Alternative music reviews

August 30, 2007

The Dance Of Death by The Scaramanga Six

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In the world of The Scaramanga Six everybody strides rather than walks. There are no minor annoyances, only eruptions of earth-shaking consequence. Every cloud has a dark and explosive lining and the quiet moments are just the lull before the storm. After the near psychosis of the album Cabin Fever (or was that just me?) you might expect the Scaramanga’s to relax a bit. But no chance – more songs of grandiose neuroses and even a passionate ditty about a typeface.

They take a tale of domestic violence as in Sunken Eyes and bring out the sadness and discomfort but also a magnificently angry middle section and searing key change that has an exhausting physical impact on the listener. On The Towering Inferno they give themselves seven minutes to explore all the Pathos they can drag out of their souls. It is probably just about a bad night, but The Scaramaga Six are the Kings of Exaggeration and the hyperbole can make you smile as you revel in their power. Even in their quieter, more romantic moments during The Collector they are merely playing with the listener as a sordid tale of confusion between love and domination reveals itself.

The music is knowing and arrogant. There is a measured use of a full range of instrumentation such as strings, keyboards, Sax all in servitude to the greater glory of the crescendo. It is through this musical knowledge that they gain control and rein in the beautiful emotional tension evident in so many songs. Gird your loins before you have a session listening to them.

The Scaramanga Six

June 21, 2007

A Little Advice On Life And How Not To Live It by Mr G And Rich

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a little advice on life and how not to live itThere’s a touch of The Buzzcocks about Mr G and Rich. It comes from the wonderful nasal vocals and the constant rhythmic energy but is in no way a revival of 1977. The lyrical concerns are a quirky look at life, and what lyrics they are. A neurotic wordsmith who makes even boredom and disappointment sound interesting and fresh. Add the busy guitars and you have got a potent mix of melodic and exciting music.

It seems very unfair that I should stop my serious reviewing with Mr G And Rich still on the playlist. They went to the trouble of sending me their CD and all I do is listen to it – again and again. If you check out my most listened to bands on my LastFM then you will see that they are on top. There’s good reason for that – they are really good.

Sorry, I’ve always wanted to just say a band are ‘really good’ rather than ‘they stretch the boundaries of sonic exploration beyond the existential boundaries of Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling’ or whatever other bollocks a reviewer ends up saying.

Mr G And Rich on MySpace

May 8, 2007

shutterspeed by The Reverse

Filed under: reviews — @ 10:51 pm Comments (0)

Once upon a time, Uncut magazine’s Americana CDs were very important to me. I had found the Scud Mountain Boys and Drunk through taking a risk on Stewart Lee’s reviews in the Sunday Times but it was Uncut that introduced me to the multiplicity of bands playing such inspiring music. The last one I remember was a few years ago when I first heard the wonderment of Explosions In The Sky, Bill Malonee, and Josh Ritter.

So this weekend I bought the latest Uncut with the CD The New Frontier featuring the ‘American – the next generation’. I sat down to listen to it with a feeling of anticipation (in between coats of paint and grout and balancing precariously on the edge of a bath) and guess what…it did nothing for me. A few reasonable tunes but nothing to take me aback.

I had been expecting some magic, some unique atmospherics that would reach into my soul and transport me to a near imaginary place of huge open space and the threat of thunderstorms. I was a bit disappointed to say the least.

I decided to listen to the new EP shutterspeed by The Reverse, that had arrived at this previous address I was re-decorating (some people haven’t updated their address for me). I recalled liking their previous release quite a bit. I realised from the first thirty seconds of music, I was being presented with exactly what I had been looking for: tales of everyday life that soar in their emotional impact. Oh, sure it’s all about sadness and confusion but it is so beautiful, so inspiring. Four tracks of such epic sweep that talk directly to the heart should be treasured.

I never did write my respective on the band Drunk. Although little known, they produced what was for me some of the most intense, affecting music I have ever heard. The Reverse have produced an EP that stands out as as good as the best of Drunk. The same gentle but insistent musical dynamic and the same endless questioning of the meaning of emotional confusion in the lyrics.

It’s like rediscovering love after you never thought you could feel again.

The Reverse

April 24, 2007

Start A Fight by Death In Public

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Death In PublicThe starting point of this EP is a similar breathless pace as This Et Al. As soon as the title track Start A Fight starts it is like a Roller-coaster ride. The momentum begins to build gently and you climb up the rails before the plunge into excitement is accompanied by fast strummed guitars. All the blood-coursing excitement of the Fair without the nausea: cool or what?

Play It Again Sam adds the hint of Velvet Underground cool with a guitar overplay in the verse (such as that from Lady Godiva’s Operation). The transition into the chorus with the sudden distance of the vocal contradicting the increased guitar attack is a moment worthy of My Bloody Valentine. The final track of the EP, Vincent Vega, places more atmospheric guitar work with a touch of feedback into the mix. It does make me regret that Sonic Youth no longer make music with this sort of intensity.

This EP is just too good to review and that is why all the tracks are at the top of my ‘most listened to’ on LastFM. How am I meant to step back and assess sound and rhythm such as this? I love it.

Death In Public

March 24, 2007

Don’t Be A Doctor by ¡Forward, Russia!

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I was a little equivocal in my review of the last ¡Forward, Russia! single – saying I wasn’t actually that fond of the song but I liked the direction they were taking. As far as I am aware, this new single is the first song released with a title in words rather than a number so that may indicate a significant development.

Having been a bit disappointed with iLiKETRAiNS latest song, I really needed a band who could work in the epic scale. The build up is wonderful, most bands would be happy with the upping of pace at two minutes, but ¡Forward, Russia! don’t believe in stopping at just rocking out with a bit of guitar. At four minutes, they move into overdrive and it develops into one of the most passionate musical assaults I have heard.

I don’t have a clue what the lyrics are about, but I do get the sheer physical impact of this song. When you are young, this sort of surging, blood-pumping roller-coaster ride is great. My worry is for the older people like me who really can’t take this sort of excitement much longer. I received a letter last year advising me to have a Flu Jab because of my age. Now I am waiting for the ‘don’t listen to ¡Forward, Russia!’ advice from my Doctor.

The YouTube video above is from a live performance of Don’t Be A Doctor in Manchester. It is only a fan video from a distance back from the stage but the sound is good, the performance is inspiring and it makes me want to be there.

March 16, 2007

Grinderman

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GrindermanI have just about kept up with Nick Cave over the years. I have felt able to miss out a few albums recently. It never used to be that way – I even include Door, Door by The Boys Next Door in my vinyl collection (now that is completist). The other day my sister sent me an album by Grinderman, Nick Cave’s latest project so I gave it a listen, expecting something interesting but not sensational.

It begins with Get It On (no, not the famous one) and Nick’s voice shouting down the cellar: ‘kick those black dogs and baboons out’. And then it starts – a noise so distorted it could be either a guitar or organ but it is low down and dirty and that is all that matters. What I am hearing is Nick Cave in a band again, more Birthday Party than Bad Seeds. These are not songs written by a man in his artistic solitude but instead music forged in the claustrophobia of a small studio when given some electric instruments and a few ideas to try out. No Pussy Blues is a simple blues song about a girl that just says no. It’s funny and breaks out into some of the most beautiful wah wah distorted guitar since Ron Ashton first met Iggy Pop – except it is louder and has more feedback than even the great Ron.

This is a great album and the best thing Mr Nick Cave has done for many years. It has an immediacy and earthiness his other (often magnificent) work doesn’t have. During the final track Nick even mentions what he has been listening to on the radio: Gardeners Question Time and Woman’s Hour! I am also very impressed when he uses the riff from Nomad 67’s Art of Individuality during the song Honey Bee – I know he will not have heard of the Nomad boys but it says something that he has returned to that level of enthusiasm and love of noise.

It’s a simple reminder of the primal power of Rock and Roll. Is that a wanking monkey on the cover? I hope so.

Grinderman

February 14, 2007

The Secret Sickliness by Piskie Sits

Filed under: piskie sits,reviews — @ 11:01 pm Comments (3)

The Secret Sickliness
I have the debut album of Piskie Sits: The Secret Sickliness and it is a wonderful record. They play very quirky songs mixed with backing yelps, added strings, slidy guitar, and whatever else they feel like throwing in at the time. The songs go from a slow pace to Velvets thrash – but they can suddenly change at anytime during any song. It takes a little time to get used to but they are terribly addictive. Behind all of this apparent eccentricity is a real passion and exploration of those emotions we try to avoid. But even with this depth, they have a lot of fun presenting it with gusto and oddity.

I can hear influences on their music. There is the shambolic strummed guitar quality of Sebadoh and some serious alt-country aspects. The influences are American but they play it with an English sensibility of great bands such as The Blue Orchids and Band Of Holy Joy. In the end, Piskie Sits are only themselves and apply a twisted, knowing edge to their work. If you listen to them you will hear some of the best guitar driven Indie you could ever hope to hear with melodies to intrigue and attract and an atmosphere all of its own.

Piskie Sits on MySpace

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