Politics and Cigarettes - Holl(i)y listens to some blloms and mews...

The Voom Blooms - Politics and Cigarettes (Fiction Records) thevoomblooms.com

The most notable thing about the two songs on this debut single is how incredibly unfinished they sound. Sparse is often good, but not in songs which quite clearly want to sound Massive and Epic and Weighty. These songs want to sweep you up in sound, but they're so flimsy that one doubts they could even lift a broom. They're simultaneously irritatingly overegged and gratingly amateurish, and these two factors just don't work well together. In fact, it's such an unfitting approach that the listener is half tempted to search through the rest of the demos and check whether the band haven't included the second, interlocking half of the song on a separate CD in a cunning simultaneous-playing gimmick.

However, they haven't. Which means that the songs are actually meant to be this scratchy, ham-fisted, sub-Interpol-esque, itchy and generally uninspiring, and which in turn means I have no time for these Blooming Vooms.

Black Ramps - Saucer Crash (STR82TAPE Records) blackramps.com

Black Ramps are from Bedford and their last EP featured the refrain "Miaow miaow miaow". Sadly their debut single contains no mewing - but it is described as "part Japanese monster movie inspired love song, part sword vengeance trilogy hack and slash domestic relationship counselling sessions", so we'll let them off. The b-sides are less forgivable, reeking as they do of Filler Fodder, but even that can be excused when lined up against such a stonking a-side.

And said track is a particularly fine example of the genre. Being mainly on the subject of what to do when a flying saucer crash lands in your back garden (I can't quite make out what they're advising, but I'm sure it's appropriate) it's a heady mix of full-on no-nonsense noise attack and a suitably futuristic cacophony of ray-gun guitar effects. Add the noise factor and the ray guns to a vocal hook which ricochets round the brain, then wrap it all in contradictory senses of humour and menace and, well, alien invasion has frankly never sounded so good.

Superkings - Demos (Feedback promotions) superkings.org

This is actually the quietest demo in the world. I've had to pump it up to a frankly indecent dial number before being able to get a reviewable decibel level out of it. Admittedly Superkings are a piano ballad affair - but Nick Cave never let that subdue him. And there is a definite Nick Cave influence in here, but only in half the songs.

You see Superkings tracks seem to fall broadly into two camps. Firstly, there're the slightly twisted and rather catchy bar piano tracks, which tend to have a toe tapping catchiness to 'em even as they hint at something slightly unsavoury. And then there're the other tracks, which tinkle along tweely and which I can't really be having with. Sweet plinky plunky insubstantiality has never quite floated my boat. But the darker numbers are rather attractive, and suggest that Superkings could be worth keeping an eye on.
Morning Runner - Burning Benches (Parlophone) morningrunner.com

A quiet, subdued and really rather dull piano intro explodes into a loud, bombastic and really rather annoying piano verse, which in turn explodes into a loud, fast and really rather over-dramatic and unaffectingly over-emotional outro. The wailing vocal puts one in mind of Muse trying out a new direction as a U2 tribute band, the lyrics keep veering into triteness and the whole thing just misfires horribly. There's some merit lurking underneath the high-speed piano outro, but Morning Runner squander it with their face-contorting angst which means you're so busy being annoyed at the melodrama that there's nothing of you left over to register whether it's actually affecting or not. Not exactly a winning formula, then.

Humanzi - Long Time Coming (Fiction Records) humanzi.com

Humanzi's CD has two of those little cardboard promo sleeves fitting inside each other, which seems somewhat greedy to me. Think of all those poor starving CDs in Africa who don't have any sleeves at all. Y'know - the ones in tanktops.

Anyway. Humanzi sound a lot like the Kaiser Chiefs, except that they have a synthesiser. The band clearly value the surprise attack principle (Why doesn't Mr T acknowledge the periodic table? Because he only recognises the element of surprise), and so the synth lies low in the mix for most of this, only occasionally rearing its head to make a brief interesting noise… And then all of a sudden it explodes all over the pedestrian riot-pop like some kind of ambush by a militant 80s revisionist guerrilla movement, and the end of the track sounds like it belongs in an entirely different genre/decade/ideology/band. It's like they've suddenly been possessed by the vengeful spirit of Rio. It wigs me out a bit.

And while reading the above you, dear reader, will doubtless already have made up your mind as to whether you need a Kaiser Chiefs with 80s leanings in your life. And there is therefore no need for me to say any more.

Pilots of the Sixth - Arbury Demonstrations (Big Badger Recording Co) pilotsofthesixth.blogspot.com

Pilots of the Sixth are mainly purveyors of rattling indie-pop jangle, high speed and strongly hooked. The vocals do a Libertines-esque tuneful sneer, the guitars go for the treble rather than the distortion approach and there's a definite emphasis on lo-fi tunes which the listener can hum and dance along to. Your take on this noise is going to depend on whether or not you're looking for something original and - perhaps most pertinently - whether or not you're sick of the Libertines yet. If the answer to both of those is no, then this might well float your boat. And if the answer is yes, it still might be worth keeping half an eye on this lot, just to see whether the direction they develop in will eventually lead them down the interesting and involving path for which they've clearly got both the ability and the passion…

Bang Bang Machine - Who Killed Bang Bang Machine?

Either this lot really have gone to the trouble of recording several minutes silence - presumably in the name of art? - or a mistake has been made. If the latter, please do try R*E*P*E*A*T again with a more decibel-heavy offering. If the former, well, whatever makes you happy and keeps you off the streets…

The Horse and His Boy - Relics (Big Badger Recording Co) horseandhisboy.co.uk

Ex-Virgin Suicides duo Dickon and Tom have been performing acoustically for a fair while now, putting in appearances as a stripped-down version of their old band and doing covers for various R*E*P*E*A*T benefit nights. They've now taken that to the next logical level by emerging as a project/artist in their own right, and this three-track EP is their first recorded offering. Showcasing Dickon's voice in a far more tuneful context, thus actually allowing the listener to hear exactly how good it is, it's mainly a guitar thing but also features the odd bit of - very effective - piano.

As one might expect from ex-VS personnel, TH&HB comes with a manifesto/explanation. However, this is far from the strident, politicised VS dogma; instead the theme here is change, loss and a sense of being stuck in the past. Themes which make perfect sense in this emotive acoustic context, and which also mark a switch in the nature of that context from an inseparable aspect of appreciating the music to something which compliments the sound without overpowering it. Those who like delicate yet powerful acoustic noise are very likely to enjoy this - and those who want an idea behind the noise will also find something to get their teeth into here.

Enid Blitz - Viva La Blitz! EP enidblitz.com

Enid Blitz are from Brighton, feature members of Tommy Twist and the Jive and were formed on the beach by four people under the influence of rum and stargazing. Influences which have added up to a back-to-basics, taut guitar pop with a very British(Track 'Victory Bell' namechecks Oliver Cromwell) bent. It's a bit Kinks, a bit Beatles and a lot nostalgic, in that indefinable but nonetheless pervasive way that some music has of seeming rooted in a different time and of celebrating a vague atmosphere of eras past. This EP marries an uplifting beat to a slightly mournful sense of things long gone, and wraps this in a love of gently catchy tunes. And if that sounds like your cup of tea, then you might well like this EP which sounds as gently stimulating as a cup of tea can, to some people, be.


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