Alternative music reviews

May 22, 2007

Wave Goodbye, Say Hello

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Some of you may have noticed that my link to “Alternative Rock Review” has disappeared. This was a fine site written by Nick Collings devoted to his reviews of alt rock releases and featuring a lot of Promo reviews. Sadly, Nick has decided to close the site completely (he had stopped taking new submissions more than a year ago). The relentless nature of one man reviewing had taken its toll on him in much the same way as with me.

The good news is that Nick has allowed me to incorporate his Promo reviews into Cool Noise. I am adding a few every day and they can be found by searching for Nick Collings

January 3, 2006

Look Out Westy! by Riotmind

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The latest release from one man project Riotmind, this raw and scuzzy rock n’roll has emphasis on Clash and Pavement styled melodies. Some stop-start lo-fi guitars (see ‘Dead End Kids’) and glimpses of pop sensibility (see ‘Take The Knife’) break from the norm, showcases some of Riotmind’s better moments on record. In fact, the chorus to ‘Take The Knife’ is bugging me because it sounds so similar to an eighties track that is on the tip of my tongue. Damn my memory…

Pretty much all these tracks are mid-tempo, gruff vocals influenced by Joe Strummer. The album works as a collective work, as no one song stands out distinctively from the rest – pretty much all is of equal weighting. The seventh song on this shiny disc has the honour of containing the line “make a movie of you, kill kill kill” and ‘Sister Siren’ sounds remarkably like The Replacements, capturing the “college rock” vibe. ‘Look Out Westy!’ is pretty hard to analyse in great detail, it’s one of those albums which doesn’t need to be analysed or dissected otherwise it loses its vitality. If you picked up any of the previous Riotmind E.P.’s such as Wrapped In Plastic, Where Did You Go?, Out Of Your Mind; then this album is a natural progression, and dare I say it – an improvement in terms of tighter song-writing and more concise use of melodic structure.

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Review by Nick Collings

December 5, 2005

Zoo Politics by Pink Punk

Filed under: reviews — @ 11:38 am Comments (0)

“Bleed for me at least, buy that T-Shirt for me at least or can I not compete with Ozzy’s monkey children?” – so goes the main hook on ‘Thrill Or Be Killed’ by former One Minute Silence frontman Yap’s on his new project Pink Punk. Two years since the demise of the Rage Against The Machine aspiring One Minute Silence, Yap had no intention of returning to the music industry, instead creating a niche for spoken word poet on the angry and naturally political ‘Zoo Politics’ album. This disc is full of hard-hitting and stream-of-conscientious lyrics performed over producer John Hendicott’s samples and beats, sometimes amusing, other times stark and adamant. Completed by backing vocalist Donna Williams, Pink Punk are an intriguing prospect as if Michael Moore’s books and films have been put to music. Take ‘Yapolitical’ for example, one of the most prominent tracks (and I say tracks, and not songs) on this album, harnessing youth anger at governments, war, pop culture and all the topics covered in counter-culture literature that many twenty-something’s feels strongly about. The band aim to shake up the establishment, raising awareness in the youth audience it hopes to connect with, the lyrics being the focal point, as third track ‘Controversy’ so bluntly puts it – “twinkle twinkle little fucking star simple, how else do you want it?”. To compliment Yap’s distinctively Irish accented spoken word vocals, Hendicott layers subtle electronic landscapes underneath, full of little piano lines, mid-tempo beats and synth strings to keep my attention.

The first half of the album is the strongest, ‘Cockmonsters’ is especially stellar in delivery, with some melodic singing at brief points. As ‘Zoo Politics’ unwinds, the delivery does begin to feel like a sledgehammer trying to open a walnut, drilling the point home that most things in life are bad which we certainly all know.

The little moments are what raise the album above the average political musical outbursts:

a) ‘Hope’ opens with the entertaining lyric – “Hope, fuck hope, you must be smoking the Pope’s dope” – not exactly rocket science to rhyme the word Hope with Pope and Dope, but still sears on the brain.
b) A robotic rhythmic beat unwinds as Yap repeats the phrase “Ozzy’s monkey children, hahahaha” before unleashing an effective chorus of “thrill or be killed, your 15 minutes start now” – one of the more memorable tracks ‘Thrill Or Be Killed’
c) Some heavily distorted guitars enter the mix during ‘Porn Beat’ which makes a change from the usual electro-tinkering on other tracks
d) The television bashing ‘Monkey TV’ which attacks banal TV shows, peaking with the stupid jingle “monkey TV, monkey TV, Jonathan Ross, Jonathan Ross”, which make me laugh first time I heard it.
e) Final track ‘Do The Right Thing’ which is actually a fully fledged song, yes, a melodic and brooding acoustic song with Yap singing instead of doing spoken word.

So there you have it, a decent political and current affairs disc which would make some people think about their corrupted leaders, how meaningless the cult of celebrity has become and other such delights of the modern world. Angst-ridden youth intent on finding a suitable soundtrack to their strong and bitter feelings as they find their feet in this cruel and unfair world will find ‘Zoo Politics’ a close-to-the-knuckle companion piece.

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Review by Nick Collings

November 14, 2005

Old Britannia by Hey Negrita

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Following up first single ‘Devil In My Shoes’, this is another impressive offering from the London based countrified band. Before delving into the music, special note about the CD disc, designed to look like an old vinyl record (even underneath is coated black) and a good indicator of how traditional the songs will sound. The general rule of thumb I use when listening to distinctively Country music is: how authentic is the music in context of the downbeat lyrics. In this instance, I’m left convinced that Hey Negrita’s main-man Felix means what he sings – ‘Old Britannia’ tackling adolescent struggles of drug addiction. The band has even teamed up with drug and alcohol charity RAPt to play Wandsworth Prison – at the very least; Hey Negrita will play to a captive audience. The deep resonance in vocals and discordant atmosphere generated in the lush arrangements and melancholy guitar picking sounds authentic enough.

The second slice of Americana ‘Come On Jane’ is even more sombre and desolate – which is a good thing. This is a cross between Frank Black and Johnny Cash jamming on a David Lynch soundtrack. Whatever that description means (don’t ask me, the song created this imagery in my head) ‘Come On Jane’ is built totally on atmosphere, as the actual song doesn’t really need a strong melody to work, it’s just one of those songs. Let’s conclude with ‘Down The River’ which mixes up Neil Young catharsis (although not a cover of ‘Down By The River’) with a gently strummed acoustic guitar. As a whole, Hey Negrita are all about the texture and mood created in their low-key music, very considered and dark – the only type of Country music I like in fact.

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Review by Nick Collings

Immediate by Silver Sun

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On the rare occasion, I get sent promos of bands I have been an occasional fan of in the past. Silver Sun is one of those very rare bands. Making some sizable splashes in the UK rock scene back during the mid-nineties most notably with the popular singles ‘Lava’ and ‘Golden Skin’, Silver Sun’s sugar coated and insanely melodic tunes wrapped in fuzzy guitars made them the UK’s answer to Weezer. Then they dropped out of the public conscience and I forgot about them. Now back with single ‘Immediate’ from the album ‘Disappear Here’, the quartet of James Broad, Richard Buckton, Paul Smith and Richard Sayce still make exactly the same music – commercial power-pop guitar music influenced by Cheap Trick. Showing absolutely no musical progression or growth does not really matter for a band like Silver Sun, since they are so damn good at what they do.

Displaying a wry sense of humour, the single sleeve notes instruct “please do not set volume below 6 when playing” is sound advice – the wall of guitars sound made by the band makes for good driving music – joyous and good natured – putting The Beach Boys into a hard rock blender, adding some Summer sunshine and leave to stand. The B-Sides ‘Dance With Me’ and ‘Sweet Baby’ keep to the same standard of quality that ‘Immediate’ sets as a benchmark. Really short in length, these songs just fly by and the handy “repeat” button comes into play to get the same sugar-rush experience. ‘Dance With Me’ is pretty much a Ramones song, molding care-free, throw-away disposable pop into something memorable. Yes, this is insubstantial music, which will not win any awards or change someone’s life in a meaningful way, but screw it – that’s why we have other bands.

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Review by Nick Collings

Photogenic by The Conway Story

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This multi-cultural group (band members hailing from as diverse countries as Germany, Chile, USA and Spain) are on tour with former Brit-pop heavyweights The Bluetones and judging by The Conway Story’s passionate playing on ‘Photogenic’ should blow those dullards off the stage. Big drums start banging, a juicy riff starts up and vocalist Nik’s strangely alluring voice builds into a flashy and smart rock song. Touching the right emotional buttons, ‘Photogenic’ keeps up the high energy during a tight three and a half minutes of Foo Fighters styled modern rock cutting edge. Short and compact, it grabbed my attention and now I’m ready for some more rock action. That second track ‘October’ on this two-track single is a slow, somber acoustic reading without much happening is a slight let-down. The vocals don’t seem to work that well, in contrast to the fiery passion on ‘Photogenic’. Not a bad song, ‘October’ is easily overshadowed by the single and feels like a standard B-Side. So to wrap things up, The Conway Story are grandiose without indulgence and could take up the mantle from Smashing Pumpkins, Placebo and all those big name nineties bands who mixed crunching riffs with soaring choruses. Of course, The Conway Story has a long, long way to go before matching those talents but I’m sure the story is only just beginning for Conway.

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Review by Nick Collings

November 13, 2005

WarfRat Tales – Unabridged by Various Artists

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Uncovering the early eighties LA garage rock scene of 1983, this compilation re-issue brings together several long-forgotten bands on one handy compact disc. Sprawling over 28 tracks, ‘WarfRat Tales’ is a long and sometimes exhausting overview of close-knit scene. Amongst the expected ordinary recordings there are many gems to savor. The Rain Parade delivers a very sixties sounding pop song in ‘I Look Around’, its Eastern garage vibe brings to mind The Beatles during their Indian experimentation phase – no bad comparison! There’s so much music here, many artists could get ignored – so let’s dive in at random and choose any song. Right – track 21 – Artist Name: To Damascus, Track Title: ‘And Leave And Leave Me’, Opinion: A bit of a tuneless and bland song all told – definitely not a highlight, the female vocalist lacking any musical talent. Let’s move on and pick another track at total random – track 9 – oh, it’s To Damascus again, that’s a coincidence. This time with the song ‘Night Surfing’, an instrumental which is a vast improvement, mainly due to the fact the female vocalist doesn’t sing and is a proficient jaunty surf rockabilly.

Changing tactic, I shall choose a song based on how much I like the band name. Let’s see….. I like the band name Hector & The Clockwatchers so let’s give them a chance. A very old-fashioned (even for 1983) and highly paced song, I can’t even describe what type of genre the song ‘Mishap At Greebsley’s’ falls into, above average at best. Moving onto the frankly creepy ‘Stop The Clock’ by Earwigs, this track is enjoyable fun with a waltzing beat and monotone vocals and …. I can’t review all the artists here so shall make a general synopsis of this good value-for-money compilation. Playing these songs brings back the times I was part of a Los Angeles scene spurning on kids to play in their parents garages tucked away in the suburbs, some acts were hit, some were miss. Actually, I lied – since I was only five year’s old living in not-so-glamorous West London when these songs were originally recorded. But this disc makes you feel like you were part of a small and self-sufficient scene, such is the enthusiasm and youthful vigor in this simplistic garage rock songs. I suppose the re-issue achieves its main objective in re-enlightening a generation too young to have experience the scene first time round.

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Review by Nick Collings

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