Alternative music reviews

October 14, 2006

Beware Men In Dresses

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I found myself in The Cellar Bar in Oxford which is, guess what, a bar in a cellar. A small venue but I prefer it that way and with pints of beer for £1.50 I was in my element. The opening band was Diatribe and they started off really well with an instrumental that had variation and some bites of Post-Rock power clearly conducted by the bassist. I was less impressed with when the singer joined in, not because he was a bad singer but the quality of the music wasn’t up to the opener. A couple of nice songs though.

The band I went to see were The Fourth Chamber. Three guitars, one bass, and a drummer. All of them can play as well. The music is slacker alternative with more than a brief nod towards grungey American music. One special thing about them is the singer who can hold an audience and play with them. They are still a work in progress but they make a great noise.

The revelation was King Furnace. If you remember the rhythmic jerks of The Knack’s My Sharona then it might give you an idea of King Furnace’s style. They are just so tight musically that it’s shocking. Not a note or a percussive hit out of place. And the nervous energy of the singer was a wonder to behold. The music is a sort of alt-funk-rock, perfect for jerking around to. When it is delivered with such verve and confidence in a dark club, you realise you are in the presence of something special.

“You’re the strange ones,” the singer said when heckled. “You are out on a Thursday night to watch a man in a dress.” They made me smile, laugh, and really enjoy the night. I recommend doing whatever you have to do to see them live. Apparently ebay is a good place to sell Grandmothers.

October 5, 2006

February Snow by Fell City Girl

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It seems that just about every band from the Oxford area has Fell City Girl in their top 8 friends on MySpace. That must mean that either they are a great bunch of blokes or extremely talented. Although I live in Oxford, I am not in touch with any scene and have no idea what the band are like as people. That leaves me with just the music and I can promise you that Fell City Girl are one of the best bands you could hope to hear.

Sometimes you hear a voice that is just so damned evocative and Phil McMinn is a wonder. Every word is sung with with a fragile and desperate passion. Even when the band start to make some noise as on the track These Are The Heart Attacks it is still the plaintive voice that makes send shivers down my spine. The music and the voice combine perfectly to hit the emotional heart of the listener.

Bring on the winter – I have a soundtrack.

Fell City Girl

September 30, 2006

Annie’s Well by Luxury Car

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Luxury CarLuxury Car are a synth based band from Perth in Scotland. Although the beats and some of the textures are modern, they are not in the electronica/dance camp but direct descendants of the Synth bands of the 80’s. The music is there to support and add to the songs – and these songs are deliciously full of longing.

It’s a long time since I’ve heard synth music played to such emotional response – with the honourable exception of some of Onion Jack/Karma Pilot’s work. I can’t help being reminded a bit of Depeche Mode (early days) mainly because I like Dave Gahan’s voice and Luxury Car’s John Robertson can match his vocals. The track Repulsion has nice fat synth notes and introduces a female singer to spar with in lassitude – with wonderful passages of distorted guitar thrown in to mix everything up. That guitar is again used to good effect in Hologram to deliver the knockout blow to the powerful angular sequences of wonky synth notes. Although I’ve picked out those two tracks, this is really an album that needs to be heard from start to finish because it is music to wrap yourself in.

Luxury Car

September 24, 2006

Drop The Decade by Shut Your Eyes And You’ll Burst Into Flames

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Shut Your Eyes And You'll Burst Into FlamesI shut my eyes and burst into flames, exactly as predicted by the band. They are testing more boundaries than just seeing how long a MySpace profile name can be. They are undeniably a Funk band in exactly the same way as The Pop Group were a Funk band – completely yet not at all. Drop The Decade is energetic, original, and dynamic. All the stops are pulled out on I Will Meditate And Then I Will Destroy You – if there is a way of throwing an Axel F synth texture, shouting, chanting melodically over a drum beat, then they do it all in this one track. It’s almost as if someone had decided to do a mix of a great album and compress it into six minutes. Describing this as Inspirational just doesn’t do it justice.

I’ll make a comparison with another band from Leeds, if a long time ago. Scritti Politti were pioneers in the DIY revolution spawned just after Punk. Along with the Desperate Bicycles and Alternative TV they printed details of where/how/how much to get your records made. Their music was radically independent, despite still having melody and the use of danceable rhythms. What became of them? Well, pretty boy Green decided to become a Pop Star (and he was quite good at it). But, for people like me who wanted to see the depths of confusion and originality explored they sold out and left a gaping hole of possibilities unfilled.

Shut Your Eyes And You’ll Burst Into Flames fill that gap. They are everything that Scritti could have become but with twice the energy and I am ecstatic that they are doing what they do.

Shut Your Eyes And You’ll Burst Into Flames

September 16, 2006

Every Weekend by Dun 2 Def

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Dun 2 DefAre you fed up of that music that Americans call punk? You can get all the original energy of English Hardcore Punk with a band from Milton Keynes called Dun 2 Def. This is music with all the blood and thunder a six piece band can punch out. The unusual line up of two singers gives them the ability to add extra vocal punch in a way that Crass sometimes did.

But nostalgia is a big pull, and the affection I hold for The Ruts and Crass mean I can’t step out of my time capsule. This album doesn’t break any barriers or do anything new – but it does do the high-energy guitar thrash and shouting really, really well. In fact, if you were coming to the traditional side of British Punk now you would rate this very highly against bands like The Damned and the whole Oi! movement. In the end, this is great, loud music to wreck your body to.

Dun 2 Def

They’ve Got Nothing On You by Paul Wilkes

Filed under: reviews — @ 10:41 pm Comments (0)

Paul WilkesI seem to be reviewing a lot of stuff that isn’t quite my Indie sort of thing. I might be wrong but I think I did get sent his last EP but didn’t review it.

It sounds like Paul Wilkes is rooted in a mixture of Folk and Pop. It does mean that I will find it hard to make comparisons (was the main man of Prefab Sprout in this sort of area? I never took much notice). But this EP does attract me because of the quietness and gentleness of the songs. Musically there is much similarity with Alt-Country – less of a Country swing but the guitar would grace any of a number of bands of that genre. These are honest songs of the singer/songwriter type. You know they are going to be earnest and heartfelt (why is that so untrendy?) and they are beautifully constructed and played.

As I listen repeatedly to the EP, I realise that this is Americana even if it is played by an Englishman. The slide guitar, the acoustic guitar motifs and harmonica on In The End tell me this. It has all of the elements of music I love and I do admire all of the musicianship and craft that has gone into, but even so, none of the songs speaks to me lyrically. Too much introspection for me and it hasn’t reached out beyond it’s own world despite all of the talent it displays.

Paul Wilkes

From The Shards Of Comets

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From The Shards Of Comets!
I was sorting through the various piles of paper that serve as carpet protection in my room. I came across a CDR that I know I have listened to more than once but must have mislaid it. The one thing that I normally do on Cool Noise differently from other sites is listen over a prolonged time to the music I get sent. So I had better get the listens in now.

From The Shards Of Comets make beautiful, instrumental post-rock music full of atmosphere, layers of subtlety, and power as well. This is not the (predictable) build up to crescendo of God Speed You Black Emperor but is closer to Mogwai’s Happy Songs period.

Postcards To Nowhere is a glorious guitar overloaded piece with a slightly distracting sample of someone talking about a moon shot. Less Magic More Mechanics starts with maudlin piano notes before a meandering guitar and bass drum contribute. As the whole band join in, the psychedelic guitar begins to soar over the top. Belying the title, this is magic over mechanics. The sort of music that can dim the lights and slow your heartbeat.

From The Shards Of Comets!

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