All The Best Tapes
All The Best Tapes
All The Best Tapes is available from:
I Want To Believe– 9.5/10.0
Nine Masks– 9.6
Life Of Gold– 9.5
Conservatoria in Threes– 9.4
The Iron Rod– 9.6
New Ribs– 9.6
Soft Light– 9.4
I’ve Been Bored Since 9/11– 9.6
We Judged It By The Waves– 9.7
We Judged It By The Waves
Nine Masks, The Iron Rod, New Ribs, I’ve Been Bored Since 9/11, We Judged It By The Waves
13th June, 2014
Bob Cooper & All The Best Tapes at H.Q. Studios, Manchester, U.K.
Paul Hundeby at City Pro Recording, Florida, U.S.A.
Punk, Hip-Hop, Metal, Hardcore, Punk-Rap, Screamo
Guided by the likes of At the Drive-In, The Ramones and Bad Brains; the Stoke-based trio provide raw and exhilarating songs- mixed with unexpected compositions (and surprises) they are a mobile army of sound. Visceral and direct; teasing and experimental, All The Best Tapes certainly leave impressions
AFTER reviewing a run of tracks- from solo acts mostly…
I am stepping back into album territory. It is great to hear a band arrive with such a bang and fervency. My featured act has released a couple of records before- nothing as complete and explosive as their album. I shall investigate the band in more depth, yet want to bring up a couple of points. The first issue revolves around musical geography. Too many bands seem to be emanating from very particular spots- not a bad thing; it means that there is compartmentalisation and a division. London is hosting a fair few dynamic and stunning bands- solo acts too- that are capable of making huge splashes in the future. Up in Yorkshire- Leeds particularly- there are masses of new acts poking out- many of which I have reviewed. Whilst there are heavy and primal sounds coming from some Leeds-based Grunge masters; a fair amount of melody and beauty from the capital’s finest- finding artists (in-between- these areas)- is a hard task. Recently I reviewed the Devon-based band Lightknife; I have assessed some artists from Bristol, Southampton and Surrey- this is a rarity. Today I am looking towards the Midlands- a region that I am not overly-familiar with. Having a grand and busy musical history (a fair few bands have come from these locales)- not many new musicians emanate from here. It is a strange thing- when you think about where bands hail from- but there must be a collocation and reason (behind it). Obviously, London is making impressions due to the size of the city; the sheer number of musicians living here. Yorkshire is thriving because of the same reason- there are so many eager musicians there it is impossible to see a decline in quality and output. Elsewhere, you start to imagine what could be causing (a restriction). It may take some figuring out: for now, I am glad that a Midlands group is in my thoughts. In addition to being one of the most enlivening and exciting acts at the moment, they are putting Stoke back on the musical map. More associated with Robbie Williams- Slash was actually born there too- you will not get the two acts confused- our boys are a trippy and primal group that would make Williams wet his underwear. Having fallen in love with the likes of Allusondrugs- and spending the last week reviewing softer sounds- it is good to be back in gritty and lusting territory. Diversity and range are essential in music- ensuring that we have a great spread of artists leads to prosperity and a strong future. The Midlands boys not only take the listener to a busy and under-appreciated area for music; they provide a mixture of sounds I have not heard played. Their love of Psychedelia and Grunge marries with Prog. and Hardcore considerations- the resultant potion has been knocking people off their feet. Too many bands play things safe and predictably: not looking to fuse and experiment, they stick with what is familiar and tested. All The Best Tapes have built up a solid reputation and name: their previous work has captured critics and upped momentum and intrigue- bringing them to the here and now. With their self-titled album wetting mouths and setting tongues wagging, I better introduce the act to you:
Marcus Barker: Vocals & Guitar.
Luke Medlock: Bass, Vocals & Programming.
Danny Beardmore: Drums
“Formed in the Post-Industrial wasteland of Stoke and Cast from a heavy obsession with Aliens, The Occult, Psychedelia and mind-bending sounds, All The Best Tapes fuse the melodious Chordal technicalities of Fusion Jazz, the grit of Hardcore and the shameless riffage of tripped out Prog into a glorious cacophony of skull fucking power. A departure from their previous offerings “This is not a record, This is All The Best Tapes” and “The Gnar” All The Best Tapes strip down to a three-piece to create a new wave of effects laden, cutting edge punk rock.”
When new acts come through, you can always see some restrictions and limitations from the off. Their initial moves have some timidity. All The Best Tapes went in hard and meaningful: listening to the likes of The Gnar tells you all you need to know- here is an act that mean business. Their huge range of influences- from Kate Bush to MC5- have been thrown into the mix- the sheer range of sounds and diversions they incorporate makes their music so intense and layered. Their album expands on early promise and gives a full summation of the boys- across the nine songs, you barely have chance to breathe; the passion and urgency that screams out is hard to brush off. It is not just the band’s pioneering blend that makes them so special- the quality and addictiveness of their songs stick in your mind. Not just a group that make a hell of a noise and racket; the lads ensure all of their numbers are deep and fascinating- some of their compositions and lyrics are among the finest I have heard this year. With the mainstream offering some spaces and gaps; it is high time that listeners and music-lovers embrace what new music is showcasing- welcoming the finest we have (and promoting their name). If the likes of Allusondrugs have shown anything; it is that by mixing heavy and brutal codas (with nuanced and more composed lines)- a huge amount of atmosphere and evocation can be elicited. All The Best Tapes have a bond that cements their music tightly- the sympatico and friendships they share makes all of their sounds come across as urgent and authoritative. The leaps forward they have taken- since their earliest work- shows a band that are getting better as they progress. The confidence and spirit they put out on their album makes you wonder just how more potent and effective they can become- they are an act that will certainly be making music for a while longer. Making such a fascinating and original sound, it seems the trio are going to have their sights set on the future- their momentum and passion leads me to believe they will be formulating new sounds and releases before too long. Before I get down to focusing on the band- and their music- I will conclude by stating just how impressive new music is. Strengthening and confounding by the month, I am always stunned by just how brilliantly-realised and bold fledgling sounds are- there are no jitters and false moments. Bands are dipping back into musical history; being inspired by their heroes and heroines- daring to incorporate a myriad of diverse and disconnected sounds together; to elicit something wonderful and fresh. All The Best Tapes have a huge cannon of favourite musicians; they do not limit their sites to specific genres and decades- meaning their ensuing sounds are as full-bodied and colourful as any you will hear.
Looking back at the work of All The Best Tapes and you get a glimmer of how they started out. On their debut, you got that exhausting and exhilarating listen. Songs such as Old Device demonstrated this primal and animalistic urge. The track builds and tempts the listener in. Melodic and restrained beginnings give way to pummel and rumble- the intro. expands and feasts without warning. Determined and raw vocals come to play- screeched and bellowed with lustful fury. Breathless and determined, the song never lets go of you. It is a Hardcore thrash; a Punk rush that is determined to get mosh pits excited and bustling. Pious Fool has warped and spacey starts. The Psychedelic/Prog.-Rock influences present themselves. With some touches of Muse and The Mars Volta it is warped and fascinating- completed with a Libertines-esque riff, you are drawn in. Eager to allow determination to succeed, the vocal then bursts and shouts. Propelled by constant percussive slams; an endless and smashing drive makes the track burrow into your brain. There are melodic areas and avenues that allow reflection and chance for refrain- the song has some great quiet-loud dynamics. Caterpillarism twangs and twiddles at the start; the Foo Fighter-esque anthemic intro. puts your mind in Indie/Grunge avenues- the track contorts and twists with abandon. One of the band’s most intriguing cuts, it has the potential to superpose Hardcore and Punk boundaries- find its way onto stations like XFM and Absolute. The Gnar saw the band become more ambitious and varied. All of the early hallmarks remained in place- the vocals particularly had no intention of calming down. Le Fingers has haunted and twisted lyrics. The songwriting is sharper and more fascinating; deeper and more varied- disturbed souls and skulls are featured here. Blood-curdling and deathly, the vocal flair and roar matches the intensity of the composition. Seven Pairs of Scissors gets down to business from the off- hardcore thrashes grab the listener by the throat. There is lyrical economy and concision here- the words are not needlessly unfocused and rambling; they are tight and measured. Poetic elements marry with direct and savage proclamations. Sweeter vocal interjections mix with spaced-out bliss- sharp shocks arrive to take you off of your feet. The title track is longer and more epic- than Seven‘- and begins with a pummeling and rambunctious percussion intro. Reminding me of Moby Dick by Led Zeppelin, it is a tantalising start. Byzantine and weird snatches of lines look at volcano haircuts and tour life- having no money and stealing as you go. The band show development and growth- from their debut. The lyrics are more fascinating and compelling- the stories and scenes they offer have more depth and story. The vitriol and anger is more overt and striking- the vocal performances are more impassioned and full. Mixing in some sweeter and more controlled moments, the compositional range increases and augments- the performances are tighter across the board. The current offerings (on their album) show more steps and progressions. Again, the band increase their confident and adventurousness. The palette become more varied and multicoloured; the themes and issues explored change too. I Want To Believe has stutter and sting; tumbling musical notation means there is a heady and unpredictable energy that runs through it. Vocal work is as focused and primal as any I have heard- less guttural at the beginning, I can detect the hallmark highs of The Gnar. Life Of Gold skips and catches you by surprise; the intro. is more Rock/Indie-influenced; calmer and softer than previous offerings. A bigger and wider track, the song builds and layers- that mixture of approachable personality and pained belting fuses perfectly- nothing sounds inorganic and forced. Changing direction and skin, the song is endlessly mobile and shifting. New Ribs goes back to frantic and desperate; the band elicit one of their most pressing and violent performances- it is a track that once more is destined for mosh-pit fights. Rousing the listener into a frenzy, it bowls you over with its sheer energy. I’ve Been Bored Since 9/11 is one of the most interesting cuts off of the album. A single release, it is more relatable and lovable. Whilst there are some controversial lyrics and subjects, the boys are not trying to terrorise and rebel against sanity- their songbook is packed with some standout and quotable lyrics. Not adding too much more, the band remain firm and solid. The Gnar was a big leap forward and was the most solidified the band have sounded. Their self-titled album is more ambitious and open; new sounds are mixed in; some new subjects explored- in terms of the overall sound and flavour, you get some familiar and relatable moments. The band did not need to reinvent themselves and improve too much- what we have now is the most rounded and defined representation of All The Best Tapes. The band performances are as tight as ever; the vocal sound is more rounded and solidified- a greater emotional range is presented now. With compositions that draw in multiple genres and diversions, the band have never sounded as alive and meaningful. It will be great to see where they go from here- if a new album or E.P. will come through. You can guarantee whatever comes will be imbued with the same headiness and raw energy (as their previous outings)- the boys are building in stature and momentum; focusing their sights on the future.
If you are looking for some other bands- that compare with All The Best Tapes. Being a Hardcore-Punk band, it is quite hard to draw in too many influences- it is not one of the most over-represented genres in music. The band themselves have a huge a list of influential bands; from U.S. to U.K. artists, the boys have clearly absorbed a lot of different artists. The Ergs! are a Punk-Rock U.S. band that have won legions of fans. When listening to the band’s (2007) album Upstairs/Downstairs, you get a dizzying listen. Songs range from a few seconds to 18 minutes; the head is spun and blown apart by the lack of consistency and predictability. The breakneck pace and ramalama melodies whiz by. The tracks all seem to end in an instant- they are so addictive and compelling that you have to listen to the album to draw it all in. Bratty and charming songs mix with some juvenile and infantile offerings- the band mix clever and smart with puerile. Although less silly than previous albums, there is still comedy and humour to be found. There is plenty of maturity and focus on the album- it certainly ages well. All The Best Tapes have a similar talent for mixing humour and pathos; portraying that frantic and frenetic pace- drawing the listener in for a thrill-ride of intensity. Less silly than The Ergs!, the band do take some of their influence- capable of putting plenty of humour and witness into the darkest of tracks. Before I look at some more U.S. influences, I will mention an unusual name: Chumbawamba. The legendary Brits had a hugely successful career and have influenced a lot of bands- including the Stoke trio. Their Tubthumper album is probably their finest moment. Here, Chumbawamba mix big Dance-orientated beats with anthemic and party-ready sing-alongs. The Pop and Dance elements overtake political radicalism; the band ensure their music can be chanted from the terraces- there is laddishness and drunkenness; rebellion and defiance. All The Best Tapes draw this into their quiver: whilst not as chantable as the British icons, they do compel you to sing along and become invigorated- similarly rousing and fascinating, the band have political and socio-economic motivations. When you read some of the band’s lyrics, they rally against governmental forces; there is dissatisfaction to be found- angry young men being short-changed. Drunken nights and recklessness come to play too- like Chumbawamba, the boys recognise the vitality of youthfulness and lack of inhibitions. The cottage industry pioneers make sure all of their songs are intelligent and focused; distinct and memorable- later albums throw in more melodic vocals and sweeter Folk songs. All The Best Tapes showcase an intelligent side; mingle it with anger and rage and you have quite a concoction. Away from Punk bands, The Flaming Lips have had an effect on the endeavouring trio. If you look at The Flaming Lips’ album Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, it topped many critics’ end-of-year polls. Haunting as it is splendid, the L.P. mixes lush electronic sympathy. Whilst the band have more sunshine and upbeat sedimentation (than All The Best Tapes), the best comparisons are uncovered when digging deeper- the ruminations of everyday struggle and survival. Older and more traditional- for The Flaming Lips- values mixed with new experiments and sentimentality. The album Yoshimi‘ use psychedelic reveries from simple sounds and compositions- something more frantic always threatens to come out. The unorganised and primal rushes look at battles and wars; fighting forces of repression and hardship come out. The album looked at metal warriors and robotic controllers- if you look at All The Best Tapes, it draws a lot of comparables. The music has developed from the early days; mixes bittersweet themes within psychedelic swathes; huge and epic landscapes- the height of the band’s creative output. The anguish and pain that The Flaming Lips put into their current moves- The Terror– shows there is fear and black hole rage. All The Best Tapes match this level of inflagration and fire- the lyrics (by both bands) do not go for the obvious; they investigate deep themes but present some oblique and poetic moments. The Ramones are a Punk act that seem to have ressonated with the trio. Having taken a lot of guidance from U.S. sources, it seems that the hard and frantic American bands do things best. Albums such as Subterranean Jungle took Hard-Rock riffs and joined them with a Punk heart. The album is alive with meaning and energy; it draws audiences in and is the most pleasing of their mid-career efforts- subtle rhythms and hook-laden tracks mark the album out as one (of the band’s) finest. The vitality and sheer urgency of the disc calls for repeated listens. If you witness the self-titled debut- from The Ramones- you hear those early signs of genius. The album was a firecracker in the Rock mainstream: unexpected and rare, it redefined music. The themes and lyrics are simple; the songs are back-to-basics gems; lust and need are projected with as much guts and violence as you could imagine- wit, weirdness and lust spilled from the speakers. The blinding speed and relenetlessness can be applied to All The Best Tapes– from the very first notes they do not give you a chance to rest. Twisted takes on Pop convention make the Stoke trio a like-minded act; they subvert expectations and conventions to provide something radical and bone-shaking- the intoxicating rampancy of each number gets under your skin. Whilst All The Best Tape‘s songs aren’t always as concise as those within The Ramones, you cannot deny that comparable vigour and youthful anger. Horror schlock, maniacal stupidity and gleeful violence came through in The Ramones’ finest work- it is something that our endeavouring trio have taken on board. City Of Ifa and Allusondrugs are two modern bands that should be mentioned. Whilst not direct influences, you can draw some lines between the groups. The experimental movements City Of Ifa present define their sound- they are a pioneering and ambitious group that mix Screamo with Prog.-Rock facets- mixed together it is a heady and stupefying blend. All The Best Tapes take elements of Prog. masters and provide their own Screamo take- they are a similarly urgent and passionate band. Allusondrugs instill Grunge glory with some Punk and Hardcore shades- their fiery and enraptured codas are enlivening and seducing Yorkshire crowds. Having been booked for the Leeds Festival, the band are striking a chord- the public want to hear more of their scintillating music. All The Best Tapes have a level of grit and blood-lust that matches the Yorkshire outfit: their songs are as packed and atmospheric; the vocals as gripping and intense- you imagine festival spots are awaiting the Stoke boys. Being a fan of Bad Brains, I can hear some of the Americans in All The Best Tapes. The Thrash-Metal-cum-Hardcore minglings cemented the band as one of the most evocative and potent in the U.S.- influencing everyone from Nirvana to Jeff Buckley. The band’s self-titled debut was a cassette-only issue; the propheteers of Punk turned into Heavy Metal gods- over the course of a track. The rage is channelled into positivity and drive. When their I Against I album dropped, the declaration of violence was a focused and concise work. Funneling all their influences together, the band used bel canto baritone; screeching falsetto- the visceral and beautiful tie together. Here, the group present passionate refrains and tender moments; virtuosic displays are as synonymous as raw directness and demented blisters. The vocals range from machine gun-fire delivery to considered and teasing- the same elements All The Best Tapes draw together. The rampant and staggering Metal and Hardcore jams- Bad Brains have perfected- inspire legions of bands (whether they know it or not) and you can hear embers within All The Best Tapes– that same inimitable sense of surprise and quality. There are a few more names I should mention here. At The Drive-In count as one of the Stoke band’s influences. Cedrix Dixier’s ferocity and incomparable vocal luster made albums like Acrobatic Tenement so special. The way the songs contains subtlety and nuance mean softness and melody sit alongside fury and vermilion rage. Tempo shifts and rhythm changes make the album endlessly fascinating- something that All The Best Tapes have employed. The trio ensure that their songs are not one-dimensional and samey. Snaking and edgy bass notes combine with dual guitars and edgy percussion- the same qualities you can hear in Acrobatic Tenements. Catchiness and power fuses with intense and driving Punk riffs; the Texan band consecrated this in In/Casino/Out. The last two acts I will mention are MC5 and Fugazi. The former are U.S. legends that changed the face of music with Kick Out the Jams. The album remains one of the most immediate and timeless Punk/Hardcore records ever made. On that album, the entire band were in-tune and in-step. The ferocity and firepower of the guitars, bass and percussion were only matched by the authoritative and thunderous vocals. The firepower and back-breaking pace of the songs threatened to combust at any moment- the band gained legendary status in next to no time. While MC5 incorporate more tender and restrained numbers, you can draw comparisons- with All The Best Tapes. If you have not heard of Fugazi, then you should do- not only have their inspired the Stoke trio; they are a phenomenal and underrated group.Also inspiring the likes of Blur, their legacy is timeless. Repeater was the debut effort (from Fugazi)- an album that hit the ground running. Later works such as In on the Kill Taker stepped away from the early sounds: rusty and nail-scraping guitars joined with unappetising moments. Whilst the force and unending urgency of the album can be seen as off-putting- Screamo and Hardcore is not that digestible- the tracks offer plenty of treats and recommendations. Diverse tracks see lurching and crawling numbers sit with explosions of aggression- the sequencing across the band’s back catalogue is impressive. All The Best Tapes ensure they are as smart and considerate- when it comes to tracklisting. Liveliness, twisted humour; random skronks and plinking notes nestle within gut-kicking and brainy acidity. Fugazi are still producing music and evolve from album to album- offering something new into the bargain. All The Best Tapes place off-kilter and random notes inside atomic bomb blasts; ear-shattering emotional larceny- they seem the U.K. equivalent of Fugazi. If you are inclined towards any of these acts- you should check out All The Best Tapes. If you are off-out by any adjectives and descriptions; balk at the idea of relentless force and urgency- you should still give the music a try. Melody, experimentation and beauty lingers where you least expect it. The Stoke band have perfected their own blend and want to embrace listeners- not repel them. If you seek music that gets you invigorated and builds you up, investigate the group- you won’t regret it.
The blushes of silence are spared instantly by I Want To Believe. A clattering and tumbling psychedelic intro. gets things off to the races. Putting me in mind of The Mars Volta and At the Drive-In, it is a dizzying and head-spinning way to kick the album off. Melodious and catchy, you are caught up in it. Soon, it levels off and continues its aural assault- that colourful and insatiable gleefulness elicits a smile of contentment. Before long, our hero approaches the mic. Words “proof positive” reflect across the night; the light reflects across the sky. The determination and passion of the vocal rules the sound; you cannot get away from the urgency of the delivery. Calm, measure and melody still linger in the background- the song is not too forceful and overwhelming. With the vocal growling and graveled, you wonder how he has any vocal chords left- it is impressive how strong and consistent that primal belt is. Dissatisfaction and discontent seems to be on our hero’s mind- he is angered and striking against the world. As with previous All The Best Tapes releases, byzantine and oblique lyrical snatches mix with the direct and potent- the band like to ensure that things are not too simplistic or detached. The light splits “across the sky“- images and scenes fill your mind; apocalyptic perhaps or slightly less epic, the atmosphere is built and expanded. Backed by a militaristic and pummeling percussive smash, the avalanche never relents. A lot of emphasis is put on mood and force as opposed to clarity. Lacking lyric accompaniment, some of the words will get lost among the effusive and rifled projection- the most vital snatches are intelligible and clear. Having to piece together the story through occasional glimmers of clarity, you focus upon composition and vocal- both of which press on the brain. The warped and spacey composition is robotic and intergalactic- juddering and evolving it beeps and crawls; evolves and strikes. Mixing the psychedelic Prog.-Rock of The Mars Volta with some of the vibrancy of Bad Brains, the parable catches the imagination- the transformations and delineation is stunningly realised and fascinating. With our hero spitting against repressive forces- “you’re not making it up“- the demented charm of the composition comes into play- those colours and lines combine to create some mesmeric moments. Tumbling and dizzy guitar spirals unite with scattershot percussion; electronics buzz and percolate- the vocal growl is lustful and pugnacious. The band’s incredibly tight and impressive performance stands the song out- creating the most effective and direct opener I have heard. Towards the final stages, a kick-ass and white-hot guitar riff bounces and jumps: restrained and measured it is a catchy and indelible punch that takes the song in a new direction- stretches your brain open. Mingling At the Drive-In, Fugazi and MC5, the boys whip up some Punk flair and rabble for the closing seconds- it slows in the closing seconds bit by bit; a gorgeous and lilting last note gives the song a Calypso/tropical feel. Having covered so much ground and blown the mind, the boys do not let the pace drop. Nine Masks begins more strikingly and harder. That same mixture of high and low notes- on guitar and bass- project colours and myriad emotions- the restless and ambitious introduction gets your feet and fists pumping. Swaying Blues-Rock guitars pervade behind Punk/Metal-tinged percussion- the combination combines melody and harmony with raw sexuality and grit. The mesmeric unpredictability shows its hand again. The composition slams and feasts on bones; it drops down and starts to stumble- before calming and seamlessly blending into tranquil and romantic calms. Our hero takes his voice from blood-curdling into reflective within the space of a few seconds. Perhaps aimed at his sweetheart he asks: “Did you ever think of me?“- they are such the perfect pair. The passionate and springing bass adds some luster and majesty; the Blues-cum-Jazz combination is a beautiful treat- the sweet falsetto vocals a perfect instrument for reflection and personal introspections. Gripped by a new sound, your mind is eased. Turning the mood on a dime, the song explodes and carpet bombs. From the calm of before, we go into Metal/Screamo territory- the vocal bellows and growls like Satan on fire; the guitars stagger and violate; the percussion joins the frenzy. Still mixing in some sweeter and breathy notes and vocals, the juxtapositions are incredible- one half of your brain is enraptured in the delirium; the other soothed by the gentility of the interjections. Taking our hero aside, the composition is given chance to roost: the spindling and delirious riffs marry some Mars’-esque psychedelia with the Indie anthemics of Foo Fighters and The Libertines- the band are able to be distinct and populist all at the same time. You can sense some disarray under the skin of our hero- the insatiable and blinding switch from romantic to blood-lusting is phenomenal- by the final moments you find yourself running out of breath. Impressed by the continued determination and passion (of the band), it is another song that gets into your mind- howling execrations and paens of vengefulness. After an emphatic 1-2, you wonder just what Life Of Gold will offer up. The opening moments retain the band’s distinct and familiar sound- the initial phases here are more buoyant and celebratory. Gone are the devilish rushes and insanity to be replaced by something spring fresh and harmonised. Imbued with plenty of power, the opening riff has charm a-plenty. Stormy and weather-proof, the mixture of sensations elicited strike the imagination- its simplicities and complexities subvert expectations and ready you for the ride that is forthcoming. Becoming hardened and more projectile, the juddering and snatching guitars focus. Echoed and held, the electronics are punctuated by snaring and rifled percussion- the blend of eerie-cum-atmospheric builds the tension and sense of occasion. Dreams have been wasted and there is perturbation summoned from our frontman: his voice is reliably firm and rampant. Mixing that blend of quiet and loud, the song transforms and mutates as it progresses- positivity comes into effect as the words develop; there is less overt discrimination and rebellion here. Sounding less castrated and more concentrated, the vocal performance is as emphatic and interchangeable as the previous number. Amazed at how much weaponry the band have at their disposal, the composition and stylisations transmogrify and evolve- the boys are not contended to rest on laurels and offer nothing but feral noise and attack. After a hypnotic and unexpected trio (of songs), Conservatoria in Threes intrigues you with its title alone. A short song, we see hell-fire, brimstone and the “face of God” lobbied into the song (with nary a by-your-leave). Wasting no time with introductions and welcomes, the band launch straight into the vocal organism. Catching you by surprise, you swear you are entering the song at the one-third mark- it is a disarming and unexpected moment. After you compose your thoughts, you start to relax. The switch between ecstatic and rushing- calmed and reflective concessions- occurs in short bursts: there is not the same experimentation and freewheelin’ sound (as with previous tracks). More level-headed and simple than the opening trio, the track is by no means minor or second-best- its beauty comes with focus. The composition concentrates less on diversity and multifariousness; more towards emotion and atmosphere- the band combine seamlessly to back up the hero. With his voice shifting from sweet and ethereal- to animatistic and urgent- the song provides a cleansing and much-needed interval- another glimpse into the band; their indefatigable breadth of adventurousness and ambition. The Iron Rod arrives next. Squalling and raptured guitar coda gets things under way- teed up by a rampant and lascivious percussive weave, our hero is keen to come to the mic. A buffet and banquet of dark and fragmented images. Highlighted by vocals- which switch from bellowing and satanic to measured and spectral- the song packs a huge punch. The band ensure that your body is not allowed to rest or settle; the amount of intrigue and colour they provide is impressive. Between the bellicose and frantic Death-Metal/Hardcore slams, there are beautifully reflective and intelligent Jazz-Rock parables. Reminding me of Aja-era Steely Dan, its breezy and effortless beauty contrasts brilliantly with the rabble and desperation of the vocal. Displaying the conviction and authority as the likes of Bad Brains, At the Drive-In and MC5, the boys keeps things mobile and fascinating. The amount of consideration and thought put into the composition tells you how much the song means to them- you can hear the passion and work they have incorporated; there are no lazy or loose moments. Towards the two-thirds mark, there is an extended instrumental swathe. The lads subtly build the tension and augment their centrifuge of kaleidoscopic Jazz notations. By the 2:41 stage, urgent and emotive guitar notes start to infuse and commingle- the track slowly develops and you sense that a final explosion is going to occur. Becoming more twisted and snarling, The Iron Rod is not done with its attack- our hero is coming back. Ensuring his messages and voice are not forgotten, the sense of urgency and determination resonate strong. New Ribs is a track that has been gathering critical acclaim and attention. One of the L.P.’s longer tracks, it begins with a vocal assault. Coming in hard and fast, the vocal is as ecstatic and to-the-point as it has ever been- managing to restrain itself and switch voices. Fatigue and insomnia are lobbied in- the lack of sleep is making the hero feel so tired. The guitars- on the track- demonstrate a new side and sound: trippy and experimental, they mix Psychedelia, Indie, Rock and Pop. Not as virulent and barbed wire as on previous offerings, there is a greater consideration towards emotion and support. The vocal is at its more interesting and unexpected: between sighing and delicate soothes are violent and raged bursts- that mixture is quite a psychotropic and heady proposition. Displaying as much range as in any song, our hero showcases the quality and limitlessness of his voice- giving the words and track depth and authority. Once more, the band tempt in some sun-kissed and Jazz-infused notes- romantic and seductive, they add something extra to proceedings. After the sheer rush and pace of the tracks, it is a surprise to find that Soft Light is the ante-penultimate cut. Beginning with some gentle and elliptical notes, the track soon ensures that anger and explosion are provided. Subsuming the title’s promise, that ecstatic 180 begins a violated and rebellious vocal assault- our hero produces one of his most insatiable and frenzied vocal performance. Able to provide ample light and relax, the majority of the performance is taken up with inflamed and pissed-off projection. Supported by an army of juddering and brain-melting sounds, the song is a spares no-one. Our frontman is at his most impassioned and direct here. The way he manages to snake his voice is incredible: shifting course and pace, it is one of the most distinct performances on the set. When calmed and emotive, I caught glimmers of Terrence Trent D’Arby and Thom Yorke- believe it or not. Few modern vocalists have such a multifarious and staggering range- the band provide equal mesmerisation. Bass notes drive and attack; they then merge into jazzy and trickling. The guitars have sting and venom the one moment; transforming into relaxed and sedate before you know it- the percussion has a similar unpredictability and surprise. A modicum of reflection and calm is offered during the final moments: the composition keeps clattering and pervading; it is not as insatiable and repressed as previously. The single I’ve Been Bored Since 9/11 causes tongue-wagging before a note has been uttered. Whichever way you interpret it, you cannot deny its immediacy and urges. The intro. starts with a frantic percussive tumble; instantly dissipating and giving way to melodic guitar, the band unite all of their previous highs into the mix. After a brief grab for glory, our hero comes into the spotlight. That endless sense of urgency is represented in various different shades. Grumbled and bellowed vocals are mingled with strained and wracked utterances. The dislocation and anger come through with alarming directness and meaning. Our frontman ensures that his voice and words are heard- the unease and anxiety is not uncomfortable, egregious or off-putting; it is insistent and gripping. The guitar work is particular stand-out during the track. Weaving and tripping, there is a heady and swirling majesty created- strained and vibrating notes are tempted into proceedings. Not succumbing to the heady highs of previous numbers, the vocal is more concerned with concentration and focus- ensuring the messages and central missive resonates. Trippy and weird, the guitars incorporate Robert Fripp, The Mars Volta and Muse- the combinations of unrelated notes is a tantalising treat. The music- when All The Best Tapes compose- mix various styles and themes; incorporating various styles, whatever feels right goes into the music. Throughout I’ve Been Bored Since 9/11, you can tell a lot of study and thought has been expended. The musicianship and experimentations are impressive; so many different emotions and contours are explored- it is perhaps the richest and most rewarding song on the album. Perfectly priming the senses for the album’s swan-song. The longest track on the album, We Judged It By Waves starts with a reliably exciting and action-packed beginning. The boys weave colours and tapestries together; the combination of Psychedelic freestyle and Jazz-inspired motifs come together exquisitely. Hard and vengeful, the opening onslaught pricks the senses- readies you for what is to come. Open and expansive, the band allow the composition a chance to implore- so much ground and emotion is summoned up with the schizoid blends. Going out with a bang, the rampant and primeval percussion tees up electric guitar noodlings; the pace changes again and the boys let their instruments ignite. Compelling and gripping, the sheer rush and headiness of the intro. never relents- you wait for a vocal that seemingly never comes. Caught up in the mesmerising grip of the composition, the tight and incredible performance is a delirious and staggering treat. The song has such a flair for experimentation and Psychedelia: the band throw in so much weight and striations that you struggle to absorb it all. Juxtaposing hell-yeah fist-pummel and drunkening and drugged swagger, the listener is immersed in a whirlpool of insanity. Freak-outs of biblical proportions are overtaken by a carnivorous and yowling beast of a line. The percussion patters and tempts; the guitar echoes and echoes. Transforming the rampancy of previous efforts, the song mutates into something darker and shadowy. Atmospheric and hunting, this coda is traded with a brevity of attack- combining with one another, these diverse strands seem perfectly natural and essential. Pausing and resting, the band then offer explosions and rises. The pauses increase and elongate; a calmer and woozier smoke bellows in- it is hazy and delirious in its movements. Ethereal and ecumenical electronic sounds give the track a reverence and saintly side- sitting with the calmed guitar you are given chance for reflection and rest. All of the sonic words have been offered; so many different scenes and avenues have been explored- with a fading light, the track comes to an end. It completes a splendid album that is impossible to compare with anything else- it is one of the most immediate and relentless collections of the year.
It is quite a task trying to sum up a Herculean and epic album. There are hardly any negatives I can point at really. It would be great to see some lyrics accompany the album- perhaps on the BandCamp site. On previous efforts, All The Best Tapes put their lyrics together with the tracks- it would be good to see them accompany their album. Due to the intensity of the vocal and the attack of the composition, it can be hard interpreting and understanding a lot of the lyrics. Most of the words lack necessary intelligibility and decipherability- it is not a huge point however. Having the lyrics would allow interpretation and study: reviewers such as myself would be able to dig deeper and extrapolate true meanings and definitions. The album rarely lets up with its heaviness and assault- it means it can be an exhausting listen for the uninitiated. The album is best enjoyed and appreciated in chunks: sitting down and investigating a few songs at a time is the best way to start. These minor considerations do not detract from the fact All The Best Tapes is one of the most urgent and compelling albums of the year. It is not a huge drag that some of the words are lost; the emphasis is very much on the overall mood and sound. With incredible and perfect sequencing, the album does not lag or suffer any setbacks. The best tracks are appropriately arranged and deployed; the heavier and most primal numbers are spaced out- meaning you do not get fatigued and weighed-down. Although the production does mean the vocals lack complete clarity and concision, it perfectly blends all the various instruments and sounds. Such an ambitious and wide-ranging album would suffer- were the lines and notes mixed incorrectly. Due to some precise and expert production, the compositions are allowed to breathe and inspire- the listener is allowed to absorb all of the disparate strands and stories. Before I applaud the band’s players, I shall mention the songs themselves. Never aimlessly wandering and bloated, they are tight and focused missles. The longest tracks clock in at a few minutes; even the grand-standing finale leaves you wanting more. Their nuance and sheer weight really bowls you over. The band have stated- in interviews- how inspired they are by different genres; concerned with getting their sound just so- you can hear just how hard they have worked; how much effort has been expended. Each number offers glimpses of genius and mesmerisation- whether it is a riff or vocal projection, you are witnessing a band with few rivals and comparables. On that note, it is great to hear such immediate and primal music. So many bands have limits and barriers- All The Best Tapes seem to define themselves by how hard they can push and encapsulate- damned be any borders and rules. Although the album is predominantly heavy and overwhelming, it is not something that should be ignored or dismissed. If you are clever and considerate- when investigating- you will revel in its potency and charms. After a while all of the music reveals its beauty- you will be immune to any fractious and jarring elements. The band performances and turns are what makes the songs so incredible. Percussion work throughout is staggering. Eliciting the strength and pummle of a dozen octupuses, the flailing and pulverising moments put me in mind of Dave Grohl, John Bonham and Neil Peart. Beardmore marks himself out as one of the finest and more authoritative drummers in the U.K. Few percussionists are able to sound as effortless when pounding with fury- he is adept at offering something gentler and more inviting. When songs and vocals are more restrained, the percussion provides ample emotion and reflection. Not just a simple and one-directional performance, Beardmore creates scintillating fills and unexpected twists- showing the expertise and talent of a modern-day Grohl. The most urgent and primal moments of the album are created by the percussion and its emphatic guidance. Medlock’s contributions are stunning and mesmeric. In addition to offering spacey and trippy electronics; stunning programming- his bass work is phenomenal. Jazz-inspired and sexy the one moment; driving and guiding the next, the amount of force, rhythm, lyricism and passion is deeply impressive. The multi-instrumentalist colours the songs with his own inimitable and unique touches: combining seamlessly with his band, Medlock showcases a huge talent and impressive amount of skill. Most bass players tend to be in the band to keep songs levelled and together- not stepping far outside boundaries. Medlock summons the force and conviction of an entire band- able to weave so much richness and emotion into each song, the album would be weaker without him. When offering vocal support, he brilliantly backs our hero- his voice is incredibly diverse and striking; capable of lustful rage and tempestuousness- our man is a Jack-of-all-trades. Barker is the voice and guitarist that leads by (fine) example- one of the most arresting and phenomenal frontmen in all of music. I was staggered how strong and consistent his voice was- throughout the album- and stunned he did not shred his throat to bits. Few singers have such a huge range of emotions and styles at their disposal. Barker is just as natural and impressive when unleashing his falsetto beauty (as he is gripped in the intensity of delirious rage and aggression). Having been nurtured with Jazz, Folk and Hardcore influences, his voice draws all of this in- he is not just a point-and-shout Screamo merchant. Too many bands- who play similar music- have a lead with little variety and potential. In Barker, they have a genuine star- someone whose divine tones have a hell of a lot of potential. It will be great to see just where they explore on the next record. With some epic and electrifying shredding, our hero lets his axe run riot. Inspired by the likes of At the Drive-In and The Ramones, Barker mixes schizophrenic and psychedelic jams with Punk swagger- de-touring via Indie and Rock avenues. Never sounding unfocused or fragmented, his guitar work seamlessly bonds divisive and multitudinous sounds and genres together- giving the songs a solidity and uniformity. The entire band work wonderfully together: tight and focused, they are a unit that are unlikely to break up at any point- such is the brotherly bond, all of their music sounds utterly convincing and urgent. In All The Best Tapes they have demonstrated what a force they are. Maybe incapable of transforming cynics into fans, it will appeal and resonate with those whom seek depth and texture- lovers of music that dares to be different and better.
With all my words- nearly expounded- I have to come to a conclusion- point to the future of the band. If you are not a fan of Punk, Punk-Rap, Hip-Hop and Grunge then All The Best Tapes are an act that can convert your thinking- they inject plenty of calm, passion and melody into their direct and punchy mandates. The determination and ambition they demonstrate makes their album such a terrific treat- you are powerless to escape the wonders it offers forth. I hope the boys come down from their home venues and rock out London- take their music around the U.K. and think about wider considerations. Having cemented their reputation and name in the Midlands, the trio are on the warpath- after their album was released, they drew in a mass of new fans. I for one would love to see them in the live environment; check out how their recorded releases translate in the flesh- just what a force of nature they are. Having witnessed some fervent and striking bands come through, my mind struggles to take it all in- see just who is going to make it big in the future; which acts are going to remain in the memory. A few I have reviewed will have some short-term acclaim; others are sure to transcend to the mainstream- others leave me weighing things up. I feel All The Best Tapes will make it all the way to the halcyon and lofty heights- they will not want to get there too quickly. Keen to keep playing to local crowds and make honest and personal music, you can tell just how much fun the guys are having- they are determined to keep working and press on. With a sound and projection that is perfectly ready and primed for the venues and festivals (of the summer); it will only be a few years before the Stoke trio are a familiar name on the airwaves. Having digested their self-titled debut, the boys have a lot to say; they have anger and dissatisfaction in their minds- the way they channel it is alarming and captivating. It is not just rage that defines their motives and inspirations: the group have such a love for vintage and classic music, they stretch their palette and motifs to cover issues such as love, modern life and meaning. Everything is draped around electrifying and direct sounds; the performances are uniformly tight and together- the songs are nuanced; meaning you keep coming back to the album to seek out hidden meanings and new findings. Before I wrap things up, I will dovetail back to my point about musical geography. Leeds boys Allusondrugs are leading Yorkshire by the teeth; putting the county squarely in the music world’s sights. London are making sure they do not lag behind at all- the diversity and range coming through is staggering. As much as I yearn to hear new artists from these regions, I am more keen to seek out new and unexpected treasures. All The Best Tapes have a distinct and rare combination of sounds that means they stand out- not contented to follow the pack, the boys have more determination and urgency than most bands I have encountered. With that unbreakable and solid bond, the music on their album is scintillating, action-packed and colourful- investigate what they have to offer and find out for yourself. With a lot of bland and boring music still being trotted out; a huge amount of musicians not pushing boundaries and limits- it is always a relief when a brave and hungry act come along. Perhaps not powerful enough to sway those that prefer Pop and Jazz sounds, the boys will at least capture some new hearts- people who seek out musical swagger and lust will love All The Best Tapes. As the year progresses, the boys are continuing to play and seduce; taking their music around The Midlands. I hope they are thinking further south: train their methodology down my way and embrace the eager and hungry fans down here. Their music translates across the country; there are plenty of venues that would promote the lads. Whilst they keep plugging and pervading, I am keen to listen (again) to All The Best Tapes– an album that never lets go of you. If the Midlands (and Stoke) have any other similarly terrific bands waiting to press through, I will say this…
KEEP them coming.
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