QOTSA are the greatest band in the world for a reason, and they do this, with no real peers to challenge them. It has been a huge, and exhausting wait, but if it is time that was needed to get the quality and spark back, then who cares? The lads are not repeating or trying to recapitulate and reinvent their past; simply keep their sound solid, and go into new and fresh directions. The track did what any phenomenal song should: it inspired me to write. Written 2 verses inspired by ‘My God Is The Sun’- which I won’t bore you with. It will be track number 5, when the album is released. It sits in the middle of the album, which is curious. Historically QOTSA usually releases as their first single, a song within the first third of the album. ‘Sick, Sick, Sick’ was track 2 on ‘Era Vulgaris’ and it is quite bracing. The fact that this song is in the middle of the album, yet has the authority, huge quality and memorable aftertaste, to make eyes water. If track 5 is this good, what the hell will the first 4 tracks sound like?! That said, it could be a commercial move. If the remainder of the album is a cross of mind-bending experimentation and far-out nerve-shredding, releasing a song that has more in past with their previous singles, might be a wise and studied move. Who knows for sure, of course? I suspect both scenarios are true; which would mean that the forthcoming album has the promise to be their best yet. Worth waiting 6 years, after all, eh?!

 

As has been documented through fan sites, word of mouth, and in hysterical tones in the likes on NME; it has been a… lengthy wait for a new record. There was rumblings and rumour a few months back that the new album was going to be called ‘Ultraviolet Robot’. That would have been kick-ass, and as they’re not using it, I’m totally stealing it for a future E.P.! Disgraced former comrade Oliveri is back in the fold, which means more scintillating and life-affirming screams. Grohl is back. It is axiomatic to say that he is the best drummer in the world, today, and he will bring his usual blend of monstrous talent, and primal power to the fold. Apparently Trent Reznor is making an appearance. Lanegan is back, one suspects lacking in conversation; wanders into the studio, records his vocals, and departs without a word, screeching off into the suburban and sunny shine of a Burbank day. Elton John and Jake Shears are involved, perhaps lending vocals to an enthralling and charged disco-soul-pop beast; whether together or individually; taken lead vocals or doing backing, is yet to be revealed. Alex Turner is on board; one hopes lending guitar as well as vocal. There is some hesitant voices that say it could be a case of throwing everything into the mix to get results, or throwing a certain excremental substance against a wall, to see what sticks. From a band who have produced 5 albums with little abstract experimentation or huge collaborative spirit, it is just an evolutionary step. I shall post the track list, and release date, below; but as you can see, there are some bloody exciting and odd titles. I have in my head, assigned the various collaborators, to the various songs. ‘I Appear Missing’, HAS to be a song featuring Lanegan?! The band need not my honey-words or apoplectic lust to see them shift units, delight and unite the fans, and show the rest of the scene, how the hell and album should be done. Although with a huge number of reviews about this track, and so little depth or back-story, I felt compelled by the niche. Listen to this gorgeous explosion here, and lick your lips in anticipation, as the album is just over 3 weeks away, and I for one, will be doing it the old-fashioned way. Waiting outside of H.M.V. at 9am the day it is due to go on sale; smashing a defenseless 13-year-old out of the way, skipping to the till like a moron, and playing the bad boy all the way home. For the purposes of that day I will be living in Scotland. The boys are back in town, and holy crap…

 

… they are as fresh, astonishing and brilliant as they were in 1998.

 

 

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Matador Records

is listing June 4th as the release date for ‘…Like Clockwork’ (as well as a pre-order link), with the following track list and info:

1. Keep Your Eyes Peeled
2. I Sat By The Ocean
3. The Vampyre of Time and Memory
4. If I Had A Tail
5. My God Is The Sun
6. Kalopsia
7. Fairweather Friends
8. Smooth Sailing
9. I Appear Missing
10. …Like Clockwork

 

‘…. Like Clockwork’ was produced by Joshua Homme and QOTSA, recorded by Mark Rankin with additional engineering by Justin Smith, at Josh’s studio, Pink Duck, in Burbank, California.

 

 

 

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Official:

http://www.mygodisthesun.com/

Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/QOTSA

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/qotsa

YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/artist/queens-of-the-stone-age

Sound Cloud:

http://www.youtube.com/artist/queens-of-the-stone-age

MySpace:

http://www.myspace.com/queensofthestoneage

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bedroom Hour- Submarine- Track Review

 

The Bedroom Hour-

 

 

‘Submarine’

 

 

Track Review:

 

 

9.6/10.0

 

 

 

 

London 5-piece have a bi-generation Mancunian adoration in their chest of influences, but produce a sound that is creatively emancipated and singular.

 

 

 

Availability: ‘Submarine’ is available via http://soundcloud.com/thebedroomhour

 

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Reverberations from London, seem to be few and far between…

 

in music equivalency, for certain. I guess there are a lot of established and well-known acts based in the capital; but so few new acts seem to emerge from there, in comparable terms. As Greater London is the most densely-populated and prosperous county in England, and the financial and administrative hub of the U.K., one would imagine that a comparable wealth of eager new music would be nestling in the various boroughs and postcodes. I guess if you are actually a resident of London, you will hear about quite a slew of acts, but for those of us in the home counties and further afield; we have to rely on music journalism and social media to hear about quite a few of the bands and artists. This, in itself, is not a bad thing. Utilising social media for networking purposes is one of the only thing that is credible about the likes of Twitter and Facebook. It is far better to be able to connect with wonderful new music and discover new and daring songs. From there you can adopt altruism and share the sounds to other people, and build up a wave of fans for the associated talent. In a period where social media is predominantly used as a template for pretension and self obsession; as as a format used to display boilerplate nonsense, and appalling grammar and spelling. Until I find the funds to get my music website concept (which is growing hair in all sorts of exciting places) up and running; it is a frustrating and fruitless quest trying to find a site that does all the things you want from a music website. God forbid you want to form a band or find musicians; lest you be condemned to the murky recesses of Gumtree and generic basic music sites, it is virtually impossible. When trying to launch music video ideas, find collaborators, or get songs or acts reviewed, it is a quagmire of ineffable frustration. I mention it not as an inconsequential rant, but as a relevant issue we have. If you know certain people, get lucky or have your wits about you, how the hell do you ever hear about certain music? It is 2013, and there are a proliferation of aimless and banal websites; pointless and moronic ‘smartphones’ and flawed, problem-riddled and ironically-named ‘social media’ websites. There must be someone, other than me, who has a bit of cash and can put together a multifaceted and all-inclusive music website. It is mind-boggling and makes me all the more angry.

 

Anyway, I shall get to the matters at hand. There is an auspices of sonic proportions, campaigning with the commitment of a hydraulic tappet. They are a band of brothers, with parabolic talent, who have been working some magic in Hillingdon, West London. It is a lovely avenue of bucolic and historic splendor, a positive Russian Doll of hidden and multitudinous mystery. It is quite rare and refreshing to hear a band like The Bedroom Hour emanate from there. Clapham or Brixton, maybe. I was instantly won over by their history as well as their ambition. The band consist of the magic vocals of the hirsute leader Stu Drummond; bass slapping vox-assisting sergeant Dan Rider; the juicy, compelling licks and vocal tricks of Rob Payne; percussive majesty from Ryan Pincott, and keys master Mark Dudley. Their aim is simple: to put the ‘credible’ back into ‘incredible music’. Seems simultaneously, a tall order and a short mission. The guys bowled me over in about 10 seconds. They need to expand their ambition and focus their sights on a coveted and glistening prize: future Mercury Prize success. It is a vehicle of multi-axle stealth, and one that is picking up some steam. They are photographically well represented, and have a very noir projection. Formed as a conglomeration of two previous bands, the 5 boys fell in love, based on a shared love of similar music, and ambition. They are ardent fans of much-underrated Cheshire boys Doves, as well as monosyllabic near-neighbours Elbow. As well, they are fans of fellow Mancunians Joy Division, they manage to combine elements of their influences into a rather delicious picnic of sound and wonder. They label their sound as a sort of ‘psychadelic syth-cum-guitar, melodic, harmony-based band’. Remove the ‘synths’ part of the description and what might come to mind is a new mutation of The Coral. I love those guys. They never had an easy road. Even when their spellbinding career-benchmark Magic and Medicine was unleashed, a lot of critics were tepid and critical. Most were scared off by their somewhat unorthodox and daring combination of guitar sounds and psychedelic sounds and oblique lyrics. Any album that contains ‘Eskimo Lament’, ‘In The Forest’ and ‘Don’t Think You’re The First’ is pretty bloody special. Check it out, if you haven’t already. I loved ‘Nightfreak and the Sons of Becker’, too. It was a delightful ‘mini album’ with psychotic gems such as ‘I Forgot My Name’, ‘Migraine’ and ‘The Sorrow or the Song’. Critics were pretty lukewarm and unforgiving with that collection. It annoyed me mostly, as they had missed the point. There were a few weaker numbers there, but the way the band combined humorous and interesting lyrical ideas, with strange and wonderful sounds, barks, effects and twangy Liverpudlian weirdness. If there was any sign of that within the walls of The Bedroom Hour, I would likely have to marry them all individually. With their open-for-interpretation band name in my sights, and my finger hovering on their SoundCloud page, I prepared to hit play.

 

I was going to review ‘X Marks The Spot’ but feel that that will be getting a lot of attention rather soon. ‘Submarine’ starts out, as a gorgeous sigh, I was reminded initially of ‘How To Disappear Completely’. That is, perhaps Radiohead’s most tormented track, and one of the most affecting songs of the last 15 years. I was expected to hear some electronic whale noise, and far-off echo, and the sound of Thom Yorke unleashing his demons all over the studio floor. There is a fraternal nod to the Oxford boys, as well as a serving of Kingdom of Rust-era Doves. The Spanish Steps and emotional recourse of acoustic strum, percussive hard heartbeat, melting to a sobbing and exhausted electric guitar feed, means that the intro is bidirectional and uplifting. From a sense of romance and foreplay, builds a sexual kick, as the whole atmosphere is submerged into a warm ocean, and sinks, submissively. My mind was- perhaps intentionally- taken to an aqua film set; I was alone in a patch of the Mediterranean Sea, in the pre-evening, when the sun is starting to yawn, and all I have for company are some inquisitive blue whitting and spiny dogfish. I am in a dream so can breathe under water; compelled as I am to explore the depths. As I near the bottom, I hear a voice in my ear, as the intro ends. There is a little of Garvey in the edges of the vocal, but is sweeter and more transfixing; maybe Thom Yorke is a fair comparison. Drummond has a rougher hue and a bit more manly emotion, to Yorke’s sensitive femininity. It is quite a whispered and when lines such as “trapped inside my head”, and “my skin’s volcanic/I’m hot to touch” are proffered; the resultant combination of imagery and musical backdrop is quite startling. It is confident and chastened; confessional and honest. When the rejoinder is declared: “when I erupt/It’s always you I blame”, one feels that there is a tormented and vivid back-story. It is a lyrical topic that Joy Division could and have employed; mixing the bleak with the oblique. But instead of a ravaged and haunted voice, the touch of ethereal shine that emanates from the cloud, keeps the mood level, and the waves will not pull you under, simply crash above you. The Doves-cum-Elbow-via Liverpool guitar sound, emphasises and elongates the mood. The guitar floats and swims, with a hint of kick to it; the percussion keeps the beat and remains solid, as the boys create a glorious soft and supportive sound. It has D.N.A. of ‘Kid A’; with the likes of ‘Everything In Its Right Place’, ‘Motion Picture Soundtrack’ and ‘Treefingers’ nestling in the mix. There is a bit of Caleb Followill in the vocals when it gets a bit pained and raspy. The metaphors of water and submarine, are used to depict an unease and emotional sinking stone. The music at times envelopes and swallows the vocals; there is a very real notion of sinking and hopelessness; the sound and sonics crash indiscriminately, threatening to claim our hero, and bury him asunder. By the 3:00 there is a more redemptive coda and thread weaved, with it implored that you need to keep “your head above the water”. There is a piano and drum sway and an echo in the background. It is an invigorating punch and hug, which is rousing and inspiration; and it will put a smile on your face. The melody that runs through the majority of the song, sways and bobs, dances and twirls, gathering a momentum and glory as events progress. At one point there is a drum rattle; part marching band; part gunfire, that injects urgency and a rush of blood into the strum and drang. The sound continues and evokes a huge amount of mood and emotion; it allows your mind to wander and imagine. My story continues, as I swim and chase the submarine, trying to catch a glimpse of our protagonist and cohorts, trying to discover where they are heading for; whether is a sunny climb, or a darker recess. As the song ends, I head to the surface and go back to shore, wondering what is in store for our band of Londoners.

 

I was very impressed by the song and band as a whole. Anyone scared by any sort of The Coral-esque psychedelia, have no fear. There is a lot in common with Elbow, Radiohead, and parts Joy Division. The track is stunning and evocative, and the vocals are brief but potent. The vocal is unique and sterling, with only small traces of any influence. The band are solid and stunning, able to infuse a huge amount of depth and spark into the sound. The fact that a majority of the track is musical, it is an impressive achievement that the track is so stunning. The lyrics are heartfelt and raw, with a lovely and stirring reverse around the half way mark. It is a song that shifts and moves; swims and rises, which keeps you on the edge and makes you close your eyes and try to imagine what The Bedroom Hour imagined when writing the song. I have been inspired to listen to their back catalogue and investigate a lot more. They are a 5-piece whom have potential to upend and conquer current Mercury Prize holders Alt-J. They do not need oddity or a huge guitar sound and noise. Instead they manage to create the maximum amount of resonance and evocation from a brilliantly structured and memorable composition, with intelligent depth and a beautiful heart. If you are looking for a new band to capture your imagination and feelings for 2013 and far, far beyond…

 

 

check them out, and I deplore you to challenge any of my claims and words.

 

__________________________________________________________________________________

 

Official:

http://www.thebedroomhour.com/

Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/#!/thebedroomhour?fref=ts

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/Thebedroomhour

YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/user/thebedroomhour?feature=watch

MySpace:

http://www.myspace.com/thebedroomhour

Reverb Nation:

http://www.reverbnation.com/thebedroomhour

 

 

 

 

Brooke Borg- ‘Something That I Said’- Track review

 

Brooke Borg-

 

‘Something That I Said’-

  

Track Review:

 

9.1/10.0

 

 

Nothing that you would expect from looking or reading about her, will be true. Maltese-born artist has a desire to be remembered.

 

 

Availability: ‘Something That I Said’ is available via http://soundcloud.com/brooke-borg

 

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There seems to be something quite special happening within…

 

the solo market, of the female variety. For us men, we know the score, with regards to the configuration and mandate: one man; one guitar; one Jeff Buckley-cum-Damien Rice voice; lyrics about love, heartache, and the usual fare. It may be an overgeneralizing, but this description applies to about 90% of the material I have heard from the men’s market. Not that there is anything wrong with that, in small measures. There is a definite market for that type of artists, but after it has been done once, what’s the point in hearing it again? Matt Corby is probably the most credible and authoritative male solo artist, who could be considered ‘underground’- he is certainly not a hugely recognised name outside of his native Australia. Above ground, people like Ben Howard are doing a good job to inject mystery and intrigue into the genre. It is not a snooty, dismissive attitude on my part, it just seems to be a saturated market that does not need so many patrons. Unless you have a voice like Antony Hegarty; can write intriguing and oddly poetic numbers, and inject a sense of majesty to the composition, why bother? I can heard an equivocal quality of artistry at Green Park underground station; and I usually just walk past them without blinking. Of course there are the occasional few, whom manage to linger in the mind, but such is the improvidence of the naive type of specimen who enters the scene, that they are largely buried and forgotten about. When it comes to the female market, there seems to be a more sustainable and memorable brand of song, being produced. Don’t get my wrong, with the likes of K$sha are allowed to mew at a microphone tunelessly, all (bizarrely unsettling) image, controversy and scandal; they have no talent, teeth, point or purpose in the music scene. They pertain and appeal to a precocious and uneducated market of pre-teens, who probably don’t know who Aretha Franklin or Janis Joplin are. Music is possibly the only industry in the world, where there is an indiscriminate open market, where everyone is free to play. Although historically the greatest singers ever have been considered male; and it has been the men who traditionally have the greatest technical and, largely, emotive range, it is the women, who are displaying a bombastic facility and relentless fascination.

 

Take Brooke Borg. To be honest, perhaps an artist I would have normally passed by. Her Twitter account states that ‘nothing is impossible’. Although the statement is factually null, grammatically incorrect, and just plain untrue, it shows less of a literal philosophy, but more of a personal proclamation. Borg has managed to make quite a name for herself, and has an ambition and drive that is hard to ignore, and she has the desire to ride the- rather choppy- musical waters for many a year to come. There is a clandestine mystique and posturing rhetoric to many new artists. If you take away the desire to instantly compare an artists to such-and-such, and hear what they have to say, and what they want from music, it is easier to admire them and root for an eventual victory. There is a lot of male-minded shallowness when it comes to women in music. Brooke Borg may suffer from that, initially. It is hard to get away from the fact that she is beautiful. Not just a little, but breathtakingly so. She is Hollywood glamour and a staggering delicacy to her beauty. It can make hearts flutter, and cause a beatific drool amongst many- not just men- people. In a way many women in music have suffered because of their extraordinary beauty, with many fixation on it, and giving little credence or consideration for their words and voice. It is unfair, but it is not a fate that Borg will suffer. She was born in Malta, and like her colleague, and country mate Chess (Fran Galea), has a similar power, potency and alluring stillness to her voice. She is a skilled pianist, and took up the instrument, possibly in response to her love of jazz, and artists such as Stevie Wonder. Although Malta is possessed of allegorical and mythical beauty, it is not possible,. one would think, to remain there and gain a popularity and fan-base beyond the island itself. Borg relocated to L.A., where she spent a lot of time honing her talents, and making a name for herself. She has won my attention, in spite of the fact that she is ‘influenced’ by a number of rather one dimensional acts. My heart drops and my brain tends to wander when I see- mainly women- say they are ‘inspire by’ or indebted to Rhianna, Katy Perry, or Jessie J. Borg claims to be inspired by these artists, and if one were performing a cursory reading of her Facebook page, and saw those names mingling with Etta James and Michael Jackson, there would be a mixed reaction. If you can pull of a neat track or displaying feathers of Jackson and James, then you have my attention for sure. I can understand why m,any women are in awe of Beyonce– she has an inspiring, or that said misguided and confusing notion and ambition when it comes to being seen as a ‘feminist’, and subsequent attitude to her role within the movement. That is another rant fro another day, because I have a lot of home truths and reasoned arguments for her. Her voice though cannot be argued against. I respect that side of her hugely, and she is as close to a modern-day Etta James or Aretha Franklin, as one could hope for. When it comes to the Perry/Rhianna/J side of things, my face tends to turn puce. Setting aside the fact that between them they have had alarming and distrubing personal lives; Rhianna especially, I am not sure what kind of message they are sending to people. Jessie J seemingly has no sense of quality control when it comes to speaking, and Katy Perry is a plastic raven-haired Barbie doll who is buried under 5ft of make-up. Setting aside their personal proclivities and suspect personalities they are belie and disgrace the memories and reverence of Franklin, James, and Simone. These were women who did not rely on tabloid publicity and a hailstorm of controversy to get them heard. They were intelligent women who knew they were gorgeous, without the need to be hide that cosmetically. Beyond everything, they were the last of a generation who let the music solely do the talking. Although Michael Jackson had a staggeringly controversial private life, he is rightfully seen as one of the most influential and greatest voices of all time. In terms of lyrical ability, stand-out and unique vocal tones and musical talent, there is nothing to recommend about Perry, J and Rhianna. I’ll leave the disgusted rant for another review. Luckily (my bedrock point is), these influences seem to be skin deep, and a primary source of inspiration. Borg is in a different section of the Venn Diagram, with more in common with the soul and pop greats. In an intersection of the opposing and divisive camps, is an intersection of grand quality. This is where Brooke sits, belongs, and will remain- one hopes.

 

Setting aside, for now, my benighted and qualitative summation of the 21st century female crop, I shall judge Borg on her voice and music alone, and leave the social media details and mixed bag of influence stand alone, and take note. She has been igniting the music scene for over 4 years, and doesn’t need her staggering beauty to do the talking. Beginning its mutation, as a plaintive and gorgeous piano lilt, ‘Something That I Said’ is instantly evocative and draped in nocturnal luminosity. There is a hit of classical Romanticism, with knees-bent ardour. It has touches of Wonder, ‘Off The Wall’-Jackson and Alicia Keys. It is a short passage, but sets a seductive and calm mood; letting you know that whatever follows with regards to vocal prowess, will be augmented by conviction and quality. The voice that arrives is haunted and arresting in equal measures, with corners of soul, pop, jazz and easy listening. It is hard to pin initial influences- as loathed as I am to label- but to my ear there are no direct comparisons. It has its own power and stunning beauty to it. The song talks of broken hearts, and caution: “Take a step back from all around us” is an early pleaded implore. The early chapters build a sense of relationship tension, and questions in need of answers. There is no oblique lyricism or toned-down vocals. The lyrics are direct and to the core, whilst the voice is pure and crystalline. The trope is familiar, thematically, but the combination of an authoritative and superior voice, combined with simple but striking resonancee from the composition, elevates this song beyond any comparable contemporary songs. She is performing a reconnaissance of her situation and decided that she needs to know what happened; was there something that she said., the caused the love “to fall right out of you”. Borg is tremulous with shades of early-Jackson, and a modern air of Keys and Jessie Ware, as well as Laura Mvula. The piano passages need no dysmorphic trickery; it is gorgeously composed and instilled with a cultured, classic edge. As Borg sits alone “in the corners of my mind”, her voice, once more, is passionate and does not let any emotional heavy weather or putrefaction weigh her down. It is elegiac and veritably close to tears, with Borg questioning her nature of trust, vocals rising, employing a darker shade and slight wisp of male gravel. When the chorus hits at the 2:05 mark, the vocal rises and belts, with fond embers of Mariah Carey and Leona Lewis. As the song continues, the uncertainty principles reach Heisenberg levels of fascination. A man has done her wrong, and let her down, and she is curious as to what, and where it went wrong. It is a stable and unflinching party line, and through the employment of sparse but highly effective piano, a constantly engaging and beautiful vocal, questions in my mind are answered, but one wonders, whether Borg will ever know the truth.

 

I am an anti-Iconiclast when it comes to music. Any negativity or anger from me, comes from a good and educated place. Having been someone raised on, and influenced by the greatest singers, songwriters and bands of all time, any fake or empty talent, does make me wonder why I should bear them any kindness. Music is a market for those willing to put in the hours and come onto the scene with something worth listening to. Doesn’t matter if you can’t play an instrument; so long as your music is on point and you are likeable and a huge talent, that is all you need. With so many solo artists being hugely unlikeable and a God-awful role model for women and men alike, one has to tread cautiously. The problem with social media is that too much can be given away. If you take away the subjectiveness and remove any background information from your view; just judge the music for the music. I was, and have been worried by, some artists’ icons and influences, thinking that their music would be similarly remedial and irritating. If you scrub away and get to the core then you find out the truth, and can judge music on the song itself. I was fascinated by Borg a few months ago. She has the looks of a Greek goddess and could spent the rest of her life in Hollywood if she wanted. She is young but has a maturity and a musical sophisticated that exceeds expectation. She has a maturity and conviction that supersedes and goes beyond what most produce. The lyrics are focused and do not cloy or suffer from cliche or facsimile. Borg has an enormous potential. If she is able to keep the quality consistent, and keep her sound true and undiluted by dubstep, electronics or R ‘n’ B fakeness, then she will be brushing shoulders with the stalwarts of the scene. Listen to her today, read her story, and imagine where she is going to go next. The future is exciting, and so long as she remains more legend than pop puppet, then she will be fighting labels…

 

fans and venues off with sticks.

 

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Official:

http://www.brookemusic.com/indexin.html

Facebook:

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Twitter:

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YouTube:

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Last FM:

http://www.last.fm/music/Brooke+Borg

MySpace:

http://www.myspace.com/brookeborg