Take Me I'm Your Disease (Fantastic Plastic)
Another portion of slightly chilling girl-pop from Angelica. 'Take Me I'm Your Disease' is an infectious blast of sighed vocals and buzzsaw guitars, completed by a pleasantly bouncy melody. Hardly remarkable, but still a completely enjoyable song. Rather better is 'Corn Riggs', written by an exterior force, that sees Anglelica stripped down to an acoustic guitar and mellotron. The result is something delicately fresh, and it would be interesting to hear the band record a few more tracks like this, such is the sparkling aura this B-side radiates. Ultimately, this record is a small step in the right direction for Angelica.
Bring You Love (Do-Little)
I almost forgot about this baby, but here's a last-minute review. I have no idea what April want to sound like, but they're certainly aiming at something big; 'Bring You Love' is a spaced-out cross between early U2 and mellow Six By Seven, and whilst the production doesn't allow them to reach the heights they were probably aiming for, the track is still a choppy beast, all atmospheric drumming, soaring vocals and dramatic guitars. It took me a while, and I'm not usually a fan of epic songwriting, but this has really grown on me. Marks are taken off for including a demo version of the song as a B-side...debut singles should be worthy of a bit more than that. In all though, April have set a foundation for becoming quietly majestic.
Just when you thought it was safe after Three Collars Red split up last summer, along comes another noisy rock'n'roll band who are also partial to the odd cheesy ballad. Bareface play rock like she used to be made; deafening and relentless, but still retaining a tune. None of those rapping, techno-influenced nu-metal 'issues' here, baby. Rather, Bareface are a tight-knit punk-metal crossover which, when cranked up to full volume on the lead track and 'Hypersonic Pill', are naggingly, breathtakingly ace. The attempt at slowing down the pace on 'Lucan' is complete cobblers though, all saccharine vocals and vaguely latin guitars. If Bareface stick to what they're best at, heads down rock'n'roll, they should go far.
Journee Portes Ouvertes 1 (Harmsonic)
Bidlo is Parisian-based artist Mathias Delplanque, who apparently structures his intriguing pieces of lo-fi electronica with movies in mind. These sentiments are probably developed too strongly in the title track, which is pleasant enough, but appears lost without accompanying images. The commentary at the end of the track is wickedly disturbing though. However, it is the B-side, a remix of the similarly blandly titled 'Jounee Portes Ouvertes 2', that proves Bidlo is capable of more than merely producing film soundtracks. The track has two looped guitars that combine togeher to produce a chilled post-rock sound with a delicious twist of country music. Whilst it lacks the raw power of bands like Mogwai, 'Journees Portes Ouvertes 2' is a surprisingly inspired stab at creating a freash approach to post-rock.
(Pause) EP (Badmusic)
This half-an-hour slab of cathartic power proves why it is no coincidence that Caretaker have achieved so much more than the majority of guitar bands in the local area, and in little over a year too. The '(Pause) EP' higlights all that is exciting about the band, from the caustic noise and raw energy of 'Safe as Houses', to the audacious confidence that is putting a fifteen minute track like 'Liopleuradon' on a debut release. The best moment on the single however, is undoubtedly 'Rangefinding', a song that balances the the opposing forces of edgy tunefulness and frantic intensity to perfection. It's easy to see why Caretaker can include Radio One, Kerrang! and Fierce Panda amongst their long list of admirers, and whilst the '(Pause)' EP may be sold out by the time you read this, they've got many more deveststing tracks to be unleashed in the near future. Go seek.
Oh dear, last year's Kerrang! award for best new British band must seem a very long time ago. If you haven't heard, things are going a bit wrong in the Cay camp; harsh treatment from former label East West, original band members being sacked and Anet's onstage personality crisis’s do not bode well for the future. And whilst I don't want to rub salt into already open wounds, 'Resurrexit' is hardly Cay's finest release. It's still essentially a fine single, and the meandering tune grows more likeable with repeated listenings, but it lacks the raw aggression of their debut Org release and the fiery dynamics of the 'Nature Creates Freaks' album that made them so vital. It would be ace to see Cay rise above their problems and release another devastating rock record, rather than wallow in them. Let's hope there's a next time.
Hurray For Sugar (Day Release)
I like it when I'm sent random singles from bands to review, especially when they consist of songs as charming as those produced by Delicate AWOL. I don't think the band are going to revolutionise the face of music, but I doubt that is their intention. Instead, 'Hurray For Sugar' is an immensely pretty tune, with cooed vocals, fey guitars and sparse drumming. The timid sound reminds me of a slightly more jovial Low, but the sudden burst in volume towards the end of the track is more of a post-rock technique. If this single gets into the hands of someone at Domino, I can really see Delicate AWOL making an impact.
Le Song (Fierce Panda)
Electrelane are obviously striving to create something completely new with this release, and to an extent they succeed. 'Le Song' is a spaced-out merger between math-pop and surf guitar, which sounds rather impressive on paper, but in reality is slightly clumsy. Much better is 'UOR', which discards the pop element for a more subtle, slow-burning sound. The moment the tune erupts into a spasm of winding guitar lines and feedback is the peak of a record that finally lives up to its grand ideas. Too often patchy, Electrelane are certainly not the best band to have had a Fierce Panda release this year, but they should have enough ambition to improve.
Cerebra (Fierce Panda)
It's so good to see this band finally lay something down on record. Hundred Reasons, in various guises, have been tearing up local venues for years, but now the rest of the country can get to hear their brash, almost soulful take on nu-metal. 'Cerebra' is everything I expected; it takes the adrenaline of their storming live set and the natural songwriting strength that comes from being together so long, before souping up the recording in the studio with some slick, but still essentially raw, production. The quality of the b-sides can only enhance Hundred Reasons' burgeoning reputation. 'Slow Learner' is a powerful blast of sweeping passion in which you can almost feel the walls of grinding guitar building up, whereas 'Clear (Flawed)' is an immediate injection of howling angst. The only factor that could stop Hundred Reasons becoming the biggest metal band in Britain is the fact they're not American. Let's hope that Kerrang! encourages everyone to Buy British for once.
Oh yes, this has restored my faith in Idlewild. 'Roseability' manages to balance the two forces in the band's sound to perfection. The developing maturity that typified the majority of '100 Broken Windows' is still evident in the big chorus and strident backing vocals, but 'Roseability' also captures the art-rock fury of the abrasive Idlewild live show, especially in Roddy Woomble's mangled vocal and the wonderfully noisy guitar sound. With regard to their single releases, this is a definite return to form for Idlewild.
Oh yes, this is something very nice. Jelicoe are producing the type of created pop that has been done a hundred times before, but 'Panic 250' is such a classy example of the genre that it's impossible not to love it to bits. The single is produced by Andy Hawkins of Midget fame, but Jellicoe prove themselves to be considerably more substantial than the aforementioned band. As is the given formula, 'Panic 250' begins timidly before bursting into cute guitar abusing. Then they repeat the process. And it's great. To use a meaningless NME-style description, if Fugazi were being knuckledusted round the head by Placebo they'd sound a bit like Jelicoe. Not sure about the dodgy American accents though...
Alright, so this is ancient, and the band have released at least two more singles since, but I thought giving 'Snow' a brief mention would provide an opportunity to talk about one of my favourite bands to emerge this year. JJ72 are so talented and good-looking they can hardly fail. In actual fact, 'Snow' has been their weakest single so far, but it's still a sweeping chunk of angst, and Mark Greaney has one of the most amazing voices, switching between the angelic and vicious with ease. It's exciting to see bands like JJ72 reacting against the post-Britpop musical vacuum. Okay, their influences are still obvious (touches of Joy Division, a splash of Radiohead perhaps), but there's real substance to this band, and I really want them to succeed. I actually had a chance to interview JJ72 earlier this year, I'm kicking myself for messing it up!
Adolessence (Lime Street)
The Junket continue their venture into the seedier side of life with 'Adolessence', a tale of teenage lust. It's also the first single to be taken from their new album, 'Lux Safari', and the poppy harmonies and wiry guitars suggest the band are departing from the industrial grind that has characterised their previous material. It's a fine song, but lacks the venom of their live shows and is rather overshadowed by quality b-side 'Bodyworks', a breathy, impatient squall that uses pregnant pauses to dramatic effect. Far too good to be a b-side, but I'm not complaining! The Junket on record rock, just more restrainedly than onstage.
Play Girl/Commodore Rock (Invicta Hi-Fi)
Everything about Ladytron appears perfect. They resemble a terrorist sect in their publicity shots, have connections with the ultra-chic underground scenes in Paris and Tokyo and their live shows are so infrequent that they leave journalists gagging for more. But the music? Well, it's perfect too, but in the same way that the Pet Shop Boys produce impeccable pop tunes, rather than being something enthralling because it's fantastically new or invigorating. However, 'Play Girl' is still an addictive slice of seamless, throbbing robo-pop that revels in its knowing cool. Ladytron go disco on 'Commodore Rock', and despite the kitsch sound, I can't help falling in love with the swooning keyboards and Bulgarian lyrics that deadpan Marxist children's songs. Ladytron are very cool, but I'm still yet to decide whether they're another case of style over content.
Uneasy (Too Pure)
Maybe I'm being too sentimental, but a single dressed in green sparkly reflective packaging is always going to be something exquisite. I haven't been decieved though, because 'Uneasy' is a silky stream of smooth beats and soothing vocals, and is the perfect track to listen to very late in the evening, such is its almost dreamlike constitution. The flipside, 'A Single Word' continues in a similarly hallucigenic mould, incorporating weaving flutes and a more stuttered, but equally sublime vocal. Only lack of finances has stopped me from purchasing Laika's third album, 'Good looking Blues', but you've got no excuse for not picking up a copy of this delightful single.
LOW & SPRING HEEL JACK
Bombscare EP (Tugboat)
Although two artists are accredited to the creation of this record, it is the distinctively layered vocals of Low, rather than the bleak and distilled music of Spring Heel Jack, that make it so special. The true beauty of Low is best characterized by the sparkling 'Way Behind', a gently hypnotic chorus of looped and textured vocals. It is only on the sinister and brooding 'So Easy So Far', that the music of Spring Heel Jack truly makes an impact on the listener, with its use of icy keyboard effects and dramatic percussion. Overall, the four tracks are sublimely wonderful, although the influence of Low is very much more profound that that of their compatriots. Then agin, everything they produce seems to turn to gold.
The Lost Notes (Liquefaction)
This is the kind of record that probably sounded great whilst drifting to sleep at the end of John Peel's show, but in the cold light of day it's just a bit too weird. To describe 'The Lost Notes' as minimal would be an overstatement. Essentially, all it consists of is a warped bass line, jazzy drumbeats and a girl singing. In French. Throughout the track, various instruments are chucked in to add a bit of substance, but they still can't distract from the fact that Metrovavan don't have a lot to them. I guess it's all freakishly pleasant, but I think I'd have to be on drugs to actually enjoy listening to this record.
The Vitamin E(p) (FF Vinyl)
The slightly stupid title of this EP suggests that Mo-ho-bish-o-pi are trying just that little bit too hard to be wacky. However, strip away the knowingly geeky veneer, and you're actually left with a surpringly fresh interpretation of what can be loosley termed art-rock. The production is rough, but that only adds to the charm that is fey tunes such as 'Fall A Part'. The band also display a wide spectrum of sounds over the five tracks; 'Gay Fad' sounds like Mo-ho-bish-o-pi are slowly put their intruments through a blender, before jumping in themselves. The singer also has one of those wonderfully distinctive voices that is completely charming. I've heard fine sounds from the band since this release, and whilst they're not going to be on anyone's tiplist for success, Mo-ho-bish-o-pi have won me over with their blend of cheap guitars, untidy production and eccentric tunes.
Hear The Air (V2)
V2 have set themselves a huge challenge to get this band anywhere near commercial success, but while the inevitable struggle for airplay and chart positions ensues at least those with their ears to the ground can listen to Mo-ho-bish-o-pi's spendidly eclectic pop music. 'Hear The Air' is a snotty shock of serrated guitars and shrill vocals, combining the angular introspection of the namechecked Pavement with the glitter-pop sounds of a couple of years ago. Mo-ho-bish-o-pi are also aware that sloganeering is cool, and the b-side 'Totally Uninspired' has a fantastic title even if the song is little more than a thrashy rehash of the lead song. Mo-ho-bish-o-pi want to succeed on V2, but they're going to do it their way. This is a promising first step.
Cemented Shoes (Infectious)
At last, a band that lives up to every inch of the hype placed at their feet. Major label bods Infectious have done a solid job in getting My Vitriol plastered all over the place, but it's the band's music that does the real talking. Each of the three singles they've released have seen them steadily rise above the pack, and 'Cemented Shoes' is another powerful, bleeding guitar scramble. Som Wardner is also developing into a really confident singer; his scream towards the end of the song is completely brutal, ripping the track in half. This has been all over the radio, but still has that cutting edge which will appeal to hardcore NME readers too. It's also great to see My Vitriol backing up the lead track with some mighty fine B-sides. 'Wait A Minute' witnesses Som at his most gentle, before inevitably flaring into another burst of mangled melody. If that's the quality of the B-sides, I can't wait to hear the album. Don't be surprised if My Vitriol are headlining venues like Brixton Academy next year, they're going to be huge.
Cat-like Creatures (Repeat)
The continual mutation of Pala coninues. Their early recordings suggested a pretty straight-forward, but instantly likeable, rock band, but the last single was airbrushed with horrible eighties production and unremarkable tunes. 'Cat-like Creatures', however, witnesses a solid return to form. Even better, they've added a spark of originality to their previously standard rock sound by inviting Makif Quillis to rap on the title track. The combination works surprisingly well, reminiscent possibly of nu-metal's most mellow moments. It's a diappointment that the B-sides are of a considerabley lower standard. 'Worry Lines', for example, has the same strained vocals and cheesyly epic mixing that makes records from the early nineties seem so dated. It would unfair to judge a band by its B-sides though, and the title track of this single indicates that Pala are evolving slowly into an interesting prospect.
PEEPS INTO FAIRYLAND
Rain and Wires EP (D&C)
Why does Scotland continue to produce so many exciting new bands? Answers on a postcard, please. Here's another one; Peeps Into Fairyland blew me away at the Reading festival last year with their combination of folk and intense hardcore. If you want to be crude, I suppose decribing them as a more reflective and gentle Idlewild would be fair, but the 'Rain and Wires' Ep shows they are often much more than that. 'Palace Flophouse' has been covered by the afforementioned band, and it's easy to hear why; a melancholic slide guitar soon fragments amongst an assault of more discordant sounds and a suitably troubled voice. In fact, very often it's the singer who makes Peeps Into Fairyland something really special; the manner in which he slowly degenerates into despair on 'Fragment' leaves a considerable emotional impact. Every track on this EP is full of dark, poetic power that ultimately results in an excellent release overall.
The Radio Video EP (Domino)
Inbetween recording two albums of raucous rock 'n' roll, Royal Trux released these five tracks of more experimental material on an unsuspecting public, and let's get one thing straight from the start, 'The Radio Video EP' is not the band at their chemically charged greatest. Rather, it displays an interesting insight into the crazy minds of Neil Hagerty and Jenifer Hewena. Royal Trux are keen to show off the variety of sounds they produce in the studio, 'Victory Chimp' uses distinctively Indian influences, whereas 'Mexican Comet' is just over a minute of bizarre minimalism. To be honest, most of the tracks on the EP don't merit repeated listenings, with the exception of 'Deady Headlines', a bass-heavy blend of the serene and downright bitter, which later evolved into a NME single of the week. Who knows why Royal Trux decided to release this, they play by their own rules, and whilst it varies in quality, it's certainly... interesting.
Sven-G-Englar (Fat Cat)
Iceland's Sigur Ros are the kind of band that completely divide people. Their supporters would uphold the band's patient determination to produce waves of deeply atmospheric and textured music, whilst stubbornly refusing to fulfill the 'crazy' stereotype that the majority of Scandanavian bands aspire to. On the other hand however, their detractors can point out that Sigur Ros are, in actual fact, a little bit dull, and thier songs, even on this single, are often bloated to over ten minutes long. Too some extent, both arguements have a degree of merit, and so my advice is to buy a copy of 'Sven-G-Englar', crank it up loud, and see whether you have a penchant for haunting, beautifully orchestrated, drone rock. Credit must be given to the band for singing in Icelandic though, a gesture which certainly increases the unique nature of Sigur Ros.
Robot Tourist (Cottage)
The deranged world of three pyschotic individuals, collectively known as Ten Benson, is captured tidyly over the three tracks on this single. First up is the title track, a four-minute blast of pulsating badass rock, complete with riffs heavy enough to challenge even the hardest of heavy metallers. It is a cynically perverse gesture, therefore, for the band to follow up the monster that is 'Robot Tourist' with one of their most reflective songs to date; the quiet chord changes and rough spoken word vocal make 'Evil Heat' reminiscent of Pavement at their most delicately fragile. Finally, out of the fuzz of a seriously distorted guitar emerges 'Seaside', a cover version scary enough to frighten all and sundry away from Blackpool this summer. There you have it then, a single that explains all you need to know about Ten Benson; disturbed, funny and often genuinely enthralling.
Blow it up Y'All (We Love You)
Everything the legendary producers the Dust Brothers are involved with is automatically galvanised with a coat of effortless cool, and 'Blow it up Y'All' is certainly no exception. Freshly signed to the new We Love You label, Ten Cents are a band that will make it fashionable to like pop music again, blending together thick basslines, smooth rapping and hot guitar licks. Essentially, the sounds evokes comparisons to Beck, had he been a soul-man rather than an alt-country star. 'Blow it up Y'All' has rather syrupy production, but remains a refreshing slice of summer chic.
As if having My Vitriol on their books wasn't enough, those greedy chaps at Infectious have snapped up another precious young guitar talent in the form of Irish noiseniks Turn. Despite the uninspiring name, the band whip up a terrifically chunky portion of power rock on 'Beretta'. It's probably been done before, but never so slickly or with so much venom. I can see provincial moshpits going nuts when the guitars skid into action, but the song sounds pretty hot on vinyl too. I can't fault the music, but the lyrics leave a bit to desire; couldn't they have come up with something better than lyrical clichés like 'I can't see the wood for trees'. Still, they won't be listening to the words in the front row, and 'Beretta' remains a storming tune. Power riffs are go!
Cutting Hedge (Fierce Panda)
Oh yes, I love these, especially since the Panda people were kind enought to put them on CD so I don't have to look for a record player to listen to them. Even better, this is the best six-tracker since the absolute corker that was 'The Joy of Plecs'. The puns are still bad though. Anyway, The Junket open the EP with the chilling 'Brother/Sister', all sleazy guitars and disturbing lyrics, and their ace angular noises set the tone for the remainder of the record. Caretaker make an appearance with 'Backs Against The Fall', a song which didn't make an impression on me at their live shows, but after several listens I retract my judgement because it is in actual fact a killer tune that switches with ease from the tense atmosphere created by Harry Goodchild's vocals, to a violent outburst of guitar squall. Smashing. The Starries provide the most original track on the EP; 'Beauty Scars' is wonderfully awkward, from the intricate guitar lines, through the unorthadox song structure, to the singers peculiarly warm voice. There's lots of shouting too, which is always a good thing. The other three bands are probably cool in their own right, but pale rather amongst such lofty company; Twentyseven offer up a brief interlude of spooky pop music, the Pachinos sound gloriously dumb with their brand of bop-punk, and the slightly formulaic Jellicoe would still impress a sweaty mosh-pit of thirteen year-olds with their spikey charm. Fierce Panda, you spoil us. Other labels, why aren't you releasing more records by bands like these?
Issue 6 Contents
Issue 6 Summer 2000 © Tim Bragger