Reviews Apr-Jun 2013
ride your heart

Bleached - Ride Your Heart

Dead Oceans

Released: 1st April 2013


With Cherry Red repackaging the early works of The Primitives, it seems only right that a new release has emerged which would have slotted very nicely thank you into the 'blonde' sub-genre invented by the music press at the time, and even more fitting the band in question should be named 'Bleached'. Comprising of Californian sisters Jennifer (guitar) and Jessica (bass) Clavin, the word 'punk' has been thrown around a lot in describing Bleached, not least because of the girls' former membership of the well known Mika Miko, but in truth the only aspect of this release justifying that epithet is the approach and not the delivery; their music sounding roughly like a combination of the Ramones and a sixties girl group, the twelve songs on offer being rudimentary at best, though not without a basic charm. Indeed, their sound is not far removed from that of The Flatmates or other denizens of the Subway Organization which blossomed in the late 1908s in West Country England, especially in some of the vocal deliveries. There are not many chords on offer here and the better moments are when they are played quickly, as in the charging 'Waiting By The Telephone', the jagged 'Dead Boy', and the chugging 'Searching Through The Past' with its valiant stab at a guitar solo. Elsewhere, lead track 'Looking For A Fight' has a bit of punch to it and doesn't sound a million miles away from early Fuzzbox, while 'Next Stop' has a bit of 1977 riffing going on and some fitting backing harmonies, and it all ends splendidly with 'When I Was Yours' dissolving into a messy climax. It doesn't all work well, and sure has hell there are no boundaries being challenged here, but play it loud as you drive along the coast on a Summer's evening and there won't be much wrong with the world.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Mosquito


Released: 15th April 2013


It's ten years now since the Yeah Yeah Yeahs burst on to the scene with their dynamic debut album, Fever To Tell, later rated by the NME as the fifth best album of the decade. It was a nicely in your face affair, raucous, trashy and extremely self-aware, with frontwoman Karen O quickly becoming a common face on the leading pages of the music press. Since then the band has not exacly been prolific, the decent follow-up Show Your Bones appearing in 2006 and the less appealing, electro It's Blitz! seeing light of day in 2009. Just over four years later and the YYYs finally return with their fourth long player Mosquito, the cover of which with its slime covered typeface and comic book imagery hints that the band may have returned to their chaotic roots, though any thoughts of this are quickly dispelled with a first play of the album which turns out to be far from a feeding frenzy and about as adult as it comes. Indeed, the album opens in a pretty downbeat manner with the teasing 'Sacrilege' which creeps along before building into a gospel choir ending which sounds more like a farewell than a hello, and the desolate 'Subway', a five minute lament with trains rattling by. It's all pretty glum until the title track erupts in a welcome burst of noise, tapping into a much more familar vein, with Karen O shouting, "He'll suck your blood, suck your, suck your blood." It's a rare explosion of euphoria, matched by the silly garage thrash of 'Area 52', but on the whole Mosquito is more introspective than introvert, an accusation you never thought would be aimed at the YYYs. Not that this is all bad, or even depressing; there's a depth to these tracks which lifts them above simple morbidity, a nice dub edge to the grim 'Under The Earth', a slowly bubbling groove underneath the equally blank 'Buried Alive' and when Karen O begins to sing on 'Slave' and 'Despair' you'd swear it was Siouxsie Sioux in her 'Kiss Them For Me' period. It's a strange one, this, and a million miles from what we expected. A good blast of Yeah Yeah Yeahs used to blow away the cobwebs and now they seem content to hide away among them.

SULK - Graceless

Perfect Sound Forever

Released: 15th April 2013


It's been nearly seventeen months since we last heard from Sulk when they released two promising singles at the close of 2011, 'Wishes' and 'Back In Bloom', the former all shimmering guitars and autumn breezes, the latter a wistful sigh with tumbling harmonies and a soaring lead, the beauty of which only served to reinforce the underlying sorrow of the narrative. With such a promising start behind them, everything was looking rosy, which made the ensuing silence all the more confusing. Then, in the early part of this year it was announced that Sulk's debut album, coming in at ten tracks and 38 minutes, was finally going to see the light of day, and not a moment too soon. The lull in proceedings was apparently brought about by the band's need to find the resources to record the album on their own terms and, quite frankly, it was well worth the wait. Pleasingly, both of the early singles are included, opening up the second side, and even more pleasingly, Sulk have managed to reinforce these with a series of intricate, gorgeously melodic songs which blow by like lazy, long summer days. Opener 'Sleeping Beauty' chimes and sighs and is graced with a impressively shackled guitar break halfway through, download single 'Flowers' ebbs and flows in the manner of an early Blur number, while forthcoming single 'The Big Blue' is a more restrained affair with an anthemic chorus and the slightest of psychedelic infusions. Still it gets better; when Sulk inject a bit more fire into the proceedings the results are quite startling. 'Diamonds And Ashes' is a gem of a rocker and possibly the best moment on the album, the poignant 'Marian Shrine' rumbles along to a huge bassline draped in searing guitars as it searches for some rest for the soul, and 'End Time' crashes purposefully to a fitting conclusion. This album is a nice piece of work and it's a shame Sulk can't seem to breathe without being taunted about their obvious late eighties/early nineties influences. Yet the music they are reinvigorating is over twenty years old now, so how long does it have to be before something is allowed to influence you? Less time passed between Eddie Cochran and the Sex Pistols, though it may have seemed a world away, and Sulk are so much more than the music that has shaped them. There's some great stuff here and the future has got to be looking bright for them. The band are touring the album in May and June, so get along to see them wherever you can.
escape from vienna

Crystal Soda Cream - Escape From Vienna

Totally Wired

Released: 20th April 2013


Our thanks to Totally Wired Records for bringing this release to our attention, the debut for the label from Viennese trio Crystal Soda Cream following on from last year's cassette-only, self-titled offering on Wilhelm Show Me The Major Label. We're not quite sure of the origins of the band's name as it seems totally incongruous with the music they produce and will no doubt turn a few people off from giving their music a try, but that would be a shame as this ten-track offering, available on vinyl and download, has a lot to commend it. If the band, consisting of Philipp Forthuber (guitar, vocals), Sebastian Ploier (bass) and Theresa Adamski (drums, synths), are really looking to escape from Vienna, their obvious destination of choice is early eighties Leeds, or the sprawling new town of Crawley, as their music is rooted in the UK goth and post-punk era and it is clear to see that the great revival is now reaching far further than these island shores. Opening in the worst possible way with the tinny rapping of a drum machine, it only takes a few seconds before any fears are wiped away with some raw guitars, rumbling bass and proper drums taking over as 'Freud & Jung' bursts into life sounding every bit like an early Cure record. And CSC are at their best when they continue with these angular guitar attacks which conjure up whispers of a host of other bands of the era: My Captains, the original Ants, Wire, In Camera; a myriad of ghosts inhabit 'Sweet Doom' and 'Drag', the latter being the best thing here, ferocious and resonating, with hollow, desperate vocals. Elsewhere, more Germanic synths dominate the doomy 'Escape' with its dark undercurrents, and the nicely moody 'Dead Again' prowls menacingly, bordering on the edges of deconstruction, with pleasingly messy instrumentation which could have been explored more in other songs, especially 'Roman Holiday' which lacks adventure and never really goes anywhere, and 'Spy Game' which is ruined by its overly effected vocal. An awful lot here to enjoy and CSC are only going to get better if they focus on the right areas and don't get lost in the comic book portrayals of the dark side. Highly promising.
silence yourself



Silence Yourself

Pop Noire / Matador

Released: 6th May 2013




The beauty of a moment. That fleeting flicker of time in which all things have come together for good, when everything clicks into place and euphoria floods your soul. When there are no words, no thoughts and no needs but to be overwhelmed with the depth of the silence. Does this generation still experience that? Is there room for contemplation in a world bombarded with soundbites and megbytes flashing the requirement for instant gratification through a comic book media, films cut quicker than the eye can follow and apps for regulating your life; where sensory overload takes the place of sensuality? It's a brave band that publishes a statement on the front cover of their first album, yet Savages have always been a brave band and yearn for such a moment, for a quieter world where people aren't shepherded into accepting what is convenient rather than what is good, where their heads are not spinning from being lured from one distraction to another, where the word needs to be told to shut up so we can hear the smothered, but angry, calls for renewal.

Some short of understanding insist Savages just add to the background noise, that their brand of No Wave experimentation and New Wave alienation has all been done before and to tread the same paths is to embark upon a hopeless journey. But surely the past provides the foundations for our future? It's there to be built upon, to learn from, to aspire to emulate. If not, then why paint after Leonardo? Why sculpt after Michelangelo? Why even bother to get out of bed? It's never been about doing it first; it's about doing it right and there are few who have grasped this fact as well as this band. Savages have always understood the need for renaissance and it takes some determination to stare down at a world of digitally-induced deficit disorders and insist there is a better way. A right way. A way of putting everything back together. Fittingly, few bands have worked so determinedly in modi antichi. Sparse slabs of black and white vinyl have proclaimed their defiance. Slabs of vinyl unleashing slabs of noise that sweep away all notions of numb acceptance and tear at your very soul with intoxicating intensity.

True to their vision, Savages have not whored themselves to this disposable world; they've rationed themselves, given sparingly, saving their strength for the battle on the streets where they have never faltered from proclaiming their beliefs. "I am here. I won't hide. The world is with me and you're coming for the ride." They may just as well have said, "Here I stand", as they lay out their manifesto and finally nail it to the door. And it is a delight to see the assurance with which Savages reject the gaudy world of flickerbook comprehension and shallow fulfilment and reach into the depths of history to drag out their monochrome vistas, not content with replicating the past, but gathering its bones and reconstructing them in their own image. Building something of substance. Of meaning. Of pride. They have all of the venom, all of the adventure and all of the razor wit of the post-punk pioneers who broke the world apart and pieced it together however the hell they wanted; never a genre but a journey into the inner being; surrendering to the pressing need to tap into the beauty, the darkness, the passion and the pain that are a part of us all and which can't simply be compartmentalised, backed up and stored away. It's primal, frightening and utterly essential.

Lose yourself in 'Strife'. Nothing else matters or feels like it has ever mattered. Fay Milton kicks in the door, magical bassist Ayse Hassan knocks you across the floor and Gemma Thompson spits out the most unsettling guitar riff that's ever been heard. 'They have no idea what we do at night," mocks Jehnny Beth as the world ignites around her. Has anything ever sounded so right? Or so vital?

Drown in 'Waiting For A Sign', insidiously slow and hollow, slipping over the edge of the world into oblivion as Thompson unleashes a monumental howl of desperation and helplessness that says more than a million words ever could. It's painfully beautiful.

Run from the trap of 'City's Full', rampaging, incandescent, oozing indignation: "So who blew the flames out of your eyes?". The world is for the taking but you have to want to take it. You have to believe you can escape the walls that have built around you.

The only question Savages had left to answer was whether they could translate their astonishing live performances into an equally effective record. Now there are no questions. Over eleven punishing tracks, Savages not only prove for once and for all they are the real deal, they do it with such weight of purpose you feel they can have no equals. In the grip of a vision they make records the like of which we never thought to hear again and they have done it all on their own terms: their own words, their own pictures, their own producer, their own label. And they have made believers of all of us who refuse to slip anonymously into a world blurred by its own hollow shadows. In a cascading cataract of sound, Savages have captured the beauty of a moment.



The Breeders - LSXX


Released: 13th May 2013


Released at the end of August 1993, The Last Splash represented the high water mark of independent music. That such an uncommercial, jumbled gem of a record could make such an impact on the world was as astonishing as it was thrilling. A top five hit in the UK where it went silver, selling over 60,000 copies, this pleasing statistic was eclipsed by the record's performance in the USA where it hit No.33 in the Billboard 200 and earned a platinum disc for selling over one million copies. The single 'Cannonball' taken from the album went top forty in the UK, just missed the top forty in the USA, and went top ten in France. The Breeders were suddenly one of the most successful indie bands in the world, touring with Nirvana and securing a prime spot on Lollapalooza.

Having been devised by Pixies bassist Kim Deal and Throwing Muses' guitarist Tanya Donelly when the two bands were playing together on tour, The Breeders had released their first album, Pod, in May 1990 to much critical acclaim but little commercial success. With Donelly turning her focus to her new band Belly in 1992, Kim Deal invited her sister, Kelley, to take over on guitar (even though she couldn't play one) and drummer Jim Macpherson was recruited to join regular bassist Josephine Wiggs (formerly of The Perfect Disaster) to record their second album. And the rest, as they say, is history.

It's difficult to place your finger on exactly why The Last Splash became such a resounding success. True, the approbation of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana did no harm, but you don't sell a million albums just because the world's most famous rock star thinks you're the business. No, The Last Splash has attributes of its own that make it stand above its run of the mill contemporaries and not the least of these is its overwhelming charm. Kim Deal had already shown what a great songwriter she was with the Pixies, providing the band's best ever song, 'Gigantic', and much of the credit must go to her for co-producing this album as well as composing most of the music and writing most of the words. That she was in a good place at the time is undisputed; there's a verve and vitality running through every track here which combine with her idiosynchratic approach to form and composition to shape something utterly compelling, curiously melodic, and at times indisputably commercial. The single 'Cannonball' is a case in point. Opening with some strange, repetitive vocal hums followed by a brief burst of syncopated drumming, Jo Wiggs' then signals lift-off with a irresistable bass line she apparently came across by accident, before the Deals add their looping guitars and Kim's in and out vocals. There's pretty much a sense of throw everything into the pot and see what emerges, but what we end up with is a song of such wayward appeal, you would be a very hard person not to fall head over heels in love. And so The Last Splash, not presented here in any remixed or remastered edition, just left in its original, gorgeous, muddled state and daring you to turn your back and walk away.

Released to mark the twentieth anniversary of the album's original release, hence the LSXX title, 4AD continue to show that while their current roster may not be of such divine quality as in its glorious past, nobody comes close to matching them when they decide to repackage their old material. Following on from the Throwing Muses Retrospective, and box sets from This Mortal Coil and Colourbox, this is yet another gorgeous package over three CDs (or seven vinyl discs if you have eighty quid to spare) comprising a four-fold digipak in a spot UV'd three-quarter slipcase containing not just the original album and its accompanying EPs, but a whole host of extras including BBC sessions, demos and a live album recorded in Stockholm. There is also a beautifully printed booklet which relays the story of how the album was made.

If you don't know The Last Splash you may well be genuinely astounded that a record like this could so touch the world. There's some hard hitting rock laid over an underlying tenderness, varying degrees of experimentation and noise, moments that summon up shades of bands as diverse as The Birthday Party and Led Zeppelin, random stops and starts, a sewing machine, fiddles, and bucketloads of adrenaline, heart and humanity. A million copies? Oh, to live again in such days.

more light

Primal Scream - More Light

First International

Released: 13th May 2013


It's to their eternal credit that Primal Scream are not a band who have ever been happy with standing still and continuing to inhabit the same ground on which they made their name. It is probably also to their detriment, as the constant ebb and flow of styles and ideas has left them without a huge base of traditional supporters who wait upon their new releases with fevered anticipation; hell, their Record Store Day offerings are still available long after the time when those of lesser bands have quickly assumed gold dust status and the announcement of a new album creates more of a gentle air of interest than one of genuine excitement. And yet, more often than not, they deliver the goods. More Light is the first offering from the band in two months off five years, and their first since the departure of Mani from the ranks, but the Scream have clearly lost none of their spiky awkwardess, opening More Light with the nine-minute, politically-charged '2013', with its gently warping saxophones, and following that with the slowly meandering, seven-minute 'River Of Pain' that flows into an unappetising sea of confusion. There's no bending to commerciality here, though the Scream have abandoned the harder edge of their metal machine music and the dippy grooves of their dancier moods to create a record infused with soul, psychedelia, traditional rock riffs and indie experimentation. There truly isn't another band who appreciate musical history as much as these boys; they absorb it and chew it over in an attempt to produce their own records which are blindingly contemporary and yet blessed with an impeccable provenance. Add the appropriately big production from David Holmes and you cannot hide from the overriding feeling that this record has substance and won't be found wanting in the balance. There's a seriousness in its message, a density in its multi-faceted layers, and yet it is blessed with a melodic undercurrent which is underlined by its soulful backing singers, terrific saxophones, bubbling basslines and pointedly 1970s' guitar breaks. It's impossible not to be won over by 'Hit Void', an apparent lovechild of MBV and the Mary Chain, and the pointed 'Tenement Kid', brought to life by a lovely McCartney bassline. 'Sideman' is a grinding, psychedelic prison, 'Elimination Blues' sees the delta brought up to date with some splendidly twenty-first century guitars, and 'It's Alright, It's OK' is a typical Scream gospel number to round off the show. Days change and the wheel turns, yet Primal Scream are always there, treading their own peculiar path. And that's rather a comforting thought.

Whirling Hall Of Knives - Devisions


Released: 27th May 2013


Known for being the home for drone, Ireland's Trensmat Records occasionally produces records on the wilder side of the noise spectrum and this fifth album from Whirling Hall Of Knives (a collaboration between Magnetize and The Last Sound) certainly comes under that banner. Having released the slashing 'Alternate Devil' single in July last year, which Trensmat brilliantly described as a "white hot feast of swirling hypno-psych, blown out and buried in sheets of corrosive feedback with all manner of buzzing and swirling guitars blending into a pulsing, throbbing, hypnotic and mesmerizing noise-scape underpinned by a seriously wild and propulsive groove", we pretty much have more of the same on this long player, available only on pre-order from the label in red and white individually hand-pressed splatter vinyl in a full colour heavy card sleeve (with accompanying downloads). Far from wild abandon here, 'Wraith / Donn Amok' is underpinned by the disciplined approach of krautrock and like most of the album never completely loses its grip despite its pounding, metallic edge. 'Alternate Devil' is present in its full ten-minute glory, opening to a cascade of drums which are quickly drowned in swathes of searing and feedbacking guitars before we embark on a scything journey to the underworld in its second section. '9xReal' hits the autobahns once again, its pulsing beat and moody bass tones submerging a dismebodied vocal, while 'Longclusion' sends the album screaming and spluttering to its climax. Not for everyone, but if you like a bit of grimly-edged noise in your life, this is a bit of a belter.
the boy from nowhere

Nikki Sudden - The Boy From Nowhere ...

Easy Action

Released: 10th June 2013


Nikki Sudden's prolific musical career came to an end in March 2006 when the singer sadly died from a heart attack following a show in Manhattan at the age of just 49. It seems appropriate that Sudden went out on the road, for music had been his all-consuming passion; he toured incessantly and probably would have considered it a fitting way in which to say goodbye. The man born as Adrian Godfrey first came to prominence in the late seventies when he formed the punk band Swell Maps with his brother Epic Soundtracks (who himself died in November 1997) and on the band's demise in 1980 he went on to release over twenty solo albums on labels as diverse as Creation, Glass and Trident as well as making a number of recordings with Dave Kusworth under the banner of the Jacobites. This new six CD collection, limited to a run of just 2,000, has been four years in the making, lovingly compiled by former label boss Carlton Sandercock, and is housed in a neat box containing a thick booklet of notes on the artist and the story of how the songs were gathered together.

The first two discs contain fully remastered versions of Sudden's singles and 'classic' album tracks, and clearly demonstrate the wide scope of his output. It is difficult not to warm to the ramshackle punk of Swell Maps, with three of the band's four singles present here, including influential debut 'Read About Seymour' and the glorious swansong 'Let's Build A Car'. Sudden's solo career kicked off with singles 'Back To The Start' (1981) and 'Channel Steamer' (1982) which embrace a more pared down sound but still retain a punk edge, while 'All The Gold' from 1982 album Waiting On Egypt offers the first view of Sudden as the wasted troubadour, laying down his own peculiar brand of the blues over broken acoustic guitars and a background electric fuzz. This, of course, is the sound he carried into his time with The Jacobites and all three of the band's singles are here along with two album tracks, the highlights being the rambling 'Big Store', all crashing metal and withdrawal, and the broken electric 'Where The Rivers End'. The second phase of Sudden's solo career began on Creation Records, with five tracks represented, including the shambling 'Jangle Town', the storm of 'Back To The Coast', and the haunting 'Wedding Hotel' single recorded with The Birthday Party's Rowland S. Howard. Not forgotten as we round up the eighties is the I Knew Buffalo Bill album recorded with Howard and Jeremy Gluck of The Barracudas, with 'Gallery Wharf' the featured track.

The 1990s saw yet another phase of Sudden's solo career where he embraced a more solid rock sound and his voice grew in timbre and depth, sounding less like an emaciated Keith Richards. 1992 single 'Whiskey Priest' is an out and out grinder, 1994 single 'Don't You Ever Leave Me' borders on the edges of exuberence, while 'Love Nest' from 1997 album Egyptian Roads, rolls along purposefully to Hammond organ and spitting guitars. Straying in to the twenty-first century and 'Stay Bruised' from 2004 album Treasure Island shows that Sudden is still the master of melancholy, while 'House Of Cards' from the same album is a stormer and 'Empire Blues' from the singer's last album The Truth Doesn't Matter is pleasantly chaotic glam rock and shows that while Sudden had grown as a performer, at heart he remained the same as ever.

Four more discs contain a wealth of rare and live songs as well as demos, nicely here named 'bedroom concertos'. There's a great cover of Howard's classic 'Shivers', originally recorded by The Boys Next Door, a cluster of songs from the 1983 cassette-only release Beau Geste, many of which feature Kusworth, and a whole disc of of radio sessions simply featuring Sudden and his guitar and which include a nice stab at the Stones' 'Memory Motel'. Another disc contains an hour of electric session tracks recorded with his band in Hof and Berlin in 1999 and 2000 and, as with the rest of this package, the sound quality is excellent.

Nikki Sudden spent his whole career in the underground, never achieving any degree of mainstream success or recognition so it would be easy to underestimate the degree of his influence, especially of the music he made early in his career with the ground-breaking Swell Maps. But when you can class REM, Pavement and Sonic Youth amongst the bands you helped inspire, it's pretty much a job well done. This quality package is a fitting tribute to a unique performer and is well overdue.


Beady Eye - BE


Released: 10th June 2013


It was a crying shame when Oasis split in 2009 as their last two albums, 2005's Don't Believe The Truth and 2008's Dig Out Your Soul, had been quality items and it was interesting to see a band remoulding itself following a very public cocaine crash and consequent fall from grace. Indeed, Dig Out Your Soul, despite its lack of a killer single, had returned the band to the top ten of the Billboard charts as well as hitting the top spot once again in the UK, reaffirming the band's rehabilitation into the ranks of global superstars. The departure of Noel Gallagher was a colossal blow, but Oasis without Noel was not quite as unsalvageable as The Doors without Jim Morrison; Gem Archer had written some decent songs in Heavy Stereo and Andy Bell in Hurricane #1, though these were bands untouched by grace with their recordings lacking the magic the elder Gallagher appeared to be able to weave into a tune at will. But the talent was certainly there and, more importantly, the voice was there. The magic would have to be learned.

The band's debut, 2011's Different Gear, Still Speeding, was a hit and miss affair, but a vital statement that life goes on and now Beady Eye return with their second offering, the unremarkably named BE, consisting of eleven tracks over some 50 minutes (or fifteen tracks over an hour if you opt for the deluxe version of the record). With TV On The Radio's Dave Sitek at the helm, the band have opted for a different approach and though the producer has clearly left his mark on this record, his influence is not all-consuming, resulting in a refreshing mixture of sounds which show that even musicians as well established as these are prepared to offer up fresh ideas, something you would be hard pushed to find on any Oasis release. So while the voice remains the same on opening track 'Flick Of The Finger', its pounding rhythm and serious horns overwhelm the understated guitars to create a sound which is both bracing and embracing. Add the ambient spacewalk of 'Soul Love' and the impressive crossovers of 'Second Bite Of The Apple' which begins as a reggae number before flicking between orchestral peaks and rumbling percussion, and it is clear that Beady Eye are not just content to tread the same paths. Not that there are not some Oasis moments. The terrific 'I'm Just Saying', the first of two consecutive songs that appear to be aimed at the absent Noel, rumbles along in familiar style with Liam declaring, "I'm feeling fine, this is my time to shine."

The most surprising aspect of BE is that it shies away from rocking out; Liam seems to delight in his acoustic ballads and they mostly work out fine with 'Soon Come Tomorrow' possibly the highlight of the whole record with its upfront vocal underlining why Liam's voice remains one of the most iconic in rock music. There's a couple of midpacers in 'Iz Rite' and 'Shine A Light' which fly by pleasantly enough and if you opt for the deluxe version, 'The World's Not Set In Stone' is the highlight of the four additional tracks, heavily 1960s with some effective guitar work in the outro.

Some commentators have called this a 'make or break' album for the band, but surely not? Beady Eye may not have found the magic wand just yet, but this is a bloody good stab from a decent band who are on a learning curve and are prepared to step out on a limb. Given stability and patience there's every sign they could become one of the most interesting bands of our time. It augurs well.


Tripwires - Spacehopper


Released: 17th June 2013


'Shoegazing' was always rather a randomly used epithet, linking together bands as diverse as the transient Slowdive and the thickly rooted Swervedriver, who in truth had little in common other than an all too obvious introspection and origins in the Thames Valley. This stood in marked contrast to the in-your-face louts of Britpop who followed in its wake, bringing with them a culture of new laddism which helped take independent music mainstream though simultaneously shredding much of its mystical appeal. As the buoyancy of the Britpop bands quickly made the Shoegaze culture appear ludicrously fey and irrelevant, the word itself became a term of contempt and it is only in recent years that it has been rehabilitated by a new generation who have embraced the bands of that era, not the least in America where the Captured Tracks label serves as a living shrine to its altar. With Tripwires hailing from Reading, it seems impossible to find any mention of the band without the presence of the S-word, though their debut album Spacehopper hints at a wide variety of influences and is itself rather an eclectic collection. As the title suggests (given the complete absence of the orange bouncy toys), there is no lack of cosmic aspirations, all infused with a gentle psychedlia as well as hints of krautrock, MBV and Radiohead. And, yes, there are plenty of shoegazy touches, some echoes of early Ride, and plenty of referential guitars. The overriding impression Spacehopper relays, however, is that Tripwires are not a band in a hurry; they take time to open a myriad of doors to see what lies behind and thus they find plenty to play with. Not that this collection is slow-paced sonic-landscaping in any way: the title track offers plenty of chopping, meaty guitars, the glorious 'Plasticine' is a lovely mess of wailing and distortion, and 'Clusterfuck' a rattling good conclusion with its crushing, pounding and leaking. Yet this is clearly considered stuff; Tripwires embody introspection whether in their heavier moments or in their lighter touches: the gently shimmering 'Paint', the pulsating 'Under a Gelatine Moon', washed by a stellar shower, or the almost-country of 'Slow Mo'. This is a fascinating collection that dips and sways and there's barely two songs wearing the same hat which makes a pleasant change. A journey begun and here's hoping it's an eventful one.
bosnian rainbows

Bosnian Rainbows - Bosnian Rainbows

Clouds Hill

Released: 24th June 2013


Having brought The Mars Volta to an abrupt end last year, main man Omar Rodríguez-López wasted little time in heading back to El Paso to put together a new outfit, Bosnian Rainbows, along with Volta drummer Deantoni Parks, singer Teri Gender Bender from Le Butcherettes and keyboardist Nicci Kasper. Having released a live ten-inch as part of German label Clouds Hill's limited box set Live At Clouds Hill in December 2012 they now follow up two digital tasters with their first album proper and it's clear López is keen to move in a new direction. Whereas The Mars Volta had clearly been beaten with the prog stick, Bosnian Rainbows offer a more pared down sound with as many post-punk influences as classical rock, and it leads to some fascinating listening. Gone are the interminable meanderings that saw the Volta regularly break the ten-minute barrier with their songs; there are only two tracks here longer than four and half minutes and Gender Bender's vocals, not unreminiscent of Siouxise Sioux, work to bind these songs not only to planet earth, but also to recognisable structures which are happily overlaid with some glorious melodies, making this the most commercially pleasing music López has possibly ever produced. Not that Bosnian Rainbows is in any way radio-friendly. Behind the soothing vocals the band strikes out in a hundred different directions, often throwing up shades of their funkier post-punk predecessors, and at times it makes for a riveting contrast as the singer ploughs on regardless while her bandmates scatter their ashes to the four winds. Thus the gently gothic vocals of 'Dig Right in Me' lie amidst a welter of tourettes drumming, funky guitar and doomy synth rumbles, 'Cry For You' sounds eerily like Ghost Dance with some gorgeously insane guitar parts, 'Morning Sickness' opens prettily with a nice groove before being spewed in all directions like a Colourbox dub epic, and 'Torn Maps' see-saws punkily off its axis. In fact, dip in anywhere and there's some nice little touches to enjoy and the more time you spend with it, the more it opens up to you; give it a few weeks and you'll be buying a ring. Really good work.

The Primitives - Lovely

Cherry Red

Released: 24th June 2013


There was a time when other independent record labels looked down on Cherry Red as a bit of an aberration for the way it went about its business. Well, the label can happily wave a few fingers at its former detractors these days as it is still going strong when many of its contemporaries have bitten the dust and it is making a very nice living from cherry picking (pun only slightly intended) the best works of its former rivals and reissuing them in remastered and repackaged forms. This reworking of the first album proper from The Primitives, which marks its twenty-fifth anniversary, is the second release from the Coventry band this year, following on from March's Everything's Shining Bright: The Lazy Recordings 1985-1987. This collected together the entire body of work The Prims recorded for Wayne Morris's local label, including early versions of most of the songs that were eventually to see the light of day on Lovely, which was ultimately released by the band's new home, the major RCA label. All of those early recordings were changed. Some were remixed and some had bits re-recorded, whilst a few extra numbers were added after being laid down by Craig Leon at Jimmy Page's home studio, all financed by RCA's deep pockets. Lovely, then, was never a coherent body of work, rather a string of songs recorded at various studios with various personnel and differing resources. Despite that, it still stands up pretty well. The highlight, of course, is the magical 'Crash', rebuilt from the early Lazy demo into an enduring guitar pop classic. Whilst nothing here reaches the same heights, there are plenty of songs that manage to capture the ramshackle charm of the band's earlier days, including the charging 'Spacehead', the majestic 'Thru The Flowers' which had twice been released as a single on Lazy, the jagged 'Nothing Left' and another early single stolen from their former label, the buzzsaw 'Stop Killing Me'. Unfortunately for The Primitives, the backing of a major label didn't aid them in writing classic songs and though the big hit was followed by the pretty decent 'Out Of Touch' which managed to bubble into the top thirty, that was about as good as it got for the band. With a second disc here featuring non-album singles, b-sides, alternate takes, live recordings and rarities, the most notable feature is how much the next single 'Way Behind Me' missed the mark, lacking the vitality of its predecessors and signalling the start of a pretty rapid decline in the band's fortunes. Still, this is a nice package, best heard in tandem with Everything's Shining Bright, allowing you to see how the songs on Lovely developed whilst giving you access to the rough and ready early classics as well as the refined results of a decent alternative band being given an extra coat of major label polish.
vpi harmony

Mood Rings - VIP Harmony

Mexican Summer

Released: 24th June 2013


Another interesting debut album, this time from Atlanta-based five-piece Mood Rings, who comprise of singer/guitarist Will Fussell, bassist Christopher Alley, guitarist Tymb Gratz, drummer Peter Cauthorn and synth player/guitarist Seth Bolton. If you were ever a fan of the ethereal releases put out by the more esoteric British indie labels of the eighties and nineties, then you will find plenty of reference points here as the band unfurl what is a very pretty and, in many ways, feminine album, harking back to Slowdive and the Cocteau Twins, where insubstantial soundscapes are given fleeting form by dreamy, whispered vocals. It's certainly an attractive thing with opener 'Dark Flow' sounding anything but dark under sleepy guitars and a rolling falsetto, the blissful mood being carried into the equally fragile 'Pathos Y Lagrimas', additionally washed with synths and almost melting as it flows out of your speakers. 'Come Lay Down In Lined Arrangements' runs over you like a gentle stream and there is barely a note following that is not dripping with elegance and grace, though there are varieties in pace and style that prevent VPI Harmony from simply drifting by like a wispy cloud on a summer's day. 'Promise Me Eternity' tips a hat at sixties influenced indie jangling before falling enchanted into the dreamworld, 'The Line' flickers naughtily on top of a sonambulent synth drone and 'Exorcised Painting' chimes like kidnapped sixties guitar pop. Yet throughout the dreamy mood is maintained; everything emanting from a single source, making this a coherent and thoughtful piece of work. Closer 'Charles Mansion' certainly sets the seal beautifully with mellifluous guitars lapping at a gently soaring vocal over half-forgotten drums. An attractive thing indeed; let it embrace you.


the big blue
radio tokyo
distant shorelines
Sulk - The Big Blue
The third single proper from Sulk (not counting the download), 'The Big Blue' shows the band in a more reflective mood. It's certainly not the most immediate track from Graceless, with gently lapping guitars leading into a singalong, angelic chorus and ending with a delicate guitar outro. The b-side 'There Is A Light In You' is an equally mellow affair which sails by pleasantly enough and is well worth a listen. Released through Perfect Sound Forever and available on seven-inch vinyl from the band's website.

Hookworms - Radio Tokyo
The first release from Hookworms following their excellent Pearl Mystic album comes courtesy of the Too Pure Singles Club, a hefty slab of seven-inch vinyl limited to 750 copies in a hand numbered sleeve. 'Radio Tokyo' is a typically furious blast, embellished with a lovely 1960s' organ sound, while b-side 'On Returning' is far slower paced, with a gentle organ refrain being smothered by MJ's heavily treated vocals and a a consequent wall of noise before the whole song changes tack halfway through. Top stuff and the single comes with a download code.

Wolf Alice - Bros
The third offering from London's Wolf Alice and it's a nicely off-kilter slab of guitar pop, tumbling around brightly and dressed far less conservatively than the still pretty good 'Fluffy'. The b-side 'Every Cloud' is a pulsing, drony beast with a bit of birdy warbling and we still can't decide whether we like it or not which means it's making us think and that's no bad thing. We wanted challenging and we got challenging and you can't say fairer than that. Buy this.

Drenge - Backwaters
The Derbyshire duo follow their debut 'Bloodsports' with another cracking single. 'Backwaters' has the same glam edge to it as BRMC's recent 'Let The Day Begin' single and it pounds along very nicely with a brilliant lyric and a happy surfeit of crashing guitars. The flip side 'Necromance Is Dead' thrashes along punkily and dies within two minutes which is just about how it should be. Going from nowhere to supporting the Rolling Stones, it has been a great year for Drenge, and so far they have never failed to deliver the goods.

Spies - Distant Shorelines
It seems there's big things happening in Dublin at the moment with a whole host of exciting young bands emerging. The brilliant Girl Band have already made their first forays to the UK and hopefully Spies will be the next to cross the Irish Sea for our entertainment. They are about as different from the Girlies as it gets, far more classical in approach, but this recently released single oozes confidence and class. Flickering and shimmering guitars hide behind the numbed weight of the rhythm section as vocalist Michael Broderick carves out his own path in a truly distinctive style. Let's face it, it takes some nerve to carry off, "Cut through my catastrophe / Clipped my heels when I was running / You can live with the atrophy / But I've got hands and I'm gonna use them for something", but it's all utterly convincing and you can't help but admire the intelligence running through these tracks. The b-side 'Mint & Lime' carries a harder edge, opening with some nice post-punk guitars, though Broderick again instills some culture and the song rumbles along both elegantly and powerfully, which is no easy thing to achieve. We can't point you in any direction here other than ... this is really good.
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