Jan & Feb 2013



Should auld acquaintance ...

January is generally quiet for new releases and there have been no changes to that trend this year, but as the record releasing season begins to open just think back to how depressed we were last year. 2011 had been an abomination with the most paltry selection of new releases we can ever remember and January opened with NME declaring the Maccabees had made the album of the year some eleven months early. All this left us wondering whether it really was all over for our happy breed, but fortunately the year got better as it progressed and some great new bands emerged into the light as people began to remember exactly what is was guitars were for. And now as we look at the first releases of 2013 ... oh my! It appears there really is light at the end of the tunnel. The wheel is turning. And when it has turned fully our way, please somebody stick an iron bar in the spokes. We don't want to go through all that again, do we?

out of view

The History of Apple Pie - Out Of View

Marshall Teller

Released: 28th January 2013


Ignore the fact The History of Apple Pie have one of the worst names in the history of music and that much of their artwork has you reaching fearfully for the twee alert button, just one listen to their debut album, Out Of View, will have you bubbling over with reckless enthusiasm. Formed when their leading duo, Stephanie Min and Jerome Watson, began to attract a ridiculous amount of attention after knocking up a few bedroom demos and posting them online, it's clear from the start the pair were not only listening to the right kind of records but that they have the happy knack of translating their love of eighties and nineties indie pop into something quite bitingly contemporary. From the opening pops of background noise before 'Tug' to the rumbling feedback at the conclusion of 'Before You Reach The End', Out Of View sweeps you away in a tidal wave of brilliantly executed and helplessly appealing fuzzy guitar pop. Min sings as if she has a terrible cold, bassist Kelly Lee Owens harmonises beautifully and Watson and Aslam Ghauri weave all kinds of magic from their overworked guitars as THOAP manage to blend intricate melodies with bitingly hard guitar blasts, walking the line between cute and cutting to produce something surprisingly refreshing. With drummer James Thomas completing the line-up, THOAP not only play love songs that don't sound remotely corny, but also conjure up moments of sheer brilliance that take your breath away. Nobody is going to tell us 'Mallory' is not one of the best pop songs written in the last ten years: a driving, harmonious, four minutes of pure, unbridalled joy. Add to that 'The Warrior' where the thoughtful intro is ripped apart with lashing and scraping guitars before pausing brilliantly halfway through, and the rumbling final track which drags you along insistently while its vicious guitars pare you down, and you have a very special record indeed. Indeed, there are highlights everywhere and very little to moan about. Of course, it's not all new with five of the ten tracks having appeared on earlier released singles, but it is more than welcome to have them all together in this one admirable collection. We can't think of any better way to start the year and the band is touring now so catch them if you can. Quality with a capital city.
bostin steve austin

Fuzzbox - Bostin' Steve Austin (Splendiferous Edition)

Cherry Red

Released: 28th January 2013


When they exploded into prominence in March 1986 with the fantastic 'XX Sex' single, Fuzzbox were a welcome burst of sunshine in an indie world that often confined itself too much to the shadows. Released as a brightly coloured vinyl seven inch single on Vindaloo Records, this attack on the sexploitation of women was as catchy as it was shambolic, pieced together by four Birmingham girls who may not have been the greatest musicians in the world, but who made up for this with unbounded energy, a couldn't care less attitude, and a desire to confront the issues that mattered most to them. The band released two more great singles in 'Love Is The Slug', which reached No.31 in the national charts, and 'What's The Point?' which hit No.51, with the debut album, Bostin' Steve Austin, seeing light of day in December of that year. Most of their tracks featured the fuzzbox from the band's name which was utilised, as admitted by drummer Tina O'Neill, to "totally disguise our utter ineptitude under an echoey, fuzzy wall of almost melodic noise", but despite any musical weaknesses the band here manage to produce an album of appealing brightness which was housed in a perfect painting-by-numbers sleeve and in truth is as true to the punk DIY ethos as it is possible to get. Violin, piano, sax and keyboards are all thrown into the mix as Fuzzbox debate issues ranging from the serious to the ludicrous in eleven original tracks while also offering up a heinous cover of Norman Greenbaum's 'Spirit In The Sky'. Cherry Red have now released Bostin' Steve Austin on CD for the first time in a 2CD set which contains a disc of bonus tracks O'Neill admits should have been "killed at birth". These include the band's brilliant take on 'Bohemian Rhapsody', originally the b-side of 'What's The Point?', as well as 'Rockin With Rita', recorded with Vinadaloo labelmates The Nightingales and Ted Chippington. Throw in all the other b-sides and various mixes and these add up to twenty-two bonus tracks, two of them mercifully unreleased before now, and all of them combining to provide an utterly bewitching listen. Sadly Fuzzbox fell into the grip of the majors who quickly began to promote them as sexy dance vocal group, complete with Barbarella costumes, and the band fell apart rancorously with some seeing the irony of this move given the subject matter of their first single. But Bostin' Steve Austin remains as a testament to what can be achieved with a load of front and a refusal to be knocked down.
broken english

Marianne Faithfull - Broken English (Deluxe)

Commercial Marketing

Released: 28th January 2013


Forever famous for her association with the Rolling Stones, Marianne Faithfull was a successful singer with two top twenty albums to her name when she walked out on her husband of less than a year to move in with Mick Jagger in 1966, the unhealthy environment surrounding the Stones at that time seeing her sink into a life of hopeless drug addiction that utimately led to her losing custody of her child, suicide attempts, vagrancy, mental illness and homelessess. Splitting from Jagger in 1970, the following decade saw several attempts by others to help her beat her addictions and revive her career, an album recorded with Mike Leader in 1971 failing to see light of day, while the country tinged Dreamin' My Dreams met with some success in 1975. Moving into a squat with boyfriend Ben Brierly of the Vibrators in the late 1970s, Broken English was released in October 1979 to much critical acclaim. Partly influenced by her experiences of the punk movement, the album adopts plenty of new wave sounds alongside more traditional rock and dance elements, including the heavy use of synthesisers. The merging of styles is the perfect frame to Faithfull's now throaty vocals; not here the melodic sweetness of her early releases with her voice having been ravaged by too many years of cigarettes, alcohol and drug abuse. The whole is gloriously bitter and defiant with Faithfull co-writing about half of the material and the rest comprising of suitably downbeat cover versions that resonated with the ongoing traumas of her existence, more than one touching upon the confusion of drug dependence. Of the original numbers, the title track, influenced by the Baader-Meinhof terrorst group, is a stone cold classic, chillingly laid out to a sythesiser loop with excellent mock-Jagger backing vocals, while the foul mouthed 'Why D'Ya Do It?' is adapated by the singer from a poem by Heathcote Williams and played out in a punk reggae style. Some thirty-four years down the line, this 2CD reissue includes the remastered original album, which still packs a punch, alongside a bonus disc adding thirteen extra tracks. The whole album is included again in its previously unreleased original mix while the twelve inch version of 'Sister Morphine' from the 'Broken English' single is terrific; Faithfull having fought for years to get her name added to the writing credits of this classic Stones' number. Also included is a suitably oblique short film by Derek Jarman which includes Faithfull singing three tracks from the album, with a brilliant use of Space Invaders on the video to the title track. This is a nice package and surely no story of the freedoms conferred by the 'Swinging Sixties' is truly complete without taking into account Faithfull's dark and bitter appendix?

My Bloody Valentine - MBV


Released: 2nd February 2013


In all honesty, it shouldn't really take twenty-two years to follow up your last album. If, as rumoured, My Bloody Valentine bought Creation to the edge of bankruptcy with the three year gap between Isn't Anything and Loveless (with all its associated studio costs), it's just as well they weren't waiting for this one to turn up. In fact, all rumours of this record being released at all were met with a degree of scepticism but, true to his word (just a short time after the Creation material was reissued in impressive packages last year), Kevin Shields finally opened the shutters and MBV was made available at the beginning of February as a digital download only. This came as somewhat of a surprise as the band had taken pains to record the album in analogue, though there was slight relief for dedicated download haters when CD-quality files were made available immediately to those who had decided to order the physical formats of the record which will not be available until the end of the month. Thirty-four new countries have come into being since Loveless first emerged into the light, let alone the onset of the audio digital age and the closure of most of the shops that would have stocked it. Yet for My Bloody Valentine it seems time has stood still and there really is very little to separate the previous album from the current. Similarly disembodied and free from the constraints of traditional forms, MBV is another impressive experiment in sonic sculpture, though familiarity with its approach and the passage of time will undoubtedly minimise its impact. That said, this is still a splendid thing with a gently twisted beauty that at times is quite bewitching. Like the band's other albums, the tracks vary in the degree of distortion applied with 'New You' a relatively straightforward, bright pop song while, at the other end of the spectrum, 'Nothing Is' is three and half minutes of brutal, repetitive noise. Most of the tracks fall somewhere between the two, the highlights being the sumptuous 'Only Tomorrow' with its thrumming guitar and breathy Bilinda Butcher vocal, and the tracks most redolent of Valentines Past, 'Who Sees You' and 'In Another Way', which slide through your consciousness like half forgotten dreams. No longer groundbreaking but nevertheless impressive with lots to admire. But if they keep releasing albums at this rate we'll be dead before the next one comes out.
dwelling and druss

GNOD - Presents ... Dwellings & Druss


Released: 4th February 2013


If you like little less form to your music then you need to look no further than Ireland's Trensmat Records which has been producing a series of quite beautifully produced limited edition releases for nearly seven years now, specialising in drone and noise music. Selling only to those who have signed up to their mailing list with what few overs remain being shared among a very select band of retailers, Trensmat releases normally emerge in all types of multicoloured formats, often with silkscreened sleeves, and they are very nice things indeed. Take the excellent recent release by former Cheree and Creation band the Telescopes which emerged as a seven inch with 126 copies in purple vinyl with a black silkscreened sleeve, 63 copies in maroon with a similar sleeve, and 11 in black with a xeroxed three-quarter wrap sleeve. The numbers, then, are strictly limited; the choice and value for money is tremendous. The latest offering from the label is an album by Manchester noise collective Gnod who have been extremely prolific over the past nine years, unleashing their trippy drone and psychedelic sounds on a vast number of labels. Having released their heavy '5th Sun' single on Trensmat last July, this new album is a completely different animal, far more restrained, with guitars replaced by keyboards creating a more industrial, unfettered sound. Just three tracks grace the album: the opener 'Revelation 9' bounces along moodily but reveals little, while the near nine minute '20 Sides A Minute' is more threatening, pounding relentlessly and growing in menace as it progresses, like the soundtrack to a particularly unsettling futuristic thriller. Side two is completely taken up by the sixteen minute 'Defeatism' which is by far the most adventurous track here, bass heavy and feeling almost uplifting alongside its doom-laden counterparts. Released as a limited run in gold vinyl, GNOD Presents comes with an otherwise unavailable download of the album and an exclusive 50 minute live set entitled 'In Orbit' and recorded in November 2012. It's a certainty this isn't for everyone, but if you feel like stretching your mind every once in a while, you could do a lot worse than teeing up some GNOD, or dipping into the Trensmat archives.
france 98

Girl Band - France 98

Any Other City

Released: 4th February 2013


You see kids, it's not that hard. All we ever ask for is some blistering guitars, half an ear for a melody and uncompromising belief in yourself. Not only do Dublin's Girl Band have this in abundance, but they have produced one of the finest looking records we have seen in a very long time. This limited edition (300) six-track twelve inch single is wrapped in hand-stamped brown paper tied up with string and it feels like all your Christmases have come at once. For not only do you get to fondle this magnificent article but when you actually manage to bring yourself to open it and play the record inside it seems that Santa knew what you really wanted all along. This is blistering stuff. Forget any lazy reviews dragging up such names as The Jesus Lizard and Bleach-era Nirvana. The band may well have grown up on that sort of stuff, but they don't sound anything like those bands; Girl Band don't throw any rock shapes and what we have here is something more primal, harking back to the post punk revolution. This is inventive, intelligent, driving and uncompromising stuff. Take 'Handswaps', opening to some low feedback and distorted handclapping before searing guitars rip at your ears and a rumbling Wobble-like bass swagger drags the song across the floor. Attacked by Alan Duggan's tangental, raking guitar fury, Dara Kiely's excellent vocal never falters under the assault before explosions of noise bring the whole to a stuttering climax. It's quite magnificent. Take 'Second One' where Daniel Fox's bass dances along to Adam Faulkner's rattling drums while the vocal grows more insistent and the guitars turn early whispered hints into messy promises, like some parasitical disease finally taking a grip and doing its worst. Bloody hell, this is good. Take 'You're A Dog', crushed by a bludgeoning guitar riff and pounding drum and bass while Kiely sings as if he doesn't have a worry in the world. It just oozes class. There's three other tracks, maybe not scaling quite such heights, but all hugely decent and obliquely fascinating. Having been released earlier in Ireland, the record has now found its way to the UK and is currently available from Rough Trade, though you can bet your life it won't be for long. If you miss out on a copy, you can download all of the band's music for free on their website and with a UK tour in the offing don't miss them for love nor money. This record has made us very, very happy. It's absolutely blindingly, staggeringly good. Come on, 2013.

UK Subs - XXIV

Captain Oi!

Released: 4th February 2013


You have got to take your hat off to Charlie Harper, you really have. Already a singer in a band when he was caught up in the euphoria of the punk explosion of 1976, the man has not budged an inch since that date, remaining true to his beliefs and driving the UK Subs on towards his goal of releasing an album begining with every letter of the alphabet. Being the sole singer since the band's formation, Harper has recruited twenty-one guitarists, nineteen bassists and thirty-four drummers to help him fulfil his quest and now presents album number twenty-four, fittingly entitled XXIV, or Revolution No: XXIV as is stated inside the sleeve. Given that Harper was already thirty-five when the the excellent debut Another Kind Of Blues was first released in 1979, his achievement is all the more remarkable. Now just a couple of months off sixty-nine, he surely has the constitution of an ox as the Subs remain one of the hardest working bands on the circuit and XXIV doesn't lift its foot a single inch off the accelerator. What passes for punk music now has changed dramatically since the seventies; today we are presented with fast metal bashes, American style, and it is sad that the simple, attacking guitar riffs leading into effortlessly catchy, singalong choruses are pretty much a thing of the past. The first fourteen tracks here are generally in that vein, with the odd standouts including 'Implosion 77' with its 'Wardance' style distorted verses and simple single-refrain chorus in which Harper sounds uncannily like a youthful Johnny Rotten, 'Las Vegas Wedding' which harks melodically back to the heady days of the 1970s, and 'Failed State' which has more than a hint of the Pistols about it. Add to that the topical 'Coalition Government Blues' with its harmonica and the pure blast of Oi! in 'Monkeys' and there is just enough here to make this more than a heads down thrash, though it has to be said that when the Subs do get fast and heavy, they do it far better than most. The band's label Captain Oi! has continued to evolve and this release is packaged beautifully in a hardback digipak with lyric book with twelve acoustic tracks added to the mix which offer a whole new perspective on the band. It's a fascinating listen, and made essential by the inclusion of an appealingly robust cover of the Mott The Hoople classic 'Angel of Eighth Avenue'. Lyrically, XXIV is unrelenting in attacking politics, bigotry and religion and at one stage calls for a 'workers' revolution'. Well, Harper is certainly a worker, so we'll give him that one, but you get the impression if everybody worked as hard as the UK Subs, there would be fewer problems in this world to have to deal with in the first place. Big respect to them.
five lives left

The Family Cat - Five Lives Left: The Anthology

3 Loop

Released: 4th February 2013


If you made a list of the most criminally underrated bands in history then The Family Cat would surely feature high in that list. From the release of 1989's jangling 'Tom Verlaine', which achieved a Single of the Week accolade from the NME, to 1994's sublime 'Goldenbook', which failed by a whisker (ahem) to break into the national top forty, this West Country five-piece barely put a foot wrong, releasing eleven largely glorious singles and two very fine albums of intelligent, guitar-driven indie rock as well as an early mini album of only intermittent quality. With the band's material unavailable for some time now, singer Paul Frederick (universally 'Fred') has helped piece together this very welcome 2CD set of the band's work. Thirty-six tracks in all, this compilation includes all of the band's singles as well as some b-sides and album tracks, seven BBC session tracks and five previously unheard songs which were recorded for the band's third album which never saw light of day. A detailed booklet also gives Frederick's thoughts on every track as well as accounts of the band's history, all housed in a nice trifold digipak from 3 Loop who exist to bring such lost classics back to light. It is difficult to pick out highlights as there are so many. Second single 'Remember What It Is That You Love' remains joyfully uplifting; 'What We Talk About When We Talk About Love' is overbrimming with delights (Jelbert, you are wrong); and 'Steamroller' is astonishing despite never fulfilling Frederick's ambition of being played as the Southampton football team took to the pitch. Where else in the indie world would you find a singer dragging the word 'roll' out over eight seconds? And how many changes of direction can you squeeze into one song? It's a gem and no mistake. Add to this the chugging, melodic 'Wonderful Excuse', the psychedelically-charged b-side 'Thought I'd Died And Gone To Heaven', the gorgeously smooth 'Goldenbook' and soaring 'Place With A Name' and it would take a brave man to deny this is a very fine collection indeed. Delightfully pieced together songs with intelligent lyrics draped in swathes of guitars; it was often said the Family Cat could never capture their stunning live act on record, but here's a collection that will lay that lie for once and for all. Much needed and truly excellent.
the new life

Girls Names - The New Life

Tough Love

Released: 18th February 2013


The post-punk renaissance that seems to be growing in momentum is a wonderful thing to behold; for so long we had wondered if there was a place for us any more on the musical landscape or whether it really was time to take up lawn bowls. The latest recruits to the fold appear to be Belfast four-piece Girls Names who have ditched the jangly pop of their 2011 debut Dead To Me to move into the shadows with their second album, appropriately named The New Life, and a very tidy piece of work it is too. This is the sort of album lazy journalists used to dismiss as "second rate Joy Division" because there weren't four blokes in baggy shorts in the band leaping around like imbeciles. In other words, it is intense, atmospheric, intelligent and will endure more than a couple of listens before being cast into the bargain basement. Built on the doomy basslines of Claire Miskimmin, the cleverly unobtrusive drumming of Neil Brogan and some gently sighing synths, the ten tracks here are dominated by the cultured guitars of Philip Quinn and Cathal Cully which tease the fringes of Cully's unwavering baritone to create an atmosphere of heart-warming caliginosity. There are some monstrously good touches here: the horn-like howls at the opening of the terrific 'Pittura Infamante', the bass dive at the beginning of the evocative 'Drawing Lines', the swooping guitars of 'Hypnotic Regression', and the six string death throes that decorate the conclusion of the epic, repetitive 'The New Life'. There's not much to criticise here; this album is beautifully made, thoughtfully put together and darkly appealing. At times it touches on gorgeous, and it's not often we can say that. One downer is that there is apparently a bonus track with iTunes downloads and that is wrong on every single level, but don't hold it against them, give this record a spin and you won't find it wanting. Hell, this year is looking promising.
push the sky away

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Push The Sky Away

Bad Seed

Released: 18th February 2013


For those of us who grew up with and fed upon the Birthday Party, Nick Cave's solo recordings have not always captured the same place in our hearts and, to be fair, haven't always merited to do so. The last Bad Seeds album, Dig, Lazarus Dig!!!, released back in 2008, showed a welcome return to grating nastiness after a particularly fallow period and the two Grinderman albums that sandwiched it were pleasingly raucous treats. Now having left that project behind him, Cave has reassembled his Bad Seeds, for the first time without his old Birthday Party colleague Mick Harvey, and has produced an album from completely the other end of the spectrum, possibly the quietest record he has ever made, yet certainly one of the most uncompromising. For Cave here has delineated his boundaries before building the city, allowing him to undertake a careful construction without a single raised hackle, an untamed guitar or a reckless drumbeat. Pieced lyrically around the oddities the singer has trawled from the internet, Cave has melded together some intricate and deeply intelligent verses before layering them over a minimal accompaniment where there is never anything added where it is not needed. Thus the aching flute on the opener 'We No Who U R', the text speak a startling contrast to its cute conception; thus the rationed strings on 'We Real Cool' or the gorgeous bass on 'Finishing Jubilee Street'; thus the gentle, mirroring backing vocals that grace the narratives with an evocative beauty. There is a bewitching subtlety of touch throughout; Cave's voice is as good as it has ever been, his phrasing through even the wordier songs such as 'Water's Edge' is little short of immaculate. And has he ever written a better lyric than 'Higgs Boson Blues', touching on a myriad subjects, namechecking Robert Johnson and Hannah Montana, throwing out light and dark while darkening light and lightening darkness? "Look, here comes the missionary with his smallpox and flu," he sings. It's clever, clever stuff. It's difficult to comprehend the amount of work that has been put into this record, but Cave can rest assured that his efforts have been worthwhile. Painstakingly built, impressively intelligent and displaying no little beauty, this is a giant of a record; one of the first of its kind in this twenty-first century. Marvel at it.
you're nothing

Iceage - You're Nothing


Released: 18th February 2013


Iceage's debut album, 2011's New Brigade, was a scary fucker, twenty-three minutes of brutal instability masquerading as a record. Two years later and the Danish punks have managed to stretch their second long player to a whole twenty-eight and a half minutes though little else appears to have changed. It's true You're Nothing is a little more focussed than its predecessor and less likely to pull apart at the seams, but the band's approach remains untamed and chaotic and you really wouldn't want to test the stitching too hard. There are twelve tracks here, averaging two minutes twenty each, each a crashing assault on the senses underlined by bleak desperation and gnawing anxiety. "There's a vile fury with us," spits singer Elias Rønnenfelt, and the band take no pains to disguise it. The opener 'Ecstasy' is a distorted trail through a million shades of grey; "bliss is momentary anyhow," they complain, "Pressure, oh god no." It's a great start to a bewildering journey through the eyes of the isolated where nothing is connected and dislocation is taken for granted. "She gives out signals but our hearts are not the same," Rønnenfelt screams in the storming 'Coalition'; "I touch through skin, damage everything," cries the pounding 'Burning Hand', "Do you hear me? Do you hear me? Do you hear me?" This is great. And You're Nothing is unrelenting as it builds to its furious conclusion. "These walls are growing higher and we're running out of time," warns the switchbacking 'Awake' before the album comes to a grinding halt with the fantastic title track where warped guitars cut through a punishing rhythm section while Rønnefelt screams, "Look at yourself, that's right you're nothing. Feel the void grow." One minute forty of stingingly melodic carnage. The power here, the attitude, speed and venom are punk through and through and there are moments when Iceage sound like just another hardcore band released into the community. But at the very heart of this record is a sensibility that transcends genre. There are touches of guitar playing that are astonishingly subtle and cultured, changes in pace and timing that are more than just accidents; it makes you wonder just what these boys could do in a couple of years' time. Deeply encouraging.


let the day begin
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Let The Day Begin
The first offering from BRMC's forthcoming album, Specter At The Feast, is available as a free download from the band's website and it's a bit of a stormer. Huge glam drums, a pulsating riff and a terrific vocal make this a class above and its positive energy couldn't be more different from 2010's bleak Beat The Devil's Tattoo. Can't wait for the album.

Crime & The City Solution - Goddess
Native drums lead the way into the new incarnation of C&TCS's first recorded offering, available as a bought download but accessible with its video from You Tube. There's a lot thrown into the mix but, as usual, Simon Bonney's magnificent vocals steal the show, though they are run close by the spiralling guitars of David Eugene Edwards and Alexander Hacke. Nicely messy and pleasingly hard and rocky.

Wolf Alice - Fluffy
Second offering from the much fancied Londoners who produce self-proclaimed 'psychofreak poprock' and it's a lot harder than 'Leaving You'. There's nothing particularly innovative here, but there are purposeful guitars, a pleasing ebb and flow and a decent full stop ending. Well worth investigation; there's more to be had, we suspect.

Drenge - Bloodsports
Derbyshire duo Drenge offer up two tracks available now on Spotify or for download and which are apparently getting a physical release in early March. 'Bloodsports' offers nicely bruising guitars, a lot of metal crashing and a calm, assured vocal. 'Dogmeat' is less frantic but just as mean and just a little bit deranged. All in all, a pretty fine debut.

Top photo: We've Got A Fuzzbox And We're Going To Use It

November/December 2012 Reviews

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