A Bit of Education - Alan Smith Finds That He Likes You a Lot…

The Skies - Bring It On
This single bares more than a passing resemblance to Primal Screams Rocks in terms of its stomping guitars & drums and catchy repetitive chorus. But Bobby & Company's chart bothering days are long gone, and a radio friendly song such as this is an obvious potential hit for a band that create the illusion of edginess, whilst actually being very calculated in their song structure. That sounds like I don't like it, I do, it's pop rock Jim, exactly as we know it.

Danny Fontaine & The Horns Of Fury Present Murder Suite
We've had Gypsy Punk from the superb Gogol Bordello which has inevitably opened the gates for all those other gypsy-genre-straddling bands to come out of the woodwork and find fame and fortune. Danny Fontaine & The Horns Of Fury are the first of, I'm sure, many Gypsy ska bands to unleash themselves on our fragile ears. They are, of course, bonkers and therefore a great amount of fun. The have a slower pace than Gogol, plus, as you'd expect, plenty of Horns. The songs meander all over the place, and pay homage to roughly 7000 different genres of music. In order to create a listenable "comedy" band, they have the required genuine talent & songwriting skills. This three track CD is enjoyable, but to fully appreciate the band, I think you'd have to see them live. Something I'll make sure I'll do as soon as possible.

Captain Black - Come On Up To Our House
Shocking from the very first second, Captain Black do not make mournful low-key gentle acoustic numbers direct from their hearts to your ears. Nope. The "Black" is misleading; this is delightfully upbeat and makes you bop. Yes, bop. It's that kind of record that it's not dancing, it's bopping. Some clever production gives it an unpolished vinyl sort of sound that adds to its charm. It's catchy as Fuck, unlike anything else out there, and an indie masterpiece. If only every band were as talented and enjoyable as Captain Black. www.captainblack.org.uk.

The Half Rabbits - The Final Days Of Rome
I'm not really sure how I feel about this band. Not very helpful as an opening statement I grant you, but I reckon they'll split you about 50/50 as well. The singer's spot-on Editors style singing is accompanied by rockier backing, sort of Pixies without the inventiveness. And I think therein lies the problem, I'm left with the nagging feeling that this is just a little bit needlessly over-the-top. It could be that they've stolen too much from everybody else and really don't have anything of their own to offer, or they might just be finding their voice. This one could go either way but I'm not sure I can be bothered to hang around to find out. If you think you can by all means head off to www.halfrabbits.co.uk


Passenger - Walk You Home
Passenger are long time favourites of mine and I've heard them transform from a gentle acoustic based band under the name Mike Rosenberg Band, to masters of infectious little upbeat numbers. This is another of those nice little tunes, following up recent single Do What You Like. It's got the requisite catchy chorus that seems to be so easy for them to knock out, and the clever lyrics to go with it. Their progression as a band seems to be helping their profile, in the last two weeks I've heard them twice on the radio so it seems their hard work is paying off, which is nice to see when you've seem a band plug away for some time to develop themselves. www.passengerofficial.com.

Van Tramp - The Ultraviolet EP
This is pretty sickly stuff from a band whose singer apparently won a Bryan Adams soundalike contest. Which is pretty much all you need to know. It's ludicrously over-polished, presumably to make sure any redeeming features are wiped out to create something that reaches new heights in blandness and is therefore thankfully utterly forgettable. Their claim to fame is that their music is used as a backing track on Final Score, which is something no band should be proud to admit. "Stadium sized" (so say Rough Trade) they may be, but that really isn't a good thing. If you like Rod Stewart this band may have something to offer you, but I'm pretty sure you don't and therefore neither do they.

Undercut - A Bit Of Education
Annoyingly Undercut seem set up for success. The music is reasonable, inoffensive and less original than the likes of The View & Hard-Fi. This means I'm bound to hear a lot more of them as they hoodwink the masses into their bland world with the "edgy" vocals with remind me of Incubus and other drab American bands. They claim they "embrace so many things that are great about up-coming British guitar music right now", by which they mean they rape, pillage and steal all they can to hop on the bandwagon and give the world tedious music utterly undeserving of success. Am I being too harsh? No, because there is nothing here at all, and despite this we are powerless to stop them. www.undercutmusic.com.

Bobby Cook - Déjà vu
"Oh no!", I hear you cry, "Not another ruddy singer songwriter". 'friad so folks, but wait! This one's pretty good! "Oh, I suppose he has a haunting voice and carefully written heart wrenching songs?" Um, actually, no. "But I'm sure I've heard it all before, right?" Very funny. I got the same surprise from this as I did from Patrick Wolf. It's really upbeat and poppy, genuine feel good music aided by a full band. Please please please take the time to listen to this if you likely effortlessly catchy top quality music. He's up there (or will be) with the very best and I'm sure is a cult hero in the making.

Photo by Nick Kiehl


James Morrison - One Last Chance
From one great songwriter to another. Only joking. The man who unleashed the horrendous "Wonderful World" and "You Give Me" on an unsuspecting and unprepared public to incomprehensible success. The stupidity of the world in general never ceases to amaze me and they suck up any old generic tripe seemingly without a clue of what makes a great song. So much amazing music is produced and yet I have in my grasp what will undoubtedly be another unfairly huge hit. In its defence it's not as mind bogglingly irritating as its predecessors. I don't wish to jump out the window whilst listening to it, I only wish to destroy the CD forever more and wish that James' career would do the same. You may think I've taken the easy way out here, and laid into someone who is dazzlingly ease to hate and pick upon. But there is nothing in this song of any value. It's very simple and the lyrics basic and calculated. Happily, I doubt any of you were even considering listening to this. Oh, to be in your shoes.

Opposite The Hotel -
Opposite The Hotel feature Jonny Steele, former guitarist with R*e*p*e*a*t favourites Miss Black America. So I'm expecting good things. They are slightly calmer and more structured than you might expect, and luckily with no attempt made to hide their political messages within their music. And, of course, they prove you can talk about things you actually care about and still make good music. I've heard enough bands who stick to singing about "love" and "feelings", without actually saying ANYTHING, to last me many lifetimes. Their music is deceptively jolly slightly hippyish indie with half spoken half sung vocals that are a bit weird but strangely enticing. Annoyingly (or happily?) their name is utterly ungooglable, so you'll need to know it's www.myspace.com/oppositethehotel to head to.

Twin Thousands - Like You A Lot
This duo are made up of a woman who plays with Bright Eyes, clearly a good thing, and a man who also goes by the name A Million Billion, who I really didn't think much of. So it could go either way. Thankfully this single swings in the positive direction. It's a charming little nugget of pop goodness. Gretta, for that is the aforementioned woman's name, has a soothing and uninvasive voice that doesn't overpower a deliberately clean backing. It manages to sound very simple, yet is made up of many layers that fit together carefully and subtly. For a fledgling underground indie band they have managed to already create something very special, which is another pleasant surprise. www.myspace.com/twinthousands.

By Alan Smith